50 Days to 50 Years, Day 06: Vacations

26 07 2016

“In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

I have noticed that since the bottom fell out of our world in July of 2010, that I’m not much fond of the month. Starting in 2012, I have made a concerted effort to disappear from Los Angeles sometime in July—to make an escape from the current situation, if only for a few days and with limited funds. Here is where Lynn and I differ, and like many married couples, where the fodder for arguments crops up: money spent and money lost while on vacation.

Vacations were not a normal routine when I was growing up, so when I became an adult, I decided this was something I wanted to incorporate into my life; particularly since I was stuck in the corporate world, which I hated. So once enough vacation days were accrued, I did my best to use them.

Cambria Coast near Moonstone Beach

Moonstone Beach is my kind of beach–rocky, rugged, and powerful.

And use them I did! Once I got my own car, I explored Cambria, my favorite place on the Central Coast of California, many times alone and with friends. I drove up the California Coast to San Francisco, Napa, Mendocino, and Eureka. Thanks to the generosity of other friends with lodging, I visited Dallas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kauii, Hawaii. My philosophy: “stay”cations suck, and are not vacations; if I can’t get away, then the Summer has definitely been wasted.

Lynn took vacations with his family, but as an adult, he never bothered to plan any for himself. His idea of a getaway is visiting his family in San Luis Obispo for the weekend. While not a bad idea, for me, this is not truly getting away; and what I most want in the months of July and August is to get away.

So getaway we have, and I dragged Lynn along for the most part. Some years were really great, others rocky. In 2012, we drove to Arizona and New Mexico to visit his brother Bob and his family, and his sister Joyce and nephew Evan and had a blast.  In 2013, we traveled to Chicago to visit my family, and I discovered the happiest Lynn that I encountered in our now eight years of marriage. And my family’s reunion in 2015 in Walnut Creek, California was also one for the books. We seem to do very well when surrounded by family.

The years 2014 and 2016 were mixed bags. Bad hotels/motels and a few tense situations (like the blowup of yesterday), served to put a damper on those events.

So a day on the heels of the last getaway, as I reflect on the past five years of getaways, I am hoping to make some changes for 2017, and the years to come. One of those changes may be I just take vacations by myself and with girlfriends, since Lynn’s need to constantly earn and not spend does not produce a conducive or happy partner; and part of the enjoyment of a getaway is that the person you are with is enjoying the excursion as much as you.

So as I cross the threshold of my 50th Year, and decide what to keep or what to cast away for the the next 50, a getaway vacation is one tradition on which I don’t plan to compromise. I even have the dream of one day having the means to completely disappear for the three months of Summer—hopefully Lynn will be in a place where he is willing to do that too. Things to hash out as I continue in my 50 Days to 50 Years journey…

 





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.





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 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.