Thursday, July 30, 2009

Music For Inspiration

When I am at home, I usually listen to music. I love to fill the air in the house with soothing sound waves. I am not very up to date with latest pop music though since I mostly listen to smooth jazz and music from nature. Whenever I am cooking, doing laundry, cleaning the house or blogging, music entertains me. A lot of the times I multi-task, I guess that is one thing living in America has taught me :) . If we do things one at a time, it would be hard to finish the work in such a short time and we'll not end up having good dinner at the right time. I can go blog hopping while cooking :) . And what energizes me to do different tasks at one time is music. Actually, it is also hard for me to write without music. For some reason, my thoughts seem to flow better when there is music in my ears. Let me share this quote with you:
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."  ~Berthold Auerbach

I find this very true, maybe it is the same reason why I love going to the ocean because of the music that the splashing waves bring. Whenever I was struggling before with a research proposal, I would go up the mountains and listen to the music of crickets and the flowing river. Letting my mind drift with their tunes, dusts that block my thought processes were swept off and as a result I can think clearly on potential research problems I can study. I would pick up my pen, and soon, the words just came flowing.

About three years ago, because of my love for fine music, we decided to buy a good quality home theater system and sounds. However, I always hesitate to spend so much, that we only bought a pair of tower speakers. They are excellent sound, but I know it would be better to have a surround and subwoofer as well. Now I am trying to search for additional speakers that won't be overly expensive anymore. I am glad to have come across this low price bookshelf speaker deal from The Speaker Company. I know my ears are very sensitive to scaterred sound, the speakers must be audibly correct. However, a lot of times, high quality, high performance speakers are also a pain in the budget. I would like to think that every penny we spent would yield our desired audible results. I am glad to know that The Speaker Company will allow us to return in 30 days if in case we are not satisfied with the audio results. For after all, buying speakers is not like buying computers. Speakers, unlike computers, can last a very long time with us, so, they must have to be right. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gettysburg Camping and Hiking Part of Appalachian

When I was still in the East Coast, I must admit I have not really explored the place so well, in fact I have never been anywhere North of Vermont and South of New Jersey. Being new to the country, and most of my friends and relatives living in the West Coast, it was then almost natural for me to spend most of my holidays in California. Back then, I was still more of a beach goer than a hiker, and the California waves were always calling out to me, or was it the call of being with cousins and friends.
When I got married, I had to move to California and join my husband. My husband, though not a Californian by birth, but is a loyal Californian by outdoor activities. He used to hike with his colleagues, and I was left enjoying the beach. I did not mind then, for I really love the ocean. I loved to describe myself then as a "beach bum", where all I cared for was counting how many rides I had. Though in the Philippines I did hike and camp with friends, but I felt like I never got enough of the beach. Until one day, I decided I should join my husband in the trails. Perhaps it was music to his ears when I told him, "Can I join you hiking?" The moment I mentioned that, my husband brought me right away to REI for me to shop for the right hiking clothing and gears. Our very first hike together was at Iron Mountain,
@ the Summit of Iron Mountain, San Diego County
here in San Diego County. It was only a 6.3 miles, 1000 ft gain in elevation hike, but the next day, I found my legs very exhausted and could barely walk. And I could not remember how many breaks I had to ask. That was then I started taking pictures of the sceneries around. I had to make use of that time when I asked for a break. I am proud to say now that I no longer take a break when hiking Iron Mountain and consider this as simply our outdoor gym. I grew as a hiker. From then on, my hiking and taking pictures had gone a long way.
I would remember the time where I joined my husband's colleagues in hiking and geocaching. I was always at the tail end at first, and our hiking leader would always check on me, seeing to it that no one in the group is left behind. That hiking leader, took a 6 months Sabbatical leave from software engineering last March to recharge at the Appalachian trail. He will be completing the whole stretch of the trail which is 2175 miles and passes through 14 states. We expect him to be back here in San Diego this September. The Appalachian Trail is more than just a hike through the woods, it is a National Scenic Trail. Now, Jim's adventure in the Appalachian trail has inspired me to experience it as well. No, I don't think I will ever follow Jim to hike the whole 2175 miles, despite being a lover of the great outdoors, I am not comfortable with the thought of backpacking for 6 months straight and not seeing civilization. I actually would miss the ocean and my boogie rides. I hike, but I also enjoy riding the waves with my boogie board.
However, I can still experience the Appalachian National Scenic Trail by hiking part of it only. As there are many scenic section hikes that the trail also provides in the 14 different states it passes. I have learned from Outdoor Channel about the historical significance of Gettysburg and its proximity to the Appalachian Trail. Gettysburg Battlefield Resort is conveniently located in the towns of Hershey and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now, the prospect of hiking the Appalachian Trail at Gettysburg will have a very sweet bonus, that is visiting the "sweetest place on Earth", at Hershey, the chocolate capital :) . After all, we bring chocolates when we hike. :) Some tourists will also have a choice of RV camping Gettysburg style, or experience a wonderful PA RV camping. However, since we do not have an RV, we can try our luck on free Gettysburg Camping.
In addition to chocolates and hiking a section of the Appalachian trail at Gettysburg, we can also take an hour and a half drive to visit the nation's capital at Washington, DC. It has been part of my travel plans to set foot in Washington, DC someday, and now, it is so great to learn that I can also hike part of Appalachian trail in the same trip.
For now, they are just plans, so many places to see, so little time :(

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Driving Places...Seeing Our Beautiful World At The Backroads

Car Amidst The Sea of Rocks, Alabama Hills, California
You may ask, how did that car get in there? Are they crazy driving through rocks? Well, that's our trusted "backcountry" car and the picture above was taken from a distance looking East. In the picture below, looking West, you will see the narrow dirt road on the left side of the picture and there is a wide dirt pull out for visitors to park.
Alabama Hills, California
For us who loves to experience our beautiful world not only from the main roads, driving along narrow dirt roads is worth it! Most of the time, we don't simply have to drive, we also have to hike to see more of the natural wonders that Earth offers. 
A John Wayne Pose @ Mobius Arch framing Mt Whitney, Alabama Hills, California
Since we love exploring our beautiful world at the backroads, we do not complain about driving on narrow and sometimes rough dirt roads. From the soft soil and sand on the desert,
Monument Valley, Utah
to the winding and snowy roads on the mountains,
we are ready to explore. Our trusted Honda Pilot is more than ready to bring us to places where we would want to be. On city streets where we drive on main roads only, we use a smaller car for gas efficiency. But on road trips where we have to drive through narrow dirt mountain or desert roads, we rely more on the Pilot. There are just instances that we need a high clearance and 4-wheel drive car, where smaller cars could no longer traverse or would no longer be as safe or as comfortable. 
When we were looking for a high clearance car to purchase before, we first carefully read and researched car reviews. Thankfully, researching for different car specifications and finding comprehensive reviews is now easier to find online, such as the one we can find at TheCarConnection.com. After taking into considerations the car reviews, we limited our choices to 4: these were the Honda Pilot, Nissan Xterra, Toyota 4Runner and Toyota Highlander. After test driving our 4 choices, we chose the one that felt most comfortable for us despite driving through bumpy roads and at the same time has better gas efficiency knowing that big cars burn more gas. The Honda Pilot has driven us to many of our wilderness trips and we are very happy with the choice we made. I am glad for the online reviews we found that helped and guided us in making choices.

Now, a friend of mine is in the look-out for a car. Being new to this country, she is somewhat lost with the so many choices she can find and as to what type of car she wanted. I asked her to determine her driving needs first. If she plans to drive only in the city, then, she can look at different sedans. Being new to this country, my friend is very curious with American cars and other cars that are not very common in our country. She first mentioned about Chevy Camaro. However, we learned that though the exterior really looks sporty and impressive, but the interior has more retro looks than exterior and some may be put off by the unique center controls. Next, she asked about Dodge Caliber, so we researched on its features. We have learned from the review of TheCarConnectionReview.com that despite the aggressive appearance of a dodge caliber, it is docile on the road, that the 2.0 and 2.4-liter engines are underpowered and noisy and the over-all handling performance is disappointing. After dodge caliber, we both looked into subraru outback, she was pleased to know from the reviews that the subaru outback is a good looking car inside and out. Now, she still continues to learn more about other cars, despite she is seriously considering a Honda CR-V. I guess, like us before, even if we already have in mind what to buy, we still went through reading different car reviews to learn more about the pros and cons of different cars. For after-all, buying car is not to simply answer our whims, a car is one of our major purchases, and that we have to really carefully research the features and if the car will be able to serve well our needs.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cactus Monday- Desert Wilderness @ Joshua Tree National Park

It's Cactus Monday, and I am moving from redwood trees to cactus. For today's post, I will be sharing a natural desert landscape scenery in Southeastern California. 
Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail
The Cholla Cactus Garden Nature trail is one of the attractions in Joshua Tree National Park. The trail has massive grove of cholla cactus.
Teddybear Cholla, Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Because of its papery sheaths and well barbed spines, the cactus look soft from a distance, thus the common name "teddy bear". 
Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
The segments of teddybear cholla are easily detached from the plant and the detached segments form new plants by rooting and growing. Because of their spines, the loose segments can easily stick to passing animals. The animals then transport the fallen segment far from the mother plant. Thus, its other common name, "jumping cholla". 
The teddybear cholla or the jumping cholla can grow from 3 ft to 5 ft tall. The lower branches often fall off and the older spines turn black with age, thus the vertical and the dark appearance of the lower trunk. Strong spines are also believed to be cacti's protection and defense mechanism against hungry and thirsty animals who would want their internal water.  
Bunny Among the Chollas
Most leafy plants cool themselves off during the day by opening their pores, however, the pores of cacti open only at night. Without transpirational cooling mechanism during the day, the cactus adapt to desert heat by internal mechanisms. Teddy bear cholla for instance can withdstand an air temperature of 138 degrees Fahnrenheit, when other leaves will cook with that kind of heat. The well barbed spines are believed to help them protect from sunlight,  providing the plants shade to protect the chlorphyll from being bleached and their DNA from being damaged by the intense heat. 
  Teddybear Cholla, Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail
The chollas in the above picture look like glowing in the sun because of the yellow color of the younger spines, plus, I took that above shot using the "shade" option in the white balance, giving the look some bronze glow. Though the summer in this desert is very hot, but we usually come here during winter where the temperature is from 30s-60s F. During the cooler season (late fall to early spring), visitation to this park peaks, especially during spring when the desert wildflowers bloom. 
Here are some more pictures from Joshua Tree National Park, in San Bernardino County, California.
Barker Dam, Joshua Tree National Park
Hikers @ Skull Rock Trail
Layers of Mountains from Keys View
Joshua Trees @ Hidden Valley, Sunset
The Joshua trees are the largest of the yucca family, grows naturally only in the Mojave desert and nowhere else in the world. The Joshua tree and the other members of yuccas are part of the lily family. Here are some more pictures of Joshua Trees at sunset. 
A happy Cactus Monday, everyone.
For more of Cactus Monday posts, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Our Way to Lassen Volcanic National Park

Sunflower Field, 
You may wonder why I posted this way much later after I already have several posts regarding Lassen Volcanic National Park which are: Bumpass Hell, Manzanita Lake and Lake Helen. Actually, I myself don't even know the reason why :) All I know is that if I make one post of our summer trip, it would take me a very long time to write about them, and your eyes may get tired with so many pictures in one post. Thus I had to share the places we've been in installment. However, I did not want also to stay too long in one place, so what I did was to share the highlights of each park we visited first. Now that I think I am done with the highlights of our summer trip at the Klamath Region Circle of Parks , I will be sharing here some beautiful sights and places we visited during our trip.
Sunflower Field as Far as Your Eyes Can See
On our way to Lassen Volcanic National Park, somewhere in Sacramento Valley area, we pass farmlands after farmlands, and there were several acres of sunflower farms in sight as well. Since our trip is not always about the destination, we usually take our time to stop and enjoy whatever sights we see along the way. And one of those places we stopped to enjoy the scenery is at this marvelous sunflower farm. It was amazingly yellow as far as your eyes can see, on both sides of the highway. 
Field of Sunflower
How huge are these sunflowers? Here are some pictures up close, 
Sunflower Up Close
From afar, you can not see the bees, it was just all yellow, however, if you take a closer look, you will see a lot of bees enjoying the sunflower, always as busy as they can be. I can't blame them, they have wonderful flowers to feast on.
Sunflower and the Bees
Now, the pictures above really look warm and "summery". Even the two pictures that follow look as warm as they can be.
Creek We Spotted on Our Way to Lassen
Lassen Volcanic National Park Entrance
However, as we go higher in elevation inside the park, the scenery changes. 
Exposed Colored Earth, Lassen Volcanic National Park
And from afar, the coldness of Lassen Peak was greeting us.
 Lassen Peak from Afar
( Lassen Peak is the largest plug dome volcano in the world and is the Southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range )
And here was I, at the trailhead of our very first hike in Lassen Volcanic National Park, in an atmosphere so different from the warm sunflower pictures above. Only that you can tell from my attire, that despite of the snowy surrounding, well, it was still, summer!
@ Bumpass Hell Trailhead
If you miss my post on Bumpass Hell, you can find it here.

A Dream Hawaiian Vacation

Are you dreaming of a Hawaiian get-away? I do :) It seems the summer is so ideal for the sea, the surf and the sand. What luxury would it be to enjoy the beautiful sky, the golden sand, the blue ocean, the sunset, and that friendly and warm Hawaiian atmosphere? While I was making some plans for a nice Hawaii vacation someday, I came across this almost like a dream Maui Resort, which is nestled on eleven acres along Maui's renowned Kaanapali Beach. Kaanapali Beach is famous for its golden sands as far as your eyes can see.
What is great about this beach resort, is that it combines 2 things I love the most, hiking and the ocean! I won't miss the hiking trails in this beach vacation, and at the same time, I won't miss riding the waves! When I am on vacation, it is hard for me to simply just stay put in one place, even though I love the beach, but I do not see myself as lying down the beach whole day. I can wake up early for sunrise at the beach, ride the waves early in the morning, do some snorkeling, and go back to the beach late in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset. But during mid-day, I should have other things to do, in order for me to not get bored. And being able to hike and do some horse back riding in this resort is a great thing for me! And of course, the beautiful sights around would further make me occupied for all the wonderful photo opportunities I can find. To photograph some weddings by the ocean has been one of my goals, and who knows, I may just have my luck when I spend vacation there. Maui Resort in Kaanapali Beach specializes in Maui Weddings, and I will have greater chances of experiencing and hopefully photographing one, maybe it would be that of a friend. It is not a surprise for me to learn that this resort is famous for weddings, after learning that readers of the Maui News, a local community newspaper, have voted the resort's offerings "The Best Hawaiian Cuisine."
Other than hiking, horseback riding and the ocean, the resort also offers world-class golf, unique shopping, dozens of complimentary Hawaiian activities, and so much more.
Ahhh, now, can't wait when we'll get our tickets to Maui, Hawaii.

Laptop-A-Day Sweepstakes from Charter

Do you want to have a new laptop? For Free? Exciting, isn't it? To know that we can possibly have a brand new laptop as the winner of Charter's Laptop-a-Day Sweepstakes. Charter Communication is following up the success of their HDTV-A-Day Sweepstakes with a new promotion that is giving away a laptop computer everyday. Yes, EVERYDAY, for 2 months, isn't that great news? The contest runs from July 15 through September 15. Charter planned this contest for the students and businessperson on the go who needs a laptop for easy mobility. I would like to have a new laptop too, so, I also went ahead and register to take my chances on owning a brand new laptop from Charter. The winners will get an HP 550 Notebook 15-inch with Windows Vista and a NeoTec Compu Backpack. How to join? Visit charter.com/laptop or  Laptop-a-Day Sweepstakes to register and to view the complete rules, list of winners, details on the notebook computer and more.
In addition to that, you can get a free gift card ranging from $25- $100 with Charter's special online deals. These gift cards are from major retailers in clothing, home and accessories, restaurants and more. These gift cards will surely come in very handy and right in time for our back to school shopping.
Charter continued to create a buzz around its online contests, which keep getting better. Last year, it gave away laptops and Xbox 360 game systems and one customer drove away a 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid! Wouldn't it be great to be driving our hybrid car for free, right? So you will not miss these online contests and sweepstakes from Charter, you definitely want to follow Charter on Facebook and Charter on Twitter.

Want to take your chance on this laptop just like me? Go ahead, visit charter.com/laptop and register.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Line of Premium Denim from Armani

Do you like jeans? I do. I can wear them everywhere, and not worry about being out of style. Even if the occasion is not so casual, I can just wear ladies blouse on top, a nice blazer, and wear the right shoes, and I do not have to worry about appearing too casual anymore. From casual look, we can transform our jeans to  a sophisticated feel. The versatility of jeans is great especially when we are on the go and don't want to carry a lot of clothing when traveling, as they can cross from city streets to dining table.
If you love fashion jeans, here is some great news! Armani Exchange has a new line of premium denim starting at  $98! Take a look at Armani Exchange and check out their premium denims, you may want to check their shirts, blouses and accessories that will perfectly match your jeans and bring you in style. Let me share here some of my favorites from the new collection:
The embroidered skinny flare fit is the one that I like the best since I can also wear it to school without problems of being considered too casual. I can pair the jeans with a nice blouse and blazer, and I won't appear too casual anymore. I can also wear it with a simple t-shirt when I am just casually walking around our city streets or in the harbor. Very simple and casual design, yet looks elegant and sophisticated, living up to Armani's designs.
The above jeans is my next favorite, I really fell in love with the faded look and the cut. It looks so casual, the lines are simple yet so elegant and sophisticated. The jeans would be perfect for my casual wanderings around. I would love this with t-shirts and summer shirts.
And the above jeans is my 3rd favorite, now, you will probably notice 2 of my choices have the faded look. I am more of a casual person, thus I need more the faded jeans type. Frankly, I actually love to wear faded jeans, when I am not at work nor at home nor in the wilderness trails, you will surely find me in faded jeans when our paths would cross somewhere.
Oh, and you may be able to get a chance to own a pair of Armani Jeans for free! Armani is giving away a pair of denim everyday for the month of July. To good to be true? Well, check out Armani's text A|X contest. You will get a chance to win a pair of denim by texting the keyword "DENIM2" to ARMANI ( 276264).

And the good news does not yet end. If you purchase a full price denim from Armani Exchange, either in store or online, between 7/7/09- 7/19/09, you will receive a gift card of $20 off your next purchase of $100 or more, valid 7/30/09 through 8/15/09.

For more information, please visit
A|X Blog

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cactus Monday- Where the Inspiration Began

The Desert Garden, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
Last Monday, in my very first Cactus Monday Post, I shared how I had a complete turn around after visiting The Desert Garden in Balboa Park. My first glimpse of the Desert Garden inspired me to make my own little desert garden at home. For today's Cactus Monday post, I will share pictures of the Desert Garden in Balboa Park, where my fascination for cactus and my desert interest all began. The barrel cacti above are huge, for comparison, here is a picture below.
Desert Garden, Balboa Park
The width of the barrel cactus is even wider than our body, and the height of some cacti are several times taller than us.
"Spooky" Cactus Curtain
The Desert Garden in Balboa Park contains more than 1,300 plants, including succulents and drought resistant plants from all around the world. I first went to this park October of 2004, and there were no blooms even, yet the cacti were just so unique for me. Seeing all their interesting curves and forms, I was so hooked into them. Perhaps, their spines poked my mind and heart that I could not get my thoughts off them.
Mix of Cacti, Desert Garden @ Balboa Park
When we got home, I got busy looking for cactus and succulents for my planned little desert garden. I know my little desert garden will never be like the Desert Garden in Balboa Park, but then the park is close enough for me to get inspiration whenever I feel like. The first time I visited the park in spring, I was surprised to find out the succulents in the hiking trail were almost drowned by the spring flowers.
Spring flowers and Aloe
Spring flowers and Barrel Cactus
But then, during spring, it is not just the spring flowers that bloom, the cacti too :) . Though some succulents start to bloom January, but since they don't bloom at the same time, one can observe the various blooms of cacti even until the summer. The picture below is a blossom from a cholla cactus which I took just a month ago.
Cholla Cactus in Bloom
Barrel Cactus in Bloom
During the blooming season, the bees are busy as they can be. 
A Lone Bee on Prickly Pear Blossom 
Back to Back Bees
Face to Face Bees
I have more of bees picture in my "Prickly Pear and the Busy Bees" post last month. Anyway, here is another lone bee enjoying the blossom of another variety of a beavertail cactus.
Beavertail in Bloom
And here is a closer look at the inner beauty of a prickly pear blossom.
A Closer Look at Prickly Pear Blossom
I have a lot more pictures from this park, but will save them for later when I feature the cacti individually and their unique characterstics. For my first few posts, I plan to introduce first various desert landscapes where my feet has brought me for my eyes and spirit to rest on. 
For more of Cactus Monday posts, please visit Teri's Painted Daisies. 
Also, in connection with my love for the desert, I invite you to visit our group site, The Salitype Society, where I presented the beauty of The Desert Through My Eyes. The post is not only a collection of my favorite desert photos that had struck me the most, but also a composition of thoughts from my desert wanderings, and maybe inspired by my desire for others to appreciate the desert, and preserve its fragile natural resources, as much as we care for the mountains and the oceans. Hope you can stop by there and see The Desert Through My Eyes

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Taking My Chances on Melissa's Give Away Ring

I am taking a break from my nature escapades first, and allow some of you to take a glimpse into the other side of me when I am not hiking :) If I am not out in the trails, one of the simple joys I take delight is entertaining my femininity. Aside from gardening and taking delight with the blooms and blossoms around, I also love to "prettify" myself, well, just like most ladies. I think men sometimes don't understand it, but most of us women love to do it :)

When Melissa, of Melissa Jewelry and Gems, also the founder of our "Blogging for Fun" group, sponsored a contest for her 40th birthday on August 8, I got excited when I saw the prize.
Melissa's Give Away Ring 
( photo courtesy of Melissa)
On her birthday, Melissa will be giving away the above pretty hot pink tourmaline with white topaz ring. The ring is sterling silver, size 6 1/2 band ring. Each stone measures approximately 3 mm round, for a total of 1/3 carat. For more information about this ring, and how to enter the contest, please click here to visit Melissa's post about her birthday give-away.

I love pink, and the above ring I know will go perfectly with my other pink accessories, like this pink earring which by the way I also got from Melissa.
Melissa has a beautiful selection of jewelries that she herself made and you can visit Melissa's Jewelry and Gems site to check her other items and store. Even if you are a guy, someone in your family would enjoy "prettifying" themselves too :) . The contest is definitely not limited to females only for the ring would surely be a joyful gift.
Even though I know I may not win the above ring, but I am taking my chances to own it :) I hope you take your chance too, and join Melissa's 40th Birthday contest. To Melissa, I wish you an advance happy birthday.