Reunions out West!

This post covers our long Labor Day weekend in San Diego, where we vacationed with our German friends Greta and Jurgen (who spend their summer in Montreal) and with Cathy and Don, friends from Chicago.  It also covers a quick evening visit to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Fri 9/1

Hotel del Coronado:

Really cool western leathers:

Seeley Stables:

Drinks at Casa de Reyes!

Dave requested Santana – Samba Pa Ti

Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant – This structure was originally a state of the art adobe home built in 1827 by a young revolutionary Don Juan Bandini, it contained an estimated 10,000 adobe bricks weighing about 60lbs each with a foundation made from large round river rocks, then converted to a restaurant and stagecoach office in 1869, an olive cannery in 1900, and a Mexican restaurant in the late 1800s, before becoming the current hotel and restaurant. Does feel like you are stepping back in time, or at least made to feel that way!

Cigar shop and museum:

Wells Fargo Museum:

More Old Town:

After Old Town we drove around Balboa Park, Little Italy, and Gaslamp Quarter.

Unconditional Surrender statue – one of the series by Seward Johnson resembling the famous V-J day photo in Times Square.  The statue was originally installed in Sarasota. Other versions are found in Hamilton, NJ, Normandy, France, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Dinner at the Fish Market (amazing views, fantastic clam chowder, fish was overcooked and overpriced.)

Sat 9/2

Del Mar – breakfast followed by beach views!

Then onto LaJolla – first stop: La Jolla Cove to hang out with the seals and sea lions!

Really entertaining to watch but very stinky!!

I’ve learned about the differences between seals and sea lions before but always forget, so I looked it up and here it is:

  • Sea lions have external ears
  • Sea lions also have larger and stronger front flippers that enable them to “walk” and climb up cliffs which is why they’re so visible around La Jolla Cove.
  • Seals move around on land by writhering on their stomachs. They have smaller, webbed front flippers.
  • Sea lions are brown and seals are darker grey, brown or almost black with speckled skin. If you hear barking, that’s definitely a sea lion. Seals are only capable of low grunts.
  • Seals are typically solitary animals but you will see them in large groups here in La Jolla. Sea lions often pile up next to each other like BFFs.

Sea lions barking:

Cute pup:

Drinks at George’s

Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial: Considered one of the most unique veterans memorials in America. The only memorial that honors veterans across all branches of the Armed Forces, living or deceased, from the revolutionary war to the current war on terror, with an image of the veteran.

Dinner at Osteria Panevino in Gaslamp Quarter. Great Italian food and company and a good view of the craziness, followed by drinks down the street!

Sun 9/3

Walked around the Coronado Ferry Landing area and lunch at Peohe’s.

Visited the Naval Base on Coronado, checked out planes and beach, view of the Del.  The base occupies the majority of Coronado – you’d never know by even looking at a map how large this base is!  The base is home to 5,000 military personnel and 7,000 military students. Amazing to see the massive aircraft carriers and aircraft and to get a glimpse into life on the base, not to mention the great hotel and beachfront our servicemen and women can take advantage of! Now we need to fix the VA!

Happy Hour at Torrey Pines – fantastic wine list, great nibbles, and gorgeous views:

Dinner at Cathy and Don’s then off to see Wonder Woman!

Mon 9/4

Breakfast at Poseidon’s on the beach in Del Mar

Drove to Miramar Air Station (former home of the Navy Fighter Weapons School – otherwise known as Top Gun!, now it is the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar) to check out the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum (free!).  However, it was closed due to holiday, but we were able to see a good amount of it through the ‘backdoor’ of the base, thanks to Don!  Normally the aviation museum has 48 rotating aircrafts on display.

Don oriented us to the A6 Intruder which he flew in the Navy (he also flew the F18 Hornet)….badass!

Miramar Air Station:

Dinner at George’s Rooftop.

Tues 9/5

Showed Greta and Jurgen our apartment and complex, walked through Old Town and shopped at a very cool all-western store.

Dinner at The Mission (Tues, 9/5)

Drinks and entertainment at the Rusty Spur Saloon

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Thurs, 9/7) , Arizona’s only permanent museum dedicated solely to modern works of art, design and architecture. A tiny but nicely done museum with some very crazy exhibits, as to be expected when you visit a modern art museum. Go on Thursday, when it’s free! Dave and I plan to do this with other local museums and attractions as well.

Main galleries:

Special interactive light display:

Pristine cactus in their courtyard:

Brunch at Elements restaurant in the Sanctuary resort with Bob and Susie (Sun 9/10):

Our next blog will include a visit to the Hall of Flame Fire Museum in Scottsdale, along with a short Chicago visit followed by a family clambake in St Louis!



Lots of Heart in the Hamptons!

Dave and I went to Long Island the week of Aug 20 for a wedding (Krissy, my cousin’s daughter and Joe) and to visit with the family.

Sat, 8/19 – Dinner at Wine Collar on Main, a cool little wine bar that gets gourmet food delivered from nearby restaurants, and strolling through Northport – followed by lots of catch up time with the cuz and the girls!

The Wedding Ceremony – Saint Thomas More Parish – Sun Aug 20:

Post-Ceremony pics: family close-ups:

Post-Ceremony pics: the wedding party:

Post-Ceremony pics: The Bride & the Grandparents!

Post-Ceremony pics – me with the ‘nieces’:

Post-Ceremony pics – more great family photos!

Dave and me:

The Reception – The Larkfield – beautiful Italian villa venue!
I’ve never seen so much food for a cocktail hour! What a spread!!

Reception – arrival of the wedding party:

Reception: first dance:

More reception fun – really loved how Krissy and Joe alternated our dinner courses with dancing – everyone had a blast!

Memorable toasts with lots of laughs:

Cake cutting:

Wed 8/23, lunch at Lunch/Lobster Roll finally for Dave – he has only eaten at their North Shore second location as the original was closed for Showtime’s ‘The Affair’ filming.  Amazed it was only a 15-minute wait!!  Dave preferred this lobster roll over the ‘all-tail’ roll at Silver’s, and at about half the price! I am more partial to the fish and chips! I saw one of the owners who used to come into Monastero’s all the time and marvel at how quickly Julie and I could bus a table – it wasn’t pretty, we would attack it and turn it over in record time.  He wanted to hire us away but I stayed loyal to Jack and Il Monastero! He is still in my top 3 of bosses!

Longhouse Reserve:  This has been on the ‘list’ for some time and was well worth the visit (as the hours are very limited)! Longhouse Reserve is a museum, garden, and sculpture park founded by Jack Larsen, a textile designer, author, and art collector.

The Dunes:

LongHouse & Pavillion:

deKooning Place – ah, yes, a deKooning original piece remained in my Mom’s attic for some time (rolled up in a scroll with a rubberband) – a ‘trade’ that my Dad had done with Willem deKooning for electrical work.  Unfortunately it had to be sold, way before its time, to pay for my father’s medical bills before he passed before his time.  We still joke to this day – are you sure there isn’t another one, rolled up with a rubberband, in the attic?  No such luck!

Kreye Canyon:

The tour continues:

More modern art:

Cobalt Reeds, Dale Chihuly (Dave and I always recognize his work – so colorful and whimsical!)

The tour concludes:

The tour concludes:

Fri, 8/25

Wolffer Estate winery:

After a tasty outdoor lunch at my aunt and uncle’s (and playing with the dogs), we popped over to Wolffer for a glass of wine (the winery is literally spitting distance from my family’s place!). We have only bought wine from their shop before, never stayed for a tasting or a glass, and glad we did.  It was a beautiful day with a nice view of the vineyard.  The Grandioso Rose was fantastic, as was the The Grapes of Roth Virgin Berry Riesling (my Aunt Eileen is a big fan now.)

Upcoming posts include our Labor Day rendezvous with our German safari friends and Don and Cathy in San Diego!


Summer is Coming….Actually, It’s Almost Gone!

I have taken a hiatus from posting to the blog, primarily because we are back in Scottsdale, a familiar city we lived in (and documented) for 4 months last year, and because we haven’t done much in the way of tourist activities – instead we are working a lot, working out a lot, traveling quite a bit, and enjoying time with local friends. It’s been great to reconnect with Jeannie and Joe (who we know from Chicago) and Bob and Susie (ski friends of Dave), and in addition, through the help of Facebook, we have gotten together with an old high school friend of mine, Joe, and a former Accenture colleague/customer, Jenna from Chicago!

Everyone is curious about the heat and how the summer is going. Just like the ominous ‘Winter is Coming’ moniker from the Game of Thrones, I kept thinking ‘Summer is Coming’ – we have to make plans to get outta here!!! While there were a few miserable days, 110+ degrees in June (this made national news) – however since then the 100-107 degree days have really not been bad.  We do limit the time we spend outside, which is fairly easy to do.  At least most days it is sunny and the view is nice!  We have had quite a few monsoons (one of which led to leaks in our ceiling as the rain came in from the patio door above us – argh!) that are amazing to watch – but you don’t want to be outside in one (news is full of sad stories).  More about monsoons in AZ: The 3.5 months of the monsoon are when parts of Arizona will get a good portion of its rainfall for the entire year. Most of that comes in July and August. According to the National Weather Service, a “normal” monsoon brings 2.71 inches of rain in Phoenix – roughly 34 percent of our annual average of 8.04 inches, not much…. Dave and I are watching the news coverage now of what Houston is dealing with after Hurricane Harvey, and it is heartbreaking…

We have a regular rental here in Scottsdale (not an airbnb) at The Moderne that we’ve furnished into a nice little home – and when I say little I mean little, try 600 sq feet of little!  ha ha! The complex is very nice, resort living with a gorgeous pool area and multiple BBQ/entertainment areas, onsite pick up for dry cleaning, underground parking, etc. There are way too many young people living here, making noise an issue (especially since our unit overlooks the pool area.) It’s entertaining to watch them take over the pool in an MTV Spring Break type episode (dating myself there!), except back then I don’t think ‘butt floss’ was the fashion! Dave always teases me that I’d prefer to live in a retirement community (the ads for some of these places do look great – cooking classes, wine tasting, biking, etc. – what’s not to like? he he 😉 We will likely keep this apartment while Dave continues to work in Phoenix, as the work continues to be great for him – and the apartment is very reasonably priced and walking distance to restaurants, shopping, and Old Town Scottsdale. We are much happier here than in our old digs given we aren’t right off a 4 lane road where it is a game of Frogger to cross the street (though we do miss that fancy Fry’s grocery store with its amazing and cheap bar)!  Unfortunately we can’t host overnight guests, but there are plenty of very nice accommodations just a few minutes away! We love to entertain friends and family – and the weather will become much more manageable soon!

I’ve decided that my ‘theme/goal’ of this Phoenix stint is health and weight loss!  I am happy to report that I’ve lost ~14 lbs since April when I was very disappointed to see I had gained ALL the weight I lost in 2013 back (~15 lbs) with our traveling lifestyle, irregular exercise, and rarely having access to a scale (sounds so simple but so important!). I did two things:  1. follow my ‘Fast Diet’ and not over-eat or over-snack on my ‘regular days’ and 2. work out like I used to!  The Fast Diet, which our family friend Tara turned me onto in 2013, involves eating only 500 (now recently been bumped up to ~800 calories – thank you Dr Mosley!) 2 non-consecutive days each week.  I have 2 primary workouts each week: 3 indoor cycling classes at Cyclebar (which I LOVE – if you take spin class at a regular gym and like it, you will LOVE this class!) and a bootcamp class at Levels Fitness & Nutrition 2 days a week (where I’ve done some ugly exercises like ‘bear crawls’ to lifting/turning a huge tire from one end of the gym to the other!)  It’s been pretty amazing to see how much stronger I’ve gotten and what used to kill me in May is much easier in July! 🙂 I used to be happy to place in the top 50% of the Cyclebar class and now I’m bummed if I’m not in the top 3 :)!!  I feel wonderful and look more fit too!

HIGHLY recommend Cyclebar if you have one near you!  I can add a ‘claim to fame’ at a Cyclebar class in late June, as a matter of fact.  Michael Phelps (along with his wife and two very fit friends) joined our class and sat right behind me (I must say they talked the entire time, a little annoying – though Michael appears to be the only person who ‘gets’ my profile name, Ricky Spanish, only American Dad watchers would know it – he he!) and I placed 6th, 2 spots behind their pack!  For a few minutes during the warm up I was #1, ahead of Michael (only because I had been warming up 10 min to his 1!!!)  Hey, I’ll take it!  Funny enough, I really wasn’t convinced it was him because he did look shorter and smaller, less intimidating than on TV and I couldn’t understand what he’d be doing in a public spin class – silly me! Turns out he lives off a street that weather permitting, I walk on all the time as it is super close to our place! He is a swim coach at ASU and spends much time in AZ!

OK, time for some highlights of trips and activities – May-Aug:

Birthday in Vegas – Dave splurged on a very nice suite at the Mandarin Oriental and we enjoyed every luxurious minute! We laughed at how the space was more than double the size of our Scottsdale apartment! The hotel was over the top – bottle of champagne during check-in, a personalized birthday cake with room service, and they even embroidered pillowcases with our initials for another gift! We booked through a dear friend Tom who runs Thoms Travel, a luxury travel agency – please reach out to Tom for the best pricing for your vacation (and lots of great VIP extras gratis!)

Around town – a must-do in Vegas for us are the 1-lb meatballs at Lavo at the Palazzo (get the recipe here – any good quality beef can be used in place of the kobe!). We also hit Giadas and The Golden Steer.

Visit to Chicago – July 4 weekend.  We had a fun and action-packed week to spend in Chicago, catching up with friends, trying a premier restaurant, seeing friends’ new homes in the city and burbs, checking out the Rolling Stones memorabilia exhibit, and going to a Cub’s game.

Exhibitionism – Rolling Stones exhibit at Navy Pier, with Sheila and Lisa – very well done collection of Rolling Stones memorabilia – very cool to see handwritten lyric books and a variety of other behind the scenes goodies!  Also learned about the close connection the Stones have with Chicago (see more below). Well worth the price of admission! After the exhibit we had dinner at Riva’s bar (just so-so unfortunately), caught the fireworks (front row show!), and got caught in the rain on our way out!

Outside at Navy Pier:

Studio artifacts:

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Cool logo light display!

Stage Design and costumes!

The exhibit concluded with a very cool 3-d film of one of their concerts.

The exhibition’ism’ also highlighted the close affinity between the Stones and our Sweet Home Chicago! During their first American tour in June 1964 they recorded at Chess Studios and met Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy during those sessions. They recorded again at Chess later that year in Nov and played their first Chicago concert at Arie Crown Theater. Buddy Guy toured with the Stones in 1970 in Europe, said he “couldn’t keep up with this wild bunch of kids playing the best music you ever heard.” Of course the Stones have returned many times to our fair city to entertain and amaze us!

Schwa (Fri 6/30): acclaimed BYO restaurant owned by Chef Michael Carson in West Town. This restaurant’s reputation precedes it in a big way – it is known for closing whenever it wants, without notice or apology. In fact I saw a scathing review by Steve Zolinsky from ABC7/Hungry Hound about this happened to him!  So glad we went! The service was very casual – in fact, the chefs are your waiters – they go back and forth and do double duty so well!  When Charlie Trotter closed his restaurant he chose Schwa for the farewell dinner for his staff (and donated a variety dinnerware to it, we had a course on one of his plates.) The food was outstanding and creative.  The atmosphere was interesting – ugly and party like as the chefs all have a good time in the kitchen!

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Back to Navy Pier on Sat:

London House rooftop (Sun, 7/2) – Dave and I walked past the London House to get to our hotel and made a mental note to visit one day.  Lucky for us, Paul suggested going to the rooftop bar for a drink after dinner at La Scarola, one of our favorite Italians.  So glad he did!  This place has some of THE best views in the city!

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West (Sun 7/16)

On a hot Sun afternoon we decided to play tourist and check out the Western Spirit museum! Highly recommend a visit to this museum, primarily for the wild west collection and the outdoor sculptures!

First, a few sculptures caught our eye – and we continue to recognize and appreciate works by Allan Houser, who we ‘discovered’ visiting Santa Fe museums.

The Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History exhibition:

Abe Hayes Family Spirit of the West collection – A really cool selection of saddles, spurs, and other quintessentially western items:



Gun leather, cuffs, saddlebags, guns:

Badges and rodeo gear – the earliest rodeos began as informal competitions held by working cowboys, who gathered just for fun to see who could ride a bucking bronc the longest or rope, throw, and tie a calf the fastest. Organized public rodeos date back to the 1880s but the sport didn’t flourish until about 1910. The most sought-after rodeo gear were the trophy items given to the top contestants – in the early days, medals, trophy saddles, or spurs might the only material reward. Stamped leather belts (especially the belt buckle, considered a good luck charm) and trophy buckles are coveted rodeo prizes.

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Prisons and gambling:

Famous lawbreakers:

Of Spirit and Flame – John Coleman bronzes:

Early American West art:

Sculpture Courtyard & lobby:

Dallas/Deloitte University – work meeting – 7/31-8/2

I normally wouldn’t post much about work, but given I planned this meeting and worked very hard at it, and have some fun pics to share from our successful evening event, I figured why not??!! It was great to catch up with some old friends/coworkers, though I did spend most of my time running around and making sure everything was going like clockwork!

An item we discussed quite a bit at this meeting is related to a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown – it’s really pretty fascinating and interesting!  I wish I read it earlier as it really does have some great lessons about overcommitting (especially socially where I actually think it’s easier to use it) and I’m putting it into practice as we speak by focusing more on what’s essential rather than trying to ‘do it all’!  I highly recommend checking it out!

Another very impactful area (both professionally and personally) that we explored is this topic of Exponential Change – how technology is changing everything in our lives and how we can adapt and prepare.  While there were many great takeaways, two stand outs to me include how disease treatment is being revolutionized – DNA editing can literally result in us ‘deleting’ disease and illnesses from our DNA – unreal.  Even today, technologies such as IBM’s Watson are providing us with insight beyond the brain capacity of traditional physicians to be able to treat rare and unknown forms of cancer!  It seriously brought tears to my eyes, especially given what my closest cousin went through 2 years ago.  Lives will change and for the better! The second ‘ah-ha’ was that in the future jobs won’t necessarily be in technology or building/fixing robots (they will do that themselves 🙂 but it will be more focused in adding the ‘human element’ to the computer-aided transactions – doctors should spend more time with patients explaining treatments, next steps, etc..  Business people should have more time focused on planning and strategizing, as opposed to assembling reports, data, etc.

Chicago – weekend of Aug 4th

I’ve been looking forward to celebrating Sheila’s 50th birthday for some time now, and the weekend did not disappoint! I stayed in an airbnb right in my old neighborhood and took advantage of some time at the lake and seeing how much my old hood has changed – they are building left and right and everytime you turn around there’s something new to check out!  It is exciting though also sad to see some opportunities for more character, and more Mom and Pop’s, go away.  It was great to catch up with my dear friend Lisa (who just started an amazing new job), Jamie and her Aussie beau Michael (can’t wait to visit them in Australia in the future), and with Gina and Jamie again more much needed catch up time!

Sheila’s 50th birthday party – great grape, treats, entertainment, and company!

Where the Cellist meets Bruno Mars!

That’s it for now!  Upcoming fun events and posts will include:  a trip back home to Long Island for Kristina and Joe’s wedding and to visit family and Labor Day weekend in San Diego where we are meeting up with Greta & Jurgen (visiting from Montreal) and Cathy & Don (who live there.)






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: