Merry Christmas to One and All!

holiday christmas cards 2015

Merry, Merry Christmas!

I've scheduled this Christmas greeting to post at 1:00AM on Christmas morning, while we're all snuggled up in our beds with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, because it will still be Christmas in the Philippines and the UK. Alfie's mum and dad are here with us, and we are having a wonderful time -- we hope you are enjoying your Christmas as much as we are!

I've sent out holiday newsletters with our holiday cards for almost every Christmas we've celebrated since The Pea was born. Holiday family newsletters can be subject to as much ridicule as fruitcake, but I like to do them because we live so far away from most of our family. It's all part of the effort to stay in touch and keep everyone updated with how we are doing.  This year I couldn't get my act together in time to send our newsletter out with our holiday cards, so I thought I'd update everyone on the blog instead. I'm adding photos from our holiday cards, so consider this your virtual holiday card and newsletter:

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

My cousin Angie has spent the last 6 or 7 years getting her PhD at the University of Santa Cruz. During that time, she worked as a docent at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, and she has been urging us to visit, but for one reason or another, we never got around to going. Wouldn't you know it, now that she has graduated, we finally got our act together and visited for the first time!

Top 7 Experiences at Star Wars Launch Bay

Season of the Force Launch Bay (4)
The Force has Awakened! Star Wars 7 has opened, and it is well on its way to becoming a billion dollar movie. If you don't know about The Force Awakens, you must either be living on a rock or have just woken up from a coma. It was been the talk of the town (of the world, actually) for the past few weeks, with people lining up in droves to see the movie. We didn't have the courage to brave the crowds to see the movie on opening weekend, but we are beyond excited to see it!

Star Wars is everywhere, not just on late-night reruns and toys, but on clothing and food and all kinds of merchandise. At the Disneyland Resort, Star Wars has taken over Tomorrowland by way of Season of the Force, a series of limited-time experiences such as Star Wars-themed food, a Space Mountain overlay (Hyperspace Mountain), and a gigantic exhibition called Star Wars Launch Bay.

Star Wars comes to Christmas in the Park

Christmas in the Park

Today we went to Christmas in the Park, the annual holiday display in downtown San Jose that features dozens of holiday dioramas and hundreds of decorated holiday trees. We've made this an annual tradition, so we're familiar with most of the holiday displays. This year, we noticed something markedly different.... as though some strange force had invaded the displays.

Yes, you know what I'm talking about... The Force!  Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens opened 2 days ago, and you'd have to be living in a rock not to notice it. Star Wars has invaded everything from underwear to socks to soda cans to soup cans to gummy vitamins, so it's not surprising that Christmas in the Park has been touched by The Force as well. We saw so many Star Wars-themed trees and displays, proving that even Santa Claus is a Star Wars fan.  Here's my pick of the best Star Wars holiday displays from around the galaxy:

Living the Good Life: Tasting Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac

This is sure to be one of those stories that I'm going to bore my grandchildren with. Last week, we were in the San Diego area for 3Po and Jammy's soccer tournament, staying at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in Escondido. The Inn is definitely a cut above our usual soccer tournament digs; it's got a golf course and lush grounds perfect for luxury weddings and retreats.

Anyway, that's how Alfie and I ended up joining our fellow soccer parents at one of the resort's fancier restaurants for after-dinner drinks and dessert. As we pored over the menu, one item in particular caught everyone's eye:

Louis XIII De Remy Martin     190

Disneyland Holiday Trading Pins: 2015 releases

Disneyland holiday pin trading

The kids and I have been into Disney pin trading and collecting for a couple of years now. Two years ago I made the mistake of not buying the limited edition Mickey's Halloween Party pin. I saw the $15 price and cheaped out. Of course, since was only available at the Disneyland Resort during Mickey's Halloween Party in 2013, the pin is now selling for $30 on eBay. It would have been the perfect memento of my visit, and I've regretted my decision ever since.

After that episode, I make it a point to buy a pin every time I visit a Disney park (and thanks to the Disney Visa card, I can  redeem points for Disney dollars to treat myself and the kids to a small souvenir each time we visit). There are so many pins available at the parks, it's always tough to choose, but I pay special attention to seasonal pins because they're only available at certain times of the year, and they change every year (at least the limited edition ones do).

If you love Disney pin trading or if you're curious about what all the fuss is, you're going to love the rest of this post. If the idea of spending $15 on a pin (and buying dozens of them) mystifies you, then please accept this photo of the beautiful holiday candy apple display as a reward for reading this far! You may not like collectible pins, but everyone loves candy apples, right?

Thanksgiving Road Trip Tips: the Early Bird gets the Open Highway

road trip

Last week we drove to San Diego over the Thanksgiving break for 3Po's and Jammy's soccer tournament. Alfie has been saving up his vacation days for his parents' Christmas break visit, so we didn't want to take any more time than we needed to. We decided to drive down on Wednesday, spend Thanksgiving morning at Disneyland, then continue on to San Diego in the afternoon. After 2 days of soccer, we would drive back to Palo Alto on Sunday.

The trip from Palo Alto to San Diego takes just over 7 hours... in theory. In reality, driving through LA always adds about an hour (or more!). When people heard of our plans, their eyes widened in horror -- we would be driving through LA at the worst times ever! A quick internet search confirmed their predictions: LA has the worst traffic in the country over Thanksgiving. The worst day of the year to drive through LA is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the second worst day is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the third worst day is the Sunday after.