Saturday, December 31, 2011

LA (Downtown): Angels Flight

While in downtown the other day, we took a one-way, 25-cent ride up on Angels Flight (the shortest railway in the world). It saved us the trouble of walking up the hill to MOCA and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. I think it's mostly for tourists, but locals use it to get to and from the Grand Central Public Market (across the street) during lunch.

Friday, December 30, 2011

LA (Downtown): Central Library

So, we went to the Central Library, for the first time, thinking that it would look like the library as seen in the movie City of Angels. Boy, were we disappointed! Apparently, we should have done our homework first so that we would have realized that the library we were looking for was in San Francisco (how misleading!!!). Anyway, we had fun going up and down a ton of escalators and seeing the odd characters roaming throughout the library. Oh, and there are books there too. ;)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thank You (for the Gifts & Parties)!

Thanks M. Family!
I'm just winding down my 2011 affairs (as you probably are too) and just wanted to thank everyone that gave us Christmas/Hanukkah presents this year! Here are a couple shots from this year's stash. :). Also, I especially wanted to express my gratitude for all the invites we received this year for various holiday/birthday parties in the past & upcoming weeks. This has been the busiest season for us yet, so we do apologize for not sending out holiday cards this year (shame on us, I know)!
Thanks W&A!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Travel: San Diego - Imperial Beach

We spent a very warm Christmas in San Diego this year. We tried going to the beach in the middle of the day, but after feeling how hot it was and because no one brought any sunscreen, we opted to return at sunset (which isn't a problem since we live nearby). It was wonderful strolling all the way down to the estuary (where the polluted Tijuana River meets the Pacific Ocean). I was able to get a few shots of my dad as we walked around on the sand. It is interesting to note that we were so far south that all our phones triggered international roaming rates, despite remaining north of the Mexican border.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Tis the Season for Eating


I swear these holidays will be the death of me with all the eating. Anyway, here are a couple more food shots from a party I went to a while back (I can't keep up). What was particularly depressing was seeing a couple kids get a hold of the red velvet cupcakes (above) and then were tossing them up in the air. As they were trying to catch them, I instead witnessed the cupcakes exploding upon impact in their hands and splattering everywhere. Tsk tsk. What a waste.
I know the cake's been cut into already. That's what I get for arriving to a party 2 hours fashionably late.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Travel: Las Vegas - Buffet of Buffets

So, we mistakenly thought it would be a good idea to buy the "Buffet of Buffets" pass for ~$45-50 (good for 24 hours at like 6-7 buffets). Personally, we only had time to go to Paris, Caesar's, and Rio, before I seriously did not want to see food ever again. I know you don't have to gorge at these buffets, but after waiting an hour or so in line just to eat, you almost feel like you have to. Anyway, that was an experience I will NOT be repeating anytime soon. 
Note: these food shots were taken near the guest elevators at the Venetian on my way to my hotel room  -- not at any buffets that I went to.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to take a break from posting to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Btw, here's probably my new favorite Christmas song (ha!). I know it's about a "superficial consumer whore" girl (to put it nicely). I actually just thought the video was hilarious.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Travel: Las Vegas - Bellagio at Christmas

So, I'm continuing to upload a few more photos from my most recent trip to Vegas. I made my expected pilgrimage to Bellagio's Conservatory which featured (as expected) a giant Christmas tree. To the sides were polar bears made of flowers and surrounded by pointsettas and on the other side were animatronic penguins skiing and standing around. The center walkway had arches made of flowers, I think.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Travel: Las Vegas - Aria Resort & Casino

Aria Resort and Casino is probably my next favorite hotel. I only say "next" because I haven't yet stayed in it  (I'm slowly working my way south on the Strip). But I'm so in love with its look (the art! the architecture!). Between the sweeping waterfall at the front, the futuristic sculptures near the parking structure, and the dancing fountain in the roundabout, I'm dying to see what the rooms are like. It also doesn't have that smokey cigarette-cloud smell (probably because there are so few people there or their superior ventilation system?). 
Aria doesn't appear to get into the holiday spirit as much as other casinos (see yesterday's post). But the effect would have been quite cheesy compared to its overall modern, clean look (as seen in the pallete used for their hanging Christmas balls in the lobby). Talk about classy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Travel: Las Vegas - Winter at the Venetian

So, I spent the beginning of this week at the Venetian Casino, Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas. They have a spectacular winter theme currently going on and have decorated the hotel accordingly: an ice skating rink (complete with a disco ball) on the canal surrounding the entrance (see below), performers on the bridge to the casino (see above), and an enormous Christmas tree at the front. It's especially a lovely sight at night when all the Christmas lights are on! I was offered (by men dressed as elves) free cider near the registration desk (which I declined). However, I did enjoy a hot chocolate drink with a melted candy cane inside (never had that before)!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mexican Food Night

Raw steak fajitas
So, the other night, G came over and cooked a 3-course dinner for us. It was so yummy! We started with a simple garden salad (complete with raw bell peppers?), followed by chips and homemade (next-level) guac(amole) (topped off with tequila!), and, for our main course, steak fajitas. Drinks were tequila shots, naturally. We then treated G (a regular chef for us) to sweet crepes: Nutella + bananas!
Cilantro doused with tequila.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Seaweed

I noticed that the latest shots I've been posting have all been indoor photographs (I blame the cold!). So, I found in my archives this picture taken earlier this year of dried up seaweed on the beach in San Diego. I guess this is sorta a landscape shot (okay, not really). My favorite part of this photo is that there are no people. Fat chance of me getting a similar shot in Santa Monica.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chess

I took this photograph a while back after seeing a call for images made with a point of view from "up above". I setup the chess board, stood over it, and shot it freehand. The game board actually works double duty as a backgammon board on the other side. Maybe I'll shoot it someday. There is no special meaning to the position of the pieces (sorry chess enthusiasts).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Circular Polarizing Filter

So, I'm giving away my Hoya 58mm circular polarizing filter. I bought it for like $50 a couple years ago and only used it once. I think if I had gotten into landscape photography, I would have used it a bit more. But I didn't. Polarizers are useful for making your skies bluer and cutting your reflections in windows and the water.
Without a polarizer, you cannot read the words (which are highly reflective).
With the polarizer, the reflection is cut, and you can read the inscription.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Children's Toys

My cousin's daughter, A, had her first birthday recently. Here's a shot of one of her toys that hangs above her rocking-cradle-thingy (I thought it was cute). I like how colorful and cheery children's toys usually are. I'm not entirely sure what kind of animals we're looking at (a spotted red bear/frog next to the yellow monkey?). But who cares? And people wonder why children have such wild imaginations...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to Apply for a Philippine Passport

This highlights my experience applying for my first Philippine passport from the Los Angeles Philippine Consulate General office. I have at least 1 parent that is Filipino and I was born in America. I went through this process a while ago, so things may have changed and the fees may have increased. This is mainly designed to give you a general idea of what to expect (what documents to bring, how much money you'll need, and the overall process) since it was my experience that the info on the LA Consulate's website was not up to date when I did it. So, I hope this helps!

U.S. citizens (born to 1 or 2 Filipino parents) applying for a Philippine passport will find this process to be relatively easy. Reporting your U.S. birth to the Philippines actually is the more complicated part. I did both in a matter of 2-3 hours total (most of it was spent in the waiting room) on a very crowded day (Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are apparently the worst). At least, they have a couple flat screen TVs that air The Filipino Channel to entertain you while you wait.

Let's get started!

Reporting Your BIRTH to the Philippines (if you were not born in the Philippines):
  • Costs:
    • ~$25 for the application process.
    • Bring lots of quarters for use on the Xerox machine. The Philippine Consulate makes absolutely no copies for you and you need 4 copies of all documents. There are a several photocopier machines on the same floor as the consulate and on the ground floor, so shop around.
    • Optional: $10-$50 to get things notarized. 
  • Documents you'll need:
    • Report of Birth Form: you can get it at the consulate (or here). You'll need things like your parents' passport info (passport numbers, date issued, date expires), your parents' date of birth, etc.
    • Birth Certificate: you'll need it to prove who your parents were. Also, it gives you the name of your doctor (which they ask for some bizarre reason).
    • US Naturalization certificates or Philippine passports of either (or both) of the parents who claims he/she was still a Filipino during your birth. 
    • Marriage contract of your parents (if married). If not married, and you're using the surname of your father, you'll need an affidavit of paternity of the father.
    • Affidavit of delayed registration: you get the form from the consulate (or here) but you can get it notarized downstairs on the ground floor for like $10.
  • Process: 
    • Go to the window that handles birth registrations to submit the forms. They check to see if you have 4 copies of everything and sort them for you.
    • Pay the $25 fee at another window.
    • Show receipt of payment to the window where you submitted your forms.
    • Wait to receive completed Report of Birth forms.
Applying For A Philippine PASSPORT (after you've registered your birth):
  • Costs: 
    • Fee: ~$70-$100 (depends on how many pages you want your passport to have and how fast you want it mailed to you).
    • Bring quarters for more xeroxing (see note above).
    • They don't validate parking so be prepared to cover that expense.
  • Documents you'll need: 
    • Report of Birth (see above)
    • Passport application form: you can get it at the consulate (or here).
  • Process:
    • Go to the other window that handles passport application forms. Give completed documents listed above and they'll probably ask you to make copies of your documents.
    • Wait. 
    • They call you in groups into the room where your passport photo is taken.
    • More waiting.
    • Get your photo taken. Note: Ladies, they do ask you to remove earrings and glasses, and to cover up your shoulders, if wearing a tank/tube top -- they provide the shawl).
    • Pay fee at window where you also paid to report your birth.
    • Wait 10-12 weeks (for the slowest option) for the passport to come in the mail!
That's it! Congratulations! Now, when your children grow up, they too can go through the same process to receive their Philippine passports.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Photography Filters!

So, I wanted to contrast yesterday's black and white photo with this rainbow colored one today. I think we're looking at colored filter samples for photography (apparently the "Designers Edition"). I got this nifty spiral-card-fan-thingy for free while I was taking a lighting course a few years ago and never got around to examining it until now. I'm not entirely clear how and if I can even use these filters. However, I don't think using filters is my thing (my style is more of the high-key variety), so if anyone wants it (for free, of course), just stop on by and pick it up. There are even shiny gold and silver ones! I'm strongly considering just throwing it away the next time I do spring cleaning, if no one wants it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

High Heels for the Philippines

So, for Christmas this year, I sent about 30 pairs of my shoes to the Philippines -- the majority of which were black high heels. I'm constantly searching for the perfect pair (comfy, cute, sky-high).

Anyway, today was a cloudy/rainy day, so I wanted to take advantage of the naturally diffused light to photograph black on white (okay, so I ended up using beige but that's only because I've run out of backgrounds). I don't think I've totally blown out my hot spots (yay!) but I probably should've put a diffuser between the window and subject. Enjoy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wireless Shutter Release (and Thank You!)

So, I bought my Canon wireless shutter release from Amazon last week for like $20. It even comes with a cute little black pouch. I should warn you though: this thing is tiny! I suppose it has to be (in order to hide it in one's hand) because it uses infrared technology and requires line of sight. I tried it out a few times and the range appears to be decent. Now, I get to be in group pictures (if I bring along a tripod as well)!

Also, as a side note, I just wanted to thank everyone that gave feedback over the weekend regarding how to improve this site. I think we've shifted it's look from the early 90s to modern times. :)

Now back to shooting...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cookies and Wine

B and I once again got invited to a cookie-and-wine holiday party where the hosts serve home-baked, gourmet cookies to their guests (instead of providing a typical lunch or dinner). It's pretty fun and DELICIOUS (I can't emphasize the latter part enough). They actually bake the cookies throughout the party, so they're warm and moist.

Anyway, as much as I love red wine, we usually aren't picky about what we drink. But other people aren't so forgiving. I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions for reasonably-priced red wine that I can perhaps grab at a local BevMo to bring to the party.

Otherwise, please pardon this shot, I'm re-jiggering what kind of watermark to use and where to put it, so let me know if u love/hate it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dell Streak 7 vs. Pride & Prejudice

So, on Black Friday this year, I bought a tablet -- the Dell Streak 7 -- for my brother at the unbelievably low price of $150- or $160-something (thank you Best Buy!). Because he's on vacation right now, I'm testing it out, particularly because I've only played around with an Apple iPad. I absolutely L-O-V-E the Streak (and am strongly considering keeping it for myself :P). Disclaimer: This isn't going to be a product review or anything, but you should know that there are apparently battery-life problems (which I have yet to encounter, obviously).

Anyway, as I was browsing through the pre-installed apps, I noticed that the (Google) Books app came with three free e-books: Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I started re-reading Pride and Prejudice just for kicks when I suddenly realized I already owned not one, but TWO copies of the novel in my personal library. On top of that I own the DVD.

Now, don't get me wrong: I am NOT one of those chicks -- you know, the die-hard fangirls that dream of marrying a real-life Mr. Darcy. If I was, I would have realized that I already own one copy of the book and wouldn't have purchased another one so that I could get free shipping on Amazon. Yes, I have read this book several times, and do enjoy it. But the buck stops there.

I suppose there could be worse things in life: I do own all four of the Twilight books (yeah, I read through all that trash in one week)... in hardcover, no less. Ugh. SMH.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Jade Plant (aka Money Plant)


So, a couple of months ago, B and I helped our friends (M + A) move. As they were cleaning out their old balcony, they gave us this jade plant (an indoor bonsai) which they actually were considering throwing away! Channeling my Asian side, I was of course thrilled to receive this lucky charm. However, when we got it, it was brown, withered, and -- for all intents and purposes -- practically dead. I watered this sucker every day for the next few weeks and finally restored some green life back into it: I even have baby leaves sprouting! Now, all I need is just to buy myself a lottery ticket...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Persimmons

So, my M-I-L gave us a bunch of persimmons yesterday. You'd think that it would be a good thing except there was something very, very wrong with this bunch. The second I put a piece in my mouth, it was as if all the moisture in my mouth got sucked up into the persimmon. I was so shocked that I didn't realize I needed to spit it out. I must have spent the next 10 minutes soaking my tongue in tea/water just to re-hydrate it. The dry mouth feeling was so gross. :(

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fido

So my roommate from college (from way back when), J, asked me to photograph her dogs for Christmas photos. I accepted the challenge today, having never been formally asked to shoot pets before. It was definitely more difficult to shoot than, let's say, babies or children. By the end of the shoot, I was dead tired! I did learn a few things such as the necessity of  having lots of patience and energy (to keep up!). I would definitely do it again if I could, but, next time, equipped with a double espresso and a really good indoor, portrait lens.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Travel: Las Vegas - Venetian (Again -- but with Family!)

So, I went to Vegas this past weekend -- this time with my family (second time doing this with them). We stayed at the Venetian at my mother's request. We were treated very, very, VERY nicely and even placed in a room with a view of Tao Beach and the other Venetian and Palazzo pools. It was a different experience hanging around the Strip with my family but we all had a good time. I saw the outdoor water displays at the Mirage and Bellagio (the above picture is inside Bellagio's conservatory), went shopping, skipped the massive line for the buffet at the Bellagio, escorted my parents to Wynn's dinner buffet, and watched a whole lot of gambling. It was fairly sedate, but good enough to want to do it all again next month. ;)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Mother Hen & Baby Chick

This is probably my favorite shot of the whole trip and the only photo I took with a serious intent. It was raining that afternoon and no one was around but a few hens and their baby chicks. I crouched down low and held my camera as still as possible as there was very little light that day (way, waaaaaay too cloudy), and I sure as heck wasn't going to use my flash to blind these poor creatures. This was one of two shots and boy am I pleased with it. :D

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Shabu-Shabu

We had lunch at Greenbelt in the Ayala center at a shabu-shabu restaurant. We grilled and boiled our own food (with some assistance from the waiters). The mango smoothie was the best I'd had. We had SO MUCH FOOD. Then again, we did have like a 4,000 peso meal for 6 people. Fun experience for all. :D

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Rain/Rock Sculpture

This is one of my favorite sculptures on Bonifacio High Street in Global City. It's a rain-like waterfall from an elevated stone. It looks so much better than the other ones in the mall. We stopped at the Coffee Bean here. I'm always surprised they have a Nine West here as well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Jabbawockeez Wannabe

So we were strolling along Manila Bay when we saw this unidentifiable street performer mimicking the dance moves of the real Jabbawockeez team. I thought that was cute. We stopped and watched until the rain forced everyone to run for shelter within the nearby restaurants (which aren't that great, btw).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Jollibee

We had a few obligatory trips to Jollibee throughout the course of the trip. This is the one in Intramuros where we had breakfast before touring the area. It was so rainy that morning, but by the time we passed by it during our carriage ride, things had cleared/dried up.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Pencil Holders

I was perusing a souvenir stand within the Manila Cathedral when I spotted these pencil holders in the style of the Philippine Flag. I thought that was so cute! I, of course, didn't buy them (see my post on souvenirs).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Manila Cathedral

We went to the church and museum otherwise known as Manila Cathedral. Really, we were just escaping the rain after our kalesa ride, but were pleasantly surprised by this church! It's not as pretty as other churches I've seen in Europe, but for whatever reason, famous and/or wealthy people in the Philippines come here to be married, buried, etc.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Cowboy Grill

While in Manila, Philippines, we decided to go to the Cowboy Grill. It's a restaurant that features a live band and overpriced food. We'd been to a bigger one the year before and weren't impressed with this smaller location. Overall, it was a deafening experience. We were out of there within an hour to look for a better night spot. :/

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Travel: Philippines - "Greenwater Resort"

So, we went to several water resorts/parks while in the Philippines. We had the unfortunate experience of going to one where the water was green (it's supposed to be blue!). It was probably due to the recent storms (we did go during typhoon season, after all). It was hilarious and horrifying at the same time. We couldn't have left that scene any faster.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Grilling Fish

This is another photo of our day at the beach (see yesterday's post). We had purchased some fish at a fish market, and ended up with a few slabs of blue marlin, a whole yellow tail, and some squid (not pictured). It was absolutely delicious. On the beach, there were stray chickens who would walk up to our grill and attempt to steal our food. It was rather amusing, because had they hurt themselves, we probably would have had grilled chicken as well. ;)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Beer

We rented a cabana on the beach and brought along a picnic (there was food, I swear!). It was a nice, hot day, so the drinks were definitely refreshing. We had the whole beach to ourselves (yay, for weekdays!), so, we were loud, obnoxious tourists. Fun day :D.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Chicken Adobo

Hands down, my aunt cooks the BEST chicken adobo I've ever tasted (sorry mom!). I don't know if it's her cooking technique or the ingredients she uses (I heard she puts something extra -- *not* MSG). I'm salivating just looking at this picture. lol.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Travel: Philippines - Guyabano

This picture does not do this fruit justice, but I think this was the only close-up I had of it. This is a cut up guyabano fruit. It has several names (see this wikipedia article for soursop), depending on where it's grown. B ate it almost daily and decided that he actually liked this fruit more than mangoes (blasphemy!). ;)