Monthly Archives: July 2016

[LA Life] Frolic Among the Flowers at LA’s Best Botanical Gardens

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With the weather we’re blessed with in Southern California, it’s no surprise that we spend the better part of our lives outside.  Beyond the fact my wardrobe is perfectly equipped for it ( my daily uniform consists of a tank top, cut offs and flip flops – thank you, working from home), there’s an impressive amount of outdoor activities to partake in.  You want wine tasting? You don’t have to go to Sonoma or Santa Barbara, just head to Santa Monica or Malibu – skiing and snowboarding are only a few hours away at Big Bear, and the beach is equidistant in the opposite direction.  Fun, sun, snow, sand – we’ve got it all, and then some.  Now that Summer season is in full swing, I’m finding it near uncomfortable to be stuck indoors with so much amazing weather, so when it comes to daily adventures –  it’s time to start thinking outside the box – or at least, outside the home – for some fun day trips and day-tes in the area.

Though Los Angeles can come across as a completely concrete jungle, once you’ve found the right nooks and crannies you’ll realize it’s anything but! From the West in Santa Monica to the East in Pasadena, Los Angeles has been blessed with a gregarious amount of green space throughout the city, and it’s only right that as residents we get to revel in it.  The fabled Griffith Park Observatory offers up acres and acres of fresh green space smack dab in the middle of the city and it feels like you’re on a wild safari when you’re trying to trek towards the Hollywood Sign, while assorted areas like Ernest E Debs Park and NELA’s Lincoln Park provide a pop of vivaciously contrasting greens in the heart of residential neighborhoods and burrows.

Even though I’ve lived in LA for over eight years, I’ve realized that here’s still so much to discover and uncover.  There’s simply so many options to choose from that I have a hard time narrowing it down – after all, they all have their je ne sais quoi moments of sheer bliss, utter beauty and vivacious blooms.  Between the neat little retreats and hidden gems with sincere botanical beauty, I’ve definitely made my way through a pretty solid chunk of what the city of angels has to offer and I’m eager to share my favorite botanical gardens and nature nooks with you.



The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

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The trifecta of artistic expression, creation and perfection – The Huntington boasts a bevvy of fantastic art collections, a wonderful library rich library and of course – a delectable amount of shrubbery, flowers, trees, flora and fauna.  There natural areas are broken out by region, and you can take a leisurely stroll through a Japanese Tea Garden, a Chinese Garden and even a banzai exhibit, which is even cooler when you realize you’re staring at tiny Sequoias and Redwoods – it’s actually unbelievable.  With over 120 acres to revel in, it’s easy to get lost – and even easier to not see absolutely everything the park has to offer.  Good news – you can get an annual pass and visit whenever you want.  Seeing as the park spans the globe, there are always wonderful specimens in bloom.

Check their website for the latest exhibits as well as their Summer hours, from my knowledge the venue is open from 10:30 to 4:30 every day except Tuesday.

1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA

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The Descanso Gardens

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Though I’ve only visited in the Winter (which in Los Angeles just means it’s below 60), the Descanso Gardens boast a stunning landscape that includes a Lilac Garden, a Japanese Garden, California Natives and a sprawling 5 acre rose garden.  Open year round and only $9 for adults, botanical gardens offer a menagerie of courses and programs, and host a wonderful series of summer concerts.

1418 Descanso Dr, La Canada Flintridge, CA

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Los Angeles County Arboretum

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Located off in Arcadia on the East Side of Los Angeles sits one of my absolute favorite venues, and every time I go I’m absolutely astounded by the fact it exists within Los Angeles county.  Just one stroll around the LA Arboretum, in through the tall bamboo shoots or the indigenous South American trees, and you’ll feel instantly transported into a new land.  Each corner and every inch of the park is impeccably maintained and absolutely stunning to marinate on.  Plus, the third Tuesday of every month is free!

301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA

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Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden

Located off the beaten path, in the residental neighborhoods of Pasadena is one of the city’s unique hidden gems.  The Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden is a stunning piece of throwback landscaping and architecture built by the one and only  Kinzuchi Fujii in 1935, not to mention – the last standing one he ever created.  Over 80 years later the two acre span is more beautiful than ever with a teahouse, relaxing areas to sit and meditate in and an active coy pond. The venue is tiny, only about two acres, but there simply so much to see that you could be there all afternoon.

270 Arlington Drive, Pasadena, California 91105

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Arlington Botanical Gardens

One thing about the wonderful botanical gardens in the area – is you more or less have to pay for them.  Great news about the Arlington Botanical Gardens, is they’re open to anyone, any day, for Free.99. The Arlington Botanical Gardens stand as the only public open space in Pasadena and it offers a great arena to walk and relax among it’s community maintained garden, or the rich array of Californian and Mediterranean trees, bushes, flowers and succulents with a wonderful amount of benches scattered among them – so bring a book, get comfortable and get into your R&R.

275 Arlington Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105

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I’ve by no means gone to all of the local gardens, but I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to visit a great number of them and be awe struck by their beautiful, blooming bounties.  Also, if you couldn’t tell – I effing love reflection shots!

What are your favorite Botanical Gardens and Open Spaces – in Los Angeles, or your favorite city?

Let me know in the comments below!

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[Self Discovery] Discover An Organized Happiness with the Passion Planner

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As the years go by and I’ve catapulted by way from being a 20-something with a bunch of dreams to a 30-anything with a menagerie of passions, I’ve found it harder and harder to wrangle all of my daily activities, hobbies, part time gigs and fun shenanigans into one compact, concise, contained and well maintained location.  Existing within a highly chaotic and energetically entropic world requires some sort of organizational opulence.

For the smart phone user in our highly digital age, there’s a long list of apps for both iOs and Android that will keep you on your toes.  Google Calendar has long been a favorite of mine for scheduling events while I’ve depended on the seamless ease of Evernote from my phone to my desktop computer for the last three years to keep my litany of lists in line. I’ve always prided myself on my memory recall for dates, phone numbers and meetings – however, whenever I use anything digitally based, I honestly have a harder time keeping track of the events.  And then it hit me – having a physical, tangible resource that our brain power went into creating helps forms neural pathways that we later revisit as a ‘Memory.’  Nowadays, even though we’re well into the year 2016, I’ve found myself with a penchant for paper planners over anything electronic, and believe you me – I’ve tried them all.  The goal of a great agenda isn’t to fill every last hour of your day with tasks, but in finding the hidden hours in your days, weeks and months so that you have time for the little things you find important, dear and sacred that make you happy, calm and collected.

After juggling stacks of postits, notebooks and to-do lists for the better part of the last two decades, I figured it was about time I get my shit together.  So, around the turn of the year year, I started scavenging for an awe inspiring agenda and finally – almost 8 months later, I think I’ve found the perfect planner – aptly called the ‘Passion Planner.’ Originally funded on Kickstarter , the Passion Planner is my one stop shop for staying sane in this mad, mad world.

Just one look, and I fell head over heals into organizational bliss – there are so many different ways to stack your days, weeks and months – and this planner makes it easy as pie.  Even offering space to dream, doodle and delineate to-dos. Twice a year, you check in with yourself and your goals, realigning yourself with your true home frequency while to wrap up the moth, the planner  offers up a few great journaling prompts for some retrospection.

The highly organized habits of successful people are inspiring, and to me the Passion Planner is the perfect way to get on track.  The first day with the journal, I’d suggest giving yourself a lazy afternoon to get acquainted with all of the little details – especially your roadmap; but after you find your focus, it’ll be smooth sailing. As a general rule, I devote 10 minutes at the start of the day and 10 minutes at the end of the day to keeping my schedule plus a good half hour on the weekend to figure out what’s ahead for the week.

There are multiple designs to choose from – Academic Calendars that Span from 2016-2017, or Annual Calendars which are currently on a discount since the year’s half over.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting into at first, or if I’d even want to keep up with it – so getting a little Trial version was perfect.   Right now if you buy one planner – you’ll get a second for free so you can share the wealth with a friend.  Trust me, they’ll love it – I know I do! And to boot, if you’ve got the printer paper you can even download your own pages to keep handy in a binder or notebook.

What’s your favorite way to keep organized? Join in the conversation in the comments below.

For more details on the Passion Planner, or to simply snag your own – head to their website and socials:

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[LA Life] Can You Outwit The Escape Room?

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For the last four years, I’ve worked my job from home – which definitely has an equivalent amount of both perks and problems.  On the plus side, I can work from anywhere with a WiFi signal, or from home on my front yard in a bikini, or with my cats in the comfort of my apartment and my pajamas.  Conversely, some days I have almost no social contact and end up talking to the cashier at Trader Joe’s about our cats for twenty minutes because I JUST NEED HUMAN CONNECTION.  So when Disney tells me to come in for the day and do some team building exercises with the entire department, I jump at the opportunity and eat it up like hot cakes.  Well, at least 95% of the time.  We’ve done personality workshops and have volunteered with local shelters…but when I found out we would be doing an Escape Room – my heart skipped a beat or three.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the movie Saw too much (highly possible) or my anxiety was just running away with itself (equally possible), but my initial reaction included thinking “Hell to the no, how can I get out of it?!”  I don’t talk about it much, maybe even at all except to Danny and my family, but I get anxiety, and lots of it. Anxiety over small things, anxiety over big things, anxiety over past actions and future endeavors.  My mind is creative, vast, deep, imaginative – and it tends to run away with itself at times, like the Escape Room.  Being stuck in a room with hypothetically close quarters and people on other teams that I wasn’t as familiar with struck an anxious chord in my body that I couldn’t shake.  After some excellent convincing by teammates, friends and Danny – I put on my big girl pants and saddled up for the ride.

There are multiple variations of the Escape Room around Los Angeles like The Exit Game, The Basement  and Countdown Escape Room, each with their own tricks and treats. Some seem a tad more sinister or brooding than others, but the one we went to reminded me more of Da Vinci Code mixed with some CSI than anything else.  The  Escape Room in Downtown Los Angeles was a pleasant experience that I would actually do over, over and over again.  A mix of problem solving ingenuity and being able to think outside the box while trapped inside a box, the Escape Room was befit with four incredibly different rooms.  The Detective and The Theatre transport you back in time,  while The Cavern  and The Alchemist transport you to another place altogether.

As we descended into downtown Los Angeles, my nerves started getting the best of me – I’m incredibly thankful that I have solid friends that surround me that know how to calm me down.  Plus, you technically only have an hour to outwit the design – after that, you’re released from the room regardless!  As we separated into teams, I tried to translate my anxiety into excitement – because let’s face it, this was about to get fun. My team was assigned to The Alchemist, and once inside the room, I kind of went from 0 to 100 real quick – but in the best of all possible ways.  I think in patterns and have a keen ability to recognize them immediately, not to mention thanks to shows like Law and Order and CSI, I was always under the impression that I’d be a pretty kickass, problem solving detective and after kicking ass and taking names with my team – I actually have some foundation for that claim.  Each room contains hidden clues that need to be unlocked in succession, some of it is cryptography – some of it is ingenuity, but it’s all an amazing amount of brain power, team work and fun.  Though we didn’t get allll the way through, we were damn close – plus our room only had a 18% success rate. The Escape Room was the perfect ploy for team building in an extra special setting.  Games run $30 a participant during the week, and $35 on the weekends.


We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the rooms, so besides what was on the website -there aren’t any- plus, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone that might fancy a game! For more on the Escape Room LA, or to reserve a room for you and your squad – head to their website or socials:

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[Keep It 100] Burn Your Bra: Bralettes Are The New Black

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Life back when I was a little kid felt so much simpler – parents helped with the meals and laundry, my biggest concern was whether to play four square or tether ball at recess, and wardrobe choices? Easy as pie.  Inundated with the Hollywood scene and celebrity , I always looked forward to when I was ‘old enough’ to wear certain things: dress like those fancy ladies on TV and in the movies, dazzle in designer choices- and finally fill out more than a training bra. You know, a bra with underwire and uumph, pushing out daisies from our chests like the first day of Spring. Besides shaving my legs, it was the milestone that my friends and I were truly waiting for: all my friends older sisters and the teenagers on swimteam had bras, while we were flat-chested and full of wonder on when we’d actually become a ‘woman’.  Fast forward 18 years and I wish I never traded my training bra for the real deal – for multiple reasons.

For one second, lets do some personal little show and tell with me, myself and I.  Ladies, stop me if you’ve felt this way before:  you’ve been looking fly all day in a cute outfit, you’re proud of shape and showing off your wares, and then it hits you – your shoulder blades sting and your chest can only swallow the shallowest of breaths.  Dipping, ducking, dodging and diving your way to the closest restroom, you reach under your shirt and feel the jagged etches that your bra straps have etched on the small of your back – only to leave a rough, red effigy of where the bra sat, sturdily holding up your hooters.  Nine times out of ten, this is when I just say fuck it, take my bra off at the club or music festival and stuff it in the bottom recess of my purse – that tenth time, I’m tossing it in the trash to burn – proverbially speaking, of course.  The last time this happened was at Beyond Wonderland back in March.  I remember romping through the fields debating if beer would help the tightness in my breath while I watched while girls in pasties prance around me without a care in the world.  They were free, their tits were free – and I couldn’t wait to join them.

The Perks of Going Braless

Now, you might be saying – “Oh, hell no, you won’t catch my girls sagging….”Well, I hate to burst your boob-bubble, but in studies of women that don’t wear bras – it’s been shown that their natural lift is better than those who wore them for their entire life. As it turns out, there are tendons and ligaments surrounding our breasts, and the more they’re engaged – the more terrific our titties become.  So, let your body do what it knows how to do! Let your caged birds sing: free your breasts and allow them get a proper workout in by just hanging out.  The end result is your pair will be perkier, and you’ll be happier.

Last year, I started the slow conversation of my undergarment drawer after Danny pointed out that I technically didn’t need to wear a bra, less some redeaming amount of chest coverage.  Fast forward to 2016 and I own maybe one bra with underwire that I actually never wear and continually debate if I should donate or not. I can take the deepest breaths, and I don’t feel pressure on my chest; my back feels long and healthy instead of constricted and I don’t have any pain around my shoulders.  Unlike bras, bralettes have thin or lacy straps, don’t have molded cups or contain any wires; they’re lighter, more airy and have minimal but excellent support.

A day worthy of celebration – October 13th is No Bra Day, and while a few months out – we can certainly start today. I’ve found that unlike their sturdier sister with underwire, bralettes aren’t just more comfortable – they can also be a lot less expensive, depending on where you pick your poison from.  Some of my favorites are from Urban Outfitters – they’re incredibly affordable have literally all the colors and styles you could dream of, and then some!  Other retailers with great bralette and bandeau selections include American Eagle’s Aerie Collection, Abercrombie + Fitch (say what you will, but I worked there for three years and enjoyed myself) as well as Forever 21 and Victoria’s Secret,   which as all the ladies know can get pricey but the good news is the pieces have longevity.  Join the revolution, burn your bra – and come to the bralette side, we have cookies and they’re comfortable.

 

[I Can’t Breathe] A Mixed Message

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Confusion rains down in waves, stemming from an ocean of emotions that well up in your bright eyes and rush through your veins, your tangled hair mirrors the modern tangled state of affairs we live in while the complexities of modern society beg your outlying community to define you and defile you, place you in a neat little box for the comfort of those that surround you.  

We exist in a country founded by our lightest of skinned forefathers, yet America was never meant for us – we’ve built this country on our hands and knees, with our blood, sweat and tears; yet, America was never meant for us.  It’s an ideal that was struck into rock and yelled from the mountain tops as true and sacred – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness –  but that was never meant for us; constitutional amendments granting us security, sanctity and safety protect our white brothers and sisters, but that wasn’t meant for us, either.  Us – the others, the colored, the separate; us – the multicultural and different, the dichotomized and the disenfranchised; us – the stolen nationalities and original tribes of this land.

In my 31 years on this planet, I’ve always understood that to be intrinsically different from the people who founded and funded this country would never be easy – but we’re currently living at a time that could rival what was started in the 70s.  For the millions that can be shoved into a box on a standardized test asking if we’re “White”, “Black” or “Asian” – there are millions for which world isn’t black and white in the way we’re treated; nuances exist for us on a sliding scale of grey that ranges from biracial, multicultural to polyethnic.  We’re different, and we know it.  We’ve existed in a continuum of absolutes which we refuse to abide by – not “cultured” enough, yet not “white” enough, curious why Sun-In turns our hair orange and our freckles multiply in the sun; we’re on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out, trying to make sense of an upside down world that we didn’t ask for, and that our children will have to ascribe to. One of the few, if only, truths about being of mixed background is that your children will be too, as are their children, and our children after that; one of the only other truths, is that the world will treat you apart from its whole. 

We live in a world where people are more comfortable with the differences of others if they can label them or put them in a societal ‘box’. Mixed children have always raised an inquisitive eye by society but the good news is in the last few generations, America has become an incredible mixing pot for multitudes of races, ethnicities and cultures, opening eyes, hearts and arms to a kaleidoscope of colors. As someone that’s lived through it, the best thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your kids when they get to an age where they can really understand their heritage and how beautiful it is – because truth be told, it will always be a conversation piece of dialogue. Especially now that a new Civil Rights Movement has emerged.  It’s been lurking behind us for years, if not decades, while remnants of the original movement swept under the rug during the age of the Vietnam War have slowly resurfaced. The rights we fought so hard to attain, the equality that we worked so very hard for – they still have never really been our own.

And now, halfway through 2016, we’re bitterly basking in an awkward afterglow of our cumulative mess. Just half a year has gone by, yet our American cops have killed upwards of 590 civilians – the same people that are entrusted with helping and saving our lives, the same people we are told to implicitly trust with the rules and regulations of our society.

Waking up this morning, I was overcome with a range of emotions, from determined to hopeful, to downright terrified. I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because adversity has never stopped us, and it won’t now.  I’m hopeful because change has needed to come for a long, long time and I believe we have it within our reach to actualize it.  I’m hopeful because I have another day to make a difference in the world and fight for what I believe in. But I’m also scared. I’m scared because the rate of racial intolerance is exponential, because there are so many that quite obviously are not living freely, because my brothers and sisters of minority races all over this country are fighting to be treated as equals and fighting so the second amendment actually applies to them instead of only to our lighter skinned peers, I’m scared that a family member might be the next victim, and I’m scared because the same police that are supposed to protect and serve are the ones taking lives of those they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. I’m scared because it’s not a minority versus police issue, it’s an everybody versus the police issue that the media has swept under the rug – that the media is building into a race war and I’m scared because the American population is letting it.

There’s a line that’s been drawn in the sand, and I’m scared because I don’t know where we go from here. Being bi-cultural and black has amplified my feelings even more, especially when the shootings and lynchings are reminiscent of a time that I thought we already made it through and now it’s clear that the civil rights movement was only silenced, not won.

Am I white enough to pass? Or am I black enough to get shot? Questions I never thought I’d have to ask but here I am, wondering what my life’s worth on paper.

Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that; fear does not drive out fear, only love can do that. But the hateful and afraid are the ones ruling our country and acting out, and they will until we can bond together, forget our skin colors, ethnicities and creeds and love each other;  we need to raise each other up, instead of holding each other back – and we – we the darker skinned, we the less fortunate, we the impoverished…. – we need our friends, peers, brothers and sisters of all origins to realize that for us to survive as an American society or an American community, we cannot hold our equals down and we cannot ask them to take less than what they deserve.

We need to use our voices and our intellect to educate the uninformed and ignorant, we need to rise up as a people and say “this is not working; fix it.” We need to systemically fix our judicial system and change the tactics used by the police. The police need demilitarized weapons, and they need training in multicultural awareness, racial tolerance and empathy. As a community, we need to vote for and elect our policemen the same way we do for politicians – and we need to hold them just as, if not more, accountable.

We collectively need to right the hundreds of wrongs done by our forefathers and theirs before them, but we have to do it together because we’re all we have and this world is all we’ve got.


[The Audiofiles] Lightning in a Bottle: A Journey to the Space Between the Sound

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A creatively curated three day adventure into a playground of house, bass and underground music equipped with immersive, thought provoking art – Lightning in a Bottle has had a special place in my heart for almost as long as I can remember.  When I went to school in Santa Barbara, I heard fantastical fables of a land so close, yet worlds away.  For my first few years in Los Angeles, I chased the dragon of a dream, coming in a day late and a wonderful weekend short. When Lightning hit Temecula’s Lake Skinner Recreational Area I finally dove in and experienced firsthand what was so highly revered about the event. Breathing in feelings like fresh air, I floated through the festival on Cloud 9 – forging bonds and breaking barriers, I reveled in my newfangled oneness with the world as I fell in love, over and over again on the grassy nooks and crannies of the grounds.  Watching as beautiful souls ordained in otherworldly outfits lost themselves to dance, I fell back in love with the moment.  Joining in, I could feel a shift in the senses, an emotional evolution mirrored with a social revolution, inspiring me to fall back in love with myself. As the festival  evolved,  I grew in tandem – learning to find my place within this novel conscious community as Lightning in a Bottle manifested from a boutique music festival to a staple of the West Coast’s festival scene.   Even with a migration to Bradley’s San Antonio Recreation Area, the magic was never lost – it was only magnified as serendipity met synchronicity.  Masquerading under moonlight, long lost and new found friends became family as we were initiated with glitter blessings and hugs, laughter and jubilation.

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Since its inception, Lightning in a Bottle has been an artistic catalyst where personal growth and spiritual renewal unfold infinitely into themselves.  Senses stream towards overload as colors dance in time with elaborate harmonies emanating from every corner of the fields.  The weekend celebrates much more than musical talent and artistic prowess; it’s the reunion and synergy of souls energized by the sunshine and their dancing feet; it’s the church where we revere our minuscule yet infinite place on this rock that’s spinning through space while we’re born again through the bass; it’s the home away from home where we feel so very safe, and so very loved.  Over the last three years, for one spectacularly extra-special weekend – I felt the pull, heard the call and knew where I belonged so it should be no surprise that I found myself back there this past Memorial Day Weekend, for another journey down the rabbit hole.

But unlike previous years, it didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there – my energy wasn’t focused on a festival, it was focused on my family; my mind wasn’t lingering on lineups or salivating over set times.  For the last decade, I’ve found sanctity and solace in festivals and on the dancefloor – my sweat, my hips, my feet, my heart and soul, and sometimes even tears were taken by the beat, and eventually I had to wonder: with all that we give to these events, our emotions, our headspace, our physical body, our money, our sobriety – what exactly are we getting in return? In a 31 going on 13 moment, I called the only person who could make heads or tails of a spinning situation – my dad; and I caught myself…because who in their right mind would deprive themselves of beautiful experiences, wonderful vibes, fantastic people, ethereal music and an otherworldly weekend? Most certainly not I – so last minute packing became a thing once again while I mused about the upcoming adventure ahead.

Since leaving Temecula, Lightning has been on the Central California Coast in Bradley and now that the event has found a more permanent home, it’s grown roots – both with the outlying community over it’s Permaculture Awareness Day with The Polish Ambassador, as well as implementing permanent infrastructure within the park. Between the water stations and the bridges between areas, seasoned festies were overheard in galvanized conversation about what the very first year at the campgrounds was really like.  For the first time, the grounds opened on Wednesday for select ticketholders and offered an extra day to set up, get comfortable and explore many of the non-musically inclined opportunities that the festival has to offer participants.  Yes, the world that the Do LaB has created there has massive amounts of music for those that want it – but for others, the festival also has beautiful spaces between the notes and serene silence between the music; the moments and love experienced outside of the stages were tantamount to the lucid dreams and delectable drops created on the dancefloor. There’s something to be said for the experience when the music is turned off, and the community vibes are turned all the way on – each and every one of us was operating at the highest possible frequency, making connections, forging bonds and cataloging moments that last a lifetime.

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Rousing ourselves for an early rise on Friday morning, we left right on time – which for us is exactly an hour after we promised we’d have the car packed and be on the road.  Perfect. After meeting up with some friends along the way to trade stories and party favors, Danny and I were off, off and away – celebrating our fourth Lightning together and our three year anniversary of saying ‘I Love You’. After a quick entrance, which I can only assume is one of the few benefits of arriving almost a day after most participants, we were onto the next challenge – finding a camping spot.  With how much fun we had as just the two of us without a squad at Shambhala, we were excited to set up shop and create ‘Camp New Friends.‘  Claiming a site near the corner of Monkey Business and Croatia, we felt like it was left there just for us; as we began to set up our shade structure and tent – Danny took one look around and exclaimed to our neighbors, “Hey, you – yeah, we’re gonna become really good friends this weekend.”  And let me tell you, I love it when he’s right. Cody and Dane from the camp behind us had our backs with the tent, and while we were setting up our shade structure – it felt like parallel worlds collided:  slowly and sweetly, a couple waltzed up into our peripheral view.  Under his breath, Danny started stammering ‘That guy looks like Mickey….I can’t wait to tell Mickey that I met his doppelganger….’ until….we realized that the doppelganger was Mickey!  A well kept secret and wonderful trickery only became more meaningful when we realized how organically we had all just found each other.

As Danny gathered his camera gear to head out to a quick shoot for the LIB Promo Squad, my cell phone vibrated with a silent intensity. My step mom had been back on the East Coast for the last week helping with a family emergency, and I’d gotten to the point that seeing her on the caller ID was equally warming and disheartening.  A short breath and two words into the conversation, and I already knew the direction things were headed.  With a late stage cancer diagnosis, we knew my aunt’s prognosis was bleak – none the less we’d been hopeful; after all – she’d been stable, she’d been laughing, she’d been being; but now we knew, that whether it was an hour, day, or a week – that was unequivocally all she had.  Forgetting where I was for a second, I sank into my skin and the feelings I had before we left, quietly begging me to stay, latched back into me. How would you live your life if you knew your own expiration date? You would push, dare and defy your ego to grow instead of denying yourself of the will to live.

Settling into our surroundings and cracking a cold beer as the sun descended from the sky, we were finally ready to head into the grounds. After wandering through Camp Altered States and catching up with friends over Mija’s basslines, we were off to catch  Big Gigantic on the Lightning Stage then slowly sauntered our way around towards the Woogie – I thought. The Favela Bar, which was once a smaller side stage had blossomed into a full on party brigade, fully equipped with all of the bass and all the vibes.  The music in there was so good that I could have easily forgotten about the Woogie itself.  Taking a break from the massive crowds, we found ourselves on a seemingly spiritual pathway to the Do Art’s artistic arena.

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After spending a solemn moment reflecting on what turned out to be my favorite piece of art at the festival -the powerful and poignant depth of this cascading collection of twisted wood and tangled emotions, we stumbled right into the delicate and deliberate strokes of Negne Mwuara‘s mural from this last Coachella. One of the pinnacles of the event for me has been the live art on the grounds, in between the trees and near the stages but this year it felt more scarce and hard to come by. Taking a lengthy lap between the easels, we literally walked right into our camp neighbors as we were exiting towards the Woogie’s booming techno vibes.

Delectable cucumber jalapeno margarita in hand, we wound our way around the Woogie’s dancefloor – trying to come to a conclusion on how we actually felt about the new stage design.  The treehouse DJ booth and whimsical color creations that oscillated like sound waves towards the sky, two facets of the festival that I thought were an iconic staple, were missing and replaced by industrial, neon piping which made me feel more like I was at a warehouse party in a technicolor boiler room than prancing in a magical forest among the faeries.  In the mood for the less traveled path, we headed around the back of the stage, down the abyss into the Grand Artique, cartwheeling into the emotive, instrumentation of LAPA.  Truth be told, for the first few minutes we weren’t sure who we were seeing – but we knew it made us feel a lot better after collectively missing Emancipator Ensemble; and then after a few minutes, we realized it kind of was Emancipator – it was Ilya Goldberg, Emancipator’s violinist, giving the most intimate of performances in a magical location. Heading back across the expansive grounds to our tent, pockets of after parties popped into existence – but none with the eclectic talent, lasting power or super awesome disco ball of Camp Altered States.

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The next morning, thousands of house heads and festival lovers flocked to The Woogie for a beautiful tribute to the musical legend of Pumpkin.  The hearts in our community have weighed heavy since his passing, and for really the first time since – the entire LIB community was together to celebrate the life he led, and the life he had inspired within all of us. Per usual, the heat beat its way into every daytime activity, making it necessary to have a water bottle in hand, a bandanna around your neck and a mister or fan in the friend group.  Taking our leisurely time, we meandered across the grounds to the food court near the Pagoda Bar to level up on some food.  Unlike previous years of LIB, the vendors this week had more to offer than just vegan and vegetarian offerings and we were  excited taking full advantage of the situation and then head back to the sanctity of the campsite.    Two days into LIB, and we’d already overused our joke about “Camping in a Bottle 2016” – there were literally some moments that it just seemed too hot to do stuff; blame it on our age, blame it on our psyches or willingness, but mostly blame it on the heat – all we could seem to do was sit around camp and share stories in the shade, which is an honest highlight of my weekend.

Saturday night we were on a mission, and found a perfect place to plant ourselves for the Lucent Dossier Experience.  Transfixed in the moment, the crowd almost ceased to dance, move or breathe until the tantalizing performance came to an emotive close – only to erupt in jubilant cheer.  As we sat on the ground, patently waiting for the Jamie XX to take the stage we found ourselves involved with what I still consider one of the most impressive glow stick ropes of all time.

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It started small, with our neighbors sitting in front of us gleefully funneling the pieces down a supply chain of silliness and we couldn’t help but join in once the chain reached us.  Once the people around us realized what was happening, it felt like all hands on deck as the glowing snake wrapped itself from the lighting booth and up to the front row – and back again before the start of the set.  I wasn’t familiar with Jamie XX before his set but I’ve easily been converted into a believer after watching him effortlessly move between three different equipment set ups and what sounded like all of genres: disco, house, funk, industrial, and some groovy warehouse tracks with heavy bass that were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  We felt the pull of the mindwarping, brain melting bass coming from Minnesota and G Jones B2B set at the Thunder Stage but after a few tracks, found ourselves back at the Lightning for the genius that is Jamie XX to finish our night.

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Both a festival and a nature adventure, Lightning in a Bottle was rich with reasons to ditch the cell phone and live in the moment, harmonize on your serendipity when you find long lost squad members and create new bonds when you can’t. And for the most part, I’d left my phone on airplane mode all weekend less talking to my parents when we set up shop on Friday, but Sunday I had a gut feeling that never left, and a last text to reaffirm my unfortunate suspicions – it was Sandy’s final night, and full of light and love, her life’s candle was snuffed out as her soul dissolved back into the collective unconscious.  

With little sleep in our veins, the whole camp was up and at’em early on Sunday morning, and with good cause – with all of our powers combined, we pulled off some epic bacon bagel sandwiches and finally had a family meal in the shade as we geared up for our last hurrah. Gathering our bearings, we were excited for a day outing with just a little less heat.  Making last minute wardrobe changes in the middle of a champagne campaign, I mused about the circumstances that brought us together and the friendships that we’d curated. And for the first time all weekend, all the camps that we’d bonded with were making it out to the dancefloor together; five camps that had fused into one – ten life trajectories that were tangled in all the right places for one a beautiful weekend.

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Dancing our way over to the Russ Liquid Test, the beat controlled my body as I giggled and grooved to this modern day jazz experiment, a funky side project that was perfect for my Sunday Funday get down. We ebbed over to the ethereal temple built from cans and upcycled materials and took in the final sunset while Desert Dwellers effused a tantalizing, tribal set that sent waves of euphoria through my veins.  Drinking in the moment, and a tasty margarita, our inner spirit animals came loose one last time, howling in delight as the sun made it’s last LIB descent, pulling a curtain of galaxies closely behind her.

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After a quick rendez-vous at the camp site, we gathered our squad for one final hurrah as we tromped through the festival grounds.  We drank from a giant spoon as we gleefully gallivanted  over to cacophony of carins in the shadow of the Ferris Wheel. Heading to the Favela Bar, B.R.E.E.D.’s tantalizing brand hip shaking, booty popping, soul writhing bass music was calling us and made it was easy to forget that anyone else was playing, let alone Mr. Carmack and Moderat.

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One of the only sets that caught my squads’ attention for it’s entire duration, B.R.E.E.D. had the entire side stage engulfed in the masterful, musical moment.  A perfect segue to closing the festival out with pantyraid on the Thunder Stage.

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Over the last decade, Lightning in a Bottle has evolved from a benevolent birthday celebration to a 20,000 person festival and growing. As long as the Do LaB has operated their stage at Coachella, there has been a technicolor wormhole that sieves rave babies and bros towards LIB.  In turn, the festival as no choice but to grow at an exponential level – and with those growth spurts come growing pains.  Now featuring a sold out crowd, almost every space feels cramped for the night time sets as stages filled with neon totems that in mass essentially block the stage. Within the five or six weeks between the two festivals, it feels near impossible to inform thousands of fist pumping, neon Sparkle Ponies on the ethos of LIB’s ‘Pack in – pack out’ and ‘Leave it better, leave it beautiful’ mentalities though they’re certainly hit over the head with reminders to buy their ticket and take the ride.  Beach cleanups pair up nicely with events they’ve paired up with like Subtract On The Pier while block parties and BBQs with street cleanups, and I believe there are ways to implement their green mentalities year round and in their home communities of Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area. But a place to buy extra trash bags, or a location to collect recycling and donate funds to the community or back into the event are also viable options albeit outside of the original ethos of the event.

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The magic and music of Lightning in a Bottle will always pull an esteemed crowd of audiophiles and art fanatics, merry makers and music lovers, festival families, LIB virgins and seasoned veterans – all coming together to celebrate this thing called life.  Put together with love and passion by the team at the Do LaB, this year’s festival boasted an immaculate range of talent and a community thirsty for Lightning’s transformative power. If you couldn’t get enough of the Do LaB crew at LIB, try out their Summer sister festival – Woogie Weekend just a few days away!  Soak in the sunshine while you bounce around to International House legends and locally loved Techno talent.

Tickets for Woogie Weekend are still available here.

For more on Lightning in a Bottle and the Do LaB, connect with them on their socials:

Lightning in a Bottle: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

The Do Lab: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud | Youtube

All photography courtesy of Daniel Leist Photography

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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[Tech Talk] Say Sayonara to Facebook Image Compression

Standard

No matter if you’re an amateur photographer or an expert photo editor, if you load your photos to any sort of web server or social media site then you face the issue of image compression and for some of us – the results can look like a near nightmare.  Vibrant nuances of color, sleek lines and keen tones are lost to algorithms that take redundant chunks of your data’s bits and bytes.  The eventual result is that by pairing down the “redundancies” you’re left with a photo that your 10 year old cousin could have taken with last year’s iPhone.  Yikes.  Good news is there’s a fix for that, and I’m here to share the good news.

In the past few years, I’ve grown a lot more accustomed to editing photos in Lightroom as opposed to Photoshop.  Though I’m proud of most everything I can do – it’s felt like the one thing I couldn’t do was get the pretty picture to appear in Facebook the way I want.  I’m incredibly thankful that first, I’m not the only person to experience this problem, and secondly that I’ve come across multiple resources helping me fix the issue. So I can’t very well take all the credit, but I did do all the internet sleuthing by myself, so I can at least own that part; and through trial and purposeful error, I’ve seen the results first hand.  First, for those super excellent editors out there – I’ve heard through the wire that the compression algorithm affects JPG files more than PNG files, so if you’re willing to convert all of your images to PNGs – your photos will retain their crisp clarity and luminescence.

Master the Settings

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Do you know what the real difference between the top and bottom picture are? The bottom picture has smooth lines on faces and an even keeled blast of water, while the top looks more grainy, and less appealing.  I’ve heard some conflicting advice out there about exporting with a length of 720 or 960, and what I can say after some hands on experience – including the photos above, is that you really want to export at 2048 pixels, which is what the bottom picture is set to.  How about the one below? Between the left and right image – the sharpness of the right one is retained more than the left, and that’s the difference of loading a smaller image size, approximately 100k or less, so Facebook doesn’t compress the image itself.

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One more time, for your cheat sheet:

Length at max: 2048

Resolution: 96

Image Size: 100kb

To save these proper settings – On the bottom left of your Export Window, toggle ‘Add’ to save your user pre-set. When you’re loading your pics, make sure that you Easy-peasy, happy exporting!

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What are your perfect export settings for lossless Facebook photo albums? I’ve read a lot of variations of the metrics I’m using and would love to hear from other photo gurus out there! Let me know in the comments below.