So Long, Summer

Lake Austin

While Labor Day weekend constitutes the unofficial end of summer, it’s a little difficult to get on board with that, since, living in Austin, it feels like summer here pretty much through October. But, with Nora being in school and more of a routine during the week, it does feel like the lazy days are done — for now, anyway. Plus, I ache for chilly weather, layers and non-iced coffee, and I feel like if I accept summer’s end, then maybe November will get here sooner and it will stop being hot.

Maybe.

A girl can dream…

We had a fantastic summer. We’ve had a fantastic year, but summer was really good to us. We took time to stop and smell the flowers (and then we planted them on our deck).

Stop and smell the flowers

We kicked off summer with a weekend in Galveston with friends. I hadn’t been in nearly 15 years, although where we went didn’t even feel like Galveston. It could’ve been a beach anywhere, because we stayed on the far west edge of the island, away from the touristy stuff. It was perfect. Condo on the beach with a pool (and more importantly, poolside drink service) — yes, please! The only downside was that our weekend coincided with high levels of bacteria in the water, so save for digging in the sand briefly, we spent our days in the pool.

Galveston

July 4th was a family and friends-filled fête. Our neighborhood organized a parade for kids and dogs and Nora decorated her scooter — and then her tricycle, after deciding she wasn’t interested in scooter-ing herself that far. My sisters and our friends came over for a BBQ and the neighborhood shot off fireworks til all hours. And then they continued to shoot off fireworks the week after the holiday, and the week after that, and… Seriously, our neighborhood loves their fireworks. But being able to watch them from my front or back porch on the 4th of July is quite convenient!

July 4th

Summers are for short hair. At least, that’s what my mom decided when I was a kid. I always hated my ugly boy hair during the summertime. So while I wanted Nora to lose a little length, we opted for her first bob haircut to keep her stylish!

New 'do

It wasn’t exactly the summer of blockbusters, as far as I was concerned, but we checked a milestone off Nora’s list when we took her to see her first movie in a theater, Finding Dory. Her behavior reminded me of going to St. Louis Cardinals baseball games when I was a kid. She was in it for the food just like I used to be! Once her mozzarella sticks were finished, she had to be (repeatedly) reminded why we were there. But she liked it enough and behaved well enough so that we took her to see The Secret Life of Pets a few weeks later.

Finding Dory

We spent a fun, long weekend at Lake Austin with my whole family, thanks to Mom and Dad. I went tubing for the first time in… more years than I’d like to admit! And KP went for the first time ever.

Tubing

We parked, pooled and did yoga.

Nora said goodbye to her preschool and had a brief hiatus before beginning her new one.

Our hearts and tummies were nourished with a trip to Illinois. We spent time in Trenton where Nora helped Grammie make cookies and peach cobbler. KP and I escaped for a Nora-free, food-filled weekend in Chicago.

Nora got a big girl bed! And I breathed a sigh of relief. So many friends’ kiddos had trouble with the transition, but luckily it was easy peasy. She has only once gotten out of her bed and showed up at the foot of ours, and she chose to do that at 4:40 a.m. But just once? I’ll take it.

Big girl bed

A rainier than normal summer resulted in lots of rainbows. Lucky for us, we often see them in our backyard after a nice rain.

Rainbow

KP and I celebrated six years of wedded bliss. We went to dinner at the now defunct Qui and I started the evening with a Cordial Quarrel — the drink, not an argument with KP! But fitting for six years, no?

Cordial Quarrel

Nora started Montessori school. They have a donkey, goat, two cats, bunnies and plenty of other unofficial animals (yes, snakes). She is not allowed to wear any of her TMNT gear (or any other “media” or “characters”) and she has survived three weeks.

We road tripped to Dallas for the Coldplay concert and explored the Dallas World Aquarium en route. Oh, and we got our Pappasito’s fix!

Dallas World Aquarium

See, it was a fantastic summer! We hosted a BBQ on Labor Day (because, what better way to honor America’s work force) and the fact that Tuesday was like Monday threw me off all week.  Another good summer in the books! You can get here any day now, fall.

You can get here any day now, fall.

Labor Day Weekend in San Antonio

Flag

Spending a day in San Antonio is something we’ve been planning to do since we moved to Austin, so we decided to make it happen over Labor Day weekend.

Spoiler alert: that may not have been one of our wisest decisions.

My sister, a San Antonio native (practically), was our tour guide for the day and suggested brunch at The Guenther House… which had a 1:45 wait. Not really feasible with a three-year-old. So we tried nearby Liberty Bar… which also had a wait longer than Nora could handle. We ended up at Stella Public House, and it did not disappoint.

Prosciutto, arugula, fried egg

You really can’t go wrong with a fried egg on top of anything. It was especially tasty on this savory, salty prosciutto, arugula and burrata pizza. Honestly, they had me at “burrata.” Okay, and “prosciutto.” It was so yummy. Nora was quite content with her chocolate chip Nutella pancakes, too.

Nutella chocolate chippers
“Have Ninja Turtle cup; will travel.”

And Joan, with her mimosa flight. I’m 100% certain that this is the only brunch I’ve ever attended with a mimosa flight. How has no other restaurant thought of this? Genius!

Mimosa flight

Walking back to the car after brunch, we passed so many quaint homes, beautifully manicured lawns and picturesque streets; admittedly, not what comes to mind when I think of San Antonio. The fact that we had to park a ways away from the restaurant was okay because we got to take it all in.

San Antonio

No shortage of crepe myrtles!

Crepe myrtles for days

Our post-brunch plan was to hit the infamous Riverwalk and take Nora on a gondola ride and a trolley ride, and go by the Alamo. KP had never been to downtown San Antonio so the tourist spots were a must.

We missed our queue when every single parking garage and lot near the Riverwalk was full. We persisted and parked a decent walk away from the Riverwalk, still intent on taking Nora on a gondola ride. Because, when you tell a three-year-old you’re going to do something, you damn well better do it!

Nope. We didn’t do it. We didn’t do the gondola. We didn’t do the trolley. The lines were beyond. Apparently everyone thought the Riverwalk was a grand idea for Labor Day weekend. Nora rebounded better than I anticipated. Maybe she, too, was secretly looking for an escape in the AC, gondola ride or not.

Riverwalk

Walking to the Alamo, it started to get downright comical. Thanks to endless construction downtown, there were multiple detours on our path to the Alamo. But we made it!

Remember the Alamo

Granted, this is as close as we made it, but it appeased the history buff in the family. (I am not the history buff. I know, you’re surprised. In fact, upon arriving at the Alamo I said, “This is bad, but I don’t even know the details as to why the Alamo is significant.” Don’t worry; KP filled me in on the spot.)

We ended our day hot, sweaty and tired (and hot and sweaty). So, it was almost like we saw all the sights, anyway!

New Orleans-style Snowballs in Austin, Texas

Sweet Caroline's

After a year and a half of living in Southwest Austin and frequently passing this cute little food truck in Circle C, we finally made a stop. We were hot and sweaty after an afternoon at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and anything frozen sounded delightful (Weight Watchers, be damned!).

Sweet Caroline’s serves up New Orleans-style snowballs, and, despite my former days as a Hawaiian shaved ice maker (Hawaiian in Southern Illinois…), I had no idea what a “New Orleans-style” snowball was. According to the folks who run Sweet Caroline’s, snowballs are light, fine and fluffy, whereas traditional snow cones are coarse, crunchy and granular. Snowballs absorb the flavor instead of draining to the bottom of the cup like a snow cone. And this place is so legit that they even buy all of their machinery and flavors from local New Orleans businesses.

Amazing Grace at Sweet Caroline's

I had the Amazing Grace: peach, strawberry, vanilla and cream. And it was amazing. I’m not a snow cone fan, but I am now a snowball fan.

We won’t be waiting a year and a half until our next visit!

A Visit to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

IMG_7047

We kicked off our Labor Day holiday weekend with a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I had visited a couple of times before — in fact, my first visit there was enough to convince me that we should become members. It’s so close to our house and a great place to take Nora when we both need to get out of the house a great place to go and become one with nature and get our Zen on.

The mission of the center is to conserve, restore and create healthy landscapes. There are walking trails, lush gardens (well, most of the year) and a kid-friendly area that has the dinosaur creek and waterfall.

Dinosaur Creek waterfall

Nora was perfectly content hanging out at Dinosaur Creek. There are stepping stones in and out of the water and she eventually got daring enough to step on the ones in the water. They have plenty of watering pots available to encourage kids to get in and get wet. And she did. Another family was there and showed her the frog eggs they found in the creek, too.

Watering the water
Watering the water

You might think, why go during the hot Texas summer when everything’s dead? Well, the accurate answer is because KP took the day off and we were looking for something to do! But there was plenty in bloom, and I actually learned a thing or two. Every morning when I drop Nora off at school I see these fuchsia berries on these bushes at drop-off and had no idea what they were — until today. They’re American Beautyberry.

American Beautyberry

And yes, it was hot. And yes, we sweated. But I’m not going to not do something because it’s hot. That would be like not doing something in Chicago because it’s cold!

After experiencing the blooms in spring and summer, I look forward to a (hopefully cooler) visit in the fall!

The Week That Was: October 23, 2015

After a long weekend away and a visitor the week before, I could not get it together this week! And now it’s Friday so I’m going to quit trying. Next week’s a fresh start, right?

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October 21, 2015 — just a few days ago — was the day Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled to in Back to the Future II. See how futuristic we really are.

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A fellow Stitch Fix stylist told me about Dressember. Have you heard of it? Do you think you could wear a dress every single day in December for a good cause? I’m considering it…

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I think Daylight Savings Time is a little hokey, too, but is there really a petition to end it? Seems so.

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Lots of talk about dogs in our house these days… I think we’re ready for one but we’ll see how soon it happens. If not by Christmas, then I’ll just need a tree full of these adorable dogs of Instagram ornaments.

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Some of my favorites made the cut in this list of how not to look like a disaster after a long flight. Some of them help me not look like a disaster on a daily basis!

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Have a lovely weekend!

How Do You Take Your Coffee?

 

Coffee creamer

I’ve been taking little steps to remove as many chemicals from my daily life as possible. If I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I probably shouldn’t be putting it in or on my body. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to this. I’m sure wine gums, my favorite candy ever, have plenty of stuff that’s bad for me but I’m going to keep on eating them. Baby steps.

One of my first vices to go was my beloved Coffeemate. And sadly, I hate to report that my morning coffee just isn’t the same without it. Rest in peace, hazelnut creamer… I’ve known for a long time that it’s oh-so bad for you (just Google it if you’re curious), but it’s oh-so delicious. It was really hard to cut ties, but I did it about two months ago. You know how they say it takes 21 days to break a bad habit and then you’re magically “cured” of said habit? That’s not the case with Coffeemate. I still miss it. But I haven’t caved. I have, however, tried lots of alternatives and here’s what I think of them:

Whole milk just isn’t as creamy, and I long for the sweetness of Coffeemate. It’s doable, but not remotely as tasty, obviously.

Vanilla almond milk is a step up from whole milk. But again, not as creamy, not as sweet.

Agave combined with the whole or almond milk helps a little, but the sweetness is more of a sugary sweetness, not whatever the sweetness is in the crack cocaine-like Coffeemate. Agave with almond milk is my go-to at the moment, but I’m still unsatisfied.

Kalona Half & Half was one of the two “healthier” options I decided to sample on a recent trip to Whole Foods. It’s creamy, but it didn’t wow me enough to trump almond milk or even whole milk.

SO Delicious Hazelnut Coconut Milk Creamer was the other option from Whole Foods. This one was my least favorite. Perhaps the “dairy free” label should’ve tipped me off, but this one was overpoweringly sweet and oddly flavored. I can’t put my finger on whether I found it to be tart, sour or bitter. All I can tell you is that I threw this one away before finishing it.

I’ve seen plenty of recipes on Pinterest to make my own creamer. Honestly, it seems like a lot of work for something that won’t taste as good as the real deal. According to my sister, she tried one of those recipes and it wasn’t any good; ergo, I won’t like it, either.

How do you take your coffee? Are you a badass black coffee drinker? Do you still use Coffeemate or something equally terrible? Sugar? Milk? Open to ideas here!

Grandma Turns 100

Grandma

October 10th marked my grandma’s 100th birthday. I always think of her on this date — and lots of other less significant dates. I often think of her when I’m cooking or baking; she was a superstar cook and baker with years in professional kitchens. I think of her at the holidays; she always made dozens and dozens of cookies and I vividly remember them cooling on paper-thin dish towels on her little kitchen table. I think of her when I see old ladies who remind me of her, and sadly, whenever I see, hear or read something about Alzheimer’s disease. My grandma died in 2003 after suffering from that horrific, debilitating disease. I think of her in her last years much less often than I think of all of the happy, fun memories of her when she was herself.

100 years is a long time. I decided we needed to celebrate 100 years, even if she couldn’t be here to do it with us. That, and as you know by now, I can always find an excuse to throw a party, cook, eat and drink! Conveniently, my two local sisters were already planning to visit that weekend. We were going to informally christen our new patio. But when I realized what the date was, I convinced my mom to come, too. We celebrated Gram exactly how we would have if she was still here — by making and eating lots of yummy food, hanging out and just being together.

Let me tell you about my amazing grandmother’s cooking. She spent years cooking at the Missouri Athletic Club and Stix, Baer & Fuller’s restaurant, so she knew a thing or two! Her list of specialties (all from scratch, of course) is endless, but the dishes that first come to mind are chicken and dumplings, bread and butter pickles, grape jelly, coffee cake, chocolate pie, rhubarb pie and cookies, cookies galore — chocolate chip (which were about the size of a half-dollar, if that), Mexican wedding cookies, iced sugar cookies in holiday shapes and colors and the cookies that everyone still longs for — peanut blossoms. I volunteered my sister Joan to bake these cookies for our gathering (and they were gone by Sunday night).

Grandma's peanut butter blossoms
Nora got her first taste of Grandma’s peanut blossoms

You could say Gram was the executive chef of the family. She most often planned and prepared the hors d’oeuvres for family parties or the main feast.  One of the things that Gram made for every family party was platters of deli meat rolled fancy with cream cheese and a pickle in some varieties, with intricate roses made out of tomatoes in the center of the tray. While we made our best attempt to recreate this snack, I think Gram would’ve given us an E for effort.

Salami roll-ups

I’m thankful that my sister Jennifer volunteered to make the quintessential Gram dish: chicken and dumplings. And I’m thankful that Nora didn’t like it so there was more for the rest of us!

Chicken & dumplings

We had a fun day remembering Gram and bringing up old memories. One of my funniest memories of her is something I totally remember happening, but at the time I didn’t understand why it was so funny because I was really young — four, maybe five years old? Gram used to babysit me a lot and I was at her apartment one day, wanting to help. I was at that age where I wanted to help with little chores, which is exactly what Nora does these days. I was going to help her dust her living room furniture, which I used to do frequently. She gave me a little dust rag and I insisted on furniture polish, so she gave me an aerosol can and I went on my merry little way, polishing her whole living room suite. I was a pretty quick kid (my apple didn’t fall far from the tree); after I finished my task I looked at the can and asked my grandma what “O-F-F” spelled. No, she hadn’t given me bug spray — nor furniture polish. She gave me Easy-OFF oven cleaner by mistake! I vaguely remember her muttering words I probably wasn’t supposed to hear and scurrying to clean it off the furniture!

One of my sisters posted the photo of Grandma and Grandpa (above) on her Facebook page on Gram’s birthday, and a family friend commented, “She was the perfect example of a grandma anyone could wish for.” That, she was.

Grandma’s Peanut Blossom Cookies

1/2 c shortening
3/4 c peanut butter
1/3 c sugar, plus extra for rolling dough
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Brach’s stars (sub Hershey’s Kisses, which are much easier to find!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until blended. Add sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Immediately place chocolate pieces on top of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Grandma’s Chicken and Dumplings

1 1/2 c flour
1 tbsp parsley, chopped (1 tsp dried)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine flour, parsley, baking powder and salt. Combine milk, vegetable oil and egg and combine with the dry blend. Stir enough to moisten the mixture but don’t over-beat.

With a tablespoon, form the dumplings and drop them in boiling chicken broth*. Cover tightly and cook for 12 – 15 minutes or until done. No peeking! Serve immediately.

* Depending on how many you plan to serve, you can boil a whole chicken or just chicken breasts along with carrots and celery, well seasoned with salt and pepper. Reserve the broth for cooking the dumplings.

The Week That Was: October 9, 2015

I am really missing fall weather these days. It’s still in the high 80s and 90s although dare I say chilly some mornings? I’m forcing myself to wear jeans; it’s my version of a rain dance, I guess. It hasn’t worked so far…

I’m so looking forward to the weekend. We’re hosting my mom, sisters and brother-in-law for our informal patio christening party. And, when I realized the dates, I decided that we’d also celebrate what would be my grandma’s 100th birthday tomorrow. I can always find an excuse to have a party (especially one that involves cake and ice-cream).

Enjoy your weekend!

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Here’s what we’re cooking up this weekend, in honor of what would be my grandma’s 100th birthday. She was the queen of chicken and dumplings.

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These little First Thanksgiving candles remind me of the ones my mom had on our Thanksgiving table when we were kids. Nostalgia is nudging me to buy them.

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31 Bits necklaces are my new favorite thing that Stitch Fix sells.

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I dare you not to laugh when reading this open letter from the Everywhereist to her lady bits. She hilariously captures what I think most women feel.

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Yes, my views of babies on planes were quite different — until I had one of my own. Here’s hoping Nora’s a champ on our eastbound flight next week!

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Have a lovely weekend.

The Week That Was: September 25, 2015

Artist at work
Artist at work

I’m feeling especially TGIF today. Felt like a long week! The little artist above is very into crying over everything these days — not getting to press the button to close the garage door, wanting a cup of milk, forgetting to say her prayer at dinnertime and of course any time the TV gets turned OFF. There just isn’t enough wine sometimes..

On Monday, I witnessed something that really rattled me. Nora and I were leaving the grocery store and there was a bit of a commotion in the parking lot. A woman was running, zig zagging through the rows of parked cars. She honestly seemed a bit maniacal. I overheard someone  say something about forgetting where she parked, but she seemed awfully distraught to only be looking for a car. We’ve all been there, right? She finally found her car, which was parked in the same row as mine, and her frantic state was warranted: she had left her infant in the car. It was truly heartbreaking to witness. She was so upset, crying, and so was the baby when she pulled her out of the car. I overheard her telling two other women who jumped in to console her that she didn’t know how it happened, she just moved here from Colorado, has three other kids, got into the store and picked up a package of strawberries and quickly realized she didn’t have her baby. Clearly, it was an honest accident and it rattled her, too. I’m not sure what was more heartbreaking to witness — this poor mother who probably felt like the world’s worst parent in that very moment, or the total asshole parked next to me who, while getting into his car, shook his head and said, “what an idiot.” Admittedly, when I see similar stories on the news that usually don’t end so well, that’s my first reaction, too. I always think, how can you forget your kid? Well, I’ve seen it happen in real life and can only say thank god this woman remembered before it was too late.

On Wednesday, we were awakened at 2:30 a.m. by our smoke detectors going off — two of them. And then again at 5:20 a.m. Why don’t those batteries ever die at noon? Miraculously, Nora slept right through it.

Wednesday was also the first day of fall. In Austin, we had an “unseasonably warm” temperature of 95 degrees. More of the same yesterday. It’s a good thing I no longer like pumpkin spice lattes (regardless of the fact that they’re finally incorporating real pumpkin…), because it’s still iced everything these days (probably gonna have to try the toasted graham latte, though — how good does that sound?!).

We have a busy weekend. We’ll go to the acclaimed Pecan Street Festival for the first time tomorrow. And on Sunday, Nora will have a babysitter while KP and I go to brunch with two other adults. Yippee! A reward to end the lllooooonnnnnggggg week.

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Apple cake: before and after
Apple cake: before and after (don’t be a dunce like me and forget to turn it right-side-up before serving!)

I’m loving everything from Smitten Kitchen these days. Correction: I’ve always loved practically everything from Smitten Kitchen, but these days I’m actually making stuff. Case in point — this delicious apple cake that I made for Nora’s preschool dinner this week. Sadly, and thankfully, we have no leftovers sitting around at home, otherwise I’d fall off the Weight Watchers train hard. Repeat!

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I have a love/hate relationship with Starbucks, but even still, I’m pretty jazzed about the fact that I can now order and pay on my phone — from home, or wherever — and have my drink waiting when I get there.

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Yeah, sometimes I wonder if I want to walk away from this blog altogether, too…

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I find it kind of funny that KP insists on using men’s Dove shower gel. I use his Jack Black face wash, after all. But apparently it could be much, much worse.

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Now that we’re homeowners, I guess we should be concerned with things like fall home maintenance… luckily many don’t apply because we live in Texas, after all.

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In case you missed it, my favorite Irish boy band has a new album coming out next year. Yippee!

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George Ezra’s “Barcelona” is on repeat at our house these days. Love.

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Have a lovely weekend.

My 3 Favorite Wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Pinot Noir at Torii Mor

Pretty much the whole reason we chose to go to Oregon for our anniversary trip was wine. We went to Napa for our first anniversary and had a delicious time, but we’re more pinot people than anything else, so the Willamette Valley seemed like the perfect place to visit. And it was.

We tasted wine at seven or so wineries over the course of about two days which may seem like a little or a lot, depending, but it seemed just right to us. After all, we had to fit in ample nap time at our home away from home, the glorious Black Walnut Inn.

I like wine a lot, but a wine connoisseur I am not — nor is KP. We’re very much the types who know what we like but you definitely won’t find us waxing poetic about tannins, oxidation or balance. Maybe that’s why, near the end of our trip, I decided that everything tasted like cherries. Leggy, approachable cherries.

Here are my three favorite places where we sipped — and rarely spit — in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

1. Anderson Family Vineyard

Our first stop was Anderson Family Vineyard in Newberg. It was highly recommended by our concierge at The Nines in Portland and he made the required reservation for us. We like these smaller vineyards that compel you to join their club — because you can’t really find the wines elsewhere. And I loved the Anderson family’s story; operating a vineyard was their lifelong dream and they’re living it. Cliff and Allison, the husband/wife duo behind Anderson Family Vineyards, are very hands-on; she conducted our tasting (and turned me back onto pinot gris!) and he was there, running around doing things a busy vintner does, I guess. Their wines — pinot noir, dijon chardonnay and pinot gris — were so good that of course we had to join the club. Now if only it would cool off in Austin, we’d get our first shipment…

This is the picturesque tasting room at Anderson Family Vineyard.
This is the picturesque tasting room at Anderson Family Vineyard.
And this is the unspoiled view...
And this is the unspoiled view…

2. Torii Mor Winery

One of the cool things about Black Walnut Inn is that they provided a list of their favorite local wineries, categorized in different ways. If memory serves, Torii Mor was classified as a “hidden gem” or the like. It was one of my favorite wineries we visited because it was so uniquely beautiful. Yes, every single winery we visited was picturesque; it’s hard not to be in that part of the world. But Torii Mor was really memorable — and the wine was amazing.

I love the story of this winery’s name. “Torii” refers to ornate gates often seen at the entrance of Japanese gardens. “Mor” means earth. Together, it is “beautiful gate to the earth.” There are “gates” like this all over the property.

IMG_3021

Torii Mor was probably the quietest, most peaceful tasting room experience we had while in Oregon. There is a small Japanese garden adjacent to the tasting room, and there’s a huge wrap-around deck on the back of the property which is nestled in the trees.

3. Archery Summit Winery

Archery Summit felt like the black label of all of the wineries we visited. Very high end. Very pricey club. Very exclusive feeling. We tasted several pinot noirs and I was on my best behavior.

This is what five years looks like.
This is what five years looks like.

Other Wineries We Visited

Erath Winery

Erath is pretty common. We’ve bought it at Whole Foods and HEB. It’s good pinot noir. But the tasting experience there compared to Anderson and some of the others felt a little more “corporate,” for lack of a better way of putting it. Less of a personal touch, more robotic. As one of our wino friends said, it’s the Mondavi of Willamette. Still, the wine was wonderful and the scenery even more so.

White Rose Estate

I don’t remember exactly how we stumbled upon White Rose. I think we went because it was close to Archery Summit, and we were more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants on this trip. If we visited a tasting room and there were others closeby, we checked them out, too, usually. The wine was fine, but my favorite part of White Rose was the cute little tasting room. It was this little log cabin-like building, and it was really dark and cozy inside.

White Rose Estate Tasting Room

There was lavender everywhere. Seriously, Willamette couldn’t be more picturesque if it tried.

White Rose Estate

Durant Vineyards

Durant Vineyards and Red Ridge Farms is also near White Rose and Archery Summit; I think that’s how we ended up in that area to begin with. Everyone in the area raved about the farm and the olive oil and we wanted to do some gift shopping and get some snacks, so that’s where we went. The tasting room wasn’t even on the agenda, but since we were already there, how could we not?

Red Ridge Farms is a really cool little place. It’s part nursery where I suppose locals go to buy plants and gardening stuff, part gift shop where you can do olive oil tastings (and buy olive oil in every variety imaginable) and buy luscious lavender lotions and bath salts, kitchen stuff, oh, and picnic accoutrements to pair with your wine tasting on their lawn.

Red Ridge Farms

They also have these amazing little ice-cream sandwiches. (He even let me have a bite.)

In his happy place

Seven of Hearts

Seven of Hearts was another, well we’re already here tasting. We went to Carlton to check out Republic of Jam (and I’m sorry, but calling that little shop a “tasting room” that has “flights” of sweet and savory bites is a bit of a stretch… we were told we could sample whatever jars of jam they had — in little cups) and Seven of Hearts has a tasting room just a few doors down, so in we went. Full disclosure: we went in so I could use the bathroom, and doing the tasting was my way to not feel guilty about that. Surprise, surprise… the joke was on us. Because we walked out with a case of wine headed our way.

I did a relatively good job of jotting down notes on all of the wines that I liked. Just now, I wanted to share which Seven of Hearts it was that sucked me in (because one of the whites was so good, I couldn’t resist… the 2013 Viognier & Roussanne?). But I have no idea where said notes are. See, a true wine connoisseur wouldn’t be so callous. Thank goodness we have some shipments coming so I can remember what it was that I liked so much.

By the end of our trip — I can’t believe I’m going to admit this — KP and I both needed a little bit of a wine break. You know those things you see on Pinterest about what to do with leftover wine? I always scoff. Who ever has leftover wine?! Well, after all wine all day for consecutive days, I needed to get some vodka in the mix, or something. And I can only take so much serious wine talk for so long. By our final day in the valley, everything was leggy and approachable as far as we were concerned.