Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When I Was First Published in 1979

I wrote this poem at a time when my home town of Ocean Grove's municipal authority was being threatened to be folded into the auspices of Neptune Township; and it did eventually happen in 1981. However, my 10 year old opinionated self had to have my voice heard.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Honoring My Favorite Soldiers

Today is Memorial Day and, for most of us, this means a three day weekend, BBQs and retail sales; but today, I want to take a moment to let the world know how proud I am of my cousin, Specialist James Donovan U.S. Army, of Ft. Benning, GA.

(Just so you know Jimmy will absolutely hate that I am doing this!)

When I was 9 years old, my aunt Trish – who is only 11 years older than me – had Jimmy, her first child.  He was the cutest and happiest baby boy I ever met until I had my own son.

Jimmy and I both spent a lot of time with our Nana and they put his crib in the spare bedroom, which also had bunk beds for me as well.  As you can imagine, I thought Jimmy was my baby. 

Nana was around to oversee and make sure baby was safe; but I loved to feed Jimmy, put him in his crib, take him out of his crib (which caused a few head bumps since I could barely lift him), and play with him.

Then almost two years later, Jackie – Jimmy’s little baby sister -- came along.  I loved her just as much as her brother and, spent a lot of time with her too, but this little ditty is about Jimmy.

Our family is very close so there isn’t a time that I don’t remember almost always being with Jimmy and Jackie – especially the first decade of their lives – until I went away to college.

Little Jimmy
Cute baby Jimmy grew into an even cuter toddler. Imagine that!  He had blond hair and a cherubic face which always had a smile on it.  Honestly, I can’t even remember Jimmy crying as a baby. 

Once I went away to college, I unintentionally drifted away from my cousins.  Except for when I would drive home on the weekends with about 10 loads of laundry.  One time, as I pulled up to the house, the engine of my car caught on fire.  I had Jimmy - who was probably 12 - out there helping me pull all my clothes out of the trunk of my car. Even as the fire truck pulled up, I was shoving baskets of clothes in that poor little guys arms.  He kept saying that it was so hot, and I just kept shouting for him to get my clothes to safety. 

But alas, I didn't cause him injury and life went on. Jimmy and Jackie had their own teen-age lives and I was away at school.  Then, after graduation, I moved out West.

Thirteen years ago, both cousins made the trek to California for my wedding.  At the time, they were young adults – almost in their 20s.  Once again, it really wasn’t a time when I could catch up with them since I was in the midst of my wedding.

It was a few years later, I started going back to NJ for visits that lasted 10 days to 2 weeks and that was when we all really reconnected as adults.

After graduation, Jimmy landed a job with Toyota Motor Corporation.  He was there for about 10 years – except when he had taken some time off to pursue a career in Real Estate.  Jimmy was respected and revered in his role at Toyota.  He was one of their senior mechanics and an expert at what he did.  However, Jimmy’s real passion was to be in law enforcement.  I can only assume that his desire to protect and serve was the driving force behind that decision. Perhaps I helped to plant that seed by forcing him to help rescue my clothes from that burning car. 

Jimmy applied to a local police department in New Jersey; but didn’t hear back for such a long time that he pulled the trigger and joined the army. The most important protect and serve if you ask me. He actually received his acceptance letter from the police academy once his contract with the Army was locked down.

But I am a true believer of everything happens for a reason.

Jimmy entered the army about three years ago and has dedicated his life to our country.  He did a year-long tour of duty in Iraq. But he's been back in Georgia for a while now, and will do one more tour – possibly in Afghanistan - next year.

In March, Jimmy and I were back in New Jersey for a family emergency.  While there, we were together a lot, and this was the first time in a long time; But it was as if no time had passed.  While spending long hours at the hospital with our Nana, sometimes we talked and sometimes we didn't.  We were just comforted by being in each other's company.

I know that my whole family really came together for one another at that difficult time, but Jimmy and I really seemed to get some quality time together.

Specialist Donovan
It made me so proud to see the man that he has grown up to be.  Not just because he joined the army, but because he is just such a great human being.  He is compassionate and smart, but also a very strong man. But my Nana truly admired Jimmy and I think she was able to discern the man he would become even when he was just a teenager.  I know that she looked to him for guidance and respected his thoughts and opinions.  She loved him very much.

So, I just wanted to take a moment to praise my little cuz, who isn't so little anymore, and thank him for dedicating his life to the military for my family and all those other Americans as well.

And in respect of Memorial Day, I want to thank all the men and women in the military. They are risking their lives everyday, looking out for our well being, and keeping us safe.  Also, I don't want to forget those veterans who have served in years past to protect our freedom.

On March 20, my family also lost a strong Christian soldier.  My grandfather, Addison Loyal Williams, served in the Army during World War II with the 911th Field Artillery Battalion. During which time he received the Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with Bronze Star, the World War II Victory Ribbon, and the Good Conduct Medal.

My Pop would tell me the same story time and time again.  He said that one of his most significant memories of California - while serving in the military - was when he returned from Asia and the warship he was on entered the San Francisco Bay. He told me that the Golden Gate Bridge was the first thing that he saw and it had made such an impression on him.  It was so beautiful there and so unlike the East Coast.  He never got a chance to come back out West, but I'm so glad he had that memory and many others from his time serving his country.

As we said goodbye to my Pop at his military funeral, a bugler sounded Taps in his honor and as the three young military men saluted him, we all bid him farewell for his final lights out.

So please, take time today to honor your favorite soldier -- or mine -- and just remember all those men and women out there who have selflessly committed their lives for our freedom.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Daily Tune Up with Yehuda Berg

Contract for Greatness

Great wines start with stomping on a lot of grapes, and so it goes with the soul.  Revealing your greatness requires moments of pain.   And since our human nature is to run from it, we must make a contract with ourselves to go through the hurt, no matter what.

Today, renegotiate your contract, and commit to going through discomfort in order to become great.

Yehuda Berg

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cannes Inspiration Metamorphasize One Woman?

The Cannes Film Festival ended last Sunday.  It is always such a glamorous event so, on Monday, I just had to take a few minutes to check out the different red carpet fashions. I came across this photo of Karolina Kurkova on the runway at Naomi Campbell’s Fashion Relief show and it had a big impact on me.

As you can see, Kurkova is wearing a stunning full-length yellow gown with a sky high slit to the thigh.  The left arm is cut blocked out to the waist and is adorned with golden studs.  (Unfortunately, I was unable to find the name of the designer before I posted this blog.)  The sunshine yellow color is splendid and she looked like a ray of light.  Her hair is pulled up in a loose chignon with side swept bangs, and she has a berry colored – possibly matte -- lipstick.  I so wanted to be her.
OK, so two days later, I got the bangs and now I am looking for the perfect lipstick to emulate her look.  I wasn’t joking when I said it made an impact.

I took my challenge to the web and my search came back with four options:  Smashbox PhotoFinish Lipstick with Sila Silk Technology in Legendary for $22; Too Faced Lip of Luxury Champagne Essence Lipstick in Celebrity Meltdown and Marcia, Marcia, Marcia for $20 (it’s a tie); or Nars Lipstick in Afghan Red or Red Lizard for $24 (and it’s a tie again).
Let me know what you think.

Description: Description: Smashboxpd-detailMain-2135521 Description: Description: Too Facedpd-detailMain-2154435  Description: Description: Too Facedpd-detailMain-2154435  Description: Description: Afghan Red   Description: Description: Red Lizard

This weekend, I’m going to head over to Sephora to check them out in person.  I might have to wear dark shades and a baseball cap so no one confuses me with Kurkova. Yeah right!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hollywood Chivalry May Be Old, But It’s Not Dead

Seventeen years ago, I was new to Los Angeles.  Since I had lived and worked in New York City for five years – prior to changing coasts – I was not typically star-struck.  However, not long after my arrival, I found myself face-to-face with old Hollywood royalty and one of the most dashing men I have ever seen on the silver screen.

But let’s start at the beginning: I’d like to report that my writing career took off as seamlessly as I had alluded to in a previous post; sadly, that was not the case.
When I first moved to Southern California, I had a difficult time finding a journalistic opportunity – so for the first three years – I went back to my old stand-by – working retail management.  At the same time, I supplemented my income by working for a catering staffing service part-time.
I both dreaded and loved that job.
Basically, the company called Party Staff provided “servers and bartenders” for small, private events to star-studded galas.  Party Staff found it beneficial to – before a server could be sent to work an event –complete several hours of training which included dining etiquette training.  It was a great pre-cursor to my own social life and taught me everything about fine dining, but I hope to never have to serve ballet-style again. 
Also, I enjoyed the people that I met working at PS.  Most of them were creative types: aspiring actors, writers and Production Assistants.  I met some cool people that I am still friends with today. 
The aspect that I liked least about the job was that I typically worked most Thursdays and Sundays, but every Friday and Saturday.  When I was 24-years-old, this was torture – especially when my now husband, then boyfriend, was out living it up every weekend.
But the pay was surprisingly good and each assignment was always different so it never got boring.
I remember on of my first jobs; I went to the home of a UCLA professor and helped her prepare the family meal for Rosh Hashanah.  I was the only server but found it very interesting as she taught me about the symbolism of different foods: apples and honey symbolize the sweet New Year; cooked tongue or other meat from the head of an animal or fish symbolize the "head" of the year; and dates, black-eyed beans, leek and spinach, all of which were mentioned in the Talmud, a central text of mainstream Judaism.
Since I didn’t have too much prior experience with traditional Jewish cuisine, the feast looked amazing and, after completely bonding with her, I reluctantly declined her offer to join the family for dinner.

Another highpoint of this part-time job was when I worked the Governor’s Ball after the Academy Awards in 1996.  I had the opportunity to see celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Oprah Winfrey, Al Pacino and a quick glimpse of Meryl Streep.  At first, I wasn’t sure who the photographers were snapping pictures of and it seemed like a strobe light was going off – but I was able to get a peek through the crowd – and it was Streep. She definitely seemed larger than life and had a star quality about her.

Coincidentally, my serving partner and I were actually the assigned to the “Braveheart” table and got to meet Oscar up close and personal.  Actually that would have been five Oscars and we were even included in one of the table’s group photos. I would have been one of the two women in a tuxedo, alas, another aspect that I didn’t like about that job – the uniform.
Since I was a bartender in my previous life in NYC, I was usually assigned to tend bar at the movie premiers.  I wasn’t too impressed with nouveau riche on the Hollywood scene at the time.  I mean, most of them didn’t even tip.  Obviously, not everyone started as a starving artist, but I was certainly disappointed by the amnesia of those who did have to work to get where they were, and the lack green that never came my way. 

This behavior was the complete opposite of what I would encounter while working a private party for a celebrity from yesteryear. 

As I drove up the windy streets in Pacific Palisades, I had no idea that the party would be for Walter Matthau and his wife Carol Marcus in their home.   I thought the neighborhood was quaint and the homes were very nice, but not mansions or even a gated community, so I was shocked when I realized the caliber of the event.

As usual, the staff arrived a few hours early to get everything set up.  In the beginning, none of us suspected anything out of the norm.  I loved the house – which was decorated shabby chic before it became main stream – and each room was set up as its own dining room with a different themes.  Some had only one table and were overflowing with roses while another room had a half dozen tables and everything was red.  Even to this day, if I had the space in my home, I would steal that idea.

Then the buzz started among the servers.

Wolfgang Puck arrived and started setting up a portable kitchen in the backyard area underneath a basketball net.  He was personally doing all the cooking for the evening. 
Then it was back to business as usual.  By then, I knew it was Matthau’s house but, in my mind, I thought of him as a celebrity – but older – not really my generation.

Someone handed me a tray and I started walking through the crush of guests.  It was actually quite crowded in the great room where everyone was converging when they first arrived.  As I got deeper and deeper into the room, I was having a very hard time walking while carrying my tray.

Suddenly, I heard a booming voice say, “Hey everyone, come on, make room for this young lady.” Suddenly, the crowd parted like the Red Sea. I turned to say thank you to the man and realized it was Matthau.  He just gave a laugh and said you just need to yell loud for these “old folks.” 

I was touched by how nice and thoughtful Matthau had been.  This was highly unusual to even be acknowledged at these events.  Then as I continued along my way, I saw him and I my heart did start to pound. 

Now, he didn’t look the way I remembered him and much, much older version of himself, but Gregory Peck.  He was my absolute favorite actor and who could resist him as Atticus Finch in “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  Also, he was the stud in “Roman Holiday” starring with Audrey Hepburn; Among many, many other great movies. 

I didn’t speak to him but he did smile at me as I walked by with my empty tray.
There were other younger celebrities – who were hot back then I swear – Lea Thompson, Ted Danson, and the Spelling family.

I was assigned to one of the small rooms and the two older couples at my table chatted with me all night.  They wanted to know what I did when I wasn’t working in catering; where did I live; where was I from; and so on.  One of the gentlemen was an Emmy-award winning writer.  Unfortunately, I don’t recall his name and his body of work was from my grandmother’s era, but he was such a nice man. 

At the time, I told him that I was frustrated that I hadn’t been able to land any writing jobs.  He told me to stick with it and, if it was my passion, I had to have dedication and just keep at it.  “Nothing comes easy; you just have to reach for the stars.”

Later that night, I left the job feeling uplifted and completely motivated.  It had been a long day and a lot of hard work, but the kindness and gratitude of the guests made it seem not so bad.  It made me realize that chivalry may be old, but it’s not dead.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hippie Chic for a Hippie Chick

I was brought into this world in the year 1969 and I have always considered myself lucky to have been born in the “hippie era.”

I have continually had an intense fascination with the late 1960s and ‘70s.  I love everything groovy about this time period: the fashion and the music.

This interest began long before Michelle Williams cut her hair and began looking like a modern version of Twiggy.  When my mom was pregnant with me, she went to see Janis Joplin in concert.  I believe that I was exposed to the culture of the ‘60s while in the womb, and this is why I still dig it today.

But there was a real coming of "vintage" age for me while in college.

With Me and Bobby McGee ringing in my ears, I bravely ascended to the attic of my grandmother’s house when I was 20 years old.  The house, built in the late 1800s, was sort of scary. But I had no fear as I hit the jackpot and I found decades worth of vintage clothing in an old steamer trunk.

Daisy-printed dresses, polyester shirts in fluorescent yellow and orange geometric designs with humongous collars, vests, and the coolest maroon colored bell bottoms. 

The treasures I found from my excursion into the attic would change my life.  For the next decade, I primarily wore only vintage clothing.  I would scour every vintage shop in New York City, estate sales in the burbs of New Jersey and constantly hitting up relatives to see if I could find any second hand bounty hoarded away in their own attics. 

To this day, the warmest winter coat I ever owned was a camel colored, corduroy monstrosity that had been my uncle’s.  As I traveled down the streets of NYC – more like wind tunnels during the winter – only my face succumbed to the harsh elements while my torso remained nice and toasty.

My antiquated obsession continued all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast.  When I met my husband, I knew it was true love when I saw him standing on line for a movie wearing a vintage ikat collared shirt named Martin Ponder.

Today, platform shoes, flare bottom jeans and pants, bell-sleeves, hip-huggers and floral prints are all the rage once again.  The look has been consumed by young and old alike.  Not everyone may be consciously aware of it, but if you buy your clothes – and don’t make them yourself – then you have succumbed to being a hippie victim.

Retailers have begun to let the ‘70s revival trickle down to all facets of their merchandise; A slight – to drastic – platform on any style of shoe, a floral print maxi dress, or wide leg jeans all signify flower power.

Alternative rock also has its roots in the Bohemian strains of yesteryear.  In 1993, Pearl Jam performed at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., and the Coachella Festival – an annual music and arts festival that continues today -- was born.   Similar to Woodstock, Coachella is a three day event – held in an open field – and features many genres of music including alternative rock, indie, and electronic music as well as large sculptural art.

The clothing worn by the concert goers is almost as creative as the event itself and, if you want to gleam Hippie chic styles, look no further than the assortment of celebrities who attended the event last month.

It was a mecca of caftans, prairie skirts, denim shorts, love beads and fringe joining together to form one fashionably social revolution.

So, the next time you happen to run across this chick in her flair jeans, Dolce Vita platform sandals, and HOH boho print top; do not merely stare as though I am a beatnik who teleported from another era.  Merely smile, praise my sense of individuality and how well I use style to express myself.

Possibly, you will revel in your own hipster bravura but – always remember – if you were old enough to wear it the first time around, you are too old to wear it now.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Yoginis Unite at Retreats In Search of Nirvana

Yogini Chicks

Last week, I wrote about my favorite Yogi tea and the principals behind it.  One of the reasons that I am so into it is because I am a self-proclaimed (work in progress) yogi myself.  I love my practice which helps to keep me limber, strengthen my core and calm my mind.

For the past three years, my buddy Rachel and I have attended yoga retreats up the coast and, sadly, this will be the first year we won’t be attending. We both have several obligations that will be taking us out of town right about the same time we usually escape to our Zen paradise.

It started four years ago when Rachel so gallantly accepted my invitation to attend a random yoga retreat. We really weren’t sure what to expect but, that is truly one of the things I love about Rachel, she is always up for anything.

So, once we had made our decision, the first thing we had to figure out was the level of lodging.  The retreat was held at this beautiful (and original) Craftsman home, located only two hours outside of Los Angeles.  The guests could choose to stay in one of the four bedrooms and enclosed porches within the house, or camp outside in a yurt.

I had suggested sharing a yurt – a portable felt-covered, lattice-framed dwelling – for the authenticity of the event; but Rachel advocated for a master bedroom and I am so glad she did.

The brochure for the retreat gave us little information; we knew food would be provided, but we had no idea what that really meant.  Also, besides doing 4 yoga classes and 2 meditation sessions; there was also a pool, Jacuzzi and hiking.  So, with the retreat only a few days away and, not really knowing what to expect, we came up with a game plan. 

First, we decided that, on our way there, we would make a pit stop at Trader Joes to pick up some wine and snacks to have in case the vegetarian fare was lacking. Also, we decided that we wanted to swim, Jacuzzi and hike – so we over packed in order to be prepared for any scenario.  We also brought towels for bathing and one for swimming – because they were not provided – and our own pillows from home.

Once we had my Volvo packed, it looked like we were a family of four going away for a week and not two gals away for less than 48 hours.

As we arrived to our destination, I pulled the car up the circular driveway right to the front door, we were laden down with our rolling suitcases, bags with linens and pillows, and three bags of groceries from Trader Joes.  A young man – who arrived right behind us – had one small rucksack and had just returned from backpacking through Nepal.

We thought it was interesting and tried to embrace the uniqueness of the adventurers with whom we were spending the weekend.  However, I had this sneaking suspicion that everyone was looking at us as if we were Carrie and Samantha from Sex and the City.

We dragged all our bags upstairs and were impressed with our digs. Our master suite had two beds, a craftsman fireplace, wonderful American craftsman windows, an enclosed screen porch, a ginormous private balcony and what we thought was a private bath. [It ended up that the other master suite was a communal room and you know that clown car from the circus…it was like that but with chicks…and all of us sharing one bathroom.  Not pretty.]

Once we got our clothes unpacked, we grabbed our sacks of groceries and went down to the kitchen.  Rachel graciously tried to explain to the vegan chef that we needed a place to store our brie, salami and wine.  But the fridge was filled to the brim and I think we did get one or two bottles of white and cheese in there to be chilled.  Everyone was pleasant but I think the folks running the event were a bit offended because we were doing things a tad differently than everyone else.

But nothing could extinguish our flame of positivity in the harmonious and beautiful setting.  We returned to our boudoir to change into our yoga gear.

After yoga, we cracked our wine.  Actually, I think we had a little bit before the first yoga session to help us relax a bit; But, for the sake of the story, let’s start our wine consumption at the proper time – cocktail hour.

The dinner was amazing and, after having a bit of wine, Rachel and I skipped the meditation that evening and sat on our balcony sampling all the lovely varietals we had brought with us.  It was one of those evenings – sitting out under the stars – we had enough wine to make the conversation flow smoothly and were enjoying each other’s company.

We heard our fellow yogis return from the meditation and thought it seemed a bit quiet, but just assumed everyone had retired early to prepare for our morning yoga session.

The balcony in question.
We stayed up even longer talking into the wee hours of the night.

When Rachel and I awoke, the house was very quiet.  We knew that breakfast was at 8 a.m. and the first yoga class at 10 a.m., but it was eerily silent.  We chit chatted while we got dressed and excited for our first cup of coffee of the day.

As we descended the stairs, it was as though we had been transferred back to the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  All these people were milling around, sitting outside, eating breakfast and getting coffee – all while not uttering a word.  We started speaking in hushed voices, but we were still yapping about the oddity of the situation.  As we were getting our coffee, a fellow yogi looked at us – very annoyed I might add – and pointed to a sign that read, “Please Observe Our Period of Silence from 9pm to 9am.”  We just looked at each other and our eyes bugged out.

We served ourselves breakfast and then retreated outside to eat it.  We chose two chairs as far away from the rest of the mute population as possible and tried hard not to crack up.

It was apparent that everyone surely heard our buzzed banter from the night before as we sat out on the balcony.  

After our morning yoga session, we decided to go sit out by the pool.  It was a bit lacking as far as chairs and comfort level, but we made the best of it and soaked our tired muscles in the hot Jacuzzi. 

Later in the day, a hike was planned.  I had brought my “authentic” hiking boots.  You know the brown boots with the red shoelaces.  Well, it really wasn’t that kind of hike but I could have done without the taunts from the Himalayan trekking peanut gallery.  I mean, don’t they know the philosophy of Buddhism – patience, acceptance and tolerance?

But I did laugh pretty hard when one of the guys who made a comment – wearing flip flops – totally wiped out.  I bet he wished he had my big honking hiking boots on at that point.

Later that night, Rachel and I did participate in the last meditation session of the weekend.  It was mostly a group sing along, which actually brought out the 5th grader in both of us, as we tried not to crack up while singing Hare Krishna songs.

I don’t mean to jest because it was a special weekend for both Rachel and I.  I loved all the yoga we shared and the beautiful and calming environment was soothing to our souls. 

Actually, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we went back the following year. 

This time, we invited our friend Barbara.  It was pretty much the exact same weekend: we stayed in the same room; they cooked the same food; and the classes and meditations were all the same. 

The Yoginis exploring town

After wine tasting!
The good news was that we were aware of the No Speaking Policy in advance, so no faux pas this year.  Also, after lunch on Saturday, we passed on the pool time and chose to hike into town for some wine tasting instead.  After our third or fourth taste, we unfortunately didn’t make it back for the final yoga class of the day. But we did make it to the meditation and the giggles got us again.

We had a blast but decided that – for the third year -- we would actually create our own yoga retreat.  Rachel, Barb and I invited one more girlfriend – another Tracie – and ended up spending the weekend at the Ojai Valley Inn.   We did some yoga, a lot of running, window shopping, nice dinners and we even got some spa and pool time.

It was a blessing that we had made other plans because we didn’t actually receive another invitation to the organized retreat that year.  We aren’t sure if it was intentional or just a coincidence; yet, it made no difference because we had a blast at our customized retreat. 

But now you can understand why I am so disappointed that we will be missing our 4th annual yoga retreat; but, for the next one, I have my sights set on an ashram in the Bahamas.  Now that is Nirvana in Nassau.

Peace out!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Filler Today Folks...

Starbucks Goes GaGa on May 23

Lady Gaga is a big Starbucks fan - and it just so happens that they like her quite a bit too. So on May 23, Starbucks is going Gaga in a big way on the Starbucks Digital Network in partnership with Yahoo!

That's where we'll have a limited number of free downloads for her new song "The Edge of Glory" to give away. Plus they'll be streaming her new album and an exclusive video of a live, acapella rendition of "Born This Way" - because the SDN is all about providing you great content you can't find anywhere else. To get on the SDN, just get on our free wi-fi at a participating store and go to

My normal posts will resume tomorrow!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

F21 Opens Colossal Store in Bev Center Today

For those of you who know me, I mean, really know me, then I have shared with you that I am a closet Forever 21 clothes whore.

Like I’ve said before, I will drop the Benjamins for shoes, purses and clothing that I can wear season after season; but anything trendy, I will not invest.  I just can’t justify spending a lot of money on something that will be out the following season…well maybe unless it is Marc Jacobs but I’m in retail therapy for that one.

Besides that obsession, F21 is my favorite cheap chic teen retailer.

You can imagine my excitement upon learning that the clothing giant will be celebrating the grand re-opening – Saturday May 21, 2011 – of its new ginormous store in the Beverly Center, which is located in Los Angeles.

The new space will carry its usual suspects – Heritage 1981, Men21, Plus-size and Maternity wear – but it will also include a gift shop which carries cosmetics and tchotchkes.

The grand opening starts at 10 a.m. and F21 will be giving away gift cards to the first 500 people in line.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to fight the crowds; I’m still having Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome from the opening of the first Los Angeles-based H&M. But I will definitely make a trip to visit once all the brouhaha settles down.

The new and improved Forever 21 is located in the Beverly Center, 8522 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048; (310) 659-9611.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Calypso Designer Collection a Tad Off Target

I went to Target on my lunch break yesterday.

My tweeps had been twittering for the past two weeks about the Calypso St. Barth collection since – and even before – the launch on May 1.  I was starting to get major anxiety that I was missing out on something fantabulous.

So, while picking up a mouth guard to stop me from grinding my teeth out of sheer apprehension of not being in the know – I took a few minutes to check out the Calypso line and, try as I might, I just wasn’t that impressed. Damn, my teeth are little nubs for nothing.

According to its website, over the last 16 years, Calypso St. Barth has grown from a modest resort-wear line into a global luxury lifestyle brand with a passionate following. The brand offers a no-fuss approach to style anywhere in the world by combining timeless pieces with diverse elements.

The line for Target – which doesn’t seem to stray too far from its resort-wear roots – seems a better fit for the older Palm Springs crowd. 

However, I would like to clarify that not all clothing geared toward vacations – or Cruise Wear as it was called when I was younger, God I’m getting old – is fuddy duddy. 

I mean, look at Trina Turk’s poolside lifestyle collections.  It is a fresh and contemporary spin on the breezy dresses, colorful swimsuits and lively separates that she designs.

The Calypso St. Barth collaboration isn’t completely off the mark; the line offers some super cute styles: espadrilles (which I almost bought but, as any of you who read me regularly know, I’m banned from buying any more shoes this summer); tribal print and flowey maxi dresses; on trend blouses (which I thought were a bit mature looking); and a sleep cami set which was my favorite but not for wearing to bed.

But the color works well for the Calypso Target line in housewares.  I did like the eye-popping prints on pillows, brightly colored candles and interesting area rugs; although it draws a very similar parallel to the Liberty of London collection which was released last spring.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Calypso St. Barth, I actually do love Target’s Go International ® designer collective…even though they borrowed the concept from H&M. 

I have been swept away by some of their more Avant-garde designers like Alexander McQueen, Anna Sui, Proenza Schouler, Thakoon and Zac Posen.  I mean, these are some of the biggest names in the fashion world.

Recently, I had to go to NJ unexpectantly.  I thought I was only going to be there for three days and only brought as much clothes.  My stay ended up being almost two weeks, so I found myself at Target in the Garden State.  While there, I scored some hip William Rast tops that perfectly matched a pair of flats that I picked up too – color blocked with some studded hardware.  Double über cool because I had just dropped two large for a pair of Rasts’ jeans at a sample sale here in LA; But in NJ – I got the tops for under $10 each and didn’t have to pay sales tax. 

So, I don’t mean to criticize Target.  Over the years, I truly have found some great pieces there – especially accessories – and of course I purchase all my household supplies there as well as toys, gifts, cards…I mean the list could go on and on.

My opinion is that, for every collection that doesn’t make the mark in their collaborative, there’s always going to be another designer that will hit the bulls-eye at a little boutique I like to call Targèt.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Very Glamorous Giveaway

OK, truth be told, I care more about fashion than I do about beauty.  I am quite simple when it comes to my daily cleansing and moisturizing routine – Cetaphil and all Neutrogena products.  I get a teeny bit fancier with my make-up but mostly Estee Lauder and Clinique for my face with some Mac for the eyes and a little Chanel for a pop of color on my lips and nails.

I am pretty basic folks; but as I was looking through my most recent Glamour Magazine (June 2011 edition), I noticed an article entitled, “31 Days of Beauty Freebies!”

It reads, “Mark your calendars: There’s glam stuff up for grabs every single day for a month.  Enter to win at glamour.com/contest.”

My first thought was that, by registering for this contest, I could score cool beauty products without thinking about it.  So I thought I should share this info with you.

So, here it goes and I will diligently try to note daily – on my blog – which product will be given away on that particular date.  But please note that I am a bit behind as this give away started over a week ago.

Actually, what caught my eye is that 20 lucky gals won Tarte LipSurgence Lip Luster in Achiote and Natural Cheek Tint in Achiote, worth $49.  I’ve decided that I am going to go out and purchase this dynamic duo none-the-less because they are gorgeous and so on trend with this summer’s pink hues.

So, after today’s post, you will have to actually go to my blog to the sidebar to see what each item is the day before the giveaway.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Keeping It Real In Jersey

They're baaaaaccckk!

Last night, I got a chance to watch the season premier of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. (RHONJ)

As my husband Jason said, "What a train wreck." But like any other major catastrophe, it is very difficult to not look.

This season, Dina and Danielle are gone and, at first, I was extremely disappointed. I mean...how could they live up to the same level of drama without that nut job Danielle.  Boy, if I had bet you a pork roll egg and cheese sandwich, I would have been wrong.

Now being a "former" Jersey girl myself, I am actually quite shocked that New Jersey has gained so much popularity in the reality TV genre.  No, I don't personally watch the MTV show Jersey Shore which is the annoying question that people always ask me when they find out I hail from NJ. But Jason - who is born and raised in SoCal - watches it. However, I think Jersey Shore is responsible for the garden state's five minutes of fame, but RHONJ was the clincher because it was wildly popular last season - even beating out some of the original Housewives ratings.   Then there was a show at a bridal shop in Freehold where my paisanos are from, so I had to be a loyal follower.  But that fizzled along with all the other ones, and now I am just left with another season of those NJ housewives; And you know what, I love it.

I was not disappointed by the addition of Melissa and Kathy - both relatives of Teresa.

[Disclaimer: Do Not Read Any Further If You Plan to Watch the Show.]

The show opens with our favorite Teresa going to congratulate her brother and sister-in-law, the new Melissa, on the christening of their son. Teresa's brother Joe, who is drunk, tells her to walk away and calls her a piece of garbage. 

From there, a full-out rumble ensues while children stand around crying and old people are about to have heart attacks.  Classic and, I can honestly say, pretty realistic.  I mean, it brought back memories of my own family events.

After the fist fight at the christening, the show goes back in time one week. 

It starts with Teresa - at a book signing - talking about being the bread winner while her husband Joe is working at a pizzeria. She said they had to file bankruptcy but, the question we all want answered, no, they didn't lose the house. 

Then we are introduced to the brother Joe and his family (I mean come on, how many Joes can you have in one show) and Melissa talks about how good her Joe treats her but if she isn't a good Italian wife he's not happy.  She said he wants a hot meal on the table when he gets home from work, the kids clean and her looking hot.  Just my thoughts: Is he careful to hide the bruises and Goodfellas pops into my mind.

Then we meet Kathy - Joe and Teresa's cousin - and her family.  Kathy seems pretty mild - a little too Switzerland for me, I predict she is going to stir the pot.

Things are pretty status quo with Jacqueline and her family except that her deadbeat daughter is interning for Lizzy Grubman - who - not to be mean - looks beat.  Ashley cries when her mom comes to see her at work because Lizzie said Ashley has an attendance issue.  Ashley states that if her family finances an apartment in NYC, she would make it to work every day.  Yeah right.  Obviously, her idea was shot down hence all the tears.

Caroline's storyline was the least interesting this week.  I think the fact that the Christening fight happened at The Manor was the most exciting aspect of the Manzo family's involvement in this episode.  Both of her adult sons are moving into an apartment in Hoboken, which is probably about a half hour from Franklin Lakes, and she started balling like a baby.  In my opinion, it is women like this that are dragging NJ guys down. I mean, when do you cut the cord? They are in their 20s, it is time to move on and be happy.  Enjoy that empty nest and tell those guys not to let the door hit them in the ass.

Overall, this first episode surpassed my expectations and left me wanting more.  I don't know if I will be able to contain myself for another week - maybe I should call my peeps at the shore and start a little NJ drama of my own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bitten by the Vampire Bug

Well, Thursday night was the second Season Finale of The Vampire Diaries (TVD).

I was a bit faklempt to say good-bye to Damon, Elena and especially Stefan for the rest of the summer; however, I know that my vampire obsession will continue to be fed.

Even before Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series came out and possessed the young and old alike, I was a huge vampire fan.

When I was about 8 years old, I read and reread the original, unabridged version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and sunk my teeth into some good old vampire lore.  From that point on, I was hooked.

I would read or watch anything vampire-related: from the movie Salem’s Lot to the television show The Munsters to the cartoon Groovy Ghoulies.  As I got a little bit older, I found Anne Rice’s Vampire chronicles and that was when it got really bad. (It didn’t hurt that Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt starred in the movie.) In my young mind, I actually wanted to be a vampire and, if I was ever faced with the decision, I would have been entirely comfortable being turned. 

Well, then I matured a bit and gave up my vampire fantasies until Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie came out in 1992.  Truthfully, I only saw it because Luke Perry – from the original Beverly Hills 90210 – was in it.  Five years later, the Buffy television series came out and I was a faithful follower of the Sarah Michelle Gellar show to the wacky, wicken bitter end; Which also lead me to the Angel spin-off because, of course, I was in love with the fanged hottie David Boreanaz aka Angel. 

I am proud to admit I actually bid on – and won –the original script for the Angel television show, which is autographed by the creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt, at a silent auction; To this day, I will still watch Angel in reruns if I happen to catch it on TV.

I mean, who can resist reliving Willow the lesbian wicken; Lorne the lounge singing demon; and Cordelia – whose real pregnancy was worked into the show – by using the angle that she was going to give birth to the devil.

The year my son was born, Angel went off the air and I found myself without the time to even watch TV.  My vampire fascination was put on hold until I found the Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series about two years ago. 

A friend loaned me the first book and, due to working full time and having a little one at home, I didn’t really even open the book right away.  Although, when I did I was fanatical and read all four books within three weeks.  I absolutely drank the Kool-Aid and was actually concerned about my well-being.  The book affected me more than any other book I had ever read.  I was actually depressed...I’m not joking, depressed, when I was done with the series.

But I found help: I logged onto twilightmoms.com and realized that I was not alone.  As a first time visitor to the site, they inquired the following:  Did you have a hard time functioning around the house as usual (i.e. was the laundry piling up and you put off feeding your kids); Did you start fantasizing that your husband was either a vampire or a werewolf; Did you call your husband Edward or Jacob by mistake.

Also, I had a few girls’ dinners and some close buddies fessed up about their Twilight addictions as well.

Luckily, the movies started coming out; but they were being released so sluggishly slow that it left me longing for more. 

That was when I found the “True Blood” series on HBO.  Mid-way through the season, Sookie Stackhouse (played by Anna Paquin) found her way into my living room and – this time – my husband and I both enjoyed the blood bath.  This show is outrageous but, when season one was over, I once again had vampire withdrawals.  My close friend Leslie – also a vampire aficionado – gave me my next fix The Southern Vampire Mysteries

AKA The Sookie Stackhouse novels, is a series of books written by best-selling author Charlaine Harris that were first published in 2001 and now serve as the source of material for the television series.  This is fantastic because the HBO show and the books have some resemblances, but are different enough to keep me guessing.

Harris just released the 11th book in the series “Dead Reckoning” on May 3.  I am waiting for my copy to arrive from Amazon. But while watching TVD finale, I saw a preview of “True Blood” which is scheduled to begin Sunday June 26.

I am so excited.

But since I am on my supernatural soap box, I just have to give another shout out to Leslie – who also turned me onto the New York Times-bestselling Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton.

Wikipedia states, Anita Blake is a professional zombie raiser/supernatural consultant for the police as the protagonist in a world where vampires and werecreatures not only exist, but are citizens with recently protected, if nervously granted civil rights in the US.  She just happens to fall in love with a (gasp) vampire and a werewolf.

There are 19 novels in the series and Leslie gave me half of them.  I started with the first book, Guilty Pleasures,” which was published in 1993.  What I find most interesting is that in 2003, Hamilton completed the 11th book in her Anita Blake series and, for 10 years, she was writing about the relationship between her human heroine and the love triangle/triumvirate between the vampire and werewolf lovers in her life.

According to Wikipedia, “Meyer says that the idea for Twilight came to her in a dream on June 2, 2003. The dream was about a human girl, and a vampire who was in love with her but thirsted for her blood. Based on this dream, Meyer wrote the draft of what is now Chapter 13 of the book.” Not to mention the werewolf love connection.

There are quite a few similarities between the Twilight, Sookie Stackhouse, The Vampire Diaries and Anita Blake series; And I think that Laurell K. Hamilton should get some props for originating the whole girl gets vamp gets wolf angle.

But don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed each of these series for various reasons and, as much as they do have some parallels, they have a lot of differences as well.

The bottom line is that they are providing me with years of entertainment. I started the Anita Blake series 9 months ago and, on occasion, I get them all muddled up since they are all so similar.

But there is one thing that stands true: If I had to choose between getting the vampire or the werewolf as a boyfriend, the wolf doesn’t have a howling chance.