1. Your playhouse growing up was a redwood fairy ring.
I lived with my family in rural Boonville in Mendocino County when I was three to seven years old. I had two playhouses on our land: a chicken coop and a redwood circle. Redwood fairy rings grow up around the base of a tree stump (called the “mother” tree), creating a magical circle ripe for a child’s imagination.
Northern California is the perfect environment for coast redwoods, which depend on coastal fog and abundant winter rain. Redwoods are the tallest trees on earth, some of them taller than the Statue of Liberty!
2. You despise grocery-store apples because they taste like mushy garbage compared to the crisp perfume of fresh orchard apples from the farmers market.
California grows food. The Salinas Valley is known as the salad bowl of the world. The Central Valley is known as the fruit bowl of the world. Farmers markets here are the bomb.
3. You prefer your food with artichokes, always.
Life on the Central Coast wouldn’t be complete without artichokes, grown in coastal fields with million-dollar views. And, to me, they taste like a million dollars. Castroville is the “artichoke capital of the world,” where Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1948, back when she went by Norma Jean.
4. Like, dude, that thing is gnarly.
I’m a 35-year-old mother with a master’s degree. Yet, still, I can’t stop saying “like,” “gnarly,” “dude,” and “rad.”
5. You’ve never experienced a snow day.
62-72 degrees is perfect; anything else is too extreme for you. You don’t live in California to feel cold! Or hot, for that matter. My hometown of Santa Cruz averages between 41 and 76 degrees. That’s range enough for me.
6. Sourdough bread is the only choice, right?
Nothing compares to the flavor of fresh sourdough. French bakers brought sourdough to Northern California during the gold rush. Miners would carry the starter in their packs so they could make bread without having to locate yeast in the wilderness.
7. You call San Francisco “the City,” and the word “Frisco” has never crossed your lips.
San Francisco is the big city of Northern California. It’s where angsty teens dream of escaping to — which I did at the age of 18. My love affair with San Francisco lasted until I was 32 years old. The City’s grasp is hard to shake. Historic street cars, cotton-candy-colored Victorians, views around every corner, bison in Golden Gate Park, dive bars, fog, and burritos the size of your head all come together to enchant you in San Francisco.
And like the sign said on the laundromat near my old flat, “Don’t call it Frisco.” You’ll stick out as a tourist right away.
8. You’ve been caught in the Pacific’s undertow, face slammed into the sand, body tossed around like a wet rag, wondering if you’d survive.
Northern California’s ocean is cold and rough, but that doesn’t stop swimmers, boogie boarders, skimboarders, and surfers from jumping in. As a kid growing up three blocks from the beach in Santa Cruz, I was expected to get knocked around by the surf. I learned quickly which part of a wave to dive into and when to dunk my head and wait for a wave to pass over me — crucial survival skills on Santa Cruz beaches!
9. You never feel ashamed when people ask you where you’re from.
Northern California is an amazing place to grow up. Newcomers know it and act impressed when you say you’re a local. Yep, I feel proud.