Lifestylers — Paging Dr. Laura: It’s Almost Valentine’s Day!

Love is in the air. Or it soon will be with Valentine’s Day just a few days away, so we set out to find amore advice from renowned sex and relationship expert Dr. Laura Berman.  Her show, In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura, can be seen on the Oprah Winfrey Network and she’s also a regular on The Dr. Oz Show. Since everyone can use a tip or two about romance, we dove straight in.

Dr  Laura Berman headshotDo you celebrate Valentine’s Dr. Laura? How?

My husband usually comes up with something special. We do a regular weekly date night so we try to stay creative and think outside the box.

What’s your top tip for romance–be it married, serious dating or just starting out?

You have to make it a priority. People think romance just “happens” but you have to make an effort and be the change you want to see in your relationship.

Valentine’s Day is a few days away. How can I create a special evening?

Try to think of something you wouldn’t normally do. Dinner and a movie can get old, but what about an exciting activity like rock climbing or a trapeze class? Exciting activities such as this can make your heart race and release dopamaine and adrenaline in your body, and this mimics those feelings of butterflies and excitement you had when you first started dating your partner.

Any advice for those new in a relationship?

Think small and sweet. Don’t go overboard or feel like you have to buy a big expensive gift. Something thoughtful and unique will be more appropriate, and it will also show your new partner that you care about their interests and hobbies.

How can music add to a romantic evening?

Music can definitely be a sensual part of a big night out, whether you like classical or rock. All of our senses play a role in creating the experience, and music can help to raise our excitement and add to the mood.

What songs do you think help set the right mood? 

It depends on the couple! Some people love the old stand-bys like Al Green or Billie Holliday, but other people love Metallica or Jay-Z. Whatever makes you happy–or makes you want to dance–should fit the bill.

What songs are on your all-time list of most romantic?

At Last, Etta James

Our Love is Here to Stay, Ella Fitzgerald

As Time Goes By, Frank Sinatra

Fever, Peggy Lee

It Had to Be You, Harry Connick Jr

Your Song, Elton John

Always on My Mind, Willie Nelson

Saving all My Love for You, Whitney Houston

Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton

When you Say Nothing at All, Alison Kraus

Play Dr. Laura’s Rhapsody playlist here.

Lifestylers: Style and Design with Sfgirlbybay

Victoria Smith is the creator and editor of Sfgirlbybay, named “One of the top 50 Design Blogs” by the London Times. Victoria was also a Pinterest pioneer with an account that boasts more than a half-million followers including Ellen Degeneres and Oprah.  What about modern style and design catches her eye? We find out.

victoria-smith-headshotRight off the top of your head, what’s the coolest thing you’ve seen recently?

This art installation made from 6,000 light bulbs. Titled CLOUD, the installation was created by Canadian artist Caitlind Brown for a late night art festival. It’s amazing.

How were you inspired to create Sfgirlbybay?

It was more a whim really. I started in June 2006, as just a hobby at first – it was never meant to be my ‘job’, or I probably would have thought of a more appropriate name. I’ve always had a love of photography and interior design, as well as writing, and the blog seemed to encompass everything I was passionate about. I initially started the blog as a way to post photographs of my interiors in the hopes of being featured on one of Apartment Therapy’s home tours, and fortunately I was selected. Their blog post on my home tour directed traffic to my blog, and one thing lead to another. Over time, the blog grew a loyal readership and eventually became my full time job.

When did you know you were onto something?

I was approached by a couple of magazines asking to feature my home – one was in Australia called Real Living, and the other was Sunset Magazine. Both those articles gained me a pretty significant jump in followers.

Of your half-million Pinterest followers, who are the most notable?

It would appear that Oprah and Ellen Degeneres follow me. I think it’s ‘really’ Ellen, but I think it may be Oprah’s team. It’s hard to tell if they are actually the individuals. Also, Katie Couric follows me, and Ryan Seacrest, which kind of cracks me up.

Can you tell us a little bit about how one develops “Bohemian modern style?” What kind of career path gets you there?

I think designing is an extension of your personality. It’s the place I know I feel most comfortable and feeds my creativity. I decorate using elements that are really eclectic, mostly a mix of mid-century modern and vintage, and mean something to me personally, or make me feel happy when I see them. If you do that, you’ll build a room that you want to spend time in. I bought a white sofa with slipcovers, and it works as kind of a canvas to build around. I’m constantly changing things up and I can change up the throws and pillows, and add vintage pieces to the room and create a whole new look, almost seasonal as my moods change. So, I think if you follow your heart then you’ll represent yourself uniquely since there’s only one you. It’s a ‘modern bohemia;’ artistic, meaningful, but modern thinking.

I have no idea where these ideas come from for me. I’ve been decorating since I was a little kid, always changing my room up. I’ve had a pretty varied career path, too. From studying interior design and journalism, to working in a furniture showroom and then moving into advertising and working my way up from receptionist to print production and art buying to director of creative services. I guess I’m always in flux, too.

Does this mean you’re an Edie Brickell & New Bohemians superfan?

Ummm, no. <smiles>

Even your dog, Lucy, has a distinctive look. Is an eye for the unique genetic?

5931848659_a1d71eb9e7_bLucy is a rescue mutt, so I have no idea where the blue eyes came from. There’s much speculation as to what kind of mixed breed she is and it changes daily. Some people suggest she has Husky or Australian Cattle Dog in there, accounting for the blue eyes. There’s also a small Catalan Sheepdog that often has blue eyes, and that’s my best guess, she likes to herd.

Do you listen to music when you write? What kind?

A fresh mix of indie music.

What style of music gets your toe tapping?

I like a lot of diverse types of music. Zydeco music gets me tapping my toes. But I also love Florence & The Machine, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand. I like driving (probably too fast) to that kind of music.  But I also love Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry in general, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, anything 80’s for the most part. It’s my favorite era of music.

See more of the tunes that get Victoria’s toe tapping on her Rhapsody playlist.  Follow her at and on Twitter at

Follow Rhapsody at,, and

Lifestylers: world traveler, photographer and food writer Leela Cyd Ross

Leela has nearly been to the four corners of the globe, having lived in South India, Vietnam, Turkey and other distant locales where she discovered new foods and the world around her. Today she lives in Portland, still travels, and highlights the best food, kitchens, and restaurants she comes across. Leela has her own blog, Tea Cup Tea and writes for Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn. We had the opportunity to chat with her on her inspiration, music playing a part of her daily routine, and how the best travel stories unfold.

UnknownWhere was your ultimate favorite place you’ve visited in the world and why?

This is just too tough! I got lucky so lucky in that I was born to travel obsessed parents, so from a young age, I’ve been packing my little bag and finding myself on the other side of the globe . . . A place I’ve returned to many times and feel strongly about though is Southern India. The people, colors, tastes, sounds, spirituality and intensity of India is unique. It’s my spiritual home! The generosity and love I was shown there was remarkable. India teaches you things.

What is your wildest travel adventure?

While on a wine press trip in South America last spring, I ducked out of a wine lecture and encountered a delightful motorcycle band of about 40 men. I photographed them taking a break, having wine and pizza and by the end of the afternoon, they lifted me in the air chanting “Ole Ole Ole Ole LEELA!” That was a day when I thought to myself, “well this doesn’t happen very often . . .” It was a lot of fun and we had some big belly laughs together. Not sure this is that wild, but it sticks out as one of my favorite travel memories — anything can happen if you are curious, sip champagne and have a camera around your neck!

What places did you discover the best foods and do you recreate those at home?

Eating unfamiliar foods at hole in the wall places all over the world is one of my greatest passions! Living and eating in Istanbul, Turkey was probably the most surprising, fresh, and exciting experiences of my life. Turkish cuisine is very refined in technique and their flavors are strong and assertive. From the 2 dollar mint/lentil soup on the street to the decadent baklava, everything I ate there was just right. I try to cook with that same Turkish sprit at home, loads of fresh herbs, lemon and plenty of tea alongside.

Favorite photograph you’ve taken and why?

For me, photography is the result of a process I really enjoy first and foremost: discovering another world, learning about someone’s trade/passion and bringing that to life — that is my favorite part — the image is secondary. That being said, I love thinking about composition and design in my images, trying to push them every beyond my current comfort zone . . . the long story short is that my most beloved images are completely biased and emotionally tied to special moments with my family. Right now it’s a photo taken with a 50s toy camera of my husband having a coffee in the Los Angeles sunshine.

How does music play a role in your daily life? Does it help inspire your food choices?

My husband and I love to blast music in the house, especially when cooking and cleaning. We like a good soundtrack running to lip-synch and inspire! And our road trips are completely dominated by certain albums . . . For eating, I love upbeat Soul Music — there’s nothing better than a good meal and some Sam Cooke.

What’s the best music experience you’ve had when traveling?

While living in India, we went to a few mind-bending concerts. The Raga form of masterful musicians riffing off each other with great rhythm, emotion and skill put me in a trance. We’d go to these mess hall type of places and for hours, the 3 or 4 musicians would have us in their palm, even little kids would sit upright, undisturbed, lost in the music. So enchanting!

Since you and Elvis were born on the same day, are you or were you ever a big fan of his music?

I love Elvis! Growing up people used to always give me Elvis gear because of our shared birthday. Do you know he was born with a twin who died at birth? My Mom is from Mississippi, so we visited his birthplace of Tupelo as kids. Mostly I love his early stuff and those gyrating hips of his! Blue Moon is my favorite song.

If you were to pick one place, one dish and one song combo, what would it be?

I’d be sitting in my parent’s backyard in Santa Barbara, California with my husband and all of our family at my side in a fancy picnic, munching away at little appetizer foods — California style with fresh fruits, veggies, grain salads, dips and my Dad’s homemade pizzas going, washed down with Prosecco and lemonade . . . Bob Dylan’s Tomorrow is a Long Time would be playing on the record player crooning for us as we feasted and laughed among the jasmine bushes, orange trees a block from the Pacific ocean.

Thanks for your time Leela!  You can follow her on Twitter at @leelacyd and check out her Rhapsody playlist here. And if you happen to be in Florence, Italy in May, she’ll be hosting a photography class.

Lifestylers: Marco Sullivan, King of the Mountain

US Ski Team member Marco Sullivan spends winter on the razor’s edge, racing the FIS Alpine World Cup circuit. He specializes in the “speed events”—Downhill and Super G—navigating seemingly vertical, bulletproof slopes at up to 90 miles per hour.

As Marco was packing his skis to depart for the highest peaks across France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and points further, we hit him with a blizzard of questions about his racing life and music.

First off, congrats on a huge start to the season and the World Cup podium at Lake Louise – 100 percent awesomeness!

Thanks! Lake Louise is always a fun place to start out the winter and to start on the podium was so great.  Hoping that will set the tone for the rest of my season!

After a such great start, what other races do you have circled?

We just arrived in Val Gardena, Italy. This is our first stop on the European leg of the tour.  I have twice been 4th place here and am itching to get up on the podium.  We also have World Championships this year in Schladming, Austria.  All ski races in Austria are big but the World Champs is going to be like the Super Bowl. I heard that they’ve already sold 20,000 tickets and the race is still almost two months away!

Backing up a little bit, a string of injuries almost led you to retire. What made you come back for more of such a physical, psychological and treacherous sport?

I love skiing and hope that I always will.  The racing element of skiing is what has beat me up, but the thrill of competing against the fastest racers in the world every weekend is such a great test of manliness that I just can’t give it up yet, (laughs).

On the subject of manliness… speed events are your specialty, which require a combination of strength, technique, vision, and let’s face it: major cojones. What goes through your mind at 90 miles per hour?

To be honest, once I’m on the course I just kind of let my body take over.  We train nearly year-round to be comfortable at those high speeds so when it’s race time I just zone out and try to get to the bottom as fast as I can.  I love racing because it’s just you against the clock and you instantly know how it went when you see the reaction of the crowd as you cross the finish line.  That’s when I come back to reality.  Sometimes I can barely remember what just happened on the course.

Marco Sullivan

Standing in the start house facing down a course, what song would you dial up to 11?

I love classic rock but lately have been getting a little bit rowdier in my music selection.  At Lake Louise I had Pennywise, Bro Hymn in my head.   It’s nice to get a little fired up in the start house.

Which one of your teammates has the best taste in music?

The young guys on the team usually have the best playlists, I think because they invest the most time in searching out new music.  Wily Maple, a downhiller from Aspen, Colorado, probably gets my vote for best music. 

How about the most questionable?

Steven Nyman is always bringing out new music but I’m not sure where he finds it. I’m always grumpy when he is riding shotgun and gets to have control of the music dial.

What about the European pro skiers? Thumbs up or down to their music tastes?

The Euro skiers are infamous for latching onto a handful of cheesy American pop songs and playing them on repeat for the entire winter.  Or they’ll make a dance remix of a legit American classic song.  On the radio yesterday we heard an electronic remix version of John Denver’s Country Roads.  Seriously? 

The crazier lot: pro skiers or snowboarders?

I don’t think the differences between these two genres are as great as people may think.  Living the dream and sliding mountains is a crazy lifestyle no matter what you have strapped on your feet.

Out of the start house

A trusted source tells us you’re an excellent wingman. Any secrets you care to share for such an important responsibility?

Ha ha, well we don’t get that many days off to party when we are traveling and competing, but when we do get out, we try to do it right.  Walk into the place like you own it and things usually move in the right direction.

As a wingman, what song would you queue up in support of a comrade?

Journey, Don’t stop Believing is always my go to. So many good times include that song!

Thanks for your time Marco, and best of luck on the rest of the season. Follow Marco on Twitter at @marcOsullivan and check out his Rhapsody playlist here.

Lifestylers – Chris Cosentino on Top Chef Masters, Mountain Biking and Offal Cuisine

Fresh off his coronation as the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, we chatted with culinary mastermind Chris Cosentino about the offal cuisine he’s known for, mountain biking and, of course, music. Chris was also kind enough to share his playlist with us, which you can check out here. Enjoy!

Q: Congrats on the Top Chef Masters win. What’s been the most rewarding part of the experience?

There are so many diverse aspects of Top Chef Masters that are rewarding but the thing that stands out the most is the ability to raise awareness and money for different charitable organizations.  It is incredible to know that the charity I chose to support, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research, will use this money to work to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. I am able to help people by cooking a meal– that is an incredibly powerful plate of food.

Q: Incanto, your SF restaurant, is know for its “Leg of Beast” and whole pig offerings. What album would pair with  that dining experience?

Music is a very personal thing so I’m sure that everyone would look at different criteria when pairing an album to a leg of beast or a whole pig.  Aside from it being a personal choice, I think it also depends on the mood of the event.  Personally, I would select “Paul’s Boutique” from the Beastie Boys.

Q: Outside of the kitchen, you’re a part-time professional endurance Mountain Biker. The phrase “single-gear mountain bike” makes our legs hurt, what about the sport appeals to you? 

What drew me to single speed mountain biking was the sheer strength and accountability that it demands.  Your performance falls entirely on you when you strip the bike of all its amenities.  In essence, win or lose, there is nothing to hide behind.  When you really take the time to analyze it, ultra endurance is very similar to cooking because it comes down to exerting energy, concentration and passion for long amounts of time.  It’s an amazing way to ride.  Due to an injury, I retired from bike racing 5 years ago but it’s still a great way for me to blow off steam.

Q: You’re kind of the contemporary God Father of offal cuisine. What took you down that path? What’s it like being the face of a movement?

I do not consider myself to be the God Father of anything.  I am truly very humbled by the rich history of foods of the past and it has been my goal to get people to go back to their roots in everyday meals.  It ultimately comes down to the basics of sustainability, resource preparation, and respect for the animal.  I am not a face of a movement, I am just reintroducing history one plate at a time.

Q: Your best pairing: Wine, Entree, Song

I really cannot pick just one!  Food and music are all about living in the moment and capturing the mood as it occurs.