Saturday, November 26, 2011

Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Common Dreams - Razoo


If your intention this gift giving season is to spend your money wisely, and to avoid getting caught up in the frivolousness of commercialism and holiday spending, consider a donation to the Common Dreams Haiti Fund. A cause supported by, rap artist, Common. See the attached link. This Christmas, why not consider a donation as a gift on behalf of a family member or a friend. Karmically you'll be rewarded and it will make you feel good in the process.
There's no better feeling than helping someone less fortunate than yourself. Having traveled the globe, seeing depressed conditions firsthand, let me be the first to say that, "those of us who think we have it bad, truely have no idea how bad, BAD, can be." Help someone in need today.
Show that you care. Do something for someone else this holiday season. Why not start today. Learn more.

Common Dreams Haiti - Razoo

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Los Angeles, CA: Crepes meet Little Tokyo.....a perfect match!

There are no bones about it,.....Four Leaf Tea Room in Little Tokyo on 2nd Street in downtown Los Angeles offers the best crepes EVER!!! Typically, you don't speak of crepes and Japanese in the same breathe, but what a combo. This place is a hidden jewel set back off the street with optional sidewalk seating. These crepes come savory and sweet and in many unique combinations. A couple of my favorites are the caprese, filled with a very fresh and creamy mozzarella, tangy tomatoes, basil and lettuce, and the blueberries with honey cream. As it sounds, it's a decadent combo of fresh berries and fluffy whipped cream wrapped in a light and airy flat pancake, that creates a "MOUTH FULL OF JOY." Once you check out this place, there's no turning back. You'll become a regular,.....I have. It's become more than a great girlfriend pit stop, it lends itself to the occasional "date night" for me and my hubby too. He favors the Japanese Explosion, a unique blend of red bean paste, mochi and green tea gelato with whipped cream. Yum!
I must give a shout out to "my girl", Addie, for the introduction. Not only are the crepes delicious, but Four Leaf offers affordable food that's fresh, tastes good, and quite filling. Pair a delicious crepe with one of their fragrant teas from the extensive tea selection and, voila,'re done!
As a treat to ourselves yesterday afternoon following a great yoga session, myself and the girls made our way to Four Leaf to cap off our afternoon. It couldn't have been more perfect.
Good friends, good food, good laughs,.......good times!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Los Angeles, CA: Rediscovering Home

Unlike last year, 2011 has me rediscovering Los Angeles, including my neighborhood. This year does not involve constant travel as did last. Instead, I am nurturing my home life, and learning to appreciate the comforts of familiarity in my immediate surroundings. I recently had the best day and experience retreating for some much needed pampering and a dose of detox. I, and my best friend, Tracey, treated ourselves to one of my new favorite local spots, The Raven. An intimate spa nestled in the confines of the busy city. It is a tranquil, unpretentious and perfectly understated setting, known for its traditional Thai massage, but offering a menu of services to please most, including select yoga practices,.....and it's only minutes from my house. I would guess that the experience is second to none, aside from being in Thailand. The Raven is hidden in plain sight, secluded and tucked away in a small building off the busy street. Once discovered, you're totally lured in by curiosity, setting foot into the narrow open air alleyway entrance and waiting area, decorated appropriately in a Colonial Thai decor of over sized, comfortable and lightly cushioned rattan wicker chairs and ottomans, tropical plants, aluminum water bowls for washing, a troth basin and rustic wooden doors, canopied with a bamboo trellis and ceramic painted floors. You immediately feel transformed. At the end of the corridor is the check-in desk where a simple selection of wares are for sell--cotton drawstring yoga pants, T-shirts and assorted mentholated balms--tiger, monkey, etc. Once inside, Tracey and I, were escorted to the massage room set for two, divided simply, by a heavy natural cotton muslin curtain hung on aged oblong-shaped iron curtain rings. There's no significance to the curtain rings besides their uniqueness and the fact that they matched the attention paid to detail of the decor throughout. We disrobed and laid face down. Moments later our one hour session of massage began. We had both requested the Swedish massage, figuring that it would be easier to endure than Thai, but to my surprise, The Raven's version of Swedish massage was a hybrid, uniquely incorporating Thai methods, making my experience intense, but nonetheless, enjoyable. Na Na, my masseuse, firmly but gently applied pressure to all the right places, kneading my sore tight muscles like lofty yeasty dough, then twisted and tugged on my limbs like they were rubber. It was oddly heavenly. By the end of it all I was so worked over that I was left feeling like a wet noodle. Excellent.
Following our services we dragged our rejuvenated asses a few doors down to Edendale Grill , a fabulously restored firehouse turned restaurant/bar, for appetizers and a cocktail, wrapping up the evening of quality girlfriend time.
It's nice to realize that these simple pleasures, are, and have been, always in my own backyard. Now, if I can only find a way to afford The Raven every week.....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

London, England: The Tate Modern, Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Exhibit

Now here's a show I wish I had not missed, if only for the experience.

I was in London last December during the time of this exhibit at the Tate Modern. Unfortunately, time was limited and though I knew of the exhibit, it became low priority. Needless to say, I didn't see it. A mistake!!!

How often can you say that you saw 100 million hand painted porcelain sunflower seeds, commissioned by 1600 artisans and produced by a world renowned controversial artist, that have been strewn across a famous modern museum floor to be admired?.....


Woulda, coulda, shoulda,...but I didn't. The moral to this story is,...."seize the moment."

The Tate Modern
Ai Wei Wei's Sunflower Seed Exhibit
October 2010-May 2011
London, UK

Los Angeles, CA: Art In The Streets - MOCA 2011 (Museum of Contemporary Art)

Art in the Streets is a retrospective collective of graffiti art in America in the 20th century. It depicts it's stronghold on the community and displays the influence of popular culture through this medium and it's affect on the world around us.
I, personally, feel lucky to have lived in NYC in the mid 80's experiencing this movement firsthand, though I didn't understand or appreciate it for what it is today. Nonetheless, graffiti is ingrained in my memory when thinking back to those early times in Brooklyn and Manhattan when the city was my stomping ground. I'm proud to be able to say, "I knew it when,....." I was living on the cusp and didn't even realize it.

Check out Art in the Streets at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles, April 17-August 8, 2011. It's a great way to spend an afternoon.

An exhibit worth seeing.....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kyoto & Nara, Japan: Cherryblossoms

Japan in the springtime. My memories of Japan conjure thoughts of cherry blossoms in bloom, wooden structured Shinto and Buddhist temples, pagoda style architecture, uniformed school kids, ramen shops and hints of tradition, peppered into a menagerie of modernity; bright neon lights, power lines, mural sized advertisements and high rises. These are what I remember when I recall Japan.
Needless to say, Japan was hard hit this past spring, experiencing the worst earthquake and tsunami ever seen to date. The thought of it still blows my mind. In remembering Japan, I'll acknowledge its' uniqueness and beauty, instead of the fragility of Mother nature.
It was April of last year that I traveled to Japan for the second time in my life, first, visiting Osaka, then Kyoto, Nara and Yokohama. The trip was brief, our stay being only two weeks, and our days full. Touring with Lady Gaga, we had scheduled dates to perform outside Osaka at the Kobe World Memorial Hall and later in Yokohama at the Yokohama Arena. The energy and buzz around the show was electric. The Japanese fans, like all others, were thrilled, excited and devoted "Little Monsters" eager to be swept up in the "magic and awe" of the two hour show.

We arrived in Osaka after a three week stay in Australia and were ready for the change of scenery. For us, Japan marked the beginning of a two week countdown until our return "home", to the US, for a much needed break.
This time in Japan, much like my first, the temperature was frigid, a drastic change, coming from summertime and the sunny skies "Down Under".
Our first night in town, a small group collected for a fine dining experience in Kobe, a short train or taxi ride away from our hotel, for none other than the renowned beef, hence the name Kobe beef. Considered a delicacy, it is one of the more tender, succulent and flavorful cuts of meat, significant to this particular region of Japan. I didn't taste it, so I can't actually speak from experience, but I did hear that dinner was amazing. I opted to stay in, to regroup, catch up on rest and plan for the following day.
Laura and I had planned ahead, choosing to spend our time in town as "tourist". The next morning we woke early with plans to venture to nearby Kyoto and Nara for some history and culture. We were up at the crack of dawn and made our way to the designated meeting site where we were met by an unassuming, slight Japanese women with a very strong Japanese/English accent and more tourist. We quickly took her direction, following along like ducks in a row and found ourselves suddenly submerged in the Japanese morning rush hour and on the subway for a short ride to another pit stop. In a word,....."INTERESTING."

Once back above ground, our first stop was Kyoto. We carried on by bus traveling through the streets to see the major tourist sites.  My first visit to Japan years ago took me to urban Tokyo and industrial Fukuoka. I had always heard that if ever in Japan, seize the opportunity to see Kyoto. It presents a better chance to get a sense of old world Japan.
Our tour began at the Nijo Castle, an architectural marvel constructed of mostly carved wood. On the grounds of the Castle were lots of cherry blossom trees in bloom, fragrantly coloring the backdrop in a gorgeous pale pink. It was beautiful.

We carried on to The Golden Pavilion. A breathtaking sight, surrounded by traditional Japanese gardens, including bonsai trees.
The grounds were busy with tourist and Japanese school kids on field trips. I've learned that the Pavilion is the most visited site in Japan.
Unfortunately for us, the weather was not our friend that day. We were drenched head to toe from the periodic downpour, though we didn't let it dampen our spirits. There was too much to see and such little time.

Before continuing on to Nara's Todaiji Temple and Deer Park we took time out for a scheduled lunch. It was after that that we transferred to another bus that would transport us for the remainder of the day. The Todaiji Temple was a sight to behold, grand and palatial, it is significant for being the largest wooden structure worldwide and houses the largest buddha statue in existence. Upon entering the grounds of the temple, we were encouraged to hand feed the meandering deer in exchange for photo opts.

To end our visit at the park, we were encouraged to roam more of the temple grounds where there were again more deer, and one hundred year old trees, signs of this obvious by the exposed roots. There were romantic pathways to follow, and many rows of moss covered stone lanterns of varied sizes, a traditional symbol of luck and well wishes. It was the perfect serene setting to the end of a long and full afternoon.
I am glad to have had this opportunity to see Japan for a second time. There is always something new to discover and learn.   It is a beautiful country, with a rich culture and history.  I've enjoyed learning more about it each visit and look forward to the day I return. I'll remain optimistic.....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Los Angeles, California: CDG Awards Ceremony!

Awards season is here!!! The Costume Designers' Guild Awards ceremony was held on Wednesday, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Unlike years past, I took initiative to go and joined my friends in support of our colleague and friend, the renowned and respected costume designer, Julie Weiss, who was being honored with a lifetime achievement award.
The Guild Awards is a gala event that takes time out to celebrate their own, honoring its' peers for their outstanding hard work and dedication in the field of film, television, and commercials for costume design.
In preparing for the occasion I quickly knew I wanted to wear a dress that I had seen worn by Selma Hayek from a magazine tear sheet that I had been holding on to. I loved it! It was simple, clean, modern and sexy. Well, least it was on her. I figured I'd give myself a weeks time to have it made, knowing that that should have been plenty. What I didn't account for, was the fact that the seamstress would be overwhelmed with other projects and not available for me, forcing me to consider "plan B". Well, I immediately knew that I WOULD BE,...."plan B". Knowing construction, I was plenty capable of building the dress, I just wasn't in the mood to do so, and knew that it had been some time since I had last sewn and for that reason, it might take me a while. I surprise even myself when I am pushed to make something happen. Determined to wear the outfit, I dug deep, pulling out old skills that I hadn't used since making my wedding dress. Yes, I draped and pattern drafted the sleeve and shoulder piece of the ensemble, before attempting to drape the dress. Feeling tight on time, knowing that I didn't want to rush the project, and still needing to make the dress, I went to "plan C",.....Nordstrom's Rack. Keeping my cool and having faith that I'd find something nice, the morning of the event, I rushed to rummage through Nordstrom's selection of discounted evening attire. It's funny, but being a professional shopper never seems challenging until you have to dress yourself. "What to do! What to do!!"

I filled my arms with literally, 30 or so dress options, and proceeded to the fitting room, hoping to find something that might work with the piece I had already made. Thankfully, Nordstrom's Rack doesn't adhere to the 6 garments-in-the-dressing-room-at-a-time rule. I entered the dressing room and started to try them on one by one. I knew immediately what I liked and what I didn't, so the process went seemingly fast. Plus, I was pressed for time. I guess there is a God,..... I found the perfect dress! It was an affordable strapless cocktail dress in a complimentary fabric and color by Laundry, and in my size. It was as if the dress was calling my name. Some things are just meant to be, I love it when that happens. I snatched up the dress, found shoes to match, hosiery and a bra and made my way to the checkout. This was "one-stop-shopping" at it's best. Now what to do with my makeup and hair!!??? Yikes!!

I went home with time to spare, gave myself an easy up "doo" and slowly and very light-handedly started to "put on my face" with the less is more philosophy.
All in all, I think I did great! Tracey was standing by to help zip me up and squeeze me into the sleeve apparatus that I'd made. In the end, though I didn't construct the original dress from the photo, I was proud of my accomplishment with building the sleeve piece and pairing of the cocktail dress. Ultimately, it was wearable and that's what mattered. By pulling it off, I actually surprised myself. You do what you have to when you must.
I met Deb and Rex at the designated meeting time and we, together, went to the event for cocktails and dinner before the actual awards ceremony . It was a few good hours had by all. Attending the evening gave me a sense of pride, feeling as though I was in good company and a part of something respected and special. Nominee or not, that left me feeling good.
The next Hollywood event is the Oscars. It's probably a good thing that I don't need to pull myself together for that,....well, at least, not yet. ;)

Santa Fe, New Mexico:

Santa Fe, Santa Fe, Santa Fe!..... I've been to many places, but nowhere quite like this. Based only on my first impression, there's a spirit of mysticism and inspiration that I feel here. I found the city quite desirable.
After a brief flight from LA, I reached Santa Fe mid afternoon on Friday for a planned girls getaway of rest and relaxation. It was this time last year that the ladies took a brief trip to the desert for a much needed break. Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, I had just accepted the offer to join the Lady Gaga gig and had to miss out. Inspired to gather anually, I seized the opportunity to travel to meet them this time.

This years pick was Santa Fe, the small, big city in the desert. We treated ourselves to accommodations at the Encantado Spa & Resort, a quiet modern, luxury retreat in the desert hills. After arriving and settling in mid day, we enjoyed a casual meal and margaritas, all the while playing catch up, at the cozy hotel bar/lounge, Terra. It was the perfect grown up setting to relieve our stress and reconnect. If not for the overcast skies we might have enjoyed the slight sunset ducking under the snow capped mountains in the distance. After a few cocktails and long overdue chats, we retired to our room to rest up for whatever excitement was in store the next day.
Saturday morning we woke to clear skies, crisp air and the a positive mood. I grabbed breakfast with Debbie in the spacious tranquil dining room, choosing the healthy option before meeting Diane for yoga. It was a great way to get motivated for the day. Not having wheels of our own, we borrowed the E-class, drop top Mercedes, available to us through the hotel to cruise around town. Looking for somewhere satisfying to eat, our first stop, The Shed, was a priority. It was a cute, busy, casual and lively restaurant offering Mexican fare. The outside courtyard was full of tourist and locals, alike, waiting patiently for their name to be called, while being tempted to make purchases at the conveniently situated shops adjacent to the restaurant selling local art and jewels. Okay, I have to confess,.....I gave in to temptation, purchasing a resonably priced Mexican stenciled silver framed mirror that might be a nice addition to our bathroom at home.

After lunch we took our time walking around the small radius of downtown to see the sights--adobe style architecture and multitude of art galleries. I didn't know that Santa Fe was so rich in history and culture. I found our visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum most inspiring. Learning more about her, I found new respect for her as an artist and appreciation for her as a trailblazer of her time.

Also impressive were the artists represented at the Lew Allen Modern Art Gallery that we visited, of which there was a boutique gallery on the grounds of our hotel compound. They represent varied well established modern artists and sculptors. I was quite taken by the work of Meridel Rubenstein, whose work in photo transperency spoke to me and that of Lucy Lyon, whose cast glass sculptures were like nothing I had ever quite seen. Before collecting for a meal, we drove to Canyon Road, known for its high end galleries and shops. We drove there expecting to find an art opening or two, but instead, discovered that everything was already closed.

Hungry and ready to eat, we found the The Pink Adobe. For the cost, the service and food did not live up to our expectation. It was very average and lacked presentation. The cuisine is a fusion of Cajun and Mexican. I found the menu limiting, forcing me to be cautious, preferring to order the spaghetti bolognese. It wasn't bad, but nothing to write home about. Unlike the food, the decor and ambience were delightful, vibrant with brightly colored walls and pillow cushioned built-in banquets, brass nail head and leather-backed chairs, existing trees with trunks exposed, undisturbed and masterfully inclusive in the construction of the space, adobe fireplaces, hand painted walls and decorative dim lighting. We finished our meal then drove 20 minutes back to our hotel. Once there we gravitated to the hotel bar for evening appetizers and drinks before turning in. It had been a full day.

Sunday, again, brought breakfast and morning yoga. The plan was to surrender and relax. We spent a few hours at the spa, enjoying the amenities--steam room, hot tub and tranquility room. Our day was subtle. After our late afternoon naps, we trekked across the road to the bar for a light dinner and cocktails. We laughed, talked and inspired one another, pow wowing over life goals and intentions for the year ahead, while munching on truffle fries and seasoned, toasted mixed nuts. It was good. Needless to say, there was a lot of eating and drinking happening over the weekend.

We rounded out the night in keeping with the established theme by watching the movie, The Bucket List. Sharing our thoughts and ideas, we were optimistic for the future seeing the glass half full, not, half empty.
Our long weekend was nearly over. We awoke leisurely on Monday, then packed and sorted our belongings before grabbing a light lunch in the dining room prior to our departure. It was fun to recap and discuss the value and meaning of our spontaneous getaway, celebrating the time we shared and being proud of how we made time for what was important by not letting life's demands get in the way. Going forward, I'll do my best to stay focused in THIS moment as I pursue the year ahead, and if I start to slip or fall short, I'll look back to this blog post to give me guidance and inspiration, while thinking about my dear friends Debbie and Diane and the great weekend we had. Until we meet again......