Blackberry Farm

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http://www.calm was the perfect domain from the moment we showed up at the airport to hours and hours of delays for our short flight to Tennessee in celebration of our Wende’s Wild “birthday” Weekend.  The mood was always upbeat no matter how many times they changed the departure time…as long as the bar was open and the food was free.

Ten years ago, Wende had it all as we celebrated “40” in Mallorca.  And we still have it all but what a difference a decade makes.

Surrounded by sweeping mountain vistas and deep green forests on 4,200 acres,  “the Berry” with its genuine Southern hospitality,  is the scene of the love festival we created for our Wende.  Yes, this place brews a rare and powerful connection with nature in the pastoral foothills of the great smokey mountains of Tennessee. But this incredibly powerful group of 15 had enough female energy to create their own smokin’ hot blend of relaxation and rejuvenation.  We laughed til we cried every day all day as we managed to eat, drink and be merry.  Loud and happy is a good thing but not for some of the guests at “the berry”.  Dancing on tables is our norm but musical chairs? And a poolside ruckus over lounge chairs?

There’s a first for everything on a STAT trip. All in good fun was our mantra as we practiced yoga and even hit the hiking trails.

Spa time was essential with this bevy of beauties because who knew this was going to be one big slumber party complete with damn sexy lingerie showcasing and performing gyrating midnight yoga poses.

I don’t think we laughed hard enough and I don’t know where we are going to celebrate the next decade but you can be sure it’s going to be FUF (fun,undeniably,fabulous)…because our very own tarot card reader said so! She has assured us all that the spirit of Wende will live in our hearts forever and we will reflect upon this weekend with great admiration for the friends and memories we created together.

Everybody has a story and we all wear different hats and/or masks on the road we call life.  But we all came together to celebrate a very special lady.  Everyone knows its Wende! And Wende has stormy eyes that flash at the sound of lies. And Wende has wings to fly. Above the clouds…Above the clouds!IMG_0106

Marfa

 

Here We Are Here.  The small town in the desert that Donald Judd put on the map in the middle of Nowhere is the scene of Marfalous Marge’s celebration of Life.  Big birthdays are just that but when you invite 18 front and center girlfriends (city slickers) to help you gently transition into old age on a ranch in Texas with little or no cell service, magic happens.  But the magic had already begun to happen long ago when we manifested this journey to create meaning and meaningful experiences in this life with effort and grace. The rich in history, Cibolo Creek Ranch, just outside the bustling city of Marfa with one single traffic light, which always blinks yellow, was the perfect backdrop nestled between 30,000 sprawling acres of land surrounded by the Chinati and Cienega Mountains.  The renovated 19th Century adobe forts never lost its integrity while adding modern comforts to our lakeside suites.  Loved that there were no TV’s, only ATV’s!

Our morning yoga practice was as inspiring as the land itself.  18 mats layered the front of the fort as the sun rose above the big Texas sky while we practiced our downward dogs and opened up our hearts to new and exciting possibilities.  For Zach, our very own man of mystery “do I look like a hiking guide?”, it was an opportunity of a lifetime for him to accompany this bevy of beauties up to  Monte Rosa, the highest perch on the ranch with spectacular views of the Big Bend, the Fort and the “dry” Cibolo Creek all in good preparation for our birthday girl’s opening talking stick ceremony.  Gratitude that filled the friendship circle and bonded this group together forever is how we perceived and intellectualized our next day in the town of Marfa. We were “very busy” as MPK would say as most of the group never heard of Judd, the Chinati foundation and how the town of Marfa has become synonymous with his name.

Like everyone who actually makes the pilgrimage to Marfa, we came away with a transformed understanding of Donald Judd, the foremost American minimalist sculptors. Judd rethought what a work of art could be by using industrial materials (steel, aluminum and concrete) produced with manufacturing methods and displayed on the floor.  And to experience it in a specific site in West Marfa, Texas…far from the maddening crowd…was as important as the artwork itself.  “It’s hard to get here, but everyone’s welcome” seems to be the Marfa Mantra.  And no one says it better than the somewhat of a local hero owner of the famous Food Shark, literally a food truck on the outskirts of town, where we dodged the long lines to indulge in a very local lunch consisting of none other than Marfalafels.  Getting the lay of land yet?  Marfamania. Marfalicious. Marfa or bust. We even managed to make it to cocktail hour at the newest Marfa hotspot, the St George hotel.  Meanwhile back at the ranch where the deer and the buffalo roam and where the days are long and the nights are starry, we all gathered by the campfire breaking out in song while talking about life, death, transcendence and self-reflection.  No shallowness with a deep end in this group.

We not only rallied for target shooting (some spectators)  but we saddled up for a late afternoon/sunset trial ride up to the mesa (mustaches included) for our last hurrah.  IMG_0141Marfa is the absolute opposite of NYC, limited in ways we are accustomed to but the quality of the landscape, the light, the clouds, the moon, the stars is extraordinary.  I will miss the horizon. The peacefulness.  But more importantly, I will miss this group of extraordinary women that came together as “select” group to assure Marfalous Marge that she doesn’t look her age…and other fairy tales.  Let’s keep this Marfaness going and start watching the  new series “I love Dick” for new material in preparation for our reunion tour closer to home.

Everyone wears many masks in their lives but for these 4 days, we took off layers of masks and revealed ourselves to this place. Marfa. Good Night Dick.

 

Vietnam

Good Morning Vietnam.

Just finished The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, a collection of linked short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War and was reminiscing about my recent family trip tagging along with the Milch’s this past Christmas holiday.  Forty years after the carnage and destruction of an epoch-difining conflict the Vietnamese call the American War, Vietnam is resolutely a nation and not a war. Self confident and fast-developing, its allure is easy to appreciate as they are a happy people.  In fact, the best part of the country is the people’s attitude and “just being happy enough”.  It explains how they survived and it completely makes sense.  Gitte, our yoga instructor for the week exemplified this perfectly and created many giggles and memories for our family as he began and ended each class with his mantra…Be Happy, Do Yoga. As a practicing yogi for over 30 years, I was thrilled with starting and ending my days with him.

Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in this country but we were only there for an extended week so most of our time was spent at the Nam Hai in Hoi An.  An absolutely gorgeous slice of heaven situated smack in the middle of one of the top rated beaches in the world.  As the rain rolled over the beach on a daily basis, the spirit of just going with it was our mantra as we discovered all there was to do.

We rode bikes in the fields of marshy grass, we went to UNESCO world heritage places nearby, and we had the best body treatments in the most magnificent setting complete img_4971with singing bowl therapy tuned to the harmonic intonation of nature.   But the single best was the food… the big winner in this country.  It’s a culinary super power according to Anthony Bourdain as the food is that good.

The subtle flavors are outstanding in its diversity as we learned one afternoon in our cooking class.  I’ve even tried the Banh Mi back in Aspen at the old  Johnny Mcquire’s space but it didn’t come close to one we had in Hoi An.

Our last 2 days were spent in Sensory overload in Saigon also known as Ho Chi Minh City in the South famous for the pivotal role it played in the War.

Of course, we engaged at the war museum but the most interesting day was boating over to the Chu Chi tunnels which is part of massive war museum that offers a sneak-peek at the underground life to the soldiers back in 1948.  And after reading the things they carried, I can visualize and imagine what it was like for the soldiers to eat, sleep, work, and cook as the conflict raged above.  Talking about conflict or maybe crazy,  we totally ventured out of the box on our after dark Vespa tour weaving in and around Saigon. img_8077 If you’ve ever seen pictures of the way the Vietnamese drive or even cross the street, you would concur we were crazy for hopping on the back of a vespa for 5 hours going place to place eating, drinking, bar hopping, music hunting and more.  But it was the most fun we all had without Lesley who opted out!   And finally, New Year’s Eve in Saigon was like being the middle of Times Square in NYC.  Who does that?  Tourists! And that’s just what we were enjoying the scenery and trying to stay up past midnight.

Welcome 2017!  Here’s to an abundance of new adventures to come.  Be Happy. Do Yoga. I miss my Gitte. Thanks for the memories.

Stunning Croatia

fullsizerender  14 ladies, 2 guides and Tonchi the yogi do Croatia for a week…

 Sounds like a good story and it certainly didn’t disappoint thanks to our very own E.L. James on board. But that’s another story.  Pomalo describes and captures the essence of the mentality and lifestyle of this Dalmatia coast on the Adriatic Sea, a place far from the madding crowds. Between the magnificent views of the sapphire waters  encompassing over 1100 islands paired with the local culture and gastronomy of the area, we took advantage of everything this part of the world has to offer.  Our hikes took us from the historic emperor’s palace in Split to the islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula, and Peljesac before reaching the pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik.  And that’s just the logistics… Continue reading

The Portuguese Way

 

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The Camino De Santiago experience is one that everybody should have in their life.  For some, this pilgrimage is a lifelong dream inherited out of religious faith. But for most, it’san adventure or break from our ritual life and work.  For me, this walk represents everything I am and STAT is about…a sacred bonding journey.   You don’t need to be a hard-core hiker to walk this glorious trail but you certainly have to appreciate the stunning beauty that surrounds you on a daily basis. Continue reading

Aspenites in Israel

From Tuscany to Israel, this group of 16 “jews” just can’t get enough of each other. And only after 11 drafts of a proposed itinerary did we get this journey absolutely perfect. Truly, just being together is perfection but to experience  Amnation’s holy land as we did non-stop for 10 days was nothing short of spectacular.  It was a well curated culinary extravaganza being hosted, wined and dined by the best chefs, butchers, wineries and markets from  Tel Aviv to the Galilean farm of Erez Komarovksy to Jerusalem ‘s  Ezra Kedem’s studio kitchen overlooking the Judean hills with the important sites thrown in for good measure.  It’s been 16 years since I visited Israel to celebrate our son’s Bar Mitzvah on Masada but that was a lifetime ago in Israel speak. Continue reading

STAT Goes Philanthropic

IMG_0195Seven years ago, I was introduced to a truly inspiring change-maker Lydia Dean who created GoPhil foundation to empower small grassroots organizations around the world to stand on their own.  And at every opportunity,  STAT has provided funding for various critical needs recently for Anuradha Bhosale (founder of WCRC) in rural India who fights tirelessly against injustice to women. She and her team are devoted to women in crisis and I am devoted to women bonding together to support each other.   Anuradha so humbly told Lydia that her night shelter was in critical need of their very own transport…a tuk-tuk (auto-rickshaw)  so they could not only react immediately to women in need of protective services but for anything they need on a weekly basis.  I am honored to share in their joy in receiving this vehicle. Take a look at them in a traditional puja blessing of the vehicle before it hits the road. Beautiful faces as I remain deeply moved for all we can do for human female rights issues all over this world.IMG_4616

Houston Art Car Parade

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We travel for Art…usually fairs like Basel and Frieze but this was one “wacky” Art extravaganza.  The 29th annual Houston Art Car Parade is a party for every age group.  Unlike our time at Burning Man in the deserts of Nevada, this was daytime tame with groovy hippies showing off their creativity with electric cars they’ve been working on all year to wow the crowd.

And it was a big wow watching these cars wind their way through downtown Houston en route to the finish line.  Texans do everything Big. It seemed like everyone in Houston was out to support this event which promotes and documents visionary art environments, provides opportunities for the expression of personal artistic vision and creates a community where that expression is valued. Kudos to Marilyn Oshman, the founder of this endeavor, and to her big heart and generosity for giving us a private tour of her personal Art collection.  A big shout out to our hosts Tracy and Glen Larner for introducing me to my first visit to Houston in grand style. Everyone knows that eating BBQ anywhere in the world other than Texas is a big let down but now I know that eating BBQ anywhere but the Larners annual Art Car Party is never going to measure up.

We’ll be back as “hosts” next year for the 30th judging the winners and maybe even driving in the Milch’s Art Car from Burning Man. Pretty as a Peacock eating good Pops!

 

 

 

Turks and Caicos

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All aboard for this most unforgettable hidden paradise on an archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s irresistible blue/green crystal clear waters and varied dry brush landscape give this place a completely different feel than other islands I’ve visited.  5 couples, 5 days, and 15 meals at the gorgeous Amanyara with its stretch of white sand beach is all because we raised our hands at the We are Family gala in honor of our Suzy.  Who knew we would all be so compatible as we took turns being one of the 7 castaways on Gilligan’s Island.

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