Descanso Gardens Again!

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Remember last year when Payam and I went to Descanso Gardens Enchanted Forest of Light? We went again this year and took the girls! I loved it so much last year I couldn’t wait to take them but it only lasts until the first week of January so I had to wait another year for it to come around again.

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They loved it! Of course. How could they not?!

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Of course it helped that both girls got phones this year for Christmas (big year!!) and documenting the forest of light was an explosion of wonderments to share on social media with their friends.

I know. I know. We all have mixed feelings about kids using phones but I am the queen of guiltiness when it comes to sharing on instagram so I was happy to have two new co-conspirators as Payam stands by, rolling his eyes and asking if we are “having a moment.”  (Watch the link. It’s hilarious. We are not that bad—yet.)

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It was so fun! You like Joon’s new sweatshirt? Yeah. Black is a thing when you are almost eleven apparently.

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Anyway, we had a blast tromping through the forest from exhibit to exhibit. It really is done so magically. I have day dreams of owning land someday and making my own enchanted forest in my backyard. Probably won’t happen but it’s fun to dream.

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These spinning crocheted lights captivated me. I immediately took a mental note that I have to recreate this someday for an alphamom craft. The shadows spinning on the ground were dizzyingly fun. I did find a couple small metal lanterns in the gift shop that are similar but nothing of this scale.

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Of course the misty lake is always magical. They have joysticks on the side of the lake mounted on little stumps that you can interact with and make the lights shine this way and that. Then of course everything shifts in color to moody music and you feel like you’ve landed in Neverland.

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The drinks though? Absolute crap. Last time we made that mistake too. Payam and I got mixed adult beverages and promptly threw them away because they tasted more like water with a splash of alcohol and maybe some lemon and lime thrown in for looks. This year we got the girls hot chocolate and it was the same mess. Hot water with a splash of something powdery which may have been chocolate. Poor Bug carried her’s around for ten minutes because she didn’t want to waste Payam’s money but when I tasted it I completely agreed. Good thing the lights are so amazing because nobody’s going to go there for the drinks!

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Look at those colors? This is just me shooting my camera on sport mode with no flash. I’m sure a real photographer could get a tri-pod and some less wiggly models and really go crazy shooting here. I wonder if they’ve ever done any fashion shoots here.

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We tried. But it was a little too dark.

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Not too dark for fun though. These meandering paths that light up when you step on them felt like a life size game of Shoots and Ladders. I wish there had been some slides, that would have clinched it. Can you imagine?!!

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The girls loved it. We could have stayed all night and thrown a party here.

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I’m sure if you follow them on Instagram you saw more than you even wanted to of this adventure. I think they live-storied the entire trip. Just kidding. I didn’t let them do that.

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Then we ended our adventure with the tea garden and a quick trip through the gift shop, like I mentioned earlier. They said we could go back through again with some funky light-reflecting glasses but we were pretty hungry by then so we opted to go get dinner instead. Next year we’ll try the funky glasses.

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Pretty much this my new favorite winter tradition.

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Wrapping up 2016 with a massive picture post!

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I have so many photos to share with you. I should have blogged all the events while they happened but you know how that goes. Whiz-bang gone. So I’m just going to post them in reverse order and prattle along descriptions like I do.

This year we had my first ever New Year’s party. Usually New Year’s parties and I are like oil and water, as in you can’t have them both at the same time because I fall asleep. I never stay up to ring in the new year. However, I always feel guilty about my not staying up, like I’m old and boring or something. This year we decided to run the espresso maker all night long and host a bash.

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And bash it was! We turned out all the lights (except a few with red lightbulbs–shout out to my post Paris party!) and lit dozens of candles all over the place. We made a really good play list and cooked up a bunch of Chinese food (my specialty: homemade pot stickers, fried rice, sticky chicken wings, Asian slaw) and threw together a few other favorites like chips and Trader Joes bruschetta lentil dip.

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We set up the ping pong table in the garage and of course fell for all the usual Party City decorations. But everyone likes to take photos right? Flash photography be what it will.

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It was really fun. A few guests brought guests of their own (surprise!) and next thing we knew some French lady that I didn’t know put on her playlist (we didn’t even get to play ours) and we were dancing to the Macarena of all things. (!) It was the most fun I’ve ever had on New Years, not counting that one year in San Francisco at Union Square.  I didn’t even get a chance to watch the ball drop on tv because I was dancing and talking and having my own ball. I didn’t even feel tired once.

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Now rewind to a few days before New Year’s. Descanso Gardens!!! Have you ever been? I saw a picture of The Enchanted Forest on a friend’s Instagram feed and I knew I had to go. And guess what? It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Seriously. It was so worth the two hours of traffic we had to sit in to get there. (That says a lot coming from a freelancer who never has to drive anywhere if she doesn’t want to.)

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It’s a one mile walk through a mysteriously lit forest with music and interactive installations. It’s a photographer’s dream and nightmare because it’s so hard to photograph but such a tempting challenge anyway!

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I managed. It was actually a really good way to learn how to photograph in low light situations. Payam and I muddled and messed our way through AV, TV and full manual mode on my camera (which is actually his camera that I have taken over and purchased a few lenses for).

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I loved this tunnel of star lights so much. Payam is a true gentleman, taking pictures of me whenever I request. Have I mentioned how much I love him?

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Along the way they offer food and drinks which is charming. We were really excited to have a drink but the martini I had turned out to be so watered down it was kind of a disappointment.

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More lights and more lights! It went on and on forever which was so pleasantly surprising! I really loved the moody music that echoed here and there so lightly.

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This interactive display was the best, especially for kids. I wished we had brought the girls but they were with their other parents. Next year we are already making plans to bring them.

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The tour ended in this Japanese tea garden with hundreds of red paper globe lights. I think it’s a nod to the fact that many acres of the gardens were acquired from Japanese who owned nurseries but were sent to internment camps during World War II. I’m not sure of the whole story on that. I need to do some more research.

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Rewind again to a few days before Christmas. Cookies! This is the first year I really did all the things I wanted to do. Every year before this I have always wished I had baked cookies or made a special dinner or made homemade ornaments or gifts or whatever and every year Christmas just snuck up on me and I couldn’t pull it off. But I’ve been taking notes and I’m getting smarter at holidays.

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Payam spent his pre-Christmas days making me a table. Isn’t it beautiful?!! He’s been making all kinds of intricate wooden things with different kinds of exotic woods these days. I’ll have to write a post on all his creations. He also made his mom a jewelry box and a really pretty striped tray that he’s thinking of selling in his Etsy shop. I plan to photograph everything soon.

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The girls and I also made air-dry clay ornaments that totally turned out better than expected. They took a few days to dry but after a coat of paint and some spray gloss they almost looked better than ornaments you can buy in the store!

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The fire has been going regularly, which makes Whiskey and I very happy.

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That brings me to Christmas… games, tea, family time…

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The girls put on a concert and I actually cooked a special dinner. It didn’t turn out so great. How can you screw up a pre-cooked ham and mashed potatoes? It wasn’t horrible but it was meh which of course makes me more sad than I should be. It’s the effort that counts, right? But even so I’m thinking pizza next year or maybe my Chinese food specialties. I’m done with trying new things on guests.

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It was a really sweet time though. My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas so I didn’t grow up with any of these traditions but I have to say they are starting to feel more and more sentimental and familiar and I like that.christmas-2016-5

There were so many presents! Pusheen anything for Bug and unicorn everything for Joon. It is quite easy to shop for these two which is a good thing and a bad thing.

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I wish they could stay this age forever.

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And that was that! Stick a bow on 2016 and put it in a box! Just kidding. But that is all I have to say about 2016. I’m really excited about 2017, now that I’m getting the hang of holidays, work and family so much more.