Since we both had a long weekend coming up, Husband suggested we escape somewhere quiet, where we could both relax, recoup, and so I could write.
That’s actually what he said: “and you can write.”
What can I say? Some girls are just lucky.
The tricky part was finding a place that wasn’t too expensive, was far enough away that we felt like we were getting away, but not so far away that I’d get carsick. After much discussion back and forth and exploring all possible options, we finally decided on a retreat center located in Carefree, Arizona, about an hour and a half from our home. Yeah, yeah … big whoop. But there are retreat centers, and then there are retreat centers.
This one was run by Lutherans, which neither of us are but as I was raised Lutheran, we figured that gave us an in. Best part? They were running a special of $50 a night.
I know what you’re thinking. What kind of place can one get for $50 a night? It crossed my mind too, but I survived Hotel Horror with relatively few scars and really all we were wanting was someplace quiet. We figured as long as the bed was one step above a cot and we had a private bathroom, we’d be doing pretty good.
The retreat center is called Spirit in the Desert. Let me show you around the place.
We arrived after check in time, but an envelope with our name on it was sitting on the counter. It contained our key and directions to our room. The hallway was nice and quiet, with a slight antiseptic smell to it. I commented to husband that it felt like we were in a care facility. A really nice care facility, but a care facility nonetheless.
Our room was suite #30. Husband opened the door, we looked inside, we walked back out and checked room number again, walked back in. “This is the right place?” I asked Husband. He nodded. “Did you know it was going to be like this?” He shook his head.
Turns out, in its previous existence, the place had been a fancy-schmancy restaurant/hotel/resort. It was donated to the Lutherans for the express purpose of being turned into a retreat center. I kinda think most churches would have chosen to rip out many of the luxury amenities, but not the Lutherans. Nope. They do it right.
So, let’s see, besides our private balcony with the mountain view, there’s a fireplace in the corner of the room. (A fireplace in Carefree, Arizona, you sneer? Hey, there’s a couple weeks when it gets darn chilly, okay?)
But wait, let’s not forget the mini-bar in the other corner! (Well, of course there’s a mini bar! Why wouldn’t there be?)
In the ‘common area’ was a lovely sitting room with a writing desk, also several conference rooms. The place I visited most often was Coffee Corner, where coffee, tea, and hot chocolate were available 24 hours a day. There was also a small kitchen with a microwave, toaster oven, and a full size refrigerator. In the refrigerator was wine and beer.
Yes, there was wine and beer in the fridge. I’m not making this up. And if you forgot to pack corkscrews, they provided corkscrews too. I checked.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet — we were the only people there. As in, until our last day, we did not run into another living soul. Neither a guest nor a staff member. In the words of Husband, “We could be naked and no one would know.”
I don’t know why he thinks of things like that, but he does.
For the record, we did wear our swimsuits in the pool and Jacuzzi. We didn’t have to, but we did.
Downstairs was the coolest part of the whole place. I’m guessing it’s where the ritzy restaurant had their bar. The stone walls and dark wood trim gave it a cozy, comfortable feel, and the old wine barrels in the corner didn’t hurt either. The bar was still there, of course, complete with bar stools. The sign said “Welcome to Kate’s Kitchen.”
Kate, as in Katharina Luther, Martin Luther’s wife. According the sign, she was known for her hospitality and kind heart. The fact that they chose to name the former bar after her … well, all I can say is, God, I love these Lutherans.
My favorite room, by far, was in the corner of the basement. The library.
Ah, people … the smell of old books, leather, and musty basement air. If only we could bottle it, what an intoxicating perfume it would be!
I could have happily stayed there forever, but I suppose one does have to re-enter civilization eventually, right? Besides, on our last day, a few hours before check out, we ran into someone. We were walking down the hall, rounding a corner, and there she was — an older woman, walking past us and eating a brownie. “Hello,” she said. We recovered from our shock quickly enough to return the greeting. After she left I turned to Husband.
“Well, we’re going to have to leave now,” I told him.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s just gotten way too busy.”
Take it from me, people: If you have a few days to spare and want to focus on your writing or just focus your thoughts, look for a retreat center. Maybe a Lutheran one. You can leave your corkscrew at home.
Now — on to today’s recipe. I did a search for “Lutheran potluck recipes” hoping I’d find something of interest. The results were … let’s just say, a little too Midwestern for me. They also begged the question, how many Jello salads must a person eat before they realize Jello is not a salad?
Instead I’m going to give you a recipe for Norwegian Apple pie. To be honest, I’m not sure how Norwegian this recipe really is, but it’s darn easy and quite tasty. It seems like one of those recipes born from necessity. As in, “All we got are eggs, an apple and nuts, but dang it, I want dessert!” kind of things. And it’s more like a cake than a pie, but let’s not quibble.
Norwegian Apple Pie
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 large apple, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Add eggs and vanilla; stir in apple and walnuts. Spread into a buttered 8 inch pie plate. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Yield: 8 servings. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream. Mmm!