I Recommend Bend!

I couldn’t refuse an invitation from Moira and Dave (dear friends from Chicago – in fact Moira was my very first friend in Chicago – the ‘Kevin Bacon’ of our ‘posse’!) for a summer visit to Bend OR, where they bought a second home 3 years ago! Not only have I been wanting to go for some time, but I also knew getting out of the Arizona heat for a few days would be very welcome!!

I was lucky to be able to extend my July 4 holiday weekend (that we spent in Chicago – and will include pics in an upcoming post) to go out to Bend for a visit! After only a few days there, I can see how special this place is – natural beauty and outdoor activities galore, nice dry weather, and a small city with boutiques, good restaurants, festivals. Great place to live and vacation!

The Redmond/Bend airport reminds me of Islip, NY and Santa Barbara – small quaint and easy to get in and out of!

Fri, 7/7

I enjoyed a walk around Drake Park, located right across the street from Dave and Moira’s. It’s pretty amazing that such natural beauty is right in the middle of town! Lots of bikers, runners, walkers, and some interesting RVs and vans!

While Moira worked, Dave and I went out for an awesome breakfast at Jackson’s Corner and then checked out the surfers on the Deschutes River – yes, surfing on the river rapids.  Later in the day lots of tubers are to be found rambling down the river, enjoying beverages and the sun!

We spent the afternoon hiking Tumalo Mountain, a short but strenuous uphill hike, complete with some snow!

View of Mount Bachelor:

En route:

Rewarding mountain top views:

Snacks at Sparks Lake – the view really sucked – ha ha!

After enjoying post-hike wine and snacks we walked around town, shopped (enjoyed their 3rd Fri shopping event), and had a great dinner and tasty passionfruit margaritas at Barrio. After dinner we popped over to their friend’s house for a bit more wine and fun conversation!

Sat, 7/8

We spent the day hiking in the Green Lakes area – what a journey, about 10 miles roundtrip, with lots of snow and some navigational challenges to get around! Thanks to Dave, our guide extraordinaire, for safe passage the whole way!

Falls Creek:

Adorable little tree frogs:

En route:

Dave noticed an unstable melting ‘snow bridge’ and marked the safe points for Moira and me to cross. Then he helped other unsuspecting hikers by marking the spot even more!

One of the prettiest parts of the hike – and come to find out a bobcat and cub were also visiting that day!

We have arrived! Green Lakes

Tilted log bridge – we crossed a few of these that were straight – this one was totally tilted and a bit scary (especially when your legs are shaking from fatigue – he he!) Moira and Dave were brave and side stepped it – I did the butt shimmy!

Pretty shots on the way down:

I think this is a personal record:

We had a great dinner and sampled some local brews at Deschutes Brewery – love their fresh squeezed IPA and also enjoyed their summer ale.

Sun 7/9 – Luckily I was able to walk – ha ha! Actually didn’t feel too bad – some soreness in new/different places than my spin and bootcamp classes! We enjoyed another fab breakfast at Jackson’s and then off to the airport and back to baking Phoenix I went!

Highly recommend Bend! 🙂  Thanks to Moira and Dave for their hospitality!

Coming soon – a summary of our Scottsdale activities from April – July!

March into Milder Weather in Santa Barbara

Welcome to our March, and final Santa Barbara post! This entry includes: a rocket launch at Vandenberg and visits from Cathy & Don, and my Mom. It is now 3/31, we just left Santa Barbara earlier today and I’m posting now from Arizona, where we will be for the rest of the calendar year. This may be a record for me, posting the final blog entry ON our final day in our location – yeah!

March 1 – Dave rented a car for us to drive out to Vandenberg for the Atlas V rocket launch (with a top secret payload!) Normally you could watch from Surf Beach, but they blocked access and instead we pulled over on the side of Rt. 1 along with the other cars to take in the view!

Launch videos:

After the launch we had breakfast at a local diner in Lompoc (I was surprised at how busy it was) and then hit some of the local grape!

Babcock Winery & Vineyards – so glad we decided to stop here, as it was recommended to us and happened to also share a driveway with Melville (whose Chardonnay I tried and really liked.) This winery is special in that the wines are universally yummy and the décor and experience of the winery is very eclectic, cool, and welcoming.

More on the winery: Babcock was the only American named as one of the Top 10 Small Production Winemakers in the world by the James Beard Foundation.

Babcock Vineyards was established in 1978 by Mona and Walter Babcock and was one of the first to plant vines in what is now the Santa Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area.) The Babcock’s son, Bryan, stayed on to finish the harvest in Sept 1984 instead of returning to complete his master’s thesis in enology at UC Davis. Bryan, Richard Sanford, Rick Longoria, and other local wine pioneers submitted a petition to establish the Santa Rita Hills AVA in late 1997, approval was granted in 2001. This AVA includes 2,700 acres planted to pinot noir, chardonnay, and 18 other cool climate varieties.

Bryan Babcock is the winemaker who is heavy into farming as well as he pioneered and patented a new cane-suspension trellis system which reduced vineyard costs by 25% and helps to support higher quality fruit (by supporting an area on the vines that is typically weak.) The inspiration for this new system came out of the ’08 recession – just prior to it, Babcock wanted to increase his production to 40k cases and to increase his yield/acre. Following the recession he decided to half his acreage and reduce production to 10-12k cases/year, and to sell direct to consumers rather than distributors to increase margins.

Our tasting: Our favorites included: Block 15 Cabernet (2014 Estelle Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley), Top Cream Chardonnay (2015 Estate Grown, Santa Rita Hills – SRH), Ocean’s Ghost Pinot Noir (2014 Estate, SRH), and Deja Vu Pinot Noir (2014 Bentrock Vineyard, SRH). We also liked the Slice of Heaven Pinot Noir (2014 Rita’s Crown Vineyard – highest vineyard in SRH, where the hill top looks ‘sliced’ into a crown), the estate Sauvignon Blanc, and the Upper Crust Syrah.

Melville Winery:  Winery was founded in 1989 in Sonoma County by Ron Melville, a former stockbroker. He decided to move the operation in 1996 to Santa Rita Hills to grow cool-climate pinot, chardonnay, and syrah. Melville has 120 acres under vine and produces 30k cases/year.  Melville has 16 clones of pinot noir, 9 of syrah, and 6 of chardonnay – clones are 100% replicas of its parent and enables predictability and distinction and diversity in the expression of a varietal.  Our favorites included the Sandy Pinot Noir (2014), the 2014 Estate Pinot, Hi Density Syrah, and the 2014 Estate Chardonnay.

Our host Alvin was very cool – a sculptor who designed the Mission miniature collection (my Mom bought one when she visited!) and is one of the best ambassadors of the city Lompoc could hope for!

Longoria:  Wine was good/not mind-blowing, but the build up from all the recommendations we’ve heard resulted in a slight let-down experience-wise as the host wasn’t the most hospitable we’ve encountered! Our favorites included the Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay, Fe Ciega Pinot Noir (they sell these grapes to Foxen too), and the Santa Ynez Valley Tempranillo.  The winery was established in 1982, produces 3k cases/year, and Rick Longoria has always served as the winemaker.

It was nice to cap off a quick mid week day off with a great dinner at Bouchon, which turned out to be more modern American than French as we expected.

Thurs – dinner at The Lark. This place is pretty hard to get into – after eating there I can see why!  Fabulous food, decent portions, and such a cool atmosphere.  We were kept toasty warm with a heater and felt like we were cooking by the end of the meal.

Fri 3/4 dinner at Little Kitchen – this place is a gem, very casual, with unique dishes such as a southwest chicken tikka masala and Swedish meatballs!

Sat 3/5 – Cathy and Don visit from San Diego!  We had hoped to catch a jazz ‘procession’ from a bar on State St over to a venue on Garden. Turns out the 11am ‘parade’ changed until noon.  At noon this is what we got to see 🙂  Pretty funny but in the interim we enjoyed some tasty pizza and local beer and gossip at Patxi’s!

Upon Cathy and Don’s arrival, we enjoyed drinks at Convivo at the Santa Barbara Inn, directly across from East Beach!  Then an early dinner at Opal and then onto the Jim Messina (of Loggins & Messina, Poco, and Buffalo Springfield fame) show. The concert was a benefit for the William Sansum Diabetes Center and the opening act was Jackson Gillies who is a pretty talented teenager and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a young child, and continues to receive regular treatments at the Center. The venue at Lobero Theater was pretty special – small intimate theater in the typical Santa Barbara style architecture – white walls, red roof tiles, curved archways, etc.

Sun – brunch at Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach! We are becoming regulars here!

Mom’s visit (week of 3/11) – so happy to have my Mom come out for a vacation, and to take time off from work!

Sun 3/12 – We started the day with a drive along Shoreline Park (not much to see with heavy marine layer), followed it with lunch at Eureka (great burgers!) and shopping on State St, then onto:

Santa Barbara Mission: Nice to visit this again in the warm sunny weather! It was also cool to see Alvin’s Mission miniatures (my Mom bought one as a gift!)

Sacred Garden:

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Cemetery Garden:

Back of main church and Fig Tree:

Inside the chapel:


Alice Keck Park:  Such a nice little park right near the house – loved the tree overhanging the street and the flowers hiding in and around it!

Such a cool tree!

Inside the park:

Mon 3/13 – Solvang (Sunny Fields in Danish) and Los Olivos

En route – the lovely lookout stop near San Marcos Pass!

Solvang – the town was a bit more active and animated than the last time I visited with friends in Jan – could be the much nicer weather and we didn’t go on a day when many stores are closed!

Lunch at the Solvang Restaurant – a traditional Danish meatball and sausage meal! We also brought some tasty danishes home from Mortenson’s Bakery.  We laughed later that night when we wondered what the Danes call Danishes – do they call them ‘us’??!!

The Copenhagen House, including Amber museum:

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Then onto Los Olivos for some shopping and wine tasting. We went to Arthur Earl, randomly selected as we parked right in front of it! We had a fun time in the tasting room where we were the only customers. Our host was very friendly and her name was Nancy too! Arthur and Earl have been business partners for more than 20 years – having met while working in the tech industry. They started by acquiring a small existing winery called Alexander and Wayne (their middle names). Then 5 years later they decided to start another operation focused on varietals from the Rhone valley in France, northern Italy, and northern Spain. Case production is tiny – only 2k cases/year (100-300 cases per wine.) Dave seemed to like the wines a lot more than me (I tasted a bit of vinegar) – though I did enjoy the few that we bought: 2014 Viognier, 2011 Cinsaut, and the 2014 Dolcetto. We also liked the Nebbiolo and the A Genoux Rhone blend was decent.  Nancy told us that the meaning of A Genoux is French for ‘on your knees’, and was coined by the author Alexandre Degas who was also a gourmet chef and a wine collector – he said that his wine was so good you should drink on your knees without your hat!

We walked around Los Olivos and Dave saw a sign for a Sea Smoke tasting at the Los Olivos Tasting Room & Wine Shop – we were very excited to try it as we’ve seen it around town but never tasted (we did sign up for their online wait list to buy.) We ended up learning that Sea Smoke could be all smoke and mirrors as their success has been primarily due to hiring expert marketers to drum up awareness and interest in the wines 2 years before their first harvest! The Southing pinot we tried was very good – however, our host introduced us to other wines that much tastier and came at a much better price point! Our favorites: 2013 Center of Effort Pinot Noir (Edna Valley) – fabulous!! (started by the owner of Raytheon) and the Herman Story 2014 Nuts & Bolts Syrah. We also tried the 2014 Wrath 115/667 pinot noir and the Transcendence 2014 F Street pinot noir. The 2014 Luli pinot noir and the 2015 Jillhammer pinot rose was quite good too.


The hummingbirds loved the bird feeder on the porch!

Tues 3/14 – We started the day at Stearns Wharf and had lunch at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. They had some of the best baked clams outside of Il Cappuccino, and that’s saying something! 🙂

Stearns Wharf: we aren’t used to the marine layer/fog (are they the same? I should know this coming from the maritime town of Sag Harbor) that seemed to roll in the day after my Mom arrived (no offense, ha ha!) – it has typically been clear except for rainy days. Quite strange to not be able to see the ocean at all from just a few hundred yards away.  The marine layer did add a cool sense of mystery to the pics!

Carriage Museum – this was an unexpected treat, free admission, and a nicely curated collection of carriages (more than 40), saddles, and other riding accessories, including saddles once owned by Will Rogers, Clark Gable, and Cisco Kid. If you visit, be sure to drive around to the back of the museum for parking. The main lot was packed with cars from the city college.


Front room- smaller carriages atop, saddles, bit and bridles, and other gear

Main room – larger carriages in a western theme ‘town’:

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Maritime Museum and harbor – another hit on the tourist circuit – small and very nicely put together maritime museum. Learned that in 1969 there was a serious oil spill in the area.  Well worth the time and cost to visit!

Point Conception Lighthouse Fresnel Lens. Fresnel lens was designed & built in Paris in 1854. Point Conception is dubbed the Cape Horn of the Pacific, as the coast shifts from a north/south orientation to an east/west one in the Santa Barbara Channel. Point Conception is at the west end of the channel, where the coast makes an abrupt 90-degree turn northward and where mariners have to make an abrupt course correction.  Point Conception is also known as the Graveyard of the Pacific given the number of shipwrecks! The Santa Ana winds that originate on land and blow out to the sea at high speeds also heavily affect the areas around the Channel Islands producing high winds and waves.

Keepers of the Santa Barbara Lighthouse – In 1856 construction of the Santa Barbara Lighthouse started. The first keeper of the station was Albert Williams, who traveled from Maine in 1850. His wife Julia and their daughter arrived in 1853. Albert tired of the position and in 1865 his wife Julia took over, and continued to do so for more than 40 years and while raising 6 children! The 1925 earthquake destroyed the lighthouse and was replaced with an automatic tower in 1935.

Diving Technology and Abalone Diving

Mario M. Castagnola Commercial Fishing – commercial fishing has always been in existence in Santa Barbara, starting thousands of years ago by the Chumash indians and with plenty of similarities in tools and approaches used today – despite so much progress! 5 fisheries include: dive, harpoon, trap, net, and hook and line.

Channel Islands – wine industry lasted from 1880-1936. A Frenchman, Caire, began planting grapes on Santa Cruz Island in the early 1880s, with zin being predominant. At its height the winery produced more than 83,000 gallons of wine from 150 acres. Wine was then shipped to the mainland in casks and bottled. Sales were stopped after Caire’s permit expired in 1929, though the grapes were still sold on the mainland, mainly to the Italians who made wine in their basement.  Last vintage produced in 1936 and the vines were removed in 1937:

Other channel islands displays:

Ship Models – left: Prisoner of War models made with beef bones & human hair! 1792-1815.  Unlike real ships, models truly stand the test of time!  The oldest Egyptian ship model dates to about 2600 BC!!!:

Oil industry:

Goleta’s Canons:

Marilyn S. Tennity Surfing Exhibit – surfing’s origins can be traced back to Polynesian kings in the 1800s where Hawaiian royalty rode 20 ft surfboards called Olos (carved out of Koa trees and weighed 70lbs +). After missionaries arrived in Hawaii they declared surfing forbidden as they thought it was too hedonistic! Duke Kahanamoku (I’m assuming who the Duke’s restaurant in Hi is named after) and the Beach Boys of Waikiki revived the sport in the early 1900s. Duke, an Olympic gold medal swimmer, became surfing’s famous ambassador after performing in surfing exhibitions worldwide.

Navigation, Cuba wreck (happened on the same day as the Honda Point disaster where 14 Clemson Class destroyers were shipwrecked on Honda Point, largest peacetime loss in US naval history), and the Mark 46 Torpedo:

Around the harbor & beach:

Wed 3/15 – Started the day with breakfast at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach:

Then onto the Botanic Gardens, founded in 1926 and dedicated to conserving native California plants. fun fact: one third of California’s native plants grow nowhere else on Earth! The botanic gardens felt a bit more of a park for hiking then botanical gardens. The view across the Meadow across to the Santa Ynez mountains was like a postcard. I liked the shaded Redwood section and the Island View area was worth the detour!  

Meadow area:



Mission Dam, Campbell Bridge ,and Mission Creek::

Manzanita & Japanese Tea Garden. The tea house is designed to blend into its surroundings and reflect cultural design traditions. Special architecture features include: a small door to enter the tea room, preparation room for the server, sliding door from the tea room to the garden:

Island View:

and the Museum of Natural History later that day, another well done museum in Santa Barbara definitely worth the time and price of admission! The bird gallery was very impressive!

Bird hall – more than 500 bird mounts of 300 bird species – I kind of got into identifying birds when we are on safari.  I had to do a little research after the fact for our photo book and enjoyed it! I also think the cliff swallows are very cute, especially after Dave and I had a nest right above our front door in Scottsdale last year 🙂  Also have grown to appreciate hummingbirds – there are so many in CA and it’s fun to try to get close enough to get them on camera!

Incredible collection – organized by what the birds eat – nectar, seeds, fish, animals – never really thought too much about what birds eat – other than vultures we saw chowing down on lion leftovers in Africa!

Mineral & Gem gallery:

Chumash Indian hall: The Chumash were different from all other Indians in language and customs, they also weren’t a tribe in the usual sense. Each village has its own government, headed by 1 or 2 chiefs, who had prestige and influence, but little power. The chief maintained and distributed food stores, money, and valuables for the benefit of the community.  The Chumash had a money economy based on shell beads. Strands of standardized lengths, valued according to workmanship, were used in trade and as payment for services. Beads and other goods were destroyed in annual mourning ceremonies – to help prevent inflation.

Chumash rock art: Known to be the most elaborate and colorful Indian art in North America, Chumash rock art – was ceremonial and meaningful, and was not meant to be decorative. Knowledge of the meaning behind the art has not survived.

The TOMOL, or Chumash Plank canoe, was known to the greatest invention of the CA Indians. The TOMOL was so well-engineered that no interior framing other than a single crossbeam was required to support the hull. No metal was used in construction. Averaging 20 ft in length and carrying up to 10 people, these canoes were used for fishing and hunting sea mammals, and for travel and trade between the Channel Islands and the mainland. They were essential to the Chumash economy.

Explorers & Missionaries: The Chumash first saw white men in 1542, though contact was sporadic until 1770s. Early explorers admired the Chumash for their friendly nature and technical achievements. To colonize CA, the Spanish founded 5 missions in Chumash territory from 1172-1804 (we visited 2, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.) The padres attracted the Indians with gifts and apparent supernatural power, converted them to Christianity, and then confined them to prevent desertion. After baptism, Indians were forced to wear clothes and live in mission housing. All were taught some basic trade – weaving, farming, iron working, masonry. Daily life was a rigid schedule of work, prayer, and meals. Despite the padres’ good intentions, these strange new living conditions fostered diseases and death. Chumash religion, economy, social and political systems quickly collapsed. Few aspects of native culture survived the missions.

Astronomy center (more for kids), but it was fun to check out the Thermal image videocamera and Chumash plants across the creek:

Cartwright Hall of Plants & Insects:

Geology & Paleontology hall: apparently Santa Rosa Island (in the Channel Islands) was an island paradise for pygmy mammoths! Phillip C Orr, a researcher at the museum, collected over 200 mammoth parts representing about 50 mammoths on Santa Rosa Island. Orr believed that humans and mammoths lived at the same time and that humans contributed to the mammoths’ extinction by hunting them. His theories were not widely accepted as his dates for living on the island were much older than those widely accepted by archeologists. He pointed to burned areas on the island that contained charcoal and mammoth fragments that he believed were the remains of mammoth butcher and cooking sites.

Thurs 3/16 – I took my Mom to the Santa Barbara Courthouse to visit the infamous clock tower:


Clock tower views:

Interior – mural courtroom:

Then we drove around the Funk Zone and over to the massive Moreton Bay Fig Tree:

We picked up Dave and cruised over to the Four Seasons Biltmore for lunch with a view:

My Mom and I enjoyed a sunset cruise sail with Sunset Kidd, one of the few clear days to enjoy the views and sunset:

Before cruising:

Departing the harbor:

Out on the water:

Sea lions!

Gorgeous sunset:

Returning to the harbor:

Fri 3/17 – We day-tripped over to Ojai to enjoy the scenic drive and views of Lake Casita:

lunch at the famous Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. This resort was founded by Edward Libbey, who you can read more about below!

Then into the town for some shopping, great little boutiques, ice cream, and a wonderful department store called Rains that had a little bit of everything!

I’ve always wanted to visit this resort after I saw it numerous times as the backdrop of a Brenda Dygraf exercise video (yes, VHS) I used to work out to regularly in the 80s!  It didn’t disappoint!

More about Ojai: The Ojai Valley was home to the early Chumash Indians before becoming a Spanish land grant n 1837. In 1917, a fire destroyed many of the buildings. Fortunately, a prominent glass manufacturer (and resident) named Edward Libbey fell in love with the town and helped rebuild the town center faithful to its Spanish heritage. Today Ojai, with its small population of 8,900, is a haven for artists, musicians, and health enthusiasts.

Sat 3/18 – Lunch at Cold Spring Tavern. Cold Spring Tavern was established as a stagecoach stop in 1865. Originally known as the “Cold Spring Relay Station”, it was a place to change horses and allow travelers to rest and enjoy a meal as they crossed the San Marcos pass constructed by Chinese laborers. It’s amazing to think that these stagecoaches traveled through these mountains, when it’s a bit terrifying to do it today in a car!  You feel like you’re stepping back in time visiting the tavern as well as the surrounding buildings…..

Great view of the San Marcos Pass bridge:

The physical appearance of the Tavern has been protected by a series of owners including Adelaide Ovington and her daughter Audrey who purchased the Tavern in 1941. It has been operating as a restaurant/tavern continuously since that date.

Bar history – There was a water bottling plant in what is now The Log Cabin Bar.  Forty or so years ago the leasee was losing money. Who knew that water would be so in demand as it is now. He just planned to leave the machinery there as it was too large to get it through the door so we removed the end wall and built the beautiful stone fireplace in it’s place. Inside the bar/restaurant:

Tiniest shop, shack, and other buildings:

Ojai jail – Across from the Chinese Road Gang House is the Ojai Jail which was built by Andrew Van Curen in 1873.  Mr. Van Curen was the sheriff in Ojai for a very long time.  When he retired he offered his jail (which he built on his property) to the city of Ojai at least three times but, for whatever reason, they did not accept his offer.  Audrey, on the other hand, accepted the first time!  It was once featured in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” as the only jail that ever crossed a mountain.  The two buildings now keep each other company through the ages.

Road Gang House, where the Chinese Road Gang bunked when they built the Toll Road through the rugged San Marcos Pass in 1868.  We use it now to host special parties and events including that business meeting you’ve been wanting to host somewhere unique.

Food, glorious food – the restaurants in Santa Barbara are top notch!

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Looking for whales – supposedly they like to turn in closer to shore near Shoreline Park – not this day!

Around town:

Shen Yun – Fri 3/24 – I’ve been curious about this show for some time and thought it would be a Chinese Cirque du Soleil – not so much.  It was more traditional Chinese music and performances, supplemented with multimedia displays. Definitely worth your time, though ticket prices should be cut in half! My favorite segments were Yellow Blossoms and Mongolian Drums.

Lunchtime hooky – after traveling for ~24 hours between Sun, 3/26 and Mon 3/27 for a 3 hour meeting in NYC (and having a migraine all Sun night to boot), I decided I was going to play hooky for a few hours that Wed afternoon.  Dave and I had a great lunch at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company down on Stearn’s Wharf, then checked out the nearby sundeck with great views and attached to a winery.

then enjoyed a wine tasting at Riverbench Winery. Crazy thing is, I thought I had until 3pm until my next call – turns out it was 2pm and I was 1/2 hour late!  I just didn’t look at my phone the whole time – otherwise the reminders would’ve popped up!  Lucky for me it was a call with a vendor and I’m the customer, we laughed it off and still had the call.  I felt so bad!

Riverbench rocked – their specialties are pinot and chardonnay. We loved the Bedrock and the Estate Chardonnays as well as the Clone 115 and Reserve pinot. Their winery dog, Roy, is 14 years old, and spent most of his time relaxing on the couch – sweet old dog!  He was featured in the CA Wine Dog book when he was young and more spry!

Final thoughts: Santa Barbara was a great place to live for a few months.

What we liked:

  • The general landscape, water views, etc. were all very pretty
  • Location of our house, walking distance to downtown
  • Santa Barbara architecture
  • Restaurants were across the board great!
  • People were very friendly
  • Museums and attractions were nicely done
  • A good variety of entertainment options (though the bigger concerts and events are in the summer)

What we didn’t:

  • Weather – too much rain, this was rare we understand!
  • Water’s too cold to swim in
  • Prices are high
  • The homeless and mentally ill are overwhelming and unsettling – in fact one was just screaming past the house

While we really enjoyed our stay here, we wouldn’t consider it for retirement or a potential relocation. It’s very nice – however we also see how challenging it is to be on the west coast when friends and family are in Central and East time zones.  It also is not that easy for me workwise – rolling out of bed, directly onto a conference call, and having zero ramp up time in the morning – never leaving the house until noon at the earliest, etc. Wah wah, I know – it is a worthwhile price to pay for the flexibility – and the afternoons are very relaxing and I often end my day somewhat early.

Our favorite destinations continue to include: Charleston, Napa, and Santa Fe.  But Chicago still tops the list in terms of everything it has to offer (except good weather year round)!  Our longer term plan is to have Dave continue working in Phoenix through the rest of the year, save some $$, then relocate to Sarasota (they are opening free standing ERs Dave can work in), and get a Chicago place for the warmer months – we’ll be working snowbirds!


Santa Barbara Stories and Storms – February 2017

It’s been a memorable Feb here in Santa Barbara, especially being a part of one of the storms of the century in the middle of the month!  This post covers a brief visit to Phoenix, our friend Paul’s visit, and a few of our local activities.

Phoenix – early Feb. Dave got an offer he couldn’t refuse to come into Phoenix early for his shifts – including airfare for me to come with.  I joined him and got to spend a little time in our nice new (and tiny!) place right in Old Town Scottsdale and to enjoy some warmer weather!

Feb 10 – Chinese Culture and Cuisine Festival
Pretty cool event, especially the Tae Kwon Do performance.  Dave and I have to admit, we didn’t know Tae Kwon Do was Chinese – we always thought it was Japanese!  Check out the videos below!

More of the festival:

This front yard caught our eye:

Hiking in McDowell Park:

A slice of sunset at our new apartment!

Paul’s visit – weekend of 2/18:

Thurs, 2/16: Hit one of our lunch favorites, Brophy’s for some tasty shellfish and then drove into the hills above SB:

Storm of the Century Adventures (Fri, 2/17):  We braved the elements to have breakfast at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. Surprisingly there were quite a few other people there.  Waves were huge and visibility was awful. We made the crazy decision to drive over to wine country and go to the Chumash casino! Part of the San Marcos Pass (154) was closed due to slides – but instead of taking the 101 (which appeared to be clear), we decided to take our chances and instead try 154 just in case! Sure enough it was closed and we ended up on a drive of a lifetime through windy narrow backroads through the mountain (Painted Canyon Rd), where driving would be hair-raising even on a dry day! Imagine hair pin turns with water rushing down them, rock slides in progress as you’re driving by, and waterfalls everywhere!  It was cool but scary!

Our first stop was Chumash Casino where Paul and I both won a small amount of $$ playing blackjack – better than losing!  We drove through ‘downtown’ Santa Ynez which reminded me of a forgotten western town with one small main street, and then made our way to Gainey for a tasting.

Gainey Vineyards:  Gainey was an odd experience, they had a pinot that really did smell like beets – Paul picked up on that right away – I could also smell asparagus!  You never want your wine to smell like veggies! Though I did like their Chardonnay. While it’s an easy stop on your way into wine country, there are just too many other good wineries to spend your hard earned money at – skip it.

Foxen: We decided to do it right and go to our favorite Santa Barbara winery to-date, Foxen!  Glad we did!  This tasting was in their newer facility and not the barn, which was closed due to the storm!  The barn specializes in Rhone varietals and blends, the main facility pinot. Across the board their wines are incredible, though a few we all really enjoyed include:

  • Block 8 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria)
  • John Sebastiano (Santa Rita Hills)
  • La Encantada
  • Fe Ciega

Their syrahs were also smooth and delicious. We all bought too much, but this wine is so worth every cent!

Dinner at Lucky’s Fri night in Montecito was devine, a great recommendation from Garth who managed the vrbo property we rented in Palm Springs last fall!

Santa Barbara Historical Museum (Sat 2/18):  free admission, well-done, small museum that provides an historical overview of Santa Barbara. They also host private events, such as weddings in their courtyard.

Santa Barbara is named after Saint Barbara, whose story is described below:

Legend holds that in 1483 a beautiful woman named Barbara from Asia Minor had a very protective father, Dioscorus of Nicomedia.  To protect her from the glances of men, he constructed a tower with bathhouse, gardens, and a courtyard.  While her father was away, Barbara instructed the crew to add a 3rd window to her tower, to represent the Trinity (as she recently converted to Christianity.) This infuriated her father who ordered her to worship his gods or be put to death. She chose death, and after her father beheaded her with a sword, he was struck by lightning and died. Barbara become the patron saint of artilleryman, grave diggers, architects, miners, and masons – as well as a protector from lightning!

More of the story of Santa Barbara:

Santa Barbara architectural style – following the 1925 earthquake where much of the lower portion of the city was destroyed, the city’s civic leaders found themselves with a ‘clean slate’ opportunity to rebuild the city into the beauty you see today. They created several agencies to assure unity of a new architectural style in Santa Barbara, in which Spanish Colonial was blended with other Mediterranean styles resulting in buildings of white walls, tile roofs, iron accents – this new approach was aptly named ‘Santa Barbara Style’. These buildings are gorgeous and make you feel like you’ve been transported to the Mediterranean. There is quite a bit of new construction going on in Santa Barbara too – it’s cool to watch these buildings go up, so different than anywhere else we’ve lived!

More of the Story of Santa Barbara:

Tong Shrine: Once owned by the Chinese freemasons who were dedicated to the overthrow of China’s last dynasty, the Qing, this shrine was carved in Kong Mun, near Canton, and arrived in Santa Barbara in 1898.

The shrine represented a spriritual force which bound tong members together. Men were sworn into the tong before the shrine and learned secret signs by which they could identify one another. The tong paid homage to Kuan Yu Teh, whose image rests in the shrine’s upper recess. Dragons and phoenixes adorn the top section of the shrine where two dragons fight for the pearl of omnipotence. Dragons were symbols of power, wisdom, and good luck. The phoenix was a harbinger of a coming period of peace and prosperity. In the lower section figures depict famous battle scenes, well-known events, and stories.

The fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 relegated the shrine to an ‘object d’arte’, a monument to the history of the Chinese people in Santa Barbara.

In the 1850s-1900 Santa Barbara had a very vibrant Chinatown with more than 700 people leaving there (quite a large population given that there are currently only 29,000 residents in the city!)  Chinatown is but a memory at this time however. At the time, the Chinese fled famine and war to come to California and work in the mines, build roads, and lay track for the railroads.

More artifacts:

We walked down De La Guerra street and I just loved this view, like it popped out of a movie!

Further down, closer to State St:

And of course, a touring day is capped off with a tasting, at one of our favorites, Margerum!

Finally the rains clear! What a difference a day makes!  Dave and I couldn’t get over how gorgeous this view was, the sun combined with the clouds and the shadows cast across the mountains.  It was really beautiful! On Stearns Wharf:

I love how close the pelicans let you get!

Then over to the beach in front of the Four Seasons to check out the view (there was sand here a few weeks ago 🙂

And to enjoy the great outdoor patio at the hotel for special drinks (extra special for Dave who ordered a Remy Martin Louis XIII – check out the production below!)


After drinks we checked out the sunset and accidentally made our way into a private beach club – it was labeled ‘casino’ – you can’t blame us 🙂


Sun, 2/26 – Dave and I saw a production of Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess at the Ensemble Theatre Company.  The show was very well done and complete with a full jazz ensemble.  The story however was so outdated, from the 30s, and not refreshed (save an odd opening of 60s era civil rights footage), which made it hard to really get into. Still glad we went for a sample of Santa Barbara theater!  For such a small city they have ample opportunities for live entertainment across multiple venues!

Around town:



Santa Barbara Sights & Paso Robles Retreat – Jan 2017

Welcome to our 2nd post for our Santa Barbara stay!  We are enjoying the area and our place (despite some issues of the commode kind!), the weather has marginally improved since early in the month.  But who are we to complain given the tundra we are used to in Jan??!! ha ha!

This post covers some additional SB sights, Carpinteria Bluffs, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, Paso Robles, and San Luis Obispo.

The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach (Sun, Jan 22)

A former co-worker Monte recommended we visit the Boathouse and so glad we did!  It’s a special little enclave right on Hendry’s Beach that puts you in that ‘vacation’ mode.  Lots of tourists and locals with their dogs flock here on the weekends, so if you go, prepare to wait!  Bloody Marys, seafood omelets, and a view of the dolphins playing in the Pacific. As Larry David would say “prett-ay, prett-ay, pretty good!”

Shoreline Park

After brunch we took an Uber to Shoreline Park and walked ourselves home, while enjoying many pretty views along the way!

Loved this palm – and so does a local who told me it was her favorite palm.  I can see why!

Santa Barbara Harbor

The harbor is a must-stop on any visit to Santa Barbara – we’ve been here a few times, primarily to eat at Brophy’s (thanks to Mike’s friend, one of our go-to places), but it’s also nice to walk the breakwall walkway for some exercise and great views of the harbor and mountains.  It was a treat to see some seals hanging out there too!

After all the exercise, what else would you expect to do but go wine tasting?
DV8 Cellars Wine Tasting: Sparkling viognier – who would have thought?  Not bad.
Kunin Wine Tasting: We had great service at Kunin’s and it was a fun and lively atmosphere.  The wine however didn’t impress so much. Dave and I had 2 different tastings and really only liked 1 wine – their most powerful, the syrah from the same Alisos Vineyard as the one I got from Andrew Murray. While it seems to be one of the more popular tasting rooms, we wouldn’t recommend it.  Too many other good places to enjoy!

Carpinteria – MLK Day (Mon, Jan 23)

I was off for Martin Luther King Jr Day and we decided to go walk the Carpinteria Bluffs, as we were told it was a must-do.  We walked for awhile taking in the views

and then checked out the Seal Sanctuary (there were only a few there, the ‘fishing’ was good that day!) The seals should start birthing pups soon – will have to come back and check that out!

We walked down to the beach next to the tar pits:

There is a big state beach park there with tons of campers and RVs – a great place to setup shop, and easy walking distance into town.  Carpinteria is definitely small town quaint with some nice shops and restaurants. We had lunch, browsed around a bit, hit their big candy store, and headed back.

On the way back I saw the sign for Santa Barbara and its population – only about 90,000 people.  I expected a much bigger number – it’s got a lot to offer for that number!

Sat 1/28 – visit with Nancy! Was lucky to be able to spend Sat with Nancy (Chicago friend who I went to Argentina with in 2006, one of my top vacas!) who was in town visiting a college friend!  We hit Brophy Brother’s, the Courthouse Tower, State St, and a little wine tasting!

Our long weekend in Paso Robles!!  Sun 1/29-Tues 1/31.
Our mini vacation was focused on visiting a few wineries, checking out Paso, and San Luis Obispo.  One of the biggest highlights was where we stayed – CaliPaso Winery and Villas – so luxurious, relaxing, and unique. We enjoyed the pretty views en route – our first stop was Talley Vineyards.

Talley Vineyards:  Situated in Arroyo Grande (San Luis Obispo – or SLO County), Talley is a 3rd generation 193 acre vineyard specializing in chardonnay and pinot noir, as it takes advantage of its relatively cool climate. Talley is THE business here – not only do the own and operate the vineyard (producing a sizable 32,000 cases/year), they also have a huge produce farm nearby. In fact, they are the largest grower of bell peppers in the US and the largest cilantro growers in CA.

We had a great tour with Terry. He took us to the historic Rincon Adobe, Rincon means corner in Spanish. We could see the straw from the adobe on the inside wall of the closet.

Next we moved onto their barrel room where we saw a brand new bottling machine just flown in from Italy.  They also have the distinction of using original European rootstock (this is very rare as most European rootstocks were destroyed by the insidious phylloxera disease in the late 19th century. We had a few laughs as there was a also a little airplane bottle of vodka on the line (hmmm….) and we asked if the new equipment could fill box wines! Terry loved it! He also had this amazing ‘movie trailer’ voice that you noticed from the get-go – and sure enough we found out he does voice overs on the side. He told us about a voice coach who years ago, when cigarettes were in, told the students to smoke some Cool cigarettes before a gig because it would give you a good rasp – funny!

Talley has high quality wines at reasonable prices, with quite a few high ratings from Robert Parker for some of their single vineyard designates. It’s a bit of a hike to get to, but we’re glad we did. They have a nice outdoor seating area with a few bag games. The tasting room has a gorgeous view of the vineyard. The only odd thing was that they actually finished the tasting with a variety of low quality wines – some blends ‘on tap’ and a line that they created for a charity – a shame that the charity wine was no good! normally most wineries work you up to their best, not the case here.  Oh well, different strokes!

We seriously enjoyed all of the wines on our ‘main tasting’ and took most of them home! Our favorites: 2014 Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, 2014 Talley Vineyards Rincon Chardonnay, 2014 Edna Valley Pinot Noir, and 2013 Bishop’s Peak Elevation (Bordeaux blend.) We also tried their chardonnay from their Bishop’s Peak (SLO County, not Estate) and loved that too!

After our tasting we detoured into the town of Arroyo Grande and were greeted by roosters!  Is this a sign of good luck as the Chinese New Year of the Rooster has just started?  We shall see! Cute little town, much smaller than my hometown of Sag Harbor.

Pismo Beach – where bringing your car on the beach is encouraged!

Turley: Turley is legendary in our world.  I tasted their wines years ago, thanks to a friend Kevin, who I met with Eileen years ago.  Kevin frequents Jeff and Eileen’s parties and can always be replied upon to show up late in the evening with incredible wine in tow (Turley Zin, Two Hands Shiraz, etc.) In fact, just enjoyed some Turley zin this past Dec at Jeff and Ei’s, thanks to Kevin! Dave and I have purchased a few bottles through the years (when we could find them) and we were heartbroken that Turley did not have any tasting rooms in Napa or Sonoma (although they do have their Turley Estate in Napa Valley/St Helena where Larry Turley lives.) Suffice it to say we were both pretty pumped about this tasting….

A bit more about Turley:  The company makes 34 wines, the vast majority of which are single vineyard designate zins and petite syrahs. This is a huge number, vary rare and typically only for a limited number of ‘reserve’ wines. Check out their list here. Their farming methods are dry (no irrigation), organic, and the vines are ‘head trained’ – not trellised.

We learned that Larry Turley used to be an ER physician – what do you know?!  He gave it up to focus on his wine business and passion.  This is also unique in that I understand from Dave most docs do end up practicing into their golden years, even if it’s very part time. Given this we had to buy their ‘white coat’ white blend!

The tasting room was fine – we stood next to the bar in a nicely decorated room, enjoyed some bread with their own olive oil and were hosted by a pleasant woman who knew quite a bit about the business and their wines, and she introduced us to some off-menu wines to try (Cedarman Howell Mountain Zinfandel, followed by Dragon Vineyard on Howell Mountain). She also recommended Brecon Estate which we ended up loving! For you wine geeks, we also learned from her that Helen Turley (one of the pioneers of wine making, right up there in the early days with Merry Edwards and before Heidi Barrett) is actually not part of this establishment.  We just assumed…  They had an outdoor area that no one was sitting at, that was quite pretty though the views were primarily of the parking lot.  I would say that I think we both expected more given our love of these wines.

Our favorites included: 2013 Pesenti Vineyard Paso Robles Zinfandel, 2013 Uuberroth Vineyard Paso Robles Zin, 2006 Hayne Vineyard Napa Valley Petite Syrah.

In summary, go for the wine, not necessarily the experience. If you see this brand, drink it, drink it good!

After enjoying our complimentary wine and cheese at the clubhouse, we had an overpriced dinner at Aristan in downtown Paso Robles.

Our Hotel – CaliPaso Winery & Villas: what a treat!  The room was huge, the bathroom is about half the size of our place in AZ, the fireplace worked, and mornings were made better by waking up to the vineyard view!  I didn’t want to leave!  Oh, and if you have a group, rent the Winemaker’s Suite – its basically a large house with 2 king bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, full kitchen, huge living room, dining area, and a private hot tub on the wrap around balcony. Price is reasonable too – double the rate of a single room. The service was also top notch – we made friends with Ruth at breakfast, she told us some funny stories about working there, and also showed us the Winemaker’s suite!

Hearst Castle, San Simeon Mon, 1/30

We debated about making the drive to visit and so glad we did. I didn’t know what to expect, the setup was very professional and well-managed, a bit of a Disneyland experience in that you had a huge selection of tours to choose from, etc. We chose the recommended Grand Rooms tour, which takes you to a few of the ‘grand’ socializing rooms that a guest of William Randolph Hearst may have enjoyed during a visit.

In 1919 Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst hired San Francisco architect Julia Morgan to build a hilltop house on what he called his “ranch at San Simeon.” Their collaboration on the project lasted from 1919 to 1947. Morgan designed this Mediterranean Revival estate and filled it with art and antiques from Hearst’s vast collection. Hearst formally named the estate “La Cuesta Encantada” (The Enchanted Hill).

You take a bus up through 5 miles of a windy road with lots of switchbacks to get to the top, with its massive castle appearing (and disappearing from view – the road was designed for this visual effect.)  The audio recording en route is narrated by Alex Trebek (no I’m not kidding).

The castle is so over the top, no detail overlooked, and sounds like it was the party place to be in WR Hearst’s hey day! Great Gatsby of the west coast!

William Randolph Hearst was a behemoth publishing baron in the history of the United States, starting with newspapers and then magazine and other media. He adopted a sensational brand of reporting later called “yellow journalism,” with stories considered frivolous, and many based on speculation and half-truths. He also elected into the House in 1902-1904, attempted a run for the Presidency, and founded the American Boy Scouts. Is that all?  lazy! ) He is the person whom Citizen Kane, widely regarded as the greatest film ever made, is primarily based on.

Some staggering stats on Casa Grande, the primary home (Hearst’s bedroom occupied the entire 4th floor): 165 rooms, 38 bedrooms, 14 sitting rooms, surrounded by 127 acres of gardens. The home clocks in a staggering 68,500 sq ft!

We arrived on the North Unfinished Terrace – which was supposed to be a grand entrance for the guests. Hearst inherited more than 250,000 acres of land – extended for more than 35 miles – out to the mountain peak you see in the distance from the center of the bottom picture below – incredible!

He wanted to build a ‘weekend house’, a retreat if you will to entertain friends and associates. Yes, yes, I think we can all relate to this, can’t we?  🙂

We walked the esplanade outside admiring the 3 very large “cottages” (which are mansions in their own right – 2 with 8 bedrooms, 1 with 4.) Each cottage is names for its view, which Hearst considered a great feature of the hilltop. We learned that the gardens were of the utmost importance to Hearst that they be beautiful and a place for guests to relax and enjoy.  Most days guests were outside of the home, enjoying the gardens, going swimming, sailing in a nearby harbor, etc. etc. Must have been rough.

Our favorite view and statue – The Fairy Princess About To Kiss A Frog:

Next up is ‘Casa Grande’ – the design has a cathedral type appearance, with bell towers that came from a cathedral in Spain. WRH’s quarters occupied the entire top floor, just under the pitched roof.

Inside we go to see:

Assembly Room – Grand social room on the ground floor where guests would mix and mingle over cocktails. Has incredible walnut paneling,  Renaissance and Baroque tapestries, and masterpieces of neoclassical sculpture. Our tour guide said that normally Hearst would pop in for just a few minutes to greet everyone, and then leave.