Tag Archives: USA Today

Bye, bye belly

My pouch was visible when I visited Lipari, one of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily.

Close your eyes and visualize this: A toothpick that swallowed a lemon.

Now open them and you will see how I see myself, which is why I have decided to have tumescent liposuction today.

I’m 50 years and three days old. But the decision to do lipo didn’t just hit me because of my age. Those of you who know me have put up with me complaining about my belly for years. When I texted the news to a girlfriend in Chicago whom I’ve known since the 80s, she texted back:

“Awesome Girl!!! I’m surprised you didn’t do this sooner because you never liked you (sic) “tiny pouch”. lol

I eat healthy 90 percent of the time, work out four to five days a week doing weight-bearing exercises and floor work for my abs and walk the hills of San Francisco to run errands since I have no car. I’m quite pleased with the rest of my body after dropping a dress size while researching The World’s Top Destination Spas story for Elite Traveler this spring. I can’t afford to lose anymore inches. My butt is practically non-existent. My boobs have shrunk. My pencil legs are now toothpicks. Still, my belly persists to the point where it is much larger than my ass. And everyone knows you can’t spot reduce.

What’s a girl to do?

I’m 6-foot-1, 152 pounds, reed thin. My legs are so skinny I have to get all of my boots taken in. Always have.

And I’ve always had a belly too. I’ve grown as adept at holding it in as I have at breathing.

When I was in my 20s, I popped laxatives before going on vacation to get rid of my bulge. Seven, 10, 12 at a time. Whatever it took.

By my 30s that no longer worked and I went to 90-year-old nutritionist Hermien Lee, who turned me into a lean, mean, machine.

And then came my 40s. I opted for more drastic methods such as the Master Cleanser or doing a raw diet with no alcohol for weeks at a time. Being that I’m a travel writer and part of traveling is eating then guzzling lemonade for several days at a time and not eating anything cooked can only work so long for me.

Everyone knows what a foodie I am and my stomach is a bottomless pit. The way I eat, I should be 300 pounds but I’m not because I exercise regularly — plus, I have great genes. Previously, if I needed to get my belly down, all I had to do was really watch what I ate and give up alcohol. Within 10 days, I’d be looking good enough to rock a bikini like I did in St. Tropez this summer.

Kelly E. Carter, Trina Turk bikini

I rocked this Trina Turk bikini in St. Tropez this summer, holding in my belly.

But age has a way of catching up with you.

When I returned from St. Tropez, I learned that the beau would have to endure six weeks of radiation. Before he began his treatment in September I offered to give up alcohol to support him. Oh how we both love our wine! He looked at me with the most loving eyes, for it was akin to me offering to shave my head if he lost his hair. (Thankfully THAT didn’t happen.) Outside of drinking at HBO’s Emmy party, during a business trip to South Beach and in Atlanta, where I went for a funeral, I stuck by my no-alcohol edict. After the beau’s radiation ended, his belly was gone and he was down 20 pounds. My belly still stuck out like a hump in a camel, a further indication that alcohol was not what was causing me to look four months pregnant.

During a visit to the beau’s dermatologist, I spotted a brochure for tumescent liposuction. Curious, I picked it up. I thought back to a recent lipo discussion with a retired dermatologist friend from my beau’s yacht club. He tiptoed around my situation but agreed that lipo wouldn’t be a bad thing for me. And I recalled a conversation from a couple of years ago with a friend from childhood, now a medical doctor with a weight loss clinic in L.A. She told me back then that I was the ideal candidate for lipo. The brochure in hand, I looked at these before and after photos and read when the procedure should be used, the risks, how it is performed and why a dermatologic surgeon should be used.

tumescent liposuction

Liposuction is most effective for removing localized fat deposits that do not respond to diet or exercise. It is not intended as a substitute for weight loss; rather, it is a contouring procedure, and is optimally utilized in a program of exercise and weight maintenance.

I know a lot of you reading this may look at the before picture and ask “Where’s Waldo? Where’s the fat?” Not me! I looked at the photo and said, “That’s me!” I gave the brochure to the beau, who said if that’s what I want then fine, I could have it. But, he made it clear, he thinks I have a fantastic bod. We returned for a consultation with his doctor and scheduled my procedure for Nov. 30. This gave me license to thoroughly enjoy  myself during a decadent birthday trip to Las Vegas with several girlfriends to ring in my 50th.

Now, a bon vivant like me disdains buffets but Kitty Yancey, a USA Today travel writer whose opinion I trust, assured me in an email that the new, $17 million Bacchanal Buffet at  Caesars Palace was worth it and wrote that her story in USA Today didn’t give it justice. You have to go, she implored.

So off me and my girls went for my birthday lunch. With each plate, I reminded myself that everything I was eating would be removed on Friday.

bacchanal buffet Caesars palace

After starting at Bacchanal Buffet’s seafood station, I moved on to Italy, pausing to pick up a slider during my birthday lunch at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

At Bacchanal, I took it upon myself to gorge on fresh East and West coast oysters, prawns, shrimp and grits, mussels, grilled salmon, pepperoni pizza, meatballs, sliders, French fries, chips and guacamole, Kung Pao chicken, edamame, low mein, crème brûlée and lots more. With more than 500 dishes to choose from, I couldn’t try everything – though I wanted to.

That night, my birthday dinner took place at James Beard award-winning Chef José Andrés’ Jaleo in The Cosmopolitan. I devoured cured ham from the legendary, acorn-fed, black-footed Ibérico pigs of Spain, 18-month salt-cured Serrano ham, white asparagus with idiazábal cheese, grilled skirt steak with piquillo pepper confit, traditional chicken fritters served in a shoe and so much more, knowing that it would all be gone be in just a few days.

Jaleo Las Vegas Jose Andres

My yummy birthday dinner served tapas style at Jaleo by Jose Andres in The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas.

Before I left for the trip, I went clothes shopping in San Francisco for a couple of new birthday outfits since it was Black Friday.What a frustrating experience that was! I looked longingly at dresses that I knew were not right for my body type because they hugged the mid-section. I was nearly in tears as I went from one store to another, unable to find anything despite the Black Friday sales. I admit I do a pretty good job of hiding my belly. One saleswoman convinced me to try on a dress that she said would hide the belly that she couldn’t see. I wiggled into the cute red dress and her eyes nearly popped out when she saw my belly protruding like a beach ball. Oh, she said, before finding the one dress in her store that hid a belly. But I didn’t care for the dress. I told her I was having lipo in a few days and she said she looked forward to seeing me back in the store in a few months. I waddled further down Chestnut Street and into BCBG Max Azria, where I picked up this darling shirt dress that hides my pouch, and a couple of other items that would suffice.

Kelly E. Carter, Ghostbar Palms Casino

Me at Ghostbar, on the 55th floor of Palms Casino for pre-birthday drinks.

As much as I absolutely love, love, love this BCBG shirt dress, in a few months I won’t be limited to dresses that flow. Thanks to the beau and his generous birthday present. Even though he doesn’t think I need lipo, I do. And that’s what matters.

Check back later for updates.



Filed under Aging, Beauty, Dining, Health, Las Vegas

Embracing my inner Italian

firenze apartment building

Open my freezer and you’ll likely only find ice. I haven’t bought a loaf of bread or salad dressing in over six years. I go to the grocery store once or twice a week, buying only what I need for the next couple of days. I take daily naps. I believe wine is a food group. When I cook dinner at home, I eat my salad after my main course. A stick of butter lasts me for weeks yet I can go through olive oil by the vat.

These thoughts come to my mind after reading a post on my friend Maureen Jenkins’ UrbanTravelGirl blog about her inner Italian. Maureen and I met a few years ago when we both lived in Italy. Sadly, both of us returned to the States for financial reasons after begrudgingly accepting the difficulties in earning enough money as a freelance writer to live in the manner to which we had become accustomed. And sadly, neither of us found un bello ragazzo to marry and hopefully take care of us. Not for lack of trying and not that it was our priority. But that’s a post for another day.

Sharon Sanders, a friend of Maureen’s, spotlighted Maureen in her award-winning blog “Simple Italy: Italian Food, Culture, Lifestyle and Travel. ” Her blog is for “all those who embrace la bella vita.”  As she writes, “Even if we don’t live in Italy, Italy lives inside of us.” (For me that is so unbelievably true.) At the end of the post, Sharon, who lived and worked in Firenze (Florence) many years ago, asked the question: Has Italy changed your life in a profound way?

That question brings me to how I began this post. It’s about how living in Italy changed my life. I’m still amazed that our stores have oodles of shelves of salad dressing when olive oil (and sometimes vinegar) will do just fine. I don’t believe in buying a shopping cart full of groceries and freezing fresh food. I wonder why waiters look at me strangely when I ask for a wine list at lunch time.

When I left Los Angeles for Italy in April 2003, I did so with the intention of never returning to the States. Or at least now for a couple of decades. Not that I dislike the U.S., although with all of these senseless shootings I do sometimes wish it were harder to buy guns like it is in other countries. I love my country but also get a kick out of growing (not taller because I think 6-foot-1 is tall enough). Outside of prison, where I have no plans to go, there is no better way to learn about oneself and test one’s limit than to live in a foreign country. I just figured I would grow old in Italy, either alone or with a husband, and preferably not someone else’s. Although I didn’t want to return to the States in 2005, I like to think I did so a wiser soul with more patience and tolerance being that I know what it’s like to be an immigrant barely able to speak a country’s language, more of an ability to appreciate the simple things in life and with a polished palate.

I don’t miss living in New York just yet but I daydream about returning to my simple life in Italy, where stemware wasn’t a priority when I drank wine and I really didn’t mind when my heel got caught between cobblestones while walking down a charming, dim street. The other night I had a chance to reminisce about those carefree days when I enjoyed a delicious Italian meal at Cafe Angelino with author extraordinaire Tracie Howard, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when she traveled through Firenze with a mutual friend and others. Tracie, whose latest must-read book is Friends and Fauxs, and her crew sailed through Italy in July 2003. I was still a newbie and under the belief that I was in my adopted country forever, thinking my oh-so-Italian apartment (one of the ones whose windows you see above because my bedroom and living room faced the Arno River) was going to be mine until the end of the time. Or until I married, whichever came first.

Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to move back to Italy, a country full of faults and pleasures. Until then, I have to embrace my inner Italian from here and try not to weep in my vino rosso when I look at old photos like these:

living room in firenzeThis was my first apartment in Firenze. An American neighbor eventually loaned me an expensive, antique desk from which to work but initially I sat at the dining table, which faced the Arno, and wrote masterful stories. Yes, that is a USA Today on the coffee table!

lived next to ponte vecchioI lived right next to the Ponte Vecchio, which means “old bridge” in Italian. It used to be full of butcher shops but today has an excessive number of jewelry stores. The Germans spared it, but not the other bridges, during WWII.

first meal i cooked in firenzeThis was the very first meal I cooked in Florence, when drinking wine from a tumbler suited me fine. I wish I had that ravioli and sauce now.

clothes drying in firenze apartmentClothes dryers were uncommon in Firenze so I used a clothes rack after washing my clothes in my little washing machine that took hours to go through one cycle.

lucy in firenzeLucy‘s name was changed to Lucia when we moved to Firenze. She looks evil here but really she loved living in Italy because she likes to hear the Italian language. Just like me!


Filed under Italy, Los Angeles, Travel, Wine

Cheers to the best brunch in Los Angeles

The Bazaar_Jose Andres and Kelly

I told Chef Jose Andres that he’s lucky he’s married, because otherwise I’d propose to him. I had just finished devouring his delicious brunch at the The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills yesterday and was caught up in the delectable culinary experience that I imagined him serving me the exact same brunch in bed every weekend.

Okay, so it won’t happen. That means I’ll just have to become a regular at brunch, offered on Saturdays and Sundays. I first met Chef Jose (and his lovely wife and three adorable daughters) in Aspen at the Food & Wine Classic, where I interviewed him for a story in USA Today. At the time I hadn’t been so lucky to eat at his restaurant, which opened about a year ago. (He has several in D.C. as well.) But since June I’ve had the pleasure of dining at The Bazaar not one, not two but three times! It is my new favorite restaurant in Los Angeles and the one I send everyone to when asked to recommend a restaurant.

Because pictures tell 1,000 words and I want to keep this post short, here’s what we sampled at yesterday’s media brunch. We started with a snack:

The Bazaar_cotton candy foie gras and bagel and lox cone 2Cotton candy foie gras and bagel and lox cone with salmon roe and herb cream cheese

The Bazaar_air bread with smoked salmonAir bread with smoked salmon tzatziki yogurt

The Bazaar_grapefruit mimosaCava mimosa; with modern traditional olives in the background. The olives burst in your mouth and are beyond description.

Then it was on to tapas:

The Bazaar_watermelon and tomato skewersWatermelon and tomato skewers Pedro Ximenez reduction, lemon dressing

We also enjoyed free range Iberico ham, Catalan style toasted bread, tomato and Escalivada Catalan style roasted red pepper, onion and eggplant but I didn’t take photos. I was too busy watching this being made:

The Bazaar_blood orange screwdriver 1Made table side, it’s a blood orange screwdriver frozen with liquid nitrogen

The Bazaar_blood orange screwdriver 2

Here’s how the blood orange screwdriver looks when served. Yes, it’s frozen!

Next it was time for the “brunch” portion. Since we already had mimosas, then we moved to another morning favorite:

The Bazaar_bloody maryBloody Mary made with freshly made tomato juice and celery-wasabi foam. Spicy and good!

The Bazaar_12 tiny eggs sunny side up

12 tiny eggs sunny side up; huevos a la Cubana “Andy Garcia”

The Bazaar_eggs benedict with fermin iberico ham

Eggs Benedict “New Way” with Fermin Iberico ham (above)

The Bazaar_olive oil pancakes with syrup

Olive oil pancakes with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and season mixed berries. Best pancakes I’ve ever had!

The Bazaar_tortillas de patatas potato foam, egg 63Tortillas de Patatas potato foam, egg 63 and caramelized onion puree

The Bazaar_gin and tonicGin and tonic with a spherical ice cube was served at some point.

The Bazaar_decorWe dined on the beautifully-decorated terrace overlooking La Cienega Blvd. I don’t have the details on the design.

The Bazaar_high tea 1

And then we adjourned inside for high tea

The Bazaar_high tea 2

There were so many goodies on this table that I finally had to step away — but not before I gobbled down caviar buns, foie gras sliders and other delicacies.

Anyone who wants to treat me for brunch at The Bazaar let me know.


Filed under Dining

Where does Michael Jackson go from here?


I can’t decide what my favorite memory of the sensational Michael Jackson memorial is. I do know that it oozed class and that I want Jennifer Hudson to sing at my memorial, which I hope is not any time soon.

From the Oscar winner, who makes singing look so effortless, belting Will You Be There to Rev. Al Sharpton being at his best to Paris Michael Katherine Jackson speaking from her heart and reminding all of us that Michael was just “Daddy” to her to Jermaine Jackson’s teary-eyed rendition of Smile to  the Andrae Crouch Choir singing We Are Going to See the King as the pallbearers wheeled in MJ’s exquisite casket to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s words (possibly meant for Rep. Peter King) to Marlon Jackson pulling himself together then making me cry (for the umpteenth time) to the Jackson concert singers reminding us what a humanitarian MJ was by dazzling us with We Are the World and Heal the World,  today’s memorial was one that I won’t soon forget. Too bad I couldn’t get from Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, which I was assigned to cover for USA Today, down to the Staples Center in time to see it in person but it was just as fantastic on television. Yes, I know I should have asked Joe Jackson if I could ride in the family car but I refrained.

I chatted with Angela, my neighbor who invited me to be her +1 at the memorial, as soon as she got home and she told me how the Staples Center buzzed with energy. She was still jazzed up hours after it ended. We both agreed that Al was incredible. Why I can argue the validity of Al’s words to Michael’s three children, “Wasn’t nuthin’ strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with,” there is no denying the power of his words during his nearly 7-minute sermon. I even jumped to my feet like I was in church. And didn’t you just love the way the Rev., after saying his final “Thank ya Michael!” quickly turned to his right and strode off the stage, like he knew he had nailed it?!

It would be nice if now we can let Michael rest in peace but that isn’t going to happen. Toxicology reports, Debbie Rowe, MJ’s business affairs and even the burial still loom. It’s my guess that the owners of Neverland are deciding whether to turn Neverland into another Graceland and have requested permission from the appropriate people to bury Michael at the place he loved so much. I know MJ said he never wanted to go back there but did that mean in his death too? Jermaine sure thinks it is the appropriate final resting place for his brother. When I lived in Italy, I interviewed Colony Capital honcho Thomas Barrack, the guy who bought the $23.9 million loan on Neverland a year ago, and he’s a helluva businessman. Just ask Forbes, which has him listed as one of the 400 wealthiest Americans. I interviewed him because he owns the oh-so-fabulous Costa Smeralda, a billionaire’s playground and where I was fortunate enough to visit a couple of times.

I read somewhere that it costs $10 mil a year to maintain Neverland, which Thomas saved from being sold at a public auction. (He co-owns the ranch with MJ.) I see that investment paying off big time for Colony Capital, known for buying undervalued assets and turning them into moneymakers. I also read somewhere that it takes about 30 days to get permission to bury someone in a backyard. I don’t know if paperwork has been filed but I can see it happening. What’s unclear though is where MJ is until then. Don’t let this turn into a Where’s Waldo circus.

Kelly, Shaun, Kevin at Forest Lawn

At Forest Lawn, I had a chance to catch up with Shaun Robinson of Access Hollywood and Kevin Frazier of Entertainment Tonight. Gawd, I look fat next to Shaun! Should crop but will let it go this time.

forestlawn_mj_mediaThe media was out in full force at Forest Lawn.

forestlawn_mj_familycarThe family car leaves Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills and heads to the Staples Center.

forestlawn_mj_hearseThe hearse carrying Michael Jackson’s body followed the family car. It was sad watching it go by.

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Filed under Entertainment