She greets me at the door, barefoot and laughing, holding back three small, but exuberant dogs.

“Sorry! They don’t bite…they are just curious!”

I make my way over the threshold, shuffling as I go–careful not to step on any paws. With my black zippered binder tucked under my left arm, I extend my right hand, leaning down for the the dogs to assess my presence. After granting their hearty approval, evidenced by happily wagging tails and wet lapping tongues, they trail behind me, sniffing my shoes and pant legs.

 “Please, come in! Have a seat…”

The living room is cozy and contemporary with cool, polished white floors, custom light fixtures, and built-in wood shelving holding intricate glass and metal sculptures. Lauren is clearly an art lover.

She perches comfortably across from me in an oversized t-shirt and leggings, one leg tucked underneath her seat, one arm stretched over the back of a plush sectional sofa, while the dogs pile on to her lap.

 “I am so  happy to find you! Since moving from San Francisco last year I have been unable to find a decent chef!

I admire the gorgeous surroundings and try not to stare at all of her elegant art pieces arranged around the room as we talk, wondering to myself how in the world she keeps the sofa so clean with all these animals.

Classic Peter Gabriel plays in the background from speakers discreetly built into the decor.  Her eyes are energetic as she chats enthusiastically about her life, her dogs, the food she likes.

“I designed this home! It’s what I do.”

Lauren is attractive in a clean, straightforward way with a youthful, positive energy about her. She is about ten years older than me, heavier than she wants to be, by about thirty pounds, she admits.

“I’ve just been so busy with work and the animals…there’s no me time lately! But that’s why you are here!” she exclaims brightly. “When can you start?”

“I’m happy to be of service! Let’s look over the menu.”

She lives alone in this amazing house. Well, not exactly alone. She lives with a daschund, two beagles and a frayed old tabby named Jo. The dogs are friendly and vie  for attention as our discussion becomes more specifically directed toward her food preferences. The way we click, it’s like we are old friends. She is warm in a way I can’t quite describe. Familiar, somehow.

“Oh, wow…I’ll take one of everything! Hey, let me get you a drink…water??” She moves to the kitchen.

“That would be great, thanks!” I feel more comfortable that I am used to in a consultation. My shoulders soften as I allow myself to be distracted from my work for a moment, by the lush, green foliage around the pool and patio deck outside the massive glass sliding doors just off the dining area.

The one-eyed cat jumps into my lap, demanding her share of attention.  I stroke her thinning fur and gaze out over the glittering swimming pool–picturing myself floating naked in the sunlight,  wet hair slicked back against my forehead, fingers threading languidly through crystal-clear water, squinting through the sliding glass doors to the kitchen where she stands, opening another ice-cold bottle of Pinot Gris.

She likes every kind of food, every kind of flavor, and every kind of spice. That makes me so happy. She is open-minded, just like me–willing to try anything once.

“Let me get you a check while I’m up. How do you spell your last name?”

There is something about her laid back way, her easy smile that tells me Lauren will be no ordinary client.