four ate five

Brunch has always been a mystical thing to me. Although the idea gets thrown around casually I can never wake up early enough for it, so the novelty is something that I haven't gotten around to experiencing yet... well not in Sydney, that is! Anyway when someone recommended that I try out Four Ate Five (which happens to be right next door to Mad Spuds) I was determined to make the effort for brunch, and it definitely didn't disappoint. Be warned though, my friend and I went fairly early on a Friday morning and it was already packed! Luckily we found seats quickly, although people seem to be in and out of there pretty fast anyway.





They didn't have chai lattes (blasphemy!) so I went for the chai tea brewed with milk and honey instead. Honestly I'd have to say it tastes the same as all the other places I've had chai tea, but I still enjoy it every time! It also came in this cute teapot and strainer set which is quite fun, plus it holds just the right amount for one person.





Baked eggs were high on the list of things recommended to me, and I can see why! I got the Moroccan style baked eggs with almonds and organic fetta, and man oh man... They were so rich and tomatoey, and definitely needed the complimentary sourdough for dipping. The almonds gave a nice crunchy texture, although it still tasted good after they had been soaking for a bit! A word of warning, though – the eggs were literally steaming hot, so don't dive into them like I did. I can still feel where I scalded the roof of my mouth...





My friend went for the other baked eggs option which involved pancetta, spinach, leek, mushrooms, and parmesan. Apparently it was also really good, although it might've been a little too cheesy since she didn't finish all of it! Nevertheless, we both agreed that the baked eggs were really warming and basically the perfect food for winter. Also not pictured is my friend's banana smoothie, which was huge and came in a whole milkshake cup. I may have to try that or the other milkshakes on a day when I have the stomach space, since they all sounded pretty good!





Check out some of those cool paintings on the wall! Both the kitchen and coffee machines were pretty much out in the open, so I think it made this place feel a bit more fast-paced than other cafes.







Aaand some sights to be seen around Sydney's own Central Park, since my friend had never been and we wanted some grass to sit on. Meanwhile I finally figured out where that infamous gelato place is, but unfortunately we were both too full to try some! I'll definitely be back for it soon though, just watch this space...
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Posted by : Mani

a minute in june

Since finishing the uni semester recently, you could say that I've become the biggest of homebodies. To be fair though, it's not like this has made much of a difference to my normal lifestyle except that I can now do my thing without the added guilt that I'm wasting precious time! Anyway, so far this hasn't involved much besides catching up on TV (both of the series and World Cup variety), so I decided to resurrect this 'a minute in' tag on my blog. Here are some things that I've been doing/watching/liking recently:



Working on... This little sketch! I haven't had this much free time in ages, so naturally I seized the opportunity to drag out my trusty watercolour pencils again. I'm no pro at it, but I just find drawing really relaxing since it helps take my mind off things. Anyway, for now I'm incapable of drawing humans so I settled for finches, haha.



Craving... Ramen, but then again when am I not? This was actually taken a while back when I ate at Ramen Ikkyu in Haymarket. At just over $10 for the Chef's Special it's relatively cheap but sooo good and garlicky, just the way I like it!



Smelling... This pomegranate candle that I pinched from my mum. Most of the time I'm not even much of a candle person, but this one just smells divine whether it's burning or not! Christmas scents in general seem to have that effect on me...



Watching... Orphan Black, aka my current obsession. If you're not watching for the conspiracies and quippy one-liners, you really should be! Basically, Tatiana Maslany is a god and somehow manages to pull off playing nine different clones seamlessly. I'm already mourning the fact that the season two finale airs today, and I'll be without new episodes for a year or so... On that note, if you follow me on Twitter you'd know that Offspring is another (albeit completely different) show that I love! It's pretty much the only thing I tune into regularly on Australian TV.



Listening to... This track I heard on Suits, which has been another infatuation of mine recently (mainly because Louis Litt kills me every single time, but that's beside the point). It's just so relaxing! Kudos if you know which scene this is from too, haha.

So, what have you been doing/watching/listening to lately? Right now I'm pondering what thing I should move on to next. I'm considering watching Game of Thrones but am kind of weak-stomached, so I'm not sure it'd be such a good idea... Anyway, I hope you're enjoying the weekend!
Posted by : Mani

how i make animated gifs

Here's a bit of a different post from me today! Someone requested that I make a tutorial on how to create gifs, so here I am. Although I'm sure there are plenty of similar tutorials about this on the web, this is how I personally make animation that loops smoothly. Anyway, I'll be using some footage that I left out of my Vivid post, which you can spy here. Keep in mind though, I currently use Mac OS X and Adobe Photoshop CS5, so these steps may or may not be different for you!



Things you need include: Photoshop and the video you want to gif, preferably taken with a tripod. If your video wasn't taken with one it's not the end of the world, but that's how I achieve cinemagraph-like images that have only specific areas that are moving.

1. Trim your video


First thing's first – cut down your video to the section you want. It's best if the first and last frames are similar so that it loops smoothly, but if you can't it's fixable later on! By the way I trim my videos with Quicktime Player, although any other video editing software's just fine. I only cut my video down to about four seconds, since that's all you really need. Besides, the longer the clip the bigger the file size, so that's something I try to avoid when I can.



2. Import footage into Photoshop


Open up Photoshop and click on File > Import > Video frames to layers... Select the video you just trimmed, and this window should pop up. I try to limit it to every 5 frames since I don't want a big file size, and the gif will play too slowly if there are too many of them. Don't take my word for it though, experiment with what works for you!



You'll need the Animation window, so if you can't see it go to Window > Animation. Your workspace end up looking something like this:
 

3. Edit your image


If you want to adjust your image in any way, now's the time to do it. At this point, I usually resize my image so that it loads faster. Also, use adjustment layers if you want to edit things like exposure and curves, since it changes all the layers underneath (and therefore, all of your frames)! Simple click through to Layer > New Adjustment Layer, and the following options should show up:
 

4. Create mask layer


You can stop here if you're satisfied, but here's the secret to making only certain parts of your gif animated. Right click and duplicate your top layer, and name it something generic like 'Alpha'. Then select all your frames in the animation window, and select your Alpha layer on the righthand side. Click the mask button (box with a circle in it) on the bottom right, and then make sure that the Alpha layer's visible and has the eye symbol showing next to it.



5. Define masked area


Select the paint brush tool and use black to colour in the areas where you want movement in your image. In my case, I only shaded the Opera House sails and ignored any areas that I wanted to remain stationary. Whatever you draw should show up on your layer mask (as shown in the red box), so do that and keep testing how it looks by pressing the play button in the animation window. If you make a mistake, just erase it by changing the paint brush to white instead!



6. Create reversed frames


At this point, you can save your gif if you're satisfied. However I usually want a smooth animation loop, so I do this last step. First, select all of your frames except for the last one (in my case, frames 1-14). Select the toolbar in the animation window and choose 'Copy Frames'. Then select your last frame (frame 15), click the same toolbar as before and click Paste Frames... > Paste after selection.
 

While these new, duplicated frames (numbered 16-29) are still selected go back to the toolbar, then click 'Reverse Frames'. Voila! Your animation should now reverse back to its first frame and make a never ending loop. Keep in mind though, the reverse animation will look better for some videos than others.



7. Finishing touches


After this I try to delete any unnecessary frames at the beginning and end, especially if I want to reduce the gif's file size. Then I simple go to File > Save for Web and Devices... where you can save it in the right format, or make changes to adjust the file size.

So, that's pretty much how I ended up with the gif you see above! While it may seem like a lot to take in, practice really does make perfect. Even I'm constantly finding new things when it comes to Photoshop and this sort of thing... Anyway, if there was anything unclear about the tutorial feel free to ask, and happy gif-making!
Posted by : Mani

buckle up











The Design Studio trench coat, Uniqlo cardigan, Miss Shop tee, Dangerfield skirt, Windsor Smith Shean boots

In my wardrobe, there are way too many items that don't see the light of day until the perfect occasion rolls around. Case in point – this skirt. I've always loved the thick material and shade of maroon, but it just hasn't been cold enough to wear until recently! When paired with my trusty trench coat and striped tee this outfit is pretty much a no-brainer, and one I'll probably repeat a million times over but with different skirts. I'll definitely be throwing scarves and thermal tights into the mix too, since Sydney's winter weather is finally kicking in.

By the way, can we talk about my new boots? My search for the perfect pair is finally over! After struggling to pull on so many chelsea boots I finally succumbed to this reduced pair from Windsor Smith, which has zips instead. Whilst they're a bit snug right now (damn you wide feet), I'm fairly sure that the leather will stretch. Anyway, I love how these give me the slightest bit of extra height whilst still being comfy enough for everyday wear! They're also quite heavy and could probably injure a person, so much so that I opted to wear them straight after buying instead of carrying them all day. If that's not indicative of how sturdy they'll be, I'm not sure what is...
Posted by : Mani

#vividsydney







Ahh, Vivid Sydney. It's one of those things that you either couldn't care less about, or wouldn't miss for the world. I only realised this recently when a guy friend asked me 'Isn't Vivid a girl thing?', while I sat there astounded by the idea that someone wouldn't want to see epilepsy-inducing lights around the city. Anyway, I could hardly call myself a seasoned Vivid-goer but I think I've got my essentials down! If you're anything like me you'll need a DSLR, prime lens (and possible backup), tripod and calves of steel. I'm not even joking when I say that I think my exercise for the month is done, since I walked so much... Anyway this post is gonna be a long one, so apologies in advance if it sucks up your bandwidth!

      





My friend and I decided to go by numbers on the Vivid Map and started at the Opera House, although that plan obviously disintegrated towards the end of our journey. Anyway, we got there at around six and beat the crowd, so there was actually room for me to breathe and set up my tripod!







An actual picture of me smiling? This must be some kind of record! It's too bad I couldn't switch to a wider lens to capture the full glory of that kaleidoscope, but at this point I had to fend off zealous parents who wanted to get close to the thing...







Lights on the water and some amusing installation featuring bike helmets. I have a bad habit of never reading the descriptions that come with artworks, so I guess I'll never know the inspiration behind this one...







Deciduous trees and some illuminated cymbal things. I don't even think this was a big installation, but I thought it was quite fun! Basically, circus music was playing and when you danced around underneath it the lights would flash accordingly.





      



If you couldn't already tell there were so many kids at Vivid this year, even though I was there on a weeknight! It kind of made the installations feel like a giant playground, like this Hi-Ray contraption that would light up when you pulled a rope. Although, in all honesty the kids really seemed to enjoy hugging the thing more...









A field of LED butterflies and an illuminated dance floor to promote Strictly Ballroom the Musical. I kind of wish that I got to stand on this one, but obviously the queue went all around the fence so impatience got the better of me!















Pro tip: if you're a photographer or just want to take a breather, I really recommend going up an elevator to the public observation deck in The Rocks. It's in the Overseas Passenger Terminal and has a great view of the Opera House, plus you get to feel a nice breeze away from the crowds below!





      



Giant bunnies! Aren't they the most majestic things you've ever seen? Unsurprisingly, these seemed to be everyone's favourite thing about Vivid this year. Even I kind of want a downsized version to live in my room...



      



Some creepy-looking mouths accompanied by laughter sound bites in Walsh Bay. Me and my partner in crime wanted to walk all the way to Darling Harbour but it proved too ambitious, so we ended up trekking it to Wynyard station and picking up some late night slushies for the ride home! Anyway, I definitely didn't get to see all the things I would have liked to, but hopefully I can catch the installations in Darling Harbour and Martin Place if I don't get lazy. This week's set to be a crazy one for me in terms of deadlines, so fingers crossed it works out!
Posted by : Mani