Do! NOW!

Visiting the Renegade Craft Fair this weekend, I expected to walk away with my Bici Couture Leather Tote Bag a little heavier and my matching wallet a little emptier. While both those thing did happen, something else happened that I hadn’t quite expected: perspective. What’s cool about Fairs like the one that Renegade puts on is that you get to speak to the Makers one-on-one. You get to ask what inspired them and why they do what they do. Most of them had the same response: they were pursuing their passion. It got me thinking…am I? Are you?

Think back to a time when you were little and your dreams were big. What was your dream? What did your young heart long for? Space travel? Presidential authority? Superpowers?

Fast forward ten years or so. You’re in high school, graduation is around the corner. What was your dream then? Was it different from the dreams of childhood? Did your dreams look more practical? Doctor, lawyer, teacher?

Bring yourself back to the present. Look around. You are in the here and now. Do you still have dreams?

For many of us, we give up on the dreams that kept us hungry for something more “realistic” or practical. Why? Why are we content with throwing in the towel even before entering the ring?

My dreams changed as I got older. They went from actress to writer and stopped there. I missed the day at school where they told me I should choose the wide path, the path more traveled.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved writing fiction. As I sit here, writing this post, I have a novel waiting to be edited. I know, I am certain that I am meant to write and I should obey this calling.

Although my path has been confirmed, there are still days of doubt: What are you doing with your life? Why are you writing? You should do something more practical. When my mind drowns in doubt, I’m unsteady, unsure, unable to breathe. I ruffle through my desk for a letter housed in an envelope that reads: In Case of Emergency.

I fumble as I pull out the sheet of paper. My eyes linger on each and every word written by my hand months earlier. The letter is an encouragement, it is a command, it is a lifesaver in the tumultuous sea of doubt.

My chest fills with air as I begin to breath again. I am meant to write. I will write. I am sure. I am steady. I breathe this reminder in.

When did it become taboo to dream? When did it become ridiculous to not only dream but to pursue that dream with everything? This dream you have, whether it’s “practical” or not, go after it. Give it your all because that is what you were made to do. Build a foundation. Educate yourself. Practice like there’s no tomorrow. Be pure in heart in your pursuit. If you’re pursuing this dream to please others, you won’t go very far. Do it for you. Do it because a life spent not doing it is absurd.

I will write until my hand cramps and it’s too swollen to go on…and then I’ll write a little more. I write for me. I write because the stories yearn to be released from the confines of my mind. If no one ever reads my books, if the only person’s shelf they sit on is mine, I’ll be ok because at the end of the day I’m being obedient to my calling.

So whether you want to be a doctor, writer, teacher, mechanic, carpenter, lawyer, or secretary, go and do it. Give it your all. Give it your best. Make the younger version of yourself proud. Take a page out of the book of the Makers who braved the blistering sun at Renegade this weekend: Dare to dream. Dare to do.

 

What passion are you living out?

Review: Slater’s 50/50 aka Choco-Gate 2015

In my pursuit to comfortably refer to myself as a foodie (and not feel pretentious about it), I often ride on the coattails of my bona fide foodie friends who are fearless and adventurous in their pursuit of the perfect bite. That’s how I ended up at Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena on a warm Saturday afternoon. We had all heard great things about the place (and since giving up meat during the week, I was all about a big, juicy burger).

It’s Pasadena, so naturally parking is obnoxious but I figured I could overlook the parking situation if the burger was as good as I had heard.

Sitting on the corner of Raymond and Union, Slater’s 50/50 looks upscale from the outside, blending in with neighboring buildings. The waiting area was essentially nonexistent but luckily we were seated right away at a corner half booth right next to the front door. Our waiter was quick to ask for our drink orders. We decided to forgo the Bacon Bloody Mary and ordered waters all around.

Right off the bat we ordered the Vampire Dip (“three cheese blend, roasted garlic, artichoke, fried pita, sourdough bowl”). It was delicious. It was warm, creamy, and had enough garlic to be yummy without scaring away anyone you planned on being close to the rest of the day.

Vampire DIp: An amazing way to start the meal!
Vampire DIp: An amazing way to start the meal!

When the time came to order a burger, my eyes were set on the 50 Alarm (carne asada beef, ghost pepper jack cheese, habanero spread, fresh jalapeños, beer battered habanero poppers, on a brioche bun). I’m down for HOT but I’m not down for signing a waiver in order to enjoy a dish (which is what I would have had to do as well as wear a pair of gloves they provide). Instead, I opted to build my own burger: a 50/50 patty (half bacon, half beef – what they’re famous for), ghost pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, jalapeños, roasted green chilies, chipotle aioli, on a brioche bun. I figured that ought to fulfill my spicy burger desire.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t. When presented with the burger, I was excited. It looked delicious. The level of scrumptious nosedived once I took a bite. The bread seemed as if it was about to enter stale town. There was too much bland sauce on the thing; so much so that the onions and chilies kept trying to jump ship and save themselves from mediocrity. The jalapeños were pickled and the cheese was as bland as everything else. After a couple more bites, I ditched the bun and opted or a fork and knife. Bad idea. The unimpressive bun and gallon of sauce were hiding the too-tough patty, the same patty that shares the name of the restaurant. In its defense, I should have known better than to order a patty that was half bacon and half beef. My friend said it best: It’s like a meatball. A dry meatball. Not exactly what I had my heart set on.

The burger was served with a knife in it...I didn't stab it, although I'd be lying if I said I hadn't imagined doing so.
The burger was served with a knife in it…I didn’t stab it, although I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t imagined doing so.

Luckily I didn’t end the meal with a bad taste in my mouth. We ordered fries and beer battered jalapeños for the table. The jalapeños were also pickled and unimpressive. The fries were generic. However, the bacon/ketchup…well now, that was tasty. I ended up abandoning the second half of my burger in order to wash away its memory with the bacon/ketchup combo.

Half fries, half jalapeños...all meh.
Half fries, half jalapeños…all meh.

Alas, the sauce wasn’t enough to save the sinking ship. If you’re looking for a good burger in Pasadena, I’d suggest hitting up Umami (a couple of streets over) because Slater’s 50/50 is a gamble…a gamble I won’t be making again.

The food wasn’t special but their customer service was memorable. At lunch, my friend, having just returned from a European adventure, slid my souvenir across the table: Harry Potter bookmarks, a large bar of Cookies and Cream Cadbury chocolate, both were in a butter beer glass from Harry Potter World.

It wasn’t until a couple of hours later, walking around Pasadena, that I realized I left the souvenirs on the table. I quickly went back and asked the hostess about it. After a little bit of run around she went to ask the bussers. She returned with the cup holding the bookmark but the chocolate in its royal purple wrapping was gone. I asked about the chocolate to which she responded: “Maybe they threw it away on accident.” A valid possibility if the chocolate bar hadn’t been monstrous and sitting IN the cup…nice try. I explained to her that it was the size of a VHS tape (What’s that? Google it). Her next response was my favorite, “Are you sure there was a chocolate bar?” Having started in restaurants and other customer service jobs, I know better than to say such a thing to a customer. My friend didn’t miss a beat and retorted, “You know they ate it” and we were gone, unimpressed with the food and offended by Choco-Gate 2015.

2015 Renegade Craft Fair-Los Angeles Must See List

The Renegade Craft Fair has been the go-to marketplace for indie-handcrafted goods since its first show in 2003. It showcases hundreds of vendors in several large, weekend-long Fairs across the U.S. (there’s even a Fair across the pond!). In the last few months, I have felt a sort of conviction about where my clothes and accessories come from. They’re easily accessible and they don’t often cost very much and more often than not, they are made by people in other countries working under unthinkable conditions; not even earning enough to support themselves, much less their families.

Fairs such as RCF are amazing because they place you right in front of the makers of some pretty remarkable items. You have a multitude of options and the ability to talk to the vendors and learn not only about them but also about how their products are made. I’m ridiculously excited to be attending the RCF this weekend (July 11-12) at Grand Park in Los Angeles.

I have gone through the long list of makers who will be at the RCF this year and let me tell you…you’re in for a treat! Here are the vendors I’m looking forward to seeing the most:

 

Accessories

Photo From Bici Couture Website
Photo From Bici Couture Website

Name: Bici Couture

What: Hand Crafted Leather Goods

Why: Designed and handcrafted in Los Angeles. I already have a couple of their gorgeous pieces. They will be premiering a couple of new, must-have items at the Fair and I CANNOT wait to get my hands on them!

 

Photo From Bodhi Swag Website
Photo From Bodhi Swag Website

Name: Bodhi Swag

What: Turbans and Cocoons

Why: Their items are designed and tailored in L.A while using locally sourced material! I’m obsessed with turbans and cocoons right now and the gals over at Bodhi Swag have the most amazing selection of both. They don’t shy away from bold patterns. They are another set of makers that I’m excited to see in person.

 

Photo From Atelier OM Facebook
Photo From Atelier OM Facebook

Name: AtelierOM + OMkhadi

What: Scarves

Why: The husband and wife pair that founded this company have a mantra, it’s “REduce, REuse, and REcycle”. They are conscious of everything they make and pride themselves on being “Slow Fashion” which results in their customers having the best, eco ethical product and while taking care of this environment we call “home”.Whoever said being conscious of your purchase meant sacrificing visual appeal was WRONG because AltelierOM + OMKhadi’s textiles are gorgeous. I’m most looking forward to checking out their scarves.

 

Photo From L.A. Hat Collective Website
Photo From L.A. Hat Collective Website

Name: L.A. Hat Collective

What: Hats…Duh!

Why: This group of hat-making friends handcraft their products in good ol’ Los Angeles. The designs on their site are fun, bold, and classic. In a time where society has forgotten hats (or traded them in for baseball caps), the L.A. Hat Collective is bringing sexy hats back!

 

Photo From Painted Bird Website
Photo From Painted Bird Website

Name: Painted Bird

What: Shoes

Why: These bright, detailed, hand crocheted shoes are gorgeous! Who knows I may be walking out of the Fair with a new treat on my feet!

 

Clothes

Photo From Apricity Website
Photo From Apricity Website

Name: Apricity

What: Dresses

Why: These articles of vintage inspired clothing are made and designed in Los Angeles. Where the L.A. Hat Collective offers a modern throwback to hats, Apricity does they same for dresses. They’re a nod to the days when women took pride in their appearance. The dresses are amazingly beautiful and come in a wide range of sizes (woo hoo!). Too enchanting to pass up, I don’t know how I’m going to tear myself away from their booth.

 

Photo From Neoclassics Website
Photo From Neoclassics Website

Name: Neoclassics

What: Shirts

Why: This L.A. based brand promotes  “conscious lifestyles” and individuality through their new spin on classic designs. I have my eye on their tank tops!

 

Jewelry

Photo From Honey My Heart Website
Photo From Honey My Heart Website

Name: Honey My Heart

Why: Inspired, designed, and handmade in Los Angeles, Honey My Heart offers some of the most gorgeous yet simple pieces that will be at the Fair. They’re focus on simple lines is surprisingly bold. They use locally sourced material to create these pieces that can literally go with anything and everything. Would it be odd to get a ring for each finger?? I didn’t think so!

 

Photo From L. Makai Website
Photo From L. Makai Website

Name: L. Makai

Why: This artist, Lauren Makai, was inspired by commuter culture which ultimately led to the commuter collection. She says it best on her site, “The freeway numbers are familiar to us all, but our connections to the numbers are unique. ” I may hate driving on the 405 but I love it enough to get a 405 necklace!

 

Photo From Seoul Little Website
Photo From Seoul Little Website

Name: Seoul Little

Why: The whimsical pieces over at Seoul Little are too cute to pass up! They offer  a wide variety of rings (I’m looking at you State of California Ring!), bracelets, and necklaces. With all the great jewelry makers at the Fair this year, it looks like I may be walking out of there looking like Mr. T!

 

I’ve only showcased a small fraction of the makers who will be at Grand Park so I suggest you make your way to Los Angeles this weekend and see for yourself just how wonderful handcrafted goods are.

I can’t wait to see you there!

 

Who are you excited to see at the Renegade Craft Fair?

Read, White, and Blue!

Like many others this 4th of July, I celebrated America’s birthday with friends, food, and fun. But before we kicked off the festivities, a small group of the partygoers made their way to Simi Valley to visit the $5 or Less Bookstore. I am a self-proclaimed “compulsive book buyer” so naturally I wanted to take advantage of the shop’s 50% off sale.

(I love this place! The staff is incredibly friendly, the store is neat, and the inventory is well organized. Sure, I love buying books but I love buying used books the most. Consider buying used (from the $5 or Less Bookstore) next time you’re hunting for your next read!)

The timing of the sale was great and I was excited to share this gem of a store with my friends but more than that, I feel it’s important to celebrate America’s birthday by doing things you love: in my case indulging in my book-buying problem.

In this country, we are free. You see messages proclaiming this every 4th of July, every Memorial Day. While it is just a phrase to many, I take it to heart. It isn’t lost on me that there are countless women around the world that do not have the opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to have whether it be the right to endless education, the right to choose, the right to buy whatever books I’d like…the fact that I’m able to read and write what I please…to read and write at all…is worth celebrating.

So on Saturday, I perused the bookstore happily overwhelmed by the worn spines that looked back at me, begging to be chosen. I left the store with 14 books. Some I chose based on authors I am familiar with, some were chosen based on recommendations, and others…well, they were chosen at random.

 

Here’s what I walked away with:

 

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Brando: the Biography by Peter Manso

Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrwew

Slave by Mende Mazer

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Say You’re One of Them by Uwen Akpan

Interpreter of Madness by Jhumpa Lahiri

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

The Story Teller by Jodi Picoult

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

 

Quite the wide array of literature if I do say so myself. I’m thankful for my country and the ability to indulge in any and all books that I please. Happy Birthday, America! I love the gift YOU’ve given ME.

(Looking for your next read? Check out the Book Review Section for some guidance!)

How did you spend the 4th of July?