Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Catching Up With Some Photo Apps Happiness

Hmmmm, I may really be behind when it comes to using mobile apps technology. I just installed the FREE Instaframe apps in my iPad and so far, I only had practiced with two pictures which I took recently using Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS 25, which is a point and shoot underwater camera. Here are some results of using Instaframe, which maybe a lot of you already know about. Haha, we'll, I just mentioned I am behind in using technology, didn't I?
Underwater sea plants, Without instaframe
With Instaframe

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Mom's Love

Wonder what she might be thinking?
Was she listening to the chirping of the birds nearby?
 Or was she in deep contemplation as she watched this flower sway in the breeze?
Or was she watching someone very special to her heart?
Ahhh, there he is! The apple of her eyes! She was happy enough watching her baby play and learn more about life from a distance.
Mom....she cares enough but not too much so her baby learns life's survival skills. She painfully watches her child make mistakes yet she patiently and lovingly teach them strength and courage to recover from life's mistakes. At anytime, she is there to lend a hand.......
Moms, you are and will always be special.

I love you mom, though you may no longer be around, but your thoughts and your teachings will live in my heart, forever!

The unconditional love of a mom to her child lasts forever, a priceless gift we all were blessed enough to receive! 

* all pictures were taken from the Gorilla Exhibit in San Diego Zoo Safari Park.* 

Monday, August 26, 2013


Sometimes, I just feel like dreaming
Enjoying every breath
Enjoying everything that I see
with eyes closed
where the deepest beauty lies
when we learn to see it
the moment we open our eyes
we see many more beautiful things around
Dreams.....thanks for leading me
towards a deeply beautiful life!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Can You See The Fish?

can you see the fish in this pic, it was swimming, but then it froze when it noticed me, and pretended as stiff as rock.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Anatomy of a Group Jump

Group Jump Picture, Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park
One of the fun things we do whenever we wanted to make fun memories in our travels and hikes, is to take jumping picture. Somehow, just the action of taking jumping picture alone already provides us a lot of fun. There is teamwork and group coordination too, as you could see obviously in the first picture above.

However, the picture above was just one of the many, and it does not really show the fun trials and more fun errors behind. :) Let us start with camera settings.

Setting: Shutter Speed Priority ( Tv mode for Canon users )
Shutter speed: 1/1250 ( because it is in shutter speed priority, the aperture is set by camera automatically as we perform the action )
ISO: 100
Shooting Mode: AI Servo, high speed continuous ( this will do burst shots capturing several frames per second, the speed is dependent on camera specs and also the lens )

Here was how it went (in 2 trials):

Trial 1:

Photographer ( KTL, my hubby): One of you will count 1, 2, 3. At 3, I will press shutter continuously as you all jump. Okay?
US ( 4 ): Okay. 
The four decided the front counts 1, 2, 3 loud enough.
Front: 1, 2, 3!
 Did everybody jump at the same time? Let us see! ( there were more frames, but I purposely did not upload similar pics to limit pictures in this post )

Backyard Blossoms

African Daisy
African daisy has blooms in brilliant yellow, orange, pearly white, shades of pink, purple and blue. Some have uniform color, but some have rings of contrasting colors around the center. At home, we use this in some parts of our side yard as ground cover.
Here is another flower from our little backyard.
Fuschias are very easy to grow, well, at least for me :) . They are drought tolerant plants, and in late fall, I cut a stem, plant some on the ground, and by spring, they are coming alive. During their first few months, I water them like once or twice a week, but after they have grown so well in maybe a year, I just let them grow naturally :) . Okay, I may water them like maybe once in two weeks during summer and fall. At home, we don't use water a lot, we actually use recycled water to water our plants. We collect our dishwashing water in a bucket, and use it to water our plants. Currently, our city is in mandatory water conservation program.
Another easy to take care plant are the roses.
I just picked this pink rose today from our backyard and combined it with African daisies, fallen limes and some leaves from the pine tree for some indoor flower arrangement.
As of now, these are the flowers currently blooming at home, I have taken some flowers that bloomed a few weeks back, but I still have to find them in my old folders. Sometimes, we do not really have to travel far to find gifts from nature, we can just look what is around us.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thank You!

It is not often that I express my appreciation and gratitude here to you, readers of this blog, for the inspiration and the push you gave me to keep this site going. Little did I know, several years ago, that what started as an outlet for me then to reminisce and take the joy in, again and again, of experiencing our wonderful world at the backroads, would later become a passion to share. With you, through your comments, through your inquiries, through the keywords you left in various search engines, slowly the posts evolved from a mere expression of jubilation to something with more details of each place, of each trail, so that you may enjoy the same way I did or more those nature wonders that had touched me so deeply.
I thank God each day for this gift of being able to share my simple joys here in The Joys of Simple Life.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

City Walk: Balboa Park to Bankers Hill

Banker's Hill is an uptown San Diego neighborhood bordered by downtown to the south, San Diego Bay to the west and by Balboa Park to the east. I usually do this walk when I am by myself since I am not confident hiking alone in wilderness. Balboa Park is actually one my favorite places in San Diego to experience a mix of nature (there are canyons and mesas that spans through the park), wonderful art and culture, and stunning Spanish Revival architecture.
I usually start my walk at the Desert Garden along Park Avenue. The Desert Garden is home to hundreds of different cacti where some of them are over a hundred years old.
Before really starting my walk actually, I usually would enjoy first the busy life here at the Desert Garden,
and in the adjacent Rose Garden.

Hiking The Zion Narrows

The first time we hiked the Zion Narrows before ( year 2007), we loved it so much and had so much fun that we told ourselves we will hike it again sometime. Though we had been back to this nature wonder several times, but it was only this summer that we were able to do this hike again. As they always say, "love is sweeter the 2nd time around", so indeed, "HIKING THE NARROWS was sweeter the 2nd time around!" :)

Why was it sweeter? .....We learned our lessons from our first hike.

1. Hiking Zion Narrows is so unique since the trail is the river. It requires wading, walking and sometimes swimming in the river. During our first time hiking here, we were so inexperienced that we took our hiking shoes off and walked barefoot in the river. That was a huge mistake. Walking barefoot caused us too many falls from the slippery rocks on the river, bruises on our legs from the fall, and well, wet packs. :(
Rocks on Virgin River

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Yosemite Without The Hikes

In some of my previous posts about Yosemite National Park, such as Hiking Vernal and Nevada Falls and Yosemite Valley Floor Loop Hike, one may get the impression that the beauty of Yosemite can only be enjoyed by those with strong legs and physically fit enough to hike. As much as I really encouraged everybody to enjoy our beautiful world at the trails where a few would get into, but it does not mean that our beautiful world cannot be enjoyed by those who may not be able to hike because of various reasons. Here are some pictures of the places that you can enjoy if you visit Yosemite National Park without the hikes, or with little very friendly walks. Friendly walks means the trail is well developed for wheelchairs, strollers and for little kids to jump around. :)

I will start from the East entrance of Yosemite moving to the Valley.

1st stop: Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve
Mono Lake @ Dusk (shot by hubby )
Though Mono Lake is not part of Yosemite National Park, but this amazingly surreal place that looks like an Alien Kingdom of Towering Calcium Carbonate Towers ( or tufas) is only 13 miles from the East Entrance of Yosemite National Park. 
It's An Alien Kingdom @ Mono Lake
If you are visiting Yosemite, why miss this one? 
Mono Lake, Dawn

Best Places in the World to Go Hot Air Ballooning

There are few, if any, ways more exciting to discover the beautiful world of nature than through air – seeing the world from above can provide a brand new perspective on the surroundings that can completely change the way you experience it.

That’s why if you really want to discover an area, you must not only see it from the ground, but get up in the sky to discover its full beauty from above, and the best way to do that is with a hot air balloon ride.

After all, being on the ground you can only see what’s around you, unable to discover the true beauty of the region that only presents itself when seen all at once – rivers twisting on the ground like snakes, forests covering plains and providing intriguing patterns – all this melds into a breathtaking sight that can leave anyone speechless.

Here are some of the most amazing sights to go hot air ballooning in the world:

Cappadocia, Turkey
One of the most sought out hot air balloon trip sights in the world, this beautiful area of desert and limestone rock mountains, has a lot to offer even to the most experienced travelers.
Thanks to a very strange and unique landscape and distinctive weather conditions, this region, located in central Turkey has left few unimpressed – with a variety of cave churches and fairy chimneys scattered throughout the region.
Although you probably won’t have the skies to yourself – there are plenty of balloon tours taking place every day – the other balloons floating beside you can even add to the experience, as they become an interesting part of the landscape and even the culture of the region.

Queensland, Australia
With ideal climate conditions for hot air balloon rides, Queensland is the perfect place for anyone looking for a breathtaking experience from the skies.
The region is special because of its incredible variety of nature – there’s the amazing Daintree Rainforest, which is the biggest single rainforest in Australia and a great attraction on its own, which becomes even more impressive from the skies.
Then there is the Great Barrier Reef – an incredible maze of sea life, which can be seen up close or from afar, all from the comfort of a hot air balloon.
And finally you have the amazing Australian wildlife – all kinds of mammals, birds and fish, including the Australia’s world famous kangaroos, and when you’re flying over the sea, even whales, if you get lucky.
All this combines for a great experience that makes Queensland one of the premiere destinations for hot air ballooning in the world.

Maasai Mara, Kenya
If you think the only way to go on a safari with loud and shaky jeep, you should definitely check out the hot air balloon tours in Maasai Mara, Kenya.
Not only is this a much safer choice, but it provides a much more intimate experience of seeing the animals – quietly gliding through the air with a balloon can help you see much more animals and see them at their most natural state.
Consider taking this trip during the migration season from July to October – it’s when all the animals migrate, so you can not only see herds of animals flocking to their destination, but perhaps even a lion or a hippopotamus hunting their prey.
Although many people prefer to see the world by foot or by car, exploring the most amazing places from within, perhaps it’s not the only way to fully discover a place for what it truly is.
A hot air balloon ride can not only provide a very calming, but breathtaking experience, but it can also be a way to connect to nature on a different, much grander level.
After all, from the skies you can truly appreciate the beauty, when you can see the whole of the region with a single sight.

About the Guest Author
Hayley Woodward is a Melbourne based travel writer. When Halyley is not busy writing or researching her work, she enjoys travelling with cairns hot air balloon company, Hot Air.

Macro Shots

Deep Inside a Bromeliad Flower
I am taking a break from sharing some of our adventure trips and hiking activities to share some macro shots I took last Tuesday at Balboa Park. Macro photography is probably the area of photography I explore least, and I do not overdo since I find it very strenuous for my eyes. If I do too much macro photography, I get headache somehow, I guess, from too much focusing. Being farsighted, I am not used to seeing objects up close without using my eyeglasses. However, if I use my eyeglasses when shooting macro, somehow, my pictures seem to be not focused. I guess, because the presence of eyeglasses between my eyes and lens bring me unnecessary movements. But anyway, from time to time, I do pick up my macro lens and enjoy seeing objects up close, something that I probably would not be able to see with my own naked eye since I would be too afraid to get too close to insects or too close to the flower's pollen. Whereas, macro photography, allows me to take a much closer look at blooms and various critters from a safer distance.

Here are some more of the macro shots I took this Tuesday:
Butterfly Hugging the Milkweed Tree 
Milkweed Blossom
One of the Many Caterpillars Crawling @ the Milkweed Tree ( do you see the eye? )
A Smiling Caterpillar?
 Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

A History of the Bucket List and Why We Make Lists of Things to Do Before Death

To sky dive, to fly a plane, to run a marathon: all of these goals are popular candidates for bucket lists. The term "bucket list" refers to a list of things to do before you die. It has an ambiguous history - we may never determine exactly where the phrase came from. One thing that's not fuzzy, however, is the power that bucket lists wield to make people feel accomplished and fulfilled. The following article explores the origins and purpose of the bucket list.

Where the Term "Bucket List" Came From

There's no consensus as to the origin of this term. Most believe it to be derived from the phrase "to kick the bucket," which means to die. That term itself, however, is on shaky historical grounds. It dates back at least to the 1700s and has a grisly history. Criminals sentenced to be hanged would stand on a bucket while the executioner tied a noose around their necks. The job done, the executioner would then "kick the bucket" to let the prisoner swing to his or her death. That's one potential starting point for our modern phrase. In another version of the story, "kicking the bucket" refers to animal rather than human death. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, butchers in Norfolk, England would hang their pigs from barn beams, which in local slang turned into "buckets." Some pigs protested their fate violently, writhing so hard that their feet would "kick the bucket." From one or both of these terms, we've gotten our phrase for a list of goals to accomplish before we die. The term "bucket list" entered the popular vocabulary after the popular film of that name was released in 2007. In the film, two terminal patients, played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, travel around their world to cross items from their lists. The influential film caused of wave of bucket-list-writing that has continued to this day.

Why We Like To Make Bucket Lists

What is it about these lists that our culture finds so compelling? Everyone fosters dreams of the things they could accomplish if they had the money, time, or energy. But in our heads, these dreams tend to stay dreams; most of us need a push to turn them into reality. A bucket list helps to transform our airy ideas into concrete goals, made real by their written status and made possible because we acknowledge them. The best bucket list items push you beyond the limits of comfort. Often they include travel (to take a safari in Africa), skill acquisition (to build your own car from scratch), feats of daring (to go bungee-jumping), and feats of athleticism (to bike across a continent). No matter what, checking these or other items off of your bucket list should make you feel brave, interesting, and accomplished. In other words, they should make you feel like you could die feeling fulfilled as a person. People create bucket lists because they like to feel that their lives are streamlined toward purpose and excitement. Bucket lists encourage people to quit wasting time and to chase the things they want most from life.

About the Guest Author:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bristlecone and Glacier Trail, Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Wheeler Circque and Peak, from Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive Viewpoint

The end of the hike will bring us to Wheeler Cirque, a glacier hollowed valley enclosed by sheer cliffs as shown in the above picture. Halfway of the hike, we will be passing the ancient bristlecone pine grove. The bristlecone pines are the oldest single living organisms known in the world.
An Ancient Bristlecone: Gnarled but Very Much Living the Testament of Life 

These ancient bristlecones have so much to tell us, having witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, survived changing climates and persevered through major developments of world's history. They live several thousand years in the harshest conditions, a living testament that longevity is not so much about having all the luxuries of life, but it is about the will power to thrive in the harshest conditions. With gnarled limbs, they stand strong. Seeing their twisted and convoluted limbs, seeing them looking up to heavens, it was like hearing them whisper....."LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL AND SO MUCH WORTH LIVING!!" Despite their limbs may look bizarre from all the twisting and contortions, they are VERY BEAUTIFUL to me. How I wish I could sit there longer with them, to listen to their soft whispers about Earth's history and about how beautiful our life is TO LIVE.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Alpine Lakes Loop Trail, Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Stella Lake (with Mt. Wheeler in the background), Great Basin National Park, Nevada
( if you've seen my previous post about Lehman Cave, could you imagine underneath this alpine lake and mountain peak is that beautiful marble cave with all those rare cave formations? Earth is beautiful, inside and out! )

Great Basin National Park, in Baker, Nevada, is a land of great diversity, where hot desert valleys meet cool mountain ranges. It is home to ancient bristlecone pines, rock formations, fossils, springs, caves, creeks, and even a lone glacier in Nevada. At the time we were there July 1- July 3 this year, the desert valley was at 115 degree Fahrenheit ( 46 Celsius), yet Lehman Cave, the first place we explored was at 50 degree Fahrenheit ( 10 Celsius). After exploring Lehman Cave, we hiked Alpine Lakes Loop trail, where the temperature was 72 degree Fahrenheit ( 22 Celsius).

Here are some basic information regarding Alpine Lakes Loop Trail:

Trailhead: Bristlecone Parking Area.
Aspen Grove at the Trailhead
 ( I could imagine how much more beautiful this trail would be with vivid yellow aspens in the fall)

Mileage: 2.7 miles loop trail, 600 ft gain that starts at 9,800 ft elevation (which means you will reach 10,400 ft elevation). There are various trails that can be continued from this loop, such as Bristlecone Pine and Glacier Trail and Wheeler Peak trail.

Alpine Lakes Loop trail connects two lakes, Stella Lake and Teresa Lake, both totally freezes in the winter. We hiked in the counterclockwise direction, so the first lake we saw was Stella Lake. In the very first picture above of Stella Lake, notice the reflection, the wind was a little bit calm when we got to the lake, so there were not much ripples then. After taking a few pictures, we could feel the wind strongly blowing on us, and slowly, the reflection disappeared for more ripples on the water.
Us Taking Memories of Stella Lake ( reflection in the water here slowly disappearing because of wind)

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park

"The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time." -Henry David Thoreau
Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Lehman Caves is the first place in Great Basin National Park that we explored during our visit this summer. It is a beautiful marble cave decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn, and over 300 rare shield formations.

There are two types of tours offered to explore the cave, and we chose The Grand Palace Tour which runs for 90 minutes. The Grand Palace tour cost $10/person for adult, and $5/child (15 years or younger). The Grand Palace Tour travels 0.6 miles. This probably is the largest and most beautiful cave in the U.S. that I've explored so far. The path for visitors is very well maintained, allowing for a very easy walk that anyone 5 years or older could explore.

Below are some pictures of Lehman Caves, all pictures in this post taken by hubby.
 Various Formations Inside the Cave
 Parachute  Shield Formations
 Stalactites ( hanging), Stalagmites ( rises from the cave floor ), among other formations
 More Stalactites, Stalagmites and Helectites 
( helectite starts growth as stalactite, however, it seem to defy gravity by growing and curling in different directions from the vertical )
 Easy To Navigate Pathway Inside Cave
 ( though some trails are wet and slippery )
 More Stalactites and Stalagmites
More Flowstones and Stalagmites
 Straws, Drapes, Columns and more...
 Water Inside Cave