A Weekend Amid the Giants

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A Weekend Amid the Giants

This past weekend, I escaped Los Angeles' epic heatwave by venturing into the Sequoia National Park! The trip was rather spontaneous but my boyfriend and I are expert planners. We packed up the car, hit the road and just 4 hours later found ourselves in one of the most special places in the world!

Sequoia National Park is a beautiful area for camping, hiking and more located in California's southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Some of the park's most famous attractions include Crystal Cave, the General Sherman tree (the world's largest tree by volume, standing at 275 feet and over 36 feet in diameter), Moro Rock and Tunnel Tree (pictured above). 

The giant sequoias are thousands of years old, making them not only eye-catching but iconic. These trees are the world's largest trees and among the oldest living things on Earth. The park is made even more special with its lush meadows, flowing streams, wildflowers, beautiful lakes, peaceful golden hours and well-kempt campgrounds. 

We spent our days hiking and experienced a range of terrains. We swam in Lake Hume and dipped our toes in the serene water at Lake Weaver. It was amazing to see the snowy peaks that still cover the tops of the mountain and even more cool to drink ice cold water through a Purifier filtration system.

All in all, it was a great weekend and a trip I highly recommend for everyone to take! You can learn more about planning a visit to the Sequoia National Park here.  

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4 Ways to Enjoy Chicago’s River North Neighborhood This Summer

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4 Ways to Enjoy Chicago’s River North Neighborhood This Summer

River North is known as one of the trendiest neighborhoods in America! Our community is home to tons of art galleries, luxury high-rises, a thriving food scene, beautiful bars and sexy people. So, what is River North up to now that the sun is finally coming out in Chicago?  

  1. Music Festivals: This summer, Chicago will play host to a range of bands headlining the Spring Awakening tour, Blues Fest, Mamby on the Beach, Pitchfork, Lollapalooza and more! Dance to Diplo, get nostalgic with the “I Love the ‘90s” tour, beach it up with MGMT, or enjoy what may be Ozzy Osbourne’s final tour. Learn more here.

  2. Live Comedy: Check out the 26th Annual Comedy Festival to see your favorite comedians from across the country! Catch appearances from cult directors and even the reunion of a certain ‘90s television show! It’s crazy how spot on this fest was curated because it’s the perfect balance of under the radar comics and the most popular podcasts, TV and film personalities. You can purchase tickets here.

  3. Summer Happy Hour: River North has no shortage of bars where you can go to see and be seen! Head to The Hampton Social for their extended happy hour and receive half off their delish wood fire oven pizzas and rose of the day! Try the seafood chopped salad, smash burger or Yacht seafood tower if you’re still feeling hungry. Everything at this neighborhood hotspot is Instagram-worthy and you are sure to be surrounded by other young and fun Chicagoans!

  4. Street Festivals: Chicago will experience no lack of awesome street festivals this summer, as there are dozens of different themed markets and fairs set to take place. River Northerners will get the chance to sample bites from all around the world at the Food Truck Fest, enjoy special craft beer at the Two Brothers Summer Festival or take a ride in a hot air balloon at the Eyes to the Skies Festival. Learn more here

This summer, stay tuned in to everything River North here at the EnV Chicago blog!

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An Old Rope

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An Old Rope

"All my ancient twisted karma,
From beginningless greed, hate and delusion,
Borne through body, speech and mind,
I now fully avow."

Zen verse of repentance

 

Karma is an old rope
Infinitely long
Too thick to cut with a knife or
Gnaw on with your animal teeth
Karma is an old rope
Embedded with knots
Like land mines in the dirt
Like boulders in the park
Like waves in the ocean
Broken or separated but somehow more powerful with every instance
Karma is an old rope
We create each knot with every lifetime
We don't know that the rope is a circle
No end and no beginning
Karma is an old rope
Adorned with knots
That we must experience over and over
Maybe we can see the knot
Maybe we experience the knot
Maybe we can reflect on it
Maybe we can even untie the knot
Maybe we fight it
Oh twisted ancient karma
Like an old rope
Adorned with knots that we
get the chance to untie

LOS ANGELES 5/2017.

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La Rosa

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La Rosa

a rose is a rose

is as red as a cherry

 

is rose tinted

and rose colored  

and no bed of roses

 

but would by any other name smell as sweet stop

 

and smell the rose

is everything

is coming up roses

 

is never a rose without a thorn

 

 

Los Angeles. 1/2017.

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Christmas Cookie Party

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Christmas Cookie Party

Over the weekend, I hosted my 3rd annual Christmas Cookie party. A few years ago I decided that I was officially an adult (only about a decade after actually legally becoming one) so it was time that I started cultivating my own holiday traditions.

I love to cook but baking is new to me. I thought what better than to host a cookie making and baking party so I could learn new tips and tricks from my friends. The way the party works is that everyone brings the ingredients for one kind of cookie and we bake!

After several years of throwing the party we seem to have finally hit our stride. My guests and I ended up making about a dozen different recipes and all in all over 300 cookies!

We had: chocolate chip with sea salt, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter chocolate chip, white chocolate chip with cranberry, persimmon, sweet loren's, chocolate chip with oatmeal and coconut, peanut butter muffin with reeses, maple cream, everything cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and gluten free sugar cookies.

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Big Daddy Pie Day

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Big Daddy Pie Day

In honor of my Big Daddy, Rudolf Kremer, who passed away 5 years ago, my mother suggested that the ladies of the family bake his favorite dessert- apple pie. My Big Daddy served in the Air Force during World War II, lived into his 90s, and got to meet his first great grandchild. He liked oysters, chocolate, and Perrier. He wore yellow socks and had many hobbies including beekeeping and wood working.

The apple pie recipe I chose to work with is from Martha Stewart, whose recipes I trust to be really yummy and relatively easy. I also chose to make my own Pate Brisee (pie dough) which sounds hard but really wasn't. Making a pie from scratch isn't as difficult as it might seem, merely time consuming. I'd say that the entire process took about an hour, most of the effort is in the preparation of ingredients and also, depending on the intricacies of your desired, pie crust. 

Overall, I loved this recipe. I'd go a little easier on the "zest and juice of 1 lemon" and you definitely don't need 12 Granny Smith apples (I only used about half). Otherwise, this recipe is delicious and super easy. I also really love the idea of starting a tradition in which we remember family and friends by cooking their favorite things. What a beautiful, comforting way of remembering our loved ones. 

 

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Blue Ruin

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Blue Ruin

For some reason I didn't find "a beach bum finds his quiet life upended by dreadful news and sets off for his childhood home to carry out an act of revenge" to be the most gripping synopsis for a film. Also, the movie's poster was a tad more aggressive than I prefer. I don't know, it just seemed too heavy. But I kept hearing about it. Some of my favorite media outlets favorited it. I couldn't escape it. So, I finally got around to it, and guess what? I found Blue Ruin to be an intelligently restrained and "thrillingly grim, well-told revenge story."

Blue Ruin is the story of Dwight Evans (Macon Blair), a man living a kind of self-imposed emotional exile due to his traumatic past. Dwight is homeless, broken, and virtually estranged from the rest of the entire world- until he learns that an opportunity for retribution has arisen. He sets out for vengeance with a plan that is both short-sighted and full-fledged. Blue Ruin offers its audiences a gripping balance of violence and morality. We don't condone Dwight's actions but we understand them.

The film seems to explore themes of masculinity, family, and community; more traditional concepts than viewers sometimes expect from the modern, thriller genre. I was a bit puzzled, surprised that I kept referring back to my knowledge of medieval literature- there's something about the story that seems alluringly archaic. (Check out the 9th Century Medieval elegy The Wanderer for something along the same lines.) 

Does Dwight seeks revenge, blood for blood, because he's weak? Or do we just see it that way because that behavior no longer fits within the confines of acceptable social behavior? As a viewer, it feels like an airplane is flying above you throughout the entire film, constantly waving a "medieval justice" banner across the skyline. 

Looking forward to future films from director, Jeremy Saulnier, who is reported to be in talks to direct another "intense tale of fate, family, and revenge"...but this one's with wolves.

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A Girl's Guide to Buying a Car

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A Girl's Guide to Buying a Car

As you might've noticed, I haven't posted anything in the past few weeks…that's because I was recently involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, being in a accident is just another reality of living in our modern world. So, what's a girl (who doesn't know anything about cars) to do when she finds out that her car has been "totaled"? 

Well, if you're like me then you'll go through what slightly resembles the seven stages of grief and then you'll decide to step up and find yourself a new car! 

Because I was 100% not at fault for the accident, I received a settlement figure for what the insurance company thought my car was worth. Everyone will start with a general amount of money that they can spend. Once you've got that it's best to consider what style or make of car you want. After that it's all research, most of which can be done online.

If you're looking for a used car, try websites like CarMax which can transfer cars from all over the state (and country). Their website is regularly updated and offers straightforward filters so you can narrow down your search. 

Online research can help you familiarize yourself with different makes and models of both new and used cars. Sites like Edmunds, AutoTrader, and TRUECar are great for learning about a car's details, mpg, warranty, and safety rating. Customer reviews can also give insight into potential pros and cons of different vehicles. Kelley Blue Book will help you understand what a car is worth in your region.

I made a list of cars (new and used) within my budget and then set out on a metaphorical online warpath to find out which dealerships in my area had them available to test drive. Make sure to record the stock number/ID of each car and bring it with you to the dealership. You can make an appointment or drop in, whatever is most convenient for you. 

There's a stereotype that car salesmen are these Machiavellian creatures. I found most to be quite polite and mostly informative. That being said, you should always play your cards close to your vest. It's okay to give salesmen info like the range in which you hope to spend but they don't need to know specifics. Go in confident and make your trips short, don't feel like you need to stay longer than it takes to test drive a few cars. 

Once I test drove the car I'd researched and decided it would be a smart purchase, I headed to TrueCar, a company that believes "that car buying should be transparent." What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that you get to find out what others paid for the car that you're considering. I went online and looked at the range that people were paying in my area for the exact car that I wanted. Then I was directed to dealers in my area which offered "guaranteed savings [for] TrueCar customers." I found the absolute lowest price available for the car I wanted and then I emailed every single Internet Sales Manager at the dealerships in my area asking if they could "match that price." Within 24 hours I had several managers who said they could. Some may try to add on extras or tell you that they can't offer the exact price you saw online but stick to your guns! Your most important asset is that you can just walk away so don't be afraid to tell them you have other dealerships offering a lower price. After being put on hold for a period of time, restating that I "wanted to buy from "______" dealership but not unless they could match the lowest price" a few times- my terms were met! I made my way back to the dealership and purchased the car. Remember to always account for taxes and fees in addition to the price of the vehicle, a process you can do here. After that, expect about an hour or more (hopefully not more than 2) of paperwork. 

It can be stressful and a bit intimidating but once you complete the process of buying a car you can be sure that you have the confidence to do it again when necessary. Don't forget to pay it forward and help friends and family with whatever tips you've learned!

 

 

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The Best Movie You Haven't Seen

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The Best Movie You Haven't Seen

The other day I stumbled upon a movie that I really liked and  nowadays, that's kind of something special.  Viewers have such unbridled, instantaneous access to movies via online streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu+, and the world of On-Demand, that it's easy to feel sort of lost in it all. That's why Slow West is such a refreshing find and a film I highly recommend seeing.

The recent Netflix and Chill social phenomenon reflects a universal truth in the world of online streaming- people get bored. We are human beings after all and with access to thousands of movies it's no surprise that we are often overwhelmed by choices. It's all too easy to re-watch beloved episodes of your favorite TV show over and over again. It's common to even hate-watch movies, like scratching some kind of guilty pleasure itch. But why do that when there's so much amazing content available at your fingertips? I deterred from that bad habit and took a chance on a movie. I watched Slow West and loved it, so much so that I've watched it several times since. 

Slow West is the Western that Wes Anderson didn't have time to direct. It's the black comedy that the Cohen Brothers decided was too sweet for their taste. It's the screenplay William Faulkner wrote as a happy drunk in the 30's but never sold into production. Basically, it's the best cinematic tragicomedy I've seen in a while. 

The film takes place during the 1870s in the "baking heart of America." It's the story of Jay, a young, high-born Scotsman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who travels to America in search of his true love, a young woman named Rose, whom (Caren Pistorius), due to a series of unfortunate events, is on the lam.  Michael Fassbender stars as "Silas," a bounty hunter with a heart of gold who decides to accompany Jay on his journey West as he sees Jay as a "jack rabbit in a den of wolves."

Think Manifest Destiny, think Trail of Tears, think dust, think bandits, think bounty hunters, think beautiful landscapes of the Colorado prairie: tall grass, desert flowers, cracked dirt, and big, blue skies. 

Over the course of their expedition, the two men come to embody the customary conflict of the realist versus the romantic. Jay is an intuitive, sensitive, and articulate young man while Silas is, at least at the beginning of the film, referred to as a 'brute.' A notable scene halfway through the film, in which Jay meets a fellow intellectual traveler, has the men exchanging news. Jay says that the East is full of "violence and suffering," a realist sentiment if ever there was one, and his comrade refers to the West as a land heavy with "dreams and toil," a slight nod to romanticism. 

Slow West is a smart film and at times it almost feels like a novel. It's easy to get wrapped up in the folksy tone and the way in which the story's action gradually and elegantly builds. Slow West is a peculiar film and one worthy of being given a chance by modern audiences. 

 

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The Ode

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The Ode

There's so much possibility

when you're drunk and

the bathroom door won't lock

 

TEXAS. 2010.

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Refrigerator Cucumber Salad

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Refrigerator Cucumber Salad

Over the past few years, I've acquired a taste for vinegar. Vinegar isn't just for salad dressings. An adventurous cook can use this sharp, spicy marinade for an array of dishes such as: baked beans, fruit-centric appetizers, and stews. Just the other day I came across a recipe for refrigerated cucumber salad and I was so intrigued that I had to give it a try. Apparently, this cold dish is a bit of a Southern thing and it's no wonder why- toss the ingredients into a large jar and take it to any summer gathering for a tangy, cold side dish. 

I enjoyed the salad on a toasted bagel with labne, a tart Greek yogurt (a staple for any kitchen), and pan seared salmon. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cucumbers (I used Persian but any type will do), thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 cups of white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 T salt
  • ice

Directions:

  1. Add together vinegar, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes into a pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat and add in the celery stalks. Stir continuously for a few minutes to make sure the sugar has melted.
  2. Remove from heat and add 2 handfuls of ice cubes, set aside.
  3. Mix together the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the liquid ingredients on top and let sit for a few minutes. Once cooled, transfer the contents of the bowl into a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. 

 

 

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Think Blue

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Think Blue

Sportswriter Molly Knight reveals all in her latest piece of narrative nonfiction titled The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers' Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse. As a SoCal native, Knight has written about baseball for the past eight seasons; she's also written for ESPN Magazine, Glamour, and Variety.  Knight spent much of career working closely with the Dodgers and in The Best Team Money Can Buy, she offers up insights into a team filled with "personality, talent and moods, [as well as] the occasional dollop of jealousy." 

Having been born and raised in Los Angeles, I visited Dodger stadium as much as any average Angeleno, maybe even a little bit less. Then, during high school, I started playing softball and though I was far from a natural athlete I enjoyed the game and team camaraderie. I took a liking to baseball too and began watching every game I could, learning about the players, and attending games. This was all prior to when the McCourts owned the Dodgers, a tumultuous period of which Knight writes about with a distinct distaste. Around 2004, during those years which live in Dodger infamy, I remember attending games and noticing that the stadium seemed rundown, security was nowhere to be seen, and inebriated fans were a dime a dozen. Like most Angelenos, I wondered what had happened to the Dodgers? Thankfully, all of that changed when the esteemed Guggenheim Group took over ownership in 2012. 

The Best Team Money Can Buy takes a close look at the perfect storm of ownership debacles, player trades and injuries, cultural influences, and management decisions that have effected the dodgers we know and love today. It's an interesting, easy to read, history of one of baseball's most beloved teams and whether or not you chant "Beat L.A." or paint your face blue, Knight's book reports valuable insights and intelligence.

I'll post a complete review in a few weeks. For now I'd like to share a few notes from the reading I recently attended for The Best Team Money Can Buy during which Molly Knight provided some sports acumen during a brief audience Q&A.

How did you get access to the team?

Fans are eager to know how Knight got the inside scoop on everything from Dodger golden boy Clayton Kershaw's record setting $215 million contract extension to the time fellow pitcher Zach Greinke tossed right fielder Yasiel Puig's luggage into the street during a team trip. Well, Knight explains her connection to the Dodgers as a "peer to peer relationship" due to "coming up with these guys" during the hectic McCourt era. Knight entered the clubhouse in the mid 2000s and she explains that as a journalist she had information regarding the McCourt's ownership, finances, and legal problems which made her an asset to the clubhouse. 

Why can't Puig adjust his game?

Despite common misconceptions, Knight believes that it's not that Puig is unwilling or unable to reach his full hitting potential as a major league baseball-it's just that he's not mature enough…yet. Knight claims that she's sensitive to Puig's plight and that she respects him as a "man of color" foraging his way in the game but all that doesn't excuse his behavior in the clubhouse and his reputation as a "distraction" to his own team. She believes that if Puig attended "early b.p. (batting practice), [hit the] weight room, and watched video" to study his opponents "the sky would be the limit" for him. Ultimately, Knight says that "it's up to [Puig]" to adjust his game and that he "hasn't done anything to warrant an exit from L.A." anytime soon.

What's up with the Dodgers' (lack of) team chemistry?

Now that the Dodgers have gotten rid of "me first players," (a  comment that seemed like a slight jab towards career long Dodger Matt Kemp, the suspected source of some of Knight's more juicy stories) Knight says that the team is on their way to creating the fervor required for a team to make it to the playoffs. Once the Dodgers get that far it'll be up to management to rely on the so-called "new school, numbers driven point of view" to fill their roster with players who make every at bat count. Knight states that many of the Dodgers "are being paid to hit home runs" (can't argue with that) so when it comes time for more critical at-bats players sometimes can't negotiate the difference in strategy. Criticism aside, it is the Dodgers' future players, like top prospect Corey Seager, who offer a bright future for both the team and the fans. Because it's when players mature together on a team that unbreakable chemistry, trust, and respect is cultivated. Plus, Knight says Seager's "the best player in a while," even better than Joc Pederson- to which the crowd gasped in disbelief. 

 

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Your Essential Summer Accessory

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Your Essential Summer Accessory

The Callus Remover by Care Me is a battery operated foot care tool that is so easy to use you'll wonder how you made it this far into summer without it!

Whether or not you're a girl or a guy everyone wants to feel confident in sandals or flip flops! Use this effortless foot care tool for even a few minutes and you'll be sure to feel the difference. Plus, now that it's battery operated and ultra portable you can use it at your convenience! 

The callus remover shaves away hard and dry skin in a matter of moments giving you the soft, smooth feet that you want. Its durable, 360 degree rollers are made of quality minerals, last for months and when they do need to be replaced are easily removed with the detachable clip.

Care Me cares about you. Not only is the quality of each and every product put through rigorous inspection and certifications, it's also backed up by strong customer service. Add the callus remover to your at-home care kit, it's an investment you won't regret!

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The Easiest Dessert Ever

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The Easiest Dessert Ever

Anytime I make a trifle people ooh and ahh and it all makes me feel very important. People coo upon even a glance of the English inspired dessert dish but what they don't know, and what I'll be real with you about right now, is that it's actually one of the easiest sweets you can make. 

Ingredients:

  1. Pre-made angel food cake. Just about every grocery store, other than the speciality ones, sell these airy spongecakes in the bakery department, sometimes they even keep them by the berries in the produce section.
  2. Fruit. I find that you should use at least 3 different types for diversity. Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are a great go-to. Mix it up with a can of sliced peaches. 
  3. Whipped cream. Low-fat cool whip works. 

Directions:

Dice the fruit. Dice the angel food cake. Layer in this order: cake, whipped cream, fruit. Repeat. 

Oh, and don't forget perhaps one of the most important things, the trifle dish! Head to Amazon for your choice of beautiful, glass pedestals. 

Check out Pinterest for design and ingredient inspiration. Enjoy!

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Spicy Thai Steak Salad

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Spicy Thai Steak Salad

When you’re trying to eat healthy, there’s nothing better than a salad that’s full on flavor, protein, and crunch! 

I adapted this Spicy Thai Steak Salad from several online recipes, particularly from the Comfort of Cooking. This recipe is loaded with savory flavors and ingredients that pack a surprising and filling punch for lunch or dinner.

 

Read on

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The Spiroslicer Is Your Next Must-Have Kitchen Accessory

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The Spiroslicer Is Your Next Must-Have Kitchen Accessory

The Spiroslicer is a premium vegetable spiralizer and a necessity for every healthy chef’s kitchen! Highly rated and consistently reviewed online, the Spiroslicer comes with a lifetime guarantee so you can be sure to get your money’s worth!

Use the Spiroslicer to slice vegetables like squash, zucchini, carrots and more! Not only can the Spiroslicer add beautiful colors to your homemade meals, it can also help add important vitamins and nutrients to just about every meal.

The Spiroslicer is made with BPA free ABS Plastic and its blade is made of Japanese stainless steel. Its julienne blade allows you to make noodles in 2 different sizes. It’s dishwasher safe and allows for such an easy clean up that you’ll wonder how you cooked without it!

Use the Spiroslicer to cut pasta portions in half and add low-calorie variety to traditional pasta dishes! Add crunch and color to any salad, soup, or wrap! Served hot or cold, these thinly sliced veggies are guaranteed to impress your guests.


The Spiroslicer even comes in a best of bundle- receive the Original Spiroslicer, instruction manual, cleaning brush, storage pouch as well as a cookbook from the Delightful Chef with over 30 recipes and ideas on how to use your new vegetable spiralizer!

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The Gods

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The Gods

“When a child first catches adults out -- when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just -- his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child's world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”

John Steinbeck, East of Eden (1952)

Read on

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A Guide to Austin or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying, Start Drinking and Love the Breakfast Taco

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A Guide to Austin or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying, Start Drinking and Love the Breakfast Taco

As a born and raised Angeleno, many people questioned my move to Texas a few years back. I was almost surprised at how many people, both in and outside of Texas, had a hard time understanding why I'd move to San Antonio and later, Austin. I found that the lonestar state had plenty to offer, and much like California, was as diverse a place as any. 

Read on for a list of some of my favorite restaurants, bars, and things to do in Austin…

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Bodega Bliss in Highland Park

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Bodega Bliss in Highland Park

Ensconced inside the historic La Tropicana Market in Highland Park is Monte 52. The sandwich shop is a modest yet thriving operation nestled in the back of a robust bodega offering its diverse clientele everything from coconut water to craft brew, fresh salsa to in-house chocolate dipped strawberries, and iced coffee to fresh juices. On it’s own, La Tropicana Market has been a gem as well as a staple landmark in Northeast LA for decades. Within the past few years the market has begun to sell fresh, organic produce and grass fed meat. Additionally, La Tropicana’s decision to partner up and open their doors to Monte 52 seems to have only made the special location even more of a neighborhood treasure.

Read on

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