Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Joys of Travel and Homecoming

After two weeks on the road staying in various places, our family has returned home. I love to travel and I love the way travel memories punctuate the everyday sort of memories of my life. I love to dream about trips, plan trips, be on trips, and also to return home from trips. 

When I was 16 or 17 years old I began saving for and planning a trip to Europe. As high school graduation neared I had saved enough for a round-trip ticket from SFO to Amsterdam, a 3-month Eurail Pass, and $2000 in spending money. For 10 weeks, 18-year-old me traveled through Europe and Morocco either alone or with friends I met along the way. It was a life changing experience in a good way. It built my confidence as an emerging adult, it cemented my life-long (so far!) passion for travel, and it left me with an optimistic view of humanity.

Since our son was born in 2006 our style of travel has changed, at least temporarily. Gone is the complete lack of itinerary and the moving to a new spot almost daily trying to see as much of a state or country as possible. With the added expense and logistics of traveling with three, we have been doing more car trips and vrbos (vacation rentals by owner). We have discovered the joy of going somewhere and staying in just one place for the duration. It is nice to get to know a new town and discover its secrets, to create a mini-routine in a new environment, to settle in a bit.

The trip we just returned from was a vrbo/family-holiday-trip combo. We were searching for warmth and found it all along the way in the form of sunny weather, pleasant temperatures, and kind family members. Food highlights were many and included:

  • Eating fresh seafood in Morro Bay on the central coast of California where we spent 4 nights. Think oyster po-boys, fish tacos, fresh fish and chips....
  • Drinking local Peachy Canyon Incredible Red
  • Making guacamole with local Morro Bay avocados purchased directly from an orchard east of town
  • Making chocolate Christmas mice with my aunt-in-law
  • Finding a big bag of oranges with a "Free! Merry Christmas!" sign on it in front of a lovely home with citrus trees near the Mission in Santa Barbara
  • Our absolutely scrumptious Thai food Christmas Eve Dinner (Meun Fan Thai Cafe, Mesa area) in Santa Barbara
  • Food gifts from family that included: a huge jar of my parents' solar dried tomatoes, another of apples, and one of preserved farm lemons; store bought olive oil, almonds, salsa, dried figs, and agave syrup; and a large bag of perfect Meyer lemons from my in-laws tree.
  • Drinking Zenaida Cellars 2005 Zinfandel
  • John Ash's crab corn bisque made by dad 
  • Breakfast at Howard's Station Cafe (Howard's) in Occidental
  • Sweet fresh Dungeness crab (Seafood Watch Best Choice) for New Year's Eve dinner

Kinda cute, right?

My son found this carrot
in my parents' garden
Sweet west coast winter delicacy
Citrus and dried food bounty upon return home
Lemons ready for limoncello (next post)
Inside the oranges
One of the things I like about returning home from a trip is getting back to my own kitchen where I know where everything is kept and the heft of particular kitchen tools is so familiar. Although I love improvising meal preparation during travels, moving around in my own humble kitchen feels luxurious in its ample, casual, relaxed, natural way.

Here are a few more photos from our trip. We had a wonderful time and are happy to be home beginning an optimistic 2012.
Morro Rock, Morro Bay, Ca
Montagne de Oro State Park
Sunset from the top of Black Hill, Morro Bay, Ca
Enjoy! Happy New Year! Look for a post on making limoncello soon!


  1. OMG that's one huge carrot. Are you sure that's not Photoshopped?

  2. Welcome home we missed you. That carrot is outrageous, I am very jealous!!!!

  3. ps The photos of trip are lovely and the mice are so cute!

  4. I know what to do with a carrot that size. It weighs approximately one pound. Here is a recipe for one pound of Moroccan carrot salad:

    1 lb. carrots peeled and thinly sliced
    1 tsp. salt
    2 Tbsp. olive oil
    1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
    2 garlic cloves minced
    1 tsp. ground cumin
    1 to 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
    1 to 2 Tbsp. minced fresh mint leaves

    Steam carrots till they can be pierced with a fork, but are not yet soft. Cool and sprinkle with salt. Add remaining ingredients and toss lightly but thoroughly. Season with freshly ground black pepper and any additional salt or cumin to taste. Best served at room temperature.

    Try it; you'll like it.

  5. Wow, thanks for the recipe. In the summertime there is mint growing all around our backyard and fresh parsley right out the back door too. I will definitely try the salad then if not sooner!