Category Archives: Photography

The Holiday Round-Up

With this post I recall all the great moments of this year’s Christmas, and finally lay the holidays to rest :).

It was a wonderful time spent with my bigger family and with friends, peppered with a lot of quality moments with the H and A.

Hectic as usual, but I love that every day was a day that was celebrated well, with new memories created, and many blessings to be thankful for  :).

Ayala Triangle Light Show

Slide01

To kick start the holiday season, the H and I always try to catch the light show at the Ayala Triangle gardens.  There’s something about all those lights draped from the trees, flickering to Christmas music, that makes me feel so giddy and excited. It never fails to put me in the holiday mood :).

I guess this is the modern day version of those COD Christmas display shows I used to watch when I was a kid (they actually have a revival of it at the Greenhills Shopping Mall, but I’ve never been).  It was always a family tradition to trek down to Cubao to witness this Christmas production.  My dad would prop me up on his shoulders, so I could have an unobstructed view of the show.  I remember always being entranced by the set and the moving figures, and it always strongly reinforced how much I loved Christmas, and all its traditions and festivities :). Still do :).

Hi-5 House Party in Manila

Slide02

Slide03

This holiday season, we were also able to catch two shows :).

The little one loves Hi-5, and it just so happens they had a show at SM Aura–right in our neighborhood!  The H and I knew she would be so ecstatic to watch them live, so we immediately snapped up some tickets, and took A to see her favorite group perform.

And boy did she love it!

Even though I am personally not too into Hi-5, seeing the excitement on A’s face, made it more than worthwhile for me :).

Barkada Christmas Get-Togethers

Slide04

Slide05

I’m glad that despite our busy schedules, we were able to plan our barkada Christmas get-togethers early enough for them to push through without a hitch.

The H and I both have groups of friends that we’ve known for like forever.  My best gal pals have been my friends since Grade School (some since Nursery!), and the H has known his since High School.  They are truly our closest friends, and because we don’t get to see each other as often, celebrating these occasions with them and their families is always such a special time for us :).

Christmas Eve

Slide06

Slide07

Slide08

Christmas is the only time of year that my family is complete.  And that’s why I love it :).  The house also always looks so festive, sissy is home from New York, we do our thing and decorate the Christmas dinner table together, and the food we feast on has been a family tradition for many, many years :).  What’s not to love, right?

And for the past couple of years, we’ve started to have color themed parties as well :).  This year’s theme was red, green and gold :).  Our parents were all in red, my cousins, siblings and I were in green, while the kiddos were in white and gold.

In my family, Christmas Eve is also the night when presents are exchanged and opened.  Because of Yolanda, gifts were a lot simpler this year, and some of our relatives decided not to give gifts at all, but that did not dim our celebration one bit :).  In fact, I think it was even more fun, and definitely more meaningful :).

Christmas Day

Christmas Day this year was spent at Cousin A’s house.  It’s pretty much a repeat of the night before, minus my siblings, who celebrate the holidays with their in-laws.

For the past couple of years, my generation (my cousins, siblings and I)  has already been hosting the family holiday celebrations.  Our parents have been “passing on the baton”, so to speak, and getting us ready for what will eventually be our role in the future :).  I love it when traditions are passed on successfully, and hope my cousins, siblings and I will be able to keep it up, and keep our families close in the years to come :).

Slide09

Slide10

In the evening, we trooped over to my in-laws for Christmas dinner.  Since last year, they decided to celebrate on the 25th itself, just so that we wouldn’t have to rush Noche Buena with the Pascual side (my family’s side) on the 24th.  Best. Decision. Ever!!!  Plus, we could totally enjoy the feast that my MIL ends up preparing.  Before, when we would celebrate both Noche Buena’s on the 24th, I would be too full to eat by the time we reached my in-laws’ place.  The kids would also be a bit tired, as it would be waaaaaay past their bedtime.

This time around, dinner was enjoyed quite leisurely, with no one rushing to leave; and gift opening was ofcourse the highlight of the evening, with all the kids excitedly opening presents, and creating a huge mess in the process!  Hahaha!  Oh to be a kid again! :)

Slide11

Slide12

Slide13

Santa’s Visit

Slide14

This year was the first year we introduced Santa to the little one.  During past Christmases we felt she was still too young to understand who he was, so we did not even bother with it.

But this year–thanks to Rockwell mall–she got so into the idea of Santa!  I guess it helped to see an actual live, breathing version of him (haha!).  Unfortunately however, as Christmas Eve drew nearer, and our schedules just got waaaaaay too hectic, we were unable to compose our letter to Santa.  Instead, I asked A to wish very hard, for what she wanted Santa to get her, and that if she was a good girl, Santa would give her a gift on Christmas.

On December 26, A opened her very first gifts from Santa Claus.  He left them inside her stocking :).  As you can see from the look on her face, she was very pleased with her presents :).

Next year, I promised her, we’ll try to work on her letter, and we’ll even leave milk and cookies for Santa.  We’ll go for the whole shebang :).

Cousin’s Night Out

When we were younger, the days in between Christmas would be spent partying at bars and clubs.  Obviously, those days are far behind us now.  Hahaha!  Staying in and having wine and cheese nights are more our thing :).

Thanks to big sissy for being our host this time around.  We had a great time bonding with the sibs and our cousins, in the comfort of her beautiful home :).

Slide15

NYC Roomies Reunion at The Pen

As December is a time of reunions, we couldn’t let it go by without seeing our good friends from New York.  We met at the Peninsula Hotel, which is always so wonderfully decorated during Christmastime :).  The H and I hope to make this another tradition with A, to have bibingka and puto bumbong at the Pen every year.

While unfortunately there wasn’t any more by the time we got there, we still enjoyed the company and the ambience very much :).

Slide16

Slide17

I especially loved this life-size gingerbread house!  It smelled so heavenly! :)

Slide18

Disney On Ice

Slide19

For our second show of the holiday season, we took the little girl to Disney on Ice. She is currently fascinated by the Disney Princesses, and by the Prince’s too! Personally, I also enjoyed the show very much :).  I remembered when I was a little girl and my parent’s used to take me and my siblings to Holiday on Ice.  I remembered being in awe of the costumes, and the gracefulness of the skaters. This show is much, much more commercialized, but I still loved being able to sing the songs, appreciate the set and dance numbers, and to give A this experience. After all, who doesn’t love Disney? :)  Their productions are as magical as ever :).

Slide20

Anvaya

Slide21

To escape a little bit of the traffic and holiday madness, we took a quick out of town trip to Anvaya :).

The weather was sooooo glorious, and it was definitely a welcome break to relax by the beach and enjoy the company of family :).

Slide22

Slide23

New Year’s Eve

This year’s party theme was fascinators and bowties.  I thought it was a fun and festive theme, don’t you think? :)  And everyone certainly got into it, which made it even more fun!

Slide24

Slide25

My brother has a huge balcony that overlooks the Marikina Valley.  We were so lucky to get a 360-degree view of different fireworks displays!  We did not even have to have our own fireworks!  Hahaha!  I must say that the fireworks this year was very impressive, and there were a lot!  I hope that means that 2014 will be good to all of us, and we’ll see that kind of abundance in terms of blessings as well :).

Slide26

New Year’s Day

Slide27

New year, new family picture :).

As you can see, our family is growing!  We had a new addition last year in the form of my nephew, K.  Isn’t he a cutie? :)

And because our family is much bigger than it was before, we thought it was high time to start documenting it by way of a studio family photo :).  The last time we had one done, my siblings and I were all single! :)

Here are my parent’s with all of their grandchildren :).  There’s a complete family picture, but will share it with you in a future post.

The photo shoot was such a riot!  But I’m glad we had it done anyway :).

Afterwards, we attended mass to commemorate the first day of the year, and had dinner out as despedida for my sister, who left for NY the next day :(.

As you can see, our holidays were choc-full of activities!  Writing this blog post and looking back at all that happened these past few weeks allowed me to remember all the wonderful memories we created and shared as a family.

Here’s to more memories, adventures and exciting experiences in 2014!  God bless us all :).

Dreaming of My Happy Place

Seriously, I. WANT. TO. GO. TO. THE. BEACH!!!

Yes, I am having a major hang-over from my trip to Palawan last week :(.  And despite the scorching heat, I cannot help but long to be in and dream about my happy place :).

*Sigh*

I just love the soothing sound of waves crashing against the shore.

Or how mesmerizing it is to watch the water as it creeps up the sand.

Ofcourse I wouldn’t mind sipping a cocktail and losing myself in my thoughts as I watch the clouds and sky stretch endlessly for miles either…

puerto princesa pchc

Slide3

sheridan pchc

Slide4

*Sigh* I love the beach.

 

Just in case you’re wondering, these photos were taken by me at the Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa in Sabang, Palawan.  Home to the Underground River, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

Konnichiwa, Japan!

I’ve been to Japan numerous times, but unfortunately, I’ve never made it past the airport.  Hahaha!

Luckily, we were treated recently by my very generous in-laws, to a 6-day trip to Tokyo (technically, we were there for 4 days, the other 2 days were for travel to and from Manila).

Slide01

Here are highlights of the things we did, the places we went to, and the sights we saw.  The best part, ofcourse, was the viewing of the cherry blossoms, which was why we were even in Japan in the first place, during this wintry time of the year.

DAY 1

Sanrio Puroland and Ueno Park

Slide02

Slide05

Slide03

Slide04

Slide06

Slide07

Slide09

Slide10

Slide08

DAY 2

Mt. Fuji, Strawberry Picking, Hakone River Cruise, Shibuya

Slide11

Slide12

Slide13

Slide31

Slide32

Slide30

Slide27

Slide28

Slide29

Slide24

Slide26

DAY 3

Sensoji Temple, Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Omotesando

Slide14

Slide15

Slide37

Slide36

Slide35

Slide33

Slide34

Slide22

Slide21

Slide20

Slide19

Slide18

Slide17

Slide16

Slide23

DAY 4

Harajuku, Ginza

Slide40

Slide39

Slide38

This was truly a wonderful vacation, and a much needed respite from work and the horrendous summer heat wave!  There are too many things to see, do and eat in Tokyo that 4 days is definitely not enough!

Hopefully, we’ll have the chance to come back and explore other neighborhoods in the near future.  Tokyo, I’m far from being done with you :).

Photos For a Cause

I’m taking a break from my travel posts to blog about something that is way overdue.

Last September 29th, the H, A and I had our family pictures taken as part of a fundraiser for Issay Tanabe.  She is a professional photographer who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Daphne wrote about it in her blog, which was how we found out about the event in the first place.

Issay’s loving and devoted husband Doods, with the help of some very big-hearted friends (and some of Daphne’s sponsors :)), set up the benefit at the Blue Leaf Pavilion in McKinley Hill.  I heard that everything from the food to the venue was given for free!  Such generosity and support for a wonderful cause!

When we got to the Jade Pavilion, we found a festive set up of pink!  Pink is the color for breast cancer advocacy, so it was very appropriate for the affair :). There was a hair and make-up station as well (free!), and even an art station (free!) to keep kids pre-occupied!  But because we were one of the earliest ones there, we had our pictures taken immediately.

We were informed that we could choose 2 stations out of the 5 that were set up. Unfortunately, it was drizzling when we arrived so the outdoor station (the nicest one) was out of the question :(.

Here are some of the outtakes from our session:

I can’t wait to get the actual pictures!

About two weeks ago, I received an email from Doods Tanabe that editing was well under way, and that they would be sending our 11 x 14 photo, and a CD of the rest of our photos soon.  Exciting!

In the meantime, Doods has also updated us that both he and Issay continue to be busy flying to Hong Kong for treatments.  Their devotion to each other, and the courage and strength in which they are facing this situation is truly inspiring!

Am continuing to keep them both in my prayers.

Should you be interested in helping Issay with her treatments, or would like your family photographs taken by Doods as well, you may reach him at 0922 896 8201.

J’Adore Paris!

It has been my dad’s dream to walk the camino to Santiago de Compostela (actually, the town is really just called Compostela :)).  I wrote a bit about it here.  His dream finally came true two weeks ago, and my mom and I were there to provide the moral support for his journey :).

Aside from cheering my dad on and a bit of R and R, there’s another reason for this recent trip to Europe, actually :).  I was there to keep my mom company while my dad was on his pilgrimage.  I had to keep her in line just in case she went a bit too wild with her credit card–hahahaha!  Kidding :).

Our trip started in Paris, the city of lights.

*Sigh!* To say I love Paris is an understatement.  Next to New York, it is one of my favorite cities in the world!

Everything about Paris is so terribly refined, elegant and romantic.  I love the wide boulevards, the chic cafe’s, the beautiful people, and the majestic architecture.  I also love, love, love the art!  We have the French to thank for producing artists such as Claude Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Cezanne.

Here is my attempt to share with you some of the things I love about this amazing city.  Although there are still many things to uncover and discover, Paris has definitely left its indelible impression on me, and it will forever be a place I will love coming back to.

1. Sidewalk Cafe’s 

When I think of Paris, images of very chic people sitting in sidewalk cafe’s immediately fill my mind.  It seems to be the quintessential place to pass time–sipping a cup of coffee, reading a good book, socializing, or just watching the world walk by.

Many of these sidewalk cafe’s can be found along Paris’ streets and boulevards. During our visit, we enjoyed whiling our time away at the Cafe de Flore on Boulevard Saint-German in the 6th arrondissement, and Le Select on Rue Montparnasse.  Both cafe’s offer traditional french fare served any and all times during the day.  When we were there, I had my fair share of club sandwiches, croque madames, lattes and eclairs.  Simple, but very comforting food :).

And not only is the food good, but for some reason, I just love the feeling of being able to sit in a cafe, unbothered, just observing the people around me.  The vibe is also very relaxed and it made me feel as if I had all the time in the world.  Very different from the frenetic pace that I am usually used to :).

2. The Eiffel Tower

Paris has its share of historic monuments and breathtaking architecture. Ofcourse, one cannot leave the city without a visit to one of its most famous landmarks, the Eiffel Tower.  In fact, every trip I’ve made to Paris included a stop and the requisite photograph here.  I especially love it at night, when the lights are turned on :).  It makes the tower look all the more awesome and breathtaking.

3. The Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees

Another well-known structure in Paris is the Arc de Triomphe.  It stands right at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, and is usually a starting point to walk down the Champs Elysees.  Commissioned by Napoleon as a symbol of victory after the French Revolution, it is truly a beautiful and imposing structure.  For a tourist, this is definitely not one spot to be missed!

4. The Musee d’ Orsay

While Paris is known throughout the world to be the home of the Louvre, my favorite will always be the Musee d’ Orsay or The Orsay Museum :).  I can spend the whole day there getting lost amidst all the wonderful pieces of art!

Many of the works of my favorite artists are displayed there–the Impressionists, for example.  Monet and Degas are like rock stars to me :).  To be able to see their actual paintings with my own eyes is so nakaka-kilig talaga!  It makes me feel really happy–giddy, almost–and inspired!

I also love that the Orsay used to be an old train station.  I think it just makes the architecture of the building all the more interesting–from its facade to the interiors.

5. The Tuileries Gardens

The Tuileries is one of my favorite spots in Paris :).  I find the gardens so beautiful, so relaxing, and so inviting.  I love the colorful flowers, and the soothing sound of the fountains.  It’s the perfect place to slow down, read a book, have a picnic, and enjoy the weather.  It’s also conveniently located right next to the Louvre!  Haaaay!  I wish we had more parks like this in Manila.  You would definitely find me and my family there every weekend, soaking up the sun and the tranquil atmosphere :).

6. Rue Saint-Honore and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore

I looooooove shopping in Paris!  Parisians are known all over the world for their impeccable sense of style.  The Rue Saint-Honore and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore are probably two of the most fashionable streets in the world, being the address of most of the global high-end brands.

Walking down the street made me feel like I was almost fashionable myself! Bwahahaha–NOT!  Kidding aside, even though I know I could not hold a candle to the polished and sophisticated women shopping on Saint-Honore, being there made me a witness to the elegance and chic-ness of this city.  I swear, everyone I saw just looked so wonderfully put together. *Sigh!*

So even if you may not end up buying anything here, to walk down Rue Saint-Honore and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore is quite a thrilling experience, especially if you are a shopper like me :).

7. Laduree

Paris is the birthplace of the french macaron.  This double-decker “biscuit” with a creamy ganache filling was invented and made popular by Laduree.

One of the items on my to-do list during this trip was to visit the Laduree shop, and sample its famous macarons.  There was a long line when we got there, but I was determined not to leave without giving the original pastry a try.

To be honest, it didn’t taste any different from some of the other macarons I’ve tried here in Manila, but to be at the place where it all started, and to see the familiar celadon green colors of the store exteriors was still a nice experience :). I was charmed too by the interiors and the lovely colors of the macarons.

Again, it has such a different ambience from our local cafe’s and dessert places.  I don’t know what it is about these French people, but they just know how to make things more delightful and enchanting!

So there you have it :).  It’s not a complete list, but based on my 4 extremely short days in Paris, these are some of the reasons why this city has truly captivated my heart.  I can’t wait to bring the H and the little miss here!  And I am glad that there is still much more of Paris left for us to discover together.

I have no doubt that they will love it as much as I do :).

Open Doors

I find it so amazing how this blog has opened many doors for me :).

What started out as a venue to remind myself of the everyday things I should celebrate, has turned into an opportunity to share my hobbies, my talents, and my interests.  In short, the things I love and am passionate about :).

In case you missed it, I wrote about how our home was featured here, and how my vision for my daughter’s first birthday party was also featured here.  While I was actually a bit dyahe that something so personal to me and my family was put under a spotlight, my discomfort was eased by my eagerness to inspire others with my ideas, and to share my love for all things beautiful.

Also recently, through this blog, I received an invitation (plus an offer for free tickets!) to write about the upcoming ManilaFAME Expo in October.  Wow, I totally didn’t see that coming!  Hahaha!  But I am thrilled to be given the chance to see the show, and to blog about my experience :).  It’s my little way of showing my support to Filipino artisans, and promoting Filipino culture.  Pinoy pride!!!

Lastly, this just got published recently:

The picture of the mat weaver at the center of the article is mine! :)

To have one of my images published and used in a foreign publication is such an honor for me!  I am beyond excited and thrilled considering that I am not even a professional photographer.  Hahaha!  Isn’t this way cool? :)

I can’t help but feel thankful for such experiences that not only encourage me to continue to do what I do, but to continue to celebrate the wonderful life I have, with all its unexpected surprises :).

While these opportunities are actually the icing on the cake, I’m feeling pretty good about my decision to start this blog, and am inspired and excited to share even more of my little “doses of happy” with all of you :).

Article via Mingpao Weekly Issue 2284, Hong Kong

Many thanks to Edith Cheung for the feature!

http://www.clothhaven.com

I am Loving…

…the Impossible Instant Lab!

What is it, you ask?

 It’s basically a device that turns your iPhone images into Polaroid-like photos!

How cool is that?

I.WAAAAAAANT!!!

I am a huge Polaroid fan, and purchased a camera for myself even though  I knew the company was closing its doors for good.  There’s just something so nostalgic and vintage about Polaroid film that I love.  I also love the mystery of not knowing what your picture will look like, then finally, when the image appears, its imperfect perfection :)

Thanks to the Impossible Project for continuing to dream up ways for people like me to get their Polaroid fix!

Despite the fact that this wonderful invention retails at a steep 300 bucks, I’m hoping there will be enough demand for it to be mass-produced, and for the price to drop to more pocket-friendly levels :).

I definitely can’t wait to get my hands on one of these!

Photo via http://www.kickstarter.com

To Alaska and Beyond!

My family loves to cruise.  Ever since our first one on the Mediterranean 7 years ago, we’ve been hooked!  Not only is it a great way to travel and to see different places all at once, but because you eliminate the need for making hotel reservations per destination, and are guaranteed food supply 24/7, then it is more bang for your buck as well :).

This year, my dad decided to treat the fam to another cruise.  While in the past we’ve always opted for some European itinerary, this year, we decided to do something more nature-y and different.  So off to Alaska we went, for a little bit of outdoor adventure :).

Our first stop was a town called Ketchikan.  I was amazed at how small and sleepy this place was!  My subdivision in Quezon City is not only bigger in size, but in the amount of residents as well!  Hahaha!

The main attraction of this town is Creek Street.  Formerly home to Ketchikan’s red light district (with over 30 brothels!), today it is basically a row of shops and galleries where tourists can sightsee and do some souvenir shopping.  In fact, Creek Street has earned the distinction of being the “Most Photographed Street” in Alaska.

Aside from this, Ketchikan also holds two other noteworthy titles.  It is the “Salmon Capital of the World”, as well as “home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world”.  Not surprisingly, there are more than 80 kinds of totem poles displayed throughout the city!  Not only do they serve as a reminder of the traditions and values of tribal culture, but are also an imposing and awe-inspiring example of Alaskan native art and craftsmanship.

According to our port guide, totem poles are either commemorative, memorial, or lineage poles that celebrate a tribe or family’s unique heritage.  I was surprised to discover that the most important figure in the totem pole is the figure at the bottom, and not the one at the top :).  I guess you really do learn something new everyday!  Hahaha!

Our next port of call was Juneau, Alaska.  It was a bit of a shock for me to find out that despite it being the state capital, there are NO access roads leading to Juneau.  To get here, one must go via boat or via floatplane!  Talk about hard to get to!

The downtown area is again very small, comprised mostly of souvenir shops and restaurants.  One of their must-do activities is riding on the Mount Roberts tram. It has the best view of the Gastineau Channel, as well as that of downtown Juneau.  At the very top of the mountain is a restaurant, where one is encouraged to have a meal, or to enjoy a steaming cup of coffee (Alaska is proud of their brews :)), while taking in the breathtaking sights.

The most popular natural attraction in Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier. Nicknamed “the drive-up glacier”, it is about a 20-minute drive from downtown. Once inside the Tongass National Forest, the glacier is easily accessible by foot, allowing one to actually walk up right to it versus viewing it from the air or by sea.

Having never seen a glacier before, I have to admit that for my first sighting, Mendenhall was pretty impressive :).  According to my research, it is about 12 miles long, half a mile wide, and about 300-1800 feet deep.  But unfortunately, because of global warming, the Mendenhall Glacier is not as massive as it used to be.  It has  been slowly retreating since the early 1700’s.  Size aside however, this glacier has been able to survive much longer than other glaciers in the North American region.  The geography and unique climate of Juneau contribute to this.

Though I dislike gloomy weather, glaciers are actually best viewed on overcast days.  We were “lucky” that this was the kind of day we had when we visited Mendenhall.  I thought that the bright blue glow that the glacier emitted was very pretty and magical-looking :).  Apparently, this is caused by the ice’s absorption and reflection of light :).

Our third port on this cruise was Skagway, Alaska.  It was actually my favorite among the Alaskan ports.  It was also the most modern-looking and the least deserted–the streets were bustling with tourists exploring the town, and scouring the shops for souvenirs.

Interestingly, Skagway is the least populated of the Alaskan cities we visited. Year round, it only has about 750 residents.  During cruise season, however, this number swells immensely.

Another interesting fact about Skagway is that it is considered the “Sunshine Capital” of Southeast Alaska.  Unfortunately, the morning we landed, the sun was nowhere to be found :(.  Hahaha!

As for attractions, Skagway’s must-do for visitors is the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway ride.  It is basically a 3-hour scenic ride up to the Canadian border. The railway was built during the era of the Klondike Gold Rush, and took 35,000 men 26 months to finish under extremely treacherous conditions.  This engineering landmark climbs up to 3,000 feet, and is held in the same esteem as the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and the Panama Canal.

Even though the train ride itself costs a pretty penny, I think the experience itself was worth it.  I thought it was interesting to hear stories about the railway’s history and to learn more about life during the Gold Rush.  It certainly made me appreciate all the modern conveniences I now enjoy.  It also made me appreciate the work that went into building the structure, considering the materials and equipment that were available during that time.  Factoring in the weather conditions that the men had to endure… *shudder*…definitely this railroad is an amazing feat!

And the views? Ofcourse, they were nothing short of spectacular–nature at its finest!  There were parts where we saw lush green forests, flowing streams, snow-capped mountains–a little bit of everything!  We even saw a baby brown bear and a mama black bear scrounging around for food!  Now that was pretty awesome, especially to see them in the wild :).

Skagway was indeed a wonderful way to end our short tour of Alaska.  Our next and last stop was Victoria, British Columbia.  While it was the prettiest port in our cruise, sadly, it was where we spent the least amount of time :(.  We only had 4 hours!!!  Waaah!  But I guess cruises are really meant to give tourists just a taste of a particular place–enough to make them want to come back for more. And from what we saw, I definitely want to visit Victoria again someday :).

Victoria holds the distinction of being the most “English” city in British Columbia.  Its charm is evident in the architectural landmarks that can be found along the Inner Harbour–both the majestic Fairmont Empress Hotel and the stately Legislative Building are truly a sight to behold.

Considered a National Historic Site in Canada, the Empress is one of Victoria’s oldest and most famous hotels.  In fact, it has pretty much become an icon for the city itself.  I just love its ivy-covered brick walls and enchanting facade! Had we had more time, it would have been nice to enjoy some high tea at the historic lobby, where it is said that many members of royalty and other dignitaries have had their share of scones and clotted cream :).

Constructed in 1893 in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the Legislative Building is a must see whether during the day or at night.  We were lucky to catch views of this impressive structure during both times, although I must say that it is definitely more wonderful to see at night.  There are about 3300 bulbs that illuminate the entire building, making it look even more striking and captivating.  I had a field day capturing it all with my camera!  Hahaha!

Sadly, all trips must come to an end, but I’m glad we ended this one with such beautiful and extraordinary sights.  It made me wistful of what more I could have seen, had we had more time.  Oh well…I’m sure there will be a next time :).

As I sit and write this post, it again hits me how lucky I am to able to travel and see different parts of the world.  I am so fortunate to be able to have new experiences that enrich me as a person, and that make life interesting for me. Most of all, I am extremely thankful to have such wonderful parents that I can travel with, and who continue to give me these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I am truly blessed!  I only hope that one day I can provide my daughter the same experiences that I have been so generously given :).

Seattle Sights { Day 2 }

Bordering Downtown Seattle is the historic neighborhood of Pioneer Square.  To take advantage of the extremely warm and sunny weather, the H and I decided to explore this beautifully-restored district on foot, as it was just about 12 blocks away from our hotel.

One of the pluses to walking around town is being able to discover many new and interesting sights along the way.  On our way to Pioneer Square, we passed by this really neat park across the street from the Westlake Mall that had trees painted in bright blue!  Eye-catching, right? :)

We saw a chess game in progress as well…

We also saw this massive glass structure–it’s pretty hard to ignore because it is one of the biggest and most modern buildings on the street.  Apparently, it’s the public library!  Ganda diba, and very impressive!  I’m really glad that despite the advancement of technology and its effects on bookstores, it seems that there will be a home for printed books in Seattle for a long time to come :).

On a side note, I was also drawn to this three-piece sculpture by Henry Moore called Vertebrae, right outside the library.  I must say, I was really enjoying all the street art!

As we were nearing Pioneer Square, we passed by the Smith Tower.  It was once the tallest building in Seattle’s skyline.  It’s observation deck can still be accessed to this day, and offers beautiful, sweeping views of the Puget Sound.

Finally, when we arrived at our destination, we were greeted by the sight of this beautiful, century-old pergola.

Pioneer Square was horrifically damaged during the Great Fire of 1889, so many of the structures that are erected in the area today are a result of its re-building. In the 1970’s, artists helped to further revitalize Pioneer Square, transforming it from what was once a place full of brothels, to an artist’s haven.  I guess that explains the abundance of public parks, outdoor art, and pedestrian-friendly streets :).

After getting our fill of photographs, the H and I decided to make our way back to the downtown area for some shopping! :)  This time, we decided to take a different route so we could see more of the streets and sights of Seattle.

We passed a bunch of interesting and beautiful shops, and we eventually walked past the Seattle Art Museum and its incredibly tall “Hammering Man” (his arm actually makes a pounding motion!).  Apparently, he works all day, everyday, except Labor Day.  Hahaha!  Kidding aside, I was really impressed that Seattle seemed to have a very nice public museum, and a pretty big collection of outdoor art installations.  Too bad we didn’t have time to see most of them, nor the exhibits.

By this time, and after all the walking we’d done, the H and I were in dire need of something to cool us down.  We wanted to sample some of the local treats, and were lucky to find an ice cream place right by Downtown!

After a heaping scoop of Molly Moon’s Earl Grey and Chocolate Ice Cream for myself, and an affogatto for the H, we were ready to do some major credit card damage! Hahaha!

And that, pretty much, concluded our sightseeing tour of Seattle :).  On to the shopping!!!

iPhoneography

I was a very happy and satisfied Nokia user up until I encountered Hipstamatic for iPhone.

Being the photography junkie that I am, I immediately fell in love with the “lomo-fied” pictures and their vintage feel.  At that time, my daughter had also just been born so I thoroughly enjoyed documenting her first few months with my husband’s iPhone.  So unfortunately for my Nokia, while I loved its user-friendliness and familiarity, I knew that it was just a matter of time before I’d switch to the “other side”.

Fast forward to a year and a half later (yes, I actually held out for quite a long time!), I am now a happy and (pretty) satisfied iPhone user.  While I am honestly not a tech-savvy person and have yet to fully utilize all the features of my smart phone except to make calls,  I must say I am really loving the iPhone camera, and am thoroughly enjoying the photography apps I’ve downloaded.  It’s pretty handy especially when I want to capture images for my blog.  Now I no longer have to lug my Canon G10 around (which is quite hefty!), and just use my iPhone to take pictures, especially during those quick and impromptu moments.

Of all the photography apps I have, my favorites would have to be LemeCam, Instagram and Hipstamatic because they all allow me to experiment with various lenses and flash types.  They not only satisfy my need to be creative, but they also provide an element of surprise as I’m not quite sure how my picture will turn out until it pops up on my phone’s screen.

However, these apps also have their down side or limits.  First of all, I find it a bit of a hassle that there are too many buttons to press before getting to the app, then to the lens or flash of my choice.  Sometimes, by the time I’ve programmed the app, the “kodak moment” has already passed undocumented.  Speed and convenience are definitely key in capturing those precious and often “one-of” instances.

Secondly, while many of the photography apps are able to closely duplicate the functionality of DSLR camera lenses, they cannot quite match the caliber of images that use the actual hardware component.  The fisheye lens in my LemeCam, for example, can mirror the effect of an actual fisheye camera, but the image it produces is not exactly the same.

Also, if you are like me and really want to achieve the “0ld-school”/”low tech”/almost crude effect of lomo cameras, then you know that the iPhone photography apps fall short in this department as well.

Luckily, I recently came across some pretty cool iPhone accessories that not only address the shortcomings of these photography apps, but allow for endless hours of fun and creativity too!  Just because you have a modern phone, does not mean you’ll have to forgo the excitement and pleasure of taking pictures that have that quirky, retro feel.

I am ecstatic that the makers of the lomo camera Holga, have come out with a lens and filter kit that lets one transform their iPhone 4/4S into a Holga camera!

Isn’t the dial a pretty nifty touch?  It kind of takes me back to the time when black rotary telephones were still in use.  It’s so old school, I love it!

This kit actually just slips easily over the iPhone and acts as a protector as well. To use the filters, one just has to turn the dial and snap away!  It’s that simple and convenient!

Another plus is that this one kit gives you 9 effects to choose from (10, if you include normal, no-effect mode :)).  There are lenses that produce double, triple or quadruple identical images, filters that give your photographs a pink or green hue, there is also a macro lens for close-ups, as well as blue, yellow and red frames with cut out shapes.

With so many choices to play around with, and a price tag of about $25, this Holga lens kit is a steal!  The casing also comes in red, blue, black, silver and white :).

For those of you who are more serious iPhoneographers, I recommend Photojojo’s iPhone lens dial.  It is like the Holga lens kit such that the casing slips easily over the iPhone, and the lenses also resemble a rotary dial.  But that, pretty much, is where the similarity ends.

The iPhone lens dial has three optical-quality coated glass lenses: wide angle, fish eye and telephoto.  The wide angle lens is for capturing landscapes, the fish eye is perfect for those slightly distorted, bubble-type looking photos, and to capture a much closer shot of your subject, then the telephoto lens would come in really handy.

Speaking of handy, since the lenses are attached to your iPhone, there is no need to press a gajillion buttons before taking your photo.  Just rotate the dial, and click click click!

What’s also really cool about the lens dial from Photojojo is that the casing is not only slim and made from aircraft-grade aluminum, but it also comes with two tripod mounts for landscape or portrait shots.  Versus the Holga which is plastic and a bit flimsy, you can be sure the casing is extremely heavy duty and durable (it weighs heavier too :().

The only downside to this cool accessory is the price.  At $249, it’s a bit heavy on the pocket–which is why I recommend it for serious iPhoneographers only.  But if you really want to stretch the capability of your iPhone’s camera, you can’t go wrong with the Photojojo iPhone lens dial :).

Another quick-connect lens solution for the iPhone 4/4S that’s a bit easier on the budget is the olloclip(TM).

At only $70, it is a bargain compared to the iPhone lens dial, especially because its lenses perform the same function!  I also like that this lens is less bulky, detachable, and small enough to fit in your bag or pocket!

To use any of the lenses, all you have to do is slide the clip over your iPhone’s built in lens.  The olloclip(TM) is actually dual sided, with the macro lens cleverly hidden beneath the wide angle lens.  Just unscrew it, and you can take beautiful close up shots of your subject right away!  All this in as little as 4 seconds!  Is that speedy or what?!?  And no need to worry about the lens falling off as it fits quite securely and snugly over your iPhone.

Among these three choices, I think I’ve made up my mind to get the Holga and the olloclip(TM).  The first one is definitely for fun, the second to take serious, better quality pictures without having to take my serious, heavy camera with me :).

I’m so excited, I can’t wait to get my hands on these iPhone accessories!  I never thought I’d say it, but I’m really glad I switched to an iPhone :).

Photos via hardwarespere.com, freestylephoto.biz, olloclip.com, endgadget.com, geekalerts.com