St. Helena

I almost forgot to write about our wonderful time in St. Helena. We rushed right back into school and the fall routine, but it really was the best way to spend the last few weeks of summer.

The house worked out great, was just two blocks north of the shops and restaurants of downtown (including The Model Bakery which we frequented most days). It had a huge yard with the pool set back at the end of the property. The house itself was fairly small, but plenty of room for us, especially considering we were outside much of the time. The main level had two bedrooms -- the boys in one and Colette in the other, and we were on the upper level which was just the master bedroom. It worked out fine for us to be upstairs, C only woke up maybe one night, but it was actually G falling out of the bed multiple nights that caused me to run down the stairs. Best of all, the house was previously the owner's home, including where she raised her kids, and you could tell it was much more than a rental. It was fully decorated and set up as if you were staying at a friend's house. The cabinets were stocked with just about every kitchen necessity, plus many staples for baking and cooking. I was prepared to need several days and trips to different stores to get us fully set up, but in the end, just did a big Trader Joe's run and that covered most of it.

I think a big goal of renting the house was to give the kids the experience of just hanging out and not needing specific plans every day and having them be able to 'just play outside'... and of course, doing all of this is beautiful sunny weather! For the most part, that's what we ended up doing, though we got a crazy heat wave that kept us indoors during the afternoons of the hottest days when it reached 115 degrees! Though I think we still had it better than SF, where it was 106(!!!). At least we had AC and a pool so it really didn't feel that hot unless you were just outside (not in the pool) between 2-4pm.

St. Helena has an awesome library we discovered so we went there for storytime and crafts each week, plus they had lots of puzzles, stuffed animals, trains, etc. which was nice since we didn't bring many toys. We would ride bikes to the park and play in the mornings before it got too hot and then come back for a swim. It was so nice to have Jessica come up which made it feel like more of a vacation for me -- plenty of time with the kids, but lunches were made, dinner was cleaned up and I could spend time with one or two of the kids without having to always be in charge of everything. Highly recommend that approach! Of course we knew Dave would be working most of the time so it was really the best way to do it. It was fine from my perspective having Dave work from up there, but I think it was tough for him. Internet and phone service wasn't great from that second floor, but he really couldn't be working downstairs with us in and out of the house all day. He made it work, but I think it was generally a more stressful time for him at work so that didn't help.

Dave and I took advantage of the great food and did two date nights per week. We ate at Redd in Yountville, Evangeline in Calistoga, Brasswood just up the road from us in St. Helena and our favorite meal was at Acacia House up the street. We also took the kids to Ad Hoc for fried chicken which is sooo good. Oh and I almost forgot, our actual dinner out as a family at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. Overall, everyone did pretty well, though when C was done (which luckily was about 45 mins in and we were mostly done), she was done. We moved fast and took their famous campfire pie to-go.

Surprisingly, Dave and I didn't do any wine tasting. I sort of thought Dave would have his afternoons free during the week and with Jessica there, we could sneak out for an hour, but he just was a lot busier than we expected. We did take the boys up to the 'castle winery' as William has been super into castles lately and they did really enjoy it.


We saw lots of friends which was great. I went to lunch with Stacey and then she came over for dinner another night. Our friends James and Olivia and their twins came up one weekend and then Maris and her family the next. Jenn was in town from Portland, so her whole crew came for a swim. We also went to our friends' house in Glen Ellen for the morning and it was just stunning! It's definitely fun to have a 'destination', somewhere people want to visit.

Dave did have some time for bike rides and that was the biggest hit with Colette as well. She's always climbing on the bike trying to get a ride. It got hot for the boys and they now want to ride their own bikes so besides our first night when we all rode down to Gott's for dinner, we didn't do a family ride. Dave is thrilled we have another activity, this one actually active, to do as a family!

We only brought a few toys for the boys to St. Helena -- the duplos, magnatiles and some art supplies. We brought a few books but luckily the library let us check out books so we got a bunch each week which was a lot of fun. They did surprisingly well with the limited toys inside and really used them. Of course we had a ton of outdoor toys that we bought up there, but that actually worked out well since those toys don't get much use in SF. The house also had a bocce court which was so much fun to teach the boys. They were into it for the first couple days at least. The property also had apple trees in the back and they picked just about all the apples they could and W and C ate most of them, well, C probably had a bite out of multiple different apples.

St. Helena is a great town to be in. It's definitely further north that being right in Napa, which actually isn't that far from the city, but being further into the wine country is nice too. There are several great parks in town, and one has a farmer's market we went to each Friday. There are great restaurants, plus you're in between Yountville and Calistoga so you have easy access to even more. I like that while St. Helena is still pretty small, it has a Safeway and another nice grocery store so you can get what you need.

Overall, the trip worked out so well. The main downside of the house was that the pool wasn't heated (which we knew about when we booked). Because it was so hot, it actually worked out fine, even with William who I was worried about, but C only went in a few times and didn't really want to swim with her face in. When we went to our friend's house to swim, she jumped right in and swam around as it was warmer so it was definitely our pool. It was just a bummer not to have her in more, and even with the boys, they were in and out a lot, though maybe they would've been anyway. It was refreshing on the hottest days, but pretty cold on the normal days. It also would've been so awesome if the driveway was paved and not little rocks. First of all, you're constantly walking across the driveway (which is in the back of the house between the house and the yard/pool), but it also would've been so great for the boys to ride their bikes on as it's a pretty big space and we could've closed off the gates so it would be fully enclosed. I think we'd still consider the house again, but too bad the pool wasn't a few degrees warmer. We really loved the time up there, especially having the help from Jessica (who worked 4 days instead of 5 since her commute was longer), plus several visits from my mom and dad. The kids had so much fun with them and I think they both enjoyed it too. We even went to the Petrified Forest for a short hike with my dad one day.

It was strange not to have more photos from the trip, but good in a way, it really was laid back.

Dave had to go back to the city once for work and they he headed back on Labor Day afternoon as he had to fly out the next morning. The original plan was to be able to enjoy the day and not rush back so we had booked to leave on Tuesday since the boys didn't have any school stuff until Wed. Since Dave had to leave early, my mom came up to stay overnight so she could help with the kids while I packed up and cleaned up the house. The boys were set on going to Train Town, but I remembered that after Labor Day, they only open on weekends. I thought of a couple more places, but similar story, so we decided on a visit to the Jelly Belly Factory which was a hit with everyone.

Dave always loves Florida best, and I love it too, but this felt easier since we just packed up the car (which of course was still a lot of planning and prep), had a house that was fully set up with all the basics and beyond, plus Dave picked up anything we forgot when he went home, not to mention we still had Jessica's help. It seemed like a nice balance of vacation and just hanging out in a different (and wonderful!) location. I think we'd definitely like to do it again.

As I told them, W's punch-it balloon popped shortly after getting it. C tried to help by offering her balloon and holding up his broken one... didn't help.

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