After the fun of 2012, I lobbied pretty hard for a vacation as soon as Max’s school schedule allowed. Hello, Thanksgiving!

We drove down to Santa Barbara for a week to get a change of scenery. While I enjoy Monterey/Carmel quite a bit, we needed some sunshine. Santa Barbara was as far as we had to go to get out of the rains.

Claire loves Santa Barbara. How could she not. There is a carousel near the wharf. Each horse has a name, or so Claire tells me. This one was named “Longo.”

We ate at some spectacular restaurants. Brophy Brothers was divine. We waited a full hour to get seated at the bar, and it was worth it.

We visited Los Agaves twice. And we discovered a relatively new restaurant called Scarlett Begonia that had the best breakfast I’ve ever experienced. We had a chance to chat for a few minutes with the owner, Krista. She has the best attitude towards her restaurant… healthy, organic, locally sourced ingredients and an experimental menu.

The food was so good I broke my own rules about taking obsessive pictures of food. Presentation was lovely, but it didn’t even come close to the taste. Yes, we’ll be back.

Max had french toast with mascarpone. (Just don’t call it cheese or he won’t eat it.)

Mark had a reuben with homemade rye. Me, I stay away from bread, but after tasting the almond-apricot sourdough, jeez, it was sooo good.

Claire worked on her artwork while we waited. I did not tell her what she had inadvertently spelled out while practicing letters.

I think of all of the food we had in Santa Barbara, Scarlett Begonia blew us away.

More importantly, Krista’s story was inspiring. She breaks all of the rules. Other people told her to run her restaurant differently, but she stuck to her vision. The end result is a restaurant that is far and away better than any others I’ve encountered.

We’re not here to follow the rules. We’re here to live from our hearts, follow our dreams, pursue our passions. Krista runs a restaurant that makes me want to be a chef.

Of course, I’m never going to be a professional chef. My passions lie elsewhere, I think. But her commitment to her dream and ideals inspire me to remain committed to my own dreams, ideals, and passions.

It’s always nice when a breakfast serves you more than just food. 🙂

We also visited the beach more times than I care to mention. I enjoyed it immensely, but kids end up wetter and colder than they like, so it never ends well. They like to play chicken with the waves. Life lesson: waves always win.

We visited the zoo. Claire fed a giraffe.

She also went sledding with cardboard on fake grass. Who needs snow anyway?

Overall, it was a great vacation, and very much needed. It’s funny, because in retrospect, it feels like it was mostly Claire’s vacation. She knew exactly what she wanted to do, so she made that happen. Max was happy exploring State Street, checking out cars, and relaxing with his beloved computer. Mark was happy just being in the sunshine. And I was happy sampling local coffees and exploring.

And now, we’re preparing for holidays back in Mount Shasta. We missed out on a Thanksgiving dinner, so I am preparing a Sunday dinner that has traditional Thanksgiving foods. But we all still have sand in our shoes… and it will take some time to re-acclimate. Still, Shasta is a delightful place to come home to.