Wednesday, July 23, 2014

All We Needed Was Sand

Compared to my Roaring 1920s party, for my 33rd birthday, this year was very last minute. With Tokyo coming up (have I mentioned we are going?), I wasn't planning on spending extra funds on a party. But, as the date crept closer I felt we should put together something small. A little more than week before my birthday I decided to have a Retro Beach themed birthday party. To be honest I was "phoning" this year's party in by choosing an easy theme. One might say I did the same last year with a 1920s theme, but with that party I mimicked a specific scene from The Great Gatsby film. This year I went ahead and raided the tiki/beach sections for decorations. I think the decor, along with the retro music, conveyed a happy atmosphere. 

I was taking a few test shots with the camera. I didn't want to wash all the photos out with a flash, so I had Rey and Brandi sit for a few silly poses. Work it you two!

Rey and Brandi look great here, but maybe I should've repositioned her straw? Meanwhile, in the background, I don't think that tiki idol was enjoying her photo being taken. Fashionably speaking, Rey looks like a greaser from the 50s while Brandi has that Biker's chick look. We all loved her hair!

Soon after we had the music going. The playlist was simple, full of Annette Funnicello, The Ventures (surf guitar), and The Beach Boys. The loop only lasted about 2 hours, but we just kept repeating it. Sure the music was a little on the corny side, but it was upbeat. 

As we shopped around the stores, Eric was very determined to grab some cocktail umbrellas. I'm sure glad he did because they added that extra touch to the cupcakes and the drinks. The cupcakes were store bought, but now they blended in with their surroundings. As my UK pals Mikey and Jonny would quote me saying, "It's in the details!"

Whether she cared for it, or not, Daphne got in on the beach action. Eric and I thought she looked great in her outfit. We aren't those "dress up your dog" type people, but this definitely called for an exception. 

Soon guests arrived and they were either mingling, or apparently on their iPhones ;-)
I can see here that Rey was about to enjoy more of his Fruit Punch/Coconut Rum concoction. 

Our gal pal Kelly joined us from Newport Beach in what I think was reminiscint of the 1960s character Gidget. I don't know if that was her direct intention, but she sure did a nice job!

The rest of us guys took the easy way out. Beach attire for that era is as easy as a camp shirt and the shortest swim wear you can find. However; Eric did personify a fashionista/trend setter of the early 1960s. All that was needed here was was a nice bonfire, but of course that would've taken down the place. 

We should've had a prize for who travelled the farthest. First we have Ricky and Greg that drove down from the Hollywood area. Then there was Jeff and Lance (pictured directly above) that joined us from Riverside! But, I think the invisible trophy goes to Angie (below w/red headband). She drove down from San Luis Obispo! I can't take all the credit. Angie was also on her way home to San Diego county. No matter from where they drove, I was very lucky to have our group come together to celebrate.

As with any gathering we have, this couldn't have happened with Eric! Who knows, maybe from now on Eric will be the bar keep. He was having a fun time mixing up some drinks for our guests. He kept that blender spinning! I thought he was going to try to chop up our fake pineapples for garnish! 

See below.....What did I tell you all? There's Eric making another drink for Ricky! And that reminds me of something. Everyone came with either a snack or alcohol to contribute. It really does say something about the friends we invited. I didn't ask them to bring anything, only themselves. Sure we did have a few ask what they could help with, and we welcomed that help. Others surprised us with items. I was even given some fabulous and again unexpected gifts. My point is that we had some great people over that night, special people. I hope they know I'm grateful for all of them and I look forward to more times together. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Practicing for Japan!

Recently Eric and I purchased a Nikon D3200. We've always loved photography, but hadn't put down money on a higher end camera. I know there are more advanced models out there, but this was highly recommended for beginners. 

To get used to settings and learning from "trial and error", we decided to head to the local Disney parks. We arrived in mid-afternoon because our goal was to also try out night shots. 

I can't post this and pretend to give photo advice. I really just wanted to share what we attempted with the new camera. There are some nicely hidden corners in both Disneyland and CA Adventure. We also like the details in architecture and the color choices. But, that's not new right? I would think most people recognize at least those two traits. I'd add that if people don't pay attention to that, it's through no fault of their own. The parks really immerse the visitor in a time or place. The details can then become an after thought. 

One slight issue Eric and I may have in Japan is deciding who gets the camera. I found myself getting into Instagramming and almost forgetting about the new camera. I think I did this because it's obviously easier to get the iPhone into hard to reach places. I found the strap and having a certain grip on the Nikon slightly tedious. That's pretty much where the differences stop. I feel the photos the Nikon produce are beautiful, pending the setting. We took a few with the wrong setting, and the result wasn't ideal. But, sometimes the incorrect setting can make a photo interesting. Take the next....

Ursula is either being sucked away by a Dementor or Winifred Sanderson of the film Hocus Pocus! We were like "Whoa! She's being swept away!" It would be much better if at least her face was in focus. We are trying to perfect "dark ride" photography. The tips we have read haven't worked, but we will keep trying to learn. I'm glad we are messing up now and not in Tokyo Disneyland. 

I really liked that although the photo is straight at the sun, the sculpture of Grizzly Peak is still visible. 

I'm not claiming to find a hidden gem, but I had forgotten about this painted wall. It's an out of the way, dead-end, sitting area that I never think to visit.

We attempted to ride Radiator Springs Racers, but the ride shutdown while we rode. Our vehicle made it to the tractor tipping scene and came to a halt! Eric and I only waited about twenty minutes in the Single Rider queue so it wasn't a huge loss. In fact, we were given passes to return later. It worked out nicely. 

Walking through the wharf Eric got an appetite for the sourdough bread. It wasn't quite dinner time, but we went through the tour to grab a sample. I know most people grab the slice and run away. Eric and I aren't in a hurry, so we went through the Rosie O'Donnell narrated tour. The bakers seemed to be a little happy to see visitors pass through as they waved to us both. 

Our part of the world was starting to make its move away from the sun at a quick rate. We hoped to get a few sunset type shots. But, Eric and I also realized we were getting hungry. It was about 7:15 PM and we would be heading to Disneyland soon. 

It felt as though it had been too long since we ate at Paradise Garden Grill. I most likely mentioned it's our favorite place to eat at DCA. I haven't tried any other sauces on my tofu/veggie skewer, but next time should. Here I ordered it with the tzatziki sauce. I can't gush enough about the cucumber salad. The flavor for the salad has a slight tang and compliments the rest of the dish well. 

Heading out toward Disneyland you can see we have yet to perfect the "selfie" with this camera. It is a little awkward to hold. Eric wants to buy a small tripod and remote. We definitely don't want to forget to include ourselves in photos of Japan or the Disney Parks. 

Eric thinks he looks drunk here. He really wasn't. 

I saw these cans tipping and had to hold them up. 

And as I mentioned we were heading to Disneyland, but remembered that we had our fast pass for Racers. We couldn't pass that up. This time we rode without interruption and Eric attempted a few shots as we rode, no flash of course. 

They are still a little blurry. Luckily we still have time to get better at these sort of shots. In a big you'll see how the Southern CA weather really affects night photos. Once at Disneyland the clouds had rolled into the area and really added an awful backdrop to the scenery. 

I had attempted firework photos, but I hated them all. I always forget people feel the need to stick their arms up while holding cameras. A women in front of us filmed the entire show. And, I guess I don't blame her. Maybe this was her one trip here for her life? 

Both Eric and I worked "it's a small world" for quite a while in our earlier Disney career. It's actually where we met. Anyway, the lighting on the facade is very interesting these days. Even as the train passes, the colors change as it moves across the front of the facade. I was a total nerd, all giddy. 

I did my best to not breath during this one. 

Have you been noticing the sky in these night shots? I blame the desert for drawing in all this upper moisture.

Clearly I am getting carried away with this post! Eric and I have a lot to work on, but I am pleased with some of other shots. Our worst ones will hopefully improve. 

People might think it odd we are so worried about how well our photos will turn out, and to enjoy the moment. I'm sure many can agree that it's very enjoyable to takes pictures and get the best you can. Even though Japan is 3.5 months away, we are having some nice bonding time as we practice.