Just Say ‘Ice Cream’

My friend Viv invited me to an event a few months ago. I can’t remember exactly how she said it but this is how it sounded in my head:

Viv: Hey Pilar, you like ice cream. There’s an event for this organization at Coolhaus, blah blah blah blah blah.

I’m sure she said great things about the organization, Opportunity Fund, but you can’t say ice cream, then name my #1 favorite ice cream spot, and expect me to hear/listen for the rest. You will get my attention then I will lose focus.

Anywho, I attended the event, a friendraiser for Opportunity Fund, last September. I was hooked. Opportunity Fund provides microloans to build  a more inclusive financial system.  One of the businesses they loaned to was Coolhaus. They provided Coolhaus with a $50,000 loan to buy a food truck when they were getting started. Prior to the loan, Natasha and Freya, the owners, had an old mail truck that didn’t work. They had to tow the truck to Coachella. After Coachella, Coolhaus blew up and definitely needed a working truck.  Opportunity Fund helped them get that truck– the truck that I used to have to track on Twitter and follow around town! Their success lead to a brick and mortar ice cream shop on Washington Boulevard in Culver City.  And when they have the flavors Halo and Thai Iced Tea, it’s as if God/The Universe is saying, “Hey World! Life is good! I got chu!”

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Back to Opportunity Fund…

As if they organization could not get any awesomer, they had one of the best events I have ever attended. Their event, Taste of Microfinance, celebrated local entrepreneurs that they funded: Ricky’s Fish Tacos, Los Balcones Del Peru, Takuma’s Burger, World Empanadas, CJ’s Wings, Sugarbird Sweets, and Coolhaus.  The event was held at SmogShoppe. Super hip, super fun, ridiculously delicious. In addition to the chefs they supported, other businesses they supported were present, including Wurwand Grant Challenge Finalists: Pinky Rose Boutique, Cosmetica Latina, RCO Tires, World Empanadas, and ABL Denim.

Hearing first hand from the businesses their passion for their craft, the work required, and the difference the loan made in their life was nothing short of inspiring. I spoke with a guest who said that the owner of Pinky Rose was mentoring her.  There was so much giving back to the room, regardless of one’s situation in business, profession, or life.  Another guest I spoke with asked who the people were in the room- were they the politicians, nonprofits, businesses? I replied, “All of the above!” There were bankers, activists, nonprofit leaders, foundation leaders, entrepreneurs, folks who worked for elected officials, academics, etc. etc. Unlike a number of events I have attended where people were there because 1) they had to, 2) they had to because they were helping fill a table their company sponsored, and/or 3) they just go to events (kinda like FOMO, esp. in L.A.), everyone I spoke with were there because for the same purpose:

[To] come together to support the next generation of entrepreneurs in Los Angeles – ensuring everyone has access to the funds and advice they need to close the gap between a dream and an opportunity.

Most people stayed until the very end.  My friend and I ended up talking to one of their institutional supporters until the very, VERY end– the point when staff started boxing materials and the rental company was picking up the tables and chairs. But there were so many stories, so many inspirations.

I’m so glad Viv knew what to say to me.

To learn more, click HERE.

 

 

 

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53 Miles

One of my 2018 resolutions this year is to hike all 53 miles of Griffith Park’s official trails. It should be easy enough: pick a trail a week and I could be done by spring break!  How-evvver, I’m not exactly good with hills. There is a great likelihood that I could get into it for two weeks then forget about it. I’m keeping it real. So far, so good, though!

Miles 1 to 3. Maybe a bit more because I took a different route on the way down and got  lost for a bit. I hiked from The Observatory to Mt. Hollywood, which is not the same as the Hollywood sign.

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Two days later, I walked the trail from the Pony Rides to Circle K and then back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watts Up! Community Is Rich with Food For the Soul and the Tummy

I recently had the chance to take crashed a private tour of the Watts Towers Cultural Center with a friend. My friend was kind enough to invite me when he was invited to visit the historic site.  Prior to the visit, I had only really looked at the Watts Towers structure and admired the bright pieces of tiles, glass, bottles, seashells, housewares and other found objects attached to the structures.  Having worked in the area many years ago, I was somewhat familiar with the story of Watts Towers and about Mr. Simon Rodia, the artist.  But I didn’t know about or paid attention to the details which held the stories that truly made Watts Towers the special structure that it is.

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In addition to the Watts Towers, the Watts Towers Cultural Center has a gallery, art studio, music center, a garden, and other offer many arts programs. They partner with local schools, community organizations, and offer the programs to the community at-large.

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Homes across the street have similar art work that were done by students and artists from the Watts Cultural Center.

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Ms. Rosie Lee Hooks is the Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus. She makes it happen! Rogelio, one of the educators, is from the community, took classes at Watts Towers, finished college, and now back in the community, giving back and enriching lives!

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After our tour, my friend and I wanted to grab a bite and discuss one of our projects.* The spot where we planned on meeting was under renovation and we were stumped on where else to go. Then a couple of young men suggested a place, Watts Coffee House, located half a block away. I was a bit wary because, although I could see the business sign, I didn’t any other sign that there was a business– a couple of tables and chairs outside, perhaps, or even one of those neon coffee signs.  When we asked the guys if they had food-food– as opposed to just coffee and muffins– they said, “They have everything!” It’s true!

Watts Coffee House is seriously a hidden gem– like, you have to find the door, walk in, then find the other door or follow the smell. Once you fine it, you will be rewarded with everything– soul food, pancakes, coffee. I had Gangsta #1 Combo which included a pork chop, link, salmon croquet, chicken wing, hash browns, three eggs, and a biscuit. OMG it was so delicious!

In addition to the deliciousness, it was so awesome to see Jordan High love and the wall signed by super cool musicians like Tony, Toni, Tone!

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My stomach, my heart, and my soul were full. What a great day!

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Notes From My Day With Really Smart Women

When my friend/psychologist/financial advisor, Diane, invited me to the 2017 Women’s Leadership Conference at Mount Saint Mary’s, I was super excited. I’m usually hesitant of attending ‘women’ events; more often than not, they don’t address issues and topics that I care about as a woman of color or one who has worked with women in underserved or low-income communities. But because 1) Diane was involved with the event, 2) there were academics, and 3)  Mount Saint Mary’s was leading and hosting the event, I knew that they were #gonnakeepitreal. Diane was a #keepitreal person and all the Mount Saint Mary’s alumnae I knew were women of color who were progressive or, at the very least, woke.

The theme of the conference was The Resilient Leader: Propelling Our Ability to Succeed.  The day was akin to soul searching/women’s empowerment workshop.  It made me think about who I was as a person and how I was serving in the community– but not in a preachy way. I really needed this conference. As much as I love working in the community with all kinds of people, sometimes I’m just tired! Despite my roles and titles, sometimes I don’t feel like I’m being treated the same as others because 1) I am a woman, 2) not white, 3) perceived age (over 40 but Asian so, you know), or 4) I am nice. And then there’s the endless explanations and having to call out or teach people why they shouldn’t say certain things that are straight up offensive. Can I just live? Can I just lead?

It was so cool to be around smart and powerful women. Forget their job titles. They were inspiring because they leveraged what made them unique and used those skills, qualities, and/or knowledge to propel their success.  One of the speakers, a manager from YouTube, shared her fun fact that actually correlated with her career success.  Her fun fact was that she was a first degree black belt, soon going for second degree. She practiced a martial arts discipline similar to ninjas. She explained that at the beginning of each class, one person had to stand in the middle of the room, blindfolded.  The person in the middle was then attacked by their classmates; and while still blindfolded, they had to defend themselves. She stated that 99.9% of the time, women knew where their attackers were coming from; men did not. She said that women had an intuition that most men did not seem to have. She and the other panelists believed in women’s intuition. During their careers, the panelists discussed how they felt they had to be more aware of situations and challenges more than men. Their belief in their gut instinct had helped them get through difficult situations, amongst other things. There was a discussion whether intuition was innate or learned. But they all agreed that we should trust it.

I didn’t write down all the stories as I just wanted to just take them in. But below are some of the quick takeaways. We probably already know them. But a lot of times– because of the fights we have to take on and the challenges we have to deal with while and because we are women– we forget.  So a quick reminder lest we forget:

Danielle Harlan

  1. Be yourself (be a good person). Be authentic.
  2. Be courageous and embrace failure.
  3. Visionary leadership is a process, not necessarily an innate talent or gift.

It’s in the calm that we find ourselves.

Abby Allen

What is the life you want to create? Write it down!

Don’t think about a ‘career’; think about the life that you want.

Where you 1) show up best, 2) make the greatest impact, and 3) are your best self -> life that you want.

Mallika Chopra

Intent comes from the soul; Goals come from the mind.

Peep the slideshow, which includes the session topics and speakers.

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I attended the event not as a representative of the organization for which I work or as someone from the commission for which I serve.  I attended as a community member who just wanted to learn.  I was probably one of the few that didn’t have a title or organization on their name card, which was absolutely awesome.

 

 

 

 

Staycation: Little Tokyo Edition

I am very Wesssiiide but I love everything about Los Angeles and make a point to explore the City.  The Boyfriend and I have been on this staycation kick in the past few months. L.A. is not just for tourists. We wanted to enjoy it, too. So we’ve made a point to stay the night at a local hotel, dine at local spots, and explore everything by foot only.  This Labor Day Weekend, we explored Little Tokyo.

FRIDAY

Our hotel of choice is usually the DoubleTree because 1) the amenities, 2) the price, and 3) the cookie. #keepingitreal #doubletreecookie

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We were only a couple of blocks away from Grand Park so we had a chance to enjoy The Music Center last night of Dance L.A. It was salsa night and I learned a step or two.

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After DanceLA, we ventured southwest to Gallery Row but ended up returning to Japanese Village Plaza for sushi. I can’t remember which restaurant because we stopped at a few spots and then picked the one with the shortest line. Even though it didn’t have the wait like others, we enjoyed the albacore tataki– which we were both craving.  It hit the spot which was all that mattered.

At 10 pm, it was still hot as Hades. After consulting my phone for an ice cream spot that was still open and had at least four stars, Honeymee was it.  I had the Matcha Affogato with was milk ice cream with liquid honey swirl and organic matcha. Heads up that I was on a matcha kick during this vacation. More matcha reports ahead.

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SATURDAY

Get there before 11:00 am or you will likely face a rush.  But, Jist Cafe next to EastWest Players is worth the wait. Thankfully, we arrived before the line out the door formed. The portions leave you satiated at least until early dinnertime.  They offer a unique twist to the familiar. I had a char siu pork with potatoes– akin to corned beef hash. Order it with rice to cut some of the richness. They have adult beverages, like mimosa but with soju, but I opted for coffee.

After brunch we, headed to the Arts District, which was poppin’ even during the day. We walked to the Arts District Co-op to pick up my race bib and swag for Blacklist LA’s HBDLA5K, which was happening the following evening.  Had I not been trying to Marie Kondo my closet, I would have purchased a stylish grey tote for $25. The Co-op had a lot of sylish and cute stuff at an affordable price.  Skip Forever21 and support the local designers that have their stuff here.

XLanesLA in the Little Tokyo Galleria was a blast.  For $50 an hour, we managed to get three games of bowling fun.  I might have even gotten quads and arms workout.  The bar at the back was legit and showed college football and Dodgers game on t.v.  Folks were friendly and the dude we sat next to worked at a very popular brewery nearby.  He gave us inside scoop about an upcoming event. Always be nice to people for they might give you delicious intel.

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Matcha! Matcha! Matcha! was the theme this weekend, especially with the 99 degree temp outside. On our way back from the Arts District and bowling, we stopped by Midori Matcha and ordered their match soft serve. It was really the right thing to do: hot weather + Little Tokyo = matcha soft serve.  I dont’ know how else to explain it. Since matcha is not sweet, add a little bit of honey for a light, sweet kick. You’re welcome.

After all the walking in the heat and  indulging in the matcha soft serve, I had to take a nap.  When I woke up, we headed to Highland Park for drinks and then a friend’s party.  This was sort of a cheat on the staycation, but I didn’t want to flake on plans made a month before our spontaneous staycation.

SUNDAY: RACE DAY

It’s been on our list so we’re happy that we finally made it.  The original plan was Eggslut but the line was waaay too long. I’m a grown up and don’t do lines.  We peaced out after we saw the line and decided that in order for us not to WWE and continue to love each , we needed to find a restaurant with A/C stat. Heat and hanger were really getting to us and affecting our usual positive affects.  Happy that despite our hungry delirium, we managed to think of Clifton’s.

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The kitsch was so worth it and the food was suprisingly good.  I had chilaquiles, oj, and a gelatin conconction (can’t say Jell-O anymore; ’cause, you know… that guy.)

They had a jazz band that was awesome. Adult beverages were served upstairs.

We walked back to the hotel, watched bad reality t.v., and I napped for two hours. Then I got up and ran BlacklistLA’s HBDLA5K.  The 5K reminded me why I loved running: it’s so great to be a part of L.A’s running community and be supported by people who don’t know me. I loved being told that ‘[I’m] almost there’ at every turn.  I finished the race better than I thought. I wasn’t last. The 5K got me re-energized about running again. Once upon a time, I ran one marathon and two half-marathons per year for 10 years.  I loved running so much but then I discovered golf and that didn’t suck at it.

I need to figure out how to do both…

 

MONDAY: Our Last Day

While recovering from my 5K from the previous evening, I flipped my Westways Magazine (that magazine you get from AAA) and checked out their various SoCal recommendations.  They actually had a page on matcha!!! So, for breakfast, I heeded their advice and headed to Cafe Dulce.  I have been to Cafe Dulce before but I followed their recommendation: matcha roti and coffee, black. It was perfect.  Do it!

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After our coffee and roti, we hung out at Marukai in Weller Court as we waited for Kinokuniya Bookstore to open. It was hot outside and we knew that Marukai would have air conditioning. The ice cream aisle was perfect.

The Boyfriend discovered Kinokuniya the previous day when he was out for curry and I was napping. I was in search of scented highlighters and the selection from the Sanrio store and other gift shops we visited were just aight. I wanted a couple of new highlighters and pens that would be fun to use. I am old school in that I enjoy writing letters and going crazy with highlighters when I read long docs. Kinokuniya was worth the wait. It was like being in a pen candy store! I bought of a couple of highlighters, a pen, and a new journal. I didn’t even make it to the back of the store or the locked and staffed pen case area.  It was too much for a first visit. There will be a next time very soon.

Next up:

We have staycationed in Hollywood (La La Land at Hollywood Bowl, Walk of Fame, Spiderman, stayed at Loews Hollywood Hotel on Highland,) and Pasadena (Rose Bowl, Old Town, and stayed at The Westin Pasadena). Not sure of our next destination– Universal, El Segundo, and San Pedro have all come up.  I/we suggest staycationing because there’s so much more to L.A.  Real staycationing– staying in a hotel and staying super local– offered an immersion to the different cultures and vibe in this great City. Were it not for our Little Tokyo staycation, I would not have discovered my new love: matcha.

 

 

If You Give Me An Oreo, I’ll Tell You About Earthquakes

I love field trips. I enjoy experiential learning out in the field. Fortunately, I have a diverse group of friends from various fields who invite me to their events. My favorite kind of field trips are science field trips where I get to learn about my super smart friends’ worlds. Through my friends, I have been able to get a closer look (get special tours) at really cool places such as JPL and SpaceX. Recently, my friend Matt, an earthquake engineer, and I toured the San Andreas Fault with the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society.

It was an early Saturday morning road trip to San Bernardino but it was worth it. The group met at Cal State University – San Bernardino, which was pretty much right next to the mountains. The tour was led by Dr. Robert DeGroot, a.k.a. Bob, who was the Project Manager at the Office of Experiential Learning & Career Advancement at the Southern California Earthquake Center at the University of Southern California. Got that? But, at the end of the day, Bob was a chemist at heart. He quipped about his colleagues from “other sciences” such as biology throughout the day. He’s still friends with them.

Anyway.

Bob took our group of 40 or so to the geology lab where he gave us an overview– an orientation– of the items in our packets, the plan for the day, and an activity to get us started. The group was comprised of professionals but there were a couple of families who brought their teenagers. The presentation, as well as the entire day, was very newbie/regular person friendly. I do not have a science background but I understood a lot of the concepts. It also helped that the first activity to explain the basics of tectonic plate movements involved Oreos. The activity was actually created by Robert J. Lillie, who wrote a book called, “Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments, and Seashores.” Science and food… I will have to check out this book.

Below are my takeaways from the lab intro:

I thought we were going to drive to the Fault but it was about a 2 kilometer hike from campus. From the campus, you could see where the Fault might be just by looking at the vegetation. You could see that there was a change in landscape, e.g. bushes not present in other parts of the mountain. Bob encouraged us to pick up rocks and feel the dirt in our hands. We stopped several times and he explained to us the geology of the area. For example, Badger Hill was 60 million years old and made up of metamorphic sedimentary rocks. Bob explained the concept of erosion (movement and transport) to us and why some of the rocks we picked up were not jagged (because they have not been transported enough).

Hike takeaways:

  • Mountain High Ski Resort is on the San Andreas Fault.
  • Faults, in general, have many different strands.
  • The San Bernardino Strand of the San Andreas Fault is on the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.
  • On top of Badger Hill, there is a GPS that could detect the plates’ motion in millimeter square. It moves 15 millimeters per year.
  • Why everyone is and should be freaking out:
    • There have been a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in most of the Fault’s stretch every 150 years, BUT
    • the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault (from San Diego to San Bernardino area) has not had one in 350 years.

Someone asked if a bunch of smaller earthquakes– the 5.0 magnitude variety– would be better than just having The Big One. Bob answered it with the spaghetti strand experiment:

  • 5.0 magnitude = 1 strand of spaghetti (listen for the crack; look for how it breaks)
  • 6.0 magnitude = 32 strands of spaghetti (try to listen for the crack, or if you can even crack it; note how it breaks and how it doesn’t break in the same place)
  • 7.0 magnitude = 32 x 1,000 strands of spaghetti
    and so on…

    • Bottom line: The larger it is, the harder it is to break. But when it finally breaks as a group, notice how each strand breaks at a different place and how, the more strands there are, the more it is all over the place. That’s basically our situation: When The Big One hits, huge and all over the place. That gives a whole different perspective to our 4.5’s, doesn’t it?  Like, whatevs.

We hiked back down to the lab to eat our lunch. As I chewed my turkey on white Subway Sandwich which, at that time, tasted like filet mignon after the warm and super breezy hike, I thought about how much nature is all around us, how much is going beneath and above us even when it feels still, and how little most of us know about it.

We all need to take more field trips.

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Other info:

What to do if there is an earthquake: DROP. COVER. HOLD ON.

Curiosity Visits Endeavour

This is just a teaser.  More on the NASA-JPL Social Media event in my next posts.

My current obsession is the Spacecraft 3D app, which is one of NASA-JPL’s mobile apps.  Most of the apps are educational. For example, instead of going to the website, NASA’s Earth Now can be in the palm of your hand.  And, instead of a flat view, the app allows users to view stunning visualizations of climate change data from NASA’s Earth satellites on a 3-D model of Earth. The model can be rotated and manipulated for an all-encompassing view of stats.

But, back to the Spacecraft 3D app…

This how the 3D app works:

  1. Download the app on your Android or Apple device.
  2. Download the target.
  3. Open your app and choose a spacecraft.
  4. Place the target where you want your spacecraft. Flat area works best.
  5. Wait for a bit until the spacecraft magically appears.
  6. Voila!
  7. To save the screen shot, click the settings button.

Your friends will be jealous! Ok, maybe not ‘jealous’, but they will think it’s super cool.

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