Recipe for a Perfect Birthday Weekend

20 Sep

Celebrating Another Year in Style… 

Mike makes beer, Mike makes pickles and Mike cooks up a mean birthday weekend. We just returned from three days in Mendocino County where he was able to mix in all the ingredients to create Sarah’s Perfect Weekend. My idea of an ultimate weekend is kind of like a gumbo of activities thrown into a long-weekend crock pot (MN reference!). The array of activities may seem like an odd mix, but when all thrown together makes for one tasty weekend.

Ingredients for Sarah’s Perfect Weekend:

  1. A dash of camping
  2. A bit of exploring
  3. Champagne and cheese (the secret sauce!)
  4. A memorable sunset
  5. Something related to cooking and baking

Ingredient #1: A Dash of Camping

Northern California has so many exciting areas to camp that we have to force ourselves to branch out from the old favorites and try new places. Mike found *FREE* camping in Jackson State Forest a few miles south of Fort Bragg which is a victory in itself with state parks now charging $35 a night.

Dunlap Camp

We were nervous because there was little information online and the 1980’s-looking website didn’t build any confidence either, however, when we pulled into Dunlap Camp we were pleasantly surprised to find a grove of redwoods with roomy sites along a shaded creek.

All the worries melted away as we chose a site and set up camp!

Campsite at Jackson State Forest


Then we did some exploring along the river. Of course, being the 12-year-old boy I am, I decided I needed to hop from shaky rock to shaky rock to cross the river and actually managed to do so without getting completely soaked.


We discovered that the park was filled with blackberry bushes! A half hour was spent collecting berries and enduring thorny scratches all for the promise of crunchy blackberry crisp when we got home. Yum!

Wild blackberries everywhere!

Got it!


After the campground was fully explored we set off on a hike through the redwoods.

Stroll through the trees

Normally Mike looks tall…

Up completing what felt like an all uphill hike, we were ready for some dinner. Mike grilled up some BBQ turkey burgers with a side of apple ‘n celery coleslaw (recipes to follow!).

Master chef

BBQ burgers and apple celery slaw

Ingredient #2: A Bit of Exploring

Spending the night in a rugged, redwood oasis was truly amazing. I love how camping involves leaving behind all the comforts of home to really focus on what matters – good food, beautiful surroundings and great conversation. After a solid night’s sleep, it was time to depart from our cozy wilderness and continue our adventure in Fort Bragg, a coastal town 10 miles north of Mendocino.

First stop? Beer tasting of course. North Coast Brewing Company is known for their Brother Thelonious Abbey Ale and Scrimshaw Pilsner.


Tasty, but no standouts. I was actually disappointed with their Farmhouse Ale, which is typically a favorite style of mine.

When planning the trip, Mike had found a cool beach with an interesting story that we went to check out next. Glass Beach was a public dump in the 1950’s, but after years of the water crashing against the shore, the discarded glass was polished creating smooth, pebble-like stones.

Glass Beach

Trash to treasure

Gorgeous rugged North Coast

Ingredient #3: Champagne and Cheese (the secret sauce!)

I have to say this is my favorite ingredient, made possible by a fantastic deal from Groupon. We got an ocean view room at a B&B, bottle of champagne, chocolate and a gourmet breakfast all for $149. Heaven.

We arrived at the Greenwood Pier Inn and were immediately blown away. Beautiful grounds, friendly staff and insane views.

Mike selected the Bluebird Room which I loved. I’m really not into the typical grandma’s house B&B decor, so I was thrilled to see that our room was really cute and lacking in doilies and lace.

Greenwood Pier Inn

Rooms at the Greenwood Pier Inn

Yup, ocean view is right

View from our balcony

The grounds of the B&B, made up of three separate buildings, were scattered with brightly color flowers that attracted a wide range of birds.

So beautiful

Ok, now this was my favorite part – the ingredient that elevated the weekend – we cracked open the bottle of champagne the B&B provided, sliced up some local cheese we had picked up in Ft. Bragg and enjoyed the pairing on our picturesque balcony. Ahhhh.

The cheese selection included a smoked blue, jalapeno jack and a Wisconsin award-winning goat's milk cheese we picked up on our recent trip to Minnesota

Chocolate covered strawberries for dessert

Ingredient #4: A Memorable Sunset

The Greenwood Pier Inn had a hot tub on the edge of a cliff. After finishing our champagne and cheese we rushed over to catch the sunset and chatted with a wonderful older couple from Chicago who were visiting their daughter for the week.

"Dragon" hot tub

Hot tub view

We didn’t grab the camera for the actual sunset, but it was absolutely gorgeous and memorable. Watching a sunset over the Pacific Ocean is something everyone should experience, especially from a cliff-side hot tub!

The next morning the cafe, which of course has an ocean view as well, served us a gourmet breakfast of green eggs and ham, rosemary potatoes, fresh fruit and homemade orange-scented scones. I wish I had taken a picture.

I was so sad to leave this special place, but we had a few final things to look forward to on the trip home.

Ingredient #5: Something Related to Cooking or Baking

Apple picking! This past spring Mike and I had visited, and fell in love with, a produce farm just west of Santa Rosa. The farmer specialized in Asian pears and mentioned he would also have apples in late summer. I had to go back.

Along the quiet, winding road to reach the apple farm, we came across another farm stand where I picked up some squash and tasted a few of their apples.

Bates & Smitt Apple Farm

Loved their labels

Hidden rose (whoa! its pink inside)

Once we arrived at Gabriel Farms we grabbed an apple basket and started picking!

Golden Delicious

Oo, artsy

This is my idea of fun

Clowning around


Pretty good haul - 9.5 pound

This was the perfect end to a perfect weekend. I can’t wait to start baking with all the fresh fruit and vegetables I collected! Thank you Mike for an amazing birthday. I feel so special.


5 Responses to “Recipe for a Perfect Birthday Weekend”

  1. Mplsnyc (@Mplsnyc) September 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Looks like a perfect Birthday weekend!

  2. Kathy Sonn September 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    Sarah, Thank you so much for sharing your birthday weekend with us. I felt like I was there with you. Oh, that would be a strange thought. But thanks anyway. Continue to write about your adventures and maybe someday you can turn it into a book for your kids to read. Love you!

    • sarahsonn September 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

      That would be cool! It would be like a overblow scrapbook!

  3. Mama September 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    It all looks wonderful! Mama

    • sarahsonn September 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      You would have LOVED the B&B mama. Beautiful flowers everywhere and I could hear the waves crashing when I woke up.

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