Drew Brees feared he never play again after tearing his ACL

drew brees super bowlWhen Drew Brees tore his ACL, he felt his very life was torn from him. He was only a junior in high school, at a time when he wanted to attract the attention of recruiters.

“I’ve seen friends get that injury, and they would never come back quite the same,” Drew told Sports Spectrum. “What I thought was going to be my life, I felt like it was being stripped away from me.”

On his 17th birthday, Brees wallowed in self-pity and mounting depression as he sat in church. He listened to the pastor for once instead of goofing off with his brother. The preacher said God was looking for a few good men to carry on His kingdom. For the first time ever, the sermon struck a chord in his heart.

“It was at this moment that I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart,” Drew recounted. “I knew that there was something bigger planned for me than just playing sports.”

drew brees familyOf course, Drew did make it in football. He played college ball at Purdue University and was picked by the San Diego Chargers in 2001.

In 2005, Brees was enjoying a relatively successful season when Broncos tackle Gerard Warren hit him on the ground recovering his own fumble. The late hit caused a shoulder dislocation on his throwing arm.

“I had never dislocated anything in my life, but I knew exactly what happened,” Drew recalls. “I knew that besides a broken neck, this was the absolute worst injury I could ever ask for” as a quarterback.

I’m probably never going to put on a Chargers uniform again, Drew thought grimly as he walked off the field. I’ll probably never play football ever again in any uniform.

However, Drew had a remarkable recovery of the torn labrum and the New Orleans Saints expressed interest in hiring him. He signed in 2006.

In 2009, he led the Saints to their first Super Bowl win. He earned the moniker “Cool Brees” for his presence of mind under pressure. He has continued to play for New Orleans.

Drew married his college sweetheart Brittany Dudchenko in 2003. The couple has four children together: three sons and one daughter.

Just this year, the well-loved quarterback found himself maligned after he encouraged kids to participate in Bring your Bible to School Day in conjunction with “Focus on the Family.”

Leftist Louisiana-based Big Easy Magazine accused Focus on the Family of being anti-LGBT and supporting “conversion therapy.” Because LGBT are often bullied, they said Drew was joining “haters” and undercutting his lifelong campaign against bullying. Read the rest: Drew Brees Christian.

Refreshingly humble foot soldier of the Lord rapper YB

spotify+coverBrandon “YB” Farris is a soldier.

While other Christian rappers seek to be titans of hip hop, YB approaches music from a different perspective. He doesn’t aspire to be the superstar or super-celeb in the spotlight. He’s happy being the unpretentious, humble, and effective foot soldier for God’s kingdom.

The braggadocio common in Christian rap MAY be excused as a sine qua non of the hip hop genre. Or it may be simply the sin of pride.

Whether we condemn CHH or overlook its faults is moot for the moment. What we can say is that YB is a breath of fresh air.

YB Christian rapper“I believe God still has soldiers in this generation and in the generations to come,” YB says on Alysia Paige’s blog. “As long as I’m breathing I’m in full pursuit to gather soldiers to build God’s army.”

YB grew up one of eight children of a single mother in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. From the age of eight, music was his escape from the harsh realities of poverty. Growing up without a father caused him as a 13-year-old to have many unanswered questions, according to Top40 Charts.

“It was being surrounded by a tough environment, and you were being forced to make something from the environment you were coming up in,” YB told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “A lot of my story was in the valley.”

He idolized Ludacris and Eminem and got serious about music in high school. He honed his craft breaking curfew, staying up late writing and playing the music too loud. Ever sympathetic, his mother pardoned his peccadillos.

From a young age, YB knew the presence of God, but he kept God at a distance, leery of the level of commitment required. He did music for himself, not ready to enlist in God’s army. But he found self-glorification and self-promotion hollow at the end of the day.

“When I did music for me, I truly had nothing to offer people,” he observes. “In reality, people walk through life looking and hoping for ‘something’ but sometimes it’s hard to articulate your needs in darkness.”

All that changed when he went to Southern Arkansas University Tech in East Camden. He ran across so many on-fire, sold-out Christians it turned his worldview upside down. Instead of seeing the commitment as daunting, he was drawn to God.

At a college “Passion Conference,” he came to terms with God and decided to serve Jesus unreservedly, like a soldier.

He dropped his freshman album in 2014, aptly named “Salvation.” Four years later… Read the rest: Humble Christian rapper YB a soldier of Jesus.

He threw bricks of cocaine out the window of his car

CJ BlairAll CJ Blair wanted was to make enough money so that his mother could stop selling her body to abusive men on the streets of Washington D.C.

“When you offer the opportunity for me to make $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 a night,” he explains, “then I’m connecting that to my mother being able to stop selling her body and getting beat up by men.”

Growing up in the projects with a single mom, CJ only knew the father figure that was her pimp.

Only his great grandmother was a believer, and he saw her praying during the summers when he went to visit.

“My great grandmother believed God for everything, I mean, everything,” he remembers. “If it was rent money, whatever, she believed it. I was like, ‘Wow, this woman is serious.’”

In all the family, CJ was the most prone to get into trouble, but Grandma always spoke positively about him, unlike other family members who criticized him.

“She would say I was a man of God,” he recalls.

owed money to drug dealerTwo paths were in front of young CJ, the wild life of the streets that he was accustomed to or the way of Christianity.

“I was scared of Hell,” he admits. But he didn’t want to “play with God,” as he saw it, to pursue God in a half-hearted way.

CJ dropped out of school at an early age. At 13, authorities arrested him for assault. For the next 12 years, he was in and out of jail.

After a 6-year stint in jail for robbery and malicious wounding, CJ emerged from prison and decided to start a musical career in the hip hop industry.

“I was in the studio one night, and the studio engineer began to talk about Jesus,” he says. “If there’s a Jesus and you haven’t accepted Him and you die, you gonna be short.”

“God began to start dealing with me at that point,” he says.

Two weeks later after making a major drug deal, he was driving home listening to a rap group talk about driving a platinum car with the mark of Beast.

“When I heard that, something triggered in me,” he recalls. “All that talk that my great grandmother was talking about back then when I was like 8, 9, here it is now. He knew he was headed to hell if his life didn’t change.

His hands popped off the wheel. Moved by the sudden realization of God’s existence, he exclaimed, “Hallelujah. Hallelujah.”

Then Jesus spoke — audibly.

“CJ,” He said. “Take it out.”

Accordingly, CJ popped out the cassette tape. This automatically switched to radio. A man’s voice came through the car’s speakers.

“Do you know what miracles are?” the voice said. Read the rest: Drug dealer turns to Jesus.

Baja-California style fish tacos with Brazilian-Chinese twist at Wahoo’s

Wahoo's Gringo Bandido hot sauce

Zoom in. Does the guy in the logo look like me? I’m taking a vote. Did they steal my image without paying me royalties?

Wahoo’s is my go-to for quick food. It is super-tasty and healthy.

You may imagine my consternation when the West Los Angeles/Brentwood one closed, since it was the closest to my work at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Wahoo's fish tacosWe recently went to the Marina Del Rey Wahoo’s with the full squad, even the terrible teen who unleashes his fury easily, to evaluate a spread of items. Naturally, Wahoo’s earned top marks, though not universally.

My favorite is the citrus taco with grilled Mahi Mahi. I like to zip it up the the Gringo Bandido hot sauce, which has a nice vinegar flavor and not too hot. I am struck by how much the logo appears to my likeness and have even considered a suit for using my image without paying me royalties, but that hasn’t got off the ground.

Wahoos fish tacos

With the whole crew of evaluators.

What did get off the ground, was our appetites. Dianna ordered the fish salad, and she says she could have done better herself. Dee ordered the quesadilla because she adores cheese and said it was fantastic. She liked it more than the fish tacos, which she got last time. This sparked an intense debate with me because I am a virulent defender of Wahoo’s. As a matter of fact, I’ve only had one fish taco ever come close to competing in my entire life.

wahoo's interiorRob ordered the burrito, which he flunked for being small and expensive. Hosea ordered by accident the wrong thing and said he usually is a huge believer in the Wahoo’s burrito.

Wahoo’s exudes a skater-surfer ethos. Founded by three Chinese brothers who immigrated from Brazil (where the family had escaped to initially to escape the Maoists taking over China). And that’s how they concocted the tangy unique flavor for the sauces in their eatery.

They opened their first in Costa Mesa, to the South and have quietly taken over Southern California. They’ve expanded into Hawaii and Japan and opened one in New Jersey.

Wahoos Tacos menuWing Lam can still be see driving around Los Angeles in his Ferrari. Invariably, he dresses surfer garb and wears long hair. He’s the face of the company.

Wahoo's shangri-la teaWahoo’s distances itself from fastfood culture; a server will always come to your table to make sure everything is OK.

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
4716 Lincoln Blvd Unit C
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
310-821-0300
$

bamboo steamers[Advert: 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.]

One-third of abortion clinics close since 2012

pro lifeMerry Christmas! The gift to America this year is life.

According to a 2019 report from a pro-abortion group, one third of independent abortion facilities have closed since 2012, limiting access to the nefarious practice that pro-abortion forces call “health care,” a LifeSite news article reports.

The 2019 report titled “Communities Need Clinics” by the pro-abortion group Abortion Care Network blamed new state laws that restrict abortion, such as “heartbeat” legislation or tougher safety requirements to open or maintain an abortion facility.

But other factors may come into play, including the role of education in preventing pregnancy through contraceptives or the increasing use of the abortion pill, which can be ordered via mail and administered at home thus making it impossible to track abortion statistics in America. Also, the role of internet and the available of videos online showing the horrendously graphic nature of abortion may be a factor.

ultrasounds save livesRegardless of the cause, abortion advocates lamented the closures and seem to want to marshal the report as a tool to spark funding-raising in support of the abortion industry.

“Anti-abortion politicians have long used onerous restrictions to try and shut down independent abortion providers,” said Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network, on CBS News as quoted in LifeSite. “Since 2010, anti-abortion politicians have passed more than 400 laws that attempt to make it too expensive or logistically impossible for abortion clinics to operate.”

The Abortion Care Network is not associated with Planned Parenthood and accounts for about half of the abortions in America. Read the rest: decline in abortion clinics

Habanero Mexican Grill in Thousand Oaks

sopes Habanero Restaurant Thousand OaksIt turns out, the Aztecs weren’t the only ones capable of building pyramids, as I found out at Habanero Mexican Grill in Thousand Oaks. I ordered the sopes, and the piles of beans, chicken, rice, lettuce, cheese and salsa.

Mmm.

I was impressed by the creative twist of serving the beans in a small fried tortilla shell.

My friend took advantage of the fact that we arrived on Taco Tuesday. He ordered three for a very favorable price. They were oversized and delicious in crispy shells.

oBig portions is what Habanero specializes in. The vegetables are fresh.

The tortilla soup is recommended, as are the fajitas.

I haven’t yet tried the desserts, but I can see from the pictures that I must.

bamboo steamers[Advert: 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.]

The exterior of Habanero belies the interior, which is double in size. The restaurant occupies two locals, but the frontage only shows one. The interior decoration is NOT typical Mexican but modern, sophisticated, urbane, designed to attract the well-heeled patrons and nouveau riche of the region.

The chips came without any salt, which I consider a blessing because some might be trying to cut down on sodium. You can salt to taste, always preferable to having the kitchen staff salt it for you to their taste.

burrito Habaneros Thousand Oaks Newbury ParkWhen I first saw the restaurant, I thought it was Cuban food because unconsciously I associated “Habanero” with the people who live in Havana, Cuba. Obviously, it is associated with the habanero chili, which is pretty darn hot. I used to indulge chilis but can’t anymore. It doesn’t seem like Habanero is trying to be so authentic that they risk “burning” their customers.

sarahzing-100

Habanero Mexican Grill
520 N Ventu Park Rd
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
(805) 375-0755
$$

stocking stuffer mini[Advert: 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.]

He loved to intimidate people until he despaired of life itself

Brian Cole, pastor and bikerBecause of his buck teeth and because he was short, Brian was the kid who got pushed around at school, but the nightmare of being pushed around at school paled in comparison to the emotional and physical abuse meted out by his father.

“I hated my father,” Brian Cole says in a CBN video. “I had this idea all through life, till I got to the age where I could take my dad on fist to cuffs that I would never be right with him.”

Eventually some kids from high school, outcasts and trouble-makers themselves, extended to Brian friendship — and cigarettes. Brian quickly realized that the tables had turned for his tormentors. With older kids sticking up for him, it was now his turn to terrorize them.

satanist bikerBrian began picking fights everywhere — in school, in church. He started stealing and using drugs regularly. Instead of finding compassion at church, he found condemnation and finger-pointing that only turned him away from God. He became

Brian began breaking into churches, stealing their sounds systems and vandalizing them. He trafficked drugs and porn at school

“Here I was 10 years old, and I didn’t want to be at home, I didn’t want to be in school, and I didn’t want to be in church,” he says, now with tears at the painful memories.

Only his mother, Dorothy, gave him unconditional love and prayed for him continuously.

“I loved that people looked up to me,” he says. “I loved that people were scared of me. I was the man.”

Brian Cole and his abusive fatherAt age 14, Brian got turned over to police for selling pot — by his own father.

From there, he cycled through the police system, the judicial system, treatment centers and psych wards. He never stop using drugs and stealing.

At 18, Brian caught a case for breaking and entering 250 homes that landed him with 10 years in a maximum security prison. While there, he turned to Satanism because it offered him a way to generate even more fear in others. He was taking speed and LSD heavily.

“Seeing the fear in people’s eyes — even the guards’ eyes — boy that really fed my ego,” he says.

After being released in 1994, Brian got a girlfriend. When she cheated on him, he hunted down the offending man and shot him point blank. Miraculously, the man survived. Read the rest: Satanist biker saved from drugs by Jesus.

Used to outwitting the KGB in Ukraine, immigrant outwits rabbis in the Yeshiva

persecuted christians in ukraineBy the time the KGB showed up, the Torahs were gone, stowed safely with their Ukrainian neighbors.

This the game of cat and mouse of being a Christian or a Jew under Communist Soviet domination in the 1980s. Foer her part, Andrew Scokovsky’s mom was born ethnic Jew but had decided to convert to Christianity after a lifelong search for truth.

My mom always searched for the meaning of life,” says Andrew*. “So she turned to socialism and communsim to see if it had the truth. She read Marx and Lenin and she couldn’t find it there. She was looking all theese places. Finally her friend said, Hey why don’t you read the Bible? It changed her life. Then she told it to my father and then he accepted Jesus too.”

Little Andrew grew up in the underground church of Odessa, always dodging the KGB and the communist authority.

“Whether Jewish or Christian, persecution was the same,” Andrew says. “According to socialistic creed, you’re supposed to believe in Lenin, so there is no higher authority than the communist party, there is a higher authority. They couldn’t allow that.”

persecuted christians in ukraine 2So when Andrew’s neighbors got wind that the KGB was planning to raid their house on a certain day, they spirited away the Torahs to Andrew’s house just in the nick of time. When the KGB — the feared security apparatus that propped up the communist dictatorship — arrived, agents found nothing.

Andrew says there were officially sanctioned churches but that you couldn’t hear the full gospel in them.

“We were part of the underground church,” he recalls. “You could not go to the regular church because if you went to a regular church, the KGB made a list of what you could preach. If you want to preach the whole Bible, you have to go to the underground church.”

As a young child, he was brought to church and dedicated to God. Accordingly, he grew up always wanting to pray, read his Bible and pursue a relationship with Jesus, he says.

At age 14, his parents were granted asylum to the United States under the religious persecution clause, and they settled in Brooklyn, NY, 1989.

“At the time we left, revival was going on,” Andrew says. “Just before communism fell, they opened up the region to foreigners, and Americans would come and preach. It was like a voice of angels in the late 80s. A lot of people converted during that time.”

In New York, his parents enrolled him in a public high school. But the fights — even with knives — frightened them, so they switched him to a conservative Jewish school, called a Yeshiva. They were not Jewish but resorted there because it was a “safe place,” he says.

Andrew knew he couldn’t talk about Christianity.

“Teachers taught us you only worship God and that Christians worship a man who claimed to be God, which is idolatry, the worst sin,” he said. Read the rest: Ukrainian persecuted Christian.

Gambling addiction broken after man sees in Bible what God told him

john simmonsJohn Simmons first entered a dingy poker room where guys were smoking on his 21st birthday in Vegas.

“There’s no better feeling than putting in a wad of money in your pocket knowing you didn’t really do anything to earn it,” says Simmons on a CBN video. “There’s a lot of adrenaline that builds up in your heart. The feeling of chasing that moment is intense.”

It was the start of a decade-long gambling addiction that saw John, from St. Louise, Missouri, fall into more than $200,000 of debt, depression and hopelessness.

IMG_5510His demise began with a celebration for his birthday, when it was finally legal for him to go into a casino.

“The guys at the tables got their sunglasses on and they’re bluffing each other,” John says. “It’s just filling me up with all this joy and i’m like I love this.”

John decided to pursue poker as a career. He got a job as a casino card dealer and he made good money.

‘Gambling gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a sense of identity,” John says. “I would be a person that could be seen by others as a multimillionaire. If I wasn’t working, I was playing. If I wasn’t playing, I was sleeping.”

IMG_5509But when gambled on his free time, he lost.

After three years at the poker table, John was more than $200,000 in debt and had to declare bankruptcy. As part of the court settlement, he still had to pay off some debt. So John worked overtime to scramble the money.

“In my mind, it wasn’t that I was failing. I just needed to keep going and figure out how to fix it,” he says. “If only I could win the next thing, none of these losses matter. I would spend my entire paycheck over the course of a weekend trying to chase my debts. A lot of times, I had zero dollars in my pocket.

“It was such a terrible way to live,” he adds. “I couldn’t stop though. I kept thinking, ‘If all I do is win this one tournament, if I win a million dollars, no one will be mad at me anymore.’”

At age 30, he was again hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

He decided to survey the debris of his life. Read the rest of gambling addiction.

Juicy Dumpling Restaurant in San Gabriel (greater Los Angeles)

Juicy Dumpling restaurant San Gabriel, CA

Juicy Dumpling Long Xing Ji in San Gabriel, with viewing room to watch them form dumplings like origami

This will, no doubt, leave some people SMH and others will laugh outright, but one of the ways you can KNOW you are in a legit Chinese restaurant is you enter in-between hours and the staff is napping on the booth couch.

Yup, Chinese workers in a REAL Chinese restaurant — ones run by Mom and Pop — work long hours. They take a nap between meals.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 1

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 1

That’s how I knew Juicy Dumpling in San Gabriel, which has become a huge ethnoburb for hua qiao. Outside China, where are you going to find more Chinese? For more than two decades, the Chinese have been moving in to Alhambra, Arcadia, Rosemead, San Marino, San Gabriel, South Pasadena, and Temple City.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 2

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 2

Juicy Dumpling Restaurant is located in the 12-acre San Gabriel Square, known affectionately as the “Great Mall of China.” I expected to find authentic Chinese food here. Immediately cluing me in to success was a waiter napping because I got there at 4:00, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. I expected great Chinese food. I didn’t expect a viewing window through which you can spy into the kitchen, especially the dumpling maker. This is quite fascinating, since dumpling folding is on par with origami. It certainly gives you an appreciation for the labor of love they pour into your soup dumplings.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 4

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 4

Andrew and I didn’t get dumplings. He wanted barbecue pork ribs with a hearty portion of meat hanging from them. They were fabulous. Since Andrew lives mostly in China, I let him order, and he also got shrimp fried rice. It was out of this world. As in, out of America and in China.

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 5

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 5

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 6

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 6

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 7

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 7

One day I will try this Chinese cola:

Jia Dua Bao soda
Juicy Dumpling (Long Xing Ji)
140 W. Valley Suit 211
San Gabriel, CA 91776
626-307-1188
$

bamboo steamers[Advert: 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.]

Single dad CHH star reaches out to people lost in the streets

benjamin broadway CHHHe thrilled to strap up a Glock, flex a gold chain and fancy car and gangbang in the streets, but when Benjamin Broadway stood over the casket of his close friend Johnny Talyor, God interrupted the thug life fantasy he was living.

“That can be you,” the Most High told Benjamin. “God just attacked me.”

The dark reality of mortality combined with the stark prophecy from God prompted Benjamin to straighten up. He cut off his street friends and went to the local Vineyard Church.

Today, the South Bend, Indiana, native spearheads of subgenre of Christian Hip Hop called Gospel Trap that is oriented more for sinners than saints.

benjamin broadway single dad CHH rapper“I’m trying to save the hood,” he says in a 2016 Rapzilla video. “Gospel Trap is putting God where He’s needed. People that’s in church every Sunday God got them some way somehow. But people in the streets don’t have Him. I’m trying to give music to the streets”

The Tupac-influenced artist came under fire from Christian circles when he dropped “God in the Bando” (a bando is an abandoned house that has been taken over by dealers and addicts) by saints who want to maintain a high holy wall of separation between the church and the world. Benjamin employs ghetto language to entice sinners to listen, but he redefines the words out of the Bible. A lot of Christians don’t get the strategy.

“I’m using a lot of key words that the hood knows, and I’m putting them in a gospel perspective,” he says. “You’re going to hear stuff like ‘plug’ — all different types of keywords that no other Christian artist is using. When I put out ‘God in tha bando,’ people was attacking me. I mean, attacking me. I’m like, how come people don’t know that I’m trying to put the message out on the streets? I want to save a million souls.”

His lyrics come short of an R rating. Some parents may want to steer their Chrisitan kids to more sanitized raps. But the older youth from the suburbs would do well to approach Benjamin’s music as a sociological study of the ghetto and sensitivity training.

He’s quite the wordsmith. In one song he reflects on how it’s not easy to make a living in Christian Hip Hop even if you strike it big. “I know you broke CHH” he raps. It’s an expression of making a sensation that shuts down others because of the explosion of attention to you. He goes on to reflect on how the artist can still “be broke” financially.

Benjamin got away from the faith of his parents in high school. Everyday his dad would nag him to serve Jesus and would read him his favorite verse, which he hid through secret combination of numbers in his album “Gospel Trap 2.”

“I felt like my friends were my family; we started our own clique and ended up getting in a lot of trouble. Did a lot of things,” he told God Reports. “I think the reason why I did it so long was the friends that were around me, we were close. Plus not only that, you get addicted to the street life, you end up glorifying it, and continue to think it’s right. But in reality it’s harming you.”

He got kicked out of high school for fighting rival gang members but still managed to graduate. For some of his shenanigans in the streets, he would up locked up in jail, though only for a week.

“That made me realize — being locked up in a cell like an animal — that is not the way I wanted to live,” Benjamin said. “I didn’t want the government being in charge of my life (through prison officials and judges, etc). I don’t like jail or the police (no offense to the good officers that protect america in a good way).” Read the rest: Benjamin Broadway Christian rap

Reinhard Bonnke, powerful evangelist to Africa

reinhard bonnkeReinhard Bonnke, called the Billy Graham of Africa, died Saturday at age 79.

The German-American pentecostal evangelist recorded 79 million conversions to Christ in a lifetime of ministry that started in 1967.

Most of his outreach was in Africa, where he saw many miracles to help usher in souls to the Kingdom of God. No other Western evangelist spent more time in Africa.

“Those who knew him off-stage can testify to his personal integrity, genuine kindness, and overflowing love for the Lord,” said his successor, Daniel Kolenda, in Christianity Today. “His ministry was inspired and sustained by his rich prayer life, his deep understanding of the Word, and his unceasing intimacy with the Holy Spirit.”

billy graham to africaKenyan politician Esther Passari thanked him, at the announcement of his death, for his life of service.

“I spoke in tongues for the first time at Rev. Reinhard Bonnke’s 1988 crusade,” she said. “He picked me from the crowd and arranged a meeting where he prayed for God to use me. I send my condolences to his family and his congregation.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is Muslim, also eulogized the beloved evangelist, saying he “joins Christendom at large in mourning the passing of renowned evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, 79, describing his transition as a great loss to Nigeria, Africa & entire world.” Read the rest: Reinhard Bonnke dies.

Triad gang member scraped with death before finding Jesus

ChobySiau3As multiracial dyslexic at 11 years old, Choby Siau was an easy target for bullying at his new school in New Zealand.

“Because of that, I started to fight. I started to fight to defend” my brother and me, Choby narrates in the video he made documenting his salvation.

Choby grew up in a church, but he never had a personal relationship with God. He felt hurt by the church.

“I knew He was real, but I just really thought, ‘How can God let abuse happen to me and my brother?’ I had a distrust of God, and I blamed God for what I went through,” Choby continues.

At 13 years old, Choby and his family left to Penang, Malaysia, where he joined a local Triad, a Chinese mafia.

ChobySiau2

Choby in his gang

“My goal was to raise in the ranks,” Choby says. “I wanted to become a boss in the Triad.”

Choby got kicked out of school in the 8th grade.

“Choby, because you’re out (of school), I’m going to teach you about the ways of the Chinese Triad,’” Choby’s boss told him.

Choby was hooked for life.

Choby started as a fighter. Anytime there was a problem for the Triad in Penang, he was called upon to settle scores.

At 17, he and his family moved to America, far away from his girlfriend. Through his connections in the Triad, he learned she was cheating on him.

“Listen,” he threatened his girlfriend over the phone, “I want you to tell that guy that I have a present coming for him.”

But before he could board the plane, his mom had a very serious talk with him.

“Son, I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again,” she told him ominously.

“God spoke to her that I was gonna die in Malaysia,” Choby explains. Read the rest of Triad gang member comes to salvation

Sinking shots in Santa Monica as smoothly as he skates

christian school santa monica basketball teamFirst skating. Then quarterbacking. Now shooting hoops.

Is there anything Pat Cannon can’t do?

Lighthouse Christian Academy won its basketball season opener against Summit View School 48-33.

Calm, cool, collected, the senior sunk shot after shot after a shot. Pat’s better know as Sk8erpat on Instagram where’s his magic with the skateboard has ranked up 19.6K followers.

Then, he was throwing around the football on LCA’s river rafting trip, and coach saw he had an arm. He got tapped for quarterback, where he led the Saints into playoffs this season.

Turn in football gear. Receive basketball uniform. Continue the same smooth execution. (Pat also golfs, but that’s another story.) He scored 15 points.

Lighthouse previously had a soccer team, but after almost a decade, the guys who kick the ball disappeared like the biblical transitory vapor.

Basketball, suddenly, was born at LCA. There were no coaches able to continue the soccer legacy. Instead, coaches stepped forward for basketball, and there was ample interest in the student population. Read the rest Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica basketball team.

Lamar Jackson shows biblical principal ‘last shall be first’

ravens quarterback lamar jacksonThe Ravens quarterback is not out to win. He’s out to destroy his opponents, to bury them under so many points, both passed and rushed. His mindset is insanely competitive.

He’s been compared to Mike Vick, but he passes more, and he’s been hailed as a prototype revolutionizing football for future generations of QBs, who ought to be both athletic like a running back and precise passers. The 22-year-old, who outgunned both Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in double digits this season, is charging madly into the NFL’s MVP.

On top of all that, Lamar Jackson is a Christian, who credited his faith when he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2016 at the University of Louisville.

passing and running lamar jackson“First and foremost, before I go further along in my speech, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Lamar said. “Without Him, none of us would be here right now.”

Lamar Jackson lost his dad in an automobile accident when he was eight. From then on, his single mother raised Lamar and his siblings in poverty in Pompano Beach, Florida. He credits Mom with doing her best to fill the role of Mom and Dad.

And the role of football coach.

lamar jackson heisman speechFelicia Jones was a passionate athlete herself and pushed her son into football. Even at eight, he outran and outpassed all the other kids in Pop Warner football. Felicia watched intently from the sidelines and then took little Lamar home to give him more drills, either ones she saw or ones she made up. She even tackled him roughly so that he would intensify his game to beat bigger people.

“People don’t believe me,” Jackson said on ESPN. “She was an athlete. She used to play basketball. She saw what we were able to do, and she’d go back there and play football with us. She was just making us tougher because she’s older, so she’s bringing power that we’re not used to feeling. We didn’t take it like anything different.”

In addition to intense workouts, she drilled Lamar with a code of moral principles called The Super 8: God, prayer, faith, family, education, sacrifice, character and discipline.

By the time Lamar got to college he was a football machine, chewing up opponents and spitting them out. In his opening game during his sophomore year, he established the school record scoring eight touchdowns, all in the first half. He went on to become the youngest ever recipient of the Heisman trophy at age 19.

But when it came time for the NFL draft in 2018, 28 teams overlooked him in their picks. He was the last pick of the first round.

But the snub only inspired him. Lamar and his mom, who acted as his agent, remembered and repeated Matt. 20:16: “The last will be first, and the first last,” according to CBS Sports. He wasn’t a first in NFL draft; he came in last. Now on the football field, he determined to finish first. Read the rest Lamar Jackson Christian

Pink Pepper Thai food in Hollywood

Pink Pepper Restaurant HollywoodFamous for movies and music, Hollywood is great too for munchies. It turns out all those stars — and would-be celebrities — like foreign fare, evocative entrees, daring dainties.

Pink Pepper fits the bill. Its memorable moniker hails its Hollywood heritage.

Thai yellow curry Pink Pepper HollywoodThe Thai food eatery is aptly decorated with Thai Buddhas — thinner than the Chinese versions — and golden furbelow. The interior decorating is tasteful, the food even more so.

pad thai Pink Pepper HollywoodMy friend Andrew ordered and we shared yellow curry chicken and pad Thai noodles with ground peanuts. This is the sort of stuff you look for in a Thai restaurant — a clean break from meat and potatoes.

Pink Pepper beef entreeThere are entrees that beckon: Crying Tiger Angus ribeye  with spicy dipping sauce, Siamese Fish crispy fried in tamarind-chili sauce, Lamb Curry  stewed in Mussamum curry, Tom Yum spicy hot and sour lemongrass soup, Rot Paratha for dessert.

pink pepper entree 2It’s an intimate eatery on the west edge of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Pink Pepper
1638 N La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323-461-2462
$$

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Pink Pepper entreePink Pepper Hollywood menu page 1Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 2Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 3Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 4Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 5Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 6
bamboo steamers[Advert: 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.]

A mountaintop experience at Central Grille in Glendale, CA

Monster burger and tortilla soup Central Grille GlendaleAfter climbing Mount Watermen, we three men were hungry. “Monster” burgers were the order of the day.

As famished as we were, probably anything would have satisfied. But instead, we pulled into one of those destination restaurants that you drive miles for because it’s that good.

Monster Burger Central GrilleMy serendipitous discovery came as it usually does, by way of a local. Wanna find good grub without Yelp? Ask a local.

Andrew had lived nearby when the hipster joint was an oldster joint called Shakers. The owners smartly revamped it for the changing demographics of influx of professionals. Not only did they update the interior and exterior, they crafted a new menu that combines traditional classics with enticing twists: white America cheese on the burger with sweet caramelized onions to offset the salty burger and house aioli.

Central Grille Glendale hipster restaurantCrispy asparagus fries. Deviled eggs with bacon. Truffle fries. Fish and chips with jalapeño tartar. Chilled gazpacho. Burrato-tomato caprese. Sesame-almond crusted salmon. Short rib street tacos. Popcorn curry chicken.

Central-Grille-2-82(Whimper. I’m growing hungry as I write.)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Like heaven yeah! When can I get an excuse to jet over there again?

Central-Grille-2-15I’m normally a fries guy, but Nathan Williams was from Salt Lake City where soup is the thing, and he had a picture from the last time. He showed me. That was that. It looked more mouth-watering than the fries.

bamboo steamers[Advert: 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.]

Central-Grille-242Mercifully, the menu is one large page. Just one. If it were more, I would probably need to go this restaurant for the rest of my life to sample all the goodies.

central grill saladCentral Grille has one-upped the competition. They’ve shown that you need to do more than just an “e” to the end of “Grill” if you want first-timers to become faithful.

Central Grillle Glendale CA exteriorWaterman Mountain in the Angeles National Forest, about an hour north of Glendale, was an exhilarating hike with snow and ice. I won’t need to be a famished mountainman to seek the eatery again.

hike Mount Waterman

Nathan Williams on Mount Waterman (not the peak)

Final tip: Grab some zucchini bread on your way out at the cash register. Goes great with butter on it and a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Central Grille
801 N Central Ave
Glendale, CA 91203
818-246-4994
$$

Central Grille menu Glendale, California

After a mountaintop experience on top of the mounain, we had a mountaintop experience at the base of the mountain in the restaurant.

Central Grille Glendale dinner specials menu

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Brutal or bomb? A 17-year-old reviews Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City

dinah's chickenSeventeen-year-olds are merciless, so when I took my son with me to help review Dinah’s Family Restaurant, I knew he would cut through all the nonsense and deliver either a brutal or bomb grade.

Hosea didn’t like it. The chicken sandwich was overpriced and underflavored, according to him.

I thought my “monster burger” was stellar, and Kevin said his pulled pork sandwich did not disappoint. Perhaps we misfired. We arrived on the all-you-can eat Southern fried chicken night and didn’t.

chicken sandwich Dinah's Family Restaurant

The unimpressive chicken sandwich

Everybody agreed that the restaurant, which offers Southern comfort food, was overpriced, maybe banking on its historicity, old faithful clientele or its location in hipster Culver City. This restaurant has survived a 1000 remakes and trends in the restaurant business with the same menu from 1959 when it opened.

Dinah's Family Restaurant interior Culver CityIt even boasts that its bucket sign was the first of its type in Los Angeles. (Such was the trademark of Pioneer Chicken, which didn’t keep up with Kentucky Fried, which is struggling against an infinity of healthier options.)

Pulled Pork sandwich Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver CityThere’s not too much on the menu that borders on “ethnic” or “exotic.” The retro interior speaks throwback.

I’m a sucker for a burger called “monster,” so much so that I could distracted from the all-you-can-eat fried chicken.

Monster Burger from Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver Cityu

The Monster Burger (side view) at Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City.

Somehow or other, I didn’t notice from the menu that it had not one but two huge patties. When the bulky burger came, I couldn’t fit my mouth around it. I actually had to give one of the patties to my son; he plays football and consumes mega quantities.

Monster Burger Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver City

Monster burger (top view, open) from Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City

It had two onion rings in it, bacon, lettuce tomato, and a huge slab of cheese. The size of the pickle even fit the descriptor: monster. I surrendered the raw onion to brother Eric, since pungent onions make my stomach acidic.

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnailThe fries were impressively thick but otherwise nothing special.

[Advert: 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.]

Breakfast looks good.

There’s a same-logo Dinah’s Chicken in Glendale, but it appears they severed business relationship many years ago.

Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 1Since the restaurant has been opened, it has served a lot of food. Its website provides the accounting:

More than 20 million customers.
More than 1 billion pieces of  fried chicken.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 2More than 5 million apples to make apple pancakes.
45 million eggs to make breakfast.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 32 million pounds of bacon and sausage.
1.5 million pounds of fish.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 48 millions pounds of potatoes.
20 million pancakes
500,000 pies
More than 2 million pounds of beef.
15 million cups of coffee.
27 million dinner rolls.

I don’t think I will come here again unless invited. The grub is good, but the prices are not.

Dinah’s Family Restaurant
6521 Sepulveda Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045
310-645-0456
$$

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Greek for lunch in Downtown LA at George’s

George's Greek Grill downtown Los Angeles

An Athens painting adorns the wall giving a cool feel to the hipster/professional lunch place.

The gyro made my tongue do cartwheels. It was that good. There’s nothing like Greek food to excite your tongue.

I met my wife for lunch in Downtown at George’s Greek Grill on Figueroa. This place is definitely the lunch spot for professionals.

chicken gyro at George's Greek Grill downtown los angeles

Chicken gryo

Greek food combines frequently with tzatziki — yogurt spiked with cucumber  — that provide an intriguing offset to the spicy and salty lamb and beef.

Roasted-Pepper-Hummus-2

Fried pita chips with roasted pepper hummus

I got the chicken. I wish I had gotten the beef and lamb, which my wife got.

lamb and beef gyro at George's Greek Grill in downtown Los Angeles

Lamb and beef gyro

George’s takes the traditional Greek and puts hipster twist on it. Hummus gets zipped up with jalapeño and cilantro. Fries come with feta cheese and protein.

Calamari_019

Calimari salad

There are salads and falafel. There are wraps and pita chips. The menu is pretty long for a mostly lunch place.

Kale-Salad-1280x1071-1

Kale salad with mango chunks and cranberries

George’s Greek Grill
735 S Figueroa St #131
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213-624-6542
$$

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My wife swears by Go Greek, and I’m pretty convinced too

Go Greek Santa MonicaIf I were a frozen yogurt sommelier, I could tell you why Go Greek is superior. But since I can’t place my finger on it, I’ll just say Go Greek tastes healthier. Supposedly the ingredients are all imported from Greece. There’s no corner cutting. And yes, it tastes a bit more tart, a bit more yogurty, a bit healthier.

My wife swears by it.

Go Greek toppings naturalActually, I’m a bit of a cuisine curmudgeon. Just because something is more expensive does not mean it tastes better in my book. Hence, I frown upon her notion that Menchie’s (more expensive) is better than Yogurtland. They taste exactly the same to me.

Go Greek convinces me, the cynic.

Go Greek natural yogurtThey have nontraditional flavors: peanut butter and jelly, passionfruit, rose, hazelnut, carrot. Greek honey is a perennial. They have rotating flavors.

The toppings are noticeably different from your traditional frozen yogurt joint. Chocolate goes in the form of dark chocolate cacao nibs, dark chocolate espresso beans and unsweetened carob chips. There are raw, sliced almonds and fresh fruit. No sprinkles, no whipped cream, no other cheap American unwholesome frills.

Go Greek Santa Monica interiorThey don’t offer chocolate syrup, which apparently is too sugary for their healthy pretensions. Instead, they have sour cherry syrup, which is spectacular; Greek honey and rose petal sauce (which I haven’t tried).

Go Greek yogurtThere are three Go Greeks in Los Angeles and one in Las Vegas. No doubt they will expand across that nation, at least to places where sophisticated tastes prevail. They need more in L.A.

Go Greek frozen yogurt toppingsIf we are in Santa Monica, we usually stop in there.

1431 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 310-2167
$ (more expensive than the average frozen yogurt place)

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The Emperor of Ice Cream at POPS in City of San Fernando

ice cream sundae in half coconut Pops Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoIce cream specialty shops abound. So when you find something special, it’s a rare gem.

spicey cucumber ice cream POPS Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoThis is POPS Artisanal Creamery in the City of San Fernando. They offer a sundae in a half coconut. They make their own ice cream with some rocking originals.

Yeah, I’m talking hibiscus (rosa de jamaica) ice cream. And spicy cucumber. Watermelon.

hibiscus ice cream rosa de jamaica Pops Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoThe exotic flavors are Latin variations. You don’t have as many options as competitors La Michoacana, but the ice creams are made to the American taste, not according to the Mexican formula. Which means, I like them better.

specialty ice creams POPS Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoI learned a thing about exotic ice creams when I went to BAE, which offers unthinkable flavors like Coco Puffs Chocolate and Charcoal Cleanse. Only problem with BAE is that they don’t taste good.

Pops Creamery City of San FernandoTo be fair, I didn’t try the spicy cucumber, so it would be wrong for me to endorse it here. But I did the sweet cream corn ice cream, which Martin said was his grandfather’s recipe, and it was delicious.

Snapseed__4_The proprietor, Martin Ken, is a handsome guy with light eyes from Belize. He’s slightly chubby, proof that he is a connoisseur of creams. He gives an individual attention and care to every customers, talking freely, answering questions, giving samples.

Ample samples.

20190805-162405-COVER_3_0819As a matter of fact, it was me who called it quits on the sample porque me apené. (Sorry for the Spanish, but I thought it might be apropos given the Latin neighborhood and the Latin flavors.) I think I sampled four separate creams before deciding, with my wife, for the super nutty walnut and the sharp coffee. (I say “sharp” because the coffee flavor is quite strong and tastes like a legit cup of joe — way better than your average coffee ice cream.)

downloadMartin shaved the inside of half coconut and left the shavings in the bottom. Then he scooped in our two flavors, sprayed on whipped cream, gingerly applied chocolate syrup and topped it off with a mascherino cherry and a little parasol normal for cocktails. That parasol was a little bit of fun, an attractive, playful touch that shows signature caring.

It gave you the impression that he was executing a work of art and not just slapping the 104th order of the day to clock out. I thought to myself, Here is the Emperor of Ice Cream.)

IMG_6692-sidepopHe talks knowledgeably of creams from around the Caribbean. He talks about his family history with creams-making. He talks about his plans to open a second store in New Hall, to the North. He talks…. He talks friendly.

At Pops Artisanal Creamery, you are a friend.

We’ll be back.

POPS Artisanal Creamery
450 N. Maclay Ave.
San Fernando, CA 91340
818-371-3538
$

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Hot! Hot! Hot!

bizmati rice Pakistani style Nihara House Arleta Los AngelesNihari House is pure fire — and it’s not a rap flow.

No, it’s spicy, spicy, spicy.

Nihari House ArletaIn my quest to try all the most exotic ethnic food in Los Angeles, I wound up in Nihari House in Arleta (in the Central Northern San Fernando Valley.)

Never having sampled Pakistani food before, I asked the waitress, who runs the joint with her husband, the chef. She was very personable and welcoming. Instantly, I felt part of the family.

Nihari in San Fernando ValleyBecause of her no-non sense recommendation, I tried the nihari, the house specialty. It is beef shank slow-simmered in chili oil for seven hours or so. The gravy is hot, hot, hot. There was no need to throw in the chopped jalapeño on the side. To squeeze in lemon juice would have pushed the acidic levels into radioactive. (Excuse the hyperbole, but I’m 52 and can’t take too much spicy anymore. Fortunately, there was a remedy.) It was delicious.

Lamb Karahi Pakistani food Nahari House ArletaMy wife got the lamb Lamb Karahi, which came in its own Pakastani wok (I didn’t know they had their own woks!). And that was just as hot. It wasn’t until the chef, an affable slightly overweight guy, came out to check if everything was up to our satisfaction. He explained that we could have ordered a less spicy version. It certainly gives me confidence in a restaurant if the chef himself comes out to check on our enjoyment.

mango yogurt Pakistani drink Nihara Arleta Los AngelesFortunately, there was an answer to the chili power. It was the mango yogurt drink to neutralize acids in the stomach. Even if you don’t need to chill the heat, this drink is absolutely worth the experiment. It’s delicious and different.

If you are tired of ho-hum meat and potatoes like me, then Nihari House is a hotspot to excite your palate.

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: 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.]

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 2

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 1

Here’s a big tip: try to hit the Sunday buffet 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. That way you can sample so many different flavors for one low price. Unfortunately, I missed the buffet because it didn’t coincide with date night with my wife.

nihari house Los Angeles pakistani foodI thought that Mexicans were the hot chili pepper-eating champions of the world. (I remember in Mexico City seeing a 4-year-old eating a jalapeño all by itself as if it were a banana. He didn’t cry until he accidentally wiped his eyes with his fingers.) Now I know that the Pakistanis are right up there competing.

pakistani buffet in LA

Nihari House
13920 Van Nuys Blvd.
Arleta, CA 91331
818-302-6291
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: 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.]

Want Indian food in Hollywood? India’s Tandoori Hollywood

green coconut curry chicken indias tandoori hollywoodRumor has it that the time to hit India’s Tandoori Hollywood is for lunch. That’s when the buffet goes for $12.00. So you can sample every taste of India for a paltry sum. I was told it was Punjabi food, from Northern India.

Indian food hollywoodMy friend and I came for dinner, so we only got one entry each. I got the Green Coconut Chicken with mild curry, and my buddy ordered Chicken Tikka Masala.

lentil paste bread Indias Tandoori HollywoodWhile we waited for the food, the waiter brought a super thin cracker-like bread made of lentils. Yep, lentils. I wasn’t expecting it to be salty. Perhaps because it was salty, it gave me the impression of being the Indian equivalent of Mexican chips as an appetizer.

Indian condimentsI was quick to try each of the condiments: mint (not sweet), diced carrots and chili (not too spicy) and plum sauce with sesame seeds (which looked like it was spicy but wasn’t).

indias tandoori hollywood inside restaurantThis is what you go to Indian food for: a slathering of thick gravy spiced up with the herbs that made the Indies the destination for traders in the Age of Exploration. There are curries, green sauces, red sauces, brown sauces, yummy sauces, hot sauces and ones that will send you to the bathroom.

chicken tikka indias tandoori hollywoodAhem. Excuse me. I shouldn’t talk about such an unappetizing topic while discussing the appetizing concerns of this restaurant.

bamboo steamer thumbnail sizIn any case, Indian food is my new Mexican food.

[Advert: 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.]

indias tandoor hollywood interior decoratingBecause we ordered it a la carte, we didn’t get rice. We should’ve gotten rice to sop up the sauce with.

Indias Tandoori Hollywood set up insideBut the naan bread did not disappoint. As I have said previously, I don’t like bread. Period. But naan bread, I like. It is slightly crispy on the outside, warm and chewy on the inside. Mmmmmmm.

We could scoop up the extra sauce with that and revel in all the tastiness.

There was plenty of chicken in the entrees, and I left full enough.

Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 1Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 2Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 3
The restaurant is tastefully decorated. The fresco on the wall appears to be of India in rough brush paint strokes that is more in line with Hollywood than India. The servers appear to be Indian. On the whole, the night out was very enjoyable.

I’m just going to have hit this restaurant for the lunch buffet 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. next time so that I can sample more widely of the delicacies of India.

India’s Tandoori Hollywood
7300 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323-874-6673
$

bamboo steamer thumbnail siz[Advert: 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.]

First dyslexia, then cancer, Mark Hall has gone through some trials

Mark-and-Melanie-Hall-Feature-2His doctor said, “You’ve got cancer,” but John Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, heard, “You’re going to die.”

It was 2015 and the Grammy-winning Christian worship band was approaching 10 million sales of its albums. Mark was youth pastor in Georgia, happily married and fulfilling his call in God. He consulted a doctor friend about what he imagined to be acid reflux.

After getting the results of some scans, the doctor texted Mark: Dude, you need to call me.

308650In a subsequent phone call he told Mark there was a mass on his kidney. “It looks solid. I think it’s cancer,” he said.

Mark was thunderstruck.

“I hung up and walked to my car in a daze, wondering how I was going to break the news to my wife, Melanie; our four kids; our church; the youth group; the band,” Mark recalls in Guideposts. “The idea of telling them all made my head spin.”

God felt far away.

Two weeks before his surgery, Mark was singing with Casting Crowns at the Carson Center in Paducah, Kentucky, wondering what would happen. The band’s next song was “Just Be Held.” Unlike most of their songs, there was no story behind the song – until that night.

At that moment he had the stunning realization that God had inspired him to pen lyrics that would speak to him later in life, in the midst of his cancer.

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

Casting-Crowns-press-photo-2016-billboard-1548“It was as though I was hearing those words for the very first time. Suddenly I knew who this song had been written for, and why. God in his infinite wisdom had given it to me two years earlier, knowing how desperate I would be after my diagnosis,” Mark explained. “I didn’t need to hold it together. I needed to be held, to accept his love from as many people as wanted to share it with me, to receive their prayers, all the prayers I could get.”

Doctors removed his cancerous kidney and later told him it was an aggressive form of the deadly disease, but mercifully, it was self-contained and had not spread.

The weeks following the surgery were sometimes difficult. The band cancelled a week of shows before Mark could rejoin them.

God has helped the band continue to reach hundreds of thousands with their inspirational music. Casting Crowns has won Dove, Billboard and American Music awards. The group is one of the only American bands to ever perform in North Korea., playing at the 2009 Spring Friendship Arts Festival in Pyongyang. Their single “Slow Fade” was included in Kirk Cameron’s blockbuster movie FireproofRead the rest: Dyslexia, cancer, Mark Hall.

Hop Li in LA’s Chinatown, the hot spot for locals

Hop Li Chinatown LA

My lovely wife, at the restaurant she grew up most eating

Forget about the big fancy expensive Chinese food restaurants in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Locals get their authentic grub at Hop Li, an unpretentious eatery that would necessarily stand out as a hot spot.

Peking Duck Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LA

Peking Duck in super-white flour buns with sprig onion, parsley and plum or hoisin sauce.

I was introduced to Hop Li, when in the 90s I was dating the lady who is now my wife. It was the most frequent place we went to.

spicy pepper beef Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

The pepper beef was my favorite of the day.

I’ve learned to ignore the worn-out red carpets that lead to the bathroom. They look like they were new in the 60s. I’ve learned to ignore the dust on the exit sign. People don’t

stocking stuffer mini

come to Hop Li for its immaculate interior. The decorating looks like it hasn’t updated

since the 70s.

Advert: 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.]

hot and sour soup Hop Li Chinese restaurant Los Angeles

Hot and sour soup is a traditional favorite.

Nobody cares about that. They only care about taste. When it comes to authentic Cantonese food, there’s nothing better in Downtown LA (Chinatown is just northeast of DT).

sweet and sour chicken Chinatown Los Angeles Hop Li restaurant

The kids always love sweet and sour chicken

Having married American-born Chinese, I learned you always start with soup. My in-laws used to honor me (many many years ago) by ordering shark’s fin soup, which cost $100 and tastes fibrous (nothing special for my American taste buds, or bitter melon soup (which they cherish but tasted to me like the name, bitter). But on my recent visit we were treated to the more American-friendly hot and sour soup.

Hop Li restaurant in Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s decor is traditional old style.

Next, if the meal is special, you get Peking Duck. I like the dunk meat best, but the true stocking stuffer miniChinese way, apparently, is to eat mostly fried duck skin with plum sauce, onion sprigs and parsley.

Advert: 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.]

Chinese crab restaurant

Crabs in the fish tank assure you you’re getting really fresh seafood.

Then the entrees start coming out to be served on the white rice: honey garlic spare ribs, asparagus, baby Spinach, fish in black bean sauce, pepper chicken, spicy beef and bell peppers, noodles, sweet and sour chicken. There is more than we can finish, which is the Chinese way for a banquet.

Chinese asparagus Hop Li Restaurant Los Angeles Chinatown

Delicious asparagus, one of my favorites.

There are a lot of exotic items for the truer Chinese taste buds, deep fried squid in light crunchy batter, crab and fried tofu in creamy curry sauce, whole steamed fish (my in-laws, to honor me years ago, offered me the fish eyeball, which is a delicacy, and which I dutifully ate. It was mushy like a pea, though harder.)

Chinese noodles Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Chicken and vegetables in the noodles

Chinese like fresh, fresh, fresh food, so you can get the fish live and placed into the pot.  So Hop Li has tanks of living crabs for you to enjoy.

Chinese fish in black bean sauce

The black bean sauce is the bomb on the fish.

I always liked the orange pepper chicken but through the years of eating with my in-laws stocking stuffer minihave learned to go along with whatever they order. Another favorite of mine was kung-pao chicken.

Advert: 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.]

honey garlic spare rips Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LA

Honey garlic spare ribs

You can come here for a quick lunch, simple dinner or a full-on banquet.

At some point, Hop Li, which started in Chinatown, expanded with two restaurants on the West Side of Los Angeles, aiming to capture the well-heeled crowd. Reportedly, even the best chef moved there. But here in Chinatown is where the legend began, so I’m not following the best chef.

historical map of chinatown Los Angeles

A historic map of Chinatown

Hop Li is part of Chinatown’s history. They even have a historic map that traces the beginnings of the section in Los Angeles. Some of the history is a stain because racial violence against Chinese is why the Chinese moved out of Downtown and quartered up near Dodger Stadium (which, of course, wasn’t there at the time).
whoa

Hot mustard sauce to add some zing to vegetables. Alternatively, oyster sauce makes the veggies delicious.

Chinese spinach Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Baby spinach, savored for being tender

The Chinese apparently appreciate the baby vegetables, such as the spinach above. They say they are more tender. Not hailing from Chinese descent, I grew up learning that stocking stuffer minitoughness was roughage, which was good for your digestion, so I don’t think I savor it quite like they do.

Advert: 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.]

The menu is extensive.

Hop Li menu page 1 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 1

Hop Li menu page 2 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 2

Hop Li menu page 3 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 3

Hop Li menu page 4 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 3

Hop Li menu page 5 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 4

Hop Li menu page 6 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 5

Hop Li menu page 7 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 6

Hop Li menu page 8 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 7

Hop Li Seafood Restaurant
526 Alpine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-680-3939
$$

stocking stuffer miniAdvert: 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.]

Hair-raising ‘Harriet’ includes positive portrayal of Christianity

LMKEBRX3HYI6THQCDVC4WPP2R4(spoiler alert) After several hair-raising chase scenes, armed runaway slave Harriet Tubman gets the drop on her former slave master.

Aiming her revolver, she steps out from behind a tree and demands Gideon Brodess, riding on horseback, to drop his rifle, which he does. But he tries to surprise her and pulls his handgun.

Harriet shoots his hand, walks over and grabs his rifle and trains it on him.

TEAZJN2ZXBDCPHCGKYDSIV7POI“God did not make people to own people,” she declares.

The fact that the biopic Harriet, in theaters now, portrays Christianity in a positive light is refreshing and rare from a secular production company from Hollywood. It would have been so easy for them to gloss over the ‘Black Moses’ connection to God in a rewrite that could have highlighted only feminism and race equality.

Harriet (played by Cynthia Erivo) decided to flee slavery in Maryland rather than be sold “down the river” and parted from her husband. Despite being illiterate, she successfully made the dangerous 100-mile journey to anti-slavery Pennsylvania.

A year later, she made the dangerous incursion back into Maryland to free her family. This became the mission of her life. Harriet Tubman, born Araminta “Minty” Ross, disguised herself, often as a man, to lead more than 100 slaves to freedom. She became notorious among white slave owners, who kept increasing the bounty on her head. Several riveting chase scenes are the fodder of this movie. Read the rest: Christianity in ‘Harriet.’

The ‘War on Christmas’ and other Christian click bait

holiday-cups-starbucksCheck your coffee cup because it’s time for the war on Christmas — and other click bait controversies.

Four years ago, provocateur Joshua Feuerstein stirred up more than a coffee cup of controversy when he posted a YouTube video claiming Starbucks “hates Jesus” after the company unveiled a plain red seasonal cup devoid of Christmas symbols and the word “Christmas.” Hundreds of Christians rolled their eyes, but the video racked up more than one million views before being mysteriously taken off YouTube.

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Joshua Feuerstein.

Such are the ways of a segment of Christians, who make waves — and money — spreading Christian controversy on the Internet. They may think they are sincerely warning fellow Christians about the evil of leaders or ideas — or maybe they’re just taking advantage of the Internet phenomenon called “click bait.” (Hosting services like YouTube pay content creators for viral material, so they entice people to click with tantalizing, sometimes polemical, headlines.

If Christians want to win the world for Christ, should they consider a different approach than rants or boycotts directed against Target because they don’t say “Merry Christmas?”

Other online provocateurs allege that Lecrae belongs to the Illuminati, that Joel Olsteen doesn’t preach Jesus and that Kanye West didn’t really get saved. Perhaps it would be best to not click on such stories because it affords traction in search engines.

article-5155-1Of course, there IS a sustained effort by secularists to eradicate Christmas from public life. In 2012, Santa Monica banned nativity scenes from its public park. The ACLU has tried to ban Christian displays on government land arguing it violates the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment. In 2017, President Trump pushed back against these attacks, tweeting, “People are proud to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

And some retailers have come under fire by the American Family Association and the Catholic League for preferring “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas,” ostensibly to include Jews, Muslims and other customers who may not observe Christmas. An AFA boycott of Target in 2005 got the retailer to reincorporate “Christmas” in its publicity.

But many of the online attacks seem more like wild conspiracy theories, having just as much credibility as tabloid news. Just because the person who uploads the criticism claims to adhere to the Bible doesn’t mean his attack has the same authority as the Bible.

Online you can find accusations that Christian rapper Lecrae has sold out to the Illuminati and become an undercover agent. And you can find accusations that Joel Osteen is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Read the rest: War on Christmas and other Christian click bait.

He met the devil in the psych ward

JephHoagland5When an 18-year-old was sent to a psych ward and encountered Satan, a surprising series of events led him from darkness into the light.

As a teenager, Jeph Hoagland smoked weed and used psychedelics.

“I realized now that it’s wrong, and I really don’t support that way. It led me to nowhere,” Jeph says.

While he was still in rebellion, God was trying to get his attention. One day Jeph came to work drunk and was instantly sent home. Driving home, he raced around a turn too quickly, veered off the pavement, and crashed into a tree.

“The airbag went off. I got out of the car, I was fine, but the car was totaled,” Jeph recounted in a video.

After a few days, he went back to the tree where the crash happened. What he saw there was shocking.

JephHoagland1“I saw on the tree my initials, J.H. I was like, ‘Wow, this is insane. I didn’t put that there, no one put that there.’ It wasn’t like it was carved in, it was engraved in the tree,” Jeph recalled.

Did God do that? he wondered.

Jeph instantly thought there must be a higher power calling him. From then on, he started to believe God is real.

However, as he considered the reality of God’s existence he still continued to abuse drugs.

‘’I had these experiences searching for God. I had experiences on acid, where I thought I was enlightened. I felt good, and I was still feeling this void, this God-sized hole in me,” he explained.

In the process of searching for God, Jeph gave up drinking. But even without alcohol in his life, he still used mushrooms and LSD.

Then he moved to Florida and lived on his own. He was invited over to party at the house of a friend, an “angry drunk.” Jeph brought his own mushrooms.

“I felt that there was this negative presence in the room. This was the time God revealed himself to me,” Jeph recalled.

His friend suddenly got angry and demanded, with others, that Jeph drink alcohol.

“I got up and I got into a fighting stance. I saw where I was going without

having my eyes open. It was like an out-of-body experience, and I felt like I was being taken over by something,” he said.

Jeph got hit by someone. He threw the person off, and everyone started attacking him. He eventually passed out after being choked.

“When I opened my eyes, there were people circled around me. All of a sudden I felt this amazing peace, this incredible peace in me,” Jeph said.

Due to the mushrooms, Jeph continued to act erratically. He removed his clothing and began to hug the friends who had beaten him.

In response, they called the police and reported him for possessing psychedelics. Read the rest: He met the devil in the psych ward.

Urban Plates, a notch above prepare-in-front-of-you concept restaurants

urban plates sandwich makingsThe secret to Urban Plates, a new concept chain exploding in Los Angeles, is not the taste, the natural ingredients, the decor or the super friendly staff. The secret is the food’s preparation.

urban plates wild line caught ahi tuna sandwichLike pioneer of the concept, Tendergreens, Urban Plates has all the food out in front of the customers. There is no need for menus hardly, no need for pretty pictures or enticing words. The enticements are right there in front of your eyes.

urban plates sandwich menuYou get in line with your train and pick the most succulent, the most inviting items you see. It’s not prepared in the back. Right there, in front of your eyes, the foods are put together in what you order.

urban plates interiorYour hunger grows as you wait AND WATCH.

I went to the Urban Plates in Thousand Oaks. It’s a new concept restaurant like Tendergreens and Lemonade. But it transcends these in its depth of menu and attractive interior decorating.

urban plates grilled grass fed steak sandwichI ordered the “Grilled, grass-fed steak sandwich with slow-roasted tomatoes and chimichurri aioli.” I had loved chimichurri in Latin America as part of the parrilladas, but wondered how it might be added into a sandwich.

The menu items use all the right key words for health and woke culture (there is “anti-oxidant” salad and “line caught” ahi tuna, not farmed or fished in nets).

urban plates fruit juicesI was quite taken aback that the steak was cut into thick slices for my sandwich. It was steak, like it could have been served on a platter with asparagus and mashed potatoes for $19.95, and here generous slices were being cut before my eyes to go into the sandwich.

stocking stuffer mini[Advert: 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.]

urban plates dinnersNo ordinary bread was used, but baked in their own oven.

urban plates soupsOnce you get your sandwich, salad, soup or entre, you pass by — and are inevitably tempted by — a display case of pastries and cookies. Nothing is ordinary or regular. Everything could have come from an expensive hotel or pricey restaurant for the well-heeled.

urban plates teasThere are exotic teas and wines. Forget about going to the local juicery. You will get natural juice mixtures here with no added sugar to pique your palette and keep you slim. I got the acai apple beet & carrot while my buddy got passion fruit coconut lime. His was too tart for me.

urban plates makings of dinnersUrban Plate Thousand Oaks took pains for their interior decorating. No corner cutting, everything is done by a pro, impressive and attractive.

urban plates acai apple beet carrot and passion fruit coconut limeBy the team we received our sandwiches, “Chef Rosendo” showed up at our table and chatted friendly about the decoration (he noticed I took pictures). “I will do anything to make sure your experience here is enjoyable,” he said.

urban plates cakes and pastriesOur eyebrows rose.

urban plates desserts cookies pastriesOf course we knew about Chik-Fil-A’s custom — and Wahoo’s Tacos’ — of sending personnel around to proactively make sure customers enjoyed their meal. But this was “the chef” — and he took the welcoming to a higher level.

urban plates thousand oaksWhich is Urban Plates does. It takes others’ successes to a higher level.

urban plates menuOn another date, I will have to try to the dinner platter, the soup, the salad and the tempting desserts.

urban plates saladsurban plates thousand oaksurban plates decor

Urban Plates
162 W. Hillcrest Dr #100
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
$$

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.

Lamar Odom gets saved

lamar odom basketball starHe lived fast and punished his body with riotous living. Four years ago, NBA Legend Lamar Odom nearly lost his life to a drug overdose in Las Vegas. Last month, he finally surrendered his heart and life to Jesus Christ in Atlanta.

“I had to show Jesus my appreciation for keeping me alive!” he told People magazine. “Nowadays I’m doing the best I can in walking with the Lord. Thanks to Pastor Vernon @drravernon, I got saved at @thewordchurch this weekend.”

lamar odom and khoe kardashianLamar was named Parade’s national player of the year out of high school in 1997. After playing one season at the University of Rhode Island, he signed for the LA Clippers and was named the NBA rookie of the year. He formed part of the LA Lakers’ league winning teams in 2009 and 2010.

But the South Jamaica Queens native followed his father, a heroin user, into addiction. While on the Clippers he was busted twice by the NBA’s anti drug rules and later he faked urine tests with the help of friends and fake body parts, he admitted.

Lamar, who no longer plays basketball, met and married Khloe Kardashian in 2009 but says he cheated on her innumerable times, and eventually the reality show star divorced him in October 2015.

“I had broken my vows with Khloé so many times it’s just impossible for me to remember them all,” he told US Weekly. “I don’t know why Khloé stayed with me.”

Lamar was a consummate team player on the court, but off the court, his life was a mess. After catching a DUI in 2013, Lamar overdosed two years later after crossing cocaine, cognac and cannabis at a Las Vegas brothel called the Love Ranch.

This was his lifestyle, when days blended into nights surrounded by beautiful women and “a mound of drugs.”

On October 13, 2015, his world came crashing down when his body finally rebelled against the excesses. “I lay on the floor in my room at the Ranch, dying,” he said later. “My body was convulsing. The women who kept me company screamed and called 911.”

Lamar was rushed to the Sunrise Hospital where he lingered between life and death.

“My heart stopped twice. I had twelve seizures and six strokes,” he said. “My lungs collapsed and my kidneys ruptured. I was on life support. Everyone I’d ever loved was looking at me through bleary eyes.”

He woke up the next day confused and disoriented. He tried to pull out the tubes from his body. He tried to speak and panicked because he couldn’t.

“That was the scariest part. And not being able to walk,” he says. “I’m a big athlete you know?” Read the rest: Lamar Odom Christian

Malice becomes No Malice

No_Malice-304Deep down, Malice always knew that staying in his platinum-selling worldly music group would lead to his demise.

But Malice (his real name is Gene Elliott Thorton Jr.) found a new reason to live in 2012. He changed his stage name to No Malice and gave up millions of dollars. Today his career, which hasn’t seen much light since, got a boost with a feature on Kanye West’s new album Jesus is King.

“I was just letting the wind carry me left, right, swing, either which way in my life,” No Malice said in a HipHopDX video.

“I wasn’t fulfilled. To have achieved the American Dream and still not be fulfilled only frustrated me more,” he told CBN. “I wasn’t having a good time. And when I did have a good time, it was only to find out afterwards, I was in more misery.”

Born in 1972 in the Bronx and raised in Virginia Beach, No Malice was drawn to hip hop and R&B as a child. Unlike many kids in his neighborhood, his mother and father took him to church. Still, he managed to get into all kinds of trouble.

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Malice with Pusha T in Clipse

“Even with foundation and having a good head on your shoulders, you can still make some pretty decent mistakes,” he said.

He and his brother, who went under the stage name Pusha T, formed the group Clipse, which brass-knuckled its way into the rap game. At the time hip hop was just beginning to compete against pop with choruses and anthems, but Clipse broached untouchable topics, introducing a sub genre dubbed coke rap, filled with chilling hood depictions of trafficking and addiction.

It caused a sensation and opened new terrain for hip hop. Running and gunning, killing and cursing became the new trend. Lord Willin’ in 2002 debuted #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop album. XXL gave its coveted and rare 5-star rating to their 2006 album Hell Hath No Fury. They toured and collaborated with all the top artists.

gene thorton“Clipse blew my brain open in 2006,” wrote Nathan Slavik on DJBooth Net.

In 2009, when he hit the cusp of notoriety, riches and ever growing celebrity, No Malice suddenly pulled the plug and quit secular rap. How could he? How could he leave his brother, leave the fame, leave the riches, leave his fans?

“You can have it,” No Malice told DJ Vlad. He didn’t even let Vlad finish building the question. He cut him off with a tart reply that declared in no uncertain terms that he had no regrets and no remorse about leaving his former path. Read the rest: Malice becomes No Malice.

Where butter is supreme – Eclair Bakery in Arroyo Grande

eclairbakery arroyo grandeEspecially since the sugar and lard cinnamon buns from across town are such an overload, Eclair Bakery in Arroyo Grande is a positive relief for treat-seekers who don’t want an immediate cardiac arrest over a simple muffin.

eclair bakery pismo beach (arroyo grande)My wife and I discovered Eclair Bakery by chance taking a stroll down Arroyo Grande (right next to Pismo Beach). It turns out there are some quaint spots for tourists off the main drag of Pismo that are worth poking around.

huge blueberry scones eclair bakery pismo beachIn this case, it is worth the very short drive OUT of Pismo to Arroyo Grande — or AG, as locals call it. Eclair doesn’t dump sugar and lard on their pastries. But they don’t hold back the butter.

eclair bakery arroyo grande macaroonThe result is that treats are not so sweet but still mouth-wateringly delicious.

cupcakes eclair bakery coastal californiaI  had the blueberry scone. I can never resist a scone. These were HUGE. I couldn’t believe how big they were. With a decent cup of Joe, I was in Heaven.

muffins eclair bakery pismo beachMy wife ordered the coconut macaroons, which must be the biggest on the planet. There are two varieties, simple and covered in chocolate (not a thin layer).

The cupcakes were enticing, but we couldn’t eat everything there in just one day.

This spot has got to be THE PLACE you visit when you go to Pismo Beach.

Eclair Bakery
117 W. Branch St.
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
805-481-7654
$

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.

Falafel Corner, an undiscovered gem in Koreatown

falafel
Falafel Corner has all the makings of an undiscovered sensation. It’a a tiny hole-in-the-wall hawking Lebanese food in Koreatown Los Angeles. It is so small and unassuming, hidden away in a not-so-prosperous corner mall, that people would be sure to overlook it.
beef kebab
But people discovered it and starting giving it great ratings on Yelp. The undiscovered restaurant gem had been discovered. Word got out, and so we came. It is good.
Falafel Corner Koreatown los angeles menu
Naturally, I ordered the falafel, since I hadn’t enjoyed that for quite some time and since it was the very name of the joint. This was a mistake because my daughter ordered the beef kebab, which was astonishingly tender and seasoned to perfection. Henceforth, I will stick with meat. The hummus was very good. We will be back.falafel corner korea town los angeles menu 2
And it is cheap. This is the place to get really good food at a really affordable price.

I also discovered why it is so good. It turns out the Armenian owner was neighbor in Lebanon and friend with the owners of Zankou Chicken, a veritable sensation in LA. They seem to bring with them a taste for deliciousness. I’m going to have to tell Trump to grant visas to all Armenians from Lebanon because they know how to cook!)

Falafel Corner
689 Irolo St. #103
Los Angeles, CA 90005
213-252-4435
$

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.

It’s over

pummeler 8 man football in santa monica

They call them the twins: Hosea Ashcraft (my son, at left) and David Hutchinson.

They may have wanted the story of the Athenians against the Persians or Charles Martel against the Arabs, but Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s battle — despite a dazzling display of force and finesse — was that of Col. Custer.

“We laid the boom on the other team,” boasted head coach Zach Scribner. “But it was the classic David vs. Goliath. When they were looking at the schedule, probably the other team was happy to play us because we were 2 and 6. But I can guarantee that walking off the field they wished they could have played anybody else because nobody is as physical as us. Nine guys against 40. If we just had a few more guys, we would have been able to beat them. At the end of the game, they were all limping.”

LCA got its playoff spot unexpectedly. The Saints had lost most of their games, but those losses were against high-ranking division 1 teams. In their own division 2, they were 2-2. The surprise playoff call-up also meant they were matched against a top bracket team.

Pat cannon TD Lighthouse Christian Academy football santa monica“We knew what we were up against,” Coach Zach said.

Lancaster Baptist School had both an offense and a defense. Most Lighthouse players played every single down. Given the uneven match-up, the result was nothing to be ashamed of: 27-68.

It wasn’t realistic to believe the impossible dream. Still the Saints played brash ball. Hosea Ashcraft — who has been the team’s enforcer all season — was again at his antics of laying hard hits on key players, sowing misgivings and intimidation in their hearts.

“I felt like I hit the Great Wall of China,” said the battering ram, who was taken out of play in the third quarter because a face guard penetrated and hit his bridge of nose, drawing blood and momentarily impairing his vision. Read the rest: Santa Monica private school sports program.

Kanye’s remarkable journey with Jesus shakes the cultural landscape

kanye-jesus-is-king-1Kanye West’s porn addiction started when he was 5.

“Playboy was my gateway to full-on pornography addiction. My dad left out a Playboy,” he says. “And it’s affected almost every choice I made for the rest of my life.”

That simple fact accounts for why Kanye West — one of the most influential hip hop artists in America — has mired his music with muck and why he married hyper hot reality star Kim Kardashian, who became famous through the release of a sex tape (supposedly “purloined” though some saw it as self-release publicity stunt).

Today, Kanye West acknowledges the damage he has done to American culture and is allowing Jesus to undo the damage, beginning with himself. With the release of his ninth album called Jesus is King — with strictly Christian themes — the former devil’s child has declared himself unalterably God’s child.

kanye-west_sunday-servicePornography “presents itself out in the open (on billboards and such) as if it were ok, and I stand up and say, ‘It’s not ok,’” he says.

In April of this year — after performing at Coachella, — Kanye, who has dallied with God, finally decided to go full bore and become born-again, he said in an Apple Music video interview.

“Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me,” he said. “I’ve spread a lot of (messages). There was a time when I was letting you know what high fashion had done for me. I was letting you know what the Hennessy (cognac) had done for me. But now I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me.

Sunday Service“I’m no longer a slave,” he said. “I’m a son. I’m a son of God now. I’m free through Christ. I’m no longer an entertainer. I’m no longer in this for entertainment.”

Kanye was raised in Chicago by a divorced father who was a Black Panther, a photojournalist and later a Christian counselor.

HIs mother had participated in sit-ins in the fight for Civil Rights. When he was 10, he accompanied his mother to Nanjing University in China. A college professor, she was teaching in an exchange program, and little Kanye enrolled in school, readily picking up Chinese (which he has now forgotten).

Kanye was drawn to music from the third grade. One of his earliest raps was a revision of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.” After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship for Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997 and began taking painting classes, then transferred to Chicago State University.

kanye-west-1572027409But the class load interfered with his music production, so he dropped out of college at age 20, to the chagrin of his mother.

He joined Roc-A-Fella Records and made a name for himself producing for Jay-Z, Ludacris and Alicia Keys and Janet Jackson. He was widely credited in revitalizing Jay-Z’s career.

When he launched his solo career, he tirelessly revised and improved his first album, College Dropout. The perfectionism in craftsmanship paid off; the album went triple platinum, won almost universal critical acclaim and earned 10 Grammy nominations.

He founded GOOD Music label in 2004 and subsequently conquered the industry with pioneering hip hop from eight studio albums that netted 21 Grammys.

20189492-7614449-At_long_last_After_a_string_of_delays_Kanye_West_s_new_Christian-m-63_1572023093625He struck some as a self-aggrandizing narcissist who spouted off wild and controversial rants.

After that, he launched a sports shoe with Nike and also a fashion line.

In 2014, Kanye married Kim Kardashian, the daughter of OJ Simpson defense lawyer Robert Kardashian. Famous for being famous, Kim made money through her reality show “Keeping up with the Kardashians” with her sisters Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie since 2007.

Kim eased into celebrity life with the help of her friend, Paris Hilton. Her career catapulted with the infamous “release” of a sex tape with her then boyfriend, Ray J, in 2002, which many saw as a quick and dirty way to acquire notoriety.

Kim was famous for her sultry style and seemed to accentuate her figure with fillings and plastic surgery (she denies having surgery). She was the perfect match for the porn-crazed rapper. He later shared that he liked to see his wife dress immodestly to compete at bod-flaunting in front of the paparazzi. He later admitted that he influenced his daughter North with the same shameless fashion sense.

The couple has four children, and they’ve stayed together for five years — no small feat in Hollywood!

Then on Nov. 20, 2016, Kanye had a breakdown. Troubled by his mom’s death and reportedly using opioids after a surgery, Kanye publicly denounced his buddy Jay-Z, because he did not attend his wedding: “Jay-Z—call me, bruh. You still ain’t called me. Jay-Z, I know you got killers. Please don’t send them at my head. Please call me. Talk to me like a man.” Read the rest: Is Kanye West really Christian?

When in WeHo, do Joey’s Cafe

california burgerI have never been fuller with a hamburger than at Joey’s Cafe in West Hollywood.

I picked my buddy up from the airport, so he treated me. There’s nothing like a local to take you to the best spots.

joeys cafe west hollywoodJoey’s offers omelettes, burgers, salads, Mexican food. It’s continental casual cuisine. The setting is slightly upscale. The servers are friendly.

My California burger was super juicy. It had fresh avocado, bacon and cheddar and jack cheeses. Burgers should NOT be served with American cheese. There ought to be a rule that burgers should be served with cheddar, or some real cheese.

omelette avocado joeys cafeMy coffee was decent, and my buddy enjoyed his peppermint tea. The eggwhite omelette was great.

weho eateries

Joey’s Cafe
8301 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA  90069
323-822-0671
$$

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.

Socorro’s Restaurant: Authentic Mexican in the San Fernando Valley

family mexican restaurant los angelesWhat are the signs of an authentic Mexican restaurant? For years, I graded them exclusively on their chips and salsa. If the chips were stale or mass-produced and thus bleh, the eatery got a low grade. Similarly, if it didn’t have a decent hot sauce (and I mean “hot” not “mild hot sauce,” which is an oxymoron), then it failed the test.

best cheese enchiladas san fernando valleyBut now that I can’t eat hot hot sauce (because I got old and my stomach turns with the fire), I have to look at other factors. Socorro’s Restaurant has the other factors. They make their tortillas by hand. The cheese on the enchiladas stretches three feet. They have frescos (or refrescos) of fruit in the clear plastic buckets. The menu above the cash register is ONLY in Spanish. Yeah, that’s real.

frescos de frutasOh man, this is authentic. The green one is spinach and pineapple juice. Mixed with lots of sugar, it’s very delicious — and somewhat healthy.  It’s actually the eatery’s most popular drink.

spinach pineapple refesco

My friend got the horchata. Of course, I went for the exotic and tasty spinach juice

Recently, I had a buddy from West Virginia over. In West Virginia, the waitresses in the “Mexican” restaurants don’t know what horchata is. The hot sauce is about as hot as ketchup. My friends, and their kids, were absolutely entusiasmados to savor the flavor.

mexican carne asada LAI was pretty pumped too. I had to get my favorite, cheesy cheese enchiladas. Forgive me for the redundancy, but they were redundant with cheese. If you are a cheese addict, I suggest you go no further. There was more cheese in those enchiladas than in a lasagna.

handmade tortillas mexican restaurant san fernando valleyOne of my sons ordered the carne asada, which he rated highly. My other son got flautas. Our friends got tacos, quesadillas. The rice and beans are very good. The vegetables and lettuce were fresh and crisp.

best tacos los angelesMan, those are big tortillas, patted out by hand by a lady in the back and cooked over a comal. It doesn’t get more authentic.

mexican tacos los angelesI just love the hole in the wall restaurants that serve good food under the radar from the snooty foodies.

birriria in van nuys

The birriria wasn’t my favorite though.

mexican food los angelesAnd of course, the kids loved it.

By the way, you can tell the authenticity of the Mexican food by the amount of sugar in the refrescos. There’s a lot. They’re sweet. Enjoy!

socorros restaurant los angelesSocorro’s Restaurant
14853 Sherman Way
stocking stuffer miniVan Nuys, CA  91405
818-785-0505
$

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 perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

The chicken and beef enchiladas were also outstanding.

beef and chicken enchiladas van nuys

 

Sk8erpat now is famous in football too

sk8erpatHe could have mangled his fingers, broken his toes, fractured his ribs… any number of ER trauma from high school football.

Pat Cannon — known on Instagram is Sk8erpat with 19K followers worldwide — wants to go pro skateboarding, so what was he doing playing football for the Lighthouse Christian Academy?

On Saturday, the senior scored a touchdown, handed off and passed for touchdowns as quarterback to help the Saints win 34-30 against Cal Lutheran Wildomar in LCA’s season closer.

He gambled with jeopardizing his true passion for somebody else’s.

“I just wanted to help my teammates out. I wanted to help my school,” Pat said. “It was worth it. It was one of the best decisions of my life.”

Lighthouse christian academy football santa monica private schoolThe Saints’ high hopes for its 2019 season were dashed in the first game of the season.

That’s because Levi Photenhauer, a slick runner with unflagging tenacity, went down with a torn ACL. It was as if LCA had lost its queen early in a game of chess.

The Saints still had Seniors Marcus Scribner and Hosea Ashcraft to marshal the defense and ramrod the offense. But their core horsepower was cut by one-third. LCA only won two games all season.

Out of the crater of the first game, coaches asked soldiers to rise up and (attempt to) fill the gap.

Josie Bowen was a notable revelation. The sophomore was a beast on kickoff returns and tackling. He scored a TD Saturday that was called back because of an illegal block.

Sophomore Steven Lahood, who grew like Gulliver over the summer, rose to the challenge and became an offensive threat and a stolid defensive player. He blocked a key pass in the final moments of the game to assure LCA’s victory.

Rob Scribner, an unobtrusive freshman, exploited his unmenacing frame, to surprise with touchdown catches. David Hutchinson, a newbie to football, became a solid lineman and tackler. Brandon Farah learned how to do in real life what previously he had done only on video games, and Luke Mammana performed pinpoint kicks under pressure.

“We didn’t have all the pieces on defense, so we had to decide where we were going to bend,” said Assistant Coach Josh Scribner, father to Marcus and Rob. “Marcus is our backer or end, but we decided to put him deep so there was never a breakout. Our game plan was give them a 5-yard play, give them a 7-yard play, give them a 3-yard play. But we never give up the 60-yard breakout blow.

“For their touchdowns, they had to drive it all the way down, and time went off the clock, and we scored fast. Bam, bam, bam,” Josh said. “We’d get up, and maybe they’d make a mistake, and we’d get the ball back, and that’s when the game was played. I think the key to the game was we had a lot of people that we’re involved. Everybody made great plays.”

In the first five minutes, Lighthouse scored two touchdowns. Rob intercepted a pass, and immediately Marcus caught the pass on LCA’s first play to burn defenders and run for a touchdown. Then LCA came in for hard hits on kickoff, provoking a fumble, which Brandon recovered. On the first play, a pass to Hosea brought another TD. Read the rest of sk8erpat on football.

 

When you Sunday school teachers look like The Addams Family

Jeff fischerJeff Fischer thought the Sunday school teachers of his childhood mainline church resembled the spooky characters on The Addams Family TV series, so he had no desire to go to church or come to Jesus.

But when he suffered a collapsed lung and a painful air bubble between his heart and lung, he grappled with neurotic fear of death and finally relented to accompany a co-worker to a “weird” Jesus People movement church where they asked him, “Have you been washed by the blood?”

He thought it was a cult and dashed for the door.

But he started reading his Bible — and he pasted a “Jesus Lives” bumper sticker on his car. (He didn’t know what the One Way index finger pointed to Heaven sign was about, so he flipped off someone on the road who attempted to congratulate him for the bumper sticker.)

Just got saved--surfer interview 1981“I started with Matthew and read straight through the gospels,” Jeff says. “All I remember is seeing my sin in the pages and seeing Jesus so gracious and so accepting of sinners. My father left when I was 10 years old, so I had real issues with being accepted. I kept reading and kept seeing Jesus accepting all these people.”

Maybe he can accept me, he thought.

The next time Jeff attended a born-again function, it was a Bible study in Woodland Hills, California, taught by a bassist he had seen on The Tonight Show — a “cool guy who knows Jesus.”

What’s going on?” he thought.

“I was thinking seriously about my mortality and my fear of death. I had people talking about Jesus and how He could save me and set me free from fear and that I could know that if I die I could go to Heaven. I didn’t have to live the way I was living and I could be free,” Jeff says. “That was utterly compelling, but I was also scared to death to give up my life because I wanted to continue to sin, to do my life and not God’s.”

He was living his dream life in Manhattan Beach, California — abusing drugs and alcohol, playing in a rock band called “Tyme,” and surfing everyday — but he was miserable and hung over most of the time.

As The Tonight Show musician taught, Jeff’s fears subsided and the Spirit welled up in him. At the end of the Bible study, the leader asked for everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes. “If anyone wants to receive Jesus, raise your hand,” he said.

Don’t put your hand in the air, he told himself, but his hand leaped off his lap. Read the rest: surfer druggie saved in Jesus People Movement pastors in San Fernando Valley.

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.

bamboo steamer best[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.]

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 sauce

Wichita Freddy's Frozen Custard

What 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.

It’s worth a try.

Freddy's Frozen Custard hamburger and hotdog combo

The hamburger and hot dog combo. The side sliced pickles.

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.

deep fried cheese curds at Freddy's Frozen Custard

The steak burger with the deep-fried cheese curds

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. If you are a cheese lover, as I am, then skip the fries altogether because they have a thing I didn’t even know existed: deep-fried cheese curds.

Oh my!

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.

Freddy of Freddy'sFreddy soldier WW2 Freddy's Frozen CustardInitially, 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