Now that The Jet Set Pets has launched

I can’t believe that it’s been five months since I’ve updated this Eat, Drink and Pray for Love blog! Well, I have a good reason for neglecting my personal ramblings: my pet project, literally, The Jet Set Pets.

Finally, after 13 hard months, The Jet Set Pets finally launched in March. I don’t know which was more challenging: delivering the manuscript for Come to Win or building a website. Just like the hard work Venus Williams, the publisher Amistad (an imprint of Harper  Collins) and I put into Come to Win helped the book become a New York Times bestseller, I’m convinced that I have an award-winning site that wouldn’t have been possible without my biz partner/marketing guru Regina DiMartino and the rest of the terrific team.

If you haven’t checked out The Jet Set Pets yet, please do. And if you have visited, please return for the latest information for pampered pets on the go and share the link with others. The site is not only beautiful thanks to a clever icon from talented graphic artist Kimb Manson and dazzling illustration from the fabulous Marina Rankovic but functional and informative due to the brilliance of web developer Clint Crisher, who is as creative (it was his idea to perch me on the wing of the plane in the illustration) as he is on top of the latest in web design.

I know this reads like I’m delivering an acceptance speech — and I haven’t won anything. But I am super proud of the site, which has something for every pet lover whether your furry friend travels first class or economy, by Ferrari or bus or to St. Tropez or the local dog park. An abundance of pet-friendly travel information awaits but there’s also a Community section so pets can have virtual play dates in the Chat Room, a Forum for pet lovers to share their thoughts and a Directory that allows businesses to reach consumers and which gives back by donating part of its revenue to charities.

In time, I would like to start The Jet Set Pets Foundation to provide free and reduced-rate veterinarian services to the financially challenged.

But first, I have to continue delivering content essential to pet lovers and presented in a user-friendly way. Feel free to send comments and make suggestions on the site.

Now that The Jet Set Pets is off the ground, I hope to find time to update this blog on a regular basis once again. I love writing in the first person as much as I take delight in reading how much you enjoy my ramblings. Few editors allow me to write in the first person, my favorite style.

My pooch Lucy and I jet off to Spain on Wednesday then we’re on to France, followed by Italy, our adopted country and former residence. (I can taste the Bellinis now.) I’m sure we’ll have our usual exciting adventures, which I’ll write about in my (hopefully) usual witty fashion on this blog beginning later this week.

Check back for frequent posts, or better yet, subscribe so the posts are delivered right to your Inbox.

Hasta luego!

À tout à l’heure!

A presto!

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Filed under Books, Italy, Travel

Happy Anniversary to me and Lucy!

Kelly and Lucy at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Kelly Carter and Lucy at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Today marks the 10th anniversary of when I met Lucy. When I awoke this morning, I went to her bed, bent down, gave her a kiss on her head and whispered “Happy anniversary. I love you,” in her ear. She responded with wet licks across my nose.

I’m not quite sure how we’ll honor this day. I wanted to have a party tonight to celebrate our decade together and the launch of my new luxury pet travel site, The Jet Set Pets, but the site isn’t quite ready. Maybe we’ll go to a dog bakery though Lucy never seems to enjoy anything from dog bakeries. Now, real bakeries are a different subject. She’ll gobble up anything.

I still remember the day when I picked her up. The night before our first meeting I interviewed the cast of Ocean’s 11 together for USA Today. I sat at a round table with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia and director Steven Soderbergh. As much fun as it was to chat with that gang all at once (I gained a great deal of respect for Brad when he offered to get me something when somebody mentioned liquor), the real treat in my life was the next day when I flew to Pasco, Wash., to pick up my baby.

She was eight months old and her name was Wendy. She had been living with the Chihuahua breeder, who for reasons unbeknownst to me, was willing to part with the dog she had made her pet. But who was I to question it? I was happy to get Wendy. The breeder asked if I wanted to come to see the place where Wendy was born but I wasn’t interested. I planned to hop the next flight back to L.A. with my precious little package.

Who knew what was in store for the two of us? I knew we would travel together, which is why I chose a tiny dog. But I didn’t know what a terrific little pal she would become. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs as anyone who knows us knows. There was a time early on when I thought I would have to get rid of her because of her diva attitude. But a behavior specialist stepped in and salvaged our relationship. And there was a stretch in Italy when her name became Lucifer because she  had turned into such a devil. And there are many moments when she lives up to the name on her dog dish, which read “Bitch Bowl.” I can count the times on one hand when she’s greeted me at the door. She prefers that I come and greet her when I come home. That’s typical of  longhair Chihuahuas, who have high opinions of themselves.

Despite all that, I love my little Lucy something fierce. I spend countless hours in my office pecking away at the keyboard and she’s right with me, curled up in a ball surrounded by magazines.

Lucy in office

Lucy spends countless hours in Kelly's office.

She follows me from room to room, running up and down the stairs behind me, the bell dangling from her collar clinging against a darling Swarovski crystal charm to play a musical tune that I adore hearing. When I take a rare break and retreat to the living room with a glass of wine and package of raw almonds, she’s comes along with me. When I’m in the kitchen cooking, she watches intently though I know she’s waiting for a piece of 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano to drop on the floor. When I pull an occasional all-nighter, she tries to do the same,  struggling to keep her eyes open and on me. After 10 years together she knows my every move and can predict what I’m going to do before I do it. I can look at her cute, little face and tell what she’s thinking, know whether she’s happy or sad.

On the rare occasions when she’s not home with me, the house feels incredibly empty and silent without her.  She may only stand four inches off the ground but she has a huge personality that fills several rooms. I often wonder what she thinks when she looks at me with those big, black eyes of hers. I’m sure every pet parent would love to know the same! I depend on her to let me know whether a guy is right or wrong. Her instincts are incredible! When she’s been indifferent to someone, it’s for good reason as I later find out. I’m sure she looks at me and thinks, “What took you so long to figure that out?”

Lucy and I certainly have figured each other out. Here’s to hoping we have several more wonderful and memorable years together.

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Sinning in Sin City

Kelly E. Carter and Michael Mina at American Fish in Aria Las Vegas

Kelly E. Carter and Michael Mina at American Fish inside Aria Las Vegas

When it comes to fine dining, I’ll bet that Las Vegas wins hands down over any other city in the country based on the number of fantastic restaurants within close proximity of one another. Any takers?

Since gluttony is a sin, I admit I’ve sinned plenty in the city known as Sin City. In Vegas I’ve gorged at the restaurants of some of the most notable celebrity chefs around the country (and even world in some cases), including Michael Mina,  Jean-Georges Vongerichten,  Masa Takayama, Joël Robouchon, José Andrés,  Paul Bartolotta, Guy Savoy, Shawn McClain, Julian Serrano and Pierre Gagnaire. Consider that their eateries are within walking distance of one another and you can see why I’m calling Las Vegas the dining capital of America, based on radius.

From a foodie’s perspective, the best time to be in Vegas is this weekend for Food & Wine All-Star Weekend, taking place Oct-21-23 at Aria Resort & Casino and Bellagio Resort & Casino. Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons hosts the epicurean adventure that features some of the aforementioned chefs (Mina, Serrano, Takayama, Vongerichten and Maccioni), 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard and a smorgasbord of others from the culinary and mixology world.

Food & Wine All Star Weekend Las Vegas

Here’s the mouth-watering lineup:

Friday, October 21

8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
First Course: Kick-off party hosted by Gail Simmons at ARIA View Bar featuring a star-studded lineup of celebrity chefs and alumni from Top Chef. Guests will enjoy cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres.

11 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Second Course: The Deuce Lounge at ARIA will be the setting for a fun after-party as each chef hosts blackjack at a gaming table.

Sit in on a game, sip delicious cocktails and enjoy a simply delectable dessert bar from Top Chef Just Desserts winner Yigit Pura.

Saturday, October 22

Noon – 2 p.m.
A New American Lunch: FOOD & WINE Contributor and Wine Expert Anthony Giglio and Top Chef cheftestant Stephanie Izard co-host this exciting sit-down luncheon at ARIA’s Sage. Delicious cuisine by Sage Executive Chef Shawn McClain and exquisite cocktail and beer pairings made exclusively by Giglio will impress guests during the afternoon, providing a fun, culinary experience at the award-winning restaurant.

Luxe Lunch: Hosted in Bellagio’s Tuscany Kitchen, this extraordinary lunch is part cooking demonstration, part three-course luncheon and part wine tasting. This exciting event will be hosted by Gail Simmons with Top Chef’s Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg providing a cooking demo and Bellagio Master Sommelier and Director of Wine Jason Smith pairing each course with complementary wine.

8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
All-Star Tasting: The main event takes place poolside at ARIA and will feature host Gail Simmons, Bravo’s Top Chef cheftestants Yigit Pura, Stephanie Izard, Hosea Rosenberg, Angelo Sossa and Sam Talbot in addition to the signature restaurants of ARIA: Jean Georges Steakhouse, Sirio Ristorante, Julian Serrano, BARMASA and Sage. Each participating chef will create a sample-sized portion of a signature dish for guests to taste. Cocktails, wine and beer also will be served. Many of ARIA’s award-winning chefs and restaurateurs will be in attendance including Masa Takayama, Shawn McClain, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Michael Mina and Sirio Maccioni.

Sunday, October 23

11 a.m. Champagne & Caviar Brunch: Hosted by FOOD & WINE Contributing Editor and Wine Expert Anthony Giglio, Jasmine at Bellagio will make guests’ champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true at this buffet brunch set against the backdrop of the breathtaking Bellagio Fountains. Featuring a specialty Bloody Mary Bar created by Bellagio Master Mixologist Matt Myers and brunch favorites from Top Chef Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg.

Bon appetit!

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Dogs trending now

German Shepherd photo courtesy of Maggie Smith

Reading Susan Orlean’s opinion piece in today’s New York Times on the decline in popularity of the German Shepherd sent me back to my childhood when our family had a German Shepherd. I don’t remember much about that dog except that he wasn’t with us very long — unlike our darling French poodle, who was part of our family until her death.

The one thing I do remember about the German Shepherd was his bark being so forceful that it once knocked down the Christmas cards perched on the fireplace mantle and bookshelves. I was either four or five years old. And I have a vague memory of him biting my brother, which I guess could have resulted in him no longer being a part of the family. The dog, not my brother.

I didn’t know until I read Orlean’s column that the German Shepherd was once the dog of choice for families across America. It’s funny how breeds of dogs are trendy just like designers or food. Call Christian Louboutin and pork belly the German Shepherds of today.

I don’t know what the hot dog is now (no pun intended). Well, it’s the Labrador Retriever  and has been for 20 years by the American Kennel Club standards. But it seems to me that in the last decade it was the Chihuahua. I’d like to think I started that trend when I selected Lucy in 2001 but maybe it had something to do with the “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” ad that started a few years earlier.  Breeders couldn’t pump out Chihuahuas fast enough to meet the demand of people who stupidly thought that Chihuahuas really could talk. When these pet parents realized their dogs couldn’t be taught to speak, they abandoned them and that resulted in shelters full of Chihuahuas.

And then came the Reese Witherspoon hit film Legally Blonde in the summer of 2001 followed by Chihuahua, a song recorded by Swiss artist DJ BoBo that was the summer rage in 2003.

Click to Play!

OK, so maybe I didn’t have anything to do with the popularization of Chihuahuas, a breed that has withstood the test of trendiness. Next month Lucy and I will celebrate our 10th year together. I think a party is in order. The Jet Set Pets, a luxury pet travel site Lucy inspired me to create, will officially launch next month so I can have a dual celebration. Oh why not make a trifecta since my birthday is in November as well?

I can hardly believe it’s been 10 years since Lucy became my family. She’s a terrific little companion and brings such joy to my life — though she can be a handful with that diva attitude of hers. (Honestly, I don’t know where she gets it!)  A platonic male friend recently asked me if I ever considered becoming a mother because he wanted to have a baby but didn’t want to be a husband. I told him that the thought of motherhood never crossed my mind, except becoming a pet parent to Lucy.

And to think, I almost missed that opportunity. I had started shopping for a dog in the spring of 2001 but stopped when my mother fell ill that summer. After she passed away on Sept. 17, 2001, I wondered whether I really wanted to become a pet parent knowing I would likely outlive my four-legged friend. Could I bear to lose something else so dear to me after losing my mother, to whom I was extremely close? But someone told me that I should focus on the years of fun I can spend with a pet rather than the time when nature runs its course. It’s like the quote that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Who knows how many more years Lucy and I will have together? Chihuahuas live to be around 15 or 17 and both of us are in terrific health. But nothing is promised to any of us. So we’ll just continue to enjoy our days together and keep Chihuahuas in the “trending now” category.

Thank you Maggie Smith for the photo of the German Shepherd!

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Filed under Lucy, Pets

I Love Lucy!

Today would have been Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday and in honor of this amazing actress, there’s an I Love Lucy marathon running on the Hallmark Channel that is keeping me up. I hope to see the hilarious wine-making episode in Italy, which is much more relevant to my life now than when I first saw it decades ago.

Personally, I would rather drink wine that stomp grapes to turn into wine but I understand there are wineries that let you stomp grapes and pretend to be Lucy in Turo, Italy.

Few people know just how much I thought of Lucille Ball when I was a kid. In grade school I read every book on her that I could get my hands on and made her the subject of papers. I was smitten! I always knew whenever I got a pet of my own, I would name her Lucy. One person who does know is my friend Maureen, whom I met in Italy and who writes the Urban Travel Girl blog. I still treasure the two DVDs of I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show episodes that she sent me to Positano.

Back to the Hallmark Channel. Right now they quartet is headed to Hollywood and have stopped in Albuquerque to visit Ethel’s father. What’s your favorite I Love Lucy episode? When Lucy and Ethel took jobs in the chocolate factory? Lucy making bread? Vitameatavegamin? Would love to know.

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Filed under Italy, Lucy, Pets, Travel

Trying to understand Naomi’s bitterness toward chocolate

I’m always flattered when someone compliments me on my “chocolate” skin. Therefore, I don’t understand supermodel Naomi Campbell being upset at the Cadbury ad that refers to her complexion.

I would understand if the supermodel wanted to sue because the company didn’t pay her to use her first name, though I haven’t consulted an attorney to determine whether she would have a legit claim. But I don’t know when being called “chocolate” became a negative. Who doesn’t love chocolate?

For years my skin tone has been referred to as “chocolate” by Blacks and whites, even as recently as Memorial Day, and I can’t remember ever taking offense. I grew up in the “Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud!” era.  I remember back in the 90s, one summer I wanted to see just how dark I could become. I spent seven days in Hawaii and never left the pool during daylight hours. When I returned home and looked at myself naked in the mirror, I looked like a zebra. My skin that had been exposed was about 20 times darker than the skin that my bikini covered. I loved it! (Yeah, I know I should do nude bathing not to have so-called “tan” lines.)

I know that being  this dark isn’t cool for some, including some Blacks who have told me I shouldn’t spend so much time in the sun. And trust me, they were not concerned about me getting skin cancer. Plenty of countries, especially those in Asia, still associate being dark with being a field hand. That’s why yachts purchased by wealthy Chinese might as well come with a cover-up deck rather than a sun deck.

High-profile people such as Isaac Hayes, Richard Roundtree, Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Iman and even Michael Jordan helped those who couldn’t have passed the paper bag test back when that insulting way to discriminate amongst our own was in effect appreciate their coffee-bean complexion. Later, women like Alek Wek and Foxy Brown, and even more recently First Lady Michelle Obama and Viola Davis, have helped people see beauty in our darkness. I’m thankful my parents didn’t hold back their love for me and my brother just because we came out so dark. I have Black friends who unfortunately have experienced rejection from their family because of their dark skin tone.

That’s about as ridiculous to me as Naomi’s complaint.

Or am I missing something regarding Miss Naomi? Is she overreacting?

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Pomegranate margaritas to invade Sunset Strip

Have I been under a rock? Rosa Mexicano is opening a second location in L.A.! Why am I just now learning of this?

Between preparing for the any-day-now official launch of  The Jet Set Pets, my new luxury pet travel website,  still trying to survive as a freelance journalist during a time when good reporting is no longer valued and trying to make Bellini for One, my memoir detailing my two-year experience living in Italy, a reality I haven’t had time to stay on top of my food blogs.

So I was pleasantly shocked to read that this summer Rosa will open on the Sunset Strip, replacing Borracho Cantina. L.A. has so many great Mexican restaurants so it’s hard to believe that we need anymore. But if we do then I’m glad that it is Rosa’s, which was one of my favorite places to hang with friends when I lived in New York. I couldn’t have been more thrilled when Rosa’s opened an outpost in downtown L.A. after I returned home. Though I must admit  it’s not as enjoyable as the one on Columbus Avenue — unless you have a designated driver. Even though there are two other Rosa’s in Manhattan, in my opinion, even they don’t compare to the one on the Upper West Side. There’s just something special about sitting across from Lincoln Center, usually with my dear friend Lori Berlin of ESPN (that’s her seated in the middle in the above photo taken at Rosa’s), devouring the best guac in  New York and slurping Rosa’s signature pomegranate margaritas. And then there was José, my fave bartender, who always had a smile on his face.

I can’t wait to see if the latest spot on the Sunset Strip holds a lady of liberty torch to the Lincoln Center location. Though I have a feeling I know what my answer will be.

What’s your favorite Rosa Mexicano locale?

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Filed under Dining, Friendship, Los Angeles, New York