Totally Tardy to the Podcast Party

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I was totally tardy to the Podcast Party. I’ve been hearing people talking about Podcasts for over a decade but I didn’t understand the allure. Was it like talk radio? Was it like books on tape? I didn’t get it.

Two years ago all any of my friends were talking about was the podcast Serial. I was told I HAD to check it out so I did. Serial became the first podcast series I downloaded and listened to and I was hooked! I remember laying on my couch with a cozy blanket with the fireplace on and a warm cup of tea in my hands listening to the podcast and being lost in the story of Adnan.

I became intrigued by Podcasts and began to wonder what else I was missing. The next podcast I began to subscribe to was KCRW’s Orange County Line in which they interview OC Weekly’s editor Gustavo Arellano about different topics of interest to Orange County. This podcast is only about 4 minutes long so it wasn’t satiating my need for information on all things Orange County so I also subscribed to OC Weekly‘s own podcast OC Speakly and soon after that The City Square too.

Keeping with the Orange County theme, the next blog I discovered was Reality Life with Kate Casey. I learned about this one after bumping into an Instagram post in which Kate Casey was spoofing a celebrity photo. It turned out she does a series of these photos and while these are funny they aren’t the best thing about her Instagram account. The best part in my opinion, and what got me to click “follow” is the series of posts about her daughter in which she uses the hashtag #gives30percent.  These are my favorite and make my heart smile because I love quirky kids who march to the beat of their own drum. When I told a friend of mine about these hilarious posts she informed me that she was familiar with Kate because Kate has a blog called LoveandKnuckles in which she recaps reality TV shows and she also told me about Kate’s podcast in which she talks to her friends about reality TV shows and even interviews reality TV stars.

Yesterday, a friend and I drove down to San Diego to visit another friend who told us to listen to episode one of S Town on our drive back to Orange County. We tried, but instead of captivating me like Serial did, I was left wondering WTF? I don’t think I’ll be listening to the rest of this series unless one of you convinces me otherwise.

The number of podcasts I subscribe to has increased to six. The next podcast I will be checking out is Potterless which I just read about on Desperately Seeking Lifestyle.

What podcasts do you listen to? Got any recommendations for me?

 

When Barcelona Beckons…

We arrived in Barcelona by train. Our hotel was in the Poble Nou region of town which to me seemed to be a little off the beaten path, but I’m so glad we booked there because the view from our penthouse view of the city with it’s backdrop mountains and the Sagrada Familia jutting out in the center of all the buildings was outstanding. The room across from ours, my father’s room had ocean views so we had the best of both worlds.  Stepping out the front door of this hotel we could walk straight down one walk street past shops and restaurants to the beach.

Barca Map

My father currently lives in a landlocked country and having lived in coastal locations for the majority of his life I always love seeing his reactions to being near the sea. I loved the beach scene in Barcelona, especially in the Barcelonetta area. People were out and about, walking, biking, laying out and enjoying life. It reminded me of the years I spent living a block from the beach in Hermosa Beach. The MareMagnum area sort of reminded me of the Redondo Beach Pier but what much nicer. What Barcelona had that we don’t out in California was the historical buildings the Las Ramblas spilling over with tourists and the gigantic yachts docked in the marina.

My biggest regret while we were in Barcelona was saving our visit to the Mercat de la Boqueria for the day after Easter and not realizing that it would be closed. I was quite bummed about missing out on that. We also royally messed up by not going inside the Sagrada Familia, not going inside the Gaudi buildings we walked past, not visiting Park Guell or any museums. Our time in Barcelona was so short that we concentrated on seeing as much as we could and soaking up as much as we could without spending too much time on any one thing.

 

On our Iberia flight back home I watched another Spanish Language film. This one was called “Tengo Ganas De Ti” about a guy coming back to Barcelona after having been away in London. He meets a girl and falls in love with her, but then runs into his former love he went to London to get away from.  I really loved this movie and came to learn that it was a sequel to another film called “3 Metros Sobre El Cielo” which was about the same guy and his first love. I haven’t watched the prequel yet but it’s on my list.

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Madrid – Best Thing I Ate

I can’t stop thinking about the food we ate in Spain.

When I talk to people about our trip and broach the topic of food, I feel compelled to tell people about the best thing I ate. I’ve gotten asked if it was the suckling pig at Botin. No! I didn’t find it fitting to eat anything that was still suckling when it was killed for my consumption.  I was asked if the best thing I ate were the churros con chocolate from San Gines. While the churros and chocolate were good, they didn’t change my life. I also got asked a lot about the Jamon. I think people just enjoy saying Jamon because they get to pronounce it as Ha-moan. Jamon is great, there’s no disputing it, but I only ate it in places where I didn’t have to see the pig thigh being shaved in front of my face.

Oddly enough the best thing I ate was Pan con Tomate. I would have never guessed that I’d enjoy a piece of bread with squished tomato smeared on it. Perhaps I liked it because I was abstaining from bread and tomato for the 2 months leading up to this trip?

Pan con Tomate is a traditional Catalan breakfast so I would have assumed we would have happened upon it in Barcelona, but we kept bumping into it in Madrid. I’m not complaining.

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Image from Spoonwithme.com

It still astounds me how something so simple managed to rock my world. Five basic ingredients:bread, olive oil, tomato, salt and garlic that’s all it is. If I could physically afford to eat bread every day without starting to resemble the Michelin man, this dish would be a staple in my daily diet.

Although pan con tomate was the best thing I ate in Madrid, bigtime props and an honorable mention also have to go out to Patatas Bravas!

Exploring Madrid

It was a random weeknight in November, I was at home and grabbed my phone which was on silent and noticed a friend had called, left a voicemail and texted. I began to think something was wrong. Wondering where the fire was, I called him back to discover he wanted to let me know about discounted airfare to Spain he found on SkyScanner. He had booked a trip, his sister was booking a trip and within minutes we were booking a trip & so was my father!

Four long months later, my husband and I took a nonstop Iberia Airlines flight from LAX to Madrid. It was easily one of the best flights I’ve been on. The staff seemed like they actually enjoyed their jobs, the food was good, the seats were comfortable and the in flight entertainment well,… it kept me entertained. I don’t go to movie theatres on land because I don’t want to get shot or get in a fight with someone who is chewing their popcorn super loudly so I use my time on flights wisely trying to catch up on movies. On this flight I watched “Sing” about cartoon animals trying out for a talent show, “La La Land” which in my opinion didn’t deserve the real or fake awards it got, and a hilarious Spanish Language Film titled “Villaviciosa De Al Lado”. I found it amusing that this movie was based on actual events considering it was about a winning lottery ticket sold at a brothel and so the men who went in on the ticket couldn’t claim their winnings without outing themselves as brothel visiting Johns.

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When we arrived at the Madrid airport we took an Uber to our hotel. Yes! There is Uber in Madrid. Locating the unmarked Uber pick up area outside the terminal was an adventure that made me feel like we were on the Amazing Race, but we figured it out. In Madrid you can request an Uber One which is a bit pricier but gets you a Tesla Model S with a fancy driver dressed up in a suit!

The first hotel I had booked was the NH Madrid Ribera del Manzanares in Arganzuela. I booked this hotel because I wanted our first few days to be in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood away from the bustling and loud city center. Although this hotel was within walking distance to a lot of attractions it’s considered to be away from the city center so price wise you can get more bang you get for your buck!

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This hotels was beautiful. The lobby was spacious, the rooms were large by European standards, the beds were super comfortable, our windows opened so we could get fresh air and hear the birds. I really enjoyed staying at this hotel. I also have to give a special shout out to the staff here. I had to change booking details prior to our arrival and they had no problem accommodating my request over email and sending me a confirmation. We also forgot an item in the room which with a simple email they were able to recover and hold for us. The Vicente Calderón football stadium was a 5 minute walk away and we were able to walk to the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, San Miguel Market and even to La Latina from our hotel too. We also had the added benefit of being among the locals and having our morning lattes in cafes void of tourists.

Our trip to Spain happened to be during Semana Santa, the Holy Week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Our first day in Madrid was Jueves Santo (Maundy Thursday). A lot of streets were blocked for different religious processions during which a few different saints are brought out of churches and carried around town to the beat of drums. It seemed like all the locals were out and about or watching out of their balconies and windows. The sight of these processions reminded me of a hilarious scene in the movie I watched on the airplane where one of the guys in the procession kept farting. If you’re lucky you’ll see a procession that looks like this.

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If you’re not so lucky, you may run into a procession that looks more like this.

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I’m not quite sure why I found these KKK-esque costumes so jarring considering I’m Armenian and my holy people dress like this.

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After a few days in our quiet hotel we moved to another hotel in the City Center right off the Gran Via. This place wasn’t nearly as nice as the first, yet it cost the same. We spent our days in Madrid walking around the city, taking siestas, visiting Plazas, drinking beer and sangria, admiring shop windows, dinning al fresco, listening to street artists playing Spanish guitar, observing the locals dressed in their football jerseys going to the stadium and local bars to watch their teams, and just absorbing as much of Madrid as we could.

Madrid Plaza

Madrid Langos
Fidel y Fernanda died in vain. We didn’t order them nor did we eat them.

 

 

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I really loved Madrid much more than I thought I would. I wish we had planned to have 2 more days in Madrid. There were still so many places I wanted to visit. My biggest regret was not visiting the Temple of Debod considering we sat in the entrance of the park it’s in after visiting Plaza de Espana!

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I didn’t want our time in Madrid to end. However, what softened the blow was that we were BARCELONA bound!

 

Business In The Bay With Some Built In Play

Last week, I flew up to the Bay area for a business trip. After wrapping up the business portion of my trip, I took a ride into the City to check into the Grand Hyatt near Union Square where I would be meeting a friend who was flying in to meet me for a weekend of leisure.

My favorite part of the trip was the half hour I spent in the Grand Hyatt’s lobby waiting for my friend to arrive so we can check-in together. It was such a warm and relaxing space near a fire place with the cool rainy weather outside. It gave me some time to myself which I used to catch up with reading blog I follow. It was kind of cool to see that two bloggers who I follow were sharing posts about their recent trips to SF.

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Right as my friend arrived, the rain stopped. We decided to go out and grab a late lunch and begin our explorations. We walked over to 398 Brasserie which was the perfect spot for us. Next, we took another Lyft ride down to the Embarcadero to the Exploratorium. I’ll admit. I was very apprehensive about this activity because it had been a rainy day and I was sure there were going to be a lot of children there. My wish was to visit the Exploratorium during the “After Dark” program where the museum opens after hours for adults only with libations but in the end we had a great time despite the presence of OPC (Other people’s children). If you’re ever in SF and visit the Exploratorium, try the cold brew coffee in their cafe. It really was the best cold brew I’ve had in a while. I couldn’t stop announcing over and over that it was the best cold brew coffee I had ever had. Our next stop was the Ferry Building stopping along the way to take silly selfies with the Bay Bridge, Coit tower and the Trans America building as our backdrops. After a quick stroll through the Ferry Building we returned to our hotel to prepare for dinner.

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We decided to go to Cockscomb in SoMa for dinner. We had an off putting interaction with the young hostess which made me really want to dislike this place. However, our waitress was excellent and our food so delicious that I had to adjust my attitude and not let one run in with a negative sourpuss ruin our evening. After our meal we hopped over to The View which I think will be the one place I recommend to anyone who ever visits San Francisco. The views of the city from up there are the best I’ve seen. It’s located on the top floor of the Marriott Marquis. This has got to be one of the largest hotels in SF. Not only was the lobby bustling, but so was The View lounge. Perhaps the key is to get there early. We got there around 9pm on a Saturday night. After a quick lap around we found seats and got to enjoy the views, but l would like to return during daylight savings when the sun sets around 5pm and enjoy the sunset views. Our next stop was the Starlight Room to see what the views were like from up there, but after you’ve seen what The View has to offer the look and feel and views from the Starlight Room were a tad underwhelming.

On Saturday morning, we walked over to The Pineapple Bistro inside The Alise. I love all things Pineapple so this was a no brainer breakfast stop. I loved the look and feel of the lobby of the Alise with its gold undertones. The food and pineapple themes cocktails we had were outstanding and our server was so friendly I wanted to befriend her and hang out with her all day. This hotel and the Pineapple hospitality group officially won my heart. Just look at some parts of their philosophy. I’ve underlined all the things I love.

We’re unscripted, unassuming, and are under the impression that saying please and thank you the good old fashioned way isn’t a novel idea.

Corporate and stuffy have no place here. Unique and real do.

And where others are continental breakfast. WE’RE CUPCAKES AND POPCORN. 

They’re literally about cupcakes! Guests are offered pineapple cupcakes and coffee daily. Um.. sign me up! They pride themselves on their oversized towels, which I appreciate since the ones I’ve come across lately at hotels resemble table runners and aren’t big enough to wrap around myself. They offer fuzzy slippers that you get to take home which my husband would love! They have complimentary water, valet parking, umbrellas, earth friendly housekeeping and a smoke free environment. As if all this wasn’t enough to earn my business, they’re pet friendly and offer complimentary bicycles to ride around town!

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Image from The Alise’s website

Our next stop was the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate park. Once we stepped inside I remembered that I had been there before, however after going to the butterfly section I told my friend that this was the best $8 I had spent all weekend. I could have stayed in that butterfly room all day watching the butterflies. I told 2 of the employees tending to the needs of the butterflies that they had the best jobs in the world.

After walking through the park a bit & visiting the De Young museum gift shop (not the museum, just the gift shop…) we caught a ride down to the Warming Hut in the Presidio where we grabbed warming beverages and enjoyed the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was almost hard to believe that a mere 24 hours it had been raining like crazy. The weather was so crisp that although our feet hurt we took a long walk towards the Palace of the Fine arts while enjoying views of Alcatraz, the city skyline, and all the sail boats that were out in the water.

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After the meandering walk, we had an long lunch in the Mission at Foreign Cinema. Again, we didn’t know what to expect but the service and food impressed us. After being out and about and walking so much I needed to get myself back to the hotel to shower and rest before our evening activities so I did that while my friend went out for some coffee/shopping. That night we were in the mood for a steak dinner with a view so after a quick Yelp consult we were off to Leatherneck Steakhouse and Lounge located on the top floor of the Marine’s Memorial Club . The Marine’s Memorial Club is really worth a mention. It’s a hotel, a club, a theater, a foundation, a venue, a living memorial, a throwback to servicemen and wars that were. It really was an odd yet unique place. We shared an elevator with a large group of senior citizens all heading to the second floor theater and our way out I spotted a poster announcing that in April Vicente Fox the former President of Mexico would be speaking at the Marine’s Memorial Club. How awesome is that? The steakhouse itself was superb and the views were better than those at the Starlight Room. I wonder if many people know about this little gem?!?! Being in the theater district naturally our next stop was the Library Bar at The Rex where right after we grabbed drinks from the bar and took our seats, a cabaret show let out and the crowd that filled the bar was pure people watching GOLD.

As always, I enjoyed my time in the Bay area immensely and wished I had a couple more days to enjoy the sights and sounds of San Francisco and the surrounding cities, but alas… until next time City by the Bay…..

 

 

A Day Without A Bra

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and women were encouraged to stay home, not go to work, not shop and spend money unless it was at a small business owned by another woman in an effort to create “A Day Without a Woman”. I’m all for this and fully grateful to the entire women’s liberation movement of the 60’s and 70’s but I’ve been waiting patiently for another type of liberation movement.

I say it’s time to liberate our boobs! I call for a “Day Without a Bra”! Let’s bring back the burning of the bras and torch these torturous devices that incarcerate our breasts on a daily basis. Down with the boob jails! It’s time to emancipate our breasts!

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Supposedly, bras came to be in the 14th century when somebody, decided that although the human body naturally allows for these fleshy mounds to hang and sag, they all of a sudden needed to be elevated and therefore things like bras and corsets were created to push them up. Women were relegated to spending thousands of dollars to buy bras to hoist their breasts up. Others spend even more to get surgeries to elevate their breast game. WHY? WHY did we let people tell us where we should situate our boobs? If they were meant to be up “there” wouldn’t they naturally be up there???? That’s like deciding eyelids shouldn’t droop down over our eyeballs and creating an unnecessary device to prop them up. What about testicles? Why aren’t we trying to relocate those? Balls could use bras too.

Here’s another question. Whose bright idea it was was to slip metal WIRE into the underside of the brassiere? I have a permanent scar in the spot where the wire always inevitably ends up poking out of the fabric and stabbing me. Don’t even get me started on SPORTS BRAS! Sports bras take things to a different level. Every sports bra I have ever tried on crushes my rib cage. I don’t know what my ribs ever did to deserve that!

I’m sure a lot of women would agree with me that one of the BEST feelings in the world is coming home after a long day and ripping off our bras. Could you just imagine if we could have that feeling ALL DAY LONG? We could. If only we all decided in unison that we were going to burn every single bra we owned.

I know this is just a pipe dream and most likely would never happen, so I’m changing my plea to see if we could at least design and create a new type of brassiere that not only lifts our boobs but also does something productive with our back fat?

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Racism is not defunct

When I moved from Los Angeles County to Orange County I wasn’t sure what I would find behind the “Orange Curtain”, but I’ve seen a lot of diversity and I live in a “blue” city. I could almost say that perhaps the tides have changed because for the first time in OC’s history in this past election this “red” county voted “blue”, but racism is not defunct here quite yet.

I’m home today because my place of employment give us two Monday’s off in February to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and George Washington’s birthday. They do this to justify not giving us a day off in January to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. day. The unions have tried many times to get management to change this not because of the racial implications but because it’s bad business but management won’t budge because of the racial implications so I feel it’s safe to say that I work for a racist agency.

We kick off our budget season the last week of January and need to have our budget submissions in by the end of February. Giving people two back to back Monday’s (February 13th and February 20th) off  essentially renders the month of February useless.  Almost every employee at our agency works a 9/80 or 4/10 schedule so when you give people that many Friday’s and Monday’s off they schedule vacations. Therefore from February 10th to the 27th  it’s impossible to schedule meetings or get things done because of the sheer number of people on vacation. From a business standpoint this makes no sense, but then again God forbid the unions get their way or this racist agency honors MLK.

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To make this day count, I spent my morning drinking my London Fog, listening to Annie Lennox’s cover of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” from the Serendipity soundtrack, correcting the spelling errors of DeVos supporters on Facebook, making online donations to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and doing my Hear Our Voice postcards that I got Saturday morning when I attended my first Huddle Up meeting. I’m so glad I attended this meeting. It was inspiring to be surrounded by both males and females of all ages who were both Republican and Democrat who were all simply sick of the bullshit and ready to take back our country. I have to say that it was the most patriotic and empowered I’ve ever felt. I’m looking forward to all the great work these Huddle Up groups will be accomplishing.

Ready to Speak Up Again

I’ve been silent. More so than I normally tend to be. I couldn’t see the point in trying anymore. Things are out of control and it doesn’t feel like we have the power to change what’s going on. What we want and think doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

Here in California people are busy talking about the drought and legalization of Marijuana but one of the biggest issues our State is dealing with is a massive housing crisis. There is a lack of affordable housing and a growing epidemic of homelessness. In 2012 I worked for the City of Santa Monica. We had the Housing Authority and the Affordable Housing Department. We had a Redevelopment Agency and an entire team dedicated to working with non-profit agencies to build affordable housing units. All of a sudden, overnight Governor Brown ordered Redevelopment Agencies to be dissolved. People lost their jobs, projects lost their funding and the production of affordable housing units for the low-income, homeless, the vets and the disabled slowed down almost to a halt.

Here we are four years later and homelessness is running rampant up and down the State. Here in Orange County the homeless who were living in our Civic Center were relocated to an abandoned bus depot and  homeless people living in tent cities along our river bed are being harassed and told to move. I don’t understand where these people are expected to go. We don’t have enough shelters to house them.

This problem isn’t unique to Orange County. I caught this article  in the Los Angeles Times yesterday about the latest homeless sweeps in Los Angeles.  Over a decade ago, Los Angeles International Airport began buying up the homes in Manchester Square. Manchester Square is a housing tract near LAX. Over the years the area became a sort of ghost town save for the few holdouts. Today, the area is a hotbed for homeless people in LA.

After reading that article I bumped into this other article and it moved me to tears. I’m grateful to the two journalists who took the time to highlight the plight of the sick children in our foster care system and for also turning up the volume on how selflessly this Muslim man cares for this country’s most sick & downtrodden. At a time when a lot of people’s anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric are deafening it’s important to remind the masses that this country is what it is because of ALL of the people who live here.

This story of Mohamed reminded me of the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty. The first immigrants to come this country came to find religious freedom and a better life and WILL ALWAYS BE THAT COUNTRY  despite the efforts of this unfortunately divisive, hateful and racist President. This man’s Presidency will be a blip in this Country’s history.

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Immigrants have been coming to this country for hundreds of years to build a new life for themselves and some of them, like Mohamed have gone on to become stand up citizens who embody the sentiments of Lazarus’ poem while entitled people like this President, who were born here, have built their personal wealth by denying people of race housing, by not paying their fair share of taxes, by not paying their employees fair wages, by employing immigrants and paying them under the table, by selling products that were not made in America with their names plastered all over them, by swindling students out of tuition funds and by not being philanthropic.

It was like the universe was talking to me yesterday, because I also spotted this quote in a magazine and it SLAPPED me the face!

“Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” – Civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson

As a Libra, I find it challenging to stay quiet when my scales of justice are not in balance, but for 3.5 months I have stayed quiet. I have let myself lose hope, but after being woken up by the universe yesterday I’m ready to speak up again! I will MAKE people listen, I will be a change agent. I will do my part to not let an ignorant white man take down the country that immigrants like my grandparents and parents have built. This week I’ll be attending the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club meeting and I will join a Women’s March Huddle in my neighborhood as part of the 10 Actions for the First 100 Days campaign.

I will follow Dylan’s advice and I will not go gently into the night and I will rage against the dying of this country’s light!

 

A Winning Objective News Source

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Tadahiro Uesugi

When and where do you get your daily news fix? Is it biased? Is it neutral?

Over the years, I’ve realized I can’t rely on television to give me my news. I don’t tune into anything consistently. I do occasionally tune into 60 minutes or Sunday morning, but I can’t stand CNN, Fox News or any other shows that have correspondents and anchors that shout and debate. I don’t care about what “they” think… I just want news with so spin or #alternativefacts.

The Week  magazine has been my loyal companion for years and I’ve relied on this nifty weekly publication to keep me up to date on what was going on with the world, but over time I realized it was taking me all week to actually get through reading the entire issue and by then the news was stale. I needed a quicker way to get informed.

My main source of information used to be the first 10 minutes of NPR‘s Morning Edition on KCRW during my morning commute, but when I switched my job, I also altered my morning routine and couldn’t get my usual 10 minute morning news fix.

I decided to give The Skimm a try. It’s an email that’s already in my inbox when I wake up. If I’m up early enough to drink my coffee at home, I pull up the email and have a quick read, but most of the time I read it after getting to work. I takes me only 2-3 minutes to read the entire email which even beats the 10 minutes I used to devote to listening to Morning Edition. Did I mention the emails are only delivered Monday – Friday and the subscription is FREE? The Skimm is my current crush. It’s funny, the writers use a sprinkle of humor and keep the information they provide void of their personal political persuasions.

If you’re looking for an efficient and effective way to get informed give The Skimm a try!

What news sources are you a fan of?