The Last Bookstore: cool things in LA

Los Angeles in endless in good food, things to see and things to do. I always say we live in a gem city, meaning that we’re close to everything but it doesn’t feel congested the way downtown does with more traffic, people, etc. A cool spot we’ve found downtown in The Last Bookstore. It’s definitely worth a trip to see if you’re in the area! Not only does it have a large selection of new and used books, they’ve created art with books and upstairs there’s small art galleries.

book tunnel! ^

 

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Austin, the sequel

We went back to visit one of our favorite cities, Austin, Texas! When we moved to Austin in 2016, we chose a city where we pictured ourselves living forever, a city to love and put down roots. It was bittersweet leaving because we loved the city and people and were also excited about returning to Southern California with its amazing weather and beaches.

Dave had a work trip in Austin and the kids and I got to tag along. We loved visiting some of our favorite places, people and restaurants and seeing some new sights. One of the new places we visited was the Austin Public Library downtown which was everything we could have wanted in a library, a dream public library! It is beautifully designed with multiple levels, an awesome kids area with lots of board games, rooftop gardens, and amazing outdoor reading patios.

We also checked out the Austin Nature and Science Center and our most favorite restaurant in Austin, Terry Black’s BBQ.

Best brisket ever! ^

More of our Austin favorites highlighted here

 

Delicious Fool Proof Chocolate Bundt Cake

I’ve never described myself as a ‘baker’ but I would definitely describe myself as an ‘eater’. Last year, I found a chocolate bundt cake described as ‘fool proof’, this was intriguing to me as a novice baker and someone who loves chocolate cake. It’s now my favorite chocolate cake recipe and great news, it’s actually simple to follow the recipe and make! I’ve made it a few times since I first tasted it at my friend’s house. The recipe is from A Bountiful Kitchen.¬†

foolproof chocolate bundt cake easy recipe

foolproof chocolate bundt cake easy recipe

click image for recipe ^

Affordable and accessible beauty products I love

Here are some beauty products I’m loving lately! I love that they’re affordable, easy to find (like in basically drug store, Target, etc) and effective.

affordable and accessible beauty products

1. Gold Bond Ultimate Radiance Renewal lotionwith cocoa butter ($8)- smells good, applies well and doesn’t leave stickiness or residue, very moisturizing.

2. Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer, SPF 15($15) – I love that it’s both a moisturizer and a light sunscreen. I’ve been hesitant about these combos because I was worried the sunscreen would feel sticky and heavy. I’ve found with this one that it works well as both and feels light.

3. Batiste Dry Shampoo ($12) – with dry shampoo I look for: how well it works to absorb grease/oil, how well in blends and absorbs into hair (doesn’t leave any color), scent and price. I get this Batiste brand at Target and I’ve seen it also at Walgreens. They have a variety of scents and I like this tropical coconut scent.

4. Rimmel Lash Accelerator Serum– effectively makes your lashes longer and fuller for under $8!

Teaching English online: VIPKID

Last fall, I started teaching English online with VIPKID (this is partially the reason this blog was neglected for a few months!) If you’ve ever job searched online, you’ve seen postings for online English teachers. There are quite a few companies and I kind of always thought they were scams. A friend in our ward has been with VIPKID for a few years and assured me it’s not a scam and now that I’m a teacher with them I can also assure you it’s a legit and great way to earn extra income.

My favorite thing about it is the flexibility! There’s not a minimum of required hours or classes so I set my schedule. I open my time slots between 8:30-11 pm after the kids go to sleep. I still play soccer on Thursdays and Fridays so if I have a late game, I can adjust my schedule.

I also love teaching the kids. I work with the older kids, they are usually between 8-12. Most all of them take English in school and have been studying for a few years so they have a good background. Most all the kids I’ve taught have been excited about learning and are well behaved.

Things to know about getting hired at VIPKID:

-You need a Bachelor’s degree

-You need to be eligible to work in the US or Canada

-You need at least a year of previous teaching experience (not necessarily teaching English. It can be tutoring, coaching, etc)

-You need to be a native English speaker

-You need a computer, internet access, working camera and microphone (I use this headset)

Things to know about working with VIPKID:

-Each class is 25 minutes long, one on one with the student.

All the lessons are prepared for you! There are about 25-30 slides you go through with the student. All the slides have instructions that only the teacher sees.

-After each class, you write feedback.

-You are paid a base pay, plus a base for each completed class. There are more incentives as well. My base pay is $8 per class. The base pays range between $7-$9 per class. The base pay is determined by your trial class during the application. Teachers are paid every month.

-Part of the application process is teaching a trial demo class (to a VIPKID teacher acting as a student or film yourself teaching an invisible student).

-VIPKID has a mobile and desktop app which make it easy to check your schedule, see information about the student and preview the lesson.

-During the lessons, there is always tech support who they call Firemen. They are always available to help with technical issues (for example your microphone, camera, if the student can’t hear you, etc).

-VIPKID utilizes “TPR” which means ‘total physical response’. This method uses hand gestures in coordination with language teaching. A simple example, is pointing to your eye while saying the word ‘see’.

-Students earn rewards (5 stars) and teacher use reward systems they create, here’s one example of one I’ve made:

-Lessons are not guaranteed. You may go a while when you’re first hired with open time slots and no booked lessons. It took me about 2 months before I started getting regular and more consistent bookings.

Teaching English online VIPKID

The Bottom Line:

If you meet all the requirements, enjoy teaching and working with kids and need a flexible schedule, VIPKID is for you! It’s not enough income to pay a mortgage but it’s a great wage especially since there’s no lesson prep on your part.

I’ve tried to address all the questions I had when I was applying and when I first started teaching. Overall, VIPKID is a great program with awesome students! It’s been a great way for me to make a little income, connect with students and not have to leave my house or kids since they are asleep when I’m teaching. If you’re interested in applying, start here!

My referral code is ‘JENNI1230’ or you can click any of the links above.

The Broad Museum: cool things in LA

The Broad Museum has one of the coolest exhibits I’ve ever been to: the Infinity Mirror Room!

You walk (and stay) on a little platform and feel like you’re floating with how the lights are arranged! It’s hard to judge the depth of the room, it was a breathtaking experience!

This museum is extra awesome because it’s free. There are special exhibits that charge admission but the infinity mirror room is also free. We reserved an admission time slot online for the museum. Once you enter, you can put your name on the list for the mirror room. The museum will send you a text once your time slot is ready. Each party gets about 45 seconds in the mirror room. We waited about 2 and a half hours for the mirror room, in that time we looked at the rest of the museum which is also awesome and took an uber to lunch so we didn’t have to pay twice to enter the parking garage. The Broad isn’t huge, just one large building, you could definitely see everything in half a day.

 

Our other favorite museum is the LA Country Art Museum (LACMA) 

The Golden State

This Winter we’ve been so lucky to experience a huge wildflower bloom right in our backyard! Chino Hills has tons of hiking/walking trails and the Chino Hills State Park. After a very wet and beautiful winter, the rolling hills turned a vibrant green and a few weeks later glowed completely golden! Every turn and hill was so breathtaking, especially since the hills are usually kinda dry and sometimes barren.

Magical Muggles

Earlier this year, we started reading the illustrated Harry Potter books with the kids. We weren’t sure how it would go since the books are pretty long and there aren’t pictures on every single page (the illustrations are gorgeous though!) We read about 15 minutes every night before they go to bed and it quickly became one of our favorite activities. I remember when I first read the Harry Potter books and becoming absorbed in JK Rowling’s story telling. I loved the adventures, characters and mostly the magical elements. When the final book of the series came out (after Dave and I were married) we ordered it same day from Amazon. I stayed up literally all night to finish the book that day because I couldn’t put it down!

Reading it with Brent and Tessa has been a magical experience for us now. I love seeing them discover the characters and story much in the same way I did. Brent’s school does “Literature Day” in place of Halloween where students dress as a character from a book and bring the book with them to the school parade. This year, it was pretty easy to decide which character he would be, and I must say he was the cutest Harry Potter ūüėČ

It’s also been fun watching the movies with them after finishing the book. We are currently on the 3rd book and it’s been a treat for them to be able to see the movie and eat popcorn.

We also went to Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Dave and I had gone before and loved it and now that the kids know more about the places, it was so fun to see them experience it for the first time! I especially loved that Brent asked if he could wear his costume to the park!  

They loved the butterbeer drink at the Three Broomsticks restaurant, riding the Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster and Brent loved seeing the castle (part of the line to the ride inside). One of the best parts about being a parent is seeing your kids’ excitement and pure joy when they see or discover things for the first time!

Buy 1, Give 1

It’s that time of year where temperatures start to dip in most of the country, except Southern California where in Chino Hills it was like 85 degrees today! I’m kicking off the annual Buy 1, Give 1 where the purchase of a hand-knit infinity scarf provides another hand-knit scarf donated to a homeless of refugee shelter. In the past I’ve chosen homeless shelters in Utah and Virginia and a refugee shelter in Texas. This year, we are planning on visiting Dave’s family in Salt Lake City so I will probably give the donations to the Road Home again.

buy 1 give 1 infinity scarves charity homeless refugee shelters

buy 1 give 1 infinity scarves charity homeless refugee shelters

Scarves are a wool blend and come in basically any color! They are $31, you can purchase here in my Etsy shop or you can always contact me.

Thank you so much for your support!

buy 1 give 1 infinity scarves charity homeless refugee shelters

Travel Essentials

When people ask where I would like to travel in the world, my answer is literally every country. It would be my dream to see every country even just for a day and experience the local, traditional cuisine. Here are some of my favorite travel items I would take for a trip around the world:

travel essentials

  1. Trtl Travel Pillow¬†($29) – this travel pillow is different from traditional pillows in that you wrap it around your neck (like a turtleneck). It has velcro to hold it closed and a piece of flexible plastic that prevents your head from flopping. I like that the material is soft fleece and keeps you warm since usually it’s cold on planes. It folds almost all the way flat which makes it easy to pack. I felt like it was really effective in preventing my neck from flopping, I slept comfortably on my trip to England. Here’s how it works:¬†trtl travel pillow instructions

2) Lightweight Water Resistant Travel Backpack/Foldable & Packable ($19) Рthis particular backpack folds up into a small pouch which is kinda awesome!

3) Hydro Flask ($22)

4) Lightweight waterproof jacket ($89)

5)¬†Hunter Rain Boots¬†($150) – I’ve had these for almost 10 years and while I don’t wear them everyday, they’ve been so reliable and comfortable for walking.

6) Earplugs Рso great for planes, hostels, shared hotel rooms, etc.

7)¬†Sleep Aid (generic brand)¬†– I use these to prevent jet lag. I’ll time my time on the plane and take the sleep aid about an hour before I want to sleep. This helps me sleep well on a long flight and wake up feeling refreshed even with an 8 hour time difference upon arrival.

8) Chaco sandals (around $60) Рthese are so comfortable and great for hiking, in water, etc.

9)Waterproof phone pouch ($6) РI first got this pouch for a river tubing trip. I ended up falling off my tube and being totally submerged in the water and my phone was protected. There are lots of similar cell phone pouches out there and I also love them for the beach.

10)¬†Solar phone charger¬†($40) – I don’t have one of these yet, but really want one not only for travel but for emergencies. I included this particular one just based off online reviews.