Category Archives: celebrities

Cruising with Top Chef!

I am a Top Chef fan.  I’m talking, big, HUGE, annoyingly fanatical.  I own all 10 seasons of Top Chef, 4 seasons of Top Chef Masters, and 2 seasons of Top Chef Just Desserts (eh, not nearly as good, but when there are no new regular shows, I watch it).  I watch them over and over again.  I listen to them when I’m jogging.  I can’t explain it.  I just love the show.  I love the personalities in the kitchen.  I learn something new every time I re-watch an episode.   But unfortunately, none of my close friends watch it with me.   I’ve had to turn to bloggers and recaps for my after-show discussions.

So last fall, when I saw there was going to be a cruise, not just any cruise, but  TOP CHEF THE CRUISE!, I started working on J to go with me.  After multiple discussions (begging), he finally cracked.  He had no desire to a) cruise, or b) cruise with me dragging him to Top Chef events.  So in order to get me to shut up, he offered to pay for me to take a friend for my birthday/anniversary present.

I didn’t really care which chefs were going to be on board, to be honest.  I just thought any kind of Top Chef related events would be really fun.  But I have to say, the chefs that participated couldn’t have been better.  Not sure if Bravo hand selected them, or if their schedules worked out to allow them to come, or they had new cookbooks they wanted to promote (it was probably a combination of the three), but hosts Tom and Gail, Masters Hubert Keller and Tim Love, and past winners and contestants Richard Blais, Chris Crary (Malibu Chris), Tiffany Derry (“I’m from Beaumont, Texas”), Mike Isabella, Kristen Kish, Spike Mendelson, Paul Qui, Hosea Rosenberg, Angelo Sosa, Casey Thompson, Fabio Viviani, Brooke Williamson, and Top Chef Just Desserts winners Yigit Pura and Chris Hanmer were on board with 2,000 other top chef fans...just like me!

Me and C 24 years ago and now

It’s hard to explain, but when my girlfriend, C (who I last cruised with as a single girl 24 YEARS ago) and I joined a dinner table with eight other Top Chef fans who became our new best friends for the duration of the cruise (well, 6 fans and 2 ‘drag-alongs’ like C who had never watched an episode), I felt like I had been dropped into heaven.  We spent the first night talking about the chefs, the seasons, the episodes, their restaurants, their drama…all while C and the other drag-alongs looked at us like we were speaking Greek.  I was surprised that the chefs were mingling with us, enjoying the cruise (some of them really enjoying the cocktails!), taking photos, signing books, dancing, etc.  I thought they’d stay in their VIP quarters, come out to do quickfires and other events, but stay away from all the fans.  But they were out there, lapping it up.  Someone pointed out to me that they were huge celebrities to us, but maybe not to most of America, so maybe they were enjoying the attention. I still think it must have been tiring, or annoying at times, but they were always very gracious. 

After dinner the first night we attended a Cocktail Party and DJ set led by Hubert Keller…and there’s no way to explain the pure joy on his face as he played Electronic and Top 40 songs until the wee hours.  It was so cool to see this master of cuisine (who hosted the first quickfire of the first season of Top Chef, by the way) relax and enjoy himself like that!

Thanks to the Hollywood Reporter for this pic

As we tired of dancing we made our way to the bar for a drink and snapped some photos with Fabio, Mike, and Angelo, who were also definitely enjoying themselves.


Something weird happened to my biological clock that weekend, because we didn’t make it to bed until 3 a.m….and that was the earliest we made it back for the rest of the cruise!   Thus began our pattern of going to bed late, getting up early to squeeze in a workout (a necessity because of the sheer amount of food we ate!), relaxing during the day, and starting our adventures at night.  Since we had late seating, we normally attended the Top Chef “entertainment” at 6, then whatever was going on after dinner…we were there.    The dinners were, for the most part, incredible.  We had our choice of selecting items from the regular cruise menu, or dishes that were designed by three of the chefs onboard.  As the cruise progressed, and we realized how good the Top Chef recipes were, we all started ordered two or three each of the appetizers, entrees and desserts…just to make sure we didn’t miss anything.  Thanks to Tim Love, whose lobster cake was my hands down favorite.  I could have eaten that every night!
The first night’s quickfire was with Casey, Richard, Hosea, Malibu Chris, Spike and Kristen for our group, and the next night we had the much rowdier group-Fabio, Angelo, Mike, Brooke, Tiffany, Paul and Chris H.  The second day our quickfire was AFTER dinner which, according to Fabio, “…having this quickfire at 11:30 after our captain’s dinner, was a BIG mistake.” 
Fabio at the late night quickfire

They had obviously enjoyed their captain’s dinner, but Fabio, Mike and Angelo had started their celebration around lunchtime surrounded by their closest fans all day at the pool.  I had decided my mission was to be selected to join one of them on stage (they chose audience members to “sous” with the chefs during the quickfires).  So thanks to C cheering me on, I made a fool of myself, jumped up and down in the aisle and Fabio pointed to me and said, “OK, sparkly dress, YOU.”  So me and my sparkly dress joined Mike at the quickfire table, where he gave me a giant can of dented artichokes and an old rusty can opener and I spent most of my time onstage opening a can.  So much for showing off my mad kitchen skills.

That evening was filled with so much heckling (the chefs who weren’t cooking were sitting in a box above the stage), f-bombs, and questionable actions that they never aired it on the in-cabin TVs, which they were doing 24 hours a day…just re-ran the calmer, less fun group’s challenges.  I laughed so hard I don’t even remember what Mike cooked.  I think I chopped a few things, but I honestly don’t remember.  I do know I’ll probably never forget that night!

  Angelo was having so much fun in the lounge, dancing to Salsa music.  I was standing at the bar, watching, kind of moving to the beat, when he came over, and grabbed my hand.  I proceeded to try to follow him, but since I have NO ability to salsa,  I looked pretty stupid.  Oh well.

The third night was a deck party with Tom Collichio’s friend Milton and his band.  They were great, but it was even better when Tom came out and joined them wearing a Panama Hat and looking cool.  He strapped on a guitar and played and sang a few songs to the crowd of adoring fans, whose cheers rivaled those for any major rock star.  He was actually really good!

Our day at sea was spent recovering in a lounge chair by the pool while the chefs rotated all day long, doing cooking demos, and Q&A sessions.  Their banter with each other is really adorable.  They seem to all get along and respect each other, but it’s funny when they give each other s&*t!  I managed to oversleep and miss both autograph sessions, but lugged the six new cookbooks I bought on board with me all day (some of them not released yet) and snagged an autograph whenever I could grab someone.  On the last day I had all the signatures except Angelo’s.  I was walking down to shower after working out and spotted Angelo (a beautiful man, by the way) sitting in the jacuzzi, all by himself.  He looked at me, nodded, and said hello.  So I promptly pulled his book out of my bag to have him sign it.  I was struggling to act cool, because I don’t normally do well with celebrities.  I thought I did OK, though, until I walked into the cabin, glanced in the mirror and realized I had something hanging out of my nose.  So I’m sure I made a lovely impression on the lovely Angelo!

Of the cookbooks I purchased, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, Mike’s Crazy Good Italian, and Tim Love’s Journal  were the ones I read from cover to cover.  Angelo’s Flavor Exposed is beautiful and his passion for food and flavors shines throughout, and the recipes are sophisticated and easy to follow.   The chefs were all very gracious and accommodating, and other than the ones who brought their small children with them, spent a large amount of time socializing and enjoying the cruise.  I’m not a huge cruise fan, but have done a few of them through the years.  I think being on board with so many like-minded people made all the difference in the world.  I would do it again in a heartbeat!


Tiffany…love her!

Malibu Chris


My beautiful friend who now might watch Top Chef with me!

Forever can never be long enough for me

Having a birthday two weeks from Christmas means that very rarely do you get a day that’s all about you.  Now that I’m an adult, I even have a hard time taking the time away from the hustle and bustle to stop and celebrate.  It’s not easy for my family members, either, I imagine.  In addition to figuring out a Christmas present, they also have to figure out something for my birthday.  So inevitably I get the Birthday/Christmas present.  Which I totally understand now…as a kid, not so much.

Sunday was a big birthday for me.  As in five decades of big. It is actually not that big of a deal, but everyone else wants to make it a big deal.  I mean, I already had my 50 year old physical, mammogram, and teeth cleaning.  I felt like I was there already, and I’m feeling pretty good.  But last week was jam-packed…with Christmas shopping, wrapping, making Apple Jelly, Pear/Apple Preserves, Strawberry and Blueberry Jam.  I was so glad to be able to go to dinner Saturday night with 8 of our best friends for a really fun night of good food, good wine, and laughter.  I went to bed with a smile on my face.

The next day (my actual birthday), J gave me a card with two tickets to the Train Concert at the Jingle Ball in Tampa!  I’ve written about Train before…I’m embarrassed to say I think I’m a groupie.  I love their songs…all of them.  The ones before they broke up and came back to record their latest album, “Save me, San Francisco”, and the ones that no one has ever heard of.  But I love their new stuff, too.  J said that when he walked in on me watching the CMT Crossroads show featuring Train and Martina McBride, and I was crying…(I have no idea why I cried-they just move me that way), that he knew he had to do it.

I was over the top excited…and after a quick tearing through my closet to figure out what to wear, I was ready to go to the airport, when four of our best friends walked in the front door.  They were going with us!  It was a perfect day, other than the rain and snow that we were beginning to get, which had been forecast for days, and which had kept my fearful flyer husband awake for the past week.  But we took off with no problems, and the landing in Tampa was smooth as silk.  A car picked us up and whisked us to the arena, where we were early, so we stopped in at the hotel next door for a drink and to freshen up a little.  I was on my way to the ladies room, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted the back of a bald head at the bar.  He was next to a column, so I couldn’t really see his face, but I was convinced it was Jimmy Stafford, lead guitarist extraordinaire for Train.  I ran back to J, breathlessly telling him Jimmy was at the bar.  He said, “No way,” and promptly walked over and tapped him on the shoulder.  He turned around (with a smile, luckily), and sure enough, it was him!  I normally speak in nonsense when I meet a celebrity, especially one I admire as much as Jimmy,  but for some reason when J introduced himself and pulled me over to tell him it was my birthday, I actually put together a couple of sentences that made sense!  Jimmy was very sweet, and spoke with us for a few minutes.  He told us he bought a home in Brentwood, so that his 10-year-old daughter could go to school here. He also said, after finding out we flew down for the show,  “You know we’re only doing four songs?”  Oops.

The show was a radio show…put on by a local station, and there were seven bands.  Ready Set, Mike Posner, Bruno Mars, Train, B.o.B., Enrique Englasias, and Maroon 5.  I guess I realized they would do a shorter set, but FOUR songs?  But you know what, it didn’t matter.  I met Jimmy, and I was with my friends and my sweet husband, and it was a magical night.  What I didn’t know was we had tickets to a pre-show…an acoustical set by Train.  They played three songs there, and ended up doing five songs in the show.  We got herded through the meet and greet line, and got our picture taken with the band and a bunch of girls I didn’t know, but I ran over next to Pat.  He looked at my skirt and said, “That skirt’s pretty hot.”  (swoon).  Of course, I was tongue tied and didn’t even say thanks.  Just smiled and leaned in for the shot.  We had floor seats, and I decided to sit on the end so I could stand up and dance, which ended up being a good decision.  When they did “Marry Me” (which they also did in the acoustic set and during both performances someone got engaged..), Pat left the stage and walked around the audience.  He walked right by me!  I could see the glistening sweat and the guy-liner on his eyes, and he is just as handsome up close as he is onstage.  I could have touched him, like everyone else was doing, but I was frozen in place.  Afterwards I was mad that I didn’t even take a photo.

It’s now a week later, and I’m still walking around on air.  The fact that J did something so generous and loving and outside his comfort zone (flying in bad weather), is something I will NEVER EVER forget.  Even if they only did one song, it would have been great.  I am the luckiest girl in the world (do I have to call myself a woman now that I’m 50?).  J and I are like yin and yang…we just fit together.  We’re definitely not the same in many ways…but I think that’s just the “whatever”…Pat said it first in these lyrics from “If it’s Love”…

But I’m afraid when I hear stories about a husband and wife
There’s no happy endings, no Henry Lee
But you are the greatest thing about me

If it’s love
And we decide that it’s forever
No one else could do it better

If it’s love
And we’re two birds of a feather
Then the rest is just whatever

So to my sweet husband…I love you.   I’m looking forward to spending my forevers with you.  And thank you.

Going to the Show!

Well, my obsession with Facebook has finally paid off!  Last week, I was just checking on my account and Train’s post showed up on my mini-feed.  They were coming to Nashville to tape a CMT Crossroads show with Martina McBride, and had 10 sets of tickets to give away.  All you had to do was comment on the post.  So I did two things that I never do…enter contests (because I NEVER win), and comment on a public figure’s post (because I’m afraid I’ll get zillions of notifications of other posts after mine.  I just told them that we had tickets to see them in Birmingham last April, the first day of the Nashville Flood, and literally couldn’t get out of Nashville because I-65 was covered with water, and how winning those tickets would be a great consolation prize.  I learned two things…1.  I didn’t get notifications about the zillions of other comments on the post and 2.  Mentioning the Nashville Flood got the sympathy vote, I guess, because we won!

I had a bit of a dilemma, because H is a huge fan, and I would have loved for her to go see them, but I didn’t want to give up my seat.  I mean, I do sacrifice a lot of things for my daughter, but come on-it’s TRAIN!  I get goosebumps just seeing and hearing Pat Monahan sing.  He sings with everything he has, and it shows.  The lyrics of his songs are absolutely beautiful…not just the overplayed big commercial hits, but the obscure songs that no one knows.

Like “Words”
“…Words they’ll try to shake us
Don’t let them break us
Or stop our world from turning
When words keep you from feeling good
Use them as firewood
And let them burn”
Or “When  I Look to the Sky
“Cause when I look to the sky
Something tells me you’re here with me
And you make everything alright
And when I feel like I’m lost
Something tells me you’re here with me
And I can always find my way when you are here”
Or “I’m About to Come Alive”
“Maybe I’m not but you’re all I got left to believe in
Don’t give up on me
I’m about to come alive
And I know that it’s been hard
And it’s been a long time coming
Don’t give up on me
I’m about to come alive” 
Then there’s “Drops of Jupiter“,released in 1999, which most people say has to be about a former lover, but which Pat says is about his mom, who died after a long battle with cancer in 1998.  Regardless, it gives me goose bumps every time I hear it.

“Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair…
But tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet?
Did you finally get the chance
To dance along the light of day
And head back to the Milky Way?

And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?
Was it everything you wanted to find?
And then you missed me
While you were looking for yourself out there”

Needless to say, I get lost in the music and the words and Pat Monahan’s voice whenever I see them.  J offered to let me take H instead of him, but she gracefully bowed out so it’s going to be a date night for us.  I don’t know Martina’s music, but I heard her sing with Reba McEntire at a Diva fundraiser for Oasis one year, and she’s got a mighty powerful voice for a little bitty thing, so it should be a great show.  I have no idea what to expect,  how many songs they will sing, if we get to sit down (it’s at Rocketown, which doesn’t usually have seating for concerts), but I’ll keep you posted.

Losing Farrah, Michael and Steve

We’re finishing up our third week at our little mountain house. Even being in this remote little community, bad news finds us. As if the loss of 70’s pop culture icons Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson wasn’t enough, I sat down to catch up on facebook and got the heartbreaking news that Steve McNair had been shot and killed.

I physically felt a burning in my heart, because Steve was such a hero to my hometown. Both on and off the field, he was a leader, a mentor, and a philanthropist. But perhaps more than the tragic loss of a home town hero, is the disappointment surrounding the details of his death. The facts are slowly being presented, but instead of focusing on his personal life, I want to remember him as a class act, both on and off the field.

Back in 2000, the year after McNair led the Titans to their first super bowl, which we were fortunate to be able to attend, H was 7 years old. She was participating that season as a “Jr. Titans Cheerleader”, and was a huge fan of McNair. We were eating at a local restaurant, and I noticed that he was eating at the bar. H wanted to go talk to him. At first, both J and I didn’t want to bother him, but we eventually relented, cautioning H that he might not want to talk. She walked up to him and tapped him on the leg. He turned around, and seeing her, got down off his seat, and then down on one knee so he could talk to her at her level! She told him he was her favorite player and that she was a Jr. Titans Cheerleader. He told her he was very impressed, and thanked her for her support. She was smiling ear to ear when she came back to our table. Her first experience with a ‘celebrity’ could have been a disappointing one, but Steve McNair was a gentleman and we will always remember that, not the sad details that may emerge surrounding his death.

Farrah Fawcett was the ultimate poster girl. I wanted the red bathing suit and I wanted my hair to look like hers. I bought my first set of hot rollers, and asked my hairstylist to cut my hair in “feathers”, just like hers! On me, the hairstyle looked more like an afro, but it was something that I (and all my friends) strived for.

I have so many memories of Michael Jackson…all the way back to “A,B,C”, the “Thriller” debut on MTV, seeing him perform the moonwalk the first time, running around the UT campus with “Billie Jean” on my cassette walkman, and the sad photographic evidence of his morphing into an unrecognizable character as symptoms of a man with obvious issues surrounding his identity. When you see side by side photos of him as a child next to him as an adult, it’s even more shocking.

But regardless of whatever inner turmoil Michael had, he left a legacy. Hearing the multitude of voices singing, “We are the world” still fills me with hope…and even though the purpose of the song was to raise awareness and funds for famine in Ethiopia, it reflects an image of musicians banding together for social change, and the possibilities of that are inspiring.

If anything can be taken from the events of the last couple of weeks, it is that life is precious, and uncertain. Three lives were taken from this world too soon, but their contributions and influence will last forever.

Nicole Kidman does yoga!!

I used to be in sales. So I had a lot of practice making small talk with people I didn’t know. I’m actually pretty good at it. I can go to a party with a bunch of strangers and usually meet a few people and converse without totally sticking my foot in my mouth or saying something stupid.

But introduce me to a celebrity and I become a stuttering, bumbling, embarrassing mess.

Living in Nashville, I actually do cross paths with a few singers, songwriters, NFL football players, etc. When we have kids that go to the same school, or play on the same basketball team, I can usually have a regular conversation, and use real words and everything. But put me somewhere where I don’t expect to see them, and I can’t even speak English.

A few years ago, Eddie George (ex-Titan’s running back and gorgeous specimen of a man/athlete) was on an airplane with us, flying to LA. Even though we’d never met, J’s trainer also taught Eddie yoga, so J felt like he knew him. J pointed him out to me and before I could register that he was sitting right in front of us, J walked over and shook his hand. He introduced himself, said he was a big fan, shared yoga stories, and pointed at me, introduced me as a huge fan. I reached over to shake his hand, opened my mouth and said, “Nahaiel kssld ijflk djsl”. Eddie nodded like he totally understood what I was saying and was very nice. That kind of thing happens to me a lot.

So yesterday, I went to yoga, and when I got there I realized it was a different teacher. I almost left, but then thought, “What the heck, I’m already here.” So I nabbed the only space left in the back row next to an empty mat. Class started and a couple of women snuck in to the empty mats on my left. I glanced over to see if it was someone I knew, and it was Nicole Kidman! She and Keith just bought a big house in a development close by, and I’ve heard people say they’ve seen her at Starbucks or whole foods, but I would never have expected to see her in a yoga class. Seems like she’d want to have someone come over and privately teach her in her home. So I’m trying to act all cool, like I see her everyday. I tried not to look at her, which is very difficult, because she’s so tall and beautiful, with this luminous skin that’s hard to believe. I don’t know how far along her pregnancy is, but it’s hard to even tell that she has a little bump. I spent more time trying to keep my eyes straight ahead, so that I wouldn’t make her feel uncomfortable by looking at her, than I did thinking about the yoga class. She stayed for the whole class, and did almost every pose (modifying for the baby). I made it through the class without getting caught sneaking a glance, didn’t try to talk to her (what a disaster that would have been), and left before she did.

She’s probably wondering who the stuck up weird woman was next to her.

I’ve got to talk about Britney Spears. In a way, I should thank her. Her behavior has been a wonderful lesson for H about how poor decisions can be quite destructive. Hannah was 7-8 when we first started listening and watching Britney. “Hit me baby”, and “oops, I did it again” were catchy and cute and Britney had throngs of little girls who worshipped the ground she walked on. Even though her weak little voice was obviously dubbed and edited and boosted in a sound booth, she was a good dancer and the girls loved her. The problem was, she was growing up in the public eye, without much guidance it seemed. Her music began it’s evolution to more sexual connotations, she started wearing fewer clothes, and in her attempts to “grow up”, she grew away from the huge fan base she had established. H and her friends just stopped listening. They felt more comfortable with singers like Hilary Duff and Christina Aguilera, and actresses like Dakota Fanning…girls who acted their age.

I’ve been intrigued with the stories about Britney, with kind of a train-wreck fixation. I do feel bad for this girl. She has a life that to some would seem full of opportunity. She has enough money not to have to worry about financial matters, but who does she have in her life that is there because they really care about her? She’s pushed her parents away, and the hangers-on who are at her side are paid to be there. When her advisors give her advice that she doesn’t like, she fires them. She is a lost soul, a little girl who skipped a vital part of growing up, when she could have learned lessons and grown to be an adult who can make solid decisions.

Maybe someone, somewhere will be able to break through her stubbornness, and let her see what her destructive behavior is doing to her, both personally and professionally. Her independent nature and energy can perhaps be channelled and she can find herself.