Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Entre Mujeres Se Puede

Las fundadoras, Laura Rebolloso and Martha Gonzalez.
When the lead singer of my favorite band comes a-calling for a special request to write about her new project, there is no way a super-fan can say no! As much as we are hounded to death to financially support everyone else's jogathon, spring break trip to Nepal, or buy magazines from guitar-playing Xanax junkies, once in a while comes a project that you wish you could fully fund on the spot. Alas, being $9,980 short, I'm doing my part and blasting this far and wide.

Aside from being a Chicana singer/songwriter extraordinaire for the band Quetzal, Martha Gonzalez is also one educated chica. In 2007, Martha was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to head to Veracruz and write songs from a feminine perspective along with collaborator Laura Rebolloso, founder of Son de Madera, a son jarocho group in Veracruz. There Martha and other local women musicians gathered around kitchen tables and living rooms, multitasking songwriting with caring for their children, cooking, and communing with each other. The new feminine jarocho movement was taking shape and the sounds and energy of this experience was captured by Martha using inexpensive, portable, sound-recording equipment. These recordings were brought back to Los Angeles where Martha solicited fellow Angeleno women musicians to add their own flavor to the mix including Rocio Marron, Martha's sister Cava, La Marisoul of La Santa Cecilia, Maya Jupiter, and others. With all the music captured digitally, the call now is to raise funds to mix, master, and press 1,000 copies of the Entre Mujeres CD.

Like Entre Mujeres on Facebook at Facebook.com/EntreMujeresMusic and click on the Kickstarter link here: Kickstarter.com/projects/mgonzalez/entre-mujeres-translocal-musical-dialogues

Las translocal colaboradoras
Performance artist and musician, Maria Elena Gaitan, aka Chola Con Cello, puts the project into perspective, "All of these women are brilliant musicians. Just one or two generations ago, women (let alone Chicanas/Latinas/Mexicanas) had no access to this level of cultural production. It was always hidden, unrecognized, silenced, diminished, limited to playing at home for family gatherings." Even more reason to back this project! It's a do-it-yourself time in history. No one else is going to fund this project. If we as a community can't spare $10 then we're doomed to leave no rich legacy behind for our children and future generations. When our great-grandchildren write their history reports on life in 2012 Los Angeles, what will they say? Chicanos were on Facebook but didn't tweet much except for their leaders Lalo "La Cucaracha" Alcatraz (misspelling included) and I-love-tacos Arellano and some guy named Mexican Mitt. Nothing against these guys, we love them mucho- mucho- mucho- but let's show that women were active, empowered, and self-sufficient in 2012! Let's do this for our daughters (cue the waving flag, patriotic music, and picture of sad wide-eyed Chicanita), our mom's comadres who treated us like their own, and for our abuelitas who were always more than happy to give us their last peso and blessing. Besides, I bet the best tacos were had during the recording of these sessions, just sayin'.

Let us take a cue from Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter campaign, "I hope you will join our Rock n Roll cause . . . this is the future of music  . . . this is how we fucking do it . . . we are the MEDIA." She raised over $1 Million for a new album, tour, and art exhibit! As the HuffPo article says (click link above) "which is an incredible milestone for the female performer." I find this statement sad, for a woman? Ouch! Women rock and women strum and sing, loud and soft and beautifully.

Can we do this? Are you in?

Read more about the project with this Q&A with Martha Gonzalez:

When did you first visit Veracruz?
I have visited Veracruz for many years. On and off for about 13 years or so. The first time I visited was because Quetzal (the band) was invited to El festival Afro-Caribeño. We had however been listening to tapes and CDs of groups that we knew had something to do with El Nuevo Movimiento Jaranero.

What drew you to Veracruz and not, say, Jalisco or an Indigenous reservation in the US?
The music of the son jarocho, and specifically the participatory music and dance practice called the fandango that generates the music of the son jarocho.

Why do you think the jarocho community is more invested in its women than other similar communities?
I don’t think that. I guess I just see so much power there and wanted to engage it on a more intimate level. Songwriting is as intimate as you can get.

Was it easy for the women involved from both sides to open up and trust each other?
Not always. I think they knew my work as a singer for Quetzal, but most importantly I think that for the most part we had already been acquainted through fandango practice. I have practiced in this way many times.

What are the topics of the songs created? Where there common themes that arose or common struggles?
Most of the topics revolve around love. Love for family, for our children, partners, for ourselves. But also childbearing, birthing process etc.

Do you plan on touring to promote the CD?
Yes. I hope. That is the plan.

What happens after the CD is out?
I wanted to not just have it in my files, I want to promote it and possibly find a way to get some grants to put together a mini tour.

What are the names of all the women involved?  
In Mexico: Laura Rebolloso-Cuellar, Kali Niño and Alec Dempster (Café con Pan), Wendy Cao Romero and Tacho Utrera (Los Utreras), Gisella Farias Luna and Gilberto Gutierrez (Mono Blanco), Annahi Hernandez (Son De Madera), Djael Vinaver, Karina Gutierrez-Rojo, Silvia Santos (Hikuri), Violeta Romero (Los Utrera), Rubi Osegura Rueda (Son De Madera), Raquel Vega (Los Vega/Caña Dulce Caña Brava).

In the U.S: Rocio Marron, Tylana Enomoto (Quetzal), Claudia Gonzalez-Tenorio (CAVA), Angela Flores, La Marisoul and Gloria Estrada (La Santa Cecilia), Laura Cambron (Son Del Centro), Maya Jupiter, Carolina Sarmiento (Son Del Centro), Marissa Ronstadt(Monte Carlo 76/The Know it Alls), Shirley Alvarado-del Aguila and Hook Herrera, and Xochi Flores.

Are they all full-time musicians or do they have other occupations? 
Most are not full-time musicians. They are mothers, sisters, workers in varying fields. Like radio shows, teaching, schools etc.

What would be the top 5 words of jarocha/chicana wisdom to women in the US?
I can't decide that alone. And I don’t know if I’ve really figured that one out. lol


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Luna, The Stars and The Moon

Luna at 2 Tracks Studio. Photo by Y. De Leon
This post is not about art saving a young, impressionable boy from the barrio. It's not about how he would be dead right now if not for art. It's not about Highland Park or Mexico City. That would all be superficial, convenient, passive. It all made sense sitting there at 2 Tracks studio which he shares with the equally talented New Mexico artist Pola Lopez, in the Northeast LA neighborhood of Highland Park, watching him move about, waving his hands in the air as if to control its direction and flow. Is there something in that air or is it just the haze in our eyes from a long day winding to a close?

Outside, passersby walk hurriedly against the fading light of day. Teen boys posturing macho bullshit about girls they hope to conquer. Old men lusting after a cold can of beer. Mothers eager to get home. Inside Heriberto Luna paces on edge wondering what I'm about to ask him. He takes me into the Avenue 50 Studio in the next room over. Frank Romero's pastel giclees hang in silence. Familiar cars and streets with city lights and a comforting aesthetic. In between, an examination of what appears to be a rainbow of rust on canvas by Isabel Martinez. Where to begin.

Luna at work. Photo by Abel Gutierrez
Always begin at the beginning, family. Two brothers, three sisters, divorced parents, from Mexico City. As I attempt to delve deeper into his family dynamics, the conversation leads back to his teen years. Growing up in Highland Park, Luna was surrounded by gang activity. His friends and neighborhood kids were gang members. It was part of life to hear bullets ring out nearby, friends getting shot at while riding their bikes, and being asked to join. However, Luna never felt the pressure to join. Instead, he was drawn to the beat of the Aztec drums at nearby community art center Tierra de la Culebra. "That was the first time I saw Aztec dancers," said Luna. "I was 16 and joined Lazaro's dance circle at 19. His was the first Aztec dance group in LA." Luna is a wealth of knowledge taking the history of Aztec dancing in LA back to Florencio Yeska from Mexico City who arrived in LA to do performances. Yeska competed in Pow Wows in the late 1960s and was a consistent winner in the fancy dance category. He realized that dancing in the US was much more lenient than in Mexico. The fancier and faster dances were crowd favorites so he adapted. "Danza was slow. You'd mark the steps to work with the heartbeat of the earth," said Luna. "Florencio studied dance and was a traditional Aztec dancer. His group was called Esplendor Azteca."

H. Luna, Universal Game, 2008
48x60 oil on canvas
Feeling safe at Culebra, Luna started hanging around the center. At the age of 10, Luna was already drawing intricate spaceships that amazed his family. "Tricia Ward was a crazy white lady who bugged me to be part of the program," Luna jokes.  Artists like Leo Limon, Frank Romero, Andy Ledesma, Raul Baltazar and even some graffiti artists were regular mentors at Culebra, but it was Margaret Garcia who recognized Luna's talent and taught him the business side of art. "She taught me how to sell. She was a tough lady. People didn't want to mess with her but she took me in. Not a lot of artists do that. She saw something in me. 'This guy is going to make it" she thought," recalls Luna. By his early 30s, Luna was the Art Director as well as the tree trimmer and gang deflector. "The gang members used to climb up the trees at Culebra to hide so I had to go out there and trim the branches or ask the gang members to leave."

In college, Luna studied art, science, and biology. "I just wanted to learn things," said Luna. "A pre-Columbian class taught by an Aztec dancer from Arizona was the best experience of my life." I being to see the common thread of Mayan and Aztec cultures found in his work today. "My family wasn't supportive. Art to them wasn't a choice. They didn't think I would make it so I became a car salesman in Cerritos." Because Luna was shy, the salesman job helped him come out of his shell. There he learned from the top salesman on how to manipulate people into buying a car. "Don Luis . .  . that guy was intense." Now you can find Luna in front of teenagers at Juvenile Hall teaching a mural class with not a hint of shyness to be found.

H. Luna, The Queen, 2009
36x72 oil on canvas
To see Luna's work in person, is to be transported to another time and galaxy. His celestial Mayan figures and hieroglyphs are bold in size and color saturation. Just like Luna, they let their quiet presence be felt in a room. What calls Luna to juxtapose Mayans and celestial backgrounds and not place them in everyday situations? Where is the Mayan mother with her baby? What about the Mayan farmer looking over his crops? Or does he see them as super-human beings that are watching over us today? "All artists connect with the spiritual side of their art, Van Gogh, Picasso, Diego Rivera, Caravaggio. I feel those artists. The art spoke to them," he says. The spiritual connection to his art is evident. "Only with the study and the teaching of our cultural past, our ancestry, is it possible to accept the strength and spiritual capacities of humanity in the present and future," reads his bio. Could it also be his love of science and movies such as the new Avengers or classics like E.T.  that draws him to super-humans and outerspace?

Behind the serene imagery on his canvases, there's an insatiable quest for knowledge. Luna, like many more people today, feel that there are truths and information about the world that are hidden from us by governments, secret societies, those in power, the 1%. "Even in movies such as The Avengers, if you are a superhero, you are not the one in control. They talk to the elite group. Who are those people?" After about an hour of conspiracy theories, I ask "So, what do you do with the knowledge that things are being kept from us?" Without hesitation, Luna responds, "You talk about it. We have to be conscious about who controls society, the world. There is power in knowledge, in pushing the issue. The Mayans controlled their civilization. Where did they go? That's the million dollar question."

H. Luna, The Stars and The Moon, 2006
36x36 oil on canvas
Perhaps by removing the Mayan figures from earth in his paintings, Luna seeks to infer that their knowledge is above it all, that it cannot be kept secret for long. Perhaps that knowledge, known to the Mayans of our past, is stronger than what is humanly possible to control. Or is it that Luna's own grandmother was a Mayan medicine woman? A powerful healer that people sought out and never accepted a dime in payment for her miraculous services. Was that her way of rejecting a capitalist society? Or was it that she was so giving that the taking of her legacy stirs Luna enough to learn about it and explore it on his canvas? Is it that art is a process and not the final product? It seems every time I visit, he has a new concept to work on. What first started off as a study in saturation and textures, turned into the addition of hieroglyphs within each figure. Now he has something new up his sleeve. What it is, only time will reveal. More celestial Mayans? I hope so.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Letter to Lydia

My daughter never ceases to amaze me with the words that come out of her mouth. I've always seen her as an alien from another world that I am charged with introducing to this one. As I've mentioned before, I have a twitter account for her called Lydia_said. There I post her memorable quotes of the day. Today, she said off-the-cuff, "Mom, I love you. I don't want you to die, but you will." What does one say to that? We've talked about death before and she's still a bit obsessed with it. I know she thinks about it often. So I thought that perhaps I should write this letter to her  . . . in case. I plan on living until I'm in my 80s or 90s but I'd hate to leave Earth without writing a letter that she can read when she's grown, just in case.

My Dear Lydia,

What can I say to the grown-up you that you don't already know. You've always been very intuitive and understood things way beyond your years. You just turned 6 years old yet you are an old, wise, soul. I haven't censored you from the realities of life as much as I'd like because you seem to grasp concepts and life itself with clear understanding. I am amazed by your wit, negotiating skills, and persuasive arguments. One of your pre-school teachers advised me that you should become a lawyer. You definitely have the verbal skills, logic, and drive to argue your case and win. You often win. Mainly you argue reasons why you should have dessert after dinner. Just today, you made me dizzy and confused by stating all the reasons for having a chocolate treat despite having had two time-outs in school. Somehow, it made all the sense in the world and you got your chocolate, but mainly because I wanted some too. We love dark chocolate with almonds but tonight we had it with raisins, dropped it in a bowl of popcorn so it could melt over it, and watched The Addams Family Values, or as you call it, the film where the kids are mean to the little brother.

You love to cuddle with my arm around your neck and your head on my chest, but you're so wiggly that it doesn't last long. Before you know it, you're standing on the rocking chair attempting to jump onto the couch. So full of energy. Your bedtime is 8:30pm. You like to be read a book or listen to the iPod Nano I gave you with your favorite artists on it. First on your Favorites list is Michael Jackson followed by Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, Rhianna, one song by Sergio Mendez and Wil I Am called The Heat. The last song is Vicente Fernandez's Estos Celos. This is the first song you sang at 18 months old. You were sitting in the high chair as grandma cooked in the kitchen with the radio on. You tossed your head back, closed your eyes tight and sang "Ahhhhmooooh". I was so proud because Vicente was my idol. I grew up with his songs and most importantly it said that you had that love of Mexican music inside of you. It meant something to me to have that be your first song. Coincidence? Maybe, but it warmed my heart. You still love that song.

I've always lamented that I haven't been able to take you to Mexico. There have been several opportunities every time we visit Texas, but the drug war along the border in Laredo have made me not want to risk it. I'm sure we would be fine but even the small risk is not worth it to me and it breaks my heart to not have you touch Anahuac soil, to visit the home of my grandparents or that of my parents which they still have there. I'd love for you to step on soil that cradles my aunts, uncles, and grandparents. They're all in the same cemetery in Rodriguez, NL. It's a small, dusty town, but it's home. I also need to be more diligent about teaching you Spanish. You claim to hate it but I know it's only because you don't understand it. It's my fault. I promise to try harder. I can't imagine you growing up not speaking Spanish. You do like Armenian and claim to know a few words your classmates taught  you. You learned Happy Birthday in Armenian in pre-school and can still recall some of the words. The more languages you speak, the better.

You also love dancing. You took a hip hop dance class in kindergarten and will probably go again in 1st grade. You were also in gymnastics but I took you out once you got bored with it. I think you'd still be great at it. Another thing that amazes me is that you love to make up songs. I can't wait for you to write your own. I've mentioned it to you but we haven't sat down to write just yet. You're very good at rhyming on the spot even if you have to make up words. In pre-school, you anguished over what to be when you grew up, a princess or a singer. I said you could be both but I don't think you were convinced. You often wonder who you're going to marry asking me how to buy a house and what exactly was dating. After explaining that dating is when a boy has money and takes you out to eat or a movie and spend time together, you said "Yes, I want to do that!" I rather enjoy your quest for knowledge of the working/adult world. According to you, you're ready to hit the stage and perform. You ask when will you get that opportunity. There is so much I have to do for you right now. I could fill up the whole week with activities and classes that interest you, not to mention karate. Bruce Lee is your hero "even if he never saved me," you proclaimed. You love watching Enter the Dragon. I mean really, you do. I get to stand back and allow you to be exposed to that which inspires you. I'm constantly in awe, shock, and impressed by these out-of-left-field surprises.

I have no doubt you will be successful and go on to have a great career, multiple-careers for that matter. I just hope I steer you in the right direction. I'm always taking cues from you. You never give up. You love what you do and do it with passion and confidence. I admire you for that. It gives me confidence as well. I know you will do what you love and not settle for anything else. I hope nothing on this planet ever destroys your drive. Things happen in life and sometimes people's fire get burned out and I will guard your flame with all that I am and all that I have. This I promise you and by the time you read this, I hope I didn't let you down. I love you.

Mom


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

La Vida Yaya

LA Sunset by Abel Gutierrez
I had a blogger epiphany today. I realized I could purchase my own domain name for only $10 a year so I said, sure, what the heck. But I'm a Libra! Wholly indecisive. How will I pick a name? This blog has already had two names, now a third? Well, I figured it's not that popular yet, but judging from the hit count and comments I get on Facebook, Twitter, and here, I thought, wow, it could happen. Plus, the domain name was available. Score! So here goes, my own domain name . . .

Allow me to introduce you to LA Vida Yaya! I wanted to keep "LA" in the title to reference Los Angeles. It's also in Spanish and has my nickname. It's a play on La Vida Loca which I can relate to at times. I'm just happy it came to me so quickly and I didn't spend days agonizing over it, changing my mind in good Libra fashion. So that's it! No changing it! I got it for a year. My old links still work. They just redirect here. Wow, this blogging is serious business. I hope I can keep up! As long as you keep reading, I'll keep writing.

Oh and I'd like to send a huge thanks to Abel Gutierrez for allowing me to steal yet another amazing LA skyline pic. I love the sunset, the classic car going over the 6th Street bridge from East LA/Boyle Heights into downtown. Imagine I'm the one driving. Great stuff!

Thank you all for reading. I'm working on a couple of more fashion blogs and trying to nail down some interview time with a couple of you lost-track-of-time artists. You know who you are!

Salud!

La Blogger Yaya

Friday, May 4, 2012

Allow Me to Bragg About It

I had a great opening line for this post but now I can't remember. Ah, aging. Ain't it great? One day you're fun, and young, and free and the next you've gained 50lbs of baby weight and insert-other-reasons-here. Then, instead of drinking the night away with all your carefree friends, you're stuck at home writing a blog about it. As with anyone, the past few years have been a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs. I wound up with back problems that took about three years to figure out. During that time, I was scared to move for fear of re-injuring myself, at least that is what the doctors had me believe. This past December I got the news I wanted, needed, to hear.

As most curvy girls can relate, this isn't my first attempt to lose weight. Countless Weight Watchers sessions, reading up on trendy diets, fasting, raw diet, 3-day diet, yoga, you name it, has led to temporary results. So what makes this time different? It is about pain management. The more weight I lose and the stronger my abs/core get, the better off my back will be. As I sit here, I am in some pain as the Naproxin sets in. My goal is to stop taking pain pills and never have surgery. Besides, I'm back to a weight I'm comfortable in and look good.

Last week, I reached my second goal on this journey. My initial goal was 10lbs and that came off pretty fast in about a month. Now I'm at 20lbs lost which took about another two months. Of course, this is a journey, and I'm about half way to my pie-in-the-sky goal. You know, the goal you dream about but never think could be a reality. But after the past few months, I have started to allow myself to do a tiny, microscopic dance of joy at the thought that it could happen. Wouldn't it be great to be at my comfortable weight again, I thought back in January when I started going to the gym. Well, here I am and I'm going for more!

So how is it that I lost 20lbs since January? I read everything and stopped listening to everyone! I found my motivation after the doctor's visit and didn't look back. I must emphasize that I would not have been able to do this without the drive. It took YEARS for me to get my brain to click and put my wish into motion. The head game is the first obstacle and it's tough! The next step was to take the best ideas from everything I've ever heard/read/learned/done and do my own thing.

Since people have started to notice my weight loss and are asking what I've done, I realized that the answer is more involved than just saying Weight Watchers, Atkins, or 3-day diet. So, I decided to write about it. I'm not trying to brag about it. In fact, I've been sitting on this post for over a week, wondering if I have the courage to put myself out there like this. I realize that I'm not alone in this struggle and that I have had a breakthrough—a life-changing, life-affirming breakthrough. Take from this what you like and leave the rest. Do YOUR thing (not mine necessarily).

FIRST STEPS
I started off by assessing my food intake and deciding what was going in and particularly, what wasn't. I decided that dairy made me feel awful and carbs were too addicting so I cut them out. This may or may not work for everyone but it did for me and I feel good. Next I decided that I like lightly steamed veggies and I also liked salads . . .  my salads, . . . the way I make them. So I went to Trader Joe's and found pre-packaged, chopped veggies that were easy to use in stir frys and salads. I decided that on weekends, I could still enjoy my breakfasts that I make despite my ban on dairy. I was going to have my eggs and eat them too. And yes, this includes the whole wheat tortilla. I also decided that I would stop eating "diet" food. No more Lean Cusines, no more splenda, no more food with more than 5 ingredients I can't pronounce. I cut out the processed food and decided to eat whole food. Apples, oranges, almonds, chicken on the bone (anything but the pink slime), corn on the cob, edamame, 75% cacao chocolate, etc. I also cut out Diet Coke which was already on my list many years ago but I had to reaffirm it because Diet Coke is so addicting. I may still enjoy it but will not buy the 2 liters or have it in the house. If I want soda I grab Hansen's made from sugar cane or Jarritos with that awesome Mexican sugar. I'm just not having soda every day. One can once a week, maybe.

So here is the breakdown with the various components to my new eating habit.The thing to note is that these are not rules. They are guidelines I keep in mind. If I stray once in a while and have a couple of those delicious Kings Hawaiian fluffy breads from heaven, no biggie!

HYDRATE
Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar. So good for you!
First things first, hydrate! Yes, I know, water is soooo boring! Ugh!! Don't go out and buy that Crystal Light powder crap. I have to credit KPFK's The Aware Show for having Patricia Bragg on a couple of years ago (This is what I'm really bragging about). I was driving around when I heard this wonderful, energetic, full-of-life woman preach on about the wonders of a healthy living. Having a bad short-term memory I strained my brain to remember BRAGG DOT COM with two G's! There I was introduced to the wonders of apple cider vinegar. I placed an order for a great package of vinegar, salad dressing, spices and books. I mix the apple cider vinegar with honey and distilled water. Mix it up to taste in a large water bottle and place in fridge. Drink it morning, noon, and night, and take it to the gym. It tastes great and gives you a natural boost of energy. I used to drink Monster energy drink always wondering what that nuclear-green Chernobyl drink contained but not anymore! I'm having some apple cider drink now. Even better, you can buy it already in a bottle at your local Sprout's. I'll be talking about Bragg throughout this post so remember the name and visit the website!

Another great way to stay hydrated is to drink tea. Hot or cold, noon or night, tea in any variety is good for you. Just avoid the sugar. You can do without it (including the aspartame).

MOVE
Let's get physical! So 80s at the gym.
Secondly, figure out what physical activity you can squeeze into your day. You've heard about walking to your co-worker's cubicle instead of emailing them, taking the stairs on the way UP, parking at the end of the parking lot, and other mundane, boring things you'd rather NOT do. So think about what you LIKE to do, and not just ONE thing but MANY things. Luckily for me, I actually do enjoy going to the gym so that wasn't too hard of a choice. I can go for a long time on the treadmill and that is where I started. First 30 minutes are cardio, then I hit the muscle machines rotating arms, legs, back, and other muscles that were interesting to discover. Read all the machines and know what they're supposed to work and how to properly do the motions. Start easy with 10lbs and 5 reps then move on. No one is watching or counting so do what you want to do. After a few visits, I worked up the courage to try the elliptical. I still had bad flashbacks of trying it in the past and dying after 5 minutes so I was very hesitant. I went for 10 minutes and it wasn't so bad. Now I can do 30 minutes before I get bored and need to move on but I'm not huffing and puffing at the 15 minute mark anymore. Little by little, you'll make progress. Don't get overwhelmed. Just do what you WANT (remove the pressure and let down of not accomplishing what you SHOULD).

Hiking in Griffith Park
I also tried hiking. Since I have my kid, and babysitters get expensive, I took her along. I didn't sweat as much but she sure did and we were moving for 30 minutes to an hour. It's better than sitting on the couch all day. Plus, you're out in nature. We need to be out there, clear our heads, and connect to mother earth now and then. On my lunch break, I cross the street from the museum and walk around the zoo (when I wear comfy shoes). The LA Zoo is uphill so you do get a good work out and no sweating unless the sun is beaming. You can stop and check out the animals or sit at a bench. You don't have to power through it. The point is to get your body moving, get some sun and fresh air. Another favorite of my daughter's is the beach. Walking on that sand is a workout! Lugging blankets, toys, towels and snacks? Just consider it weight training! Even if you just lay out or walk along the shore, you're out and moving. My daughter gets a great workout running from the waves. We also walk the grounds of the Huntington. It's so relaxing and beautiful. LACMA also has an extensive campus. Take your walking shoes and become inspired by art while you move. And if you're stuck at home, on the couch, watching TV, grab your weights and do some curls during commercials. There's also a handy app called Easy Abs by Lolo. It's a 5- or 8-minute ab workout. This way, you're not faced with making time to exercise, you're incorporating it into YOUR lifestyle and likes.

FOOD, DELICIOUS TEMPTING FOOD
Best dressing ever
This HAS to be toughest part of losing weight, food! We love it, we crave it, we think about it all the time! One place to start is by snacking on fruit. I find cold fruit to taste the best. Cold, crisp, sliced apples and pears are easy to munch on and so refreshing. I save bananas for breakfast. Just grab and go. No cooking needed. My next step was discovering the great variety to be had in salads. Yes, salads are soooo boring. But not if you find out what tastes good in them. I buy the American salad mix at Trader Joe's (pick whatever appeals to you) because it's good and cheap. I go down the aisle and grab up their chopped cabbage, coleslaw mix of carrots and green strings (just realized I don't know what veggie it is), chopped mushrooms, and whatever else is in season. The wonders of this Trader Joe's aisle is that everything is prepackaged and chopped up, ready to go. I grab handfuls from each bag and toss into a large bowl. I'll add anything from apple slices, walnuts, sunflower seeds, to chicken, tabouli, calamata olives, crumbled up cheese, but the piece de resistance is the Bragg Ginger and Sesame dressing. It's so good that even my daughter started eating lettuce because of it. "I just want to drink the whole bottle!" she says. It costs a little more than your average salad dressing but it is worth every penny! Besides, I'm saving quite a bit on groceries after cutting down on the junk. Best of all, you can get it at Ralph's and Sprouts. I asked the Trader Joe's guy why they didn't carry it. He said to suggest it on their website. Will do!

Other salad toppings I enjoy include red beans, garbanzos, and I often top them off with avocado slices. Another salad option is a scoop of tuna salad on top of a chunky tomato salsa and mixed greens. Top the tuna with some Tabasco or Tapatio hot sauce and yum! On a side note, I also buy a tub of chopped salsa that I add to almost everything. It's a great way to add more veggies to omelets, chicken, quesadillas, etc.

For dinner, I might make a stir fry with chicken or shrimp using veggies such as carrots, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, and the coleslaw mix. First, I fry up chopped onions, minced garlic and carrots in extra virgin olive oil. Then I add the brussell sprouts and any other veggie that take longer to cook. Last is the cabbage. The key to making a good stir fry is the spices and sauces. I use rice vinegar and oyster sauce. Once I pour the steamy mix onto my plate, I squeeze a line of Sriracha on the side of the plate for dipping. Delicious!

DO NOT EAT LIST
What I avoid: dairy, processed foods, greasy meats, and carbs. I may have some of each now and then but removing dairy from my diet has helped a lot. I didn't think it would but I can feel the difference. Dairy always made me sluggish and bloated. Not so much anymore. I also decided not to eat processed food including all that diet fare. First of all, it taste terrible. Secondly, it tastes terrible! Who knows what chemicals and unnatural ingredients are in there. I avoid aspartame. Instead I opt for full fat butter, fizzy regular Jarritos (I can't believe they came out with a diet version. Just wrong!), and the turbinado cane sugar for my coffee. Soda is hard to give up but I will have some once in a blue moon. Again, I'm not restricting myself at all. If I want it, I have it. At the same time, I think, do I want to eat/drink this, or do I want smaller hips? Once you start to see your body change, that answer comes easy.

SUPPLEMENTS
I'm not a big follower of supplements but if you have your daily vitamins, do your thing. One thing I do recommend is buying a big can of psyllium husk. It's a ground up seed that you can add to almost anything you're eating. It doesn't taste like anything and is a great way to get fiber in your diet. Just don't add it to cereal. There you can taste the crunch. Not so good. I add it to my daughter's home-made smoothies and quesadillas and she doesn't notice it one bit.

ON THE WEEKEND
Ah, the weekend. A time to relax and enjoy the good things in life. Well, my ideal weekend involves my delicous omelets. Yes, I am avoiding dairy but I can't let go of this! I make all kids of omelets topped with anything from nopalitos (cactus), soyrizo, migas (fried tortilla chips--not store bought), to bell peppers, red/orange peppers, chunky salsa, avocado, sriracha, you name it. Add a side of pinto beans, a whole wheat tortilla and some good coffee and I'm set.

FATS
Extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocado. I basically fry everything in EVOO to my heart's content. I know the Greeks were on to something so I'll do my thing until the research catches up. In fact, I did read somewhere that EVOO does not make you fat or clog your arteries. Plus, it's more expensive than regular frying oils that you don't go too crazy with it either. I also like to eat almonds. Whole Foods in Pasadena (which I hardly get around to) had these amazing roasted almonds coated in either Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar or their Liquid Aminos, can't recall. Either way, I was in heaven! They were so delicious. I have to go back for more.

TREATS
My favorite treat is chocolate. I have become a chocolate snob opting for dark chocolate containing 75-85% cacao. My favorite is the one with sea salt. I eat at will. For my daughter, I make smoothies. I buy the frozen fruit bags, mainly strawberries, pour 2 cups of them in the blender, add about 1 cup of non-fat vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup of fat free milk, a few teaspoons of turbinado sugar, a tablespoon of psyllium husk and blend. I serve her one glass and put the rest in the freezer for a cool after-school treat. My kid loves it!

FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM
As my favorite Weight Watchers leader, Rosa in Burbank, would say "Strive for 5! Strive for 5!" Don't worry about the big picture. Strive for your first 5lbs then strive for another 5. Small steady steps will get you to your goal. Don't get defeated. Find your motivation and your inspiration. The rest will follow.


So there you have it. I hope I didn't miss anything and if I did, fire away! Ask me anything.