Farm Tots Weekend. December Week 3 Edition.

Our kitchen renovation continued this week. We had contractors come out to template for our new marble countertops and had our new farmhouse sink installed. We found a new Viking professional oven at a local appliance discounter so now our appliances are going to match. I highly recommend shopping around for the appliances you really want. After shopping for weeks we found our oven for less than the least expensive brands out there.

Today make sure to follow along as we take over the El Dorado Winery Association’s Instagram account. We are going to show you some of our favorite family-friendly wineries and secret places to visit. Wineries can be a family activity with some planning and flexibility. Our trips to wine country usually revolve around a country drive, a visit to a winery to purchase a bottle or two and a picnic outside. Sometimes I taste a wine or two and Ben sticks with non-alcoholic choices with our tots and serves as the driver. I try to visit wineries that I know are going to be kid-friendly with somewhere to eat and spread out and let our tots run around safely.

Here is what we are reading this week

The El Dorado Winery Association website has brochures and a map of the wine tasting region to plan a family-friendly wine country trip or a relaxing adults only day trip

Gift tags that would be perfect adorning homemade hostess gifts this holiday party season

A guide to food and local farm related gifts for locals here in our hometown of Sacramento, CA

Do you Elf on a Shelf? This might be the main reason I don’t

Guest Takeover. El Dorado Winery Association.

El Dorado Winery Association Holly's Hill Vineyards

Tomorrow, we are taking over the El Dorado Winery Association Instagram @ElDoradoWines to show how we do wine country.

We are so honored to have been asked to spend some time showing off this gorgeous wine region that we now call home.

My Mom was raised in Napa and I grew up spending much of my childhood in the Napa Valley with my extended family. After college I packed up my car and moved there to work in the wine industry. After working in marketing and PR for some of the most prestigious ultra-premium wineries in Napa and Sonoma for almost 10 years, I fell in love and moved to the Sacramento area. My Husband works for the California State Senate and we had to be close to the California State Capitol for his job.

Shorty after my move my Husband introduced me to the wine regions around Sacramento and suddenly it seemed more like home. We moved to El Dorado Hills five years ago and now are even closer to the El Dorado wine region. We can reach wineries in less than 10 minutes and we take advantage of this by exploring the country roads through wine country as often as possible.

Being able to teach my tots about all kinds of agriculture in the foothills has provided me a way to connect with my passion and teach my kids about farming. The El Dorado wine region has so many destinations just waiting to be discovered so follow us as we show you around!

Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days (Northern CA)

December is mandarin season in the Sierra Foothills and growers celebrate the harvest with the Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days the first and third weekends of December. Participating mandarin ranches in Penryn, Newcastle, Loomis, Lincoln and Auburn have family-friendly activities ready for visitors looking to learn more about mandarins including

  • Artists and Crafters
  • Mandarin Product Sampling including Oils, Sauces, Honey, Juice, Cookies, Cakes, Fudge and Spreads
  • Local Wine and Ale Tasting
  • Visit with Santa
  • Farm Animals
  • Face Painting
  • Old-fashioned Kids’ Carousels
  • You Pick Mandarins
  • Other winter fruits and vegetables including oranges, lemons, persimmons and squash
  • Plenty of Bags and Boxes of Local Tree-Ripened, Hand-Picked Mandarins

Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days are December 5, 6, 19 and 20 from 10am – 4pm each day. Ranches are located throughout Placer County, just a short drive from Sacramento, located between Sacramento and Tahoe off Interstate 80. (more…)

What to Eat During a Kitchen Remodel.

As we enter week two of our kitchen remodel (our before kitchen is pictured here) I realize how unprepared my meal planning really was before demo. Similar to when we had our first child and I completely ignored everyone’s advice to cook-ahead, freeze meals and stock up. We were so desperate for food those first weeks. This time around I should have listened to that same advice. I didn’t.

Making meals ahead of time and freezing them would have been awesome planning ahead. Really I’m not sure I could have done it. With everything families have going on every day it seems unrealistic to plan ahead two weeks of dinners. Not to mention where do you put them all?

Be realistic about how long you are going to be without a kitchen.

Demo- 1-2 days
Cabinet Install- 2-3 days depending on size of kitchen
Countertop Fabrication and Install- 7-10 days depending on size of kitchen
Appliance Install-1 day

Here is how we are surviving our kitchen remodel on a budget without eating out every day. (more…)

Farm Tots Weekend. December Week 2 Edition.

This week started of with a bang around here. It was our kitchen demo day. The whole kitchen, except for the floors, were taken out in one fell swoop (or 1,000). We have been in our house for a year now and we told ourselves we wouldn’t start any projects until we had been here that long. We are remodeling our kitchen without a contractor and I have taken on the role of general contractor (Mom, wife, blogger and student) for the duration of this project.

Demo took a whole day and the second day our new cabinets started to get installed. We hired professionals for this! Today our countertop fabricators are coming to take measurements and get going on making our new marble countertops. This means no kitchen for another week! I thought not having a kitchen wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not a huge deal. It is just a real inconvenience especially with two kids and a puppy on the loose.

I’m trying to keep everything going and decorate and get ready for the holidays along with finishing my semester of school (last final tomorrow). Going to the tree farm last weekend was such a fun day and having a gorgeous tree we cut down ourselves sitting in our home definitely is forcing me to remember what is important.

Here is what is getting me inspired this week


If you are considering cutting down a tree and live in Northern CA there are so many farms to chose from. We posted this guide of local farms

Using materials found right outside to make a gorgeous holiday centerpiece

A while back we shared our homemade beet hummus recipe on Instagram, now we want to try a new recipe from a local blogger we love

Learning how to make dinners in the rice maker while we don’t have a kitchen including a recipe for rice maker mac and cheese

I am obsessed with making our own bread.  I tell friends constantly to get a bread machine.  Here is one for a reasonable price that would be a perfect gift

San Diego Off Season Beach Vacation. What to Do.(San Diego, CA)

Mission Beach

After many trips to San Diego, at least one trip a year since I moved away 15 years ago, we have decided that we just can’t do it all. There is so much to do with kids in San Diego that it’s way too much pressure, and to expensive, to try to crunch it all into a short trip. We have now started letting our trips be all about the beach and adding one other activity in if we are up for it.

One of the best parts about traveling off season is that everything is cheaper. The other bonus is the crowds have disappeared and most tourist attractions are frequented by locals and a small group of tourists. This year we went to Legoland on Thanksgiving and we only waited in line for certain rides and wait times were less than 5 minutes for the most part. The beaches are almost completely empty and parking is easy. Roads aren’t crowded and overall you can live like a local instead of battling it out with throngs of tourists. (more…)

San Diego Off Season Beach Vacation. Where to Stay. (San Diego, CA)

South Mission Beach Rental House

Mission Beach is a lively beach with walkable options for dining and recreation. That’s one of the reasons it makes such a fun family vacation. Not having to get in the car (unless you want to) makes it one of the most affordable and relaxing beach vacations we have found. There are two accommodations options for travelers visiting the area. We are going to detail both.

Every family is different in what they expect from a vacation. We are often conflicted about our preference for staying in a rental home or a hotel. Both have advantages and disadvantages. We find hotels are nice because we know we have a safe lighted place to land no matter what time we arrive, rooms are clean and remade and restocked daily, dining options are easy and plentiful and most hotels have pools or other recreation options for our kids. Rental homes offer more of the comforts of home. We know they are going to have a kitchen we can stock and cook our own meals and space to stretch out. With our children we find that overall rental homes are most relaxing for us when we go to San Diego for a beach vacation (Legoland vacation or downtown we prefer hotels). Since we really are relieved to get away either way we often book a hotel and then look for last minute deals on rental homes to get the most for our money. (more…)

San Diego Off Season Beach Vacation (San Diego, CA)

South Mission Beach

It’s no secret that we love San Diego around here. Ben grew up spending summers and holidays there visiting his grandfather in La Jolla. I went to college at the University of San Diego and lived in South Mission Beach and stayed around working for a year after graduation. We got married in San Diego at USD and had our party at The Prado in Balboa Park. Each year since our wedding we try to go back and visit during our anniversary in October so we have become experts at navigating San Diego in the off season.

Since most families want to visit the beach during summer vacation a beach trip to San Diego in summer can become so cost prohibitive because of the competitive busy season rates it makes it almost impossible to make it work. Hotel rates skyrocket too and attractions are busy along with roads and the beach.

Our favorite time to visit is during the fall when most families aren’t traveling and prices are way down. Today we are sharing our San Diego off season beach vacation secrets.  Throughout the week we are going to share more hints like where to stay, what to do and what to eat while you are away. So join us in this four part series on getting the most out of a budget-conscious trip to San Diego. (more…)

Roberts Christmas Tree Farm (Pollock Pines, CA)

Roberts Tree Farms

It’s been a while since we got a real tree around here. I don’t like to admit this. We have been using the same fakie tree we bought for $12.99 on sale two days before Christmas the first year we lived together back in our first house in Davis, CA. Since then, every year we talk about going up to the mountains to cut down a tree. Then every year as we pull out our boxes and boxes of decorations we see the tree we bought, that first year and our emotions take over and we carefully assemble it again and promise that this is the last year we use it. That we have to move on from our tattered dust covered version of Christmas past.

This year we spent Thanksgiving in San Diego and when we got home I promised my tots we would head out to get a tree the first free day we had. On Friday, Benjamin came home and begged me to put up our old tree. I hesitate. I resisted then I totally caved and decided to set it up in our family room, reserving our formal living room for the tree we were going to cut down this year. (more…)