Christmas Bucket List: LA Edition

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It is my humble opinion that no place on Earth does Christmas quite as well as Heidelberg, Germany.

Chicago hosts a pretty lovely holiday season as well:

And despite the fact that yesterday's official kickoff of the holiday season rang in at a whopping 80 degrees, Los Angeles offers plenty of things to do to get into the Christmas spirit.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate the season in LA and the surrounding areas, as well as a few new things I'm hoping to try this year!

1. Go see the Hollywood Christmas Parade: This Sunday (November 25th) 5:30 PM.  I have vivid memories of going here with my cousins and anxiously awaiting the float with Santa.  I also remember it being quite chilly! More info here
2. Ice skate at Pershing Square (right under the LA Times Building): Because seriously... nothing says Christmas like ice skating.  More info here
3. Visit Disneyland: If you can afford it, this is a no brainer.  There is no more magical time at the Happiest place on earth than the holidays. Do me a solid and ride the Haunted Mansion.  When  it's decked out like Nightmare Before Christmas, it's my favorite ride at the park.
4. Visit Mount Baldy: If your holiday season just isn't complete without snow, mount baldy is a perfect local fix.  Spend the day sledding down hills and grab dinner at the Mount Baldy Lodge.  Extra points if you're able to snag a seat by the fireplace!
5. Gawk at the Fashion Island Christmas Tree: Most years this tree takes the cake for the nation's tallest, and it's a tradition for my family to take a trip down here the week before Christmas.  There is also an ice skating rink, a place to take pictures with Santa, and of course tons of great stores and restaurants!
6. Shop at Renegade Holiday Market: (Dec 8 & 9) I was introduced to Renegade in Chicago and was immediately hooked.  I was over the moon when I found out they host craft fairs in other big cities as well!  Admission is free and the fair features handmade goods and original artwork from sellers all across the country.  More info here
7. Drive Through an Awesome Christmas Light Display: Here are a few that I have been to or heard about-
Rancho Cucomonga- Info here
Santa Clarita/ Saugus- Map here
El Segundo "Candy Cane Lane"- Info here
Altadena "Christmas Tree Lane"- Info here
Eagle Hills in Brea- Info here
8. Go See The Nutcracker: For just about every year since I can remember I was either in the ballet or went to see it.  Christmas just doesn't feel quite right without it! This year there are performances at Pepperdine's Smothers Theatre.  Tickets here
9. Listen to Live Christmas Music: LA has quite a few "sing alongs" which I think would be so much fun to go to! If singing isn't your thing there are also great choral and instrumental concerts throughout December.  More info  here
10. Take Part in Heritage Square's Lamplight Celebration: Take a tour of local Victorian mansions while A Christmas Carol is recreated live.  Does it get cooler? More info here
**Bonus for 2013 (hopefully) Walk Through Griffith Park's DWP Lights Display: This awesome tradition is on hiatus for another year due to the construction at Griffith Park, but log it away in your memory bank- it's worth it!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions in your city?


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This can be a confusing time of the year.

In all seriousness, I find myself conflicted during the holidays.  I know I should be thankful.  I want to be thankful.  Yet I'm finding myself focusing so much more on the things that I'm lacking.  Sometimes these are material things, but more frequently they are intangibles:

I wish I had more time
I wish I had more friends
I wish I were more stylish
I wish I were more creative

Ungratefulness is a snowballing habit. The more we complain, the better we become at finding things to be unhappy about. And guess what? By cultivating feelings of ungratefulness we actually make ourselves less happy! A 2010 Study in the Wall Street Journal reported that adults who feel grateful have “more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not... They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics.”  

We've all heard the adage that the grass is always greener on the other side.  I'm coming to realize that doesn't have to be the case- in fact, the grass is greenest where you water it.  By making a daily commitment to cultivate a disposition that defaults to thankfulness we can grow habits which will spill over into every area of our lives.  We can start with the simple act of counting our blessings.  

Look for things to be grateful for, and you will start to see them.

If we truly committed to living this way it would change everything.

Our friendships.
Our marriages.
Our jobs.
Our ministries.

I know that, like all habits, implementing this into my life will take a lot of practice.  But it's something that I want to continue even after the turkey is gone.  As my first baby step, here are ten things for which I am especially thankful today:

I am thankful for my caring, loving, patient, selfless husband
I am thankful to live so close to most of my family
I am thankful for the new family I have gained
I am thankful for pets
I am thankful for coffee
I am thankful for democracy
I am thankful for the wonderful friendships I am surrounded by
I am thankful that God made us able to enjoy eating (think about it... what if we just photosynthesized?)
I am thankful for my health
I am thankful for my eternal salvation in Christ

What are some things that you are thankful for today?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Since moving into our house Ty and I have had a lot of conversations about hospitality.  We made a commitment even before we got married that we were going to be intentional about reaching out to others and welcoming them into our home; regardless of the size or condition of that home.  We have been very blessed in that we are currently able to stay in a home with two bedrooms.  We recognize that this is not normal for a couple of our... er.... current economic standing, and thus we also recognize it as a gift from God that we want to use for His glory.

As we have attempted to make people feel welcome in our home we have come to realize that there are two types of hospitality which we hope to demonstrate. 

Image via

The first is the type that prepares.  This hospitality plans and awaits and searches pinterest for far too long at work.  It anticipates the arrival of guests, it cooks delicious meals, it sets the table, it washes the sheets.  The best example I can think of this side of hospitality is found in Mrs. Morrow, who is one of my best friend's mothers.  Every time we visit Mrs. Morrow we are greeted with slippers, welcome baskets filled with toiletries and treats, and a warm meal.  It's obvious every time we visit that she has worked to make us feel at home and loved.  This kind of hospitality shows the side of Jesus portrayed in John 4:2-3 in which He explains that He will "prepare a place for [us.]"

Image via

The second is the type that accepts without condition.  This type of hospitality was exemplified by my parents.  I have vivid memories of various people knocking on our door in the middle of the night because they had nowhere else to go.  One was a neighbor whose husband had beat her.  One was a family friend who relapsed. There were times when people would show up for dinner without warning. There was a child in the neighborhood who would walk through our front door in the middle of the day because his parents refused to pay attention to him. I had friends all throughout high school who would get into fights with their parents and just needed a safe place to stay for a couple hours. My parents never turned anyone away; regardless of the cleanliness of the house or how much food had been made or whether or not there were enough beds in the house, my parents welcomed everyone into their home with open arms. Sometimes this meant that our guests had mac n' cheese for dinner and had to sleep on an air mattress in the living room, which was a disaster because it hadn't been cleaned in a month. It didn't matter. Though there was no preparation or anticipation, there was acceptance. This type of hospitality shows the side of Jesus portrayed in Matthew 11:28 in which He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

I've noticed that it can be difficult to embrace both of these types of hospitality.  Most of us probably lean more toward one than the other but by no means are they mutually exclusive.  I'm working on sharpening my skills with the first one, and I'll have a good chance to practice on Saturday!

What are some ways that you practice hospitality toward others?

"I Love You Because..."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I've been seeing this craft pop up incessantly on pinterest:

Looks pretty cute right? What a great thing for married couples... reminding one another of the many things for which they are loved and appreciated.  Here are some of the examples I've seen:

I love you because you are so darn sexy.
I love you because you took care of the baby last night at 3 am.
I love you because you always put the toilet seat down.

There's something that bothers me about this fundamentally, though.

While I believe that appreciation is a valuable and necessary aspect of a healthy marriage, I also believe that our love for our spouse should not be dependent on looks, actions, or even character.  I know that is kind of a bold statement, but I truly believe that our model for marriage is Christ's relationship with His Church.  Our love should be without condition and without precedent.  Romans 5:8 is the perfect illustration of this kind of love:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He didn't Love us because we were faithful, good, trustworthy, or noble.
He didn't Love us on the condition that we loved Him in return.
He just Loved.

(okay that last one isn't actually a word, but you get my jist.)

And what does He ask of us in return? Here's a hint- It's not
"I loved you, so you better love me back."
(Sometimes I'm like that with foot rubs.)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. {1 John 4:11}

So Tyler, if you are reading this, I want you to know that:
I appreciate how darn sexy you are.
I appreciate how you take care of the baby cat at 3 am.
I appreciate that you always usually put the toilet seat down.

But my love for you will continue even if none of those things do. 


Monday, November 5, 2012

Ty had this past Thursday off work so we enjoyed an extra-long weekend.  On Thursday night we went out to the Arts district and there are a few gems there that I would feel selfish not sharing with you.  If there are any girls reading this who are desperate to impress a guy (hello, Amanda circa 2010) these three stops are sure to win him over.

1. Angel City Brewery: Unfortunately they are currently undergoing a huge renovation so they may not be opening up again until the end of this month.  But I promise it is well worth the wait!   Located in the old Roebling & Sons building (Roebling was the engineer who built the Brooklyn Bridge) ACB doubles as a brewery and an art gallery.  Walking along the halls, admiring (and pretending to understand) local art whilst sipping a craft beer is enough to make even me feel hip.

2. Wurstkuche: This is not where you go for an authentic German experience.  (You can head over to Red Lion Tavern for that.)  This is where you go to eat sausages stuffed with sundried tomato & mozzarella, drink fancy overpriced Belgian beers, and stuff your face with the tastiest truffle fries known to man dipped in fancy sauces that probably don't exist in Germany.  Seriously.  Spring the extra 2 bucks for the truffle fries. Just trust me.

3. The Pie Hole: At this point all the beer and sausage and fries are probably making you feel like you need to be rolled across the street.  That means you're doing it right. Luckily the final stop is literally right across the street, so only a minimal mount of rolling will need to occur. (Though, contrary to popular belief, boys tend to find that very, very attractive.)  The pie hole is cool.  Way too cool for me to set my non-moccasin-clad-feet into.  But when pie is involved all social confines go out the window.  I was mildly intimidated when we walked in, but that disappeared as soon as we got our slice of Mexican chocolate pie.  Get it. Split it.  It's cute and really necessary.  You will not regret this decision.

Okay, moving on to the real purpose of this post.  Besides a fabulous date night, another very important and wonderful thing occurred this weekend.

Just look at that face.

 We welcomed Gatsby into our home!  We saw this little guy at the pound on Saturday (it's a frequent hangout spot for us) and just fell in love.  Originally we weren't planning on adopting a dog until after my position at Pepperdine was finished, but we couldn't wait.  He is a one year old cocker spaniel/ setter/ who-knows-what mix who was abandoned by his former owners.  I can't fathom how someone could abandon an animal... especially this one.  He is super smart, extremely well behaved, and a total lover.  He's too big to sit on my lap but I don't have the heart to tell him that.  We love him a whole lot and are really looking forward to the day the cat does too.