December in Photos

December has been a whirlwind month, but I guess it always is. This December was a little different for me because I was lucky to be on sabbatical and able to work on my project at home. The time at home made me realize how busy December is, but I got to have rest days between all the holiday commitments and that was awesome! Made me want to win the lottery and not have to work all over again....

Looking back at my iPhone I found some great photos of the month. It started with Pomegranate Jelly making with my Mom and sisters. Last year the tree was pruned so we did not make jelly and this year the weather and drought in California limited the number of pomegranates on the tree, but we still made a few batches! And we made waffles and a big breakfast to keep us working.

Next the Little Sister organized a Cocktails and Cookies, cookie exchange party. What a crazy sugar overload that was! The Middle Sister was in charge of cocktails and had build your own Champagne cocktails (five of them) and then a peppermint white Russian and an Apple Cider cocktail with some Italian soda options as well.

We enjoyed the Huntington Harbor Boat Parade with my Dad and Jan and then I found some funny and inspirational signs at Nordstroms when having lunch with a friend.

The sisters and I went to The Nutcracker and I was given holiday cookies by lots of neighbors. I feel like this was new this season, but very nice.

Samson The Grey Cat was not too into the holiday spirt, but our friends were and we had an amazing Prime Rib dinner and spent a Girl's Day checking out MaxLove Project and Pueblo Tapas!

The sisters and I made ravioli for Christmas Eve (Spinach pasta with butternut squash and Lobster and Crab ravioli), we had Christmas breakfast with the Moms and Christmas dinner with Dad.

Then T and I headed up to Mammoth where he is skiing and there is just a bit of snow falling right now. We went to Mono Lake one afternoon and are planning on having a cozy New Year's Eve in with the Fish Whisperer.

It was a bit nastalgic to look over my photos from the month of December. Made me realize I need to take more photos of people! It might be the coming of a new year and the time spent with family and friends, but I am thankful for my life and all those in it. Here is to looking forward to a great 2015! Cheers!


Inspired: Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Year of the Horse (2014) has been a pretty inspirational year. I have found myself inspired by little and big things. Even bad things inspired me to be a better person. I guess I just started looking for the silver lining when ever I found myself in a cloud.... which wasn't too often luckily.
I can't remember who recommended I read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad; but someone did and I picked it up at the library a month or so ago. I slowly worked my way through it (renewing a few times) and have just completed it. In a nutshell, the book is about a kid (Robert) and his friend Mike who ask Mike's Dad (Rich Dad) how to be rich and the lessons the author Robert T. Kiyosaki learns from his "Rich Dad" and his real Dad who he calls his "Poor Dad" because that dad never made any money. The book is full of stories and lessons and while some of the things Robert does to become rich are a little dated (the book was published in 1997) the overall book is inspirational and informative. So much so that I got some other books at the library about the same subject. If I had owned this book I would have underlined a lot of little sayings Robert had but the only two I wrote down were:

"Often in the real world, it's not the smart that get ahead but the bold." -Robert T. Kiyosaki

"Listening is more important than talking. If that were not true, God would not have given us two ears and only one mouth." -Robert T. Kiyosaki

He makes a good point that we are not taught how to be financially literate in our society and that really hit home for me. I had just recently started thinking about retirement (it's a long way off right now) and this book helped me realize I was not taking responsibility for that part of my life. It helped me step back and look at some of my grown up investments. It also helped me look at my own consumerism with a critical eye. Now granted, maybe that is not what everyone wants to do so this book might not be for you, but like I said, I am looking to be inspired, and this book inspired me.


December Solstice 2014

Happy December Solstice 2014!  In the Northern Hemisphere we call it the Winter Solstice and it is the day with the shortest amount of daylight.  In the Southern Hemisphere it is the Summer Solstice with the day with the most amount of daylight.  For this reason people call it the December Solstice because it is a solstice in both hemispheres.  Looks like I DID learn something in geography....

In honor of the short amount of daylight we will have today, I slept in and waited until the sun was up before getting out of bed.  This is not a usual occurrence for me. I usually am up before the sun and have seen more sunrises than sunsets in recent years.  I still deny being a "morning person" because I am not a very happy person in the morning, just someone who happens to get up early.  Like most people who work....

Now that I think about it, maybe I should have watched the sunrise today...because the pagan solstice is about the rebirth of the sun, but I think today is when they celebrate the rebirth starting tomorrow because the daylight starts to lengthen again tomorrow.  So a sunset tonight and a sunrise tomorrow should be just fine.

But T and I did celebrate life with an amazing Prime Rib feast last night with old friends and fabulous weather.  I think we should make it a tradition.

Do you have December Solstice traditions, or are the holidays tradition enough for most of us?


2 nights in Morro Bay

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Morro Bay, CA as part of a field studies trip.  I previously went to the Eastern Sierra and then Death Valley on other field study trips and it was nice to visit the central coast while doing this one.  T and I went to Cal Poly and lived in San Luis Obispo for five years.  Every time I visit that area I miss it and this was no exception.  We had fabulous weather, the students were AMAZING, and I got to learn and explore new places on the central coast.

Our first stop was Coal Oil Point in Santa Barbara where we learned about the snowy plover, grey whale migration, coal seep, water basins, and a ton of other things.  It was a truly inspiring place and one of the really cool things about it was that UCSB (who owns the land) is working on keeping the beach open to the public while also working on all these preservation efforts.

We were camping and stayed at the Morro Bay State Park group campsite.  It was separated from the other sites with the golf course on one side and a view of the Los Osos and the estuary on the other.

Day two was filled and after breakfast and packing a lunch we hiked Black Hill to get a panoramic view of the area. We learned about the physical geography, the ancient volcanic activity, and a little history of the famous smoke stacks power plant.  

Our next stop was the Elfin Forest, where all the flora has been stunted because of the growing conditions. The forest spreads over ninety acres and has eight different eco systems.  Here is a photo of the group under the stunted Coastal Live Oak grove.  The blond on the right was my driving buddy Joel.  He was rad and totally photo bombed my photo here.

Next we stopped on the Embarcadero for a little urban / cultural geography.  We found an injured seal and Mo called wildlife rescue while the students explored the cute beach shops.  It was an perfectly beautiful day.

From the Embarcadero we went to The Rock for a geography lecture and to see the Peregrine Falcons that live on The Rock and the Sea Otter Nursery.  The wind had picked up and it was cold out there! Here you can just make out the male falcon.

And here is Joel, chain walking after the geology lecture.  He is a rock climber, can you tell?  Every rope, chain, and fence post was calling his name.  As a person who trips over her own feet, I was a little jealous of his balancing techniques.

 That evening we played two truths and a lie and the next morning we packed up camp before visiting the estuary boardwalk and the harbor.

This was one of my favorite field study trips.  The students were truly fantastic.  Our weather couldn't have been better and Mo organized everything so well.  Everyone worked together to make the trip a success and I was glad I got to be part of it!  Now should I do the one this summer to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks?


December Workout

I have had the most fabulous Thanksgiving break.  It started with a great Thanksgiving dinner.  Dinner that was served at 5:30pm so I had the morning to exercise and then the day to "cook" crock-pot mashed potatoes based on THIS RECIPE and make sweet whipped potatoes and a Christmas Salad.  The cooking was minimal.  Then my sisters and I watched all the Harry Potter movies over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  All eight of them!  I also did some gardening, had friends over for dinner and we have Christmas lights up on our house.  It was a pretty good four days.  And in the midst of all of that, I thought I needed to come up with a workout for December.

A few Decembers ago T and I did the Whole 30 and it was a challenge.  This December I wanted a bit of a challenge, but mostly I just want to feel strong again.  And to maybe kick myself into workout gear now that my semester is soon going to be over and I will be back in the office in January.  I am  over-committed sometimes so I thought about this one a lot.  I have a 200+ miles running challenge starting on December 3rd and I wanted to up my running and do the 30 Day Shred (everyday) for the month of December.  Everyday is hard, but "The Shred" is a good workout and only 30 minutes.  I look back over this blog and see I turn to it again and again.  Some people are committing to doing The Shred 3 times a week during December and I think that is great.  For me it is a challenge to Shred everyday, but I want to greet 2015 (OMG it is 2015!!!!) with a strong body and focused mind, and this is my road map for that goal.

Does anyone else make crazy goals in December?  Or is it just me?

I am going to check in here with my progress to see how I am doing over the month.  Wish me luck!

Week One= 100% Shred!
Week Two= 100% Shred.  Switched to Level 2 on day 11.
Week Three= Missed one day.  Switched to Level 3 on day 21.  So 20 out of 21 days so far!
Week Four = Two missed days.  Drove to the mountains and missed some days, but overall pretty happy with my month and only missing 3 days!


Tea at The Ritz

Tea at The Ritz was a Little Sister idea, but I have always loved the idea of tea with family and friends and was happy to join her is this adventure. I looked back over my blog and saw I have posted about tea before HERE. There is something elegent and special about high tea. And while I associated it with more of a female activity, I have dragged T to a high tea or two in Hong Kong and even he enjoyed it.

For this tea the sisters and I took our Mom. The Ritz is in Laguna Niguel or North Dana Point to the locals. It overlooks Salt Creek and this is the photo I snapped as we sat down to tea.

The Ritz is, well THE RITZ and everything was amazing. The Middle Sister is a vegitarian and The Ritz had customized some items for her. We had two servers the whole time and I never needing anything. Tea was at Raya and started with a glass of champagne.

Our table was intimate enought that we could have conversations and also big enough that we had enough room for our tea and such. Each tiered serving tray fed two people. Everything was very good. I preferred the strawberry preserves over the lemon curd for the scones and very much enjoyed the savory items on the tray.

Overall tea at The Ritz was a very enjoyable expierence and I would do it again. I would rate it higher than our tea at Pelican Hill because of the excellent service, variety of food served, and the view. If given an option between the two teas, The Ritz would be the winner today.


Chateau Ste Michelle Wine Dinner

Playing a bit of catch up on the blog today. First thing up is photos from the Chateau Ste Michelle Wine Dinner at Hennessy's Tavern Seal Beach from a few weeks ago. The place is a bit dark, so these are not my best photos, but something is better than nothing. And this meal was pretty good. I think the food was better than the wine this time. So without further ado, I give you dinner:

Autumn Salad. Frisee, hazelnut, apple, cranberries, shallot dressing paired with a Horse Heaven Salvignon Blanc.

Squash soup. Fried crab, ginger, butternut squash, green onion oil paired with an Indian Wells Chardonnay.

Seared Spiced Filet. Pumpkin risotto, asparagus, nutmeg compound butter, beet ink paired with Cold Creek Syrah.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee. Candied ginger, whipped cream paired with an Indian Wells Cabernet Salvignon.

And then Jan and I both won a bottle of wine in the raffel at the end of the evening! It was another great wine dinner at Hennessey's in Seal Beach.


2 nights in Santa Barbara

October was a month filled with weekend adventures and the last one I had was a wine tasting weekend in Santa Barbara with Russia AC and Mo. It was a combination wine and birthday weekend for Mo coupled with the fact that she grew up in Santa Barbara so we got to stay with her Mom! Have her Dad drive us around Santa Ynez on the second day! and got to meet some of her friends for dinner! Fabulous does not even begin to describe the trip.

It is always nice to visit a place with a local, and Santa Barbara was no exception. Though I have been there a number of times, it's always nice to hear the local story and stop at the local places. First on our list was La Super Rica for lunch on Friday. I have eaten here a few times before and I swear Mo said Oprah ruined it by making it one of her places to eat before you die. But maybe I heard wrong and she was talking about Julia Child who said it was one of her favorite places to eat. Who knew? And it is good, but I live near a community of good mexican food so you won't find me waiting in the hour long lines that are sometimes here. Lucky for us, our wait was about 5 minutes and my carne asada tacos and carnitas tacos with a watermelon aquafresca were a great way to start the weekend!
Next stop was the Funk Zone for some wine tasting! We got a great parking spot and then Mo told us that someone else was going to drive us home so we didn't need to figure out who was going to be the designated driver! Nice! Because you always need a DD....
We started at the Santa Barabara Winery and enjoyed the tasting on their patio. The weather was pretty amazing and we enjoyed relaxing into our day. We next tasted at AVA Santa Barbara that has tastings from different AVA's in SB and then met some of Mo's friends at Kalyra. AC was treating Mo to her tastings for her birthday and I bought her a super cool Ramshead wine pourer. I might of also gotten one for my sisters who live on Ramsgate....
From Kalyra we walked over to The Lark where we met up with Mo's Mom and Jeff. Dinner at The Lark did not disappoint and it was nice going with a bigger group so we could split lots of things. Two of our group were vegitarian until the week before we had dinner. And I think they were glad they were back on the meat wagon. This might be my second favorite resturant in SB.....
The next morning I got up early and went for a much needed run after my Friday wine tasting and dinner at The Lark. I found a trail and was hoping it I could make it to the beach, but that run was a little further than I thought, so I was content to run toward the beach through the oak trees.
After packing some snacks, Mo's Dad picked us up to go wine tasting in Santa Ynez (another Designated Driver!). We started at Brander. Her Dad had gotten tatings at an auction for Brander, and we thought, why not? As a matter of fact, a lot of people had given Mo's Mom or Dad tasting coupons to wineries they belonged to for that weekend. They knew we were going to be in town so they dropped off what they had. Really nice of them!
After Brander we made our way to Beckman Vineyards and I think this was my favorite place from day two. The vibe was casual and we had lunch in the gazebo. AC ended up joining the wine club here and I can't wait to try some more of this wine!
Our last winery of the day was Rusack Vineyards. I can't remember why this was on the list, but everyone wanted to go there. They had a great patio outside under oak trees where we had snacks and then would take our glasses in when we were ready for the next wine. Very casual vibe. Very nice.
That evening we had dinner with J-him and J-her from our Russia trip (here is the day J-him went fishing with the Russian captain and had to take a shot of vodka each time he caught a fish!). It was so cool to see them again! They are awesome people and it was great to hear about their other adventures.
Sunday morning we headed back home so I could make it to a wedding with a 9 course menu! All in all it was a pretty great trip. Each day we tasted at three places and had amazing food. Mo's parents were awesome and it is always nice to see them. We have been talking about doing a trip like this for years and it finally happend! It was a great way to end my October!
PS. Here is the menu from the wedding I went to that Sunday evening. Great food was in my belly all weekend long!