The Laguna

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The Laguna de Santa Rosa and the vineyards near it are one of the most beautiful places I have ever laid my eyes on.  I mean, I haven’t really been to that many places in my short life, but I have traveled extensively in California and this one tops the list.  This whole area is a 12 on a 1-10 scale.  It just takes my breath away.

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4th Food and Pics

This is the first 4th we have had in Sonoma County and it was great!  A couple of days ago I thought our 4th was ruined when our cranky neighbor called and told us that if anyone shot off any fireworks in the neighborhood she was going to call the cops.  Considering we live in a town where fireworks are legal I was pretty angry.  However, I decided to call the local fire department and ask them if fireworks were legal in my neighborhood and found out that I live in a 1 mile stretch of unincorporated city where fireworks are illegal.  The mean lady won, and we did not shoot off our own fireworks.

Instead we headed out to Red, White and Boom at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds.  They boasted the best fireworks show in the county and we were not disappointed.

I was really excited to try out some of the local gourmet food trucks so that was our first stop at the fair.  There was quite a selection.  Two kinds of BBQ, Fish, Mexican, World Fusion, and Cupcakes!  And that was just the food trucks.  We couldn’t pass up the Fish on Chips truck, so Tom and I both got that.  They were great.  The fish was moist, batter crispy and golden.  The fries were just as good sprinkled with a bit of lemon and dipped in tartar sauce.  Definitely a place I would hit up again.

Next we stopped at the Sift Cupcakes truck.  They have been on my list of places to go since I discovered they won Cupcake Wars.  They deserved to win too.  I got The Samoa cupcake which is a coconut cake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with caramel frosting and rolled in toasted coconut.  It was, by far, one of the best cakes I have tasted.  The flavors were spot on and the cake itself was tender and moist.  Unlike any cupcake I have had before.  I still plan on stopping by their store in Santa Rosa one of these days to try their Cupcake Wars winner, the Pink Champagne cupcake.

The fairground was packed with people, about 10,000 people showed up by the end of the evening.  There were live bands, dancing, jumpy houses and a climbing wall for the kids.  It was quite an event.

By the time the fireworks started the kids were hopped up on sugar and literally crying for them to begin.  We tried to grab a quick family photo but this was the best we got.  Brae was in a funky sugar rush and did not want to take a picture with us.  Tom was able to snatch her as she ran off and we snapped a few quick ones with the iPhone.  As I tried to get us all together I was reminded that this would be the last 4th with just the three of us.  For next years photo we will be a family of four.

We hope you all had a wonderful and safe Fourth of July.  Can’t wait until next year!

Apples, Anniversaries and Birthdays

I feel completely unprepared for this post, moving boxes are on every surface and pizza boxes cover the stove, but its been too long since my last one and I feel you deserve an update.

We are all moved in to our new home now and we are slowly learning our way around.  If you have been following my twitter stream then you have heard me rave about Andy’s Market in Sebastopol, Ca.  I can not explain how happy the little chef inside me was while walking through that store.  Childish glee… maybe.  I bought lots of obscure ingredients that I don’t need now, I but DID need at some point in the last year and couldn’t find.  All of a sudden there they were and there I was with a debit card in hand.

Carob chips, tapioca pearls that have to be soaked overnight, unsweetened shredded coconut and sprouting seeds the list goes on.  They have every flour, nut, seed, bean, pasta or spice sold in bags by weight.  If you are gluten-free then you want to visit this place.  They have the best selection of gluten-free ingredients I have ever seen.

Anyway, I will tell you more about Andy’s in another post.  Back to our house.  It’s a two bedroom, 1 bath on a property with a couple other houses and an old apple orchard.  The house is a perfect fit for us with a freestanding wood stove and a large kitchen.  I have spent a happy last couple weeks learning its quirks.  For example, where all those sounds were coming from at night.  Ghosts were mentioned several times, but it ended up being the fridge.

Celebrations have been happening all month.  First Tom came home from the vineyard, we got our house, then it was my birthday and this blog’s 1 yr anniversary, then Tom’s birthday, then our wedding anniversary, then Halloween, which is big in our house.  Its been crazy!

We learned where the local yellow jacket hive was on my birthday and blog anniversary, October 11th.  There we were, joyfully picking apples in “the Snow White Apple Orchard” next to our house (Brae renamed it for the red apples).  I was posting photos to twitter about how I was in paradise.  The next minute my little one runs toward me screaming hysterically.  I see a wasp on her shirt and swipe it off her only to see another and another land on her and now me.  Suddenly I have flashbacks of the movie My Girl.  I dropped my bag and screamed RUN!  I grab her hand and we fled through the orchard, wasps hot on our tail.  I stopped halfway to the house to swipe more wasps off Brae, then realized they were still landing on us.  I grabbed her and ran for my life back to the house.  In the front room we stopped and swiped the ones that were on our clothes.  Several lifted off and started flying around the room.  Brae had been stung already and was freaking out.  There were still wasps on her.  We ran to the bedroom and shut the door.  Stripped off our clothes and I frantically beat the crap out of anything that moved until I was sure all the wasps in the room were dead.

We took stock of the damage.  She got 5 first stings and a couple secondary stings.  Yellow jackets can sting repeatedly without dying or losing their stinger.  I got stung twice with about 7 secondary stings.  Brae was freaked out, I was freaked out.  She had never been stung before so I was worried about allergies & the amount of stings.  I waited a few minutes to make sure her breathing was normal and she was calm before heading back out to war with the rest of the wasps.  I killed about eight around the house before calling it safe.  Then it took another ten minutes to convince Brae to leave the house and go next door for help.  That was how I met my very sweet neighbors who have become our fast friends.

In two days I turned 29, Tom turned 34 and this blog turned 1.  We were finally together, I have many pounds of free apples and found out that I was the one who had a mild allergy to bee stings.  Brae is apparently immune to their venom.  Her stings had disappeared completely by the next day.  Since that day however, she has developed an uneasy relationship with bugs that fly.  Outright panic and growing agoraphobia thankfully changed into extreme caution, which has, in the last couple days, changed again to a calm distrust of tiny flying things.  We have learned a lot about wasps and how to avoid a hive if you find one.  It’s a work in progress.  A couple of days later my neighbor and I were discussing what had happened, she laughed and said, “Welcome to the country.”  I laughed with her and said, “Actually, its welcome back.”

Those apples were retrieved by a brave husband at dusk and were turned into apple butter a few nights later.

Elise’s Apple Butter recipe

More apple recipes to come.