By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated February 12, 2009 at 09:30 PM EST

At first glance, it’s easy to be baffled by Gwyneth Paltrow‘s new lifestyle site, GOOP. For starters, there’s that name. Then comes the tagline: “Nourish the inner aspect.” Finally, there’s the book club she started with “literary-minded girlfriends” (Madonna! Christy Turlington!), introduced with this moody entry: “I feel a bit swallowed up in January, the days are so short, the sky is so close and gray…” Is this an acclaimed actress’ bid at an Oprah-style empire or a My So-Called Life script?

It’s clearly the former, and it falls flattest when it mimics O’s efforts at soul-tending. You don’t see Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart offering spiritual tips with their risotto recipes and kitchenware recommendations, mainly because wine decanters do not, in fact, nourish a thing. But dig deeper amid the pastel graphics (sea green butterflies, sky blue knives and forks, aww) and you’ll find some startlingly practical info. Let’s face it, Paltrow has mastered some areas of life (exercising, eating, dressing) far better than the rest of us shlubs. The turkey meatball recipe sounds scrumptious, her detox plan seems sensible, and the post-holiday butt-workout video (streamed on the site and downloadable) is quite handy.

Without the celeb factor, GOOP would 
 feel like a self-indulgent, if also helpful, blog. But Paltrow is famous, and given how much we clamor to be like Hollywood’s elite — from the contents of our makeup bags to the spots where we vacation — isn’t she just giving us what we want?