Month: July 2014

My Best Life July 2014: A Month of Quiet

Posted on July 31, 2014 by

My Best July:

The month of July was quiet -sometimes, WAY too quiet. My grown-up girl has spent her summer working as a ski camp counselor at her beloved Mt. Hood, Oregon. My thinks-he’s-grown-up son has been back and forth between Mt. Hood and Lake Tahoe, and when he’s actually at home his social life keeps him WAY too busy for my liking. Even my husband took off for a few days, leaving me and the dog alone to deal with the 100+ heat and a kitchen flood that’s turning into a big-deal-long-awaited remodel. When my kids were little I longed for the kind of quiet I have now, but as time passes more and more quickly every day, I realize that those crazy, hectic, sweaty summers with two little kids were absolutely ethereal. With a blink of an eye, ten years whooshes past…so this July, I made my best life amidst the quiet. I’ve read, written, photographed, cleaned, organized, traveled, and walked, attempting to find the best in every moment. To read all of my blog posts from July, click here.

Best Quotes:

I’m a collector of quotes. I find great wisdom and inspiration in words, and I’m frequently suprised and delighted at the end of the month when I look back at those quotes I’ve chosen to share on my blog, Twitter, or Facebook. Here’s some of my favorites from July:

“Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.” #AnneLamott #quote

“The reality of what we really are is often times found in the small snips, way down at the bottom of things.” Jean Shepherd

“There are voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.” Emerson

“After all, it is those who have a deep & real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.”E. Underhill

“Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine.” Kathleen Norris

Best Moment:

I’ve found myself having a bit too much quiet time this month; I know, you parents of small children are thinking I’m crazy, but honestly, my kids are growing up and going in different, independent directions, and they’re hardly ever at home. Combine their wanderlust with their ski training at Mt. Hood, and I’ve found myself away from my daughter since mid-June. The best moment for me this month was when she took her only day off and hitched a ride (or convinced two boys to drive her, not sure which is the truth) from Mt. Hood to Bend, just to spend five glorious hours with me. We packed in a day of shopping, great coffee, hugs, river swims, coloring (yes, teens still like to color) and catching up with the fam. Peanut, thank you so much for that gift of your time. It kept me going for the last few weeks!

L on the Deschutes River

L on the Deschutes River

Best Blog Reads:

My dear friend, Dawn Wink, introduced me to the, and I just had to share it with you all. Not only do they use gorgeous art work to share their mission statement: “We are on a wild and crazy mission to find all of the brave women of the world…to help them find each other…then to change the world with good news, good ideas, good people, and good times,” but they also have lots of great essays, blog posts, and even a daily truth email, Facebook page and Instagram feed that offer lovely doses of inspiration. I loved this one from their Facebook feed titled, “Dear Super Smart Girl”. I think every mom should subscribe!

Best Photo:

Ok, I’m gonna brag a bit here…I didn’t take this photo myself, but I love it so much because it captures my brave girl in all her glory! Not only has she worked away from home all summer (I know-harder on me than it is on her!) but she has become a licensed Class 2 bus driver in the state of Oregon! Love her confidenc

e!L is a licensed bus driver!

Best Books:

Oh, this one is easy-peasy! I stumbled onto Nancy E. Turner’s amazing series about turn-of-the-century Arizona, and fell in awe of Sarah, her feisty, feminine and all-around awesome main character. I’d actually bought the first book in the series, These Is My Words, for my mom as part of a Christmas book bonanza gift (she’s a voracious reader, too). I could not put that book down, and to my complete delight, I discovered that it was merely the first in a series of three novels that trace Sarah’s life as she fights to survive on the ‘territories’. If you love historical fiction with strong female characters, you MUST read this series!

These Is My Words

Best Road Trip:

I took two amazing trips this month: one to Bend, Oregon, and one to Calistoga, California. I’d have to call the Bend, Oregon trip the ‘best road trip’ simply because I got to spend eight hours in the car with my mom. It was such a treat to have her all to myself-the hours whizzed by, and I was keenly aware of how precious time with your parent can be – are you hearing me, kids? Aside from the drive, the three days I spent in Bend with my extended family were pretty spectacular-I shared some of the highlights in my post, travel with mamawolfe: Bend, Oregon for Rivers, Books, Coffee and Consignment Stores. 

Best Quiet Place:

During my stay in Bend, we spent a bit of time down on the Deschutes River. The kids loved to jump from rocks, swim, and hang out on the ‘island’. I’m not much of a swimmer, but certainly hovered while my girl flew through the air into the water. The morning I left I took a quiet walk alone down to the river and just sat and thought about this amazing life I get to live.

Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon

Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon

Best View:

This one ties in with my best road trip – the most amazing sunset I’ve seen in a long time. I found myself glued to the deck chair, snapping photos every few minutes. I was convinced it couldn’t get any better, and after two hours of beauty, this took my breath away.

Sadie at sunset

Sadie at sunset

Best Selfies:

My kids get so mad when I try to take selfies with them…here’s a few of my faves from July:

L at Mt. HoodBend, OregonL and Mom in BendC on the way to Hood

Best Tweets:

From Stephen King: Revised Tea Party Gospel: “Suffer the little children come unto me. Unless they’re undocumented kids from Central America.”

This one really hit home for me; I’m so tired of all the arguing about these children being brought by their parents to our country. When I heard one of our country’s politicians call them ‘criminals’, I just about lost it. Despite what you might think about our immigration policies, these children are far from criminals. They are children. Their parents are doing what any one of us would do – well, maybe some of us wouldn’t actually be brave enough to do what they’re doing. Having spent time in Nicaragua and seen first hand the absolute poverty many families are living in in Central America, all I can think is that extreme situations call for extreme actions, and we need to do better than labelling innocent children as ‘criminals’. They are humans, and we can find a way to figure this out.

Best Morning Ritual:

I’m definitely a creature of habit, which sometimes drives my husband crazy. I’ve been thinking a lot this month about solitude – maybe because I’ve had so much of it forced upon me this month – and one thing I know about myself is that I require a certain amount of it as a morning ritual. My best day starts off with quiet, coffee, reading, writing, and after approximately 1.5 LARGE mugs of a good Central American roast, I’m able to face my day. Throw in my list-making, dog-walking, #quoteoftheday tweet and a small bite to eat, and I’m good to go on full speed for the next 15 hours or so!


Best Wardrobe Staple:

I’m totally into the maxi dress this month – have you tried them? If I can wear them (I’m only 5’2″, you know), so can you! I picked up a little black one during a shopping spree with my girl last month, and am absolutely in love with it. It’s super hot here in the summer, but when I slip this on I just feel comfy!

Best California Food:

Since our kitchen has been torn apart this month due to a minor flood (it’ll all be back better than ever next month!), we’ve been eating out WAY more than normal – kind of awesome, actually. We’ve had it all this month – Thai, Italian, Chinese, American, and LOTS of Trader Joe’s prepared foods (have you tried their butternut squash/quinoa salad? It’s delish), but the memorable meal and true California food goes to our dinner at Season’s in Davis – the three of us devoured our plates of mozarella stuffed turkey meatballs over penne pasta, tiger shrimp skewers with peppered fettuccine, arugula, garlic mushrooms, copacolla ham and a white wine sauce, and a rosemary rubbed pork chop served over a mushroom risotto cake, swiss chard, pancetta jus, roasted red pepper and gorgonzola sauce. And no, we didn’t have room for dessert!

tiger shrimp at Season's in Davis

tiger shrimp at Season’s in Davis

Best Recent Read:

I’m smack in the middle of Erin Lindsay McCabe’s novel, I Shall Be Near To You, and so far I cannot put it down.  Combine that with getting to know the writer via Twitter, and I know this will be one of my fave summer reads! Look for a review (and if I’m lucky, and author Q/A, on the blog next month).

I Shall Be Near To You

Dear reader, what word best describes your month of July? Wishing you great possibilities and bit of quiet in August – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe.

Each month I write about what makes up ‘my best life’. To see all ‘My Best Life’ posts in one place, click here. I’m always on the lookout for what makes life amazing – I’d love to connect with you on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, too!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Summer Vacation Traditions To Start Right Now

Posted on July 29, 2014 by

Since I’m a school teacher, my family anticipates summer vacation in a big way.  As a mom to two teens, some of our summer vacation traditions have changed over the years to adapt to growing bodies and new interests. And as one child prepares for college and another for high school, it seems like family vacation time is more precious than ever. Over the years there are a few summer vacation traditions we’ve enjoyed-and they don’t involve plane flights, itineraries or long car trips! If you hurry, you can start now, whether your kids are toddlers, tweens or teens, and enjoy the fun for years to come!

Major or Minor League Baseball Games

Growing up I have fond memories of attending LA Dodgers games with my grandparents.  My dad always made sure we made it to the San Francisco Giants or Oakland A’s ballparks a few times each season, too.  With my family, we like to spend afternoons or evenings at our local AAA ballpark.  The kids love bringing blankets, baseball gloves and autograph pens and hanging out in the ‘cheap seats’ area of ‘Home Run Hill’.  The family atmosphere allows kids to move around, and parents to socialize and get a great view of the game.  Plus, it’s budget friendly!




What kid doesn’t like a good old fashioned treasure hunt?  Combine that with a relaxing walk, bike or scooter ride, and geocaching is a great all-ages summer tradition to start with your family.  All it takes is an Internet connection – either at home or on a smart phone – with a website to provide clues, some curiosity, and a few little trinkets to fill the ‘cache’ when you find it!  Geocaching’s goal is to find hidden treasures, called geocaches.  They range in difficulty, making geocaching an activity that is pleasurable for young and old alike.

Pizza and Movie Night

Choosing one night each week to devote to a family pizza and movie night gives everyone something to look forward to.  In my family it’s Friday Night Pizza Night – we either make a pizza from scratch, or if it’s been a busy week we order ahead for a premade treat.  Let the kids help choose one (or two) movies that appeal to everyone, and snuggle in for food and flicks!

It is in the small moments together that we often make the most important memories with our children. Although it might not seem like it in the midst of summer, our moments with our children are right now, and next summer they’ll be entirely different creatures. Try starting these three summer vacation family activities now, and before you know it, a tradition is born!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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travel with mamawolfe: Relax at the Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort in Calistoga

Posted on July 27, 2014 by

Greetings from Calistoga, California!


Most people think of the Napa Valley for wine, of course, but there is SO much more there than driving around doing tastings. Quaint towns such as St. Helena, Yountville, Healdsburg, Sonoma and Calistoga each offer chances for a romantic weekend spent riding bikes, walking the town, antique shopping, eating our unbelievable fresh northern California produce, and most of all, relaxing.


Have you ever been somewhere and immediately had that feeling that this will be a place you come back to over and over again?

That’s exactly how I felt when I first slipped into one of three mineral pools at the Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort in Calistoga, California. Bliss. Perfection. And I instantly knew that this was going to be an indulgent 24 hours and that, yes, I would definitely be back. Calistoga is one of those tiny towns that’s off the radar of most people, but since it’s divinely close to my home, it’s an easy day or overnight trip. For us, a once-a-year overnight-without-kids is about all we can manage with our schedules-last year we had a great trip to Healdsburg!


The Roman Spa isn’t an over-the-top fancy schmancy kind of spa; it’s clean, comfortable, quiet and if a girl wanted to, she could indulge in all the spa-type treatments…but me? I’m perfectly just happy indulging in what The Roman Spa is best known for – their mineral pools. Their website describes The Roman Spa as “ A hot springs paradise of invigorating waters intimately set among flowering Mediterranean gardens, private patios, splashing fountains, and a staff dedicated to your ultimate relaxation and pleasure. This is the perfect Calistoga hotel and spa to explore the wine country, stroll through Calistoga, sample Napa Valley’s best restaurants, or pamper yourself with intimate spa treatments” and I’d have to agree.

Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort artichoke

They even had artichokes growing outside the rooms!

One of my favorite spots, after soaking in one of the three mineral pools, was right here! I preferred the outdoor pool, which is kept around 94 degrees-perfect to float around, book in hand, and feel the minerals working their magic. For those who enjoy the heat, there is an indoor pool kept around 100 degrees, and an outdoor HOT jacuzzi that hovers around 105!

Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort

Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort outdoor pool


I found it super relaxing to sit in the shade and read – I finished L.Y. Marlow’s great World War 2 love story, A Life Apart, while I was there!


Calistoga has basically one main street, but it is chock-full of fine dining restaurants, cafes, and cute bistros like the one we chose for dinner, All Seasons Bistro. I always check Yelp when I travel for reviews and ideas, and this place came so highly rated we knew it would be perfect. It surely didn’t disappoint…


Since it was a weeknight, we had our choice of seats. We wanted to be right in the middle of the action of this quaint little spot. I loved the black and white tile floors, the RED ceiling, and full, old fashioned bar running along one side.

To start, I had one of the most delicious salads ever – their roasted beets, organic mache and arugula, with shaved pickled fennel, feta cheese, toasted pistachios, and citrus vinaigrette. Oh-my-goodness was it good! The red and gold beets were thinly sliced and placed on the bottom of the salad like a little treasure! The shaved fennel was just subtle enough to add a tang, and the light dusting of feta added a creamy touch. It seriously would have been enough for a meal in itself, but there was so much more to choose from!


One of their most highly rated plates is the risotto with spring vegetables, and I can see why. The risotto was perfectly al dente, the sauce gently coating each grain with yummy goodness. The veggies were crisp and fresh, adding gorgeous color and texture. I could have eaten the whole plate; well, I did share a little…


John went for the braised lamb shank served over creamy polenta, a touch of braising juices, Swiss chard, crispy shallots, and just a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds to give a little burst of happiness in your mouth. Decadent. He loved every bite!


And yes, there’s always room for dessert…as long as you have time to take a long walk afterwards! I couldn’t resist their specialty: warm dark chocolate torte served with housemade cookies and cream ice cream, topped off with a ‘drizzle’ of rich, fudgy chocolate sauce. When we cut into the torte, the warm fudge sauce just oozed all over the plate, making one gooey, chocolatey ball of yum. Yep. As good as it was, we could hardly finish it.


After a walk, a nightime swim and a solid sleep, it was time for breakfast. Calistoga is kind of sleepy, but we found a ‘traditional’ diner, Cafe Sarafornia.  According to their website the story of their name is thatCalifornia’s first millionaire—Sam Brannan—bought up the geyser lands in the upper Napa Valley, on the prospect that it would be a great place to build a resort for his well-heeled San Francisco friends. When asked what how he intended to accomplish this feat while co-imbibing with said friends, Mr. Brannan was purported to have said, “I’m going to make it the Calistoga of Sarafornia!” (what he meant to say was the “Saratoga of California” after the then world-famous Saratoga Springs in New York). Hence the name of the town, the name of the diner.”

I like little trivia bits like that.


We managed a light breakfast…


…because we were heading for a morning of mineral baths, reading, relaxing, and then LUNCH in Napa on the way home!

We found this little treasure on Yelp as well – it’s called Melted, and their tiny cafe specializes in sandwiches-melted, of course! This one is called “It’s Been A Long Time Cousin”, and after one bite we knew why the hostess asked us if we like it HOT! WOW! Roasted chicken breast, jack cheese, habanero salsa with a side of pickled okra all on this crispy waffle type bread…amazing. Oh-and a cup of warm tomato soup for dipping, too!


 The much milder “Bread Crumb Trail’ featured turkey, Jarlsberg cheese, candied yams, cranberrOh and chive aioli, all on that mysterious waffle bread…how do they do that?


 And, sigh, after a nice lunch on their patio, it was back home. 24 hours of soaking, reading, relaxing and EATING sure did a body good!

Read about more beautiful hot springs in California here.

Calistoga on Dwellable

 Related articles




Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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My Eccentric Grandma Grace

Posted on July 24, 2014 by

One of Grandma Grace's dress designs.

One of Grandma Grace’s dress designs.

My mom lives in an old adobe cottage originally  purchased by my great-grandparents. For three generations this tiny home has been the place people go to live when they’re done with the big city, or just need a change. I’ve been told that Grandma Grace loved stone houses; maybe it was their solidity that drew her to them, or the way one feels so anchored to that place when sitting by the fire on a cool summer afternoon. Maybe it was just her opinionated spirit, a woman who knew what she wanted-I’ll never really know for sure.

Grandma Grace has always been a sort of eccentric shadow in my life. Although she and Pops moved to California in the 1940s, the adobe wasn’t the first house she bought on the California coast; legend has it that she was a huge fan of log cabins, and chose one as a summer vacation spot long before she made the move from St. Louis. Some people say it’s still haunted; personally, I believe them. Spirits like hers don’t just leave easily.

She was a small woman, with a huge personality. Not many women in the early 1900s had the courage to start their own business and employ their husbands in their dress designing company, but Grandma Grace did. She was the original entrepreneur, starting off by sewing her own clothes, then churning that home business into a successful design company. I still have boxes of lace and buttons she left behind, lingering like shadows of a world I never knew.

When I think of women in the 1940s, I think about a culture which required civility, meekness, and a certain sort of knowing one’s place in the world. I’m not sure I would have survived. At that time, women were unlikely to be the head of a household, own businesses or be divorced – and my Grandma Grace was all three. Of course, she ultimately remarried my great-grandfather, with my grandmother as her maid-of-honor; just another example of eccentric Grandma Grace.

I can just imagine Grandma Grace and her ladies together, teacups in front, maybe a flask to their side, discussing their desire to be themselves despite what conventional stereotypes might have dictated for women at the time. A sort of modern-day book group – without the book, but with the drinking.  I like to think she would have agreed with people like Bertrand Russell who said, “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”

I have to believe a bit of her eccentric spirit lives on in me today. I think she would have liked that.

This post was inspired by’s word of the day, |eccentric|.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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reading with mamawolfe: A Life Apart by L. Y. Marlow

Posted on July 14, 2014 by

“Beatrice leaned into her daughters,  powerless to halt another round of tears. She thought about all that had happened, all that she had done, the years of deception and betrayal and hurt. And as her daughters held her, their contact comforting and familiar, she thought of them, and of Emma and Morris, all the lives that she had changed. So many lives. And she cried as she thought about Agnes.” ~ from A Life Apart

A Life Apart, a new novel by L.Y. Marlow, delves into the themes of race relations, love and family. A Life Apart is set first in World War II, focusing on a young sailor, Morris, and his wife Agnes. The novel is told from multiple points of view, each chapter switching narrators. The story begins in 1941 Hawaii, just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and concludes in 1970s Boston. During the 30-plus year time span, L. Y. Marlow weaves a complex story of Morris, his wife and daughter, and Beatrice, a woman he meets when he returns home after surviving the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Spanning nearly 50 years, A Life Apart subtly weaves the stories of Beatrice and Morris while breathing life into the often forgotten memories of both white and African-American soldiers in World War II.

I was immediately drawn to A Life Apart because of its historical time period. I love learning about history through reading, and when I realized that A Life Apart delves into the race relations of the time period I knew this book would be something unique. Interestingly, what I ended up enjoying most about the story was the character of Beatrice, the young African-American woman Morris meets after the returning to Boston in 1942. Beatrice was a well-developed character; through her I could feel the pain of not only living within the societal confines placed on women in the 1940s, but also could begin to glimpse a life I’ve never experienced – a life where segregation dictated nearly every aspect of life. I admired Beatrice’s strength as she grappled with the pull of her heart against the ties society imposed against her. I respected her strength of character, as well as her ability to stay true to herself. In the end of the book I was intrigued with her ability to go beyond herself and make amends, not because she had to, but because she felt it was the right thing to do.

I felt at times that the plot of A Life Apart took some huge leaps; relationships were built a bit too quickly, and especially in the beginning of the book I found myself questioning if this would really happen with the speed and expediency that the author created relationships. I wondered if it would have been so ‘easy’ to give into the pull of the heart, especially knowing how deeply Beatrice was rooted in propriety. Towards the end, however, I began to fall into the rhythm of the story, and found myself eager to uncover each new element of the plot. 

In the end, I would rate A Life Apart by L.Y. Marlow four out of five stars. For readers looking for an easy-to-read historical fiction novel about World War II and the aftermath with realistic characters, this novel will satisfy.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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