Well my friends, another year just flew by (although I swear 2019 was just last year)…. I feel like I’m still processing 2020, yet here we are – it’s almost 2022!
It was a weird year with so much fluctuation. Yes, COVID dominated all our lives (still very much so), but the world slightly got more and more back to normal as the year went on. Although now in December I feel like we’re kinda backtracking a bit…. ack! 2021 was kinda like a mind game — one month we were making so much progress and well, the next? Not so much.
I’ve been writing these yearly posts for almost a decade, and they’re honestly some of my favorite posts to write. Probably because I’m a sucker for memories and just love reliving the best moments.
I’m including highlights of HOME each month because I really tried to take advantage of the beautiful Bay since international travel was difficult to say the least. The ups and downs of Covid really got me (again) this year, with so much frustration of those refusing to get the vaccine and wear the damn mask. But I digress…
Thankfully 2021 brought a lot of goodness, too! Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of George Floyd (how was that even a question?), Mr. Joe Biden got elected into office, Europe opened its doors to Americans by summer (we took full advantage and went to Greece!), and Canada followed shortly after in August.
In terms of vaccines, everyone was eligible for Covid vaccines in the states by mid April, the Pfizer vaccine got FDA approval in late August, and booster shots were available in October! All things considered, it was a great year in science and politics.
The first few days of the New Year were as normal as they could be (considering the current state of the world), but my world came crashing down soon thereafter.
My sweet grandma was not doing well and declining rapidly. 🙁 What a way to start the year, right?
I wrestled with my feelings of not being able to say a proper goodbye to her due to COVID restrictions in New York for those coming from California (a forced quarantine upon arrival). We had a beautiful zoom shiva for her, where we all showed pictures/videos, reveled in happy memories, and just celebrated her long life. I’ll always admire her no-bullshit attitude towards life, and the fact that she really did put family first no matter what. Love you always, Toots!
HOME + Exploring the Bay/MLK Weekend
With the Bay Area still under lockdown, we spent most of the month exploring close to home. I feel so grateful to live in California where it literally feels like summer in the dead of winter some days (77 and sunny in mid-January?! Yes please!).
A few highlights I don’t wanna forget:
- Took Kona on a hike in the Oakland redwoods; he hiked over 4 miles up and down and LOVED every second of it
- Re-explored the Marin headlands with some hiking, a breakfast sandwich picnic overlooking the gorgeous Golden Gate Bridge, and an amazing sunset from Battery Spencer — a perfect day despite the horrific holiday traffic
- Such a fun over-the-top lakeside picnic with some friends
- Tried out (and bought) a peloton! I guess I should start using it… haha
- Made Mexican street tacos complete with homemade tortillas, homemade salsa, and bacon-flavored steak with a chef in Mexico City on AirBnB experiences! Such a fun Paloma-filled rainy-day date night
I don’t typically include any politics over here on my travel blog, but this year’s inauguration (and the weeks leading up to it) were absolute bonkers.
Definitely one of the most devastating and disgusting days in US history when the government was counting the votes – protesters were literally STORMING the capital. Um, what?!
But when we welcomed Joe into office, it was such a breath of fresh air and a HUGE weight lifted off everyone’s shoulders. Definitely gives us hope for the next few years. And I just have to add — those Bernie Sanders memes were out of control in the best way possible.
The stay-at-home order finally got lifted towards the end of January — just in time for us to go to Hawaii for my birthday!
We were actually supposed to head back to Mexico instead (this time to sunny Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta), but once new restrictions were put into place (requiring a negative COVID test before boarding a plane back to the US), we were sad for all of 5 minutes then quickly changed our plans.
Tickets were booked in a matter of an hour, we made appointments to get COVID tested for Hawaii, and I smiled knowing we’d be back to one of our favorite places in the world way sooner than expected — Oahu!
I’m not really sure why we stressed so much about the COVID requirements for Hawaii — we got our negative results back within 12 hours and the whole process at the airport was super simple. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they kept this procedure for a while.
From the airport to Leonard’s it was (for some fresh lilikoi malasadas), then it was off to the North Shore!
We’ve taken a day trip to the North Shore of Oahu on trips past, but never actually spent ample time here! Staying on the North Shore was SUCH a good decision – we saw green Hawaiian sea turtles on Laniakea Beach, indulged in overflowing açaí bowls from The Sunrise Shack, watched surfers attempt the INSANE swells at Banzai Pipeline, and took so many walks on the beach.
On my actual birthday we went cage diving with 12 feet Galapagos Sharks – to say that was a wild experience is an understatement. While we’ve been snorkeling with black-tip reef sharks in Bora Bora (no cage), this seemed way scarier for some reason. Although the go-pro footage is some of the worst we’ve ever taken and we have little to no photos of the morning, what an experience it was!
We ended our time on the North Shore with some shave ice from Matsumotos, searching for tiny fish at Sharks Cove (my favorite!), and finally watching the most beautiful beach sunset with a picnic complete with Ted’s famous chocolate haupia pie, the freshest poke from Foodlands, and POG-flavored Maui’s hard seltzer.
OAHU – Waikiki
My birthday trips usually spill over into February, and we spent the last few days in and around Waikiki, marveling in the sunshine and turquoise waters. We indulged in lots of Mai tais and pineapple vodkas on the beach, went back to all our favorite spots and loved some new ones (like Haleiwa Joe’s Haiku Gardens for my birthday dinner and Hawaiian Crown for fresh pineapple juice), and stayed at The Laylow, a super cute boutique I’ve been eyeing ever since they opened!
One of my favorite memories?! Seeing Hawaiian monk seals on the eastern coast of Oahu! Including one of the only 5 pups born last year! Super special to see – promise me if you ever go to Hawaii you’ll do your absolute best to protect all its species and the land!
Because of the pandemic, the main streets of Waikiki and Waikiki Beach were relatively empty! I was the only one walking along Waikiki Beach at sunrise one morning, and it was absolutely wild being in one of the most popular spots in Hawaii with practically no one there. Honestly, it was really nice, haha, although it felt kinda surreal (like all of 2020 did, haha).
Overall, a very successful pandemic trip to Hawaii, and I’m glad we got to experience the warmth of the island without all the usual crowds.
Back at home, we filled our weekends with lots of outdoor time since spring came early in the Bay (high 70s in February!). The cherry blossoms in our neighborhood bloomed, I went on lots of flower photo walks, and literally ran through the wild mustard fields (and checked out a new-to-me beach) in Half Moon Bay. I also crossed off a few things on my SF bucket list: magnolias in the SF Botanical Garden, hiked the Batteries to Bluffs trail, and ate cupcakes from Noe Valley Bakery!
Plus something we’ve never done before – we bought live lobsters, steamed them, and made lobster rolls (and then lobster tacos with some leftover meat for dinner the next day!) Absolutely delicious.
I also went hiking in Castle Rock State Park with some friends- so fun climbing on the rocks and singing Spice Girls in the caves! Get you some friends who aren’t ashamed to sing 90s music in public, haha.
We spent Valentine’s Day weekend in the park (after somehow snagging a last minute reservation despite them all being taken in 2 minutes!!!). We went to all the usual Yosemite winter spots: Tunnel View, Lower Falls, Yosemite Chapel, Mirror Lake, Valley View, etc. Nothing will beat our first Yosemite winter visit, but we still had fun in the snow!
It was the ultimate winter wonderland, despite Kona being so cold in his little sweater and jacket. Made my heart so happy when Noah continuously picked him up and carried him when he was shivering. He LOVED the snow though!
The days were spent in the snowy park and we had cozy nights in bed with Netflix and take-out. The best, right? And on our way home, we stopped in Hilmar for some of the best grilled cheese sandwiches we’ve ever had!
COVID VACCINE DOSE 1
It was my turn to get the first dose of the vaccine, being an educator and all! And boy did it feel weird (in the best way possible). We went to a huge convention center near us, and had to wait in line with hundreds of other cars to get the vaccine. Such a surreal experience. Totally felt like I was in a movie – kinda like Contagion or some other pandemic movie. Definitely didn’t think this was something we’d all experience in our life time.
To be honest, getting the vaccine was a bit more anti-climactic than I thought, but we’re doing things! Go science! I was seriously lucky and only had a sore arm for a few days.
Off we were again, this time to Nevada City to celebrate my sister-in-law turning 40 (!!!) and my cute nephew’s 8th birthday. It was a super low-key weekend with lots of relaxing, bomb pastrami sandwiches, bear watching right outside their house (we saw THREE bears!), sparkly nail painting, cake and balloons, and a champagne/apple cider toast.
We decided to make a quick pit stop on the way home in Sacramento for a yummy lunch at Hook and Ladder, a walk around the capitol building, and to see a gorgeous mural I’d been wanting to photograph for a while!
March marked a full year of working from home and when the crazy virus started exploding all over the news and stomping on our world as we knew it. It’s also when restrictions started being lifted, and I finally began seeing the light at the end of the (never-ending) tunnel.
We relaxed a lot this month, and it honestly felt so good to slow down (after having an exceptionally busy February somehow).
At home in the Bay we spent lots of time relaxing and binging Breaking Bad, I had my first $500+ Mediavine day due to a post going crazy viral and super high RPMs (!!!), and I spoke at the #influencer conference about all things Mediavine and SEO. It was super nerve wracking and I totally needed my husband and friends to encourage me to go for it, but I got through it (with only a few minor hiccups).
I also made it my mission to visit the city a bit to help ramp up my SF content, including playing tourist for a day at Fisherman’s Wharf, checking out the new Umbrella Alley and murals, walking around Ghirardelli Square, and watching the sea lions bark at Pier 39. It’s definitely not one of my favorite neighborhoods in SF, but it’s fun every once in a while. AND I finalllllly indulged in a chocolate croissant from Le Marais and I’M IN LOVE.
Another day was spent wandering around Golden Gate Park, finally seeing the tulips in FULL bloom at The Dutch Windmill and going back to the Conservatory of Flowers (and of course wrote a whole blog post about all my favorite things to do in Golden Gate Park).
Outdoor and even indoor dining opened at reduced capacity, and I went out with friends for the first time in over a year and celebrated a friend’s birthday at our favorite steak restaurant! So fun! Forgot how much we love these nights out! Makes me appreciate all the little things in life we typically take for granted.
Also, the peloton arrived earlier than we thought (!!!) and we started riding almost every day!
COVID VACCINE #2
Time for my second dose! Thankfully the line wasn’t as long today and we drove right up! Still felt pretty apocalyptic though. What weird times!
Luckily I had no major symptoms/side effects, only a tiny bit of muscle pain in my shoulder near the injection site. AND I was in a bit of a fatigued fog for a morning but that was it! There’s a sliiiiiight possibility I had Covid back in February 2020 when I didn’t feel well at the airport coming back from Todos Santos, but the symptoms were different and went away in less than a day. So probably not? Definitely not complaining though!
My parents got their first dose in NY, which made me especially happy!
DAY TRIP TO TREASURE ISLAND
We FINALLY headed over to Treasure Island and spent an afternoon hanging out with friends. I can’t believe we had never been before – it’s so close to us! We lucked out with a beautiful sunny day, with picture perfect views of the SF skyline on our walk (with tons of sailboats out) and snacked on some delicious fish and chips in the sunshine.
It’s days like this that make me remember why we live in the Bay. Definitely one of my favorite day trips from San Francisco, that’s for sure!
When we realized international travel was still pretty much outta the picture, I figured why not head south for Spring Break and explore a few parts of CA we’d still never been to!
But first stop — Roscoes for some fried chicken and waffles! On our way to Palm Springs, we stopped in Cabazon for chocolate date shakes and of course to see the infamous giant dinosaurs.
We fell in love with Palm Springs almost the moment we arrived. Our few days were filled with boozy brunches at some of the chicest hotels in the city, pool time at the Ace Hotel with some mango margaritas, finding a whole bunch of Desert X art pieces, gawking at the crazy windmill farms, and strolling around the Moorten cactus garden.
We also wandered around the Indian Canyon neighborhood taking lots of photos (I just loved those mid-century modern homes and colorful doors) and hiked along the lush oasis of Andres Canyon Trail in Palm Canyon.
If you find yourself in Palm Springs, you NEED to try the yummiest potato pizza, Nonna’s meatballs, and pane bread from Birba. The best.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Next up – a day trip to Joshua Tree! We stopped at all the typical spots, like the Cholla Cactus Garden, Hidden Valley, Skull Rock, and the Arch Trail. The number of Joshua Trees we saw were absolutely unreal, I had too much fun climbing on the massive rocks at Jumbo Rocks, and we watched the most beautiful sunset from Keys View (the highest place in the park) with some fried chicken sandwiches (yes, we left the park and made a mad dash for some food).
And luckily, made it back to Palm Springs juuuuust in time for some over-the-top milkshakes from Great Shakes. Another must on any Palm Springs weekend getaway!
DESERT ODDITIES + BORREGO SPRINGS
The next part of our little SoCal desert road trip – Borrego Springs! But before heading there, we took a little road trip to some of the wackiest spots in CA! We found a HUGE palm tree farm, walked out to the smelly Salton Sea, took so many pictures of the Bombay Beach ruins and town (that drive-in movie theatre was so cool!), marveled at the colorful Salvation Mountain, saw a whole bunch of wacky art in East Jesus, and walked on some impressive sand dunes.
And then we got to Borrego Springs. We stayed at the cutest desert oasis getaway, spending our mornings out in the desert, exploring the metal sculptures at Galleta Meadows and squeezing through The Slot Trail. The desert was in full bloom and it was just oh so pretty!
We relaxed by the pool every afternoon once it got way too hot to do anything else, and hung in the hot tub under the stars at night. So, so peaceful and hardly anyone was at our resort (hello pandemic times!). One night we learned all about the night sky and even saw different galaxies with our own eyes (!!!) through a telescope (Borrego Springs is an International Dark Sky hotspot afterall!).
Before heading home, we stopped in Julian for some famous apple pie and fulfilled my dream of prancing around the stunning blooms at the Carlsbad Flower Fields (finally crossed that off my CA bucket list).
Noah got the vaccine in mid-April, and we were both overjoyed! He felt like absolute shit the next day, but so worth it. Of course we celebrated with some free Krispy Cream donuts that weekend!
And my parents got their second dose as well! Finally seeing the shiny bright light at the end of the COVID tunnel!
PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK
I put my National Parks Pass to good use and headed down to Pinnacles one weekend with some friends! We literally scaled the side of the mountain – the trail was so narrow at times; it honestly kinda felt like we were on a different planet! So wild! All in all, we hiked around 12 miles or so, and it felt so good to be outside with friends for the day!
I definitely wanna go back to explore the caves and see the reservoir one day! Another great day trip from SF for sure.
After spending a day in San Diego last summer, I headed back down with some friends for a long weekend getaway! We ate tacos until we were officially taco-ed out (including one only 8 miles from the Mexican border!), hung at Hotel Del for some sunset cocktails, and walked around the waterfront and explored Old Town.
One of my favorite afternoons? Walking around the hip neighborhoods of North Park and South Park, of course stopping at all the beautiful plant shops and colorful murals. We also explored Balboa Park, including the super colorful Spanish Village Art Center, cacti garden, and botanical building.
The weekend wouldn’t be complete without some trendy boozy brunches x2 (complete with maple bacon donuts and soufflé pancakes), admiring the paragliders at Torrey Pines, swinging on hidden swings, and watching the sea lions at La Jolla Cove for over an hour and a half! Such a fun girls trip!
In May, we celebrated a 99th birthday over Zoom (Mary!), a derby party complete with chocolate pie and mint juleps, and I surprised my mom for Mother’s Day in New York (more on that later). But at home we helped two of our good friends get engaged (we were part of the scavenger hunt), I hiked Mission Peak with friends (over 9 miles and up 149 flights — Phew!), and started going out to bars/breweries with friends/coworkers — definitely felt a bit strange but oh so welcomed!
We also explored the city a bit, scoring free tickets to the SF MOMA (I’ve been wanting to go for so long!), riding the ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park, and checking out the immersive Van Gough exhibit. We finally re-visited the Rose Garden in San Jose, stopping for yummy drinks at San Pedro marketplace afterwards.
Ohhhh – I pulled off surprising my mom in NY for Mother’s Day so good! I randomly found a $130 ROUNDTRIP nonstop flight from SFO to JFK a few months back, so I couldn’t not go! Cheapest I’ve ever seen!
It was a super low-key weekend, but I got to spend some quality time with my immediate family and sweet (almost) 97 year old grandma (and of course consume some bagels and pizza)! I also saw some family who I haven’t seen since before Covid – including my older cousin (who’s more like a sister) who I missed SOOOO much.
I even teared up on the plane coming home — didn’t realize how much I missed my family 💕
Memorial day in Paso! We met up with some friends for a weekend of wine tasting! It was super hot and sticky (that’s Paso in the summer for ya), but we cooled off with some chilled whites and yummy rose, and FINALLY got to check out the Sensario light installation which was more spectacular than I ever imagined (even Noah loved it)!
We also checked off a few wineries I’d been wanting to see — with Niner being our favorite, and ended the weekend at an olive farm going olive oil tasting! That ice cream drizzled with EVOO at the end was oh so refreshing and perfect!
In June, we celebrated our NINE year anniversary over brunch at Son & Garden, a hip spot I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. I also spent some time in Berkeley with friends (eating all the things) and then smelling all the lavender at Araceli Farms, another local spot I’ve been wanting to see!
And get this – California officially opened back up in mid-June! San Francisco was the first major city in the US to put a mandatory shelter in place last year, and I’m so proud and grateful of how far we’ve come. We were also the first major city in the states to have herd immunity (80% vaccine rate), which just makes me love my city even more. <3 Hot girl vax summer, here we go!
In terms of business, it was my highest month EVER on Mediavine (read my love letter to the company here!). This little blog of mine is finally reaching pre-Covid levels of income again (after what was a rough 15 months or so), and it gives me hope for the blog’s future.
As soon as school was out for the summer, I snuck off on a week-long trip to Washington State, and what a fun girls trip it was. The primary reason for our trip (besides eating all the things in Seattle…) – to celebrate Caroline’s birthday!
In Seattle, we spent a whole afternoon eating everything at the market (think mac n cheese from Beechers, lemon greek yogurt, mini donuts, and more), admiring all the peonies, sipping on espresso martini flights at Starbucks, feasting on happy hour pastas, hanging at a swanky rooftop bar overlooking the waterfront, grabbing donuts from General Porpoise, and checking out the REI flagship store! Makes me miss this city in more ways than one, considering it was my first EVER solo trip way back when.
Seattle Day Trips
Once our bellies were full, we unexpectedly took the ferry and explored Whidbey island, full of cute little seaside towns and a clam chowder and fish n chips lunch. We also got gorgeous views over Deception Pass bridge and watched an epic sunset at the beach.
Next was a full day on the San Juan islands (we took the ferry again!) in hopes to see orca whales! No luck (womp, womp), but we did see some porpoises, local sheep, and bald eagles while cruising the straight. We also circumnavigated the island and checked out a sculpture garden, an alpaca farm, and a lookout point… but still, no whales. But it’s always a good time with these girls – full of dance parties on the ferry and lots of sing-a-longs.
Olympic National Park
We said goodbye to the San Juans and off to Olympic National Park it was, where we spent two full days adventuring in the wildly unpredictable weather. We admired lush rainforests (and walked through the iconic Hall of Mosses), hung out on scenic beaches — Ruby Beach was our favorite, with tons of haystacks jutting out of the water, and drove up 5k feet on Hurricane Ridge Road for a scenic lookout of the mountains (despite feeling the chill through our bones).
The trip was also full of hiking to gushing waterfalls (including one very muddy walk in the rain), a scenic bridge which we swore looked like a cenote in Mexico, and a lavender farm where we indulged in both lavender lemon ice cream AND white chocolate lavender ice cream.
Back home I finally made it to Aracelli Farms, a lavender farm near Dixon I’ve been wanting to check out since the minute I first heard about it. Despite literally dripping our entire visit (it was scorching hot to say the least), I loved frolicking in the fields and living out all my lavender fantasies.
We sipped on lavender lemonade and lavender sangria, took way too many photos, and hung out in the barn/shade as much as we could. Let’s just say my husband was a trooper…
Hawaii round two, anyone?! This time to Maui! Since we had to cancel Noah’s birthday trip to Hawaii last year, when we scored a cheap ticket to Maui, we booked that baby right up! We always love our trips to Maui, but this one was definitely our best trip yet (despite being oh so crowded).
We watched the sunset from the beach almost every night, saw sea turtles almost every day, and rented a fun tangerine colored Jeep! The lushness of Iao Valley was incredible (there were so many monsteras!) and an insane amount of green mountainous peaks. We drove the Road to Hana again, and while it wasn’t as impressive as the first time around, we loved the black sand beach and the cute beach town of Paia.
Also – we finally crossed Kapalua Bay Beach, dinner at Merrimans, and a round at the Bay Course off our Hawaii bucket lists!
I somehow scored us a ticket to watch the sunrise at Haleakala, and we lucked out with the most perfect conditions! Yes, chilly as always, but zero wind, which made it that much more enjoyable. The first bit of light after driving up the mountain is so magical! Those colors! We also walked the Sliding Sands trail a bit and checked out what I swore looked exactly like Mars after marveling in the sunrise.
But the most magical part of the trip?! Cruising alongside a whole pod of dolphins on the way to Lanai. I swear, I watched them for what felt like hours! I totally teared up – it was so, so special. Hawaii always continues to surprise us in the best ways possible.
Whoops – I cancelled our 4th of July plans up in Sonoma (I was too lazy to plan) and hung around SF instead. So I did some fun city things instead (because nope, I can’t sit still!).
I crossed off a bunch of photo spots for my epic photo spots in San Francisco post with a friend, had fun at nightlife at the CalAcademy (which I hadn’t done in YEARS), and finally had fancy afternoon tea at The Rotunda! We also took Kona to Fort Point and let him run around off leash, and he did SO well!
But the indoor mask mandate began again in LA county (proving that CA isn’t doing so well pandemic-wise), and we had major threats of dry lightning. Global warming I tell ya!
Back to New York it was, this time for my grandma’s unveiling — meaning I got to spend lots of quality time with family. Always a wonderful time laughing with my people, exactly how grandma would have wanted it. <3 I even had lobster rolls overlooking the water and then unexpectedly took a ride on the police boat with my soon-to-be brother-in-law!
I spent a few days re-exploring NYC, a place I didn’t realize how much I missed until I was there walking the streets with friends and family. Loved all the details at the new Friends Experience, stuffed ourselves silly on a DIY dessert tour, had dinner at a completely pink Italian restaurant, sipped drinks on rooftop bars, walked around the new Little Island and Hudson Yards, and hung out at Central Park with popsicles.
But before leaving, I said my last goodbyes to my childhood home (before my parents’ big move to North Carolina), which was much more emotional than I thought it’d be. So many great memories in that house, and it feels so weird to know I’ll never run around in the backyard or have sleepovers with my sister in my childhood bedroom.
Greece is one of our all-time favorites (it was our honeymoon destination after all!), so as soon as the country opened up to vaccinated Americans, we booked our flights! It was our first major international trip since Covid, and it felt so good to get back out there (although I kinda forgot how far away we are from Europe now that we live on the West Coast).
I left Noah in charge of booking our flights, so of course we ended up with lay flat seats on the way to Athens (via Istanbul), and I slept like a baby for over 8 hours (not complaining).
Our 3 days in Santorini were a dream come true – and it was just as gorgeous as I remember it being on our honeymoon. Although a tad bit more crowded…
We stayed in Oia at the most beautiful hotel (a major splurge) and loved every second of it (besides the hundreds of steps and humidity!). We definitely took max advantage of the infinity pool, just relaxing and soaking in all the views of the caldera (I mean, just look at it — how could we not?!)
Our days were spent eating spinach pie and gyros, exploring the picturesque town of Oia (and all it’s blue domes), exploring bustling Fira, sailing the seas of Santorini and swimming in the water, and of course watching gorgeous sunsets out on the water.
A promise I made to myself – to never miss a Santorini sunset! And I even braved the crowds at the Oia Castle one night; those views, swoon! Worth it? Times a million.
But UGH – the jet lag was so real! I was up at 3:30am almost every morning — which was perfect for watching the sunrise and taking early morning photos at the blue domes. So I guess it wasn’t so horrible, haha. There’s worse places to have jet lag for sure.
This was our first time on Milos, and we loved every second of it. The island felt way more authentic and natural than the other Greek islands we’ve been to, and I’m so glad we chose it as our 3rd island on our Greek island hopping adventure! If you go, make sure you indulge in some honey puffs (delicious is an understatement).
Our days were spent exploring the island, stopping at fishing villages, the most gorgeous beaches (including the moonlike lunar landscape of Sarakiniko — what attracted me to Milos in the first place, and Firiplaka — our newest obsession in Greece), and other viewpoints. We spent another full day beach hopping via catamaran (including the mysterious pirate lair of Kleftiko Bay), and OMG pictures hardly do these spots justice. Absolutely breathtaking and the water felt SO GOOD on the hot summer afternoon.
I’m reallllly glad we got to Milos when we did; I fully expect this tiny island to become exceptionally popular in the next few years (hopefully it doesn’t turn into the next Santorini…).
We spent the last few days of our trip taking it easy in Mykonos – nearly 3 days were spent wandering through town (and taking thousands of photos), hanging at the pool, and eating our way through Mykonos. Live music was banned because of Covid, but we still enjoyed drinks at sunset overlooking the windmills (despite all the wind!).
A great way to end a mildly hectic trip. Greece – we’ll be back! Just maybe in shoulder season, wink wink.
Covid took a turn for the worst with the Delta variant running rampant, causing indoor mask mandates to be put back into effect (completely ruining hot vax summer!).
But we kept our heads up high and went on with real life, spending an afternoon at the Yankee game which was so fun after not going to a sporting event in forever! And we even made it on the Jumbotron for a split second!
I also finally made it to Yoga at the Grace Cathedral with a friend (something that’s been on my SF bucket list for years)!
I started in-person work again, and boy was that weird for a few weeks. All the kids seemed exceptionally happy to be back, and spirits were high despite needing to wear masks the entire day and sanitizing like crazy. So wild.
Las Vegas was a quick 72 hours full of crazy milkshakes, drool-worthy NY-style pizza, Nutella brioches, an insane afternoon of all things crazy at Meow Wolf, and some much-needed pool time under the Eiffel Tower.
But the main reason for our quick trip?! URSHER, baby!! And what a show he put on — still as sexy as ever! The concert was the first big-scale event we’ve been to since Covid (and it was even indoors).
We loved the show so much we refreshed our browsers for hours to score tickets to Lovers and Friends Fest for this coming May! Can’t wait!
SURPRISE GLAMPING TRIP
Glamping was part of our 6 month challenge (read about that on my 101 in 1001 goals post), and the husband did so well! We spent the night in a decked out “luxury” African safari tent, which was thrilling even if we were only two hours north of home in Santa Rosa (Sonoma).
I was honestly shocked how much I loved the whole experience; those baby giraffes were the cutest little things! We saw some of the typical animals you’d see on safari, like zebras, warthogs, hyenas, buffalo, cheetahs, etc, but also some much more unique species, like the Trumpeter hornbill, caracal, lemur, and vulturine guineafowl. Gave me all the Lion King vibes for sure!
The safari in Sonoma totally reinspired my desire to go on safari — a REAL safari in Africa (like we were supposed to do in Tanzania before the pandemic canceled all our plans). Gotta go research and plan!
In September, I did a fun 8 mile hike above the clouds at Mt Tam with friends, met a friend’s new baby, spent a morning pumpkin picking in Half Moon Bay, and saw the new acrobatic show Dear San Francisco!
SAN LUIS OBISPO
We were supposed to spend Labor Day weekend in the Eastern Sierras/Yosemite, but decided to cancel after fires were storming through the national forests. So, off to the coast it was (being a much safer option and all).
Our weekend was spent with friends for a pizza picnic overlooking the estuary— we hadn’t seen them since February 2020 — right before Covid, hiking up to the architectural graveyard at Poly Canyon, and finally checking out Pismo Beach!
You betcha I got my hands on one of those famous cinnamon rolls (yum), and then promptly walked it off at the Dinosaur Caves Park. Can’t believe we haven’t properly explored this area before – we’ll gotta go back!
Remember when Noah and I escaped to Cabo during the pandemic in December 2020? Well I found myself back there less than a year later!
We were supposed to head to Nashville for a long weekend together, but decided to cancel our trip because the city was spiking like crazy with Covid cases.
So instead, I hopped on a friend trip to Cabo to celebrate Mel turning 40, and OMG it was so fun.
We spent a ridiculous amount of time relaxing in the resort pool (sipping on pina coladas at the swim up bar of course), eating chilaquiles for breakfast every AM, indulging in a delicious farm-to-table lunch at Flora Farms (complete with farm tour), and wandering around Centro San Jose del Cabo, indulging in tacos, margs, and paletas, and of course doing some shopping!
But the highlight of our trip? Spending a morning on our own private clear boat to El Arco! We loved watching the tropical fish swim right under our boat — it was insane how many there were! Such a fun girls trip, complete with dance parties on the boat shuttle en route to Playa Amour.
Despite sweating like crazy and feeling run down on our first day, the birthday trip was a wild success! And we were all negativo!
We started off the month with two back to back concerts: Andrew McMahon and Maroon 5, spontaneously ordering (and eating…) $50 worth of Seattle’s Piroshky Piroshky from a pop up, and celebrating Kona turning two! Of course we forced him to wear a little party hat to take photos in, haha.
Fall travel continued with a long weekend in San Diego, which I was so excited to return to after visiting (and falling in love with) this past April! We thankfully managed to escape the bomb cyclone in the Bay Area (the legit scientific name for the storm!) – what great timing it was!
While we stuffed our faces with tacos and gallivanted around the city, the main reason for our trip? For Noah to run the SD ½ marathon, his first race since 2019 (because of you know what), and he freaking PRed! All 13.1 miles done in 1 hour, 53 minutes. So proud of him! Of course there was Crack Shack and an ice cream flight at Hammonds afterwards.
After the race, we saw some friends for a celebratory steak dinner on the water (Island Prime is a must on any San Diego itinerary you guys!), and it was just perfect!
We watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs, indulged in homemade tortillas in Old Town, gorged on cheese wheel pasta, sipped on lots of craft cocktails (we loved Raised By Wolves the most!), chilled in the sun at La Jolla, strolled around Balboa Park, pretended we were staying at Hotel Del, and of course I made it to quite a few San Diego photo spots.
San Diego, I love you the most and already can’t wait to come back. I do have lots more to check off my San Diego bucket list afterall!
And just a few days later, I flew out to Austin for a long weekend for another girls trip! We had found suuuuper cheap nonstop flights back in June (practically unheard of) so we booked those babies right up!
We went mural chasing on South Congress, spent a lazy morning at the pool, ate all the brisket and sides at a few popular BBQ spots (gimme all that banana pudding), drank cocktails at a secret speakeasy, watched the bats at sunset, hiked up Mount Bonnel, indulged in massive donuts at Gordoughs, saw the capital building, and went to Barton Springs and food truck parks.
Despite it being Halloween weekend, we managed to escape the Halloween madness on 6th street, although it was fun to see all the costumes (humans and dogs alike)! Overall, a chill weekend doing what we love best – taking tons of photos and indulging in so much good food!
November happened in all of 5 minutes; I can’t believe how fast it went! One minute it was Halloween and then the next we were having Thanksgiving dinner! Wild how time seems to just fly by the older I get, yet go so slow all at once.
And then just 2 days later (after my Austin trip) we drove down to OC for Noah to run yet another ½ marathon! Where he PRed again at 1:52! So impressed with his dedication! No photos of his actual race because I stayed in bed with the pup haha.
It was a super (super) quick weekend of seeing friends and running around, but always worth it to head to SoCal. We spent a day in Laguna Beach – having oysters overlooking the Pacific, watching Kona play in the sand, checking out some colorful photo spots, hiking to The Top of the World, and trying out a new ice cream and plenty of coffee spots!
THANKSGIVING IN NEVADA CITY
We spent a few days with family relaxing in Nevada City. It was really low-key but of course filled with lots of yummy food, quality time with my niece and nephew (<3) and all the holiday coffees from Dutch brothers. We finally checked out Empire Mine State Park, and went on a short hike with Kona to the lake to get our steps in!
But before heading to Nevada City to celebrate with the whole fam, we took my FIL to Alcatraz (on a perfect November day) and celebrated my MIL’s early birthday with a yummy steak meal!
After a crazy busy few months, it was nice to slow down and actually have a few weekends relaxing at home/with family.
After tons of family time for Thanksgiving, one of our friends came to visit us in SF for a quick weekend! We saw a comedy show, grabbed holiday drinks in a bar decked out for Christmas, and spent an afternoon/night admiring the tree and all the lights in the city, plus cheesecake overlooking the ice rink .
Another highlight – Noah running his first full marathon in over 2 years – this time CIM in Sacramento. He beat his full PR by 29 minutes and finished in 4 hours, 9 minutes. Wild! I had big plans of getting a lot of content but it was chillier than expected so we kinda just watched Christmas movies in bed all day instead haha.
And then I got a cold and convinced myself it was Covid so naturally, took 3 tests — thankfully they all came back negative but OMG was that scary.
But our December days were honestly filled with so much confliction over if our trip to Switzerland would happen 😭😭😩 (it didn’t). The new omicron variant officially started spreading in the US – when will this virus ever end?! I’m officially over it all.
101 in 1001 Goals
My 101 in 1001 goal list ended in mid-December, and surprise, surprise — definitely didn’t complete my entire list! The fact that I survived (and even semi-thrived) during a global pandemic is good enough for me. I definitely didn’t visit 8 new countries (heck, we hardly traveled internationally these past 2 years), run 3 miles (although it would’ve been the perfect time to train), or visit Disneyland.
I did somehow manage to see numerous concerts and broadway shows, check off a bunch of things on my San Francisco bucket list, read over 25 books (super easy in quarantine times), took a whole week off social media, surprise my family in NY, as well as discover plenty of new-to-me spots in California (hello Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, San Diego, and San Clemente).
MEXICO — PUERTO VALLARTA AND SAYULITA
This totally should be a section on snowy Switzerland (and the insane igloo we booked for a night). But once the virus started spreading like crazy over there and they enforced quarantines, we quickly changed our plans to go to Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita instead! I’d been wanting to go for a while now (see January’s cancelled birthday plans, haha), so figured now was the time! Mexico’s always an easy trip, and since we’ve done Los Cabos a few times, figured we should change it up!
And plus, after a few days of cold and rain in San Francisco, I was ready for some sun.
First up – Puerto Vallarta! We split our time between a bougie hotel a bit south and the city itself.
And that bougie hotel was the best idea yet. After so much stress (and sadness) of canceling our Switzerland trip, we needed a few days of pure relaxation to jump start our time in Mexico. We didn’t leave the hotel at all, except for venturing down to the beach for a bit and eating the most delicious meal at Le Kliff (a must!).
In the city, we walked along the malecon, gorged on street food (all the esquina y tacos por favor), hiked up to a viewpoint, and checked out the artisan market on Isla Cuale. We also took a day trip to the Marietas Islands and swam to the hidden beach which was gorgeous! Oh and saw an insane amount of humpback whales — I was in awe the entire time!
To be honest, Vallarta wasn’t our absolute favorite (it was wayyyy too busy for our liking), but I’m still glad we got to experience it. Although we could have stayed in the infinity pool overlooking the water and jungle for days (that’s definitely where we’ll be basing ourselves next time).
The biggest unexpected (but very pleasant) surprise was San Pancho, where (some) people walk around barefoot, dogs are literally everywhere, and there’s a chill sunset party every night.
San Pancho is such a chill and laid back surf town, full of expats, locals, and tourists, and kinda reminds us of Gili Air off the coast of Bali which we loved a few summers ago. We wandered around the colorful town, ate at the best local spots (including tons of fresh tortillas from the tortilla lady), got massages, hung at the beach, watched the famous San Pancho sunsets, and hung at our hotel! Didn’t hurt that it was so chic and designed so stylishly; we loved it!
We also got invited to the first ever Sope Festival by the owner, and it was more like a 6-course gourmet meal! Absolutely delicious! Something we’ll never forget for sure.
We already can’t wait to go back and we just got home a few days ago!
From the minute I saw photos of Sayulita a few years back, I just knew I’d love this little area (and I was right). We strolled around the colorful streets, indulged in all the street food sweets (churros, crepes, y plantains), drank lots of agua de cacao (my new favorite), watched all the surfers, and ate at all the best spots (omg the mole at Mary’s and pizza at La Rustica, drool).
We were in Sayulita for Christmas Eve, and omg there was so much festive fun in the square that night. Mexicans really know how to enjoy themselves!
Just like in PV, we also booked a hotel with a rooftop pool and spent tons of time relaxing up there when we weren’t at the beach.
The end of our trip was a bit stressful after hearing of SO many getting Covid (since we’d need negative tests to return back to the US). BUT we tested NEGATIVE, so celebrated with some of the best beachside lobsters, blue shrimp, and walks on the softest sand in Punta Mita!
While the year was slightly dominated by Covid yet again (plenty of cancelled trips and tons of stress), we definitely made the most of it! Lots of trips in the US (Hawaii, San Diego multiple times, Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, Austin, SLO, Vegas, Washington, etc), and even a few out of the country (México twice – San Jose del Cabo and Puerto Vallarta/Sayulita, and the Greek Islands of Santorini, Milos, and Mykonos).
I got to see my family a few times in New York, took plenty of trips with friends, watched Noah run a few marathons, and everyone I love got the vaccine (plus booster). The school year started in-person again, we finally got a new president, and I definitely explored more of San Francisco yet again.
We’ll see what next year brings, but I have a slight suspicion it’ll be similar to 2021 – cases are expected to peak in January/February… Happy New Year, friends! Thanks for reading! Your support means everything to me!