2021: A Year In Books

2021: A Year In Books

I don’t normally make New Years resolutions, but with 2020 the way that it was, I wanted to enrich my mind. So I decided to challenge myself to read twelve books in a year, one book per month. Well, I surprised myself and read DOUBLE that. Now, no one wants to read my reviews of 24 books so I decided to stick to my top 4 (see below) . So I present to you: Ali’s Book Recommendations 2021!

  1. Jesus & John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation By Kristin Kobes Du Mez

    This was one of the first books I read in 2021 and set the tone for the selection of books I chose to read throughout the year. A New York Times bestseller, this book chronicles the rise of the “Religious Right” and the history of modern evangelicalism in the United States. Having grown up in evangelicalism, reading this book was like reading my life story. Everything Du Mez writes about had some connection to my upbringing or my parents’ and was an extremely surreal experience to read. If you are like me and wondering “how on earth did we get here?” this book is for you.

  2. Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope By Esau McCaulley

    This book was Christianity Today’s Book of the Year for 2020. Esau McCaulley beautifully explains Black exegesis through story, history, and scripture. It was enlightening to read McCaulley’s insights on how the Bible is read through Black eyes. I’ve included it in my top 4 because it made me fall back in love with the Bible. Scripture really is living and breathing and it was impactful to recognize how much our own unique backgrounds affect how we read God’s word.

  3. Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us about Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength By Kat Armas

    I won a copy of this book in a giveaway. It was one of three books and, truthfully, it was the one I was least excited about so I put it on my shelf and forgot about it. After watching In The Heights and being inspired by Abuela Claudia’s ‘paciencia y fe’, I remembered that Abuelita Faith was on my bookshelf and I decided to give it a read. I’m so glad I did. This book is beautiful. Kat Armas does an exceptional job walking the reader through her life, her culture, and the overlooked women of the Bible in a way that is inviting, humble, and brave. As someone who has been on a journey the last year to discover and learn from marginalized voices of faith, Abuelita Faith was so life giving. Armas doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable. Instead, she takes the reader’s hand and lovingly shows them how the Bible is full of the uncomfortable and how God uses the uncomfortable to grow us all.

  4. Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair By Duke L. Kwon and Gregory Thompson

    This was one of the last books that I read this year and I’m glad that it was. I’m not sure I would have been ready to read it back in January. This book was inspiring, convicting, and challenging as it broke down the authors’ arguments for reparations from a uniquely Christian and biblical perspective. Weaving together the history of slavery, race, the Church’s role in both, as well as biblical history, this book encapsulated all the books I read in 2021 in a beautiful way.

My other goal this year was to talk less and listen more. I wanted to listen to people who look differently than me, who think differently than me, and who feel differently than me. Books do that. They allow us to humbly sit at the feet of a person and listen. Ultimately, I’m walking into 2022 with more understanding toward others and more knowledge of our history and of the injustices in our country, and I am hopeful. God is working amidst the pain and injustices I see all around me and hopefully 2022 will be a year of putting what I’ve learned into action. If you are interested in any of the books that I read this year, let me know! I’m looking to give a lot of them away and make room for the next 24. And if you have any recommendations, hit me up! HAPPY READING!

Batir we go to EarthX!

Batir we go to EarthX!

Most people consider us a ‘granola’ family. We compost, recycle, make our own baby food, use cloth diapers, wear natural deodorant, have a urban garden, backyard chickens, etc. So obviously, us going to Fair Park to spend a day at EarthX 2019 is a no brainer. I tried to no avail to get friends and coworkers excited about this annual event, but not a lot people know what to expect. So let us show you! Welcome to a day at EarthX 2019!


EarthX is the LARGEST ‘environmental experience’ in the WORLD! Right here in Dallas, Texas and it’s free! Usually aligning with Earth Day (this year it’s April 27th & 28th), Fair Park is taken over by planet-friendly vendors and environmental enthusiasts dedicated to helping the average earthling better understand how they can make a positive impact on the planet. PLUS, they give out a ton of free goodies to help you do so.

We started our day at Big Tex’s house. He isn’t there when the Fair isn’t going on but


it made a great meeting place to rendezvous with my mom who decided to join us. Then we headed to the main exhibition hall which is full of over 200 vendors!

Though overwhelming, this is where you get your goodies. Joe likes to talk to every vendor and sign up for giveaways, raffles, you name it… which can take quite a while but when he comes back with free stuff, I can’t blame him! Check out the slideshow below to see just a taste of the stuff you can get throughout the park:


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Next, we checked out the tiny house exhibit. There are a group of tiny houses on display that people actually live in full time. As you tour their home, you can ask them anything you like from how much the house cost to how they are able to fit everything they need in such a small space. There was a family of 7 that converted a school bus into a home for $20,000! That’s crazy!


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Next, it was lunchtime, so we headed toward the food trucks. On the way, we passed by some goat yoga. Still don’t understand what the hype is but the yogis seemed to be enjoying it.


There are a ton of food options for you to choose from and they usually have a lot of vegan and veggie friendly trucks there if you are interested in trying something different. We grabbed chicken and waffles because, why not? We set up Jake’s portable highchair and let him snack on some blueberries while we munched away.


Painted rocks from Grandma!

With our bellies full, we did a final walk around, got some free Tehuacan carbonated water (the new Topo Chico) and headed home. Since Jake is so young, we weren’t able to fully appreciate all the kids activities they have at EarthX. The entire Food & Fiber pavilion is full of arts and crafts, hands-on science experiments, and there are even animals to interact with. Another thing we love about EarthX is hearing from different vendors on new technology, cool new products, and updates on what’s new in DFW. Here are a few highlights:


There was this portable/instant/biodegradable grill that was really cool. For only $15/piece (2 for $20 at EarthX), this grill heats to 600 degrees in only 5 minutes and burns for almost 6 hours, allowing you to cook a full meal and have heat left over for smores. We thought this was such a neat idea for camping because it doesn’t require any clean-up. You can either throw it away or use it as kindling in your bonfire.

Coca-Cola has had a tent for the past two years showcasing what the company is doing to to be more sustainable. That’s cool and all but the thing we love about their tent is that they give away free rain barrels used from old corn syrup containers! A standard rain barrel can run anywhere from $60-$100 dollars so this freebie is definitely the best one at the convention.

We also stopped by Texas Outdoor Family’s table. Texas Outdoor Family teaches families the basic outdoor skills needed for a great camping trip. TOF is run by Texas Parks and Wildlife and after surveying the park visitors, they realized that the typical park campers are middle aged white men, which isn’t the best representation of the demographics of Texas. But camping can be intimating to families. Either they don’t know where to go or they can’t afford all the gear. So the TOF program encourages families to get outside explore all the awesome parks we have in Texas by providing all the gear you need and all the park fees for only $65 per family for the weekend. They even have a bunch of cooking supples you can pick through to make your camping trip a success. You just return everything when you are done. As avid campers ourselves, we thought this was a really neat idea.


Overall, it was another successful year at EarthX. Tomorrow is the last day so be sure to check it out! Register online for free at their website (Earthx.org) or pay $5 at the door. And remember, it doesn’t take much to be more planet-friendly. Reducing your carbon footprint just a little bit makes a world of a difference. Happy Earth Day, earthlings!



The Most Interesting Boss in the World

The Most Interesting Boss in the World

Just a few interesting facts about my boss at my previous internship:

He freestyles with James Marsden.

Holds multiple deep sea fishing records (got one when he was 6).

Hung out with Owen Wilson and unknowingly got him drinking again. next thing he heard, Owen Wilson was back in rehab for alcohol abuse and had tried to kill himself.

He helps import leather from Africa for textiles…

Has a scar on his chest caused from the barrel of a gun from his music production days in the Dallas rap world.

Owns the rights to 6 screenplays.

Had a reality TV show pilot about his life.

He sold a rare book and it was then featured on PawnStars.

Collects rare books (mainly John Steinbeck and Hemingway). Rare book stores call him when they are low on inventory.

Knows Ray Bradbury and calls him by his first name.

Knows a scottish pop star and is going to ask her to show me around Scotland when I go at the end of May.

Was given a publishing deal for his autobiography but turned it down to create his own publishing company.

He was asked to be a lead on “Most Eligible Dallas” but declined.



Meso Maya

Meso Maya

In Dallas we have a surplus of Tex-Mex restaurants and everyone has their favorite one. So when I was taken to Meso Maya by my office, I expected the standard Tex-Mex cuisine. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t a Tex-Mex place at all, its a Mayan-Mex place! Meso Maya lives by three pillars when it comes to their food:

  1. Heart – They stay true to the foods that inspired their Mayan and Mexican ancestors. That means “fresh, earthy, and bold flavors”.
  2. Soul – They use natural ingredients from their native land
  3. Fusion – They use talented chefs to make made-from-scratch moles, adobos, salsas, and hand-ground tortillas.

Yes, that’s right: HAND-GROUND TORTILLAS. When my co-workers told me, the first thing I thought of was that tortilla press machine-thing you see at Chuy’s or El Fenix. But no. At Meso Maya they grind up the corn fresh by hand and make corn tortillas to order. If thats not a good enough reason to give this place a try, then I don’t know what is.

They also have a house specialty dish called Budin Azteca. Its basically like Mexican lasagna, made with layers and layers of their fresh corn tortillas. You can order it with chicken, shrimp, beef, or vegetarian. It’s super good and super filling.

When I went I ordered their spinach and mushroom enchiladas and I swear I never had fresher mushrooms in my life. They were delicious. Definitely worth going back for (and I did!). Meso Maya is located on the northwest corner of Preston and Forest (right behind Snappy Salad). It’s kind of pricey (along the lines of Mi Cocina) but their lunch menu is pretty affordable. While I was exploring their website, I came across an interesting blurb about their head chef, Chef Nico. So I’ll leave you with this:

Our kitchen is led by Nico Sanchez. A Mexico native, he moved to Dallas in 1996 to pursue his goal of becoming a chef.

Before he had dreams of becoming a culinary artist, Sanchez lived in Guanajuato, Mexico with his two sisters and brother. When he was seven years old his father passed away, which left him with a heavy responsibility to his family. Leaving his family to chase his vision was not an easy choice, but he knew he had to persevere in order to accomplish his goals. He also knew that it would take time and much effort to achieve his culinary dreams.

Throughout Sanchez’s career he has done everything from working as a carrier traveling Mexico to becoming a chef at one of the many Consilient restaurants, Cuba Libre. Throughout his restaurant career he has had great mentors including Brent Hammer, executive chef at Hibiscus; David McMillan, executive chef at the Screen Door in Dallas; along with Nick Badovinus, chef and restaurateur of Neighborhood Services.

Sanchez not only has a passion for teaching and life, he also has been involved with the charity Fundacion ERA. This foundation is a non-profit organization that collects shoes in the summer and coats in the winter for needy children throughout Mexico.

His future plans include mentoring young professionals in the restaurant industry as he continues to create and explore new recipes. Sharing his culinary talents with the greater Dallas area and beyond are his ongoing passions.

Southpaw’s Organic Grill

Southpaw’s Organic Grill

I got the chance to visit a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to try for a while now. On my way to and from my internship last summer, I would always pass “Southpaw’s” and wonder, “is that a restaurant or a animal clinic?”. Turns out it’s a a really good restaurant serving creative, fresh, and healthy food. The concept from started by Reza Anvarian who was born in Azerbaijan. He moved to the States, became a champion boxer, and decided to open a restaurant, opening Southpaw’s Organic Cafe’ in Preston center (and that’s the short story). He later teamed up with TJ Frank, a frat brother of my boss, and opened another Southpaw’s in Uptown. The concept is simple: serve good, organic, and healthy food without added sugars, syrups, nitrates, or preservatives. The atmosphere is friendly and CLEAN. A lot of stainless steel and deep reds make the space very cool and very comfortable. The menus differ slightly between locations (The one in uptown in a “grill” while the one in Preston center is considered a “cafe”) and everything is pretty darn good. What I like most about the menu is that there are no surprises. The descriptions of the menu items leave no room for imagination and tell you like it is. No guessing. They have some killer smoothies with additive options for energy, detox, or weight loss. They also have a whole section for gourmet grilled cheeses (like the “Toastie Nut”, which features melted gouda cheese and pecans) as well as gourmet PB&J’s (like the “Soopaman”, featuring PBJ with vanilla-almond granola, sliced bananas, and agave nector). They have  large selection of signature salads, entrees, and sandwichs, and burgers, as well a a customizable sandwich menu. When I went I ordered the Chicken ‘n; Tabbouleg pita sandwich. It was light and delicious but what I liked most about my meal was the side. Instead of the usual side of fries or chips you would get at any other restaurant,  at Southpaw’s you get a good-sized helping of freshly cut fruit. I was greeted by the freshest pear slices I’ve had in a long time. They are also pretty affordable considering the quality and location and promise a healthy (as in the “appropriate amount of food”, not “super large”, sorry boys!)portion size. Not to mention, they deliver (locally)! I highly recommend checking this place out. Just make sure to go for breakfast or lunch, because Southpaw’s is closed for dinner.

Off the Bone BBQ

Off the Bone BBQ

I’m picky with BBQ. It’s got to be legit for me to deem it worthy. I’ve had my fare share of bad BBQ restaurant experiences (including one place in New Mexico that used soy sauce in EVERYTHING. So gross.) so when I find a new BBQ place, I’m a bit skeptical. My boss took me down to Off the Bone BBQ last week and I was expecting just your everyday run-of-the-mill BBQ: ribs, pulled pork, potato salad, beans, the whole nine yards. But this place is not your stereotypical BBQ joint. Yes, they offer your classic BBQ favorites, however, they put their own twist on them. Their offers honey-spiced baked beans, boneless baby back rib tacos, spiced pasta salad, and (my personal fav) summer cool cole slaw which is made with bacon and blue cheese! SO GOOD. I also had their smoked chicken that melted in my mouth. Every meal comes with a onion and sweet pickle garnish which is just plain awesome.

The restaurant is off of S. Lamar right down the street from the Dallas Police Headquarters, just in case you fear the less traveled areas of Dallas. The concept comes from the mind of Dwight Harvey, an award-winning chef who became memorable because of his catering experiences. The store-front itself has a clean, modern design featuring large floor-to-ceiling windows that make the dining area seem much bigger and more open than it is.

The staff is friendly and the food is reasonable. PLUS, if you are going their for the first time, let them know! They’ll give you a free baby back rib to try.


The Cedars Social

The Cedars Social

If you are looking for a swanky place to go for drinks or grab some dinner, check out The Cedars Social. On its website, it’s described as:


The interior is decorated in retro 1920’s style complete with a library nook and features a mondo indoor fire pit. The CEO of the company I’m interning for is partners in the restaurant so we go there for lunch frequently. They have a selective menu and everything is fresh, simple, and delicious! Plus, their lunch plates are very reasonable, especially for a college kid on a budget (only $8 per plate). They have some killer parmesan skinny fries that are a must have and their grilled veggie sandwich is fantastic! The staff is super friendly too and very accommodating. When they give you your check, they place it between the pages of an antique book, which I thought was really creative.

This place is right off the DART line (Cedars Station) and on S Lamar St right down the street from the Palladium Ballroom and Gilly’s. So go grab some grub and go dancing!


the Best Enchiladas Ever

the Best Enchiladas Ever

So for those of you who don’t know, I am currently interning at bigInk PR with their real estate services division. bigInk caters to restauranteurs in Texas, primarily in the DFW area. I get to shadow their tenant rep who finds space for some pretty trendy eateries (and by “shadow” I mean I get free food at a bunch of really cool places! Some new some familiar). So I have decided to share my foodie knowledge with the inter-web. Thus begins my first of many posts on restaurants I’ve visited and LOVE.

We begin with BEE Enchiladria, or the BEST ENCHILADAS EVER (thats actually what ‘BEE’ stands for, no lie). This place is located in Oakcliff but totally worth the possibility of getting caught up in a gang war! I kid, Oakcliff really isn’t that bad of a locale, especially the Bishop Arts District (which is pretty swanky). Just imagine a WhichWich and Chipotle mixed together and VIOLA! You have BEEs! You order your enchiladas just like you’d order a sandwich at WhichWich, customizing them to your heart’s content. Notice that I said THEM. For just $6.99 you get two customized enchiladas, rice, beans, and a side of chips and salsa! Perfect for a college kid on a budget, AKA: ME. Customization is an understatement. This place lets you choose EVERYTHING. You choose the type of tortilla, filling, and sauce. Its also vegan/gluten-free friendly and make everything in-store except for the tortillas.  And they don’t stop there. After your food is customized, you go through the Chipotle-like section where you choose your toppings from a large array of different items. Then , VIOLA, its time to eat. The menu has way more than just enchiladas. You can get tacos, burritos, or a salad for a great price!

The owner, Monica Greene who is a pretty happen’n lady and well-known in Dallas as a restauranteur. She actually went to SMU! Interesting fact: The word “Enchiladria” doesn’t exist. Monica invented the term and copyrighted it.  So she is the only one who can use it! Its the only Enchiladria in the world. If you want to hear more on this interesting ‘lady’, let me know…

The staff at BEE is super friendly. The first time I went they catered to my every whim! Even serving me homemade sauces they just whipped up for me to taste. Super awesome. Plus, their mascot is adorable! There is even an employee who has his very own bee mustache! If thats not a good enough reason to go then I don’t what is ;).

Overall, I was very impressed. I’ve been twice thus far and am going tomorrow night for dinner. If you ever want to go give me a call and I’ll totally come with!