Sunday, July 20, 2014

photo diary #25

photos by Charles and myself with a Canon 6D

A few photos from the last couple months in Hawai'i. West side beaches, dessert from REAL a Gastropub, Kahana Bay after an intense but incredible short hike, pancakes from Forty Niner Restaurant, my newest attempt at photographing the Milky Way, some sparkling coconut water with pineapple infused syrup drink that the boyfriend made, that typical sunset and palm tree photo (although the sunset wasn't that impressive), North Shore, and chorizo eggs benedict with chipotle hollandaise that Charles made for breakfast. 

I've been making several attempts at photographing the Milky Way in the last couple months. I walked out of the house last night and saw how clear the sky was and after my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I was able to see the Milky Way! Although faint, since there were still light pollution, being able to see the Milky Way was incredible! I ran back inside the house, grabbed my DSLR and tripod, and started snapping away. My first few shots were out of focused but I called for Charles and he helped me adjusted it. Insane. I can't wait to go to an isolated location and see it minus the light pollution! I'm sure Haleakalā can deliver when it comes to the Milky Way. 

In the last couple days, I've been thinking of buying a SLR camera to shoot film. Film is amazing and after using digital for as long as I can remember, I can't wait to go back to the basics. I'm planning on getting a SLR before a trip we're going to in September. I've already planned out a post devoted entirely to film for this trip! I can't wait. And speaking of, I have a serious case of travel bug right now. I know, it's crazy because I've been traveling back and forth between here and LA but I don't consider that "traveling". I want to go somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere unfamiliar, and photograph the entire experience (while wearing pretty dresses of course!). 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

travel: chicago 2013

photos by me and charles taken with a Canon 60D

Can't believe it's almost been a year since Charles and I went to Chicago last year! To be honest, Chicago wasn't in our plans last year. We always make an effort to fly somewhere new every year and we tend to fly towards the end of August right before school starts. Our initial plan was to go to Kaua'i. After having the best 9 days on O'ahu last year in May, I HAD to go back to Hawai'i BUT we needed to go somewhere new so Kaua'i was the plan. We've never been to the island of Kaua'i but it's still Hawai'i. Win-win. The only thing that was stopping us from booking our flights was the fact that my boyfriend was waiting for a "clear" from one of his managers to go on vacation. I carefully monitored the prices of the flights and such and I was worried the prices were just going to keep going up since he still hasn't heard anything from his manager after two weeks or so. 

Finally, after getting his vacation approved the prices went up. I was bummed. But then we always try to make things work. We decided to postpone our Hawai'i trip until October and then I asked Charles, "How about Chicago?" His eyes lit up and we proceeded to check the packages from Expedia and found one for A LOT less than Kaua'i. Win-win. But enough of that, let's talk Chicago.

Surprisingly, the weather was quite pleasant the first three days we were in Chicago. The fourth day was incredibly humid and the last day it rained the whole day. Because of the weather on the last day, our flight was delayed and we weren't informed UNTIL we got the gate. Our fault I guess but anyway, on our flight back to California, our plane was flying near a storm which left the last few hours of our flight so bumpy, it would be on my list as one of the worst turbulence I've ever experienced. Of course, this is no reflection on Chicago itself because we were way passed Chicago by that time but I thought I just throw it out there. 

Where to stay
For this trip, we stayed at Hotel Blake in South Loop. It was a nice hotel in a pretty good area (but not close enough to some attractions). We were in walking distance BUT it was still a bit far. But the hotel was good. It was clean and pretty big. 

Eat a Deep Dish Pizza
The deep dish pizzas are phenomenal in Chicago and this is coming from a girl who is not a fan of deep dish pizza AT ALL. Like BJ's is okay and all but man, deep dish pizza in Chicago is the way to go. Lou Malnati's was delicious and so was Gino's East. When we came back to California, we tried a Chicago-style deep dish pizza but it wasn't the same. So bummed. So don't forget to get a deep dish pizza when you're in Chicago!

Chicago-style Hot Dog
While you're at it with the deep dish pizza, why not try a Chicago-style hot dog? One thing about Chicago-style hot dogs is that they don't use ketchup on their hot dogs. It's against the law really to put ketchup on your hot dog haha. It's against the law so much (and I say that with extreme exaggeration) that while dining at Max's Take Out Restaurant for some hot dogs, a fellow next to us was secretly trying to eat his hot dog with ketchup. He was actually pretty good at being discreet but eating a hot dog with ketchup is usually frowned upon (hence why he was so discreet). 

So what's so different with Chicago-style hot dogs besides the "no ketchup" rule? Instead of ketchup, they use mustard as well as a beef hot dog, chopped onions, a pickle spear, tomatoes, some really bright green relish, a pickled pepper, and a poppy-seed hot dog bun. My thoughts on it? Different but very messy. I don't know how you eat a hot dog here without the use of utensils but it was pretty good nonetheless. 

We wanted to try Hot Doug's but it was too far from where we were staying and to find out that they're closing for good in October made me wish we made an effort to go but if you're heading to Chicago between now and October, make sure you stop by Hot Doug's. Prepare yourself for the wait though. 

Dine at The Signature Room at the 95th in the John Hancock building for the view. Even better, head to the Signature Lounge at the 96th for just the drinks only. The view up there is amazing. You can see the buildings that make up Chicago's skyline. Also from up there, you can see how crazy HUGE Lake Michigan is. 

If you are a Nike fan as well as a Michael Jordan fan, definitely stopped by Nike Chicago on Michigan Ave. You can see Jordan shoes on display and it's pretty cool and it's only appropriate that they have Jordan shoes displayed in Chicago! And it's free. Who doesn't love free-anything?

For those who aren't so scared of heights, or if you are like me, want to overcome your fear of heights, hang out on the ledge at the Skydeck. I know, they were recently in the news, but we had a ton of fun taking photos on there. I wanted to go both during the day and at night but since we were pressed for time, we only got to go at night. Still ended up with some cool photos. Be aware though, not a lot of people are "photographers". There's usually a line to go on a ledge and when we were there, the people before us in line turned around and ask us to take a photo so we figured we would do the same. We asked the person behind us to take a photo and it wasn't how we expected it to be. They took a good photo but they didn't take a photo of the bottom so it looked like we were just standing in front of a window instead of a ledge so keep that in mind. But what worked out for us is that we we waited in line for the actual photographers to take a photo of us and not only do you have a photographer taking your photo, but you have the ledge all to yourself. Sure it's going to cost money since you have to buy the photos but I thought it was worth it! 

Don't forget to stop by Millennium Park to see "the bean". If you want photos with hardly anyone there, go really early in the morning. Otherwise, a lot of people go there throughout the day and especially if you go to Chicago during the summer months. That bean is actually called "Cloud Gate" and is a sculpture made by Anish Kapoor. It's amazing up close since it looks so seamless yet plates were welded together to make it. 

The last full day we were there, the park was showing a movie at the park and there were tons of people there. Definitely check out their website for events since they also held concerts when we were there!

If you love museums and art, head over to The Art Institute of Chicago. Their permanent collections consists of beautiful artwork from famed artists like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. Seeing these art up close was exciting (and I can't wait to visit the Louvre Musuem in Paris to see Mona Lisa next year!).

When we were there last year, the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit was going on. Beautiful, and I mean, BEAUTIFUL exhibit. They featured huge Monet paintings and beautiful, BEAUTIFUL dresses to go along with it. I love pretty dresses and seeing pretty dresses from the past was exciting for me. The details: the pleats, the ruffles, the dresses were so grand and elegant I was in awe at this exhibit. So glad that we went. 

This is probably one of my favorite things to do in Chicago. This place isn't for everyone and I would know that because not a lot of people are huge economics fans. People always tell me how they dreaded economics in college. Charles and I both have a bachelor's degree in business economics so this place was fun for us haha. 

But anyway, this is one of the Federal Reserve Banks in the nation and inside is the Money Museum. It's free and you need a valid ID to get in. You go through a metal detector because this is obviously a federal building and you enter a room full of facts of the economy. You can see a briefcase full of a $1,000,000, watch a video in the small theater, test your skills with spotting counterfeit bills, or learn that at one time, there was a $10,000 bill. $10,000. I know. I would hate to lose a $10,000 bill. 

Don't forget to pick up some shredded currency as your souvenir. They shred bills that have been taking out of currency and neatly packaged them for you in a small bag!

A friend suggested that we stopped by here (Thanks Diana!) and we are so glad we did. This place has some pretty good pistachio glazed churros. We went for breakfast but I wish we had went for dinner!

Our favorite place to eat in Chicago? The Gage. This restaurant is definitely on the higher end as far as price-point but until this day, we still talk about the amazing lunch we had there and I'm so sad that they got rid of the entrée that we loved so much! To top it off, we had an amazing waiter who made our lunch so pleasant. For our appetizers, we ordered a scotch egg and battered fried pickles. For our entree, I ordered some prime rib with steak diane sauce and it was too good. Don't quite remember what Charles ordered because I was too busy enjoying my lunch haha. The Gage is definitely a restaurant we will be returning to the next time we're in Chicago. 

For a cheaper lunch alternative, head over to Cafecito. Voted one of The Top Cuban Sandwiches in Chicago from the Huffington Post, Charles and I found this place while looking for cheap, good eats. It wasn't too far from the hotel we were staying and we dined here twice and ordered sandwiches and coffee both times.  

So this is what we did in the 5 days we were in Chicago. There were so much more to do (like watch a baseball game or grab drinks at a bar) but it's going to have to wait till next time!

ululani's hawaiian shave ice

Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice
61 S Kihei Rd
Kihei, HI 96753

333 Dairy Rd
Kahului, HI 96732

819 Front St
Lahaina, HI 96761

Every single time someone asks me what they should do in Maui, I always tell them to go to Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice. Forget about the waterfall hikes, the black sand beaches, the Road to Hana, or the crater, Ululani's should be your top priority. Haha I'm just kidding because you should definitely do all of that when you're in Maui, but definitely put Ululani's somewhere on your to-do list. If you don't, then you just missed out on one of the most delicious shave ice you'll ever have. EVER. When I tell you to go to Ululani's, don't take it lightly. In fact, you better go right when you land in Kahului because they have one near the airport (as well as several locations throughout the island). And when you're done savoring one of the most delicious shave ice that you will ever had, you're probably going to want more later on and you're in luck if you're staying in Kihei or Lahaina; because they have locations there too.

Again, I repeat, do not take it lightly when I tell you to go to Ululani's. First of all, the ice is fine. Really fine. No one wants chunky ice and Ululani can get that ice fine. Second, and the main reason why I love Ululani's so much is because of their syrup. My favorite is the mango and it tastes exactly like a mango. Like a nice, cold mango. I usually get mine with one of the most delicious haupia (coconut) ice cream from Roselani, the mango syrup, snow capped, and topped with mochi. So good.

And to top if off, they have a stamp card! We were in Maui for only 3 days and went to Ululani's 3 times so we didn't fill up the stamp card but if you're in Maui for a week, I'm sure you can fill up that stamp card fast.

Friday, July 18, 2014

travel: seattle 2013

photos taken by charles, kris, and myself with a Canon 60D

Seattle has to be one of my new favorite cities to visit. We were there for only 3 days (but not even; we arrived around 9PM one day, had a full day, and then left the day after around noon so about 39 hours) and I tried to get in everything that I wanted to do but there just wasn't enough time. The next time we're in Seattle, we're definitely spending at least 5 days out there. There's just too much to do and see in Seattle. 

Where to stay
For this trip, we stayed at the Warwick Seattle. It was a bit far (but not TOO far.... actually, it wasn't that far at all haha) from the Pike Place Market but it's definitely walkable. The room may look a bit old but if you know me, I'm not too picky when it comes to hotels. But I'm not saying that I don't love me some really fancy hotels! But as an economist, I know that you can't have it all so if I want to keep traveling, I can't always stay at 5 stars hotels. 

But anyway, this hotel served it's purpose and we had a wonderful view of the Space Needle from our balcony (21st photo from the top but if it's easier, 5th from the bottom). 

Seattle and rain are two words that are usually used at the same time. It rained the last day we were there and it happened right when we were having lunch at Serious Pie and continued to rain well into the time we took off. When we arrived in Seattle, it wasn't raining and although the weather forecasted that it was supposed to rain the full day we were there, it never did. Weather is always unpredictable anywhere (and it's definitely unpredictable here in Hawai'i!). Just prepare yourself when you're there with maybe a light jacket and boots! When we were in Chicago, coincidentally, it rained the last day we were there and I had suede flats that were ruined from walking in the rain. I ended up buying boots at H&M because my feet were stained from the flats. I tend to pack leather boots now when we travel just in case! Our hotel had an umbrella in our room so that was convenient. Not sure if the other hotels provided umbrellas as well. I'll let you know next time. 

Space Needle
The iconic Space Needle. We didn't go up but you can see it from the street (and we were able to see it from our hotel room). When you think of Seattle, you think of the Space Needle so definitely take a photo of it. For an even awesome photo, head to the Chihuly Garden and Glass!

Personally, I find that clam chowder here was better than the one I had in San Francisco. The wait is pretty long but it moves quickly. I ordered the New England Clam Chowder and the boyfriend ordered the Southwester Chicken and Corn Chowder (pictured above). 

You can't go to Seattle without stopping by the Gum Wall. Yea it's pretty gross but I still think it's worthy of a stop. Touristy, yes, but if it's your first time in Seattle, I highly recommend that you come here for photo purposes (at least for me, I'm all about taking photos). It's located near the Pike Place Market in an alley. 

If you've seen the glass art in Bellagio, than you're familiar with Dale Chihuly. Chihuly Garden and Glass is pretty cool place for glass sculpture art. There's a fee to get in ($21 for an adult) and there's so much colorful, bright glass art in there. 

**For a good photo with the Space Needle and the Chihuly art work at the same time (10th photo from the top), it's best to use a wide angle. I have an olloclip that I use with my iPhone 5 to take a photo. But this only applies if you want the entire body and space needle in one photo.**

Pike Place Market would have to be my most favorite market of them all. We're trying to go to Barcelona next year and La Boquieria is on our list! The unfortunate thing is that we didn't get to spend enough time there. But there's always a next time right? Stroll through the market and see fishmongers throw and catch fish or buy the one of the prettiest seasonal flowers. The seasonal flowers, at the time that we went, were dahlias and the prices were really reasonable. One dahlia stem cost only $1 but they have several bouquets starting at $5! They were probably one of the most beautiful $5 bouquets that I've ever seen. 

If you're a Starbucks fan, you're going to want to stop by the very first Starbucks. Located in Pike Place Market, you'll know you're at the first Starbucks if there's a long line and I mean, LONG LINE. It doesn't look like the typical Starbucks since they wanted to keep it original looking so if it looks like a normal Starbucks (as in modern), you might be at the wrong one. When you're in there, they will hand you a paper with the different souvenirs you can get and they will get it for you. 

**When we were there, we went at night and there was no wait. I know during the day the line can be long so try at night right before they close if you're a late bird like me.**

Gnocchi with black truffle cream. Need I say more? The best time to come is during Happy Hour where you can get this lovely gnocchi for less than $7!!!! The List is probably our favorite restaurant right now in Seattle. It's that type or restaurant that we would go back again whenever we are in the area.

Tom Douglas owns Seattle. He has so many restaurants in Seattle and Serious Pie is one of them. We ordered the egg, prosciutto, and arugula pizza and the yukon potato, rosemary, and romano pizza. I ordered an apple cider because, well, we're in Washington. 

I know, it's a bit weird that I threw this one on here but I thought this airport was probably the coolest airport that I've been to.... to date. Although, I would say Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has some cool hands free seat changer things, the airport in Seattle is my favorite. The food court area is pretty fancy looking with huge windows and rocking chairs you can sit on to pass the time. 

Can't wait to go back to Seattle sometime next year (hopefully late May to early June)! I had a couple of other places I wanted to go to while we were there but since we didn't, I'll save that post for the future for when we do go back again!