365 Project: Evolving

I have a confession to make.  I didn't take any photos last week.  Though it's been about six weeks since I started it, I was already feeling like it was more of an obligation than a joy.  I wasn't happy about the photos I was taking and I wasn't excited to take them.  So I'm removing the pressure and letting the project evolve.  It is now the "52 Week Project."  Rather than a photo everyday, I will do one photo a week.  This should be significantly more doable since I tend to have more time to shoot on the weekends than during the week. 

I'm picking up where I left off so here's Week 7:

Outside the Kitchen Window - The Boyfriend traded in his SF Bay view for a (distant) Golden Gate Bridge view.  Can you see it?  Look far out in the distance...


Friday Foto - Bicchiere

Translation: Glass

Cool glass of water.  Bicchiere di acqua fresco.  So nice in the summer time!  If only it were summer time...



Piggin' Out

Lately, I've found myself eating like a pig.  A guinea pig.  Having to shop for Molly has influenced my own diet.  Guinea pigs are strict herbivores which means they only eat vegetables and fruit - no grains, no nuts, no seeds, and definitely no meat!  Fruit is mainly used as a treat and shouldn't make up a large part of their diet because they're prone to diabetes and obesity.  Can you imagine a fat diabetic guinea pig?  So sad.  Like humans, their little bodies don't make vitamin C either.  Instead, they need veggies in their diet to satisfy their vitamin C needs because, guess what... they're also susceptible to scurvy!  The pellet food sold for guineas in pet stores usually has vitamin C in it.  The problem, however, is that vitamin C loses its potency in a very short amount of time.  All this means Molly needs things like kale, red peppers, and mustard greens, to supplement her pellet diet.

As a responsible guinea pig mom, I find myself spending a lot more time in the produce section of the grocery store and a lot less time in the Lean Cuisine/Smart Ones aisle.  While there, I pick up a few things for myself that catch my eye.  It's been a long time since my fridge has had this much produce in it!  At the moment, I have kale, spinach, parsley, red peppers, grapes, strawberries, oranges, and bananas in my kitchen.  I know that doesn't sound like much for a lot of you, but I live alone and rarely have time to actually cook during the week.  Plus, despite their name, guinea pigs can be picky eaters.  Molly doesn't seem to like red peppers, but I have two big ones sitting in my fridge (minus the few slivers I tried to feed her).  I can't let them go to waste, can I?  So I need to get creative with these leftover veggies and I need your help, dear friends.  Any good recipes out there for things like kale or mustard greens?  I've made kale chips once but I'd like to try something new.  Got any ideas?

Found Mickey, Lost A Camera

As you know, we went to Disneyland this past weekend.  It was amazing!!  I want to live in Disneyland.  Not Anaheim, or even SoCal, but Disneyland.  Like on Main Street.  I want a parade outside my front door every morning and fireworks in my backyard every night.  Alas, this can never be, but a girl can dream right?

The one downside to the weekend was our lost camera.  For various reasons (rain, love of fast roller coasters, etc.), I chose not to take the DSLR to the park.  We took most of our photos and videos on The Boyfriend's Canon Powershot instead.  Believe me, we caught some real gems.  Unfortunately, the camera (and the beloved memories contained within) were left in our hotel's restaurant.  We realized this on the drive home and were ready to turn back to get it.  However, after about five calls to the front desk of the hotel and the restaurant itself, we realized it was gone for good.  We suspect someone must have found it but just didn't turn it in.  Shame, shame if that's true.  As a result, all we have are the few shots I captured on my phone. 

Mickey Mouse

Toon Town

Paradise Pier at California Adventures

Minnie's Front Yard

Randomness in Mickey's House

Lunch in Frontierland

Our Little Lunch Buddy

The Drive Home



Mushroom Risotto

"mushroom risotto recipe"

I'm going to go out on a limb here and just say it.  I've perfected risotto.  It's true - and I'm qutie proud of this fact because I love that creamy, gooey, delicious-y-ness like none other.  Just call me Nonna Stefania.

I've discovered there are three keys to unlocking the perfect creamy-yet-firm risotto.  The first is the broth - add hot broth one ladle at a time and allow the rice to fully soak it up.  Never add broth that is cooler than the rice.  Next is toasting, which in Italian is tostatura (I think).  Lightly toast every grain of rice, or at least as many as you reasonably can.  The final key is stirring - gently but consistently - for the whole time the rice is cooking.  That's it!  Perfect Italian risotto can be yours with just a little patience.

"easy mushroom risotto recipe"

What You Need:
1/4 c. butter plus 1 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1.5 c. raw Arborio rice
10 oz. raw mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
4 to 5 c. boiling broth
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 c. Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

What To Do:
1. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a saute or frying pan.  Cook the mushrooms until brown and tender.  Set aside.

2. Melt 1/4 c. of butter and 1/4 c. of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet (or large pot).  Add the onions and saute slowly until tender, but be careful not to brown them.

3. Add rice and stir gently allowing each grain to get a little toasted (this is the "tostatura" part).  This should only take about 10 minutes.

4. After the rice is sufficiently toasted, add the mushrooms and stir gently for a couple minutes.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste then add the wine.

6. Stir for a minute or two then add the broth, one ladle at a time, until the rice is tender and the liquid is fully absorbed.  It should take about 25 minutes for the rice to fully cook to al dente and you should stir gently this entire time (this is where patience comes in!).  Note - you may not need the full 5 cups of broth but have it warm and ready, just in case.

7. When rice is fully cooked, remove from heat and gently stir in the cheeses.

8. Pat yourself on the back for making perfect risotto and enjoy!




365 Project: Weekly Review

33/365 - Valentine's Chocolates

34/365 - Me and My Glasses

35/365 - Double Rainbow

36/365 - Looking Out

37/365 - Mickey

38/365 - Minnie's Shopping List

39/365 - Sunset in the Central Valley


Mortal Muses: Street Personality

Imagine my surprise when I opened up Google Reader and saw my photo featured in the latest post on Mortal Muses.  If you're not familiar with Mortal Muses, go check it out now then browse through the Flickr pool for some of the most beautiful and fabulous eye candy on the site.  Essentially, Mortal Muses is a blog run by nine female photographers from around the world who alternate posts on different themes each week.  Each Muse offers her own photo in the post as a companion to one selected from the Flickr pool. 

Click on the link above to see today's post featuring my photo "Chinatown" or click on the button over to the left (scroll down a bit) any time to visit the website from here.  Enjoy - and thanks, Mortal Muses!

Disneyland and Rainbows

We're going to Disneyland today!  Well, it's actually tomorrow, but we're driving down tonight so Disneyland will be thisclose to me.  Going for no reason at all seemed like a Big Mario thing to do, don't you think?  I'll return Sunday night, with many photos and tales of adventures.  For now, I leave you with the beautiful rainbow that was outside my office just for a moment after the hailstorm yesterday.  (It was actually a double rainbow, which you'll see in my 365 photos.)



365 Project: Weekly Review

I was almost completely dependent on my cell phone for my photos last week.  I've decided not to be embarrassed by that - I'm embracing the apps!

26/365 - Molly

27/365 - Coming Out of Hiding

28/365 - Eyes on the Prize

29/365 - Morning Tea

30/365 - Sunny California

31/365 - The New View

32/365 - Itty Bitty Neighbors


Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Anniversary

I know this is late in coming but ... HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!

Also, I just realized that Big Mario's one-year anniversary was this past Saturday.  I don't know how I managed to let that milestone go by without any recognition.  Oh, wait.  Yes, I do.  I was helping The Boyfriend move into his fabulous new apartment all weekend!  It was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. 

Are you wondering about the photo I chose for today?  Well ... we're going to Disneyland this weekend so it seemed to be an appropriate way to celebrate! 

Give some love today - to yourself and your Valentine!


Sweet Home Chicago

Whether it's the Great Blizzard of 2011, the NFC Championship game, or Rahm Emanuel's mayoral race, Chicago has been in the news a lot lately.  Because of this, Chicago has been on my mind more often than usual.  I miss it.  I really do.  I lived in Chicago for seven years.  That seven-year period shaped me and influenced my life more than nearly any other seven-year time span.  I went to college in Chicago, lived in my first apartment in Chicago, worked my first real job in Chicago, and developed the most amazing friendships while living in Chicago - friendships that I know will last a lifetime. 

As silly as it may sound, I also developed a friendship with the Windy City itself.  I loved riding the Brown Line to work, jogging along Lake Michigan, going for photo walks through Grant Park (and, later, Millennium Park), spending Tuesday afternoons at The Art Institute, perusing the stacks at the Lincoln Square branch of the library, and window shopping along Armitage Avenue.  The Windy City and I had some great times together.  And though I grew up in San Antonio, I sometimes felt more at home in Chicago than Texas.

After almost three years of being way, I'm finally going back for another visit this summer.  My college roommate is getting married in Illinois (yay!) so I'm using that as an excuse to take The Boyfriend to all my favorite Chi-town spots.  I can't wait to introduce him to my friend, my sweet home, Chicago.

One of Redmoon Theater's great street spectacles:

Downtown Chicago, through the rails of an urban Christmas tree:

View from Millennium Park:

Under the infamous Bean:

Summer clouds through the skyline:



We have a new member of the family.  This past weekend, The Boyfriend and I took a trip to the pet store.  I've wanted a puppy for a long time now, but we're not allowed to have cats or dogs in the apartment.  So we headed to the pet store Saturday afternoon intending to get a hamster.  Once we arrived, however, we just weren't feeling it.  All the hamsters were sleeping (they're nocturnal) and I just didn't feel like it was the right move.  As we were looking around, some cute little guinea pigs caught our eyes -- particularly this little grayish one with a funny cowlick on her head.  We talked to the clerk for a long time, asked lots of questions, and decided to get her!

Meet Molly:

She's only two months old, so she's still very shy, but she's slowly starting to get comfortable (and curious!).  I have to confess, as of this past Saturday morning, I knew nothing about guinea pigs.  After talking to the pet store clerk (who has two of her own), reading a book called Your Happy Healthy Guinea Pig, and doing tons of online research, I've concluded that guinea pigs as a species are terribly misunderstood. 

Did you know you can litter train guinea pigs?  You can.  Did you know you can train guinea pigs to walk on a leash?  You can.  Did you know you can teach guinea pigs tricks?  You can!  Guinea pigs love companionship and bond very easily with their humans.  They learn to recognize their humans' voices and learn to respond to their own name.

Right now, Molly is very small - about the size of my hand - but she'll grow to be about 8-11 inches.  (She should continue to grow until she's about 14 months old!)  Guinea pigs also have a life span of about 8-10 years, with the oldest known to have lived over 14 years (according to Guinness Book of World Records).

Guinea pigs are found wild in Peru and live in herds.  They have all kinds of weird sounds and movements which they use to communicate with each other and their human owners.  So far, Molly squeak-talks a lot, especially when she's exploring a new toy.  I've only heard her squeal in fear once - I put her in a big box for some running around time.  Not a good idea.  She freaked out and tried to climb out of the box, despite the fact that guineas don't climb and hate having their feet off the ground.

She also purrs when she's happy or content.  She loves a soft rub on the lower part of her back.  Another things that makes Molly purr is listening to music.  Who'd have thought she's a musical pig!?

Guinea pigs also need fresh fruits and veggies to supplement their diet, but they can be picky about what they like.  Molly doesn't care much for strawberries or spinach but she loves oranges and parsley.  The cutest part about a little guinea is a phenomenon known as 'popcorning'.  Basically, when guineas get excited, they start jumping up and down like popcorn popping in the pan.  I saw Molly do it for the first time today when I gave her alfalfa hay.  Apparently she really likes alfalfa hay!

Alright, I think I've chewed your ear off long enough about our little Molly.  I have a feeling she'll make a few more Big Mario appearances.  So far I've only been able to sneak a few phone photos (with the horrible flash) but when she gets more comfortable in her new home, I'll introduce her to the big camera.  She'd better get used to the life of a model.

Molly exploring her new toys:



365 Project: Weekly Review

19/365 - Juicy Strawberries

20/365 - Eye

21/365 - Winter Kisses

22/365 - The Capitol

23/365 - Potato Soup in the Making

24/365 - Daffodils

25/365 - Training for the Marathon


Friday Foto - Verde

Translation: Green

Yes, like the color.


Thursday Morning Thoughts

1. I'm having nostalgia for my days in Chicago.  Who knew the worst winter storm in decades would make me miss the snow?
2. Meanwhile, it's 60s and sunny here in NorCal...
3. Is it Friday yet?  I'd like to actually enjoy the temperate weather.
4. Thank God I have giant windows in my office. 
5. Random thought of the day (and apropo of nothing): I want a puppy.  Then I can take it to Tahoe and let it play in the snow.


The Colosseum

A little fun with texture layered on top of an iconic Italian image.



My New Epiphanie Bag

I've been on the hunt for a new camera bag for a while now.  I decided about a month ago on the black Lola bag from Epiphanie but quickly changed my mind when I visited their website.  Why did I change my mind, you ask?  Well... because Epiphanie has three new designs and I liked one of the new ones better!  According to their website, even more designs are coming down the pipeline.  I chose Clover in gray though I like to call it Elephant Gray (yes, Epiphanie, you can use that!).  The bag arrived in its own dust cloth case, which is very handy for storing my bag safely when not in use.  I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that it's not real leather, considering the price.  However, the bag seems to be well made, sturdy, and durable.

My first impression of the Elephant Gray Clover was "Whoa, this is huge."  It's definitely bigger than I expected, but in a good way.  The nifty little tote holds my laptop, Canon DSLR, two lenses, laptop power cord, camera battery charger, and USB cable.  Plus, I tossed in my wallet, cell phone, keys, a pen, and nail polish for good measure.

The bag was comfortable enough to carry around, but I was very aware of how large it's size (I may or may not have bumped a few people).  I think, I'll get used to that after a while, though.  The inside is hot pink, made of super soft felt, and the lined dividers have Velcro edges so you can easily rearrange them.  I moved a couple of mine around to make two little levels within the bag.  The best part is, no one knows the bag is a camera bag!  Now don't get me wrong - I've never been embarrassed to carry my gear in a traditional camera bag.  If anything, it's been a source of pride ("Look at me, I'm a photographer!").  But, like my lovely friend Irina said, those other camera bags are just "so ugly."  The Epiphanie line of bags is perfect for a fashionable photographer on the go.

I shot this outside to capture the colors accurately.  The front pocket is also felt-lined.  The back has another pocket with a zipper closure.

Hot pink!  The laptop divider is sewn in, so if you're not toting your computer around the pocket is perfect for carrying all kinds of other goodies. 

Another view of the inside - there are two full length dividers and two half-sized dividers.  I used one to separate the camera accessories from the computer accessories.  The other is covering my 50mm lens and providing a very easy-to-access shelf for my keys (center section).
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