Sideways to Napa – part one

It was definitely one of our weirdest decisions. The electrician came in the morning to look at an outlet that wasn’t working properly. We worked on some house projects then did a bit of clean up in the yard. Then – about 1pm we decided it was actually a really nice day for a drive. Where should we go?? How about Napa.

In the car. Google Maps engaged. To Do list left at home. And off we went…

It was a bit of an odd time to go to wine country. The vines haven’t really started growing yet. But because of that, it was interesting to see the old, gnarled trunks – and wonder how many years they have been producing fresh new vines and grapes for our eventual enjoyment.

We were headed to Calistoga, California. I read in my handy-dandy California guide book (that has post-it tabs sticking out all over it) that Calistoga is a quaint little town to visit. So that’s what we plugged into our GPS.

On our way to Calistoga, however, we saw a sign for a Visitor’s Center and wondered if it would give us any additional information. So Scott scooted over some highway lanes and exited…

…into HEAVEN!

We literally had no idea what exit we had pulled off on.

Yountville, California. First of all, for any fellow Chef Geeks out there, this is MECCA for fine dining. If you’re a fan of Chef’s Table on Netflix, you might recognize The French Laundry. Chef Thomas Keller is a renowned chef who has been named Best Chef in America and has two restaurants with 3-star Michelin ratings. (The only American chef with that distinction.) Plus his bakery has a 1-star rating.

I think we drove for quite a few blocks with my hand over my mouth, gasping. When we finally stopped and got out, I almost felt disrespectful taking a picture of this famous restaurant. Many renowned chefs have spent time here, learning under Chef Keller’s instruction then gone on to open their own fine dining restaurants. (Sidenote: after we got back home I googled to see if there were any prices online…knowing there most likely wouldn’t be. But I found multiple sites that simply stated that a meal for two would run no less than $300 a person.)

Full disclosure: one of the reasons I remember the restaurant from Chef’s Table is that I loved the font of the restaurant title. I guess I’m an even bigger Font Geek than a Chef Geek. -ha!

The sun was SOOOOOO high and bright so taking pictures was a challenge.

But speaking of cool fonts…how about this F O R T Y  F I V E  T E N?! And the amazing white wisteria!

It was fascinating to see sleek, modern wineries as well as old and elegant wineries, all mixed in together. Each were competing for wine tastings and ambiance. One after another after another.

This luxury hotel was jaw-dropping. Wide open art galleries, pristine waitstaff, elegance coming and going. Vintage House – and those black window trimmings…oh my heart.

The wisteria. The phlox. The cherry blossoms. The dogwoods. Everywhere in California – it’s simply been amazing to see spring on the west coast. It is impossible to describe the brilliance and magnitude.

Scott and I were fascinated with these two men…

The man and the baker carrying out bags of bagettes to his car. What’s the story?! I was so curious. Their difference in stature certainly stood out on the cozy sidewalks of this fascinating town.

We weren’t dressed properly for the $300/per meal (…and by ‘dressed correctly’ I mean a checkbook with $600 of disposable loot) but we did have the flakiest, butteriest, delicious’est Michelin-star croissant I’ve ever had at Bouchon Bakery.

Yountville wasn’t necessarily a ‘walk and shop’ type of town. It was filled with luxury everything: hotels, spas, wineries, restaurants. There was a Marketplace area we walked through with a few shops, chocolatiers, cigars and of course – wines.

If you look closely, you can see the bubble above Scott’s head as he counts zeros…

I liked this t-shirt…!

(Is this heaven?!) This side of heaven or the other side – I will be a Vespa owner.

This was a large courtyard that I’m sure is used for events and tastings.

Even the town’s fan-leaf palms didn’t dare have brown-tipped leaves (as are common in all other fan-leaf palms!)

The design of this hotel and spa took my breath away as we drove by on our way into town. As we walked by, we went over to read it’s history…….I shouldn’t have been surprised…

My old alma-mater: USGBC. To receive a LEED Platinum is very difficult. But to do it as a hotel is almost unheard of. It is very difficult for a business like a hotel to prove environmentally sound procedures. Think of the laundry and toiletries alone. So for Bardessono to have achieved the top LEED level is incredible. One of only two hotels in America to have been awarded a Platinum level. Impressive!

And right across the street was this old French Country Inn. Everything about it looked like a cottage tucked away in a the French countryside. Like I said, the old with the new. It was a heady combination and provided lots of visual stimulation overload.

Scott liked this sign in their window stating that in case of an earthquake, this building was not safe to be in.

But at least it’s not a Midwest tornado that we would have to go through this door to the basement. Yikes!

Yountville’s Town Hall…

There were tourists walking all over town – in their linens and flowy skirts. It was like being on a movie set. But along with the tourists were plenty of residents. People out walking their dogs and working in their yards.

Another constant throughout the city (due to the time that we were there…around 4:30pm) were wait staff. Men and women in starched black and white attire. They were getting out of their cars and heading into work. Most of the restaurants were only open for dinner so they were arriving to work to start a busy night. I would like to believe their tips are substantial.

After our jaw-dropping walk through Yountville, we went back to our car to keep driving to our original destination: Calastoga.

(on to the Part Two post…)

Terra Cotta Dreamin’

Possibly it’s due to the overexposed sun here in California that has led me to fall in love with a very California, desert-color scheme.

Earth tones:
Greens. Grays. Terra cotta. Cinnamon. Mustard. Mauve. Teals. Blues
Soothing. Grounding. Natural.

Imagine looking at a desert scene. Starting at the ground level with it’s bluish-gray sage mixed with the tans and grays of the sand and rock. Moving up you would find the greens of the foliage plastered against the mustard yellows of a terra cotta-cinnamon sunset that bursts a few streaks of pinkish-mauve into the sky, before turning into the various teals and blues of the setting day.

Now grant it, it’s not a huge leap to ‘earth tones’ from ‘natural whites’. But I see the earthy tones making their way into our home more and more since living out west.

I’m not really a ‘southwestern girl’ when it comes to decor, but I do appreciate the natural elements of linen and leather, hand-thrown pottery, hand-woven textiles, wicker and wood. Those natural items feel more intentional and less fad-driven.

I recently grabbed some very unstaged pictures around the house, of the earthen tones that are finding their way into our rooms. The space heater is out – for the chilly mornings still. Things are as they are in our everyday life. I think that’s the part of this sensation taking me over: a willingness to embrace more of what is, and less of what should be. Maybe it’s California. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s just part of the evolution of life – but in the great scheme of things…there’s very little that needs to be worried over and we waste a lot of time doing it.

I’d rather spend more of my brain space on thinking about the things for which I have to be grateful. It’s a retraining of the mind.

The days are getting brighter and warmer around here – making the occasional rainy day a direct insult. What do you mean I can’t go outside today?!

Most of my plants have new leaves, still tightly curled but peeking out now and again to see if the atmosphere is right for their unveiling. Scott and I have had more than just a few lunches and talks out on the patio and the birds have been devouring their bird food in the feeder.

I have been daydreaming more and more about a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. And more and more I want to learn the history of the northwest. We are surrounded by beautiful land and sea. Now that the rains are letting up, I look forward to more and more exploring.

The first desert pictures are images found on Pinterest. The below image is from The Joshua Tree House at Saguaro National Park…and the inspiration behind my desert dreams of late.

grateful for a week of vacation…

Scott went back to work today after being off for a week. I am thankful for the week of vacation. I am thankful to be back to a routine. You know the feeling, right?

We all have different kinds of friends in life. It adds the spice to living. When we announced we were moving to California, almost to a person our friends said, ‘We can’t wait to come visit you there!’ It’s something you say, no? It just seems like the appropriate thing to lessen the upcoming distance in your friendship.

But not our friend, Rachel. As soon as we found a house here in California, she sent me a text with her available dates and asked, ‘When can I come?’ (big grin) For any enneagram followers, Rachel is an 8. She waits for no man! She strikes out and gets what she wants. A weekend trip to the west coast was what she wanted.

And we were more than happy to oblige!

Therefore, our week of vacation was spent preparing for Rachel’s arrival, the daytrips we took with her, and then spending some quiet evenings alone after she left – vegging and relaxing. It was the perfect week!

It was great having Rachel here. She is a bundle of sunshine and energy. But we were also glad to have a representation of Kansas City walking around in our California home. It was a nice connection to our home town and our first out-of-town guest.

We picked her up from the airport and drove to San Francisco – defying the rain to stop our plans. We ate seafood on the boardwalk and shopped at an adorable Marketplace on the pier that was filled with artisan cheese shops, meat and fish markets and everything in between. All local shops. Scott and I both want to head back there soon with a cooler in the trunk to buy some freshly caught fish and make – what I’m sure will be – the most amazing charcuterie board ever! We always look forward to going back to San Francisco. There’s so much to see and do. And there’s nothing quite like the smell of ocean air all around you.

I told Rachel my goal for the weekend was for her to be able to go home and say, ‘We saw the ocean and then the next day, we saw the mountains.’ That’s the greatest thing about where we live – we are a short drive to both extremes.

On Day 2 we drove to Calaveras Big Tree State Park to gawk at the enormous sequoia trees. For me and Scott, it was our first time seeing snow for the year. It was chilly but certainly not unbearable. Besides, the enormity of the sequoias and the immense height of the pines kept your mind off any cold. It was a beautiful, picturesque drive. We stopped to take the occasional picture (but never enough for me!) and even popped into a local donut shop in a small town along the way. After seeing the trees (and eating our picnic lunch in the middle of the park…but inside the warm car!), we stopped in a few antique shops in towns we passed on our way up the foothills. It was the perfect little daytrip.


(Scott is standing on the stump of a giant sequoia. For reference, Scott is 6’3″!)

We arrived back home in mid-afternoon as the Kansas City Chiefs were playing their play-off game against the Indianapolis Colts. We recorded the game so we could watch it a little later than the start time. We sped through the commercials and eventually caught up to the end of the game to watch with the rest of the world as the Chiefs decidedly, 31-13. We are now gearing up for the game on Sunday against the New England Patriots for the AFC Championship. All fingers and toes are crossed.

On Day 3 – and sadly the last day Rachel was here – we drove around our nearby town of Folsom. We spend a lot of time in Folsom as well as attend church there. We wanted to show her our little historic church where we attend as well as some area shops. We did a little shopping, grabbed some lunch, then drove by the Folsom Prison (made famous by Johnny Cash) before driving to the airport in Sacramento for her return flight home. It was a jam-packed weekend and it felt invigorating and adventuresome.

For the remaining days of his vacation, Scott and I worked on a few projects around the house and did the normal running around town for this and that. But mostly, we took it easy. We watched some favorite movies and we watched some new ones. We played card games (complete with thick banter and bullying) and Scott made some wood projects in his workshop (which I will blog about soon.) I worked on my California Adventures album (also, an upcoming blog post.)

Scott and I are good at doing hard things together and doing slothful things together… we are a good team and you know what? I really miss him when he’s gone back to work after being off for a week…

We continue to enjoy our life out here on the west coast. It’s also a lot of fun when others come and enjoy it with us. Thanks for a great visit, Rachel!

San-Fran-Giving

Since Scott has to work on Thanksgiving Day, we celebrated a few days earlier by taking a day trip to San Francisco. It’s what I like to call a Scouting Trip – checking out all the sites we want to visit when friends and family come to town. It’s about a two-hour drive so an easy jog over to the bay. It was a perfect day (except a little bit of smokey haze from the fires.)

It’s hard to not think about earthquakes when crossing the many bridges in and out of San Francisco. Still, they are breathtakingly beautiful.

Seeing this couple sitting at the Bay’s edge made me think of the song, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’. I so badly wanted to know their love story…their life experiences. They were perfectly content to sit at the water’s edge and enjoy the weather, the people and the excited energy all around them.

We drove to the piers and walked around. While others saw seagulls and ships and tug boats and islands, I saw…

“Whoa!, look at these cool boards!!”

And Scott said…

“Those are awesome chains!”

We are a dorky couple.

Is this not a classic picture?! The water was literally feet in front of them. Ships and beauty was everywhere. And not one of them was seeing it.

Meanwhile we were all being side-eyed big time!

Fisherman’s Wharf was so wonderfully touristy. I loved it all!!

My last supper would definitely include crab. I am a big fan! And clam chowder? Gimme it alllll.

The Alcatraz Tour is definitely on our list of things to do in the near future. Looking at it, I couldn’t help but hear my son say he doesn’t buy the idea that no one could swim the distance to escape. He’s convinced it’s a definite possibility! 🙂

Total respect, cyclists. I might be able to swim to my escape from Alcatraz but there’s no way I could bike up these steep hills either!

I love, love, love, love brightly painted front doors. And even though we didn’t seek out the Painted Ladies homes (made even more famous in the Full House tv show) we did see beautifully painted homes along the waterfront. I wonder if their monthly mortgage payment is over $1000?? (hahahahahahahahahhahahaaaa)

And then we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s so amazing to stand at the base of such an iconic landmark of America.

The haze was a lens we saw everything through. But it was still mesmerizing. (I only took 6 zillion photos.)

At times, my camera had trouble focusing on anything because all it saw was haze. While some haziness is typical for San Francisco, the wildfire smoke wasn’t helping.

As the sun set, it was time for us to cross this beauty and head back home.

One of the biggest lessons we learned on our San Francisco Scouting Trip was to squeeze the day between rush hour traffic. Poor Scott – he drove bumper to bumper for hours. I’m sure some of it was Thanksgiving traffic as well but it made me wonder how many people must live and work between San Francisco and Sacramento. It took us almost double the time to get home than our quick trip out. That’s okay; it just meant more time in the car together. Music to listen to and reflections to be made.

This car made it worthwhile too. We saw it around Berkeley so I was hoping it was an English Lit professor making his way home after a trying day of lectures and student conferences.

Come visit us soon! We have a few ideas of where we can go explore together.

California or bust. (Spoiler alert: it was kind of a bust)

I had big plans to split up and blog our trip to southern California into segments based on all the places we visited.

Then the fires happened. It has been so sad here in California. And the thick smoke in the air is a constant reminder. That said, it was very interesting to be here while it was starting. I was fascinated – as a new Californian – to hear the new-to-me terminology and reporting. I learned so much that first day.

But as a result, we couldn’t get as close to the spots I had mapped out to visit. Hollywood, downtown LA, Calabasas, Santa Monica, etc. Instead, we went into the outskirts of Los Angeles and then took a different highway home. (Our original plan was to take Highway 101 on our way back north.)

So here’s a compilation of our few stops. Scott and I stayed in Ontario, California for a week – about an hour outside of LA – while he took classes for work. It happened during the daylight savings time change so our evenings were practically non-existent to be able to go sightseeing. So we planned on sight-seeing on our way home on Saturday and after class ended for the week at noon on Friday. The fires, however, raged on Thursday. So we quickly and deeply edited our list…

On Friday, Scott and I got in the car, checked the traffic to see which way to drive. Scott used to live in the Santa Ana mountains so he headed us further south toward Orange County. (You betcha I watched for Vicki, Shannon and Tamra at every intersection!!)

We took Highway 74 over the Santa Ana mountains which was absolutely fascinating for me – but I wasn’t driving on a two-way, winding road on the edge of the mountains. Scott did this even though heights are NOT his favorite thing!

(A very healthy grip -ha!)

I continue to be amazed at the difference in the mountains here as opposed to the Rocky Mountains – which I am more used to. But c’mon…where I’m from – the Midwest doesn’t have either so I have been loving all this new landscape to take in.

There’s been something about the mountains that I couldn’t quite pinpoint until this trip. I told Scott they look biblical! I can imagine the disciples walking through these valleys or Bin Laden hiding in a hole somewhere. I may be (…probably…) way off base but this is how I imagine the mountains of the Bible to look.

We stopped at the San Juan Capistrano Mission to look around. The swallows of Capistrano? This is the place. Swallows migrate 6,000 miles each year from Goya, Argentina to San Juan Capistrano in large groups.

But guess what I was more impressed with?! (just sort of joking) These cacti were huuuuuge! (Scott is 6’3″ tall for reference)

I mean! Again, I’m a Missouri gal. We don’t do succulents and cactus except in little pots on our windowsills. INSIDE! Is this even real?!

I really loved this cross and beads. It was large and heavy and….well, expensive. So I’ll settle for a picture of it.

We left the mission and drove to Dana Point Harbor at Doheny Beach. We walked out on the rock pier and I was NOT dressed for the occasion. But it was just a quick look at the Pacific Ocean for the first time since moving to California.

I promise to stop talking about them but this succulent was bigger than my head!

The picture below made me giggle a little bit. It made me think of all the filters you can buy on photo apps…

We ended up eating outside at a sweet restaurant. Salmon and delicious veggies at the perfect time as the sun set behind us. The cool breeze. The sloshing water on the boats. It was truly ideallyic.

…which ended with ice cream, of course. For the special cherry on top of a perfect evening.

These seals barking at the fishermen…… I die.

This was the view right outside our hotel. Three things to note: 1) Mt. Baldy loomed large everywhere we drove. 2) In-N-Out deliciousness and 3) All of this on G Street (big, stupid grin)

And then we drove home….

You see the mountains at the base of the picture. And the sad, red cloud of smoke hovering over it all.

The below picture is a little difficult to make out but you can see the Los Angeles city outline with the horrible cloud of smoke surrounding everything.

This was our view for quite a while as we headed back north – driving through the Sierra Nevada mountains.

By the time we got home around 9pm that night, our city of Fair Oaks, CA was thick with smoke and a very weird smell. It’s not a pleasant smell like burning wood or even a campfire. There is a chemical smell to it. Almost like a huge burning school nurse’s office. Our whole house had the smell – especially our garage. We tucked into bed, grateful to have a home to come back to. But also so very prayerful and saddened by those who were losing everything.

We had a wonderful trip together. We stopped at gorgeous fruit and nut farms and bought delicious fruits that we snacked on all the way to and from LA. We had delicious dinners together every night and saw amazingly beautiful country that was so very different than where we were raised. A lot of laughing and talking and being together in this new California Adventure. We were sorry we couldn’t see all the tourist sites but know that we’ll have other opportunities.

We are headed toward our mid-fifties and are determined to still experience and see new and exciting things. What a huge blessing. I am grateful, grateful, grateful.