Little Slice of Heaven 


We just returned from almost a week down in St. Augustine, FL, which is my personal little slice of Heaven on Earth. My mom’s parents have had a beach house in South Ponte Vedra since before I was born, and we’ve made a lifetime of memories there.

Craig and I love the area so much that we got married there and had our rehearsal dinner at the beach house. I love that the city itself is quaint and steeped in history. And the beach, while not quite as picturesque as the Gulf (in my opinion), is wide and filled with pretty shells. The house sits right on the beach, which is my absolute favorite, especially now that we have a kid in the mix. It’s usually completely empty, so it seems like we’re on a totally private beach, except for the occasional passerby. Not to mention that it’s so easy to run back into the house to grab things when needed or put her down for a nap and go back to the beach with the monitor while she sleeps. 🙂



We try to make a trip down once a year, so this was Leighton’s 2nd time there. We brought my mom again and also invited Craig’s parents to join us because they’ve not yet gotten to experience the beach with Leighton. This was our longest stay yet, at almost a week, and it was the perfect amount of time… long enough to make the 6 hour drive worth it, but not so long that we were tired of being there. I already wish we could go back.


Most of our days were spent soaking up the sun, sand and waves, hunting for seashells, taking walks, and keeping L occupied with a variety of toys and a baby pool on the beach. She did surprisingly well with the sand, but she was not a fan of the ocean… usually running from it saying “nooooo!” as the tide came in each time.























My grandmother and several other family members live nearby in Jacksonville, so we made a day trip over to visit with them. She took us to her beautiful country club for lunch; the food was delicious and Leighton enjoyed playing with my cousin’s daughter Addy who got to join us. It’s always a treasure to spend time with Nana — I just wish we had a chance to get down there more than once a year.




Our favorite dinner out was at Cap’s on the Water. It’s just down A1A from the house, and it sits right on the water, which always provides a pretty sunset view. They just reopened after damage from Hurricane Matthew last fall, so our timing was pretty lucky. Most of their seating is outside underneath giant oak trees, and their seafood is fresh and so good.







We also spent a couple evenings walking around downtown, peeking in shops, eating dinner, pointing out horses to Leighton, and, of course, getting ice cream. All good beach trips need to include lots of ice cream, right?




A family beach trip was just what we needed to relax, recharge (especially after a very busy month or so prior), and enjoy each other’s company. Leighton was on her best behavior, and she absolutely loved spending day in and day out with her grandparents (just missing my dad, but she did see him a bunch the weekend before we left). This past week was filled with laughter and so many sweet memories that I will cherish forever. I’m so thankful to have this special place that continues to be the backdrop for some of my very favorite moments.


travel:: Napa, Sonoma, SF (part 3)

For our final day of our California vacation, we drove down to San Francisco. After two days of visiting wineries and vineyards on a pretty packed schedule, it was a nice change of scenery and pace — although I’m already itching to go back to Napa… 🙂




We stayed at Hotel Adagio in Union Square, which aside from the delay with check-in, I really liked. Cool vibe, modern rooms, and they randomly upgraded two of our friends to a suite with a huge rooftop patio overlooking the city… just wish we’d had more than one afternoon to take advantage of it!


Upon arrival, my first request was stopping by the instagram famous Mr. Holmes Bakehouse for some baked goods. Churro and chocolate croissants and a tasty apple pie pastry that didn’t make it more than about two blocks past the bakery. I do love a baked good.

After a couple miles of HILLY walking, we landed in Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch. The area mostly seems to be filled with tourist traps, I’m sure The Franciscan Crab Restaurant was one of them, but we wanted seafood, and it seemed much less offensive than Joe’s Crabshack. The bubbly was refreshing, the seafood was good, and we had views of the sailboat-filled bay while we ate.

After lunch, we went on a search for a cable car station and got a pretty view of the Golden Gate Bridge while we waited to board (along with 50,000 girl scouts who were in town that weekend). You really couldn’t beat the weather in SF that day!



Seriously, how lucky did we get with this room upgrade?! Incredible city views, mini bar happy hour, and the best friends… not much more you can ask for on the last night of vacation.



Trip took the job of being our fabulous bus driver to and from Napa, so when he requested drinks at Tonga Room, we happily obliged. It’s a very similar vibe to Trader Vic’s (we have one in Atlanta that my old coworkers and I have fond memories of) — except this place has a pool in the middle of the room and it rains from the ceiling!



We’d originally had plans to head over to Sausalito for dinner at a fun place called Bar Bocce on the bay, but we ended up just wandering into a fancy little Mexican place called Colibri in Union Square. Although the eight of us were crammed at two tiny high top tables because we walked in without a reservation on a Saturday night (oops!), the food was some of the best we had the entire trip. It’s always a nice surprise when the random places you find end up being a win.

We got up waaaaay too early the next morning to make the long flight back to Atlanta, but I couldn’t get on that plane fast enough. We had the most amazing time and it was a much-needed and welcomed vacation…. but nothing beats coming home to my baby girl! It’s amazing how much you can miss someone after just 5 days. My mom was so incredibly gracious to keep Leighton for us at our house, and I’ll be forever grateful to know she’s always in the best care when we’re away.

After writing these posts and reliving our trip, it’s hard to not already start dreaming of where we’ll go next time with our travel buddies!

travel:: Napa, Sonoma, SF (part 2)


For our second full day of wine tastings, we chose to head to Sonoma to see what that area had to offer. Sonoma County is about twice as large as Napa County, but it has less wineries, so we found that we spent a good bit more time traveling between each location. The scenery was beautiful and we found ourselves up in the hills and off the beaten path for most of the day.

B Wise Vineyards was another incredible way to start the day, and for me, nothing else topped it. We had another private tasting set up, and our host Josh was, just like our other hosts, very knowledgeable, welcoming, and passionate about what he does. Our tasting took place inside a cave that actually once served as the owners’ home until they built their permanent home on the property. It’s still set up like a working home and was so neat to spend our morning in.



We enjoyed cheese, meat, and olives (which are grown on the property) while we tasted six different red varietals… and I wanted them all. We ended up taking home more wine from here than anywhere else, and I cannot wait to open up a bottle when they arrive. The Cabs and Pinots were outstanding, and we also picked up a great table wine for the low low price of $30 (which seems like a steal in comparison to most of the wines we’d been tasting on this trip).IMG_1246




Did you know that winemakers often plant rose bushes at the ends of the rows in their vineyards? They do this because a rose bush will show signs of sickness more quickly than the grape vines will, and it’s easier/faster to diagnose the problem. Genius and so pretty, too!




We stopped for lunch in downtown Sonoma and had another meal that did not disappoint. OSO is located right on the main square area, and Denise came through once again by suggesting we call ahead with our order to save time. We were always on a strict time schedule, which she thankfully kept us on to make sure we hit all of the spots we wanted to visit. I ordered the Achiote Chicken Sandwich (avocado, red onion, lettuce, pepper jack cheese, jalepeno aioli) and a Blood Orange Margarita, which was a nice respite from wine tasting. The sandwich had such an interesting combo of flavors, and I ate every single bit of it. I just wish we’d had more time to hang out and enjoy more of the menu! IMG_1273

After lunch, we drove waaay up in the hills to Stone Edge Farm. The setting was so serene and quiet that I think we all really would have preferred to take a nap instead. Our visit started off a little slow with a slide show and a tour of the property, but our sweet French host more than made up for it with a gorgeously set table that looked like something out of a magazine, olives and olive oil made by them, meats and cheeses, the most amazing butter crackers, and of course, fantastic wines to taste. They’re currently in the process of building a beautiful outdoor kitchen for events and dinners, which would be pretty neat to come back for. Any foodie would love this place and their mission.





To round out our day in Sonoma, Denise scored us a reservation at Scribe, which is apparently hard to do because it’s become so popular with the “millennials.” I’d say she was spot on with that opinion… the place was quite busy, and I think we were some of the oldest people there. BUT — we were set up at a big table on the patio overlooking the palm tree-lined driveway and vineyards, the weather was perfection, and they served us several small plates of beautiful and delicious food to snack on with our wines. I don’t feel like we learned much at all about the wines or Scribe itself, but it was a nice way to cap off our day and just relax with our friends for a bit. 




For our final Napa dinner, we headed over to the Oxbow Public Market downtown, thinking we’d just pick up some pizza or something simple (and cheap) at one of the food stalls. Instead, we ended up at Kitchen Door, which is one of the restaurants at the market and came recommended by our server at Scribe. Most of us did end up with pizza after all, and it was just what we needed. Thin and crispy, cheesy, and full of pepperoni — yum! We couldn’t help but get some ice cream cones from Three Twins Ice Cream afterward, too. The peanut butter cup was a unanimous favorite.

I think if I had to pick favorites, I love the Napa area more than Sonoma, but B Wise (in Sonoma) was my favorite winery and tasting. Italics was a close second. I was highly impressed with all of Denise’s recommendations, because all but one of them provided a private tasting with very personal service, and we saw almost no one else on any of our tours. It pays to have someone with knowledge and connections to the industry helping you plan your trip. This is by no means an inexpensive vacation, especially if you plan to buy wines along the way, but we had such an elevated experience that I think it was worth every penny. Next up, a day in San Francisco!

travel:: Napa, Sonoma, SF (part 1)

As you probably gathered from my instagram feed, Craig and I just returned from the most incredible trip to wine country with three other couples, some of our most favorite people. This was our first real non wedding-related vacation together since Leighton was born, and it was much-needed! I’ve been dying to go back to wine country since my girls trip almost 3 years ago, and I’m so happy we decided to make this trip with several friends. We spent 2.5 days in Napa/Sonoma and then headed to San Francisco for a full day of touristy stuff before flying home Sunday. I took way too many photos (surprise!) and have so many things to say about everywhere we went, so I’ll do ya a favor and break this up into a few posts. Hopefully anyone who might be planning a trip to wine country will find these recommendations helpful!

We flew into SFO and immediately hit up In-N-Out Burger before what ended up being a very long drive up to Napa, thanks to a lot of traffic and some strange connections between interstates in the city. Just a side note — the burger hit the spot, but their fries are pretty lackluster.

After driving for what seemed like forever (thanks to Trip for piloting #datbus for us!), we made it to Napa and went straight to Mumm for a champagne tasting. It did not disappoint! Gorgeous farmhouse setting, our own private patio, tasty bubbles, and a relaxing hour or so after traveling all day. We were surprised to find out that they make a Pinot Noir as well as a Sparkling Red, which we all decided would be perfect for the holidays. 



We had dinner downtown at Oenotri — good pizzas, pastas, and wine (including several $750 bottles that we definitely did not order), and a busy, festive atmosphere. It was the perfect way to end our first day of vacation.

Thursday’s full day of tastings and tours started bright and early with our amazing driver/wine country concierge, Denise. We used her services last time upon recommendation from a friend, and they are so very worth it. She chose several of the wineries for us and booked our tastings/tours at each venue, gave us recommendations for meals, and then drove us around Napa and Sonoma in our rental van. She’s super knowledgeable about the area and vineyards, and I’d highly recommend using a service like hers if you’re ever taking a trip there.

Italics was our first stop of the day, and after seeing the tasting room, I wasn’t sure anything would top it the rest of the trip. The tasting room is set back in a cave, which is on top of a hill overlooking their property. As you can see, it’s not a bad view. 



There are a number of hallways running through the caves, which house their barrels of wine. Once built out for their needs, caves are a lot more cost-effective for wine storage because they naturally stay at a low temperature (I think somewhere in the 50-60 degree range).


This room was so stunning — I didn’t think there was any way we were special enough to do our tasting in there. Alas, we were. 🙂 The wines were excellent (all reds, other than the one white blend we tasted before going into the cave). We planned to collect bottles at each of the wineries we visited and ship back a case of 12, so it was hard to not just buy every option they had at Italics. (Well, let’s be honest — the price per bottle is really what kept us from buying them all.) Our host, John, was welcoming, knowledgeable, and totally not stuffy, which we all appreciated. Even after visiting 7 other wineries by the end of the trip, this was absolutely a highlight of the trip for us.


Denise set up a really special tasting for us with the owner (Barry) of Tamber Bey Vineyards — at his home, set in the middle of one of his vineyards! Tamber Bey (named for two of Barry’s horses) does have a venue for regular tastings/tours, which is amid an amazing-looking equestrian facility, but you can’t beat being invited into someone’s home to learn about and taste the wine they make. Barry set up our tasting at a table on his back patio overlooking the most dreamy backyard gardens. I’m pretty sure we would have missed our next appointment if Denise hadn’t pulled us out of there, because I could have stayed all day. The wine was so good that Craig even requested we buy the Chardonnay, and he has always been adamant that he does not like white wine.



We ordered lunch from Yountville Deli, which we ate in the van on the way to our next stop. I have been dreaming about my turkey/brie/avocado/bacon sandwich on ciabatta bread for almost a week now. Our third stop of the day was Aonair, or as I like to call it, the “dudes winery.” All four of the guys on our trip loved this place, and I can’t really blame them. Our host was really laid back and took us on an informal tour of the winery and caves, then let us hang out on the huge back deck of the cabin to enjoy our wine (while sitting in chairs made from wine barrels). We all agreed it would be the perfect spot to watch football in the fall. Also, his dog, Pedals, was seriously adorable.



Rounding out our first day was Charter Oak Winery. The winemaker’s wife is a very talented artist and was actually the one to give us a tour of the property and lead our wine tasting. Her larger-than-life paintings of cityscapes are really colorful and full of life. She paints 3 cities on top of each other, and, as she told us, her style is unlike anyone else’s in the world. I’d love to have one of these in our home, but one that we saw was going for a quarter mil, so I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon. I liked the cottage feel to the property and really liked her Zins, which we didn’t have a lot of on this trip. 


When we came to Napa the first time, our favorite meal was lunch at a place called Farmstead in St. Helena. It was pretty much a requirement that we go back for dinner this time. I guess I was too busy eating and talking to snap any photos, but I can assure you it was as delicious as the first time we went a few years ago. 🙂 I could have eaten a dozen of their beignets with bourbon caramel sauce!

Meanwhile, back in Atlanta…. Leighton was busy doing this:

 Napa truly is a must-visit if you enjoy wine. Even though we were on the go the whole day with multiple venues to visit, it’s hard not to feel relaxed and happy while sipping incredible wines and taking in scenery that is absolutely stunning at every turn. Add in some of our favorite travel buddies, and it makes for a trip of a lifetime. Next up, Sonoma!