Category: Travel

ride of a lifetime

I Got Published! In A Book! It’s The Ride of a Lifetime!

Posted on April 16, 2015 by

the ride of a lifetime

Have you ever done something that seemed like a good idea at the time?

Have you ever jumped into a project, or an adventure just because you felt so strongly in your soul that it was the right thing to do?

When my kids and I started volunteering for a Nicaraguan non-profit called Seeds of Learning in 2010, I had no idea the impact it would have on each of us – it changed our lives.

We went from a small, college town in northern California to the mountains of Nicaragua to build schools. We went loaded with books, teaching supplies, fabric and yarn and crafts and puzzles and backpacks. We went with anticipation, trepidation, and a complete and utter inability to know what life was like in a developing country.

We went with a sense of adventure.

We came home with love, laughter, uplifted hearts and stories – lots and lots of stories.

I’ve written here about our escapades; stories of the people we loved, the simplicity of the lifestyle, and the anxiety I felt before we left. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of the lovely Nicaraguan boys and girls who eagerly embraced us strangers, and my heart aches for the mothers who try desperately to provide for their children, to give them an education, feed them, and raise them to find joy in the most impoverished of conditions.

Their stories are embedded in my heart.

A few months ago I heard of a website, Story Shelter, looking for true stories of adventure – stories from regular people who have taken risks, stepped out of their comfort zone, and faced challenges. They want to create a Chicken-Soup-style book – but with an edge.

I instantly thought of Nicaragua.

With a leap of faith, I submitted “Ride of A Lifetime”, and they loved it. Yesterday, it was published in their anthology titled “I Am Here: The Untold Stories of Everyday People”.

It’s such a thrill to see my story in print – real print, on paper. Old school style. And in an e-book for Kindle, too!

For the next few days it’s free for Kindle – click here to find it on Amazon.

The publishers put together a cool promotion page – you can see it here.

They also made a book trailer promotional video, and I’m in it:

I’m really thrilled to see my first print publication – I hope you’ll order it and enjoy my “Ride of A Lifetime”. It’s getting exciting!

Amazon Paperback Version: http://bit.ly/i-am-here-book

Amazon Kindle Version: http://bit.ly/imhereboo

primark

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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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…

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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!

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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We managed a light breakfast…

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…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!

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 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?

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 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

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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: Bend, Oregon for Rivers, Books, Coffee and Consignment Stores

Posted on July 9, 2014 by

I just got back from a quick road trip to Bend, Oregon; we try to have a family reunion there every year, but with growing families and adventurous kids, it’s hard to bring everyone together in one place at one time. I managed three days and nights of rivers, books, coffee and consignment stores-not to mention some great family time and outrageous sunsets!

Deschutes River, watching the swimmers.

Deschutes River, watching the swimmers.

For the kids, the big draw in Bend is swimming and floating in the Deschutes River-of which I did neither. I think I was the only one besides the grandmas who stayed dry – guess I’m officially OLD!

She was much braver than I!

She was much braver than I!

Bridge near Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon

Bridge near Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon

There’s lots of cool shopping in Bend – we started off in the Old Mill District. The teens loved the clothing, but I loved the Savory Spice Shoppe. I can’t wait to try out my Thai Green Curry and Ghost Pepper Salt!

Spices from Savory Spice Shoppe in Bend, Oregon

Next, the search was on for used books and clothes. We found huge amounts of both at two adjacent shops: The Open Book and City Thrift. Shopping for resale winter clothes makes much more sense in a mountain town! Did you know that many thrift/consignment stores sell used books at low, low prices?

City Thrift in Bend, Oregon

City Thrift in Bend, Oregon

We could hardly wait for coffee…and there are many choices in Bend! We headed for a favorite, Lone Pine Coffee downtown.

Cool outdoor seating at Lone Pine Coffee, Bend, Oregon

Cool outdoor seating at Lone Pine Coffee, Bend, Oregon

Next stop was Dudley’s Bookshope Cafe in downtown Bend. This place was that delicious combination of used books, big comfy chairs, delicious pastries and coffee…I never wanted to leave!

Dudley's Bookshop Cafe in Bend, Oregon

Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe in Bend, Oregon

Ju-bee-lee is a tiny gem tucked in amongst clothing stores and cafes. The shop offers gorgeous vintage-type clothing, soaps, lotions, artisan jewelry, cards, candles…it’s my ultimate kind of gift shop.

LOVED this store - ju-bee-lee in Bend, Oregon

LOVED this store – ju-bee-lee in Bend, Oregon

This cute quote caught my eye:

at ju-bee-lee in Bend, Oregon

Next, we found more gems at Rescue Consignment Shop; such fun to try on vintage/new dresses!

Rescue Consignment in Bend, Oregon

Rescue Consignment in Bend, Oregon

I love downtowns that invest in beauty.

Love the flowers in Downtown Bend, Oregon

Love the flowers in Downtown Bend, Oregon

Didn’t have time to stop here, but definitely would love to spend a hot afternoon at one of Bend’s microbreweries.

Deschutes Brewery and Public House in Downtown Bend, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery and Public House in Downtown Bend, Oregon

Can  you believe my morning view? Not a bad place to sip coffee!

morning meadow view near Bend, Oregon

morning meadow view near Bend, Oregon

On my last day, I took a walk alone back to the Deschutes River-not to swim, but just to take in the glory of the high desert.

near the Deschutes River, Oregon

near the Deschutes River, Oregon

Can you spot the desert flower?

near the Deschutes River, Oregon

river view of swimming hole, Deschutes River, Oregon

river view of swimming hole, Deschutes River, Oregon

They jumped off this?! Deschute River, Oregon

They jumped off this?! Deschute River, Oregon

On the way to the airport, a quick stop at Dutch Bros-one of my favorite West Coast chain coffee shops.

Central Oregon is home to Dutch Bros!

Central Oregon is home to Dutch Bros!

Just couldn’t resist one last sunset photo; this one of my niece sums up the beauty of my road trip to Bend, Oregon. Sunsets, rivers, shopping, coffee, books and family. It was a good, good time.

Sadie at sunset in Bend, Oregon

Sadie at sunset in Bend, Oregon


Bend on Dwellable

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: Healdsburg and Camellia Inn

Posted on November 16, 2013 by

Once a year, my husband and I get to take a weekend away to a bed and breakfast – you might remember our last adventure to Hanford House in Sutter Creek, California.

20130721-100702.jpgThis year our destination was Healdsburg, California, and in true road trip style, we made several stops along the way.

I love watching Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and when I travel and don’t know where to eat, I always search for a place Guy Fieri has visited – so far, I’ve never been disappointed.

We stopped at La Texanita in Santa Rosa, California, and were delighted with our meal.  You seriously don’t want to miss this food – the chicken huarache was one of the best I’ve ever had!

La Texanita huaraches

La Texanita tacos

Simple veggie tacos were so yummy, made with homemade tortillas…what a difference a tortilla makes!

La Texanita huaraches

La Texanita huaraches

After enjoying a sunny table outside and stuffing ourselves silly, we finished our drive and landed at Camellia Inn in Healdsburg.

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I love to take photos of the room before we mess it up!

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We had so much space to spread out; I could have stayed here for weeks!

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The rooms were beautiful, yet comfortable. It felt like a real living space, not something manufactured to look like one.

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Our room was tucked off the side of the main house, but just a short walk across the covered veranda took us into the dining room/living room area. I loved discovering all the collections!

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Just to keep pampering us, the owners of Camellia Inn host a wine and cheese tasting by the pool at dusk. We settled into the chairs, enjoyed the gorgeous warm evening and finished just a few bottles of local Zin.

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One of my favorite parts about this weekend was that everywhere I found myself I was able to sink in and enjoy the moment, the food, the wine, and the people. Downtown Healdsburg has a huge array of restaurants to choose from, and we eventually settled on Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar. Our appetizer of fried calamari could and probably should have been an entire course.20130721-101021.jpg

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But we had read about the warm lobster roll sandwich, so we had to try that,too!

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As if we needed more food…but couldn’t resist the home made breakfast served family-style in the dining room.20130721-101101.jpg

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If you like botique-style shopping, Healdsburg has a lot to offer. We usually go for the antique stores, but on this trip I was entranced with these bright colored fabric and festive designs.

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For us, no trip to Healdsburg would be complete without a stop at Madrona Manor, the country inn where we were married 19 years ago.20130721-101149.jpg

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It still takes my breath away.

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Now, there’s an organic vegetable garden lining the path I walked during my bridal procession.

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The cutting garden is astounding – rows and rows of flowers, so many different colors and textures. I wanted to stay there all day.

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I can’t say enough good things about Healdsburg; it’s really one of those places where you can just sit back and enjoy the day.

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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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The Pull of Nicaragua

Posted on November 13, 2013 by

Nicaragua

The wide, green valley spread out in front of me, bordered by craggy eruptions of hillside left over from some volcanic afterthought of long ago. The smoke tickled my nose as I gazed out, scanning for any sign of humanity. As far as I could see, not a road, building, tower, powerline or semblance of society was in sight. I was looking for what I knew to be real, not what really was.

At this precise moment I was alone, a feeling not often experienced by a mom, teacher, and wife. My children were somewhere nearby, but the vegetation masked any sign of company. I felt the stillness, the quiet only punctuated by the occasional crowing of a rooster or barking dog. Everywhere I looked was green, still, and lush.

The first time I heard about a volunteer trip to Nicaragua my attention was piqued. My life, up until then, was ridiculously scheduled and predictable-as predictable as a mom with two kids and a full time job can be. Adventure travel had ceased with the post-college backpacking-around-Europe-with-my-boyfriend escapade, and my world, although rich and full and satisfying, had taken on a somewhat banal existence. My children were ready to explore. I was ready to explore. The world was out there, and I needed to be in it.

Nicaragua wasn’t a place I had any special attachment to.  I could have gone any myriad of places, but as fate would have it, we landed in a country vast and untouched by modern hands. In Nica, no one has the latest model car or cell phone. Clothing is dated and faded, yet the people take extreme pride in their appearance. Wide grins, open arms and gentle spirits pulled me in, enveloping me with kindness. I found myself feeling safe in an unsettled space, surrounded by unfamiliar language and customs. Food, shelter and stories were eagerly shared despite our meager surroundings. It didn’t seem to matter where I came from; I was there, with them, in the moment. That was all that mattered.

Every day I scrutinized my surroundings with the eyes of an outsider, sure that the moment would come when my guard would go up. Acutely aware of my status, I attempted to melt into the backdrop and become one of them. I wondered how I would survive in their world, so unaffected by the 21st century. Far and wide the verdant landscape spread, lush and green, shrouding what should have been obvious to see. Day by day I found myself settling into the daily rhythm, following the beat of the culture around me. I was stripped of my shell, my core exposed in a way I found frighteningly unprotected yet blissfully liberating.

The pull of Nicaragua altered my former shy and timid inner child into a woman no longer afraid to take risks, to step into the world and seek out the unexpected. The pull of Nicaragua transformed me, like a soldier burning to fight an unknown enemy or discover a place far beyond their imagination. The pull of Nicaragua liberated me, helping me discover what was real.

This post was inspired by The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P.S. Duffy. Angus enlists in the Nova Scotia WWI regiment and travels Europe to search for his missing in action best friend and brother-in-law. Along the way Angus discovers more than he ever wanted to know.Join From Left to Write on November 14 as we discuss The Cartographer of No Man’s Land.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

 

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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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