365 Project: Weekly Review

12/365 - Wilted

13/365 - Dense Fog

14/365 - Tangerines and Light Leaks

15/365 - Sunset from My Office

16/365 - No Parking, Just Sleeping

17/365 - Waiting for Riders

18/365 - Freckles and Wrinkles



Friday Foto - Gioventù

Translation: Youth, Young People 

Some gioventù watching intently as the piñata is hung:


Please Vote for My Photo on JPG

Hello Lovely Readers!

I have a huge favor to ask of you.  I submitted one of my photos, The Grand Canal, for possible publication in JPG Magazine.  (The theme for this upcoming issue is "Transportation.")  If you have an extra minute, please stop over and vote for my photo here.  If selected, it'll be my first-ever published photo!  Thanks for your support.  It means the world to me.

Here's the photo I submitted, so you know what you're getting into!


Photographer's Block

The challenges and frustrations of the 365 Project have made themselves apparent after a mere two weeks.  Leaving for work early in the morning and coming home after dark has made it difficult to find time to actually take the photos.  I long for daylight savings so I can leave the office while the sun is still out.  I'm uninspired by my surroundings and unimpressed with the photos I've taken so far.  This must be the photographer's version of writer's block.

I haven't yet figured out how to overcome these frustrations.  I know the core problem is balance - finding little moments in the day that I can reserve just for myself.  I have a few ideas that I hope will help.  For one, I'm going to start taking my camera with me to work.  I just purchased a brand new camera bag from Epiphanie (photos and review to come soon) so I have a stylish, work-appropriate bag to carry my camera around.  And I intend to go out for a walk during my lunch hour when the weather is nice.  (The problem is, sometimes I have to work during that lunch hour.)  These are just baby steps but hopefully a few baby steps will lead to some grown-up strides.

What about you?  How do you find little moments for yourself during those busy times?


The Dilemma

Based on previews for The Dilemma, I went into the theater expecting a Dodgeball-style quirky comedy.  While the film has some very funny moments, pigeonholing it into just one genre doesn't do it justice.  First off, the basic subject matter is much better suited to a drama.  Vince Vaughn and Kevin James have been best friends since college.  Vaughn's dilemma arises when he discovers James' wife (Winona Ryder) is having an affair.  Deciding whether to tell his best friend or wait till the wife spills the beans ends up leading to a full unraveling of Vaughn's life. 

It's a basic questions we've probably all thought about at one point in time - what do you do if you discover your best friend's spouse is cheating?  Or, on the flip side, would you want to find out about your spouse's affair from your friend?  Ron Howard's approach to this question allows us to see a different side of Vaughn and James, two actors who are traditionally thought of as comedians.  Howard is too great a director to let it just be a wacky comedy.  And while neither Vaughn nor James give an Oscar-worthy performance, both manage to stretch themselves and show greater range in their acting abilities.

Of course, the film has its shortcomings.  The subplot about the business deal feels a little forced - like it's sole purpose is to impose a time line on the more interesting personal dramas of the main plot.  Other than the four leading characters, the remaining supporting cast is flat.  Queen Latifah looks fabulous, but serves the role of "funny one-liners" and not much else.  Same with Channing Tatum - flat, forced, and two-dimensional.  (He's attractive, I suppose, but why is this guy still allowed to make movies?) 

Overall, The Dilemma was an entertaining way to spend the afternoon but don't expect your standard Vince Vaughn comedy.


365 Project: Weekly Review

6/365 - Dove Love
7/365 - Training Day

 8/365 - Pasta Dinner

 9/365 - Wake Me Up

10/365 - Spring Is Just Around the Corner

 11/365 - Apple Pie


Friday Foto - Cielo

CIELO (f.)
Translation: Sky
(Unlike Spanish, the "ci" in Italian is "ch" so this is pronounced "ch-ielo.")



Saturday Afternoon

The Boyfriend and I decided to take Saturday afternoon off from work and join a friend for a little trip to SF MOMA.  Afterward, we strolled through Yerba Buena Gardens.  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon - rare for January in San Francisco!  The Boyfriend took the photo of me (with his own reflection in my glasses).  He did a pretty good job, huh?

This last one is a texturized version of my 365 photo.  I couldn't decide which I liked best so I thought I'd share them both with you!


365 Project: Weekly Review

This is turning out to be much more difficult than I anticipated.  When you're busy, it's easy to forget to take a photo (still have to shoot today's!).  Here's the first week (Thursday to Sunday).

1/365 - Birthday Flowers

2/365 - Apples

3/365 - Birds and the Evening Moon

4/365 - Sneakin' a Drink from the Bathroom Sink

5/365 - Morning Dew


Thursday Evening Thoughts

1. I have the most thoughtful friends, family, and co-workers ever.
2. Y'all made this one of the best birthdays so far!
3. What a great start to my 29th year.
4. Thanks for all the birthday lovin'.
5. Love you!!!!


Oatmeal Cookies (with Chocolate Chips)

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are my all-time favorite type of cookie.  The crispy oatmeal, smooth gooey chocolate, and hint of spice come together to form perfection.  Dip 'em in a glass of ice cold milk and life just doesn't get better!

This recipe is very easy.  You basically dump everything in a bowl and mix.  The cookies come out crisp on the edges and chewy on the inside.   The recipe makes about 20 cookies so if you want more, just double it up!

What You Need:
1 stick of butter, softened
3/4 c. light brown sugar, tightly packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 c. old-fashioned oats (not the quick-cook or instant kind!)
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chocolate chips (or more, if you want)

What To Do:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla on high speed until creamy.
3. Add egg and mix until fully incorporated.  Add in oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Mix until all ingredients are fully blended then gently fold in the chocolate chips.
4. Plop spoonfuls of batter about 1.5 inches apart on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-13 minutes.  Check on them after 10 minutes because the edges will burn easily.  When the cookies look like they're almost done, that means they're actually done!
5. Let cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack.  (f you try to move them immediately out of the oven, they might fall apart.)



Who Made the Princess Dress Code?

Everyone keeps talking about Kate Middleton's most recent fashion faux pas.  While attending a wedding recently, soon-to-be Princess Kate wore a sheer top under a knee-length velvet jacket.  Gasp!  Horror!  Honestly, what's the big deal?  It's not like she dressed like a Nazi.

Kate looked classy, elegant, chic, and just a tad sexy.  Yes, I said it.  Sexy.  Since when did a princess lose any right to be sexy?  Some articles I've read recently discuss her other "bad" outfits -- leather jackets, jeans, funky little 80's outfits for an 80's themed party -- and all have been deemed unacceptable for a princess.  Really?  When did this Princess Dress Code come about?  Is it simply because that's how it's always been?  I think it's great that Kate has her own style.  I see no reason why she should ditch the jeans and boots when she takes on a royal title.  Didn't anyone learn from Diana?  People actually like when the royals are more relatable.  Kate, a commoner, has the potential to reinvigorate the image of the stuffy royal family.  She shouldn't be restrained by nylon panty hose and frumpy frocks.


Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto

I don't remember when I actually decided I hated Brussels sprouts but somewhere along the way, I did.  I would never order anything in a restaurant that had them, even as a side dish.  I wanted nothing to do with the miniature little cabbage-looking greens.  The Boyfriend insisted he could cook Brussels sprouts in a way that would make me love them.  I said no way.  Not possible.

On the first try, he burned them.  I laughed a little on the inside and felt vindicated.  I decided, out of the goodness of my heart, to give him a second chance.  Guess what.  He succeeded.  I now find myself craving Brussels sprouts some days.  How crazy is that!?  So here's The Boyfriend's secret: prosciutto.  Amazing what a little piggy can do, huh?

Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto

What You Need:
About 10-12 medium sized, clean Brussels sprouts
1 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 strips of prosciutto
Salt & pepper, to taste

What to Do:
1. Cut off the hard little stem and chop the sprouts in half
2. Warm oil over medium heat, then add sprouts.
3. Cover and let cook for a bit while chopping the prosciutto into smaller bits.
4. Add prosciutto to the sprouts and cook over medium until sprouts turn bright green and get tender.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste (go easy at first, though, because the prosciutto can be pretty salty).
6. Transfer to dish and enjoy!

Note: I like to overcook them just a little bit because I like the crispy bits.  Hence, the burned look in the picture.



365 Project

One of the challenges I've decided to take on this year is the 365 Project.  Basically you take a photo a day, everyday, for a year.  You're probably thinking, "Oh pshaw, that sounds easy!" but au contraire mon frere.  Considering I have a full time legal job (a.k.a. way more than 40 hours a week) and often go for weeks at a time without taking a photo, I think this is going to be quite the challenge.  Though, to be honest, that's a large part of the appeal.  I know my "day job" is going to be quite time-consuming this year and I'm afraid of letting my beloved camera fall by the way side.  Forcing myself to take a picture everyday, no matter what, will help me stay in touch with the creative side and maintain the balance that is so important to a healthy life.  I fully expect days where this will feel like a chore rather than a pleasure.  I also fully expect days where I'll want to just call it quits and give up all together.  Nonetheless, I know this will be a great learning experience for me and I just want to give it a shot (*hee hee*).

It's already quite a few days past January 1, which is when most people start this type of project, so I decided to start on a day that is more meaningful to me.  As of next Thursday, January 13, I will be 29 years old.  Yes, I know.  SO close to 30!  What better way to experience the last year of my 20s than by documenting it with a photo a day everyday?  If nothing else, Year 29 will be the easiest to remember when that good ol' memory loss sets in!

So here's the plan: I will post my photos regularly in my Flickr photostream, which you can find by clicking here or over there to the left in the side column titled "Have You Noticed I Like to Take Pictures?"  I don't know if I'll be able to post everyday (depends on work schedule) but I will at least shoot everyday and post as regularly as possible so the photos don't get backlogged.  I will also do a Week in Review post on either Saturday or Sunday here on Big Mario to summarize the week.

If any of you are doing the 365 Project, leave a link to your photos here in the comments.  I'd love to see the world through your eyes, too!


Friday Foto - Cioccolata

Translation: Chocolate

As in, "Mi piace molto la cioccolata."


Good Reads | East of Eden

East of Eden is one of John Steinbeck's masterpieces.  I read it for the first time about five years ago and have considered it one of my favorite books ever since.  I decided that, since I now live in Northern California and am familiar with all the places Steinbeck describes, I wanted to read it again from a new perspective and see if it's still favorite.  The verdict?  Definitely.

The tale is ultimately a parallel of the Cain and Abel story.  The ugliest of human natures - sibling rivalry, greed, murder - are woven through the story of Adam Trask.  The novel spans a time period from the American Civil War to World War I and depicts two different generations' struggles with their ability to conquer and control the good and evil within.  At first, it's difficult to follow Steinbeck's path.  He seems to jump from one character's story to the next.  But his craftsmanship prevails and the stories soon become one.  In a masterful way, he shows how all the characters are connected and how each story impacts the others.

The book is thick - well over 600 pages, depending on which version you pick up - but the story is so riveting you reach the end before you know it.  In fact, when I finished I had to resist the temptation to turn back and start over.


True Grit

I never saw the original True Grit and I never read the novel.  All I knew going into the theater was that it was a Coen Brothers' film starring Jeff Bridges.  Jeff Bridges was fantastic.  I could almost smell the booze on his breath from my seat in the theater.  His Rooster Cogburn is a mesh of dirty swagger and rugged gentleness.   He has a quiet respect for the young Mattie (played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) and his unexpected loyalty reveals itself slowly over the 2-hour film.

Speaking of slow, the film's pace was not what I expected from a hunt-'em-down-shoot-'em-up Western.  I was on the verge of restlessness near the end and if the film had been just five minutes longer, it would've been too much.    But ... it wasn't.  The Coen Brothers are expert filmmakers.  They know when to push and when to edit.  Granted, True Grit was not as eccentric or quirky as other Coen Brothers films, but their trademark storytelling style remains.  One of the final scenes shows Cogburn rushing to save Mattie's life and riding her horse into exhaustion.  At the time, this was the point where I felt the movie was on the edge of "too long."  However, when the horse becomes too fatigued to continue on, Cogburn pulls out his knife and stabs the horse in the hindquarter to spur it along.  This small act injects a fervent energy into the scene and shifts the action at just the right moment.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie.  I don't fully understand all the Oscar buzz but I do think it's worth a trip to the theater. 


What's Your Goal?

I don't make New Year's resolutions.  To me, New Year's resolutions carry negative connotations and open the door for failure.  Everyone starts out strong on January 1st (or 2nd) and goes full steam.  Then, around mid-February, things just sort of peter out.  The gym is less exciting, the healthy fruits and veggies are less appetizing, and all those promises we made to ourselves back on December 31st just fall by the way side. 

Instead of resolutions, I prefer to set goals.  I know it doesn't sound like there's much of a difference but, trust me, there is.  It may be all psychological, but it's a difference nonetheless.  A resolution--at least, a New Year's resolution--usually involves giving up something or stopping a certain behavior and if you don't stop or give it up right on January 1, you've already failed.  How horrible is that!?  You FAILED on the very first day!  Who wants to carry that feeling around for the remaining 364 days of the year?  Not me.

Goals, on the other hand, are something to work towards one step at a time.  Goals are associated with positive words - aims, ambitions, achievements, destinations.  Meeting a goal is more of a process so one little slip up does not equal failure.  For example, if your goal is to eat healthier but you have a little bit of cake on your friend's birthday, so what!?  You haven't failed because the goal is still a work in progress.  (If you wanted, you could easily make up for it the next day by having fruit for dessert instead.)  Plus, having a clear, tangible goal paves the way for a much greater sense of achievement when you finally accomplish it.  You know you've done something.  Maybe not everyday was as focused as the other, but you stuck to it in the end. 

Resolutions may work for some people but for those of us who have a hard time being disciplined day after day, maybe setting goals is the better approach.  So what are your goals for 2011? 
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