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Greek Easter ~ Magiritsa Soup

Words by Christina Huntington  // Original Family Recipe by “Mama Gina” Gina Trikonis // Photography by Sarah Prikryl 

In my house, we grew up celebrating Greek Easter. My mom was a Greek New Yorker who believed in keeping our family traditions alive, even as she found herself raising two native Angeleno children in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley. We went to Greek school, Greek church, learned traditional Greek songs and Greek dances but, most importantly, we inherited the Greek way of life…a deep passion and love for food, family, friends, nature and Life itself. For Greeks, every day on Earth is a gift to be unwrapped and enjoyed, a reason to celebrate! And there is truly no bigger Greek celebration than the Anastasi!

Known to Americans as “Greek Easter” or “Eastern Orthodox Easter”, many Greeks, Armenians and Russians celebrate the Easter holiday in accordance with a different calendar—which is why it often falls on a completely different weekend than when the Easter Bunny comes to visit, much to the confusion of many of my childhood friends. (For the factually curious, Eastern Orthodox churches still abide by the Julian calendar instead of the western Gregorian calendar.) Greeks traditionally celebrate the Resurrection with a midnight candlelight church ceremony, followed by the Anastasi Dinner—the feast to end all feasts, the party to end all parties. Lamb, red dyed eggs and tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) pour out of the kitchens as children and grandparents alike eat, sing and dance until dawn.

Over the years, we adopted our own Anastasi celebration at home, centered around the Greek Easter traditions while gathering our family together to celebrate the gift of life and each other. We eat tsoureki Greek Easter bread, a sweet and fluffy egg bread that is hand-braided into circular loaves with red dyed eggs baked on top. We make these at home, but you can find them at your local Greek or Armenian market, or just buy a good soft loaf of egg bread in a pinch. We also dye our hard-boiled eggs red to symbolize the gift of the Resurrection—of death and rebirth. The red egg dye can be purchased at any Greek, Armenian or Russian market or deli. We play the traditional game where each person picks an egg and you go around the circle, tapping your egg ends against each other until one person is left with at least one side of their egg uncracked. The winner is blessed with good luck for the year.

The star dish at our dinner table is always my mom’s famous magiritsa, the traditional Greek Easter soup. Magiritsa has a tart-tangy-sweet flavor unlike any other soup you will ever eat… and it is instantly addictive. The flavor comes from the lemon and egg broth (avgolemono) that gets added in at the end, as well as a small amount of organic chicken or beef liver that is incorporated into the main soup. Even people who swear they don’t like liver (me included) love this soup. Every single person who has ever tried this dish at our dinner table has gone back for seconds and asked to take some home. I’m literally smiling just thinking about it. It’s that good. And paired with the subtle sweetness of the tsoureki Greek Easter bread, it is a dream come true that makes your body hum and sing with joy from the inside out.

This Magiritsa recipe is our family recipe brought over by my grandmother from her ancestors in Greece and I am so happy to share it with you now. Serve it with a big chunk of Greek Easter bread or good crusty bread, fresh feta cheese and olives on the side. Greek Easter is a time to celebrate life and renewal, but you don’t have to celebrate the traditional holiday to enjoy this delicious soup. Spring is a time full of promise—with so much new life, new energy, growth and expansion at your fingertips. Gather up your family and friends, set a pretty table and celebrate the joy of being alive on this beautiful Earth together! What an incredible gift it is!

MAGIRITSA GREEK EASTER SOUP

Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total: 2 hours 30 mins

Serves: 8 people

 INGREDIENTS~

  • 1 lb. organic ground beef or bison (or lamb if you can find it)
  • ½ lb. organic chicken or beef liver
  • 1 medium onion, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 bunch green onion, finely minced (use both the white & green parts)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, finely minced & well-packed
  • ½ cup fresh dill, finely minced & well-packed
  • ½ cup fresh basil, finely minced & well-packed (optional, but we add it to our recipe)
  • 3 stalks of celery, finely minced
  • ¼ cup white basmati rice
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 6 eggs
  • juice of 2-3 lemons (to taste)
  • 1 tsp light olive oil or butter (to grease the pot)

ASSEMBLY~

In a large soup pot, heat 1 tsp olive oil or butter to coat the bottom of the pot on medium heat. Sauté onions until they turn translucent. Add ground meat and stir until it browns. If the meat renders any excess fat, spoon the fat out of the pot and dispose of it.

Cut off any tough tissue or fat from the liver. In a Cuisinart or blender, pulse liver until it liquefies.

Add liquefied liver to the meat and continue to heat until the whole mixture browns. Add minced garlic and stir. Add all minced vegetables and herbs (green onion, parsley, dill, basil & celery) and stir into meat.

Add 10 cups of water. Add 1 dried bay leaf. Let simmer on low heat for 1½ -2 hours on low heat.

Add ¼ cup white basmati rice and stir.

Add ½ cup white vinegar.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes, just until the rice softens. Keep an eye on the water levels and make sure it does not reduce down too much. Add a small amount of water if necessary.

Now it’s time to prepare the avgolemono (lemon and egg broth) to be added into the soup.

In a blender, beat 6 eggs until frothy.

With the blender running on low speed, add the juice of 2-3 lemons (to taste) through a strainer. Keep the blender running and slowly ladle in 2 ladles of broth from the soup pot into the egg mixture in the blender, one ladle at a time until everything is incorporated. It’s important to do this slowly so that the eggs do not curdle or separate. Turn blender off.

Slowly pour the egg mixture from the blender into the soup pot a little bit at a time, stirring gently until everything is incorporated.

Salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

HOT TIP: You can make the soup base in advance, but wait to make the avgolemono until right before serving. After it is all made, the soup is fine to keep in the refrigerator and reheat for leftovers. But when first serving to guests, it is best served with the avgolemono freshly prepared.

Celebrate life this weekend! Ask yourself what new life you want to create!~ How do I want to expand? How do I want to grow? What seeds do I wish to cultivate?

Happy Easter and happy eating!! love, Sirens & Scoundrels xoxo


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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels

Desert X ~ Coachella Valley

Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl // Contributing Photography by Megan MacEachern & Christina Huntington

When was the last time you participated in a good old-fashioned treasure hunt? Aside from playing pirates as kids, the answer is probably “never”. Well lucky for you, your day has finally come! Combining three of our absolute favorite things in life—a treasure hunt, art and the wide-open spaces of the California desert—Desert X is the local adventurer’s dream come true! With some of our leading contemporary artists erecting 15 art installations spread throughout the Coachella Valley, discovered only by using coordinates on a map, “X” literally marks the spot in this limited-run exhibition. Grab a map and your most adventurous friends then keep your eyes peeled as you drive across Palm Desert and Palm Springs discovering each new artistic treasure! You can pick up a map, the official program containing all of the artists’ information and memorabilia from the Desert X Hub at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club Palm Springs. Maps can also be accessed on the Desert X website. With only a few more weeks until the exhibition closes on April 30th, make sure you go out and take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience that is truly not to be missed!

We checked it out during the week, which we highly recommend if you can swing it, as the exhibit experiences higher numbers of visitors on the weekends. Also keep in mind that the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival is happening on April 14-16 & April 21-23 this year when you are making your travel plans. We recommend packing your car with ample snacks and water, making sure you have your sun protection gear in tow (hats/sunglasses/sunscreen) and make a couple days of it. It can theoretically all be experienced in a day, but two is better if you want to be able to really take the time to explore. And be sure to bring your real camera…Desert X boasts many stunning images and memories that you’ll want to make last.

Here are the highlights and favorites from our art hunting adventures…

Circle of Land & Sky // Phillip K. Smith III

Located in an open stretch of desert off Frank Sinatra Drive & Portola Avenue, Circle of Land and Sky is an all-natural hallucinatory experience that awakens your inner child-like wonder as it manipulates how we view the world around us. Hundreds of reflective poles each set at a 10 degree angle form a circle in the large expanse of desert, endlessly reflecting land, sand, sky and mountains back onto each other and then flipping the perspective as you weave throughout the circle and the sun moves overhead. It’s a mind game of the most delicious variety as reality itself bends, shifts and alters before your very eyes like magic. This one is worth repeat visits to take in the shifting reflections of daylight’s stark bright blues versus the electric pastels that set the reflectors aflame as the sun sets.


 

Mirage // Doug Aitken

Probably the most photographed of all the exhibits, Doug Aitken’s Mirage truly is a sight to behold, pushing the concept of the desert mirage to a whole other level. Situated on top of a hill at the end of Racquet Club Drive and overlooking the entire Palm Springs desert, Mirage is a house made entirely of mirrors. Though reminiscent of Phillip K. Smith III’s gorgeous Lucid Stead wood-mirror-LED house erected in Joshua Tree in 2013, Mirage takes the mirror house idea one step further by furnishing the entire home in reflective surfaces both inside and out. The now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t design is purposely meant to make your eyes play tricks on you, making it difficult to distinguish reflection from reality. Visitors are invited to walk through the house and around the property to view the exhibit from all angles and meditate on the nature of perception versus illusion. We recommend timing your visit to catch the sunset, when the house turns into a hazy dream wrapped up in all the gauzy colors of the setting sun. Mirage is the only exhibit that remains open until October 31, 2017. But since it is accessed through a guard gate, it has strict and varying operating hours, so be sure to check the website each day before venturing out into your desert daydream.


 

More Buried Treasures…”X” Marks the Spot!

In all honesty, most of the fun of this art scavenger hunt is to go in knowing as little as possible and with very few expectations so that each new find is a true discovery that unfolds before your own eyes. So just take our word for it and go exploring, mark the “X’s” off your map one by one and experience the thrill of finding buried treasure right here in our own backyard!


 

Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum plays host to Rob Pruitt’s Flea Market as part of Desert X. But be sure to take some extra time to check out their Women of Abstract Expressionism exhibit running through May 28th for a balanced perspective on women’s contribution to the modern art movement.

“This exhibition presents the work of twelve American women artists active in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1940s and 1950s. As part of a circle of painters known as Abstract Expressionists, they helped forge the first fully American modern art movement. Though women actively participated alongside men in the studios, clubs, and exhibitions, textbook accounts of the movement tell the story through the work of a handful of male artists. In fact, the image of the paint-splattered, heroic male artist has come to characterize the movement as a whole.        

This is the first major museum exhibition to address the contribution of women to Abstract Expressionism. Until recently, their involvement has been underreported and their canvases undervalued. Yet their authentic expressions belong front and center in the accounts of Abstract Expressionism.”


 

Wiki Up // Joshua Desert Retreats

We combined our Desert X treasure hunt with a desert wildflower hunt (stay tuned for more on that next week), so we decided to hole up in Joshua Tree as our home base between art and wildflower chasing excursions. We always love to stay with our fave desert homestead purveyor, Joshua Desert Retreats. With 13 charming properties to choose from, discovering each new property becomes a treasure hunt of its own. This time we stayed at Wiki Up, a 1970’s vintage bohemian desert dream with all the fixings…a pool, jacuzzi, hammock for stargazing, outdoor firepit and even our own private backyard mountain range perfect for an evening hike to take in a gorgeous sweeping desert vista as you watch the sunset in the West. It’s always “sunny and 1970’s” here!

Go grab your gang for a grown up scavenger hunt and let your inner art aficionado explorers out to play! See you in the desert, California Dreamers!!

love, Sirens & Scoundrels xoxo


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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels

Waterfall Hikes in LA ~ San Gabriel Mountains

Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl

Spring has officially sprung in LA! After one of our wettest winters in recent history, the waterfalls of LA are overflowing! Located just 30 minutes from the heart of the city, there are no excuses not to get out there and enjoy them. Grab your dog, grab your friends, go run around the mountains and splash in some waterfall pools like kids again. Added bonus: the hills are alive with spring wildflowers of every color! So let your inner Fräulein Maria out to play…mountaintop twirling totally optional.

SWITZER FALLS~

Just a few miles into the San Gabriel Mountains past La Cañada Flintridge near Mt. Wilson, Switzer Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Los Angeles. The mostly shaded Gabrielino Trail winds you next to and through a gushing stream in Arroyo Seco Canyon for the first part of the hike. (HOT TIP: you criss-cross the stream continually on your hike. Wear proper footwear and be prepared to get your feet wet…it’s part of the fun!) When you come to the major fork at the stream, take the right-hand trail headed up the mountainside to see the waterfall lookout point.

A breathtaking vista of the San Gabriel Mountains that could easily double for the Swiss Alps awaits you at the top. There’s less shade up here, so be prepared with the appropriate sun-protection layers. Take the left-hand fork on the mountaintop trail to begin your descent down to Switzer Falls. Just a short walk in from the base of the mountain, all 50 feet of Switzer Falls is currently flowing like crazy. There’s a large pool of water on the lower level to splash and play around in.

When we went, it ended up becoming an adorable puppy party with all the mountain dogs jumping in for a gleeful swim. A short climb will lead you to the smaller upper level pool for the daring adventurer who might want a more private splash. Whether you opt to soak in the falls or not, this entire waterside hike is so refreshing and invigorating, you’ll be singing “the hills are alive with the sound of waterfalls” in no time!

The Switzer Falls hike totals between 4.5-5 miles round trip and is fairly easy. Be sure to purchase a $5 Forest Adventure Pass at the info center on the main road of Angeles Crest Hwy ( CA – 2) before entering Switzer Picnic Area. One pass required per car to be displayed on your mirror.

Purchase your Forest Adventure Pass at: Clear Creek Information Center, Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Angeles Crest Hwy, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

Park your car at: Switzer Picnic Area, Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Switzer Truck Trail, Altadena, CA 91001. Park on the lower level by the picnic area or the two upper-level overflow lots.

STURTEVANT FALLS~

A short but gorgeous wind up Santa Anita Avenue from Arcadia and Sierra Madre opens up onto Chantry Flat recreation area—a stunning mountainscape with hikes through Big Santa Anita Canyon to Mt. Zion and Mt. Wilson. For the waterfall enthusiast, the hike to Sturtevant Falls twists through lush mountaintops shrouded in low-hanging clouds that feels like hiking through the heavens. This inverted hike crosses down through many beautiful vistas before leveling out onto a little emerald wooded wonderland—complete with tiny hidden homesteads tucked amongst the trees. Sturtevant’s 50-foot waterfall is an impressive tumbler, gushing over slate rocks into a pool below. The world’s tiniest frogs reside in the boulders on the mountainside and are worth getting up close and personal with. If you’re a mountain lover, this hike will deeply satisfy all your cravings for a gorgeous woodland wander right here in our own backyard!

The Sturtevant Falls hike totals around 3.6 miles roundtrip and is fairly easy, as long as you can handle hiking back on an incline. Be sure to purchase a $5 Forest Adventure Pass at Adams Pack Station located right off of the parking lot.

Purchase your Forest Adventure Pass at: Adams Pack Station. Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Chantry Flat Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

Park your car at: Chantry Flat Recreation Area, Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Chantry Flat Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006. Parking can get very packed in the lots. Be prepared to park on Chantry Flat Road and walk in.

HOT TIP: After your hike, you can take the rest of your afternoon to explore Sierra Madre or Montrose–two tiny nearby mountain towns that remain charmingly frozen in time. Turn your day into a treasure hunt as you discover all the lovely little restaurants and storefronts of their quaint main streets and make all of your Back to the Future dreams come true!

HAPPY ADVENTURING!! xoxo, Sirens & Scoundrels


Be sure to subscribe to Sirens & Scoundrels for unique local, travel & food adventures delivered straight to you! Enter your email address on our home page & hit “SUBSCRIBE”! 

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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels

Fermentation Rocks! ~ Sauerkraut

Words & Recipe by Liz Beebe  // Photography by Becca Murray // Featured Photo by Jennifer Simonson

With Spring officially upon us, it’s time for a little Spring Cleaning—from the inside out! We’ve enlisted our fave LA lady songstress and healthy eating expert, Liz Beebe, to contribute a series of do-it-yourself fermentation recipes to help heal your gut, support your system and keep you in prime health so you can get out there and enjoy your fullest life!

HAPPY SPRING EATING!! xoxo, Sirens & Scoundrels

I am a huge proponent of food as medicine. I fully believe that if you feed your body whole, organic (when possible), nutrient-dense foods, you will look and feel your best. A great documentary called “Food As Medicine” just came out illustrating this lifestyle. It features some of the leading experts on diet as the number one intervention you can address to turn your health around. (It’s available for free to stream if you have Amazon Prime.) One of the ways I ensure that I’m getting all the vitamins I can is by ingesting fermented foods.

Fermentation is a bacterial method of breaking down foods so that your body can more easily absorb them, making them more “bio-available”. Fermented foods include (but are not limited to) kombucha, cheese, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and more!

Consuming fermented foods can improve digestion. They are also very beneficial for our microbiota (the colony of bacteria that live in our gut) as it helps to introduce and/or maintain the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This is important because science proves that our gut acts as a second brain to our body. It is the largest producer of serotonin in the body and is instrumental in the proper production of hormones (especially important for women). So treat your gut right! Eat some fermented foods!

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some SUPER EASY and fun ways to make fermented foods at home. I recommend making these foods at home because it is exponentially cheaper than purchasing at the store, you can control the flavor and it ensures that the fermented food you are consuming is RAW. If you pasteurize fermented foods (the way that milk often is) then you are killing the very bacteria that you want to consume. I use a fermentation crock at my house. It is a one-time investment but makes for the easiest “set it and forget it” at-home fermentation. (Mine was about $60 for a 5L crock on Amazon, but you can usually find deals online here!) Okay, here we go!



SAUERKRAUT


INGREDIENTS~

  • 2-3 heads of cabbage. (You can use which ever kind you like. For this round, I used 2 heads of Savoy Cabbage and 1 head of Red Cabbage.)
  • Roughly 2 Tbsp Sea Salt

That’s it!


INSTRUCTIONS~

Reserve 2-3 leaves of cabbage (whole).

Core the heads of cabbage.

Chop into desired thickness. I prefer my sauerkraut in stringier, smaller pieces.

Cover the bottom of the crock with about 2-3 handfuls of chopped cabbage.

Sprinkle some sea salt over this layer. (I don’t measure the salt, I just sprinkle some after each layer. I’d describe it as a medium amount, not too generous but not a light sprinkling.)

Layer another 2-3 handfuls of cabbage. Using your fist, jam that cabbage down onto the previous layer. The end result is that you want as little air as possible in between the cabbage.

Follow with another sprinkling of sea salt.

Continue layering cabbage and sea salt until all the cabbage is in the crock and tamped down.

Cover the top of the chopped and salted cabbage with the whole leaves. (No need to salt this.) Place the weights on top of these whole leaves. (Sometimes I have to jam mine in there when the crock is full.)

Place the cover on the crock. Leave for 2 hours.

The salt should draw out liquid from the cabbage and create a brine for the cabbage to ferment in. However, I have always had to add additional liquid to the crock to ensure that the cabbage is fully covered. To do this, boil a tea kettle of water and dissolve 1/2 Tbsp of sea salt. LET IT COOL COMPLETELY. Pour the cooled, salted water into the crock until the liquid level reaches about 1 cm above the weights. Everything in the crock should be submerged in liquid.

Now replace the top of the crock and fill the reservoir around the lid with water. This lid creates an anaerobic environment by allowing gases made during the fermentation process to escape but no oxygen to get in! (Especially helpful for reducing any scum that naturally would form on top of the liquid inside the crock.)

Make sure that the reservoir around the lid stays filled with water. I have to refill mine a couple of times.

Don’t open the crock for a minimum of 2 weeks. At this point, you can begin tasting it. I prefer to leave mine fermenting for a minimum of 4 weeks but you can leave it even longer if you like!

When your sauerkraut is ready, scoop into sealable jars. It should fill about 5-6 jars. It will not go bad! I keep mine in the fridge but you can store them in a pantry as well. Keep for yourself or share with friends!


Liz Beebe is the lady lead singer of LA band Dustbowl Revival. When she’s not touring, she spends her time in Silverlake snuggling her French bulldogs and cooking food. She manages auto immune symptoms via lifestyle and diet and writes about her health journey at lizbeebe.com/blog. Follow her tour adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @beebejesus.


Be sure to subscribe to Sirens & Scoundrels for more local, food & travel adventures delivered straight to you! Enter your email address on our home page & hit “SUBSCRIBE”! 

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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels //  Recipe © 2017 Liz Beebe

Travel Tales ~ Yosemite

Words & Photography by Alex M. Rice  //  Interview by Christina Huntington

Known primarily as a popular summer camping destination, we’ve always been huge fans of Yosemite in winter. So when we heard that one of our favorite recent LA transplants, designer and photographer Alex Rice, was heading to our beloved National Park for a solo winter adventure, we convinced her to let us tag along…by sharing her travel tales with us! We love that Alex was inspired by our same mission to get out and make your life an adventure! So come along for the ride on our first Travel Tales ~ YOSEMITE

HAPPY ADVENTURING!! xoxo, Sirens & Scoundrels


Instead of wearing a sparkly, uncomfortable party dress and hitting the city streets of LA for the New Year, I decided to immerse myself in nature. Although I was looking forward to the new year, 2016 had some incredible memories—living with my best friend in Washington D.C., working with talented artists and traveling with my mother to Montana. But after moving from Burke, VA (a place that was familiar to me for sixteen years) to my new home in East Hollywood, I felt I needed to celebrate my move by welcoming 2017 in a place I had never been. So I decided to hit the road for a spontaneous solo trip and spend the first day of 2017 in Yosemite National Park.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I wanted to go. So after a 4 ½ hour car ride armed with my sidekicks—a box of Cheez-Its, a few white chocolate macadamia nut Cliff Bars and a Nikon camera—I ended up in the middle of Yosemite on January 1st. When I got to the entrance, the park ranger handed me a map. My heart started racing—I couldn’t believe I made it to Yosemite! I didn’t even look at the map because I didn’t want to waste any time. Immediately, everything seemed surreal. Giant trees, towering mountains and low-hanging clouds engulfed me. I drove up a curvy road surrounded by sequoias. The forest became denser and the light peeked through the pines. There were patches of snow and ice on the ground, making the deep greens and reds from the trees illuminate the park. I realized I was naive to how massive Yosemite is—it felt endless. While driving up my first mountainside, white clouds covered most of the overlooks and the roads were hidden by dense fog, obscuring my view. But I was on the hunt, determined to see something through the mists. I finally saw a sign to Bridalveil Fall, so I quickly parked and ran out of my car to see this massive, powerful waterfall peeking through the trees. I just stood there staring, thinking how I’ve never felt so small. I hopped in my car again and nothing felt real…I just knew I had to keep exploring.

I tried to explore more of the park that first day, but the clouds covered most of the mountains and it started getting late. So on my second day, I finally got to see my Mac Book Pro screen saver in person. The sky was clear and Yosemite looked exactly how I had pictured it. I stuck my head out the car window and gazed in awe at how high the mountains grew. I stopped my car when I finally got to Half Dome. It was sprinkled with snow and glowing against the blue cloudless sky. The dome was so massive, its shadow turned the tallest pine tree black. I felt as though I was looking at a painting.

Since this was my first solo trip, I learned a lot pretty quickly. I decided camping alone might not be the best idea, so I stayed in a charming town called Oakhurst instead. Located about 20 minutes away from the entrance to Yosemite with plenty of cafes and stores to buy more supplies, it was the perfect spot. If I were to give any tips about going to Yosemite in winter, I would say buy a good pair of hiking boots with lots of traction because there are sheets of ice on the roads. Bring lots of water and snacks since it takes awhile to get out of Yosemite. Also, fill up on gas before entering the park. I made the amateur mistake of thinking half a tank would be enough. Luckily, there was a small gas station near the entrance.

Although there were many sights that I fell in love with, from the waterfalls to Half Dome, my favorite memory was on my last day in the park. The fog crept back into the forest and roads. The whole scene looked like an ominous clip from a film. I remembered that this was the same image I saw when I first entered the park, so I wanted to capture that first memory. I found a small spot to park my car and ran out to the edge of the woods. Even though I was slightly worried because I could barely see what was in front of me, I remember thinking how beautiful and still the woods seemed. This was the exact picture I was looking for: peace.

After I said my goodbyes to my new favorite park and started the long car ride back to Los Angeles, I could not help but think about what Yosemite taught me. It’s okay to take a break from the real world and let your mind wander. If you want to go somewhere, just go. Don’t let any excuse stop you. It’s always worth creating the memories, even if it’s by yourself. Last year, I was so focused on moving out of DC, I completely lost track of myself. I worked endlessly saving money and researching different jobs. I realized I was no longer doing anything that I truly enjoyed. I wasn’t taking photos, I had stopped looking for hiking trails and I didn’t even bother to illustrate anymore. I was just rushing to “get out”. But once I got to Los Angeles, I felt as though I didn’t have a chance to really celebrate my accomplishments. With New Year’s just a few days away, I kept looking at pictures of Yosemite and thinking how I couldn’t wait to go someday. When my sister asked what I was doing to ring in 2017, without any hesitation I said, “I’m going to Yosemite.”


MEET ALEX

We sat down with Alex to go over all things awesome about discovering California!~

What do you love most about LA so far?

I love the food—there’s such a good variety. You can get Pho, you can get Mexican and everything’s really good. I haven’t experienced that before. And the weather, of course. It’s so beautiful. I can’t believe it’s March and so sunny and warm. And it doesn’t get that cold or humid.

What’s your favorite neighborhood?

I love Larchmont so much! It’s my speed. You can get coffee, you can get dinner or a drink. It’s quiet and it’s cute. And I love Bricks & Scones.

What do you appreciate most about California?

Everything is an hour away from each other. So you can go to the beach, the desert, the mountains. You can go Downtown if you want. You can just kind of see it all and have it all in a day if you really wanted to. You don’t get that anywhere else.

What are you dying to explore next? 

Oh man, a lot! In California, Big Sur is up there on my list. I wanna see that really bad. I haven’t been to San Francisco yet. And I want to see the redwoods and even Death Valley. I’m also dying to go to the Grand Canyon. And I want to go back to Yellowstone.

What’s inspiring you these days in life and in art?

Having an excuse to just get out and go somewhere different. And I like creating something super weird—I think the weirder the better. So weirdness is inspiring me right now, I guess!

Alex Rice is a designer and photographer based in Los Angeles. Alex moved to Los Angeles in October 2016 from the Washington DC area and is now ready to explore the West Coast. She is always up for an adventure, especially exploring her new home state. She hopes to share her experiences and inspire others to find their courage to explore. Follow her on Instagram: @alexmrice.


Be sure to subscribe to Sirens & Scoundrels for more local, food & travel adventures delivered straight to you! Enter your email address on our home page & hit “SUBSCRIBE”! 

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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels // Photos © 2017 Alex M. Rice

The Antīc Ferari ~ “Antique Ferrari”

Words & Original Cocktail Recipe by Richard Swan // Photography by Sarah Prikryl // Interview by Christina Huntington 

It is one of my dreams in life to be able to walk into any bar across the world, order an Antīc Ferari and get a knowing nod from the bartender as they clink ice cubes into a mixing glass. I’ll watch them reach for and pour equal measures of Antica Carpano, Fernet Branca and Campari. They will stir that perfect concoction until it reaches arctic chill and then strain it over fresh ice, deftly or clumsily waving a grapefruit or orange peel in or near the glass–I don’t really care. Within a minute, I’ll order another to replace the one that’s just disappeared down my throat…

There is a warm fuzzy place in the cocktail world for 3-ingredient, equal-proportion drinks. Their very nature makes them easy to make at home and confident for us to order at the bar. The Negroni is arguably best in class: 1 ounces each of Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth chilled and served up or on the rocks. It is delicious, complex, infinitely customizable (see: Mezcal Negroni, White Negroni, plus an infinity more) and the ingredients are fairly ubiquitous.

The Antīc Ferari is a criminally simple alteration of that timeless classic.

You need only glance at the backbar to visually check off the ingredients:

Antica Carpano? Check. I hope–this is the current industry standard for quality sweet vermouth. Don’t panic if your local pub doesn’t pour this, any decent sweet vermouth will do–just don’t stoop too low or allow them to pour anything from a dusty bottle.

Fernet Branca? Check. Flavor profile best described as a mixture of Jagermeister, Listerine and Sharpies. It’s fabulous stuff…I refer to it as ‘Bartender’s Mouthwash’.

Campari? Check. Italian bittersweet digestif with a scarlet hue once made possible by the inclusion of crushed beetle wings. (I know!)

All you need to do is order a Negroni, ask them to substitute Fernet Branca for the gin and you’re off to the races. Don’t worry if they give you a look…“Trust me,” you’ll say and then suggest they try it. Just be sure to watch their face while they do so…“It’s called an Antique Ferrari. You’re welcome….”

All of these fantastically complex ingredients come together to be so much greater than the sum of their already great parts. Initially sweet with warm vanilla bean from the Antica and a cold herbal snap from the Fernet that then melds into a delightfully numbing citrus peel dance on the palate from the Campari. It’s a rush, I tell you. And fair warning…just a little bit addictive.

Cheers! I hope you have as much fun turning people onto this drink as I have.


ANTIC FERARI

INGREDIENTS~

1 oz Antica Carpano Sweet Vermouth

1 oz Fernet Branca

1 oz Campari

ASSEMBLY~

stir all ingredients with cracked ice until very cold

strain up or over fresh cracked ice

express the oils of a grapefruit or orange peel and drop into the glass


MEET RICHARD

We sat down with Richard to pick his brain about cocktails, music & the Best of the Best of LA!~

If there were just ONE place you could take an out-of-towner visiting LA, where would you take them?

Dinner at Musso & Frank–a throwback to actual Old Hollywood. Now it’s surrounded by these wacky gross bars and, basically, stripper stores. But that place is still there and you can go in and look at the wall and see this is where Fitzgerald had martinis and Sinatra had steaks. Throw away all your dietary restrictions and go for it. I don’t care what you do or do not eat. You’re gonna eat a steak and potato and have four martinis at Musso’s.

Best places to grab a cocktail in LA?

There’s three tiers. If you want a really challenging but great cocktail, go to Birch. The bar manager there will take some abstract concept and turn it into a drink. Her cocktail menu is astonishing. If you want a drink made perfectly to spec and get some obscure whiskey cocktail from the Boston book and know they’re not going to have to look it up, go to Varnish. You can say, “I want a Remember the Maine” and they’ll make a perfect Remember the Maine. If you want some rotgut booze, go around the corner to Smog Cutter. It’s one of the oldest bars in LA and, thankfully, one of the most untouched by anything else. There’s a pool table, there’s always karaoke, but don’t order a cocktail there. Beer and highballs are all you can hope for.

What should everyone have stocked in their liquor cabinet at home at all times?

I’m the firm believer in being prepared for all occasions when it comes to drink. So I think you should always have a bottle of bubbly (it doesn’t have to be expensive), a white and a red, some beer. And then as far as liquor goes, have something clear and something brown. Clear can be vodka, gin, or silver rum or tequila. Brown, you can get some whiskey, rum or cognac. Then you’re ready for all occasions.

What’s the one drink everyone should master & be able to serve up to guests?

The Old Fashioned formula is all you need to know because it’s super versatile. It doesn’t have to be whiskey. You can do mezcal, you can do a gin Old Fashioned…it can be anything you want. Just add spirit, a touch of any kind of sugar you want to use and bitters. Then you can express your tastes with it because that’s just a very simple formula that you can mix and match. Slot some spirit in, throw different bitters in there, throw a different garnish in there and you can basically create your own version of an Old Fashioned. As long as you know the basic specs, you’re off to the races. And you can experiment with it and not spend all day since it’s only three ingredients–it’s easy. A mezcal Old Fashioned is fantastic.

What are your favorite places to check out live music in LA?

The resindencies at The Echo and The Satellite are always great. There’s no cover at the door, the crowd’s always fun, there’s no attitude and you never know what you’re gonna find. And then there’s The Baked Potato where you can always find some random stuff. Like Volto might be playing some night. Sometimes dipping your toes in the Sunset Strip is kind of hilarious for us East Siders to head over there and see what’s going on at The Viper Room.

What’s your real-life superpower?

I can taste things without putting them in my mouth. Through the many years of developing cocktail menus, I can see things and know how they’re going to taste just by reading the ingredients.

Richard is a first generation American, musician, gear head and cat dad. LA serves as his home base while he travels the country designing cocktail programs for events and venues as National Beverage Director for thegrandbevy.com. Follow his travels at @formulaswan.


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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels // Cocktail Recipe © 2017 Richard Swan

 

The Sacred Art of Self Love

Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl // Contributing Photography by Christina Huntington

As we deep dive into all things L-O-V-E this month, we come face-to-face with the most crucial form of love to master: self love. It’s easy to look at seemingly endless social media feeds overflowing with infinite selfies and moment-to-moment replays of every minuscule activity as if everyone is engaged in broadcasting their own 24/7 reality series and think that self love is maybe the last thing we need to be worried about right now. But self promotion and even self confidence are very different from self love. As “look-at-me” culture skyrockets, studies show that our collective self worth seems to be plummeting to an all-time low, proving true the old adage that comparison is the thief of joy. In my work as a meditation teacher and spiritual counselor, self love is Issue Zero…the singular point of origin of all our issues, disappointments and challenges. Of course a healthy relationship to self love is something we all want. And if it were easy, we would all have it. But like reaching out for shooting stars we can never get close enough to, no amount of trying, efforting or chasing seems to allow that love to finally drop in our laps. Which is why we then fall back on those easy quick-fixes for the little hits of confidence that never seem to last, creating an endless cycle of needing more attention from external sources to continue to prop ourselves up on. Frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m tired just from writing that. So…what can we do?

Actually, we need to start by taking self love off the table completely. It’s a great idea but being a “concept”, it’s really hard to put into practice. How do you just suddenly start loving yourself if you’ve never been given the tools to do that, have a litany of stories and experiences in your head to prove otherwise and you don’t even know what it actually means? The simple secret is this: self love boils down to SELF CARE. If you want to learn how to love yourself, you have to learn how to care for yourself first. Like a parent put in charge of a newborn baby, at a certain point in adulthood you finally realize that your life (and heart) is now in your own hands. You are responsible for your own sense of comfort, safety, nurturing, protection, well-being and security in the world. So the first step to self care is learning to self-soothe, self-parent and fill our own needs. This doesn’t mean forcing ourselves to try to be happy and put on a smiling face whenever things get tough in an effort to just “make things okay”. It means meeting ourselves exactly where we really are and being okay with whatever that is. Allowing feelings like sorrow, loneliness, frustration and anger to be there if that’s what we are feeling. The important part is that we feel safe enough in our own company to build a trusted line of open communication—being able to both SPEAK our truth to ourselves and HEAR our truth from ourselves without judgment. Simply being able to listen to exactly what is happening inside of us and say, “Okay. I hear you. And I’ve got you. What do you need right now?” Then giving ourselves the things we need.

“FILL YOUR OWN NEEDS”~

In my meditation classes, I teach a few very simple exercises that can instantly transform your relationship to self love. The first one is literally just learning how to fill your own needs. It doesn’t require years of therapy or personal growth, just the ability to ask yourself three questions each day. Every morning when you wake up, take a moment to close your eyes and focus your attention on your heart (the energy center right in the middle of your chest). Then ask yourself these three questions…

In order to feel peaceful, nourished & cared for today…

  • What do I NEED?
  • What do I WANT?
  • What do I DESIRE?

Just write down a one or two word answer for each in a small journal. Then your only assignment is to give yourself at least ONE of those things each day.

There are subtle differences between phrasing here. “NEED” is just about our baseline survival—what do I absolutely HAVE to have in order to feel at peace today? “WANT” is something that is a preference that we would like and enjoy if it happened. “DESIRE” is something that feels really yummy, like a special treat for the soul. Don’t try to control the answers. Create a space of silent listening instead and wait for the answers to come through and show themselves to you. Maybe one day you NEED to get a good night’s sleep. Maybe the next day you really WANT to see friends and share some laughs. Another day you might DESIRE turning down the lights and slipping into a hot bubble bath with your favorite mood music. Be open to whatever you might hear from your own heart and soul and know that the answers will be different each day because YOU are different each day.

In emergency situations, this exercise can be distilled down ever further. When you feel yourself experiencing an uncomfortable emotion or heading into the internal danger zone, simply put all of your focus on the center of your chest (you can even put your hands here if you wish, as a gentle physical reminder that you are present and listening with yourself) and ask: “What do I need right now to feel cared for and at peace?” Just this exercise alone will transform your entire relationship to yourself if you practice it regularly.

“50 HAPPY THINGS”~

This exercise is not only easy, it’s really fun and fills your life with delicious doses of daily sweetness. Sit down and make a list of 50 things that make you happy for no reason. (They are not going to further your career or skyrocket you to success.) These are little simple tangible experiences that you enjoy just because. Preferably inexpensive or free and easily accessible on a daily basis. Perhaps you like the feeling of grass beneath your bare feet. Eating fresh organic berries from the farmer’s market. The way the light comes in the window of your apartment in the late afternoon and your pet watches the tree shadows dancing on the floor. Gazing at the stars when everyone else is asleep. A hot jacuzzi. Scented candles. 60’s soul records. Okay…maybe those are all things I love, but you get the picture. The point is to create a list of things you love that you can give yourself EVERY DAY. And then that’s the next step: just commit to giving yourself ONE of these experiences every single day. Actively seek out these little ways to bring more simple joy into your life.

As with everything, that only way you’ll know that any of this works is if you try it yourself. So just for this week, your assignment is to take on a Great Self-Care Experiment. Practice asking yourself what you need in the morning and then meeting one of those needs each day. Get curious about what fills you with joy and then actively bring those Happy Things into your daily life. Try this out for seven days straight and see how you feel. I promise you can turn your entire relationship with yourself around in just a week if you really take this on as a spiritual practice. Be willing now to take responsibility for your own happiness, feelings of worth and sense of well-being. Give yourself the thing you have been craving your entire life: to know that you are heard, you are cared for, you are loved.

HAPPY LOVING!! xoxo, Sirens & Scoundrels


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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels