Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cumulus humilis clouds

It's a tad unusual to see clouds on a hot summer day in LA with blue skies, but this is what I saw on my drive home yesterday on the 605 North freeway (after spending a couple hours at the beach).
Even more unusual is how low the clouds are.
Photos #2 & 3 were taken in Glassell Park (Los Angeles).

Spoon - "The Underdog"

Check this out - if you didn't know better, you'd think this was a young Billy Joel singing this song. It's from the new Spoon album called, ""Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" (2007).

Which is strange - because in their better known 2005 song, "I Turn My Camera On", (see video below) the lead singer sounds nothing like Billy Joel.

For my friend Trailhead

Your wit, humor, and political commentary are greatly missed. Hope you're back soon!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What's new at the LA Zoo?

"Spider City" is the new temporary exhibit at the LA Zoo, (located in the former koala house), which features 25 different species of spiders. It also has an interactive display booth out in front where kids can touch spiders (both live and ones encased in plastic). And there's the huge Tarantula cut out (see photo above) for photo ops.

The spider exhibit runs through October 31, 2007.I was more excited about the addition of this new misting machine. I dunno what it is about the zoo, but it always feels 10 degrees hotter there than at home (and we don't live that far from there). The cooling mist felt great and was placed in the perfect location, before the long walk uphill to see the Chimpanzees.

Tony Villaragosa can't get enough attention

You'd think with the scandal, pending divorce and everyone finding out his real name is "Tony", would be enough to make the guy lay low for awhile - but nope he's out there crashing dinner parties. He can't seem to get enough attention.

The photo above was taken at Providence on Melrose. My husband is the blond in the photo, who is annoyed underneath that polite smile.

He did not appreciate it when Tony came up behind him and grabbed his shoulder in a death grip, asking everyone at the table, "How's everyone doing tonight?! Is everyone having a good time?!" And no he's NOT The owner of the restaurant in case you were wondering.

Let's just hope someone runs against him who is qualified, has charisma, and is less creepy as the Mayor of LA, when election time rolls around.

Upland Supports Our Troops

While driving through Upland the other day I noticed these banners attached to lampposts all along Mountain Avenue. Upon closer inspection, each one has the name of a person in the armed forces, the branch of the service they're in, and Kiwanis is the sponsor.

My dad who is retired from the Air Force said he thought they were nice (I agree) and said he wished they would have done something like that for him when he was stationed in Vietnam.

I see a lot of "support the troops" and "welcome home" signs in blue collar, working class neighborhoods that have been devastated by the war. Local mom and pop shops have photos of sons, family members, and neighborhood kids who were killed in Iraq. It really brings the war home and breaks your heart.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Plimsouls - A Million Miles Away (Valley Girl - 1983)

This is a video clip of the club scene from the 1983 movie "Valley Girl" featuring the pop band The Plimsouls playing two of their songs, "Oldest Story in the World" and "A Million Miles Away".

Check out the young Nicolas Cage as he and his Valley Girl crush "Julie" discuss the underground Hollywood scene vs. the cookie cutter Valley.

Does anyone remember the side story involving Suzi and her stepmom vying for the attention of Skip the grocery delivery boy? And Julie's pot smoking, hippy parents? Classic.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Grief Camp Helps Children Cope with War Losses

I tuned into NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon and listened to a segment about a grief camp for kids to help them deal with the loss of their loved ones (predominantly their fathers who died tragically). Since I tuned in midway through it, initially I thought it was related to the coal miner tragedy in Utah. But listening further, the camp is made up of children who lost loved ones in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To hear children speak so honestly and openly about their feelings was heartbreaking and touching at the same time. For example: One little girl said she gets mad at her little brother when he says he can't wait for dad to get home to play hide and seek with him and her responding by shouting at him that dad wasn't coming home because he was dead. Another little boy was being bullied at school and told that his dad died for no reason. Another little girl asked if it was okay for her mom (now a widow) to start dating, and thoughtfully said that if she were a widow she thinks she'd be lonely.

On the last day of the camp, there is a balloon ceremony (see photo above) where children write messages to their loved ones that are attached to the strings and are let loose into the sky. One girl addressed hers to "45 South Heaven Lane." And it carried these words: "Dear dad. I love you. And I hope to see you again."

I've pasted the text of the article below. To view the original with photos and/or hear the segment, click here.
The morning gathering of about two dozen kids, toddlers to teens, seemed like any other day camp. Counselors checked in and sorted the "campers" by age. Everyone wore the same red camp T-shirts. And breakfast snacks lined a buffet table.

But the group gathered in a conference room at Fort Carson, Colo., had more on the schedule than summer fun.

The first hint of that was in the shiny, palm-sized buttons every child wore. They depicted fathers, brothers and uncles, all smiling and all lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These children had lost loved ones to war, and their "Good Grief Camp" was designed to help them grieve and cope.

A private, nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based group called TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, holds grief camps throughout the year for the families of American troops who have died. TAPS was founded by Bonnie Carroll, a veteran military officer and former White House Veterans Affairs liaison whose husband died in a military plane crash in 1992.

"There is nothing more isolating than feeling you are alone at a painful time," Carroll notes. "And there's nothing more comforting or healing than being surrounded by others who truly understand what you're going through."

Carroll's group schedules summer grief camps for kids across the country to provide "an honest, safe place where they can share some very horrific details of a death, and talk openly about it."

Losses Frame Introductions

The Fort Carson "Good Grief Camp" in August showed how even reticent youngsters can open up and share anger, pain, loneliness and loss. The children framed themselves in loss as they introduced themselves to fellow campers.

"I'm here because my dad died in Iraq," said 10-year-old Dakota Givens, in a circle of 8- to 12 year-olds. "He was in his tank … and they went in some water. The gun broke and hit his door so he couldn't get out and he drowned."

"My dad was killed in Iraq," announced Taylor Heldt, another 10-year-old, who spoke matter-of-factly. "He got hit by a roadside bomb. And I lost him June 16, on Father's Day."

Counselors guide the children through exercises, games and discussions designed to expose hidden feelings and to help the children cope. The counselors include civilians and military men and women who have also experienced loss.

It doesn't take long for the children to open up. Some tell stories about the dreaded knock at the door many military families fear.

"We thought that when we heard the doorbell it was the pizza man," recalled Angel van Dusen, a playful 11-year-old who turned somber in the group. "I went to the door and I told my mom it wasn't [the pizza man] … and the next thing I knew she came inside starting to cry."

Third-grader Katie Staats is as bright and cheerful as kids come. Her blue eyes and broad smile perfectly match those of her father, David, in the photo on her button. He died in Iraq on Dec. 16.

"That ruined my Christmas," she said. "My dad promised that no one would knock on the door. He kept that promise. My mom … met the people in the driveway."

Exploring Ways to Let Go of Anger and Stress

Anger was a common theme. The kids made "stress balls" with Play-Doh and balloons. Squeezing them, smashing them and throwing them seemed to help dissipate anger and stress. They sculpted figures with Play-Doh that they could then pound into the table — stand-ins for the enemy Iraqis who killed their dads or the kids at school who tease them.

Dakota has had that experience. "The bullies at my school would pick on me all the time and say, 'Your dad was a pussy. He died for no … reason.'"

Sometimes the hurtful words come innocently from another loved one. But there's still anger. Angel said she gets angry with her 6-year-old brother "…because my brother's always going, 'I can't wait till Dad's here cause then he's going to play hide-and-seek with me,' and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. And I'd go 'Shut up! Dad's not alive! He's dead!' And I just started … screaming."

Children Encouraged to Share Difficult Feelings

Counselors gently talked about not taking out anger on others and not letting anger build up. They encouraged sharing difficult feelings with trusted friends and adults.

That prompted Taylor to share something with the group. "I have a best friend and her dad, he just got back from training and he's leaving for Iraq. She started crying, and it made me cry because I don't want it to happen to her dad because her dad's really nice."

Eight-year-old Katie asked a question that indicates she's trying to figure out how her world is supposed to function now that her father's gone. "Is it OK for widows like my mom … to date?" she wanted to know.

Counselor Judy Mathewson responded, "What do you think?"

"I don't know. I'm not a widow," Katie replied. "If I was her and I was a widow, I think I would feel lonely."

Dakota shared a desperate feeling of loss. "When I was very little when [Dad] died, I'd say, 'Mommy, give me a penny. I'm going to wish for Daddy back.' And I'd throw it in the [well] and it never happened. … I guess those things are fake. … I just really wish I had my dad back."

Every "Good Grief Camp" ends with an exercise that shows the children they can still reach out to their loved ones, even though they are gone. Each child writes a note to the father, brother, mother, aunt, sister or uncle who died in war. The notes are tied to balloons filled with helium. And with cheering and laughing and a few tears, the balloons are released into the Colorado sky.

Taylor shared the contents of her note. It was addressed to "45 South Heaven Lane." And it carried these words: "Dear dad. I love you. And I hope to see you again."

Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Korea

I've always loved Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the music video-esque movie about a transsexual punk/glam rock girl from East Berlin who tours the US with her rock band as she tells her life story and follows the ex-boyfriend/bandmate who stole her songs. Great songs & makeup & costumes, endearing German accent, East Berlin setting, boy who loves boy who meets get the gist.

But I think I love it even more now that I saw this post on Margaret Cho's blog with a photo of her good friend John Cameron Mitchell, who went to Korea and performed for thousands of Hedwig fans wearing a traditional Korean braided wig and Hambok (traditional Korean dress)! What a sweet gesture to connect with the audience!
Which reminds me - back on July 15th I went to KCRW's World Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. I went to see Groove Armada, but the headliner was Café Tacuba. I'd never heard a single song of theirs, but I knew they were an eclectic band from Mexico obviously endorsed by Nic Harcourt, the host of KCRW - so they couldn't be all that bad right?

I stuck around even after the crazy knitted half mask/half skull caps came out that looked like a cross between a Mexican wrestler mask and a rooster (with the crest on top). Hey I didn't get it but seeing the father of 3 wearing it made me smile and I went with it, hoping that I'd experience something new and interesting that night that I'd never been exposed to before.

Then the lead singer took the mike and started speaking to the audience. He said a lot before and after each song but it was all in Spanish. Someone behind us shouted, "We need subtitles!" After a few songs and realizing that the guy was not going to even attempt a single English phrase - there was a mass exodus of people.

Really a shame since there were so many people in the audience being exposed to the band for the first time, and if he had at least said something like "Hello Los Angeles!" (come on how hard can that be?) many people would have felt like it was a nice gesture to connect with those who didn't speak Spanish. But he continued to only connect with the Spanish speakers and alienated all others.
I'll never go and see Cafe Tacuba again, but seeing a photo of Hedwig in Korea wearing a traditional Korean getup makes me wish that I was there in the audience watching the musical live. It's a small gesture but it goes a long way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Insane Tokyo Summerland Wave Pool

If you build it...they will come...especially if you add water (which can barely be seen here due to the sheer number of people in that pool).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The dog days of summer

Vintage 70's skateboarding footage shot in LA.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

World's Best First Class

Top 10 in 1st Class Air Travel
(Posted by Forbes)

1. Qatar Airways
2. Singapore Airlines
3. Cathay Pacific
4. Malaysia Airlines
5. Thai Airways
6. Emirates
7. Jet Airways
8. Lufthansa
9. Korean Air
10. Qantas Airways

Click here for the slide show.

Life after the reality show ends

This interesting article in New York Magazine features interviews with reality TV celebrities about how their 15 minutes of fame affected their lives.

For instance - Jay McCarroll, winner of Project Runway, Season One - ran off to New York as soon as the show ended anticipating multiple offers to finance his clothing line, but that didn't happen and he's been homeless for the past 2 years. (Read more below.)
The Near-Fame Experience
With shows like Project Runway and Top Chef, the Bravo cable channel skillfully packages the fantasy that gifted amateurs can break into the big time. But make no mistake: It is a fantasy.
By Jennifer Senior
Jay McCarroll, winner of Project Runway, Season One.
(Photo: Jessica Wynne)

Jay McCarroll, baby-faced and hoodie-clad, works in the sort of space you’d expect from a fellow who dreams in fabric. It’s outfitted with four sewing machines and oceans of material arranged in brilliant spectral sequence; his spring 2007 collection hangs on a rack in the corner, anchored by a quilt skirt so audaciously outsize it could easily double as a bedspread. But bedding itself is missing from this studio, as is a kitchen and a shower, which matters more in this case than it ordinarily would: Though he’s the first- season winner of Project Runway, Jay, 32, is still homeless in New York.

“I haven’t been living anywhere for two years,” he says. “I sleep at other people’s houses. I sleep here if I’m drunk.”

Jay was one of the Bravo network’s first guinea pigs in the competition reality genre, a brightly imaginative new form that mixes the more mundane conceits of The Real World and Survivor with contests involving genuine skill. In exchange for a few weeks of reality-style exploitation, contestants have a chance to show the world what they can do—with a sewing machine, with a pair of scissors, in a kitchen, in an undecorated room—and in the aftermath find their careers in full bloom. But the shows, it turns out, are the easy part. “I have a fucking gazillion e-mails from all over the world from people asking, Why isn’t your stuff out there?” says Jay. “Yet financially, I have no way to get them a product because I got pushed out of a boat and into the ocean, as if, Oh, you can survive now.”

This isn’t what one would assume, of course. One would assume he’d be a money magnet after his star turn. Certainly Jay assumed as much. “You don’t think I took the fucking bus to New York the day after I won the show, thinking someone was going to come up to me on the street and say, You’re awesome, here’s money?” he asks. “I thought that for two years. But I’ve given up on that.”

Had Bravo not invented Project Runway, Jay would probably still be back in Lehman, Pennsylvania, where he ran a vintage-clothing store (before that, he was producing online porn). But because of the show, Bravo and Bravo watchers expected quite a bit more from him. Project Runway wasn’t some competition gimmick like Fear Factor or The Amazing Race, where the contestants’ skills only served the needs of the show. Jay’s talents were practical and real, and Bravo gave him a platform to showcase them. If he couldn’t succeed in the aftermath, why were we watching? Of what use was the show?

That’s pretty much how Jay saw it, too. He’d worked for five straight months, with zero pay and little sleep, to appear on Project Runway and create a collection for Bryant Park. Audiences adored him. The show owed much of its success, let’s face it, to him. So what did Jay get out of it?

The trouble is, celebrity came easily to Jay. Business did not. On the show, Jay was wicked and entertaining and cheerfully provocative, but he hardly had the means, savvy, or professional temperament to navigate the New York fashion world. (His first voice-mail message to me, ever: Hey Jen, this is Jay McCarroll … Um, I am free tonight and all day tomorrow to do this bullshit. Fucking call me, would you?) “A week after I won the show, I met with two ladies from Banana Republic at the top of the Soho House, which is like, big time,” he says. “And they were like, ‘Oh, we can give you numbers for factories to get your clothes produced.’ But that was totally not anything like what I needed. What I needed was someone to sit down with me and say, Here’s how you start a fashion label.”

Before long, the blogs started to howl that Jay’s work was nowhere to be seen, and Tim Gunn, the kindly host and soul of Project Runway, was wondering aloud to the press why Jay hadn’t gained more momentum; he also castigated him for being a diva.

“My hands have been creatively crippled for two years—all those fucking eyes on me, reading that I’m a waste on blogs,” he says. He looks genuinely unhappy now, and younger than his 32 years—a reminder that there’s an enfant in enfant terrible, a person one feels just as apt to protect as to throttle. “I was just an artist before this happened,” he adds. “Now I’m an artist with a fucking clock ticking.”
To read more of the original article, click here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Homer Sings "Tiny Bubbles"

Homer Simpson toy says, "Aloha! You smell like Poi." and sings "Tiny Bubbles". *snicker* Hawaiian humor. Too cute.

Tiny Bubbles (aka I'm dreaming of Hawaii)

A tropical vacation is long overdue.

Check out this YouTube video shot in Hawaii with a Hawaiian wrestler turned dancer.

Quote of the day

"He is such a liar, because the only time he was down there was for photo ops with celebrities, with politicians, with diplomats," said New York deputy fire chief Jimmy Riches, who spent months digging for his firefighter son.

"On 9/11 all he did was run. He got that soot on him, and I don't think he's taken a shower since."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Quote of the day

"Think of your eyes as two pools."-said by Yoga instructor (as we're lying on our backs).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blog Worthy Photo

My husband took this photo on a recent trip to Astoria, Oregon with his iPhone.

Best lunch entree for under $10 (outside of K-town)

Daban (Korean BBQ)
2139 Foothill Blvd.
La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011

Located near the 2 Fwy Foothill exit, in the Ross strip mall. I went there years ago when the food was "Americanized" but they've since changed ownership and the food is authentic Korean now. Look what you get for $8.99 (plus tip). This is the teriyaki chicken lunch box.

The side dishes change with what's in season, and you can't beat the variety at this price!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Quote of the day

"It's good at the first sip."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

I was impressed that SBMA had paintings by such famous artists as: Chagall, Dali, Matisse, Monet, Renoir, Warhol.

But I was most fascinated with the museum's Asian collection. Here are a couple pieces below.
A Japanese Samurai. Intimidating but very small in stature.
Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) Sand Mandala constructed by Tibetan artist Lobsang Samten, 1996 using colored sand. Amazing.

Santa Barbara Courthouse

Santa Barbara Courthouse
1100 Block of Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA

While we were having brunch at Elements, we could see Spanish dancers performing across the street.

Santa Barbara is having their "Old Spanish Days Fiesta" from 8/1 to 8/5. It's a Santa Barbara tradition that has continued for over 75 years to celebrate the history, customs, and traditions of the American Indian, Spanish, Mexican, and early American settlers that comprise the rich cultural heritage of Santa Barbara.

We discovered that the Spanish building (which has an outdoor stage where the dancers were practicing) was actually a palace built in 1929, and today is a fully functional courthouse.

We went up to the top of the clock tower and got a 360° view of the city. There's also an aerial map up at the top that pinpoints buildings and points of interest.

We saw that the Santa Barbara Museum of Art was just on other side of the street, so we decided to head over there to check it out before heading back to the train station, and back to LA.

I Survived the Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara

Here I am at Elements for Sunday brunch. After a day of wine tasting, before dinner cocktails, and wine with dinner, I slept like a baby. Brunch consisted of duck confit and waffles, with a bottomless mimosa.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Old Mission Revival Movie Theatre in Santa Barbara

An old mission revival movie theatre located on State Street in Santa Barbara.

We walked by it between cocktails at Epiphany and dinner at Opal, but didn't have time to catch a movie there. Maybe next time.

Before Sunset in Santa Barbara

Us on the pier in Santa Barbara

Huge Out of Control Fire in Santa Barbara

When we arrived in Santa Barbara we noticed the ash, both on the ground and still falling. The result of a fire they're calling the "Zaca Fire" that started on the 4th of July, and is still not contained. It's already burned over 70,000 acres and they expect the fire to be fully contained by September 7, 2007.

On our wine tasting tour, our driver wasn't able to take Santa Ynez Road, since it was closed due to the fire. So instead of taking the mountain pass, we went an alternate route to get to the wineries.

Here's a pic U. took of the smoke we could see while standing on the pier.

And we thought gas prices were ridiculous in LA

Photo taken in Santa Barbara.

Quote of the day

"The best thing to do when you've been drinking all to continue drinking." - wise wisdom imparted by my husband.

Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara

U. and I went on a group wine tour with Wine Edventures. They picked us up in their signature purple air-conditioned van, (supposedly it was in the movie "Sideways"), drove us around to 3 wineries and a tasting room, and had a picnic lunch for us. Oh and we also got souvenir wine glasses. (Only one made it home in one piece - the wine glass that is.)
Stop #1 - Koehler Winery in the heart of Santa Barbara wine county.

Koehler Winery
5360 Foxen Canyon Road
Los Olivos, California 93441
Above is a photo of their tasting room.

We also got a tour of how their wines are made.
We purchased 1 bottle of Pinot & 2 bottles of their Rose. (One as a gift for Jill, our daughter's Godmother who is babysitting the little one so we could enjoy this weekend getaway together.)
Notable sites we passed while driving along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in Santa Ynez Valley:
  • Firestone Ranch/Winery - Brooks Firestone, the grandson of Harvey Firestone (the tire entrepreneur) started a winery and brewing enterprise (infamous for the 3rd installment of the "The Bachelor" reality TV show when the bachelor Andrew Firestone takes the finalists back to his family's winery).
  • Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch - We just had a view of the back, but the property is huge!

Stop #2 - Buttonwood Winery

Buttonwood Winery
1500 Alamo Pintado Road
Solvang, California 93463

They bottle just 5,000 cases each year in a mixture of varietals - sauvignon blanc, semillon, marsanne, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and syrah.Buttonwood was the most picturesque of all the wineries we visited today with its orchards, and beautiful gardens. It was picture perfect for sitting on a bench in the garden with your loved one, sipping wine.

In addition to a winery, they're also farm with a peach orchard. You can see the peach orchard behind us in the photo above.

They also have picnic benches on the grounds, and that's just the spot our tour guide had picked out for our picnic.

We purchased 2 bottles of Rose, 1 Merlot, and a jar of their homemade peach/ginger jam.

Keeping in mind that we would have to carry all of the wine we purchased back with us on the train, we tried to pace of ourselves.

(We discovered that one of the bottles we purchased was corked "went bad" and when U. called the winery, they offered to send us 2 bottles of wine on the house. Nice!) Stop #3 - Lucas and Lewellen Tasting Room

Lucas and Lewellen
1645 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, CA 93463

Their tasting room was crammed full of kitschy items for sale.
This winery has vineyards in the Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, and Los Alamos Valleys, but has their tasting room offsite in Solvang.

This was the only stop where we didn't buy any wine. We didn't care for any of the wines they had on their "traditional" tasting menu. We did however get some sparkling wine at this stop. U. sporting "wine wear" just for demonstration purposes. (We didn't buy one.)

At first glance it's the dorkiest contraption, but when talking to another couple about it, they mentioned that they went to a large outdoor event with wine tasting and food and lots of people were wearing them and how nifty they are, because they free up your hands.

Stop #4 - Shoestring Winery

Shoestring Winery
800 East Hwy. 246
Solvang, CA 93463

I guess they saved the best for last because this was our favorite winery on this tour.The vineyard and winery are owned by Roswitha & Bill Craig, wife & husband. They came out from the East Coast and started the winery in 1997 on a shoestring budget, hence where the name comes from. They purchased this farm and converted it to a vineyard. (See photo of the old barn above that's now used to house their wine and as a tasting room.) They're a very small winery but are winning awards left and right. Since they're the "little guys" in the world of winemaking, you can only get their wine here (or via their website). We sat on benches, in the shade, under an olive tree (lovely and hit the spot!) and the owner Roswitha (she explained it's an old German name) talked to us about each an every wine that we tasted. You could tell she loves wine and loves what she does, and it was contagious. All of us were holding our wines up to the sunlight swirling the wine in our glasses to appreciate the color.

She also offered us chocolates with our red wine - oh so yummy!This is a photo of the inside of the barn that's used as a tasting room.Their wine is hand-farmed and hand-crafted, and aged in French oak barrels.

We loved ALL of the wines on their tasting menu. ( We joined the Shoestring wine club and ordered every single bottle on their tasting menu (see below) and had a case shipped to us.

2006 Pinot Grigio
This crisp white wine is simply luscious, light & refreshing.Our Pinot Grigio is not dry but "fruit forward" with a clean finish. It is low inalcohol & best served chilled, $22 a bottle (members $17.60)

2006 Syrah Rose
Only 200 cases made. Our Rose is a Syrah base with alittle Grenache & a splash of Sangiovese for color. Very similar to our Pinot Grigio, it is low in alcohol, fruit forward & best served chilled, $22 a bottle (members $17.60)

2003 Sangiovese
BRONZE medal winner 2007 Los Angeles International Wine Competition & SILVER medal winner 2006 Orange County Commercial WineCompetition. Blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in oak barrels 17 months,$26 a bottle (members $20.80)

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
SILVER medal winner 2007 Los Angeles InternationalWine Competition & BRONZE medal winner 2006 San Diego International WineCompetition. Blended with 12% Cab Franc, aged in French oak barrels for 2 years, $28 a bottle (members $22.40)

2003 Syrah
GOLD medal winner 2007 San Diego International Wine Competition& BRONZE medal winner 2006 San Diego International Wine Competition. Blended with 3% Malbec, aged in French oak barrels for 2 years, $28 a bottle (members $22.40)

(When we got back home, we opened a chilled bottle of Rose from Shoestring and we were in heaven. It's so refreshing and just perfect for the summer.)

Useful Tips

  • You can call the winery (see contact info on the wine bottle) and ask what the peak year is for the bottle of wine you have.
  • If you open a bad bottle of wine, you can call the winery and let them know and they'll send you a replacement.
  • It takes 3 sips to get the real taste of the wine.

Wine Tasting in Wine Country
The tour was great for getting a flavor of Santa Barbara county wineries and was convenient and hassle free. We also met a nice couple from Florida and another couple from San Jose. If you have a nice group of people with you it can make the experience more enjoyable.

If we go back, I think we'd research some wineries we'd like to visit beforehand and get a limo to drive us around. Then spend one day in Solvang where they have tasting rooms up and down the streets, perfect for walking and grabbing a bite to eat afterwards. Or do the organic wine tour next time.

Friday, August 03, 2007


9 W. Victoria Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Touted as the best restaurant in Santa Barbara - reviewers were falling over themselves with praise for this French restaurant.

The restaurant has quaint indoor and outdoor seating. (We sat indoors.)Drinks
Belgian Peach Lambic beer (to compliment the fois gras & peaches)
Wine - Qupe - Syrah

Fois gras with peaches

Roasted Wild Mushrooms
on cauliflower puree with teardrop tomato confit,
crispy thyme & Clos Pepe Estate olive oil

Main Course
Bourbon & Maple-Glazed California Duck Breast

duck confit, thyme-infused jus, succotash of corn, fava beans, applewood-smoked bacon and Windrose Farms butternut squash

Vanilla Crème Brulée


Based on the reviews we expected the food to be great, but it was just "okay". The mushrooms were burnt, the tiny serving of fois gras was laughable, and everything was too salty. Disappointing. The place itself was nice, prettier from the outside. The inside was very simple and small. In terms of service, our waiter was constantly coming over to ask us if we were enjoying our dinner, (expecting us to rave about the food), which got to be annoying and they couldn't clear everything away fast enough (including our lambic beer which we weren't finished with), although they overlooked our empty water glasses and we had to ask a couple times for more water.

My husband and I looked at each other and asked, "Have we become foodies?" Maybe we've been watching too many food network cooking shows and going to too many nice restaurants - but Bouchon didn't meet the definition of a great restaurant. Sadly, it was just okay. Food was okay, ambiance was okay, and service was okay.

Later when we got into a cab, our cab driver was surprised we weren't thrilled with Bouchon. "It's the best restaurant in Santa Barbara!" So we heard.

Traveling by train to Santa Barbara

A smooch from my husband and we're off!
We took Amtrak's double-decker Pacific Surfliner train to Santa Barbara with the special $40 round trip offer.

On the way to Santa Barbara we sat downstairs (and on the way back to Los Angeles we sat upstairs. In SB they announced over the loudspeaker that the downstairs area was reserved for the elderly and wheelchair bound, and that all able bodied persons needed to be seated upstairs.)
This was our first time traveling by train on the west coast. (We've traveled by train on the east coast and in Europe, but somehow never in our own state before.)

Traveling by train is the way to go. Large windows, foot rests, tray tables, and reclining chairs. No traffic and stress free.

There's a lounge car with a snack bar/cafe as well. We had red wine with chocolate as we sat back and relaxed and enjoyed the ride/view. We departed from beautiful Union Station in downtown, Los Angeles.

It was neat to travel under the LA bridge, along the LA River, and even zoom by our own neighborhood in LA and see landmarks from the train window.

The train stops several times along the way including Glendale, Burbank (Airport), Ventura (Ventura County Fair), but still only takes 2.5 hours to get to Santa Barbara. The train travels along the coast.
It's a scenic ride, with a view of the ocean and shoreline. And here we are in Santa Barbara.

We're staying at a bed and breakfast that's within walking distance (2 blocks) of the train station.

Tonight we're going to Bouchon (a French restaurant touted as the best restaurant in Santa Barbara) for dinner, and then in the morning we're off on a wine tasting tour. This is our first weekend getaway together without the baby in 2.3 years. It feels a bit strange to be traveling without our daughter, yet it's like a second honeymoon as well.