If you are looking for something spectacular to serve your guests as an appetizer this holiday season, then here is the recipe for you. This elegant and easy hors d’oeuvre features flavorful Stella Cheese.
Cheese, Fig, & Basil Hors d’oeuvres
An Elegant and Easy Stella Cheese Recipe
Are you hosting a holiday party for friends or maybe the big family celebration? These events can be stressful; but relax, I have you covered with a great tip. MAKE SIMPLE FOOD!
Now, simple food does not have to be boring or bland. Use quality ingredients and rich, bold flavor combinations to tantalize your taste buds. Stella Cheeses are a perfect addition to any appetizer.
The old world craftsmanship and rich dairy heritage of Stella Cheeses date back to 1923. These quality flavorful cheeses come in many varieties from shredded to crumbled, and sharp to sweet, and always adds a hint of romantic flavor. Your guests will adore Stella Cheeses.
I paired Stella’s savory Romano Cheese with a Dalmatia Fig and Cocoa Fruit Spread and a sprig of Basil atop a mini toast. It does not get much simpler than this, folks! The flavors burst in your mouth, and the toast offers a very satisfying crunch. Not only does this hors d’oeuvre taste amazing, it is absolutely gorgeous — perfect for a festive holiday party or any occasion. Here is my recipe, and it has only four ingredients.
What is so special about Monterey County, California? Just about everything! If you have never been, you need put this spectacular location on your bucket list. Everyone should see Monterey, and experience the marathon of moments it has to offer. #Monterey
A California Marathon of Moments
Nestled along the Big Sur coastline you will find one of California’s treasures, Monterey County, where life is beautiful, literally. From Monterey Bay and Peninsula to Big Sur and the Carmel Valley, the scenic views are breathtaking. Not only does Monterey have a stunning landscape, it boasts a lively hub of culture, entertainment, and activities for both adults and families.
This small slice of California has inspired greatness in many. Take a look at Monterey’s Cannery Row, immortalized by Nobel Prize-wining author, John Steinbeck. This street was once home to a thriving fishing and canning industry. Now, you can still feel the old-time charm while enjoying the many hotels, shops, and restaurants. On the north end of this waterfront street, you will find the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Check out their Sea Otter Cam!
Carmel-by-the-Sea moved another literary great to build a home for his wife. Poet Robinson Jeffers constructed Tor House and Hawk Tower by hand in the early 20th century using stones from the cove below. Jeffers hosted many other literary visionaries such as Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes and Robert Bly. Today, this literary sanctuary is home to the Pacific Repertory Theatre and its Golden Bough Theater.
Take the family to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf to get a full sensory experience. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells as you watch sea lions and otters frolic in the water. Board the glass-bottom boat for a tour, or walk down the wharf with a cup of clam chowder. The Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-see, and the fresh calamari is a must-try!
Varied Events and Activities
Looking for something to do is not a problem with the diverse and jamb-packed calendar of events. Experience the legendary Monterey Car Week and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, or the excitement of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Music, art, and wine lovers will enjoy the Carmel Bach Festival, Monterey Jazz festival, and the Wine, Art and Music Walk. Sporting enthusiasts can take advantage of the Big Sur International Marathon, bike rides, day hikes, beach sports, and golf with the pros at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AM.
If you are looking for a touch of the Bohemian atmosphere, don’t miss the Henry Miller Memorial Library with its bookstore, live music events, and outdoor movie nights.
World-Class Scenic Drives, Wine Tasting & Fine Dining
Drive the central coast. Highway One is named among the top scenic drives in the world. Offering a wide range of sites such as the flat wetlands of Elkhorn Slough, fishing ports, craggy coastlines, towering cliffs, artichoke fields, rolling sand dunes, cypress forests, redwood trees, and stunning bridges. 17-Mile Drive got its beginnings as a carriage road in the 1880’s, and is lauded for its magnificent scenery routing you through Monterey County from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Pacific Grove. Drive through Carmel Valley and the River Road to Salinas for a little wine tasting and fine dining. Be sure to stop and check out the Farmers’ Markets and Farm Stands.
For the Families
You’ve already read about the Aquarium, but out in the Salinas Valley you’ll find the Monterey Zoo. Find your way through the Monterey Mirror Maze. Ride the Ghost Tours trolley through Oldtown. Go on a kayak tour, bike or hike the Coastal Recreation Trail. You can even take a segway tour!
History and rich heritage is part of Monterey’s charm. Visit Point Pinos Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on the west coast. See the counties three missions: Carmel Mission, Soledad Mission, and San Antonio de Padua Mission. Follow the self-guided tour of the Path of History, or experience history with the History Fest including reenactments and more.
Stunning Bed and Breakfast Inns
Pamper yourself by staying at lovely bed and breakfast inns. There are so many wonderful choices, you may have trouble choosing. Simple solution–come back for another visit! Relax, rejuvenate, and restore your sole in peaceful romantic surroundings.
California’s central coast has so much to see and do. You will want to visit more than once to experience the marathon of moments that is Monterey.
Living at the beach in Southern California, we don’t see much snow. In fact, I’ve seen it at home a total of twice in my lifetime. On both of those occasions, the snow melted as soon as it hit the ground. The occasional hail storm is as close to snow on the ground as we get. And let’s face it, hail would hurt! So, to have the fun of snowball fights, we have to get a little creative…
I have a couple of options for you.
The first involves PVC sprinkler pipe, a few fittings, and mini marshmallows. All you need for the second idea is Playdough. I guarantee the laughs will ensue!
California Snowball Shooters:
Every year on the last day of school before Christmas vacation, the teachers and staff would gather in the courtyard and sing Christmas carols as the students and parents arrived to school. It was always a wonderful tradition. One year, at the end of the singing, the entire staff whipped out these little beauties…
The next thing we knew, us parents and students were under attack. It was a California Snowball Fight. Mini marshmallows were flying everywhere. Kids were picking them up and throwing them back at the teachers. It was wild, it was crazy, and it was a TON of fun.
I thought about what a simple idea this California Snowball Shooter was, and decided to make some for my family. We have had so much fun with these mini marshmallow snowball fights. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of all the fun we’ve had each year with these, because I was too busy being involved in the melee.
Here’s what it takes to make your own California Snowball Shooter:
3 lengths PVC tube / pipe – 1/2 inch diameter is fine
2 Open Couplers
A Hacksaw or something to cut the pipe.
As you can see in the above picture, you can make your shooters different sizes, but the construction is the same. Cut your three pieces of PVC pipe (one for the handle, the other two for the shooter). Connect the three pieces to the T-fitting. Place the cap on the bottom of the handle, and the two open couplers one on each end of the shooter.
All that is left is to stuff a mini marshmallow into one end of the shooter and blow from the other end… let the snowball fights begin…
If you are giving these as a gift, add a little tag like this:
“California Snowball Shooter: Stuff a mini marshmallow into the tube and blow!”
Sometimes it’s tough to be a kid in the hospital… and sometimes it’s not. If you have read my About Lorelai page, you know that Rory has been hospitalized throughout her entire life, a lot. Thank goodness for an excellent hospital, doctors, and nurses, but in this case the true heroes were her Child Life Specialists. The job of these amazing people is to help the children cope with their illness, hospitalizations, and situations. We had several Playdough Snowball Fights over the years, sometimes indoors, and others outside. Oh, my, gosh did they all have FUN! Take a look…
All you need for this game is Playdough!
Rory, Bonnie, and Stephanie rolled the Playdough into smallish balls so they would have lots of ammunition. The IV pole made a great snowball holder. We tried to clean everything up, but when I would take Rory out to the garden for a walk, we would catch a glimpse of color peeking out from somewhere. The memories made us giggle. Years later the Playdough Snowball Fights are still being talked about as one of the greatest events ever!
The best thing about BOTH of these Snowball Fights is since they do not require snow, you can have them all year round!
I have gathered a collection of FREE printable Christmas activities that can be fun for the entire family. Roll the dice and draw a snowman. Find your way through a Christmas maze. Unscramble Christmas words. And have some fun with Christmas songs.
Are cost or time prohibiting you from taking a vacation? Why not take the chance to explore your own hometown—discover its hidden secrets, learn its history, and enjoy your relaxing “stay-cation”.
Allow me to share a little about my hometown with you…
I live in the beautiful coastal city of Huntington Beach, in Southern California. The Orange County community boasts gorgeous wide sandy beaches that stretch uninterrupted for close to 10 miles, world-class surf, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, a designated dog beach, and one of the longest piers on the West Coast, at 1,850 feet.
Nicknamed Surf City, USA, Huntington Beach plays host to the famous US Open of Surfing each year, and is home to the Surfing Walk of Fame, Surfing Wall of Fame, and the International Surfing Museum. Gordon Ramsey’s show Master Chef came to Huntington Beach the 2013 season to feed the surfers, you can read more about that at my blog post, Master Chef and My Home Town.
Huntington Beach is well known for its charming small town atmosphere amidst a bustling population of nearly 200,000 people. HB provides an array of regular events: the Fourth of July Parade on Main Street (at over-a-century-old, this is the largest 4th of July parade West of the Mississippi River), pancake breakfasts, chili cook-offs, Concerts in the Park, festivals, marathons, the New Year Polar Plunge, the annual (Rubber) Duck-a-Thon, Pier Swim, Grunion Runs, and weekly Surf City Nights Street Fair and Farmer’s Market. Citizens never lack the opportunity to share the joys of Huntington Beach with their friends and neighbors.
Beneath the small-town fabric, lays a city with a great history, and many of its historical buildings are scattered around the downtown area. Come on a walking tour with me.
We’ll start at The Sugar Shack, an old-fashioned breakfast and lunch diner on Main Street. The Sugar Shack has only been around since 1967, but its photo-filled walls share some history and memorabilia of Surf City. Surfers, residents, and out-of-towners alike flock to the quaint diner.
If you slip out the back door of The Sugar Shack and walk through the back patio seating area to the alley, you will find one of HB’s oldest historical buildings—the City Jail, circa 1908. These windowless, brick jail cells, with incredibly heavy sliding doors are interesting to see and to ponder. Imagine the heat of summer, the cold of winter, the darkness, the isolation.
Then you can turn the corner and visit the Shank House. The classic 1913 Southern California Bungalow originally built on 20th Street, and relocated in 1920 with the discovery of the Huntington Beach oil fields. In 1988, the City Redevelopment Agency acquired the property. Its new location, closer to the pier and just off Main Street, made the Shank House a perfect choice for the downtown Police Substation. Have you ever seen such an amazing substation?
If you are in for a little paranormal activity, you can mosey on over to the Beach Court where Rudolph Valentino is purported to haunt from time to time. The actor stayed at the Beach Court during 1923-1926 while in town filming movies.
The Main Street branch of the Huntington Beach Library and the original city Post Office are just short walks away. The original library building was open-roofed when purchased in 1913, but the addition of a roof, furniture, and books, made for a cozy library. The doors to the new (and current) library building opened in 1951.
A few blocks walk down Main Street, past all the shops and restaurants, brings you to the Huntington Beach Pier. Take a walk or ride in a chauffeur pedaled buggy to the end of the pier for lunch at Ruby’s Diner. The two-story window-filled diner is perched on the end of the pier so as you sit in your booth you have full view of the ocean surrounding you and Santa Catalina Island just 27 miles off shore. Watch dolphins, sea lions, whales, surfers, and swimmers playing on the waves. My kids took me to lunch here a couple of weeks ago for my Birthday Bash. The pier is also a favorite of sport-fishermen.
A little farther inland, you will find Huntington Beach’s Central Park. The 350-acre park is home to a beautiful library, which includes the most phenomenal children’s library around. It also is home to the Huntington Beach Community Playhouse, Shipley’s Nature Center, Adventure Playground (where kids can engage in old-fashioned play of fort building, mud-slides, pole rafting on a pond, tire swings, rope bridges, etc.) and the Park Bench Café where park goers can eat breakfast or lunch with their dogs. The Park Bench even has a Pooch Bakery. Picnic, walk the many trails, watch the wildlife, or enjoy a Concert in the Park at the outdoor amphitheater. Labor Day weekend always brings the Great Battle of Central Park. The Civil War Re-enactment is fun and educational with a camp, living history demonstrations, battles and more.
Huntington Harbor is a popular recreational area with marinas and a multitude of water activities. If you are here with your loved one, why not take a romantic sunset gondola ride through the harbor. At Christmas, Huntington Harbor is alight with the Huntington Harbor Boat Parade. It is a festive way to celebrate the season.
Since 1984, Huntington Beach’s Donut Derelicts is by far one of the best classic car cruises in Southern California. Every Saturday morning at 6am lovers of old cars, customs, and hot rods show up at Adams Donut Shop to show off their toys. Two to three hundred cars arrive and park for the social part of the morning—a little coffee and donuts with a whole lot of car talk. Then about 8:30, it’s engines rumbling as the cruise line drives around town. Here’s a fun fact… Luke’s dad actually helped get the cruise started. He has been living in Huntington Beach since 1936.
These are just a few of the great things about Huntington Beach, Surf City, USA. Not only do we have an amazing city, but also Orange County is an entertainment mecca. Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm are about 30 minutes away. Visit the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission, Bower’s Museum in Santa Ana, the Sawdust Festival, and Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. Behind the Orange Curtain, you will also find the homes of the MLB Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the NHL Ducks. The Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary are 20 minutes away in Long Beach, just across the Los Angeles County border. Within a 2-hours radius of Huntington Beach, you can surf, ski, and ATV in the beaches, deserts, and mountains, do a little celebrity hunting in Hollywood, or you can take an international excursion into Mexico.
I hope you have enjoyed your little visit to my hometown. If you ever find yourself here, be sure to check out some of these fabulous places and fun-filled events.
Have you ever been to Huntington Beach?
How does my hometown compare with yours?
Now that you know a little about my hometown, stop by and check out my About Me page.