Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wine Tasting in Napa!

Our friends Jay and Staci had some friends in town over the weekend after Thanksgiving, and we wanted to make sure they experienced Napa the only way anyone should ever experience Napa, from the back of a limo!  That's right, we rented a limo and hit a couple of our favorite wineries in Napa.

Ram's Gate

Bob and I are members at Ram's Gate, and man oh man do we love it.  It's an absolutely beautiful site on a rolling hill just across the Golden Gate Bridge.  It's the first winery you come to when you reach the Carneros Region up in Sonoma/Napa.  We joined the wine club last fall because we were blown away with how yummy and affordable the wine was, as well as the stunning venue.  The other great thing about Ram's Gate is that they have delicious small dishes, so it's a great starting place for a day of wine tasting.  You can fill up your tummy on some good food, savor the flavor of your pinot and take in the breath taking view.  We ordered a smattering of their seasonal items, as well as the meat and cheese plate.  Because we had new friends with us, we chose to do the full Ram's Gate tasting so that we could get a sip of everything.  I'm personally a fan of their Pinot Noir, but everything is good, and their Chardonnay is buttery but not too sweet.

IMG 2131

IMG 2138

IMG 2146

IMG 2150

IMG 2154

As you can see, some obligatory "couples" shots were taken.  We couldn't help ourselves, it was a gorgeous day, and look at the view!

After Ram's Gate we headed out to….

The Madonna Estate

Jay and Staci are members of The Madonna Estate, and for good reason, they have a killer Barbera.  They also have really nice and knowledgeable staff who obviously love working there.  We went on a tour of their facility and had a full tasting of deliciousness.  After we had our tasting we opted to purchase a couple of bottles of wine, and borrow some glasses to hang out at some of their picnic tables.  You can reserve picnic tables if you want to enjoy lunch there, we've done that before and it was great.

IMG 2158

IMG 2160

IMG 2166

We ended up having the best weather imaginable for the day.  Absolutely lovely, not to hot or cold with clear skies.  And at the end of the day we watched the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge.

IMG 2175

Awesome day, with new and old friends.  I can hardly wait to do it again.

Love and kisses,



This year Bob and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house and invited some friends.  I love a good party and everything was awesome.  We had spicy turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, stuffing muffins, a lovely salad (that our friend Rachel brought) and some really delish brussels sprouts with bacon (that our new friend Mike brought).  Staci baked some wonderful pumpkin pies and made the cutest turkey treats out of various candies and cookies.  Enjoy the show! (And if you're interested in any of my recipes, you can check them out at BiCoastalBites.)

IMG 2100

Our wine area, we were feeling festive and went with Chardonnay and Cabernet. 

IMG 2108

Cheese platter! We had lots of appetizers, cheeses with crackers and jams, we also had shrimp and a veggie platter.

IMG 2114

All our foods! Set out and ready to eat!

IMG 2116

Everyone enjoying the food!

IMG 2118

Gobble, gobble!  Happy Thanksgiving! (Staci's awesome turkey treat!)

IMG 2127

The next day I cleaned up the house and set up our tree.  I'm ready for Christmas, let's go!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Love and kisses,


Friday, November 16, 2012

Izzy Ippolito - New Puppy!

On August 25, 2012 we adopted Izzy.  She's our little jack russell terrier mix.  My little destroyer.  She has broken, eaten, destroyed more things in our home in the last 3 months than Ramsey has done in over a year.  But I love her, she's my puppy-cat.  She's about 20 pounds and she loves to snuggle with me. 

IMG 1412

IMG 1678

IMG 1991

IMG 2001

Ramsey and Izzy get along pretty good, and they both love sleeping on the bed, so we're never cold.


The end of the affair in Moscow

Upon our return from St. Petersburg we made a plan for all the things we wanted to make sure we got to do before leaving Russia.  I had read about a part of Gorky Park where all the old Communist Statues have been placed.  I  thought that sounded pretty cool, plus I'd seen a picture of a gigantic Peter the Great Statue involving a boat.  This giant boat to be exact: (The church to the lower left is Cathedral of Christ the Saviour - more on that shortly.)

IMG 1040

 We had a great time wandering around in the park and looking at the old statues:

IMG 1028

IMG 1022

We headed over to inspect the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour after getting our fill of Communist Statues.  We'd also been told this was an absolutely gorgeous cathedral and that we absolutely must visit it, so we did.

2012EuroTrip495 1957210249 O

 We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but it was very beautiful and it's gigantic.  We actually had a hard time figuring out how to leave.

I found an awesome evening river cruise that included dinner, and I though, "what better way to see Moscow by night?!"  So I signed us up, all three of us, Jameson included.  We had a nice dinner and a lovely cruise through Moscow.

IMG 1161

IMG 1100

We partied with Kirill at a place called SoHo Rooms that had what they call "Face Control" - if you aren't pretty enough, you don't get in.  So we were all extra sneaky and made dinner reservations there early so we were already inside when the place turned into a club.  The place was huge!  The dance club was in the basement, and there were lots of scantily clad women dancing in sparkly bikinis. The restaurant was on the middle floor and then there was a roof terrace with a pool.  Like I said, the place was huge.  I made Kirill have his picture taken with me because we were both super blond.  

2012EuroTrip542 1957219410 O

The next morning we were lazy and ended up just going to a giant market.  And eating and drinking, of course.  We went to the Izmaylovo Market to pick up souvenirs and extra knick knacks for friends and family.  The place was amazing, it's a shoppers, bargainers paradise.  Stall after stall of beautiful clothes, toys, souvenirs, etc.  At the end of the market is an area that's more like a flea market.  We spent a few hours just wandering around and touching everything.

IMG 1087

IMG 1083

IMG 1095

Afterward we were parched...

IMG 1064

On our last night in Moscow we stayed downtown in the beautiful National Hotel.  The hotel is right across the street from Red Square, so we were able to go wander around at night again and enjoy one last look at the awe-inspiring architecture and soak up the history.  We decided we'd be fancy and had a lovely dinner in the hotel's restaurant.

IMG 1165

IMG 1170

IMG 1175

It was a lovely evening.  Unfortunately the next morning and the plane ride home, was not.  We had food poisoning!  We believe the culprit was my beef stroganoff, pictured above.  It hit me first and our whole plane ride home was misery.  We were both sick for a little over a week.  It was the worst way to end a trip.

But, we had a wonderful time and can't wait to go back again!

2012EuroTrip533 1957218295 O

Love and kisses,



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

St. Petersburg

After getting up at the crack of dawn we headed to the airport so we could fly to St. Petersburg.  Had we known better we would have taken the train, but no worries, we took the train back. (More on the train later.)  We stayed at the Novotel our first night, and it was comfortable and cute, and it was right off the main drag of the shopping area. 

Unfortunately Bob started getting sick pretty much right after we arrived in Russia and was progressively getting worse.  After our all day long nap - we really couldn't function any more and we totally crashed -  we determined he needed a doctor.  The good news is there's an American Medical Clinic in St. Petersburg.  So that next morning Bob went for a visit to the doctor while Jameson and I grabbed a bite to eat and then went in search of The Church on Spilled Blood.  

So, most people when they think of images from Russia will think of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.  It's a very iconic image, right there on Red Square with the onion domes.  But, St. Basil's has nothing on The Church on Spilled Blood.  It is the most amazing church/cathedral I have ever seen, ever.  And I've been to many a church with all the traveling my family has done.  The Church on Spilled Blood has more than eight domes and the entire thing is decorated in mosaics.  If it looks like a lovely painting, look closer, it's not a painting it's a mosaic.  Amazing!  Even the images on the top of the domes are mosaic, it was a really impressive thing to see.

2012EuroTrip395 1957190329 O

I bought myself a lovely Russian Nesting Doll set at the market behind the church.  Each doll has a different image from a Russian fairytale painted on her.

IMG 0855

After the Church on Spilled Blood, we headed over to the Kazan Cathedral and wandered about.  After seeing the Church on Spilled Blood, the Kazan Cathedral just wasn't as impressive.  It was still a very beautiful building but not nearly as captivating as the Church on Spilled Blood.  As you can tell, I was a super fan.  It started to rain, so we thought we'd check out the Hermitage….which turned out to close early that day.  (Such is our luck.)   On our way back to the hotel to get out of the rain we found the Buddy Bears!  

IMG 0730

That evening we attended the worst production of Swan Lake I've ever seen.  It was truly horrendous.  I think I could have danced better than some of the ballerinas, we obviously made a mistake and saw an amateur performance.  It was really disappointing, especially because I had Jameson and Bob with me, who were expecting something amazing.  To be honest I'm not sure they would have known the difference, but they definitely didn't enjoy it.  We ended up calling it an early night and headed back to the hotel.  (We'd switched to the W Hotel by then, super swanky and it's only been open for a year.) It was still light out at 10pm-ish, so I got a shot of beautiful Saint Isaac's Cathedral.

IMG 0851

The next day was full of a lot of wandering around and eating leisurely, as we like to do all the time so why not in St. Petersburg.  We took an afternoon boat cruise/tour of the canals in the city.  

IMG 0775

IMG 0842

That evening we had dinner at a local steak house and I enjoyed some delicious stroganoff.  We ate a whole bunch of borsch and stroganoff while in Moscow.  Dinner ended around 10pm and it was still so pretty out I decided to go on a walk across the main bridge of the city.

IMG 0892

IMG 0896

IMG 0919

IMG 0949

That last picture (above) was taken at almost 1am with out flash, with my iPhone 4….technology is amazing, as is how bright it was.

The next day we visited a really cool new co-working space.  It's like a big office for people who work as part of small teams, or one person businesses.  At a co-working space you can still get the social interaction you might need even if you work alone.  The building was really cool and there's a cafe and a youth hostel on different floors.  All the furniture was cool and reminded me of my good friend Amanda Flaim, she loves crazy and fun designs.

IMG 0976

IMG 0969

IMG 0972

IMG 0971

I told Bob I want to move to St. Petersburg and work as the office manager for the co-working space.  

For dinner that evening we again stuffed ourselves on delicious Georgian food at a place called….

IMG 0986

Man do we love the Georgian cheesy bread, it's soooo good.  

During our stay in St. Petersburg we changed our plans slightly.  We were originally going to go to Ulyanovsk but because the weather was a little cranky and we were going to essentially be camping we decided it was in our best interest to return to Moscow instead.  So, instead of taking a plane to Ulyanovsk, we took the train back to Moscow.

We ended up taking the almost high speed train back to Moscow.  I call it the almost high speed train because it took 4.5 hours to get to Moscow, and apparently the actual high speed train takes 4 hours.  With the help of the nice gal at the front desk of the W Hotel in St. Petersburg we found the train station and then with our limited vocabulary and hand gestures we were able to purchase 3 tickets to Moscow.  It took forever!  If you're going to travel by train, book in advance because buying your tickets is a huge pain in the ass.

IMG 1012

IMG 1010

Onward to Moscow!  Stay tuned for the final chapter in our Russian Odyssey.