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New Year’s Day 2012 I took a trip out to Pasadena’s Rose Bowl to help with the Donate Life float for the Rose Parade, which was on Jan 2nd this year. Donate Life is an amazing organization that raises awareness so we stick that pink dot onto our driver’s license, to help save lives by being an organ donor. My dad was a kidney recipient, so this organization rings very close to my heart.

This is the beautiful finished float. The folks sitting on it are the stars of the show…family members of donors from 2011. The stories I heard yesterday were so moving, and I broke into tears numerous times. One woman’s 9-year old daughter had gone to the hospital for an ear infection. The hospital misdiagnosed and mistreated her (not uncommon), and she died. Her mom was proud to share how her daughter lives on in others, literally, and that her daughter has saved many lives by being a donor. You can see the portraits of each donor on 6 clock faces, a total of 72 donors are honored.

My good friend Vicky is a ‘red jacket’ and one of the team leaders on this huge project. She’s been here working on the float for weeks from early morning until 11pm. A huge undertaking, whew.

We are all misting the flowers with water before the float is moved outdoors for judging. It was gorgeous in Pasadena, 80 degrees!

Everything on all of the floats in the Rose Parade are all organic! This means only living materials like flowers, leaves, seeds,…all put on by hand.

Look at this detail….mustard seeds painstakingly glued onto the surface. Wow.

Beans and flower petals have all been attached by hand.

This is the bed of roses underneath the clock with the moving hands at the front of the float.

Look closely and you can see each of these red roses has a wish tied onto them.

When the float moved outside into the sun, all the colors popped so brightly! You can see the driver of the float inside the open door. The driver can’t see a thing, and is guided by audio by someone outside the float.

At one point, everyone held hands in a circle around the float. It was very moving. And even the judges teared up and cried when they talked with the donor families and heard all the incredible stories. Today, I discovered (since I don’t have a TV to watch the parade myself) that our float won one of the top 3 trophies and the craftsmanship award for outstanding showmanship and dramatic impact over 55 feet! Yeah! I also heard that floats cost about a half a million dollars to build! Great exposure and for a wonderful cause.

This was one of the best, most memorable New Year Day’s of my life. What a way to spend the 1st day of the new year. Plus, I felt like it was in honor too of my dad, who was so very blessed to have had a kidney transplant, which helped extended his life another 10 or 12 years. I learned that a liver lives for 100 years, so even after someone passes from old age, a liver can be donated to help another person live. Amazing.

I’ve chosen to be an organ donor for as long as I can remember, and I hope you will also consider joining me in helping save lives so someone else may live one more day! For more information check out Donate Life.

 

 

 

 

This was the beautiful view of the rose gardens as we arrived at the NetKal Gala event….. gathering of Asian Americans in entertainment.

Styled by my favorite fashion designer Linda Loudermilk of all time, plus…she’s all about luxury eco! Makeup and hair by the best artist ever, Dorit Genazzani.

The beautiful Lisa Ling (Oprah Winfrey Network, Our America) and her husband Dr. Paul Song.

Bryan Tee from Fast and the Furious. I can count all of 2 Asian actors in film. At least they’re representing! Yeah.

From the TV show Dexter, actor C.S. Lee. Okay, this makes 2 Asian actors…one TV, one film, so far. I can think of one more Asian male from TV. Hopefully, you can too.

The NetKal Gala was held at USC at the Annenberg Center.

The event was catered by my friends at Good Gracious Catering. I met Pauline and Joanne at Sunset Magazine’s annual Celebration weekend event last spring, where I was invited along with Chef Rick Bayless (Frontera), Candace Nelson (Sprinkles), and Govind Armstrong (8oz Burger). So impressive they included vegan raw along side these TV celebrities.

The food was presented beautifully. And, my friends hooked me up with a vegan meal, of course!

Check out this space, there was a pool and water fountain in the center. It was cold that night though. The ladies were all freezing in their cocktail dresses. I had my coat on for dinner. Dinner was accompanied by performances by 3 Korean pop stars. Sort of made me giggle. USA and Korea entertainment is very different. An incredible event. And great conference the following day with discussions and inspiration for ways to encourage more diversity in the media. Some said it’ll take a few years. I’m not holding my breath though….

Thank you Nathan Nowack for these gorgeous photos. Please visit Nathan Nowack for more photos from this event.

 

To celebrate completing my book, I spent the day on my bicycle. Rode it about 25 miles to and from the ocean, and I was stoked the sun finally came out…even in Santa Monica (which seems to always be overcast, foggy, and cold compared to West Hollywood). While I was in Santa Monica, I stopped at the beach by the pier, where there’s an adult playground with ropes to climb, balance beams, parallel bars, and a row of rings to swing on.

Since I’m a monkey (Chinese year of the Monkey) I was drawn to the rings. It looked hard, but it really doesn’t take strength, but rather, finesse. You just have to get enough momentum, rocking back and forth, to swing and grab the next ring. That said, my hands were killing me, and I was on the kiddie set of rings! The adult set are really high up, and scary. But, perhaps I’ll give them a try next time I visit the coast.

Whenever I find myself West of the 405, which is a rarity, I make sure to stop into see Juliano at Planet Raw for his kick-ass chocolate shake….that revs up  my cycle back home. Yesterday, I enjoyed a burrito at Better Life Cuisine, and spent a couple hours catching up with Dr. Z, who owns that building.

Back in WEHO, I stopped at Beverly Juice Club for my favorite green juice shake blended with frozen banana and sunflower seeds (no added sweetener). Had hoped to get to my favorite Koreatown Sauna, but ran out of time. Instead, met my friend and his puppy at the park with Kanga, and they had a great doggie play date together. Then, met up with my brother, Max, for dinner later in the evening.

A great day it was celebrating life, love, health, sunshine, and ….with good friends and family. I’m blessed.

Labor Day marks the weekend my Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kanga, and I rescued one another….9-years ago! How time flies. (and yes, I cake sunblock on my face, as you can see).

Kanga had been at the Humane Society for over 2 weeks, and no one adopted her. Surprising, since she is a beautiful specimen of this breed. Plus, she came fully trained, so someone had spent a lot of time and energy with her. She was skin and bone, and 50+ pounds underweight with kennel cough and dusty fur. Poor baby.

Luckily, a truck intercepted 20 dogs on their way to get euthanized, and brought them back to a no-kill shelter in Portland, OR called Family Dogs NW. This was where I found Kanga early the very next morning. I applied the same raw food principles to Kanga as I do for human healing, and over the next month or two she gained 50 pounds and regained radiant health on a Raw Food diet. You can read more about her journey in Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen, where Kanga has her own dog food chapter.

My brother Max saw this photo of Kanga and said she looks like she’s “mugging”. I had to ask him what the heck that means. Max said “mugging = posing, like rappers do for pics”. Hahaa. Yup, Kanga is a superstar, and very popular too. Folks always stop us to pet her, especially young children.

Kanga’s from Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe Rhodesia, and the Sahara so she loves the sun, warmth, and sand. She hates water, but it was so hot out that Kanga got her paws wet. I love dog beach because here she can roam off-leash, and run free to play with other dogs.

Kanga and I love laying in the sand and soaking up the sun. It’s never hot enough for us, and soaking up sun is one of our favorite past times. I’m happy I got to take Kanga to Huntington Dog Beach yesterday on the final hot day of the summer (it was 90 F) to celebrate her 9-year Bday and Dogversary with me. Thank you Kanga for being my family, love, and for hanging out with me for the past 9-years! I love you.

 

My family loves to take our holiday in mid to late January in honor of Mom’s birthday, and after the holiday crowds have dispersed. This year, we found our way to the beautiful island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

When the water reaches out to the horizon with over 180 degree views, it’s super calming and breathtaking.

The palm trees are over 5 stories tall, and full of green coconuts that I can’t reach. It’s torture, especially since there’s a bunch right off my balcony. It took me several days before locating a coconut to drink. (Though, I think I like Thai coconuts better. They have a sweeter and fuller flavor.) I was surprised at how little fresh produce or raw foods were available on St Thomas. They were serving pineapple juice out of giant cans and were making smoothies using strawberry puree from a box! Thank goodness I packed most of my suitcase with fruits, sea vegetables, nuts, seeds, blue green algaes, and superfoods.

I met a lot of iguanas, they are so cute, and very mellow. Folks seem afraid of them, but they’re harmless.

All I want to do on holiday is play play play. One of my favorite pastimes is swimming in the warm ocean (the ocean in LA is much too cold for me). I’ve been enjoying the sun, lifting heavy weights, and running up mountains. I don’t recommend running here because the roads are very narrow, there’s no shoulder, no sidewalk, and people drive crazy. I don’t think you can ride a bike here either, and I haven’t seen one yet.

Forgive me for being a cheeze ball here, but I want to show off my ab muscles. I don’t remember seeing abs on myself since I was in middle or high school. I’m happy I upgraded my workouts from long, slow, distance to explosive, heavy, and intense workouts. I believe training with sprints and intense spikes in cardio is how we exist in nature since we have to quickly and suddenly run away from predators.

Since St Thomas is 4 hours ahead of LA, I haven’t seen a sunrise yet. But, the sunsets are gorgeous! Sitting on the beach under the stars and moon at night is such a treat. Thank you to my friends in Florida for telling me to avoid night swimming because that’s when sharks feed. As a raw fooder, you know I would have been out in the ocean swimming naked every night! Ha haaa.

I had the honor of leading Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals with founder Gene Baur in Santa Monica. You may remember I was invited during the summer to speak at the annual Hoe Down in Watkin’s Glenn, NY with China Study author Dr. Colin Campbell.

We kicked off the walk with talks by Gene and I. Kanga, my pooch, was happy to be a part of the Walk for Animals.

Tami Erin, who played Pipi Longstocking as a child, was our celebrity who came to show her support.

Gene, Tami, Kanga, and myself lead the walk. We covered about 3 miles north from City Hall through the 3rd street promenade. It was a beautiful sunny day, and tons of cars beeped to show their support as they were driving past.

The walk finished back at City Hall in Santa Monica, where Gene and I signed books. The lovely Jolia Allen and Moira Nordholt walked with us too. It was the largest turnout yet, with over 150 walkers.

I gave my digestion a break today by skipping solid food and drank Energy Soup (inspired by Ann Wigmore) all day. So, I decided to feed my hair instead with an Indian Head Massage.

Our climate’s dry here in Los Angeles (a dessert), and the sun’s been bright this summer, reeking havoc on my locks. My hair felt dry and my ends brittle. So, I took my bottle of organic, extra-virgin, cold pressed olive oil into the bathroom, and poured a heaping tablespoon into the palm of my hand. I massaged the oil into my scalp and hair, and worked it through to the ends. Note to self: next time, pour the oil directly onto scalp…I have a lot of hair.

Our skin is our largest organ, and you know I like to avoid putting things on my skin that I can’t drink since it absorbs into my blood stream. Well, did you know our scalp is one of the most absorbent areas of our skin? Mine drank up more than a 1/4 cup of olive oil, and was happy for the increased blood flow and circulation from the massage.

I first discovered this massage, also known as Indian Head Massage, at a spa in Portland, OR. It alleviates stress and tension, increases blood flow and circulation, and promotes hair growth. Supposedly, this treatment done in the evening before bed helps alleviate sleeping issues, so I’m hoping it will cure the insomnia I’ve been suffering from all week long.

Choose almond, coconut, sesame, and/or olive oil since they moisturize, condition our hair, stimulate hair growth, and have a neutral scent. After your massage, wash your hair, and dry. I always choose to air dry.

Try this trick:
Wash with your conditioner first, working it from roots to the ends. Rinse. Then, wash with your shampoo, again working it from roots to ends. Rinse. You won’t need to condition again. And it’s better for your hair to reverse your conditioning and shampooing. That’s how I rinsed out my olive oil.

I was in NYC last week for my television appearance on NBC at Rockefeller Center and several events celebrating my newest book Ani’s Raw Food Essentials. I love how easy it is to get around NYC without a car by walking, taking a train, bus, or subway. I miss great public transportation when living in LA. It’s also surprisingly easy to be healthy and to enjoy raw foods in NYC. I felt super lucky to be invited by the lovely Mia Andres from Organic Avenue and raw model Anthony Andersen for dinner at Pure Food and Wine.

This was my first visit to NYC in 6 years, and my first visit to Pure. I was blown away by the food! It was super fresh, beautifully plated, and really delicious. We enjoyed the S+M salad, appetizers, ravioli, lasagna, but my favorite thing ever was the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sundae! I finally got to meet the heart of Pure Food and Wine, Sarma Melngailis, who’s even more beautiful in person.


The next day, I was invited to Quintessence for lunch with my good friends Dhrumil Purohit and Philip McCluskey. Dhrumil is the amazing brainiac creator of the best raw food online community We Like it Raw, which Philip is now a part of too. These two are a real RAWkstar power team….handsome, young, super talented, and doing positive things in our world.

I had been to Quintessence my last visit to NYC 6 years ago. It was good then, and was really good this time around again. We enjoyed tacos, burgers, sundaes, but my favorite was the bagels and cream cheese! Wish I had been there on a weekend to enjoy their raw vegan brunch menu.

I was craving Pure’s Mint Chocolate Sundae, so had to make it back for one more dinner before heading back to Los Angeles. My friend Moby, a long time vegan, and my favorite electronic musician, met me in the garden for dinner along with a few friends and my cousin, Minnie Roh. We enjoyed pizza, ceviche, tamales, smoothies, drinks, lasagna, appetizers, chips and guacamole, but most importantly…a Mint Chocolate Sundae! Everyone was hooked.

To boost this blissful experience even further, Shania Twain, a friend of Moby’s, and Canada’s most popular musician, stopped by our table to catch up with Moby. What a way to finish up my NYC visit!

ani phyo, frances fisher, eva, moby, diamondsnake

Moby was performing with his new heavy metal band DiamondSnake last night in Hollywood, where I bumped into Frances Fisher and Eva. We had a blast dancing up a storm. You can see Moby on stage behind us rocking out to his new Heavy Metal music.

Lead singer Phil Costello’s voice is incredible. They have a song called Rock and Raw, give it a listen on their homepage. These guys are a funny!

moby diamond snake phil costello

It was way past my bedtime of 10pm, and I lasted to about midnight, but left before they finished their set, unfortunately. I hope to get to see DiamondSnake again, maybe along with NYC tour next month.

DiamondSnake was sporting vegan guitar straps, very cool! Choosing vegan has the biggest impact on helping to save our planet and stop animal suffering. Besides, a vegan diet, and especially a raw vegan diet, helps with weight loss, increases health and our immune system, and gives us tons of energy to rock on roll!

It’s official, I now like Heavy Metal music. Moby…I love you!

neelam ani phyo raw food essentials

During my silent 10-day Vipassina mediation last October, I had a vision to work with kids in underprivileged neighborhoods teaching them how to garden, grow food, and make healthy food. These neighborhoods lack fresh produce or healthy food options. The only way to save lives is to teach kids about food, real food. Growing our food builds confidence and self reliance. It’s important for kids to understand where their food comes from.

Neelam Sharma is the Executive Director of Community Services Unlimited, Inc. and is largely responsible for the development of CSU’s food justice and youth training programs. She helped create The Healthy School Food Coalition, The LA Food Justice Network, and the California Food Justice Coalition. An inspirational lady…passionate, intelligent, and beautiful.

garden ani phyo raw food

Neelam and I met at the Expo Center garden, where I first met Dana Clay, the Urban Farm Assistant responsible for this beautiful garden. I found a curry tree for the first time, and the leaves tasted pungent, like curry.

cherimoya ani phyo raw food

They even had a cherimoya tree! Yum. The last time I saw a cherimoya tree was in Baja. I love cherimoya, and just picked up 3 at the local farmer’s market. Visit CSU’s weekly Farm Stand in front of the Expo Center on Menlo just north of MLK on Thursdays from 3-6pm.

Find more about Community Services Unlimited events, and how you can volunteer on their website. A special thanks to my good friend Bryant Terry for introducing me to Neelam and CSU, inc.

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