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Turning 24 In Sonoma

I turned 24 on August 28.

Crazy, right?

Upon reflecting on this past year, a lot of growth and change has happened. Some of which was hard to deal with, but that’s life. I have felt really good lately and am excited to see what this year brings!

I knew I wanted to go to California to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I haven’t seen them since their wedding last October and was due for another trip! Every time I go to California, I fall more and more in love with it. There’s something about the mood it puts me in that is so satisfying. Wanting to utilize all the time possible during my 5 day trip, I tried to do and see as much as I could.

My read for the flight with Saturation II by Brockhampton on repeat

There were three things I had to do on this trip:

  1. Go wine tasting
  2. Get a tattoo
  3. Go hiking

I’m happy to report that I succeeded in these things and more!

 Day 1

I flew into Oakland, where my brother picked me up and we stopped to get some Thai food before driving into Sonoma. Prior to my flight I hadn’t slept in about 23 hours. Luckily, I can sleep on a plane with ease so I was able to get a few hours in. After settling in and being greeted with lots of kisses/jumping from my brother Dom, and sister-in-law, Jess’s, two lovely golden retrievers, it was time to make a plan for the night. Keeping it simple, we decided to go to one of their favorite spots, Rancho Maria. It’s a wine tasting room in the middle of Sonoma’s square (where a bunch of local shops and restaurants are located.) The wine maker, Sebastian, is super laid back and I got to pick some of the music for the room! A somewhat odd combination of Drake (of course), Missy Elliot, Cardi B, and Cozy Tapes 1 & 2 were played throughout the night. I would like to mention that I got Sebastian hip to Bodak Yellow. I even played it twice. Rancho Maria is known for their Zinfandel wines, and I must say it’s really good. After Rancho Maria, we hit up my *favorite* place, Whole Foods, to pick up items to BBQ with for dinner. Since I had spent a good portion of the day traveling, the night ended early for me as ya girl was tired!

Day 2

Waking up knowing I was in California was such an amazing feeling. Our second day consisted of exploring more of Sonoma and what this small town had to offer. We went back to the square, where we explored the multitude of shops. I stumbled upon one store, Love Sonoma, and knew my bank account would not be happy with me. It was the cutest, little store consisting of wall decor, prints, candles, books, clothes, and jewelry. A store like this was right up my alley! I picked up a few things that were local to Sonoma.

A visit to a local art gallery and another wine tasting room, Bennett Valley Cellars, took up the first part of the afternoon. Bennett Valley’s Tasting Room Manager, Liliana, was so sweet! I got to hear about her life in Italy before moving to the states. After a visit to the nail salon (#birthdaytings), the day continued with even more wine and shopping.

Once it came to dinnertime, I was excited to try out a place I found on Yelp, Taste of the Himalayas. From the reviews, the restaurant was pretty popular and a local favorite. The food was AMAZING and our waiter was super helpful in letting me know which dishes were vegan! We took home a bunch of leftovers because the food was so filling (we also did order 3 appetizers + entrees…so there’s that).

When I go back to visit, I’m definitely going here again!

Day 3

Sonoma is only about a 45 minute drive from San Francisco. I wanted to finally cross something off my bucket list and see the Golden Gate Bridge! We started the morning off, dogs in tow, trekking to the Marin Headlands area. The Headlands are on the peninsula that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge and there are even a few trails to hike in the area. When we finally found a parking spot, I was in awe of the view! It was very foggy that morning and I couldn’t get the full view of the bridge, but was able to see a good portion of it. Due to one of the main trails being closed for maintenance, our hike was cut short, but nonetheless still a great time.

Needing some post-hiking food, fro-yo was obviously the best and healthiest choice (I was very hype about this.) We went to Pressed Juicery which is one of those places I’ve seen all over Instagram, and got one of their “freezes”— basically their version of fro-yo, but vegan.

After getting back into Sonoma, we chilled for a bit, and headed out to a winery (you already know that was gonna be in the plans for today). Dom and Jess are members of a handful of wineries in the area, and we decided to go to one of my favorites, Larson Family Winery. Last summer, I flew out to CA for Jess’ bridal shower and Larson was one the spots we went to. They have such a pretty outdoor area for tasting and a picnic-like setting. There’s even a bocce ball court that I low key dominated in during the bridal shower.

Day 4 (AKA 24TH BIRTHDAY LITUATION)

So I guess turning 24 means that I am now in my “mid-twenties.” This makes me feel old (ha). Waking up to birthday greetings from my people on the east coast was a nice way to start off the day. The embarrassing pictures of me posted mainly to Instagram and Snapchat from my closest friends kept me laughing and helped bring some of my nervousness down. I was excited yet nervous, because this year my gift to myself was a tattoo! My first one, in fact. I found a tattoo shop in Sonoma and talked to their owner about my idea a couple weeks prior to my trip. Dom and Jess kept me calm, as I filled out the paperwork and it set in that I was going to get tatted (so dramatic.) My tattoo was fairly simple. The latin phrase, deus ex machina, handwritten by me on the back of my arm. There’s a lot of meaning I attribute to this phrase, but to keep it short, it’s a reference to one of my favorite movies, Donnie Darko. Getting the tattoo done was definitely an experience. I kind of knew what to expect pain wise but still didn’t really know because I never had one done. I will say though, it was bearable. My brother joked that I kept making faces during the process (which took probably less than 5 minutes). Once I was bandaged up, we went to (you guessed it), more wineries!

Laughing through the pain

Fresh ink on the back of my right arm

The last winery I visited on this trip was to Schug Winery. Dom and Jess are friends with the Manager of Hospitality there, Harrison. When we told him it was my first time out here and my birthday, he gave us an impromptu tour of the winery! This isn’t normally done, so it was cool to get a behind the scenes look at everything. We took a tour of the land the winery owns, saw the almost catacomb like storage of all the barrels, and tasted some fancy wines! Shoutout to Harrison for gifting me a bottle of their Rouge de Noirs, a sparkling pinot noir (which was my favorite wine I tried there) and knowing who Brand New was.

A nice pano shot for ya

Leaving Schug, it was time to start getting ready for my birthday dinner! I didn’t want anything outrageous, simply dinner with Dom, Jess, and Jess’s parents. However, with it being me, I had to be extra and go all out on my outfit. While waiting on Jess’ parents to meet up with us, we stopped by SIGH., a new “bubbles only” bar. My younger brother, Jordan, who couldn’t make this trip sent funds via Venmo so he could buy me a birthday drink (so nice) and this was the perfect place to have one at. SIGH. only serves champagne, wine, and a few select beers. A crisp, open, yet small space that was full of mirrored quotes…the aesthetic of it all gave me LIFE!

My favorites

A glass of sparkling wine and champagne later, Jess’ parents joined us and we went to The Girl & The Fig. This restaurant was a last minute pick, and I didn’t have a chance to look over the menu. Unfortunately, there weren’t any vegan entrees, but our waiter worked it out with the chef and they made me a custom meal. It felt so nice being with my family out there and Jess’ parents not so casually mentioning how I should move to California!

Celebrated the start of year 24 in California! ✨??‍??? #birthdaybehavior

A post shared by Amira Taylor (@amirataylor) on

Day 5

After a very eventful few days in Sonoma, my time there soon came to an end. A flight leaving from Oakland the next day in the early afternoon, only left enough time to finish packing and hanging out with the pets. I’ve been plotting my next trip already (can never stay put for too long!) and will hopefully be heading out to L.A. and the Bay area right around Christmas time.

If there was any indication of how much fun I had, I went to Patient First the next day and found out I sprained my ankle. Whoo!

Lifestyle Travel

For The Culture- A Day At The NMAAHC

Simply put: one day at the National Museum for African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is not enough. At all. I’m amazed at how much I saw and have been wanting to go back ever since! I went up to the D.C. area for Fourth of July weekend. With my office being closed that Monday-Wednesday, I took the opportunity to plan this last minute trip and enjoy the extra long weekend. My family and I got to the museum around 11am, taking the metro into D.C. Just the structure of the museum is astonishing. Ever since it has opened, it has been on my list of never-ending things to do in D.C.

After getting into the museum, my mom, brother, and I decided to start of with the lower level concourse that has three levels within itself. My dad decided to check out the Family History Center part of the museum. I knew there was a lot to be seen and quickly realized we would be at the museum until it closed at 5:30pm that day.

An overwhelming amount of history surrounds you when making your way to the different levels. The lower level layout of the NMAAHC on starts off with slavery and progresses to the present day. It’s divided as: Slavery and Freedom (1400-1877), Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom, The End of Segregation (1876-1968), and A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond.

Spending about three hours on the lower level, I felt a wide range of emotions. Seeing a visual progression that Black people have made throughout time is so amazing. I even got teary-eyed looking at some exhibitions because it didn’t hide anything; the truth and history was laid out right in front of me. Everything from the slave trade to the civil rights movement to present day issues, the NMAAHC covers it all. One of the most profound moments was seeing Emmett Till’s casket. In a more secluded section on one of the levels, in a no camera/video area, showcased Till’s casket, his background, and how his mother, Mamie Till, carried on his story after his death. A setting like that is so rare to come across and I’m glad I was able to view it.

Halfway through our time there, the fam and I had lunch at NMAAHC’s very own Sweet Home Cafe. The food is bomb and isn’t priced too bad. The menu is divided up based on different areas of the states and dishes you would find in those places.

After stopping by the museum store to pick up some souvenirs (I of course had to get a t-shirt), we headed up to the Community and Culture Galleries. These two levels had some of my favorite exhibitions. Being the person I am, I was soooo excited to view the arts and music section where artists’ work was highlighted and shown. Working in the music industry as a half Black, half Filipina woman has had its challenges. However, being surrounded by all the work these great artists have made and what impact it has, was comforting and reminded me that I’m doing alright.

Pretty much the whole time I was in the NMAAHC the thought of, “I love Black people,” kept coming to mind. It’s almost hard to put into words, how there’s finally a place where this culture is being celebrated and getting the attention it rightfully deserves. Being surrounded by so many people from different states and backgrounds was nice to see as well. A very inspiring place to visit to say the least and a bunch to soak in.

Always finding the records!

Being in an environment like this really does make you think. Think of where we are now. Think of how while there has been progression, there is still so much work to do. In lieu of recent events, specifically in Charlottesville, Va there’s still an alarming (yet not surprising) amount of racism, hatred, and straight up terrorism going on in our country. It’s been frustrating to see what has evolved the past couple days in the U.S. Frustrating of how a person can hate someone so much just because of their skin color. I know this isn’t new (and if it is to you…you’re apart of the problem), but it’s times like this where you really reflect on the state of humanity.

For the sake of my mental health, I wanted to channel some of the frustration I have been feeling with all of this and reminisce on something good; this trip to the NMAAHC specifically. At the end of the day, I wanted to just think about how great Black people are through everything.

If you have the chance to visit the NMAAHC, I do definitely recommend it. Also, try to get a pass for the morning/early afternoon. You’re going to want to spend the entire day there!

It looks like I’ll be back in D.C. in a few weeks for Labor Day. Let’s see what new places I explore then!

 

Lifestyle Music Travel

All Summer Sixteen

So there was this one time over the summer where I got the opportunity to see the love of my life, Drake, two days before my birthday. This would be my third seeing Drake but the excitement was still very real. One of my best friends, Jasmine, surprised me with tickets as a gift for our birthday (hers is 4 days before mine). When I found out, I was in California for Coachella, and told all the people I was working with,

 I’M GOING TO SEE DRAKE FOR MY BIRTHDAY!!!

 

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Lifestyle Travel

Adventures in Greenville

I’m feeling a bit reflective this weekend and essentially wanted to re-live last weekend. Myself and my friends Jasmine, Justin, and Free decided to surprise our good friend Tiffany and visit her in North Carolina. The days leading into the trip, we attempted to make sure Tiffany wasn’t busy all weekend. Once I got off work that Friday, I met up with the crew and we rolled out.

Despite the rain, and me not getting any say in the music choices, we made it to Greenville. When we first called Tiffany…she didn’t answer. We texted her…and still no answer. It was 9pm at this point so we assumed she was asleep. After waiting in the car for a good 15 minutes, Tiffany answered, and we ran to her door. As we literally ambushed her and the apartment, we got settled in and went out for dinner.

The next day, we roamed around Greenville and ECU’s campus. Tiffany took us to her job, we got brunch, and realized the whole town is one big circle (literally).

IMG_5906

Snapchat Chronicles courtesy of Jasmine

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Myself and the ECU Pirate..I was forced to take this picture.

A good portion of that Saturday afternoon was spent putting together Tiffany’s new dining room table. I must say I felt very handy and crafty once it was all put together. This summer, I have dubbed myself a “freelance mover and furniture assembler.” The trip was short but a good one. Since finding times where a majority of all of my close friends are together is harder these days, I find it really nice when we can spend time together. I will be going back to visit Tiffany at the end of the month for my birthday weekend with more friends and I’m very excited.

Lifestyle Music Travel

2015 Sweetlife Festival Recap

This weekend through a series of spontaneous events, I was able to attend Sweetlife Festival in Columbia, Maryland! I’d like to give a shoutout to Culture Collide for the tickets! I had an interesting mentality to this festival prior to the festival: I would only go if I won tickets. Luckily that’s what happened.

On Saturday morning at 5am, myself and my Jeep headed out on a mini road trip for the weekend.

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