Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!!!!

The pumpkins are carved, the candy is purchased, and the costumes are ready.  This can only mean that the spookiest day of the year is finally here!  That's right folks, IT'S HALLOWEEN!!!!!  

Harry Potter Pumpkin
Today, you can find me rocking my Hocus Pocus shirt and enjoying miniature forms of my favorite candy!  In fact, I think I might even have a candy and wine pairing party! 

My shirt!  You can find one here.

Later tonight, Muffin, the fur children, and I will be handing out candy on Main Street in our hometown! After the family fun, you will find us playing THIS Hocus Pocus themed game!

Check back Monday to see all of the Halloween festivities!  Hope your day is full of Candy Corn and Spooky Fun!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

California Part 3: The Redwoods and Morgan's Wedding

It's the final edition of the recap of our California Trip!

Once we left Sonoma, it was time to head to the Redwoods and MORGAN's WEDDING!!!!  On the way, I begged politely asked Daniel to stop at a Drive-Thru Tree for me!  We took a few wrong turns (I really do need to figure that whole left vs. right thing) but got there in one piece.  Daniel drove through it the first time, but the second time was all me.  I was terrified to hit the sides since there were only a few inches of clearance on each side!

A car driving through the tree.

Once we got to our hotel, it was time for the first night of Morgan and Angus's wedding festivities.  Unfortunately, I was terrible and didn't take pictures of the first night.  It was gorgeous!  They had a bonfire in the redwoods complete with a delicious food truck!  

The next day (aka the WEDDING DAY), Muffin and I woke up and decided to drive through the Avenue of the Giants.  It was insanely beautiful.  The trees are indescribable.  One of my favorite parts of the "Avenue" were the roadside stands.  The below picture is a truck made from the trunk of a Redwood.

After our drive, it was time to go get Morgan ready.  I may or may not have been a weepy mess the entire wedding day.  Morgan and I have been friends since High School and it is just so crazy that we are both married now.  I remember being in our dorm room watching marathons of The OC and figuring out ways to sneak off the campus of our boarding school so we could see a movie.  It doesn't seem like so much time has passed, but I feel lucky to have her as my friend through so many phases of life.

Next, it was wedding time.  It was the. most. gorgeous. venue!  The Redwoods feel so humbling and spiritual.  Her wedding had a sense of magic, and Morgan and Angus began their life together in such a special place!

A print given to Morgan from our friend Olivia.  It's even more special because it was inspired by her engagement pictures.

You can really see the beauty of the trees here.

The sunshine broke through the trees during their vows.  Yep, it made me cry.

Face painting during the reception.
And just like that, it was time to head home.  We had the best time exploring different parts of California, but most importantly, celebrating a special life moment with some of the most amazing people I know!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

California Trip Part 2: Sonoma

When we left San Francisco, we decided to take a scenic drive up Highway 1 on the California Coast.  Our little Ford Focus rental handled the drive through death defying cliffs with flying colors. We also learned (much to my chagrin) that Daniel has a future as a race car driver!

Gorgeous views!
A lookout point we stopped to visit along the way.

Clearly we are new to selfies.
We passed tons of cow pastures on our way to Santa Rosa.
We decided to stay in Santa Rosa during our time in Sonoma.  They have a great downtown area and is a reasonable distance from the Redwoods and San Francisco.

When we got settled in at our hotel (the Hyatt Vineyard Creek...I would definitely recommend), Muffin and I decided to go to a wine tasting room downtown.  We tried two different flights and had a great time in the cool California air.

We then decided it was time to head back to the hotel and find a place to eat dinner.  We settled on another french restaurant (apparently we were on a kick).  This place had the BEST escargot.  I know some readers are losing their minds over my love of snails...but I just can't help it!  They have such a rich taste and are a Katie and Daniel favorite!

Our amazing escargot!
The next morning we woke up bright and early for our day.  We scheduled our wine tour for mid-morning and had a few errands to get out of the way before it was time for our tour guide to arrive.  We stopped by a local breakfast place and again ate some amazing food! Next up was a haircut for Daniel.  The barbershop we went to was really interesting--they offered us bourbon at 9 am.  Needless to say, that was a little early for us!

Daniel's yummy huevos rancheros

Daniel's haircut
 We then headed back to the hotel to meet our tour guide for our day of wine tasting.  We used Wine Country Journeys, and I HIGHLY recommend them.  We went to four vineyards that produce 5,000 cases, or less, of wine per year.  For those who might not know a lot about wine production, these are tiny vineyards that would be hard to discover at home.  I think our favorite of the four was J. Rickards.  It's a small vineyard that is run by a former cattle rancher.

The best part of going to such small vineyards, however, was being there during harvest time.  Each vineyard was full of activity and we got to experience all of it.  We ate grapes from the vines, we ate grapes in harvest buckets, and ate grapes just about everywhere!  We also got to taste freshly pressed grapes, wine in various stages of fermentation, and had barrel pours of aging wine.  The best part was getting to meet so many of the vineyard owners.  I loved hearing their stories and perspectives about wine.

Eating harvested grapes.
Gorgeous vineyard views.

Grapes ready for harvest (the yellowing leaves are a big indicator that it's time to harvest).

One vineyard made the cutest custom sign for us!
 Once we got "home," we wanted some nice relaxation time in the hotel courtyard.  We read books, ate local cheeses, and got a small dinner at the hotel.  After dinner, we decided to read some more and relax in the hot tub.

Oh, the hot tub.  There is just something about my face that says tell me your deepest (and most awkward) secrets and I will be here to support you.  Let's keep in perspective that Daniel was 100% against going in the hot tub for this very reason--I always make interesting friends wherever we go.  However, Muffin is sweet and decided to let me win this one.  So, we get in the hot tub where there is already a couple enjoying their evening.  We begin to read immediately in order to A.  accomplish our mission of relaxing and B. mind our own business.  Next thing you know I am in a full on conversation about knee surgery, marriage, planning a wedding, and, worst of all, mediating an argument between this couple about their wedding.  After 2 hours of this, they decided to call it a night and Muffin just hung his head with amusement.

 The next morning, we woke up to explore a few more vineyards before heading to Morgan's wedding venue. We spent the day at some larger vineyards that were equally as fun and delicious as the smaller ones we visited the day before.  Korbel made it to my Sonoma bucket list since it was my favorite drink in college.  We couldn't leave without visiting!  We also went to Rodney Strong and J vineyards (both amazing and highly recommended wines).

Korbel, in it's original building since opening in the 1800's.
Wine and food pairing.
Amazing food for our wine pairing.
And just like that, we were off for Part 3 of our California tour!  Wine country is officially the most relaxing place I've ever been!  We had a great time, but were even more excited to head to Morgan's special day!  Stay tuned for Part 3.

Monday, October 20, 2014

California Trip Part 1: San Francisco

I'm finally posting about our trip to California!  First up, San Francisco!

My friend Morgan (who I've loved even longer than muffin) was getting married in the California Redwoods. Daniel and I decided to make our journey to her wedding a vacation!  To start the trip, we decided to fly into San Francisco and work our way up California to her gorgeous venue.   Neither of us had ever been farther west than Denver, so we were very excited to see California.

After our plane landed, we spent our afternoon exploring San Francisco--Fisherman's Wharf to be specific.  We did have to split the afternoon in half so that I could attend my Master's Class online (on east coast time).  It gave our feet a nice little break :)


Playing in the sand

Amazing sourdough bread!

I think the Sea Lions at Pier 39 might be the cutest things I've ever seen!

Talk about a diabetic overload!

That night, after some free beverages at the hotel, we decided to go on a little dinner adventure.  The concierge gave us a great dinner suggestion in an area called "Little Europe."   Little Europe is actually a small hidden street called Belden Place.  Here, each restaurant serves a different european country's specialty food. It wasn't exactly close to our hotel, so we hopped on some public transportation and made our way there.  I really think public transportation and walking are some of the best ways to get to know a city!  

When we got to Belden Place, we decided to try out Café Bastille (serving amazing french food).  Café Bastille held approximately 10 tables with some extra seating outside.  It was incredibly romantic and we had the best time there! It also didn't hurt that the food and wine were pure magic!

Kobe Beef Tartare with a Quail Egg and Crème Fraîche 

Cauliflower Soup

Cesar Salad with Grilled Anchovies

Mussels in White Wine, Shallots, and Garlic

NY Strip with Frites
We began our second day in San Francisco with a Zagat Breakfast suggestion:  Mama's.   We got there before the restaurant fully opened and waited about an hour in line.  It was just. that. good. I had had Dungeness Crab Cake Benedict and Daniel tried the Dungeness Crab Omelette.  They were both fabulous!

We decided to walk off our breakfast in China Town (and a little shopping in Union Square).  I loved all the sights and sounds of China Town, but it can also be overwhelming for people like me that don't deal well with crowds.  Luckily, Daniel helped me navigate traffic so I could enjoy all of the colors and bustle of the area.

Gorgeous street lamps

Posing at the Dragon Gate

Muffin posing at the Dragon Gate
 After shopping, we had to check another item off of our San Francisco bucket list: riding a trolley.  It was a great experience, but it can also be scary when another trolley passes at full speed and is a mere 2 inches away from your face!

After the trolley, we loaded up our rental car and decided to drive to the last places on the bucket list before heading to our next stop (Sonoma).

Full House homes

Just call me Jack Kerouac at Haight and Ashbury

After driving on Lombard or Crooked Street

View of the Golden Gate as we were heading north

Driving to Sonoma!

As you can see, we had a short time in San Francisco, but I feel like we did absolutely as much as we could!  I love to make a bucket list with Muffin before we go on a trip so that we both see and do everything we want.  It's even more important when you have a short time in one place.  We had a great time exploring San Francisco together.  Stay tuned for Part 2: Sonoma!