What to Do in Sonoma? Let Daine Shepherd Be Your Guide

With summer well under-way, you might be wondering what fun things there are to see or do in Sonoma. 

Well, let our handsome Barn Doctor (and the perfect travel guide), Daine Shepherd, of Home Sweet Sonoma, provide you with a unique local’s take — a less-touristy approach of what to do when here. Believe me, he knows.

First, Daine suggests a “hands on” wine-making class. Yes, there are amazing wineries around town that can teach you, but dreamy Daine would like to show you how himself. Enjoy the step-by-step technique by way of his own strong and rugged hands taking care of Gracie Taylor’s property. Even though it’s too early to pick the grapes, he can walk you through the entire process. And, when the day is done, he’ll leave you with a bottle of Gracie Taylor’s and Wyatt Dalton’s homemade batch, 2015 G&W Red, that will make you come back and beg for more.

Second, take a hike on the Overlook Trail. Daine traverses the local hills every morning with his dog, Barley, before he starts his day restoring old barns. When he gets to the top, he breathes in the mountain air and watches Barley kill those nasty rattlesnakes. After a long day working, Daine enjoys a delicious homemade lunch at the Sunflower Café — the food and pies are to die for! Daine spends many an afternoon devouring a fresh homemade chicken sandwich, then topping it off with his favorite warm-out-of-the-oven berry pie. 

Of course, there is always the Sonoma Plaza where he says, you can just sit on a bench and watch the kids play in the park, or rest your feet on the grass and have a picnic with your buddies while the ducks float peacefully in the pond. When it comes to shopping, The Lavender Brat can’t be beat for organic oils and soaps, and Gracie’s Second Chance potions.

But, wherever you choose to explore, Daine encourages you to come and spend the day in the wine country his way: slow and easy, steady as she goes. 

 

Deborah Parrish
Patriotic Berry Pie
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From Gracie Taylor's Kitchen:  A Home Sweet Sonoma Moment

The closest thing to the delicious taste of freedom on the 4th of July is a homemade berry pie. That’s how Gracie Taylor sees it anyway. Every year, Gracie fills her car with her homemade, piping hot pies and delivers them to the Sunflower Café just in time to score a prime spot to watch the town’s annual 4th of July parade.

Gracie’s pies are a town favorite. Only the early birds would go home with one of her pies in hand for their afternoon barbeque. Gracie’s pie recipe is usually reserved for family and special friends. But this year, as a special treat, she is sharing her grandmother’s recipe with you. 

Enjoy!

Patriotic Berry Pie

Ingredients

Crust:

·       2 cups flour

·       12 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½ inch chunks

·       1 teaspoon sea salt

·       2 Tablespoons honey

·       ½ to ¾ cup ice cold water

Filling:

·       6 cups fresh rinsed berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries) – remove stems

·       ½ cup flour

·       ¼ cup honey

·       1 T heavy cream

·       Juice and zest of 1 lemon

·       Pinch of sea salt

·       Sprinkle of cinnamon 

·       Dash of allspice

·       1 egg beaten well

·      ¼ cup caster or baker’s sugar

Instructions

Make the crust…

1.     Mix flour, butter, salt, and honey in a food processor and pulse 4-5 times until butter is the sized of small peas. Do not over mix.Add ¼ cup ice water and pulse on and off until pastry is just combined. Continue to add water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough holds together when pressed. On a floured surface, knead a few times and form a ball, divide into two and wrap in plastic for 1 hour or until ready to use.

Now, make the pie… 

1.     Mix the berries, flour, lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a medium bowl. 

2.     Combine honey and cream. Slowly add to berry mixture.

3.     On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Place one crust in a deep-dish pie pan with excess pastry hanging over the sides. Using a ¾”-diameter pastry tip or a wide straw, punch out holes in the remaining crust, covering an area just smaller than the diameter of pie dishfor steam to escape.

4.     Pour the berries into the prepared pie crust. Top with the second, punched out pie crust. Fold edges of top crust under edge of bottom crust and crimp edges. Brush top of pie crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

5.     Refrigerate the pie for 30 minutes.

6.     Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Set pie on a baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check it after about 25 minutes and cover with a piece of tinfoil if the top crust is getting too brown.

7.    Allow pie to rest for 30 minutes before serving.

Eternal Connections

Are you one of those curious folks that loves to go back in time, immerse yourself in the past, and imagine the way life was during the good ol’ days in your own hometown? Do you like to marvel at old vintage photos, dive into the lives of those long gone, or read letters of love found in a hope chest? 

In our novel, Home Sweet Sonoma, Gracie Taylor did. She was a religious notetaker—especially when it came to the fixing of her beloved historic church. 

Every thought she had, inspiration from above or a practical “to do” item, found its place in her journal pages where days turned into years documenting the painstaking effort and daily devotions that brought her home of worship to life. In her journal entries, one learned of the musty pew that was saved from a past fire and placed under the rosette window where the sun streamed in every afternoon. The wooden pew was a front row seat to her eclectic and sacred shrine that consisted of angels, candles, rosaries, and framed photos of her loved ones—still alive or in heaven. 

Interspersed in her journals, Gracie crafted and wrote down her oil concoctions that could heal a broken heart, many were sold at her downtown boutique, The Lavender Brat. She placed dried flowers inside the pages to serve as a book marker for the most current entry of the day. Through her writings, she believed she was making history, if even in a small way. Her stories could not be erased, nor buried and forgotten if they were written down, and perhaps her daughter, Kitty, would come to appreciate her passion for preserving the past inside her old historic church.

Journal writings are evidence we once existed, and if, when reading them today, they change a life—then the dead are never really dead. They live on. The eternal heart still beats with every word inside our living moments.

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Daine and India
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Do you have a favorite moment with your pet?

Normally, when we talk about family, we usually think of people. But aren’t pets a big part of the family, too? That’s certainly the case for Daine Shepherd. He’s devoted to his horse, India, and his old lab, Barley. Without them, he would be a lost soul living like a hermit in Sonoma.

For example, in our novel, Home Sweet Sonoma, the reader watches as a magical night in Gracie Taylor’s converted church filled with friends and laughter suddenly takes a bleak turn. It was the somber look on Daine’s face when he returned to his barn that brought his beloved pets to his side. They intuitively knew to stay near, keeping watch. If it wasn’t for Daine’s furry family, he wouldn’t have survived the night.

Come morning ... (excerpt taken from the book, page 92):

Daine needed to occupy his mind and decided to focus on stripping the finish off a wooden door. As the old oak yielded to the pressure of his strong hands, India his brown mare, poked her white-starred head through the stall window, sputtering on his neck and nudging him for breakfast.

He waved her away. “Cut me some slack, will ya girl? It’s been a rough night.”

Barley barked loudly in her face, punctuating his master’s command.

Daine reached down to pet Barley. “Just doing your job, huh boy?”

There’s something about the steady devotion that comes from our pets, always there for us just when we need them. It’s a comfort to know they would never leave our side in the best and even the worst of times.

~~~

Fun Facts: Did you know…

  • Horses will not lie down simultaneously because at least one will act as a look-out to alert its companions of potential dangers?

  • Horses use their ears, eyes, and nostrils to reveal their moods and express their feelings through facial expressions?

 

Deborah Parrish
How to Make Lemonade Out of Lemons: The Home Sweet Sonoma Way
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“Make lemonade out of lemons,” Wyatt would say to Kitty whenever that look on her face said she needed to talk. Wyatt liked to sit in front of his hardware store and watch the days go by, pausing every afternoon to take in the comings and goings of the town. It was something his father would do on those hot Sonoma afternoons long before there was any air conditioning. Wyatt’s father would bring out his own tasty concoction: sweaty home-brewed lemonade in those mason jars with a sprig of mint crushed on top. After sipping on this sunny beverage, Wyatt reminded Kitty that anything was possible with just this simple gesture of sharing a drink together.

When Kitty tragically lost her father, Wyatt gladly stepped right in. He tried to be there for her, just like his father was for him whenever he need some fatherly wisdom. Never having children of his own, he was grateful to serve as a father figure to Kitty. It meant a lot to him, given his ex-wife had no patience for children and only room for one love in her life -- and it wasn’t him.  

On any given weekend, Wyatt and Kitty would also love to share in a good mystery novel...that went well with freshly made lemonade. He knew just when to pick those lemons and plucked them from Gracie’s Meyer lemon trees on her property, and make some fresh. Together, they’d sit on the porch and talk for hours about the twist and turns in the story before book clubs even existed, basking in the slow Sonoma summers. 

Deborah Parrish
Drunk Dutch Babies™

Is there a more delicious breakfast than a mouth-watering, warm-out-of-the-oven Drunk Dutch Baby™ on a cool Sonoma morning?

Imagine sitting on the porch, feet dangling down as the crepe steams on your plate sprinkled with powdered sugar, topped with berries from Gracie’s garden. Then, with a mouthful of airy, fluffy and hot, dribbled with organic honey, it hits you. The berries pop on your tongue with a punch.

Gracie Taylor called these her Drunk Dutch Babies™ - berries soaked in booze (vodka if you dare, chardonnay if you don’t) and piled onto the delicious crepes-on-the-rise. All of the ingredients except for the alcohol, grew organically out of her bountiful garden: fresh blueberries, raspberries, and the honey right from her wild bee-buzzing hive. She had a cardinal rule. No poisons were allowed to go from farm to table in Gracie’s world. She planted by seed, preferring the heirloom varieties, and treated the earth with respect -- without pesticides.

Gracie not only planted seeds in her garden that naturally made their way in her bibled cookbooks, she planted seeds in the hearts of every Sonoma neighbor she touched. The question is could she plant the Daine Shepherd seed into Kitty’s heart?

 

** Try these beautiful, light, airy, fluffy and hot…dribbled with raw honey...piled high with "drunk" strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries - or "sober," just plain and simple. (Thanks to Joe for the inspiration!)

Deborah Parrish
Hardware Heaven
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What is it about that dusty old hardware store in the center of town that makes people think they can make anything? They wander aisles, curious, wondering what they will find around the next corner. And sure enough, they always did if they had the right owner working the shop.

Ever since he was a young boy, Wyatt enjoyed the smell of wood and the feel of old tools in his hands. He breathed it in like perfume as he worked alongside his father in Sonoma’s only hardware store called Dalton Hardware, while his mother was in charge of the family ranch on the outskirts of town. As soon as Wyatt was able to see over the counter, he was a store clerk, counting change, taking inventory, and watching his father like a hawk. He learned everything he knew about small town business at his father’s feet. But he learned about wood from the steady flow of local carpenters. Wyatt paid attention to what they bought, making sure to ask exacting questions that would make them eager to share the tricks of the trade. He fell in love with those tools, making sure the store was stocked with every kind imaginable, especially the ones that were hard to find.

For years, Wyatt and his father kept the store running like a well-oiled machine, listening to each one of their customers, becoming a landmark as the town grew up around them. The hardware store was the epicenter. Wyatt knew every face that crossed the threshold, every single name, and could sometimes tell what they were looking for even before they knew themselves.

After his father retired, Wyatt wasn’t sure about being a shopkeeper. In truth, he had dreamed of having his own woodworking business, building furniture and making art with wood. When Daine Shepherd came to town and took up residence in Wyatt’s old trailer, he believed he had met a kindred spirit. Even though they were years apart, he saw something in Daine that reminded him of himself. He was easy to talk to and cared deeply for the craft of woodworking, eager to learn. They struck up a fast friendship and Wyatt began connecting him to the people of Sonoma, weaving him into the fabric of the day-to-day. With Wyatt’s prized stamp of approval, Daine stayed pretty busy, and became christened, The Barn Doctor.

 

Here Comes the Sun Inside the Sunflower Café

Did you know that sunflowers rise in the east and follow the sun across the sky until it sets in the west? In order to grow, the sun is their universe and draws attention to it. With bold, happy blooms, it’s only fitting that their namesake is the sun itself. Grateful for its life-giving warmth, these smiling flowers devote their days to worshipping the sun. Sunflowers are not only stunningly beautiful, but they symbolize adoration, loyalty, and longevity.

In our new novel, Home Sweet Sonoma, the Sunflower Café is a central place for our characters to congregate, like planets revolving around the sun. Such a sunny blossom, there’s a reason our characters, Nora and Claire, chose the sunflower as the central theme for their bustling café on the Sonoma Plaza. Reflecting the warmth and friendliness of the café, the sunflower gets center stage, covering the walls with colorful murals, all the way down to the detailed carvings on the handmade oak tables. With elegance, the blooms not only provide a beautiful centerpiece with a hopeful message, but their tasty seeds are liberally added to the menu du jour.

FUN FACT: Sunflowers face towards the sun in what is known as phototropic movement. Due to the presence of auxin, a growth hormone in the stem, the flower actually bends. When the stem tip receives light, the concentration of auxin increases in the shaded side. This higher concentration of auxin causes that side away from the sun to grow faster, resulting in a positive phototropic curvature.

To stay connected, sign up for our newsletter at www.heartworkspress.com

 

 

Deborah Parrish
Come to The Lavender Brat

And Get a Glimpse Into Our Home Sweet Sonoma World Blog

The Perfect Place to Celebrate Mother’s Day.

 
 Here's a little hint: Next time you're vacuuming, sprinkle some dried blossoms on the floor and fill the room with fragrance.

Here's a little hint: Next time you're vacuuming, sprinkle some dried blossoms on the floor and fill the room with fragrance.

 

Have you ever crushed a lavender bloom in your hand and felt the oil on your skin? Unlike its sister blossoms that tend to be more appealing to women, the lavender fragrance is a more complex scent which appeals to both genders, making it one of the more popular essential oils.

At Gracie Taylor’s shop on the Sonoma plaza, The Lavender Brat was ground zero for all things lavender. Gracie spent her day blending exotic oils, used in her bottled perfumes, massage oils, soaps and lotions. Her special teas and herbs add unique flavors for cooking up earthly delights. It takes a lot of tiny buds to make one precious drop of lavender oil. Like Gracie, local chefs love her creations and you can see her influence all across the Sonoma Valley.

Locals can’t stop by Gracie’s store without a visit behind the shimmery gold curtain that Gracie called The Sugar ‘n’ Spice Corner. They would come in, hoping to get their hands on her Second Chances body oil and other exotic custom blends for couples wanting to amp up their love life.

Aren’t you dying to get some yourself? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

For a Do It Yourself organic Lavender Oil recipe, sign up for our newsletter at www.heartworkspress.com

Deborah Parrish
Welcome Home
 
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Welcome to our Home Sweet Home World blog where wine and romance blend together smoothly. It's a slow moving journey into what truly matters: love, friendship, hope, and forgiveness. Here, time stands still.

We’re so excited to share our blog with you, steeped in the little things, best enjoyed over a good slice of berry pie, a tearful moment, or much needed laugh, and never without a refreshing glass of rose, or chardonnay—whatever your tasting pleasure. 

Our novel, Home Sweet Sonoma, was born out of a deep-rooted love for home and hearth. For us, a small town is a living and breathing character, and serves as fertile ground for our heroine to get swept up in the web of romance, good food, wit and wine, and many other delightful surprises and buried secrets, and let’s not forget small-town shenanigans.  

Last October we experienced a surprise of our own. As we approached the completion of our first novel, Georgia's home in Sonoma came close to burning down, as wild fires threatened this community we cherish. Most of Sonoma was evacuated due to the devastating fires in Sonoma County, and in total, over 5,100 homes fell to ashes.

We will never be the same. And our awareness, appreciation, and gratitude for this precious little town tucked into the wine country will never be stronger.

This place is a sacred space for you to come and relish in a good read while sitting by the fire over a glass of chardonnay. (But at any time of the day will do. No rules here.) So, kick your high tops off and stay a while, wine country style.

If you'd like to donate to the victims of these devastating fires, you may do so here.