Holiday 2019

This holiday, I spent some time with my family in Duncan, Oklahoma (the small town I was born in) and Houston, Texas (where some of my family lives now).  It was a much needed time catching up and remembering where I came from.  It’s been about 4 years since I last visited Duncan for Christmas and I don’t even remember when I visited the time before that.

One of my favorite moments was when my dad showed me his workshop, where he makes rings and bells out of coins.  The pictures below show the process of him making me a ring out of a Canadian penny.  There were many styles of coins in his workshop including quarters and expensive silver coins, but I ended up choose the copper penny because it has a pretty leaf pattern.

The ring making process is as follows 1) He punches out a hole in the center of the coin. 2) Then, he forms and sizes the ring.  3) Last, he adds color with powder coating and clear sealant to prevent discoloration.  I wanted a dark green color, so we mixed some of his green powder with black powder and it came out perfect!

Fun fact, my dad’s name is Doug Bell and he’s been collecting coins and MPCs (Military Payment Certificates) for almost as many years as I am alive.  He also loves hunting deer and can renovate an entire home from top to bottom.  If you’d like more info on how to get a cool ring made just contact him via his Facebook page PRARIE RINGS.  Tell him his daughter sent you.  It will make his day.

On Christmas Day, we had lunch over in Rush Springs, Oklahoma (aka the “Watermelon Capital of the World” with a population of 1200ish) and we spent some quality time with my stepmom’s side of the family.   This is actually the first time in my life I have seen my grandma Bell (dad’s mom) and grandma Mills (stepmom’s mom) together in one place!  Also, some of my extended family members I haven’t seen in 20 years.  As I get older, moments like these are ones I cherish the most.

Below is most likely the most treasured image from my whole trip.  It’s not often families get together and pose for a formal group shot.  It’s already made facebook timeline cover images and possibly a few desktop wallpapers.  🙂

Back at the house, I made Gooey Butter Cookies with my Grandma.  I learned that she also loves collecting recipes and watching cooking videos.  This is the first time ever, that we’ve made cookies together and it came out yummy!

Later on Christmas Day, my brother’s family arrived early from Houston, Texas.  We opened presents and the next day took the kids to see the 905 Train, which my nephew LOVED.  His favorite movie is Polar Express.  My niece wasn’t a big fan of the train and rather play with her new remote-controlled truck in the park.

The most nostalgic moment for me, was when my brother and I took a trip out to the country to see one of the homes we grew up in.  It was (and still remains as) a double-wide trailer on 2.5 acres of land. Out front off the main road, there are two large pecan trees and a gravel road leading up to the side entrance.  Back in the 80s, my dad built the carport, storm cellar (to protect us from tornados), and added room additions.  I have many wonderful memories of the time I spent summers there including daily chores of collecting eggs and feeding the animals, learning to drive a riding lawnmower, and making sun tea on the front porch.  We had dogs, cats, birds, and unique pets like opossums, snakes and goats. My stepmom has always loved gardening and had a beautiful lush green yard with flowers everywhere.  We road our bikes for miles to go to a corner store for candy, ate ice cream every night, and sat outside wishing on falling stars.

Now, the neighboring properties along Terry Road have been filled in more with homes and the property I grew up on looks abandoned and unloved.  It made me sad but I am still glad I went to see it.

The second, and less documented part of my trip, was spent with my mom and stepdad in Houston.  The following images are the highlights. 1) A beautiful sunset walk in their neighborhood where I contemplated if living in Texas would be a better fit for me.  It would be nice to have family close and stress less about work.  After a really good year with work, I decided it’s too soon to leave Los Angeles, but it’s nice to know I have options. 2) A fortune from a cookie saying “With integrity and consistency, your credits are piling up.”  Yes, that’s definitely a good one.  3) New year flowers of encouragement.

In closing, I have ended 2019 with a humble heart; I am grateful for my family and have a renewed sense of hope.  I’m ready for you, 2020.

Monterey Road Trip

The Cliffs Hotel and Spa

Seals on the beach- sunning.

The place where you can have a cocktail in a river- Big Sur River Inn.

Views from the Intercontinental Hotel.  I loved french toast so much, I had it two mornings in a row.

A little walk down the shoreline to find yummy calamari.

Crystal blue waters outside of the Monterey Aquarium.

Clinton Walker House – Frank Lloyd Wright

Aubergine the restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel- tasting menu.  The fanciest and most beautiful meal I have ever eaten.

Sardine Factory

Farmer’s market snack adventure.  The grilled artichoke and BBQ ribs.

Anniversary in NOLA

The holidays have been really busy for me finishing up a few projects and then visiting my family in Texas for Christmas, but I’ve finally caught up on one of my personal trips to share with you today.  Back in October, Matt and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary (of dating!) with a trip to New Orleans (aka “The Big Easy” and “NOLA“).  The city is located along the Mississippi river and was established 1718 by French colonists.  The city is known for their distinct music, Creole cuisine, and big street festivals like Mardi Gras. (Wiki)  Back in 2005 they were also hit hard by hurricane Katrina that flooded 80% of the land, changing it forever.  It was interesting to see how much of the city has recovered and how much still remains as it has always been.

Below are a few of the highlights from our trip.  Please enjoy!

Pictured above: Live jazz bands playing on Bourbon Street.

We went during the week in mid October and stayed 3 nights/ 4 days at a cute hotel in the French Quarter, a couple of blocks from Bourbon Street.  Over the balcony we could hear horses clacking by and music playing on the streets.  I really loved seeing all of the ornate architecture with cast-iron balconies.

For our first dinner out, we went to Brennan’s, home of the bananas Foster cooked table side!  The best thing I ate was a duck dish.  We also got a personal tour to see their wine collection upstairs (see below).

One of the most popular sights is the The St Louis Cathedral.  On my first visit, it was overcast and grey but the next day it was sunny and blue skies, so I photographed it again!  This is one of the times I wish I bothered to ask someone to take a picture of us together. 😆

Right across the street from the cathedral is Cafe Du Monde- a pretty big deal for beignets (an English “fritter” is made from fried dough and covered in powdered sugar).  I think they were filming a travel/food show while we were there.

More sights around the city below including along the river, city parks, and faded signs on an old brick building.  There was actually a lot of filming all around the city.

Our second night we visited Commander’s Palace for a nice dinner in the beautiful garden district.

After dinner we strolled through the neighborhood to see the beautiful homes.  We stumbled across the women’s boarding house from American Horror Story season 3 and the Eiffel Society with parts made from the real Eiffel tower in Paris!

A block away from our hotel was a great breakfast find at Café Fleur-De-Lis.  It is where I ate the best shrimp and grits for breakfast (twice)!

Neighborhood sights down Esplanade.  I love the colorful homes and ornate entryways.  We even found some “X” codes from the Katrina flood.

The Kitchen Witch Bookstore where we talked with the shop owner for a bit and picked up a couple of rare Creole cookbooks.  I’m really hoping to find a good recipe for bbq shrimp and grits!

Mc Hardy’s and Willie Mae’s and for delicious fried chicken.

Steamboat Natchez took us down the Mississippi river and back, it was really cool seeing coastline (and smelling) the Domino Sugar factory.

Last but not least, we took a tour of St Louis above-ground Cemetery #1, home of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb.

Over all, I would say NOLA was a great experience and somewhere I would definitely like to visit again!  A couple of places I would like to see next time include the Oak Alley sugarcane Plantation house and the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone.

If you’re planning on visiting the NOLA area sometime soon or would like to see more things about the history of the city here are some of my recommendations:

SJP’s Top 4 Tips for Attending Let’s Make a Deal

So, a couple days ago, my talented artist friend Naomi invited me to attended a taping of Let’s Make a Deal. It’s one of the shows you have the greatest chance of winning something like cash and prizes including trips, furniture, jewlry, and cars!  I’ve acutally never been to a show taping in Los Angeles in the 10 years I’ve lived here, so I thought why not!?

Overall, I’d say it was a fun experience!  If you’re intersted in attending the show, read this post before going.

SJP’s Top 4 Tips for attending Let’s Make a Deal

1)  During the first round of Interviews, I noticed that all of the contestants chosen for the show had outgoing personalities, interesting jobs, and fun costumes.  During the check in process they do a short group interview.  Some of the questions they asked include your name, where you’re from, and what you like to do for fun.  You should speak clearly and be engaging!  They also like long answers and not just one word answers so if you say you’re from somewhere like “Chicago” give a little more details like “my name is John, my hometown is Chicago and I’m a huge Cubs Fan.  In my free time I like to travel.”  I think they try and match up the games and prizes based on your interests.  They will also ask you what you like most about the show.  I suggest at least watching a few episodes of the show before going so you have an answer ready!

2)  Wear a fun costume!  Since the show is on CBS, I would recommend wearing something their TV advertising would agree with (like, don’t wear a HBO show Game of Thrones costume or a costume promoting a show on ANY other network.)   It seems the homemade costumes were most appreciated.  Contestants for our show included a) retired banker dressed up as the Monopoly Man b) Gladiator Girl who was a nanny c) Yoga Teacher / Newlywed dressed as a red hot fairy d) a woman who worked with children with mental health issues, dressed up as a green fairy e) guy dressed in scrubs who was in school to be a human lie detector  f) a collage aged girl from family set of 4 costumes they made to look like those tall balloon things they have in front of car wash places (no clue what it’s called but you might know what I’m talking about?!)  If you don’t have a costume, don’t worry! They have some for rent after you go through screening.  BUT, if you want to get noticed during the first round of interviews you should be in costume when you arrive.  The doors open at least 60 minutes before the call time, so make sure to be early too!

3)  Check the “LetsMakeaDeal” Twitter account a day before the show to find out what “secret item” you should have in your pocket!  Be sure to keep the items in your pocket a SECRET until asked for it.  If you are chosen and have the item, you will win $500 cash!  For our show they asked us to bring an unopened bandaid, bottle cap, and nail file.

4)  They ask everyone to be positive, have high energy, and dance a lot.  They take phones away during filming, but you can have your purse or backpack under the seats.  Bring snacks since it’s a long process!  I was there from 8am-2:30pm for a 9am call time.  They have a couple oppertunies for people to purchase snacks like chips, pasteries, coffee, etc.

Even though I did not get picked to play any of the games, I had lots of fun dressing up, hanging with Naomi, and attending the show!  I will definately be on TV in the shots with the studio audience!  I will try and find out more when the show will be airing and share that with you so check back for updates.

If you live in the Los Angeles area or will be visiting sometime soon, you can GET YOUR FREE TICKETS HERECurrently, tickets are available until the second week of June 2018.

Photography Meet Up 6

Some of my best friends are photographers.  Often times, the way I make new photographer friends is attending meetups where we hang out and take pictures of each other.  I find the experience to be both fun and challenging!  Being on both sides of the camera helps me as a photographer to gain more experience on the technical side… and as a model to better understand relationships with my own clients, ultimately creating better images!

For this week’s adventure, I hung out with 30 creatives at a meetup in Brea.  (Information attached at the end of this post, in case you’re interested in joining the next one!)  Location: Carbon Canyon Regional Park with lots of good light!  I especially love all of the natural backdrops with mountain views, big trees, wooden fencing, and small garden area with little paths through the canyons.

Gear: I bought my new Canon 5DM4 camera with 100mm macro lens, 16-35mm 2.8L, and favorite 50mm 1.2L.  Post processing done in Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC.  Here is a highlight of some favorites!

Last picture is a fun group shot of the attendees!  Taken by: Will Chiang‎.  If you are interested in attending a photography meetup, I suggest joining our facebook group: Photographers Social: Meet / Shoot / Eat open to both full and part time professionals in Southern California.  Meetups happen about 3-4 times a year in the LA/OC/IE area.