Monthly Archives: October 2019

But it was only $1!

cupcake heavenNeed a treat on a budget? Try Hansen’s Bakery in Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles.

They specialize in custom cakes and have a long list of celebrity clients whose birthday parties they have patronized. The workers are always in the back crafting their latest master works. Out front, they have unattractive tables and chairs with a very beckoning display of cupcakes.

cupcakes in LAI was surprised at the price — a buck each. The frosting was laid on thick.

At least the day I was there, the taste didn’t live up to the looks: it wasn’t moist and fresh, it didn’t taste as sweet and buttery as expected. But ok, it was only $1, so I’m not complaining.

chocolate cupcakeI’m thinking this spot makes a great place for anyone short of cash and wanting to have a little something to eat out. It’s good for people on a budget.

The pictures certainly are tempting.

IMG_3890 (1)IMG_3887 (1)
Hansen’s Bakery
1072 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 936-4332
$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Frozen custard and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

what is the difference between frozen custard and ice creamFrozen custard, I learned, was slow-churned for a smoother, creamier-than-ice cream delight with no ice crystals because of the painstaking preparation. Custard, a virtually unknown quantity in L.A., was what brought me into Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers when I was visiting my daughter in Salt Lake City. The throwback eatery throttled me: Was there one in L.A.? Yes, but it is far. It is in Thousand Oaks.

It turns out that frozen custard is more than slow-churn. It has more egg white and less oxygen, which makes for a denser product that doesn’t melt as easily as ice cream (the science). In short, it is a significant step up from ice cream (the non-science). You can find it scarcely around L.A., but I’ll only vouch for the quality of Freddy’s. When I was inducted into the wonders of frozen custard with my relatives around East Rochester (who schooled me as to the advantages), I embarked on a quest to find it on the East Coast. I have found it.

freddy's steakburgersFreddy’s, as I discovered in Salt Lake, doesn’t specialize in dietary or healthy. While other burger joints have made strides to cut calories or limit trans fats, Freddy’s wallows in the goodness of the way things were cooked in the 50s. (Quantities of salt and sugar, I think, register on the Richter Scale.) So don’t make this splurge a regimen regular.

I went for the custard but discovered Freddy’s has more than just custard. Originally from Wichita, Kansas. This is part of the swath of America that likes Fry Sauce.

what is fry sauceWhat is Fry Sauce?

I asked. When I was in Idaho visiting my brother.

Fry sauce? Fry Sauce is Fry Sauce.

I’m not kidding. That’s what they told me.

I suppose those Idahoans never imagined life without Fry Sauce. Nor had they ever imagined there might be a barbarian who had never tried or even heard of it.

I’ve been a straight ketchup-and-fries man myself. So the prospect of something new and exotic is tantalizing. Could there be something better — or at least equal to — ketchup with fries? Some people swear by it.

freddy-s-frozen-custard-amp-steakburgersFry Sauce is mostly mayonnaise with a touch of ketchup, vinegar, pepper and seasoned salt. Freddy’s has a variety with jalapeño. The wheel has been reinvented. Break out of boredom and give it a try.

Freddy’s shoe-string fries, which give more surface area for salt to cling to, will force you to fire them fast into your mouth to fill up. There’s no slow-eating those shoe-string fries.

The steakburger, too, is a notable break from routine. The patty is squared and comes with charred edges. It seems to hold together more loosely, giving the perfect circle patties with uniform thickness of other restaurants the feel of rubber hockey pucks, by comparison. The pickles are sliced lengthwise (even that is different from the norm!)

freddys-front_750xx1500-844-0-77To complete the exotic experience, sprinkle on some Steakburger & Fry Seasoning, which is made of salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, turmeric, onion salt, and garlic salt.

After reveling in the diet-busting, throw all restraint to the wind and get what you came for: the frozen custard. Savor it. Admire it. Bite it. Look at the denseness of the cream. I got the chocolate, and my buddy got the vanilla. (He’s not close enough of a buddy for me to ask for a bite of his ice cream.) They have sundaes, shakes and malteds.

Initially, I thought that Freddy, a World War 2 veteran, was the founder of his throwback restaurant. It certainly adds mystique to the experience. But, as it turns out, it was his son, who named the restaurant after his dad. Pictures of dad and his farming and war hero life are featured on the walls of Freddy’s.

When I found out that the nearest Freddy’s to me (in L.A.) was Thousand Oaks, I despaired because that’s a bit far. I was told there are only three Freddy’s in California. When my buddy moved to Thousand Oaks, I began to plot my visit. I will be back with my family.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Westlake Village, CA
(805) 497-3344
$

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Kanye’s ‘Jesus is King’ reviewed

Kanye-Pablo-Tour-800x500Formerly foul-mouthed rapper Kanye West joined a pack of hip hop artists turning to Christ and dropped a Christian album last week, jolting secular critics and enthralling spiritually-minded devotees with plenty of surprises.

He provides a soulful intensity that delivers everything you’d want in Christian rap, interspersed with comedic elements. His beats are exhilarating, a cut above most of his peers in Christian Hip Hop.

Before Christ, his rap was often unprintable even on secular new sites. He’s still not one to mince words, but only now he’s adamant and forthright about his faith. The album’s title could have been from Kirk Franklin: Jesus is King.

Kanye-West-Kim-Kardashian-West-Marriage-to-Kim“Closed on Sunday” is hilarious, a nod to Chick-fil-A, the popular sandwich joint that keeps the Sabbath, to the joy of its staff and the chagrin of hungry patrons.

Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-fil-A
Hold the selfies, put the ‘Gram away
Get your family, y’all hold hands and pray
When you got daughters, always keep ‘em safe
Watch out for vipers, don’t let them indoctrinate.

“Selah” is another standout with multiple verses from the Bible. It references the fact that his ninth album was supposed to be Yandhi but got jettisoned when Kanye accepted Jesus and became born-again.

Before the flood, people judge
They did the same thing to Noah
Everybody wanted Yandhi
Then Jesus Christ did the laundry.

Kanye used to be unapologetic about his misogynistic lyrics. He’s still a lightning rod for controversy, only now he’s making a stand for Jesus — and unpopular politics. Read the rest of Kanye’s Jesus is King album.

One kid didn’t cry

dejection football loss lighthouse christian academy santa monicaPretty much everybody of the Lighthouse Saints was crying, or fighting back tears, after their football loss Saturday — everybody except David Hutchinson.

The 14-20 heartbreak loss against La Verne Calvary Chapel, a similarly small school, left Lighthouse Christian Academy dejected.

But David remained buoyant, perhaps because he has experienced worse losses, namely that of his parents, who went MIA. He’s now adopted by his grandparents. He wasn’t doing well in a previous school before coming to Lighthouse.

“Even when we lose, football is fun because it brings us all together like brothers,” the sophomore said after the game. “We played our hardest. It’s made me stronger and closer with all the boys. We know we’ve got each other’s backs no matter what. We have a love for each other.

“At this school, the teachers actually care. In other schools, the teachers don’t care. They’re just doing it for the money. And the students are the best. They’re like a family. It really touches you when the teachers actually care.”

Cue the warm fuzzies.

So not everybody went home dejected. It’s important to keep perspective: the battles won off the field or more important than those lost on the field. Read the rest of winning souls, not football games.

Bad blood among brothers — a football rivalry between Christian schools in LA

bad blood among brothersThere hasn’t been so much bad blood between Christian brothers since the Baptists accused the Pentecostals of being of the devil about 100 years ago.

The last time Lighthouse Christian Academy beat their perennial archrivals Hillcrest Christian in 8-man football was 2014.

That year, Ricky Rand cheekily snatched the ball out of the cocked arm of the quarterback, who was ready to throw, and ran for a touchdown. That snarky steal typified a game of gleeful humiliation.

Hillcrest never forgave Lighthouse and each year since then has exacted new revenge. Both teams are called “the Saints” but appear to think each other “the Satanists.”

On Saturday, Lighthouse lost 25-56, and at the final whistle Hillcrest ran into its corner and gloated and howled while Lighthouse glowered and hurled insults. Coaches stood midfield to make sure words didn’t come to blows.

“Let’s go! Let’s play one more game right now!” Hosea Ashcraft yelled across the field.

They weren’t just hollow words.

Lighthouse tends to compensate its inexperience and lack of execution with pure stamina and hard hits that bring results in the third and fourth quarter. They wear teams down. Even if they don’t win, they send opponents home with some real stingers — and a measure of respect.

In what amounted to the last significant play of the game, Josie Bowen rocked Hillcrest quarterback from his blind side, foiling a conversion attempt.

Hosea hit a kid so hard that he knocked the ball free late in the third quarter for a turnover that the blood-sniffing Saints thought marked their turnaround point.

The crash and kill strategy wore down mighty Milken Community School on Sept 20 and earned the praise of opposing coach of Downy Calvary Chapel Christian School on Sept. 8. He called tiny Lighthouse, with enrollment 45, to the military last stand of the 300.

Read the rest of football rivalry among Christian schools.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House

A delight for trying new restaurants is finding something new. In the case of a Persian restaurant in “Tehrangeles” called Flame, my wife and I discovered sumac salt, which zipped up an already delicious boneless chicken kabob with saffron basmati rice.

My infatuation with Middle Eastern food started when I had a serious falling out with Mexican food. You see, I turned 50 and my stomach turned — with the chili sauce. Without the picante, Mexican fell out of favor, and I needed to move on. I made some friends among the Arabs and Middle Easterners — and the rest is history.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House beckoned me for years on Santa Monica, its flames dancing on the sign. But it either appeared too expensive or traffic was too strong (it’s right next to the Santa Monica Blvd. on-ramp to the 405 freeway — as in “four or five hours to get anywhere on it”). Friday was the day. Here’s what we discovered:

The place has a lush and garish look that the Persians love, but the price wasn’t too bad. They have the absolute best humus, which I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish but demolished with the nan bread. Not sour, like Yankou’s. Slightly accented with some kind of spice. Just perfect.

My wife ordered the lamb shank with eggplant, which was very tomatoey. Tasted like an Italian entrée.

I was  delighted by the pink mayonnaise given as dressing for my salad. The colorfulness of the presentation was inviting, and I accordingly dove in. The pink color came from beet juice. The salad had beets, which I like and don’t often find.

On the walls the restaurant has a four panels showing nature images, presumably from Iran, alternatively waterfalls or thermal waters bubbling up in rivers. This, which the New Agey music, has quite the calming effect.

What really caught my fancy was the sumac. It’s bright red like paprika but provides a strong flavor. Ground into powder from the dark red drupes, the tart lemony herb adds garnish color and flavor to salads, rice, beef or chicken. Where have you been all my life?

Basmati rice with sumac

You go about your life thinking you know it all, and then wham! something totally new and delicious invades your horizon. It causes me to know that Heaven will have limitless new delights for us.

By the way, at least 300,000 residents of Persian descent reside in Los Angeles, many of whom are clustered around Westwood Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd, about a mile from where Flame is. While “Little Persia” is an official nod from the city, “Tehrangeles” is a fun and common reference even recognized by Wikipedia. Tehran is the capital of Iran.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House – $$
11330 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
310-444-0045

The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Cheesecake Factory cheesecake

IMG_4144Special memories for my wife and me. The Cheesecake Factory is where I asked her to marry me — 29 years ago. Dianna and I went for our anniversary.

Don’t go to the Cheesecake Factory for Mexican Food. Or Chinese. Or Italian. Yeah, the food at the Cheesecake Factory is, at best, decent. But the ethnic food is meh.

IMG_4142Go to the Cheesecake Factory for cheesecake. Nobody does it better.

The great danger of the Cheesecake Factory is the calorie count. An entre usually is more than half you daily max, and the the cheesecake is at least half. If you order a soda and an appetizer, you blasting into the 4000 calorie range — IN JUST ONE MEAL! (The menu I saw said “2,000 calories is recommended daily, but intake may vary from person to person.” This is MISLEADING, meant to lull you into lowering your guard with the doubt that you might need more. If you play high school football, are a boy and a teenager, then you need more calories. If not, forget it.

IMG_4143

Looks healthy? It does. But HOW do they get more than 1,000 calories into a salad?

Anyhow, you can splurge once in a while. I skipped the fries because they weren’t fresh, and I saved calories.

But Dianna and I did good with the cheesecake. We ordered the mango key lime. It was mid-range calories — 1280. And it was sensational! The graham-cracker pie crust was laced with coconut. The tart lime was counter-balanced perfectly by sweet and creamy with sweet mango.

I have tried almost every cheesecake they offer. My favorites are the chocolate and raspberry ones.

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Savory Indian cuisine at Urban India Grill

Urban India Cafe North HollywoodHankering for some quick Indian food but can’t afford the plane ticket to India? Try Urban India Grill on Sherman Way in North Hollywood.

The favorite item on the 2-year-old restaurant is the Chicken Tikka Masala, which we ordered super mild because we’re — without mincing words — getting old and can’t stomach the hot, hot, hot fare we used to love. The thick, sweet tomato-based gravy in which the chicken chunks are generously bathed was so good that we were spreading it on our bread and into our basmati rice. My wife and I couldn’t get enough of that sauce. It is the kind of thing you look for in an Indian restaurant, that authentic Indian flavor.

chicken tikki masala san fernando valleyWe also delighted on the Mixed Tandoori, a smattering of lamb, chicken chunks of the tikka and tandoori style served on a sizzling iron skillet over a thin bed of sauced, grilled bell pepper and onion slivers. They served us two dipping sauces: one a sweet tamarind and the other mint with lemon.

nan prati indian breadThe bread really is something. Baked in house, you have choose either nan or prati, which is a little thinner. The flatbreads have the best of all worlds, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. You could go to this restaurant just for the bread.

vegetable samosa fried turnover IndiaShireen, the proprietor, works the restaurant with her whole family. An immigrant from Bangladesh, she met and married her husband from Indian in America. Their adult children were both working the night my wife and I visited. They are both working on master’s degrees, he in marketing, she in biology, but they’re making money to pay for their studies. The son has helped establish restaurants in Dubai and Oman for an uncle. With a husky voice, Shireen made us feel like we were in family.

indian food san fernando valley

Shireen prevailed on us to try, insisting we try the vegetable Samosa, which was a deep-fried turnover filled with a pureed paste of an assortment of vegetables, again with the red and green dipping sauces.

On top of all the pluses, Urban India is way affordable. Way affordable. Apparently, before Shireen and family purchased it, the eatery was a teriyaki joint, so they still serve some Asian fusion.

Urban India Grill
12907 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
$

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Administration 101: A+ Volleybal: meh

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica volleyball team 2019For administration class, A+. Actual volleyball, a C, at best.

Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica won four out of nine games this season in varsity volleyball. Girls from all different levels banded together and put forth their best effort. On Wednesday, the Saints limped out of its season against Westmark School of Encino.

“We all got in our heads,” says Sarah Montez, sophomore. Our emotions got to us. When somebody wouldn’t do good, we would think, Oh, well, she’s not going to get anymore. We got frustrated with each other. That was our worst game we’ve ever done.”

But while LCA’s volleyball has fallen off from the years when the slashed their way into playoffs, other skills associated with participating on team soared.

Namely, Sarah Montez became an entrepreneur.

When she found out that LCA wasn’t going to even have a team due to lack of interest among the girls, she spearheaded a move to assemble a team.

“Sarah and her parents were a major driving force in wanting to make sure there was a team this year,” says LCA Principal Josh Young.

Sarah, with the help of her parents and her close friend Laken Wilson, communicated with all the school’s girls and encouraged, cajoled, persuaded, spammed by text until enough players relented from the low self confidence and agreed to integrate on the squad.

Then, having mastered the business strategies of forming “a staff” and motivating them to their optimal performance, Sarah forayed into a search for a CEO. (There was no coach, which is a volunteer position.)

She held brainstorming session with interested parties. She formed a search committee to identify and recruit a ideal candidate. (She got her parents involved.)

They used software to scoure LinkedIn. Just kidding. They thought of who might pitch in from the Lighthouse Church, LCA’s oversight organization.

They zeroed in on Felipe Rodriguez for all his merits: He had time. He liked working with the youth. He was an expert at sports and teams.

There was only one drawback: Felipe didn’t know a thing about volleyball.

But options were few, and Felipe had the will to serve — even if he didn’t know how to serve (a volleyball).

Felipe contacted his good friend and fellow youth worker, Xiovana Moraida, who assists her husband, Lucas Moraida, as youth leaders in the Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica.

X — as she prefers to be called — agreed immediately to be head coach while Felipe was assistant. X had played volleyball in high school and played soccer in college, so she knew about competition and team dynamics. Read the rest: Learning business schools at a small school in Santa Monica.

Ethiopian fare at Messob in Los Angeles

ethnic cuisine LAWhen I got to Messob restaurant in Little Ethiopia, I had no idea what to order, so I got the sampler plate, which I shared with my wife. It was the size of Captain America’s shield.

We sat at a basket weaved table with funny chairs because we wanted the authentic experience. My wife noticed that a few black couples (presumably, Ethiopians) didn’t bother with the hassle and sat at traditional American tables. Another white pair of ladies also opted for the funny table.

ethiopian cuisine los angelesThe platter had a dollop of this and a serving of that, all of it spread over a a thin round flatbread called injera the size of the plate. Except for the airholes in the bread, it tasted like a crepe. I wasn’t used to it with salty items.

The restaurant offers dulet, spicy country style ground beef, liver and tripe and bozena shiro, ground peas in beef seasoned with garlic, onions and ginger. There’s doro wot, chicken stewed in red pepper sauce with an assortment of spices, and yebeg siga alicha, a mild lamb stew delicately flavored with garlic, ginger and other spices.

messob little ethiopia LAThere are steamed peas, collard greens, split lentil and yatakilt alicha, steamed vegetables with onions and seasoning. The menu is mostly in English, but there is Ethiopian for immigrants (or to just assure you the food is authentic).

If you live in L.A., you have to try ethnic restaurants. Aside from making a memorable experience, such restaurants broaden your horizons and get you out of culinary boredom.

Messob Ethiopian Restaurant
1041 S. Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA  90019
$$

The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

10 inch bamboo steamer

 

‘Man of God’ headband gets linebacker Demario Davis busted

5cdc60d960975.imageHe used to get in trouble by dishonoring God. Now Demario Davis gets into trouble by honoring him.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker was busted by the NFL with a $7,000 fine for wearing a headband that says, “Man of God,” in a Sept 22 game against the Seattle Seahawks for violating the NFL’s no-personal propaganda policy. The NFL has since reversed the decision on appeal.

“I was a guy headed in the wrong direction fast and God radically changed me,” he told The Increase. “I get to play this wonderful game of football and I’m blessed to do it but my life is so much more than that in God. That’s what I really want people to know about me.”

Growing up without a father figure, Demario looked up to the older, tough guys who were drug dealers and career criminals in his neighborhood.

“They were my heroes,” he proclaimed on a YouTube video. “I wanted to show them that I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t afraid to be a bad boy. I just wanted to impress them.”

At 14, he was already using marijuana, alcohol and sex. When he tried to steal a wallet from another kid at school, he got expelled.

“Demario, what have you done?” his mother implored on the phone. “You have messed up your life.”

The quavering voice and deeply troubled emotion from mom shook him.

Still he persisted in sin. He and some friends were breaking into cars and Demario punched a window out. The shattering glass gashed his arm severely. He is still scarred today from the wound. Had the cut slit his wrist, he might have died, he says.

That night he heard an audible voice from God: That’s strike number two. The first strike was you getting kicked out of school. The second strike is you almost killed yourself tonight.

“That scared me to the point that the rest of my junior and senior year, I cleaned up my act.” Read the rest of Christian Demario Davis Man of God headband.

Who was #9? LCA football

Lighthouse lossSaints fans spent the whole game Saturday against Meadows School waiting for Lighthouse’s now-typical late game rally.

They thought they saw it when a totally unrecognizable player intercepted a long pass late the second quarter. Who is number 9? fans asked.

The 5’3″, 130-pounder was easily the shortest and smallest player on the field. Saturday’s was his first game because, new to the school, Johnny Flores was ruled out of the first month of games.

Unfortunately, Johnny’s brilliant pick didn’t spark an LCA comeback.

Nor did Marcus Scribner‘s block of a field goal attempt.

Nor did a TD run by the senior Marcus in the third quarter.

Nothing could reboot LCA.

The prince’s kiss didn’t wake the sleeping princess. The glass slipper never find Cinderella’s foot. The frog croaked unheard and unfound in the stream. There was no fairy tale ending.

Lighthouse limped to 7-68 loss to Meadows School, which traveled from Las Vegas because there reportedly aren’t many 8-man private school teams in Sin City so they have to pick up games wherever they can and usually travel far.

Lighthouse Christian Academy looked like the car that keeps stalling out on the road.

Missing was their bulldogish determination to bring the game to bigger players and humble bigger schools. The Saints didn’t run with typical speed or break their opponents with scary hits. They fumbled and ran into each other. There weren’t too many bright spots.

“We made a lot of mistakes. We lacked a lot of heart and effort,” surmised Head Coach Zach Scribner grimly. “We got a lot of work to do. If we don’t want to feel like this, we’ve got to make practice a priority. At practice we’ve got to give 110% so that when we’re in the game, we know what it’s like.”

Read the rest about breakout star in Santa Monica football

Growing confidence leads to win at Santa Monica Christian school in volleyball

santa monica private school girls volleyballOverconfidence preceded lack of confidence.

We would start most games cocky. Then when we started to make mistakes or face tougher-than-expected competition, the false confidence gave way to self-defeatism.

We would jinx ourselves.

But on Tuesday, Lighthouse Christian Academy decided to start the game different: with humility and determination.

As is the case with most sports, the psychological game wins the game.

We won against Hillcrest Christian School of Thousand Oaks in three sets, confirming dominance started in a pre-season face-off.

In the first game, a big hit against our confidence was a ref’s call. We saw the ball as clearly landing in, but the line ref said it was out. Even an opponent volunteered to the ref that the call was wrong, that it was in.

But the head ref ruled it out.

It blasted our momentum. Read the rest of Psychological game wins the game – Santa Monica Christian school.

Not succumbing is overcoming

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica volleyballHeidi Hutchinson wasn’t too upset by Lighthouse’s loss Wednesday.

That’s because she’s winning, though losing.

Heidi comes from a rough background. So now, not only does she attend a school she says loves her, she’s part of a team actually playing league sport.

“I’m learning about being on a team instead of just working by myself,” says Heidi. “They never gave up on me when I couldn’t hit the ball straight. When I first started, I didn’t know how to do anything, but now we’re playing actual games. I have some real friends.”

Lighthouse Christian Academy lost in three sets to Delphi Academy of Santa Monica 21-25, 14-25 and 17-25. LCA’s record is 3-4.

But Heidi knows that winning has many measures. If you’re a school that regularly churns out batches of Ivy League-bound college kids and draws from club team sports, then congratulations, you’re a winner.

But for others in life who don’t get the supportive, nurturing start of a dual parent home with no financial lack, just making the decision to not succumb is to overcome.

Eventually, Child Protective Services intervened for Heidi and her twin brother David. After years of neglect and abuse, they are now adopted by their grandparents, who enrolled them at LCA.

The last time Heidi saw her mom was 2017. And her dad? When she was 4.

This is not a sob story. This is a story of how people can be winners. All of society is a winner for every kid who chooses to rise above hardship, process and hopefully heal from the trauma and not spiral out of control with some pernicious coping mechanism.

“It wasn’t until the middle of 9th grade when I came to the Lighthouse, and me and my brother finally felt cared about by teachers and friends,” Heidi says.

Good things happened because Sarah Montez and I wanted to play volleyball badly.Read the rest: Not succumbing is overcoming – Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #11

partea-boba-400x787Partea Boba –

15355 Sherman Way
Van Nuys
$

Get it? Party, but spelled All the drinks are good. The boba is never stale. My favorite is pineapple mango slushee with boba. It’s not overly sweet and is greatly refreshing for hot summer days. There’s also a great lychee slushee. Their milk tea is amazing.

This is my son’s favorite study spot.

And unlike so many boba joints, this one has wifi! (There are also board games like Jenga, Uno and Connect 4). The people attending our very nice, never rude. They get their drinks out fast.

Read the rest of Best (secret) restaurants of the San Fernando Valley.

S.O. turned tragedy into tunes

seun otukpe fathers deathSeun Otukpe, known as Christian emo rapper S.O., has had a life punctuated by tragedy.

At 15 he was shocked by the sudden death of a friend. He realized he had better stop playing church and get serious about God. S.O. began to question his assumption that he would have years to enjoy sin before getting serious about God.

Then his father died unexpectedly when he was 17. S.O. numbly asked why and felt the pressure to carry his family forward on his shoulders.

He had good friends leave the Christian faith, first an unnamed buddy who was the subject of “memoirs” and then his mentor in Christian hip hop, Jahaziel, who opted for “panafricanism” because he saw Christianity as the white man’s religion.

15658174451033With each album, S.O., now 30, pours out his hurt in melancholic musings that mix vulnerability, despair and Christian hope in astonishing sincerity.

S.O. was born in Nigeria, but the family moved to England when he was nine-years-old to pursue better educational opportunities. As a result of growing up in London, his heavy accent remains even though he now lives in Dallas with his wife of three years.

It was in London that he connected with his lifelong producer, G.P., who gained notoriety producing Tedashii’s Identity Crisis and Lecrae’s Rehab.

Some considered S.O. as nothing more than two-bit church rapper who got his start at Grandma’s birthday when he was 6. But on a chance ride he was given by G.P. associate Prince Adu Poku, S.O. put his best foot forward: “I can rap.” The following bars he spit in the car opened the door for him to meet the master, who was initially skeptical.

“Don’t bring this guy unless he can spit bars,” G.P. recounted to Rapzilla. “I ain’t got time to waste.”

When S.O. arrived, G.P. knew immediately he was pro material. The subsequent Five Solas Mixtape garnered attention and S.O. was signed by Lamp Mode Recordings. In 2011 he released So It Begins, which cracked Billboard charts. Read the rest of S.O. Christian rapper.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #10

Weiler’s Nosh & Bakery –

9028 Balboa Blvd.
Northridge
$

witch's brew cold coffee weilers san fernando valley

I was going to present Gayle’s Perks, which offered “witch’s brew” cold coffee with coffee ice frozen into the bottom of the glass. It was novelty, dark and delicious. Tucked away into a corner of the corner mall, this homegrown coffee shop was the perfect hideaway for those burnt out on standardized, automated coffee shops.

avocado toast spanish olives sunny side up egg weilers san fernando valleySince then, the coffee shop merged with its parent restaurant Weiler’s, which lost its lease. The menu has diversified to include sandwiches, deli lunch and avocado toast with sunny-side-up eggs and ground Spanish olives in a paste. Weiler’s is not doing the Monte Cristo sandwich anymore. They made me a similar one. It had 58 layers of ham and 49 layers of chicken deli meat and with some provolone cheese. They covered in egg and fried it. I guess the authentic Monte Cristo is deep fried, and in their new, smaller space, they’ve done away the deep fryer. Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #9

handel's ice creamHandel’s Homemade Ice Cream –

8850 Corbin Ave.
Northridge
$

The owners of Handel’s tout their constant long line as their best advertising. The wait is worth it.

Try their maraschino cherry in vanilla in a double scoop or the vanilla caramel brownie. What is clear is that they splurge, not scrimp, on ingredients. There are chunks of banana in the banana cream pie and an overload of  Oreos in the Mud Pie

They call it “home made” because the cream is frozen and creamed up on site. And it’s done daily so the freshness is max. They have frozen bananas, ice cream sandwiches made with cookies, shakes and sundaes — if the 106 flavors are not enough for you (I don’t think all 106 are available every day, but imagine enough different flavors for you to try a new one every third day of the year!)

hotfudgebrownie34x46On second thought, that’s not a good idea. I’d wind up as a whale.)

The odd thing about this cold cream hot spot is their location. One would expect to find them in the Northridge Fashion Center or in a busy corner mall within walking distance of CSUN. But no, it’s in a Target center with a huge parking lot. Never mind though, it exercises its own gravity. It pulls customers to Target, not from Target. People flock to this parlor from far and wide and rave about how it competes and beats other, more well-known craft ice creameries. Read the rest of best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #8

papillonPapillon International Bakery –

17305 Roscoe Blvd.
Northridge
$

Somebody needs to explain the rudiments of publicity to these guys. They recently had billboards up saying “Best Ponchiks in Town.” No picture of a ponchik. No explanation. The picture was of some Armenian dude, I think. No idea.

They could have posted a picture of a ponchik, let’s say opened up and oozing out with Nutella. They could have publicized a picture of someone eating one and being transported to Seventh Heaven. No. They didn’t do that.

ponchikFortunately for me, somebody — bless his soul — tipped me off to this Armenian pastry. It is a dough ball stuffed with filling and deep fried. Think of a jelly donut that is deep fried like a churro, and your imagination still won’t scratch the exponential blast of sweet goodness.

What Papillon lacks in advertising savvy, they compensate for with sheer taste bud pleasure. If this is “comfort food,” then you just got one week’s worth of comfort in one mouthful. The effect is about the same as a cream filled chocolate Easter egg.

The only downside to these treats — and the reason why I don’t eat them more regularly — is they probably contain about 50 kabillion calories each. But once in a while… Read the rest of Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Indian girl’s eyesight saved

healed eyesight christians indiaShe grew up fatherless in India. Her mother was poor, so they could not do anything when Ishwari started to have trouble seeing.

“I can see things that are very close to me, but far away things I am not able to see,” Ishwari said at the time.

“I took her to the eye clinic; they told me she needed surgery immediately,” her mother remembers. “But with my meager earnings, I could never afford it. I didn’t know what to do.”

medical mission eyesight IndiaIshwari had a case of bilateral degenerative cataracts, a cloudy area in the lens of the eye. This eye problem can cause blurry and less colorful vision.

Without surgery, Ishwari could eventually go blind.

When Operation Blessing — a CBN associated donation program focused on demonstrating God’s love by helping people in need — found out about Ishwari’s eye disease, they gave her family all the necessary money for the surgery to save her sight.

Christian medical missions from Africa to Southeast Asia speak volumes about the love of Christ.

The surgery was successful. Read the rest of Indian girl’s eyesight saved.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #7

o (1)It’s all good House of Kebab –

6800 Reseda Blvd.
Reseda
$$

Want to visit Iran? You don’t need a visa. Don’t worry about the State Department’s travel ban. You can go to Iran simply by visiting It’s all good House of Kebab. The decor covering the wall of the small eatery comes from old Persia, such items as license plates, old style shoes and even some scourges used by fanatics to punish themselves to appease Allah (not exactly appetizing, but legit).

But what’s really good in this restaurant is the food. I had the The bread, or nun, is crisp on the outside and chewy and warm on the inside. Had it not been for some Iranians with me when we went, I never would have ordered the deezy, a stew of beans, lamb chunks, cinnamon, lemon, pepper, salt and who knows what else magic goes into it. The Persian have imported and toned down from Indian Beryani, an outstanding curry dish. The rice all comes with saffronRead the rest: Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #6

best pastrami sandwich in the San Fernando ValleyHoliday Burgers

15520 Devonshire St.
North Hills
$

Supposedly all the mom and pop restaurants have disappeared off the face of the planet, victims to the tsunami of multinational food franchises. The mom and pop joints can’t compete, we are told. They can’t maintain the consistency or keep prices down compared the economies-of-scale wholesale purchasing power of McDonald’s and crew.

Thank God, there’s Holiday Burgers to prove that Mom and Dad can find a niche and beat the big boys. Specifically, this joint offers a pastrami sandwich absolutely glutted with mouth-watering pastrami that causes competitors to pale. Holiday Burgers is a needle in a haystack. You probably wouldn’t pick it just driving by. No, this restaurant runs on word of mouth. That’s how I found it.

Just forget about the recommendations of other websites purporting the “best pastrami” in LA. Go to Holiday. Read the rest Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Brother forgives cop who accidentally killed accountant

brandt-jean-hug-amber-guyger-10-yearsA Christian man said he forgave and loved the killer of his brother in court Oct. 2. He then asked the cop to turn to Jesus and gave her a long hug at her sentencing in a case that is sending goose bumps up and down the spine of the nation.

The extraordinary demonstration of love over hate was a powerful testimony of what Christ can do in our nation if we’ll turn to God.

“I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail,” said Brandt Jean in court. “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself: I forgive you. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you. I love you as a persona and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”

Brandt then asked state district Judge Tammy Kemp for permission to hug former Dallas cop Amber R. Guyger, 31, right then and there. The hug, which renewed lengthily after almost pulling apart twice, finally ended, and Brandt’s father gave him the a thumbs up. His mother was left in tears.

Guyger burst into Botham Jean’s apartment Sept 6, 2018 in the South Side Flats and shot and killed him while he was eating ice cream. Guyger said she thought she was in her own apartment, and believed she was confronting an intruder. She said a similar red door mat at the door contributed to her confusion. She got off on the fourth floor instead of the fifth.

Because Guyger was white and Brandt was black, the case was seen nationally as another in the long line of racial injustice, but Brandt upended the polarizing narrative by injecting an unusual dose of Christian forgiveness in a scene of outrage and grief.

Judge Kemp also gave Guyger a Bible and praised Brandt for his gesture saying to the mom: “Thank you for the way you modeled Christ.”

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least 28 years, a symbolic sentence reflecting Botham’s would-be 28th birthday. Guyger was off duty and in uniform when she arrived at what she apparently thought was her apartment. She failed to follow police procedure, which mandates she first call for a backup in a similar situation. Guyger was fired first and then put on trial.

The tragedy provoked turmoil in the black community. Read the rest Christian forgiveness trumps racial hatred.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #5

soul food in the valleyLes Sisters Southern Kitchen & BBQ –

21818 Devonshire St.
Chatsworth
$$

You can find Cajun/Creole food far, far away from the South. Here’s New Orlean’s-style smothered chicken, catfish, fried chicken, jambalaya, hush puppies, hot links and corn bread. Their “Muddy Waters” is a house tea and lemonade.

muddy waters southern lemonade tea les sisters chatsworthThe restaurant was started by two friends who argued over everything and couldn’t agree on a name. Someone observed they argued like sisters, so he suggested the hook in a bit of French (since New Orleans has French origins), and the name has stuck for 30 years. Les Sister’s doesn’t have a huge sign or sit on a large parking lot. If you’re driving down Devonshire on the Northwestern corner of the San Fernando Valley, it’s easy to miss. I suggest you follow your nose — or your GPS.

The day my wife and I went here, the waitress sat down at the table with us to take our order. Far from being an “invasion of our space,” the gesture gave us a homey, family feel that took off the professional distance in almost every restaurant. It was a nice change of pace. Read the rest Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #4

oChio’s Peruvian Grill –

7755 Sepulveda Blvd.
Van Nuys
$$

To live in LA is to enjoy exotic food. Now that Mexican food has spread across the U.S., Angelinos are now in a quest for new tastes from the remotest parts of the globe. Apparently over a 1,000 Peruvians call Van Nuys their home, so you can find a cache of Andes-styled eateries. Among them, Chio’s stands out. The restaurant started on Sepulveda Blvd, the grubbery is opening restaurants elsewhere in the Valley.

I can see why they are expanding. I had the Lomo Saltado, which dares to put the French fries right in the savory beef slivers with liquidy sauce. There’s a healthy dollop of white rice too. I was impressed that the serving size was generous for the price — no leftover hunger. The inadequate parking reflects the humble immigrant beginnings of this gem. Let me assure you, it’s worth the trouble to get parking once you’re inside the cozy restaurant watching flames leap up in the kitchen grill. They have Peruvian beer, but being a teetotaler, I can’t opine on its craftsmanship.

The X-Factor in Santa Monica Saints volleyball

X Factor on LCA volleyball teamXiovana Moraida doesn’t even want to call herself a volleyball coach. Her sport was soccer, and she was really good at that. She was team captain of Santa Monica College’s women’s soccer team in 2014. But she was pressed into it.

“I knew that if I didn’t step up and coach that there wouldn’t be a girl’s volleyball team,” says Xiovana, who goes by the easier-to-pronounce “X.”

Nevertheless, Xiovana has become the X factor behind Lighthouse Christian Academy’s resurgence into varsity volleyball after the sport was dropped out of the Saints’ offerings a few years ago.

On Monday, the Santa Monica Saints beat San Fernando Valley Academy from Northridge in five sets 25-19, 13-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13. LCA now has two wins and three losses.

Xiovana was born in Lodi but was raised in Lockeford, California.

santa monica volleyball christian high schoolStarting at the ripe old age of 5 years old, she played and loved soccer.

In 2013, Xiovana came to live in Santa Monica to live with her aunt for soccer while attending SMC. She was the captain of the SMC soccer team in her sophomore year (as well as being the captain of her high school soccer team). 

As Xiovana stayed in LA after college, she met her now husband Lucas Moraida. Lucas was from Arizona and was attending the Lighthouse Church. As her and Lucas began to talk more, X became a Christian and got more involved in the church. Read the rest of X-Factor in Santa Monica volleyball.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #3

crave cafeCrave Cafe –

14505 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks
$$

Does your husband want a burger and you want sushi? No worries. There’s a place that caters to both.

No, I’m not kidding.

Crave is definitely pushing the outer limits of the envelope of “eclectic.”

There are actually two Craves because the owner sold them to two different buyers. I’m talking about the one at Van Nuys Blvd. in Sherman Oaks is the one that has the Crave sushi house right next to and with a door between the two so that you can order from. So it’s easy to savor both sushi and hamburgers at the same table (not in a Food Court).

As a kicker, Crave has gourmet coffees and pastries. I’ve spent a nice evening spooning in a smooth and creamy cheesecake while watching American Ninja with my wife. The ironies were not lost on me.

And it’s open 24 hours, which is good to know because your options for a late, late dinner are few and far between in the Valley. Read the rest of Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.