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December 18, 2014

Homecoming at El Chato

If you live in LA, chances are, you already know about El Chato. In my humble opinion, it's one of the best taco trucks out there. It's a no frills sort of place, which is exactly what you want when all you need is a couple of great tacos (which should be always, by the way).

Since my sister came back from law school last night, we had to make a quick stop over at the truck before heading on home. What better way to say welcome home?

A man usually comes to the window and takes your order, after which he hands you a receipt stub. Don't lose that receipt! When they call your number, you exchange it for your food. And trust me, they do check. 

Their menu is pretty standard. You can get anything as either a taco, a burrito, or a quesadilla. We usually get a heaping order of asada tacos with a couple of pastor, along with a quesadilla or a burrito of some sort. I highly suggest getting an asada quesadilla. It's so good.

Though fair warning: if you're the type of person that is afraid of a little bit of grease, you might want to stay away (but really, why are you reading this? We're talking about a taco truck!). If that kind of stuff doesn't bother you, then jump in. 

And the best part? Tacos are $1. Again, fairly standard for Los Angeles, but definitely not for places like New York. How I missed these!

The sister hiding from the camera as she cried, "Bags under my eyes!"

Anyway, let's get down and dirty. Onto the food.

What's this, you ask? It's the asada quesadilla. Crispy, gooey, seasoned goodness. Dab a bit of salsa on it and it's a little bite of heaven. If you leave it alone for a while the bottom does get soggy, but I think that's a given.

Hello, beautiful! These tacos are simple and delicious. Asada topped with onions, cilantro, and salsa , wrapped in corn tortillas. No frills, no fuss. Again, just add more salsa or hot sauce and consume. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

You also get a bag of assorted pickled veggies. Radish and cucumber, mostly. And some wedges of lime to squeeze over anything and everything that you fancy. 

You can find El Chato on the corner of La Brea and Olympic. On weekdays they're open from about 9pm until 1:30am, while on weekends they're open until 3:30am. They're closed on Sundays, but open all other days of the week.

If you go, make sure to get yourself horchata or Jarritos and eat your tacos there. Buy a dozen tacos and never look back. But also let me know what you think, or if you think your taco truck is better. I'm all for giving other contenders a shot at my top spot.

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December 15, 2014

Left my heart in Joshua Tree.

If you don't know already, Joshua Tree is one of my favorite places in the United States. Last time, I went stargazing with a friend and went late in the afternoon. This time, we left bright and early to make it to Joshua Tree before 10am.

Unfortunately, this meant that there was harsh sun and that led to some overexposed photos (also sometimes I don't have the settings right on my camera..oops).

We mainly climbed some rocks and did a couple of hikes. What I love most about coming here is that every time, no matter which trail you do, it seems like there's always something new. Nothing ever looks familiar to me, and I'm constantly finding new paths and rock formations to climb up.

What's better than a place that's constantly offering you new things to do?

New workout clothes! This sweater is labeled active performance by Calvin Klein, which I am all about. Quilted black fabric in the front, breezy gray in the back. Pants and shoes are from Nike. And my new favorite sunnies are from Steve Madden. 

I'm a little bit concerned with my obsession with sunglasses and bags. I may have splurged on a little Badgley Mischka number while shopping at Cabazon on the way back from Joshua Tree...

This guy came up and was walking all along the road! A little strange, and really dangerous for the coyote. We saw him(?) crossing the road, back and forth on our way out. We're not sure what was wrong but I hope he's okay and stayed clear of the roads once it got dark.

The struggle was so real. I went on a climb up with my dad, which is usually fine, but it was so incredibly windy and my fear got the best of me. There were gaps between the rocks that I had to jump and after a certain point, I felt like I was up too high and got nervous. In reality, it probably would've been okay, but...better to be safe than sorry.

And it is always, always better to do something like that when you're sure of yourself and not so nervous. You have to stay calm! 

I weirdly really enjoy finding crevices and caves to squeeze myself into. This one fit me just right, which made me want to snooze and hide from the wind.

After our walk around Hidden Valley, we decided to head up Mt. Ryan. If you remember in my last JT post, I said that Mt. Ryan is not an easy hike. Having done a couple of hikes the past few weeks, I was feeling a little more confident -- and rightly so!

This is the majority of what the hike up Mt. Ryan looks like. They're steep, stone steps that you have to climb until you get to the top. There are a few flat areas, but it's still quite the incline. 

I was rather proud of myself. I didn't have to stop to break very often, and we made it up there fairly quickly. Maybe it's because my madre was waiting in the car (hurt her back) and so we wanted to make the trip quick, but we had speed on our side.

Though the wind was no joke. Cue dust and pebbles in your face, and feeling a little bit reckless while running down the mountain.

Once down, it was time to eat. It was around 2:30pm and we were ready to grub. We drove back to Hidden Valley and set up shop at one of the many picnic tables there, and got cooking.

Now, this is the beauty of going on long hikes with family (or Koreans in general, really). We prepare. We come ready to feed the masses. My mom packed ingredients for budae jjigae, otherwise known as army stew. It came about around the time of the Korean War, when Korea didn't have many food resources. They'd throw whatever they had into a pot and make it into a stew.

Nowadays, at least from what I knew of New York, people eat budae jjigae as a drunk food. We eat it as a family dinner because this stuff is amazing, and when it's cold -- well, nothing beats warm broth when you're cold.

Tell me this doesn't look delicious. Noodles, jalapeno, squash, mushrooms, soybeans, gochujang (red pepper paste), onion, radish, sausage, and spam. 

It was gone in record time, and I felt blissfully full afterwards.

I'm thinking about doing something about how to prepare/pack for a long hike. Would you be interested in that? Since we do a lot of hiking, we sort of have our go-to's for long hikes, short hikes, and things for when we go on day trips like to Joshua Tree.

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December 11, 2014

How to: Make Animated Blog Photos in Photoshop

This week has been creeping by so slowly for me -- are any of you having slow weeks, too? Gah. Please, weekend, come to me soon!

Anyway, happy Thursday. I meant to have a cooking post up, but I wasn't able to shoot this past weekend so I'm putting that on pause. Instead, I was inspired to make this post based off of a question I receive in my comments (and from friends who've asked me how to do this as well). I don't know if this is the way that everyone makes GIFs or if it's the easiest way, but it's the way I do it!

So let's get cracking, shall we?

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01. Select the images for your GIF.

In order to make an animated GIF for your blog, grab the photos you want to use. When shooting, hold the shutter button down so that you get a burst of consecutive photos while you (or the object) is moving. 

Tip: Working with a tripod is best as it minimizes the amount that the frame of the image moves, but I almost never do this. Living life on the edge.

02. Add all images to one file as different layers.

Create a new file, and copy and paste all of your images in order into that document. Make sure you don't flatten the image, as you want to keep all of the frames.

03. Edit the images as you'd like.

For this, I did my usual actions. I played with curves, selective color, etc. You can get as creative as you want and do whatever you'd like. Alternatively, you can edit the photos before you add them into one file. If you're using actions, I find it a lot easier to edit once they're all together.

04. Open up the animation window.

05. Hide all of the layers except for the first one.

Click the little eye next to each image layer until you have the first layer, or the first frame of your GIF.

06. Animate!

You're going to make sure that you're looking at the Animation (Frames) tab. Select a time that you want each frame to run for. Depending on what kind of images I have to work with, I'll select something between 0.1-0.5 seconds. You can always change this later, but every new frame you make will be based off of this first frame, so try to make an educated guess on what'll work! I started out with 0.5 seconds, but changed this to 0.2 after I viewed the animation as it was too slow.

Tip: If you make changes to that first frame, it'll affect the entire animation and all subsequent frames, so be careful. On the flip side, if you make changes to any other frame, it'll only affect that one frame.

07. Repeat until you've animated every layer.

Each time you make a new layer, unhide the next layer.  Keep going until you're completely done.

08. Save as Web & Devices.

When you're all set and ready to save, make sure to choose File > Save for Web & Devices.

09. Choose your settings, then click save!

In the Web & Devices window, you'll have the opportunity to choose between settings. For each GIF, try different settings. For this one in particular, I decided on Perceptual and Pattern. The second box refers to the kind of noise/effect that your GIF will have. You're only allowed 256 colors, so anything beyond that requires a little taking care of!

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I hope this made sense. I'm not the best at explaining things, but I added visuals in the hopes that it made things a bit easier. Feel free to ask questions, and let me know if this was helpful. If you're interested, I'll do a quick post on converting a video into an animated GIF next time.

Also, if you haven't seen it, my friend Christy did a sweet post on her blog about holiday traditions. I was humbled that she asked me to participate, so please go check it out and leave her a comment! And let us know, what are your holiday traditions?

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