Monday, December 31, 2012

Bring It On, 2013!

HAPPY NY 2013!
Our very first holiday card! This fills me with way too much excitement :)

I can't believe it's New Year's Eve!!! This year was amazing and challenging in so many ways. I cannot wait to see what the next 365 days bring!  

Here's to 2013 and a year full of love, laughter, peace, happiness, and only good things!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

What's In My Bag: Puerto Rico Edition!

Well, here's something fun. I went out of town again! This blog post is coming at you from Puerto Rico!

Yes friends, it's Christmas week, and you know what that means - time for my family's annual Dysfunctional Family Vacation! For the second year in a row, all fourteen of us are hanging out in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the week!



Pictures from last year's DFV

Last year we actually had a lovely time on the DFV - full of lots of sun and splashing in the ocean and delicious dinners every night and a little casino time and me reading all three Hunger Games books in 48 hours :) Now that I know there's a Starbucks in the hotel lobby and an awesome spa, I am even more excited than normal!

You know I like to share what I'm bringing along with me in my suitcase (sidebar: I packed so much for Israel that I BROKE my trusty enormous turquoise suitcase and had to throw it away - SAD - and now I am being forced to pack in a smaller-than-normal suitcase), so here's a little sneak peek into my bag!


A turquoise earring is my go-to for dressing up any outfit. I love these Kendra Scotts!

Kate Spade makes the most comfortable wedges. These are neutral and will go great with any outfit so I can save room in my suitcase!

Hello, it's vacation - I put Essie Pink Parka on my fingers AND my toes!

I was gifted these amazing Clare Vivier foldover clutch for Hanukkah - the pony hair is SO soft and you know I am ALL about the leopard print!

Bright, comfy, simple, cheap - what more could you ask for from a sundress?!

I snagged this silvery/grey Vera Wang tank from Kohls last week - I think it'll look great on the trip with a long black maxiskirt and sandals, and when I get home I can wear it with leggings and boots!

I'm behind on my magazine reading, so I have a stack of US Weekly's about eight inches high - not kidding - that I can't wait to read by the pool every day, beverage in hand!

I basically bring this backup iPhone battery with me everywhere I go - I'm OBSESSED with it. Now I won't have to worry about my phone dying in between texting Ram, updating Facebook, and posting Instagram pictures :)

Picked up this cute bathing suit on sale last week - it's so chic with the gold metal accents!

Wishing you all a fabulous week, and Merry Christmas if that's your thing! I'll try and check in to update ya'll on the various adventures and shenanigans sure to be happening on this vacation! :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

More of Israel!

I really hate the phrase "photo dump" but I guess that's what I'm doing today. Many people have asked to see more pictures from my trip and you know I'm happy to oblige :) Here are some more of my favorites!

The very first photo I took on the trip. We landed in Israel and drove straight to Jerusalem - this is from a tower overlooking the city. The sun was setting and it was cold and clear and absolutely gorgeous.


Posing with my beloved co-staff, Hananel! Hananel is Israeli but lives in New York and is an singer/performer - suffice it to say we had a LOT of fun with the bus microphone :)


Also got to spend some quality time with my favorite Israeli family :) As I mentioned yesterday, Shachar was the tour guide for this trip - he and I have worked together 3 times now and there is a hardcore love fest going on. He is brilliant, kind, and knows everything about everything - I always say I'd follow him anywhere as long as there was a working bathroom! :) His adorable family joined us over Shabbat - his wife, Lee, and his daughters Maayan and baby Stav. I love them!


Speaking of Shabbat, how cool is this? 10 of the participants from our group had never had a bar or bat mitzvah, so we gave them one while standing in a little clearing overlooking the Kotel (Western Wall) at sundown on Shabbat. It was very special.


A group of Israeli soldiers joined us for 5 of the 10 days so that Americans/Israelis could get to know one another. They were wonderful and added so much to the trip - we loved them! Here they are before our group toured Har Herzl, Israel's military cemetery:


Hananel and Shachar hopped off the bus in the middle of nowhere to pick sabra fruit from a bush on the side of the highway so everyone on the bus could taste it. 


HELL YES I did some shopping! The shuk (market) in Jerusalem is awesome and I picked up some fantastic things there, including several of these gorgeous colorful little bowls...


...and FINALLY got myself a little "Shalom Ya'll" sign!


We spent the night at a Bedouin tent - ugh - and made a big bonfire to keep us warm. Hananel and I bought chocolate and marshmallows so everyone could roast them over the fire.


I might not have loved the Bedouin tent but I did get to ride a camel again! I had forgotten how much it hurts, though. My poor thighs!


Another amazing part of the trip was getting to see some of my friends who live in Israel. While in Jerusalem, I met up with Aaren and Diane, who took me to an adorable dairy restaurant. We ate sufganyot for Hanukkah and I got to meet their friends - it was so good seeing them! (Hi Aaren, I love that you read this blog!!!)


And in Tel Aviv, my friend Elana came and met me for lunch! She took me to a great place in Shuk Hacarmel and it was fantastic seeing her (and I LOVED the restaurant!)


And on our last night, I was lucky enough to be able to meet up with my friend Amir - the guard/medic from my last trip! We couldn't believe it had been two and a half years since we saw each other. Time seriously flies.


Gorgeous street art in Jaffa:


What a fantastic group!!!


This graffiti written in Hebrew says "I LOVE YOU." And I do, Israel, I LOVE YOU!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Digging Into Israel!

Shalom! I'm home!

I have gone FAR too long without a posting but to be honest, yall, I got back on Thursday and jetlag KICKED my ass. I've been falling asleep at dinner tables at 8:45pm and waking up bright and early at 4:30am ready to tackle the day. Today is the first day I feel relatively normal so thank you for bearing with me! #israelproblems

ISRAEL! Guys, it was amazing. This was my 8th time there and I started smiling the moment the plane touched down and barely stopped for 10 days. 

This being a culinary trip, there was a ton of emphasis on FOOD. A bunch of the participants worked in the food industry - we had several chefs, food photographers, waiters and waitresses, even a food stylist - and EVERYONE was a foodie. I swear I have never seen a group of people so frequently HUNGRY. We'd give them breakfast at 7:00, by 9:30 everyone would demand a snack, at 11:30 there would be cries of "Is it lunchtime yet?!" and at 1:00 desserts were being purchased and passed around. 

And the best part is, their enthusiasm and hunger were not limited to food - they were excited and interested in nearly everything we saw and visited, which, as a guide, is incredibly touching and heartwarming. Makes my job so much easier! :) I've been lucky enough to staff trips before - this was my 3rd - and I have to say, I don't know that I've ever had such a fantastic group before.


I took hundreds and hundreds of photos so I'm going to have to spread out my favorites over a couple of posts. Today I want to share some from my favorite things that we did, culinary-wise!

On our first day, we visited Jerusalem's famous market, Machane Yehuda. I love walking through the stalls looking at the huge barrels of spices and fruits and other delicious things:



At home I barely touch rugelah, but Marzipan Bakery in the marketplace makes the MOST delicious chocolate rugelach I've ever had. I bought several boxes and gave one out to each participant so they could all agree with me! Look how tiny and adorable each one is!


This was so cool - one afternoon we toured Shvil Hasalat, which means "The Salad Trail." It's a farm in Southern Israel (right by Gaza actually) where the farmers use untraditional methods to grow delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs, and more. I've been there before, and wasn't expecting anything besides the normal (awesome!) tour of each individual greenhouse, where we got to pick carrots out of the ground, eat strawberries right off the vine, sample edible flowers and different spices and herbs, and taste nearly a dozen different types of tiny tomatoes. So amazing.


Imagine my surprise when after the tour, the farmers announced we were in for a special culinary treat - a "Master Chef" competition! We split the group up into four teams and assigned them a challenge - they had 40 minutes to create an appetizer, entree, dessert, hot drink, and cold drink, using ONLY the ingredients from the greenhouses we had just toured! And yours truly was the judge! 


Look at these ridiculous creations the group came up with! How freaking creative are they!?



Other amazing things we did? We spent the morning at the private home of a Druze family in a Druze village, learning about their culture and of course, sampling some of their traditional food. To welcome us into their home, they made us whole wheat pita with labneh, olive oil, and spices - it was right off the oven, piping hot, and absolutely delicious:



We also got to visit a special kosher winery, Dalton Winery! As some of you may know, I don't drink anymore, but everyone loved it and it was so cool learning about each different wine. 


At the end of our tour we had a tasting - no need to worry about leftover wine as our tour guide Shachar, who is my dear friend (more on him tomorrow) insisted I sit next to him so he could partake in my glasses :)


But hands down, the coolest thing we did was actually on the very last day of the trip! While in Tel Aviv, we got invited to a very famous chef's restaurant to meet him and taste some of the raw ingredients he uses in his preparations. I had no idea what to expect, but Chef Meir Adoni (of Catit and Mizlala fame) was so kind and welcoming to our entire group of 40-plus people - it was an absolutely amazing experience! 



We sat at two long tables (surrounded by plenty of Israeli press, including photographers, videographers, and reports - told you he was famous!) and Chef Adoni's team brought out delicious warm bread followed by bowl after bowl of various dips, spreads, creams, and dressings that he uses to create his dishes. It was unreal - one of the best hours of my life. I was particularly partial to his garlic cream, pickled lemon aioli, and an unassuming bowl of brown dip that I could have eaten for the rest of my life - rumor has it it was his take on salad dressing?! I'll dream of it for the rest of my life...


Later that night, we had a free night out - so I went with a group of participants back to Mizlala for dinner. HOLY MOTHER YALL. This was particularly exciting for me because even though I've had plenty of experience dining in Israel, I had never been to a real "fancy" restaurant - mainly when I'm there, I eat street food or in casual restaurants. Mizlala is on par with some of the gourmet restaurants I eat in Los Angeles or New York - each dish was as delicious and inventive as they were beautiful! 



I feel honored to be a part of Birthright and being able to play a part in reintroducing and reigniting Judaism into someone's life. And the best part is, I may be home in Los Angeles and back to my old tricks, but I have 40 new friends and as always, a piece of my heart left on the other side of the world! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Royal Coup d'etat: An Appreciation

Hello loyal followers of Queen of LA.  I know what you’re thinking, “Six days without a blog update?  What am I (NOT) paying for!?!?!”  Have no fear, Rami, beloved boyfriend is here to fill the void in your life that is bi-weekly filled with decorating ideas, pink and leopard prints, travel guides and pictures of food.

So what shall we talk about in her absence?

Shall we turn this into a Doctor Who fanblog?  Discuss the color films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger?  Review the newest Mountain Goats album (it easily has their best opening track ever)? 

No, I can’t do any of that in good faith.

Lets talk about Jordan.

Jordan will be gone for seven more days, so here is a list of my seven favorite things to do with Jordan that can be shown to friends and family.

7. Going on walks with Jordan.
Jordan may not be...outdoorsy...but I can think of no more fun person to go perambulating with.  She periodically sings too loud and tries to make a spectacle of herself but she never runs out of things to talk about and moves at a nice pace.

6.  Going to the movies with Jordan.
I can’t convince Jordan to go see EVERY movie I want to see.  For some reason she won’t go see an avant garde exploration of identity and cinema in French (Holy Motors), or a deconstruction of horror films (Cabin in the Woods) but Jord has pushed herself way out of the romcom ghetto she was in for a long time.  I don’t know if the girl I started dating almost two years ago would’ve hit up Drive, Submarine, Shame, The Master, Argo, and Zero Dark Thirty (forthcoming) if she wasn’t so willing to try new movies if I ask nicely enough.  Its very cool to see her become a budding cinephile.  Her analysis of Shame was sophisticated enough to at least appear in Slate.

5.  Cooking with Jordan.
I am not a culinary person AT ALL.  Before I started dating Jord heating up soup was a major kitchen endeavor.  Since Jord, however, I am way more comfortable in the kitchen and cooking with her is bunches of fun.  She’s adventurous and always has a good handle on tasks that I can complete skillfully.  We put on music, we dance around, she indulges me as I ad lib about whatever I’ve picked up that week from Top Chef, she really knows how to make it fun and not a chore AT ALL.  

4. Sitting on the couch and watching TV with Jordan.
The foundation of any good relationship is how well you can just sit and hang out with one another.  Jord and I come to each other each VERY comfortable with vegging out and we have a pretty solid overlap on shows we like.  There are a couple of shows she has gotten me into (the aforementioned Top Chef, Nashville, evvvvvverything on HGTV) and I’ve gotten her to check out Key & Peele, Arrested Development, Louie and she’ll eventually try out Friday Night Lights and Downton Abbey.  I’m not going to push it on Game of Thrones and Mad Men...yet.  Breaking Bad is out, too scary for her.  Then there are the shows we both LOVED together; your New Girls, your Parks & Recs, your Girls.  Hell sometimes we’ll mix it up and NOT watch TV and just play on our devices or read.

3.  Going to Animal with Jordan.
Jord introduced me to Animal and every time we go there is a triumph, whether with friends or just as a special date night.  Owners John Shook and Vinny Dotolo are basically geniuses.  Their rotating menu is without misses.  Eating their pork belly sliders is the flavor equivalent of reuniting with a college friend after several years.  It’s good, it’s real good.

2. Hanging out with each others friends.
Considering we’re dating each other it makes sense we have good taste in people.  I have never dated anyone whose friends I like as much as Jord’s friends.    Not only that, because of Jord I now know wonderful people in the MIDDLE and SOUTHERN parts of the country.  That’s pretty great.  I COULD start mentioning names but then I would probably leave people out and I’d feel bad.  What’s especially cool is the feeling mutual.  Jord is completely comfortable and just as vivacious with my friends.  Heck, Jord is planning a birthday party for one of my best friend’s baby’s for goodness sake.  How cool is that?!?!?  Very cool is the answer.

1.  Going to Largo with Jordan.
Jord and I have our most special dates at Largo at the Coronet on North La Cienega.  Its been very cool introducing her to the Los Angeles alternative comedy scene and if I had made a slightly longer list it would have included UCB (which is also a great place) but one of our first special dates together was me taking her to see the Paul F. Tompkins show at Largo.  Jord became a fan instantly and despite the most uncomfortable seats the shows at Largo are so universally great that you don’t really notice.  Jord got introduced to and has seen so many talented and funny people at Largo shows; the aforementioned PFT, Nick Kroll, Seth Morris (as Bob Ducca), Jon Daly (as Sappity Tappity), Paul Scheer, Chris Hardwick, Pete Holmes, Tig Notaro, Chelsea Peretti, Garfunkel and Oates, Natasha Leggero, Dave Gruber Allen, Jeff Garlin, Lena Dunham and the Thrilling Adventure Hour gang.  Also some really cool musicians like Grant Lee Phillips, Jon Brion, Eban Schletter, Michael Penn, Aimee Mann and one of my absolute favorites, Ted Leo (who I nerded out in front of and Jord was still very cool about it).  Jord liking Largo is one of those things that made me fall in love with her and we have SO many wonderful memories there.  I hope to make MANY more.