Our first two days in wine country

For the past few months, Jake and I have been planning a trip out to California wine country with his parents (my in-laws) for spring break. Though we were only in town for a total of 7 days, it felt like far longer, and frankly I’m impressed at how much we were able to do while still taking time to unwind and relax. That, of course, means there’s no way I can fit everything into a single blog post, so I’m breaking this out into probably three chapters. Starting with our first two days primarily in Sonoma:

  • From when we flew in on Sunday to Thursday morning, we stayed at Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen (in Sonoma Valley). It’s a breathtaking property with architecture that somehow felt Southern and a distinctly rural-luxurious vibe. Every morning, we woke up to peaceful vineyard views and were then served a full country breakfast. In the afternoons, there would be fresh-baked cookies up for grabs in the kitchen. I know that my father-in-law particularly enjoyed reading on the balcony while the rest of us were still asleep. I was extremely sad to leave and would definitely return, especially in the warmer months and ideally when they were hosting one of their signature Sunday dinners.
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Fresh chocolate chip cookies with sea salt!

  • Dinner at Glen Ellen Star, a Michelin-recommended (though not starred) restaurant only five minutes away from Beltane Ranch, was honestly fucking outstanding. We made this reservation for the first night of our trip, and I think it tied for first as one of the best meals of the whole vacation. Also maybe one of the top 10 meals of my life. It gets rave reviews from media outlets everywhere and I am 100% still dreaming about the roasted carrots we got as an appetizer and the strawberry shortcake dessert — not to mention the wine recommendations from our waitress (Three Sticks and Father’s Watch). If you’re planning a trip to wine country, Glen Ellen Star is a must. Must must must.
  • As far as actual vineyards go, we had an educational and beautiful tour at Kendall Jackson on Monday afternoon. I’ll admit, I was skeptical; it felt like we would be better off sticking to smaller businesses instead of industry giants. But, Jake and his parents encouraged me to keep the reservation I had booked for us, and I am so glad we did. The property was stunning, our tour guide was excellent, and I even spotted the Instagram-famous Farmer Tucker.
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Kendall-Jackson

Shopping outfit

Shopping in downtown Healdsburg

  • After Kendall Jackson and some shopping in downtown Healdsburg, we drove over to Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. This was basically the only thing Jake had really wanted to cross off the list so we made sure to make it a priority. He ordered a flight of 19 two-oz(?)beers that we didn’t finish, alongside their Nu Deal pizza, and it was a fun experience / pit stop for lunch / opportunity for Jake to purchase some to beer with him to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, WA, where he’s currently doing an internal med rotation.
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Count ’em

  • We spent most of Tuesday in Sonoma at a close friend’s country house. I cannot possibly overstate how beautiful it was, and their property was extensive enough for a long walk followed by clay-pigeon shooting. Unfortunately, this is not open to the public, but I couldn’t not share.
  • Finally, we (and the aforementioned friends) ate dinner at El Molino Central in Sonoma. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “The Bay Area’s best Mexican food,” and it one-hundred percent delivered. Enjoy any of the red mole dishes and order some guac and chips to share. Important side note: consider bringing a blanket or at least a light jacket because the almost-exclusively-outdoor seating can get a little chilly, even with the space heaters. And basically everything there is at least a tiny bit spicy, but in a really delicious way.

Some other honorable mentions I’d like to note but not give their own bullet point: Ad Hoc (Thomas Keller’s “more affordable” restaurant in the area) and Flying Goat Coffee (which was recommended by The Everygirl). Both were, in my opinion, fine, but I probably wouldn’t intentionally go back to either. Ad Hoc’s menu changes daily, which means that you don’t necessarily know that you’re going to love the menu if you make a reservation. And when we went, it was BBQ, which meant I didn’t love anything except the salad and wine pairings. But if you’ve got an adventurous palette and enjoy most Southern food (like my husband father-in-law), you might disagree. Flying Goat was, similarly, good…but definitely nothing to write home about.

And that’s a wrap on (Jesus Christ I’m gonna have to write a lot of posts) days one and two! Let me know if you have questions as I’m happy to help answer. Now off to draft posts for the rest of the trip…

Love, me.

PS: I love organizing these kinds of things, and I’m really pleased at how the itinerary turned out. I think in another life I’d be a travel agent or event planner. If I were to do a post on how to successfully plan a vacation, would anyone read it? Let me know.

What I liked in New Orleans

I imagine you know this already because most of you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, but Jake and I recently spend a weekend together for a 24-hour whirlwind in New Orleans. He drove from the Pensacola, FL, Navy base where he was doing an aerospace medicine rotation, and I flew in from Bethesda.

Of course, it was so amazing to be back together after nearly a month, but, a minor confession, I did not love New Orleans itself! I liked New Orleans — particularly a few specific experiences that I’ll detail below — but generally I found myself kind of lukewarm. The highlights:

  • The Henry Howard Hotel. For some reason, the prices were sky high while we were in town — and no, we weren’t there during Jazz Fest or Mardi Gras — but we splurged anyway and loved the ambiance and neighborhood surrounding the Henry Howard. It definitely felt like a much-needed respite from the party vibe. Plus, they leave out warm chocolate chip cookies as part of their evening turn-down service.
  • The beignets at Cafe Du Monde. I am sure there are other amazing beignets in New Orleans, and you probably don’t have to wait as long for them, but since we were short on time and happened to be nearby, I am so glad we stopped and tried them here. They were every bit as amazing as everyone made them sound. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t care about sweets.

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  • The jazz show at Preservation Hall. Full disclosure: you have to get in line like 45 minutes before it starts to buy tickets, but it is totally worth it — even if, like me, you hate being surrounded by drunk people somewhere like Bourbon Street. The show itself runs less than an hour and is truly extraordinary and fun. I had a blast despite it being hours past my bedtime.
  • Courtyard Brewery. Obviously this one was Jake’s discovery, but I really loved it! It smells strongly of boiling hops and they’ve got an adorable little tent out front where they make $3 tacos. You can also bring your own food, which I learned from the people who had a pizza delivered while they sat outside enjoying the beer. A great way to end our weekend.
  • We also ended up eating dinner one night at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. It wasn’t our first choice, but an extreme lack of planning meant that we hadn’t made a dinner reservation anywhere and spent like an hour trying to find a spot we agreed on. K-Paul’s was cute, the portions were huge, and the pours were generous which means I was happily full of seafood pasta and wine.

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So that was that! A quick pit stop before heading back to Pensacola, which was followed by a week in wine country with Jake’s parents. Hoping to have at least one (if not two!) posts on that coming soon — though, frankly, there were a few aspects of the trip that deserve their own writeup entirely. If you saw something on my Instagram that you’d like to hear about, let me know.

Love, me

I am so glad I bought these stupid pajamas

To be honest, I am not totally sure how I ended up as a person who cares about matching pajamas. Maybe it’s the fact that they make me feel grown-up, maybe it’s the fact that I like feeling put-together, but at the end of the day there is nothing I enjoy more than climbing into bed in my top-and-bottom sets. (Yes, I would like my Neurotic Mess Award now).

I currently own at least four pairs…or at least four pairs that are visible on the shelf from where I’m typing. One is pink gingham (similar pair here), one is blue with orange bicycles, one is blue and white striped, and my most recent pair — the pair about which I felt the need to write this post — is red plaid from J.Crew.

I will not bore you with the fucking nightmare I went through to get the pajamas — a perfect storm of sloppy ordering, delayed and lost holiday shipping, miscommunications, and strange sizing. I will just say that it was terrible and yet also somehow totally worth it.

These pajamas are:

  1. Comfortable! They are flannel and warm and cozy and it feels like Christmas every time I wear them.
  2. Adorable. I love having an excuse to be seen wearing these, so I bring them to every family gathering, vacation, and sleepover.
  3. Warm. Those aforementioned family gatherings are often in Connecticut, which gets much colder than Maryland, so it’s nice to have something cozy.
  4. Also owned by Alaina Kaczmarski of The Everygirl, whose style is very much the kind I aspire to have.

Finally, and this doesn’t really fit into a bullet, they honestly feel like an exhale at the end of a long day. I look forward to walking in the door of my apartment, putting them on, and snuggling up on the couch with Jake and a glass of wine. I associate them with home and happiness.

I think they are sold out for the season, but they seem to be the kind of thing they restock every fall. Do NOT pay full price for them; instead, wait for one of J.Crew’s Black Friday or Friends & Family sales.

Anyway, long live plaid flannel pajamas, long live matching sets, and long live New England Christmas fashion. I will wear these until I die.

Love, me.