Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Festivals

{I'm posting every day this month for the 31 Days writing challenge!
Click here to see an introduction and a list of all the posts I've written so far.}


Santa Barbara (perhaps like a lot of other cities) has a LOT of different festivals and events throughout the year.  There’s Fiesta, Summer Solstice, the Lemon Festival, the International Film Festival, the French Festival, the i Madonnari chalk art festival, and tons more that I have yet to explore.  

Fiesta (or more formally, Old Spanish Days) is probably the one that Santa Barbara is best known for, and I must admit that until last summer, I had never actually experienced any of the Fiesta festivities!  It usually falls right around Joe’s and my anniversary, so we’ve always been out of town or otherwise, ahem, busy.  But last year it was the weekend before our anniversary, and I got to go out on the town with my Soulmate Neighbor (who is not actually my neighbor anymore) Michelle, and it was a blast!  

We had dinner and drinks at American Ale, walked around downtown and smashed confetti eggs all up in our hair (and purses and shirts and cars...), danced at a little Mexican bar I didn’t even know existed, and had a generally amazing time.  We even managed to escape the crazy crowds and take a late night stroll on the beach to talk about Deep Things and Jesus and stuff, which was maybe my favorite part even though I guess that’s not officially a “Fiesta-sanctioned” activity.


American Ale!

Confetti all over!

Walking to the beach!

This lovely lady.

Then there’s Solstice.  

Let me tell you a quick story about the first time I learned about the Solstice Parade.  One Saturday a few years ago, I decided to go downtown for some shopping and leisurely walking.  Traffic getting downtown on a Saturday around 10 AM was a little more congested than usual, but I thought nothing of it.  I parked, walked into a store, and about half an hour later when I came out, the streets were FLOODED with people and there were all manner of weird things happening in the middle of State Street.  Someone was inside a gigantic bubble, rolling around and doing some weird acrobatics or something.  

I immediately thought to myself, “Is this Fiesta?  I thought that was later in the year.”  I asked someone what was going on, and they looked at me like I was from another planet and said, “This is the Solstice Parade!”  And then I booked it out of there as fast as I could (which is to say, very slowly because ALL THE PEOPLE).  See, back in those days, I was still pretty introverted and averse to large crowds, especially when I wasn’t mentally prepared for a crowd, much less a crowd that was so dense I couldn’t even walk back to my car without brushing up against at least a hundred people.

I have not ventured back to the Solstice Parade since that day, but as I mentioned a couple days ago, I did co-host a solstice party last summer, which I think was way better because I was surrounded by all the people I actually WANT to be in such close proximity to, and I didn’t have to go far to get back to my own cozy home.

I’ve been to some of the other festivals in town on occasion, but I definitely hope to explore more of them in the future!  I missed the last couple Lemon Festivals, which is just so, so sad since I LOVE me some lemon meringue pie, lemon beer, and lemon cotton candy.  Next year!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BRUNCH: Domingo's & Cajun Kitchen Cafe

{I'm posting every day this month for the 31 Days writing challenge!
Click here to see an introduction and a list of all the posts I've written so far.}


I’ve already written about a couple of my favorite brunchy spots in Santa Barbara, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention these next two as well.  And we've already established that I am kind of obsessed with breakfast, so seriously, wipe that look of surprise off your face!

Domingo’s is the first place Joe took me for pancakes when I moved to Santa Barbara.  He said it was kind of a hole in the wall, but that they made amazing breakfast, so I was already pretty on board with it.  And sure enough, they really do make some delightful pancakes, waffles, hash browns, omelets, biscuits & gravy...basically all things breakfast!  (And yes, they do apparently serve lunch, too, but I literally have no idea if anyone ever actually gets lunch because all I see on people’s plates is breakfast.  Smart people.)




I also love Domingo’s because the staff is very friendly and accommodating if you ever have any issues or special requests about your food.  I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait more than five minutes for a table there, even if we come with a larger group.  And bonus for Joe and me: it’s walking distance from home!

So if you’re not afraid to try out a place that may not look super fancy-schmance, definitely give Domingo’s a try.  It’s clean, quiet, delicious, and best of all, pretty dang inexpensive too!  (I know, what?!  I thought there was no such place in these parts.)

Next up on my list of go-to brunch spots in town is Cajun Kitchen Cafe.  This may sound weird, but the #1 reason I keep coming back to Cajun is that they carry green Tabasco sauce.  



Let me back up.  Several years ago, Joe and I visited his birthplace, Boulder, Colorado, and we went to this amazing breakfast joint where our server offered us an array of hot sauces for our meals.  One of the choices was green Tabasco sauce, and I had never seen it before.  The server noticed my curiosity and urged me to try it, claiming that green Tabasco on breakfast food is basically the greatest thing ever.

And he was right.

And ever since then, I have been on the hunt for places that have green Tabasco sauce (side note: Chipotle does, and no I absolutely do not go there like twice a week and pour the stuff all over my tacos and chips ohwaityesItotallydo).  

So, my first time going to Cajun Kitchen was after I volunteered for the SB Marathon a couple of years ago (cheering people on and making sure no cars were driving on the parts of the road that were blocked off for the runners).  My friend Megan must have known she had some making up to do for talking me into waking up at like 4 AM on a Saturday, and inviting me out to breakfast with the other volunteers definitely made up for it...especially when I found out they had my favorite green sauce.

Okay, but aside from my ridiculous addiction to that stuff, Cajun Kitchen does ALSO have really, really yummy breakfast foods, AND the most amazing blueberry muffins ever.  Their breakfast options tend to be plenty filling, too, so you definitely get a bang for your buck there.  Plus, there are several locations to choose from, each with its own ambiance and vibe.  

Seriously, when this is an option, what is even the point of lunch?

Shoot, now I just want to fast forward to this weekend and figure out a reasonable excuse to eat at all FOUR of these places I’ve mentioned in this series!  (PS: Did you enter the giveaway for a Sambo’s gift card yet?  Time is running out!)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Home, Entertaining, & Neighbors

{I'm posting every day this month for the 31 Days writing challenge!
Click here to see an introduction and a list of all the posts I've written so far.}



As much as we all know it sucks that Santa Barbara is such an expensive place to live, I must say I have grown to love the little condo that Joe and I call home.  It took me awhile to accept it as “home” and not just “that place I live until we move into something bigger,” but once I decided to embrace it, I really began to appreciate our cozy space.

For one thing, a smaller place equals a lot less to clean and organize!  And seeing as how I’m still trying to make a habit of keeping things tidy, I am definitely glad to have less square feet in which to make my epic messes.  It’s also been really fun to do little decorating projects and looking up ways to maximize small spaces on Pinterest.  (For the record, we actually have a lot more storage space in our condo than one might guess!)

Joe and I love to entertain, and our place has proven to be pretty great for game nights, movie nights, potlucks, and Bible study or small group gatherings.  We have a projector mounted up high in the wall above our couches, and it projects onto the opposite enormous wall of our living room.  (And hey, that’s one less wall for me to worry about decorating!)  Plus, Joe installed a great surround sound system, so we are all over the action movies, is all I’m saying.

Our living room, which is one of my favorite things about our home.

We’ve also hosted a couple of pretty large parties, and while the space does get a little crowded, I think it’s actually been kind of fun, and it doesn’t allow anyone to hide out in the corners being anti-social.  (Not that we even have any anti-social friends.  Everyone we know is super friendly!)  I hosted my friend Julie’s baby shower a couple years ago, and I think we had about 18 people in the living room at one point.  But even crazier than that, we had a Christmas party last year and I think there must’ve been around 25 people crammed into the living room, dining room and kitchen!  That was an amazingly fun evening.

Kitchen overflow during our 2013 Christmas party!

One other thing I like about where we live is that we’ve had some pretty great neighbors over the years.  There was Jeff and Leah (and eventually their son John), who moved in right around the time I moved to Santa Barbara when Joe and I were still dating.  We had lots of fun game nights and dinners with them, and we even took them with us to San Francisco one December for our annual Dickens/Monterey weekend!  

Then when Jeff, Leah, John, and still-in-the-oven Abigail moved to Alabama (boooo), two amazing ladies (who are now two of my favorite people ever), Natalie and Michelle, moved into their old place.  That whole situation was a blessing, because Michelle and I found out we work together, and all of us also go to the same church!  We hit it off right away and had many game/movie/dinner/ladies’ nights, and we jointly hosted a fantastic summer solstice party that was a big hit with our friends and other neighbors.

Me with Michelle, Natalie, and our awesome piƱata at our solstice party last year.

Then when Natalie and Michelle ditched me moved out for totally valid reasons that had nothing to do with me, our other neighbors Brian and Shannon moved literally across the walkway into the girls’ old place, since it had a second bedroom and they had just had a baby boy.  And THEN by pure happenstance (aka the brilliant plan of God), another couple from our church, Eric and Becky, moved into Brian’s old place!  Those two are also super sweet, friendly, and good-neighborly.  Becky is the very same Becky who did our five year photo shoot, and she's also in my Beth Moore small group this season!

So basically, today’s “thing I love about Santa Barbara” is the blessing of being “stuck” in our current living situation, and realizing that it’s what we make of it.  I spent the first couple years of marriage just wishing to move on to the “next” place, and then finally realized that it was much more enjoyable to make this “now” place a place I could love to live in for another five or ten years.  And now that I've done that, I think it’ll end up being pretty bittersweet whenever we do move on from this condo (and say goodbye whichever neighbors we may have when that time comes).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Weekend Wonder: Sea Lions

{I'm posting every day this month for the 31 Days writing challenge!
Click here to see an introduction and a list of all the posts I've written so far.}



{Weekend Wonder is a little mini-series I'm doing within “31 Days,” where I show you
a picture of something in Santa Barbara that I love, along with a short blurb about it.}


(Click to enlarge)

I love to visit my sea lion buddies whenever I go kayaking at the Harbor.  There’s always at least a couple of them out on this buoy snoozing, sunbathing, or totally posing for the camera like the guy in front there.  Ah, to live such a carefree, sun-soaked life!  (Oh wait, I kinda already do!)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekend Wonder: Palm Tree

{I'm posting every day this month for the 31 Days writing challenge!
Click here to see an introduction and a list of all the posts I've written so far.}



{Weekend Wonder is a little mini-series I'm doing within “31 Days,” where I show you
a picture of something in Santa Barbara that I love, along with a short blurb about it.}


(Click to enlarge)

I have a special place in my heart for palm trees, because they remind me of my desert hometown.  Looking up at this one, with the sun beaming down through the palm fronds, I felt a sense of connectedness between my childhood home and my current home, my younger self and this weird, responsible, adult human I’m apparently becoming.  (When did THAT happen?)