Napa Monday


After a good night’s sleep I woke up to go to work Napa!  Yes!  I had the day off because my favorite godmother Auntie was in town with two of her friends.  Although their plans had been flexible (and good thing since the weather (boo!) had forced some outside activities cancellations), the Monday plan was pretty firm so we decided to meet up.

I’m so glad we did!  It had been a few years since I saw Maria and we had so much fun!  First, I drove up early in the morning to beat traffic (success!) and then I went to the Oxbow Market, which was closed for cleaning (fail!).  I did get a breakfast sandwich from Model’s Bakery in order to try their famous English muffin, which was pretty good!  Then I headed up the 29 with a quick stop in Yountville to see Bouchon Bakery.  Unlike the last time I was there, the line was non-existent (yay!). I ordered two macarons for SMS and, almost unbelievably, they made it home without me eating them!  I also tried a small amount of croissant which was good, but it’s been awhile since I’ve tried a croissant that I thought was truly sublime.  Maybe that’s too lofty of a standard for a pastry or, at minimum, a little over-the-top for any kind of foodstuff?

Cardinale Tasting Room with a cool time-lapse photo of a single vine

Then, I went to the Cardinale winery and pulled up to the guesthouse where my aunt was staying.  Ok, ok, I may have also driven on a field road since I took my aunt’s instruction of private road a little too literally, but fortunately, I didn’t get stuck in the mud or end up in a ditch so all’s well that ends well…

It’s a warehouse!

The guesthouse was gorgeous and huge!  It used to be the winery owners’ private residence and it was really amazing.  The views over the vineyards were incredible. Oakville is the center point of the valley so there were great views of the two mountain ranges and nearby wineries.  Immediately behind the house was a field with several small brown huts.  It’s actually a disguised barrel cellar with a grass roof.  The huts are the vents and even though it’s obvious that the grassy field has some sort of purpose, it’s pretty neat how circumspect they’ve managed to make a storage facility.

We had a great tasting at Cardinale, sampling Mt Brave, La Jota and two Cardinale cabernet sauvignons, 2008 and 2012.  The most exquisite, sophisticated wine was the 2008 Cardinale but I really liked the Mt. Brave wine.  It was full of blue notes and tasted like the mountain.  *Sigh* Someday, I will be able to pull off wine comparisons.  I’ll be honest- I stole the descriptors from our lovely and knowledgable guides since to me, it just tasted delicious!

After our tour, Maria and I headed to Mustards Grill for a great lunch with two of her cousins.  The food was delicious and we all talked a lot!  I had such a fun time and I hope I see my second cousins again soon!

The “cottage!”  My aunt is in the far left background.

Then, it was chill-out time at the “cottage.”  We made a quick stop at Oakville Grocery, where we bought a delicious Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese.  We made a significant dent in it when we got home.  Then it was time for me to head back to the other Valley (Silicon).  *Le sigh!*  But I couldn’t be too sad because I had such a wonderful day and to see my auntie was a (too) rare treat!

Warehouse view at twilight- end of a great day!

Sunny San Diego Weekend!

SMS and I are in San Diego!  Yay!  As much as I try to pretend that there’s no difference in the weather, it’s definitely warmer here.  All Winters are not alike!

We came down Thursday night and were picked up by his parents.  It was pouring rain!  Apparently, it had been raining for almost four days straight.  There was some flooding earlier in the week, made worse by people thinking their cars were amphibious.  This was incorrect.

If you have a Amphicar, though, it’s ok!

Friday was our errand/”work” day since we were in town for SMS to photograph our friends’ wedding.  SMS went to the camera store to pick up his expensive Nikon rental.  Then we went to Miramar so I could pick up a medal for my dress uniform.   For some reason, I was unable to mount my medals well, sliced open my thumb on the bracket and bled on three of the medals.  That’s about $25 down the drain, whah.  At least I didn’t get it on the uniform.  After my year’s quota of F-bombs, it turns out I wasn’t even needed since one of the Marines backed out last minute (as happy as I was to get out of it, who does that the day of the wedding?!?!) and a Navy person had to volunteer to drop out.  I beat another guy to the punch and I got to change out of my uniform.  Yay!!!

The wedding was really nice and SMS got some great pictures.  I was his trusty assistant and it was a lot of fun!  I got to mingle a little bit but since we didn’t know anyone at the wedding apart from whom we met that night, it was fun to have something else to do, too.
Saturday was our Fun in San Diego Day!  We got up and had a delicious breakfast of avocado sourdough toast and poached egg, made by Rip.  Yum!!!  Then we were off on adventures.
First, we went to Cafe Calabria.  It’s my favorite coffee shop in San Diego and I was so glad to go again.  We each tried something new.  I tried a Bicerin, espresso+ steamed milk+ Nutella and SMS got a Caffe Vienesse, espresso, steamed milk, honey and cinnamon.  Both drinks were great and I also got a small coffee to-go.  Also, there is now a seating area in their roasting room so it was pretty cool to see the equipment up close.  Then we walked down the street to Pigment and looked at all of the super cute, on trend housing goods, cards and other awesome stuff-I-didn’t-know-I-needed-until-I-see-it!
Farmer’s Market

After North Park, we drove through South Park on our way to the Little Italy’s Farmer’s Market.  It wasn’t the most direct way, but I wanted to see more of the two neighborhoods.  We were pretty lucky with Little Italy parking.  We walked through the entire Farmer’s Market.  It was a beautiful day and a lot of fun.  We ran into a friend of mine from Yokosuka, which was pretty awesome.  He’s currently at NMCSD so it’s not as random as it sounds.

Beautiful view of Coronado from Cabrillo National Monument
Our lunch was from the Farmer’s Market- two samosas, one butter chicken and one saag paneer.  Then we went to Point Loma and toured an Open House.  Someday…
So happy!
One of my favorite places in San Diego
After our Open House dreamfest, we headed to Cabrillo National Monument.  There was a slight backup getting in but parking was pretty easy.  We enjoyed the view and then headed down the road to the tidepools.  We walked down since the parking lots were full.  It was a lot of fun to take in the view by walking, even though it’s slightly hazardous without a shoulder or sidewalk.
Although SMS is a great photographer, he is meditating on how his wife is able to take such amazing shots.  Is the
shoe there on purpose or by accident?  Is the rock the same size as his head?  How many drops of
water are in the ocean?  Imponderables…
The tidepools were beautiful and we walked around, looking in the pools and trying not to fall in.  We headed back up the hill and headed downtown to Zymology 21, a bar that specializes in shrub and bitters drinks.  The coolest thing is the Shrub Sampler, which is 5 test tubes of shrubs to mix into one spirit of choice.  Since the spirit is about 5 shots worth, we passed but we did enjoy the “Fire and Ice” show that accompanies the presentation when other tables ordered it.  The server lights 151 liquor on fire, swirls it, waits about 30 seconds and then pours it into the beaker holding the test tubes.  The beaker contains dry ice which causes a cloud waterfall-like effect while the fire goes down the poured out liquor stream.  It was pretty cool!
After Zymology, we headed to my favorite restaurant, Banker’s Hill Bar and Restaurant!  Although there are so many amazing places in San Diego and new ones I should explore, I like going back to old haunts.  We had the potato chips, salad (a little yin/yang action there), charred brussel sprouts and roasted parrotfish in a cioppino-type sauce with calamari, tomato and sausage.  The chef was a little heavy with the salt but we will still go back!
Finally, it was time to go home.  It was a great San Diego day!

Mini Road Trip: Bodega Bay, Stinson Beach and Mt. Tam

Breakfast in bed!

On the third day of our mini-NorCal road trip, SMS and I awoke a little on the early side and packed up.  Our delicious Boon breakfast came at 8:30.  We had biscuits with honey butter, yogurt with berries and granola and French press coffee.  It was really nice and we got to have breakfast in bed!

The three main towns on the Bohemian Highway

We took off down the 116 and then made a left onto the Bohemian Highway.  It’s about 10 miles long and goes through three main towns: Monte Rio, Occidental and Freestone.  The road mostly cuts through the forest but by Freestone, there is lovely rolling hills and pasture land.  Occidental seemed like a nice place to stay and I’d love to stop in Freestone to go to the bakery and creamery in the future but since it was early and New Year’s Eve, everything was closed.

Bodega Bay on the left and Jenner by the Sea on the right
We made our way to Bodega Bay and walked on the beach for a little while.  The surf was pretty intense and there were a lot of surfers out there.  Salmon Creek meets the Pacific at that area and I wanted to see the entrance of the Russian River to the Pacific so we drove up to Jenner by the Sea.  The view was beautiful and I read that depending on the tides and time of year, the meeting of the two can be very impressive.  While it was very pretty, there was no great clash between the bodies of water and the river gently dwindled in size and entered into a little cove.  We saw two seals swimming in there.  The spot is probably great for whale watching so maybe later in the Spring, we’ll check it out again.
Old friends and new!

We drove through Petaluma and stopped at Lagunitas brewery for lunch.  It was awesome!  Super laid-back vibe and lots of heat lamps and sun.  We sat outside and shared nachos and cream of mushroom soup.  Not a soup I’d normally order but I was told it was delicious and that was a fact!  We had a sampler there and I really wanted some more of the sour wheat with mango and passionfruit (citrus-y without sweetness like a Sour Patch kid), but they didn’t put any of the limited releases in growlers so I will just have the little sampler memory!  At Lagunitas, we also saw the saddest looking dog we’ve ever seen under the keyboard.  I wanted to adopt him, but I think he’s probably the brewery’s mascot.

Amazing View!

After lunch, we drove to the East Peak of Mt. Tam.  We drove to the end of the road and parked near the lookout tower.  The walk is very short to the top and the views are completely stunning.  The area is an incredible contrast of preserved park land and high-density development.  We took in the views for a while before heading down to Stinson beach for a longer hike.

Another view with SMS in the foreground; L: a relief map of the area, we were on the top-right peak

Golden hour hiking

The hike started through the forest and went up into the hills overlooking the town of Stinson Beach.  It was absolutely gorgeous and I really wanted to do a complete loop hike but unfortunately, we had started too late so we turned back.  I was disappointed but we had seen so many other awesome things that day, I had to get over my pout-fest/temper tantrum that I couldn’t control nature or the sun.  (“Sun!  Stop setting!”)

The sun set.

We drove home and I made a pretty good NYE’s dinner of rack of lamb and roasted cauliflower mash accompanied by champagne!  The lamb was cooked in two stages since after the first time period was up, it was still really rare.  It was still really tender and delicious though.  Then, we watched Ex Machina, which I had heard about in the pre-Oscar nomination buzz and it was pretty good.  Although our NYE wasn’t party-heavy, it was exactly what I wanted since we were able to explore so much of the region in the last few days and to me, that’s what this “year” (July 15- July 16) is about- taking advantage of this pretty cool opportunity to live in such a vibrant, cutting-edge area.

Mini Road Trip: Guerneville and Armstrong Redwoods

Across from our parking space- I can never resist a cut-out photo op!

SMS and I got up and decided that we should hit the road in order to explore Guerneville and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve during daylight hours.  First, we needed fuel.  We stopped at Nido for scones (not as good as I remembered but still really delicious) and Temple Coffee for a tall French press.


We drove for awhile and SMS mentioned that he was starting to get hungry.  Well, I’m no fool.  I have been in the past but I now know that the slight mention means it’s time to start thinking about a food stop sooner rather than later.  I did a little Internet sleuthing and found Yanni’s Sausage Grill.  It had rave reviews and I know SMS likes his links.


It was a completely awesome experience.  Yanni and his wife Fran are so sweet and nice.  They gave us their recommendations in addition to a free sample of their “Greek chili.”  We ordered a lamb sausage with onions, Greek sausage with pepperoncinis and Greek fries, covered in dressing and feta.  The food was delicious.  At the owners’ suggestion, we took it next door into the Penngrove pub where there was more seating and it was much warmer.  We sat at the bar with several locals who were quite nice and interesting to talk to.  There was one eagle-eyed woman who spotted the health inspector’s car and told the bar tender to wipe up the water and lose his drink.  The bar passed with flying colors, although I think it would have been fine even without the tip!

After a really nice lunch, we headed to Guerneville where we went into a few shops on the main street.  The old bank has been converted to a few shops within its interior and Big Bottom market also had excellent food for picnics.

Devil chicken at the Boon.
Lovely linens

We decided to check into the Boon Hotel, which was very retro chic.  It reminds me a lot of the Pearl hotel in San Diego.  Our room was great but since the clouds were starting to part, we decided it would be best time-wise if we checked out the Armstrong Redwoods that day.

The forest is known for “tree animals”

Strange wildlife

 We went a little ways up the road and parked near the Reserve entrance.  There was only a charge if a car drove into the reserve and we decided to walk along the trail.  Nothing fancy or long, just enough to see some of the oldest redwoods, 1300-1400 years old!

Pushing the trees apart- so strong!

The park was really special and majestic.  The colors were brilliant thanks to the recent rain and lingering mist.  I loved the green-gray with hints of purple the best that I could see in some of the bark and lichenous material.

We headed back to Boon and warmed up in the hot tub.  We relaxed in the room for a bit and then SMS went out for a quick dinner.  I stayed behind since my stomach was suddenly under duress for a couple of hours, likely due to the crazy spicy green papaya salad that also, weirdly, smelled of hot dogs when we took it in a to-go box (which I threw out, to the annoyance of SMS who wondered why I even took it to go at all!).

When SMS got back, we lit a fire, which was super cozy.  It was a great day and we saw a lot, really making the most out of a day that was mostly gray and drizzle-y.

Mini-Road Trip: Sacramento

View from the fantail at sunset, The Delta King

On Monday, SMS and I each went to work.  We met up afterwards for some climbing and, seeing that we were both off for the week, we decided that the next day, we were going to take a mini road-trip.  I had to be roughly within 2 hours travel time due to work so with that constraint in mind, I planned out our trip that evening.

We started off in the mid-morning since my internal alarm clock has been cool with waking up around 8:30 (delightful!).  We drove towards Sacramento and SMS, in the navigator’s seat, was hungry and decided he was in the mood for THE WAFFLE EXPERIENCE!  It is a restaurant a little outside of Sacramento proper but it is so delicious that it’s worth the drive and strip mall ambiance.  Everyone there seemed very nice and really, how could you not be?  Waffles surroundings, just try to be unhappy there.  Well, SMS was a tiny bit unhappy since they were out of his #1 and #2 choices on the daily special menu.  But he overcame his disappointment and through salty, bitter tears, he ordered up another delicious sandwich.  Once that happened, the title of saddest person in the waffle restaurant was returned to its rightful owner, the woman who plaintively said while ordering, “I just don’t feel like waffles!”

We both had slightly breakfast-y waffle sandwiches and it was awesome.  I was a little surprised that they didn’t have a classic chicken ‘n’ waffles sandwich but whatever, what they had was great!

One of my favorites at the Museum
An engineer is very accurate!

After lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the California State Railroad Museum.  It was pretty cool and we both enjoyed it.  First, we walked through an exhibit on the history of railroads and railways in California.  It’s great to learn more about local/regional history.  Then we went into the main exhibit hall where there were so many beautifully maintained locomotives, rail cars and other exhibits.  My favorite was the private rail car for people who just want things their own way.  I also thought the Southern Pacific Cab Forward No 4294 was really cool and absolutely humongous.  Also, if you ever talk to a railroad connoisseur, don’t call it a Mallet design unless you want people to laugh and laugh at you.

Old Town Sacramento

The Stateroom
A stowaway!

The museum is located in Old Town Sacramento so we walked through the area to our hotel, The Delta King!  It’s a restored 285-foot river boat that is now a hotel, restaurant and event space.  I thought it would be a neat place to stay.  The stateroom was large and clean.  We really enjoyed our stay.


Next, we headed out to Nido, the bakery that supplies The Magpie, which is the restaurant we ate at last time we were in Sacramento.  We split a cheese plate and had a beer.  I made silent plans to come back in the morning to pick up some scones.

For dinner, we ate at Orchard Thai which was fine.  Nothing great and (spoiler alert) the green papaya salad did not really sit well with either SMS or I.  The drunken noodles were good but if a restaurant messed that up, they should just throw in the towel.

We wrapped up the night touring the light displays of the Fab 40s houses.  The neighborhood is completely beautiful.  I stayed there during my Kaiser observation days in September and was really taken with the area.  I figured that there were would be some beautiful Christmas decorations, but I was absolutely blown away.  Even though it was after Christmas, it was so nice to still feel the holiday spirit.

Then it was back to the riverboat for a great night’s sleep.