11 favorites from 11 years in California….hardly seems real, from many angles, to be writing that post title.

On Saturday I told you, 

For myself, before I can keep moving forward with change and this forever place, I want to share all the things and reasons why that place in my heart will always exist for California. 

So here we are.

Living in California for 11 years changed me in many/most ways which is why I wanted to do this 101-day series on change. Coming home has been such a sudden, drastic change, and I have also changed. There are so many things to reflect on, learn about, and grow with from and during it all.

Ryan and I laughed this past weekend when he mentioned the comment my friend Shondra made after I wrote Thirsty Thursday,

I died because I remember the girl ( yes- girl) from Minnesota that I met at a swanky restaurant in San Francisco many many years ago. That girl used to struggle if a tiny bubble appeared in her schedule/ life. She was single with a job. Small town girl in a big new city. She found no humor in disorder. She used to freak out when her new boyfriend hit the breaks while driving. (although proved your resilience one St Patrick’s day – that is the moment I fell in love with you) I died at this piece because you ARE mother of the year/ recognized blogger/ go with the flow Mama making sacrifices for all of those that you love and finding the beauty and humor in the chaos. I’m so proud of who you are. Stay strong Sarah K.

I also didn’t laugh at the comments because I felt them deep down – the things she said – and realized that, whether or not I wanted to, I have changed a lot.

And I found myself reflecting on the fact that time and location have changed me – forever, and honestly? I am so grateful for it, for all of it.

I have loved California with most of my heart for 11 years. I had many rough patches living there along the way (that I will share as time goes on), but looking back, on the whole, there are so many reasons why it will always occupy a huge part of my heart. 

Even still, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to come up with 11 favorites from 11 years in California….until I sat down to reflect. My list extended far beyond 11, but I decided to stick with my absolute 11 favorites.

11 Favorites from 11 Years in California

  1. Ryan, love, and relationship. Shondra said that when she met me I was, “single with a job.” And she is right. She met me through our husbands (college roommates) and at the time Ryan and I were just dating. I moved out to California with him, for him, and because of his job….on the chance that we would be together forever. It wasn’t long after we moved out West when he proposed (in Union Square, San Francisco at Christmastime, underneath the huge tree), and then we were married. For the next several years, it would be just he and me, Fiona and Reagan. Together, we had only each other, but looking back, those were some of the very best years of my life that I wouldn’t take back for anything. Because we only had each other and were living in a brand new place, we spent every waking moment together, developed a real friendship and relationship, and explored like crazy. He was and still is, one of the best things God ever gave to me, and I believe with all my heart that without him, #2-#11 on this list would never have been possible. November 2017 Catch Up Over Bone Broth sarahkayhoffman.com Ryan Lake Tahoe
  2. My health transformed. (This was me in our early days in California.) Bloated. The former. Two Ways to Get Rid of belly bloat. sarahkayhoffman.comI was sick when we first moved to California, even though most thought I was so healthy simply because I was never overweight. Western medicine was the pivot that changed my life in 2007, but only because it was then that I was diagnosed with Colitis via Colonoscopy. It further changed my life when my doctor gave me Canasa and told me it would make things all better because I didn’t get better. I got worse. The combination of the diagnosis and awful drugs lead me to take action in ways that would change my life. You don’t have to live in California to make huge changes and seek real answers, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I believe California is conducive to making it easier. I devoted my life to answers, seeking, studying, and applying for several years while living in California. The California Center for Functional Medicine **changed my life.** They found my real and true health bottleneck, which was SIBO. And they treated it with a combination of herbals, diet, lifestyle, and medication. Today, I am healthier (with zero bloat – see HERE) than ever before, and because of my passion, dedication, and mission to ensure other women don’t spend years in misery like I did, I went to school in order to help them and then created several gut-healing resources to follow. The best part? I got in early at The California Center for Functional Medicine so I’ll be a patient for life. I can work with them from Minnesota, and for that, I might be forever indebted to the state of California. Trail Hog Survival sarahkayhoffman.com pre-race
  3. But those scenes, though. Ahhhh…..I will miss the mountains, Palm trees, vineyards, ginormous rolling hills, and the weather in general, for the rest of my life. The Pros and Cons of Living in California sarahkayhoffman.com Palm Trees I will never, ever get over their beauty, and I’m sure I’ll write and share a ton of pictures over the years of it all. Did you think I forgot to the mention the ocean? I didn’t. I enjoy the ocean, but I don’t love it, at least not the Nor Cal ocean. For me, the ocean is take it or leave it, but the mountains? They are my dream place, my happy place, the place where I feel most alive, happy, and calm. The things I saw and lived among for 11 years can never be replaced. Having a brief taste of them, if you want the truth, made me know that I want to be near them again someday. So often I thought, “How incredible that God created all this beauty!” November 2017 Catch Up Over Bone Broth sarahkayhoffman.com Tahoe running trails
  4. Trail running. The biggest regret I have after living in California for 11 years is that I let my fear of snakes get in the way of exploring the outdoors fully. In late 2017, I found trail running, ran my first trail race, and I never looked back. In fact, do you want to know why I got so sick after the last race I did? Because I was trail racing out of fear. I knew that the number of trail races I could do before moving to Minnesota was limited. So I kept signing up to do them, one after another. It was on the second weekend of a back-to-back 3,000+ foot half marathon climb that my body fell apart from all the stress. That was the last trail race I’d be able to do in California, which means that I only ran about a handful total during our time in California. But I loved every single race, and trail running in California only made me excited to keep on trail running no matter where we were at. My big goal was to get into the Superior 25km in Lutsen, Minnesota on May 19th. It was a lottery, and I didn’t get in, so I’m now scouting for a new one. August 2017 Catch Up Over Bone Broth sarahkayhoffman.com Brazen Trail Racing Bear Creek
  5. Southwinds Church. A church made my list? It sure did! And over the years, I’ve written about the church. Ryan and I bounced from church-to-church for about the first 6+ years living in California. And then we heard about Southwinds, so we gave it a try. We never looked back. It was there that I learned about faith and not religion, and it was there that I was re-baptized. The church was my backbone during my darkest time periods. I cried there, I fought with God there, and I also threw my heart and hands there thanking God for every last thing in my life, and for not always answering my pleas and prayers. The way I now view faith is drastically different than before we moved to California and I will forever have Southwinds Church, led by Pastor Michael Nolen, to thank for it. (By the way, we still don’t know where we will attend church here in Minnesota. Until then, I’m still – and might always – soak up Southwinds via the weekly online messages.)
  6. People along the way. Listen, I am not going to sugarcoat this one. I have 6 best friends. 2 of them (Shondra and Missy – who you’ll hear about so much in the future likely now that we are back) I met while living in Calfornia, but both of which moved back to their home in the Midwest – Chicagoland – several years back. The other 4 are homeskillet Waseca, Minnesota girls (one is my BFF, Kim and the others are Kristi, Kristi, and Meg – again, you’ll hear about all of them so much more now). For several years, my 6 best friends and favorite women in the world have not changed. Replacing them with “new” people out West was just never in my cards. I’m not built that way. I keep very few real and raw friends because it’s just how I am. But during the past 11 years, I met some wonderful people along the way. Family Built sarahkayhoffman.com Christmas 2016 Ryan, Samarah, Isaiah, SKH, Amiya, CeciThe two most unexpected and incredible were Elisabeth and Ceci (well, Ceci we chose, and she wasn’t from California, but you get it!) They became family, and they will forever be family. Elisabeth sarahkayhoffman.com Isaiah and ElisabethBeyond those two that I love so hard, the other very best people I met and spent time with were at my little “going away” party the night before I moved, with the exception of Jen, who couldn’t make it. There were plenty of people, beliefs, lifestyles, and attitudes that I just didn’t love in California, but there were also people like these core women and miscellaneous others who made up for it all. December 2017 Catch Up Over Bone Broth sarahkayhoffman.com Rebecca, Tami, SKH, Stephanie The Commons California goodbyeLooking back, if I could have changed one thing about the people I met along the way, it would have been that I I met Ceci and Elisabeth + my friends Stephanie, Tami, Jeannie, and Rebecca looooooong before the final couple years. I needed them way back when, but still feel grateful for the past years. p.s. Tami made me some picture things before I left that I look at almost daily. This is one of my faves. Ugh. I miss you, mama.11 Favorites from 11 Years in California Brazen Trail Racing sarahkayhoffman.com Motivation Wraps with Tami Inspire
  7. Endless mini trips. While living out West, Ryan and I traveled a ton prior to the babies. You name a popular place in California, and we probably went there or at least drove through there. Traveling up and down the coast, staying on the beach and in the mountains, drinking coffee for days while cruising with the rooftop down and shades on, and eating all the things whenever we could was a **dream come true.** He and I share a love for travel, exploring, and growing through it. In California, life felt like a vacation because we lived in a place where most vacation, so for us, our endless mini trips (1-4 days) were our own vacations. People will ask where my favorite places to mini trip were in California? It’s really hard to nail down a place or two because I loved all the places, for different reasons, but two places I’ll always come back to in my heart are Mendocino and Tahoe (both the California and Nevada sides). Mendocino County Line sarahkayhoffman.com
  8. Growing professionally. I was a lost soul for the first few years living in California, from a work standpoint. What they don’t tell you about your big, fancy “Marketing” degree is that you’ll probably be doing a bunch of random and odd job things until you land in the cozy place that fits you like a glove. When we first moved to California, I was a recruiter with Robert Half. It was awful. I hated it so much that one day I just quit. I had no clue what I was going to do and Ryan carried us through. I met this amazing woman named Julie at a local posh health and fitness club and she hired me for all of like 8 bucks an hour to work at the front desk. At the time, I thought I’d maybe want to explore becoming a personal trainer, so, to get into the posh gym, I took the position. Over the next few years, I’d move “up,” and when I realized I loved working out but didn’t want to train others, I managed the club’s cafe and then went straight to the Marketing department. I still made pennies, but I was learning and growing a lot. It was 2009 when my professional life completely took that sharp turn. I made the Nike Human Race Ambassador Team, and after winning that, I knew deep down that wedging myself into the social and digital space of Marketing was a must. (As I told you in 3-Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Shake, I have a whole history of how I got from there to where I am at today, and I am happy to share it all at some point if you’re interested in the steps I took.) Anyways, between then and now, I landed in the natural food industry (which completely made sense), and in that industry, I crafted, honed in on, and am perfecting my place in it. But here’s the thing, none of this would have happened had it not been for California. Sure, I’d be doing something else and maybe it would be good, but I don’t think it would have or could have been this good because let’s face it, California is a hotbed for the natural food industry. Getting the experience and picking up the clients I did while out West put me in a position to now be able to do it no matter where I live, with clients all over the United States (they currently reside out West and out East). July Catch Up Over Broth sarahkayhoffman.com Makenzie Delighted By Dessert Hummus Wall Food Photography
  9. Foodie-isms. Food became a “thing” for me. When we moved to California, Ryan was the one to do all the cooking. Seriously. I couldn’t care less about food, only that it was fat-free and low calorie – and full of all sorts of chemicals. I promise…..that’s who I was. But it’s true, the food options – both from a groceries and restaurants standpoint – in California are limitless. I learned to cook and bake, shop, and eat food like never before. I learned the value of real food, and yes, I don’t care what anyone tries to argue, that term – real food – is real. I discovered how to nourish the body appropriately, and during our time in California (at least the last 5-7 years), I made about 80-90% of our meals from scratch at home. I came back to Waseca, Minnesota and realized that living like that was a bubble. There is no such thing as purple cauliflower here and every single time I check out at the grocery store, a clerk asks, “Do you know what this is?” (And still, I’ve had people argue with me for years that you can’t “eat healthy” in a small town. Now I know the truth. It’s different, but you still can. How do I know that? Because one -> I’m doing it and two -> the clerks ask me questions like that which means stores do carry things, you just need to seek them out and then be willing to learn how to prepare and eat it. I’m still working on that post for y’all.) Hands down, my favorite restaurant in California was Long Meadow Ranch in Saint Helena. My favorite winery was SCRIBE Winery. And my favorite cuisines, in general, on the whole, were Mexican (little dive joints everywhere in California), Indian (Dhaba in Tracy, California), and Asian (sushi bowls galore). 
  10. We took the BEST parts of California with us – Samarah, Isaiah, Amiya. Well, here we are….number 10 and you thought I forgot all about Samarah, Isaiah, and Amiya, yes? No, I intentionally left them to the very end. Towards the end of our time in California, Ryan and I talked a lot about leaving – how we felt about it, and all the sadness that was building in me. I couldn’t put my finger on it back then, and in so many ways I still can’t put my finger on it. But there is one thing that I know for certain…..we took the very BEST parts of California with us. Meet Amiya Kaylee Hoffman sarahkayhoffman.com Our family and judgeAnd that’s what we both landed on one night in our discussions. There was a reason we were placed out in California, in the Central Valley-ish area with an “infertile” diagnosis. The reason was them. Who would have ever thought, 11 years ago in our little San Ramon, California apartment that someday, several years down the line, we would be adopting babies from both San Joaquin and Alameda County who were born in Stockton and Oakland, California, some of the roughest areas in all of the country? Never. Not me. Not Ryan. Not in a million years. But it happened, and it only happened because of California. For all the many reasons I oftentimes wanted to leave the state, Samarah, Isaiah, and Amiya let me know that it was all worth it. California gave us 3 miracles that we will forever be indebted to, and because that’s where they were born, I know it will always hold a special place not only for them but for Ryan and I as well. Meet Amiya Kaylee Hoffman sarahkayhoffman.com Forever sign our family
  11. The best journey takes you home. My friend Nicole always posts, “The best journey takes you home.” Each time she posted it, I thought of Minnesota, where home was and always will be. There is no place like home, but California was the best journey I ever took. We made a lifetime of memories there. We did things, met people, saw places, and adopted babies – a journey, treasures, and miracles that many people will search for their whole lives. I believe it was all possible because we took the chance. We took the chance that all of this would happen while knowing that at times living in California could be financially hard (those first few years were hard!), emotionally hard (I begged Ryan to let us move home a couple times throughout the 11 years), and just downright hard (live 3,000 miles away from family when your mom calls to say, “Dad is in the hospital,” and you’ll understand). But it was all worth it. Each and every single day, in hindsight, was worth it. 

My very best journey  – the one I began as someone I would barely recognize now – ended by taking me home. I am from Country Roads sarahkayhoffman.com long Gravel Road

And gosh….my cup really runneth over because of both the journey and on coming home forever. Month One sarahkayhoffman.com lake morning winter


If you don’t have time to read these posts daily, but don’t want to miss them, be sure to follow via Bloglovin’ and/or join my personal e-newsletter HERE. I am doing my best to send a once per week email recap of prior week’s posts.

These posts will all live under “Wellness+Lifestyle” and also tagged with “101 Days of Blogging.” The 101-day series runs from Monday, January 8, 2018, through Wednesday, April 18, 2018.

If there is a topic surrounding change that you would love for me to include in this series, please just CONTACT ME.

Previous 101-Day Change Series Posts

  1. Beginnings are Scary
  2. Change Pain Point
  3. Making Sense of Change
  4. Gratitude Journal
  5. Love Your Baby Girl
  6. Little Things Add Up
  7. House and Home
  8. Sunday Reflections
  9. Two
  10. Chocolate Shake
  11. 3-Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Shake
  12. Chaos is a Temporary State
  13. Thirsty Thursday
  14. Month One
  15. The Nudge to Connect

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  1. I love this post!! I’m a native California girl and love my crazy home state. We live part time on Oahu (I’m typing from there) and you made me homesick! I hope you’ll be back to visit.

  2. Love this post too! Im originally from the south, but have lived in Southern California for 16 years. There are times I still question maybe trying out Texas, but really do feel this is all part of God’s story He’s writing for me and my family. All of it including being an autoimmune patient and current SIBO sufferer. God bless.

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