Holiday Events to Make Your Winter Spectacular

Christmas is around the corner–this means it’s time for a little celebration. No matter where you are, there’s going to be something to do. Some travel for Christmas, but others stay in town, enjoying the mild weather that California has to offer. If you’re not sure how to want to spend your holidays, have no fear. Here’s a list of things to do around town and abroad.

  1. Snow Day Los Angeles – With a discount code for five percent off, Snow Day LA is an annual spectacular tubing event that happens at Montecillo De Leo Politi Park. The tubing structure is directly built into the rolling hills of The Old Lodge. You would never think that it’s only five minutes away from Downtown LA. Jump on a tube today for as little as $12 and experience a whole lot of family fun. The experience includes lighted archways, decorated trees, an interactive light show and falling snow. VIP passes are also available, which includes a free onesie snuggie and unlimited activities. Parking is free but it is also first come first serve. Children under the age of three are free and those who are up to 12 years old receive a child ticket.
  2. Disney On Ice Presents: Dare to Dream – Happening at the Anaheim Honda Center, this $24 to $28 event includes five Disney heroines blazing the trail with courage with their own unique stories. See Moana, Elsa, Rapunzel, Belle and Cinderella discover their inner strength as they embark on their own missions. This will be Moana’s debut on ice, so you aren’t going to want to miss this.
  3. Winterfest: Holiday Cheer Comes to Santa Anita Park – With just a $5 cover charge for adults that includes a free cup of cocoa and a cookie, kids three and under can expect to get in free to this event. It’s fun for the whole family if you happen to be in Arcadia. If you’re trying to purchase package deals, there’s plenty to choose from. Winterfest includes ice skating, photos with Santa, ornament making and more holiday events for the entire family to enjoy.
  4. A Wild Wonderland of Light: L.A. Zoo Lights – This is definitely one of LA’s best holiday traditions. Sure, the animals are mostly asleep. But the entire grounds are illuminated with Christmas cheer. Featuring a new expanded route, get a peak into a winter wonderland filled with glowing light animals rendered by lasers, 3-D projections and musical water-and-light displays. Get an Instagram picture at the famous Twinkle Tunnel, or have a visit with Santa. There’s a plethora of things to do when coming down to the LA Zoo. Prices range from $11.50 to $18.
  5. Queen Mary Christmas – Lights, Santa, Carolers, Ice Rink & More – Get a taste of the North Pole right here in Long Beach. Stroll through the decks of the ship and experience a little bit of Christmas cheer wherever you turn. There’s synchronized twinkling lights, carolers and musical performances. On top of that, there’s an outdoor skating rink to enjoy as well on the Sports Deck. Get a chance to meet with Santa and spending quality time with your family.Prices range from $8 to $26. You can get a chance to feel the cheer all the way into January.
  6. Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade – A tradition that began over 100 years ago, this boat parade is one of the best of the best. If you’re in the Orange County area, it is a must-see for the entire family. Viewed by over 1.5 million people each season, the parade offers some of the largest decorated boats in the country. On top of that, there’s the Ring of Lights competition to check out as well. The parade takes place from December 19, 2018 to December 23, 2018 from 6 pm to 10 pm.
  7. Go Ice Skating in Union Square – If you’re in San Francisco, this is a must. Happening until January 21, skate under the view of the Macy’s Christmas tree and all of the lights that Union Square has to offer. If you’re going to go to any rink this year, it should probably be this one.
  8. Explore the Bar Car at New York Botanical Garden – The Botanical Gardens in New York City’s the Bronx aren’t just for kids; there’s adult fun too. The next dates are the 21st, 22nd, 28th and 29th, with a couple extra dates in January. Check out the Night Market with a drink and a snack, listen to carolers or watch an ice sculptor at his craft. No matter what, spend this romantic evening making the best out of the elusive bar car nights. Prices for non-members is $38.

Whether you’re spending the holidays in town or out of it, this list can help you find some of the best events to attend this year. Get some ice skating in or spend your day having a snow day in the middle of Downtown LA. And if anything, you can always spend time indoors with your loved ones as well. Whatever your decision is, it’ll be a good one. 

Top Three Popular Goods to Bake for The Season

‘Tis the season for epic baking and lots of hearty laughter. Nine-in-ten Americans across the nation celebrate Christmas, according to data from Pew Research Center. That means over 90 percent of America participates in one sole holiday. Christmas has become a holiday that is celebrated whether you have ties to a faith or not. And with the holidays, comes a whole lot of baked goods. This is the time that families and friends gather to share great food and fun times. If you’re trying to think of a halfway decent recipe to try out for your next holiday party, have no fear. This blog is going to help you dive into Christmas sweets. But it’s not just about Christmas–there’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and Las Posadas, to name a few other other holidays. So what are you going to bake this year? With the these special days within grasp, it’s time to break down the best of the best. This is exactly what needs to be brewing in your kitchen. If you aren’t quite sure what should be on the roster as far as baked goods go, then this blog is for you. These are the most popular baked goods to bake for the season, courtesy of Genius Kitchen.

  • Chocolate Holiday Pretzels – Ready in 25 minutes, this recipe yields three plates and serves 30.

Ingredients:

One (17 ⅝ ounce) bag of holiday M&M’s chocolate candy (red and green).

Three (10 ounce) bags of checkerboard or windowpane shaped pretzels.

Three (13 ounce) bags of Hershey’s Hugs chocolates.

Three (13 ounce) bags of Hershey’s chocolate Kisses.

Directions: First, preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Open the pretzel bags and remove unbroken pretzels. Place pretzels on waxed paper-lined cookie sheets in a single layer. Unwrap Hugs and place one on each individual pretzel. Repeat for entire cookie sheet. When doing your Hugs, put them on ONE specific sheet. Don’t mix them up. These candies melt faster than the other. Repeat step using the Kisses. Next, place in a preheated oven. For the Hugs, bake four minutes. For the Kisses, bake five to six minutes. Once you remove the pretzels from the oven, place one M&M on each pretzel/chocolate. Finally, place cookie sheet in freezer for eight minutes minimum, 10 minutes max. This allows the chocolate time to set.
Original Recipe here.

  • Bacardi Rum Cake – Ready in an hour and a half, this recipe serves 10-12 individuals.

Ingredients:

One cup chopped pecans or one cup chopped walnuts
One (520 g) package yellow cake mix (just the mix, don’t add the other ingredients on the box)
One (92 g) package vanilla instant pudding mix
Four eggs
½ cup cold water
½ cup cooking oil
½ cup dark rum or rum
GLAZE
½ cup butter
¼ cup water
One cup sugar
½ cup dark rum or rum

One cup chopped pecans or one cup chopped walnuts
One (520 g) package yellow cake mix (just the mix, don’t add the other ingredients on the box)
One (92 g) package vanilla instant pudding mix
Four eggs
½ cup cold water
½ cup cooking oil
½ cup dark rum or rum
GLAZE
½ cup butter
¼ cup water
One cup sugar
½ cup dark rum or rum

Directions: First, stir together cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and rum. Then, pour batter over nuts. Bake at 325 in oven for exactly one hour. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Then, invert onto serving plate and prick top. For the glaze, you want to melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil for five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. Once glaze is done, brush glaze evenly over top and sides of cake. Allow the cake to absorb the glaze. And repeat until the glaze is gone.
Original Recipe here.

  • Christmas Pudding –  Ready in just over six hours, this recipe serves 10-12 individuals.

Ingredients:

One and ½ cups raisins
One cup currants
½ cup chopped mixed peel
One lemon, juice and zest of
One orange, juice and zest of
½ cup brandy
¾ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup dark brown sugar
Two large eggs
One and ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
One cup all-purpose flour
One teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
One teaspoon mixed spice

Directions: Blend dried fruits with the lemon and orange zest and juice in a large bowl. Leave for 10-12 hours to soak. In another large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until smooth. Stir in the eggs until it’s properly mixed together. Add breadcrumbs, flour, baking powder, salt and mixed spice, stirring together until blended. Pour the contents of the dried fruit bowl into the batter and lightly mix to combine. Next, pour into a greased six-cup pudding basin, or a heat proof mixing bowl. Cover with a piece of baking paper and secure around the top with cooking twine. Then it’s got to be lowered into a large pot half-filled with simmering water. Cover the pot and leave on the stove to simmer, steaming the pudding for about five hours. Make sure you keep a watchful eye on the pudding while it’s steaming–putting in more water when needed. Then, leave to cool and store in a really cool part of the house for up to seven days. When ready to eat, steam again for one hour. Make sure the pudding is served warm with whipped cream.
Original Recipe here.

How to Really Celebrate Small Business Saturday in 2018

Small Business Saturday is coming up soon (Nov. 24, 2018), meaning it’s time to encourage people to give somewhere other than Target or Walmart a chance. It’s a great way to get involved in your community and give back to others in the process. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday generally focus on large retailers and online stores, Small Business Saturday is all about local businesses. Beginning in 2010 through the efforts of America

Photo via Instagram / @brownspetshop

n Express, the goal was to help businesses that may have been struggling during the recession, according to Small Business Trends. The Small Business Coalition was also formed that year; the combined effort helped catapult the small business movement to the national spotlight. American Express found that since the initiative began, consumers in the U.S. have reported spending around $85 billion at local, independent retailers and restaurants. The objective of this day is to effectively bring more holiday shopping to the small business sector. If you’ve never heard of this national event, then check out this blog below. Here’s how you can support Small Business Saturday, via Entrepreneur.com.

How to Make the Event Successful

Since Saturday is fast approaching, it’s time to prepare for the big day. What are some good ways that one can get ready? Check out how you can make the event productive and successful for years to come.

  1. Get web ready – This is the easy part. So don’t forget it. If you don’t get the news out there about your deals, then no one’s going to know about it. Make sure all of your info is correct on your website and social media handles.
  2. Utilize free resources – American Express offers free signs, email templates, web badges, posters, and other marketing materials to help jumpstart your business. There’s still time to download many of these materials here, with them being ready to use within minutes.
  3. Extend your hours – If you usually close at 5 p.m., then maybe it’s time to temporarily consider staying open for a little bit later. Make sure you’re aware of local events going on that night and plan accordingly to make the most out of foot traffic. Change your hours for the shopping event as well; letting people know via Facebook or Instagram what’s going on can help make your event successful.
  4. Prioritize customer service – If you want to really make a good, lasting impression on your customers, then take the time to retrain your staff. The ability to connect with a customer and give them a unique, specialized personal experience is something that’ll set you apart from the rest. While people still shop online, nothing takes away from that in-store experience. Give your staff the tools they need and the words to say to solve problems. If a customer hasn’t been to your store in a while, help them with extra care.
  5. Plan incentives – Give people a reason to want to come out to your event. For example, shoppers in Oakland County, Michigan last year had a chance to win $5,000 thanks to a special promotion that allowed shoppers to text photos of their receipts. Whatever you do doesn’t have to be as extravagant. Consider in-store incentives like raffles, collecting contact information for your own upcoming events and promotions throughout the year.
  6. Don’t compete with others – Yes, you might want to slash your prices. But is that going to benefit you in the long run? Sure, big corporations can afford those kinds of deep cuts. Not a small business though. It’s not about garnering a huge sale. It’s about supporting the local economy, one step at a time.

While these are just some of the things that you can do to get ready, you can also invite a local celeb for some exposure, join groups associated with the holiday, support local charities and celebrate other small businesses. Word of mouth travels far and you can get a lot done through these simple tasks. When the whole business comes together as a team, everyone prospers. Next is finding out some businesses you want to give your money to.

Local Businesses to Support

Photo via Instagram / @smooch_a_licious

Just like how you want to buy corporate, you should also want to also buy local. For us, local would be Los Angeles. Here’s a list of some places you can support as a patron. Remember, shopping small helps jumpstart the economy and helps others make a sustainable living.

  1. Elegant Touch Hostess Gifts – A sister site to Sunday Champagne Brunch Club, eleganttouchhostess.com is a site meant for those who love to entertain guests at home or for those planning an event and want an elegant touch. Elegant Touch offers select gourmet foods, desserts and exclusive hostess/host apparel. There’s also camping and tailgate items for those who love the outdoors or sports. Elegant Touch is also great for caterers and event planners looking to have a stylish affair for a decent price. The founder of this website is an entrepreneur, dedicating her life to running her small business. If you’re looking for things that will give a tasteful touch in your home, then Elegant Touch is the place to start.
  2. Goddess Bazaar Pop Up Shop – Happening Nov. 24, 2,018 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Leimert Park (Los Angeles) is the Black Women For Wellness’ event called the Goddess Bazaar Pop Up Shop. Vintage clothes, handmade art, exclusive jewelry and multitudes of local small businesses will all be under one roof. Come celebrate and support small black-owned businesses and local organizations. It’s one of the many ways to keep LA thriving, says the event page.
  3. Shop Small Santa MonicaMontana Avenue Merchants Association, Buy Local Santa Monica and Santa Monica Travel & Tourism are just some of the organizations involved in this event happening in Santa Monica Nov. 24. It’s a great way to find the gifts you need, support your local businesses and celebrate the day outside in sunny California. Don’t miss out on holiday shopping and sidewalk sales in Santa Monica’s shops.

These are just some of the amazing local businesses that you can support if you’re in the LA area. But there will be more–don’t be afraid to call and ask a store if they are participating in Small Business Saturday.

Pumpkin Recipes Perfect for the Fall Season

If you’re a pumpkin lover, then this blog is simply calling out to you. October and November begin the succession of holidays, and it’s the time where everyone wants a little pumpkin in their life. Even if you don’t like pumpkin, these dishes just might make you turn a new leaf. Pumpkin can be a delicious edition to your palate. Regardless of the meal, these recipes are sure to leave your taste buds wanting more. Here’s three of the best pumpkin recipes for 2018, courtesy of Closet Cooking:

 

     1. Pumpkin Butter Tarts with Pepitas and Cranberries

 

Completely exquisite, perfect for fall butter tarts mixed with toasted pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. It’s a great finger food and delicate dessert. The amount of time you should spend on this dish is 40 minutes and the dish will serve 12 people. And to top it off, it’s vegetarian.

Ingredients

Produce–½ cup cranberries, dried | ½ cup pumpkin puree

Refrigerated– 1 egg

Condiments–½ cup maple syrup

Nuts & seeds–½ cup pepitas

Bread & baked goods–1 pie crust pastry

Dairy–¼ cup butter, unsalted

Baking & spices–1 tsp vanilla extract | ¼ tsp salt | ½ cup brown sugar, packed

Directions

  1. Roll the pastry out to ⅛ inch thick, cut into 12 four-five inch circles
  2. Mix the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, maple syrup, butter, egg, vanilla extract, salt, pepitas, and cranberries and divide the mixture between the tarts.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven at 350F/180C until set, about 15-20 minutes.

 

  1. Pumpkin Cheesecake Gingersnap Streusel Bars

Absolutely appetizing pumpkin and spice cheesecake bars with a gingersnap crust, complete with rolled oat streusel/crumble topping. It’s a great way to end dinner. The amount of time this one should take is about 30 minutes, serving up to nine people. The dish is also vegetarian-friendly.

Ingredients

Produce–½ tsp ginger, ground | ½ cup pumpkin puree

Refrigerated– 1 egg, large

Breakfast foods–¾ cup rolled oats, old-fashioned

Baking & spices–1 tsp vanilla extract | ¼ tsp salt | ½ cup brown sugar, packed

Snacks–1 ¼ cups gingersnap cookie crumbs

Dairy–8 oz cream cheese | ½ cup butter, unsalted

Directions

  1. For the gingersnap crust:
  • Mix everything, press into the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking pan and bake in a preheated oven at 350F/180C until lightly golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.
  1. For the pumpkin cheesecake:
    • Beat the cream cheese until smooth, beat in the sugar, followed by the egg, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, and the spices.
    • Pour the mixture on top of the baked crust.
  1. For the streusel topping:
  • Cut the butter into the flour (a food processor is helpful) and mix in the remaining ingredients before grabbing a bunch and squeezing gently and crumbling in your hands over the cheesecake layer.
    • Bake in a preheated oven at 350F/180C until the cheesecake layer has set, which should take about 20-25 minutes. (Loosely cover the pan in foil if the crumbs start to brown.)
    • Let cool and chill in the fridge as desired.
  1.  Pumpkin Goat Cheese Fettuccine Alfredo with Crispy Fried Sage

While goat cheese might not seem like it’s good, it’s actually a great combo with pasta. Who knew pumpkin could go along with Alfredo? Both fast and simple, this is the creamy goat cheese pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo with crispy fried sage. A vegetarian-friendly dish, it takes about 15 minutes to cook and serves about two people. Your taste buds are going to be delighted with this one.

Ingredients

Produce–1 clove garlic, ½ cup pumpkin puree | 1 tbsp of sage | 1 handful of sage, leaves

Pasta & grains–6 oz pasta

Dairy–2 tbsp butter | 4 oz goat cheese | 1 cup heavy cream or milk | ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano

Baking & spices–1 salt and pepper | ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

  1. First things first–time to cook the pasta as directed on the package.
  2. Next, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, and add garlic. Cook until it’s fragrant (about a minute).
  3. Add cream, pumpkin puree, goat cheese, parmesan, sage, and pumpkin pie spice and simmer until the cheese has melted.
  4. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, let it turn a light brown, add the sage and fry until crispy.
  6. Serve hot over the pasta garnished with extra parmesan and crispy fried sage.

It’s Not Christmas Yet, But It’s Okay to Start Decorating Early

Photo via Instagram / @inspoforchristmas

‘Tis the season for extravagant Christmas decorations. Even though it’s still November, it’s okay to get excited about the next holiday. In fact, there’s many benefits for those that put up their decorations early. The website YourEerie.com conducted a Facebook poll of 1,600 people and found that 49 percent said it’s too early for decorations and 51 percent said that it’s not too early. Sure, Christmas is at the end of next month. But there’s no reason why you can’t flex your Christmas spirit. The sooner you can get up your decorations, the happier you’ll be. Take the chance to knock things out early by getting your decorating done ahead of time. That way, you can really focus on enjoying the holidays. It’s okay to elongate Christmas if you love the holiday. Here are nine reasons why it’s okay to put up your Christmas decorations early, courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens.

  1. Decorating makes you happier – People love the holiday spirit. U.K. news outlet Unilad spoke to a psychoanalyst about the topic and found that people enjoy the nostalgia of Christmas. Decorations are a view into the past for many, drumming up old childhood memories.
  2. Your neighbors will enjoy it – A study found that people who were shown photos of houses decorated believed the residents to be more friendly as those sans decorations. That’s right, your neighbors actually appreciate the decorations. Houses that have decorations on them were seen as more inviting and accessible, the study found, regardless of whether you interact with your neighbors or not. So if the whole block is decorating their homes, get in on the fun. It’s appreciated.
  3. Christmas desserts – No one is going to deny a Christmas cookie. Once your Christmas decorating is out of the way, you can focus on Christmas baking. Desserts are essential to the holiday season, so bust out that cookie jar and get ready to start cooking. Get into the Christmas mood with favorites like red velvet cheesecake bars, red plaid cookies, and star mint meringues.
  4. It’s getting cold (and dark) – Since it gets dark earlier now, it’s a good idea to get your decorating done as soon as possible. You only have a limited amount of sunlight to get it done, so take advantage of it. Get through the coldness of winter with some hot chocolate, a warm fire, cozy sweaters, and your Christmas decor.
  5. Show off your DIY skills – The earlier you start, the sooner you can get to working on those DIY decorations. You don’t want to be scrambling last minute to put things together with glue and paint, especially if you’re having company over. Get those ornaments up now and make that wreath. And don’t forget about mailing those Christmas cards out. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

    Photo via Instagram / @homewithhollyj

  6. Enjoy your decorations for longer – If you get your decorations up earlier, that means you can enjoy them for longer. It really makes putting up the decorations worth it. Putting them up is a lot of work and time, so why not get it done as soon as possible? No one wants to put up decorations late and have to put them away a week later. You can really appreciate your efforts when you get it done early.
  7. Indulge in Christmas music – Listening to Christmas music while decorating is a great way to get into the spirit. You’ve been listening to the same music all year. It’s time to really embrace the holidays. Crank up the music, bust out singing to those classic tunes like “Jingle Bells” and get decorating. You can even make Christmas decorations out of lyrics–print out your favorite Christmas lyrics and turn them into little ornaments.
  8. Spend more time with family – The holidays are a blur. First Thanksgiving, then Christmas. On top of that, you’ve got to go shopping. If you get your Christmas decorating done early, then you’ll have more time to spend with family. That way you can focus on Christmas activities.
  9. You’ll have somewhere to take Christmas photos – So you’ve reached the last stretch of 2018 and it’s time to take Christmas photos. But where do you go? If you’ve decorated early, then you know exactly where those pictures can be taken. Using decorations as a backdrop is a quick and inexpensive way to get your Christmas photos done–it also shows your holiday spirit.

Kill two birds with one stone by decorating early. So if you have time to start decorating early this week, get to it. No one’s going to judge you. In fact, you’ll be happier because of it. There’s nothing wrong with getting your Christmas decorating done early. It’s okay to love Christmas!

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