Scarlette Letter – September 2, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have available to me

Affirmation – I am focused

Attitude – Joyful

Activity – Just a little strolling

Nurture – Hugs, kisses, hand-holding, loving, and snuggling

Enrichment – “Make sure you understand your beliefs”

Nourishment – Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Scarlette Begonia

Giving – only love and compliments

Connection – I spent the afternoon and evening with my sweet, wonderful, man

Simplifying – I bought a very small, zippered, cosmetic bag and filled it with absolute essentials for an overnight stay: two small toothbrushes, toothpaste, small container of floss, a couple of makeup wipes in a Ziploc, a sliver of face soap. The case slips into almost any purse I carry and negates the necessity to carry an overnight bag for those spontaneous outings and overnights that seem to manifest when I spend time with my sweetheart (that’s why the two toothbrushes)

Simple.
Simple.

TV Guide Lifestyle

Like most people, I am a creature of contradictions. Is it possible to love both routine and spontaneity? I believe so, because I do.

I would describe myself as a disciple of spontaneity before I’d say I was a proponent of strict routine. I think there are routines that are helpful, based on personal preferences, needs, and desires, but I truly believe that spontaneity is a component of a joyful lifestyle.

The household I grew up in, the three of us, me, Mom, and Dad, was very routinized. Everyone got up at exactly the same time every work/school day. Breakfast was almost always the same for every week day, for long periods of time. Lunch may have had slight variations, but always had the same components. Dinner was predictable, though delicious, based on the night of the week and which diet book Mom was following at the time (Scarsdale was her favorite, though I think there was a “Pritikin” in there, too). Dinner was always at precisely the same time every night, timed to quickly follow the very predictable time of arrival of my dad, from work, a quick cocktail, and his shower. After dinner, Dad stayed at the kitchen table, drank his wine, did his bookwork, and read Time magazine before heading to bed to repeat the process anew the next morning. Mom headed downstairs to the family room to watch the same sitcoms night after night, week after week, year after year, rotating new offerings into the rotation as other favorite shows stopped airing. I remember M*A*S*H*, and the Six Million Dollar Man, All in the Family, the Jeffersons, and One Day at a Time. It was a T.V. Guide lifestyle, and it was good.

Raising my own family, we were far more bohemian. While the children were young and I worked full-time, we did set aside some time for routine; homework and dinner together. For most of their childhood, there was no television programming. There was a T.V., but it was for watching videos together as a family.

We often opted to dine out rather than prepare meals at home. My husband’s work schedule varied and sometimes he even worked from home. When my kids entered grade school, I moved to a part-time position, which I clung to until they were nearly through high school and it became financially necessary for me to take a full time position. We had many, many, extracurricular activities that filled our afternoons and evenings. While those extracurricular activities were confined to meetings that fell on routine days of the week, the events and activities for each of the meetings themselves were always new, fun, and interesting, no two were ever exactly the same.

Now that the kids are grown and we’re all on our own, I’ve come to really crave spontaneity, but I do appreciate some sense of routine. My job, until recently, required a great deal of travel, I was never in the same place from one week to the next. Now, for the time being, I work exclusively from home, but have a varied and unpredictable schedule.

If I could design my life, I’d like my mornings free until about 10:00, that’s when I’m most creative. Then I’d like my late mornings free, until noon or so. That’s when I most like to work out. And that’s all the routine I crave. The rest of every part of every day would be reserved for spontaneity.

Spontaneity, I think, fosters a sense of youthfulness, an expression of freedom, and encourages living in the moment. These, I believe, are components of a joyful lifestyle. Living a routine, T.V. Guide lifestyle seems to be our nature, our inclination, the comfort zone. There are benefits to both routine and spontaneity; the challenge is finding the right recipe.

Scarlett’s Letter September 22, 2013

My day at home. My only day at home. So, this is my “day off” for the week. I leave tomorrow at the crack of dawn for New Jersey. So today, on my day off, I must unpack from my week in Montana, launder, then pack again. Except I no longer have functional suitcases, so I, too, must obtain new suitcases in which to pack.

I spent my morning at the Napa Premium Outlet Stores. I’ve been suitcase shopping before, knowing this day was not too distant. The suitcases I am replacing came from Kohl’s, my least favorite store on the planet next to, perhaps, Wal Mart. My issue with Kohl’s is you never know what anything is going to cost, it’s kind of like shopping and playing “Let’s Make a Deal” at the same time. The price an item is marked may or may not be what you will be charged. It will never be more, which is good, because the price most things are marked at Kohl’s s far more than I’d ever be willing to pay. Kohl’s prints and sends stuffed in every newspaper and junk mail heap multiple, multiple page ads. I have placed two “current” ads next to each other, side by side, after ten minutes of fervent searching for the suitcase page and the identical suitcase is listed for different prices. Yes. Different prices for the same item on the same day. How is this accomplished? And then, there’s the real deal at the bottom of the page; when you get to the cashier, you get a “scratcher”, like a lottery ticket, and you scratch away the nasty gray shit to reveal an additional percentage off of one advertised price, or the other, I don’t know which. And, if it’s Tuesday it’s more, and if my mom purchases the suitcase on Tuesday between such and such a time and such and such a time, there is an additional savings, and, if she uses her Kohl’s charge card, if I did my math right, they are going to pay me to take the suitcase off their hands. Bullshit. There is something very wrong with their marketing or their merchandise and I’ve decided I’d rather go to the Samsonite store and pay a couple of dollars more and get exactly what I want, in the color I want. I can arrive any day I like, I can use whatever payment means I choose and the price is as marked. I like it. It’s called simplicity. I crave simplicity. So. That’s what I did, I went directly to the Samsonite store, picked two suitcases out, a large and a small. I found an amazing color, more of a wine than a purple, but delicious and uncommon, which is what I strive for in everything in life. The salesperson was super helpful and super knowledgeable. She rung up my purchase as I told her how my last pair finally wore out after three and a half years. She seemed a little shocked. I assured her that I was pleased with the quality and that I just traveled a lot. She asked where I’d purchased my previous Samsonite suitcases. I told her, “Kohl’s”, a little embarrassed. She informed me that the “Samsonites” from Kohl’s are actually made especially for Kohl’s and aren’t quite the same, nor do they offer the ten year warranty. You see? She told me to photocopy my sales receipt and zip in within the lining in each suitcase and if either should fail in any way, just bring it back. You see? Me = super happy customer. I think I spent ten dollars more than if I’d gone to Kohl’s. I think, depending on all those crazy variables and contests. I don’t care, I’ve got the real deal and the real warranty.

It is difficult to be home for only a day. After a week of travel and restaurant food, worse, Montana restaurant food, I really just want good, wholesome, clean food. But it is quite difficult to go to Whole Foods and buy ingredients with which to cook a single breakfast, a single lunch and a single dinner and have no leftovers to deteriorate in the refrigerator during my absence beginning tomorrow. I’m so tired of eating out. So, so tired. But, whatcha gonna do? Mom and I decided to finally try the “pizza” place that occupied the sometimes occupied and often vacant restaurant space in the tiny shopping center by the neighborhood market. Pizza, salads and sandwiches, beer and wine. Sounds good enough. We’ve been by before and it always appears closed. Again, today, it appeared closed. The neon “Pizza” sign in the window adjacent the parking lot was not lit. I walked down the walkway to the “front” door, which is actually on the side. It appeared dark within, but the hours posted in the door stated they should be open. Mom was waiting back by the car. She doesn’t walk unless there is a guarantee of some sort at the end of the journey. I went back to the car and tried the door next to the parking lot by the unlit neon “Pizza” sign. It opened. So, either the place is unlocked or they are in fact open. I toddle, along with Mom, up to the “front” door, open it and we venture inside. The tables are all empty and it is quite dark inside. There are lights on, but it is quite dark. Mom and I exchanged a glance, neither of us is too keen on being the only diners in a restaurant. I don’t mind dining alone, but I only if there are other people around me. Being the only patrons in a restaurant makes me uneasy. I noticed the back door to the patio was open and outside were tables. Occupied tables. We were greeted and seated outside.

A little backstory. I grew up with a couple of kids from a large, long-time Napa family, an Italian family, in the grocery business. This restaurant site was once their home. When they built the market next door and the surrounding shops, they converted the house into a restaurant site. This neighborhood is a couple of miles from downtown Napa, and so, a bit removed. Until recently, Napa, the city, has sort of been the laughing stock and ugly stepchild of the Napa Valley, world famous wine region. Passing through Napa was just necessary in order to get to the real destination; everything from just north of Napa, onward. In the past few years, downtown Napa has been struggling, and in some respects, succeeding at also becoming a destination. While there are many vacancies and the “mall” has been officially pronounced dead, it is all slated for redevelopment and some big brands are in line to occupy some of the new spaces. Many downtown restaurants and tasting rooms are thriving and the streets are (infuriatingly) lined with slow moving tourists, both on foot and in cars. There are a couple of nice hotels that seem to be doing well, with another one or two planned. I am of the ilk that growth, development and progress is good. Mom is not. She wants it all the way it used to be; complete with cows and sheep and orchards and only a couple of vineyards. It is my hope that as Napa grows and reinvents itself, that some of these little restaurants out of town a wee bit, will have a better chance of success.

Are we unlike towns, shopping centers and restaurants? Don’t we sometimes need a little re-inventing of our own? A bit of creativity, a new look, a new outlook, a new purpose? Sure we do! And we should fight the same resistance to just want to remain “the way it used to be”. Like all things in life, like all things in the world, we need to progress, we need to adapt, to grow, to change. We need to evolve in order to remain relevant and vital.

As Napa reinvents itself and fosters a better chance of success for its businesses and restaurants, it is this little restaurant in particular that I hope thrives. Bene Gusto. What a bright spot in my week. Mom and I sat on the patio with the other guests, sipped a couple of cold beers from their NorCal beer offering. They featured Napa wines, of course, and a great sounding little menu. On their menu was a “Lunch Bite” special. For ten bucks you get a beer or wine from the list, a salad with greens so fresh Whole Foods should pay attention and a personal, ten inch pizza in any variety you choose from either the New York Style menu or the Artisan Menu, probably ten to twelve different pizza varieties in all. We both ordered a “Lunch Bite” and the salad, as I said, was so incredibly fresh I looked around for the garden. I didn’t see one, but I’ve not had greens so good in a long time. And I do shop at Whole Foods, with satisfaction. My pizza was divine, the crust was perfect, the toppings were of superior quality and creative in their combination. Best of all, our waiter was the best, and I gathered, related to the endeavor. A father, sons project, if I put the puzzle pieces together right. And for all of this splendor, it only cost me ten bucks. So happy. So, so happy. After lunch, on our way back through the restaurant, I checked out their little bar area, which was inviting and had a chalkboard ad boasting pizza and a beer for six bucks as a happy hour special. Perfect.

After my salad, pizza and two beers, back home, I did that which I dreaded; I tried to figure out how everything that had special pockets and spaces in my old suitcase would be contained within the new suitcase, which is completely, architecturally different on the inside. As I’ve mentioned, I never totally unpack my suitcase and if I need this or that, I know exactly which corner of what pocket in whichever suitcase to find it. This is major upheaval. I managed to get it all put together, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be thrashing through everything looking for one thing or another, at least for a while. I managed.

And then, the Sunday night ritual, well, actually, to be more precise, the Sunday late afternoon ritual; I set my alarm for 12:30 AM and tried to sleep while it was still daylight outside and kids were still playing in the streets and neighbors still mowed their lawns. And, about the time life in the neighborhood finally quieted down, my alarm went off and it was time for me to go. Once again.

Creekside patio dining at Bene Gusto in Napa.
Creekside patio dining at Bene Gusto in Napa.
Creekside patio dining at Bene Gusto in Napa.
Creekside patio dining at Bene Gusto in Napa.
Creekside patio dining at Bene Gusto in Napa.
Creekside patio dining at Bene Gusto in Napa.
A great little beer selection at Bene Gusto in Napa.
A great little beer selection at Bene Gusto in Napa.
A great little beer selection at Bene Gusto in Napa.
A great little beer selection at Bene Gusto in Napa.
The "Lunch Bite" is a great deal at Bene Gusto. Here, the Potato Pizza from the Artisan Pizza menu.
The “Lunch Bite” is a great deal at Bene Gusto. Here, the Potato Pizza from the Artisan Pizza menu.
An entertaining way to deliver the bill, tucked in some fantastic old book.
An entertaining way to deliver the bill, tucked in some fantastic old book.
Bene Gusto - the bar area.
Bene Gusto – the bar area.
The Bene Gusto "mascot". I think.
The Bene Gusto “mascot”. I think.

Scarlett’s Letter August 23, 2013

Just work today. Then I drove back to Chicago. I have a hotel, tonight, near O’Hare, one I’ve stayed at before. Tomorrow I have a late afternoon flight and hope to get up and out early, go downtown and explore a city the way I like to; on foot, taking pictures and covering plenty of ground.

Driving back to Chicago from Indiana.
Driving back to Chicago from Indiana.
Can't wait to explore this town on foot tomorrow.
Can’t wait to explore this town on foot tomorrow.

I found a really cool, old school Continental steak house right around the corner from my hotel. Café la Cave. It so reminded me of a place my parents would’ve loved back in the 1970’s. It was classy, dimly lit and was decorated to look like a cave inside. There was blue lighting around the bar area and the bar was crowded with martini emboldened folks who were all fabulously middle aged, fabulously dressed and all seemed to know one another. One man spoke loud enough for everyone in the adjacent dining room to hear, as I gather it, he’s on the PGA tour. The tables were all appointed with not one, but two white linen tablecloths and there was more silverware on my table than diners in the dining room and patrons in the bar. It’s at moments like these that I’m grateful my mom taught me etiquette and what all the different knives, forks and spoons are for.

Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
The bar at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
The bar at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.

My parents were a bit older than most of my friends’ parents. They both had previous marriages and divorces and found each other a bit later on in life. Funny how some patterns repeat. I was sort of a last chance baby, and that’s why there’s only one of me. We didn’t ski or boat or camp, we didn’t golf or play tennis or belong to a country club. My family dined out. I ate escargots at the age of eight, and loved them. I’ve had a passion for food, fine dining and dining adventures since childhood. My father was French, and so we usually ate French or Continental cuisine. One of our favorite restaurants, now long gone, was in San Rafael, California, in Marin County, La Petite Auberge. We referred to it as “La Petite”, for short. On weekends, there was a strolling accordionist and the roof opened up to the stars. Around the dining room, inside, grew wisteria. The ambience was dark with golden, flickering candles at each little table. The tables were close together, but still seemed so private and intimate. We often met friends or extended family there and we’d gather in the bar until all were accounted for, then we’d be seated. The bartender, the maître d’, and the waiters all knew us and greeted us whenever we arrived, sort of like “Cheers” and Norm, but in French. I remember them all well, I always thought they looked sort of like my father; darker complexion, dark eyes, dark hair, and like they enjoyed their food and their drink a wee bit more than they should.

The bike shop gang at La Petite Auberge
The bike shop gang at La Petite Auberge

La Petite Auberge served all the classic French fare; sweetbreads, liver and onions, calves brains, and of course, steaks and chops. I always liked the lamb chops and to this day won’t usually pass up lamb chops on a menu. They made a Caesar salad, table side that I remember fondly. Why is it so thrilling to have food prepared table side? I guess because it’s all sort of a spectacle, even if everyone else is having their food prepared table side.

I was in Cincinnati with a group of folks from work a year or so ago. We went to a Eddie Merlot’s, a fantastic steak house together. After a rich and filling dinner we perused the dessert menu and found three different desserts that were prepared table side and set ablaze. We ordered one of each, to share around the table. Out rolled three carts, three waiters and there were three flaming desserts, table side, at once. Best thing ever!

Flaming dessert carts lined up at our table. Eddie Merlot's - Cincinnati
Flaming dessert carts lined up at our table. Eddie Merlot’s – Cincinnati
One flaming dessert. Eddie Merlot's - Cincinnati
One flaming dessert. Eddie Merlot’s – Cincinnati
Two flaming desserts. Eddie Merlot's - Cincinnati
Two flaming desserts. Eddie Merlot’s – Cincinnati
Three flaming desserts. Eddie Merlot's - Cincinnati
Three flaming desserts. Eddie Merlot’s – Cincinnati

Tonight, having read the menu on my Open Table app before making my reservation, I decided to have the Steak Diane, prepared table side, drowned with cognac and set ablaze. It was fantastic! I had the green salad before the entrée and the seasonal vegetables as an accompaniment. I skipped the wine, because of my “daily budget” for my company expense report, and because I have a couple of partial bottles I need to kill back at my hotel. I’ve packed home open bottles of wine in my luggage before, but always feel extremely lucky when the bottle and my clothes all arrived home in their desired form. I’m out of 2-gallon Ziploc bags, anyway. I also elected to skip dessert, though I did enjoy reading the menu. I have some exquisite chocolate back at the hotel to go with my wine.

Table side preparation at Cafe la Cave near Chicago
Table side preparation at Cafe la Cave near Chicago
Cognac on fire! Steak Diane prepared table side at Cafe la Cave, near Chicago.
Cognac on fire! Steak Diane prepared table side at Cafe la Cave, near Chicago.
Steak Diane at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
Steak Diane at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
Must finish wine.
Must finish wine.
My dessert
My dessert
The desserts I skipped tonight at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
The desserts I skipped tonight at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.

It’s because of these fabulous, unique, independent, local restaurants that I abhor large, corporate, conglomerate dining venues. You walk into an Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill, Cheesecake Factory or Bucca di Beppo in any city and the menu has all the same unoriginal, routine offerings. You can totally forget what city you’re even in. When I experience a city, I want to experience the local dining scene, even if it’s Formica tables and paper napkins, it is a part of the community, part of the town’s atmosphere, and it is someone’s passion and dream to prepare food for others. Tonight’s local restaurant was a gem and totally worth driving past fourteen chain restaurants to find. So, my Friday night is off to a good start, and so, too, is my weekend.

Cheers!

Scarlett’s Letter July 23, 2013

Tuesday, right?

I wasn’t scheduled to work with a client today, nor did I have a project for work. The latter half of my day was marked on my calendar as a “travel day”. I work on site in Redwood City, California, about sixty miles from home, for the next couple of days. My morning was free. So I got paid to sit around the kitchen table, in my pajamas, and visit with my mom, answer the occasional email and be ready to assist if anyone on the team needed help. No one did.

I had a leisurely breakfast, my usual, plain Greek yogurt with local, organic honey stirred in and some organic blueberries. We sat and talked and talked and sat as the morning wore on. I went upstairs, finally, and returned a couple of emails and a couple of phone calls. My “obligations” were met for the morning, all I had left to do was shower, pack and drive.

Mom and I had entertained the idea of having mimosas, for the sole purpose of finishing off that pesky opened bottle of sparkling wine in the refrigerator before it lost its effervesance. We dismissed the idea, initially, it was Tuesday. Morning. So? We revisited the idea and decided it was probably better to enjoy the bubbles and orange juice sooner rather than later.

Three mimosas later.

We were still talking, and coherently. It was after noon and, still, I was in my “pajamas”, sweats, actually, but still, I was in what I wore to sleep in last night. This is so unlike me, I am actually repulsed by the thought of still being in PJs at noon. Blech! I planned on leaving for my hotel at about 3:00 PM, to hopefully miss traffic through San Francisco and get there early enough to complete my “first night ritual”. I showered and got ready, finished hanging and folding last night’s laundry and packed simultaneously, in fairly short order.

I’ve been missing a sock. I’ve been missing a sock I really, really like. I have these “business socks” I wear with my slacks, for work. And the sock that is missing is actually silver. And glittery. Last night, after my run, I grabbed a clean towel to use after my shower. I guess the silver, glittery sock clung to this towel and has been folded up with it since before I went to New York over a month ago. When I got out of the shower and grabbed my clean towel, out fell my missing glittery, silver sock. I was so happy! Really. It doesn’t take much. I was so happy, I even told my man about finding my silver, glittery sock during our nightly phone conversation. As I explained finding my beloved sock, I was looking for the mate, the one that wasn’t lost. I couldn’t find it! Shit! Now the sock that was there, wasn’t and the sock that had been lost was here. I’m hopeless, sometimes. Today, in folding my clothes and packing, I found the sock that hadn’t been missing, so, yes, now I have two silver, glittery socks. In my suitcase, ready to be worn with my business attire tomorrow! Excellent, I just wasn’t sure how many more times I could stand wearing black business socks with my blue, pinstriped slacks. There is peace and harmony in my world once again.

But, as I continued to sort and fold my laundry, it came to my attention that I only had one of my super expensive, hot pink, Balega running socks. I swear, it’s a curse. I just wore them last night, and I washed them and put them both in the dryer, I remember, vividly. I shook the other clothes out, once, and again. No pink sock. I looked downstairs by the dryer. I looked in the dryer. I looked in the washing machine. My mom had put my clothes that had been in the dryer on my bed, and she’d noticed the solitary pink sock, too. A curse, I tell you. A curse. It was nowhere. It’s like there is this cosmic balance that is maintained only by the fact that there is always at least one highly valued, missing sock. I had almost texted my man the good news of finding the silver, glittery sock, but now that my pink sock was missing, I decided not to draw any additional attention to my ongoing sock saga. Curses are never good and are probably best not discussed.

An hour later, after my mom took her clothes out of the dryer, I went to the garage for some other reason, and there, on the floor, my hot pink sock. If the world tips off its axis or the cosmic well-being of the universe is at all unsettled, just know, it’s because all of my socks are presently accounted for.

After I packed, Mom and I decided to have lunch, and, no, we did not have more mimosas. We were out of sparkling wine and I had to drive. We did decide to have a half a cantaloupe each with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle! This is my new favorite lunch and I need to not indulge in this deliciousness too often! It has been a big food week, and with work related travel, meaning dinner out for the next three nights, and another “party weekend” coming up, this could all add up to very tight size sixes by the time next Tuesday rolls around. Or I roll around. At least I’ve run a couple of times this week.

At 3:00 PM, precisely, I loaded up my car and headed for the “peninsula”. As planned, traffic was light. There was a little congestion here and there, but nothing like commute time. I made good time and found my hotel very easily. I checked in and went about my “first night ritual”. After dropping my bag in my room, I grabbed my purse and my TomTom and headed back to my car. The first order of business is always to find the clients’ office. When I booked my hotel, I noticed it was only a couple thousand feet from the address my client provided. I could walk. I may walk. It is about a block away.

The second order of business, upon ascertaining that there was, indeed, a small refrigerator in my room, was to find the closest Whole Foods and buy a few items for my breakfasts and lunches for the next couple of days. I take great delight in shopping at different Whole Foods locations. I don’t know why, exactly, but I do, and I “check in” on Facebook, if for no other reason, than to keep a record for my own purposes. I think it would be cool to be able to claim to have visited EVERY Whole Foods location. Not likely, but cool. I bought Greek yogurt with honey in it, organic blueberries, organic raspberries, a small wheel of Brie and two apples for my lunches, a split of sparkling wine, a split of Zinfandel and a couple bottles of water. Oh, and at the register, impulse buy, two small squares of dark Peruvian chocolate. I made my way back to the hotel and loaded up the refrigerator.

Before leaving home, I made reservations for dinner at a French restaurant in the same town as my hotel. I use Open Table to make my reservations, even though I usually eat early and am always by myself. In other words, I don’t usually need reservations, but, when you use Open Table, you earn points for every reservation you make. You can then redeem the points for gift certificates that can be redeemed at any participating restaurant! I’ve almost earned a $100 certificate, I’m just a few meals away!

When I got to the hotel, after my Whole Foods trip, I pulled up my dinner reservation on my phone to get directions, only to find that the French restaurant was downstairs, in my hotel! Excellent! And it was! A flight of three French red wines, striped bass, quinoa and grilled vegetables, supposedly only 195 calories and for dessert, because it was only supposed to be 90 calories, fresh berries gratin, flambéed. I skipped appetizers, soup, salad and sides, thankfully, that was the most filling three hundred calorie meal I ever ate. I think the French must count calories differently than we do. Or is it the “French paradox” again? How they eat like they do and look like they do, I don’t know. Actually, I do. If you haven’t read “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano, you should. Hopefully, you like leeks. I love them. I eat them every day.

After dinner, the ritual continues; I iron all the clothes for my entire stay, drink more wine, some of the Zinfandel, confirm the time training begins in the morning, set two alarms, each, on both of my iPhones, and make sure all the files are ready on my work computer. Then I busy myself with something entertaining for the rest of the evening like duncing around on Facebook, texting my Sweetie, reading, watching the YouTube channels I subscribe to, or, actually, pretty much what I’d be doing if I were home and everything that needed to be done was, in fact, done.

And that was my Tuesday. It is Tuesday, right?

 

My usual breakfast; organic Greek yogurt, made here in Napa, with local, organic honey and some organic blueberries. And coffee.
My usual breakfast; organic Greek yogurt, made here in Napa, with local, organic honey and some organic blueberries. And coffee.

 

We "had" to use up the champagne before it went flat or something.
We “had” to use up the champagne before it went flat or something.

 

This. Is. Lunch.
This. Is. Lunch.

 

The view from my hotel room.
The view from my hotel room.

 

A flight (three two ounce pours) of French red wines at Bay223 in Redwood City, CA.
A flight (three two ounce pours) of French red wines at Bay223 in Redwood City, CA.

 

My "195 calorie" entree at Bay223 in Redwood City, CA.
My “195 calorie” entree at Bay223 in Redwood City, CA.

 

My "90-calorie" berries gratin, flambeed, at Bay223 in Redwood City, CA.
My “90-calorie” berries gratin, flambeed, at Bay223 in Redwood City, CA.

 

 

 

 

Scarlett’s Letter June 9, 2013

I will be far, far away for Fathers Day. My dad passed away over a year ago, and I like to pay tribute to him on his day by visiting his gravesite. I was far, far away on Fathers Day last year, too. And the year before. It just seems to be how my job goes. Mom and I decided to celebrate a week early and headed out to the Sacramento Valley Veterans Memorial in Dixon, California. We brought with us fresh cut hydrangeas from home and put them in front of his “communal mausoleum”. We sat and enjoyed the sun, the breeze and the cooler temperatures for a bit. Mom likes a little quiet time there, weather permitting. She still cries. I don’t, at least not there. I usually find my tears at other times, like the other day, his Cross ball point pen that he ALWAYS carried in his shirt pocket was on the table. For some reason, that just struck me and I found myself choked up. Grief is weird.

When my kids were younger and our family was whole, we would almost always share family occasions and meals at “The Olive Garden”, one of my dad’s favorites. For “corporate” restaurants, it has always been slightly more tolerable than others. Every time we go to the cemetery, from the day of my dad’s internment service until now, we stop in the neighboring town, at “The Olive Garden” for a meal. Given the choice of “Red Lobster” or “The Olive Garden”, I chose TOG. I’m trying to turn over a new leaf on judging people, replacing those instant, judgmental thoughts with good, wholesome thoughts and praise. This was not the right place for me. All I can say, read between the lines if you must, they have a lot of “all you can eat” options on the menu and the clientele today looked to have enjoyed that. Often.

I carefully ordered grilled chicken, rice, which, in hindsight I should’ve replaced with steamed vegetables and “all you can eat” salad, which, in hindsight, I should’ve ordered without dressing. I had decaf espresso for “dessert” rather than the high calorie, sticky, gummy desserts they had offered and “included” in our “three course meal for $12.95” deal. Yuck. Mom ordered bucatini, which is odd because she doesn’t like “fat spaghetti”, which is what bucatini is. Oh well. Finally, Mom is ready to part ways with TOG. She said “never again”. I said “OK!!”

Somehow, I managed to be hungry for dinner later, and in spite of the fact I took a fitness day off. I fixed mostly braised vegetables with a few pieces of lean stew meat (beef) stir-fried in. It was so good, compared to TOG. A good way to end the day.

Flowers for Dad. I'll be gone for Fathers Day. Again. He'd understand.
Flowers for Dad. I’ll be gone for Fathers Day. Again. He’d understand.
Lunch at TOG. What is up with these serving sizes? They're huge by MY standards!
Lunch at TOG. What is up with these serving sizes? They’re huge by MY standards!
The least caloric dessert offered with the "three course meal special" at TOG.
The least caloric dessert offered with the “three course meal special” at TOG.
How to carry a beer upstairs when your hands are full.
How to carry a beer upstairs when your hands are full.

Scarlett’s Letter June 7 2013

A day at home. “Working”. When unscheduled with a client and at home, I am required to work a regular eight-hour day. I am to be available by phone, instant messenger and email between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM in my home time zone. Other than that, as long as my projects get done and I’m prepared for upcoming training and consulting sessions, well, whatever. This was a whatever day. I did do a few hours of follow up administrative work that doesn’t get done, usually, while traveling; time reporting, expense reporting, preparing materials for upcoming sessions, answering emails and stuff like that. But, I was free to take mom to her hair appointment, though I did take my laptop and work on my expense report while she got her cut and coif.

Mom and I stopped in at Il Posto Trattoria for lunch, located in the same lot as the salon, a place my mom has mentioned wanting to try on several occasions, despite her stylists unfavorable reviews. Mom wanted to try the “pizza and a beer” special for $12. Sadly, it was posted as a happy hour special only. I’m not sure where the miscommunication was there, but we were seated with the full-on menu. Mom chose a veal Panini and I selected a calzone. I liked the atmosphere, though Mom spent the entire meal not liking the décor. After lunch, and probably for eternity, Mom is going to recount what a horrible meal she had. Mine was good. I’d go back. Without Mom, because she’ll never set foot in there again. At happy hour, for pizza and a Peroni. But, with all that is negative, the more Mom focuses on how lousy her experience was, the worse it will become. Going on and on and on and on for days and days and days and days will only make the experience worse in your mind, it will do nothing to make it better, to change it, or do anything at all positive in any respect to anything. In other words; complaining about something is a huge waste of energy. Did she not have the best lunch companion ever? Me? I don’t know. So what was good about it? The beer? Fine, let’s focus on the goodness of the beer and let the rest slide. Don’t go back, but don’t dwell on the negative and destroy what someone else (me) may have enjoyed. There’s a lesson here.

We ventured on up to St. Helena to V. Sattui winery. I recently joined their wine club, something I’ve never done before. I had the most amazing, to die for merlot there a month or so ago. Their wines aren’t available in any store, only at the winery. Their hospitality is outstanding, as well, as in, free tastings for any “Napa neighbor”, also known as a “locals only discount”. So, my wines for the month were ready to be picked up and there were free wines to be tasted, so Mom and I spent a brief spell bellied up to the wine bar before heading home for the rest of the day.

Once home, I spent some time on the back deck, taking in the warmth, the sunshine and a light breeze, listening to my new audio book by Eckhart Tolle. I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Mom joined me a bit later and she revisited the horrors of lunch, once more. Peace. For a moment. Enough said. Really. Enough said.

I was too full for dinner. I spent the rest of the evening working and doing laundry and doing some basic organization that’s been needing to get done. I made a very small dent. But it was fulfilling.

Girnormo calzone from Il Posto Trattoria. And a Peroni.
Girnormo calzone from Il Posto Trattoria. And a Peroni.