11/13/09

Romantic in Napa

The word ROMANTIC is not in my marital vocabulary. But over the years, I've learned a few tricks to getting what I want, and our latest overnight getaway certainly included plenty of the R word.(giddy happy dance, much jumping up and down)
Here's a little recap of how it all played out (in discreet details, of course). John has a quarterly meeting in the Napa Valley area so I've been honing my travel agent skills for just over a year in this area.
My favorite up to this point was The Napa River Inn ($150+, nautical theme rooms, gas fireplaces, on the Napa River, great coffee and pastry shop in The Historic Mill attached to hotel, walk to downtown restaurants/bars)
This trip, we had the glorious pleasure of staying in Yountville (a mere 10 minutes North of Napa, and 10 minutes south of St. Helena), having never even noticed it before! For starters, this is where The World Renowned French Laundry Restaurant hails. And if you blink, you'll miss it AND the mini village of Yountville.
I did not choose The Vintage Inn for it's French Country decor-sssooo NOT my style. I chose it for two reasons: #1 Price-it was the ONLY 4 to 5 Star hotel under $300/night, and #2 Romanticism-Sunset Magazine posted a list of their "Most Romantic Hotels" in the Napa Valley and again, The Vintage Inn was the ONLY one under $300/night($252 including tax, to be exact).
Oh, yeah, and I should mention I am a high ceiling type of girl and this place boasted vaulted ceilings...also wood burning fire places in every room, whirlpool bathtubs, balconies, a CHAMPAGNE BRUNCH (gorgeous, scrumptious AND complimentary), complimentary high tea complete with cucumber cream cheese sandwiches and warm croissants, Uh, YUM! The pool and hot tub is open 24 hours!!! Yahoooooo!
The balcony in our room looked over the freeway (eeuw) and beyond were the ruby vines of Domaine Chandon. We sipped cold beers and lounged in the Adirondack Chairs for a few moments before splashing into the GIANT bathtub. Weee! (I promised discreet, and thee shall have). In addition to the monstrous ceilings, king cushy bed, fireplace, balcony and french doors, we also had a sitting room-I think it amounted to 450 square feet-which is bigger than my kitchen/living/dining room combined. Vintage Inn Poster Girl, That's ME.
The front desk, upon check-in, inquired about our dining intentions (huh?), and made solid suggestions as to where to go, calling to make our reservation and tipping us off to the "Walk In Tables" at Thomas Keller's restaurant, Buchon, available for those "In The Know". Apparently, if you're a guest at The Vintage, you are In The Know. We skipped through town (well, maybe not we) to Jessup Cellars for an intimate wine tasting. Then off to dinner at Buchon under the stars. Walking through town in the brisk night air was an added bonus to the romanticism of our evening. And then back to our high ceilinged room for a crackling fire!
May I just say that champagne brunch should be a daily requirement? HELLooooo Mumm!
Love the Napa Outlets, and equally love the ridiculously cheap hand car wash next to the Napa Outlets. Had my car detailed while I shopped. Sweet!
Grgich Hills. Heitz Cellars. Hurley's for a mediocre lunch back in Yountville.
Absolutely the most lovely 24 hours I've spent with my man in a very long time.
PS Other hotels I researched and liked the looks of, Bardessono in Yountville (extreme modernism). One hotel we visited, Napa's River Terrace Inn, was inexpensive, but lacking in style and luxury. Not recommended.

11/10/09

More Dog


Aside from all the major events and accidents in Kiley's life, there were countless quiet, satisfying moments too. This dog had my number. She knew when to comfort me. She knew when to keep her distance. She knew how to make me laugh.

She would let out a long heavy sigh and I would unconsciously repeat the sigh. A few moments passed and Kiley would sigh back.

There was a point in time, before I was distracted by the joy of children, when I would joke that Kiley was so intune with me and my emotions that someday soon she would just up and blurt out some English.

She "did the happy dance" in front of me before going on a run. When the girls came along, she took to doing the happy dance in front of the stroller before a run. This would make both kids giggle the whole way.

As every pet owner feels, this special bond, these memories, this pocket of my happy life that included my loving animal are forever playing in my heart. I know that I cannot replace Kiley or the memories we shared together with her.

Because Shelby's old enough to realize the tragedy of losing our dog, she and I have had many conversations about what happened to Kiley. How it was an accident, no one's fault, and how Kiley is in heaven now. We have talked about how Kiley isn't coming back to sleep at the foot of her bed.

We framed a beautiful picture of Kiley and put it up in the living room. We have a plant dedicated to her memory that we will plant in the yard. Shelby has suggested we return to Kiley's grave and decorate it with flowers (which I think is a brilliant suggestion just as soon as I can pull myself together for it).

And we've made a habit of recognizing the army of fleas in our house as Kiley's "itchy kisses" for us to remember her by. Every day gets a little easier.

I'm not sure I will ever pull into my driveway without expecting to see her tail wagging a greeting from the yard. That's going to be hard to forget.

11/8/09

The Story of A Dog

I've been missing for awhile. I've been mourning for awhile. It's hard to believe I published the previous post beginning with "I've adored my chocolate lab for 9 years..." considering the recent tragedy this week.
My darling puppy died in an accident last Tuesday. She was hit by a car, that she was chasing (I know!), and died on impact. Thank goodness for that much.
Having never faced a death in my immediate family, or close circle of friends, before this, I am beyond devastated. It took me three days to be able to answer my phone or even mention the reason I was so sad. I have finally run out of tears.
I think, in her honor, I will tell you all the story of Kiley and her beautiful personality, her life, her journey, and the memory she leaves with me and my family.
Once upon a time, I was a teacher in a small 2 trailer-park town surrounded by unusable flatland as far as the eye could see. Even the principle/superintendent lived in a trailer. I scrambled for material every morning before opening my classroom door to a ragtag bunch of first graders who faced everything from second hand smoke (so bad that smoked filled the classroom every time I opened Michael's backpack to retrieve his homework) to malnutrition (poor Natalia's family, Russian immigrants living in a 2 room trailer with their 6 children, couldn't afford all the food groups, or treated water, which left her skin an eery shade of pasty white with a hint of chartreuse and her hair-completely natural-a greenish copper, matted and unbrushed).
So I'm scrambling to organize myself before school begins and there's a series of little knocks on my front door. I open it to a parade of mothers and students crowded around my door holding a gaggle of silky brown puppies.
"Mrs. P! Do you want a puppy?" asked a little second grader. His family lived on one of the few ranches around here and his mother chimed in, "Our chocolate lab and the neighbor's yellow lab had an affair a while back, now we have 9 puppies to give away."
I'm not a dog person. I don't care for the slobbery kisses or the shedding, I especially didn't need a dog. In the same breath, I was a bargain hunter who new a good deal when I saw one. A FREE $500 purebred puppy?!
When I arrived home, I shared the offer with John, who STILL hadn't proposed, but had always been a dog person. I tossed the idea around in my head in hopes of solidifying our future together, sort of like a crazy person tries to get pregnant so her boyfriend will stay with her. Okay, but not that crazy, it was a dog for goodness sakes, not a baby. And I was warming up to the idea of a companion at my little lonesome place I lived in. I knew the potential for dog companionship. I had just never experienced it.
Before I knew it, I was driving down the freeway in my new convertible, a laundry basket in the front seat with a little lump of chocolate fur curled up inside. I pulled up to John's house and lifted her out, where she immediately threw up on me. Dogs get carsick, too?
John and I were raising a puppy. OUR puppy. She would spend most nights with me, getting up early to run the mile dirt road in front of my house. In the morning, John would take her with him to the winery, where she would ride on the quad with him, drive to vineyards in the flatbed with him, and play with the other winery dogs. She learned to chase rabbits, and followed the lead dog (a white lab) around the property,learning doggy etiquiette (which butt to sniff, how close, how long), swimming in the pond and barking at birds.
One wild weekend, John dared a friend to eat 6 King Size Snickers and drink 6 cokes in one hour (which is impossible). The guy nearly made the bet before puking all over the front yard. Hahaha. Funny until we realized Kiley had licked up the mess and coincidentally ingested a fox tail at the same time. Our first vet bill, $250.
We took Kiley to dinner parties with us. We took her camping, to Lake Nacimiento, to the snow in Tahoe. You can imagine us driving to my parents house, a 3 hour drive, in my 2 seater convertible with a 40 lb puppy in my lap. She never did, in her entire life, stay in a kennel. Not once.
When we got married, we entertained the idea of tying the rings to her collar and letting her bring them up the aisle. Yes, we did.
There was the time she and my brother were playing fetch with a golf club and a tennis ball. He swung, she jumped and the club made contact with her head. She did a complete flip in the air and when she came down, her ears were crooked. It lasted for a day and when she stopped getting attention, the ears were even again.
She learned to jump off the end of the dock at Lake Nacimiento and later, swim safely with the girls in the lake.
We took her to an eclectic wedding when she was 5 where they roasted a pig and built outhouses all over a 20 acre parcel for guests to use (eclectic...). She managed to sniff out the remains of the pig carcass and gorge herself on it throughout the party. She rode home in the front seat of my convertible, John following in his car behind us. The entire way home she kept gagging.
"Something's wrong with Kiley!" I shared as we pulled into the driveway of our new home.
(To Be Continued...)