50 Days to 50 Years, Day 02: Napa Girl’s Weekend, Part 2: Castello di Amarosa and Rutherford Grill

30 07 2016

“Good friends help you to find important things when you have lost them… your smile, your hope, and your courage.” — Doe Zantamata

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The morning started off leisurely, which is how I prefer to start mornings. Donna and Auntie Everette were the first to rise, then I got up. Shawna would not be off work until after 8 am, and we had planned to go to Black Bear Diner for breakfast before heading off for pedicures.

Shawna arrived later than expected, and none of us were in a great hurry to get out of our PJs, so we talked, and planned, and finally got dressed. It was almost noon, so almost time for our nail appointment and too late to do Black Bear. On the way to the salon, Shawna stopped to get breakfast burritos for us from another of her favorite spots. We gobbled them down as we waited to be seated for our mani-pedicures!

Mine was just a pedi. I see no point in getting a manicure because with all the washing dishes, gardening, and other hands-on stuff I do, it is ruined in a few days. But pedicures are always in order, especially since between teaching Yoga and taking Yoga, I spend three-quarters of my life out of shoes!

I decided on gold for the weekend, and in honor of turning 50. Technically, I am moving into my golden years, so I took it as a declaration.

We stopped at a grocery store to grab a few nibbles that we planned to eat before the wine tasting. Unfortunately, traffic was not very cooperative. It took us longer to get to Castello di Amarosa than expected, and we got there right on time for our tasting session. Donna’s daughter Danea was also joining us, and ran into traffic on the way down from Brentwood. I guess Saturdays in the Napa Valley are about the same as Saturdays in Los Angeles: people converging on the roads all at one time trying to get their errands done.

Nicole was not able to make the tasting, but would meet us later at Rutherford Grill for dinner. We talked with the tour coordinator about the length and difficulty of the tour. Because there was a lot of unevenness to the flooring as well as stairs, Auntie Everette decided to relax in the tasting room while we did the tour.

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It was a really awesome tour, with bits of history and humor weaved throughout. The entire affair is a testament to what someone can do with money and time on their hands. This billionaire decided he wanted an authentic castle, so he had rocks shipped in from Africa (to look aged and authentic), and built a castle/winery. Who am I to judge? If I had that kind of cheddar, I’d buy myself a mineral hot springs that I could visit whenever I wanted. To each his own….

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We had a great time, and were sufficiently buzzed by the end. Good thing Shawna wasn’t sampling, and we didn’t have far to drive! Rutherford Grill was practically around the corner.

Nicole was able to make it, and we had some lounge time on the patio before being seated. Shawna’s penchant for good food paid off once again! It was a delicious dinner, and the restaurant’s patio statue was synonymous to what occurred—we pigged out!

Once we rolled ourselves back to our cars, we headed back to the Air BnB. Donna and Everette had church obligations, so we hugged and kissed them goodbye, and then headed upstairs for a movie night.

Shawna was off work for the weekend, so she was able to stay the night. We repaired back into our PJs and figured out how to log into my Netflix account to watch The Princess Bride.

Along with a gorgeous birthday card, Nicole gave me a beauty treatment mask, so I decided to make it a full-fledged girl’s night and applied it! We nibbled on a bit of popcorn, and me and Nicole had some wine while we enjoyed this movie classic.

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It was an appropriate ending to a fun day.

 

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50 Days to 50 Years, Day 03: Napa Girl’s Weekend with Shawna Cypher!

29 07 2016

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving
for my friends, the old and new.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been so looking forward to this weekend, and thankful for my friend Shawna who helped to set it up.

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Shawna and I have known each other since 1994, when she came to Los Angeles as a nanny, and we have been the best of friends ever since. From weekends, to dinners, to impromptu road trips, she has been one of my best road dogs. I was sad when she moved back to Napa, but it also opened the door for trips up north to see her, with other friends and family in tow (as pictured above). This picture was taken the year before, when we went to Walnut Creek for the Foxx Family Reunion. We stopped in Napa on the way and spent some time with Shawna, and then Shawna crashed the reunion as our “sister from another mister”, and we all had a great time!

So when I thought of getting together a group of friends for a Girl’s Weekend, she was first on my list. Because of time, distance, and finances, some friends and family couldn’t make it, but I was looking forward to spending time with my cousin Donna and my aunt Everette, as well as my new friend Nicole, who was joining us on Saturday.

I had an amazingly smooth trip up the 5 freeway. Car rides are like a moving meditation for me, and also a moving prayer time. I have done my best praying and pondering on the road, and after the strains of the last weekend, it was needed. I enjoyed taking my sweet time, worshiping to my favorite Pandora stations, and listening for God’s wisdom and voice. Definitely time well spent.

I arrived at the Air BnB rented by Shawna’s friend Gina, and Shawna was there waiting for me. She and Gina helped me get the lay of the land, then Donna and aunt Everette arrived soon after. Shawna loved being navigator and chauffeur, and after 7 hours on the road that was fine with me. So we packed into her Rav-4 and headed to dinner at The Pear!

Shawna raved about this place, and since she has the same food tastes I do, I trusted her judgment. I was not disappointed! We started with Sunset Mimosas, Cheese Fondue, and Grilled Prawns. I love me some crustaceans, so I ordered Cheesy Grits with Prawns for my entree. It was melt-in-your-mouth, hearty goodness.

Shawna is a scrapbooker and crafter, so thanks to her mad skills, I received my first official 50th birthday card! Custom-made, no less.

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After dessert, we explored the Riverfront in Downtown Napa for a bit, and I realized this was the first time in a while that I had spent any quality time with my Aunt Everette. She is one of the last living Foxx matriarchs, and I wanted to soak up her presence as a living memory of that family and my mother.

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We saw all we could see of the Riverfront, so we headed back to the BnB for some conversation and a nightcap. Shawna had to go to work, and Everette went to bed, so me and Donna sat up a bit longer and had some good conversation about men, marriage, and how God wanted to use us as partners to the men we loved. Much needed conversation. My eyelids were drooping, so we prayed together, and both went off to bed.

Day 1 of the weekend had turned out fabulous, and I was looking forward to Day 2: Mani-pedis, and the Castello di Amaros Winery!





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 05: Exhaustion and Anticipation

27 07 2016

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.”
—Fitzhugh Mullan

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No lie, after a road trip, I am generally exhausted; which is why I try to take an extra day to unpack, do laundry, and lie around with a puppy or two at my feet. This time I couldn’t, because I needed to work to have money and space for the final days leading up to my 50th—the Girl’s weekend!

My friend Shawna in Napa hooked me up with a friend’s B&B, my cousins and auntie are coming from their place in Brentwood (a suburb an hour or so from Napa) to spend a couple of days, and my new Yogi friend Nicole, who also lives up north, is planning on joining us for at least one day. So in my exhaustion and between my 7 classes over three days, I am anticipating another road trip, this time by myself.  It’s a good time to disappear again, and probably a good opportunity for Lynn to spend some time alone.

Two more days and I’m hittin’ the road, Jack. But my purpose in journeying is to come back with a different perspective. I do my best thinking, praying, and reformulating on road trips, so I am anticipating good things on the road, as well as fun with the girls!

Friday can’t come soon enough…





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.

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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.

 





Illustrating Absurdity

17 11 2010

 

Illustrating Absurdity

Chicken crossing by Peter Griffin/publicdomainpictures.net

Can we get any more absurd than complaining about a TV-show being fixed?  When did Dancing with the Stars become purist high art?  Seriously, give Bristol Palin credit for trying to do something with her life instead of immediately getting on the government dole.  I don’t watch the show, and don’t care to watch the show, but if I hear one more blogger or avid show watcher belly-aching about Bristol Palin winning for another week, I may just call in and vote for her!  Obviously there is something about her the American people love, kind of like Fantasia Barino–so deal with it and truly, truly get over it, or change the channel.  Blogosphere in a tizzy over Bristol Palin’s advance to the finals.

Climbing off the soapbox now and on to real matters of import.  This TSA/Airport Security Body Scanner/Invasive Groping mess.  Jon Tyner‘s phrase “You touch my junk, and I’ll have you arrested” has entered the hallowed lexicons of our language, right up there with “Don’t Tase me, Bro!”

But the Associated Press offers up their anemic response to what is fast becoming a national crisis.  Airport body scans, pat-downs draw more complaints.  AP boils all this brouhaha down to 1) blame the passenger, and 2) we haven’t made any real sacrifices for national security.  So terrorizing a three-year-old is just a minor bit of inconvenience?

The lefty-heavy Los Angeles Times in their article, “Shut up and be scanned”, offers this bit of sunny advice:

“There’s no bright line to indicate where our quest for security becomes intolerably invasive of our privacy, but we’re still pretty sure the TSA hasn’t yet crossed it. Although the pat-downs are seriously embarrassing, they’re also usually voluntary — to avoid them, you just have to go through the scanner. And fears about the scanners have been overblown.”

Bite me.  Michael Graham at Boston Herald gives more reasoned (and sensible) advice.  We take this now, imagine what we’ll have to put up with later? Airport security is one big scan.  And Jennifer Abel at the Guardian UK gets even more caustic.  Get your hands off me, TSA!

I will watch with relish next week to see how passengers and TSA fare on the biggest travel Holiday of the year.   Thanks to John Tyner, I’m sure many will come armed with a camera phone that also includes their lawyer’s number. So glad I’m staying in town!