Tuesday, 22 April 2014

stripped back: images and postmodern

Everyday we are bombarded with hundreds and probably thousands of images, all with the purpose of making us want and when we want, we purchase. Our society has become more and more concerned with consumption and the transition into postmodernism, it could be argued, was the driving force behind the transformation of our attitudes regarding the issue of consumption. Richard Hebdige, who wrote a book in 1979 entitled Subculture: The Meaning of Style talks about postmodernism as an arena where competing ideas, definitions and social tendencies are active. And with technological developments occurring at the speed of light, out society has become more concerned with fantasy desire and the visual, than reality and needs.

The reliance we have upon mass media images and the false representations they offer, mean society has developed an inability to distinguish between the 'real' and the 'hyper-real'. This could be attributed to the prevalence of advertising and the forceful nature of images and branding which goes hand in hand with the promotion of product or company. Which brings us to Antrepo, a design agency whose recent project was all about simplicity and stripping back branding. I wonder if all packaging was stripped back and a basic approach taken to all product design, whether we would purchase the amount, or types of products we do. 

A company's branding is one of the most fundamental things, but in essence, the below images show that the branding can still be achieved with a simpler format. In some cases I feel the simple design elements give the product a more sophisticated and high-end feel, like the Mr Muscle, Red Bull and Evian. But you can decide for yourself. 


Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Weekend the London way

I haven't done an Easter Weekend in London for three years and I have forgotten how dangerous it is. No, not dangerous like in Cyprus where kids have a tradition of collection wood and making bonfires and setting off fireworks. 

No, England is dangerous for my waist line. The supermarkets are filled with bargain chocolate easter eggs, the family is all together in England for once and there will at least one roast dinner this weekend. Expat easters in Cyprus were very different: there is a huge religious context given that Cyprus is such a strong Greek Orthodox community. And with that comes many traditions including red eggs, cheesy easter flaoune bread and a big BBQ feast to celebrate the end of the fasting period. 

In England our traditions are different within each family, but in mine, Easter means the smell of daffodils, a roast dinner, hopefully having both of my brothers in the country, chocolate easter eggs and well, more chocolate easter eggs. However you celebrate I hope you had a happy easter. I am sure everyone is in a chocolate coma right now.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

food: butternut squash risotto

I have a new food crush; risotto. The first week I was back in London, my friend made me an amazing butternut squash and sage risotto and ever since I have been hooked. So much so that I have made it twice in the past two weeks. I always thought risotto was one of those tricky, time consuming dishes that under my hands, would turn into a glue like mushy mess. But it turns out it isn't so hard.

I was too busy chatting away to pay attention to the specific ingredients or the process my friend followed, but found this little recipe on BBC Good Food website, which has been tested twice now and has worked perfectly each time. I like this recipe because it is very simple, there are a handful of ingredients, several of which (olive oil, vegetable stock, butter, white wine, cheese, onion...) you will probably already have in your fridge or cupboards. 

The whole cooking procedure for this risotto is pain free; 
  1. Roast the butternut squash with garlic and sage
  2. In the meantime, fry onions and garlic
  3. Add the risotto rice, add the wine and cook down until its absorbed
  4. Then start adding the stock
  5. Mash half of the roasted butternut squash and stir it into the risotto once done. 
  6. Add the cheese (by the way, I used cheddar because I didn't have parmesan but it worked perfectly) add the chunks of roasted squash. 

Et voila; butternut squash and sage risotto. 

What I have realised quite quickly about risotto is the versatility of it. I mean you can make a base risotto and then throw in whatever you have left over in the fridge and you have a comforting and warming meal ready in no time. Try it with mushrooms, peas, green beans and mint, bacon and sweet potatoes...the possibilities are endless. 

And the great thing about risotto is that there will always be some leftover because the rice puffs up a lot and I can never judge proper quantities. That means last nights risotto will see us through the easter weekend long after the roast dinner has been devoured. 

sunday sound #17

Thursday, 17 April 2014

expat life: moving a dog

Moving the dog was probably one of the most stressful parts of the whole international moving process. She is a nervous dog to begin with and I wasn't sure how she would take getting into a travel crate, let alone the separation and the plane journey to a new country. But she seemed to take it all in her stride. But as an owner, making the transition process for the dog as smooth as possible, was high up on the priority list. 

Research the regulations
No matter what country your leaving or which country to going to, it is vital to check the regulations concerning dogs or any live animals for that matter. Many countries have certain rules and regulations concerning the export and import of live animals and it may not be as simple as you think, especially if non EU countries are involved. Although it can be a little confusing, do you research on government websites, consult airlines and speak with as many pet travel companies as you can. There are lots of things to think about including, vaccinations, quarantine, microchips, pet passports, export and import permits/documentation and airline travel regulations to name a few. 

Choose a reputable relocation company
This I guess also falls under the research category. If you choose to handle all the travel arrangements for your dog yourself, you're braver than me. We opted to pay a little extra for one relocation company to handle all arrangements including documentation, pick up and travel arrangements. We had to get all vaccinations, microchip and passport things done by our local vet, but aside from that the relocation company we used, Move One Inc offered a door-to-door service which meant nothing was left to chance. They arranged with the agent in Cyprus to handle all paperwork from the government and this took a huge weight off our minds. Knowing every document was in place really eases your nerves. Anyone moving animals in or out of Cyprus should contact the guys at Paphiakos Pets. They were incredibly helpful, super organised and cared for my dog as if she was her own. They kept in constant communication throughout the whole process right up until my dogs flight departed. 

Pay to keep your nerves in check
I am not going to lie, moving a dog from country to country is expensive but as a dog owner you have two choices, re-home the dog or take the dog and for us, taking the dog was the only choice. It wasn't even a choice actually, more like a requirement in the international moving imaginary checklist. She is 100% part of our family and there was no way I would re-home her. Where we go, she will go. As such we have made the commitment to spend whatever is necessary for her to travel safely. The costs will vary from country to country and will depend on the size of the dog, the country of arrival and in some cases the breed. But paying to keep your sanity is worth it. 

Prepare your dog for travelling
Preparation is key when it comes to relocating your dog. You shouldn't was the dogs bedding for a few weeks before the travel date since this will hold all their smells and will mean they have familiar smells in the travel crate with them. The morning of departure I was advised not to feed my dog as travel sickness can be common. Aside from that, it is obviously really important to ensure the required vaccinations have been given and the dog has a microchip and valid pet passport. 

Ensure normality at the other end
Getting arrangements in place at the other end means the dog will enter into a safe and calm environment. Ideally, having somewhere to live, dog food, leads and harness and a toy to start play time as soon as possible and take their mind of the journey they have just finished. Obviously, having one or all of the family at the other end will help the dog ease into the new country too. 

After going through the dog relocation process once, from start to finish, I feel a bit like an expert, so any worried expats out there, about to send their dog on a journey of a lifetime, feel free to contact me. 


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