Los Angeles Hotspots

Los Angeles (L.A.), the City of Angels, is a city on the West Coast of the United States of America.  I have visited LA many times for work, and this time I took 3 weeks to explore it in-depth on my California Road trip! Although it looks like LA is really spread out, it is in fact an area called Los Angeles County that consists of multiple cities (88!) like Beverly Hills, West-Hollywood and Los Angeles itself.

Day 1: We flew with Delta and arrived in the afternoon in LA. A nice breeze and the Sun hitting my face, I knew this trip was going to be great! We stayed at the famous Sunset Tower Hotel on the famed Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. I have stayed at The Sunset Tower hotel before for work (when it was named the Argyle hotel) and I remember loving it. A long time ago it used to be an apartment building where people like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor used to live. There is so much history in this place, especially from the 40's and 50's, and you can still feel it when you are there. Besides that, it is the first building that was built with reinforced steel, which is nice to know when you are in an area that is known for earthquakes.

We got an upgrade! A corner room with great views of the hills and downtown LA. It had a little sitting area, and a separate bedroom. The bedroom overlooked a big dogrun, which was fun, but also a bit hard as we had just lost our beloved dog Vito. One great thing about this hotel is that they are pet-friendly. So next time we will bring our new dog with us! We stayed here for 2 weeks and felt very much at home. Breakfast is in a really nice setting, but it's not the best breakfast I have every had (I must say). Roomservice is decent though! There is a mini swimming pool, and enough beds to sunbathe. but due to the small area most people decline to go for a swim. It is nice to look at though! Overall, I would definitely come back for the service, the hospitality, the nice ambiance and the good feeling this hotel gives me.

Day 2: I took time to recover from the flight, and we explored the neighborhood a bit. Even though LA is made for driving, the area where the hotel was, was nice to walk around. We could go to Melrose, and walk to Beverly Hills. Along the way we found a Le Pain Quotidien, which is always a safe place to eat when you are on a trip. They have organic bread and salads with organic ingredients. We did our shopping at Trader Joe's in West Hollywood.

Day 3: The main reason for our visit to LA was that my best friend of 23 years - Maruja Retana - got married to her longtime love Ross Palmer! She arranged a multi-day wedding which was so much fun!

On our way to the rehearsal dinner from Sunset Tower Hotel:

Maruja and Ross got married on Santa Monica beach (oh yeah!). A super clean beach with white sand just like you remember from Baywatch. Definitely worth a visit. Afterwards they had rented a nice house in the Hollywood hills with a beautiful view, and the hottest pool I have ever been in. Maruja and Ross hired a pizza chef and he made amazing pizzas fresh for all the guests, and the best gluten- free pizza I have ever had! Of course the dessert was Krispy Creme donuts, as those 2 are obsessed with donuts! (of course my wedding gift included some donut inspired gifts as well)

Day 4: We had brunch at the pool house. All the guests enjoyed the Sun, the pool and we made good food. It was such a nice experience as many of our mutual friends flew over from the Netherlands. It was great to catch up with them!

 

Day 5: Dirk and I met up with Maruja, Ross and the guests who were still left and went on a hike in Griffith Park. We walked all the way up to the Griffith Park Observatory and we bought tickets to see a show in the building. It is part museum and part a Planetarium. First of all, the walk gave us gorgeous views of LA, you can even see the Hollywood Sign (that means it could be crossed of the to-do list), but the show itself was unexpected but very nice! We watched the show that told us more about the Universe.

Day 6: after Dirk and I went to stroll around the neighborhood, with of course a stop at Urth Caffé on Melrose. They have good organic food options, I especially like the tea selections. This time I ordered their huge (decaf) cappuccino!  My advice: All of LA goes here so go there early before it gets busy. Afterwards we visited Beverly Hills, the City Hall and the Hermes store.

Dirk has a membership with a gym with a location in LA, so he went to train there every day. I enjoyed writing and walking around the areas with Dirk. We tried to find places to eat, and asked everybody in LA their favorite restaurant, but everyone we asked had a difficult time answering that question. (If you ask someone in NYC, they come up with a list of restaurants that you can't even try all in 3 weeks time!) We found a few nice places, by googling on "organic and vegan".

Day 7: Of course we walked to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Besides that I thought it was very unimpressive, I considered it a Place of Hell with all the tourist traps and homeless people that we passed along the way.  That is also Los Angeles: You can walk from one nice , clean super rich area, and one block further you see homelessness everywhere.

Day 8: we ordered an Uber and he brought us to Downtown LA. I told Dirk: "I want to go everywhere but not Skid Row!" (an area with many homeless people living on the streets) We were dropped off in a seemingly normal business area of LA, walked by the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry.

Dirk is a photographer in his spare time, and loves to take pictures. He was on the hunt for cool looking buildings like that building. But this seemed more difficult in LA. (I guess we are a bit spoiled living in NYC.) We did see an awesome art instalation at the Museum of Contempory Art, made out of old airplanes:

Downtown LA looks a bit more poor and unclean, with a few hidden gems, like the Grand Central Market,  which is nice to visit when your are downtown LA. One of the food vendors in the Market is named Eggslut, they have all egglicious dishes for sale. (They just opened a location in NYC in the Chefs Club Counter.)

When we looked on a map we noticed that the Art District was not far. We are used to walking as we are from NYC, so we went to walk over there. When we walked one block, we noticed it started smelling like pee. The second block we saw many homeless people, looking at us like we are 2 tourists who are lost. We asked a Police Officer how to get from there to the Art District, and he urged us to wait there at the Police station and order an Uber. Supposedly we had landed on the beginning of Skid Row. The Uber driver took us around Skid Row. Definitely not an area where the 2 of us should walk around. It seems many people have lived like that for a long, long time. I wonder why no one is doing anything about it? It is so sad!

Tip: Even though LA is a place you need a car to get around, getting around in LA without owning a car is easy! On top of that we discovered that Uber/Lyft in LA were very cheap compared to NYC!

The moment we got out of Skid Row we immediately arrived in a super nice area called Downtown Art District. Here apartments are millions of dollars, and again there is an Urth Caffé in a super nice art deco building, and a valet parking for the Urth Cafe visitors. It doesn't seem many people walk over here. They all arrive by car. This area has many nice old industrial buildings that are converted into lofts, just like in NYC. You can also find a few young designer shops around here. This place is definitely upcoming.

We had decided we had seen enough of Downtown LA, and went back to the Sunset Tower Hotel.

Day 9: We decided to move from the Sunset Tower Hotel to the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey. This is where all the boats are, and close to Venice Beach and Santa Monica. This way we can explore this area more.

The Ritz Carlton was nice because it had a lovely swimming pool I used every day. But the rooms were noisy, and it was definitely more of a fancy/luxury tourist hotel. I did like the restaurant a lot, for breakfast and dinner. The best part was that it was a nice walk from the hotel, along the Marina, to Venice Beach. Venice Beach is very much hippie and happening.

The vibe there is one of surf dudes and beach babes, most things are around Abbot Kinney Road and on the beach. Like the well-known outdoor Gym "Muscle Beach" . It's famous because of Arnold Schwarzenegger training there back in the day. There are enough vegan restaurants in this area, Like Cafe Gratitude. You can go to the toilet at any of the restrooms on the beach, but plan ahead as on busy days it is busy, and restaurants don't let you use the restroom if you are not eating there.

Day 10: I started the day with a swim, breakfast and off we went! Walking around the area. Maruja and Ross and some other guests who were still in LA joined us for lunch at Seed Kitchen in Venice Beach. it was a really cute vegan, macrobiotic restaurant but unfortunately they closed recently.

From Venice beach we walked to Santa Monica beach over the beach walk way. We walked on to the Santa Monica Pier with the fair, and watched the most beautiful Sunset. We walked into Santa Monica and had dinner at a small Sushi place which was pretty ok. It was such a nice end to our LA trip and say goodbye to the people we spent so much time with the past 2 weeks!

 

Day 11: I enjoyed a last day at the Ritz Carlton. Dirk worked a bit, and I packed our bags. We walked around Venice Beach at night, which was absolutely lovely. Especially the beach, and in alleys located between the cute houses, and the little canals.

The next day was going to be the start of our road trip!

Bye bye LA: It was good to finally really get to know you!

My tip for LA:

  • don't go for the tourist things (unless you go to Disneyland!)
  • It's nice to walk around West Hollywood towards Melrose and Beverly Hills.
  • Stay in Marina Del Rey as it is quiet, and you are close to Venice beach and Santa Monica.
  • Rent a car for a day to drive around, but mostly use Uber or Lyft.
  • There are a few good restaurants, but do some research yourself before you go.

You can read about the roadtrip and visit to San Francisco in my articles:

My California road trip, and My Best of San Francisco!

Love, Lonneke

 

 

 


Jojoba oil

Before I decided to focus on my music and Vocal Psychology to help people find their inner voice, I worked as a psychologist and gave trainings on the subject of personal effectivity. I would give people advice on how to reach their goals better, and 2 terms I used a lot were 'efficiency' (how you reach a goal) and 'effectivity' (IF you reach a goal). If there's one thing I'm very fond of, it's efficiency... I like it when things make sense, I like it when you can use something for multiple reasons, I love it when I have found the shortest route to what I want. And obviously I want my methods to work as well....

My discovery of Jojoba Oil

What's with the lecture, you might ask? To illustrate why I almost cried a little bit when I read an article from one of my favorite bloggers, Gala Darling. She wrote about how jojoba oil was 'the elixir of the gods', describing how it is really good (effectivity) for your hair AND skin (efficiency).

Needless to say, I was fascinated by this information... I ordered a bottle from an online shop and tried it out for the past 2 weeks. I used 2 drops of it every night after cleansing but before moisturizing my skin, and 3 drops after I washed my hair. Conclusion: I AM STUNNED! It really works miracles!

What did Jojoba oil do for my skin and hair

My skin is usually of the notorious combination type, where my T-zone is oily and the rest dry. The jojoba oil really evens it out, which is great for so many reasons: obviously it just looks better and healthier, I don't have to touch up my make up during the day, my hair stays cleaner etc.

My hair is curly and thick, and it gets dry very easily. The jojoba oil makes it look very shiny and healthy and my curls really come alive! Also, it seems like I don't have to wash it as often (which could also be the result of my better skin).

Other ways you can use it

  • Lip balm
  • Eye make up remover (that doesn't irritate your eyes)
  • Shave prep
  • Massage oil
  • For a higher IQ (ok, that might not be true)

I swear I am not a spokesperson for this product (yet). But I could be, I am psyched to have found this! Try it out at home, it's very cheap, you don't need much of it for any purpose (another efficiency factor) and it's effective... And I didn't even mention the fact that your bathroom will look so organized, after you've thrown away your moisturizer, lip balm, make up remover and hair products!

Read more about Jojoba Oil

XOXO Maruja 

Follow my work for Vocal Psychology, where I will teach you to sing your heart out!

Picture: Maruja Retana for her single Right Through Me.

First published in 2013. Updated in 2019


My California Road trip

One Summer, my husband Dirk and I went on a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I do think you need to do a California Road trip once in your life! And if you do, you have to do it the right way.

For a road trip along the pacific coastline of California you have to use highway 1, official name California State Route 1. This route stretches from just below Los Angeles in Orange County, all way up to Mendocino County, just above San Francisco. A road trip from North to South along this highway 1, will give you the best view of the ocean, but at some parts you are very close on the ridge of the beautiful cliffs. If you are not afraid of that, it's nice to start your road trip here. From LA to SF is also very beautiful (but you see the cars in the lane between yourself and the beach), Highway 1 has no alternative routes around Big Sur unfortunately.  So when a big forest fire was threatening the nature around Big Sur when we were there, we had to drive a long detour around Big Sur through the vineyards. So we haven't seen Big Sur, the place everyone wants to visit on a road trip. Although we did not see it, we don't feel like we missed anything because the whole trip was really beautiful.

2016-08 Roadtrip California 1

You can do the whole trip within a day, with 6 hours drive covering about 380+ miles, but I don't recommend it. We did it in 3 days, but I wish I did it in 4 or 5 days, there was so much to do and see!

Renting a car in California is not as expensive, even in high season, as in some other places like New York City. If you reserve in time, you get an even better rate. You can only rent from LA at the airport LAX, but you can drop it off in the middle of San Francisco city center. We rented a standard car, but got upgraded to a small SUV. Some people like to drive this route in a typical American Ford Mustang. A convertible is a nice option too!

During our trip, we stopped many times to take pictures of cliffs, mountains, beach and the sea. So make sure you have enough time in your travel plans to take it easy along the way, and enjoy the beautiful views!

We stayed a few nights in LA with our friends Maruja and Ross who were getting married. This was a nice way to connect again with my best friend of 20+ years, her family and our mutual friends. We enjoyed LA and we feel like we explored every neighborhood really well. We loved walking around West-Hollywood, towards Melrose and Beverly Hills believe it or not. Some neighborhoods are really cute to explore, and are easy to walk, even though LA is known as being a city to drive.

wedding Maruja & Ross

This was our itinerary of our California road trip:

Day 1:

  • 11am LAX Avis car rental: We rented a car at LAX. This is the only place in LA where you can rent a car to drive up north and leave it at another location. First of, we drove all around LA, the nice neighborhoods, Mulholland drive with the amazing view from the mountains looking down to LA, Beverly Hills, Bell Air, Hollywood.
  •  2 pm: We parked our car, and stopped at Gracias Madre for a delicious vegan brunch.
  • 4pm: We drove up North towards Santa Monica, Malibu. We stopped at a few lookouts for pictures. Onwards on Highway 1 we enjoyed looking at people on the beach having fun, the beach waves rolling onto the beach, and the beautiful mountains on our right.2016-08 Roadtrip California 3
  • 6.30pm: Within 2.5 hours we arrived in Santa Barbara, a little town with many cute restaurants and shops, I loved it here so much! We went to eat dinner at The Savoy Cafe, a cute family owned restaurant with a lot of organic, healthy and gluten-free options.  It was so good!
  • 7.30pm: We stayed at the La Quinta inn, which was 1 minute drive from the restaurant. It was cheap clean and fine, and we could park the car at the hotel. ( I had noticed a comment on Trip Advisor saying that the sound of the fridge in the room turning on and off was keeping a woman awake. Well, I was kept awake by it too, despite the comfortable bed, and nice large room.) We checked in and dropped our luggage in our room.
  • 8.30 pm: we walked from the hotel straight onto the Main Street in Santa Barbara. This is a really fun and alive street in the middle of Santa Barbara, that ends up at the beach and the pier. We walked all the way to the pier I loved how the homeless were creative to get money from people. They built games in the sand, so people could try to throw their coin on a certain target, which would activate something like music playing. This gave the people passing by a challenge too, and many were eager to try it out. The street had many fun little bars and restaurants. The vibe was really good!
  • 10pm bedtime!

Day 2:

  • 8.30 am: breakfast. The hotel had very simple breakfast. People could make their own waffles which looked cute, but we wanted something healthier. We went back to The Savoy Cafe for breakfast, and I ordered the Gluten-free Lemon french Toast, yum!2016-08 Savoy Cafe Glutenfree Toast 1
  • 9.30 am: Shopping! I had seen this cute vintage shop on Main Street, called Renaissance, and I wanted to check it out. There was a couch for Dirk to sit while he waited (sorry Dirk!) But we ended up having a great conversation with the sales person, and another customer.  They had so many amazing pieces. I bought a few (fake) pearl necklaces. Overall a great success! 
  • 12 noon: We stayed a bit too long at the vintage place so we had to rush to check out. And again, we went to Savoy for lunch, before we went on with our trip. I wish this place was close to where I live in NYC!
  • 3pm: Drive to Monterey. We first drove all around Santa Barbara to really get a good idea what this town is all about. Cute Spanish inspired houses with many red roofs, I really liked it! Unfortunately there were many forest fires in the time we were in California, so the highway 1 was closed off for days around Big Sur. We couldn't go there, so we took the detour route through the vineyards.2016-08 Roadtrip California 2
  • Sunset: We arrive at the Intercontinental hotel, which was on the water. our room was nice. Out of our room we could see the small swimming pool. We called it a night and ordered roomservice. We wanted to get a good night sleep.

Day 3:

  • 6.30 am. We were on the 4th floor, but we were woken up by loud noise and shaking of the ground. I thought we were experiencing an earthquake. I did not know what was going on, and it kept going for at least 1.5 hours. We called downstairs what was going on, and they would check. Later on it turned out some guests used the fitness area, which turned out to be on the 2nd floor. They were throwing weights around. The people below us must have heard and felt it much harder than we did. Also, the walls were paper thin, and I could hear the neighbor cough like she was in our room. When at breakfast we saw a seal in the water next to the hotel. The staff heard about our rough night and offered a free fruit plate. The town of Monterey is very much a fishermen's town, and I wish we could explore it more, but we did not have much time. We drove around though. (which is my favorite thing to do anyway).
  • 12.30pm: We had lunch at organic Tillie Gort's cafe, which was o.k. (UPDATE: after 49 years this place has now closed) The menu is very American, with a few organic and healthier options included. I wish we went to the Studio Cafe at Wave Street Studio, which have an organic salad bar. Oh well, next time!
  • 1.30pm: Driving to San Francisco. We could drive part of the highway 1 again, and enjoyed the views. We stopped at a cute coffee place that looked not great from the outside, but had the best gluten-free home-baked brownies! It was a gem, and I can't find the name anywhere on internet, but it was a little place stating "coffee house" on a sign that I believe was yellow.
  • 5.30pm: We arrived in San Francisco! Getting fuel and dropping of the car at Avis, and via Uber brought to our hotel.2016-08 San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge Lonneke Engel 2

We loved this little 3 day trip! We stayed a week in San Francisco and explored it like locals. Please check out my article on my Los Angeles Hotspots, and my Best of San Francisco!

Love, Lonneke

 

 

 

 


Maruja Retana in the video for her song Right Through Me

Maruja Retana music video has 1+ million views!

This is a throwback to a few years ago when my first single 'Right through me' was released! It was shot it in a studio called 'Ernstige Zaken' ('serious business' ;)) in Amsterdam, by video company Pixelheaven. They did a wonderful job! I wanted it to be something fun and real, to really show my personality, and I think they pulled it off. What do you think? p.s. My video hit over 1 million views! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0k12j2OhdI

Making of a music video: The Team

Fashion: Sepehr Maghsoudi

The video had a few fun cameos... I was thrilled that fashion designer Sepehr Maghsoudi was in it, not only a very talented man but also a great person! :) All the beautiful dresses you see in 'Right through me' are designed by him.

Costar: Marius Hordijk

And, because I wanted to give the Organice Your Life team a little wink, I asked Marius to be in the video with me! I'm very happy he did!

Multitasker: Joey Holthaus

Lastly, I was so glad that my good friend Joey Holthaus was with me all day! He did a fantastic job multitasking, because not only did he take awesome behind the scenes pics, he also gave me various pep talks and thoroughly checked if my cleavage still looked right throughout the day haha :D Thanks Joey!

It was very nice to work together with a nice group of people including friends.

Most watched video

I heard that 'Right through me' was one day even the most watched music video on YouTube in the Netherlands, and nr. 6 worldwide, unbelievable! I have worked very hard for this first milestone, hopefully the first of many. I hope you all will like it!

If you like my music, here are a few more songs I have made since Right Through me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_dsZodhMDY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfWLtjtXYIo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nTQZ5UMcUM

You can also follow me at Vocal Psychology, THE place where I teach people how to sing their heart out!

xoxo Maruja 

First published by Maruja Retana on September 30rd 2011, updated in 2019


Why smiling is healthy

A well known song of Charlie Chaplin (performed in a very moving way by Jermaine Jackson, at the memorial service of Michael Jackson, and below by Nat King Cole ) has the following passage:

'Smile! What's the use of crying? You'll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.' 

Beautiful, right?

Laughing is healthy, they say, but why? For many reasons, actually!

Smiling is healthy physically

When you smile/laugh (the louder, the better) your brain releases a chemical called endorphin. This is a natural painkiller and has a soothing effect, which lowers blood pressure. Laughing also strengthens your blood vessels as well as increases the blood flow, so it's very good for your heart!

It strengthens your immune system

Furthermore, your immune system is strengthened during laughing. Your body produces so called natural killer cells. This type of cell is comparable to M-O of the movie Wall-E, it scans every cell and destroys the 'bad guys' like tumor cells.

And gets rid of stress hormones

During a good laughing fit, antibodies are produced, that get rid of stress hormones. So laughing is seriously stress reducing! (In the clip below that fact is demonstrated in a very funny way :D)

Do the smiling test

Getting back to Charlie Chaplin, the good man was absolutely right. Even when you don't feel well, and smiling or laughing is the last thing you want to do, it helps when you just make yourself do it anyway. Slowly, but surely, you will actually start to feel better. You are kind of fooling your own body, but it really works! A fun detail (about which I could fill a whole other blog) is that it is not as easy to fool other people. A fake smile is usually easy to spot. Try doing the BBC-test  on real and fake smiles check how well your people insight is ;)

XOXO Maruja

Follow my work for Vocal Psychology, where I will teach you to sing your heart out, putting a smile on your face for sure!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rkNBH5fbMk

First published in 2013, updated in 2019

 

 

 


How to schedule your week

How to schedule your week (or: a spoonful of 'sugar')

Do you ever feel... No, not like a plastic bag. Do you ever feel like your days are superhectic and busy, but then when you lay in bed at night, you can't help but wonder: 'Uhm...what have I actually done today?' You start thinking about all the goals you have in life. I'm talking ALL the goals: write a book, write a grammy winning album, learn to play drums and guitar, go to Japan and eat Jiro's sushi, meet Oprah, build a school in a Third World country, and of course fold the laundry and get groceries for this week. Brain: “K, let's do all that tomorrow.” Result: insomnia.

This was ME, not long ago. I felt incredibly busy and unproductive at the same time. My to do list was getting longer and longer, and yet somehow I wasn't really focusing on what I wanted to focus on.

Until the magical New Year's Eve. Every year on New Year's Eve I write down my goals for the next year and this time something was really gonna CHANGE. I was going to make a schedule. But wait...I've made schedules before and was never able to really stick to them. How was I going to do it right this time and not get distracted by a million things? The answer was obvious: alliteration.

 Weekly Schedule

The first thing I came up with was 'Money Masterplan Monday'. It started as a joke in my head, but after a few minutes I was writing down ideas feverishly! Now, I promise I am an adult, but...I admit some part of me never really grew up. I still like fairytales and stuffed animals, and I'm not ashamed to say it! So whenever childish little me doesn't like something, it helps if I turn it into a game. I stopped eating sugar, but Mary Poppins would say: a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down :)

OYL-Agenda-Banner

So ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

My Personal Schedule

Monday

Money Masterplan Monday

Send invoices, pay bills, organize administration, budget planning, visualize what I'll do with my first million... etc.

&

Music Mashup Monday

Check out new music and make playlists of references, and cover options, work on live show, create mashups and mixes to post online.

Maruja Retana

Tuesday

Technical Tuesday

Finish editing jobs, learn a new trick, try out new settings, develop mixing skills

AND:

New Skill Tuesday

now: DJ-ing
later: guitar

 

Wednesday

Errand Wednesday

Groceries, meetings, doing annoying things like cleaning.

&

Writing Camp Wednesday

Plan sessions or write 2 songs to practice speed, write article for OYL, columns and copy for promotion.

Thursday

Telephone Thursday

Call people

&

Topline Thursday

A "topline" is the vocal melody and the lyrics of a song.
Arrange, organize and finish toplines, create pitch plan, reach out to labels

 

Friday

Film Friday

Film a cover, an acoustic version of an original song or a new episode for my 'Maruja Says' youtube channel.

&

Finish Friday

Tie up loose ends and finish everything I couldn't get done this week

Friends Friday

Hang out with my friends!

Maruja Retana Lonneke Engel Joey Holthaus

Saturday

Social Media Saturday

Plan posts for the week, shamelessly stalk people on Facebook and waste some time on Tumblr and Pinterest

&

Celebration Saturday

Do something fun :)

Maruja Retana

Sunday

Sweetie Sunday

Hang out with my sweetheart and have a major cheat day (Nutellaaaaa)

So yeah...my schedule is not really a schedule, and that is exactly why it works for me. It is more a tool to focus on certain themes each day. The reason why I think it is so perfect is because I have a tendency to react instead of act. It helps me to not go straight to Facebook when I turn on my laptop, because that is what I do only on Social Media Saturday (unless I have something specific to post). It helps me to be more reliable and tell people: 'I'll finish this song on Wednesday', because that is when I write.

I highly recommend this system to all my fellow chaotic workaholics out there. Now, of course you can change it up as you like, e.g. my good friend Emily swears by her newly created 'Maintenance Monday' to keep her focused. Hope it helps you too, happy scheduling!

xoxo Maruja

Images copyright Organice Your Life®/Maruja Retana/Gijs Spierings

First published on Organice Your Life on January 22nd 2015

 


Los Angeles hotspots: Restaurant Granville

Dear readers, I…am an adventurer (*dramatic voice*). Always have been, always will be. If I don’t explore new places in the world and collect unique experiences on a regular basis, I get extremely grumpy. Recently, I moved to Los Angeles, and wow… do I have a LOT of exploring to do. As a true foodie, the exploring is usually focused around food and / or drinks. Usually I’m pretty health conscious, but I make the occasional exception for something truly awesome (I don’t need to bring up my Nutella addiction right? Please don’t make me go there.)

So while I'm doing some very serious research, I would like to share my best finds with you! Why? Because I love talking about food in a really snobby way, and also it’s a fantastic excuse to visit more restaurants. Oh yeah, and of course it will help you guys find the best spots in town. Some of these are hidden gems, others are tried and true classics that have also gotten my stamp of approval (whatever that’s worth).

Granville Los Angeles
Granville entrance

We begin this little adventure with one of my absolute favs: Granville in Studio City

Granville Los Angeles Atmosphere
I love the ambiance at Granville!

Granville's Atmosphere

Big fan. Granville is the kind of place that exudes an immediate ‘feel good’ vibe as you walk in. Unassuming, but not…boring. Sophisticated, but not swanky. Crowded, but not loud. The kind of place that sets the perfect tone for amazing conversation. And drinking lots of red wine.

Granville's Service

Although I’ve been impressed with the service of most spots in LA (or I guess you could say the US in general), Granville goes the extra mile. The waiting staff make a point of really catering to your deepest, wildest desires (sorry, got slightly carried away there) culinary wishes, and giving you a VIP treatment. Truly adds great value to the overall dining experience!

Owner Jon Weiss and friend and I.

Granville's Quality of food

One word: Omigod. AMAZING. Owner Jon Weiss speaks with great pride when he describes how Granville makes a point of mainly using organic, fresh ingredients. The dishes are classy and simple, in the best possible way. We had a delicious beet salad and some sweet potato fries (apparently one of their staples) as a starter. As a main course, I ordered some grilled salmon with a surprisingly awesome corn salsa on top. Originally, this dish comes with a side of mashed potatoes, but, because I was planning on partying after dinner and didn’t wanna fall asleep mid-dance, they suggested to replace the potatoes with asparagus. Granville, you guys know me better than I know myself (*wipes a little tear away*)

Granville Los Angeles food 2
the Granville beet salad

 

Granville Los Angeles food
My main course

Granville's Best Feature

Listen, I'm not saying you need chocolate to have a good time. Alcohol is also an effective way to enjoy yourself. (...someday I'll develop a better sense of humor, I swear.) ANYWAYS, I wanted to be a good girl and stick to my sugarfree diet, but I totally surrendered. Oh well.

Not only did I fall in love with their home made ice cream trio dessert (which everyone should put very high on their bucket list), I also joked to the waiter about my alarmingly severe Nutella addiction. He responded with: “I can make you a Nutella latte..?” And guess what happened? HE MADE ME A NUTELLA LATTE! (sorry, it was so good I forgot to take a picture)

Granville, y’all. Go check it out, you won’t regret it.

http://www.granvillecafe.com/home

https://www.facebook.com/GranvilleStudioCity

12345 Ventura Boulevard

Studio City, 91604

Love,

Maruja Retana

p.s. follow my work via Vocal Psychology


Urban rebounding workout

I am not a big fan of working out to be honest. But I have to sometimes do it for my own health. I need to activate my muscles and my lungs so my blood can transport oxygen better to the essential areas in my body. I will get better skin, better functioning vital organs, and better muscle tone. But as running wasn't my thing really, I had to find a good workout that I like, besides walking my dog, and one that will be good for me too.

I discovered the mini-trampoline, or the so-called rebounding workout already back in 2005 ,when I started to join classes at my local gym in New York City. It was so fun as it is a workout for all ages. It works the muscles but spares the joints. I would go 3 times a week and had a very enthusiastic instructor. The movements were very diverse and not boring. I felt very lean and flexible after just a few weeks.

urban rebounding

Another good thing: Studies show it actually works the lymphatic system, that excretes toxins out of your body. And that sounds like music to my ears!

It is really fun so every time I for some reason had to quit working out, I would go back to my rebounding workout to get back in shape. When you put some music on during your rebounding workout, you don't realize you start sweating a lot. After 45 minutes of jumping fun you are full of sweat and the workout feels like it was no biggie at all.

It is also not really about how high you jump, it is more about how you jump. (you jump IN the trampoline not high up). It is easy, anyone can do it.

I first followed the Urban Rebounding system by founder J.B. Berns. I ordered an urban rebounder for home and watched his video to show me how to do it the right way. At one point I wanted to become an Urban Rebounder Instructor as I got so into it! But the online service wasn't working at that time, so I couldn't. But I still love jumping the trampoline.

There are a few rebounder brands, so you can see for yourself which one works for you! (see link below) The one I have now, the Urban Rebounder Gym, was $129,95 when I purchased it years ago. I am sure there are new ones available and probably different (and better) prices.

You can do it alone, or with a friend, both jumping on a trampoline. With my bff Maruja Retana we would together think of a dance routine, with the basic Urban Rebounding movements in mind.

For instance we would put a Song of Michael Jackson on, and then jump to it! You feel like you are an amazing dancer, because of the bounce the rebounder gives you.

it is so much fun and it never bores me!

Love, Lonneke

 


Banana Protein Pancakes

Ever since I was a little girl, I had this romantic idea of me in the kitchen, impressing dinner guests with complex culinary creations.

Unfortunately, this dream died slowly but surely, since I realized I'm way too impatient for the whole process of preparing food. Ain't nobody got time for that. Actually, great chefs got time for that, and thank God for this fact. I, however, am still very far from being the next Nigella Lawson, but I do hate processed foods...so over the years I have learned a thing or 2 about simple but awesome vegetarian and vegan home cooking. I have even accomplished that goal of impressing dinner guests on quite some occasions (as well as burned several pans on the stove and fingers on the oven). I'm always always always always looking for new healthy and delicious recipes, the simpler the better. And boy, do I have a WINNER for you guys & girls right now :)

I'm a big fan of protein in the morning, a hearty breakfast really fuels me for the rest of the day. I also have a very loud and obnoxious sweet tooth that I'm trying to please, without getting unhealthy (the struggle is real). Last week I found an incredibly easy recipe for banana pancakes, and I am now obsessed. Please try it, you'll love them. You're welcome.

Here's the soundtrack that should go with your breakfast:

[youtube id="GJs9c__Xvf4" align="center"]

Banana Protein Pancakes
Healthy protein pancakes to start your day right.

Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: breakfast
Serves: 2

Ingredients
  • 2 large bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup protein powder
  • cocoa powder (to taste)
  • splash of almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • salt
  • cinnamon
  • coconut oil

Instructions
  1. Mash the bananas with a fork in a bowl.
  2. Mix with the eggs and protein powder.
  3. Don't be a perfectionist: it doesn't need to be be supersmooth, there should be some small chunks of banana in there.
  4. Add the almond milk, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of salt and cinnamon,
  5. Give it another whisk.
  6. Heat a frying pan with a little bit of coconut oil over medium high heat.
  7. Pour or scoop the batter in the pan, using approximately ¼ cup for each pancake.
  8. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides.
  9. Serve hot.

Notes
I don't even use any syrup, they're sweet enough on their own.

 xoxo Maruja


Maruja Nutella

Maruja's Awesome Sugarless Diet

My start of a sugarless diet started something like this:  I broke up with my boyfriend Nutella some time ago. For a while I was heartbroken, but most of all, I was ‘hangry’ (a weird combination between ‘hungry’ and ‘angry’… A term I was convinced I had coined, but apparently has been around for ages), but now I am drowning my sorrow in healthy food.

And... it is amazing!! I feel more energized than ever. The first 3 days were not so fun (sugar rehab sucks, I’m not gonna lie), but I think I found a way of eating that really works for me when I want to lose a little weight. I usually do a strict version for 30 days, and then transition into a more lenient version to stay in good shape (and still have a life). Maybe my sugarless diet works for you as well!

Maruja by Gijs

Sugarless diet menu example

Breakfast:

  • 1 big glass of water, with a little lemon if you like (*side note: I still don’t know for sure if lemon water is a good idea, some people say it’s really healthy for you because it is alkalizing, others say it is bad for your teeth… what do you think, lovely readers?)
  • something hearty with lots of protein, e.g. 2 boiled eggs, or a protein shake if you are craving something sweet
  • in the morning you can get away with a little more than the rest of the day, so IF you have an intense craving for something not super healthy (like something fried), this is the moment to indulge. But try not to! ;)

Lunch:

  • this is usually the biggest meal of my day!
  • something hearty and filling, but preferably only veggies. I like to have a warm lunch, that fills me up more. My favorite is a nice thick veggie soup or an oven roast of lots of different veggies, like red bell pepper, zucchini and broccoli.
  • if you are really hungry, add something protein rich with slow carbs, like brown rice, quinoa or chick peas

Dinner:

  • healthy carbs with proteins, e.g. quinoa with veggies and shrimp, or spelt pasta with artichokes, or brown rice and beans etc,
  • put about half of what you would normally have on your plate, on a bed (as much as you want) of leafy greens like kale, arugula, baby spinach etc.
  • season with olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper, lemon and / or a home made sauce (keep it light, nothing too buttery or cheesy)
  • if you are still are hungry, have more! Just always make sure it’s at least 50% leafy greens

Sugarless diet tips and tricks

TRY TO AVOID  SUBSITUTE IF YOU CAN'T CONTROL YOURSELF
 Sugar in ALL forms: cookies, candy, and yes, even fruit that has a lot of sugar (bananas, mangos). Honey, maple syrup etc. are slightly better for you, especially when raw, but it’s STILL sugar, just so you know…  - Fruit that does not contain too much sugar (preferably in the morning), like: grapefruit, granny smith apples, etc. No more than pieces per day!- Carrots (especially those baby ones, mainly because they are adorable)

- A pot of tea (I like white and green tea)

- Eat a little more than usual, when you’re full you’re less likely to get a sweet craving

Handful of dried fruit, tea with some honey, a little bit of chocolate (as dark as possible, e.g. 72%)
 Everything ‘white’: pasta, cake, potatoes, white rice, bread Brown rice, quinoa, lentils, chick peas, beans  Choose the ‘healthy variation’, so spelt, wholewheat , sourdough etc.
 Alcohol  Glass of red wine (is even healthy for you!)  Another glass of red wine :D (no more than 2 per day) (but you can have it every day, AWESOME!)
 Meat  Chick peas, lentils, beans, eggs  Lean meats like chicken or healthy fish like salmon or mackerel,
Dairy  Protein shake, hummus  Mozzarella or feta, greek yogurt

Lentil Soup

I find it best to eat little portions throughout the day, about 6x times a day. This way you don’t get any cravings. I will either take breaks between my meals, or have a snack in between meals. Good snacks are, for instance:

  • handful of cashews or almonds
  • green apple
  • raw veggies: carrots, cucumber, tomato etc. (if this feels too boring, add some balsamic or apple cider vinegar, a few drops of a quality oil and a sprinkle of quality salt)
  • a light soup
  • protein shake (I like them with cocoa powder, natural peanut butter and chia seeds)

Sugarless diet rules

  • you really should never be very hungry, that makes you grumpy (you guessed it: hangry :D) but also you will be more likely to make unhealthy decisions. Be kind to your body!
  • eat mindfully (no tv) and enjoy it. This will make you chew your food better, making it easier for your body to process it. Also, if you remember eating it will make you eat less (did you know that people with amnesia eat more frequently?)
  • drink 1,5 liter of water per day, and a pot of green tea, no other beverages (except maybe for that glass of red wine, yay!)
  • I am still not convinced green juices are that great for you (don’t kick me off OYL, Lonneke, let me explain) I believe when you eat anything, it is best to have it in its purest form. Juicing is already processing fruit and veggies, and I think you get rid of the fiber that makes it so healthy for you. But I could be wrong, please correct me if I am. I do LOVE juices, they are like little (healthier for sure) energy drinks, so I drink them anyway if I feel like it (#rebel)
  • try not to eat too much late in the evening. I usually have 1 after dinner snack and most of the time when I think I’m still hungry, I’m actually thirsty (don’t laugh, it’s a very common mistake). So first have a big glass of water or a cup of green tea. If you’re really still hungry, have a light protein rich snack. No need to go to bed feeling miserable ;)
  • only eat when your body needs food aka do not fall into the trap of emotional eating. Sometimes you just need a hug, or a good laugh, or a good cry or to go out dancing. Learn to read your body’s signs.
  • very important rule: plan 1 cheat day a week! On this day you can eat ANYTHING you want… this is incredibly effective, because it keeps you strong in those moments when you are like: ‘ok, fine, I’ll have just this 1 cookie…how bad can 1 cookie be??’ It is in THESE moments that you have to control yourself, that one cookie is a gateway drug, I’m telling you. Just say NO.
  • really get to know your own pitfalls, and try to find substitutions for all of them. For instance, I have a sweet tooth as it is, but especially when my man and I are watching a movie in the evening. So now I make some tea and maybe have some dried fruit or popcorn with a little salt. Another pitfall is when I hang out with friends and/or go out for drinks, but I just try to stick to red wine. Sometimes a little more than 2, but hey… A girl’s gotta live too, right? ;)
  • when you do fall off the wagon: ENJOY it and get over it… But I know you can do this!

If you are one of those people that can eat anything… first of all, I don’t like you anymore (I’m kidding, I love you!). Second of all, this might be a little too extreme for you. I am unfortunately not one of those people :D so I need to be kind of strict with my diet to stay in shape (*sad trombone*). The first time I tried this way of eating, I lost those last 7 pounds that were always bothering me. I STILL look more toned than ever, even after Christmas (don’t even ask), Easter and the so-good-but-so-bad reunion with my ex (Nutella, in case you forgot the intro). Feels good to be back in the saddle though, and seriously, if I can do it, you can… So my dear readers, do you have anything to add to this diet? Any comments? What works for you, and what doesn’t ? I’ll share some recipes soon, and of course there are tons of good ones already on Organice Your Life! Good luck!

Maruja Video

Love, Maruja Retana

p.s. Read more of my articles on Organice Your Life, like How to Schedule Your Week, or Banana Protein Pancakes.

And... You might also like to follow my work @ Vocal Psychology!

Disclaimer:

This sugarless diet is based on personal experience. IF you make any dietary changes, ALWAYS make them from the perspective of loving your body, and the desire to make your body healthier and stronger.

Before starting any diet (including this one), and/or if you have ANY concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk. Always listen to and trust your own body.

 


Zucchini banana bread muffins

I found the ingredients to this recipe on a note written by my friend, singer  Maruja Retana, and decided to add my touch to it. The result? Delicious zucchini banana bread muffins great for in-between snack or as a healthy breakfast muffin to start the day. I love them even more as they come in this cute mini muffin size!

To make breakfast even more fun: I like to eat them with a bit of organic real butter, homemade organic jam, organic peanut butter and organic hazelnut spread.

TIP; to make the recipe vegan, exchange the eggs for a homemade flaxseeds replacement. How to make this? Grind whole flax seeds until it becomes a powder. Add 1 table spoon of flaxseeds powder to 3 table spoons of warm water and let sit for 10 minutes. It is not taking over the full properties of an egg, but the mixture becomes like a gel and has binding properties in this recipe. For more information on why flaxseeds work go to Veganbaking.net.

Enjoy!

Love, Lonneke

zucchini banana bread muffins 2The ingredients.

zucchini banana bread muffins 3the mixture of banana, zucchini, whole wheat flour, salt and egg.The zucchini, banana, whole wheat flour, egg, salt mixture.

The mixture with oats, nuts and baking soda & baking powder mixed into it, poured on the baking tray.Pouring the mixture with the oats, nuts, baking soda & powder  into the mini muffin bake tray.

trying the muffins when they are ready!Trying the muffins when they come out of the oven…. yum!

The inside of the zucchini banana bread mini muffin.The inside of the zucchini banana bread muffin

Zucchini banana bread muffins
An easy recipe for breakfast muffins or an in-between snack.

Author:
Recipe type: breakfast
Serves: 4

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup of shredded zucchini
  • 1½ cup of bananas
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
  • ½ cup of crushed walnuts (or any other nuts you like)
  • ⅓ teaspoon of salt
  • coconut oil

Instructions
  1. Mix the zucchini, banana, egg, whole wheat flour, apple sauce, salt in a blender, until it becomes a smooth paste.
  2. Add the oatmeal, crushed walnuts, mix it in with a spoon.
  3. Spray a mini muffin bake tray with some coconut oil.
  4. Set the oven on 400F or 225C.
  5. Add the baking soda and baking powder and mix it in with a spoon.
  6. Scoop the mixture into each muffin space in the bake tray until tray is full.
  7. Bake the muffins until golden brown.
  8. Let them cool off a bit and serve with homemade jam (and/or butter)

Notes
You can test if the muffin is ready by putting a toothpick/skewer in the middle and if it comes up dry, so without any dough on it, they are ready.
You can use other nuts like macadamia, brazil nuts or cashews.


Blue Zones: How to live to be a 100

Dan Buettner did a very interesting research on how to live a healthy and long life. He found out there are a few areas that he calls 'blue zones', where people live to be over a hundred years old in a measurably better way! Wow, who doesn't want that? Since my sweet grandmother lived to be 98 and I myself am half Costarican (one of the blue zones) I had hoped I was blessed with great genes that made me set for an awesome 100+ life. But...genes are only about 10% responsibe! So....what's the secret of the 'blue zoners'?

1. They move naturally

None of the people he interviewed went to the gym. None! Instead, their lives were naturally filled with movement. They gardened, worked on a farm, or walked to the vineyard down the mountain every day. Also, when they did 'exercise', it was only for fun. Whether it was dancing, playing with the kids, sailing or playing soccer, they purely did it out of enjoyment.

2. They have the 'right' outlook

Work to live, instead of living to work. Also, one of the most important things he found was a strong sense of purpose, having a reason to get out of bed each day and that makes you truly enthousiastic. And...no matter how busy the day is, always have at least one moment of peace and relaxation every day!

3. They eat wisely

Their diets were mainly plant-based, so a lot of vegetables and fruit were consumed. Meat and processed food were an exception! Moderation seemed to be a key word, many of them ate about 80% of what they initially wanted to eat. We have a saying that goes: the eyes are bigger than the stomach, which is so true! Instead of piling up the food on their plate, they took a little less. It takes a little while for the brain to realize the stomach is full, so I personally thought this was a very good idea. But don't think these ladies and gents were depriving themselves of some fun! A couple of glasses of red wine per day turned out be very common.

4. They belong to the 'right' tribe

A strong circle of family and friends, and a sense of belonging proved to be very critical. Often, the 100+ people lived with their children and grandchildren. It kept them young and gave them a sense of importance. Giving life advice to a grandchild is a win-win situation, good for everybody. For some guidance of their own, they turned to a higher power. They all had strong religious or spiritual belief system that made them resilient and grateful. Interesting stuff, right?

Watch the Ted talk video by Dan Buettner:

[youtube id="I-jk9ni4XWk" align="center"]

 

To buy the book on Blue Zones by Dan Buettner on Amazon click HERE.

And for more information:

http://www.bluezones.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Buettner

XOXO Maruja