Great Restaurant... Laurel Hardware in West Hollywood, LA

 One of my favorite dining spots in West Hollywood is   

One of my favorite dining spots in West Hollywood is

 

Laurel Hardware

 If you haven't been yet, I recommend that you check it out... stat!

The menu is inventive, seasonal and eclectic. I'm a big fan of the kale salad with nigella, hazelnuts, and crispy carrots and the green barley salad with cara cara orange, French feta and shiso vinaigrette. Be sure to say hi to their lovely hostesses, Tash and Reesh.

Spring Colors

Have you heard that because of our (ridiculously) long winter, the spring colors are

expected to be especially intense this year

?

This month, I'm definitely going to be checking out the Cherry Tree Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. (The first bloom is supposed to be this week! I'm keeping track on the

BBG Status Map

).

Wherever you are located, make sure to head over to your local park or garden to see what is sure to be a spectacular exhibit of spring flowers.

Why Hasn't Jennifer Aniston Tied The Knot Yet?

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux have been engaged going on 18 months… so, why haven’t they tied the knot yet?

The rumor mill says that the impasse is due to the amount of time they’ve spent apart since their engagement and also due to stressful wedding planning. The media reports that they are on the verge of breaking up… until they are spotted on a date looking as in love as ever.

They are on again, off again, on again and meanwhile, no wedding bells.

Jen claims she wants to get married again, even have kids so why the hesitation? Time is ticking by.

Here are some things I wonder...

  • Does she still compare every guy to Brad Pitt, and Justin doesn’t measure up?
  • Maybe she doesn’t really want to get married and just says that.
  • Maybe she doesn’t really want to be with Justin, but doesn’t want to deal with the negative press of begin single all over again?
  • Maybe she secretly is into someone else?

WHO could that be?

Regardless, don’t you agree that it’s odd that she is still technically single after all this time?

Samantha's Rooftop Bar Picks: Summer 2013

It’s definitely summertime in New York City, and you know what that means: tis the season for rooftop bars. Here are five of my favorite high altitude, open air hot spots for those long summer nights: 
    Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel
  • Martini Bar at the Metropolitan Museum: Sophisticated yet understated, the Martini Bar at the Met has some of the best panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline. Drop by the Punk exhibit (through August 14) and then head up to the fifth floor for a very classy martini. 
  • Sky Terrace at the Hudson Hotel: An oldie but a goodie. This 15th floor terrace has great little nooks with couches for lounging, as well as ten speciality sangrias. Could you ask for more for a summer night?
  • Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel: Towering 30 stories over Midtown, Upstairs at the Kimberly has a stunning interior design (part Louis XIV, part goth) and a very creative cocktail menu. Tres chic for an evening al fresco.
  • Pool Lounge at the Dream Downtown: Make a splash in Meatpacking at this swanky poolside lounge. From the hotel lobby ceiling, you can see into the pool. How cool is that? 
  • La Piscine at Hotel Americano: Sit back in one of the cozy cabanas at this pool bar and restaurant and enjoy the luxurious views of Chelsea and the Hudson River. It’s the perfect locale to watch the sun go down. 
Happy rooftop hopping!

Samantha's Dating Thought: Cell Phones And Dating Etiquette

I am always surprised to find that many people seem oblivious to the fact that it is rude to be on a cell phone during a date. I cannot emphasize this enough—it is very bad form to spend your date staring at your cell phone screen instead of paying attention to whomever you are with.

Follow these three rules to keep your dating etiquette in check:
  • Turn your phone on silent, and keep it in your pocket or purse. It is never acceptable to keep it on the dinner table. 
  • If you are expecting an urgent or otherwise very important phone call, tell your date up front so that he or she doesn't take it personally. 
  • If you feel an overwhelming urge to text, tweet, Facebook, Instagram, etc., excuse yourself to the restroom.
Don't be rude.

10 Types of Friends Who Are Toxic to Your Dating Life

(Originally appeared on The Huffington Post on May 17, 2013.)

Have you ever wondered if you have friends in your life who are inhibiting you from meeting a great guy? Have you ever really considered which of your friends are truly good friends to you, like you are to them, and have your real best interests at heart? There is something to be said for going out on the town with the right kind of friends, friends who care about you, want you to meet someone great and help you look and feel your very best. If you are truly serious about meeting the One, it's time to take stock of your gals and get rid of these toxic friend types:
Are your friends hurting your dating life?

Miss Centerstage: This girl somehow always finds a way to make her stuff and herself seem better than whatever you have going on, especially when guys are around. She is the friend who shows up right as he is asking you for your number and makes herself seemmuch more interesting than you. And, then he promptly forgets all about you. Even on YOUR birthday, she figures out how to get all the attention. This girl is blowing your rap, so now you need to blow her out of your social circle.

Miss I Already Dated That Guy: This girl has been around the block a few times when it comes to dating. She has been out with just about every guy there is and she has somechoice words to share about each and every one of them. The result is that you fail to pursue many men because she "knows that you will never like him." This girl is not good for your posse; you need to make your own observations about the men you meet.

Miss Can't Handle Her Booze: This girl is basically a drunk, even as she sits there innocently sipping her white wine spritzer. She is always making a huge scene and needsmucho attention. Eventually, she scares off all the men. You know what you should doabout this friend.

Miss Blabbermouth: This girl just cannot keep a secret. She doesn't understand girl codeor the definition of the word private. This girl is a walking time bomb because you never know what is going to come out of her mouth that might embarrass you or put you in an awkward situation. If you keep this friend in your life, be very careful about the things you tell her, so you don't get caught in a big heap of dog-do.

Miss Always Having A Blonde Moment: This girl is a ditz regardless of her hair color. She has said,
"Oops, I didn't even think of that," one too many times, especially when she is around men. You have a brain and you want men to respect you, so don't let this girl pull you down.

Miss Finds Fault In Everything: This girl is hypercritical. There is rarely a time that she thinks her surroundings, the people around her and especially you passes muster. And because she is so critical, she comes across soooo negative. Men hate negative. Do you need a girl in your circle who makes you feel like crap and tramples on your confidence?

Miss The Sky Is Falling Down: This girl is always going through the world's largest issue except that it is usually a big deal only to her. Her problems seem to always become everyone else's problems, especially yours which makes her tiring to you and to men whom you might date. Of course, if she had a real problem, you would be there for her in a heartbeat, but don't let her "dramas" get in the way of your dating.

Miss Too Pretty: This girl has done nothing wrong other than the fact that she born beautiful. Everyone, including you, is drawn to her, but the question is can they take their eyes off her long enough to notice you standing right next to her? She is a good guy magnet as long as she is willing to share the wealth. This is NOT a friend to get rid of, but you might need to have a heart to heart with her, so that you can devise a system for your socializing together.

Miss Desperate For A Man: This girl is crazed to meet the One. It's as if she has the worddesperate stamped on her forehead because men see her coming from a mile away. This is NOT a good look for you because the kind of men you want to date are not interested in desperate, insecure women. Relegate this friend to Sunday night movie night.

Miss Ditches You The Second She Finds A Guy: This girl is a fairweather friend, to say the least. She seems to be there for you, makes plans with you, invites you places until she meets a guy and then she disappears into thin air. You deserve a friend who is friends with you even when she has a boyfriend.

Can you think of any other types of friends who are toxic to dating?

Samantha's Dating Tip: How To Avoid First Date Butterflies

Do you get nervous before going on a first date? Do not despair; you are definitely not alone. No one is immune to the "first date butterflies". Even the sexiest of girls and the hottest of guys are afflicted! I have found that the one thing people seem to be most worried about is having nothing about which to talk. Luckily, there is an easy remedy: preparation.

Here are three tips on "prep work" you can do prior to a first date:

1. In many ways, a first date is similar to an interview. Accordingly, you can prepare a few questions that you would like to ask your date to keep the conversation flowing. Steer clear of religion and politics, but feel free to dive into family, work, travel, hobbies, etc. However, be sure that your date doesn't turn into an actual interview; give him some time to ask you questions too, and let the conversation flow freely from each question.

2. Everyone has great stories about their lives, but not everyone is good at telling them. Pick a few anecdotes that are fun and lighthearted, and rehearse them prior to your date (orally, or in your head). Travel stories are always interesting to hear (like that time you rode a Vespa in the South of France, or went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras), as well as anything that is funny or unique that has happened to you. And definitely be weary of stories that might put you in a bad light.

3. The day of your date, make sure that you read a newspaper, or at the very least, glance through some news headlines online. If something really important or interesting has happened that day or week, you do not want to draw a blank if your date brings it up in conversation. Furthermore, it will allow you to show off a knowledge of current events. You can lead with, "Did you hear that..."

If you're still nervous about blanking out, you can take some notes on your smartphone to serve as your back-up. Also, if there's an awkward lull in conversation, you can always go with a compliment. People love to be complimented.

Who knows,  with a little "prep work", you may find that you can even enjoy yourself on a first date!

Hamptons Early Intel: Summer 2013


Old Stove Pub, Bridgehampton, NY
Summer is around the corner and I have some early intel on some of the haunts in the Hamptons...

Opened finally…

Topping Rose (in the heart of Bridgehampton): We waited all last summer for Tom Colicchio's new restaurant, but it never opened. They finally got it together in the fall, so as we go into summer, it should be a-okay.

Old Stove Pub: Believe it or not, it's actually open already. I know, "shocking," but it is. It's under new management, so they managed to get it open before August for once.

New and already open…

Highway Diner (where Rugosa was in Wainscott):  How exciting, a diner further eas. tMenu looks good, it's kid friendly and they even have a root beer float on the menu. 

Mercado (where Agave was, next door to Bridgehampton Commons)-:Mexican again but looks more modern and together. Looks like a good one to try. 

Sad to see it go...

Whole Foods: The Wainscott outpost seems to be gone. What a shame!

Hamptons Players Club: Food was very good here. I wish they could have tried one more season.

Waiting to see…

Sienna Restaurant and Lounge (where Beaumarchais was in East Hampton): I am guessing this is going to be the same scene with just a different name. I never managed to get there last summer, maybe this summer.

BLT Steak (where Nobu was at the Capri Hotel): Since BLT Steak is one of my faves in the city, I am so excited about this opening. And thankfully they are finally closing that overpriced "cafeteria," they were trying to pass off as Nobu. Let's hope the Capri has their deal together this time around. 

Samantha's Dating Tip: Spring Clean Your Dating Life

Spring is definitely in the air. As you clean your closets and put away your gloves and hats, think about  what you could be doing to clean up your dating life. Here are five tips:

  • Over the winter, did you go on a first date with someone about whom you couldn't make up your mind? Consider shooting him a text about meeting up again. You could find that your chemistry heats up with the warmer weather. 
  • Is there someone in your dating life who you continue to see even though you know it cannot, or should not, go anywhere? Throw off the weight of winter and sever ties with this person. Spring is a time for fresh starts. 
  • If you broke up with someone during the winter, use spring as an excuse to chase away your winter blues and become proactive about finding a great new guy. Let all of your friends and family know that you are ready to be set up with any eligible bachelors that they may know. 
  • Can you think of someone you met in the past few months that you are interested in, but he might not know? Take a chance and send him a flirty Facebook message. With some spring in your step, you might just land the man of your dreams. 
  • If you started seeing someone during the colder months and things are going well, think about the next steps you could be taking in your relationship. Plan a springtime getaway, or find a summer vacation rental to go in on together.

Samantha's Dating Thought: Don't Plan Dinner On A First Date


Time is precious, especially when you are single. And the last thing you want is to get stuck at a long dinner with someone for whom you just don't like.

 For this reason, I always advise that first dates be planned for drinks only. This keeps the pressure off because you always have the opportunity to dash off after one drink if you aren't feeling it and if you are feeling it, you can go for a second drink. And then if you are really really feeling it, then you can get dinner. (Or, you can plan dinner for their next date.)

 Have you ever gotten caught in an awful dinner date?

Samantha Says: When Dating, You Need To Be Happy

When you are going out on a first date, you only have one first impression to make... so try your very best to make sure it's a good one.

It is important to come across as happy, light-hearted and friendly; this is the type of woman that most men would want to call their girlfriend, and ultimately, their wife. Think about it this way: you wouldn't want to come home every day to someone who was a "Debbie Downer" either, would you?

Playing a difficult or a hard-to-get girl might attract him for a moment, but it will not work in the long-haul.

Samantha's Dating Thought: Are You Spending Too Much Time With Married Friends?

Are you spending too
much time with your
married friends?

If you're single and looking for love, it's important to put yourself out there in as many situations as possible where you can meet other singles. This means not hanging out with your married friends all of the time.

This does not mean that you have to kick all of your married friends out of your life. However, it does mean that you should not be spending your Friday nights dining in with them.

If all of your close friends have already gotten hitched, you can always ask them to introduce you to any other single friends they may who that are also looking to go out and meet other singles. When you're on the hunt for Mr. Right, it's always a good idea to expand your social circle!

Should You Get Married Or Is Monogamy Enough For You?

(Originally appeared in the Huffington Post on March 18, 2013.)

You have been with your beau for awhile now. You are exclusive, boyfriend and girlfriend, you are known as a couple in your social circle and you might even live together. And all seems copasetic. However, society favors marriage over just being a couple which is why living together without marriage has the old nickname of "living in sin". So how do you know if you are meant to be a happily unwed person forever or if it's time for you to head to the altar? Here are some things to consider when trying to make that decision....

1. Do you personally believe in matrimony? Deep down before you became all modern, did you believe in matrimony and like the idea of marriage? If so, maybe it's time to get back to your roots and take the plunge.

2. Will matrimony make you feel safer and more secure in your relationship? After all, marriage is more permanent than just being in a relationship. As easy as it is to get a divorce these days, it still requires some effort to get one. You can't just curse each other out and never speak again like you can if you are in a relationship without the legalities.

3. Is there a reason why you are "living in sin" at the moment? Is it because that was the next step in your relationship trajectory and marriage is next and you have just been lazy, or is it because this is what you and your partner decided was right for both of you? When you ask this question, make sure that the answer is coming from yourself , not your partner.

4. Have you refrained from taking the plunge into matrimony because you are acommitmentphobe and marriage seems so much more permanent than cohabitation? Be honest with yourself about this and if you are just scared sh**less about taking that next step, talk to your partner or to a professional about your fears and maybe you can work through them.

5. Have you hesitated about walking down the aisle out of lack of desire to plan a wedding?
If this is the case and you actually would like to be married, go ahead and elope or just do the ceremony in front of a justice of the peace. Getting married is about the love you have for each other, not the party.

6. Have you stayed away from matrimony because deep down you are not sure that your significant other is the RIGHT significant other for you forever? If this is the real reason why you are "living in sin," maybe it's time to admit this and do something about it, instead of staying in the wrong relationship for even longer than you already have.

7. Are you scared of divorce? Are you one of those people who grew up in a divorced family and swore that when you got married, you would never get divorced? You need to take the pressure off yourself on this. Just because your parents got divorced, doesn't mean history will repeat itself. Stop getting ahead of yourself, and jinxing your relationship. Why not go in thinking positively that you are going to work on your relationship and make it last forever, and then maybe it will.

8. Are you holding yourself, your partner and your relationship to an impossible standard because you grew up with picture-perfect parents? If this is the case, cut yourself a break. Regardless of how you remember your childhood, chances are, your parents' relationship wasn't as perfect as you remember it. All relationships have their ups and downs and relationships take work. If you love the person you are with, go ahead and get married and make your own recipe for your great marriage which might be very different from that of your parents.

9. Are you scared that marriage might ruin your relationship? Don't pay attention to those annoying friends of yours who tell you that "getting married ruined their relationship." This is a lot of nonsense; if their relationship is ruined it's because they ruined it, not because they got a legal document that made them commit to each other.

10. Are you scared that your sex life will suffer or become non-existent if you get married? Your sex life is what you and your partner make of it, irrespective of whether you are married, living together or simply monogamous. You and your partner need to work to make your sex life interesting and fun and then it will not matter what classification you have on your relationship.

What other reasons do you have for not taking the plunge into the marital swimming pool?

10 Types of Men Who Won't Marry You


Have you ever wondered if there are guys out there that simply will not marry you? Are there certain men from whom you should just stay away because chances are, the relationship is going to be an exercise in frustration for you? You are not alone -- many women think about this all the time. And yes, there are certain types of men that you should just plain avoid because if you were playing the odds, the odds say these guys are just not going to seal the deal with you.

Here are 10 types of men that I, as a professional matchmaker, would recommend you steer clear of:

Mr. "Still Hung Up On His Ex": We have all been out with this guy. He says he is over his ex, yet at every turn, he talks about her and compares you to her. Please. He is not over her and until he is over her, he is not marrying you.

Mr. "I Am Not Ready For A Serious Relationship Right Now": This is the guy who dates a lot and then when he gets too close or decides he isn't interested in you, he uses the excuse that he's not ready. The question about this guy is this: Is he really not ready, or is that just a convenient excuse to dump you and avoid the commitment?

Mr. "Bigger Better Deal": You know this guy. He is the one who likes you a lot but is always wondering if there is a better version of you out there, somewhere in the universe. Honestly, do you need to be with the guy who is never going to think that you are good enough to marry?

Mr. "I Hang Out With Guys 15 Years My Junior": This is the guy who is 47 and a CEO of a company or a big-time executive and all of his contemporaries are married, so his BFFs are 25-year-olds and clubbing it. He is out until 3:00 a.m. several nights a week, looking to pick up and then he kids himself into thinking that when a 25-year-old girl says yes to a date with him, it's because he is such a good guy, not because she is dreaming of flying private.

Mr. "Still Trying To Figure Out His Career": If he is 40-plus and having a midlife work crisis, believe me, he is not going to marry you. Men need to be settled in their careers or at least know which direction they are headed on the career front before they can settle down.

Mr. "50-Something And Never Been Married": This guy is lurking everywhere. He is 50-plus and
never married, yet he will swear to you that he is ready. When you ask him why he is still single, he will tell you it's because he hasn't met the right one. Then the question becomes that if he hasn't found her in the hundreds of women he has dated before you, what is going to make you so special that you are going to be his one? Probably nothing.

Mr. "Doesn't Believe In Monogamy": This guy thinks he is very avant-garde progressive, but most people will say he is just looking for an excuse to cheat. Do you really want to be with a guy who tells you upfront that he won't be faithful?

Mr. "All About Me": This guy is all about himself, 24/7, 365 days a year. Sharing your life with someone is hard enough, so do you really want to sign up to be with someone who is so into himself that they will never even notice you, your wants and your desires?

Mr. "My Kids Are The Only Thing I Care About": This guy is a tricky one. When you first meet him, he is endearing because you admire how dedicated he is to his children. You think to yourself that you would like to be with a man who is that responsible. However, then you start to see that he doesn't have any room for you at all because he is only about the kids. If you are going to be with a man with kids, he needs to want to find a place for you, front and center, in his life at least some of the time.

Mr. "Dates Other Women Who Mean Nothing To Him": This guy is really a commitment-phobe in disguise. Why does he need to date women who mean nothing to him if he is dating you and you supposedly mean something to him? You do the math.

What other types of men would you add to this list?

Samantha’s Dating Thought: How Do Finances Change When You Move In Together?

A lot of people wonder whether their finances will get better or worse if and when they move in with their significant other. Here are a few things to consider:

  • You will be sharing the costs of all the utilities in the home, so this will mean more money in your pocket each month. However, the two of you need to discuss how these expenses are going to get paid and who is taking care of them.
  • You will discover very quickly that your spending habits aren't exactly similar even though the two of you tend to live similarly. For example, you might want to have a DVR in every room in your house whereas your partner thinks one for the whole house is sufficient. Or, he might want the heat or AC to be on all day, even when no one is home, whereas you always were in the habit to turning it off when you leave for work. This is okay as long as you discuss this and determine how the two of you are going to deal with the small differences that you discover.
  • You will need to decide who is going to be the one who pays the bills, as in, who is going to write the checks, push send on the online banking site, etc. It is usually better for just one of you to take care of this task, so that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • It is always a good idea to put together a budget. It doesn't have to be fancy or super detailed, but, by doing this, at least the two of you can see what's what, what you have, what you want to put away to save for the future and what kind of lifestyle is the right lifestyle for the two of you to be living without ending up in debt.
  • Regardless of how you are going to divy up the expenses, it is always a good idea to get a joint bank account that is ear-marked for household expenses. In this way, you don't have to have a discussion, every time you need more toilet paper, need to pay the housekeeper or need to do a grocery run. Make sure that you set parameters on how you use the joint account so there are no surprises.

What other changes did you notice in your finances when you moved in with your love?

What Your Drink Order Says About You on a Date

I was recently included in a great article on TheDailyMeal.com"What Your Drink Order Says About You on a Date" by Marcy Franklin. Below is an excerpt of some of my advice. Be sure to check out the rest of the article!

"Tipping is a must: 'Part of [the bartender’s] income is his tips,' says Samantha Daniels, dating expert and the owner of the matchmaking website SamanthasTable.com. 'If you don’t tip, it’s definitely noticeable.'"

10 Romantic Valentine’s Day Date Ideas You Never Thought Of

By Jene Luciani. I was thrilled to be able to contribute to this article! (Originally appeared on Shape.com, February 10, 2013.)

Valentine’s Day can be a great time to reconnect with your spouse or show your new special someone how much you care, but that ubiquitous candlelight dinner can get old real fast. This year, truly make it a night to remember with one of these unexpected activities.

Target His Sweet Spot
Skip dinner and go straight for dessert. “Pinpoint a few of your neighborhood chocolate shops or bakeries, and pick a special item at each spot,” says Samantha Daniels, dating expert and president of Samantha's Table Matchmaking. You can even create a scavenger hunt of out it and have him have to guess which place is next.

Head for the (Snow) Hills
With snow expected to blanket the Northeast just days before Valentine’s, it’s a great time to hit a local ice-skating rink or simply relive your youth by making snow angels in the backyard or going sledding. Come inside after and warm up together with a romantic fire and a mug of hot cocoa, suggests relationship coach, speaker, and author Ana Loiselle. Those in warmer climates can simply grab a soft blanket, a bottle of wine, and a picnic dinner, and lie in the grass and check out the stars—the prettiest and cheapest show in town.


Be His Latin Lover
No dance is sexier than the salsa, so find a salsa club or take a private lesson. “Whether you know how to dance or not, the ultimate benefit is you’ll be really close and touching your partner 95 percent of the time, making it easy to build the sexual tension,” says Thomas Edwards, a.k.a. The Professional Wingman. A heart-pumping activity that allows you to tease your man? We’re in!

Make Him Sweat
Couples that workout together typically have better sex lives, says Andrea Metcalf, bestselling author of Naked Fitness. That may be just the info he needs to be convinced to join you for Bikram yoga. “Studies have shown that sweating it out through exercise has a positive effect on a man’s libido,” Metcalf says. Bonus that a lot of people will be out to dinner, so you’re likely to have a less-crowded class. And once you’re done sweating, it’s time to clean up together in the shower or bath.

Drink and Draw
Wine and painting classes are popping up all over the place and let you get creative with your cutie, says Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and relationship expert. “It's a fun time for both men and women, and you don't have to be Picasso to come out with a quality piece of art.” Try Google for a class near you, or check out one of the 70-plus locations of Painting with a Twist. Hang your finished product above your couch, and you’ll always be reminded of Valentine’s Day 2013.

Give a Little Bit of Your Love
Choose a cause you both care about, roll up your sleeves, and donate two or three hours to a non-profit organization, suggests Mike Domitrz, founder and executive director of the Date Safe Project, a Wisconsin-based organization that deals with helping teens make smart choices when it comes to dating and intimacy. “Nothing feels better than giving back, and it’s even better when you can share this moment,” he says. Then, when you get home, discuss how you'd like to give to each other.

Get Close-Up and Personal
Pick a scenic location near you and surprise him with a couple’s photo shoot, says Brian Borgia, founder of Romantic Room Designs. “Hire a photographer who can meet you there and take a special portrait so you’ll always remember this day.” If you prefer DIY, buy a Polaroid and snap pictures together and of each other, says Ben Patton, star of the upcoming NBC series Ready for Love. “Collect everything in a photo book so you can look back on of all the amazing experiences from that day together,” he adds.

See the Future
Always wanted to go to Paris or buy a bigger home? Create a “vision board” together and plan your future goals, hopes, and dreams. “Spend two hours making a collage of pictures or magazine tear-outs that reflect precious memories and wishes you have as a couple for the future,” says New Jersey-based psychologist Sam Von Reiche, Psy.D. “Post pictures of your future dream house, your honeymoon—anything that reminds you how truly grateful you are for each other or inspires you about your futures together.”

Turn Up the Heat
It doesn’t take a genius to think of cooking a homemade meal, but you can turn this into a unique experience. “Sign up for a class at a local culinary institute, hire a private chef for a few hours in your home, or create a menu, play hooky from work, and spend the day shopping for gourmet goodies,” suggests Brenda Della Casa, author of Cinderella Was a Liar. At home, uncork a bottle of wine, turn on a playlist of your favorite songs, and leave the dishes for tomorrow!

Suite Retreat
If you want to let someone make dinner for you but can’t stand the noisy, unintimate atmosphere of restaurants, book a room at a nearby hotel and order a romantic room service dinner for two. Some places will even arrange special requests, such as your guy’s favorite meal or your favorite wine, says Grace Pamer, founder of Romance Never Dies. (Never hurts to ask!) Bring some candles and flowers for ambiance, but pack light—chances are you won’t be dressed for long.

A Matchmaker's Guide to Unique and Inexpensive Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

(Originally appeared in the Huffington Post, February 12, 2013.)

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, everyone is scrambling to come up with the right gift for their sweetheart. In my expert opinion, the right gift is all about being thoughtful with sentiment, understanding your audience and picking something unique. Plus, with today's topsy-turvy financial markets, focusing on "it's the thought that counts" is certainly acceptable in lieu of breaking your piggy bank.

Here are ten of my favorite gifts this year:

The tabCoosh
  • If your beau is an iPad junkie, why not get him or her a unique iPad cover? If you can't get him off that thing, at least you can make sure he is comfortable while using it. Check out the tabCoosh, the pillow for the iPad or Kindle.
  • If your sweetie runs around in flip-flops all the time, why not grab her some jeweled Sassy Clips? They are pretty and will work with a pair of flip-flops she already owns.
  • If your significant other loves music, why not get a great iPhone speaker? This way, instead of each of you listening to music on your own, you can more romantically listen together. Check out the Heartbeatz if you want to be all cutesy, or check out the Sonic if you want to get something unusual.
    Mitchmallows
  • If you are always stumped on which Hallmark card to choose, why not go anti-card this year and make your gift be your card? If you get him the Boogie Board, you can write him a sweet card right on it and then he gets to keep the erasable tablet as a gift.
  • If your honey is all into sweets, instead of going that same old chocolate route, why not send her some gourmet marshmallows? Check out Mitchmallows and pick one of the many delectable flavors.
  • If your love is a bit of a klutz and finds him or herself constantly dropping their iPhone,go ahead and grab her a FlyGrip with a cool design on it. This gets attached to the back of your iPhone and allows you to grip it like a ring. And if he is on his phone so much that it constantly dies before you can reach him, go ahead and get him the Big Piggy Bank Power Bank case.
  • If you are planning to have your amour over for a romantic dinner a deux, why not buy some disposable placemats from Plat du Jour to serve on? You can write her sweet nothings right on the mat each and every time you serve a course.
  • If your guy or gal loves to go on picnics or sip wine on the beach, why not get a funky chilled wine or beer cooler from Bella Vita with their favorite bubbly in it. And then, the two of you can make a night of it.
Native Union Bluetooth Headset
  • If you want to go with jewelry, the always classic and lovely Valentine's Day gift, it's always smart to go with a unique piece that gels with your gals taste. Check out these interesting and one of a kind pieces from Pauletta Brooks.

Samantha's Web Pick: Fab.com

If you're a design enthusiast like me, you absolutely need to check out Fab.com. From their office in the West Village in New York, their team curates a fantastic array of objects at all price points that will appeal to anyone who enjoys good design. You can find anything from a $5 necklace to a $5,000 chair. Also, everything is sold at a discount, at up to 70% off retail prices. It's a great place to find unique gifts and fun accents to add to your home. And, if you're looking for a Valentine's Day gift, there are some great finds in their Naughty and Nice shops.

Celebrity Couplings And Breakups: 2012 In Review

Katie and Suri in New York
(Originally appeared In The Huffington Post, January 16, 2013.)

Now that 2012 is over, it's always interesting to look back and see what our favorite Hollywood couples have been doing in the romance department and make some predictions of what will happen in the year to come.

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise: They landed in Splitsville in June. It seems to be for the best for Katie as she has really taken to her new life in New York. I predict that her next guy is going to be a cool business guy and not a celebrity, but time will tell.

Taylor Swift and Conor Kennedy: They were going strong and everyone was wondering if Taylor was going to be socialite royalty as well as music royalty. Then they parted ways in October. Judging from the fact that she quickly canoodled with One Direction's Harry Styles and how beautiful and happy she looked at both the New Year's Eve ball drop and the Golden Globes, she doesn't seem worse for the wear. I think going into 2013, Taylor would be better served choosing a guy her own age or older if she is looking for a real and more appropriate relationship.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth: Miley got engaged to Liam in June who is three years her senior. She seems happy, but I wish she could have waited a little longer to get engaged even though they have been together for awhile. She is very young and her taste in men could change dramatically as she continues to mature. My advice would be to let some more time pass before they walk down the aisle.

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds: These two Hollywood heartthrobs tied the knot quietly in October. I love these two together and I am sorry to say it, but I think it's quite a step-up for Blake from Lonely Boy.


Heidi Klum and Seal: They seemed like the Golden Couple until they announced their split in January. I personally thought their pairing was genus given they are both at the top of their game and famous yet in different industries (similar to Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban). I wonder who's next for each of them.

Rihanna and Chris Brown: To the dismay of most of the country, this couple seemed to reconcile at least from her actions and what she said to Oprah in August. I worry for Rihanna and I hope that Chris Brown has been and continues to be in therapy for his anger management issues.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West: Not long after Kim ended one of the shortest Hollywood marriages ever with Kris Humphries, Kim found comfort and attention in the arms of uber-musician, Kanye West. Now they are preggers and it sounds like on the way to the aisle. I think this one has more of a chance for success for Kim as long as she is careful to keep her relationship with him off of reality television.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis: This couple went from friends to lovers in 2012. They knew each other back in the day from That '70s Show. After Ashton waited the requisite amount of time to put distance from his split with Demi, he looked towards his old co-star Mila for some romance. This couple is still going strong and given that they are age-appropriate and started out as friends, I believe that this couple has a good chance for success.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson: This couple bounced back and forth to and from each other like a ping pong ball. First she cheated, then he left, then he returned and now they are together. It's hard to work together and play together. Hopefully since they are in love, they learned their lesson and will try harder to keep it together this go-around.

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel: This on -again, off-again couple finally tied the knot in October. I commend Justin for finally making an honest woman out of Jessica. These two seem to work as a couple, however they need to really focus on making time for each other in light of their busy Hollywood schedules or their relationship might not be able to withstand the test of time.