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? 

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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?

Pico de Gallo (aka Too Many Tomatoes)

This year was my first ever attempt at gardening. Since we now have more tomatoes than I could ever know what to do with, I’m calling the experiment a success!

So with all of these gems, I decided to make roughly 18 pounds of pico de gallo. Seriously.

The recipe is by The Pioneer Woman and can be found here.

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I chopped for so long that I had to sit down and take a break. Plus I used 50% more tomatoes than what the recipe required.Image

Finished product. Yes, its delicious. Simple, super fresh, exactly the way pico should be.

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You bring the chips.

The Bestest Pumpkin Spiced Pancakes

Who can resist a stack of perfect, hot from the pan, pumpkin spiced pancakes? Not I.

Yes, I ate all of them.

Yes, I ate all of them.

Upon waking, I wanted something warm and kind of a treat. Pancakes are the answer of course. This recipe is only slightly adapted from Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet, an awesome collection of vegan recipes.

Pumpkin Spiced Pancakes

1 1/2 C. unbleached all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 C. unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/3 C. canned pumpkin

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

 

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice and set aside.

2. In a blender, combine the almond milk, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and coconut oil and process until well blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing with a few swift strokes until just combined.

3. Heat a lightly oiled (I used coconut oil spray) non-stick pan over medium heat. Use a 1/8 C. measuring cup to portion out about 4-5 pancakes onto the pan. Cook on one side until small bubbles appear on top, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes with a Darth Vader spatula and cook until the other side is lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes more.

The batter will be a little thick!

The batter will be a little thick!

 

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Darth Vader spatula flips pancakes to the dark side (of the pan)… ughhh I tell the worst jokes…

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I like to use a measuring cup to portion out the pancakes so that they are an even size. You choose what size you want, but these came out a little bigger than a silver dollar by using a 1/8C. measuring cup. They were the perfect size for dipping into maple syrup.

Drip.

Drip.

A success! I ate about half of them, and I’m going to freeze the rest for another morning that needs some sweetness.

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Pumpkin Butter!

Tis the season for PUMPKIN. Pumpkin everything please. New on my pumpkin list is this fabulous pumpkin butter from Oh She Glows.

 

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I’m eating it right now. Like right now.

 

Here’s the recipe:

 

Lightened Up Raw Pecan Pumpkin Butter

Vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, no bake/raw, soy-free

By Angela Liddon

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw pecans, soaked
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup canned pureed pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tbsp maple syrup or other liquid sweetener, to taste

Directions:

  1. Place pecans in a bowl and cover with water by a couple inches. Let pecans soak for a few hours. Drain and rinse the pecans well and then place in the blender.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients into the blender and blend on highest speed until the dip is smooth. Add sweetener to taste.
  3. Serve with apple or pear slices. Store leftover dip in an air-tight jar or container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2013/09/17/lightened-up-raw-pecan-pumpkin-butter/#ixzz2fMDHkEiz

 

I thought the recipe was super easy. My Vitamix blender definitely helped, and you may want to use a food processor if you don’t have a high-powered blender.

All of the ingredients smelled and looked like fall…

 

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The pictures of the recipe on ohsheglows.com inspired me not only to make this yumminess, but also to buy one of those handy apple-slicers. I already don’t want to remember what life was like before this thing.

 

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What are you cooking up to celebrate fall? 

Farmers Market at the Plaza

The Tuesday evening Farmers Market at the Plaza is a must when spending time in Sonoma. Us locals (when we’re organized at least, ahem) bring a blanket or two, a bottle of vino or two, and gather friends to spend the evening perusing local produce purveyors and listening to local bands. Some highly motivated individuals will even get a picnic table set up and have informal parties. 

 

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This past Tuesday was the last big concert night of the season. One Tuesday a month a local band is featured for our musical pleasure. The music definitely adds to an already lively scene. 

I stopped by mostly to check out the local fare and take in one of the last hurrahs of the season. It was a quick visit, but still filled to the brim with fresh fruits and veggies, good music, and lots of happy campers.

Here are some of the sights:

 

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All of this was great and all. But then I found Sweet Peabody’s. Game changer. Locally made dairy-free sorbet! Eeee!! Being a non-dairy person, I don’t know if I can express how happy this made me. Please excuse the lack of details, as I was in a state of pregnant sorbet-induced stupor…

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The lovely gentleman (proprietor? pretty sure) scooping up deliciousness was kind enough to let me hover around taking photos for a few minutes WHILE sampling the wares. I can officially vouch for the pluot and apricot flavors featured… especially the apricot. 

Sorbet can be really tricky. Well, non-dairy frozen treats in general, but especially sorbets. I’ve found that most sorbets rely so heavily on sugar, that I’m left with sticky fingers and a sugar coma. The texture is probably the hardest part to nail, as many sorbets can be grainy and/or icy. I’m not naming any names, but even those fancy sorbets that cost like $9 at Whole Foods are guilty of this! 

Anyways, not so with Sweet Peabody’s! Again, I really liked the apricot flavor. And it was CREAMY. No chunky iciness or overly sweet taste! Well done, SP, well done. I will be back in the very near future with cash in hand and a hefty appetite.

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Cheers, til we meet again.