Traveling as a tourist

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog
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 You see lots of cool things you like. Luckily I already have the large panda!

You see lots of cool things you like. Luckily I already have the large panda!

You get to relax and enjoy.

You get to relax and enjoy.

You have time to observe your surroundings.

You have time to observe your surroundings.

You love local touches, like this cute moose!

You love local touches, like this cute moose!

You go shopping and seek free stuff!

You go shopping and seek free stuff!

You take lots of photos. And selfies, of course.

You take lots of photos. And selfies, of course.

 You learn some new skills! Check out my towel monkey!!

You learn some new skills! Check out my towel monkey!!

Scenic sights

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Been away for awhile on a cruise to Alaska! Check out some of the sights so far. There’s all sorts of awesomeness, with more pics to come. 🙂

carnival legend leaving seattle port with space needle in background

Cruise ship view of Seattle.

sunshine reflected on deep black ocean water

Glittering black waters.

glacial ice floating in tracy arm fjord with glacier in background

Ice chunks floating in the fjord!! And that’s a glacier back there.

forest area on trails of skagway with spider in foreground

A little bit of land exploration too. Tried to get the spider in the foreground.

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.

My pet Hawaiian shrimp

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Back when we were in Hawaii, I finally got myself a little Hawaiian red shrimp ecosphere. While I’d seen the crazy expensive closed systems before, I liked that the one I found includes a lid that opens. Just in case I need to feed them or change the water, right? So I happily bought the travel set, which included the jar with sand and a fake little plant plus a separate plastic bottle with the shrimp and some blue pellets (food, I presume). All I had to do was put it in my checked bag for transport back home!

I also decided to get a set of snails to add to my new little ecosystem, just to help clean the water. While in Hawaii, I kept them in the bottle together and spent hours watching them. The snails liked to hide up on the lid, out of the water. Whenever they did go down, the shrimp would immediately gravitate towards them and pick at their shells. They must have some tasty algae growing on those shells! When it came time to travel, I carefully wrapped the bottle in paper towels and put it in a box, just in case anything leaked. I then wrapped the box in some of my clothes to try to offer the best buffer between potential jolts and coldness.

Upon arrival many hours later (and a good 30-degree drop in temperature too), I gingerly opened everything and found minimal leakage of water. The shrimp and snails were just fine. I then set about setting up their habitat and enjoyed a beautiful jar to put on the counter or table. Check out the pictures below to show you what has happened since…

hawaiian red shrimp habitat in store

The original habitat I saw at the store! I couldn’t leave without my own.

hawaiian red shrimp eating off black snail shell

The shrimp, snails, and blue pellets in the travel bottle. Those shrimp loved following the snails around!

cat sniffing glass jar with sand and fake plant

Smokey sniffed at this mysterious new jar while I was putting it together.

hawaiian red shrimp and snails ecosphere self-sustaining ecosystem

I loved sitting and watching them. I mostly kept them on the coffee table or the island in the kitchen.

nerite snail eating in glass jar

After awhile, some shrimp and my snails died. The water began to get murky, so I got a nerite snail from the local pet store.


hawaiian shrimp and nerite snail timelapse from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

I did a timelapse video of the super active new snail and its four little shrimp friends! Little did I know what was about to happen…

spilled water and sand on hardwood floor

The very next day, disaster struck. Smokey clumsily jumped on the counter, but slid and took the entire box and the jar with her.

tools used for shrimp habitat spill cleanup

We painstakingly got the shrimp back in (one was already dead) and sucked the water back in the jar.

It was too much trauma and the water sucked back in was gross with dust and cat hair. Another one died promptly and I was so upset, until I realized that both my two remaining shrimp and snail are used to not just brackish water, but fresh water and salt water. They’re pretty good at adjusting to different levels of salinity, so I decided to clean out the jar and give them fresh water for awhile. Except I had no idea what sort of fresh water to use, so I used a water bottle. By the next morning, that seemed to kill the other two shrimp (or maybe they were already beyond help 🙁 ). And so it was just my poor little snail. Even it gave me a scare a few days later when I thought it had died. Thankfully, by that night it was climbing up the glass again.

After this happened, I immediately decided I needed to order some shrimp to replace the ones I lost and found Shrimp Mart after some searching. I felt they had really reasonable prices, especially when it came to shipping, so I opted for their 20 Opae Ula selection. I wanted to get their live Angel Hair Moss too, but they were out of stock at the time. Too bad! Maybe another time, or hopefully I can get some locally.

naughty cat laying in cage

Smokey was in a time out during our recovery and cleanup period.

packaging for mailed hawaiian red shrimps

The new shrimp arrived in the mail about a week later.

plastic bag with twenty-plus hawaiian red shrimp

Very well packaged! All shrimp were alive and they gave well over 20 (I think I counted 27, but with so many it’s hard to say).

I’m not sure what the pink thing is, but it seems to be a food source. I think it just allows algae growth on it and is just a sort of sponge that the shrimp wouldn’t eat. I carefully transferred the shrimp into the jar and the amount of water they came in was just perfect! I then noticed a strange thing squirming around, which I figured it couldn’t be parasitic or dangerous since it’d been in the bag with all the shrimp on the trip and they were fine.

hawaiian red shrimp larva in spoon

The strange worm-like thing jerking around turned out to be a larva!

over two dozen hawaiian red shrimp in jar with nerite snail

And now they’re happily settled in their new home. I’m thinking about splitting them into two for more space.

I need to make sure I get the right kind of brackish water for them before I use another container for some of them. I hope they don’t feel too crowded in this jar. I’ve since put the pink thing in with them, so they have a place to hide and eat from. And yes, I am much more paranoid about where I place the jar now. No place feels safe, even the ground!

hawaiian shrimp eating

Check out the video of them settled in their home!

Udvar-Hazy Open House

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This past weekend, the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center had its second annual open house. They opened the doors to the staff areas where restorations take place in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, a variety of items are archived, and more. We walked through the hangar, went on a freight elevator, saw the conservation lab, and looked around their library. I was pretty impressed by how many staff and volunteers they had. Panda was one of them! These people are totally aviation/space/history nerds and it’s cool to see their passion.

mary baker engen restoration hangar at udvar-hazy center

Massive hangar area with all sorts of things being painstakingly restored.

front of flak-bait plane that flew over 200 missions in world war ii

This plane flew the most missions in WWII: over 200!

udvar-hazy center archives with tons of lockers preserving items

Pristine archives. I was amused by the pink forklift thing.

star trek spaceship model in udvar-hazy conservation lab

Apparently this is what they used to film the spaceship in Star Trek.

paper library catalog at udvar-hazy center

They had a funny sign saying that yes, they do still use these catalogs.

Hello Kitty craze

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , ,
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Back in LA I saw signs for a Hello Kitty exhibit at the Japanese American Museum in Little Tokyo. I have some cousins in town who we know love this sort of thing, so we went on a field trip to check it out!

Did you know Hello Kitty has a twin?!

Did you know Hello Kitty has a twin?!

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Look closely at the clothes!

Look closely at the clothes!

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Erm, creepy?

Erm, creepy?

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People actually wore those things? o.O

People actually wore those things? o.O

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She's quite versatile, fitting just about any culture.

She’s quite versatile, fitting just about any culture.

Laser tag holiday party

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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Yesterday our company had our holiday party celebration at a laser tag place! I think it was my first time, but then I have this faint memory of darkness, glowing lights, and being downright awful at the game. I don’t know if that was just a dream from my childhood or an actual memory. Either way, I was very new to this experience and had a lot to learn. We booked the whole place for over 4 hours and it was quite the night of fun and exercise!

shadowland laser adventures laser tag in chantilly

Arriving at the holiday party after the Secret Santa at the office.

laser tag gear hanging on the wall

We signed waivers, gathered in the break room, then moved on to the briefing room before putting on our packs.

I’d show you those pictures, but some of my coworkers might not want to appear on my blog. 😛 Just imagine a break room painted with some sort of alien landscape with observation domes. There are a bunch of long tables and chairs there for people to sit (in our case, eat and drink). Across the way are doors leading to the briefing room, which is mostly kept darkened. There are other things painted on to these walls and it sort of looks like the background in the next picture. Three sides of the room have wooden benches lining them, one row in front, one row in back much like bleachers. Along the forth wall are the rules, a sample gem (glowing thing on the wall that can give you power-ups but also tag you), and a blown up example of what the display screen on the gun look like.

They walk you through the basics and then let us choose how we wanted to play each time. The first time it was two teams against each other. The second time we went crazy with four. The third time we toned it down to three and the forth time we had team captains split us into two teams (I’m pretty sure I was the worst player on my team then, but we still won!). And finally they went a fifth time with free for all. I really wanted zombies and didn’t want to get demolished in the free for all, so I sat out and got to stand by the entrance to watch everyone else battle it out. The same 6 or 7 people kept running around and around the area closest to me. Seems like many people had zones they preferred, so some sort of pattern.

girl wearing laser tag pack for laser tag game

Got my pack 14 on and ready to rumble!

laser tag gun display panel showing stats

The display on our laser guns let us know all sorts of stats that thoroughly confused me. Half the time I couldn’t tell if someone got hit or hit me.

laser tag arena with everything painted black and glowing lights everywhere

In we went! It wasn’t until later that I realized there was a gem right at the beginning.

sign reserving and welcoming company party to laser tag venue

A few rounds in, I suddenly noticed the sign for our party!

scoareboard listing ranking and stats for players after laser tag round

After each game, we’d convene outside to check out how everyone did.

laser tag score card summarizing stats of game for each player

They even handed out score cards! I was pretty consistently one of the last (usually third to last).

Cardboard success!

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , ,
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Alright, tonight’s the first night we saw Smokey go into her new box of her own volition. Pretty exciting stuff, I have to say. Panda did have to cut the hole larger after the original hole turned out to require Smokey to squeeze in and out of. Now she can easily step in and out of the box comfortably. 🙂

cat half in half out of cardboard box with hole in side cat head looking down in box hole cat sniffing hole cut into side of cardboard box cat face peeking out of hole cut into side of cardboard box cat sitting in carboard box with face showing in hole cut into side of box cat sitting in cardboard box with hole cut into side

Hawaii 2014 haul

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Somehow I always manage to forget to take pictures after coming back from a trip and it’s week later when I actually have a haul post ready. This time around I got so eager to share some of the snacks we brought back that they were taken to work and devoured (or given to my parents) before I ever snapped a photo. But here’s a look at some of the cool things we got while in Oahu last month!

bag of kulu kulu mini waffles

One of the many snack items I got. These fun little guys came in panda or seal shapes and are filled with custard or jam! I just wish they were more fresh when I got them.

hawaiian red shrimp and snails ecosphere self-sustaining ecosystem

These awesome self-sustaining ecospheres have Hawaiian red shrimp and (optionally) snails. I’ve wanted one for years and I’m so happy they made it through air travel just fine.

pineapple-scented candle in coconut shell, koa wood bookmark, and hawaii calendar for 2015

I got the pineapple-scented candle in a coconut shell and koa wood bookmark from an ABC Store. The calendar came free from a Hilo Hattie purchase!

purple halter top dress with white flowers, blue and beige hawaiian shirt, and hawaii t-shirt from hilo hattie

The clothing we got at Hilo Hattie included a dress for me, a Hawaiian shirt for my brother-in-law, and a t-shirt for my father-in-law. I actually have a dress in the exact same pattern as the Hawaiian shirt, from Panda’s previous visit to HI.

hawaiian host macadamia chocolates from costco and gold sea turtle earrings from hilo hattie

The other item I got at Hilo Hattie are those awesome earrings! I love sea turtles. At the local Costco, we got a giant tub of the Hawaiian Host macadamia chocolates – they were a hit at work. We also got tins of nuts for my parents, but I forgot to get a picture of that.

blue and white flip flop oven glove from dole plantation in hawaii

One day, we stopped by the Dole Plantation and I thought this was a super cute and creative oven glove design. I hope my mother-in-law likes it!

honolulu cookie company pineapple-shaped shortbread cookies

And of course, no visit to Hawaii is complete without some Honolulu Cookies. Panda and I both brought some to our offices. They disappeared pretty quickly!

A shelter for Smokey

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , ,
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Panda’s been wanting to create a little hideaway shelter for Smokey to use whenever she wants to get away from light and noise. She likes to go sit in our closets sometimes when the outside stuff gets to be too much. We decided to cut a hole into a cardboard box we have that she can crawl into. We put shredded packing paper on the bottom to make it more enticing and hopefully she’ll like it!

plated cardboard box with circle marked for cutting

We used an old box and traced a circle where we’d cut a hole.

cat sitting in cardboard box with white tissue paper padding

Smokey waited nearby in one of her many other boxes.

cat sitting watching cardboard box being cut

As the cutting began, she moved closer for a better view.

circular hole cut into side of cardboard box and cat staring at it

All done! Time to set it up.

cat sitting by card board box cat shelter

She was hesitant to try it out.

cat paw and tail hanging out of hole in cardboard box cat shelter

We eventually convinced her to go in for a whirl.

cat squeezing out of hole in cardboard box shelter

But then she came right out. I guess we’ll see if she takes to it.

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