Sunday, July 31, 2011

Minestrone Soup

As I was making minestrone soup for dinner tonight, I began to think about how my life is very much like the soup itself. Cliche as it sounds, but hear me out.

First, my life can be as complicated as the number of ingredients that go into this soup. Onions, zucchini, carrots, tomato, leeks, and garlic are just a few things needed here.

f/4.5, 1/40, ISO 1600

Just as things in my life started to heat up and go my way, I added a few flavorful ingredients just to spice things up...not knowing what would turn out.

In this case, bay leaf, thyme, and garlic.

f/5, 1/15, ISO 1600

And I continued to add in more complicated things into my life.

Sometimes, I improvise just to see how things will go.

In minestrone soup language, I added in all the vegetables and substituted green beans with bell pepper.

f/5.3, 1/15, ISO 1600

While the things my life are cooking up, I realized I forgot something important. A minor ingredient, but very important in overall results of what I have been looking for.

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Then I waited and stewed over the decisions and choices I made in life, hoping things will be alright.

f/4.5, 1/25, ISO 1600

On the other hand, I have other messes to tidy up.

f/4.5, 1/40, ISO 1600

Just when my patience was wearing me down, it all came together. The soup, my life. In the end, things worked out the way they should and I am happy with it. Oh and the soup turned out alright.

f/5.3, 1/20, ISO 1600

I guess I can say that life is like a pot of soup, you never know what you will get.

This recipe was adapted from "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters
1 cup dried cannellini beans
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon of dried thyme (or 5 fresh thyme sprigs)
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons  salt
3 cups water
1 small leek, diced
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 medium zucchini, cut into small dice
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 cups bean cooking liquid (or water)
2 cup spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

Heat oil in soup pot, add in onion and carrots. Cook until tender then add in garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, add water and bring to boil. When boiling, add leek, green beans, zucchini, tomato. Cook for 15 minutes then add beans, bean liquid, and spinach. Cook for another 5 minutes, add more water as needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy your life, I mean minestrone soup.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Glaring Sun

I can't count how many times I have looked up at the sun this summer, wishing a piece of fluffy cloud could over this radiating thing.

When I was small, I would draw the sun as a circle with lots of wavy tentacle. At f/32, the sun has showed it's true face. Like Apollo holding thousands of spears.

f/32, 1/200, ISO 200

Yet, this fifty trillion times ten to the ninty-nine power watts of light bulb just does not give up.

Yes, I thank the sun for the help in making my cherry tomato.

f/5.3, 1/640, ISO 200

 But just thinking of it makes me sweat.

f/32, 1/200, ISO 200

So for now I will just enjoy a juicy peach or two. 

f/13, 1/160, ISO 200

And wait till the sun goes down....and cool off from the glaring sun.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer's Best

Summer's best includes a canoe trip and some white water rafting.

f/3.1, 1/160, ISO 100

Of course, a canoe trip is not complete without my love (my fiance now!) and my noble wolf.

f/3.1, 1/400, ISO 100

Summer's best includes a stroll down apple orchards, eying out the best apples already.

f/13, 1/160, ISO 200

These juicy, plump, and bloated blackberries might have just topped off my best summer.

f/5.6, 1/320, ISO 200

Summer's best is not until these fragrant and freshly picked peaches fill my baskets.

f/13, 1/160, ISO 200

Summer's best includes some serious jamming days (canning, that is),

f/5.6, 1/15, ISO 1600

and the sight of Ball jars that will be filled with jam and preserves from our fresh picked summer fruits.

f/5.3, 1/30, ISO1600

Finally, summer's best includes cherry tomatoes, straight from my balcony.

f/5.3, 1/15, ISO 1600

What's your summer's best?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This Week

Despite the scorching heat that has been going around and the summer course load that is piling up, I am feeling pretty good.

I realize that I have a few things to be thankful for.

1. I am thankful for a dog who loves to catch fly and does it successfully .

f/5.3, 1/60, ISO 1600

2. I am thankful for the super sweet cherries that I got for only $2.99 a pound.

f/5.6, 1/13, ISO 800

3. I am thankful for a cookie jar full of these cocoa fudge cookies.

f/6.3, 1/15, ISO 1600

4. I am thankful for my trusty TI-89 calculator and the Z-score table (statistics, that is)

f/5, 1/160, ISO 800

5. I am thankful that the cherry tomatoes survived the spider mite attack and they are now ready for me to munch on.

f/6.3, 1/200, ISO 400

6. I am thankful for the abundance of basil that's growing on the balcony. It is now a must-have on every dish I make.

f/4.5, 1/160, ISO 400

7. I am thankful for the occasional cloud clusters that block the direct sun.

f/14, 1/1000, ISO 400

8. Most of all, I am thankful for the summer...that's until I see my electric bill.

f/5.6, 1/320, ISO 800

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lessons From Lola

Since Lola came into my life three years ago, I have learned many life lessons from her. It might be cliche to say that she's my best friend, but she is.

f/4.5, 1/250, ISO 800

She looks at my with admiration and thinks I am the greatest person in the world.
No one gets as excited as she does when she sees me coming through the front door.
Even if I was gone for the whole day.

f/4.5, 1/1000, ISO 800

Her silliness makes me laugh.

f/4.5, 1/320, ISO 800

She listens attentively to my sob stories and my happiest moments.
No judgement and questions, just listens.

f/5, 1/250, ISO 800

She follows her little button nose and her instincts.
She lets me know when things aren't right..or when she's hungry.

f/5, 1/200, ISO 800

She starts her day with a smile as if today is already better than yesterday.
No matter what happens, you still see her smile.
She lets you know that she loves you unconditionally.

f/5, 1/160, ISO 800

These are the little lessons I learned from Lola on how to treat your love ones.

What if we start treating people around us like our canine best friends do?

If Lola can do it, why can't I?

Thursday, July 14, 2011


When taking landscape pictures, setting the aperture to a small number (i.e. large f/ number) helps focus everything in the scene. Probably with aperture around 15 or above. While a large aperture (small f/ number) will blur out the background. Well, that is the way I have been taking pictures.

Landscape = f/large
Details = f/small

I do lots of experiment with the aperture when it comes to taking landscape pictures. For an amateur photographer like me, it can be hard to tell the difference whether the picture was taken with large or small aperture. But here are a couple of examples why aperture may matter.


f/18, 1/25, ISO 400


f/4.5, 1/320, ISO 400

Noticed how the f/4.5 picture looks more "washed-out" than the first one? Also the color and details on the rocks are more distinct on the first picture.


f/5, 1/800, ISO 400


f/22, 1/40, ISO 400

On the other hand, with f/small, the larger lens opening = more light enters in. In this situation f/5 allowed more light and hence made the picture look brighter than f/22. A small aperture (f/large) is more ideal for sunny days. Again, photography is a balance. Keeping up with all the photography terminology is already hard, needless to say remembering what number to use and when to use. So back to my old saying, practice, practice, practice!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Carrot Cake

For the past few days I have been living with the air conditioning blasting at non-stop. This 100 plus degree heat makes me miss the below zero freezing weather. Yes, I actually miss that ice and snow slush.

I mentioned before that I need to practice food photography. You see, taking picture of flowers is easy because the flowers themselves already have vibrant colors (i.e. they are beautiful the way they are) but capturing something delicious is hard. How to you show that something is tasty and when you see the pictures you want to say "Yumm-Ooo! I want to make that!"?

Last night I made a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Let me tell ya, taking pictures while making the cake really calls for multitasking.

1. Mix flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and baking powder together.

f/5.6, 1/40, ISO 1600

2. You need two cups of shredded carrots.

f/5.6, 1/30, ISO 1600

3. Place butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large bowl and beat with a mixer until combined. Then beat in one egg at a time.

f/4.5, 1/40, ISO 1600, +0.3EV

4. Mix it real good and then add in vanilla.

f/4.5, 1/40, ISO 1600, +0.3EV

5. Stir in carrots, flour, and buttermilk alternatively. Meanwhile, take lots of good pictures of it. I could use a stand-up mixer.

f/4.8, 1/40, ISO 1600

6. Spread the cake batter in a 13x9 size pan. Bake it at 350 for 25 minutes.

7. Time for the cream cheese frosting. Combine softened butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt. Gradually mix in powdered sugar.

f/5.3, 1/30, ISO 1600

8. Take a finger and run it through the frosting. Lick the finger and say "Yummmm-OooooO!"

9. Let cake cool before frosting it.

f/4.5, 1/60, ISO 1600

10. Cut yourself a large slice of the cake. Enjoy.

f/5.3, 1/40, ISO 1600, +0.3EV

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 butter milk, room temperature

1 block cream cheese, 8 ounces
2 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional

I hope my food photos make you say "Yummm-Ooooooo". If not, I am still working on it.

f/5.3, 1/50, ISO 1600, +0.3EV

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vegetable Gardening, Part IV

Recently I got some new friends out on the balcony. Their names are Spider Mite Steve, Spider Mite Bob, Spider Mite Jane, and Spider Mite..... Yes, I had a spider mite infestation. They were everywhere, every plant out there was infected, and there I was wondering why the pole beans were dying. It was a little too late by the time we did something. A week has gone by since we treated the plants, all but the beans survived. We took down all the remaining bean stems yesterday. The good news is that every tomato plant is producing at least a dozen or more of tomato and the pepper plants are flowering.

f/6.3, 1/400, ISO 400

Good bye, Mr. Zucchini.

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Sevin dust covered tomato leaves.

 f/5.6, 1/250, ISO 400

Devastation! It was a battlefield on the balcony.

f/6.3, 1/250, ISO 400

As sad as I was about taking the beans down, I managed to harvest almost a pound of it. Perhaps more bean seedlings in a couple weeks?

f/5.6, 1/400, ISO 400

At least I got the Miss Cherry Tomato on time.

f/5, 1/80, ISO 400

 And I got these babies to look forward to.

f/5, 1/40, ISO 400
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