Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The New Blog Has Launched! Go visit LAURASIMSON.COM!

Come on over to the new site (there's a treat for you!) and don't forget to update your RSS feeds and bookmarks!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Things I Love

Downton Abbey, PBS & Vanity Fair
LOVE this show. The furnishings, the clothes, the etiquette, the love triangles, the secrets - I can't soak it all in quickly enough. Unfortunately, I was late to the party on this one, but thanks, I was able to watch full episodes from Season 1. I had my own Downton Abbey marathon to catch up, but now that Season 2 is over, I'm left to count down the days till it's return. In the meantime, I'm enjoying Vanity Fair's recaps and hilarious trading cards... yes, trading cards.

Siri & the iPhone 4s
While I haven't figured out any legitimate questions to ask Siri, I have had a lot of fun asking her important things such as, What's your favorite color? Is there a God? I love you. Will you marry me? And of course, where do you hide a body? Don't worry, I haven't taken to a life a crime, but apparently, these are all the questions one should ask her. Who knew!? Her responses are hilarious and a great way to waste time... as if I needed another...

A room with a view
Westin Hotel, Downtown Atlanta, December 30, 2011

Buying Local
Our neighborhood is a great mixture of Old Raleigh, artists, architects, hipsters, preps, and transplants. Even with all our different interests, you can find most of us gathering at our local Famer's Market (open Saturdays in April through November) by Boylan Bridge, where you can sample Muddy Dog Coffee (the Ethiopian blend is my favorite), grab a bite to eat at a Food Truck, drink a beer brewed by local brewery, Fullsteam, pick up some homemade cashew butter, and decorate your home with a City Fabric print of Raleigh.

Not the bird (though I am a fan), but the iPad case. I love that it's not obvious that you're toting around an iPad, while also making sense functionally... and it's pretty handsome looking in orange.

Family Portrait with Harvey, aka "The Monster"
He starts out sweet, but soon his inner monster appears.
 Luckily, the sweetness returns soon thereafter.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Oh Sonoma, where to start... if we weren't so partial to our East Coast existence, I think we could easily transplant into Sonoma. The people were friendly, the food was fresh, mostly local, and always delicious. And then of course there's the wine...

which we sampled here and there throughout our trip, so I've put them all in one final post to complete the series...

I miss it already.

{Raleigh, NC Photographer, Sonoma Vally Photography, Winery Photography}

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Russian River Valley

Our expedition into the Russian River Valley was less of a plan and more of an adventure. We took the scenic route and stopped for tastings as we pleased. 

First up, Hop Kiln Vineyard.
Complete with a tour of where they would dry the barley when it was a hop kiln (hence the name) in its former life... then it was back on the road.

and into downtown Healdsburg for quick lunch, window shopping, brief tasting and then time to hit the road again

Next unplanned stop was David Coffaro Winery, lots of great photos and equally great wine were found here...

and our final stop of the day... Truett Hurst, where we brought out our picnic fixings for a treat by the river (which was probably actually a creek, but still a lot of fun).

The grand finale is tomorrow... Sonoma!

{Raleigh, NC Photographer, Russian River Valley Photography}

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


No grapes, no leaves, what gives?
So if you've found yourself questioning our visit to wine country in the winter, let me explain...
  • Reason #1 - It's off-season, meaning cheaper rates for vacation rentals! Yay!
  • Reason #2 - It's not that cold. We experienced above normal temperatures while we were there (hello mid to upper 60s, I love you), but even the norm is still a very comfortable upper 50/low 60... just bring an extra layer for the evenings and mornings, because it definitely cools down (to the 30s...eek)
  • Reason #3 -  Mustard flowers! The pretty "weed" is allowed to run amok amongst the vines and makes for some very pretty photos. They're especially prevalent in Napa, which brings me to...
Our day in Napa.

We started out at Katie & Thomas' favorite winery, Frog's Leap, and it was easy to see and taste why it's their favorite. We signed up for a tour and were treated to a brief history on the winery, the owner's preference for dry farming (organic and no irrigation), and tour of the property with wine glass in hand - the sauvignon blanc is sublime. Also, the mustard flowers are EVERYWHERE and gorgeous.

 Hats for the outdoor portion of the tour... they think of everything 
A greeting by the house cat and a warm fire.
 Didn't realize that my yellow shirt would also serve as camouflage that day...

 LOVE this door. Probably best barn door ever.

Handsome hubby.

After Frog's Leap, we headed to Duck Horn for a tasting on the porch, where we had a view of the vine burnings in the distance (luckily we couldn't smell the smoke). 

Then it was time for some food. We had lunch at the appropriately named Mustard's Grill where I had probably the best chicken sandwich ever (no exaggeration, promise). The Food Network doesn't lie.
Then there was some more driving when we stumbled across a sign with Charlottesville and the Outer Banks listed... two of my favorite places on earth. It was a sign (literally), so we stopped in for a tasting at Elizabeth Spencer, where we learned Elizabeth and her husband (Spencer) had honeymooned in the OBX, and he was a UVA grad, hence the sign. Such a small world.
After our final tasting of the day, it was time to prepare for dinner at home. We stopped by the Oxbow Market, a one-of-a-kind place where you can pick up local produce, meats, antiques, lotions, cupcakes, ice cream... the list goes on. We settled on steaks, fingerling potatoes and brussel sprouts, with cupcakes for dessert and also picked up a few of their famous English muffins for breakfast the next day.

A great end to our day.

{Raleigh, NC Photographer, Napa Valley Photography, Frog's Leap Photography, Mustard Flowers Photography}