Getting the Most Out of Your Yosemite National Park & June Lake Visit

Getting the Most Out of Your Yosemite National Park & June Lake Visit

Yosemite is one of California’s greatest natural treasures and a national icon. The majesty of the mountains, the proud sequoia, and the vibrant blue of the glacial lakes can also be enjoyed from the neighboring June Lake. I have a lot of experience with the area, so I wanted to share my tips for the best possible visit.

The most popular area of Yosemite is the highly photographed Yosemite Valley. Anyone who sees it can’t deny its beauty, but in the summer months, it becomes very crowded. The same remarkable landscape can be seen in its northern counterpart, Hetch Hetchy Valley, but with a more exclusive feel. Tuolumne Meadows can also be a more secluded area to visit, and the colorful wildflowers and vibrant, clean water of the Tuolumne River are a balm for the soul.

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Curated Hotel: A Cozy Wine Country Getaway to the Wydown Hotel in St. Helena

Curated Hotel: A Cozy Wine Country Getaway to the Wydown Hotel in St. Helena

Wydown Hotel has a well-appointed suite including luxury linens, super plush robes, slippers, gourmet coffees and fun touches like free bottles of Izze sparkling clementine. After settling into our rustic luxe suite we opened a bottle of wine and relaxed in the cozy leather chair for two. I spotted a hefty stack of stylish coffee table books on wine country life and knew this would be a cozy way to relax after the rainy drive.

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Curated Hotel: The Sonoma Mission Inn + the Surprising Power of a Surprise!

Curated Hotel: The Sonoma Mission Inn + the Surprising Power of a Surprise!

We seem to have a number of family birthdays mixed in among the holidays. Though Scott’s birthday was a couple of days after Thanksgiving he suggested we celebrate on the holiday since we had a family dinner planned. While that was a great idea, I wanted to surprise him with a little something extra this year. On Thanksgiving I had him open a box with his upcoming surprise that read, “Pack a Bag, Birthday Boy!”.

We had a day to clean up from Thanksgiving and pack for our weekend getaway so it was a leisurely schedule.  I was tempted to spill the beans on our destination, but I kept it a secret. Seeing his excitement for this adventure reminded me of the power of a surprise.

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5 Favorite Things to Do in Napa Valley

5 Favorite Things to Do in Napa Valley

I'm often asked about my list of favorite things to do in Napa Valley. Along with incredible scenery, world-class wines and dining, there are a few things that always land on my itinerary. These are my 5 favorite things to do in Napa Valley this time of year.

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Getaway to Dry Creek Valley Wine Country, California

Getaway to Dry Creek Valley Wine Country, California

Scott and I tried something new for the updated version of our winter holiday. Though we were unable to fly to Riviera Maya due to his back issues, we decided a short road trip would be just the right idea. Wine country is our favorite Northern California getaway and we thought it would be fun to stay in a vacation rental rather than a hotel this trip. With above average temps and sunny skies we knew we were in for a sunny escape to wine country. The vibrant yellow mustard, brilliant blue skies and puffy white clouds were dazzling.

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Wine Country Weekend - Three Day Getaway!

Wine Country Weekend

Fall is a brilliant time of year to escape to Northern California wine country. The leaves are luminescent with hues of autumn; the sky transforms into a deeper shade of blue. Scott and I recently took advantage of some time off to make our annual fall trip to wine country. Our first stop was for lunch on the patio at Solbar on the Silverado Trail in Calistoga. The food is always delicious, service is incredibly friendly and the location is unbeatable.

wine-country-getaway
wine-country-getaway
wine-country-weekend-stylemindchiclife
wine-country-weekend-stylemindchiclife

Our next stop was almost next door at Clos Pegase winery in Calistoga. I've always appreciated the attention to detail with stonework and art collections at Clos Pegase. The winery is especially picturesque in the fall season.

wine-country-weekend-clos-pegase-winery
wine-country-weekend-clos-pegase-winery
wine-country-getaway-clos-pegase
wine-country-getaway-clos-pegase

A room with a view at Clos Pegase.

wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape
wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape

By this time we were ready to head to the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa in Santa Rosa to check in for our getaway.  Scott had booked us a couple of nights on Hyatt points he discovered he had.

wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape
wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape

It's always nice to receive a special welcome ...

and an upgrade to an executive suite.

wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend

Our suite was extremely spacious, well-appointed and comfortable with luxurious touches.

wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape
wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape

An hour or so to relax and we were off to dinner at Willi's Wine Bar, which has rave reviews from the SF Chronicle, as well as other reviewers. We used the Uber app, which is an amazing way to get a quick ride--to and from--your destination safely. Download it and use it during your next night out if you haven't already discovered it.

wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend

The next morning we discovered the quintessential cafe breakfast at Dierk's Parkside Cafe'. Not to brag but I have never seen a mimosa this big! The staff was friendly and fun at this neighborhood gem in Santa Rosa.  #yummy

wine-country-weekend-j-winery
wine-country-weekend-j-winery

Next we were up for some natural beauty.

A stop at the beautiful J Vineyards and Winery is always a treat.

wine-country-weekend-j-winery
wine-country-weekend-j-winery

Desmond shared some fantastic history and took great care of us at J Vineyards & Winery.

wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend

We were hungry by the time we reached Healdsburg, one of our wine country favorite spots, and couldn't resist Bravas Bar de Tapas. The small plates with Spanish flair and terrace dining are so enjoyable. The dish pictured is of caramelized onions over goat cheese bruschetta with drizzles of balsamic--simple and delicious!

wine-country-getaway-wilson-winery
wine-country-getaway-wilson-winery

Our friends recommended Wilson Winery on Dry Creek Road so we meandered to this beautiful spot. We were blown away by the vineyard views from the terrace, as well as the bold, red zinfandels we tasted. Scott couldn't resist joining the wine club at Wilson Winery so we will definitely be returning.

wine-country-getaway-wilson-winery
wine-country-getaway-wilson-winery
wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend

Sips....

wine-country-getaway-stylemindchiclife
wine-country-getaway-stylemindchiclife

Rose' sunset over wine country.

wine-country-getaway-a-sunny-escape
wine-country-getaway-a-sunny-escape

Back at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek, a cozy fire-pit was waiting for us.

#nightnight

The next morning, we discovered the shops and restaurants at Railroad Square, within walking distance to the Hyatt Vineyard Creek. The Omelette Express serves up a decadent and filling breakfast.

wine-country-getaway
wine-country-getaway

This trip was more of a meandering through a larger area of wine country than some of our previous trips. Our final stop was in Sebastopol where we discovered the delightful K & L Bistro for lunch. The service, decor and ambiance created the perfect foodie gem. Each town in wine country possesses a unique charm.

wine-country-weekend-heather-lindstrom
wine-country-weekend-heather-lindstrom

We lucked out with the weather in November. It was cool enough for booties and a cashmere poncho but warm enough for walking through vineyards and dining on the patio in comfort.

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Date Night: A Double Date and Meeting in the Middle

When Scott and I started seeing each other, I lived in the San Francisco bay area and he lived in Chico, about 2 hours away. One Tuesday he called me and said, "I can't wait until the weekend to see you. Let's meet in the middle for dinner tonight". To be honest, there is a whole lot of nothing in between, but we did some research and luckily we discovered Louis Cairo's Steakhouse in Williams, just off Interstate 5. With cheery red checked tablecloths, delicious pastas and steaks, and the GLOW of a new love, it was a memorable evening to say the least. As we walked away from our table that night, the gentleman sitting across from us said, "If you don't want her, I'll take her". To that I say, "Thank you sir!"  We not only had a full blown love affair going on but also a new spot for dinner right in the middle. Flash forward 17 years and now we make the drive to Louis Cairo's a few times a year to meet up with friends who live in the bay area.

The hour long drive is definitely worth it and you never know what you might see along the way. There must a a story behind this Porsche emblazoned with "Polizei" --German for police.

Welcome to Williams, California.

It's conveniently located just off Interstate 5.

I believe it's mandatory for a country town to have a water tower.

Williams has a water tower.

The main drag....

Tonight it's a double date...

and no, I don't own cowboy boots.

Neither does Scott...

but we are always warmly welcomed at Louis Cairos.

It is always so good to see our friends,

Dean and Kathryn

Suspenders are always a good option in town.

After a few minutes to catch up, we are seated in the dining room at Louis Cairo's. I don't see the red and white checked table cloths anymore and they've definitely zhushed the place up a bit over the last decade or so.

Lucky us, our warm and lovely server, Rita, took wonderful care of us all evening. Rita introduced us to Shed Horn Cellars wine.The cabernet sauvignon was lush and complex. We were saddened to hear that the winemaker/owners, Michael and Adawn Wood, had just lost their home and winery in the Middletown fire. Michael reported to the SF Chronicle that he was helping save other homes without realizing his own home was burning. He said fortunately they have good insurance and will be able to rebuild. They had completed most of the harvest for the season so the wine-making will continue.

As for the fare at Louis Cairo's--fresh salads, Italian pastas and extraordinary steaks are on the extensive menu. The Louis Bread is powerful--loaded with garlic. Let's just say it's best for all (or none) to partake. We always dive in! Care for a mint?

Louis Cairo's

A hidden gem right in the middle.

See you again in a couple of months Louis Cairos!!

Have you discovered any hidden gems lately?

 

 

The Story of How We Met (+ a walk down memory lane in San Francisco)

The Story of How We Met (+ a walk down memory lane in San Francisco)

The last thing I wanted to do that breezy fall day, back in 1997, was attend an early mental health conference in South San Francisco. I was going through a difficult time in life, a drawn out divorce, and I barely had the energy to make it to work as a school psychologist, much less pull off the professional thing at a conference an hour away. I remember getting stuck in traffic and feeling like a hot mess when I finally arrived at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront in South San Francisco. I thought I could finally relax, then I learned a colleague was intent on introducing me to the chairman of the conference before the session began. UGH!!!! I protested and started to walk away, until he caught my eye. His smile, and that twinkle in his eyes, were electric. I must have lit up, too, though it had been awhile since I had felt lit up in any way.

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