EATING OUR WAY AROUND THE WORLD WITHOUT LEAVING LOS ANGELES

Why do you travel? 

  • To get away from the daily grind?
  • To spend quality time with others?
  • To invest time in, and transform, yourself?
  • To learn about other cultures, flavors and traditions? 

My friends Christina, Marsha, Patty and I (and occasionally a special guest!) found a way to do all of the above during those in-between days while waiting for our vacation days to refill. We challenged ourselves to eat our way around the world without leaving Los Angeles! 

LA offers so many cultures living alongside each other. With our two-fold goal, we aim to learn about different parts of the world and different parts of LA at the same time. We drool in anticipation for each new restaurant, and also the quiet time to hang together.

We’ve filled a bowl with names of all the countries we could think of. We meet monthly to draw a piece of paper out to determine which country’s cuisine we will visit.  On occasion, we already know of a good spot. We often still do a bunch of research online if we need other suggestions.  

One of the best parts of travel comes from the anticipation of the upcoming trip! So it’s fun to look forward to our dinner for a few weeks before gathering for a wonderful meal together. In many cases, we just eat. A few times we paused long enough to wander around the neighborhood visiting nearby businesses, street vendors and open air markets! 

So far our itinerary has taken us to:

ITALY
Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant in Marina Del Rey
Marsha summed this spot up in one word: Sumptuous!  Truly a feast with so many courses – salad, pasta, shrimp and fish! We drank great wine and enjoyed the fantastic family pictures and local location!  We made mental notes to return with family!

PERU
El Pollo Inka in Hermosa Beach
Patty and I frequently visited this spot before we drew the name from the bowl. We loved the amazing grilled meats, Christina had a slow-cooked osso buco. The live music set the tone and the newly redone interior was beautiful!  

JAMAICA
Donna’s Home Caribbean Restaurant in Hawthorne
This cozy little spot felt like eating in the kitchen of a family relative. Though a small spot, the flavors were big! The jerk seasoning brought my favorite combinations of seasonings and the juices were delicious!

SOMALIA
Banadir Somali Restaurant in Inglewood
This restaurant, too, felt like we’d stepped into a friend’s home. When we arrived, a bunch of friends sat at a table watching a game. We asked the chef what he recommended and we eagerly upon a platter!  Patty pointed out how awesome it is that we four seem to be on the same page, often eager to try the same things, or a variety offering.  This platter of meats including chicken, beef, goat and lamp became Christina’s favorite! Great place to feed all of our growing teenaged (and older) kids!

KHAZAKHSTAN
Shamshiri Grill in Westwood
This spot had such a beautiful interior and the entertainment centered on a delicious view of the kabobs being fired on the grill! I surprised myself by liking goat – again – though I settled on shrimp curry. The cherries in the rice were an unexpected dimension for rice that I loved! 

DIM SUM
Ocean Seafood in Downtown LA
When we drew Dim Sum from the fish bowl all four of us were the most excited we’d been to date! We got there early and got right in, the carts began circling like chuck wagons and we covered the table in plates.  A few times Christina found herself saying “That looks interesting!” (We’ve all said that at some spot.) It was cool to try vegetarian options on a few
dishes

EL SALVADOR
Paseo San Miguel in Los Angeles
Marsha suggested this restaurant based on the crowds she saw anytime she drove by. Now that we’ve eaten there, we know why. This spot leaped into the leadership spot with many of us in the group! Patty even went back with her family the same weekend and I’m looking for the opportunity to do the same.  Again, like with the Somalian restaurant, they offered a large platter of food with fish, shrimp, sausage, chicken, and beef. We also ordered four different pupusas and a plate of plantains and beans. We ate so much we were stuffed – hurt so good!

We’ve only just embarked on this journey and we look forward to the next destination – that we will draw in a few weeks!  I’m looking forward to trying Ethiopian! I already know I love Spanish and Armenian food and can’t wait to share it with the gals.  Marsha looks forward to Korean food (as do I). Christina wants us to hurry up and get to Brazilian food – I may already know the perfect place!

This was a test run at work when they hosted an African buffet and we tried Chakalaka!

We’ve also made it our mission to try some American foods that may vary by region – Patty suggested starting with BBQ. Marsha can’t wait to sink her teeth into Memphis BBQ and I look forward to trying Texas BBQ!

I love that I might show up with the stress of the workweek or living with teenagers but between the food and friendship, they quickly point me in another direction and my stress melts away.  So, don’t wait! Gather a partner or a group and get an interest group or club started! Whether it’s for dining, crafts, travel or to start in on your bucket lists, as Marsha would say: Get out and get to it!  

What about you?
What book or film transported you the farthest?
Have you ever picked your next vacation destination based on how beautiful it looked on the big screen? Or from a dish you ate?
What bucket list item could you check off your list tomorrow?
What country has your favorite food or dish?
Do you belong to any clubs with your friends? Dining, Book, Travel, etc? 

#EatOurWayAroundTheWorldLA #yelpla #yelp #Girlfriends #GNO #losangeles #dinner #lunch #happyhour #eatourwayaroundtheworld #lafoodie #foodie #Africa #Italy #Peru #Jamaica #Italy #Khazakstan #Somali #restaurant #restaurantweek #makesmewander

ONE OF THE BEST THINGS A FRIEND DID FOR ME

I want to share one of the best things one of my friends did for me. She showed up unannounced in my office, on a really average day, and talked me into training for a half ironman triathlon (1.2 mi swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run). I doubt anyone ever used the word “athletic” to describe me, but “stubborn”? Yes. “Crazy?” Probably. Turns out both of those go far when considering that distance endurance race.  

My crazy (in the best way) friend and me!

While I’d signed up, didn’t train and completed several recent runs, that only gets you so far. I mean, I swam laps one time since high school and biked even less since middle school – and I was 39 racing towards 40. We signed up for the event. She not only committed to being my drafting buddy (meaning she’d be working hard while I hoped to draft off of her), she also volunteered her parents to watch my kids during our swim practices (who were 5 and 9 at the time). It scared the [poo emoji] out of me! I never realized how many expletives I knew until I tried cycling windy mountain roads. 

Riding these distances made my buns numb! WTF! Way Too Fast!

Truthfully, I believed I the weekly Saturday practices would kill me. I actually planned my weeks no farther than Saturday afternoon and used the words “If I survive practice!” because of how far beyond my comfort zone I’d landed. Swarms of coaches brought me back from the edge – and each practice elevated my vibration closer to “Badass!” I really needed that after my divorce.  I dialed in on my nutrition and tuned into my body focusing on the slightest “gut instincts” about what I used to prep or recover from workouts.  Sometimes my body took over forcing naps despite my best efforts to counter with caffeination. Working out 6 days a week allowed me the first and last time I ate ANYTHING I wanted and still lose weight. Between the 2 of us we built a team within the Team to join in this crazy journey with us and were stronger together!  We got to know each other deeply on really raw, intimate levels. Oy!

No photo description available.

I’m the red cap in the back!

As a training exercise, we competed in our first (for many of us) triathlon – an Olympic distance tri. I even confronted my biggest cycling fear (pouring rain)! We also faced down a training weekend where we actually completed the race course of the half-iron tri but over 2 days, not 1 like for race day. I hallucinated several times about 80s movies “I want my two-dollars!” and cartoons “Pikachu!” but I finished!  In the end, my body stepped in and took over again and apparently a danger of getting in shape too fast is that my gallbladder burst 3 days before the big event so instead of being on the course, I was in the hospital. 

But I don’t feel like I missed out. I came away from this event living life on a larger scale with a “Mother (F’ing Crazy)” badge that I bring out when I need to, a pile of life lessons to pour on my kids “What I learned from doing the tri was…” and with life-long friends who are generous (with fundraising to fight cancer and with each other), amazing and just crazy enough to scare me in the best way! 

My friend pulled me out of the life I simply plodded through into one that exhilarated and terrified me but scared me to death and made me feel alive! I don’t know how I could ever repay my friend for this except to consider it again now that I’m 49 racing towards 50! 

wildflower girls

We South Bay girls may look like delicate wildflowers, but…

No, I’m not considering one right now, not even a little 1-sport event. 

What about you?
What was the best thing one of your friends did for you?
When is the last time you challenged yourself?
Are you the type of friend to go with your friend or cheer them on from the sidelines? (Both are valuable!)
What scares you?
What lesson did you learn?
When is the last time you surprised yourself?
Want me to talk you into a triathlon?
If you want to read more about my 2-day hallucinations from my Half Ironman training on the course…

#ChallengeYourself #PushYourself #SurpriseYourself #Midlife #Triathlon #Team #TeamInTraining #Blogathon #Day4 #CraziestIdeaEver #SupportSystem #ChallengeAccepted #YouHaveNoIdeaOfWhatYoureCapableOf #Friends #MakesMeWander

MY DISTRUST IN POLITICS HELPED ME TRUST MYSELF

pol rel

Supposedly the most authentic writing happens right when you wake up in the morning before your filter wakes up and does its job – even when answering a survey from O, The Oprah Magazine. The survey asked “How I was feeling about America?” the answers poured out. All the built up emotions stemming from my distrust of politics saturated by the pain and anguish I’d absorbed from everybody over the last few months bubbled to the surface. My words flowed out without the fear of judgement, alienation, or confrontation from this unidirectional survey. Feeling some relief, I hit send on the finished survey.  I trusted the e-universe to take it from there.

Understand, I abhor politics. I rarely get involved or speak up on most political issues, especially in such heated discussions as a result of our last election. Everyday, the press covers something new and cringeworthy. My first glimmer of hope came when I saw Oprah’s 60 Minutes segment, “Divided.” Her segment invited 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans to the table to “encourage regular Americans to keep talking politics — and, more importantly, to listen to those who may disagree.” I trust Oprah and her namesake magazine to moderate a fair, effective conversation.

Out of the blue, for the second time* this year, O, The Oprah Magazine wrote back! The executive editor wanted to share something I’d written in the survey in their extremely popular women’s magazine!  So flattered and petrified at the same time, I felt my heart leap out of my throat the same time my neck tensed up. I know how much I lack in the political arena with issues, history, laws, everything, so the idea of being a poster child for my statement panicked me. I certainly didn’t want to bring any political attention to myself, nor invite any debates to my muddy beliefs. However, this is my year to say Yes! So WWOD – What Would Oprah Do? I trusted the executive editor and her vision for this piece.

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Quoted in Oprah’s magazine? WTF!     W*O*W*! That’s Frightening!

We laughed that perhaps this marked the start of my career as a political commentator and I guffawed knowing I don’t have the backbone for it. I’ll admit it, I’m thin-skinned as is evident by my reaction to the last year’s politics and my response to the painful divisions brought on by the election. I, too, just want people to get along. But I agree with Oprah, this election has blown the curtains back on many issues and we need to keep the conversations going. I trust people will return to a level where we can listen to those who disagree and sometimes, respectfully, agree to disagree.

However, I felt like being quoted for my personal true and emotional response to a volatile political aftermath happened for a reason. I needed to go through this experience to grow in some way. I understand now that to give credibility to my craft, I must release my people-pleasing insecurities. I won’t always please everybody but so long as I’m being truthful to my topic, then I will own it. So this internal tension I felt dreading possible confrontations online or in person, propelled me over a speed bump. I can’t write about growth and evolution on my blog if I continued to play it safe. I still will not discuss or debate politics but will give more attention to politics, starting on a local level. I will continue my efforts to positively engage my community and strengthen community ties through continual kindness and empowerment programs. I trust in the change happening to me as a result of this experience.

I trust that with Oprah and O, The Oprah Magazine leading the charge, every passionate supporter or opponent will ultimately be represented, heard and have meaningful conversations with others on long-overdue or hot new areas of discussion. We will find ways to turn our energy to make changes and do good.

*To learn about the first time O, The Oprah Magazine wrote me back, click here!

What about you?

  • What is the scariest thing you ever agreed to do that turned into a learning lesson?
  • Do you answer magazine surveys?
  • What are you doing to bring positive change to your hometown?
  • What change would you like to see in the world after this past year – Please keep it civil.
 #OMagInsiders #OprahMagazine #Oprah #Growth #Opportunity #LessonLearned #Change

THE STAR! The Premiere

The magic of films, the power of storytelling and the glitter of Hollywood remain a few of the reasons I choose to live near Los Angeles. Films entertain and educate us, they change our perspectives, and expand our views of our world – or what exists beyond. My favorite trend right now revolves around telling historic or well-known stories from a different perspective – whether showcasing a lesser known person who had a significant role in history, telling a side of history that we’re not familiar with, or telling historic stories through fictionally-enhanced side-stories. My new fascination with history lies not with people’s outcomes, but with their journeys.

When invited to the world premiere of Sony Pictures The Star, the twin angels on my shoulders, Oprah and Shonda, eagerly responded: Year of adventure! Year of Yes! Despite working at a film studio for many years, I rarely participated in a project’s release. What a fun opportunity to see a film first and a festive way to ease into the holiday season! Plus this was another amazing destination on my journey this year. With two of my #OMagInsiders blogging pals – Camesha [MamaMotivator] and Rachel [RachelSimmondsFitness] – we set out to support Oprah in her film project, and hopefully thank her in-person for inspiring my Year of Adventure in person.

Approaching the Westwood movie theatre, crowds of fans outlined the streets huddling to catch a glimpse of their favorites from this star-studded cast. The snowy white carpet glistened as elegantly decorated Christmas trees reflected the flash of paparazzi bulbs.

Glimpsing the well-choreographed dance between the celebrities and the press fascinated me – especially the young media with a larger camera and staff than ours.

To our surprise, we effortlessly walked past the will-call line and crowds to the back of the festival set up along the white carpet for the guests and their families! Stocked with comfort finger-foods and carnival games, smiles shone bright from all who lingered in this carved out Winter Wonderland before heading into the screening.

This film exceeded my expectations in so many ways because of the balance in the film. While it’s a familiar story, this film presents the stories of many less-visible characters, little obstacles we hadn’t thought of before and the shock of experiencing it first-hand. While it’s a story of great magnitude, it’s presented in a sweet, simple way that people of all ages can follow with a great balance of good, evil, struggle, humor, skepticism and faith. While it’s a religious story, the amount of religion infused in the story isn’t too much, or too little – it’s just right. I highly recommend this film for families this holiday season. I can’t wait to take my mom, children and my niece!

Seeing The Star film in this huge theatre filled with the magic-makers – who took months, even years to complete this film – escalated my excitement for this project. I always try to sit through credits but in this moment we could applaud the creators as they closed this chapter in their amazing journey! Plus this amazing soundtrack had us dancing in the aisles!

There were a few messages from the film that resonated with me, especially reflecting on my personal journey this year, yet will benefit all ages. Whether your destiny remains unclear to you so far or it shines like a beacon as obvious as the star in the sky, it’s not just reaching the point of achieving your goal that defines you as successful. Equally as valuable are how well you stay your course, face fears or evolve when unexpected things happen or undesirable situations are put in your way. If your faith in your journey and in your goals persevere you rise above the naysayers and reach your goals.

No, we did not congratulate Oprah this time, but I left the afternoon with amazing memories, new life experiences tucked under my belt – shared with my newest best friends, and a new holiday family film tradition (to balance out our tradition of watching Christmas Vacation)!

For more shots of who I met on the white carpet check out my Instagram!

What about you?

  • Have you seen The Star?
  • who was your favorite character?
  • Who is your favorite celebrity voicing a character in this film?
  • What was your favorite holiday song/performer from the film
  • What holiday film do you traditionally watch?
  • What is your favorite holiday tradition?
  • What is your favorite role that Oprah has played?
  • What was your last new experience that you were excited about saying yes to?
  • Are you ready for the holidays?

#thestarmovie #sonypictures #Oprah #OprahWinfrey #TylerPerry #TracyMorgan #Sony #AnimatedFilm #Animation #HolidayFilm #ChristmasMovie #ChristmasMusic #ChristmasCarols #Soundtrack #MerryChristmas #FirstChristmas #Mary #Joseph #Bethlehem #Thestar #film #movie #premiere #makesmewander

POWER OF CONNECTING WITH KINDNESS ROCKS

If your wish list includes any of the following:

Kindness • Joy • Community • Meaning • Friendship • Creativity
Quiet time • Beauty • Connection • Family Time • Meditation
Excitement • Energy • Purpose • Inspiration

I have a kind powerful project for you!
PRINT OUT: How-to instructions for an intimate or large event (below)!

image1-1
POWER OF POSITIVITY
During challenging times, rather than get weighed down by things outside of our control, we must positively influence the space we occupy – mentally and physically. Then, pay it forward!  

The Kindness Rock Project immediately caught my attention because of its sentiment and simplicity. People paint rocks with pictures or inspirational messages and leave them around town. Not only does this offer all the excitement of a city-wide treasure hunt, but it brightens up the scenery with little bursts of joy! Others find them and keep them or re-hide them. It’s easy to do for all ages, meaningful to both the giver and the receiver, plus it delivers unexpected, burst of beauty. This project engages the full community!  

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Bea’s original Topock Rock!

POWER OF SYNERGY
About the time I’d learned of #TheKindnessRockProject my good friend and fellow creative soul, Bea, found inspiration in a painted rock she stumbled upon while on vacation in tiny Topock, AZ! Talk about synergy! We immediately agreed on the potential for this creative venture and the potential impact on our hometown – empowering people, encouraging children, all while weaving stronger ties within and with surrounding communities! The rock group #RedondoRocks was born.

POWER OF CONNECTION
Being able to experience this project first-hand through the kind heart of the Project’s founder, Megan Murphy, really left a lasting impression with me. She, like I, lives to make connections. Sprinkling kindness and encouragement helps anonymous people connect on an non-intimidating, yet intensely personal, level and provides a boost of whatever that person needs! While each rock creates one individual connection, kindness is contagious and the excitement grows exponentially!


Some communities create Kindness Rock gardens in their neighborhoods or schools to counter bullying, and encourage kids who feel challenged while journeying through a rough spot.  It also helps center people in their lives because, truly, we all get in a grind and time flies by. But when a flash of color or a kind saying catches your eye, you are instantly anchored in that spot, in your day, feeling those emotions and getting caught up in the color or the weight of the rock. I love how a simple gesture can have such large meaning.


POWER OF FEW
The #OMagInsiders painted rocks together while cruising on Holland America.  After going ashore in Alaska, hunting for hiding spots in quaint Ketchikan, I felt thrilled and rewarded. Returning to the ship that afternoon, Megan rewarded me with the news that my rock was reported “found” before I even got back on the boat by someone who worked on the ship!  Talk about a full-circle moment! Kindness Rocks also helped us connect with a specific passenger and a very direct intent that left all of our hearts overflowing!


POWER OF MANY
Megan believes that the right rock always finds the right person.  Additionally, the interpretation of what power these rock groups hold and how to deliver it to individual communities comes from within them. Some groups start with an individual, a small troop of children or circle of friends painting and hiding rocks. Some kick off with a large community gathering evolving into regular rock-painting parties! Painters are first-timers or seasoned artists using pens, paints or stickers to adorn their rocks with pictures, sayings, or mascots. Then people spread out to cover their community (or represent it elsewhere) with kindness.

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SECRET POWERS
While Bea and I knew we were offering a fun evening for all ages at our first painting night, many secondary gifts popped up! Guests went offline. People exhaled and slowed down. Parents and kids painted together, or allowed each other the mental space to stay as long as they wanted. Folks tapped into their creative side, filled each other’s kindness buckets and painted with passion! Friends either found a new tribe or the perfect spot for quietly perfecting their craft! Plus the fun spills over from the event and carries people for weeks while hiding their rocks, posting teasers on social media for where to find rocks, or others posting when rocks are found! The power of the group’s hashtag means that the web of Kindness woven throughout the community may be felt whenever one wants it.  

A large part of this comes thanks to The Great Room Cafe who shared this vision of a kinder community and let us take over their party space while offering delicious food and fun activities for those who were done painting but wanted to linger in this evening a little longer. This was truly the perfect venue for such magic to occur!

Bea and I look forward to hosting our next painting party and helping people plan their painting events! We wholeheartedly believe that many little gestures add up to a grand statement!  The Kindness Rock Project reminds us that the power to control our own happiness, and contribute to others, was with us the whole time.

Paint it Forward!

Where to find us online:
REDONDO ROCKS INSTAGRAM
REDONDO ROCKS FACEBOOK
THE KINDNESS ROCKS PROJECT INSTAGRAM
THE KINDNESS ROCKS PROJECT FACEBOOK

PRINT OUTS:  How to host your painting party:
Kindness Rocks Home Painting Party

Kindness Rocks Community Painting Party

What about you?

  • Have you painted Kindness Rocks?
  • Have you found a Painted Rock?
  • Are you a member of a Rock Group? If so, list your club’s url in the comments!
  • Do you keep rocks or re-hide them? What would Oprah Do?
  • Do you have a favorite story involving Kindness Rocks? If so, please share in the comments!

#RedondoRocks #TheKindnessRocksProject #KindnessIsContagious #PaintItForward #PayItForward #Kindness #PaintedRocks #RockGroups #PaintingParty #Cruise #Party #RandomActsOfKindness #OMagInsiders #Oprah #HollandAmerica #Ketchikan #Alaska #TopockRocks #KindnessRockGarden #TheGreatRoomCafe #BoldMoves #makesmewander

MAKES ME WANDER BY MAROONED 3

This is the year of full-circle moments! In one week from today, thanks to KIIS-FM and Del Taco, my daughter and I get tickets AND a backstage tour at Wango Tango music festival here in Los Angeles. Now we still don’t know what this entails, but I hope to cross paths a few performers and ask them what they will do to mix it up during this year that Oprah has dubbed “The Year of Adventure!” Since, to me, their lives look like a daily adventure already, I look forward to riding their train of thought!

WTF! Wango Tango Fangirls! Tickets still available!

Then it hit me sending me flying up to and around Cloud 9 like a squealing deflating balloon… My odds improved exponentially that I could cross paths with Maroon 5 and Adam Levine! Because I still tend to get all goofy brained when I see certain musicians still and due to an iron-clad agreement to not make my daughter CRINGE at the show, I’m putting down how Maroon 5 influenced the name of my blog in writing should it make Adam wonder what that uber excited lady smiling at him and holding his arm a little too tight in selfies was trying to say.

From Men’s Health magazine

March 2007, the one-year anniversary of my split with my kids’ dad came around the calendar. I still felt like a boxtroll wearing a cement-filled box stamped “Divorcee.” Somehow we kept moving, sold the house in the burbs, packed up our lives and were marooned on the beach to start over. Ultimately we loved where we’d landed, made all-new friends and the kids hit their strides in this new environment! I felt like less of a boxtroll and more of a potted plant relaxing on my patio.

So one day I’m in my too small living room turning on MTV for background noise when this funky beat starts coming from the speaker bouncing off walls, pushing me into my couch, too close to my TV and all I could do was wait to see who was commanding this plane exit ramp. When Adam’s cheekbones wrapped in that tux came into view followed by the whole band rocking with Virgin Airlines sexiness pounding out overlapping pulsating layers of sound, it grabbed my full attention. It became my theme song and my awakening that summer.

This song made me begin to process the cone of crazy I was wearing and start to process what I’d been through. I questioned everything and started figuring out the answers. Now Adam wondered if he ever gave a F— about someone and while I slid straight towards both possibilities, eventually I landed at yeah, I did, but I also could give a F— now because of the present we were in at that time. With each pounding chord from the piano in the background I felt my cement wall being chipped away. There was another accent layer that felt like skipping through his swagger and it got my heart pumping again. The song reminded me that somewhere inside I was there and I’d be refilled with wonder and growing curiosity and a fresh perspective.

So even though it took another 5 years to get to the starting of my blog – I knew what I wanted it to be called. Only it wouldn’t just be filled with things I wonder about but filled with things I experience as I wander about – working to be present in each gifted moment. (Plus, I didn’t want to get sued by A&M or M5 – I had faith that I’d find a better way than a court case to someday cross paths with the band).

From A&M/Octone

Because I’m a fan girl I know there is a hint of politics peppering the lyrics, but I’m not touching that, nor did I interpret it as such. I’m just not a fan of politics.

So if I don’t get this all out when we cross paths and my tongue gets tied up – thanks Maroon 5 and Adam for giving me something to believe in and inspiring the name of my blog.

What about you?
What adventure will you seek this year?
Going to a music festival this summer?
Are you a parent taking your kid to a festival and don’t know how to prepare?
Have any life-changing songs?
Favorite musicians or bands?

#WangoTango #MusicFestival #Kiisfm #DelTaco #Oprah #YearofAdventure #OMagazine #OMagInsiders #Maroon5 #AdamLevine #Music #Divorce #Therapy #MakesmeWonder #MakesMeWander #Inspiration #Blog #Blogger

YOU WENT WHERE? SAN FRANCISCO (With Kids)

During the toddler years, my family’s cranky moods  (mine included) disappeared with some creative distraction and a change of venue – if severe. Now that the tween and teen years dictate the mood in the house, when the bickering levels get intolerable, Mom offers a proportional change up – Roadtrip adventure!

MB transamerica-pyramid_san-francisco

Photo courtesy of megabus.com

I’ve been dreaming of a trip to San Francisco since the last time we’d been almost 13 years ago. My teen son only remembers riding in a limo at 3 ½ years old (over riding his first cable car) and my tween daughter simply made it through that trip to her due date!  I love the energy of the city with its cool modern minimalistic hotels next to classic historic hotels with warm solid mahogany bars in the lobby. I love that everywhere you turn, distinct neighborhoods welcome you with their distinct charm, as do the piers decorating the waterfront!  So the three of us set out on an adventure blending history, new experiences, old favorites and of course something weird!

32 hrs in San Fran (with kids)!

DA, DA, DA – ANOTHER ONE RIDES THE MEGABUS
Always up for an adventure, the wheels in my head started turning immediately (The wheels on the bus go round and round)!  When you put things out into the universe, the universe responds! Amazingly, we received the opportunity to try Megabus.com for free in exchange for our honest opinion.  I immediately responded, “Yes, Please!” after a great first-hand testimonial from my office mate who used this bus line recently during her East Coast holiday adventure.

Planning a weekend getaway limited our time in San Francisco, so the idea of showing up only 30 min. early, getting on a bus with reclining seats and sleeping my way to San Francisco – then waking up refreshed at my destination – cemented the decision for me! The night we left, California disappeared under the rainstorm that my generation will retell vividly for generations to come. The Megabus travelled securely on the roads, unfazed by the elements. In fact, for both directions of the trip, energetic and helpful employees kept us on track. Their rates remain reasonable, only additional charge should you wish to reserve seats!  Check their site often for their $1 sales! I wish I’d known about this when I was a college kid – weekenders would have educated me! For a full review click here.


YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE FOR A FIRST IMPRESSION
As we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge, the sun shone on the waking city and almost converted me to a morning person (Hah, you know how unlikely that’d be). The bus dropped us at the Caltrain station and Uber picked us up before we even stretched out our rested bodies! Everything feels closeby in San Francisco and in minutes we arrived at the Hilton SF Union Square – a hotel I’m super familiar with thanks to my Team In Training (TNT) years.  Though they aren’t the most hipster or historic place in town to rest your head, they consistently provide a comfortable experience that seems upgraded from the price paid (especially with their renovated rooms). Feels like dropping in for a visit with a long-time friend!  What cinched our future return was letting us check in 8 hours early! Thank you!

hotel

Despite our welcome middle of the night snack from the roadside rest stop, we arrived to San Francisco hungry for adventure …and breakfast!  Wanting to set the tone for the weekend, and to fuel us for the day, we chose another favorite from my TNT days, Sear’s Fine Food

The moment you enter, you step into your grandparents’ era for some unconditional love delivered in a heaping serving of delicious warm food. With our bellies and hearts filled up, we left for our first adventure… except nothing was open yet. So we went to the hotel to plot our course, unpack, watch TV…

Two_hours_later_in_Squidtastic_Voyage

THRILL OF A NEW RIDE
While the kids power napped, I navigated and doubled back cross-checking the Cable Car routes to deliver us to all of our desired locations. We opted for a single-day pass immediately opening up our access to the city. I purchased our tickets while the kids watched the city’s tradition of re-directing the cable car at the turn about.  We hoofed it 2 blocks to the next stop up from there (where 10 people stood in line vs. 100s at the turntable). For the first leg of our trip we jumped onto the outside of a crowded cable car and held on!  My daughter told me later that she got nervous – not that she’d fall off – that other people wouldn’t get out of the way.

One of the most memorable visuals of the city flashed briefly at the change between the Powell-Hyde and California lines as we looked downhill through the city.

Alcatraz is first on our list for next time!

OFF TO EXPLORE – AH, TOUR – EE, YUM!
One parental benefit allows us to run alongside our kids, watching the world through their curious eyes, bright with wonder.  At the Exploratorium, everyone’s minds expanded and repeatedly blew as we flew from exhibit to exhibit, squealing like loudly deflating balloons!  Each new stop offered fascinating exhibits where you learn by interacting with the exhibit! This museum encouraged touching or climbing into and through exhibits!  My daughter’s and my favorite experience deprived us of our sight as we traversed through a maze in complete darkness. As a pair, we relied primarily on touch and sound while traveling through the Tactile Dome (slight additional, but highly recommended fee).  She turned out to be an amazing leader providing step-by-step directions as to what challenge I would find next.  My son’s favorite challenged him to learn Morse Code – harder than it looked considering it’s only dashes and dots! Totally exhausted though only getting a fraction of the experience done, we finally broke for dinner!

PEPPER MEAL WITH HISTORY
As a divorced mom, I haven’t shared a lot of their Dad’s and my history. At first I lacked an age-appropriate answer for their innocent questions, “So if you had fun, why’d you break up?” Later, out of respect for his new wife, and largely because I’d boxed them all away, wrapped in impenetrable box in my self. 11 years later, I realize that the generic statement “Even though we’re no longer together, you were created from love.” doesn’t carry weight if I don’t sometimes share proof.  Their Dad and I enjoyed The Stinking Rose restaurant a few times both here and the one in LA. One thing we actually agreed on was that only the SF one seasons the experience with a mythical bohemian feel – being that it’s the original location.  Also, honestly, this restaurant wouldn’t have teased my palate without his family’s cooking. The first time they opened their door, a rush of garlic took my breath away! The rest is history.


WALK RIGHT DOWN THE STREET
After dinner, though absolutely stuffed, we desired something light but sweet.  We calculated the distance we needed to walk to make enough room for Gelateria Naia (who are we kidding – there’s always room for gelato)! My kids stuck with classic flavors of mango, coffee and chocolate chip (though not all together).  They featured a whiskey flavor I’d never encountered before that blended smoothly with chocolate – the recipe for the perfect evening nightcap. 

I SPY… SOMETHING GOLDEN
The next morning, after we slept in a bit, we hunted for a meal large enough to rush us through the day and sustain us until we got on the bus to relax for the ride home to Los Angeles.  Originally, we went fishing for a fish and chips truck, but, they weren’t open when our stomachs started growling at us. The mist of the heavy fog led us straight to Tarantino’s Restaurant on the pier promising a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top floor (talk about multi-tasking when on a limited timeframe).  The kids laughed at the names of boats in their slips, communicated telepathically with seagulls begging for the kids’ fries through the scenic glass window, and squinted to find the bridge through the fog. We raved about the crispy golden seafood (lightly battered and fried, without any recognizable fish features).  


LIKE KIDS IN A CANDY STORE
As we exited the restaurant, the bright red logo of Rocket Fizz served as a beacon from across the street.  My son’s sentimental side insisted that we go “support the company” so that they don’t go out of business (I doubt there’s any danger of that, he’s still sore we lost the location in Westchester). Your sweet tooth compels you to stop the next time you pass near this store. It offers many childhood or jumbo-sized favorites and hard-to-find imported candies.

WTF: WEIRD, TOTALLY FUN!
Headed towards the Pier, we pulled inside a doorway to briefly to plot our course …and never left.  We’d stepped through a door into the most fantastically freakish place – Musée Mécanique!  This features the personal collection of Edward Zelinsky’s arcade games, and other mechanical wonders, collected from 1933 on (though some originated from decades earlier).  This collection felt slightly unsettling only because we had no idea what to expect (or was it the large clown at the entrance). Uneasiness immediately yields to exponential levels of excitement as you discover each new relic from a player piano, to old-time picture machines, to Space Invaders and a steam motorcycle.  We completely fell into this parallel universe, lost track of time, and wish we could have stayed longer.
 

MY NEW PERSPECTIVE
After a relaxing and a more spacious ride home (less people on the bus so each person could take a row of seats), we returned home from vacation refreshed, a little exhausted from our adventures, and with new perspective.  Our Three-thumb review is 3 tired thumbs up.  My tween daughter loved the unique challenge of the Tactile Dome and a new appreciation for her vision. My teen son left for San Francisco believing that one beach town resembles the next one. He returned with an appreciation for the history and the varied terrain (and we didn’t even visit the largest or curviest hills) of Northern California.

I caught a glimpse of my children and how they treat each other when mom’s not around thanks to the water fountain experiment in the Exploratorium. It featured back-to-back water fountains and two buttons on each side: SIP or SQUIRT. Each sibling simply pressed one button and if they match, it happens, if it doesn’t match, it cancels each other and nothing happens.  I fully expected to need to buy new dry clothes, or that they’d cancel each other out.  My heart grew when I witnessed my kids gently lowering their heads (and dare I say they were both a little bit surprised) to get a sip of water.

I found out AFTER we got back that if we purchased a CityPASS for our trip it would have reduced my time researching fun destinations AND saved us money! San Francisco’s CityPASS offers two options: 1 booklet of 5 attractions, or one booket where you choose 3 out of 8 attraction choices.  (Note: This is an affiliate link which means if you purchase the CityPASS not only will I be super excited for your upcoming adventure, but I earn a little bit of change towards my next CityPASS purchase – at no extra cost to you!)

If you want even more detailed reviews on each place we visited, check out the Yelp Reviews. Plus subscribe to check back when we update the list after future roadtrips!

Follow the blog to see where we go next!

What about you?
What is your favorite San Francisco gem?
What do you do to save your sanity on trips?
How do you remain present and not skip ahead to the next destination?
What changes in perspective do you encounter while traveling?
How often do you travel with your kids vs. on your own?
Where are you off to next?
Where should we go next?

CURRENTLY: O MaG!

Usually I do this exercise to check in with myself every so often, remind myself to be present and grateful during my endless day-to-day grind. This time, my mind is whirring a million miles an hour since receiving a jolt of adrenaline in the form of a great adventure! I’ve been picked, with 50 other people, to become O Mag Insiders: The Inner Circle of O! I always remember Oprah saying that she didn’t believe in luck and this week I saw this play out in my own life and it’s phenomenal!

CURRENTLY GRATEFUL FOR
Visible Growth!
So many people I know have side gigs to earn a little play money on the side. For me, I knew that if I was going to dedicate my treasured free time to something, it needed to be something involving writing and that didn’t steal me from my children. It hasn’t always been easy – blogging from my car during kids’ practices, staying up late. It hasn’t always had perfect results – now my kids groan when I bring out the camera. However, then I remind them that we’ve been working our way through short-term goals of making memories while building our base with adventure and eating reviews. We then plan to ramp up to accepting occasional invitations for a weekend getaway and building eventually to a long-term goal of taking our whole extended family (meaning their dad, step-mom and most importantly their little sister) to Aulani or on a Disney Cruise before my son leaves for college. They’ve witnessed the progress!

CURRENTLY SURPRISED BY
Inner harmony!
Somewhere in between the other emotions a warm stillness emerged. If you know me, you may already recognize chaos between both sides of my mind – the logical, rational left side of my brain and the creative artistic right side – as they battle for control. Add to that: ME – How I present to others; MYSELF – My true self/gut instincts and I – Me being present. For once a consensus has been reached that I’m right where I should be and it’s powerful!

CURRENTLY PANICKING
Making the most of the experience!
Applying for this brand ambassador role a few months back was so impulsive and whimsical that I hadn’t really considered the reality that I might be one of the people chosen for the role. Based on the odds alone – thousands of people applied, and I am 1 of only 50 chosen for this program this year.  The amazing group of people that I’m fortunate enough to be a part of are both so inspiring and humbling that my logical brain tries to factor how I fit in. My heart commands me to stay present to experience this year in real time (and this blog can remind me of anything that escapes my long-term memory).

CURRENTLY REBRANDING
Myself!
Since the time of my divorce, I’ve worked to figure out who I am and to honor that truth. I’m a Caffeinated Mom, a Blogger, Pre-Midlife Female, a University staff member, I’m Hapa, Korean Adoptee, and so many more. There have been several incidents along the way that made my dreams feel frivolous and challenged my definition of myself. I still question the reasons for the challenges, but what I know for sure is I had to get raw before I could start new and grow to call myself a writer.

O Mag Insiders Headshot

WTF: Way Too Fantastic!!

CURRENTLY READING

O Magazine!
I now allow myself a segment of daily time to be still with my favorite magazine and really pore over every word and article, not just flip through, skimming snippets and folding pages to go back and read later. I’ve always loved Oprah’s magazine as it gives me the opportunity to hear from her and her team of experts more regularly. Her team digs deeper than even my best girlfriends do and ask the hard questions that I need to ask myself!

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
My gut!
I’m not that far past the point where I’d listen to what everyone else said and dedicated my time to working on what I thought I should be doing, rather than what I wanted to do. Fortunately my gut, or some part of me, kept leading me into careers or opportunities that I felt were coincidence until my scientific brain realized these weren’t just happy accidents and to take notice. With this latest opportunity, my gut whispers “Told You So!”

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CURRENTLY ANTICIPATING
Adventure!
O Magazine has dubbed this the Year of Adventure! This is the best year for me to be taking this trip with O Magazine!  How we’ll participate in the publication, what new experiences will present themselves remain undefined thus far. I hope I’ll be able to include my children in some because I have so few years left with them overall. Still, I’m open to not simply following them into adventure, but choosing some of my own while I try to remind myself who I was before they were here! I’m a big believer in spending money on adventures, not things. That’s where we build our strongest family connections!

CURRENTLY WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE
Staying true to yourself isn’t always easy but it’s worth it!.
Following my gut and being myself has allowed me to find and stay on the path I’m truly meant to navigate. This is far more rewarding than following my previously laid out corporate career plan of my 20s. I’m not someone who will kiss butt to get ahead or lie to make a sale. A) I’m a terrible liar; B) It’s too hard to remember the lies told; C) Dreaming up and implementing falsehoods takes more time and energy than I have in a day. I try to do great work with a sunny disposition and build mutual respect with co-workers.  I am invigorated by a challenge and my blood pumps with anticipation of this new role.

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WWOD (What Would Oprah Do?)? – I did exactly as Oprah does, worked to be ready when opportunity came knocking!

Where I’ll wind up after this whirlwind year remains to be seen but I am so grateful for the opportunity and promise to make the most of it!

Here we go!

What about you?
Do you still believe in luck?
Do you know the path you’re on or are you still searching for your path?
What 1 thing will you do today to move you towards your goals?
When’s the last time you sat down and read any publication – like O Magazine?!
How do you calm your mind when it’s trying to talk over you?
Do you lead with your head or your heart?
What are you currently doing?
Do you want to be one of the next group of #OMagInsiders?

Consider these:
CURRENTLY AVOIDING
CURRENTLY EATING
CURRENTLY INDULGING IN
CURRENTLY WATCHING
CURRENTLY COVETING
Or dream up your own!

#OMAGinsiders #YearOfAdventure #Oprah #Magazine #Creative #Opportunity #Blogger    #Influencer #Writer #Coincidence #Chance #Fate #Preparation #Harmony #Challenge #WhatIKnowForSure #HereWeGoC #WWOD #WTF

SONGS MY HEART SINGS

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Are your favorite Love Songs listed here?

Every day, but especially Valentine’s day, music has the ability to alter my mood. With today being the national reminder to love one another, I pulled together a soundtrack of songs that put me in the mood… to skip down the sidewalk tossing confetti hearts at everyone I pass.

Love Will Keep us Together by Captain & Tennille

Your Song by Elton John

I Just Called to Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder

Crazy for You by Madonna

Groovy Kind of Love by Phil Collins

(Everything I Do) I’d Do it For You by Bryan Adams

Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion

Silly Love Songs by Wings

Still the One by Shania Twain

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Michael Bublé

BONUS: Baby Baby by Amy Grant

I know, I missed a whole bunch that commercially were bigger love songs, but these are my songs that can break my heart and make it sing at the same time – what are yours?

What would be on your Valentine’s Day Mix Tape?
Share your all-time favorite love song – if you can pick one!
Any other favorite ways to say “I Love You!”
Any favorite Valentine’s Day traditions?
Wanna buy any of the songs? Click thru on the song title!

#lovesong #love #IHeartYou #Valentine #Baby #ILoveYou #LoveYou #Crush #BeMine #CaptainandTenille #Madonna #EltonJohn #StevieWonder #PhilCollins #BryanAdams #CelineDion #Wings #ShaniaTwain #MichaelBuble #AmyGrant #Soundtrack

TOP 10 VIDEOS TO GET YOU IN THE MOOD (for the next Star Wars film!)

With tangible anticipation, the seduction tickles each of our 5 senses pulling us closer.  Whether we go full-body all in, or pulled in inch by inch, we feverishly mark the date on the calendar and before it’s upon us, already hope for multiple experiences. I’m not talking about the next 50 Shades of Grey,  I’m talking  

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At first I thought I was heading full-blown into a midlife crisis when I started buying t-shirts, light saber earrings, and my stomach was aching for the release date of the last film!  Then once we saw the film, Star Wars fever exploded upon us as we went to our first Convention (details to come soon). We’ve already purchased our tickets to go see the next film at El Capitan Theatre!

I never really realized how big a Star Wars fan lived inside me, but here’s why:

  1. As a writer, the fact that George Lucas started this whole thing out of his mind and created films, tv series, comic strips, etc. Just amazes me.  He and JK Rowling are my creative idols for what they’ve accomplished.
  2. Star Wars was something that I shared with and handed down to my kids. I still remember seeing the original in the theatre as a (ahem!) young girl!  To be able to share this world that still carries such weight and wonder in this generation warms my heart.
  3. In this instant gratification generation, this keeps them longing for more, anticipating something to come.  I loved to that the films inspired reading and now my teenage son could teach a college class in. He tests me before allowing me to move forward through each episode!  
  4. It’s something my two kids share in common – one of the few things. I love what makes them individual, but I love that they respect each other’s knowledge and affection for the franchise.
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WTF (Wow, they’re FUZZY!)

Almost as much as I love the films, I love the fan video snippets that are inspired by the film. With another film on the near horizon from that galaxy far, far away. Here are the Top 10 videos we love to help us get in the mood (in no particular order)!

I’ll NEVER JOIN YOU
Improv Everywhere shows just as much creativity and finesse as George Lucas to be able to pull off a live Star Wars scene on the New York Subway. I only wish I’d seen this live!


THAT BOY IS OUR LAST HOPE
You know how they say setting things to music helps you learn them? Weird Al’s song helped me learn about Anakin Skywalker’s branch of the Star Wars family tree.  He’s done a few Star Wars songs, but this is our favorite.


AREN’T YOU A LITTLE SHORT FOR A STORMTROOPER?

This projects my mind for the world to see. While I didn’t make this video, it’s exactly how I envision stormtrooper street dance crews battling. They’re the only crews I hope to see twerking ever again.
BONUS: I’m sure they opened the way for this Britain’s Got talent act.


LAUGH IT UP, FUZZBALL
Seriously, what is cuter than jedi kittens yielding light sabers?! 


YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS TO IMPRESS ME
With a chance to not be outdone by the kittens, the dogs come in with the song that gives me chills every time I hear it, with any lyrical style.


THESE AREN’T THE DROIDS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR
Since 1977 I’ve hoped that when I grew up that every house would come with it’s own R2 unit.  This parakeet budgie may be the best option until that day.


I HAVE YOU NOW!

In a great example of Star Wars coming to life, it’s easy to imagine how thrilling it’d be during the middle of your daily routine, to find yourself armed with a light saber and drawn into battle!


JUDGE ME BY MY SIZE, DO YOU?
For a brief return to the Cute Side, check out a day in the life if your Star Wars fantasies came true and instead of cats, people had AT-ATs!


…BORING CONVERSATION ANYWAY. LUKE! WE’RE GONNA HAVE COMPANY!
Ever wonder what you would have these characters say if you were the word wizard? Bad Lip Reading cracks me up!!  ALERT: Some language will (hopefully) go over the heads of the young ones, some might not. You’ve been warned.


DIFFICULT TO SEE. ALWAYS IN MOTION IS THE FUTURE
Close your eyes and picture the motion of the ocean with this tune.  Remember, the original Star Wars film came from decades a long, long time agowhen Disco was King! 

ALWAYS PASS ON WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED!
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

What about you?
Do you have any favorite Star Wars snippets that get you excited?  Share links below!
Do you know what characters really said the above QUOTES?
What’s your favorite Star Wars film?
Or were you more of the Star Trek fan?
Is it possible to be both?
Which Star Wars character are you most like?
Do you already have your tickets for the next film?
Dark Side or Rebellion?

 

#StarWars #TheForce #RogueOne #R2D2 #Luke #Jedi #DarthVader #Skywalker #DeathStar #GeorgeLucas #WeirdAl #ImproveEverywhere #BadLipReading #Disco #StormTrooper #LightSaber #EpisodeI #EpisodeII #EpisodeIII #EpisodeIV #EpisodeV #EpisodeVI #EpisodeVII #EpisodeVII #Cat #Kitten #Twerk #Disney #rogueoneastarwarsstory #RiseOfSkywalker #BabyYoda #GeekGoneWild
(C) DISNEY

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