A Day Trip to Napa

21 Apr

A Day Trip to Napa Valley | The Kate Keeper

Since Monday seems to have arrived too quickly again, I’m keeping things light and pretty ’round here today with a bunch of photos from the day trip I took with my mom and sister to Napa Valley this weekend. Every time I actually get in the car and drive the 60 minutes to wine country, I always ask myself why I don’t do it more often. The weather is always 10 to 20 degrees warmer and the landscape is so pretty that it should make your eyeballs sore, but it doesn’t.

We started our girls’ day (in celebration of my mom’s birthday) at an al fresco cafe, where we drank our first glass of wine of the day and split some mouth-watering Italian eats. Heaven is eating carb-heavy meals on patios, I tell ya.

A Day Trip to Napa | The Kate Keeper A Day Trip to Napa | The Kate KeeperA Day Trip to Napa | The Kate Keeper

With full tummies, we were ready to get tasting, and Duckhorn was our winery du jour. Usually I like a winery that let’s you buy wine by the glass, because sipping wine on a patio uninterrupted is more my style, but my mom and sister raved about Duckhorn, which only serves tastings, and so we went without protest.

A Day Trip to Napa | The Kate KeeperA Day Trip to Napa | The Kate Keeper A Day Trip to Napa | The Kate KeeperA Day Trip to Napa | The Kate Keeper

As you can see, the Duckhorn property is stunning, from the vineyard out front to the rose bushes and the craftsman style building. On the 75-degree day we were enjoying, a little shade and a glass of wine with a view was such a treat. As promised, the wine was tasty too. We shared a tasting since the one they serve is plentiful (and a bit pricey), but did you know that back in the day, wine tasting in Napa was free? My mom tells me that back then the two-lane wine country roads were much more jammed than they are now and that tasting rooms were full of people who found their friends incomparably hilarious. But, who could blame them? There was free wine everywhere in sight! Aw, the g/olden days.


Each time I think about coming to Napa it’s overwhelming to decide where to go be it for lunch or wine, so on our way out I made a list of the places we drove by that looked nice — lunch spots with patios, cheese shops, and properties I’d like to wander. If you’re curious, here is my list, though I’ll remind you that I can’t vouch for these spots since they’re on my to-do list.

  • Paradoux
  • Clos Du Val
  • The pretty white estate near Clos Du Val (Your guess is as good as mine).
  • Quintessa
  • Travigne for lunch
  • Sterling

A Day Trip to Napa | The Kate KeeperA Day Trip to Napa | The Kate Keeper

An afternoon in Napa is just right for me. I’m not big on a whole day of trekking from winery to winery. I much prefer a nice lunch and winery or maybe two. We were home before dinner with more vitamin D than when we left and with spirits that felt replenished from our six-hour vacation. IMG_6876

Where do you escape to on a weekend or weekend afternoon? 

The Shoshana Bun

18 Apr

We have a lot of things to rejoice about today. Aside from the fact that it’s a Friday in the spring, my hair is also long enough to put up again. Hallelujah! Is there a better feeling than pinning your hair up out of your face and off of your neck? I, for one, love it. I also love the show, Girls, which is how this hairstyle got its name. No one has encouraged us to make art of our hair and showcase it on the crown of our domes better than Shoshana. In Shosh form, I’ve been wearing my hair on top of my head for a few weeks now — high ponies, top knots, and this little ‘do that I made up.

how to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

The secret to my twisty bun ‘do? I’m not sure you’d guess it, but remember banana clips? You probably had them in the early 2000s to create waterfall ponytails. Well, I found three of them in my beauty basket and got to experimenting with different ways to use them. This hairstyle only requires one though.

How to use a banana clip to create Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

So you’ve got a banana clip and five hair pins and want to wear your hair in a twisty bun? Me too. Here’s how.

Start with dry hair. How to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

Rather than starting your banana clip at the nape of you neck, flip over and start the clip at your hair line. The goal is to secure your hair in the clip at the crown of your head.

How to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

How to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

When your hair is fixed atop your head, gather your pony tail and start twisting to form a bun.

How to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

You’re going to twist your ponytail around the banana clip and then secure it there. As you wrap your ponytail around the clip, use the bobby pins to secure it as you go. Tuck the tail of your ponytail underneath the bun and pin it.

How to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

Your hair should look like this from the top.

How to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

If you have hair that isn’t long enough to reach the banana clip, like me, use a bobby pin at the back of your head to pin the hair up.

I like to wear this look kind of loose, but I still recommend finishing it off with a spray of flexible hold hair spray.
How to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

I’m impressed with how securely the banana clip holds the whole ‘do together. This version of a Shosh bun isn’t quite as showy as her donut bun, but it’s got a Victorian feel that can be dressed up or dressed down. Give it a try this weekend!

How to create a Shoshana bun | The Kate Keeper

Photos by the handsome Jordan S.

What’s your favorite way to get your hair out of your face? 

How To Make A Salad You Want to Eat

16 Apr

I’m always surprised at how expensive lunch out is — $9 for a salad? — so I try to bring lunch with me to work everyday. A lot of times it’s leftovers from what I ate for dinner the night before, and sometimes it’s prepackaged salads from the grocery store. The sure thing is that if it doesn’t sound good come noon, I’m going to march out of my office and into the cafe across the street in a hangry hurry. For goodness sake, lunch should be delicious.

I try to eat pretty healthy during the week, since I know, come the weekend, I won’t be able to turn down brunch and late-night tots. So I eat a lot of salads. Over the years of bringing lunch to work, I’ve learned something about lunch salads: you can’t just put a bunch of vegetables and a dab of olive oil into a plastic bowl and expect me to call it lunch. You can, however, expect me to dump the contents of that bowl on your head if you ask why I’m not eating the brightly colored lunch I packed. Work stress and hunger do not mix well with meals as modest as the ones on Survivor.

There are some key ingredients that easily take a lunch salad from rabbit food to delicious, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today: lunch salads that you actually want to eat and how to make them. Here’s how to make salads that you crave.

How to make a salad you actually want to eat | The Kate Keeper

1) Start with a healthy base

I like my salads healthy, so I start with three to four superfoods as the base of the salad. I’m on a kale, carrot, purple cabbage, and apple mix combo right now, but you can choose any of the leafy greens and vegetables that register on your tolerable, if not delicious, scale. This is the part of salad making where you add the things you should/want to eat more of.

A quick note about kale: kale isn’t delicious unless you chop it very thin and marinate it in lemon juice and olive oil for at least 30 minutes prior to eating it. When I make my lunch on sunday night, I usually cut up all my kale and squeeze lemon over it and put it in a tupperware container for the week. Before you call kale scratchy, try it this way. Another thing I learned from Oh She Glows

2) Make it delicious

This is the fun part and that part that too often gets left out. The things you add at this crucial step not only make your salad tastier but also add protein to the mix, which means you will actually be satisfied by your lunch salad. Amen, right? To make your salad crave worthy, you need a minimum of two delicious items. I often add more. Keeping in mind that I eat vegetarian, my favorite delicious items are:

  • Avocado
  • Chick peas (or any other kind of bean)
  • Almond slices
  • Dried cherries
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Hummus
  • Edamame
  • Pita chip pieces
  • Quinoa
  • Marinated tofu

But this is just the start of the list. All beans, nuts and dried fruit make the delicious list. Cheese crumbles and other grains also make this list. This is the flavor crystal step, so choose wide and wisely.

3) Step out of the dressing box

How to make a salad you want to eat | The Kate Keeper

Depending on your salad ingredient combo, a fresh vinaigrette might be the perfect pairing for it. I love vinaigrette on Greek-inspired salads. Still, I’ll add some fresh herbs and use the nice olive oil if I opt for a light dressing. If you want to step out of your salad dressing box, I highly recommend Oh She Glow’s tahini-avocado salad dressing. Even without the avocado, it’s awesome. I’m putting it on everything right now, and it is the reason I look forward to my midday salads. My sister made her own peanut dressing last weekend that has us all us reaching for more salad, and I’ve had this fig-feta vinaigrette pinned for a while now. My point here is that there is no reason to stick with the olive oil and vinegar routine day in and day out. I’ve been making a salad dressing at the beginning of the week. The idea was to make a different dressing each week, but I’m hooked on tahini. It’s. So. Good.

I hope these tips help you save some money, eat more veggies, and better enjoy your lunch.

What are your favorite things to add to salad? What other lunches are delicious and portable? 

P.S. Happy birthday, mom! Don’t eat salad today.

How to Plan a Backyard Bridal Shower

14 Apr

As I mentioned briefly last week, my little sister and I co-hosted my older sister’s bridal shower this weekend with lots of help from our mom and aunt. It was a great success. We sipped champagne, played games, and ate lunch all in my mom’s backyard on a spring day worthy of celebration all on its own.

The Kate Keeper | How to plan a backyard bridal shower The Kate Keeper | A backyard bridal shower

Taylor and I are co-maid of honors — co-MOHs, as we say — and so far our duties have included approving the bridal gown (which we did with tears in our eyes), trying on and picking out bridesmaids dresses, and helping our bride-to-be put together the cutest do-it-yourself save the date cards. It’s so fun and such an honor to help plan how one of my favorite couples will formally announce their commitment to each other. Plus, I’ve never met a celebration occasion that I couldn’t rally around, so the whole thing is a dream.

As far as maid of honor duties go, the bridal shower was our first opportunity to prove our bridal party chops. Fortunately the ladies who taught us everything about how to throw a party offered to help. My mom and her sister are accomplished hostesses. Together the four of us threw an intimate spring bridal shower. Here’s how we did it.

Vintage-inspired decor 

The Kate Keeper | A backyard bridal shower: decorThe Kate Keeper | A backyard bridal shower: decorThe Kate Keeper | A backyard bridal shower: decor

Once we decided to host the party at home, we realized decor would be quite easy. My mom’s backyard is hardly a blank slate to begin with. Her tree wrapped in lights and knack for gardening meant we really only needed a few cutesy decor items to make a festive scene. Pearls, white flowers, and vintage china helped us create a feminine and old fashioned garden party feel. I ordered a roll of pearls and shopped for gold and silver frames at Goodwill to fill with old and new photos of the bride and groom. We borrowed candelabras, filled vases with white flowers, and we were pretty much set.

A spring lunch menu 

The Kate Keeper | A backyard bridal shower

In addition to being a hostess with the most-est, my aunt is a gourmet cook, so she offered to make quiche and frittata for lunch. She and my mom added a quinoa salad, green salad, and berry bowl to the mix, and served champagne, white wine and water for refreshments. The food was the part I was most intimated by, so I owe my mom and aunt every thanks for taking this part of the party and running with it. As usual, they succeeded.

Modern bridal shower games 

The Kate Keeper | Modern bridal shower gamesThe Kate Keeper | Modern bridal shower gamesThe Kate Keeper | Modern bridal shower games

My favorite part of planning the bridal shower was creating the games. We ordered “Advice for the bride and groom” coasters for our guests to fill out during lunch, and then settled on three games to play: The Newlywed Game (a must); He Said, She Said; and Scattergories, wedding edition.

Brooke rocked at The Newlywed Game! She got some of her groom’s most obscure answers correct. I was impressed.

To create the He Said, She Said game, Taylor trolled the bride and groom’s Twitter accounts and picked out five tweets from each of them. We printed the list and instructed our guests to write who they thought tweeted it. We went down the list and asked who thought it was the bride and who thought it was the groom. This game was a hit! It was personal and hilarious and so easy to put together.

Scattergories is a family favorite in the game department, so we customized the game to be nuptially-focused. Sample catergories included “Something the bride needs for the wedding” and “Necessary trait for a partner.” All the answers had to start with either a B or J, the first initials of the bride and groom.

A springtime bridal shower favor

The Kate Keeper | Potted plant bridal shower favorThe Kate Keeper | Spring bridal shower favorThe Kate Keeper | Personalized bridal shower favor

Truth be told, the bride came up with the idea for the favor. I just helped perfect it. Brooke had planted a bunch of zinnia seeds a few weeks before. One week before the shower, her table was overflowing with more sprouting seedlings than she’d have room for, so we got individual plastic planters and repotted them. I personalized them with a quote and a note on a popsicle stick. We loved the idea of giving a lasting and dynamic favor. Seedlings not only felt like a good metaphor for the start of a marriage but also fit our spring theme. They came out great.

Advice for planning a bridal shower

Our backyard bridal shower went so well. We showered Brooke in love and excitement (and kitchen goods) and enjoyed the company of friends and family that aren’t often in the same room. By splitting up the planning duties among four hostesses and keeping a low-key attitude about the festivities, we threw a shower that I think was fun for everyone, including the hostesses. I love a party where the host gets to enjoy too. It sets a no-stress tone that lets everyone enjoy a little more.

The Kate Keeper | A backyard bridal shower

I’m feeling much more maid of honor-y now that Taylor and I have the bridal shower under our belts. Next up is the bachelorette party in June, where Taylor and I are creating a classy and festive affair in Las Vegas in the company of Brooke’s best friends. I’ll report back afterward with lessons and ideas. My brain is already ticking…

Have you ever thrown a bridal shower? What must we do for the bachelorette party?  

5 Ways to Make Someone’s Day

11 Apr

I was a grump this week, you guys. You heard about my cooking fiasco, but also work has been crazy, and I wished my friend a happy 25th year via birthday card only to realize we’re 26. It’s just been one of those weeks, you know?

Fortunately, it’s finally Friday, and tomorrow I’m co-hosting a bridal shower for my older sister. It’s been such a blessing to have the festivities to focus on this week. Knowing my little sister would be here this weekend and that we were going to celebrate something as happy as my older sister’s upcoming nuptials pressed my reset button and helped me out of my crankiness.

I’ve already written about my tips for curing a bad mood, but, in the spirit of shifting back to the positive just in time for the weekend, let’s chat about ways to make other people’s days. Making someone else happy always makes me happier, and when I’m having a bad day, little gestures like the things that follow can blow the gray cloud right out of my sky or at least make it tolerable.

To make someone’s day, I recommend…

tea cups

Taylor and me, happy as clams, on the tea cups at Disneyland. 

  1. Writing a “You rock” email. I keep mine short. I simply write the two words, and maybe add a sentence of clarification if I want to. It’s perfect for personal and professional life.
  2. Taking care of dinner for your friend, roommate, or significant other. Whether you cook it or order it, it’s always a treat to have dinner decided on.
  3. Telling someone that they look nice. I see so many put-together women who’s fashion or beauty repertoire I admire from afar, but I rarely make a point to tell them. I always appreciate when a stranger has the courage to compliment me.
  4. Posting a comment on a blog you read but have never have responded to. I think I speak for all bloggers everywhere when I say comments encourage us to keep writing.
  5. Sending snail mail. Getting a personal letter in the mail for no reason makes my day.

Enjoy the weekend! What do you do to make someone’s day?

P.S. Happy TWENTY-SIXTH birthday, Jorie! xo

A Veggie Chip Disaster

10 Apr

You know that old saying, “When Amazon Fresh delivers to your front door two pounds of zucchini instead of two zucchini, burn them”? You might have thought the ending to the saying was “make zucchini everything.” I tried that: two loaves of zucchini bread, before moving on to veggie chips. Disastrous veggie chips.

Who knew baking sliced vegetables could go so wrong? I started with sweet potatoes, because I had them, love them, and will eat them in any form, including chip. I thought it’d be nice to have a plethora of veggies in my chip collection. The darn things went from soft to charred in the span of about two minutes, filling my apartment with the aroma of burnt yam.

So with that disaster behind me, I cleaned the char off of my baking sheets and laid out the squash. 45 minutes later they were soggy. 20 minutes later they were still soggy and starting to look a bit repulsive, and my guests — the ones I was making veggie chips for — were close. I gave up. Maybe they would have turned out had I kept cooking them, but I was o-v-e-r the zucchini that had been plaguing me all week.

The irony of the whole thing is that I don’t even like zucchini that much. I put it in my online cart as I pondered testing out a new recipe that uses zucchini as noodles. After deciding, eff that, I effed up and never removed them from my cart before placing my order. I didn’t even want the stupid zucchini, and the veggie chips were my exit out of letting all the zucchini go to waste. I was so salty that it all went to waste anyway, and not on its own, but in the company of my olive oil and time.

Thank god it’s almost Friday and all my zucchini is finally gone.

Tell me! What is the secret to perfectly crispy veggie chips!? Have you had a cooking disaster lately?

P.S. Have you tried grocery delivery? I’m a cautious fan. I’ve found it’s perfect for stocking up on the basics. Then I complement my online orders with speciality items from my neighborhood grocery store. If I need a ripe avocado for dinner that night, I’ll get it myself to make sure it will be usable. There’re certain limitations to ordering online, but grocery shopping from the couch anytime 24/7 is really convenient. I pull up the recipes I want to make that week, check my cupboards for what I have, and then add the items I need. The next morning — boom! — they’re at my front door before 9 a.m. (or whenever I want them). There are few downsides, aside from mistakes like my zucchini fiasco. Amazon Fresh even delivers from local speciality shops like bakeries and fish markets. Would you ever try grocery delivery?

Why You Need a Spontaneous Girls’ Day

7 Apr

You know those days where you meet up with your girlfriends at breakfast and wind up spending the entire day together straight through to dinner and an evening activity? For me those days happened primarily in college and when I lived in the same city as my little sister right after college. These days, it’s a rare weekend that two or more of us have no plans, no obligations, for an entire 24 hours, but this weekend the girls’ day stars aligned. Spending 14 straight hours with my girlfriends reminded me how different it is to hang with just ladies and why it’s important to make sure to do so regularly.

The dynamic is just different when it’s just girlfriends. Like when I told my friends that I accidentally ordered two pounds of zucchini from Amazon Fresh instead of two zucchinis, they exclaimed practically in unison that I needed to bake zucchini bread. Two hours later, we were eating it on my couch, while watching that old clip of JGL lip sync on Jimmy Fallon. That kind of spontaneous motivation is something I love about girlfriends. Give us one good reason not to drop everything and bake zucchini bread right now.

It was so refreshing to just sit on the couch and talk laugh until it was time to go out. That is the thing I miss from college the most — sitting around with my girlfriends telling stories, listening to favorite songs, and playing games. At the risk of fulfilling a girls’ date stereotype, from there we got started brainstorming statement hairdos for the evening. The rollers came out, braids went in, and before I knew it, I had a Shoshana-style bun on the top of my head that I promptly declared my new signature ‘do. Sometimes you just need your girlfriends to assure you that pining your hair onto the top of your dome is a good idea.

We broke for dinner so everyone could change into their girls’ night garb, and then met back at my place before taking a cab to one of our favorite neighborhood bars, where we cheers-ed the most recently engaged of our group and went into stories of our “best” childhood outfits. Most included some combination of velour, aggressive flares, and anything from Limited Too or Wet Seal.

Before the night was over we grooved to 90s dance hits and consumed some late night eats at the nearest diner. I walked home with my sister laughing and feeling completely replenished.

The Kate Keeper | Why you need a girls' day

My girlfriends and I plan a girls-only night once a month. Much like happy hour club (which I wrote about a few weeks ago), having a set date on the calendar for going out with the gals ensures that at least once a month we get some girlfriend time. We hope that isn’t the only time we get together just us, but it means that even during the busiest of months, we see each other. It’s a mark of being in my mid-twenties that we schedule girls’ nights, but that’s life, and I’ll take time with my friends anyway I can get it. This was the first time that girls’ night was preceded by girls’ day, but the experience was so reminiscent of the days that my girlfriends were my entire life that I hope more of our girls’ nights are preceded by girl’s days, because the thing is that I’m never not going to want to sit on my couch and braid my friends’ hair. And, I’m never not going to sing at the top of my lungs when “Gangsta Lovin’” comes on in bars. And that’s when you just need the company (and vocal support) of your girlfriends.

You might also like my post on How To Plan a College Reunion.

How often do you spend time with your girlfriends? Has it changed as you’ve gotten older? 


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