GotCha, Fog – Chicken Tonight?

We have heavy fog in the area for couple weeks now.  I have said to myself. It is a shame if I cannot catch up with fog before it is completely out of sight for the season. I am aware that I like fog enough that I am going to get it. It is the secret of desire.

It was cold 30F (Celsius 1 subzero) degree no less, but my fingers were frozen when I was just out for about half hour.  I put both my hands inside my coat pockets and held my tripod under my arm. I walked in the park feeling with a bit of pride. Hey, cold weather is not stopping me. I am here for the fog.

I walked around and felt like in the dream. Today’s fog is not as dense as I like it to be, but beautiful enough for me. I saw a little commotion ahead of me.  As I walked closer, I noticed a group of runners who just finished their morning run. Thought I am early and tough, when I am just ready to begin, they are leaving their finish line. There is always someone ahead of you, be humble. I got the note.

When the heart is light and mind is clear, everything looks pleasing to the eyes. On a regular day, I might not consider this shot, but in the fog, these trees create a medium tone between sky and ground and they suddenly become appealing to me. I also like curved fine water lines on the ground.  They sit on a narrow road without shoulder but with perpetual traffic.  It was fairly early, so I managed to pull over and snap it quickly. I could get a better angle, but cars were coming and I got nervous.  
I drove past a railroad. When looking down side-ways, I simply could not resist. Let all the cars pass, I barely found myself a parking spot and walked back to the track. In spite of the frowning and astonished look of the drivers, I fired my shots, one after the other.
Just another image to show you how foggy it was. Sun was putting on a veil and looking at the earth through a filter. A whole field of thistles are the ‘occupy residents’ on this path. I had my 15-85mm in hand, and got down low on the ground and captured this image.  Nothing dramatic, but I certainly like it better than the other thistle shots I have taken so far.
I have tried to shoot thistles in different time of the year and various angle of view. I literally shot them when they were green, bloomed with purple flowers and dead brown like corps. But I have not had much success. I came to realize that I have been only using my Marco lens because I have my heart set on close-up shots, nothing else. I was not willing to try other things…I am so glad that I made the switch, and not hitting the wall.
Everything is good for something and I have to explore that magic portion.
It was cold and the moisture from fog made it worse. My heart had pumped harder a few times when I tried to dodge the ongoing road traffic and my nerve got tighter when I stood on railroad track.  I was a bit tired, hungry and thought I need a good meal tonight.  And, I know what I want to make…..Anyhow,
I am part of the creative team of a local Inspired Living magazine. I am the photographer and writer for couple designated columns. Cosmopolitan life is our theme for next issue and we aim to explore living out of bounds, i.e. something beyond local and regional.  Recipe Exchange is not my section, but our editor asked me to share a Taiwanese recipe.  I want the ingredients easily accessible here in Eugene, and I thought about this scallion and ginger chicken dish. My Caucasian husband has often said, “This is so good.” whenever I made this dish.  I thought it maybe worth sharing.
I grew up cooking without recipes, a little bit of this and a dash of that. So I actually bought a chicken and made it from scratch. In that case  I can write down the steps and details more thoroughly. It was a bit of task, but if you can have one extra way to make a chicken dish on the table, I will be just so thrilled.  
Scallion and Ginger Chicken
This is a tasty and popular Taiwanese dish that restaurant serves and housewives make it at home. Simple ingredients and easy steps.  Texture is important to Asian cuisine and the choice of chicken meat is the key to success. Wild chicken is the best choice, but we cannot get wild chicken from the stores in Eugene, so I usually use Free Range chicken or simply use leg quarters.  Thigh meat works, too.
Ingredients:
·      One whole chicken or Leg Quarters (4 pcs)
·      Scallions (green onions) 3 sticks
·      Ginger Root with skins scraped off, 1pc about 2” x 3”
·      Kosher Salt : 1-1/2 teaspoon
·      Vegetable Oil: 1 tablespoon
·      Rice Wine: 2 tablespoon
Preparation:
1.     Clean and wash chicken or leg quarter thoroughly with hot water, pat dry.  Move unwanted fat.
2.     Mix salt and rice wine, rub them on chicken skin, let it sit for at least one hour.
3.     Cook chicken in rice cooker with one cup of water or put it on a plate in a steamer and steam for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken) till the chicken is fully cooked, but not overcooked. 
4.     Take chicken out of the cooker, let it cool and put it in the refrigerator for an
hour before cutting them into small pieces (it is easier to cut when chicken meat is cool and harder). 
5.     Pour chicken juices in a small bowl and use baster to remove as much grease as you can and sit it aside.
6.     While waiting for chicken to cool, cut scallions in 3” long sticks and thin slice
them lengthwise.  Slice ginger to 3” thin pieces and thin slice them the same way how scallion is sliced.
7.     Heat vegetable oil in a small sauce pan and sauté scallions and ginger together in high heat for about 5 minutes. Pour in chicken juices left in the bowl (need only about 1/2 cup) and let it boil. Remove scallion and ginger juices from heat.
8.     Cut cooled chicken into small pieces, place them on a large plate and pour
scallion and ginger mix over the chicken. Serve.
·      This dish is meant to serve with rice. Make a stir fry vegetable as side dish.

·      It tastes even better when the meat is cold. Use leftover to make Oriental chicken salad with drizzles of sesame oil and rice vinegar plus your favorite greens.

Rain Drop Thoughts

I am challenging myself to always take new images for my blog. It is the way for me to improve my photography skills.  I collect notes and tips from photography gurus and experts, but end of the day, nobody will hold your hand to set aperture or shutter speed when it comes to your own time and circumstance. I know there is no magic and no instant remedy other than to learn it myself through repetition and practice.
In the last couple of weeks, temperature was low but no snow. Dryness of the year has disappointed many skiers in the area. I don’t ski, but honestly I also hope more snow will come and come soon.  I love that peaceful and soothing white, clean chill, and cheerful surroundings not mentioning what snow would bring, the wild white wonderland.
No snow, I can get by with fog. I always like the simmering look of fog. In fact I have made a few attempt to shoot fog but not too successful. When it was too dense at dawn, I waited. Then I was occupied to engaged in other project, by the time when I put my head up, it vanished. I am having hard time to do one thing at a time, so that one thing slipped away while I tried to hold on two or three things at once. I want some good fog shots and I will, one day, focus on this one thing and accomplish my goal.
I had my mind set on three giant sequoia in front of a school. I have seen them standing in heavy fog and looking like three giant angles floating in the cloud. But this scene has not come back for couple years. I am still waiting….
For this year, I intend to focus more on fine art photography. That means, more macro or close-ups shots and nature theme based. Maybe also getting into some abstract as my inspiration goes. I have to take some artsy shots for my assignments, but what do I shoot? 
Trees and plants are as bare as they can be. Evergreen plants have some green leaves, but what’s special about them, they are here all year around, as boring as it can be.  I could not catch up with fog, snow is long gone, but I must come out something.
Out of desperation, I went out and walked around. Looking harder, looking deeper, still nothing… and I spotted sparkling something under tree limbs and twigs. As a matter of fact, there are a lot, in clusters, gathered around evergreen leaves and deciduous twigs, the rain drops!!!  I had my camera out, macro lens on tripod and on solid ground. Holy cow, there are lots of droplets, too many, and I saw trees in them, the reflection.
Less is more and this is where I began. I wish there are some colors in the surroundings that can be reflected in the droplets, unfortunately it is the season for the reason, bare and lack of luster. Instead of moaning for winter, I added a bit of earth tones to give it a lift, just tints of complimentary colors.

This is exactly my style, casual, natural and understated. We more likely to shoot perfect flowers, the bright and successful side, but I believe portraying truth in various aspect is equally valuable. Furthermore, looking for beauty on ashes.

It was cloudy and I don’t have the best skill and equipment to do the job that I hope for, but it is OK, I am exploring and experimenting. I do what I can. I know I will always learn something from each endeavor.  I like the jewel tone of this one, and I made the background drops more painterly and make the focal point drop more crystal like.

I love crystals over diamond. Both of them are from nature, but monetary value of diamond that people so earnestly pursued makes it unnatural and to me, a symbol of vanity and greed if it is not bond by a sworn commitment, such as used for a wedding ring. The tough and solid nature of diamond is what I appreciate. Glitter and shine will come if a lively relationship sustains. otherwise, it is just a sparkled stone.
So what do you think this is? Christmas is over, but I am getting an ornament and it  is made of water drops. I think it is fun and cool though photo quality is not top notch.  It is a causal occurrence. I tried to shoot one drop out of many. They are all too close that I could not get one crispy clear.  Just because

it is not crisp, it looks like a painted ornament.  If it is not made for original purpose, it will be for something else. If I am not good at something, I will be good at something else. Pondering on this, I feel ease and peace, and contentment.

I left the dead pine cone behind to provide a backdrop. If not for the silent partner behind, the front one won’t be the focal point. Don’t overlook the quiet in the crowd who can be more profound as you can imagine.

At this moment, I raised my head and I saw the warm and friendly smile. My goodness, Sun was here! it was comforting after days of chill and cloud. I was excited and looking anxiously for the light source, and here they are. I found many beautiful drops, big and small. You know I was just complaining too many drops and they stayed too close for me….. Just like that, I changed my point of view in that split second.I wish I had used F8 instead of F5.6 and have more crispy droplets. But I could not see it through till I have the image downloaded and now Sun is down again.  I usually don’t complain much about rain, and I will even do it less after this discoveries.

If I mention that I live in Eugene, people would usually say, lots of rain there, isn’t it? Yes, but it usually comes and goes, it would not stay long enough to bore you. Besides, think of the green acres we have here.
There is a study stating that Oregon is the most popular moving- to state last year. Out of total 129,000 moves, 61% of them moved to Oregon. 
I am not kidding. Check it out yourself at http://huff.to/1d6Wpr3

‘Rain drops falling on my head…’ I heard the song and I saw Butch (Paul Newton) have Etta (Katherine Ross) on his bike, riding along and turning around in the rain…..  Sing along, Oregonians!!!

Dream – Snow – Puzzle

Against my new year resolution ‘simplicity’, somehow I have already created a list of tasks and events to do for 2014. I certainly don’t live like a retiree. I feel no constraint because I do not need to go outside the house to work every day. But days are so short that I am constantly playing catch-up. I think I have finally come to a conclusion, it is my nature that I am fighting against, nothing else.   I cannot sit in front of TV without doing the second or the third thing. I either do ironing, folding the clothes, or cooking. If nothing else, I would try to organize something in my sitting area… endless.  I know the solution is to get out of the house.
Do one thing at a time.  This idea has not come across my mind much and certainly never embossed on me . Or if it did, it would vanish in 5 minutes. I have three photo books that I planned to finish by end of this month.  I thought I have one month, but due to an unexpected trip coming up towards the end of the month, I have to hustle them up now.  I am simply not used to procrastination. I would rather accomplish my goal earlier, not later.  So I spent new year weekend plowing through thousands of photos till past midnight, and, the pressure slipped into my dream…..

There was the checker board. Some of them are more visible than the other. My eyes did not see straight across, I viewed them from diagonal angle. It is easier to take short cuts and straight path, but I tend to choose winding roads. I seemed to have a plan and have all checkers placed, but my destination is cluttered and blurry. My goal post is far away and undefined.  My brain is stuffed, I cannot sort it out and I wandered into never never land…. I actually woke up with a headache and the whole room was spinning in front of me. I could not stand up. I had to lie down to balance myself. An exchange for a few late nights, I think.

I have little pressure wanting to keep up with my project, but it is not substantial enough to put me down. It is this drastic cold weather that kept me inside the house. I have only out walking twice this week. Temperature is low and it is foggy most of the time.  When road is icy early in the morning, I was afraid to drive down the hill to hit couple spots that I had in mind for foggy shots. Then couple hours later, the road is drier and so the fog gets thinner and soon disappeared. Here goes the ambiance. My neighborhood is hilly, but it does not have the layers of the timberlines, more like this one that I took last year. Fog is beautiful among green trees and it is even more amazing when it dwelled among white snow.  Honestly, as cold as I have experienced this year, I don’t mind to see more snow.  We don’t need lower temperature to have snow, what we need is more moisture to generate snow and make all skiers happy and so am I.
Just before last snow hit, we purposely filled up all the feeders. I was so happy to see many birds come around, not for my photography, but for them to have enough food in winter while the ground was covered with snow. All the birds are literally homeless though they are provided and fed by nature.  Looking at this lonely one, I feel he was asking me, “can I take a shelter at your house, even just overnight”?  I would love to host another bird overnight like we did for Baby Jay (B.J. Story) whom we missed so much.
This last snow sticks to the ground for about a week. No getting around by car, I took a walk nearby and ran into this ‘phenomenon’. There were some kind of light beaming from the horizon (jet streams?), there was loose cloud and floating fog, there was sun reflection on my camera lens. Other than that, I cannot explain anything. I left the picture as is, no touch-up and hopefully, someone can give me some education on this.

Note:

I really had the messy dream resembles what I described.  But the image was taken in my recent walk at the park prior when I was testing a new lens that I got for Christmas.  For some reason, I was much attracted to the image and have looked at it repeatedly. Later when I had that dream, I have finally got my answer.

Life is good and life is full of surprises. Photography has become an indispensable part of my life and through it, so my discovery journey continues.

       

Window Obession

A kick-off to Year 2014. May you all enjoy a wonderful New Year. Things go well and dreams come true. Let’s celebrate!

What a day to start my first blog of the year!  It is a fresh new beginning of 2014 and the day I was brought to earth more than six decades ago.  I am an ordinary person and up to this point, I have not  been able to be everything that I wanted, but my desire to learn, to explore and to be educated at all times won’t never change because that is how I am. 

Blogging was new to me since I started in January 2013. I did it primarily for my photography. I need photos for my blogs and therefore, I am getting extra push to take more pictures.  In addition, I am motivated to write and approach all different kinds of subject. I enjoy the freedom to blog whatever comes to my mind in that week.  Sometimes my inspiration came early and sometimes till last minute.  I I need to go over all my pictures and create a blog calendar, but the images are faster added to my library than I can go over.  I have to overcome the many But’s that I used as excuses and get down to the bottom line.
I want to do something different or new this year, but not until I actually did it, I would rather keep it to myself at the moment. If I make a promise and cannot carry it out as planned, I won’t sleep well and I want to avoid that.  I want my progress made simultaneously and no stress involved. After four decades of intense career life, stress is one last thing that I need.
At a recent shoot at Mission Mill Museum (Salem, Oregon), I started out chasing after Christmas Lights and ended up looking for Windows. I cannot explain why windows suddenly mean so much to me, but I was literally obsessed with window after window.  I looked at them from distance, I zoomed in my lens to see them closer and I stood right by it to peek inside.

This building is the original mill with exhibits of all original milling machinery and equipment.  I counted a total of 50 windows on three sides and all of them are trimmed with Christmas Lights. As a whole, it looks stunning in the night.  Behind the building, there was a large meeting room with lighted windows. Multicolored Christmas lights outside reflect on the windows and also the creek beneath. My eyes were drawn to the gold and green reflection on water and moved up to the windows. 
There was a concert inside the room and quite a crowd of audience. With the interior lightening, people’s colorful outfits, and colorful light reflections on window, a lively showcase was presented right in front of me. Three window panels look like three live color paintings to me. I love the colors and I enjoyed ‘the look’ of the live show inside regardless ‘the content’. What I saw are the lights, the colors, the patterns and the moving figures. They all look very appealing to me from a distance.

The charming ambiance showcased in one of the windows nailed me to where I stood. I cannot quite explain why I am so attached to this window, but I have been looking at this image over and over and have not got tired of it. I just love this window. If I am silly. so be it.


Sometimes we peek through windows to see what’s going on inside and in other time we look through windows to see outside. Thinking of window, I cannot help but to go back to the images I took at the ‘Almost Paradise’ place I recently visited.  A small window can bring us a picturesque scenery of sky, cloud, mountain, trees and architecture. Think about this fine design mind. It is mind boggling.  It is magical and intriguing.

Being an immigrant in America, I have spent decades of my lifetime trying to understand American culture and embrace in haste to be part of it while I seemed gradually forgotten what I have possessed within me prior, a significant culture embedded since 4200 B.C. or earlier. How my ethnic ancestors have established this stunning culture in human history is beyond me, and I am really stimulated to revisit and be recharged.

In my recent Taiwan trip, I purchased two history books, one is written to list all major historical events in chronically and the other is the legend anecdotes and stories in each dynasty. Reading these books have refreshed many memories and dramatically increased my yearning for going back to explore my root.   
Before I decide to take the cruise along Baltic Sea, I often thought travel by cruise is the most boring thing that I can image. You stuff tons of food in your stomach, you try to tan yourself in the swimming pool on a ship, why swimming on a ship? That is my first question. Or, you stare at the sea all day long before the ship can find its harbor. However, very quickly, I changed my mind after this picture was taken. There are my hubby, sister and bro-in-law. How often do you get your adult siblings together? Because you are on a ship, confined, you cannot go anywhere, so might as well, relax and enjoy. Sea is sea. Blue has various shades, but it is still blue. Twilight sun reflection stirs the sea a little and adds a golden layer. All is calm and peaceful. These over-sized windows provide vision for us to enjoy peace, and for me to capture an image like this one, and now looking back, cherish the moment I had with my family. Won’t you say, “thank you, windows.”?

Just a bit before Christmas, my neighbor across the street informed us that her mother decided to give up her cancer treatment. She has lived a life of 90 years and it is about time to go back to where she came from. I visited her. Expecting to see a sick and weak old lady, instead, I witnessed an upbeat and radiant face of a strong soul.  I don’t know how will I deal with this reality when my day comes but I so admire her spirit. 
My neighbor is a single child of the family. Her father has passed away a few years ago, so she is all alone for this even though she is getting lots of support from friends. I am not very good at comforting and sweet words, so I cooked a few meals for her while her hands were tied.  I spotted her window every time when I pulled out of my driveway and I said a prayer. My heart was saddened thinking why winter storm had to interfere at this moment when cheer and sunlight were so needed inside the window, sigh. The mother finally closed her eyes for good on the birthday of her late husband, a few days before Christmas.

Just a few more windows below to show you how much I am obsessed with windows….

Windows of a MacDonald store in Bergen, Norway. With big M’s all over the windows, it serves the purpose of advertising. There is no doubt in my mind, this big M reminds me of home whenever I am traveling, the mighty America.

Windows of a Danish contemporary building in Copenhagen. It was the first thing I saw when our tour bus rolled into town on the main street. I just love the shapes and colors of those glass windows on a white facade. It is beautiful from exterior and I imagine, people inside would feel like working in an art museum. Among everything else, Danish creative spirit is what I adore the most.

Windows of an European style restaurant, I like the awnings on individual windows. Somehow they convey to me the comfort of being inside a nice and cozy place. Outwardly, they seem to enhance the windows and display a more civilized appearance.

Isn’t windows magical? At least I think so.

Christmas Greetings – one year retrospect

Wednesday is my day to post my weekly blog. I had a little scare last night because my one-year old IMac had an unexpected lock-up, the second time. I could not access my photos and files!!! I was panic and yet not quite because I have done my regular backup. I however started to drag about the nightmare to bring this machine to be served in Portland. I would rather drive four hours round trip to have peace of mind knowing that I am dealing with a trustworthy company-owned store than an Apple retailer who does not look after customer’s best interest.
Thanks to my husband who has purchased extended Apple Care that I can simply get online and make a request for Apple expert to call me at a designated time.  If we don’t specify a time and it is during work hours, we will almost immediately receive a phone call the moment when Send key is pressed. I have talked to their technicians several times and all of them sound very professional and know exactly how to do. As expected, I received a call this morning and my problem was solved in less than 10 minutes. Thanks God.
In case I get busy with holiday fever and family events, I like to send my holiday greetings out to you ALL one week before Christmas…

Merry Christmas from our family to yours’
‘May you have a good time with your children and grandchildren’
‘Peace & Joy’
‘May your dream come true, reindeer comes or not’
‘We came across at a path for reason, may our friendship lasts                                                                    forever’

It has been a wonderful year and I have a great time writing my blogs and fond satisfaction experiencing continuous visits from my audience since day one. Even though I don’t always post good pictures and sometimes, I am not sure if I ever got my points across with my limited English vocabulary.  Every once a while, I used wrong words or mis-spelled words and my typos… Yuks.  Thank you for being there behind the scene and yet provide me immeasurable support and encouragement.
I am learning as I am blogging. My passion is to share what I have known or just discovered through my exploration journeys. With my Asian ethnic background, I often see things differently. I want my fellow Americans to know Asians better and also for my Asian friends to portrait Americans from a more realistic point of view, and not from the movies which dramatizes and exaggerates truth and facts.
My ultimate wish is my children and generations after have the opportunity to understand an integral part of their roots, perceive the value and add it onto what they have lived and learned in the place where they grow up, the United States.  Two culture, one is Lightroom and the other Photoshop (speaking like a photographer:-). Both have the strength and purpose of their own.  Neither is just a plug-in for the other. They should co-exist and compliment each other. I don’t want to feel that my children are just Americans and I am that odd and old-fashioned Asian. I want my family to be multi-cultural and international. Utilize American style freedom and openness in a more constrained Asian manner and carry beyond. Live more richly and profoundly.

 
I hope your wishes for yourself and your family will get closer to be fulfilled as Christmas comes and a new year brings you new hope and opportunities.
(The photo was taken in a foggy night)

Walks and Thoughts on Snow

Other than the extreme winter I experienced in Chicago, this is the lowest temperature that I ever witnessed here. It is hard to make believe to my tropical friends that the temperature actually went down to 1 degree Fahrenheit (Celsius 17 subzero) couple days ago. Snow came down 6 days ago and I have not touched my car key since. One day after the snow, there were 259 car accidents in Eugene according to Register Guard. Eugene people love snow, but not experienced enough to deal with it.

k
cotton call or shred ice, your call

Temperature has been so low, the one feet snow accumulated in one day is still there.  I love to see snow when I open window blind in the morning, the whole white world is so wildly beautiful.

It was sunny and gorgeous outside. The freezing chill kept me home, but my mind was wandering and my heart finally made the call – I must go out and shoot a few pictures. The problem is, I don’t dare to drive on heavy snow. I have wrecked my car twice due to lack of experience steering the wheels on snow and my memory of recent deadly-turn-magically car accident is still fresh. So, I thought about my super chauffeur, my husband.

Of course I made a sound suggestion to do a grocery run and by the way, shoot a few. Unless Ducks football game is on, he always said YES. I cheer for Ducks but they are my enemies, too, on this note, LOL.
Costco traffic is unbelievably light.  It is good time to shop while most of people would rather stay warm inside the house. By the time when snow starts to melt, the streets will be icy and messy. Housewives will swarm out after being bond at home for the entire week and when refrigerator is getting empty. I had good rationale to convince my husband to take me out even though you know what’s at the bottom of my heart….. photo walk on snow, hooray!
shaky in the cold
He certainly has a big heart. He not only replenished all our bird feeders, he brought hummingbird feeder in every night to thaw and put it out before he goes to work in the morning. I watched him bring in the feeder 3-4 times during the weekend. Birds certainly know where to go. Many are around in this last week.

It was cold and dark, I saw this hummingbird stationed on the limb for a while, I believe, to declare his territory. The shot was taken from inside the house and from distance.  The image is not very sharp, but can you see hummingbird’s fluffy feather? We add layers of clothing and put on heavy jacket, so do they. They beef up their feather to preserve the heat.

beef up to fight chill

It makes me feel good seeing gold finches were bathing in the sun and did the same as hummingbird. The expansion of its feather makes it look like an egg.  Birds have natural weathering apparels and we use the same material for our warm clothes and comforters. Interesting, isn’t it?  I know I have a reason to like birds.

Ever since I had a close shot of heron in Taiwan, I have seen herons in Ridgefield, in Portland in closer range and I actually saw 3 herons in Eugene Delta Ponds couple days ago.   This guy stood on snow and I liked its back-lit silhouette. I could not see them closer earlier and now they are everywhere. I think herons are now making peace with me after I witnessed its criminal act in Taiwan.

He is now my friend

If you ask me how cold is it for the temperature to be subzero 12-17 degree Fahrenheit, see it yourself. It is crystal clear, it is solid and I had cold chill by just looking at it.  I  had my snow pants on, heavier dow jacket on, plus all the warm accessories, but my fingers were still frozen, so were my feet. I know if I stay outside all night, I would turn into an ice pillar. period. There are now ice hotels in Quebec and Norway, as far as I know. I cannot begin to imagine how people get the pleasure being refrigerated in a hotel where comfort should  be priority.

Ice Jaw

Are we having such a good life that we have to torture ourselves every once a while in order to remember what misery is like and can appreciate more what we have now?

Below is the processed compost pile at Lane Forest Products.  I saw the pile steaming on cold days when I drove by. Wanting to take a picture for long,  but there is no place to pull over. Now I am on passenger side and the pile is covered with snow, even more interesting.  Suddenly a compost pile turns into a smoky mountain.

It is OK to dream
When our car stopped at traffic light, I spotted these roses from distance. Out of curiosity, I took a quick shot. Pondering how come there are still colorful roses this time of the year and how can they stay erected on snow…

When the picture is downloaded and brought close. I realized they are plastic roses and stems. But they look pretty on snow, does it matter if it is real or artificial as long as it is pleasing to our eyes?

Do you feel better when you spend more on something and think it has to be better because it is more expensive? I say, let’s not to be the victim of marketing. The matter of the fact is, when the flowers look too perfect, we would start to doubt their authenticity.  It is like math, like science. When the end is reached, it goes back to a new beginning.

true or false, who cares

Now I mention above picture is taken from a compost pile, do you still enjoy the same? Simple pleasure can readily be accessible if our state of mind is not in the way. I have seen a note on a porcelain piece: “I smile because I have no idea what’s going on.”  

Below is a reflection shot of trees, snow, ice and pond. All are as real as it can be, but I felt original shot was too overly pronounced, too exposed, too overwhelmed with dropped tree limbs, thick snow pack and big sheet of ice. I
like the scene, but I want it simpler in order that I can enjoy more, and not to be distracted.
Bottom Line – Peace in Mind

By using a plug-in that I recently purchased, I was able to make it a semi sepia tone and fade out lots of clutters.  If I need to come up a new year resolution for 2014, I would say, ‘Simplicity’, and that’s exactly what I addressed when I started this blog back in January.

Food haven, why skinny people?

It is a small island with twenty three millions people.  It is prosperous; It is busy and crowded than ever. And yet I was surprised to witness order and discipline among expected chaos.
Everyday is Black Friday
Taiwan is an updated and upgraded version of Hong Kong, full of industrious people and thriving enterprises and small businesses. Population density is outrageous. Traffic flow in the streets and inside the stores is heavy, in haste and horrendous.

Crowded but Orderly

MRT are packed with people during school and business hours. I have wondered how we survived in the past when subway transportation system was not established.  I was jammed and squeezed in bus going to school and now subway back home visiting.

However, I did not feel the pressure and turmoil that I was experienced as a student.  I went with the flow in and out of subway effortlessly. The subway train is very clean, fast and punctual. Most of the time, I got to sit down though I don’t particularly want to admit that I am the older and weaker among the crowd.  Young people are staring at their smartphones while older ones are taking their naps. It is very quiet, not noisy at all. People whisper if they are having a conversation.

Out of train, mess crowd instantly walked towards their exits, scanned their plastic tickets and vanished in minutes before the next crowd comes in. I have followed this routine for two weeks and was good at it. There are lots of walking and so exercise involved being MRT commuters. I realized why Asians consume lots of noodles and still remain skinny. In hole-in-the-wall places, it takes only about 20 minutes for you to go in, be served, have your meal and get out. If you go to a hot spot, people are already waiting in the line to get in, you have to give back your seats soonest you can.
So many choices, what’s next?

If you want to enjoy a relaxed dinner, Western restaurant is the best bet, otherwise, find a more upscale Chinese restaurant. Taiwanese buffets are incredible. Our hometown buffets here are simply no comparison. I am not bragging if I say 100 different dishes for you to choose from. On top of that, many of them are cooked right in front of you, fresh and delicious.

best sushi to die for

Check out the sushi counter with at least ten varieties, all clearly marked with wasabi saucer lined up ready to go, very efficient.  Vast consumption and fast turn-around result in absolutely the freshest food supply.
I was treated in one of the most popular buffets twice, and I did not even finish browsing all the food served. The great variety makes you wonder where should you go next. I did not want to be out of control though I have been so deprived of authentic Chinese food living in Oregon. There are only three small Asian grocery stores in Eugene. Majority of the food is either canned, frozen or shipped from somewhere else. I often brought home ‘fresh’ noodle or cake with moles. I cannot get right materials to make authentic Chinese food. American-Chinese fusion food is what I make. I am glad that cooking is not my most favorite thing to do, so I don’t feel too bad.

Not sure since when, new branded pastry and goodie stores are rising in the marketplace like snow flakes. I do not have to mention how good they are. I brought back a fancy box of Aunt Stella handmade cookies. Out of total 40 cookies, the man in my house consumed 34. It seems to be a lot, but the cookies are very thin, only half size or less of our homemade cookies. Interesting enough, I discovered that Aunt Stella cookie was created by an American Joseph Dunkle who went with US military to Japan in 1969 and made it a household name there since 1982. Mrs. Fields cookies are more popular here. I have to say it is because the cookies are thicker and larger and that’s what people want here. Price can be another factor.

In a small adjacent area about 2000 sqft, there are eight best brands of various goodies. They are tempting but truly I like their packaging more than anything. I am paying $0.05-0.10 home for a plain brown bag, but these stores are giving out fancy carry-in bags for free.

Branded Goodie Corner

Next, Please
One mid-sized bakery has five cashiers plus one mobile person to stream the lines. All of them wear uniforms, keep their hairdo up in caps, wear masks and gloves. They are food serving professionals.
For a long time, I don’t count the changes given back from Asian cashiers. They are too fast and so accurate. If I intend to count, I would block the next customer.
I cannot blame them to work so fast-paced.  If they don’t, the line will trail and circle around. You may have experienced that Asian clerks tend to be quieter, straighter and anxious to get the job done, no bull shit.  This is why.  There is no time for nonsense and casual talks. One ‘how are you today?’ will make another customer wait for 3 more minutes. Rationalize that.
Yum Yam
It seems unforgivable to talk about sweet potato when we are still struggling to finish Thanksgiving left overs. But I like this pot so much and some facts about sweet potatoes are worth knowing.
Inside the pot is yam. They are slowly-roasted and the best you can ever have. Someone actually custom made an clay pot just to store roasted yam, can you imagine how popular it is? The large word means ‘roast’, the words inside the square is ‘yam’ and the tiny word upper right addresses ‘flavor’. The wood lid and roped bottom make it even more classic.
Sweet Potato and yam are all vegetables but not related. Sweet potato grows in US while Yam is from Asia or Africa. However, they are both loaded with nutritions that we commonly overlooked.  Most of people think starchy vegetables make you gain weight. In fact they are both low in calories, rich in potassium, magnesium fiber and trace minerals. Sweet potato has abundant vitamin A also E. Yam has Vitamin C and B6. From nutrition viewpoint, Sweet potato scores even higher than Yam.

open longer, work harder

The girls working in hotel reception are so thin and elegantly gestured. They are so fit that they make me feeling jealous. How can they live in this food haven, consume so much noodle and gourmet food and still stay in such great shape?  I think there is definitely something to do with Asian diet and how people live their daily lives.

Just like in Hong Kong, noodle shops are everywhere in Taiwan. Often times you see people eating big bowl of steaming noodle soup. You may think, wow, how many calories are in there?  In fact, a noodle soup contains mostly water, lots of vegetable, probably 1/3 is noodle and a few small slices of meat. If it is not that famous Taiwanese beef noodle soup, meat consumption is very low. Here in Oregon, many know Vietnamese beef noodle (pho) soup, Korean Bibimbap rice bowl and Thai food, but I believe very few have tasted authentic Chinese food and Taiwanese noodle soup. If we say Vietnamese beef pho resembles Starbucks’ latte, then Taiwanese beef noodle soup is a carmel brulee latte, a fancy version, fun and utterly delicious.

Pastry and steamed buns are popular, but pastry size is usually small and steamed buns have lots of vegetable inside with very little ground meat. Steam buns sold in US China towns are mostly stuffed with barbecue pork to cater American’s sweet mouth taste, so half meat and half bread are what’s consumed here. Over there, people eat buns with approximately 1/3 bread, 1/3+ vegetable and 1/3- meat.  Food items are smaller and more delicate there, but bigger and bolder here.

The other big impact on a skinny body is heavy, fast and constant walking. It is tough to find parking in the city. MRT subway is primary commute tool and therefore tremendous amount of fast walking becomes mandatory on daily base. I would say, the calories gained from a bowl of noodle soup can be burnt out in one day walk that I was experienced. For us who live here, we drive to work and play. Parking is easy. Life is easy. Pace is slower and our body is not put to work as hard while food intake is larger and the diet is higher in fat and calories.

In case you have been wondering why Asians are mostly hard-working, straight-forward, practical, fast, efficient and brief (very little time for bull shit) and why they are so skinny…..

End of the day, good food is great, I like to enjoy it when opportunity comes. Nature is what I really desire and where my heart is. I step on my regular walk path and breathe in the cold chill, it is rejuvenating. Nothing is like home where I find my comfort zone.

I call this Home

Up Close

Today is the 5th day since my return from Taiwan. My day and night are still upside down. I was dozing off at church Sunday morning service and wide awake past midnight. I went on a photo shot at Ridgefield wildlife refuge on the second day of my return, crazy enough, and majority of the images turned out blurry. I may have been day dreaming while I was shooting.

Heron and Egret are very common, but I have not had much luck getting clear pictures.  First of all, I am sensitive to weight and too lazy to carry a large lens. And, either the subject is too far away and I don’t have the right lens with me, or, I am not ready when the birds show up unexpectedly.  I know I have to be better and more dedicated if I want to be a wildlife photographer.
Since I had my eyes on birds, I have seen couple of egrets and herons dwelling in Eugene Delta Ponds. I have walked by the ponds many times, but most of the time they are too far away for me to fetch a decent shot.  Completely unexpected, I ran into both of them within 20-50 feet away in Taiwan and my 200mm lens did the job fine. How thrilled I was if you can imagine!

Little Egret

Years ago in Hawaii, I was desperate to photo cardinal and a red cardinal showed up singing about 10 feet away on the day of my departure.  I was so stirred up by that crisp voice on my daily walk path and suddenly, that sparrow stopped right in front of me. I could not get good shots of egret and heron, and now they are within reach. How do you explain that? Coincidence happened every once a while, but I can grab a handful of examples that occurred continuously and unexpectedly. End of the day I have to make a conclusion that it is the Almighty who has graciously granted my desire and I am absolutely grateful.

When I looked at egrets from distance, they are white like snow and elegant like a fairy. I particularly like their fine and silk looking feather. But the one below was wading in a water lily pond where he was the sole inhabitant. He circled around the pond and worked diligently to fetch his prey. I have never seen one so close and for at least 45 minutes I was there, he did not stop hunting his victim. All of a sudden, my elegant fairy turns into an aggressive predator.

Blue Heron has that solemn and stately look. They usually stand on the edge of water bank motionlessly and appear to ignore people’s presence, but immediately when you come a bit too close, they pull out. Their large wings flap graciously in the sky and I have always thought they are well-mannered as they seem until….

This guy flew from his spot to where three black-crowned night herons were perched. He was down low and three night herons were up high on tree limbs. I saw him moving step by step closer to the tree and in a split second, he attacked one of the night herons right on the back. Night Heron flew and hid, and I was left in shock.

Great Blue Heron
Blue heron and night heron are obviously from the same clan. Now blue heron has called for the battle. My sympathy is with night heron. I understand they are aiming for the same preys in the pond, but come on, there should be equal opportunities. Don’t attempt to kill your competitor before the competition even starts.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
My day of bird discovery had not ended, I spotted another bird hiding in the bushes to consume his prey, bugs. I have never seen this bird and I was attracted to its colors. He was just about 5-6 feet away from me and I got to click no stop. When the images were displayed on my large computer screen, I saw his large and pretty eyes, at the same time, I noticed his mouth was filled with bugs. OMG. They look so gross to me. I prefer to see them distant in their elegant silhouette, I don’t want to know their true nature. I only want to remember its colorful crown, beautiful feather and its sparkling eyes.

Malayan Night Heron
I am glad that I captured this red dragonfly that I have never seen before, but I have learned my lesson. I don’t want to see them closer than that. 

Just recently I have been debating if I should get a longer lens to shoot wildlife and get clear shots. Now I have got what I wanted, do I enjoy more? I am not sure.  I seem to rather open one eye and close the other.

I cannot see well when they are distant and now I refuse to see the truth when they are up close. Art is invented to enhance our life. I am interested to explore the truth but I choose to only report the beauty not the beast.

I went to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial to photograph a friend, but I did not catch him at right time. Instead, I found egrets and herons there who have altered my course for the day and also adjusted my prospective. I have always liked to plan ahead and aim closer to my goal. But what can I do, when the direction is geared from Above and I have no control over it? Expect the Unexpected.

Discoveries bring up positive and negative truth. I just have to take whatever it comes, and not to agonize over little things.  I am thankful enough that I am given what I desired for regardless the outcome.

Thought you may be curious about CKS memorial in Taipei, Taiwan, below are few shots for representation.

Nostalgia

It has been ten years since I came back to visit my birthplace Taipei.  I was immediately dazzled when I arrived at city center where my hotel is located. I cannot remember how many times I have hung out in the area when I still lived here, but now I feel so lost after all the dramatic changes. Happy to be home but I feel like a stranger.
The entire city is connected through MRT (a clean and efficient subway without single graffiti) and bus system. I have route chart in my purse and can travel painlessly from one place to the other. I have walked miles after miles in the streets looking for MRT signs, tasted almost everything that I missed and sneaked out whenever I can to take pictures.
It is very difficult to refuse long time friends’ hospitality and reception. Easy 3-5 hours can be spent in a coffee shop to play catch-up, still unfinished. Since I got here, I have only one free day to hang out in the bookstore and visit my undergraduate school. I also made it to my grade school watching little school boys and girls playing. All the classroom building are new, but my old feeling and emotion won’t never go away. It almost drew me to tears walking on the playground. I was the 2ndtallest in the class and the president of the class for 6 years. But, when school play needed a tall girl to be the groom of the key role, Rat Bride, I was not chosen because the bride was even taller than I. I was heart-broken for a while.
In my childhood, I loved to watch puppet show. The guy who held the puppets not only did a great job manipulating the characters, he was an awesome story-teller. He made the puppets come alive and entertained the big and small audience. He worked behind the scene, the no-name hero.  There are so many heroes in our lives that we have never seen but they left imprints in our heart that last forever.
At age 6, I wanted to help my mom to pump water from the well in our living complex. I was too ambitious and had too much water in the bucket.
On the way back, I dropped the bucket of water and my left big toe nail was split into half by the sharp edge of iron bucket. I only remember that it was bleeding hard and I was taken to a nurse. My old brother later said, I did not cry at all. Really? I must be tough. The scar is forever although old style well is no longer existing.
Like these little ones, I ever surrounded the man who was skilled in making wood molds himself with various shapes of animals and fruits.  I am not sure how he made the candy dough that can be blown and shaped into little rabbit, turtle, pineapple or bird, but it was fun to play with candy animal before melt them in the mouth and eventually swallowed them down the throat.

This food art is no longer available in the marketplace. It was touching for me to watch the wrinkled hands to keep innocent faces smile in folk art culture center. Our children do not have a traditional childhood any more. Their leisure time are spent on Iphone and Ipad. Young parent’s expectations have created for them a busy life early on, learning piano or violin, play soccer or basketball, run or swim, or anything else that will make them distinguished in any way, and be competitive.  

Banana is my favorite fruit, but I have not tasted this kind for ten years. The size of this banana is less than two inches long, but it has an outstanding flavor and texture. The taste is far superior than what we can find in regular supermarket.  Guess what? I even discovered its flower that I have never seen.  Plant, Flower and Fruit are three natural progression of a growth, but I often ignore one or the other. 
I certainly appreciate the time I have in hand now. If there is one thing I like about retirement, it is time. 

Except in classic Chinese movies, I almost forgot about this old-fashioned wooden door. It is constructed with very simple idea and mechanism, but it worked well.

Before I went to grade school, I actually lived in a house with this kind of door. It is welcoming when you open the door with two hands spread out.

When you get mad, you cannot slam the door easily like we do in modern days. You have to close the first panel, then the second and latch them together. Your ‘flame’ might have been reduced and diminished by the time when the door is being latched. We want everything efficient and speedy, but slow motion gives us time to re-think and not rush into decisions.

It has been almost 30 years since I left my root ground and went to a foreign land afar. Now I am reversing my route back to where I was originated from.

Every day, I either meet a friend, a group of classmates, a group of our relatives or play solo with my camera.  Whatever I do and wherever I go, my mind is filled with old memories. It is not just this ten year lapse, it is decades length that I have not been so close to my root and thought about it every day. I miss home back in Oregon and meanwhile, I feel like to stay here longer.  Where do I really belong? I am not sure if I can ever answer this question.

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