Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: December 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Days of December

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Photo Documentation of the Last Days of December

Thanks Google + for the auto-awesome and the nifty movie maker

I took advantage of my holiday time off by snapping photos around the city, playing with photo editors on my mobile devices, and tools in Google Plus. In this post, I've shared Auto-Awesome enhanced photos and a Movie Maker video. I try to post unique content whenever I can, so you may find similar photos with different edits in my Instagram feed.

Lake Front Path Chicago

I love this photo of the Chicago Skyline in black and white. Similar to the ones below, I took the photo above in color using my Moto X and edited the photo with tools native to the the device. No additional apps were used to create the photo above, but it looks like a black and white etching.

Chicago Lakefront Path December 2013

Above is the Lakefront Path and Chicago Skyline in color. I believe this was taken with my Canon T1i and it looks edited (probably in iPhoto). It was a wet and dreary, bone-chilling cold day, the waves were crashing, the wind was blowing - I'm not sure what I was thinking when I went out there.  

Chicago Lakefront Path december

I included this third image of the Lakefront Path because of the edit. This picture was automatically edited once it was uploaded to Google Plus. "Eraser", an Auto Awesome feature offered in G+, removes moving objects from a set of similar photos. Multiples of similar photos were merged, and the crashing waves were deleted, or "Erased," to create the photo above.

Last Days of December - created in Movie Maker  

The movie above was generated auto-awesomely from some of the photos I took on this dreary day in December. Movie Maker is a feature within Google Plus that takes a grouping of your photos and makes it into a movie - unbeknownst to you. It is so fun when you look at your phone, see an unfamiliar notification, and voila, you have a movie!

Once your surprise movie is made, you can edit it in G+. Add or remove images, include filters and / or music, and then share on G+. You can also download the movie to your device and share on YouTube, or wherever. FYI, I had no idea what was happening to my phone when I saw that notification the first few times, it was weird. Oh, and the music choices are a little weird too. Currently, Movie Maker is only available on certain Android devices (like mine). 

Back to more photos - Last Days of December

Winter Boots Hunter Green

I included the picture above because I liked the contrast of the colors. I was slipping and sliding all over the place with these rubber boots, I nearly broke my neck! But they look so cute and keep your feet dry. 

Graystone Apartment Building Cheery Row Houses

Creepy-looking graystone building above on the left, coupled with cheery row houses above on the right. The graystone was dilapidated, and the bushes covering the facade were not maintained, contributing to the run-down look of the structure. I tried to build upon that look of disrepair in the edit with more contrast. I may have gotten a bit carried away, perhaps channeling my inner Morticia Addams, because the bright brick row houses on the right were totally joyful with festive red ribbon bows until I got my hands on them. Both images were edited on my Moto X and auto-enhanced in Google Plus upon instant upload. 

Chess Pavilion Lakefront Trail chicago

The photo of the empty chess pavilion above has minimal editing (maybe just auto-enhanced on Google Plus). 

The lakefront path was desolate, it was drizzling, windy and cold, I was ready to go home. I headed down the hill, away from the lake, and towards the underpass that leads back to the park. I took one last look back to see if I had missed anything, and that was when my eye caught the chess pavilion. 

Chicago Chess Pavilion

Unlike the summer months, the chess pavilion looked lifeless on this day at the end of December. I stood there for a minute and stared at the cold, concrete structure framed by black trees, dark murky waters and sullen grass. The vacant space drew me in, so I snapped some photos - after all, that was the whole point of my lakefront stroll, plus I had three devices with me, so why not. 

On my way home, I made a pit stop at Public Hotel. I purchased and espresso, sat beside the fireplace, and started my photo edits on my phone. The dark looking chess pavilion photo immediately above is not heavily edited. Because the day was gloomy, all I had to do was add a litho filter, some highlights and a black vignette. And just like that, those trees achieved the dramatic effect they were so desperately trying to impress upon me.

Want to see more pics? 
I'm LeylaRuinsEverything on Instagram 

How about similar blog posts? 
My Year-End Review (with video) 
My Look Back at 2011 (looking forward to 2012, I wonder how that worked out for me?) 
Auto-Awesome Makes the Holidays Better (another post about Google Plus auto awesome)

Disclosure: Moto X is a client 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Year-in-Review [video included]

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Leyla's 2013 Year-End Recap Post 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Watch my 2013 video recap below, or here (and then scroll down to read more)

2013 Was Crappy 
My friend Ellen once said to me, "the odd years are the good years", but that's a big fat lie - or at least in the case of 2013. Overall, 2013 was a pretty crappy year for me. If you watch the video, you may think otherwise, in fact, when I was compiling the photos to make the video I too was fooled. But having actually lived the crappy year, I speak from experience when I say that it was not a good year. 

2013 started out crappy and it is ending kinda crappy too. I had surgery at the very end of 2012 and it took me a really long time to recover. I had post-surgery related medical issues and other medical crap which lasted well into August of 2013, if not September. That's 9 months of medical crap - I would say that's pretty crappy. I'm ending the year in good health (as far as I know), so I look forward to continued good health in 2014, and I wish you all good health too. 

I Traveled a TON in 2013 
I ended 2012 traveling and started 2013 traveling. The video is in chronological order, and I placed a suitcase before photos taken from a trip. Now, I know there were FAR more trips in 2013 than what you'll see in the recap video, but this isn't a documentary, it's a goddamn review / recap of 2013. 

Some of the trips I took in 2013 + highlights / low points of 2013:
  • I traveled to Toronto for work in January, my first time! (see related Toronto travel blog post). 
  • I traveled to Jordan for pleasure in February (by myself), and visited Amman, Petra and the Dead Sea for 8 nights and 7 days. 
  • I traveled to Austin for SXSW in March, I was there for 5 days with work (see SXSW blog post). 
  • I didn't travel in April, but I had my second bout of medical issues - so I traveled to the doctor a whole hell of a lot. April is also my birthday month, which pretty much sucked, but Monica came to visit later that month.
  • I traveled to Florida in May, for mother's day I went to visit my aunt in Clearwater and hung out with my cousins.
  • I think I was home in June and July - but there could have easily been a trip to NYC in there that I'm forgetting about. I also broke off a 10+ year relationship with a friend who became more than a friend about two years prior - so my summer sucked (here is a boring blog post recapping that timeframe, you won't find anything about him in there). 
  • I traveled to Philadelphia for ASE in August (that was a tiring month with Lollapalooza and prepping for my cross-country Amtrak trip - month of August blog posts here). 
  • I traveled in September across the United States for 12 days on Amtrak - one of the best. vacations I've ever taken in my life, but I took the vacation for one of the worst reasons, so it was bittersweet (but read the blog posts about #LeylaExpress, those are good). 
  • I traveled to NYC in October for work and stayed for about 10 days, I was able to keep myself so busy, that it wasn't until October came around that I had to deal with the loss of the friend / boyfriend, so I decided it would be best to chill out in NY for a while. 
  • I did not travel in November or December, but I was plenty busy with work... oh wait, I took a day-trip to Michigan (does that count?).
  • And, for 2014 I am already planning a trip, I'm thinking The Caribbean! Doing the research now, if you have ever BEEN to the Caribbean leave a comment and give me some travel advice.

There you have it, that was my 2013 in a nutshell! So now you can see why I cannot wait to ring in the New Year! Stay tuned for my predictions and resolutions post for 2014, it'll be a real winner. 

More Year-in-Review posts:  
2009 Year-in-Review 
2000 - 2009 a DECADE in review - this is like a bonus post for you
For giggles, I am throwing this blog post in - So, enough about me... let's talk about ME  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

College Journal Entry

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College Journal Entry from September of 1994

Leyla A. circa 1994 - below is a true story that I wrote my senior year of college (no edits).

College Journals
Journals I kept - college and post-college 
Once again I didn't do my homework, and when I went to Dr. Dotson he told me I get away with it because I have a "creative personality." 

September 6th, 1994 
I just had a real college moment. I'll back track... Saturday night I was working and a very shy boy comes up to me and says, "You're Leyla" - not an unusual comment because everyone knows me. And I say, "Yes". He says, "I'm in your Hist 492 class." I think, that's funny the class has 12 people, surely I would remember his face, but I apologize for not recognizing.

He talks about the class a little, he even knows my research topic, so surely he MUST be in my class. The time I'm still trying to place him. Anyway he takes my number and says he needs help, he's "lost", and hasn't been to class since the first day. Being the kind hearted fellow classmate, I invite the poor soul under my wing. He'd be a good study partner, and although I have no real attraction to him, he's cute.

He calls and we decide to study Monday night. I try to help him find a research topic, he helps me, we talk movies, music and Jack Kerouac. He's cute and very typical of a boy who rode his skateboard to the library.

The evening has progressed and I'm ready to leave. I know I'm going to the Hangar 9 at 11 PM and I know this boy is new in town, so I invite him along. He sits at the bar quietly, drinking slowly (as I pay). I talk to Paul Warren, Jim, etc. and he listens attentively tossing in a word or a comment from time to time. The night passes, we go home.

To back up a minute. At the library I find out he is 19, which is odd since he is in a 492 Hist class - a class you have to take your graduating semester. I drive him home and he kisses me on the cheek good night, which made me feel like Auntie Leyla.

Fast forward to tonight. About 20 minutes ago I get a phone call. "Leyla?" "Yes?"I reply. He goes on, "It's urgent I talk with you." "Well, I'm doing homework, could it wait?" "No, can I come over?" I say "No." He says, "Could you meet me outside? So, I do.

The boy tells me he saw me a few weeks ago and was asking about me. His roommate is in my Hist 492 class, and he lied to me to meet me! He's not even IN school.

I find the whole Hallmark moment a bit flattering. He made me smile, but put 100 years difference between us.

Want more stories of old? Here's a travel post from 1995  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Auto Awesome Makes The Holidays Better - Thanks Google!

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Auto Awesome - Twinkle is Here! 

Google makes the holidays so much more special. 

Auto Awesome by Google
My Christmas Tree Twinkles

My Christmas tree looks so cool thanks to Google's newest auto awesome feature - Twinkle! Twinkle is the latest Auto Awesome feature from Google. I had NO clue this was available until my photos from the weekend were backed up to my G+ page. Today, I got a notification on my phone that I had new Auto Awesome photos and to my delight, I found my photos full of TWINKLE! 

Google Auto Awesome
My Christmas Tree and Booze Bottles Twinkle

Auto Awesome has been around for a while, it automatically creates new versions of your photos, sometimes making them into GIFs, without you having to lift a finger. Features include: Eraser, Smile, HDR, Motion, Smile, Pano, Mix and others. If you're not familiar with Google's Auto Awesome feature, check out some of my other awesome photos here or read about it on Google's support page

Auto Awesome Photos by Google
Holiday Party Twinkle

You can be sure that I am going to be taking many more photos of holiday lights and uploading them to my G+ Page. I want to auto-awesome EVERYTHING! 

Auto Awesome photos by Google
Holiday Party My Nose is Twinkling - I'm Rudolph

The second photo of my at the holiday party was edited prior to uploading, I added some "brightness" in iPhoto and that's why you're catching extra twinkle on the walls. My nose, however, is twinkling from a bit of shine on my face... I don't think my nose was what Google had in mind when they thought up Twinkle. 

More of my auto-awesome photos on G+
Did you see my last post on photo editing? You can read it here
And, see all more of my photos on Instagram

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Playing with iPhone Photo Apps

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iPhone Apps - iPhoto, Snapseed, VSCOcam 

Playing with various iPhone photo editing apps 

This morning I posted a photo on Instagram of the Trump Tower edited using iPhoto on my iPhone (below). Upon posting, I experienced a warm reception from the Instagram community, but one person questioned my choice in photo editing apps. In response to the naysayer, I edited the same photo in a few different apps (I was home sick today and bored).

Trump Tower - iPhoto Edit
Trump Tower Black White

I liked the dramatic look of the drastic black and white created by the iPhoto filter.  If you've never used iPhoto on an iPhone (it's probably because it is $5.99), but it has a huge selection of filters and tools. Figuring out how they all work is a little tough, so I just hit a bunch of buttons until - voila

Trump Tower - No Edit
Trump Tower Chicago - no edit

You can see that the original photo was pretty good to begin with, so the filtering and editing created drama, but had little to do with the amazing composition of the photo I took with my phone. I am kidding, I'm not even really sure what "composition" means when it comes to photography. 

Trump Tower - Snapseed Light Edit
Snapseed edit Instagram

This version looks almost like the "no edit" version, but it is not. The photo directly above was edited using Snapseed, I hit the "auto enhance" button, which created a slight increase in color. You can mostly see it in the golden hues on the windows and towards the bottom. 

Trump Tower - VSCOcam Edit
VSCOCam Trump Tower edit

I don't like the version edited in VSCOcam at all. It looks dull, lame, meh. I actually spent the most time editing this photo (believe it or not), it's like it was un-edited. I've used VSCOcam a bunch of times, normally I like it, but with this pic in particular, I couldn't make anything look good. 

Trump Tower - Snapseed Heavy Edit
Snapseed Grunge Filter Trump Tower Chicago

This is my second favorite (after the black and white). The heavily edited version in Snapseed reminds me of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome or something. I played with the tones, the scratchiness, the blah blah blah, and I used the "grunge" filter. As I said before, I have no patience for photo editing, I hit a bunch of buttons and - voila! 

Frankly, unless you're making money on Instagram, or you're a professional photographer, you really shouldn't spend more than 3-5 minutes editing a photo. You should have better things to do, like blogging. 

Now, leave a comment and tell me which version was your favorite! And, follow me on Instagram.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Annual Cyber Monday Post

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Ready for Cyber Monday!?! 

Didn't get your shopping done on Black Friday? Now is your chance! 

Gift Items - for people not named Leyla
Links to Cyber Monday* gift items for people who like cutesy or adorable things, goofy sweaters, dudes, or random other people who are not named Leyla. *Note: some links are advertisements, but they're still awesome.

I Love You Madly mug part of the Giggly Wiggly collection from BoldLoft. BoldLoft is a small company with an array of gift items for hopeless romantics and generally happy people. In addition to this love mug, you'll find pillow cases, glassware and for the adorable love bird in your life, go here --> for Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals.

Still on the cute theme, how about this adorable Mistletoe apron? Your gal look like a Christmas doll in this green and white polka dot apron with red trim. Picture her wearing this apron while finishing up those holiday treats for your friends and family. Other women's holiday aprons available at Flirty Apron are available AND for Cyber Monday you can get 45% off your purchase on Monday only when you use the promo code CYBERFLIRTY.

Personalized Humidor, a good gift item for dudes who smoke cigars and people who are named +An Phan or +Michael Altshuler. This humidor from A Gift Personalized can be engraved and holds approximately 12 cigars with a cedar divider, 1 round humidifier and comes with a glass hygrometer (what?). It is 25% off for Cyber Monday (under $50).

Forget the typical Ugly Christmas Sweater this year, and go for the gold with these offensive Christmas sweaters (actually sweatshirts). Makes a great gift for your boyfriend OR buy it for yourself and wear it to your company holiday party! Even if the holiday sweatshirt isn't your thing, go to and find TONS of awesome gag gifts that are sure to offend just about anyone. 

Practical Gifts - for people named Leyla
Cyber Monday* items for people like me, Leyla. Practical items that you will be able to use for years, skin care to make you look younger and more beautiful while fighting your perma-zits, and absurd must-haves from Korean super stores. *Note, some links are advertisements, so if you buy me something, that's like double bonus for me! 

Wool socks are my favorite things in the world! I have wool socks of varying weights (and brands), and I wear my wool socks year-round. Trust me, you will love Smartwool socks (or gloves, or caps) find a ton of Smartwool items on sale for 20% off at Amazing Socks.

I discovered Mario Badescu a few years ago and I cannot express how much I love their skin-care products (I do use and love Mario Badescu products, even though this is an advertisement). I have tried numerous luxury skin-care products, from Dior, to La Mer, Lancome, etc. I've also used products recommended by my dermatologist, and I prefer the Cucumber Cleansing Lotion, acne treatment, Vitamin C serum, and others from Mario Badescu to most anything. The prices are already great, but they're offering 25% off and free shipping for Cyber Monday.

Last, but most certainly NOT least, I am crazy about almost everything from virtual mega-malls in Asia. I've discussed my obsession with Korean and Chinese virtual malls with +Tony Ham, he was amazed at all the things available. This is where you can find Zentai suits and Cosplay costumes , stylish face masks (like above), and so much more! You go NOW! 

Here are some Cyber Monday deals from Asian virtual mega-malls:

I hope you enjoyed my Cyber Monday deals, this stupid post took me more than TWO HOURS to write because I put a ton of thought and care into finding you the BEST Cyber Monday deals - and more importantly the DUMBEST Cyber Monday Deals.

Please note, I am an affiliate for many of the products featured in this post, meaning I might make $1.50 if you buy something - which is a fraction of what I deserve for taking the time to write this post. Here is more about me and my disclosure.