OK...it wasn't that wild...
It was the last day Catalina and I would have together, so we had some errands to run. I know, right? Errands to run on vacation? Well, when you're in the land of inexpensive, beautiful gemstones and you own a jewelry business, then a little shopping tops the to-do list. But first...lunch with the Phoenix socialites.
Wednesday morning, after my half-hearted attempt at strength training, (why hotels insist on putting state-of-the-art ellipticals and just one rack of dumbbells is beyond me. Hello...osteoporosis anyone?) and a shower, I ventured out in search of Bead World. When it popped up on my GPS, I think I peed a little. Bead World?? Doesn't it sounds like Sea World and isn't that the most magical place on earth? Er...or something like that. Fortunately for me, Bead World had not one, but THREE locations nearby! I set my coordinates for the Phoenix store and vroom-vroomed right over.
To say that I was a kid in a candy store is a vast understatement. I was a 4-year old in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory minus creepy Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas plus Grandpa Joe (because let's face it, he was the only redeeming character).
Ladies and gentleman, I give you....BEAD WORLD!!! The clouds part, golden light shines down from above, the angels sing a note reserved for second comings. It. Was. Beautiful.
And then Neal texted me. I know it's only 11:00 but they let us out for lunch. Can you come get me? And as I stood there, dripping in Zebra Jasper and Sardonyx and Carnelian, I not-so-silently cursed my husband and his inconvenient timing. I made arrangements for them to hold everything because I will be back and vroom-vroomed back over to the hotel. And waited. And sat and waited some more. Where are you? In a meeting...give me a sec. Or 200 secs. Fifteen minutes later, he strolled through the door. You know what a Mustang is really good at? Handling under aggressive driving. Fortunately, he got lucky and picked a lovely place for lunch. Sophie's, A French Bistro. In the parking lot of Sophie's was a Jaguar, a Maserati, a Porsche, a BMW, and a Prius. The Prius owner was fairly easy to spot...plus, she came over to thank Neal for his service (yep, still in ACU's). I'm not exactly sure what made this the lunch spot for the diamond and pearl encrusted elite...the lunch did not require a loan and the water was not served in crystal goblets. The food was light and flavorful French cuisine (I had crepes because what else do you get at a french bistro?) and the total was $30 for the both of us. OK...maybe a little pricey for lunch but 1) we had a per diem and 2) that was not even close to what we spent at Med Fresh, A Mediterranean Grill. And that parking lot was full of bicycles.
Also? A good amount of the menu was in French, as was the guest ticket.
Dear Madame Delk,
Your hard work paid off! I remember cheese, chocolate, ham, and two in French! I remember more than "your chest is like a sack of potatoes." Well done.
Back to Bead World. And three other stops, but none as jaw-dropping, imagination-inspiring, and friendly as Bead World. Plus, one of the ladies helping me attended Gonzaga. So, here are a few of the beauties I brought home with me. I'm doing something I've never done...letting people see what I've purchased and then make a request for something custom. If nothing gets snatched in a week, I'm taking it all into the studio and designing things I want to wear.
This is a Sardonyx donut. I was recently introduced to Sardonyx by a friend requesting a rosary using more traditional birthstones. Sardonyx is often used for both August and September and I LOVE it. So much texture...
The saleslady didn't exactly know what this was and to be fair, neither of these pendants came from Bead World but from Scottsdale Bead Supply...a very reputable store for gemstones, but this was hot off the truck and she hadn't seen it yet.
Mookite! Just saying it makes me giggle. I should have bought an extra strand. I'm going to have a hard time parting with these girls. MUAH! I just love you, little mustard and crimson marbled rose!
Yes, yes..we've all seen Tiger's Eye (and the first person who breaks out into Eye of the Tiger has to run steps)...but Tiger's Eye in its true gemstone form is breath-taking. Accept no substitutions from Michael's. This is where it's at, y'all.
It's a gemstone...and it's PINK! Rhodonite...not to be confused with Rhododendron...which is not pink and should not be worn around the neck.
Zebra Jasper, as if it could be anything but. It's Yin. No, it's Yang. No, it's both. Perfect balance, just as it should be.
And saving the best for last, Crystal Quartz. It's like diamonds but bigger! These are easily confused with glass beads, but once you see them in person, that mistake is in your past.
By Wednesday evening, I was a couple hundred dollars down in the business checking account and entirely too sober. So, we grabbed our laptops and headed for the manager's reception. I decided that if it was going to be just the 2 of us drinking and looking at each other over a high-top, we needed a project. We needed to plan our trip to Hawaii this summer. So, the Chardonnay flowed and the itinerary came together. Hunger pains kicked in around 7 and I started Googling places to eat. Farm at South Mountain came up on my BlackBerry app and it had 5 stars. We had started the day with 5 stars, we should certainly end it that way. I emailed the link to Neal (yes, his laptop screen was literally touching mine. That's just how we roll. I text him to bring me coffee on Saturday mornings and he sends me links to Amazon shipments from the corner of our sectional couch). He looked it over, agreed, and I made reservations for 8:00 (after all, the manager's reception didn't even end until 7:30).
We vroom-vroomed out to Farm at South Mountain, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in 3 separate dining facilities and prides itself on the organic garden they keep on site. It was well past dark when we arrived so getting a good look at the outside was nearly impossible. But the inside was tastefully decorated in the traditional farmhouse style (or as far as I can remember. I'm pretty sure Embassy Suites lost money on me last week). We were one of the last couples to be seated for the dinner service so there was not much of a crowd. As the waitress was taking our drink orders, she mentioned that the chef was offering a special menu: he chooses your 3 courses and the wine to be paired with each one. My eyes lit up. When she left the table the conversation went something like this:
Me: How awesome is that? A food and wine pairing chosen by the chef himself!
Neal: Yeah, that's nice. So, what are you going to get?
Me: Well, if I had my choice, I'd go with that. I mean, what a GREAT meal!
Neal: It is great. It's also $250.
Me: Well, it's not like we're out here everyday. (Note to self: 6 glasses of wine does not equal unclouded judgment. This is how people wake up in the morning to find they've ordered Styling Barbie Heads from Amazon the night before).
Neal: I understand that. But if we're going to have a $250 meal, I need to budget for a $250 meal. The pork chops look good.
Me: *exasperation oozing from my wine-constricted pores* Fine. I'll have the brisket and a beer.
As it turns out, I only remember this conversation because I'm still in shock about how ready I was to charge a $250 meal to our Amex. And that's a $250 meal that I would not have remembered. The only reason I remember the brisket is because I was half-full on wine before we even got there and I had leftovers on Friday. Otherwise? I could have eaten stir-fried goat balls for all I knew. Oh well, and there's this...
I shudder to think of the 658 different types of Hell I used to give Neal for photographing food.
Lesson learned: I can lay my head down on a pillowtop mattress and blog from my leather couch because my husband puts the kibosh on impromptu dinners that cost more than Colonel Ketchup is worth...especially after a binge on corkless wine at the manager's reception.
Thursday: Neal is dismissed (in a good way) an hour after the conference starts and we get up close and personal with the animals.