My family has taken three trips to Yosemite National Park, and we love it. In this post, I will review our Yosemite family vacation experience and give my recommendations.
In a sea of sheets available today, it is not always easy to pick the right one for your bed, style or even budget. I have been on the hunt for
How many times have you said, “I haven’t a thing to wear?” I used to say it all the time until I figured out
When people come over, this is the drink they want me to serve. I have to say; my pear martini is a fantastic drink!
I always see mouth watering dishes on the internet. But when I expand to look at the recipes, the thought of making them feels overwhelming and I usually end up putting the pages in my “favorites tab,” thinking I will revisit when I have more time.
Coolsculpting has been around now for about 6 years. Real Self.com has an 83% “worth it” rating which I found interesting. This is a very positive result worth exploring.
I preface this post by disclosing that my husband’s medical practice, Oliak Center for Weight Loss offers Coolsculpting to his patients. However, it is not a significant part of his business as he primarily provides weight loss surgery for patients who are at least 50lbs overweight.
Below is my candid experience with the Coolsculpting procedure:
I went in to get assessed and treated yesterday. The Coolsculpting representative felt that my flanks and back were appropriate for treatment (see photo above).
It was determined that I needed three medium sized applications on each side. These applications were to be placed at angles and overlap with each other to cover my flanks and my back. The picture above shows three different marker colors for the placement of each separate application.
It is important that you are assessed correctly during your consultation. You may have an area you are concerned with, but the provider may find that other areas of your body would benefit more from the treatment. For instance, I wanted just a small portion of my hips (love handles) treated. But when I was assessed, I was shown how much fat could be grabbed on my sides and back in comparison to my hips. I had quite a bit of back fat I wasn’t aware of! I needed a treatment that went higher and further up my sides and back to give me more of a silhouette.
It is important to understand that the results with Coolsculpting are not immediate. The maximal effect doesn’t occur until 2-3 months after treatment. I find this lack of immediate results frustrating.
To clearly see the effectiveness of my treatment, I decided to initially treat only one side of my body. This way I can compare the treated side to the untreated. I will wait 2-3 months to assess the effectiveness before completing the other side.
This is an expensive treatment. Although it is true that one treatment averages about $600, what most people don’t know is that it will take multiple treatments to get a good result. For instance, I needed 6 treatments (3 on each side of flank/lower back).
Let me back up a bit and give some brief information about Coolsculpting. You can read about this procedure in depth on the website www.coolsculpting.com. This procedure has been around since 2010 and is the only noninvasive treatment for fat removal that has been cleared by the FDA. Treated fat cells are injured by the cold. Over time, the body recognizes these fat cells as damaged and removes them.
This procedure is best for people who are close to their ideal weight and have stubborn areas of fat they cannot get rid of with diet and exercise. In my opinion, it does not make sense for people who are more than 15-20 lbs overweight to have this treatment as it will make only subtle differences in their physique.
For those who are otherwise healthy and fit but have pockets of fat they want to get rid of, it is important that there is ENOUGH fat to be drawn into the applicator. You should be able to grab the fat easily. This procedure is not a treatment for loose skin.
Below are the steps in the treatment process:
A wet sheet skin barrier is placed flat on the area to be treated. This will protect your skin from frostbite. It is VERY COLD so be prepared for a jolt!
The applicator is placed on the skin at the marking. This is the most important step as the suction has to be able to pull enough fat into the applicator to be frozen. The fat should reach to at least the silver bar to indicate a “good draw.” The picture above shows my fat had a very good draw! The suction may be uncomfortable. Just imagine a large vacuum cleaner hose sucking your fat in – this is exactly how it feels.
Once the applicator is on, make yourself comfortable because each treatment takes one hour. The initial few minutes may be uncomfortable as your skin is not yet numb. Discomfort during this stage goes away quickly as the cold numbs your skin, and you can read or do work on your computer while you wait.
After an hour, the applicator is removed. Like a stick of butter that is put in the fridge, the fat should be firm and protuding from your body as shown above.
The practitioner will then massage the treatment area for 2 minutes until the fat melts back into the body. This is a crucial step in the process. The massage will further damage the fat cells.
Once the massage is complete, there will be a red area where you were treated. If the application is near or on a muscle (ex. stomach), at this point you may feel muscle cramping which is very uncomfortable for about 5 minutes. If this happens, try not to flex your muscles as it will prolong the discomfort.
We did this three times on one side of my body to cover the treatment area. My third treatment hit some of my stomach muscle. After my massage, the pain made me run around in circles and hunch over.
It is hard to relax when in pain. But try! Once the spasms stop, you will feel fine and can go about your day. The treatment gets boring and feels a bit tedious. Bring a movie or work – something to keep your mind occupied to make the time pass quickly.
I will give you an update in 10-12 weeks when we can see if my body is lopsided! In the meantime, what are your thoughts about Coolsculpting?
I don’t have great pics for you. Although you could see a difference on one side, it was not significant enough to see well in pictures. My advice: don’t spend money on this treatment. It is expensive for the amount of fat loss it provides, and the amount is widely variable, depending on the person. I find that offices who do best with Coolsculpting have it as a bundle service to sell with other things like medical spa treatments (botox, filler, laser, etc).
You’re better off getting liposuction. Granted, my husband and girls at our office had very good results with this treatment. But the fat came back when they gained a few pounds. I suppose that is expected, though.
One thing you’ll know when reading my blog – I speak my opinion, sponsored or not! Such few places to get the truth these days.
Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.
We started the Ecuadorian part of our trip in Quito. We stayed at the Marriott on Amazonas Avenue between the Financial Center and the Colonial City. We did a day tour in the Colonial City. On Sundays, the streets are closed to cars. People are in the streets dancing, singing, and visiting each other. The energy was palpable!
We also visited the Equatorial Monument, 16 miles north of Quito, which is in the exact middle of the world at Latitude 0. It’s where we stood with one foot on each hemisphere (North and South)! We visited the Ethnographic Museum, which is inside the monument, where they show the history of the different Native American groups living in Ecuador.
We visited Quito because it was a gateway city to the Galapagos Islands. It was worth a 2 night stay in the city to explore the Colonial City and the Equatorial Monument. The city is full of history and an energetic spirit.
It’s Dave’s birthday today! We spent a tranquil day at the Palos Verdes tide pools (not Abalone Cove) that only fishermen seem to know about! If you are an adventurous family, definitely check this place out. There is so much to explore, and the views are breathtaking.
This is the walkway to the trail down to the tide pools. The entrance is straight ahead past the bars. There is a dirt trail that leads to the bottom.
Enter at your own risk! Kids should be at least 7, as the trail down is very steep and slippery. You will need shoes with good traction. Can you imagine the view from here?
Looking fresh on the way down with picnic in hand. You should have seen me on the way up! Huffing and puffing, it wasn’t pretty.
We went at low tide to see all the sea creatures. No starfish today, but still plenty other animals to see. It feels like we are a thousand miles away from home.
Stella and Rosco came along. A bit hot for them today.
All ready for lunch.
Looking for treasures.
Sea anemone. Justin and Jake would put their fingers in and they would close up around them. Fun watching the boys giggle as they did this.
Click here for the trail head location since it isn’t marked. Walk to Seascape Trail and you should see the trail just beyond the railing. There is street parking in a residential area just near the trail. Hope you can find it! It truly feels like you are on an island far away.
We spent a cold April week in Manhattan. Despite the unseasonal weather, we had a perfect family trip in New York City.
Some tips if you are going with your family: Have a plan for each day. Think of one main attraction you want to visit, then plan where you will eat and visit around it. Most places need reservations unless it is super casual.
- Decide if you will cab it or subway around during your trip. Subway rides cost us $11 each time we got off, as one ride is $2.75. A cab ride, unless we went a long distance, costs us about $15. You can get a subway pass for a flat fee, which is the way to go if you will be consistent with taking subways.
- Wear neutrals like the locals. If you want to stand out, then go ahead and wear your pastels and bright colors. But New Yorkers generally wear black, black, and a little grey and brown.
- Stay central to the areas you plan to visit. We love Central Park and the area around it in Midtown. It was also close to central subway stations.
- Go when your kids are at an age they can appreciate the city. I saw some families with toddlers touring the town, and it did not look pleasant. It’s so much better with kids when they are at least 10.
Day 1: Arrival
Central Park! This was the view from our room. We stayed in Columbus Circle at the Trump International Tower. The junior suite was perfect for our family. They have a nice indoor pool and a huge gym. Half of the building is for hotel guests, while the other half is for residents. It’s very close to main subway tops, is next door to the Time Warner Center, and is across the street from Central Park. It was perfect for us.
Our first stop after checking into the hotel was The Plaza Hotel Food Hall. It received a thumbs up from all of the boys! However, I’m not sure about my $19 Pho noodle… This place is interesting to walk around, but the prices are pretty exorbitant. We bought frozen yogurt for $9.50 each. I give it a rating of “ok.”
“Old FAO Schwarz,” is all I thought when I came to our second stop — the mid-town 5th avenue Apple Store. My kids loved it, but I didn’t get what all the hoopla was about. Interesting fact about this store is that they are open 24 hours, 365 days a year.
Finally, our last stop for the day was Dylan’s Candy Bar. Overrated! But we had to come since it’s so famous for the kids – They loved it, of course. for kids for parents – the prices are crazy
Day 2: The First Full Day
First subway ride for the boys! Riding to Wall Street to visit the 9/11 Memorial. I felt cool for remembering all the transfers from when I lived here 14 years ago. The subway gives the feeling of being a local.
Prodigy piano player was playing in the subway station. The music was beautiful! I loved seeing the different artists trying to make it.
9/11 Memorial. I had mixed feelings about this fountain. Though it was a beautiful tribute to the victims, I wish the fountain exuded more feelings of hope. Instead, it was a swirl of water sinking into a dark abyss. Still, we had to see it in person and pay our respects.
It was hard for the kids to understand that they were standing where two huge buildings had crashed down because of terrorist attacks.
One World Observatory: It was a great place to show the boys what NYC looks like. It’s the highest point in the Western Hemisphere! I love their motto “See Forever.”
This guy was the speaker at the top of the freedom tower. I was so impressed by his enthusiasm and love for the city.
We rented this iPad that moved with us from viewpoint to viewpoint. When we would zoom in on a New York highlight, a recording would come on and explain the history behind the landmark. Very cool and very educational!
After all of this learning and exploring and seeing, we needed to get food into our bodies!
Our servers from the restaurant recommended La Bella Ferrara bakery. The “lobster tails” were to die for! It was a flaky croissant pastry filled with Bavarian creme. Yuuuuum! You know what they say — the locals know best!
We left Little Italy, and headed for Chinatown!
Look at all of these people playing Mah Jong! Dave dared me to ask if I could join in. ?
There used to be places that sold “designer” handbags, cough cough, but I guess there was a serious crackdown! Now it’s all little souvenirs and trinkets.
Breakfast Croissants at Maison Kayser. Almost as good as Paris… Almost.
Math Museum! The human tree. The branches are little extensions of themselves. The shapes changed as the kids moved their arms.
The bikes gave smooth rides, despite the bumpy curves in the floor and the square wheels. Why? Well, the square is four sides, and the circles are 1/4 of a circle in the same lengths. These two exhibits were our favorite. Not sure we would have gone to the museum for just these two highlights. I will have to give it a as we wouldn’t have visited had we known what we know after our visit. It is pricey at $15/adult and $9/child.
Lunchtime at Fork and Spoon, a casual eatery on 36th and 5th. What a great selection of lunch food! We had Caesar salad, Pho noodle, Philly cheese steak and Udon, all at the same table. There are many eateries like this one in the area.
The New York Public Library was magnificent inside. We did not stay to look at books.
Dinner at Landmarc. It’s all about the cotton candy dessert. Dinner was good too!
Grom Gelato. Yes… the boys just had cotton candy. We were on vacation!
View from inside Time Warner Building. Beautiful to look outside from this point.
Momofuku Noodle Bar. This restaurant was recommended by a friend who loved it. It was all the hype a few years back when it first opened. However, we did not understand this place… The only way we could get a reservation was to reserve the chicken special. I assumed this special would include noodles and other items. I was mistaken. The meal was two cut up chickens, one spicy, one not. It came with mu shu pancakes, three sauces, and a bowl of vegetables. We were encouraged to make little chicken tacos with the ingredients, but we were confused. My older son would not eat it, so we ordered a bowl of plain ramen as well. It was so salty and had such an intense pork flavor. Justin and the rest of us could not eat it. The chicken meal alone was $150. We were very unsatisfied. I wish I had researched this restaurant’s menu before making a reservation.
Momofuku Milk Bar, a few blocks up from the noodle bar. All of the flavors were unique. On the left is their classic cereal milk flavor, which did taste just like milk from a cereal bowl. On the right is a chocolate malt shake. I read afterward on yelp; we should have gotten a crack pie. We didn’t get this place either.
Chelsea Skate Park: Jake brought his skateboard from CA because he wanted to skate in the City. He was working on his kickflip. It’s fun to watch how passionate he is about something. If your kid is really into skateboarding, this skate park is a . Otherwise, I’d spend your time on other NY highlights.
He’s all the way at the far middle, giving me the stink eye for taking pictures while he is skating, as it “distracts him.”
We walked through The High Line: an old elevated railway that was re-purposed to become a 1.5-mile linear park above the city in the Lower West Side. A beautiful walk.
Times Square! The kids got a kick of the picture posers dressed as Batman and Chewbacca. Last time I was here, there were nude women who were being painted on by artists. My kids would have freaked out if they saw that LOL.
Lady Liberty! How magical to see you in person. She is larger than life!
Hello World! The base of Statue of Liberty.
Ellis Island. The museum was very well done, and so educational. Justin is at the perfect age to appreciate this history. Jake enjoyed it too, but 6th grade age seems just right.
They wanted us to get the full effect of immigrant transport today. About 800 of us stood like cattle in the cold for 1.5 hours, waiting for the ferry back to Manhattan! We suffered! How was it April? Try and avoid the rush. Go early and leave early!
After herding around and finally getting back to Manhattan, we went to Sake Bar Hagi. We were hoping today’s lunch would be better than yesterday’s.
The soft shell crab did not disappoint!
Dave and I got the most delicious Ramen. Mine was spicy with seafood and kimchi. Yuuuuum. We were the only known non-Japanese people in this joint. A good sign of the food!
Time for dessert…
More candy… M&M world!
And right across the street… The Hershey Store.
I felt so cool running the Central Park loop in my New York Marathon shirt! Until I realized it was almost two years ago lol. Running in Central Park is invigorating! Run the 6.1-mile loop around the whole park, and you will feel great!
Patsy’s Pizzeria, upper west side for some NY pizza. The crust was just perfect!
American Museum of Natural History. We spent most of our time in the Dinosaur exhibit. The takeaway message was that dinosaurs evolved into the 17,000 species of birds we have in the world today. We wished we had planned better for our time here. We would have visited the Space show and the Big Bang Theory. to visit the museum, for our visit because we did not plan our time or the exhibits we wanted to see.
Lunch time! We lucked out with a very short line into Stardust Diner, where Broadway wanna be’s are wait staff, who sing throughout the meal. Worth a visit if there’s a short line.
Touristy, cute, talented. Food was a 5. I’m glad we went, but once was enough. The kids were not as amused as Dave and I. Next stop! More dessert…
Serendipity, on the upper west side. The trick is to go to these crowded places between 4 and 5 to avoid the lines. We were seated right away and wow! The frozen hot chocolates and strawberry supreme were divine.
Homemade Short rib tagliatelle, lasagna with beef ragu, pasta with marinara sauce, and pizza (Jake and pizza didn’t make it in pic). Soooooo delicious!
Jake skateboarding by the Flatiron Building, constructed in 1902! One of the tallest skyscrapers of that time at 20 stories. An icon of NYC.
Barneys: I wanted to buy something special as an NY token to take home, but ended up feeling overwhelmed by the fancy people and prices… so I left empty-handed.
Waiting for our family, Gabe, and Lauren, at Han Dynasty in East Village. Solid, authentic Chinese food.
We had to grab some dessert to bring back to the hotel, of course! Not as good as we expected. It may have been because we went just before they closed, so the items were not their freshest. We needed to be rolled out with our luggage back to California! We had a wonderful, exciting, and very active trip in New York City. Our kids were the perfect age to be introduced to this wonderful city. They both gave the trip a big, and both would love to go to College there. I bet they would!
Since Justin was about 8, people have been telling him he should be in pictures. He’s got that innocent face, but also possesses an exotic look. He got his dad’s good looks and facial structure with my Asian eyes and lips. I like to call him “Little Dave with an Asian flair.” A few months ago, Justin expressed his interest in trying some modeling.
We jumped on this and hired Benjamin Benoit Photography to take headshots. We thought if Justin could build some confidence for himself, it would help him with the growing pains that come with adolescence. The tween to teen years are so tough. Trying to figure out who you are and to fit into the world, all while having your body and face change so fast. Remember your youth? I do. Mine was stormy. I wish I had role models and more positivity when I was younger. I am so glad Justin has people to look up to all around him.
One of my closest friends, Pauline Saltzmann is a fashionista extraordinaire (She is also a frequent author of the Style section of Oz of Salt). She went shopping with us to pick out some outfits for the session.
She picked a few looks: 1) Edgy 2) Sophisticated 3) Trendy 4) Preppy. Zara has a great selection of boys clothing, so we were able to find all our outfits there. For shoes, we picked up a pair of Vans and flip flops and were good to go.
Jun from Kasai did a great job.
Day of shoot. Winds were 25 mph so we weren’t sure how this was going to go. But Ben said it would all work out, and he was right. Ben is not only a photographer but is also a successful model. He was able to coach Justin how to stand, where to look, how to hold his head and the way to smile. Justin was loving Ben’s tutelage.
And Fashion Director, Pauline Saltzmann was, of course, on site to manage Justin’s look.
Jennifer Oliak | OUNCE OF SALT
We ended up with some great shots, thanks to Ben! Brand Talent was the agency we were hoping would sign Justin. They loved his look, so we met with them in the beginning of May and it was a success. Justin is now represented by Brand! Justin is so excited. Look out world. A model is born!
My son, Justin is the pickiest eater I know. He doesn’t like his food to touch on his plate. He will not eat chicken or fish, pizza, hot dogs or hamburgers. He does not like soup or any food with chunks with the exception of ground beef.
The only vegetables he likes are iceberg lettuce and grilled artichokes. Yes, grilled artichokes! His favorite food: pasta with butter and salt.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic when Justin wanted to make these Panda Seaweed Rice Balls for dinner.
We bought the mold on Amazon . It takes a few weeks to ship, so don’t expect 2 day shipping on this one! But when we received it, it was well worth the wait.
A rice cooker is a great appliance to have if your family likes to eat rice. Nori can be purchased at Whole Foods or an Asian market.
Justin made the rice in the rice cooker, cut the nori into the the shapes from the mold for ears, arms, feet and tail, and was very precise in measuring the rice for the mold in order to make the perfect panda bodies.
We made some fried egg for protein to add to the panda rice balls. He ate so many I lost count!
He was so excited to make them that he made about 15 more for neighbors and friends!
One of his friends he delivered to, sent this picture.
If your kids like rice and seaweed, make some panda rice balls! There are other shapes too on Amazon.