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

CIRCUS VARGAS: Be Present: It’ll Blow Your Mind!

These days live entertainment and family traditions find themselves competing with, and wondering how to beat, the virtual realities so many people live in. People shape their own ideal lives in social media or step into and succeed in any role in a make-believe dimension – how does one top that? Under the big top, Circus Vargas continues their tradition of impressing crowds daily with unbelievable yet true reality happening live right before their very eyes!  

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Leaving the real world outside behind, the mystical lights drew the kids in…

When you step through the Circus Vargas tent’s grand entrance into the dark interior, you can no longer see the rules and boundaries from daily life. Everything is possible!

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There are acts for everyone in the family! This one is for the ladies – tall, dark and handsome gymnasts!

Ticket takers and snack vendors have fanciful flirty makeup teasing about the magical evening to come. People are not defined by one role!

CV_Vova with cube_credit- Mike Rollerson

Juggling this 2-D figure was amazing but the magic started when he picks up the 3-D cube!

Encompassing the quaint one-ring circus stage, one can see hints of a stronger structure soaring into the upper points of the tent. There are no limits to Circus Vargas’ imagination!

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This show reaches new heights as your imagination soars with each new act!       WTF: Wow, They’re Flying!

The touring company is made up of the original Vargas family relatives, close friends, or long-time Circus Vargas family. Through the strength of their bond, you receive a thrilling and efficient show that keeps surprising you, act after act. At Circus Vargas, family comes first!

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A picture is impressive, to watch this unfold in reality is mind-boggling!

The show opens with a family-first reminder that when you unplug from your iDevices, you plug into the people and world around you. They warmed us up with mind-boggling contortionists! High-energy acrobats took the experience over the top with one press of a button, sending an electric pulse through the audience as their suits lit up! The show proves you can do whatever you set your mind on!

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Whether it’s hulahoops, motorcycling, or other daredevil acts, turning the lights off increases the danger and electricity!

The entertaining, well-choreographed show moved quickly through it’s breath-taking, sometimes dangerous, but always exhilarating acts, with a fantastic duo providing comedy and musical relief between acts.  Be present, it’ll blow your mind!

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Seeing two motorcycles travel the inner globe is exhilarating, but your senses will race when the lights go out!

Finally, Circus Vargas has heart! At every stop, they contribute to local charities. At our performance, Olive Crest was given the  time to share their mission with the audience and that opportunity is priceless – for real.

Circus Vargas Opens TOMORROW in Woodland Hills,, CA. To see when Circus Vargas’ big top will come to your town, check frequently at www.circusvargas.com

PARENT MUSIC FESTIVAL TRAINING PROGRAM – Part 3 of 3

Last session before your music festival event! You’ve trained for loud levels and longevity! You’ve prepped for festival fun.

Couch to Music Festival: Parents Training Guide

Again, while this applies to Wango Tango, the program easily adapts to Coachella, Stagecoach, or other festivals.

  • ATTIRE: Most music festivals take place outdoors during the spring or summer. Some experience significant temperature changes from day to evening – the more you dance, the less you’ll notice.
    • WHAT’S HOT: Crazy Loosey
      • Loose flowing clothes – Slightly stretchy, cut-outs. Clothes that won’t interrupt your groove but breeze blows through – all while fiercely flattering.
  • Accessorize – Hats or glasses required! Red sunburned faces or eyes aren’t cool – ever. Keep hats streamlined to not hinder people’s views.
  • Cute compression socks – Crazy socks are in! Concert-goers will applaud as your wild socks with cute boogie shoes outdance them
  • Comfy shoes – if you can find something in a boot or chunky heel, you’ll be above the crowd for best viewing!

WHAT’S NOT: Mom or dad jeans

mom jeans

WTF Wango Tango Fangirls may change their minds about Mom Jeans – totally CUTE!

  • FUELING: Eat to stay strong for your music marathon:
    • HYDRATION vs RAGING – While there are tons of fun drinks in the festival, try to drink to hydrate:
      • Alternate – Every other drink alternate between water and soda or alcohol
      • Combine – Gatorade Margaritas, they’re real!
    • ALL-DAY FUELING – Eat a protein-filled breakfast with light carbs, preferably whole fiber. Consider bringing snacks to ensure your energy lasts all night long! The festival contains quick pick-me-up options but watch out for the crash!

Food

  • MEDALS OF COMPLETION:
    • ROCK-N-ROLL VOICE: Even with voice training, you’re apt to get some sexy, smoky voice. Time to re-do your phone voicemail!
    • EVENT JERSEY: Not only do you and fellow jersey-wearers share an instant bond, it’s a badge of pride that you went the distance!
    • ASSUAGED STRESS/MIDLIFE SYMPTOMS: With great tunes, views, and artists you’re bound to recapture your youthful spirit and strengthen family/friendship bonds! Clapping and dancing blows away stress leaving you more centered. Adrenaline highs boost productivity

Stay loose and have crazy fun! Let me know if this plan gets you into the groove to go all night or makes you look forward to your event with renewed vigor!

Let me know if I forgot anything and what music festivals you will hit!

PARENT MUSIC FESTIVAL TRAINING PROGRAM – Part 2 of 3

First, we kicked off and ramped up music festival endurance training. Now, focus shifts to comfort during and after the event!  While this applies to Wango Tango, one can easily adapt the program to Coachella or Stagecoach or longer events.

Couch to Music Festival: Parents Training Guide (con’t)

  • VOICE CONDITIONING: Being an “adoring fan” may be tougher than a performer. They sing for a few minutes up to an hour while you consistently cheer for nearly 5 hours – without training.
    • USE YOUR GUT – Learn to push your voice from your core, through your diaphragm and control it escaping from your throat – Look
    • BUFFER – Practice while in your car, on the freeway – not even shower walls  provide enough buffer for those nearby.
Image titled Scream Sing without Damaging Your Voice Step 7

WTF: Wango Tango Fangirl checked out wikihow to Scream Sing without hurting her voice!

 

  • AVOID INJURIES: Avoid training too hard to prevent injuries. Here are the most commonly occurring:
    • 2 LEFT FEET – While you may not know how to Hit the Quan, just stay loose and move any parts of your body as you feel fit!
    • BLEEDING EARS – Increase car radio volume a little each day. Smart people, not old, buffer with foam earplugs.
    • GENERATION GAP – Wider than thigh gaps, navigating this seems trickier. Though every trend comes back around, the new generation still shocks us.  To infiltrate the crowd unnoticed, buy a few accessories at local teen stores. If you blend, youngsters are more likely to behave naturally. You may learn more social and behavioral cues for the next time you try to communicate with them.

  • KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Be prepared!
    • MUSIC – My daughter think I’ve invented this cool car radio game called Name That Tune where I quickly turn the radio on then off and they blurt out the title and artist of radio songs. While it’s fun for them, my music muscle memory kicks in from back in the days when I could remember any song lyrics but not algebraic equations.
    • FLASHCARDS – Music festivals, especially in Los Angeles, attract celebrities. So another game rises from the pages of tabloid/fashion magazines where my daughter and I verbalize what the star “must be” saying with their photoshoot poses. This will prevent me from calling a cast by the wrong TV show next time we cross paths.

How many can you name?

Coming tomorrow: Attire, Fueling, Medals of completion.

DISNEY ON ICE: The Biggest Treasure

Disney animated films represent a memorable, magical rite of passage!  Most of us remember our first favorite Disney character that leaped from the screen, welcoming us into their world – mine was Cinderella.*  As we grew, we became more complex characters, our crowds changed and new favorites joined our immediate Disney family!

Tiana & Naveen

The Princess and the Frog’s Tiana and Naveen

As with every family gathering, we enjoy our time immensely with our Disney family – build fond memories – but then return to our less magical daily routine.  While one may visit characters at their theme park homes, or rewind and re-live the films at our home, time with our Disney family remains limited.  Disney realizes that most of us do not share fences with a Disney theme park, so they’ve packed up their treasure trove of characters and are gliding into your home town!

Finale

Disney’s Treasure Trove of memorable, magical characters

Disney chose their 50 most memorable characters from eight classic animated films to share their stories through figure skating in Feld Entertainment’s Disney On Ice presents Treasure Trove – presented by YoKids!  By adding the elegance and athleticism of ice skating, the levels of romance, suspense, comedy and antics increase by leaps and bounds! The films span the 50-year legacy that Walt Disney started!  Every guest will reunite with one of their favorites!

ALICE

Don’t be late to a very important date with Alice and the Mad Hatter as they march with the Queen of Hearts’ Army of Cards

Hit the ice with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald and Goofy as they embark on a fun-filled treasure hunt. Get tangled up in Disney’s 50th animated feature with Rapunzel and Flynn. Ahoy, Mateys! Set sail with Peter Pan, sassy Tinker Bell and cantankerous Captain Hook & his pirate crew! Trek the wilds of Africa with Simba, Nala, Pumbaa and Timon to discover the true meaning of the ‘Circle of Life.’ Tick-Tock! Tick-Tock! Set a playdate with Woody and Buzz Lightyear – the toys are back in town!

ice

As with anything that Disney touches, the performance sets the gold standard!  This breathtakingly magical experience creates unforgettable memories for you and your family to treasure!

*While I enjoyed the Princess mind-set for a while, what I really loved about Cinderella was her resilience and creativity on how to get to the ball, her dignity in doing a job well-done and grace when facing down her obnoxious step-sisters! #DisneyStrong

#DisneyOnIce   #TreasureTrove  #IBelieveInDisneyMagic

All images (c) Disney

SET SAIL FOR THE LA BOAT SHOW!

Close your eyes, imagine yourself at the helm, captaining your ship. Wind blowing your hair, sun warming your face with the course set for the horizon!  For once, I’m not speaking hypothetically, I’m talking about real boats!  What’d your boat look like? A sailboat, a motorboat? A yacht with champagne?

Boating whisks us away, instantly freeing us from our land-dwelling ways, promising adventure, relaxation, nature, and romance. This form of travel rebuffs the usual constraint of staying within the lines and muffles the visual and auditory clutter of our neighborhoods.  The tension melts away with each wave. Realizing how small we are resting on the water’s surface resets our center.

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I’m blessed with a marina view from my office. Every now and then we’ll see the tall masts of some super-huge luxury vessel, wonder who owns it and wish we could see it up close.

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Now is our chance!  The west coast’s premier boating event, the 2016 Progressive Insurance Los Angeles Boat Show cruises to town in a few weeks!  Whether you are looking to upgrade or just get your feet wet, it will offer hundreds of boats for sale: entry-level family cruisers, pontoons, wakesport boats, personal watercraft, inflatables, sailboats, catamarans, cruisers, to million-dollar yachts!  Plus, GEAR – it’s all about the gear!

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I’m so excited that Progressive offered me tickets to the show. I LOVE shows like this so I can submerse myself in all things nautical!

This show lasts four days (February 25-28), in two locations: The Los Angeles Convention Center and Burton W. Chace Park in Marina del Rey! The Marina will be a sailor’s delight with on-water lessons, sailing seminars and simulators!   There will be tons of Boat Smart activities and a high-energy kids zone where kids build their own sailing fantasy! Personally, I can’t wait to check out the Float-In Theatre!

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Buy tickets now: $15 for adults; Youth 15 and younger, with an adult, and active military are FREE. Save time, purchase tickets in advance at losangelesboatshow.com (Day-of-event tix sold at the box office).

Congratulations to our winner Christina Faulkner! She receives 4 tickets good for any day of the show, good for both show locations. Hope you enjoy your boating adventure! Thank you for wandering by! 

Check back every day (until the show starts) to see new boating songs you’ll be humming!
SAILING Christopher Cross
IF I HAD A BOAT Lyle Lovett

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CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR RAFFLE WINNER:  Christina Faulkner!

YOU WENT WHERE? DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (WITH KIDS)

Though I’ve lived in Los Angeles for about 20 years, I still don’t consider myself local. I even lived downtown in 1992 – but back then, people escaped the city when work ended.  

To my kids, it’s the smoggy spot where their uncle works and home to modern miracles like LA Live or the Staples Center.  Their only tie to LA history is through The Original Pantry and USC.  Overall, they share the sterotypical LA sentiment that doesn’t appreciate old things setting the course for facelifts or being torn down.  

derby

Now, renewed energy of confident black and white business transactions blending with colorful artistic visions reflects off the skyscrapers drawing people downtown.  I wanted the kids to feel this vibe.

While heading out on our city walk, we ducked into the BRADBURY BUILDING. The kids haven’t seen Blade Runner, but the contrast of the sidewalk view to the soaring surreal interior thrilled them.

bradout

bradin

Next we headed to the HIVE GALLERY for a friend’s exhibit!  What an amazing collection of photography, ballpoint, graphic design, mixed media!  I was so excited to see her work in Dollmination! after having just reunited with her and meeting the co-creator – her husband – days before.

Dollmination

St. Michael Defeating the Devil (artist photo)               by Tamara and Michael Page

She suggested we visit CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA – what a gift!  We entered on the low-hanging ceiling first floor cafeteria. The expansive eating area mimics a forest allowing Angeleno’s an outdoor escape since freeways are never a great option – then or now.

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Cool original feel but obviously modernized too!

After eating, we explored upstairs. The 2nd floor boasts an expansive bar and plush seating inviting people to lean in, spilling their truths or to find comfort in someone else’s tales.

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The 2nd floor also had a passageway that startled my kids. Neither was brave enough to pass thru.

Climbing another level, a gorgeous waiting area flanked the powder rooms.  Perfect for guests cordially courting after spilling out from the lively music hall.

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We finished at THE LAST BOOKSTORE. Entering on the ground floor, fellow hipster bibliophiles mingle, while escaping into the pages of great books.  

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Next time there is an event here, I’m going! So cool!

Upstairs, my son rested…

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…while my daughter and I explored.

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Magical things around every corner!

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Not sure if the subject (horror) or the huge vault door scared us more.

We spent less time on books and more time on whimsical exhibits.  

It was rushed adventure this time, and we’re already eagerly throwing an itinerary together for our next walking tour! Hope we’ll see you wandering around town too!

For longer Three-Thumb Reviews for these destinations CLICK HERE TO YELP!  

NATURALLY, KIDS: HUNT FOR FOSSILS AND BONES

Our neighbors always inspire us with their outdoor adventures. Where I overflow with curiosity, I lack in outdoor survival skills. Thankfully when we set out on this adventure, our neighbors gave us a few tips – wear tennies and watch the tide.

For years, I’ve wanted to explore a sea cave on the sea edge of the Terranea resort in Palos Verdes, CA. Ever since seeing Disney’s Pete’s Dragon.  I instinctually knew that Elliott retired to California.

This summer, our neighbors came home with this…

Big Boned

…proof that large creatures, dragons even, live off our coasts.

After guilt tactics that Mommy always does what the kids want to do and now it’s my turn, promises of adventure, and one of possibly the best pretzels ever at Nelson’s, my kids finally agreed to help me hunt for Elliott.

Arriving at the trailhead, their pace quickened.

Suddenly the jaded teenager leads the pack

Suddenly the jaded teenager leads the pack

The seawalls growing higher around us opened revealing a little cove.

Immediately the kids were submerged in the beauty of nature and the magic of the adventure.

Lauren, my rock collector, hunted for a treasured memento.

Please Mom, may I keep it?

Please Mom, may I keep it?

We opted to look for smaller ones.

What treasures the cove held

What treasures the cove held

Carson found one with a chain link fence in it. Knowing it came from the top of the cliffs chilled us. Lauren found unique rock formations.

Aliens or humans

Aliens or humans

The kids skipped a few.

Skip it

WTF: With True Force – skipping rocks!

The day surpassed Carson’s relaxation goal.

Recalibrating from hectic  Middle School days

Recalibrating from hectic Middle School days

The cave called us up the cliffs.

Wait for me!

Wait for me!

We stood at the open mouth.

Bom bombom bombombom bombombom... We love you too

Bom bombom bombombom bombombom…
We love you too

The tide warned us to stay out – but, Carson leaped in.

A squishy shoe for the hike back is worth this view!

A squishy shoe for the hike back is worth this view!

The tide pushed him into the cave!

Mom, it's open way up in back...

Mom, it’s open way up in back…

We gals vowed to return another time when the tide retreats.

Lauren secretly hoped he was moving in

Lauren secretly hoped he was moving in

After catching their breath in a cave and promising to not resist as hard next time I get a hair-brained idea,

We'll never doubt you again! Mark their words...

We’ll never doubt you again!
Mark their words…

we hiked back to civilization in search of cool refreshments.

Manhattan Beach Creamery:  They custom make magic there!

Manhattan Beach Creamery:
They custom make magic there!

 

With a name like that, curiosity wins, although the kids opted for standard options. While they weren’t thrilled with the flavor, it was all part satisfying our appetite for adventure!

Never met a flavor I didn't like... 'til now.

Never met a flavor I didn’t like…
’til now.

We will return to the cave and explore deeper with head lamps!  Plus we want to wander down another trail to take us closer to the bone yard.

Now, the kids can’t wait to see where we explore next.

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: TODAY

Free yo yo lessons here (at store on the Pier) Saturdays at 3pm!

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