Salton Sea Birthday

12.08.14 / no comments

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To celebrate my birthday this year, we decided to take a trip to the Salton Sea. The weather was perfect and the campsite was nearly empty so it was like we were all alone out there. We stayed at the New Camp in the Salton Sea State Recreation Area and found a great campsite beneath some trees so we got plenty of shade in the morning once the sun came up. We went and explored the beach by the campsite which is covered in barnacles and fish bones. It’s the most bizarre thing to see so many whole dead fish just sitting on the beach. And then took a trip down the highway to Bombay Beach where we explored some abandoned houses and watched a beautiful sunset over the water. Back at our campsite, we made dinner, gathered wood for a fire, told stories and ate donuts from Donut Friend in lieu of cake. The next morning we made breakfast, packed up camp and drove to the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge in Calpatria where we hiked the 2 mile Rock Hill Trail and saw many sea birds as well as some Desert Cottontail rabbits. Once we left the refuge, we headed to Niland to see Salvation Mountain. It was a really nice laid back trip and is a great weekend adventure not far from Los Angeles.

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Bombay Beach
Sunset on the water at Bombay Beach
Sunset on the water at Bombay Beach
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View of the moon during sunrise over the Salton Sea
Tofu Scramble and Field Roast Sausage Breakfast
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You can see more photos from our trip here.

November in Death Valley

12.04.14 / one comment

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To celebrate Alix’s birthday we went to Death Valley National Park. It was the perfect time to go, there weren’t big crowds and the weather was lovely. We stayed at the Furnace Creek campsite which offered a bit of shade and greenery considering we were in the desert. We visited the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Natural Bridge, Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point and Artist’s Drive. Artist’s Drive was absolutely my favorite. It’s a 9 mile drive through beautiful multi-hued volcanic and sedimentary hills. I really didn’t want to leave it was so beautiful. I can’t wait to go back and see the rest of the areas and sites in the park.

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Zabriskie Point

Natural Bridge Artist's Drive

Labor Day in Yosemite National Park

12.02.14 / no comments

Over the Labor Day holiday, we went on our first 2 night camping trip to Yosemite National Park with Shawn, Alix and our pal Dilcia. Shawn managed to snag us a spot at Housekeeping Camp at the very last-minute so we had a nice little retreat with a few more creature comforts that usual. It was such a lovely trip. We hiked up to the top of the Vernal Falls. We rented bikes and rode around all the bike paths throughout the Yosemite Valley stopping to swim at several points along the Merced River. We went to Mirror Lake and walked around the dry river bed at sunset. We also drove up Glacier Point Road and took a brief hike up the McGurk Meadow trail. I can’t wait to go back to Yosemite again, I’m hoping we can return next spring and see a whole new side of the park.

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  Vernal Falls

 

Work is a four letter word

09.18.14 / no comments

My friend Shane, turned 35 today and quit his job. He posted about it on his website. When I read it, it made me think about my job change from earlier this year. I haven’t written about it but it seems like maybe now is a good time to share.

In May, I quit a full-time job with benefits created just for me to go back to a seasonal job that employs me 7 months out of the year. Luckily Scott is the most supportive person in the world, so when I told him how I was unhappy and wanted to leave, he asked what I would want to do instead. The answer was simple, return to my old contract job and the job that brought me to Los Angeles in the first place, I was proud of my work there, was a vital member of a small team and honestly really loved the people I worked with. Also my job just happened to be available. But I knew realistically that probably wasn’t a real option because of the full-time job with benefits I was giving up. But again, Scott being amazing said do it and we would figure all the scary stuff out. It was really that easy, I mean sure I debated it for a few weeks and we really talked more about the scary stuff but after that first real conversation my mind was made up. When I told some close friends the decision, a few of them thought I was crazy. And when I announced I was leaving, many of my former colleagues couldn’t understand why I would leave if I didn’t have a another full-time job lined up.

Now here are some of the realities of what my decision meant, the aforementioned “scary stuff”: I was and still am the primary contributor to our household income (this will be changing soon but was not known at the time) so this was a huge financial gamble. Technically, my new job pays more per-paycheck that my full-time job so I’m taking home more money now but come December I have no paycheck. I was also the person who got us both healthcare at very little cost and that also disappeared when I quit. Now we have both lived without health insurance before so that one was less scary but it still sucks. I currently have a chipped tooth that has started bothering me but no dental insurance and limited funds mean that it’s not getting looked at anytime soon.

But I still have absolutely no regrets about the decision I made. Overall, I’m much happier when I come home each day from work, even stressful days are nothing compared to how depressed I felt earlier this year. Sure the beginning of next year is going to be a bit scary, I don’t have another job lined up and we are banking big on Scott’s new promotion filling in the gap and hopefully it will but if it doesn’t we will figure it out. I’ll get a minimum wage job, I’ll go find a short contract job somewhere or something. But I couldn’t let that fear, keep me locked into something that made me very unhappy. And you know what, the last time I did something like this (yes I have taken this risk before) I left a very stable and prestigious job in New Orleans to move across the country to Los Angeles for a job that was only for 3.5 months (it’s the job I went back to FYI) and everything worked out then too. So I am not stressed about it.

So why write about this now? Well like I said above Shane’s post got me thinking and I wanted to share my story. Maybe it will help you take the same kind of leap and find something better. You know what you are worth as a person and if a job is making you miserable I say do something about it. Also I just hate all of this pressure to have a full-time job and wanted to put it out there that maybe you don’t actually need one.

* Disclaimer:
Part of what has kept me from posting about this is that I truly loved the people I worked with at my old job and still call them friends. I tried to give ample notice but quit before a big part of my job happened and felt a like an asshole. I don’t want posting about this to stir up any hard feelings or hurt anyone.

Backpacking in Big Sur

07.25.14 / no comments

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Last weekend, we ventured to Big Sur to hike the Vincente Flat Trail in Los Padres National Forest with our adventure pals Shawn, Alix and Kyle. Don’t let the name fool you this was definitely our most strenuous hike so far as the trail ascended 1800 ft to our camp for the night but it was also the most picturesque with constantly amazing views of the Pacific ocean. During one break to admire the scenery we were able to see a whale breaching the water far off on the horizon. Once we got to camp, we made some dinner and had some cake to celebrate Kyle’s birthday before getting in our tents for the night. In the morning, we made breakfast and filtered water in the nearby creek. Once we got back to our cars, we stopped across highway 1 to have some ramen on a rocky beach.

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Bay Area Food

07.23.14 / one comment

Cinnaholic. Berkeley, CA
Cinnaholic. Berkeley, CA
Source. San Francisco, CA
Saturn Cafe. Santa Cruz, CA Pepples Donut Farm. Oakland, CA
Pepples Donut Farm. Oakland, CA
Pepples Donut Farm. Oakland, CA
Pepples Donut Farm. Oakland, CA
Pepples Donut Farm. Oakland, CA
Pepples Donut Farm. Oakland, CA
Pepples Donut Farm. Oakland, CA

I had so many food pictures from our trip to the Bay Area that I decided they warranted their own post. The last time I visited the Bay Area Cinnaholic did not exist and I was anxious to try it. Given our limited time we only had a few chances to eat out and so we ended up hitting up Cinnaholic twice in the span of one hour and then grabbed some on the way out-of-town. Seriously I didn’t understand how good cinnamon rolls could be until I had these. Every combination we tried was delicious but my favorite was either almond icing with strawberries or just a simple orange iced roll.

Other new places we discovered this trip were Source where I got a delicious vegan mac and cheeze pizza and Pepples Donut Farm where I had the best TLTA ever and some of the best vegan cake donuts. Pepples was so good we went back for weekend brunch which was also amazing and when they serve yeast donuts in addition to the cake ones.

We also visited Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz, got brunch at Herbivore, had 4th of July dinner at Cha-Ya and met our pal Derek for dinner at Souley Vegan but I sadly forgot to take pics of the food. Which is a good excuse to go back soon and eat all of those yummy meals again!

Fourth of July Trip

07.09.14 / no comments



Bixby Bridge

It had been over 4 years since Scott and I took a vacation together so we decided to take a 4 day trip to the Bay Area over the Fourth of July holiday. We had only been there once before in 2007 and wanted to explore the area more while also checking out Santa Cruz along the way and take the scenic drive down the Pacific Coast highway. We stayed at the Hotel Durant in Berkeley which while being a cute little hotel also had cruelty free toiletries which I was super excited to discover. It was a really nice but short trip and made me anxious to take a longer vacation soon.

 

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from China Beach.

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.






Giant Artichoke in Castroville, CA. Giant Artichoke in Castroville, CA.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

05.28.14 / 2 comments

The gang on top of Moro Rock

I finally went on my second camping trip, this time we went backpacking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks with our pals Alix, Shawn and Kyle. We hiked the Redwood Creek Trail and Hart Tree Loop in the Redwood Mountain Grove. About 4 miles in we set up camp to spend the night. Scott and I packed a ton of food (according to Shawn maybe too much) and enjoyed a nice warm dinner in the darkness after we got our camp set up. We even heard an owl give us a hoot! Despite my insect phobia flaring up when it got dark, it was a blast and we are already planning a second backpacking trip for next weekend. Here are some photos I took with my Konica Autoreflex TC 35mm camera and a few that Shawn took with his Canon DSLR.

Me and Scott at the end of our backpacking trip.
Tons of tiny plants growing on a fallen tree.
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My Social Media Hiatus Has Ended

03.13.14 / no comments

It’s been nearly 30 days and today I dipped my toe back into the social media waters by re-installing Instagram on my phone. How did my social media hiatus experiment go? I found that I missed using Instagram the most, realized that I get most of my information and news from Twitter and did not miss Facebook at all. Sadly, I didn’t get to accomplish as many things as I hoped mainly because most of my free time was spent working. But I did find not having social media to distract me did help me focus more on my work and made me take a harder look at what I want to be doing in the next 5-10 years. Overall, not using social media at all felt very alienating. I had no idea what friends were doing if I wasn’t hanging out with them and I missed out on knowing about at least one event that I would have liked to attend. I did enjoy not being glued to my phone or computer screen all the time and I think that I may try a similar experiment over the summer when I am not so crazed with work to see if I can get some projects accomplished but I don’t think I will ever take such a severe break from it again.

Vegan King Cake 2.0

03.03.14 / 2 comments

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Happy Lundi Gras!

Yesterday, Scott and I spent nearly all day making king cakes and decided to revise our recipe a bit in trying to recreate a Randazzo’s king cake. Everyone in New Orleans has different opinions on which bakery makes the best king cake but Scott and I agree that Randazzo’s is our favorite. We had already been doing our king cake icing Randazzo’s style but our cake braiding and shape wasn’t quite right. After a ton of google image searching we decided to try a new way of braiding and shaping the cake. And I’m pretty happy with the results. So here is our updated recipe!

photo 1Ingredients:

Dough:
4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups water (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 Tbsp salt
1oz yeast (we used 4 packets of Fleischmann’s RapidRise Highly Active Yeast)
1 Tbsp Ener-g Egg Replacer mixed with 4 Tbsp Warm Water

Cinnamon sugar filling:
1 cup evaporated cane juice sugar
3 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Vegan Margarine

Icing:
1 pound of powdered sugar
1/4 cup non-dairy milk or water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  • To make the Dough, add all ingredients to a mixer with the dough hook attachment (rub some oil on the dough hook so the dough won’t stick), and mix on low for 8-9 minutes, until dough is no longer sticky and snaps back into shape after pinching (photo here). Cover the dough for 1 hour to allow dough to rise.
  • Once the dough has risen (photo here), find a workspace at least 3ft wide and flour the surface. Roll dough to about 2ft long by 6-8in wide (photo here).
  • Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Melt the margarine and spread it on the rolled out dough. Then cover with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  • Cut dough into six strips of the same size, then braid strips together. The more they get twisted and turned the better. Form a circle with the braids. Place on a baking pan and pinch the ends of the braids together (photo here).
  • Cover with a large plastic bag (like a garbage bag) and let the dough proof for an hour (photo here).
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper for 15-18 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Take out and let cool.
  • While king cake is cooling, it’s time to make the icing! Mix together non-dairy milk, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar in a mixer with the whisk attachment on low to medium until combined. You can add an additional 1/4 tsp of liquid to thin the icing if too thick. The desired consistency is close to paste or glue.
  • Pour and spread icing on king cake and sprinkle colored sugar on it.
    • If you want to get really authentic, you will need purple, green and gold colored sugar which isn’t always easy to find. I made my own pretty simply using sugar and wilton gel colors. I used Leaf Green, Violet and a combo of Lemon Yellow and a small amount of Orange to make the gold. Just put a dab of color into about 1/4 cup of sugar and work with your hands until the color is evenly distributed.
  • Hide the baby and enjoy!