Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Daily Ramblings - An identity crisis

Not me, the weather in Los Angeles that is.  We had an incredibly mild summer and only a few days here and there that involved the disgustingly hot weather that we usually dread.  Of course, the second it turns to "fall" (as if defining seasons is of any particular relevance in Southern California), the weather totally didn't get the memo about what it was supposed to be doing.  After the hottest day on record in downtown Los Angeles, today I'm driving home in my summer dress (might as well milk it), and I'm greeted by rainbows, thunder, lighting, rain and sunset all at the same time.  It's still 80 something degrees out there.  So, mother nature, what's going on?!

While everybody I know seems to have posted a mobile upload of a rainbow on their Facebook page at the same time, here's a couple of pictures from my front door...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Daily Tutorial - A photo lightbox

While I have beautiful natural light in my house, which was one of the reasons we bought it, for the purposes of product photography I've been finding that relying on the natural light just isn't enough.  Seeing as I'm at work during the majority of the daylight hours during the week, that leaves me limited to taking pictures on the weekend, and which window I set up by depends on what time of day it is.  For that reason, I decided it was time to make a light tent so that I can take consistent pictures, no matter what time of day (or night).

There's a lot of light boxes/tents that you can buy, but if you're on a budget, they're also pretty simple to make at home.  I looked up a variety of tutorials, lots of which involved constructing a frame using PVC piping, or cutting up a sturdy box, then using white fabric or tissue to diffuse the light.  With these tutorials in mind, I developed my own plan for a simple (and inexpensive) light tent.
I opted to use a frosted white plastic storage container that I already had, therefore there was no construction involved (and less chance of me chopping off a finger by accident!)  The lamps are clip desk lamps that I found at Bed Bath & Beyond on sale for $5 each.  They only had 2 left in stock, so I am planning to go get a third to provide downward light some time this week.  The card stock was purchased at the Dollar Tree - 2 sheets for $1.  The most expensive individual cost was the bulbs for the lamps as I bought a set of energy efficient "daylight" bulbs to give light as close to a clean white as possible.  Total cost?  Just under $20.

For a test run, and using my point and shoot on automatic settings (but without the flash), I decided to take some test shots.  I'm already pretty happy with how these turned out and I know that once I have the third lamp shining downward, and I start using my DSLR (on a tripod), I'll be able to produce some really nice shots with a minimal amount of editing required, if any!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Daily Dish - Spicy and delicious

Husband and I were looking for a simple shrimp recipe the other night.  We don't usually have a lot of shrimp in the house as it's not the cheapest thing to buy, but there was a decent sale at the grocery store so figured we'd get some for a change.  I came across this recipe, which seemed like it would be tasty (and I'll admit that I have to appreciate any recipe that calls the seasoning "essence").  So, I threw a pack of saffron rice in the pot, and went to work cleaning and peeling the shrimp while the rice cooked.  I tossed some frozen peas and green beans into the rice once it was about cooked, then finished up spending 2 minutes cooking the shrimp.  I love how quick it is to cook shrimp and it's always fascinating to me how they go from a rather unappealing grey to a delightful pink in such a short time.  The whole thing took under a half hour and if the shrimp had been purchased peeled, I would only have needed to be in the actual kitchen for about 5 of those.
I think I'll keep this one bookmarked because it really was good, and the only tweak I would make would be to halve the amount of salt put into the seasoning.  Generally, we don't add a lot of salt - just making sure there's enough to give lots of flavor.  Also, I do not suggest it for anybody that can't handle a little spice as it has a good amount of cayenne pepper.  Husband and I both love to eat spicy and I always have to check if I'm cooking for visitors to tone it down if necessary.  I'm a terrible judge of what is going to be too hot for others to eat, so I tend to err on the side of caution as it's generally not a good plan to kill your guests!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Daily Travels - Visiting home

As some of you may have picked up on, I originally hail from England.  My brother and I live in California, but my parents are still holding down the fort on the other side of the pond.  Admittedly, I'm a terrible daughter and haven't been back home to visit in a long time (think 4-ish years) and after husband lost his job, it didn't seem like we were going to be able to make it back home this year either.  Then, mom calls me to say that they are officially knocking down and rebuilding the house at home, so it's now or never in terms of going back to my childhood home one last time.  This led to a bit of a dilemma though seeing as there's no way that we could afford 2 airfares home and, if he's travelling with me, husband also won't be around to claim his unemployment.  On the other hand, if by some miracle he finds a job in the next few weeks, he also can't take off for 10 days nor would he want to delay a start date.  It's going to be weird, but we decided the best thing for me to do is go without him.  I seriously don't recall the last time we spent that much time apart - certainly not since we got married.  I just hope Deuce keeps him in check while I'm gone and that he remembers to attempt to not let the dishes pile up.  :)

I would like to give a little shout out, however, to Expedia's bargain fares for making the airfare vaguely reasonable at least.  I remember the days when a flight to Heathrow was $500 (on the high end) with Virgin Atlantic, you could drink all you want on the plane for free, and the food was pretty decent.  This time though, my search for flights were coming up in the $800+ range.  While I was busy lamenting the price, an Expedia bargain fare popped up for $710.  The problem is that it doesn't tell you what time of day the flight is, or the airline, until after you've booked.  Seeing as neither factor was of particular importance to me (although I'll admit I had my fingers crossed that the airline wouldn't be AA or United), I went for it.  Turns out, I'm flying with Virgin with flight times around what I would have picked anyway.  Dear Expedia, thank you for being awesome.  Now I can relax knowing that I'm with an airline that has good in-flight entertainment and (hopefully) better food on offer than a stale bagel or soggy sandwich.  Plus, that $100-something I saved means I have more funds to spend on stuffing my suitcase with Cadbury's chocolate.  Can't wait for some good Indian food either.  Just delightful!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Daily Gripe - Graffiti

I haven't had much to gripe about recently, which is a good thing, but this week we ended up with some random graffiti on the front of the building where I live.  To quote Peter Griffin from Family Guy - "that really grinds my gears".  Fortunately, in Los Angeles, the city will come paint over the graffiti if you report it to them.  It happened some time Monday (or at least that's when intrepid husband spotted it), and the city painted over it today.  It has to be said that I'm super grateful for the expediency.  Out of curiosity, I googled how much the City of Los Angeles spends annually on graffiti removal and got numbers ranging from $11 million to $30 million.  Is it possible to be shocked by that number, yet strangely not all that surprised at the same time?  Whenever I see ridiculous numbers like these, I just think to how far that money could go if put into schools instead (not that I want to turn this into a political gripe).

Not that I think it's fair for businesses or other buildings to be tagged with graffiti, but it's really low to be doing it on somebody's place of residence.  We chose to buy our townhouse in what is supposed to be a safe and friendly neighborhood, not somewhere plagued by random acts of vandalism.  All of this came 2 days after being at a friend's house where we caught a kid tagging down the entire side of the building where she lives.  In an apartment that I lived in previously, I always felt bad for the shop on the corner who had to put a coating of fresh paint weekly over whatever had been most recently sprayed on the side of their building.

I guess it's strange to be able to appreciate the artwork involved in some of the graffiti that I see around the place and wish that the "artists" involved had a better outlet through which to express themselves, rather than defacing somebody's property.  I guess I'll just be happy that the front of my building is back to normal...for now at least.

/End rant!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daily Craft - First patchwork blanket

A little while ago, I claimed a couple yards of awesome retro Winnie The Pooh fabric as part of a swap package on Craftster.  There were various panels with each of the beloved Pooh characters, with some rather garish yellow in between.  I figured I could cut each of the panels out separately and replace the yellow with a more fitting color.  I chose a pretty blue for the panel pieces, with a coordinating fabric for the back.

I've never made patchwork before so this was a bit of an adventure for me (read: I was totally winging it).  I'm mostly happy with the way it turned out, although it's wonky in a few places, some of the corners don't match up and, based on this initial project, I'm pretty sure that batting is a pain in the butt to work with.  I'm also confident that I might be in love with creating patchwork and may very well end up adding quilting to the rather extensive list of things that I want to conquer.

I'm starting to develop all kinds of ideas in my head for fun patchwork baby blankets so this may require a trip to the fabric district downtown - it's like being lost in fabric heaven down there.  I'll be bringing my camera to report back to you all when I go, for sure!

Of course, Deuce had to give it his approval when I was done.  So, what will I do with my slightly crooked but oh so cute first attempt?  The second I finished making it, I already knew who would love it to pieces and I'm excited to be able to gift it to them when I see them next.  :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Daily Travels - A Vegas weekend

Seeing as I was away for a nice 5 day weekend, I've spent all today wondering what day of the week it is anyway.  Surprisingly enough (to me anyway) it's half way through the week and tomorrow is pay-day.  Things could be worse!

Husband and I spent Labor Day weekend in Vegas with his family.  Our nephew had his second birthday party on Saturday, which was quite the success.  We got him some Thomas The Tank Engine mega-bloks, which were a great choice seeing as he spent quite a bit of the day with his new "choo-choo" firmly in hand.  As much as Thomas was a hit, I think Buzz Lightyear might have stolen the show - an interactive and intergalactic space ranger.  Not sure who was more fascinated by it, the toddler or my husband.
Seeing as we've done most of the usual Vegas-y things (i.e. drink too much, gamble a little), we decided to take a trip out to Red Rock Canyon.  Of course, we realized as we were leaving that neither of us had packed anything remotely close to hiking shoes.  Armed with flip flops, we decided to do the 13-mile scenic drive through the canyon, stopping at various vantage points for photos.  There are tons of hiking trails and places to climb around the rocks so we are definitely planning to go back sometime when our feet are better prepared.  For now, here's a handful of shots taken from the various stops we made in the car.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Daily Craft - Delightfully Dexter

As I mentioned in a recent post, I've been doing a Dexter themed swap on  My swap partner just received everything that I made for her so now I can share what I made with you!  For those of you that don't watch Dexter, I will once again recommend it.  It's a wonderfully written show and gave me tons of inspiration for things to make.

A quick group shot of all the items I made.  
From top left and going clockwise...
- Garbage bag inspired purse (with embroidered quote inside)
- Blood gel art
-Laminated opening sequence magnet
- "Normal people are so hostile" embroidered quote patch
- Blood slide / blood drop inspired necklace
- Blood spatter analysis candle holder

Here's some bigger pictures for you to check out as well.  I had so much fun creating all this, I would love to know what you all think - Dexter fan or not!
I haven't received the package she sent me yet, but of course I'll be happy to share what I get when it arrives.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Daily Deuce - A birthday kitty

A message to Deuce...
We believe today is (approximately) your 1st birthday.  When we adopted you, as a tiny little fuzz-ball, I could only have hoped that you'd become such a wonderful addition to our lives.  You're such a sweet, charming, handsome boy and you've got us wrapped around your little paws!
You're as playful now as when we got you as a baby and, for as long as you want us to, we'll always be happy to chase you around the house, fetch your balls from under the couch, or keep getting the brown bags you like from the Chinese place up the street.
It's impossible not to laugh at your ridiculous antics and, even when you're not in the room, we find ourselves imitating your silly "bruuppp" noises, or that grunt you make that sounds suspiciously like "yes".
We're so glad that you like your birthday gifts - try not to chew all the feathers off the activity mat too quickly!  
Also, thanks for wearing the silly birthday hat for just one picture!  We'll try not to humiliate you least until your next birthday!