21 April 2018

Rattlesnake Ledge: The Fog on the Lake

 At 9PM the night before, I got a text from Marina asking if I wanted to join her for a morning hike. Lately I've been wanting to go camping and hiking again, so I jumped at the opportunity. I've been staying up late playing video games until 6AM, but thankfully I woke up on time. ( ´ ∀`) My breakfast made me late though...
We started out on the road at about 6AM, and got to the lake almost exactly at 7AM.
 Back in 1906, there was a small town called Moncton that served the workers of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. After the Masonry Dam was built in 1915 to provide Seattle with water and power, the town slowly flooded and became the Rattlesnake Lake we see today. When the lake is low (supposedly best to see in Autumn), you can find old-growth tree stumps, foundations and other remains of the town that once was.
 As we walked around the lake to the trailhead, the sun lightly skimmed the treetops, creating a beautiful array of warm colors. It didn't feel like mid-April, with the oranges and yellows.
 There was a lot of early morning fog, which looked incredible on the mountains and the lake. 
 Times like these I wish I had a different lens -- but I love the colors and atmosphere captured all the same. I think my next investment will be a wide angle. :) 
 As the sun made its way across, the view changed dramatically.
 Rattlesnake Ledge is a 5.1 mile out and back trail, with an elevation gain of 1470 ft. Being the first hike of the year for the both of us, it was pretty tough. I'm glad I brought my inhaler. LOL
The latter portion of the hike was spent on the cool side of the mountain, which was perfect for the crisp April morning. Since we went on a weekday, there was hardly anyone on the trails. Even when there was, they'd pass us pretty quickly (LOL). My shoelaces kept getting untied and I drank so much water.... but the clearings in the trees showed fantastic views.
At one point there was the sound of light bells jingling rhythmically, echoing above us on the mountain. It reminded me of guardian spirits watching over the forests, making their rounds and letting their presence be known. I half-wished we would experience something supernatural, but it turned out to be an old lady with a walking stick. Maybe that's what she wanted us to believe, though, while she greeted the morning.
 We made it to the top! It was practically empty -- only two other hikers were there for awhile. 
Looking down at Rattlesnake Lake.

 This mountain squirrel kept running in and out, haha!
After making our way back down, we had a picnic by the lakeshore. It was windy and cold, but it felt so nice eating the lunch Marina made. (*´∀`*) I brought chips and salsa, but I got soy sauce all over the containers... I also forgot to take a photo of the food but it was delicious.
A deserving rest! I'm looking forward to our next hikes!

13 March 2018

First impressions: etchr art satchel

A couple months ago I backed Etchr Lab's Etchr Art Satchel and Field Case crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Between my work laptop bag, my everyday backpack, and my camera bag, I was thinking it was time to invest in an artist travel bag (preferably a backpack). It would be great if I could have a dedicated bag full of on-the-go tools, and not have to take everything out to use it for something else. I wanted a bag that had a lot of pockets, comfortable, and could fit my laptop or tablet.

The Etchr Art Satchel campaign came across my feed one day, and after checking out videos and reviews, I decided to pledge. It was hard not to, considering how well-developed and well-thought out all of its components were already. Etchr Lab's Nomad Art Satchel ran its successful campaign back in 2014, and has since evolved into the current Etchr Art Satchel after much user feedback and further QA testing.
I received my backer rewards (the art satchel + field case combo) in early February. The estimated delivery date was originally around Christmas, but due to manufacturing delays late backers were expected to have their rewards sometime in January/February.

The first thing I noticed about the satchel was the weight. On its own, it's 5.3 lbs (as listed in their FAQ). Pulling it out of the box and lifting it up, its starting weight is heavier than any of my other bags. Considering all that it does, though, it's sturdy and weighted in the areas that need it to be, and it feels reliable. There has to be some compromise to sturdiness and reliability, which is something I will keep in mind (or maybe I should just work out :p). Because of its base weight, I might stick to Backpack Mode (versus Messenger Mode) to mitigate shoulder strain once I fill this up with supplies. I'm curious to see how Easel Mode feels.

After seeing the satchel in person, I'm really glad that they made the switch from the brown accents to a sleek black. The Toughtek non-slip in black compliments the dark grey polyester shell so well, and also gives a more timeless, versatile look. This is a purely cosmetic note, but having a bag that looks good with most of my wardrobe is a huge plus.
These E hook clasps on the front are really cool. It's sturdy, secure, won't catch my skin like regular buckles (though this bag does have a few of those), and it's sleek. I've always been a fan of orange, so the pops of color here and there are a nice touch as well.
Moving onto the inner components! There's a lot of potential in customization, which is apparent right when you lift the flap. 
The etchr art satchel is MOLLE-compatible, featuring webbing that allows different ways to store or attach art supplies (or anything, really). The bigger straps are especially handy for attaching my tripod or other odd-shaped items.
The hex pattern print on the lining is so pleasing to the eye when the light hits it, too. 
The zipper placement here makes it much easier to access this space in particular. No cautious digging around as you give your hand up to the void and pray you didn't leave something sharp in there. Now I can safely store my x-acto knife without stabbing my fingers (I hope).
The fabric is a thick and soft heather grey and it feels great.
Lots of pocket types for different tools, notebooks, etc. 
Out of the box, the design and placement of everything is inspiring alone. Stitched gridlines allow for tidy organization, rather than having a blank space and using trial-and-error to line everything up. Lots of thought put into the smallest details, and visually satisfying.
There's a good amount of cushion around the tripod mount so that its hard surface isn't flush against your back.
 The main straps unbuckle for when you want to switch between Backpack, Easel or Messenger Mode.
The bottom of the straps. Will definitely post more photos of the customization when I take it out more!
This was a pretty cool attention to detail on the main straps. At first I thought it was just temporarily wrapped up, but when I unraveled the straps to try on the bag I realized it had an extra feature.
Velcro wings allow you to roll the straps back up when you've adjusted to a comfortable length. I personally love leaving straps long but this is great for people who prefer otherwise. I can imagine this would keep the ends of the straps from fraying while you're out in the field.
 The bag has the same feature on the front straps, too.
All in all I'm really excited to take this bag for a run. I'm planning to put my main copics, watercolors, and other paints and see how everything fits. My friends and I used to have sketch dates at cafes, so I'm hoping to start that up again. Or who knows, would love to check out Urban Sketchers Seattle meetups for once. :) I'll post another review once I've used it enough to make a final call.

Etchr Art Satchel specs
13" x 16" x 3.9"
Can fit my 15" macbook pro
A4 size paper
Tablet friendly
Available for purchase here.

17 February 2018

Weekend baking!!

Last year I made these really delicious dark chocolate orange slice & bake cookies, and because I am a creature of habit, I made them again.
They've become my favorite recipe for cookies. You can eat them plain as well.
I wanted to try something new and use white chocolate, since they were on sale. Mixed with a little gel food coloring, and I feel like they'd become cute Valentine's Day cookies! I'll post more photos later of the results.

I was planning on taking more shots of the finished dark chocolate ones, but I ended up eating them all before I could. And I think last year's photos are still really nice anyways.... LOL 

15 February 2018

Skinning my PS4

Aesthetics on a budget, basically. 2 years ago I got my PS4 in preparation for The Last Guardian's release. Amazon had a really good lightning deal during Black Friday ($250USD for Uncharted 4, Skyrim, and Fallout 4!), so I picked one up. Then two months later, Sony released a Glacier White variant for EU and JP,  and a month after that released for the US. Dang! "If I'd waited just a couple months" ran through my head, but a deal is a deal and I'm still happy with my purchase. Instead of going through the hassle of buying a new PS4 simply because I wanted the white one (I thought about it for a long time, and in the end concluded that I'm too lazy), my friend suggested I buy a solid white decal.

So I did, and for $20.00 it's pretty good. I got the Solid State White in high gloss from DecalGirl, and it looks very clean. The decal was insanely easy to put on, especially after a quick view of their helpful video.

My PS4 is placed on my desk in a spot where I can see the corners (where the strips break), but from all other angles it looks great.
At first I wasn't too fond of the black peaking out, but it matches my NZXT case really well, especially with the Younik stand! Happy accidents, or relentless optimism? 
If there's one thing I could change, though, it would be to fill in the matte black portions of the logo. The decal comes with a logo cover, so I might play around with covering it up in certain areas. We'll see!