Gotta Getaway: Escaping to Wine Country with a Newborn

People ask me what I was looking forward to the most post-pregnancy. Sushi? Unpasteurized cheese? Oysters?? Yeah, sure I do love all those things, but for my entire 10 months of growing that human, I was most looking forward to wine – and finally getting to enjoy wine country again! It was pretty tough for me to have some of the best wines in the world less than an hour’s drive away and all I could do was give it all a longing stare. That’s why I was determined to get my butt back to wine country after Carter was born. It was also a wonderful excuse to get my butt out of our house! So at four weeks old, we loaded Carter up in the car {and all his gear – our station wagon has never been so full!} and headed for Alexander Valley.

winecountry

Nestled 90 minutes north of San Francisco just north of Healdsburg, Alexander Valley is a wine lovers sweet spot. While the region is known for its amazing Cabernet, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, in all our adventures in wine country we’d never ventured that far north. Needless to say I was very excited to get out among the vineyards, but the first step was finding a place to stay. Thankfully, I discovered a picture perfect rental home on Homeaway.com. This spot had my name written all over it!

ffe569c8-0e29-4208-a5ee-5afbb353dbc2.1alexandervalley12alexandervalleyalexandervalley16alexandervalley5alexandervalley15alexandervalley10

This modern take on a farmhouse had everything my design-loving heart could ask for in a vacation home. The architecture and design are stunning. Think vaulted ceilings, beautiful hardwood floors and pitch perfect finishes in every space. The house is split into two sections with an adjoining deck…that leads out to a heated pool! Um, yes and yes. We would slide open the oversized glass doors and just sit in the kitchen letting the warm wine country air waft in. The minimalist decor and neutral color palette was so relaxing. The spa-like bathrooms and gourmet kitchen were another major plus. And Carter got to take his first dip in a pool. He was less than amused but he loved the shower we took after getting out!

And while I was temped to sit on that deck all day erry’day, we did manage to get out and about. That was made particularly simple because there were wineries and the cute Jimtown Store literally steps from our front door. That took care of my need for cappuccino and my return to wine tasting – no driving required! But wine country is too beautiful not to venture a bit further so we did hop in the car and head to Dry Creek – a whole 20 minutes away and discovered some of our favorite wines to date.

Wine tasting with a newborn was actually a breeze. Sure I overpacked swaddle blankets and under packed diapers. Sure, we had blowouts and spitups that required me to do laundry {thank you rental house with laundy room}. But none of it mattered because I was dealing with those things in such a beautiful space! Carter also basically slept the whole time we were out and about, really boosting our parental confidence. In fact our confidence was boosted so much that we even braved a dinner in downtown Healdsburg. Sadly, that experiment was less successful. Carter did not take to bustling restaurant noise, so we were forced to enjoy our entrees solo while the other parent circled the block with the stroller. But since we ate at the new-parent dinner hour of 5:30pm, we were able to return to our gorgeous rental home, that stunning deck, the fine bottle of wine we’d picked up in the Valley that day and this sunset:

IMG_8998

And I couldn’t have been happier.

I’m already counting down the days until we can return. While I’m hesitant to give up this gorgeous find, you can check it out for yourself on Homeaway.com right here. Below are a few of the spots we uncovered during our mini-adventure, but I know they are only the tip of the Alexander Valley iceberg. If you have any recommendations for wine tasting, dining or really anything fabulous in northern Sonoma/Russian River/Alexander Valley, please leave them in the comments!

FAVORITE ALEXANDER VALLEY DISCOVERIES:

Wineries
> Hawkes
> Truitt-Hearst
> Preston
> Medlock Ames

Food
> Healdsburg SHED
> Scopa
> Noble Folk
> Flying Goat Coffee
> Jimtown Store

For more of our favorite wine country finds click here, here and here!

Still have wanderlust? Check out the rest of our Gotta Getaway series HERE including trips to Santa Barbara, Hawaii and Washington, DC.

Tasty Thursday: {The Best Mexican Brunch in The Bay}

It’s no secret that there are two things we love in this world; Mexican food and a yummy Saturday brunch! But how often do they go hand in hand?? Mexican restaurants don’t tend to be everyone’s go-to brunch spot, but we say they should! In fact we’ve kinda made it our mission to criss cross the Bay looking for the best hidden gems {especially during the height of my Mexican food pregnancy cravings}. That’s why we were stoked to learn about Taste Buds, a cool new YouTube show presented by Ford. To help celebrate the show’s launch, we’re working with Ford and Taste Buds to share one of our favorite Bay Area discoveries!

Dona Tomas, one of Oakland’s hottest Mexican joints, will convince you Mexican is the perfect brunch food. From its sunny outdoor patio, to the best chilaquiles verdes you’ve ever tasted, to tequila for breakfast {why not???} – move over mimosas and dime-a-dozen eggs benedict, the menu at Dona Tomas won our hearts {and our bellies!} over!

dona-tomas-13

Before we chat chilaquiles – seriously, they’re life changing – let’s walk through Dona Tomas’ sophisticatedly decorated dining area. Set smack dab in the middle of Oakland’s poppin’ Temescal neighborhood, the space features dark stained wood tables, authentic tapestries on the walls and wrought-iron candlestick sconces  – all instantly transporting you to a chic Mexican villa! Nothing is over the top or too loud. It’s exactly the way we’d decorate our own Mexican vacation home {if we had one!}. In fact, we’ll take those wooden guacamole bowls with us right now!

dona-tomas-oakland-2dona-tomas-3

The carefully curated decor still features colorful moments – think old-timey photos antique posters, jumbo grass pendants and colorful floral tablecloths on the outdoor patio will totally get you excited for what’s ahead: a gorgeously fun Mexican feast!

dona-tomas-6dona-tomas-7

Now let’s talk about these chilaquiles! For those of you who don’t know, they are crisped up tortilla chips doused in tomatillo salsa and sprinkled with fluffy egg, chunks of queso fresco, crema and avocado on top! We ordered a lot on the Donna Thomas menu {because how could you not? it was so hard to decide!} and these were everyone’s fave and a must-try!

dona-tomas-17

Coming in a close second were the juicy Huevos Rancheros with two fried eggs, black beans and pickled carrots. But then there were the Mole Enchiladas – a chocolate, almonds, peanut and chile recipe straight from Oaxaca! And the Carnitas Tacos and the Chile Rellenos – poblano chiles stuffed with yams and walnut cream sauce. Ok, it was pretty impossible to pick a fave. Seriously, talk about a culinary overload. Each dish is elevated with organic and locally sourced ingredients and tastes as fresh and delicious as they look!

dona-tomas-5dona-tomas-10

Oh and let’s not forget the cocktails or “cocteles” in Spanish! If hibiscus infused Flor de Caña Rum, lemon, grapefruit syrup with sparkling wine doesn’t whet your appetite, the habañero infused Vida mezcal, agave & lime, muddled cilantro, fresh cucumber & celery Celerito definitely will! In fact, we’ll be back to taste test the evening cocktail menu in Dona Tomas’ separate crimson red bar room! Oh and don’t forget to top off your brunch with crunchy on the outside and gooey in the inside churros and coffee! Yummm.

dona-tomas-14

Whether you’re tired of the same ole’ long lines, looking for a fun new spot to spend your Saturday morning or are in need of a weekend hangover cure stat, check out Dona Tomas in Oakland. It will not disappoint. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a warm day, drink margaritas at 10 a.m. and explore a buzzing East Bay neighborhood!

You can also check out the episode of the Taste Buds featuring SO many of my favorite San Francisco hot spots, not to mention my girl Erica Chan of HonsestlyWTF fame, below!

Now, who’s hungry??

original photography for apartment 34 by aubrie pick 

This post is sponsored by Ford. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own. Thanks for supporting partnerships that help keep Apartment 34’s doors open!

Retail Therapy: {Oakland’s Best Decor Store}

We do our fair share of running around our cities exploring, perusing, eating, shopping and drinking. We call it “work,” but really, it’s what our life goals are made of! It’s an especially good day when we stumble upon something so good, we name it the best. We discovered this sweet shop over a year ago and have been loyal to it since. Every couple of months we pop in to see what newly curated treasures adorn the shelves and every time, every time, we fall in love with it all over again. Properly named and popularly adored, I Love Neighbor is the best decor store in Oakland and here’s why!

i-love-neighbor

You’re strolling down Piedmont Ave on what’s likely a gorgeous day in Oakland. The East Bay is always good for sunshine! On any particular day, the City Across the Bay is at least 5 degrees warmer and the sky much sunnier than fog-ridden San Francisco. As you pass all of the usual suspects, some that have occupied the street for years – decades, even – Fenton’s Creamery, Lost and Found Antiques, Issues, you mosey past something new, fresh, young: I Love Neighbor. You go in {duh!} and your eyes become as big as saucers as they proceed to soak up every little nook and cranny of this gorgeously curated space.

neighbor-oakland-2neighbor-oakland-7

Brass chandeliers made by local artists, glass and ceramic mobiles, vintage paintings and antique taxidermy all hang from the walls or soar from the tall, wood beam ceilings above you. Black and white Icelandic sheepskins, classic striped foutas, colorful Moroccan rugs and handmade textiles from artists in Brooklyn adorn a mid-century chair or spill over a dip-dyed ladder.

neighbor-oakland-5i-love-neighbor-3neighbor-oakland-3

Locally made candles, cocktail syrups and shrubs, organic soaps and detergents {peach oil laundry detergent. hello!} line the chic shelves. Grey washed live-edge bowls, smoothly carved horn spoons, unique candlesticks, tiny leather coin pouches, brass scissors in every size and rope dog leashes all make the cut in their well-stocked cabinets.

neighbor-oakland-8i-love-neighbor-2neighbor-oakland

And, the staff! Well, they’ll become your new best friends not only because they are so friendly, but they’ll also indulge you as you jabber about loving everrrrr-y-thing. They’ll likely tell you about the item in your hand and somehow convince you, in a way your best friend would, that you need it. The store is inviting, never stuffy or intimidating and there’s a backyard luring you in for “just a peek through the back door” yet it enticies you to sit down and stay a while – a neighborly Oakland mentality if we’ve ever seen one!

neighbor-oakland-4neighbor-oakland-9

So if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Neighbor. And if you’re not, do yourself a favor and be in the neighborhood! To all our buddies in San Francisco who rarely find themselves breaking out of their norm, I Love Neighbor is worth the quick drive over the bridge and we dare you, just dare you, to not fall in love!

original photography for apartment 34 by aubrie pick