, ,


I once had a boyfriend who sent me a recording of Brahms 3rd symphony, and on the cover of the CD he wrote, “The 3rd movement makes me want to crawl into your womb and dwell there.”  Too much?  Yeah I know, we didn’t last.  But I kinda’ get it.  It’s gorgeous stuff.

Brahms: Symphony No. 3, 3rd movement: Poco Allegretto



I hate baking.


, , , ,


NOT me.

I hate baking.  No, let me correct that – I’m afraid of baking.  All the exactness of it, the “don’t open the oven until it’s done!” stuff, the science of it.  Ask me to make a last-minute Thanksgiving dinner for 12?  No problem.  Ask me to bake a cake?  HIVES.  But that all changed when I learned that Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself, was intimidated by baking too, or more specifically, making pastry dough.  Then she discovered frozen puff pastry.  And I did too.  It’s easy, it’s timesaving, it’s inexpensive, and it’s just a great short cut to creating simple, homemade desserts.  Most of all, Ina approves.

Here’s a simple but impressive recipe for Palmiers, sometimes called Elephant Ears or French Hearts.  Why impressive?  Because they’re French, fancy, and flaky.  But shhh, so easy!



  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry*, defrosted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  1. Mix the salt with the sugar and pour half the mixture onto a counter or cutting board.  Unfold the sheet of pastry dough onto the sugar and pour the rest of the sugar mixture on top, spreading it out evenly.
  2. Roll the dough into a 12”x12” square, rolling the sugar into the pastry.  Idiot  alert!  If it’s your first time using a rolling pin, don’t get all excited and roll it out too large and thin (“Wooooo, I’m baking!”). You’ll burn whatever you’re doing because the bottom will be too thin.
  3. Now it’s time to fold and fear not – you’ll get it.  Fold the two sides a quarter of the way inwards, then a quarter of the way inwards again so that they’ll meet in the middle.  Then fold one half on top of the other, culminating in six layers, and you’ll now have a long vertical strip.
  4. Slice the dough into strips about ¼” thick and place strips on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure you leave about 2” in between slices so that they can spread while baking.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes until brown and caramelized on the bottom, then turn and bake for 3-4 minutes more.  Let cool on a wire rack and Voila!  Fancy, French cookies you made all by yourself!

Makes 20

*Tip  Any puff pastry will do, but if you can find Dufour Pastry Kitchens Classic Puff Pastry, I promise you, you will never use another kind again.  It’s crazy good, and no one will ever believe it’s store-bought.  I found it at Whole Foods and almost wish I hadn’t, ka-ching!

Madonna ♥ Estonia


, , , , , , , , ,


Remember Swept Away, that laugh-inducing movie from 2002 that starred Madonna and her spray tan?  Well for those of you who ran for the exits after its first excruciating minutes, you missed its one redeeming moment – the inspired choice of using Arvo Part’s hauntingly beautiful “Spiegel im Spiegel” during a particularly heart-wrenching scene. Scratch that, I’m sure it was supposed to be heart-wrenching, but who could do anything but roll their eyes throughout that entire Madonna vanity project, directed by her then-husband Guy Ritchie.

The guy sure did one thing right, though.  He or his peeps knew about contemporary classical music from Estonia (who knew?) and introduced anyone not too distracted by Miss M’s inability to act to a sublime piece of music.

Arvo Part:  Spiegel im Spiegel

And I guess I’m not the only one who thought so, because since then it’s been used in the trailer for Gravity, the New York City Ballet’s After the Rain,  Mike Nichols’ Wit on HBO, and countless others.  Swept Away, indeed!

Does Ruby need a wake up call?


, , , , ,

Kimpton Hotels

Dog lovers, listen up!  Do you start your sentences with we instead of I, even though you’re single?  Do you deliberately not finish your burger when out with friends, knowing that a certain someone at home would love to finish it?  Then you’re probably inclined to travel with your beloved pooch, and yet find it difficult to find a nice hotel that will accommodate the, um, two of you.

More room service, Ruby?

More room service, Ruby?

Worry no more.  Check out the Kimpton hotel chain (kimptonhotels.com), a series of boutique hotels across the country that not only allow dogs, but go out of their way to make them comfortable.  When I saw a picture on their web site of a big black lab lounging on a bed – a king bed, no less – I packed up my car and my greyhound Ruby, who never met a bed she didn’t love, and drove down to DC (where there are a whopping 8 hotels to choose from.  San Francisco has 10.).  For those of you who prefer leg room, they also provide dog beds, along with bowls and treats, dog walking services, and best of all, they don’t discriminate against breed.  Even your big buddy Mastiff is welcome!

Oh yeah, for you humans, every Kimpton hotel hosts a popular wine hour in the late afternoon, plus there are spa services, fitness centers, and always cool bars and restaurants.  Ruby and I were very, ahem, content, and who knows, maybe a cross country trip to San Fran is in our future?

Om shanti, honey.


, , , , , ,


Cold enough for ya?  If you’re in any part of the US besides perhaps California, then you’ve been suffering just like me through this horrid winter that just won’t quit.  I truly think that the only thing that’s gotten me through has been my friend Grace’s homemade Chai Tea recipe.  It’s so good, and I’ve made it so often, it’s almost replaced my morning coffee.  Almost.  Make a large batch, and either heat it up, cup by cup, or serve it iced – also so good. It’s much tastier than any artificial, too-sweet version you’d find at Starbucks, and you’ll really impress your friends.  Especially those in extra layers and down parkas and mittens and hats and scarves and long underwear and wool sweaters and OMG WHEN WILL THIS FRIGGIN’ WINTER EVER END?!?!

Grace’s Homemade Chai Tea

  • 15 cloves
  • 15 peppercorns
  • 10 cardamom pods, gently crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise (optional – I love its licorice flavor and its look)
  • 1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 3 bags of black tea, preferably Assam or Darjeeling
  • 2 -3 cups milk (depending on how latte-like you like it)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Add 6 cups water to medium saucepan on medium-high heat.  Add cloves, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and ginger and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add tea bags and let simmer for only 2 or 3 minutes more.  Strain liquid and then pour back into saucepan on low heat.  Add milk, honey and vanilla, stir for a few minutes, remove from heat, and ahhhh, enjoy!

IMG_8674       IMG_8681

* Feel free to fool around with this recipe to your liking, as I did with the star anise.  Some people add allspice, or use a real vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, while others use brown sugar instead of honey.  Grace doesn’t like any caffeine, so she actually excludes the tea bags and just drinks the spiced stuff.  And as noted, when it finally warms up, serve it iced and it’s a real treat. *

Dios mio!


, , , , ,

David “Big Papi” Ortiz

Hey, up there, thanks man!

You know how certain baseball sluggers tend to point to the sky after they’ve hit a home run, thanking the Big Man Upstairs for their good fortune (or at least good luck)?  The same goes for pitchers.  Baseball’s greatest closer, the deeply religious Mariano Rivera, used to point upwards after safely closing out a game, and he was hardly alone (though a bit more subtle than most).  But if you think about it, why don’t they ever do just the opposite after they’ve struck out, or, after they’ve been lit up?  You’ll never see David “Big Papi” Ortiz curse the other Big Man or (gasp!) give the middle finger after getting strike three, nor any pitcher giving The Sopranos’ stuggatz sign after giving up multiple hits.  Sure, there’ll be some under-the-breath mutterings as they walk slowly, head down, to the dugout.  But why the double standard?  If they’re quick to give thanks after their home run trot, it’s only fair that someone, just once, would give a big ol’ “Up yours!” after an epic out.  Man, if Alex Rodriguez did that, I’d stand up and cheer him for the one and only time!

“Hello, my name is Moonbeam.”


, , , , ,


Ten Thousand Waves
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Thus began my Watsu experience at the famous Ten Thousand Waves (spa) in Santa Fe, one of the most memorable hours of my entire life.  A little far fetched?  Well, maybe I live a boring life.  But I don’t think so!  Imagine the best rubdown you’ve ever had, then imagine taking a tranquil, warm bath.  Now put them together and that’s what a Watsu, or underwater massage, is like.  It’s also a highly spiritual experience, if you really let yourself go.  As my therapist Moonbeam (I swear I am not making that up) explained, Watsu is all about trust.  The more I trusted her, the more fulfilling my experience would be. And sure enough, after a few minutes of awkward hesitancy, I relaxed into her arms as she held me like a baby and gently twisted me into yoga-like poses.  And that’s what made it so noteworthy – I completely lost myself, fully and completely, right there in a stranger’s arms.  My muscles turned to noodles and my breath became quiet, like at any good massage, but what was different was that I also had tears in my eyes.  It was almost as if I had just had the best therapy session ever, in a hot tub!  Moonbeam indeed.

Pittie Party


, , , , , , ,

Pit Bulls and Parolees
Saturday Nights on Animal Planet

Obsession.  No, I’m not talking about Tia Torres’ obsession with pit bulls; I’m talking about my obsession with her.  She’s the coolest chick on the planet, or at least Animal Planet, and undoubtedly the most unaffected person on reality TV.  You’ll jump on the pittie party yourself if you watch her show, “Pit Bulls and Parolees,” where Tia and her motley crew of devoted offspring and just-out-of-prison parolees run the largest pit bull sanctuary in the world.  There, in New Orleans, it’s all about second chances – for the pits and the ex-cons. There is no dog rescue too daunting for her, no days off, no overly-white teeth and hugs of comfort on display (sorry, Cesar).  Instead, she’s disarmingly blunt and as brash as her kooky hair color, and at the end of each show, I always feel like putting my dog in the car and driving south to the Big Easy …. not for Mardi Gras!

(Holy Sh*t!) It can not be!


, , , , , , , ,

Costa Brava, Spain, September, 1990 

I was about to suffer sun stroke on a sweltering bus trip from Barcelona to a tiny town up the coast, sticking to my vinyl seat and gulping at my agua con gas.  What saved me?  A voice from above, or actually, my Sony Walkman (1990!) in the form of The Three Tenors recording.  Sure there was plenty of fun stuff from the other two, but it was Placido Domingo singing a song that I had never heard that made me forget my woes and the smelly guy next to me. The song was “No Puede Ser,” a popular Zarzuela, or Spanish operetta, aria.  It’s a big, schmaltzy love song for tenor and orchestra meaning “It can not be,” but that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is the last three notes of the song, which so floored me I stared dumbfounded at my Walkman before rewinding again and again.  The video was released a few months later and lo and behold, the conductor Zubin Mehta does the same thing!  He literally stares at Domingo when he finishes, almost shaking his head in disbelief at what he’s just heard, and bows down to him as they shake hands.

The Three Tenors (Domingo, Carreras, Pavarotti) and conductor Zubin Mehta

It’s that good.  Domingo in his prime, not in “Tosca” at the Met, but in a knock-em-dead performance of a lovely little ditty.

No Puede Ser
Performed by Placido Domingo

Listen first:

Then watch:

I Saw God in Beverly Hills.


, , , , ,


Modern and Traditional Olives @ The Bazaar

The Bazaar
SLS Hotel, Beverly HIlls, CA

Jose Andres = God.  That’s what I thought when I ate at The Bazaar, the swank Beverly Hills home to the super-chef from Barcelona.  More specifically, that’s what I thought five minutes in, when a plate of his “modern olives” literally popped in my mouth!  Whaaaaaaaaat just happened, I think I screamed to the waiter!  Apparently some molecular gastronomy just happened, as these light green blobs on silver spoons turned into the craziest thing to happen to my mouth since my braces came off.


“Philly Cheesesteak” @ The Bazaar

His food is so good and so inventive, yet because of his technique and stupefying flavors, it’s almost other-worldly.  The other highlights on the tapas menu include Andres’ take on a Philly cheese steak – the lightest, airiest two-bite sandwich you’ll ever have – and the Brussels sprouts with lemon air.  Yes, air.  They also serve the best pan con tomate (tomato bread) I’ve ever had, and I lived in Spain!  Please go.