Cabin in the Woods

house

For the 20th anniversary of her 25th birthday, my friend Ina decided to experience wine tasting in Paso Robles. MSM and I have touched on wine tasting here, but we only went to two vineyards (see my post from last thanksgiving), so I was more than excited about this trip. Ina wanted to make sure she could bring her fur child, Elvis, so she searched through Air BnB for dog friendly locations. She couldn’t have picked a more spectacular place than the one she picked! Nestled in the “town” of Templeton, this secluded cabin in the woods was a breathtaking hideout and the perfect getaway. Its also a perfect place for Halloween!

Upon arrival we weren’t sure into what we were getting. At one A.M (we had to leave after a class I’m taking that ends at 10pm)  MSM plowed up a steep incline ensconced in brush and  filth, hardly indicative of a road. Damion, Ina’s husband, was whispering Jason’s infamous “chachacah ahahah”. Where was this place?? Up and around a hill and suddenly the cabin was revealed. At this point we were expecting something straight out of the film Army of Darkness (or Friday the 13th), but instead before us was a beautiful cabin with an exterior enveloped in immeasurably large windows. The interior was modern with built in book shelves FULL of books. The house came equip with an outdoor BBQ and a gorgeous galley kitchen, Wusthof knives and all clad pans included. Any chef would have been excited. Ina was allowed first dibs on rooms, since it was her birthday :). She picked the upper loft so MSM and I stayed in the downstairs room covered in windows. I LOVED IT. It was like sleeping in a tree house! The windows in this house had no curtains, but when the sun came up in the morning it was so peaceful the light did not deter our sleep. I felt home for the first time in a long time. We were surrounded by trees and sky and blue jays. It was wonderful. Even our shower was completely open to nature (yep, floor to ceiling windows in the bathroom). It was so much fun to wash up in what felt like a real waterfall!

shower
A view with a shower or a shower with a view?

After eating a gourmet breakfast of veggie scramble with toast (prepared by our men), the wine tour van picked us up for a fun day of wine tasting. And yes, with our help, they were able to find the abode. Though we had to walk down the hill. hahaha.

Vineyards of Paso Robles:

Midnight

Midnight Vineyard was our first stop and was probably my favorite. The hostesses were so sweet and gave us great education on their wines. Also they had an adorable dog-like cat that just came to greet us and then curled up by our feet. This vineyard produced a white wine that I really enjoyed. I’m not a big white person, but it was dry and crisp and delicious.

midnightvineyards

tracktor2
I had such a great time walking around the grounds of Midnight. Ina and I climbed onto a tractor, a reoccurring motif throughout our afternoon.
chardonay
Chardonnay is Midnight’s 19 year old Vineyard cat. She was a ferrel cat that adopted the owners a long time ago. So sweet and adorable. It was love at first sight for her and I. 

 

Dark Star

Despite the cool name (reminds me of Star Wars for some reason…) MSM and I sat this one out, so we did not taste the wine. BUT we did meet these two cuties:

fullsizerender
At Dark Star we met the rest of our pack. These two lovely blondes and their family joined us the remainder of the day. 

 

Red Soles

Red soles was a huge hit. The wine was very good, especially the Rosé. ANNNND, Red Soles is also a distillery which the rest of our crew loved. MSM enjoyed their limoncello and Damion liked the rum. The hard stuff somewhat reminded me of rubbing alcohol, so I stuck with wine.

redsoles_rose
Always a sucker for the footprints. And Rosé.

 

J. Lohr

J. Lohr was Ina’s birthday pick, and I can see why. The wine here was quite good. The grounds were stunning. Here we stopped for a picnic lunch before our tastings.

vineyardlohr_wine

corgi_jlohr
Another Vineyard dog. Who can say “no” to a corgi? Not me! Look at that face!

 

Via Vega

Via Vega was the last leg of our tour. A very amusing vineyard, but not the best wine in the world, in my opinion. I don’t like writing negative reviews, so I’ll try to be constructive here. I’m not sure if I just need to revisit Via Vega under different circumstances because the owner was in a hurry to close up this day in order to get to his beloved annual Beaver Festival. I DID like that every year Via Vega produces a stock whose wine sales are used to raise money for their neighboring Zoo. I appreciate the philanthropic notion as well as anyone that promotes something to help animals. Unfortunately , I felt this place was a “vineyard for beer lovers”. During the tasting they didn’t really educate us about the wines at all, the owner just poured our ounces and told stories about himself. When we first arrived we were peeking about the nooks and crannies of this unconventionally decorated tasting room and the owner basically yelled at us to “get on with it” so that he could close early. He came across as a bit abrasive, which turned me off from the wines. Wasn’t loving his vibe. But i DID love their vineyard dog.

vineyarddog_1
I didn’t love the wine at Via Vega, but their dog was ADORABLE! I’m really excited that all these vineyards are so pet friendly!
tracktor1
Another tractor to crawl on. This one channeled my inner Ronald Miller 🙂
birthdaygirl
Birthday girl with the two adorable golden’s that joined our tasting entourage.

 

Denouement

After a day of wine tasting we were all exhausted. Big Chill Style, we cooked a great Curtis Stone recipe for dinner (we were all slicing and dicing). We ate, and pretty much crashed on the sofa until we moved into our respective beds. Even Elvis was tired.

elvis_cabin
Elvis guarded the house while we all relaxed after a long day of wine tasting and vineyard exploration.

The next morning MSM and I took a hike around the property. The whole place was landscaped with secret spots and benches. It was incredible. So quiet and inviting but interesting with its little hints of horror movies- for example a small unfinished shed out back, or the murder of yellow jackets that swarmed around us (Damion was stung, thank goodness he’s not allergic!). After our walk the guys watched football and I did something I’ve been wanting to do FOREVER. I grabbed a book, laid down on a surprisingly comfortable futon, and, with natural sunlight abundant, I read. No interruptions. It. Was. Incredible.

jill_woods

msm_coffee
Inside the Cabin In The Woods was an opulence of books and natural light. A reader’s dream. Coffee mug is actual size!

We all discussed visiting here again some day. I can not WAIT!

What the heck to wear while wine tasting in Paso Robles:

Answer: Layers. I think I said that last time. It was cool in the morning and then became abruptly HOT HOT HOT.

Second answer: Comfortable shoes. Heels are great and sexy, but not the best idea here. Especially if your like me and you like to explore the surroundings.

whattowear
This Layer was comprised of: Shoes: Fendi  Shorts: One Teaspoon  Top: Charlotte Russe (i.e wear something you can spill wine on and not care) Above: outfits Top : current elliott Tank: Jackelope, Austin  Shorts: Joie  Sneakers: Asics
jill_cu
This seemingly hot fedora from Rag and Bone was the perfect protection from the sun. Oddly my head didn’t over heat at all. I definitely recommend a fedora when wine tasting. They protect you from the sun and are so stylish!

J’aime boire du vin rouge à midi! <– I’m learning something from duo lingo! 🙂

More later…..

xo

QJ

QJ

A spoonful of sugar…

Helps the medicine go down.

Bert

This weekend I decided to take a trip down memory lane and listen to  Julie Andrews belt out songs from The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins- two of my favorite childhood movies. Its funny how we can so easily forget the little hints to happiness that we learned as children. A spoonful of sugar DOES help the medicine go down. Listening to music while doing the dishes always makes the task more enjoyable. Writing my blog during my lunch break makes the more mundane tasks of my job more fun (though most of my job is fun, I’m lucky regarding that). The song I want to really focus on today is My Favorite Things. I’ve been a little anxious about my aging mother, and even just hearing this song made me feel more relaxed. I want to take a moment to create a list of my favorite things, so when the dog bites, or the bee stings, or I’m feeling sad I can simply remember this list and not feel so bad. 😉

  1. Puppy fur. This is the softest thing on earth. Not only that, but its attached to the most adorable thing on earth. A positively surefire way to melt your heart and relax the mind.

    Stanley
    This is my boo Stanley when he was just a pup. His ears are still super soft. He and his sister are the love of my life- other than MSM of course.
  2. Dog faces. So cute and unconditionally loving, a kiss from a four legged friend- another key to “yay”.
  3. Ballet– not watching it, but dancing it. I think its the combo of movement and the music that makes Ballet so Zen for me. Definitely on the top of the list.
  4. Pointe Shoes on my feet. These represent to me utter beauty, elegance, and grace. And the fact that I have finally gotten to put them on and dance in them, takes it to another level. They make me feel proud, excited, and give me a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of the ability to grow. A healthy future.
  5. The coast and the sound of the surf. No explanation necessary.beach
  6. Aqua blue and teal resplendent waters lapping over soft, clean, white sand.
  7. The feeling of bare feet on cool fresh green grass. This is hard to find in LA, but when I can find it….reunited, it feels so good…..
  8. Peonies, Ranunculus, Green Button Mums, and Chocolate Cosmos. These may sound like cocktails, but they are actually flowers. I adore flowers and hope to one day have a garden FULL of them. Until then, I can close my eyes and imagine.BloomFleur
  9. France. The gardens. The wine. The food. The people. The fashion. The hikes. I love it all. Just France.
  10. Learning a new language. I was learning ASL and desperately wish I could practice it with someone. So if anyone knows anyone that speaks it….let me know.
  11. Music Al Fresco. There’s something magical about the way sound travels outside. Its as if the music fills the air, stirs itself into the trees, permeates the ground, and homogenizes the world around us into one big ball of love and joy. It feels so liberating when I hear a symphony outside. The vibrations of the music literally sooth my soul and calm my nerves.

    ParisRooftops
    Some of the many things I love about France? Parisian rooftops, architecture, and of course the Eiffel Tower!
  12. Drive-In and/or Al Fresco movie theaters. Just so much fun.
  13. Riding in a convertible on a country road- or at least away from traffic. Wind in the hair and nothing but open road means freedom, exploration, and personal growth. Its the antithesis of stifling.
  14. Baking. There’s something so zen about the activity of baking. I love to really put my heart into it, and to add my own little touches to the recipes. Its so much fun and always delicious.

    bakeSHop
    Obviously I didn’t bake these, but a brownie topped with a marshmallow….gives me some ideas for my own concoctions….
  15. Birds chirping.
  16. The beautiful glow of Fireflies and the chatter of Crickets and frogs at night (as mimicked on the Pirates of the Carribean ride :)). This should have definitely been higher on the list.

    Fireflies-620x413
    These magical beetles are one of my favorite things in the world. They light up the earth and are the secret ingredient of summer magic. Photo: Fireflies.
  17. Miniature golf. To bring out our inner child.
  18. Discovering new places with MSM/Traveling on new adventures.

    SanFran
    The Farmers Market at the Embarcadero in San Francisco is where we discovered the best cream cheese and smoked locks I’ve ever had.
  19. Trying new food.
  20. A great glass of Wine or Bubbly.

    bubbles
    I love being a little tipsy in the afternoon. Its like having a secret ;).
  21. Grease. I love that movie.
  22. Guppy kisses.
  23. Real kisses.

    puppyfaces
    I also love getting kisses from my fur babies. Look at these faces!! (refer to #2 above).
  24. A hot bubble bath.
  25. A Mani/Pedi. What girl doesn’t love these?
  26. Relaxation massage during a spa day.
  27. Disneyland/Disney World. I can’t go here without being instantly energized and happy. Another surefire way to make this girl feel young and alive.

    Disneyland
    I loved getting lost in the The Alice In Wonderland Maze at Disneyland Paris. 
  28. Malted milk shakes.
  29. Pizza.
  30. Penguins (see above).
  31. Cheesy pop music like this:

What are some of YOUR favorite things? Leave a comment and let me know!

xoxo

QJ

QJ

Joy.

cassis
I just love to travel and experience new cultures and people. I also love to sail, another special hobby I shared with my father.  With the wind in my hair and adventure on the horizon, I feel so free. This photo was taken in Cassis, France. That trip was definitely Joy. 

I had the privilege of seeing the pre-screener of the movie Joy. It was pretty amazing. Yes the acting was great, and the cinematography intriguing and blah blah blah industry stuff. What I really want to talk about is the true story behind the film.

Since I’m not allowed to divulge too much information regarding the subject matter of this film (it hasn’t been released to the public yet), I will tell the story another way. Well, at least what I got out of that story anyways.

A Wise Professor:

9 years ago I had a college professor who was supposed to teach a class titled “computer applications.” Instead he started the first day of class explaining  “ya’ll can learn basic computer skills on your own, instead I will be teaching you secrets of a happy life.”

balloons
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” -Helen Keller Photo:Town&Country

First and foremost my teacher re-iterated story upon story the significance of doing what you love; of  letting your passions drive you, not your greed. You know the cliche- “do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life”. I vaguely got the gist of most of what he shared with us. The other night though, when I saw Joy, something clicked and I finally get it. Its a bit esoteric because one could easily say “I love money” or “I love the idea of a rich life” and then will be driven just to make money however it takes. But thats not really living. According to my professor, first we must follow our passions, then the money will come.

If we take a peep at people who have had the courage to do and try what they love,  somehow the money to live the life they want HAS  always come. And more importantly, so has peace, stability, and security. Ghandi, John Lennon (I mean it didn’t end well, but his life was wonderful and fulfilling as he lived it), Sylvester Stalone (look up his story told by Tony Robbins. Its pretty incredible). These people weren’t in it for the money. They lived/are living the life they truly want(ed). I remember when my professor first said “if you do what you love the money will come” we all laughed “If you build it, they will come.” But I’m starting to see the validity in it.

sunset.jpg
Never loose faith in who you are, and never let go of your dreams. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” -Mahatma Gandhi. 

Later, towards the end of the semester, after hearing dozens upon dozens of anecdotes about his life  (he was one of the first to work as an Imagineer at Disney!), we collectively discovered that said professor had throat cancer and would not live past the semester. I will never forget this man. His zest for life, his fearlessness, and the fervor in his voice as he passed on his life lessons. He was an omniscient and sage man who gifted us students with secrets so few could know at our age. Our final assignment was “Live your life in Joy. Think about what this means, and then do it.” Sadly he did not make it to the last class, and this final appointment was never graded. Obviously he did this on purpose. For the rest of my life I will be working on my “A” in computer applications.

 

The Four Pillars of Security:

Money does not buy you happiness, BUT it DOES buy you security. So I asked a therapist friend how he advises clients to find balance regarding that- how to do what you love but still feel safe and secure. Hypnotherapist Dr. James Borrelli explained there are four investments that will lead to happiness. Here they are, in order of importance:

  1. Invest in your health. Without your health, you “can’t do anything”. So here is where your money and time should go first.
  2. Invest in your expertise. Grow and learn. Become the best at whatever it is you love to do. Here’s where your passion fits in. With expertise (and good health) you will always be able to take care of yourself (ie have enough skill to work and therefor have what you need financially to live a stable fulfilling life).
  3. Invest in a budget. Take the time to work one out. Its ok to push yourself to the limit, but with that being said, stay within your means. Life without debt is a happy one.
  4. Invest in finances. Learn how to protect and grow your money.

**Dr. Borrelli explained that 1 and 2 are INTERNAL. That by focusing and strengthening whats inside of us, we will never have to worry about external things abandoning us. And thus, we will have security. Makes sense.

Believe In Youself

The antagonist in the film makes choices based on her passion because she believes in it. It has nothing to do with wanting to become rich. Its about getting her ideas heard because she feels her ideas will, in their own small way, contribute to making the world a better place. If she succeeds and makes money, that is a bonus prize. First and foremost, she is focused on seeing her idea through successful fruition. She is driven by faith in herself and in her beliefs.

I’m wondering, what if we all followed our passions rather than our greed? What would happen? What are some things you feel passionately about that bring you joy?

friendship
I love my dogs and I love my friends. Love and friendship are both significant ingredients to a life full of Joy and laughter.

Throughout the years I have met some incredible people who seem touched with exuberance. When allowed the opportunity, I’ve asked them “what is the secret to your happiness.” I’m starting to notice a reoccurring theme in their answers. Olympic gymnast Nadia Comăneci summed it up best; “Never give up on your dreams. Be courageous and do your do diligence, then follow them to fruition. This is a happy life.”

(yes I met her and yes it was AMAZING because she was my childhood idol).

Blessings for Peace and Joy to you all  this holiday season – and for all the days thereafter!

 

xoxo

QJ

QJ