Decorating, Family, holidays, Shopping, Style, Uncategorized, writing

Christmas traditions in decor

christmas 4
Christmas 2008. We once had a tradition of matching pajamas when they were littles.

It’s been a chilly 81 degrees here in So Cal, and though the mornings have been on the crisp side, the afternoon temperatures have made it easy to forget that we are indeed in the month of December. At least I seem to have forgotten, as it is now 10 days until Christmas, and while I have completed my Christmas shopping for our extended family, gift exchanges, and office, I have yet to purchase anything for the kids or the husband outside of one stocking stuffer.  Let’s just hope they’re not reading this post…

The good thing is that there is still 10 days until Christmas, and sites such as Amazon make it easy to score a great gift at the last minute. However it is true what they say about Christmas (not that retailers would want to admit): there is more to the season than just the presents.

It is hard to pin down any truly unique traditions for our family.  I grew up fairly isolated from aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  Both my parents’ families lived out of state, either in the Midwest or the Philippines, and besides my mother was not one for hosting. Christmas was looked forward to as my dad would hang lights and put up our cute, but artificial tree, and the holiday flew by in a day that was usually as disenchanting as it was boring. Not that the day was usually bad per se; we opened gifts that we had picked out and didn’t do much the rest of the day. But as a kid, I set my expectations on something that was unattainable for us at the time. I dreamed of the kind of Christmas the husband’s family celebrated.

His family celebrated the holiday very differently. His mom would make a Christmas waffle breakfast while the kids would open up their stockings and search for the pickle in the tree.  After breakfast, gift-giving would commence, led by ‘Santa Haas’ and not before the traditional reading of the Christmas story as presented in Luke’s gospel. Then there was Christmas dinner, either at their home or at the home of one of his aunts or uncles. They would enjoy a delicious meal, fellowship with one another, and participate in a gift exchange.  Not that every Christmas was perfect and drama-free I’m sure, but in the tales of his Christmases past I imagine warmth and light and love.

So with two very different experiences, we began to create some of own traditions. For our family, it starts with holiday decorating.  The Haas winter holiday season begins November 30, following the last of our autumn birthdays. I usually put up the mantel decorations, though now the girls help with that as they’ve gotten older and develop opinions, or a sense of style, depending on how one sees it. This year, after a trip to Crate and Barrel for some new reindeer-themed decor, Emily had pretty free rein.  That is until she wanted to switch out the photos in the stocking holders.  The stocking holders contain photos from each of our first Christmases, depicting the husband mouthing a toy, me eating wrapping paper (probably explains a lot), and Jacob’s stay in the NICU. The kids will probably die of embarrassment as they get older and bring significant others to our home, nevertheless the First Christmas stocking holders are the first of our traditions.

Then there’s our tree. I’ve long wanted to put up one of those fancy Pinterest-inspired, Instagram-worthy, color-coordinated themed trees. But that’s not what we do. My mother-in-law saved and labeled ornaments from her boys’ growing up, and now she does the same for her grandkids. This is a tradition that I too have now adopted. I love our family tree, with its blend of old and new- the new being the cute woodland themed ornaments from Crate and Barrel and Target, along with my collection of Starbucks tumblers. Coffee obsession aside, our tree is full of love.

Once the tree is up, and the halls are decked, we sit down with steaming mugs of cocoa (Bailey’s in mine!) and watch a Christmas movie. My favorite is “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” which the kids find cute but lame, though I’m convinced that they’ll appreciate as much as I do the Disney-spin on a Charles Dickens classic. Eventually.

These are just a few of the things I look forward to each holiday season.  How does your family enjoy ‘decking the halls?’ Share in the comments below.

Hiking, Organization, Pets, Shopping, Travel, Uncategorized

Great Hikes: Be Prepared

Welcome back to my two-part series on hiking with dogs. Today the focus will be on how to prepare for a hike with your best pal.

As with just about everything in life, there are some inherent risks in exploring the great outdoors.  Weather, unexpected terrain, wildlife (by which I typically mean insects, though we have seen a couple bears in Monrovia Canyon) can easily turn a pleasant day out into a practical nightmare. Fortunately, however, most potential issues are easily prevented with some preparation beforehand and consideration once on the trail. I cannot claim credit for most of these tips. Most of these guidelines are borrowed from Scouting.

Things to consider:

As mentioned in the previous post, keep in mind your ability as well as your dog’s. Research the trail ahead of time, taking into account distance, terrain, slope grade, and whether the area offers shade. Be sure to check the weather and other conditions, such as pollen, as this can impact your experience and safety. And always be sure to have a trail map.

Water and treats for my buddy

What to bring:

Much of this is based on the Boy Scout “Ten Essentials.” This provides a good guide for what to bring on a hike or day trek.

Food: Bring ample high-calorie trail snacks. Foods such as nuts, granola, or dried fruit are good picks. The kids and canine also like meat jerky.

Water: Hydration is key. Many issues that develop on a hike happen as a result of improper hydration. A rule of thumb is 16 ounces for every hour of hiking, however this can vary depending on the individual and weather. I’d say bring at least that, and hydrate ahead of time. If you feel thirsty, it’s already late. For your pal, REI sells a few products that can be used as a dog bowl. I personally like the Ruffwear quencher collapsible bowl. It’s easy to stuff in a daypack, and easy to clean after a hike.

First aid kit: A good hiking kit will have a wrap bandage, small ice pack, band-aids, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, antihistamine cream, and small packs of NSAID painkillers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) and Benadryl. REI sells day packing kits in soft pouches that are easy to clip to your daypack. REI also has a few ready-made kits for canines If applicable, be sure to bring your rescue inhaler or EpiPen as well.

What’s in your daypack?

Map and compass: Know and stay on your trail. This common sense advice given me long ago will keep you from getting lost most of the time. For those rare occasions when one might get lost, a map and compass can quite literally be a lifesaver. Any reliable compass will do, but I personally like a clear compass, as this is easier to line up with a map.

Attention-getters: We always carry both a whistle and a mirror.  The mirror doubles as a hygiene (or get Instagram-worthy) tool and a signaling tool, just in case.

Weather ready: We always carry sun protection and a hat, regardless of how much shade will be on the trail.  We also will carry ponchos and a lightweight jacket just in case. Weather changes quickly in many areas, so it’s good to be prepared.

This is not a comprehensive list of what one can bring on a hike. You know yourself and your pup best. I would not recommend bringing too much extra for a day hike. Too much extra weight can lead to added fatigue and a sore back. Also, remember to pack in and pack out.  Some areas will not have trash service along the trail, so bring bags (including poop bags) to carry waste out.

As we say in Scouts, leave no trace.  Take only photos, leave only footprints, and kill only time.  Happy trails!


me and my dogggggg
In the Angeles National Forest. Happy trails!
Kids, Money savers, Shopping, Style, Travel, Uncategorized

Saving money Saturdays: the Citadel Outlets

Happy Tuesday! I know it’s not Saturday, but we took a trip to the Outlets on Saturday, so that counts. Sort of.

Take a trip south on the Interstate 5 from Los Angeles, and you’ll see a set of peach-colored buildings with Babylonian-style architecture.  This is where you want to stop.

The Citadel buildings have an interesting history.  The site was built back in 1929 as the Samson Tire Company, and at the time, was the largest tire manufacturer west of the Mississippi. It became Uniroyal Tire in 1962.  Manufacturing ceased in 1978, but the site was purchased by the City of Commerce in 1983 to prevent its demolition. Today the site is a mixed-use facility with offices, the Doubletree Hotel, and L.A.’s first and only outlet mall.

I love the Citadel Outlets for two reasons: One, it’s only about a 20 minute drive from my home, even with the characteristic horrible L.A. traffic.  Two, the Citadel features many of the stores where I would typically shop. All three Gap brands are carried here, as are luxury brands Coach and Kate Spade, and business attire essentials Ann Taylor, Van Heusen, and Tommy Hilfiger. These are just a few of the 130 brands one can find at the Citadel.

As with any shopping trip- outlet or otherwise- be sure to do your due diligence and compare quality and price. Certain stores such as Kate Spade carry both items that are designed specifically for outlet stores and past season merchandise. Others, such as the Disney Store, have sales that are not much different from the typical retail store. You’re not always guaranteed a bargain just because you’re shopping at an ‘outlet.’ That said, with a little research and some willpower, you can score some really great deals. Okay, a lot of willpower.

Happy Thanksgiving? The Citadel is all decked out with plenty of time for the Christmas holidays.
Food, Money savers, Shopping, Uncategorized, wine, wine and drink

Friday Fun Wine List: Wines that taste like juice


Two of my recommended “juice wines.” Caposaldo and Stella Rosa

I typically prefer red wines that are medium-full, but I will admit that sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a chilled light sweet wine, especially in the 90-plus degree weather we’ve been experiencing lately. Most “juicy” wines I would recommend are white varietals or blends, however there are a couple of exceptions. Here are a few of my picks and where to find them. And they’re all under $10.

Tropical Passionfruit Moscato- Costco, 9.99- This bright moscato from Italy features tropical fruit flavors and aromas.  It is super refreshing chilled, and is a sweet wine without being too sweet. It comes in a pretty light green bottle with a twist off cap, making it the perfect drink to bring to a picnic at the Hollywood Bowl.

Caposaldo Sparkling Peach Moscato- Costco, 9.99- Feeling peachy? Also from Italy, this peach moscato is bubbly and sweet, with the taste of freshly picked peaches, citrus, and honeysuckle.  To me, it’s summer in a beautifully decorated bottle. And since Southern California didn’t get the memo that it’s fall, I picked up a bottle to enjoy.

Stella Rosa- most major retailers, 8.99-10.99-  Stella Rosa is a selection of wines imported by San Antonio Winery, located right here in Downtown Los Angeles. Anything Stella (with the exception of its prosecco) to me tastes like juice. Shown above is the Stella Red, which is labeled a semi-sweet wine.  The Red is not as sweet as the Stella Peach or Stella Berry, but it still goes down like juice.  The Stella Black is also semi-sweet with a bit of sparkle, and the rich flavors of berries.  Stella Black is so far my favorite Stella, but then I had it first on an anniversary date at the winery with the husband, so memory probably influences flavor in this case.

costco wines
It’s always fun to look at the Costco wine selection.


Have a wonderful weekend. Here’s to another work week gone by. Cheers!


coffee, Decorating, Shopping, Style, Uncategorized

First Shadows of Fall

Shortened days, comfy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, marching band field shows- these are signs of fall. California is known for really having only two seasons: a short, 2-3 month rainy season and the rest of the year. And while that’s true, the massive Liquidambar in my front yard has started to change colors and drop its leaves in anticipation of the coming winter. It is fall.

I was really happy this week after several weeks of heat, to finally start wearing the few sweaters in my wardrobe. It has been nice to actually need a blanket and to not have to blast the a/c. The cloudy mornings have been perfect for pumpkin spice lattes and hot chocolate. And fall decorations! I love fall decor: pumpkins, leaves, many candles casting their soft glow as the days grow shorter.

Today I celebrated the autumn equinox by wearing a sweater that’s lived in my closet for the past couple months, tags still on in hopes that cooler weather will come and decorating the house for the season. So here’s to this season as it takes us closer to the end of 2017. May your cooler days be filled with warmth and lots of pumpkin spice.