50 Days to 50 Years, Day 09: Santa Fe Foodie Excursion and an evening with Evan O’Connell

23 07 2016

Day 2 of the Santa Fe Foodie Excursion started with this gorgeous view outside our condo. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to that every morning? Well, at least we have one more morning to enjoy it.

Even though downtown Santa Fe was a mere four blocks downhill, the thought of walking uphill with full bellies was not something either Lynn or I wanted to look forward to; so like the Angeleans that we are, we drove, and paid for parking. You can take the O’Connells out of Los Angeles….

And our bellies were definitely filled to the brim! Carlos of Food Tour New Mexico was our guide for the day’s excursion. He did a great job of mixing the love of food with the love of culture, along with a sprinkling of New Mexico history.

Our first stop on the tour was San Francisco Bar and Grill, in the heart of the Santa Fe Plaza.The Plaza is the central part of the city, hosting Indian and Spanish markets, along with community gatherings and cultural events, so it was a short walk from the center of the Plaza to the restaurant. They served us an awesome Chicken Enchiladas with Chimao Red and Hatch Chiles, commonly known as “Christmas” style.

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Stop #2, and my personal favorite,  was to Thunderbird Bar and Grill, which boasts over 100 different tequila varieties, extensive wine and beer offerings, and other spirits. The Green Chile Pork Soup with Acedero (a Mexican form of Mozzarella) was simply divine. Carlos offered a little foodie tip: To increase the flavor of meats boiled in liquid, allow the meat to cool in the liquid. You could definitely taste the infusion of richness in the pork. I could have had another bowl, but it was on to the next leg of the tour.

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To cleanse our palates, Stop #3 was to The Original Santa Fe Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Company. Carlos made us a “Birthday Cake” combination of Pineapple Balsamic Vinegar and Avocado Lemon Olive Oil. You could have it over ice and drink it, it was that scrumptious!

In between stops we were treated to some historical wonders and spectacular views from the La Fonda rooftop, the rooftop of the 5th Floor Presidential Suite of the Inn and Spa at Loretto, the Rosary Tree, and the Miraculous Staircase at the Chapel Loretto.

We also continued to meet some fun people. A couple of the participants in the Johnny Vee cooking class were there, along with some new faces. Three friends in particular captured my writer’s interest: Brittany, Julie, and Katie decided to take a mini-respite to Santa Fe, so Brittany and Katie drove up from Midland, Texas, and Julie flew in from Florida to meet up. I just love stories, and friendships like that. Katie also won the award for most fashionable, with a great dress and hat combination.

Since we had adequately walked off the burrito and the soup, we headed to Stop #4: Upper Crust Pizza for a New Mexico specialty: Hatch Green Chile Pizza.

Upper Crust Pizza is in an historical building in the oldest part of town. The crust is unique to this region; can’t be replicated anywhere else… kind of like Chicago Deep Dish! I was sold—both the Hatch Green Chile and the Red Chile pizzas were well worth the wait; and I was happy we had walked off the earlier fare so I could scarf down three slices!

And, of course, what would a foodie tour be without dessert! Stop #5 was to Senor Murphy Candymaker, which has been serving Santa Fe for 71 years. We sampled a quartet of treats including Bolitos and Pinon Fudge. The shop specializes in Pinon treats (“Pine Nuts” to the rest of the U.S.) which is a nut found exclusively in the state of New Mexico.

This leg of the excursion ended at Senior Murphy’s, and Lynn and I did a little bit of exploring the open air market, looking at the historical spots along old Route 66, and admiring some of the unique artistic endeavors that characterize Santa Fe before heading back to our condo to meet up with Evan.

One of the nice bonuses of marriage is that you get an extended family. I love Lynn’s brothers and sisters and their kids, and often wished they lived closer; but then, we wouldn’t have an excuse to visit if they did! Albuquerque is an hour south of Santa Fe, so Lynn’s nephew Evan wanted to drive up to see us this trip—so very sweet of him!

Evan met us at the condo, and we drove back into downtown Santa Fe, and stopped at a French restaurant for dessert. L’Olivier (how apropos) had a lovely patio, the manager played Getz/Gilberto in the background, and to add to the magical, Franco atmosphere, it rained!

One of the best features was a quote painted on the inside wall of the restaurant:

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Evan is an exceptionally talented artist, and through his studies, is getting well-versed in architecture. We walked around the Plaza at night, talking about the church structures and unique features of some of the monasteries in the West.

All-in-all, a pleasurable ending to our second day in Santa Fe.

 





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 10: Santa Fe, NM with Chef Johnny Vee

22 07 2016

“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon
or not at all.” — Harriet Van Horne, Vogue 10/1956

We left Flagstaff in the early AM, and arrived in Santa Fe by late afternoon. Just in time enough to check into our condominium, get settled, and then head back into Downtown Santa Fe for our cooking class!

Back in March, I found a deal with Epitourean, a vacation touring company that specializes in foodie excursions! The packages are all-inclusive with lodging, a cooking class with a local chef, a food tour of the best area restaurants, and dinner at a 5-Star restaurant. I love Southwestern Food, so Santa Fe seemed an inspired choice.

Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School is a Santa Fe institution, and Chef Johnny Vollertsen (“Johnny Vee”) has done classes there for almost 20 years. He has opened restaurants and run kitchens, so he organized the 12 of us with humor and precision to make a “New Mexico Combination Plate” of Chile con Queso with fresh homemade Corn Tortillas; Blue Corn Chile Relleno and New Mexico Red Chile Sauce; Carne Adovado; Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas; Pork Tamales, Green Rice, and Drunken Pintos; Sopaipillas; and Frozen Ancho Peanut Butter Pie.

We met a lovely variety of people, from a lady from Michigan, to a mother-daughter duo from Wisconsin, to two friends from Colorado, and even one woman visiting from New Zealand! Most of the ingredients were already set up for each dish, so this added to the magic of being able to quickly get up to speed. Lynn and I did some sous chef work of chopping Green Chiles and onions for the Chile con Queso, then whipped all the ingredients together for a delicious appetizer. We then helped the others with their dish assignments, along with nibbling on the selections that were already completed.

I also helped to whip up the frozen Ancho Peanut Butter Pie (which I didn’t get a picture of—darn it!) While I learned a ton about Red and Green Chiles and their different varieties, after tasting this dish, and what a difference a bit of Ancho Powder made to the dessert, well, I had an overwhelming need to buy it. It’s still on the agenda, as we didn’t have much time to shop over the weekend.

We all participated in smashing the movable feast, with plenty of leftovers to take home.

And for icing on the cake, we all got a copy of the recipes we made, along with a signed cookbook! I can’t wait to get a place with a better kitchen so that I can play around with these new favorites.

The Chile con Queso and Homemade Corn Tortillas will be first on the menu.

 

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 11, A CAAN surprise and a Road Trip!

21 07 2016

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” — William Feather

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Day 11 of 50 Days to 50 Years started with dropping off my Nissan X-Terra to Pep Boys for some servicing in the early AM. You see, the first BIG adventure of my 50 Years is a Food Excursion to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we are heading out today; so I had to make sure the car was in good shape to go the over 800 miles through the deserts of California and Arizona, and mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.

The temperature index in Los Angeles is expected to reach 100 degrees, and at 7:30 a.m. it was already 71. So I trundled from Pep Boys down to the local McDonald’s, got a Caramel McCafe, and enjoyed the A/C until the service desk called me to say my car was ready.

And they completed the service in just the right amount of time to keep my 10:00 a.m. appointment with Miriam Smith, Columbia College Chicago’s Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. I have the distinct pleasure of working with Miriam on the CAAN Alumni Board, where she does incredible work and inspires us as we seek to do more for the alumni. I was honored that on her visit to Los Angeles, she wanted to make sure she touched based with me. And even more happy that I had a window of time before we headed out of town.

We went to one of my favorite breakfast spots, The Village Bakery and Cafe on Los Feliz Boulevard. I was actually a few minutes early, and so was Miriam! So that worked out well.

Miriam had the Atwater Village Special, and I had the Village Scramble, both delicious and filling. We had a good talk about my time on the board, and how I’d like to contribute in this next year as the new Southwest Regional Representative! It was a very lovely start to what I was looking forward to being a lovely weekend. We finished breakfast, and Miriam had to jet off to her next meeting. We hugged and looked forward to seeing each other at the CAAN Board retreat in September.

Then it was off home to complete our packing, put it all in the car, and hit the 210 Freeway to the I-15! I do love road trips, and love them even more when someone else is driving. Lynn seems to prefer doing that, so I bow to his road warrior. It is just great to get out of your world, and right now our world is a mixed bag of delight and depression; so for me, getting away from it all has taken on pronounced importance of late.

We got underway around 12:30 p.m., fueled up, and away we went! Save for a rest area or two in between, we made it into Kingman, Arizona around 6:30 p.m., and had our last “official” California meal for the weekend at the quintessential California stop: In-N-Out Burger.

Four hours later, we arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona, where we were set to repair for the night. Motel 6 is our inexpensive go-to place on road trips, usually because we have the Bubbas and Bubbette with us, and Motel 6 is not only pet-friendly, but FREE for all pets; no deposit required. But Motel 6 has also been good to us on our little excursions that have spanned, with a few years’ interruption, over the past five years. In terms of brands, if you are good to me, I am often loyal to a fault; so Motel 6 continues to get our loyalty.

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They did indeed leave the light on for us! We are checked in, and look forward to a good night’s sleep before taking the additional 430 miles to New Mexico tomorrow.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 12, SweetSalt with Susan Baker and Mihret

20 07 2016

“Treat every connection, communication and collaboration as part of a continuous relationship.” ― Kim Chandler McDonald, Flat World Navigation: Collaboration and Networking in the Global Digital Economy

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It was so great on Day 12 to reconnect with The Escape Hatcher Susan M. Baker, and her little girl Mihret at SweetSalt in Toluca Lake.

I met Susan through Douglas Welch, a friend and new media professional. Both Susan and Doug were pivotal parts of the career group I used to run called Tuesdays with Transitioners, and it was through New Media Mastermind, a group that Doug formed which included myself, Susan, Jennifer “Jungle Jenny” Michaels, Danielle Gruen, and Tracy Pattin, that the first CareerCamp in 2010 was born!

Doug, Susan, Danielle and I were the first co-chairs, and the Congregational Church of Northridge, which sponsored Tuesdays with Transitioners, was the location. That was an exciting time, where we spearheaded three other Careercamps (L.A., South L.A. and Santa Clarita). We had a great time in the Mastermind group learning how to use new media to better promote ourselves and our endeavors, bouncing ideas off each other, and seeing how we could be instrumental in helping each other’s visions come to fruition. Susan also ran a group called Nohopreneurs, which brought local entrepreneurs together for lunch and networking.

Both our lives have changed tremendously over the last six years. In 2010, Susan was in the process of adopting beautiful Mihret from an Ethiopian adoption agency, and had her in arms that next year. So for Susan, careers and reinvention took a back seat to new motherhood (of course). For me, the Yoga reinvention happened, and life has been a series of rollercoaster rides, a few of which I am still on.

Susan was beautiful and glowing, so motherhood definitely suits her. Mihret was energetic and curious, as any six year old is, and exceptionally gorgeous—modeling should definitely be in her future.

SweetSalt was a new find for me, and I will be back! Not only was the Duck Confit sandwich quite tasty, but they have natural sodas that rival any you would find in the grocery store.

We caught up on our lives, discussing Yoga, travel, what was happening with the reinvention industry, writing, relocation, and education. Susan was involved as a volunteer at Mihret’s school, and I discussed my role on the CAAN National Board. She wanted to be an example to Mihret and emphasize through action the importance of education and being involved in its potential to change lives and allow students to flourish.

I enjoyed the meeting of minds, particularly in the area of careers and reinvention. Susan is exceptionally smart and resourceful, and it hearkened back to our time in the Mastermind group—with the addition of interruptions from a bright and bouncy six year old.

Thank you, Susan, for being a part of my 50 years: enriching my life with connection, vision, and also being a shining example of reinvention and new beginnings in the second half of your life. I hope we get the opportunity to collaborate again one day soon.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 13, morning coffee with Beth Chamberlain, morning Yoga with Ali Jo, and lunch at Auntie Em’s Kitchen with Vicki Schmidt

19 07 2016

“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” — Helen Keller

Tuesday was packed to the brim with goodness: the goodness of beautiful lady mentors, beautiful Yoga, and delicious food and drink!

I jetted out the house earlier than usual so that I could meet Dr. Beth Chamberlain at Peet’s Coffee in Pasadena’s South Lake area. Beth is the wife of Pastor Scott Chamberlain, the campus pastor at Montrose Church Pasadena-Bresee. She is a very beautiful soul, with the most gorgeous eyes that drip with awareness and compassion. She is the type of person that I would like to be: someone who has such an incredible weight and presence that you are content to just be around them. I also admire her and Scott because, like Hermione and Samuel, they adopted two children that were not their own. The Chamberlains pastored in Skid Row for many years, and took on the care of two African-American boys connected to their mission, and raised them along with their own two children. That really does take a special kind of heart, and speaks volumes of who Beth and Scott are as people of God, and humans in general.

I wanted to ask Beth some insightful questions to get to know her better, but like the skilled counselor that she is, she turned it around and asked me some very deep and thought-provoking ones. So I talked about everything from my childhood in Chicago to my best and worst birthdays to date.

It was all too short for me, but Beth had to get to her office. So we hugged, took a selfie, and she was off to the rest of her day. It’s been six years since I’ve had a traditional job, and I’m always reminded how blessed I am that I don’t have to do that any more.

Since I was already in Pasadena and had to teach at noon, it only made sense to get in a 9:00 a.m. C-2 with Miss Alexandra Johansen!

Ali Jo is our beautiful, Amazonian, North Los Angeles Lead for several of the CorePower studios, and another exceptional human. I had the opportunity to be a coach in one of the Teacher Trainings she led, and it was one of the best experiences all around. I greatly enjoy Ali Jo’s classes for their complex simplicity, and her phenomenal cues. She is a young lady with a lovely presence and a generous heart. I used to throw an annual tree trimming party around Christmastime, and I asked people to bring an ornament for the tree. Ali Jo not only brought an ornament, but gifts for my dogs! How cool is that?! She is blessed with a gorgeous beau named Dana (of whom I greatly approve—not that it matters) and a cool bulldog named Joe who I would love to steal from her for a play date with my fur babies… One day.

As usual, Ali Jo set my morning off right, and my noon class was exceptionally sweet with focused students and good energy. Then it was off to my afternoon break, where I met Vicki Schmidt at Auntie Em’s Kitchen in Eagle Rock!

I only know Auntie Em’s because they have some slammin’ coffee and great bakery items. I had never sampled their lunch items, but I was happy to have the opportunity to do so with Ms. Vicki.

As I said in Day 16, Vicki has a special needs son named Jimmy. He is actually an adult, but still needs round the clock care for a variety of ailments. So when Vicki is not working, and able to get nursing help, she finds time to be with her friends, of which I am glad to be counted among them.

Vicki attended CCN long before Lynn and I came, but due to needing to care for Jimmy, and her daughter Traci’s illness, she didn’t attend often, so I hadn’t formally met her. For about two years I would hear about this woman named Vicki and her daughter Traci; Traci was often on the prayer list, because she had undergone a bone marrow transplant for a rare lymphoma, and was currently in remission. In my mind, I assumed Vicki was this 30-something mother, and Traci was a little girl. When I finally met Vicki and Traci, I was surprised to find Vicki to be a mature woman in her late 50s, and Traci was the 30-something mother—with kids to boot! We had a good laugh over that.

Vicki has been going through a painful and energy-sucking divorce; yet despite that, and the constant ups and downs with Jimmy’s care, she always bears a beautiful smile, a ready hug, and like Dr. Beth, an exceptional listening ear. She’s also incredibly fun and funny, bearing the cutest giggle when something strikes her as humorous.

Thankfully the ugly heat wave predicted this week had not hit yet, so we sat outside and knoshed on Quiche and a Pulled Pork Sandwich. It was obvious that we were both exceptionally hungry, as neither one of us took a food picture. In between bites of the really good food, we caught up on our lives and mutually encouraged each other. Vicki is also part of that group of CCN friends who have seen Lynn and I through hell and high water, and she is always faithful to check in on how we are really doing, instead of  assuming that just because we don’t have any crises going on that we must be fine.

When we decided to split a Strawberry Creme Bread pudding, and the waitress brought it out, it was a sight to behold—so a picture was not only required, it was an imperative!

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Of course, we smashed that too. Auntie Em’s did not disappoint!

Vicki had to get home to Jimmy, and I had to get back to the studio to teach my 5:30 p.m. class; but it was a wonderful completion to a day rich with women of exceptional gifting and generous spirit. A person is fortunate to have one of those in their life, and I am blessed with three.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 14, Bea Beas Brunch with Dave and Meegan

18 07 2016

“Happiness is time spent with a friend and looking forward to sharing time with them again.” — Lee Wilkinson

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The bunch at Bea Beas in Burbank really know how to do breakfast. They offer the usual breakfast fare, but with specialties like “Thai Tea Pancakes” or “Green Tea Monster”, and their menu items have fun names like, “Jumpin’ Jacks”, “Pooh’s Sunrise”, and “Chocolate Tuxedo”. Unbeknownst to me, Meegan had fallen in love with the place when she had to go out to Burbank for her hand therapy. So when we were deciding on where to meet for this 50 Days to 50 Years challenge, and I mentioned Bea Beas, her eyes lit up. Score!

An added bonus: I got to see the Weilands on Saturday, and on Monday—so blessed!

Lynn and I met the Weilands at Congregational Church of Northridge, and we all hit it off right away. We are in the same age wheelhouse, although Dave, Meegan, and Lynn have already crossed over to the 50 club. Lynn and Dave are both Valley boys born and raised, but with parents of Midwest stock; so they share lots of similar growing up experiences and values. Dave is a sound engineer by trade, and Lynn is an electronics geek, so they can talk ad infinitum about esoteric minutiae that would bore the rest of us to tears.

Meegan is the baby girl of a large family, and so am I; so our growing up experiences also paralleled. She is a creative genius, who can craft or crochet anything. There was a time when I had a baby shower to go to, and wanted a unique present. Meegan went into her stash and pulled out the most beautiful baby caps and blankets—stuff that she had on hand, just in case someone needed it. That’s the kind of people they both are: committed, prepared, and generous beyond measure.

We barely knew them when they helped out at our wedding. And as our friendship has grown, they have been our supports and encouragement through some toxic years. From taking care of our dogs when Lynn was in the emergency room, to letting us hang at their house when we were in between situations.

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The New Living Translation of Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” When you find people who are constant through the highs and lows, treasure them, because they are rare.

The Weilands are such treasure, and I am thankful they choose to call us friends.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 15, The Resilient Life

17 07 2016

“The next time you feel slightly uncomfortable with the pressure in your life, remember no pressure, no diamonds. Pressure is a part of success.” — Eric Thomas

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The instructors at the CorePower Hollywood studio were offered a chance to participate in a Myintent.org promotion a few months back. We picked a word and the company engraved it on a bracelet for us. I had totally forgotten about it until this morning, when I went to sub a C-2 class in Hollywood. The lovely Estevan let me know that the bracelets had arrived!

As you can see, the word I chose was “Resilient”, not necessarily as an intention, but as a continual marker for my life. I found this on a site called Wisdom Commons:

“Resilience is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience. Resilience means facing life’s difficulties with courage and patience – refusing to give up. It is the quality of character that allows a person or group of people rebound from misfortune, hardships and traumas.

“Resilience is rooted in a tenacity of spirit—a determination to embrace all that makes life worth living even in the face of overwhelming odds. When we have a clear sense of identity and purpose, we are more resilient, because we can hold fast to our vision of a better future.

“Much of our resilience comes from community—from the relationships that allow us to lean on each other for support when we need it.”

There is no way I could have reached 50 years with joy, focus, and success without being resilient. I never really thought about it much of the time, but it is in the looking back that you see the thread that holds things together.

There is also no way that I will continue past 50 without it. As I head to church to worship with my spiritual community, I am grateful for resilience, and the communities of which I am a part who support and encourage it.