Light it up

December is one of my favorite times of the year in our neighborhood. The holiday lights perfectly highlight the unique features of each of our homes. While not the most fantastic, over the top, display you will see, it is simply beautiful.  The volunteer neighborhood association holds a lighting competition and winners are announced mid-December and a lighted sign is placed on their front yard. We have awards for the Most Whimsical, Most Continue reading

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Super Moon

img_4511Sunday the 13th was a Super Moon, one of the closest distances from the earth to the moon in 68 years.  My parents were camping at San Clemente State Beach, so we went down to enjoy the view, and some wine, with them. Continue reading

The Bandit

One night, in the wee hours of the morning, we heard a stir from the laundry room. Not unusual, our dog is a nocturnal eater, and favors his dinner around 2 or 3 am. We quickly found out that it wasn’t our dog that was stirring about. In a moment, my dog, sleeping on the bedroom floor, sprang up, ran to the laundry room, and began violently barking, Continue reading

The Dilemma

Alex and I volunteered our home to be on the annual home tour our neighborhood hosts to raise money for the neighborhood association. Each year, over 2,000 people come to get a glimpse of these old homes, hear their history, and see the way they have been modernized for the modern family. When this many people are going to walk through your home, you really want it to look its best. We had a designer (provided by the neighborhood association) come visit and provide recommendations. We cleaned for two weeks prior. We got every project on the “Honey-do” completed (bonus!). All this in time for the home tour’s big weekend. But we had one dilemma… Continue reading

And the band played on…

img_4453On Saturday evening, Alex and I ventured out to one of my favorite DTSA night… Night of the Altars. Family members set up elaborate altars (ofrendas) to honor the memory of their lost loved ones. Many believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of the deceased are allowed to reunite with their families.  The ofrendas are decorated with sugar skulls, candles, marigolds, and bread called pan de muerto. Sugar skulls represent a departed soul and is placed on the ofrenda to honor the return of a particular spirit. This tradition has been transported to the faces of the attendees with hundreds of people adorning face paint to make the sugar skull come to life.

We began our night with Dinner at the new (and amazing) restaurant El Mercado, which serves tapas style modern Mexican cuisine and inventive cocktails. Our waitresses, of course, donned sugar skull face paint. Alex’s cocktail arrived in a glass cloche full of smoke, which was unveiled at the table with a puff of smoke surrounding our table. Talk about immersive.

We then headed to Art Walk, which is traditionally held on the same night as Night of the Altars, and viewed both static and live art displays. My favorite display this year was a colorful forest of foraged cardboard, which had been painted in vibrant colors and you could wander through the “trees” and see all the different designs.  Alex’s favorite was definitely a photo of Hume Lake, his childhood (and adulthood, really) home away from home.

Finally, we headed to the main attraction, which was the altars where we were surrounded by hundreds of people, both live and made-to-look-not-alive. On both sides of the street, candles glowed, and paper flowers were illuminated by the dim light. At the end of the street, a jazzy big band played Mexican music.

As I wrote in my original Night of the Altars post, I was surprised to find Mr. Ward of Santa Ana Winds on an altar. Apparently, Mr. Ward continues to take the opportunity to reunite with his “Winds” family.  This night, one of the assistants to the band members approached me while I was listening to them play, and asked… “Weren’t you in “Winds”?” I was surprised, and the man in front of me smiled and said, “I was too, I played trumpet.” As he walked back to the band, I smiled and thanked Mr. Ward for the music, and his legacy.

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Food & Comfort

Every once in a while you need a hug.  You need some comfort.  You need your friends to lift you up.  September was such a busy month, and it was on the heels of a really tough week at the end of August, which I shall forever call “The Dark Ages,” and then there was the whole turning 40 thing.  Frankly, I had been mentally and physically exhausted despite all the interesting things I’ve been up to.  I am so lucky to have neighbors that fill this need. Continue reading

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s brewery

img_4330On October 29, our neighborhood hosted our third mixer of the season at Michael & Nicole’s perfectly restored 1923 craftsman charmer. Mixers are casual events where each attendee brings a small snack to share, and we all hang out in the host’s backyard. We always get some really interesting and delicious contributions. The neighborhood association provides the wine.

Now, a bit about our neighborhood. We love our wine. We go through gallons of the stuff at each mixer… curiously at this mixer, no one touched the stuff. Continue reading

The First Halloween

img_3489Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I loved it as a kid. I had this GIANT plastic pumpkin about a foot and a half tall that would get filled ¾ full with candy. I didn’t mess with those tiny little 6 inch round plastic Jack-o’-lanterns, trick or treating is serious business. You need to have the right tools.

Now as an adult, I just enjoy the spirit of giving joy to the neighbors, as they share their creative costumes with me. So, Halloween has always been a big deal for me. We’ve hosted our family and friends for over 10 years. When we moved to this neighborhood, I intended to keep the tradition going. Thankfully, my new neighbors warned me, “Make sure you buy LOTS of candy.” To which I responded, “Hmph, are you talking to me? (insert eye roll here) I ALWAYS buy lots of candy,” and they responded, “No, I mean LOTS and LOTS of candy.” There was a sense of warning in their voice.  So I said, “like how much???” This is when they filled me in on the details, and I went directly to the internet and had half the candy in California delivered to my doorstep.

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No joke- they’re full of Candy!

How to be Neighborly: On Halloween, keep the lights on.

Halloween begins as soon as the sun sets, and a small but steady stream of neighbors drop by with the younger trick or treaters. About one hour later is when the action really starts. Hoards. Droves. Herds. Masses… of spidermen, witches, warlocks, teenage mutant ninja turtles, princesses, supermen, ladybugs, clowns, ballerinas, and the like, descend on the neighborhood with their plastic pumpkins, backpacks and pillowcases ready to be filled. A courteous line forms all the way down the driveway, and creatures of all kinds file in, orderly, smiling, waiting. One by one, they arrive at the door, hopeful, smiling. “Trick or treat!” they exclaim with joy. There’s no tricks, only treats. Off they go to the next house that has an equally long line. This goes on for about 2 hours, or until the candy runs out. About 1,500 kids served and counting.

Thank goodness for the internet…. and my neighborly warning!  Look for the November wrap up on Halloween 2016 in an upcoming post!  I hope it’s a good year!

Here’s a pumpkin soup recipe that will keep you warm as you dish out the sweets…

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Smoked Pumpkin Soup

This soup is great because it’s super easy, delicious, and basically fat free.

  • 1 onion, dicedimg_4275
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika (*)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 29 oz can pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
  • 2 c chicken broth (or veggie if making vegetarian)

In a pot, place 4 tablespoons water, diced onion, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Combine and sweat the onions in the spices over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes.  Don’t let them brown.  Put the onions in a blender, and then add the remaining ingredients.  Puree until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot and heat for another 5 minutes.  You can make this ahead and reheat when ready to serve.

(*) If you want it spicy, then double the paprika.