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Craving Mexican? Mapping Little Mexico in Santa Barbara

January 18, 2011 - Julia Austin

Los Arroyos Burrito If you live in California - anywhere from San Francisco to Long Beach - you're probably something of a Mexican food elitist.  Which particular city has the most authentic fare is a pretty heated debate here - and most locals know it's kind of like religion - you don't bring it up at a dinner party. 
on left: The Los Arroyos Burrito

However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Santa Barbara is "it" when it comes to the real deal.  About a two-hour drive from LA, the seaside town is a city that embraces the coral-tinted, stucco architecture of actual towns in Mexico. It only makes sense that a lot of the local fare is inspired by the same culture.

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When Money is No Object: The Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills

December 07, 2010 - Linda Grasso

Pres_ste_west_dining_v1                                                        The dining area in the Presidential Suite

The Presidential suite at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills recently got a makeover by Santa Barbara-based designer Sue Firestone.   Priced at nearly 6000 bucks a night, as you might imagine, it is stunning from every vantage point.  

Swarvoski branch chandelier                                Swarovski Crystal Chandelier over a "silver leaf" dining room table

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From Santa Monica to Paris: U.S. Ambassador to France Charlie Rivkin and Wife, Susan, Embark on a New Life Abroad

November 30, 2010 - Linda Grasso

  Rivkins in ParisClockwise: Charlie with heads of Saks Fifth Avenue (right) and New York Times (left) at a party at the US Embassy, Charlie with Chanel CEO Maureen Chiquet at the Grand Palais, Susan being interviewed from her front row seat at the Chanel show in October, the couple at the L'Arc de Triomphe horse races, a horse after crossing the finish line.  All photos by Linda Grasso, except where noted.

When the phone rang one evening in early October at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Santa Monica’s Charlie Rivkin grabbed the phone. For Rivkin, an after hours business call was nothing new. As the former head of various entertainment companies back in Los Angeles, working around the clock came with the territory. However, half a world and several degrees of sensibility away, Rivkin was now dealing with a very different set of issues. Concerned by some recent Al Qaeda activity, the State Department was issuing a traveler’s alert for Americans in Europe with special concern for France. It fell to Rivkin, President Obama’s appointment as U.S. Ambassador to France, to mark the administration's official line on the situation and deal with the aftermath.

Fourth of July 2010 (2)
                                 The Rivkin Family: Eli, Susan, Charlie and Lily, courtesy: Rivkin Family

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Home Holiday Entertaining Ideas - from Halloween to New Year's

October 26, 2010 - Julie Pryor

Soup in Mini Pumpkins
The holidays are about to come at us one by one! Whether you're planning celebrations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah (perhaps a unique mix of the two?) or New Year's, you need to get your creative wheels turning now.   In addition to planning ahead – think about breaking out the "good stuff" and going for it - really being creative and dynamic this year.   Get up on the top shelf and bring out your fondue bowls, raid your liquor cabinet for dessert liqeurs stashed in the back, and break out the champagne!

Along those lines, I've come up with some easy tips  - most are simple things you can do - to make your holiday gatherings memorable and enjoyable.

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My 3 Favorite Summertime Weekend Getaways

August 02, 2010 - Julie Pryor

Images-2 While I truly adore Los Angeles there’s something wonderful about getting in the car on a Friday - preferably before there’s too much traffic-  and heading out of town. Here are a few of my favorite weekend escapes along with a few of my favorite places.

San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara - photo left

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara may be the perfect place on the planet. It’s just the right size – small enough to have a “small town” feel and large enough to have a Nordstrom. It defines charming. Santa Barbara is one of the few towns that look gorgeous from every angle. Having seafood on one of the piers while the sun is going down is one incredibly relaxing way to spend an evening. From watching an outdoor concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl to visiting the intimate Zoo to buying local produce at the Montecito Farmer’s Market, you just have to smile when visiting Santa Barbara.

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Lose Yourself in Lavender: Ojai's New Oak Ranch

July 29, 2010 - Linda Grasso

Lavender in Ojai
If you're looking for something fun to do this weekend, head up to Ojai and visit New Oak Ranch for the final weekend of lavender season.  The setting is spectacular - 2 rolling acres of lavender fields.  Snap some photos, snip some lavender and savor a picnic lunch. 


More than 5000 lavender plants produce a purple haze that spreads across nearly two acres of land. The scent is intoxicating!

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Summer Party Ideas

July 11, 2010 - Julie Pryor

IMG_8024 While I typically plan elaborate parties for my clients – sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple. And there is no better time to do that than summer. The weather is typically wonderful and people generally tend to be in a festive mood.  Perhaps, we are all feeling a little like when we were younger and school was finally out for summer - such a release!

Before Labor Day creeps up on you, toss a fun, simple soiree!  And, start planning it now. Here are some clever ideas to get your creative juices going – all are relatively easy and loads of fun!

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Weekend Getaway: Laguna Beach

July 06, 2010 - Linda Grasso


                                                        Pearl Beach in Laguna
One of my favorite places to escape to is Laguna Beach.  It has everything that makes for a weekend where you completely relax and come home feeling 100% refreshed. Plus, it's only about an hour away from Los Angeles (if there's no traffic), so it's easy to get to. Laguna offers physical beauty, excellent weather, great restaurants and places to stay and fun places to shop. Plus, there's a mellow, laid back feeling there - the kind of feeling you have when you're completely comfortable anywhere in shorts and flip flops and everyone greets you with a smile.  Here are my favorites in lovely Laguna.

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Eco-Conscious Entertaining: How to go green with your event

June 23, 2010 - Julie Pryor

Greenwedding  During the fifteen years I've been planning weddings and parties, I've seen many changes.  Undisputably, the biggest change has been the increase in green weddings and parties. Eco-conscious events are becoming more popular with each passing month. People have really started caring more about the environment and are trying to make a difference. Most of my clients are paying attention to the lasting impact their choices have and they are striving to "go-green." 

If you're planning an event, and you want to be sensitive to the environment, here are a few simple ways to go green.

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Ten Top Tips to Being a Good Guest

May 23, 2010 - Julie Pryor

Bradleysamplepic2 I've been planning events and weddings for fifteen years.  So, you might think that there isn't much that guests would do that could surprise me. However, that's not true. I'm constantly shocked at how rudely and carelessly guests can behave. And, while you might think that behaving in a polite manner is common sense - that does not seem to be the case for many people - no matter the social status or income level.

Here are my top ten tips for being a good guest. Follow these and my guess is your mailbox will be overflowing with invitations!

1. RSVP in a timely manner - regardless whether the invitation is a mailed one or an evite. It always surprises me how many people don't bother to respond - even for a formal wedding.

2. Let your host know of any serious dietary restrictions at least two weeks ahead.  While it may initially feel a little awkward to pick up the phone, your host will appreciate it. On another food note:  unless you are seriously allergic to something do not ask for special requests at the actual event. Be adventurous - this is your chance to try something unique and new.  Put on your game face and go for it.

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