inspiration

How to Make Totoro Rice Cakes — A Tutorial

Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_Sophia_Hsin-2.jpg

Before I go off into the fascinating world of Totoro Rice Cake’s, there are lyrics from The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build a Home I must share.

It goes:

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the colour of green
Ground had arose and passed it’s knees
By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top

I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me

Combining these lyrics along with my favourite Hayao Miyaziki film hero—Totoro—I can just about envision the furry beast standing beside his acorn seeds, climbing on tree tops, and roaring his head off in ferocious grace for all that have ears to hear.

It is incredible to think that someone thought of stringing these words together into a song that is a perfect soundtrack for making Totoro rice cakes.

I think these things lead to a certain kind of excitement in being a creative. Knowing that you possess a skill or ability to create something that resonates with the rest of the world. For this season, that being me, in my studio where I dream of ideas and set about creating them.

To know that I have at the tip of my fingertips the ability to command to life an army of Totoro’s is quite empowering. While this post is to share my love for rice cakes, I hope that we all find and pursue diligently that medium where we bring much joy to ourselves and to the world.

Without further ado, here are steps to making your own Totoro rice cake, for you and for me.

totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-12.jpg

You will need:
Ground sesame powder
Cooked sushi rice
Piece of sliced cheese
Sheets of nori
Clean boba straw
Toothpicks
Leaves to decorate

totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-13.jpg1. Mix sesame powder into rice for desired shade of grey. Puncture cheese with boba straw for Totoro eyes.totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-14.jpg2. Use plastic wrap to mold grey and white rice into appropriate size for torso, abdomen and ears.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_Sophia_Hsin-4.jpg3. Trim circles of nori for eyes, nose, and half moons for belly. Insert ears into Totoro torso and secure with toothpicks.Soot_Sprites_Totoro_Rice_Cake_Sophia_Hsin-12.jpg4. For Susuwatari (Soot Sprites) — roll rice ball onto nori sheet, soften edges of nori with water to shape. Decorate with eyes.
totoro_rice_cake_tutorial_sophia_hsin-12-e1500160983813.jpg
5. There you have it, Totoro and soot sprite rice cakes. Better when they match your socks.
Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_Sophia_Hsin-4
Photograph them on black.yay-5.jpgGift them to a friend.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_amelia_hedgehog-5.jpgIntroduce them to your hedgehog.

Do enjoy.

The end.

Find tutorials to Alpaca Rice Cakes here & Panda Rice Cakes here.

Advertisements

Postcards from Bangladesh

bangladesh_travel_photography-14.jpgHeading towards adventure.

The are 196 countries in the world.

I am really happy to say that I have visited a handful of them and am enjoying the process of checking each one off my list.

While it feels like a waiting game some days at home when I am editing through the deep recesses of my hard drive. I hope I never stop in wonder to marvel and be expectant at these opportunities and amazing things I get to see.

bangladesh_travel_photography-3.jpgLight at dusk and sights of traffic in Jessore, taken before crossing the street to hop into my van. This is one of my favourites from Bangladesh.

Without further ado, here are postcards from Bangladesh. Taken in dusty streets with tropical humidity, surrounded by the sound of prayer call, taken beside women clad in colour saris and rickshaw drivers who distractedly wave you down in this beautiful and mysterious country that has captured my heart in more ways than photos.

bangladesh_travel_photography-6.jpgSmiling boy wearing his prayer hat. Taken in a shrimp processing factory in Chila. bangladesh_travel_photography-10.jpgVisiting a local village by the Pushar river in Khulna. I love how the green in her dress matches the tree.
bangladesh_travel_photography-5.jpg
bangladesh_travel_photography-4.jpg

Made our driver stop for shots on our way to the airoport. A snapshot of the green and lush river country Bangladesh is known for.village_life_bangaldesh_dhaka.png
The cutest boy from the village and a baby goat with the most spindly legs. I have found a new love for goats after visiting India and Bangladesh.
bangladesh_travel_photography-2.jpg
Local school children on their way home from school. I found him saluting our gang of security guards that tail us wherever we go and asked him to pose for this shot.
bangladesh_flowers.jpg

Bangladesh you were a marvellous journey. I leave with fresh eyes and a new perspective on different cultures and countries. I hope I will never lose the ability to find rich beauty in little places and in the humanity of people I have met here.

Till next time.

Three Things I learned from Travelling in India

munnar_tea_fields_india.jpgThe beautiful, misty green hills of Munnar, Kerala. If you listen closely, you can hear the click-clacking of a thousand tea scissors and the tiny buzz of chatter from the tea women in Mailalym.

I have always dreamed about India.

So a little over a month ago I booked tickets and found myself there.

I can’t put a finger on what it was that drew me there but never have I travelled so hard in my life and never have I had stranger experiences than the ones I have had there. I shall credit mom and dad for creating me with a large dose of curiosity, a love for rule breaking and a reckless lust for photogenic places.

As I sit home on my comfy couch editing photos and reflecting from my trip, here is a list of things that I learned from travelling in India.

1. Embrace the mystery/creativity
Life is mysterious. I left looking for answers but realized I didn’t need to know them after all. You don’t have the answers and you never will.  A friendly tip to people looking forward to visiting India: prepare to be surprised out of your socks. Mostly in unpleasant smelly ways. Haha kidding. I learned to leave room for creativity and surprise and I found that I have gained more in the process.

2. Contentment
I have found myself looking at things in a different way that I didn’t use to. A different way that I hope never goes away. I realized that I live a very blessed life and live in a wonderful, wonderful city. I love work with the ups and downs, people I have in my life and never have I cherished more the freedom to wear anything I want, take long hot showers(in a clean bathroom!) and eat ice cream from my freezer at night. Thank you India.

3. People
It sounds ridiculous to compare a person living in North America to someone living in the slums in India. But it’s true! At the end of the day, people are people. We need love, food, shelter, a job, a purpose, friends, encouragement, fun things etc. Those things don’t change and you can be a good or bad person anywhere in the world and still be a good or bad person. The world needs more good people so let’s all be good to each other.

Other than that, I rode on a 30 hour train (the longest I’ve been my entire life), met a bunch of amazing people I will not soon forget, obtained some scars from being in scary pottys, had the best Indian food of my life, cried and laughed during the weird and sentimental bits, got my first food poisoning, left bits of my heart in a Children’s Home to many tiny souls and left quite aware that I became a better person because of this trip.

If you are reading this and curious about travelling to India. I will say yes. Ten thousand times yes.

munnar_tea_fields_india_2To adventure xx

King’s Kids Children’s Home, India

india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-3.jpg
The kids in their play clothes after a school day on campus. They love having their photos taken.

Here are photos from King’s Kid’s in Jangareddygudem, India. Where I spent 10 days living on campus photographing and interacting with the children.

india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-4.jpg
Morning music worship, it’s so fun to see these kids dancing to western songs. 
india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-6.jpgChore time – cooking for 50 kids is so much more easier when you have little helpers that help you cut veggies.

I must have gathered enough stories here to last a lifetime and it’s so hard to put all the stories into one blog post. These are times that I am just thankful for words and memories to hold on to this experience.

A day at the school typically starts with the kids waking up, bombarding you with hugs and rushing around for chores and breakfast before going off to school. I have never seen kids as eager to help or learn and it has been wonderful getting to see it for myself.

india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-1.jpg
A day in class.
india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-7.jpg
Varden, the goofiest kid on campus. Varden’s family work as missionaries that migrate their homes each season due to monsoon rain and floods. At the children’s home, Varden is provided with food, shelter and the opportunity to go to school every day.
india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-1.jpg
Pavan washing his clothes in a pail.

I wish I could describe the way Akash giggles every time you praise him even though he struggles with autism. Or the way Nera gets up at 4am to pray everyday and comes up to me after meals to ask “Your dish, I wash?” I hope that I will never forget the thanks that come from the villagers when you pray for them and the beautiful colours of sunsets in the Indian sky.

india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-5.jpgThis is Siddu, who wants to be a doctor and writer when he grows up. When I ask why his response is always ” So I can help people.”

There is Siddu and Esther, wonderful children with wonderful parents that have no money to send them to school but raised them to be the most helpful kids and best students on campus. There is Honey who comes from a begging background but is the most cheerful and shy boy who giggles every time you make eye contact with him. There is Anjelie, Sandy, Ujwal, Indu and Nandu who were orphans that thrive on the tiniest bit of affection you give them.

india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-8.jpgkings_kids_children_arise
Photo shoot by the eucalyptus and cashew trees on campus. The girls insisted on wearing their fanciest traditional clothes while the boys just wanted to climb trees.
india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-2.jpg

Village outreach. We ended finding this group of toddlers and taught them songs and shared a meal after.india_sophia_hsin_children_arise-9.jpg
Colours of the Indian sunset

I  spent the time on campus getting frustrated with the lack of wifi, rice and lentils for every meal and missing the freedom to roam around on my own while trying to cook food for 50 children with a stove and blender that died or stopped whenever the power went out. 

Despite the challenges of such a harsh environment, there is more beauty and hope here than I have found in other places and I have learned to appreciate the small moments that make this experience so beautiful. I leave super grateful for many things and am excited for the future of all the kids that live here.

kings_kids_children_arise_india-15The Kings Kids is a children’s home funded under the organization Children Arise in Canada. The children are taken care of by my friend Anita who left her teaching career in Vancouver to help start the home five years ago. Kings Kids is currently home to 50 children, 15 of which are unsponsored. Leave a comment or shoot me a message if you have any questions or would like to know more!

Gratitude

FullSizeRenderSunset at Lions Bay – moments before I jumped off a 50 feet cliff and got covered in barnacles scratches and a heart filled with adrenaline. We stayed out till midnight and watched the water light up with bioluminescent plankton. It was one of those moments where you feel really alive and actually want to tuck away your camera to enjoy the moment.

Tonight as I’m typing out this post I’ve just moved into a new apartment, picked up my visa for India, sent off prints to the print shop and I’m eating fresh mochi from a friend that dropped me off to my new home. It’s beautiful, bright and everything I ever imagined in one of the nicest places in the world.

I can look back on this week and think of all the friends that I have around me, people I got to meet, events I attended and the satisfaction I have everyday from working for something I’m passionate about and believe in.

I’m so excited thinking of the next few months of travel. Places I go and things I see that break my heart a little and make me appreciate how human I am. I can’t wait to see the photos I’m going to take, people that will leave footprints in my life and pieces of history that’s bound to make me small and powerful at the same time.

At the end of the day, I am just thankful—for work, an education, things that kick my bum and motivate to learn and be a better human, opportunities to be more authentic and fearless and days to look forward to. I don’t know where I’ll be without my community. And of course the little things that make the days sweet and beautiful.

Here is to the next season of exploring the unknown and moving onward. 38 days till India!

Summer in Vancouver

sunset-2.jpg
English Bay, the place of pretty sunsets

This coming month marks three years of me being in Canada. Three crazy years of going down this creative journey that’s often crazy but always fun.

I’m at this season where I feel happily overwhelmed by life and work and it’s kind of amazing. If you ask me a thousand times why I take photos I will say it’s because the world is beautiful and that there are many stories waiting to be told.

I like about how nice it is to be alive and living in a place where I have the liberty to create and write about things that matter. I hope to never take these things for granted.

lifestyle_photography_sunset_beachlifestyle_photography_vancouver_sophia_hsin_photography-5
The summer is being very wonderful and I am loving all the light it brings. So much colour and time to shoot and see. And you know it’s precious because it doesn’t stick around 🙂
lifestyle_photography_vancouver_sophia_hsin_photography-14
english_bay_sophia_hsin_photography
Here are a few shots from my neighbourhood, city and portraits of lovley people.

lifestyle_photography_vancouver_sophia_hsin_photography-15
Light and shadows – this is my favourite balcony in Vancouver
lifestyle_portraiture_vancouver_sophia_hsin-3

And because it is nice to share  – here are a few books I’m currently loving:  Rework by Jason Fried(great left brain strategy for creatives), A Wilder Life (Good book with plant solutions for daily life) and Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I’ve always been inspired by children books and writers since I’m making my own. I’m trying read every book I can get my hands on—they’re great. Miss Peregrine will be coming out in theatre and of course anything directed by Tim Burton is a must see.
lifestyle_photography_vancouver_sophia_hsin_photography-2
If you’re looking for me – I will be by the beach.english_bay
Here’s to a wonderful summer!

Photo of me by Michiko
Pants and Black Lace Espadrilles from Zara
Stripe Top from Joe Fresh
Beach Blanket from Scout and Catalogue

The universe is a beautiful place

seattle_sophia_hsin.jpg

Sometimes in life things fall together in a way that is totally unexpected.

It can be as simple as meeting a new friend while grocery shopping or complicated like a series of unfortunate events that lead to other beautiful things.

As a kid, I’ve always loved Harry Potter (all seven of them, so sad they’re over). The world of magic where there seems to be unlimited possibility. The feeling that you can live in constant awe like Harry’s first time at the candy shop. I’ve come to realize in a way that magic isn’t limited to waving a wand or wearing a wizard hat. It’s not travelling to the end of the world nor as terrifying as taking a giant step into the unknown.

It is simply finding magic in the most simple and random places and trusting that it all comes together in the end. There’s definitely magic to that.

In some way, it’s like someone is out there orchestrating all these things and all we have to do is to live and to tell them well. It can be anything or anywhere you want. It’s something that keeps me really excited.

The universe is a beautiful place.

Note: This photo was taken on the Amtrak to Seattle, The train broke down on the way back and we were stuck on a platform in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing left to do than to make conversation with the person sitting next to you. That person turned out to be a retired pilot who’s travelled the world. I’ve heard that he’s recently picked up photography and continues to travel the world. That, my friends, is a mysterious and wonderful thing.