Friday, May 31, 2013

Cell Phone Photography (3): How To Have A Fun and Inexpensive Staycation

Note: the pictures below look so pixelated. I noticed that the same pictures uploaded directly from my cell phone to Facebook have better quality than pictures uploaded directly from cell phone to Mobile Blogger. I hope Mobile Blogger will not continue reducing the resolution and quality of pictures if they want us to continue using their apps. So frustrated looking at the distorted resolution here, which is not the same if the pictures are viewed in laptop's wide screen through Photo Stream.

Cousin Doing a Resting Pose :)
What can be more fun than a staycation? :) A most fun- filled vacation does not always have to be far from home. Fun starts when family and loved ones get together. My cousin from Los Angeles joined me and hubby for a 3-day Memorial Weekend Staycation. There were no plans, no itineraries, because the most important thing for us was time spent together enjoying the activities we love to share. Here is how we spent our 3-day weekend adventure staycation in a very inexpensive way but having the most fun.

Day 1:

1. Hiking at Iron Mountain. 
@Iron Mountain Peak
I purposely chose a medium hike, 7 miles round trip, 1300 ft change in elevation. I chose this so that we would have more time and also energy to have fun rock scrambling and boulder hopping.
Cousin in a Stretching Pose
Cousin and I
My Resting Pose :)
Where is Iron Mountain? Please visit my post on my top 5 San Diego hike to learn more about Iron Mountain hike.
2. Vietnamese Lunch at Pho Ca Dao in Rancho Bernardo Road. It was all about shrimp for me. :)
Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp with rice and veggies
Shrimp Paste in Fried Tofu Skin
3. Relaxing and Chilling at home for our next activity. I and cousin met up common friend from Los Angeles who was also visiting her family in San Diego. Since our friend was at Fashion Valley, one of the upscale shopping malls in San Diego, for some shopping, we decided to meet up there. After Fashion Valley Mall, we went to have dinner at East Buffet in Miramar Road. I was craving for sea foods, and Asian sea food buffet is always the tastiest and cheapest way to go.
Oysters and Clams ( and there were more sea foods )
After dinner, we went to my ftiend's cousin's house for a dessert. We had Red Ribbon's Rocky Road Chocolate Cake. It was very yummy! Went home late, as hubby predicted. :) He understands however, that we three get together only once or twice a year, despite San Diego and LA are only 2 hours away from each other.

Day 2:

1. Hiking and Bird watching at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve- my most favorite San Diego hike. We were entertained and awed by juvenile peregrine falcons as they celebrate their first few days of flight. This time, cell phone camera could not capture easily the fastest animals on Earth. However, I already published a post on Juvenile Peregrine Falcons from the pictures I took with my camera in my previous post. 

2. Lunch at Gliderport Cafe and then, hike to the canyon and slot South of Gluderport afterwards. We had fun watching soaring paragliders and hangliders during our hike. 
@ the top of cliffs, South of Gliderport 

Going Down The Canyon
Down The Canyon to the Beach
Hubby Dancing, Getting Bored While Waiting For me Slowly Maneuvering Down the Canyon
in between the cliffs @ the canyon
The Way Down To the Beach
Finally Down
Looking Up Where We Came From, What Went Down Must Go Back Up

Celebrating The Good Life

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Allstate. All opinions are 100% mine. - Zenserly

         Yesterday, with the hubby and the kids we set off for another road trip. As always with the hubby on the wheel and me beside him and the kids at the back it was one great ride. There was a brief debate as to whose type of music will be played which was settled with us oldies agreeing it would be their stuff playing while we do most of the talking. Shouts of happiness were heard as the kids sang along to the latest hit songs and then there were sighs of disgusts and giggles as the hubby and I swayed our hands and hips to the tune. I loved that look of joy disguised as irritation  in my teen-age son's face as the hubby and I briefly kissed and said "I love you" to each other. Ours isn't a perfect marriage but we are imperfectly happy and contented. "We have a piggy and a chicky," we chorused and glanced at our teen-age son and teen-age to be eleven year old acting like a 5 year old but sweet as sweet can be. Aahhh Good hands for the good life is what everyone needs in a world where bad things can happen yet can not stop us from making our lives good.

 photo allstatelogo_300x60_zps5487a605.jpg

     "We'd buy another car, and you will soon drive, in college you will go to school in a car because we are afraid to let you use a motorcycle," we told our older son. I could see him smile from the corner of my eye and then we heard a chuckle, that of the younger one and we laughed hard because we knew what he'd say. Before he could open his mouth we said "Study hard and we will buy one for you too!" The litany of "study hard, dream high, work hard, keep the faith and do good for others" filled the vehicle. The story of how the hubby and I struggled to fulfill our dreams followed. The kids heard the story many times already yet it was the first time we told them about our first date yesterday.

     Our first date praying inside a church. "Your mom proposed to me", the hubby said and I begged to disagree saying "I was studying, hard, really hard and then your dad insisted I make him my inspiration because I was his, and we did just that, studied real hard that is why we landed in great well paying jobs and then had you in between but not without all the trials of getting sick at one point, jobless at one point but we did our best every step of the way and kept helping each other so now we are living happily ever after.  The kids laughed as we told them the qualities of the woman they should marry one day. "It is a tricky world out there, but go ahead explore, conquer and triumph kids, because nothing can stop you from reaching your dreams as long as you work hard and there are people we can trusts to hold our hands for the good life."

Allstate Good Life, good hands for the good life believe that people live for good, that "the fortunate truth is more good happens in life than bad and that an insurance company shouldn't wait for something bad to happen to do something good. Good hands for the good life, I believe that is perfect in our imperfectly happy family of four.

"All the bad things that can happen in life, they can't stop us from making our lives.... good." What is your good life story too? Would love to hear them in the comment box. Have a good life friends!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Number 1 San Diego Hike: Torrey Pines State Reserve

The Rare Torrey Pine Tree
The torrey pine is the rarest pine species in United States, growing naturally only in San Diego and Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands. These trees are probably remnants of an ancient coastal forest which has been reduced during the drying period of the last ten thousand years. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has been established for the preservation of these rare trees, and the more than 330 species of plants and the wildlife that find refuge in this coastal wilderness that is actually within the limits of the city of San Diego. Very few Southern California coastline would look as quiet as it was centuries ago, thanks for the preservation of this place that people could experience nature at its best within the city. 
Me, Celebrating Happiness @ Torrey Pines :)
I know I have said it before, but let me say it again, Torrey Pines is my little piece of paradise and slice of heaven here in my adopted hometown, San Diego. I come here almost every weekend, and almost everyday (in the summer), but never get tired of. I may travel far to enjoy the wonders of nature in other places, but each time we go back home, I always long to go to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. You will find me both on land and in water. This post is about hiking, so I will skip the water part. Instead, I will share how we hike Torrey Pines most of the time, if not all the time. Torrey Pines has a lot of little trails, about 0.5-1.0 mile loop, but we do not limit ourselves to these little trails, instead, we take almost all the trails, so this hike could be as long as 8 miles, with maximum change in elevation about 450 ft (but you climb up and down several times when combining the trails).

Let me take you to our hike. I must warn you there would be a lot of pictures that follow here, since we combine almost all trails in Torrey Pines whenever we hike. From Los Penasquitos lagoon- Flat Rock- Brokel Hill- Red Butte- Razor Point- Yucca Point- Guy Fleming Trail-Lagoon.

We usually start our hike from North Torrey Pines Beach Parking area, adjacent to Los Penasquitos Lagoon.
Los Penasquitos Lagoon and Natural Reserve @ North Torrey Pines State Beach Parking
( vital to migrating sea birds )
 Terns and Sea Gulls In flight @ Los Penasquitos Lagoon
The start of our hike here is very similar to my Top 3 San Diego Hike, Torrey Pines State Beach to La Jolla Shores. From the lagoon, we walk west towards the beach.
Once we reach the beach, we start walking south towards the reserve. Walking on the beach, you will see so much happiness, from the kids.....
Kid Boogie Boarding at Torrey Pines State Beach
to the birds.
Sanderlings running Away from the Wave
You may wonder why I do not jump into the water instead and enjoy the waves, actually, I do most of the time after hiking, when it is summer. Thus explains why summer is my most favorite season, because I could combine hiking and the ocean without suffering from too frigid water. Anyway, I'll go back to the hike. In maybe half a mile from North Torrey Pines State Beach, you will now reach the bottom of cliffs of Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Bottom of Cliffs, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
The walls of the cliff show colored layers, which reveal their geologic past. The layers are divided into formations, from the oldest to the newest. The oldest formations is Del Mar Formation and Torrey Sandstone, of Eocene era about 48,000,000 years ago as revealed from the fossils these foundations reserve. As you walk past these cliffs, if you look up, on the crevices of the walls, you may find some white droppings, they may be of the fastest animal on Earth, the peregrine falcon.

Music and Parenthood

     Yesterday we brought the kids to a book fair. Our teen age son was so happy seeing so many books. I played as his assistant as I carried his shopping basket from one stand to another. He was interested in mystery novels but couldn't find one that suits his taste. We headed for the history section because he wants to read in advance world history. We chose one that presents a timeline of history. I then suggested we buy a music book because he has been playing the guitar, oh virtually that is because he has a guitar application on his smart phone and I said it is high time for real music wire lessons. He looked briefly at me and said, so are we buying a guitar today too mom? He told me roughly how much it costs and I replied with a smile. He hesitated and said, maybe some other time because I won't have time to play with it yet, I have other priorities at the moment. "Okay then," I replied feeling so proud that my son knows what he wants in life and knows how to prioritize. So we walked on to the science corner and took books relevant to his studies. We agreed to purchase his dream musical instrument when he already has the time to use them. You can say, I was happy to know somehow I am raising him well, and his voice saying thanks as we paid the books was music in my ears.

     May the music of love visit your homes. - Zenserly

Monday, May 27, 2013

Wildflowers and Great Horned Owl At McDowell Mountain Regional Park

McDowell Mountain Regional Park was one of the places we visited during our spring road trip this year. However, unlike other places we visited, this park was one of the few which was not part of our itinerary. Instead, this was the result of wildflower apps I used for spring. When we were driving to Sedona, google maps showed the wildflowers in this area, so, we decided to take a detour. I am so glad we did. Our hike had more than just the wildflowers, we had the giant cactus, Saguaro, withe the great horned owl as well. Photos from the trip below.  

Unearthing The Chef In Me

     I remember very well my first cook book as a married woman. The hubby bought it for me the first month of our marriage. He said I better learn how to cook or he'll go running back to his mom. That made me laugh hard because his mom lived several steps away from our home, I mean my parent's home where we first stayed. We are one of those "love thy neighbor" couples.

     So, the dutiful wife in me started browsing the leaves of the book and working in the kitchen. I requested for a pot & pan organizer which will make my life easier as well as make me a more efficient cook. The hubby would often call me to tell me he is dropping by with a workmate for lunch or dinner and oh boy I was able to master at least several of his favorite dishes. They are nothing fancy like his all-time favorite chicken curry, kare-kare (stew made of peanut sauce and a variety of vegetables and beef), ginataang tilapia (tilapia with coconut milk) and escabeche (fried fish marinated in an acidic mixture).

deep fried fish, preferably in vegetable oil...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

5 Fun (?) Random things About Me

Once a week, we plan to have a Fun Friday topic, for this 1st week, Melissa suggested we think of 5 fun things we can share to each other and the rest of the blogosphere. 

Life Becomes More Enjoyable When We Learn to Share and Help One Another

So, here are 5 random things about me, though am not sure if they really are funny things about me :)
1. When I was in elementary, I begged my music teacher to include me in school musical program, I wanted badly to be singing in front of big crowd on a stage too. I told her I will do everything just so I have a role also in our musical program. So, she told me, "Okay Elizabeth, I will put you in a group song, but can you promise me that you just open your mouth and pretend you are singing ? Once I get complaint from the group they lost the tune because you confused them, I'll take you OUT!" Well, I made it to the stage, meaning I was so successful in just opening my mouth and pretending I was singing :)
2. I am a picture addict. Whenever I have free time, I become restless and think of where to go, where to walk, where to spend my time so I can take pictures. 

The Joy of Being Out in a Simple Life
I am perhaps a blogger who spends very little time with computer, for I always plan my time being OUT! And blogging helps me a lot release those dreamy thoughts I have about the outdoors. I get to write about them, otherwise, I will just keep on looking at my pictures, and dream and wish I am OUT even if I am indoors. 
All the pictures in this post were taken a day after we got back from our 7 days Grand Circle Trip. When others would probably be resting after an exhausting road and hiking trip,  I still managed to be out and walk several miles.

Cactus in the Field of Gold, Wild Animal Park
3. Related to pictures, my favorite subject in taking picture is myself :) There is no day I do not take a picture of me, only that I always find them not good enough for posting, so they do not pass the quality control :) Maybe it worked to the best that I was not given a face and a body that could launch a thousand ships, otherwise, all the pictures here would be my thousand faces :) 

Me @ Wild Animal Park
**note: this was first published sometime 2009, this random thing no longer holds true. I already had given up my interest on taking picture of myself, haha!**
4. I have fear of heights, yet, I will dare myself hike on trails that meanders on exposed cliffs with major drop-offs all for taking pictures! It is still related to being a picture addict. 
5. Though I love my job and enjoy doing it, but a lot of times I wish I am paid to hike, to enjoy the beach, to take pictures and blog or write about them :) LOL 

The Most Beautiful Wedding Gift

What is the most beautiful wedding gift? Often times, we are struck with this question whenever a friend or family is getting married. We love to give the most beautiful wedding gift that we could think of. I remember the words of "nanay" (my mother) when I was still younger. Oftentimes, she would tell me about the most beautiful wedding gift she had received, which was "tatay" ( my father). She said, she could not forget the day they married where the time was so priceless. It was always her dream, to get married in a very solemn and quiet wedding, where there is no one in the world but her and tatay. Well, of course, the priest too, and lolo (grandfather) and lola (grandmother). She told me that the best wedding gift one could could ever have is the gift of "memory" and the gift of "future". A memorable wedding she said is not something that other people defines for you, it must be what you define for yourself. And the gift of "future" is preparedness, in all aspects.

True enough, there are different ways of celebrating a wedding, and not one is better. Instead, what is best is what the couples had agreed on how they would celebrate the union of their love. Also, people from all over the world, also have different wedding practices, cultures and celebration. Slowly, each culture learns from others, that our celebrations have evolved as well. We have seen a lot of marriages these days that combines the best practices of weddings from all around the world.
What are the traditions of weddings all around the world? Where did they come from? What is the most beautiful wedding gift for a particular tradition? Check out the info graphics below.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cell Phone Photography (2): at Torrey Pines State Reserve

The joy of photography? We take pictures no matter what our camera is? My cell phone I believe is my most used camera these days. It is just very handy. The pictures here were all taken from our hike in Torrey Pines last weekend. I only had zoom lens that time for wildlife photography, and for landscapes needing wider angle, I use my cell phone.  Thanks to cell phone, I no longer have to carry multiple lenses in local hikes. I still do though when we travel, for I know we may not be back anytime soon, so carrying extra weight is all worth it. But for local hikes, my camera partner for landscapes most of the time is cell phone. Maybe if I change to Samsung Note 2, I do not have even to carry a real cam with fast lens and zoom for wildlife? I heard of the BURST feature in NOTE 2, which may be good for wildlife and action photography.
Torrey Pines Tree
Golden Yarrow and Torrey Pines in Fog
Looking South from Guy Fleming South Viewpoint

Honolulu, Hawaii! Here We Come, through Arby's!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Arby's. All opinions are 100% mine.
Want to surf in paradise for free?
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Arby’s is excited to announce a new twist to their beloved classic Roast Beef sandwich! For a limited time, they are partnering with the iconic KING’S HAWAIIAN brand to introduce two irresistible new sandwiches to their menu, the KING’S HAWAIIAN Roast Beef and KING’S HAWAIIAN Roast Beef & Swiss. One bite of this delicious new flavor combination and you will find out what Arby’s call "Roast-Beef-atopia" or roast beef paradise!

There are TWO new KING’S HAWAIIAN sandwiches to choose from, which are served hot and made fresh to order:
- Arby’s KING’S HAWAIIAN roast beef sandwich comes with an extra helping of freshly sliced roast beef, piled high on a soft and slightly sweet KING’S HAWAIIAN bun
- Arby’s KING’S HAWAIIAN Roast Beef & Swiss sandwich has the same extra helping of roast beef and KING’S HAWAIIAN bun, topped with Swiss cheese, crunchy pickles and creamy Dijon spread

To celebrate this Roast-Beef-atopia partnership, Arby’s is hosting a Hawaiian Getaway sweepstakes to offer customers the chance to surf in paradise! The grand prize winner will receive a round trip for two with four nights stay in Honolulu, HI. Plus a premium group lesson at one of the island’s premier surf schools, Hawaiian Fire.

Try Arby's new King's Hawaiian roast beef sandwich and give yourself a chance to enjoy the waves in Honolulu, Hawaii by entering Arby's Hawaiian Getaway sweepstakes.  How to join? For more details and to enter the sweepstakes visit from April 29 – May 26.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Finding A New Trail

 Sunset near Torrey Pines Gliderport
 About a week ago, while watching sunset at Torrey Pines Gliderport, we saw several people walking on the trail below and East of the cliffs. Not familiar with the trail, and it was already dark, we decided to go back some other time to explore the trail where it seemed a lot of students and surfers take. Today, we got a chance to explore this non-formal trail near Torrey Pines Gliderport.
Our hike started at Gliderport, but instead of going down the formal trail, we first walked directly south on the trail which parallels the ocean. After a while, it was up and down, quite steep in some sections, but not yet intimidating.
 the very long quiet shoreline from La Jolla Shores Beach to Torrey Pines State Beach
( quiet because there is no car access below the beach, except at La Jolla Shores Beach and Torrey Pines State Beach )
 looking south towards La Jolla Shores
The top bluffs area here are actually some of our favorite spots in San Diego for sunset watching, and also for cliffs and ocean photography. Each time we are here, we are reminded how beautiful but fragile our world is. It also feels like we are transported to some other place, like Patagonia, haha, and not San Diego. For a while, our traveling minds wander somewhere as we see the scenery. 
 looking north towards Torrey Pines
( this may look scary, but hubby was pretty safe, he was on the trail actually which was not really that close to the edge, but it looked like he was at the edge )
We always feel thankful that the scenery in San Diego is so geologically diverse. It feels like we are on vacation whenever we explore its outdoors, from the ocean, to the ocean cliffs, to the mesas and canyons, mountains and valleys and desert. We need not go far to explore various scenery.  Anyway, we continued on the trail that goes down eastwards, and then, turns southwest towards the ocean. Though this hike is short, but probably one of my most challenging hikes, haha. I had to walk on five a lot of the times here. 2 legs, 2 arms, and a butt. My hiking pants and backpack were too dirty after the hike from all my buttwalk. :(
 a tiny bridge to cross, haha!
 he was walking straight, but I was hugging the walls in this section
 one of the easier parts of the trail
 and then, we could no longer go down
From here, though we saw sole marks below, but we stopped because there was a sudden drop from the edge of the rock where hubby was standing. We wonder how those hikers were able to go past here. But anyway, despite we were not able to go down to the ocean from here, we still think the hike was so worth it since this is something we have not seen before in San Diego. 
 can you see the drop?
As we look down actually between these rocks, it was like a slot canyon, we wish we could explore the bottom slot, but we just have no idea how to go down, as the rocks were vertical and smooth, we could not find any foothold. So, we just took some time to enjoy the scenery from there.
 Looking at the ocean below, so near, yet so far ( we had to take another trail down )
If the hike down was very challenging for me, the hike up was a lot easier. I no longer have to do the butt-walk, I still needed to walk on four sometimes, but definitely I did not need to walk on five.
 the trail going back up