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Sonoma

For our one year anniversary last month (sorry for the delay – the past month is a blur) we jumped coasts to check out Sonoma. I LOVE wine and my husband will enjoy wine with me. He has been to Napa before but I had heard amazing things about Sonoma. We spent 3 full days and had 2 travel days, but the day we flew out was essentially a full day with an early flight and gaining time. I loved our itinerary so I thought I’d share. We had a wonderful and relaxing trip, even days before closing on selling a house and buying a house.

Travel Day/Day 1

We took an early flight so we would have most of another day. We landed in San Francisco around 10am. After getting our luggage and car, it was lunchtime and the obvious first stop on the west coast is In-n-Out Burger. Every time eat there it is just as delicious as I remember. Sonoma is about 1.5 hours from the airport and we had no set plans for that day, so we made a pit stop on the way at Muir Woods.

Redwoods are amazing trees. They are old and massive and just really cool. Nowadays, you have a reserve a parking time – a 30 minute window – before arriving. We actually waited to do it until we arrived in San Francisco just in case something happened with our flight, which was easy to do since it was a Thursday. On a weekend, though, I am pretty sure parking slots sell out. Once you’re there, you can spend as much time as you want. There were a good number of people there, but once we got into the woods a little there weren’t many people around. You can take the paths, hiking trails, take lots of photos. We spent 1-1.5 hours walking around and it was a beautiful stop to make.

We continued to Sonoma – where the weather was significantly warmer – and checked into our AirBnb. The cozy guest cottage was perfect. It wasn’t a huge space but we weren’t planning on spending a ton of time there anyway. It had a little kitchenette, a comfy queen bed, a tv, it was private, and the host had a wonderful welcome basket with snacks. We had dinner at El Molino Central, which had delicious authentic Mexican cuisine.

Day 2

We wanted to have one day that we didn’t have to worry about driving and too many tastings. So for months I checked out different tour companies and driver services and kept an eye out for different deals. I don’t remember how I stumbled across Valley Wine Tours, but they seemed to be the best deal so I booked a semi-private tour (not knowing how many people would actually be on the tour with us). I will say they are a very simple operation, so if you want a lot of details about your day, you have to ask questions. But we were happy to be surprised with the exact details.

David picked us up around 10am in a mini van and then we picked up a mother-daughter pair and that’s who we spent the day with! David asked what kinds of wines we liked and what we were expecting out of the day. He had a tentative plan but wanted us to have input if we had any, which was nice. We went to 4 wineries: Larson Family Winery, Loxton Winery, Little Winery, and Muscardini Winery. We had more than enough time at each one and had a delicious picnic lunch (included in the tour, with actual china!). Wine tasting fees were not including in the tour price, but many wineries will waive the fee if you buy wine and we obviously bought wine. I was pleasantly surprised by the prices of bottles at most wineries! We were back at our AirBnb around 4pm. It was really a great day! We took a rest then went to Mary’s Pizza Shack for dinner (which was delicious).

Day 3

Our last full day in Sonoma we wanted to hit up a couple more wineries but take more time and maybe do an actual tour since we only did tastings the day before. We started the day with a yummy breakfast at Picazo Cafe. So we did a leisurely morning tasting at B.R. Cohn Winery, grabbed lunch in the little town of Glen Ellen, then headed to Benziger Winery. Benziger was definitely the largest winery we went to and we wanted to do an interesting tour, so we went with the Tribute Estate Tour & Exclusive Wine Tasting. The winery is biodynamic, which is one step higher than organic (which I didn’t even know existed), and it was really interesting to hear about how the winery works. Then we did a tasting in the wine cave. Very cool. It was a perfectly chill winery day.

We wanted one nice dinner, so we had made a reservation months before to The Girl & The Fig in downtown Sonoma, which was recommended to me by a friend who lives in San Fran. And it lived up to the hype. The atmosphere was great and the food was delicious. We also walked about downtown Sonoma before dinner which is a really cute little square with a park in the middle.

We absolutely loved our trip to Sonoma. There are SO many wineries so you could visit numerous times and have a different experience every time. All the wine was delicious (although I can’t say I am picky). All the food was delicious. All the service was great. I highly recommend it.

Day 4

We spent our last full day in San Francisco seeing a friend for brunch and going to a Giants baseball game (we try to hit up different baseball stadiums when we can). Since the post is getting long – the baseball game was fun and food before and after the game was great (highly recommend the nachos at Public House next to the stadium).

All in all, it was the perfect one year anniversary trip. I have done a quick itinerary below in case that is helpful to any planning a trip to the west coast and looking for pointers. Enjoy!

DayActivity/WineriesRestaurant(s)
Thursdayo early flight ATL > SFO
o drive to Sonoma
o Muir Woods
o In-n-Out Burger
o El Molino Central
FridayValley Wine Tours:
o Larson Family Winery
o Loxton Winery
o Little Winery
o Muscardini Winery
o Mary’s Pizza Shack
Saturdayo B.R. Cohn Winery
o Benziger Winery
o Picazo Cafe
o Garden Court Cafe
o The Girl & The Fig
Sundayo drive to San Francisco
o Giants game
o MarketBar
o Public House
Mondayo early flight SFO > ATL


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French Boneless Chicken

I have a wonderful cookbook called Entertaining with Friends and it was made by the Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where I was a patient through college. It was a wonderful place that does great things for kids and families. I think a friend gave me the cookbook but honestly I can’t remember.

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I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t do a great job of using my cookbooks. I usually have a couple of recipes from it that I make and then it gets put to the side and forgotten about. This is one my go-to recipes from this cookbook that I wanted to share.

It’s a pretty easy recipe and we actually had everything we needed when I thought to make it recently. I remembered to take pictures a little late so they’re not quite as detailed as I usually like for recipe posts but you’ll get the idea!

Start with your ingredients and some prep. Pound and season the chicken. I also cut the breasts in half. Chop the onion and quarter the mushrooms. We accidentally chopped the mushrooms because the recipe right next to this one requires chopped mushrooms. But it’s still mushrooms all the same!

Briefly sauté the chicken then place in a baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the chicken. Then make the sauce in the same pan, adding each ingredient and letting it cook. First the onion, then mushrooms, then the wine and simmer.

Pour the onion mixture over the chicken and bake!

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We also baked some delicious brussel sprouts with our go to recipe – salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add a salad, bread, rice, whatever other sides you want!

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French Boneless Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken pieces
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • ⅓ to ½ C white wine
  • 1 C (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰
  2. Pound the chicken to a uniform thickness. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Heat 1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a skillet. Add the chicken and sauté briefly. Remove to a baking dish.
  4. Melt the remaining 1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in the same skillet. Add the onion and sauté until tender. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender. Stir in the wine. Simmer for a few minutes.
  5. Sprinkle cheese on top of the chicken. Top with mushroom mixture.
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until bubbly and the chicken is cooked through.

Yields 4-6 servings

Happy cooking! Print the recipe here: French Boneless Chicken

 


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Peanut Butter Cookies

I can’t believe it took me this long to share this recipe – and that this is only the fourth dessert/sweets recipe I have posted on my blog. I bake a lot. I have no excuse. Anyway, this is literally the easiest cookie to make. If you are not a baker you can make these, and if you are a baker you will love how easy these are. And many of you may recognize these cookies. My mom made these a lot growing up and you can easily find the recipe online. Some call them Magic Cookies – not because of any “special” ingredient – but because they are that easy and they are that good.

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You start with your ingredients – only 4 of them. Well, technically 5, but the flour doesn’t go in the cookies. And you don’t have to have a Kitchen Aid mixer. You can use a hand mixer or you can even use a blender or food processor.

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Mix the peanut butter and sugar until combined.

 

Go ahead and beat the egg a little with a fork. Add an egg and vanilla. Dough will be moist but slightly crumbly.

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Roll dough into balls. I usually make them pretty small – max the size of a golf ball. Place onto cookie sheet.

 

Pour a little flour into a cup or bowl (just a few tablespoons). Dip a fork into the flour, then flatten the cookies with the floured fork.

Bake ’em up and sit back and enjoy! Little time, little clean up. 1 recipe makes about 20 cookies, give or take, depending on what size you make them.

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Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 C peanut butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • flour (~2-3 Tbsp.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°

In food processor or mixing bowl, combine peanut butter and sugar. Mix well.

Stir in egg and vanilla.

Roll dough into ~3/4 inch balls and place onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie with a floured fork.

Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.


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Dollar Shave Club Review

It’s bad enough to have to spend so much time shaving, but to also have to spend SO much money on razors ($4-$5 per blade) makes it ten times worse. I’ve heard a lot about Dollar Shave Club so I decided to do some research. I checked out the website and I read numerous blog reviews by women who had tried it. And I really didn’t find anything negative. So I decided to try it out. Everything definitely has a masculine look to it, but who cares. If this service had been made for women it would probably be at least twice as expensive.

There are 3 different blade options. I went middle of the road with The 4X ($6 per month – $1.50 per blade – and free shipping). I definitely didn’t want just one blade, but don’t think I need to deluxe, and I think most of the reviews from women I read were for the 4X. I also ordered the Easy Shave Butter ($8) because, again, it got great reviews and it sounded like some shave cream I used to love. I don’t like the foamy shave cream so I usually don’t use any, or just use a little conditioner (did you know that trick?). But I figured why not since I was ordering a new razor anyway, and I won’t need that every month.

Everything came in a cute little package (I realize it’s ‘manly’ and cute is probably not the appropriate adjective…but I think it’s cute).

I’ll start by saying I wasn’t quite as impressed as I hoped to be, but my expectations may have been pretty high to begin with. This is all in comparison to my Venus Embrace razor that I’ve had for years. For thing to remember is that it is a men’s razor, so it doesn’t have any kind of protective material (moisture ribbons or whatever they call it) around the blades like many women’s razors have. Really all this means is that I have to go slower when shaving….[long sigh]. Again, as first stated in this post, I hate how long it takes to shave. If I had a dollar for every….sorry, preaching to the choir, I know. Anyway, my first shave was hurried so got a couple nicks like a teenager shaving for the first time. But it was a good shave. The more sensitive areas women have to get to aren’t quite as easy with a men’s razor, either, but just slowing down helps. It’s definitely not so much worse than my women’s razor that I’ll give up spending less and having them delivered to my door! I may move up to The Executive blade but I’ll give this one some time first. It is also a little harder to grip in the shower than a woman’s razor. I haven’t actually dropped it yet but have had to readjust my grip and have almost dropped it.

The Shave Butter was definitely worth the buy. A little goes a long way, so you won’t have to buy it every month, and especially because I don’t use it every time I shave (hellloooo – that takes more time), I won’t have to buy it often at all. It definitely leaves everything smooth and softer than not using anything.

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PROS: cost, home delivery, good shave, shave butter

CONS: less protection around blades (have to shave slower), harder in sensitive areas, grip

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If you want to try it out for yourself, use my referral code and try it out! Then let me know what you think!


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Nicaragua Wrap Up

I am back from an incredible trip to Nicaragua! I’m not going to post specific details because I already did that during our trip on our group blog: https://nicaraguanadventure2016.wordpress.com

But I did want to give a little overview here. I definitely had some expectations going into the trip because I have done mission trips in other countries, including Central America. I expected the work projects to be similar. I expected the lodging and food to be similar. I expected the overall experience to be good, but not as great as my other trips that were with good friends and some that were return trips to the same place. I now know better than to hold to expectations.

The people of Los Robles, Nicaragua blew me away. They are humble and grateful despite having practically nothing. They welcomed us into their homes, gave when they had little, and chatted despite our broken communication (minus our fluent leader). The children laughed and played and openly gave hugs to strangers who couldn’t communicate with them. And the people in our group REALLY blew me away. Most had not done a service or mission trip before. But everyone had a heart to serve, was easy going and flexible, and ready to have a great time, which is exactly what we did. God placed each one of us on this trip for a reason, and as our trip leader said, if just one person had not made and kept that commitment, the week would not have been the same.

I do hope to make it back to Los Robles, Nicaragua one day and also hope to see more of this beautiful country, which we got to see a little more of on our last day as tourists in Granada. Adios – until next time!


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Spinach Orzotto

I got this recipe from my sister-in-law a long time ago and just rediscovered it in my recipe box. It is very easy and delicious – a great side to go with anything. You do want to make sure to prep everything before starting because it goes pretty quick once you start. And you kind of need to watch it closely, so I recommend making it when you have your main meat/dish cooking in the oven or someone around to help. This is a very basic recipe and would be easy to modify – add some different veggies, add some Parmesan, add some meat to make it a meal on it’s own – go crazy!

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Gather all your ingredients – pretty easy stuff, too – nothing strange. And yes, that is white wine. Make sure you have a glass ready because you only use 1/3 cup for the recipe…

ingredients

ingredients

You’ll want to go ahead and prep everything, including measuring out everything. Trust me, you will be glad you did. Chop your green onions and spinach.

Measure out your liquids – use a glass measuring cup for the chicken broth as you will heat it up a little in the microwave before adding it.

prep, prep, prep

prep, prep, prep

Time to cook! Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add green onion, garlic, and orzo. Toast, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until orzo has started to toast. Watch carefully or the orzo will burn.

toast it up

toast it up

Add the white wine and stir until absorbed. While the white wine absorbs, stick the chicken broth in the microwave for 1-2 minutes to warm it up a bit.

add white wine

add white wine

Add ½ a cup of chicken broth and cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Repeat 2 more times with ½ a cup of broth at a time until all is absorbed.

add chicken broth

add chicken broth

Turn off heat and add chopped spinach until well incorporated and wilted.

add spinach

add spinach

Season with salt and pepper and serve it up!

serve it

serve it

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Spinach Orzotto

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 C white wine
  • ½ C orzo
  • 1 ½ C chicken broth
  • 2 C spinach, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Prep all ingredients (chop and measure).

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onion, garlic, and orzo and cook for about 3 minutes or until orzo is slightly toasted, stirring frequently.

Add wine and cook until absorbed, stirring frequently. While wine cooks down, heat chicken broth in microwave for 1-2 minutes (want it at least warm).

Add ½ cup of chicken broth and cook until absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat 2 more times with ½ cup of chicken broth each time until all broth is absorbed.

Turn off heat and stir in chopped spinach until wilted and incorporated into the pasta.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Makes about 2 servings


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Fairhope, AL

Although I visit Alabama regularly to see family, I realized I’ve never posted about it! Granted, a lot times we are just hanging out at home, which is totally fine, but we do some fun stuff too!

My last trip down, we had some amazing food. My brother and sister-in-law live in Daphne, AL but her parents live in Fairhope and we spend a lot of time there as well. Especially because Fairhope has an adorable little downtown on the bay and has some great restaurants. That’s also where my last triathlon was a couple years ago!

We had a kid-free dinner on Friday night at Camellia Cafe. Their website is down (and has been), so I apologize for not remembering everything we ordered (which was a lot), but it was all delicious. We started with beverages and appetizers (yes, multiple appetizers). My sister-in-law and I got a delicious drink (sorry, can’t remember what it was!), though it was maybe a little sweet to have more than one. For appetizers we got fried green tomatoes and pot stickers (I can’t remember what was in the pot stickers – I think it was pork belly – but they were very good). My entree was amazing: pan seared duck breast served on polenta (I think it was cheesy) and asparagus.

 

Saturday morning, we took a girls morning and went out for breakfast and errands. The Warehouse in Fairhope is my new favorite place. If you know me at all, you know that breakfast/brunch is my favorite meal, so that is saying something. They have a great menu, whether you want a quick coffee and donut, or to sit and enjoy a filling breakfast. I had chicken and waffles that were to die for. The chicken melted in my mouth and the whipped sriracha butter was a perfect little kick. Highly recommend. Oh and the cold brew coffee was also great – you can have it with milk, chocolate milk, almond milk – pretty much whatever your heart desires.

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