Monday, November 24, 2008

{people: Dee Dee Jonrowe, Iditerod musher}

The Iditerod is known as the "Toughest Race on Earth", which makes Dee Dee Jonrowe on of the toughest racers on earth. I had heard about the race, but never seen it, until it was on the Discovery Channel... I'm hooked. I'm especially hooked on this little woman, wearing pink, and cooing to her dogs! I've never seen anything like it! She's my new idol, and I'm her biggest fan... what an inspiration she is.

You can’t compare it to any other competitive event in the world! A race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. She throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams. Add to that temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills, and you have the Iditarod. A race extraordinaire, a race only possible in Alaska.

From Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast, each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover over 1150 miles in 10 to 17 days. In the midst of it for the last 26 years was Dee Dee, and keep watching, she's got a plan for '09, and it just may be a top finish for her.

DeeDee Jonrowe is the foremost female dog musher competing in the world today. She has both the fastest time of any woman in the history of the Iditarod and thirteen top ten finishes in her career. Her second place finish in 1998 was the fifth fastest Iditarod time ever recorded at that point. In addition to the Iditarod, DeeDee has competed and won most major dog sledding races throughout her career, including the Copper Basin 300, Klondike 300 and the John Bear grease sled dog marathon.

DeeDee ran her first Iditarod in 1980 and soon undertook the building of her own sled, a comprehensive breeding and training program for her dogs, and a rigorous physical fitness program for herself. The result is that by the time DeeDee and her team undertake the Iditarod in March of each year, they have logged almost 2000 miles of training together.

DeeDee has won numerous awards for the care of her dogs through her career, including the best-cared for team, the best dog care award (given by staff veterinarians), and the dog's best friend award. As her dogs are her top priority, she became a founding member of Mush with PRIDE, which provides responsible information of a dog's environment, exhibiting her commitment to set the standards for all aspects of sled dog care.

Her highly publicized battle with breast cancer that she began in 2002 has seen her become a tireless fundraiser. In 2003 she became any honorary chairperson for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, assisting the organization is its fundraising efforts as well. DeeDee's humanitarian efforts have been well-documented, being given the YWCA's "Alaska Woman of Achievement of Award", the most inspirational musher award, and even as the spokesperson for the National Girl Scouts Council and Winter Special Olympics.

DeeDee has been profiled in such media outlets as Sports Illustrated, Redbook, and Outside magazines. She is a published author, and is currently pending another book profiling her comeback from cancer to race again.

If you'd like to learn more about Dee Dee Jonrowe or Sponser her in the 2009 Iditerod, click here .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

{cook: Gwyneth's Thanksgiving recipes}

Thanksgiving is by far, my favorite holiday. The concept of coming together with friends and family to eat foods that have, for many, been in their families for generations, and to simply give thanks, is a very special concept to me.

I love these recipes from Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP emails. Always fun, young and healthy. I'm definitely trying the Pumpkin Ice Cream with Maple Whipped Cream! Let me know what you try and how it works out.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stuffed Turkey Burgers

All the flavors of Thanksgiving in a burger – what could be better?

SERVES: 2 (makes two huge burgers) TIME: 20 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 pound ground turkey
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 cup Classic Bread Stuffing
2 hamburger buns
Cranberry Ketchup (see recipe below)
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add the onions and rosemary and cook for about ten minutes, or until quite soft and sweet. Let the onion mixture cool a bit and then put in a large mixing bowl with the turkey, salt and pepper. Mush the ingredients together with a wooden spoon or your hands. Form a quarter of the mixture into a thin patty. Mound half of the stuffing in the center of the patty. Take another quarter of the mixture and form it into a patty and place on top, sealing the edges so that all the stuffing is snug inside. Repeat with the remaining turkey and stuffing.

Preheat your grill or broiler. Cook the burgers for five minutes on the first side, flip and cook for four more minutes or until the burgers are browned and firm. Cut the buns in half and grill alongside the burgers. Spread the buns with Cranberry Ketchup, tuck in the burgers and go to town.

Cranberry Ketchup

The ideal condiment for Stuffed Turkey Burgers.

TIME: 1 minute
2 spoonfuls of Cranberry Chutney
2 same-sized spoonfuls ketchup Mix together.

Whole Roasted Turkey

This recipe is a smaller scale version of Martha Stewart’s accurately named Perfect Roast Turkey. It’s not afraid of butter.

SERVES: 12, with leftovers
TIME: 3 to 4 hours

1 14 pound turkey, giblets and neck removed and reserved for gravy (best to let the turkey sit out at room temperature for two hours before cooking)
coarse sea salt
1/2 cup melted butter + 4 tablespoons softened
1/2 bottle dry white wine
freshly ground black pepper
optional: Classic Bread Stuffing or an onion, several cloves garlic, a lemon

Put your oven rack as low as it can go. Preheat the oven to 450º F.

Rub the turkey with a large handful of coarse sea salt. Rinse with cold water and pat completely dry with paper towels. Let it hang for a minute.

Get yourself a big piece of cheesecloth. Fold it in half and then in half again. Cut it so you have a four-layer square that’s roughly 15 x 15. Combine the melted butter and wine in a large bowl and soak the cheesecloth in it.

Back to the turkey. Stuff the cavity with some of your Classic Bread Stuffing (see recipe below) if you’d like. If not, sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper. Feel free to throw in a quartered onion, a few cloves of garlic and/or a halved lemon. Tie the legs together with a piece of twine. Rub the four tablespoons of softened butter all over the turkey and sprinkle the outside with plenty of salt and pepper. Set the turkey on a roasting rack inside of a large roasting pan. Squeeze out your cheesecloth (it should still be damp, just not dripping) and drape it over the turkey, completely covering the breast and most of the legs. Be sure to save the leftover butter and wine.

Roast the turkey for half an hour. Take it out of the oven and baste it (over the cheesecloth) with some of the leftover butter and wine mixture. Turn the oven down to 350º F. Let the turkey roast for another hour and a half, basting every half hour with the butter and wine and the juices from the bottom of the pan.At this point your turkey will have been cooking for two hours. Remove the cheesecloth and cook for another hour to hour and a half, still basting every half hour until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 180º F.Remove the turkey to a board and let it rest for at least half an hour before carving. Be sure to save everything in the bottom of the pan for gravy.

Thanksgiving Gravy

This is a classic gravy that really benefits from using all parts of the turkey – everything from the neck to the sticky browned bits at the bottom of the roasting pan.

Don’t throw any of that stuff away, it’s like gold!

TIME: 15 minutes

giblets and neck from turkey (discard the liver)
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large stalk celery, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon each finely minced fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
2 tablespoons flourreserved juice from your turkey pan (make sure to scrape up all the browned bits)
1/4 cup apple cider or juice
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

While the turkey is roasting, put the giblets, neck, carrot, onion and celery in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam that accumulates, lower the heat and let it simmer away while the turkey cooks. You should have at least 3 cups in the end.

While the turkey is resting, it’s gravy time. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the herbs and flour and stir to combine. Cook for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the reserved juice and browned bits from the turkey pan. The mixture should be fairly smooth – the goal is to avoid lumps of flour. Turn the heat up to medium-high, strain in your giblet broth and the cider and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened and the raw flour taste has cooked off (about ten minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberries are full of antioxidants and their recognizably tart flavor is a must at any Thanksgiving table. Luckily, making chutney couldn’t be easier and you can make it up to a week in advance.

SERVES: 12 (makes about 2 cups)
TIME: 15 minutes

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup water
4 cups fresh cranberries
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
grated zest of 1 small orange or tangerine

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for about ten minutes or until thick. Let the chutney cool before serving.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup, Orange and Spices

These sweet potatoes get sticky and sweet, full of great holiday flavor.

TIME: a little less than an hour, largely unattended
3 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled1 1/4 cup real Vermont maple syrup1/4 cup vegetable oil1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground cloves1 large orange3 star anises
Preheat the oven to 375º F.Cut each sweet potato in half horizontally and then cut each half into 1/3 planks (about four slices per half depending on the size of the sweet potato). Lay the sweet potatoes in a single layer in one large or two medium baking dishes (two 13 x 9 dishes will do the job).

Mix the maple syrup, vegetable oil, cinnamon and cloves together in a small bowl. Peel off four large strips of zest from the orange. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl with the maple syrup mixture. Pour this mixture evenly over the sweet potatoes, nestle in the strips of zest and the star anise. Bake for 45 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft and saturated.

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

A cool alternative (literally) to traditional pumpkin pie. If you can find pumpkin ice cream, by all means use that. If not, here’s a quick and easy way to make some using vanilla ice cream, good canned pumpkin and lots of wonderful spices. When you first make the mixture the spices might seem strong, but remember that their flavors get a bit muted when they’re ice cold. If you're doing Thanksgiving for a large crowd, make two of these. One is good for a small crowd and the ice cream alone is a simple, fun desert for a party of two.

SERVES: 6, very generously
TIME: 20 minutes + at least 3 hours in the freezer

1 cup of graham cracker crumbs (about 1 sleeve, ground in the food processor)
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened

1 can pureed pumpkin (or 1-3/4 cups fresh)
1/4 teaspoon each ground allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
Maple Whipped Cream (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a pie pan (why bother washing a mixing bowl?). Mix together with your fingers and then press evenly to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. It helps to press the mixture with the bottom of a small measuring cup. Bake for ten minutes or until light brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, beat together the ice cream, pumpkin and spices. Spread evenly into the cooled pie shell and stick in the freezer for at least three hours before serving. When ready to serve, spread the top with Maple Whipped Cream.

Maple Whipped Cream

Maple syrup is one of the great North American ingredients and is one of the healthiest ways to sweeten things. I put it in nearly everything, including this heavenly whipped cream.

SERVES: enough for one pie
TIME: 5 minutes

1 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons real Vermont maple syrup

Whip the cream using a standing mixer, handheld mixer or whisk (a bit of a workout!) until stiff peaks form. Whisk in maple syrup to taste.

Roasted Turkey Breast with Molasses

Brining the turkey breast guarantees moist, tender meat and roasting it with plenty of stuffing, herbs and a healthy dose of molasses assures great flavor. Preparing a turkey breast isn’t just faster than preparing a whole turkey, it’s also much easier to cook and carve.

SERVES: 6, with leftoversTIME: 2 hours + brining
1 large boned-out turkey breast, skin on
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons coarse salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups Classic Bread Stuffing (before it’s baked)1 teaspoon each finely minced fresh thyme, rosemary and sage, mixed together
2 tablespoons butter, softened
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup molasses

Rub the turkey with about two tablespoons of coarse salt and rinse under cold water. Combine 1/2 cup of salt, brown sugar and a cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the salt and sugar are totally dissolved. Pour this mixture into a container large enough to hold the turkey breast, but something it won’t totally swim in (a spaghetti pot works well). Add about two quarts of cold water to the salt and sugar mixture and put the turkey inside the container. Add more water if necessary, enough to just cover the turkey. Cover and put in the refrigerator for at least four hours, up to overnight.

When you’re ready to cook the turkey, preheat the oven to 425º F.

Drain the turkey, rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut a slit across one side of the turkey as if turning it into two long pieces, but don’t cut all the way through. Open the turkey breast like a book and evenly distribute the stuffing. Fold it back together. Flip it and gently loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers and spread the herbs over the meat, under the skin. Tie the whole breast back together snugly with four or five pieces of kitchen twine. Spread the top with butter and sprinkle with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper.

Put the turkey in a big roasting pan, roast for 30 minutes then turn the oven down to 350º F. Roast for an hour. Remove the turkey from the oven and brush it with half the molasses. Bake for another ten minutes, remove it and brush it with the remaining molasses. Return it to the oven and bake for another five to 15 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 180º F. Move the turkey to a board or platter and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Pour about half a cup of hot water into the roasting pan and scrape up all the browned bits – make sure to save all this juice for your gravy!

Classic Bread Stuffing

Generous on the onions and fennel seeds, this stuffing is hearty and satisfying but not soggy or heavy as stuffing can sometimes be. Made with good vegetable stock, it’s vegetarian-friendly.

SERVES: 12, with leftovers
TIME: 2 hours, a lot of which is completely unattended

15 cups of 1/2˝ bread cubes (I usually have challah, wholegrain and ciabatta in my bread bin)
1/4 cup butter + 1 tablespoon cut into small pieces
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 very large onion, very finely diced (roughly 2 1/2 cups)
2 stalks celery, very finely diced (roughly 1/2 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
2 generous tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley
2 1/2 cups high-quality vegetable stock, divided

Preheat the oven to 300º F. Spread the bread cubes out on two cookie sheets and bake for about ten minutes or until a bit dried out, not browned.

Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup of butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onion, celery, fennel and celery seeds, rosemary, salt and pepper and sweat the mixture for 20 minutes, keeping the heat low enough so that the vegetables don’t color – you just want them to get soft and sweet. Turn off the heat, add the parsley and let the mixture cool for about ten minutes in the pan. Add the bread cubes and 2 cups of stock; stir to evenly distribute. Let the mixture sit for about an hour to let the flavors really get into everything (now’s a good time to work on your other Thanksgiving dishes!).

Reserve two cups of the stuffing for the turkey if desired.

Set the oven to 350º F. Put the stuffing into an ovenproof baking dish (you could even leave it in your sauté pan if it doesn’t have plastic handles – one less thing to wash!). Pour over the remaining stock and dot with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.

Greens with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

Endive, arugula and radicchio are easy to get all winter long and make a great combination. The dressing, one of my favorites, has maple syrup which balances the bitterness of the leaves. The dried cranberries, goat cheese and walnuts make it perfect for any festive occasion or any day for a tasty light lunch.

TIME: 10 minutes

3 small cloves garlic, pushed through a press
2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons real Vermont maple syrup
1/3 red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 large heads of endive, washed, chopped
1 1/3 large head radicchio, washed, chopped
4 large handfuls arugula, washed
1 1/3 cup goat cheese
3/4 cup walnuts, broken into pieces
3/4 cup dried cranberries

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, Dijon, maple syrup and vinegar. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Combine the greens in a large salad bowl. Dress with about two thirds of the dressing. Divide the greens on eight plates and scatter over the goat cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries over the greens. Drizzle each salad with a bit of the leftover dressing.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

These get deliciously sweet and crispy as they cook. I have converted many a sprout cynic with this great winter side dish.

TIME: 20 minutes

2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/3 cup olive oil
a few generous pinches of coarse sea salta healthy drizzle of your best, best extra virgin olive oil (I covet the bottles I get from Armando Manni in Tuscany)
1 lemon, halved

Steam the sprouts for 7 minutes or until just tender. Let them cool a bit and then cut each in half, lengthwise.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place the Brussels sprouts in a single layer, cut-side down (in batches if necessary). Leave them for 4-5 minutes, allowing them to brown thoroughly and evenly – don’t give into the temptation to stir and toss them! Keep an eye on them though – the key is to have the flame high enough to brown them but low enough not to burn them. When they’ve browned, flip each one and let the other side get color, an additional three minutes or so. Remove to a serving platter, sprinkle with the salt, drizzle with your fine extra virgin olive oil and squeeze the lemon over, trying to get a bit of juice on each one. Delish.

Friday, November 21, 2008

{news: The Beach Reporter article 11.20.08}

North Manhattan Beach works on improvement plans
by Julie Sharp

With faded painted crosswalks and sidewalk trees that look more like nature’s leftovers, the North Manhattan Beach business district has been longing for improvements and more city attention, and shop owners hope to get both with their new plan.

A newly installed seven-member Business Improvement District advisory board voted Nov. 12 to set monthly meetings and approved task-assigned subcommittees that will plan and budget projects from an approximate $400,000 savings account. This money is from a parking improvement fund which dissolved in 2004 after it was determined that acquiring more parking for the area was a futile goal, since there is no space. The district, which stretches along Highland Avenue from 33rd Street to 43rd Street in addition to a portion of Rosecrans Avenue, also has an annual fund of about $18,000 to $19,000 derived from business fees to spend at its discretion.

“We are learning how to present our ideas to the city. We can’t just have an idea, it has to be an organized plan,” said BID Chairman Melissa Enriquez Roy.

Members of the advisory board represent a wide range of businesses in the area from Upper Manhattan Lounge and Baja Sharkeez to Sur La Mer and Volk’s, and also includes one member who is a resident. It was determined by existing BID board members that a resident board member would be a key addition since the City Council values resident input. Enriquez Roy, who has now been chairman for about one year, pointed out that researched, thorough plans rather than just good ideas will also get things moving with the city.

“In order to get things done and approved by the city, we need polished proposals with information so they can make decisions,” said Enriquez Roy.

Things have already started to happen for North Manhattan Beach and in an effort to hasten the area’s slow image evolution, the BID decided to change the area’s name in December 2007 from El Porto or North End to North Manhattan Beach.

Part of the dissolved parking fund savings account, about $20,000 of it, has already been spent on 20 North Manhattan Beach banners which were placed along Highland Avenue traffic poles from 33rd Street to 43rd Street and a portion of Rosecrans Avenue.

Just recently, on Nov. 18, the City Council approved the purchase of 36 trashcans and recycling cans for practical reasons and the area’s beautification — much like the ones along The Strand and in downtown Manhattan Beach.Other desired areas of improvement, as laid out in the BID work plan, include crosswalks, landscaping and the possibility of valet parking along with additional signs and branding of the North Manhattan Beach logo.

“Crosswalks are our No. 1 priority here, for safety,” said Enriquez Roy. She said they are currently working with the city and coming up with crosswalk design proposals. City staff informed the BID that the stamped tile crosswalks in downtown Manhattan Beach are not an option because they have turned out to be impractical and difficult to maintain.

Figuring out how to spend the money is not the hard part, the decision lies with the maintenance costs. “There are a lot of things we can do with the money we already have, but it has to work financially to maintain it. We have to be able to afford the upkeep,” said Enriquez Roy.

One of the first maintenance decisions for the BID is the approximate $8,000 annual cost for regular sidewalk power washing. The city agreed to pay for and arrange a Highland Avenue trial-run washing and the board will determine the cost benefit of such a service.Other tasks in the BID work plan include a tree replacement plan; discussion included using unified queen palm trees, like the ones recently planted in front of the new Upper Manhattan Lounge.

A valet parking service will also be explored by a BID subcommittee, along with the possibility of getting the tourist transporter, Ocean Express, to once again make a stop in North Manhattan Beach.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

{drink: a holiday cocktail}

I saw this recipe in a magazine, ripped it out, and promptly brought it to a bartender. Voila, The Candy Cane.

Skyy Vanilla
Candy-Cane Whipped Cream
Crushed Candy Canes

{hotel: Montage Resort, Laguna Beach}

If you haven't been to The Montage yet, add it to your list, right up at the top. We love going to this little slice of heaven, not only because it's only an hour drive, but because they have mastered the art of the hotel experience.

The spa, heavenly (and number one in the country). The restaurants, divine. The service, impeccable. Oh, and for those of you who can guage the quality of a hotel by their gift shop, they have Calypso, Milly dresses, Mystique sandals, Elizabeth & James tops, cashmere sweaters and wraps, fabulous men's clothes, crocodile bags, jewelry to die for... I was in heaven, and then hell when my hubby saw the bill.... Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me....

We stayed in an Ocean Front 1 bedroom Bungalow (rm 7140) and it was perfect. Ground floor with a yard overlooking the gorgeous blue ocean. Maxie was in heaven. We're still dreaming of Laguna...

Master Shower

Master Bath Tub


Guest Bathroom

Living Room

View from our back patio

Living Room w/fireplace

Master with another patio to the ocean

This was the day after all the fires started burning. That is not a cloud, it's smoke.

The walking path on the ocean, incredible.

My honey's.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

{travel: and we're off...}

... to the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. My husband will be treating me to a birthday weekend of spa, tennis, poolside cocktailing, and undisturbed reading time. Thanks honey!

No posts until I'm back on Monday.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

{hotel: SoHo House, New York}

My husband travels to New York all the time for work, and since I no longer have my apartment there, we stay in hotels. I love checking out all the new and cool hotels, but one we stay in the most is the Soho House. We love this room, called The Playpen, which is one of their most spacious rooms. Did you watch the Sex and the City episode where the girls are on the rooftop pool and trying to not get kicked out for not being members... this is that hotel.

Rooms are great, service & attitude could use a makeover.

Friday, November 7, 2008

{home: Ox Pasture Estate, Southampton, NY}

A smile inevitably creeps up on me when I let my mind drift off to the Hamptons. There is no purer or committed real estate love for me. Everyone knows that Gin Lane is the real deal in luxury addresses. Here's a classic that is currently on the market for $67.5 million.

Apparently lightning can strike twice, or at least as far as the price point on Hamptons real estate. For anyone who missed the opportunity to buy the $65 million spread on Gin Lane this spring, a pedigreed Ox Pasture estate “Linden” hits the market at $67.5 million.

Tim Davis of Corcoran who has the exclusive listing along with Felicitas Kohl who describes the property as “like having your own resort.” The 25,000 square-foot 12 bedroom, 14 full and 4 half bath house sits on 9 acres in Southampton Village where recessions need not apply. Forget pesky things like traffic; you can fly into the village helipad. Even Marders can’t accomplish landscaping like this with centuries old trees and mature rose gardens. Your five star resort comes with an outdoor and indoor pool, grass tennis court, paddle court, fitness room, carriage house, and wine cellar (wine not included). And just as everything old can be new again, the house originally constructed in 1902 has undergone a major 3-year renovation to update it to its youthful self with modern amenities.

It has often been rumored that listing agents have a great deal of power over who ultimately gets these prized homes. A few high-end agents who felt their “price is no object” clients didn’t get a fair shake at the Gin Lane property may be redeemed with the chance to win this trophy home. Ironically, although the architect, Grosvenor Atterbury, was known for designing lavish weekend homes for wealthy industrialists when he was at McKim, Mead & White, he is most famous for developing a construction method using standard pre-cast panels, the start of the pre-fab movement.

With the value of the US dollar plummeting and Wall Street more moody than a woman with PMS, the question for this estate might be, “How much is that in Euros?”

copy plum tv

Thursday, November 6, 2008

{politics:one huge step backward}

The passing of Prop 8 is discrimination and ignorance at its ugliest. I'm absolutely disgusted that in our society, there could possibly be people who just don't get it. Obviously, there are just enough of those closed minded, closet discriminators to lead us down the path of the self righteous. It's a sad, sad day for me. Some interesting info about what happened below in this Time article.

Nov. 4 may have been a joyous day for liberals, but it wasn't a great day for lesbians and gays. Three big states - Arizona, California and Florida - voted to change their constitutions to define marriage as a heterosexuals-only institution. The losses cut deep on the gay side. Arizona had rejected just such a constitutional amendment only two years ago. It had been the first and only state to have rebuffed a constitutional ban on marriage equality. In Florida, where the law requires constitutional amendments to win by 60%, a marriage amendment passed with disturbing ease, 62.1% to 37.9%.

And then there was California. Gay strategists working for marriage equality in this election cycle had focused most of their attention on that state. Losing there dims hopes that shimmered brightly just a few weeks ago - hopes that in an Obama America, straight people would be willing to let gay people have the basic right to equality in their personal relationships. It appears not.
The California vote was close but not razor-thin: as of 10 a.m. P.T., with 96.4% of precincts reporting, gays had lost 52.2% to 47.8%. Obama did not suffer the much-discussed "Bradley effect" this year, but it appears that gay people were afflicted by some version of it. As of late October, a Field Poll found that the pro-gay side was winning 49% to 44%, with 7% undecided. But gays could not quite make it to 49% on Election Day, meaning a few people may have been unwilling to tell pollsters that they intended to vote against equal marriage rights.

Gays are used to losing these constitutional amendment battles - as I said, Arizona was the only exception - but gay activists cannot claim they didn't have the money to wage the California fight. According to an analysis of the most recent reports from the California secretary of state, the pro-equality side raised an astonishing $43.6 million, compared with just $29.8 million for those who succeeded in keeping gays from marrying. The money the gay side raised is surprising for two reasons: first, the cash-Hoover known as the Obama campaign was sucking down millions of dollars a day from the nation's liberals. Many gays expected it to be difficult to raise money to fight Proposition 8 and its plan to outlaw same-sex marriage from Democrats eager to give to Obama and to the outside 527 groups supporting him. As recently as August, one of the nation's top gay political givers told me that he expected the gay side to raise no more than $25 million.

But a series of high-profile Hollywood donations, as well as a frantic, nationwide push for gays to get out their checkbooks, turned out to be quite successful in the short term. East Coast gays had been lulled into inaction by the Oct. 10 Connecticut Supreme Court decision granting gay couples the right to marry - a decision that hadn't required gays to write a single check. But gay people in Los Angeles and San Francisco cajoled and shamed their Eastern friends into opening their wallets. Thousands of California gay couples got married in the past few weeks, and I didn't see a single invitation to a gay ceremony that didn't include a plea to donate to the pro-equality campaign in lieu of buying wedding gifts.

Still, even though gays were fighting to preserve a basic right, it was the anti-equality side in California that seemed to have the most fervor. A symbolic low point for the gay side came on Oct. 13, when the Sacramento Bee ran a remarkable story about Rick and Pam Patterson, a Mormon couple of modest means - he drives a 10-year-old Honda Civic, she raises their five boys - who had withdrawn $50,000 from their savings account and given it to the pro-8 campaign. "It was a decision we made very prayerfully," Pam Patterson, 48, told the Bee's Jennifer Garza. "Was it an easy decision? No. But it was a clear decision, one that had so much potential to benefit our children and their children."

You could argue that marriage equality has little to do with children, but Patterson seemed to speak to Californians' inchoate phobias about gays and kids. On the Friday before the Bee story appeared, a group of San Francisco first-graders was taken to city hall to see their lesbian teacher marry her partner. Apparently the field trip was a parent's idea - not the teacher's - but the optics of the event were terrible for the gay side. It seemed like so much indoctrination.
That news came around the same time the pro-amendment forces were running a devastating ad showing a self-satisfied San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom shouting wild-eyed at a rally that same-sex marriage was inevitable "whether you like it or not." The announcer then said darkly, "It's no longer about tolerance. Acceptance of gay marriage is now mandatory." Many fence sitters were turned off by Newsom's arrogance; blogger Andrew Sullivan attributed mid-October polls against the gay side to the "Newsom effect."

Gays came back in some polls, but they couldn't pull out a win. Part of the reason is that Obama inspired unprecedented numbers of African Americans to vote. Polls show that black voters are more likely to attend church than whites and less likely to be comfortable with equality for gay people. According to CNN, African Americans voted against marriage equality by a wide margin, 69% to 31%. High turnout of African Americans in Florida probably help explain that state's lopsided vote to ban same-sex weddings.

Gays did win some victories yesterday. A new openly gay member of Congress, Jared Polis of Colorado, will go to the House in January. And thanks in part to the Cabinet, the group of [a {e}]lite gay political donors I wrote about recently, Democrats took the New York senate. The entire New York legislature is now in Democratic hands, and New York's governor, David Paterson, is one of the nation's most eloquent pro-marriage-equality representatives. He is also, by the way, African American. Perhaps he can help bridge the gap between gays and blacks that widened on Nov. 4.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

{travel: Villa Cypress, Lake Como, Italy}

You will need to sit down for this one and savor every morsel of the luxuriousness of it all. I have the most wonderful travel agent who sent me these pics today. I had to share. Email me if you want her information. She'd be happy to book this trip for you! It's approximately $100,000 euros per week.

Nearest town: Lenno
Persons: 15
N° of bedrooms: 8 (7 doubles, 1 single)
N° of bathrooms: 8

Nestled on the waters edge of Como’s western shore is this unique estate which is only accessible by boat so affording complete privacy. The estate comprises 3 hectars of superb gardens with manicured lawns, towering sculpted cypress trees and an array of plants and shrubs. There are walkways throughout the grounds and many comfortable seating areas scattered throughout, ideal for a quiet read of for simply enjoying the superb lake views. This fully staffed private estate offers the very heights of luxury and privacy in an outstanding location.

The estate comprises three houses plus staff quarters. There is an all weather floodlit tennis court with viewing platform and a superb L shaped 3.5 x 12 x 8 meters heated infinity pool with waterfall. Beside the pool are two separate sunbathing areas.

For dining outside there are many options, dinner can be taken beside the lake or perhaps breakfast on the beautiful shady terrace to the rear of the main house overlooking the gardens and cloistered seating area. The entire property has undergone extensive renovation and has been decorated and furnished to the highest standard.

The main villa is exquisite, with marble and parquet flooring, a sweeping staircase and a clever blend of modern and period pieces creating an elegant, comfortable and welcoming home. From the spacious entrance hall you enter the drawing room with comfortable sofas and feature fireplace. From here you can access the front and rear terraces and admire the superb lake views. There is an elegant formal dining room which can seat up to twenty guests. Leading off the dining room is the butlers pantry, the domain of Stephen you personal butler and from here stairs lead down to the semi professional kitchen where chef will create mouth watering meals during your stay and is happy to provide cooking lessons or perhaps a pizza evening for children.

On the first floor there are four bedrooms, the master with private office/study and en-suite bathroom and three further double bedrooms with en-suite bathroom. The bed linen is of the finest quality and most are 2 metre beds. The linen and towels are changed daily and bathroom toiletries are from Chopard. Every detail has been thought of and everything shows impeccable taste. On the top floor there is a media room with film and CD library, this is run from a computer system and linked to the plasma screen televisions and DVD players that you will find in all rooms and there are also I-Pod docks throughout the property and music in all areas. Also on the first floor you will find a family suite with double bedroom and single bedroom, private sitting room and shower room and there is an additional shower room also on this floor.

Villa two, located beside the pool area, contains the fully equipped gym, a service kitchen for the pool, showers and cloakrooms and the home cinema.

At the far end of the estate is a two bedroom guest cottage, again beautifully decorated, where there are two double bedrooms with en-suite bathroom, a sitting room and kitchen/ breakfast room. The partially covered private terrace has an outside dining area and comfortable seating and again you have the wonderful lake views.