Whenever I go to California, or the west coast for that matter, I'm always so blown away by the beauty, the open skies, the rugged coastline, the cold yet gorgeous beaches. I'm a New Yorker at heart. Born and bred. But sometimes, I dream about living in California.
I never really thought too seriously about it until this Christmas. I spent the holidays in Stinson Beach, a small town an hour north of San Francisco with Daniel, my Mom, my uncle, my brother, my soon-to-be sister-in-law, their 3-week old daughter and their other "daughter", a dog named Violet.
My Mom found a great house through a local realtor and for months, I was counting down the days till we gathered there.
After driving along the coast on a curvy, nausea-inducing road for 12 miles, we finally arrived in Stinson. Starving because we forgot to pack any food for our flight, we were so happy to settle in at The Sand Dollar, a local spot that had really good fish tacos and so-so fish and chips.
Thinking back, I remember how the sun streamed into the restaurant that afternoon, casting such a soothing light. A yellow lab lounged on the porch, staring intently at me as I ate and I just felt so happy to be on the west coast, to smell such fresh air, to spend the holidays with my whole family, something I don't get to do as often as I'd like. It was one of those early moments of a vacation that you remember so well. The beginning. You know that many more wonderful moments await you and you feel so lucky, so overjoyed that you're only a few hours in and still have days and days ahead of you. I always try to remember that feeling and hold onto it as tightly as I can, because before you know it, you're back on a plane, heading home.
When we arrived at the house, I was stunned. It had looked beautiful on the realty website and yet in person, it was even better. I felt like a little kid, running from room to room, gasping at all the different beach views, the big open yard which had a fresh, woodsy smell with hints of eucalyptus. It was cold that first day, very similar to the weather we'd left in NY, but the minute we lit a fire in the living room and another in the master suite, the whole place warmed up and I never, ever wanted to leave.
Our week was spent cooking and eating, with trips to Muir Woods and morning walks to the beach to play catch with Violet. There was even a very intense game of Monopoly one evening that lasted four hours.
I may not have won (or even come close), but I did hold my precious niece while she slept throughout the entire game. That alone made up for my poor performance.
As if things couldn't get better, my brother proposed to his girlfriend and with an intense, orange sunset as our backdrop, we toasted their future with champagne for them, and sparking grape juice for me!
When we weren't wrapping presents or taking pictures or gushing over the gorgeous views, we were gathered in the kitchen. It was messy and fun to sit around a table or stove to make and enjoy so many good meals together.
Daniel was our morning chef with his bacon, egg, and cheeses and breakfast quiches, my Mom spoiled us with multiple gourmet dinners and my brother supplied some seafood feasts: Dungeness crab one night, followed by lobster the next. I pitched in by using up a bunch of bananas to make this. My Mom and I thought we'd be able to take a couple slices with us on the plane ride home, but it was long gone before then.
Here's to a happy 2008 to all of you. I have a lot to look forward to this year and feel blessed to have such a great family and so many wonderful friends in my life.
P.S. I know I haven't been writing much, but I promise to be back in a few days with a really good recipe that I highly recommend. I'm making it for the third time tonight and it's about time I shared it with all of you!