Game Corner: 5 Reasons to Play Escaped Chasm Today (and One Reason You Shouldn’t)

After my second run of Undertale, I was searching for a new RPG-style game, which are few and far between these days. That’s when I came across Escaped Chasm. After spending an afternoon playing the game, I realized more people needed to experience it for themselves.

Escaped Chasm Logo
Escaped Chasm by Temmie

1. Temmie Helped Create the Amazing Game Undertale

If you’ve ever played Undertale, whose main creator is Toby Fox, you may remember the adorable monster named Temmie.

Toby Fox’s “Temmie” from Undertale

Temmie is actually one of the people who created some of the monsters throughout Undertale. She’s credited as the main artistic assistant and made the heart-wrenching sepia-tone prologue that plays whenever you start the game.

Now Temmie has made her first RPG-maker game. If you ever played Undertale and fell in love with the Temmie monsters, you should definitely check out her game.

2. It’s Free

How can you not give this game a try when it’s free?

The game can be downloaded by following this link to her website. It’s available for Mac and PC. There’s still a couple kinks that are being worked out, but for being free the game is very well-polished.

Before downloading, you have the option to donate $2 to her for creating the game, but this is optional.

3. The Multiple Art Styles Are Visually Stimulating

Dream Sequence, Escaped Chasm

If you ever played the Professor Layton series, you’ll be familiar with the concept of using different art styles throughout a game. Similarly, Escaped Chasm has video clips, still-image drawings, and a retro-style game world where you can interact with your environment. Certain events will trigger the video clips, some of which are in full color and others (like above) are in a stylistic, sketchy black and white.

These different styles lend themselves well to the game, adding extra interest and motivating me to find all of the secrets to trigger them. Even though the game takes place in a single setting, it feels larger and more impactful from these art styles.

4. The Story Is Unique and Captivating

Characters interact in a bedroom.
Fourth Day, Escaped Chasm

Escaped Chasm is about an artistic girl who finds herself alone in her house, abandoned by her parents. As the days go by, stranger events start happening, and only you can decide what her fate will be.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I played this game, but I was very surprised at where the story ended up going. If you like fantasy, dreamscape games, you’ll definitely love this one.

My first run through the game left me wanting more, so I kept exploring the environment and tried to find all the secrets. The story is fully embedded in everything you interact with, so it’s great to try to piece things together for yourself.

5. It’s Super Short But Has Multiple Endings

Third Day, Escaped Chasm

One of my most disappointing moments with this game is realizing I chose the happiest ending first. Then when I went back to find the other endings, they just got more and more depressing. Even so, each ending is warranted, and they all come with their own special scene or animation.

The mood is pretty grim, and the main character kind of reminds me of Sadness from Inside Out. But if you find the right ending, it actually goes pretty well for our glasses-wearing protagonist.


Bonus (Why You Shouldn’t): The Same Song Plays Over and Over

As much as I enjoyed this game, there was one thing that drove me absolutely crazy. It plays the same song continuously. There are small scenes where variations of the song play — which is great and very smart to do. But each day starts with a song that drills itself into my brain.

The only way to stop from going completely insane is to sing along with it. And boy, I could do that after about five minutes of listening to it. Because it starts from the beginning after entering each room. And each day. And after each different sequence.

If you think you can handle that, I would definitely give this game a go. It’s unique and thought-provoking, and it’s great to support independent artists.

Reviewing Restaurants in LA: Âu Lac

Âu Lac in Downtown Los Angles
Âu Lac in DTLA

History of Âu Lac in LA

Âu Lac is a plant-based Vietnamese restaurant originally starting Fountain Valley, CA in 1997 by Mai Nguyen. After overcoming serious illnesses by adopting a plant-based diet, Nguyen decided to spread awareness for healthy food in the community.

Chef Ito joined the team in 2001, and many more dishes were added to the menu to include gluten-free, raw, and nut-free options as well. In 2015, Mai’s daughter Linh Nguyen opened up a branch of the restaurant in the Downtown LA area, where I went last night.

They offer a wide variety of different dishes of rice, wraps and noodles, with very realistic plant-based meats and fish. From sushi to rainbow flan, their menu offers something for everyone’s taste palettes.

Experiencing Âu Lac

Downtown LA’s Âu Lac
Inside Âu Lac in DTLA

There’s a small amount of parking available for those visiting Âu Lac, but Mitchell and I walked since we’re only about a mile away. The restaurant is set in a cute plaza with some artsy fountain statues and some other coffee shops and restaurants nearby. Their sign and glass walls really attract the eye, and the name of the restaurant itself also sets it apart.

Through our dinner, the speakers played 80s love ballads, including the main song from Titanic. It was hard not to sing along, but for Mitchell’s sake, I held it in. The lighting is low and ambient, and the waiters and waitresses were super friendly when we got in and when we left. Our waiter was kind of a hoot, obviously liking a lot on the menu and wanting us to try all that we could.

Evaluation of DTLA’s Âu Lac

Eggrolls Âu Lac  DTLA
Eggless Eggrolls from Âu Lac DTLA

We started out with the Eggrolls, stuffed with vermicelli noodles, mushrooms, carrots, taro, jicama, and almond filling. On the side were lettuce and mint, while the sauce was like a clarified sweet and sour sauce.

The sauce was a little too thin for the rolls, and we had a lot left over, but the Eggrolls were hot, savory, and satisfying. The flaky, crispy shell had the perfect consistency paired with the mixture of soft filling. I only wish we had gotten four, so we didn’t have to split the last one.

Also, yes we ate the lettuce like the monsters we are.

Garlic Basil Noodles Âu Lac DTLA
Garlic Basil Noodles, Âu Lac DTLA

For one of our entrees, we got the Garlic Basil Noodles. The red sauce swirled around the plate is a non-GMO sriracha sauce. The noodles themselves were a combination of pine nuts, apple sage sausage, spiced olive oil, nutritional yeast, lacinato kale, and Thai basil. All mixed into perfectly cooked rice noodles. The spices were wonderful and there were full cloves of roasted garlic throughout the dish that bursted sweet and savory flavor with each bite.

Though the garlic and sausage were very flavorful, maybe it was just the combination of the two entrees, but this one felt a little one-dimensional to me. Mitchell really seemed to enjoy it though. We’re both big garlic fiends.

Yellow Noodle Soup, Âu Lac DTLA

The second dish we got was a hot ramen noodle soup made with slices of plant-based chicken and shrimp so real you wouldn’t believe it was somehow made from plants. It also had thick pieces of baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, Chinese chives, and a fat mushroom-stuffed wanton.

The broth in this dish was absolutely incredible. It reminded me of a upscale onion soup, but full of savory fishy undertones. I was kind of disappointed that I only got one wanton in the entire soup. But I left pleasantly full and satisfied.

  • Design 4 out of 5
  • Ambience 4 out 5
  • Tidiness 3 out of 5
  • Value for Money 3 out of 5
  • Service 3 out of 5
  • Variety 5 out of 5
  • Quality 4 out of 5

It takes a lot to impress me at upscale restaurants that serve entrees I’ve gotten for a lot cheaper at other places. But I was very surprised at the good potions and the great tasting faux meats.

Though our waiter was quirky and nice, he wasn’t super attentive, and we lacked water for most of our meal. The prices are moderately high at this restaurant with entrees ranging from 13-17 dollars for medium-sized portions. Our three Eggrolls were $6 dollars. But the place is very upscale and the experience is meant to be an elevated take on Vietnamese cuisine, so the prices match this business model pretty well.

The bench we sat in was a very “couple-y” booth, with a long pillow for lumbar support and the experience to sit next to each other and watch the restaurant without looking weird.

We didn’t end up having dessert, but they have a lot of options ranging from Baklava to Rainbow Flan. The desserts are also a decent price, and I would consider going back and trying them sometime.

Also a dog randomly got in the restaurant from the patio area and was running around the place for several minutes before his owner came in to grab him. Not really anything to do with the restaurant itself, but just a fun experience.

All in all, I wouldn’t come here all the time, but it was a nice experience and I’ll definitely be back.

More Âu Lac Information

Link to their website: http://www.aulac.com.

Store Location:

DTLA: 710 West 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012

Fountain Valley: 16563 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Store Hours:

DTLA: Monday – Friday 12 pm-3 pm, 5 pm-10 pm
Saturday – Sunday 12 pm-10 pm

Fountain Valley: Tuesday – Sunday
Lunch 11:33 am-3:33 pm
Dinner 5:33 pm-9:33 pm
Closed Monday

23 Things to Know Before You’re Twenty-three

Wow, can I believe I’m twenty-three? Not really. And no, I don’t feel any older. But I DO feel like there’s been a lot to learn in my life. There’s so many things I wish I could have taught my younger self. Words of guidance from someone who made it through the school years, heartbreaks, loss of friendships, triumphs, and failures. Here are twenty-three things I’ve learned throughout my twenty-three years. Hopefully you can find encouragement from them!

Image by Sagar Patil

1. You Will Fit Into Yourself Someday

Throughout my public school years, I was the tallest, most developed girl. I literally stood at 4’8” in fourth grade, making all the other kids look like my minions. Except I wasn’t in charge of anyone. I was socially awkward and gangly. I wore oversized t-shirts to hide my chest until everyone else started to go through puberty too.

I wish I had believed that I would grow into myself. That someday I would feel short compared to some people — a thought I couldn’t even imagine. As I experimented with hair and fashion, I developed my own way of dressing. People noticed me not because I was tall, but because I wore what I wanted and totally rocked wearing two patterns at once.

You too will develop your own style that compliments who you are. Whether it’s fake leather jackets or kitten t-shirts, we start to grow comfortable in our own skin someday. Maybe it won’t be at 23, but I promise it will happen. Trust your passions and your style will show through.

2. Stick with Your Passions

I’ve always wanted to be a writer and illustrator. I know a lot of people say this phrase “I’ve always…” But I mean since elementary school I’ve been writing and drawing with the intention of becoming established in these fields. While I never stopped pursuing this passion, there were plenty of times when other people quit something they loved because other people told them to or they didn’t think they had a future in it.

Passion Led Us Here // Image by Ian Schneider

You may be born with a passion and some natural talent for a sport or an artistic area, but there will be a time where you hit a wall. People will tell you to quit. You can’t progress any further. You’re struggling to find your love of the game anymore.

It’s natural to hit walls, but it’s also important to remember why you love this sport, art, or topic in the first place. Maybe take a break and come back, but always come back. People will tell you that you won’t make money in x, y, z, and beyond. They don’t know what you’re truly capable of. And you’ll only find out if you keep digging deeper.

3. Friends Will Come and Go

Finding friends is hard, but keeping them is even harder. Whether they or you move away, you graduate from high school, or you just don’t have the same classes anymore, it’s bound to happen sometimes.

They hardest thing about having and making friends is worrying if you’ll lose them. You might think, Why am I investing my time in someone I might not even talk to in four years? The answer is, because you need someone to talk to now.

Friends come in two kinds: crossing of paths and railroad tracks. Those that cross your path will be in your life for a short amount of time, but will help you figure out life in that moment. They might show you new activities or tag along to sports events and dances. But then you graduate and you just don’t talk that much. The railroad tracks friends travel in parallel lines with you for the rest of your life. They’re the ones who will go deeper with you and keep in touch even when you’re miles apart.

An important thing to remember is that you don’t know which of these friends will end up being which type. So in the end, it’s important to hang tight to all your buddies and remember that no matter what happens, it was good to have them in your life.

4. Staying in Touch Is Your Job Too

There’s been plenty of times when I don’t text a friend because I feel like I initiated the conversation last time, so maybe this time they should text me first. Guess what? Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. If you want to text your old friend from high school, just do it! If you want to invite a friend over for the third time this week to play Mario Kart, just do it.

Chances are your friend is either thinking the same thing or just used to you being the one to contact them first. If you really struggle with unreciprocated communication, you could always just try to casually talk about it. No one wants to feel like a burden, and if your friend is really your friend, they’ll understand.

On the other hand, if your friend is ghosting you, you really have to consider if they’re worth your time. It doesn’t matter how popular or great they are. If you put in the effort to hang out and talk, they should put in at least a little effort too. There are plenty of other people out there who would love to spend time with you.

5. Keep Learning New (and Different) Things

One of my favorite things to do when I start to get bored is just try something entirely different. I started learning different languages through websites like Duolingo. I started to learn coding through websites such as Code Academy. I started running and practicing Yoga. There are so many things to try in life, so why just pick one? It’s fun to dabble in a variety of different areas. You never know what you might find you’re really good at.

Keep Learning // Image by Marvin Meyer

The important thing is widen your horizon. Are you already super musical? Try hiking. Are you involved in three sports? Maybe explore your city and take fun photos. Here are some things you can try whenever you are super bored. Feel free to come up with your own too!

  • Learn astrology
  • Become a tea expert
  • Yoga
  • Running
  • Walking
  • Learn an instrument
  • Hiking
  • Try making your own video game
  • Design clothes for your favorite company
  • Find a social justice organization to join
  • Write a book of poems
  • Knitting
  • Sketching from nature
  • Volunteer at pet shelters or soup kitchens
  • Write songs
  • Explore your local area and take photos

6. Don’t Ever Say You Can’t Do Something

In my first year of college I started to become a runner. I was so nervous to run outside at first because I didn’t want people to see me jiggle or fall or run out breath. Yes, that was my actual thought process. It’s been a long process of ups and downs, but at my peak performance I was able to run 10 miles in less than two hours. Not Olympic times by any means. But I was never an athlete in high school.

You are only limited by your own determination. Why not try to become a runner or painter? It may take a long time (usually people say 10,000 hours of practice makes a master), but if you really want to do something, the only thing that’s stopping you is you!

7. Food Is So Important for Your Health

I wish people had actually taught me how important it was to eat healthy during the most stressful years of school. Even though I was never a huge junk food eater, and I ate plenty of vegetables, I never really learned what healthy eating actually is until the last few years. I never used to look at the ingredient or nutrition labels on anything. But it’s super helpful to see what’s actually going in your mouth. You may be surprised when your favorite snack has twenty ingredients you don’t even know.

Food Is Important for Your Health // Image by Dan Gold

This isn’t partially our fault. Maybe you grew up in a home where veggies weren’t served with any meal. Maybe it was just easier to pick up fast food for dinner every night. Not to mention the hundreds of food companies that are more focused on getting your money than improving your health. The point is, what we eat is often how we feel. If you want to start working on self-care and improving your mental health, I would suggest just keeping a small notepad on what you eat for a week. Was there a lot of sugar, junk food, tons of meat and no veggies?

By no means do you have to change your whole diet, but sometimes knowing what we eat can help us understand how we feel. Try cooking a meal at home. Or exploring your grocery store’s produce department and pick out the craziest fruits and veggies and try to make a meal. Look on Pinterest and Google for recipes from different cultures. Food can be both healthy and delicious. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

8. How You See Yourself Impacts Others

I can’t tell you how many times I believed I was a giant oaf who wasn’t smart enough to do anything. And by believing these things, I became aggressive, defensive, and reclusive. How I saw myself impacted how I treated other people.

Going through school can be a wild ride. No matter what group you belong to, we all have doubts about ourselves and our place in this world. People can also be incredibly cruel and know exactly what to say to cut us down.

The good news is, we don’t have to believe lies. The things we tell ourselves matter. That means no more body-shaming in the mirror. No more telling yourself that you aren’t good enough for _____. Because we are all uniquely designed with different passions, body-types, and visions.

Here are some fun things to tell yourself in the mirror. Just trust me. It may feel like lying at first. But they are absolutely true.

  • You are created just the way you were supposed to be.
  • You are so loved by so many people.
  • You are going to rock this world with all your talents.
  • You are beautiful. Really. You. Are. Beautiful.
  • You are going to kick today in the tushy.
  • No one is going to stop you from having a great day.
  • You are kind and helpful and brave.

9. And There’s More to Life Than How People See YOU

On a similar note, believing what people think about you, even the good stuff can limit who you really are meant to be. Maybe your aunts always wanted you to be in the fashion industry but you actually want to work in a Zoo. Or maybe you’ve been known as the jock, but you really do love math and want to pursue that field.

It’s definitely hard to fight the waves of other people’s expectations, but just know that you have the ability to find your own path in life. Each day is a new day to start over and take a step towards the kind of person you want to be.

10. Playing Games Isn’t a Waste of Time

Playing Games // Image by Hannah Rodrigo

I’ve been known to be one of those people who can’t focus on anything until I get my work done. But in reality, the work really isn’t ever done. This might not be the best tip for my procrastinator friends, but if you’re a school-or-workaholic like I am, it’s important to make time for play time.

Play time is so important. Whether it’s just relaxing online with the newest video game or having a game night with your friends, taking a break each week or a little bit each day can help you take your mind off the hard things in life. Take an hour and color in a coloring book. Play online scrabble. Form a DnD group. Whatever you’re interested in, take a break and have fun.

11. People Are Not Just Potential Romantic Partners

I can’t stress how important this one is. So many times in my life, I’ve caught myself developing a friendship for the intention of hopefully becoming their girlfriend. I’ve also had so many situations where someone stops being friends with me after they realize I don’t want to date them.

Starting friendships with the mindset of dating can ruin your relationship. A lot of relationships start as friendships. And that’s totally fine. My partner Mitchell was my best friend for a long time. But I didn’t become friends with him so I could date him.

People are real humans with feelings and emotions. When we treat other people like living love machines, we don’t really try to get to know them. Plus friendships are way more chill than dating can be, especially in high school and college.

Falling for your best friend is super common. But dating all of your friends can create rifts in your group and make everyone uncomfortable. Proceed with extreme caution.

12. It’s Okay to Be Alone Sometimes

It’s Okay to Be Alone Sometimes // Image by Denys Nevozhai

Sometimes I think society confuses alone time with being a loner. Spending time by yourself is a necessary part of life. You’re not a loser for eating alone by yourself at lunch if you want to. You’re not a loner for spending Friday night binging Netflix.

A lot of people need alone time to recharge after a stressful day. Maybe take a walk by yourself in a safe neighborhood. Maybe spend some time listening to music. If spending time by yourself makes you feel good, then it’s important for you to have that time.

There were plenty of times in college I just sat by myself and ate lunch. A lot of people do it, and no one thinks any differently of you. Sometimes our schedules are crazy and we need to cram in some extra homework. There will be plenty of time to be social. Don’t worry. Breathe. You’re fine, social butterfly.

13. Comparing Is Poison

I’m sure you’ve either seen or been a part of a talent show at a school or camp. Usually, there are multiple people showcasing the same talent. Like singing. Everyone kind of nods along as singers perform, but there’s always that one person who just completely steals the show. Now imagine you’re performing right after that person. Do you feel the anxiety rising yet?

Or maybe you’re in art class and you look over and see that the guy next to you is also drawing a portrait. But you think his is way better at using of different shades of blue. How did he even get the colored pencils to shade so smoothly?

Listen, we all have different talents, and we’re all at different stages. We also have our own way of doing things. The worst thing we can do to stifle our creativity and progress is compare ourselves to others. Now there’s looking up to people like your favorite singer you aspire to sound like or your favorite football player you examine each day before the big game. But regarding peers, it only hurts you to compare yourself to them.

Being in Honors classes throughout High School ruined me in this area. It’s a constant competition between GPAs and who is in the most clubs. But honestly, I just wanted to do the best that I knew I could do. Just remember to practice and continue to grow. It’s hard not to get discouraged sometimes, but don’t let comparing yourself to others destroy something you love.

14. Your Time Will Come

When I was in high school, and even in college, I felt like I had to make it big before I graduated. You know, publish more books, get Instagram famous, etc. My reasoning is that I knew other people younger than me that were already famous and doing the things I wanted to do. But the reality is, I wasn’t ready, and it’s a very small percentage of people who make it big at a young age.

I know it seems appealing to be famous as a teenager, but what does peaking in high school actually prove? Rather, I want to continue to grow and become seasoned in my chosen fields.

Keep doing what you love, even if it seems like nothing is actually happening. Because it is. You are growing, you are changing. And that’s step one.

My time will come. And so will yours.

15. It’s Okay to Lose It Sometimes

In a world where you’re getting conflicting messages about whether or not you should bottle your emotions or let them reign 100% of the time, from experience let me tell you it’s going to cause a lot more harm to hold it in. While there is a time and place for every emotion, letting yourself grieve or throw a temper-tantrum like you’re three again can sometimes be the most healing experience.

No one really has to be around for this unless you want them to. I wouldn’t recommend having this personal moment in public places, but it’s perfectly acceptable to curl up with your pillow and let it all out. I don’t care who you are, what gender you identify with, and what you’ve been told. Emotions are important to feel and understand. When you’re done you can pick yourself up, tell yourself that you’re strong, and keep moving forward. Giving yourself time is key here.

16. Thank Your Parents and Relatives Whenever You Can

This is one point that I’m still working on. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like my family is going to be there no matter what, just because they’re my family. But the reality is, I have no idea the amount of money and comfort they’ve given up by having me. So I know I need to thank them for all they’ve done.

Your home situation might not be the same as mine. Whoever takes care of you and makes sure you’re alright, make sure you thank them. Buy them flowers or a gift card. Write them a note — like an actual handwritten note. Bake them cookies. Or just say, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”

We have no idea what this will mean for them, but it can only be good.

17. Your Siblings Might Become Your Best Friend

Your Sibling Might Be Your Best Friend // Image by Caroline Hernadez

My sister and I used to fight so often that our mom would get in the mix too. The reality is, we’re six years apart, and until we were closer to having the same amount of development and experiences, we couldn’t connect with each other. Now she’s someone I know I can talk to about anything because she just gets it. She also has a budding life of her own that’s very different than mine, so it’s fun to hear about the adventures she’s getting up to.

Siblings can be the worst and best at the same time. The older you get, the more you can relate and connect, or so I’ve been told and experienced for myself. What are your siblings like? Do they call you names and bite you? We used to. But now we have nicknames for each other and trust each other with the deepest darkest of secrets.

18. Work Hard in Every Job (Especially the Bad Ones)

I’ve worked terrible jobs. I’ve worked in a smoldering warehouse in the middle of summer, I’ve worked happy hour at a big-name coffee shop, and I’ve been the lowest-of-the-totem-pole sales associate.

Look, I get it. It’s hard to be enthusiastic when people are mean, you haven’t had a break, and your manager just quit. But when you’re the one who shows up on time every day and gets work done plus extra, people notice. It might not be your boss or your coworkers who will thank you, but you’d be surprised at what working hard can actually get you.

Also, burning bridges is a dangerous game to play. You might not think your coworker at the local thrift store will ever see you again when you leave and trash the place in your wake. But a couple years down the road it turns out that the dream job you’ve always wanted just hired a new HR. Guess who?

Anyways, that’s theoretical. It’s just good to be nice and work hard, because when you’re in a job you don’t like and work your butt off, imagine how great it will feel when you finally get that job you like, and you know how to manage your time well.

19. Taking Risks Is Scary and Good

Take Risks // Image by Peter Colan

I don’t like taking risks. I like being comfortable and being in consistent routines. But taking risks has also proven to be beneficial to me. I’m talking about those risks like, should you go to the dance this Friday? Should you try that new food? Should you buy that daring dress? The answer is always yes to these things. Dare to challenge yourself to be a stronger version of yourself every day. You don’t have to go bungee jumping, but you shouldn’t hide under your bed either.

20. Find Someone to Mentor

I met with a girl who was about six years younger than me for coffee about twice a month for three years. I loved just chatting with her, getting to know about her crazy life and friends, and being able to let her know that someone (besides family obviously) deeply cared about her.

Finding someone to be a mentor to can be so enriching. The process doesn’t have to be complicated. I wasn’t her therapist, and I wasn’t trying to fix her life. I was just a listening ear as someone who just went through what she was going through and was going through what she would be going through soon.

It could be a best friend’s little sister or brother that you take out for ice cream. Or a neighbor kid you’re family friends with. Usually it’s best to keep to the same genders, but hey, that’s up to your discretion. They’ll be so happy that some cool person is showing interest in them, and you’ll get to make a huge difference in someone’s life.

21. And Find Someone to Mentor You

I also had mentors myself, who would be just a phone call away. I still contact several of them whenever life gets really tough, and I need to just know that I’m not alone. These women were people I met through life that just ended up taking me under their wings. Sometime we would read books together, get coffee or dinner. Sometimes we would just drive around for a while.

Having someone older than you to talk to is such a great blessing during this time in your life. You’ll find out that adults don’t really have it all together. That we’re all just taking it one step at a time. It’s strangely reassuring. They also might be able to help you with tricky situations if they have had any similar experiences.

22. Always Be a Part of a Community

With or without a mentor, it’s important to find a community to be a part of. Whether a club, church group, or sport, finding people who share common ideas and goals in life can help you stay on track and form great relationships.

A major part of my life was my Sunday night youth group. While our leader was kind and a great speaker, we also formed great bonds as students from all different schools and backgrounds. We stuck together during rough times and supported each other during tragedies. I still talk to a lot of these people today.

23. You Don’t Know It All — I Sure Don’t

We Don’t Know It All // Image by Hans-Peter Gauster

I’m still learning how to do this thing called life, and I can’t wait to see what lessons the world has in store for me. It’s not always going to be peaches and cream oatmeal, but sometimes that’s the best way to learn.

Let’s challenge ourselves to learn from other people around us, both younger and older. We all have different life stories and experiences, and the more we share our struggles and triumphs with others, the more we can grow closer together and help the world become a better place. A little cheesy, but hey. Why not?

Short Story Press Release: “Red”

Short story “Red” is now available on amazon
“Red” is now available on Amazon

The second installment of the Nightmare Series is now available for Amazon Kindle. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s also available for free!

Background for “Red”

“Red” takes place entirely on the train commute to work. Though originating from a dream, this story is told from a male first-perceptive.

If I was to analyze this dream, I would say that it probably stemmed from my fascination with Greek and Roman mythology. Anyone familiar with the story of Sisyphus and Prometheus might recognize a similar theme throughout this story.

“Red” cover design, train surrounded by red foliage
“Red” cover design by me

“Even through the blur, I could already tell that traffic in the streets below had come to a standstill. The coldness was seeping through the poorly bolted window, and a sharp hiss verified that air was coming through.”

Kristen Kois, “Red”

Designing the Cover for “Red”

For the cover design, I wanted to use the natural red lighting from a train at night, since that’s where the story takes place. The train is also shrouded in misty, red foliage that directly contrasts with the cityscape of the background.

Maybe things are not always as they seem?

You can buy a copy for yourself by following this link to Amazon. Feel free to leave a review or comments in this blog if you read it! And don’t forget to share it with your friends and family.

Book Review: You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was overwhelmed by how my financial situation was not going to keep me alive for very long if I didn’t get my butt into gear and start working on finding jobs. When the job search turned into mass chaos and confusion, and I felt doubtful I even deserved to follow my passions and get a job that I actually enjoyed, I started searching for self-help books to get advice and motivate myself.

That’s when I came across the book, You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth (2017) by Jen Sincero. Promised as a guide to get you in the mindset of making money, I was immediately interested. This book might not have made me rich, but it definitely changed how I view wealth and money. And that’s not an easy feat to accomplish.

Book Review Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Image from urban outfitters.com

Background

“If my broke ass can get rich, you can too.”

Jen Sincero

Jen Sincero is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, whose book You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life has sold more than 3 million copies since its release in 2013. It’s easy to be skeptical of self-help books, especially ones promising they’ll help you become rich. But Sincero didn’t start out rich. She started out with very little money, living in a garage for a house.

Now Sincero works her own business, travels the globe, and speaks on how her life flipped upside-down through the power of changing how you see your reality. Yes, this book primary focuses on the Law of Attraction and Manifestation.

Summary

If you’re someone who’s had never been exposed to the Law of Attraction or Manifestation, the first encounter may leave an odd taste of skepticism in your mouth. How can just changing how you think really have an impact on your reality?

These two separate yet complimentary meditations are watered down into the belief in a higher force (God, the Universe, etc.) that wants to work with you and see you succeed. The key is to put as much positivity back out towards that force and back in towards yourself to open your life to the possibilities that you might have been blind to before.

There are some coincidences (if you believe in those) that may happen if you do this. Money appearing out of nowhere, job opportunity that connect with you as soon as you change your perspective on life. But the main ideas are to: radiate positivity (especially being kind to yourself), change your perspective on what money actually is (a tool, helpful, useful, NOT evil), giving back, taking risks, and practicing self-care.

“A healthy desire for wealth is not greed, it’s a desire for life.”

Jen Sincero

Critique

Full of jargon, profanity, and jokes, this book is highly entertaining to read. It’s also a great book to read if you were as down-in-the-dumps as I was when I read it. Sincero is genuine, funny, and sharp. She’s not the stuffy grandpa who wrote the last generation’s “Get Rich Quick” books, and she wants the people who succeed in life to be the people who will make the world a better place.

One of the most assuring things about the book is that Sincero doesn’t leave a reader convinced that if they just believe hard enough, they don’t have to put in any physical work. The reason why I could actually enjoy and trust this book was because it focuses on the first step: working on yourself. Work on how you see things. Sometimes this is what’s getting in your way.

From Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass at Making Money

This idea actually makes a lot of sense. Have you ever started to have a bad day, and then you tell yourself how that day is going to be awful and how you deserve it? Then at the end of the day, you ended up having one of the worst days and believing you earned it too? The idea that Sincero proposes is beyond staying positive. It’s believing you deserve a life that fulfills you and includes all of your passions. Because if we believe we are deserving of such a position, we’ll try harder to get it. Or even try to get it in the first place.

Before reading this book, I had applied to over fifty jobs and not heard back from a single one in over three weeks. I was so discouraged. I saw people with money, people going out to eat, people wearing nice clothes, and I felt so angry because I couldn’t do that. Because of the mantras and guides at the end of each chapter, I began to reevaluate my mindset on money. Yes, I felt like money was evil. I felt like money ran from me, like it always was given to people who used it poorly.

So when I was challenged to continue to tell myself, “Money is a great tool. Money finds my easily. Money helps me achieve my goals and dreams,” I felt silly and like a down-right liar. Because I was. But I continue to tell myself these things almost every day. And the day I decided to be more positive, I got three interviews. Coincidence? Maybe. Definitely weird. Sincero’s book is full of stories like this though, and it makes me wonder if it isn’t just fantasy.

Changing my perspective on money changed my motivations for finding jobs and following my passions.

Is the Book a Story of Privilege and Entitlement?

It’s really easy to think to yourself while reading this book, Wait how come there are so many poor people in the world if all they had to do was think that they could overcome their circumstances for God/the Universe to make them rich?

To be honest, I don’t really have an answer to that, and Sincero doesn’t either. I think what’s more important about this book is recognizing that we all do have opportunities to change the way we live and see the world. And if we get the opportunity for wealth, it then becomes our responsibility to care for those that don’t. This is a major point in Sincero’s writing.

To this point she writes, “One of the best things you can do is get rich. Because of the way our world is structured, money and power are intertwined, so if you want to help make a positive change, money is one of the most effective tools you can use to do it. Yes, you can donate your time, organize, protest, lobby, alert the masses, post incensed rants on Facebook, but you will be much more effective if you have the energy, options, and freedom that come with not being in financial struggle, not to mention the resources to spend however you see fit.” So according to Sincero, yes, it’s possible to be a good person, be religious, be humble, and still become wealthy.

The negative aspect of this idea is that some people might still be unable to break out of systematic poverty or break into the cycle of wealth. It’s never a bad idea to gain more self-confidence, but it’s also irresponsible to spend every last dime of your rent money because you think you need an acting coach this very minute. Sincero luckily is smart in this particular area. While she encourages people to take risks, she doesn’t explicitly tell people to blow all their money on coaches if they really, honestly can’t. Though she did end up hiring a coach for thousands of dollars during a time of extreme credit card debt.

The problem I have with this book is mostly the notion that of course someone is going to make it out of their poverty, but how many more will do the same by following what that one person did? We all have different stories, different struggles. Hiring a life coach when we have credit card debt might not save our own lives, but there are plenty of other take-aways from the book that are helpful, encouraging, and paradigm-shifting. All things considered, it’s definitely worth the read.

Conclusions

The jury is still out on whether I’m a fool for following my dreams, but I’m much happier in pursuit of my writing and art than I would be in an office cube. I believe that I have the ability and skills necessary for making enough money to thrive.

Do you?

The Positives

  • Changed my harmful mindset on money
  • Was full of laughs and entertainment
  • Challenged me in ways I had never been before
  • A money-guide like I’ve never read
  • A great analysis on having faith

The Negatives

  • Some entitlement and privilege
  • Profanity and dialects (could be a positive — I didn’t mind)
  • A good first step, but won’t work for some

Further Information

Jen Sincero playing with dog
Jen Sincero and puppy // Image from jensincero.com

You can visit Jen Sincero’s website by following this link. Her books are available in over 25 different languages.

Art in Los Angeles: Mural of Mario Torero compared to Byzantine and Medieval Art

Mural by Mario Torero and D. Von Simons 2014

Every day that I go for a run, I take the same path from my apartment to Echo Park, passing local businesses and fruit sellers. I also pass this mural by Mario Torero and D. Von Simons, created in 2014. For being over 5 years old, the mural is still vibrant and striking, and I can’t help but stare at it every time I pass it. What does it mean? What does it remind me of?

As someone who has studied art history and loved learning about the different cultures and symbols throughout the ages, I thought it might be interesting to compare this piece to some workS throughout the Byzantine and Medieval period.

While I was trying to research Torero for this project, I couldn’t find this mural in his online gallery of paintings. Maybe it was a small project he did for the local community with Simons? I couldn’t find information online regarding a D. Von Simmons, but Torero is a very famous artist from the San Diego area.

Mario Torero, Mural Painter and Activist

Mario Torero poses with his paintings
Mario Torero with his paintings // Image from San Diego City Beat

Torero was born and lived in Lima, Peru in 1947 until 1960 when he immigrated with his family to the United States. Their destination was San Diego, CA in search of more opportunities for art and freedom. Torero was taught how to paint and draw by his father Guillermo Acevedo, who was an established artist in Lima. When they came to America, Torero’s father quickly became popular in San Diego as well. Together this family was part of the young Chicano Art Movement.

Torero is known as El Maestro, because he believes in teaching young people about how to combine art and community. He has spent many years volunteering at art schools to help students learn the skills his father taught him. With shows and exhibitions, he aims to continue to develop Artivista for the inspiration of the community.

Some of Torero’s murals are inspired by his heritage and other famous painters such as Picasso and Frida Kahlo. His works were featured in the Acevedo Gallery in Mission Hills, and many of his paintings can be seen in places such as the San Diego Airport, Chicano Park, University of California San Diego, and San Diego State University.

“Chicano is about people. It’s practically a state of mind. It’s a human movement Because we wanted to create a world, an ideal world. Can you imagine?”

Torero, Interview with San Diego City Beat

Analysis of the Mural

Torero’s use of color is striking to me. The purple gray of the skin and hair contrasting against the bright white of his eyes makes you feel like the figure is watching over you as you walk by. The greens, oranges, yellows, and reds of his robe bleed into each other. The figure appears to be wearing a cape over his robes, the cape being a lighter combination of colors over the over saturated red-orange of his under layer.

Then there is the globe at the center of his chest. While Torero’s figure does not hold anything in his left hand as the figures pictured below do, Torero’s figure grasps the edge of his cloak as if he is trying to expose the world on his chest for more people to see. Because of the white marked across his left hand, it’s unclear if there was anything else the figure’s hand was detailed with.

The slight lean of the figure’s head expresses an emotion of intrigue and question. His eyes, though striking, are not judgmental but considerate. Compared to the pieces below, his expression is softer and more expressive.

Byzantine and Medieval Art

Byzantine Mural from Hagia Sophia
Christ Pantocrator, Hagia Sophia, Circa 1204-1261, 4.08 x 4.2 m // Image from Approach Guides

Just as in Torero’s mural, you can see the two fingers raised, usually indicating the figure is meant to represent Christ. These two raised fingers can also be a gesture of blessing. The expression on this figure’s face is very neutral, almost impassive, though he stares straight at the viewer.

While I didn’t notice it at first, both Torero’s mural and this mural from the Hagia Sophia have a halo around around their heads. While Torero’s yellow orb could be seen as a moon or just a design created around the body of the figure, it seems possible that the circle is meant to represent this kind of symbol.

Christ in Majesty mural for church of San Climent
Christ in Majesty, Church of San Clement, Taull, Catalunya, Spain. Circa 1123 // Image from Art: A Brief History 6th ed.

While this mural is technically from the Early Medieval period, it has similar characteristics to the Byzantine-style art. For one, patterns and shapes are used to create movement in the design like a mosaic. The image however is less flat than the mosaics of the Byzantine period and has clear indications of the 3-D model by using shading on the folds of the robe.

Like the previous murals, this figure has the two fingers raised in blessing and Christ-identifier and also has a yellow halo around his head. Similar to the Hagia Sophia mural, he holds a book in his hand and is flanked by several other figures.

The colors used in this piece are closer to Torero’s, with the yellow, red, and green used for the robes and background. Unlike Torero, the colors in this mural do not run together and are usually separated by small patterns of cream.

Colors of the Murals: Torero, Byzantine, Medieval

In Byzantine art, blue can be used as a symbol of purity. Gold is also a symbol of purity but is meant to represent the heavenly realm as well as royalty.

Purple robes outlined in red are often used for holy figures in both Byzantine and Medieval art. Green is meant to symbolize rebirth, growth, and peace.

Torero uses a combination of these colors, though perhaps not for the symbols they represented in ancient history. Instead, his colors more largely express a heritage of the local community, a community he is a part of and wants to share with the world.

For More Information See the Links Below

Hagia Sophia Mural: https://www.approachguides.com/blog/hidden-gem-in-istanbul-the-deesis-in-hagia-sophia/

Color Symbols: http://www.historyofpainters.com/colors.htm

Interview with Torero and City Beat: http://sdcitybeat.com/culture/seen-local/mario-torero-goes-to-washington/

Mario Torero’s Website: http://www.fuerzamundo.org

Artist Feature: Mitchell Kois’ Short Film “The Audition”

The release of Mitchell Kois’ second short film “The Audition” is now available via Vimeo. Check out the video by following this link. Mitchell Kois is a writer, director, and actor from South Bend, Indiana. He is a recent graduate from Indiana University, Bloomington, where he studied film. After a semester in Los Angeles, he knew that he would eventually return to California, and he has recently made that move in the pursuit of larger projects.

Poster for “The Audition” by Kristen Kois
Poster for “The Audition” // Poster designed by Kristen Kois

“The Audition” is about a band (featuring the local Bloomington band Window Love) who are humorously harassed by a judge during a competition audition. It’s witty, funny, and uncomfortable in all of the best ways.

On Set with the Crew for “The Audition”

I had the honor of helping the crew one day write down what scenes and cuts they were on as they filmed. It was so exciting to see what really goes on behind the scenes of a short film.

They filmed in a local bar and used musicians from the Bloomington area. While there was a clear script that most characters were following, the judge played by Rick Romanek improvised a majority of his lines and actions, making for a quirky and hilarious run-through.

It was hard for many of the crew members to not laugh as Ricky danced around the room — and though it doesn’t seem like it in the short film, most of his dancing cuts were done without music.

Living with a Film Writer, Director, and Actor

Mitchell, being my partner in crime, has always shared his ideas with me. I’ve watched him mess with the same scene thirty times only for Adobe to shut down and losing all of his progress. He has a keen eye for the vision he wants to achieve in his films, and he knows what looks good, whether in shots or editing.

He has several larger feature projects in the making, including a semi-biographical piece about a girl and cancer, and a story of a pirate musician running from his past. With a combination of passionate story-telling and action, these are sure to be hits.

If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out the video and see it for yourself. It’s a great time of laughs and a quality, catchy song as well.

Backing on Kickstarter

Support the film by going to Kickstarter
You can support this film by helping out on Kickstarter.

Mitchell is currently raising money for this project on Kickstarter so that he will be able to submit it to film festivals (which can be pricey so they can weed out the legitimate entries). If you’re interested in backing him, you can receive a producer credit on the project. Super cool.

Writing Tips: 3 Reasons You Should End Your Book Series

Write to finish your story, not make money
Our favorite series as writers are often the reason we started writing. // Image by Nick Fewings

Maybe you’ve written just a single novel, and you consider that the ending leads to possible sequels. Maybe you’ve written multiple books in the same series and consider that you could continue writing about these characters forever. Maybe you’ve developed a fan-base and think that if you start another series, your fans won’t stick around for a new kind of journey.

Whether you’ve looked up to Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, Cassandra Clare, or Rick Riordan, we’ve all wondered when the series will finally be over.

We all grew up with different series we loved reading, but how many of them had official endings? And how many of them were re-booted with terrible results? Here are three reasons why you should always end your book series. For good.

1. Dragging Readers Along Can Hurt Your Credentials and Viewership

My friend Brandon told us recently that he only just started watching the Avenger-based Marvel movies. When we asked him what made him decide to start watching them now that the series was “finished” in a way, he said that because the series was over, he felt like he could actually enjoy the movies more.

Without an end in sight, watching all of the movies, especially when he was so far behind, was more of a task than a journey. Because he now had End Game to look forward to, he could build up to it in anticipation.

Building Anticipation with Your Books

I had a similar experience with the Harry Potter books. We all knew there would be seven books, and we all knew that when it was over, it was over. But was it? There was the release of the new Harry Potter-based book written in an entirely new format. There was an entire movie series based off an animal field-guide.

Did these movies and new book additions take away from the original series? No, but they certainly distracted us, and made us feel like maybe we didn’t have conclusion. Maybe we should always be expecting more.

Sometimes, you’ll have readers who will be such dedicated fans that they want anything new from the wonderful world you’ve created. But should we always give them extra information that doesn’t exactly fit into the original story? Should we continue to edit and revise our books just so they stay relevant and part of the mainstream culture?

If you write a full, complete story — even in multiple books — you must trust that the story is strong enough to stand the test of time.

Writing More Doesn’t Always Work

Good writers know that there is a lot of information about the world, characters, and plot that might not make the final cut of the writing. But there’s a reason for that. As Stephen King said, “The most important things to remember about backstory are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick to the parts that are, and don’t get carried away with the rest. Life stories are best received in bars, and only then an hour or so before closing time, and if you are buying.” If we tack on another two books after the knight has already defeated the big bad, because we as writers know that the knight would revisit his home town and go eat a sandwich at his favorite bar after all that hard work…aren’t we kind of dismissing all of his hard work?

Main character fights dragon in climax of story
The climax of your story should be your motivation to end the series // Image by Clint Bustrillos

No one wants to get sick of their favorite writer making retcons to their favorite book series. Whether you only have a single book, or you’ve written eight monsters of books that tell the most cohesive story about a fire-breathing cat, trust that your story is strong enough to maintain itself through great writing and great marketing.

2. People Will Want More From You, and That’s a Good Thing

Sometimes your characters deserve to live the rest of their lives in peace. The Adventure Zone, a podcast run by three brothers and a dad playing Dungeons and Dragons and other table-top games, created an almost 70-episode arc that inspired a following up to the standard of bestselling fantasy books. People made fan-fiction, they made art, they made t-shirts, and dressed up like the characters.

The McElroy brother Griffin ended the series with the promise that there would only be revisits of their characters for fun in live shows. As they concluded their heroes’ journeys, he stated, “And even more happier days were to come. That was the world you had made. That was the ending you earned.”

The family agreed that if they continued to play as these characters, it wouldn’t be the same. In fact, it would diminish the significance of the character development, undermine the climax, and burn them and the listeners out entirely. The point is, the story had ended. And it was time to move on. They took a risk doing this. By the end of their Arc called Balance, the boys had become financially supported by the podcast. If they had decided to continue playing as these characters, no one would have complained.

“That was the world you had made. That was the ending you earned.”

Griffin McElroy

The fact is, they didn’t. They tried new stories and experimented. They learned new skills by sharing the role of story-maker and trying new game formats. They didn’t get burned out. In fact, the opposite happened. They became anxious to tell a real story again and found just the right one. Maybe their listeners dipped during this time. I’m sure it did. But they held to their belief that the story was over. They trusted their fans to stay. And more importantly they trusted themselves to move on and create something new and stronger than running their finished story into the ground.

Now The Adventure Zone cast has created graphic novels of their Arc Balance (already bestsellers), and I recently heard they have a card-game coming out. If money was ever their concern by ending their story, it shouldn’t be now. Is this selling out? No. They’ve made their audio-format story into one that can also be read and remembered by their fans. They’ve maintained and added to the integrity of their creation.

Writing an endless series can end up being a bit like a putting together a puzzle for your readers. // Image by Patrick Tomasso

Writing with the Same Characters After the End of Their Story Can Put Them in the Danger Zone

Unlike the McElroy brothers, Cassandra Clare, a YA Fantasy writer, originally wrote six books that worked as a complete story of shadow-hunting, gorgeous teens that fell in love during a time of war. Beautiful, right? Absolutely. But then she added anthology books, a prequel series, another series that exists in the same world but takes place after the original war, etc. Are you exhausted yet? Because I am. Don’t get me wrong, I read everything she put out, because like most obsessed readers, I thought I couldn’t wait to hear what happened to the characters from the original series. And —

They were fighting. They weren’t as in love as they were in the original series (during which they had fought through everything to be together). The first six books contained one of the best character development sequences I have ever seen happen to a teenage boy in YA fiction. And while I liked reading about the Shadowhunters in her latest books, I felt like these same characters I had grown to know and love were short-changed and flatter than I remembered.

3. Ending Stories Creates New Writers and Makes You a Stronger One

The beauty of stories is that we can make them different than real life. We can make them better. Don’t be afraid to make your characters suffer. In fact, suffering is encouraged. Suffering is conflict, inside and out, and it’s necessary for characters to grow. But too often writers make their characters suffer, give them a happy ending, and then throw them right back into the fire.

The best part about having an ending to your series is that whether it’s satisfying or not, either way it will inspire the next generation of writers. When I was finished reading Harry Potter, I felt so empty — a feeling I know a lot of other readers have felt after finishing their favorite series. But I also wanted more. I was thirsty for an ending to a story I didn’t realize at the time was my own book series, Spell Bound.

Whatever genre you write, allow your readers to be so inspired (or so angry) that they write their own stories. Maybe it will stay fan-fiction. Or maybe they will create amazing stories of their own.

Inspire other writers to write their own creation.
Inspire other writers to continue a story of their own creation. // Image by Green Chameleon

Become a Stronger Writer

Challenge yourself to be the writer who actually has an ending to their series. While The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan can be a little long-winded at times, it remains one of the most influential Fantasy series in the genre. Jordan managed to end the series with the help of Brandon Sanderson, but Jordan died before he could finish the series himself. Imagine if he didn’t have a ghost writer. He had built an entire world leading up to a grand finale, but he took FOREVER to get there. His readers would have been devastated.

Finishing a series allows writers to have the freedom to explore new genres, new stories, and new characters. Writers get so attached to their stories that they sometimes believe they won’t be able to write anything else. It’s like making new friends. No one likes it, but you never know who you’ll end up meeting. They could be better characters than you’ve ever encountered before.

Conclusion: Writing Your Story Is Not the Same As Building a Money Machine

Don’t be a sell out. The happily ever after ending may not be appealing. We live in a world where happily ever after means “we didn’t want to tell you that they weren’t actually in love.” The thing about writing a good story is that by the end, your characters are your children. And children leave the house and get up to all kinds of mayhem that you, the parent, will never even know about. You, the writer, must let you child live the rest of their lives without being a helicopter parent.

Whatever you do, no matter how hard your fans may beg, no matter how much money you’re promised, if your kids want to leave the house and make their own path without you, you must let them go. And you can take a breath, knowing you did a good job raising them.

Reviewing Restaurants in LA: Donut Friend

Donut Friend in Los Angeles
Donut Friend in DTLA

History of Donut Friend in LA

Donut Friend is an all-vegan donut, ice cream, and coffee shop located in Downtown Los Angeles. They’ve been around for about six years now and also have a location in Highland Park. Their slogan is “Donuts Done Differently” (love the alliteration), and many of their donuts have fun, quirky music-related names such as Bacon 182, Chocolate from the Crypt, and Dag Nutty. They also offer customizable donuts where you can pick from yeast and cake donut flavors and add a whole bar of fillings, toppings, and glazes to your own creation. Customers can order just one donut of their choosing, or they can order a whole dozen, a giant donut—or even a two or three TIER donut CAKE! I have yet to order this, but I do have a birthday coming up soon…

Experiencing Donut Friend

LA  Restaurant Donut Friend
Donut Friend in DTLA

Donut Friend is just over a mile away from my apartment, and let’s just say this was not my first time experiencing the magical flaky goodness of a fancy donut at an odd-hour of the day. Mitchell and I usually walk Downtown and then go back home before eating our donuts. Partially because it makes us feel better about what we’re about to do to ourselves by consuming such a dense and rich dessert.

Their shop is super easy to find thanks to the sleek over-hang sign. It’s basically impossible to walk by their shop without looking in and seeing the clean, minimalistic set-up leading to a case full of colorful donuts.

Evaluation of DTLA’s Donut Friend

DTLA Donut Friend Vegan Restaurant
Inside Donut Friend DTLA
  • Design 4 out of 5
  • Ambience 3 out of 5
  • Tidiness 4 out of 5
  • Value for Money 4 out of 5
  • Service 4 out of 5
  • Variety 5 out of 5
  • Quality 4 out of 5

There are literally endless combinations you can make with the donuts, but just know that the later you come in, the less options you may have for the customizable donut base (cake or yeast and their different flavors) as well as limited options for the signature donuts.

In my experience, you get more bang for your buck by just going with the signature donuts. They have way more experience in how to combine the flavors of their donuts, and there are so many to choose from that there’s always going to be something for everyone. Prices for signature donuts range from about 4-6 dollars a piece while the customizable donuts can get a little more expensive if you go over-board on the goodies.

People have always been super nice whenever Mitchell and I come in. We also have mostly come in around lunch or after dinner time, and we’re usually only one of a few customers there (they’re probably busiest in the morning).

There’s a couple benches to sit on which aren’t super comfortable and also are a little awkward as the employees are just a couple feet away with not much else to do but watch you eat your donut. This is another reason Mitchell and I take our donuts to go usually. (We’re a little socially awkward.)

Donuts from DTLA Donut Friend
Our Donuts from the Latest Donut Trip

Our latest donut trip ended without the most colorful of donuts, but they were heavy boys. The top is a yeast donut with brûléed sugar, filled with hefty peanut butter cream. The bottom is the Youth Brûlée complete with brûléed sugar and filled with rich Bavarian cream. Definitely one of my favorites that I’ve gotten before.

I’ve had a couple of the fruit ones, including the Strawberrylab, which was good but not great. Without a filling, the donut fell a little short for my money. I would recommend something with a filling such as jam or cream, as these are more worth the price, and their fillings are BOMB DIGGITY good.

More Donut Friend Information

P.S. Their Instagram is super fun and shows cool videos of the employees making donuts. You can follow them @donutfriend.

Link to their website: https://donutfriend.com/wp3/

Store Location:

DTLA: 543 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Highland Park: 5107 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90065

Store Hours:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday: 7am-10pm

Friday and Saturday: 7am-Midnight

Bonus: If You Liked This Post Check Out…

Book Review: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

While I read this book a couple years ago, with the movie coming out recently, I considered this a great time to revisit my thoughts on The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicole Yoon. This book is a Young Adult Fiction/Romance, and was published in 2016.

Book Review Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Some Background

This book is the second published work of Yoon, who is also the author of The New York Times bestselling book, Everything, Everything. Yoon sets her story in New York City, a crowded landscape used to show that each individual can have an impact on another person’s story. While the book is mainly told from the point of view of Daniel and Natasha, there are also biographical chapters on many of the side characters. Yoon includes short chapters of the occasional word, place, or idea that connects to the characters.

A normal day in New York is transformed into commentaries on possibly controversial topics ranging from illegal immigrants to the science of love. While the book is crammed with diverse characters and interwoven sub-plots, The Sun Is Also a Star might not have reached a verdict on its audacious claim: love is controlled by both fate and science.

“America’s not really a melting pot. It’s more like one of those divided metal plates with separate sections for starch, meat, and veggies.”

Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star

Summary

Daniel is first generation American. His parents moved to America from Korea and own a black hair shop. While Daniel does not resent his Korean heritage as much as his older brother Charles, he struggles with his love of poetry and his parents’ pressure on him to become a doctor. Daniel succumbs to their will and plans to attend an interview determining if he will be recommended to Harvard. His reluctance leads to distraction, and he winds up in a music store after following Natasha (a stranger at the time) on a whim.

Natasha is an immigrant from Jamaica, who relies heavily on science to sustain her. The arts have scorned her family’s efforts of having the American dream, as her father, a denied but talented actor, exposes their illegal residency after a DUI. Natasha spends her last day meeting with an immigration lawyer, who is caught up in his own romantic drama. Though she is a firm follower of science, the music of her headphones causes her to enter a trance-like state as she enters a music store.

“I don’t really want to know her story. I just want the music and the moment.”

Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star

Critique: the Good and the Bad

Just as the back of Natasha’s jacket reads “Deus Ex Machina,” the story eludes to the fact that there might be someone pulling the characters around like reluctant puppets on a string. Daniel addresses the main issue of the novel in his lines, “I don’t really want to know her story. I just want the music and the moment.” While we read about Jamaican and Korean words and the backgrounds of side characters, the main characters remain ignorant and therefore unaffected by the people around them. Or at least the people that they are not romantically intrigued by.

Most teen fiction novels do little to enlarge the awareness of others amongst teenagers. While Daniel and Natasha may not recognize this impact entirely, Yoon still tries to encourage the awareness of others’ feelings, backgrounds, and cultural differences by writing about them herself. Through her small commentary chapters on words and ideas, Yoon addresses conflict between Jamaican and Korean culture when they are mixed with American ideals and dreams. The book also introduces teenagers to the world of immigration laws and two cultures they might not understand.

Though the novel tries to address the stereotypes of Korean, Jamaican, and American culture, Yoon’s characters lack the ability to escape them. Korean heritage plays a large part in why Daniel’s family wants him to be a doctor. Natasha’s Jamaican family are illegal immigrants and are being forced to leave the country. Yoon captures the dialects of Jamaicans and Koreans, but she leaves us wondering if she has presented a new way to look at Koreans and Jamaicans or if we are only meant to widen our perspective of the humanity behind the typecasts we may have formed.

Does Yoon Actually Overcome the Wave of YA Fiction?

Yoon is more successful at promoting the inner character of Natasha. She does not try to hide her main characters’ skin colors, but that does not define their core beings. Yoon writes, “It takes three years for Natasha’s natural hair to grow in fully. She doesn’t do it to make a political statement. In fact, she liked having her hair straight…She does it because she wants to try something new. She does it simply because it looks beautiful.” Yoon might be contributing some personal experience into this character. Her own heritage gives life to Natasha’s personality.

While Natasha makes hair choices based on personal values, Daniel wears a ponytail to make a statement against his parents. Daniel’s ideals and culture directly contrast with Natasha’s. Where she is science, he is art. But while Natasha’s character is defined by her reason, confidence, and drive, Daniel is mostly marked by his poetry writing and sudden obsession with Natasha.

On that note, Yoon introduces us to another stereotype: steamy teen romance. After Daniel and Natasha meet in the music store, they decide to test a theory that strangers can fall in love in one day based on three sets of questions that increase in intimacy. The science experiment consumes the rest of the novel, with interesting results. For one, it works—on the same level as most other teen fiction novels. The teenagers claim to experience love, but only when they experience intense physical contact. But what the characters first sought to discover seemed to be a deeper concept than tongues in mouths. So what can be taken away from the quick progression of the teenage love? Maybe Natasha says it best in her line about love songs, ‘“Easy…lust.”’

This comment in comparison with the climax of Natasha and Daniel’s day together offers conflicting messages about what Yoon classifies as scientifically provable love. While Daniel and Natasha believe that this moment of physical affection proves that they can fall in love in a single day, the two spiral apart after this moment in the novel. The couple go from thinking in unison, “I can’t get enough. I can’t get close enough. Something chaotic and insistent builds inside me” to “Her eyes have been replaced with storm clouds.” Instead of creating a convincing argument for love at first sight, Yoon seems to prove what every teen romance has proven before.

Conclusions about the Book

It’s obvious that Yoon desires to showcase diversity and convince teenagers that love, fate, and science can coexist. But as the last scene take place several years into the future, on a plane where both characters meet by extremely vague and downright fishy chance, Yoon’s writing lacks the tact that real fate often shows. Sometimes people just don’t meet again.

The Positive

  • A great showcase of diversity
  • Empathy of different cultures
  • A clash of different worlds unlike most YA Fiction

The Negative

  • Unclear, ambiguous endings…twice
  • Characters that conflict with central themes of the narrative
  • A hallow example of love

For Further Information on the Book and Movie

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Nicola Yoon, Image from Goodreads.com

The Sun Is Also a Star has now become a movie, and you can watch the trailer by clicking on this link here. You can also learn more about the author by visiting her website: http://www.nicolayoon.com/#welcome-new.