[Trekking Tales] Griffith Park Observatory


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As the month progresses, I’ve begun to realize that there’s a deeper motive hidden under my menagerie of miniature resolutions.  I fully believe that to evolve, to become a better version of yourself, there are baby steps that need to be taken and in a way each an every one the thirty items on that list are an investment in my future and the person I want to be.  Lingering somewhere between lofty goals and simple practicalities are life hacks that double as cost saving methods, building blocks for future endeavors and last, but certainly not least, there’s the mental and physical gymnastics of it all.  Admittedly, I miss school – not the tests or homework mind you, but the sense of community and the push for personal growth in all endeavors.  Travel, reading, hikes, meditation, crocheting; all of these endeavors are inspiring me to expand who I am at my core and what I’m capable of. By crafting unique infused olive oils, pickling vegetables and manufacturing my own basic salad dressings – I’m not only saving loads by reducing the amount of pre-processed foods I purchase, plus it’s an immensely fun, delicious alternative.  The books on my nightstand have been gleefully riffled through more than once, my yoga poses are getting stronger by the week and through hiking I’ve had the chance to explore the urban jungles that my city has to offer.

With my affinity for activity, a penchant for photography and a need to be in the great outdoors, it’s absolutely no wonder that hiking has also etched its way into my heart. Back when I moved to Los Angeles, I viewed the city as concrete jungle that desperately needed repaving, but after five years of exploring the city I can attest to the contrary.  Between Will Rogers Memorial Park, Runyon Canyon, the Pasadena Hills, the Old LA Zoo and Griffith Park – the city is literally teaming with all sorts of fun urban safaris that don’t shy away from importing a little bit of nature into the city.   Plus, what better way to get intimate knowledge on your city than diving into it headfirst?  I’ve never considered myself much of a hiker, but we all have to start somewhere I suppose.  Two years ago, I didn’t consider myself a runner, either.  But life tends to throw me curve balls, and I’m proud to say that I’ve adapted quite nicely.

When my GTI gave out in ’12, I “lost my ride to the gym“.  For the first three days, I was frustrated but on the fourth, I had a mental breakthrough: why am I driving to the gym just to run on a treadmill?  Immediately, my iPod playlist was updated and I whisked myself out the door before I had the opportunity to give it a second thought. I came back exhausted, dripping in sweat (which, by the by, is rare), out of breath, slightly dehydrated – and the happiest I’d been in months.  As a former competitive athlete, my body literally craves that sweet rush of fresh air (not to mention, endorphins) that the great outdoors can provide – about ten minutes in, this grin starts creeping up through the corners of my mouth, working its way towards dropping my chin and brightening my eyes. And then I remembered what it’s all about – working out makes me a passionate creature without worries or anxieties; not only does physical activity help me be the best version of myself, but it completely plays into loving myself, too. 

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Part of my new years resolution was to find a new hike every month and I love that it’s pushing me to explore more of Los Angeles.  The first hike of the new year was Griffith and personally, I’m sort of having a love affair with it.  One of the best things about hiking at Griffith Park is the ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ aspect of the exercise. I’ve gone about four or five times over the last month an each time, I explored a new and completely different part of the park – terrain and view wise.  Plus, there’s the Observatory – which means I also get to flex my nerd muscles a bit.  

As you walk around the outside of the observatory, you’ll notice some curved lines: these lines represent planetary orbits and equinoxes.  The park is open from sunrise through sunset, and I highly recommend making it for one, if not both of them.  Though you don’t have the same view of the Pacific that you get from Runyon, if you’re there during the magic hour you’ll get to watch downtown slowly light up the city skyline; you can also clearly see the Hollywood sign, Runyon and Santa Monica.  

There are multiple levels and types of terrain for hiking on, the Berlin Forrest is one of the more wooded areas where the hikes by the Observatory tend to be on gravel.  This area is rich with picnic benches and perfect for some lowkey stretches, or even some lowkey laziness 😉

The view of downtown is absolutely unreal; especially when the city is shrouded in haze.

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

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.

[Weekly Dose of Wisdom]

I’m only five days into my ’30 Before 30′ challenge and rewarding has never felt so exhausting and amazing at the same time!   After a brief hiatus, I started running again and afterwards, instead of ‘stretching’ – I’ve been getting down on some yoga and meditation (#12) .  I wanted a way to quantify my efforts and figured a great way to measure my yoga growth was to master a new pose a week.  That way, I can grow my repertoire of poses and incorporate them into a weekly yoga routine.  First up, Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana);  it’s been a bit of a battle, but I’ve truly enjoyed  putting in the daily work and seeing results.  What started as an absolute joke (I might have almost fallen on my face….several times), has turned into a full three or four deep breaths on each leg before I teeter-totter myself back to stability.  At the end of the weekend I hope to have a picture or two to show for my efforts, but beggars can’t always be choosers.  What’s even better is that I’ve been able to knock an item off of the bucket list!  I pickled some cucumber and mushrooms (#7) the other night and my word, they are delicious and that was easier than I thought. With the long weekend ahead  and so much I want to accomplish – I thought getting a little perspective and wisdom under my belt would be a perfect way to kick things off on this beautiful Friday in LA; enjoy!

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[Self-Discovery] My ’30 Before 30′ Bucket List

Ever since I turned 29 in December, my head’s been swimming with ways to make the last year of my 20’s a fabulous one.  I woke up with the urge to challenge my personal growth last week, and I realized that a ’30 before 30′ bucket list was the perfect way to approach the big 2-9. Sure, maybe it’s a little late and overly ambitious to accomplish 30 things in about 48 weeks, but I’ve always been a better performer under pressure and after the ‘7 Life Resolutions‘ I started living by last year, I know I’m up for the challenge.  While compiling this list, I’ve had a handful of ah-ha moments and tiny epiphanies – the first being this: personal goals shouldn’t be tied to anyone else’s existence.   Instead, these goals should further your sense of self and individual happiness.  After all – how can you successfully contribute to your community, or to a relationship, if you haven’t proven that you can contribute to your own growth?  And on the flip-side, don’t believe that growth is a unidirectional endeavor; growth is perpetually infinite and occurs in 360°. In the years after college, there was such a rush to pursue a corporate career that the idea of evolving creatively, or in the kitchen, or spiritually, had fallen by the wayside.  Like my parents always said when I was a kid – there’s simply no way to do everything,  but like I’ve always believed, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  I can’t wait to incorporating these milestones into my year and become the best version of myself; I know my spirit, my mind and my body will grow in ways I never thought possible.

  1. Read sheet music
  2. Make potstickers
  3. Travel outside of the US
  4. Get published in the Huffington Post
  5. Learn how to ride a bicyclemadewithOver (2)
  6. Get a new tattoo
  7. Pickle my own vegetables
  8. See the Grand Canyon (Saw Zion + Bryce, though!
  9. Have a ‘make-your-own-sushi’ date night
  10. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
  11. Maintain + use an herb garden
  12. Develop a dedicated Yoga + Meditation Practice
  13. Read at least a book a month
  14. Go camping under the stars
  15. Learn French
  16. Buy a stranger’s meal
  17. Cancel Cable for a Month
  18. Shoot a Gun
  19. Organize my iTunes Library
  20. Do the splits
  21. Watch a Meteor Shower
  22. Host a dinner party
  23. Make Candles
  24. Crochet a blanket
  25. Road Trip to Oregon
  26. Find the perfect shade of lipstick
  27. Visit every museum in LA
  28. Be an extra in a Movie / TV Show
  29. Learn to use a DSLR Camera
  30. Find new hikes