Edible Beauty, Grapefruit Coconut Scrub

APA Awards 2016, First Place – Emerging

Five months ago I started a new role as a Studio Manager with a commercial photography studio in San Francisco that, as part of its compensation arrangement, provides use of the studio for personal shoots. Given that we were seriously considering the prospect of remodeling our home to build a studio space, I saw this opportunity as fortuitous and immediately started planning test shoots with local stylists to fully leverage this benefit.

I connected with Zoe Armbruster, an up-and-coming local food stylist on these series of images focusing on edibles as beauty products. It’s a step outside the traditional ‘food photography’ paradigm by exploring the subject in a different application and embarking on this tangent proved inspirational in freeing me up to present the subject in a whole new way. So it was absolutely thrilling to learn that one of the images we created has won First Place in the 2016 APA Awards, in the Emerging/Student Photographer category. The APA is a leading national organization for professional photographers, assistants and other visual artists and their annual awards feature some of the best imagery in the business. To say that I’m exhilarated by this development would be an understatement. It’s a major confidence booster to be recognized and an important milestone in this career that is really more like a marathon than a sprint. The journey is just starting and I can’t wait to see where this leads.

You can read more about the selection process for these awards here and check out the full gallery of winning images on the APA site.

For more images from this Edible Beauty series, head over to this gallery.

Edible Beauty, Peony Water Toner Edible Beauty, Blueberry Aloe Mask

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Ubud Market, Bali Ubud Market, Bali, Ingredients for spice paste Ubud Market, BaliAfter a quiet week in North Bali, the car ride into Ubud foreshadowed what lay ahead for the next leg of our trip: crowds and crowded streets. There’s an abundance of yoga studios, juice bars and trendy coffee shops filled with “tech nomads“. For regular tourists, there’s a Starbucks on the main drag a block away from the Ubud Palace, along with an array of farm-to-table plant-based dining options to fit any aspiring yogi’s diet.

Taking it all in after days of rustic, small-town ease was a shock to the system. On the surface, Ubud – Bali’s cultural center – was fashionably dressed in all the trappings of the ‘conscious’ Western lifestyle, but if you know where to look, you’ll see that the character and culture of the place remains intact despite the hordes of tourists and Westerners who’ve settled there. Case in point: the Ubud Market. Depending on the time of day, you’ll either be presented with fellow tourists looking to score bargains on art pieces or get swept up with hordes of locals haggling with vendors as they shop for the day’s groceries. You could also spend your days browsing the endless rows of shops in the heart of town, punctuating the schedule with massages and spa treatments, or rent a scooter and head out of town to explore historic temples. If you do, I highly recommend a pit-stop at Pura Tirta Empul in Tampaksiring. Constructed around a sacred spring that is believed to be of mythical origins and it’s still an active temple despite being practically ancient.

Balinese Prayer Accessories, Flowers for offering Bali 2015-196 Rice Terraces, Ubud, Bali Bali 2015-281 Tampaksiring, Bali Bali 2015-182Our time in Bali taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to travelling: even highly popular tourist destinations have surprises lying beneath the surface if you’re willing to take the unconventional route and carve out your own itinerary. The time in Ubud revealed a vibrant culture firmly rooted in tradition and history, yet flexible and accommodating of foreign influences. Quintessentially Balinese.

Ubud Market, Bali Bali 2015-481 Ginger Flowers, Ubud Market, Bali Ubud Market, Bali Grated Coconut, Balinese rice cakes Casa Luna Cooking School, Balinese Sambal Bali 2015-503 Balinese Spice Paste, Ubud Market, Bali Nasi Campur, Casa Luna Cooking School, Bali

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Sekumpul Waterfall, Bali Rice Terraces, Bali Rice fields, Bali At the conclusion of my trip to India last October, I headed eastward to meet M and to spend two weeks in Bali, Indonesia, before returning home. In our previous lives in Singapore, Bali was a choice destination for many weekend jaunts, a much-needed change of scenery from the daily grind of living in an urban jungle. It’s the destination of our first trip together, where I got my PADI scuba licence and also where we honeymooned, in 2007, which was the last time we stepped foot on the island.

Our memories of the place, in other words, came from a time before Bali catapulted into the mainstream, Hollywood-glistening, land-of-dreams spotlight courtesy of Eat, Pray, Love the movie.

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KitchariI’m currently transitioning out of my first Ayurvedic cleanse, and in writing this, I feel the need to preface my experience with some honest thoughts about the multi-million (billion?) dollar industry devoted to diets, detoxing and overall anxiety about doing the “right thing”.

Each new year, the media somehow assumes the role of a life coach, a self-selected emissary from the Land Of Healthy Eating whose sole mission is to coax the sedentary, unhealthy and (one assumes) culinary-illiterate public into “eating healthy” and “losing weight”. The tone changes as we move into warmer weather, especially for women, where we’re constantly reminded that ‘time is running out’ to get our bodies “Bikini-ready”. Somewhere between January and May, the subtle (or not-so-subtle) link is made between health and appearance. The Bikini Body becomes the litmus test of how well you’ve met your ‘clean eating goals’ which, you know, you were supposed to have been working on since January. Through repetition and sensational headlines, we’re fed the myth that a woman’s worth of the ‘Healthy’ label is entirely dependent on how well she fits into a flimsy two-piece, and how good she looks in it – as defined by an invisible, arbitrary audience.

Give me a break.

One’s well-being and what constitutes ‘being healthy’ is an entirely subjective experience dependent on your age, gender, lifestyle, history of physical activity, your genes, where you live and many other factors. It is not a template that can be cut and pasted across individuals as easily as birthday wishes on Facebook. What may work for me might not work for you and that is the fun of the process – we each get to experiment, play, research and figure out the diet and lifestyle that works best for where we are right now. It is empowering and re-frames the conversation about health and well-being from a point of view that’s more constructive than prescriptive.

I’m no expert by any means, but Ayurveda, in a nutshell, is an Indian science that provides a framework for understanding balance and imbalance in the body and how to address the causes of disease early on through diet and many other lifestyle practices such as oil massage and nasal cleansing. Depending on what discomforts show up for you, and your body’s constitution – whether you’re tall and thin or stocky and muscular – the suggested diet and courses of action will be different.

You can see why Ayurveda resonates.

Through my yoga practice, I developed an interest in this approach years ago, and have sat on the sidelines observing and reading about the parameters of a seasonal Ayurvedic cleanse. But it was only through meeting more experienced Ayurvedic practitioners recently that gave me the courage to try doing it on my own, armed with this guide and this indispensable cookbook. I found that the cleanse was designed to reset my daily rhythms to be more aligned with the movements of the sun and our circadian rhythms. At the same time the digestive system gets a break by following a mono-diet of Kitchari for a period of time. This is a one-pot, stew-like dish of white basmati rice, hulled mung beans, spices and vegetables that’s considered the ‘perfect food’ in Ayurveda because of its balancing properties. The practice of daily oil baths supplemented the mono-diet and I quickly discovered how beneficial this was for me, both physically and mentally. Apart from promoting restful sleep and bringing about strong sense of calm I found the massages extremely helpful in mitigating the headaches from caffeine withdrawal. Giving up the daily espresso is never a pretty sight, and eating the same thing all-day, everyday, can get a little tiring, but it was worth it. By the fourth day my energy levels were steady and strong, my skin never looked better (oil massage!) and I am falling asleep and waking with much more ease than before. Something tells me this seasonal cleanse is here to stay!

*****

Everyday Kitchari

Adapted from The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook // Serves 2

Cleanse or not, this is a versatile one-pot meal that comes together quickly. I’ve tried a number of different kitchari recipes through the years and this recipe from Kate O’Donnell delivers on all counts: flavor, texture and consistency. I’ve scaled down her original recipe to a smaller serving size and used a pre-made spice mix for convenience. This dish does not work well as leftovers so prepare just enough for your needs.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup yellow split mung beans, soaked for at least 30 minutes
  • 1.5 teaspoons Kitchari spice mix
  • pinch of asafoetida powder (optional)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables, coarsely chopped into small cubes (for starches/root vegetables) or strips (for leafy greens)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ghee
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • Cilantro for garnish

Directions

  1. Rinse the rice and split mung beans two to three times until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside in a bowl. Sprinkle the spice mix and asafoetida (if using).
  2. In a medium saucepan over high heat, add water and salt. When the water boils, add the prepared rice/mung bean/spice mixture as well as any cubed vegetables. Give the pot a few stirs to evenly distribute the ingredients then partially cover the pot, leaving some space for steam to escape. Let the mixture come to a boil again then immediately turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, check the amount of liquid left. There should be a thin (1/4-inch) rim of water around the edge of the saucepan. If not, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time. Add any leafy greens you may be using now and cover the pot again, in the same manner as step 2. Leave to simmer for another 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. After adding the greens heat the ghee in a separate pan and add the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds. Cook until the seeds start to pop, about 2 minutes, and remove from heat.
  5. Add the tempered spices to the saucepan (be careful, it will sputter), cover fully and turn off the heat. Let it stand for a few minutes.
  6. Give the pot a good stir to mix in the spices and greens. Taste and add more salt if needed. It is ok if the kitchari looks a little soupy, the dish absorbs water as it sits. Serve hot, topped with fresh cilantro.
Kitchari Bowls
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