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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Questions to Ask About Your Airport Shuttle Service

Hawaii is a gorgeous place to holiday, but if you're traveling without a car, it can also be a frustrating one. Thankfully, shuttle services exist to get you where you need to go. Here's a quick checklist for choosing a good Honolulu airport shuttle service.

1: What are their transportation prices? Are they for one-way or round trips?

2: Does traffic affect the final cost? Make sure there aren't hidden fees concerning mileage, detours, rush hour, et cetera. Gas is another consideration; ask if the final bill will be per trip or per gallon.

3: How much do they charge for each person? Companies love to boast that a round trip is "only X amount of dollars!" without disclaiming that the price is per head, meaning that a family of four will face that number multiplied severely.

4: Will their shuttle services pick you up directly from the airport? Where will they meet you, at the gate or the front door?

5: Do they charge for lateness? Will you lose your ride after a certain time period? You don't want to find yourself stranded in a strange place just because you were stuck in the luggage area for an hour.

6: What if they're late? Do they offer refunds if you're kept waiting?

7: What are their drivers like? This is a subjective question, of course, but you should know in advance if they're silent chauffeurs or chatty tour-guide types. Look up reviews for the company to see what kind of reception you can expect when you land.

Coral Tree Blooms

The coral trees along the streets of La Jolla Village Drive and Genessee Avenue are blooming in red right now.
NAKED CORAL TREE IN FULL BLOOM
After school last Friday, before going home, I decided to snap some photos with my cell phone. Though I may look weird probably aiming at those red blooms that it seems no passersby would take a stop to breathe in the beauty, I simply did not let myself be bothered by those casual or puzzled stares. I had a good time taking photos of these red blooms. This is actually in a busy street in La Jolla, but, I cut out the buildings and road, hahaha. Actually, I wanted to take picture of the trees in full bloom, that it's either the tree or the streets, I chose the tree. :)
NAKED CORAL TREE BLOSSOMS UP CLOSE
When I got home, I was so red-inspired that I made a red salad. :)

Actually, it's not really a red salad. :) I actually layered rice, black beans, red bean chilli, then, I topped with kale-cilantro-and tomatoes. I squeezed lemon all over, and sprinkled black pepper. Weird? Haha, hubby loves it much. I will share the recipe later of this all vegetable dish. 

**all photos above were taken by cell phone** 
There are many varieties of coral tree, the trees above I believe are
Erythrina abyssinica. Sometimes, coral tree are also called "flaming tree"

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to Turn Your Home into a Dance Party

Sending out invites and flyers is the boring part of planning a dance party – the real fun begins where your creativity starts to show! Make your dance party the best ever with some handy tips:

A few hours before…

Start getting things set up – put bottles of water and a variety of soft drink on ice to chill for your guests when they are hot and sweaty from dancing. Clear some room in the fridge for people to keep their own drinks cold too. Be completely prepared and well stocked: at a dance party a drunk crowd is a dancing crowd. Everyone needs a drink at all times, alcoholic or not.

Make some funky snacks for guests to eat when they just want to chill out. Wrap cotton candy onto glow sticks and make unreal looking cupcakes with glow-in-the-dark frosting (tonic water glows under a black light! Find the recipe online) and plenty of packets of chips.
At a dance party the perfect lighting is essential: disco balls are key! Get creative with lighting effects, as well as strobe lights and laser projectors, something as simple as attaching a colander to a light fixture will make cool details on the ceiling. (Some examples of laser projectors and party lighting available at http://www.spencersonline.com)
Just before guests are due to arrive scatter your front yard with active glow sticks in balloons: giving off a really cool effect and drawing attention to where the party is!

As the party is getting started:

Is there anything more crucial at a dance party than the music? Probably not! Go digital to avoid any awkward silences, and make a playlist on your ipod of all the classic party pleasers – I mean ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ 1990s edition, or an MTV Club “Party To Go” Mix: Daft Punk, R Kelly, Will Smith, Sir Mixalot, Michael Jackson, TLC, Madonna – Check out this Epic Dance Party Playlist for some great ideas to get people moving!
Make sure the guys aren’t just sitting around (as they likely will be), always make sure to invite the one guy who will be sure to get the dance floor moving.
Have the classic dance moves down – the moonwalk, the running man, and the twerk, and then get the dance battle started!
Every once in a while, take a break from dancing to re-hydrate and to chat with guests at the party. Maybe even play some games! Ones that typically end in public embarrassment or people making out are often crowd pleasers: if you haven’t played it since middle school, why not now?
It’s unlikely you will remember most things at your dance party, so make sure to have someone taking photos, even if it’s just your little brother. The laughs you will get out of all those funny faces under the laser projectors when they’re on Facebook tomorrow is incentive enough!
Expectations for dance parties are high – but they’re all about shaking off the bad stuff and making memories with your friends. Have fun, and remember, clean the house good enough for the next party.

Expectations for a dance party are high!

Warner Bros. / The Great Gatsby
But it’s all about the company and making memories.

Just be sure to clean the house really good for the next party.

Monday, March 24, 2014

OOTD (5th in series): Pink and not so Pink :)

After more than one month, the OOTD series is back! :) And, it is pink again! :) Haha, my last OOTD post was "Pink at Valentine's". Now, it is "Pink and not so Pink" for Weekend Wanderings. :)

Here's one pink, which I wore last Sunday for just a casual stroll at La Jolla.

Here's the "not so pink" ootd during our hike at Mt. Woodson Saturday. 
Hubby is my photographer in all 3 pictures above. I forgot to ask hubby to take me a picture facing the camera with my "not so pink" shirt. Anyway, here is what my "not so pink" shirt says in front, but the pictures below were taken 2 years ago.
And while I was in my picture folder that contains the above picture taken 2 years ago, I saw the picture below which had me also in the "stretching" pose. :)
Ahhh, what we will do just to have fun photos! :) 
2 years gap between the 3 pictures above and the last 3 pictures below. In between those 2 years, nothing much changed, I still love pink! :) Haha!

Spring Gardening Tips For Beginners

Spring is certainly in the air and there are plenty of jobs that are well worth taking care of now and over the next few weeks before our gardens suddenly swing right into action! Get organised now and by the time summer arrives you will have the perfect environment to enjoy.

HAVE A GENERAL TIDY UP
This time of year is the perfect time to give the garden a spring clean. Tidy up all of the fallen leaves and plant debris from your beds, containers and pathways, not forgetting to trim all of the dead growth on your perennials and shrubs right back.
If you have a pond in your garden, now is the time to give that a spring clean too. Be sure to compost all of your garden waste as it will provide you with nutrient rich goodness for your plants later on.

COMPOST!
If you don’t already have a composting bin, or area, why not set something up? It needn’t be anything complicated or expensive. You can purchase relatively inexpensive compost bins, but you could build something very simple using old pieces of wood or pallets for next to nothing.
In addition to your garden waste you can use it compost suitable food waste including teabags, coffee grounds and eggshells. It is well worth the effort for the wonderful rich compost you will create, just remember to turn it with a fork and aerate it monthly to help it break down.

GIVE YOUR TOOLS A LITTLE TLC
Repair, sharpen and wash your tools to improve their performance and extend their lifespan.

INSTALL A WATER BUTT
Some plants like Blueberries and Camellias do not fare quite so well when watered with tap water, preferring rain water instead. It is so easy to install a water butt to collect rainwater, not to mention environmentally friendly, in fact if you have the space why not install more than one?

SHOP FOR BULBS
A lovely job for a wet day or a day when you are not feeling particularly energetic! Choose some stunning bulbs to plant at the start of spring to provide your garden with some vibrant colour over the summer months.
If you haven't got the time to nip down to your local garden centre to have a look for some new plants, trees, tools or whatever else it is you need then you can always have a look online too with websites like Evergreen Hedging selling everything you could possibly want.

NEED TO REPOSITION ANY SHRUBS?
Sometimes you will notice that a plant from the previous season is struggling, usually due to its position, or the soil type. Now is a great time to give it a new lease of life by repositioning it somewhere else.
Try to dig it up without damaging the main ball of roots, keep the roots moist and get them back into the ground as quickly as possible. Make sure you water the plants well to help them to re-establish themselves as quickly as possible in their new location.

DO YOU HAVE A GREENHOUSE?
If so, don’t forget to give it a spring clean too, as this will prevent any lingering pests or diseases from camping out and making themselves unwelcome when you begin to sow this year’s seeds.  Give everything a good clean and air it all out to dry.

THOSE NIGGLY REPAIR JOBS...
At this time of year there are invariably a few repair jobs to take care of due to the wind and frost over the winter months. Get those jobs out of the way now so that you can make the most of your garden as the weather warms up and spend your time doing more enjoyable things!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Photography (1) : How It all Began

My path to finding joy in nature photography.... a series.

Since I was small, my happiest days were always being out in the great outdoors. My favorite being in the ocean feeling the waves carry me, like being in a hammock. During those times, I was not into freezing priceless memories in photos. If ever I want to have a picture taken, it was always with "ME IN THE PICTURE", not about the wonders of nature I saw. Until.....

Pictures before 2005, always had "me" in them 
2005, my cousin from the Philippines came for a visit. While we were wandering around San Diego, I learned from my cousin her so many different ways when taking pictures. She would look at the distant cliff, then, she would ask me to give her a "pondering kinda" pose on that cliff looking out to the sea, THE SEA OF HOPES. Here are some of the pictures she took of me then.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Redwoods and Music


Hubby and I love to play nature's music each time we do our yoga exercises. Actually, nature's music is so soothing that even when we are already done with our yoga exercises, we still continue to listen to them. My favorite is the sound of the shores, and the sound of the redwoods forest. As I listen to the nature's music while doing my breathing in and breathing out, I could imagine the leaves softly swaying, and the birds very lovingly serenading the air. I guess, the relaxing sounds of nature makes me love music created by  woodwind instruments such as the flute and clarinet. Ahhh, how I wish sometimes I know how to play them too. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Features of the Most Insanely Energy Efficient Homes

Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy has hosted a Solar Decathlon every other year. During this event, teams of brilliant, international college students are brought together to design and build houses that are powered by solar energy. The house that each team builds must be energy efficient, cost effective, and visually appealing. A winner is chosen based on how well all three of these elements are utilized.

In 2013, Austria’s Vienna University of Technology won the competition with their solar powered home which consumes less energy than it generates in a year. They were able to come up with a great design that is appealing and affordable for consumers. Other than generating energy, there are many other features which went into the design of the home to make it ultra-efficient. These features can be used in homes today to create a healthier environment.

Why Be Efficient?

Having an energy efficient home not only saves and protects the environment, but it also is very cost effective. By saving energy, you are saving money on your gas and electric bills every month. Wouldn’t you like to have more money in your pocket? Along with this, your home will also be more durable and comfortable to live in.

Obtaining Energy Efficiency

Do you want to have an energy efficient home? Take a look at these features of the most insanely energy efficient homes to see what you can add to your residence:
  • Solar Water Heater. This feature is great for heating up the water in your home and the only power it uses is the sun. It is very cost effective and you generally have two types of systems to choose from: active or passive.
  • Solar Electricity. Both pollution-free and reliable, a solar electricity system can supply your home with the energy it needs in a cost effective way. You can get this by installing solar panels onto your roof.
  • Heat-Recovering Shower Tray. You can reduce the amount of hot water needed to take a shower by about 1/3 with this heat-saving device.
  • Advanced House Framing. This type of framing can reduce the amount of lumber that is used and wasted to build a home. It also improves energy efficiency.
  • Cool Roof. You can keep your home cool during the summer with reflective materials on your roof that don’t absorb as much heat and instead reflect the light.
  • Insulation. It is important to keep your home well-insulated so that your home can stay at a comfortable temperature.
  • Screen and Awning System. At different points in the day, this system can cool parts of your living space that are being penetrated by the sun.
  • Skylights and Windows. Use skylights and windows instead of light fixtures to bring light into your home. It is important to get windows that are energy efficient. You should also carefully consider where the windows are placed.
These are just a few of the many features you can obtain to achieve an energy efficient home. Even starting with just a few simple additions can greatly reduce the cost of heating and energy as well as reducing your footprint on the environment.

About the Author:

Please feel free to contact Ella Gray at ella.l.gray@gmail.com with any questions that you may have.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Breeding Cattle Egret

Cattle Egrets with their Breeding Plumage
Even though egrets are very common birds here, and they are easily seen anywhere, but nevertheless, each time I see them I could not help but stop and watch them walk, talk, fly, or play around. The most common egrets I see in San Diego are the snowy egrets and great egrets. They mostly stay in the ocean, waiting to fish :) or in the lakes. The cattle egrets on the other hand are seen much inland. They have been called cattle egrets because mostly follow cattle in farms to feed on the critters that had been disturbed by cattle as they walk. Cattle egrets are smaller than the water loving egrets. During the breeding season, the male cattle egrets shows the breeding color. Their bill becomes brighter yellow-orange, and they display a yellowish-light brown feathers on their heads, chest and back, as you can see from the picture above. Cattle egrets do not walk as elegantly as the great egret, but nevertheless, they are still a joy when seen and photographed, for me at least :)
Fly Egret Fly


Why Hire A Wedding DJ?

Why is there a need for a wedding DJ?

I believe most couples would want their wedding to be as memorable as possible. Here are some reasons why a wedding DJ would help make the wedding reception more memorable:

1. Wedding DJ knows how to engage the guests, and draw them onto the dance floor. Usually, without a DJ, no one would go to the dance floor, unless, someone from the guests are playful enough to take the initiative to bring everyone to dance. This makes the wedding look more festive and joyous.

2. Wedding DJ helps in encouraging guests to interact with each other, and bringing out fond memories about bride and groom.

3. Weddings DJs are very spontaneous in entertaining the crowd, and could be very playful to make everybody have fun in the celebration.

 And of course, it would be an added bonus if the wedding DJ is into music as well, like wedding DJ david fox because he would be able to make spontaneous changes to musical entertainment when situation needs it.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Regrowing Green Onions In Water

When I wrote about "Kitchen Bay Window Gardening" about a month ago, my TSS sister Zen asked me if those green leaves in "Death Valley" mug are onions. The answer is, yes! However, these green onions are not planted, I simply regrow them in water.

2.5 months old Re-Grown Green Onion in Water
 ( just a few leaves right now, since I just harvested )

Your $1 green onion actually could last you for 3 months or more even without planting in soil! How? Don't throw the roots away. Place it in a jar or mug of water, as long as do not submerge the root entirely. You will be surprised as to how fast the green onions would grow.

Though I have lots of green onions and other herbs outside the house, but I find it convenient to grow some of them in our kitchen bay window for several purposes:
1. Aesthetic - for me, plants inside the house bring nature in, thus, adds more beauty.
2. Air purification - a lot of plants absorb air toxins in the air, and that's one of the miracles of life: The giant chemical reactors in plants process those toxins into essential nutrients our body needs.
3. So that I do not have to keep on going out to get some green onions or other herbs each time I need them for cooking.

I must admit I love herbs in foods, thus, I grow a lot of them in pots which I simply put in our kitchen bay window so they could get the sunlight they need, and gives me easy access to them whenever I prepare foods.
Kitchen Bay Window Potted Herb Garden

Monday, March 3, 2014

Photos of Me By Hubby

Me, Enjoying Sunset ( from the week that passed)

I seldom ask hubby to take me pictures, because he is also busy with his camera shooting for his "special moments", such as tiger capturing a duck, peregrine falcon with prey in his beak, surfing dolphins, etc. In short, I let him enjoy his happiness, which actually was somehow influenced by my happiness, since it was me who got hooked into photography first. However, he found a way to entertain himself while waiting for me taking pictures, he bought gadgets for himself too, and boy oh boy, am I not glad? I did not only end up with a photography partner, I also ended up with a lot more gadgets since he feels guilty probably each time he buys gadgets for himself, that he also buys for me, haha! 

However, aside from being my photography partner and financier, he also is my "unguarded moments" photographer. He does not like it much if I ask him to take photos of me, since "people posing" photography is not in his interest. However, he likes taking pictures of people in their candid moments, such as the picture above. In the picture above, I was taking picture of sunset, and unknown to me, he also took a silhouette picture of me.

Here are a few more unguarded moments photos of me taken by hubby.
Hiking @ Garapatta State Park, Big Sur, CA

I do not complain much if I do not have an ootd photographer because I have an outdoor photographer taking pictures of me enjoying the outdoors. :) Though I kind of wish he could be an OOTD photographer too, haha, so that I would not have a hard time taking picture of myself with a tripod, haha! I do not have a remote shutter yet, which would be a big help when camera focuses when I (the subject) is in front of camera.

Going back to hubby, I find it cute somehow that he is always busy taking pictures of me when I am busy taking pictures, :) lol. See the picture below? He caught my secret of taking silken reflection shots by taking picture of me with feet submerged in water. He always find a nice angle to show as well what I am taking picture of, not just me.
Me @ my favorite place in Home Sweet San Diego, Torrey Pines State Reserve
( blogger distorted the resolution of the pictures, it looks so pixelated after I uploaded)

He loves to stay behind sometimes when we were hiking because he loves taking hiking picture of me in places he thinks we may not go back soon, such as this two below at Glacier National Park in Montana and Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska.
Glacier National Park, Montana
 Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

I really do not mind if he stays behind sometimes  because I know he is watching me with his camera and makes me look like a true explorer, haha!

If traveling, he does not mind as much to take me pictures posing for the camera, something he won't be as willing to do if we're in San Diego. Actually, when we travel, he volunteers always to take pictures of me. :) He prefers shots that would give him more challenge to shoot, such as jumping shots.
Cascade Canyon Trail, Grand Teton National Park, WY

I Believe I can Fly, Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Not all candid shots he took of me are in nature trails. He does sometimes click the camera even when there is no nature view, like in the picture below.

My favorite picture he took of me? I can't choose, but below is one of them, though it looks like I was waving at him, but this was candid as well. I was waving at him because I left him behind because I had to run to capture a picture of a little girl kissing the sand sandboarding. Haha! 

Anyway, stopping here for now, before I get carried away uploading more pictures of me. I'll leave you with this "posed" shot of me. Hubby actually volunteered to take me a picture here, because he saw the inverted world produced by mountain reflected on the lake at Bishop Dam, in Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, and knew that would be a great background for an "outdoor portrait" photo.
Outdoor Portrait @ Bishop Dam, Bishop, CA