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Family-Friendly Napa Valley «

On the Santa Wine Train

In December, the Napa Valley Wine Train becomes the Santa Wine Train.

All Aboard

My Birthday Girl

Today we celebrated kiddo’s fifth birthday.

We had chili & cornbread, face painting & magic and, of course, cake & ice cream.

But best of all was the time with family & friends.

2010-2011 School Year

This is kiddo’s final year at the preschool she’s attended since she was three months old.

The place is such a big part of our life that we really cannot imagine not going there everyday (make that twice a day). I remember back when the kids in what is now Samantha’s classroom seemed so big. Now she is one of those kids.

To think, we’ll be taking that leap to kindergarten before we know it.

Holiday Revelers from Above

This past Saturday, we watched the famous (in these parts anyway) Lighted Tractor Parade from the balcony at the Calistoga Inn.

With kiddo and her two little friends in tow, it was the perfect spot above the fray.

We sipped wine and hot cocoa, nibbled on holiday cookies and waved to friends passing by.

We delighted in the creative vehicles (not all were tractors), cheered for our favorites and cuddled with the little ones.

Small town holiday spirit at its best, indeed.

Family-Friendly Napa Valley Dining: Innovative Mexican

We LOVE old-school Mexican food.

The chips & guacamole, the super-cheesy enchiladas, and–yes–even the deep-fried chimichangas (and the “gasoline” margaritas at Sinaloa).
Light & healthy it is not.

We also LOVE “New Mexican” cuisine.

The grilled fresh fish tacos, the unique & unusual salsas, the made-to-order tortillas.

But sometimes the creativity goes to far (Mexican wood-fried pizza?–sorry, I just don’t get it).

Enter C Casa, a new addition to the ever-growing culinary scene at Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.

I met the owner Catherine a few weeks ago.
I was immediately intrigued not only by her background but also by this new venture she calls “An Innovative Taqueria”.

So when we ran errands down in Napa this past weekend, we stopped in for lunch.

Walking into the market, we were immediately impressed by the wonderful patio.

The Patio at C Casa in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa

When we went inside to order, we were equally impressed.

We shared the Spiced Lamb Taco, the C Casa Chicken Taco, the Grilled Mahi Mahi Taco, and the “Nachos Not!”.

Everything was wonderful. The portions were just right, but we ordered too much food for our family of three. Next time, we’ll order fewer items, or a salad or such in place of the nachos. While the food was intensely flavored–in that fresh, perfectly-delicious way–nothing was too spicy for Samantha.

Service is walk-up and the atmosphere is casual. Prices, especially for Napa, are reasonable.

Who: All ages–the market is bustling and just loud enough that families with kids of all ages can relax

What: A fresh, original, and sophisticated take on Mexican cuisine in a hip environment

Where: Oxbow Public Market, 610 First Street Suite 6, near downtown Napa

When: Anytime of year; lunch or dinner (and breakfast on the weekends)

Why: To “do Mexican” in a delicious, innovative, and healthy way

Family-Friendly Napa Neighbor: Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival

Today we headed over to the town of Guerneville, to Johnson’s Beach along the Russian River in Sonoma County for the 34th Annual Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival.

We’d never been to Guerneville nor are we rabid jazz fans (with the exception of Dave Brubeck and those other classic jazz types), but Tom won the tickets so we thought why the heck not check it out.

It turned out to be quite the serendipitous adventure.

Be prepared to park in town (there is no dedicated parking lot) and to walk in to the beach. The spot we found was about 1/2 mile away. And though we didn’t do much exploring in town, it’s cute and we’ll visit again to check it out more.

The river was beautiful. The festival was great—on the small side and mellow—but even better was the opportunity to expose Samantha to the experience of live music and to all the different types of people.

We had excellent “seats”–second row, center. But even the general admission seats looked fun. The word seats up there is in quotes as all seats are those low-back chairs. Ours, being gold-level & all, were supplied by the event company–but sure were rickety. Better than hauling our own though. But if you’re particular about your seats, I’d recommend hauling yours.

But wherever you sit, be prepared to be on gravel. We didn’t bring our picnic blanket and wished we had. I’d also recommend a small personal umbrella or such as all seating is in the full sun.

Blissfully, the river is but 15 steps away from all seats so it was easy to quickly cool off. Plus, Samantha was able to practice her newly-acquired swimming skills.

We brought our simple lunch of sandwiches and deli salads, but there were plenty of interesting food stands–including Indian, BBQ, and more. One vendor even had fried gator (which I swear I will try next time I get such an opportunity).

Alongside the food stands were several merchants offering a vibrant selection of textiles and other hand-made goods.

Bring cash.

We didn’t see a whole mess of other kids, but there were a few (all of whom were kiddo’s age or older). We felt no resistance though–no tight smiles, subtle shrugs, or muffled groans of “oh, there’s a kid.” As I mentioned earlier, the vibe was quite mellow, very easy-going. That said, we only smelled pot but once (and though we couldn’t see the source, it was coming from the canoes on the river. Or, perhaps, the band members back stage).

And we overheard less than a handful of curse words. And I think all of those were “damn!” & in response to a particular fervent guitar or drum solo. Fewer (and nicer) than our typical housecleaningyardwork days at home…

If you’re local, think about going next year. If you’re planning a visit to Wine Country and it falls during this time next year, think about going.

Who: Families with kids ~5 or older

What: A small, mellow live music festival–on a gravelly beach

Where: On the Russian River in the town of Guerneville, just off Hwy 101 in northern Sonoma County

When: Annually in mid-September

Why: To relax, listen to live music, swim in the river

Battle of the Barrels: Team Napa vs Team UpValley

Dear Readers,

Did you know that one in six kids in California are affected by childhood hunger?
Could you imagine having to put your child to bed hungry?
It’s heartbreaking.
This shouldn’t be.
You can help.

I am organizing Battle of the Barrels: Team Napa vs Team UpValley, and boy, would we appreciate your support. It’s a food drive benefiting the Napa Valley Food Bank.

You can find more information on the Battle of the Barrels Facebook Page, and while you’re at it, it’d be super-cool if you’d ‘Like’ the page and help spread the word to your Facebook friends, neighbors, co-workers, and more.

Thanks in advance,
Jessica, Tom & Samantha


Field Trip!

I got to go on my first mommy field trip today.
I’d never had the chance before due to those big corporate-y jobs and all.

I think I enjoyed it more than kiddo did.
But she had fun too…


This is one of those nights when I am just going to post a photo.
Because it’s NaBloPoMo.

No commentary.
No editing.
Just pure summertime.