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

BACK TO THE FUTURE – NOVEL WAY TO CAPTURE HISTORY

The other day my daughter and I drove down the street when this caused me to do a nearly- illegal u-turn in the street.

It’s even cooler in real life!

We admired every detail as my mind started racing thinking of the increments of time covered in these Back to the Future films.  The ability to go back, reliving or rewriting one’s past by being present seemed amazing!  Revisiting parts of one’s life knowing then what you know now allows you to fulfill one of life’s greatest mantras.  Then my mind started debating the time traveling done in the trilogy compared to the time-continuum theory suggesting all time takes place concurrently!  I couldn’t keep up and my mind quickly grew cluttered making me dizzy.

Props from all 3 films – awesome!

Then a gem known as Irina Werning distracted me and I wandered after her for a bit.  She was featured in O Magazine because her photography gives people the opportunity to revisit their past, relive a moment or a memory via photographs.  She recreates a childhood photo for people using them as adults now in the same pose, the same clothes (or lack of clothes), same setting and background.

It gives the subjects an eerie sense of déjà vu, instantly transporting them back to that time and those emotions.  At the same time, it shows the progression but sort of in an eerie “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” manner.  I encourage you to check out her features: Back to the Future and Back to the Future 2.

My favorite captures the boy at the Berlin Wall that is missing from the later picture – talk about progress.

Christoph 1990 & 2011 Berlin Wall (C) Irina Werning

I love the one of the young girls who were dressing up and who turned out more lovely than they probably even imagined at that age.

Sonia y Lauri 1988 & 2011 Bs Aires (C) Irina Werning

The adorable naked babies that are now ridiculous naked adults feels rebelliously and painfully proud!

Flor 1975 & 2010 Buenos Aires (C) Irina Werning

The family shots with siblings or the whole family crack me up!  How fun as serious “grown ups” to be able to re-create sidesplitting family moments?

Devoto 1990 & 2011 Buenos Aires (C) Irina Werning

Of course, now I’m wracking my brain thinking of fun photos of myself and my two sisters to recreate for a fun Mother’s or Father’s day gift!  What photo would you reenact?

I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU!

Earlier, I redirected my focus towards personal growth rather than being quick to dismiss challenges. I am making myself accountable to wordpress to challenge myself for 30 days then report back. After 30 days, it forms a habit (although, I didn’t start falling behind with blogging until 90+ days). As with any change in habits, it’s always more fun with friends. If you want to support each other, post which of the 30 you’ll do and we’ll all check in with each other along the way!

I already do these regularly:

7. Treat everyone nicely, even those that are rude to me. I’m a huge believer in treating people how you want to be treated. Simple and golden!

Simple!

9. Acknowledge the lesson in awkward situations. Ever since reading childhood fairy tales, I learned stories have morals. In my family, with every awkward situation, we identify the lesson we learned because of our mistakes.

Understanding that blogging takes a large daily chunk of time, I dove into these areas:

11. Get rid of one thing a day for 30 days. By the end, more breathing room will feel huge! Aligning with my long-term goals, I won’t toss my kids’ toys but may challenge them to join in.

18. Read one chapter of a good book a day. I am determined to read through my bookshelf so committing to 1 chapter a day will get me through 1 and maybe into my 2nd book in 30 days.

25. Spend 10 min. a day reflecting on what went well. Last night my daughter expressed that it was her best day ever. She listed the great things that happened and we all smiled! Not only was she appreciating the day’s gifts, but she ended the day on a high note.

27. Pay down debt and don’t create any new debt for 30 days. I have a small credit card that I didn’t carry a balance on until working temporary jobs. I have two summer camps I’m paying in installments. It’d be a healthy habit to take my lunch more and enjoy coffee free at work.

What are your challenges going to be? I can’t wait to celebrate our highights!

So many people have shared this – finally sinking in!

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Thanks all!

DATING POOL – IS IT SAFE TO GO IN?

Many of my friends met amazing dates or awesome future-spouses online. Utilizing computers’ brains to define one’s heart presented uber-compatible matches. While I remained cautious about starting relationships for my kids’ (and briefly, my own) sanity, I wanted to make sense of the “playing field” at this stage of my life. I didn’t put the weight of marriage on each first date, but kept the big picture in mind. My girlfriends and I narrowed the pool down to four general guy groups. These didn’t reflect anyone we know, but this grouping made the most sense to us.

Bachelor Adam *sigh*

1) The eternal bachelor – ‘Til you come along! Suddenly you, the woman he’s waited for, glided towards him with your intoxicatingly golden aura, stole his breath and hooked him. PRO: You two could define “marriage” together with no habits to break. CON: Being a person who either lived by the seat of his pants, or lived with uninterrupted routines for years – would a romantic partner fit in?

Marry Me Again, or I’ll marry again…

2) The serial groom – Kept marrying the wrong girl while searching the world to find you! PRO: He loved marriage, settling down with and exploring life together as a couple. CON: Could be easily distracted or impatient. QUESTION: What magic number would change the number of marriages from “No worries” to “No Way!”?

Sharp dressed man

3) The career dude – Neither of the above, he put career before women to provide a stable foundation for any relationship. PRO: He prioritized well and thrived with increasing pressure and responsibility. CON: Could he switch gears to find more balance, not just all work all the time?

4) The Ross – “We were on a break!” Enough said, drama!

Once the men, passed the first round of consideration, one’s history qualified them further – especially for us single moms. When I joke to my friend that it’s uncomfortable to bring up background checks over cocktails, she laughs – working at the police station, she’s pulled that information after the first phone call.

Realizing that this kills the spontaneity and romance, perhaps speed dating would silence the “What Ifs’”. You could find the man of your dreams, or (as I’ve said before) worse comes to worst, a new business contact!

So true

WANNA DO A 365 CHALLENGE WITH ME IN 2013?

A friend of mine inspired me with his 365 photos in 2011. With each new photo I begged him to host a New Year’s Eve gallery exhibit of his pieces! What a great memento of the year and he took wonderful photos, too! He unknowingly planted the seed and I contemplated my own 365 project.

365 days of Rob? Thanks Tanya for the photo!

As you know, this blog represents my commitment to write 365 words a day for 365 days (with something fun coming Leap Year Day). This year, my goal remains simple – to form the habit of writing regularly thereby eradicating excuses of not having time. I hope to emerge from 2012 with writing samples that hopefully improved with each day. I sometimes feel as though I took the easy way out because my daily topic can be anything I wander by in my daily travels. I could write “word” 365 times for my entry and call it a day.

Next year, after tucking a year of commitment and blogging under my belt, I want to kick it up a notch and find something that will introduce me to something new every day or stretch the boundaries of my comfort zone. Here are the 365 project ideas currently tickling my fancy:

  1. Try a new food– Beverages and spices count in food choices.

    Wow! Such a world of food to explore!

  2. No repeating eating – My kids may kill me with only one night of crab pasta.
  3. Authors – Read anything, but you must complete it and no repeating author in any week.
  4. Mini art masterpiece– Decorate a small uniform-sized canvas.

    Instead… arrange mini canvasses on the wall for 1 big piece of art!

  5. Origami/Haiku – Both are art forms I love.
  6. Animal portraits– Kind portraits of animals, ideally those in shelters needing loving homes.

    Photo by Susan Sabo Photography

  7. Good ol’ days – Record memories of each day or those getting better with time.
  8. Move It – Doing the same thing two days in a row is prohibited.
  9. Karaoke – You are not in control. Your audience chooses your next song to sing on video.
  10. History/Gratitude – Mini interviews with anyone willing to talk.

    What are you grateful for?

With a handful of my friends now blogging, it’d be fun to grab a group and do a project together. Anyone game?! What will your 365 Project consist of?

YOU should start a blog too…

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