Road trip: Napa Valley

Last weekend my dad and stepmom were visiting from Denver, so we decided to meet one of Bonnie’s friends at a winery near Calistoga. It made for a lovely road trip passing through several Napa Valley wineries during harvest season.

The winery we toured, Castello di Amorosa, is pretty spectacular and a little quirky. Though it’s newly built, the castle looks like something you’d find touring ancient properties in Europe.

Outside we were surprised to find goats and sheep running loose among the guests.

Harper loved all the animals, especially the chickens.

We were just cracking up watching these goats munch on grape vines, but apparently the grapes had already been picked so it was OK.

We would have liked to tour the wine caves and other parts of the castle, but we were on toddler time, so we went straight to the tasting. Harper got to color and drink grape juice while the adults tasted wines. I highly recommend this place if you need a kid friendly winery.

After that, we went to a really good restaurant in St. Helena called Archetype. Since it was brunch time, I ordered an omelet and bloody Mary, and everything was fantastic. A little pricey, but I would definitely come back.

We’ve done this kind of trip before (to the Coppola winery), so I’m thinking this could become a fun tradition.

Pumpkin patchin’

We had so many good photos from our trip to the pumpkin patch, so I had to share.

It was a little strange to go on such a hot day (probably 80 degrees but felt like 90 in full sun), but we still had a lot of fun.


Mom: not in Kansas anymore.

Harper was determined to pick up pumpkins, throw them, or pull them in the wagon.

She really liked climbing this hay bale tower, which scared the bejeezus out of me.

She is so fearless. She went all the way to the top.

She also zipped through the hay maze.

They had this crazy pumpkin house that was basically a yurt that we used to get some shade.

Then Harper got to sit on the huge pumpkin.

We took a few pumpkins home for carving later. I might have gone a little pumpkin crazy this year, but I just love them so much!

Fall is really the time I miss the Midwest and the change of seasons. I’ll be going back to Kansas in November for my grandma’s funeral, so I guess I’ll get a taste of it then.

Running again

My last attempts at running never went anywhere, but I’m trying again. This time I’ve been doing a couch-to-5k app that has you do a run/walk program for about 30 minutes 3 times a week. It’s exactly what I need right now. I need someone to tell me what to do, and I love that I can listen to my playlists at the same time. I’m not actually training for a 5k, but I would like to be fit enough to do that distance if I felt like it. 

Sometimes the workouts are actually a little bit too easy, but that’s working for me too. If I feel like doing more I can always run during the walking parts. And it means I can always succeed at these workouts. So many times I’ve tried to do too much too fast and I end up hurting and feeling like I failed. 

So I’ve been doing this for two weeks and I’ve already had a sore knee, a broken toe and two days of headaches. Normally that would be enough to make me quit, but I can’t give up this time. I need to do something to give me my energy back and help me get back in shape. And after a year and a half with Harper I can handle a lot more than I used to!

Saying goodbye to grandma Mason

Earlier this week my beloved grandma, Mary Marie Mason, passed away. Obviously she meant a great deal to me. She was my inspiration as a crafter, wife, mother and overall person. I’m not sure I know a kinder person in this world. 

It was heartbreaking for my mom, who was planning to go visit grandma in just a few days, not to be there. One minute we heard that grandma had been taken to the hospital for something fairly minor and the next minute she was in critical condition with a blood clot. So there was no time for us to say our goodbyes. However, I’m sure she knew how much we loved her. And my uncle said that she seemed at peace knowing that she would probably not survive this ordeal. Perhaps realizing her body was failing her after a broken hip, she got to a place that none of us quite realized. So in a way I feel like she was spared a difficult road of transitions, loss of mobility and memory, and everything painful that comes with old age. 

It’s really easy for me to speak in glowing superlatives about my grandma because she really was that extraordinary of a person. She graduated high school early and went to college, eventually becoming a teacher. She was actually a pretty sweet, diminutive person who stayed home to raise her children and loved the traditionally female realm (cooking, sewing, decorating, church choir…). But she had an extraordinary heart. She never had much in the way of material things, but she would give you anything, anything you needed if she could. She gave up a lot to care for her mentally ill sister and later her husband. And she survived cancer. Twice.

Grandma was incredibly resourceful and thrifty. I don’t think she ever threw away a mayonnaise jar or a Cool Whip tub if she could reuse it. She put shower caps over her bowls to keep food fresh in the fridge. She was a dedicated letter writer and she always tucked a bunch of clipped coupons inside her letters. She sewed her own clothes and even doll clothes and little Barbie-sized pillows for us when we were little. She made the most intricate counted cross-stitch samplers, many of which we have framed and will cherish. Her baking was so comforting — pecan pie at Thanksgiving and lemon bars and frosted sugar cookies at Christmas. Her potato salad was legendary and she always had some in the fridge. 

But you know what I will never forget about grandma? Her hugs. When she saw you she would wrap her arms around you and squeeze you to your bones. And for a long time. It’s like she hugged you from her soul. It just felt good. 

I also always admired my grandparents’ marriage. They were happily married for more than 50 years. They seemed to have mutual interests and mutual respect for each other that you don’t often see. It slays me to think of them walking down a sidewalk holding hands or my grandma washing grandpa’s hair in the sink when he couldn’t anymore. 

My mom was saying how we carry on grandma’s legacy every day by raising Harper. My grandma loved children. She wanted several but was lucky just to be able to have two since she had endometriosis that was not easily treated at the time. I think she was probably most proud of her family — all smart, loving people doing interesting things. I’m only sorry that she couldn’t be here to see more of the next generation born. I guess that’s the hardest thing to accept — that the people you love most won’t live forever and that someday you will have to let them go. 

It’s a nice feeling to know that every time someone orders something with me they will get a little tribute to my grandma and her legacy of art, craft, thrift, and love. 

XO grandma. Miss you already.