Kicking off 2011 | Be Afraid

2010 was an exciting year for Jin and I. I got my first DSLR last year and it was history from there. Thinking it would just be a take-along on trips and everywhere else we went, it grew into something more. Something that quickly became the focal point of our lives. Somehow we ended up in a studio shooting family portraits and spending a huge chunk of our free time outside of work with anything and everything photography. Over Swedish pancakes and homemade turkey sausage one morning, we wrote out our goals for Jinda and have a lot of exciting things we hope to accomplish in 2011. Writing down goals is the first step in making them real and helps to keep you on track. If you're one of many that are doing this, challenge yourself to add at least one thing that makes you scared or nervous. Something that you'd love to accomplish but are afraid because it takes you out of your comfort zone or because you're afraid to fail. And see how far you can take yourself and how fulfilling it is when you push yourself to the limits. Anything is possible, and ultimately the only thing holding you back is you. In the famous words of A Christmas Story, I double dog dare ya!

"Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did."

We wish everyone out there the best year ever this 2011. Happy new decade!


New Years Resolution | Dear dieters, have your cake and eat it too!

I think it's becoming a little too obvious that I love my sweets. I mentioned earlier that my skin got a little darker from eating too much chocolate and how I've convinced myself food without nutrition labels have zero calories, like donuts. But it's resoultion-making time again so I decided to let the angel (food cake?) on my shoulder speak. I'd be lying if I said I'm giving up dessert this year. Plus I doubt anyone would believe me. Luckily I've found ways to get my sugar fix with little or no compromise and Alice has been my knightess in shining foil for guilt-free desserts. Her desserts are "omg-so-amazing" lower calorie but you can barely tell, if at all. Help shed off that muffin top with the help of a muffin top! Here's what I baked New Year's Eve to kick off my healthy dessert diet and wanted to share the love with you guys, dieting or not!

For those of you unfamiliar with the term "muffin top" wikipedia can give you the low down here:
muffin top 101

Chocolate Marble Cake

2 cups cake flour (or sub with all-purpose flour, just minus 2 tbsp flour per cup)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
1/3 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg white
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup nonfat yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

(Recipe courtesy of Alice Medrich:
Chocolate and The Art of Low Fat Desserts)

Have all ingredients at room temp. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the lower third of the oven. Spray 8-10 cup tube pan with cooking spray. This recipe also makes an awesome pound cake. I used a different pan for mine.

Jin and I stumbled upon this awesome little urban shop called Nood in Gastown, Vancouver during Christmas weekend where I spotted this cute mini bunt pan from across the room and I had to take her home. I felt weird putting rubber into the oven but I soon fell in love with this little invention, plus I love me some pink!

Use a whisk to combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift together. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the espresso powder, cocoa and 1/3 cup of the sugar with 1/4 cup of water. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk whole egg with egg white. Set aside.

Cut the butter into pieces and place in an electric mixing bowl. Beat for 1 minute to soften. Gradually add remaining 1 cup of sugar and beat at high speed for about 3 minutes. Dribble eggs in slowly, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating constantly for about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in a third of the flour mixture. On medium-high speed, beat in half of the yogurt. On low speed, beat in half of the remaining flour. On high speed, beat in the rest of the yogurt and the vanilla. On low speed, beat in the remaining flour.

Measure out 1 1/2 cups of yogurt batter and mix into the cocoa mixture. Set aside.

Use a large spoon to fill the bottom of the pan with about three quarters of the white batter placed in dollops. Cover the white batter with dollops of chocolate batter. Top the chocolate batter with small dollops of white batter spaced so that the chocolate batter shows through. Use a table knife to marble the batters together with a circular or zigzag motion; be careful not to blend them too much. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in comes out clean. I only left mine in for 25-30 minutes since I used a pan with smaller portions.

Cool for 10-15 minutes on a rack. Unmold the cake. Cool completely before serving or storing.

I filled the pan a little too high so the batter overflowed as it baked. Happy mistake! I named them my little bundt muffins. I love muffin tops...at least the edible kind :)

Two times a charm! Posing for the camera right before we dug in. Shh, I left the one in the back pure chocolate because I love chocolate :)


Christmas Surprises + Post-its

Four post-its scribbled with notes. I like to plan things on paper. And because I'm detail oriented it's usually a whole pad of post-its.

I was a little bummed it snowed three flakes last winter which was a surprise since it felt like 20 below zero and naturally assumed we wouldn't go boarding, something we waited all year for. So when Jin surprised me with a trip to Whistler as my Christmas gift I was psyched! I love taking random trips as is, even if it's to the park down the street so you could imagine my excitement when he told me were going to Whistler. Don't get me wrong I love unwrapping presents but I'm beginning to realize that I also love gifts that allow for some good ol' memory-making, something you have for a lifetime. So I really appreciated this thoughtful gift and we had an amazing time from drinking wine in Lululemon (holiday party) on our way to Sushi Village (amazing!) to waking up to inches of snow on one of the mornings. I thought an eskimo from the north pole had moved their igloo onto our hotel balcony.

So the post-it notes are my game plan for this Christmas. This year I'm planning something for Jin. I surprised him with a W Seattle getaway and burlesque show last year but this time it will be a little different. I wanted to keep it a surprise because I love surprises, giving and receiving. Plus I have a little feeling he might find out if I tell you what it is :) But I'm excited. Let's just say it will be our first Christmas away from home. I'll really miss that feeling of waking up under a Christmas tree but this will make it that much more memorable!


Starlight Family Portraits

Linda and I wanted to make time to volunteer this holiday season and we got off to a good start by volunteering as photographers for the Starlight Children's Foundation. In a span of about a month, we along with other fellow photographers provided roughly 300 families in the greater Seattle area with family portrait sessions as a gift for the holidays. It was a huge endeavor that was coordinated by Earnie Glazener of Seattle Smug so much respect to him for all the hours I know he put into it. The photo sessions were conducted as far north as Mukilteo and south as Graham. This turned out to be a lot more time commitment and work than I first thought when I signed up as team lead for one of the days but in the end it was worth every minute seeing the project through. Personally it was a very special experience that warmed both Linda's and my heart as much as it did for the families who were so excited and thankful for the gift. Seeing the kids walk in curiously and shy at first then warming up and filling the room with more smiles and personality than we knew what to do with was one of the special highlights for me. We just wrapped up post processing and all the families will be presented with a large 24" x 30" canvas print donated by Bay Photos along with digital copies of the rest of the pictures next weekend. It will be fun to see the families again and be there to present them their gift. I'm also looking forward to meeting all the other photographers that helped out and to see the work they created. I'm a bit nervous though because we won't get to see the final canvas prints until the same time the families do so yikes!

Photographically for both Linda and I, it was such an amazing learning opportunity by having jumped into unknown territory of family portrait photography. It's a very different ball game than say an engagement shoot or personal portrait shoot but what a rush it was! We learned so much by diving right in head first and just doing it on the fly. For example we ended up only having about 20 minutes to setup the studio when we were supposed to have a whole hour to get ready before the first family was scheduled to arrive. Then to top it off, because nobody replied to my several emails prior to the shoot to get a feel for what kind of team we were made of, I found out there that nobody was familiar with setting up or using studio strobe lighting....Luckily Linda and I were able to get it setup from all the hours of home schooling we've taken through YouTube University and the likes. Maybe you've heard of it? =) It was a huge task for us working with the challenges family photos present like for example, getting all the model release paperwork filled out beforehand, group positioning, ensuring everyone was in sharp focus, capturing enough keeper shots where all members of the family actually looked into the camera with nice expressions, catering to the kids that had special medical considerations, getting everyone lit evenly without hot spots or unwanted falloff, and finally building rapport with the the family and kids making sure they were getting guidance and felt comfortable throughout the whole shooting process. In all, it was absolutely touching, rewarding and exhilarating!

| About Starlight |

When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, the day-to-day joys of childhood take a back seat to the rigors of treatment and hospitalization. For more than 25 years, Starlight Children’s Foundation has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries by providing entertainment, education and family activities that help them cope with the pain, fear and isolation of prolonged illness.
Starlight understands what families go through when a child is sick, and how important it is to find relief from constant worry and isolation. Its programs have been proven to distract children from their pain, help them better understand and manage their illnesses, and connect families with others facing similar challenges so that no one feels alone.

A few of the pictures...


One productive week

Days can blend together when there's a lot going on and your mind doesn't have time to reflect. It's easy to forget everything you've done until you lay it all out but fulfilling to know how much can be done in just one week if you make the effort. Here's to one fun, busy, tiring, exciting, fulfilling, productive week!

one week:
five breakfast and lunch preps
forty hours at work
one band shoot
one family and portrait shoot
one concert
one chinese take out night
one night location scouting
one birthday party and dancing
one christmas party in our dream house
two homecooked meals
one happy hour
one mexican dinner
two hours basketball
ten hours post processing
one christmas tree purchase and decorating