Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad.
I love you. xo
I love Santa Barbara. It is definitely my favorite place in California. You have wine country, the mountains, the beach, the sun, and perfect temperatures all year round. (Disclaimer: when I say wine country, I mean really good wine country. Not like that of the other Southern California wine region which shall remain nameless.)
I hadn’t been to Santa Barbara since well before we moved to Sydney so it has probably been about four years since my last visit. I was itching to get back there and luckily Sister and Paul wanted to go, too. We hit the open road for a long drive to SB so once we got there we were ready to quench our thirst. First stop- wine! Santa Barbara has a few different wine valleys and all of them are excellent. We decided to focus on the wineries of the Santa Ynez Valley, home to two of our favorite boutique wineries, Sunstone and Kalyra.
Sunstone has a great tasting room in the style of a provencal french winery and their wines are certified organic and bio-sustainable. All of which make me very happy to support and enjoy. Sunstone produces a great viognier as well as some nice reds and what’s wonderful about this boutique winery is that they even have the wine makers pouring the wine.
After Sunstone, we went to our most favorite winery, Kalyra. It’s actually owned by the Brown Brothers who are Australian and produce some fantastic wines down under. And no, it’s not our favorite because we lived in Australia. We actually have been going to this winery since they opened their doors, well before we even knew Australia would be in our future. Now it’s kind of fitting for us even more so and it fixes our craving for some good ol’ Aussie Shiraz and Semillon. One of the things I like about Kalyra, other than it being, “a wild and pleasant place” as their Aboriginal name states, but they feature wines from Australian and Santa Barbara that have blended together. The other thing is that the staff is always friendly, generous with their pours and overall, it’s just a great wine spot. If you like dessert wine, they make a mean orange muscat… definitely one of the best stickies we’ve ever had.
On a side note, Kalyra was also featured in the movie “Sideways”. You know, the one that gave Merlot a bad wrap. Yeah, that one. Unfortunately, there have been some changes to the winery itself as result of the movie being filmed there and it’s definitely more crowded than it was five years ago, but it’s still a quality winery.
After our wine tasting, we headed to what I think is the ultra touristy Solvang, which is considered, “the Danish capital of America.” It’s this windmill lined, Danish architecture filled town selling clogs and garden gnomes with windows of delicious pastries in the middle of wine country. Of course we needed something sugary and sweet to go along with our tastings so naturally we had to have a Danish pastry tasting at the various shops. Once we were satisfied with our tastings and after we took heaps of touristy photos we finally headed back to Santa Barbara’s State Street for some dinner and drinks and turned in for the evening.
The next day was spent relaxing along the beach and going for a coastal cycle ride in our “beach tuk-tuk.” After our two hour work out, we hit the pier for some much needed libations followed by ice cream followed by more libations and live music at a new wine bar on the pier. It was a great way to end our weekend in SB. As you can see, we like to eat and drink when in SB. It’s not good for the waist line, but it sure is good fun. I hope we’ll be back soon.
“Oh, I love that little bear town.” These are the immortal words of Sister that we hear just about every day when she’s visiting California. EVERY time Sister comes home for a visit, we MUST go to Big Bear, otherwise re-named, “That Little Bear Town” by Sister. And I don’t mean we go just once. We go over and over again.
On our most recent trip to That Little Bear Town, Sister and I drove up the windiest mountain in the world and finally arrived just in time for some lunch. We have a bit of a sisterly ritual where we do just about the same exact things every time we go.
Our first stop is for some much needed grub at the little bear restaurant. After we stuff ourselves silly, we suit up and hit the lake for some kayaking followed by some much needed ice cream and chocolate from the little bear candy store. There’s nothing like some good old-fashioned sister bonding time.
Paul and I have been experimenting lately with making homemade bread and jam. Surprisingly, it really is quite easy. We did everything by hand and only used the oven for baking the bread and the stove for sterilizing and sealing the jam.
We got our inspiration from our favourite British chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who is a “real food” campaigner with his back to basics philosophy. We first found out about him during our time in Australia. He’s a British chef with several books and a few TV shows about River Cottage. I know, TV shows, books… trust me, he is not a celebrity, flashy chef. In fact, he’s a country farmer chef. His food philosophy is all about self-sufficiency, food integrity, and the consumption of local, seasonal produce. He farms, he fishes, he forages, he kills livestock and eats it. Hugh supports the environment, the local economy and takes advantage of mother nature’s gifts. It’s basic, simple, real cooking.
After a recent viewing of a few episodes of River Cottage, we decided to make blueberry jam and sourdough bread loaves. I could tell you how we did it but then you wouldn’t check out Hugh and I want you to! So instead, I’ll leave you with pictures of the fruits of our labours. Now go buy his DVDs and books- you’ll love him!
I admit it, Paul and I are winos. We love the sauce- white or red but definitely NOT pink. Sorry, pink is just not for us.
Anyway, it’s normal for us to go wine tasting and come home with two or three cases of wine. I don’t know what it is, but when we go tasting, we get rather friendly with our barista or even the wine maker, if it’s a small boutique winery. This often leads to exclusive wine tastings, back cellar tours and heaps more pours that the average patron would consume.
Case in point, note the 21 bottles in between Paul and I at a recent wine tasting… yes, we tasted all of them in one go.
Anyway, Sister, Paul and I decided to check out a small yet upcoming wine region, Temecula Valley, in Southern California. Boy, were we sorely disappointed. This has got to be the worst wine region we have ever sampled in our lives. It was really quite horrible and so completely overpriced for what it was, it was a bit ridiculous. At the Temecula wineries you have to pay to taste. In different wine regions, this is normal practice although a lot of times, tastings are free or you’re charged a very nominal fee. Well, not only did you have to pay but tastings were each a minimum of $10-$15 per person for about four tastes. At each winery we visited it was at least $30-$45 down the drain. I would not have minded paying if the wine was good, but, it wasn’t. Personally, for an “emerging” wine region, I think their tasting prices are very steep and the number of pours chintzy, but now I know why… no one is buying their product! I am not kidding when I say at one winery, my wine smelled and tasted like manure. I promise you, I am not lying or being overly dramatic. I paid $15 for a sip of cow poo. It was so bizarre. It’s like you could taste the chemicals and fertilizers they used on their vines. Needless to say we did not purchase any wine from any of the five wineries we visited and from what we could tell not many patrons were buying, either. They were all pretty bad or insanely overpriced for what it was. Being the winos that we are, Paul and I were shocked that we could not find one bottle we liked. We had no guilty feelings about walking away from the bar without a bottle or two in hand, after all, we did just pay $15 each for a glass of fertilizer.
Despite our disappointment in the wine, we still had fun in our wine misery and enjoyed the gorgeous, summer day.
I’ve been tagged by the lovely, Christina to give some answers so here they are:
1. My uncle once: let me drive his boat when I was 16.
2. Never in my life: would I have thought I’d live in Australia.
3. When I was five: I loved Holly Hobby. Mostly b/c her name was Holly, too!
4. High school was: so long ago but overall, pretty good.
5. I will never forget: the moment I first thought Paul and I could be together and my wedding day.
6. Once I met: several celebrities- the nature of the TV biz.
7. There’s this girl I know: who is incredibly talented, beautiful and loved by everyone.
8. Once, at a bar: um… too many to pick just one!
9. By noon, I’m usually: going to the gym.
10. Last night: I slept from 6pm until 9am this morning. I’m sick.
11. If only I had: more time, more money and more knowledge.
12. Next time I go to church: it will be with my family.
13. What worries me most: is my family’s situation.
14. When I turn my head left I see: a lamp.
15. When I turn my head right I see: puppy sleeping on the couch.
16. You know I’m lying when: I crack a smile while telling a lie.
17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: definitely NOT 80’s music. I hate it!
18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: Juliet except I won’t kill myself.
19. By this time next year: I will be residing in Boston.
20. A better name for me would be: Kelly. My Mom’s other name option for me when I was born.
21. I have a hard time understanding: why bad things happen to good people.
22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: study something more useful in life like business, medicine or law.
23. You know I like you if: I email you back.
24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: Paul and my family.
25. Take my advice, never: have any regrets in life- it’s too short.
26. My ideal breakfast is: None. I don’t do brekkie.
27. A song I love but do not have is: Colbie Caillat’s Bubbly.
28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: leave as quickly as you can before you become a townie! We were in the Guiness book for most people who are born, live and die in the same town- no one ever leaves! (except for an odd few, like my family)
29. Why won’t people: be a little kinder to one another.
30. If you spend a night at my house: I’d clean top to bottom before you arrived.
31. I’d stop my wedding for: my family.
32. The world could do without: poverty, disease, war, hate, guns, drugs, crime, global warming.
33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: eat the beating heart of a cobra.
34. My favorite blonde(s) is/are: my sister.
35. Paper clips are more useful than: rubber bands.
36. If I do anything well it’s: organize and plan.
37. And by the way: I tag Libby, Casey, Janine, Lane and Brianna
Dad is home from the hospital and seems to be doing well. The final word from the doctors is that Dad has a massive pulmonary embolism in his right lung. He’s restricted to bed rest for a while but we’re so happy he’s home. Dad has to take blood thinners and have his blood levels closely monitored for the next six months. God willing, everything should be okay and Dad will be fine. Most importantly, Dad is alive and that alone is all we could ask for.
Thanks to everyone for their prayers and thoughts. We sincerely appreciate all of your calls and kind messages. Thanks.
You can read more details about Dad’s care and release from the hospital on my other blog, lewy body dementia