The Different Lives We Lead

Catching up with old friends at the Opera Bar. It's a completely outdoors and smack-dab on the harbour bar and restaurant behind the Sydney Opera House. The Harbour Bridge makes a stunning background.

Spending time with old friends in Sydney reminded me of something that is wonderful about my existence on this planet: I get to have more than one life.

Have you ever moved far from your hometown? To another state? Or another country? Have you ever moved some place where everything was new and mysterious and took you completely out of your comfort zone? Someplace where you live a completely different life than the one you lived before?

Thinking of all the different friends I have, I can pretty much sum up my life into three main categories: My life in America with friends from all over the country but mostly they are from Detroit, Chicago and L.A. And of course that includes my life in Miami where I have friends from all over the world. Another life is with my blogging buddies and Internet friends where, so far, I have only online friendships. And my Aussie friends and family where I lived a completely different, yet sometimes over-lapping life.

The first time La Diva saw the Wrigley building (across from the Chicago Tribune building) on the Chicago river, it took my breath away.

I remember the first day that I moved to Chicago from Detroit. I was 19 , had $200 cash in my pocket and I did not know one soul. Only the day before my father, at my insistence, had driven back to Detroit with my sister, tears in his eyes. The next day, my first day alone in Chicago, a determined La Diva put on her sassy dress and pumps and black lace gloves (it was the 80's!) and hopped on a train and went downtown. It was a hot summer day in July, very hot in fact, so I took off my gloves and put them into my purse. I was in downtown Chicago, young and without a care in the world. I had a brief Mary Tyler Moore moment and feeling free and independent, I twirled around looking up at the tall skyscrapers. I really was here!

I had walked by the famous Buckingham Fountain and made my way uptown and soon found myself in front of another fountain at the Chicago Tribune building. I stared into the cool water as I teetered on my heels along the edge of the fountain. I was thinking to myself: "Hmmm....I SO WANT to dunk my feet in the water but I have on hose. If I put my feet in with hose, they'll be wet all day. I can't take off hose in public.....I'm HOT. Hmmm...."

"Don't jump."

My thoughts were interrupted by a handsome man in a suit standing on the other side of the fountain.

La Diva looked up and laughed.

I walked over to him and coyly said, "Well tell me then, how does a hot girl get a cool drink in this town?" (Yes, I really said that.)

To a gal from a city that left it's glory days in the past, downtown Chicago in the summertime can be very magical.

He laughed and we walked, talking all the way, over to the Allerton Hotel where we stopped at the beautiful lobby bar for a drink. It was like a scene out of an old movie. We hung out until it was dark, talking and getting to know one another, and then headed over to see the Independence Day fireworks down by Buckingham Fountain. I stood in the fountain's spray, laughing and thinking what a wonderful day it had been.

Jesse was a banker that worked downtown and he ended up being my first boyfriend and a good guy to know for a young lady who had just moved to Chicago. He took me under his wing and out to fabulous restaurants and showed me all of the city's treasures. My new life, my SECOND life, in Chicago had just begun.

La Diva walking down the corso in Manly, a northern Sydney suburb, towards the beach in the morning.

It was 1993 and I remember waking up in Sydney, Australia the first morning after I had moved there. It was Saturday and La Diva thought that it would be a good day to head on over to Andersonville on North Clark street to Ann Sather's restaurant for nice breakfast of Swedish pancakes with lingonberries! But wait. Ann Sather's was in Chicago. And I realized I was in a completely new city in ANOTHER COUNTRY. It was frightening and exciting at the same time.

I remember in the first few years there, every where I went I would see doppelgangers of friends and people I'd known in Chicago. "Hey, there's Thom!" Oh wait, it can't be.... Sometimes I would get soo homesick for America. If I heard an American voice, I'd eagerly introduce myself just to talk to someone from "back home." But of course, when one pines for another place, it only keeps you sad so naturally I adjusted and adapted to my new life in Sydney. At the end of almost 10 years living there, La Diva was doing just fine.

View of the Sydney Opera House from the incoming ferry en route to Circular Quay. Taking the ferry to meet friends is such a nice way to travel!

Interestingly enough, many times my blogging buddies came to mind when I was in Sydney for this last trip, more so than other friends whom I'm close with. I was out eating Lebanese with some vegetarian friends and Boxer came to mind. "I wonder if she'd eaten Lebanese before?" I would see some fabulous shoes and think of Moi or gorgeous home design and think of Jill. The Gay Mardi Gras was on when I was in town and reminded me of Making Space and her journey. And naturally, many of my thoughts would drift to Shamu when I was cooking or shopping for some exquisite seafood and produce.

La Diva and DJ Nevah L8 in the pool with Biscayne Bay, Star Island and downtown Miami in the background.

I don't take my lives for granted and KNOW I'm one lucky Diva to get to live like this. I know having more than one great life is an experience not everyone can enjoy. I am hoping to add another life to my existence one day...perhaps in Europe? France or Italy? Maybe I'll end up in Istanbul? Or one day have a lovely little cottage on the coast in Opatija, Croatia? Who knows. If anyone had told me 10 years ago I'd be living in Florida, I'd say NO WAY. Yet, here I am.

What about you? Do you have that experience? Do you have another completely separate life in another part of the world? DO TELL, La Diva wants to hear ALL about it!

Ciao, darlings!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party, personal chef, corporate events, catering, personal chef, party entertainment

Sunday at Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market

The Gardner's Farmers Market is every Sunday at Pinecrest Gardens (Formerly the old Parrot Jungle) and is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and runs through April 20. The market is located in Pinecrest Gardens, 5855 SW 111th St. For more market info, please click here.

While many parts of the country are still seeing snow, here's a few photos to cheer you up and give those of you in the cold parts of the country something to look forward to.

Southern Florida has the perfect climate to grow bromeliads and orchids. My mother in law would faint to know that I only paid $5 each for two orchid plants when she bought ONE for $60 AUD at a Sydney florist. (Of COURSE you can click on all the photos to see larger and in detail, darling!)

La Diva came home with two of these lovely orchid plants.

La Diva and "my" CSA farmer Margie of Bee Heaven farms who runs one of two organic produce stands at the market every Sunday. Margie is up every day at 4:30 am to work the farm and then on Saturdays, we all get our CSA shares. On Sunday Margie is working the markets and I am wondering when she gets to take a day off?!

Stop by Farmer Margie's booth called Redland Organics which offers produce and herbs from organic farms in the Redland area southwest of Miami. Farmer Margie's booth is chock full of greens like komatsuna, three different types of kale, chard and salad greens. Also on offer were four types of beet including sweet golden beets, which I bought a bunch of! There are tropical fruits, herbs, flowers, organic honey, fennel, green beans and whatever is growing and is in season NOW in Southern Florida! I have links to both the Redland Organics site and Margie's Bee Heaven Farm blog just to the right on the side panel! Clickety-click away, darlings!

Redland Organics grows tropical fruits too. Those little yellow things are loquats an Asian relative to an apple, sopadilla and canistel aka egg fruit. There were also black sapote and carambola (star fruit) for sale too.

While the rest of America is STILL getting snow, we are eating strawberries! Ah well, come summer, us Floridians will be sticky with the sweat and humidity of tropical hurricane season where we see storms daily!

I get a honey share each month and may I say that it's REALLY HARD to keep DJ Nevah L8's big paws off of it so I get some too! Delicious flavor!

Heirloom green beans. La Diva simply steamed them and served with sea salt and butter, how sweet and tender they were!!!

Freshness you can see and taste! Check out the vibrant colors of these radishes! Farmer Margie offers FRESHLY PICKED produce whereas the produce you buy in the grocery store, even those ones offering organic produce such as Whole Foods, will sit for weeks after picking. You can REALLY TASTE THE DIFFERENCE eating freshly picked veggies!

These smart and sassy little bouquets with herbs and flowers from Bee Heaven farm sold out fast!

I loved this little pink and green conch shack. It's very typical of Key West!

DJ Nevah L8 restores his strength with some hot, crunchy and light conch fritters!

La Diva likes a well-behaved doggy at the markets!

These were a good price, cheaper than the grocery store. Florida stone crabs are only in season from October until May and may I just say that La Diva has not eaten NEARLY ENOUGH of them this season!

What I really liked about this market was all the variety and quality of the vendors. There was not a lot of junk or duplicate vendors. Offering their goods on the day were a French bread maker, a French patisserie, a crepe maker and a gourmet pasta maker too!

Those large round pumpkins are called calabaza and are used in Caribbean cooking.

These Francophile foods were sold by a vendor that also offered Spanish olive oil and chile-infused olive oils. La Diva just loved the quality and variety of gourmet products available at this market. There were also organic coffee vendors, an olive oil vendor that sold infused oils (Meyer lemon!) and vinegars, home made soaps and a few groovy jewelers too.

This guy was just standing around, looking good and flogging the samples of home made limeade.

These were the two young cutie patooties working SO HARD to make fresh limeade! Man, was it good! The perfect refreshment for a parched Diva at the markets!

The market season is almost over, kids! Get down there and get it while you can, the markets won't start again until November! Ciao for now, darlings!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party, personal chef, corporate events, catering, personal chef, party entertainment

Getcher RICE on! Asian Food Feeding Frenzy Part 1: Korea

Detail of a pavilion in the botanical gardens on the island of Jeju, Korea.

Darlings, with well over 400 emails yet to read, calls to make and myriad tasks to get La Diva "back to business," here I sit, tired, crabby and delaying the inevitable. Your dear Diva is still jet-lagged, up each day at an uncivilized 4:30 am and drowsy by 5pm!

So, since I'm useless anyway, why not procrastinate and write my blog instead? Yeah, I thought you'd agree too.

As you know, La Diva just LURVES to get her Asian freak on and what better place to do it then in Sydney, Australia aka Australasia? People of Asian ancestry make up over 8% of Australia's population with the highest concentration in Sydney at 16%. To La Diva, that figure seems very low....

Bird-land Donald Duck, 2008 by Artist Kim Joon and on view at Saatchi Gallery, London.

Chatswood is a northern suburb of Sydney and in the eight years since I've lived in Australia, it has further grown as a Korean epicenter and is now known fondly by the locals as "Cha Woo." As it happened, gal pal and wine rep Amanda was going to be in the North Shore for business and wanted to meet me for lunch so La Diva made her way to Chatswood to get my Asian freak on!

Living in the Land of Rice, Beans and Plantains, I don't often get to eat Korean food, and Jang Gun Restaurant was suggested as a delicious option.

Menu from Jang Gun (Korean) Restaurant in Chatswood offered many delightful selections at a great price. Click to see more detail.

I chose number 17 also known as "bibimbap" or literally, "mixed rice." A hot stone bowl of rice is topped with ground beef, bean sprouts, spinach, seaweed, egg and I'm not sure what else! I just know it was deeply satisfying and very tasty!

Naturally, lunch came with the de rigueur "kimchee" or Korean pickle. From top left clockwise: Some kind of agar agar jelly in chile, spinach and egg cakes, chile marinated tofu (I loved this), bean sprouts, cabbage pickle in chile paste (standard kimchee) and green salad. All of this and a bowl of miso as well for $10 AUD. (Of course you can click to see in detail, darling!)

Well, now that I've satisfied your curiosity and my belly is grumbling, I might mosey on over to my kitchen and see if lunch will help me alleviate this terrible procrastinating and give me the energy to tackle all those emails and phone calls! Ciao for now, darlings!
cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party, personal chef, corporate events, catering, personal chef, party entertainment

La Diva is BAAAAA-AAACK!!!

View of Sydney and Circular Quay from Lavender Bay in North Sydney with huge Gymea Lily in the foreground.

Hellooooo darlings, I am finally home! It's been a grand holiday but I'm soooo glad to get back home to Miami again. Three weeks in Sydney was plenty of time to catch up with old friends and family but Diva found the longer she stayed, the more she ran! The last week was ridiculous with me scheduling three to four meetings with friends a day! It was loads of fun but.....I need a holiday from my holiday!

My days pretty much went like this:

Run. Meet. Kiss. Hug. Drink. Eat. Gab. Drink. Eat. Gab. Drink. Gab. Drink. Repeat in two hours.

All in all, a wonderful time, I was able to do everything I set out to:

The wedding was beautiful.

My birthday was grand.

Catching up with old friends was fantastic!

I met some fabulous hip and strong women who were old school chums of hubby's and new partners of old friends! (Gotta love an Aussie sheila!)

La Diva ate seafood and Asian food until I could take no more.....(just one more wafer thin prawn cracker?! blech!)

I had a tranquil few days out of the city with gal pals and took a fabulous bushwalk.

I drank my weight in Aussie and New Zealand wine and sparkling.

Went to many beaches but only swam once.

Made the most decadent seafood dinner for special friends.

Sang with a good friend at the pub on a Sunday arvo in front of friends I've known for 20+ years.

But mostly, I ran, drank, ate, kissed, hugged, drank, ran, ate.......

Here's what I did on my first day back in Ol' Sydneytown:

Walk down to Kirribilli and around Lavender Bay

Our walk started north from Clark St. in Neutral Bay, down to the Harbour via Kirribilli and around the foreshore up to the top of Lavender Bay. The "2" sign indicates the Sydney Harbour Bridge while the dark orange line indicates the tunnel.

I can't remember what the name of this spider is but it's not poisonous and is quite large, about three inches long. These spiders make their silky homes all over Sydney and are an annoyance to those that walk tall. (but not me, naturally!)

Kirribilli is a Sydney suburb that sits on the north side of Sydney Harbour and is easily one of the prettiest and most posh parts of town. The Kirribilli Pub displays classic Art Deco architecture as do many of the city's pubs.

Under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Kirribilli. You can click on all the photos to see more detail.

The Opera House and a well-timed ferry from under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

One of the things I love about Sydney is the juxtaposition of classic architecture amongst modern new buildings. Vintage Federation terrace homes sit in front of office and residential high rises in North Sydney.

Bib and Bub are cartoon gumnut babies turned into 3D sculpture from classic Aussie children's books by May Gibbs. The Lavender Bay walk boasted many tiny sculptures based on fictional storybook characters.

View of amusement park Luna Park on the left, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and downtown Sydney from Lavender Bay.

More beautiful sculptures dot the walk around the cliffs and foreshore of Lavender Bay.

Did you hear what the Bee said to the Butterfly?

This lovely park sits at the top of the walk up the cliff above Lavender Bay and boasts flat green grass and benches for a peaceful respite from city life.

The view from the park at the top of Lavender Bay. This was a very special place to see again as it brought back beautiful memories of when DJ Nevah L8 and La Diva used to rendezvous here for picnics, wine and sloppy kisses!

Lovely to be back home, dears, more to come and see you soon! Ciao!