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Gratitude

My husband went all out for my 40th birthday. And it was great. We indulged in luxury and relaxation with some of our favorite people. We spent memorial day weekend in the California desert at the Ritz-Carlton.

Some years back, my old work partnered with Ritz-Carlton to develop a program for the organization. And I heard a lot about the Ritz-Carlton experience. It planted a seed that one day I wanted to stay at a RC property. Back in January, we visited the NOLA property to listen to jazz and have drinks. And I remembered my desire to stay at one. So we decided to plan a trip for my big 4-0.

We chose the Ranch Mirage location because we could make it a weekend that included friends. This way some friends could stay at the resort with us. The others stayed locally at a condo they owned.

We barely left the resort except to drop our kids (and the dog) off at the Holiday Inn Express and to go to the spa at the JW resort (it’s cheaper). We didn’t splurge for the adult children, but I think they still had fun coming back to the RC for breakfast.

The property is situated up on a hill overlooking Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and the other desert cities. It was actually great to be off away from the busier Memorial weekend crowds. The weather was unusually cooler all week in Southern California, which was great for our trip. Cooler meaning it was in the 90s in the desert. Our room was next to the adult pool which meant less kids and more lounging. Our room had a patio, a fire pit, and a deep soaking bath tub that I made a point to enjoy!

The service was the highlight of the property. Everyone went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. It was an exceptional customer service experience. Service like laying out towels on the longer chairs before you sit down by the pool. At check in, spending 15 min showing us the map of the property, getting ice for the wine we had brought, and putting our luggage away for us. There were a lot of kind greetings and helpful staff.

Our dinner was on the property at State Fare. We had great service and everyone loved their food. I was bummed that they had run out of the specific vegetarian meal on the menu. I got pasta primavera and it was decent. But most of all, I had great company and felt very grateful for my husband, my kids, and my friends.

My friend Kristin said she felt so grateful for our weekend trip to the desert. I told her she deserved to relax. She answered by saying that there are so many people who work hard and deserve it, so she knows she is lucky. And it’s true. We are very lucky to have been able to have a weekend like this.

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Weekends in Santa Cruz

I just got back from another weekend of visiting my college kid. Really I think I was just escorting my dog to visit my kid, because she seemed less interested in the family, and more interested in our dog, Teddy. I mean, he is the cutest dog ever but, what am I? The person who pays tuition?

But Santa Cruz is great. I love it there. I’d like to win the lottery and move to that area and enjoy the nearness to the ocean.

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I’ve been up to the north end of Monterey Bay numerous times and have formed some opinions of what is good on a typical visit. Smelling the redwood trees on the campus: good. Getting stuck in the highway 1 traffic at 4 pm: bad.  I also have some go to locations for food and lodging.

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One of my favorite places to eat is Assembly. This place is right in the heart of the city on the main street, Pacific Avenue. They have indoor and outside seating, a great menu, and even better a fun appetizer menu. I am all about small plates these days.

IMG_2920We also always pick up coffee to take home from the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. They are also n Pacific, so its an easy stop to get a pound before we go. And a latte. And a cookie.

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In terms of hotels, Santa Cruz has a lot of options and many of those are old style motels advertising that they are close to the boardwalk. But that isn’t where I typically stay. My favorite location in the Scotts Valley Hilton (disclosure: I am a Hilton rewards member, so I do stay at a lot of Hilton properties). It has a cabin in the woods feel, has a dinning room and it has a pool. It’s also dog friendly. The picture above is from the lobby with it’s giant chandelier. It feels cozy and quiet. It could be where you spend a lot of time, if you don’t feel like heading down to the city of Santa Cruz. If I can’t stay there, I don’t usually book the other Hilton property, the Hampton Inn. Because it smells. It smells every time. I tried it twice and that was enough. I liked the Holiday Inn Express across the street better. This last time we drove up, a lot of hotels were booked completely so we ended up staying north in Cupertino at the Juniper (another Hilton property-dog friendly). It was really nice and we had a great dinner onsite, but we had trouble getting good service for breakfast. Also, Cupertino isn’t as fun for hanging out as Santa Cruz, it’s basically a city of strip malls and business parks.

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When we visit, we love going to Natural bridges, walking along the beach and we don’t usually visit the Boardwalk. We have before, but our kids aren’t small anymore. So we do old people things, like walk along Pacific Ave early, shop at funky bookstores and kitchen gadget stores, or check out art. I can’t believe I still haven’t stopped by the Mission. I have been seriously considering a road trip to every California Mission in the summer.

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Weekend Getaway: Los Alamos, Ca

Since returning in May, my oldest has been using my car for work. Now that I am back to work but not on a metro route, we are having more trouble sharing cars. My youngest has been home from college, which means 3 cars and 4 people who need to get to work. Every week has included a review of who needs what when, and who can take public transportation. My husband recently came home because his coworker had a car for sale. I was excited because I thought I could finally have my car back full time, which means spontaneous plans could exist in my life again. But the deal fell through when his coworker decided to give the car to her mother in law. 

Spontaneous plans are some of the best plans. This past weekend I convinced my husband that we should drive out of town and enjoy a mini getaway. I know no one feels sorry for me after a month in Europe, but I can’t help it. I get antsy. I need to move. When he agreed, I searched HotelTonight for a last minute hotel reservation with in driving distance. We ended up with a plan to visit Santa Barbara Wine country and a small town called Los Alamos near Buellton and Los Olivos. 

It’s barely a town, with a population of 2000 people, but it was just enough town for me and a weekend getaway. We debated bringing our dog, but we weren’t sure about taking him. I wish we would have. The Alamo Motel is pet friendly and a fun place to stay. They have a horseshoe pit, playing cards to borrow, 90s movies on Saturday nights, and Muni wines pouring on site from Santa Barbara. 

While we were there, we checked out what Los Alamos is known for, food and drink. I guess a few people from LA moved that way to leave the entertainment business and bake bread or make wine instead. We walked the short Main Street. We played gin rummy (I won) and we checked out this little town that I had never heard of before. We had pizza at Full of Life Flatbread and breakfast at Bob’s Well Bread. We tried wine at Casa Dumetz wine. In the evening, we settled on lawn chairs with a fleece blanket and watched Groundhog Day. Next time I am bringing our dog, Teddy.