happygirl car review: the range rover sport

The first car we test drove for The Happygirl was little- REALLY little— the Fiat Cabrio 500c. It was sweet but the kind of car that was great for driving to and from work and around town running small errands. This week we went BIG with the Range Rover. THIS is the car you drive when you're packing up the kids,  grandparents, pets, groceries and LL Bean bags for a week at the beach. 

The great thing about test-driving a car for a week, rather than an hour-long test drive is that you can see how the vehicle actually fits into your life rather than just getting a feel for the suspension and handling. What REALLY matters is the drivability. Is this a car that will work with your day-to-day life? Will it work with the kids and your gym bags? Will it fit in your garage? How does it handle parallel parking? It is comfortable to drive? Are the cupholders accessible? Can you see all around you when you put the car in reverse? Is the dashboard easy to use or will you find yourself fumbling around with too many dials? 

This week's car delivery is the 2012 Range Rover Sport in Indus Silver. The engine is a 5.0 L 375 hp Aluminum Alloy V8 with permanent front wheel drive and four-wheeel electronic traction control. With a car in this price range ($67,695.00 with the Premium Logic7 Audio Package and Luxury Interior Pack) it is loaded with what you would expect for safety and comfort with a few (fun!) unexpected extras. There is, of course, a six airbag supplemental restraint system, side impact beams, front and rear fog lamps, rearview backup camera, keyless entry system, leather interior, power sunroof, GPS, 11 speaker harmon/kardon speaker system with Bluetooth / iPod connections ready. Two fun additions: ambient interior mood lighting and an insulated cooler in the center console (available with the Luxury Pack.) After I discovered the insulated cooler I said to my husband "Oooo! I LIKE this car!" L. said "You should. The QUEEN has Range Rovers."

I own a small convertible and sometimes going from a little car to a large SUV can be disconcerting (yes, I subconsciously duck when entering a low parking garage entrance in an SUV.) Driving the Range Rover, however, wasn't like that. Perhaps because it is so open and airy and also because you don't have to hoist yourself up to get into the driver's seat. You're up high enough without feeling like you're driving a tractor trailer, like some other SUV's I've driven. The ride is smooth, the braking even smoother. It rained considerably this week and even driving through standing water during a rain shower on the 405, the Range Rover easily recovered from what could have been an easy hydroplane if driving a different vehicle. 

Spacewise, the ride is comfortable with soft but firm leather seats and yes, ergonomic cupholders, just where you would expect them to be. (It baffles me sometimes where car manufacturers place the cupholders, where you have to reach either almost behind your elbow or under the dashboard where nothing but a small coffee would fit in the cupholder.) The backseat is spacious with plenty of room for kids, yes, but it's also comfortable for your parents even on a long drive. The wayback is well laid out (the backseats recline to tote huge items) with a power tailgate that was a nice touch when loading groceries in the trunk. The area would easily hold your suitcases as well the dog's crate.

Driving the car for a week was a pleasure, a luxurious pleasure. I'm thinking of driving cross country in August and I can imagine that a car like this would make that drive quite comfortable with one exception--the fuel economy on the Range Rover is 13mpg city / 18 mpg highway. That's a hefty hit at the fuel pump. However, if comfort and safety are your main concerns, the Range Rover is a well thought out vehicle that just might make you feel a Queen.

puppies falling asleep in their food bowls

Seriously, if this won't make you feel happy and content, nothing will.

Puppies falling asleep in their food bowls.

happy is...roadside peonies

One of my favorite things in the summer is roadside stands with fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers. In our neighborhood in Seattle, there is a lovely spry senior citizen who grows the most beautiful produce and flowers. This morning she put out peonies. They smell as heavenly as they look.

I'm looking forward to my trip back to Massachusetts in July and all those farmstands that will be bursting with sweet corn, bright ripe tomatoes and strawberries as big as billiard balls. Summer is wonderful, isn't it?

happy is...kitten feet

Yesterday was a rare sunny, perfect June day here in Seattle so I grabbed a big bowl of cool red grapes and walked over to my friend's house. She was wan't there but her mom was so we sat together at the kitchen table marveling at the perfect combination of sunshine + cool grapes. As we talked I felt something cold touch my ankle every so often. I thought it was in my head until I felt a bite.

I said "Linda, please tell me that you have a pet."

She laughed. "Yes! Look down! She got a kitten!"

When I looked down at my ankles there was a tiny orange kitten wrapping itself around my crossed ankles, as if he were trying to find a comfortable position in a hammock. I cooed. I picked him up. Dash promptly started meowing, making num-num-num noises then fell asleep upside down in my arms. It was one of the best sunny afternoons I've had in along time.

Sometimes all you need to be happy it the sweetest, furry little thing.

There are thousands of kittens and cats waiting to make a hammock out of you. Visit petfinder.com to find a cozy / funny / loving cat that's just perfect for your family.

entertainme: even more awesome celebrities

Sure, celebrities can be awesome but some are even more awesome like these sixteen stars featured in Buzzfeed's article "16 Famous People Who Have Done Really Amazing Things in Real Life."

This'll make you happy. :-)

the one: the cool, the one t-shirt

Here's my idea for a store: A shop that carries The One Perfect Thing--the perfect bed, the perfect pen, the perfect t-shirt.

I've been obsessed with the idea of a store called The One.

I imagine a conversation would go something like this. "Here is the t-shirt. We have tried on hundreds of t-shirts and this is the t-shirt to end your t-shirt search." We would have one candle, one espresso machine, one car, one shampoo, one pizza stone.

So, L., my ever clever husband said "Why do you need a storefront?"

"Well," I said. "I always imagined my little store would be in Malibu, you know beachfront and you'd smell the ocean breezes as you peruse the store drinking pink lemonade. It's my vision."

Said L., "Why not let people drink tequila or Dunkin Donuts or whatever while they shop online."


The One. On The Happygirl.

(shopping for cheese at Dean & Deluca in SoHo) 

Having traveled almost a million miles for my job as a Celebrity Events Host (reporter) I've browsed and shopped around the world from stocking up on pretty and inexpensive lingerie at Marks & Spencer in London to the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen (flea market) in Paris to dusty bookshops in Prague, I've sought small reminders of lovely places. There were also shopping excursions in Manhattan with my fashion-forward friend Victoria Snee (She taught me about the B's-Bendel's, Bergdorf's, Bloomingdale's and BlissSpa), The Grove in Los Angeles, the lovely shops on Nantucket (Nantucket Reds at Murray's Toggery Shop) and the quirky-funky stores on Melrose in LA where I once snuck out on a whim between two junkets at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills to get my belly button pierced, accompanied once again by my dear friend, Victoria. (Victoria, I love that we can go from Neiman-Marcus to Through Your Skin together!)

The One. The One.

The first product on The One should really be something we all use, something we need like the perfect t-shirt. I discovered the perfect t-shirt on one foggy morning at the James Perse store at the Malibu Lumber Yard. The James Perse Long Sleeve Casual t-shirt in 100% cotton is the t-shirt you will wear under a lightweight cashmere sweater when you fly from LAX ---> BOS. You'll wear it to bed and to the farmer's market when you choose the loveliest summer strawberries.  You will wear this t-shirt to a gallery opening in SoHo and to a temple in Israel.

It is The Perfect One. 

I love you, James Perse Long Sleeve T-shirt, I really do.

The James Perse Long Sleeve Casual T-Shirt is available online and in stores for $55 and comes in women's sizes 0-4 and men's crew neck in sizes 1-5.

happy video: dancing around the world

For your coffee break this morning, quick go grab your coffee from the coffee shop downstairs and watch this video of Matt dancing around the world. You remember Dancing Matt from a few years ago but watch this video and your faith in humankind will be restored.

Now if our world leaders could just do this maybe they might see eye to eye too.

smitten: a conversation with actor, elliott gould

 – © – Image courtesy WireImage.com

There is something a little surreal about sitting down with Elliott Gould talking about his film “Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas” on a warm spring day. Any day, however, winter, spring, summer or fall is a good day to talk with this legendary actor. Gould is an Academy Award nominee (for “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”) and a Golden Globe nominee for his role as Trapper John in the film “M*A*S*H.” He is also best remembered for his role as Reuben Tishkoff in the “Ocean’s Eleven” series and Jack Geller in the television series “Friends.”

In “Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas” Gould plays Sam Finkelstein, grandfather to a young Jewish boy who is obsessed with all things Christmas. Reluctantly because of his parents work schedule during the Christmas holidays, he is on his way to see his grandparents in Florida when he meets another little boy, Mikey,  in the airport who is headed to snowy Washington. The boys (who look alike and whose extended families haven’t seen them in awhile) decide to switch families for their vacations, with Ira Finkelstein experiencing his first snowy Christmas while Mikey is showered with affection from “his” Florida grandparents including granddad Elliott Gould.

“Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas” was shot in the Seattle area by local director Sue Corcoran and featured in the Seattle International Film Festival June, 2012.

The Happygirl: How was shooting in Seattle?

Elliott Gould: I love it here. I have been here before. I am very happy up here. The people are very kind and nice to me and the project is a homegrown project. Sue is a great director. That means something to me. I appreciate being wanted and able to work with people passionate and committed to what they are doing.

Happygirl: Tap dancing as a child to an Academy Award nominee. Do you think humble beginnings helped you to have more drive?

Elliott: Wow. Yes, I do, but I think when one comes from humble beginnings one of the challenges is not to lose touch with true humility and modesty. As exciting as it is to break through and be accepted in the world and be known, one of the things I enjoy reflecting on is that celebrity to me means simply that some of us have to make a bigger fool of ourselves than others. It doesnt make us any better than anyone. It is a responsibility. Life is an ongoing process. It can be dangerous to be too successful too soon. The key to life and living is to be able to understand and accept yourself.

Happygirl: So you get the script for “Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas.” You see the title and think “I’ve got to read this.”

Elliott: Yeah, of course. It is a fun title. You know, my name was Elliott Goldstein. I can be suspicious and trust blindly and I don’t want to be suspicious. I read it. Sue is very accomplished. I saw some of her work. She wanted me to do it. I liked David DeLuise very much. I am friendly with his parets. Dom and I have always talked about working together, you know. Carol, his mother did “On the Town” on the West End with me. I thought I would do it. Not to be glib or take anything for granted but, I am usually pretty good at what I do because I have a lot of experience and I am not overburdened with too much ego. Just like when we did “Friends” I wanted to work with a newer generation and be able to participate in this project in this community. This subject was a great opportunity for me. I am very happy with the experience.

Happygirl: The message in the film is that Christmas is for everyone. I think it’s really a bigger message that everyone needs to understand everybody else.

Elliott: I completely agree. You have this child who is so passionate and so blinded by Christmas but the fact is that he is not wrong. He is able to evoke results from another culture as well as Justin Howell, the boy who plays Mikey who switches with Ira. I like it a lot. It has much more meaning than anything that might be misunderstood as superficial. It has to do with the passion of the child. It moves me.

Happygirl: You also did “The Muppet Movie,” a film your grandchildren could see. Is that why you did “Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas” as well?

Elliott: Let me tell you, I told Lew Grade (executive producer) that I HAD to be in “The Muppet Movie” and he HAD to find something for me. As the character, the mayor of the town, I got to introduce Miss Piggy and the judges. I recently heard up until now I was the only actor to be in two Muppet movies (also “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”) Jim Henson and Frank Oz were great to me. You know, I first met the Muppets when they were doing “Saturday Night Live.”

Happygirl: I loved your character in the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies with George Clooney. In fact, the last time we met we were in Cannes with George Clooney and Brad Pitt for “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

Elliott: That was fancy! (laughs)

Happygirl: It was! (laughs) Can you reminisce a bit about working on the films with the boys?

Elliott: I was in Ireland doing a film in which Rich Attenborough acted and I was going to participate in a documentary that the BBC was working on for Lord Attenborough who directed “A Bridge Too Far” and made “Gandhi.” I was there working and had a message from Jerry Weintraub (producer) asking if I was interested and could meet Steven Soderbergh (director) about “Ocean’s Eleven.” So we made a date, we talked and he cast me. I had worked with Clooney on my “E/R” project before George’s “ER” project and we introduced George on the air. Clooney and I knew one another. We are friends. He said “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I didn’t tell Steven anything other than we worked together because I wanted Soderbergh to want you.” I think they were talking about James Gandolfini to play Reuben Tishkoff. I don’t know that they could make a deal with him but it worked out great for all of us.

Hapygirl: What makes you happy?

Elliott: When my children and grandchildren are at peace, content, open, happy. Nothing can make happier than my family’s happiness.

Some of what Mother Teresa said means a lot to me. It has to do with love, service, prayer and faith. She was one of two people I really wanted to meet. The other was John Wooden, a great coach. We became friends. He said to me “The most important word in the English language is Love and the second most important word is balance. “

Happygirl: Where do you get balance from?

Elliott: (thinks quietly for a moment) I don’t give up. Do you know Arthur Laurents? The first thing he ever directed was with my first wife Barbra (Streisand), my son Jason’s mother, you know? I will always love her. We are family. He directed us. He wrote “The Way We Were” and he wrote the book to “West Side Story." Before he passed away he said to me ‘How have you stayed as good as you are?” I said “I don’t think that way. I feel that’s a compliment, thank you. My response is simply my mother never gave up,. I could never be any other way.”

Happygirl: Is it true that Elliott in “Pete’s Dragon” is named after you?

Elliott: (laughs) Yes! A man named Malcolm Marmorstein wrote the screenplay for “Pete’s Dragon.” I was friends with Mickey Rooney. He is amazing. Somebody said that Malcolm wanted to name the animated character after me. He asked the cast and they said it was OK.

(Sue Corcoran, director of “Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas” joins us.)

Happygirl: What do the holidays mean to you?

Sue Corcoran: Family.

Elliott: Purpose. Joy. Commitment. I was in London at an American Air Force Base with the BBC and it was July 4th and someone said to one of the servicemen, “Is this the most important holiday for Americans?” and the young serviceman said “Yes.” I said “Excuse me for interupting, I am very happy to be an American but I think Christmas and what it represents is the most significant thing with peace on earth and good will towards man.”

Happygirl: Christmas, good will and peace is for everyone!

Elliott: Yes! Isnt that good? (laughs)

your happy summer playlist

I remember the summer days when school was out and my best friend Mimi and I would lay out by her pool listening to the radio and loving it when the DJ reminded us to turn so we didn't burn. Those days were filled with sessions of Marco Polo, talks about boys and the scent of Coppertone. Even now when I hear "The Boys of Summer" I am right back to the happy place when life was as complicated as which bikini to wear and iced tea or lemonade before another swim.

Today is the Summer Solstice so, download this playlist from iTunes then go dance in the sun as bare as you dare.

(use the scrollbar below to see all 20 songs. use the arrow at the left of each song to play a snippet)

a happy dog = from street thug to burberry scarf

This is Payton, our little stray/street thug who likes to battle things out. She is a tough girl who lived on the streets and has no fear.

It's a cold/wet June morning here in Seattle. The dogs are in each in their beds curled up as I start work. Payton has zero body fat. She is a lean girl and she looked cold even in her sherpa ball. I grabbed the first scarf I found in the hall closet, which was a Burberry cashmere scarf.

Can you read the thought bubble over her head. "Oh, this is good. This is very very good. You never need this back, do you? Oh please, I love it."

Happy dog.

facing fear on the loveland pass

(watch this video. this is what this post is about. loveland pass in colorado)

Imagine that you are paralyzingly terrified of heights. Now imagine, if you will, that you are standing on the outdoor observation deck of the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. Now get to the very edge and look down. Imagine now that the railing is gone and you are looking straight down you walk as close as possible to the ledge from one end to the other for the next 40 minutes. Oh, and did I mention that there are people running by you just inches from you?

 I did that. Yesterday. 

But it wasn't a building, it was a stretch of highway called Loveland Pass in Colorado, named one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the United States. 

I have a severe case of Acrophobia (fear of heights.) It is blinding, terrifying, paralyzing, panic inducing. I don't like ferris wheels, ski lifts or observation decks. I avoid heights at all cost. So, yesterday, I thought the worst was over when I flew from Seattle to Denver.  I had no idea that I was about to face that fear head on, coming very close to driving right off a cliff from a highway in the sky that can terrify even the most jaded trucker. 

All I was doing was driving from Denver to Keystone, Colorado. I had lucked out with a rented convertible. It was a sunny day. I had a Starbucks Passion Iced Tea and Sirus 70's music. It was all good. The GPS said I would be there in an hour and a half. Good. All good. 

I called L. (my husband) while I was driving in Denver after getting the car. I told him that Colorado seemed like a prairie. It was flat. That changed though and I started climbing and climbing, passing tractor trailers making it up hills at maybe 40 mph. There were several points where the highway cut through the valleys with tall rocky mountains on either side.  The AVALANCHE, FALLING ROCK AND RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMP sign became more frequent as the highway started to climb towards the snow capped mountains. I followed the GPS and turned from Highway 70 onto Highway 6. 

That is when it all went to hell. 

I remember looking up at a tractor trailer way way way up on the top of the mountain near the snow thinking  "Thank God, I don't have to be on that road. That is CRAZY." Yes, that is the road I was on. The highway became two lanes, one up, one down. Hairpin turns, switchbacks, no guardrails. I climbed. I turned the radio off. I held my hands on the steering wheel  at 10 and 2 and thought "Wow, I am SO HAPPY that the cliff is to my left and the other drivers are on that side." It didn't stay that way for long.  As I drove on the hairpin turns I looked down and realized that it was a sheer cliff, SHEER, just straight down for several thousand feet. There was no guardrail, no breakdown lane. Just two small lanes and the pavement ends to the open sky. 

Because hazardous material trucks are forbidden from using the alternate route (the Eisenhower Tunnel), you share the road with large tractor  trailers traveling barely feet from you. As I drove I started to have my very first panic attack and my nose started bleeding. I felt every beat of my heart as I started to sweat. My hands were slippery against the steering away as my tires gripped the pavement. I wanted to stop the car because I didn't TRUST THAT I WOULDN'T ACCIDENTALLY DRIVE THE CAR OFF THE CLIFF. I started to breathe shallow because I felt if I breathed regularly I wouldn't be able to focus on the car, on the drive. Then I felt light-headed. I wanted to pull the car over but there was no where to stop. I wanted to just stop in the middle of the road but because of the hairpin turns someone coming around the corner wouldn't see me and would crash into me, sending us both over the cliff at an elevation of 11,990 feet.

This panic attack, the feeling of absolute fear for my life was something I had never experienced before. In my travels, I've been in places I shouldn't but I never experienced an actual panic attack before. I said the Hail Mary over and over to focus myself on the words. I rationalized that millions of people have driven this road and most did it safely. I tried to imagine L. sitting next to me telling me I could do this. It was absolute quiet except for the sound of my heartbeat.  At one point I was at the very top and could literally reach out and touch the top of the snow-capped mountain and I realized I  at least I was headed down. I was more than halfway through. 

Then in the quiet, with just the rustle of wind in my ears I reached the bottom of the mountain. The hotel was not far from this point so I pulled into the driveway. When the valet greeted me and opened the car door I realized I couldn't let go of the steering wheel. My hands were gripped so tightly around it. My legs were jelly. My nosebleed had stopped but I realized with the bloody Starbucks napkins I must have looked like I'd had one heck of a drive. "Hi. I think I need a minute," I said. "I drove over THAT" and pointed at Loveland Pass. "Oh, wow!" he said. "Wow, you know when you leave you can just take the Eisenhower Tunnel, right?" 'No,"  I said. "No, I did not know that. Why thank you, GPS, for making me face my fear when I didn't have to."

When I go to to my room I got online and looked up Loveland Pass.

Here is what dangerousroads.org says about Loveland Pass: 

Loveland Pass, elevation 11,990 ft. (3,655 m) above sea level, is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado, U.S.A and the highest mountain pass in the world that regularly stays open during a snowy winter season. Is located on the Continental Divide in the Front Range west of Denver. U.S. Route 6 traverses the pass; the twisty road is considered to be especially treacherous during the winter months. A steep, steady 6.7% grade, along with numerous hairpin turns on either side, make it difficult to snowplow the road regularly. Loveland is the highest mountain pass in the world that regularly stays open during a snowy winter season. When the Eisenhower Tunnel opened in March 1973, it allowed motorists on Interstate 70 to avoid crossing the pass directly. Driving up over Loveland Pass is quite the experience. It is a fairly steep climb with hairpin turns and amazing views down into the valley of I-70 below. It can be a little scary though, since most of the views are not blocked by a guard rail and it is easy to imagine yourself careening down the mountain. Loveland Pass in the winter can be downright terrifying at times.

(another loveland pass video from two brave guys)

If you don't have a fear of heights, I would imagine Loveland Pass is an incredible experience. I didn't have that experience. For someone with such a fear of even CONTROLLED heights like a carnival ferris wheel, the fact that I had to keep in control when I was light headed from holding my breath and panicked at the thought that I was in control and could at any point lose control and die, this was a big deal. Last night looking up at that mountain I wondered if THAT was an experience I was supposed to have. Maybe I was supposed to conquer that fear yesterday. I've heard of immersion therapy. Where you sit in a room of cats if you have Ailurophobia (fear of cats) or you interact with clowns if you have Coulrophobia. For me, the immersion therapy of "SURPRISE! TODAY WE ARE CONQUERING YOUR PARALYZING FEAR OF HEIGHTS!" didn't work. I am still terrified of heights and will avoid them, even now. However, I am proud of myself for doing it. I did it. I drove Loveland Pass without crashing my car into a fiery ball below. 

Maybe that's what this whole adventure thing is about. You do things, you go about your daily life and if you're lucky at the end of the day you can feel proud of yourself. I am. Today, I am.

celebrate national flag day: how to get a flag from the capitol

Today is National Flag Day and here at the Happgirl studios we are proudly waving our U.S. flag. I remember how proud my WWII fighting grandfather was about flying the American flag even over our trailer. Today, my grandfather would be pleased to know that he could get a flag that flew over the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. It's a little known fact that you can write your U.S. Senator to request a flag that flew over the Capitol on a special day.

Here's how you can honor your dad, your grandfather or your sister who fought for our country.

Contact your Senator here then click on the web form under their pictures. Submit your request to them including the date that is special to you and any other information (i.e. it's honoring your grandmother who served in Vietnam.) 3-4 weeks later you will receive your flag with a letter of authenticity from the Architect of the Capitol that the flag was flown on your date (as well as the specific occasion, if requested).

Happy Flag Day!

places review: shutters on the beach

Here is how the conversation went: 
Me: Honey, for our anniversary I thought we could do something romantic. You know, maybe sandy beaches, our own jetted tub, one of those hotels with the perfect bed that you want to stay in all day.
L. (husband): Book it. 
Me: We've never been to California before so maybe someplace completely different from Connecticut with palm trees, sunshine, a great pool, room service. We could sleep in, have lazy mornings sipping coffee on our balcony looking out at the ocean.
L: Done. Book it.
Me: Yeah, you sure? OK.
This is what I love about L. He trusts me with the big decisions like where to go on vacation. Or maybe he just heard the words us + jetted tub + great bed + room service and he was all in. I remembered that friends of ours raved about their wedding at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. They talked about the romance of the luxurious bed, the candlelight that bathed the hotel in a luminescent glow at night and the way they woke up happy looking out at the ocean. We were in.
On first glance, the hotel reminded us of our favorite classic grey and white shingled hotels on Martha's Vineyard. The experience begins when you arrive at the hotel, the small driveway is sweet with flower-covered trellises and seagrass, attentive valets and a front entrance that is at once sublime and classic. The feel is that you have arrived for a weekend at a friend's beach house (the friend who inherited well from daddy and who has very good taste.) This is one of our favorite things about Shutters on the Beach. Even with 198 guest rooms and suites, the hotel doesn't have the feel of a bustling resort. The lobby is low-key with two large  fireplaces and cozy couches that are wonderful for the occasional drizzly morning. 

Staying in a guest room at Shutters on the Beach again feels like you are staying in the well appointed guest room of a friend. The off-white, yellow and blue accented room is well thought out with a plush bed, perfect firm pillows that cradle your head, a comfortable lounge chair or sofa and a desk area. The bathroom is well lit with hardwood floors, a whirlpool tub, a 15" LCD television and a fully equipped "Bath and Beach Chest" with an innovative selection of travel must-haves as well as shutters that open from the bath to the view outdoors. Want romance? Think bubbles together with candles circling the tub while watching the waves rolling in at sunset.

Shutter on the Beach opened in 1993, and in 2005, Michael Smith took over the design of the hotel adding remote control 42-inch flat screen LCD televisions, an in-room inspiration reading library along with a selection of CD’s and DVD’s,  in-room safes, in-room Keurig coffee service, luxurious bath products, Shutter’s signature whale, lush linens and robes, Wi-Fi high speed internet access,and two-line cordless telephones with data port.  

We spent several incredible afternoons lazing by the pool, riding bikes along the boardwalk just outside the hotel and swimming in the ocean, watching dolphins swimming just offshore. There were the mornings dappled in sunshine as we enjoyed lemon ricotta pancakes with fresh berries enjoyed outside on the patio at Coast, the fish taco platter after an energetic swim and the Cucumber Splash Cocktail with Maine Lobster Fettucine at One Pico before we strolled hand in hand on a moonlit walk before falling into our luxurious bed. 
It was the ideal romantic vacation and almost impossible to leave. Soon after this trip we moved to Seattle and since then we’ve taken several trips back to our favorite hotel in Santa Monica. Since I travel often for work, when I want the beach experience I stay at Shutters on the Beach and I recommend the hotel for business travel as well. My car is always brought quickly, the Wi-Fi works well and when I’m working late, the room service is always prompt and just as good as the restaurants. The Spa, One, also offers massages that transport you. All those business negotiations that stressed your neck? Gone. The health club also offers TechnoGym equipment including the Arc Trainer, Precor EFX and unisex steam and dry saunas. 

If a beach getaway is what you need and you don't happen to have a friend with a luxurious beach house, visit Shutters on the Beach. We actually loved our Shutters experience so much that we bought the bed linens in the gift shop and installed white plantation shutters in our bedroom to recreate our romantic holiday!


  • Are you a beach family?  Visit the Beach Activities Center where you can rent a bicycle and a beach pack that includes a beach chair, umbrella, kits and suntan lotion. 
  • Room #306 is wonderful!
  • Want a scent to remember Shutters by? You can purchase Kai (my favorite scent-- a beachy gardenia perfume) in the gift shop.
  • When reserving a cabana by the pool ask for canaba #6. It is furthest from the main entrance of the pool and secluded.
To book your Shutters on the Beach vacation call 310 458 0030 or visit their website

smitten: an interview with "dallas" stars brenda strong & jesse metcalfe

 The special 2 hour "Dallas" premiere airs Wednesday, June 13 at 9pm ET/8pm CT

When you hear the theme song from the "Dallas" series you immediately think of Southfork Ranch, scheming, power and of course, that irrepressible force of nature--JR. That song and that force of nature are back with a premiere as big as the heart of Texas. "Dallas" returns to television in a new series on TNT that is every bit as delicious as the series you remember complete with original cast members including Larry Hagman (JR), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing and Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing). "Dallas" premieres Wednesday, June 13 in a 2 hour season premiere. 

Joining the cast are Brenda Strong as Bobby's wife, Ann Ewing and Jesse Metcalfe as the son of Bobby Ewing and his former wife Pam. The series picks up 20 years from where it left off. It's easy to imagine that these characters have been living their life offscreen for two decades and the cameras have come back to see what the characters are up to. I've seen seven episodes so far (from the presskit) and it is wicked fun! Last week we got a chance to meet Brenda and Jesse and we were instantly smitten.  Read on to hear more about who challenges who at Scrabble and who's loving Alabama Shakes.

The Happygirl: Let’s talk about Texas. You shoot on location. How has Texas been for you?
Jesse Metcalfe: It’s been great. 
Brenda Strong:  It has been extremely welcoming. The city commissioners and the entire city has bent over backwards to make shooting there a pleasure including opening up the old Southfork Ranch so we can shoot our exteriors there.
Jesse: The people of Dallas have been very welcoming too.  Texans are a prideful people and Dallas is something they hold close to their hearts and the fact that the series coming back and we are part of this series, we get a lot of love. 

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Brenda: As a cast we felt a congealing of authenticity just by being there through osmosis and having that skyline. Jesse and I got to be on a 600 acre ranch and ride horses. There is a level of the land building your character that you can’t get anywhere else.
Jesse: I think it is essential that we are shooting this entire new series in Dallas. Just as the city has evolved so has the show. It is a contemporary show. It’s as though the cameras weren't rolling for the past 20 years and they just turned them back on. 
HG: Was one of the reasons you decided to take these roles because Larry Hagman was attached to it?
Jesse: Larry, Linda and Patrick actually gave this incarnation their stamp of approval and that gave us all piece of mind to be part of the project.
Brenda: They didn't want to be involved if this wasn't something they could be proud of.  It s a big risk, you know? “Dallas” was such a part of the zeitgeist of the culture and they didn't want to go out with a fizzle. They ended the show and they had tried to piece  something together but they realized they didn't want to do anything unless it was high quality. When they got off the phone with each other after reading the script they each said “I’m in. Are you in? OK. Let’s do this.” That was the stamp of approval that made the rest of us think  “If they are willing to come back then we are willing to put our toe in and get wet.”
HG: It would have been inauthentic had you all appeared on the screen without them. Don’t you think?
Brenda: Yeah, I wouldn’t have done it without them. It would have been a caricature without them. No one would buy it. The characters were too beloved and people have them in their memory banks and anything but them wouldn't have worked.

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HG: I’ve seen 7 of the episodes so far and maybe it’s a little thing but I loved the opening credits with the “Dallas” music and sliding panels. It was very 80’s. For the fans of the  original series, it’s kind of comforting.
Brenda: Absolutely. Cynthia Cidere and Steve Robin paid very close attention to the fact that they didn't want to completely reinvent but keep the pillars of what made “Dallas” Dallas and then build a new house around that.
Jesse: There was talk in the early stages of coming up with a new theme song and that would have been insane.They did update the song a little bit. I was told that the drums in the original song had to be replaced because they were a little too disco. (laughs) A lot of the new buildings in Dallas are featured in the opening. 
Brenda: And the song. I didn’t realize how much a part of my awareness the song was but when I drove up to shoot at Southfork the very first time the song popped into my song. I hadn't seen “Dallas” in 20 years but suddenly (sings a little of the theme song) plays and I was like “Wow! That was really interesting!” (laughs) I think the audience may feel that way as well.
HG: What would you say to fans who loved the original series? What can they expect from the new series?

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Jesse: They can expect what they fell in love with initially. The show is rooted in the themes that made the show a success-- ambition, greed, power, loyalties, betrayal. That is very much at the heart of the new series. I think their expectations will be met if not exceeded. Larry, Linda and Patrick are all on top of their game if not better than they ever were. They are more seasoned actors and they are so good in this new series. 

HG: You two fit in well with the rest of the cast. You have an easy feel. What did you do to get that family feel. 
Jesse: Larry hosted a dinner.
Brenda: I wasn't there. I hadn't been cast yet but you guys had a bonding. 
Jesse: We bonded. We bonded. (laughs) I guess you were the last one in. 
Brenda: The very first time I met Patrick, Larry was at the table read. Larry  set the tone. We went around the table introducing ourselves. Patrick was to my left and he said “Patrick Duffy, Bobby Ewing.” It gets to Larry and he says “Larry Hagman, icon.” (laughs) There was such an ease. We were family now. We mean business. They made us feel welcome from the get go. 

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Brenda: Patrick and I are playing words games Whirly Word and Scrabble. He was upset when we were shooting the pilot because I beat his twice at Scrabble and he said “That’s it! I’m not playing that anymore with you.” (laughs) But we’re like an old married couple sitting around playing Scrabble.  It is just an instant ease. It organically happened. 
HG: Did you watch the original series?
Brenda: I didn’t because Ann is Bobby’s new wife and she wouldn’t know the ins and outs of the Ewing family. I also wanted to have authentic surprise. I wanted to take the characters at face value. I didn't want to know every secret. However, I was on the original series. I was a one night stand!
HG: You are a good shot. You shoot a rifle well in the new series.
Brenda:  I am a pacifist at heart. I am a yogi and a granola eater but ironically I seem to play women who carry guns. In “Starship Troopers” I carried a gun through the entire second film. I never really shot a shotgun. That was new to me. I went out to the range and learned to respect the weapon. I was really surprised at how much energy and focus it takes.It was a new skill. 

HG: I know you both are physical. Brenda, you even did yoga here in Seattle. Is it important to you mentally and well as physically to work out? At the Happygirl, we look for ways to get our happy back. Does working out help?
Jesse: Yes, definitely. Yoga is more of a spiritual practice than weight lifting or running but I think all of those things aid in melting away the stress that you accumulate. 
Brenda: I like the way that you put that--about getting your happy back. The belief in yoga is that we are innately connected to joy and it is what is in the way of that joy that yoga releases. The idea is that you do yoga to return to the joy that should be yours.  So, I like your motto. 
HG: What do you think drives people more” Money, Sex or Power?
Brenda: (laughs) I think it depends on the person. Some people are ambitious. Some people find power through sex. Money can mean freedom or prison. It depends what you align yourself with. I think all three are themes that run rampant through our show and any character at one time could be balancing on one of those. What runs you, Jesse?
Jesse: Probably power, my ambitions. Most of my energy goes into following my dreams and desires as far as my career is concerned. What makes life enjoyable?
HG: I like what JR said in one of the upcoming episodes-- “You’re not given power, you take it.”
Jesse: Or strongly go after it. Take can mean taking something that doesn’t belong to you. I think there is nothing wrong with having a strong drive and being an ambitious person. Everything in moderation. 
Brenda: These things can be addictive. I like that there are things being said that people start to think about. Thematically this family represents the common struggles most families go through. Maybe not at this epic level but I think every family member struggles for your place in the family. Does someone love you more than they love someone else? Vying for what you feel is your rightful piece of the land, property or the love of your parents. These are common themes.
Jesse: A lot of the storylines in the first season I actually drew from my own experiences. Every family has a certain level of disfunction. I think that is why this show is beloved because everyone can relate to it.
Brenda: As Linda said beautifully “We are a functioning dysfunctional family.”
HG: What make you happy?
Brenda: Music, adventure, travel.
Jesse: Music, nature, humor. I love to laugh
Brenda: Flowers make me happy. Friendships. Daffodils.
HG: That’s a happy flower. 
Brenda: I have strong memories of being a little girl picking daffodils from the field. 
Jesse: Isn’t that a weed? (laughs)
Brenda: Yes! (laughs)
HG: Jesse, for you is it about playing music?
Jesse: I like anything that transports me or makes me feel something. The thing I love about acting is that it is incredibly cathartic. Every actor has a burden or inner conflict that your can pour yourself into and through that  kind of get past whatever issue you have. I love bringing myself to my roles. Music inspires me. Movies me happy, music, nature. people, I love to travel, laugh. 
HG: Happy song?
Brenda: All I have to do is put on anything of Adele’s “21”.

HG: Isn't that sad, though?
Jesse: I generally like music that’s about heartbreak. (laughs)
Brenda: There is a Florence and the Machine song that makes me really happy too. 
Jesse: You know what is a great album?  “Boys and Girls” by Alabama Shakes. Have you listened to that one? It’s by a new band. It’s very bluesy, soulful. It’s a very happy album.

HG: Brenda, Jesse, thanks for a great chat. Best of luck on the ranch!