Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Beauty

f/10, 1/600, ISO 800

Over winter break, Jake and I made a trip to Madison to scout out potential wedding venues. One of the places we looked at was Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

f/5, 1/125, ISO 400

When we were still living in Wisconsin, it was one of our favorite places to visit
The day we were there it felt like the coldest I have ever been this winter. It was probably because I am spoiled by the mild Kentucky winter.

f/5, 1/250s, ISO 400

Although everything was brown and tan, I managed to find some beauty in the cold weather.
The leftover of summer and the brave ones of winter still standing strong.

f/5, 1/100, ISO 400

It was overcast when I took these pictures, giving the objects a gloomy "winter-like" feel. I forgot to use the cloudy setting in white balance and they came out looking washed out. I had to add in some contrast and color, something we all could add into this season.

f/5.3, 1/400, ISO 400

Then there are some who are always optimistic and looking forward to the start of spring.

f/5.3, 1/640, ISO 400

p.s. I submitted my application last Friday, now the waiting game begins...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

f/5, 1/30, ISO 1600

The past few weeks I have been working on some internship application. It's stressing me out a bit.
It's the internship that will allow me to become a dietitian, and the nerve-wrecking part is that there is only a 50% acceptance rate. I feel like I am putting all my eggs in one basket, and hoping for the best. I have gotten so far in school and job experience that I think I will have a good chance. Wait, I don't want to jinx myself. I keep contemplating whether I should submit the application or wait for a few days, because once it's out, it is done.

What should I do?

Make cookies, duh!
I have lots of pecans from making rum balls, so I made pecan oatmeal cookies with orange zest and chocolate chips.

f/5, 1/30, ISO 1600

This recipe is from, one of my favorite food websites. Lots of reviewers said they don't care for the orange zest, I love it. As you can see, I used clementine zest, same thing.
I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar.

f/4.5, 1/40, ISO 1600

The cookies came out very flat. Either could be either a) the butter was too warm, b) I over-creamed the butter, or c) more flour is needed.
Either way, the cookies were delicious. Yummo plus!

f/4.5, 1/30, ISO 1600

Three and half cookies later I realized I still have to face this internship application dilemma I have. Since I am done with the application I should just read it over (again) then submit it, on the other hand, I just want to hang on to it in case something happens. The truth is there will be nothing else happening that I could add to the application. It is just going to sit there waiting for me to click "submit". Eh, I should just grab another cookie and then submit it for good.

Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
by Katie Sparks and Andrea Strong

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat (rubber nonstick baking mat). Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla, and beat until well mixed, about 3 minutes. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in a separate bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter with the mixer on low speed. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the second half. Stir in the oats, pecans, orange zest, and chocolate chips. Drop the dough, by the tablespoon, onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on a rack. Store at room temperature in a cookie jar or other airtight container.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Year

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday, dear my blog,
Happy birthday to me.

That's right, today is the one year birthday of "From Horses to Photography". It has been a year of my reflections, random thoughts, recipes, Lola, and of course, horses and photography. When I started the blog, I wanted it to be a way to get myself to explore Lexington and its surrounding area, and also to learn my new camera. A year later, I think I have accomplished those goals. Since I have been living here, I made new friends, found my favorite restaurants and beautiful places to take pictures. Most importantly, good changes were made in my personal life.

In the beginning, there were only two people reading my blog, my mom and Jake. I did not think I would stick with this little project of mine. Now, this blog has almost 3,000 pageviews and counting.

Here is flashback of a year of blogging:

The Glaring Sun is the most read blog post. Kind of took me by surprise because I quickly wrote this little poem about last hot summer after I went peach picking.

Vegetable Gardening (Part I) is another popular post. This summer, my balcony is going to be filled with so many veggie plants that I can't see the street.

My first real travel-photography experience was at the Great Smokey Mountains, and I came back with lots of materials to write several posts.

Kentucky State Fair, the ultimate Kentucky experience that one could get.

My ever-searching for the perfect recipes, chocolate chip cookies and pie crust.

It puts a smile on my face thinking that there are readers out there who find my posts interesting and continue to read on. It is you, the motivation for me to keep writing. I hope for another fulfilling year of blogging to come. Thank you for reading!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Dragon Year

Happy Chinese New Year! It has been a couple years since I spent Chinese New Year celebration with my family. I miss sitting at the round table and eating non-stop. Every year there is at least two whole chickens, two fish, duck, pork, and more side dishes on the menu. Then for all those who are unmarried get the red packets with money inside. On Saturday, Jake and I went to see a Chinese New Year Celebration Performance in downtown Lexington. Although not as grand of a celebration like I would have at home, it made me feel warm at heart. Tonight I am cooking up some Chinese dishes for the two of us.

Lola did get her red packet this year, filled with treats, of course.

f/5, 1/500, ISO 400

At first she didn't know what to make of it. There's treats inside, but how do I get them out?

f/5, 1/1250, ISO 400


f/5, 1/640, ISO 400

I got it! I got it!

f/4, 1/400, ISO 400

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


During my two weeks of vacation I only ran three times (twice on the treadmill so those don't really count), and now I am paying for the slacking. I signed up for Keeneland Half Marathon at the end of March and most trainings require at least 12 weeks. The week I got back was exactly 12 weeks away from the half marathon. I put off first day of training because I had to take a nap to get over my jetlag. Then for the next two days I ran 4 miles each, my legs were sore. I was not sure how I was going to run 8 miles in a few days. According to my training schedule, the 8 mile run was supposed to be on Sunday. I ran 6 miles and called it a day.

Training feels like a chore and takes the fun out of workout. So far I have been doing 3 to 4 mile runs and long runs on Sunday. In two weeks, I am supposed to do 5 to 6 miles with a 10 mile long run. Yikes.

It's a long road ahead.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Photographer's Wish List

During my trip to Thailand I had a chance to hang out with my Aunt Joyce, who has been taking pictures for years and it was like having free photography lessons all week. Comparing my Nikon D3100 to her Canon D50, my camera seemed small like a point-and-shoot. Did you know that ISO sensitivity can be set to auto so you don't have to adjust it everytime? Also, you can set the compositions inside the camera so you don't need to adjust the contrast, light balance etc afterwards? Amazing. She gave me some tips on photography equipment that I am considering investing on when enough funding comes in.

Traveler's lens (AF-S DX NIKKOR18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II):

Compared to my AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, much more zoom power (11x) for landscape and close-up items.

UV lens filter:

Under bright and sunny conditions, this will make clear sky bluer and grass greener.

Lens hood:

This will not only eliminate those light bubble in bright and sunny days, but also a way to protect lens.

Recently I got myself this book:

It's pretty helpful so far, but there is only so much I can learn from a book. Like I said a million times before, practice practice practice! I am considering taking a photography class, just talking about these basic equipments is pretty overwhelming to me. I am not even sure if these are the correct accessories for my camera. One of these day I will get a hang of photography.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Snow Day

Finally, the first real snow fall of this season! I love snow storms even though the day after is always wind chilling below zero temperature. There was only an inch of snow when I woke up this morning, but enough the snow to cancel school. We watched Hangover II (which was exactly like the first one) and I made chicken enchilada for dinner, it was an awesome and relaxing snow day.

f/7.1, 1/80, ISO 400

Lola loves snow.
She can feel like a real wolf again.

This is Dexter, Lola's best friend (or boyfriend, as we like to call him).
They are in the shepherds club.
While it was in the single digits outside, they could not get enough of each other.

f/5.3, 1/1600, ISO 3200

f/4.5, 1/200, ISO 400

f/5.6, 1/200, ISO 400

f/5, 1/200, ISO 400

f/7.1, 1/200, ISO 400

Me, on the other hand, was trying to stay warm by chasing them around and wishing there was more snow to go cross country skiing.

I love snow days.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


After 16 hours of flight I am finally back in Lexington. It feels great to be back with my love ones and to sleep on my bed again. But everytime I visit my parents in Hong Kong, it gets harder and harder to leave. When people ask me where I am from, sometimes I say Hong Kong, sometimes Madison or Lexington. Home is where my family is, yet they are scattered around the world.

The day before I left, my parents and I went for a walk near the apartment towards the Hong Kong International Airport.

f/8, 1/200, ISO 100


f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200

The cable car that leads to the big Buddha.

f/6.3, 1/640, ISO 200

f/8, 1/400, ISO 200

 Growing up, I always lived by the ocean. I love looking the endless horizon and plentiful of seafood available. Instead of the ocean, I got horses and rolling hills here in Lexington. A year ago I moved to this city by myself and now I have my own little family. Lexington is where my home is.

f/7.1, 1/640, ISO 200

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Paradise in Hua Hin

I am back in Hong Kong. I miss Bangkok and its warm and humid weather, even though I complained about it everyday. I miss eating pineapple, papaya, dragon fruit, and pomelo. Before heading home and lots of shopping, we went to Hua Hin a coastal and tourist town about three hours south of Bangkok.

f/9, 1/200, ISO 100

There were thousands of monkey on this rocky beach. If you look carefully in the picture above, there were lots of monkey on rocks on their way to where I was. It was feeding time, apparently monkeys love corn as well.

f5.6, 1/200, ISO 100

f/5.6, 1/200, ISO 200

Lunch at beach...

f/6.3, 1/800, ISO 200

...with spicy and sour shrimp salad.

f/5, 1/13, ISO 200

Durian, also known as the stinky ugly fruit. In some countries, it is illegal to bring durian across immigration because of its smell. I finally had the opportunity to try it. It was sweet and did not taste like the way it smells. Kind of like very ripe banana and vanilla custard together.

f/5, 1/50, ISO 200

The day before we left Bangkok, we were almost kidnapped by a couple of tuk-tuk (the vehicle) drivers. The original plan was to take the tuk-tuk to see the lucky Buddha and then back for 20 Baht (67 cents USD). The lucky Buddha did not bring us much luck. On our way back the drivers took us to a random street and insisted that we go inside this store. They didn't tell us what was in the store nor could we see through the tinted windows. If we did not go inside, we would have to pay 200 Baht. Sensing something suspicious, we quickly paid 20 Baht and got off the tuk-tuk. The drivers then took off leaving us there. We did not know where we were, luckily there was a internationally-known hotel nearby and we were able to get directions.

f/5, 1/640, ISO 400

Good Bye Bangkok!

f/4.5, 1/30, ISO 1800

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Ayutthaya, an ancient city in Thailand founded in 1350 by King U Thong. In late 1700s, the city was destroyed by Burmese army. The ruins of Ayutthaya are still standing and they tell the stories of a once prosperious city. Unfortunately due to the recent floods in Thailand, the ruins underwent further damag and we weren't able to see the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya. On our way to Ayutthaya, we saw what the flood had done to the villages. Telephone poles showed that the water was at least 5 feet high and garabage where everywhere. It seemed not much has changed since the flood receded.

f/5, 1/640, ISO 100

f/10, 1/160, ISO 100

f/5.3, 1/400, ISO 100

f/4.5, 1/25, ISO 100

Apparently there were lots of elephant rides for tourists around the area. After the flood, only a few has returned.

F/6.3, 1/200, ISO 100

Best snacks on the road: fresh coconut juice and sweet pineapple.

f/5.3, 1/800, ISO 400

f/6.3, 1/80, ISO 200
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