A Little Wine Tour Review By You Know Who

Okay, the title alone is a little cheesy, and a true wine critic is cringing right now, but they most likely don’t read my blog (yet), so who cares? It’s catchy though, right?

Lets face it, I am definitely not a sommelier when it comes to wine. I wouldn’t even call myself a connoisseur, but I do absolutely LOVE wine! I like white wine, red wine, blends, and even sparkling. Pretty much if it was once a grape in its first life, I adore it during its second. Yes, wine is my friend and we travel together quite nicely on this journey called life! That being said, I couldn’t tell you if a glass of wine has blackberries, apples, oak, butter, tobacco, plumeria, or anything else descriptive in it, and I really don’t care. If I like it, I like it and that is about it.

So, when my husband and I were planning our trip to California, one of the first things we decided we wanted to do was spend a few days in the Napa Valley area in Northern California and enjoy some wine tastings. First of all, it is a gorgeous and picturesque area, and second of all…well…WINE!

During the past two days, we have visited several wineries, but the two I want to talk about here, and the two I would highly recommend if you are planning to visit Napa Valley anytime soon are: Sterling Vineyards and Castello di Amorosa. Both wineries are very different from each other, but both are very informative as far as the wine process goes, and both are made up of a uniqe ambiance.

Lets first start with Sterling Vineyards……

As soon as you walk up to the entrance where you purchase your tickets for Sterling Vineyards, you see a gondola station. This gondola is how you enter the actual property of the winery. Depending on the time of year, the line could probably get pretty long for the gondola, but it is definitely a unique way to get started. In fact, as a sign clearly states near where the line forms, Sterling Vineyards is the only winery in the world to have a gondola on the property. Pretty cool! Anyway, once you arrive up the mountain, there is a self guided tour of the property that is very well organized and marked, and the wine tasting occurs at different stations throughout the winery. You carry your very own, take home wine glass as you go, and it is sort of like a little gas station…you get empty, no worries, right around corner, they fill it back up! This is great because your not just standing in one spot at the bar (like most wine tastings), drinking many different wines, with the salesperson (or wine pourer?, not quite sure what they are called), waits for you to mark which bottle of wine you want to buy. Pressure!! Yes, I prefer the low key, do it yourself way of doing things. Sterling Vineyards does this very well. You can watch videos throughout the tour that discuss the different processes for wine making (or not… your choice), you can sit on one of the terraces the property offers that overlooks the beautiful valley with its plush and green views, or you can just get to the different stations as fast as you can so you can get on your way to the next winery. Again, the choice is yours in this self guided tour.

My husband and I chose to pay a little bit more than the general ticket price, which allowed us to go up an extra flight of stairs to participate in a sit down tasting in addition to the self guided tour. This was only $10.00 more, ($35.00 versus $25.00) and it was well worth it. We enjoyed 4 additional wines than what you would normally get to experience if you just did the self guided tour, and we also were able to purchase a cheese platter to go with the extra wines. We enjoyed a nice afternoon, sitting next to a floor to ceiling window, and toasted several times to well…what else….great wine!! (and of course our kids, and health and love, and all that other good stuff)….Sterling Vineyards is definitely a must see stop in your next Napa Valley adventure. Here are a few pictures I took on the property:

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(First picture: gondola ride going up~Second picture: view from terrace~Third picture: just a few empty wine glasses from the tasting, and a thoroughly enjoyed cheese platter)

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Our next stop was a surprise. It was not a winery that we had on our pre-designated list, but one we drove by and thought…hmmm, we should check it out. Boy am I so glad we did! It was fabulous. It was unique. It was Castello di Amorosa. This translates to “Castle of Love”. It is literally a castle, made out of authentic bricks and stones that were brought over from Italy to build this modern “medieval” castle, and it is a manifestation of the owners love of his Italian heritage and medieval architecture. Every detail concerning the structure of the winery was well thought out and executed as if it was truly built back in the Middle Ages. It just happened to be built starting in 1993, (actually opening in 2008), and as our tour guide cheerfully stated “we are the only 8 year old medieval castle winery in the world“, I thought, well, that IS different! Then the tour began……

The tour of the winery takes about 2 hours. It starts with a tour of the property, which includes 4 levels of underground caves that hold a torture chamber (it is a castle after all), an armory, the caves where all the aging barrels are stored, and finally the wine tasting room. The castle is truly a step back in time, and you definitely don’t feel like you are actually in Northern California. The staff were setting up for a masquerade ball for New Years Eve, and with the gothic decor and ambiance, I know it will be a one of a kind way to bring in 2016. Too bad, I won’t be a part of it, but I know they will have a blast. Cheers to them!!

The wine tasting at the end of the tour was a more traditional tasting. Our group lined up at a private bar and enjoyed several of the property’s unique wines. This winery is considered a “boutique” winery, so you will not find any of their wines distributed outside the winery itself. Overall, the variations of white wines and red wines that I tasted were great. Then again, as stated above earlier, of course I thought they were great. I am not hard to please. This winery is also a “not to be missed” destination for you if you have plans to visit Napa Valley. My husband and I will definitely be visiting the castle again the next time we are here. Some pictures for you from the castle:

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Well, there you have it. Probably the most unprofessional write up about wine tours you have ever read. It is also not my typical type of blog post. But hey, it is what I am up to at the moment, and I thought it will be fun to start talking about my travels as I go along my journey, so there you go……thanks for listening. Cheers!!

XOXO,

Your very unofficial wine tour guide, Kalee

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Always Stop To Smell The Oranges

Yesterday morning as my husband and I were about 30 minutes into our flight from Dallas to San Francisco, a flight attendant came over the intercom and asked for any medical personnel on board to come to the back of the plane because one of our fellow passengers was suffering from a medical emergency. At one point, a flight attendant was actually running down the aisle. This can’t be good I thought. I hope this person is okay I thought. 

As I sat there in my seat wondering if we would be turning back to Dallas, or making an emergency landing at the nearest available airport, I was once again reminded how quickly one’s life can change. I sat in my seat trying to remember all the faces that filed past me earlier that morning as we all stood in line and boarded our plane. I don’t remember seeing anyone that “looked” sick, or “looked” like they were having a hard time. It was an early flight, so most of us were all clutching our coffee cups and looking forward to being in our seats so we could possibly resume some sort of sleep. Nope, not one person I could have pointed out and thought that in the next hour, this person will be suffering a medical emergency. Then again, that is usually the case right.

I think we all usually wake up in the morning knowing another day is ours to endure or enjoy. Another day of doing “the grind”. Yes, most days, for most of us, it is pretty routine. BUT, I am so thankful for little reminders like the incident on the plane (well, really all one has to do is read or watch the news on a daily basis for reminders…)….that help me keep in perspective that we actually ARE NOT guaranteed another day. Our moments are exactly that…moments…and at any of one those moments, they can be changed (or gone) forever. So, as you go about your routine day today my friend, just try to remember that the medical emergency on the plane could be any one of us, at any time. Enjoy your moments!

I am happy to tell you that the person ended up being okay on our flight. I am still not aware what the problem was, but after about an hour at the back of the plane, all seemed to be fine. I never saw the actual person who was having the problem,  but I hope today his/her day is going 100% better than how they started out yesterday. I hope they enjoy their moments!

THE GOOD NEWS IS: Erik and I are in California for the next 2 weeks!!! This makes my heart so happy! As an original California girl (born and raised until the age of 12 here), the feeling of nostalgia as we visit some familiar childhood places is amazing! I am one happy girl!!! Of course any time I travel, I am definitely in my happy place.

Well, I better go get dressed….Erik and I are off to go explore some wineries in Napa today (NOT familiar childhood places…hahaha)…..one of our favorite things to do. We went to two yesterday, and I took this picture:

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One winery we visited had these little orange trees all around their property. They were so fragrant. WHY NOT stop and smell the oranges? We should all do that a little more in life……..

Make it a great day my friend! I plan on it! (I hope I remember it….) 😉

Kalee

 

 

Monday

Today is Monday. Today means a new start to a new week with new opportunities, OR it can mean the constant and repetitive loop of life begins again today. Sort of like a rinse and repeat. Choose wisely how you approach today. It makes all the difference.

Yay it’s Monday!! 🙂   or Yay it’s  Monday!! 🙁

 

Beautifully Blended Since 2011

First, let me start by saying divorce sucks. I don’t care if it is wanted, not wanted, both parties agree it is the best decision for them both, or one person is still holding on to something already gone. All the way around….divorce sucks! No one gets married to get divorced. I firmly believe that. But sometimes, forever is limited and it just comes sooner than you think. Sometimes, it ends up being the best thing that ever happened to a person. Sometimes. Yes, there are hurt feelings…yes, there is sadness…yes, there is guilt and the feeling of failure…yes, there is anger, (and believe me, you have to let yourself feel ALL of that!!)…but sometimes, although it sucks, divorce does not have to be devastating. It doesn’t have to fit into the “War of the Roses” theme of two people hating each other for the rest of their lives, and the once loving relationship becoming more of a competition to see how much one human can hurt another human. And oh yeah, if there are kids even better, because they can now use them as a pawn to hurt the other one even more. Sometimes this happens. But sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes a divorce can create a relationship(s), that are more meaningful than one can ever imagine. This is the kind I want to talk about. My kind of divorce:

My ex-husband and I were young when we got married. Young and in love, and 100% sure we would have all the answers to questions we didn’t even know existed on our wedding day. We stayed that way for quite a while. We had two great kids together (plus a golden retriever, a black cat and the house… minus the picket fence….). But as time went on, our life and each other became versions neither one of us recognized. It wasn’t an immediate action that caused our divorce. It wasn’t a betrayal (other than betraying our true selves for so long, and what we were really feeling about our marriage)…..no, it was a slow, day by day decay of a once loving and naive relationship. It was two people still loving the other one for the person that they were and respecting them immensely, but no longer “in love”. Two people truly desiring a different way of being, of living. That can be the most painful. You see, when someone does something that hurts you, it is easy to think bad thoughts about them or to end the relationship. But when it is more subtle and there is not that “one thing” that he or she does, and you actually deeply care for that person, but know it is not what is best for either one of you to stay, then that is where the pain lies. How do you say goodbye to something (to someone) who you actually really do like and care for, but no longer in a passionate and “can’t live without you” type of way? What then? Who is going to say it first? Who is going to open that pandoras box? Well, in the end…that person was me. And it sucked. But life got so much better…for us BOTH!

Flash forward 6 years later, Christmas Eve 2015, and this is what my ex-husband and I’s family looks like now:

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(My ex-husband, his wife, her two kids, my husband, his daughter, my parents, my ex-mother-in-law, and mine and my ex-husband’s two kids……one big, beautifully blended, modern version of what extended family can mean)…..

In the past 6 years there has been a lot of changes for both my ex-husband and myself, personally, professionally and all of the above in the change category! But, through all the changes in the years, we have always stayed focused on doing what we felt was best for our children, and so from the start we never had the traditional divorce. We never felt we had to be dictated by the legal system when each of us could spend time together with the kids. We never bought into the one year here, one year there mentality. It has always been and always will be, what is best for the kids. What do THEY want? And oh, by the way, I still enjoy spending time with my ex, so why not just jointly celebrate life’s biggest moments TOGETHER?!! Yes, this is how we define divorce. It is not a he said/she said type of divorce. It is not a “do anything I can to prove I am a better parent” type of divorce. No, far from it. It has become a respectful and loving relationship that includes being deeply grateful and happy for the other one when they finally found their true soulmate. When I see my ex-husband and his wife living their life, enjoying the moments together and raising a family together (yes, that includes my two kids…), it truly makes my heart smile. I wish nothing but the best for them. My kids have twice as much love and support, so how can that ever be a bad thing?

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two people who make my relationship with my ex-husband possible the way it is today. My husband and my ex-husband’s wife. You see, they are obviously divorced as well, and may or may not have the same experience with their former spouses, but, they both accept and encourage the relationship my ex-husband and myself have created, and they have become a part of it. The four of us together have united to become parents to my (now “our”) two children, and it is wonderful. It is more love for them. More support for them. More life experiences to pull from that may help guide them. Has it always been easy? Hell no! In fact, the four of us together experienced one of life’s most difficult parenting moments back in 2014, and it was tragic. It was an unknown experience that none of us knew what to do with. The four of us went to counseling as a group for “our” child. The four of us loved and supported “our” child in the darkest of days. The four of us…well, will always be the four of us, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Is the relationship that my ex-husband and I, and now our spouses have unique? Maybe. Maybe not. Is what we have for everyone? Absolutely not (so please don’t berate me with how I don’t know how it feels to be blank, or whatever….because, maybe I don’t!…I get it…)…..Believe me, all any of us can do is speak from our own experiences, and I am not naive to think there is not some absolutely terrible circumstances when it comes to divorce, so please know I am not saying everyone’s divorce HAS TO or SHOULD look like mine. I will never say that about anything I choose to write about!!….but, what I am saying is that this is what mine looks like. That it is possible to be divorced and it doesn’t define me or what I choose my life to be like. It happened. I also want you to know I am not an advocate or cheerleader of divorce as well. My hope is that anyone going through a troubled marriage can in the end, mend it and go on to live happily ever after. BUT, sometimes that just isn’t real life. And this is real life my friend.

So, can I look back and go “hooray me, I am divorced”!!….ummm, no….but I can look back and continue to be proud of myself, my ex-husband, our spouses today, our kids, our combined extended family and be so very thankful and happy for what was, and what is still to come, because being beautifully blended since 2011 (the year both my ex-husband and myself got remarried) has only enriched my life in a way I never thought possible. For this, I am forever grateful.

I know this was a long post my friend. Thanks for hanging in there with me. As we close 2015, I want you to know that this blog, as a place where I can be myself, and speak my experiences and feelings out loud, is one of the things I am most thankful for. YOU are one of the things I am most thankful for because you are here. You listen. You let me know your thoughts as well. You let me know I am not crazy and hopefully I do that same for you! Let’s do it all again in 2016! 🙂

Kalee XO

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Merry Christmas from me to you. Thank you for allowing me to share my crazy thoughts with you here on this blog. It makes me so happy to share my world, my experiences, my not so great moments, and my love with you!

I cannot wait to see what 2016 has in store for both you and I!! What I do know is I hope I can always be a soft place for you to fall, where you know you can just be yourself. I want you to know: Girl, I Hear Ya!!

XOXO

Kalee

Less Is More

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“Everything That Remains” A memoir by The Minimalists

 

This book is a Christmas present I bought for myself this year. I received it yesterday and I am already half-way done! Love the message. Love the simplicity. Simplicity is sometimes harder to achieve than we think however.

Two years ago, my husband and I downsized quite a bit. We sold the big house with pool and large yard, and moved into a townhome that has half the square footage of the old house, has no yard, and no extra anything to take care of. We made this decision to allow for more time and resources to be available for travel. Traveling the world is a passion of both mine and my husbands.

However, although we downsized physically, my mental attitude is not always aligned with the action we took two years ago. I mean, I truly want to live simply, want to spend my time and money on experiences that not only make an impact on me, but hopefully makes an impact on someone else as well, but I still find myself bringing bags of “things” into the home that I do not need! It doesn’t matter if you live in a 4000 square foot home or a 400 square foot room, if you cram it with things that really don’t matter (nice to have, yes, but important, no…), then what is the point? All you have are things. And, with everything that I am, I truly don’t want to live this way.

So, as a challenge to myself in 2016, I will stop buying “things”. I will try to stay focused on needs versus wants, and if I buy something and bring it home, I will then donate something else I already have (for example, for every new pair of pants I think I “need”, an older pair of pants will be donated). I just don’t NEED anything. Believe me, I am very thankful that I can even make that statement, and don’t take a moment of my life for granted. BUT, I want to truly start living the way I am thinking. The way I want my kids to be.

So, for 2016 my motto will be: Less is more.

Less “things” and more moments. Moments of travel. Moments with my family. Moments with my friends. Moments of giving back. Moments of love. This is a promise I am making to myself today (December 22, 2015) and saying out loud to you to make me accountable. I will keep you updated throughout the year to let you know how it is going. And, if you see me outside this virtual world and notice me doing something that does not fall into this “less is more” motto, call me out on it. I give you full permission to make me accountable.

I want you to know that I understand that this mentality is not for everyone, and please know I am certainly not pushing this on you. This is just what is right for me and since I am sharing my life and experiences with you through this blog, you have to know ALL of me. And although this topic may not affect your life, my hope for this blog is that something I have been, am, or will be honest and candid about will resonate with you, and allow you to believe that none of us are ever alone! I love you girlfriend no matter how you choose to live your life! Live proudly. Be kind. And most of all, BE YOURSELF!

Girl, I Hear Ya!

 

Sometimes Let It Be All About You

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How great is that quote?!! It has always been my favorite. Dr. Seuss is bringing the TRUTH!!….just a friendly reminder for you on this Monday morning……

Okay friend, this may come across as frivolous or silly, but today I woke up excited and ready for the day! Not because it is the start of a festive Christmas week, (although, how exciting!!)…but because I get to do something for myself that I have not been able to do in the last four months….ready for it?…….I am going to get my nails done! See, for the last several months that I was working at Starbucks, we were not allowed to have any nail polish on our fingers whatsoever. I understand that policy, because how gross would it be if your coffee was served with a side of chipped polish?! So gross!!! And, although I do not consider myself a girly girl, ( I wear very little jewelry, and most days wear some sort of hat to keep me from having to do my hair), my nails are something I always enjoy having look nice. And the last several months, they have NOT looked nice. It is just my thing, I don’t know…….So, this afternoon I am going to the nail salon with my daughter and I am going to get a beautiful red color for the Season. I cannot wait!!! (my last day at Starbucks was this past Saturday) 😉

Now, I can probably see you rolling you eyes, like “wow Kalee, earth shattering writing this morning”….haha, and that is okay, but I want you to know that not everything has to be life changing or earth shattering for it to be important enough to talk about. Sometimes the little things we do for ourselves is not a serious matter…UNLESS, you never do them for yourself! Now THAT is serious! If you are one of those people, ask yourself why you don’t find yourself worthy of the time, money or effort it requires? Here is a little tip for you girlfriend: YOU are worth it. YOU cannot take care of anyone else if you are not taking care of yourself first! An empty well cannot give water. If you find yourself running a little dry these days, do me a favor (do yourself a favor), start replenishing the source. YOU are the source. YOU are worth it!

So yeah, nothing serious or earth shattering happening today, and you know what…….that is A-OKAY!

To all you beautiful girls who also like to get their nails done…..Girl, I Hear Ya! 🙂