This has been a wonderful year for seeing some of my favorite people. Adam and his lovely lady, Suzy, visited me in March, one of my dearest friends since preschool, Mandy, got married to her college sweetheart, Billy. And I was able to revisit my college town, Columbia, Missouri, with two of my favorite dudes — Jake and Mike.
Plus, I’m going to visit my friend Beena — after four dang years of not seeing each other — her husband, Daniel, and her cute newborn, Ashoka John Green, when I go home for Christmas!
So when I found out my bestie from college, Abbeebee, was heading west to spend a week seeing all the wonderful sights in California, I was ecstatic. Having spent more than four years out here, I frequently tell her about all of the wonderful friends and people I have met. It was so great for her to get to see Lodi, Sacramento, the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the City by the Bay. We spent the week with such a good mix of fun activities and relaxing down time. Here are the highlights from Lodi and Sacramento and then, I’ll do a whole post on our last three days of tourist activities.
We started the week off right with a late night In-and-Out Burger run straight from the airport. Because what’s more California than that place.
The next day we rented some kayaks and headed out to Lodi Lake and the Mokelumne River with my friend, Andrea. We took tall boys to drink (classy!) and then after that we went to dinner at Chili’s, which is kind of our place (classy again!)
We saw several wonderful license plates, including our favorite saying and Abby’s initials.
We went to The Dancing Fox, ate blue cheese pizza and drank coffee (sometimes you need weird combinations like that), and visited with my friend, Sara.
And we spent part of a day wine tasting. Lodi has dozens of tasting rooms, both in Downtown and at wineries in the area. We talked about ice wine at Jeremy Wine Co. and then went to Oak Farm Vineyards, where I have never been to taste before. We even took a little walk to check out their beautiful property.
We then spent an evening and a lazy morning with Lauren at her aunt’s house where she was housesitting. I was so incredibly excited for these two important ladies in my life to meet and to enjoy some downtime on the farm.
For the first time, Abbeebee made scrambled eggs with farm fresh eggs. They were delicious.
Puss Puss, the cat, really liked Abby and was excited to have another member added to her staff (since your only job while housesitting there is to make sure this sweetheart is content).
Then, we drove up to Sacramento and spent a night out at some of my favorite bars. It was so nice to have girl talk. The third place we went actually had metal detectors they waved up and down us before we went in. I said, welcome to California!
The next day we brunched in the warm California sun with blood orange mimosas at The Shack, Abby got to check out the Mercantile Saloon with Patrick and Paul and we walked around the Capitol and the International World Peace Rose Garden.
On the last Sacramento day, we enjoyed grilled chicken and veggies on the grill with Patrick and Paul and their pups. The first couple of days were a relaxing way to start a vacation.
This morning I am sipping coffee, listening to the water drain from last night’s rain and petting a purring sitting under my chair. It feels like a moment of peace has been a long time coming. This has been a month of extremes: a weekend chalked full of kayaking and going to a concert at a local bar and then a weekend of food poisoning and Netflix.
Fall has arrived and every where I look the colors are dazzling. After reading blogs for two months about fall starting everywhere but California, I say it’s about time.
I handmade some cinnamon apple dumplings.
And I spotted crab apples for the first time.
Realizing that sunlight is now precious after the time change (literally Lauren and I both had days where we didn’t see the sun at all at work), we have built little outings into our day-to-day routine. We eat lunch at Lodi Lake and have started our afternoon walks again where we look for treasures, like campers.
Last week, I talked with my wonderful friend, Beena, who just gave birth to a beautiful son named Ashoka John. I am so glad mom, dad and baby are healthy and happy. I put together a little package for him, and I loved thinking about their brand new family while shopping. He is the cutest, and I cannot wait to meet him and read “Goodnight Moon,” my favorite childhood book.
Lauren and Dan won an award for a story they worked on about one of our newspaper carriers, Jeff Kooyman. This week everyone was finally in the same place to take a picture with the plaque. I was so excited for both of them to be recognized for their amazing talent, and I was also excited for Jeff because he was so proud to be featured. If you haven’t read the story and watched the video, you should take a look.
I started a new planner that I love, love, love and Lauren made me a cute little bottle for my desk.
My friends Christy and Dan came down from Sacramento for some fall kayaking with Andrea and Mike, and we went to catch the last little bit of the cranes flying in. Kayaking is quickly becoming one of my favorite weekend activities. I still need to develop the photos from my instant camera. (Photo courtesy of Dan)
The next day, Sara and I went to the Whiskey Barrel Saloon for an AC/DC Tribute band. So much hair. So much hair. I really love the feel of this bar.
And then food poisoning. But at least I had Katie and Dan’s animals to nap with me every afternoon, and I caught up on Parks and Recreation.
And also, FaceTiming with animals. During a much needed conversation with the lovely Abby, her cat, Gulliver, was able to meet I-Lean for the first time. He was so happy he yawned. Later that day, my dog Willie and I said hello. He always sniffs the air while I’m talking. This for sure helped speed up the healing process.
So in short, life has been really wonderful lately. Happy Thanksgiving!
Today I’m simultaneously dreaming of a cozy weekend listening to the rain fall and the heat of sunshine on bare legs at the beach. California can be funny like that. One day a couple months ago, Lauren and I needed to get out of town. So we grabbed our warmest sweatshirts and headed to the coast. Growing up travelling to beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, it still is weird to put on layers and layers to head to the water.
The day started at Half Moon Bay with clouds and a chill. We sat on the beach, listening to the roll of the waves, reading books and watching people pitch kites up into the air.
We brought a cute little picnic lunch in a cooler and enjoyed it on the beach on a blanket with oh-so-colorful plates. My hair also became a lovely mess.
Once the sun finally peeked out from behind the clouds, we walked up and down the beach, letting the water tickle our feet and ankles, not daring to wade much deeper than that. There was hardly anyone out along our walk, with the exception of a relaxed horse back rider and a few sun bathers.
After we left the beach, we headed into town to see the sights of Half Moon Bay. It was the little details I appreciated in this town from the carved shop signs to the flowers blooming in unexpected places to the general store where we picked up homemade salad dressing and jam.
We stopped at a cute restaurant where I had delicious vegan shrimp cakes, greek salad, hummus and pita bread. It was a nice way to unwind from the beach (yes, even the beach can zap the energy out of you). You should check out Lauren’s blog on the trip too. Once we head into winter, I will be ready to head back to this little town again.
On a breezy afternoon, Miss Lauren and I left her family after hiking through Jacks Peak and headed to the sea. This was one of my favorite trips to the ocean, even though it was fairly short. We took so many photos, I collected stones and shells from the beach and we hopped from stone to stone finding treasure in each of the tidal pools.
One of my favorite parts of Monterey is the surrounding hills that surround the Bay. In this area, there was an abundance of succulents, scary cliffs that overlooked the waves crashing on the rocks and strikingly purple flowers.
Every year in the spring time, right when the weather begins to change, everyone in the Central Valley starts to feel the pull of the coast (I realize we are currently heading into fall, but a girl can dream and reminisce, right?)
After a chilly winter and a rainy season, regardless of how short it sometimes seems, it just feels good to strap on some walking shoes and enjoy some scenery. Luckily, every year, as Easter rolls around, my lovely friend Lauren and her family invite me on their Easter hike. (You may remember this post from the Pinnacles, one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in California). This year, when Lauren said we were going to Monterey, I knew we were in for a treat.
We spent the morning hiking through Jacks Peak, which provided sweeping views of the surrounding hills, the ocean and of the large beachfront town, where anyone would be lucky to live.
The hike was not too strenuous and in typical Lauren and Maggie style, we stopped at every possible opportunity to take a photo.
Lauren’s mom even brought her special hiking shoes and proceeded to taunt me with them, knowing how much I hate things between my toes.
We even met some friendly little creatures along the way. Lauren and I got mildly (OK majorly) obsessed with a caterpillar we found on the picnic table where we had a picnic.
And of course, what is a hike through the woods without meeting a banana slug.
Up next is our day at the beach.
Once again reminiscing back to January, Maritza, Ramon and I made it to Alcatraz on a chilly, sleepy Wednesday in San Francisco. The gray clouds hung overhead spewing light rang as we celebrated that there was no fog blocking our view of the city. We pulled up to the dock and saw the towering, concrete castle in front of us. Welcoming, isn’t it?
There were watch towers throughout the island — an ominous sign.
There were plenty of opportunities to snap pictures in the pathways between the buildings. Knowing that Ramon was leaving the next day made us want to stop and capture every moment.
This was one of my favorite audio tours mainly because of the vibrant, colorful interviews. As you walk through the prison, you hear the voices of actual guards and prisoners who describe what it was like to be so close to the hustle and bustle of San Francisco but never get to take part.
But even in prison, people like to decorate. We saw paintings, pottery, checkers, book collections and several different instruments.
The cell blocks really are intimidating. As you walk down the main row snuggled in your coat and scarf, the tape details the nerves of walking into the prison for the first time.
When we were not nerding out on history, we took in the beautiful views of the city. One of the most haunting images was on New Years Eve the prisoners would lie awake to hear the voices of people as they floated on yachts in the Bay.
And we posed for a couple of pictures, winter coats and all.
Aside from the views, my other favorite part was the many beautiful gardens. Up until the mid-1960s, prisoners tended the gardens, and then the plants went wild for years before volunteers started grooming them back into shape.
We also were able to see the outside of the guard homes that are falling apart.
Maritza, Ramon and I had a little photo shoot at the end.
And finally, a trip to Alcatraz is not complete without a tourist picture in front of a green screen.
So it has been a little while. And by a while, I mean 6 months! How does this happen? Life has been busy, yet still plenty of moments to pause and enjoy things like my little garden up above. In the last couple of months, I went on a three-day trip to San Francisco with Adam, one of my best friends from college, and his lovely girlfriend, Suzy, celebrated a birthday week for the lovely Lauren complete with a wonderfully colorful, nostalgic and silly skating party, went on a trip to Half Moon Bay for a much needed beach daycation, spent a wonderful Sacramento Beer Week with two of my favorite drinking buddies, enjoyed a reunion in Sacramento with the always wonderful Joelle, hit the road for a trip to South Lake Tahoe complete with beach, casino and mountain time, stayed awake 28 hours for an exhilarating, exhausting and mainly caffeine-infused Relay for Life and ate many delicious and fresh dinners with people I adore.
That’s kind of a lot of life, and I’ve been feeling sad that I don’t have collections of my photos on my blog to remember all of these moments. So here’s to catching up, starting with a bittersweet trip to San Francisco.
In January, my friend Ramon came back from Christmas vacation and realized he left his heart in Guam. He decided to move back home, and we only had a week to plan festivities. So I took off work on a Thursday, and Ramon, Maritza and I piled into the car to fulfill a goal we had talked about for a year — visit the infamous Alcatraz.
I took a ton of pictures, so I’m going to have to split them up into a couple of posts. It was pretty chilly, but luckily, there was no fog on the day that we went. We headed out on the tour boat with warm coats and gloves, and were eager to cross the choppy, chilly waters to reach the island. We took some touristy shots, even of the solar panels that power the boat. OK, so maybe I was the only one excited about the solar panels.
Pretty San Francisco was in the background as we pulled away from shore.
The sun would occasionally peek through the clouds as the Alcatraz Clipper sped through the water. The island loomed in the distance and gradually got bigger as we approached.
We did some some self portraits during the 15 minute boat ride. See, I told you we were bundled.
I can only imagine what it was like to arrive at Alcatraz for the first time.
I loved looking through the windows on the lower deck.