A Tale of Two Cities

It's not often I go somewhere without a little person in tow, especially not thousands of miles away.  Thanks to a more than wonderful husband, I had the luxury of spending five beautiful days with my sister!  Six nights Tim put kids to bed, five days he managed to get them up, dressed, fed and off to whatever events the days had in store while I was gone.  I missed them all, thought of them each multiple times each day, and enjoyed every minute of time I got to spend with my sister, who is younger by just a few years.  We live different lives in different parts of the country.  We have different jobs, different outlooks on many things and different lifestyles, but we have much in common too!  We both appreciated even more all of the similarities we share when we were able to share them together.

I enjoy traveling and even love flying.  It is always an adventure!  I couldn't help but think of Joe and Millie as I looked out the window over both Denver and Oakland because they are both always excited when they see planes in the sky.  The view is remarkable both day and night!

A "spice store"...I'm thinking this would be absolutely fabulous on a smaller scale in my kitchen.

We both have a love of food and coffee...two things that aren't hard to find wherever you're at.  We also both very much appreciate style...I'm not talking high fashion runway style, rather the style that is created when time is taken and a detailed eye involved in creating an environment that is welcoming, beautiful and comforting.  Something that is "CUTE", for lack of a better word.  The way the pastries are all beautifully arranged, and the detail that is part of simply their creation, not to mention their texture and taste!

While we have different lifestyles, we've got yet another common thread shared:  motherhood.  OK, I have seven kids...humans...and she has one...canine.  :)  It was amusing and fabulous to watch her assume that parenting role.  Honestly, sometimes you could wonder if Kuma (her poodle) was human.  He is one spoiled dog, but I enjoyed getting to know him too!  There is certainly something to be said for man's best friend!  He accompanied us many of the places we went, because dogs are totally allowed in stores where she lives.  Compliments for Kuma were never lacking, and Alexis is a proud mama!

The many vineyards in Sonoma Valley
 The landscape was amazing with all of the grapevines full of plump grapes dangling from the branches, and vineyards are as abundant there as cornfields are in Nebraska.  They truly are a breathtaking sight.  The fruit and produce in general that is hanging from trees and vines is spectacular, not to mention the piles of it at roadside stands, farmer's markets and sidewalks in front of local mom and pop grocery stores.  That I could get used to!

We enjoyed a leisurely pace each day I was there--unless you don't consider running a race leisurely.  We participated in a fundraiser 6K run in Napa on one of the days.  Initially we had thought about running a half-marathon together.  I think we both were in agreement that 3.8 miles was so much better!! 

We strolled through boutiques, browsed unique and unusual stores, walked through parks, watched a couple of chick flicks, treated ourselves to post-race pedicures,

 and even made it to the beach one day--the coolest, rainiest day that turned out to be sunny and beautiful by days end.  The beach was a happy place for the dogs--Kuma and two of Alexis's friends dogs.  The same thing happens to dogs when you take them to a park and let them run like crazy as with kids...they sleep WELL!

I love this picture of Alexis and Val.

Did I mention that we both enjoy food--making it and eating it?  One might think that I am a food blogger or something...trying to get just the perfect snapshot of a...Runza?  Since there are no Runzas in California and I don't can't make them like my mom, I did the next best thing...I brought frozen Runzas with me (and fry boxes, cups and napkins for the full experience!) 

That was easy! We indulged in pastries and of course coffee and took advantage of not having to appease any other palates and created spreads that each of us thoroughly enjoyed.

See those amazingly delicious fresh figs???  Not dried like we get them here mind you....FRESH!  Mmmm.  We even cleaned out the refridgerator to create a fabulous frittata with brussel sprouts, potatoes, lettuce and two kinds of cheese. 

My last night there, we spent in the city. 

SanFrancisco is a city full of beauty, diversity, culture. 

I've been there enough times now that it was quite enjoyable not to do the touristy things and actually see different parts of the city.  The architecture is simply stunning. 

The park that was right up the street from Alexis's friend Val's house was actually quite a tourist attraction partly because of the houses called the "Painted Ladies"?  or "Painted Sisters"...now I can't remember.  It was a great photo opp with the city skyline in the background.  If you've ever watched the old TV show "Full House" you may recognize them!

That evening for dinner, we went another direction not far away to a part of town that truly was ecclectic.  There were murals that lined the alley walls, different ethnic restaurants on every corner, sidewalks crowded with pedestrians, homeless men, street artists, visitors and those that inhabited the neighborhood homes. 

In the five days that I was there, we were able to catch up without the pull of needing to be somewhere or do something.  The weather was amazing.  I'm still a little jet-lagged considering the time difference and the fact that we stayed up a little later and slept a little longer makes recovery a little slower, but it's definitely a small price to pay! My time was 100% enjoyable and the icing on the cake is that when I arrived home, my husband was quick to encourage the idea of making this special girl time be an annual thing.  He did a fantastic job being a single stay-at-home parent while I was gone, but I think he was eager to get back to work and rest!  :)

 Even though I was on a plane, bound for the midwest again, my vacation was not over.  I was completely privileged to have a nice long layover in Denver...long enough for my new sister-in-law Annie to come pick me up, with dinner in hand I might add, and take me downtown to see where they live.

She and Cash gave me a tour of their home and neighborhood as well as where he works and even to their new favorite hangout.

"Denver in an Hour". (As it turned out, we would've had longer because my flight was delayed two hours, but that didn't happen until I was already back at DIA!) I was tickled to go have ice cream with them, because this place apparently serves some pretty interesting flavors, and that is right up my alley you know.

 I tried to make conversation with them by asking silly little questions like "Do they serve pickles with their ice cream?" and such, but the conversation didn't seem to go anywhere.  Imagine my joy when I noticed that there was a cup full of pink and blue spoons for patrons to eat their ice cream with.  They made for the most perfect props to share our latest news with them!  **wink, wink**  :)

I truly couldn't have asked for a better little sibling sebatacle than this...seeing both my amazing sister and my fabulous brother and his equally fabulous wife...all with the gift of hospitality!  We get to spend Christmas together again this year and I can hardly wait!  I'm thankful that I have such wonderful siblings--family!  Thanks Alexis for taking time away from work, opening up your home, driving me all over the place, running with me and making me feel very special and truly loved!  And thanks Cash and Annie for an abbreviated and swift tour!  It was truly a treat!  And thanks Tim for allowing all of it to happen!!!