Don’t Have a Cow, Kiss One

 Los Angeles Magazine  | June 2013


   None of the 350 people that crowded into hot, straw-stuffed stables Saturday afternoon ate animals for dinner. Instead, they embraced them.

   At the second annual “Hug A Farm Animal Day” at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, guests had the chance to hold animals that had been rescued from factory farms while noshing on meatless tamales and vegan sundaes from Sage Organic Vegan Bistro and KindKreme. The sold-out event was a success, and the $1,750 in ticket sales will fund animal care and educational programs.

    One animal in particular convinced Kristy Shands, a nurse, to make the trip from San Diego. “I literally just came to kiss a cow,” Shands said. “I’ve been a vegetarian for seven years, which was a moral decision. I didn’t want to contribute money to the meat industry.”

    Cows are among the 149 animals the 26-acre farm cares for, along with geese, chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, sheep, pigs and horses. The staff names each one, meaning even the 55 chickens, the farm’s most abundant animal, peck through straw with names like Talula and Demee. They’ll live there for the rest of their lives unless adopted by screened owners.

   Farm Sanctuary president Gene Baur, who co-founded the organization in 1986, said he has seen more interest in veganism in recent years, perhaps because of information and recipes posted online.

   “Farm animals seem so distant, but they’re right on most people’s tables,” he said. “If people were consuming in a more mindful way, we could see a massive shift, and I think that’s starting to happen right now.”

   Baur spoke at the event, along with Kathy Freston, author of the book Veganist. Despite few farms in urban cities like Los Angeles, Freston said the support is crucial.

   “You’ve got chatter and class there, and they’re the trendsetters,” she said. “When you see celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres or Portia de Rossi go vegan, and they look so beautiful and so vibrant, it goes out in such a big way.”

   Meg Minguela said she wanted to explain the meatless lifestyle to her daughters, 7-year-old Izzy and 9-year-old Maya, as she led them through the stables, dotted with photos of animal activists and quotes on animal compassion.

   “These animals would be hamburgers otherwise,” Minguela said. “I like to teach them that just because we’re bigger and stronger, it doesn’t mean you can do what you like with their bodies.” Maya added, she wanted to hug a cow.

Sam & Cat: The perfect duo!

Nickelodeon's 26th Annual Kids' Choice Awards - Show

                         Getty Images


Opposites attract — even when it comes to BFFs on TV! Nickelodeon premiered its new series, Sam & Cat, starring iCarly’s sarcastic Sam Puckett and Victorious’sweet Cat Valentine on Saturday. The main characters, played by Jennette McCurdy and Ariana Grande, go on new and wacky adventures together despite their totally different personalities.

“That’s what makes them the perfect fit,” Jennette admitted. “They see things in each other that they don’t have any of in themselves. That helps them be better as a team than they would be individually since they’re such strong personalities.”

The BFF duo tries to fix their empty pocket dilemmas by starting a babysitting business, which quickly booms and leads to brand new experiences for the girls.Sam & Cat airs Saturdays at 8/7c p.m., and we can’t wait to see what’s next! What do you think of the Sam & Cat team? Tell us in our comments box!

Painting your world starts with ¡Hola!

If you could live in black and white, would you?

It’s been said that colors exist in our atmosphere that we have the incapacity to see, and the inability to imagine. I can’t envision living in a 50s television screen, and losing my foamy green oceans and peachy-rose sunsets.

But I still wonder how I’m missing out sometimes, because getting that splash of life isn’t just something we see — it’s something we hear.

Languages are life’s watercolors, and to hear only one language is to see only one color. It’s knowing there are different shades of English with accents from Texas, New York, or Australia, but not realizing there are completely different dyes, too.

We just can’t imagine what they’re like until we hear them.

I’ve heard too many traditionalists say that the United States needs to unite with English. They claim it must be our official language. I wonder if they notice the way “¡Aproveche!” rolls off a Spanish-speaking neighbor’s tongue when she serves dinner, or the way the standard German greeting of “Grüß Gott” sounds when it’s spoken by a familiar face.

Ignoring other languages only separates us more. Instead, we can recognize that multilingual communication isn’t a skill that should be reduced to a six-credit requirement in college.

It’s a human luxury worth investing in.

I’ve seen students laugh at how they could never learn another language. They say “¿Qué pasa?” with an intentionally, horribly American accent. Yet when we limit ourselves like that, there are 6,772,000,000 non-native English speakers we can’t learn about.  Some of them live in our neighborhoods and cities. There are even more books, stories, songs, sayings, love poems, foods, greetings and descriptions we will never understand.

Because just like foreign colors, unknown languages can’t be dreamt up in English.

In Spain, women are always called “Guapa.” When a stranger greets a woman, when a professor gives her a tip, or when a café waiter serves her coffee, it’s always topped with “Guapa.” Both men and women say it, and it could be translated as “attractive lady.”

But it just doesn’t have the same meaning in English. It’s something beautiful and unique about that culture and that language. And it’s something I would have never learned if I had never invested in a Spanish-English dictionary.

Spanish is the only non-English language I know fluently, and I’m still learning. But that’s not something I’m proud of. I wish I could be that person that knows three, four or even more languages. That person’s world is much more colorful than mine.

Take the time to learn a new foreign word a day. Understand what it means to hear the world described in a different way.

And maybe, you’ll discover you’ve been listening in black and white.

Street performers are life’s soundtrack

Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage.” Unfortunately, we deny many public performers the street.

If you’re a Chapman student, chances are you’ve been touched by our lively Southern California cities. And it’s likely a performer humming and strumming along to your day left a fingerprint.

My new friend Ramos, a 34-year-old Romanian, wouldn’t survive here.

He told me it was 2010 in Vienna when another student slammed a door shut on him again. He glanced down at his tattered accordion, which boasted 20 years of experience in its yellow keys.

It wasn’t enough for private school students.

They acted uneasy about his lazy eye, he thinks. Or his poor execution of the German language.

The neighbors complained about the noise, so he packed away his instrument. His only passion was dissolving into the crevices of old Vienna.

Depressed, Ramos walked aimlessly through the city to pass time. He noticed street performers. They juggled with card tricks, puppets, and music, and he pitied them. Yet day-by-day, the thought “What if…?” itched its way into his mind.

Two months later he situated a small stool on a busy street for the first time. His fingers shook. Yet, placing a shy wicker basket in front of him, he performed every song he couldn’t before.

And people listened. A couple jokingly waltzed and giggled. A little girl spun. Two tourist women squealed, “This is Europe!”

Nobody stopped him.

Meanwhile in California, city police distributed fines to such street performers. Santa Monica published a stiff 12-page policy outlining the rules street performers must follow after purchasing a $37 performing permit.

Stay away from all vendors, attractions, and walkways. Move 150 feet from your performance spot at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. If we want you to move, you must do so with all your belongings within three minutes.

Don’t use platforms without beveled edges. It goes on and on.

Universal City was even holding auditions so only select performers could be on the street.

They didn’t know that in Vienna, the accordion player with the lazy eye had transformed one.

Honestly, Ramos wouldn’t be what our uptight cities consider an acceptable image. And he wouldn’t be able to entertain people like us every day with such rules and fees.

We’re at the age now that when policies like this appear, we can choose to notice those unrecognized performers. We can consider them, as people, more valuable than California’s feeble attempt at a crystal clean image. We can choose to judge music by its sound, rather than by its instrument. And it’s about time we do.

As of now, Shakespeare would be disappointed.

Sign out of social media and connect

Imagine resting your eyes on a stunning beach painting. You can’t look away from the paintbrush strokes that create a warm sunset melting into the crystal ocean horizon.  A dog runs along his owner to explore just a bit longer, before the pink clouds shatter into stars above them.

Suddenly, you find an urge to share this portrait with your best friend. Since you can’t give it in its entirety, you hammer it into a hundred pieces and hand her a shard. It’s brushed with just a splash of cloudy pink. She takes it, smiles politely, and then continues with her day. She’ll never know what the entire image looked like – and you’ve just destroyed your painting.

This is exactly what we do when we can’t mentally sign out of social media. Almost all of us are guilty of imagining what that sunset would look like under a different Instagram filter, and subconsciously hoping it’s what at least 20 people will “like.” We concentrate on portraying just a shard of the moment to our followers.

We start to have a meaningful conversation with a friend over coffee, but we stop to take a photo of the whipped cream heart in our latte. We’ll tweet it later. Our mind drifts to what hashtags would best describe that moment. Maybe #touching? Or #bestfriendbonding? Before we know it, the moment’s over.

You travel to the beach with a friend, and she asks you to take a photo of her. Then another. Then, “Wait, sorry, I look weird in that… one more?” Finally the perfect picture happens, followed by the vicious clicking through the camera to decide which one will be her profile picture.

Yet your followers will never be able to taste the decadent spices in that latte, and they’ll never feel that salty sea breeze that tickled your fingertips. They won’t feel how the warm waves lifted you like inflating bubbles on that shell-splattered beach, as your dog chased seagulls in the distance.

And they might not even care, because your shard of artwork is one in a million on their newsfeeds.

In the meantime, we miss that full moment ourselves by trying to portray the impossible. So, I write this with a challenge in mind.

I challenge us to seek sights that don’t need Instagram filters to look better, and to speak words that mean more than hashtags to the people we love. I challenge us to visit somewhere new, whether a small farming town or another country, where people aren’t signed in constantly. When you return, let yourself be alarmed by how little eye contact we make with one another. Let yourself feel sorry for the generations of people after us who may never know what it’s like to enjoy a sunny hike for themselves, rather than for their friends or followers.

Demand a life that requires more than 140 characters to explain.

And, maybe, once we sign out, we’ll have never felt so tuned-in with our world.

Exhibit recalls state’s lifestyle

One spacious room displaying photography now fully encompasses Erik Lauritzen’s characteristic view of Nevada’s landscape. The exhibit, Stop the Car, Dad!, recently left the Truckee Meadows Community College art gallery and now is on display at Bartley Ranch.

“I loved it; it’s quintessential Nevada — that’s what I would call it,” said writer Maria Denzler, who visited the exhibit on its first day at Bartley Ranch.

The photography showcases a boom-and-bust lifestyle evident in many deserted Nevada towns by drawing attention to sometimes forgettable roadside scenes. Deserted snow cone stands marking a dry landscape or a locked gate leading to endless space present eerie reminders of past life in abandoned towns.

“We just want to provide an opportunity for the public to experience a piece of Nevada they don’t typically see and to bring attention to things other than just gambling and divorce,” said park ranger Bryan Harrower.

The exhibit is a mirror image of the childhoods of many local Nevadans. Denzler, a Battle Mountain native, remembers asking her own father to stop the car at interesting desert sights.

“I thought the title was brilliant,” she said. “From the remnants of the military to the small businesses, it’s sort of a reminder of how civilization impacts the land.”

Born in 1953, Erik Lauritzen grew up in California and studied visual arts at the San Francisco Art Institute, yet was later awestruck by the enormity and desolation of the Nevadan landscape. Inspired, he founded the TMCC photography department and taught there for 15 years.

At 4 years old, Lauritzen was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and was given five years to live. After receiving three kidney transplants, including one from his father, Lauritzen survived until Aug. 9, 2007.

His mother, 86-year-old Martha Lauritzen, described her son’s passion in an excerpt from the exhibit’s gallery notes.

“He was a great teacher and did affect the lives of many students,” she said. “I do think his work was his whole reason for going on. Somehow the control of composition in his photos made order out of a chaotic world, gave structure and stability.”

The exhibit is part of an educational initiative Bartley Ranch hopes to offer its visitors. Previously owned by Gus and June Bartley, the ranch became a Washoe County park in 1995 under the arrangement that it preserved a ranching environment.

“We have an educational objective,” said District Manager Colleen Wallace Barnum, “Truckee Meadows Remembered likes to come and talk about the history of Nevada and ranching, so it’s neat that the exhibit goes over different points of interest in Nevada.”

The ranch offers eight different facilities for reserve, horse arenas free to the public, and the Robert C. Hawkins amphitheater. On any casual day, picnickers and pets will lay under shady trees and walkers challenge hot, sandy pathways around arenas.

Harrower claims that static displays and exhibits such as Lauritzen’s are small additions to the park’s original vision.

“We like to focus on local artists and bring attention to anything local,” he said. “We have a great community and we want to support and promote that.”

The exhibit will be showcased at the park daily until Aug. 5 in the Bartley Ranch Interpretive Center. Organizers expect it to attract a few thousand observers.

“I recommend it for everyone,” Denzler said. “(It’s) for photographers, and for people who just love Nevada. It’s for people to get a small taste of the quirky and fun side of the state.”

For seven weeks the exhibit is a chance to spotlight the rural nature, devoid of famous metropolitan attractions, that has characte-rized the up-bringing of Nevada’s locals.

Stop the Car, Dad! photo exhibit

Where: Western Heritage Interpretive Center, Bartley Ranch Regional Park; 6000 Bartley Ranch Road

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Aug. 5

Admission: Free

Details: 775-823-6500

Published at the Reno Gazette-Journal

Student-athletes shape up for school sports

Summer vacation might just mean summer boot camp for student athletes. As the new academic year approaches, students involved in school sports are confronting the summer heat to shape up their bodies and sharpen their skills.

“Even when I’m brushing my teeth, I do leg exercises to work out my body,” said Kiana Crom, who will be a sophomore volleyball player at McQueen High School this year.

Crom has been conditioning since summer began by doing 300 sit-ups every morning and night, 500 sets or passes to herself, 20 push-ups every day and exercises with a workout ball. She also has been training in volleyball camps in California and coaching volleyball for younger children.

“It gets you in shape, and it helps you keep up with your skills,” the 14-year-old athlete said. “You’ll be better for tryouts and more prepared than the people who just wait.”

Student athletes also seek out professional training to shape up for fall sports at gyms like Parisi Speed School in Double Diamond Athletic Club. There, they work with trainers and other athletes in an attempt to reach their potential.

“It’s like learning the ABCs and 123s of athletics,” manager Eric Waller said. “You have to learn the basic fundamentals of good body awareness and body mechanics to really sell to the next level.”

The school attracts athletes from a variety of sports, such as baseball, soccer, track, skiing and even bicycle motocross. Each program focuses on the strengthening of an athlete’s balance, coordination, range of motion and flexibility.

“To be a top athlete, there’s no such thing as an off-season,” said Davi Montoya, the manager of Double Diamond Athletic Club.

The summer heat, however, does not always create the safest workout environment.

Dr. Carol Scott, director of the University of Nevada Medical School’s sports medicine fellowship program in Reno, said that adjusting to heat might be the most important training for an athlete.

“It’s difficult to even be totally in shape and then to go into a hot environment and still do well,” she said. “Take 10 to 14 days to get used to the heat, and during that time exercise, during the cooler part of the day.”

Scott also suggests wearing loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and to avoid sunburn because it decreases the body’s ability to tolerate heat.

“As a rule of thumb, less than 75 degrees you’re fine to exercise,” she said. “In the 75 to 78 range, you want to do it in the shade, and the 74 to 84 range you’ll want to limit it, particularly if you’re younger. If it’s over 85 degrees, and you’re not heat acclimated, just wait until it cools down.”

For Crom, the workouts during the summer are worth the many benefits seen once school starts.

“You can definitely tell who has improved in the fall. You, as a person, are so much more physically and mentally fit for the team,” she said.

Summer Conditioning

>> Stay hydrated, indoors and outdoors.

>> Wear light-colored clothing.

>> Avoid sunburns.

>> Focus on repetition while training.

>> If the temperature is above 85 degrees, wait until it’s cooler to exercise.

Source: Dr. Carol Scott and Parisi Speed School in Double Diamond Athletic Club

 Published in the Reno Gazette-Journal

Shopping is taken to new level at Minnesota’s Mall of America

Those seeking the ultimate shopping experience might find it in the land of friable spam. The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., offers 520 stores in a sprawling 4.3-mile venue, and is softened by distinctive Midwestern hospitality. Throw in a theme park, a 1.2-million-gallon aquarium and many other attractions, and the Land of 10,000 Lakes challenges entirely new proportions.

Mall of America

Mall of America

Although the mall is located only eight minutes away from the sprawling Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, don’t expect a designer jungle along the lines of Orange County’s South Coast Plaza or Pennsylvania’s King of Prussia Mall.

Those craving the label can linger at a Lacoste store or handle the newest Coach bags. Many a shopper has lost herself in the giant Nordstrom among Gucci and Dior collections.

Yet, the mall offers much more than designer candy for the fashionista’s sweet tooth.

Most of the shopping in the mall is moderately priced, and although there is an abundance of shops targeted at teenagers, there seems to be a store for every shopper. A bonus: There’s no sales tax on clothes in Minnesota.

Ecstatic screams and vibrations are lighthearted reminders of the mall’s center theme park. Nickelodeon Universe entices the entire family with full-size roller coasters, a Wild Moose Ride and more moderate adventures for the youngsters. A miniature golf course provides a relaxing outlet for those not ready to tough out the rides.

Despite its location in southern Minnesota, this mall doesn’t resign itself to the boundaries of elk and ducks — it also welcomes sharks, dolphins and other marine species in its Sea Life Aquarium. It’s hard to believe it’s still Minnesota as sting rays glide around visitors walking through a giant glass tunnel.

Stroll a little further and one can’t miss the Minnesot-ah! store, bustling with loon sculptures, moose pajamas and “animal-dropping” candies.

Don’t turn away — it might sound revolting, but that package of bear droppings is a delicious snack found throughout mall. These chocolate treats, along with “moose droppings,” “loon droppings” and “mosquito bite” candies, reflect Minnesota’s humor with its rural side.

After battling miles of stores, it will be due time to recharge. Forget Starbucks; the coffee shop of choice in the Mall of America is Caribou Coffee. Each of the five locations in the mall offers specialties such as a Campfire Cooler or a Turtle Mocha. Watch out for “moose droppings” sprinkled on the whipped cream.

To replenish all other calories lost from shopping, the mall offers chain favorites including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Hooters and Rainforest Cafe. Yet, the true Midwestern experience can be savored in steaming mashed potatoes and ribs from the Twin City Grill. This sit-down restaurant features an indulgent taste of Midwestern culture, as well as a respite from retail. Night owls, too, flock to the mall’s nightclubs, such as the House of Comedy.

For entertainment between the larger attractions, guests can find their way through a great mirror maze or enjoy one of frequent performances at the mall. Celebrity authors often can be found signing books near Nickelodean Universe. Recent authors have included Sarah Palin and Lauren Conrad.

Despite the incredible number of attractions it has to offer, what makes this mall unforgettable is not designer shopping or a plump lineup of attractions, but rather its humble charm and dedication to innocent family fun. It is replenishment in its fullest fashion.

Many of the Minnesotans you’ll come across at the Mall of America seem to share a special friendliness rarely encountered elsewhere. If you come up short a few coins on a purchase, a shopper nearby likely will be quick to offer the difference.

While buying a stuffed moose, an elderly store clerk will be giddy to tell stories about her special wild rice soup recipe that is famous in northern Minnesota.

Or, in a specialty hat shop, the clerk might laugh about his young son who wears the fluffy red cap when fishing.

It seems impossible to leave the Mall of America without having made a new friend.


More than 520: Number of stores

40 million: Number of visitors per year

30,000: Number of live plants

More than 5,000: Number of sea creatures in Sea Life Aquarium

40: Number of hotels located within 5 miles

5,500: Number of couples worldwide married in the mall’s chapel

If you go

Mall of America

Address: 60 East Broadway

Bloomington, MN 55425

On the Web:

Airport info: Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport