7 Gifts I Gave in 2014: Ideas for Your 2015 Gift-Giving


If you’ve ever read my posts around the holidays, you’ll know that I’m a fan of personalizing gifts.

I don’t mean just putting someone’s name on a gift, although that can work, too! What I truly mean is finding a gift that illustrates your relationship or shows that you really know that person. If you are giving a gift to someone who lives across the miles and are unsure what they already have because you don’t see them on a regular basis, these gift ideas might give you a bit of inspiration, too!

Here are 7 unique gifts I gave in 2014…


1) Magic Photo Mugs from Printer Pix

Last year, we ordered these special photo mugs for our parents. They are black, but your designated photo appears when you fill the mug up with hot liquid!

We got a pretty sweet deal through Living Social last year {just $7 each plus $5 shipping!}, although I am sure you can find other deals online. I was a little worried about quality because they were so highly discounted. But they turned out fantastic! We used photos of Sophie and Shamrock and labeled these as gifts from them.

One word of caution – these take a long time to ship.

Here is our experience: Last year, when I bought them, it said that they would take approximately 21 days to arrive. For us, this meant the mugs would arrive a few days after Christmas. {I am not sure if that has changed now if the company has grown and they have more staff/better turnaround. Check the website before purchasing.}

Every year, we send a holiday box with gifts to Rob’s parents in Michigan. For these mugs, we put a note in the box that Shamrock and Sophie had something on the way that would arrive just after Christmas. When I ordered the mugs, I shipped them directly to his parents. We spend Christmas with my family in Green Bay every year, so I had my parents’ mugs shipped straight to their house. I informed them if a package arrived for each of them before Christmas not to open it. My intention was to wrap them upon our arrival.

All mugs arrived before Christmas…

the last one on Christmas Eve at my parents!

Rob’s dad called and said to him, “Why thank you, son. But I’m not quite sure why you got us black mugs.” HA! Rob told him to wait and just use them for their coffee the next morning. Sure enough, we got a lovely message filled with joy from Rob’s mom the next morning gushing about how much they were enjoying their coffee in their new mugs.


2) Towels

Laugh all you want that I got this idea when I was cleaning! I really can’t stand how gross dish towels get over time and started thinking that I should buy a new batch every six months or so. But I just hate spending money on those sorts of things!

“If only someone would buy them for me,”

I daydreamed.

Then, the light bulb went on! I bet someone would appreciate that themselves…

However, I took it one step further… I had this idea to get my brother’s family all their very own soft, comfy, over-sized bath towel, each in their favorite color so that they could differentiate. {See how I personalized those?!} Who wants to buy more bath towels for their family of six? I certainly wouldn’t! I’ve been using the same bath towels for longer than I care to admit. But if you buy the really good quality ones, they do last a long time. You wouldn’t believe the sales on these this time of year, too. For the record, these gifts were from Sophie and Shamrock, too. :-)

towelsBefore, I did this, I ran the idea past my mom to make sure it wasn’t too strange. She loved it and agreed with me that she hates buying dish cloths and towels, too. So that’s one gift got this year as well!


3) Personalized Growler

There was a Groupon for Red Envelope last year of which we took advantage. Have you ever shopped there? There is a lot of unique stuff you can personalize; but it can be a bit spendy. This personalized growler was perfect for my dad!


You supply the last name, city, state and year. We used 2014 to indicate the year we gave the gift. You could use your recipient’s birth year or, if they brew their own beer, the year they started brewing!

Because it had to be personalized, this one took a while to arrive and was delayed a bit. Luckily, it arrived the evening of December 22nd, so I could run to Indeed Brewing and fill it up with some Stir Crazy Winter Ale for just $10. Luckily, Indeed fills growlers that are not their own. Not all breweries will do this! The beer just had to be consumed in approximately 4 days. Dad shared it with us on Christmas Eve.

Tip: Make sure to order any personalized items well in advance because they take longer!


4) Something Very Personal to You

Last year on Black Friday, we pulled out our Christmas tree and other holiday decor. Then we got really motivated and cleaned out our basement storage! Well, Rob came across all of his baseball cards he collected as a child. There had to be at least 20 to 30 of those long old-school boxes! We wrapped two giant boxes filled with these for our teenage nephew who plays baseball.

Rob really couldn’t think of any need for them, nor did he want to go through them and determine any value. So he put my brother’s name on the box as well as Jake’s and it was one of the last gifts to be opened. Rob beamed when Jake exclaimed, “This is the best present I ever got!”


5) Something from Your Travels

I remember when I was a kid and my dad come back from his annual summer fishing trip in Canada. He didn’t really bring back any gifts. {Well, I think he did get my mom a Canada sweatshirt once.} He was usually in the boonies fishing!  However, he usually did give us a Canadian dollar bill or coin upon his return.

As a kid, I loved this because it was so foreign to me.

I once read that you shouldn’t have to worry about getting gifts while on vacation and just enjoy yourself instead. You are not there to be stressed about what to bring back. I remember feeling that anxiety on my first trip to Paris. Since I read that advice, I’ve taken heed to it. Nobody expects anything.

However, when we were in Australia last year, we picked up a few small, affordable souvenirs, with no real idea of who exactly would get them. This included boomerang key chains, clip-on koalas, Vegemite, t-shirts, etc. I divvied these up as appropriately as I could after we returned. We also had four remaining 20-cent Australian coins with the platypus on the back. Perfect for the kids! All you need is something little.



6) Ornaments

While putting up the tree last year for the first time in a few years, Rob and I had a wonderful time reminiscing about each ornament as it went on the tree – the ornaments from our travels, from friends and from the past few Christmases with my family.

But what I love the most is seeing Rob’s face light up every time he pulls out an ornament from his childhood.

You see, every year, Rob’s mom bought him an ornament {oftentimes reflecting something going on that year or something he loved or was into that year} and marked the year on it with a Sharpie. When we moved into our house, Rob’s mom gave him all of these ornaments. These are some of our most precious possessions.

Last year, Rob’s mom sent him the first toy she ever got him. She suggested we put it in the tree each year. That bunny melts my heart!


In fact, I wouldn’t have much of any holiday decor if it weren’t for my mom giving me her old artificial Christmas tree and Rob’s mom giving me so many decorations from Rob’s childhood. Combining that with a few of the things I’ve picked up over the years makes our house look festive.

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I decided that this was what I was going to do for my brother’s family. Each year, I will give them a special ornament. My mom and I have already been doing this on and off for the past few years or so. How much easier and more sentimental is it to have these ornaments when you move into your own home and set up your own tree than to have to buy everything from scratch?!

Here are some links for some great ideas in creating your own homemade ornaments:

Not crafty?

You could also buy one that is meaningful to you or relating to your gift recipient this year. Last year, for time’s sake, I bought some frame ornaments marked 2014. For our parents, I added a photo of us in Australia with a koala and  another one of Sham & Sophie.

The ones for my brother’s family were from the time they visited us and we dined at Burger Jones. At Burger Jones, they have these crazy pictures on the wall of people eating burgers. I’m not talking about pictures of people who came into this restaurant to eat burgers. No, these are stock photos on the wall!

When we were there, the kids were trying to recreate the photos of people taking big bites of their burgers or eyeing their fries longingly. My original plan was to frame these pictures for their own photo wall at home. However, I finally decided against that idea because the pictures are creepy enough at Burger Jones. Instead, I put them each in a 2014 frame ornament as a memory. A little less tacky, no?!


7) Homemade Dog Treats

I had fully intended to make homemade dog treats for my brother’s dogs last year! But I ran out of time, so the poor dogs went without a thing. This past year, I have tried these two recipes with much success! Now, let’s hope time doesn’t escape me before our trip to Green Bay.

And our dogs always receive their December BarkBox wrapped up under the tree. For our last review and a discount, click here.


There you have it – some unique gift ideas for this holiday. Also, it’s Cyber Monday, so today it’s even more important than ever to use eBates when doing your shopping – extra discounts, promo codes and cash back.

And for even more ideas, here are some of my past posts on holiday gift ideas:


Peas in a Pod!


Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

I’d love to tell you that Sham and Sophie are back to being two peas in a pod and playing all of the time. But that is not the case. Sham still looks at Sophie longingly and Sophie still refuses to play. I wish everything would go back to the way it was. Or I could figure out just what happened for Sophie to not want to play with Shamrock ever again…

In any case, they are still loving their BarkBox!

They both know the word BarkBox now just as well as they do treat! And when I open it, paws ultimately end up on my lap.


November’s theme:


What does that even mean? I didn’t even think about it much longer because the pooches were just so anxious to tear into the box!


The Squash is like a KONG, in that it’s a durable rubber toy that you can stuff treats or peanut butter into. I’d kind of forgotten about our dogs’ KONGS, as they’ve been stuffed away for some time. I’m not even sure if Sham’s had one! The last time we’ve used KONG may have been back when we had Benny.

I was sure to rectify that this weekend! In the end, Sophie was sure to get every lick of peanut butter out of her KONG and then turned and took Sham’s leftover Squash. I think he’s not so sure about that thing.

As for this month’s treats…


I love a company that gives back. And S&S loved these treats!

There were two chews in this month’s box!

IMG_4964 This meant that they each could have one and I didn’t have to save one until next month. After opening, I let Sophie pick which one she wanted. She pranced around the house with it without even chewing it for a while!

But this month’s BarkBox toy might have been the best of all…


You see, Sham is a fan of little tennis balls. He also is fan of little soft toys that are the size of a small tennis balls and chews on them gently. That is why we have another name for Shamrock – Mr. Nibbles!!

What makes this toy so wonderful is that the three little peas come out of the pod.

It was actually Finnegan that discovered Sham liked the innards of these types of toys so much. One year, they got a Cornucopia in the BarkBox, which I didn’t post on for some reason.

barkbox cornacopia

Sham played with it a little bit. When Finnegan was over, he was a little less gentle and got all of the veggies out of the cornucopia! We didn’t even realize that they came out!

cornucopia contents

Sham is now in love with those little plush pieces! We would have never known that those pieces separated from the cornucopia if it weren’t for Finnegan.

For the record, the peas {out of the pod} are strewn all over the house, most likely under the couches at the present moment.

I hope that the December BarkBox arrives before we depart for Green Bay for Christmas. We have a tradition of wrapping it and giving it to the dogs after everyone has opened their gifts.

In fact, a BarkBox makes a perfect gift for all of the pooches and doggie lovers in your life. Here are all of the ways you can give….


Cyber Muttday? Good one. Also, if you click Sophie and Sham’s referral link here, BOTH you and they will receive a free month of BarkBox! We’ve had the box for over two years and it’s the only subscription box we haven’t canceled. In short, we love it.

Happy Saturday!


Best way to end a cali vacay


On our last day in California, we spent a very enjoyable day outdoors.

This trip to visit our friend Shondra was perfect in that we all like wine, the Packers and golfing. That doesn’t mean we are all good at golfing {namely, me}, but we all enjoy being outdoors.

It just so happens that Shondra works on a golf course and scored us a sweet round overlooking the ocean!


I love these shots of Rob’s golf swing and Shondra looking on…

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As expected, the ride throughout the course was just lovely.

The wildlife was fascinating, too!


That hawk seemed to follow us to a couple of holes. Maybe he’s the keeper of the course. ;-)

This guy was ready to pounce on something!

We were playing a best ball sort of game to keep things moving. We had a twilight tee time and wanted to make sure we’d make it to the oceanside of the course before sunset!

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I tried to do a panorama shot at one hole, but what are those glowing little balls between Jenny’s hands? Anyone else ever get shots like these?


I also got a shot of Jenny during one of her best drives!

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And Rob, too…

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We made it to the cliffs and beach as the sun was setting…

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…out over the water.

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But one of my favorite shots of the night was this one of Rob walking to our golf cart.


I’d say that was the perfect end to a fantastic trip!

But not until we had a little Italian for dinner! Rob spotted a place on the way to our golf outing called Via Uno. It’s appopriately named since via means road or highway in Italian and the PCH is Highway 1.


The ambiance was great and we bellied up to a corner of the bar to dine… and of course, ordered a little Italian wine.


The menu looked incredible. Rob and I were eyeing the pizzas.


The fave of the two we ordered wasn’t pretty, but it sure was supremely tasty!

Pizza Via Uno - Half calzone, half pizza!

Pizza Via Uno – Half calzone, half pizza!

I want to thank Shondra for being such a supremely wonderful host. This is a part of California that I would definitely return. It’s always wonderful to visit and spend time with friends!

Other posts on our 2015 California Trip:
Day 1 – Sunny Cali
Day 2 – Along the PCH to Santa Cruz
Day 3 – The Football {San Fran portion}
Day 4 – Sonoma Wine Tasting

Where is the best place you’ve golf or viewed wildlife?

How do you spend time outdoors?


A Little Taste of Sonoma in One Day…


Happy Wine Wednesday!


A trip to California is never complete without visiting Wine Country!


Yes, we dedicated one day to do just that. Besides, Shondra, Jenny and I all met in the wine business just a few months after I met Rob!

I’ve been really spoiled on my last few trips to California Wine County…

2005 – Sonoma County, California

  • I earned an all expense paid trip (for 1) to Sonoma by doing in-home wine tastings with The Traveling Vineyard.
  • Everything was planned. All food, wine and transportation was included. I didn’t have to think.
  • I knew that the wines would be great because we’d be visiting the wineries that supplied our wines!
  • Highlights of the trip:
    • After all of the times I’d been to Europe, this was my first time in California – and I fell in love.
    • I learned to love Pinot Noir, thanks to Guy Davis of Davis Family Vineyards. Many others bottling this varietal are doin’ it wrong!
Guy Davis - the king of Pinot Noir (imho)

Guy Davis – the king of Pinot Noir (imho)


2009 – Napa County, California

  • I earned an all expense paid trip (for 2) to Napa by doing in-home wine tastings with The Traveling Vineyard.
  • Everything was planned. All food, wine and transportation was included. I didn’t have to think.
  • I knew the wines would be great because we’d be visiting the wineries that supplied our wines!
  • Highlights of the trip:
    • I was able to take Rob on a trip that was completely free and he didn’t have to spend a penny. {I only earned a portion of his trip to Tuscany the year before. We had to pay the balance. He proposed there anyway!}
    • Rob negotiating the corkage fee at an outdoor burger joint for our entire group.



2013 – Temecula, California

  • This was time we added on after going to a friend’s wedding in L.A.
  • We were so lucky that another fellow Wineaux friend had been to Temecula before and guided us on what to do – where to stay, what her favorite wineries were, etc.
  • The area is much smaller than Napa or Sonoma. After a little dinner and drinks on our first night, we got some great recommendations!
  • Rob drove and let me do the majority of the tasting!
  • Highlights of the trip:


2015 – Sonoma County

This trip was so much different from all of my others! There were four of us this time around. Plus we decided to wing our own wine tasting experience!

First Tasting

Matanza Creek Winery {photo courtesy of Jenny}

What to consider when booking a one-day Sonoma wine tasting outing:


  • Have a designated driver.
    • This is probably the cheapest option.
    • But if you are in wine country with Wineaux friends, no one wants to volunteer! {Though, if you are there for multiple days, you can take turns. Trust me, you might get wined out!}
  • Book a Tour
    • Tours will include transportation and stops at around 5 or so wineries
      • These generally run $100 – $120 pp, sometimes include lunch and do not include tasting fees.
      • Pros: You don’t have to decide where to go, someone is driving you.
      • Cons: You don’t have a choice in where you go.
  • Book a Custom Tour or Limo
    • Generally much more expensive, but you get to customize your tour.


Winery Selection

  • Did you know that there are over 400 wineries in Sonoma County alone compared to the approximately 40 in Temecula?! Choosing can be an absolute nightmare, especially if you just have one day to taste.
  • If you are building your own winery itinerary, you are going to have to consider proximity. If you’ve got just one day, you’ll want your winery visits to be fairly close together. You don’t want to spend all day driving/riding.
  • Consider types of wines. Luckily, those in our group had very similar tastes! However, you’ll want to change things up and try something new, too.
  • Consider and plan for tasting fees.
    • Expect to spend approximately $15 per tasting per winery.
    • A couple or two friends can share a tasting.
    • Some tasting rooms will charge more, some will charge less.
    • Some will offer a Reserve Tasting for a higher price.
    • Others will waive your tasting fee with a wine purchase.

B Wise Vineyards Tasting Room {photo courtesy of Jenny}

Jenny’s and my favorite vineyard we visited was VJB!

Their tasting fee was only $10.


We loved that we got to try a Prosecco. Jenny and I love the bubbly!


We enjoyed all of the wines there! Our bartender was just lovely and gave us a few extra tastes of other wines, including the Chardonnay Port that had us intrigued. She also gave us a couple of two-for-one tastings to Kenwood Vineyards.


If you have some forethought, you can find package deals or free tasting coupons online, too. However, Shondra was able to score us some deals that she found online that day!

Because of Shondra’s finds, we enjoyed completely free tastings of what felt like 15 wines at this Zinfandel-specialty vineyard. We were the only ones in there on this beautiful Monday. So we got special attention, too. ;-)

Rob and I were about to join the Wine Club at St. Anne’s Crossing, since it was so highly Zinfandel focused. But our fun wine guide could not give us the cost of wine club membership that would include shipping. I found that odd. But we loved that place and would recommend their wines.

What we learned this trip, was that despite the fact that we thought we all had similar tastes, when wines were compared side-by-side, we all had different favorites. Wine, and your palate, can surprise you sometimes.

I was surprised I wasn’t a huge fan of the wines at Loxton, a winery focused on Syrah/Shiraz, owned by an Aussie!


But I did love the garage-style tasting room!


In fact, on the way back to the bathroom, I found this:


I sent this photo to our friends Sally and Ryan with whom we are making wine. Sally ties a nice little ribbon around the neck of our carboys to label them. I found this duct tape method effective, but not quite as classy as Sally’s! :-)


We hit seven wineries that day. That’s a lot! We didn’t stop to eat lunch, but we munched on some cheese, crackers and salami in the car between winery stops. It was a long day of tasting. We were ready for dinner.

We dined at HopMonk Tavern just down the road from our hotel in Sebastopol. 

The food was good, but the real star of the show was recommended by our busboy:

CHICKEN PHILLY ON NAAN All natural grilled chicken breast, red onions, fire roasted red peppers, topped with 3 cheese blend and spicy aioli on traditional naan bread

Chicken Philly on Naan – All natural grilled chicken breast, red onions, fire roasted red peppers, topped with 3 cheese blend and spicy aioli on traditional naan bread

Jenny let me take a bite of this delectable sandwich of hers and all I could say was, “Naam! Naam! Naam!”


Next time I’m in California, I might consider doing only a few higher-end tastings. I might focus on a place that does cheese and wine pairings. I might go to a winery with a beautiful landscape and just sit outside and enjoy a glass. Next time, I might consider quality over quantity. I’ve done the multiple winery thing in California now. It was a ton of fun; but I think I’ve got it down. ;-)

In fact, a future trip Rob and I’d like to take is to Portugal where they have tapas and port tastings while overlooking the beautiful landscape. Has anyone done that before? The drummer of this band recommended it to us when she waited on our table at King’s Wine Bar in Minneapolis. We’ve wanted to go ever since.


No matter what, there’s nothing like a good zin and some friends.

“Over a bottle of wine, many a friend is made.”

Other posts on our 2015 California Trip:
Day 1 – Sunny Cali
Day 2 – Along the PCH to Santa Cruz
Day 3 – The Football {San Fran portion}

How do you choose which wineries to visit in wine country?




Along the PCH to Santa Cruz


I started watching the series Veronica Mars long after it was over, but just in time to see the movie. I can’t tell you how many episodes seasons it took me to finally figure out what the PCH in PCHers stood for.

Don’t worry, I figured it out on my own eventually. I never even checked The Google!

If you aren’t aware, PCH refers to California’s beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. Which, as luck would have it, we got to cruise down further on our second day in California!

It truly is a beautiful drive. But first, we stopped for a little diner breakfast. There is more linguiça {Portuguese-style pork sausage} and avocado on this diner menu than I have ever seen elsewhere. Wait, I’ve never seen either on a diner menu!


So I just had to order both… along with some sourdough toast. #WhenInSanFrancisco


Bellies full, we ventured on. The drive is most beautiful, in fact, when you have a nice chauffeur-friend like Shondra stopping along the way, not only for photo ops…

But also to check out a local market…


The market in Pescadero has lovely local produce and cheeses, freshly baked bread and all kinds of locally produced goods. Yes, that is a beer in Rob’s hand. It’s this one:


He didn’t drink it straightaway. Instead, it made for a perfect breakfast stout for us on Game Day in San Fran. Though we did stop for a drink at the local tavern in Pescadero, Duarte’s, which reminded me of the Old West.

Jenny and Shondra promptly reminded me that we, in fact, were in the Old West. HA!

Shondra overheard some folks talking about a goat farm nearby. First, you need to know how much I heart this video:

Then, you need to know that Jenny said, “Well, these goats aren’t going to see themselves!” So away we went. Upon arrival, when we saw this…

Photo courtesy of Jenny

{Photo courtesy of Jenny}

That’s when Jenny and I, almost on cue, yelled, “Haaaayyyyy!”

Then the goats…

And goatees – ha!

{Photo courtesy of Jenny}

{Photo courtesy of Jenny}

Harley Goat Farm has a nice little shop with lots of goat cheese and other goat milk products.

{Photo courtesy of Jenny}

{Photo courtesy of Jenny}

Funny, I’m the only one in the group who enjoys goat cheese!


We were all in a silly mood. Jenny even got a selfie with a goat.

{Photo courtesy of Jenny of course - its a Selfie!}

{Photo courtesy of Jenny, of course – its a Selfie!}

It was a nice stop, but we were back off  to the coast.


Shondra grew up in Santa Cruz. She says much has changed since she’s lived there. Our first stop was a cool little area with a few tasting rooms and restaurants. We had a different plan for lunch, so we just stopped in for a bevvy and a look around…

Even here, it’s dog friendly!


We didn’t love the beers at this Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, but we loved the taproom and patio!

Then, a little sparkling wine tasting! I love me some bubbly!


Shondra drove us around the coast of Santa Cruz and pointed out all sorts of places from her childhood. Then we stopped for lunch at her childhood friend’s family’s restaurant!

As I mentioned in my previous post about our trip to California, if you choose a vacation destination where you can visit a friend, you just might get to experience some things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

El Toro Bravo only has a beer and wine licenses; so their margaritas and sangrias are made with wine only.

I don’t know why I ordered a margarita when I don’t like the sweet and sour mix that is so often used! Jenny’s sangria was much, much better. Ordering remorse!

But there was no ordering remorse when it came to lunch! The chimichangas here are grilled!


And they were all sorts of deliciousness. We each had our own, but truth be told, they could have been split.
IMG_4484Our last stop before heading back north was to a very special winery. Shondra and her mom lived at Bargetto Winery for a bit while she was a baby.


What’s more is that when I did in-home wine tastings with the Traveling Vineyard, Bargetto supplied our pinot grigio! We just had to stop for a tasting.


We did the Reserve Tasting. Our bartender had to open a new bottle of one of the higher end reds for us. He used this interesting new-to-me aerator!

Just empty  the bottle into the vessel…

And then immediately empty it back into the bottle!


It was the perfect day along the coast. The next day was Packer Game Day, which you can read about here. Did you know the San Francisco 49ers Levi Stadium is actually located in Santa Ana, which is a short train ride away from San Jose? That’s where Shondra secured us a stay for the night to make the next day go ever-so-smoothly.

Describe one of your favorite drives or day trips.


Sunny Cali


We didn’t go out to California just to watch the Packers beat the 49ers

We were there visiting a friend who recently moved back.

If there is any advice I can give about deciding where to travel…

it’s to take friends and family up on the offer to come visit them.

Here’s why:

  1. You get to spend time with them!
  2. They most likely will know the area better than any guidebook; so you’ll do cooler things you wouldn’t have otherwise.
  3. You will probably save some money if they let you crash with them.

Our flight left at about 7:30am on a Friday morning.

Is it just me, MSPers; or is the security line at the airport slower than ever? We arrived at the gate and immediately boarded the plane. No coffee for me – specifically, no Americano. :(

Instead, our friend Jenny {who set this whole trip in motion!} bought us a little breakfast booze.


They had Screwdrivers while I opted to add a little Bailey’s to my in-flight coffee. And who can resist Delta’s Biscoff Cookies?!


We landed around 9am San Fran-time and were greeted by Shondra with ice-cold liter-sized bottles of water.

{Note to self: Do this for anyone visiting you. It is the nicest gesture because everyone gets dehyrdrated when flying!}

Shondra drove us along the PCH {Pacific Coast Highway} making our way toward her place in Moss Beach. We stopped a bit a long the way…
IMG_4331…like to see what she calls “the Best Taco Bell ever”.


Imagining why? Well, this view:


Rob and I instantly noticed that many dogs were off-leash on the beach here, enjoying it along with everyone else, including the surfers!

We stopped for a little breakfast at the Montara Cafe and Bakery located in, you guessed it, Montara.


We had no idea what a treat we were in for!IMG_4336

Now was the chance to get great coffee!


…and a very cool menu. Jenny, Rob and I all opted for different Kalua Pork dishes. I haven’t had that since we’d been in Hawaii! We dined outside basking in the California sun; but I forgot to take any food photos until my last bite. DOH!


In the afternoon, we walked along Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay.


I decided to call it Glitter Beach instead. I love the shimmering sand!


But the most incredible thing about this beach was the whale-watching, which is a total anomaly this time of year! I was looking up tours before we left and found that the season is generally December through March. Well, here we were in October and we didn’t need to spend top dollar to take a tour because we could see them from shore!


It was too difficult to catch photos of them and enjoy the views to the fullest, so you won’t see any here. But here is a link to an article that was written the day before we arrived.

We weren’t the only ones gathered ’round to see these whales:


We had a snack at the Miramar Beach Restaurant where dogs were as welcome as they are on the beach. The only caveat: “No pets on the furniture.” OMG – I love this place.

Me to Rob: “Can we retire here?”

He just smiled.

Those seated near the beachfront with the ocean view could see the whales, too!

We walked back to our vehicle along a little trail and were perplexed by this sign:


I hit it up on Facebook and the best explanation was by our friend Lisa: “…horse country. Cyclists yield to hikers. Both cyclists & hikers yield to horses.” I guess it’s just respectful to do so because horses were here first? So, more of a historical tradition than a practical one.

Then it was off to a brewery that Shondra said she knew we’d love. 


I like the digs…

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And good to know that walkens are welcome. Ha!


The taproom was nice and we loved the beer selection.


I think my fave of the bunch was the Lean Mean Vanilla Bean Porter. This brewery did NOT disappoint.


After checking in Chez Shondra and saying hello to Cali cat {for calico, not California. Ha!}, we went for an early dinner at Shondra’s favorite little local spot – Moss Beach Distillery.


And of course, this place was also…

I enjoyed watching a Griffon dog anxiously wait for his daddy to get back from getting drinks while he sat with his momma. He was so sweet!

Moss Beach Distillery is not actually a distillery, but I didn’t get that far into reading why…


Shondra knew exactly when we should get there to snag a seat near the fire, overlooking the ocean to watch the sun set!


And we scored that spot…


…as well as a bottle of half-priced wine during happy hour. Oh how we are big, bold Zinfandel lovers!


While the weather was mild, the sun was still hot and starting to burn my forehead, so Rob gave me his hat for a bit. We had to take a Wineaux friend photo!


Shondra and I dined on scrumptious Happy Hour food while Jenny and Rob went with burgers.


As the sun slowly set over the ocean, a fire was lit…

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And we ended our night polishing off three bottles…


Not bad for old Wineaux friends, hey?! It was a perfect first day in California. That’s only the beginning… :)

Where was your last vacation visiting friends?



Sophie Jean Fell off the Bed!


Sophie and Shamrock Saturday


{Photo Source: Sitters & Friends Sally & Ryan}

Tuesday night, in the middle of the night, our dear Sophie Jean fell out of bed. Yes, our dogs sleep with us. Yes, I know it’s not the best thing for any of us.

I didn’t even hear it. In fact, I only woke to the light on in the bedroom and my husband walking around and had to ask him what was going on.

“Sophie fell out of the bed. She can barely walk. She’s limping. She may have bruised or broken her leg.”

And it was true. She limped. We had to take her outside and set her on the grass to do her business. But that was difficult since she couldn’t put any weight on her front right paw. Poor Jean!

I felt so bad for her. I couldn’t get her an appointment to see the vet until 2pm on Wednesday. When I went home from work to pick her up, she almost seemed worse.

She still limped when we got to the vet; but she was also shaking pretty badly because she hates it there. But all the while the doctor pulled and prodded at her limp leg, she didn’t make a sound. We were hoping to find out where it hurt her the most so that they could localize where they could take x-rays.

That didn’t happen. And by the time we left, she was putting a little pressure on her paw, as if to say,

“See, Momma! I’m fine! I don’t need to be here. Let’s just go home.”

We decided to give her some pain meds and anti-inflammatories and re-evaluate the x-rays in a few days. In the meantime, little Jean was confined to a kennel during the night and when we were away at work. She hasn’t been in a kennel since she was a pup; but it was a good way to keep her in one place and to stop her from getting up on the furniture and jumping down.

Luckily, by Thursday night, Sophie seemed good as new!

I canceled the x-ray appointment and am continuing to restrict her activity just in case it’s the pain meds that are making her feel like she can do anything. I am so glad she hasn’t broken anything!

In the meantime, something came to our door to distract us…

That’s right, it’s the monthly BarkBox!


The dogs know the word BarkBox as well as they know outside, treat, bu-bye and walk.

Here’s this month’s loot:


The little to-go container of treats was helpful when I took Sophie to the vet. I gave her a few to distract her so she wouldn’t try to jump up and down on the bench like she always does there when she is nervous. I didn’t want her to make her paw/leg worse!

These treats have become our new breakfast treats:


We only feed our dogs in the evening; so in the morning they get a few breakfast treats. We use these bigger treats for breakfast and smaller “trainer” treats as rewards.

Shamrock usually goes straight for the toys in the box, but he didn’t seem too fond of the Peekaboo-Hoo this month.

I think it is the hat that freaks him out. When we first rescued him, he was afraid of all men, especially if one was wearing a hat.

I am quite thankful that Sophie seems to be doing better; but I think the pooches are grateful that they are still receiving their BarkBoxes! Click here if you’d like to get your pooch a BarkBox. The link will add a free box to your subscription and to Sophie and Sham’s!

Happy Saturday!