Adrienne DuBarry The Branaflax Muffin Babe

II love sweets. l’ll pretty much eat anything sweet that’s put in front of me and while this wasn’t a problem during my younger days, now that I’m on the downward slide to 50, things are changing fast and as much as it pains me to admit, It’s time for me to cut out some of the things which simply aren’t good for me, like white flour and maybe I need to consider adding some fiber to my diets.

l’ll pretty much eat anything sweet that’s put in front of me and while this wasn’t a problem during my younger days, now that I’m on the downward slide to 50, things are changing fast.

When I was young, one of my favorite sweets to eat was my grandmas blueberry muffins. I’d spend weekends with her and grandpa and be awakened nearly every morning to the most intoxicating aroma wafting up the stairs from the kitchen and tickling my little nose.

I’d began thinking alot about grandma lately after learning July 11th was National Blueberry Muffin Day (ever notice there seems to be a National Day of something just about everyday) and so I decided to take to the internet and find a healthy bran muffin recipe where I could get my sinful, yet healthy muffin fix.

That’s when I stumbled upon the benefits of something called Branaflax muffin mix, which appeared to be the Holy Grail of muffin mix for health enthusiast’s and stay-at-home moms who as we all know take their nutrition serious.

The Branaflax muffin mix recipe was developed by its current CEO, Adrienne Dubarry, who I assumed from her website picture, was a former fashion model turned domestic goddess, like Martha Stewart whose only purpose in life then was to stare back from the pages of Vogue or Harpers and make already insecure women even more so, but who now lives to make them feel like throwing themselves off a bridge because they don’t churn their own butter, or has them all convinced they’re going to hell for not carving museum worthy Jack-a-lanterns at Halloween.

Although Adrienne did seem to posess a more wholesome, non threatening, Donna Reed kind of look, one in which if I were a woman I could maybe be friends with her, and whats more, she didn’t  look like she’d beat me into unconsciousness (like Martha would) for screwing up one her recipes or worse, kill me for making a mess in her kitchen, no Adrienne was more suited to grace the covers of Good Housekeeping or Womans Day.

I decided to give Branaflax a try and ordered some online, the recipes looked rediculously easy and as it said on the website just by adding a few simple ingredients, I could customize my muffins for any taste I wanted, one mix – many possibilities.

Now I’ve never been one of those guys, you know the type who have way too much time on their hands and they’ll sit down and write a letter to some conglomerate whose product they tried once and had to tell them about it. But damn if that isn’t  just what I went and did, prompting Adrienne to call and invite me to come out and bake with her at her test kitchen in La Quinta, California.  

To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement, but after talking with her for some time she was serious and since I had an upcoming trip to the desert anyway, I decided to take her up on the offer, find out the secret to her success, what it takes to become a muffin mogul and if she truly is as home-spun as she appears to be in that apron she’s wearing on her website

Wow! Adrienne thank you for inviting me to come out here to spend time with you in your kitchen; its such an honor to meet you and I gotta tell ya, your muffin mix made the tastiest blueberry muffins I’ve ever had, other then the ones my Grandmother made of course, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you a lot  of my reason for coming, was to see if you were as genuinely nice and wholesome in person as you appear to be on your website. Thank you Gary. It is an honor for me to share my kitchen with you today.  I was born in Louisiana and I guess that is what you call “southern hospitality.”  I always had fun cooking in the kitchen with my grandma when I was growing up.  She taught me a lot and of course to be kind and respectful was a big lesson.

or those readers out there like myself, who may not be familiar with flax and its health benefits, can you tell me a little bit about it?Is your flax grown in America, have you personally visited with the farmers who are growing it?  I was buying direct from a grower in N. Dakota, but the shipping was very expensive.  When I start producing higher quantities I will start buying from them again. Right now the flax I get is from Canada.  I buy it from a distributor I am taking a trip to North Dakota to meet with a company that  I used to buy from this summer.  I would love to work with them and keep it in the US.  

There’s been a mini-explosion in bakeries featuring cupcakes, is there a possibility of the same for your muffins? I sell more to the markets rather than the bakeries.  I am the only one that offers a mix with bran and flaxseed in a dry mix.  I sell the dry mix that you have to add milk, eggs, and oil, but there are bakeries that are interested in carrying my mix.  I have several different recipes on my web site.  

Have you approached any of the fast food chains to make a breakfast sandwich from your muffin mix?     No, I am not ready to approach that market yet.   

What are some of the major challenges of getting a new food product to major food distributors?   When you are just starting out there are many obstacles. It is kind of like what came first the chicken or the egg.  The markets want the distributor to carry your product and the distributor wants to make sure that the markets are going to buy.  

Is your muffin mix endorsed by AARP, the American Cancer Society, The Diabetes Association?   No, not yet.  I am working with a couple of dietitians and getting endorsements so that I can show them.

You can find Branaflax muffin mix online at or while in the desert at Lifestyles Nutrition Center 78321 Highway 111 La Quinta, CA 92253-2064 760.564.5569 or 73563 Highway 111 Palm Desert, CA 92260 760.568.6522 and at Kitchen Kitchen 74-945 Highway 111 Indian Wells, CA  92210 760.773.9464

Karen and Tony Barone Are Going To The Dogs


Karen  & Tony Barone were both born in Chicago – Chicago is where they met, fell  in love, married, achieved their first successes and established  themselves as a creative force. Leaving Chicago, they took a non  sequitur route moving their high voltage creativity to the California  desert. They “got their stripes” in New York City’s Soho; then moved  west & worked from a hillside studio on their horse farm in East  Tennessee.  

They moved west again, this time to Los Angeles, where they  became a powerful artistic presence while working out of their massive canal-side studio in the artist community of Venice Beach.

I  recently sat down with the renowned wife & husband artist couple at their studio compound in Rancho Mirage, California to talk with them about their Art Adoption Dalmatian Nation Initiative, the fabrication of their sculpture pieces and other  projects currently underway.  

We facilitate this through a funding concept we’ve created called “ArtAdoption.” Under our “ArtAdoption” program, the artwork is a GIFT to the community and is paid for by the sponsorship of private citizens or through the corporate and business sector.  “ArtAdoption” projects give art enthusiasts and community-minded businesses an opportunity to acquire an extraordinary & significant work of art and GIFT it for the public good & enrichment. The municipality receives the GIFT for placement at a suitable public site and achieves the lofty goal of supporting the arts within the community without using funds raised through taxation.  

With reference to your question about our Dalmatian Nation initiative, “R. HERO” is a series of 6′-2″ tall all aluminum Dalmatian puppy dog sculptures to honor firefighters. In a world that has become exceedingly dangerous and where war has no boundaries – we rely on our heroic firefighters more than ever. Each Dalmatian is executed in a different brightly colored iridescent painted finish with signature black Dalmatian spots and the name “R. HERO” on its shiny silver collar.  

We have created this unique series of sculptures to be installed at public sites (parks, museums, municipal buildings, fire stations, hospitals, schools, and other not-for-profits) as a means of honoring and bringing recognition to our valiant firefighters who save and rescue humans and animals alike.

Through the creative & instructive expression of art, the “R. Hero” sculptures serve as a reminder of their indefatigable heroism. In addition to honoring firefighters, this project allows us the opportunity of achieving a personal goal to create large scale public art that will enhance the quality of life for individuals living in, working in and visiting a city. Also, the visually child-friendly “R. Hero”, draws attention to the powerful and beneficial relationship of animals to people.

The Dalmatian sculptures executed in different colors allows for a citywide campaign that places different colored “R. HERO” sculptures at multiple site selections – We are passionate about making our   “R. HERO” sculptures available to communities across America – creating a “Dalmatian Nation”.  

We know from last weeks Desert Sun that Palm Desert was the first city in the Coachella  Valley to receive an “R. Hero”. Yes, a purple “R. Hero” was installed  in the median strip on El Paseo directly across from the Historical Society of Palm Desert- the city’s first fire station. It was sponsored by Jo Ann & Alan Horwitz, Esq., Contour Dermatoloy, and Orbit In Hotel, of Palm Springs. Where is the second dalmatian slated to be installed: Funny you should ask that question, in fact the very next day (the Palm Desert dalmatian was installed) a green “R. Hero” went in front of the Children’s Discovery Museum in Rancho Mirage, it was sponsored by Bunni & Rick Benaron.

It’s such a pleasure to be sitting here in paradise with you both at this beautiful studio. So tell me about the Art Adoption program you’ve just initiated? We have a vision for our artwork. It is to enrich public spaces by placing large-scale sculptures in communities across the United States.

Note: Karen & Tony Barone have “mandated” the purchase of “R. HERO” to only those acquiring the work for donation for the “public good” and installation at an art-in-public-places site.      

Tell me about the current paintings you are working on: We have been working on a series of paintingsunder the masthead “The Queen’s Pudding”. They were inspired by a Victorian English tale which told of a pudding so delicious that when it was served to the Queen she decreed a piece of this fine pudding be brought forward in the making of each pudding thereafter. Therefore, in effect, the pudding served today to the current Queen is the same original pudding.  

Like the Victorian Queen’s pudding, each successive canvas in the 54 foot painting titled “The Queen’s Pudding” contains background colors from the previous canvas. The backgrounds shift, start and stop without acknowledging the boundaries of each of the six 8-foot sections and one 6-foot section. Each canvas is part of the whole; however, each canvas is a completed work in itself – it can stand alone, much like a slice or two of bread remains a complete entity when cut away from a loaf.  “The Queen’s Pudding” is intended to be exhibited (or acquired) as a single entity and purchased as such or purchased individually or you could acquire 2, 3, 4, etc. whatever is appropriate for the situation. However, because each of the 8′ X 4′ and 6’ X 4’ canvases which make up the 54 foot long work has its own subject and title, they may be hung individually or as a diptych or a triptych, etc. – we even envision the canvases stacked, one above the other, creating an 8 foot by 8 foot painting. 

What additional sculptures are in the works: We currently are in different phases of completion on a cat sculpture “Abyssinian Queen”, a purple toy poodle “Monsieur Royalty”, a red Dalmatian “R. Hero”, and a Scotty.


I’ve heard rumors you will be the curators for UCR Palm Desert Campus for the 2012/2013 season:  Yes – that is correct. Based on the success of last year’s opening show at the University where we were co-curators, we were asked to now curate the entire coming season. We were honored by the request and have agreed to commit ourselves for 3 diverse and hopefully exciting exhibitions.  


When do you two sleep? Sleep! No time for that – only time for performing our art and enjoying fabulous meals with a lot of talk and laughter together. We consider ourselves the luckiest two people – who think and act as one – on earth.                      

For more on Karen and Tony Barone, visit their website at or




Bend the Rules

What do Hollywood bad boys Bruce Willis, Charlie Sheen, (who may I remind you was a paid spokesman for the Hanes underwear brand) and many of Hollywood’s ‘Hot Men’ have in common…the answer probably isn’t what you’re thinking. It’s their Bend the Rules underwear, you’ll find them all wearing, under their pricey designer clothes. Of course that’s if they’re even wearing underwear to begin with. Bend the Rules Luxury Boxer Briefs and Designer Tee’s, have become a hot-ticket item with the Hollywood “it” crowd.

They love the luxurious fabric, trendy look and fabulous fit. Hollywood A-list men and women too, are trading in their boring Fruit of the Looms or Hanes for Bend the Rules make-no-apologies attitude, hell even us plain folk, can’t seem to buy enough of them! Charlie Sheen has purchased over 100 pair, which begs me to ask the question…. ummm on second thought, I don’t really wanna know.

Even though Bend the Rules are men’s Boxerbriefs, women also love to wear them. In fact female celebrities such as Christina Aguilera love the soft luxurious feel of the fabric.. I’m no Christine Aguilera, but I can tell you this, my booty looks every bit as delicious in Bend the Rules as hers does. And while I may not remember “when” it was that I happened upon my first pair of Bend the Rules briefs, I do remember “how” they made me feel when I put them on, I mean HELLO! they made my ass look amazing! and my..ummm well let’s just say ‘he’ was looking as though he could have his own career in porn, if he wanted.

I mean these briefs were unlike any jockeys or boxers I’d ever felt before, or most likely ever will again, and the boldy emblazoned fierce dragons, skulls, and Gothic emblems–are perfectly representational of the bad boy inside me.

I love mine so much in fact, I don’t ever want to take em off or wear anything over them for that matter. Which in hindsight is probably why working mostly from home is a good thing for me. So you can imagine, right, what it was like in my head when I got “the” call, telling me I would be going out to Los Angeles to do a sit-down, with the company founder, designer and CEO of Bend the Rules, Markus Bender, You know what.. I actually had to stop and think for a minute, whether it would or wouldn’t be in poor taste to wear jeans over my Tighty-Whiteys,

Marcus this is such an honor and a thrill for me, I’m a huge fan of your designs. I love the Bend the Rules packaging. It looks like the bible. Was that intentional? Yes it was intentional. I designed it to look like scripture! Except it’s the ‘Bend the Rules’ Scripture. The underlying message is that we all Bend the Rules and perhaps scripture needs to Bend the Rules at times as well. Perhaps its gay marriage or allowing priests to marry.

Where does the inspiration for your designs come from? My inspiration comes from people. I’m a people watcher and I am also into fitness. I love to travel and look at what people are wearing. I get inspired by knowing how I can make someone look better when wearing my designs.

Describe the typical Bend the Rules customer? A guy who is active, knows true quality, appreciates the finer things in life. He’s Intelligent, sophisticated but also a rebel at heart. As far age age, I really can’t say we have a typical customer. I have had young men tell me they love BtR. But I have also had older men tell me it makes them look and feel great to wear BtR. I even had a well known actor switch from the famous brand he had been wearing for 8 years and is now exclusively a BtR customer.

How did you discover the fabric made from eucalyptus? Personally, I felt most manufacturers underwear fabric just did not cut it for a guy who leads an active lifestyle like me. I methodically searched for a fabric that would give me superior performance with extreme comfort. I discovered that Tencel which is derived entirely from eucalyptus is extremely breathable, absorbing & naturally anti-bacterial, All features that make for a fabulous garment for the active guy. I spent over a year perfecting it. I wanted it to last, feel luxurious & give you great comfort & support. I kept testing till I got it right.

I understand a certain high-end national retailer is now carrying your label. can you tell me what the process was like for you trying to get your line carried by them, maybe walk me through a time-line or did it literally just happen over-night? Neiman Marcus now carriers my label. I don’t think anything happens over night when dealing with a national chain. However, they were quick to recognize the quality & comfort in which Bend the Rules is about.

What do you anticipate this will mean for the label’s future? Being recognized by a upscale high end national retailer as Neiman Marcus definitely helps put Bend the Rules on the map as a serious brand in the apparel industry. Continued growth in the direction of select upscale stores in key cities domestically & abroad are all ready taking place as a result.

I’m curious what your take on the explosion of fashion based, reality television shows is these days and if you were asked would you consider taking part in one? I cannot tell a lie! I never watch any of those shows. I do however, have lots of friends who are avid fans. And though I don’t watch them, I would consider taking part. After all, life is an adventure and delving into he unknown can be rewarding.

Sales of men’s underwear is steadily rising and is poised to outsell women’s, where do you see these numbers heading in the next few years? Sky’s the limit. I would love it if more men were as meticulous in looking as great in underwear as women. Women use underwear to enhance their sexuality while men just wear it to cover up. But more & more men are waking up to the fact, when you take your clothes off you want what is underneath those expensive designer jeans to look just as good. Men also need to use their sex appeal.

What’s the ideal male body to design for and is there anyone out there maybe who you would love to see wearing your label? For me, I enjoy designing for guys who are active and who are in decent to great shape!

Quite honestly Markus, for someone like myself who’s simply a huge fan of your work, it would have been enough of a thrill for me just meeting you.  However, in spending the better part of an afternoon with you, and seeing for myself the dedication and commitment being put into the design and production of the Bend the Rules label, It’s no surprise at all how successful the brand has become. And if that weren’t enough, you’re a fellow Midwesterner (Milwaukee Wisconsin). Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers before saying goodbye? Yes! Wearing Bend the Rules is an experience unlike any other & they will literally last years. The more you wear them the better they feel!

Bend the Rules luxury boxer briefs and designer Tee’s are sold at these fine stores: Neiman Marcus, and when in Seattle or Portland be sure to stop in to one of the 3 incredible ‘Under U4 Men’ stores. Buy online at

To reach Markus Bender or anyone at the Corporate Office for Bend the Rules, they’re located at 9601 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1203 Beverly Hills, California 90210. By phone 310.278.5488 or email







Avas Eyes

Ava Weinstein’s passion for life developed as quickly as a snapshot. As a legally blind photographer and digital artist, some may refer to her talents as a miracle, innate, or as a gift. But, to Weinstein, they come from a power that exists in us all.

“I believe if any person puts their mind to something—they can do it,” Weinstein says. Weinstein, a part-time resident of Palm Springs, believes any dream is possible because she was born with three different types of visual impairments: Albinism, to have little or no pigment in the eyes; Astigmatism, an irregular-shaped cornea; and Nystagmus, an involuntary rhythmic shaking or wobbling of the eyes.

What a normal sighted person would see clearly at 200 yards, Weinstein would have to be 20 yards to see. In her left eye, which she considers her “good eye,” she’s at the borderline of being legally blind. In the other eye, she is legally blind.

Despite her disability, Weinstein, 50, is now using her disadvantage to help encourage others. “I have moved to the next phase in my career,” she says. “I am now committed to helping people pursue their own dreams through motivational speaking.”

With a mother for a painter and a father for a photographer, Weinstein didn’t discover her own artistic talents until later in life. Armed with the painful truth etched in her heart that she would never see the world as others, Weinstein learned to see the “magic” in the world around her.

“It seemed as though everything I touched came natural for me,” Weinstein says. When she first touched a camera, her good friend, Jovi, a photographer, used a lot of her pictures from her G2 camera over the ones he had taken. “Jovi and his friend’s camera went ‘click, click, click,’ while mine went ‘click, click,’ and then it would pause,” she says. “I was shooting with an amateur camera then, but my pictures told a different story. I believe if you put a $5 guitar in someone’s hands, they’re still going to make beautiful music.”

Before pursuing her own natural talents, she worked two full-time jobs to make ends meet. During the day she managed several restaurant franchises and by night she taught court mandated classes as a counselor for the county of Los Angeles. These two jobs enabled her to retired at the age of 40, proving that her vision impairment didn’t determine her capabilities. This kind of unyielding passion and thirst for life made it possible to use her new pair of eyes—her camera and computer.

“I trust my camera,” Weinstein says. “It sees a hell of a lot more than I do!” She also trusts her computer.

Weinstein is also a digital painter. If she’s not using a snapshot she has taken to do a digital painting, she’s working on a digital oil painting from scratch. With over 200 pieces of her original artwork exhibited in shows and galleries in the greater Los Angeles, Weinstein feels she has come a long way from a little girl who wore bifocals the size of soda pop cans.

“The first time my work appeared in the Gallery Noir in Los Angeles, I didn’t tell them I had a problem with my eyes,” she says. “I got in as a solo artist in 2006, on the merit of my work alone … not too bad for a blind girl.”

Her show, “An Evening of 100 Unique Moments,” was originally intended for a one night only event, however, due to the overwhelming response she received from the Gallery Noir’s patrons, it continued.

In August 2008, Weinstein was chosen out of a pool of nearly 1,000 still photographers to shoot a music video for APL of the Black Eyed Peas. And in 2009, she had the pleasure of working with up and coming star Jasmine V. and shot the stills for her music video with Baby Bash.

Weinstein recently completed a portrait of the Queen of Swaziland Africa, commissioned by HRH Queen Ndwandwe. But, despite her many accomplishments, Weinstein says many of them wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the inspiration she received from the teenagers she taught in the mandated classes in Los Angeles, her mother Rita, who now suffers from dementia, and her partner Tiffany, who passed away over a year ago.

“In many ways these people saved me from myself,” Weinstein says. “I have photographed my favorite band, weddings, celebrities, and I’ve been featured in major art galleries. As a motivational speaker, I can motivate people to see the world from my eyes. No matter what your situation may be, you can overcome any obstacle to go where you want to go.”

To arrange speaking engagements, or for a showing of Ava Weinstein’s work, please contact here through her website

Cosentino Winery

The Cosentino Winery motto “Never Enough Wines” pretty much sums up how I feel about wine as well and when I find a great label or two that I like, I can’t wait to share it with anyone and everyone. Some of my current favorites are from the Cosentino winery in Napa Valley. Cosentino has been steadily growing in quality and reputation over the last few years and are considered among many, myself included, to be some of the finest wines made in the world, and what I love even more is the winery’s distinctive Chicago connection.

It all began when Mitch Cosentino started making his first wines in the corner of a Wine Distribution warehouse in 1980, in Modesto, California. By 1981, his first vintage was released under the labels of “The Cosentino Wine Company” and “Crystal Valley Cellars”. The first several wines produced and released by Cosentino in the early 1980s were made from small lots of grapes that Mitch acquired from some of the leading growers of California’s North Coast counties such as Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Sacramento Counties.

Cosentino rapidly gained recognition for his innovative wine making abilities and uniquely crafted wines. Mitch was a pioneer in introducing new varietals into the California wine market and became a leader in creating new wine blends that would eventually become commonplace in the industry.

It was in 1991, as Cosentino continued to produce multiple award winning and internationally recognized wines, that he met a young couple from Chicago who had just enjoyed a bottle of Cosentino wine, that meeting would soon change all three of their lives forever.

Native Chicagoan’s Edie and Larry Soldinger, were introduced to Cosentino Winery on a trip to Napa Valley in 1991 when they shared a bottle of Cosentino Winery’s “1986 Cabernet Franc”. They were so impressed with the wine that they sought out to find Mitch the very next day and to learn more about his winery.

Both Edie and Larry immediately recognized the potential of Cosentino Winery and they believed that they could provide an element that would help Cosentino Winery grow to keep up with its increasing demand and reputation. By 1992, a deep relationship had evolved and Mitch Cosentino became partners with Edie and Larry, and together they began to take Cosentino Winery to its next level.

Ever evolving, Cosentino enlisted former Chicago artists and designers Karen & Tony Barone to create a newly redesigned tasting room which has been called “the new standard for all future tasting room designs.” Due to the popularity of its tasting room Cosentino recently asked the Barones to design a new “Signature Room”, for special events & Ultra cool V.I.P. tasting. The room has large-scale classic figurative murals that the Barones created in warm Earth colored sepia tones of cut-out wood. In fact it was in these very tasting rooms that I had the opportunity to taste some of my first Cosentino wines. I recently had the opportunity to taste several Cosentino wines and want to share with you two of my current favorites, one red and one white.

Cosentino Winery has become widely recognized for its role in the development of California’s “Meritage” style wine, Bordeaux – inspired blend that has become a staple throughout the Napa Valley with the 1989 release of “The Poet” a 1986 vintage that became America’s first designated and licensed “Meritage” wine. Cosentino’s vintage 2005 Poet, a Meritage Red which was released in May of 2008, is one of my current favorites. This is a wonderfully deep ruby colored red with a hint of clove; it’s a bright balanced wine in both depth and richness and has a youthful tart cherry complexity of spice and currants. This wine is wonderful when paired with a lamb or veal chop and is an excellent red wine to accompany a hearty stew on cold Chicago winter nights or a favored snack of cheese, figs or walnuts.

The vintage 2007 Novelist is a wonderful, highly aromatic white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. It was released in October of 2008 and has a fresh lemon blossom and honeydew melon bouquet, its tangerine and lime citrus flavors are well-balanced by the palate’s dried herb and creamy texture. There is a hint of blood orange and brioche that meld in a zesty and expansive finish. The Novelist would be a wonderful accompaniment to pastas in light cream sauces, herb rice and other grain-based dishes and is an excellent wine for snacking with apples, pears and a wonderful cheese.

 Both of the wines featured are in stock at your favorite Binny’s Beverage Depot or can be ordered online. You can visit Binny’s on the web at for a location nearest you or by phone at 888.942.9463. For more information on Cosentino Winery you can find them on the web at