Desert Blooms

Friends, I had the opportunity to head down to Borrego Springs a few weeks ago to check out the “Wildflower Superbloom.”  Words simply cannot describe this glorious scenery, and the smells… oh the smells.  Standing in the valley floaor at sunset, completely surrounded by a seemingly infinite supply of wildflowers, is a feeling I will never forget. IMG_8471We went to this valley the first evening and it was insane!  Driving by it’s a beautifully vast landscape, but getting out of the car and among the flowers was a different world.

The next day we headed to Anza-Borrego State Park – with the swarms of other folks.  I happened to be staying with some locals and we went the opposite way of the crowds and had these hills to ourselves (thank God!)

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Choose your path wisely 🙂

The purples mixed with yellows was just so lovely!

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Flowers or butterflies?

And of course the cacti…

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Mr. Bee getting busy.  If you can, zoom in!  

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How many types of flowers do you see…

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Look at the multi-color stems!  Looks like they belong underwater

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This fence!

What an incredible experience!  We were told the blooms hadn’t been this glorious in 38 years.  Blessed to have seen it.

God is good friends.  God is good.

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A Fall Day in Wine Country

Being a Californian, I’ve always heard “you haven’t seen a real fall”, and while I know it’s true, I do savor the glimpses I do get.  I am very blessed to live a hop, skip and a jump away from wine country, so I try to make it up as much as possible, especially when I know the leaves will be radiant with color.

For my latest trip I got spoiled.  Normally I do a decent amount of research into where I want to go to breakfast, wineries with the prettiest grounds, yada yada.  But for this trip my friend had everything planned out!  What a treat 🙂

Here’s what we did:

Stop 1, Breakfast at the Sunflower Café in Sonoma Square 


This place is just heavenly!  You order your food at the counter and find a seat.  It started pouring rain when we arrived, but we snatched an amazing covered table on the back patio where we were toasted by the heaters and serenaded by the sound of rain.  I’ve never dined outside while it was raining, and this experience alone was therapeutic.  All their food is sustainably sourced from local businesses – and is quite delicious!  We arrived around 10:30 on Saturday morning and had no trouble finding a spot.  After your meal, make sure to swing by the shop next door – Global Heart – where you can find fair trade goodies for all ages!  If you have extra time, stroll around the square, there are tons of cute spots to see.

Stop 2, Domaine Carneros, Napa 

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Driving up to this winery makes you feel like you’re approaching an English Country Château- it’s enchantingly elegant.  Stroll up the beautiful staircase and take in the colorful vineyards and roses on either side.  If it’s a nice day out, the patio will be loaded with champagne connoisseurs enjoying the view.  If it’s a rainy day, like ours was, get a reservation so they save you a seat in their lovely dining room.  You will spend a bit more on tastings here (starting at $30), but it’s worth every penny (*they offer a military discount for my fellow service members).  We sat here for literally hours, sipping our champagne and taking it all in.

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Stop 3, Oxbow Public Market, Napa


This place is ah-mazing.  The market is loaded with unique restaurants, goodies, gifts, you name it!  If we hadn’t still been stuffed on breakfast, we would have indulged in one of the tempting restaurants.  Since we were stuffed, we sauntered around the little “shops”, tasting olive oils and chocolate sauces, getting googly-eyed over cupcakes and assortments of cheeses and meats, smelled the extensive collection of every spice you could think of, and sniffed more flavors of bitters one knew existed.  We grabbed a couple of rainy day weather brews from Fieldwork Brewery and sat out on the patio and took it all in. We ended our day walking along the river, watching the locals fish.

While only hitting 3 spots doesn’t sound like much, we took our time at each spot, and before we knew it, it was evening.  This truly was a beautiful, delicious, and leisurely day.  Now, go, explore, indulge, have fun!  Surround yourself with good company, have good conversations, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.

God id good friends.  God is good.

The simple joy … 

I was blessed to spend this weekend at Yosemite National Park – my “happiest place on earth”. Though the scenery was glorious, my joy was found in the dainty wildflowers dancing by the stream near my cottage in the woods. 

Happy 1st Day of Spring 2016

 

Russian River Wine Tasting

Another post about my jaunts in wine country…

Today was absolutely lovely!  We only tasted at 2 spots – but they both were wonderful!

Stop #1: Korbel Champagne Cellers

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$9 for a bottle of delicious Champagne!  I bought the Brut Rose.  YUM!

FREE Champagne tasting!  Everything I had was delicious, and the place is beautiful.  They also have a little market to buy snacks from to picnic.  Bottles of Champagne average around $14!  Can’t beat it.  Also, for my fellow military folks, they generously offer 25% off purchased.

Stop #2: Lunch at Russian River Pub 

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As seen on Diners, Drive ins & Dives.  Feeling a little perked from Korbel, we wanted something hearty and delicious.  We had reservations elsewhere, but decided to give this one a go, and we’re super glad we did!

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And the best spot yet…..♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Stop #3: Russian River Vineyards

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Don’t take this lightly… you MUST go here.  This place, and the staff, has left me with feelings of packing up life and moving to Forestville.  It’s tranquil, quaint, delicious, darling… it’s everything you want.  The grounds are gorgeous, the wine is decadent and they have a delicious looking menu (we were too full to eat!).  They too are generous to us military folks by offering complimentary tasting and 10% off purchases.  A must go.

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’twas a beautiful day and a beautiful drive.  So blessed to live this close to paradise!  God is good friends, God is good.

Murphys, CA (you simply MUST go!)

Oh how I love Murphys.   It tis the quaintest little town, full of darling shops, wineries, and delicious restaurants.  It’s super cozy, and you’ll fall in love upon arrival!

On President’s Day weekend they do a “Wine Weekend” where you pay $20 for a glass and get to taste in almost all of the store front wineries (there’s a lot!).  I’ve been the last two years, and have happened upon beautiful weekends!  The drive up from the Bay Area is gorgeous, and only takes 2/5 hours.

My mood for the weekend 🙂 The sun is shining, the wine is flowing, it’s a great day.IMG_2263Make sure to grab a coffee and pastry (their savory scones are to die for!) from Aria Bakery & Espresso Cafe and take a 2 min stroll to the creek!  

If you’re hungry for a bigger breakfast, swing by the Murphy’s Hotel.  Great portions and good prices.  Grab a seat on the patio if you can!IMG_2276

History buff?  The town is full of historic buildings, and there’s a cool museum too!

Lavender Heaven!  Yes, Lavender Ridge is a winery (wine is ok…) their shop is absolutely darling, and they have everything lavender  you could possibly want!  As well a cheese pairings.  A must go.

Need a sweet treat?  Or two?  Swing by Lila & Sage’s Cupcake store and drool over the delicious cakes, AND hop on over to the Peppermint Stick for a decadent shake!

For dinner we hit the new Luck Penny Public House, and boy o boy were my fish & chips delicious. They also have live music!  Super cute joint.

Each building in Murphys is darling!  Such old charm mixed with shabby chic.

I hope you’ll trust me when I say GO TO MURPHYS!  You won’t regret it.

God is good friends, God is good.

A Day in the North Bay

After an extremely lazy day 1 of 2016 (I mean LAZY!) I had to be out an about the next day.  I can only sit on my painfully comfortable couch for so long…

Since we were long overdue with our wine pickup, we decided to make a day of it – and it twas lovely!

Breakfast in Petaluma
Tea Room Cafe (A MUST!!) 316 Western Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952
You may have to wait in line, but it’s worth it!  We showed up around 11:00am on a Saturday and had no trouble finding a table.  We had the croissant breakfast sandwich and the chorizo scramble, with a chai latte and coffee.  Everything was delicious.  Don’t forgot to stop at the darling little shop next door (got this cute red beanie there)!

Wine tasting and relaxing
Paradise Ridge Winery  4545 Thomas Lake Harris Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
We became members here… so you know it’s good!  Love love love this place.  The grounds are gorgeous – they have TONS of artwork/sculptures all throughout.  The tasting room is super cozy and the view is lovely.  This was the first place that I loved all the wines – red and white!  Definitely check this out.

Cruise down HWY 12 and enjoy the scenery between spots!!

Sipping tea and strolling
Sonoma Plaza 453 1st St E, Sonoma, CA 95476
There are so many great shops here!  From wine shops, to estate jewelry, from consignment boutiques to “general stores”.  A must stop if you’re in the area.  The plaza encompasses a beautiful park, and has plenty of delicious restaurants to choose from!

Basque Boulangerie 460 First Street East, Sonoma, CA 95476
We stopped here for a mocha, hot tea and chocolate covered macaroon.  YUM!

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A truly lovely way to start out the new year!

A Fall Day in Apple Hill

First off, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful with loved ones and good food!  Thought I would share a fun fall post!

I’ve been wanting to go to Apple Hill for years, and this year, we went!  On our way home from a Tahoe getaway – we made a little pit stop.  Apple Hill is literally right off HWY 50 between Pollock Pines and Placerville – with lots of great stops within seconds of each other.

Not having a clue where to go, I did a quick yelp review – and was very pleased with my stops:

Bodhaine Ranch
YOU MUST STOP FOR PIE!  We got a slice of raspberry sour cream pie and it was insane… if you listen to anything I say, stop here for a slice o pie!  It was also a great stop to take some fall family photos.

Bill’s Apples and Felicia’s Dolls
To be honest, we just made a quick stop here to walk the grounds.  The flowers were glorious, and they handed out FREE spiral sliced apples.  I didn’t go into the Doll shop because, well, I don’t like dolls, but it was a cute brief stop.

Rainbow Orchards
GET AN APPLE CIDER DONUT!  Trust me… yes, again.  They are so delicious!  There’s also free samples of the apple cider, overflowing pumpkins and plenty of picnic tables.  Another photo shoot opportunity too 🙂

Enjoy your day in Apple Hill!

God id good friends.  God is good.

SF Date Night! Redford & Magic

In an effort to break the cycle of lounging on the couch, watching re-runs of Big Bang Theory, I decided to plan a fun date night out in the city.

First off, I am not a city girl.  I avoid the city at all costs.  Oh, and by “city” I am referring to San Francisco.  On the other hand, my partner is a city boy, and gets giddy over the sky scrapers and city scape.  Ergo, I decided to plan a date I knew he would love.   Boo loves magic, and having never seen a magic show myself, I thought I would give it a go.  I did a simple yelp review and came across the Marrakech Magic Theater.  I figured I would give it a shot, after all, it did have 240 five-star reviews!  I purchased tickets from www.goldstar.com and saved 50%!  They only had tickets for the 9pm show – so I sought out a cool dinner spot – and was pleased with my selection.  We ended up with a corner booth at Redford – a “hipster american rustic chic” spot that we loved!

Redford

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LOVE the look of Redford!

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You HAVE to get the Antipasto plate. Have to. We didn’t even have room for dinner after this! Absolutely delicious.

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This tastes even better than it looks…

Marrakech Magic Theater

The best part is that this is a show for an intimate group.  There was maybe 25 folks in the room – and almost everyone got to assist in the show!  Was a blast and very deceiving…

IMG_0826 IMG_0832Keep the spark alive!  Plan a fun date night you know your partner will love!

A day of Zen

As a veteran, programs and logistics coordinator for a nonprofit organization serving veterans, and community outreach coordinator for a park district, I was invited to attend a Veterans Wellness Day at Green Gulch Farms & Zen Center.

I listen to zen music when falling asleep, enjoy the occasional yoga session, and need those quiet moments to myself, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for this event.

This was an entire day of essentially just being. There was some group talk, lunch, exploration of the grounds and walking to the beach…but overall, not much.  Again, I’m happy to just be but 8 hours of mellowing out was a bit much for me.

Though doing a Zen day may not be for me, it was an incredibly healing experience for a lot of the repeat veterans.  It did however, enlighten me. I have repeatedly said I’d like to live out in the woods, with very few people, where its peaceful and quiet. Well, this spot was out in the middle of nowhere with not a lot of people, and extremely quiet. Turns out that’s not the life for me!

Here’s some snapshots of the Zen Center and the grounds.  Happy meditating!


                              

‘Tis the Season for Festivals!

I LOVE a good festival.  Beer Festivals, Art & Wines, Street Fairs, you name it.  The sun, the greasy, sweet of corn dogs, and the delicious beverages – you can’t beat it!

The season is just kicking off – and I’ve had a blast at the 2 festivals I attended.

Festival:  Bay Area Craft Beer Festival

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2 Date:  18 April, 2015 (every year in April)
Location:  Downtown Martinez, CA
Cost: $35 – buy in advance – they sell out!
Info:  http://www.bayareacraftbeerfestival.com/
Highlights:  Good beer (though I wasn’t overly impressed – I thought the 2014 selection was better) good food (we indulged in a Indian Tika Masala wrap – YUM), free shuttle from Concord Bart.
Bummers:  There’s just so many people, and it’s a relatively small space, you need to get there about an hour early – the line to get in gets insanely long!

Festival:  Walnut Creek Art & Wine

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5Date:  30 & 31 May 2015
Location:  Heather Farms Park, Walnut Creek
Cost: FREE!
Info:  http://www.artwinefestivalwc.com/
Highlights:  Good beer & wine, lots of good food options, great music playing all weekend, variety of arts & crafts, kids area, dogs welcome, free shuttle from Walnut Creek Bart and Shadelands Business Park.
Bummers:  None!

Here’s some other festivals I plan to attend:

Todos Santos Music & Market Series – http://www.cityofconcord.org/page.asp?pid=3000
Every Thursday Evenings, May – September, Todos Santos Park, Concord, CA

First Fridays in the Park – http://visitmurphys.com/first-fridays-in-the-park/
Murphys, CA

Operation Red, White and Brew – http://www.eventbrite.com/e/operation-red-white-brew-wine-craft-beer-tasting-event-benefiting-contra-costa-blue-star-moms-tickets-16213403727
June 28, 2015 in Martinez, CA

Lafayette Art & Wine Festival (my favorite!) – http://www.lafayettechamber.org/events/art-wine-festival/
September 19 & 20, 2015

Here’s some links to how I find out about what’s going on:

http://calendar.insidebayarea.com/
http://sf.funcheap.com/
http://www.visitsfbayarea.com/events
http://www.hiddensf.com/390-best-sf-bay-area-events.html
http://www.sfstation.com/music/calendar/bay-area/

If you have any event suggestions, or other ways to find out what’s going on in your area – please share!