50 Days to 50 Years, Day 00: Bye, Bye Napa, Hello 5 Freeway, Goodbye 40s…

1 08 2016

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” — John Steinbeck

This could be said of the road trip to Santa Fe, this one, and the trip through these past 50 Days to 50 Years. While I did not manage to connect with 50 friends over the 50 days, it was a very fruitful, fun, and enlightening experience, which carved a new space in the year and in my life: a larger space of gratitude for the people and events who have shaped the woman I am today, and a new space of embracing the legacy of years. I am thankful that I approach the 50s with few regrets, and a beautiful bouquet of people, places, and memories, including my husband, our marriage, and our life together. So the journey up to now has been mostly sweet, and my prayer is that it will continue to grow sweeter.

I packed my things, gave my thanks to Gina for the use of her Air BnB, and said my goodbyes. Since we kept skipping a formal breakfast these past two days, I decided to meet Shawna for one last meal at Black Bear Diner before I hit the road.

Black Bear is another Shawna find, and they have some of the best comfort food west of the Mississippi. One of their specialties is sweet cream pancakes, french toast, muffins, you name it. The sweet cream adds an extra layer of richness to the already fluffy texture of the bread, that is only enhanced by syrup, more butter, and whatever else you want to top it with. Had I been smart, I would have bought some muffins or sweetbread to take with me—maybe next trip….

It was delicious fuel for the body for the 6-plus hour drive back South. The car needed fuel too, so I gassed up at the Fairfield Costco before hopping the 5 South for a mostly uneventful ride back to Los Angeles. This is Northern and Southern California after all, and the traffic is legendary; but for the most part, the drive was smooth.

I arrived home to ecstatic puppies and a happy husband, so perhaps a weekend getaway was a perfect solution to reset us. We would be celebrating 9 years married in two days, so a reset was a good thing.

I also came home to a couple of sweet presents: a personalized gift basket from Lynn’s sister Carrie, and a lovely photo book from my sister Joan.

The last day of 49 ended as desired: at home with the people I love, on a mellow note, with anticipation of things to come as I crossed the threshold into 50.

 

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50 Days to 50 Years, Day 01: Napa Girl’s Weekend, Part 3: Jason Bourne and Sweetie Pies

31 07 2016

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”  — Ovid

That we did. Sunday was another leisurely morning where we did not much. Nibbled on the still leftover snacks, had coffee, and just chilled. I patched in briefly to the live feed of the 10 am service at Montrose Church back in Los Angeles, then we made the effort to get dressed for the grand event that day: Jason Bourne.

Yes, I love Matt Damon’s acting, and the Bourne series is one of my favorites of his work; so what better way to spend the day than watching the latest installment?

We even got to drag Shawna’s mom Nasha out the house, which is something Shawna says she rarely does. I felt honored that she would join us for the excursion—Nasha’s like another mom.

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While not any match for the previous three, Jason Bourne was serviceable. A perfect fluff film for a leisurely afternoon.

We decided to show Nicole the Riverfront in Downtown Napa, and Shawna had a certificate for a confectionery called Sweetie Pies. Not to be mistaken for the restaurant made famous by Oprah, this was just a simple shop that sold specialty and gourmet pastries, cakes, and cookies, and the usual coffee and tea offerings that go along with them.

Wow! While not a sugar addict, this place was worth all the calories. Much of it was so rich, that we had leftovers to knosh on later.

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Nasha was past her threshold of being around the public, so we dropped her off, and me, Shawna, and Nicole did Chinese food for dinner. Nicole was heading back to Alameda (near San Francisco), and ordered a to-go meal for her fianceé Georgios, who was very sweet to let his love spend a few days with me.

The best part of girlfriends, and especially Christian girlfriends, is that along with the laughter, fun, sharing, and eating, we also pray together. Nicole shared some difficult things that were going on with the wedding and Georgios’ family, and she knew of my struggles as well. So before she drove off, we spent some time in prayer. No matter what the issues, inviting the Lord into it is a guarantee of our peace and helps me to look for his action and answer in the midst of the situation.

The Girlfriend’s Weekend was inspired, special, and now complete. Shawna stayed for a little bit before she had to head to work. The last night in the Air BnB was uneventful, which was also an appropriate end.

 





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.

 





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 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 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.