Looking Closer, Seeing Further

I am finally done with school for 2017 and looking forward to the year ahead. There are a lot of changes going on here, in life, and at work. Also, a few months ago, I enrolled in a photography class and had a blast. Our instructor took us around Seattle to photograph popular landmarks and taught us some techniques to get the hang of finally using the manual mode on our fancy DSLRs. This one is a close-up shot of one of the barnacle laden rocks up in Discovery Park by the light house.

Our first lesson was done at the Seattle Arboretum. A week later, we were at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Week 3 was at the Seattle Public Library, and the last session was in Discovery Park. Not only did I learn a lot of tips with finding my “photographic voice”, I also felt more justified for burning through thousands of dollars buying photography equipment. I had so much fun practicing, figuring settings out on my camera, and learning the rudiments of composition. The public library was a treasure trove of lines and geometric patterns for abstract images. Discovery Park is an interesting place especially with the old military buildings. Also, it’s a great place to just sit by the water and watch the waves. There was a bit more walking than I expected that day and in hindsight, I should’ve worn comfier shoes but I still had a good time.

I’m looking forward to displaying my photos here as well as physically at home. I’m also excited to do more shoots around Seattle especially downtown. Maybe doing some people photography can help me out of my shell.

The Zen of Macaron Making

I recently discovered a new hobby to add to my growing collection of hobbies: Macaron making! I have always found macarons to be such a source of happiness. They look so cheery with their vibrant colors. Their scrumptious texture: light and airily crisp on the outside, soft and just the right degree of chewiness on the inside, never fails to give me that Mmmmmm sensation from head to toe. The many fillings featured by each patisserie that I visit conjure images of being on some magical taste adventure. I discover flavors I never thought would make sense until they meet my curious taste buds.

I wanted to learn how to make them myself so I can enjoy and explore the many glorious tastes and pairings I have found featured on every macaron website I could find. Unfortunately, I have come to learn that these happiness-inducing confections are quite devilish to make and require a great amount of attention to details and an even greater amount of luck in some cases. Despite all the knowledge and advice I find about macaron making, I still feel this is one skill that I will not easily master by just merely reading a book. It will take practice and many failed (but still delicious) attempts to whip up the perfect batch of macaron cookies. My friends don’t seem to mind as the results are often shared with them in the hopes that they could offer some honest critiques regarding taste, texture, and appearance. Unfortunately, all I ever get is the usual “Mmmm. Oh my goodness, these are sooooo goooood!!!” comments. Not really very helpful when I am trying to figure out what to fix or work on in terms of techniques and ingredients.

One thing, however, is that macaron making has become a zen-inducing activity for me. The process of sifting, weighing, whipping, and piping all seem to give me a sense of peace. Even the process of cleaning up before, during, and after baking helps me to just zone out and focus on the task at hand. It is challenging, mind you. Every step of the macaron making process requires attention and focus. And even then, after following every instruction to the exact letter, you can still come away with less than stellar results: cracked shells, no feet, burned or underdone cookies, runny frosting… the possibilities for error are seemingly endless. It almost seems to reflect life itself and the pursuit of success. Some days, no matter how I obsess over every detail, I still end up short of the goal. It pays to develop an attitude of being more forgiving of yourself: one lesson that macaron making can definitely impart. In any case, the cookies are still sweet, the fillings are still yummy. They may not be Aplus pretty but if you look past the presentation, you can learn to enjoy even the failures in life… and in macaron making.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I must state I didn’t make the ones in the photo. 😉


While You Weren’t Looking

Well, hello again!!! I’m finally on a break from school for the next two weeks and now it’s (waaaay past) time to update the blog and the website. I have not been idle, however. Not counting the weekly homework, I have also been taking online photography classes, getting back to hiking, met some new friends, went to Iceland… Yep! I went to Iceland last February with some work friends and had a blast. Some people do girls’ night out. These ladies do girls’ night waaaay out.

In the meantime, I tagged along with my little camera and some choice lenses and snapped away.

Day 1:

We left on the day of a big snow storm in Seattle. Despite our flight boarding on schedule, we sat on the tarmac for about an hour (or two) while waiting for our plane’s wings to get de-iced. We got to Keflavik airport about 2 hours behind schedule and took the flybus to our hotel. Me and my roomie opted to take a little nap while the other ladies went to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. It happened to be extraordinarily rainy that day and I figured it was not going to be worth getting myself and my precious camera equipment wet for some badly lit photos. Besides, there was a 4 hour city tour after lunch, so I caught a few zzz’s before it was time to go.

After our quick nap, we waited for the shuttle to take us to the tour bus terminal. The four hour tour took us around Reykjavik and the surrounding areas. We had a few minutes here and there to take photos and explore. We were supposed to go on a boat trip to the middle of the bay to see the Northern Lights in the evening but it got cancelled due to inclement weather. Towards the end of our tour we decided to ditch at the next stop and walk to the Harpa Concert Hall to go exploring on our own. Afterwards, we walked uphill towards the Hallgrimskirkja church have dinner at Cafe Loki. I had my first taste of fermented shark, a local delicacy. It felt like a urinal blew up in my nose. Definitely a once (and only once) in a lifetime experience. We took the cab back to our hotel, had a few drinks, and went to bed.

Day 2

Another day of soul-sucking wind and rain. All tours got cancelled all over the city. After breakfast, I decided to do some quick school work while everyone else decided what they wanted to do. We finally settled with having lunch at the Matur og Drykkur. I tried some trout smoked in sheep’s dung (yes, dung!). It was surprisingly tasty. I also had the pleasure of watching one of the staff plating our meals with his bare hands (insert incredulous emoji here). The ladies decided he was quite tasty. Unfortunately, he was not on the menu.

After lunch, we went to the Saga Museum next door and went on a little history tour. The displays were quite fascinating. The details were so eerily realistic even down to the bulgy hand veins (can you tell I’m a nurse?). I could swear there was at least one character that looked like it was breathing. The whole history narrative reminded me so much of the Vikings TV series. I decided to get some trinkets for presents at their gift store. We also had a lot of fun dressing as vikings and playing with props while getting photographs.

After the viking history tour, we went to the Northern Lights Exhibition next door. The sign said they can help you figure out your camera settings to take Aurora Borealis pictures. Luckily, I had brought my camera with me so I was excited to go. The photo exhibit was amazing. There was also a room where you can sit and watch photos of the Northern Lights set to a really soothing background. Towards the end of the display, there was a little darkened booth with little windows to put your camera in and take test shots of a simulated image of the Northern Lights so you can adjust your camera settings. I and one of the ladies afterwards decided to get some snacks for tomorrow’s bus tour from the local grocery store before we all had dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street from our hotel. After a few shots of Brennivin and some cocktails, we went to bed.

Day 3

We spent the whole day on a 10-hour tour of the southern section of Iceland and went to see waterfalls, a glacier, the quaint little town of Vik, and a museum of antiques and ancient maritime artifacts. The entire time, I was making mental notes of places to go back to on my next visit. There were plenty of amazing photo opportunities and I had fun playing with my new camera lenses.

The tour took long enough that we had just enough time to grab a quick snack before having to leave for the Northern Lights boat trip. The boat was pretty crowded and hanging out on the deck meant we had to contend with the freezing cold. The whole time, there was a guy on the PA system prattling on about the Northern Lights while we were waiting for a sighting. Unfortunately, with the bad weather and the almost full moon, we had minimal luck. I managed to snap a tiny little blip of it on my phone as we were heading back to the dock. By the time we got back to our hotel, it was already bed time.

Day 4

Our last day in Iceland! We decided to take the relaxing route. Our flight back didn’t leave until 4 pm so we spent the morning at the Blue Lagoon Spa. The relaxing hot springs and the silica facials were just the thing to help me recover from the three adventure-filled days. I also managed to get some more presents for the folks at home from the spa’s store as well as some treats for myself. After spending the day at the spa, we took the cab to the airport to catch the flight back home.

I have to say, Iceland sure knows how to capitalize on the tourism business. They did a lot of things right, in my observation. The whole tour bus system was pretty well organized. They have scheduled buses to pick up the tourists from their hotels to the central bus station where the different buses and shuttles heading to specific destinations and tours were parked. Everyone spoke English very well and signs were pretty easy to read. I’m excited to go back with the hubby and go on an adventure to try all the other fun things like a glacier walk, dog sledding, and a “superjeep” tour inland to spend the night taking pictures of the Aurora Borealis.

I am still catching up with life at the moment and will be posting links once my photo gallery is set up.

The Chrome is not Okay

There is something kooky with Chrome. I was making changes to my website’s design and editing CSS all day. When it came to “go live”, I uploaded my changes to my server, opened Chrome on my laptop and connected to the website. Lo and behold, the “hr” borders were there but they were all wonky. The color scheme was still the same as before I changed it. I opened the site on my phone (LG G5, running Chrome), same problem. I opened the site again on my laptop, this time using Microsoft Edge. It showed up like it was supposed to, dashed borders, background color changes and all. It seemed my changes only manifested on other browsers. When I inspected the elements in Chrome’s Dev Tools, the CSS window keeps showing “user-agent-stylesheet” with selector settings I don’t even remember making. I dug around the googleverse and discovered that Chrome has a habit of doing this and there seems to be no way to deactivate it (at least within my range of ability). I tried to edit my CSS hoping to figure a workaround to the issue, no dice. I temporarily gave up on it for a bit and continued to work on my website and started noticing that NONE of my new CSS changes were getting through to Chrome at all. Another search in the googleverse using different keywords this time pointed me to stackoverflow and I found this (click here).  TL:DR I needed to change the name of the CSS file from style.css to something else (stylesheet.css in this case). Reloaded the website and BOOP! Everything is now working like it should in Chrome. I’m suspecting that Chrome updated something and caused it to start doing this. Anyhoo, back to work I go.

Hello, 2017! and the opacity conundrum

Happy New Year, all! I know it has been a few months since my last post. Life, unfortunately, caught up with me and now I am in school for my post-graduate studies. This means for the next two years or so, not much will be happening other than working full-time AND studying full-time. I’m hoping to squeeze in some web developing and other fun things here and there but I’m not making any promises. Right now, I’m days away from the start of another school term and I thought I would tinker with HTML and CSS just to keep my skills up and maybe dip my fingers into some responsive web design and PHP as well.

Right now, I’m working on a practice project for funsies in an effort to revamp my website in the future to include a shop as well as a more user-lovable gallery and slideshow. I have run into a bit of a conundrum, however. Under the “recent posts” section, I wanted to make the feature image into a sort of background where the title would be floating over it. I opted to use the “featured image” as the background image for the <div> the post title will be in and set the opacity to 0.5 (half). Unfortunately, all the child elements progressively become transparent as well. Apparently, this is one of the issues that the powers that be are working on at the moment. For now, my options are to create a <div> for the image with an overlay on top of it, or edit the image to change its opacity before uploading it into the <div>. The latter option will be tricky since the featured image is only transparent in the main page but not in the blog post.

We will have to wait and see what happens.

Quick update: I used the feature image AND an overlay with an opacity of 0.5 pre-edited in photoshop for the background, set the background-blend-mode to screen, opacity remains default (opacity: 1;) and this happened:

It’s a great option for when the background image will be changing depending on the feature image for the recent blog post. Now I’m off to do the happy dance!

Erin Condren Planner Update

So it has been 4 weeks since I started using my Erin Condren Life Planner and so far things have been going well. I have been trying out a few things to help me organize my thoughts: stickers, stamps, stamped stickers. I even tried to create My own stickers with sticker sheets and my Silhouette machine. Everything is still a work in progress but so far, I’m starting to fall into a sort of pattern.

I used stamps from StudioL2E that I have had for a while now, some washi strips (hydration tracker) from the Studio Calico Planner Kits, and sticker printables from Etsy that I printed on sticker paper and cut out with scissors after conceding to the fact that the Pixscan feature from Silhouette Studio was not going to be a viable idea. I also tried to decorate with sticky notes and washi tape but eventually preferred a cleaner looking planner.

So far it’s helping me not feel so overwhelmed with the prospect of weekly schoolwork on top of work schedules and enjoying my days off with family. The glittery blue notebook I’m using as a “brain dump” where I write everything I need to eventually note in my planner or for future reference. It’s a bit more portable so I can carry it with me everywhere and then migrate certain things to my planner when I get home without having to carry the ECLP around all the time.

I’m still working on eventually making my own planner stickers with my Silhouette machine. I have the whole cut settings figured out for my machine at this point. I just need to figure out the print and cut part. Will post updates as they happen.

Giving the Erin Condren Planner a second chance

I had some major issues with my EC planner when I ordered it last year and in the end, the product left me quite underwhelmed, I promised myself “never again”. I spent a few months using the planner to make myself feel like I was getting my money’s worth and eventually gave up and switched back to my Filofax.

I gave it another try this year since, well… I just never learn. Anyway, I chose the leased personalized version I could pick: no initials on the cover, regular run-of- the-mill cover design, no foiling, etc. The only thing I decided to make different was to choose the horizontal layout instead of the vertical WO2P style. I was pressured to have to categorize tasks with the vertical layout from my old EC planner since all of my tasks won’t fit in one box (oh the details I can’t let be). I felt I would have a more unified feel with just one big encompassing box for each day of the week and a side box for little things. I received the planner in the middle of July and just in time for the start of school (you can order here).

I’m still trying out a system for how to make my planner look and feel fun and functional at the same time. I thought about using the planner goodies I had been getting from Studio Calico’s monthly planner kit to jazz up my pages and task.

I also experimented with using my whiteboard marker pens vs Souffle pens on the laminated dashboards and decided to go with the Souffle pens. The colors are brighter and when dry, they don’t smudge when I touch them with sweaty fingers (an issue with the whiteboard markers). The only beef is that the Souffle gel pens take a bit to dry but not too long to make it unbearable.

I also wanted to develop a system where I won’t have to carry a big pouch full of pens and planner supplies around. I’ve trimmed my things down to some degree. I figured I could do my stamping and washi tapes at home since I do them ahead of time anyway so I won’t have to bring washi or stamps with me. I pared my pens down to this multi pen from Pilot (Dr. Grip 4+1) and some choice Frixion pens.

I’m planning on trying out the dry gel pen from Zebra so I’m ordering one from Jetpens (tread carefully in this website, pen addicts. It’s a dangerous place). If it works better than the Souffle pen on my dashboards then I might use those instead and pass on my Souffle pens to a certain thirteen year-old who I’m sure will put them to good use.

The plan is to pick a system for a few weeks, see if they work, and revise if needed. I’ve developed a system for my study schedule for the rest of this term so I’m sticking it through and see if things will need improvement. The to-do boxes and such may or may not have to go. The weekly box may also need a bit of tweaking. Ultimately, I want to be able to prioritize work and school (of course), assign some home chores, add some selfish personal care stuff, schedule a blog post or two every month, go hiking, and slowly keep working on my website development. Hopefully, this EC planner won’t let me down this time around.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

I’m borrowing an adage from one of the books I’m reading to learn about HTML. One of the exercises is to create a location app that displays a map on your web page. I’ve uploaded the “app” on my website so you can play with it as well.

The “Watch me” button turns on the geolocation app and “follows” you around while the “Clear watch” button stops it. Try it out on your phone, go outside, walk around town and see how it works!

Click here to play with the app.

It may ask for permission to access your location. If it won’t work or it isn’t supported, there’s a corresponding error message that will show on the page. If you allow it to access your location, it will also show how accurate it is (within a radius of a few meters).

Added bonus: It shows you where the “WickedlySmart HQ” is (or rather, how far away you are from it. I did a search on Google Maps with the coordinates and it turns out, it’s an intersection somewhere in Bainbridge Island.

One of these days, I might go find it myself and check it out.

Update: the app will now drop a pin along your route every 20 meters.

Back from Vacation, Into the Grind

Just got back from a month-long vacation with family and I’m excited to get my hands dirty with paint and glue right away. I figured that a challenge or two could be just the thing to get my mojo back on.


I took the idea of using my PL cards on the page from Scrapbook Circle and the sketch from Scrapbook Challenges.

I still have quite a ways to go before I could get “caught up” with scrapping my old photos. Not that I ever want to get “caught up”  with scrapbooking, but putting a bigger dent on my photos would be nice.

Scrapping after a long break


After a few months of radio silence, I’ve finally dived back into my scrapbook supplies. I thought I would start with a challenge.

The page above is for Scrapbook Circle’s technique challenge called “heart strings”. I was trying to think of some creative way to mix up string and heart shapes and come up with something special and complicated. Eventually I settled with something simple just to get my creative mojo back on track.


I mixed some stamping into the layout as well. I’ve been slowly amassing a collection of clear stamps and I really wanted to put them to good use so I promised myself to include at least 3 stamped elements onto each layout from now on.

Supplies: Patterned papers (October Afternoon, American Crafts, Stickers (October Afternoon, Bella Blvd), Alphabet stickers (Studio Calico), Clear Stamps (Studio Calico) and punces (Marvy Uchida).