Fa la la la la la la la la

me at christmas
The look on Steve Martin’s face is priceless, and perfectly exemplifies how I usually feel at Christmas time.

Usually around this time of the year I am a grumpy curmudgeon; fat and bloated from over eating, cursing the Christmas songs on the radio as I scurry about hunting for a parking spot east of BFE in order to complete my last minute Christmas shopping. And by “last minute christmas shopping”, I mean all my Christmas shopping.

Cut to the present. This year I am jolly and LOVING all the carols. Whats so different?? Two words: online shopping. Amazon, The Outnet, and Gilt have been my best friends this season. Oh shoot! I forgot Aunt Suzie’s gift!? NO PROBLEM. Amazon is STILL delivering by Christmas. And if your a “prime” member, there’s no added shipping cost! Hallelujah. Smiles all around!

With all that being said, I’ve been dancing around my house, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, and singing along like a regular old Who in Whoville.

Here are some ideas for my fellow compatriots that wait til the last minute to purchase Christmas gifts and/or stocking stuffers. These can still be delivered in time:

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  1. Beats Headphones – I have no idea re the quality of these, but they are so gorgeous! I personally can’t stand putting things in my ears, so for years I’ve been avoiding the ear buds and using big honkers like these. I am relieved these are back in style.Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.49.07 AM
  2. Ugg Boots – I am not saying these are back in style (were they every ACTUALLY in style?)- but they look SO comfortable! A true fashionista would never wear these out of the house, but since I’m only a fashionista in training- I hope that I receive a pair of these- FINALLY- since I’ve been wanting them since the fist time they were “in style”.Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.53.02 AM
  3. Nars Blush in Orgasm – Though I blush to write the name of this blush, its a universal must have. It looks amazing on all skin tones. A wonderful stocking stuffer.Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.57.01 AM
  4. Cheekies – I just LOVE these cheek and lip tints by benefit. A little goes a long way so these tiny bottles last practically forever. And they will perfectly fit in a stocking!Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.59.35 AM
  5. Jo Malone Candle – I know a candle may seem cliche and impersonal, but these candles by Jo Malone are AMAZING. They smell SO good. My favorite is Peony and Blush Suede (of course- anything peony, right?)
  6. A good book – People truly underestimate the power of a great read. Often I do not like to buy my own books- not sure why, I guess I always worry I’ll pick poorly. Pictured above are a few recommended to me that look amazing. Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 11.17.09 AM
  7. An oxblood colored handbag  – I adore this color and am always on the lookout for the perfect bag that wears it. Here Mr. Zac Posen has taken the “new classic” pyramid shape and applied it to something a bit more affordable. I actually prefer the medium in flat leather (not pictured here), but this mini patent version is adorbs! I met Zac at the Emmy’s a few years back. Actually a really nice and unaffected guy. Impressed, I will always support his work.

And for the men in our lives?? 

  1. A cool (stylish, not temperature) jacket or vest Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 11.26.50 AM
  2. Frye Boots – These are great quality boots with style. I love any man that can pull off the rugged look from time to time. Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 11.27.50 AM
  3. A badger hair shaving kit -MSM LOVES his! Says its the best gift I ever bought him. Can’t go wrong with that! Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 11.34.01 AM
  4. A great read! Men also love books- or magazine subscriptions….Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 11.36.05 AM

What the heck to wear while Christmas Shopping: 

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Here’s a pic of me waiting for MSM (holding the gorgeous peonies he surprised me with) as he gets ready to go to a christmas reunion at Nobu. I was able to squeeze in some online shopping via my smart phone while I waited! So convenient!  Jacket: Maje  Top: ALC  Leather Pencil Skirt: Helmut Lang  Booties: Alaia

 

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Clutch: Clair Vivier. Love!
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Totally off subject but I’ve been LOVING my new hair extensions!

Since I’ve saved so much time by online shopping, I’ve been able to go out with friends and enjoy all the holiday festivities. Free time + no parking problems + avoiding horrendous traffic = A happy Jill.  I hope you have all been having fun too.

Happy Holidays everyone! Have a Merry Christmas!

xoxo

QJ

QJ

 

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Abbott Kinney.

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Photo: Abbott Kinney website.

If your running out for some last minute holiday shopping and you live in the LA area, consider spending an afternoon walking the streets of Venice Beach. Particularly Abbott Kinney. MSM and I look forward to our Abbott Kinney walk every year, and this year was just as wonderful as the past.

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How cute is this little girl and her father? I have no idea how they did it but Venice Beach provided snow and hills for sledding, hot cocoa, carolers, and Santa Claus. It was a festive winter wonderland!

When we arrived we first spotted a Winter Festival- yes, in SoCal there was sledding and Santa and Carolers. So much fun! After enjoying time here we started to walk the shops.

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Theres something wonderfully nostalgic about antique gum ball machines (filled with not so antique gum balls and candy :)). From Bountiful on Abbot Kinney.

Burro:

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This is a great shop for finding reasonably priced unique gifts that are actually useful, not kitchy like the stocking stuffers from Restoration Hardware.

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This book was full of uncommonly useful advice. I even took some notes as I flipped through the pages. An outstanding reference book to have on hand.
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I fell in love with this fabulous stone cheese/cutting board by Roost. Attractive but useful decor to spice up the kitchen a little. 

I always find something lovable at Burro. Its a wonderful shop for finding a gift for that person that really has everything- and you won’t leave there with an item they will want to re-gift or throw in a closet.

Intelligengtsia:

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This fabulous coffee shop is home of exclusive chocolates and sodas. A strange gift? Maybe. But specialty chocolate and a superb wine could definitely be a winning combination.

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If you decide this isn’t the right place to buy a gift, take a break here over a heavenly latte paired with a delectable pastry- all made fresh in house. They also have an internet bistro table that seats about ten. Its funny to come into the shop and see the lineup of people typing away on their computers. Maybe they are each writing a blog!

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Intelligencia has tasty gourment coffees and chocolate drinks.

 

Velvet by Graham and Spencer:

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I love the leather leggings on the right. Leather skinnies are so in the past few years. An homage to the 80s, but I feel like I can rock them. As MSM says, its all in the attitude that defines what you can pull of in your wardrobe. Besides, they would be perfect for our NYE plans!

This clothing store, originally known for its casual T shirts, is stocked with fantastic basics. Capes, tanks, sweaters, and basic blouses abound,  I was coveting a fabulous pair of faux leather leggings. I know, I know, some of you my put your nose up at the word “faux” but hey, they were sexy! Velvet by G&S also hosts great sales at Christmas time. Don’t miss out!

Local Artisans:

While walking Abbott Kinney one can take a peak into a nook and cranny or alley and find stand alone shops where local artisans sell hand crafted jewelry and, if your lucky, wonderfully unique fashions.

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I just adore this cape I bought from a local designer. It reminds me of something Judy Garland would have worn in Meet Me In St.Louis. Or of something the women wore skating on the outdoor rinks in Norman Rockwell’s world. PS I know Danielle would hate this, but I couldn’t pass it up. Can’t wait to wear it over Christmas break in Carmel!

What the heck to wear when walking Abbot Kinney?

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Jacket: IRO  Jeans: Frame Denim (SO comfortable AND flattering!)  Top: Mossimo (yes, Target- its comfortable so sue me!)  Bag: Chloe  Boots: Stewart Weitzman

Its been unseasonably cold in SoCal. Let me rephrase; its been FREEZING (literally, 32 degrees at night) in SoCal. As per usual lately I decided to layer because sometimes, despite a chilly forecast predicted by the local weather man (do weather people still exist? Or is it all done by machines now?), when the sun peeks out to say “hello” it gets hot.

Hoping your holiday shopping is going well and your all having fun!

xoxo

QJ

QJ

 

 

 

Jane The Virgin: A lesson in relationship expectations

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So, when I work out I love to watch a TV series on Netflix. Its the only time I really have time to watch TV. Sometimes I’ll watch a movie- split it between cardio sessions. But TV shows are the perfect amount of time to spend on the elliptical. Lately I’ve been watching the show Jane The Virgin and it just dawned on me that the show perfectly depicts certain stereotypes of romantic relationships.

RaphaelSolano

A. Raphael- Affluent Hotel Owner. Successful. Financially stable.

Raphael is always working. He’s well dressed (yes, even his sweats will cost over 100$). With Raphael, you will have a beautifully decorated and spacious home. You will most likely belong to a tennis club where you will hob knob with the rich and famous. Think fantastic vacations and parties (but some stuck up people with whom to contend). You will have the best medical staff at your disposal whenever necessary. As Raphael’s “woman”,  he sees you as an asset. He recognizes your strengths and supports you in his own way. His idea of male/female partnership is as follows: You will often be asked to put your needs aside to make his life easier, to help him make a deal, or to comfort him. He will most often not return the favor because he will be busy working, but he will graciously buy you a new Prada handbag whenever you want one. He will promise to be there for you and he will really want to follow through, but most often work will come up, and work will always take precedence.  I’m guessing you will feel passion with Raphael, and you will love things about him as a person; perhaps he’s philanthropic or great with children/animals. Unfortunately overall, I imagine, life with a Raphael could seem lonely because as far as order of importance, you’re relationship will not come first.

MichaelJTV

B. Michael- Detective. Hard worker. Down to earth.

Alternatively, there’s Michael. Michaels are honest, hard working, and intelligent. They seek to become experts at their work, but do not make work their entire lives. Consequently, they will never be as affluent as a Raphael, but they probably would learn how to budget properly and save for some fancy things that life has to offer. Michaels look at their partners as exactly that- a partner. You will be each other’s support and true friend. Passion with Michael? It’s possible and likely. I fear some Michael relationships may turn into something more platonic. Psychologically I’m not sure why though. I think it depends on the woman. Overall, however, with a Michael you will always feel supported, loved, and important. To me these relationships seem more “real” and long lasting.

I’m wondering, does a Raphemic exist? Sexy and mysterious, hard working/sometimes evasive, but also fun and down to earth. A supportive, financially stable man with heart and some zest for adventure. Not a zillionaire, but definitely stable? That would be a catch! 😉

Rojelio

C. Rogelio- Working Actor (Telemundo). Passionate. Young at heart. 

OMG so Rogelio is super wealthy so he definitely has the financial stability of Raphael. He’s also creative and passionate- so more like Michael there. He SEEMS he could potentially be the Raphael/Michael hybrid. But alas, he’s mellow dramatic, arrogant, and egotistical. He’s loving, yes, but he shows it in a funny way – mostly because he can’t get past how “great” he is. Being in a relationship with him…..seems extremely difficult to me. But maybe theres some allure to it- if your the type that see his arrogance as “cute” or funny, or if it just doesn’t get to you.

Why am I writing about this?

Answer: There’s a lesson to be learned. Nobody is perfect and no relationship is perfect. We all just have to pick the flaws we can live with, and focus on the positive. There is something wonderful in everyone. At least most everyone.

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Jane The Virgin is a really fun show with great writing. If your looking for something entertaining for forty minutes of de-stressing the mind, its available on Netflix and I highly recommend!

What to wear when watching Jane The Virgin?

Work out clothes! As stated above, I always watch this while I’m on the treadmill or elliptical; my “netflix” hour :).

Next up:  Embracing the holiday spirt on Abbott Kinney. See ya’ll soon!

xoxo

QJ

QJ

A Proper Ugly Sweater Party

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I just love throwing a twist on a classic. An ugly sweater party? Sure. But an Ugly Sweater Party with caviar stations? Now that’s living in style!

This past weekend my friend Daren successfully threw an Ugly Sweater Party so fantastic that only the mastermind behind Nobu Hollywood could have mustered it up. This was a great way to begin my whirlwind of holiday events.

We arrived early, as usual (sadly for me MSM doesn’t believe in being fashionably late) and Daren was braising his prime rib (yum!). Vampire Weekend played from the speakers. The table was eloquently decorated with unique christmas ornaments and greens. Three different caviar stations were  placed on the table and the champagne was ready to go.

caviar
Champagne wishes and Caviar dreams for Christmas? Who could ask for more? “I don’t actually love caviar. I force myself to eat it so in time I’ll start to like it. It just seems so classy. ” Irene (Hors Du Prix) and Me.

Each guest was expected to bring a dish to ensure a colossal feast. Most of Daren’s friends work in the restaurant industry, so I knew the food would be delicious. We brought Mac and Cheese sired by Venice Beach’s acclaimed Baby Blue BBQ. I also baked some North Pole Butter cake Cheesecakes; recipe from one of my all time favorite recipe bloggers: Sweet Tea Sweetie!

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Even the liquor showed up in an ugly sweater.

Once everyone arrived, the room filled with festive laughter, warmth, and a bunch of hideous sweaters! With every guest, more food was placed on the table. In addition to the prime rib and our offerings, there was a platter of roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, gourmet Mediterranean meatballs (my personal favorite of the evening), and a cheese and olive plate. The cheeses were locally made and SO yummy. I especially liked the truffled hard cheese. It was fun sampling the various cheeses with my wine- just like we learned at the Jada Vineyard a few weeks back. I just realized there was a lot of different cheese dishes at this party! No wonder its so hard not to gain weight this time of year!

cheese
The cheese selections were fabulous. This soft cheese is locally made and deliciously stinky- if you know what I mean. 

At the end of the night our host picked the winner of the ugliest sweater award. There were so many great ones from which to choose. Honestly, though, some “ugly sweaters” really aren’t THAT ugly! I mean any of you remember those hideous Bill Cosby sweaters from the late 80s? Now THOSE were UGLY! See below.

Bill
Seriously? What were the show costumers thinking?! In my opinion,  definitely the winner of the Ugliest Sweater of all time competition (this should exist)!

 

seriouslyUglySweater
Personally for some reason I think this is the worst one of the night.
sweater2
The Ho Ho Ho vest was the winner of the Ugliest Sweater award.
PenguinSweater
Ok come on! The Penguin is CUTE! I’d totally wear this to go build a snowman and sip hot cocoa (with mini marshmallows of course!)

Bonus of the night? Everyone loved my desert! This means a lot coming from chefs and restauranteurs! Thanks, Kari, for the amazing recipe!  It was easy and fun to bake, too.  I can’t wait to make it again for my work party on Thursday.

NorthPoleCupcake
If you decide to bake these, keep your eye on the center. I had to cook them a lot longer than listed due to my inferior oven. They will set some, but don’t take them out if the center is still like liquid. 

What the heck to wear to an Ugly Sweater Party?

An Ugly Sweater! Obviously! 😉

ME_uglySweater
I have to admit I actually love this Star Wars sweater. I mean is it fashionable? Heck no! But….it will be perfect to wear to the opening later this week. Meanwhile, I apologize for the worst reveal of my hair extensions! They are in now :). More on that later- maybe. Or at least a better pic.

The food was great and the atmosphere was fun. It was really nice to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I’m definitely in the holiday spirit this year! No being a curmudgeon like Scrooge or green with anger like the Grinch! Let the festivities commence!

Whats the worst ugly sweater you’ve seen this season? Share in the comments.

xoxo

QJ

QJ

Joy.

cassis
I just love to travel and experience new cultures and people. I also love to sail, another special hobby I shared with my father.  With the wind in my hair and adventure on the horizon, I feel so free. This photo was taken in Cassis, France. That trip was definitely Joy. 

I had the privilege of seeing the pre-screener of the movie Joy. It was pretty amazing. Yes the acting was great, and the cinematography intriguing and blah blah blah industry stuff. What I really want to talk about is the true story behind the film.

Since I’m not allowed to divulge too much information regarding the subject matter of this film (it hasn’t been released to the public yet), I will tell the story another way. Well, at least what I got out of that story anyways.

A Wise Professor:

9 years ago I had a college professor who was supposed to teach a class titled “computer applications.” Instead he started the first day of class explaining  “ya’ll can learn basic computer skills on your own, instead I will be teaching you secrets of a happy life.”

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” -Helen Keller Photo:Town&Country

First and foremost my teacher re-iterated story upon story the significance of doing what you love; of  letting your passions drive you, not your greed. You know the cliche- “do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life”. I vaguely got the gist of most of what he shared with us. The other night though, when I saw Joy, something clicked and I finally get it. Its a bit esoteric because one could easily say “I love money” or “I love the idea of a rich life” and then will be driven just to make money however it takes. But thats not really living. According to my professor, first we must follow our passions, then the money will come.

If we take a peep at people who have had the courage to do and try what they love,  somehow the money to live the life they want HAS  always come. And more importantly, so has peace, stability, and security. Ghandi, John Lennon (I mean it didn’t end well, but his life was wonderful and fulfilling as he lived it), Sylvester Stalone (look up his story told by Tony Robbins. Its pretty incredible). These people weren’t in it for the money. They lived/are living the life they truly want(ed). I remember when my professor first said “if you do what you love the money will come” we all laughed “If you build it, they will come.” But I’m starting to see the validity in it.

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Never loose faith in who you are, and never let go of your dreams. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” -Mahatma Gandhi. 

Later, towards the end of the semester, after hearing dozens upon dozens of anecdotes about his life  (he was one of the first to work as an Imagineer at Disney!), we collectively discovered that said professor had throat cancer and would not live past the semester. I will never forget this man. His zest for life, his fearlessness, and the fervor in his voice as he passed on his life lessons. He was an omniscient and sage man who gifted us students with secrets so few could know at our age. Our final assignment was “Live your life in Joy. Think about what this means, and then do it.” Sadly he did not make it to the last class, and this final appointment was never graded. Obviously he did this on purpose. For the rest of my life I will be working on my “A” in computer applications.

 

The Four Pillars of Security:

Money does not buy you happiness, BUT it DOES buy you security. So I asked a therapist friend how he advises clients to find balance regarding that- how to do what you love but still feel safe and secure. Hypnotherapist Dr. James Borrelli explained there are four investments that will lead to happiness. Here they are, in order of importance:

  1. Invest in your health. Without your health, you “can’t do anything”. So here is where your money and time should go first.
  2. Invest in your expertise. Grow and learn. Become the best at whatever it is you love to do. Here’s where your passion fits in. With expertise (and good health) you will always be able to take care of yourself (ie have enough skill to work and therefor have what you need financially to live a stable fulfilling life).
  3. Invest in a budget. Take the time to work one out. Its ok to push yourself to the limit, but with that being said, stay within your means. Life without debt is a happy one.
  4. Invest in finances. Learn how to protect and grow your money.

**Dr. Borrelli explained that 1 and 2 are INTERNAL. That by focusing and strengthening whats inside of us, we will never have to worry about external things abandoning us. And thus, we will have security. Makes sense.

Believe In Youself

The antagonist in the film makes choices based on her passion because she believes in it. It has nothing to do with wanting to become rich. Its about getting her ideas heard because she feels her ideas will, in their own small way, contribute to making the world a better place. If she succeeds and makes money, that is a bonus prize. First and foremost, she is focused on seeing her idea through successful fruition. She is driven by faith in herself and in her beliefs.

I’m wondering, what if we all followed our passions rather than our greed? What would happen? What are some things you feel passionately about that bring you joy?

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I love my dogs and I love my friends. Love and friendship are both significant ingredients to a life full of Joy and laughter.

Throughout the years I have met some incredible people who seem touched with exuberance. When allowed the opportunity, I’ve asked them “what is the secret to your happiness.” I’m starting to notice a reoccurring theme in their answers. Olympic gymnast Nadia Comăneci summed it up best; “Never give up on your dreams. Be courageous and do your do diligence, then follow them to fruition. This is a happy life.”

(yes I met her and yes it was AMAZING because she was my childhood idol).

Blessings for Peace and Joy to you all  this holiday season – and for all the days thereafter!

 

xoxo

QJ

QJ

 

 

Red Red Wine.

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Every time I take a trip to the central coast (of California) something inside me sets back to zero. I mean this in a good way. Like my internal compass re-aligns and I suddenly feel balanced and grounded.

This year is the first year I ventured north during the autumn and I was happily surprised by the colors of the changing trees. Mustards, chartreuse, and vibrant oranges brilliantly complimented the clear blue sky, mottled only by the sporadic cloud. The air up there is crisp now, and clean. At least I assume its clean because my deaf nose was able to smell again (the smog in LA has taken a bit of a toll on my sinuses).

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I am reminded of a time when driving meant uncomplicated moments to gather thoughts, a time to reflect and dream of new endeavors.

Our final destination for some needed Thanksgiving RnR was in San Luis Obispo, but, as per usual, we took a pit stop in the quaint town of Santa Barbara. We both adore SB. Its just fun. The people are friendly and the shops are unique. The beach is gorgeous as well.

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I just got this sweater by Rag and Bone from Danielle. Its so soft and cozy and reminds me of something Diane Keaton would have worn in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. I love how its casual but still sophisticated. 
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The Sand Bar in Santa Barbara makes a damn good Bloody Mary. I’ve been searching for the best Bloody Mary’s on earth and this one is definitely ranking towards the top of the list. 

The drive from Santa Barbara to SLO is breathtaking. There are two routes- a coastal route, and a just as pretty “inland” route that I’ve named the painted landscape route, or the PLR. The latter is the road less traveled. I actually prefer the PLR because it feels like an escape into a different time-space continuum. The PLR somehow acts as a reminder to leave my stress behind, to take a deep breath and enjoy some time to replenish the soul.

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This exemplary photo was captured while exploring the hikes and beach paths around our hotel. Notice the copious amounts of color. The whole area reminded me of a European countryside. Doesn’t it bare resemblance to the house in The Holiday (such a great film!)? So peaceful and down to earth. A perfect respite for a tired elan vital.

Where to stay? The Sycamore Hotel:

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A town home at the Sycamore. These were spotted all around the property. I think Bob Ross would have named them “Happy yellow houses”.

MSM found this AMAZING little (ok not that little) hotel called The Sycamore. The hotel property is divided into three areas, town homes, cabins, and an area of natural hot spring hot tubs that can be rented. Each town home and cabin has a unique name, like “joy” or “serenity” We stayed in “fulfillment”.

The suites here are nothing short of amazing.  High ceilings and happy yellow walls will make anyone smile. Each town home suite boasts king sized beds (ahhhhh), a fireplace (ahhhh), and, lucky us,  a private natural hot spring hot tub! With hiking trails abound and a centrally located yoga center, there is enough to do here for a week! It kind of reminded me of a lavish summer camp. I was in heaven.

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In contrast to our tiny cozy abode back in LA, I adored having a king sized bed and vaulted ceilings. Ahhhhh. Breathing space!! However, my sister is convinced Queen beds are better for relationships.They are so small they make it virtually impossible for a couple to go to bed angry. 

We arrived early in the evening on Thanksgiving, just in time to rest before partaking in the magnificent hotel-prepared feast. A feast deserving of a write-up in Town&Country. Our palates were prepped with a heart warming potato leak soup followed by a traditional Turkey Day dinner; roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans (with home made crispy onions – not the nasty canned ones), and a choice of pumpkin or apple pie for desert. All this paired with our choice of local wine.

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What is it about this that makes me feel like it should be in Town&Country magazine? Our Thanksgiving dinner was so upscale yet cozy. It was wonderful.

After our meal MSM and I decided to snoop around the hotel’s property. This adventure lead us to a gated chef’s garden that was (probably mistakenly) unlocked. It was fun to see the origin of the herbs and vegetables that made up our prior meal. After exploring we retreated back to the room where we did absolutely nothing but relax and plot out our activities for the next day. It was perfect.

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It was so much fun exploring the Chef’s Garden. We discovered different varieties of squash, legumes, and herbs. And oddly, we also found some interesting old chandeliers. 

A day of wine tasting:

First of all, if you decide to stay at the Sycamore, you MUST set your alarm for an early wake up to hike the crest trail. The reasons this is so awesome are threefold. 1. you will burn off the meal from the night before 2. THE VEIW!!! And 3. The dogs! So many cute pups to pet and friendly people to meet. Its amazing how nice everyone is here. I can see why SLO was voted the happiest place in the US. Interesting fact- its ALSO in the top three areas of the world for the most centenarians with outstanding quality of life.

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This is the gorgeous view of Shell Beach from the Avila Cliffs hike. We could almost see my sister’s beach house from here! I wonder if binoculars would have helped. hee hee. 
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We met this adorable little guy named Luke on our hike. Luke looks just like Harry- the dog from one of my favorite childhood books, “Harry by the Sea”. Love!

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After a challenging but invigorating hike, the perfect denouement is wine tasting. San Luis Opispo and its neighbor, Paso Robles, host a plethora (I want to say 600 but I’m sure that can’t be right) of vineyards. Knowing how much I love learning about local wines and going wine tasting, MSM had planned to take us for a special birthday picnic at the vineyard where my favorite wine is made- Justin.

On the way to the vineyard we stopped in the heart of SLO to pick up some picnic sandwiches at the adorable High Street Market and Deli. OMG possibly the best sandwich and in-house made pickles I’ve ever had!

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The quaint High Street Deli is world famous. Ok maybe not WORLD famous, but it should be. BEST SANDWICHES EVER! Yum!
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The decor inside the High Street Deli is fun vintage art and posters. 

It took forever to get to Justin. An hour, to be exact. If you go to Justin you should know its actually in Paso Robles, NOT SLO! But it was well worth the wait. Besides, driving through rolling hills painted with autumn trees and cute cows and deer is relaxing. By the time we arrived at Justin, I felt at ease, and ten years younger.

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Seriously, no words are needed here. The views at Justin were just incredible. 

JustinGardenAfter getting our buzz on at Justin we decided to do a wine and cheese tasting at Jada. I had never done a pairing before. Wine, Cheese, Wine, that is the order. The wine here paled in comparison to Justin. But the cheese was amazing! Especially the Irish Porter Beer Cheese. Who says you can’t mix wine and beer?

Jada
My first time experiencing wine and cheese pairing was at Jada. That odd looking chunk of brown to the left is Irish Porter Beer Cheese. SO good! I need to look into ordering some of this. I feel like it could potentially make great mac and cheese!

Novo:

Our day of wine tasting ended with a wonderful dinner at the romantic Novo in San Luis Obispo, where we partook in a fabulous seafood linguine. We are always happy with the food at Novo. This restaurant is truly worthy of its own review – so thats all I’m going to say about it for now.

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If your wondering where to eat in San Luis Obispo, I can’t say enough about Novo. Great for a girls night out, a family reunion, or a romantic dinner for two, you just can’t go wrong here. For more info, click here: Eat at Novo  Photo: from Novo Website

After a delicious dinner we enjoyed the hot tub one last time before settling down in bed to marathon watch “Younger”. Have you ever watched that show? Its me in a nut shell. I read somewhere recently that its actually healthy to lie about your age. So I decided that I am reclaiming the last ten years. I am no longer blankety blank. Instead, I just turned ten years younger!

What the heck to wear in Wine Country California:

Central Coast California in the fall has a wide range of temperatures. Even within a day the weather can swing from 80 degrees in the afternoon to 45 at night. I’m feeling redundant, but…..layering is essential. I packed for this trip with no help from Danielle, and I’m not truly confident in my pairings. But I’ll post them anyways:

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In the Chefs garden under a sky full of vintage chandeliers. Jacket: Sandro  Sweater: Rag and Bone  Jeans: Rag and Bone  Boots: Stuart Weitzman Bag: (Old) from Gilt.com/pre Danielle
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Warming by the fireplace before our Thanksgiving dinner. Dress: Thakoon Addition  Boots: Stuart Weitzman  Necklace: Tiffany (a gift from MSM)
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Sassy after one too many. haha. Sweater: Helmut Lang  Black V Tee: J. Crew  Jeans: Mother  Scarf: Splendid  Boots: Stuart Weitzman  Tote: Givenchy
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Bundled up for our al fresco dining at Novo. Jacket: Sandro  Denim Jacket: Current Elliott  Scarf: Made by  my mom (literally)  Sweater: Chloe  Jeans: Mother  Boots: Stuart Weitzman Bag: (Old) from Gilt.com. Slouchy beanie: H&M Paris

With replenished souls and a new lease on life, we headed back to Los Angeles. I had a wonderful birthday/Thanksgiving weekend, with a newly attained knowledge of so many things for which to be thankful.

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Blowing kisses to MSM after our tasting at Justin. What a fun weekend we had!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well. What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories?

xoxo

QJ

QJ

To Jillian on her blankety blank birthday

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Happy birthday to me! Flowers and card from my beautiful cousin.

Remember that Michelle Pfeiffer movie from 1996? To Jillian on her 37th Birthday? Well, I never actually saw that movie, but I like the title so….

My birthday month has come to a close. Such an amazing month it was! Especially the last week, when my actual birthday fell. It began on Monday night when the show I just wrapped had a premier party at The Parlor in West Hollywood (I’ll review that another time) followed by dinner at Summer Buffalo with some cast mates (another review for another time- but WOW that food was good!).

Spago

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Initially we had planned on celebrating my actual birthday dinner (on my actual birthday) at Maude, Curtis Stone’s restaurant. At 300$/person (without drinks) for the “November Truffles” theme, we decided it would dip too much into our Italy fund, so, at my bosses recommendation,  MSM decided to treat me with reservations at Spago, home of Wolfgang Puck.

Back in the day Mr. Puck revolutionized the Los Angeles food scene with  Spago. He decided he wanted to create an affordable menu based on food that was indigenous to LA and fit the LA healthy lifestyle. So Spago was born and healthy contemporary LA eating was put on the map. High maintenance orderers finally had a place to nourish their souls!  MSM and I had never eaten there before, so we were thrilled to try something new.

Ambiance

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“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman” – Coco Chanel

When you first go into Spago, you are in the bar. There’s a small lounge area with sofas and chairs and then the bar itself. Upon entering, the atmosphere feels rich but approachable. This area is nicely lit with dim over heads and candles. The hostesses are friendly but professional.

From what I could tell there were two main dining areas. The main room is a well lit indoor space with contemporary paintings decorating the walls. MSM mentioned in passing that he wished it was more dimly lit. I, however, was excited to be able to see the menu without using my phone flashlight (embarrassing age giver-awayer- I know, not a word but gets the point across). The other dining area is an outdoor garden which looked very romantic with trees and twinkle lights (my favorite!). I was a little jealous we weren’t out there, but whatever, where we sat seemed more tailored and luxurious.

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My Cousin, Katherine, and I enjoying our first visit to Spago. I am so grateful Katherine and her husband could join us. I love spending my actual birthday with family. Its so important to me. 

Most of the patrons at Spago, I hate to say it, were probably around 70 years old. I’m sure this is true because the place has been around for 30+ years and was SO ridiculously famously popular back in the 20th century that those visitors are still meeting there thinking its cool. Why is that? Like how come some people get stuck on things? Same hair cut for 50 years or clothing. Lord don’t let that happen to me!

Hilarious story- As I walked towards the restroom one woman, she must have been about 75, grabbed my arm and said “honey! Could you get me a glass of water? My leg is cramping. I can’t make it to the bar.” I’m pretty sure she thought I worked there (due to the average minimum age). Of course I helped her! And I told her to remove her stunning Jimmy Choos’ because they were the cause of the cramp. OMG 5″ heels almost killed me at blankety blank, how the heck is she wearing those at 70?? (and please let me be able to do the same without the leg cramp!).

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Once seated, the waiter brought us each a shot of mushroom soup. Delicious and soul warming.

Even though we were most definitely some of the youngest ones there, there was a mix of ages ranging from 30-80 and it didn’t feel stuffy AT ALL. It was lively inside. Fun. Lots of laughter and joy. I can see why its still listed in the top 3 restaurants in LA.

What to eat

AHi
The most ridiculously amazing spicy tuna on crispy rice I have EVER had. Eye popping good!

Answer: Everything. I can’t even tell you how AMAAAAZING the food was here.

We started our adventure with an aperitif shot of Wolfgang’s cream of mushroom soup. Hello! Can I have a carafe of that please??

Next we shared an appetizer of  spicy ahi in a crispy cone; Mr. Pucks rendition of spicy tuna on crispy rice. OMG. There are no words. Seriously. One bite and we exchanged that look that only “that look” can describe. That “holy S*** this tastes amazing” look. It was like a symphony of flavor that all blended so well together yet stood tasty on its own as well; a symphonic poem of food.

After the heavenly tuna cones we shared an endive salad (delicious) and a Bolognese pasta that was TO DIE FOR. Both exploded with flavors; their own symphonic poems in our mouthes.

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Every single appetizer, salad, and first course that we tasted at Spago was incredible. A starburst of flavors in the mouth!
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I was SO excited that the special on my birthday was Veiner Schnitzel! It was as if they did that just for me! The breading was a bit dry, but the presentation was gorgeous. 

For the main course I was (sadly) underwhelmed. My favorite food in the world is Weiner shnitzel. No, NOT the hot dogs. The actual dish that originated in Austria. Now, the first time I had ever eaten Weiner Schnitzel was in Baden Baden, Germany, so I may be a bit overly critical when an american chef attempts to correctly make it. Back in Baden Baden I sat with my father under the enormous oak trees. I was 13 years old. Long wire-y haired dachshunds frolicked in the park across from us. As the kliener vogel (little birds) sang their songs and my dad and I laughed about our day, the waiter served us our Veiner Schnitzel. I remember my father exclaiming “wait til you try this, Jilly, its my favorite!” He taught me how to squeeze the lemon over the veal, and then stir the spatzel into the gravy. We each took a bite and I remember the moment it hit my lips and the flavor explosion that followed. So delicious. And we sat there, in silence, enjoying our food and Germany. So many unspoken moments with my father where I truly felt loved and accepted as me. I so miss him. Anyways, I digress…. They say food is experience, and I do believe that one reason I love this dish so much is because of that moment when I first tasted it.  So back here at Spago, the chef had huge shoes to fill and I’m sad to say he failed. It was dry and not so great.

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Desert was so yummy. Triple chocolate with raspberry sauce and lemon gelato. It looked so good we didn’t even stop to take a photo!

BUT….the desert resurrected my taste buds. Delicious combinations of citrus and chocolate…..HOLY COW it was yummy! And the four of us (my cousin and her hubby were with us) were serenaded by our waiters rendition of Happy Birthday. Of course our waiter was a dancer and an actor and a producer and a singer….the list goes on. We do live in LA, right?

 

What the heck do you wear to Spago?

So I was really nervous because I went here straight from work and had no time to do my hair. It was up in its usual work bun. It was to my relief when I walked into Spago and literally half the women there had their hair in a bun!

The dress is mixed. I mean I bet you probably could get away with wearing Jeans and gorgeous shoes with a swanky top. However, I would never. I think I would call the dress here upscale casual. I was excited to wear the new coat that I bought for my birthday. Danielle found this GORGEOUS gem ON SALE 🙂 YAY!

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Coat: Red Valentino  Booties: St. Laurent  Skirt: Chloe  Top: ALC

So began the my birthday week. Off to a great start! Next post- our trip to San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles wine tasting….

Bon Apetit! And thank you MSM for such a wonderful dinner! :*

xoxo

QJ

 

QJ