¡Oye! A LAtina perspective on food, fashion, familia and art.

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thrifting into the new year

How lucky are we… to have boys who love to go thrift shopping and are passionate about food?  An added benefit is to adore the mother of your boy’s good friend. So, I guess the answer is that we are very lucky.

The Goodwill on La Brea in Los Angeles rocks!  I had NO idea.  Oh my goodness.  Some Goodwill locations really seem to cater to the “get dressed for your corporate interview” need… which is great, but this Goodwill…  This Goodwill caters to the “need an outfit for time traveling pronto” people.  That was us.

Ravenclaw Prefect pin  and fez from Whimsic Alley

These two boys are really into Dr. Who right now, thus the tweedy jackets and fez.  It’s all about who you become with that outfit.  For example, my go-to all black stretchy evening wear means I am a relaxing Korean soap opera watcher, while a tweed jacket and a fez for someone else means only one thing:  time travel!  Well, and maybe eating Cuban food.

Did I say Whimsic Alley?  Why yes, I did.  See, we started this little outing at our favorite Harry Potter headquarters, Whimsic Alley.  Yes, I do love it there.  It’s like a little trip to Hogsmeade.  Thus, we have the young lad hiding his butter beer (It’s really just butterscotch soda.  I love it.) behind his menu at El Colmao, one of our favorite spots for Cuban food.  Liquados de mamey?  Check.  Garlic roast chicken?  Check.  Cuban coffee.  Oh, yes.  We need our fuel to thrift.

Black beans, rice, avocados, and garlic roast chicken at El Colmao


When I go to El Colmao, I feel like I am time traveling.  Even though I didn’t grow up coming here, the 1960’s time capsule look with the chandeliers and vintage signed head shots make it feel like a place I would have come to after church every Sunday.  I can just picture it.  Instead, we were going to an Orange County K Mart where we might get a submarine sandwich. Did I just share that?  Anyway, this food shot is so not a foodie shot because I think usually foodies remember to take the photo before they start eating the food.

Here is a silk, Hong Kong made dress I got that day at the Goodwill.  It kind of reminded me of Kiki’s Delivery Service even though I couldn’t find an image of a character wearing a dress like this in the movie.  The good news is that I found this when I was looking for a Kiki image.  (Note to self:  Do a post on the espressos and amazing blue of Espresso Cielo in Santa Monica)

Earrings by Evan Hartzell


And lastly, a terry cloth top from the same Goodwill trip that makes me feel like I am a soap maker in the Japanese countryside.  You see it, don’t you?  Oh, those days of making soap.  The soft breeze from the garden coming in through the open windows.  The intoxicating soap scents wafting through the air.  I think I just heard the sushi rice cooker go “ping!”.

Fashion.  Food.  Art.  Repeat.

By Laura E. Alvarez

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Boccalone Days, Boccalone Nights

Chris Isaak sings about San Francisco days, San Francisco nights.  I would have to change it just a bit to Boccalone days, Boccalone nights thanks to celebrity chef Chris Cosentino‘s salumeria located in the Ferry Building.  Yes, I said celebrity chef.  When I go somewhere, anywhere, it has to be to eat.  I want to try it all.  For all the times that I had been to San Francisco, I had yet to dine at Cosentino’s Incanto.  So, for this trip I was geared up and ready.  I was ready to throw down some cash and since I was fresh off of watching Anthony Bourdain in Parts Unknown,  I grabbed my crew ready to waltz into Incanto and have Bourdain’s life fall into my lap.  Really?  I mean, who do I think I am?  Clearly someone who did not call ahead.  I’m even embarrassed to be admitting it.  It was a Wednesday night and in my experience if you go early enough, like when they open, you can usually get a table or sit at the bar.  When I’m with my girls, I usually eat quickly and enjoy an amazing meal and everybody wins!  The kids get exposure to culinary adventures with my guidance and the server gets a early quick turn of a table with a nice tip to go along.  I like doing this even when I don’t have my kids.  I like to have time to soak up the city and grab a drink or, with my kids, move on to another place for dessert.  I should have taken it as an omen when we learned that Incanto was closed that night.  I was crushed.  This is pretty much how the trip would go.  A culinary comedy of errors.  The trip was short and dinner would not be in the cards for us.


Fortunately, the Hotel Monaco in Union Square offered a lovely reception in the lounge where I regrouped and pretty much realized that we were not located in the best walking center for food.  My six year old could not have cared less as she was busy socializing and getting her Martinelli’s Apple Cider on!

The Ferry Building itself is a feast for eyes and going there on an empty stomach gets one all aflutter.  Laura immediately noticed the spring in my step and said, “we have stepped into your Disneyland!”  Whenever I enter a food paradise I feel just like Tim Burton’s character Jack Skellington from  A Nightmare Before Christmas when he enters Christmas Town, “what’s this? whatever could it be?”  The apple does not fall far from the tree.  At one point I thought I lost my 6 year old only to find her nuzzled up to the the sales girl at the Stonehouse Olive Oil boutique noshing on bread, dipping away into various oils.  We walked away with 6 bottles.  We tasted our way through the Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese Shop, later slathering fromage blanc and sheeps milk ricotta onto our freshly baked onion bread from Acme Bread Company. The best was left for last.  Meat cones.  Yep, I said it.  For those of you who know me well,  you are already agog by the sheer fact that I have consumed this much gluten and dairy (albeit, I stuck to my usual goat and sheep) and now I am about to talk not only about meat, but, “tasty salted pig parts,” in a CONE!   I had to people!  It was beautiful, man!  I had Lonza (Cured and dried pork loin, it is very similar in both taste and texture to prosciutto. This is the back loin that is cured in salt and fennel.), orange and fennel salami. Delizioso!

There are the greatest chefs, the masters, who are analogous to our greatest musicians and then there are the others, either marketing geniuses, or those who were in the right place at the right time.   Their melody is lacking, but we all listen just the same.  Cosentino has the melody and the marketing.   In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a music aficionado of some sort.  I wonder if music has had an impact on all great chefs lives?  In fact, isn’t it a symphony when you have the perfect meal?  It just depends on my mood.  It could be a handmade tortilla, the inside perfectly seasoned, spicy and wet, dripping from my fingers downed with an ice cold beer with a shot of good tequila, or maybe some sweet slightly briny oysters with a crisp chablis?  That’s why food is fore play especially when accompanied by a great playlist, and well, I’m done.


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an unexpected journey

An unexpected journey.  From the start, this is what it was.  Coming out of a meeting with a fellow blogger, Byron said to me, “And I still want to go to San Francisco!”  Ah, one of the things I love about my partner in Simone Rey… her passion for ideas that just take off like a rocket. When I normally say, “How could we?”, Byron says, “We HAVE TO!”, and there we go.

The first time I ever went to San Francisco it was with my mom.  I totally forgot that it was with her.  The moment I saw the city, I had the strangest feeling I had come home.  I would live there for a couple of years eventually, and then I would really leave my heart there, as many of us do.  I still dream about it regularly… always searching, searching for my home when I no longer live there.  How does a city do that?  Magic?  Here, I look like I am searching again.

homemade scarf, homemade skirt, vintage Spanish boots, Moda International sweater

We woke up the first morning to a couple of IPad heads taking our pictures.  Photo shoot!  So fun.  No wonder it takes us forever to leave the hotel.  Hotel Monaco is SO San Francisco.  Just look at the colors and patterns!  When a girl says, “We have to get the bigger room!  The art, Laura, the art!” you know you’re in the right place with the right people.

After hot chocolates and coffee in the beautiful fireplace-warmed sitting room, we were ready – I guess – to run across the street and barely make a bus that was headed to our destination.  Out came the sketchbooks… and out came the more challenging aspects of urban transport.  We had to use our jedi mind tricks to avoid some shady characters on the bus.  But we wanted to do this the REAL way, and we were doing it.  After much confusion at our transfer corner, one chocolate croissant purchase, and a girl who said she needed a place to sit and eat her chocolate croissant, we decided to heed the advice of a nice San Franciscan resident and walk the rest of the way to our destination.

We had a beautiful, beautiful stroll up a hill in a lovely park.  It was truly magical.  My favorite trees surrounded us.  The wide open space.  Pretty old houses here and there.  Gentleman played golf.

We took to photographing everything.  The light was golden.  The air was so… northern.  Sigh.  While it was idyllic, the lack of real breakfast, the lack of memory on one six year old’s camera, the hill… it was all starting to wear on us.  We needed to get there.  It was beautiful, but we needed to get there, and we needed museum cafe food.

Ah, museum food.  Not just regular museum food, but nice San Francisco museum food.  San Francisco that appreciates taking your time in that nice European way.  San Francisco that has two Legion of Honor locations.  One has a David Hockney show that you have timed tickets for and one does not.  San Francisco that has Uber (“It’s fancy, Laura.”  “What’s fancy about efficiency, Byron?!” I was starting to get low blood sugar and had art show-missing anxiety setting in).  San Francisco that has happy Uber drivers that save you.  San Francisco that let’s you go to the cafe first when when you finally get to the right museum, and doesn’t care when you come into the timed, extremely popular art show because they see how hungry you are.  And San Francisco that has the fanciest coffee cart I have ever seen that has paper wrapped fresh baguette sandwiches, heavenly salads, and apple tarts.

An unexpected journey.  A beautiful thing.

by Laura E. Alvarez 

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wearing Hockney at Diego Rivera

First, we immersed ourselves in Hockney at the de Young in SAN FRANCISCO. How we got to the museum will be a whole other post on mistaken locations, unexpected journeys, and the genius of uber. I turned my nose up at uber as recently as two weeks ago, and in five minutes, in a tight pinch I became a devotee. Easy.

I’d been wanting to get to this show since I heard it was opening in October… I’ve been a long time fan of his work, loved his film, A Bigger Picture, and have been particularly interested in what keeps people interested and engaged in the new, in making things, in learning well past age 70… like my dad.

David Hockney is a life-long learner.  In a A Bigger Picture see how at an age when many people might just kick back, he moved back home to Yorkshire, U.K. and took up the Brushes App along with a new series of paintings.  He has long embraced experimenting with technology, so this is nothing new.  However, it reminded me of my dad, excited to get an IPhone in his eighties because he liked the camera… IPhone lessons commenced every Sunday.  The most recent lesson was how to access a Johnny Cash station on Pandora.  He loves it.  Ha!  I get it. Being open to the new, to change, and to being okay with not totally knowing what one is doing are ways in which we can stay young.  Willing to take risks is so Reggio, an education approach that has long guided my teaching and all around living.

David Hockney iPad Drawing printed on six sheets of paper (71 3/4 x 35 3/4 in. each), mounted on six sheets of Dibond,
143 1/2 x 107 1/4 in. overall. © 2013 David Hockney

Like the six year old I toured the almost four hundred works with said, “It’s almost all like fantasy because you’ve never seen a purple tree.”  Yeah.  That’s what I’m talking about.  If you’re going to make art, you might as well take advantage and make stuff up, but that’s just me.  This is why touring major exhibitions with six year olds is so essential.  They should be available at the entrance as private guides… wait, no that’s silly!  They could just do the audio for the headset tours.  Once again, do not, I repeat do not have a kid for the exclusive reason of having them give you tours of major exhibitions.  You’ve got to think these things through.

J Crew girl’s dress 

Who told this nine year old to wear an IPad drawing-like dress to the show?  Was there a memo?  No, just some indigo child fashion psychic powers at work here.  Might as well use those psychic powers for good, right?

This artist is soaking MORE art in at the Diego Rivera gallery post-Hockney.  A fresco in a deserted hilltop gallery at San Francisco Art Institute is just the ticket to balance out the bright screens and colors of a crowded, blockbuster exhibition.  Yes, this is a trip for serious art lovers.  Where a Rivera is like a nice cafe de olla after a Yorkshire dinner.

Ash ‘Babe’ Sneaker

We talked about how Frida used to bring Diego lunch while he worked on this mural… wearing shoes like these.  Okay, she didn’t wear shoes like these, but you couldn’t see her shoes because she had those awesome long skirts on.

The artist also picked up a lovely hat at Goorin Bros. Hat Shop.  But that’s a whole other post as well.  Oh, San Francisco.  So post-rich you are.  It’s a traffic jam of posts!  Stay tuned for more…

The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City (“Making a Fresco”) (1931) is one of four murals in the Bay Area painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957).


by Laura E. Alvarez

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grown ups need to create TOO!


What do you do when you have to say good-bye to a beloved companion of 18 years?  Apparently, you drink tequila  at 11 in the morning with someone who knows you, won’t judge you and then you get your craft on!




Monday, was a blur to me.  I knew my sweet Shakespeare, my calico kitty of 18 years had taken a turn for the worse.  On just the day before, the vet had informed me of the seriousness of her condition.    



Her diagnosis was in stark contrast to the Happiest Kitty on the Block of the previous year.   She had appeared to have a new lease on life.  With the passing of her dominating roommate last Christmas Eve (yes, Christmas was just around the corner again), she scampered through the house as though a kitten once again. 



I too, had a new lease on life.  After a life altering year, I felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes.  Our lives were parallel in many ways.  She was rescued as a young cat, living on the streets, just old enough to learn the ropes, but didn’t stay there long enough to become hardened to human touch.





The need for sane self expression, camaraderie and of course tasty food, is how I feel safe.  I called some friends over to my house.   We gathered in the dining room around a simple assortment of  salty and creamy cheeses, medjool dates, and decadently drank champagne while getting to know each other.  I do love a good Manhattan or Sazarac, but come holiday time,  bring on a good bubbly, some twinkle lights and I am happy!  I was so thankful to be surrounded by these thoughtful, creative, clever ladies, each with her own story to tell.  Some go deep, some stay protected, some deflect with humor.  But in the end, we all come together for that same bit of nourishment, a feeding for our souls.  We ate, drank, soaked each other in, and then moved on into the studio to create, where it was safe.





With various sized glass jars and colors to choose from, we dove into the vibrant blues, pinks, reds and greens.  Some commanded their projects with ease while others approached with trepidation as if a misstep might leave her (me) with a crappy craft.  Art is a place of safe self expression.  Isn’t it?  I love art and artists.  Unfortunately, artists are often their own biggest critics.  When does that little voice start inside our heads?  Who put it there?  We did not come into the world with it.  As adults we can provide a community for each other where we can be creative and productive without judgement. And if there is silence, it is not uncomfortable, because we are thinking, we are creating





That night I made a simple salad of roasted beets that were so sweet, just like the life I was living for that moment.  I savored the sweetness of life with each bite.  I don’t think that we are so different from our kids.  And, in fact, when I slow down, I learn from my kids.  For some attachment parenting pros that conceit is probably a no brainer (you know who you are), but for some, we have had to make a conscious effort.  For others, this is all brand new.  Whether you have children or not, it doesn’t matter.  As humans, especially women, we need to savor these moments of freedom and vulnerability.  I had huge plans to make a feast for us all.  It didn’t happen.  Honied little bites are what I prepared instead.  That’s all I prepared.  I used what I had, in the time that I had and didn’t make myself crazy trying to “create” under unreasonable time constraints.  Something that I have been known to do in the past.

Later, it came to me that that night the entire ceremony of the day and night was all a learning process.  For those of you already familiar with the Reggio Emilia philosophy, this might be old news (you know who you are), but just like when children find tools within their environment, they can make their environment their classroom.  Children also become active participants within their environment, hypothesizing and finding resolution within their day.  The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and my kitchen became my classroom and those beets where my tools.  We drank, we ate, we talked.  There was no right, no wrong, no judgment.

– M. Byron Trent




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how to make a mexican tea mason jar


1.  Go to a “regular” market (not Whole Foods, etc.) and find the Mexican food aisle.  In smaller markets sometimes its just a little display full of chili powder, bay leaves in packages like this.  Buy some packages of 99 cent bags of tea.  This market had chamomile – so good for the kids before bed!  So good for everybody who lives in a city.  Calm down!




2.  Get some scissors and open the packages.  Cut out the cool label and name of the tea carefully from one of the packages.




3.  Put the tea bags and label in one of those jars you saved from last time you “made” pasta sauce.




4.  Put the jar next to your other jars of delicious looking items.  Here we have from left to right:  chili powder, chamomile tea – Hey!  Where did that come from?!, pickled peppers, and rice.


Pretty cool, right?  It’s like a Mexican Martha Stewart moment.  Feels so comforting. 🙂

-Laura E. Alvarez