My favorite beach houses

I hope you enjoyed my beach home tour!

If you owned a beach house, what style would it be? Beach cottage, White House replica, contemporary or modern?

It’s that time again…

My husband and I decided it was time to renew our passports after our last trip to Mexico a couple weeks ago. We don’t plan on any trips out of the country for the next few months.

We do have plans to visit California, our friends in Santa Barbara — and hopefully our kids will be joining us. You don’t need passports to visit California, regardless if it seems like a different country or not.

My son didn’t join us on our last trip to Mexico although our DIL did. He didn’t get his passport renewed in time. He did schedule an appointment. The soonest appointment was a month out.

After looking online and printing out paperwork, my goodness! What a complicated bunch of words in tiny print. It gave me a headache looking at it. Or, maybe it was because I had an eye exam earlier and my eyes were dilated.

In any case, they tell you if you have your passport, it isn’t expired, and want to renew it, you don’t go to a passport office or post office. You mail in paperwork. I’m not sure if we mail in the old passports or not. That’s a little concerning. We do need to get new passport photos and staple them exactly a certain way to the paperwork.

Our passports don’t expire until February, but we’ve heard the turn-around time is three to four months, so we’re tackling this chore this week. Reading the US Passport website, it said when renewing your should start NINE MONTHS IN ADVANCE! Yikes, we’re already a month behind.

Do you have any tips for passport renewals? Do you need to mail in your old passports or do we get to use them until the new ones come in?

Hotel vs. Airbnb

We’ve vacationed in the summer for six years in this cottage a few blocks from the beach near Santa Barbara. I can’t wait for our time there this summer!

When we get away, we like to stay in VRBOs or Airbnbs — most of the time.

Since the time my son was one year’s old, we rented a house in Laguna Beach in the summer with another family from our hot desert. We rented directly from the homeowners (pre-VRBO era). The owners were school teachers who left for Alaska once the school year was over. We’d split the summer in two and overlap with the other family for a fun weekend.

My husband would commute back and forth for long beach weekends, while I’d stay with the kids the entire time. Not a bad deal, but with toddlers I remember I was tired. Still, much better than being in the desert with temperatures 100 to 126 degrees!

At Christmas the past two years, we’ve rented a house for a week — big enough for our Christmas Crew that varies from 10 to 14 people. We love being together under one roof and cooking Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts.

For the past 10 years, since my son was in college at UC Santa Barbara, we traded Laguna Beach for Santa Barbara. We stay at least a week and sometimes almost a month. My husband works remotely, so he sets up shop there.

When don’t we stay in Airbnb’s or VRBOs?

When we are going away for a quick trip, like a weekend, we stay in hotels. First of all, there are usually cleaning deposits and other charges that make a VRBO expensive for two nights. If you’re staying for a week or more, it can be more affordable to rent a house or condo and cook most meals.

When our kids were swimmers, we’d stay in hotels. We’d have to get to the pool early for warm-ups, get back to the hotel so they could rest between prelims and finals. The hectic schedule made the hotel much easier. I didn’t have to prepare meals, grocery shop or do dishes. I could order from the hotel restaurant or drive for takeout.

What’s your preference? Hotels or VRBOs and WHY?

Who knew “Little Hollywood” is in Utah?

Kanab Utah Little Hollywood sign.
The Little Hollywood sign in Kanab, Utah.

As soon as we crossed the border to Utah, a loud crack hit the windshield right at my head.
“Welcome to Utah,” Siri announced from Apple maps. Large trucks barreled by us throwing up rocks in their path.

Last time we drove home from Utah our windshield got cracked due to big trucks. We’re two for two on Utah and windshields.

We left our Sonoran desert, crossed the green forest of Flagstaff, passed by the Grand Canyon’s south and north rims across Navajo Country to Lake Powell. Once in Utah (with the cracked windshield) we drove the final one hour leg of the journey to Kanab, Utah to spend the night.

It was an adorable town of 4,998 people filled with mom and pop motels where you pull your car up to the room’s front door. The woman at the motel desk told us the town’s best restaurant was next door, “The Rocking V Cafe.” Dinner was both delicious and affordable.

Rocking V Cafe in Kanab Utah
The Rocking V Cafe at the end of the block.

We walked around town and discovered why Kanab is known as “Little Hollywood.” My husband said, “This looks like where Westerns were filmed.”

Plaque in Kanab for the Lone Ranger.
Along our walk we noticed many plaques like The Lone Ranger one above. My brother and I used to play The Lone Ranger and Tonto when we were kids. I was always Tonto of course. It was in the 1960s, so we must have been watching reruns.
Randolph Scott plaque in Kanab.
Another one of the many plaques honoring the celebrities who made movies in Kanab.
Residential street in Kanab with red rocks.
A view of a residential street in Kanab. The town was friendly, safe and I felt like I time warped to the 1960s.
Church bells in the morning in Kanab.

What sights traveling have you enjoyed? What things were new to you?

What other joys of road trips — besides cracked windshields — have you experienced?

Too much stuff

This is stuff I’m lining up for my husband to pack in the car. Missing in the photo are our two suitcases, mesh swim bags, laptop computers and all my husband’s work monitors and computers.

Just a bit of the stuff we’re taking on vacation. I miss the days when we first got married. We’d throw our sleeping bags in the car and take off.

Now we bring half the kitchen with us. That includes our small Keurig because hubby drinks decaf and I like caf. A pot of coffee doesn’t work for us and we both like just one cup each.

One of the biggest things taking up space is vitamins. We are hefty consumers of anything that promises a return to youth and the end to pain.

I also take fruit, a cooler full of condiments, frozen steak and chicken to cook in the airbnb — and sandwiches for the road. Cheese and crackers and a bottle of wine. I have to take a jug or two of water. We are traveling through the desert.

Then there’s the swim gear, hiking sticks, hiking boots, hats, sunscreen etc.

My husband likes his own pillows. So why not take four?

The computer is packed, so I’m trying to write this on my phone.

When you travel do you pack light or full on Clampetts like us?

On the way to the wedding

Taco station interior in Riverside.
We were looking for breakfast burritos and ran across the “Taco Station.” Yes, that’s a real car.

We had a seven-hour drive to get our friend’s children’s wedding in Temecula, Calif. We left Friday afternoon and drove to Riverside to sleep for the night. Saturday morning we took a walk while the temps were in the 60s. It felt wonderful. We stayed downtown in a hotel we often stayed at for CIF (California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for California high school sports) for our son and daughter’s championship high school swim meets. It felt nostalgic. Memories surfaced about the hours spent in the hotel between prelims and finals. Our daughter would take ice baths after her morning swims and put her legs up against the wall while laying on her back. This was her way to recover and prepare for finals.

We were craving a breakfast burrito — probably because that was the staple breakfast at swim meets throughout Southern California — prepared by the hosting swim team.

We found one spot during our walk that was packed! So it had to be good. It’s called the Taco Station.

Taco Station fun interior based on filling stations.
Inside Taco Station in Riverside
The theme of Taco Station is a filling station. There was a ton of memorabilia from old filling stations.
We split this breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, sausage, potatoes. Delicious! We bought two burritos, but I’m grateful we didn’t eat them both! They were huge. We’ll have something to munch on during the seven-hour drive home. I don’t know when we’ll be back to stay in Riverside. It’s not on our bucket list, but if we do, we’ll be back to Taco Station.

The food looked amazing.
Outside view of Taco Station.

What are some of the fun, off-the-wall diners or restaurants have you discovered? Where were they and what type of food did they serve?

A taste of the Santa Barbara Harbor

One of the best things about beach vacations to me is fresh seafood. For more than 30 years, we’ve gone to a restaurant with fresh, fresh seafood in Santa Barbara. It’s called Brophy Bros. and it overlooks the boats at the Marina.

steamed clams at Brophy's Santa Barbara
Linguine and clams at Brophy Bros. at the marina in Santa Barbara

Brophy’s added a small taco shop with outdoor tables downstairs called On the Alley.

Whenever we’re in Santa Barbara we stop at On the Alley. This past trip we went twice for fish tacos. And we took our good friends to Brophy Bros. to treat them to dinner after enjoying many of their home-cooked meals. They introduced us to the restaurant in the early 1990s!

Yesterday, my husband and I went to the Farmer’s Market and had a hankering for a fish taco. On the Alley had a huge line out the door to order. They had people milling around in droves waiting for picnic tables to sit. They held on to their order numbers, hoping to to sit down before the food arrived. I saw some people sitting on the curb.

wave crashing at breakwall Santa Barbara marina
A wave crashing over the breakwall at the Santa Barbara Marina. We walk here after meals.

My husband suggested going upstairs to the main Brophy’s restaurant. The hostess stationed at the bottom of the stairs told us it would be an hour wait for a table. But the bar was first come first serve.

Guess what? Two seats smack in the center of the bar — complete with open air marina views — were ours! We each had a cup of chowder and split an order of fish and chips. My year-long quest for the best fish and chips is over! The fish was piping hot, moist, delicious and the batter was light, crunchy and not heavy.

View from the Brophy Brothers bar
View from the bar at Brophy’s Santa Barbara where we had cups of chowder and fish and chips.

Well worth the wait — but even better without it.

Do you have favorite restaurants to go to on vacation? Or certain food you savor? What are they?

Baja fish tacos from On the Alley.
Sunset at the harbor.