A Time to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and sharing the holidays with the people we love or maybe not, LOL!   At our house, we usually host those that can’t make it home.   Some years we have had a full house and some years we’ve had just a few people.   Friends bring friends or someone they know doesn’t have a place to go, we don’t discriminate.  One year, my girlfriend Nick brought the local mailman.  It always makes it more enjoyable and interesting. We have a tradition where we go around the table and say what we are thankful for… The guys all groan, it puts our new guests on the spot and the rest of the “regulars” giggle.  It always ends up being fun and meaningful.  The best thing about an orphan Thanksgiving is there is no drama, complaining, or conflicts.  Everyone is just happy to have a place to come together and usually our dinners last well into the evening.    
Images from www.digsdigs.com
This year Thanksgiving has extra meaning for me. It’s no secret that I have not blogged over the last few months. My creativity and mind has been pre-occupied by something bigger.  As you know my posts started to get less frequent last spring just as I was getting new readers. I was so excited that you took the time to read my blog.  Especially knowing how many amazing bloggers there are out there.  Mine started as a way to communicate with my friends and along the way I met new friends. The one thing I admired about many bloggers was their ability to be truthful and sincere.   I think it’s time I’m honest with all of you. I really struggled over whether I should divulge this because doing so means I am divulging this to some of my friends who will be hearing this for the first time.  But I finally realized, the importance of honesty and how as women we really need to share information.  By sharing information, we can make better and more informed to decisions and assist each other along the way.  It is my hope that I can lend a hand to someone and/or guide them like so many did for me.  The truth of the matter is….in June after having a lumpectomy, I was diagnosed with the early stages of Breast Cancer.
Over the next four months I had two additional surgeries, a whole lot of doctors appointments (14 but who’s counting), two MRI’s, a set of titanium clips and a pair or lovely wires put into my boob.  I went from one doctor to four and a whole lot of second opinions.  The positive news is my cancer was non-invasive and chemo was not required.  However, five weeks of radiation was required.  I am happy to report this Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving is my last day of treatment.  While there are many factors that go into treatment, I won’t bore you with the details now but at some point, I will share with you things that you should look for and how my diagnosis came to be.  Had it not been for four of my friends that had breast cancer, I would still be walking around with BC and going untreated.  It’s so important to trust your instincts and know what questions to ask.  We must be our own advocate and as women share information.  I consider myself very fortunate and extremely lucky.  Especially, since the people I know people had to face far more than me.  Overall, I feel everything happens for a reason, and truly believe my cancer was found because I listened to my inner voice and had an amazing doctor.   I have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
As you can imagine, I had to take a step back from blogging.  There were so many times I wanted to blog but in the end, I just didn’t have the energy.  I worried about losing my subscribers if I wasn’t blogging regularly. Then I thought, I can’t get caught up in that.  I do have to say I had some faithful readers who have twittered or emailed me.   Especially,  Ms. Katie at  www.goodniteirene.com who has an amazing blog (gorgeous images and has an amazing writing style).  I only wish I could write like her or come up with the adjectives and analogies like she does.  Also, Ms. Karen at http://gardenhomeandparty.com/ who is always so kind and we share a love for gardening. Living in LA we all have our limitations, so I love watching what she does with her small space. I just want to say thank you to you both!   I look forward to getting back to blogging!
I want to thank my family and friends for being so supportive. I also want thank my two roommates from college Laura and Cari for coming to visit me in October.  I know how hard it was for them having families but it meant to the world to me.  It was great to have my East Coast friends meet my West Coast friends.  Some for the first time. It was truly a special and magical weekend for me. Friendship is such an amazing gift and I’m very grateful for the wonderful friends I have. They have been there every step of the way for me with giggles, their kindness, and listening to all my crazy doctor stories.
Cari – Laura – Ann in Palos Verdes
Thanksgiving is also about celebrating friends, family, and being there for someone in need.  The holidays can make any of us a little crazy.  May we all be a little kinder and say please and thank you.  Everyone wants to feel appreciated.  It’s time to extend a hand and remember that it’s about giving back and remembering what is most important.  I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for being such loyal and fabulous readers and bloggers. I look forward to a fresh beginning and getting back to blogging. 
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
~ Happy Thanksgiving ~


Nate Berkus and Classic Design

It's fall and I'm getting inspired to put together a bucket list for our house.  It's in dire need of an update.  While I have a good eye for finding things on a budget, we need some high ticket items, which includes a new sofa and chair.  I've been working with the same one for 13 plus years and I have to say, if it wasn't for a man in the house, it would be in mint condition (sorry Blake). I'm starting to make a list room by room of what I would like to change.  The problem for me is, I would like to change everything, but I can't afford to.  Therefore, I feel like I'm in an episode of Project Runway with Tim Gunn saying, "Make it work!"  I've been combing through old design magazines and catching up with some design shows like Nate Berkus's  new show to try to get some creative ideas on a budget.  I have always loved Nate's work.  Personally, there are very few designers that I would have do my house if I hit lotto.  I love Nate's design work along with Tim Clarke (I love his website), Kathryn Ireland for her wit and color choices, which by the way,  I could never put together,  Peter Dunham  (I was in his house once, it was out of this world) and a few others which I'm too lazy to go find the links. HMMM.  That's a great idea for a blog post. 

After seeing Nate's first project years ago on Oprah, which essentially launched his career, (when he redid a 500 square foot townhouse in Charleston, MA) I knew he was talented.  I formally lived in Boston and  know how small those apartments and condos are and how challenging it can be to eat, entertain, work, sleep, and relax in a single space.  I was so blown away how he maximized the space and made it multi-functional. I've been a fan, since.  What I love about him as a designer in general, is his ability to  incorporate his clients personality and treasures into a home without it feeling tacky.  Let's face it, some people just don't have good taste and working with some of their stuff can be a challenge. I love when Oprah asked Nate how he handled clients where his first thought was, "Are you kidding me?" He simply said, "I say wow a lot or isn't that interesting."  I thought, what a great way of saying it without saying it.  

The other thing that Nate does well, is combining unique accessories and furniture.  He's very good at taking natural elements and materials and mixing them without them feeling over done or staged.  It always feels collected and natural.  I like houses to feel neat and clean but eclectic and timeless, that's how I feel about his designs.  His design sense doesn't require you to redo it every two to three years and his advise is dead on - purchase a sofa in a neutral color and you can dress it up with pillows.  It's like fashion, you don't spend $500.00 on a trendy piece, you splurge on classic staples.  You buy your trendy items at Target or H&M, so next year when it's not fashionable, you didn't break the bank. 

Now that I went off on my Nate Berkus rant, maybe it's the caffeine so early in the morning.  I'm feeling inspired and while many of you have seen these images, I couldn't help but re-posting them.  His rooms have a quiet sophistication without feeling stuffy or staged.  That is why, Nate is my "cutie pie" as Oprah says.  See for your self why I love his designs.  See Below:

He's so great with space planning.  I love how he does various group seating's in this large space.  A room this large can look either over done or too arranged.  This room is well balanced considering the size and height of the ceiling.
I love this room below. I don't have the guts to paint a wall this dark but I love how it looks.  I love how the art work is different.  The furniture makes it look more chic and elegant but it still feels comfortable.  It looks like you could use it as a multi purpose room such as: a library, a dining room, a place to drink your coffee, or a place to chat with friends over a glass of wine.
Again, simple and elegant without feeling stuffy (see below).  I love how he accessorizes.
As everyone knows, I am fond of white bathrooms.  This one had me at hello. I am a symmetrical designer.  Some designers do not like symmetry, but I'm all about it.  I hate things that feel unbalanced. I'm a Capricorn, after all.  The sconces in this bathroom are gorgeous and I like the contrast of windows against the flooring.  Calgon take me away.  Do you like symmetry?

Gray tones are not something I'm a fan of in my own personal space.  I lean more towards white, creams, browns, etc. vs. the gray tones.  He does such a great job at using gray, it makes me want to paint all my rooms.  The tall leather chair has beautiful lines and the color looks like melted milk chocolate, decadent. 

I have always loved this image. I know this is from his old apartment in Chicago.  I remember him telling the story of when he bought this, of course, I can't remember it (I just know he loved how worn it was).  Plus, how can you not like that cashmere blanket over it (without it being staged by draping over the side in the swirly pattern) and having it placed in front of the fireplace.  It just makes me think of snow, winter, hot cocoa, and reading a yummy book.
I'm off to make my list. Thanks to Nate, my cutie pie, he got me all inspired.  What are your thoughts on Nate?  Do you think he's is a good designer?  Who's your favorite designers?  I would love to hear what you think.


Paso Robles a Wonderful Getaway

Hi Everyone!  It's been a long time and how I missed all of you.  I had to step away for a wee bit but promise it was for a good reason.  Unfortunately, a vacation was not in the cards for Blake and I this summer.  We were fortunate to sneak in a little weekend getaway to Paso Robles.  It's about 3 1/2 hours north of Manhattan Beach, although in LA traffic it's more like 4 1/2 - 5 hours.   We were looking for something on the quiet side since things have been crazy and we wanted to incorporate a little (ok a lot)wine tasting.  Initially, we wanted to rent a house but everything was booked for the weekends we were considering.  One of the homeowners, I had contacted regarding renting their house suggested a quaint  B&B called Orchard Hill Farms in Paso Robles.  I found a room for the second weekend we were considering and booked it before anyone else could get their hands on it.  Blake is typically not a B & B guy.  He doesn't like having to tip toe around other people or sitting at a community table for breakfast.  However, he was pleasantly surprised since the location is very private and there is only three rooms.  It offers considerable privacy for the guests. 
There is the main house which is where the owners live and one guest room and a second house which, has two rooms and a communal area.  The guest house is a perfect place to go with another couple of friends because you have the whole building to yourself.  It's wonderful.  This was the front of the the guest house as we drove up.  Gorgeous.

 Love this vintage basket amongst all the ivy hanging on the house and this cute sign below.  How appropriate.

I love how there was a pair of old cowboy boots under the bench. She had lots of interesting touches like this throughout the property.
Across the driveway off to the left they had a chicken coop and a lovely cutting garden and veggies.

The side view of the guest house.  The balcony above was off our guest room. They had additional seating below with an outdoor fireplace.  I just loved all the indoor and outdoor spaces for you enjoy.  It truly was the ultimate quiet getaway. 

The main house.  The view from our side balcony in our room.

Statues and potted plants galore.

   Rolling hills surrounded us.
I loved this photo of these two wood pieces. Looks almost sculptural.  This was the view from a common balcony off the living room, which, can be shared by guests.  At night the sky was lit up like a Christmas tree and all you could hear were the crickets. I was in heaven.

I was so in love with this statue and his little peeps, I wanted to take him home with me.


Upon your drive up to the house - off to the left hand side of the main they have these fabulous Adirondack chairs sitting along the hillside.  One night Blake and I put on our PJ's and poured a glass of wine and sat and enjoyed the sunset here.

The entry to the guest room that is located in the main house (see above).  I was dying over these roses.  Perfect for my pink garden.  Below is a photo of the back of the main house.  Each morning Debbie and David serve breakfast to their guests out on the back patio. We met a lovely couple from LA and Europe and the last morning a couple from Chicago.  Everyone was so nice.

The fountain on the back patio tucked into the vines.

Each day she has a gorgeous table cloth set out, fresh flowers, vintage silverware, etc.  Here are a few of her table settings over the weekend. 
 I fell in love with this sugar bowl.  It actually has a little scooper at the top - you can see the point of it sticking out.  If you pull it, a little scooper comes out.  How cute is that?  Syl this reminded me of something you would have :)

The first day they served fresh fruit and ham and gruyrre cheese croissants that were to die for!  The next day, she had chocolate croissants (for me since I don't eat eggs) and little quiches with rosemary sprigs for everyone else.  Pomegranate and berry juice served daily with fresh coffee or tea.  We had fun watching David the host try to make an espresso for his European guests. 

Even the sugar packets were displayed nicely.

Blake hanging with the family dog.
A lovely status situated behind our outdoor dining table.

I must say this place was a slice of heaven. We went to dinner early every night, read our books...I got eight hours of sleep, something I hadn't had in months.  The rooms were so comfortable and they had everything you could imagine.  Lovely robes in the rooms, fresh soaps, Molton Brown shampoo and conditioner in the shower.  In the main part of the guest house they left you bottled water, sodas, wine and fresh bakery goods.  They were the most amazing hosts.  We will definitely be back.  This is not the place for the go go go....this is where you come to relax and get away.

During the day, we spent our time going to the local wineries.  I love good food and wine so before we left, I consulted with our local wine shop, our friend Richard and Wanda Mae as well as all my past issues of Wine Spectator for the hidden gems.  Most of the wineries in this area do not sell to stores or restaurants and the ones that do, it is generally local or just in CA.  Many of these wineries produce small allocations and sell mainly to their club members or people visiting.  This particular area is known for some of the best Syrahs and Rhone blends such as GSM's (Grenache, Syrahs, and Mourvedres {or Mataro for Australia and Spain}), Rose and Viognier.  I must say we sampled some lovely Roses, GSM's (my favorites) and Viognier's.

Along the way we stopped at a number of wineries.  One of my favorites was Epoch Wines owned by Bill Armstrong.  All the wines we tried were amazing, it's no wonder...Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards (who recently ranked number 100 on the 2010 Wine Spectator top 100 list scored 98 points for his James Berry 2007 wine) is the current wine consultant.  Other great places on our list included Terry Hoage Vineyards.

My boyfriend is a football guy and he was familiar with Terry Hoage.  A former professional football player turned wine maker. Of course, I'm not interested in whether he's a former football player as much as I am if his wines are good. Along with Brian Benson, Justin Smith of Saxum listed above, Terry's winery was recently named by Wine Spectator as an up and coming winery.  I have to say all of the wines we tried we great. For wine aficionados, this is a must visit.  We had a chance to visit with Terry.  He was very nice, told us how he moved to Paso Robles to ground his children and his love for farming.  He said he learned about wine making from Justin Smith from Saxum Vineyards.
The outside of Terry Hoages tasting room.  Inside, I found this wonderful quote on the chalkboard.  I was like, "Was this written for me?"  His wife said she loved that quote.  I told her I have to take a picture of it!

Brian Benson was recently featured in Wine Spectator as one of the up and coming winemakers in Paso Robles.  Most of his wines were sold out but we found a Syrah we liked.  He was very entertaining. 

 We were recommended to Ecluse by the owners of Orchard Hill Farms. We barrel tasted several Cabernet's in various barrel types such as new french oak, American oak, etc. which will be blended into a single bottle.  All were yummy.

This photo is for my gum smacking Jersey Girl friend, Rosie.  I even got her a label.
Route 46 is a yummy place to stop and pick up sandwiches for a picnic, fresh cheeses, and yummy spreads.  They even have a wood burning fireplace outside to make fresh pizzas, yum! 

Our favorite dining restaurant hands down was Artisan.  Can you say, OMG!  The food was beyond tasty.  Everything we had was delish.  We had an 8:15 PM reservation on Sunday and we were so hungry that we cancelled it and went straight to the restaurant at 5:00 PM. We were back to Old Orchard before the sun went down ~ fat and happy.  Overall it was a wonderful and relaxing weekend.  We met some new friends along the way and look forward to our return to sample some the places we didn't get to visit.

Peggy and Fritz's Recommendations
Here's a list of fabulous boutique wineries to visit in Paso Robles:
Epoch Wines (One of my favorite on our trip)
Denner Vineyards (Appointment Only)
Caliza Winery
Lone Madrone (Winemaker for Tablas Creek, this is his own line)

Ones that are easy to find in stores:
Tablas Creek
Justin Wine
Places to Eat in Paso Robles:
Thomas Hill Organics
Il Cortile
Route 46

Places to Stay:
Orchard Hill Farms


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