Keeping it Real

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I arrived in the heart of Napa Valley feeling fully committed to the pledge that I have made to my dry year. My destination, Yountville, is an absolute paradise. Really, it is perfection. The streets are full beautiful and seemingly happy people.   (Literally every person I talked to was pleasant.) The natural beauty rivals anything I have seen: mountains, gardens and flowering trees everywhere. The homes are meticulously well kept and I had no sense of any sprawl or McMansion within the city limits. Oh yes, and then there is the ultimate dining experience that one can achieve at Bouchon, Ad hoc or The French Laundry.

Upon arrival, I parked the car and headed straight down Washington Street to find the French Laundry. Walking past shops and restaurants, there was at least one wine-tasting room on every block. By the time I reached the gardens at the French Laundry, I felt myself starting to vacillate.  Refocusing my energies on the beauty of perfectly groomed rows of leeks and baby arugula amid the back drop of mountainous vineyards enabled me to get grounded and temporarily drop the inner struggle.

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After a long visit with the chickens and a satisfying meditative rest on a garden bench, I set out to visit more of the town. I felt as if I had been set down in the middle of some strange and wonderful land. Being completely on my own (traveling solo) and feeling so far removed from any familiar surroundings, what came next surprised me. I began to indulge myself in considerations of drinking wine with dinner. I supposed, “I could have a drink here, in the middle of nowhere and no one would know except me—and God.”(And believe me God is definitely hanging out in Yountville.)

I must have pondered this indiscretion for a couple of minutes—long enough for me to develop a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. That is when I brokered a deal with myself making a promise to return after December 1st with Philip to indulge in the full wine and food experience. I began to feel right with myself again.

The passing notion of breaking the declaration of a year of sobriety and the subsequent vow to stick with the plan brought up an interesting question. If no one would know then what is it that really stopped me? Why did my gut feel so sick at the thought of this transgression? The answer is simple and yet at the moment it felt somewhat profound.  It boils down to being truthful with the people who believe in me and truthful with myself. Looking back at this year, I would know that I failed in my mission and for the first time; I would have lied to my husband.

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Looking Behind the Blue Door

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Lately, I have been obsessed—totally obsessed with Chef Thomas Keller. It is not just the man alone that sparks this passion in me. It is the whole world that he has created and what he stands for: the culinary garden, the finest proprietors, sustainability, precision and doing something that you love really, really well. I have devoured every e-magazine that he has published to date and even made a road trip last week to New York City to experience first-hand one of his restaurants, The Bouchon Bakery and Café at the Time Warner Center. While there, I took this picture (above). It is the door for one of Keller’s finest restaurants–and one of THE finest restaurants on the planet—Per Se. I have been planning my 50th birthday celebration at Per Se for a couple of years now, and I still have two years left to wait. Next week, I will be attending a conference about 70 miles from another Thomas Keller establishment, Bouchon in Yountville, California. I have made a reservation at the restaurant with the hopes of getting a feel for the whole environment. I plan to visit the French Laundry culinary garden and the Bouchon Bakery (west), too.

As posted multiple times over the last few months, I have been trying to find my next career adventure. What has been revealed to me through the writing of Thomas Keller is a passion that has been hiding behind thoughts of what I think I want. Gardening, farms, healthy food, the best ingredients for cooking and using creativity to produce something with one’s hands are the things that feed my interests. When I am not working in an office, this is what fuels me. Actually, I could take that thought one step further and state that these are the things that make up for working in an office all week—a balm to my psyche. The realization and awakening of this passion feels somewhat miraculous. I am not a person that came out of the womb knowing my purpose. Mapping out a career has been a journey and a struggle. Now, acknowledging these interests helps me to see what was in front of me all along.

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