Friday, July 26, 2013

SANTA BARBARA and MONTECITO--my new faves!

Well, this little vacation was a piece of heaven.  Five days of bliss.  Santa Barbara and Montecito have been on my list to visit ever since my friend, Ashley, and her family have been spending July in Montecito.  We have similar taste in just about everything so I knew it would be lovely.

Took the first flight out of Phoenix and arrived around 9:00 am.  Too early to check-in so we headed over to the Santa Barbara Mission.  And can I just say that the Santa Barbara Airport is now my favorite airport ever.  A bit of style, nice and small, no shuttling anywhere to pick up a rental car.  Loved it.

A very pretty mission, Santa Barbara is similar to San Juan Capistrano Mission (which I actually prefer).  But this is definitely worth a stop.

Yellowed-stone, purple agapanthus, greenery, and little red roofed tile thrown in is a gorgeous combination. Look at that deep window sill.

Next, we drove to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.  Picked up a discount coupon at the airport from one of those little visitor brochures displays.

        It was a bright, hot day in Santa Barbara when we arrived.  Still cooler than Arizona, though.

            Love a split log bench.  Someday I'm going to do a post of all the benches I've loved.

Now, time to check-in.  The heavens parted and we walked into the Four Seasons Biltmore.  We could have just stayed at this hotel the entire time.  Staff is friendly and helpful. Rooms are pretty.  Common areas all have that Four Seasons touch. And, see that Moravian light fixture?  I think that's what I want for my entry hall and library.  My only hesitation is how the heck do you change the light bulb?

                                             Love the Santa Barbara design style.

                                                  Nice stenciling surrounding our door.

                                                         Pretty, airy, comfortable room.

I've been wanting to try those acai bowls and vacation is perfect for trying those new-to-me foods. First, how to pronounce acai? Ah-sah-EE  (accent on the EE)--there, now you know.  Backyard Bowls
in Santa Barbara is delish.  The blue bowl above is a SMALL Island Bowl--yes, small.  The smaller bowl is a KIDS size acai oatmeal bowl. If you go, call in your order and pick it up.  It is crazy busy and although we ordered quickly and found a table (lucky!) it took quite a while to receive our bowls of goodness.  Those in the know called in and picked up their orders to either eat there or take away.

This gorgeous building is the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.  It ranks #2 on Trip Advisor for things to do in Santa Barbara. Yes, it is worth visiting.

         Here is the view from the top--no charge.  Elevator or stairs will take you to the top for this sight.


                                        Hall off the main entrance.  Reminded me of Istanbul.

Back in Montecito in the lower village, we stopped by Scoop for some perfect gelato.

                        Salted caramel ice cream within walking distance from our hotel.  Tragic.

                                          Butterfly Beach at sundown. Perfect stress reducer.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


First--our family loves homemade popcorn.  For years I've been using the Whirley Pop by Wabash Valley Farms and love it.  Just drizzle a little oil such as olive oil or grapeseed oil.  Sometimes I use a chili or vanilla bean infused olive oil--sometimes I use both. Then I add a little kosher salt in the pan, 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels and heat it up.  Takes 3-4 minutes for a full pot of popcorn.

In order to get the yummy salt to fill the little kernels requires a little something to make the salt stick. Love this Trader Joe's Coconut Oil Spray--zero calories!  I spray the freshly popped popcorn with the spray and toss on the salt.

Now, on to the truffle salt.  World Market (aka Cost Plus) carries a reasonably priced truffle salt -- about $12.99 instead of $30. The trick with truffle salt is to add a tiny pinch because the flavor and the fragrance is very strong! So, I add the kosher salt and then a pinch of the truffle salt when I want a savory, earthy flavor--love it.  Give it a try!

Friday, July 5, 2013


Another great treat from my friend, Ashley.  How she ever came to think of peanut butter mixed in with all this is beyond me, but it is delicious.

Serves 2

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups frozen berries
2 tablespoons of peanut butter or almond butter
2 tablespoons of flaxseed
1 cup of water

Mix in blender - drink up!

Monday, July 1, 2013

ARABESK - Barbara Nadel

Arabesk by Barbara Nadel

When you travel do you try to read books that relate to your destination?  I've done it a few times but it always had to do with Great Britain (surprise).   My friend, Liz, directed me to Barbara Nadel who writes murder mysteries that take place in Istanbul. I downloaded her book, Arabesk, to my Kindle and read it during my visit there last summer.

Lots of fun to read about real neighborhoods and sites in a fictional book as I roamed around Istanbul. The star of the series is Inspector Cetin Ikmen, who is home on medical leave and getting pretty antsy.  So his, protege, Mehmet Suleyman, is in charge of the newest murder investigation.  Normally, these exotic names would be hard to keep track of but they became the norm during my travels.

The story is about the murder of a young mom with connections to a famous music star and an aging actress.  Lots of interesting characters who I think are part of the series with a few side stories that also kept my attention. I'm needing an Istanbul fix so I will add another of Nadel's to my reading list.