Video: Warby Parker + AKC #FallSyllabus Shoot, Captured by Kermit Mercado

So if you have been keeping up, just recently I shared my Warby Parker #FallSyllabus shoot. You may have thought that was the last of it, but no, we have a special treat! My partner in creativity Kermit (who is an incredible videographer alongside being an awesome photographer) suggested we do a bit of a behind-the-scenes video with his top notch equipment. I was down for the cause, of course, and you can see the magic above once you press play!

Many thanks again to the team at Warby Parker for inviting me to be involved in this blogger campaign, Mika for making my hair and makeup look on-point, and to Kermit for capturing it all. Watch and share. :)

Saturday Sounds: MeLo-X “Curate” EP

It has been a minute and a half since I posted a “Saturday Sounds”, but sometimes you have to wait for the perfect moment, which is now. My buddy, multi-media artist, musician, and producer MeLo-X released new audio heat this week in his EP Curate. The six-song offering is perfect for the fall, comprised of synth heavy production with vocal complexity, and warmth. Features include the likes of Little Simz, Raury, and Kilo Kish.

In addition to the music, Melo released an accompanying interactive app which pairs each song with a 3D geometric figure. When hovering over the figure, you can distort the sound of each track, perfect for the audiophiles! Get into it.

Lookbook: Warby Parker #FallSyllabus Lifestyle Shoot, Captured by Kermit Mercado

When you think of “fall”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the changing color of leaves? Pumpkins and apples? For me, fall will always encompass the notion of back-to-school and new beginnings. Whether it be starting a new course or job, fall to me will always signify positive change. Breaking out cool sweaters and specs is an added plus!

I was super excited to receive a message recently from the team at Warby Parker stating that they wanted this girl from Brooklyn to create a fall-themed lifestyle shoot with their eyewear. They handpicked a number of bloggers to capture what #FallSyllabus means to them. As I am forever a nerd in search of knowledge, I created a mood that is reminiscent of college, and the interpretation of my favorite people on campus.

Scroll on to see what I created with fresh Warby Parker frames, and copious amounts of layered knits!

The Librarian

When we think of a librarian, it usually skews one of two places; sexy librarian or mean librarian. I wanted to capture a somewhat hip librarian. She is draped in smart designer threads with a pen in hand, reading a book on Brooklyn maker culture. She is a great resource, and definitely knows what’s up.

Winston Eyeglasses | Ralph Lauren Dress | Ralph Lauren Shawl Collar Sweater

The Off-Duty Athlete
As a former student athlete, track & field to be specific, I can never resist the ultimate coziness of a good sweatshirt. Here we see the off-duty athlete. She layers her sweatshirt under her varsity jacket and pairs with a pair of jeans and Chucks because she is all about easy dressing.

Keene Eyeglasses | Vintage Polo Ralph Lauren Sweatshirt & Jacket | Stylemint Jeans | Converse Chuck Taylors

The Photographer

Here to capture moments is the photographer. In school, photography was really recreational for me, capturing photos of friends at parties, as well as nature around me, I have since transitioned to that of a professional. Here, our photographer dresses really smart, a bit high brow if you will with her suede pants and vintage pieces, but her eye is always in search of her next subject.

Caspar Eyeglasses | Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt | Vintage Polo Ralph Lauren Teddy Bear Sweater | Vintage Camera Case | Ralph Lauren Suede Trousers | Converse Chuck Taylors

The Professor

At some point in your life, you’ve had a crush on a teacher or professor, right? Don’t lie! I wanted to capture the “highly favored” professor if you will. Maybe she is a bit daring, exposing leg in the cooler weather, but you must applaud the effort she puts into dressing. The eyeglass and briefcase is just so smart, don’t you think?

Percey Eyeglasses | Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt | Polo Ralph Lauren Mock Collar Teddy Bear Sweater | +J Uniqlo Wool Skirt | Cole Haan Heeled Oxfords

I really want to thank the folks at Warby Parker for inviting me to partake in this opportunity. Many thanks to my awesome team of Kermit, Mika, and big bro Q for the vintage pieces.Do these looks remind you of fall? Would you rock the specs?

Photography: Kermit Mercado
Hair & Make-up: Mika
Styling: Andrea K. Castillo
Wardrobe: Personal collection of Andrea K. Castillo & Q

MANday Interview: M. Tony Peralta Has A Fresh Take On Latina Icons With “Rolos & Icons”

M. Tony Peralta and his work, “Dora Con Rolos”

*Originally published on Slant News

It’s an unseasonably warm Friday afternoon for October and I am making my way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side to chat with artist M. Tony Peralta. His newest exhibition, Rolos & Icons had opened the night prior to a packed house of family, friends, and supporters. This was the first time he had ever held an opening downtown, and the incredible turnout was a feat in itself.

I had been following the works of the Dominican-American artist by way of Washington Heights for a few years now as we have many mutual friends who’ve invited me to his events in the past. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of his Latin roots, hip-hop and pop culture elements that were consistent through his works.

I sat down with Tony to talk to him further about his career thus far, Rolos & Icons, and the inspirations behind his work.

I have been following your career for a number of years and I have noticed that there has been a strong female presence throughout. Why is it important for you to showcase women of color in your artwork?

The first exhibit I did, Complejo, had to do with identity issues. Mainly being Black and Latino, and the identity issues we have growing up and the effects of it. I started to think about some of the things that women go through as well; the whole good hair/bad hair thing, which I went through myself, as a man. I had curly hair and would shave it off. For women, it’s a little more extreme because they have to go to the hair salon, and get their hair straightened, and relaxers, etc. I grew up with a single mom and an older sister, and a younger sister, and our bathroom was filled with their products.

Growing up with a single mom that was a very strong figure, along with my sisters and brother, I had a good balance. My mom was very influential. I don’t think it’s something that I do consciously. I grew up with low self-esteem, so I touched upon things that affected me [with the Complejo exhibit] but then I started to think about how it affects women as well because they deal with it more, whether it be a hair [texture] thing or skin lightening, if it’s body issues. There was a piece in the exhibit of a woman in hair rollers, and that woman almost became a Latin Mona Lisa. She had a certain gaze that people thought was beautiful, and I feel that it influenced other artists to start creating works with women in hair rollers as well.

A glimpse into “Rolos Con Icons”

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MANday Exclusive: Stephen Andrews of Earls Kitchen + Bar Talks New Location in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Fave Dishes, & More!

Earls Brunch Croquette

In a time where restaurants close as soon as they open, how does one find the secret formula? It seems like the chain Earls Kitchen + Bar has figured it out. Founded in Canada in 1982, Earls Kitchen + Bar was created with the goal of becoming “The Most loved and Best Run restaurant in North America”. The franchise now has 59 restaurants in Canada, and 7 in the United States; its latest opening being in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.

We had the opportunity to pick the brain of Stephen Andrews, Chief Development Officer and Vice President, who is driving International Growth for Earls Restaurants through world-class Real Estate Development.

Stephen Andrews, Chief Development Officer & VP of Earls Restaurants

Coming from a senior position at Darden Restaurants, what about Earls enticed you to make the move in particular?

Earls is a restaurant company with scale but without the predictable monotony of a chain. We work really hard to create a collection of innovative and individually compelling restaurants, so the design freedom is intoxicating. Then, seeing the design and personality of each individual restaurant come to life is positively addictive.

Earls Kitchen currently boasts 66 locations across the US and Canada. If you had to choose, what would be your top three locations and why?

Aside from Lincoln Park:

1) King Street in Downtown Toronto for its fantastic energy and patio right in the heart of the financial district.

2) Tysons Corner, VA. Located in Macerich’s jewel project, this location is absolutely breathtaking with panoramic views sitting on the center’s elevated 40,000 square foot landscape plaza.

3) The third is a toss-up between Dadeland in Miami for its spectacular cantilevered patio complete with tropical breezes and one that is still on the drawing boards — the Prudential Center in downtown Boston. Earls Prudential is currently in the design phase and will feature an spectacular 3400 square foot roof-top patio complete with an exterior bar right in the heart of it all and just an eight minute walk from Fenway.

What are some of your favorite items from the kitchen and bar menus?

The bold flavors of the Korean Bibimbap with its crispy rice never fails to impress me, but I am also a huge fan of the authentic Jeera Chicken Curry with coconut jasmine rice. When I am feeling more traditional, there is nothing quite like a Creekstone Farms antibiotic and hormone free New York Strip Steak to fit the bill. I try to leave without dessert, but the Sticky Toffee Chocolate Pudding (it’s actually a caramel and ice cream covered cake) somehow usual finds its way onto my table.

Rendering of Earls Lincoln Park

Tell us, what do you find most unique about the new Lincoln Park location in Chicago?

To be able to deliver a great indoor/outdoor restaurant and patio in an urban location is challenging. At Lincoln Park, we are able to deliver the good– such as open views, open facades and a spectacular patio without the bad– street noise, cars and fumes. The restaurant will be a perfect oasis woven into an urban fabric.

What do you find is most rewarding part of having a career in the real estate development sector of the restaurant business?

Restaurants are very complex creatures — part entertainment, part utility, part social, but they are always experiential from the guest’s perspective. The ability to help create a fantastic guest experience through real estate, architecture, and design is just plain thrilling.

Photo Credit: Earls Kitchen + Bar

Goodness Knows Snack Squares Launches In NYC w/ Goodness Market, Hosted by Whitney Port

Goodness Knows spokesperson, Whitney Port, greeting guests

When you think of the word “goodness”, what are the first things that come to mind? Do you think of doing good on to others? Eating good? Feeling good? Or is a combination of all of the above? The folks at Goodness Knows used this concept to create a one of a kind Goodness Market in late October for New York City lifestyle writers and editors, to introduce their snack squares to the market.

Gabby Bernstein chatting with guests

Hosted by fashion designer Whitney Portthe space was segmented into four main kiosk sections: Good Vibes, Good Strength, Good Food, and Good Work, where attendees could “shop” with their provided tote bag. The Good Vibes kiosk, hosted by lifestyle guru Gabby Bernstein, was a space to tune into positive actions and mindfulness. We were able to shop for a candle, essential oils to unwind, a journal, and box to rid away all of our negative thoughts.

Testing out resistance bands with Adam

At Good Strength, fitness & nutrition coach Adam Rosante gave us a great pep talk on strength and how we can maximize it in our everyday lives. Whether it be something as small as using a resistance band at your desk to improve posture, or lifting weights to build overall core strength, Adam had awesome advice and demos, as you can see in the photo above. We were able to walk away with our own resistance band, jump rope, yoga tune up balls (massage balls similar to a tennis ball), and a gift card to, where you are able to choose a charitable cause to donate your gift to.

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Champagne Taittinger Previews Valentine’s Day With #UncageMyHeart

Champagne Taittinger portfolio

When you are smack dead in the middle of the autumn season, do you ever think ahead to say, Valentine’s Day? You may not, but for the house of Champagne Taittinger and a few select members of the media in NYC, Valentine’s Day came early this year. To preview their full portfolio of sparkling wines and food & dessert pairings, Champagne Taittinger held a special press day devoted to love in a gorgeous TriBeCa loft entitled “Uncage My Heart”.

Guided champagne tasting

Hosted by Vitalie Taittinger, Global Ambassador and Artistic Director of Champagne Taittinger (one of the last family-owned & operated Grand Marque Champagne houses in France), the event served as a platform for both friends and lovers to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It was broken up into three segments, the “bubble bash” which featured entertaining ideas for a group of friends, the “first date”, and “lasting love” for those that have been in a relationship for a number of years.

I started off my time with a guided tasting of the Taittinger sparkling wine portfolio, held by Vitalie Taittinger and sommelier Heidi Turzyn of Gotham Bar and Grill. We tasted five wines, starting with Taittinger Brut La Française, the house’s most popular champagne, and ending with Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2005, the house’s most exclusive blend. It was really great to hear insight from these two women regarding the characteristics of each wine, their age, and the general demographic for each variety.

Dessert pairings

Once out of my session, I was welcomed into the gorgeous dining room area you see in the photo above to try out some desserts. Each section of the table was labeled with the name of the treat on the plate, and paired with Comtes de Champagne Rosé. It was here that I really grew a liking to this particular rosé. Do I have expensive taste? Possibly.

Dinner & hors d’oeuvres pairings

The food of the evening was prepared by Chef Camille Becerra of Navy in SoHo. We were treated to a smorgasbord of delectable small bites, including liver mouse with chocolate cocoa nibs, lettuce hearts with gentleman’s relish, spiced steak, and chocolate mousse.

I stood attentively for the chocolate mousse demo, and believe I am capable of making it on my own. Very helpful that all guests received a little guidebook with recipes included.

Listening to more on the champagne

Post dinner bites, we were treated to a tasting of Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus, a rare blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. The creaminess of this variety is perfect for post-dinner, and pairs well with dessert. The Taittinger team also suggests this bottle for a first date. Sure to impress!

Champagne tower

I circled back to the “Bubble Bash” section to end my evening. This portion of the event was focused on gift-giving amongst friends (candles, games, etc) and an informal bar set-up and photo booth area to attract singles. It was here that I discovered my favorite champagne out of all, the Nocturne, seen being poured in the photo above.

Aside from the bottle looking like a gorgeous purple disco ball, the flavor was right up my alley; not to dry, not too sweet, with the perfect amount of bottles. I look forward to celebrating with a bottle of Nocturne soon. Will you be drinking Champagne Taittinger this coming Valentine’s Day?


*Photos courtesy of Champagne Taittinger/Creative Feed

Painting With A Twist Pairs Art With A Glass of Wine In Its New Brooklyn Outpost

As a creative, I am naturally drawn to experiences where I can make something with my hands, or learn a new skill. But how about if you are not so creative, and still want to be able to creative something beautiful, say, with a group of buddies? You should get into Painting With A Twist.

Founded in 2007 by Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney in New Orleans in the wake of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Painting With A Twist had the mission of lifting the spirits of their neighbors after disaster. In the eight years that the company has been in business, they have grown their paint-and-sip franchise to over 240 locations in 33 states, with 100 additional openings by the end of 2015.

I was invited out for a special blogger’s night at one of their new locations in my neck of the woods in Brooklyn.

The ambience

Opened in September by sisters-in-law Suzette and Felicia Riley, Painting With A Twist of Brooklyn is located in the heart of Cobble Hill on bustling Smith St. Upon entering the bright space, albeit a few minutes later than I expected, I was greeted by warm faces, a spread of dinner options, and of course, the choice of white or red wine. I had arrived just in time to take my seat in front of a blank 16 x 20″ canvas, with a small array of paints and brushes to use within the lesson.

The beginnings of my masterpiece

Our instructor was super lively and approachable, ensuring that painters of all levels would be able to complete the evening’s assignment which coincidentally, was of a large glass of red wine. The first step was to cover the canvas in a golden tone and add a few red strokes. As I am a type-A personality (which our instructor caught on to rather quickly) I reeaaaallyyy took painting seriously. My father is a painter and I would help paint certain pieces of his work when I was a child, so this was important!

The final product

Although I may have taken painting a bit more seriously than some of my counterparts in class, I truly realized how relaxing and therapeutic it can be. To constantly be on the move, writing, and updating on social media, it was really nice to focus on one thing for a little over an hour.

My painting and I

You must excuse my sleepy/greasy face in the photo as I was running on E, but I must say, I am really proud of this piece. I hadn’t painted on canvas in maybe 15 years, so this moment was really satisfying to me. I took a little longer than the class, but I completed my work; which is most important.

The entire group and their masterpieces

It was really fun to be in a group, majority women, to unwind, paint, and really take a break from the outside world. The experience is excellent for a date night, a girl’s night, birthday party, or even for a group of children as they offer a range of classes. You may view them all here.

The evening ended with a few special raffles, and guess who won a gift certificate for a free class? This girl right here! Can’t wait to go back. Maybe I will see you there.

Painting With A Twist – Brooklyn
228 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11231


*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo

What I’m Reading: “The Kindness Diaries” by Leon Logothetis

When writing is how you make a living (for the most part), sometimes it is quite difficult to take a step back and read a full book from cover to cover. I have expressed in previous posts in the past few months that I have been experiencing the ups and downs of life, regarding direction of my career, family, and love life. I believe that is what the age 29 brings, a lot more WTF moments before the EUREKA!

Always looking for inspiration around me, I finally decided to pick up and read The Kindness Diaries by Leon Logothetis, that I was gifted from the author/publisher. I read the short reviews in the inside cover, along with the synopsis and thought, “this idea, of a middle-aged white man traveling the world on ‘kindness’ alone sounds a bit far-fetched”. Despite my initial reluctance, I decided to read the book anyway.

I was admittedly feeling a bit down and figured a story of kindness could possibly brighten my day. I turned the pages and was welcomed by Logothetis’ conversational tone; it felt like I was reading the tale of a friend I had known for years. We get the background of what brought him to deciding to travel around the world on a yellow motorbike without money and the will of surviving on the kindness of the people he met around the way to survive. Having been unfulfilled in his career as a stockbroker in his native London, Logothetis begins his story setting out to the bright lights of Los Angeles to get his foot in the television industry.

As time passes, he notices that he has become a bit jaded in his L.A. life, and sees the signs around him that point to going outward, to bring love and kindness inward. Logothetis sets out on his yellow motorbike, affectionately named Kindness One from L.A., leaving his girlfriend and dog behind to circumnavigate the globe on kindness alone. No money, food, accommodations, gas money; nothing but a small bag of clothes and a laptop to check in with family back home. The only catch here, which is a good catch, is that Logothetis would promise to pay back each person that helped him, with a meaningful gift.

Reading his detailed accounts of human interaction worried me a bit; would people believe his story and help? Would he really pay back those that gave him food and shelter as they struggled to feed themselves? These were my questions throughout, that were silenced through reading further. I do not want to give the entire account away, but in reading Logothetis’ tale, I was truly in awe with humanity, mainly the kindness he received simply by asking for it, in a genuine way. It really opened my eyes as I know it is hard for me to ask for help at times, to think that he traveled the world solo without any money and was cared for along the way is astounding!

If you need to take a step back, and be reminded of the kindness in humanity, I would definitely recommend reading this book. The Kindness Diaries is available for purchase now on Amazon.

#NYFW Tales: Mathieu Mirano SS16 Brings Wearable Glamour in Living Color

The full collection. Photo: Jennifer Daniels

Although still fairly new to the fashion scene, launching his eponymous line in 2011, Mathieu Mirano brings a certain sophistication to womenswear that is wise beyond his years. I had the pleasure of attending his Spring/Summer 2016 collection presentation with my friend/former model/supermodel-in the-making Jen.

The backdrop of Pier 59 Studios offered a blank slate where Mirano’s evening wear could shine. The collection was filled with an array of saturated hues in intricate fabrications and trims.

A peek through the crowd. Photo: Jennifer Daniels

Ombre panne velvet. Specially treated sequins. Extensive hand embroidery done by local New York artisans; this was all on display. I was particularly captivated by the textiles used because in all of my years as a designer and fashion writer/editor I had never seen such textiles, and that was quite exciting to me. I found it quite interesting that materials so delicate translated to very chic evening wear that did not come off as garish or matronly.

Sequins meets chiffon. Photo: Andrea K. Castillo

Upon first glance all of the looks appeared to be gowns, but I was told soon after that there were also separates on display. What a brilliant idea! Mirano aims to create garments for multifaceted women, so in regards to separates, you can wear them as a “dress” or pair with a t-shirt or jeans. Versatility is key here, and it is done so beautifully.

Many thanks to Umindi & Glenny at UFCG for having me! <3

That Time I Got My Hair Cut At ARROJO Williamsburg With Celebrity Hairstylist Paul Merritt

ARROJO Williamsburg. Photo courtesy of ARROJO

The summer can really do a ton of damage to your hair. Whether it be excessive exposure to UV rays, or chlorine or salt water, our tresses need a bit of revamp at the end of the season. This summer my mane was in full splendor after my cut & color from ARROJO Williamsburg in late-May had grown out a bit. I was starting to notice that my ends were looking a bit sad, and told myself I was due for another cut.

Hair whilst in Cali. Long but needing a cut.

I really noticed this while I was out in California for my birthday, and was determined to get another trim or cut by end of August. On my last day out West, I received an email from Andrew Arrojo to come in for cut the following day (my first day back in NYC), but not just any cut; this would be a cut with celebrity hairstylist Paul Merritt. His work has been featured in various international fashion magazines, so I was super pumped.

When I arrived at ARROJO Williamsburg that afternoon and was greeted by Paul, I immediately thought, “This man is cool”, and that he was. I told him about my hair and how I wasn’t afraid to cut some length off as I knew I had a lot of dead ends at the time. I also stressed that I wanted a style that had the versatility of being styled curly or straight effortlessly. He knew just what to do, and gave me a freehand dry cut, which is great for curls as you can see the shape properly throughout.

Paul Merritt and I, post hair-cut

We chatted a lot about music and the UK garage scene (he’s from London), as well as hair color. My highlights have been growing out, and I had experimented with an aqua semi-permanent dye, which made my tresses look green at the time. “You should do the green!” he said, and I totally agreed. “I want highlights to match my eyes”, I said, so look out for that sometime soon. I wasn’t afraid that more length came off than I expected, as my hair grows back relatively fast. The following evening I had a birthday party to attend where I would debut my look.

New haircut, kind of blurry selfie

To say I was not feeling myself would be the opposite of the truth. The shorter length that barely grazed my shoulders made me feel super sexy, in a “I’m the boss” kind of way. It was so awesome to receive this cut from Paul. Are you digging the look? Let me know in the comments!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo’s iPhone

Call Your CurlFriends! #CURLFEST In Brooklyn Shows Us The Beauty In Sisterhood

Ladies dancing to the music

Living in a world where Black bodies are constantly under attack, respite is always welcomed. Whether it be social groups in schools or within your community, it is important to have those moments where you feel safe, and where your individuality is celebrated. In my life, I seek out these types of experiences, and one that I can now add to my list is Curl Fest.

Curls and Italian ices

Now in its second year, Curl Fest is the brain child of the Curly Girl Collective, an experiential marketing group that specializes in multicultural beauty. I first became familiar with the collective a few years back through mutual friends, and received notice of the inaugural Curl Fest last spring. I was bummed that I did not make it out that time, so when I received the invite for this year, my eyes lit up.

Held this year on August 29th at the Neathermead in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the event was the ultimate celebration of natural beauty.

Two of a kind

On the sun-filled afternoon, natural-haired beauties beamed in the park and had the opportunity to mingle with their curl friends, and enjoy unique hair-themed activations. Sounds were provided by my girl, and one of my favorite DJs, Tiff McFierce. Styling stations were set up to primp all textures of locs, haircare lines were in tow for demos, and natural hair influencers were available to chat with attendees about their experience.

A hint of violet

Adding to the excitement was a full marketplace with fashion, accessory, and literary vendors. Beverages were also on hand to cool everyone off in the 90 degree weather. I was in the house serving double duty; covering for my blog as well as interviewing various attendees for a larger team project (that I will reveal at a later date). One thing that I noticed from the jump that did not change; everyone was in good spirits, and everyone felt like family.

Typical me

In my chats with my fellow attendees, never did I feel like someone was judging me. I did not feel any negative energy in regards to my appearance or the way I spoke, everyone seemed very warm and open to chat with me. I hugged and joked around with women whom I had met for the first time that day. I danced in a circle with the women behind Curly Girl Collective, and everyone present. I connected with people, majority Black women, in a completely organic way.

Do you understand how important that is?

Mother & daughter

To be in a public park in the inner-city on one of the hottest days in the summer without being harassed because of the length of my shorts? To be surrounded by fellow Black women and receive hugs instead of side eyes (*Note: this doesn’t happen to me much, but that’s what mass media & reality TV try to shove down our throats)? To feel completely free for that moment of my life? That’s a huge deal.


To say Curl Fest was a gathering of “carefree Black girls” is an understatement. I would say this is true, but I would add that it truly felt like the grounds for building a sisterhood. Men were present in smaller numbers, but women were at the forefront here, and that is what made it so beautiful.

Squad photo to end off a lovely day

My afternoon ended with the above squad photo, of friends new and old. Can you tell which ones I’ve known for years and which I met that day? Maybe that was a rhetorical question, but I hope it is not so easy to tell as we truly welcomed everyone with open arms, and that alone is where the beauty beyond the physical lies.

*All photos by Jason Chandler

#ALifeInTheDayInLA: Carnival Rides & Japadog at the Santa Monica Pier

View of the beach from the Santa Monica Pier

On a bright summer day in late-July, what better way to pass time is there than to take a trip to the beach? During my time in L.A. I had one beach day, albeit dry as I hadn’t prepped my swimwear in advance. With camera in hand, I took a long stroll along Venice and Santa Monica beaches with the family. I was covered in sunscreen as the weather report called for temperatures in the 90s, although it began quite grey and overcast.

The famous Japadog truck

My main goal for the afternoon on the Santa Monica Pier was quite simple; take awesome photos, eat good food, and get on a ride or two at Pacific Park. Within minutes of arriving on the boardwalk, I spotted the Japadog truck. I had first discovered the Montreal-based, Japanese-style hot dog truck while watching A Brit And A Broad on Tastemade TV. I enjoyed the idea of Japanese fusion hot dogs, so I HAD to try one out.

My aunt’s order

The set-up is pretty simple. You can order one of the nine (up to fifteen depending on the location) specialty dogs listed on the menu for ease of mind, or you can create your own. There is something for everyone here as the dogs are offered in All Beef, Bratwurst, Turkey Smoky, Three Cheese Smoky, Arabiki, Kurobuta Pork, and Veggie flavors!

Celeb fans of the food

My aunt ordered the Kurogoma Kimuchi option with a Beef dog, and I got the Okonomi with a Kurobuta Pork dog. It took a little less than ten minutes to get our orders which was awesome considering how crowded the pier was that afternoon. Upon biting into my Japadog, I was immediately taken to FLAVORTOWN; word to Guy Fieri. The combination of the sweet pork dog, mayo and fish flakes was quite divine! Needless to say, I finished my food in maybe seven minutes, and my tastebuds were satisfied.

Looking up on the ferris wheel

We took a left from FLAVORTOWN into Pacific Park to check out the carnival games and rides. As I was with my aunt and 6-year old cousin, I knew there would be a few things to check out here, but I was set on the ferris wheel. I don’t know why I have such a love for ferris wheels, but I make sure to ride them wherever I go.

Overhead views!

Camera still in hand, my goal was to enjoy and capture the views of the beautiful blue Pacific waters on my ride, and boy did I! The Pacific Wheel is 85 feet tall and while in motion, reaches heights of over 130 feet that overlook the Southern California coastline. I was able to get awesome shots as the wheel moves at 2.5 revolutions per minute, ensuring that all patrons are able to soak up the gorgeous views.

A view of the pier from above

Being so high up in the sky made up for not taking a dip in the ocean that afternoon. I was really able to relax and really appreciate the beauty of Southern California one revolution at a time.

If you are in the Santa Monica area, I would definitely recommend heading to the pier. Aside from Japadog and other mobile vendors, there are a variety of sit-down restaurants for adults and family, as well as entertainment.

*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo

FILM SERIES: “Set It Off: LA Hip-Hop on Film”, @ BAMcinématek Sep 4—8

F. Gary Gray’s Friday

With director F. Gary Gray’s N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton in movie theaters nationwide tomorrow, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is paying homage to the left coast in film. Debuting September 4th, BAMcinématek’s “Set It Off: LA Hip-Hop on Film” will feature seven films in tribute to LA’s hip-hop glory days of the early 1990’s.

Full schedule below. For ticket information, call BAM Ticket Services at 718.636.4100, or visit

Fri, Sep 4

2, 4:30, 7, 9:30pm: Friday

Ice Cube in Boyz N The Hood

Sat, Sep 5

2, 4:30, 7, 9:30pm: Boyz n the Hood

Still from Set It Off

Sun, Sep 6

2, 6:50pm: Set It Off

4:40, 9:40pm: Menace II Society

Janet Jackson & Tupac Shakur in Poetic Justice

Mon, Sep 7

2, 6:45pm: Poetic Justice

4:30, 9:15pm: South Central

Still from Glass Shield

Tue, Sep 8

4:30, 7, 9:30pm: The Glass Shield

Will you be in attendance? We definitely will be sliding through. And if you can’t make the screenings, get into the groove by checking out my West Coast Hip Hop Of My Younger Years playlist on Spotify. :D

#ALifeInTheDayinLA: Respite in Nature at The Arboretum in Arcadia


For the week of my birthday back in the end of July, I took a trip to the Los Angeles area to spend time with family, recharge, and basically get a taste of new scenery. For the majority of my twenty-eight prior years, I have always spent my birthday at home in Brooklyn, and felt this was a good time to hit up the West Coast. It was one of the few times in life where my trip was completely unplanned. I did plan in accordance with one of my aunts so we could be each other’s company for the week, but otherwise, I told myself “I just want to relax and not over-plan this time away”.

Cactus species and sculpture

As I was staying in Diamond Bar with my aunt and uncle, I did not really get a taste for the creative L.A. lifestyle, but I was exposed to something better; nature. My uncle, being pretty in tune with my love of photography and nature, offered to take the family The Arboretum during the week. Located in Arcadia approximately thirty minutes from where I was staying, the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden is a gem for nature lovers and those that just need a time out. The Arboretum is a 127-acre botanical garden and historical site jointly operated by the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation and the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Picture in picture at Queen Anne Cottage

With camera in hand like the tourist I was, I walked slowly and snapped photos of the luscious flora and fauna before my eyes. The grounds are divided up by native region with free roaming wildlife; for example there are sections that feature collections of plants from Africa and Australia, as well as themed sections like the “Prehistoric Forest” and “Historic Circle”. Every plant on the grounds was clearly marked with a description tag for those that wanted a little more back story.

Color variations in an aloe species

As someone who is incredibly passionate about color, I was truly amazed by the color variations of some of the plants and flowers I saw during my walk. The greenest of green leaves, the most potent orange flower petals, and things I had never seen before, like a Eucalyptus tree that had a multi-color bark. I snapped away, adjusting my settings numerous times during my trip as the sun was beaming that day. It made me realize how therapeutic a walk outside can be, and how beautiful nature untouched is.

View from the cafe

We took a break to eat at the Peacock Cafe, and took seats at a table under a shady tree on the deck. I had a surprisingly tasty cheese burger & fries with an apple juice because, #stayhungry. When we looked up and around, we were surrounded by peacocks. I made it my job to collect as many feathers that fell off the birds as they moved around, and snapped photos quick and quietly, as to not disturb them.

Someone is posing for the camera

I was waiting for one of the birds to spread their feathers for a photo opp, and was extremely lucky to capture the photo above upon walking to the exit. Such a serendipitous ending to a lovely afternoon.

If you are ever in the L.A. county area and want to take a break from the hustle and bustle, definitely take a trip to The Arboretum. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for Seniors & Students, $4 for Children, and Free for children 4 and under. For more information, please visit their website. You won’t regret it!

*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo