Saturday, December 26, 2009

An Unexpected Gift

Being one who finds the  greatest pleasures in the smallest things, upon walking home from a lovely Christmas Dinner at the neighbors, I realized it would be a sin to not take advantage of a night stroll with my Nikon in the misty 54 degree weather that Christmas brought this year. Here's to show :)

I took a few HUNDRED shots tonight, this was one of the best!

Heading to France in a week or two! Many more shots and stories to come soon!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Travel Comfortably, Spend Less.

TransAtlantic airfare may be less expensive than it has been in the past, but it is certainly not cheap.
If I you are going to spend the big bucks to travel overseas, you probably want to have an authentic experience, and stay awhile.
Here are 3 Great Azure Idea's you might want to take into consideration when planning your next trip...
1. I have been on several trips planned by tour companies, in my experience these are incredibly rushed. It seems like you are packing and unpacking all the time...because you are. Normal you will only be staying a maximum of only 3 nights in any one city... not to mention that this type of traveling can cost three times as much as planning a trip on your own.
Do your own research! Unless you are traveling to a location in which you really do not feel comfortable, it might really be best to just go that extra mile and make your own arrangements. It does take a little bit of time, however what you will end up with is a trip that is designed JUST for you. You will not waste precious time at a destination in which you have no interest in seeing, and you will be able to spend as much time as you would like at that location that you have been dreaming of visiting over the past 20 years.
Meanwhile, you will be saving approximately 10,000 dollars (depending upon how many travelers are in your party). What can you do with that extra 10,000 dollars? Why not visit that other destination you have been eyeing for 15 years, next year!
2. Because you have the complete freedom to plan your trip... it is not necessary to confine yourself to the unoriginal, choosing to stay in an apartment in a place like Europe not only gives you much more space for your money, but it also makes for a GREAT authentic experience. Many apartment companies have a minimum 3 night stay, but they also tend to give you a break for stays of 7 days or longer. I really suggest picking a city with a good location, and staying there for atleast a week. Use the location as a homebase that you can take daytrips from, but don't run yourself around. Stay, soak up the culture, visit some coffee shops, flea markets, take an early morning walk and people watch. Why not visit the local market and cook yourself dinner in your kitchen one night? (YES! these apartments will have kitchens!)
 The above photo is from
Not only is it important to pick a good homebase city. I would also highly suggest to choose an apartment that is close located downtown in a city, or atleast close to lots of action, not necessarily nightlife, but markets, shopping, and most importantly, a metro or bus station. You will absolutely LOVE how much you will see on foot rather than in a tourbus.
 It is nice to be able to walk the street like the locals and see how the locals live.
3. Simple, cliche, but important still.
Don't weigh yourself down, pack the essentials, research what the weather will be like and bring the bare minimum. You are there so that you can see the location, not so that the location can see you. Be comfortable, don't bring too many things that you will constantly be worrying about the safety of, and definitely do not bring so much with you during the day that you will not enjoy walking around and exploring.

Friday, September 4, 2009

So what exactly is this Etsy thing?

People are talking about Etsy.

What could cooler than being able to shop online? Being able to browse and purchase all types of unique HANDMADE everythings, right at your computer. We are designers, innovators, artists and creators. We love the items we make and are passionate about creating.

I first fell in love with Etsy because of my passion for creation, I thought it would be the ideal place to share my creations with the world, and although all of this is true. I have come to realize that I can also benefit from shopping on Etsy as well. I am extremely "over" the whole "run out and get a whole bunch of inexpensive trinkets for friends and family members at some store phase". Everyone does that and it I am beginning to find it slightly mundane. Many of these items that I receive remain wrapped up in cellophane for a few years before they are eventually thrown out. Now that I have found Etsy, I cannot wait for the holidays to arrive!

I know what you are thinking... you don't really love the look of artisan items, basketweaving, handpainted shelves, etc. I don't love that either. While this type of item is also available on Etsy, what really draws my attention is the large amount of handmade, "indie" or underground, if you may, sellers with unique and modern styles. While some items may have an old time inspiration, the design elements and style is anything but dated... Take this innovative dress for example... made from an antique quilt top and antique cotton feed sack, super cute and with modern flair! It is the finds like this that keep me on Etsy and out of designer stores and places like Target. ((Pretty Birdie by Stephanie Teague)

Etsy is also a great place to browse handmade soaps. One seller I met recently specializes in vegan soaps like the one pictured on the right.

"All of my soaps are made with nourishing coconut milk, herbs, fruits and vegetable bases."
-DeShawn Marie

How can one resist something this luscious...?
So we know that Etsy houses a great selection of trendy handmade items with a country touch and modern flair. With that being said, it is important to note that Etsy is not solely a place for homestyle inspired items. Take this cute fabric bangle for example... this one is my own! A beautiful scrap of Japanese print fabric wrapped around none other than a recycled duct tape roll! Sustainable, and trendy.
Hopefully you have enjoyed my intro to the wonders of Etsy! I hope to bring you a few more indepth articles later on! But for now... what are you waiting for? Head on over to Etsy and see for yourself what it is all about!

Friday, August 28, 2009

What People AREN'T Talking About. (Portugal: Part I)

Ever been to Europe?

Ever considered?
Most definitely.

Thought about Portugal?

The least touristed Western European country, is also the most inexpensive. No really, people AREN'T talking about it, although I had not actually tested this prior to titling my post... just search Twitter for "Portugal" 95% of the posts are in Portuguese. Search Twitter for France or Spain... and everything you see is written in English.

So other than the fact that Portugal is a fairly undiscovered destination (ironic, seeing as how the Portuguese were the first great pioneers of navigation) , why go?

In winter, the weather in Lisbon (the Portuguese capital) is more than pleasant. Which in all honesty, is the main reason my family thought about visiting in the first place. What a lucky mishap that turned out to be...

Walking around Lisbon has a special charm. The lack of tourists allows one to truly feel like they are experiencing something completely new and different. No matter how far away a place is, or how exotic the fauna may be, load an area up with 3000 kiosks selling touristy chatzky's and it suddenly becomes just like... well... any other foreign exotic place with 3000 kiosks selling tourists chatzky's. Lisbon has a very authentic feel, staying in an apartment rather than a hotel can help with this too, that I must save for another post however.

Sounds, Tastes and Miradouros!

So what exactly does Portugal have to offer. Skinny, winding medieval streets can be found in the Alfama district. My favorite part of traveling is walking around in new places and the Alfama is perfect for taking some great Flickr shots! Pastelerias serve "bicas" which is a very strong Portuguese espresso shot, available in decaf usually. "Pasteis" are custard like pastries, I'm not the biggest fan of these types of pastries but the rest of the fam LOVED them. The pasteis are actually really good with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top!

Stop to look over the Meditterranean -esque buildings at one of the Miradouro's or lookouts.

 If you don't like to eat fish, you should probably stop reading this article now... or atleast read it knowing that you should never actually go to Portugal. The good news: most restaurants have many options... The bad news: all of these options involve a big filet of fish as the main course, with an accompaniement of potatos and maybe a salad. I personally find it delicious! Specialties like octopus and barnacles are available too. The most popular of the fish specialities is the bacalhau, dried salt cod. It is said that this can be prepared some 300 ways.

In various dinner restaurants, you can sit in on a Fado performance, fado is a very melancholy almost opera like genre, very specific to Portuguese culture.

Alright, this was enough Portugal for one evening... but I will be bringing you further detail in later articles :)

<3 AzureChina

my Portugal pictures are all taken by me! Some can be viewed at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Just how much food do you get for 200 calories?

I'm always searching out new information on nutrition. I don't believe in "diets" because were all different, and have different needs. Personally I believe that one of the best ways to lose weight and or keep it off is to simply educate oneself about what you are eating... I'm also a huge fan of cool search engines... is one of my favorite sites for self education on the calorie content of foods. One can search for foods using traditional categories such as food groups, and also with creative ways such as shape (curly? flat? triangular?)

There is a picture of each food listed, showing the quantity of the food which is equivalent to 200 calories.

Did you know that 1,333 grams of lettuce is equal to 200 calories, and that 35 grams of Wavy potato chips pack the same 200 calories?

The sites coolness doesn't stop there, click on a food, and see how many minutes of various exercises it will take to burn the calories provided by the food. also provides nutritional information beyond calorie content alone.

Check it out for yourself at

Play with the search engine while further educating yourself on nutrition. It's kind of fun!


Photo provided by This artist does not endorse my blog. Downloaded the photo under creative commons license :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Fashionable Sewing Queen's Palace

If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook... you already know I cannot get enough of

It's just that I have spent so long being disappointed in many of the mainstream sewing companies patterns, even Vogue.

Its not that their patterns arn't lovely... they just are not targeted to a younger crowd.

Burdastyle patterns are SOO fabulous and trendy and many are FREE!

They just updated their site and it is now easier than ever to search patterns by season, style, ease of construction, and more options are available as well.

If you have a pattern you'd like to share, users can also add creations and patterns, who knows maybe could be a good marketing technique?

The pictures above are dresses which I have made using some of the patterns on Burdastyle... sorry that the picture is not more professional looking!

Check it all out at