[Reading is Sexy] Altered Carbon: A Show Finally As Good As The Books

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There’s an old adage that admittedly most of the younger generation knows only variations of; I grew up with my parents informing me that I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but it quickly became “Don’t judge a song by it’s cover” and “Don’t judge a movie by the TV show (/ Video Game / Etc)”.  But, per usual, I digress.  Over the last year, there’s been an explosion of amazing Science Fiction shows entering our sphere of entertainment – from dystopian movies like Elysium, Interstellar and The Arrival to television shows spanning from Black Mirror, Dark Matter, the latest Star Trek: Discovery, Dark, The Expanse and Incorporated (ps. Kudos to Netflix and SciFy for their creative and mind bending content!).   Until now, I hadn’t much found one as enthralling in both story line and technological potentially as Netflix’s Altered Carbon, and the second I found out it stemmed from a novel series by Richard K Morgan – I had to see how they measured up to each other.

Set in the 2500s, in a world that’s evolved out of our current San Francisco, Digital Human Freight is currency and your memories are stored in a cortical stack from birth; though your body has an end date – your soul no longer does.  Takeshi Kovacs is a man of many hats, and sleeves – Quellest, Envoy and now Detective, he’s been brought back from the ether to solve a murder…or, has he?  Over the course of ten high-octane, vividly lit episodes, we dive into Kovac’s past, present and potential futures.   Thanks to Netflix’s formatting, we sped through the series in a weekend, injecting ourselves over and over with Altered Carbon’s universe and potentialities.  It’s a slippery slope for me to fall digital head over digital heels with a concept, because I will do my best to uncover anything and everything about it; loopholes, cut chapters, the unnatural evolution of characters.  Low and behold, I discovered that Altered Carbon (like most good things that just came about this year), is a remake.

Originally a trilogy of novels, the Takeshi Kovac’s series – consisting of Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies – is even more apocalyptic, militaristic, sexualized and dystopian than even the series would have one imagine.  I’ve never once believed that Netflix held back on a show, but the raw carnal nature of Kovac and Miriam’s relationship was heavier in the book, as were the guts, gore and good stuff that I thought they would have surely capitalized on for television; not that I minded though, I love when books and shows truly can deviate.  Now, the first half of the book was spot on – however, slowly but surely the show begins to deviate and take liberties of its own.

I have to say: both the novels and the show become worthwhile, altered, story lines – but each remain equally compelling for their own reasons.   Not surprisingly, the critical acclaim the show has received almost matches the book., which earned the prestigious Phillip K Dick award back in 2003 when it was penned.  Now that I’ve migrated to the second novel in the series, Broken Angels, and have the third to look forward to (Woken Furies), I can’t help but think of how the show could surpass or manipulate the books to become it’s own universe all together.  For as much as I love the adaptation to television and the presence of more of a female protagonist in Ortega, I very much prefer the novels, with their raw grit and truer dystopian lone wolf feel to Kovacs.

To learn more on the series, show and author – head to the links below; I promise you: this is a ride you will not want to end.  To those of you that both read the series and watched the show, what did you think of the nuanced differences and what did you prefer?

Richard K Morgan: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Read the Books: Altered Carbon | Broken Angels | Woken Furies

Watch the Show.

 

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[Write On] Listen Up and Get In Formation

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We’ve started the year with two cultural schools of thought, on one hand there’s the loud and slightly ridiculous Stacey Dash phenomenon and on the other, we have the #OscarsSoWhite. So thank goodness that the Queen is back to shake things up and push us forward, Queen B that is. This past weekend, just the day before her highly anticipated Super Bowl collaboration with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, Beyonce dropped the world on it’s head with the release of her latest empowered single,’Formation’.  More than just a song, ‘Formation’ is a statement – ‘Formation’ is a movement;  ‘Formation’ is an ode to the rise of Black Feminine Energy – and it’s time to get in line.

Let me back up for a second.

After 31 years on this pseudo-green Earth, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that the ideas of race, ethnicity, cultural adversity and then diversity run rampant in my veins. If you are who you surround yourself by, I’m socio-culturally middle class, with a multicultural twist. Minority Report, Oreo, Chocolate Sprinkle. My nicknames say it all, but it runs deeper.  When standardized tests were distributed in school, I always took longer than everyone else figuring out which box to check for ethnicity – what if I didn’t see my box? Does that mean I didn’t matter – do I not count? Can I check more than one box?  Where do I fit in here?

The multiracial, only child of a split family, I always had issues reconciling my ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and the notion that they might invariable be two different identities were always kept at bay.  Remember Sun In? That shit turned my hair bright orange, not to mention warnings about sunscreen never seemed to apply to me.  When my dad remarried to my step mom and the three of us would go out together, people would infer I was adopted; fast forward twenty years later, and they mistake my fiance for their son.

Spot the Amanda

 

Silicon Valley born and raised, I grew up in the tiny and incredibly educated suburb of Menlo Park with my mom, and Palo Alto then Los Altos with my father. They were nice areas to be raised in and all that jazz, but let’s get one thing real for a second, they’re not the most diverse areas of the country; in fact they’re pretty monotone, sometimes painfully so. Whether it was with family, or in social endeavors, I always felt like the technicolor sheep of the family – never fitting in and always standing out.

Mentally, sonically, emotionally, I grew up in a boombox, self-identifying with Hip-hop and rap, including Janet Jackson’s anthemic Rhythm Nation 1814; but academically and socially, I attended programs where, in one way or another, I was the diversity. Whether it was attending Castilleja Middle School during the academic year, or their BRIDGE Program over the Summer, I wavered between a drop of milk in oil and a drop of oil in milk; an ever ebbing cascade of racial complexities that arose from a bi-cultural background that up until that age hadn’t been explored. Then, by the time I transferred back into Public School as a Junior in High School, Menlo Atherton High School had gotten national recognition with a center spread in ‘Teen People” as the most diverse yet segregated High School in America.

Serendipitous to consider it now, but it was around that same time that Destiny’s Child came out with their debut, self-titled album.  In a moment where I couldn’t find a cultural footing, somehow, with them, I found resonance, a voice, a mainstream media identity – or in my eyes, hope.  At 16, while away at an out of town basketball tournament, I walked into the room while several of my teammates were discussing their disgust with interracial relationships.  As I slowly sulked into the shadows, shuddering at each syllable, I faintly but distinctly overheard the words “…they shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”  My heart and ego sank in time as my head hung low for the duration of the tournament.  After, in an effort to reconnect to my roots, my aunt escorted me to a seminar in Los Angeles for Young African American Women; around the same time, I became a camp counselor in West Menlo Park and was quickly adopted under the wing of East Menlo Park’s more diverse subset of counselors where I became a master domino player, learned the proper way to eat fried chicken, not to mention the difference between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.  And in whatever down time I could muster, I buried my head in multicultural literature from James McBride’s The Color of Water to timely tomes from Danzy Senna, Caucasia and Symptomatic.

Combined, the ideas drilled in my head lead me to believe the next large sociocultural revolution would be a mixed race revolution, and we would be leading at the helm. But invariably, the events themselves, made me feel even more alone.  It was then, that the idea was finally and formally drilled into my head that there was a difference between being genetically ‘African American‘ and culturally Black.

Beyond the entertainment value, viral witticisms masquerading as lyrics and a host of regal outfits – the video  contains a not so subtle history lesson delivered with a passionate one two punch in under five minutes.  Starting with  emotional imagery and vocals that ask ‘What happened in New Orleans‘, Formation’ delves into the modern Black experience,  exploring the nuanced variety of genetic variability. Cascading through Southern cityscapes and landscapes, including estates and plantations, ‘Formation‘ offers a bevvy of emotional imagery: a cop car – and city -underwater,  a breakdancing toddler stalling a line of police with their hands in the air, ‘Stop Shooting Us’ haphazardly spray painted on an otherwise barren wall and coordinated feminine empowerment.

Imagery that grew only stronger with her performance the next day at the Super Bowl’s halftime show; decked out in gear halfway reminiscent of the 1970’s Black Panther movement spliced with Janet’s Rhythm Nation video, Beyonce urged a generation to mobilize and get in ‘Formation’.  The end result was a provocative performance of a ‘visual anthem‘ sure to live in cultural infamy.

Fast forward to three days later, and you’ll meet exactly what’s wrong with this country and could invariably elect someone as ignorant as Donald Trump; In light of the controversial dance ‘Formations’ and dress during her performance invoking the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and supposed dissent against the police -not to mention a display of their own cultural ignorance – protesters are heading to NFL’s New York Headquarters on February 18th . Not only have people willfully avoided history textbooks or contextualizing social issues like the suffrage and civil rights movement, but on top of that their ignorance has become ego driven arrogance; and I’m not sure what frustrates me more – an echoed rhetoric that minorities, especially women, are only here to entertain and not educate, or the idea that people are more offended by the message of the song than the actions that drove the creation of this performance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I never paid much attention in my European History classes and found most of my United States history courses beyond boring; but when it came to the Civil Rights Movement, I had an uncanny desire to devour all available knowledge. And I know this: The Black Panther Party was made of revolutionaries that fought for a culture that had been undermined for their entire cultural history to be recognized as equal.  Yes, they were born out of the failed non-violent Civil Rights Movement of MLK Jr and Medgar Evers but the movement didn’t promote violence, it promoted fairness while protecting the community from the racist behaviors of others while simultaneously pushing citizens to police the police – an idea that is still echoed in today’s society.

To the calls of it’s Football and not Hollywood, last time I listened to Sportscetnter I got a whole earful about girlfriends and wives, houses and style; things that invariable have jack all to do with competitive sports.  And now, we’re taking a critique to a traditionally all white variety of Halftime Entertainment.  So for a second, let’s talk about the NFL.  Let’s discuss the amount of sex crimes and prostitution rings that are cracked down on during high profile games every year, the egregious amount of drunk drivers that get into accidents leaving games or the fact that from start to finish, NFL games are riddled with advertisements parading the US Military as a revered enterprise. Yet a five minute segment that gives weight to a population more often misrepresented and underrepresented in mainstream media receives a bevvy of backlash? It’s time that people get their priorities in formation

[LA Love] The Last Bookstore is the Only Bookstore You Need

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Photo by Daniel Leist Photography

Photo by Daniel Leist Photography

Though we haven’t yet fine tuned the ability to time travel, thanks to the power of the written word it’s possible to walk into a room and simultaneously transport yourself in a thousand different directions spanning the course of several millennium, in irrational, fantastical ways.  Where science boldly says no, literature proudly asks ‘Why Not’ in a thousand shades of possibility.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve proudly ebbed and flowed through my bookshelf with new eyes and an open mind – there’s no topic to small to ponder and no question to big to tackle; but often that leaves me holding seven books, wishing I had six extra sets of eyes so I could read all of them at once.

After seven years in Los Angeles, it’s easy to believe that you’ve seen it all – but let me tell you, in a city of bewilderment, wonder and constant creation – there’s always something hiding just around the corner, waiting to make your day; which is precisely the case with The Last Bookstore.   An exciting hodge podge of new and loved books and records that shop frequenters can buy, sell and trade – the Last Bookstore the largest independent bookstore in the world, and  simply the only bookstore you’ll ever need in your life.  Considering w shops like Borders and Barnes & Nobles falling by the wayside, this very well might be the last bookstore we have left in LA.

Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ Financial District, The Last Bookstore is much more than home to thousand upon thousands of stories, dreams, diatribes, poems, whimsical words and resilient reads.  The first story is a beautiful open air bookstore, with loads of literature for every type of reader, and high vaulted ceilings with a view into the shops of the Springs Arts Collective, with their unique creations peaking out for the world to see.  As you walk up the steps into the second floor, you’re whisked away in the same sort of wanderlust I lose myself in while reading.  Instead of noticing things in a sequential order as I ascended into the Labyrinth, they were all thrust upon my brain in simultaneous artistic attack.  Books were suspended in mid-flight, exploding every which direction to the delight of everyone around. Incredible sculptures crafted from books adorned the walls and aisles, while the floor was lined with contemporary galleries and art shops.

Photos by Daniel Leist Photography

Photo by Daniel Leist Photography

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Two of my personal favorites were from David LoveJoy  (above) – a contemporary designer who forges unique, otherworldly designs, gadgets and gizmos – and the FOLD Gallery (below), the niche boutique brainchild of Jena Priebe. The third Thursday of the month marks Downtown LA’s Art Walk, and The Last Bookstore and Labyrinth gallery are definitely a hipster hot spot; but would you expect any less?

Additional Pics: Daniel Leist Photography

For more on The Last Bookstore, David Lovejoy’s art or the FOLD Gallery, head to their socials –

The Last Bookstore: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

David Lovejoy | #LoveJoyArt: Website | Facebook

Jena Priebe | FOLD Gallery: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[Weekly Dose of Wisdom] The Power of Books

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My entire life, I’ve been a collector of sorts – a personal curator for the museum that’s manifested into my modern life.  From My Little Pony’s and calligraphy pens, to my current menagerie of cats, gemstones, books, quotes good music and great company – I’ve managed to live up to my favorite Oscar Wilde quote: ‘I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.’ And speaking of quotes, with the reading that I’ve been doing and continual bouts of knowledge that I’m contently shoveling into my skull – I’ve found a great assortment of quotes on to the enraptured wanderlust of the reading experience.

Unbeknownst to me until this afternoon, it also just happens to be World Book Day!  Whether it’s a wonderful coincidence or a well planned post, I guess we’ll never really know but as the Genie says in Aladdin – a little of column A, and all of column B.  For other lessons in literature, delve into my book repository in my latest post concerning my 2015 Reading Challenge and take a gander at my Top 10 Works of Literary NonFiction.  While we’re here though, take a stroll through my favorite quotes on reading, books and literature.  To commemorate the day, I want to leave you with five of my favorite books of all time in no particular order because they’re all so different and good. My taste ranges from delicately woven social commentary and dark undertones mixed to insightful scientific analysis and gonzo storytelling, so if these five don’t float your boat – maybe something in my Good Reads Library will.

What’s your favorite book?

What’s your favorite quote about reading?

Let me know in the comments below!


[My Top Ten] Works of Literary Non-Fiction

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Just the other morning, my best friend from childhood tagged me in a brand new Facebook Challenge; in the back of my head, all I could pray was that it had nothing to do with Ice, Buckets or viral infamy – instead, I was urged to impart some wisdom in the form of books.  Finally – a challenge I can get behind! Eagerly, I did an about face to my towering library of literature and smiled to myself; I wasn’t sure what the true challenge would be, finding a group of friends that shared my bibliophile-esque ways – or narrowing my whimsical reading list down to only ten books. Regardless, I finally finagled my way to a list of ten (well, eleven – if you count my second Daniel Goleman rec), but all in all – these are the authors that have spoken to my soul over the past few decades.  Even if you don’t pick a book from this list, I highly urge you to find an author, subject, time period or style that you enjoy and dive into it head first, heart second.

Reading is my favorite form of escapism, because you can keep one foot grounded in reality while your imagination takes off like a wild wind. Whether they’re tense tales of mystery, bold epiphanies dressed as mental manifest destiny, revolutionary scientific discoveries and deep rooted philosophical questions – I absolutely love it.  I devour words for breakfast and snack on syntax for dessert, have an affinity for alliteration and an unrequited love of symbolism, analogy and metaphor.  And my brain – it acts like a sponge; every new piece I read, whether novel, poem or song lyric has pushed me to evolve my style of writing.  Each and every one of these books, and authors, has touched my life for the better and I’ve seen the world with new eyes time and time again because of the wonder and beauty they’ve inspired in the world around me, as well as this weird little world inside my head.  Without further ado, these are the ten non-fiction books that have influenced my life, in no particular order other than my memory.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

A wonderful expose into the nature, and importance, of emotional intelligence.  I was first recommended this read by my Counselor in High School – though I didn’t read it until my early twenties, this has been one of my favorite Non Fiction reads.  I highly suggest ‘Social Intelligence’ as a follow-up if this piques your fancy.

On the Genealogy of Morals

In college, I waited until essentially the last second to complete my English requirement – the last quarter of my Senior Year, if you want to get specific.  But, the course – Comparative African Literature – was well worth the wait and the Professors and TAs were some of my favorite of my entire collegiate career.  At the end of the quarter, we got to pick our own essay topics – I was just descending into Nietzsche’s writings and ended up comparing Neo-Colonialism in Africa to the deep rooted Judaeo-Christian ideals of morality and ethics. Needless to say, both proved to be interesting reads.

Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination

With literary prowess and an incredible knack for storytelling, Robert Jourdain weaves one of my favorite stories – your brain on music.  I live, eat, sleep, breathe music – I wake up with songs in my head, and immediately head to my laptop to turn off the silence of the world.  Tunes, melodies, lyrics – they circle around me and I love how they can bring me to both tears and the height of ecstasy.  In this book, Jourdain takes a scientific approach to music – conveying how tone, melody, melody and composition all play into each other, and just why each and every one of us is so enthralled by it.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Like most of the authors on this list, to only put one Ruiz book on this list is potential blasphemy – every last piece he’s written I’ve eagerly gobbled up with my eyes and have felt better for it.  But, for anyone that hasn’t had experience with his books – The Four Agreements is an excellent place to start.  The simple premise, is that everyone should live by four essential agreements – Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, Always Do Your Best.  With mantras like that, how could you possibly go wrong?

The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell

Mmm, Huxley. Where do I even begin – this was recommended by a few friends when I mentioned I was looking for an adventure, and a mental adventure is what I got.  Huxley circumnavigates the brain and delves into unmapped areas of human consciousness.  It’s an incredible read; take the journey.

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If Huxley is your cup of tea, Daniel Pinchbeck is your tall tumblr of Whisky; taking a page from Huxley’s mental explorations, Pinchbeck ventures into contemporary Shamanism with the assistance of modern psychedelics.

It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness

I found this book on my bookshelf a few years ago, I think my step-mother handed it down (she always gives me great reads) and it stayed there for years – but I was going through some difficult times and needed a mental adjustment.  ‘It’s Easier Than You Think’ provided just that. Through personal anecdote and tiny stories, humor and introspection, Sylvia Boorstein slowly but surely helped change my mindset towards a more positive way of life in the way of the Buddha.  

The World Without Us

Time for a little thought experiment: the dinosaurs were wiped out long before us, and there’s a chance humanity won’t last either – what happens to the world if the human race becomes extinct?  It’s not the most pleasant question to ask yourself, but in the realm of possibilities – why not indulge your brain – Alan Weisman sure did, and the results are astounding. There’s so much manmade infrastructure, like subway systems and dams, that will simply lay waste and become overrun by the original ecological state of the region.  Parts of the world would almost become unrecognizable within centuries.  It’s a wonderful read, and definitely made me think of the effect of global industrialization

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A book….about Numbers? Yep – you’re damn right it is.  Math is the Yin to the Written Yang – words can be flowery, beautiful, whimsical and shift in meaning – but numbers are static, stoic, firm and steady; they’re an exact science, and they’re one of the greatest discoveries of all time.  Tobias Dantzig provides an excellent account of the history of the numbers themselves; though not everyone likes reading about mathematics – if you happen to be a fan of the subject, you won’t be able to put this book down.

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This is the year of now – instant food, instant drinks, instant payments, insta-grams and a gogogo lifestyle are all indicative of a grandiose shift in global consciousness from stopping to smell the flowers, to filtering them in LoFi and throwing hashtags on them. Now, I love how tech-savvy the world has become – but I have a big fear that a lot of people are forgetting that it’s okay to walk instead of drive, call instead of text, send mail instead of email, cook a homemade dinner as opposed to popping something in the microwave.  Through example after example, Carl Honere exemplifies his issue with the ‘Cult of Speed’ and has converted me into a Slow-Life believer.

Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood WarriorI literally grew up on a basketball court. Go back – farther back than High School, farther than Middle and even Elementary School…I can remember being 3 years old and my dad lifting me up to “shoot” my first shots on a big hoop, I remember watching, awe inspired, as players gracefully glided like gazelles up and down the court.  When I was at my most competitive, playing for a club team, my middle school team and being scouted for High School – my parents passed this book on to me and I eagerly lapped it up.  Phil Jackson is an idol in so many ways, and his words – and stories – truly spoke to me.  Whether you were a player, a coach or simply just love the game – this is an excellent read and I promise you won’t be putting it down anytime soon.

[Kitchen Kitten] D.I.Y. Pickled Veggies

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madewithOver (25)I’m officially a week and a half into my ’30 Before 30′ challenge and happy as a clam. After a few days of plodding through bullet points, I separated my list into two partitions; the first, “one time” or “jumping off” points if you will (like camping at Joshua Tree or making my own candles), and the later ended up as a culmination of ideas that I want to spend the year progressively getting better at (reading sheet music, relearning French and my weekly yoga practice).  What seemed like a series of mountains instead of molehills magically transformed into a full fledged plan of attack. First up, something I’ve been itching to try since I started infusing olive oils – making my own pickled vegetables!

One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is combining my love of amazing foods – in this case, all things pickled (cucumbers, olives, mushrooms, quail eggs – you name it, I love chowing down on it) – with my addiction to easy and affordable DIY projects. I sifted through cookbooks and did a fair share of online searching, and there are a gaggle of pickling recipes out!  Take your time and bounce though a few different websites to get your bearings on the matter.  The way I see it, cooking is a lot like art – you can color between the lines and follow the instructions perfectly, or you can think outside the box and create something new. Don’t be afraid to combine bits and pieces of recipes from multiple sources, because that’s exactly what I did and it turned out phenomenally.

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There’s a few different things to take into account as you begin: What type of vegetables are you planning on pickling?  Some veggies – like cucumber and onions – can be tossed into your jars from the get-go; but for veggies that land on the sturdier side (potatoes, mushrooms, carrots), you’ll want to blanch them first so they don’t lose any coloring or flavor. Don’t worry, I’ll explain below! Would you prefer them to be savory and full of dill? Want to kick up the spice and add some chilis? Or, would you rather they land on the sweeter side?  If you plan on using multiple containers, you don’t have to make that decision – which is perfect for someone like me who simply wants it all. Now, you have the luxury of switching things up at the leisure of your taste buds, so get down with your bad self and spice each one as desired.

Vegetables: if you like bar snacks or a heavily garnished Bloody Mary, you might want to get a little wild with this.

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What I Used

  • 1 Cucumber
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 cup Pearl Onions
  • Israeli Pickles
  • 1 Cup Small, Whole Mushrooms
  • Tunes – this week’s soundtrack comes from Jody Wisternoff of the  Progressive House duo Way Out West.  I’ve been a fan of the group for a few years now but it wasn’t until recently that I was turned onto the solo ventures of Jody or the other half of WoW, Nick Warren.  Whether together or on their own, they provide a beautifully calm soundtrack to your endeavors.

Brine:  You can make as little or as much brine as you’d like, just remember this – it’s a 2:1 ratio of water to vinegar. 

  • madewithOver (23)4 Cups Water (If you local tap water is a little cloudy, use bottled)
  • 2 Cups White Vinegar or Cider Vinegar
  • 1/8 cup Salt (non-iodized; if you want to get fancy – pickling salt exists)
  • Fresh Dill
  • Mint Springs
  • Peppercorns
  • 1/2 Cup of Garlic Cloves

Tools:

  • 1 large Sauce Pan
  • cutting board
  • sharp knife
  • cucumber peeler 
  • Canning or Mason Jars (old Spaghetti Sauce Jars work, too!) + Lids
  • salad tongs (optional)

After a few trial rounds, I’m proud to say that I’ve mastered the pickle rhetoric and I can fly solo without instructions in front of me. I can’t wait to share, so let’s get this pickle party started!

Instructions

  • Put your basic brine (vinegar, water and salt) into a large sauce pan; bring it to a boil for two to thee minutes as the salt dissolves.  Take brine off of heat and let it cool to room temperature.  As you’re waiting…
  • Wash, slice and dice your veggies to fit your jars
  • Take the sturdier veggies and blanch them for two minutes: heat up some water with a teaspoon of salt, throw ’em in then toss them into an ice bath when you’re done.
  • Add your spices to the containers, then layer your vegetables on top; you can make each jar unique, or you can make them splash with color and mix them all together. Make sure to leave about 1/2 an inch so the brine can cover them completely!
  • Once the brine has cooled, pour it into your jars and shove them to the back of your fridge.  Depending on how impatient you are (or how much of a flavor fiend you fancy yourself), you can let them sit for anywhere between 10 hours and 2 weeks, depending on how long they fermented you can keep them for a month (quick brine) or four.

[Kitchen Kitten] D.I.Y. Infused Olive Oils

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Over the course of the past few years I’ve gone from a complete klutz in the kitchen to a meal maven. Looking back,  it must have been a combination of a few things clicking in my head. First,  there’s this little thing I like to call  ‘ballin’ on a budget‘: as much as I love to live large, I almost desperately needed a way to keep my spending in check. Sushi, Dim Sum, Whole Paycheck Foods; you name it, I ate it on the regular so I had to put a stop to my delivery and dining out habits. Secondly, I was getting pretty sick of people ruining foods that I love. Third, I’m a firm believer that everyone should be adept at crafting their favorite comfort foods so I wanted to make a point of learning how to cook flavored, moist chicken and sear the perfect salmon. And last, but definitely not least: food, more specifically the gastrointestinal system, is the key to everyone’s heart.  No, seriously! With the amount of serotonin receptors in your GI tract and stomach, it’s no wonder that food and mood go completely hand in hand.

My First Cookbook!

I started out slow and basic when I moved into my first apartment in 2008. Right after I graduated from UCSB, my step-mother gifted me with a book ironically titled ‘How to Boil Water‘ that gracefully takes you through simple cooking preparation and elementary dishes to make you cool as a cucumber in your kitchen.  That Christmas after demonstrating I figured out a thing or two about my culinary prowess, I got another gift – a year’s subscription to ‘Cooks Illustrated‘ and the famed ‘Good Housekeeping Cookbook‘.  In the matter of five years, I’ve gone from being an expert microwave user to an amazing (and modest) chef! I’ve learned how to make homemade chicken noodle soup, salad dressing from scratch, craftmy own pizzas and toss up a mean stir-fry.

Since I’m always up for a new challenge, I started scouring the interwebs for ways I could enhance my skill-set.  I’ve been itching to have a ‘make-your-own-sushi‘ party or a fun, date night where my boyfriend and I craft our own ice cream – but when I found recipes to infuse my own olive oils I knew I’d hit the jackpot!  I’m a sucker for a beautiful bottle of wine, beer or hard alcohol and this provides an adorable way to preserve and decorate the bottle for personal use or for your closest family and friends.

Olive Oils can be infused one of two ways – either through ‘Hot Infusion’ or through ‘Cold Infusion.’  The ultimate difference is time and taste – cold infusion should take approximately two weeks but a hot infusion can occur in one day; on the flip side, cold infusions preserve the flavors of your herbs and veggies while doing it ‘hot’ allows for their tastes to be altered. I’ve done this both ways now and can tell you from experience that I prefer doing it the cold route.  One reason some like it hot is to reduce the risk of botulism – but as long are you’re careful and follow these simple steps, you can avoid it with cold infusion as well:

  1.  mix the olive oil + herbs + spices and refrigerate for two weeks
  2.  preserve the added ingredients in a strong brine or vinegar
  3. dehydrate all herbs so all that remains are the essential oils
  4. self-press your olives with the spices in the press

Now, let’s get down to business

: DIY Infused Olive Oils :

Prep: 15-20 min

Equipment

  • a few old wine, beer or liquor bottles; preferably with awesome labels and clear glass (canning jars are an excellent substitute!)
  • rubber stoppers, spouts, or twist on tops for the bottles
  • (hot infusion) sauce pan

Ingredients

  • fresh + fried herbs like rosemary, tarragon, mint, basil
  • salts + spices: lemon pepper, ‘regular‘ pepper, sea salt, cumin, cayenne pepper
  • fruit like citrus, like lemons, limes or oranges; you can even grate or peel the rinds, and peppers, chilies, jalepenos, red + yellow peppers (for color)
  • veggies like garlic, red onion, shallots, etc etc
  • extra virgin olive oil, or whatever oils you typically cook with
  • if you choose to preserve your veggies + herbs first, brine or vinegar

Instructions

  1. wash all of your ingredients and dry them as much as you can; fun fact: botulism can’t grow in olive oil on its own, it’s actually caused by bacteria growing on the remaining water in your herbs!
  2. wash + dry your bottle; then make sure your bottle + stopped have an excellent seal (canning jars work, too!)
  3.  to prep your infusion: expose natural oils in your herbs by bruising them, toast + crush spices, slice fruits + veggies in thin pieces
  4.  (cold infusion) cram salts, spices, herbs, fruits + veggies into olive oil; seal the bottle for approximately 1.5-2 weeks in a dark, cold place (re: fridge)
  5.  (hot infusion) before putting them in the bottle, place all ingredients + oil in a saucepan and cook to 180°.  this is definitely the quickest way, how to-the ever this changes the taste and flavor of both your ingredients and your oil
  6. it’s a personal choice whether you want to strain your ingredients or leave them in; personally, i love the look + taste so i leave them in but if you choose to remove them: (cold) strain mixture after 2 weeks of rest + (hot) strain mixture after cooking
  7.  infused olive oils typically last for a month, give or take a few weeks (or, signs of spoiling). which is more of a reason to make it pretty, because if you don’t finish them they make beautiful table pieces.

Last but not leastremember to enjoy your creation! Infused olive oils are a great way to quickly add flavor to a simple meal like scrambled eggs and for dipping breads pre-meal or as a snack.  Also, if you’ve been gifted with a bottle of wine or liquor, this is the perfect way to return the favor – or, pay it forward.