The DSLR plunge

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , ,
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I finally made one of my long-time wishes a reality with the purchase of a Canon T6i bundle! I’m really excited about this and very pleased with the quality of images I’m seeing already. Funny enough, my dad had his eye on the very same one so we ended up both getting the bundle at Costco. For the longest time, I told myself I’d get a DSLR once I tried my hand at some manual settings on my regular camera. I did play around with the options, but not as much as I wanted. So I let many years go by before I decided to go ahead with it because I keep dreaming of the awesome photos I can take and I want to have something nice to vlog with.

At first I was going to look for a used or refurbished T3i, which seems to be what all those YouTubers use. But when I found that the price wasn’t nearly as cheap as I’d hoped, I figured I’d be better off getting a nicer one in a bundle. The idea of an extra lens and battery, along with some other accessories, really appealed to me. Turns out I like brand new things that are well put together for me. I’ll pay for the niceties and all just so I can experience that awesome fresh out of the box feeling. My dad’s the same way.

We both eagerly tore into our respective boxes and played around with setting up and using our cameras. I didn’t even get a chance to use it in daylight yet, but I’m very impressed with what came from the dim night lighting that looks soooo much better on this camera. I certainly wasn’t used to such good shots coming from low lighting like that. Call me a happy camper!

My first subject was Molly and I got an awesome string of shots of her walking!

My first subject was Molly and I got an awesome string of shots of her walking!

The items on the kitchen counter looked great in the photo, far better than with the naked eye.

The items on the kitchen counter looked great in the photo, far better than with the naked eye.

I’m very pleased with this camera and I can’t wait to try some outdoor nature shots.

One LONG day

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5:30 AM: Woke up and got ready for the day.

6 AM: Checked out and drove to MCI/KCI (Kansas City Airport), with a minor bit of disorientation along the way.

6:42 AM: Returned rental car and caught shuttle to terminal.

7 AM: Settled in at gate for 8:05 flight.

7:30 AM: Mechanical issues prevent us from boarding.

7:50 AM: The flight gets delayed by 4 hours and I get my food voucher.

8 AM: I get a drink and turkey jerky, then return to the gate to find everyone standing in a gaggle. The flight was cancelled. -___-

9 AM: I notice text messages letting me know I was rebooked for a 2 PM flight to Houston and then a 5 PM to Dulles. After sitting around then waiting in line, I am put on standby for an 11 AM to Houston.

10 AM: My coworkers arrive for their 10:30 flight and I chat with them before they board. Nobody on standby gets on the flight (one poor woman was supposed to catch another airline to go to Italy, with this being her only other chance).

11 AM: The Houston flight is also completely booked and boarded. I get back in line for assistance. This time I’m put on standby for a 1 PM.

1 PM: I get called up for my ticket, but I hesitate because I’d gotten a first class upgrade on the 2 PM flight. The gate attendant recommends I just get on this flight in case something happens with the next one (you never know).

3 PM: We land in Houston after a mediocre flight in which the attendant completely skipped me for drinks after chatting up the lady next to me (who didn’t want anything). Ugh. Wasn’t even worth it since I didn’t really want to drink anything.

3:30 PM: I request standby for a flight into DCA that arrives an hour earlier than my 5 PM flight to IAD. Just want to get going! Gate attendant was rather rude about it, but did it for me.

4 PM: After a stressful 20 minutes waiting for my to-go order, I bring it and board the plane. Discover my seat is waaay in the back and not economy plus despite there being plenty of space. I run back up to the gate to ask for a better seat. Even though the only seat taken in row 7 was 7A, he puts me 7B, a middle seat. I sit in the aisle and then move over to the other window seat just as the captain gets on to tell us that we’re delayed until about 6:30 due to weather in DC. We de-board.

4:30 PM: I go over to the gate for the flight to IAD that I was originally on. I’m sent to the customer service desk, where thankfully there’s a premier access line with just two people. I get a seat back on that one, which is also delayed to 6:30 due to storms. I wish I’d taken the 2 PM flight and kept my first class upgrade. Alas, there easily could have been further delays or cancellations so I won’t dwell on it.

4:40 PM: Panda’s on his way home (it’s 5:40 Eastern) and I update him on what happened all day.

5 PM: I finally get to eat the tacos I got. First meal of the day.

6 PM: Board the plane and hope for a last-minute upgrade to first class. I keep checking and *boom* it happens! I happily go up to seat 1B.

6:30 PM: We head off and I realize how desperately I need a window seat next time. Neither side had their windows open and I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. I’m not claustrophobic, but I do get some motion sickness when I can’t see the steadiness of the landscape outside. I also had a massive headache from artificial lights. I kept reminding myself that it was ok, we were staying level, and it’d only be three hours. A few times I thought it was a cross-country trip of 5 hours. I just tried to focus on playing games to stay distracted and eating the food that came along. Still, when I pulled up the flight map and saw we were over New Orleans, I really wanted to see what was outside!!

7:30 PM: I try to eat all the dinner, but my teeth are sensitive and I’m still full from my earlier meal.

8 PM: It’s cookie time! There’s something magical about a cookie that is heated up so it’s nice and gooey. Yum. The window in the row behind me has their window open and I can see some gorgeous colors of the sunset, with the outlines of some really cool clouds. I wish I’d been able to watch the light changing that whole time.

9 PM: We start our descent and the guy next to me finally opens the window! I notice a flash – what? I keep looking outside and it’s lightning! How jealous I am of what I missed.

9:30 PM (10:30 local): We land and I make my way out of the airport in record time.

11 PM local: We get home, finally. It’s 11 hours after I should have arrived and if I had driven straight from the hotel, I would have gotten home around the same time. What a day.

40 minutes

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , ,
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Panda and I (try to) have a tradition. Every night before bed, as we’re winding down for the night, we have our “40 minutes.” It’s time for us to talk about our day and share our thoughts before sleeping. It started when he had first moved out east and we’d sit on Skype, both doing our own thing, occasionally talking. I think it started off as 20 minutes and it’s fluctuated back and forth a few times. The point is to have time to each other; we don’t need to accomplish anything from it and we don’t have anything specific we need to say. It’s sort of like when you sit down to write and sometimes you just write your stream of consciousness.

By talking, we end up covering important issues some nights. Sometimes it’s an experience we want to share, sometimes it’s our life philosophies. I think it’s a nice way to put time aside for each other and be able to exchange ideas. However, it almost never goes so smoothly. Just in trying to enforce our “tradition” we often end up debating when we should have started and whether sleep is more important. Panda’s always trying to sleep early, but unless he announces 40 minutes, any talking is just normal conversation and not our special time. I’m weird like that.

And so the night continues, we us spending as much time talking about whether we should do 40 minutes as we actually do “doing” 40 minutes. It’s silly, but it’s a part of how we close out the night. It’s hard to close out distractions and I’m starting to think maybe we should have topics or questions to discuss so there’s a little less ambiguity around it. But I like to go with the flow and see where our thoughts take us. It just feels better to me.

Do you have any strange traditions in your family?

The perks of Gogobot Pro

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , ,
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Back in early 2013, I noticed a post from a friend who was sharing her Gogobot swag. I was immediately curious and got hooked to reviewing on the site. Not long after, I was thrilled to learn I’d made Pro! When you are an active member of their site, you can get selected to Gogobot Pro, which means you get awesome swag, a badge on your profile, and invitations to exclusive events (with themes like Spring Break, 500 Days, and Tron Party).

When you earn the status, you get to keep it through the rest of the calendar year. The following year, you’re re-evaluated and if you don’t make the cut, you can make up for it and get back in later in the year. So far I’ve made it each year since and I can’t believe I haven’t officially shared the sweet swag that they’ve sent me, so here’s a quick look back at the past three years!

gogobot pro 2013 canvas tote bag, beach towel, and flip flops

The first year it was beach themed. I love that tote bag and use it for all my travels.

gogobot pro 2014 sunglasses, pen, luggage tags, bottle opener, screen wipe sticker, and pin

I was renewed for 2014, but the gear was taking time so they sent these knick knacks while we were waiting.

gogobot pro 2014 duffel bag and water bottle

Finally, months later we got our stuff! I’ve used that water bottle as my main one for volunteering and trips. The duffel bag gets used for small getaways.

gogobot pro 2015 backpack and travel mug/tumbler

At first I didn’t make it this year, but I diligently posted again and was re-instated! I just recently got the backpack, which I now use for work. The mug is really cool and ceramic inside.

Time and time again I’m impressed by the unique products chosen and the quality of the items! For example, that tote is super sturdy and has a nice outer pocket to throw things in or the larger compartment that zips up for safe storage of your stuff. The water bottle is a self-sealing one so it’s easy to use with one hand when you need a quick grab and sip. The backpack has many compartments and I nearly missed the special zipper on the side for you to slide in your laptop! And the mug’s interior is ceramic, which is something I haven’t seen before. I just wish it held more liquid inside, but it’s still awesome.

Gogobot is such a cool brand that really knows about getting super fans who can become advocates and ambassadors! I hope to continue to be a power user for years to come, decked out with really nice gear to travel with. 🙂

Sleeping positions

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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How do you like to sleep?

Since Panda sleeps much earlier and I sit in bed on my computer, I’ve noticed some strange sleeping habits and positions that he’ll get into. He loves to be tightly tucked in under the blanket, complete with a tight tuck under his chin. It shuts in the hot air so much that he’ll sweat at night and I recently observed a drop of sweat making its way down his face and neck (ick). I prefer more air flow and will sometimes lay on top of the thick blanket with a light blanket or have various body parts sticking out of the blanket (typically my feet or one leg). I also like to have one leg bent up and one straight out. Since I leave a low light on, Panda will sometimes find creative ways to block the light – usually he’ll crook his elbow over his eyes, but I’ve found him with my nightgown wrapped around his head like a turban before.

There are some commonalities we share though – for one, we both like to sleep with our arms laying next to our heads, elbows bent. Perhaps we like airing out our armpits? We also like to take up a lot of space. For me, this generally means spreading out and draping my leg over him if necessary (he hates that). For him, it’s usually some strange contortion he managed to get into while twisting in his sleep. I’ve had to provide photo evidence of his transgressions to prove how he overran the bed and left me no space!

cat sleeping on bed with body twisted in strange positionI also like to keep things fresh by changing where we sleep in the bed. At first we’d swap sides every now and then. A few times we oriented our heads and feet the opposite way. Most recently we are sleeping sideways, parallel to the wall that the bed is against. Each time we change, Panda complains and hates the idea, but I’ve found that if I keep pushing, he tries it out and ends up enjoying it. Then that new spot is the default and the next change is another little battle (it’s like he forgot he didn’t want his “spot” the last time we changed either).

Even the cats have their funny sleeping preferences, like Smokey’s “happy nap” where she lays on her back in the middle of the floor, belly up and all paws facing the ceiling. As soon as she notices someone trying to take a picture of that, she quickly rolls over and runs off. When she’s in boxes, she loves to prop her chin and one paw over the edge. Meanwhile Missy is a huge fan of crawling in under the covers to snuggle up next to you. Or, if she’s on top of the blanket she’ll often end up belly up, chest to the side, and head twisted back. That’s when you know she’s really sleeping well. 🙂

So do you also have your own sleeping quirks?

Glass fusing art project

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , ,
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For Panda’s birthday, he found a deal for a glass fusing class. At first we were looking at stained glass classes, but once I heard about glass fusing, I knew that’s what we wanted to do. I also figured that we could make plate or bowl-like ones that the cats could then use for their food. Our normal bowls were a bit too deep for their liking whereas they’d lick food right off a plate onto the floor, so neither ware worked well.

Firehouse Pottery and Arts is in Mt. Airy, MD (near Damascus) and it’s a cute shop that does pottery painting, clay pottery sculpting, and canvas painting classes in addition to their glass fusing ones. When we arrived, there was a bit of confusion and it turns out that they’d booked us for one month later. We were an hour too early for their jewelry glass fusion class and about 2 hours too late for their trivet glass fusion class that day, but since we were already there (and far from home), they cleared a table and showed us the ropes to make the geometric trivets that we thought we’d signed up for.

Take a look at the experience and what we made!

firehouse pottery and arts studio in mt airy

There are a couple of areas to work in. So many colors everywhere!

glass scoring station at firehouse pottery and arts

For larger pieces, you can score your glass at the station to get a long straight line.

glass fusing samples of tack, contour, and full fuses

We were shown sample pieces to decide the fusing we wanted – tack (bumpy), contour (moderately fused), or full (smooth).

glass piece with tack fusion - the most bumpy option with minimal fusing

The tack fuse piece was quite bumpy!

glass piece with full fusion and slump

We gravitated towards the full fuse (with slump, which gives it a shape so it isn’t flat).

glass cutting tools and work space

We got some tools, a piece of 6×6 clear glass for our base, and some instructions. Always use the nipper “eyes up!”

pieces of colored glass sorted into plastic tubs

There were a lot of glass pieces to pick out!

designing trivet with three layers of colored glass

I started layering to see what color combos I liked.

standing up to score the glass with hand glass cutter

Scoring the glass can be hard work so standing up for greater leverage helped.

piece of purple colored glass with dfferent shades of layers

Most pieces were the same color all the way through, but the purple (incidentally my fav color) was unique.

cracking glass from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

After scoring, breaking the glass piece was as easy as squeezing on the running plier. Watch how easy it is to break the glass along the scored line in this video.

layers of colored glass cut and layered into design

After finally getting all the pieces I wanted and making sure the bottom colors fit with almost no gap, I was ready to start gluing.

gluing colored glass to clear glass base

We had white glue and hair spray to adhere the glass together. I tried both!

other students' glass fusion trivets ready to go in the kiln

As we were wrapping up, I checked out some other people’s work.

completed glass trivets ready to go in kiln

Our completed pieces, ready to go in the kiln! It takes a long time to first fuse, then slump glass and they had a queue of pottery going in too.

completed fused glass projects with gift bag and cat in background

Weeks later (actually exactly 2 months) I finally got them! They’d had to get a new (bigger) mold for our pieces, which were larger than normal.

fused glass piece of house, tree, sun, driveway, and yard

Panda’s creative landscape (aka Smokey’s plate).

colorful fused glass piece of geometric design

My modern art piece dubbed “straight edge” (aka Missy’s plate).

geometric glass plate layered over house glass plate

Don’t they look cool? I look forward to doing this again sometime.

house glass plate layered over geometric glass plate

Panda decided they were too nice for the cats to use, so there goes that plan.

They weren’t perfectly smooth the way I thought, which is probably because our pieces were thicker than they expected. I wonder if we could have them re-fused and slumped to make them oh so smooth… alas, the place is too far and these are fine, especially given that they won’t be used as plates! I think we’ll end up treating them partly as art and partly as trays. In fact, mine currently holds a bit of money and a receipt.

Drywall patching

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , ,
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Our home is now over a year old and for our one year, we had our drywall patched up for the areas showing signs of popped nails. Panda and I made a list of everything we noticed so when the guy came, I was able to point them all out. It took a good portion of the morning, with a break in between for the new drywall to dry. I’m always curious about how these things are done and it was totally not what I expected! Granted, I wasn’t really sure how they’d patch things up so I guess breaking off the pieces and filling them in sort of makes sense.

Here’s the damage we observed:

set of nails popping underneath drywall causing bumps

We were seeing some movement underneath.

crack in drywall from shifting walls in home

Some cracks presented themselves.

popped nail under drywall creating obvious dent

A few nails popped quite clearly.

When the guy came, he quickly set out to fix up all those parts of the walls and ceiling.

plastic protectant laid on ground to catch drywall pieces

He carefully laid down plastic to cover areas where he was working.

exposed drywall patch being fixed and redone

The cracks got chipped away and new drywall was put on top. The netting thing was to help things stabilize and adhere.

cat hiding in closet by hanging dress shirt sleeves

Smokey was not happy about the intrusion, so she went to hide in the closet.

wet drywall drying out after patching popped nails

When he left, everything was still drying.

fresh drywall needing paint

Once dry, this is how it looked. For the most part I hardly ever notice the patches, but every now and then they become obvious. Eventually we’ll paint them!

Free L’Occitane Tin with Mini Hand Creams

laelene Posted in deals, lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , , ,
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Deal time! Panda recently notified me of a free offer from L’Occitane, where you can get a cute little tin with two small shea butter hand creams inside.When I found out about it on Friday, I wanted to go to the mall that very night! Luckily, when we went yesterday they were just getting started and we were actually the first to redeem the offer at that location. And here I was afraid they’d run out. 😛 It was so new that the cashier had to read through some instructions on how to handle the offer.

All you have to do it like/follow them, share the offer (I believe this is optional), and subscribe to their newsletter. If you’re not a VIP already, they’ll ask for your info at the store to sign up to be one. Pretty great deal for this set of products, good through next weekend. Hop on it now! #LOVELOCCITANE

Offer details:

-FREE collector’s hand cream tin with Rose and Vanilla hand creams (both 10 ml tubes)

-15% off select best seller items, including shea butter hand cream, foot cream, etc.

-redeem in store or online

  • in store: no purchase necessary
  • online: offer good with any purchase, plus spend $25 to get free shipping

-offer valid April 3-12, 2015 (while supplies last)

l'occitane collector's tin with bag inside of l'occitane collector's tin with two mini hand creams

size comparison of l'occitane collector's tin and mini hand creams against person's hand

Here’s a sense of the size of the items.

Reston Town Center April Fool’s

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , ,
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It looks like the Reston Town Center does a fun joke each year for April Fool’s! Last year the balls were all rainbow colored and this time around they went with a new theme. Pretty fun!

reston town center fountain filled with large plastic beach balls for april fool's

This year, there was a sports theme!

excited girl throwing beach ball in air by fountain filled with balls

I claimed a giant blue one. 🙂

giant blue beach ball being stuffed into backseat of car

There was no way it would fit in the car like that.

giant blue beach ball stuck in door of car

Obviously stuck, and so started the deflation process.

giant blue beach ball squeezing into backseat of car

Getting there…

giant blue beach ball squeezed into backseat of car

Success! Snugly inside.

giant blue beach ball squished in back seat of car

Buckle up for the ride. 😉

view of giant beach ball in rearview mirror of car

This was my view from the driver’s seat.

selfie in car with giant blue beach ball in back seat

Selfie with the ball, of course.

A Galileo thermometer saga

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, stories,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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It was a long time ago that I first learned of Galileo thermometers and immediately put it on my mental wishlist (and then my blog wishlist). After many years of waiting, I was super excited when Panda treated me to one – that was four years ago. I proudly displayed it first at my apartment and then in my room at home when I moved back. But just two years into my ownership, Missy managed to break it when she was jumping from a cabinet to my desk’s shelf. Due to the height, and perhaps an impact with part of the desk on its way down, it shattered and left quite an odor in my room. I was bummed and vowed to get a replacement someday.

I’m glad I waited, because I had no idea I would relocate to the east coast and it sure wouldn’t have been easy to transport it on my own. Turns out it was another 2 years before I decided it was finally time to reward myself with that replacement. At first I was sad that I couldn’t get the exact same one I had before. Attempting to reorder gave me an error that none were in stock. I had meticulously compared options and found the 17-inch height with 10 temperature globes inside was the perfect combination for me. I don’t think I would have been satisfied with anything else. I saw 21-inch ones with 10 globes, 17-inch ones with 7 or 8 globes, but not my ideal one. So, I waited.

One day, I just happened to notice they were back in stock! It was pretty thrilling. But then the challenge was that I didn’t want to pay shipping and I was $5 off from the minimum charge to get free shipping. Right around that time, we decided to take a look at headboards, since the furniture store ones were way more expensive than we’d like. Panda found an awesome one for a very good price, complete with shelf space for me. We got that and tagged on the thermometer – yay, free shipping!

cardboard box for galileo thermometer

I was super excited when it came, in the same box I remember.

galileo thermometer and the styrofoam encasing it came in

I carefully opened the box and considered a safe place to display it.

galileo thermometer tinted blue by broken globe inside

I found my spot, but then noticed that strange blue tint. Was it supposed to be like that?

galileo thermometer with broken pieces of globe inside laying at bottom

Turns out one of the globes completed shattered inside and dyed the whole thing blue. Sad times!

Luckily, it only broke on the inside and it wasn’t leaking. I had to file for a return and spent some time trying to figure out how to do a straight exchange. Turns out you can’t when the item is sold by an individual vendor like mine, versus by Amazon itself. All I could do was return and reorder. I printed out a label and a UPS guy even picked it up from my front door one day! Unfortunately, due to the shipping charge, I’d have to order something else to get that free shipping again. I found myself waiting yet again… the item went out of stock, but then eventually came back. I figured out what I could order with it that was around the $5 price range, so I ordered it a second time and hoped that it wouldn’t get thrown around during shipping. About a month after getting the previous one, this one arrived.

galileo thermometer with broken pink globe at bottom

So I got my second one and all looked well until… hey, what’s that pink one doing so low?

bottom of galileo thermometer with pink temperature globe laying leaking

Upon closer inspection, the tip of it was broken just enough to leak.

large red reusable lint roller for cleaning clothes

I got a lint roller in this shipment to pad the cost. I’ve wanted a large one for years!

See the tiny globs of pink liquid escaping? I considered keeping this and having a non-functional globe that looked ok from afar. I couldn’t do it. So again, I returned it. This time UPS even printed the label and applied it! I just packed it up and left the box outside my door. I quickly found another $5ish item to get – a hand boiler toy. I reordered once more before they ran out of stock on me. I almost didn’t dare hope. I mean, shipping had been rough and these things aren’t crazy delicate, but they can’t be thrown around. It might just take some luck to get an unbroken one. How many tries would it ultimately require?

beautiful galileo thermometer on display at home

Thankfully, this one came in mint condition! It is now on display with my other items.

I had to check and recheck this one over the course of a week or two before I truly felt like it was pristine. I was worried I might have missed something! But no blue tint and all globes float! So finally, I have my replacement. Isn’t it gorgeous? This one better last me my lifetime!

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