5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Grandma Phelan

Whether it’s in history books or biopics, at SPPR we love hearing the stories of wise women who’ve blazed a trail before us. This week we’re excited to welcome a woman who has played a vital role in the history of our own Kelly Phelan Johnston: her grandmother. Grandma Phelan recently turned 99 so we asked her to share some of her experience with relationships, stress and remembering what’s really important.

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1. How do you think that women have changed since you were little?

Women now have more confidence in themselves.

  • When I was born in 1916, women were not allowed to vote. That came four years later, in 1920. They depended upon their husbands for everything they needed. The names of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan were names we hadn’t yet heard. Now females owe a lot to them both. They gave us confidence.

Women take more pride in their appearance.

  • This is a good thing, within reason. My mother wore no make-up so I persuaded her to let me put a bit of rouge on her cheeks. We were on the screened-in porch of our home. There was a glint in her eyes as she allowed me to work on this “slightly naughty” (for her) project. I had a very good time modernizing her. However, I don’t remember her ever doing this on her own.

Women now travel much more than they used to.

  • When I was young, most roads were badly paved. One summer my mother, sister, cousin and I drove to Buffalo, NY to visit relatives. I was twelve years old at the time and that was the longest trip I had ever taken, it never occurred to me that someday I might go to Europe. But time passed and yes, I did go to Europe.

2. You continue to maintain long term relationships with many different people. What are your tips for others to do the same?

“In order to have a friend, you must BE A FRIEND.” This is so true. I am no authority but here are a few ideas:

  • If a person has a birthday, send him/her a card plus a little personal note. Make it more than a regular birthday card.
  • If he/she is ill, send a card with a note added. Make it special; it is no fun being sick. Send some flowers if you can afford it. At least let them know that they are being thought of.
  • Listen to what your friends tell you about their lives. Most people are poor listeners. Do others a favor and listen while they speak. Don’t let your eyes look around the room as they talk. Don’t be anxious to top the stories they have told you.

3. What in life are the most important things to you?

  • Color – I must be surrounded with colors I enjoy. French blue with a punch of raspberry near it makes me smile. Add a bit of soft yellow and it looks even better.
  • Music – Going to a good classical concert makes me forget any sadness in my life.
  • Humor – People who have a good sense of humor are fun to be around. It is fun to laugh.
  • Reading – An inspirational book clears my mind.
  • Praying – For people who have so little.
  • Using my hands – To knit, to play the piano, to make stamp pictures and to crochet.

4. What are the things in life that you worried about but weren’t worth the worry and stress?

I still remember when I had to go to Speech Class in high school. I was so worried about having to speak in front of others that I was almost paralyzed. That now seems so strange. When I was young, I worried more than I do now but really, I was never much of a worrier. I kept very busy. That is the trick, I suppose: Keep busy doing worthwhile things. 

5. You have a philosophy of spend, save and share. Why is this such an important lesson?

Perhaps, it should be: save, share and spend. If you have to ask why these three things are good, just try them. You will see. Saving is the hardest part, so make yourself do it. Very few people save much. That has to be learned and it is difficult. Share with someone who has less than you do. Then spend and enjoy whatever you buy for yourself! You will deserve it.

SPPR Travels: Truffle Hunting in Provence

While Paris is well known for its gastronomic institutions, Provence is just as important to France’s culinary history. The climate is ideal for producing not only truffles but many fruits, vegetables and herbs which contribute to the region’s signature dishes. If you’ve ever cooked with Herbes de Provence then you’re familiar with the flavor. Our own Becky de Haro ventured South on her holiday vacation in France to spend time truffle hunting on an organic Provencal farm. Read on to dive into her adventure and new found appreciation for truffles.


Why Are Truffles So Expensive?

So many factors must align in order to produce a truffle that I now see why they’ve earned the nickname ‘black gold’ and why Johann of Les Pastras, the family farm we visited, must remain so secretive. In a nutshell, truffles grow from spores that live underground near the roots of certain tree species like oak and hazelnut. A very specific landscape, climate and rainfall are required and even if you can create these elements, it would take several years before you would know if your cultivation was a success.


How to Hunt for Truffles

Even when truffles are successfully grown, finding them is a whole new challenge. The most common technique today is to train a dog as a puppy to detect the smell. During our hunt, the Les Pastras dogs quickly sniffed out a truffle within a minute of being released. They would paw at a spot in the dirt and then our other guide, John Michael, would show us where to gently pry the truffle out with a screwdriver, giving the dogs a treat each time. The treat that day was cubes of cheese, which would motivate me as well. Eventually the dogs get distracted and want to play. That’s when you know the truffle hunt is over for the day.




Beware of Truffle Thieves

Because truffles are so coveted and hard to cultivate, the industry is highly competitive and at times, brutal. Johann recounted many stories of truffle thieves, sneaking onto private property when the owner is away to snatch what they can or even truffle hunters sabotaging each other to drive up the price of their own truffles, doing everything from setting fire to trees on the property to dropping poisoned meatballs to kill truffle dogs. It’s like an HBO drama!


How to Buy Truffles

Especially in light of recent food fraud cases making national news, like the mafia corrupting the Italian Olive Oil industry, it was eye-opening and educational to hear from Johann how truffle fraud can and does occur. When purchasing truffle products, pay close attention to the ingredients list. Authentic truffle products will list the specific type of truffle, not truffle flavor, as an ingredient. For example – Sea Salt + Black Summer Truffle + Truffle Aroma. Most truffle olive oils are made with ‘truffle flavor,’ which means you’re paying top dollar for a taste created in a laboratory.

Should you ever find yourself in Provence, I highly recommend you pay Les Pastras a visit and say hello to Johann for me. But if a visit to France isn’t in the cards, my top takeaway learnings are:

  • It’s all about the aroma, baby. The best indicator of a good truffle is its aroma. The more aroma, the more flavor.
  • To maintain the best aroma and flavor, don’t cook truffles. Add them at the end to finish a dish.
  • The optimum equation for truffle food pairing is truffle + fat + salt = heaven. We enjoyed truffles on bread with butter and salt, on wedges of cheese and even in ice cream.



Thank you for a memorable experience, Les Pastras!


SPPR New Year’s Resolutions: Are you ready for the time of your life?

It’s a New Year and if you ask the Soda Pop team, 2016 is going to be a sweet one. In honor of our favorite time to reflect and re-center, we’d like to share our resolutions and mantras for 2016. We hope they inspire you to have the time of your life.

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Photo c/o Studio DIY

“My New Year mantra is: Be Healthy! In 2016, my goal is to live as healthy (mind, body and spirit) as possible each day. To help me stay strong and centered, I plan on reading the Four Agreements daily. I’ve also changed my alarm to play Girl on Fire. It’s a game changer.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word:Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
    Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
    Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  4. Always Do Your Best
    Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”



“Something I want to work on in 2016 is not over thinking things and just saying YES. Limit the worrying and just go for it – travel, try something new, meet new people. Also, I am totally changing my alarm =)”



“My goal for the year is to read more and journal my travels. I took a journal when I traveled to France over the holidays and I want to keep adding to it so I don’t forget the places I’ve been and the things I learn there.”



“My mantra for 2016 is to ‘be here, be brave.’ This is best explained by the two quotes below:”

If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.” Cheryl Strayed



“I’m working on taking a little more “me time” without feeling guilty for stepping away every now and then. I’d also like to strengthen my relationships firstly, by cutting out those – “Let’s get dinner soon” conversations and actually doing it. Taking the lead. Professionally, I’d like to challenge myself fearlessly.



“My goal for this year is to also be more healthy. I’ve always struggled to find an exercise that I like or even get myself to do something active. Your health is your wealth! Also, giving people a chance and really trying to connect instead of being on my phone.”


5 Questions with SPPR- Girl Boss Edition: featuring Lauren McGoodwin

This week, we are pleased to welcome Career Contessa founder and all-around #girlboss Lauren McGoodwin to the blog. When Lauren found herself lacking direction despite an abundance of ambition post-grad, she was inspired to start honest conversations with real women about their careers. An idea that started with one interview in a coffee shop has now grown into a platform celebrating successful women and providing resources to help future girl bosses achieve fulfillment in work and in life.


1. What is your favorite part about being the boss?

By far my favorite part is having the opportunity every day to build a resource I’m truly passionate about. Being a boss also gives me the opportunity every day to be an advisor, coach, or mentor to my team so they can be the best at their jobs.

2. As the owner of a small business who wears many hats, what is one thing you realized early on you needed to delegate?

Early on I realized that I needed someone that was talented and dedicated to the editorial side of Career Contessa. Editorial plays a major role in our business, but it’s not my strength. My first hire was a Managing Editor.

3. Who was the first contessa you featured?

My first Contessa interview was with Jacey Duprie of Damsel in Dior blog. I was a follower of her site for many months when I sent her a cold email about interviewing her for a site I was creating. She agreed and we met in person at a coffee shop. I recorded the interview and later met at her house to take photos for the feature. Luckily, the process is much more streamlined now but it was a wonderful learning experience.

4. What are some challenges you’ve noticed that women entrepreneurs face, but men don’t?

I think a lot of women suffer from a lack of confidence when it comes to building and growing a business. If they don’t have the answer right away, or know exactly how they will accomplish something then we take that as a bad sign. We also often let the fear keep us from making decisions.

5. What is one piece of advice that has always stuck with you?

One of my favorite pieces of advice is that clarity comes from engagement. You cannot solve a problem or learn something new by sitting on the couch and thinking really hard for the answer. You must get out there and engage. Talk to people, attend events, practice a new skill, etc. Just start doing.

Learn more about Lauren and Career Contessa here

5 Questions with SPPR- Girl Boss Edition: featuring Sonja Rasula

If you’re a creative in LA you’ve probably heard about UNIQUE. From their summer-camp-meets-business-conference to inspirational talks at an awesome co-working space, UNIQUE Founder & Creative Director Sonja Rasula is one busy girl boss. As she gears up for another UNIQUE LA Holiday Market this weekend, we chatted with Sonja about what it’s like to wear so many hats, and not just the super cute beanies she often sports.

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All photos c/o Sonja Rasula

1. What does nobody tell you (good or bad) about being the boss?

On the good side no one told me that when you become The Boss you can make up your own rules and create the change in the world that you want (For instance my company works Mon-Thur, so we have a 3-day weekend). On the not as good side of things, nobody told me how lonely it would be. Not a lot of people are “bosses” so it’s hard to find people to talk with, compare notes with, etc. Sometimes I wish I had a co-founder to help with all the decisions and brainstorm with.

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2. What are some challenges that you have overcome as a female entrepreneur?

Great question! I actually still face challenge everyday as a female entrepreneur, which is frustrating, and weird right?! I mean, it’s 2015…  I see most challenges in my work not as he/she but simply as challenge, period. However there are daily/weekly reminders when I’m like, “Oh that was interesting…” For instance sometimes at meetings men will talk to the male staff members on my team as if they were the boss, assuming that they are the boss. Literally only looking at me or the female members on my team as a glance. That KILLS me.

One challenge I’ve overcome and encourage all women in power positions (whether you’re your own boss or a senior manager at a company) to do is look at what you pay those who work for you, women and men. To this day women make just 79 cents to the dollar compared to men for the exact same role. WE can change that and be part of the solution! Give equal pay for equal work, and educate and empower female staff to gather their annual results, prove how they’ve grown business or have gone above and beyond expectations and ask for raises. In my experience women in the workplace don’t talk about their accomplishments and see it as “showing off”, which needs to change. Be proud, show off, get that money! My mom taught me that, “If you don’t show off about what you do how will anyone know?”

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3. You invested in yourself by risking your retirement funds. What did you learn from having that type of control instead of relying on investors?

Since I’ve never relied on investors I don’t know what that is like at all, so all I know is what it’s like to risk my money. So far it’s been awesome! I’ve never been scared once; I create a business idea in my head and I just do it, not thinking about the “risk” of it all. While some may say it’s naive, I think that kind of positive thinking/fearlessness is what separates entrepreneurs from everyone else. You have to have balls. Because I used my own money, so had no one but myself to report to, all decisions are 100% mine which is great. From marketing ideas to the imagery used in advertising to growth, it’s all what I want to do. Freedom is a great thing!

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 4. What are some of the hats you wear as the hands-on owner of a small business?

A boss wears all the hats! Well, until you can afford to delegate and hire help. My point is that even when you have employees a good boss knows what each role takes, to a certain extent, because it’s the ability to understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together that will create a successful business. My personal day-to-day involve everything from web writer to photographer, human resources manager to graphic designer, coffee maker to cheerleader.

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5. Name one girl boss that you admire and how she inspires you?

I love Amanda De Cadenet who, like me, works on a huge variety of projects from photography to producing television. What I love is her focus on women and girls – empowering them, educating them, giving them a voice and documenting it all. She inspires me with her constant creative energy and new ideas, and the fact that she sees the ‘bigger picture’ to do good work, to have a positive impact on the world and community!

Follow along with all of Sonja’s adventures at @sonjarasula


SPPR Fun: Sparkling Wine Tasting

This week we broke out the confetti to turn a sparkling wine tasting into a surprise birthday celebration for the lovely Kelly Johnston. In honor of our favorite gluten-free foodie, we paired three bottles with a local favorite: fonuts. Nothing like a little afternoon bubbly to make the work day fly by!

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It was hard to pick an office favorite on this one. The Brut Rosé from Le Grand Courtage was dubbed “dangerously drinkable” and it’s no secret that the SPPR team is partial to pink. The stone fruit flavors of La Perle from Perle De Ma Mere went well with our lemon fonuts and provided a nice contrast to mineral and citrus notes in the clean flavor of Vincent Caille Domaine le Fay d’Homme ‘X Bulles’ which wins for loudest “pop” on opening. One thing is for sure, pairing bubbly with baked goods is definitely the way to our hearts.

Stay tuned for our next office adventure: a trip to the Rain Room at LACMA and follow along with all of our snacking and sipping on Instagram @sodapoppr