50 Days to 50 Years, Day 07: Homeward Bound

25 07 2016

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We had grand plans of leaving Santa Fe and stopping in Albuquerque on the way to visit Lynn’s sister Joyce for a bit. Turned out that Evan’s car ended up dying on him on the way back from our visit on Saturday, and Joyce was in the midst of helping him out, so we passed by ABQ without a visit. It was an odd trip home, punctuated by Lynn and I getting into an ugly argument. Suffice to say this drive home was more silent than usual, and put a damper on what was a great weekend.

Save for a stop for gas, Lynn wanted to drive straight through. After 8 hours, we reached the Colorado River, which means State Line of Arizona and California, which means halfway home. It still amazes me that within one day you can travel three states. Despite the cloud of our own disagreement, I could still marvel that we live in amazing times.

We drove through Death Valley, then stopped at a rest area outside of Barstow, more than 150 miles from the Sand fire which was blazing up in Santa Clarita, a city 30 miles north of Los Angeles. From Barstow you could still see its effects in the sky.

Another two and half hours from Barstow capped off a 13-hour drive, and we were back in the city of Los Angeles. We picked up the Bubbas and Bubbette from the dog sitter, and then headed home. The silence was less pronounced, and we were both too road weary to rehash our dispute. We were thankful to be back home safely.

Some vacations don’t end on a high note.

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50 Days to 50 Years, Day 08: A day in downtown Santa Fe and an evening at Geronimo

24 07 2016

“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” — Paul Prudhomme

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Chef Prudhomme is right, I make and eat good food all the time. But I think everyone should have a true silver fork experience every once in awhile—Day 3 of the Santa Fe Foodie Excursion allowed for just that.

We had the morning free, so we walked to the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe and explored some of the free galleries and the neighborhood art. The Grant Corner Galleria had some beautiful and unique pieces that would have been worth it if I was living large. We explored the grounds of the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and the beautiful Cottonwoods that grace the grounds.

It was quite muggy, and the clouds were heavy with rain, so we knew we would get a good downpour sometime during the day. Despite this, we still took our time getting back to the condo, and snapped some pictures of the sculptures that peppered the yards and sidewalks of the neighborhood.

We got back to the condo in time enough to relax before our silver fork dinner at Geronimo, and right before the rain! We sat on the condo porch to listen to the rolling thunder, and watch the rain and lightning. I love the smells, the sounds, and the feeling of the wind and the rain electrifying the atmosphere—such a fabulous treat!

Its been years since I ate at a 5-star restaurant, so I was excited to get dolled up for my silver fork evening.

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The view from the porch as the rain fell and the thunder roared.

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All dressed up and ready to go!

Geronimo Restaurant is housed in an historic building built by Geronimo Lopez in 1756. Called the “Borrego House”, this elegant and noble structure has thick adobe walls, kiva fireplaces and wood beams; a treat for the eyes as well as the palate.  Chef Sllin Cruz specializes in a menu that uses local foods and showcases the indigenous cuisine of New Mexico. So the menu changes seasonally, dependent upon what is available.

Geronimo’s specialty is a Tellicherry Rubbed Elk Tenderloin, so that is what we both ordered; but not without starting out with a Red Belgian Endive Salad, Wagyu Beef Carpaccio appetizer, and a 2013 Malbec that was absolutely incredible in clarity and bouquet. Lynn had himself a beer as well, because why not?

We received palate-cleansing porcelain servers of Raspberry and Lime sorbets, and then we dived into the main course.

The Elk Tenderloin did not disappoint. It was a melt-in-your mouth rare cut for me, and Lynn had his medium well. The beautifully seasoned Mushrooms and Snow Peas were a heavenly addition. Accompanied by the Malbec, the entire meal was akin to a religious experience, and we savored every bite.

Amazingly enough, we saved room for dessert: Lynn had a Vanilla Ice Cream with Marizipan topping and a Cardamon base. I had an Orange Creamsicle Cake, reminiscent of my favorite childhood ice cream bar.

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I considered it a success that I didn’t spill anything down my front and managed to keep my elbows off the table. This #foodieexcursion has been Beyond, and I am sad to see it come to an end. But this silver fork dinner experience was a fitting end.

 





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 42, Captain America and Japanese Buffet with Sarah Lucy Beach

20 06 2016

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).” — C.S. Lewis

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Sarah Lucy Beach is another longtime friend since the early 1990s. We met in an entertainment industry fellowship called Premise, and immediately struck up a bond over our love of writing, movies, and conversation. That bond was assisted by the fact that I did not own a car my first 10 years in Los Angeles, so Sarah was often my constant chauffeur to and from Premise meetings and other places and events. Like many of my Los Angeles’ friends, she has spent more than a few Thanksgivings and Christmases with me—we even spent one Christmas Eve at Disneyland, which was quite a treat! No lines or crowds, and a fireworks display that was the perfect entree into Christmas Day.

We also took a road trip together from Los Angeles to Colorado, with some stops in between. Unfortunately, Sarah’s car had troubles along the way, and it started out stressful, but ended up being a beautiful trip. We look back on that time now and laugh, but it wasn’t quite a laughing matter then; our friendship weathered it and we have some fond memories and pictures to look back on.

My early years in Los Angeles were chaotic, and I was often in financial and logistical straits. Sarah was always there for me, whether with assistance for a meal, an escape from a toxic living situation, or a movie. After hearing about one precarious situation with yet another bad roommate, she said, “If you are facing the street, then you are welcome to my couch.” I took her up on it, and stayed on her couch for six months.

Sarah has recently gone through some hard trials of her own the last few years. Because Lynn and I were fresh off some hardships of our own, we were not able to offer a couch, but we could give our prayers and whatever practical help was available.

I am thankful that Sarah’s life is on the upswing from those dark years, and that she was available to help me ring in my “50 Days to 50 Years”. We had a great time catching up, and as is indicative of our times together, we took in a movie: Captain America: Civil War, then had lunch at Hopkaido Japanese buffet. Thanks to the record-breaking Los Angeles heat (111 degrees where we were), we were quite content to marinate in conversation and enjoy Hopkaido’s air conditioning long after we had finished eating.

But then, as lifelong friends, we never need an excuse to do that….

 

 

 





In My Orbit: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

2 05 2014

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This Girl and her mister, along with the Bubbas and Bubbette, took off to San Luis Obispo, California,  the gorgeous Central Coast.

My husband Lynn collects military radios, and the first weekend in May there is a Collector’s retreat held at Camp San Luis Obispo. It’s become a tradition of our marriage, and also allows us to see Lynn’s family, who live close by.

We also get to see friends that we’ve made over the years we’ve attended, like Ms. Laura and her husband Mike.  They travel here all the way from the Salton Sea (Indio), and Laura loves our puppies.

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While Lynn enjoyed the talks and items for swap, I was able to get some work done under beautiful, blue skies and 82-degree temperatures.

My next column, on the new email revelations regarding the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack appears on Communities Digital News this evening. Hop on over and give it a read, along with my other articles.

The lovely part of being an online writer is the ability to take your work wherever you might be. Have device and internet connection, will travel!

I hope you have an awesome weekend, with whatever is in your orbit!








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