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August 30, 2010

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University

I finally registered for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course. In my area, it's being taught at Our Savior's First Lutheran Church in Granada Hills on Sunday evenings now through the end of November. Today was the first class.

Before attending, I thought the course was meant for married or couples, to get them talking about finances and on the same page. But with or without a spouse, I need to deal with those same issues, and I don't think I would on my own. While I'm not bad with money, I don't save as I should, especially being a freelancer, and living in such a high cost-of-living area as Los Angeles. But I'm happy with the status quo, and need the accountability and forced study of a structured group to make real changes.

At the classes, you watch a video each week of Dave Ramsey presenting--so this could be done as a home study course, using the DVDs. The power of the group classes are the discussion and accountability groups that follow. Hearing and seeing other people's experiences and views can be affirming or lesson providing.

Right now, the first class is free, so you can come and investigate if it's right for you. If you wish to continue after that, you're paying for the materials, whether through the organization hosting the series or through the website online. I'm finding the materials on ebay, but haven't yet won an auction, so I don't know how much that will save me.

Here's what the course covers:

Week 1
Super Saving
The Beginning... A Very Good Place to Start
Enough of Anything is Too Much
The Basics (A Foundation)
Pile Up Plunder

Week 2
Relating with Money
Single As a One-Dollar Bill
Tying a Knot in Your Money: Marriage
Crumb Snatchers and Money
Family, Friends, and Money
Carefully Consider Counsel

Week 3
Cash Flow Planning
Why Written?
Baby Steps

Week 4
Dumping Debt
Lifestyles of the Rich
Dumping Debt

Week 5
Credit Sharks In Suits
Cucumbers, Collectors & Credit Reports
The End... Or Just The Beginning?

Week 6
Buyer Beware
Let The Buyer Beware - Caveat Emptor

Week 7
Clause and Effect
“KISS” Your Money: begin with Insurance

Week 8
That's Not Good Enough!
Buy Only Big, Big Bargains

Week 9
Of Mice and Mutual Funds
“KISS” Your Money through Simple Discipline is The Key
Of Mice and Mutual Funds through To Load Or Not To Load

Week 10
From Fruition To Tuition
Of Mice And Mutual Funds: begin with Funding Those Golden Rocking Chairs

Week 11
Working In Your Strengths
Career Choice

Week 12
Real Estate and Mortgages
Buy Only Big, Big Bargains: sections Real Estate Bargains and Owner Financing Bonanza

Week 13
The Great Misunderstanding
Understand The Spiritual Aspects Of Money
Do It Daily

I'm hoping I will grow a lot through this course. Have you taken it? How do you handle financial decisions in your own life? Please leave a comment on the blog.

August 28, 2010

The Food Rendezvous

This weekend was the premiere event of The Food Rendezvous, connecting small local artisan food producers with eager customers. The groundbreaking effort to promote sustainability and local fare did not go off without small glitches, but the monthly event is sure to grow.

This time the traveling event was held at SPARC, an arts organization located in the old Venice jail, which was an active jail from 1929 until the early seventies and now historic building.

I volunteered at the event with my friend Lisa, the blogger of Epicurean Expressions and a budding personal chef.

The event had some great features in addition to the vendor booths, including a cookbook exchange where I picked up a copy of Farmer John's Cookbook, live music, chef cooking demonstrations, and a demonstration garden. And the event was green, with recycling containers strategically placed throughout.

The locally-grown flowers in canning jars made the seating areas picturesque.

Vendors included awesome food purveyors as well as more interesting fare like an earthworm vermicomposter. My favorite was The Sensitive Baker, a gluten-free bakery that I've read about in LA Magazine but have yet to visit their location. Their chocolate cupcake with banana cream frosting is to die for! It's pictured below with a tangerine spritzer. Since my friend's three children all had severe food allergies necessitating a very restricted diet while my friend was nursing, I'm so excited to try SB's products.

The volunteers received a $20 gift card to Pitfire Pizza, a certificate for a glass of wine and an artisan cheese plate at Comme Ca, and a complimentary panini, sandwich, or salad at La Provence Patisserie in Brentwood. Three meals out for one afternoon of my time! Definitely worth the effort.

My constructive criticism to the event organizers would be to have nametags for the volunteers, a simple listing of online purchasers so no need to print tickets (eco friendly), and perhaps a few more volunteers to act as floaters throughout the event. I'm sure the number of vendors will grow as the event becomes more established.

Did you go to this event? If you'd like to know about the next one, check out Food Rendezvous website or find them on Facebook.

August 19, 2010

Mr. Wisdom Organic Health Foods Hare Krishna Restaurant

A friend of mine was watching an episode of Bizarre Foods on the Food Network channel, and they were doing a spot on how one doesn't need to leave your own city to find other cultures. I guess they were profiling places in Los Angeles in this vein, and one of the restaurants that caught my friend's eye was Mr. Wisdom Organic Health Foods Hare Krishna Restaurant located on Slauson a good ways south of USC. My friend's visiting from Philadelphia, so we went to meet Mr. Wisdom in person. He's quite a character! His establishment features a juice bar, what he calls the "salad bar" featuring hot Indian stews and several types of beans, and veggie burgers, along with a few vegan sweets.

Fresh carrot juice tastes very similar to milk to me. So naturally I had a carrot-apple juice, and a generous slice of vegan carob cake. I watched Mr. Wisdom wash the carrots and feed them into his commercial juicer. The carob, brought in from a local baker, was a nice twist to the usual chocolate flavor and really yummy! My friends tried a plate from the salad bar and an antioxidant wheatgrass-flax-lemon juice blended drink. From the salad/steam bar, my favorite entree was a squash stew that had just enough spice to make the flavor profile interesting, without being too "hot" spicy. The veggie burger was obviously commerically made and frozen, but since I didn't have that myself, I couldn't pin down the brand he served. Mr Wisdom does feature Agave in his ingredients, which I've heard a lot of negative press about lately, so I'm weary of that.

Mr. Wisdom offers free dietary advice to those who may be suffering serious illness and are ready to turn to alternative therapies. There is a full pantry of herbs and spices for sale in his establishment. He also hosts weekly Sunday Hare Krishna Consciousness spiritual classes, including free food.

Have you ever sampled Hare Krishna or Indian food? Do you like spicy hot fare in the first place? What are your favorite vegetarian restaurants? Please leave a comment on the blog.

Brian McKnight at the Bowl

The Summer Jazz night sponsored by 94.7 had such an extensive lineup that it began in broad daylight. Spencer Day and R n R were new-to-me acts that were impressive, but the one I was waiting for was R & B singer Brian McKnight.

Brian McKnight brought his ballads, like "Anytime," "Back to One," and "One Last Cry," to the Hollywood Bowl. He's a consummate performer, with every moment carefully choreographed and staged. One aspect of the Bowl that I really enjoy are the dual monitors on each side of the stage, that normally show a live feed. McKnight had intercut graphics, perfectly timed to the beat of his music. I'm sure even his in-between "off the cuff" remarks were fully written out.

He also brought his two sons, sixteen and eighteen years old. As backup singers, their harmonizing was great, but they were not who I'd come to see. And they weren't promoted beforehand, so I was a bit put off when McKnight turned the stage over to them alone.

August 18, 2010

Harry Connick Jr at the Hollywood Bowl

I caught the incredible Harry Connick Jr. at the Bowl last weekend, and wanted to share just a couple of shots. It's the first bowl concert I've been to this summer, and it reminded me how much I love it. My friend made a lovely picnic for us! The company really made the evening complete. The concert started with slow ballads, but the evening got rocking after the intermission. The latter half of the concert was packed with energy! And Harry was funny, as always.

The bowl is still the best deal for entertainment in Los Angeles. Stay posted for more!

August 14, 2010

Surfas Restaurant Supply and Tomatomania Cooking Demo

Yes, I went to another Tomatomania tomato tasting. But this one specialized in Cherry tomatoes, my favorite to grow, and was held at a huge restaurant supply store in Culver City called Surfas, which I'd heard of but never explored. It's a cook's mecca!

(the tomatoes I grew and brought to share)

(a tasty Pistachio Macaroon from the cafe at Surfas)

I treated myself to several small delights from the cafe. The macaroon in the photo was maybe an inch and a half. Hardly three small bites. But it was only two bucks, and treats that fit into my budget are rarely found. It was crispy on the outside, chewy in, and did have the lingering aftertaste of the nut. Heaven!

But within an hour I was hungry again, so back I went to window shop the cafe. I thought a Lemon-Lavender Bar was not out of the breakfast realm. I was so hungry I forgot to photograph this one! I was wonderful though--tart and sweet together.

(the Surfas patio on a Saturday morning)

Truly the best part of the day was wandering around the restaurant supply store. I went weak in the knees at all the specialty grocery products, cooking utensils, and books. I had an educational tasting at the cheese counter. Truffle cheese! And there was a serve-yourself bar for olive oil and vinegar samples. I'd love to come back sometime for a sampling of all their gourmet salts.

I took notes and added a ton of cookbooks to my PaperbackSwap wish list: Baking Illustrated, The Home Creamery, Home Cheese Making, Cheese Lovers Companion, Food Lovers Tip Dictionary, Aroma, the Magic of Essential Oils in Food and Fragrance, The Best Make-Ahead Recipe, What's a Cook to Do by James Peterson, The Food Lovers (Tip)tionary, The Olive and the Caper.

Surfas hosts regular classes and events in their beautiful test/demonstration kitchen. Check out their events page here. It's a page I'll be sure to stay on top of for future happenings.

(flyer of the event)

Tomatomania arranged a tasting of twenty-five different cherry varieties, and added a cooking demo by Chef Lucia of Lucia & Company.

The entryway was staged with a swag of former Tomatomania t-shirts that were bright and colorful. The decorations made it feel like a party. I'm going to remember that tip for my friend's baby shower next month, hanging baby clothes on a line around the event.

The tasting featured a blind test of four different varieties, in an effort to upseat the perennial favorite, SunGold. But the seasoned growers were steadfast with their preference.

I did discover a new kind I want to grow next year--Orange Parusch. It was fruity, sweet, and delicious. I'm adding it to the list.

(past Tomatomania t-shirts drape the
entryway to the test kitchen)

The topic of the demo was assigned by Tomatomania as "What to do with Too Many Cherries," and the chef focused on mostly party appetizers. She seems to be a great cook/caterer but not fully comfortable with public speaking. When a pause would come up in the cooking process where she needed to kill time, she kept asking the crowd how they were doing, and had to be prompted to tell a little bit about herself or come up with an anecdote. The recipes were yummy but not terribly complicated--good for the audience to take home as home cooks, but not impressive in their execution as a demo.

And the recipes from the cooking demonstration....Chef Lucia incorporated some interesting cheeses, like the Greek Haloumi cheese in the skewered recipe, which holds up well for grilling. I enjoyed the Warm Cherry Tomato Salad. It's something I wouldn't have tried myself without prompting, and it's great.

You can click on the photos below to enlarge them to a readable size, or to print.

This recent article from the LA Times about the popularity of home canning and food blogs was brought up by an audience member at the demo. It'll lead you to some useful canning blogs.

Do you have any favorite tomato recipes to share? Please post them in a comment on the blog, and I'll pass them along at the next Tomatomania event!

August 9, 2010

Tomatomania's Tasting at Loteria Grill

(the tomatos I grew and brought as my entry to the event)

Tomatomania hosted their annual tasting at Loteria Grill over the weekend. I had a great time at this event last year and did an in-depth recap with my favorite new varieties.

(all the different varieties to sample,
grown by attendees, filled two long bars)

While I didn't come across any new finds that knocked me out of the water this year, the season has been so poor this year in my garden that I still feel like I am testing the ones I discovered last season, and I'll probably grow them again next year.

The food at the event this time around was sublime, thanks to Chef Jimmy Shaw, and the growing discussion was as lively as ever. I learned a few things in the discussion about fish emulsion as a fertilizer and about growing worms. My favorite menu items were the yellow tomato-guava juice, the heirloom tomato and melon salad, the goat cheese-heirloom tart, and the tomato flan (!). I would never have thought to pair melons with tomatos in a salad. The simple dish was fresh and inviting.

(Fresh Roasted Heirloom Tomato Juice,
Tomato & Guava Juice,
Tomato & Strawberry Auga Fresca)

(Mixed Heirloom Pico de Gallo)

(Heirloom Tomato Flan)

There was even a producer taping the event for a story on the radio show Off Ramp, so I'll be looking for my interview in the coming weeks.

(the cutest display ever of heirloom
cherry tomato varieties, all labeled)

I brought along some friends this year who are not gardeners, so I'll be excited to see if I convert them next season!

How do you pick what you'll grow each season? Please leave a comment on the blog with your techniques.

August 7, 2010

Orange County Fair 2010

I spent an afternoon at the Orange County Fair this weekend and was dazzled by all the fair entries. I took pictures of many of the quilts again for my Aunt Rita, a former quilter with Parkinsons, so that she can have a virtual tour of the fair. I think several of these images may make their way to cards in my Zazzle Store.

Do you take creative inspiration for one craft from another, or even from photographs? Please leave a comment on the blog.

August 3, 2010

My Experimental Film from College: an Installment of the Great Scan Initiative

In my film production course at the University of Utah, we were required to do one documentary, one narrative, and one experimental project. I've posted the documentary I did on my Literacy Volunteers of America student. I was having trouble getting my experimental project to post, and I just worked it out.

I have asthma, and the bowl effect of the Salt Lake valley has been a source of concern for me. I loved the feel of this music and had fun editing to the beat. It's called "Personal Interest" and was made in 1994. Again, the transfer isn't great quality, but I'm happy to be able to share it at all.

August 2, 2010

Welcome Sign Doorknob Hanger in Needlepoint-Plastic Canvas

Here's my latest weekend project, a little doorknob hanger made from a pattern in my mom's craft cabinet. Actually, it's not even a pattern--just the cover from a kit that was probably used by my grandma in the 1980's.

I made it with Lion Brand Suede yarn, which has a chenille-y texture that feels rich and velvety. This project coordinates with the card box I put up a few posts ago.

I finished it off using iron-on fusible webbing to affix felt to hide the back. This'll strengthen it and help it to last longer as well.

Here's the image I had to use as a pattern. You can click on the photo to enlarge it if you'd like to print. I'll try to share more patterns in the future.

August 1, 2010

Skydiving and a College Film, as Part of the Great Scan Initiative

As part of the elimination of my paper life, I've been scanning lots of photos over the last year. But there are some old VHS tapes that have been sitting under my bed for over a decade. I do still have a VHS player, but it hasn't been used in a long time. I gave up all my commercial VHS tapes last spring in a donation to Goodwill, but hung on to the sentimental homemade ones.

This week I finally figured out how to digitize and post a few of them! I'm so excited to be getting this project done. A friend with a digital video camera ran the VHS tapes through his machine and recorded onto the camera. We imported the footage into my Mac, and I had to watch some tutorials to learn how to use iMovie. I edited, and was able to post to YouTube, and to the blog! The conversions aren't great, so I'm not sure I'll be getting rid of the original footage quite yet, but at least I can now share these projects for the first time in a long time.

This first tape is my skydiving video. On August 4, 1993 I went to celebrate my 18th birthday. I'd had this on my "bucket list," so I'm proud to have done it, but once was enough. I did a full somersault in the air before pulling the rip cord, and you can see it on the video. It's done at Utah Sky Ranch in Salt Lake City. I've searched online for the dive school and the guys in the video, and it looks like this business is no longer around. They were great guys and very safety conscious. I was surprised though at the little private plane. You weren't going that fast, it was tiny--it really felt like riding in a car. Until they opened the door and pushed you out.

The next three minute short is a project I made for a film class at the University of Utah in 1994. I donated my time in college as a tutor for Literacy Volunteers of America. My first student was Anna Atwood. She was learning to read at 59 years old. She had grown up in the area, and had grandchildren she tried to hide it from. What amazed me was that Anna had graduated from high school. Michelle Huff & Sheridan Sullivan were fellow tutors working with Anna who are in the video. When I had to make a documentary film, Anna was a natural choice. She's so inspiring to me still. LVA is still around as a nonprofit, though they've merged with another organization in the years since.

Thanks for letting me share these sentimental projects with you! What have you done with all your home movies? Have you converted any to digital yourself, or paid to have it done? Leave a comment on the blog with your storage solutions.
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