nature’s way

the honeymoon continues in the bay area. i keep finding new things to love about this enchanted city.

as i grow older, i am becoming closer to nature, i.e. plants, trees, soil, and even animals. the last few days have involved helping to build a fence from chicken wire, walking in the woods, eating from my friends’ garden, and spending time with a tropical bird. Hi Kiwi! this afternoon was no different. we visited one of the best nurseries in the country, the Berkeley Horticulture Center.

this morning, when my mother told me that snow was expected in the east and my brother announced the freezing temperature just minutes after i phoned him, i simply gave thanks because at that very moment i was warm and feeling super awesome.

the awesome part surprises me since i have gone completely overboard in the eating department. i should know better but it tastes so good! so far, i’ve eaten at:

Prather’s Ranch Meat Co.
Tartine
Osha Thai
Zachary’s Pizza
Bi-rite Ice Creamery
Cafe GoLo
Pica Pica
Gracias Madre
Champa Garden
Brown Sugar Kitchen (beverage only)
Scream Sorbet
Gregoire
The Summit (beverage only)

I AM A LITTLE PIGLET !!!!

even though my belly is dancing with the stars right now, i am thankfully breathing through my nose — both nostrils. in New York, pizza alone ignites a sneezing fit and at least 36 hours of hampered nose breathing. in cali, i have been able to eat pizza and ice cream in the same day with no miserable consequences. now that’s worth me moving here in itself.

can you tell i’m having a fantastic stay in the Bay! that rhymed 🙂

oh a special HELLO to Hadley in Berkeley representing Home 101 – a terrific boutique that resembles a candy store but for adults with a sweet tooth for antiques and treasures for any cozy abode.

sending sunshine and warmth to you and your family! it’s the season for citrus. Vitamin C is our best friend during cold season so get your orange, grapefruit and lemon on!

this is a budding lemon tree!

and last but not least Happy 9th and 14th Birthday to my nephews – I love you both!

auntie *Lala*

married to myself

A few days ago, while on my way to work, I heard a man’s voice say, “Good Morning! Good Morning!”. Turning my head slightly to catch a glimpse of the caller’s face, I managed a faint smile and returned the greeting. Before, the last syllable departed my lips, the man, who was creeping beside me in his silver Acura, hollers, “You married?” Considering that I was wearing a mini-dress, I was positive that this question sprang primarily from his loins. I picked up the pace, then lied and said, “Yes” and smiled really big to display my happiness with being a kept woman. I’m not married but I fibbed because at that moment, I felt much safer saying there was a man in my life — imaginary and all.

I shared this story with a buddy, he listened then promptly changed the subject by asking “Why do some women seem so desperate to find a man?” Then he said, “It’s a real turn-off.”

Please read my response (and theory) below:

If a girl is born into a decent family, she is never left alone. Any responsible caregiver knows this. For example, my younger brother could romp all over the neighborhood; however, I needed to be in close proximity at all times. “Where are you going?” “Who are you going with?” “How are you getting home?” The questions never ceased. The same little girls grow up to be teenagers and now their boyfriends walk them to the door, pick them up for the dance, insist on a phone call upon arrival home, etc. Then the same young teenager becomes a woman and moves away from home. At this time, she is faced with being alone in a vast world full of men who don’t seem to have her best interests at heart. But then she meets a man who reminds her of her father or uncle or first boyfriend and she thinks, “I gotta hold onto this one because when we walk down the street, men don’t bother me and so on …”

Often, men can be sharks and the one thing that seems to keep sharks away are other bigger sharks.

And let’s not forget about all of the films, soap operas, novels, and fairy tales that encourage or support this behavior.

Please do not misunderstand my theory, I am not a proponent of desperation in any form but it makes sense to me. Fortunately for me, I learned at a young age to enjoy my own company and if that wasn’t enough, I could always say, Hello!.

Currently, I am single. And, although I am content in either situation, I would admit that it’s great having a man around — whether for pure companionship, to zip up my dress, take out the trash, or with whom to converse and build.  On the other hand, I am noticing that when I am not in a relationship, I am far more productive hence the past two months’ activities:

September was a heavy “food” month, working on my book project, building a new web site, attending food-related events (Epicurious Entertains New York), and eating at new restaurants.

Plus, I received my Level I Reiki certification. A goal of mine since completing the Hatha Yoga certification course over eight years ago. Reiki is a Japanese energy healing form; this skill is a wonderful addition to my health & wellness toolbox.

October was a huge blur. In addition to working as a full time web producer, I was booked every weekend this month for a photography shoot. Also, a friend shared the news of the Levi’s and Leica Photo Workshop with me. This can be described in two words: super dopeness, and it’s open until December 18th.

And to top it off, last Wednesday I started a branding and marketing course at 3rd Ward.

I can only contribute the abundance of work and love to peace of mind and extreme focus.

Giving thanks for organic food, friendships, and learning. The photos are from yesterday’s excursion to the Big Bambú exhibit on the roof of The Metropolitan Museum of Art or The Met. Artists: Doug & Mark Starn along with several rock climbers. Fantastic! with a capital F 🙂

I feel great and I wish the same for you and your loved ones!

Peace, smiles and happiness,

*Lala*

(have you eaten anything orange today?)

my first love

New Podcast!

When I was nineteen, while living in the South of France, I met a man from Djibouti. His name has escaped me but I remember looking at his face and seeing my father. I was drawn to him, the smoothness of his skin, his droopy eyes, and his disproportionately large hands. We met on a bus heading to Marseille for a zouk dance. Without introducing himself, he asked me if I had ever been in love and who was my first love? In French, of course.

Vous jamais avez été dans l’amour ? Qui était votre premier amour ?

My initial response was:

Bien sur, j’ai un petit ami que j’aime beaucoup. Et vous?
Of course, I have a boyfriend who I love a lot. And you?

I had been living in France for less than three weeks so I struggled even to communicate those words. What I really had been thinking was that my first love was my father, but he may have misunderstood so I sat in silence for the rest of our journey.

Lobster Roll & Fries - yum!

For any girl who grows up with her father, he is your first major male influence. His smile is the first you see, laugh you hear, words you cling to, he is everything to you and more. A protector, a guide, a teacher, a play mate, and Santa Claus, all in one!

Clams & Linguini - de-lish-i-o-shis

Today marks the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing – having died the morning of July 22nd, 2000. There was a time I could conjure up his smile or the sound of his voice in a daydream. With time, many of those details have faded. Although, I still remember these things:

  • Food was his main squeeze – next to my mother
  • Math and History were his favorite subjects – he adored the History Channel
  • He was awfully serious one day then a total clown the next
  • The Godfather and Heat were his favorite films
  • He could write with both hands (ambidextrous)
  • Not many people could beat him at a game of chess
  • He taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car (scary thought)
  • He is most certainly the funniest man I’ve ever met — even til this day
  • He loved cheese yet I don’t believe he’d ever had the chance to experience “real” cheese
  • Respect was his most used word –  and GET DOWN!, but that’s two words. (We were always climbing something.)
  • My father loved music – in particular jazz

Last night, I made this podcast mix titled, Dear Dad, for him and for any one who appreciates jazz music. You can also go to the iTunes Store and search for “Lala the Sunchaser” and subscribe so you can listen on your iPod, iPhone or computer:) Enjoy!

If you’re father is alive, tell him you love him today.

Vegetarian Dim Sum - all gone!

Giving thanks for life and a father’s love,

*Lala*

Cherries and Peaches are in season! So sweet this year!

the test of time (McDonald’s wins)

Ok, I should be running out of the door right now but I wanted to post this before the weekend begins so you can show your friends and family.

Two or three weeks ago, I went to the Bronx Zoo with friends. One of them bought fries and I brought the left overs home with me to see if they can stand up to the McDonald’s experiment.

It will be two weeks today since I brought the Bronx Zoo fries home and they are basically a moldy soup now! They were purchased and jarred, May 21st, 2010.

Fries from Bronx Zoo, photo taken May 30, 2010

However, the McDonald’s burgers and fries are going strong. As you can see, there is a lot of condensation yet still they are holding up – like new!

McDonald's Fries, 1 year and 2 months old

McDonald's Burger, 1 year and 2 months old

These were purchased and jarred last year, March 27th, 2009.

McDonald's Bun, 1 year and 2 months old

Send this link to EVERY ONE you know who eats fast food and is not convinced that it is NOT real food! I want YOU to live long and strong:) that’s all.

Hugs and happy weekend!!!

*Lala*

start where you are

There are about ten other things I should be doing right now but I am going to stick to my word and complete this post today. The weeks fly by so quickly! Soon this blog will not be as critical because I have been creating content for my new blog/site, Why Did I Eat That?. It’s a fun and exciting new project I’ve been working on for over a year and I think you will enjoy it. Soon come.

Image from upcoming book, Why Did I Eat That?

Happy Monday Folks!!

The weather in New York this past weekend was superb-o-licious! I think I may have taken only 8 photographs the entire weekend which is pretty weak for me. I had chosen to be super present; however, in hindsight, I could really use a few good images. There was just enough ME time plus I was able to connect with a few friends – old and new. My Friday night ended with a full belly and smiles. I highly recommend the restaurant, Saraghina, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. It’s been open for a while and many of my friends have been there 3 or 4 times by now so when a relatively new friend prompted me to pick the place for us to meet and share some food, I jumped at the opportunity to visit this low-key, rustic Italian spot which resembles an old farmhouse spanning the entire length of the quaint yet urban block on Lewis Avenue. The staff is extremely friendly and forthcoming, openly sharing their love of food and the neighborhood to anyone who’ll listen.  The ingredients were fresh, a farm-to-table establishment; and, although the menu is quite small, it’s difficult to choose because everything looks so very delightful. 3 Thumbs Up from me!

Basketball players in Chinatown, May 2010 NYC

The coming weeks will bring about more new challenges for me. It is one thing to have an idea and something all together different when it comes to execution and delivery. I want to be there but I am only here. I wish I knew that but I only know this. If only I had more information or access to better resources…I want to be an expert NOW!

Well, I am not; therefore, I have been making do with what’s available to me and, on occasion, whining in the process 😦

Does pollution really cause hair loss?

During the beginning of a meditation session yesterday, our teacher says if you have a thought, it’s okay, keeping counting and don’t judge yourself: Start where you are. Immediately, this resonated with me because for the past several weeks, I’ve been struggling with new software and ways to execute my vision. I am often stuck on the fact, that I don’t have the skills to execute my ideas and find myself wishing I was somewhere else in the process of learning. The mere utterance of that phrase was like a thump to my head and heart. My internal response was, Preach Mama! That’s all I needed to hear. Essentially the message was, Be Present and Honor Your Place in Life. I have gotten pretty good at this; however, just like anyone else living in a super techie and media-driven society, I get overwhelmed and distracted.

Strawberry Doughnut from Doughnut Planet NYC

Speaking of distractions, I never shared my doughnut experience with you. It had been almost three years since I ate half of a doughnut. I was certain my teeth would fall out on the spot. Needless to say, I had no intention of ever eating another one of those things in this lifetime. Yet two weeks ago, after an invigorating lunch-hour yoga class at YogaWorks in SoHo, a friend and I stumbled across the DOUGHNUT PLANET. After a bit of doughnut banter with the huge worker who clearly has had his share of doughnuts, we hastily walked towards brown cafe for some coffee (her) and tea (me) for which to savor our heavenly doughnuts. She had strawberry which were made with fresh strawberries and tender loving care. Yum! And I purchased two different types of chocolate but only ate one of them that day. I haven’t stopped thinking about that doughnut since that day but will not go back at least for another month. Moderation!

Chocolate “Blackout” Doughnut from Doughnut Planet

Well, I would never stop writing if I shared every bit of my week or weekend. I’m no longer the jack rabbit I had been when I first arrived to NYC but I still get around. It’s no doubt the beautiful weather has everything to do with it combined with my curiosity for new-ness. There is a world out there and I love exploring it, don’t you?

brown cafe on Hester Street NYC 2010
Inside the brown cafe, they also have a restaurant called orange

This week, take your time and savor your family, friends, food, experiences, and environment! We are a fortunate bunch of dreamers and schemers who too often focus on the past or future while letting the moment pass us by. Let’s all be present and grateful for each and every moment life brings us!

Thanks for reading and have a productive week!

Greetings and well wishes to J.R.

Smiles and Sunshine

*Lala*

happy anniversary mickey d’s

Saturday, March 27th, 2010 marked the one year anniversary of the McDonald’s fry and burger experiment. I don’t have much to say…the photos speak loud and clear.

McDonald's fries - one year old - March 27, 2010

McDonald's buns - one year old - March 27, 2010

McDonald's burger - one year old - March 27, 2010

SPREAD this blog post to any one who eats fast food on a regular basis please! Thank you for reading. *Lala*

mCdonald’s still going strong (weak)

Approximately six or seven months ago, I shared photos from a personal experiment that involves a McDonald’s hamburger and a small order of fries. Today marks the ten month anniversary of this experiment. Basically, we purchased a burger and fries on March 27th, 2009, shortly after my return from Brasil. We then placed each item in a separate glass jar to see how long it would take to dissolve into liquid — as food is supposed to do. Below are photos I took yesterday, January 26th, 2010. The fries have hardly changed. Due to the sun’s rays, there was an ample amount of condensation in the jars but REMEMBER, they have been sitting in these jars for 10 months now!

McDonald's Fries after 10 months

For your information, i am fully aware of the film Supersize Me. i am also a fan of the filmmaker, Rupert Murdoch; however, I am a proponent of “seeing is believing”. Given that there are two McDonald’s within walking distance of me, I figured I would explore McDonald’s staying power…and now I know, it’s “food” that never leaves the body 🙂 and apparently it is rather addictive. I would challenge anyone to eat it, just kidding…This would not be such a good idea. Everyday when I see the jars on the window cill, I am reminded of how far people will go to make a fat buck or a pretty penny!

The bread hasn't even molded - feels funny calling it "bread"

I realize that for many many people, fast food is the only option they have when it comes to feeding themselves on a daily or weekly basis. This is sad and disturbing to say the least. It is cheap, fast, good, and seemingly filling. With the exception of fast, none of those characteristics are valid. I can only hope that more and more people of all backgrounds will discover this in due time. Cheap food is cheap for a reason … this applies to food just as much as it applies to shoes. And trust me, bunion surgery is painful but it doesn’t compare to a triple bypass.

Is it real meat from an animal - where do they find these preservatives?

Please share this with as many people in your life — especially the ones who eat at Mickey Ds, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Popeye’s, Chili’s, AppleBees, Jack in the Box, Arby’s, and the list goes on…I am almost certain that other “food” items from this long list would yield similar results.

Take care of your body, it’s the only one you have!

The burger from a different angle - 10 months old

oh yes, Tonight I went to see, Still Bill, a documentary about the great Bill Withers as part of BRIC’s Friends of Celebrate Brooklyn. For those who haven’t seen it, it will be playing at the IFC Center on Sixth Ave at West 4th Streets until Thursday, February 4th, 2010. If you do not live in NYC, there are screenings all over the country and/or you can purchase the DVD and host a screening!

Mr. Bill WIthers and Lala

Please go and support my friends, Damani, Alex, and Jon (and Mr. Withers too)! I have seen it twice and have gained so much insight from the words of Mr. Withers while laughing my bum off in the process. he is extra hilarious 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!

Love, sunshine and smiles! /Lala

costa rica chico (The Bread and Chocolate interview)

Tom, owner of Bread and Chocolate

Tom, owner of Bread and Chocolate

During our stay in Costa Rica this past June, we found ourselves returning to a cafe in Puerto Viejo for breakfast and often times lunch for four consecutive days. The name of the cafe is called Bread and Chocolate. At our first visit, I was immediately taken by the affable smile of the hostess who politely told us to sit where ever we like, and then was pounced upon by the delicious-ness of my fluffy french toast and fresh berries. When I discovered that the owner, Tom, was from the US state of Maryland, I thought it would be helpful to share his experience of re-locating abroad and setting up his first restaurant in a foreign country. He too is a Sun Chaser in my eyes!

Below is an online interview completed by Tom, owner of Bread and Chocolate.
Again, if and when you go to Puerto Viejo, you absolutely must have breakfast here or pick up a Mattwich sandwich to go!

1. What made you decide to travel to Costa Rica and how long did you stay the first visit?

I first came to Costa Rica about 9 or 10 years ago with my parents and a group of teachers that taught with my mom.  My dad and I just tagged along.  We were here for a week and just stayed in the Central Valley.  I then came by myself for a one month Spanish program in 2004 in between my junior and senior years at college.  The program was based in San Jose, but we were able to travel on the weekends.  One of the weekends was when I first came to Puerto Viejo.

2. When did you decide to move there and why?

I decided to move here during my senior year in college.  I remember the exact moment I first mentioned moving here as a complete joke while I studied with a friend for first semester finals.  That night when I got into bed I thought about it and realized that it was the first option I had thought about doing after school that made me excited.   I studied philosophy and sociology at Bucknell University and while many of the other seniors were having job interviews I knew I didn’t want to get into an office job somewhere.  I didn’t know what else I would do though.  After that night the joke of moving down here grew into a reality.  I at least thought that I could save money to travel for a while to learn Spanish and experience another culture and if things didn’t work out I could just go back.  Ultimately everything worked out way better than I could have imagined and after six months of being here and having two different cooking jobs making about $1.50 an hour I was able to get a loan and take over the restaurant here.

3. What is your passion(s)? (assuming you have one)

Food and Cooking.  I have always been a person with many interests.  I was always interested in the outdoors and animals, many different sports, and so on.  If you had asked me this question maybe as little as a year ago I would have had a really hard time answering that I have one thing that I love enough to call it a passion.  Recently, however, I have realized how much I love food and cooking.  Whenever I’m bored I cook, even if I’ve been in the kitchen working all day.  I love to experiment with different foods and love amount of creativity you can have in cooking.

4. What or who influenced you to go live in Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast?

When I was in the Spanish program in San Jose, I had a friend from high school that had been here for a year studying abroad.  She had been to Puerto Viejo many times and she was the first to bring me here.  After being here, the town itself is what drew me back.  I love the mix of people here.  In such a small town (after about 2 weeks you recognize most people) there is amazing diversity.  I grew up in a small town so I love that you know almost everyone after a couple years and people say hi to you on the street even if you don’t know them.  I also love how laid back it is.  Running the restaurant is definitely a lot of work and can be very stressful but I enjoy being able to do it in such a relaxed atmosphere outside of the work aspect.

5. What do you enjoy most about running a cafe or food establishment? How long has Bread and Chocolate been open?

As I mentioned, I enjoy being around food.  Also, aside from the food, what I enjoy most is being able to meet people from all over the world.  It’s amazing to meet so many people every week from so many different places.  I also have been lucky to have found amazing employees and kept most of my staff for at least 2 years.  We have a great time together at work and outside of work.  This makes every day fun, as long as I make clear that the line is drawn when the joking around gets in the way of the quality of the food or the service.  Bread and Chocolate has been open for almost 5 years.  The original owners had it for a little over a year and a half.  I cooked for them for a couple of months then took over on May 1, 2006.

6. What are some of the challenges of running a food establishment in another country like Costa Rica?

There are many challenges in running a business here.  This year we have had several weeks with not enough water pressure to fill our water tank.  I’ve had to go in the street and run down the ONE water truck that they send to fill all the hotels and restaurants when the town water isn’t working.  The power goes out a lot, trucks don’t show up on time or the right days (the road isn’t passable from San Jose, etc.), employees don’t show up or show up late (I have been lucky with this as I mentioned, but did have to try many different people before finding the right group).  So it has its challenges that might not be the same as those running a business in the States, but that’s also what makes it not get boring.  Every day is different.

7. What (if anything) do you miss most about living in the States?

I miss family and friends.  I miss sitting around eating crabs, corn on the cob, with some beers and friends (like I did last week when I went back to visit).  Overall though, there are not many times when I feel like there are things I miss.

8. What’s next for you?

I have ideas to maybe put another Bread and Chocolate in the next town or maybe put a lounge upstairs here.  I think it’s good to always be thinking of more ideas, but to be careful not to change a good thing.  As far as me being here, many people ask me if I’ll stay for the rest of my life.  I always just say that I’m happy now so I’m not sure.  I just take it one day at a time.

mickey deez nuts

many moons ago, i watched the highly-acclaimed film by Morgan Spurlock titled, Super Size Me (2004). i went to see this film in the theatre so i was not privy to the Special Features until a friend shared her account of the one regarding the fries. Spurlock apparently collects samples of french fries by various fast food chains and local restaurants then puts them in a jar and waits. apparently the McDonald’s fries stood the test of time but seeing is not always believing so i decided to try it for myself.

although i hadn’t seen this experiment on video – even to this day – i was intrigued. so one night, me and Mr. X got off the train in Brooklyn at Nevins Street and walked to the nearby McDonald’s to purchase a hamburger and a small fry — not for consumption but for experimentation purposes. over 15 years ago, i had vowed not to eat from any more fast food restaurants. this was not an easy task at the time but now i could not imagine taking a bite out of a Big Mac especially after witnessing the results of our experiment. however, thanks to the success of McDonald’s fast food franchisees, many other independent burger joints have flourished and they are doing it way better than Ronald himself – plus i believe the others are much easier on the heart and stomach.

once home, we found two clean jars in my kitchen and placed the fries in one jar. and, after cutting the burger in half, we placed each half in another jar and label each jar with the date: 3/27/09 – see photo below.

McDonald's Hamburger and Fries (March 27, 2009)

McDonald's Hamburger and Fries (March 27, 2009)

Today 3 months later, the Mickey Deez meal is standing tall. (See photo from June 27th, 2009 below) i have since moved them to my living room window sill to see how the sunlight would affect the experiment. it is remarkable, besides a slight withered look, both “food” items have remained in tact and do not look a day older than 3 or 4. i am not brave enough to take remove them from the jar and take a bite but if any of you are, then give me a holler and let’s see if these fries and hamburger still tastes as good as they look.

The same hamburger and fries 3 months later

The same hamburger and fries 3 months later

This “food” is indestructible. I wonder how long it takes for our stomachs to digest it?

June 27, 09 - Close up of hamburger

June 27, 09 - Close up of hamburger

June 27, 09 - McDonald's fries

June 27, 09 - Close up of fries

July 4, 09 - Sitting in the sun for one week

July 4, 09 - Sitting in the sun for one week