New Year's in Santa Rosa

This is the third post about our Christmas holiday in California. Read part one about flying with a toddler here, and part two about our time in Tahoe here.

After Christmas we spent the week at Mike & Ashley's place in Campbell, just outside of San Jose, California. I'll write about what we got up to there in my next post. The next weekend was New Year's and on Friday we drove north to the city of Santa Rosa, located in the heart of wine country, Sonoma County.

Sonoma is a pretty expensive part of the world to stay in, so when booking our options were pretty limited unless we wanted to spend tons of cash on accommodation (we didn't). We ended up in a 2-bed Airbnb with a futon in the living room. It was a tight squeeze for the seven of us, but in the end we managed pretty well. Our hosts lived in the house next door, which was built in 1907 after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The earthquake destroyed a lot of Santa Rosa, our host told us it was the hardest city hit per capita. Our actual Airbnb was built in 1968 on the site of the original horse carriage house.

Saturday morning Andy, my dad and I took Ella to the Children's Museum of Sonoma County. This place is awesome! Designed for children under 10, it's full of different hands on exhibits and areas to explore. The main exhibit is the Science and Imagination Gallery, where Ella enjoyed having the freedom to wander around, checking out anything that piqued her interest. There were different rooms set up for imaginative play, such as a doctor's office, a dentist, a hardware room, a diner, etc. She was especially taken with a train that circled around the ceiling that you could watch ride by on the second floor. There was also a bubble room with huge sinks of soap and giant bubble wands. Ella is obsessed with bubbles at the moment so it was hard to get her to leave this room! In addition to the main exhibit there was also a room for "under 2s" called TOTopia which Ella also loved and was a bit calmer than the rest of the museum. It was kind of like being at her daycare where she is free to roam around and play with anything there in a relatively safe environment. Outside there was more to do - a river and water play area, a life size tractor and helicopter to play in, a pretend farmers market with fresh veg and herbs grown in the garden. I feel like I'm not doing justice to the amount there was for kids to do here. If we lived nearby it is a place I'd be taking Ella to on a weekly basis. I'm already trying to work out how I can get a similar place up and running in Melbourne...

Pretend Kitchen
Activity board
Ball pit in TOTopia
Doctor's office
River demonstration
Life size helicopter

The Children's Museum is right next door to the Charles M. Schultz Museum. Schultz is the creator of the Peanuts cartoon and spent a lot of his life in Santa Rosa. There is also a Peanuts themed ice skating rink that looks like a Swiss Chalet beside the museum. We didn't visit either as we didn't think they were very "Ella friendly" activities, but both have really good reviews and would suit older children. There are a lot of Peanuts statues around the city in homage to Schultz:

Charlie Brown statue

After our busy morning at the museum we thought Ella might have a nap back at the Airbnb while we watched Canada play the USA in the World Junior (Ice) Hockey Championships. Watching this annual tournament is normally one of my favourite things about the Christmas holidays. It starts every year on Boxing Day goes for about two weeks. (I can now sadly report the Canada lost the gold medal to the USA in the final game last night. They lost in a shoot-out after being tied 4-4 in regular and overtime. Devastating!) Ella had other plans, however, and refused to take a nap in her cot, so Andy, my mom and I took a walk into the main part of the city so she would sleep in the stroller. This worked like a charm and Ella was asleep within minutes, while the three of us got coffees and browsed the shops on the main street in Santa Rosa.

We didn't have any New Year's plans for dinner, so instead of trying to get a last minute reservation we had a late lunch at Amy's Drive Thru. Ashley recommended this place - Amy's kitchen is a vegetarian brand of convenience and frozen organic food, and they opened their first restaurant in 2015. It's homemade, vegetarian fast food, at very affordable prices. I think my dad and Andy were skeptical - as soon as you use the words organic/vegan/vegetarian those two roll their eyes, even though they end up liking pretty much anything they eat. The food was delicious, healthy and cheap so in the end everyone was happy. Even Ella enjoyed the lentil soup and veggie chili! On the way home Mike, Ashley, Andy and I stopped in a Whole Foods to get some snacks for New Year's eve. Cool fact: Some Whole Foods stores have a Wine and Craft Beer Bar. A bar in a supermarket! Awesome! We thought we'd get a drink there while picking up our snacks, but unfortunately I left my ID in Ella's diaper bag, which was with my parents. Despite being a sleep-deprived, 35-year-old mom with no makeup on, in a Whole Foods on New Years Eve (surely no self-respecting, underage drinker would be trying to get booze from a Whole Foods on New Years Eve?), I was denied the right to even sit in the bar! I always forget how strict they are with showing ID and alcohol in the USA. Fortunately the other three weren't that bothered about having a drink, and didn't make me wander around Whole Foods while they enjoyed a craft beer. So we just got our snacks and went back to the Airbnb.

We arrived home to find Ella bathed and running around with my parents, not looking like she was ready for bed at all. She played with everyone for a while, demanding more food (she is obsessed with oranges at the moment) and then finally getting cranky, signalling her bed time. We've been pretty flexible with her bedtime while we've been here. I hope she has enjoyed it, as once we are home it will be bedtime at 7pm sharp like usual! Once she was asleep we spent the evening eating, drinking, and playing games: Catch Phrase and Secret Hitler. I was Hitler twice and won, woohoo! (That will sound very weird if you don't know the game...)

There was no TV in our Airbnb so I had to scramble to try and find a live airing of a ball drop - not an easy thing to do when you're on the west coast, I found out! We had a pretty anti-climatic countdown, toasting the New Year with our own estimated countdown (midnight confirmed by the sound of fireworks outside) and then pretty much going to bed. Things are pretty rock and roll when you're in your thirties and have young children. Sleep takes priority over pretty much everything, drinking included!

The next morning all of us except Andy and Ella went for a $25, hour long "Foot Reflexology" treatment at Michael's Reflexology Centre on 4th Street. At that price I wasn't expecting much, but it was advertised as coming with a back, shoulder, and head massage so I was looking forward to that, especially in my slightly hungover state. The five of us were led to the back of the "centre" (shop) where a bunch of huge leather chairs were set up. There was already one woman there having her treatment, and she did look relaxed. At this point I was thinking "a massage on New Year's Day, on your own, what a great start to the New Year. Why haven't I thought of this before?!" Anyway, the treatment ended up being a full body (fully clothed) massage (with particular attention paid to my butt, which was probably needed), and was one of the best massages I've had, ever. And I've had my share of massages! It was probably the best $25 (plus tip!) I've ever spent. We all left feeling like we were walking on clouds. I'm thinking a New Year's Day massage should be a new family tradition.

Next Ashley, mom and I did a bit of shopping at Crossing the Jordan. This is a consignment shop, with proceeds going to support their Life Transformation Program. This program helps women who have experienced some sort of trauma (trafficking, addiction, abuse) get back on their feet. I wish there were more stores like this, where you can shop for a good cause! I got a cute dress for Ella, plus a jacket and a work dress for me. The girls working there told Ashley they thought Andy looked like Ryan Reynolds. Lol. I don't even think that Andy even knew who he was, but he has since googled him, and I don't think I'm ever going to hear the end of it. An example of a recurring conversation we've had nearly every day this week:

Wendy: Why do you take so long to get ready in the morning? What are you even doing?
Andy: It takes time to look as good as Ryan Reynolds.
Etc, etc. You get the picture.

For lunch we went to Russian River Brewing Company. It's a pretty popular place, and we were told it would be about a 1 1/2 hour wait for a table for the seven of us. Ella was ready for a nap, so my parents took her for a walk while the four of us went to get a little snack to tide us over. We ended up at Tex Wasabi's, which serves BBQ and sushi. Weird combination, but surprisingly good. Unfortunately we had little time to appreciate our food, as minutes after we ordered we got a text saying our table was ready at Russian River. They were a little off on their table wait times! Scarfing down Edamame beans, we hurriedly paid the bill at Text Wasabi's and rushed back to the brewery. My parents and Ella were already there, with a tasting platter of 16 different beers. (There are normally 18, but they were out of two). Once we had all decided which was our favourite, we ordered some excellent pizza and beers to enjoy.

Tasting beers at Russian River Brewing Company

Bellies full, we took a walk down to Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, and Juilliard Park, playing with Ella until the sun started to go down. We had beautiful sunny weather the whole weekend, but once the sun went down it would get very cold.

Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

Juilliard Park playground
The next morning my parents took Ella back to the Children's Museum while the four of us packed up the house. After grabbing a quick lunch we headed back to Mike and Ashley's for our final week in California. 


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