Month: June 2015

Five Things NOT To Take To A Lakehouse Weekend

As many of you already know, I’m from the Midwest. It’s that little region of the United States where recreational lakes are a dime a dozen. That’s why to me and millions of other Midwesterners, lakehouse weekends have become a symbol of summertime.

With that in mind, I’ve developed some sage wisdom over the years about the difference between what people think they should take to lakehouses vs. what they really should take. Fashion companies and pop culture can steer you wrong, so there are a few key items where I want to set the record straight:

What you should NOT take to the lake:

1.  White jeans

I recently bought a pair of white skinny jeans from Boden that are PERFECT for summer. They’re high quality and really trendy right now. Despite that, I will NOT be taking them to the lake this weekend. Why? They will get dirty. A few examples of lakehouse activities not friendly to my new jeans: squeezing ketchup on a freshly grilled burger, sitting around a fire pit with marshmallows in hand, sitting on a dock looking at the lake, sitting on a chair on the deck… really just sitting anywhere in an outdoorsy environment. Whatever the case, they will inevitably get stained on the first day I wear them and then will be out of commission the rest of the weekend. And even if they don’t get dirty, they will somehow get wet and become see-through (I mean, why else am I at the lake?). Therefore, I’m leaving them at home.

I hope she's not sitting in a puddle! (image source: wheretoget.it)

I hope she’s not sitting in a puddle! (image source: wheretoget.it)

2.  Chunky Knit or Cashmere Sweaters

As much as you may want your lakehouse attire to look like you just walked out of a J. Crew photo shoot in Kennebunkport (I really, really do), the lake is not a New England yacht excursion (womp womp). If you feel that bringing a sweatshirt isn’t fashionable enough and you want to replace it with a brightly colored cable-knit cardigan in order to look stylish, just recall how long it takes that cable knit to dry if it gets wet. You’re at a lake doing water sports, so there is a strong chance that will happen. Thus, next time you feel like dressing like an Irish fisherman, remember all those lads have probably switched to American Apparel zip ups these days.

"We won't tip the canoe, we promise!"

“We won’t tip the canoe, we promise!” (image source: westendknitwear.ie)

3.  Sperry Topsiders

“What? But I’m going to be on a boat!” That’s true, but it’s summertime so you probably want to wear flip flops instead. Every time I’ve brought my Sperry’s to the lake I’ve regretted it because I end up wearing my J. Crew Havianas all day – they dry so much faster and show off my pedicure!

"Hey guys! I'm ready to water ski!" (image source: planetshoes.com)

“Hey guys! I’m ready to water ski!” (image source: planetshoes.com)

4.  Sunscreen lower than SPF 20

Okay, I’m really guilty of this. In the past when I’ve brought SPF 8 and 15 to the lake I’ve either a.) burned because the sun is twice as strong on the water OR b.) reapplied every twenty minutes out of fear of burning. I think this year I’ve learned my lesson that higher SPF means fewer applications….but we’ll see.

Don't you just love the smell of Coppertone in the summer?

Don’t you just love the smell of Coppertone in the summer? (image source: nanotechproject.org)

5. Swim Bottoms That Aren’t Conducive To Water Sports

Ladies and gents, just bring shorts that will stay on your body while you’re tubing. Take it from me – worrying that your bikini bottoms are going to fall off makes water sports 10x less enjoyable. Oh – and make sure your shorts are fast drying! Your daisy dukes will look really cute, but it’s really uncomfortable to get in and out of the water in wet jorts.

Beyonce's shorts look a little clingy and heavy, right? (image source:  denimblog.com)

Beyonce’s shorts look a little clingy and heavy, right? (image source: denimblog.com)

I hope this helps with your lakehouse packing strategy. When it comes to weekends at the lake, I find that practicality is usually the best tactic – but let me know if you disagree!

Any other things that you think are better left at home this summer when visiting a lakehouse? Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments!

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San Francisco Trip In Review: Road Trip To Mendocino!

During the second day of Derek and my weekend stay in San Rafael, the four of us decided to take a road trip to the coastal town of Mendocino. Derek’s brother had recommended it highly, since he knows it is exactly the kind of thing we like to explore:  a town chock-full of artist galleries and quaint shops that is adjacent to a gorgeous state park.

Although the town of Mendocino has under one-thousand residents, it is heavily supported by day-trippers from SF, the nearby Alexander Valley wine industry, rural-roaming artists and hippies, and a military base several miles up the road. To get to the town, we had to drive many hours through wine country and a Redwood Forest – both of which bared incredible views. At certain points the roads became so windy as we maneuvered up/around the hills that we all felt a big of vertigo hit our systems!

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Winding hills through Mendocino County during our drive to the town

Standing in the Redwood Forest on the way to Mendocino

Standing in the Redwood Forest on the way to Mendocino

Once we arrived in Mendocino around 2pm, the town was packed with fellow travelers who were in town for the Mendocino film festival. Unfortunately it took much longer for us to get there than we had calculated, so we missed the lunch seatings at the restaurant we were planning to try (Cafe Beaujolais). However, we ended up at a friendly joint in the downtown area called the Goodlife Café and Bakery.

Split pea soup

Split pea soup

Mocha and chocolate chip cookie

Mocha and chocolate chip cookie

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

After grabbing a quick bite, we bee-lined over to the Ford House Museum building before it closed at 4pm in order to learn about the town’s history and scope out the artwork of one of Derek’s brother’s clients.

Ford House (image source: mendoparks.org)

Ford House (image source: mendoparks.org)

The building itself was constructed in 1854 for a local family, and now houses a historical museum featuring old photographs as well as models of the town in the nineteenth century. I loved wandering through the downstairs living rooms while learning about the logging industry that founded the town.

Once we made our way through the museum, the four of us ventured out into the Headlands state park to explore. I’m a huge fan of hiking, and we spent the rest of the trip exploring the sea-eroded rocks, grassy cliffs, and sandy beach.

Our group exploring the coast

Our group exploring the coast

Me taking a look at the rocky coast along the Headlands

Me taking a look at the rocky coast along the Headlands

View of the old Presbyterian Church from the Headlands

View of the old Presbyterian Church from the Headlands

An awesome tree I found

An awesome tree I found

Gorgeous wildflowers along the bluffs

Gorgeous wildflowers along the bluffs

View of the rocks jetting out into the Pacific

View of the rocks jetting out into the Pacific

Me and Derek enjoying our hike along the Headlands

Me and Derek enjoying our hike along the Headlands

Trail marker along the bluffs

Trail marker along the bluffs

Stunning view of the Mendocino coast

Stunning view of the Mendocino coast and vintage buildings

Walking over the rock tunnels

Walking over the rock tunnels

Matt and Liz exploring the rocks during low tide

Matt and Liz exploring the rocks during low tide

Graffiti on an old shipping dock

Graffiti on an old shipping dock

Me and Derek enjoying the sandy beach during a low tide

Me and Derek enjoying the sandy beach during a low tide

When it came time to head back to San Rafael (around 6:30pm so we could be pass the windy roads before dusk), I had an urge not to go. The coastline had bewitched me, and I felt like I could spend weeks exploring the trails along the water where the lush foliage and bright flowers grew effortlessly out of stony cliffs. I had never seen rocks and bluffs like the ones in Mendocino – and they inspired me.

Mark my words:  someday I will go back!

San Francisco Trip In Review: Day Trip to Sonoma County Wineries

On the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend my boyfriend and I were staying at his brother’s apartment in San Rafael (along with our other friend Liz), and the four of us decided to venture up the road to the Healdsburg area for the day. Since Derek’s brother was not drinking that day, we lucked out with a built in designated driver/chauffer (thanks Matt!).

After doing a lot of online research, I booked us a FREE 10am winery tour at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards along Dry Creek Road. Several women had written on TripAdvisor that it was their favorite vineyard in the area, so I definitely didn’t want to pass it up!

Our group at Ferrari Carano - me, Derek, Matt, and Liz!

Our group at Ferrari-Carano – me, Derek, Matt, and Liz!

The experience did not disappoint.

The main house at the vineyard was built to resemble a Tuscan villa, and the vineyard itself had stunning landscaping and fountains that reminded me of the orderly and beautifully-planned designs you would find in a typical Italian style garden. We could not help but take photos at the grounds – especially since we were there so early that we beat the crowds!

Me and Derek on the grounds at Ferrari Carano Vineyard

Me and Derek on the grounds at Ferrari-Carano Vineyard

Gardens at Ferrari Carano Vineyard

Gardens at Ferrari-Carano Vineyard

Villa and tasting rooms at Ferrari Carano Vineyard

Villa and tasting rooms at Ferrari-Carano Vineyard

Touring the gardens at Ferrari Carano Vineyard

Touring the gardens at Ferrari-Carano Vineyard

Ferrari Carano vineyard estate

Grape vines at the Ferrari-Carano vineyard estate

Derek and I in one of the many barrel storage rooms

Derek and I in one of the many barrel storage rooms

As part of the tour we were given a one-hour tour of the wine-making facilities, vineyard grounds, and the two tasting rooms – all while hearing the history of the estate and an explanation of its nearly perfect organic-level status (a 4 out of a 5 level ranking system). Our tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, and I ended up taking the below video of her explanation of the grape growing process to help showcase the type of knowledge you learn on the tour.

After the tour ended, we decided to pay for the more expensive tasting fee, where we were able to try some of the top wines that Ferrari-Carano produces (including some that are ONLY available if you visit the vineyard). We ended up splurging on our two favorites to bring home:  the 2010 PreVail Back Forty ($85) and the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($41). Along with that, we registered for their semi-annual wine club shipment ($160/shipment), and were pleasantly surprised to receive the first batch within a week of our trip home!

Derek and me in the wine tasting room at Ferrari Carano

Derek and me in the downstairs wine tasting room at Ferrari Carano (so fun!)

After leaving Ferrari-Carano we went to the next vineyard down Dry Creek Road called Dutcher Crossing, which was originally begun by a family from Wisconsin. The views were almost as exquisite as those at Ferrari-Carano, and the woman in the tasting room provided fantastic customer service. I had read positive reviews on TripAdvisor while I was researching the region, and our group was very pleased with the stop choice.

Dutcher Crossing entrance

Dutcher Crossing entrance

In my opinion, the wine at Dutcher Crossing was unique, and I fell in love with their 2013 Stuhlmuller Chardonnay (not available online). I’m typically not a Chardonnay fan due to how tangy I often find that type of wine to be, but this one was crisp and refreshing like an apple. It was the only white wine that we purchased that day, and I cannot wait to enjoy it during a warm summer evening on our balcony at home.

The other wine that we loved from Dutcher Crossing was the Proprietor’s Reserve 2013 Zinfandel ($30), which had a delicious flavor. Although we ended up purchasing only two bottles at Dutcher Crossing, we came very close to signing up for their wine club as well (and also close to buying a few of the floral scented candles in their shop). I’m actually quite surprised that our tipsiness at that point didn’t get the better of us!

Me and Derek after our wine tasting at Dutcher Crossing

Me and Derek after our wine tasting at Dutcher Crossing

Gorgeous view of the vineyard grounds at Dutcher Crossing

Gorgeous view of the vineyard grounds at Dutcher Crossing

Before heading to the third and last winery of the day, our group decided to stop in the town of Healdsberg for a quick lunch. A French café called Costeaux had an incredible write-up in the my California guidebook, so we took a chance to see if we could get a table – and we were in luck! The restaurant had a sunny, open feeling and was decorated in a beautiful Provincial style, which created a cheerful atmosphere. Further, each of our plates arrived with artfully-presented food that tasted as good as it looked!

The wall decor at Costeaux in Healdsburg, CA

The wall decor at Costeaux in Healdsburg, CA

costeaux food

My omelette and tea at Costeaux

costeaux french toast

The french toast at Costeaux

After finishing lunch, our last winery visit of the day was Francis Ford Coppola, which is a brand we often see (and occasionally buy) in NYC. We had heard great things about the grounds, but were most intrigued by the museum within the building.

Francis Ford Coppola tasting room building near Healdsburg, CA

Francis Ford Coppola tasting room building near Healdsburg, CA

The vineyard is owned by the Coppola family (of Hollywood renown). As you wander around, you can see a variety of props and memorabilia from some of the movies they have directed, including the Godfather movies and Tucker. They even had some of their Oscars on display! It was fun to see a piece of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood during a trip to Northern California.

DSC07174 DSC07175 DSC07177 DSC07181

After the third and final vineyard, we decided to make our way back to San Rafael for a calm evening before our planned roadtrip to Mendocino the next day. As we journeyed the hour back to the Marin County town, I realized how blessed we were to spend a day in the gorgeous valleys of Sonoma County wine country during sunny, mid 70-degree weather. Of all of the experiences that we had on our trip to San Francisco, our day in Sonoma was my favorite.

Me and Derek smiling while soaking up the Sonoma, California sunshine!

Me and Derek smiling while soaking up the Sonoma, California sunshine!

The last thing I will mention is that shipping the four bottles of wine home that we purchased was not an easy task and should be planned in advance. Our first folly was that we originally tried to ship the wine on the Monday of Memorial Day – but soon learned that USPS and UPS were both closed on those days AND FedEx has a policy not to ship wine. As a result, we were forced to wake up at 7am on Tuesday before our flight to take the bottles to the UPS store in Union Square.

Our four wine bottle purchases prior to being boxed up in the UPS shipment

Our four wine bottle purchases prior to being boxed up in the UPS shipment

All in, we bought wine shipping packaging material for about $20 and the cost of shipping was about $45. We learned a lesson that when we buy wine in Italy later this year, we will buy a special suitcase in advance to check the wine so it travels with us on the plane. That said, while the cost to ship the bottles home was steep, the sentimental value of having souvenirs from Sonoma to enjoy at our leisure was worth the money for us. We now have four incredible bottles of wine aging in our wine fridge waiting to be enjoyed on a special occasion – or when we feel a ping of nostalgia about our trip!

Cheers to that!