Eating in NorCal….

… Or something like it!

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Extending Childhood. Oakland, California. April 2016.

The thing about being from LA, or really most places this far south in California, is we rarely have perspective on what and where NorCal is. In college, many of us southern-born natives talked about how in our minds San Francisco to Napa and slightly higher is about where California ends and new states most of us wouldn’t be road-tripping to begin – for those of you not in the know, this is not the case!

Where most will call these areas northern, they are lower Northern California with hours and hours more to go.

But onto food!

When visiting the Sonoma and the Bay Area, we ate well – very well! While we hit some touristy fun musts – Boudin Bakery and Ghirardelli in San Francisco – I loved the other fun spots which definitely made the trip worthwhile.

Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa.

If you are a beer lover, you should absolutely known the name Russian River. They’ve won tons of awards for their brews and the food is just as good. Everything is fresh and well sourced and you can choose whether to stay in or take away – wait times vary depending on your choice. This take away includes filling up your Russian River Growler with the brew of your choice.

The only real issue is you must show up early as they do not take reservations no matter the situation and the wait can be hours long. This wait time is exponentially longer if they are sampling a new brew – however, I’ve been assured that every brew is worth the wait.

The plan is for a new location not to far from the current spot with much more room and more of a focus on non-locals so if you’re in the area, check for opening dates for quicker turn around times.

Quickly moving to Sol Food in San Rafael.

Another long line here but – according to the locals I know – it’s the only place worth going to. We laughed through the line as one patron tried – jokingly – to convince the whole line that the food was no good and we should all go somewhere else so they could go in more quickly.

While the line was long, the host(esse)s were so efficient. The tables are community settings so you will most likely sit with strangers but, as long as you don’t mind this style, you’ll sit much quicker than you’d suspect.

The servings were amazing, full meals and all locally sourced. My friends and I all ordered different plates and no one was disappointed. For spicier pallets, some at our table felt that the sauce on the table wasn’t hot enough so don’t be afraid to ask for spicier additions.

And finally, Homeroom in Oakland.

This final stop on my foodie weekend was an amazing spot for comfort food – a menu packed with mac and cheese, some vegetable sides, and salads but little else. It was fabulous!

Again, the four of us picked different sides and styles of pasta but everyone of them was perfect. We had one garlic, one sriracha, one goat, and a final jalapeño popper styled and each flavor was strong yet balanced and the popper mac tasted exactly like a giant jalapeño popper!

We couldn’t stop eating.

This was also the most fun to wait for. The joint is more than a little hipster with communal seating, eye-grabbing decor and a line that is just a sign in sheet you kind of have to keep an eye on. The crowd can get big and you’ll never be seated until your whole party arrives but there are benches and chalk to help you through the wait.

My friends and I are 25 years old and where endlessly entertained by a chalked out hopscotch draw on the sidewalk outside the side door. Paired with the childhood comfort of – yet grown up pallet! – mac and cheese and it’s a steal.

Again, in the trend of these small restaurants, everything is locally sourced and freshly made. The waitstaff was super nice but can blend in with customers so don’t be embarrassed if you mix them up a time or two! – a very sweet high schooler was very embarrassed at mistaking me for a floating server.


So here’s the wrap up: depending on where you are and where your going, if you are looking for quality food with great atmosphere, there are plenty of small overlooked places you should not miss out on! They are too good to pass up even with a bit of a wait.

So that’s all my foodie news, until next time:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Eating in NorCal….

5 Tips to being a Good House Guest…

House guest etiquette for broke post-grads staying with other post-grads.

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Together again! Rohnert Park, California. April 2016.

I’m back! As a few hours ago, I wrapped up the end of my road-trip/visit back to my college three and a half years later (strangely enough, the same amount of time I lived there!). The trip was incredible and in the weeks that follow I will definitely be filling you all in on the fabulous places we went and everything we saw, but I’m starting out with a huge thank you post to one of my college flatmates and our host for the weekend.

So part one in my good guest guide is thoughtful gift giving. For our host, this was a Dodger Dog – a stuffed dog which stretches out into a pillow perfectly sized for an airplane ride which she takes often for US marathons. As a SoCal native, she is a die-hard Dodger fan living in Giants’ territory so a gift that cost us $10 was thoughtful, personal, but didn’t break the bank. The key to this is knowing your host and doing something that brightens their day.

Another money step is paying in your share. Yes, we’re broke and we paid for gas to get to their home, but then we stayed for free – any of us that can afford to do a road trip can afford to buy our respective hosts a few meals and/or drinks. Remember, they are saving you more by letting you stay over than you will spend on food so you are still saving. Again this comes down to knowing your host – ours is quick handed and gives to others as much as she can so it was always a fight over the bill. If you have this kind of host, be quick but also gracious when/if you don’t win or, better yet, try heading off the waiter when you go to use the bathroom so they’ll hand the bill directly to you.

Now moving away from money – again we are talking as poor post-grads here – always be a gracious guest.

This means cleaning up after yourself. This can be cleaning up towels and any makeup/toiletries from the bathroom so you aren’t taking over, or keeping all of your clothes and unmentionables out of sight and out of the way.

This also means knowing what will work in your space and what won’t – and not by your want or opinion but your hosts! We were very lucky that our host was out with us for a large amount of time and, therefore, we never had to remake the couch bed every morning and night, but this isn’t always the case. For many households our age, roommates can be a issue, especially in terms of them needing your borrowed space during your stay, so be courteous and clean up the areas you are borrowing without moaning about it.

Lastly: time management. Invite your host to anything that you can invite them to but don’t feel like you need to stick with them at all times. Just be upfront with them from the get-go. There may be plans that they can’t go with you for – we had a film preview and book signing that only two of us could attend through work connections but timing meant that our host had work of her own – but other outings, they may have no interest in. If you talk out your plans, all should be well!

But that’s all for me tonight, but with much, much more travel and posts to come!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

5 Tips to being a Good House Guest…

A Pre-Road Trip Check List…

A bit ago, I wrote a post on my desire to get back on the road. Well, this weekend I will get that chance, though not as I had originally planned.

It’s one on my college friend’s final recital up at Sonoma State University, so this weekend my best friend and I will be taking a familiar 6 hour road trip that I haven’t taken in just over 3 years.

We’ve made this drive many (many!) times, but on each trek I was always the one driving…. faster than I probably should have. But this time around, I’ll be sitting in the passenger seat and doing my very best to stay awake… which is more than my regular passengers can say!

While there are definite must-haves when you decide to take off (your favorite snack foods, drinks in a cooler, you know, sustenance!), there are also things to negotiate between your party. Some of these just deal with cost – who covers gas or food and what your manageable and agreeable budget is – while others are just to make sure you and your companions aren’t bored out of your minds.

So budget is really first since that’s the hardest thing to talk about, and if you don’t have the conversation, one person will always be left holding the bag. You and your companions will have to figure this on your own but you must have this talk before going! Trust me, it will save you many headaches.

While I am a fan of fashion and style, if you are in a car for an extended period of time, fashion should take a back seat. Skinny jeans don’t have great stretch or give and shorts or small skirts make your legs/leg sweat stick to your seats. I’m opting for some easy leggings and a long shirt, throw in some boots and a hoodie of warmth. Again, like prepping for an airplane: easy, comfortable, and movable.

As long as there is more than one person, you should have “games” on hand. I’m not talking games like punch-buggy – I’m not allowed to play this game as I’ve been deemed to competitive and aggressive… – or the license plate game.

My best friend and I are total nerds so we’ve recently gotten to highly academic debates over nerdy topics – the most recent was: which would you rather have the Doctor’s (of BBC’s Doctor Who) TARDIS or psychic paper? Can you guess who won?

I like these fun nerd-offs because you can pull from all over the logical spectrum and note episodes if you want. It not only tests your knowledge but gives you quite the lively conversation as well – this helps with the not falling asleep thing. Also, unlike all the purchasable games available now, debates are free! Just steer clear of topics that will cause animosity more than fun whether this be politics, your favorite Doctor, or Marvel/DC.

The other thing that can help you in the case of falling asleep – or better yet, not falling asleep – is a killer playlist. Just like everything else in this situation – you are trapped in a tiny space with other people with no real way of getting out – music must be a mutual decision. Whether this is a mixed playlist that pulls joint or a few of everyone’s favorites or just a rotation of everyone’s favorite radio stations, keep the tunes peaceable.

Just remember, if you opt for radio, if you are going any sizable distance, the radio will eventually cut out the stations you know and you’ll be flying musically blind! Never fun.

So clothes, games, music, money, and food… so the only thing left to consider (along with money) is planning for sleep on journeys lasting longer than a day. This ends with deciding if you want to plan ahead going from point A to hotel B to motel C and so and so forth, or if you want to go as far as you possibly can in a day and then see what’s around when you are able to stop. Either way, it’s good to talk this all out before leaving home to make sure everyone in your party is comfortable.

That’s all and I can’t wait to feel the wind in my hair!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

A Pre-Road Trip Check List…

On Tracks: California Edition

And welcoming our guest writer (and an amazing travel companion): Bex!

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That’s right, this week we have a special guest writer, my little sister Bex – this is the same sister I’ve traveled through the UK and Europe with pretty much every time I talk about my recent travels here on my blog. I haven’t traveled up to her at school yet, but after reading and editing this post, I may be looking at following her lead and use our California public transport! But for now, read on and enjoy!

I just recently used the Amtrak to travel between Fresno and Los Angeles for the weekend and I’ll admit, I’m not a regular commuter on public transportation – I always figured it was easier and faster to just drive myself between the two when I had to and not make the effort to get dropped off and picked up from a station.

The week I decided to use it was the second weekend of four in a row I was planning on making this back and forth trip and the idea of driving for 3+ hours each way four times in a row really didn’t appeal to me. So I decided to check prices before resigning myself to either driving anyway or just scrapping my plans for that week. Round trip cost turned out to only be $64, just slightly more than it costs me for gas.

There were pros and cons – as with most things. I didn’t have to drive, which meant that I could get some reading done or watch things on YouTube or Netflix because the trains I was on (both ways) had free wifi (always a plus!). On my train back, they also had a food car which wasn’t too overpriced.

Another good thing with Amtrak is they have guaranteed connections. My train down from Fresno was delayed about half an hour (and when you get your ticket, you can put your phone number and have them text you notifications about delays which is handy) which meant we got into Bakersfield late. However, my bus connection and all the others were still there because they don’t leave until the train gets there and their passengers have made it to the bus they’re meant for.

All the employees I dealt with had a good attitude and seemed cheerful when checking tickets and offered those with luggage help. I enjoyed my trip thoroughly and not having large amounts of luggage (I only had a backpack) made it even easier to do.

one of the downsides I discovered was that it took longer than it would have to drive myself by about an hour (though that’s not a huge deal by any means).

The big thing is that train doesn’t reach everywhere. My trip to LA, as I mentioned earlier, had me switch out from train to bus at Bakersfield because there aren’t actually direct trains from Fresno to Los Angeles. Also, even when you’ve reached your final destination, you still need to arrange a way to get to where you’re staying in that city instead of just going straight there while driving.

There are also the same hassles whenever you’re taking public transportation – not every other passenger is considerate of those around them and if your train is crowded there is little to no privacy.

However, I can see the appeal in using it from time to time. As a group, I think it would be interesting to take a train to other places – have a group experience without having to worry about being pulled over or distracting the person who’s driving. And even when you’re by yourself, you get to see the places you may drive often from a completely different perspective.

I enjoyed my trip thoroughly and not having large amounts of luggage (I only had a backpack) made it even easier to do.

I hadn’t known when I got my tickets, but many times if you’re a college/university student, your school may have access to codes that can cut down on the ticket price so be sure to check that as well. Tickets can be bought online as eTickets or to be picked up at the station or can be bought directly from the station. I used the eTicket and it was as easy as paying and then printing it in my apartment.

So all in all, a big thumbs up and would go again for Amtrak and that’s all from me!

This is Bex writing for Leave on the Wind, (but still) helping you soar.

On Tracks: California Edition