Miracle on 34th Street

Merry belated Christmas! I got home yesterday after a week in New York City with my family and while I don’t feel much more well rested than normal (traveling sucks) I do feel full of love.

My trip started with a dinner and drinks date with some of my best friends from college, people I literally hadn’t seen for over a year. I had a whole day of exploring some of my favorite parts of New York, including the adorable Chelsea and West Village neighborhoods, seeing the Rockefeller Center tree before the crowds showed up, and doing some last second shopping in Macy’s.

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My family and I enjoyed a lot of quality time together decorating the tree, watching Christmas movies, and listening to music. We had a lot of fun together on Christmas Eve and day with most of the usual traditions like our church service, opening presents, and eating Chinese food. My mom took me to see the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center for a special festive treat as well! colorblock.jpg

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On Christmas Eve I spent most of the day in my Christmas pajamas doing the last item on my holiday to do list: gingerbread houses! Except one house was enough for me, so I decided to make a Christmas village with the extra dough. Way easier and so much fun to make since you can create mini versions of your regular spots. The Target one slays me.

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I was spoiled rotten this year with presents. Mark got me new running shoes and a tripod (!), my roommates got me a new planner and a juicer, and my family got me assorted gift cards, a wine of the month membership, a dainty little manger scene and some books I am really excited about! I also got all the cookbooks I asked for, probably the items I am most excited about. It was a beautiful reminder that I am surrounded by people who love and understand me and who really support my interests and passions.

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The grand finale of my trip was meeting up with one of my very favorite people for lunch at Freemans, a trendy spot hidden at the end of an alleyway in lower Manhattan. It took approximately 0.3 seconds for us to be chatting and laughing like we had seen each other just yesterday. That, and spending my final night with my mama playing with my hair like I was a little girl, was pretty much the perfect end to the trip.

Now I’m back in LA ready to start a fresh new year in just a few days because, let’s be real, 2016 was overall THE WORST.

Merry Everything, Happy Always!

Merry Christmas Eve, Eve! I can’t believe it’s already here. The holiday season has totally flown by but I’ve been doing my best to make the most of it! Lots of Christmas tunes, Christmas movies, and festive activities. This week I made my family snowball cookie recipe and bagged some up for my dearest friends, did a quick holiday chalkboard that can apply to everyone, I finished my holiday shopping, we celebrated Christmas as roommates, and Mark and I had an ice skating date!

It’s been very busy and so very jolly. My Christmas to do list is almost all checked off! I’m in New York visiting my family now and it’s been so fun, so for now I’ll leave you with this cute holiday questionnaire I made Mark do with me.

Favorite holiday tradition?

M: I don’t have many for this holiday, so it’s either exchanging one present on Christmas Eve with my dad, or just generally hanging out with him all day on Christmas.

L: My family traditions have evolved a lot over the years, but the one that has remained constant for as long as I can remember is the mini slumber party my sister and I have every Christmas Eve night. When I was little and couldn’t sleep out of excitement I would sneak into her room and we would talk for hours about what Santa would bring us. I’m not sure why it felt so special, other than just saying the fun and anticipation of Christmas Eve is best shared between siblings. I know one day this particular tradition will become unrealistic, but I hope I never lose the nature of the tradition which is spending special quality time with my sister.

One thing you want to make a tradition in the future?

M: It requires a little help from Mother Nature, but I’d love the chance to play in the snow on Christmas.

L: Like Mark, I dream of a white Christmas. I’d love the chance to actually go sledding! We had a great Christmas Eve last year chock full of things I’d like to make traditions (the eggnog bake!!!), and I also like the idea of opening one present on Christmas Eve and having them be special Christmas pajamas.

Best Christmas present ever?

M: The Xbox might’ve been the gift I’ve used the most, so I’m inclined to say that. My dad typically relies on my annual Christmas wish list for ideas, so I love being surprised. One year he unexpectedly got us Giants tickets for the following day!

L: My dog Mina was the best surprise ever. But I have to say, last years Kitchenaid was a very very very close second. I only say this because Mina loves my dad much more than she loves me.

Best Christmas present you ever gave?

M: I once got my dad an autographed picture of a baseball player he really loved.

L: When I was 12 years old I secretly saved all of my lunch money for months so that I could save up to buy an iPod shuffle for my best friend.

Favorite Christmas Song?

M: I don’t listen to Christmas music like Lydia does and really only know the classic children songs like Rudolph and Frosty.

L: Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Favorite taste of Christmas?

M: Egg Nog. Also, more Egg Nog.

L: If I could shove my face in the pasta salad with roasted red peppers, spinach, and smoked mozzarella my mom makes every year, I would. But yeah. Egg nog is pretty much the taste of Christmas.

How long did it take until you accepted Santa wasn’t real?

M: What do you mean he’s not real?!?!

L: I’m with Mark, he’s totally real.

Favorite Christmas movie?

M: Elf.

L: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf.

Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

M: Rudolph, Dasher, Donner, Blitzen, Prancer, Dancer, Sven.

L: Dasher, Dancer, Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Blitzen, Rudolph

What are you most excited for this holiday season?

M: Being back on the east coast seeing family and friends.

L: A week in New York doing festive things, spending time with my family, and seeing some of my very best friends!

Have a merry one, friends!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Settle in y’all. It’s about to be a long one!

On September 1st, the day when magical kids from all over the UK load onto the Hogwarts Express to begin another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I dragged Mark to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal to celebrate.

So here’s a little fun fact about me: I am obsessed with the Harry Potter series. Like, have all the books and books on tape and movies all in multiple formats. I burst into tears whenever I hear the soundtrack, or watch/read certain scenes, or when I think of how much the whole thing means to me. I know every fact ever about the whole franchise and I’m the go-to trivia expert on the matter for my family and many friends.

So considering all of this, it was a little absurd that before yesterday, I had yet to visit either of the Harry Potter parks. I was full on crazy the morning of September 1st, I woke up immediately at 6:40 am and jumped up to get ready. Mark and I left around 7:10 in the morning because we I wanted to get to the park 1 hour before it opened (Early admission is allowed when you purchase tickets from the park website) so we could walk around and take pictures before it got crowded. This was definitely the right move. The park was virtually empty, the light was just right for photos, and we got to see everything and even go on some rides before it opened!

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I immediately started squealing when I saw everything. The details were unbelievable. It was a whole experience and it really felt like I was in the story I have loved for decades now. hogsmede2

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After taking the time to take photos of every storefront and all views of the castle, we decided to start with the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. In order to get to the ride you get to walk through the castle like a student and see famous classrooms and artifacts from the movies. My favorites were the enchanted Weasley car, the Mirror of Erised, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classrooms, and the moving and talking portraits. One was even of Salazar Slytherin!HOGWARTScar

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At the very end of the walk through was the beginning of the ride which takes you through a condensed version of all Harry’s adventures. It was so well done, with a combination of 3-D visuals and physical things popping out at you. I’ll try not to ruin it, but you meet up with dementors, a basilisk, acromentulas, a dragon, and you get to play some Quiddich. I immediately burst into tears of joy and continued to sob with the goofiest smile on my face for the whole thing, all the while thinking “I’m in the story. This is all I’ve ever wanted”. 

Around 8:30 we decided it was time for some of the famous butterbeer, so we stopped at a cart and got 2 butterbeers (1 frozen and 1 iced), and 2 pumpkin juices for the road. The butterbeer was good, like a butterscotch soda, but really sweet. And of course you know we got the souvenir cup!butterbeer3butterbeer2butterbeer

Next stop was Ollivanders, where you can actually go in and buy your very own wand! They lead you into a dark wand room and play out the same scene where Harry gets his wand with a very lucky kid. And I mean the exact same scene. Cue the sobs for the second time. It just felt so real!!! The wand expert even made fun of me a little for this one… It was also so cool to admire close up all the wands from the movies for all of the different characters. In the end, the wands that chose Mark and me looked an awfully lot like Sirius Black’s and Hermione’s 😉ollivanders

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Then we spent a good amount of time going into all of the shops, looking around, and shopping. We purchased some howlers from the Owl Post, laughed at the comical goods at Zonko’s Joke Shop, tried on robes, and got dangerously close to buying all things quiddich related at the Quiddich shop. owlpostzonkos

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Around 10:30 we had a traditional english breakfast in the restaurant The Three Broomsticks, which had so many authentic details that I just couldn’t stop snapping photos. And then, since the park was getting pretty crowded and we had done just about everything we wanted to do, we took a little break and went to other areas of the Universal Park. threebroomsticks3threebroomsticksthreebroomsticks2

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We took a really cool studio tour where we got to tour the lots where movies and tv shows are filmed, then did a Walking Dead themed walk-through experience that almost had Mark hyperventilating in fear, and then I wanted to go back to Hogwarts (shocker). So we went on the Forbidden Journey ride again, did the quick ride “Flight of the Hippogriff”, visited Hagrid’s hut, picked up 2 more butterbeers, and then stopped into Honeydukes for a final bit of shopping before we took off.

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It was so amazing in there. Seriously straight out of the movies. We wanted to buy just about everything, but decided to stick with the classics from the series: We got a chocolate frog (with Rowena Ravenclaw’s card inside), exploding bon-bons, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans, and some butterbeer fudge. honeydukes2honeydukes3honeydukeschocolatefrogs

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We got home at 2 pm, ordered pizza, and watched the last three Harry Potter movies to keep the festivities going. It was pretty much my favorite day ever. And today I woke up, got to drink some coffee out of my HP themed mug, and nibble some of my butterbeer fudge. Heck yeah.

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