California Eats: Fosselman's Ice Cream

One of the best things about Southern California is the warm weather. This gives Californians permission to wear daisy dukes with bikinis on top....says Katy Perry. But I say it gives us permission to not only eat ice cream but to enjoy ice cream on more days out of the year. Sure, Alaskans can eat ice cream but do they enjoy it? That's like eating soup in the summer...bleh. This is pure opinion though...I'll add "Ask an Alaskan if they like to eat ice cream" to my bucket list.....but I digress... this post is about Fosselman's.

The Place: Located within the city streets of Alhambra, this little shop makes home made ice cream and milkshakes that bring all the boys to their yard. Outside, their parking lot hasn't expanded since 1919 because it really holds only 6 cars. There is street parking so practice your parallel parking skills. Inside, you'll see a long line of people deciding which flavor to choose, you'll hear old time tunes, you'll smell sweet sugar in the air, and you'll feel your mouth watering. There is seating both inside and out but if you go on a busy day, you're better off eating on the curb.

The Menu: Homemade ice cream by the half gallons, sundaes big and small, root beer floats, and salt water taffy. Need I say more? Ok.... 40 different flavors, yogurt and sorbets, sugar and plain cones, and the unique two scoop cone. My oh my the choices that you have! I don't do well with choices, so I ordered a two scoop cone with French Vanilla Bean and Butter Pecan. Pretty boring but I'm a pretty boring girl sometimes. Hubby ordered one of their famous milkshakes with mint chocolate chip ice cream. Delish!

The Eats: Their ice cream was creamy and sweet. Just like ice cream should be. I loved the double cone because who doesn't like two scoops of ice cream! I like how it's side by side instead of up and down. Pretty shnazzy. My husband's milkshake was my favorite though. Luckily, I was preggos at the time of our visit so he generously let me sip to my hearts content. Their milkshakes were thick, creamy, and oh so dreamy. It was big so you can definitely share it with a pregnant woman and still feel like you had enough milkshake. 

To all you non-Californians out there, today the high will be in the upper 70s. This weekend it'll be in the high 80s. It's February and the weather is perfect for ice cream. Don't you just want to come and visit? I wish I could do a Trip to California  Giveaway for you. Instead, I can send someone some ice cream. I'll do that right when I figure out how to do that without it melting. Keep you posted.

Three Months with Baby Joaquin

My son is the cutest. Sometimes I just stare at him and smell his little face for hours. It smells like love...pure love. Why do babies smell so damn good? That's what I'd like to know.

Baby Joaquin is now 3 months old. They say that this is the end of his "4th trimester." Well, he might as well just move out to college now. He doesn't even need me anymore...::sniffle sniffle:: I feel like he's just growing so fast. I'm probably going to say that in every post, but it's so true. Time flies when you're having a good time, I guess.

I have to brag and say that Joaquin is the best baby. He has a cool dude type of personality, always chill to the max. He only cries when he wants food...just like mommy. He sleeps 6-7 hours at night, wakes up to eat, then falls back asleep....sounds like a good plan to me. I might keep some cookies by my bed for myself. He melts my heart with every smile....even when he throws up all over me at 4 in the morning. And he is just getting more adorable each minute of the day. I swear, every time he wakes up from his naps, The Cute Machine adds more cute to his tiny wittle face.

Ok, now for the not so cute stuff....his shit smells worse than ever. He drools all over my back before I go to work and I don't realize it until I see a dried up milk stain mid-way through the day.
He clawed me in the And the weight of his hard head feels awesome when he slams it against my nose.

God, I love that kid. I would live this way everyday just to have him stay this small forever.

Really, I don't mind any of those things. Small price to pay for this amazing baby. The one thing I'm not loving this month is his baby eczema. His face is so dry, red, and cracked. I feel so bad when he rubs it as he tries to itch himself. Poor guy. I've been using Aveeno products, giving him short lukewarm baths every 2 days, and I keep it moisturized throughout the day.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
In other news, he had his first run in with a fountain. Little man is hooked. He loves this humongo fountain in Downtown LA! We are just having so much fun bringing him around.



As for myself, I'm doing good. Physically, I can fit into most of my pre-pregnancy pants. Just in time, too because I ripped the elastic off my maternity pants trying to pull them on. Whoops. I also found more stretch marks on my body that I never knew existed. Scary how those things just pop out of nowhere. I think I had them when my belly stretched but since I couldn't see anything passed my basketball of a belly, I never saw them.Those sneaky little suckers.

 Mentally, I feel pretty good, less stressed and a lot calmer. Ladies and Gents, the hormones have left the building. I'm even starting to shift my attention back to being a wife and a mother instead of just a mother. Hubby is glad that I'm not a complete biotch, 24/7. Sleep wise, I'm living off of coffee (My Keurig is my lover) and the lady at Starbucks greets me by name. Even though Joaquin only wakes up once, it is still so hard. I'm zombie-ing my way through my work day. I am still working hard for my students but honestly, it takes a lot more brain power to successfully teach a lesson. 5 more weeks until Spring Break. 5 more weeks until Spring Break.

I have my amazing son, my patient husband, my K-cup and Starbucks Gold card, and my health. I can definitely make it to Spring Break..... 5...more...weeks.

Learning How to Use a Fancy Pants Camera

I have a fancy pants camera. You know, one of those cameras that make you look cool even if you have no idea what to do with it. If it weren't for that automatic function, it would be collecting dust next to the impossible to read manual it came with. Yup, that manual that is written in freakin' hieroglyphics. I can't even....

Well, one of my New Year's Resolutions this year is to learn to use my fancy pants camera and instead of trying to read my manual for the bajillionth time, I enlisted the help of one of my most talented friends. Trust me, Kristine is a legit photographer. She is the one who generously gifted Joaquin's newborn photos. Thank you, Kristine for guest posting! My fancy pants camera and I are so grateful!
Without further ado...

Learning how to shoot and use your DSLR can be quite overwhelming with all the buttons, functions and codes! When I first started, I read books and took community classes to get a small grasp on all the functions. To this day, I still can’t claim that I know Every. Single. Function. But I do know enough to produce images that are reflective of my style. Additionally, with years of practice, playing in Manual mode has pretty much become second nature to me.  And you can get there as well! If you practice, practice, practice! J
For starters, let’s begin with some basic AUTO settings.
Gasp! Yes! Although I shoot in Manual mode, some functions are set on Auto for me to save time. One of those functions is the White Balance.  Soooooometimes I’ll go in and change it depending on the light source in the room (especially when it comes to artificial light and tungsten vs. florescent), but typically I just leave it alone and on Auto.  Also because I’m photographing kids and I’m shooting fast, I typically have my lens set on auto focus rather than manual focus as well.
Now for some buttons/functions and how I think through my settings…
And please… do bear with me! This stuff can be pretty boring!
First up… I set my ISO!
ISO: This refers to how sensitive the image sensor is to light in the area you are shooting in. The higher the ISO, the easier it is to take pictures in low-light conditions. On that same note however, the higher the ISO, the more “noise” – or dots– you will create. Your picture will end up looking grainy, rather than sharp. Therefore, I normally stay within the 100-400 range. Sometimes the grainy-ness is fine… again, all up to your preference. To me, it almost looks like a charcoal sketch sometimes. Check out the picture below and see if you can notice the subtle differences.
Next up, Aperture!
Aperture, (aka F-Stop): If I’m not shooting in Manual Mode, then I’m shooting in Aperture Mode. In a nutshell, the lower the aperture number, the larger the lens opening-- thus allowing MORE light in (think of it as having your eyes dilated and being blinded by all the light coming in). This is what is people mean when they say that they “photograph with the aperture wide open” – make sense? Generally I stay within the f/1.4 to f/2.8 range when shooting, thus keeping my subject in sharp focus and creating a nice little background blur (bokeh).  A nice rule of thumb that someone once told me is to base your f/stop off the number of subjects in your shot. This will help keep all your subjects sharp. So for two people: f/2.5 to f/ 2.8, for 3 people: f/3, for 4 people: f/4, for 5+ people: f/5.
In the picture below, notice the differences. With f/1.2, the image on the left is focusing on the taller vase more. Once I increased my f stop to 3.2, it started to pull in details from the smaller vase.
Lastly… I set my shutter speed to my desired exposure!
Shutter Speed: Shutter speed is the measurement of time expressed in seconds and determines how long the shutter will stay open during a single photograph. Basically, it controls how long light will be exposed to the camera’s sensor and will determine if your photo is properly exposed, underexposed or overexposed. A neat little camera trick that can be done by slowing down shutter speed will result in giving your photograph the sense of motion (or what is also known as camera blur).
Now, because I prefer to set my Aperture first, I adjust my shutter speed to the appropriate exposure.
In the example below, you see that the image on the left had a longer shutter speed to catch the movement, versus the image on the right, which had a faster shutter speed to essentially, stop time.
The Light Meter and Exposure: First off, what and where is the light meter? Your internal light meter will be displayed as a backlit LCD indicator at the bottom of the viewfinder. The general goal is to get the indicator as close as possible to the zero ("0"), as this indicates a proper exposure.  The further left  (or negative) your indicator floats, the darker your image will be. Conversely, the further right (or positive), the brighter your image will be.
Now, when it comes to exposure, this is where I break the rules of basic exposure principles by going over a ½ to 1 stop over to the right (positive)on the light meter. The overexposure blows out my highlights, and creates a softer, more airy feel, which has become a personal preference of mine. There is a fine balance however, because if you overexpose too much, you tend to lose the fine details. Also, I expose for shadows, primarily when they fall on the face. This way, I am able to bring out the details of my subject’s face and their expressions. See the image below, (an older picture, with my older logo ;-) )
In the image below, you see that I’ve overexposed by 1 stop over on the light meter which blew out the highlights in the sky. Again.. all preference. I could’ve unexposed the image and it would’ve been her shadow silhouette against the beach.
Let there be LIGHT!
A common theme you should have noticed throughout these definitions is the theme of light. For me, I like to keep it simple with natural light and I’ll search for four main types: skylight, outdoor shade, window light, and backlight. All of these are warm, soft sources of light and I avoid harsh direct light whenever possible. In fact, my favorite type of light is the afternoon golden hour two hours before sunset.
Now this is just a tip of iceberg when it comes to fully understanding your camera. I would have to say however, that for any beginner into the camera-photography world, this is probably a good place to start. First, develop a solid foundation by understanding your key functions. Then get out there and practice, practice, practice! Eventually, you’ll find the right mix and right approach to setting and shooting a camera. Happy Shooting!

California Eats: Le Pain Quotidien

I'm back at it. I'm back on my quest to find good eats in California and to prove to a certain New Yorker that it ain't that hard. I haven't written a California Eats post in quite a while, but I assure you I've been giving my taste buds a good workout. During my pregnancy and even before baby bump, I ate at some pretty noteworthy places. To start it off, I give you the restaurant where I discovered Speculoos.

The Place: Nestled in the village square of Claremont, this casual french bakery serves more than just your run-of-the-mill croissants and baguettes. Sure, that's what my stomach was expecting walking into a place like this, but I was more than pleased with the selection they have here. Whatever you order, you can enjoy your meal inside, which is rustically decorated with wood from floor to ceiling, or outside, al fresco as the french do.

The Menu: I came with a friend who highly recommended their Tartines. I've never had one before so I was game. The first thought that came to my mind when reading their menu was fresh. Their meals include locally grown and organic ingredients which is not hard to find in Southern California. There is an assortment of egg, chicken, veggie, and even a few meat dishes, something to please everyone. Of course, you can't forget the bread. Almost everything is served with a hearty slice of delicious homemade bread. "Le Pain Quotidien"  itself means "daily bread." Bread everyday? Yes, please!

The Eats: I started off with a lemonade iced tea that is sweetened with raw organic agave nectar. It was perfectly tart and refreshing. I ordered the Roast Beef Tartine and the presentation did not disappoint. The tartine is an open faced sandwich which, in my opinion, needs to be eye catching. My friend ordered the Mushroom Kale Frittata which looked delicious as well.

My tartine was perfect. The bread was firm with a deliciously crunchy crust. Perfect ratio of roast beef to mozzarella, drizzled with fresh vinegarette and tomatoes. It was completely satisfying.

And then there's this...

My first encounter with the spread that rivals Nutella. I'll keep this post about the restaurant and not this heavenly treat. The best thing about it all is that Le Pain Quotidien serves this as a condiment along with butter for your side of bread. They just bring it to you like it's a normal thing to do.

I'm a sucker for anything French, but to add a daily slice of handmade bread with a JAR of Speculoos to freely spread as you please....oh...OIU OIU! If this is how the french do it... I'm flying there tomorrow.

Ok, maybe not. Thank God for places like this.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Love Day, my friends! We hope your hearts are happy and your bellies are full of yummy sweets.

I will be spending my day with the two three Loves of my life. I will be mushy as hell and smother them with hugs and kisses. These lips are locked and loaded...despite the new gun laws. See what I did there?

I love Valentine's Day gifts and this year, I bought my hubby Skyfall on DVD. The last time we tried to watch it, I went into labor within the first 10 minutes of the movie. Joaquin also joined in on the gift giving fun. Daddy loved all of his gifts!
An extra day of love? Sign me up! Have a sweet day!

Wandom Wednesday: Winter Recess

1. This week I'm playing Stay at Home Mommy. I am off for a whole week thanks to all the Presidents days. My only goal this week is to make this kid laugh. He's almost giggling and by golly I want to be the one that makes him laugh first. My voice is permanently 15 octaves higher than it used to be and I've invented noises using my throat I never knew existed. Something I do is bound to be funny.

2. It was my husband's 31st birthday last week and all he wanted for his dia especial was to have a date night at Ooka. We asked my parents to babysit and of course they said yes. I felt a little guilty leaving Joaquin so soon but Mommy and Daddy time was very much needed. I was so excited to finally have time with my hubs, sushi, and some wine. Is it just me or does wine taste better when you're a mom?

3. My Nike Fuel Band is magic. It mocks me with it's flashing lights and reminds me to move my butt or I'll be wearing these maternity jeans for-evah. Damn, Fuel Band...why you gotta be so hurtful?
4. I went to the TOMS Sample Sale this past weekend and all I can say is that I wish my feet were a size 10. I went with my buddy Christine, who is in fact a size 10 and while I was only able to find 2 pairs that I actually liked, she was able to find about a million. Did I mention we stood in line for 3 and a half hours? And did I mention that classics were only $20? Why must everyone at the sample sale have a 7 1/2-8 size shoe? WHY!?
At least I scored some cute shoes for my little guy.
5. I'm facing a dilemma. A hair dilemma. Long hair vs. Short hair. I can't decide if I should grow it long or chop it off. Either way, something needs to happen NOW because I can't stand my hair. Growing your hair out is the pits and cutting it will only set me back in that process. What to do? What to do?

These are the many issue I face while on vacation. My zombie mommy brain is delirious.

California Eats: Amara Chocolate & Coffee

One of the most romantic places that I have ever been to has to be Amara in Pasadena. My Husband and I stumbled upon this place through Yelp when we were searching for a spot to end the night. We wanted something sweet. When its Yelp reviews mentioned authentic Spanish churros, we knew we hit gold.

The Place: This quaint little storefront is a hidden gem. We walked through the crowded streets, down a bar filled alley way, and made our way to the backside of Old Town Pasadena. It was late and most of the neighboring stores were closed, leaving most of the hustle and bustle to the main streets. Lucky for us, there were no people in the tiny shop that night. However, even if there were, it looks as though this place has a capacity of 20 people MAX. The small chocolate shop is perfect for snuggling and close elbow to elbow conversation. Cue the soft lighting and Spanish music and you got yourself the perfect date place.

The Menu: Variety isn't necessary in a place like this. A few choices of chocolate drinks and truffles and a decision of how many churros you can handle is all it takes. There are a few exotic coffees you can try, but really, this place is known for its chocolate.

The Eats: Churros and chocolate. Need I say more? I could leave it at that, really I could, but I'll go on. I consider myself a Churro fanatic, never leaving an amusement park or fair without covering my lips with cinnamon sugar. Oh, the joy. But, this is the real thing. Piping hot dough with long grooves nestling the cinnamon and sugar, a perfect vehicle for the Venezuelan dipping chocolate. I could eat either one by itself, but they are a perfect combination in your mouth. We also ordered a Venezuelan Hot Chocolate because we couldn't resist the smell when we walked in.

The man behind the counter was so nice. Since we were his last customers of the night, he gave us free champagne truffles. They packed a punch and Hubby and I both agreed that the alcohol was the star of that show.

My husband and I couldn't get enough of their churros and hot chocolate everything. We sat together at a tiny table and fed each other bites of Spanish treats and chocolate kisses. When you go to place where the atmosphere is just as sweet as the chocolate dipped churros, you know you found a great dessert spot.