Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The 4th Official Freeze-Off

Foiled yet again! Kib continues her reign as Freeze-Off Champion. Gosh darn it!!! (If you're unfamiliar with the Freeze Off, click here for an explanation.)

The 4th installation of our famed family competition included 12 original frozen treats (6 from each of us) judged by a distinguished panel of adults and children alike on the basis of taste, originality, presentation, and appropriateness. While some dishes were dreamed up months in advance, the actual work of putting them together took place over a 24-hour period in which the contestants (i.e., my sister and I) battled inconsistent freezer performance, toxic vinegar fumes, a teeny workspace, and a few instances of public embarrassment.

A quick run-down of the dishes:
Sangria Slushie

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Pizza

The Gourmet Sampler (Ginger Chai, Curried Chocolate, Balsamic Strawberry Basil and Pistachio Cardamom ice creams)

Cool As a Cucumber Melon Slushie


Here's To The Freeze Off!

Scrumptious Snowmen

Shiverin' Shortstack


The Autumn Sandwich

The 4 (strawberry in graham cracker crust, mint in oreo crust, lemon in shortbread crust, and peanut butter in pretzel crust)

Strawberries 'n Cream Bars

There were some real winning entries this year that I would be happy to eat, Freeze-Off or no Freeze-Off. We avoided any major flops (no apple hearts this time around) and managed to come up with some actual good ideas despite having done this many times by now. (You might think we'd run out of things to freeze by this point, but oh how wrong you'd be!)

Theo's Baloney Bacon Swirl Face

If it's possible, the Freeze-Off may have been taken a step too far this time around. One judge became quite literally physically incapable of ingesting any more frozen food after round 7 or so. We wasted obscene amounts of food in both preparation and serving. The official lawyer-drawn "rules" of judging were 2 full pages long. I was so sick of all things frozen by the time the last dish rolled out, I hardly even minded not winning. I think we'll go back to basics next time- fewer dishes, a simpler judging system, and a shift in focus to what matters most to the spirit of the competition: us and the freezer.

Until next time, Kibby, until next time... Savor your victory while you can.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Intro to Wedding Photography

Earlier this month I got my first chance to play wedding photographer! I've known the bride (Shelly, my best friend's mom) for 15 years now and was so excited not only to get to be a part of her wedding, but also that she trusted me enough with such an important task despite my never having done it before.

The wedding was at the SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel in Pismo Beach which was lucky for me since the place is so picturesque, I could have completely screwed up and the photos would've still been beautiful. Most of the work was already done. It was a great place for a wedding, and I was glad to get to go on a little weekend vacation!

Anyway, I think it turned out fairly well! I definitely made a few mistakes and have several areas to work on, but it wasn't a complete disaster and I got a handful of shots that I'm (and, more importantly, Shelly) is really happy with. So overall, I consider my first dip into wedding photography a success!

The things I learned (I'm kind of photo-geeking out here, so feel free to skip if this is just a big pile of boring for you):
1. Man, shooting for 8-9 hours can be painful. Literally. My neck was sore from hanging 2 cameras on my neck the entire time. A full frame body with giant 70-200mm lens and attached external flash weighs roughly 6 pounds. That doesn't sound so crazy, but have you ever spent 8 hours walking around holding a 6 lb weight at eye level? It kind of wears on you. And gripping that whole contraption? My fingers were ready to fall off by the end of the night. Plus my feet got ripped to shreds (Can I pass that off as a photography-related injury and not acknowledge my stupidity in shoe choice? No? Nuts.).

(Seeing his bride for the first time- awww, it kills me!)

2. It's easy to make the dumbest mistakes when the pressure is on to get those fleeting, irreplaceable shots. You get as prepared as you can, and then BAM, everything is happening at once, the shots you want require you to be in 5 places at once, and it's easy to get into a frantic shoot-everything-in-sight thoughtless mess. I was able to stay calm and work my way through it most of the time, but I forgot to change my ISO settings twice and repeatedly limb-chopped throughout the day. Rookie mistakes, Patty, rookie mistakes...

3. Less equipment is more. I used 2 bodies, 3 lenses (although only 2 the majority of the time), a flash,  and 8 memory cards throughout the whole day. While I appreciated having multiple backup batteries and cards on me, I did not need to be lugging around a 10 pound bag of extra stuff I never even touched.

4. I'm deeply, deeply in love with the 70-200. What a beautiful lens. Which leads me to:

5. Lens rentals are amazing. At the end of the day, I have the shots I want and saved $2452. Until I am a gajillionaire, I shall use this service often.

6. I love weddings. If I ever want to do this professionally, I have to figure out how to not start crying when the bride walks down the aisle. I just can't help it. It's always so beautiful!!


So now I'm hooked on wedding photography! If you know anyone who's looking for a (very beginner) wedding photographer, feel free to pass on my name. :)

Shelly, you were a beautiful bride and I hope this is the beginning of many years of big happy family love! I love you guys!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Very Iiiiiiiinteresting!

Rumors abound, people! Listen up...

Here's the scuttlebutt from around the interwebs: The Japanese government may be giving away 10,000 free plane tickets to Japan beginning in April 2012. In the face of tanking tourism since the earthquake/tsunami of 3/11, this is supposed to be an effort to revive travel interest and show the world that Japan is still awesome and not a radioactive deadly zone of danger (and 20ish mile radius around Fukushima aside, it's not. I promise!).

The deal is still in the works and hasn't been approved yet, but if it is, I'm guessing lots of people will want take advantage of a free trip to Japan. I've read various rumors about getting one of these 10,000 tickets (like an application essay about why you want to travel to Japan and the requirement of publicly sharing your travel experience via blogging, tweeting, etc.), but who knows what the real deal is.

In any case, if this actually happens, we best get some visitors up in Misawa! No excuses- free flight, free place to stay at Casa de Garson, two friendly personalized tour guides... what more could you ask for? This is the stuff of dreams, people.

You can find plenty of rumors, but the official word is that the initiative is "still under examination for government budgetary approval and is at this moment undecided." If approved, the official announcement will be posted on Japan National Tourism Organization's website. So keep a lookout! I'll keep you updated here as well.

Corey and I will probably/most likely/who knows have at least a year left in Japan after we both get back later this winter, so the timing should work out splendidly!

Bottom line: come visit us!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Someday We'll be Oregonians

A lot of people asked what brought me to Oregon on a solo 10 day road trip I recently took. The answer? Dreams. See, as some of you know all too well, being tied to a military lifestyle can often make you feel like you're blindfolded and living on a giant roller coaster, and they're still building the track at each twist and turn you meet. You never know where you'll be or what will come your way from year to year. It's exciting. It's freeing in a way. It's also maddening at times and can leave you feeling disconnected to your own life. Hence the dreaming.

Oregon is the stuff of our dreams. It's where we're planing to settle down... in a decade when Corey retires from the military (I realize we have no clue where our lives might actually take us in the next 10 years. Don't harsh the fantasy!). Oregon seems to have it all: the perfect location where every possible recreational activity is at your fingertips. A manageable cost of living. Good beer. It feels like CA meets MA (or at least has many of the things we each love about our respective home states). It feels like us.

So anyway, in our current less-than-perfect circumstance of being apart and missing our life together, a trip to the Pacific Northwest seemed like just the thing to boost our (well, my... and hopefully Corey's by extension) spirits and spark happy future fantasizing. It was a success!

I made a giant, 2100 mile loop (going all the way up to Seattle to meet my wonderful cousin Liz for a super fun night of good talks, seedy underground city exploration, bridge trolls, and erotic bakeries. Yep, she's definitely the person you want showing you around a city. Thanks again Liz!)

I made the drive up through central Oregon and then back down along the coast, seeing lots of awesome places. The highlights:

Bend, OR:
Ah-mazing. This is it! Our future home city. It was a thing of beauty. During my 2.5 days here, I narrowed down the 5 block radius where our future dream house will be. And stalked Matthew Fox a little.*

Crater Lake:
I've never seen water so blue! The 30 mile drive around the lake was one of the funnest mornings on my road trip. Such a beautiful place.

Portland, OR:
This is by far my favorite city EVER! Everything about it is just so cool. Love the vibe, love the food, love the planning. Just love.

Oregon Coast:
Definitely beautiful. Definitely wouldn't stay for more than a vacation.

I already want to go back! Until that day, I'll just keep dreaming.

*Just kidding about the stalking Matthew Fox thing. He was out of town, so I couldn't.