Winter Fun In Southern California

The calendar says winter, but most of the time here in Southern California, it's relative. The thermometer may say 60, or it may say 85, and that's just the first two days of the week! But that doesn't mean we don't have winter activities that are well worth doing, and we're going to tell you about a few.

Most people know that you can find “authentic winter” in the mountains surrounding Southern California. Big Bear Mountain is a prime destination for skiing, snowboarding, and other cold weather sports. But did you know that you can volunteer to help the U.S. Forest Service count the bald eagles wintering in the area? The count is coming up on February 13th. Or you might enjoy one of several Guided Snowshoe Eco Tours in the San Bernardino National Forest. Visit the Big Bear Chamber website for a list of activities: http://www.bigbearchamber.com/news_events

Closer to home, there's the Dana Point Festival of Whales. The festival is held on the first two weekends in March (5th & 6th and 12th & 13th). Take a whale watching excursion and see majestic 35-ton California Grey Whales by the hundreds as they pass Dana Point on their months-long migration down the coast to Baja. The festival draws 100,000 visitors every year and highlights include an opening day parade, art exhibits, concerts, educational opportunities, and special activities for the kids. Get the details here: http://festivalofwhales.com/

El Niño Film Festival. Okay, we just made that name up. But you can create your own film festival for those rainy days we can expect courtesy of El Niño. When your best bet is to stay indoors, curl up in front of the TV and watch a movie. Although many people subscribe to streaming services which offer thousands of choices, we like to visit the local library and peruse the stacks of DVDs up close and personal. At the library, you're face to face with films you meant to see but missed, interesting ones you never heard of, and favorites you want to see again. Going through the shelves is an adventure in itself. And since most movies that have been out for longer than a few months can be borrowed for free, you can take chances. Just in case the one you chose turns out to be the stinker of the century, we suggest taking several at a time. So when the forecast says rain is on the way, prepare for your own personal film festival by hitting the library. And don't forget the popcorn!

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Night Before Christmas - Sausage Style!

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the kitchen

Aromas were swirling and noses were twitching.

The counters were cleared, the fixings were ready

And I, the chef, felt prepared and steady.

When to my surprise, from an uppermost shelf

Came the voice of a mystical, magical, elf.

A time-honored figure of legend and lore,

Who hardly ever appears any more.

Father Sausage himself!

There he was with a twinkly eye,

Telling me he'd be standing by

To help ensure that each sausage made

Was perfect and yummy, and tip top grade.

"Add apples, add spices, and lean cuts of meat,"

He said as he danced on his little elf feet.

"Use peppers and onions, and pine nuts as well,"

He gave his instructions as clear as a bell.

"And never preservatives, gluten or soy,

Just good wholesome things for the folks to enjoy."

With his guidance and blessing we strung in a line

The tastiest links. The finest of fine.

A suggestion of sweetness, a hint of savory.

This particular batch would be extra flavor-y.

And I think that you probably know the rest.

The sausages turned out to be the best.

Father Sausage, and Grace, and Lisa, and crew

All gather to wish Happy Holidays to you.c

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Happy Wrapping!

Who doesn't love beautifully wrapped presents under the tree? A surprise package delivered in the mail? A lovely offering brought by a friend? Before you get to the item inside, you ooh and aah over the paper, the ribbons, the colors, the sparkle. The wrappings are part of the love that goes into giving gifts, so go creative. A visit to any craft store will get you started. Or you may have the perfect items on hand already. Here are a few ideas you may like.

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Paper: Use old maps, newspaper, music scores, or even plain brown butcher paper to wrap your gifts. Have your kids draw seasonal pictures and wrap with that. Use fabric; maybe a hankie or scarf that becomes an additional gift.

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Packaging: Instead of a box, use a decorative tin. Buy inexpensive mittens and put your gift inside, tying up the opening with pretty string. Loosely stitch burlap squares together with colored thread on three sides, put in the gift, and sew up the rest.

Ribbon: Try packing twine, knitting yarn, or a combination of ribbons in complementary colors. For small packages, use long pipe cleaners, or apply tape that comes in a variety of patterns.

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Decorations: Cut-outs in the shape of mittens, stockings, deer, or pine trees can be pasted onto the gift. Use stickers or an ink pad and stampers to create designs. Bright buttons on narrow string can be tied around the package. Add adornments like little bells, holly sprigs, artificial flowers and berries. Attach a cupcake paper to the top of the package and fill it with tiny pine cones glued in place.

Gift Tags: Spell out names using alphabet noodles or stickers of the letters. Bake flat cookies, write the names in frosting, and put each cookie in a small plastic bag to be attached to a gift. Make prints of favorite photographs and attach one showing the recipient or the two of you together. Cut portions from last year's holiday cards and turn them into tags.

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Once you get started, you'll have more than enough ideas. Use your imagination and let your packages show how much you care about every lucky person on your list.

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