Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

Well…I realize I have gone radio silent for most of December! Things have been so busy with the holidays, but in the best way. Christmas was absolutely wonderful at home…hanging out with the niece and nephew, celebrating with family over dinners at home, chatting by the fire and enjoying the nearby sites in Santa Cruz and Carmel. 

This time of year always makes me reflect on everything that's happened over the past 12 months and I do really feel like this has been one of the best years yet. We lived in London, traveled through Europe and the Middle East, moved back to San Francisco, celebrated two years of marriage, celebrated other people getting married and got really close to family and friends again. I know 2014 will bring more excitement and I can't wait to see what evolves. I hope it's good to you as well! Now it's time to pop some bubbly...

Happy New Year! x

[Image via Pinterest]

Monday, 9 December 2013

Tree Hunting

Looking for a tree is one of my favorite family holiday traditions. My family always does it the Sunday after Thanksgiving - we pile in the car and head into the Soquel mountains to Hester Creek Farms. It's a beautiful piece of land owned by a local family where they grow acres of Douglas and Noble fir trees. There's nothing quite like chopping down the tree with the family…here are a few photos from the beautiful sunny December day.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Yountville Getaway

One of my favorite places in the world to relax and unwind is Yountville. It's such a quaint, sleepy little town with so much to offer from restaurants and wineries to luxury hotels and spas. I was able to find a great deal for the Vintage Inn, sister property of the Villagio Inn & Spa, so jumped on it immediately for a quick two day weekend trip. It was the perfect amount of time to enjoy a handful of wineries and the adorable town of Yountville. 
Here are a few shots of the scenery at the Vintage Inn. I've been here several times now and am always impressed with the amenities, which include free wine tasting passes, an insanely good champagne brunch, access to the indulgent Villagio spa and a complimentary bottle of wine (goes well by the fireplace or in the big jacuzzi tub!).
Our first stop on our wine tour was Domaine Chandon. Although the place itself a bit commercial, the champagne is delicious and I always enjoy some good bubbles. We sat outside on a large patio with the autumn leaves and sun all around us.
Next up was a stop at one of my favorite lunch spots when wine tasting: V. Sattui. They have a really great deli inside the tasting room where you can order sandwiches and salads to take outside and enjoy on picnic benches. We got the chicken and pesto sandwich and turkey cranberry along with a golden beet salad. If you're in the mood for BBQ, they usually have several stations going on weekends.
The last stop on our tour was my absolute favorite winery, Rombauer. You really can't beat their chardonnay or any of their red wines...not to mention that view of the valley. Jim and I are members of the wine club and it's really a great investment as you get free tastings anytime you go up there for up to four people. 
We spent Sunday leisurely brunching at the Villagio. Since it's a sister property of the Vintage Inn, you can go to either hotel for brunch. I love the views here on the patio with the vineyards in the background. 
Here's the full breakfast spread...all the pastries, cheeses, oatmeal, yogurts and fruit you could imagine. And outside on the patio, you can have a waffle or omelette made fresh just for you.
Before heading over to the spa for a steam, we lounged by the pool for a bit. As you can see, it's a very zen space where you can just let your thoughts go.
I've already booked our next trip there and cannot wait to go! Until next time, Napa...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Celebrating M + C

Love sweet love was the theme of last Saturday's engagement party for my sister Myriah and her fiance Corey. The groom-to-be's parents and sister did an incredible job pulling together all the details and yummy food to make this the perfect autumn celebration of their upcoming nuptials. My favorite dishes included apple pie & cheese crostini and tiny chocolate chip cookies. I love how they really thought about every detail from the silver pumpkins and oversized wooden frame at the entrance to the vintage white wine bucket and tea kettle vases. It was absolutely perfect and the best way to toast the happy couple. Here are just a few snaps of the beautiful party...

Congratulations Myriah & Corey! Can't wait for the celebrations to continue next year! 


Monday, 4 November 2013

Farmers Market By The Sea

Even though there's nothing like the farmers market at the Ferry Building, the Fort Mason farmers market in the Marina is a perfect mini version for times you don't want to make the trip downtown. It happens every Sunday from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and boasts a couple dozen vendors ranging from homemade pasta and seasonal flowers to artisan cheeses and a rotisserie truck serving roasted chickens to-go and delectable potato wedges. If the photos are any indication, the produce is fresh fresh fresh. And it's such a better, more relaxing experience than popping to the grocery store. Go check it out this weekend!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Austin City Limits

I'd been looking forward to going to Austin for quite some time and the city did not disappoint. I didn't really have many expectations going into the trip - partially because my soon-to-be brother-in-law, Corey, lives there at the moment and I knew he and my sister Myriah would show us a great time. They totally did with a full itinerary that revolved around eating, drinking and visiting every area of town. It seems life there revolves around BBQ, Tex Mex, music, great cocktails, beautiful views, the lake and a developing downtown area. It's definitely a place I could live for a few years. It's got a bit of the New Orleans charm but it's spread out like San Diego, plus it's got a lot of the cool factor San Francisco is so well known for. Quite the Southern melting pot. Thursday through Sunday gave us the perfect amount of time to explore before our jeans burst from eating a little too much. Read on for a day by day of our holiday...
First stop post-airport was a goat cheese and olive tapenade tartine and mushroom/leek/fontina quiche lunch at Blue Dahlia in East Austin (up and coming hipster area) followed by a nonfat iced latte and homemade French macarons at Hillside Pharmacy. The Pharmacy is in the most adorable old cafe with authentic marble, iron and vintage decor. They use Stumptown Coffee (my favorite, even over Blue Bottle!) meaning every drink has a rich, creamy delicious flavor. They also do afternoon tea which seemed worth a try.
After walking around downtown and checking out 6th street (restaurants, shopping, businesses), we walked down to a nearby bridge at Town Lake to watch the sunset. The lake is really cool...it adds an element of nature to the city and people seem to love kayaking and boating around.
We walked by this miniature bar every day leaving Corey's place and I obviously fell in love. Love a good tiny bar! This was the start of a fun night on Rainey Street, a historic district of Austin that was probably my favorite area. It's a street of historic homes in southeast Austin, most of which have been refurbished in cool bungalow style. There's a mix of bars and restaurants and apparently it's fun day or night. 
After enjoying a homemade sausage dinner at Bangers along with a really good live country band on the patio, we headed a few doors down to Lucille's. It's a really cute, swanky cocktail lounge. My sister and I got Cucumbertinis that were strong but so good. The night ended at Lustre Pearl where we went to the University of Texas MBA 'Think & Drink' happy hour and met some of Corey's friends.
On Friday we woke up  checked out the South Congress area, which reminds me of Melrose Ave. in LA in the 70's or 80's. Everything's a little dated and retro and there are tons of second hand shops along with really good restaurants, fast food stops and food trucks. After an authentic BBQ lunch at Lambert's, we needed a pick-me-up so Myriah and Corey took us to Jo's where they make a special coffee concoction that puts any frappuccino to shame. It's coffee meets chocolate and coconut milk...bingo.
Just down the street is Hotel San Jose, a chic boutique hotel where we stopped for a drink. Myriah and Corey told us that this used to be burlesque house...it's clearly changed a bit since then! The tranquil surroundings were perfect for a bit of relaxing in the sun. 
This beautiful drink from Hotel San Jose is called a 'Champassion.' Super simple to make...start with less than 1/4 of passion fruit puree in the bottom of the glass, fill it up with champagne and top with plump raspberries. Voila! A perfect afternoon (or anytime) cocktail. 
Saturday was filled with yet more exploring. After a Mexican lunch along Lake Austin (think Tahoe style restaurants lined along the water), we drove over to Mount Bonnell where you can see some pretty incredible views of the city. The view stretches for days...so lush and beautiful.
After some nature we headed back over to East Austin for cocktails and one of Myriah and Corey's favorite places called Weather Up. My sister got this blackberry bramble that was pretty darn good. 
This iconic wall in Austin is over on South Congress. Says it all, right? :)
Jim couldn't get enough of Lone Star beer, the 'National Beer of Texas.' It's a lager that I actually found to be pretty light and tasty. Plus I like the bottle design.
And that's all for Austin! I really loved our visit and highly recommend it as a very cool city to visit for a long weekend.

Until next time!

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