Christmas 2014

Another Christmas has come and gone! It felt like such a whirlwind this year! We did our little Christmas (opening our gifts to each other) on Christmas Eve when Chris got home from work. There sure were a lot of presents under that tree…haha. The hubby always over does it and gets such thoughtful gifts. Here’s a little collage of our Christmas.

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After our gifts, we headed up to my parents house for Christmas Eve dinner. As always, the food was delicious and it was so fun to be with the family. My Latvian cousin Anda was there too! Last year we missed her because her family was in town from Latvia. We had a really nice time together. It’s crazy how fast the holidays come and go…I always want more time to celebrate with everyone haha. After dinner, we got in the car and drove down Eucalyptus to look at the lights. It’s such a fun tradition and the lights were so beautiful! Love these pictures and how they capture all the festivities so well!

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This year we spent the night at my parents house, so we got to wake up there Christmas morning. We had a quick breakfast (no Belgium waffles this year…my mom couldn’t find the darn waffle iron cord) and opened our Secret Santa gifts. I really love doing Secret Santa with my family. It’s so fun to see what people get each other. We also donate in honor of our Secret Santa. I really enjoy donating in honor of someone and seeing where people donate for each other. This year I had my mom so I donated to the Steinbeck Museum. Brian (my sisters boyfriend) had me and he donated to the Girl Scouts. So awesome. After all the gifts were opened Chris and I headed to the airport to fly down to see his mom for the weekend in Huntington Beach. We had a really great visit with his mom over the weekend and a lovely Christmas dinner with prime rib and more presents!

On Friday we headed to Long Beach to see The Queen Mary CHILL exhibit and to walk around the Queen Mary. So fun! I had never been to The Queen Mary…it was awesome! The CHILL exhibit was a lot of fun…very cold inside where all the ice sculptures were brrrrr. Thank goodness we had parkas!!!  And of course we had to re-create a little Titanic…love it!

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Saturday we headed to San Diego to spend a little time with Chris sister and our three ADORABLE niblings!!! They are all so big. It’s crazy how much they grow! We last saw them in September and even since then so much has changed! Colton is so talkative! He can even say “Aunt Marisa” and “Uncle Chris”!!! My heart seriously melted every time he said “Aunt Marisa.” Kendall and Madison are walking and so interactive. Madison walks all over the place. Kendall can walk, but doesn’t walk as much as her sissy. They are too cute! We got time with just Colton and the twins, so that was really nice. When they are all up everything is full speed ahead! It’s hard to pay attention to all three haha. Even though it was a short visit I’m SO glad we were able to see them. I love those little kiddos so much and can’t wait to see them again soon! unnamed-1

Well that’s a wrap for Christmas 2014! Can’t believe it’s already over. It was a really wonderful holiday celebrating with both of our families! Love them all so much!  ❤ ❤

HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE!!! Wishing everyone a great last day of 2014 and a fabulous start to 2015!

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Willow Glen: Holiday Lights

Real quick, last Friday we had a holiday potluck/ugly sweater party at work. Sadly I did not win for the most ugly sweater…but I sure had fun making it!

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Ok, now to talk about the awesome holiday lights we saw on Saturday in Willow Glen!

One thing I love about the holiday season is Christmas lights. I LOVE LOVE LOVE walking the dog and seeing lights being put up and I especially love making an evening out of looking at lights with hot chocolate in hand! Very few people in our condo complex have lights up. Our place (inside and out) is decked in holiday lights and festiveness. Around our neighborhood there are a few houses that have lights, but not as many as I am used too. We’ve been so busy with work etc. that we haven’t even had time to drive around looking at lights until this past weekend.

Our usual go to place to look at holiday lights is Eucalyptus Ave. in San Carlos. My family has been looking at lights there for as long as I can remember. It’s a holiday tradition to stroll down Eucalyptus (in car and by foot) numerous times throughout the month of December. To read more about Eucalyptus check out last years post here and be sure to take an evening to check it out in person. I know we will probably take a stroll Christmas Even with my family…can’t wait!

So this year, holiday light viewing is a little different…Chris and I live in San Jose now so making multiple trips down Eucalyptus is not that practical. This year we had to find a new place and we found a great one!

The other PA in Chris office mentioned that there was a really great place in Willow Glen to look at lights…and boy was she right! Every year Willow Glen comes alive with the most charming light displays. Each house is given a small Christmas tree to put on their front yard to decorate. It felt so magical to see each house with a charming little tree on the front lawn in addition to whatever other decorations people put up! I got so excited when I saw the first little tree on the lawn…I felt just like a kid again! This is seriously one of the cutest things I have seen! Looking down each street and seeing little trees on each lawn felt really magical. You can read more about the history of the Willow Glen Yard Trees, lovely story.

My parents were in LA for the weekend, so we were dog-sitting. Saturday night, we decided to take all three pups (Emma, Spanky and Rascal) with us to look at Christmas lights. The pups were really well behaved and as usual a big hit with people. Haha. Everyone thinks they are super cute (which they are) so it’s always fun stopping and talking to people about them. I think all five of us had a great time looking at the lights and walking around. The pups were pooped by the time we were done. This made for a quiet drive home and evening relaxing on the couch.

The following pictures don’t even do this place justice! It was so beautiful and so much fun. People really went all out with their decorations and made everything look so festive! Some of the pictures are a little blurry…it’s hard to walk, look at lights/take pictures of lights all while wrangling three dogs hehe.

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If anyone is still looking for places to look at holiday lights I highly recommend the Willow Glen area. Here is a map of the charming holiday lights.

Some of the houses were decorated so beautifully! I seriously LOVED these two houses!3  unnamed

One of my goals/DREAM is to someday live on Eucalyptus in San Carlos. But now the hubby wants to add the Willow Glen area to the list! He really loved the little Christmas tree on the lawn idea and not to mention the gorgeous houses! Well I’m SOLD! I don’t need to be convinced to live on one of these streets…where do I sign up? 😀

We’re down to just a few days until Christmas…so excited! It really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Holiday Tradition: SF Nutcracker

It’s that time of year again…SF Nutcracker time! This is our fourth year going and becoming a loved holiday tradition! Like I’ve said before, ballet has a very special place in my heart. I started dancing at 2 1/2 and continued into my first year of high school. I was put on pointe at the age of 10 (very early) and for a long time ballet was my LIFE. I really miss it and wish I continued dancing. One of the reason why I love going to the ballet is that it brings me right back to that familiar feeling. That absolute love of dance. That feeling of expressing every part of your self through dance. It just brings me back to my first love. Ballet.

The SF Nutcracker is a really fun production! If you haven’t seen it before I highly recommend it. I really love that this is now becoming a holiday tradition of ours! So fun. The snowflakes are my absolute favorite!! Especially when the snow starts pouring on the stage…I always tear up! It so stunning and so beautiful!

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This year, our friends Jess and Dan joined us for the fun! Jess and Chris went to PA school at Touro and have been great friends ever since. We love hanging out with them and are so glad they joined us this year. We took them to our favorite Thai place Lers Ros before the show and they really enjoyed it. After dinner we headed over to the War Memorial Opera House for the show. The decorations for the holidays are just beautiful. We sat farther up, but still had a good view of the stage. I’m telling you, someday we will sit in the orchestra section…nice and close!

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We had a really fun time this year and I think our friends did as well. Hopefully they will join us next year too! It’s so much fun to do holiday things during December!

Can’t believe Christmas is right around the corner! Only 7 more days of work until I’m on break and 10 more days until Christmas! Wooohooo!

Tree Time

I can’t believe we are already ten days into December…this month is flying by! I feel like we just had Thanksgiving and now Christmas is right around the corner!

Over the weekend we got our 2nd Christmas tree. Yay! Chris and I have been together for over 8 years (married for 4) and have only gotten a tree once before. It was so much fun picking out our tree this year. We even ended up with one that was bigger than last year. I love taking pictures while we are at the tree lot. I especially love and find it really funny with our tree on top of Chris mini with our mini schnauzer Emma inside. It’s a mini inside of a mini! Haha. I just can’t help myself.

We spent Saturday night decorating the tree and it turned out great! It didn’t take us too long because we don’t have many ornaments yet (hoping to inherit a bunch from my parents someday). Now the house looks super festive with our tree, indoor lights and all the lights Chris put up outside. Not to mention it smells so good! Love the Christmas tree fresh smell. I’ll have to post some pictures of the rest of our decorations. Really love our tree and that it’s the first tree in our new HOME (that we own). Just feels extra special this year!

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This weekend we are seeing the SF Nutcracker (another holiday tradition) and I can’t wait. Look for that post next week! Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season so far!

Your Mindful Brain — Mini-Retreat

Yesterday I attended a wonderful mini-retreat, Your Mindful Brain held at the Stillpath Retreat Center in Woodside (quick video of the gorgeous center). The mini-retreat was put on by Cassie Schindler from The Alternate Path (MBSR instructor and meditation coach) and Pushkar Joshi, a Neurobiologist and visiting scholar at Stanford University.

Your Mindful Brain focused on the lasting effects mindfulness can have on your brain/life, how stress impacts your brain, and some basic steps/techniques that can be used to live a more balanced and mindful life. It was fascinating to learn from Pushkar about the impact stress can have on your brain and the benefits of meditation. He really broke down all the science and made it very easy to follow. Cassie spoke on the need to change our daily habits and lifestyle in order to lead a more mindful life. There is so much stress and hurry in life today that we are practically running on autopilot. The big take away is that we need to JUST BE and to be PRESENT in the moment. Ahh isn’t that the truth?!

During the mini-retreat we were provided with a wonderful and delicious lunch by Lori Hofmann/California Girl Catering. OMG sooooo yummy! It was beautiful to sit outside and enjoy a meal that was not only tasty, but fresh and made with lots of love. Optional afternoon activities included walking the labyrinth and a mindful yoga session from Pattie Stafford of Butterfly Yoga. I took advantage of both activities! Stillpath is an absolutely stunning facility. There are so many amenities that I didn’t have time to use, so I can’t wait to go back there some time soon! It is really wonderful to sometimes get away from all the busy and spend some time up in the mountains. The endless views of redwood tress didn’t get old that’s for sure!

I really love Cassie and think she is an incredible stunning and motivational individual. Over the years I have truly enjoyed the retreats/workshops she puts on and always find myself looking forward to the next one. She is so kind, caring, positive, and I am beyond thankful to have her in my life. Sidenote: I first met Cassie when I took a mini-series on stress reduction at Butterfly Yoga. I later learned about and took her 8-week  MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course. Over the course of the 8-weeks we learned and practiced formal and informal methods of mindfulness, including the body scan, sitting meditation, gentle yoga and walking meditation. It was one of the best courses I have ever taken. I am constantly working on my meditation practice and trying to live a more mindful life! I encourage you to read more about Cassie and the work she does here. She is just fabulous!

Here are some pictures I took while at the retreat…they don’t really do the place justice. Oh so beautiful! I can’t wait to go back! Until then, namaste!

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30 Days of Thankfulness — Day 27-30

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” ~ Tecumseh

Day 27: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Today I am thankful for so many things but most importantly my family! I’m really looking forward to spending time together, seeing my aunt and uncles, eating good food, and just enjoying the day together. I love my family so much and am very thankful for each and every one of them! Hope you all enjoyed your day with loved ones.

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Day 28: So grateful to spend time with my mom, sister Ariana, and my cousin Teddie over the long weekend. Today we went to tea just us girls (and Teddie’s sweet little baby Guy) at Lisa’s Tea Treasures. We had a great time enjoying our tea, some treats and just talking. Love days like this!

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Day 29: Lazy day around the house which included catching up on our shows, watching the USC vs. Notre Dame game (USC WON!!!!!!!!), and a movie date with my hubby to see Mockingjay Part 1. Really love just relaxing and enjoying time together. It was also so wonderful to have a looooong weekend. I think we both really needed it and took full advantage of the time off!

Day 30: Getting our Christmas decorations out and starting to decorate the house. The hubby did a great job putting up the lights outside and I can’t wait to get a tree this weekend and do more decorating.

I really enjoyed doing 30 Days of Thankfulness again and hope you all did too. I have so much to be thankful for and it’s pretty cool to keep track of it all/write it down. Already looking forward to doing this blog post again next year!

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” ~ Lao Tzu