Sideways to Napa – part two

(continued from Part One)

If we saw nothing else but the  countryside along the way, the daytrip would have been worth it (two hours our house.) The grass is a brilliant, neon green right now.

The below picture is a blurry snapshot from the car window as we sped past. But with all the luscious grapes being grown, I’d pick the cactus any day over the eventual wine! 🙂

Working the steep hills with huge, brimmed hats on vs palatial homes sitting up above. It was an interesting contrast.

This bookstore was a dream. Copperfield’s Books. I left with a long list of books to add to my To Buy list. I’m so glad to be connected to Copperfield’s now.

Calistoga was more shop-friendly. Antique shops and knick-knacks. Nearby there is a geyser park and there are natural hot springs mineral spas all around this area of California. To recap: massages, spas, antiques, books and wine. It’s a total package!

I don’t know why but I fell head over heels in love with this adorable travel lodge. It was so cute and neat as a pin. Mid-century greatness. Calistoga Motor Lodge

Matching bicycles for the guests to get around town… So adorable.

Sometimes we feel very lucky when we accidentally fall into a good daytrip. And other times, it seems like God is directing our path… -ha!

Such a beautiful place for a wine tasting, no??

We happened upon Bale Grist Mill – a historic mill built in 1846 by Edward Turner Bale.

This fully restored water-powered grist mill still grinds grain.  Visitors can watch the original set of French Buhr millstones in action when the miller grinds grain into Bale Mill flours and meals. In the late 1800s, Napa Valley farmers brought their grain to the mill where it was placed into the boot of an elevator to be mechanically transported upstairs to be cleaned and sifted by various types of equipment – a technical wonder for the Pioneers. The slow turning of the old grind stones gives the fresh meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellowbread, shortening bread and spoon bread.

I was equally fascinated by the plants growing on the stone wall out front. If I’m not mistaken, I believe those are pilea growing out front (unless their nasturtium – but that’s not the bloom for a nasturtium.)

Notice the telephone pole below. Then the size of the pine tree next to it. Scott noticed it first – we definitely drove away from palm trees and into the huge, straight pines of the Pacific Northwest.

We took a different way home than the way we came (doubling our adventure.) The way home was perfectly encapsulated in the sign below. VERY curvy. Not dangerously, but it kept us on our toes as we wound down and up and down again, around the lake on the other side of the mountain, Lake Berryessa.

Each time we go through a rocky pass, I wish my daughter-in-law, Ryann, was in the car. She’s a geologist and could explain their formations.

What a day. What a day. What a day. We have gone south, west and north now. Our next destination is to go east to Lake Tahoe (we’re waiting for the snow to die down some first.) We have a lot of family coming at the end of May and that’s on the agenda – as is discovering new things at the spots we’ve already visited briefly.

There are ups and downs about being in a new area of the country. But the endless adventures and explorations are certainly a plus. We live in the middle of many different kinds of landscape and culture. Just like all the movies and lore that has gone before it, Napa Valley was a dream-like place filled with wealth and breath-taking scenery. It’s hard to believe some of these places truly exist.

Come visit us soon and we’ll go exploring again together!

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.

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, by Amor Towles

A very entertaining, albeit somewhat long-winded, novel.

I’ve seen the buzz about this book all over my instagram. I ordered it months ago from Book of the Month, but only recently sat down to give it my full attention.

SYNOPSIS:
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is accused of being an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin in Moscow. He’s given a 100 square foot attic room. While his world is drastically reduced, his experiences are vastly expanded around him in this bustling, luxury hotel – located in the midst of tumultuous change in Russia.

MY SUMMARY:
While I am sorely lacking in Russian knowledge, the book kindly led me along in its color and history. While Russian history played a backdrop to the storyline, the real characters took place within the confines of the Metropol. Elegant actresses, humble seamstresses, demonstrative chefs and shy but inquisitive young children. Towles does a brilliant job of creating characters with vastly different backgrounds and personalities, but all intricately linked to our main character, Count Rostov, His Excellency. The Count is genteel and elegant – making this a soothing book to read in the midst of so much ugly politicking in our own current world. His afternoon tea, thoughtful gifts and Old World self-deference was refreshing and endearing.

As with many other storylines in literary history – Eloise, for one – the setting of an elegant hotel will never disappoint. Towles thoroughly…arguably too much at times…develops each character so that their motives and personalities are well known to his readers. There were times he might have lost me, but the storyline kept me in its clutches. And I am so thankful that it did.

Perhaps it is simply because I read it during rainy, wintery days here in California, but A Gentleman in Moscow seems like the perfect cold winter’s day relief.

bucolic English gardens and hippie reefer rests

Do you remember singing the song as a kid Going on a Bear Hunt? You’d rustle through the grass – making the appropriate noises with your hands. You’d stomp through the woods, stomping your feet to the beat.

The antique hunt is not much different. You firmly place the list of items you’re searching for in your mind, affixed securely. Your bag is empty, awaiting the found treasures. I suppose anything worth doing – bear gathering or dinnerware collecting – is worth sound effects and mental calisthenics.

Here are a few of the things I found on our recent antique shop hopping through northern California…

By far, this sugar bowl – even without it’s beautiful lid – was my favorite find. Well, let me be more accurate: It was Scott who found it. I suppose that is what made it all the more special. He called to me from a few aisles over, knowing I was focused on finding transferware.

I have heard it said that transferware is a staple of the south. I suppose that’s why it reminds me of my mother so much. We had lots of Johnson Bros dinnerware around our home growing up. Serene and usually pastoral scenes printed (transferred) onto ceramics – a practice dating back to 18th century England.

I reluctantly left my aisle (carefully eyeing each item along the way and noting where I was when I heard Scott say my name.) He lifted this lone sugar bowl and asked, ‘Do you like this one?’

Yes. Yes I do. It’s soft reddish pink hue was so lovely and elegant. I imagined it as a part of a grandly set table and wondered how much trouble the child got into when the sugar bowl lid was found broken in the back of their closet. -heehee If for no other reason, I wanted it to remember the pattern. This particular pattern will be on the top of my mental list while searching in the future.

This 1991 dated dish was special to me too since that’s the year my daughter, Hannah, was born. God Bless Our House Throughout 1991. And boy did he ever.

This cigarette holder took on a whole other twist, however. We aren’t smokers and I can’t imagine anyone ever coming over and actually smoking inside the house, but I really loved it’s faded red ship and sails. However, the checkout lady and Scott decided it would also make a nice joint holder – and there went my elegant thoughts of it, right out the window! – ha!!

I straight up bought this old book based on its title. I can’t think of a better way to go through life: laughing and living.

My favorite – and cheapest! – place to shop is my own house. I have tubs in the garage that I regularly go out and rifle through to find something old to make new again. These are all old items I’ve had for awhile – but mixed together in a different fashion makes them all new to me now. An old shoe form, a favored geometric ceramic holder and a faded old basket. Their differing heights and textures make for a nice little vignette, sitting atop a favorite chest-of-drawers.

What’s always on your list when antique shopping? I love to find milk glass and colored glass vases and linens…always linens. It’s been fun to have transferware as a 2019 buying goal. The hunt is 90% of the fun! (Especially when a best friend-husband is also involved.)

Happy weekend treasure hunting, friends! (no bears required)

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!

Get back up on the horse, g

It’s been far too long since I have played with paper and glue. It used to be such a huge part of my life, but for various reasons I have let it slip into zero drive.

Perhaps the biggest reason, is that the hobby was once at 100,000% GO, GO, GO! My task now is to find a happy medium. Enough to work out my creative need to play with patterns and textures – as well as memory keeping – but not so much as it takes over my world (and my wallet!)

Therefore, I have resolved to spend more time in ‘my room’ in 2019. Creating and playing for the sake of playing. This is the one room in the house that refuses to answer the question, ‘Is this too much?’ because everything goes. We can always edit later.

Scott and I have been on a few trips around our new state of California. And already I can tell the details are starting to get confusing. So I had the idea to make a California Adventures scrapbook album to document (in a simple and picture-heavy way) when we took the trip, what the take-aways were, etc.

This has been such a monumental move for us – so I want to remember all the new adventures and exploring that we do along the way.

Our first trek outside our home after the rigors of driving to California, scouring places to live, hotel living, finding a home, sending for our boxes, unloading, unpacking, rearranging….whew. We’d been locked to our house and it’s many needs for too long – we needed to get out and go explore.

As it so happened, a big apple festival was in a nearby town. Many people (real estate agents, etc) had told us about this festival in Placerville, California. On a bright, chilly, Fall day – we popped in the car and drove to the foothill mountains to experience it for ourselves. We were annual visitors to the Louisburg Apple Festival in Louisburg, Kansas – so this was our chance to grab some cider donuts and see a new part of the country. and a new apple festival.

I mentioned there were ‘reasons’ I had stopped scrapbooking and one of them was the well-known piece of equipment in papercrafting circles: The Silhouette.

Scott has encouraged me numerous times to buy this cutting machine. It does everything, it seems, and I can easily envision all the projects I could do with it.

But. But,,. There’s one very clear thing I know about myself. And each time I was on the precipice of investing in this $300 machine the little voice inside my head would remind me just HOW MUCH I DETEST details. I hate reading up about technology and reading manuals and………….I just never have trusted myself to invest in something that I know would eventually collect dust on the shelf and guilt in my heart.

I needed some leaves for the Apple Hill layout I was going to do. “Greta”, I said to myself. “You came up in scrapbooking in the 90’s. You are PERFECTLY capable to cut out leaves the good old fashioned way!”

I googled ‘printable leaf templates’. Printed them off. Used the high-tech gadget called Scotch tape and cut them out on the printed papers I had selected. Done and done. The whole thing cost a great deal less than $300.

(As a side note: I am not dissing The Silhouette. It’s an awesome machine. Just not one that I can justify with my own personality faults and tendencies.)

Black and white with splashes of Fall colors. What a win. I am still a big ol’ sucker for sewing on my scrapbook pages, so of course there was a little of that too. This is the ‘title page’ for this particular adventure in October 2018. The rest of the pages are just pocket pages filled with 4×6 pictures and some journaling explanations. Voila. Simple but with a little creative play as well.

I now need to catch up on a few more adventures (trips to Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Salinas and Monterey Beach.) I won’t get them all done before this weekend, but I’ve made a start – and that’s half the battle, right?

This weekend one of our Kansas City friends is coming for a quick visit. If the weather works in our favor, we are planning a daytrip to San Francisco with her as well as a trip to see the redwoods in Arnold, California.

Lots more adventures ahead! Come be a part of one!

g