[Visit] NorCal beach towns

In classic California fashion, we spent the weekend exploring beach towns here in the Bay Area. We visited both Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, exploring a mix of touristy and local things.

Mike’s parents arrived from Toronto on Friday and before beach bumming it, we kicked things off at B Street and Vine in downtown San Mateo. This place is a local Bay Area gem with the best bruschetta around.

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On Saturday, after coffee and a light breakfast, we drove to Half Moon Bay. Our first stop was back to Dad’s Lunchonette for burgers, beers, and mac n’ cheese. Just like the last time Mike and I went to Dad’s, we took it to-go and ate on the beach across the street at Half Moon Bay State Beach. True to NorCal weather, it was a windy but the sun stayed shinning throughout the afternoon; making for a nice day!

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After we ate, we played a few rounds of Kubb (Barb and Dan beating us 2/3 games). Next up? A nice beach stroll where we found a flock of baby seagulls, proving that everything is cute when it is a baby and small!

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The boys setting things up
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They were so tiny!

After our walk, we drove to Half Moon Bay Distillery for a FREE tour. HMB Distillery is a small craft distillery run by a husband and wife. Ulli gave our tour and she was great! Now thinking about it though, the tour was actually more of a talk. It started with a introduction video explaining how her and her husband started the distillery. Then she told us all about vodka and gin – how they were made and the key differences between them – following it up with tastes of each.

I was a big fan of their gin so we ended up going home with a bottle. I also just love to support local and small businesses. Plus, since the whole thing was free, I’m glad we bought something at the end. If you’re ever in Half Moon Bay, I recommend checking it out.

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Those gorgeous Cali. beaches 👌

We ended the night back in the south bay at one of mine and Mike’s favorite restaurants, Orchard City Kitchen.

On Sunday we started the day at The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. This place is a little touristy but at $8 a ticket (and $5 to park), it’s a fun, reasonably priced thing to do. Plus, the drive there is beautiful under all of the California redwoods.

The Mystery Spot claims to be “a gravitational anomaly.” You’re able to do all of these weird things like stand a table and lean off of it without falling (pictures below). It is only a 45 minute tour – that’s pretty cheesy with a lot of punny jokes – but I think it was worth it.

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After The Mystery Spot we drove to downtown Santa Cruz. One of our favorite thing to do as a couple is go to the Tea House Spa, where you can enjoy a hour spa and a hour massage for only $180. Such a deal! We didn’t do this with Mike’s parents but there is a cool beer place nearby that we usually go to after the spa called Lúpulo Craft Beer House. We decided to stop there first for beers and a meat and cheese plate. It was a nice day out so we were able to sit on the patio and enjoy our brews and noshes.

After we walked to Mike’s favorite place in Santa Cruz to stock up on cookies at Pacific Cookie Company. Typically I rather go for something else indulgent (like a really good cheese or wine!) but even I have to admit, the cookies are delish here.

We ended the day at Pour Taproom on the main strip in downtown. Mike and I have been there before and think it’s a cool idea. There aren’t any bartenders here but, instead, you serve yourself with selections of different beer, mead, and wine to pick from. One huge wall is lined with all of the taps and you can do a “taste” (2 ounces), a “flight” (4 ounces), or a full glass. You’re given a bracelet to wear that tracks your pours to pay at the end.

I think we each tried about 4 different beers while playing a game of parcheesi, which is about the longest game ever. We actually ended up leaving before we finished. Then it was time to head back over the hill to go home.

Tired but happy from a good weekend, we curled up and watched Lady Gaga’s new special on Netflix, Five Foot Two, in our new spacious office!

[Visit] Melissa comes to town!

I have a serious case of the Monday Blues today because our weekend was so fun with some of my favorite company.

We kicked things off on Thursday when Melissa, a good friend of ours from Toronto, flew in to visit. Mike and I headed up to San Francisco after work to meet her at the hotel we were staying at. We got a room for 2 nights at Hotel Whitcomb on Market street (more on that disaster later…), which was a short walk from Hayes Valley.

Hayes Valley is a super cute area in SF with a lot of unique stores and delicious looking restaurants. We went straight to Little Gem where they focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients. It’s an open space that still manages to feel cozy with candles, succulents, and dim lighting.

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We started with glasses of wine, sparkling, and beer plus an order of their hummus with NON bread. I could’ve just ate this all night. It was so good. For my main though, I ordered the Hen of the Woods Mushrooms on Beans & Rice bowl (talk about a wordy title!) with the mushrooms on the side (because I am picky about my mushrooms – it’s a texture thing). The rice and beans were good but filing. I ended up only eating about half and taking the rest to-go.

After dinner we walked back to our hotel, which looked a horror/ghost movie was filmed in. We spilt a bottle of wine, caught up, listened to music, and went to bed… blissfully unaware of what else was lurking in the room with us.

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Creepiest hotel ever!
On Friday morning I walked to the work, opting to work in from the SF office that day. I wouldn’t want to live in the city but it was a nice change of pace to be there for a few days. There’s an energy you can’t deny in San Francisco.

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The view from Google SF office (not complaining!)
While eating breakfast I got a call from Mike and I thought, weird, he almost never calls me. Maybe he just wants to make sure I made it to the office alright?

I answered the phone and he told me the disgusting news that him and Melissa had found a bedbug in our hotel room. I immediately felt itchy. Melissa had woken up with bites (not fun!) and was suspect of bedbugs. Luckily, they found a live one to show to the hotel staff. It was gross but without the little crawler as proof, we probably wouldn’t have gotten a refund.

Melissa and Mike had to spend the next few hours checking us into a new hotel (the Hyatt!) and being sure Hotel Whitcomb refunded our money, cleaned our clothes, luggage, etc. Total bummer for the start of a vacation (!) but they eventually got out and enjoyed the city. I requested pictures of their adventures and got these ones of the Painted Ladies and the Full House house.

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The Painted Ladies
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Full House house
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After work I walked to the Hyatt to meet them at our new hotel. Man, I love the Hyatt. It was unfortunate that we had to deal with bedbugs but the sliver lining was staying in the Hyatt. It’s such a luxurious hotel.

Melissa has been out to California to visit us 3 times and each trip we get a bottle of champs to drink in Union Square. Keeping up with tradition, we walked to Union Square for some bubbles next. Kicking off Friday right!

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Champs!
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Dinner was next at Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen. We ordered drinks and the Oh Canada! poutine (fitting), pomegranate organic chicken breast with kale and quinoa, and the mac n’ cheese. The drinks were strong and the food was drool-worthy! We even ordered a second mac n ‘ cheese for dessert. 😉

On Saturday we trekked across the Bay to Berkeley. We went to Marker’s Common for lunch (more mac n’ cheese and avo toast) and popped into a few stores in downtown. It was really hot and I just wasn’t all too impressed with downtown Berkeley so we didn’t spend too much time there. Next time I’ll have to do more research on local spots before.

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The heat was worse in the south bay but we popped into Whole Foods for adult essentials: crackers, cheese, berries, and wine before going back to our house. We promptly threw our clothes in the washer – despite the hotel cleaning them – to double protect against the Whitcomb bedbugs. Then we chilled out for a few hours before a BBQ at our house.

Because of the fight on Saturday, dinner reservations for our friend Shelby’s birthday were impossible. Instead we offered to host a BBQ at our house because we have a big outdoor space. We host Canadian Thanksgiving here every year (read about 2015 and 2016) and it’s the perfect spot with multiple BBQs, picnic tables, shade, and outlets to play music.

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❤ ❤ ❤
Everyone left after 10pm and Mike, Melissa, and I went back to our house where Melissa and I stayed up until 5am. The last time I pulled an all nighter was in high school! I’m usually a stickler for getting good sleep every night but was happy to make an exception.

On Sunday we woke up at 11am, showered and went to Los Gatos for coffee and lunch. It was another hot day and we were running on little sleep so things were slow moving. Around 4pm we dropped Melissa off at the airport and I had to fight back tears. It was so good to have her in town for the weekend. We’re already texting each other talking about separation anxiety… 

The countdown is on for when we’ll see her again in December when we go to Toronto for Christmas.

[Get Away] Clear Lake

It’s Friday! But I’m bringing it back to last weekend when we took a mini get away to Clear Lake. We stayed at our friend’s Lauren’s parents lake house for a weekend of sun, swimming, food, and fun. (rhyme)

This is our second trip up to Clear Lake this summer, with significantly better weather this time (although, I didn’t mind a cozy weekend at the lake a few weeks ago either). Lauren, her boyfriend, Ian, Mike and I left on Friday evening after a quick dinner at BierHaus. The lake is only a ~3 hour drive from Mountain View and we were lucky not to hit any traffic. We arrived at the house around 10:30pm and after quickly catching up with Lauren’s parents, retired to our room for the night. Lauren and her family are gracious hosts and let Mike and I stay in the other master bedroom the house has, complete with en-suite bathroom, a king size bed, and access to the deck with a beautiful view of the lake. I sleep like a royalty every time we go!

On Saturday we had a quick breakfast of bagels, melon, coffee, tea, and booch before taking the boat out on the water. Mike and Ian did a bit of wakeboarding and Lauren water skied. I stayed on the boat and was the Flag Girl; which means anytime someone is in the water and they aren’t being pulled by the boat, the flag has to be in the air to signal to other boats one of our people is in the water, watch out.

Sounds easy enough but there were a few times when I was too absorbed in watching that I forgot to hold up the flag when someone went down. Luckily, Deb (Lauren’s mom) is a pro and would remind me every time.


After a while out on the lake, we headed back to the house. We grabbed an array of tubes and one particularly giant swan and hit the lake again; jumping off the dock and chilling out but avoiding the seaweed (lakeweed?) at.all.costs.

Starving after all of our activity we headed inside for a nom lunch. Deb put out a delicious spread of shrimp, chicken wings, avocado, local tomatoes, bread, and black bean and sausage soup. I wish I’d snapped a picture but hunger took priority.

We let our food digest and then it was back out on the boat. This time, for tubbing! Lauren and I were scared to go with our S.O.s, in fear that they would think it was funny to push us off, so we insisted on going together. The boys went first and it was pretty funny seeing how small the tube looked under these 2 grown men.

Lauren and I were next and, omg, what an adventure! We basically just screamed the entire time, hoping not to drift out of the wake; where there are rollers that either send you flying or catching air and slamming back down on the tube. It sounds aggressive but it was fun! After we each went individually, Lauren’s dad expertly driving the boat each round.

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Wearing goggles to protect my contacts😛


We watched the sunset with glasses of wine and bottles of beer on the deck. Then had a delicious dinner of fish tacos and black beans. Dinner was later and I didn’t stay up much for much longer after, exhausted from all of the time spent in the sun and water.

The next morning we got up early and took the boat to breakfast. I wish I could commute everywhere by boat! There’s something v meditative about being surrounded by water.

Breakfast was delish but the service was soo slow. Like, they didn’t charge us for our drinks it was that slow. Oh, well. We packed up and headed back right when we got back. Making record time on the way home too.

[Eat] Dad’s Luncheonette

“I can’t believe we are at the beach this late!” I remember shouting to my mom years ago, in the pitch black night. “We should make this a tradition.”

My friends (who were basically my sisters), Amanda and Kristina, excitingly agreed. It was the Thursday of Thanksgiving. After dinner and dessert and dishes, my mom had casually mentioned driving to the beach. We thought she was joking. There was no way we were lucky enough to get to go to the beach this late. Holiday or not.

But she wasn’t joking. We piled into the backseat and drove to the coast, singing and waving our hands to Hotel California on the way. I had that giddy feeling you can only get from doing something completely unordinary and unscripted. As far as my teenage brain was concerned, this was the thrill of a lifetime.

We have yet to return to the beach late at night during the annual thankful Thursday. The night blissfully remains in my memory, not morphing into a tradition after all. However, this past weekend, I discovered something almost as delicious as being a teenager, out past bedtime with your feet in the cold sand. And it’s called Dad’s Luncheonette.

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Dad’s Luncheonette is a small eatery off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The kitchen is housed in a train caboose and there are a few chairs and counters within the wood fence built around it. There was a slight chill outside – as to be expected on most days, for most Northern California beach towns – but huddled close together in line, within the fence, the wind was blocked. The day was nice.

The menu is limited but everything looked tempting. Mike and I both ordered a beer and the Hamburger Sandwich. (Although there is “melty cheese” on it… which would make it a Cheeseburger Sandwich, right?) We also spilt an order of the Mac & Cheese with chips.

There’s a reason their website mentions the food is meant to be “enjoyed quickly, messily, on [their] patio…” Our sandwiches were absurdly messy and the patio is tiny; so eat quick – with a lot of napkins – and move along for the next group of foodies to enjoy Dad’s.

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Get there early because things sell out quickly
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Mike at Dad’s!

We ended up taking our lunch to-go and ate across the street at Half Moon Bay State Beach. (Note: there is a $10 parking fee at this beach.) When the sun was out, it was just hot enough to be considered a nice day. However, even with the occasional cloud coverage, the beach and the view was so pretty, there wasn’t room for complaining.

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California Girls

In between gusts of wind and sips of beer, I quickly devoured my cheese hamburger sandwich. It was messy and juicy and satisfying. The bites of fried egg with the combination of burger, melty cheese, and Dad’s sauce was perfect. The grilled bread complimented the sandwich so well, I didn’t even mind that it was white bread and not wheat or sourdough. (#healthyeaterproblems)

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Too hungry to snap a better picture

And after? the mac & cheese. THE MAC & CHEESE! Creamy, ooey and gooey. Plus, the crunchy house-made potato chips on top? Next. Level. Mike and I both commented that we should’ve got our own instead of sharing one. The ultimate compliment coming from two sharing-loving people like us…

The food was delicious and satisfying. It’s a splurge meal but not one that you should feel guilty about. After all, almost everything is organic, homemade, and local.

The beach on Thanksgiving night never became a tradition but there’s no doubt that eating Dad’s Luncheonette, seaside, should become one!

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Playing Kubb after lunch (which was harder than it looked with the wind!)

PS. Speaking of beaches, I’ll be posting about our trip Bali this week!

PPS. Dad’s Luncheonette is where it’s at but this isn’t a secret. We waited 1 hour to get our food so don’t come starving! (However, the place might have been so packed because of this article that came out in the SF Chronicle the week before.)

Also, a friend we were with is lactose intolerant and Dad’s didn’t allow for any substitutions; including taking the cheese off the hamburger sandwich. The girl working the register mentioned they had become overwhelming behind by making modifications to orders but, if someone has an allergy or intolerance, you’d think exceptions could be made… Luckily our friend had medication with him and was able to still order/chow down.

[Get Away] Sebastopol, CA

Sebastopol is about 50 miles North of San Francisco where art, local wine, and organic food have intersected. It’s trendy and cute; affordable with accessible parking (do San Franciscans know of such a thing!?). It’s essentially the perfect place for a weekend away from the Bay. Although, I grew up there (on alternating holidays and every other weekend) so I am biased…

(Who wouldn’t have a sweet spot for the town you used to snag honey sticks and play pretend with your sister in?)

However, Sebastopol has changed since my bike horse riding (we were really good at playing pretend, I’m telling you!) on dirt roads days. Specially there is the addition of The Barlow, a trendy area of shops, galleries, and eateries. Truth be told, Mike and I didn’t know The Barlow even existed. But what a pleasant discovery it was!

We opted out of the Hallmark fueled February 14th madness this year and postponed celebrating until the weekend (President’s Day weekend). We’ve been wanting to do a tour and tasting at Spirit Works Distillery for some time and figured the three day weekend was a perfect time to go.

Turns out, it poured almost the whole time we were there. Bloated rain drops pounded down with only a few pauses of dryness in between. My big, polka-doted umbrella was essential. Water proof shoes (and mascara!) a must. Puffy jackets and beanies taking priority over any date night outfit I had planned.

It sounds dreary but in reality, it couldn’t have been more perfect. A cozy, romantic, tipsy, love drenched weekend playing tourists in a nearby town. A pocket of time that I could feel how good the memories in-the-making were.

After we checked into the Sebastopol Inn, conveniently located just across the street from The Barlow, we started our night at MacPhail Tasting Lounge. Here we spilt a flight anticipating a boozy night with a tour and tasting scheduled next and dinner at a place with a seemingly delicious cocktail menu!

After our wine, we walked to Spirit Works. A grain to glass distillery located in The Barlow (seriously, best place ever). They use only organic grains for their alcohol and are a women run establishment. It’s safe to say there were a whole lotta things I liked about the place!

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The tour was fun and interesting. And then it was on to the good part, the tastings! Everything we tried was so, so good. We ended up buying a sampler and a bottle of cask strength wheat whiskey.

My favorite was the sloe gin (that is basically gin and juice …that they call their gin and juice #mindonmymoney). I typically don’t like sweet drinks but this stuff was good. Highly recommended, y’all.

Then it was time for dinner at zazu kitchen and farm. Mike and I really like craft cocktails (if you can’t tell already) and local, sustainable food. Zaza was close to an oasis for us. We started with a cheese and meat plate (bad vegan…), picking the lonza, the weirauch st. rose (sheep) cheese, and iscalini cheddar pimento  (cow) cheese. YUM!!

We spilt a salad, bacon wrapped dates, a bucket of Korean fried chicken wings, and a poutine-like dish (Mike is Canadian so we always order anything close to poutine when we see it on a menu).  It was way more meat than we usually eat. I enjoyed every bite though.

We went back to the hotel after dinner. It was sprinkling out but we decided to go hot tubbing anyway! The Sebastopol Inn was literally perfect for our stay. Conveniently located, cute, clean, and equipped with a hot tub.

The next morning we went to Taylor Maid Farms for a quick breakfast and caffeine. My go-to coffee order is a cafe au lait with almond milk and a dash of cinnamon. Taylor Maid is the best I’ve ever had. So smooth and creamy and perfectly balanced.

It was raining hard when we finished our coffee and tea so we decided to go straight home instead of venturing down town. Besides, it was a 3-day weekend and we wanted to beat the traffic.

I can’t wait to go back for another weekend at The Barlow though! Sebastopol is perfect for a girls weekend or a romantic weekend away. The food, the wine, the vibe… it’s all dandy.