(northern) california dreamin’

when work called me to the west coast a few months ago (whoa–this post is long overdue), a brilliant idea struck kfo’h: let’s join forces with a quick jaunt to northern cali. i told you it was brilliant. what made this plan even more genius meant that we wouldn’t have to sleep apart while i was in phoenix. (go ahead and laugh, but i’m a big baby and hate being away from my love.) with only a couple days to soak in the beauty of upper napa valley, we made relaxation the main attraction and let luxury link guide our decision-making.

sayonara, wintry northeast.

we flew into san fran too late to enjoy the city and chose to leave too early the next morning to do anything but down some seriously strong peet’s coffee. armed with a number of restaurant recommendations from an old friend, we bid farewell to the golden gate and headed north on 101.

a cliche of fog smothers the golden gate

first stop: healdsburg. what an adorable quaint town. it’s too bad we didn’t have time to booze it up at 2 of our favorite zin makers: seghesio and ridge. instead, we circled the square and settled on a quick bite at barndiva. frites + wine. sold! or so we thought. it was our first (and luckily only real) disappointment of the trip. the food selection was meh. but to put it gently, we are not foodies, and thus realize it might be unfair to judge food on anything other than our own enjoyment. (however, now that i’m typing this, i must say–is there really any other way to judge food?) but even for us unadventurous, non foodie types, the service lacked genuine enthusiasm. expecting friendly and down-to-earth, we got stuffy and annoyed. but if you’re ever in the area, give it a try. perhaps it was just an off day for the divas.

borrowed photo from barndiva.com

6pm massage appointments left no time for any gallivanting around town, so on the road we were again to our final destination: calistoga. we ooh’d and aww’d over the rolling hills and winding roads through a rain-soaked windshield, wishing with each turn that we had more time to take it all in.

somewhere between healdsburg and calistoga

calistoga ranch welcomed us with just the sort of tucked-away retreat we needed. nestled into a canyon, the ranch is surrounded by unabashed beauty on all sides. one smile from kfo’h, and i knew we were in for a perfect weekend–rain or shine.

captivating view from the lakehouse restaurant

after our massages, we picked up dinner at local favorite tra vigne, scored a bottle of 2009 seghesio (thank god, and the citizens of napa county, for wine in grocery stores.), then happily plopped ourselves in front of the fire to recount our first awe-inspiring day of this much-needed vacation in upper napa valley–despite not having visited a single winery. not to worry, we would correct that travesty very soon.

after a fireside breakfast on sunday, with the rain cleared and the hint of sunshine beaming on our backs, we took advantage of the fleet of cars calistoga ranch offers its guests and reserved the convertible for the day. we weren’t messin’ around, folks. we had napa to see.

by chance, we happened upon duckhorn vineyards and gave it a whirl. stunning grounds and notable wines, this whirl was a good one.

naked vines at duckhorn

happy as can be

with a hefty flight of reds sloshing around our bellies, it was time for a little snack. we drove through the sweet town of st. helena past shop after shop and recommended restaurant after recommended restaurant, until our eyes feasted upon this. roadside dive for sharing a grilled cheese and fries? eat your heart out, sonic.

gotta get some gott's

snack done, the time came for another drink. (because that’s what you do on vacation. duh.) after a little dessert from woodhouse chocolate, we made our way to auberge for champagne with a view (and one heckuva view it is). cousin to calistoga ranch, we considered making auberge our next hotel stay, but we are not yet convinced there is anything better than the privacy and captivating beauty of calistoga ranch.

sharing a breathtaking view with my breathtaking love

romance under the stars, albeit cheese-a-riffic, offers the best description i could ever give of our drive to napa that night. with the top down and our hands interlaced, i couldn’t have imagined a better moment.

my beauty steers us safely along the route to napa

with a little time before our dinner reservation, we perused around tyler florence’s incredible shop on the riverfront, followed by a stop at the oxbow public market. the oxbow looked promising, but we arrived just as the merchants were closing up shop. bummer. still time to spare, we whet our palette with a shared flight of 3 bountiful reds at bounty hunter wine bar.

palettes sufficiently whet and stomachs officially growling, we floated into oenotri for dinner. aside from everything (honestly, everything) my kfo’h cooks for us, this was quite possibly the best meal we’ve ever had. trumer pils, brussel sprouts (yes, mom. i tried brussel sprouts and liked them), polenta, pizza, and pasta. ’twas a meal fit for 4, and not 2, but what’s the point of vacation if not to indulge in a gluttonous feast? incredibly delicious and reasonably priced, if you’re ever in napa, add oenotri to your list.

another smile from my love. another perfect night.

with a heavy heart and rested laurels, we savored one last breakfast by the fire in our comfy, oversized robes before packing it up and heading back to face the harsh reality of a blustery cold and snowy NJ.

but as we daydream of our next real vacation, calistoga is never far from our thoughts.

see ya real soon, lodge 123

oh, how the mighty have fallen

when the thought of having children entered into our noggins and noodled in there for longer than a passing “what if,” KFO’H and i made the toughest choice of our relationship, thus far.

we wrestled. we debated. we argued. we sighed. we gave in.

the boy must be declawed.

we know. it’s gut-wrenchingly awful. but as the incredible dr. avellini of red bank veterinary hospital said, “i would much rather see a declawed cat in a happy home than an intact cat out on the street.” not that we would ever put the good dr. leopold marvin on the street (bite your tongue!), but she was right. we went the laser route–it’s a newer technique that provides a quicker recovery and less bad stuff (no bandages, less–if any–bleeding, and supposedly less pain).

nearly one week down, and aside from his slightly skewed peripheral vision (read: bumps into walls with more frequency), our boy is doing splendid and is as lovable and active as ever. we just hope he forgives us, as he’s convinced kaia finds him less desirable with his head wrapped in a plastic cone. bless his heart–he’s still desperate to win her affection.

the closest leo has ever been to the mecca that is kaia

from dashboard freedom...

...to elizabethan humiliation

dear vampire weekend, i give a $#*@ about an oxford comma

as much as it pains me to say this, i stand corrected about an itty bitty, curly little mark. and here’s why.

i have never been a fan of the oxford (serial) comma. i find it superfluous, and just flat out don’t like using it. if–and only if–a sentence is ambiguous without it, then i make exceptions.

i began my writing career in newspapers, which would explain said exclusion. (the AP style is so cool–obvy.) but when i moved onto consumer advertising, the exclusion remained. (see! nobody likes the dang thing.) then i got a job at a pharmaceutical advertising agency and everything i thought was right turned out to be dead wrong. my copy editor tells me the american medical association manual of style says i must use it. and so i do. but only at work, damn it. in my personal writing, my resistance to this oxford–aka, serial–aka, harvard–comma has remained steadfast.

until today. (doom and gloom, people. doom. and. gloom.)

while editing a friend’s résumé, a google search about commas slapped my grammatical rebellion into submission. turns out, not only does the AMA require its inclusion, but so does my beloved MLA. (son of a bee sting, babe. i was wrong all along. ouch. that stings.)

henceforth, my commas will appear here, here, here, and even right there in front of that 3-letter conjunction. bummer.

so, who cares now, oh ye merry lads of vampire weekend? my buddy and fellow editor/writer, radigan, does. and–reluctantly–i now do, too.

turning 1 iz hard werk

today, we salute you dr. leopold marvin, on the anniversary of your birf (according to the SPCA).

here’s to another year of your incessant cries for just one more kibble, your perfectly sweet never ending purrs, your incredible whapability of the most delicate items, your astounding fascination with water, your OCD of cleaning the walls of your box (thank you, buddy) and that awful never-in-the-clear breath.

oh how your mommies love.

baby leopold takes down birdie johnson

cooling his non-existent "jets"

fer yer reading plezure

oh, hai

i iz a 1 year old

yer kyoot fer the day

enjoying a reprieve from the work week to browse the interwebs for funneh things.

et voila.

holy snug :: icanhascheezburger.com

top 5 new and not-so-new music faves

this week’s tunes are brought to you by the good people at urban outfitters. as i’ve bragged before, each and every craptastic monday, they bless our earholes with 5 new (and not-so-new) free tunes to download, thus making mondays a little less craptastic. gracias, UO. IOU.

best coast :: sun was high (so was i)

this morning’s cold air and lingering snow mixed with the sound of this song left me wishing really hard for warm sunshine splashing in my face and basking in the warmth of windows rolled down. ahhh. i have faith that wish will come true soon. right? maybe?

class actress :: careful what you say

michoacan :: in the dark side of the night (radio edit)

i read a review the other day that murdered this song. mr. or ms. reviewer hated the sound, the disco-y video, the label that produced the album–anything he/she could trash, he/she trashed. heck, and here i thought this song was pretty rad. a little repetitive at times, but very beck-ish. so i guess it’s true: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or something, something… (although, i haven’t given many of michoacan’s other songs a really good listen, so they may be awful; i’m just sayin’.)

rafter :: paper

i teetered back and forth with including this song, because much like i can’t get into gratuitous nudity in films (lolrskates. of course i can.), i’m not a fan of singers who curse for the sake of cursing (snore). but here, it’s understandable–i mean, the dude needs paper. for the love of pete, somebody give him some GD paper.

“i need paper / yes i do / to keep my thoughts from goin’ away”

mannequin men :: hobby girl

these chicagoans produce a great garage sound. apologies for the video. although it’s not the worst quality for a live performance, it’s still not exactly “clear.”

two likes pressed together

i like letters.

i like letters that are pressed.

voilá.

awesome, clean and simple, but ‘spensive.

room and board :: zeichen alphabet press-type :: $199

available in many colors. perfect nursery addition.

etsy :: sycamore street press, letterpress alphabet poster :: $30

holy geez. this jackpot requires a pot o’ gold.

(found via apartment therapy)

etsy :: yee haw, specimens of wood type :: $500

and finally, my favorite. i. must. have.

etsy :: beauchamping, alphabet :: $75

enjoying the view of letterpressed ABCs with the sound of savoir adore.