Work It Out: Hiking

Here in LA it has been unseasonably warm, sorry rest of the country, so it’s perfect weather for hiking. For the past two weeks I have been on holiday break from work and so, have tried to get out and hike as much as possible before returning to my desk. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like dodging out of control dogs and their absentee owners, horse manure, and wannabe d-listers so the ever so trendy Runyon and Hollywood Sign hike are not for me. I like to find a little peace and quiet and actually enjoy the scenery. My favorites have to be:

Fryman Canyon: Trail Head at Laurel Canyon and Fryman Canyon. Parking is easy at the Willacre Park parking lot ($3) or a little tougher on the street (free). Follow the Betty B. Dearing trail up as you climb towards Mulholland and Coldwater. From there it’s all down hill, or you can take an educational adventure through the Tree People‘s trails. The Tree People is an environmental organization that plants trees in LA, and is also a field trip staple for anyone who grew up in LA, so I get a little sentimental every time I walk past. Added bonus: there is also free parking located here if you want to start and end at the top. From there, continue on the Betty B. Dearing trail until you hit Iredell Ln and that road will take you right back to Fryman Canyon/The Willacre Park lot. If you want to add a bit more of adventure, instead of continuing down Iredell, take the second half of the Betty B. Dearing Trail up and right. This trails is a bit more “unkept” especially though “the rainforest.” Continue on this trail as it twist and turns and you end up at the Nancy Hoover Pohl Overlook at Mulholland and Allenwood. There is also a parking lot (free) there too!

Nike Missile Station: This hike is one of my favorites because it’s the jumping off point for a whole system of trails. I like to park (free) at the trailhead at Mulholland and Encino Hills Drive. Many people like to drive the mile up to the Nike Missile Station where many other trails connect but the dirt road is riddled with potholes. Also, they miss the first hiking option in this choose your own adventure hike. The Upper and Lower Canyonback trail is a short flat hike that is great if you just have an hour or two. The trail for part of it is actually two trails that are side by side so you can choose to stay on the flat fire road or climb up and down some steep hills to get a better view. The trail leads right into the exclusive Mountaingate community (you can also park here for free too) and then back out south as you continue down towards Brentwood. The second hike option is to hike up to the Nike Missile Station and take the Mandeville Canyon Fire Road to the end and back. This approximately 7 mile hike is a bit harder than the Canyonback trail but the views are well worth it. Can’t decide? Take the Hollyhock Fire Road connector and do both to make a loop. But a caveat, this trail is all hill so it’s not easy. Next on my list are to try some of the other trails in this system: Sullivan Canyon Loop, Farmer Fire Road, Switchback Trail, Caballero Canyon Trail, Maryvale Trail, Temescal Fire Road, Topanga Fire Road etc…. Check out google maps and map your own trail. If you have a bike or extra stamina, there are trails that can even take you to the beach!

Safety tip: Watch out for snakes when it’s getting hot and coyotes when it’s getting dark. I can go for miles without seeing a person so be aware of your surroundings and maybe take a buddy with you—especially if you can run faster than they can… Happy hiking!

Print, don’t scribble.

I’ve been getting the most out of my Beat Fitness Groupon and have been going pretty regularly. So far, I have taken their: Tae Bo, Booty Camp, Insanity Express, and Core Tone & Sculpt classes. A few days ago I tried out their Boxing Bootcamp, and was surprised to see that my guest boxing instructor was none other than Billy Blanks! Having tried his at home workouts in the past, I knew exactly who he was, but now I couldn’t pause the DVD to take an extra breather on the couch.

While Billy has aged, he is still an intimidating force. There is no slacking off in his class. He kept yelling “Print, don’t scribble!” when we were working out new combinations on our bags. It’s about getting it right, and then getting it fast. He had us all line up and spar with him which was quite the experience. I learned really fast to keep my hands up because the moment I dropped them, I got bopped on the cheek. It didn’t hurt but it was surprising. Next were flying “Superman” punches. I couldn’t stop laughing as I awkwardly jumped and punched. We ended the class with back kicks and round house kicks. Those were my favorite! By the last set, I had moved my heavy bag 10 ft!

I was such a fun surprise having him teach the class and I look forward to taking more classes there.

Work It Out: Groupon Style

My favorite form of exercise is channel surfing. But, with wedding dress shopping coming up in the next few months, I need to start getting into fighting shape. I love trying out all different kinds of exercise, but there is no way that I can justify paying the insane monthly membership fees. Enter Groupon to the rescue. I found a steal of a deal for The Beat Fitness in Sherman Oaks ($29/one month unlimited) and last night I decided to redeem it.

The Beat is a tiny studio located in the heart of Sherman Oaks. From the fire red carpet to the onyx walls, there is nothing “soft” about this gym. This is where women (and a handful of men) come to take care of business, and where fat comes to die. I started the night off with Tae Bo taught by co-owner Nathalie Bernard. I’ve taken Tae Bo-esque classes before but never a pure one and man there were a lot of kicks and knees. Nathalie called out and demoed all the movements and by the end she was sweating more than we were. It definitely had a bootcamp feel. The one critique I have of the class was the music. For 99% of the class it was some weird mash up of sirens and alarms. Not dubstep or house or techno. Sirens. And, I was right next to the speaker in a packed class. No bueno. But towards the end of the class, a remixed version of the Jackson 5′s I Want You Back came on and my entire attitude changed.

I am a crazy person so I decided to stay for a second class called Booty Camp. This class was very similar to the Tae Bo class but incorporated weights, a step, and ab work. Also, the music was much more recognizable as well…music. I could barely lift my legs and arms and was half-assing it for the entire class but I made it through.

I look forward to taking more Booty Camp classes and trying out their boxing and insanity classes too!

Chicken Pickin’

A few days ago I went to see my friend, John, play rhythm guitar for alt-country guitarist, Jason Loughlin at The Mint. I showed up about bluesy dive bar about an hour before their set and met John backstage in their green room. We caught up on old times and he told me all about his life as a musician: the good and the bad. He introduced me to his bandmates as we listened to Mike Viola (That Thing You Do) tear it up on stage.

When John, Jason, and the rest of the band took the stage, I had no idea what to expect. Apart from checking out a few clips on iTunes, I had walked into this show relatively blind. It was awesome! I had no idea how good John was and Jason is unbelievable. If you have never heard of Jason Loughlin, check him out! His picking is insane. It’s like he has eight hands. He specializes in crazy fast twangy finger picking riffs that John later described to me as “chicken pickin.’” It was an absolute blast and I look forward to seeing more of these shows in the future.

Singing in the Spotlight

For all things musical, check me out on YouTube.

My mom said that I could sing before I could talk. Well… since I can’t remember that far back, I guess I am going to have to take her word for it. But for as long as I can remember, singing has been my passion. It’s how I celebrate and how I grieve. There is no better feeling then finding that perfect song that expresses just how I’m feeling at that moment. It’s like it knows…

I studied music all though out school and then it became time to enter the “real world.” Instead of pursuing music, because it’s a “really tough business” (which, yes I know it is, but, call me naive, but aren’t most businesses tough?), I took a desk job at a talent agency. I worked crazy long hours, which left me barely enough time to sleep, and I watched from the sidelines as others achieved my dream. Needless to say, I didn’t stay there long. My heart wasn’t in it.

A few months after I left, I found out the X Factor was having open auditions. While I have never, been interested in the fame and the flash that comes with this type of show, this was a chance to sing and I was going to take it. For two days, I waited in line outside the Staples Center and waited for my turn to audition. I was surrounded by thousands of other hopefuls and “career reality show competitors.” It was beyond intimidating. When they finally let us in, I waited for another seven hours for my time to audition. It was abysmal. They had set up little partitions all over the court and the din was maddening. I did a soft and sweet jazz standard that could not compete with the musical acrobatics that was going on around me and, after 30 seconds, I was shown the door. It was one of the most heartbreaking and embarrassing moments of my life. But, even after that massive blow, I was even more determined to pursue music, but this time on my terms.

Fate smiled on me when a new friend of mine, Kathryn, invited me to see her friend, Brandi, perform in the Mike and Brian All Star Show at UBG. I walked in to the tiny dive bar in North Hollywood and was immediately welcomed by them. Brandi was up next and was freaking out because, while she was a seasoned member of the show, she was having trouble remembering some of the lyrics to Mark Ronson’s Valerie. I mentioned that I knew the song (since it was one of the songs that I was considering performing for my X Factor audition) and then, just like that, she decided that I was going up on stage with her and we were going to sing it together. We had just met that night. She didn’t even know if I could sing, but there was no changing her mind. Brandi invited me up, the music started, and there was no going back. We sang and danced and laughed. This was the kind of music that I wanted to perform. When her set ended, Mike, the show’s producer/her accompanist, invited me to come back as a featured artist.

For over two years I performed in this little show and saw many evolutions of it. While I never was paid to sing, I loved the opportunity to pick my own music and perform in public. The show has been in hiatus for a while and I find myself itching to perform again. I recently ran into a friend of mine from high school and he’s now a working jazz guitarist. Seeing him achieving the dream has reignited my hope that is it possible. I’m learning guitar (very slowly but surely), and am now armed with a snazzy new recording mic (thank you wonderful fiancé). Stay tuned for singing updates but, in the meantime, check out my youtube channel for some of my past performances.

Not just for hipsters and kids

I attended a friend’s birthday party in the park and one of the guests brought hula hoops for us to play with, including a monster 6′ hoop. I don’t remember the last time I hula hooped. Maybe I was like 10?  But it was so much fun! I struggled a bit with the smaller/lighter hoops but was able to keep the heavier/more adult size ones going. It was hilarious to see some of the guys do it with the grace of well… these guys. Their hips do not lie…

It’s an awesome core/back workout and if you get really good you can be like this girl.

The Wrangler

I recently helped out at another charity gala which raised money for hereditary inclusion body myopathies (HIBM)–a group of genetic muscular disorders. One particular form of HIBM is IBM2, which causes the muscles to waste away, and is most common in late-twenty-somethings of Iranian Jewish descent. There is currently no cure for this disease.

The event was a black and white Gatsby themed gala and took place in the world famous Crystal Ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel. My team consisted of: Lisa our point person, a security/backstage manager, the voice of God, and I rounded out the group as “the wrangler.” My job that night was to “wrangle” any speakers/talent who were going to be on stage and guide them there. The first half went smoothly: everyone was at their respective tables and I delivered each of my “packages” right on time. The second half was…a little more challenging. I had a speaker go missing which, when you’re under the gun is absolutely nerve wracking. I spent 20 minutes looking through a sea of black and white tuxedos and gowns for he who shall remain nameless who…straight up hid from me. He found out that he would be performing during the dessert service and, in my opinion, threw a tantrum. I get that you want your audience’s full attention, but this is a charity gig, not your own private show where people paid just to see you. Suck it up and be a professional.

The highlight of the evening was listening to the keynote speaker. I was backstage with her before she went on and she was so kind, funny and playful. She looked absolutely flawless in her black and while floor length gown which hid her orthopedic shoes. This young and beautiful woman shared her heartbreaking struggle with the disease. She was strong and passionate and then broke down into tears when she spoke about her toddler and his hopes that “mommy will get stronger.”

The night ended on a truly only in LA random note. After the grand prize Birkin bag had been raffled off, Lisa and I joined the rest of the guests in the valet line. The female guests who had previously been dashing around in their Louboutins etc… were clutching their shoes and hobbling around on their balled up feet. Others, who had not quite given up yet, were gingerly shifting their weight from shoe to shoe, wincing each time. Suddenly, an ethereal young girl glides, and I mean glides, past me in her floor length flowy sky blue dress and 7 inch heels. And then there is another one. And another one. And another one, who sports a man in a full red suit and chunky heels on her arm. I look at Lisa and she looks at me and we realize that we had just seen Prince.

Surfs Up

I recently had the day off from work and had nothing to do. It was clear, sunny, and warm–definitely not a day to be wasted spent inside–so I packed up my bag and headed to Santa Monica. My typical beach activities are: sunbathing, walking along the shore, and reading/catching up on tv on my iPad. But this day, I wanted to challenge myself and try something new: ocean paddleboarding. Now, I have been paddleboarding before, once, on a lake, three years ago. Ocean paddleboarding, is a completely different animal because of the waves…duh.

When I got to the beach I rented a “wee” 10′ paddleboard. I was nervous, not only because this was new to me, but also because I was by myself–no one else had the same day off. Boo friends! I am not the most coordinated person so I kept having these flashes of my almost certain watery death with no one to hear me scream. I told the paddleboard guy that if I was not back in an hour that I was probably dead and he should come collect the board before it drifted off to sea. He laughed it off and I turned to him and was like, “No, seriously. I am probably dead. Come find my bloated corpse…” And with that, I was off lugging this beast of a board down to the shore.

When I finally got down to the water, the beach was deserted except for two paddleboarders who were out floating. One caught a tiny wave and expertly surfed it down the coast. I grabbed my board, said a tiny prayer, and ran into the freezing Pacific. Did I mention that I didn’t have a wet suit? Yeah it was c-c-c-c-chilly! I paddled out as fast as I could past the break, drinking in a few sips of salt water as I went. Flapping my arms wildly, I eventually made it out to calm water. Proud of my accomplishment, I promptly laid down on my board and let myself just float there. It was so peaceful and calm. The water was actually so still that I could see schools of fish swimming below me.

I finally got the nerve to stand up on the board but when I looked around, the paddleboarders had vanished. I hadn’t drifted far, they had just decided that they were done and headed in. I was by myself in the ocean with no one around. I immediately saw the watery death flashes and promptly sat down. No death today. I paddled around on my knees for about 10 more minutes before the waters started to get rough. I could no longer see the fishes, and was having a tough time keeping my balance. I positioned myself back in the break to ride a wave in and was immediately knocked off my board. I cut my shin on the fin and hobbled back up to the shore. Wet and now slightly bloody, I dragged my sad little body up back to the equipment stand and deposited the board. Despite the injury and minor panic, I would definitely like to do this again…with a buddy.

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what does 10lbs of apples do…?

I grew up in sunny southern California and so, apple picking was not a “thing.” It’s just not cold enough here. So, it was not until I went off to Michigan for college that this golden state girl discovered the absolute joy that is apple picking, fresh pressed cider and cider doughnuts. I remembered going deep into the orchards and seeing ancient trees heavy with fruit. My friends and I ran around, collecting as many as we could carry, and lugged our haul back to these picturesque and quaint barn houses at the front of the orchard. We’d crunch into the juicy orbs and wash them down with the sweetest fresh pressed apple cider. We’d then dive mouth first into the freshly fried cider doughnuts. These little bites of heaven were deep fried and then rolled in cinnamon sugar…and crack…definitely crack and maybe some heroin in there too for flavor…

I celebrated my birthday this year by heading out to Los Angeles’s closest apple orchard: Oak Glen. To all of you who live in cold climates this may be passé to you but this was so exciting for me. My fiancé and I visited the quaint Willowbrook Orchard which, due to the light crop this year, was the only orchard offering U-Pick. This adorable orchard was also host to a whole troop of barnyard animals, a pumpkin patch, cider press, and general store. Pressing cider is an activity that you don’t want to miss. It’s so much fun taking a bushel of apples and crushing them and then pressing them with their old fashioned press. You definitely get a work out in. PS watch out for the bees! They love the fresh cider too!

Another spot not to be missed is Snow-Line Orchard. While it’s more of a general store than an open orchard, it is your one stop shop for cider doughnuts, fresh apples and gifts. You can smell the doughnuts from the parking lot and they are well worth the wait…especially if you have them with a cider float. Yum! Also, make sure to check out their huge selection of apples. I brought home 10 lbs of super sweet cameo and bright pink colored pink pearl apples.

We ended the day with a hard cider at the Hawk’s Head Publik House. Famous for its 5lb apple pies and colonial garbed staff, this is a great place to sit back with a pint and people watch.

I definitely hope to make this a fall tradition.

Schraderbräu me bro

Have you ever wanted to make your own beer like Schraderbräu? Well, now you can. With the mircrobrew “revolution,” home brewing beer has become accessible to the masses. Also, with the help of kickstarter, some home brewers have even opened up their own breweries like Jonathan Porter at Smog City Brewery in Los Angeles.

Last night, my dad and I attended a brewmaster class at Eagle Rock Home Brew Supply where we learned how to make a Rye IPA. For three hours we went through the basics: 1, steep your grain, 2, add in malted grain, 3, add in three types of hops (bitterness, flavor and aroma), and 4, add yeast. It’s definitely more complicated than that, as illustrated by my pages of copious notes, but it’s not impossible to figure out.

Most of the class was waiting for water to boil so we were entertained by beer history and fascinating factoids.

  • Beer is one of the oldest documented and universal recipes because it was the usually safer and more sanitary than water.
  • IPAs (India Pale Ales), are traditionally so “hoppy” because hops acts like a preservative and the beer had to last the long journey from England to India.
  • Darker beers are not necessarily stronger than lighter ones. Color mostly has to do with the type of grain and how its processed.
  • There is a seasonal timeline for brewing. For example, right now when it’s so hot, it’s a great time to brew a Hefeweizen or a Belgian style beer but it is a terrible time to brew an IPA (unless you have a temperature controlled environment). We tried an IPA that had been brewed when it was too hot and it was awful.

The class cost $10 for three hours of hands on brewing (and $5 of it goes towards the purchase of a home brewing kit). The kits are not exactly cheap with the basic kit coming in at about $80 plus the cost of materials (yeast, hops, grain etc…).

Will I be brewing my own beer soon? Absolutely not. When they passed around the containers of hops to smell I took a big whiff and immediately felt sick to my stomach. I turned to my dad and said, “Oh my God this reeks of pot.” He looked took a whiff and said, “Yup, definitely has a pot smell.” We then looked at each other quickly and said, “Not that I would know…” Awkward…. However, I do love hard cider, which apparently, is easier to brew, so I think I might be trying that next.