Thursday, February 02, 2006

*cough, cough* Family Day in the Napa Valley *achoo*

Nathan called in *sick* yesterday. Actually, I think he took a vacation day. Whatever he took, it wasn't the train to work. We got up, realized we needed a family day off of everything (him: computers, me: laundry and other assorted cleaning/organizing) and drove up to Napa. We are the luckiest people alive to live about 45 minutes from a variety of ideal day trip destinations in the Bay Area, and Napa is one of them. We were also lucky that the mustard is in bloom - next weekend is the Napa Valley Mustard Festival. (Note: instead of making this post picture heavy, and I mean loaded down like a truck full-o-gold, I'm going to try posting a few, and linking to most of the pictures this time.) The morning started early, as always (Jake has woken up after 6:30 maybe twice, ever), and gray. We decided to put the bikes and bike trailer in the van - just in case we could catch a break in the rain that was supposed to fall on the Bay Area yesterday. Well, that was futile. By the time we got to Napa, the view was like this, and the rain didn't let up all day. Really, though, the rain was ok. It kept a lot of the locals away, and probably the toursits, too. It was never a hard rain; just a steady heavy sprinkle or light rain. Sometimes just misty, other times it would let up for just a few minutes. When we were about 15 minutes away from Napa, I had a sinking pit in my stomach. Just the day before, I had finally deleted Rachael Ray's $40 a Day: Napa from the Tivo (along with the Monterey and Carmel edition). I'd had it saved for at least a month, tried to watch it for the 3rd time and gave up. I can't stand her. I want to like her, I really do. But her SWOOPING, SWINGING arm motions and constant movement drives me BATTY. Along with the fact that she is UNUSUALLY! AMAZED! at a SCRAMBLED! EGG! Blah. And, come on, $40 a day? I can feed my family of 3 on $40 a day, and that's not eating fast food. Now we had an impromptou trip to Napa, and we had to navigate the food on our own when I might've gotten a great idea! Oh well. We drove to the farthest little town first and worked our way down the valley. Calistoga was first. Truly, a two block town. Maybe even a one-and-a-half block town. That small. I'd driven through in the past, but the weekends there get so crowded with the tourists coming in for mud baths and such. Mud. Bath. Just sounds gross. So we walked around this time. Were about the only crazy people in town walking around, in fact. They had two bookstores. We picked the one with the restroom, since my eyeballs were getting yellow and I couldn't walk normally. It was one of those fantastic independent bookstores with a great childrens section. Jacob didn't want to leave, due to the discovery of the "Ellie". (Ok, just discovered that D@mn Blogger isn't letting me upload pictures to this post anymore. GRRRR! Click away. The pics are worth it.) The highlight of the trip, of couse, was the vineyards and mustard growing underneath the vines. A lot of the vineyards are the new kind - the straight vines being held together by lots of metal and plastic and wires that are visible and ugly. Nathan grew up with a vineyard in his backyard - a pretty, old-fashioned vineyard that has been replaced by the new vineyard. Therefore, he is serious about old vs. new and the fact that the new ones are 'destroying the landscape'. After months/years of rolling my eyes, I have come to agree with him, though I'm not half as crazed/passionate as he is about this. Anyhow, the challenge became finding the "old fashioned" vineyars with flowers to take pictures of, instead of the "new" ones. I think we got pretty lucky. Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3 Don't they sometimes remind you of witches hands? You can pick out the crinkly fingers and arthritic knucles. Then other vines of this type look graceful like the arms of a belly dancer when she's moving and gyrating and swirling. Picture 4 Picture 5 One of my fave pics of the day - if it weren't for the cars on the left side!! Picture 6 Picture 7 Awesome stop of the day: lunch at The Model Bakery, in St. Helena. First of all, I was pulled inside from the minute I walked past the window. I have a thing for bread. Especially pretty bread. And delicious bread. The three of us shared a ham and cheese panini and a slice of the veggie pizza. The panini was good, but the pizza was delicious. There is nothing like fresh crust like that. It was incredible, especially since it had artichoke hearts and kalamata olives, two of my favorites. Also seen in St. Helena: beautiful store front, awesome stationary store and this sign: The sign says "HOURS: Most days, 10is to 5ish (earlier or later by chance or appointment) Most Sundays 12ish to 5ish (earlier or later by chance or appointment). Love it. Unless, of course, I was there at 3 pm for something specific, and it was one of the 'earlier' days. By the time we got to downtown Napa, the next stop, the rain was coming down a little harder. I'd never walked around downtown Napa before. Drove through it plenty of times, but never explored. And honestly - eh. We found a quaint inn, the Napa River Inn, we might be able to use for a quick overnighter sans the boy. Behind the inn was one of the more beautiful mosaics I've ever seen. I'll spare you the up-close shots. The colors were vivid and it was such a large piece and I loved, loved, loved it. Jake did, too, for the fish and beaver and sharks and the horsie!. He's very into his horses right now. As in - won't leave the house, the room, the car, the anything - without at least one toy horse in hand. Thank goodness they're small (think Little People size). We also found a bakery I'm going to have to make return trips to: Sweetie Pies. Oh. My. Word. Heaven yesterday was a bite of the strawberry cream cheese bar. It makes you forgive and forget the cheesy name of the bakery, even. Whoa, baby. With that, I'm back to the harsh reality of living today. A reality that includes packing for our weekend down the coast. I have a tough life, don't I? (*ducks to avoid thrown objects*)

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