Monthly Archives: January 2011

When all else fails, wear good earrings.

Question: What’s your favorite pair of earrings – OR – the pair that you’re lusting over right now?

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My favorite pair is definitely the amber drops my husband bought me in Warsaw several years ago.  As for those I’m currently lusting after, it would have to be the black swirl earrings by Isette on Etsy.  Bought some for a friend for Christmas, but I should have bought a pair for me, too. - Jaime L.

My favorite pair of earrings were found on the streets of Mykonos, Greece and were handmade by a silversmith who had lived there all of her life. – Jamie E.

A few years ago, I was slightly sad that my sister wouldn’t be back from Africa for my birthday weekend; however, I knew she wouldn’t forget about me. Sure enough, she sent me a pair of handcrafted wooden earrings from the Congo. The talent that went into whittling the wood to form such intricate earrings is incredible, and the fact that my best friend (my sis) had gone through all the trouble to send them to me definitely makes them my most prized and favorite pair to this day! – Chanae

And now it’s your turn.  What’s your favorite pair?  Or a pair that you can’t keep your eyes off of lately?  Photos are most welcome.

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The 10 best wines to drink with the 10 best films of the year.

It’s awards season, and that means predictions by the water cooler, red carpet, celebrity couture, and wine.  That’s right, wine.  Here are our choices for pairing wine with the 10 Best Picture nominees announced by the Academy this morning.

Black Swan

“Black Swan” 
This dark, warped, sensual film about a dancer struggling to star in Swan Lake is perfect for a come-hither brooder like a Howell Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel from Napa County.

“The Fighter”
An old-school underdog story, this gripping film about boxer “Irish” Micky Ward pairs nicely with – what else? – Merlot.  Try Folkway Wine Company’s 2007 Revelator for a classic Merlot blend with fruit from Bien Nacido Vineyard.

Inception

“Inception” 
My pick for the Oscar, “Inception” is a mind-bendingly elegant feat of technical prowess, originality, and teamwork.  Watch this one with something truly gorgeous and New World, like an Argentine Malbec or Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. 

“The Kids Are All Right”
This unconventional family affair brings laughs and pulls at the heart strings, too.  Modern, dry, and bright, pair this film with a sunny 2007 Santa Maria Chardonnay from Dierberg Vineyards.

“The King’s Speech”
Only a claret could match a film about the British monarchy.  But this story surrounding King George IV’s speech impediment and the uncertainty that plagued his reign demand something less stuffy than a classic Bordeaux.  Our pick?  A Super Tuscan Bordeaux blend like the 2008 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana Rosso.

127 Hours

“127 Hours”
This true story about a mountain climber who becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone requires something youthful, fresh, and racy like any Sauvignon Blanc from the Awatere Valley in New Zealand’s Marlborough region.  The Vavasour and Astrolabe brands are our favorites.

“The Social Network”
Young, gutsy, and zingy, this film based on the inception of Facebook and the rise of social networking is terrific with Field Recordings’ unfiltered, fresh and mouth-wateringly acute 2008 Jurassic Vineyards Chenin Blanc.

“Toy Story 3”
For a fun, animated flick like “Toy Story 3,” it’s all about the pink!  We suggest a brut rosé like that from Laetitia Vineyard and Winery, or Le Ferme Julien rosé that you can buy at Trader Joe’s. 

True Grit

“True Grit”
Only a true original could stand up to this deliciously gritty Western by the Coen brothers.  And try as we might, we just couldn’t help suggesting one of our own clients’ wines: the Zaca Mesa Winery 2006 Estate Syrah.  This wine is bold, brawny, and built from the first Syrah vines ever planted to Santa Barbara County soils.

“Winter’s Bone”
Achieving what the Huffington Post called “ravishing critical response,” but little recognition outside the arthouse circuit, this rustic creeper requires something cloaked and foreboding.  Try Alta Maria Vineyards’ 2006 (or better yet, the 2005 if you can find it) Uriel J. Nielson Vineyard Grenache.

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Five tips for a blissful budget babymoon.

The “babymoon” is a concept with which some people may not be familiar.  Taken as a getaway before a couple’s first (or second, or third, or fourteenth!) child arrives, it is a wonderful opportunity to connect and rest before the long days and nights ahead.  Not everyone can make the time or spare the expense to be so pampered.  And that’s why it’s called a luxury.

Still, luxuries needn’t break the bank.  Here are some tips on how to have a beautiful, stress-less babymoon without dipping into Junior’s college fund.  (I know: what college fund?!?)

1. Pick somewhere decadent.  Linda, our fearless founder, recently revealed that she spent her babymoon in Cabo San Lucas several years ago.  “We were at the Marlin Bar and everyone was doing upside-down tequila shooters,” she laughed.  “I wanted to participate, so I did upside-down lemonade shooters.”  With her big belly.  Hilarious.

My babymoon was spent in beautiful Ojai over Valentine’s Day last year.  Ojai is notoriously posh – and pricey – but we went a decently inexpensive route and kept the itinerary breezy.

The trip started with a leisurely drive from San Luis Obispo to Ojai, with a stop in Santa Barbara to have brunch at Tupelo Junction Cafe on State Street.  After indulging in their vanilla-dipped French toast with homemade berry syrup and fresh cream, we hopped off the 101 to Hwy 33, which travels alongside a bike path from the beaches of Ventura all the way east to Ojai.  The 15-mile (one way) ride is absolutely gorgeous, draped in eucalyptus trees and perfect for an easygoing ride.  If I hadn’t been seven months pregnant, we would have loved to try it.

2. Stay in clean, comfortable, BUDGET accommodations.  Of course, we would have loved to stay at any one of Ojai’s incredible resorts.  Who wouldn’t?  But in trying to save our pennies up for our upcoming adventures in parenthood, we opted for the decidedly less chic – but still very comfortable - Casa Ojai Inn.  We really liked the Inn’s proximity to everything downtown and its eco-friendly agenda, with recycling bins in every room, environmentally safe and non-toxic cleaning products, energy-efficient lighting, and water-saving fixtures throughout.  (Casa Ojai is certified with Green Suites, iStayGreen, and the California Green Lodging Program.)  Sure, they don’t do room service, but we spent many sun-kissed hours lounging by the pool, reading trashy magazines and sipping iced-tea. 

Shelf Road Loop

3. Find the fun free stuff.  With the gorgeous Topa Topa Mountains overlooking the Ojai Valley, hiking is a no-brainer.  One morning, we awoke early, caught breakfast at the warm and bustling Ojai Coffee Roasting Co, then drove out to the Shelf Road Loop, a 4-mile round-trip hike perfect for novices and big-bellied pregnant ladies.  The loop is a favorite of locals who bring their dogs and their travel coffee mugs out to walk with friends and take in the stunning Mediterranean-esque view of the Ojai Valley.  We stopped along the way to munch on oranges from the orchards that run alongside the trail.

Ojai is well-known for its thriving arts community, which makes walking the downtown strip a treat.  Numerous galleries invite window-shoppers in, as do upscale clothing boutiques, quirky consignment shops, and jewelers.  Our favorite shop by far was “the world’s largest outdoor bookstore,” Bart’s Books.  It’s easy to see why this sprawling, open-air compound of books was called “an intellectual haven” by the L.A. Times.  Throughout the peaceful bookshelves, readers young and old can be found engrossed in the pleasures of a good read. 

4. Go gourmet at lunch.  Go simple at dinner.  No one goes hungry for good food in Ojai.  While we decided against sleeping in the famed Ojai Valley Inn & Spa – truly one of the greatest luxury properties in the world – we chose to have lunch at its Oak Grill beneath a vine-covered pergola overlooking a grove of 200-year-old oaks.  The service and the cuisine were both, unsurprisingly, superb.  We shared the artichoke flatbread, with truffle pecorino cheese, tomato and arugula, and I ordered the rosemary chicken Cobb salad.  (It is a heath spa, after all!) And since we were ordering off the lunch menu, we could afford to splurge a bit.   For lunch the following day, it was all about the new American cuisine at Feast Bistro, where I had a gorgeous Eel River organic beef burger with cheese and talked food with Chef Susan Coulter through the open kitchen while she prepared our meals.

On the other end of the formality spectrum, we went to the warm and fun Boccali’s Pizza & Pasta for dinner on the outskirts of town.  This is a true Ojai original, with red and white checked tablecloths, house-made wines, fresh-squeezed lemonade from Boccali Ranch lemons, and al fresco dining when weather permits. 

Ojai Beverage Company

Don’t forget the beer and wine!  While I chose not to drink during my pregnancy, I still wanted to visit the Ojai Beverage Company to see their selection of international beers, wines, and artisan soft drinks.  I sipped on an Australian ginger beer for happy hour, with complimentary snacks and friendly conversation at the bar.

5. Pamper yourself conscientiously.  I would have loved to partake in a facial, mud bath, or hot stone massage at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.  But again, in the name of saving up for diapers, I chose to have a prenatal massage at the Day Spa of Ojai, just down the street.  What a treat!  The spa eminates serenity and relaxation, with a quiet garden in the back and the scent of essential oils on the air.  After an hour of rejuvenation and peace, I floated out of the Day Spa despite the enormous weight of my bulging belly.

Needless to say, it was tough leaving Ojai’s stunning views, warm atmosphere and delicious eats.  I felt rested and energized to take on the rest of my pregnancy and start of my new life as a mother – without having to take out a loan!  I would highly recommend a babymoon to anyone seeking a break before hitting the ground sprinting with a new baby.  You’ll thank yourself for the treat when you’re nursing at 3am and changing nappies 24/7.

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Humble with a twist of high-brow.

Hello, cupcake.

I experienced a “driveway moment” this morning on my way home from the gym.  As I pulled my car up to the curb, NPR began a piece on predictions for American food culture in 2011.  Having reached my destination, I turned off the ignition and just listened.  It’s not like me to abandon discussions on food.  Or anything related to food, really.

Journalist Bonny Wolf said:

“Every year, I predict the death of the cupcake. I’m always wrong. But this year, they’ll have real competition from the humble pie. Trend-spotters are calling pie the food of the year.”

This got me thinking for a couple of reasons. 

  1. I do not see the cupcake going anywhere anytime soon.  I’m afraid cupcakeries are here to stay, Ms. Wolf.
  2. Pumpkin pie was served at a recent wedding I attended, instead of a traditional 3-tiered cake.  And it worked.  Perhaps pie is on the rise.

Sitting there in my driveway, I was struck by the uniqueness of a food culture that embraces its roots the way America does these days.   Start with a dish whose origins are humble.  Use the freshest, best-quality ingredients and practice, practice, practice.  Once you’ve got the formula down, serve your updated classic with a dash of irony and – ta da! – you’ve got yourself a new food trend. 

Witness the success of S’MAC in Manhattan.  S’MAC stands for “Sarita’s Mac and Cheese,” an upscale mac and cheese joint in the East Village.  Or The Cereal Bowl, a chain of “cereal bars” reaching across the Eastern seaboard.  Or VooDoo Doughnut in Portland, churning out artisan doughnuts and claiming that “the magic is in the hole!”  Even Thomas Keller knows a thing or two about doughnuts; His Bouchon Bistro was listed as one of the top ten best spots for hot, sweet, fried dough in the U.S.

The cupcake phenomenon didn’t happen in a vacuum, though.  Cupcakes are not only delicious, nostalgic, and portable – they’re cheap.  And in case you didn’t see the correlation, cupcakes became huge right around the time the economy took a turn for the worse.  The price – a mere $3-4 each – is just right for a sugar fix and a smile.

Can we take the example of the lowly cupcake and translate it into our own public relations ventures?  Can we provide just the right amount of sugar to consumers so that our clients reap cumulative benefits, even when the outlook is grim?  If so, how?

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