Tag Archives: Holidays

Holidays in California

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in California during the holiday time. From visiting the Aquarium, spending time at the beach, going shopping, hanging out downtown and at the Farmer’s Market, enjoying home cooked meals and time with family in my hometown in Monterey; to seeing friends in LA and relaxing at Miracle Springs Resort & Spa at Desert Hot Springs; to spending Christmas with family friends, stopping by the Chumash Casinos and checking out the charming town of Solvang (Danish Capital of America), it was a wonderful mini-vacation.

Christmas in Monterey, CA

I love the glittering, dazzling lights and decorations of the Portola Hotel lobby.

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This colorful and lovely Christmas tree is displayed in the middle of the Del Monte Shopping Center.

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Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA

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Even though I have seen many of the exhibits already, I always feel a sense of wonder and magic while watching the brilliant sea life all around me. Also, I love seeing the new exhibits and activities that make the experience even more enjoyable.

Some of my favorite displays are the playful otters, cute penguins, beautiful jellyfish, brightly colored fish of hot pink/electric blue and yellow etc, mystical kelp forest, school of fish forming shapes together, formidable sharks, majestic sea turtles and the fact that the Aquarium is connected to the natural ocean front and there are outdoor areas throughout where you can witness the amazing views of the Monterey Bay/Pacific Ocean.

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Miracle Springs Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs, CA

Truly wonderful place with a beautiful lobby – Plush comfortable seats, nice Christmas tree and lights, huge windows that overlook the amazing landscaping, pools and hot tubs.

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We headed to the pool and jacuzzis, which are all natural hot and cold springs. I started in one of the hot tubs which was quite warm and incredibly relaxing. It felt amazing to just soak in the hot tub and let the water and jets flow over me. After a bit I went to the biggest pool, where the temperature was cooler, but wasn’t cold by any means…It felt more lukewarm and big enough to swim back and forth, which I enjoyed. Later, we spent time in a smaller jacuzzi which was still pretty warm, but not as hot as the first one. Also, the jets were stronger in that one so it was great to feel that on my back, feet and was sort of like a massage. These hot tubs are the perfect place to unwind and take away any stress you might be feeling!

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Christmas Time in Santa Rosa, CA

My mom and I joined a family friends in celebrating Christmas together, where I got to meet my friend’s adorable and sweet one year old son, Sebastian!

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We also had a delicious Christmas feast of two different types of prime rib, ham, stuffing, roasted potatoes, creamy mushroom dish and not pictured: Potato salad, medley of roasted vegetables, apple pie and homemade cookies!

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Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Inez, CA

We spent Christmas evening here since we were a few hours from home. I loved the Christmas tree in the lobby and the rooms were lovely and comfortable.

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Day at Solvang, CA (Danish Capital of America)

We had a nice time exploring and enjoying the cute and charming town of Solvang, in Santa Barbara County, soaking up the festive atmosphere.

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At Solvang Restaurant, we had to order the famous aebleskiver, which is the traditional Danish pancake, in the shape of a ball, sitting in raspberry sauce and topped with powdered sugar. They were fluffy and doughy, though I thought the sauce was a bit too sweet and the aebleskivers themselves didn’t have a ton of flavor. But they were certainly presented beautifully.

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Beaches in Monterey and Marina, CA

I also had the pleasure of spending time on the gorgeous, glorious beaches in Monterey County.

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Holidays in Monterey

I spent the holidays in Monterey, California visiting with family and friends. It felt wonderful to be home for a couple weeks and enjoyed the home cooking, baking, trying new restaurants, watching movies, shopping, going to the aquarium/downtown/Fisherman’s Wharf, catching up with friends and getting into the Christmas spirit of joy, love and wonder.

Here are from scenes from around the town of Monterey.

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Seasons Greetings from Fisherman’s Wharf

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Boats at Fisherman’s Wharf

Christmas Tree at Del Monte Shopping Center

I also enjoyed home cooking. One of the first meals I had back home was pork chops with onion, fried rice (made with purple rice), salad and a medley of colorful vegetables: Carrots, mushroom, celery. Everything tasted fresh, flavorful and wonderful.

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Another one of my favorite meals was made at a family friend’s place. We had Filipino style noodles with chicken, shrimp, carrots and lettuce. Then we made some fish with onions and shrimp with celery. For dessert, an assortment of cookies (some of them made by me!)

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I loved the homemade lamb chop dish that I helped make. The lamb was seasoned perfectly and tasted tender and delicious. We also added onion and potato, which paired beautifully with the lamb.

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On Christmas day, some family friends came over and we made Chinese steamed dumplings. We created the filling of sticky rice, mushrooms, meat and green onion from scratch and wrapped it in the dumpling skins. After that, they were steamed and they came out a bit soft but still very tasty, especially with some spicy soy sauce.

 

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I made some baked goods as well… The classic chocolate chip cookies and also Christmas cookies with nuts and raisin filling, which we make every holiday season.

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We had fun getting into the holiday spirit by decorating the house with stockings over the fireplace, poinsettias and other flowers, mini Christmas tree…

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Since we didn’t have an actual Christmas tree, we visited family friends who did.

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On Christmas Eve, I had a chance to go to Candy Cane Lane (yes, that is an actual street name) and each house has to decorate on the outside so there is are tons of beautiful lights, displays and a center area with sleigh, reindeer, life size gingerbread house and more. It’s like a magical Christmas Winter Wonderland!

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Monterey2014_candy cane lane

Below was one of my favorite decorated houses. I just loved the sparkling lights, the bits of blue and red in between the white and the reindeer going up to the chimney! I thought it was both sophisticated and adorable at the same time.

Monterey2014_lightsChristmas morning I made French toast then we opened presents.

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We had dinner at Benihana, where I had a $30 gift certificate for my birthday. We had a great time and great meal there, as usual. It is always fun to watch the chef prepare our meals with finesse and skill. I ordered a passion fruit smoothie with strawberry swirls which was sweet, refreshing and delightful. I would have liked a bit more strawberry flavor though. For my meal, I had Filet Mignon and shrimp, which came with a multitude of sides and appetizers including soup, salad, chicken fried rice, shrimp and vegetables: Mushroom, zucchini and onion. Everything was well made and delicious. I also had chocolate ice cream which came with a lit candle in it and one of the servers played the drums and sang Happy Birthday!

Monterey2014_benihanaSoon after Christmas (2 days), it was my birthday! A friend of mine took me to Carmel for exploring, shopping and lunch at Cypress Inn, a super cute place owned by Doris Day, where they allow dogs. I had the fish and chips, which came with garlic french fries and it tasted amazing. The fish was fried to perfection with great flavor and the french fries were crispy and well seasoned.

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Afterwards, I came home to a lovely surprise party! It was filled with amazing friends, great food, wonderful gifts and a delectable ice cream cake.

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Below are some presents that I received: Clothes, money, scarves, accessories, chocolate and more. Some of my favorite gifts: A gorgeous gold heart necklace with diamonds and a scrapbook of Memories/my life that was made with love and care.

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Monterey2014_scrapbook

I had a wonderful holiday back home in California and hope that all your holidays were also beautiful and filled with love, family, friends, spectacular food and fun!

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Holiday Dinner Party

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We recently had a lovely holiday dinner party with great company and loads of delicious food!

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Appetizers

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  • Arabic mini-spinach and za’atar bites (Left hand side in photo above)

*Za’atar is a Middle Eastern green and bright yellow spice mixture that is a blend of herbs, sesame and salt. I thought the Za’atar wrapped bites were tastier than the spinach ones.

  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Assorted Vegetables & Dip
  • Shrimp Cocktail with Spicy Red Sauce

Entrees

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  • Honey ham with Pumpkin

*The ham was wonderful– Full of flavor, tender, slightly caramelized. The pumpkin didn’t actually cook fully in the time it took to cook the ham, so I would suggest substituting the pumpkin with pieces of potatoes and/or onion.

  • Parisian Salad with Walnuts, Cranberries, Feta Cheese & Balsamic Dressing
  • Fresh Crab with Ginger Soy Sauce

*Very delicious and since the crab legs were already cracked, easy to get to the meat.

  • Nian Gao (Sticky Noodles) with Chicken, Carrots, and Mushroom

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  • Kung Pao Chicken with Red Peppers
  • Eggplant and Garlic
  • Fish with Ginger Teriyaki Sauce

Desserts

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  • Chocolate-Raspberry Noel Log

*This was my favorite dessert– Decorated beautifully and tasted heavenly. The chocolate was incredibly rich, smooth, and pure. The bit of raspberry swirl complemented the cake well.

  • Japanese Mochi with Red Bean Filling
  • Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Traditional Christmas Cookies with Raisin, Nuts & Sugar Filling

*It’s one of our family traditions to make this delightful treat during the holiday time. They are crispy-chewy flaky morsels of sweetness and topped with red & green sprinkles for the season.

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I hope that your holiday was filled with much food, family, friends and festivities! Here’s to a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!

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NYC Holiday Walk

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It’s that time of year again… Sparkling holiday window displays, lit up wreaths & beautifully decorated Christmas trees, holiday markets, snowfall & glittering snowflakes and (hopefully) the feeling of joy & good cheer.

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Some friends and I did a holiday walking tour along 5th Avenue, where we hit up classics such as Bergdorf Goodman, Columbus Circle, gorgeous hotels, Rockefeller Center and more. Of course I sighed at the sight of Tiffany & Co, their windows showcasing mini apartments against velvety-blue city skyline dotted with lit windows, sprinkled with brilliant rings and other pieces of jewelry.

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I loved Bergdorf Goodman: Truly lovely, intricate designs and couture gowns. The first display was of a shiny white tree with icicles hanging from the ceiling. The next display, a patriotic affair of red, white, blue, complete with soldiers and a white horse. Third display showed a blue mountainous background with ice sculptures of a bear and other animals. The last was everything pink, girly with a crystal chandelier.

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Next was Barneys, which boasted light projections, 3-D displays, LED screens and lots of silver and gold. “Collaborating with one of the City’s best-loved exports, Jay Z, the upscale retailer presents displays that are visually magnetic, multidimensional and interactive. One window features a jagged structure covered in thousands of mirrors that glimmer and glisten in a burst of reflections and patterns, while another displays a futuristic floating model of NYC that changes from white to brown to yellow and back to white thanks to a series of light projections.”

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We then came across Maison 24, and I fell in love with their window displays… They combined some of my favorite things: Glitter, unicorns, hearts, the colors pink & silver…

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We stopped by a couple of places, such as The Peninsula then came across the famous store front of Harry Winston and the building wrapped like a present.

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Then there was Saks Fifth Avenue window display that showcases the adorable and colorful story of Yeti, the abominable snowman and his journey from Siberia to NYC.

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And then some beautiful fashionable displays of dresses and suits… I especially liked the rose gold gown with sparkling sequin-like flower detail cascading down the dress.

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Next we came to Rockefeller Center and caught sight of the traditional display of lit up angels lining the walk toward the center. The tree wasn’t up yet, but it was still a sight to behold.

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I also loved the glow of snowflakes against the building across from Rockefeller Center. If you go before 6p, you’ll be able to witness the magical display of moving snowflakes, music and light.

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And of course the very pretty twinkling blue lights in the trees surrounding the Rockefeller Center area.

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Other Must See Holiday Window Displays: Lord & Taylor and Macy’s. May you all have a beautiful holiday season, filled with family, friends, warmth and love!

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Gilroy Gardens Holiday Lights

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Gilroy Gardens Holiday Lights

We took a family trip to Gilroy Gradens Holiday Lights which was a wonderland of millions of lights and endless wonder. As you walk through the entrance, you are transported to Candy Cane Lane, where the trees are lined with lights and lit up large candy canes.

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Candy Cane Lane

Continuing on, you will see trees, bushes, buildings covered in colorful, bright lights.  Then, there is fake snow swirling about and both Sally & Snoopy from Charlie Brown, are there to give you a friendly greeting.  There are also fun souvenir shops and rides, such as the beautifully exquisite carosuel.

We got to see the Waterfall Illumination, which showed a music and lights display. The display was quite a magical experience. It starts off with the waterfall becoming pitch black, then lights of red, green, pink, purple, and blue, dance to the beat of “Little Drummer Boy.”

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Waterfall Illumination

Afterwards, we went on a train ride around the Gardens. It was nice to be able to see all the different areas around the park. We ended the night by seeing “A Charlie Brown Christmas” show which featured Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Linus and Snoopy, in a performance about the true meaning of Christmas. Though the play was targeted to children, I still enjoyed watching the very adorable and fun musical. The characters did a great job with telling a story, helping us to really get into the holiday spirit. One of my favorite parts was when Snoopy was trying to light the Christmas tree, which didn’t work but after we all chanted, “Peace on Earth; good will towards men,” the tree miraculously lit up!

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Charlie Brown Christmas

We did a little exploring before leaving and got to see an area full of delicious & huge looking lit up cupcakes, gingerbread cookies, and lollipops. We also came across the Butterfly exhibit, which was nice with leafy greens, red flowers, large trees, decorated Christmas trees of all different colors. Then, we happened across a great big hall called the Snowflake Palace which had tons of lights strung up on top, creating a gorgeous sparkling view that was a sight to behold.

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Snowflake Palace

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Christmas in the City

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

I’ve always loved Christmas in New York City, with all the beautifully decorated trees, pretty colorful lights, holiday markets, window shop displays, 5th Avenue, and the feeling of joy & good cheer. Before going back to CA for the holidays, I spent the day with some wonderful friends and got to experience all that the NYC holiday scene has to offer.

We met at the New York Public Library at Bryant Park, by the huge and magnificient stately Christmas tree, with pillars and candles on either side of it.

NY Library

NY Library

After marveling at the beauty of the tree, we headed to the Bryant Park Holiday Market, which was lovely and quite charming. We all enjoyed having our hands washed with soap, salt scrub, warm water and then pampered with lotion that made our hands baby soft and smooth. The tree there was also nice, with blue lights and silver ornaments and a star on top.

We continued on and checked out the window displays on the shops at 5th Avenue. There was everything from gorgeous high fashion and elaborate designs, to the cutesy, snowy and fun displays.

Bergdorf's Window

Bergdorf’s Window

Saks Window

Saks Window

We then of course passed by the beautiful Rockefeller Christmas tree and angels…

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

We also went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the display of Jesus’ impending birth, illuminated with red candles shining brightly in front.

 And of course we witnessed some of the staples of the season: Red bow tied at the side of a building to make it look like a life size present; sparkling belt buckles of twinkling gold lights; decked out lights, diamond accents, greenery in front of Harry Winston (jewelry); a huge brightly white glittering snowflake in the air; a very large scorpion-like bird in bright lights alongside Bvlgari’s shop…

Belt Buckles

Belt Buckles

Harry Winston

Harry Winston

 We finished up at the Plaza Hotel, where I saw my favorite tree yet. It had white lights, gold balls and the best part- cascading glittering silver snowflakes surrounding the tree.

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Wishing you and yours the very best this Holiday Season!

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