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.

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!

Touring London in 2 days!

Me and my sweets in front of the London Eye

Me and my sweets in front of the London Eye

Believe it or not, it can be done!  I’d encourage my fellow travelers to allow an extra day or two if time allows, but if not, put on your running shoes 🙂   For me, traveling to Europe has to include multiple stops.  In planning an Ireland vacation, we decided to add an extra 2 days to stop off in London. I think we had a total of 40 hours or so in London … it was a whirlwind, but we hit a lot of the major destinations and had a blast!

Evening 1:

After landing in the afternoon, checking in and freshening up – we hit the town!  My partner had friends in London – so we met somewhere near the Westminster Tube, strolled around and grabbed a bite, and got to see River Thames, Big Ben & the House of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) and the London Eye as evening set in.  We strolled around and stumbled upon the Sherlock Holmes Pub which was exactly what I pictured a London pub to be like – young drunks stumbling out, the interior smelling of sweet old beer, and a charming exterior!

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Silhouette of Big Ben & House of Parliament

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London Eye, Big Ben & River Thames

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Sherlock Holmes Pub

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Big Ben

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Day 2:

I too have a friend in England – about an hour and a half outside of London, whom I haven’t seen in 15 years.  When I told him I would be in London for 2 days, he insisted on spending some time with us.  I figured we would hang out for a few hours … but his agenda was a bit different.  We met around 8:30am and didn’t stop touring until 7:30ish… I was exhausted, but glad we got to see so many hotspots!

We started the day with the 8:00am Holy Communion Service at Westminster Abbey. It was really neat to sit in this amazing historical site and participate in such a special ceremony.  It was a quick service – and this is a free opportunity to get into the Abbey!

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The beautiful Westminster Abbey

After the service we strolled to Whitehall to watch the Horse Guards Parade, and then to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guards.  Though both spots were packed with tourists – it was really neat to experience this tradition.  And yes, we took the obligatory photo with the guard.  Poor guy…

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Horse Guards Ceremony

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Changing of the Guards

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We then hit Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.  We just peeked in so I could see an original Van Gogh – but I wish we would have spent more time there.  We grabbed a quick bite (fish & chips of course…) and were on our way.

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Trafalgar Square

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National Gallery

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Next we went to the Tate Modern museum – but just the inside’s outside…. We had to walk through the museum to get to this amazing outdoor space – with people picnicking, kids playing in the water and people sunbathing. (I’m going off memory but I think this is behind the Tate Modern…)

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Next we strolled along the River Thames, attempted to get a beverage at an overly packed bar – failed.  Enjoyed some seasoned street nuts… whatever they were, they’re delicious, and ended up at Tower Bridge.  Crossed over and saw the Tower of London (not much of a tower…), St. Paul’s Cathedral, and wrapped up our last evening with a delicious meal of Guinness stew and sausage with colcannon.  We walked over 7 miles and were completely exhausted!

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Tower Bridge

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Me and Boo – beyond exhausted at this point!

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The “Tower” of London (and my handsome beau)

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The last London Supper

The last London Supper

Final Day: 

For our final day we didn’t have to head out until noonish – so we decided to head back to Trafalgar Square, and to our joy, stumbled upon Covent Gardens.  You must go here!  We strolled through the little shops, and ended up getting some coffee & pastries and just hanging out.  Loved this spot!

Darling pastry shop in/near Covent Gardens

Darling pastry shop in/near Covent Gardens

It was a whirlwind but we had an incredible time in London!

Crater Laker & Bend, Oregon

I’ve always imagined I would end up in a small, mountain type town, with beautiful lakes and snow capped mountains, great restaurants with outdoor seating, and residents really making it feel like a community.  Though I have dreamed of this place, I have never actually been to said destination.  Then, I went to Bend.

On the cruise up we decided to swing by Crater Lake.  WOW!  This place is gorgeous! It almost looks fake – this volcano inside a volcano!  A must see if cruising through southern Oregon.  I would also recommend staying at the Green Springs Inn & Cabins outside of Ashland.  It was in the middle of the… forest?… and we loved it!  The rooms were amazing – and the restaurant was great!  The gift shop even had a box for PCT hikers like I read about in Wild!

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Ah yes, Bend.  Bend is… well, it’s perfect.  It’s technically high desert, but Mt. Bachelor sits just a stones throw away, snow capped even in mid summer.  The downtown is absolutely delightful, with the Deschutes Rivers meandering through – full of folks floatin’. You can stroll the darling shops, great restaurants, craft breweries and chat with all the NICE people!  We actually saw a sticker saying “Be nice, you’re in Bend“.  Ha!

We had the privilege to spend the 4th of the July weekend there – and boy oh boy do they do it big!  The parade was massive, and after the parade everyone heads down to the park by the river for a huge festival.  Tons of booths, drinks, food, games – you name it.

Accommodations:
We rented the cutest studio!  Just 2 blocks from downtown and perfect!IMG_8409 IMG_8410IMG_8412 IMG_8411

Exploration of the Cascade Lakes:

Devil’s Lake – The most clear, turquoise lake I have ever seen!  And freeeeezing!

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Loved this shot I got of some paddlers!

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Todd Lake – super peaceful and secluded with beautiful views from the parking lot!

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Mt. Bachelor in the background

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Elk Lake – not a great shot – but a perfect spot to rent a kayak or lounge on the beach.

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4th of July Madness!  This is where you want to celebrate ‘merica!

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Yes, that’s a dog up there 😦

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Pano of the post parade festivities!

Craft Breweries! 

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Side trip up to Sisters
must do!  

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The town of Sisters is absolutely darling – and not far from Bend. You MUST eat at Cottonwood Cafe!

First Fridays! SO happy we stumbled upon this!  I would actually encourage you to plan your trip to Bend during a First Friday.  All of the shops offer free beer/wine/cocktails and snacks and the whole town comes out!  There’s live music on just about every corner, and it really solidifies the sense of community.

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Beautiful Bend

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We had an incredible time, and can’t wait to return!  (I might be actively seeking career opportunities…)

Until next time… I’ll be dreaming of Bend.

God is good friends.  God is good.

Have you ever…?

 …just packed up and left? Realized where you are at this moment is maybe not where you’re supposed to be.  

Have you ever…
Had the feeling that “this can’t be it”.  This can’t be my life for the next 40 years…

Have you ever…
Taken a risk, left it all and hoped for the best?  Knowing it may be a challenge, a struggle, but oh so worth it?

If so, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to hear how you got the courage, the strength, and just left.  
Lately I’ve been day dreaming of moving to another country, starting life over, simplifying everything… It sounds like a dream. Perhaps temporary until the real world sucks me back and forces me into a career …  But I feel like it’s an adventure I need to indulge in before real life happens.

God is good friends. God is good.

God’s Country: Yosemite Valley

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir
IMG_8362My childhood summer vacations were spent exploring around Yosemite Valley, wondering through the Ahwahnee dreaming of what it would be like to stay there, basking in the sun and playing in the freezing cold river, laying in the meadow gazing up El Capitan & Half Dome, and taking deep, deep breaths of rejuvenating mountain air.  As a kid we stayed in the cabins, which were flooded and ruined in 1997, so we moved to Yosemite Lodge.  My brother and I would be packed up in my dad’s old, yellow Mercedes, and meet all his buddies and their kids.  It was the greatest experience a kid could ask for.  Yosemite is home for me.  

If you’ve never been to Yosemite Valley, it’s hard to describe the feeling you get looking up at the massive granite walls surrounding you.  It’s humbling and awe-inspiring; it’s unreal.  I try to go at least once a year, either for a day trip or a weekend of camping.  To get a weekend campsite is a bit of a challenge – as it fills up right when reservations open.  I was fortunate enough to grab the last spot in North Pines Campground for this weekend.

The weather was overcast  when we rolled in on Friday afternoon, so we unpacked and rode around (you must bring bikes!) the valley.  It was my beau’s first time, so it was fun for me to take him around.  We went to shops in the Yosemite Village, Ansel Adam’s store, walked around the Indian site and explored the museum, and wrapped up with some hot coco from the cafeteria at Yosemite Lodge.  We came back to our site, lit a fire, made some dinner (steak fajitas!) and tucked in with a good book (the BFG – Roald Dahl) right as the rain rolled in.

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If I ever get married (again) it’s happening here!

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Even though we’re in a drought, the falls were mighty!

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On Saturday – we woke up to a b-e-a-utiful day!  We woke up leisurley, enjoyed some breakfast and hoped on our bikes to lower Yosemite falls.  We walked up the trail and enjoyed the views – and debated doing the much longer hike to the upper falls, and decided a drink at the Ahwahnee sounded a little better!  Ha!  We got a seat on the patio, ordered coffee, tea and cheesecake (of course) and enjoyed our afternoon.  We then went back to the site for a little nap, and got back on our bikes to stroll around Mirror Pond and Curry Village.  We wrapped up the evening with chili and cornbread by the fire.

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Best spot in the house!

Sunday morning we woke, enjoyed some delicious blueberry pancakes and packed up camp.  As we were heading out, we realized we had a dead battery!  Luckily, we had a very nice neighbor who jump started us, and we were on our way.

I truly can’t express how amazing Yosemite is.  There’s places to stay (and eat) for any budget, tons of hikes, amazing scenery and neat things to do.  It’s a must visit for anyone!

Oh ya, we saw this guy too:

God is good friends.  God is good.