A few years ago I went on a wine safari in south Rhone Valley with a guide who eloquently explained that in Europe dinner is not so much about sustenance, but more about connecting with people. He commented that the company one keeps affects our memories of how the food and wine actually taste. This sentiment was 100% apropos for my visit to the new Cleo at LA live. Its not that the food was bad, per say, and I wouldn’t necessarily deter someone from eating there if they were visiting LA live, but for the most part experiencing the Mediterranean fare at Cleo was plainly unremarkable.
Stark and imperial is one way to describe the ambiance at this new location. Brightly lit, sparsely adorned, and a bit sterile, the feel is much less intimate in comparison to the bold boudoir-esque climate at it’s sister location in Hollywood. Music seems to be playing, but only audibly enough to hear sporadically, making it more of a nuisance than enjoyable. Conversation is difficult, as the acoustics in the room create a loud hum and everyone’s voice becomes one big cacophonous overtone. It’s worth noting however, from the moment of entrance, the staff is very friendly and cheerful, an excellent juxtaposition to the chaos of LA Live.
With no Grenache or Chianti the wine list at Cleo is at the least limited, if not inadequate. Our waiter, Taylor, surmounted our frustrations over the wine limitations by serving a flight of their bold reds, which was accommodating and helpful in making a choice. The margarita was basic, clean and crisp but nothing to write home about. I should mention the management at Cleo will not allow you to buy a drink at the bar and transfer your bar tab to the table tab, which could be very annoying depending on what your plans are for the evening.
Taylor explained that the plates served would be “tapas style”; small but sharable. Our meal started with an in-house-made hummus topped with extra tahini, cumin, and a few scattered garbanzo beans. The hummus, accompanied by a warm lavosh served in a paper bag, arrived at the table in good time. The presentation was original and witty. The hummus itself was tasty, though once the toppings were mixed in, somewhat thin. Lesson learned: As my dinner partner pointed out, “don’t mix in the toppings”.
For our main course we sampled the scallops and the hangar steak. The scallops were actually delicious (though one was undercooked). The steak itself was flavorful though a bit overcooked for “medium” and did remind me of an in-flight airplane ration, albeit first class not coach. It was somewhat impressive for airplane food but not so amazing otherwise. The accompanying carrot purée, perceivably pumpkin sauce, was quite savory as was the side of fingerling potatoes. The staff politely checked on our table often, and engaged in entertaining but non-invasive conversation. From funny jokes to discussions of calligraphy, water fountains, and Caligula, my company and the staff most definitely made the meal more fulfilling.
As I took a walk around the restaurant, the clientele seemed to mostly consist of wealthy out of town-ers visiting LA Live, which makes sense. The kitchen was not as organized as others I’ve seen, and the women’s bathroom was a mess with paper towels overflowing everywhere. On my walkabout the hostess asked how I was enjoying my meal and the sous chef smiled as I passed by. The attentiveness of the staff here was definitely a nice touch.
Being somewhat of an introvert I often abide the law of Sartre, “hell is other people,” but regarding Cleo LA Live the truth seemed contrary. It was the friendly staff and my company that made my evening complete. With that being said, the food was far from inedible and I’d say the prices were comparably moderate for the area. If you are at LA Live anyways it’s potentially better than some other options, but I definitely wouldn’t plan my night around eating there. I give it a C.
I loved working for a salon. I was just thinking about that today. It was so much fun. The sisterhood, the camaraderie, and all that laughter! The exchange of services didn’t hurt either. An eyebrow wax and facial for highlights or a pedicure for a pedicure! But mostly it was the sense of fitting into something that was bigger than myself. I was a part of something, a group of women that would have run through fire for each other. Its really odd to me how there wasn’t much cattiness. We all really got along and had each other’s back. I miss that. I miss that a lot.
We all know its hard to make new friends as we get older. It really is. My two closest girl friends moved across the country and I’ve been doing some soul searching in attempt to figure out where I can make new friends. Definitely not to replace the old, they’re not replaceable! But I do need a local support group, people I can connect with in my neighborhood. The new job is good. Its great, actually. I feel much more part of the whole team here. I’m invited into conversations and well received. I love that. Most days we all eat lunch together as well, which is awesome. The crew is exceptionally cool. We have a dynamic group of very different personalities that all seem to get along and respect each other (so far, anyways). I think back to the Emmy’s consideration party for Jane The Virgin and how well that crew got along. I feel like this one is on that path. Its very refreshing.
In my quest to meet new friends, I’ve decided to look to new volunteer ventures, especially since I am on the cusp of releasing myself from the Junior League of Los Angeles. With this in mind, last weekend I decided to visit the Much Love Animal Rescue charity event at Bloomingdales. This event was brought to my attention by Tori Spelling via Instagram. There were two motivators that pushed me to attend the party. 1. Dogs. 2. Tori. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I adore Tori Spelling. She’s an amazingly witty and humorous writer and just deep down a good person. I’m inspired by her. Shall I do a list? I think so….
Things I’ve learned from Tori Spelling:
Its ok and probably a good idea to laugh at yourself.
On a similiar note, always take the humorous angle first. My dad said this too- find the funny in every situation. Its always there. And it really helps to just laugh!
Be kind as if you think the best of everyone.
The unconditional love of animals is real, not a figment of my imagination.
Big families are a good thing- including extended members.
Share your experiences with others. Especially the ones that you can help educate or inspire, even if it makes you vulnerable.
Love yourself no matter what. Not in an egotistical way, but in a respectful way.
Nurture your friendships. They are important. Tori (and I ) have both had the same best friend for years. I won’t say how long because I don’t want to give up my age- but trust me, a long time.
With this being said, of COURSE I was excited to meet her AND to help out the puppy dogs!
I was a bit disappointed the turn out appeared very slight. Surprisingly the line to meet Tori was short, which was great but also not so great- I had hoped a lot of people were participating so that Much Love Animal Rescue could raise a considerable amount of money.
Available to those that showed their receipts of purchase from Bloomies (a percentage of the proceeds went to the charity), there was a DJ, food and drinks, and a station to make a beaded bracelet. At the bead station I met Dean (Tori’s husband) and her daughter (I think Stella?), both exceptionally sweet and kind hearted. Dean was holding a rescue dog that they were taking home with them! That dog looked so content (not to mention adorable) in his arms. Her daughter was SUPER sweet and helped me design my bracelet. She also made one for her dad. I loved seeing how “normal” their family was and how well they interacted. I appreciate that both Dean and Tori treated me as an equal who happened to be attending the same event.
The dogs were SO CUTE. I fell in love with this little dark tan baby girl that looked like a wired haired dachshund. MSM, however, didn’t budge on the the “no dog” policy that we’re currently obliged to follow at the apartment complex.
In an effort to donate, I purchased the most BEAUTIFUL NARS compact. My thought was that I wished they had set up this event at Saks, since I don’t buy anything clothing wise (for the most part) without Danielle. But here’s the compact:
Sadly I did not make a new friend at the event. Lets face it, no matter how cool Tori is, I knew there would be no way we’d be exchanging numbers and grabbing coffee next week (sadly). Here lays the selfish reason I was bummed the turn out wasn’t bigger. I literally only spoke with Tori, Dean, their daughter, and the bead lady! (Bead lady was actually super cool). Despite no new friendships I’m grateful I attended because the rescue itself seems amazing. I may reach out and see if they need any volunteers (or even better, board members) to help plan events. But first I want to look into other 501c3. I need to pick just one in which to get involved so I don’t spread myself too thin. I have learned, though, that its important to feel passionately about the non profit you do work with, and I DEFINITELY love dogs….so this one may be the right fit.
What the heck to wear to a dog rescue fund raiser at the mall:
I kept it casual because I wanted to keep it real.
I like the idea of making friends through volunteering or being on a board of a non profit because I think it will bring me to like-minded people, where a basis for friendship can be real and substantial.
For the 20th anniversary of her 25th birthday, my friend Ina decided to experience wine tasting in Paso Robles. MSM and I have touched on wine tasting here, but we only went to two vineyards (see my post from last thanksgiving), so I was more than excited about this trip. Ina wanted to make sure she could bring her fur child, Elvis, so she searched through Air BnB for dog friendly locations. She couldn’t have picked a more spectacular place than the one she picked! Nestled in the “town” of Templeton, this secluded cabin in the woods was a breathtaking hideout and the perfect getaway. Its also a perfect place for Halloween!
Upon arrival we weren’t sure into what we were getting. At one A.M (we had to leave after a class I’m taking that ends at 10pm) MSM plowed up a steep incline ensconced in brush and filth, hardly indicative of a road. Damion, Ina’s husband, was whispering Jason’s infamous “chachacah ahahah”. Where was this place?? Up and around a hill and suddenly the cabin was revealed. At this point we were expecting something straight out of the film Army of Darkness (or Friday the 13th), but instead before us was a beautiful cabin with an exterior enveloped in immeasurably large windows. The interior was modern with built in book shelves FULL of books. The house came equip with an outdoor BBQ and a gorgeous galley kitchen, Wusthof knives and all clad pans included. Any chef would have been excited. Ina was allowed first dibs on rooms, since it was her birthday :). She picked the upper loft so MSM and I stayed in the downstairs room covered in windows. I LOVED IT. It was like sleeping in a tree house! The windows in this house had no curtains, but when the sun came up in the morning it was so peaceful the light did not deter our sleep. I felt home for the first time in a long time. We were surrounded by trees and sky and blue jays. It was wonderful. Even our shower was completely open to nature (yep, floor to ceiling windows in the bathroom). It was so much fun to wash up in what felt like a real waterfall!
After eating a gourmet breakfast of veggie scramble with toast (prepared by our men), the wine tour van picked us up for a fun day of wine tasting. And yes, with our help, they were able to find the abode. Though we had to walk down the hill. hahaha.
Vineyards of Paso Robles:
Midnight Vineyard was our first stop and was probably my favorite. The hostesses were so sweet and gave us great education on their wines. Also they had an adorable dog-like cat that just came to greet us and then curled up by our feet. This vineyard produced a white wine that I really enjoyed. I’m not a big white person, but it was dry and crisp and delicious.
Despite the cool name (reminds me of Star Wars for some reason…) MSM and I sat this one out, so we did not taste the wine. BUT we did meet these two cuties:
Red soles was a huge hit. The wine was very good, especially the Rosé. ANNNND, Red Soles is also a distillery which the rest of our crew loved. MSM enjoyed their limoncello and Damion liked the rum. The hard stuff somewhat reminded me of rubbing alcohol, so I stuck with wine.
J. Lohr was Ina’s birthday pick, and I can see why. The wine here was quite good. The grounds were stunning. Here we stopped for a picnic lunch before our tastings.
Via Vega was the last leg of our tour. A very amusing vineyard, but not the best wine in the world, in my opinion. I don’t like writing negative reviews, so I’ll try to be constructive here. I’m not sure if I just need to revisit Via Vega under different circumstances because the owner was in a hurry to close up this day in order to get to his beloved annual Beaver Festival. I DID like that every year Via Vega produces a stock whose wine sales are used to raise money for their neighboring Zoo. I appreciate the philanthropic notion as well as anyone that promotes something to help animals. Unfortunately , I felt this place was a “vineyard for beer lovers”. During the tasting they didn’t really educate us about the wines at all, the owner just poured our ounces and told stories about himself. When we first arrived we were peeking about the nooks and crannies of this unconventionally decorated tasting room and the owner basically yelled at us to “get on with it” so that he could close early. He came across as a bit abrasive, which turned me off from the wines. Wasn’t loving his vibe. But i DID love their vineyard dog.
After a day of wine tasting we were all exhausted. Big Chill Style, we cooked a great Curtis Stone recipe for dinner (we were all slicing and dicing). We ate, and pretty much crashed on the sofa until we moved into our respective beds. Even Elvis was tired.
The next morning MSM and I took a hike around the property. The whole place was landscaped with secret spots and benches. It was incredible. So quiet and inviting but interesting with its little hints of horror movies- for example a small unfinished shed out back, or the murder of yellow jackets that swarmed around us (Damion was stung, thank goodness he’s not allergic!). After our walk the guys watched football and I did something I’ve been wanting to do FOREVER. I grabbed a book, laid down on a surprisingly comfortable futon, and, with natural sunlight abundant, I read. No interruptions. It. Was. Incredible.
We all discussed visiting here again some day. I can not WAIT!
What the heck to wear while wine tasting in Paso Robles:
Answer: Layers. I think I said that last time. It was cool in the morning and then became abruptly HOT HOT HOT.
Second answer: Comfortable shoes. Heels are great and sexy, but not the best idea here. Especially if your like me and you like to explore the surroundings.
J’aime boire du vin rouge à midi! <– I’m learning something from duo lingo! 🙂
I have had the hardest time concentrating this week. I recently found out that my beautiful baby girl, Abby the Bernese Mountain Dog aka Abby Airmail Equus Calhoun, will need to be put to rest. If I was allowed to keep her around, she would have turned 12 on August 23rd, a date that also would have marked my Mother and Father’s 64th wedding anniversary (had my father still been alive). On top of that, this craziness in France, and all the unnecessary shootings are exasperating my melancholy state of mind. The cruelty of people can be so overwhelming to a sensitive soul like mine. To add to things, we are wrapping up the final episode of season 8 at work and MSM starts a new job on Monday. Just a lot of endings are hitting at once. And I’m not good at endings. In fact, I’m terrible with them.
My HauteDog with her Givenchy tote.
My gorgeous girl.
Abby rolling her eyes. I love this photo. It looks like its straight out of an Art House film.
I’d like to focus this blog post on Abby, my devoted fur daughter who has brought so much love and joy to my life. I remember the very first day we picked her up from the airport (she was born on a farm in Oklahoma and sent to us). I opened her crate door and gazed upon the most adorable rollie-pollie curly-haired puppy I had ever seen. And she was eating her poop! This habit, I am embarrassed to admit, never ceased. I wont get into those stories even though they are funny to me, to avoid potentially offending someone who is reading this.
Baby Abby was so beyond adorable. I can picture her laying flat on her side in her Ex-pen during the training months, jerking from puppy dreams of running in fields and eating treats (and poop :P). One year, when Abby was about 3 or 4, I had invited company over for dinner. I set up a beautiful french cheese spread, about four pounds of exquisite stinky cheeses paired with fruit and crackers. When the doorbell rang, I exited the room to greet my friends. When we walked over to the cheese spread, Abby had eaten THE ENTIRE THING. ALL FOUR POUNDS of cheese! She loved to run in the yard and she adored stealing her (Shih-Tzu) tiny big sister’s toys and burying them because if Abby couldn’t have them, either could Daisy! Abby had a wonderful full life. She experienced camping in Joshua Tree, fishing in Bishop, and hiking in Orange County, Los Angeles, Ojai, and Pismo. She lived at the beach with a 180 degree view of the pacific, and inland with beautiful foothills as her backdrop.
Abby hiking Carmel c2011.
Beach bound Abby.
My Travelin’ Trio.
Berners are incredibly affectionate and Abby is no exception. In fact, she really is basically pure love. One of her favorite things is being with her people. She sits on our feet and sleeps or grabs our hands and insists we pet her. If we stop for a beat she tosses and turns and pushes our hand back for more petting. She loves to lick our faces (hopefully not after poop eating) or stare right at us, with her face an inch away from ours, and burp “I love you”. She adores cuddling on the sofa during our favorite TV shows or movies. At night she used to prefer sleeping on a cool surface, usually by a door so she could protect her pack. For some reason as she aged, and this is one of my favorites, she crawls into bed at night, lays next to me, and sighs.
When Abby was four, along came her brother Stanley. Stanley has been like a remora shark to Abby. He follows her everywhere. I’m very worried for him now. What will he do without his sweet sister?
Stanley just adores his big sister. He follows her everywhere.
When Abby came into my life I was married. I had a lot to offer her- a father, a yard, a house with a dog door, time, money, and, of course, love. A ton of love. When my marriage ended my whole life shattered. Everything I knew had suddenly and drastically changed. Everything I dreamt for the future could no longer occur because the players in my game of life had changed. I was on my own, ungrounded, and feeling like a failure. As I worked on rebuilding my life I did okay with the pups and always appreciated and reciprocated their support. Eventually, due to finances, working a zillion hours a week, and not being able to afford a house with a yard (or an apartment that allowed dogs over 20lbs), I chose to re-home them for what I thought would be a temporary three to six months. I did this, despite being the person that ALWAY got on a soap box about how giving up your pets is basically synonymous with murder and how only losers and A-holes do it. I could rationalize my choice because I had every intention of bringing them home soon. I wasn’t giving them away, I was temporarily fostering them so they were in a better place while I was getting re-situated. Despite rationalization, re-homing them even temporarily was heart breaking. I had sold my home in OC with thoughts of buying in LA not knowing I was fooling myself because there was NO WAY I could afford a home up here at that time (in a safe neighborhood). I am happy that for the past year my fur kids have had a great home with a family that loves them, a small yard and a dog park close by that they visit often. They are very happy and healthy. It’s a three-hour round trip commute to where they are now but I’ve been going every other month to visit. And I pay for all their medical expenses, grooming, and food. I still love them. They are still mine in my heart. But I am also sad because I haven’t been able to be with them on a daily basis. It has been extremely difficult.
In December, due to a degenerative neurological issue in her spine, Abby began to lose the use of her rear left leg. This progressed to both rear legs. Now Abby’s pain has gotten worse, pain meds are no longer working, her back legs are no longer functioning at all, she soils herself daily, and she can’t move- I am beyond devastated. I am having ethical issues regarding putting her down, but I also know it will take the pain away from her and can kind of wrap my head around why its more humane to put her to rest. It hurts that I will never be able to bring her home. I like to think she IS home. In her new home with her new mom and dad. But its hard to accept that. She’s eleven. She was basically eleven when they got her. She’s my dog and I’ve missed her every day I haven’t been with her this year, but at least previously I could get in a car and go see her or have the foster parents send a photo. I am SO grateful that MSM surprised us this past Christmas with a five-day trip to Carmel, where I got to snuggle with Miss Abby and Stanley. We cuddled, and played, and hiked, and ran on the beach. It was so amazing and beautiful and I can not express the amount of gratitude I feel for having those last few successive days as a family with her. Of course I’ve visited her often since then, including a full weekend last month, but that time in December was the best because it was extended and it was when she was mostly healthy.
Abby Chillaxin at the door.
My beautiful beast.
I love you my sweet Abby girl. May you rest peacefully in heaven, eat all the stinky cheese you desire, run in the grassy fields, and bury your big sister’s toys. I hope Daisy is there for you and will help you through. My heart will always be with you. It’s so hard to let go.
My game plan for dealing with all these endings:
A yogi once said, of his broken gem collection, “Those things were for my joy, not for my misery.” I have been learning meditation, and I think I need to take the day on Saturday to meditate on this. My good friend Dave told me, regarding dealing with a passing pet; “Nothing and no one lasts forever. Rather than focusing on the loss, focus on how grateful you are for the time you had with the pet, and all the good things about her”
Do not attempt to push away the sadness, ride through it. To ease the pain I will pamper myself with a massage and/or mani/pedi.
I will focus on present happiness with a ballet class and/or a walk on the beach with MSM.
I will honor Abby’s life with a ceremonial dinner and toast.
I will have an Annual wine and Stinky Cheese pairing party in honor of Abby.
Loss is always a reminder that life is too short. I need to take this time to take a chance and do some things that I’m normally too afraid to do. Its time to focus on career growth, where I want to go, and who I want to be. So often out of the pain of loss comes a new beginning that usually leads to something good. Can you think of something you currently love that you can trace back as ultimately starting from a loss? I bet your answer is “yes.”