November 30, 2015

Guide to Napa and Sonoma Wineries

I took a second trip to Napa with some friends to get away for a weekend. The valley is so beautiful that I absolutely did not mind visiting again!

I truly believe that you can do these valleys on a budget. We used Airbnb both times and stayed outside of Napa/Sonoma valleys.

Before you go I would plan ahead kind of a path you would like to go and see if any deals are out there you want to pre-purchase.. Last trip we did, this trip we didn't. No matter. This trip I was more into getting my deals on Yelp and some on an app called WineryFinder. Just a word of warning, the winery finder app had some not honored deals and was not the most user friendly app. Thank gosh for Yelp! 

Oh and please, always have a safe driving experience when drinking and always remember that Saturdays are always super busy.


You can look back on a recap of my previous trip here. There I said one day I would write down some of my favorite wineries so I thought I would take the time to do it here. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite wineries if you want to go take a visit:

Jacuzzi:
Much better reds then whites. They are right across from their sister winery Cline.

Cline:
I prefered Cline to Jacuzzi. Their zins are great! We went to a reserve tasting in their villa this trip. It was the first weekend it was opened and it was beautiful experience. Probably my favorite winery.

Two Amigos Wines
Eh. Downtown Sonoma tasting room. Wouldn't go again...

Bartholomew Park Winery
Seriously we had some rude service. Wine was not all that good either. There are some pretty good looking hiking trails off of the estate though which is pretty cool.

Schug Carneros Estate Winery
This was a great little place with a beautiful estate! 


Andretti Winery
Pretty standard.

Honig Vineyard and Winery
By appointment only, it is a great place to go slowly and sit with small pours.

Cosentino Winery
Love love love! Visited last year too! Great new outdoor patio since my visit last year.

Sequoia Grove Winery
This was a surprise one for me that I really liked! Good service and decent wine!

Hagafen Cellars
This is a kosher winery! We actually bought a bottle of tempranillo here because the price was right. Friendly staff too.

The last trip we also went to Ledson, Alexander Valley Vineyards, Castello Di Amorosa, and Girard. All were worth a revisit, but I wanted to explore some new ones too. 



Oh and I created a little list (cause I love lists) of 10 things you need to know to do Napa right:

(in case you were wondering)

Don't bother me, I'm in Napa Valley ... except ...:
via

1. Bring good friends.

2. Start with a good breakfast/brunch before you go out.

3. Drink all the wine.

4. Pretend to master the swirl, sniff, sip. 

6. Don't worry about social media, you are tipsy and no one wants to see all the fun you are having without them.

7. Accept that your tongue may turn red.

8. Take lots of pictures. Some won't look good...you are tipsy.

9. Look for specials like I said above.

10. Everything closes at 5. So should you...it would just be too much wine.


Stay tuned for my trip to Muir Woods! I needed more time there!
What are some of your favorite ways to do travel on a budget?

November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!
I hope everyone celebrates today with the ones they love. I am thankful for so much this year!

I am thankful for my family. I wouldn't want to go through life with anyone else.

I am thankful for my friends. My circle may be small, but it is fierce!

I am thankful for my husband. He is supportive and encouraging. He loves me unconditionally and brings me so much joy and happiness everyday. Best team ever!


I am thankful to have all the essentials to live a comfortable, happy, and healthy life. I have a house and a car and the means to pay for it.

I am thankful for my job and my husband's job. We both thankfully love our job and co-workers. Can't ask for much more!

I am thankful for my health. After this year dealing with an injury, I am just thankful that now I am able to go to the gym whenever I want and push myself to be better. (I should probably do that a little more and eat better, but eh, can't be perfect!)

I am thankful for cool weather. Yes this deserves its own line, I am so happy to be able to go outside and explore my beautiful surroundings.


What are you thankful for?
Enjoy your day!

November 24, 2015

Turkey Soup

My favorite thing after Thanksgiving is to make Turkey Soup. It is so warm as I pretend the weather is getting cold outside. So what if truly does not ever get cold enough here in AZ to be soup weather...a girl can dream!

Plus this way, me being a no waste sort of girl, gets to use all of the Turkey! And even if the weather doesn't get cold, it comes in handy in case you get a cold right after Thanksgiving (which I did last year...and may be starting to get one now!)



Best of all, it is super easy to make. Prep your stuff and throw it in a pot! Can't get easier than that!
And don't forget the peas like my husband did last year when he made it for me as I was sick with my cold. Peas rock. I will make it this year, but with the peas.

Ingredients:

1 picked over turkey carcass
2 celery stalks
2 carrots peeled
2 cups of peas (I use frozen)
1 onion peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning
1 package of egg noodles
ground pepper to taste
garlic salt to taste

Directions:

Place the turkey carcass in a large, deep stock pot, and add the celery, carrots, onion, bay leaves, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme, and chicken broth. Pour in water to cover the by about an inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for about 3-4 hours, skimming off any foam periodically. After the 3-4 hours, remove the carcass and any bones. You can use a strainer or slotted spoon to help remove the bones and vegetables from the stock. Pick any meat off and return to the pot, discarding bones and skin. Return the vegetables.

Season to taste with garlic salt and pepper. Stir in the egg noodles and return to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in the peas, and continue to simmer until egg noodles are tender.

Enjoy!


What is your favorite thing to do with your leftover turkey?

November 20, 2015

Friendsgiving Tradition

Oh my gosh! Can you believe it’s already time for the holidays again?! Thankfully I have Thanksgiving off. I am looking forward to my mom's stuffing and my mother in law's rolls. I mean doing two Thanksgivings means the best of both worlds...oh and wait...how about doing three?!

We had our second annual Friendsgiving. Kevin and I always host. Kevin makes his cranberry sauce and we do a turkey and set a table. Our great friends bring all the other sides. 





This is Kevin and mine fourth year of spending holidays together. It has been fun to spend them with my family, his family, see what Kevin’s favorite traditions are...and meld them together. Being away from our family, our Friendsgiving has been a good tradition.


What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?

November 18, 2015

Lessons from a Little Sister

I love my sisters. I always want to protect them from everything but then at some point, you realize that the tables are truly turned.

I quickly realized that I was not teaching them as much as they were teaching me.

I thought I was supposed to be the older sibling, the one with all the answers and advice--but without my sisters, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

They taught me to step up and be a leader when needed.

They taught me compassion. Whenever they experience something sad, I wish I could take away their sadness.

They taught me to be protective over what I love. So don't mess with them...

They taught me to be a great supporter. I want to support them in the good and the bad.

They taught me to be a good negotiator. I had to learn what my parents would and would not let us do to pass on that wisdom to them...I mean it is amazing how early my curfew was compared to theirs. I taught them well!

They taught me to let go. Be more laid back.

They taught me to be a role model. I want them to have someone to go to and become their best self. I didn't want them to make the same bad decisions I did. This was one that I wasn't always good at.

They taught me to be patient. This was another I wasn't good at. When they constantly knocked on the door wanting to hang with me and my friends, I should have let them. I hurt my best friends in those moments. There are a lot of times where I lost my patience and hurt them. For that I will never forgive myself.

Therefore, they taught me to be stubborn. I didn't want to admit I was wrong in front of them. (No worries, they call me out on my crap!)

They taught me to love someone more than myself.


Love you two!

November 16, 2015

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin this, pumpkin that.

Pumpkin is in a shortage I am told. I have not been short in using it though. When my in-laws came to visit I wow'd them with my Pumpkin Pancakes. Now mind you, sometimes my recipes can change on how much of each ingredient I use, as cooking is an art. But baking, it is a science. I would recommend not changing the amounts and being exact for this recipe. You will be rewarded, I promise. 

For instance if you have 1 cup of pumpkin in this recipe, it is not enough, but 1 1/2 cups is too much making thin, gloppy pumpkin pancakes.

No one wants that.

You also need to use whole milk. It is what makes them tender and rich. You also need to be precise on the baking soda and powder. They will make this pancakes fluffy and tall.

You will also need to go work out. Because these are not diet appropriate.

And you KNOW these pancakes must be good, because if I am going to place my calories in a carb loaded breakfast, it is french toast or waffles, not pancakes....But I will take these pancakes any day!

Oh and thank you all for those who read and hopefully enjoy my recipes. I promise you they taste better than my poor photographic abilities show:


Ingredients:

2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 heaping teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 1/4 can of pumpkin puree
1/3 cup of light brown sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups of whole milk

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together pumpkin, brown sugar, egg, oil, and milk. (I like to do everything by hand, but you can use a stand mixer too!) Mix until combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, the batter will be slightly thick, don't overmix it thin. 

Heat a griddle over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray and once hot, place batter on the griddle in small circles. Flip and cook on other side after the edges start to bubble up or about 1 minute each side.

Enjoy with some good ol fashioned maple syrup!


Personally I think waffles are easier to store. Pancakes just are never as better as when they are enjoyed fresh, so enjoy! (But just so you know they really do store fine in an airtight bag)

What is your favorite type of pancake?

November 13, 2015

Travel Planning Tips

Despite being on a budget, Kevin and I love to travel and have been on some pretty great trips. We don't mind spending money to travel and see new places, but we also spend a lot of time making sure that money is put to good use. 

With some friends we are taking another quick weekend trip to Napa, California so I thought I would put together the ultimate travel post. Here are some tips and tricks I have picked up along the way to help your travel dollars go further:

Budget Your Vacation Days
It is nuts how many vacation days are forfeited by Americans each year. I once had a co-worker who just let her vacation PTO expire she had so much...couldn't even get a payout. That is ridiculous! Plan your hours and put them to good use. Vacations away from work help me from getting grumpy so I like to space them and plan them strategically. Generally this ends up being several weekend trips and one long trip per year. Hopefully next year we will do our first bit of international travel. (Speaking of, since I haven't done international travel, I don't have a lot of info on it, but I have heard Rick Steves is a European travel guru!)
Santa Barbara

Budget Your Money
When you know where you want to go, decide what you want to do and how much money you spend. When we took our big trip to North Carolina/South Carolina/Virginia/Georgia we generally stayed at cheaper hotels where we were completely covered by points. But then again we also splurged a night in a beautiful hotel and ate at some fine dining establishments. It is all about where you want to spend your money. Thankfully my husband Kevin also does our planning with credit cards and points. It helps us out a lot!
Vail, Colorado

Prioritize the Views
I just said that we ate really well and stayed in a beautiful hotel. Mind you, I do reminisce about that, but ultimately it is the beautiful places and views that bring the most vivid memories. Thank gosh those are usually free!
Alaska

Do Your Research
I do this in many ways:

--If a blogger lives or has traveled to a place you are visiting, search the blog, tweet, or email them for some info!
--You can search for a lot of great travel information on Pinterest.
--Look at Yelp for restaurant reviews.
--Monitor your rental care prices, airfare, and hotel prices. Who knows when something will go cheaper and you may want to re-book. 

Also here are some of my tip sheets:

Napa, California

Use Google
On big trips, Kevin and I collect all of our information and ideas in a Google Doc so we can access it anywhere and we can add to it and see each others additions any time. We also plug everything into Google Maps to see where we are going and what we can stop at on our way!


Now mind you, with all of these tips, I still think that some people have a better knack then others at this whole thing. Thankfully, my husband Kevin, is one of those people. He custom plans our trips and does an incredible job at it. One of his many callings I would say.
Savannah, Georgia

Here are some of my favorite trips past and hopefully good inspiration for you to take a vacation!

Alaska (and here)
Kauai and Cleveland/Columbus (combined in the same post and more Ohio here and here)
San Diego (and here and here)
Vail (and here)



What are your favorite travel resources and tips?
I would love to hear them!

November 11, 2015

Fried Ricotta

So growing up, my dad was the primary cook in our home. My mom cooked too, but generally you could find my dad whipping something up with whatever left over in the fridge. I watched him just whip up whatever came to his mind with sometimes the most random ingredients.

Growing up I didn't really spend a lot of the time in the kitchen learning with my parents. I mean I guess for good reason, during my pre-teenage years they were pretty busy with my sister's cancer.

But I have taken what I have learned from watching them and teaching myself and have done pretty well. I even taught myself to sow buttons recently! May not be a big thing for others, but it was pretty cool for me!

But there are still times where I do things because I don't know better. Then I am forced to improvise. For example, you are supposed to drain ricotta. I did not have anyway to do so, but I ended up to manage pan frying it into a hash. It went really well with a homemade rotel style salad I made with fresh spinach.


Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of ricotta
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons of flour
diced tomatoes
spinach

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta with parmesan cheese, egg, and flour. (Drain the ricotta before you mix these together with a cheese cloth)

The place a small amount of olive oil in skillet and drop ricotta mixture in about a tablespoon at a time. Cook, frying it until brown and place on paper towel lined plate.

Serve with chopped tomatoes and spinach. 

November 9, 2015

When I am Not Blogging

I love blogging! And that is the side you guys see of me!

There are a million and a half things that I do (or at least feel like) I do every single day. This blog is one small part of those million things.


Here are a few of the others:

Being a wife: Kevin likes to hang out with me and spend quality time with me and I love it right back!

Games: I know that sounds funny, but I have a really good group of friends who we all like to play games and enjoy some vino. Dominion, 7 Wonders, Catan, etc...

Working out: Since my injury, I want to make it a priority to do something active every day. Even if it is short and sweet, I am determined to get something accomplished. Especially since my ACL/MCL tears were apparently what I needed to get back into swimming.

Reading: One of my resolutions was to read more and I have been reading the Ender series and I love it! I of course also read other blogs!

Cooking: Turns out Kevin needs dinner every night and its a good thing because I have found a love cooking. He helps in the kitchen too and I just love spending time with him there.

TV Watching: I am pretty much a bad ass at watching TV. Kevin and I love watching together and are totally addicted to NFL. Of course I still love watching my Gray's Anatomy, Bones, Blacklist, Hawaii 5-0, Modern Family, Madam Secretary and RHOBH/RHOC/RHONY (they pretty much got me through my recovery.)

Pinterest: Pretty much the best invention ever! Follow me here! Oh and Instagram Pretty much amazing too! Follow me here!



So what are you doing when you're not blogging?


November 2, 2015

Sausage Bites

When I am not at work or spending time with family or friends, chances are you will find me in the kitchen cooking, baking, and blogging! (Seriously, I blog in my kitchen!) I love trying new recipes and making them perfect in my own way to bring them to my site and you awesome readers!

Mainly the kind of parties I host are football parties. Football Sunday in my house is a sacred day of bonding over eating and football. These Sausage Bites are super quick, very easy, and the perfect party food. You can pretty much stuff anything in crescent rolls, but sausage and jalapenos are one of my favorite variations!


Ingredients:

1/2 package of sausage, cooked and drained
4 oz (1/2 pkg) of cream cheese, softened
1 large jalapeno, diced
1 can of crescent rolls

Directions:

Brown sausage in skillet and drain. Add cream cheese and melt together.

Add jalapeno and stir to combine.

Separate crescent rolls in their triangles. Add mixture and fold up. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy!


What is your favorite thing to stuff into a crescent roll?

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