How are we feeling about this?

Big Bear, CA

A part of me loves the upside-down tree, because it arches over your head like a glittering canopy. But more importantly, it fits even MORE gifts under the tree. But I'm on the fence. Thoughts?


Only in Los Angeles

Ahh, it's a relief to know that while life can't be as perfect as an 80's movie, we can still get tiny, vibrant flashes of it in Los Angeles. A convertible cruising the Sunset Strip loaded down with designer gifts in the backseat? Santa wearing shades at night and listening to Adam Ant? Oh yes. Yes, yes, yes!!!


Everything is more beautiful at Christmas

This includes the Canoga Mission Gallery, standing solo on a road you would normally zip by. But we noticed the vintage adobe building with lush grounds and magical lighting inside, and we had to take a look. Upon entering, it was a dark bazaar of Victorian trinkets, old furniture, books and busts. Strands of jewelry, iron chandeleirs and hand-carved toy soldiers waited to be discovered. The place positively sparkles.  It was built in 1936, commissioned by an actor who starred in the iconic film Pandora's Box with silent film star Louise Brooks.

We thought the adobe was all to see, but it's part of a greater property. Secret gardens and fountains and twinkly lights lured us around paths outside, where people can throw parties. It's called the Hidden Chateau and Gardens. If you want to feel a million miles away from Los Angeles, which we all sometimes do, come here. Especially at Christmas, where Dickens meets Don Quixote. 



Overheard at a bar

I was at St. Nick's on 3rd St. and overheard a girl complaining that she got called into a tampon commercial audition. She was pissed.
Two reasons why this is not okay:

1) It's a blessing to beat the odds and get called in for an audition in the first place.

2) Let's face it; if you are touting tampons or feminine hygiene products in general, you are one fresh-looking girl. It means you are the very picture of health; vibrant, clear and beautiful. You think they'd give that gig to Taylor Momsen, Tori Spelling or Amy Winehouse? Heck no.

Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts did one back in the day, and even millionaire powerhouse Serena Williams is in Tampax ads. So stop your crying, thank your stars and pray for a callback.



Level Restaurant & Bar opens in The Fan!

the jalapeno yellow tail sashimi

As much as I love all things California, there's nothing that saddens me more than the California roll. I had anything but at the chic new restaurant Level in Richmond, VA. Anyone who knows me knows that I am partial to Asian cuisine. It's almost as if chopsticks make things better.

The Fan Roll

In L.A., "Asian Fusion" mixes Asian food with Americana, but at Level, they take it up a notch. Their Asian Fusion simply mixes different Asian cuisines in one menu. One can order classic sashimi and a plate of Chinese lo Mein or a spicy Thai basil dish. Something else that sets Level apart from other Asian establishments is the atmosphere. It felt like a nightclub, sans the dancefloor. Softly thumping beats fill the room, which was lit in purples and blues. An open staircase runs along a mirrored wall. Our favorite feature was the glass bar, which would light up pink wherever you touched it. 

We started with the yellow tail sashimi with jalapeno. Sitting delicately in a Ponzu-type sauce, it was by far our favorite dish. It had simplicity, and tasted of the sea.

We couldn't resist sampling a couple of their signature rolls, The Fan and the Surf and Turf roll. The Surf and Turf roll stood out, as it was wrapped a a thin, smoky piece of filet mignon, stuffed with tempura lobster, spicy crab, spicy tuna, and topped with red and black caviar. When the flavors married, it was divine, with the tempura lobster giving a delightful crunch for texture.

the Surf & Turf Roll

We wanted a Chinese dish as well, in homage to Sandy. She's part owner, Chinese and distractingly beautiful. When we entered the restaurant, we saw her sitting in a booth, chatting with customers. Upon seeing us enter, she stood to shake our hands. "My grandparents owned restaurants, my parents owned restaurants, so I decided to open one. I don't know anything else!" She says this without resignation, but with family pride. So we ordered Chinese, and sampled her Shrimp lo mein.

Shrimp Lo Mein

It's very rare you can order a noodle dish in this town and get pan-seared noodles, but I did. They were slippery but with a slight crunch, which we loved. The dish was smoky, fresh and the shrimp succulent.

Level is certainly a place worth trying. It's not a first date place, but a second date kind of place. You have to really like the person, because Level is sexy. It makes a strong statement.

Check out their light-up bar in the below video!


Crazies at the dog park

Not pictured: Pack of dogs left in the dust. Not that I'm bragging.

Maybe it's all the feces in the air, but what's with all the freaks at the dog park? Note to THIS PERSON

"You can love your pets, you just can't looooove your pets. Repeat after me: Us? Them. Us? Them."
- Janeane Garafalo

Oh, and two dogs does not a party make.

The dog park on Mulholland & Laurel Canyon hosts a cornucopia of people who should be avoided. These following things have happened to me:

~ A dog urinates on my leg. I am silent, my jaw dropped. The owner yells at me, "This is a dog park! What's your problem?!"

~ Janice Dickinson seeing one of my greyhounds and ordering me to make it run.  I told her she needed to hold my dog's collar and ask, "Where's Mommy? Where's Mommy?" as I run away. She did not like this, but did it anyway. My greyhound ran. I do not think she was impressed.

~ Iranian doctors who show up in scrubs (on purpose, to get chicks. Come to think of it, they may not be doctors at all!). They bring $300 remote control race cars for their dogs to chase. If my greyhounds are there, they beat out the pack, including their precious little one, (see above picture). I do not think they like it when I bring my dogs to the park.

~ Coyotes howling like banshees outside the fence at sunset. Well, okay they're supposed to do that. It's just that it sounds like background from Bram Stoker's Dracula.


It was all for Zach Braff!

I've always had a thing for Jewish boys, but Zach Braff is my favorite. He sealed the deal for me with Garden State. The mood and circumstances felt very familiar to me. It's because of this movie and my shameless adoration for him that I was convinced I needed to experience Medieval Times. Until Garden State, Medieval Times was just high school field trip I never took. Besides, I always thought the place thrived because men could get away with eating with their hands and calling women wenches.
Zach Braff

But seeing actor Jim Parsons clinking through his morning walk of shame in full body armor, (see this link: HILARIOUS) the whole idea struck me as bizarre. When Mark (played by Peter Skarsgaard) finds out the knight was sleeping with his mother, Carol:

Carol: Mark, he's a knight.
Mark: He's just a fast food knight.

It pops up again later in the script:

Sam: He's my knight in shining armor.
Andrew Largeman: Don't talk about knights around Mark, it's a sore subject.
Mark: I'm gonna kill that motherfucker.
Andrew Largeman: Pun intended? 

Imagine my surprise hearing the really bad British accents and seeing a bar that served Schnapps cocktails in "collectors" plastic cups with swirly straws. But I'm glad I went. As the beer poured and a thousand chickens were being decimated by bare hands, people screamed for the knights, waving their greasy hands in the air. The long-haired horsemen waved their hands to much fanfare, and you could tell they were so proud. They lived for it, they grew their hair out for it.

a knight in the dining room
While I'll probably never go again, I was so glad for the experience. The cheesy show was well-orchestrated, the enthusiasm was contagious and the food surprisingly tasty. And the next time (200th) I watch Garden State, it will feel all the more familiar. 


The Garden of Oz

Word has it that the kids living nearby were given keys to visit whenever they pleased. Other sources say that random people also received keys, but without directions on how to find it. And that the Dalai Llama sent his monks there to bless the garden. No one who has ever been there will post the address online.

The Garden of Oz is hidden in the Hollywood Hills, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon it while hiking. It's a private residence, and the gate is locked at sundown. This community mosaic of found art has a guest book, a cooler full of drinks, a porta-potty, lounge chairs, and dining tables. It's an ethereal and hopeful place. Enjoy the photos!

the butler and Olivia

Carla Minard Winston under the crystal tree

winding stairs lead to various summits

guest book lounge

yellow brick road


Behind Hollywood...literally

How did I find my way to the Hollywood sign? It started with a sign that read "No Access to the Hollywood Sign." The lady doth protest too much.

After four months of hiking the winding streets of Beachwood Canyon and admiring the enviable real estate, I found a closed gate. It was covered with even more signs telling me that there was no access to the Hollywood sign. But beside the gate was an open doorway. When I approached it, I saw  a star on the sidewalk. I was golden.

The first time I came up behind the Hollywood sign, I was alone and wished I could have shared it with someone. Then I took an old boyfriend, who, when squeezing through the fence to touch the "H," heard a censor beep. A moment later a helicopter came straight at us. And rightfully so. There are so many idiot taggers, we have to reluctantly spend our hard-earned tax money fighting them off. Ugh they are such losers.

Now I hike for the sweeping views of Lake Hollywood, and on a clear day, the glittering sea. I go for the exercise and for my dogs, who go wild when seeing horses, which are common there. This is certainly the love part of my love/hate relationship.

Lake Hollywood, hidden by mountains
the butler thinks he's a horse - greyhounds & horses have much in common

Carla Minard Winston


Munchie Machine Unites Opposite Ends of Social Spectrum

People say there are two different ways to live in Los Angeles. You can do the slow-paced Venice Beach thing by snagging a stress-free job, surfing and scarfing down fish tacos barefoot at beachside stands. Or you can live the fast-paced life, whizzing around Hollywood taking meetings and pounding on the Blackberry. As it stands, you usually have to pick a side. Industry types seem to forget there's a beach nearby and their seaside counterparts tend to forget about long-term goals. Both scoff at the other's values.

Back East, I was seduced by the both the laid-back beach lifestyle and the glitz of Hollywood. I thought I could do both. But since people in the entertainment industry tend to act as if they're curing cancer, it's hard to maintain a balance. I've had people move out of Venice Beach because they felt slowed down by "slackers" and said the general lack of motivation was depressing. In my quest for equanimity, I don't have a Blackberry, I refuse to text, I hike canyons and I spend weekends lounging at the beach.

The only two people in Hollywood fully embracing both worlds.
I do work in entertainment though, and it's only during al fresco power lunches to my cohorts spend time in the sun. These are the people who say they moved to California for the weather, but have never taken a surfing lesson or seen Topanga Canyon.

But if there's one thing both Hollywood types and Venice Beach residents can agree on, it is the Munchie Machine. Rolling around past studios and media meccas, it acts as a subtle reminder of our careless, free-spirited past. Looking like the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, everyone is instantly transported to those hazy golden memories of stoned, sunny, laid-back good times. Cell phones are snapped shut, and all the years of social climbing and ladder climbing disappear. We worked so hard to gain responsibility, only to have the Munchie Machine remind us of how sweet life was without them.

Oh, and they make s'mores.


"I can't date you until I know what kind of car you drive."

Sound ridiculous? They say L.A.'s car is the answer to New York's bags, as far as statement pieces go. And  we've all seen that scene in Swingers where a girl is approached at a bar, and cuts off her potential suitor with "What do you drive?"

oh my God go to college
Sound like a joke? Now there is a website that helps single girls in L.A. find guys with nice cars, called Date My Ride. I would laugh at the embracing of our shallowness, even making a mockery of it, except for this:

Question: If a woman wants a nice car so badly, is she not capable of getting a good job and buying it herself?

This site makes the presumption that women are too stupid and lazy to get what they want, so they open their legs to be at the mercy of a rich suitor. It's so...medieval. Then again, I know this town is filled lazy and stupid (two maladies that can be controlled) girls who feel a sense of entitlement because they like what they see in the mirror. All of which takes the Women's Movement back 100 years. Tears.
a real vintage ad

Note: The site is rightfully covering their butt by saying it's a site "for car lovers," not Narcissistic men and lazy, stupid girls. But make no mistake, the boys are doing the advertising and the girls are doing the shopping!