Escape To The Great Outdoors With A Seven-Hour Train Ride (From Your Living Room)

While many of us just got ordered to "stay at home," I've been trying to figure out all week how to make spending required time indoors more tolerable. I know there will come a time we're used to this by finding new things to do and adjusting our expectations.

One of the ways I've been trying to cope is by bringing the beautiful outdoors to the great indoors. I stumbled on this video from Norwegian broadcaster NRK that chronicles a 7-hour train journey from Bergen to Oslo.

A camera is attached to the front of the train to give you a front-row view of the entire journey, for, yes, seven hours. It follows the track passing through snow-covered mountains, green forests, quaint little towns, and sun-sparkling lakes.

I've been watching the video on my Apple TV and use it as a screensaver. So while I'm working, I can look over my shoulder at the television and enjoy the raw beauty of the Norwegian outdoors. It has been incredibly soothing, and with 7 hours of footage, it won't get old soon.

If you're looking for more Slow TV videos to find an escape, head over to the NRK website. It features marathon-length videos of other train rides, a cruise voyage, a salmon river expedition, and many others.

Share your ways of how you're coping during the pandemic. I'm always looking for new ideas.

Listen Up: Jeangu Macrooy "Grow"


Today was not an easy day. I’m trying to get used to living life indoors and it’s not easy. It has been a good reminder to be appreciative of all the good things we have in life, but today anxiety set in along with a heavy dose of cabin fever. It’s all about building new routines to have structure and maintain sanity. Getting work done, being in frequent touch with family and reading more. It's all been helpful.

I think art and music are particularly important right now to get us through this challenging time. A great song can be so incredibly comforting. A soothing tone and introspective lyrics can calm us, and an upbeat, carefree melody can motivate us to get through the day. I have been going back on forth between moods on my playlist.

One song that really strikes a chord with me right now is Jeangu Macrooy’s beautifully crafted “Older.” The song was selected as The Netherlands’ entry for the 2020 version of the Eurovision Contest. The big global music fest was scheduled to be held in Rotterdam in May, but was canceled today due to the pandemic and will likely be postponed to 2021.

"The more I learn, the less I know. Through every high and every low - I grow.
Lyrics from Jeangu Macrooy "Grow"

“Older” is nothing like the Eurovision bombast you may expect. It’s a deeply moving song about the challenges that come with growing older. But it's not all doom and gloom. Macrooy emphasizes that with growth comes experience and the ability to withstand disappointment. It's a wonderfully empowering message that will easily resonate with many - especially now.

"Emotions, good and bad, are a universal language," Macrooy says in an interview with "I hope ["Older"] makes people feel a little less lonely in their search for happiness. I think that openness and honesty about how we really feel will ultimately bring us closer. I believe in the power music has to bring people together. It’s the reason I do what I do."

The track very much fits in the vein of Duncan Laurence’s “Arcade” that won the Eurovision Song Contest last year and which helped usher in a new era of high-grade Eurovision songwriting that can stand the test of time. It's no surprise that in his winner's speech Laurence firmly called out "music first" to illustrate that point.

Macrooy’s “Older” starts out shimmering and soft, and slowly builds into a soaring highpoint with gospel-tinged production stylings courtesy of Pieter Perquin. I think its sublime and it’s music like this that soothes the soul and eases the mind. Eurovision or not, “Older” comes exactly at the right time when we need it most. 

Book Review: Notes From A Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi


In his memoir, "Notes From A Young Black Chef," Kwame Onwuachi tells an inspiring story about his rise as one of America's most admired chefs. Onwuachi's story is more than a tale about the importance of tapping into your passion and turning into it a career. It's a timeless reminder about pushing through even when the cards are stacked against you. It's an inspiring story that's filled with life lessons that will resonate universally.

Onwuachi's life story is pretty amazing. He went from growing up in a rough-and-tumble part of the Bronx to moving to Nigeria to live with his grandfather. His adventure continued from there. He cooked food on a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship and sold candy in New York subway trains to save money for his catering business. The young chef has continued to reinvent himself while getting more focused and committed to the process. He went from faking it to making it to ultimately slaying it.

"From [my mother] I learned perhaps the most important lesson in my life: Always keep moving."

I love rooting for the underdog, and I love reading books about the underdog coming out on top. Those stories are particularly inspiring in the challenging and uncertain times we live in now. I feel now it's more important than ever to turn to art, books, and music to maintain perspective. Onwuachi's memoir is one of those page-turning reads that will leave you hopeful, plus it will get you in the mood to cook. A great diversion from the bleak world around us. Every chapter in the book is followed by a delicious recipe from the hands of Chef Kwame, including a London broil, chicken curry, cheesecake, and chicken consommé with charred vegetables, Verde, and feta.

"Notes from a Young Black Chef" also provides a candid look at racism and the lack of diversity in many professional kitchens. It's a topic that the award-winning Onwuachi addresses subtly but with a clear intent by writing about his experience working in some of the world's most respected kitchens. I hope that his drive and perseverance paves the way for many other young, black chefs to be successful. 

"You can stay in the lane if you want to be, but you can't ignore the road, either."

Onwuachi appeared on a recent season of Bravo's Top Chef while he was in the middle of planning the opening of his first restaurant, the Shaw Bijou in Washington D.C. His restaurant closed soon after its opening due to circumstances beyond Onwuachi's control. It wasn't a wasted experience for the young chef who turned the experience into his life motto.

"(. . . ) Never be sorry for doing something different, for trying and failing. That every day is day one."

That motto was relevant then and still applies today as Onwuachi closed his new D.C. restaurant, Kith and Kin, this week due to the global pandemic. It underlines that the rebel chef is facing another struggle alongside all of us. But knowing how he faced the ones he encountered before, I trust that he will weather this one too. He's clearly built that way.

Onwuachi's memoir is an excellent read about life and food that I highly recommend if you're seeking an escape and looking to be encouraged. Kwame Onwuachi inspired me with his sincerity, street-savvy, and drive for social justice. Plus, he makes me want to be a better cook with all his great food stories. It's time to spice it up!

"Notes From A Young Black Chef - A Memoir" 
Written by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein
Published by Penguin Random House
Read it on Apple Books

The World Should Know Dylan Dunlap


It must have been a little over 2 years ago that I stopped by Starbucks on Sunset and Vine in Hollywood to have a quick coffee before seeing a movie at Arclight Cinemas. It wasn't a completely random decision that I took a little bit of extra time before seeing the film. Earlier that day, an artist let fans know via Twitter that he was going to sing a few songs at that Starbucks location. That artist was Dylan Dunlap, and I was curious.

One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is that talent is all around you so it's completely possible to discover the next big star as your Lyft driver, barista or, yes, playing a couple of songs in a local bar or coffee shop. I love walking into Hotel Cafe or The Roxy to see fresh-faced upstarts share their music. I find it super inspiring and of course there's always the excitement of seeing potential stars so early in their career. A discovery you don't want to miss.

Point in case is Dylan Dunlap. The Berklee College of Music grad sang a couple of songs at Starbucks that night and I was curious about him. There wasn't a full audience or anything. Just laptop people doing some work and a line of customers running by to get a coffee drink. I took a seat in the back of the store just to check him out. I really liked his performance. It was brief, minimal and on a stage that was hardly welcoming, but he showed passion and confidence. He had that twinkle and drive that can make people successful in this business. (Funny side note to all this: Dylan and I have corresponded ever since that Starbucks moment but we've actually never met. Not even after that gig. I wanted to be discreet. Plus, I was incognito and wanted to be on brand for a formal meeting.)

The singer has been putting in a lot of work in creating songs, crafting a sound, playing shows (including a brief stint on The Voice) and building a team over the past years. It seems things are coming together nicely for him.

Building a career doesn't happen overnight. Dylan is a great example that if you continue to put in the work, momentum will build. I'm sure it can be frustrating for young artists because we live in an age of quick gratification but over the years I've learned that even the greatest artists do not put out their best work at the very beginning of their careers. An artist needs to grow into their own, learn how to articulate their point of view, and figure out how to connect to fans.

When Dylan started to publicly talk about mental health and some of insecurities, I knew that by letting his guard down a little, he'd be able to unlock his songwriting talent and connect more authentically with fans. He has been putting out a steady mix of music, including wonderful songs like "If That's Alright" and "The Weight" that's a sweeping tour de force that neatly accentuates Dylan's strength as a writer with his candid look at the issues his struggles with. (Read the lyrics to the "The Weight" and be moved.)

This week, Dylan put out his brand new single, "Who Would Have Thought, that's a heartwarming love song with a hook-filled chorus. It's a really wonderful song that showcases Dylan's talent. It feels still like early days for him but now is the time to start paying attention and see where Dylan's journey takes him. 

Bazzi Reminds Us to Stay Young and Alive


In times when global anxiety strikes, we can always turn to music to make us forget and feed our soul. Bazzi's brand-new music comes at a perfect time. He combines sweet nostalgia with an instantly hooky melody on his fantastic new single, “Young & Alive.” It’s a potent slice of pop escapism that is a much-needed reminder to get out there and embrace the goodness in the world. Be young and alive always. I love this.