Out with Mommy

bengets   jumbalyala

Los Angeles is a long way from New Orleans, but The Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax will bring the ways of the Bijou state to Angelenos this weekend, as it kicks off the 26th annual Mardi Gras Celebration, on Valentine’s Day, February 14.  The three-day event will feature bead throwing, beignets, Dixie beer, face painting, and a lineup of music including Cajun and Zydeco bands and strolling performers.

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The boisterous, family friendly celebration includes special menu items from the many of the market’s 120 vendors. Chef Clinton and his crew at famed The Gumbo Pot will cook up their world-class jambalaya and Cajun gumbo, including alligator gumbo, along with catfish, crawfish pie, and many Cajun-spiced dishes.

The Normandie Bakery, run by the wonderfully sweet baker Josette, will slice up traditional King Cake, coated with purple, green and gold sugars and complete with a Baby Jesus baked inside.

bakeryking cake

Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts will serve puffed and powder-sugared fried dough treats that New Orleanians know as donuts but tourists call beignets. E.B’s and other bars at the market will be serving favorite beers of the Big Easy, such as Dixie Beer and Abita Purple Haze.  Rumor has it that one of the market’s sushi vendors will feature a special crawfish roll.

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Besides the cost of food and drink, the entire event is free.  Festivities continue into the evening hours over the weekend and wrap up February 17 with a Fat Tuesday finale 6 to 9 pm featuring Eddie Baytos and The Nervis Bros playing on the West Patio.  For more information and a full schedule of bands and activities, visit www.farmersmarketla.com.

 

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The term “family restaurant” means different things to different people.  At Locanda del Lago it means many things.  The traditional Northern Italian restaurant at Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade has stood the test of time in LA where eateries go in and out of vogue with the seasons, but a typical bustling multigenerational Saturday night crowd shows this family favorite has staying power, not just as a restaurant where children are welcome, but also where diners are treated like family.

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Greeting guests at the host stand, an affable JD, in a snappy bow-tie, sets the tone for visitors. At first I thought JD mistook me for someone he knew, since his welcoming was so enthusiastic, but I later learned from our server, John, that JD is always this way.

John, who by his movie-star good looks and his expert recitation of the daily specials I presumed — and confirmed — was an actor, was pleasant and patient as my dining companion and I mulled over our options.  We decided to start off with one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails, since JD had told us that the ingredients were fresh sourced just the day before from the local farmer’s market.  We chose the blood orange martini — delicious and fruity, and the raspberry and lemon drop martini — very sweet, accented by a sugared rim.

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We moved onto the appetizers — Burrata e Zucca; a creamy Burrata cheese with a savory-sweet butter squash compote; and the restaurant’s popular sampler of fried shrimp, calamari, smelts and zucchini. The former was a generous portion, making us wish we had ordered just one starter; and the latter was made interesting by the smelts, but overall this plate was a bit more crispy than hoped for, and since we were saving room for our entrees we had this bagged to take home.

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For entrees we chose the fillet, assuming we “could not go wrong,” and John in fact reinforced this idea using these exact words.  We also opted for a lobster pasta, which John highly recommended and informed us was the Chef Gianfranco Minuz’s own favorite dish to eat himself, whenever he was lucky enough there was any left at the end of a night.

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While the fillet was more on the medium than the medium-rare requested, it was still a tender piece of beef with a rich Porcini mushroom sauce and served with sautéed broccolini.  The pasta dish was a surprising pale green color, almost like tinted glass noodles, and while neither of expected to like it, we were pleased that it was, as promised, an exquisite treat.

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We finished our dinner with a molten lava cake, which unfortunately was still chilled in the center. Nevertheless, we polished it off, and though I was certain John would have offered us another dessert if we had complained, we were quite satisfied overall with our meal.

By the time we left, after pacing ourselves through an enjoyable two-hour dinner, we noticed most of the tables around us were the same guests as when we sat down.  The tables were filled with families — of grandparents, parents and children.  We were amused to see one table complete filled with children — the proverbial kids table — next to their parents who were clearly savoring their long evening of dining and visiting with family.

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As we made our way out, JD introduced us to the affable Michelin-starred Chef Minuz, whose menu was inspired by the tastes of the regions of Lombardy and Lake Como, and they saw us out the door, as good hosts always do at the end of an evening spend with familia; and they invited us to come again, which we certainly will.

A 1991 movie, LA Story, made fun of Los Angeles and its lack of history and culture.  Steve Martin cynically gives Sarah Jessica Parker a tour of our fair city exclaiming, “Some of these buildings are (wait for it) … 20 years old!”  But indeed there are some Angeleno landmarks and traditions that date back more than 100 years, and my family recently got to experience one, Hotel Del Coronado, just 2.5 hours south of LA, but a world away from the glitz and hustle of the city.

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Hotel Del, as it is affectionately known, attracts families that return generation after generation, to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and holidays, most notably Christmas, at this luxury beachfront resort.  The iconic red-shingled roof of the wooden Victorian-style main hotel is immediately recognizable and has played the backdrop not only for memorable family vacation photos but also for many Hollywood movies.

Since its opening in 1888, the hotel has hosted many of the silver screen’s greats, such as Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Mae West, and today it still serves as a getaway to the rich and famous, from Madonna, Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt, to a slew of Presidents, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak Obama.

guest room

The hotel is one of the largest all-wood structures in the United States, and its famed Crown Ball Room, which served as inspiration to the writer of Wizard of Oz, L. Fred Baum, who often stayed there, features a wooden ceiling installed with pegs and glue — not a single nail.

crown ballroom

Its architectural and cultural history alone make Hotel Del a destination worth visiting, but its welcoming, family friendly atmosphere and family traditions keep families returning year after year.  Most famously, the hotel hosts a legendary month-long winter holiday celebration featuring a beachside outdoor ice skating rink, thousands of festive white lights and an giant Christmas tree in the lobby, an homage to America’s very first electrically lit outdoor Christmas tree at the hotel, in 1904.

The lobby’s brass-gated elevator, complete with a uniformed elevator operator, and the dark wood-paneled stair cases and the bright, wide-open enormous hallways to guest rooms harken back to an era of grand hotels, adding to the nostalgia of the Hotel Del, and serving as a wonderment to children, who look forward to coming back to the hotel each year for holidays and vacations.

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The property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977and a California Historical Landmark in 1970 and has been named by USA Today as one of the top ten resorts in the world.  Despite its age, the hotel has kept up with modern times with multiple renovations, including more than $10 million in upgrades, including the addition of a few dozen limited-term occupancy cottages and villas a couple hundred more rooms, in addition to the 399 original rooms.

The amenities include an Olympic-sized salt water pool, tennis courts, and many lush gardens and gazebos around the property, along with shops and restaurants.  Of course, with the digital age, Hotel Del added Wi-Fi, flatscreen TVs, electronic key cards and all the modern comforts that today’s luxury travel expects.  But while many hot spots come and go, Hotel Del has stood the test of time.

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For many of today’s visitors, like our family, the Hotel Del represents the best of new and old, where grandparents enjoy the charm, comfort and familiarity of a magical place where their own childhood memories were made, while they watch their grandchildren play on the beach and make memories for a lifetime.  For our family, our visit this holiday season was the first of what we plan to make an annual tradition.  And maybe one day we will be lucky enough to come back and see our own grandchildren fall in love with the Del.

Tired of drinking down your meal with the same sodas?  Your taste buds will be awash with gratitude when you sample these new brews.

Going Coconuts

Seems everything cools comes out of Brazil these days – Acai berries, Brazilian blow outs, and the latest craze, coconut water.  Once only sucked from the hairy husk of an actual coconut, now this refreshing beverage can be found at just about every grocery store.  But not satisfied with the original, ZICO brand has added flavorings and juices to concoct an assortment of coconut water drinks including chocolate, pineapple, mango, and passion fruit.  While the natural flavor drink has zero fat and zero cholesterol, the boosted drinks up the calories but still nets about half the calorie count of regular fruit drinks; and all the  ZICO products contain five naturally-occurring electrolytes, including as much potassium as a banana. Many enjoy coconut water to hydrate after exercise, as an alternative to sports drinks, but with the new flavors, coconut waters are finding themselves at the dinner table, and even in cocktails. As most fans of coconut water will agree, its best served very chilled.  ZICO Chilled Premium Coconut Water and Juice Blends (ZICO Chilled Juices) are available in the refrigerator aisle of major grocery stores nationwide.

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Tea Time

Parents everywhere cringe daily as they pack their kids’ lunch boxes and slip in a juice box, knowing they are sending their child off with the devil in a cardboard package.  Typically these juice boxes are loaded with unhealthy sugar and who-knows-what chemicals; but darned if they are the handiest option for busy working moms and dads.  Until now, the pickings of kids’ drinks in boxes was dismal, but Drazil Kids Tea is changing that. The herbal tea company was launched by Christine Wheeler, a former Procter and Gamble brand manager, who wanted to bring Japan’s tea culture to the US in an effort to offer a better option for parents and kids.  Herbal tea has many health benefits for kids, giving them needed antioxidants and minerals, and helping combat childhood obesity, to which experts agree sugary drinks are a major factor.  Drazil is the first herbal tea mix with 100% juice added, for mild sweetness, which helps kids enjoy the tea flavor. With 35% less sugar than typical juice box drinks, Drazil cuts the sugar and keeps the antioxidant and minerals. Drazil tea drinks are sold at southwest grocery retailers, including select Whole Foods, Southern California Bristol Farms, Amazon and www.drazilfoods.com.

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Only 8 percent of people keep their New Year’s resolutions, but if you are motivated to rid yourself of muscle pain, improve your posture and feel your best in 2015, here are some DIY health products that can help you keep your promise to yourself for a healthier New Year and beyond.

Sit Straight

Good posture can not only make you look better, it can make you feel better from head to toe.  Proper alignment can not only relieve back and neck pain, but it improves breathing and body movement for better circulation and helps your organs better perform their functions. Improved posture can also give the appearance of a 10-pound weight loss instantly. BackJoy’s SitSmart Posture Plus ($39.99) seating aid helps you achieve ideal sitting posture by tilting your hips upright and comfortably “floating” your spine over the seat. Crafted from a durable, flexible proprietary material base, it supports you in optimal posture, yet reacts to every move you make.  Posture Plus is completely weatherproof for indoor or outdoor use and fits adults 100 to 300 lbs.BJPPS-006_ALT150

Stand Tall

When you are on your feet, maintain good posture with the help of BackJoy’s StandRight Bliss shoes (women’s Lace Style, $64.99).  This unique footware line is created with active stabilization technology to help you stand and move better with optimal posture from head to toe, and 85 percent of wearers report improved balance. BackJoy’s Natural Gait Line System is crafted into each shoe to guide your foot so you walk correctly. A neutral footbed keeps your head, hips and feet balanced in good posture, so that you stand correctly.  Shock-absorbing materials cushion the foot and heel at impact for extra comfort and support.  FWWBL-001_IS
Move Right
Remember when your mom told you to stand up straight? Those reminders often made you pull your shoulders back and stand straighter and taller, but mom can’t always be there. That’s where BackJoy’s Posture Wear Elite comes in. The Comfort Fit Shirt ($89 for men’s and women’s styles) is designed to enhance your posture and relieve back pain. The shirt’s unique active stabilization system pulls the shoulders back while correctly aligning the spine and promoting optimal posture while allowing complete range of motion.  The shirt features a seamless construction and moisture-wicking fabric that is comfortable enough to wear during all intensity of sports wicks away moisture. APMTS-001_IS
Sleep Well

A good night’s sleep can help you feel rejuvenated for your day, but waking up with a stiff neck can put a damper on productivity.  BackJoy’s patented, handcrafted SleepSound Pillow ($99) combines the support of memory foam and the soft comfort of down fill to comprise a pillow that self-adjusts to your body and sleeping position to support optimal sleeping posture.  The layered design does not clump or flatten and provides a breathable downy surface that allows you to fall asleep in comfort, while the Cool Comfort Memory Foam layers conform to support your head and neck in proper alignment throughout the night. Available in standard and travel sizes.PLDEP-001_IS

Kneel Right

Whether you are doing chores around the house, gardening or other jobs and hobbies that require kneeling, you should focus on the task at hand rather than uncomfortable knee pain. The BackJoy Kneeler ($19.99) puts a firm cushion between your knee and hard surfaces to give your knees a break while you work.  The ergonomically designed pad transfers the pressure of kneeling onto the product while stress free acupressure nodes take additional strain off the body.KNLER-002_IS

These and other BackJoy products available at Bed Bath & Beyond, CVS, Staples and www.backjoy.com.

Wondering what to do with those random gift cards, or the store credit you will get when you return those very thoughtful gifts that you will simply never use?  Take advantage of after-holiday sales, and pick up a few nice things for yourself, that no one thought to get you, but you wouldn’t mind having.

Love Your Selfie

Are you always the photographer, and never in the shot?  Get the Click Stick ($30). and never be left out of a photo again.  A clamp at the end of an adjustable-angle 40-inch telescopic extender rod holds your smartphone and takes a photo with the press of a button on the handle.  This ultimate selfie tool is compatible with most smartphones, can be angled for portrait or landscape perspectives, and there is no pairing or batteries required.  Available at Amazon and other national retailers.clickstick

Sock it to Me

Everyone needs socks, but rarely are they on gift lists.  If you were hankering for stockings besides those hung by the chimney with care, warm up with Heat Holders ($19.99 pair) , touted as “the warmest thermal socks,” these acrylic, nylon, poly and elastane socks earned a 2.3 rating on the textile industry’s standard of TOG (thermal overall grade), and are more than seven times warmer than a basic cotton sock.  Perfect if you live in colder climes.  Available at national retailers.

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Non-Sticky Situation

For foodies who love the latest cooking innovations, Cookina Cuisine makes a reusable non-stick, easy- clean alternative to aluminum foil, parchment and wax paper suitable for gas and electric ovens, microwaves and panini-type grills. The liner can be placed on baking trays, pans and other baking surfaces heated up to 500 degrees F for oil-free juicier and healthier cooking, and it keeps your cookware clean and helps it last longer.  After use the product can be wiped cleaned and stored on a special included ring. Available at cookina.co for $12.99.

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What’s Your Wallet Made Of

With all the talk of Bitcoin, Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other digital wallets, the old-fashioned wallet has been forgotten. The wallet gets its mojo back with Wojo Wallet ($12.95), a new-fangled wallet for today’s active person who wants to run, hike, bike or even swim with without the worry of having to stash a bulky leather wallet.  The compact and easy-clean Wojo, made of silicone and neoprene, fits your essentials — ID, credit cards and cash — and goes anywhere and even floats.   Available in four trendy colors.

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No Fall of Shame

If you wear high heels and have ever had your foot slip out of your shoe or tripped in public because your heel won’t stay in place, Sticky Shoes ($8.95) is your solution to the “Fall of Shame.”  The double- sided adhesive strip discretely inserts into the heel part of the insole of each shoe to keep your foo tin place and your shoe on your foot.  So next time you dress to impress in your sexy stilettoes, walk with confidence without worrying about wobbles, tumbles and wipeouts. Available at www.stickyshoes.comee8f2a33-1ad4-4919-a805-1

It’s a New Year and a fresh opportunity to make a resolution to take care of yourself and look your best. To help you be your gorgeous self in 2015, here are some skincare and cosmetic products that will enhance and promote your beauty, for the New Year and beyond.

Naturally Balanced

Kat Burki’s Power Trio Radiance Oil (1 fl. Oz., $125), part of Kat Burki’s “Naturally Balanced Skincare” system, features a high-powered formula combining the benefits of cold pressed oils, natural salicylic acid from cold-pressed raspberry oil. Applied morning and night, it prevents inflammation and balances skin complexion while softening and repairing dry skin with its bio compatible dry-oil formulation that dissolves easily into skin without an oily residue.  Follow the treatment with Kat Burki Rose Hip Revitalizing Serum (1 fl. Oz., $165), a dynamic antioxidant formula that combines the benefits of RAW ingredients, vitamins and herbs to strengthen and support skin elasticity, brighten skin tone and shield skin from environmental damage.  Available at Nordstrom or www.katburki.com.

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Bright and Clear

All skin can develop discolored spots and uneven tones. Equitance Brightening Serum + Spot Corrector (1.0 fl. Oz, $125) is clinically proven to improve the appearance of discoloration and uneven skin tone. This spot-targeting serum uses a patented technology to continuously deliver a brightening ingredient formula featuring linoleic acid that zeroes in on hyperpigmentation and dark discoloration to clarify and brighten skin. Available at equitance-us.com.

Equitance

Calm and Collected

Life can be full of stressors, but don’t let your skin show it.  Aubrey Calming Skin Therapy Hydrating Mask firms ($14.95) soothes and restores skin’s natural moisture balance while calming sensitive areas. Organic aloe vera and prickly pear hydrate and firm skin while sea aster extract soothes stressed skin.  As a companion treatment, the Aubrey Age-Defying Therapy Toner ($14.95) instantly softens skin and boosts its natural moisture, using beet extract and sea buckthorn extract for replenishing skin, and AHA fruit acids to refine skin texture, for up to eight hours of soothing hydration.  Aubrey cruelty-free products are available at health food stores nationwide or AubreyOrganics.com.

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Raise Eyebrows

Your eyes say a lot about you, and your eyebrows can express it all.  Play up this powerful feature with IT Cosmetics Brow Power Waterproof Perfector ($24). This convenient five-in-one tool features an automatic brow pencil, brow fill-in powder, taming brow gel, brow enhancing treatment conditioner and brow brush. Its anti-aging and highly pigmented formula, utilizing a blend of ingredients such as Biotin, Lecithin, Saw Palmetto, Nettle Leaf, and Horsetail Flower Extract was developed by plastic surgeons to be safe for sensitive skin and to glide on smoothly and mimick the look of real brow hair for a natural brow look that lasts all day. Available in 4 shades: Blonde, Universal Taupe, Auburn and Dark Brown.  Available at ITCosmetics.com, ULTA Beauty stores nationwide, ULTA.com and QVC.com.

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Let it Gel

Keep nails looking healthy and stunning for longer with the Bio Seaweed Gel line of polishes that last for up to two weeks without chipping. This specially formulated gel provides an alternative to gels with harmful chemicals that can damage nails and be near-to-impossible to remove.  Bio Seaweed Gel has over 114 rich and vibrant hues that do not contain Formaldehyde, Toluene, DBP, BHA or solvents.  Amazingly, the gels are odor-free, and they require no sanding, drilling, primers or binders. Their smooth and self-leveling formulas adhere naturally to dry, clean nails with no shrinkage; and they do not require special lamps to cure — just sunlight.  Available at salons, or purchase a starter kid for $120 at bioseaweedgel.com.

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