Blurred Mason Jar Lines

I know, I know. You’re over mason jars the same amount you’re over Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Me, too. [Ignore the fact that I just used them as vases for Grace’s bridal shower… cut me some slack, we were going budget-friendly, aiite?!]

And yet. If you go on Pinterest there are ONE MILLION IDEAS FOR MASON JARS. No seriously, that’s the name of one of the boards I found.

Out of those ONE MILLION IDEAS out there, here are the 5 that I find legitimately cool/useful/pretty. So basically the opposite of this. Here they are:

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With Lovely‘s mason jar flower shelf. Such an awesome idea! Her DIY tutorial here.

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Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body‘s mini pear tarts in mason jar lids. Usually the lids get no love. Genius. Recipe here.

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Healthy.Happy.Life‘s mason jar salads. Four (vegan) recipes here. Also check out The Daily Muse for 4 more (non-vegan) recipes here. I’m so doing this.

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Pegagadget‘s mason jar salt & pepper shakers. Adorbz! Buy here, $15.

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Free People blog‘s sun jars (solar powered lamps). Freaking cool. DIY tutorial here. Or buy for $40 here.

You can wade through the rest of the one million ideas on Pinterest. Promising myself to move away from mason jar vases… as soon as I finish listening to Blurred Lines. Sigh.

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Rita’s Water Ice

Am I the only one who’s never heard of Rita’s? Apparently it’s an Italian ice/frozen custard franchise that’s allllll over the east coast, and is now popping up on the best coast as well (CA, NV, UT, AZ). When I heard a foodie friend talk about how it had opened in La Canada (which is nearby-ish), I wanted to check it out.

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The store had 12 flavors of Italian (water) ice, though the website boasts 40 (!) flavors, so perhaps they rotate out their flavors. It also had 6 flavors of frozen custard– vanilla, chocolate, vanilla-chocolate twist, strawberry, light vanilla, and strawberry-light vanilla twist. Once again, the website has more flavors. Check them out here.

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Rita’s is best known for the Gelati, which is a layering of frozen custard on the bottom of the cup, Italian ice in the middle, and topped with more frozen custard. You can read all the descriptions of their options above, but I got the Gelati with “Alex’s lemonade” Italian ice and vanilla custard. [[Read about who “Alex” is here— Rita’s partners with a charity dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancers– pretty cool.]]

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I was actually surprised by how delicious it was. I’ve had both frozen custard and Italian ice in the past, but the combination was pretty ridic. The Italian ice was similar to shave ice (the legit kind, not an icy snow cone), and the vanilla frozen custard was kind of like a McDonald’s vanilla cone… but creamier. And better.

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La Canada is in the boonies (sorry to all my LC friends– I know ya’ll have crazy LC pride), but there’s also a few more locations in SoCal, including Santa Monica, listed on their website here. I’m definitely going back. Maybe tomorrow.

Tina Made an Owl Hand Warmer

In this 90+ degree heat, I’ve decided to make a craft that will be totally useless for another few months. Or totally useless for… life. Haters gon’ hate.

This “heart warmer” has been on my “to-make” list since I saw it 2 winters ago. It’s a reusable hand warmer in the shape of a heart (filled with rice– stick it in the microwave to heat). However, I like owls and thought it would be (almost) equally easy to make it in an owl shape rather than a heart. But then I Googled “owl hand warmer” and of course, multiple hits came up, like this and this. Damn, it’s hard to be creative slash unique in the crafting world. Ah well. Here’s my take anyway.

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SOOOO this project ended up taking 29032x longer than I originally anticipated. It’s actually quite easy, and all the sewing went by quickly (both by hand and machine)— until I had to deal with the cotton floral fabric (the rest is obvi felt). Something about the small pieces of thin cotton was just unmanageable to me and I was so.frustrated. Also my sewing machine jammed about 23x which was so.frustrating. And I wasted time trying out embroidery thread for the border and ended up removing it all (because it was ugly) which was also.. wait for it.. so.frustrating. Ack.

I think now that I’ve made it once though, I can do it again 10x faster (assuming I won’t have the same set of issues), but if you ask me… I’m kinda over hand warmers and owls at this point. But if youuuu want to try, here are the basic steps:

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1) Draw a basic pattern for what you want your owls to look like. I chose a square-ish shape and an oval-ish shape, and ended up going with the former– about 2.5″x3.5″.

2) Draw and cut out a template onto card stock for the body and eyes. (Note that in the picture above-right, I have a stencil for the wings as well– I ended up not using that). I free-handed the pupils and the beak and thus did not need stencils for those.

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3) Trace all stencils onto your felt (I used a black pen) and cut out– you’ll need two pieces for the body (front/back), and two eyes. Also, cut out two pupils and a beak. Using pinking shears, cut two wings in quarter-circle-ish pieces from fabric. You can use felt for this part too, but I think the fabric looks a lot better.

4) Either hand-sew or use a sewing machine to sew on eyes and beak. I used a machine for the white eyeballs and hand-sewed the pupils and beak.

(…..seriously all of this was super fast and easy up to this point)

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5) Pin the two wings onto the front of the body. Sew just the innermost part of the wings (the CURVED parts) to the body. Then, tuck the outer edges of the fabric behind/underneath the felt, sandwiching the edges of the fabric between the two pieces of the body.

6) Sew (I used a machine) along the border of the entire owl, leaving a 1/2″ space for you to fill with rice. I left my hole at the very bottom.

7) Fill owl with uncooked rice (did I really have to specify “uncooked”?… yes, just in case), then hand-sew the hole closed.

To use, microwave for 20 seconds then… Hold in your hands. Put in your pocket. Caress against your face. Yay!

I really felt like steps 5 and 6 were the hardest parts– keeping the fabric where it was supposed to be while sewing along the border of the owl with the felt pieces nicely lined up. I may have had more issues because the edges of my felt were holey and stretched out from hand-sewing embroidery thread for my first time around the owl.

Ah well. Frustrations aside, I think it turned out pretty cute.

But next time, I’m sticking with the original heart shape………. too bad there won’t be a next time. 😉

An Ethiopian Well

Two and a half-ish years ago, when I turned 26, I decided to “give up” my birthday. A few months prior to that birthday, I had heard a compelling presentation at church by Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, explaining his organization and how the average person could help towards the cause of providing clean water to EVERYONE in the entire WORLD. Instead of throwing a party or asking for gifts, I asked my friends and family for donations of $26 each… and I raised $832!

Charity: water has promised the general public that 100% of their donations go directly to the field to fund clean water projects, with their operating expenses being covered solely by private donors, foundations, and sponsers. It’s a model pretty unique to charities, and they even “prove” each dollar when the projects are complete by providing photos and GPS coordinates via Google Earth.

This past July, I finally got my “proof” (2.5 years later– I believe they promise you proof within 1.5 years but… shrug. As long as it happens…). The money raised by my friends and family helped to build a well in Ethiopia at Arara Ogero Primary School, serving 458 people! Check out the images below (they are screenshots– click for the full view images).

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Pretty sweet huh?!

The N.Y. Times actually posted this article last month (thanks for the tip, Ryan C!) about Harrison and charity: water if you’re interested in learning more, or check out their website to give up your own birthday.

Tropicalia Brazilian Grill

Quick, Top 5 restaurants in LA!

Yeah. right. This question is pretty much impossible to answer. Anyone who’s lived in or visited LA knows the massively large selection and variety of food here. Skimming through Jonathan Gold’s 2013 list of 101 Best Restaurants gives you a good sense of that. “If you take into account Los Angeles’ superb produce, its breathtaking diversity and its imagination, it can be one of the most pleasurable places to eat on Earth.” – L.A. Times. 

ON EARTH!! Indeed.

Regardless, if I absolutely HAD to make a Top 5 list, like someone was FORCING me (honestly, in what situation would this ever happen?! Just humor me -_-), I would probably choose not restaurants, but specific dishes. Likeeeeee the ‘Bife Tropicalia’ at Tropicalia Brazilian Grill in Los Feliz.

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It’s tucked away in a small space diagonally across the street from The Alcove (a better-recognized restaurant in Los Feliz), and has authentic (to my knowledge?) Brazilian dishes. Like the Bife Tropicalia, above  (get it with rice & beans, not french fries!).

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A Korean-Brazilian friend first brought me here a few years ago (so there’s gotta be some level of legit-ness to the place), and I’ve come back over and over to order the same dish. I honestly can’t speak for the rest of the dishes, so Yelp might be more helpful (a solid 4 stars). Oh, except for the sangria. The sangria is also dangerously delicious.

Cute place, nice ambience, and usually no problem getting seated. Top 5 fo’ sho.

Kayaks & Crabs

Last Wednesday, I cancelled all of my plans for the day to take a spontaneous day ‘trip’ (<1 hour away) with my girlfriends to Redondo Beach. On the agenda: kayaks + crabs (of the edible sort).

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The four of us rented 2 double kayaks from Rocky Point, a company in a secluded area of R.B. (away from the touristy pier). Rentals were $35 per double kayak for 2 hours, though the guy manning the store said “take your time” as if he didn’t really care (he didn’t). There was also an option to do stand-up paddleboarding, but we decided to save that for another time. For me, a time when I wouldn’t mind possibly falling in the water. -_-

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Though hot in L.A., the weather was PERFECT in the South Bay. As it was a weekday afternoon, we were the only ones on the water, sans a lone paddleboarder. I love that I have fellow unemployed/flexible-work-schedule friends. Yeee.

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I don’t think we even lasted the full two hours. Man, kayaking is a work-out. Our arms were super sore after an hour or so. The website says, “An hour’s workout will burn about 400 calories, builds upper body muscles including pects and lats.” Guess I better come more often…

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There were a bunch of seals we kayaked around. They were smelly. And very loud. They made sounds like… dying dinosaurs. Or what I would imagine dying dinosaurs to sound like. Still, pretty cute, in a weird not-objectively-cute-but-they’re-SEALS kind of way.

After kayaking, we headed over to the pier to have an early dinner at Pacific Fish Center & Restaurant. You know, that really famous Korean restaurant that serves ginormous crabs with mallets and paper plates and bibs. Okay, well if you’re Asian or have lived in a 50 mile vicinity of R.B., you know what I’m talking about. SO.RIDIC.DELICIOUS.

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Before we had our crab, we had these steamed baby octopi. I know what half of you are thinking. SO GROSS. The other half… SO GOOD.

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Left: A baby baby-octopus and potentially it’s mother. Or father. So tragic. Right: bottoms up! They taste a lot better than they look. Just close your eyes.

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YUM. So much deliciousness to be had. We devoured this. And then, we walked along the pier and had churros with caramel sauce, at a place that claimed to have the WORLD’S-BEST-CHURROS. They were not the world’s best. False advertising. But they were good. AND then we had mint chocolate chip and cookies and cream gelato. Fatties for the win!

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A perfect summer day! I love SoCal. 🙂 [[PS- My Cal hat was borrowed from Renee. Go Bruins. ;)]]