22 In Women Now

Finding answers to my life’s questions on a trip to Cabo

Vacationing in Cabo

With my friend Diana who invited us to Cabo for a vacay


I’d be embarrassed beyond belief to share with you all the things I’d hoped would happen as a result of taking eight days off to travel with my sweetie to Cabo San Lucas, staying with our friends Diana and John who have pooled their creativity, smarts, and resources into creating a beautiful home on the Sea of Cortez. Did I mention they offer the experience of five-star hospitality to their house guests? It was sure to be a great time but I had even bigger expectations.

Alright, alright, I’ll share. As a result of taking this trip I wanted to come back home with a beeline focus on worthy projects, the determination to ax time sapping activities after figuring out which ones those are, and of course, rejuvenation after these last weeks of fires and health issues, chaos and concern. Add in sleeping late, reading (I brought three books), writing, and chronicling beauty. Oh, and to learn some cooking tricks from Diana. I suspected a week might not be enough to accomplish all of that but you know me, I’m optimistic and ready to take on a challenge.

I marvel at my naiveté. Really, what was I thinking? I did learn something muy importante this morning while standing in my kitchen in Sonoma. I’ll let you in on that stupendous realization, but let me share some highlights first.

The Flora Farm Sandwich

Our friends John and Diana live in Mill Valley and we got to fly out on the same flight to Cabo. We spent the first night at Hotel Natalie, a boutique hotel in San Jose del Cabo. The next morning John and Diana took us to Flora Farms for Sunday brunch. It was very much my kind of place. It was packed so clearly, it’s many people’s kind of place.


Flora Farms in San Jose del Cabo

Happy diners at Flora Farms in San Jose del Cabo


The Flora Field Restaurant is one part of the 10-acre piece of property. Besides the restaurant, they have a donut stand, an ice cream stand (all homemade of course) and the Flora Grocery that sells bread, meat, vegetables, and goodies to take home. There’s a wine and coffee bar, a gift shop, and a James Perse Concept store. One shop is where they sell soaps, lotions, and potions that they make there on the farm.

Flora Farm advice

Flora Farm advice


I love the message on this chalkboard that stands above the baskets of fresh produce for sale. It’s a perfect reminder as we prepare Thanksgiving meals this week.

The other amazing thing about Flora Farms is that they’re building and selling homes on the property that are surrounded by gardens. I kept thinking this existed somewhere else but actually, I think it’s just that it seems like it should exist in other places! Maybe Sonoma for starters.


Flora Farms

The breadth of Flora Farms


Our experience there was so divine that we went back again the next Sunday for brunch before we headed to the airport to come home. What you’re looking at next is a palm tree that’s right near the bar. Lanterns, birdhouses, and pigs hang from it like holiday decorations on a Christmas tree.


Flora Farms

Flora Farms and decorated trees


They must have a thing for pigs. This lovely pig greets you as you walk into the restaurant. Notice her accessories? Of course, you do!


A pig and pearls

A dressed up pig at Flora Farm


Our week at John and Diana’s beautiful casa on the Sea of Cortez


John and Diana

John and Diana and the beauty they’ve created


I’ve been to Cabo before, twenty-four years ago, for John and Diana’s wedding at the Palmilla Hotel. I was one of forty guests who flew down for the event. Twelve of the guests were clients of mine thanks to Diana’s insistence that her friends should really think about calling me. Actually, I think she was more forceful than that. Gosh, I was heading into a very hard divorce when she became my client. Her faith in me by way of her referrals kept my ship from sinking.

To be back in Cabo and in the home they rebuilt together (how it looks now is nothing like how it looked when they bought it over a decade ago) was just delightful.

I realize now I didn’t take many photos. I was too busy doing nothing!

I had to take this picture of Russ looking out through a kitchen window to show Caitlin, my daughter, their papa, mama, and teenager beaucarnea potted plants. Their common name is elephant foot tree. I bought one for Caitlin last month to thank her for all she did to help me during the Wine Country fires.


Russ in Cabo

Russ peeks out of the window


The first morning I found my spot right next to those beaucarneas where I did my morning writing.


Brenda's writing spot

Finding my writing spot by the beaucarneas


In the afternoon the pool area was the place to be. Diana designed this area which is intimate and enclosed. It’s kind of like a tree house only with a pool. The eye patch? Well, two nights before we left I was in the emergency room because of pain in my eye. It turns out I have an abrasion on my cornea so at the beginning of the trip (which I went on against doctor’s orders) I was wearing an eye patch but it got better and better throughout the week. By Wednesday I wasn’t wearing it at all. Do you see that whole row of I-can’t-remember-what-they’re-called green frond-y tree things behind me? Diana bought three-inch pots of those and planted them and they really took off! They’re a favorite part of the pool area for me. They look so frisky!





This is one of the Baja skies. Sunset comes and first, the sea is light colored and the sky is darker. Pink turns into blue and the sky gets this violet color. Then the sea gets darker and night falls fast. This is the beach in front of their house.


the Baja sky

The beach as the sun sets


It’s activity time!

Having grown up on the plains of North Dakota, I’ve never been a water person. John pulled out the kayaks one day when the sea was quite calm and suggested kayaking. I had never kayaked before and just hoped I wouldn’t suck really bad at it…or tip over and drown. John got me a life jacket. Although I’m sitting here at my desk typing away I look at this picture and I’m right there again in that kayak. THAT WAS THE MOST FUN EVER! If I could be transported, I’d be doing that again right now. Is there a drone for that?


Kayaking on the Sea of Cortez

Learning to kaya with John


Diana told us ahead of time that she’d cook dinner every night if someone else cleaned up. Deal! She’s such a confident cook. It was fun to watch her conceptualize the dinner meal in the morning and put it all together at night. I came home with menus and perhaps the false confidence that I can do it just like she did!

Don’t these veggies look yum? They went over grilled eggplant grown at Flora Farms. John grilled the chicken sausage that also came from Flora Farms and that went on top. A meal in a bowl, another one of my favorite things.


Cooking with Diana

Diana’s cooking class


See those toes there covered in sand? They’re mine! John and Diana have countless areas on every level of their property where you can relax. This is one of them. I made it a point to find every single one of them and I think I did!


Enjoying the beach on the Sea of Cortez

Instead of In the Dressing Room with Brenda, it’s On the Beach with Brenda


Here comes the big ah-ah

As we packed up Sunday morning to head out, I blew kisses to the beach. It was hard to walk away! I’d had new adventures, learned some cooking tips and tricks (check), read and written (check), and appreciated the beauty all around me (check). But had I solved the other issues in my life? Not so much.


the Sea of Cortez

Goodbye beautiful sea! Thank you, John and Diana!


This morning Maria came to clean our house, something she does every two weeks. She said, “You’ve been on vacation!”

“Yes,” I said.

Then she said, “We can work hard, but then we have to take vacations.” And there it was! Vacations are just the thing you do to take a break from working. They’re a timeout, not a fix-all. The realization? I need to take more vacations!

Are you good at taking vacations? Care to share some insights with someone who’s not so good at it but wants to learn?


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  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 3:23 am

    Almost tears here. Yes. We do work hard. And we do need to take vacations.

    Thank you, Maria and Brenda.

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 7:05 am

      When I hear you say it, it makes perfect sense! Yes, we do! I will tell Maria for sure. When she said that, my mouth nearly dropped open; it was the answer I’d been looking for.

  • Reply
    Cindy La Ferle
    November 21, 2017 at 4:58 am

    Beautiful post, Brenda — and so very true! ( You also make me want to roast or grill some veggies tonight!) As for vacations, I’ve been “guilty” of the same thing … working instead of relaxing when I take a trip. It was worse when I was still on Facebook, because I would spend most of my time “documenting” my trips with my camera instead of simply appreciating — and truly absorbing — everything I saw or visited. I would also feel obligated to write about what I saw in my newspaper columns. I now try to “zen out” when I travel or visit a new place at home, and I am learning to live in the moment while appreciating it for my own pleasure. Not an easy lesson, as you point out so nicely here.

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 9:43 am

      I can’t count the number of “working vacations” I’ve taken. As my kids would say, “Cray-cray!” I’m loving your new decision to zen out. Thanks, Cindy!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 5:51 am

    I have approached vacations with a vengeance and a to do list my entire life. Consequently, I’ve seen multiple landmarks without really seeing them at all. I need to let things evolve and not control the moment. I haven’t had a vacation in 4 years so my next attempt will hopefully be the pivot point of change!! Glad you got away. You both look very relaxed and happy!

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Boy, Kathy, I can relate! I think it’s a thing about our culture that supports this busy, busy, busy life with to-do lists abounding. I’m hoping you find that pivot point and share some tips with me!

  • Reply
    Joanne Rae
    November 21, 2017 at 6:21 am

    I read somewhere that Americans call it vacation – meaning vacant and other cultures call it “Holidays” as in Hoy Days. I like to think of precious time off as Holy days because they are so special and each one unique.

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 7:03 am

      Brilliant! Joanne, this really helps me. Holy days it is from now on. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    La semaine d'une gourmette
    November 21, 2017 at 7:55 am

    I never never take work on vacations. And I love sightseeing, but not too much of it. I also love just being there, taking naps, enjoying my SO’s company, having drinks, eating good food, people watching, and just resting. I always say I’m a lazy woman and people around me laugh but it’s true, I am – and I revel in it.

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 9:43 am

      I’m going to emulate you!!!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Brenda, the reason why I enjoy cruising or being by the ocean, they are the only places my husband relaxes and recharges. I *try* to not schedule everything into a 10-day holiday… (insert laughter here)
    You and your sweetie look so rested and good together, so go ahead and plan more getaways… they don’t have to be far away. Enjoy in joy!

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 9:45 am

      I started laughing exactly where you said to insert it! Thanks for the encouragement, Lea! Your experiences bring it all home.

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    November 21, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Maria reminds me of a story from New Zealand. When leaving a rehabilitation center, people were asked who helped them the most. Of course there had been many trained Helpers, Doctors, Therapists etc. The response was that the Cleaning Person helped the most. This answer was given multiple times by various people. When asked why that was so, they said that the Cleaning Person treated them…most like a human being. From this story, I have pondered what Cleaning Person Mindfulness really means. How I treat others and myself. As intensely lovely as your friends are and the extreme beauty of their home and surroundings…Maria cut through the mists of Beauty and gave you a simple gift of permission. Permission to be human.

    Thank you Brenda, for sharing all the beauty of this healing trip. I have deep gratitude for your friends. I am a water person and love, love the gorgeous tribute to the ocean. Water is so connecting.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    I’m so glad you were able to pause a bit and refresh after all the “smoke cleared.” Such lovely photos! Vacations have always been a struggle for me. I think I’m one of those who defined my worth by what I accomplished. I’m working on that. But, as said, we NEED them. Thanks for sharing so transparently!

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Boy, I’ve struggled too. I’ve always been in awe of people who are good at it. I often feel like I’m missing the gene for it. Thanks for acknowledging the “smoke clearing.”

  • Reply
    Kim Watson
    November 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    We call those plant Ponytails here

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Great name!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Vacations in my past life always included academic work and research, but now I’m fancy free and will remember the holy in doing absolutely nothing and enjoying the beauty around me.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    How to take more vacations? Schedule them! I’m serious: put them on the calendar, enjoy the planning, savor the anticipation, then smile and go. Aaah….Rinse and repeat:)

  • Reply
    Trinnie Q
    November 21, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Oh, I loved this post Brenda! I say that about all your posts I know, (because I do ), but this one made my heart do a happy dance. Firstly, your clearly lovely friends, then the adorable photo of the sweetness i saw, in the casual but loving way you and Russ were together, Pictures paint a thousand words! Then of course the beautiful scenery!!!! Next the joy i felt seeing you surrounded in the peace of a holiday working its magic on you, very obviously bathing your wounds and terrors from the last months.
    Back to your question to us, your virtual community. Yes I love holidays! Ever since being a little kid, even though we lived inland, we would find a tiny run down, fibro cottage, and my parents would rent it for two weeks, so we could be by the water. Now, in my fifties, I still live inland, but some years ago my beautiful partner found a way for us to pool our resources, and he built us a tiny sea holiday cottage, in a fairly remote part of south west coastal Victoria, where we go during all the school holidays and for a month over summer every year. This is soul food! I love love love the sea! Do i do projects, or work, or think about anything much other than where is the sunscreen, what beach will we go to today? Or what is for lunch or dinner? Absolutely not ! We all relax into holiday mode, and let the world drift by!!! Do I consider myself extremely lucky, and never take it for granted? Absolutely! So you go girl !!!!! May you find a way to take as many holidays as you need, and want. Why Not! Sending much love from Oz

  • Reply
    November 22, 2017 at 6:55 am

    Learning to fully relax and enjoy vacation is an art form….and a process. Used to be that when we went on vacation it would take me several days to relax, then we’d enjoy a couple of blissful days “vacating” and then the anxiety about having to go back to the real world (work, kids, house, obligations) would set in a few days before we had to leave. Flash forward to about 10 years ago, when I finally learned to relax as soon as we left home en route to wherever, and to park all anxiety and thoughts about everything else until we returned. Now if I could only figure out how to make that vacation feeling last longer after it’s over!

    Cabo looks so inviting and lovely! Are there any hotels or vacation rentals in the vicinity of your friends’ place?

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Oh Brenda you look so happy and relaxed in those pictures, so pleased you had a great time. There’ll be other times to think about the real stuff: holidays are for getting away, mentally and geographically, and for making some great memories. Thanks for taking the time to share your pics and thoughts with us.

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