Beauty & Fashion

Hair we covet

Don’t be fooled by movie stars’ voluminous hair or a stranger walking down the street with gorgeous hair. Their luxurious locks have four key elements in common; time, product (lots of it), effort and investment.

Let’s simply break it down by these four elements.


I’m not telling you anything new by saying it takes time to style your hair. But what may be a fresh concept is to spend some time educating yourself about your specific hair type. By spending a little extra time doing some research and asking the right questions you’ll gain invaluable lifelong knowledge. For instance, if you are reading my articles about hair, products and lifestyle, you’re off to a good start. Or take time to schedule a consultation with your stylist outside of your regular hair appointment. Most stylists offer a free 30-minute consult. The knowledge you’ll gain in half an hour will be invaluable.

Snap decisions. If you’re looking for a big change, making rash decisions about your hair rarely works out well. Avoid mishaps by arming yourself with knowledge. Bring lots of photos. My favorite is Google or Pinterest because my clients can bring in several using their phone. Love technology!

To all the hair we’ve loved before. Photo by Courtney Paige


There is so much misconception around hair products. We tend to covet the type of hair we don’t have. If we have fine-straight hair we want thick-wavy hair. If we have thick-wavy hair, we want straight-silky hair. What each party doesn’t realize is, in order for us to get anywhere near the type of hair we covet, we must invest the time and product. Clients bring in photos like this one above all the time. And every time I see the same look of surprise when I explain that the model in the photo took at least an hour to style, and she has at least 3 layers of styling product in order to get all that volume or shine – plus hairspray. Product matters.


There’s often lots of anxiety around how we perceive our hair. The most important gift you can give your hair is to embrace your hair’s strengths and know the limits of your hair type. Often clients come to me and think they have thin hair, but the reality is, the strands are fine but the mass is dense, actually rendering thick hair. To understand hair type in greater detail, it is divided into two different types of categories: 1. Individual strands and 2. Overall mass density. I could go on with examples of each category, but the combos are as diverse as each individual is unique. That’s why consults are so important. A good stylist can put their hands in your hair and give you a proper evaluation.

A little effort goes a long way. Photo by Courtney Paige

Now, I know you are beginning to think, “Jeez, this seems like a huge commitment, and I just don’t have that kind of time or cash.” This is where lifestyle comes into play. Hair is an interesting beast of burden. We tend to get anxious about our hair. The need to change can sneak up on us and cause a knee-jerk reaction. I ease my clients into the products they purchase. I like using the ‘Goldie Locks Method’. The products I prescribe for my clients have to be ‘just right’. Good products are an investment, and you don’t need to break the bank by buying them all at once. A good salon will offer samples so remember to ask when visiting your stylist next.

    ♥ Minimize styling efforts by following these easy steps 

  1. Apply styling products to damp (not wet) hair.
  2. Dry hair with a blowdryer from side to side until hair is 80% dry.
  3. Twist hair with clips into sections from top to bottom – usually  5 sections for average hair, more sections for thick-fine or thick-course.
  4. Begin styling with blowdryer from the bottom (nape) and work your way to the top (crown).
  5. As you work your way from the nape to the crown the dryer should be hot while your round brush is in motion. Never remain stationary with your brush when the dryer is hot. Keep it moving. Take two to three moving passes with the round brush.
  6. Push the cold button on your dryer when the brush is stationary. Two passes with cool air and stationary for a few seconds before dropping section and moving on to the next.
  7. The cool air ‘SETS’ the style.
  8. The cool air ‘SET’ is the key to holding your style.
  9. When finished styling, spray hair with a ‘Working Hairspray”
  10. And brush trough. Yes, brush through and spray again.
  11. Now you’re SET!
Wash, product prep, dry, style and set. Photo by Courtney Paige

By scheduling a consult with your stylist, you can discuss optimal ways to style your hair type on daily basis or how to get those bouncy curls for a special event.


I saved the best for last. Investment. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, if you are reading this entire article then you have already made a wise investment in yourself. The investment comes from the knowledge you’ve obtained and giving yourself a break when you look in the mirror by not feeling hopeless about your hair. With the right guidance and a little bit of planning, we can all obtain our personal best. You’re on your way!


by Courtney Paige for appointments





Tame the Mane
Beauty & Fashion

Product matters – because, no, I didn’t wake up looking like this…


Don’t kid yourself, the natural look takes time and effort.

Hair product choices are overwhelming. Not only is product selection extensive at grocery stores & pharmacies, product exposure on the internet and in TV commercials is ubiquitous, and, at times, exhausting. I say exhausting because if you buy a product based on pretty packaging & fancy marketing, often the results are disappointing. You’ve not only wasted your hard earned money, but you’ve also wasted precious time. This merry-go-round can be frustrating, to say the least.

In this article, I offer a method to the madness. A tried and true practice in finding the best products that work for you without wasting money on trial and error is to seek guidance from a trusted stylist, friend, or (and this one actually works too), ask a stranger on the street with the same hair type if you are wowed by their hair. Expanding on the latter, be sure to consult your stylist before purchasing the stranger’s product choice.

Or, simply email me, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Product referrals in this article are based on my professional and personal experience coupled with countless feedback from clients. Collectively, we have put these products through the gamut.

Product Matters – Tame the Mane. – Photo copyright Look by Courtney Paige

Another awesome way I discover new products is through a $10 subscription of trial size products delivered monthly from Birch Box. It’s like a petite Christmas or birthday gift every month. Through this service, I’ve discovered some priceless finds.

The three most asked questions are:

“Is there a benefit to using the same line of shampoo, conditioner and styling products?”

“What type of shampoo, conditioner & styling products should I use for my hair type?”

“Can I buy my product on Amazon?”

The truth is, the questions are endless and the choices are even more exponential, so in this article, we’ll focus on just the three.

1. “Is there a benefit to using the same line of shampoo, conditioner and styling products?”

Answer: Yes

The most important aspect of choosing a shampoo is finding one that matches your hair type and one that does NOT contain sulfates. Sulfates are an added ingredient manufactures use to simply create suds. Excess suds were needed to rid the scalp of dirt and oils before modern hygiene went into effect almost a century ago. Flash forward and rarely do most of us go without washing our hair less than once a week. The cold hard fact is, sulfates strip healthy hair of its natural oils, its porosity, and its elasticity. Even worse, using these shampoos over an extended period of time can have permeant damage to your hair by causing breakage, rendering it dull and lifeless.

Your hair’s porosity is also compromised if sulfates are used habitually. Porosity is your hair’s ability to hold onto and release liquid substances, whether the substance is water, color or moisture. Using shampoos with sulfates on your hair is worse than washing your car with dishwashing detergent. You know that flat-blurred-drab look your car gets if you wash it with kitchen soap? Yep, washing your car with kitchen soap is just as harsh as using shampoo with sulfates on your hair.

Personally and professionally, I prefer using the same line of shampoo & conditioner. Manufacturers formulate shampoo and conditioner ingredients so they organically compliment each other. For instance, thick-dry-course hair, you’ll want to use a moisturizing shampoo & moisturizing conditioner from the same line. If you have thin-fine-compromised hair, use a strengthening light conditioning shampoo & light conditioner in the same line. If you have coarse-dry-fine hair use a light conditioning shampoo & moisturizing conditioner in the same line.

Hair type can change over the course of time. And at extreme changes with an unexpected illness, stress, surgery and/or hormones. Shampoo & conditioner should be tailored specifically to each individual’s hair type as time progresses.

Styling products are in a completely different realm than shampoo & conditioner. Switching between beauty lines with styling products create optimal benefits. Some days you may want to tame the main and other days, you may want to create voluminous curls. You may even want to switch up your hairstyle from day to night.

Davines, Amika, Kevin Murphy and a little old school Paul Mitchell are my favorite products lines. Between the three, I can usually cover all my client’s needs. Also, each line is reasonably priced.

2. “What type of shampoo, conditioner & styling products should I use?”

Answer: Davines, Kevin Murphy, Amika and Paul Mitchell are my favorite for a variety of reasons. Read on to find out why.

Ask a trusted stylist, a trusted friend with the same hair type, or that stranger we talked about earlier is the perfect referral link. Currently, my favorite shampoo & conditioning product line is Davines.

    1. Full spectrum line catering to all hair types.
    2. Davines does not test on animals.
    3. No sulfates
    4. No parabens
    5. Italian

Shampoo & Conditioner – Davines: OI, Melu, & Minu

*OI is a good choice for thirsty, dry hair that needs lots of moisture – coarse or fine, thick or thin. If you have damaged hair with compromised porosity OI will aid in the damage control while mitigating frizz. Plus it smells absolutely amazing!

Anit-Frizz Products
Davines OI Shampoo and Conditioner Anti Frizz – Photo by Courtney Paige


*Melu is the perfect candidate for damaged fine (thin or thick) hair that has breakage due to over processing or fragile from hormone imbalances, surgery, stress or illness. It’s also a good match for fine hair that feels weighed down by heavy shampoos, conditioners & styling products.

Davines Melu Shampoo and Conditioner for Fine Compromised Hair - Repair your hair.
Davines Melu Shampoo and Conditioner for Fine Compromised Hair – Repair your hair. – Photo by Courtney Paige


*Minu is primarily used for medium brown to dark color treated hair or blondes who use toner for blonde hair. Minu extends the life of your color without weighing your hair down.

Davines Minu Shampoo and Conditioner for Color Treated Hair - Hang onto your color.
Davines Minu Shampoo and Conditioner for Color Treated Hair – Hang onto your color. – Photo by Courtney Paige


Styling Products – Davines, Kevin Murphy, Amika & Paul Mitchell


  1. OI Beautifying Oil – Use this product on wet or dry hair. Tames coarse hair, flyaways and adds manageability. I love using this product as a finishing product in place of hairspray. As a finishing product, it tames the small flyaway hairs as well as the grays hiding under colored hair.
  2. OI All in One Leave in Conditioning Milk – Excellent for all hair types. Adds body with added fullness while creating sleek silky manageable hair. Bonus, this product will take you on a mini mental exotic spa vacation because it smells that good.
Davines OI Milk Conditioning Spray for all hair types. – Photo by Courtney Paige

*Kevin Murphy:

  1. Body Mass – This product actually adds keratin to the cuticle of your hair. Excellent to help limp-lifeless hair. Use sparingly as keratin can build up. Use two to three times a week on wet hair.
  2. Dry Shampoo – Kevin Murphy’s dry shampoo is my favorite because it doesn’t leave a residue and it does its job by simply soaking up oil on the scalp. Provides volume and movability. 


       1. Brooklyn Bombshell  – Great for those beach curls we love seeing on all the stars. Beach curls are the number one hairstyle clients bring into the salon. My favorite characteristic of the Amika Bombshell styling product is the curls last for days. It’s a great product to use if you don’t wash your hair every day and want your curls to last as long as possible.

Amika Brooklynn Bombshell - Adds volume, body and staying power to curls.
Amika Brooklynn Bombshell – Adds volume, body and staying power to curls. – Photo by Courtney Paige

*Paul Mitchell:

  1. Mousse Flexible Style Sculpting Foam – Paul Mitchell Mousse is my favorite because it doesn’t contain alcohol. Most mousse styling products contain alcohol which dries out the hair. This product smells like a tropical vacation while giving your hair a voluminous shiny style that stays luxurious all day.
Paul Mitchell Sculpting Foam Mousse - Get that silky smooth look with volume. The perfect bump product.
Paul Mitchell Sculpting Foam Mousse – Get that silky smooth look with volume. The perfect bump product. – Photo by Courtney Paige

“Can I buy my product on Amazon?”

Answer: No

Depending on what you are buying just like anything else, you want to make sure you are getting what you’re paying for. Products that have easy access to being opened is not a reliable product. As a professional, I have done my own reconnaissance work and found some of the products to be watered down and in some cases, not completely full. Once, the product didn’t even smell the same as the professional products ordered directly from the manufacturer that I use in the salon.

Another prudent reason for not buying all things on Amazon; the concept of going local. If you’re a proponent of reducing your carbon footprint and supporting your local community, you’ll think twice before buying styling products on Amazon (now tools are a different story and a different article.)

Product disclosures:  Not all product photos are featured in this article. Prices are not indicated due to price point fluctuation in different regions of the country. Take note, all products discussed in this article are in a mid-price range from $24 to $38. Feel free to contact me for a retailer near you.

by Courtney Paige

Beauty & Fashion, Health & Fitness

Hair matters

Travel and lifestyle writing is a passion of mine, on the other hand, what some of you may not know about me is, I moonlight as a hairstylist. Or, is it the other way around – a hairstylist moonlighting as a writer? However you look at it, I love both! A maven by nature, trading stories and experiences with my clients provide me with inspiration and ideas. Fuel, if you will, for my creative thinking process. All of which drives me to solve some of life’s little mysteries. 

The blog’s beauty and fashion category are tailored to share my beauty regime expertise with readers and followers as if you’re sitting in my hair chair getting coiffed.

So with that said, I’ll get right to the root of the topic. Hair matters. Hair matters because it can be the difference between a good day or…a bad day. Most importantly though, it matters because your hair absolutely reflects the health of your body – internally and externally. There’s nothing better than a good hair day. So when we’re healthy inside and out, a glow naturally shines through in our hair and through our skin tone. All this healthy living channels self-confidence.

Before and after are one year apart. Photo by Courtney Paige

As much as most of us would like to deny it, the health of our hair is a direct indication of how well we take care of ourselves regarding nutrition, stress and our mental wellbeing.

What influences healthy hair growth? Actually, multiple factors have a direct impact on the health of your hair and hair growth. Unhealthy hair or hair loss is related to several reasons: chemically over-processed hair, stress, sudden or prolonged health issues, poor nutrition, genetics, surgery, pregnancy, poor maintenance, and/or over styling with heat tools.

This article highlights internal nutrition. Believe it or not, the scientific study of nutrition and how it affects our health has only come to light within the last century. Even more unbelievable is how scientific studies have only recently begun to realize the relationship between hair and nutrition.

It seems as though common sense would guide us to realize the health of our body goes hand in hand with the health of our hair. However, people generally believe they are stuck with the hair they were born with, and in some cases, yes, this is true. In many cases though, simply changing a few poor nutrition habits can set you on the right course.

Healthy Hair Matters

Beginning in the early twentieth century, scientists determined protein, good fats, and healthy carbohydrates are essential for a well-conditioned body.

And, only recently have scientific studies established hair thrives with a plentiful supply of specific nutrients from certain types of vitamins and minerals. For example, Biotin and Omega-3 fatty fish oils immensely improve the health of hair and nails. Biotin is simply a form of vitamin B7. Biotin and Omega-3 fatty fish oils are available at most drug stores, including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

If your diet lacks these specific nutrients, as a beauty expert, my suggestion is to take the recommended dose of Biotin along with a multi-B-complex and an Omega-3. If you have extenuating circumstances, consult your doctor first before beginning any new supplement regime.

Best to take vitamins in the evening after dinner, before bedtime. A good practice is right before brushing your teeth. So vitamins in the bathroom you ask? Yep! The glass is already there, water is readily available, and you’ll be reminded because they’ll live near your toothbrush.

Brown silky beach curls are just a few product discoveries away.

Why take vitamins at night you’re wondering – how can that make a difference? Fact – vitamins react directly with the foods you eat, and, as we all know, our bodies repair at night while we sleep. So why not give your body, hair, and nails the optimal benefit of all the nutrients consumed throughout the day? With this new information, as you can see, it’s easy to advance your body’s nightly rejuvenation.  Note to self, when beginning a new vitamin B program you may want to adjust your daily caffeine intake.

Of course, beauty is only skin deep, but healthy hair begins from within, so why not start now?

Feedback from clients:

Lydia, “After my surgery, I began losing hair rapidly. A daily handful was not uncommon. I didn’t know what to do. My hairstylist recommended I take biotin to increase my hair’s growth and strength while decreasing the fall out rate. It took about three months for me to really notice a difference. During that time, the fall out decreased immensely, and my hair began to grow again.”

Julie, “My hair has been thin and fine my entire life. I started taking biotin on the recommendation of my stylist, and within 6 months my ponytail is twice the size it used to be. The density of my hair has increased but each individual strand is still fine, but that is way better than what I had to work with my entire life. I’m thrilled!”

The next article discusses how to make simple changes in your daily routine for the external health of your hair. Why? Because hair matters. And, we all want good hair days!

Feel free to comment or contact me at for any of your hair health questions.

Courtney Paige

Beauty & Fashion, Health & Fitness

Hair Matters 101 – Healthy hair lifestyle

Maintaining healthy luxurious hair is similar to maintaining a fit and healthy body. Results don’t happen overnight and it’s not a hair diet – it’s a lifestyle.

My clients find my salon through Google, Yelp, Styleseat, and word of mouth. Most are searching for a stylist to manage their mane and nurse their hair back to health. Ailments range from poor nutrition (internally and/or externally), poor care and commonly, over processing.

In my last post, I discussed internal nutrition. Ingesting nutrients, like Biotin (B7), B-Complex, Omega-3’s, and ample amounts of protein are essential to long-term healthy hair. In this post, I condense a 30-minute consultation into a 7-minute read. Here, I offer the same advice I share with my new clients during their first visit.

Let’s say this is your hair (or something similar). It’s long with split ends & over processed, but you don’t want to chop it off because your 20-year high school reunion is fast approaching. Or a classic case, you are getting married within a year – your hair is long, with split ends and neglected from using bad products. It’s also damaged by heat tools and over styling.

Some miracles don’t happen overnight, but it’s always worth the wait.

Don’t panic, in most cases nursing your hair back to health won’t take a year. Each situation calls for its own evaluation and everyone is different. Set realistic goals for optimal hair satisfaction. And yes, there are times you must chop it off and start fresh. Alas, I offer the following regime before doing anything drastic.

Experiencing noticeable effects from adjusting internal nutrients can take up to 3 months. There are however very important external hair habits you can implement right away.

13 Hot Tips for Healthier Hair


  • Brush before you wash. Detangle hair so it isn’t stretched to its limit when wet. A boar hair brush is the ultimate. Prices vary. High end – Mason Pearson $100 or the more reasonably priced Cricket $14 – pictured here. Benefits: Natural scalp oils coat mid and end strands.

    Cricket Boar Hair Brush - Photo by Courtney Paige
    Cricket Boar Hair Brush $14Photo by Courtney Paige


  • Product matters. Check your product ingredients just like you do food labels. Sulfates are not your friend. Sulfates are a detergent, an ingredient used to create suds. An effective metaphor is – if you’ve ever used kitchen soap to wash a car, you see streaks. Detergent eats paint on cars – just think what it does to your hair. Get off the sulfates ladies! Davines is one of my favorite sulfate-free, paraben-free, and cruelty-free shampoo lines. 
  • Wash only your scalp and hair at roots. When using sulfate free shampoos, use a nickel size amount with a bit water in the palm. Emulsify. If hair isn’t suds’ing up, simply add a bit of water to your scalp. Don’t wash ends, only roots. Naturally, soap runs down the hair’s shaft when rinsing. Use hot water to wash well and rinse shampoo. Benefits: Hot water opens hair cuticles -this cleans excess oil & dirt while leaving hair cuticles open for the conditioner to set.

    Davines Minu Shampoo $26 (8.5 fl oz) for Color Treated or Processed Hair – Photo by Courtney Paige


  • Use a quarter size amount of conditioner. Apply primarily on mid-strands and ends. Avoid conditioning roots. Let set while doing other shower duties. Rinse hair with cool water. Benefit: cool water closes hair cuticles locking in moisture and conditioning nutrients. Closed cuticles reflect light, manage frizz and create shine. If roots feel dry or you feel you must put ‘some’ conditioner at the roots – only use water diluted conditioner.
  • Do not towel dry hair. Unless you want volume or frizz, towel drying creates friction on fragile cuticles. It also damages hair, making it prone to breakage. Simply twist hair up in a towel to absorb excess water.

    Malibu Miracle Repair $5 (per pack) for Damaged Hair – Photo by Courtney Paige

Pre-Styling Products

  • Product Matters. Two key pre-styling products I prescribe that will nurse your hair back to health are a milk and an oil. Even if you have fine hair, these products give your outer strands the nourishment they need.

Pre-styling products: Marrakesh Leave-in Detangler $16 & Marrakesh Oil $24Photo by Courtney Paige


  • Comb pre-styling products through hair with a Wet Comb. The one pictured here is my fav.
  • Marrakesh Leave-In Treatment & Detangler – apply all over to damp hair. Apply to ends first. One spritz at the roots. My favorite comes in a mist bottle.
  • Marrakesh Oil – apply after leave-in treatment, mid-strands to ends before blow drying. Then once to ends after styling.

    Wet Comb $8Photo by Courtney Paige


  • I can’t stress enough how important this next step is – it’s so important that if you do all the previous steps religiously, but don’t implement this next step, all your efforts will be for nothing.
  • Tools – using the proper tools for your hair is just as important as using the right tools to build a house.
  • Blowdryer – invest in a bio-ionic blow dryer with a cool button. A good one will last you 10 years. A bio-ionic blow dryer dries hair from the inside out. This way, you aren’t cooking your hair on the outside while trying to penetrate heat to the inside core.


  • Stylist Brush – a bio-ionic styling brush is the same concept as the bio-ionic blowdryer. The key is heat dry hair up to 90%. Finish with a round brush by starting style with heat and end with the cool button activated. Most of my clients are surprised to learn the “set” in wash, style & set is the cooling down process. Hair’s ability to maintain its style depends on how well the set is implemented.

    From blonde damaged ombre’ to healthy hair sombre’.

Good internal and external hair habits are connected. One without the other will defeat your efforts. It’s important to know that healthy hair is a lifestyle. Be good to your body. Be good to yourself. Be good to your hair.

~Courtney Paige

Home & Garden

More bloom for your buck

Spring blooms aren’t always about budding flowers. Get the best bang for your buck by cultivating indigenous drought resistant plants that offer vibrant color year-round. My clients often ask, “How do you plan your garden; where should I start?”

Planning a garden can be a daunting task. It was for me in the past. I had a brown thumb until I gained loads of knowledge through trial and error.

Succulents are full of life ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

As with any topic these days, gardening information is endless, so I share three tips to start.

1 ~ Create a balanced mix of annuals and perennials so you aren’t committed to start from scratch each year. Make a mental note of which plants thrive.  This simple habit will increase your bloom real estate each year.

2 ~ Watch your garden closely over the course of several days (or several seasons) to assess which areas are shaded or sunny.

3 ~ Take the time to get to know your plant’s watering needs.

All three points are vital, yet number three is essential. If you envision a dazzling garden,  you’ll need to assess your lifestyle. Do you travel, do you forget to water, do you live in a dry arid area, do you live in a foggy moist area or somewhere in-between?

With the basic three observation steps in place it’s time to commit and purchase your flowers. Deciding which plants to grow is a tad overwhelming. There are so many choices. Again, where to start?

Pansies & Petunias at Home Depot – Photo by Courtney Paige

Consider succulents. People tend to think succulents are fragile and difficult to grow. Actually, the opposite is true. You may be surprised to know most succulents thrive in full sun. A drought resistant beauty, perfect for California’s hot and arid weather. Cold and foggy mornings keep succulents happy & cozy. They also thrive in shallow dirt or sand which makes them easy to replant. 

Soft vibrant color year round – Photo by Courtney Paige

Succulents tend to be a bit pricey $$. So if your neighbor happens to have some, don’t be shy, ask for clippings as if you’re asking to borrow sugar.  Luckily, succulents are perennials and prolific. Here’s a link to Amazon, where the prices are reasonable if you have Prime and don’t have to pay for shipping. Otherwise, Home Depot is another option – unless you have a good neighbor. 

If your goal is to create a low maintenance garden, succulents are a perfect choice. You’ll plant them once and enjoy their beauty year after year, unlike annuals, which need yearly replanting.

Iceland Poppies & Marigolds at Home Depot- Photo by Courtney Paige

Blogged while listening to Sheryl Crow Soak Up The Sun and U2 Beautiful Day

~ Courtney Paige

Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Discover the day tripper in you

Did you know there are thousands of free views in the city of San Francisco, and driving a car isn’t the best way to take advantage of the region’s stunning natural beauty? Discover the day tripper in you, and follow us from Sonoma County to San Francisco.

Take advantage of the city’s hill venues and their vistas. Photo by Courtney Paige

With Sonoma County’s SMART train on the brink of passenger service, a day trip to the city without getting in your car will soon be a reality. Granted this day trip has multiple legs but isn’t life all about the journey? And who doesn’t like a good set of legs?

Curious to see if a roundtrip venture from Sonoma County to San Francisco could be accomplished in one day without getting in a car, I felt compelled to try. One snag though, the train’s passenger service has been delayed until summer. So, I enlisted an adventurous travel companion and simply drove to the ferry determined not to let logistics get in the way.

The Larkspur Ferry is a capsule in time. Float to the city I say. Photo by Courtney Paige

Weekend parking is free at the Larkspur Ferry, so we convinced ourselves that perk will make up for the lack of train service. Another benefit Larkspur Ferry offers is the Clipper card – big savings! After jetting across the bay in a quick 35-minute boat ride, we fawn over majestic Coit Tower as the ferry floats into port.

View of Coit Tower as we float towards the dock at Embarcadero’s Ferry Building. Photo by Courtney Paige

Moments later, we disembarked at San Francisco’s famous Embarcadero ferry building and hit the city of San Francisco on foot with a general idea of our plans but no major commitments. 

Check out the video to get a more intimate visual on our day trip.

The key to navigating the city is to equip yourself with good walking shoes, wear layers and plan the day in little spurts. For this day trip, we incorporated intervals of floating, walking, eating, drinking and viewing.

We settled on massages at Hotel Vitale Spa, a hop, skip and a jump away from the Embarcadero. It’s literally across the street from the ferry building. Even though this hotel caters to tourists, it’s a secret spot for locals who get chilled to the bone with the city’s moist cold weather.

Hotel Vitale Rooftop Voyeur Outdoor Bath – Exquisite! Photo by Courtney Paige

The concierge at Hotel Vitale mentioned a bottomless champagne brunch at La Fusion located on the quaint European alley, Belden Place. An option one can’t refuse. This alley is a treasure trove of quint awning covered restaurants with cozy outdoor heaters.

Brunch at La Fusion Cafe is the quickest way to satisfy your bistro fix. Amazing Eggs Benedict. Photo by Courtney Paige

Next, we hopped the trolley for a mere $2 and moseyed over to Museum of Modern Art on 3rd Street. 

San Francisco Muni Trolley – Public Transpo at its finest! Photo by Courtney Paige

MOMA is celebrating their one-year multi-million dollar renovation at the end of April with a fancy soiree.

San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art live rooftop deck. Located in SOMA.

As much as we loved the rooftop massages and outdoor rose petal hot baths at the Vitale Spa, the piece de resistance was the Conservatory of Flowers.

Golden Gate Park’s Conservatory Flowers – Photo by Courtney Paige

Located just a few miles west of downtown, at the pinnacle of Golden Gate Park’s panhandle, the Conservatory of Flowers links Haight-Ashbury and the 2.5-mile long city park. With public transportation as our new best friend, we rolled with the flow and stepped off the Muni into a world where time stands still. An ample amount of time to stop and smell the flowers. The Conservatory of Flowers is the perfect place to warm up & snuggle up on a cold foggy day. Inside, the atmosphere is surprisingly tropical – a sheer contrast to the cool gray city’s urban mecca.

Inspiration is everywhere, so get moving! The world is waiting.

~ Courtney Paige

Tea & Trumpets carry a beautiful bouquet of assorted teas. Photo by Courtney Paige
Food & Wine, Home & Garden, Spirituality & Community

Farmer in the dell

Mark Bowden sharing the favs. Photo by Courtney Paige
Mark Bowden sharing the favs. Photo by Courtney Paige

For European countries like France, Italy, England, and Germany, farmers markets aren’t a novelty, they’re an essential element of daily life. Europeans don’t stockpile their groceries in huge refrigerators or store massive amounts of toilet paper from Costco.

The primary reason is that Europeans don’t have ample storage space for bulk shopping. Your first reaction may be to think they’re less fortunate. On the contrary, they’re better off by default for several reasons. I list five here, coupled with my favorite local Sonoma County farmers markets you won’t want to miss.

Delight your senses with Tea & Trumphets local artisan teas.
Delight your senses with Tea & Trumpets local artisan teas. Photo by Courtney Paige

1. Less Waste

Shopping daily or even twice a week wastes less food. Buying in bulk harbors a false sense of security and isn’t advantageous. Admit it, we’ve all done it. We’ve all thrown food away because we didn’t eat it fast enough.

~According to a survey conducted by the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws out $640 of food each year.~

2. Save Money

A 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report concluded the average American household spent $4,015 on groceries in 2015, resulting in 16% waste due to spoiled goods. At first glance, this percentage may seem insignificant. However, when considered collectively, this number equates to a whopping 80 billion tons of waste each year.

Fresh berries & cherries ripe for the picking. Photo by Courtney Paige
Fresh berries & cherries ripe for the picking.                                                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Courtney Paige

3. Healthier Lifestyle

Produce consumed from farmers markets is more nutritious simply because nonlocal produce travel thousands of miles and takes at least a week to reach its retail destination. This journey doesn’t even include shelf time in the supermarket. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutritional value within three days. So in order for bulk import farmers to compensate for lag time, crops are harvested early. Local produce harvested during prime picking time reaps the most nutritious bounty. Produce nutrients are optimal when consumed within the first week of harvest.

~The Institute of Food Research reports that fresh vegetables traveling long distances lose up to 45 percent of their nutritional value between being picked and landing in a supermarket.~

    4. Reduces carbon footprint

Supporting local farmers markets equates to fewer food miles by reducing emissions from transport vehicles, including airplanes, ships, and trucks. Conventional food distribution uses more fuel and emits more carbon dioxide than local and regional systems. Local food systems, on the other hand, rely on a geographically desirable network of small family farms. Most are sustainably operated translating into minimized pesticide use, no-till compositing agriculture practices, minimized transport to consumers, and virtually no packaging.

~A comparison between locally grown and conventionally grown produce found locally grown produce travels about 50 miles to reach the consumer’s table half a day from harvest, while conventionally grown produce travels 1,500 miles and reaches the table 13 days past harvest.~

Strawberry fields forever or at least when in season. Photo by Courtney Paige
Strawberry fields forever or at least when in they’re in season.                                                                                                                                                       Photo by Courtney Paige

Indeed it’s awesome to have access to mangos, strawberries or blackberries all-year-round. The truth is though, not only do we cheat our bodies of essential nutrients lost during travel time, buying produce from across the world is a detriment to our local farmers. If we buy produce from a different hemisphere we are starving our bodies of essential nutrition and taking money from the pockets of our local communities.

~According to the USDA, since 2006, farmers markets have grown by 180 percent, regional food hubs by 288 percent, and school district participation in farm-to-school programs by 430 percent.~

5. Discover your local culinary treasures

However important reasons one through four are, I’m most passionate about number five because it’s what feeds my soul. I love strolling through transformed makeshift markets shaded with little treasure canopy kiosks. While eclectic aromas ignite my inspiration, each little-shaded tent creates curiosity and offers something new to discover.  

Plus, chatting with local artisans create a community connection like no other. This weekend, during a visit to our local farmers market at the Veteran’s Market in Santa Rosa, my daughter and I came across fantastic finds featured in the article photos.


The Hue De Laroque Family Farm Photo by Courtney Paige
The Hue De Laroque Family Farm                                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Courtney Paige

When you get to know your farmer, you get to know your food. Heigh-ho-the-derry-o the farmer in the dell. And remember, don’t let the cheese stand alone.

  1. Glen Ellen Farmers’ Market
  2. Healdsburg Farmers ‘Market
  3. Rohnert Park Farmers’ Market 
  4. Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market- Veteran’s Memorial Center 
  5. Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market – Wells Fargo Center
  6. Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market
  7. Sonoma Plaza Farmers’ Market
  8. Sebastopol Farmers’ Market
  9. Windsor Farmers’ Market
  10. Living Drinks Photo by Courtney PaigeLiving Drinks – Photo by Courtney Paige
Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Cultured burbs

Sonoma County is a quaint sleepy community with seemingly more vineyards than people. At first glance, things may appear a tad western here, but given a closer look, Sonoma County lights up the senses.

Nine incorporated cities sprinkle the county and each has an incredibly charming square or downtown. Except for Santa Rosa. For decades, Santa Rosa has lacked in comparison to its quaint neighbor towns, until now.

With the new controversial downtown square complete, the rightful county seat just may have a chance to shine. After all, there’s more to Santa Rosa than the Old Courthouse Square. So giddy-up! Here’s some inspiration for local day tripping.

Set a goal of three wineries max. St. FrancisLandmark, and Chateau St. Jean are the most convenient and stunning local wineries. All are located in Sonoma Valley on Hwy 12 east. Check with the California Welcome Center in Railroad Square – they offer locals buy-one-get-one-free tasting at select wineries.

St.Francis Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige


St. Francis Winery Courtyard – Photo by Courtney Paige


Landmark Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige


Landmark Winery Courtyard – Photo by Courtney Paige


Chateau St. Jean Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige


Chateau St. Jean Winery Cabana – Photo by Courtney Paige


Plan in advance and reserve a massage between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm at Me Spa. A luxurious day spa located in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village. Their zero-gravity chairs are divine. The perfect way to wipe away worries…if only for a moment.

Darling Gifts at Me Spa – Photo by Courtney Paige

Make reservations at Monti’s for 7:30 pm – giving ample time to refresh from the spa and wander around the darling outdoor shopping village. Keeping with a serene atmosphere, Monti’s offers tranquil outdoor dining. Small plates with fantastic wine pairings are the usual.  Alas, Monti’s is located just steps away from Me Spa.

Monti’s at Montgomery Village – Photo by Courtney Paige

Santa Rosa’s new Old Courthouse Square is merely a moment away and is currently celebrating a renaissance revival. The new square is rapidly creating an eclectic hustle and bustle. With over 40 sycamore trees, bundles of redwoods and embedded benches dolloped around the square, it’s the perfect place for stargazing.

La Rosa on the Square – Photo by Courtney Paige

Let your hair down with one last stop at La Rosa’s esoteric upstairs bar for a nightcap. The rare brick mission style outdoor porch and dining area never disappoint. All bartenders are consistent with each well-crafted cocktail. The margarita menu is my favorite. It’s no wonder they call La Rosa bartenders mixologists. DJs spin urban beats that make you want to get up and shake off your dinner…and the extra wine you consumed throughout the day.

La Rosa on Fourth – Great Happy Hour – Photo by Courtney Paige

Savor a county seat experience right here in urban-farm central. It’s right here in our own backyard. New restaurants and bars with outdoor seating and live music are popping up like little gems all over town.

Cheers ~

Savor Life and Enjoy!

by Courtney Paige

Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Perfect place to sip & see on a rainy day

Sunshine on a cloudy day – Photo by Courtney Paige

It’s been a long wet winter and most of us, I imagine, are ready for some heat. As I sit here pondering spicy things on a rainy day, Flying Goat Coffee calls my name. Today is a chai type of day, I say. When winter feels like it’s lingering on because a groundhog didn’t see its shadow, Flying Goat Coffee is the place to lounge sipping a hot chai latte while watching trains cruise by. The Goat, as it’s referred to by the locals, sits nestled in one of the oldest buildings in Sonoma County.  The stacked stone monolith, built in the late 1800s, stands majestically as commander-in-chief of Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square.

Flying Goat Coffee ~ Commander-in-Chief of Railroad Square Photo by Courtney Paige

The Goat lives just across the street from the old Santa Rosa Train Depot. There are also two locations in Healdsburg near the square. It anchors the railroad track as if it’s the end of the line. Reality is, the Goat is where everything begins. 

Back Patio at the Goat – Photo by Courtney Paige

It’s the perfect place to start the day – with a chai latte and a gluten free banana bread pastry perhaps. The Goat just may be the only place in town that crafts artisan gluten-free pastries. Their chai latte, consistently delicious, is made with all natural ingredients, and of course, the froth artwork is icing on the cake.

I like to say, “the Goat is the quintessential pinnacle spot in Santa Rosa where east side meets west side.” An unexpected surprise in an unexpected space. Give the Goat a whirl, I bet you’ll get hooked. The stark interior, restored to a 1920’s black and white art deco decor, pops with bright yellow accents and a 50 feet high ceiling that hugs its guests with a bright picture window enclave.

Flying Goat Foyer – Photo by Courtney Paige

On sunny days, a brick patio shaded by 150-year-old magnolia trees await your arrival.

Photo by Courtney Paige

For now, I’ll take the spice, skip the rain, pine for the sunshine and head to Flying Goat Coffee in Railroad Square.

Sunshine served all day long – Photo by Courtney Paige
Amy's Wicked Slush - Photo by Courtney Paige
Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Hot spot & cold treats – meet Wicked Slush

Wicked Slush luscious flavors find your fancy – Photo by Courtney Paige

Prompted by an article recently written by Heather Irwin in Sonoma County’s revered Bite Club column, I felt compelled to check out a playfully mischievous new establishment in Healdsburg.

A county touted for its amazing farm to table cuisine, we are rarely privy to other American State culinary specialties. Yes, our region is ladened with Thai, Mexican and Chinese food, but really, these cuisines are the product of other countries.

Amy's Wicked Slush - Photo by Courtney Paige
Amy’s Wicked Slush – Photo by Courtney Paige

That’s why Amy’s Wicked Boston Slush is the perfect storm to wet your whistle here in Sonoma County. Seriously, when Wicked’s magical umami melts in your mouth, it leaves you craving more. With at least 20 daily flavors to choose from, you’ll already be planning your next visit the moment you step away from the pickup counter.

Wicked Slush Mango & Sour Watermelon - Photo by Courtney Paige
Wicked Slush Mango & Sour Watermelon – Photo by Courtney Paige

Wicked Slush sets the bar high for other local tasty treats to compete. Before long, it will be a Sonoma County icon, and we’ll wonder how we ever lived without it.

A serendipitous melding of shaved ice, sorbet and an Icee, this classic original Boston slush pucker’s your lips and twinges your jaws. The texture is so luscious, you’re almost compelled to chew it.

Wicked Slush Peanut Butter Soft Serve dipped in Butterscotch – Photo by Courtney Paige

I’ve already patronized the place twice within one week. Once to find out what all the buzz is about, and then, of course, to treat my daughter. I like the sweets, and she likes the tarts. Wicked curates all the taste senses seamlessly. During the second visit with my daughter, we were lucky enough to meet Amy. She’s genuinely a nice person.

My daughter was curiously checking out the coffee urns while waiting in line when Amy approached us & asked if we needed anything at all. She was friendly, kind, personable and authentic. Characteristics we’re all grateful for these days.

Wicked Slush boasts pops of color & flavor – Photo by Courtney Paige

As summer approaches, the days get longer, hair gets lighter, skin gets darker, water gets warmer, drinks are colder, music gets louder, and now thanks to Amy, slush gets wicked.

Savor and enjoy!

-Courtney Paige