May 3, 2016

Bucket List, Schmucket List

I’m a true Virgo. I’ve always been a bit of a planner. I prefer to map out how everything should go each day. What time I should eat, what time I should go to bed, how long I should watch a show (which lately is apparently all day. oops), what time i’ll get home from the movie I go see, etc. While things may not always go according to plan (read: almost never) I feel better with a list, whether in my head or on paper. So it should come to no surprise that I do in fact have a bucket list (especially since I mentioned it in my last blog about San Francisco :D) Except, mine isn’t really a list …


It’s a damn book. Yes. My “bucket list” fills up a 70 page, composition size notebook more than 3/4 of the way. There is so much that I have never seen or done that I’m just forever finding things to do. There are things that people normally grow up doing that I had never done. For example, I was 31 before I ever had my first Twinkie. I was in my thirties the first time I ever had s’mores. I had never had a real hot fudge sundae until I was 29. Things like that. So while my bucket list does contain things like “Visit the Louvre” there’s also things like “Learn to play pool.” I personally find it fascinating to find out what people have (and have not) done throughout their lives. It’s a great way to get to know someone, learning what fears they may have faced or what goals they have accomplished. Which is why I love going through people’s bucket lists. Plus, I’m all about the little things in life, sometimes it’s the tiniest things that can make our days, which is why I have so many of them in my bucket … book. Here’s a little glimpse into mine:

01) Take a cross country road trip
02) Learn to speak fluent Italian
03) See the Northern Lights
04) Eat a pastry outside of a bakery in France
05) Read every book that I own
06) Have a romantic nighttime picnic
07) Cuddle a lion cub
08) Make muffins from wild Maine blueberries that I’ve picked myself
09) Hang glide off a cliff
10) Hear Big Ben chime
11) Explore Muir Woods
12) be considered the “cool parent” by my future children’s friends
13) Learn to roller skate
14) Ask a stranger out on impulse
15) Float on the Dead Sea
16) Cuddle with my future love during a midnight sleigh ride
17) Watch Sesame Street with my future grandchildren
18) Spend a rainy Saturday listening to opera and reading beside the fire
19) See the Acropolis of Athens in the moonlight
20) Have a romantic fling with an attractive Italian man who does not speak English
21) Eat cannoli in Italy
22) Swim with sharks
23) Forgive my ex
24) Grow old with someone I love
25) Own a fire engine red Corvette

Have I mentioned that I’m also a dreamer? Do you keep a bucket list? How successful have you been at crossing items off your list? What types of goals/adventures/dreams can be found on your list? I’d love to hear all about in the comments!

April 26, 2016

I left my heart in San Francisco

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit what little family that I have left, in San Carlos. My uncle, cousin, step-aunt and step-cousins were all very happy to see me, and I, them. Since moving back to the west coast (I lived on the east coast for about 2.5 years) my uncle and I have tried to get together once a year, whether that means they come to Washington or I go down to California. Either way, it makes me genuinely happy. Even more so when I visit as I get my California fix, see my family and travel all at the same time. This time was my turn and I spent a beautiful four days in sunny Northern California.

Plane Ride! Plane Ride!

My day started early and I was out the door before 7am. My flight wasn’t until almost 12pm but you know. Security checkpoints plus getting to Seattle in the first place, it all takes time. But when I finally got on the plane and was buckled in and felt that exhilarating rush that always comes to me when taking off, it was all worth it. And I snapped the obligatory “I’m in the air!” photos. (By the way, if you time it right, Bloody Mary by The Silversun Pickups is literally the most perfect song to take off to. You’re welcome.) The flight was standard. Completely packed, but thankfully short. the guy next to me was very nice and we had a little bit since he was separated from his family. But an amusing thing did happen on my flight down. Freaking Danny Bonaduce was on my plane. Right behind me in fact. I giggled when I figured this out.

When I finally did land, my amazingly wonderful cousin Mira picked me up at SFO and we drove to her dad’s house where we had a few hours to talk and relax before everyone came home for dinner. It was really nice catching up with her. There’s a 10 year age difference between us but it never truly feels that large. We’re both pretty easy-going people (not that we don’t have our own issues/disorders to deal with) and it always feels like we just saw each other whenever we do get together, no matter how much time has passed between visits. She works as a hostess at a pretty fancy steak house called TOWN, which is where my uncle took us to dinner that night. Mira even asked them to fix something a little special in honor of my visit.

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I’ve never had a custom menu before! It was so sweet and yes, I kept the menu as a memento. The dinner, by the way? Freaking amazing. So if you are ever in San Carlos, go to TOWN. You won’t regret it. My steak was perfect. Absolutely perfect. And I’m pretty picky. It was a great dinner in general. Plenty of family time, lots of jokes, and since it’s my family there were plenty of inappropriate jokes too, which in my book, are always the best. My cousin’s boyfriend was there too and I’d met him before. We all get along. Well. Minus the fact that we are all baseball fans and my cousin, her boyfriend and my uncle are all Giants fans and I’m a Dodgers fan. Our teams are huge rivals. Oops. But I went to bed that night feeling happier and more relaxed than I had in a long time and with a tummy full of wonderful food.

The next day was a beautiful sunny day and my uncle and I spent the majority of it together. We walked from his house to downtown San Carlos to run some errands and talk. We had lunch at a beautiful Greek cafe and I fell instantly in love with their Lemon Chicken and Rice soup. I need to find a recipe and replicate it. It’s very light. savory with just a hint of lemon and perfect for spring. We both had gyros and enjoyed the sun. After a couple of hours we hiked back up to his house (it’s only about an hour from the town but it’s all uphill) and got ready to meet up with a couple of his friends for drinks. I was not expecting to go anywhere fancy, but oh man. We sure did.

Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay I could get used to this ...

We took a 25 minute drive to a little town called Half Moon Bay and ended up at the Ritz Carlton there to watch the sunset around the huge outdoor fire pits, drink a little wine and shoot the breeze. It was chilly but oh man, the view was worth it. And the hotel … oh that hotel. If I had $800 to blow on a hotel for a night, this is the hotel that I would choose. It’s so damn luxurious and beautiful and you can’t help but feel like a damn queen there. I sat by that fire pit and downed glass after glass of the fantastic Riesling that my uncle had me try. Perfection. After the sunset, we headed down to a local Italian restaurant and devoured a couple plates of the best bruschetta that I have ever had (and damn, I have had a lot of bruschetta in my life) and bowls of delicious homemade pasta complete with a couple bottles of Pinot that my uncle had brought.

The next day, my uncle had a special treat for me. He and I were to spend the day in San Francisco! I had never been to the city before, or if I had, I was so young at the time that I couldn’t recall it. We woke early in the morning and were in the city by 10am (it’s only about a 30 minutes drive from his house). Our first stop? You guessed it. The Golden Gate Bridge, which just happens to be on my bucket list. I am obsessed with bridges. I think they are absolutely beautiful and stunning pieces of art and my uncle apparently shares this belief too. We were both surprised to learn that. Anyway, we took a trip and drove the length of the bridge twice.

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After the Golden Gate, we headed downtown, found a place to park and started walking. I wanted to do all the touristy things and my uncle was only too happy to help. We rode the cable car. We travelled on the BART. We walked miles and miles. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf. We saw the sea lions sunning themselves. We talked and talked and visited Pier 23 where I literally had the most amazing and horrible sandwich of my life. Horrible because, oh my god, the calories and the fat. I had a Monte Cristo. But this was no normal Monte Cristo. This was done on French freaking Toast. Oh man. It was soooo good though.

SEA LIONS Alcatraz

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We watched fresh sourdough bread being baked and shaped into animals. We bought a massive buttload of chocolate at Ghirardelli Square. We got blisters on our feet. I splurged on a tacky as fuck (sorry but no other way to say it) shirt for my roommate, postcards for friends and a magnet for myself. We saw love locks. Stared at Alcatraz. And I got sunburned in the worst way. Literally the worst sunburn of my life. Three weeks later and I’m still peeling! And remember how I told you that my uncle is a Giants fan? Well, he insisted on buying me a Dodgers hat that I saw because I have always wanted one. Even though I said I was going to get it, he became a traitor to his own team. Awww. What a sweetheart of an uncle! We ended the night by eating a homemade gyro dinner by my step-cousin, watching SpaceBalls and then quality time with my cousin Mira and my uncle looking through old family photos. There were some tears, but it was a very happy and special moment and I am thankful for everything and all of the time that I spent with them.

Mt. Shasta from the air Hello Seattle

Unfortunately, I had to leave the next day. I was sad for leaving them, sad for leaving California and upset that I had to go back to work, which has continued to be a ridiculously stressful environment and sadly, I’m hating it there more and more every day. But that’s a story for another day. Even though I hated leaving, I have to say that it was wonderful flying back and getting a couple more airplane pictures. Mt. Shasta and Seattle both look amazing from the air. This is why I love window seats!

How has your spring been treating you? Any vacations that you have taken or plan to take? Leave a comment and tell me all about your plans!

March 13, 2016

California Calling: 11 Things You Miss When You Leave The State

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up in Southern California. It’s always amusing to me, the reactions that you get from people when they find out. I never really thought about it being a big deal until I actually left California in 2009. I lived there for 29 years and now I know that I took it for granted. For people that have never visited California or have only been to Northern California or only to Los Angeles, you mention California and they picture something like what I have posted above. And in many cases, that isn’t far from the truth. Yes. Many parts of California, especially Southern, has lots of palm trees, beaches, beautiful sunsets behind the towering skyscrapers and plenty of mountains surrounding everything. But it’s also not 100% accurate. There are plenty of small towns, plenty of places with no palm trees and no oceans and tons of fog/clouds/smog covering everything so that you can’t see the beautiful sunsets. And then there’s also this:

And this, this is where I grew up. Antelope Valley, California. Right smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert, surrounded by the San Bernardino mountains. Where the temperatures sky rocket to 110, daily, in the summer and it’s not unheard of for snow to fall in the winter. Located about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles proper and at least 45 minutes away from a beach. We moved here when I was 9, to get away from the gangs and the violence and the drugs that were invading the San Fernando Valley where I was born. But regardless, if you live in California for any length of time and leave, you miss it. I’ve been back once since I left in 2009 and in two weeks, I’m going back again. I’m visiting Northern California to see my Uncle and cousin and I’m thrilled because aside from the fact that I miss them like crazy, there are others things I miss. Which brings me to my list:

11 Things That You Will DEFINITELY Miss When You Leave California Behind:

01) GOOD Mexican Food: Growing up in Southern California (and living in San Diego as an adult) you quickly become spoiled by the amazing Mexican food that is literally found on every corner. In fact, my ex-fiance and I made it a habit of trying as many different places as we could find and we discovered that the best Mexican food was found at the hole-in-the-wall type places that you usually think you’d want to avoid. Ugh. I could seriously go for a California burrito right now. Huge flour tortilla smothered with Carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, rice, beans, pico de gallo and topped with FRIES. Yum!

02) Ripe Avocados Everywhere: I LOVE avocados. They are basically a Californian staple. One of the best after school snacks my mom would give me was a slice of multi-grain bread smeared with avocado and a pinch of coarse kosher salt on top. And while you can still find avocados in the PNW or back east, you have to wait for them to ripen. This was unheard of to me. I’m so used to going to the store, picking up some avocados and using them that day. But nope. Not anymore. I know now to plan any dishes at least two days in advance. What can I say? We Californians are spoiled when it comes to produce.

03) Sandy Beaches: Because I lived in a desert, I didn’t exactly have easy access to a beach but my family went every summer and when we went camping, we often chose beach campgrounds. We’d have a blast chasing each other in the water, body surfing and running around the miles and miles of sandy beaches. We often ended the beach days with building sand castles, and boy would we have sand everywhere! Since leaving California I’ve come across maybe two somewhat sandy beaches. And when I asked about them I received incredulous looks. “You have sand on your beaches?!” One Washingtonian asked me. Oh yes. Yes we do. I can’t even imagine playing volleyball on these rocky beaches. OUCH.

04) Alcohol Freedom: I’m not a huge drinker but when I do drink I’ve always enjoyed being able to run across the street to Safeway or up the block to the gas station to pick up my wine coolers, beer, whiskey or champagne. It was just something you did and didn’t think twice about, so you can imagine my surprise when I moved to New Jersey and discovered what a “dry town” was. Ditto Washington, but only when I first moved here. My part of the state now has liquor in grocery stores and the like. But in the beginning, it was a huge shock to me that you actually had to drive 10 miles to the nearest liquor store.

05) Buses, Cabs, Trains, oh my!: In a large state like California, no matter where you are you usually have access to mass transit. Even in my desert town we had buses, cabs and trains and they all ran fairly late (cabs were 24/7) and decently priced. My town in Washington has buses and cabs but the buses stop by 8pm and there is NO Sunday service at all. Cabs exist and are actually decently priced but there are no trains in the area. When I lived in New Jersey and Pennsylvania there were no cabs, no trains in the area and the buses stopped at 6pm. It was crazy!

06) Racial Acceptance: Now I’m certainly not saying that California is perfect. It’s not, hell no. But when I lived there, people of all races were pretty much accepted. (Religion is another story. Definitely experienced issues with that one) Which is why I was unprepared for the switch to the East Coast where I heard the “N” word being dropped on an almost daily basis. Children, teens, adults and the elderly, everyone said it and I visibly cringed when I heard it. You just didn’t do that in Southern California, or the majority of the state.

07) The California State of Speech: One important thing I learned after leaving California? We have an accent. It’s subtle but it’s there. The majority of us pronounce words like Canada or California as if they were “Keh-nada” or “Keh-lifornia.” It’s taken me a lot of time to stop doing that because otherwise, EVERYONE comments on it. Also, the amount of looks you get for saying “Dude,” “Awesome,” or “Rad.” I say all three of those and I say them often. Everything is awesome (like me, duh) and everyone is Dude. Doesn’t matter if you are male or female, you’re Dude.

08) Hey There Slugger!: Our nation’s pastime should really just be called California’s pastime. We love Baseball in California. That’s not to say that we don’t love other sports. We do. But we LOVE our baseball. And it makes sense. We have two of the biggest baseball teams in California. The Los Angeles Dodgers (GO DODGERS) and The San Francisco Giants (BOO, HISS). There’s nothing better than spending a day in the sun and cheering on your favorite team with a huge foot-long hotdog and a frosty glass of beer.

09) Palm Trees: They just scream California. Especially Southern California. Enough said.

10) The Rose Bowl: From raging football games to explosive concerts to ginormous flea markets, The Rose Bowl is a must for every Californian and so many of the greatest things happen there.

11) Freeways: Real, winding freeways seem to be a rarity unless you live in California. I mean, there aren’t many places where you see things like, well, THAT ^. But what’s amusing is when you say something like “So you merge onto the 3 and then merge slightly onto the 16.” Apparently it’s not normal to refer to a freeway as THE. Which is something we do everyday in California. “Oh yeah, just take the 405 to the 5 to the 14.” But here, it’s Washington 3, or simply, “the highway.”

One thing you won’t find on my list however, is In-N-Out. I think I’m in the minority with this opinion but I’m not a huge fan of them. I find their patties really small, the food is all terribly greasy and it’s boring to me. Apparently the best way to try them is “Animal Style” but I really dislike thousand island dressing, so I never have. I’ve never seen the appeal and would rather eat anywhere else than In-N-Out.

I guess we do tend to take certain things for granted in California. And it’s not something we mean to do, but it happens. I’ve definitely come to miss things that were “normal” for me and now I appreciate them even more when I experience them, so that’s one good thing. And there’s plenty of horrible things about California too: it’s way overpriced, the taxes are stupid ridiculous, the traffic is a nightmare, and smog is a real problem. And even though I still find myself missing it terribly from time to time, and even though I’m glad I made the move and got to experience different states and coasts, a part of me will forever miss California and will keep it tucked away in my heart. In the end, it’s my home.

What things would you miss the most if you left your home state/country? Or if you have left it, what things do you miss the most now? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!