Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And The Winner Is...

A few weeks ago I had heard back from most of the seven grad schools that I applied to.  I was trying to make a decision between University of Oregon and Sacramento State University when I got a letter from one of my top choice schools that I had written off, Northeastern University.  They only took 35 people from hundreds of applicants so I didn't really hold out hope that I would get in there.  But I did.  I could not believe it.  I immediately began looking at everything Northeastern related online and fell in love with the school.  I joked the next day with my college advisor that the only thing that could make this decision any more interesting is if I got off the wait list at my "first choice" school.  Well, be careful what you wish for, because the next day that exact thing happened.  That "first choice" school, Case Western Reserve University, invited me to come on down to Cleveland.  After looking more into the program and the area around the University, I realized that Northeastern was my first choice all along, I just didn't have any hope of getting in there.  

So there you have it.  This fall I will be moving to Boston and will do one year of prerequisite coursework and two years of masters coursework.  I am so unbelievably excited.  I don't know what living in Boston will be like, but I am psyched to figure it all out.  Northeastern is in a small area of Boston that contains Harvard University, MIT, Tufts, Emerson, and so many more.  It is going to be so cool to be living in such a great college town with so many other students.  Go Huskies!

To learn a little more about Northeastern University you can click here and here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What I Have Been Doing With My Down Time

This live puppy cam is so damn cute that I find myself staring at them while making squeaky little "Ooh how adorable!" sounds.  Press play and the video will begin a live stream of what the puppies are doing right now.  
Live video chat by Ustream

Monday, April 25, 2011


It's been a week since I blogged, and I apologize. I'm not sure if it is because I have been working a lot, or because there has been movement on the grad school front, or perhaps because on Thursday my mother tripped in a parking lot and broke both arms near the elbow. Yeah, that last one seems most likely. My mother is okay. She caught her fall with her forearms and face. She has two black eyes, a fat lip, a forehead laceration, and the two broken flippers. As you can imagine, you can't do a whole hell of a lot without your arms. So, I have become her arms. For those who have called and sent flowers and care packages I want to thank you and tell you how much she loves them. I will write soon about the grad school stuff, because it's pretty exciting!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Lovely Gift

My parents presented me with this gift last week.  They had one of my paintings framed, no small feat given that it is about 3 feet wide.  The painting is based on a photo that I took of one of the roses that my mother grows in her garden.  I think this is what Oprah calls a Full Circle Moment.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Do I Need A Twelve Step Program?

I recently realized that I have far too many pink accessories.  I'm not talking about clothes or anything like that.  I'm talking about things that I may be carrying around with me, at the same time, on any given day.  For example...

I've got my pink Chucks, wallet, iPod, iPhone, water bottle, and pink iPad case.  You think there is a twelve step program for people like me?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Photography Lesson IV - Lighting

The actual lighting of any situation is usually out of your control. If you are inside you may be able to turn on a few more lights, but if you are outside all the lighting control is going to happen in your camera.

The beauty of putting your D-SLR camera into Manual mode is that you can adjust for a certain light, and adjust within a certain light. Again, these adjustments will involve changing your ISO, Shutter Speed, F-Stop, and White Balance like we talked about in the second Photography Lesson.

Adjusting for a certain light is pretty self explanatory and is what I talked about in the second post. This involves changing the Manual Settings until your picture looks lit correctly. Adjusting within a certain light is what I will talk about here and it is what will give your photos a bit more of inartistic flair. Adjusting within light will help you play up shadows, create silhouettes, highlight areas of a photo, and much more. Let's work with a few examples.

Using Low Light To Your Advantage

This photo was taken at my cousin's wedding reception. It was held at night in a large gazebo-like building which was lit by Christmas tree-esque lights. In this type of lighting situation your first instinct may be to use a flash. But you know that I don't like using a flash, and if I had here, I wouldn't have captured the same emotion in the picture. More importantly, I wouldn't have captured the actual moment, I would have captured some bright version of it. So, what I did was dial up the ISO, lower the F Number, slow down the shutter, and turn the WB to indoor light. The result of dialing up the ISO was more "noise" in the photo, but the slight blur from it gives the picture a warm fuzzy feel (Collective "Awww").

Awkward Light Placement

A situation like this can be difficult to photograph. This is a picture of the iconic bagpiper at The Inn At Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach. Our rooms were right on the golf course and every evening the bagpiper (employed by the resorts) walked through the links playing and stopping at various locations. The problem with this lighting is 1) the light from the sunset is low, 2) to get the sunset in the photo the bagpiper had to be photographed on his shadowed side, and 3) if I tried to get the bagpiper well lit using my Manual settings, the sunset would be washed out. The solution was to embrace the idea of the bagpiper in silhouette. I upped the ISO, but not to the very top of the range, and adjusted the shutter and F Stop until the sunset's colors were ideally captured. Then I made sure I had a good angle on the bagpiper (turned to the side and actively playing). The result is a shot that is emblematic of the Inn as well as Pebble Beach Resort. 

This shot was taken on the same trip to Pebble Beach. This is Carmel Beach looking North. In this picture, I wanted to capture several things - the sunset, the peninsula, and the dead tree on the beach. I used the same camera method that I did with the bagpiper to get the color of the sunset without blacking out the other details. (Neither of these photos was edited with PhotoShop). You can see that, in terms of light, the sunset is brightest, the peninsula is dark, and tree and grass around it are black. This helps create a lovely layered look and is a result of where I was standing in relation to the light source. Here is another shot of a sunset creating a layered look:

Where Is The Light In Relation To Your Subject?

This picture was taken in the early evening, so the sun was low in the sky (on Arrow's right). The result of this light placement is that half of Arrow is dark and his shadow is long. For this shot I used a faster shutter (because Arrow was running), and I needed to raise the ISO to compensate. Take a look at where the light is coming from when you line up your shot. It's fun to see Arrow partly shadowed, partly sun drenched because you can really get a feel for the type of day it was. Here is a close up shot from the same time that really shows the shadows:

Getting Creative With Lighting

This shot of Baby B was taken on an outdoor deck early in the morning. The result was that there was a huge difference between the areas of sunlight and the shadows rather than a gradual change. What I did was set my camera to work for the lighter area, knowing that the shadows would be pretty dark (darker than they actually were). The light happened to be falling across his face at the time which created a fun, more artistic photo.
Take Advantage Of How Windows Funnel Light

In these photos of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, a beam of sunlight is streaming in from the famous dome above. I'm sure this was intentional on the part of the architects because it is a church and the whole "light from above" thing is a big deal. I made sure to adjust my settings so the beam was defined instead of just looking like a bright area of light. Just play around with your camera, take a picture, look at it on the screen, then adjust accordingly. (Note: I did not have my D5000 at the time of this trip so the photos are not quite as good quality, but they were best for illustrating my point.)

Dark Situations - Use Any And All Light To Your Advantage

This picture of the Washington Monument, reflecting pool, and Lincoln Memorial was taken from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at about 7pm. This was admittedly a difficult lighting situation for me. I was able to dial up the ISO, slow down the shutter, and open up the lens (F Number) to allow as much light to enter the camera as possible. I also took advantage of the reflecting pool because it nearly doubled the light. (Note: I am going to do a future post on how to use reflective surfaces.)
Aiming Your Camera Directly At The Sun

It isn't easy to take a photo with the sun directly in front of you because it can leave everything washed out. Also, if you are focusing on something in the foreground the subject will be in front of the sun and therefore in shadow. What I did to capture this was to use a low ISO number, fast shutter, and a mid range F Number. The result is that objects in the foreground look darker than they actually were, but since they were not my subject I was okay with that. The good thing about these settings is that the sun looks defined rather than just washing everything out. (Safety Tip: Looking through the viewfinder is my preferred photography method, but probably isn't the best idea for this type of situation. The probability of going blind goes down when you choose to look at the screen instead. I'm so stuck in my ways though, that I looked through the viewfinder and saw spots for a while. I was worried I would have to learn Braille. I'm thinking of doing a PSA about it. Oh well, I guess hindsight is 20/20. Pun intended.)

Now you know a little more about how to use the light in your environment to give your photos more personality. You can even take the same shot twice, but adjust your settings in between to get vastly different, and equally good, photos. Again, the best way to figure out lighting is by playing with your camera. Keep adjusting the settings between shots. I think you will enjoy getting to know your camera this way.

Next up - Taking advantage of little moments and not over-planning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


If you haven't had the privilege of going through the Graduate School Application Process (yes, first letters capitalized is necessary. I almost went ALL CAPS, but decided against it) then I can't really describe the emotional ups and downs that come with it. Anyway, that isn't what this post is about. This post isn't about recommendation letters, applications, fees, acceptance letters, rejection letters, personal statements, or tests. This post is about the who, not the what of the process.

When, in 2001, I moved from Texas to California between Junior and Senior years of high school, I lost touch with a lot of friends. This was before absolutely everyone had a cell phone, or Skype, or texting. This was before (GASP!) Facebook. (Side note/tangent: Mark Zuckerberg is exactly my age so I was in college when he was, and when he invented Facebook. I remember when you had to have a .edu email address to join. I didn't remember that until I saw The Social Network. It also makes me feel like a total underachiever. End of tangent.)

So, back to long distance friendships and the stress of Grad School. I feel very privileged to have kept several relationships going between California and Texas in the nearly 10 years since my move. The closest of these friendships is with my friend Melissa. I met Melissa in First Grade, she was nearly seven and I was almost six (so over 20 years ago). We went to school together from First through Seventh Grades, then she changed to a local public school. But since we were still living in the same city, it was no trouble to keep the friendship going strong. I then continued on to a private high school and she went to a public one. Again, nothing changed. But when I moved to California I was really worried about losing touch, and we both cried on my last night in Texas.

I really shouldn't have been worried. Not a month has gone by since I moved that I haven't gotten several letters from her. And then I write back. Sometimes one of us has something tough going on and writes more than the other, but each and every letter is read and reciprocated. Through the years, email and other electronic forms of communication have become more popular, but we prefer good old snail mail. I can honestly say I have probably communicated with her via email fewer than a dozen times in these 10 years. We chat on the phone and text, but the letters are our main form of correspondence. There is something about seeing her handwriting, the same left handed print that I recognize from our school days, that makes it feel like she is right there with her letter. In fact, when I met her girlfriend a couple of years ago she said, "It's nice to finally meet the person behind the letters in the mailbox".  I feel very lucky to have a friend like her. Our letters aren't always particularly insightful or meaningful in subject matter, but their existence is very meaningful. We can write about boyfriends, girlfriends, work, parental stress, and also about what we are watching on TV, the weather, that we are bored at work, and any number of mundane things. I have several boxes of our letters and treasure them. Maybe these letters are our way of rebelling against technology. (I say this while typing on my wireless keyboard connected to my iPad and published on my blog). Or maybe they are our way of being different. It doesn't really matter.

I'm sure you are asking yourself why I am writing this post now. Well, I'm writing it because this necklace, and the meaning card it was attached to, were included in her last letter.

The meaning card said: 
The lotus flower is an ancient symbol of one's true potential.  Its inner beauty is revealed as its petals open, just as one's hidden potential is fulfilled over time.  Wear it as a symbol of the potential that lives within you.

Nowhere in her letter did she mention the necklace. She just slipped it in there, knowing that this Grad School application journey is all about potential, and she wanted me to know that she sees mine. Because that's who she is. She knows me so well, and can read in between the lines of my letters, that she knows what I need.   And a reminder of my potential is what I needed.  I didn't know that yet, but she did.

I guess I'm writing this as a thank you to her, and a reminder to everyone else to not take friendship for granted. Like any relationship, friendship takes work on both ends. If you find a friend willing to put in the effort, then put it the effort on your end and I think you will be pleased. Also, when you do it right, the "work" you put into keeping a friendship going doesn't feel like work at all. So call a friend today. Or write them a letter. Do something you don't normally do. That's what I'm doing here.

(I also keep her around because she is about as crazy as me!)

(Not to make this about me.  But note my weight loss in the above photo and my sidebar pic. Yay!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Don't Want To Talk About It

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Put On Your Depends And Prepare To Laugh

I found a website recently and couldn't wait to share it with y'all.  It's from the people who brought us Damn You Auto Correct, and is called Parents Shouldn't Text.  Unlike DYAC, these texts aren't necessarily spelling mistakes and stuff.  They are the insane things that happen when our parents decide that they can text.  Here are a few gems. (Parent side of the conversation is in the gray bubbles.)

I must now use Molexted and Sweet Charlie Sheen at least once a day.  

Friday, April 8, 2011

Two Years Ago Today

Two years ago today I started this blog. I find that really hard to believe. The blog was started as a way to keep up with family and friends, and to share the random pieces of my life with the dark void that is THE INTERNET. I have grown a lot since starting this site, and it has grown right along with me.

In my two years of blogging I have lost about 40 pounds, traveled, become a published photographer, changed jobs, applied to Grad School, and so many other things. The best part, though, is that you have been here cheering me on. Two years ago I would have been happy with a few people checking in on the blog a couple times a week. Last month the blog had 1,100 hits. I can tell you that the blog is read in the U.S., U.K., Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Belize, China, Malaysia, Brazil, Russia, Singapore, Iran, the Philippines, Denmark, India, Morocco, and more. I can also tell you that the majority of those readers return, and that is truly the key. When you take the time to read my words and look at my pictures, I feel a deep sense of gratitude that hasn't changed in the last two years. I am humbled.

Here are a few of my (and apparently your) favorite posts from the past two years.

A three-part driving journey through Europe.

A birthday letter to myself.

A Published Photograph!

Conversations with my father. One, Two, Three

How my mother tried to kill me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, My Grandma.

So, thank you for your support. Thank you for your comments. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for helping to make writing this blog an enjoyable experience for me.

Here's to another year of blogging. I know the twos are notoriously terrible, but that's okay. I was also two once.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Aaron Sorkin Should Have An Office In The White House

 I don't know why I felt the need to share this video clip today.  Maybe it's because it seems like not a day goes by without The Christian Right (the extremists, not everyone, don't send me hate mail) using The Bible to take someone's rights away, or hurt good people.  I think this clip from The West Wing shows that knowledge is power and sometimes you have to fight haters with their own words.  I'm also frustrated because I feel like no one is standing up to them.  Oh, and I will heretofore refer to these haters as The Ignorant Tight-Ass Club.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Stuff At My Etsy Shop!

I have just added a bunch of new hair items over at my Etsy shop.  You can click here to get there or click on the "My Etsy Shop" button on the sidebar.  Here's a peek.  Tell your friends!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Homemade Apple Sauce

Since becoming a vegetarian, I have been looking for healthy fruit and veggie recipes. Applesauce seemed like an easy treat to make at home and has zero Weight Watchers points (if you use Splenda). Here is my recipe for fresh Organic applesauce (if you use Organic ingredients). I added pears and blueberries since they were ripe, but you don't have to. This recipe is for a medium sized batch. If you want to make a larger or smaller batch, the ratio is about 2 apples per pear. I use an immersion blender to puree the fruit but you can also use a blender or food processor. 

Apples - 5 medium
Pears - 2 (I use Bosc pears because they seem sweetest)
Blueberries - 1 cup (really just how many you want)
Juice from one lemon (essential so apples don't break down)
Brown Sugar - 1 heaping teaspoon
Sugar or Splenda to taste
Cinnamon - 1 teaspoon if you are NOT using Blueberries

Peel and core the apples and pears. Cut into about 1 inch cubes. Put in medium pot and add lemon juice. Add about 1/2 cup water, or just enough to cover the bottom of your pan. 

Cook on high heat until water boils, then cover pot and reduce to medium low. Cook for 20 minutes or until apples are tender. (The pears will not be tender, but they will be cooked. Just test the apples.) Add the blueberries, replace cover, and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Using a slotted spoon, move the fruit to a large mixing bowl (or blender or food processor). Add brown sugar. Blend until there are no chunks, but don't liquify it. Stir in sugar or Splenda to taste. (If you are not using blueberries you can stir in cinnamon now too).  Move to tupperware and refrigerate. I also like to have a serving when it's warm!

I have been tempted to go all Jessica Seinfeld on this recipe, but I haven't had the guts yet. Hope you like it!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

WTF Fortune

First the candy hearts, now fortune cookies.  What is happening?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy April Fools Day