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Super Sonic Birthday

In Baby Love, Drink, Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on August 16, 2013 at 6:03 pm

sonic birthday

Last month George (my baby!) turned five. I quickly found myself in a little over my head when he requested a Sonic the Hedgehog birthday party, and there were no easy cheats available for purchase because at this writing Sonic has not yet hit critical mass. I’m learning that five seems to be the age when kids gravitate toward single-sex parties, and since all of his girl pals from school were at a girls-only party, we decided to keep it boys and their siblings from his class, which I have to be honest, seemed a little daunting especially with water balloons involved (more on that later), but turned out to be a super sonic good time.

Sonic birthday cake

Okay, the cake was nuts. Can you believe this multi-tiered, fondant, piped-icing, chocolate insanity that my sister, Claire, produced? From scratch! She made the race track out of fondant, as well as the “golden rings,” which she then dusted with edible gold glitter. (Sonic and Tails action figures via Amazon.com.)

sonic cake topper

The day before, I ran by Blick Art on Beverly to grab a giant piece of cardboard and some tempera paints to make a five-foot-tall Dr. Eggman (old-school Sonic villain circa 1990) target for water balloons. Turns out water balloons are a HUGE hit with everyone except for the unsuspecting spouse who has to fill them up.

Dr EggmanThere was Sonic face-painting by the one and only Zayda, and a Sonic piñata from the outstanding Tony of Out Of This World Piñata on Etsy. (He was also responsible for last year’s Spiderman piñata.)

sonic piñata I also found on Etsy these adorable hedgehog party favors (filled with a single serving of hot cocoa), which I put in muslin treat bags along with Sonic tattoos, and little Sega-style race cars.

sonic gift bagsSince Sonic’s favorite food is a chili dog—and I wasn’t overly excited about the prospect of chili, water balloons and five-year-old boys—we played it safe with no-mess hot dogs, Sonic golden rings (organic onion ring chips), and hedgehog fruit salad served in a carved watermelon impaled with blueberries on toothpicks for eyes and nose.

hedgehog fruit salad

sonic golden ringsAnd just because they are the birthday boy’s favorite, there was mac n’ cheese and chocolate milk. Etsy was also the source for these mini plastic milk bottles, which I wrapped with rafia and then tied with butcher’s twine. They are reusable so I’m looking forward to serving blackberry margaritas in them at our next grown-up barbecue.

mac cheese

chocolate milk

Thanks to James Rosales and Char Langos for photos!

Nights of Wine and Roses

In Design, Drink, Fashion, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on May 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

Lily Lodge Veuve Clicquot Rosé

A few weeks ago I received an invitation from Veuve Clicquot to join for an evening floral arranging class with my friend Ariana Lambert Smeraldo at her ultra-chic floral boutique, Lily Lodge. I knew it would be fun and that I’d learn a thing or two because Ariana has exquisite taste and her floral arrangements are second to none (psst—if you are wondering what we moms really want for Mother’s Day, a big green box from Lily Lodge is a good start). If you’ve ever wondered who does the drop-dead gorgeous arrangements at Bouchon, it’s this girl:

Ariana Lambert Smeraldo

At some point we’ll want to devote another post to Ariana’s hair, but in the meantime back to the flowers. Buckets of orange and pink petals on tables as Ariana instructed us how to arrange, starting with our biggest blooms first and playing around with height and color.

Lily Lodge Veuve Clicquot

flowers

lily lodge floral class

There were trays of gorgeous little lobster rolls and ahi on cucumbers. Even the food was pink and orange!

mini lobster roll

I love the idea of using cupcake wrappers for popcorn or crab salad. Wouldn’t they be great for a birthday party?

popcorn

And there was champagne, lots of it—pretty little coupes of Veuve Clicquot Rosé with candied rose petals were on offer from young gents, also with good hair.

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If I can ask you to refocus your attention for just one moment, check out the gorgeous array of vintage vases over his shoulder in the background. Oh, that’s what you were looking at all along? Good. Because one of Ariana’s exquisite arrangements sent in a vintage vase for Mother’s Day would really knock it out of the park.

Christine Natalie Nina

At the end of the evening we got to take home our creations. I love Natalie Martin‘s arrangement, above, but she is a fashion designer after all so of course hers is going to look fabulous! Ditto for the stylings of STYLOOT co-founder, Carlota Espinsoa, below.

carlota espinosa

Even if my own arrangement was, in Ariana’s words “wild and crazy,” I am absolutely wild and crazy about it! Here it is on our kitchen table.

heathers flowers

Cheers and thanks to you, Ariana, for an absolutely beautiful evening.

Veuve Clicquot Champagne Reception at Lily Lodge photos courtesy of Veuve Clicquot.

Finish Strong, Finish Pretty

In Fashion, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on February 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

RBS-flyover

On February 17, I’ll be running the Pasadena Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon as the token brunette on a team that includes four smoking hot blondes. This past Sunday we ran 12 miles, including a steep incline up San Vincente to Sunset Boulevard. I can still feel it! I’ve never run this course before, and it’s supposed to be gorgeous—starts at the Rose Bowl and winds through town to the California Institute of Technology campus and back. Any time I’ve run a race, I always hear my first running coach, Curtis, saying “finish strong, finish pretty!” Which basically means smile when you cross the finish line, even if you threw up at mile 9 of the LA Marathon in 90-degree heat, fractured a toe somewhere around mile 20 (see below) and were near tears as you limped your way through miles 22-26.2 for an overall a pace that was almost an hour longer than your training runs. Smile!

marathonmile20

But see? Here I am smiling for real this time at Dan Tana’s post-marathon, below, enjoying a Makers Mark Manhattan and a nicely charred New York steak.

hjmedal

That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger and makes that finish-line cocktail taste like it arrived on a beam of light. And honestly, all joking aside, running the 2007 LA Marathon remains one of the most incredible experiences of my life. And I still love to run (maybe not 26.2 miles) so on February 17 for our 13.1, I’m focusing on the “pretty” part of the picture.

1. Hydrate! Fuel Belt makes the best two-bottle belts of the bunch, and I love all the new color combos like this one in Hawaiian Punch:

r20_hawaiian

2. Fuel! The aforementioned fuel belt also includes a nifty neoprene pouch for holding your mobile phone and fuel for endurance during longer runs. I’ve tried them all—chews, goos, energy bars, jelly beans, you name it—and hands down my favorite are the Clif Bar Shot Bloks in Black Cherry. Each serving has 50mg of caffeine, the equivalent to a small cup of coffee. Run like the wind!

ClifShotBloks_BlackCherry

3. Go the distance. I love my Lululemon running skirts and Nike Tempo shorts for shorter runs, but when we’re talking about longer distances it’s all about running tights. Trust me when I say not all running tights are created equal. Low-rise leggings, while perhaps sassy at the gym, are not your friend on a long run. My favorite two designs for comfort are Adidas by Stella McCartney and GapFit. The Stella McCartneys are spendy at $110 a pair, but they’re truly the best of the best. I like that they are “natural rise” and the tech fabric she uses doesn’t get any better:

stellaruntights

I also love GapFit gFast Climate Leggings, which are even a little higher rise than the Stellas. And at $55, what’s not to like?

GapFit gFast heathered leggings - charcoal gray

4. Chocolate Milk. It does a body good. Really. Recent studies show it’s better than most sports drink for muscle recovery.

chocolatemilk

5. Put on a happy face. How best to do that? Run with friends, the kind who secretly drive through Hollywood on the Saturday night before your long run, attaching inspirational personalized posters to lamp posts to surprise the team and keep them motivated climbing that brutally steep hill to Sunset Blvd…you know who you are!

sunsetblvd-111112

All I Want for Christmas: Wreath Edition

In Design, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on December 6, 2012 at 9:40 am

wreath

This is the wreath I *really* want for Christmas, and like all good things this one comes to those who wait. Moon Canyon Design‘s gorgeous designs, like the wreath above, will be on sale at the Echo Park Craft Fair on December 15 & 16. Maybe I’ll get this one below for my friend Lizzie as a special thank you for introducing me to Moon Canyon Design in the first place. Plus, I have it on good authority that Lizzie has been extra nice this year. (Which is probably how Santa Claus arranged for her to be featured in the September issue of VOGUE.)

mooncanyondesignwreath

 

In the meantime, both Lizzie and I will have to settle for the lovely boxwood wreaths we scored yesterday morning downtown at the L.A. Flower Mart. I love Lizzie’s repurposed coal bag from San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co.—perfect for toting wreaths or beer.

SFVbag

 

Here’s mine hanging in all its understated glory. Let’s not break it just yet that a replacement might be on its way…

boxwoodwreath

 

Setting the Scene

In Design, Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on September 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Let it be said that Carrie Carr knows how to set a table. This month for cooking club, our theme was French Fall Feast. And, while everyone will tell you how délicieux the food was, nobody could stop talking about Carrie’s table. I love the jars of purple clover.

Carrie got a bunch of Scrabble letters and racks for a song on eBay so she had enough to spell out everyone’s name in lieu of place cards. She got the dishes, which were designed by Trey Seegle, from Anthropologie. Next month, I’m hosting cooking club, which is a going to be a tough act to follow.

Watts Towers in the Rain

In Design, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on February 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm

A few weeks ago I read a story about the Watts Towers in the New York Times, and was struck by the following point: “The Watts Towers may hold the twin distinctions of being perhaps the finest example of indigenous Los Angeles art and the least known, or least visited, by people who live in the region.” He’s right, you know. I’ve lived in LA for over a decade and until today had never visited these extraordinary installations. My friend Lizzie and I set out in the rain for South Central this morning and I don’t think either of us really knew just how incredible the Watts Towers would be. The whole scene is madness—the result of three decades of an eccentric tinkering in his back yard. Sabato “Simon” Rodia was an Italian immigrant who measured 4’10” and built all of this by hand starting in the 1920s—17 structures constructed of steel and mortar, and covered in broken glass bottles, cracked ceramic plates, sea shells and tiles.

He did all of this without any scaffolding or welding, bolts or rivets. The towers reach almost 100 feet. The tower photographed below reaches 99 1/2 feet, and represents the tallest slender reinforced concrete column in the world.

He called his vision Nuestro Pueblo (meaning “Our Town”) and performed weddings and baptisms within the towers for the community.

In addition to three bird baths, a circular gazebo, a replica of Marco Polo’s ship and many other expected details, look closely and you will discover a cactus garden erected from crushed green glass and surrounded by the artist’s “rose garden” he created using these tiles:

For anyone into ceramics, it’s incredible. I recognized some Batchelder, as well as some pieces of Fiestaware and J.A. Bauer, and our tour guide pointed out hand-painted Canton ware and Malibu Tiles from the 20s.

You can tour inside the towers Friday through Sunday, and admission costs $7. For hours and info, click HERE.

Bucatini with Romanesco, Mint and Capers

In Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A., Recipes on February 11, 2011 at 9:58 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). For $25/week, each Wednesday I pick up a huge bag of produce from local farmers at the nearby Wilshire Ebell Theatre.

I can’t tell you how much I dig this—I totally look forward to Wednesdays now. And have been having so much fun challenging myself to use everything in my haul each week. It kind of forces your hand as a cook. Like this week, when we discovered a gorgeous chartreuse sci-fi head of romanesco. Sometimes called Romanesco Broccoli or Romanesco Cauliflower, it’s a form of cauliflower with a slightly nutty flavor. And it’s beautiful beyond belief.

The conical florets remind me of Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour. I mean, if Gaultier were going to design a vegetable, surely it would be le romanesco, non?

I’d like to think that Jean-Paul would approve of this romanesco pasta creation, which I’d like to humbly say was something of an inspiration. And I realized as I was serving it that—added bonus—it’s vegan, unless of course you liberally sprinkle it with shaved Pecorino Romano as we did.

Bucatini with Romanesco, Mint and Capers

1 head of romanesco

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons red chili flakes

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons chopped capers

1 lb bucatini, cooked to desired doneness

Salt and pepper, to taste

Break off romanesco florets and soak in ice water for about 10 minutes, to preserve color.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil. In a separate skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Sauté minced garlic, red pepper flakes, mint and capers for 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove from heat. When water is boiling, drain romanesco from ice bath and add to boiling water for 3-5 minutes, until al dente. (Don’t overcook—you want a little texture from the florets.) Drain and toss in skillet with garlic and mint mixture.

Mix with pasta, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

SAG Awards 2011 Fashion Report

In Fashion, Film, Media, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on January 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Who watched the SAG Awards last night? I have to say, it is fascinating to see the difference between how a dress plays out on camera versus in the flesh. In person, Mila Kunis absolutely KILLED IT on the red carpet. Her Alexander McQueen gown was so chic—and the Cartier jewels, all of it, just a show-stopper. Her Black Swan costar Natalie Portman absolutely glowed in a white Azarro gown (was that not the best maternity dress EVER???) and her makeup was stunning, but in photos weirdly the look falls a little flat. Similarly, photos do no justice to one of my very favorite looks of the evening, Claire Danes in a gorgeous floral Louis Vuitton, with little flowers sewn into the bodice and a chic black velvet belt.

True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld looked age-appropriate in a neon-striped Prada number, but I’m on the fence about whether this actually worked (below). In theory I like it, but in reality the dress is LOUD. Meanwhile, January Jones was gorgeous in photos in an elegant Carolina Herrera but in person she has gotten so skinny that she looked like a wire hanger poking through the dress.

With the exception of Mila Kunis and the flawless Julianna Margulies in her stunning YSL, red dresses have become such a cliché that they are now officially more boring than black. And speaking of black, Nicole Kidman looked like she was wearing a granny shawl with all that heavy stuff happening in the shoulders and neckline of her dowdy Nina Ricci dress. And is it just me, or did Christina Hendricks look as if she’d borrowed one of Hugh Hefner’s bathrobes? Without doubt, the worst of the evening was Helena Bonham Carter, looking like a Texas madam in Marc Jacobs and featuring a hair tint that—when the light caught it backstage—can only be described as prune.

On the other hand, I found myself a little bit breathless when walking in on the red carpet behind her costar Colin Firth in a Tom Ford tux. The man is just stunning. Also, I may never wash my Lanvin frock again as I brushed shoulders with Christian Bale (who, ladies, was all the more devastatingly handsome in person) and Justin Timberlake, who looked AWESOME in his Simon Spur black 2-button gros grain peak lapel tuxedo and double-stripe tie. For sheer tailoring alone, however, my vote goes to his Social Network costar Andrew Garfield in an exquisite navy Burberry tux. Why do the Brits get this navy thing so right? (Exhibit A: Jude Law, below, navy Dunhill tux, Oscars 2004.)

Who were your favorite hits and misses from the awards?

Did You Ever Have a Dream, Tiny G!

In Baby Love, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on December 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm

You know life has taken a turn when you’re showing up at the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire Blvd in the rain at nine o’clock in the morning to catch your favorite live act. But then I’m hardcore that way. This morning Tiny G’s preschool headlined the marquee at the historic El Rey for its holiday performance—and let me tell you, it was even more awesome than 10th row at Bowie’s Sound + Vision tour my senior year of high school. Okay, I might be overstating, but only just a little. I mean, a bunch of two-year-olds taking the stage and singing their hearts out? Yeah, that just might be better than Bowie. So here’s to my favorite little hero, Tiny G! Happy Holidays!

Paddle Tennis

In On Location: Out and About in L.A. on October 30, 2010 at 7:40 am

Mr. Foodinista and I are leaving shortly to go play in a paddle tennis tournament in Santa Monica. Truth is stranger than fiction.

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