Posted on

Tookey & The Griswolds

14 days stuck in a car traveling cross country with a family of five makes for some interesting memories. If that doesn’t drive you bonkers, add a GrandmaTookey to the mix and you’ll be pushing the limit. Top it off with a Winnebago and trust me, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Or, what some might call a Griswold vacation.

One hot summer day in the early 70’s, my dad got his hands on Mr. Smith’s Winnebago. Mr. Smith didn’t go to Washington, but we sure did.

Dad was overjoyed and jumped at the chance to get behind that wheel. Mom (as usual) went with the flow and was up for anything, and we (the kids) were cautiously optimistic about the hotel on wheels.

Game On

The WinnebagoDad decided that not only were we going to explore American history á la ‘bago, he also decided it would be a great bonding opportunity if GrandmaTookey partook.

The invitation was sent and graciously accepted. GrandmaTookey would be joining us on our cross country trek to the nation’s capital … with conditions.

She opted to participate in dad’s master plan because apparently she loved us a lot. The Winnebago? Not so much. So she made it clear she’d be going on her terms.

I guess you can say GrandmaTookey taught us the value of boundaries with her travel mandate.

This meant that dad had to unload ‘The Green Monster’ — a very heavy, very large leather suitcase without wheels — each and every night so she could check into her hotel du jour while the rest of us slept in the Bago.

That was so dad — naming her suitcase. And that was so GrandmaTookey — checking in to a suite. Being the trendsetter that she was, I tend to think GrandmaTookey was the original ‘glamper‘ (way before glamping was considered cool).

As evidenced by the family picture, we were dressed to the four’s while GrandmaTookey was dressed to the nines. Glamping was really the only option for someone sporting heels and pearls; whereas, camping suited this 8 year old culotte cutie just fine.

Gatlinburg, TN

And We’re Off

So we traded in the wood-paneled station wagon for ‘The Bago,’ setting off from Memphis. Our route would lead us through the Great Smokey Mountains, over to the east coast then up to Washington D.C. Our plan was to hit some historical sights along the way, appreciating the memorials and viewing American History in real life.

Our first stop was Gatlinburg, Tennessee, known as the gateway to the roughly 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It was at this point in my life that I fell in love with the mountains. Gatlinburg is a beautiful little mountain town that really left an indelible impression. So much so that I actually eloped there in my late 20s (but that’s another story for another day).

We lost my little brother during this first pit stop.

Times were different then, so losing him for 5 hours in a national park didn’t bring on full meltdown mode like it would today. But it was enough cause for panic. We found him nonchalantly hanging out at some Volleyball game, unscathed and completely unaware of the search party that had gathered to find him. It was kind of like when my parents left me at a random gas station on a random highway stop during a random bathroom break a few years earlier. They didn’t realize the omission until several miles down the road. When they returned, I was nonchalantly sitting on the curb, waiting for their arrival.

Either no one wanted to kidnap us, or we were just damn lucky. Times sure have changed.

On the Road Again

Yellow Volkswagon BeetleOh the games we played while traveling down the highway.

The 70s were all about creating your own fun. Board games like Monopoly proved to be the much needed respite from what seemed like a never ending, humdrum Bago game of Love Bug.  Do you remember that oldie but goodie? The game where the first one to spot a Volkswagon beetle got to count it in their tally.

So many beetles; so many colors. My favorite one was yellow, and I must have counted thousands on that trip.

Game Center on The Bago

In between Monopoly with siblings and Go Fish with GrandmaTookey, the Alphabet game kept us preoccupied, screaming out letters of the alphabet discovered on each passing road sign — first one to Z wins!

I’m sure dad just loved the peace and quiet (not) that arose from that activity, and I’m confident that those playful ‘shouting matches’ added to what some might describe as the frazzling of dad’s newly-fragile nerves.

From Gatlinburg, we headed east to Virginia Beach for a dip in the ocean then onward to Thomas Jefferson’s estate in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Did you know that Monticello is on one side of the nickel? I’d actually forgotten that. I’m hoping it doesn’t get vanished due to bitcoin (or political correctness). It’s an historic and beautiful home nonetheless.

Monticello and the nickel

Once our Monticello tour was over, we trekked on up to DC for the grand finale.

Are We There Yet?

Driving that Bago beast finally got on dad’s last nerve. In true Griswold fashion, he let it be known that we would be taking the DC express tour.

Instead of meandering our way through America’s monuments and learning American history first hand, we were granted one quick pic in front of each landmark (no matter how far away we were). We’d round a curb, park illegally, hop out of the Bago, snap a pic and hop back aboard in 5 minutes flat. At least we got to say we’d been there, done that.

Dad hated parking what had come to be known as ‘that damn RV’.

Funny, I don’t remember the leg back to Memphis. I guess, like most things, interest gets lost when you reach your destination. Or, more likely, we were told to sit down and be quiet or else endure the wrath of an angry mobile-home driver.

The Last Bago Story

Before dad died just a few years ago, we sat quietly talking for hours on end about family and life. I cherish this conversation like none other.

I had just returned from a family reunion in Nashville with dad’s side of the family. It had been so long since I’d seen my dad’s family, and I was excited to go not only for myself, but also to be dad’s eyes, ears and legs.

Dad really wanted to go (I believe more so than he let on), but being paralyzed, he felt it would be too difficult making his way around the old family farm. In all honestly, he didn’t want to be a burden.

I told dad that his family really missed him and happily volunteered to transport him around the next time. I remember how hopeful — almost excited — he seemed about the possibility of attending the next reunion after all. Over time, the conversation turned to GrandmaTookey, and dad got tears in his eyes — a rare occurrence which definitely got my attention.

He started reminiscing about the Winnebago trip with her, and he let me know how meaningful this trip actually was to GrandmaTookey. Apparently, she’d bragged to many people over the years about that Griswold trip.  I could sense dad’s pride that he made this trip happen. His tender heart really shown through that night, and so I consider myself doubly blessed by the Bago trip.

I guess you never really know the positive impact you make in someone’s life.

Classic Pearl BraceletClassic Pearls

GrandmaTookey’s pearls serve as the inspiration behind the Classic Collection, with the Classic Pearl Bracelet being one of the cornerstone pieces in the Tookey Buxton jewelry line.

This beautiful freshwater pearl bracelet is perfect for the sophisticated woman who demands the best, exudes confidence and has a strong fashion sense.

In other words … it’s a Tookey!

Shop the Classic Collection


Posted on

Santa Fe Excursion

Santa Fe Sunset

This weekend marks the end of the 96th annual Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest and most prestigious juried Native arts show in the world. The Indian Market, which started almost a century ago, attracts 100,000+ visitors from all over the world, to buy art directly from roughly 900 artists from 200+ federally recognized tribes from the U.S. and Canada.

I wish I was there this year.  Instead, I’m taking a trip down memory lane…

Santa Fe Excursion

The horses neighing outside my bedroom window were my wake up call.

Santa Fe New Year’s (2004)

The cowboys promised they’d take me for a ride up in ‘them thar hills’ a day earlier, but I really didn’t take them seriously. Why I don’t know, but I should have. Sure ‘nuf, they showed up — on time, saddled up and rearing to go.  I do declare I even heard them holler giddy up.

I, on the other hand, needed a cup of coffee first.

Lamy Train StationStaying in Lamy, NM at a friend’s house right across from a train station which suspiciously seemed stuck in time, I’d always dreamed of how magical a trip to Santa Fe might be.  I’m happy to say that those dreams were realized.

Most certainly, Santa Fe is a spiritual place.

Some of my Memphis and Aspen friends gathered for a long weekend of fun, shopping and total relaxation to ring in the New Year. Trust me when I say the town and the company did not disappoint.

In addition to the early morning horseback ride, we indulged our bodies at Ten Thousand Waves Spa, indulged our senses at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Museum and indulged our taste buds with many margaritas and guacamole galore at shmancy-fancy restaurants. We shopped at some groovy resale shops as well as some upscale jewelry boutiques and obviously …

I indulged in some turquoise.

Santa Fe ArchitectureWe also were captivated by the magnificent  architecture which did not disappoint. Santa Fe has a distinctive architectural style all its own. No other city in the country has so many low-slung, earth-colored, Spanish Pueblo buildings made of adobe bricks (consisting of sun-dried earth and straw). The Spanish natives often built their houses initially with only one or two rooms, then added on later to accommodate their expanding families. And their simple home design incorporated just a few doors or windows in order to retain heat during the winter and maintain cool temperatures during the summer.  I love that they cherished and preserved their sense of community via their ‘pueblo’ (the spanish term for ‘village’) design. (Read more about the Santa Fe Architecture)

I truly believe that there is an artist in every single person, whether it be cooking or writing or horseback riding or something that puts you into that zone where nothing else matters. When you’re in that zone it all comes together. Life makes sense.” — Amber Morningstar Byars, Choctaw Lapidary Artist

For New Year’s Eve, we celebrated with dinner and drinks at our host’s friend’s house. It was a large group of interesting creative types with captivating conversation and booming laughter lingering none too long. Afterwards, we hiked up the back hills to experience a New Year’s Eve fireworks show over Santa Fe. Admittedly, we also did a little tribunal dance to call in all those good, happy spirits to bless us that year. I can’t recall if someone brought a drum, but we happily found a beat. Humdrum it was not.

Truly memorable.

Another thing I definitely won’t forget is the incredible curry chicken dish, consumed at ‘home’ — in front of the fire — on one of our Santa Fe nights. Stomachs growled, wine flowed and laughter rang out that night. I’ve kept and cooked that complex South African Indian Curry Chicken (secret family) recipe several times since then, and each time, it leads me right back to Santa Fe at the Zunkel home.

The last morning before our too soon departure, we stopped by Santa Fe’s proclaimed meeting place, The Pantry, for a delicious, New Mexican breakfast of Huevos Rancheros. It was the perfect finale to a much needed getaway.

We went to Santa Fe to fill our spirits and our tummies. Needless to say, we left satiated.

My Turquoise Bear

turquoise bear pendantIn Native American beliefs, the bear symbolizes physical strength and leadership. The bear is considered to be one of the most powerful and sacred of all animals, and because the bear hibernates, it is considered to bring the gift of renewal.

Every time I wear my impressive, carved turquoise bear pendant which I purchased during this Santa Fe excursion, I not only get tons of compliments, I think I feel stronger, more vibrant and admittedly, kind of cool too.

After all, isn’t that what the power of turquoise is supposed to do?

Legend has it that the Native American Indians danced and rejoiced when the rains came. Their tears of joy mixed with the rain and seeped into Mother Earth to become ‘SkyStone’ Turquoise.

Turquoise, the “fallen sky stone” hidden in Mother Earth, has been valued by cultures for its beauty and reputed spiritual and life-giving qualities for over 7000 years. It is a true gem of the centuries. A long time ago someone noticed a clear blue line running through gray rock, and saw the imagery of sky and water in stone, and from that time on, turquoise has been cherished above all else in creation – turquoise, stone of sky, stone of water, stone of blessings, good fortune, protection, good health and long life.

Native Americans believe that the earth is alive and that all things, no matter how small or apparently inanimate, are precious. To the Native Americans, turquoise is life. There are stones medicine men keep in their sacred bundles because they possess powers of healing. Stones and crystals have unique attributes that support and heal us. Turquoise, especially, is known for its positive healing energy, an aid in mental functions, communications and expression and as a protector. If you’re wearing a turquoise ring and you look down and see a crack in your stone, the Native Americans would say “the stone took it”, meaning the stone took the blow that you would have received.

Sometimes, when I see a cowboy on a horse…when I have a fresh squeezed margarita….when I wear turquoise….even when I say a prayer of gratitude, I think of this magical trip to Santa Fe, exhale and reminisce. I’m excited for a return visit which — guaranteed — will be sooner rather than later.

Shop the Santa Fe Collection
Posted on

Mourning & Muscle Shoals


I’ve lived a charmed life.

I’m glad I still claim that belief despite the past five years which have consisted of lots of mourning and loss and just massive change. I don’t want to wallow anymore, so I’m not rehashing it here. I lived it. I survived it. And now I’m ready to focus on the future.

You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day, you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun, and you close your eyes… and lean your head back… and you realize, you’re ok. — Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough

The Shift in the Shoals

I found myself in all places at the Muscle Shoals Tourism Center one day, trying to figure out what on earth this bizarre — yet oddly fabulous — place I’ve found myself in offers.

If anyone had ever told me that I’d end up living where I do, I would have called them a liar. I realized that I had been defining my return to the south as a boring and temporary care-giving stop on a much more exciting path back to the city. They say that God laughs when humans make plans though. Funny how God planted this self-proclaimed city slicker in a one-stop-light town, literally.

The joke was clearly on me.

To my pleasant surprise, my eyes opened, my perspective changed and my excitement (kind of) return when I learned of the magic Muscle Shoals offers during that one quick detour that day.

The Movie

If you haven’t seen the Muscle Shoals movie yet, you really should (see trailer below). Especially if you like music. It’s dubbed the small town with the big sound (the Muscle Shoals Sound, that is), a sound that originated mainly from a group of session musicians called ‘The Swampers’.

At different points in time on this planet, there are certain places where there is a feel of energy. — Jimmy Cliff

These renowned musicians obviously felt that energy when recording here: Rolling Stones. Aretha Franklin. Bono. Percy Sledge. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Alicia Keys. Steve Winwood. Wilson Pickett. Gregg Allman. Boz Skaggs. Paul Simon. Bob Dylan. Staple Singers. Rod Stewart. Joe Cocker. Leon Russell. Glenn Frey. Willie Nelson. Carlos Santana. John Prine. Joan Baez. Bob Seger. Linda Ronstadt. Bobby Womack. Cat Stevens. Jimmy Buffett. Cher.

Wow. Just wow.

So, it appears God has placed me in Rock ‘n Roll heaven. I think I like it.

Music, like art, has always moved my soul. The Peace Palace is about 45 minutes from Muscle Shoals, an hour and a half from the home of the blues (my hometown, Memphis), and about 2 hours from the country capital of Nashville (my birthplace).

I like to imagine music’s in my blood.

I have a gut feeling that ‘getting my life back’ includes filling my soul up with music. My comeback cocktail is going to hit the spot: a splash of rhythm, a bit of blues, a shot of country with some rock ‘n roll on top. All shook up and rearin’ to go. I’m going to down it.

I’ve always walked to the beat of my own drum, but maybe it’s time to start stirring to the beat of others.

More Than Music

Frank Lloyd Wright's The Rosenbaum House

The quad cities (Muscle Shoals, Florence, Sheffield and Tuscumbia) have more than music to offer.  Helen Keller grew up at Ivy Green, her birthplace in Tuscumbia. The father of the blues, W.C. Handy, has his birthplace, museum and library in Florence. Who knew: we’re even touched by royalty reality. Cynthia Bailey (the model from the reality TV series The Real Housewives of Atlanta) grew up in Tuscumbia. Now that’s some trivia.

Frank Lloyd Wright has his stamp here too.  Architecture critic Peter Blake wrote in 1960 that “during the 1930s, Wright built four structures of a beauty unexcelled in America before or since.” Three of those are Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax Administrative Building, and Taliesin West. The fourth was the Rosenbaum House.


Treasure Hunts

Muscle Shoals Stone Revival Necklace retouchedLast but not least, there’s the shopping. Not really. The shopping isn’t that great, to be honest. Maybe there are a few retail treasures to be found. One thing I have noticed about the area is that you can easily stumble upon a lot of great, hidden treasures.

On one recent excursion, I stumbled upon a row of antique stores which just might be one good resource for my Revival Collection. I’ve always loved antique shopping in order to dig through the mostly plastic jewelry for that unique piece worth reviving.

I discovered this ‘Muscle Shoals Stone Revival’ necklace in one of those shops and fell in love instantly. It reminded me of GrandmaTookey in all the wonderful ways. This bold, heavy necklace is even prettier in person. The pastel colors are beyond gorgeous and I imagine wearing it another time or two before I officially upload it to the Revival Collection (It’s uploaded now…you can view it here).

That’s about it for now. Go watch that movie.  It won’t disappoint. Seriously. I can’t recommend it enough.

Posted on

Tour de France

Tour de France 2004

As I watch the 104th Tour de France unfold on television, I’m reminded of my own tour de France actually following the 91st Tour de France in real-life.

My long lost love of biking started long before it was considered cool in America. When I graduated from college in 1986, my parents offered me the choice of a hostel-filled European tour with friends or an Italian Bottechia road bike. I chose the latter. I’d fallen hook, line and sinker for two-wheel transportation while at the University of Denver. My friend and I would ride around Wash Park, doing laps, logging miles, racing each other and having fun.

Ahhh, youth.

After I received my graduation present and moving back to Memphis, I would take daily rides from Germantown to Downtown, rarely seeing another biker. Today, you’ll find many cyclists out and about (assuming they survive the crazy traffic!).

When I turned 40, I decided to give myself the gift of travel.  I was invited to follow the Tour de France with friends, and obviously, I said yes.

Unbeknownst to me, they were seriously planning to follow the Tour de France on their bicycles.  I thought they were joking. When they suggested we bike while there, I was game — subconsciously envisioning myself peddling through the lavender fields of Aix en Provence, ringing my little bicycle bell with a loaf of freshly cooked French bread in my flower-ladened basket.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the airport, noticing that my friends actually were checking their road bikes in at the counter. Needless to say, I was delegated to the pace car.

We landed in Toulouse, and in spite of lost luggage, I was jubilant to start the adventure and visit France again.

I was especially excited to test my language skills (comme ci, comme ça), experience the French culture and shop for jewelry, of course.

My Blue Topaz Ring

I bought several baubles, but my favorite by far was this blue topaz / sterling ring which I wore (and still wear) all the time. It fits like a glove … has clean lines and a modern look … feels so substantial when worn … plus, I think it’s pretty.

blue topaz ring from France

Isn’t it amazing how, when you wear a beautiful piece of jewelry purchased on a fabulous trip, it takes you right back there? This ring does it for me, and j’aime ça!

While I shopped, they biked.

If you haven’t had the chance to view the Tour de France live, I strongly suggest you consider it. It is so much more impressive in person, as I imagine most international sporting events to be. I was absolutely shocked at the hordes of people who line up in small town after small town to root for the Peloton as they fly by. It was thrilling to see Lance Armstrong, especially on the days he wore the yellow jersey, and the U.S. Postal Team ride by and shout USA! USA! USA!  Armstrong won his 6th Tour de France that year (long before his scandals emerged).

Anything can happen. It takes so little to change the whole situation.

For me, the highlight of this tour was being one of the 1,000,000 people to witness the Alpe d’Huez time trial (watch the amazing video to see what I saw).

We traveled the 21 hairpin turns on that mountain — via pace car (obviously) — the day before the big time trial. As I recall, it took us several hours to get to the top by car; my friends biked it in an hour and a half. Lance Armstrong only took 37:36 minutes (second fastest / tested positive).  Maybe that should have been a clue of scandals to come.

Later research reveals that he indeed has ‘an over-sized heart which can beat over 200 times a minute, and thus pump an extraordinarily large volume of blood and oxygen to his legs.”

Regardless, it was a breathtaking event to witness.

Instead of following the Tour to Paris for the last 4 (of the 20) stages, we headed south to Aix en Provence and onward to: Èze, Cannes, Monte Carlo and Nice.  It was all you can imagine and more.

I’m starting to think that now is the time to consider attending another international sporting event.  My friend just ran with the bulls, but I’m thinking Wimbledon may be more my speed at this point in my life.

Who knows what the future holds…


Posted on

The Summer of Yes

The Summer of Yes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Every year during my birthday week, I take time to reflect like most wise adults do. This year’s indulgent trip down memory lane actually marks the 15th anniversary of what I have since dubbed the ‘Summer of Yes.’

The older you get, the easier it is to say no to anything that takes you out of your comfort zone, and I believe it takes a concerted effort to say no to the norm.

Gurus say that if you really want to change your life, take a 30 day YES challenge, doing at least one new and different thing a day. Go visit a museum. Eat at a new restaurant. Take a different route to work. Change your hair. Go salsa dancing. Take a singing lesson. Volunteer.

Thank God that advice stuck.

So many moons ago, when I found myself between jobs and newly divorced, I chose to bust the rut by immersing myself in art, jazz and all things ‘yes’ in the Big Apple. I enrolled in NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies for the Appraisal of Fine and Decorative Arts.

I’ve always loved art and antiques, so what better place to analyze objects d’art than in Manhattan? As a student, I said yes to learning at The Met … and at an acclaimed antique dealer … and at a famous auction house … and at an exclusive art gallery … and in the alluring Diamond District, absorbing all I could in the summer intensive.  Not only did we study awe-inspiring masterpieces, we covered Baroque to Art Deco, Silver to Ceramics, Tiffany Lamps to Fine Jewelry and much more.

When not immersed in art, I said yes to all invitations:

  • Would you like to go listen to jazz at the Blue Note? Yes.
  • Want to check out Brooklyn Bridge? Central Park? NYSE? Yes. Yes. Yes.
  • Can you go to Shelter Island for the weekend? Absolutely.
  • How about a sunset cruise around Manhattan? Sounds great.
  • Want to meet for a martini at Bemelman’s Bar? Sure.
  • Would you like to attend a Yankees game..with a real live Yankee…and a police escort? Hell Yes!
  • Brunch at Gramercy Tavern then shopping in SoHo? Yes and Yes.
  • Why don’t you join us (said Earth, Wind and Fire) at a private gig near Harlem? Ummmm…..YES.
  • Can you meet us at a midtown penthouse to view the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks? 100% yes.
  • MoMA? Guggenheim? Frick? Yes. Yes. Yes.

The list of affirmations goes on and on and on and on…and it was magical.

The rewards that came from this Summer of Yes actually outnumber the good times had, the art knowledge gained and the new friends met. The numerous interactions with strangers who shared a laugh with me were surreal, mostly because I was absolutely open to new encounters. Decidedly, I left the (old) closed me back home.

The decision to change course and try something entirely new led to so many wonderful and surprising things, including a successful career detour that took me back to NYC. Most importantly, though, I rediscovered my joie de vivre after a long, long slumber.

I promised myself that every 10 years, I’d welcome a hiatus and have a Summer of Yes. Spiritual teachers and meditation masters like Eckhart Tolle tell us to not only recognize the Gap (the silent space between thoughts) … but Be in It. In a way, I think the Summer of Yes is my gap, helping me to cultivate present moment awareness. I believe being alert in an inspiring place with no expectations other than to absorb the moment is a worthy goal.

Parental care-giving may have caused me to miss the 10 year mark, but I sense a new adventure brewing: I’m waking up from another slumber, rested and rearin’ to go.

The only question now is: when and where?