Talking with Oscar Nominee, Steve Emerson from Kubo and the Two Strings.

With The Academy Awards rolling into Hollywood this weekend, there is certainly a roster of diverse films hoping to get their gold man. While I’ve not seen many of the nominated films this year, one I have seen and loved was Best Animated Film nominee, Kubo and the Two Strings.

From the creative brains who brought you Coraline, The Box Trolls and ParaNorman, Kubo tells the story of a young Japanese boy who’s Father, a samurai warrior, was killed when he was a baby and is survived by his strong, yet ill, Mother. Living atop of a mountain, Kubo journeys into his village daily while the sun is out to create magical stories through the art of origami and his shamisen (thus, his two strings).

When tragedy and turmoil strike as Kubo’s family are evil and we learn his Mom has been hiding out and protecting him from her family, Kubo is left to fight off these enemies on his own yet with the helpful assistance of a mysterious monkey (appropriately named Monkey), and a Beetle who claims to be an amnesiac samurai who was cursed to take the form of a beetle and says to have been Kubo’s dad’s apprentice.

Kubo and the Two Strings was such a fantastic story of finding yourself and holding onto the importance of family and those you love, as well as paying great homage to the Obon Festival and Japanese culture. Boasting a great cast that includes Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and George Taikai, I was thrilled that shortly after seeing Kubo, the opportunity arose to have a chat with Oscar-Nominated VFX Supervisor of the film, Steve Emerson.

 

Speaking from his office in Portland at Laika Studios, we were quick to want to get the skinny on the morning he got word he was nominated for an Academy Award, and if he is prepared should he win?? “I don’t have a speech. Its been so busy and so exciting. I haven’t really had a few moments to start thinking about that. The moment where I found out. It was like 5 in the morning, I was watching a streaming with my wife and son, sitting on the couch, drinking coffee, when we found out. Its been such a long process. Theres so much dedication from all the artists involved. you put years into your life for (these movies).” Emerson explains, “I would just say I’m intensely connected to all of these films (from Laika). So at that moment when we found out that we were being recognized, it all hit me at once. I broke down a little bit, and unbeknownst to me, my wife got a picture of me crying and put it right on Facebook!”

Despite all the glitz and glamour and Hollywood treatment from The Academy, Emerson also explained that Laika Studios is simply a small, independent stop motion studio working out of a warehouse, and that their visual effects team reckons more the size of the lighting team on most feature films. Fiercely admiring  his peers and fellow Nominees works, Emerson says “Its incredible, really incredible” to be among the best.

Another question on our minds was: How does an LA live action effects guy with a resume that includes Matrix Reloaded and The Dark Knight find himself at a slow motion studio in Portland?!

“I’d spent a long time working in live action visual effects down in LA. My family and I were looking for a change and wanted to relocate to Portland. I spent the better part of a year commuting from there to LA, not an ideal situation. Then, I happened to hear from a friend that this studio called Laika was working on a feature film called Coraline and I should look into that. I was fortunate to go to a “Look at Laika” night and they hired me within a few weeks to contribute to Coraline. I had very little to no experience with stop motion production but had a background in live action.”

Fast forward nearly a decade later, and Emerson has worked his magic on the Laika roster of films ever since.

Such a huge thanks to Steve Emerson, and Focus Features for including me on this fantastic round table interview. Here’s hoping I will soon be able to say we have featured an Academy Award winner on Along Comes Mary! 😉

10 Valentine’s Day Date Ideas (& Giveaway ends 2-13!).

I know what you may possibly be thinking…Valentine’s Day?! The greeting card holiday?! Or, I am single! I can’t do this stuff! While, maybe, hopefully, some of you are eager to read about some Valentine’s Day ideas and my pretty sweet giveaway I have for you, I also hope you agree with some of these thoughts I had for super awesome and fun getaways, and places to wine and dine. All of these options would be excellent with your friends, too (Galentine’s Day, anyone??). Read on and good luck with the giveaway, too 🙂

GETAWAYS

Cruise on down the coast for Valentine’s Day in San Diego and stay at one of the best 5 diamond resorts in California, and the nation, for that matter, at Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Currently running a “Do Not Disturb” package through February 11th which includes a one night stay, a $50 food and beverage credit, complimentary bottle of champagne and strawberries amenity and in-room movie. Learn more HERE.

An often overlooked getaway destination, Sacramento is booming with culture, great food and wine, and some adorable boutique hotels and my favorite, The Amber House Bed and Breakfast. Minutes from the State Capitol, and convenient to walk to several activities, The Amber House is an amazing experience that includes a fresh breakfast brought to your room each morning. With several packages currently being offered, check out The Exquisite Dinner and Lodging package.

Gluten free French toast served in your room at The Amber House.

If leaving Fido home for Valentine’s Day is out of the question, consider a few nights at Carmel by-the-Sea’s pet friendly Hofsas House. A favorite here at Along Comes Mary, Hofsas is currently offering a “sweet” deal that when you  stay for at least two nights with them, you will receive a box of local Lula’s Chocolates and a Hofsas House logo tote bag to welcome you! Book HERE.

If you’re an Angelino looking for a local getaway, drive over Route 66 to Claremont, a hidden gem here in SoCal. The DoubleTree Resort is a gorgeous, newly renovated and modern home away from home that i’ve had the pleasure of staying with twice now and along with Downtown Claremont just a few miles away, you have The Piano Piano Bar, a Dinner and Theatre venue and a Trader Joe’s all within the hotel’s parking lot, making it perfect to simply park your car and hang out at the complex. With their Celebration package, get a bottle of sparkling wine, breakfast and a late check-out. Get all the details and book HERE.

WINE and DINE

Reserve a gorgeous table over looking the water and harbor at Cafe Del Rey in Marina Del Rey. Easily one of the best restaurants I’ve come across in LA as of late, Cafe’s Chef David Vilchez is a master in the kitchen and dedicated to ensuring each plate leaves you wanting more of his creations. With their Valentine’s Day dinner, choose from such decadent dishes like a 10 oz steak, salmon or lobster tail. Lets not even mention the strawberry panna cotta. Check out the menu HERE.

A cozy table for two at District Wine Bar.

Nothing like the custom build mac and cheese at Stacked.

If you do head for a Northern California getaway, do yourself a favor and spend the day in Cambria and dine at Linn’s Restaurant. Whether you stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Aaron and his amazing staff are sure to treat you like family and their Olallieberry-centric desserts (many gluten-free) are the ideal sweet treat for Valentine’s Day!

A place to see a piece of history in the middle of Downtown LA is no other than San Antonio Winery. Always a fabulous time, San Antonio offers daily wine tasting, tours, delicious cuisine at Maddalena Restaurant, a coffee shop and bistro and, of course, their beautiful gift shop. San Antonio would be an ideal Valentine’s Day date.

Down in Long Beach, treat yourself to some beach time, stroll with your love on Belmont Shore’s 2nd Street, then drive down Ocean boulevard to Downtown and plan an afternoon at District Wine Bar. One of the first wine bars to ever invite Along Comes Mary to do a feature, District Wine is one of those places that feels like you’re with family. Mark and Angela Dunton launched District Wine in Long Beach’s funky Arts District in 2010, and have been hosting memories in the making ever since. From daily happy hours to Sunday mimosa brunch, make a reservation NOW to cozy up to your sweetie this Valentine’s Day!

If you’re looking to have a laid back Valentines Day (granted, it is on a Tuesday so getaways will probably have to be on a weekend), take your Valentine to STACKED: Food Well Built. With several California locations (Including Thousand Oaks and Huntington Beach), make it a fun evening by having you and your sweetie order for each other. At Stacked, you order and customize your meal on an iPad! (Psst, great gluten-free options, too).

A NIGHT IN

If you are more the type to have a cozy and romantic evening at home (or if it better fits your budget), why not try surprising your love with homemade chocolates? Or, better yet, make a recipe together or surprise each other with one each from Susie Norris’ decadent book, Chocolate Bliss. I had the pleasure of meeting Susie at The IFWTWA Conference and she was such a sweetheart that she  offered me an autographed copy of Chocolate Bliss for one of my readers! Simply use the form below to enter by February 13th, a winner will be selected at random, and make sure to check out my sweepstakes tab!

Let me know what your plans are for Valentine’s Day! xo

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Great Sets and Success at Bootleg Theatre’s Love Trumps Hate Benefit.

After surviving Inauguration Day and admiring all of those out in the Marches today, I have been thinking alot about the incredible Love Trumps Hate benefit evening I was able to attend last weekend at The Bootleg Theatre.

While I definitely had considered going out to a march myself, I will be honest: The crowds intimidated me. Los Angeles alone is said to have over 745,000 passionate citizens out today. I have felt concerned for all of my friends attending today, but, thankfully, it looks to be going down beautifully and making history.

Love Trumps Hate was much more suited for me. An incredible event conceived by A&R Director of Angry Mob Music, Ralph Torrefranca, and Talent Buyer Kyle Wilkerson of Bootleg Theater, Love Trumps Hate was a powerful event of music, socializing and fun while coming together to raise awareness to very important causes and to show people that it is important to donate and be involved with organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, the non-profits, respectively, that  funds were raised for this evening.

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The silent auction was a music collector’s dream; signed memorabilia from Leon Bridges, Young The Giant, Family of The Year, Mac DeMarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Counting Crows and several others, while I saw many nerd-ing out over the possibility of getting backstage access and concert tickets from Fitz and The Tantrums. I tried my luck at some raffle tickets for the Amoeba Music gift cards.

The first band up was Expo 86, a Silverlake favorite specializing in many cover songs from popular bands today. They had dynamic energy and I appreciated what the lead vocalist had to say as he looks ahead at our next four years; as he spoke from the heart that we will survive and its times like this that show we come together as one. It was extremely comforting to have the audience shouting along that we will be ok in the USA.

An artist that is now on my radar is Nick Waterhouse. Having not heard of Waterhouse’s music, I stepped into his set with no idea what to expect, and loved what I was hearing. Combining a great mix of blues, jazz, rhythm and some rock-pop, Orange County native Waterhouse gave his all during his songs and had great chemistry with the filled theatre.

Following some more great performances from James Supercave and the very cryptically intriguing YACHT,  final performers of the night, Silversun Pickups, graced the stage for their acoustic ending to the evening. Radio friendly and always chromatic, Silversun Pickup’s are a real throw back to the shoe gazing, dreamy style of music that often brings to mind My Bloody Valentine or The Smashing Pumpkins.

Having not heard them acoustic, I was interested to hear some of their classic work stripped down. As they launched into one of their most beloved tunes, Panic Switch, Bassist, Nikki Monninger, was left to keep the intro loop going as the always humorous lead vocalist, Brian Aubert, decided to disappear into the crowd!

Such a huge thank you to all those who came together to make Love Trumps Hate the sold out success it was. Lets continue to keep our voices heard and support important causes, as we enter new territory these next few years. xo

 

My Word of the Year!

So, it is the final week of 2016. Where did the year go?! It feels like yesterday that I was scrambling to decide on a good word for the new year. And, well, friends, nothing has changed in that department and I only just chose my word for 2017 over the weekend!

This has been a great year for me, personally. Our country? Our society? Not so much. The voids we have felt throughout the year as we have seen several of the greats from the artistic world suddenly pass away, the slap in the face millions of us felt with the election results….definitely a lot of heavy moments. I feel extremely lucky that this was a good year for me and my family and I am still standing.

The beginning of 2016 found me searching, or following, more so, my Bliss. Bliss was my word of the year and it found me doing adventures, enjoying the everyday life, giggles and silly moments.

This year? I have so much I want to accomplish and excel at. I want to continue to build my social media services and blogging empire (Or, at-least, my blogging “life”), be a great employee and asset for my day jobs, help people learn the basics to dominating social media and get everything I set out to do, DONE.

Thus, my word for the new year is…..

FOCUS, folks. 2016 was incredible to me for learning more about the ever-changing, ever-evolving Social Media industry, as well as wonderful opportunities for Along Comes Mary and speaking engagements on the basics of Social Media. The time is NOW for me to be leaping as forward as I can to excel and grow in these fields. I am passionate about them both, and that is a really exciting feeling.

But, why FOCUS? Well, if you know me at all, it may not surprise you that I can be a little ADD. My mind is hardly ever at peace or if I am even sitting enjoying some TV or playing music, I am most likely still thinking and dreaming about posts I’ve not yet written, or places I want to go.

I am the Queen of to-do lists, and hope to utilize that good quirk of mine as I attempt to stay FOCUSED throughout my work week. My first focus goal? Working on my blog and/or something that benefits Along Comes Mary each day before I start working. Just an hour. I can do it.

So, 2017 will hopefully be all about my FOCUSING on my passions, as well as those I love. Do you have a word for the new year? What will yours be? xo

 

I ‘Member! My Year in Pictures 2016.

(*This post may contain affiliate links.)

For the past couple of years, I have loved when I come across “Year in Pictures” articles at the end of the year. It gives me a chance to remember some fun times and think about how far I have come with opportunities blogging.

For this year, I am giving me annual Year in Review a theme: To celebrate the 20th season of South Park (one of my favorite shows) coming to Comedy Central, an exciting exhibit hit Comic Con and The Paley Media Center in LA to commemorate their best moments over the years. Michael and I were there (of course) and I got these moments…..

Then, when South Park premiered their newest (highly political!) season, a little hilarious group of ‘Member Berries made their unveiling….

These fictional fruits do nothing but dwell on the past, “‘Member Ghost busters? I ‘member!” but, it made me want to make this a funny post and theme it: I ‘member! 😉

FOOD

‘Member San Francisco? The LA Food and Wine Festival? The Taste of LA? I ‘member!

I got to sip some of the finest wineries around and sample some of the best food on the West Coast, while I could never pick a single favorite, my brunch at Linn’s Restaurant in Cambria (story coming soon), my taste of Cafe Del Rey in Marina Del Rey at The LA Times taste Weekend, and La Costanera in Half Moon Bay. These mentions are all in California and truly represented what “great food” or “a good meal” means.

NATURE

‘Member Carmel Beach? Burney Falls State Park? The Pacific Crest Trail? I ‘member!

While I can never get enough travel and time in new surroundings, I made out pretty well getting around, if I do say so myself. As Michael and I continue to find the most fun and unique places in our home state of California, we got a real treat dodging a horrible LA rain storm our January weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and I still think of my August trip to Chico and Mount Shasta many times a week. From walking the halls of Chico State University to discovering Burney Falls and walking a small portion of the Wild infamous Pacific Crest Trail, I truly discovered a favorite new part of California.

We also got to explore the South and spent a week in Tennessee and Alabama! I found out its not at all what I had thought, and they have an amazing Botanical Gardens in Huntsville.

MEETING ICONS

Sometimes, I surprise myself at how accurate my tagline is: You never know where I will show up. Between interviews with Robert Redford, Anna Kendrick and Jack Black, I would say it was a pretty high honor to sit in the same room with music icon, Justin Timberlake, and have him answer my questions regarding the music production process of a film (He starred in this year’s Trolls as well as having written the film’s soundtrack and arranged.). I ‘member! 😉

And, I am extremely grateful that I got to attend an amazing press preview of Mr. Garry Marshall’s last film, Mother’s Day, and, as you can see, meet this movie legend….

Mary and Garry.

He was so sweet to each one of us, and it was heartbreaking to have him among those we’ve lost in this heavy hearted year of 2016.

MUSIC

Speaking of icons, little did I know how amazed I would be at seeing Elton John in Las Vegas…

And, thanks to LA Explorer, I have a new favorite LA hot spot at Rockwell Table and Stage!

Not a bad year for Along Comes Mary. I know many cannot wait for this “cursed” year to end and I hope its a wonderful, magical and PEACEFUL 2017 for all. I ‘member! xo

 

 

Spreading Some Holiday Cheer with Stationery Studio! #AVeryMaryChristmas

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I don’t know about you, but, I always think I am ready for December and the Holiday season, then, guess what? It becomes a week before Christmas and I am scrambling. This year has been no different. Where did this month go??

Something I always try to make time for, though, is sending out Christmas cards. I vividly remember being very little and helping my Grandma get hers ready; it usually included my ‘autographing’ the picture she would include of me with Santa Claus.

Fast forward some years later, and I was so excited to be offered personalized Christmas cards this year from my new favorite paper company, Stationery Studio. Having not heard of them, I could have spent all afternoon searching all of their cards and paper products. It was an extremely difficult decision, but, I at last decided on their “Lagoon Holiday Collage” photo….

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I am all about more than one photo on my cards. So much happens in a year, how can you possibly select A picture?! I tried to pick a fun, playful variety this year: Michael and I at the South Park exhibit, in Huntsville, Alabama, on a larger than life lawn chair, us arriving at the Memphis Zoo, our engagement day….which, yes, was last year, but, my cards had already been ordered by the time Mike proposed (How inconsiderate of him!) and, of course, a few precious moments with Hammy and Nova (since they run the house).

While I usually order a photo card from the drug store, Stationery Studio is an amazing upgrade. The paper is sturdy and “Happy Holidays” is printed with real foil, adding to the sparkle and shine.

I didn’t get these cards without some delivering difficulty…thanks to my great postal service. Luckily, The Stationery Studio has a fabulous customer service team who were at the ready to assist me when the delivery service decided to return them to sender….with no note or alert to me. At all. It truly is the holiday season when there’s some postal confusion, no?!

When you’re not in need for holiday cards, The Stationery Studio is there year-round for any and all of your paper needs. From party supplies (like gorgeous napkins) to everyday stationery (perfect for my holiday thank you’s) and wedding invitations (Hmmmm….), Stationery Studio is a wonderful source and I was so happy to work with them to help put my holiday memories on paper!

Visit them HERE! xo

 

(*Disclosure: I received holiday cards from Stationery Studio in support for this feature. All opinions are my own.)

The Umami Burger’s Holiday Menu! #AVeryMaryChristmas (Guest Post)

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(Editor’s Note: I am so lucky that when Along Comes Mary is invited to a great event, I often am lucky enough to get one of my favorite bloggers, Melanie from LA Explorer, to cover for me. Today, she tells us about her experience at The Improv Comedy Club’s  Umami Burger. Take it away, Melanie! xo, Mary)

When I was a teenager the Irvine Spectrum opened and it was a big deal for us OC kids. It had a 21 screen movie theater! With IMAX! There was a Dave & Buster’s! And a Cheesecake Factory! Now, I don’t get quite as excited when a shopping center opens but the Irvine Spectrum continues to intrigue. While most center have highs and lows this one just gets bigger and bigger. There’s a Ferris Wheel! A Hello Kitty Cafe! And the Irvine Improv with an Umami Burger! In fact, I had no idea the center had an Umami Burger until I was invited to stop by and try their new holiday menu.

The Umami Burger at the Spectrum is located at the Improv. I like that. Comedy clubs have long been associated with greasy chicken fingers and cheap booze and it’s nice to see a spot where you can get a good meal and a show all in one. On my visit, I didn’t watch any comedy but I did manage to sample the menu.

There was a trio of small bites that included pot roast, grilled lemon chicken and tuna tartare.

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My favorite was the tuna. Served atop a bed of rice and drizzled with a tangy ginger sauce it was a delicious morsel.

Umami is know for their burgers and this night we tried the new Falafel Burger.

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I love falafels so I was eager to try it and it did not disappoint. The crunchy falafel was served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, avocado, pickled onions and tzatziki sauce. I love it and would definitely order it the next time I’m at Umami.

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We finished the evening with a taste of the creme brulee cheesecake and it was a sweet end to the meal. Now I know that when I want a fun night out with a good meal I can just head to the Improv for some comedy and tasty treats from Umami Burger.

(Melanie Kaminski is the Editor of the blog, LA Explorer, where you’ll learn of her explorations around Southern California and beyond. Visit her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.)

Wearable Art by Miz Meliz and Giveaway ends 12-11! #AVeryMaryChristmas

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Sometimes, an opportunity too fun to pass up comes along. Even if it seems a bit zany, you just have to trust your gut and go for it. Lucky for me I did just that and met the fabulous (and now dear friend of mine), Melissa Reyes, back in 2013.

I had been blogging for just shy of a year, and whilst scrolling through one of my Facebook blogging groups, I noticed a post from Melissa looking for a road trip buddy to run up to San Francisco that coming weekend. I told her I would love to. I had met her….maybe, once, and barely. I was basically going on a 6 hour road trip with a total stranger. These thoughts went through my mind as I later found out, Melissa was getting a back up plan for what to do and where to stay if I turned out to be nuts.

As we all know, neither of us are crazy (Just crazy FUN when we get together!) and since our blogging venture almost 4 years ago, it has been amazing to see Melissa evolve and accomplish so much. She has published a book, launched her weekly live online series, Tinsel Town with Miz Meliz and, latest expertise to add to her never-ending resume of curiosity? Artist.

One of Melissa’s latest projects is her arts and crafts online store, Miz Meliz. Making “Wearable Art” (how catchy is that term?!), as well as jewellery and decorative artistry, Melissa pours her heart and soul into these pieces and I just cannot get enough of them.

Lucky for me, Melissa now has the perfect gift box set plan for art junkies like myself. Miz Meliz recently launched a monthly plan subscription enabling her community to purchase jewelry gift sets sent to your mailbox for $40 per month. (Psst, a single gift set is $45). I got to experience the introductory month and let me tell you: It did not disappoint! Check it out:

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And, we all know half of the fun when you get a package is opening up your treats, no?

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Since Melissa does know me, I could not wait to see what she had in store for my box. I ended up with an adorable rope-style chain necklace with one of her beautiful bauble glass designs (my favorite), a butterfly pendent perfect to make a pin or make a choker-chain style necklace, a bracelet and a pair of earrings. The coolest part? These pieces would go perfectly all paired together, or, pick and choose which to mix and match…or, share the love by sharing a piece, too 😉

That is just what I would like to do! Would you or someone you know like to win these gorgeous handmade earrings?

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Perfect for that holiday party, or even to glam up while out in the shopping bustle, I cannot wait to gift these to one lucky winner in part with my #AVeryMaryChristmas giveaways! See the form below to enter and, make sure to check out my sweepstakes tab. Enter by December 11th. Good luck and remember to check out Miz Meliz for all of your feminine and artistic holiday gifts. Bonus points? Melissa is donating 10% of her proceeds to St. Jude’s Hospital all December long! 🙂

Good luck! xo

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A Visit to Del’Oliva Olive Oil and Vinegar Shop & Giveaway ends 12-11! #AVeryMaryChristmas

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I am an avid olive oil user. Once favored by Chefs and considered ‘fancy’ if you used it regularly, olive oil has become a very common and “it” oil to use in the kitchen, and rightly so. Since I discovered the various uses for it, it has become my go-to. I also love when I stumble upon infused oils that enable me to enhance favorite dishes like  grilled salmon, drizzled not just with olive oil, but, lemon-infused. Heavenly!

You can imagine that I became a kid in a candy store when I headed to Del’Oliva on my IFWTWA tour of San Mateo County, California. Within the region is the adorable town of Birmingham. With a quaint downtown street lined with unique boutiques and eateries, one of the boulevard’s gems is  Del’Oliva; a gorgeous shop that steps you inside to the world of Italy with olive oil and vinegar’s….plus, perfect gifts for hosts and hostesses, and an intimate wine area in the back of the shop.

We soon met with Eddie Sohirad, Del’Oliva’s owner. From the moment you meet Sohirad, you can tell this is a man passionate about the correct ways of olive oils! Not knowing too much about the delicate process myself, it was fascinating to learn important facts such as:

  • Olive oil is very high in Polyphenols. This is a compound found in foods that has been scientifically proven to relieve pain and inflammation nearly the EXACT same way over the counter pain reliever drugs do. And, if that doesn’t sell you: Its been providing pain relief for over 5,000 years! Many people find that ingesting or even applying olive oil to the their temples if they feel a headache coming on, will relieve the pain.
  • While most food products require you to check an expiration date, olive oil actually depends more on the “Pressed Date”.  The sooner the date to when you’re purchasing, the better.  Once olive oil is pressed, those Polyphenols and its benefits goes significantly down. Rule of thumb? Check that Pressed On date, and buy one that was not too long ago.

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Wines to taste, too!

Wines to taste, too!

 

  • Extra Virgin is always the best. Another fun test to see about the oil’s freshness is: Take a small swig of the oil. If it gives you a slight burning sensation,  that usually indicates a fresh Extra Virgin olive oil.
  • Olive oil is best enjoyed, in the perfect world, within 4 hours of it being pressed. (I doubt that has yet to happen in my life yet).
  • You also may notice it should not be particularly, well, oil-y. Fresh olive oil should go down more like a juice.
  • While I’m a fan of infused olive oils, unless you are at a trusted source like Del’Oliva, many brands use infusion oils as a selling point to hide an older, inadequate olive oil.

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  • And, as far as balsamic vinegar, did you know unless it has a European certification, that all balsamic vinegar you’re buying in the supermarket are most likely imposters? Think of it like Champagne; only the real deal comes from France. When I grab a bottle at the pharmacy, it’s a “California Sparkling Wine”. 😉

Along with their gorgeous store, Del’Oliva ships throughout the USA, too. What a great place to shop for the foodies on your list, no?!

I am also excited that Del’Oliva is my kick off for my annual #AVeryMaryChristmas series of posts this month! The series this year will include holiday gift ideas, things to do to celebrate the season…ansd, maybe a giveaway…or afew 😉 Kicking off today, I have a mini bottle of Del’Oliva’s Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar to send to one lucky winner. Make sure to check out my sweepstakes tabs for all rules, and enter using the form below by December 11th. Good luck!

And, in the meantime, visit Del’Oliva at their website HERE.

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Grocery Outlet Knocks 20% more off ALL Cereals & Giveaway ends 10/14!

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(*Special thanks to Grocery Outlet for helping feed my shopping addiction and sponsoring today’s chat!)

I am ALL about frugal shopping. Whether its staying under a $100 budget at the holidays, or, when I am baking cupcakes for a get together, I always start out at the discount stores. Lately? I have been obsessed with Grocery Outlet.

Funnily enough, Grocery Outlet was never on my radar until Ariel (Remember my NorCal friend?!) showed me her adorable bobble heads of The Grocery Outlet “Frugal Friends”; There’s Lois Prices, Ben Saven (Get it?!!?) and other hilarious mascots of the bargain market chain. How could I resist seeing what Grocery Outlet was all about, when they had such adorable team members?!

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Since then, I have become rather addicted to cruising the aisles of Grocery Outlet and VERY pleased with the variety of goodies available. Recently, I ran to another  store and bought the usual necessities I get at Grocery Outlet….then, was floored at how much more money I spent! Michael and I are big cereal people….and complete opposites. While he grabs Cap’n Crunch, I am looking for the Rice Chex (or the Chocolate Chex for Muddie Buddies–Mmmm).

Because of our different faves, we had made a rule to switch off our selections, since cereal is not usually cheap. Then? I started bringing us home EACH our own box once I went to Grocery Outlet. Yes, folks–this is how awesome Grocery Outlet is! They’re usually 40-60% off the average price at the competitor markets.

 

Does your family love Star Wars? Can't beat 99 cents!

Does your family love Star Wars? Can’t beat 99 cents!

I was so excited when I found out that now through October 11th, they have knocked the cereal prices down to an extra 20%. This is up to 80% off over 50 cereals.

Grocery Outlet was kind enough to offer a reader of mine a $50 gift card to help you experience the bargain market for yourself AND create your own cereal recipe. Whether it be Rice Krispy treats, a cereal lover’s pie or the Chex Muddie Buddies, I wanna know what your recipe would be with cereals!

Enter using the form below before October 14th, 2016. Good luck and I’ll see you at Grocery Outlet! 🙂

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(*Winner will be selected at random. Giveaway open to legal residents of the USA 18 and over. One entry per email. Sponsor will provide gift card to winner. No purchase necessary.)

 

 

 

 

Support Friends of Griffith Park at Nordic Noir LA!

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On September 25th, join me at The Greek Theatre for Nordic Noir LA, a one-of-a-kind benefit for Friends of Griffith Park, a non-profit charitable group, at the Greek Theatre here in LA! This world-class concert is hosted by internationally recognized film composer Jacob Groth and the Danish Film Harmonics as they offer the LA community an opportunity to experience the acclaimed soundtrack for the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Come and take part in the effort to conserve our beloved city’s environment and urban wildlife. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Concert begins at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are selling fast HERE.

I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to interview Groth, and learn a bit more about himself and his incredible music career.

Can you tell me a bit about life growing up in Denmark? Whereabouts do you hail from?

I was born in Copenhagen,grew up with 2 younger brothers, and 3 kids from my fathers first marriage.

So, A lot of noise and …sometimes a little fighting too! I was a teenager before I found an interest in music, but, when I found music,I knew that that was the right thing for me.

2) I think any artist will agree that performing at The Greek is always a ‘bucket list’ venue. What makes The Greek a special place for you?

The Greek is special to me because its in that very same park that I am supporting with my concert,and because its an iconic venue where the greatest artist have performed.
Me  and my orchestra “The Danish Film harmonics” cannot wait to go on
stage this weekend!
Do you have any particular influences for your music, when writing for a film score?
Its always the story that inspires me,the mood ,the acting,the pictures…

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 What can your audience expect at this performance?
The Audience is coming with me on a journey into 9 different  Groth scores performed as one symphony.Its both action,thriller,love and everything in between. We also have a back screen showing scenes from feature-film like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo mixed with more abstract images.
Whats next for you and your music?
I am gonna stay in LA for a while doing the score for an amazing new TV-Show called Midnight Texas and also write the score for Flatliners,a very cool remake of that film from the 90’s.
Hope to see you this Sunday at The Greek! Mange Tak! 😉 (That means Much Thanks in Danish and is about how much Danish I can speak. I try to practice, but, have yet to learn it better. ) xo

Hiking at Escondido Falls Trail in Malibu….

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Picture: Michael Farah.

So, granted, when I returned home from my Chico trip? I could not stop talking about Burney Falls. To see such a giant waterfall before me, and that setting, it took my breath away. Anxious to continue on my nature “kick”, Mike found us a great hiking trail in nearby Malibu.

Escondido Falls Trail is right off Pacific Coast Highway in the trendy beach community. While you need to clearly read all street signs, it is quite easy to find parking right off the highway (and thank goodness for porta potties before you start your journey–that will be your only chance for a restroom, FYI!).

As we began up the hill, we were surrounded by gorgeous houses, some in the midst of being built. The beach views were to die for. Then, to your left, you will see the sign leading you to the trail (See my picture above)

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While I huffed and puffed a bit up to the beginning of the trail (I think it’s because I’d been at The LA Food and Wine Festival the evening before–way too much wine and food and fun), I got into my groove and the trail was, overall, flat and easy, except for a couple of inclines but its laid out well enough that even if you have restrictions, you can still easily navigate through without too many high lifts, squats and no climbing at all.

You will hit a point when you need to choose whether to take the high or the low trail. We stayed low and hung a left. While it was a good 2-3 miles, we at last found our way to the “Falls”. Sadly, the drought has definitely effected the amount of water here, but, nonetheless, it still was a great ending place to chill-lax with other hikers, dogs and enjoy being surrounded by nature.

Black and white vibes.

Black and white vibes.

While you could take your chances and not take the same direction back out of the trail, we played it safe and followed our same way. If you’re looking for an ultra fun outdoors environment to take some pictures, Escondido is a great option….

Picture: Michael Farah.

Picture: Michael Farah.

Picture: Michael Farah.

Picture: Michael Farah.

As we made our way back down to PCH, guess where we had to dip our toes?

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With the beach right there, that was a welcoming break and cool down!

IF YOU GO

Make sure you’re comfortable with the weather. This is an “easy” hike in that it is mostly flat walking, but, you’re still looking at 5-6 miles on the trail. Pack water and sunscreen. I would call this a great hike for beginners or those who don’t do intense hiking/jogging.

Have you ever been out to Escondido Trails? 🙂 xo