One and Only Palmilla

It was our last night and we were having champagne, just the two of us, in front of a fire pit steps from the ocean. Behind us was a lone table, impeccably set for dinner with candles and two very attentive wait staff ready to serve our 5-course dinner whenever we were ready. The clouds parted and the stars overhead illuminated the setting while we toasted to 26 years of marriage.

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The sea of cortez

I am normally a passenger seat traveler. My husband is the planner. Until we met John, our friend and our amazing travel agent who can do everything, Jeff booked airfare, found the hotel or resort, made dinner reservations, booked excursions, etc., while I happily went along for the ride. Fortunately, we have been able to travel to some pretty cool places, and the more Jeff stepped in and planned, the more I sat back and enjoyed. But after my broken leg last winter forced us to cancel our plans for our 25th anniversary trip, I wanted to plan a special “make-up” excursion for our 26th.

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Last August my friend Kelly told me about a trip she had recently taken to the One and Only  in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. It sounded perfect. Since we are in Colorado for the winter, the flights to Cabo are quick and easy, and our anniversary in March is the perfect time to get away from the snow. I decided to surprise Jeff and called John. Actually booking and paying for a trip like this on the sly was more difficult than I realized. I needed to buy airline tickets right away and the stay was to be paid in full no later than 30 days in advance. How to actually do that when our finances are wide open to each other was sticky. I won’t go into all the details, but it involved a lot of surreptitious plotting and almost getting caught several times. I went back and forth on whether or not to let him know, with my desire to totally surprise him competing with the fact that I could never pack his suitcase sufficiently, so 30 days beforehand I told him we were going someplace warm. He was actually pleasantly surprised, so the trip was a go.

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View from our terrace

We arrived at the Cabo airport in early afternoon, and after making our way through the maze of airport attendants offering “special discounts” on numerous excursions, were greeted by our One and Only driver who whisked us in air conditioned comfort (with wi-fi!) to the property. Check-in was a breeze, as we were welcomed upon arrival and taken immediately to our oceanfront suite and introduced to Carlos, our butler. Carlos showed us around the suite, explaining the various amenities (a tequila welcome platter, choice of afternoon snacks, amply stocked mini-bar, chocolate tower, automatic light switches, huge walk in closet, gigantic bathroom with full size tub and walk-in shower, and a double terrace with the ocean steps away). We changed clothes and hurried down to the adult pool  next to our building to relax and unwind. When we went back to shower and change for dinner, Carlos had beautifully organized, folded and hung our clothes that we had so hastily unpacked.  He and Victor Hugo (yes, that’s his name) combined forces to provide everything we needed, and some things we didn’t know we needed.

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Veuve-Clicquot and homemade chips and salsa

I had four nights of dinners to plan and I decided there was no need to make dinner reservations anywhere off the property. There were two restaurants by chef Jean Georges Vongerichten (Suviche and Seared), and an oceanfront restaurant by chef Larbi Dahrouch called Agua. Since we are huge fans of chef Jean Georges, I saved Seared and Suviche for later in the trip and we made our way to Agua for the first night. I was actually a little worried about this choice, as I had not heard of Larbi but that night was perfection. The wine list is always a priority for Jeff, and this one did not disappoint. We had a beautiful al fresco table, looking out over the beach and ocean and next to the soft live music, which was delightful. Every morsel of food from the tuna roll (a ceviche-type tuna rolled in avocado), my salmon and Jeff’s blackened tuna was perfect. The only thing that would have made it more perfect in Jeff’s eyes was to have one of the tables directly on the beach with curved sofa-type seating (more on that later).

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Roasted Chilean Salmon

The romantic turn down was a beautiful ending to the day.

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“Romantic turn-down”

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“Romantic turn-down”

A gym is always one of our priorities. In order to really enjoy the delicious food and wine, we need to get in a workout at some point every day and this place did not disappoint. The gym is attached to the spa area, and we were warmly greeted and escorted to the large, well-appointed rooms. Ample state of the art pieces of cardio equipment, choice of cold or room temperature bottled water, free weights and yoga mats are shiny clean and readily available.

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Fitness facilities were perfect

John and Marie (guest relations at the One and Only Palmilla) made it so easy. They gave suggestions on various special touches, and it worked out that every day brought an additional surprise for Jeff. The first day was a couple’s massage in a private spa suite.  It was amazing, and Jeff said it was the best massage he’d had in his life.  This means a lot coming from someone who has had at least a weekly massage for the last 15 years. Towards the end of the session as I relaxed blindly with eye pads on, I heard the sound of water running. Much to our surprise, following our treatments we had the use of the private suite area, with outdoor bathtub, showers, outdoor bed and lounge chairs, tea and snacks. Pure bliss.

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Maybe TMI, but this was a perfect ending!

Dinner that night was at Seared, by Jean Georges.  We were seated inside but requested a table outside, so they graciously accommodated us.  However, the wind was blowing so hard we asked to be moved back inside and were instantly whisked to a beautiful inside table, no questions asked.  It was another delicious dinner, with great wine.  We shared the Dover Sole and it was fabulous.

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Day two we got up early to work out, and met our ride to the ferries at Cabos San Lucas. Even though I got my time mixed up and we were an hour late, our driver waited for us, and we were able to enjoy the next surprise…a four hour boat ride and lunch around the tip of the peninsula.  The Grey yacht was beautiful, with cushioned beds in front and in back, and a private chef to prepare delicious ceviche appetizers, seared tuna salad and grilled shrimp for lunch. We were able to get up close to the arch and “window to the pacific” where you can look through from the sea of cortez to the pacific ocean. We cruised around the southern tip and several beautiful whales gave us a pre-lunch performance.

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The third night we had reservations at Suviche, Jean-Georges’ other restaurant at the resort, and as delicious as the menu looked, Jeff wanted to return to Agua. Our dinner there was so perfect we wanted to repeat it. He made a phone call and asked if any of the beach tables were available, and luckily they made room for us there. We sat on the circular seating facing the water, our toes in the sand, and enjoyed another fabulous dinner.  The chef made a vegetarian entree for me, with chickpeas, quinoa, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and squash.  I didn’t think to take a picture until after I had scarfed up most of it, but it was delicious.

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Our last full day was spent at the beautiful adult pool, with swim up bar and what seemed like more attendants than guests. They are on hand to deliver iced buckets of bottled water, evian spray, and to turn the lounge chairs to face the sun throughout the day. It was a gloriously warm but not hot day. At one point, I started feeling a little hot and at that instant someone walked up to offer little chocolate dipped frozen bananas on a stick…perfect timing and perfect refreshing bite. We lingered as long as possible before heading back to get ready for the last surprise.

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Marie knocked on our door at 7 p.m. to deliver us to our private dinner on the beach. I had pre-chosen each of the 5-courses which they had graciously accommodated for our Pescatarian diets. It was a perfect ending to a perfect trip.

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Something chocolate and churros…mmmm.

We are fortunate to have experienced many luxury resorts, but in comparison the One and Only outperformed in all areas. The pros are too numerous to mention. The only con is the cost. I think that it is good that in our first 20-plus years of marriage we couldn’t afford vacations like this because now we can truly appreciate it. Looking forward to our next visit!

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Amazing Gracie

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Yesterday morning I held my 20-week-old lab puppy, Gracie, tight to my chest. She was breathing heavily, and as our plane taxied to the runway for takeoff, she stretched her front legs like she was waking up, and stopped breathing. Just like that. No jerking, no gasping, just quiet. I felt her chest and put my hand in front of her nose to see if I could feel her breathe, but there was nothing. They were de-icing the plane so we could leave Aspen to fly home to Nashville to have Dr. Marc Bercovitch (the wonderful veterinarian internist who we met last week when she was hospitalized because of chronic kidney failure) try to figure out why she had taken such a quick turn for the worse, hoping that going to lower altitude would help. She was just a baby. But in the short time we were lucky enough to have her, she won us over with her big brown eyes, her spunk, her kisses, and her heart.

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I knew she was dying. I think she knew she was dying. We didn’t want her to live like this, but we felt like if we didn’t just try to see if lower altitude would help her feel better, we would regret it. Neither of us was looking forward to making that call, but we knew that we would if we needed to. Our sweet, smart Amazing Grace helped us make that decision.

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When she stopped breathing, it felt like my heart stopped. I took a couple of deep breaths and hugged her close. Then I told Jeff I thought she had stopped breathing. We tried shaking her and calling her name to see if I was mistaken, but she was gone. My heart is broken. But it was strangely peaceful. She wasn’t struggling to breathe. She was not alone.

I can’t explain, especially to non-dog people, how much we loved her. In her short little life, she entered the hearts of everyone who met her. She helped Sugar fill the hole left after we lost Rosie this summer. She was a spunky little fighter, who fought off an infection at 12 days old and lived another 18 weeks. She played hard, loved hard and opened our wounded hearts that were still closed after the loss of our sweet Rosie.

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We will never forget her. We have zero regrets that we brought her into our lives. I just wish we could have helped her. It’s not fair that she was only here for such a short time.

Sweet Amazing Gracie…we love you sweet girl, and will miss you forever.

Gracie’s short life in video…

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Ahi Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayo and Oven Fried Potatoes

IMG_2063 I don’t miss meat very much. I was never a big meat-eater, so giving it up a few years ago was really easy. But I did miss burgers. Not the meat so much…I liked the big, fat, juicy tomatoes, lettuce, red onions, pickles and perfectly toasted bun. So veggie burgers pretty much filled that void. Until I had the ahi tuna burger at J. Alexanders. I love it! It’s been on their “special” menu for the last year or so but they have yet to put it on the regular menu, so I fully expect to go one day and be told it’s gone, never to be had again.

I’ve been on a quest to find a recipe, one that was relatively simple, healthy, and tasty. I have tried a few variations, but they mostly ended up tasting like crab cakes. So yesterday I decided to 86 the bread crumbs and mayonnaise and try to keep it mostly tuna. Surprisingly, even without an egg or mayo to bind it, they held together quite nicely! We were too hungry to wait for the grill to heat up, so I pan-fried them with a tiny bit of olive oil, and they were delicious!

The wasabi mayo was for Jeff, who likes a little spice, but mine was perfectly fine without it. I will say, start with a little less wasabi, and add more to taste. That stuff is strong!

This was seriously a simple meal. From start to finish…45 minutes. But I think next time I’ll make up the burgers in the morning and keep them in the fridge until cooking. They were extremely thick burgers, and 2-3 minutes on each side was plenty! If you use sushi quality tuna, you could cook them even less for rare.

Ahi Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Wasabi-Lime Mayonnaise

1/4 cup mayo (I used reduced fat)
1/2-1 teaspoon prepared wasabi paste (start with 1/2 tsp, increase to taste)
juice from 1/2 lime

Whisk all ingredients together, store in refrigerator. Will keep for several days.


Tuna Burgers

2 8-oz pieces of yellowfin or ahi tuna, roughly chopped
1-2 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt (or himalayan pink salt)
3/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, leaves only, chopped coarsely
2 Tbsp chopped scallions
1 clove chopped garlic
1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 Kaiser type buns
Red onion, thinly sliced
Lettuce
Tomato, sliced
Avocado, sliced

First make the mayo: Place lime juice, mayo, wasabi paste, and a little salt and pepper to small bowl, whisk until blended well.

For the burgers:

Chop the tuna, place in food processor.  IMG_2058

Add cilantro, scallions, garlic, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Top with sesame oil. IMG_2060

Pulse the mixture a few times until roughly ground. Don’t puree!IMG_2061
Form the mixture into two large burgers, or four smaller ones. If making two large burgers, make sure your buns are large enough. These burgers don’t shrink up like beef does, since the fat content is so low!IMG_2062
Cook on medium heat (either in grill pan on the grill or frying pan on the stove coated with a little olive oil). 2-3 minutes each side, or to desired level of doneness.

Toast the buns, top with lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado. Use mayonnaise sparingly, or to taste.

The oven fried potatoes were super easy…Slice into strips, toss with a couple TBSP of olive or sesame oil, sprinkle with seasonings of your choice (I used kosher salt, course black pepper, garlic powder, and some finely chopped fresh rosemary and thyme.)  Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes until browned, turning at the halfway mark.

 

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Easy Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

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*This post is recycled from my old blog, Busy Mom’s Journal. About five years ago, I watched the movie “Food, Inc.”, and promptly lost my taste for meat.  I made J watch the most heartbreaking parts with me, he had the same reaction, and so for the last five years, we have given up eating meat.  It’s healthier, and we feel better not supporting the factory farm industry.  I am constantly searching for non meat-versions of protein, and other than beans and fish, we sometimes get in a rut.  Eating tofu was a new experience for us, and to be honest, neither of us really like the texture.   The only experience we have had Continue reading

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The upside of the Empty Nest

I haven’t written in such a long time. There are many reasons, but every time I’ve sat down to write, I haven’t been able to harness my thoughts into one topic. So in warning, this is a stream of consciousness that I hope will jumpstart a regular writing schedule. The reason I started this blog (in it’s previous form Busy Mom’s Journal) was to journal my life with my family so that I could look back in years to come. It didn’t matter that no one read it, I’ve actually learned a lot by revisiting the things that we went through in the last several years.  I hate that I haven’t written in so long, and Continue reading

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An Empty Nest…again

This morning I walked into my kitchen and saw this.  IMG_1748

And started crying. It was completely unexpected, just like it was when I went to a farmer’s market in the fall of 2012 and teared up when I spotted the eggplant section. That was the first time I realized she wasn’t coming home, at least not in the near future. I had just dropped her off in California for her first semester of college. She was the only person in our family who loved eggplant, so I had no reason to buy them, not then, nor in the near future.

It wasn’t a big cry, and it wasn’t even that sad. It was just… Continue reading

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Lessons from my First Tough Mudder

finisherAfter two showers and a soaking bubble bath, I still have dirt under my fingernails, and cuts and bruises in places I’ve never had before, but I feel so good. Yesterday, I did my first Tough Mudder challenge. As they remind us, over and over before we start, it’s not a RACE, it’s a CHALLENGE. I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, in fact, tell me I can’t do something,  and something in me wants to just do it. But this was different. I don’t know if it’s because Continue reading

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Why I cried during Tough Mudder

There was a point, a little over 7 miles into my first Tough Mudder event here in Snowmass, that I started crying. No, I wasn’t crying because it was tough, or because I was freezing cold and couldn’t feel my feet. Yes, those things happened. But the thing that really pulled on my heartstrings and caused me to run while I was blabbering like a baby, was shaking the hand of another participant.

These are the true heroes, and I am proud to have shared the course with them.   (Image from
2013 Tough Mudder in Beaver Creek, CO)

As we were climbing up the service road towards Sam’s Knob, Continue reading

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Taking a trip down Nashville’s memory lane

We’ve been back in Nashville for two weeks and I am happy and exhausted.  There are awesome things about spending large chunks of time in the places that make me happy, like Colorado and North Carolina, but I have to be honest when I say, there’s really NO place like home!  Especially in April, Nashville is a glorious place to be.  It’s green everywhere, the birds are singing, the weather is perfect, the shopping is getting so much better, there are a myriad of new restaurants to try out, and most of all, my friends and family are here.  Among the many benefits of having an empty nest, besides the flexibility to travel and spend time away from home, is the ability to socialize whenever you want.

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Springtime in Nashville…it’s the best!

So when we pass through Nashville after being away for almost four months, and want to re-connect with our friends and family, we experience a social life that we never had.  Long coffees that extend to lunch, nights out with my girlfriends, dinner on a school night, leisurely lunches…all possible without worrying about getting dinner on the table at 6, or school meetings, or daily grocery store trips.  When you’re only in town for a couple of weeks at a time, that means squeezing get-togethers in on a daily basis!

It’s been great.  And exhausting. But I feel like I’m experiencing my home town in an entirely new way.  It’s unbelievable how much this little town has changed, seemingly overnight.  After dinner at Pinewood Social Club the other night, our friends drove us around downtown like we were guests, and honestly, I felt like one.  Between the new Convention Center, the new Omni Hotel, tons of hip new restaurants with outdoor patios for dining, and the throngs of tourists on Broadway, I felt like I had never been here before!

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Music City Center-image from The Tennessean archives

Back in the middle ages, when we were celebrating my friend’s bachelorette party at the Urban Lounge on 2nd Avenue (anyone remember that place?), I remember driving down a deserted 2nd avenue at 1 a.m., and one of our friends had to pee, so she hopped out of the car and ran over to an alley to do her business.  (I’ll never tell who!).  There was literally NO ONE around.  There were two places to go on 2nd avenue back then (other than Tootsie’s), Urban Lounge and Ace of Clubs.

My little tour of downtown had me thinking about the Nashville of my youth.  (Geez, I sound old…oh yeah, I AM old!)  I have a lot of memories as a 20-something of downtown.  I met my husband at Ace of Clubs (through a mutual friend, not a bar pick-up, thank you very much!).  Ace of Clubs was a bar/dance place that had cages you could dance in, and I have many memories of that place, which later became Bar Nashville.  Before that, my girlfriends and I would drive down to TGIFridays on Elliston Place, Exit-In (REM, The White Animals, Talking Heads, Jimmy Buffet, Tom Petty, They Might be Giants…so many great bands played there), the Mardi Gras nightclub down by the warehouses near the river downtown, where you could buy the most potent Long Island Tea in existence, and HeartThrob’s at the Fountain Square Mall in Metro Center (an 80’s dance club where a VIP card let you bypass the throngs of people waiting to get inside).

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Ready to go out, Big Hair, Big Eyeshadow and all!

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There was The Wind in the Willows off West End, where we went to see “Hubert Davis and the Season Travelers”…probably the best bluegrass band I’ve ever heard.  (Apologies to the Steep Canyon Rangers, who run a close 2nd).  I remember Hubert’s tag line like it was yesterday…

“Wednesday….Thursday…..Friday…..and Saturday night…every week that
rolls around, right here at the Wind in the Willows (or later, the Bluegrass Inn).  If you like your friends you tell em about it, if not, then keep your mouth shut.  Every things gonna be alright!”

        — the late great Hubert Davis

Click here to hear them play “Rocky Top”!

The hot apple pie a la mode at the Elliston Place Soda Shop, the caramel popcorn at Harding Mall (one of two malls we had in the early 70’s that were nice, clean, and very busy), the hometown department stores, Castner-Knott and Cain-Sloan (I was on the “Teen Board” at Cain-Sloan in 1978-1979), Harvey’s downtown with the amazing carousel horses and their nativity scene at Centenniel Park, and  I worked at “The Jewel Box” when it opened in Hickory Hollow Mall in the late 70’s, a busy, crowded, teenage hangout of a place.

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Jewel Box was a jewelry store…in the upper left corner of this pic

I remember when a friend moved to Brentwood back when I was in elementary school.  It was so far, it felt like we were going on an overnight whenever we drove out there to visit.  But during the 80’s, Nashville had truly become a metropolitan area, spread out from Brentwood and Franklin on one side to Madison and Goodlettsville on the other.  But the thing that I remember, is that no matter where we went, we ran into people we knew!  We’d drive 20 minutes to get to downtown where we’d run into all our friends.  That doesn’t happen anymore.

When I start that journey down memory lane, it’s not just the 70’s and 80’s…the 60’s pop in there, too, and they start flooding back.  The rollercoaster at Fair Park, swimming at Pine Springs, shopping at Zayre (our 70’s version of Target), baseball games at Una Recreation Center, Hermitage landing, Vandyland, prom dates at the Jolly Ox, Sailmaker’s or Cajun’s Wharf,  “Creature Feature” on TV with Sir Cecil Creep, that weatherman that threw chalk and caught it in his pocket after every forecast “by George!”, Coyote McCloud on Y-107…”Lock it in and rip the knob off!”, and Scott Shannon at WMAK,  Shoney’s, Opryland (where I had season passes and basically used it as summer camp for a couple of years, before having a series of summer jobs sweeping or working the kiddie rides), the “Dixie Flyers” professional hockey at the Municipal Auditorium, driving out to the old airport to stand on the outdoor observation deck to watch planes land and take off…I think you get the picture.  Once I start thinking back it’s never ending.

I do love the changes that have happened in our fair city…it’s nice to have so many more options in shopping, dining, and the arts, but I miss the ‘small town’ ambience of Nashville.  I think it has taken me 50+ years, and leaving Nashville for months at a time to really appreciate our history.

What do you remember about Nashville?

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Five Tips for Easing the Transition to an Empty Nest

Before I became a mom, my entire life was wrapped up in my career.  I couldn’t imagine why women would get off the work train, just to stay at home to take care of a kid. What did they do during the day, besides change a couple of diapers and feed the kid a couple of times?  There was no way I would give up what I had worked for for ten years, just to babysit and sit around.  Little did I know.  They placed this little bundle of love in my lap, she grabbed my finger, as well as my heart, gave me a huge, toothless smile, as if to say, Continue reading

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