When I talked about heading to Guatemala for a getaway, everyone asked, “Why Guatemala?”
To which I answered, “Why not Guatemala?”
I social media stalked Guatemala for months- it looked like the perfect destination to escape to with the BF while my son was away with his dad. A 5 hour flight from L.A., brimming with natural beauty, culturally interesting, and a combo of off-the-beaten-path-enough-to-be-adventurous, yet tourist-friendly enough to feel relaxing, Guatemala looked dreamy. I was sold.
When I first heard of Hello Kitty Con, I was ecstatic. Just a year younger than me, Hello Kitty has been a constant presence in my life. Birthdays were marked by rainbow Sanrio bags adorned with tiny trinkets, like a stamp, bell or eraser. My Aunties would give me the best gifts: diaries, stationery kits, colored pens and pencil cases. For my first home, I bought a Hello Kitty Toaster Oven. (still cooking- 15 years later!) My family bought me a Hello Kitty beach cruiser as a bridal shower gift. She’s my homegirl. My mascot. And now, my spirit animal?
On my recent retreat to Peru, where I would least expect to see her, there she was. Her first appearance: a restaurant in Lima. A couple celebrated their anniversary next to me with this cake.
On the retreat, a serious, shy woman from Canada, who didn’t seem to have much in common with me, giggled like a little girl when we connected over our love for the flamenco dress-wearing Hello Kitty charm hanging off her phone case.
The next day, we took a boat trip down the river to a local village, meeting artisans from the Shipibo tribe. The tiny village had cinder block walls mixed with clapboard and dirt roads. There she was again, waving to me from a t-shirt hanging on a clothesline.
In the middle of the Amazon jungle, I’m contemplating my spiritual connection with the universe, when it occurs to me: What if my god, spiritual guide, Read more →
Freelancing can be rough… but it can also be beautiful. If you let it. My usual mode on days where I’ve been given the “gift of time” is to hustle as hard as I can. Drumming up new work, finishing old projects, learning new skills, networking, prepping….I usually feel guilty if I take time for myself to do anything except a workout, and a little internet shopping. But some days, you just gotta say f*ck it. It’s okay to play hooky, in fact it might just be the most important thing I have to do today.
My good friend Tara, who blogs about self-empowerment through dance, threw a little mid-week birthday celebration at the swanky Four Seasons Westlake Village, just outside of LA. I admire Tara, because she is so present and alive and isn’t afraid to treat herself well. We talk all the time about having faith that if you jump, the net will just appear, but it seems easier for her and other people than for me. I’m still working on not feeling guilty to treat myself well.
What would happen if for a few hours today I hung with my girlfriends instead of behind my computer screen? My main hesitations regarding money and productivity are illusions created by an anxious mind. So just for today, I put my penny pinchy hesitations aside and said yes. Yes, I’m in. Yes, I’ll hang by the pool today. Yes, I’ll be a lady who lunches. And pays way too much for a pedicure. And YES, that sounds like just what needs to be done today.
Too raw, deeply personal and far out there to even think about sharing. Way too vulnerable. An emotional television host recording her journey into the Peruvian rain forest for an ayahuasca retreat? No way. I’m a third generation Japanese American woman- we aren’t raised to DO things like this, let alone talk about them. No. Just no.
For those unfamiliar with ayahuasca, it is a medicinal brew made from two vines, employed by the indigenous people of the Amazon for healing purposes. It has psychedelic properties, from its active ingredient, DMT (dimethyltryptamine), and can induce vomiting and/or an emptying of the bowels, known as purging. Non-addictive, with no adverse side effects (aside from the purging, we’ll get to that later…) ayahuasca can elicit visions and is considered in some circles to be an effective tool for enlightenment.
I have zero experience with recreational drugs. I am as straight as they come. I have been a good girl my whole life, ticking off lists and doing exactly what’s expected of me… and then some. Going to the rain forest to have a spiritual awakening with Peruvian shamans seemed so far outside of my box, beyond my wildest dreams, truly unbelievable…and all the more reason to stay home in my safe little life. I’m a single mom, what if something happened to me? What if I came back forever changed and couldn’t be the mother, sister, daughter that I am? What then? I couldn’t possibly.
While researching ayahuasca, I was intrigued by the access to higher spiritual dimensions, the opening of the pineal gland- the “seat of the soul”, and the opportunity to expand my consciousness. The accounts I had read both terrified and intrigued me. What if my years of spiritual skepticism could be contradicted? What if I was shown something so dark and terrible, I would never be the same? Could this foster the spiritual connection that I had always longed for, but never allowed myself?
I toyed with the idea, and once I began to investigate the possibility of going, things fell into place very easily. Very easily. I could actually book my plane ticket using miles. (That never happens!) My family could watch my son for a week. I was about to turn forty, I had just gotten out of a relationship. I was aware that I was repeating patterns but didn’t know how not to. I was down for some profound healing. Childhood, divorce, co-dependency, lack of self-love and self-esteem, were my own personal demons, so when I read that ayahuasca can be comparable to ten years of therapy, that clinched it. I can fast track healing and spiritual learning to just one week away from my son? That didn’t seem too crazy. Efficiency speaks to me. I’m all about results. My pro-Peru reasons were undeniable.
One year ago, I flew to Pucallpa, Peru for 9 days. And had the biggest experience of my life.
On my trip to Peru last year, the retreat served up a green smoothie which was so unexpectedly…NOT green tasting. We drank it up for breakfast, poured it over granola, and looked forward to it every morning. After months of trial and error, I think I’ve just about replicated that recipe, so I invited Mommy Greenest, Rachel Sarnoff into my kitchen to give it a try. An easy breakfast, it’s stealthily healthy, vegan and full of fiber, anti-oxidants and vitamins, all while tasting like a chocolate shake. Yum!
Diane’s Ugly Green Smoothie Recipe:
1 1/2 cups organic kale
1/4 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 cup chocolate almond milk
1 tablespoon sunflower butter
1 cup coconut water (feel free to substitute your milk of choice here)
1/2 cup of ice
Blend it all up and you are good to go! (Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your smoothie after blending, and you are REALLY good to go. 😉
With just a night in Lima before heading into the Amazon rainforest, I had one singular objective. To. Eat. My. Face. Off. I knew the upcoming retreat included fasting and vegetarianism and probably wouldn’t be much of a culinary indulgence, so with less than 24 hours to gobble up Lima, I went big and took a friend’s recommendation, booking a table for the tasting menu at Astrid Y Gastón.
Food is art. Like great theater, or a sculpture that brings tears to my eyes, or dancing, food stirs my soul and makes me feel alive. Pull up a chair and indulge with me!
Years ago, I worked in Tampa, and sadly, I can only remember Waffle House and eating fried chicken on a tour bus. However on a recent trip, my foodie crew and I found a gem in Edison Food and Drink Lab.
The décor is hip industrial, reminiscent of a chemistry lab, but achieves comfort and warmth. When we arrived, I knew the two guys composing a photo by lighting a plate of burrata with their phones, was a good sign. Foodie kindred spirits.
The potato encrusted oysters were crispy, creamy, tangy and sweet. Our server instructed us to pour the dill pickle nectar under the oyster over the top. Mouthgasm. (the kitchen made us a gluten free version, too.)
It sounded like such a good idea at the time. My BFF had lost her father last year and we had planned to go on a yoga retreat to Mexico this spring when she finally had a little time for herself. Well, spring had sprung and our flight was just around the corner. That’s when the panic struck.
All the reasons why I shouldn’t go swirled in my head. What if something happened to my son? I haven’t worked enough this year to earn a vacation. This is way too indulgent. I like my life. I don’t feel tired. I don’t need an escape. What if I miss out on that one job that catapults my income for the entire year? On and on and on.
I tried to sit with the discomfort. Honor your commitment. Honor yourself. Try something new. Relax. It will all be fine. Maybe better than fine. And don’t forget….it’s already been paid for.
The BFF called me the day before we left. “How are you feeling about this trip?” she tentatively asked. I admitted to secretly hoping I would get a job which would give me total permission to come halfway through the retreat. She felt the same. We agreed that it felt like too long to be away from our kids. The mom guilt had got us. And bad.
We cut our trip short by two nights. A couple hundred dollars in change fees (ouch!) later, we left for Mexico.
Welcome to Lima, Peru! I had one night in Lima before heading to the rainforest for the retreat. International travel always does the spirit good. After checking into the hotel and a quick nap, my friend M and I set off to take in what we could with one day in Lima.
First things first, let’s eat! We walked over to Larcomar, a giant, open air mall overlooking the bay. Maybe I was jet-lagged and tired, maybe I expected something different, maybe we shouldn’t have started off in such a tourist draw….but to me, Larcomar felt awfully like any mall at any beach, actually a LOT like Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Winding past American chain restaurants blaring American pop music, we settled into a small Peruvian cafe with an ocean view for a small bite and some maté de coca. (tea made from coca leaves, the same plant that cocaine is made from…a very mild stimulant, equivalent to coffee. wheeee!)
I was starving for some real food and could have gone to town on this menu, but with dinner reservations at the highly recommended Astrid y Gastón only hours away, we decided on a couple small plates.
First up: Tiradito! Fresh, citrus-y and bright, this was the perfect first dish in Lima. Peruvian corn, yam, aji amarillo and raw fish soaked in lime, this woke up our palate.
Next came Causa Limeña, a cold, layered appetizer made of mashed yellow potatoes, cooked tuna, and onions garnished with avocado and boiled egg in a creamy tomato sauce. Popular in the summer months, but still delicious on a cloudy, cool day, it was light, filling and reassured me that we were in fact in Peru, not just any old mall by the beach. With local food in our bellies and fortified by the maté de coca, we were ready to take in the city.
*Special thanks for the lovely original musical stylings of David Woodward and Jan Melchior Maclaar.