Behind the scenes at House of Torment

What my Adobe Premiere timeline looked like as I edited this assignment. Also my new desk, now out in the newsroom instead of the secluded photo cave, is directly next to our newsroom treats table. I can only assume that the majority of my coworkers now think I’m a crazy person from seeing this open on my computer monitor as they were innocently trying to grab a free cookie. Woops.

I took a behind-the-scenes tour of House of Torment last month, before they opened on Friday the 13th. House of Torment is a “haunted house” attraction located at Highland Mall in Austin, Texas, open during the Halloween season.

My editor and I were under the impression that they’d have their actors/performers in costume doing a run through or something, popping out from dark corners. It was more of the co-owner giving a tour of the sets, some finished, some still being constructed. It was neat to see how realistic they make this set up (aka disturbing, because I don’t like horror movies or being scared). I was nervous in terms of all my natural sound being guys hammering or talking about where the animatronic puppet should go so I’m happy I could find this royalty-free song, “House of Leaves,” from Kevin McLeod, to edit it to.

See the video I produced for Austin360 / Austin American-Statesman here:

House of Torment opens Friday the 13th for another season of scares, with monsters and attractions new and old. We take a behind-the-scenes tour of the main haunted house, the Blackthorne District.

In the end, I’m glad that their actors (scarers) weren’t present when I had my tour assignment, because in all honesty I probably would’ve had a heart attack or peed myself.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins



While at the grocery store, with the intention of grabbing a carton of regular, full-fat buttermilk, I instead bought a quart of organic low-fat buttermilk. All I wanted was homemade buttermilk biscuits (which I did make, but it wasn’t the rich flavor I was seeking.)

At a loss with what to do with the remaining three cups of low-fat buttermilk, I searched the internet. Finally, a recipe that piqued my interest: lemon blueberry muffins. A “healthier” muffin version that used whole wheat flour and apple sauce.

The original recipe called for one and a half teaspoons of lemon zest. I realized while making the recipe that I don’t own a zester or equivalent kitchen utensil, so I used one and a half teaspoons of lemon juice instead. This seemed to make the muffins extra moist. I also didn’t follow the directions about greasing the muffin pan and instead used paper liners, which led to a lot of muffin getting wasted and stuck to the paper : ( Lesson learned, recipe directions. Lesson learned.

In the end, not quite the buttery, fluffy, 400 calorie muffin from the store/bakery, but still a pretty tasty, healthier alternative.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking’s Good-For-You Blueberry Muffins.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1-1/2 cups blueberries (I used frozen)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 12-cup standard muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk both flours, the baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and oil until the mixture is pale and slightly frothy. Whisk in the applesauce, lemon juice, and vanilla. With the whisk, stir in about half the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk. Repeat with the remaining flour and then the remaining buttermilk, stirring until well incorporated. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling them to the top. Tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and then unmold. Serve warm or let cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months.

Golden egg yolks

That low-fat buttermilk I won’t stop complaining about.

Baking powder, baking soda, salt

Frozen organic blueberries that had probably been in the freezer for about a month. I have the tendency to buy too much fruit that I can’t consume fast enough before it goes bad, so I wash it, and then freeze it for smoothies. Or in this case, baking.

All-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour. According to Fine Cooking, “using half whole-wheat flour and half white flour adds antioxidants, fiber, and essential minerals, while maintaining the tender lightness produced by white flour.”



Flour mixture

Whisking the eggs, oil and sugar.

Buttermilk pouring

Liquid / flour mixing

Here comes the central ingredient




Follow directions and don’t use paper liners, just grease the muffin pan. Less delicious muffin waste in the end!



400°F and about half an hour later. OM NOM NOM NOM!



Even my parents, who were visiting Austin last week, liked them, and they usually complain that my baked goods are too sweet.

You can see more photos on my Flickr page.

Sewing + Salty Sow

Happy Hour at Salty Sow. Sparkling Sangria: elderflower liquor, bubbles, lemon, lime, orange, grapes, opal basil. Rosemary’s Piglet: pomegranate juice, rosemary syrup, bubbles.

A few weeks back, my buddy Clint ran a photo booth at Austin Stitch Lab during the Austin Fabric Shop Hop event. Afterwards, we went to Salty Sow for their happy hour. OMG, Brussles sprouts!

Clint let me borrow his film Pentax f/1.4 lens for this pic. Look at that depth of field. Gorgeous.

Mustache twirling while waiting for food to come out.

Crispy Brussels sprout leaves with golden raisins and pecorino cheese

Truffled deviled eggs




Some phone pictures:

Photo booth set up at Austin Stitch Lab.

I got this bag screenprinted during Austin Fabric Shop Hop. Austin Stitch Lab had a bunch of free demos and workshops throughout the weekend for the event.

It’s hard to edit photos when someone is attacking you with giant prop scissors.

Using that 1.4 on my DSLR.

DIY jewelry box for stud earrings


I love stud earrings. And I love things shaped like other things. So pretty much I just have a lot of earrings. A few weeks ago I decided to have a crafternoon to make a stud earring holder/jewelry box since most earring holders I see out there never have enough space, or are built for the dangling type of earrings. This was also to stop my habit of keeping all of my earrings in a bowl where I’d have to fish to find the correct two in a pair each day.

I had previously seen a tutorial on Pinterest from Anneorshine on YouTube describing how to make a jewelry box out of rolled pieces of fabric. It looked simple enough… something I could complete within a few hours and not give up half way through (which I tend to do with craft projects). See the full tutorials from Anneorshine here:

How To DIY: Make A Jewelry Box/ Ring Storage Holder

Make DIY Jewelry Display Box for Rings & Earrings

Wooden box from Michael’s. It was about $3.50 because I used a coupon!

Really wasn’t into the lime green paint.

I bought “spearmint” color acrylic paint… it ended up looking a lot like aqua instead of minty shade of green though.

Cutting the yard (probably should’ve only bought half a yard) of fleece into squares to roll into the cushion-y soft part of the jewelry box.

Packed in like sardines and about to be covered in fabric.


Note the sad single earrings at the bottom row since I’d lost their soulmates at some point. And in the second to last row, note that this is also a good storage box for rings too.

Betsey Johnson cheese earrings!

Fitz and The Tantrums, Circuit of The Americas After-Party


It’s been over a year since I’ve last written a blog post on here. Trying to change that.

Formula One madness hit Austin during the weekend of November 16-18. Along with racecars and international F1 fans, it also brought Fitz and The Tantrums as one of the bands for the Circuit of the Americas After-Party at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. After a long morning/afternoon of covering the Grand Prix from an Elroy resident’s tailgate party next to the racetrack (see last photo), I finished producing the video in time to catch Fitz and photograph their set. It was like a giant dance party!

Tina Phan/American-Statesman. Fitz and The Tantrums perform at the Circuit of The Americas After-Party at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Sunday, November 18, 2012.





They told us to “get low” and squat on the floor?



TTP f1 tailgate 4
Tina Phan/American-Statesman. A view of the Grand Prix race from Don Haywood’s tailgate party during the Formula One races on Sunday afternoon, November 18, 2012. Three sides of Haywood’s property (8218 Elroy Rd.) is bordered by Circuit of the Americas parking lots and the track itself.

The Emmy award-winning University Star

Lone Star Emmy 1

On November 5th, Parker Curtis and I headed to Houston for the 2011 Lone Star EMMY Awards. The University Star, the student newspaper at Texas State University, won in all three categories we were nominated in… go Star team!

Ride 2 Recovery
The University Star
Tina Phan, Photographer/Editor

Haitian Amputee Soccer Team
The University Star
Tina Phan, Photographer/Editor
Parker Curtis, Photographer/Editor

(Andrew actually submitted a reel showing various work, but here’s one of the videos he produced for this years Fun Fun Fun Fest)
The University Star
Andrew Goodwin, Photographer/Editor


Parker and I had to run loops from the backstage area to the front of the stage since they named university categories out in sequential order. By the way, that golden EMMY statue Parker is holding is just a prop, and was swiftly taken away from us after the photo was shot. Students who win for university productions receive a strange engraved piece of glass as an award instead of the traditional statue. I like how they let you keep the envelopes they open on stage to announce the winner.

Andrew couldn’t attend the ceremony since he was covering Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin/on stage with Childish Gambino at the time, but with the power of Photoshop, here’s what the photo would’ve looked like if Andrew was there too.

People sitting at tables near us were congratulating us and I recall one woman being rather puzzled when I was explaining to her that we were a student newspaper and not a student tv newscast. Another notable event: The Dallas Morning-News also won two EMMYS that night for Health/Science News Single Story and Military News Single Story. I just find it interesting that video being produced at newspapers are winning over some of the TV stories.

Thank you’s are definitely in order for the following people, as well as everyone else at The University Star and the people interviewed for the stories:

Scott Thomas, web editor 2009-2010. Scott and I essentially started the multimedia section at the Star in fall of 2009. I was a staff photographer and Scott asked me to be his assistant web editor. We really didn’t know what we were doing, as most of the time we were running around with cameras and troubleshooting Final Cut problems we’d never heard of, but I guess it worked out. Scott was the one who initiated this type of video storytelling at the Star. Before that, the Star’s previous web editor was doing a weekly TV newscast, so really none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for him.

David Nolan, senior lecturer at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is the catalyst in all of this. Scott and I did not know much about video until we were in Nolan’s Visual Storytelling class in Spring 2009. This was the first time I truly learned how to use a video camera and edit in Final Cut, as well as how to piece together a mini-documentary. I’d be totally lost if it wasn’t for what was taught this class.

Amanda Venable, the editor in chief 2009-2010, who let Scott and I tear down and rebuild the whole web and multimedia areas of the Star. It was also under her leadership when it was decided for a multimedia staff section to be created. By Spring 2010, a multimedia editor position was created and I was the first editor.

Allen Reed, the editor in chief 2010-2011, who really helped whip the multimedia section into shape and gave it so much more structure. Additionally, he would show me funny cat videos whenever I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by my workload.

Andrew Goodwin, multimedia editor 2011 through present, and my assistant multimedia editor in fall 2010… I didn’t even know work from newspapers could get entered for the EMMYS until he submitted a video he produced for the Star and got nominated in 2010. Granted, I helped start the section, but once Andrew became editor, there was a very noticeable jump in the quality of work being produced by the multimedia staff.

Parker Curtis, current assistant multimedia editor. The Emmy we won together was definitely team effort. When we were filming the Haitian Soccer Team story, he actually got stung by a bee (and didn’t seek medical attention/instead kept shooting as his hand swelled up, against my advice). During the editing process, he took the reins as I was out sick half the time with food poisoning.

Katie McGaha-Pruitt, assistant multimedia editor in spring 2011. I remember she was acting as editor for the day when I shot/produced the Ride 2 Recovery story. She helped me cut down interviews and made suggestions during the editing process until it was finished at 1:30 in the morning.

The University Star Multimedia staff, Fall 2010
(L-R) Melina Cowan, Cecily Fish, Tina Phan, Matt Barnes, Andrew Goodwin, Katie McGaha-Pruitt, Parker Curtis, Fabian Juarez

The University Star Multimedia staff, Spring 2011
(L-R) Andrew Goodwin, Katie McGaha-Pruitt, Parker Curtis, Tina Phan, Matt Barnes, Ramon Mejia, Eric Babin, David Castenada (Not pictured: Cecily Fish and Matthew Wright)

14/365: Multimedia Editor
I’m really honored to be a part of all this and help start this section.
-Tina Phan, multimedia editor – spring and fall 2010

Ecstatic Cuisine

I recently started interning at a catering company and cafe here in Austin as a video/photo/social media intern. Lately I’ve found myself shooting at weddings, corporate events and kitchens. Here are a few of my favorite shots…

Mini shredded BBQ chicken pita wraps. Appetizers at wedding held at Umlauf Sculpture Garden.

Grilled seasonal vegetable medley

The buffet opens! That’s Israeli couscous in the center.

Plates for the bride and groom

Chocolate bites and lemon bars. UT Indoor Air Conference VIP dinner at Umlauf Sculpture Garden.

A delivery of locally/organically grown Purple Dragon Carrots.

160: This is bananas



June 1, 2011

Due to an abundance of overripe bananas from last week, I decided to make banana bread. This was my first time ever making it. I used Martha Stewart’s banana bread recipe but switched out the 1/2 cup of sour cream for 1/2 cup of Stonyfield French Vanilla Organic Yogurt for my loaf. Homemade noms, yes!

I wanted to try something different because the only banana dessert I’ve ever helped make is a Vietnamese one called bánh chuối, which literally translates into “banana cake” even though the dish is more of a banana bread pudding.

Canon T2i
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

099: Now you’re in New Yoooork

April 1, 2011

Melissa in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She’s our NYC tour guide all weekend! : )

Gaby and I flew to New York to see the city and visit our friend Melissa Zhang. Day one of our four day trip included a weird JetBlue experience, Doughnut Plant, a failed walk to B&H Photo and Video, New York cheesecake, freak cold front/rain, the Museum of Modern Art and more.

*I may or may not have been listening to a lot of Jay-Z on the plane ride

Canon T2i
Canon 50mm f/1.4