Nomad Review: PETALUMA

The other P-Town in my life is Petaluma, California. It’s a beautiful town nestled in the hills of Sonoma County that’s surrounded by farms with cows, sheep, horses, and even llamas! My Aunt Becky has lived here for almost 20 years, and it has become another one of my many homes.

Petaluma’s lovely downtown area is walkable and filled to the brim with great restaurants and places to shop. They have a farmers market on Saturday afternoons, too. I’ve also recently discovered a great yoga studio down there. Here are my top picks:

FOOD
Cafe Zazzle: Anyone who has ever visited Becky and me in Petaluma has been to Zazzle’s and loved it! Their food is fresh, local, creative California cuisine. The staff are super friendly, and the restaurant itself is cozy and in a prime downtown location. I love their beef teriyaki wrap (but with tofu instead!), their huge noodle soup bowls, the spinach salad with mango and ponzu, and their Thai peanut dish. And Becky and I love sharing the roasted artichoke!

Lydia’s Sunflower Center: This one is a new favorite. Located in a business park, the Sunflower Center is an unlikely hippy hangout — raw and cooked organic vegan delights served by nice Petaluma people! And if you just need a snack, they have homemade and pre-packaged live/raw chips, crackers, cookies, muffins, and chocolates. (But they’re guilt-free because they have no animal products, no heated oils, no refined sugars, and they’re all organic!)

Pongo’s: Solid Thai food on the east side

Gohan: Great sushi in a beautiful space

Velasco’s: Becky’s second favorite restaurant (after Zazzle’s) — yummy Mexican and Central American food. I wrote about them in this post too!

– I haven’t tried this one yet, but it’s new and I’ve heard great things: Topsy’s Kitchen

COFFEE
– Peet’s.
They’re a chain, but they’re a Bay Area chain. I used to work for them. I just love their coffee. Simple as that!

SHOPPING
Paper White for stationery and beautiful gifts (FAVORITE!)

Red Umbrella consignment shop

Copperfield’s for books (used and new), cards, journals, calendars, and gifts

i Leoni for looking at expensive kitchen stuff (for me it’s just for looking!)

YOGA
Yoga One on Kentucky Street

OUTSIDE
– There’s a nice trail that runs behind Santa Rosa Junior College on the east side

...with views like this

…with views like this

– In Marin County, south of Petaluma: Indian Valley Open Space in Novato; Muir Woods; and Mt. Tamalpais (for amazing hikes and breathtaking panoramic views of the Bay)
– On the Sonoma Coast: Bodega Bay (where The Birds was filmed!); check out The Tides restaurant

LIVE MUSIC & EVENTS
The Mystic Theater is a great venue. I’ve seen the Punch Brothers there and on Thursday night, Becky and I saw the Brothers Comatose!

Butter & Egg Days is the pride of Petaluma — a big street fair every April

WINE
I am no expert on wineries in Sonoma County, though I’ve done a bit of tasting. I asked Aunt Becky to tell me her favorites and she said:

Armida in Healdsburg

Viansa in Sonoma

Roche in Sonoma

Gloria Ferrer for the views (and champagne if that’s what you’re into!)

*Notice that there are no Napa recommendations. There’s quite the rivalry between Sonoma and Napa wine enthusiasts, and out of respect for my Sonoma County friends and family, Napa will here on out not be mentioned!

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area and need a weekend trip away, consider Petaluma and its surroundings!

Have you ever been to Petaluma?

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Art and Salads in The City

My great friend, Jessica, is an art conservationist at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Earlier this week, I perused the galleries of the de Young while Jessica worked in the morning, and then we met up for tasty salads at the museum’s cafe during her lunch break.

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After lunch, I headed over to the Legion of Honor, where one’s ticket to the de Young is also valid. My favorite exhibits were the Matisse and Monet.

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On my way back to the North Bay, I stopped to admire the Golden Gate Bridge. No matter how many times I’ve seen the bridge — or driven over it or walked or run over it — I still find myself in awe. It’s just so majestic, and it is also an emblem of the area of California that I love so dearly.

It was another beautiful day in San Francisco, and it was wonderful seeing Jessica before we both get married and move away (she’s getting married in August and then starting a Master’s program on the East Coast!).

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Bottomless Pit

Now that I’m training for a full marathon, I am hungry all the time. (I may have been Bourne hungry, but training really gets my appetite going!). I’ve given up sugar and white flour (except for Alison’s fresh homemade bread and the very occasional treat), I’m vegetarian, I don’t eat dairy, and I try to steer away from processed foods, so this limits my quick snack options. And usually if I slip up it’s out of laziness. When I plan ahead, my snacks are much more healthful and clean.

One of my favorite filling, healthy, go-to snacks is popcorn, made on the stove. I’m not a huge fan of microwaves, and I’ve read too many horror stories about the chemical sh*tstorm that is microwave popcorn. I recommend Food Babe’s post about it here.

It really doesn’t take much longer than microwaving one of those bags, and it’s a lot cheaper. I purchased a 16-ounce bag of kernels at Safeway for $1.00 (at 3T per serving, unpopped, this bag will produce 66 cups of popped popcorn!).

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I’ve been playing around with timing, temperature, and method for making stove-top popcorn, but I really think Safeway’s bag here has the best instructions! I’m just copying them and embellishing them a bit here:

1. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil and one kernel of popcorn in a large, heavy, covered pan. (I use canola oil because of its high smoke point.)

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2. Once that one kernel pops, pour in 1/3 cup popcorn (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but no more than 1-kernel deep); recover.

3. Shake or stir with cover on until all the popcorn is popped.

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4. Season to taste.

Now #4 can be very fun! Here are some ideas:

  • Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, and paprika and/or fresh cracked pepper.
  • Drizzle with coconut oil, squeeze on some lime, and sprinkle with hot chilli flakes…and call it Thai!
  • Have an aunt with impeccable taste and drizzle her fancy blood orange olive oil over your popcorn and then sprinkle with sea salt!

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Got any other Step #4 ideas?

It won't last long!

It won’t last long!

Nomad Review: PLEASANTON

Pleasanton, California is my hometown. It’s the kind of place that is absolutely ideal for raising a family; my sister and I are very fortunate to have grown up there. Now that my parents have moved away, Pleasanton still feels like home, but it’s also become a place that I visit more as a tourist, which is way more fun! Sean’s aunt, uncle, and cousins live in Pleasanton, so they’ve been kind enough to put me up off and on over the last couple weeks.

My town’s best feature is definitely its quaint, walkable downtown area. There’s a Therapy shop (like in Campbell), great restaurants (Alberto’s Cantina, Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, Lokanta, Rising Loafer, Dean’s, Vic’s, Stacey’s, Strizzi’s, Gay 90s Pizza, and so many more!), a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, coffee shops, an art gallery, a place to buy gourmet chocolates, and many other cute little boutiques. And of course I have to mention the Meadowlark Dairy, where one can get soft-serve ice cream by walking up or driving through — a wonderful treat on summer Friday nights during the weekly Concert in the Park. I also love Fleet Feet, where I’ve bought several pairs of running shoes. The staff are super knowledgeable about correct running form and the shoes that work best for each individual runner/walker/athlete.

Pleasanton also has a beautiful sports park with a two-mile radius path, access to the Iron Horse Trail, which stretches from Pleasanton all the way north to Pleasant Hill (25+ miles), and other lovely places to stroll.

And bordering Pleasanton to the east is Livermore, which has become a popular wine destination. When I was kid, Livermore was really only known in Pleasanton for two things: cowboys and tattoo parlors. (Long-time Pleasantonians still stick up their noses to Livermore, but newcomers consider it to be an up and coming Sonoma or Napa…and we’re coming around!) Nowadays, the coyboys and tattoo parlors have Wente*, Concannon, Mitchell Katz, and many other beautiful wineries as neighbors. *Not to say that Wente is by any means new. It was established in 1883 and is the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in California; it’s just that in the last decade or so they’ve gained more and more recognition and…well…fanciness!

I love that my family has a permanent brick laid outside the Pleasanton Museum, just a few yards away from the famous green Pleasanton sign. Legend has it that during World War II, the town could only afford enough electricity to keep the “P” lit up, which is why we natives affectionately refer to Pleasanton as “P-Town”.

Are you a Pleasanton native, or have you ever visited as a tourist? What were your favorite attractions?

 

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Savoring Every Sip and Every Page

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Some books I have really enjoyed reading slowly. Some are so good that I race through them, unable to put them down; but others are so good that I just don’t want them to end.

Books in this slow category that immediately come to my mind are To a God Unknown and The Log From the Sea of Cortez both by John Steinbeck, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran-Foer, and How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers. I have a lot of “favorite” books, but these ones I recall feeling very involved in for a long period of time. I didn’t want to rush them.

I’m currently reading a book that will fall into my slowly-savored book list. It is Julia Child’s My Life in ParisIt’s exactly what you might think it is, and if you’ve ever seen the movie Julie and Julia, then you already know a lot about Mrs. Child’s life in Paris. I think that the movie definitely piqued my interest in Julia Child, and now that I’m reading her own words, I’m even more of a fan. If you love Paris — or just the idea of Paris — and you appreciate fine food, then I recommend this book to you. You’ll also like it if you like love stories. Julia and Paul’s relationship was so refreshingly uncomplicated; and it seems that they truly enjoyed each other’s company, respected one another, and were each individually satisfied with their own lives too. Paul once wrote to Julia,

“You are the butter to my bread, the breath to my life.”

Sigh. Sweet, right?

I have been enjoying reading this book in between visiting with friends, eating great food, blogging, planning my wedding, planning trips, running, doing yoga, oh and sleeping (I know — tough life). It’s so delightfully hedonistic to spend $4 on a Peet’s medium almond milk latte and enjoy it in one of their satisfyingly sturdy mugs and casually read about Julia learning the art and science of French cooking, eating in Paris’s finest restaurants, adoring her husband, galavanting around Europe, and spending time with her friends and family. What a lovely way to spend a few quiet moments!

Want to see the books on my virtual shelves and share yours with me? My Goodreads profile is here!

Have you ever read a book slowly because you loved it so much? Any recommendations?

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Long-Distance, and I Don’t Mean Running

My fiancé and I were long-distance for 10 months while I taught my second full school year in San Jose and he started a new job in Bangkok, Thailand.

us with our pearl milk teas in Stanley Park, just before he moved to Thailand

us with our pearl milk teas in Stanley Park, just before he moved to Thailand

We then lived happily together for two years as he continued working for a great company and I taught in an international program at a Thai school.

the view from our Bangkok apartment

the view from our Bangkok apartment

Over those two years, the most time we spent apart was when he went on a business trip for three weeks. And that was hard!

We’ve now been apart for over five weeks. We’ve got about one more week as he finishes his job and moves out of our Bangkok apartment. While I’m having a blast spending time in my home state of California, I miss my other half. It’s nice knowing that we can survive anything, but we’re both ready to stick together!

I like him!

I like him!

Before I head to Vancouver to reunite with this guy, I’ve got posts planned about Pleasanton, Petaluma, San Francisco, and Julia Child. Stay tuned!

Any other long-distance survivors out there?!

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Nickel Creek at the Fox Theater in Oakland

On Monday night, I took BART into Oakland to meet my great friend, Alicia. We had pesto pizza at a restaurant on Grand Avenue called The Star (tasty, by the way, and with veg and GF options), and then we went to The Fox Theater to see a concert!

My family are HUGE fans of Nickel Creek, a bluegrass band who were together since they were little kids until 2008. This year they came out with an album and toured together for the first time in six years. I was lucky enough to see them in Oakland with Alicia, and my parents got to see them the following night closer to where they live in San Diego (at the Balboa Theater).

I adore each member of the band — Chris Thile (mandolin), Sara Watkins (fiddle), and Sean Watkins (guitar). They all sing, as well, and make incredible harmonies. Their music ranges from true old-timey bluegrass to more contemporary folk. I love their music because all three of them, and their cool upright bass player, are really, truly talented musicians in their own right.

I’m a huge fan of Chris Thile‘s solo work and his band, the Punch Brothers. I’ve seen him/them several times! He’s quirky and a very entertaining performer, and I think he’s the bee’s knees.

One of the highlights of the show was when Nickel Creek played “When You Come Back Down“, the song that Alicia will be singing at Sean’s and my wedding as my parents walk me down the aisle! Alicia, by the way, is an outstanding vocalist, and I can’t wait for her to sing one of my dad’s and my favorite songs on the big day!

I’m not sure that this post as expressed enough my absolute obsession with Nickel Creek and anything that Chris Thile does, so hopefully this sentence will take care of that!

It makes me so happy to be back on the West Coast where there are so many fabulous music venues. My aunt and I are going to see the Brothers Comatose, a local Bay Area band, this week. Some other bands/artists I hope to see soon are: the Punch Brothers (hehe…duh), Hozier, the Milk Carton Kids, the Avett Brothers, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive, Hitomi Oba, Nick DePinna, and the LeBoeuf Brothers.

Any music recommendations — artists? bands? venues?