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California Dreaming!

As we wrap up another hot summer, I am happy to say that, despite so much going on recently - our home renovation and two new books on the way - I was able to sneak away and take a vacation!! 


Each year we head to California to visit my husband’s family. This year was a special celebration wishing John’s Mom, Angie, a happy 86th Birthday! 

Here she is with her three boys and 5 of her 7 grandchildren. Sweet as she can be and such a tiny, little thing as seen by the picture of her and John’s brother, Bob!


Our first stop was in beautiful Orange County to visit Bobby and his wife Heather’s new home! Fun fact – they live two streets away from Tamera of The Real Housewives of Orange County! After spending an afternoon watching a taped season of the show we decided that, unless she likes cat fights, maybe Heather shouldn’t besties with her new neighbor…

Here’s Sammy, ready to take the long, 144 step hike down to Laguna Beach!

You can’t be in Orange County without going to Fashion Island to shop! An outdoor mall in Newport Beach brimming with boutiques set right on the beach! We did a little damage at Halston Heritage with its 60% off sale. And thank goodness we didn’t get kicked out of Kate Spade when Kirby decided to try on the mannequin’s wig!!!

While at the Festival of Art in Laguna Beach, I really wanted to take my girls to Pageant of the Masters. I had seen it in my 20’s and thought it was simply amazing! 

It is world-renowned in the artistry and theatrical illusion of living pictures. Believe it or not, this is a real person sitting on a stage which, as the show progresses, becomes a life-size painting to the audience.

Even with binoculars the only way we could tell it wasn’t an actual painting is when one of the performers blinked! 

This ninety-minute stage show of “living pictures” re-creates well known classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces. How is it done?

Exceptionally talented artists paint the backdrops for each piece while the actor has impeccable makeup, complete with the look of brush strokes, applied to make them blend into the canvas! 

Seamlessly, they morph into works of living art. It is a remarkable experience that I highly recommend seeing! 

Heather, my sweet sister-in-law, is an amazing cook and entertainer!  I wanted to share the recipe of one of my dishes she made during our visit!

Grilled Sweet-and-Spicy Shrimp with Mint Dipping Sauce courtesy of Epicurious


Yields: 12 first-course or 6 main-course servings

¼ cup (packed) golden brown sugar

3/12 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons plus ½ cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

½ salt

2 lbs uncooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined. 

2 cups (packed) fresh mint leaves

Metal or wooden skewers. 

Mix brown sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, lemon peel, cayenne pepper, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add shrimp and stir to coat. Let marinate 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, place mint, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, and remaining 1/2 cup oil in processor. Blend until mint is finely chopped and mixture is smooth, scraping down sides occasionally. Season mint dipping sauce with salt. 

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Thread shrimp onto skewers. Grill shrimp until just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with mint dipping sauce. Yum!

Here are my two girls, Kirby and Sammy, with their cousins. The family resemblance is strong thanks to those Italian genes!!! Wish Matthew was there.


After our wonderful visit in Orange County we made our way to Hermosa Beach which is very close to where John grew up. Less than two miles long and nestled between Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach truly is, as their motto claims, “the best little beach city”!

We stay at the Beach House every year, which is great! It's a smaller Boutique Hotel with larger rooms which accommodates the four of us comfortably and is the only one right on the beach.

While in Hermosa we were sure to visit one of our favorite restaurants – The Bottle Inn. Always such a treat! 

Taking advantage of the perfect weather, we spent a day at the ball park cheering on the Dodgers! John and Bob are ‘true blue’ LA fans!  John is staying longer to visit his friends and relatives. I am going to try to at least get the kitchen, breakfast, and TV room moved in before he returns!  Hope I make it! 


We wanted to share a glimpse of Gala Interiors and Antiques in Jackson, Mississippi! We are thrilled that she is now carrying my first book, Segreto:Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors. Specializing in beautiful antiques and unique gifts, Gala Interiors is chock full of lovely finds!  

If you live in the Jackson area you should take a moment to drop by to see their beautiful showroom located within Antique Shops of Jackson and explore the special treasures hand curated by owner Darnell Dye!

And we are so excited to share that after October 1st she will be carrying our second book, Segreto Style in her beautiful shop!!!

Until next week!

Vacay sale at the boutique!


Cobalt Blue Coral on Lucite Base - $175.00  Sale $125

The Royal Standard Teal & Gold Juco Tote - $39.50  Sale $25

Brics White Nylon Duffle with a cross body included - $169  Sale $80

Orange and Pink Canvas & Terry Cloth Beach Tote - $149.00 These are awesome!  Have waterproof insides!! Sale $75

Fouta reversible super soft towels in Fuschia, Light Blue, & Orange - $79.00  Sale $48

Aqua marine and Amber  20" Necklace - $359.00  Sale $250 each

Turquoise, Hand-Blown Glass Bowls - Small $34.50   Sale $22  / Large $49.50  Sale $30

Be You Fashion; Fair Trade Totes Made in Madagascar - $95 Sale $40.00ea

(Left: Hot pink & natural, Center: Black & natural giraffe print, Right: Toffee & natural)

Have a wonderful week!  Till next Monday!

To inquire about these items email
To purchase "Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors" on our website click here or to purchase through Amazon click here.

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Reader Comments (5)

Leslie what a fun time in Newport and Hermosa Beach! I can see you crammed tons of activities into this trip!
Adore Fashion Island, though it has been awhile. the last trip to Southern California holds so many great memories as I am sure this does for you!

The Arts by Karena

September 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKarena

Leslie what a fun time in Newport and Hermosa Beach! I can see you crammed tons of activities into this trip!
Adore Fashion Island, though it has been awhile. the last trip to Southern California holds so many great memories as I am sure this does for you!

The Arts by Karena

September 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKarena

Leslie, Your trip sounded like a lot of fun, and the weather is still nice in CA so it should have been perfect for the beach. Sammy is beautiful, and I love that she tried on the wig at Kate Spade! I am sure that Kate would have approved! I have lived in CA all my life and didn't know about the Festival of Art in Laguna Beach, we will be planning to go soon! Congrats on your book being sold in Gala Interiors & Antiques, looks like the perfect venue for it! All the best, RiƩ

September 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPortobello Design

What a great post, you have filled it with lots of interesting pieces of your life. Your daughters and their cousins are gorgeous girls.The live painting is incredible, I have never seen anything quite like it. As an artist, I appreciate the detail they have put into creating that work of art and if I ever visit California again I will look out for this. The recipe also looks yummy so might try this out too.

Lee :)

September 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLee

Glad you had a wonderful time visiting family and having great fun with all of your activities...Love the "real life, still life"....and Happy Birthday to Angie!....congrats on your new book coming out soon!...

September 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShirley@Housepitality Designs

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