In Downtown L.A to visit Homegirl Cafe

Downtown L.A is as picturesque as usual.
I am a firm believer in community and living your life in service to other people. A life focused solely on oneself is shallow and, well--boring. An interesting thing happens once you start making a conscious effort to love others and affect those around you. The less you focus on yourself and your problems...the smaller your problems become.

I had the opportunity to see love in action last week while visiting Homeboy Industries in downtown L.A.

Homeboy Industries is a youth program founded in 1992 by Father Greg Boyle. This is their mission statement:
Homeboy Industries provides hope, training and support to formerly gang-related and recently incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.
It was such a beautiful thing to see an organization help so many people. We got to tour through the offices and get a glimpse of the many services they offer, such as counseling, job training, drug rehabilitation, life skills and tattoo removal to name a few. It was amazeballs. We also got to have lunch at Homegirl Cafe, which is a division of Homeboy Industries. I've always wanted to visit this place that I've heard and read so much about.

Homeboy Industries had a bustling office space.
There was lots of amazing art on the walls. This collage piece featured an extensive collection of Loteria cards and Homies.

Our tour guide was very endearing and honest as he shared his background of gangs and drugs with us. Happy to hear he is one year sober and touring around the country, telling people about Homeboy Industries.

While touring the room where they remove gang tattoos (for free!), I couldn't help but notice this ice chest with the Spanish slang, "Ya Stuvo Tattoo Removal".
Jeshua from Boifromipanema took the day off from dance class to join me. Anything for a trip to L.A. and some yummy food thrown in.
I was so excited to finally visit Homegirl Cafe!
It was lunch time so it was pretty busy.
To start off, we had a delicious cucumber, pineapple and lime juice. Soooo good! Oh, and heyyy baby's butt cleav.
My brother ordered a Yuyu sandwich with a bowl of posole and it had mushrooms in it. Yum.
Oh em gee this was the most delicious sandwich I ever had--a grilled chile relleno sandwich. It was freaking genius.

My date for the afternoon, chilling by all of the amazing art on the walls. He was waiting for me to stop talking so he could stuff his face.

Pear jam for Pearmama. Heh.
Couldn't leave without sampling some of their delicious desserts, too.

If you are ever in downtown L.A, please make time to visit Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Cafe. They are within walking distance from Union Station and all of the Metro lines, too.

Much love and thanks to Xenia from Raised by Culture for organizing this tour for us.


DIY Ombre Maxi Dress

For the past year now, I've been obsessed with all things ombre. Hair extensions, fashion, home accessories. If it's ombre, I'm in love with it. I don't know, I just love the beautiful, painterly effect it gives. As an artist, I know what it takes to blend paint and make something look effortless.

I did my hair back in January and every time I tell myself I have to blog about it, about a hundred other more interesting things come to mind. But for now, here is a shot of my ombre hair.

How purdy.  Every other day, though, I fantasize about dying it back to my natural dark brown. Just cuz. I miss my healthy, dark hair that curls right and doesn't feel like it needs to be moisturized within an inch of its life.

But until then, let's get into this pretty coral maxi dress that I bought at Forever 21 for a mere song. First I bought it in grey and I liked it so much I went back to see what other colors they had. I found a lovely coral shade.

It was a simple, comfortable maxi dress but it needed some oomph to it so I decided to ask my bro Jeshua from BoifromIpanema if he could hook up some tie dye ombre for his big sis using Tulip's One-Step dye from iLovetoCreate.

Of course, he said yes. Because he loves me. Let us proceed then, shall we?

It's about to go down, ya'll.

I used Violet but I pulled out the box of black dye too because I was planning on dying the grey maxi dress. You obviously don't need the black dye for a light color unless you want it to be grey. But whatever you do, don't mix a color with black or else you will end up with...brownish black mud. Not cute. Here is what you need:

The box of dye contains a pair of plastic gloves. How sweet is that?
Oh, forgot about this, too.

It wasn't until we soaked it that we had the presence of mind to check what sort of fabric the dress was. It was 100% rayon. Gulp. For best results, use fabric that is 100% cotton. We decided to throw caution to the wind and dye the rayon fabric anyway. I know, such rebels.

After you mix your dye (the box contains all the instructions), make sure you put on those plastic gloves. If you don't, you will have a week's worth of dyed hands and people might think you are a leper. Now, grab your garment and do this:

I was a little concerned to see so much of the dye rinse out. This might be due to the fact that the maxi dress wasn't 100% cotton. Still, I liked the way the dress turned out. Very subtle at the hem. Just enough to give the maxi dress a little something something.



Boys are just little men

I've always been a little boy crazy. What can I say? I have a weakness for cute boys. Bottom line, I enjoy their distinct maleness, so different from female energy.

But, I've got to tell you, my boys--the ones I endured two hospital births for, and two primal let-me-just-squat-and-have-these-babies-on-the-floor homebirths--well....they really drive me crazy. Talk about distinct maleness. They are loud. They like to punch each other in the gut. They eat all of the cereal and drink all of my iced tea. They leave their nasty, crusty socks all over the house. They hijack any and all conversations. They make fun of each others' penis size. They try to control the radio whenever they sit in the front seat. They break any and all door handles. They try to sneak off to play video games when we should be doing chores. And their smell...it's like a mix between a musty gym and In-n-Out grilled onions (and not in a good way).


Noah turns 15 in September.
Diego is 13.
Solomon will be 12, right after Noah in September.
Cyan is 10.
We live in a 1400 square foot home that has two bathrooms. Do you feel sorry for me yet?

For every gripe and complaint I have about my sons, I have to tell you...I adore them. I really and truly do.

It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to see them blossoming right before my eyes. Yes, I'm sad that they aren't babies anymore but I'm also beginning to realize that this next stage is just as precious as when they were snuggling against my chest. They are growing into men--literally, chests are spreading, muscles are forming, whiskers are growing, voices are getting deeper. It's been a joy and an honor to witness the transformation. They are so handsome. I see the young girls eyes, following them around. They look so much like their father and so I attribute their handsomeness to him.  Yet, I see some of myself in there too.

I love to see the type of young men they are becoming. Working men, men that can hold their own during a conversation with other men. My husband and I learned early on that we had to surround our children with good teachers, good examples, mentors. I see them learning new things, new skills--things I couldn't have possibly taught them myself.

From left: Noah, Solomon, Cyan, some chunky babe, and Diego looking a little squinty with the sun in our eyes after church.
They are still so very young but it's a taste. A taste of what incredibly awesome young men they will become. I mean, look at these dudes. They are so adorable. They are my heart. I'm so proud they call me mama.


Happy 105th birthday, Frida Kahlo

This is one of my favorite quotes from Frida Kahlo. I've seen her work in person and it always makes me cry. It's delicate and fragile, just as I imagine she was. But it's also as powerful as the Earth--just like Frida was, too. She was her own person, outspoken and unique, yet trapped in a broken body.

Happy birthday, Frida. Thank you for being my muse for the past 22 years.


Fireworks suck and I hate them

This was originally posted on BabyCenter, July 4th, 2011, but I still maintain the exact same sentiment. Fireworks suck.

One thing you will never catch me doing on the 4th of July is this: lighting firecrackers.

Uh-uh nope, not me.

Not even a harmless little sparkler.

I think this may have to do with my fear of being electrocuted/explosions/fire/sudden death, etc. Call me crazy, but all of those things scare me silly, so it makes sense that the whole issue of fireworks would be null and void as well. I don’t even like those little poppers that have confetti in them.

Good thing too, because fireworks are illegal where I live. You see, I live in a valley where the blazing sun scorches everything to the point where it’s practically considered kindling. That doesn’t stop people from buying them in other counties and lighting them around the neighborhood like complete jackasses.

I know what you’re thinking, no fireworks on the fourth of July? What kind of unpatriotic mess is this?

Growing up, we usually spent the fourth with my Dad, who lived in a county where fireworks were perfectly legal. We’d head out to the numerous firework stands that sprouted every summer and he would load up on fireworks like a little kid on Christmas morning. Then, as the sun went down, the neighborhood would come alive as people would sit out on the curb to watch the excitement.

Except for me.

I watched from the safety of my Nana’s porch, with a grassy lawn and a wrought iron fence dividing me and the fireworks. Sometimes, I would crouch behind a parked car.

What makes normally rational people set off small explosives right in front of their house–for fun?

I don’t remember the names of each firework, but I vividly recall one that buzzed around all over the floor like a fireball. I just discovered its called a ground bloom flower. The other one that terrified me used to light up like a snake. Call me a paranoid weirdo, but I just kept envisioning people getting their faces burned off.

Now that I’m grown, I don’t mess with the things. My kids don’t mess with them either. All they know is we drive over to the place where the fireworks show takes place, we lay down a blanket, oooh and aahh over the display and we go home. They have no idea people can actually buy them, set them off and proceed to singe their eyebrows to nothingness. That is their reality.

Cozy and safe, with intact eyebrows.

How do you celebrate the 4th of July? Does your tradition include lighting fireworks?

Image source: howstuffworks.com

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