Mother-Daughter Making Cheese Together

IMG_1411My friend, Toni LeBel, recently invited me to come over to her house to make cheese with her. She received her Ricki’s Cheesemaking kit and was excited to show me how we could make cheese in 30 – minutes. All I needed to bring was a gallon of organic whole milk.

On the New England Cheesemaking website, we watched Ricki’s step by step video as she made mozzarella cheese. We would pause the video and follow her lead. It was great fun watching the curds separate from the whey and the cheese turn from liquid to a solid. We giggled as we microwaved our curds and stretched them like taffy. In 30 minutes we were eating freshly made warm cheese. What a comfort food!

Since Ricki brought us such fun and joy, I wanted to research Ricki and her company.

Ricki “The Cheese Queen” is married to Robert Carrol. They live in Ashfield, Mass and started the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company in 1978. Robert studied at University of Mass and Ricki taught elementary school. A neighbor introduced them to dairy goats and soon they learned how to make cheese. They taught friends how to make cheese inside their home. In 1980, took over the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.

Together they wrote the book, Cheesemaking Made Easy in 1981 and appeared on The Today Show in 1982. Ricki revised the book and now they sell their kits online at

I was so excited after the success at Toni’s house that I wanted to see if I could duplicate the joy and satisfaction in my own home with my daughters: Liz and Kate. We watched Ricki in her video and followed each step correctly. Instead of using whole milk, I bought a gallon of low-fat.

We stirred, we heated, we scored the cheese, drained the whey, microwaved the curds, and stretched them into long strands. I braided mine and my daughters formed a large cheese ball. Happily we cut a heirloom tomato and ate our warm cheese with big smiles.

The kit comes with everything you will need to make enough cheese for quite some time. Go to their Facebook page for a monthly discount or special offer code.


Scarpetta – Simply Elegant

IMG_1215Being a Restaurant Reviewer in Los Angeles has its perks. Last night I attended a 10th anniversary dinner party at Scarpetta in Beverly Hills. I was excited to enjoy a one-of-a-kind celebratory dinner at the Montage Hotel Beverly Hills and to meet celebrity chef Scott Conant.

Working side-by-side with Conant was Chef Alessandro Stratta of Scarpetta Beverly Hills; Craig Strong of Studio at Montage Laguna Beach; and Shawn Armstrong on Montage Deer Valley. These esteemed chefs creatively scurried around one of the most beautiful restaurant kitchens in the world.

When Scott Conant walked into the kitchen of Scarpetta, we instantly felt his energy. He is a brawny and charaismatic chef. Conant is like a professional quarterback walking onto a field to lead a team to victory. He reminds me of the Captain of a ship on a transatlantic sailing when he is in the kitchen.

All of the chefs in the kitchen are accomplished, however Conant has an air about him. His Scarpetta restaurants can be found in New York, inside the Beverly Hills Montage, inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, at the Thompson Toronto and in the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach.

Conant is an extremely busy chef and television personality, as guest judge in Top Chef, Chopped, guest on Martha Stuart Living, and as host and Head Judge of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle.

We toasted to the evening with a glass of Prosecco and nibbled on bite size creamy polenta cups with wild mushrooms and simple raw yellowtail with a pinch of sea salt and pickled red onion. Then we all sat inside the private Chef’s Table dining room to enjoy four signature dishes from each famed Montage chef.

Our first course was served to us as chef, Alessandro Stratta explained how he created his Maine lobster risotto with saffron. The Meyer lemon, poppy seeds, red peppercorns and saffron enhanced the flavors of the large hunks of lobster. It was absolutely extraordinary risotto. Cooked perfectly into a creaminess, yet I could taste each single grain. This perfect dish was paired with an Italian Berg Gravner, Friulli, 2010.

Leaving the table, I walked into the kitchen to watch Chef Shawn Armstrong from Apex at the Montage Deer Valley resort in Utah. He was preparing our second course, as he sautéedIMG_1203 brussel sprouts with sun choke chips, green garlic, fava beans to be the bed for his striped bass with coal-black gnocchi.

The delightful gnocchi did not get its color from squid ink, but from a charcoal cooking process. It was intertwined with the crisp vegetables.

The restaurant’s Wine Captain paired this dish with a taste of red Suber Daino to enhance the dish with a Sicilian personality.

Sitting back at the Chefs dining table, Scott Conant did not enter with his critically praised signature dish, his spaghetti with tomato and basil. It’s the true elegance of simplicity. Instead, our entrée was a sirloin of Kobe paired with Conant’s signature braised short ribs of beef. The delicate meat looked like a piece of dark fudge next to the Kobe sirloin with flash fried spring vegetables and wild mushrooms. The surprise of this dish was a beef bone sliced in half and filled with luscious marrow, parmesan and leeks. It was baked into a gratin and sublime.

IMG_1214Last, was a bowl with a Guanaja chocolate sphere with sea salt caramel ice cream. It’s a dark chocolate that comes from Guanaja Island off of Honduras. It sat in the middle of Guinness foam. The server poured hot milk chocolate on top of the sphere and within seconds it started to melt like an Italian Affogato.

The main goal in 2013 for the Montage Resorts is to make memories for guests during their stay. I will always fondly remember this evening.

Upcoming Dinner: You too can experience a dinner at Scarpetta inside the Montage Beverly Hills with the upcoming Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards on Sat. March 23 at 7 p.m.

The celebrated culinary arts meal will include Chef Alessandro Stratta’s delectable five-course tasting menu to pair with different wines.

The menu includes roasted Sea Scallops with oven dried tomatoes & Heirloom beans with basil, pink grapefruit & lobster roe. It’s paired with a 2011 Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra Blanca.

Next, an egg ravioli with ricotta, chard & aged Parmigiano with brown butter & sage. It will be served with a glass of 2010 Caduceus Cortigiane Oneste.

The third course is a crispy Daurade with caramelized endives & Guanciale in a red wine sauce with a glass of 2010 Caduceus Nagual de la Paciencia.

Enjoy braised veal cheeks with candied shallots, served with potato gnocchi and robiola cheese. It’s paired with a glass of 2011 Nagual de la Naga.

Finish with a selection of regional Italian cheese with  grilled bread & dried fig condiment and a sweeter 2010 Cadudeus Anubis.

The cost is $200 per person.

 225 N Canon Dr  Los Angeles, CA 90210
(310) 860-7970

Beverly Hills on Dwellable

Best Tide Pools in Southern California

provence 012“Mom, look at that huge starfish,” my daughter screamed in excitement as we explored tide pools in Laguna Beach. It’s a favorite family outing we enjoy during the summer. When the tide is low, we venture out to the beach and comb the tide pools to see sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, barnacles, and anenomes.  The best ones are found along rocky coasts in holes or crevices that remain filled with water once the tide goes out.  The following locations offer some great tide pool exploration::

Laguna Beach

This charming beach community is filled with great coves to explore fascinating marine creatures along the shoreline.  Families enjoy Treasure Island Beach in South Laguna to see hermit crabs, sea anemones, starfish and other marine wonders.

While exploring the North Laguna pools, at Crescent Bay you can hear and see the seals barking from a nearby rock. Another popular spot in North Laguna is Picnic Beach, below the picturesque Heisler Park. Parking is limited in these areas, so try to get there early or later in the afternoon.  The Laguna Free Trolley stops at these locations. For additional information on Laguna tide pools, go to

Corona del Mar

Just south of Newport Beach, hundreds of school kids explore the tide pools at Little Corona Del Mar Beach near Ocean Blvd. and Poppy Ave.Redondo Beach 004

Palos Verdes

Abalone Cove Shoreline Park offers docent-led hikes to visit the tide pools; call 310-377-0360 ext. 309 to schedule a hike. This park has two beaches, tide pools, a State Ecological Reserve and about 5 miles of trails crossing rocky bluffs with spectacular views of the ocean and Catalina Island.

Barbecues, fires, and dogs are prohibited at this site.  A parking lot is off Palos Verdes Drive South. Access to Abalone Cove Beach is by a long trail from the parking lot. Lifeguards are on duty at Abalone Cove Beach during summer hours and weekends only.

White Point/ Royal Palms State Beach is located on the southern tip of Palos Verdes Pennisula. The tide pools extend one mile of White Point to Point Fermin Park. Free parking is along Paseo Del Mar or paid parking is available adjacent to the tide pools.  To find out more, go to

San Diego 09 014San Pedro

If you can’t coordinate your visit with low tide, you can always visit Cabrillo Marine Aquarium to view exhibits and a tide pool “touch-tank”. Naturalist-led tide pool walks along the south side of Point Fermin are usually around noon on the weekends. The historic Frank Gehry-designed aquarium displays the largest collection of Southern California marine life in the world. For more call the aquarium at 310-548-7562. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen White Drive, San Pedro. Or log on:

When exploring the beach and tide pools do not touch, take, or disturb any marine life on the beach. Animals on the beach are wild and may bite. If you see an injured animal on the beach, ask a lifeguard to call animal rescue.


Laguna Beach on Dwellable

Hop Into The Children’s Place for Easter

securedownload-5Hop into The Children’s Place for Easter clothing and accessories. The big 2013 spring trend for kids is color this season. You’ll find bright colors throughout the store.

From Sunday gatherings to egg hunts, they’ll be perfectly put-together for the season in fashionable looks from The Children’s Place.

PRICE: Accessories starting at $4.95

WHERE TO FIND IT: The Children’s Place stores nationwide;

Tiny Tillia by Avon

Great accessories for an Easter egg hunt or a charming onesie or cotton dress, Tiny Tillia has adorable Easter offerings to make their holiday much sweeter.

PRICE: Starting at $9.99

securedownload-6WHERE TO FIND IT: Avon representatives;

For babies, this onesie is adorable for Easter. The ruffle around the waist gives this hatching chick theme a whimsical look.

Little girl who loves to accessorize with a scarf or hat, The Children’s Place has many colors to choose from that compliment an IMG_1163outfit.

I’m a huge fan of flowers, sparkle and shine on children’s clothing. It makes my daughter look forward to getting dressed for school in the morning.

At The Children’s Place, so you’ll see lots of flower dresses, glitter on skirts, and even securedownload-7everyday graphic tees.

In the newborn collection you’ll find a blossoming floral trend, including our adorable new daisy icon. This darling daisy can be seen through the collection in micro-fleece jackets, t-shirts, jeggings, and even blooming on baby shoes!


This kitten shirt caught my eye with its polk-a-dot red bow and silver tiara. Adorable. It would look so smart with a pair of stretch jegging. These comfy bottoms are super versatile as layering pieces to keep them cozy like tights or just worn on their own. Jeggings are the IMG_1156foundation of our collection, and will be the foundation of your child’s wardrobe. At The Children’s Place, jeggings are  in a fun variety of bold colors and floral prints.

Another item I love is their three-tiered skirts with bike shorts sewn in. My Katie refuses to wear skirts without shorts, because of boys out on the recess yard. Now she can proudly and comfortably wear her adorable skirt and not have to worry that someone will flip it up.

securedownload-1The Children’s Place is a great shop for boys. Pick up an Oxford shirt and vest for a snappy Easter look. Pork pie hats and fedoras snazzy up a look. The store has an excellent display. They are hip and so fun to wear.

Boys love to run and play, so this spring the focus is on some great athletic trends for boys. Check out our cozy micro-fleece, the bold-stripe rugbyDSC_0896 that looks stylish on and off the field, plus comfortable check shirts and graphic tees.

Be sure to join myPLACE rewards. The more you spend, the more you earn with their reward program.

The clothing is soft and lasts long after your baby has grown to a larger size. The Children’s Place is an ideal store to buy designer clothes at value price.

To find you nearest The Children’s Place Store, click on

To get Children’s Place Coupons


Casino_7020Zip on over to Catalina Island on the Catalina Express from Long Beach. If you are luck, the Captain will slow the ship down as he announces a school of porpoises zipping in front of the boat. Looking out the windows, one can view a multitude of these beautiful mammals leaping into the air and playing near the wake of the  ship.

Once on the island, walk or catch  a ride to the Descanso Beach Activity Center to experience a thrilling Zip line adventure.  It’s the only zip line court in Los Angeles and Orange County that features five separate zips with a 440-feet drop.

After a twenty-minute lesson on how to “zip,”  guests receive a helmet and harness before boarding a van for a short ride up 500 feet above sea level to Hog’s Back. It’s at the entrance of the Island’s Interior gate. This is the first of six wooden platforms on the course.

I volunteered to be the first “zipper” in my group. Looking out at 4,000 feet of steel cables, my hands started to sweat. With the    encouragement from my fellow “zippers,” I took a running jump off the platform and soared in the air. I was told I might reach speeds as high as 45 miles an hour zipping if I put my legs in a horizontal position. I soared from one platform to the next with my eyes open, taking in the ocean views. As I continued to relax a bit, it was quite fun. I now know what birds see while soaring above the Island’s canyons and mountain range.

The longest zip is 1,045 lineal feet. Eventually I zipped down to where we started. The entire adventure takes about 2 hours.

The course was designed by Canopy Tours of New Hampshire. Discovery Tours and the Santa Catalina Island Company operate the tours daily. For reservations, visit

For additional information about Catalina Island go to

I am so excited that Bucket List Publications published my article about Catalina’s Zip Line Adventure. Click here to read it on the Bucket List Publications site

Catalina Island on Dwellable