I am blessed. I continue to shake my head in awe and curiosity at the goodness of God in my life. I am reminded of His abundant blessings when I spend time with my family. Hubbs and I have a good and loving relationship with our parents and our siblings. The older I get, the more I realize how rare that is for a lot of people. I think that’s part of why becoming a foster parent is a desire of mine – it’s not just Hubbs and I taking on the challenge of that role. There is a loving and supportive and encouraging family unit that will be a part of that challenge – even if it’s just in their prayers and words of counsel.

This past week my little family traveled down to Santa Maria to stay with my in-laws. This was the first trip with 2 kids that both of them slept through the night all 5 nights of our visit. There were definitely moments of discipline and emotion, but the boys were a little more behaved overall this time than previous trips. The food was awesome – as usual. The weather rocked – of course. There was laughter, sports, a roaring fire in the fireplace, a dinner date with long-time friends from our Vegas years, and rest. Lots of rest.

Here’s a few highlights from the trip…

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Santa Maria is a very moist climate. Snails are in abundance and my boys love snails. They even love looking at the poor snails they’ve crushed, like this one. *sigh*

 

 

 

waller park

If you happen to be in Santa Maria with young kids, then visiting Waller Park is a must. There are ducks and geese wandering about, squirrels to chase after, a great playground for the big and little ones, and loads of space to run and explore. It’s also great for pictures!

 

 

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As I mentioned, food is something I always look forward to when visiting the Central Coast. It is just truly scrumptious, especially if you’re not a vegetarian. Although, I’m sure there’s plenty of yummy veggies and such in the area, but, I’m only able to comment on the tri-tip, the filet mignon, the ribs…

As usual, Dad took us out for a delicious evening at the Hitching Post. Always a treat, always good food, always something we all look forward to. I can’t recommend this place enough since it goes beyond a good meal – it’s the history and ambiance that bring it home for me.

Since we were visiting family, that meant Hubbs and I could escape for awhile and enjoy the time together without having to be mindful of paying a babysitter or worrying about the chores needing to be done at home. When Hubbs and I were dating waaaaaay back in the day (1998), his family took me to the Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara. It was by far the coolest place I’ve ever had a meal at in my entire life then and it still remains the coolest place I’ve ever had a meal to this day. Ok, maybe a few meals I had in Ireland could top the “cool” list, but at least in the U.S., this beats anything else I’ve experienced, hands down.

IMG_1343Coming from Santa Maria, it’s about an hour-long drive through the gorgeous Santa Ynez hillsides. Loads of sunshine that day, awesome views of the mountains as we reached the winding road towards Los Olivos (a sweet little town – might have to visit Mattei’s Tavern next time!). The drive gets steeper and around the bend is Stagecoach Road, the same road that was used by stagecoach riders in the 1800s. From the website:

Over one hundred years ago, dusty stagecoaches stopped at the "Cold Spring Tavern" relay station to change horses and added two more in order to get over the mountain. The stop also allowed the passengers to enjoy one of the most delicious meals in the Old West.

Stagecoach Road gets steep and narrow, with a canyon on one side and mountain on the other. Then it gets darker as you enter a wooded area with a creek below. During the winter months, you’d see the smoke wafting through the air from the crackling fireplace. The smoke we saw was from the BBQ out back. Ooooohhhh yeah…..

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When you walk into the tavern, you walk back in time. Even though nearly every table is filled, the ambiance is quiet and dark. The wood flooring under your feet makes noise as you make the way to your table.

 

 

IMG_1334The lighting is low – really low – because the only light is from the little lamps on the table. IMG_1332

Nobody’s in a hurry. Nothing fancy is on the table. It’s a simple menu with all kinds of yummy-ness to look forward to. My kind of place.

I had the BBQ beef tri-tip sandwich. Onion rings that were divine. A fig and mango cheesecake that was way better than I would have thought possible – OK, a little fancy – but it was still good!

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This is a building off to the side that used to be a bunk house for drivers.

I’ve never been to the Tavern at night, but I’m sure the experience would be unbelievable with the low lighting. Ah, Cold Spring – you will always hold a special place in my memories. Until next time!

IMG_1385IMG_1359Another highlight of visiting the Central Coast is, well, the coast! The boys haven’t had the thrill of dipping their toes into the water while visiting their grandparents yet, but they did get to spend some time at a cute little park in Pismo Beach and a meal at Avila.

When we visit Santa Maria, I always bring along plenty of reading material, as most of the time sports is on the TV (not really my thing, but it is for everyone else in the house), and as I mentioned before, the weather is typically awesome. So I like to sit outside with my magazines and books and catch up on the reading. This time around, Mom was having some trouble with a puzzle I had given her for Christmas. I felt it was my duty to see if I could get through the rough patches and help her finish it.

IMG_1386I had no idea how addictive puzzles are! This was a 1000-piece puzzle of Santa Barbara and holy smokes, it was tough. But that thing kept beckoning me, every time there was a lull in the day. My elbows were getting sore from leaning over the table, prowling through each piece, looking at the minute details. I ended up finishing the thing on the last day of our trip and it was quite the victorious feeling, I must admit!

IMG_1407Last but certainly not least, is the divine Santa Maria strawberry. You may think you’ve had the best tasting strawberries, but until you’ve gotten a hold of one of these babies, your strawberry experience isn’t complete. First, 2 pounds of strawberries for $4.00 is unheard of where I sit. Second, you will rarely pull out a bruised, mushy, or inedible berry from the bunch. Third and most important, the taste – oh, the taste – is like candy. So sweet, so juicy, so divine.

I can’t help but feel blessed when I consider that a typical family vacation lent so many wonderful memories for me and my little family. And to boot, we even came home with some “new” furniture for the living room! But that’s for another day.

May your times with family be filled with
sweet memories and new adventures.

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