Monday, July 29, 2013

How To Live Glamorously When You Feel Anything But

If for some reason the video below doesn't work, you can also watch it HERE.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ten Life-Changing Lessons You Can Learn from Good Design

Good design is powerful. An artfully arranged tablescape can feel profoundly satisfying. A certain color or pattern can make your heart skip a beat. A beautiful room can make you feel that all is right with the world.

Why is this?

Is it because our brains are programmed to react emotionally to visual stimuli?

Or does good design makes us feel good for reasons that go even deeper?

I think beautiful images fill us with deep contentment because on some level they act as visual paradigms for how to live better. They have a message that goes beyond beauty alone. 

Below, some examples. 

Lesson #1: Life is too short not to get along with others.
(Interior design by Ilse Crawford. via.)

At first glance, this ornate copper tea kettle would seem to have nothing in common with the minimalist glass jar and rustic wooden chopping block. Separately, each represents a different aesthetic but together they achieve a harmony of elevating proportions, and each object is cooler because of what's next to it. 

Lesson #2: Be prepared.
(Samantha Boardman's bar. via)

You never know what life is going to throw at you.  All the more reason to not let it catch you unawares. Whether it's getting that first-aid kit together, keeping an extra jug of water in your car or stocking up on light bulbs, it pays to think ahead. 

Lesson #3: Focus on what you have. 
(Bea Pollen's home. via)

It's easy to complain about what you don't have. We've all done it. But nobody gets everything on their wish list. So gather your passions together and rejoice in what surrounds you. 

Lesson #4: Go deeper.

In your lifetime, there will be a few subjects you feel passionately about. Arts and Crafts architecture, say. Or Victorian women explorers. Or the poetry of John Betjeman. Dig as deep as you can into those points of interest. Curiosity is one of the most powerful motivators to keep one foot moving in front of the other.  

Lesson #5: Embrace darkness. 

Not everything in life can be sunlight and daisies--and that's a good thing. A little darkness now and then is essential for personal growth. It throws what's important into sharp relief, and can often be the quickest path to clarity. 

Lesson #6: Don't be afraid to be different.
(from the Instagram feed of Philip Gorrivan)

When you're young, the world is full of rules. But when you get older, you understand that a lot of them don't really mean anything. What's important is following your heart. Case in point: Matchy-matchy is overrated. 

Lesson #7: Pause along the way. 
(Hidcote Manor. Photo by Joe Wainwright.)

You've heard it before: It's the journey, not the destination that's important. So don't be in such a hurry to get somewhere that you forget to notice what's around you. You'll get there eventually, and if you don't, at least you'll have appreciated the rest stops.

Lesson #8: Create a safe place. 
(Interior design by Susan Jay. via.)

We all need a sanctuary far from the madding crowd. It doesn't have to be extravagant--a cozy chair in a quiet corner will do the trick. The point is to have a place you can rest and recharge when the world is too much with you.

Lesson #9: There's always another way to look at something.
(Interior design by Miles Redd. Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch.) 

Sometimes you can't see a way out. You're backed into a corner and you've run out of options. But there's always another approach. You might have to alter your own perspective slightly to find it. But it's there.  

Lesson #10: Never reveal everything. 

I'm a firm believer in the importance of preserving a little mystery in life. It creates intrigue, fans the appetite and keeps people wondering what's next. Just because we live in an age where everything is available at the click of a mouse doesn't mean we have to act that way. Show but don't tell. Or tell but don't show. See what happens.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Festive Food with Lucy Lean

My friend Lucy is one of those people who turn everything they touch into fun, so when she invited us over for dinner and fireworks last Thursday, I said yes before she even finished asking the question. The former editor of Edible LA magazine, she recently published a cookbook called "Made in America: Our Best Chefs Reinvent Comfort Food" whose success has generated a series of culinary events with top LA chefs at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Her wonderful food blog, Ladles and Jellyspoons, continues this theme and is full of recipes, stories and inspiration on cooking with chefs past, present and future.
(The Fantastic Lucy Lean. All photos by LBG, 2013.)

Me: Whatever gave you the idea to dip the champagne glasses in edible glitter? That was such a festive way to give a party some immediate atmosphere. 

Lucy: It was completely spur of the moment. I had bought red, white and blue glitter at Surfa's [LA's legendary culinary supply store] thinking I would decorate a cake with it. Literally an hour before people were coming, I saw it and thought, Oh my God, what can I do?  I didn't have a cake. So I wet the rims of the glasses and dipped them in the glitter. 

Me: It was kind of glam rock.

Lucy: The Founding Fathers meet Ziggy Stardust! I loved that everyone embraced it -- it was such a fun ice breaker. But everything was covered in glitter from the guests to me to the washing up -- perhaps I might use a little less next time!

Me: Remy and Minty have enviable culinary genes, what with the combination of your talents and those of your father-in-law [Jean Jacques Rachou, owner of New York City's famed restaurant La Cote Basque]. Are they total gastronomes? 

Lucy: They do have amazing palates. And from accompanying me to various chef festivals they really appreciate high-end food. That being said, they are going to be the worst people to take out for dinner when they're grown up! They think it's totally normal to go in the back of the kitchen and talk to the chef about their meal. 

Me: Can we go over the menu? Because ohmygod, that salad.

Lucy:  It's the roasted cauliflower with hazelnuts and pomogranates from Yotam Ottolenghi's "Jerusalem" cookbook. Get the English version because it has a much nicer cover. You cook the salad hours before and then assemble and dress it at the last minute. It's just cauliflower roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and some finely sliced celery, pomegranates, hazelnuts and chopped Italian parsley.  The dressing has cinnamon, allspice, sherry vinegar and olive oil.

Me: And I still can't believe you made that bread from scratch. 

Lucy: I promise you it's so easy -- it's the kind of thing you do a couple of times and think, "Why would I ever buy bread again?" The recipe's on my blog, but it comes from Ken Forkish's book Flour Water Salt Yeast. You have to get it, it's amazing. My friend Charlotte became so obsessed with it she actually packed her proofing bowls in her hand luggage when she went to England over the holidays so she could bake fresh loaves for her whole family. 

Me: She did not.

Lucy: She did! Fresh bread out of the oven never ceases to amaze people. Even the most diehard low carb eaters can't resist! I serve it with a really good butter from Devon or France. You can easily throw together a cheese plate with three pieces of good cheese - I like a rich triple cream brie, a nutty Comté and some good English sharp Cheddar. Do as the Europeans do and serve it with salad or after the main course.

Me: What about the roast chicken? 

Lucy: Also from Yotem's Jerusalem cookbook. It was roast chicken, clementines and Arak (but you can use ouzo or Pernod). You marinate the chicken overnight and then lay it out on large baking sheets and pop it in a hot oven about thirty minutes before your guests are due to arrive.

The genius of Ottolenghi is that his recipes are so original. I'm a judge for the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award and you wouldn't believe how dull most cookbooks are. With Ottolenghi's food, you know it works, you know it's delicious, and even though you're using flavors that people aren't familiar with, it's not scary.  

Me: I wish I had a photo of your dessert to show my readers but we all gobbled it up too quickly! 

Lucy: It was a fresh apricot crumble with almonds and thick vanilla custard. I laid a few sprigs of verbena on top of the apricots when I cooked them and removed them before serving. Cooking is all about layering flavor, even with dessert -- I usually like to add a little crystallized ginger to the crumble topping, but I was out of it. I have a recipe for pink rhubarb crumble on my blog but you can make it with whatever fruit you like. 

Me: That custard was amazing. I love homemade custard.

Lucy: (laughing) It wasn't homemade -- that was one of my little cooking tricks!  I took a can of Devon Ambrosia custard, mixed it in a jug with a cup of heavy cream and a teaspoon of vanilla paste and refrigerated it until dessert time. Making custard from scratch can take an hour -- I'd rather spend my time making the crumble. 

(This was supposed to be a photo of apricot crumble with custard sauce.)

Me: Sitting on your ridge at the top of the Hollywood Hills was quite a magical place to watch the fireworks. The Valley has never looked so glamorous. 

Lucy: We're lucky that our property includes a section of mountain ridge that's wild and uncultivated. We do it every year. It's become better and better as the kids have gotten older. 

Me: And then your neighbor regaled us with a private fireworks party. 

Lucy: That was definitely a surprise!

Me: What's up next for you?

Lucy: I just started working with Ludo Lefevbre's wife Krissy on Chef Fest, a curated event in Los Angeles featuring twenty-plus celebrated chefs for demos and dinners. It's going to be fabulous [Editor's Note: Check Lucy's blog for future details].

Me: Any last advice?

Lucy: People try to get fancy for dinner parties and I like to keep it simple. Cook something that can be prepared in advance so you aren't cooking when everyone arrives. It's not that difficult if you keep to what you know. I have so much fun entertaining it almost feels like cheating!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pinch Me Now

A huge thank you to journalist Susan Michals for including me in her article on five up-and-coming female LA artists -- I am speechless and truly honored!

To read the article, click HERE.

Oh, To Be Cold Again

What's the weather been like where you are? Here in Los Angeles, we've been enduring our first real hot spell of the summer. By ten am, the air is dense with heat and if you're ill-disposed to the sun like me, you find yourself pining for refuge in the coolest, darkest room of the house with a thick book and an icy glass of sparkling water with crushed mint leaves and a slice of lime.

There is one thing that always gets me out of the house, however, and that's walking around the Hollywood Reservoir. (Early morning and dusk are particularly recommended.)
(All photos taken 6/30/13 by LBG.)

The Hollywood Reservoir is one of LA's most fabulous secrets. Most people have no idea it even exists. For the past eight years the 3.3 mile loop has been partially closed due to repairs from a massive mudstorm, but in April the entire path re-opened and oh, is it magical.

It's difficult to believe you're literally no more than a mile from the technicolor madness of Sunset Boulevard. Down below, the streets are clogged with star vans full of summer tourists jostling to take photos of Superman, Marilyn and Jack Sparrow impersonators.

But up here it's tranquility and birdsong.

Graceful arches span the bridge of the dam built by William Mulholland in 1924, and can you see the stone bear heads keeping a protective watch on the city below?

Every time I round this particular bend I say to myself, "Lisa, there is no possible way you can be in Hollywood right now." 

For information on opening hours and how to get there, click HERE.

For more super cool archive photos like the one below, click HERE.
 (View of the Hollywood Reservoir, 1928)


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