I’m not sure what happened, but all of a sudden it’s November. The past few months have been an exhausting, productive blur. We bought and remodeled a two-bedroom house and a three-bedroom rental unit. We ripped out an entire kitchen down to the old sub-floor and re-built it from scratch. I am now an expert Ikea cabinet builder. For about a month, I did dishes in our bathtub. So yeah, we’ve had a lot going on.
I’m finally getting around to sharing some photos of what things looked like before, and what things are looking like these days. Now that I have my life back I’m hoping to pick up my camera a lot more often and share more of what we’re working on.
And here’s how things are looking these days. It’s very much a work in progress, and we’ve moved things around even since I took these photos about a month ago – but I truly love our home. It’s cozy and filled with natural light and all kinds of old charm. The kitchen is my favorite room in the house for sure. I sit there and look around in awe that we actually built it ourselves.
Whoa, hello February. I don’t know where January went, but I’m pretty sure it included me working too much and fighting off winter colds. February is here and with it, we finally have rain. Even I, lover of sun, was ready for the rain. It’s nice to have a reason to cozy up inside. One of our favorite ways to spend a Friday night is to sit around our coffee table with an easy meal and a nice bottle of wine. Coffee table dates, as we call them, are the best. Sometimes simple really is better.
If winter is long where you live, don’t worry. Spring is coming.
We’re slowly getting back into the swing of things after a fast and furious holiday in Missouri. I think we both appreciate the chance to reset our buttons, spend time with the people we love the most, sit in front of a fire, and eat way too much food. And then, after we’ve said our good-bye’s, there’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed.
Last Sunday, we went apple-picking in the North Bay. After some quick research I found Chileno Valley Ranch (just West of Petaluma) and it looked like exactly what I wanted – a little bit of country, a little bit of fall.
The ranch didn’t disappoint; we picked apples right off the trees and got up close and personal with some friendly cows. Sometimes this Missouri girl just needs a taste of home.
On our way home, we drove out to the coast through Tomales Bay & Point Reyes. That area has amazing views and misty fog – a lot like Mendocino. We had lunch right on the water at cozy Nick’s Cove which Jason called “the original Red Lobster”. I told him he was my red lobster. Awww.
It has taken two-and-a-half years of living in coastal California to realize that I miss seasons. I even miss winter a little bit. I can’t believe I just said that. But in a way, it’s true. I miss the sense of impending change, of time passing in increments. Living in a place with no seasons starts to feel a bit like Groundhog Day sometimes. It’s predictable.
We’ve gotten some unseasonably cool weather for October lately (our Octobers are supposed to be our summer) but I’ve really enjoyed it. It feels like fall. I’ve been listening to a lot of Louis Armstrong and Etta James and thinking about cinnamon and pumpkin-flavored things.
So I made snickerdoodle cookies for the first time. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long; they are incredibly easy to make and so (I mean SO) delicious. Still warm from the oven, they’re like a piece of cinnamon sugar toast. I highly recommend them eaten while cozied up on the couch, watching a movie.
Recipe adapted from this one. Makes about 3 dozen medium-sized cookies. The secret ingredient is the extra sprinkle of coarse salt. Don’t forget it; it really makes these cookies spectacular.
1/4 cup granulated sugar (for cinnamon-sugar topping)
1 1/2 T cinnamon
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt plus some extra for sprinkling
Coarse sea salt (kosher or fleur de sel)
In a shallow bowl, whisk 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon together. Set aside.
Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each one. Add in vanilla and beat until well-mixed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, just until combined.
Using your hands, divide the dough into small balls (about the size of golf balls) and roll each one in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until fully covered. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place balls on a cookie sheet and top each cookie with a healthy pinch of coarse salt. Bake each batch for about 10 minutes or until the tops have cracked but are not overly golden brown. Do not over-bake. Store all remaining dough in a resealable container; sprinkle with salt right before you bake. You can keep the raw dough refrigerated for up to one week.
I came across a bunch of photos from my last trip home in July and I wanted to share them. I spent time at my mom’s adorable restaurant that she has spent 12 years perfecting; her cozy bungalow that reminds me of the giant house we could buy for the cost of a down payment here (San Francisco real estate, I shake BOTH of my fists at you!); my oldest, best friend Emily’s parents’ house where I practically grew up. My sister and I a memorable day at the lake with my dad, which sadly I didn’t take any photos of for fear of ruining my camera. You’ll just have to take me word that it was a great day.
Also, my friends have gorgeous children. I love seeing them grow up, although I hate how much of their lives I miss.
I love California, but Missouri will always feel like home.
The fog has finally lifted from our neighborhood, so I ran up to our roof before work to catch the view in the morning light. The beauty of this city still takes my breath away.
Happiness has been a bit elusive for me during the past year. Just when I think I have it, it slips away again. A wise person told me recently that you can hold two things at once: happiness, disappointment; thankfulness for what you have, sadness for what you lost. I like this concept a lot, and sitting up on our roof felt like yet another example of it. This city is hard to live in sometimes – it’s stupid-expensive and it takes forever to get anywhere – but daaaaamn. It’s gorgeous.
A strange thing happens when you move across the country: inevitably, you’re drawn to people who came from the same place as you – people who were raised the same way. Our friends Noah and Kelly fall into this category. They moved to San Francisco long before we did, but grew up in the same part of Missouri and went to college in our hometown.
A few years ago, they opened a small wine company with a few friends. Not surprisingly, it took off, and we were invited up to the opening of their new tasting room on the square in Healdsburg. It’s actually tough to find well-designed (modern) spaces in wine country, although that is changing. Banshee’s tasting room is already getting impressive accolades (here and here). Again, no surprises there – Kelly is a designer and has an aesthetic that is the perfect mix of old and new.
I was so proud to see our friends in action, celebrating a lot of hard work. Congrats to Kelly + Noah and the whole Banshee team. We’ve always been rooting for you guys! And we love drinking your wine.
p.s. I love all Banshee wines, but their pinot is my favorite and it’s very reasonably-priced compared to other Russian River bottles of the same quality. You can order some for yourself here.
Photos taken at Banshee Wines, 325 Center Street, Healdsburg.