These two. They bring so much love into my life.
I’m a little out of order here as I try to catch/keep up with life but, as I mentioned in my post about Big Sur, we actually made three different stops during our trip to California. Our longest stay was in Sonoma (another one crossed off my 30 Before 30 list, for those keeping track!) for Beth and Steve’s wedding (I posted about their Chicago wedding shower invites here and the actual shower starting here.)
Let me start this post by declaring my love for Sonoma. It’s actually pretty mind-boggling that I hadn’t made a trip out there before. It has sun, wine, beautiful scenery, and good food. Some of my favorite things all in one place. I love Sonoma so much, in fact, that it’s now at the top of my list of places I would like to move to. Visions of my outdoor dinner parties (year-round!) are already forming in my head. It’s going to be great.
Since we don’t have our own home there yet, for this part of the trip, we rented a little pool house we found on VRBO. It was cute and compact and just perfect for what we needed.
The property sits on a cliff overlooking Sonoma. Can you imagine waking up every day to this view if you lived in the main house? I could definitely get used to that.
The owner of the house has two dogs that were given free access to roam the property. This meant that Bear (below) could often be found swimming in the pool or lounging around beside it afterwards. We don’t have any pets of our own so it was kind of nice to wake up to such a sweet lab outside the door every day (the other dog, Beau, didn’t quite warm up to us for some reason.)
And because a post about Sonoma wouldn’t be complete without some grape vines, how about this view from Gloria Ferrar?
We stayed with friends in San Francisco and although their place is stunning (seriously some of the prettiest tiles I’ve ever seen in my life) I wasn’t quite sure how they’d feel about paparazzi taking random photos of their home so I never did. Plus they have a new baby girl and I got pretty distracted holding her (so distracted in fact, I don’t even have a picture of her – that’s definitely a first!) So, no posts from there. Maybe I’ll post a few more wedding/travel photos from the trip though if I have some time….
We’re back from our vacation and seriously could not have had a better, more relaxing, or more fun time. We made stops in three different cities on our week and a half long trip through northern California and honestly loved it all. This was the first time in a few years that we’ve taken a longer (more than 5 nights) trip like this and I really need to remember to do it more. I know it can be difficult (and expensive) to go away for that long but I tend to really need it. Last year when we were in Cabo San Lucas I started getting sad two days in because our trip was almost over. Horrible outlook, I know, but it’s how my brain works these days.
Our first stop this year was Big Sur, CA. We stayed for three nights in a Little Sur Cabin at Glen Oaks. After getting our keys from the main hotel area located right on Hwy 1, we were given a map and driving directions to get to our cabin. Awesome. This was our front gate.
We drove down the drive and found our little cabin waiting for us. The trees and the light that shines through them are amazing. I only wish the photographs could capture the way they smell. I have a pretty funny relationship with nature. On the one hand, I love it. However, that doesn’t always mean I want to be too close to it. Bugs and sleeping on the ground aren’t really my thing. But I am all for this kind of camping.
The inside is cute, compact, and efficient. They did a really good job maximizing such a small space. We had a surprising amount of storage space for our things and there was even a little kitchenette with a sink, fridge, microwave, dishes, and (very important) wine opener. There were also yoga mats inside the wardrobe which I thought was adorable even if I didn’t quite get around to using one.
Their website has plenty of great photos of the inside of the cabin that are better than mine so check that out if you’re interested. But I can’t pass up the bathroom. Do you see the floor below? It’s heated. Amazing. Heated floors are on my dream home wish-list and this just secured their place. It even helped me convince Pete that heated floors wouldn’t be too hot. Yes! One day we’ll have them.
Each cabin has its own fire pit which they stock with wood and fire starters (again, my kind of camping.) It was our spot for morning coffee and evening drinks.
Here’s the fire pit at one of the other cabins and some more of those beautiful trees.
I was really impressed by the landscaping done by Glen Oaks. They managed to keep it woodsy yet also really pretty at the same time. Every time I saw this guy I thought it looked like a happy little pirate tree. See it? He only has one eye but he’s still smiling.
For another fun view of the cabin you can check out our 360 Panorama here. And, in case all of that wasn’t pretty enough, here’s a view from nearby Hwy 1. Who wouldn’t want to see this with just a few minutes drive?
Hello again. Sorry to leave you waiting for so long. But here’s how we celebrated Pete’s actual birthday.
1. Wake up. Make sticky buns. Yum.
I’m actually not much of a morning person (to put it mildly) so I don’t really do breakfast. I figured a big birthday deserved a breakfast though. Of course, I’m not sure that anything with biscuits, brown sugar, and butter should really count as breakfast but that’s OK. They have bananas so they count as fruit, right? They were also super (read: dangerously) easy to make. So much so that I’ve already made them a second time. This could be bad.
2. Drive Lauren to the airport. Boooo. But it was nice to have her with us even for just a little while. It was not so nice to drive her in a car with no AC on one of the hottest days of the year. That has since been addressed. Sorry LOB.
3. Eat steak. Yum again.
The key to this steak is the marinade. I don’t know what it’s called but I got it from Pete’s mom who got it from another family friend. If I had seen the recipe on its own, I don’t think I would have ever tried it. If the oyster sauce didn’t stop me than the cinnamon at the end would have scared me away. But I promise it’s tasty. The recipe below covers about two pounds of flank steak and you’re supposed to marinate it over night.
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 oyster sauce
- 2T brown sugar
- 1T + 1t ground ginger
- 1T minced garlic
- 1T ketchup
- 1/4t onion powder
- 1/4t ground red pepper
- 1/4t cinnamon
So, funny enough, two of my favorite people were born a day apart. Pete’s 30th birthday was last Monday. Lucky duck to have it on a holiday. That goes for me too though. It meant we automatically got to spend the day together and those are always my favorite kind of days. They’re especially great when they come three in a row.
I talk about Pete often on here but I’ll give you a little background on our story, for those who don’t know. In 2004, Lauren (my good friend from college) and Pete (who went to school with Liz right up until she went off to college with Lauren and I) were both looking for roommates. Liz thought they’d get along, they met, and decided to live together for the next two years. They were living together for a few months before we actually met though. Before then, I remember talking to Lauren about how I hadn’t dated anyone in a while and asking her if she thought her roommate might want to watch a movie with me and possibly make-out. She gave me a definite yes. I thought we were both kidding but apparently not.
The short answer to how we met is that I was waiting on his front steps when he came home one day. This makes more sense when you know the details above and is less romantic when you know that I was actually waiting for Lauren, who came home with him. But it’s still the truth! A few months later he asked me out to dinner. On our first date, I insisted it made more sense for me to take a cab to his house and then go to the restaurant. I apparently told him that if he got to know me better he’d learn that I like logic. Poor guy. Luckily he took that as a challenge and stuck around to find out that I was merely telling the truth. Later on in the relationship, in protest of the logic and as proof that chivalry isn’t dead but is perhaps adapting to the times, he’d often be in a cab on his way to my place before I knew what was happening and could object. Good work, Pete.
So, I was feeling a little bad about his birthday celebrations because my creative attention lately has been focused on Beth and Steve’s shower, photography, and Tiffany’s present. Not so much creative time left for Pete’s birthday. But he assured me this was OK and he did not, in fact, need anything pretty or decorative to celebrate the day. Regardless, to make up for what I lacked in party decorations and prep, here’s part one of what I did do for our Sunday night celebrations:
1. Reserve outdoor patio at Pete’s favorite bar. Check.
2. Order lots of appetizers, including wings. Check.
3. Confirm with his mom that she would be bringing his favorite chocolate cake from Portillo’s. Check.
4. Make his favorite peanut butter cup brownies. Check. You should all make these. They’re really good and my go-to dessert. The recipe came from the back of a Duncan Hines brownie mix box a long time ago. Here’s what you do:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place 25 foil cupcake liners on a cookie sheet. (I usually end up with about 18 even though the recipe calls for 30. I figured this was a good compromise.)
- Mix 1 package of brownie mix (preferably an extra-fudge kind with the packet to mix in), 2 eggs, 1/3 cup a water, and 1/4 vegetable oil until well blended.
- Place 2 T mix into each liner.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, open up as many peanut butter cups as you need so they’re ready when the 10 minutes are up.
- Push 1 peanut butter cup into the center of each brownie until even with the surface.
- Bake another 5-7 minutes.
A few weeks ago, we traded the Chicago snow for Colorado snow. I realized while I was there that it had been 5 years since I was on skis! So sad since it’s something I actually really like to do. However, my work schedules have not historically been very conducive to ski vacations.
I love going to Denver because we have family and friends there. Half the time I don’t even have to think or plan much in advance because the most important thing is really just spending time with them. So, thanks to my brother- and sister-in-law for hosting us in your adorable new place. And another huge thank you to Elaine and Vikas for making the drive up to the mountains to spend time with us even though you weren’t skiing. You’re all the best!
We were actually only in Colorado for an extended weekend. We spent two of those days in Beaver Creek and couldn’t have had better weather or better skiing.
The bad news – I ended our first day on a mountain with no way down except through moguls, which I do not do. I knew I could make it down in the slow and steady kind of way – and I did – but I have never been so physically exhausted in my whole life. To make matters worse, my ankles quickly became more swollen than I’ve ever seen them in my life. Ouch. I decided maybe another day of skiing was not in my best interest.
The good news – Before you feel too sorry for me, I spent the next day sitting outside the Park Hyatt at the bottom of the mountain with my Starbucks and a book. The sun was out and I was legitimately worried I’d get sunburn since I was sitting there in only a light sweater with my sleeves rolled up. Amazing. This sort of thing is not an option in February in Chicago.
Here’s one more crossed off my 30 Before 30!
We have gotten a ridiculous amount of snow this year in Chicago. Even if you don’t live here, I’m sure you heard we had over 20 inches of snow earlier this month. And now, with several more inches this weekend, we passed the previous record set in 1896. That was a long time ago.
The strange thing, however, is that one of the more recent record-breaking blizzards was in 1999. I do not remember this at all. It was New Year’s Day, my senior year of high school. I can’t come up with any good reasons why I wouldn’t remember this except that maybe I just didn’t go outside since I was on winter break. I decided I better document this blizzard in case my memory tries to fail me again when the next one comes around.
So, here’s what I learned while the snow fell during blizzard 2011:
1. Growing up in Chicago spoils you.
They warned us about the blizzard for days in advance. They suggested stocking up on supplies. I figured I was good for a day. That’s enough, right? I know DC shut down for several days last year, but that’s just not how it is here. Nothing against DC (I lived there for a year and love it), it’s just that we get a lot of snow and have always figured out how to deal with it. Traffic might be slower, which definitely annoys us all, but places stay open and you eventually get where you need to go.
It wasn’t until I was reading something about what to do in the case of a power outage that I started to second guess my lack of a plan. (That frozen tilapia? Yeah…probably needs to be cooked.) However, I quickly concluded that I personally would freeze to death from lack of heat before I would ever starve to death. So, I decided to not think about it too much longer…
2. I am miserably unprepared for an emergency.
In case you didn’t guess where number 1 was leading, our power went out the day it started snowing at about 5pm. I went to get the flashlight to light some candles only to find out the batteries were dead. Oops. That’s not good. And remember the tilapia in the freezer? Yeah….not so helpful now.
As I contemplated the situation I was in, I thought it was kind of funny given my ability to be so overly prepared in other situations. You know, like being the bridesmaid with a bag full of stuff in case of a wardrobe malfunction. I should probably broaden the scope of emergencies I plan for…
3. When in doubt, panic. And then cook.
The good news is, our power came back on within an hour. Whew. However, I learned my lesson and decided to make some granola and edemame. What? Really? This is what I came up with? Yeah. Remember when I said I thought we were good for a day. Well, that was with a refrigerator and a stove. Hmm…see number 2 about planning better for emergencies. Turns out the milk in our fridge was also spoiled. Again, not helpful if we ever really did find ourselves homebound for extended periods of time.
4. Get outside!!
I spent most of the day after the snowfall inside and working from home. Actually, in my defense for all of this, I was really sick this week so even if I wasn’t working, I would have still stayed inside. From my treehouse (what I sometimes call our condo), it certainly looked like a lot of snow. I saw all the buried cars and the neighbors coming together to un-bury them. It made me smile, I like neighbors being neighbor-ly.
But it wasn’t until about 5pm that I finally went outside to check on Pete who had already been shoveling for an hour. Whoa. There really was a lot of it. For reference sake, Pete is 6’4″.
My favorite part though? The igloo the four little boys in our building had built together below our window. I really wish I would have heard them playing outside. How much fun would this have been?
5. Growing up in Chicago spoils you. (Refer back to number 1.)
I (and most of Chicagoland) had to go back to work the day after blizzard. I was walking down La Salle Street on my way home when I realized the street was shut down to allow the 3+ bulldozers to load the snow into a dump truck to haul it away to who knows where.
Honestly, it was one of the more incredible things I’ve ever seen. Annoying because a block was shut down and the buses were likely re-directed with no notice? Sure. But cleared away and under control in a pretty limited amount of time? I find that pretty impressive.
However, in case you’re worried, I’m not planning on letting number 5 talk me into not being ready for the next emergency. I still think it would be a good idea to fix that.