Napa, Kid-wise

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd go to Napa without wine tasting as the goal of my trip. But times have changed and kid-centered activities are now my life. The girls and I packed up the car a few weeks ago and headed up to visit my cousin, who just happens to live in one of the most beautiful parts of California, Napa.

With a three and five year old, wine tasting is off the menu (until my next adult-only Napa trip). It's forced me, and my cousin, to think of all the other things that her fair city has to offer other than wine, and there's a lot!

Our first inspiration for kid-friendly things to do came from the book Maggie and Maddy: Adventures in Napa Valley, by Kyle and Amy Goleno. I found it at the Oxbow Market a few years ago, while on a girls' trip. It's the cutest story about two little sisters who explore the Napa Valley. The sisters go through Downtown Napa, snack on pink donuts at the Buttercream Bakery, and more. Pink donuts from Buttercream have now become a tradition in our family, whenever we see my cousin we have to indulge in them!

This trip, we made it a point to not only get pink donuts, but to actually eat breakfast at the Buttercream Bakery, too. Delicious! It has your typical diner food, but the pastries and donuts are off the hook! It's no surprise I put healthy eating on hold for a few days.

Strolling around Downtown Napa is such a treat. There are fun art installations that the kids can interact with, watch the kayaks on the river, marvel at the Wine Train slowly driving by, and running around the Veterans Memorial Park, to start. During the summer, the city sponsors a concert series in the park, which we've gone to and love! Put out a blanket, bring a picnic, sip wine by the river and watch the kids dance to the music. Fabulous memories!

Since we've done the Oxbow Public Market almost every time we've been to Napa, we decided to change it up and check out the Culinary Institute of America at Copia, just next door. It's only been open a few months, and the great thing is, they have cooking classes for kids on Sundays! The age minimum is 4, so we had to skip it this time (M is only 3), but as soon as January rolls around, we're coming back!

They have an on-site restaurant, too, The Restaurant at CIA Copia. We weren't able to eat there (make a reservation ahead of time!), but the atmosphere is great and the staff was super friendly. The girls decided to blow out all the candles in the bar area and no one asked us to leave, they even laughed - amazing! Definitely on my short-list of restaurants to try in the future.

There's a grassy amphitheater behind the building, which the girls loved running around. The views of the Napa River through the olive trees were beyond relaxing. Miss G even got some good tree climbing in. 

I had grand plans to visit at least one restaurant in Yountville (I always love to stop at the Bouchon Bakery, line out the door and all), but after setting up a picnic in the Yountville Park, the girls decided they couldn't leave and had to play for over 2 hours. The sacrifices I make as a mom ;-) The play structures are on the newer side and there are separate structures for the tiny kids and bigger kids. A lot more than I was expecting from a wine-town. And apparently they even have evening movies in the park! We are so hitting that up on our next visit this summer.

I did have to drag the girls to one of the most quaint, and fancy, chocolate shoppes ever! Woodhouse Chocolate, in St. Helena, is a sight to be seen. The window display was phenomenal - the giant chocolate Easter eggs, bunnies, ducks... It was a struggle to keep the girls from touching it all. I picked up some chocolate bunnies for the girls and salted chocolate caramels for my husband. All I can say is that they were worth every penny - delicious!

We even stopped by the Napa Welcome Center. The volunteers are so friendly and really know of what they speak - they've actually been to the wineries and give excellent recommendations. And you may even run into my cousin, she volunteers there! Make sure to say hi for me when you stop by.

Have I convinced you that Napa isn't only for adults? Taking the kids will open up a whole world of things that you most likely would have missed had you stuck to the Silverado Trail.

Enjoy your next weekend away in Napa!

Even more fun things to do with kids:

***I wasn't compensated by any of the promoted places in this post, they didn't even know I'd be writing about them!

The Suburban Farmer

I love spring! The flowers are blooming, the grass is lush and green, and the leaves are popping out on the trees. The girls have been noticing all sorts of different birds that I didn’t even realize live here – robins, for one. They’re frantically looking for bird nests, but we haven’t seen one, yet.

We’ve started planting our vegetable garden and feeding all the plants in the yard, getting ready for warmer weather. I’ve given the girls their annual “bee” talk, about how we need to protect the bees and not hurt them because there aren’t as many as there should be anymore. We try to use products in the yard that are as natural as possible to help out our little pollinating friends.

With that in mind, I started a compost bin last fall. Compost bin, you ask?! Yes, I’m becoming a Suburban Farmer. I felt badly that I kept throwing away so many veggies and veggie by-products (like broccoli stems, kale stalks, carrot tops...) that I wanted to put to good use.

The soil in our backyard is virtually clay and doesn’t support life of any kind, even weeds. Every time we plant something there is a long process of mixing the clay with all sorts of additives like compost (from the store) and planting mix. And then we cross our fingers that we used enough! 

I’m hoping all the great nutrients in the compost we create will revitalize our drab soil and perk up the garden. At the very least, it won’t do it any harm. By the way, there are some pretty strict rules as to what you should and shouldn’t compost. Here’s a quick guide to follow. We kept kitchen scraps out of it (other than clean fruit and veggie waste) because the compost bin started smelling a bit funky. Not exactly what I had in mind for a nice backyard scent. Keeping bread, etc., out of there really fixed the smell.

After months of adding to the compost bin, churning it up and watering it, the time came to check out what we had created. Because we’re constantly adding to the pile, not all of it had decomposed to dirt, but the bottom third of the bin was definitely garden-ready. We put it on plants that were in need of help (two of our hydrangeas have seen better days and needed some extra nutrients) and added it to our raised vegetable bed. I thought we’d have so much more dirt, but we don’t live on a farm, so there’s a limit to how much compost we can create. Still, I am so excited about it! We’re reducing the amount of trash we send to the landfill and putting nutrients back into the soil, naturally. And the girls love finding worms after the rain to put into the bin. I love that they’re learning, in a very hand’s on way, what worms do for the earth and that we don’t need to throw everything away in the trash.

Here's a super easy tutorial that's more or less what we did. Compost bins can run into the hundreds of dollars, crazy. We bought a $10 trash bin at Lowes, drilled some holes, and secured the top with a strap so critters wouldn't pry it open. Quick and easy! Plus, once it gets too heavy, you can push it on its side and roll it around to mix up the contents.

I started a Compost Pinterest board so I would feel like I knew what I was doing. I’m ever the researcher/planner.

And, not surprisingly, there are a ton of counter-top bins to put your waste in before hauling it out to the yard. Now your compost can look pretty on the counter!

Here’s to creating compost bins and dirt of your very own!

Water-scapes

I've been obsessed with Williams Sonoma Home's Crashing Waves wall art. So, while we were away in Arizona and surrounded by gorgeous pools, I had to break out the camera and take a zillion pictures of the water. My husband must have thought I was insane when he went through the pictures we took.

Now I have an endless supply of options to choose from when I decide to switch out my art and inject a bit of blue water into the house. Here's a small sample...

I hope looking at these pictures is as relaxing for you as it is for me. I'm dreaming of sitting by the pool, soaking up the sun, and simply being. Enjoy your weekend!

Scottsdale Love

The family shipped off to Scottsdale, AZ, for our annual pilgrimage to warmer weather. It’s one of my favorite trips of the year, hands down. Not only did the girls get to see their grandparents and get their fill of swimming, but my husband and I got to try to relax. There’s nothing like some sun, heat and a pool to put your mind at ease.

I always forget that Phoenix is a big city and people live there year-round. There's so much to do, so many great restaurants, and the shopping is terrific! Whether you're 3 years old or 73, they've got you covered.

My ladies love the Children's Museum of Phoenix and the Phoenix Zoo. Then there's the Desert Botanical Garden, which seems like an oxymoron, but it's most definitely not! And shopping in Scottsdale and Phoenix is almost all outdoors, so you can enjoy the amazing weather and fun treats! My favorites are Kierland Commons, Biltmore Fashion Park, and Downtown Scottsdale, for a real Southwest feel. If you love golf, you can't throw a rock without hitting a course. My husband and his dad enjoyed a beautiful day at the Phoenician golf course. Ok, I convinced myself, we need to move there... 

Now that we're home and it's raining again, I want to get back to my happy place. Check out some of the views we had and a few fun shots of my ladies loving Arizona.

It's been hard to mentally get back into the swing of things. But, I'll be dreaming about our return next year...

Mid-Century Plant Stand DIY

I'm on a serious DIY kick. From birthday parties to artwork, and now plant stands. The number of Pins in my DIY projects Pinterest board is constantly growing. But I was recently able to check one more off the list - the Mid-Century Inspired Plant Stand.

While our living room is almost to the point where I'd call it complete, it's still lacking plants. A little greenery goes a long way to making a room feel more inviting. So says the woman who didn't have a single plant in her apartment forever! I decided that I wanted to make this room just a bit more plant-friendly. Enter the plant stand. 

Source: West Elm

I love the West Elm Modern Planter. And, with my recent state of mind of Super DIY, I felt like it was something my husband and I could tackle. He gets dragged into any project that involves wood-working. I'm convinced he loves it, especially the getting-new-tools part!

I found this tutorial ages ago and decided it was the one we'd follow. 

It was a little harder than expected. Key tip from my husband, turns out it works best if you actually have a drill press rather than a Forstner bit (don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about?!). But with a LOT of encouragement from me, my husband powered through and made it work.

A little jerry rigging, sanding and staining later, our plant stand is complete! All thanks to my sweet husband. I like it so much, we may have to make a larger one in the next few weeks, now that we know what we're doing.

And my plant is thriving in its new home! I should have moved it ages ago.

Here are a few more planter options from West Elm that are also Mid Century inspired and really attractive. Maybe we'll get into wire-working, or maybe not.

Snowy Cabins to Covet

Winter vacation is upon us! I feel like the girls are in school for a max of two weeks before there’s another day off or holiday or vacation. When do they learn?! Well, I guess it is only preschool.

With all the rain and snow we’ve gotten in California lately, it seems like everyone and their mother is going skiing for the break. Except us. We’re going to hit the sun in two weeks, so I’m OK with skipping the snow this time around.

To get in the mood of the season, I wanted to find some great snowy scenes and over the top cabins. It’s the closest thing I’m going to get to the snow any time soon. I can visualize myself freezing in the powdery white, having a drink by one of the cozy fireplaces, and snuggling up in a fabulous faux fur throw. Who wouldn't want to visit the snow in one of these places? Enjoy!

Nestled in the Mountains

And now for the interior...

I'd visit any one of these places any day of the week. I'm waiting on my invite...

Super Hero Extravaganza

The holidays are always a crazy time, but in our house it is beyond. Both girls have their birthdays within the first two weeks of January, so before Christmas has even happened I’ve already moved on and started birthday planning. This year’s theme, Super Hero.

With the girls still little, they’re more than happy to share a birthday party, thank goodness! And because I only get to do it once a year I go all sorts of crazy. I was so excited when the girls decided they wanted the party at home instead of a jumpy house or trampoline park. Now I could have fun, too! I love party planning; from cake baking, to games, to decorating. I was Pinning up a storm and found too many fun ideas.

On Party Day almost 40 people crammed into our tiny California abode. Thank goodness the rain held out for a few days so we could overflow into the backyard. My Super Hero games-plan could have easily been dashed with all the storms that were blowing through.

Another perk of having the party at home is that Batgirl came and did a magic show for all the kids. One Batgirl = less $ than a jumpy house party. Her visit was a HUGE success! G is still telling everyone that Batgirl come to her party. So worth it.

In the endless search to get more bang for the buck, I found the greatest party supply site – Oriental Trading (hopefully I’m not the only one who hadn’t heard of it before!). That, along with the Dollar Store, Amazon and Target, made the party a great success for so much cheaper than it could have been. If you’re planning anything , definitely check it out and shop around. Prices vary so much for the exact same thing, and Amazon surprisingly wasn’t the cheapest.

Take a peek at my party-planning craziness, I had so much fun!!

The Food

I love to bake. If you've seen my Instagram account this won't be a big surprise. I've made the girls' birthday cakes every year (except one). This year was chocolate for G and a traditional yellow cake (dyed red inside) for M. And I couldn't let an event go by without getting a new cookie cutter, Batgirl cookies had to make an appearance.

The Games

Super Hero games are the best! I had The Flash Dash, Hulk Smash, Spider Web Practice and Super Breath. I found the best set of Hulk glove-hands to punch down empty boxes that we stacked like buildings. My husband was so happy to help me re-wrap all the empty Christmas boxes in black wrapping paper for the party. When I asked him I thought he was going to strangle me, ha! But he's an amazing dad and husband and relented.

The Dollar Store had silly string that we used to spray on black poster board with a face of the Joker for Spider Web Practice. I know, I know, mixing super hero villains, but it worked. We were cleaning up chunks of silly string from the grass for two weeks! The Dollar Store also had Avenger's bottles of bubbles for Super Breath. The littler kids loved this one. A great way to make the party work for ages 2-7.

Decorations

There is no end to the decorating possibilities! I always have too many ideas and have to reign myself back in. I replaced almost every framed picture in the house with a Super Hero themed one, finally hung my gallery wall to put up even more pictures, and generally went decorating-bonkers. All the pictures were free printables I found online, as well as the emblems for the party bags. My scissor-cutting skills were put to the test. Even our sea grass Sven got a mask!

The party was so much fun and tear-free! At this age there's always someone that inevitably breaks down from stimulus overload, but not this time. I'd call that a success.

I hope you enjoy checking out my party-craziness!

Valentine Buys and Craft Ideas

With Valentine's Day only a week away, I'm setting the mood at home by baking heart cookies, bringing out my Valentine's XO Wreath, and diving head first into Valentine crafts with the girls

On a personal love-note, my husband and I just celebrated the 15 year anniversary of our first date. How did that happen so quickly?! I still feel like we're in college and haven't aged that much. Time flies when you're having fun and in love!

Buys

I thought I'd do a quick round up of some fun love-themed gifts and decor to help everyone else get into the mood. They're not your traditional romantic gifts, these are a little more fun and lighthearted. Because after 15 years, that's what love is, right?! Hope these spark a little V-Day love in your worlds!

Craft Ideas

It wouldn't be a holiday if I didn't have some DIY on the menu. I found some new Valentine crafts that would be so fun to do! I'm hoping I have some time this weekend to get one of them done. Find even more ideas from years past here. Cheer's to Crafting Love.