A perfect autumn day in Yountville, Napa Valley and Sonoma

When we got to Yountville in Napa Valley last weekend, we found carpets of golden leaves, pumpkins on fence posts in rows, black and white stripes, and crisp air that made me cling to Tyson’s side for extra warmth.

“I’m so happy, soooo happy,” I told him as we walked down the street, plucking illicit grapes, stopping to exclaim over every squash along the sidewalk. “Do you know how happy I am? This is, like, my perfect day.”

 

Autumn in wine country is one of life’s glorious discoveries. Even the light is peachy-pink. The towns have emptied and slowed down. Farmers have ruddy cheeks. The grapes hang heavy and sweet.  And there is no line at Bouchon, where we went, for lunch.

This is Tyson’s favorite restaurant in the world. The man has good taste.

I had French Onion Soup, which tasted like Paris.

Tyson had the Croque Madame, which we were both sighing over to the point that our waiter finally just said, “I know. It’s the best breakfast in town.”

For dessert, there is the Bouchon Bakery next door, from which I sent my friend Cindy a text message made up entirely of curse words. Apple tarts, homemade oreos, chocolate croissants, strawberry cream cheese croissants, just howl with  me, friends, OK? It’s worth every stupid calorie. It is my mecca. Dammit.

This tart was better than Paris.

Even the Oreo’s filling was perfect.

After the Yountville morning, we drove over a two-lane, winding mountain road to Sonoma, to see my sweet friend dress for her wedding. We drove through curtains of orange leaves and two deer jumped across our pathway. I told my friend they were for luck.

She was staying at the legendary Kenwood Inn, where Ty and I stayed when we first started dating. It’s as romantic as it gets. Figs grow by the pool, and water fountains burble in secret corridors. Look at what greeted us:

Is that not the archetype of autumn?

After I tied the bride’s sash, and painted her mother’s nails, and thought about how much I love my sweet friends, we dressed for the wedding at the Annadel Estate Winery:

The wedding was as intimate and exquisite as the day. Her dress, above,  was the color of the peachy-pink Sonoma light. The groom talked about their easy, natural love — and then went in for the kind of kiss that tipped her backward, off her feet.

At home, I made Tyson practice that part, for our wedding.

More on our California travels to come. I’ll share the bride’s wedding when she gives the OK. I have a feeling Martha Stewart may get to it first.

In Yountville, I recommend dinner at Bouchon, Ad Hoc, Redd, Lucy,and Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. And a little place called the French Laundry, if you can get in.

Stay at The Gaige House, the Lavender Inn or Bardessono. The Kenwood Inn is about 30 minutes over a mountain, but what a romantic drive that is.

And go in October — magic, apple-cheeked October.

By | 2012-10-17T05:13:47+00:00 October 17th, 2012|Travel, Uncategorized|2 Comments

School shopping for grown-ups

I’m sorry this post is late today. My alarm clock broke,  the dog ate my homework and (really) my computer decided to reset its time clock to 2007. Fun times. Anyway, school shopping: we miss out, as adults. And there are things I think I/you/we could use in our lives during this (sweaty) back-to-school season:

“The New Black” pencils from See Jane Work, $6.50

A pretty old-fashioned desk lamp for, ahem, my kitchen — from CB2, $69.

Book bag! BCBG,$378.

Um, gifts for teacher? Desk decor? Dorm room accessory? Masai chokers from West Elm, $89.

A marble-topped table that is absolutely a laptop stand, from West Elm, $149.

Something to wear on the first day of school that is a solution to the J. Crew polka-dot cruelty: a Forever 21 knockoff, $14.

And this one, just $20, also Forever 21:

You’d need a matching gym bag, you know, for gym class. Polka-dot RED Valentino bag, $650 at Nordstrom.

After school snacks should be served on Kelly Wearstler-esque plates, $4 to $6, CB2.


This is for Mommy — a completely killer brass bar cart from Crate & Barrel, $599.

Absolutely essential desk organizers, $45 for the set,  RH Baby and Child.

What do you buy from the school supply section? I always get a stack of old-fashioned composition notebooks, which is what I use at work.

By | 2012-08-09T07:10:59+00:00 August 9th, 2012|Style, Uncategorized|4 Comments

He proposed.

Last week, Tyson proposed to me. It was simple and sweet. He said, among other things, that “I think it will be fun.” My heart jumped all around. And I agreed. “So we’re engaged!” He said. “Yes,” I said.

My ring features a black diamond — rose cut. It’s unexpected and perfect for me. The stone changes colors in the light — from gray to silvery to dark black. I’ve been having trouble staying focused on anything else.

We celebrated in Las Vegas on the day we chose the ring.

Last week, we celebrated in Utah on the Fourth of July — the day we told his mother, and mine. Fireworks, indeed.

We’re SO happy.

By | 2012-07-09T05:41:50+00:00 July 9th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bedroom, stripes, nightstand

My sister came over to help me paint stripes in my bedroom. (In our family, we call Kapri when we want something to actually get done.) This is the room I’m not finished decorating as it requires major furniture purchasing, but the stripes helped. And so did some pink tulips on the nightstand.

The stripes are tone-on-tone: a warmer white in a flat finish and bright white in a glossy finish. At certain times during the day, the walls look metallic, which I love.

I have walls that are completely flat and free of texture, so bleed-free stripes are easy to accomplish with green frog tape. But if you want to try this, and your walls are textured, this is the trick my sisters and I have used in the past. It’s fussy, but you’ll have perfect stripes.

Next up: drapes, a new upholstered bed (still saving), and art on the walls. But I found the chrome-trimmed nightstand for $50 on Craigslist. That was lucky.

By | 2012-07-02T08:00:53+00:00 July 2nd, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

This moment of June

My dad’s tomatoes are ready.

This part of this month always conjures, for me, one of the most vivacious lists ever made in literature. From Mrs. Dalloway:

“In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”

Wishing you an afternoon with Virginia Woolf  (and a tomato sandwich). Happy first day of summer.

By | 2012-06-19T09:47:17+00:00 June 19th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Succumbed

Despite my worries of being mistaken for those Kalifornian sisters whose names begin with Ks, I fell victim to my own mascara issues and had new eyelashes permanently glued onto my head — yes, extensions. Klassy.

I hated them for the first 10 minutes, then dithered about them for the next 10 hours. By day two, I had pronounced them the best thing I’d ever done to my head (besides coloring my hair and reading Hemingway, of course).

It took an hour, cost $100, and now I don’t have to wear mascara, which means 85 minutes per week that just returned to my schedule.

Tyson, who has a gorgeous, minky fringe of thick lashes, said this:

“Now you look like me!”

Readers: his are better.

By | 2012-06-18T06:48:54+00:00 June 18th, 2012|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Bits, the white edition

My British friend Angela uses the charming word “bits”  to describe the pretty little things in shops that suck you in and take up room in your suitcase.

I am addicted to bits. I’ve outlawed myself from buying any more. I have closets of bits and cupboards of bits and bits tucked in boxes, bins and drawers.

Some (shameful) recent acquisitions:

This vintage flashcard is from Sweet Salvage in Phoenix. This was meant for me.

Cindy bought me this beautiful bird dish, and I love it for catching coins and keys and even serving crackers. I can’t find this size online, but there’s a mini version in many colors sold

here

.

I dragged these vintage mini porcelain letters home from San Francisco and they now spell out a cheeky message at home. (The dollar sign: Ty’s last name has something to do with money, as does his job, and we both thought it was funny.) They’re from Timeless Treasures, one of my favorite SF shops.

I’m going to use these for my next dinner party.

Even higher on my “don’t buy” list than bits? Dishes. Someday I will photograph and share with you my dishes CLOSET, and then you’ll all send me links to your therapists.

These are from C. Wonder, in New York, and they’re on super sale. I was doomed.

By | 2012-05-16T06:07:26+00:00 May 16th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

New shop alert: Design Lab in Mesa

The FOUND building in Mesa is the most inspiring and creative place in town, a vintage brick beauty where a furniture shop, interior designer, family photographer, framer and architect all live in happy, help-each-other symbiosis. You will leave wanting to get married and have children to put in pretty frames on your pretty wallpaper in your pretty house.

There’s a new shop in the mix: Design*Lab by DeCesare Design Group, which opens today. I went for a preview last night and overheard someone say this: “I just walked into my wet dream.”

Friends, I can’t say it better than that. There are nautical pillows, piles of black and white stationery, bins of ribbon, Pantone toothbrushes, vintage chairs, adult school supplies, frames and boxes and vases galore, even funny party bits like gum that says, “I kissed a Republican.”

We were in Mesa, and the reporter in me noted that the “I kissed a Democrat gum” sold out.

You’ll need to get there today. Cindy and I got so excited walking around that shop that we had to step out, take a slow walk, and start again. Shop owner Caroline DeCesare is one of Arizona’s most celebrated designers — a very big, very published deal. This diabolical genius decided to open Design*Lab just 60 days ago. (She designs rooms like this.)

Behold, the fripperies:

Fill-your-own candy containers:

Angela Dawn Karp, this is meant for you:

This alphabet wall had my heart, and is soon to be the most copied idea in all of blogland/Pinterestdom:

Caroline DeCesare shares my alphabet issues. Heaven help us both.

Caroline and me: she thanked me for dressing to match her store.

After this photo, I went into the “must-see” bathroom and came out and called Caroline a bad name. Look:

That is wallpaper, and inside those frames are iconic mini chairs.

Design*Lab is at 166 W. Main St., in Mesa. Grand opening today and tomorrow, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

And while you’re there, don’t forget to visit FOUND:

And the awesome frame shop Matage:

And the studio of photographer, artist and storyteller Allison Tyler Jones:

Again, the building is at 166 W. Main Street in Mesa. Opening hours this Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m to 6 p.m.

**All good photos in the above post are courtesy of Allison Tyler Jones. Bad photos are courtesy of me.

 

By | 2012-05-11T06:10:35+00:00 May 11th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Morning Banana Cake

A Sunday afternoon, and bananas were the only thing we had to eat in the house — bananas past their prime.

This cake is technically called “Aravaipa Farms’ Morning Banana Cake,” from Carol Steele’s special farm in Winkelman, AZ.

This cake could also be called, “I hate the grocery store on Sunday cake.”

That’s up to you — either way, it is the best banana bread/cake I’ve ever come across and takes only 15 minutes to mix. (And if you wanted to add cream cheese icing, well, that’s just showing off.)

I wanted to show you a photo of the interior — moist, dense, rich with walnuts — but this cake is long gone.

Recipe: Aravaipa Farms Morning Banana Cake (slightly adapted)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10″ tube or bundt pan.

In a large bowl, mix well:

4 ripe bananas, mashed

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

Add 2 large eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla

In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together: 2 1/3 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp salt.

Add flour mixture to banana mixture, then add 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup melted butter.

Stir in 1 cup dried cranberries. 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Let cool, and invert cake onto plate.

(P.S.: This is what Aravaipa Farms  looks like — there’s a bed and breakfast there, with a fantastic restaurant  — and you just might want to spend Memorial Weekend driving down that way.)

By | 2012-05-07T06:36:53+00:00 May 7th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A bit of earth, or Spring in Utah


Growing up, I read The Secret Garden once a year, staring at the flowers on my wallpaper. After, I’d spend afternoons wandering through my dad’s roses outside, dreaming of Mary Lennox and Dickon and the magic things that happen in the sunshine that none of us can see. (I think I even made me brother act it out with me, and he refused to say “wick,” Dickon’s word for “alive,” and so I had to give up.)

It’s springtime here in Utah — where I’m speaking at a conference today, and I was walking the grounds at Thanksgiving Point when I found a tunnel covered in branches that lead to an arched door.

I felt like I was 8 years old again, and I didn’t realize why, until I pushed the door open — and found myself in the pages of  my beloved book.

The Secret Garden, brought to life:

 

 



 

Later that night, I read about how the woman who started Thanksgiving Point dreamed of a Secret Garden, too — and what magic, for the rest of us, that she did.

By | 2012-04-20T08:31:13+00:00 April 20th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments