Sonoma Valley Olive Season

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Do you know how hard it was to not title this post something totally cheeseball like “Olive Sonoma <3”? Pretty hard.

This past weekend marked the first of Olive Season here in Sonoma. The Blessing of the Olives took place on the plaza, and there were a couple of refreshment tables with (what else?) olives!

Jacuzzi was there with a table of different olive oils to try. Jacuzzi is one of my favorite wineries to visit. Its a bit on the “touristy” side, but who cares? They have a huge tasting room with good wines to sample, large grounds to stroll about, and an olive press where they make their own olive oils! What I really like about visiting Jacuzzi is that you don’t HAVE to do a wine tasting to have an enjoyable time. I’m such a lightweight, that I often just take over as designated driver. So having a winery where your friends can taste wine while you poke around the gift shop and sample delicious olive oils makes for a good time for everyone involved. And they have olive oil ice cream. Just sayin’.

Wineries are involved with the Olive Season celebrations as well as local restaurants. Here is a schedule of all of the events. The festival events are going on now through Valentine’s Day weekend.

Will you be attending any of these events? I’m thinking of checking out the high tea and garden tour at Cornerstone.

An Afternoon at the Park

Jack London State Park to be exact.

Oh and before we go any further, these photos were all iPhoners, so please excuse the meh quality.

My day included a trip to the doctor’s office, aka my second home, for a weekly check-up. The baby is doing great, and we are just playing the waiting game at this point! I think I am 39 weeks? Its getting hard to remember!

After the visit I was in the mood for some outdoor scenery. I took our handy state park pass along and made the drive into Glen Ellen, about 20 minutes from the center of Sonoma. Glen Ellen is like the even quainter small town answer to Sonoma. I love visiting there. Great wineries (Benziger!), one of my favorite restaurants in the area (Glen Ellen Star, an oasis), and its all surrounded by parks and nature.

So here we are at Jack London State Park.

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Part of the fun of visiting here is seeing where Jack London lived, worked, and spent his life.

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The entrance of the trails.

I really love this park. It has miles and miles (I think about 20) of hiking trails. You can’t bring dogs, but horses are welcome. So watch out for horse poo.

I’m really looking forward to visiting here for some trail runs post-baby.

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Today I made it for about an hour’s hike. I would have liked to have gone longer, but lunch was calling my name.

The rest of my day includes cleaning and CHILLING OUT. I think I may even watch a movie DURING THE DAY, that’s how crazy its going to get.

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Laid back Sunday. So naturally we had to visit the pups. 

Right now the weather is a bit more spring than winter, which is great for flying a remote control airplane while the dogs chase it. (see below:)

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Today (Monday) is another laid back day for me. Its hard to believe I’m not working right now, just enjoying this time before baby comes! I just got home from a doctor’s appointment, had a snack, and am heading off to Jack London State Park for a hike. 

I’m also doing some work on the blog, so check out the new “Visiting Sonoma” page! Let me know what you think, and if you’d like to see anything else included. 

Vegan Pesto!

Its totally normal to take pictures of your food out on your front porch while your neighbors walk by. Hey, good lighting is important!

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Anyways, thought I’d share my easy sneezy vegan pesto recipe. Why vegan? Because I don’t do dairy. Its mean to me. So you can keep it vegan and top your fave pasta, or do what we did last night and serve with roasted spaghetti squash and sauteed shrimps.

Here goes:

Easy Vegan, Gluten-Free, Raw Pesto

1/3 C. raw pine nuts

2 C. packed basil

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 large clove of garlic

zest of 1/2 of a lemon

juice of 1/2 of a lemon

about 1/3-1/2 C. extra-virgin olive oil

Give the above ingredients a whiz in the food processor, adding the olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. I like to add a little less for a thicker pesto, because you can always add more olive oil to your dish later.

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This will keep in the fridge nicely for a few days.

Your cat (and neighbors) will probably wonder what you are up to. Just be cool.

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Tahoe!

My first trip to Tahoe! Finally! Would it be too dramatic to use the word majestic to describe the setting? Call me a drama queen, but I think not.

We took the drive from Sonoma to Squaw Valley in a loaner car from the Subaru dealership since our car was having some service done. I mention this because I am thrifty, and saving an eight hour round trip of miles on our vehicle made me smugly happy.

So this was our babymoon. As of right now, we are only 6 weeks away from meeting our little Roo. And we had to celebrate our time together as just a couple, since that is obviously very limited! We decided on Tahoe so that we could get away without spending too much money, and take advantage of the off-season relaxation.

We arrived Friday night, and took it majorly easy with a night of spaghetti and The Lion King. I mean, how does a night get more perfect than that??

Saturday morning Husband went for a long run at the gym so that he wouldn’t drive me crazy with all of his excess energy. He’s very considerate like that. After I had some extra sleep, and he had burned off his man-energy, we set off for a hike at Five Lakes Trail. I had to take quite a few breaks in the beginning (we’re talking once every 10-15 minutes) to catch my breath. Carrying twenty-three extra pounds and altitude make for for a tough climb. But I sort of got myself together after the first 45 minutes or so and was able to carry on pretty much at a normal pace afterwards.

We still took plenty of breaks for lots of photos though…

Can you believe this sticker was one someone’s car at the trailhead??? I almost sat down and waited for them to get back from their hike just so I could shake their hand.

Damn straight!

Damn straight!

He’s my rock. Get it?? Bad dum cha.

Mountain husband.

Mountain husband.

Ok so let me explain a little bit of what’s happening here… We are trying to demonstrate that my bump is about the same size as that rock formation behind me. And I felt like sticking my tongue out would really drive the point home.

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Selfie!

Selfie!

Nothing staged about this photo at all...

Nothing staged about this photo at all…

I actually really like this photo…

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I think the Five Lakes Trail took about 3 hours for us to complete. So in non-pregnant talk that would probably take most people about 2.5 hours.

Afterwards we drove to Truckee and had lunch at Fifty-Fifty, a local brewery and restaurant. My veggie burger was AWESOME. BBQ sauce on the side was legit. <— I live in CA now so I get to use vernacular like this, even when describing BBQ sauce.

After lunch we drove to Reno! I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Reno because I am a geek-out huge fan of Reno!911. One of my favorite shows ever ever ever. I’m sure my husband appreciated the non-stop Trudy Weigel quotes on the drive over there.

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Well and I have to say, Reno is somewhat accurately showcased on Reno!911. I am not too easily fazed, but we didn’t stay downtown too long. But there was an ADORABLE couple there that had just gotten married, so we took their picture under the Reno sign and wished them the best. So sweeeeeet!

Then we went to the actual Reno Sheriff’s department and took a photo out there too. Then we were on our way back to Squaw Valley for dinner (pizza) and a good night’s rest.

Have you been to Reno? Or Vegas for that matter??

Out at Bodega Bay

Dog + beach + car ride = yes.

Off we go!

Off we go!

Permission to kidnap Cara was granted. So we took off in our new ride (in which we could theoretically fit our own dog someday) for Bodega Bay. From Sonoma this was about an hour and a half drive.

Even though it was November, the weather was perfection. Chilly enough to wear a sweater, but warm enough to run around barefoot on the beach. My feet got this wonderful achy, cold feeling from being in the water that felt really good for some reason.

Simon and Cara. She's much more well behaved with him.

Simon and Cara. She’s much more well behaved with him.

We didn’t have much of an agenda, and didn’t even bring a blanket or towel to sit on, which was just fine. We walked for about two hours up and down the beach. Cara and I would trot along the water’s edge.

Cara's requisite "paw in the water" photo. It was either this or a picture of my feet in the water. You're welcome.

Cara’s requisite “paw in the water” photo. It was either this or a picture of my feet in the water. You’re welcome.

Have you ever seen teeny jellyfish? I hadn’t until that day.

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And another requisite cliche photo:

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In the last few minutes we were on the beach we saw this little guy…

A seal!

A seal!

We actually thought that seal was a dog that had gone for a big swim at first! The little guy kept poking his head up every minute or so just kind of scoping out us beachgoers. There are tons and tons of seals at Bodega Bay. There is also a beautiful lighthouse to check out at Point Reyes. The Bodega Bay Website is here, with more visitor information.

I loved that we didn’t have anything to “do” at the beach. Just walking, enjoying each other’s company, and relishing in the beautiful California Coastal weather.

Our drive back home was quiet, especially from the backseat where Cara promptly zonked out.

Do you live near a coast? Is it warm or cold?

 

 

Quarry Hill Botanical Garden

Here’s your soundtrack while reading this post: Eyes by Rogue Wave and These Days by Nico.

I had been meaning to visit Quarry Hill Botanical Gardens for some time now, and I’m so glad I did. The gardens are located off Highway 12 in Glen Ellen, so about a 15 minute drive from the Sonoma Square.

I started my morning off slowly, with some extra time under the covers just soaking in the quiet and stillness. After a sufficient snooze, I roused myself, got dressed (yep, remembered to do that), and headed over to the Barking Dog for a decaf coffee and cinnamon bun the size of my face. I didn’t think there was any way I could finish that bun, but I did. It was pretty tasty, but that was a lot of dough. Good thing there was a good amount of walking in my near future.

Getting to the gardens was easy and there are signs pointing in the right direction so its not difficult to figure out where to park, pay, etc. Once you do all of that good stuff, the entrance is up an incline, and off you go…

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I recommend wearing some sturdy walking shoes, as there are paved sections as well as plenty of trails. I wore a pair of Merrel boots that worked well.

What surprised me the most about QH was the expanse of it! I expected more of a quaint, picturesque sort of garden. But really this was a series of walking/nature trails with plenty of hills to keep you working. You also really choose your own adventure, there’s not a course you have to follow. That makes it really fun, because you can wander off in different directions, down tiny trails, and do your own discovering.

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This little area seemed to be a meditation or area of thoughtfulness… it was beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the gardens. I didn’t see details about this at the entrance (probably because I didn’t grab one of the brochures), but people had written their wishes on these cards and hung them on the beams of the structure.

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I walked for about an hour and a half total, and kept stumbling upon beautiful surprises.

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At the top (or what seemed to be the top) of the trails was a lovely sitting area with Tibetan prayer flags, a stone offering area, and a nice chance for a bit of reflection.

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I headed back and around, and found my way to the exit. Before I left I had to snap a few pictures of the vineyards at the entrance. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there are vineyards here, this is Sonoma after all. 🙂

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Stanly Lane Pumpkin Patch!

Yesterday Husband and I actually had a day off together! The stars were in line, and we had a fantastic day.

First we went to REI for new hiking shoes for Hubs. (Actually the very first thing was Peet’s for coffee. We have priorities.) Then off to Ike’s Sandwiches, my absolute favorite sandwich shop that has ever existed. They have a few different locations in the Bay Area. Definitely check them out if you’re nearby. Hubs and I switched roles: I had a turkey sandwich (with cheese!) and he had a veggie sandwich with fried eggplant and some unknown yummy sauce.

After lunch this pregnant lady needed a nap. A long one. So we didn’t get to give those new hiking boots their first outing, oh well. But I was up for a mini-outing by means of the Stanly Lane Pumpkin Patch. Its super easy to get to, only about a 20 minute drive from Sonoma. 

There are pigs, goats, and a fuzzy (!!) cow to pet, a haystack for the kids (and adventurous adults) to climb, a gift shop, and of course pumpkins galore. They even have wheelbarrows to tow the kiddos and pumpkins around. 

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We arrived at about 4:30 in the afternoon, and there were still plenty of people milling about and lots of pumpkins to choose from. It was nice that the pumpkins weren’t just lumped into one little area, they were spread out everywhere so that you could really explore and pick out the “just right” pumpkin.

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Have I mentioned that I am a huge animal lover? Especially pigs? Pigs are just the cutest little stinkers ever. This one, and its little pink butt, were so cute I almost burst.

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Husband made a new friend too.

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And they stands set up with different gourds (love that word) and mini-pumpkins.

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After picking out our just right pumpkin we made our way into the gift shop. 

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If you’re into olive oil, you’re in luck. They have a huge selection of olive oils available to taste. There’s also a large cooler stocked with different drinks (everything from chocolate milk to chardonnay) and snacks. Plus there’s a coffee and tea bar!

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We didn’t stay especially long at the pumpkin patch, maybe about 30 minutes, but I’m sure if you had a little one you would wind up staying for at least an hour. So we headed out to Sonoma Market for some dinner essentials, and then stopped at the in-laws’ for a quick drink and hello.

I know Cara is a major reason why anyone looks at this blog, so I’d be silly not to post this picture of her sniffing my baby bump.

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Will you be hitting up your local pumpkin patch? 

Getting Personal

I don’t post too many personal posts on this blog, because I value my privacy. But reading this post today on hungryrunnergirl.com got me thinking… so let’s dive right in.

I find that thinking about self-identity is pretty tricky. Identifying myself with labels is easiest of course: wife, daughter, animal lover, soon to be mom, etc. are all readily available categories. But what happens when one of those categories goes away? 

The past couple of years of my life have been full of change. Mostly good changes, yes, but there’s been some struggles along the way. About 2 and a half years ago I married my wonderful husband. We were together for a little over a year when we tied the knot. The timing was perfect for us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Shortly after we were married, I decided that my job as a wine bar manager wasn’t a good fit anymore (too many long nights, not the healthiest environment). So I left that job and began work at Whole Foods. I did well, and was promoted quickly, but didn’t enjoy the work at all. (Am I sounding picky yet? Because I am!) So I bounced back to the wine bar (turns out I should have stayed away, it was not a good fit!) and then bounced again to a very part-time, low-key, low-paying job that I loved. 

So there was the job identity crisis of 2011-2012. I struggled with a (self) perceived lack of success, since I went from a well-paying job with accolades, to pretty much minimum wage, part-time work.

Last year when we moved from Houston to Sonoma more changes were afoot. We moved directly in with my in-laws. We thought it would be a short stay, maybe 2 months tops while we shopped for a house. Well 2 months turned out to be 6. I am beyond grateful for the love and support (and roof over our heads) that we were given. But I also struggled living in a completely new environment, away from my friends and family. Who was I without my parents and friends? It was hard to start all new relationships from scratch, without familiar shoulders to lean on. 

While I never doubted our decision to leave Texas for California, I didn’t try to pretend that I wasn’t going through a major life change. I truly tried to let myself feel sad when it was necessary, and to enjoy a new life the rest of the time. 

Quick breakdown of more changes: we bought a house, moved in, and got pregnant about 2 weeks later. (Of course there are some more job-related changes mixed in there, but I won’t bore you…)

So where am I going with all of this? Ah yes, self-identity. 

Yesterday on the radio I heard a super smart person say that happiness happens when you’re not relying on external factors. I almost pulled the car over when I heard that. That concept was (is!) difficult for me to wrap my head around. I, and I’m assuming a few of you out there, rely on external factors as measures of success and happiness. But when those measures are taken away, we are left with… ourselves. And that is scary as shit.

When I first became pregnant, I could barely move off the couch. I could drag myself to work, but that was about it. The rest of the time I was asleep, or a zombie in front of the tv, barely watching. No cooking, no photography, no running, nada. I was terrified that I would never recover those sides of myself. Who was I if I couldn’t cook dinner for my husband? I felt like a bad wife. What about photography? I felt like a wannabe. Going for a run to clear my head was out of the question. Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but I felt like I didn’t have anything to rely on. I had to ask myself: Who am I? 

I did my usual bit of allowing myself a bit of wallowing before I answered that question. But I stuck with it. I knew that my situation was very temporary, and there are many people with chronic illnesses who feel awful and may never feel like “themselves” again. So there was that little bit that I needed to suck up and deal with. 

I didn’t come to a major conclusion of Who I Am. Because I am a work in progress, I am still figuring out all of my quirks and gifts. But I did let myself be scared. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. 

I think that is pretty intense, allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Admitting that you can’t do it all, that you aren’t perfect, you’re actually just a person living their life the best way you know how. The intensity of vulnerability leads to love. I truly believe that. Because if you can’t allow yourself, your true self, to be exposed then you cannot allow yourself to be loved. But if you can move past the need to protect your heart, you let your heart love the way its supposed to: fully, unconditionally, and without fear.

So maybe it comes down to this…

Without self-identification and relying on external measures of success we are stuck with ourselves. And if we allow our hearts to love, ourselves and others, then we are the person we are meant to be. 

Well Seasoned

Fall is upon us…

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In Sonoma Fall means Harvest. Its really a beautiful time to visit, and a fun one. The season of harvest lends itself easily to celebration.

We’re celebrating the bounty by making apple cider from an enormous box of green apples given to me recently. Its definitely a perk having a winemaker as a husband who can use his skills to craft homemade booze on a whim.

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I would show you pictures of the cider right now, during its fermentation process, but frankly it ain’t pretty. I mean, its pretty in a sense that it will soon be glorious cider for all to enjoy. But appearance-wise it just looks like cloudy, frothy, apple juice. But I promise to post a glowing report once its ready for the enjoyment. (Side note: I will be trying a SIP only since I am with child.)

One downside to harvest: being a Harvest Widow. Cute name, huh? But its kind of true. Hubs is super busy making wine in Texas (Texas? Yep!). Not really complaining, but I would much rather him be around. 

But who is around you may ask? Besides the cutie patootie in my belly? My mom is here! From Texas! I traded a husband for a mom with the Lone Star State. She is in town for her first visit to our new home here in Sonoma. All’s well, and we’re enjoying muchos leisure time. She will be staying until Sunday, which is when the trade will happen again and Husband will be back in town. 

So how are you celebrating fall? Are you making pumpkin flavored everything?