Girls weekend in Santa Rosa

About a year ago Erin and I were planning a girls weekend in wine country when I realized that my grandma’s funeral was scheduled for the same weekend. Needless to say I would much rather have had a vacation than travelled to Kansas with a toddler for such a sad occasion. But I wouldn’t have missed saying goodbye to my grandmother, and so we had to reschedule. We finally got our trip pulled together, and it was so amazing!

I needed this trip so badly. Life is stressful and exhausting lately, and these trips (even the shortest ones) are so restorative. We got an airbnb guesthouse in Santa Rosa for a very reasonable price, and then we set aside some money for food and pampering. It really helps to have a best friend with experience as an event planner. I pretty much just had to show up and everything was ready to go.


The back yard where we stayed, complete with bubbling fountain.


This gorgeous Victorian was right across the street AND it had an Airstream. I am clearly living in the wrong place.

Our first food stop in the area was the Squeeze Inn in Napa. I have been wanting to try a Squeezeburger for ages! It’s basically a classic California burger topped with so much cheddar cheese that it forms a “cheese skirt” you have to peel off and eat. It was really good, and since I couldn’t finish mine I got to keep eating it all weekend.


Squeezeburgers.

That night we walked around downtown Santa Rosa and found this cute magician-themed ice cream shop. It was huge and very kid-friendly, the kind of place I wish we had in our neighborhood. I had a sundae made with sugar cookie ice cream that was as good as it sounds.

The next morning we decided to try the Naked Pig for breakfast. Thankfully, a friend had just posted on Facebook about going there, so I wanted to try it. I had to take this picture so that you could see how this farm-to-table restaurant is situated in the parking lot across from a garage. Kind of funny.

But oh man was this little place a winner. They have these homemade biscuits served with butter and honey that certainly rival any I’ve ever made. And although our food was pretty simple, you could tell they pay attention to every single ingredient. The bacon tasted like maple syrup and the tomatoes in Erin’s frittata looked just like the ones in my garden.

It was so good we actually went back for breakfast the next day. I had to try the bacon waffle, which was SO good. It was light and crispy and just crammed full of bacon.

After that we were ready for pampering. We got hour-long massages. I was so excited that the pillow arrangement allowed me to lay on my stomach. I haven’t done that in months! After that we got a taco lunch and picked up some beer from Russian River Brewing. None for me, but Erin and Mike are big fans.

Then it was onto more pampering! We got the world’s most affordable mani-pedis at Sea Spa. The older lady who did my toes was obsessed with my baby belly. By the end of the appointment she was giving me hugs.

After that we were feeling like we needed to get out and explore the outdoors a little. So we drove all the way out to the Sonoma coast. It was about 20 degrees cooler out there, with such a pretty view.

Then we decided to head back to Guerneville (note to self, stay in this cute area sometime!) to see the Armstrong Redwoods park. I had no idea this beautiful place was up there, but I will definitely be going back.

It has the perfect set of easy trails through an amazing redwood canopy. As soon as I get to a place like that, my blood pressure drops 20 points and I am just so restored.

After that very full day we wanted something good to eat. We had the hardest time deciding on a restaurant. At first we wanted Indian or Himalayan, but there are just so many restaurants to choose from. So somehow we landed on Belly, which is sort of a gastropub. We were able to walk there from our airbnb place and we got seated right away. They have a lot of small plates that are good for sharing so we went kind of crazy trying them all. And they were all so good I didn’t even take pictures.

We had chorizo with brussels sprouts, mac ‘n cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, a wedge salad and then the surprise of the night, corned beef tacos. We kind of rolled the dice on those, but they were so much better than anything I could have pictured. They kind of crisped the meat like carnitas, and then served it with a cream sauce and cabbage (St. Patrick’s Day alternative meal next year?). We actually didn’t even eat the guacamole it came with because the tacos were already so flavorful. After that we were in total bliss and about to burst. But then we saw the table next to us order this incredible looking chocolate mousse served on a wood slab with whipped cream and berries. So yeah, we had to have that too. We ended up taking so much food home.


When we got back, Harper couldn’t get enough of her “auntie Erin.”

All in all I’d say we crammed in just about as much enjoyable stuff as you possibly could in two days. And yet it still seemed incredibly relaxing. I cannot wait to do something like this again!

Montreal-Vermont-Pittsburgh

As usual, I’m a little behind in posting here, but I wanted to share some photos of our cross-country trip (without a kid!). We decided that if we were going to fly all the way to Vermont for our friends’ wedding in May, we might as well make a bigger vacation out of it. Mom agreed to watch Harper for a full week, so we went for it.

We started by flying to Montreal and staying at a super hip Airbnb apartment in the Mount Royal neighborhood. It turned out to be a great decision to stay there. We walked all over, shopping and trying out restaurants. Even though we had a rental car, we didn’t need it in that area.

I loved all the street art. It really reflects the city’s artsy personality.

Architecturally, it felt very European, with lots of brick row houses and wrought iron railings. The neighborhood was crawling with hipsters wearing man buns. Coming from San Francisco, it was oddly comforting.

For once we didn’t really have an agenda other than to explore the city. We did a lot of eating and a lot of relaxing. It was nice.

But let’s talk about the food. It was wonderful. We started out with poutine, of course. A friend recommended La Banquise, which is pretty casual and affordable. We ordered a classic poutine with cheese curds and gravy, and a giant one with beef, hot peppers and guacamole. They were both amazing and we pretty much stuffed ourselves way past full.

For breakfast we knew we wanted to try bagels. I didn’t realize Montreal was so famous for them, but they are definitely in the do-not-miss category. They’re thinner and crispier on the outside than New York bagels. We had some at a little cafe where you could watch them slide the bagels into a brick oven with a super long and skinny peel.

For lunch we had to try Schwartz’s. It’s a trip. You walk in and there are just tons of people squeezed into these long tables, so you are bunched up against strangers while you eat. It was actually kind of cool. We talked to the people next to us (and by the way, not knowing French well didn’t seem to be a problem at all). On the menu is “smoked meat.” Apparently that is a thing in that region. It’s basically brisket, and you get to choose your level of fattiness. We had sandwiches with mustard and pickles, and they were super good and filling. Don’t ask questions, just order the smoked meat!

For another meal we tried a Tibetan restaurant, which was also very good. Probably the best mango lassi I’ve ever had. And we got to try this Tibetan bread, that is basically wrapped up like a cinnamon roll.

On our last day there, we walked around Old Montreal, which feels much more like historical areas in Europe. But very touristy! We picked up some souvenirs and had crepes.

Overall, I really liked Montreal and it made me wonder why I have not traveled more in Canada. Especially after crossing both the US and Canadian borders twice, I really felt like Canada is so much more laid back. They just don’t get as worked up about things as Americans do. For example, when we went to rent a car we just gave them our reservation and they gave us the keys. No trying to convince us to buy insurance or inspect the car for 15 minutes or whatever else they do. Little things like that happened over and over. Plus, it’s like getting to Europe for half the price, and your money goes farther in Canada. So yeah, I’m definitely putting more Canadian cities on my to-do list.

After Montreal, we drove across the border to Vermont. We stayed at an adorable inn near Waitsfield, where they told us not to worry about coming in late because they literally never lock the door. Sigh. I loved Vermont so much. It is my kind of place. Laid back, outdoorsy, full of hippies. Into pickling and homebrew.

We went to the Waitsfield farmers market, which is surprisingly big and great for such a small area. We kind of went nuts and bought jam, cheese, soap and a tie dye T-shirt for Harper. We even bought whiskey from a local distillery to gift to our friends. Afterward we found the best baby/kids store and talked to the owner for a while. Everyone was so friendly!

Then of course we had to tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory. The tour was super cheesy, but at least there was ice cream at the end. That evening we went to the wedding, which was just beautiful and perfect. Congrats Torey and Chase! I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures, I just ate delicious barbecue and ice cream sandwiches.

The last leg of our trip was to Pittsburgh to visit our friends Jennie and Patrick. They traveled all over the country looking for a new city and ended up picking Pittsburgh. So I was anxious to see what it was like, since it sounded like a city going through a lot of changes. Plus, Mike lived there briefly before we started dating and he wanted to see how much it had changed.

It really did seem like the whole city was under construction and a lot of cool things were happening. As Patrick says, it’s got good bones. The infrastructure is there (and affordable), so people are converting old buildings into new bars, restaurants, and other cool spots. But it still has a lot of history and plenty of old-school joints. Like Primanti Brothers! That restaurant has been on my wish list for a long time. It’s the one where they put fries and cole slaw on the sandwiches and mash it all together. I could only manage to eat half a sandwich (they are huge!). And honestly, I thought each part would have been better separately. But I’m still glad I got to try it.

One thing I thought was really cool were the inclines. In order to get up or down these super steep bluffs that look out over the city, you can ride on little cable cars. I’m not the best with heights, so it was a little scary. But the views at the top are amazing. And I’m glad they preserved the cars — it’s a really unique thing.

So that was our trip. It was kind of crazy, but all the parts came together and we really enjoyed some time to relax and do adult things, for once.

Fort Bragg glass beach

At long last Mike and I got away for a toddler-free trip. We decided sort of last-minute to book a place in the Mendocino area. Since it was Valentine’s Day weekend, a lot of things were booked. But he had President’s Day off, so we went for a Sunday/Monday trip and a motel in Fort Bragg rather than pricier Mendocino.

My favorite part of the trip (other than the couples massage we splurged on), was this glass beach.

It basically runs along the coastline cliffs, where trash used to be dumped into the water. Now these beautiful pieces of colorful glass wash ashore in the little inlets.

We climbed down a sort of ridiculously unsafe hill to get to the beach (note to self: do not wear a dress and Toms for this activity!). But once there it was totally worth it.

The ground is just covered with glass pieces shimmering in the sunlight. And the view is spectacular. It’s one of those places you can’t believe is real.

Though the drive there along the PCH made me carsick, I am so glad we took this trip. It was instantly restorative to drive through some redwoods. We bought too many souvenirs at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company along the way and we shopped and lingered and did all the things we don’t normally do. We really want to take a similar trip to New Orleans, so after this I’m super motivated to make it happen.

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.

Heading west

So back up about 4 weeks. 

My mom and I enjoyed an unseasonably cool week in Kansas (THANK GOD) while selling her stuff, packing and cleaning her house. But by the time we left Lawrence it was sweltering. We were not sad to leave 100+ degrees and 80 percent humidity, not at all.


Thankfully we had a full-on midwestern buffet at mom’s sendoff.

But after all that chaos the drive really was peaceful and beautiful.

I was heartened to see that wind energy has really taken off in unexpected (albeit incredibly windy places) like western Kansas and Wyoming. Wind farms made for spectacular sunsets.

Charlotte only wanted to be in one place: on the passenger’s lap. She’s a great traveling dog, just along for the ride.

We stopped in Denver to visit my sister, dad and stepmom. Wish I could have stayed longer, but not this time.


We kept remarking on how much taffy there was at truck stops. 

On day 2 we made it to Salt Lake City just as a storm threatened to make our drive a lot scarier. But instead of hitting us we just drove alongside the storm, which was really kind of cool.

The cheap hotel I picked was pretty awful, but had the benefit of making us leave extra early on day 3. We were so motivated to get home to Mike and Harper that we barreled through the salt flats (isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?) and arrived at home before Harper’s bedtime. 

It’s been a tough few weeks, but it was all worth it for moments like this. 

Road trips recap

I was just watching this show about fun not-so-touristy things to do in San Francisco (note to self: book sunset kayaking tour), and it made me think I should gather up all the posts I wrote about our road trips in California. Summer isn’t really the best time weather-wise here, so sometimes I forget that it’s still the main tourist season. But regardless of when you come, these are all road trips I would recommend taking at some point.

Close to San Francisco:

Angel Island
Take the ferry from Tiburon in Marin County for a day trip or overnight camping. Lots of history and beautiful views of the city, bay and bridges. 

Point Bonita Lighthouse and Crissy Field
Great places to escape the crowded city and take photos, especially at sunset. 

Rockaway Beach/Pacifica
Not far from the city you can really escape to this little beach on the ocean. 

Point Reyes
One of our favorite places to relax is Limantour Beach, and it is just one of many cool places to explore in Point Reyes.

Wine country:

Coppola Winery
Frances Ford Coppola’s winery is really worth a visit up north. It has a museum about his cinematic roots plus a swimming pool and restaurant. And of course, wine!

Sonoma
Napa’s less-snooty sister, Sonoma is a really relaxing getaway less than an hour from our house.

North of SF:

Bodega Bay and Eureka
Bodega Bay for fresh crab sandwiches and spectacular ocean views. Eureka for the Avenue of the Giants, which better be on your bucket list.

Reno/Lake Tahoe
Reno is much more than slot machines (wild horses!). Don’t miss the Awful Awful burger.

And Lake Tahoe is one pretty place I intend to visit much more.

South of SF:

Los Angeles
I loved LA much more than I expected to. The hipster food culture doesn’t hurt. And there’s so much to explore in all the different neighborhoods.

San Diego
One word: tacos. Actually two words: al pastor.

Catalina Island
This is a really beautiful side trip if you can swing it. Touristy, yes, but you can also escape the crowds and go for a hike.

Palm Springs
Palm Springs is hot as hell and super quirky, but we really loved it. Don’t miss the Ace Hotel and the crazy mountain tram.

Full-on nature:

Sequoia National Forest, part I and part II
Unfortunately, this trip always makes me think of being 8 weeks pregnant and super nauseous. But man, was it spectacular. I highly recommend you explore the giant sequoias and King’s Canyon if you get a chance.

Mono Hot Springs
Will I ever make the extreme journey to Mono Hot Springs again? I don’t know. But I’m glad I went once. It was beautiful, peaceful and endearingly weird.

Monterey and Big Sur
In this case, I definitely saved the best for last. The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur is absolutely incredible. It’s right out of a movie. And when you get to Big Sur, the redwood forest is equally amazing. Airstream glamping there is on my life list.

Putting together this post has made me realize how much we need to get back in the car and start traveling again! As many places as we’ve been, we still have many more to see (thinking of Joshua Tree and Yosemite, for starters). Anywhere else we should go?

Kansas + Iowa

After last year’s epic tour of the Midwest for Thanksgiving we decided to split up future holiday visits to our families. It’s just too crazy to try to see everyone in one trip. So we put our Mason family celebration in Kansas first, and we made it a little early so we could get more affordable flights. I also really wanted to squeeze in a side trip to Des Moines to see friends there (plus all their new babies), so we rented a car to make that happen.

We were really hoping to experience a true fall season, something we both greatly miss. And wow were we rewarded with fall in all its glory. We had great weather most of the time, with just a bit of chill and plenty of brilliant leaves to run through.

And of course we had some excellent food. We went straight from the airport to Oklahoma Joe’s for some authentic KC barbecue. Oh my gosh, it was unbelievable. And huge! Talk about a change of pace. I had enough fries to feed 3 people, and my whole lunch was like $6!

I don’t normally like ribs that much, but theirs were in a league of their own. Just fall-off-the-bone tender. I’m thinking we should make this a tradition every time we visit.

Something about the sky on the way home was really lovely. Black trees against a golden sunset and fields of hay bales. I must have been away long enough to appreciate it in a new way.

Friday we drove up to Des Moines. Can’t say I see a lot of this in the bay area.

We wanted to see the new Des Moines Register building. When we worked for the Register, the old building was in pretty sad shape. Now their new space looks fantastic, all shiny and new.

We checked out their recording studio and got to pretend we were on the Bryce Miller show.

It seems like so many of our former coworkers have moved on to other jobs, but we still know a ton of people there. It was great to catch up.


Harper got to ring the copy desk joke bell. 

After that we headed to the always adorable East Village where we got to say hi to my friend Karen from Ephemera.

We also had to check out Stitch, a new knitting/sewing store that is exactly what I would create if I could design my own craft store.

I definitely left with some gorgeous yarns. I couldn’t help myself.

Des Moines was looking particularly lovely that night as the sun set.

This is the part where I could just kick myself for not taking some pictures. We went to visit our friends Tim and Gretchen who just had triplets a few months ago. (I always think of them when I think my life is hard.) They are handling it amazingly well. You can follow Tim on Instagram if you want to see their adorable babies.

After that (yes, this was an epic day) we met up with our friends Brianne, Joe, and baby Emmett and our friend Arin with her baby Jonah for dinner at A Dong. It was kind of crazy with 3 babies, as you can imagine, but so much fun. We miss A Dong so much!

After that we just hung out, drank wine, and ate cupcakes from Creme Cupcake. They only had vegan stuff left at the end of the day, but my coconut cupcake was damn good.

The next morning our babies got to hang out a little bit.


Someday the paper will go from chew toy to actual reading.


Sweetness.

Harper gets a kick out of all dogs, so of course she was entertained by Wilbur, who looks like a fox.

Emmett is just such a sweet baby. I kind of wanted to put him in my bag and carry him off.

Before we left town that morning we decided to take a walk around Brianne’s lovely neighborhood. I was kind of obsessing over the trees, but they were so pretty.


You too could own a pair of hand-knit baby legwarmers

I mean look at that!

I definitely get a lump in my throat when I think about how much I wish I could do this every day.

But I’m glad we got the chance to spend some time together.

When we got back to Lawrence we had a big family gathering with our Mason cousins. Harper got to play with her cousin Isla, who was only 5 weeks old when I met her last year.

Both of the great grandmas were there, which was so cute. We got to take some four-generation photos.

Harper got ultra spoiled with gifts. She basically giggled and shrieked all night. I think she was really overstimulated, but I know she was having fun.

Auntie Erin had to put in a bunch of laps while uncle Jason made the stuffed dog bark.

Later we got to have a little date while my mom stayed with Harper. Erin and Jason invited us to Merchants Pub & Plate in downtown Lawrence. We had some drinks and dessert (sweet potato donuts – fab!). Then we stopped by Erin’s parents’ house to meet their dogs. Believe it or not they have 3 Newfoundland mixes and a Great Pyrenees. Miss Bella owned the dog bed though.

Speaking of dogs, Charlotte was pretty jealous of Harper getting all the attention. She did eventually warm up to her though.

And she knew exactly where to stand when we had friends over for dinner.

The rest of the time we got to relax a little.

We made a big trip to Home Depot so Mike could take on some home-improvement projects.


The extent of our plumbing knowledge. 

The rest of us took some photos in the back yard. Mom’s weeping willow was looking so beautiful.

And we found Harper looked really cute in this red metal chair.

I also did a little shopping in downtown Lawrence. I picked up some cute earrings for Megan at Made, which carries all handmade goodies (including some familiar ones from the bay area!).

I also got a onesie made for Harper from Acme Tshirts. They have so many good ones to choose from.

We were sad to leave, but we have more family visits coming up in December. My dad and stepmom will be here mid-month. And then we’ll be traveling to Wisconsin and Minnesota for Christmas. Looking forward to seeing many more familiar faces.

Angel Island and Tiburon

Though the night before Labor Day was a rough one in the Corey household (Miss Harper is teething), we decided, post-nap, to make the most of the rest of our holiday weekend. We drove to Tiburon in Marin County to catch the ferry to Angel Island.


Harper’s first boat ride!

Though I can’t say it was high on my California to-do list, exploring Angel Island did seem like the perfect affordable day trip for a family with a baby. The Bay Bridge closure made traffic out there worse, but by Monday it was similar to a normal weekend day.

We ended up loving the island and wondering why no one had suggested it before. The views are incredible! And now that I know you can camp there, I definitely want to come back with friends and family (Brianne – adventure club reunion?)

Historically, the island was used to quarantine Asian immigrants and for military purposes several decades ago. So there are some museums and lots of old buildings and housing to check out.

It struck me as the kind of place where haunted souls reside. Kind of fascinating and creepy at the same time.

It is a little sad that the state is so broke it can’t afford to maintain those old buildings. Some of them seem really cool and worth saving. They could certainly use them for tourism.

But there are a lot of nice hiking and biking trails throughout the island. We did a good job of getting lost but eventually found our way.

And man, the payoff is huge. The views are the best I’ve seen anywhere. From one part of the island you get this whole panoramic view of San Francisco and the bridges.


That’s Alcatraz in the middle.


You can just make out the new Bay Bridge in front of the old (ugly) span.


And, the Golden Gate.

I can’t imagine how pretty it is to watch the sun go down while you camp there. I guess that’s why they also do sunset cruises.

I didn’t want to leave, but we caught the last ferry back.


She does this thing now that looks like a wave.

When we got back to Tiburon we got some gelato and admired the views, which are pretty darn good there, too.

Most of our Marin exploration has been of the state park variety, but I’m thinking we need to spend some time in the towns, too. The quirky houseboats in Sausalito are so much fun to check out. So I think we have more adventures ahead.

*And speaking of islands, you should definitely check out my post on Goodsmiths about shopping at the Treasure Island Flea Market. It was amazing and we found so many cool things.

Mile-high fun with the family

Now that my dad, stepmom, sister and uncle all live in Denver, we thought we would make a trip out there to visit them. I love Colorado in the summertime. It’s definitely warmer than it is here, but still cooler than some of the other places we’ve lived. So it was a nice change of pace.


Dad played guitar for Harper. She loves it. 

Plus, we had all those extra arms to hold Harper and keep her entertained. Now that was a vacation!


Fun times with great-uncle Steve. He always knows how to get a kid to laugh.

The first night Megan took us out for a dinner at this quirky bar in Broomfield called The Old Man. We were a little skeptical at first — we all got carded but there were lots of kids playing outside in back. Family place or party bar? But once we got our food we were totally won over.

They specialize in heaping plates of barbecue. We tried brisket and pulled pork. But the best part was the appetizer — tater tots smothered in green chili.


Totally weird and totally awesome.

While we were in Denver we also checked out the mile-high flea market and took Harper to the pool in my dad’s development.

The little boat thing was a spontaneous purchase, but it totally worked. Plus it folds up small enough to fit in a suitcase.

We attempted to take a family photo. Harper was pretty tired and cranky by that point, but we tried to make it work.

I like this outtake.

We also wanted to give ourselves a Boulder day, so we all gathered for breakfast at the Buff.

You know you’re in a college town when you can get a mimosa for $1!

Harper showed off her present from auntie Megan, an “I dance for cupcakes” onesie from Tee and Cakes. (Later we stopped there for dessert and coffee — still amazing).

We did our little knitwear photo shoot on Pearl Street. Harper helped.

They had so many pretty flowers. It was the perfect backdrop for photos.

I’m glad to see it’s still such a fun place to hang out, shop, eat, watch street performers.

On our last day in Colorado, Mike and I decided we needed a little time to ourselves so we left the baby with her grandparents and drove up Boulder canyon.

We spotted some climbers, little dots on the side of a mountain.

Unfortunately Boulder Falls was closed due to falling rocks. I would have loved to hike down there, but not badly enough to risk getting hit by a rock.

So we just kept driving, up to Nederland and then back to Denver the long way. It was so nice and quiet back there. Almost no other cars.

It’s really hard to find anywhere that isn’t crowded where we live, so this was really relaxing.

It was so great to see everyone. I didn’t get photos of this, but we also got together with old friends one night. Wish we could have stayed longer, but now we’re back to reality!

Off to Colorado…

We leave early, early tomorrow morning for Harper’s first flight (I’m nervous already!) to Denver. We’re excited to see family, who haven’t seen Harper since she was a teeny babe. And you know I love me some mountains. Back in a few days.