Napa Valley

One of my favorite destinations on our trip to California was Napa Valley.  This is the second time I have visited Napa and it will definitely not be my last.  There are many cities to visit within Napa county but our destination for the day was St. Helena.  It is home to one of my favorite places, Beringer Vineyards.

The beauty of the region is breathtaking, rolling hills, acre after acre of grapes, olive tree orchards, and grand mansions of the many wineries.   I learned from my brother that olives like the same poor soil conditions (rocky and volcanic ash based) as wine grapes so olive trees are also abundant in this region.

The Rhine House on the Beringer estate was built in 1884 by Frederick Beringer and today is both a wine tasting library and a gift shop.  There are many other buildings on the estate including the “old winery” and a visitor’s center.

The grounds of the estate are so pretty and relaxing, it makes you want to sit in the sun and sip a glass or two of wine even if it is not yet noon (it was noon in Kansas City which was good enough for me)!  In 2004 when we traveled to Napa for the first time, Beringer was introducing their Sparkling White Zinfandel and it had not even been distributed to stores yet.  One tasting of that and it became and still is my favorite wine.  Not too many months later this wine became available locally, but since I was at the motherland I simply had to have some.

I did not get away from the Beringer Winery  without longing for one of everything they sold in their gift shop.  I did come home with these fun candles made to look like wine corks.  I think they look perfect on our bar.

Another stop was at the V.Suttui winery where we picked up lunch at the incredible Italian deli and marketplace.  We enjoyed tastings of hand-made cheeses and dipping oils while looking over the selections of salads, sandwiches and pastas.  After selecting a loaf of crusty bread, artichoke spread, salami slices and a container of marinated olives we laid out our feast on a table on the front lawn of the winery.  Many other diners were having a bottle of wine with their lunch but we might have had just a little too much at Beringer’s so we made do with soft drinks and water.  Just thinking about this perfect lunch makes me want to go back to Napa very soon.

It was harvest time at V. Sattui and we saw large crates filled with grapes and the crushing machine, although they were not processing while we were there.

Even if you are not a fan of wine, Napa Valley is a beautiful, fun and relaxing trip.  I am already planning my next trip which will include a stay at one of the many Inn’s, a visit to the Calistoga Spa and a guided tour either by limo or train of the region.  This is a MUST-GO destination.

California Dreaming

Last week the Mr. and I spent a long wonderful weekend with our family in northern California.  We had such a great time hanging out, eating, sightseeing, eating, getting to know our great-nephews and eating some more.  The visit to the west coast is not complete without the obligatory stop at IN-N-OUT which we did within an hour of our plane landing.  The burgers and fries are made fresh to order and even this non-meat lover eats there every time we get to California.

I was so surprised to see my nephew still driving my parents old van…..this car is more than 20 years old and still going strong.  It seems that vehicles last longer out west without the spraying of salt and extreme weather that our cars must endure.

On our first day there we enjoyed the sunshine driving around in my brother’s Mustang convertible.  My brother is a research scientist with the Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research Unit at the US Dept of Agriculture.   One of the things he is working on is the Arundo plant.

It seems like he could spot the plant miles away, although I am sure that is somewhat of an exaggeration.  He has data loggers on plants throughout the country that measure light and other aspects of the plant.  He even has data loggers on plants in Tightwad, Missouri.   It was an educational afternoon hearing about his work.

On another day we drove about an hour to Placerville for an apple festival.  Apple Hill is home to over 50 ranches that include fruits, Christmas trees and vineyards.  On this particular weekend, many of the apple ranchers had crafters, pumpkin patches, hay-bale mazes, face painting and petting zoos.  We ate apple doughnuts, apple fritters, apple cider, kettle corn, caramel apples, apple turnovers and I think we even had room for nachos and sandwiches.  It was an eating frenzy!

 

Not once this weekend did I have to slow down because of achy joints…..life is good!!!

Fall Day Trip

Fall is my favorite time of year with crisp, cool mornings and warm sunshine in the afternoons.  I love apples, pumpkins, cider, football and bon fires! In celebration of the season we decided to take a little road trip down memory lane.  Our first destination was Warrensburg, Missouri where we toured the University of Central Missouri and reminisced over places I knew well and spent time many years ago.  First stop was the Sigma Kappa sorority house.

My favorite memory of the soroity house was the night we called 7-11 and talked the clerk into delivering ice cream sandwiches to us after he got off work.  I can’t imagine what we said to make him do that, I am sure he was disappointed when the house mother would not let him near our door!

Another stop was Dockery Hall where I learned all the dark secrets and rituals of the accounting world.  I actually can not think of anything fun about this place.

And finally there was Old Barney’s……I might have hung out here a time or two….

We ended our Warrensburg tour with lunch served by a cute waitress that looked really familiar.

From Warrensburg we headed north to Lexington, Missouri where we attended the Apples, Arts and Antiques festival.

Lexington has several gift and antique shops that also happened to be opened on Sunday.  I found several treasures  that I just could not live without.  As we walked down Main Street we noticed the Courthouse that still contains a Civil War cannonball embedded into one of the columns.


After the festival we drove through town and I stopped for pictures at a few familiar places.   The first stop was the Maid-Rite drive in.

If you have never had a Maid-Rite sandwich you need to make them for dinner tonight.  It is VERY simple, but VERY good and VERY close to the real thing.  Brown and drain 1 ½ pounds of ground beef.  Pour in a can of Campbell’s French Onion soup and ½ can water.  Bring to a boil, and then sprinkle the top with 1 Tablespoon of flour.  Stir to make a gravy then pile on to a soft hamburger bun, topping with mustard and pickles.  Eat and enjoy!

Across from the Maid-Rite is the old high school football stadium called the Goose Pond.  I was surprised that the high school that sat high on a hill above the goose pond was no longer there.  It must have been torn down.

We next drove by a house my family lived in for a short while as we were making the transition from California to Kansas City.  I would have loved to knock on the door and asked for a tour but I was not brave enough.  I remember this house having a large claw foot bathtub and a bay window in what was my brother’s bedroom.  I also remember my sister and I playing house in her room.  She made me eat oatmeal which is something I hate to this day.

The next stop was my Grandmother’s house that looks totally different than it did when I use to visit.  The original four room house was stucco,  but now has siding and room additions.  I remember the front porch being much, much bigger.  We use to sit out there and snap beans that came from the large garden next to the house.  One thing that was still there was the small square of concrete in the side yard that use to sit under the apple tree.  This platform covered an old well that use to have a hand pump on it.  I would pour buckets of water down that hole and pump for hours thinking for sure I would bring it back to life and water would come gushing out.  That never happened.

Our last stop was at Fahrmeier Farms, a multi-generational family run farm that grows vegetables, fruits, flowers and wine grapes.  We picked up some apples and pumpkins at the farm stand while looking at all the gorgeous mums.

In 2008 one of the old barns on the farm was converted into a winery and event space.  We enjoyed sampling a few wines and listening to the winemaker talk about how he got into the business.

We also discovered that there are five wineries in Lafayette County alone.  I think there could be a few more day trips to that area in our future.

It was a delightful day, perfect weather and perfect fall fun.

Omaha

During this past week Dave and I were once again in OMER-HA for work.   One evening we ventured out to a delightful attraction next to downtown and the Old Market area called the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.  This bridge is a 3000 foot bicycling and walking bridge that crosses the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska.  I did not walk all the way to the Iowa side, but did walk most of the way, something I would not have been able to do pre-new hips.

Although the skies were threatening rain and there was lightening in the distance, several people were strolling along taking in the scenery. It was a little unnerving as you stood high above the Missouri river and felt the bridge swaying with the wind.  However, the views were great and the picture taking opportunities were numerous.

After we left the bridge, we drove through downtown passing the new Ameritrade stadium.

Then we passed the Qwest center  (I think it is called the CenturyLink Center now) where Dave and I saw a great Michael Buble concert last year.

Then we drove through the Old Market area and reminisced over time spent being urban dwellers in the fall of 2009 when we lived in the Old Market lofts and shopped for groceries at Cubbys.

Although it was fun to visit the urban lifestyle for three months, Dave and I decided we prefer suburbia with it’s Hy-Vee’s, garages for your cars and green grass.  I guess we have turned into old people!  Talk with you all soon!

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I was able to cross off an item on my bucket list this weekend, staying in a Bed and Breakfast.   We traveled with four other couples and headed south to Eureka Springs.  A few of us stayed at the Heartstone Inn.  Here is a picture of the main house.


Our rooms were actually in this little cottage, adjacent to the main house.

The proprietors were a wonderful couple who attended to our every need, even providing me with an ice pack after a day of walking.  Breakfast both mornings was VERY good, think Crème Brule French Toast and Baked Eggs Benedict.  There was a shaded deck for afternoon rest and refreshments that included an up close and personal hummingbird attraction.  The Bed and Breakfast experience was everything I thought it would be.

For dinners we dined at Casa Colina Mexican restaurant one night and Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse on Saturday.  One person in our group mentioned that the prime rib was the best she had ever eaten.

The highlight of the trip for me was the shopping.  I had been a little concerned about going on this trip in the first place since it has only been about 7 weeks since my second hip replacement.  When the date was scheduled I was not sure how mobile I would be by this point.  However, I even surprised myself.  See the hill in the picture below?

 

If you have ever been to Eureka Springs you know how hilly and curvy the roads are.  You can only see half of this hill because it takes a ninety degree turn at the top of the picture.  Both sides of this road are filled with unique little shops.   We rode the trolley up to the top of the hill, then shopped down one side, rode the trolley up again, then shopped down the other side.

I did have to stop a few times and rest but I walked more this weekend than I have for a couple of years.  The hips were great, really no pain at all.  By the end of the second trip down the hill, my knees were yelling at me some, but I made it.  The ice pack back at the Heartstone Inn supplied much relief.

I had an appointment this morning with my ortho surgeon and told him how delighted I was with my new found mobility.   Once I get the knees done there will be no stopping me.

Branson

Just returned from a great three-day weekend in Branson.  Friends asked us if we would like to join them at their time share this past weekend and we had a really nice time.  They were so nice to us, making sure we had a first floor condo so I would not have to do stairs and giving us the master bedroom.

I was a little worried I would slow down their fun since I am not nearly as mobile as I would like to be.  However, I even surprised myself at how much I was able to do.   I guess the physical therapy is really paying off.  We shopped, went to a 60’s musical review show, shopped, ate, shopped, went to see the movie Lincoln Lawyer (which we all liked), ate, shopped and ate some more.  We visited the Tanger Outlet three different times and the great thing is that it has benches outside every other store.  I would shop, rest, shop, rest, etc.

I spent a little too much time and a little too much money in this store, but I came home VERY happy.