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Things to do in 2016:

1.Visit a lighthouse.

There are over 30 lighthouses in California that were built as navigational beacons for sailors.
These beautiful structures help boats and ships navigate around dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs, and they provide safe entries to harbors, There are some that will allow visitors during the year.

Some lighthouses are only show pieces. They serve only to add ambiance to an area, restaurant, harbor, etc.

Regardless of the purpose, lighthouses are beautiful and are usually surrounded by scenic ocean views.

If you choose to visit one, here is a list of lighthouses in California and below are some photos we have taken of lighthouses in the Southern California area.

Alcatraz Island                                                  Anacapa Island                                         Ano Nuevo
Ballast Point                                                      Battery Point (Crescent City)                Cape Mendocino
Carquinez Strait                                                East Brother                                             Farallon Island
Fort Point                                                           Humboldt Harbor                                   Lightship Relief WLV 605
Lime Point                                                          Long Beach Harbor                                Los Angeles Harbor (Angel’s Gate)
Mile Rocks                                                         Oakland Harbor                                       Piedras Blancas
Pigeon Point                                                      Point Arena                                               Point Arguello
Point Blunt                                                         Point Bonita                                             Point Cabrillo
Point Conception                                              Point Diablo                                             Point Fermin
Point Hueneme                                                 Point Knox                                                Point Loma
Point Montara                                                   Point Pinos                                                Point Reyes
Point Sur                                                             Point Vicente                                            Punta Gorda
Saint George Reef                                             San Luis Obispo                                        Santa Barbara
Santa Cruz                                                          Santa Cruz Breakwater (Walton)           Southampton Shoal
Table Bluff                                                           Trinidad Head                                           Trinidad Head Memorial Yerba Buena

Lighthouse Newport 900 Light house by Shoreline 900 CAbrillo looking towards long beach 900 Point Vicente Lighthouse 900 Oceanside Lighthouse 900


Naples and Alamitos Bay During the Holidays

One of my favorite places to go for the holidays is Alamitos Bay near Long Beach, California and the nearby Naples Canals.

Both places do it up nice for the holidays. In Alamitos Bay, colorful Christmas trees are placed on platforms and lined up in the middle of all of the channels.   In addition, lights and garland can be seen strung along some of the docks and boats.

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A California Christmas, palm trees, gorgeous sunsets, and Christmas Lights.

As offshoots from the bay, the Naples Canals are a series of narrow waterways that are just wide enough for small boats. Gondola rides can be charted at nearby rental places and we saw as many as 15 people in one of the larger vehicles. Duffys and kayaks were leisurely navigating through the channels while people were walking the boardwalk happily enjoying the beautiful December night.   The bridges crossing over the canals were the most crowded as the view there was the best. Each time you drove or walked over a new bridge the sight was just as spectacular as the next.

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At least 90% of the residences had lights and decorations making for a spectacular holiday display.   The charming little canals were made even more vibrant by the shimmering lights from the homes and docks.

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Not as crowded as a Saturday night, Sunday was alive with people, although, that surprisingly added to the appeal and holiday spirit of the evening. There was a live band playing Christmas tunes, hot chocolate and cookies were for sale for a school fundraiser, and of course the star of the show , the holiday spirited homes themselves.

It is an amazing place and a must see if you are in the Southern California area for the holidays.

Story and photos:Debbie Colwell

The NutCracker

Inside the Civic

The Nutcracker at the Civic Center in San Diego

I think most of us have all heard of the production called the Nutcracker. We may not know the story, however most of us might recognize at least some of the music. I decided that at age 52 it was time that I actually see the Nutcracker production. I had never been to the ballet or even expressed much interest in going but Christmas and the Nutcracker just seem to go together and I had to find out myself what it was all about.    I saw the advertisement for the production at the San Diego Civic Center and decided that 2015 would be the year that I would finally go.

The California Ballet production is filled with some of the most talented artists and the costumes were more than impressive.   The talent ranged from ages 3 to 33 with all skill levels.   The young ones were fun to watch and the older dancers were mesmerizing.   The San Diego Symphony provided the live music and the familiar tunes were in perfect sync to the dancers. It made me feel lucky that I lived near a city that had such a wonderful production.

They provided a story synopsis of the different scenes in the play bill and that made it way easier to follow along.    Not being familiar with the story I would have been lost without the background they provided.

Our lives are so hectic that it’s nice to relax and escape to a fantasy world.   I have to admit I didn’t always follow the story line but the dancing sweeps you away and for some reason it really doesn’t matter if you know all the specifics. The dancers take you into a world of no worries and peace. You sit mesmerized by the strength and skill that these individuals portray.   Joking around, I have to admit I did a twirl or two on the way to the car.   I found myself clumsy, dizzy and out of breath, so much for a career as a ballet dancer.   That’s when I said hats off to these dancers, and realized how talented, coordinated, and strong they are.

The Civic Center is a convenient location and nearby there is plenty of parking.   It was fun to experience the bustle of the area and the impressive city Christmas displays. Carolers welcomed you into the facility and you were instantly greeted by the young dancers in costume.

The front of the civic
The front of the wonderful Civic Center in San Diego

The Civic lobby
Looking down at part of the lobby

The Nutcracker is a must see at least once in your life time.   The music and dancers provide the perfect scenario to get you into the Christmas Spirit.

Story and photos: Jolan Schmidt

Knob Hill Light Display, San Marcos, California

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Knob Hill, San Marcos

If you are in the San Marcos area for the holidays, check out the elaborately decorated home on 1639 Knob Hill Rd.

For 28 years the Gilfillen Family has decorated this wonderful home for the public to see.

In talking to the owners wife, she informed us that her husband does the display all by himself. He starts right after Labor Day and works daily to have it finished by November 26th.

Among many other items, the display features a Nutcracker section, dozens of different animals, and even Star War characters to keep in the spirit of the opening of that film. Thousands of lights and other holiday characters are scattered about the grounds also.

Nut crackers
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Santa pays a visit between 6:30 and 8:00pm Dec 13—Dec 23rd. As mentioned, the display starts on November 26 and ends on Dec 30.

A must see for you light chasers.

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Newport Harbor Holiday

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Newport Harbor Holiday

It is my hopes that everyone has wonderful holiday moments from their youth and as grown-ups, can look back on those memories with great fondness.

I know I have tons of recollections from growing up near a place that is always filled with holiday spirit, the  illustrious Newport Beach Harbor.

In my youth, Newport was always dressed up in impressive yuletide style, from the brightly lit city hall, to the impressive homes and yachts at water’s edge in the harbor.

The annual boat parade is one of the best in the west with boats and yachts of every size participating during its run December 16-20, 2015.

This year, we rented an electric Duffy boat to view the homes from the water and which also enabled us to see more home fronts that you normally couldn’t see from the road.

We started out about an hour before sunset and had it rented until an hour and half after sun down. The daylight gave us the opportunity to see the beautifully decorated houses and also a chance to explore the harbor before it got dark. Munchies were spread out on the table and the plastic walls covering the sides kept us warm against the wind. Christmas melodies rang out from the radio and battery operated lights gave our little cabin a holiday feel.

Gingerbread frontCorner house snowman
Even in daylight you could view the beautifully decorated homes

I dressed warm in case it was cold on the bay and by warm, I mean California style. I am sure my attire would make someone from the Mid West laugh because a thick sweatshirt wouldn’t cut it on their cold winter evenings. As I have said many times, that is why we pay the big bucks to live in California.

Just a few blocks west, the sun finally set over the ocean and soon the colorful lights of the houses and boats came alive making the harbor look like a holiday wonderland.

Some of the residences looked like theme parks with huge blow ups everywhere and thousands upon thousands of lights. One house had a moving Santa and reindeers on the very top spinning around for all to see. Some looked elegant with beautiful garland and wreaths while others looked fun and whimsical. Tastefully decorated cottages sat next to huge mansions and both were aglow with every color light imaginable.

Blow ups Flying Santas

As twilight turned the bay to dark it became a little harder to see around the water. Luckily the beautifully illuminated houses and boats gave us bright vantage points to help negotiate around the channels.

Light up hpuse at dark
SWnowman house at dark
This is the same house from above but now lit up with thousands of lights

The Pavillion
A lit up dock, the Pavilion in the background, and a huge yacht passing by on the right.

I spent many days fishing in that harbor so I know it like the back of my hand; still it was nice having passengers help me with spotting other boats and navigating around buoys that are harder to see.

We planned this trip before the boat parade so the water traffic wouldn’t be so heavy. During the parade and especially on the weekend, the harbor comes alive and you have to be on your toes as every size and shape boat is traveling in the same lanes as you are.

In past years, we strolled along the boardwalk on Balboa Island and our only excursion on the water was to take the 3 minute ferry ride across from the peninsula. So being on the water during this time is a new experience and one I highly recommend if you get the chance. Make sure you are careful out there though; there are no headlights on the Duffy boats.

The homes along the harbor are not the only ones lit up. If you drive your car through the narrow streets of Balboa Island, you will be amazed on how many houses are glowing with lights and decorations that could keep you there for hours.

It is just a wonderful place and as mentioned, my beloved childhood home.

We made one last loop near the entrance to the harbor and headed back to the dock with plenty of time to spare.

Rain was predicted to hit during our ride, but it held off until we were finished and safely at the dock. Only when we were walking to our car did we feel the first gentle drops of drizzle starting to fall. Soon came a downpour and we thanked our lucky rain angel for holding it off for awhile.

Seeing the Newport Harbor during the holidays is a must see, seeing it from a boat is even more magical.

Voyager Boat Rentals was nice enough to stay around after they closed to let us take it out at night.
I am not sure if this is the norm but we were happy with the service and he came right out at 6:30 to guide us in.

We saw plenty of Duffys out on the night but weren’t sure if they were rented or private. If you can rent them, I would suggest giving it a try.

If you can’t get on the water to see Newport Harbor during the holidays, drive your car to the Pavilion on the Newport Peninsula and enjoy the boats and homes on foot.

Front of house close
Long House
You can stroll the boardwalk and view the bay-side homes.

On the water or off, you won’t be disappointed.

Duffy Girls
The Duffy Crew

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

Parting Shots

Green Houses
Homes facing west get the sun shining in their windows at sunset.

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19th Street has a public dock and bathrooms. To the south is the new lighthouse park and cafe.

Half way through our ride, a seagull came and visited