Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Russian River Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, we headed up north to a small town called Guerneville.  Nestled against the Russian River, this town draws huge crowds in the warmer months to its river banks for kayaking, canoeing and camping. In the winter it's usually reserved just for the locals and it was lovely to be in a town that felt nearly deserted, as if we had the whole place all to ourselves.  While we were sadly not able to spend this year with family, we were happy to get out of the city for some time to ourselves (especially since I work on both of our birthdays as well as our wedding anniversary nearly every year).  Below are just a couple of our adventures in the few days we were there and a few from when we got home.....

Downtown Guerneville

Our cozy cabin...

The river was just a quick walk from the base of our cabin...

The entire grounds of our resort were covered with the teeny tiny yellow leaves that I thought were so beautiful. We rarely get any trees in SF that change colors for the seasons, so maybe that's why I found these so exciting. :)

Some very odd mushrooms growing outside our cabin - these kind of creeped me out. And don't worry, we didn't eat any.

The first day we were there, we went for a long hike in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. I never cease to be amazed by the beauty of Northern California's national parks!

After the hike, we stopped at Stumptown Brewery for some refreshment and they happened to be cooking up an entire Thanksgiving feast for anyone who came in. And we thought we weren't going to get any turkey this year! Dave ate it and actually liked it for once (it was deep friend though so maybe that helped!).

Friday morning we took a gorgeous drive down the Bohemian Highway.

Our first stop was Wildflower Bakery in Freestone.  Somehow we left with $25 worth of bread. It was totally worth it as every bit of it was eaten and we had to go back the next day for more.

This is the "goat flat" loaf - tons of yummy cheesiness. It didn't last long...

Up the road we stumbled upon the Matos Cheese Factory. The small sign at the end of the road said they were open for tastings.  However, as we ventured in, we started to feel like we were driving into a horror movie (hence the very scary tree and all of the oddly discarded pumpkins).

One phone call later from the car and some long stares from the workers outside the factory, we did in fact confirm that they were open. The lady helping us with the cheese didn't seem too happy to see us and asked that I take my photo from outside of the cheese room. I was ok with that...I kinda like having her in the photo (not sure she would have approved though).  I am still not really quite sure what type of cheese they make but it was delicious!  It was kind of like a cross between a parmesan and a jack and went great with the bread from Wildflower.

Up the road in Sebastopol, we ran into some crazy junk art by artist Amiot Laurent.

And what trip to the Russian River wouldn't be complete without a little wine tasting. We tried to find small places we hadn't been to before (Inspiration Vineyards and Carol Shelton Wines were two of our favs).

We also stopped at Korbel Champagne Cellars where we enjoyed their beautiful grounds and some yummy bubbly too. :)

Our last morning there we woke up to intense fog - this is the view from our cabin where normally you can see the river below.

Since we weren't in a rush to get home, we decided to take the more scenic Bohemian Highway rather than Hwy 101.  We stopped at a great breakfast joint called Don's Dog in Monte Rio.

And yes, Don has lots of dogs. They were quite the welcoming committee. And that half of an old car you see on the left - that's the stove!

This one sat under our table and waited for any crumbs to drop the entire time we ate.  I have a feeling he does that with everyone as he was quite the adorable porky Chihuahua.

There was this old hippie selling tie dyed aprons on the street out front and I had to get one.  I also came home with some lovely rain boots (see below photo) that I picked up at the Guerneville hardware store.

Our last stop before heading back to SF was the small town of Bodega.  It's filled with small antique shops and is most famous for the Saint Teresa of Avila Church (pictured below), which was used in Alfred  Hitchcock's film "The Birds".

And then we were home... I am posting this photo below because those of you from SF know this spot well.  It's that moment just when you come out of the Waldo Tunnel on Hwy 101 in Marin.  After miles of driving on the windy and beautiful hilly roads of Sonoma and Marin Counties, you very suddenly come out of this tunnel with the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of SF right in front of you.  It's such a stunning transition and I never get sick of it.

We still had two more days of rest when we returned and decided to start in on a few December projects.  We got our Christmas tree (photos to come soon), dug out the holiday decorations and made bread (because we didn't have enough already from our two stops to Wildflower!).  Dave had purchased a started from a place here in the city called Sour Flour Bakery and it arrived just before we left on our trip. So when we got back, we dove right in and below is our first attempt a bread making.  Pretty good if you ask me. :)

And it made fore some delicious ham and cheese sandwiches the next day. These were made with the Matos cheese, some smoked ham and a dollop of my homemade pumpkin butter.  Yum!

I have been meaning to post about the butter for a few weeks, as I actually made it in early November. However, I have been so busy polishing it off that I totally forgot to write about it.  The jars also made for great give-aways to a few lucky friends. :)  I am making my way through the last one now and intend to make more soon. Here's the recipe I used.  I highly recommend it - so easy and so tasty!

And make sure you check back in tomorrow... I have some very special posts coming for the month of December. :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The perfect fall table...

Most people get excited about normal things - nice weather, a good football game, a great get the idea. I get excited over a well set table. I know, it's crazy and maybe a bit neurotic, but there is something about everything laid out perfectly on a dinner table that makes me happy. I think it's a combination of how organized everything looks (hello, type A) but also what it represents. To me, when I see all of the plates perfectly lined up with the forks and knives and the empty wine glasses sitting there ready to be filled, I see what's about to happen at that table. I see loved ones sitting around together sharing a tasty meal and yummy wine with lots and lots of great conversation and laughter. To me a perfect table represents a perfect evening at home.

Maybe that's why every time I set the table (and Dave thinks I am a total wacko for this), I like to have something unique about it - just to set it apart a little bit from the last one - something to make it memorable. Lately I have been making "take-aways" as my friend Kate likes to call them. A little something our guests can take home from the evening to remind them of the great time we had.  And why not one that will continue to thrive long after the dinner is over. I found this idea for planter place card holders at Apartment Therapy, one of my all time favorite blogs (if you don't know it, you should - you are missing out).  They were so simple to make and I love the idea of using easy to care for succulent plants that hopefully our guests can transfer to their own gardens one day.

Oh, and I also made more oreo pops (my new addiction) - little turkeys! They turned out super cute and given that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I felt they were very appropriate. :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Citrus Wreath

I think I am a little wreath obsessed. I already have three on my DIY list for the holidays and I'm a bit worried I won't have the space to hang them. However, I doubt that will stop me. :)  This fall citrus wreath (see tutorial here) was very easy to make but took quite a bit of patience. The oranges took over 20 hours in my dehydrator to dry out (no joke!) but could also be done in the oven.  Once those are done though, putting it together only took about an hour. And it smells amazing!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fancy Pumpkins

Remember these?

Well now they look like this...

We are all about being green in the Gottlieb household - re-use, re-use re-use! Plus, I thought Thanksgiving could use a little bling bling this year. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chalkboard wine glasses and the perfect fall table.

Ok, I can't get enough of this stuff. If I had my way, I might paint an entire room with this chalkboard paint because it's just too much fun.  I saw these wine glasses here and was thrilled to do another project with it.  I got the wine glasses at Ross for super cheap and taped off the bottom of the stems with blue painters tape.  These were so easy to make and they added perect finishing touch on my fall inspired table.   :)

*One thing that held me back from actually painting an entire room is that I don't think our landlord would be too happy about it. But, if you want to see how the chalkboard paint fares on walls and other surfaces, check out what my friend Kim has done at her home here. Love it!