Thursday, September 1, 2016

Home, Where the Heart Is #TopTenThursday

Welcome to this week's #TopTenThursday. This is a fun writing challenge, that is hosted by Tamara of Confessions of a part-time working mom. Her, myself, and other bloggers, come together and post weekly Top Ten lists, which we create based on a chosen topic. I hope you enjoy reading my list, as much as I loved creating it.

Last week, we made a list of our Top Ten Rules. This week, we are revealing our Top Ten Favorite Places in our Hometown. Last week, I had an easy time picking rules for my top ten list, so much so I made two lists. This week, not quite so easy. Here is the thing... I really do not know which town is my "hometown". 

I have moved a lot in my lifetime. I have lived in many states (CT, NC, MA, NH, NY, RI, WY, CA, IN, NJ...) and many towns. I was born in New London, CT, and I did briefly live there for about two months, in 2007, but I really know nothing about it, and have spent very little time there. It just happens to be where I was born. So, I don't consider it my hometown. I spent about seven years in North Carolina, while I was young, and often I feel like North Carolina is "home", but the place I most consider to be my first home, was not really in a town. I lived in the country, on a road named for my family, in a place that wasn't a town, but more of a farming community. I did live in several towns, while in North Carolina, and I do have fond memories of North Carolina. 

The other two places I spent a huge portion of my childhood in, are Wyoming and Connecticut. After leaving North Carolina, I moved to Wyoming, and stayed there for the majority of my middle school years. I moved to Connecticut just before my fourteenth birthday, and remained there until after I graduated high school. I am very attached to Connecticut. I was born there. So, part of me almost thinks the town I spent the majority of my time in there, would possibly be my hometown. 

So, when trying to think of TEN places to have as a favorite, well, I cannot think of ten. I just cannot. I am not sure there is any place with ten places I LOVE. Another option that was given, was the Top Ten Places we will miss if we move from where we currently live. Again, when I think about where I live, I cannot think of ten favorite places or ten places I would miss. Is that horrible? I guess it is because a few of my favorite places (Starbucks, Costco, the park...) are places that are not only here. They are places I can have, nearly anywhere I live. 

So, this weeks list was very difficult for me. So, like last week, I have decided to do more than one list. So, without further ado, in random order....

Top Ten Favorite Places in California: 

(I need to preface this by saying, I have not been many places here. I have really not even scratched the surface, but I have visited plenty of places that I genuinely LOVE! So much so, that even though I have only lived here since August 5, 2008, I have grown attached to this state. Which is saying something, because I really do not know many people here, and I tend to grow attached to people more than places.)

1. San Francisco. I strongly urge everyone to visit San Francisco, if you get the opportunity. It is a wonderful city. It is beautiful. It is full of awesome things to see, do, and places to eat. There are Piers that you can visit. My favorite is Pier 39. It is so fun. Lots to see and do. You can eat wonderful food, walk to amazing places nearby, see seals, see Alcatraz, see the Golden Gate Bridge, and really enjoy yourself. It is where Chad and I got engaged in 2009. The city itself has a rich history, and you can experience it through the many historical places throughout. I strongly recommend looking into visiting. I know I could never do it justice, so just take my word for it. I have not even scratched the surface of San Francisco, but if I get my wish, I will be living in California for many, many more years, and I will have plenty of opportunities to experience all it has to offer. I will say that I have heard wonderful things about San Francisco during Christmastime, but I have yet to go there during the holiday season. My hope, is to spend my next birthday there. Fingers crossed! 

(Chad and I, 2-14-2009, San Francisco, right after getting engaged)

2. Half Moon Bay. In August of 2009, Chad brought me to the beach for the first time. He chose Half Moon Bay, as my first beach experience. The drive there was amazing, and the town itself was so picturesque. There are several beaches there, and you can just go to whichever one you want, or if you are motivated, you could go to multiple ones. It is known as a great place to surf. I was so excited to be there. The beach is a happy place for me, and it had been a while since I had been to a beach. He surprised me with the trip. It was a mystery destination, and it is still one of my favorite adventures of ours. Once we hiked the distance down to the beach, I made my way to the water, took off my shoes, and ran full-speed into the ocean. I remember thinking YESSSSSS inside, and that quickly turned to NOOOOOOOOO. The water here is so COLD. It was freezing! I had to make a quick retreat. I was in shock. I am accustomed to the warm waters off the East Coast states, and I was no prepared for the cold water of the Pacific Ocean. It was definitely a crash course in California beaches. It is not weird to wear a sweatshirt on the beach here, even in the hottest part of Summer. The water is cold, and the breeze is very cool. So, it actually makes for a nice beach trip, if you can handle the cold water. You can enjoy the sun and sand, without dying of heatstroke. We are actually planning an end of Summer trip back to Half Moon Bay, for later this month. I am quite excited. 


3. Santa Cruz. If you want to enjoy the beach, and have fun, then Santa Cruz is a wonderful place to go. Their is a mini amusement park on the beach. There are all kinds of shops and restaurants. There is a train you can ride. It is just a very fun beach. It is beautiful. I genuinely loved it, as did Gigi. It was her first beach experience, and she is definitely like her Mom. She has not stopped asking to go back to the beach, since our Santa Cruz trip last Summer. I am very excited about our upcoming beach trip. There is so much to do in Santa Cruz. I definitely recommend going there, if you get the chance.

(Pictures from our 8-8-2015 Santa Cruz trip)

4. Moaning Caverns. Not to far from us, in Vallecito, CA, is an amazing place, that I think everyone should visit. It is a National Natural Landmark. You can walk down into the cavern, or repel down into it. You can go ziplining, or walk on the trails, or do the climbing walls. It is just so much fun! I honestly struggled with it some, because I am a bit claustrophobic, but overall, it was an amazing experience. We are actually going back soon with Gigi and some friends of ours. I am beyond excited!! It is a beautiful, once in a lifetime experience. It is not often you can go so deep underground. You can read more of the actual details here!

(Pics from a trip to the Moaning Caverns 8-25-2011)

5. Stephanie's House. Have you ever checked out the Buy/sell/trade pages on Facebook?! When I was pregnant with Gigi, I bought quite a bit of the things we needed for her on the BST pages for our local area. I did not have a baby shower, so the list of things we needed to buy was very long. I needed everything. Well, through buying some clothes and a shopping cart cover, I met an amazing person named Stephanie. I will forever count that as one of my best purchases ever, because not only did I get some great things I needed for Gigi, but I gained a best friend. Stephanie, her daughter (who is 8 months older than Gigi, and one of her BEST friends), her other half, and her parents quickly became like family to me. I cannot even explain it. Sometimes you just know people are meant to be in your life, the moment you meet them, and that is how I feel about Stephanie and her family. My pregnancy was not easy, and it was Stephanie and her family who helped me make it through. Plus, they helped me survive Gigi's first year of life, which was one of the hardest years of my life. There were very, very few people I would even consider leaving Gigi with, and Stephanie and her family are on that list. More than once, they cared for Gigi when she was a baby, when I had to be in the hospital. Her mom was like a mom to me, and Gigi definitely loved her Mimi Julie. Yes, Stephanie's mom and I share the same name, and it is an honor on my part. We recently lost Julie to Heaven, and not a day goes by that I do not think of her. Stephanie's house is a favorite place of mine. I do not know many people here in California, and I am not often comfortable around people, but I have always felt "at home" at Stephanie's house, even the very first time I visited. 

(Mimi Julie and Auntie Stephanie with baby Gigi)

6. The Middle of nowhere, back roads, windows down, music up, farmland or coast. One of the most pleasant surprises California held for me, once I moved here, was how country it is where I live. I always imagined California as beaches and cities, tons of people, and gridlocked traffic. Yes, those things exist here, but a lot of California is actually covered in farms, orchards, and vineyards. An insane amount of this country's produce come from right here. I had no clue, until I moved here. One of my favorite things to do, is drive around on back roads, wind in my hair, music loud. Just relaxing and exploring new places. Whether it is through orchards and farms, or on the coast.... I love it. I am so grateful I get to enjoy the beaches and palm trees of California, and still get to enjoy the farm country that is in my soul, from growing up in North Carolina. 

(Random pics of California, I've taken while we are driving around.)

7. Old Sac. There is a town up by Sacramento, called Old Sacramento. It is so fun to walk around. There are stores, cafes, restaurants, and many fun things to do. I love exploring the boutiques and shops. There is an awesome candy store, lots of toy and souvenir shops, and plenty of yummy places to eat. You can get old time pictures taken, and watch street performers. We tend to go once a year. I love to walk around with coffee, while just enjoy all the places. Every year, Chad's work hosts a truck rodeo, and Chad competes in the Forklift competition. Once it is over, we head over to Old Sac, and spend the rest of the day. It is always a fun time. We will be doing it next month. I am excited. Gigi is older now, and I think she will enjoy it even more than usual. Though, I may attempt to skip the candy store this year. Something tells me it may be hard to get her to leave... Suddenly, when thinking of her inside the store, the term "a kid in a candy store" makes so much sense to me. The last two years, we have been fortunate enough to see their Christmas decorations... Christmas at the end of October, yes a bit early, but nonetheless, it has been awesome to see. The toy store there, usually has at least one tree that is all Hello Kitty. I love love love it. 

8. Folsom. I love love love Folsom. They have an amazing outlet mall there, plus it is just a really pretty place. There is a coffee shop there, that I really enjoyed. Plus, I was able to see the prison I have been singing about my entire life. Yes, I am a HUGE Johnny Cash fan. 

9. Jelly Belly Factory. Just a couple hours from us, is a Jelly Belly factory. They give free tours, free samples, and you can stock up on your favorite flavors for cheap. Plus, they sell bags of "Belly Flops", which are imperfect jelly beans, and they are delicious and super cheap. It was a very fun experience. I cannot wait to bring Gigi. I want to wait until she is a bit older though. I think she will love it... again... kid in a candy store... It was awesome learning about the process of making jelly beans. It is way more involved than I ever imagined. We went not longer after my hospitalization in 2012. You probably didn't know, but I was temporarily unable to walk at all. It was one of the worst times of my life. I overcame it, but for quite a while I was weak and had to be in a wheelchair. Despite being in a wheelchair, it was a fun experience, and they were very helpful. It was a great experience. Plus... Jelly beans! MMMmm! Our favorites are cinnamon, buttered popcorn, and root beer! :) 

(Pics from a Jelly Belly visit, 7-29-2012)

10. Home. Yes, home. Home is where the heart is eh? I love being at home. Sometimes, I get a bit stir crazy, because with us being a one car family, I am often stuck home Monday through Friday, but it is definitely still a happy place for me. I love being in my own space, surrounded by my loved ones. No matter how much cabin fever I have, I am always happy to be home. I know this may be a lame answer, but it is very true. I know I have encouraged you to visit the previous nine places, if the opportunity presents itself... I am not so sure you should visit this place though. I mean... Do I even like you?! LOL I kid, I kid. My house is very boring, but hey, I would happy visit one through nine, if you even found yourselves this way!! 

Growing up, I never thought I would live in California. I was not even really sure I would ever visit. I definitely considered myself an East Coast girl, and my heart was in New York, not California. Yet, the journey of life led me here, and I am so grateful. I really, truly love it here. I am glad things do not always go as we anticipate them to. Yes, I get very homesick for the East Coast, and I hope I get to visit many times in the future, but I honestly think I could happily remain in California forever.

Now, I want to a much shorter list for you all, not as in depth, but I wanted to share... Without further ado, in random order...

Top Ten Favorite Places I Have Visited in My Lifetime... (I have only traveled to most of the Continental United States and Canada)

1. New York City. A piece of my heart will forever be owned by NYC.
2. Boone, North Carolina. Stunningly beautiful, mountain town.
3. Warner, New Hampshire. Gorgeous mountain town. Some of my happiest days were spent here.
4. Kentucky. Now, I don't know that I would ever want to live there, but once while traveling through, I saw at least twenty scenes, that were literally perfect. I was young, and I remember thinking that those moments/scenes should be captured in pictures, postcards, and paintings. The natural beauty of the landscape was breathtaking. All these years later, I still remember the images. It was just so perfect. 
5. Yellowstone, Wyoming. It is so pretty there. Actual, much of Wyoming is gorgeous. It is just not a place I would ever want to live again.
6. Niagara Falls. Both the American and Canadian sides are beautiful, but admittedly, at night the Canadian side is way more spectacular.
7. Wilmington, North Carolina, coastline.
8. Boston, Massachusetts. A piece of my heart will forever be owned by Boston.
9. San Francisco, California. 
10. Las Vegas, Nevada. So fun, and such great memories.

So, there you have my lists!! What about you... Do you have ten favorite places in your hometown? Do you have ten places you would miss, if you moved from the place you currently live?! This was definitely a hard list for me, and I obviously had to bend the rules a bit. I did enjoy making these lists, and sharing my places with you though!! Have you ever been to any of the places I chose?! Let me know!!

Don't forget to go check out the top ten lists, created by these other amazing bloggers:


  1. I loved reading your post about California. I've never been, but it's on my bucket list. Especially the beaches and SF. But now… that jelly bean place may be on my list too. :) Love that they sell "belly flops". So fun! :)

    You've visited a lot of very different places! Was that top ten list in any order? (i.e. your favorite is #1?) Which place would you recommend to someone who has never been to any of them? … Or if you could only go to one of those places in your top 10 and it was fully paid for, where would you go?

  2. Half Moon Bay sounds like a place I might go only because it's not hot there, don't care for hot weather if I go to the beach

    I've not been anywhere but new york but I would definitely like to visit #8 - Boston - it just seems like a place to go

    have a lovely day.

  3. Aaaaawwwww, top ten Cali places, LOVE!!! San Fran is definitely on it!
    You know on mine there would need to be San Diego though.
    How cute is that Jelly Belly Beetle!
    I agree, home is where the heart is, and life is much better if home is a happy place!
    Congratulations on not quitting! :-)

    There are also a couple of my favourites on your second list!

  4. Love your list and wow, you have lived in a lot of different states. Was lucky enough to visit San Francisco when I was in my early 20's and I loved it and would really like to take my beloved there. The other place I'm officially adding to my bucket list is the Jelly Belly factory - adore these little beans and buttered popcorn is my favourite too. Thanks for sharing.



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