Season of the Force: Star Wars Eats and Sweets

Season of the Force food
photo credit: Disneyland News
With preparations for the new Star Wars-themed land at the Disneyland Resort, excitement is spreading all across the galaxy! Construction for the new 14-acre land is set to begin in 2016, and guests will have to wait a few years before Star Wars Land actually opens, so young Jedi will have to exercise a lot of patience. Fortunately, Disney Parks is making the wait easier with Season of the Force, a limited-time Star Wars themed experience in Tomorrowland. Not only do park guests get to enjoy new Star-Wars themed attractions, exhibits and merchandise, they also get to eat Star Wars-inspired food and beverages.

That's right, foodies and Star Wars fans! You no longer have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to get some Cantina grub. Disneyland's Tomorrowland Terrace has been transformed into the Galactic Grill, with a completely new menu featuring Star-Wars inspired dishes with clever names and delicious ingredients. Redd Rockett's Pizza Port and Tomorrowland food carts also have their own set of Star-Wars inspired dishes.

Wreath decorating 101: Tips for Beginners

holiday wreath decorating tips

The holidays are here and it's time to deck the halls! Our decorating season began early: last week the boys and I attended a blogger holiday party hosted by Balsam Hill, a company that sells premium Christmas trees, wreaths, and holiday decorations. Three of their designers were on hand to showcase some of their wreaths and offer tips on how to decorate wreaths. Afterwards, we took part in a wreath decorating contest! Bloggers were given a pre-lit holiday wreath and a choice of decorating materials, and 45 minutes to decorate.

Holiday Store Exclusives at American Girl

American Girl Store holiday display
For almost a decade, our holidays have been inexorably tied with American Girl.  The Pea got her first American Girl doll as a Christmas present, and every year since then I haven't been able to resist buying her something from American Girl. This year I'm finally forced to admit that at age 14, she has outgrown American Girl dolls -- well, playing with them, at least! You can be an American Girl doll collector and lover all your life, and I think that's the way it's going to be for The Pea and for me.

A diamond in the rough: Donnelly Chocolates

Donnelly Chocolates Santa Cruz
photo source:

When people visit Santa Cruz, they usually head for the Boardwalk, the Pier, the Wharf, downtown, or one of the many beaches and coves. They don't usually find themselves driving on Mission Street. It's one of the main arteries of Santa Cruz (it eventually becomes Highway 1), and it's full of stop lights and cars. Locals usually take side streets to avoid the traffic, and it's lined with faded-looking storefronts that you wouldn't think to look at.

But there are quite a few gems on Mission Street worth stopping for: Sylvan Music, Vasili's Greek Restaurant, Cafe Brasil, to mention just a few. One real diamond in the rough is Donnellys Chocolates, an artisan chocolate shop located near the corner of Mission and Bay. If you love chocolate, it's definitely worth making a small detour from your regularly scheduled Santa Cruz itinerary.

Top Five Holiday Traditions at the Disneyland Resort

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort

The Disneyland Resort is always crowded during the holidays, and for good reason. No, it's not just because everyone is on holiday. It's because Disneyland has the ability to create special holiday experiences that turn into family traditions. Their imagination and creativity and attention to detail transform park attractions that you can enjoy any time of the year, into completely different. Here are my five favorite Disneyland holiday traditions (I have enjoyed four of them, so I can personally vouch for them, and I've heard so many great things about the fifth one that I've placed it on my bucket list!).

Las Vegas with my sisters

On November 4, Alfie and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. It's hard to believe that it has been 15 years since Elvis married us in Las Vegas!  And how did we celebrate this milestone? With a trip to Vegas, of course!

The only thing was, I didn't take that trip to Vegas with Alfie. I took it with my sisters. One of them lives in Manila and the other lives in London, so we don't get to do this kind of thing very often. In fact, the last time we had a sisters' getaway was about 10 years ago. I can (and do) party in Vegas with Alfie whenever I want. But Vegas with my sisters? That's a once-every-ten-years thing. Fortunately Alfie understood completely, so the day after our anniversary, my sisters and I made our getaway.

Revisiting The Cheesecake Factory

When I lived in Boston, The Cheesecake Factory was my go-to-restaurant for family meals. My sister and brother-in-law introduced me to the place, and we ate there on special occasions. You'd think I would have been happy when The Cheesecake Factory opened a branch in Palo Alto, but in the last fifteen years we've only eaten there twice. I guess the novelty had worn out by then, and the large portions kind of turned me off.

Last week I was in Vegas with my two sisters, and we found ourselves in front of The Cheesecake Factory at the Forum Shops in Caesar's Palace just as our stomachs started rumbling. My sisters looked longingly at the cheesecake display, and I agreed to give the place another shot.