Saturday, July 30, 2011

Daily Tune Up with Yehuda Berg

What’re They Thinking
 
When you forget about caring what everyone thinks of you, you can reach a place where YOU are happy with who you are. 

-- Yehuda Berg

Friday, July 29, 2011

Check Out the Trailer for Jenna McCarthy's New Book



My dear friend Robyn sent out a mass email yesterday to check out a trailer for her girlfriend’s soon-to-be-released book. 

The author is Jenna McCarthy – not to be confused with Jenny McCarthy – and the book is, “If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living With and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So Handy Man You Married.”

This is the first time I’ve heard of McCarthy, but she is brilliant.

She is an internationally published writer and the author of several other books entitled: “The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties;” “Cheers to the New Mom/Cheers to the New Dad;” “Big Rigs for Moms;” and “Tea Parties for Dads.”

According to her website, McCarthy started her career in ad sales but moved up in the world of publishing –  holding positions at Seventeen, Mademoiselle and Self – until she started free-lance writing full-time.  Since then, you may have seen her byline at such magazines as Los Angeles, Allure, Self, Shape and the list goes on and on.

Her self-proclaimed wit and wisdom with a side of sarcasm are quite apparent.

Visit McCarthy’s website to see the comical trailer for her new book which will be released on Oct. 4. 

With my 13 year wedding anniversary only two weeks away, I am absolutely pre-ordering McCarthy’s book on Amazon and making it my bible.

http://www.jennamccarthy.com/

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Project Runway Brings Fierceness Back to Lifetime

If you are a fashion maven like me, you will be putting all prejudices of Lifetime Television aside tonight when you tune in to watch the number one-rated and most watched competitive reality show.

That’s right; the ninth installment of Project Runway airs tonight.

Heidi, Tim, Michael and Nina are back with 20 designers – the largest group in the shows history – who aspire to be the next best American designer.

If you have been living under a rock for the past nine seasons, Project Runway is a television show that provides budding designers with an opportunity to launch their careers in fashion, under the watchful eye of mentor Tim Gunn, who is the Chief Creative Officer of Liz Claiborne.

I realize that I waste too much of my life watching reality TV, but Project Runway is one of my absolute favorites.

There is something about this show that just makes me giddy. I’m not sure if it is the fact the show’s producers seem to find the best talent, or that one contestant whom you love to hate (except for last season…I LOVED them all), or the judges and “Tim.”

I mean, don’t you feel like you know Tim Gunn?  While in the workroom, he has a knack for giving the designers concrete criticism in the wittiest manner.  Such as, “You just have to say all these things on the runway: 'Nina, I wanted her to look like she had a big fat ass,'" or “Just work like there's no tomorrow because for one of you, there won't be.”

But all joking aside, Gunn is the one who works with these designers day after day so he gets close to them.  As their fashion guru, he gleans out the potential of the most talented contestants and helps them create fierce designs to carry them to Fashion Week in NYC. So when they are out, Gunn’s concern is genuine and very touching; this in itself makes him extremely endearing.

I truly get a feel-good vibe from “Marie Claire” Fashion Director Nina Garcia. She has a critical eye, but certainly uses restraint when judging the designers.  I didn’t know who she was before I began watching the show but, since then, I have become a huge fan.  I even follow Garcia on Twitter and she has been putting her thumbs to work tweeting – in both Spanish and English – to promote the upcoming premier of Season 9.

Speaking of restraint, Michael Kors – who gives me mucho comic relief on this show – has very little.  He does not mince his words and is particularly brutal in his assessments of the designers.  Now, I don’t necessarily think that is the wrong way to approach his role as a judge, but it is just like watching a speeding train about to run into a car on the tracks.  You know it’s going to be grisly, but you just can’t look away.

Lastly, the final judge and host of the show, whom I have a gigantic girl crush on, is Supermodel Heidi Klum.  I have always thought of her as beautiful but, after watching her on the show, I have grown to respect her knowledge of the industry and her reviews are given with sarcasm and wit.

Toward the end of last season, I actually had a chance encounter with Klum which made me like her even more.

I work in an office building on the water near downtown Long Beach, and the Catalina Express terminal is on the ground floor. 

One Friday, I hadn’t taken a lunch, so I set out to take a quick stroll along the water to just get some air.  While walking back, I noticed a huge stretch limo with oodles of paparazzi lurking around it.

I have to admit, I was curious; so I hung out a bit.
 
Klum & bebe going to Catalina

From the plaza level, I looked down and saw Klum get out of the car with all of her children in tow.  Last to exit was Seal, who had a huge hood of a sweat jacket up on his head.  The hood was so exaggerated he almost looked like the grim reaper. He went right into the VIP lounge, but not Klum.  She and the children strolled around the terminal.

Klum is pretty in a very classical way but, if it weren’t for all the paparazzi and fanfare, I wouldn’t have even recognized her.  She had her hair pulled back with a scrunchy in a ponytail and her face was void of any make-up.  She had on jeans, T-shirt, high boots and a bomber jacket. 

She had an entourage, which included Nannies, but she was pretty hands-on with her children. 
Seal, Klum & Family

The coolest part was that – even though they are beaucoup rich – they decided to take the ferry with everyone else over to Catalina Island.  According to some friends who work for the Express, they did rent out the entire Commodore lounge, but they weren’t afraid to mingle among the masses.  For some reason, I just thought that was so down-to-earth and Euro.

But unlike that plain Jane I saw in Long Beach, I’m sure Klum will assume her tougher than nails role as she struts her “fallopian” length skirts down the catwalk of Project Runway.

I can’t wait to hear her say, “One day you’re in and the next day you’re out.”

Project Runway Season 9 premiers tonight on Lifetime Television tonight at 9 p.m.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ViX Swim Suits Are Creating Vixens All Over LA; Brings Back Suit Memories

A few weekends ago, my friends – Rachel and Tracy – organized a spa day at the Montage Hotel Beverly Hills to celebrate my birthday.  We spent the afternoon indulging in sensual massages and cleansing facials.

Afterward, we lunched – where we had a Nicole Richie and Joel Madden sighting – and then we spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun at the roof-top pool.  

It was a splendid day and the rooftop oasis was crowded.

The Bday Girl!
So once we were settled into our chaise lounge, Rachel took notice that a lot of the chicks were wearing ViX swim suits. We looked around the pool and then at each other, and paused, we were also all wearing ViX– different styles and colors of course.

ViX swimwear – founded and designed by Brazilian-native Paula Hermanny – is known for its eye-catching prints and distinctive use of metal hardware, beading and stone.  Since 1998, Hermanny has been designing collections, for women of all ages and sizes, which are fashion forward and interpret the season’s latest trends.  Her designs are a favorite among celebrities, and anything but average girls like my friends and I.

But ViX isn’t the only sassy swimwear line out there:  Vitamin A, Sunsets, Hurley, Betsey Johnson and Juicy Couture also have some hot styles that are making the guys sweat.

The concept less is more is certainly the motto here; but that wasn’t always the case.

The swim suits today are nothing like our suits from yesteryear; and all this talk of swim fashion brought me back to a short stint that I did as a fit model for Bill Blass’s swimwear line in the early ‘90s.

One of my good friend’s – whom I met while bartending– happened to be one of Bill Blass’s muses at the time.  Janet was truly one cool chick; she was over 6 foot tall, blond, willowy, with a deep booming laugh.  She was gorgeous and everyone – guys and girls – fell in love with her at first sight.  She was a down-to-earth Tom Boy packaged in this super model persona. 

When I first met Janet, Page 6 had reported on her “brief” relationship with rocker Sebastian Bach.  I remember she laughed when she gave me the dirt about that guy and his antics.

One day, she called and asked if I wanted some extra work.  I said yes thinking it was another bartending gig, but it was for fit modeling.  I was super nervous.  Not being one of the most coordinated people out there (I’m sure some people will say, “Tracy, stop being so self-deprecating,” but Jason will attest that it is a true statement.), I wasn’t really sure how I would pull it off.  I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to do. I didn’t even have a signature walk.

But Janet whisked me off to New York anyway and we arrived at Bill Blass’s showroom in the fashion district. 

I was expecting something mah-jorly glamorous, but it wasn’t so much.  We were herded into the “Models Room” with a bunch of other women and assigned swimsuits – aka samples – to put on.  (If you are in the habit of buying swim wear at sample sales, you may want to think again as there was nary an undergarment or tissue in that sample I wore.)  Then we pretty much just sat around, in the swimsuits, and ate from a table laden with breakfast and then lunch items as clients flitted in and out of the showroom all day to see the collection. 

Now, I am no model, but I have always been fit only because I am an exercise fanatic; but, if I sat around eating and waiting all day every day, I’m not sure how long I would have continued to “fit” into those swim suits.

But this was just a temporary job, so I enjoyed my NY-style bagel with cream cheese (yum) and cup after cup of coffee.  Of course, worrying the whole time about bloating and if I would look “fat” in front of the clients.

Well that didn’t happen, but a few vendors did come in that day.  I was so paranoid about my “walk.”  Janet assured me this was about showing off the suits on a live person, so just stride normally out in front of the clients. It wasn’t a runway show and there was no catwalk.

Vintage Bill Blass
But I do recollect strutting my stuff in a black bathing suit – which they did let me keep along with some other samples – with leg holes that were cut so high they rested above my hip bones.  On my feet were sensible yet comfortable pumps. Of course, these were the days before self-tanner so, due to the last minute nature of the job, I was as pale as ghost and not looking very Sun Goddess-like.

Luckily, all the bathing suits that I showcased were one piece although some had mesh and the belly was cut out one – subtly sexy and very early 90s – didn’t show too much skin.

I worked with Janet for a good part of the week.  We stayed at her friend’s apartment in the city and had a blast for the duration. Sadly, it ended up being a short-lived opportunity and, it certainly wasn’t as fashionable or as intimidating as I thought it would be, but I did make some decent cash.  Mostly, I was glad to have had the experience at all.

Throughout my life, it has been exciting to experience a few different facets of fashion: fit modeling; retail for Betsey Johnson -- and other less notable lines; and most importantly, my role as a fashion consumer -- a life long passion of mine.

 
My suit memories remind me that, at 42 years old, I am still coveting the latest in resort wear fashion and happy to be a swimsuit vixen living in L.A.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

Well, today’s post continues the thread of a theme. 

Yesterday, I blogged the lyrics to the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes; If you didn’t listen to the You Tube link, shame on you, but do it now.  It is a fantastic song so you need to get it on your playlist.

But I love this song because it represents how I have always felt about my husband Jason since I met him – and now our son Shane.  I am “home” as long as I am with both of them.  However, I can honestly say that I jumped for fricken joy last Friday -- July 29, 2011 -- when we closed escrow on our first house.

When Jason and I got engaged, we decided to move in together.  For Jason, this was not an easy decision.  As I’ve posted before, my in-laws were very liberal yet traditional about certain things.  Living together before marriage was one of those controversial topics and Jason agreed.  Personally, I am of the, “Lets test drive this relationship before we tie the knot” mindset; but, since Jason and I were pretty much paying for our own wedding, living together was the most cost-effective way to save money, so he begrudgingly agreed.

So, a year before our wedding, we moved into Barbie’s playhouse.

Barbie’s playhouse was a converted two-car garage – illegal – rental unit on First Street in Hermosa Beach.  Our living room and barely there kitchen were located in one garage and our windowless bedroom was the second garage. 

From the outside, the 1930s era garage doors were still there with old padlocks on them.  One night, while lying in our cave and having a mild panic attack, I asked Jason what we would do if there was a fire in the “living” area and we couldn’t get out.  Jason replied that the sheet rock was so thin and flimsy that we could probably just push our way out of the wall by the garage doors.  Ah, why didn’t I think of that escape route? Scary! 

The aspect of that apartment which we both fell in love with was that it was only a block and a half from the beach and it had an amazing patio with a huge bougainvillea tree.  Obviously, we spent a lot of time outside.  Even though that place was ultimately a dump, I loved that Jason and I were living together.

But only a few months later, we realized that we just couldn’t live there for another second, so we found our first “real” apartment together also on First Street in Hermosa.  This time, we were up above PCH on top of the hill and our spacious one bedroom had plenty of storage space, a garage with an ocean view. 

This is where we lived when we got married and I have so many fond memories.  It wasn’t huge, but we always had friends crashing over on our futon.  After four years though – we were married and more grown up – we wanted more space.  It just wasn’t cool to let friends sleep on futons in your living room.

While running one day, I noticed a For Rent sign about four buildings down on our block...uh, that would be First Street as well.  I went to check it out and, since the landlord was out of town, the tenant Lucy showed me around.  I thought the place was awesome.

It had a town home feel, so it had an upstairs and a downstairs.  The two bedrooms were down and a great room and kitchen were up.  It had a long deck and, if you stood up on tippy toes thirty degrees to the left, you could see a sliver of the ocean – a very peak-a-boo ocean view.

Jason was very unenthused about that apartment at first because it was, once again, on First Street.  He really wasn’t on board, but I kept pointing out all the positives, and he finally relented.  We would live there for more than eight years.

Once the newness of the apartment wore off, I started to see some of the negatives of the place.  First, our door opened right into the garages and trash room of the neighboring building.  There was a parking spot exactly five feet from our front door.  We both disliked having to see that every time we walked out our door.  The bedrooms were on the driveway which was extremely loud, especially in the summer.  Lastly, Jason was very sad that we didn't have more of an ocean view.  But, the positives certainly outweighed the negatives.  We came to know and love our landlord Mame and her partner.  They are like family to us now.  When Shane was born, they were so supportive and looked after things for us.  The upstairs was very light and sunny, and I liked having the deck to sit outside and drink coffee in the morning.  Lastly, it was a steal and allowed us to save money.

When Shane was little, we started looking to buy property to build a home. We had many grand ideas – some were absolutely ludicrous (sorry Jason) and some were extremely ingenious:  converting a water tower into a home (a little off the cuff); converting a warehouse or commercial property into a livable space; pre-fab home; and container house. 

Both Jason and I had a lot of stipulations and, with the inflated price of property and building, we had a hard time realizing this dream.  So we switched gears and began looking for a home to buy and make our own. 

After three years, several close calls, and actually falling out of escrow, we were discouraged.

We both agreed that, although renting a house may not be cost-effective, we needed the space and the change. 

We signed up for a few rental agencies and, after one day, Jason called me at work.  He said he had found the perfect house and it wasn't on First Street.  He was so excited and began to describe it: four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a huge walk-in closet, laundry hook-ups, a two car garage and, the most desirable thing to Jason, an amazing ocean view.  I was so disheartened about falling out of escrow, I said just rent it. 

He let me know the rental company wouldn’t "just" rent it to us unless I saw it and then went in and signed a form. So we checked it out together.  The house, which was built in 1959, was very outdated; but I could see all of the positives and the price was right, so we moved in Labor Day weekend two years ago.

A neighbor had shared that the woman who owned the house was elderly and had health issues.  She was living in a nursing home and, her children who lived up in Northern California, were using the property management company to take care of things.  We wrote a letter about a year ago pledging our love for their home and asked them to sell to us. 

Our response came from the management company, who said, "The owners are not interested and don’t contact them again."  The wind completely went out of our sales.  But we continued our search for our dream home, but with no luck.

Then a few months ago, the moment we had been dreading happened.  The management company phoned to let us know that the woman who owned the house has passed away, and her children would be putting the house on the market.  They let us know that a Realtor would be contacting us to get in the house.

Both Jason and I were panic stricken. Jason met with the Realtor who basically let us know that the heirs weren’t interested in an offer from us, but wanted to “feel out the market.”

We knew we didn’t have a chance but, for the heck of it, we offered a fair market price for the home and – with a small counter agreement included – they accepted our offer. 

From that point on, we went through the unusually painless process of going into escrow, having the house inspected, getting a loan, the assessment, and closing on the house.To all the professionals involved, this transaction had been remarkably smooth. I believe that we have some angels up there who were looking out for us.

I am 42 years old and, other than living at my grandmother's off and on throughout my life, I’ve never lived in a house that was mine.  (My mom bought her first house when she was in her 40s as well.) This home means so much to me and my family. 

I know we are late in life for buying our first home, but it is only because Jason stayed true to himself.  If it were up to me – a much more impulsive buyer – I probably would have settled for something less.  Jason believed that –even within our budget – we would be able to find a home that offered us everything we wanted in our dream house: Hermosa Beach, ocean view, lots of space, and close to schools. 

Don’t get me wrong, this house needs a LOT of love.  But, since we are home now, we have nothing but the time to make it our own.

Tracy & Shane at HOME!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lyrics to 'Home' by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes


"Home"

Alabama Arkansas I do Love my Ma and Pa
Not the way that I do Love you

Holy Moly Me oh My your the apple of my eye
Girl I've never loved one like you

Man o Man your my best friend I scream it to the nothingness
there ain't nothing that I need

Hot and Heavy pumpkin pie
Chocolate candy Jesus Christ
Ain't nothing please me more than you

[Chorus:]
Home, Let me come Home
Home is Whenever I'm with you
Home, yes I am Home
Home is wherever I'm with you

Lalalala Take me Home
Mama I'm Coming Home

I follow you into the park, through the jungle through the dark
Girl I've never loved one like you

Moats and boats and Waterfalls, Alleyways and payphone calls
I been everywhere with you (that's true)

Laugh until we think we'll die, barefoot on a summer night
never could be sweeter than with you

And in the streets you run afree,
Like it's only you and me,
Geeze, you're something to see.

[Chorus]

Lalalala take me home
Mama I'm Coming Home

‒ Jade?
‒ Alexander?
‒ Do you remember that day you fell outta my window?
‒ I sure do ‒ you came jumping right out after me.
‒ Well, you fell on the concrete, nearly broke you ass, you were bleeding all over the place, I rushed you out to the hospital, you remember that?
‒ Yes, I do.
‒ Well there's something I never told you about that night
‒ What didn't you tell me?
‒ Well, while you were sitting in the back seat smoking a cigarette you thought was gonna be your last, I was falling deep, deep in love with you, and I never told you till just now!

[Chorus]

Home, let me come home, home is wherever I'm with you
Home, yes I am Home home is whenever I'm with you!

Alabama Arkansas I do love my Ma and Pa
Yes Home, yes ward! home is whenever I'm with you!
Home is whenever I'm with you.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Repost of Daily Om

Expanding Their Vision

Nine Ways to Help Others Awaken to Consciousness  
By simply being yourself, you can help the people in your life see a living example of consciousness.

1. Living by your values allows you to become a positive source of inspiration for others. Don’t hide – express yourself and embrace life without reservation. By simply being yourself, you can help the people in your life see how one person can make a difference by being a living example of consciousness.

2. When you communicate your views, do so casually and in a nondogmatic manner. Allow the people you speak with to ask questions. Offer only as much information as they are ready to hear.

3. Igniting the spark of consciousness can be as easy as giving someone a gift. A favorite book, a medicine bag, or a beautiful gemstone can pique your loved ones’ curiosity and prompt them to begin an exploration of the soul.

4. Teaching a friend, relative, or colleague to meditate or chant can put them on the path to consciousness while simultaneously reducing their stress levels.

5. Others may want to know more about living consciously but are unsure of how to begin. Starting a discussion group – even a virtual one – can help you reach out to individuals that are eager to learn.

6. By recognizing and acknowledging the inherent value in everyone you encounter, you can teach them how to value others. Sometimes, the easiest way to encourage people – even challenging ones - to respect others is to respect them first.

7. Invite people from your personal and professional lives to join you in attending a ceremony or ritual. The experience may touch them in a profound way or introduce them to a new spiritual path.

8. Casually point out the interconnectedness of all living beings using concrete, everyday examples. Many people are unaware of how their actions affect the world and are intrigued when they learn of the power they hold.

9. Introduce your loved ones to conscious living in a lighthearted and enjoyable way. Serve delicious organic recipes at gatherings, volunteer as a group, and show them how wonderful it can feel to be truly aware and connected to the universe.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Daily Tune Up with Yehuda Berg

Follow Your Heart
It takes great courage to stand up for something, because the moment you decide you want to do good in this world, you are chased by forces looking to stop you. At any cost.

Be brave in the face of criticism and opposition.  Follow your heart, you’ll never get lost, and you will prevail.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Finding Loveliness and Bargains at the BSWRedondo

Beauty Supply Warehouse
On Tuesday night, I was discussing beauty with Natalie, one of my closest gal pals.  We were talking about hair products and how expensive they can be to buy.  Natalie said she disliked when you buy one of those ginormous bottles of product and then, if it sucks, you are stuck with it for the next year; or you are just out money. I definitely empathized with her dilemma, but told her that now that I go to BSWRedondo, I am a reformed beauty sinner.

No BSWRedondo isn’t another Baptist church; it is the Beauty Supply Warehouse in Redondo Beach.  I know you have seen it before; it is located on PCH near Torrance Boulevard and has a campy red and white sign which is quite eye-catching.

I am frugal when it comes to buying my product.  I like the best -- which can cost upwards of $50 -- but it really bothers me when I have to spend a lot of money on it.  So thank you Jeannette – my stylist – for all the free products you share with me. But, when I do have to drop some cash on my goods of gorgeousness, I hit up the Beauty Supply Warehouse.

Its website states that the Beauty Supply Warehouse, which is over 4,000 square feet, is the largest Beauty Supply in the South Bay.  You will find a large selection of Hair Care, Skin Care and Nail Care products: Everything from the most popular brands to hard to find items.

They also specialize in Hair Extensions and Fashion Wigs if you are into that sort of thing.
Besides that the staff is super friendly and knowledgeable, I keep going back because of the 20% off coupon I can use EVERY time. (*Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover skin care or human hair – eeek!)  Also, they have a frequent shopper program and, each time you buy a full priced item, they give you a 10% credit. When you reach $25, you can use the credit toward anything in the store. (*Some restrictions apply.)

Also, the few times I had to return or exchange a product for various reasons, as long as I had my receipt, they took it back no questions asked.

I have been frequenting the BSWRedondo for the past several years and have never been disappointed. I purchase all my shampoo (liquid and dry), conditioner, gel, hairspray, mousse and nail polishes too.

I suggest giving it a try at least once and, if you go to the website, you can print out the coupon.  Please note that the expiration date on the coupon has expired, but they still take the coupon regardless.

For those of you located in the South Bay you can find The Beauty Supply Warehouse at 225 S. PCH, Redondo Beach; 310-937-0500.  They also have locations in San Diego and Vegas, so you’ll have to go online and check it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Belly Up to Bartending

During my last two years of college, my plate was full.  Twice a week, I commuted an hour and a half – each way – to my university.  I crammed all of my classes into two days – 12 hours each – so I was able to work at my unpaid internship in New York City the other two days.
At the time, I was lucky enough to have my very own apartment.  It was on the third floor of an old Victorian house situated right on the shores of Sunset Lake.  My mom – and her then fiancé – had handed over the keys when they moved to New Mexico earlier that spring.
I loved that apartment, but it wasn’t free; so from Thursday to Sunday, I worked as a bartender to pay the bills.
I had gotten my first bartending job the summer prior at a Jersey Shore hot spot.  I had been a cocktail waitress in high school, but I had never bartended.  Luckily, my best friend Amy and I both got hired and started on the same night, but we were extremely nervous – especially when they assigned us to two different bars.
I had my “Mr. Boston: Official Bartender Guide” – you know, that little red book – with me all night.  Most people ordered beer and vodka drinks that were self-revealing.  It was a lot of physical work, but well worth it when we counted out the tips that night.  After a few weeks, I started dating the owner of the bar and, a few weeks after that, I didn’t have a boyfriend or a job.  Let’s just say it ended badly.
Almost immediately I landed a job at Tradewinds Beach Club in Sea Bright.  It was a huge club that had several bars, a pool and live bands.  I worked there the summer it opened and it was a happening club. But once fall approached, the club closed its doors for the winter, so I had to get out and look for a new job again.
I drove all over town and started filling out applications at all the happening bars and clubs near where I lived.  Some bartenders that I had worked with at Tradewinds told me about the reopening of the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
The “Pony” is one the world’s best known music venues and a starting point for many Jersey musicians – most notorious – Bruce Springsteen, but also Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Jon Bon Jovi, and Steve Van Zandt.
The original club opened its doors in 1974 but, it had been closed briefly for renovations, and revitalized before reopening in the early '90s.
I was hired – along with scores of other bartenders – in anticipation that the new “Pony” would be extremely busy.  On opening night (and for the next several months), we were not disappointed. 
I was a second generation “Pony” bartender as my mom had worked there in the ‘70s when I was a kid.  This revelation got me 10 minutes with a reporter and a few quotes in our local paper the next day.
On that first night, the whole place was hyped up with the reopening of the iconic establishment. The owner told us that we could have a drink or two – while on shift – to toast the milestone. 
At my previous bartending job, it had been taboo to drink while on the job, so I was not in the habit.  I was a complete rookie – and 22 years old – so I took advantage of the perk and it was a big mistake.
I had too much to drink and couldn’t count out my bank and tips. Luckily, I worked with another female bartender—who would later become my friend – and she looked out for me that night.  I left with huge tips and an even bigger hangover.
After that situation, I had an epiphany and began to look at bartending like it was my own small business.  I made some rules: no drinking while working ever; no smiling; and no socializing – I was there to make money.  The smiling part was because if you were too friendly too many guys – and gals – got the wrong idea.  I can’t tell you how many Lesbians thought I was on their team.  Go figure!
At about this time, I started getting calls from some of the other bars and clubs that I had submitted applications.  Before I knew it, I was working at about four different establishments throughout the week -- on their busiest nights and sometimes even on school nights – and I was making pretty decent money.  I would even work at other random bars to sub for fellow bartenders who needed a night off.
But, the pinnacle came when I worked at club called Blondie’s, and met some girls who lived in New York City.   They told me about a friend – who owned The Cat Club in the Big Apple– and needed a female bartender.
I was so thrilled when I got the job and even more pleased when I was bringing home about $500 a shift.  The only problem was that I wasn’t living in the city anymore, so it was a long drive home after closing at 3 or 4am. If I stayed at a friend’s house, I would have to haul ass home in the morning to make it to one of my other gigs.   Also, I was low, low man on the totem pole, so I didn’t always get the best shifts if any at all for weeks at a time.
Even though I earned great money during those shifts, it just wasn’t dependable enough so I went back to my locals clubs. I felt relieved.
As much as bartending had been a hip, fun, cool experience in my 20s, there are some things that I hope I never have to do again like being a short order cook, seeing someone throw up on my bar or getting walking Pneumonia.
At that time, the serious downside was that I didn’t have health insurance so, when I got sick, which I did often because I wasn’t getting enough sleep or days off to rest, I couldn’t work which translates to not making money.
These were very stressful times for me.  So you can imagine how happy I was to shelve my “Mr. Boston” book and finally graduate from my University cum laude – who would have thought with all those late nights – but I did it.  And today, I prefer to be belly up to the bar as opposed to behind it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Dog Days of Denim

Denim is back in favor. 

I mean, it’s not as though I don’t own more than 20 pairs of denim jeans folded away on the shelves of my own closet. (No joke.)  I think denim has been a wardrobe staple since Levi Strauss first patented his version of the jean back in the late 1800s.  However, what I’m talking about is that denim fashion is back en vogue.

From the runways in New York and Milan to the catwalks of life, denim everything is taking over the world.  It’s not only showing up in denim jeans, but cut-offs, jackets, vests, shirts and even dresses – all in indigo blue – but some in black, gray and brightly colored denim too.  Alas, we must not forget acid wash which is finding itself popular once again.  Although, I predict it will be a very small window.

I mean, we all pretty much live in our denim jeans.  The styles are plentiful for any body type or preference: boyfriend, skinny, straight leg, short, torn, and flair just to name a few.  Jeans can also fall anywhere on the price spectrum. I have a pair of boyfriend jeans from Target that came in at a reasonable $29.99; but, if you are looking at designer duds – such as J Brand, True Religion and MIH among many, many, many others –  they can retail anywhere from for $200 to $300.  
Reese Witherspoon

For years, my husband Jason has been telling me that it is alright to mix denim with denim.  I kept telling him he was crazy that it is so uncool to mix two different color/types of denim but, as usual, I will have to sing the “You Were Right Song.”  (It is too degrading to even explain.)  

Reese Witherspoon, Joy Bryant and Cameron Diaz have all been spotted sporting this trend and it is spot on. 

I am only sad because I had found the softest – worn in all the right places – fitted Wrangler denim shirt at a second hand store in Bisbee, Arizona many moons ago.  It would have gone perfect with my William Rast flairs that I am wearing 24/7 these days.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way – since the late-90s – I gave that shirt up.  I am totally kicking myself now. 

But on an optimistic note, when I was pilfering my grandmother’s attic back in my early vintage days, I found a Levi’s denim jacket from the 60s.  This jacket – which had either belonged to my mom or aunt – has been with me through my entire college career, it moved cross country with me to California and, now, more than 20 years later, I still sport that bad boy. Although today it is much worse for the wear, a little faded, but I think it still has style.
Juicy Denim Dress

And for this fall, I have my sights set on Banana Republic’s denim trench coat to add a more sophisticated and classical feel to my wardrobe.

I have yet to see a denim bustier coming back for round two, but Juicy Couture has a super cute denim bustier dress which squashes the “if you were too old to wear the first time around rule” as far as I’m concerned.

Some other denim trends are jeans ornamented with rivets, zippers, chains and prints – add a white blouse, a denim jacket, and pair of killer heels and…wah-lah… you are a fashion forward vision worthy of denim god praise.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A ‘Phantom’ By Any Other Name

Having grown up on the East Coast, I had the luxury of being a repeat patron of the theater in New York City. 

I was introduced to my first Broadway show, “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat,” while on a class trip in the 7th grade.  I remember the exhilaration of entering New York City – via the Lincoln Tunnel – on that spring day.  Of course, I also remember exactly what I was wearing: purple Candies sneakers; pink and white striped Sergio Valente Jeans; a pink asymmetrical snap top – very Michael Jackson; and, if it got cool, I had my Member’s Only jacket with me.

Being to the Theatre made such an impression on me that I begged my mom to take me to see another show;  Even though my single mom – who worked full-time – didn’t have a lot of money, she would save up and we would see one hit show a year. 

A few of our favorites were: “Cats,” “Les Misèrables,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Rent,” “Lion King,” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” which was my all-time favorite.

So a few years after I moved out to Los Angeles, my grandmother, who lived in New Jersey, asked me what Jason and I wanted for Christmas.  Since she lived on the East Coast, I thought tickets to see “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood would be an ideal gift. 

Nana thought the idea was marvelous.  She suggested that I order the tickets – since I knew what I was doing (at least I thought so) – and then she would reimburse me with a check.  So I called the ticket agency and happily began to make arrangements. 

To my delight, the ticket agent told me that there were indeed seats left.  To my dismay, she also told me that – if we wanted to sit together – we would have to purchase $100 seats.  I was at a loss.  I didn’t want Nana spending an arm and a leg for a production I had already experienced on Broadway.  (Jason had yet to see it, but he’s a guy, need I say more.)  Also, I was a starving writer at the time, so I didn’t have any extra cash to kick in.

So I politely asked the ticket agent to check each and every performance for two seats together – even if they were in the nosebleed section.  After 10 minutes of checking, she told me there were no seats together.

I had this notion that seeing “Phantom” with Jason would be extremely romantic.  Every time I heard the commercial on the radio or television, I would get goose bumps.  So sitting separately just seemed to defeat the purpose.

My thoughts were beginning to stray toward “Rent,” when I heard the representative say, “Wait a minute.”  I waited and she told me that the cast was coming back for one more “special performance” at the Forum Theater.  I couldn’t believe my luck, but little did I know.

After I had purchased the two $30 per seat tickets, plus tax and handling fees, I had the mind to ask the representative if the Forum Theater was in Los Angeles.  She reassured me that it was a local theater in Los Angeles.

You can imagine my surprise when I received the tickets and printed in black and white it stated that the Forum Theater was located on Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Thousand Oaks.  Nowhere on that ticket was the word Los Angeles.  But it didn’t matter because we were going to see a special production of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

After weeks and I mean weeks, of bragging to family, friends and co-workers, the day was finally here.  We dressed in our Sunday best and drove an hour and a half to the Forum Theater.

As soon as we paid $5 to park in the lot at the Thousand Oaks City Hall, I should have known something was wrong.  Once inside, I noticed there was no orchestra as the usher escorted us to our cramped seats. I brushed the thought aside, telling myself it was hidden somewhere in the small 100-seat theater.

Immediately, the lights dimmed and, as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, I began to inspect my surroundings and I didn’t like what I saw.  Most people were dressed in either jeans or sweat suits and had bouncing babies on their knees.  Babies at “Phantom”? I reassured myself that it was nothing.

I was still in denial when the character that portrayed the Phantom stripped off his cape and played another character – not really disguising the fact that he was the same person.  Like a child believing in Santa Claus, I just didn’t want to give in to the thought that I had been misled to the wrong play; the wrong cast…the wrong plot line?

As I looked up on stage, the Phantom and his mother were being reunited just one year after he was scarred by the big fire in the opera house, while Christine, a non-love interest, suggested that he give singing lessons.  They summed this all up by singing a Barney-like (yup, big purple dinosaur Barney) song about how people will accept you for who you are on the inside and not on the outside if you only believe in yourself.

As the Phantom played “air” piano while sitting on the production’s one prop, a wooden crate with wheels, Jason leaned over and asked me what happened to all the songs from the soundtrack? (Which I had forced him to listen to for weeks leading up to this day.)

At that moment, I looked up on stage and knew I had been duped.  I couldn’t believe how long it took me to realize my ignorance.  Approximately one hour after we arrived, the grand finale was being played out before my eyes.  And then it came to me, this was a children’s production of “Phantom of the Opera;” Hence the aroma of diapers wafting in the air.

After the performance, I was livid.  We paid the same amount to see “Phantom” at this community theater as we would have if we had gone to the Pantages.  I was so upset because Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” had left town and we had missed our chance to see it together.

I was so irate and Jason just kept telling me it was alright, but I just couldn’t let it go.  I felt that I had been duped and was near tears when we finally made it back to our car.

Jason kept trying to talk me off the ledge and, half-way back to the South Bay, I started to lighten up.  I actually did begin to see the humor in the situation.  By the time we got back to Manhattan Beach for lunch, we could not stop laughing.  Both of us were laughing so hard we were crying every time we thought of the big finale at the end and how incredibly dopey the whole production had been.

The good news is that “Phantom” did come back to L.A. a few years later and we were able to get great seats in the orchestra.  I was able to hold my honey’s hand as the faux chandelier almost dropped on our heads while Erik steals Christine away deep into the bowels of the opera house. 

It was the best day ever.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Remembering Judy

Judy Mausser
Last Thursday, I paid homage to my late father-in-law Dan Mausser on his birthday.  Ttwo days later – it would have been his wife Judith – my late mother-in-law’s – 71st birthday as well.  I would like to share the eulogy that I wrote about my friend Judith Mausser.

If you had told me that, almost seven years after we lost my father-in-law, Dan, I would be standing here today praising Judith’s memory…I would have said you were crazy.  Even if you told me last year, I would not have believed it.
 
In my mind, Judith had a way of defying the odds…she was superwoman.  After getting some negative feedback from her medical advisers last year, she persevered.  She got married and became a newlywed again.  She traveled to Europe and spent two weeks at a tennis camp and then – to everyone’s astonishment -- she returned to her cabin and summered on Lake Mary in Mammoth Lakes.  A place that was very, very special to her.

I’ll never forget her description of the first night she spent at that cabin.  She and Dan bought it after looking at several cabins in the area.  At that time, it was not the Shangri-La that it is today but she was so excited to make it her own.  In LA, she packed up her car with supplies and the family dog, Bentley, and made the 6-hour pilgrimage up to the mountains.

Oma & Shane
Upon arriving, she said she had her work cut out for her.  Chipmunks and mice had been living in the empty cabin that was built in the 1800s.  She broke out her cleaning supplies and got to work.  When it started to get dark, being self-sufficient, she made herself a martini and ate a sandwich, walked the dog and bunked down with a sleeping bag.  She said it had been one of the longest nights of her life.  She still had a few little furry friends visit her and, since there was no electricity at the time, a middle-of-the-night restroom run was a bit unnerving. 

However, in the morning, as the sun rose up over Lake Mary, she knew she was home.  And, Judith went on to make that old cabin a showcase home and one of the most wonderful places to be.

After almost two decades of living up there, she became a ferocious mountain woman who could hike for miles and miles in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range with her trusted dogs in tow – all five feet of her standing on rocks waving and yelling to keep the bears at bay.  But she was also so sophisticated; a demure lady who dined at the Bel Air Hotel -- sipping Kir Royales.
 
Judith had a certain élan and a way of making everyone feel special, especially me. 

In a modern world, our mother and daughter-in-law relationship was not stereotypical – we did things together.  We would go on long hikes, ride bikes, garden together, dance and she spent countless hours helping me find the perfect wedding dress.  She was my friend and I miss her very much.

Judith taught me so many things such as: to always be glamorous; always wear lipstick; always use a hankie; and always eat hamburgers off the china especially if it’s accompanied by a glass of champagne in the crystal.  But, most importantly, she taught me to be strong in my convictions no matter what.

Lastly, she also gave me some of the greatest gifts in my life…her son Jason and my sisters, Dana and Diana; and their families.

Oma & Shane
It makes me so sad to know that Judith won’t be able to watch our son Shane grow up, but I am glad to know that he had three years with her and, even though we help to shape his memories of her because he was too small, it does help to keep Judith’s legacy alive.

Oh, Judy, there’ll never be
Anyone else, dear, but you

--Elvis Presley, Judy



Friday, July 15, 2011

Things Are Looking Rosé-y for Summer Wines

 Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all those things.

--Nancy Sinatra Lyrics to Summer Wine

White wine is my poison.  It doesn’t really matter which varietal but the wild white – Sauvignon Blanc – is my absolute favorite. 

But mid-way through my vacation, I had exhausted myself on Sauvignon Blanc and Champagne, and I wasn’t crazy about any of the Chardonnays. I recalled that my good friends – Rachel and Tracy – both wine connoisseurs – had recently taken to Rosé  wines.

Now I’m not talking about Reunite White Zin which may have been a starter wine for some of us – especially if yous from Jersey.  As opposed to the overly sweet and inexpensive Rosé, the grown up version is one of the most versatile, food-friendly wines around.

So I ordered a glass of Rosé with my lunch one day.  (Hey, there was a strong European influence and I was on vacation, so don’t judge my daytime libations.) I was pleasantly surprised by this summer wine.  It was dry in nature and had a fresh fruit flavor – a hint of strawberry and raspberry. 

After doing some research, I found that Rosé wine hues come from the short contact time that the grape juice has with the grape skin.  They also offer a very good wine value for the money.

Well, I am certainly no wine aficionado -- but I am a wine enthusiast -- so here are some Rosé wine top picks from About.com:

Folonari Pink Pinot Grigio 2005 (Italy) $8
Yes, Pinot Grigio is a white grape, so how the heck is it presented as a Rosé? Italy’s Pinot Grigio grape has dark skin and the fermenting juice is colored by contact with this dark grape skin, producing the lovely pink color.  Fresh floral and fruit aromas are set to greet you upon first impression, followed by a slightly citrus flavor.

Tapena Rosé (Spain) $12
This Rosé from Spain is a delicious blend of Monastrell and Garnacha grapes.  The result is bright pink wine with a tantalizing combination of strawberry, cherry and peach on the palate – great acidity allows for unlimited food pairing combinations.

Montes Cherub Rosé of Syrah 2008 (Chile) $16
The Montes Cherub is always a visually stunning wine.  The color is a magnificent hot pink.  This well-received Rosé from Chile is crafted solely from Syrah grapes, producing a classy, dry rosé with plenty of concentrated red berry fruit and a touch of citrus on the edge.

So the next time you are in the wine store, why don't you try a new summertime favorite. Things will certainly start coming up Rosé-s.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Dan

Today would have been my father-in-law's 71st birthday.  Dan Mausser passed away 11 years ago but, today on his birthday, I would like to write a few words to remember him by.

Dan was a gentle, quiet man, but he had a presence, which seemed to fill a room.  When he smiled, it was as bright as the sun spreading its warm rays upon you.  He was a loving husband, a caring father and a devoted grandfather.  Dan was a world-traveler who loved his family, golf, stocks, music, and his homes -- especially his cabin in Mammoth Lakes.

The first time I visited the cabin, I was blown away.  Jason and I had been dating for about two years when Dan and Judith invited us to spend the weekend with them.  This was a very special place for both my in-laws, so it was a big deal for me. 

During the six-hour drive, Jason told me that there had been some contention about the sleeping arrangements.  Dan and Judy were eclectic, unique and (somewhat) liberal thinking individuals, but equally conservative and traditional.  Judith had suggested that she and I bunk together, while Dan and Jason do the same in the two bedroom cabin.  Having shared a bed with my mom and grandmother on too many occasions to count, I was not put out by this suggestion at all, although it was an interesting concept.

However, when we arrived around 1 a.m., Dan and Judith were already sleeping.  But, Judith had arranged a tea service, wine and cheese (for whatever we may have been in the mood for) and the bed linens were turned down and elegant.  It was a warm welcome and the sleeping arrangements were no longer an issue.

We woke the next morning -- in September -- to more than a foot of snow.  And, later in the day when the sun had broken through, we had the most incredible day.  The best part was when we all dressed up in our finest duds, which included Judith in her mink coat, while Dan drove us around Mammoth Lakes to show off the beauty of his favorite place. 

We all had a fantastic weekend -- eating delicious dinners with fine wines, hiking and just having fun.  So much fun that Jason and I made it our annual pilgrimage to go up to the cabin with Dan and Judith every fall.

It wasn't until we were driving home that Jason told me his Dad had been the one to make the decision to allow us to share the same bed.  To this day, I believe that Dan had made his judgement based on the true love that he saw between Jason and I.  He knew that I wasn't just "some girl Jason was dating" but someone special.  Maybe he noticed that Jason's feelings for me were the same feelings he himself had felt for Judith years ago.

Two years later, I was fortunate enough to have both Jason and Dan by my side on my wedding day.

Dan never treated me like an "in-law," he always treated me like I was one of his own daughters so my relationship with him was very special to me.  I really looked up to him and appreciated his zest for life.  Jason and I shared many fun times with his parents -- so many that I can't count.  The one constant memory that keeps popping into my head is that we were always laughing together.  We would laugh until the tears came and our belly's ached.

Dan was a good and decent man who is missed by so many.  Our lives are lacking without him here -- especially for our son Shane -- but we must always remember that by just knowing Dan our lives are richer.  He will always be a part of us and his memory will live in our hearts forever.

Happy Birthday Dan!