I Love This Bar (Even More Than Toby Keith Loves His)

(Continued from my last post about the Destination Party, Inspiration Point)

‘Swing Bar’ construction started in my backyard the minute we got on the plane leaving Mexico.  By this, I mean, I identified the spot in the yard where it would be best suited.

In 2011, we had been in our house for 14 years.  For all of this time, behind our (detached) garage, was this weird concrete patio thingy the people who lived here before us used to raise Beagles on.  We kind of ignored it because:

1. It was unsightly and

2. Who the hell knows what to do with a concrete dog kennel pad in their backyard?

Well, given the proper inspiration, I do.

My bright idea was to bust up the whole 27′ x 24′ concrete slab and build our very own ‘Swing Bar’ on the site.

We decided to begin breaking up all that concrete Memorial Day weekend, 2011.  The weather that Saturday was 97°, 100% humidity.

What.  The Fuck?

Charlie went to Home Depot and rented a jack hammer for the day.  When he got home he had the jack, of course, but he also brought home this 6′ long steel nail.  Well, it looked like a nail to me.  The technical name is a Pry Bar or Digging Iron, but I like ‘Big Nail’ much better.  He informed me we needed it to pop the concrete pieces out-of-place.  I decided that would be my contribution to the process.

Let the noise commence!!

While Charlie began hammering the first row of all that damn concrete out of the ground, I tended to the very necessary and important tasks of turning on the radio and filling thermoses with water.

After about an hour, I started popping up those hunks of concrete from the earth.  Charlie had thought the slab seemed thicker than one would expect, but we now had concrete evidence (pun intended).  In some spots the pieces were as thick as 7″.  Seven-fucking-inches.  Do you know how heavy that shit is?  I can tell you… it’s majorly fucking heavy.  (Again, I’m using technical terms.)

You would have thought the people who lived here before us were raising elephants in that kennel, not hunting beagles.  Geesh!

Then you get to do the WAY fun job of getting rid of the concrete.  Bear with me – the video is kinda long and I don’t expect you to watch the whole thing because it’s boring, but I want to give you a sense of what we endured so you can see how much work it was. 

Or maybe you will feel bad for me. 

Or better yet, you will think I’m awesome because I’m not the powder puff everyone assumes me to be. 

(An extra special thanks, again, to Charlie’s aunt & uncle who took all of that concrete to fill a big hole in their yard!!)

After all the concrete was gone, we had a shit load (technical term) of dirt delivered and raked it out over the 10″ of stone that was below the 7″ of concrete.  Finally construction could start!

First, you have to dig 4-foot deep post holes to accommodate the twelve-foot 6×6 wooden posts that will support Swing Bar.

SIDE NOTE:  We have learned over the years, every home project takes about 3 times as long as you intend it to.  Here’s one of the reasons why:

Once you have the posts in the ground, they have to be square so that when you dump 120 pounds of concrete around each one they will be able to support the roof and the weight of drunk people sitting on the swings.  So you need to do a bunch of math and run a bunch of string around said posts in order to do that.  Fortunately, Charlie is smart and can do that kind of math.  If it was my dumb ass doing it, we would have ended up throwing grass seed on the dirt like we were feeding chickens and adorned it with lawn chairs.  Need proof?  My contribution is at the end of the video….

Over the next three months the roof went on, the bar went up and the stall mat went down (that sounds dirty) behind the bar (stall mat because we figured no grass would grow under the roof, it would be easy to clean and I could dance around like an idiot on it). 

Most importantly though, the swings went in.  Six swings to be exact.  Why 6?  Because they will forever represent the 6-pack of friends who took a vacation (a.k.a. Destination Party) to an exceptional beach resort in Mexico and fell in love with sitting on swings while partying together.  Amen.

Here’s what it looks like today. 

Don’t you just want to come hang out? 


Inspiration Point

(Continued from my previous post, Dearly Beloved, We Are Gathered Here Today…)

We closed ‘Swing Bar’ that first night.

Don’t be too impressed though because it closed at 5pm.  But hey, we should get some credit because we had been up since 3AM, right?

Truth be told, none of us got rip-roaring drunk (though, apparently, tequila really does make my clothes fall off – thank you Joe Nichols for pointing that out in your song; you must have been there watching us).  Sure, we all had a decent buzz, but it was the first day of vacation with friends which = PARTY  so of course we were going to indulge a bit.  Mostly though we were completely intoxicated by 70° temperatures, sitting on swings and walking barefoot on the warm sand… in January.  Besides none of us wanted to miss a minute of this experience by being hung over (ok, I was a little woozy the next morning).

With the bartenders gone and our tummies ready for something solid, we walked back to our rooms in Building 12 to get ready for dinner.  Here’s what awaited us…

 Building 12

Home Sweet Home.  Well, for 5 days.


Yes, taking a bath in this tub WAS fabulous.

 Our Room 4

I made Charlie hide our luggage before I took this picture.

 Our Room 3

A lovely spot for a soirée, don'tcha think?

 View from our room

The view from our room.  
I love how the sunshine makes it look dreamy.

We did dip into the warm, clear, turquoise ocean water every now and then.  We did go to town for a few hours (see my previous post Wha-What??  It’s National Margarita Day).  Us girls did indulge in a spa treatment for an afternoon while the guys went snorkeling.  And I did lay in a hammock for a while. 


That's right, bitches.


I'm such a spa girl.  I was even impressed with the locker room.

 Spa 4

Lay here and have an herbal tea while awaiting your treatment.

 Spa 3

So fun to play F, Marry, Kill with the girls here.
(Actually, we did that in the sauna, but I don't have a pic of that.)


Where I belong.

But for the better part of our destination party, we sat at Swing Bar, soaking up the experience of sitting on a plank of wood suspended from ropes which were tied to thatched hut cross beams.  All while savoring that delicious ocean breeze and a myriad of liquid adult refreshments.  For nearly every one of those amazing five days we were pampered at Secrets Maroma Resort in Rivera Maya, Mexico, we sat at the beach hut laughing with the bartenders and each other while avoiding tequila.

On our last full day in paradise someone longingly said (I think it was Molly), “We need to take Swing Bar back home”.  Then someone else chimed in (I think it was Blondie), “Charlie needs to build Swing Bar in his backyard”.  And with that, an idea was birthed.  Yes.  Yes, Swing Bar does belong in Pennsylvania goddamnit.


"I think I can, I think I can..."


This is what he was looking at.

(Back story – Charlie is very good with house projects.  He has finished our basement, tore our bathroom and kitchen down to the studs and rebuilt everything, re-sided the house, replaced all of the windows and put an amazing deck on the house all by himself, etc., etc.,.  That’s why Blondie made this statement.)

Later that last night at the resort we all partied in my & Charlie’s room.  After ordering just about everything on the room service menu (definitely all of the desserts) we noshed, drank champagne, laughed and fell in love all over again with our friendship for each other. 

I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but it was the best vacation I’ve ever had. 

 Pool View 5

Damn I miss you Secrets Maroma.



Secrets Maroma

To be continued…

Dearly Beloved, We Are Gathered Here Today….

(Continuing from my last post about the Destination Party, Me Gusta)

Feeling the warm sunshine kiss my skin while lazily strolling past a clear blue pool to a white sand beach is absolutely one of my favorite things (along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens).  What I really love though is the smell of the ocean, the delicate breeze associated with it, a cushioned chaise in a partially shaded spot and a sweet little Mexican resort worker bringing me drinks.

 Secrets Maroma Pool View 2011

Screw clouds and angel wings and robes.
This is what heaven looks like.

The 4 of us walked to the beach expecting all of the above.  What we got was this…

The gentle ocean waves, perfumed by salt and aquatic life, indeed caressed the white sand.  A gently breeze tousled our locks about our faces.  Chaises were lined up just waiting for our tushes.  And, those sweet resort workers were busting their asses to keep the patrons happy.  But when we got to the end of the walkway, something additional, something unexpected was there.  The few clouds in the skies parted, a single beam of sun shone from the heavens to highlight the structure to our left and somehow, a hallelujah chorus started to sing.

Molly’s voice was all breathless and lithe when she exclaimed, “It’s a bar… with swings!”

The four of us (remember Bret & Blondie’s room was ready upon arrival and they had gone there first) stood anchored in the sand for a few seconds, stunned, blinking, mouths agape and leaning forward slightly as if awaiting the thing to shoot up out of the ground like a rocket. 

Technically, it was named ‘Bar Tortuga’

We immediately dubbed it ‘Swing Bar’.

The thatched roof open hut: Intricate brilliance and sheer simplicity all at the same time.

The bar: Sturdy and solid.  Cocky in its own capability to balance endless glasses and bottles at once.

The columnar wooden posts: Strong and enduring.  Seemingly daring a hurricane to mess with it.

And the seats: Swings.  Swings suspended from the cross beams with thick rope.  Just beckoning a 6-pack of best friends to party on them.

Elated by the reality before us (of planting our asses on an uncomfortable solid plank of wood while drinking our faces off), we nearly skipped across the powder-like sand to cozy up to our new friends.

Who is that, you ask?  Why Raúl and Migúel, our bartenders, that’s who.

We stepped onto the platform, took hold of the thick rope between our fingers and moved around to the front of the seat to saddle up to the bar.  We all looked like Nicholson as The Joker because we were smiling so much.  It was fabulous!

Who says alcohol affects me?

That first afternoon we did sit listening to the waves kiss the surf and willingly permitted the breeze to fondle the strands of our hair.  But instead of lazing in those oh-so-inviting chaises, we ordered something from every bottle behind that damn bar while sitting on swings.  More fizzy Polomas and icy cerveza of course, tangy Margaritas, sweet Mai Tais and some tart blue thing with a pineapple wedge.  But these were childs games.  Mere build up to the coup de grâce.

Half full or half empty.  Hell, just refill it! 

Yes, I like Piña Coladas.

For Bret & Blondie finally joined up with us.  Their reaction to swing bar was exactly the same as the rest of ours.  Their tactic and strategy, however was far more sophisticated. 

Bret stepped up to the bar and took his place on a swing.  I watched his eyes scan the offerings.  With precision and decisiveness, he said to Raúl, “What’s your best tequila?”  Ever the all-inclusive professional, Raúl replied, “I don’t know, my friend, you tell me”.  And with cheetah-like reflexes that fantastic son-of-a-bitch placed 5 TALL shot glasses in front of Bret, followed by 5 bottles of Mexican tequila.  As he filled each one, Raúl offered a little bit of explanation behind the different types.  The rest of us followed suit. 

Destination party? – It’s on!

 Bar Tortuga

Alcohol doesn't affect Charlie either.
To be continued…

Me Gusta

70°F in January felt like a dream.  Especially when the thermometer was hovering somewhere around 25° at home 5 hours ago.

Ahhh, Mexico.

We deplaned, made it through customs and piled into the resort shuttle.  The 30-40 minute drive seemed like an eternity before the van finally pulled up to the resort gate.  I got a little concerned when we did.  It looked like we were about to enter Jurassic Park.  And I’m really afraid of things that can eat me alive.

 Jurassic Park

Is Jeff Goldblum hiding behind Door #1???

Even after passing through Jurassic’s gate, the one lane road to Secrets Maroma Resort & Spa snaked through mile after mile of the low tropical jungle.  The anticipation of lazing on the beach and drinking margaritas under palm trees was palpable.  All 6 of us were smiling and wiggling around in our seats – waiting for the first glimpse of utopia.  I kept hearing the ‘Rocky’ theme song playing over and over in my head just waiting for our party to begin.  And then, just above the green horizon, there it was.  Our party spot for the next 5 days.

Ummm, what the fuck???


At first sight the building was relatively low to the ground and understated.  A fountain and some planted palms in front of the car port.  My first impression was that it looked like a souped up rancher.  “I got that shit at my own house”, I thought.  Where was the magnificence?  The grandeur?  Had the travel agent punk’d us?  OMG – did we get in the right shuttle at the airport??  Were we kidnapped and now forced to be some drug lords’ bitch until the end of time???  I never thought to plan an escape route – What was I thinking??  We had just watched Taken a few weeks ago for fuck sake!!

The angina was gripping tighter around my heart.  My blood coursing through my veins at lightning speed.  This was supposed to be a party with our best friends and now I was certain we were going to have to blow some angry, bloated, pockmarked cartel leader (Señor Drew P. Balls) until we can pull off some bad-ass, Charlie’s Angels ninja shit.

And then, three resort workers dressed in their crisp, ivory and tan uniforms emerged from the 15-foot high glass doors with a tray full of sage green rolled towels.  The greeters were all smiles and welcomed us by our last names.  The towels were to cool down with, but I found them to be rather symbolic – to wipe away our arduous travels and leave reality behind for the duration of our stay.  When I raised it to my face I couldn’t help but to hold it there longer then necessary.  For I would have sworn it was scented with a fragrance only reserved for heaven.  I let it bathe my olfactory nerve… mint?, maybe a hint of lavender?  I wasn’t quite sure, but it was divine.

I felt a little silly about my panic attack a moment earlier.

We were ushered to the check-in area.  Crossing that threshold, I couldn’t help but to draw similarities with the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the house landed in black-and-white and Dorothy opened the door to a brilliantly Technicolor Munchkinland.  They brought us champagne to enjoy while going over the necessary paperwork.  Only Bret & Blondie’s room was ready (it was still quite early in the day) and the concierge encouraged us to head to the lobby bar 30 feet away.  We did.

With drinks in hand, the 6 of us gawked at the lobby.  Here’s why:

 Lobby 5

Drinks anyone? 

Lobby 2
Blondie wondered aloud what the hell we were doing inside when it was 70° out of doors.  Good point – out we went.  Here’s where they were hiding the opulence expected when we pulled up in the van.


Exit the lobby to this balcony....

Secrets Maroma 2

 And this is what you see - That's right, cock & balls.

We finished our drinks oohhing & aahhing at the sight before us.  Bret & Blondie went to their room while André & Molly joined Charlie & I to continue walking the grounds.  Our tummies were rumbling as we descended the steps.


These steps

Gasping along the way, we walked past the decorative pools and giant chess set. 

 Walk to the Beach 1

 Walk to the Beach 2

We walked past a thatched roof sports bar and empty hammocks. 

 Walk to the Beach 4

We walked past white cushioned poster beds canopied with sheer white gauze and the lovely wedding gazebo. 


Wedding Pavillion

We found a casual pool-side restaurant and sat down to munch on ceviche, Palomas and tropical fruits.  With our appetites satiated, we continued on our walk.  In particular, to the beach.

And that is where we found our new religion.

To be continued…


I love having parties.  The planning, the preparation, the FUN.  But even I will admit… it can be a whole lot of work.

That said, what I love even more than throwing a party is vacation.  And I’ve been fortunate enough to have some fabulous vacations.  Put those 2 great tastes together and the DESTINATION PARTY is born.

A few summers ago Charlie and I had our four closest friends over for a little afternoon soirée: André & Molly, Bret & Blondie (not their real names because I don’t want them to be mad at me for revealing their identities).  Nothing fancy, just appetizers and drinky-winkies on the deck.  It was one of those rare, perfect, late August Sundays – warm sunshine with no humidity, blue sky with Ferris Bueller-like clouds, light breeze.  You know, weather so perfect you don’t even know there is weather.

Our little ‘6-pack’ has been together for about 17 years or so.  Charlie and I are in complete agreement that you couldn’t find better people to be friends with and definitely couldn’t find more fun people to spend your perfect Sunday afternoons with.  We all sat on the deck laughing loudly and chatting about important things – books, movies, music, kids, pets & our outlooks on life.  That’s why we love them so much – because they are interesting and fun and even though we may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, we all respect each other.  I could never even imagine disagreeing with any of them over petty issues (religion, politics, etc.).  I like to think that we all accept each other so readily simply because we connect over our similarities and are open enough to value our differences.

While sitting there talking about … whatever… someone (I think it may have been Blondie) brought up the topic of turning the big Four-O.  I can’t speak for the guys, but the girls and I didn’t seem too bothered by it.  We all look fabulous and felt it was reason for celebration.  Then some genius (I think it was Molly) says, “We should go on vacation to celebrate turning 40“.

And with those 9 words an idea was hatched.

An amazing, exciting, sensational idea.

Where would we go?  When?

Right away, everyone seemed in agreement that it should coincide with our January birthdays (4 of the 6 were born in January).  With that settled, Charlie & I and André & Molly recounted how in love we were with Mexico.  We had all been to Mexico (separately) within the past few years and it was fantastic.  We both stayed at all-inclusive Secrets/Excellence resorts and our experiences left us breathless.  Charlie and I fondly recalled our 5 days of pampered heaven, lounging on the beach and sitting at the pool bar where I took the BEST. PICTURE. EVER.


Who puts sunblock on their husband like this?
Then again, why couldn't he do it himself?  
It's like they were put on earth for me to take this picture.

André & Molly had a similar experience at their Secrets/Excellence resort.  And since André knew a travel agent it was decided he would contact her to inquire about all-inclusive, Mexican paradise.

With our travel agent’s advice, we settled on Secrets Maroma in Rivera Maya Mexico.  Over the next 15 months, we all sacrificed and saved to pay for the trip.  Every now and then we met to fantasize about the resort spa and coordinate our wardrobes (something animal print, to welcome the cougar age, was a necessity – at least for us girls).

FINALLY, January 20, 2011 arrived.

Charlie & I woke at 3 am for our very early morning flight to warm sunshine, white sands and clear, turquoise waters.  We quietly snuck out of the house (my father-in-law had agreed to stay with Emma for the next 5 days) and headed out into the FREEZING darkness to drive to Bret & Blondie’s house before picking up André & Molly.  When we arrived at Bret & Blondie’s at 3:40 in the morning, they emerged from the warmth of their home all smiles and wearing sombreros.  Fucking sombreros.  Who couldn’t love them?!?!

With the security check out of the way at Philadelphia International, the 6 of us patiently waited in the terminal for our flight time.  Eventually a US Air employee announced the boarding process was about to begin.  The Type-A personalities (i.e., Charlie & I) stood to hint to the other couples that it is time to go get in line.  At this point Bret rose for his uncomfortable airport terminal seat & said to Blondie, “Sco” to which Blondie, without hesitation, loudly scolded, “Don’t you ‘Sco me.  I’m on vacation!”

The rest of us fell out with laughter.

Let the party begin.


Pumped to go on vacation with our BFFs. 
To be continued…