Twinkling lights, evergreen wreaths and festive ribbons bedeck the doors and windows in lovely Carmel-by-the-Sea, heralding the holiday season. These are just the icing on this fairytale city, filled with storybook homes, unique shops, world-class restaurants, and even an old-fashioned newspaper, The Carmel Pine Cone. None of the homes here have addresses, but instead unique, homespun names.
Welcome December! Traveling down the streets of Carmel, you are greeted with colorful flowers and lovely holiday decor.
The average daily temperature here in December is 60 degrees, making it the perfect time to stroll around town and admire the lovely sights.
Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes while you are here. And do not wear high heels! They are prohibited by a city ordinance. With all the uneven stone walkways and pavements here, it is easy to understand why. Nonetheless, if you must wear heels, you can purchase a high heel waiver at City Hall. You may find it interesting to know that ce cream was previously prohibited because it was deemed too messy, creating unsightly walkways. Thank goodness that ordinance was repealed!
Of course, if you are in Carmel for the holidays, you simply must check out some of the quirky storybook buildings created by former Carmel resident and builder, Hugh Comstock. The Tuck Box, shown above, is one of his most famous creations.
The Gretel Cottage, above, is another home built by Comstock. It was recently revealed, along with the nearby Hansel Cottage, following a long renovation. Gretel is dolled up and ready for the holidays!
One of the best things about Carmel is discovering all the secret passageways as you walk the streets. You never know what you will find hidden around the corner!
Nearly all the restaurants here feature outdoor as well as indoor dining. And nothing is cozier than sitting near a warm heater while enjoying your meal in the fresh seaside air.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoyed viewing the holiday decor in Carmel. Most of my photos were taken just today! It was beautiful, sunny, and the most perfect December Sunday anyone could hope for. You may also like The #1 Guide for What to See and Do in Romantic Carmel and Fairy Tale Cottages in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Wishing you peace, love, happiness and the happiest of holidays!
For those of you who have wonderful, supportive families and celebrate warm, cozy Thanksgivings together, count your blessings. For those of us who either live far away from our families or have extremely dysfunctional families, there is an alternative celebration, called Friendsgiving. According to Merriam Webster, Friendsgiving is a mashup of the word “friend” and “thanksgiving” that refers to a large meal among friends eaten during the Thanksgiving season. I, for one, am so thankful for my friends and any excuse to spend time with them.
You may have suspected, as I did, that Friendsgiving originated with the TV series “Friends”. This is not the case. Even though the clan on this popular sitcom did have an episode depicting them celebrating Thanksgiving together to avoid family drama, the word Friendsgiving was never mentioned. Apparently, the term has been floating around since 2007, but didn’t become “YUGE” until 2012, when Bailey’s Irish cream used it in an ad campaign and it was featured in an episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. “Friendsgiving” the movie was released last year. It apparently features friends hosting a “dysfunctional, comical and chaotic Thanksgiving dinner”. I have not seen it yet but plan to!
For many folks, Friendsgiving has become not just an alternative to Thanksgiving, but an addition. What I love about it is that there are no hard or fast rules or guidelines. Friendsgiving doesn’t require turkey and cranberry sauce, it can involve anything from ordering out for pizza to a potluck where people bring mystery dishes. It doesn’t have to be held on Thanksgiving and can occur either before or after traditional Turkey day.
You can find Friendsgiving menus, party ideas, and tips for planning and hosting everywhere online, including at eventbrite.com. I think the best way to celebrate it is to keep it simple. I am going to two Friendsgivings this year, one today, and one on Thanksgiving. Today’s gathering will be a potluck. I am bringing cheesecake and a berry pie (and extra wine glasses!). On Thanksgiving Day, I will be celebrating with two of my dear friends and neighbors at a beloved restaurant in Pacific Grove. The very best part about Friendsgiving is sharing love and laughter with those you adore.
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Halloween has arrived here in Monterey County. When I was little and living in the Midwest, Halloween was one of the most important holidays. Why? It meant dressing up in costumes and going trick or treating for candy. There was nothing better than arriving home and dumping our bags of goodies on the floor, where we would meticulously poke through it all and discard the yucky ones or trade them for something better. There were also costume contests and parades at school, and bobbing for apples, hayrides, bonfires, and other fun activities that we kids just loved.
Historically, Halloween has its origins in Samhain, a festival celebrated by the ancient Celts. It was a time of bonfires and wearing disguises to protect oneself when the spirits of the dead revisited the earth. It is thought that trick or treating originated around this time. Guising, or mumming, involved dressing up in costumes and singing, playing card tricks, or telling stories in exchange for sweets. Trick or treating as a tradition did not become popular in the United States until around the 1920s. The demand for a treat meant that no trickery would befall the giver, including soap on their windows.
While I no longer go trick or treating, and can’t give out candy because I live in the country, I still enjoy all the other fun fall activities surrounding this day. One of my favorite things about Halloween is seeing all the festive decor people use to decorate their homes. From happy pumpkins to spooky ghouls, I just love seeing all the creative ways people show their Halloween enthusiasm.
What are your favorite Halloween memories? Do you still dress up in a costume or hand out candy? Or do you like to decorate inside or outside your home? It’s hard not to feel excitement at this magical time of year, with the exception of my cat Georgie, below.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you have a very safe and happy Halloween. For more information on Halloween traditions, see Trick or Treating. You may also enjoy The Eight Most Haunted Places Near Monterey. Wishing you peace, love, happiness, and beautiful vistas.
As the oldest city in California, Monterey enjoys a rich and diverse history. Indians and explorers, priests and pirates, foreigners and fishermen all left their imprint, both good and bad. Intrigues, swindles, hangings and shipwrecks were all part of this past. It is not surprising then that the area is home to tales of restless spirits. Whether you believe the souls of the dead linger or just enjoy a little local history along with spine tingling stories, follow along as we visit the eight most haunted places near Monterey.
1. The Stokes Adobe. A most nightmarish tale surrounds The Stokes Adobe. It is no surprise that it has previously appeared in America’s Most Haunted Places. A British Navy deserter, James Stokes had no medical training. When he arrived in Monterey in 1833 with a stolen medical bag it was clear he was up to no good. It wasn’t long before the imposter became a successful doctor, despite the fact that many patients under his care began to mysteriously die. These included the husband of a woman he ended up marrying and also the Mexican governor of Alta California. The disturbing end came when Stokes committed suicide, reportedly in front of his children after assaulting his daughter. Fast forward a hundred years, when a wealthy socialite named Hattie Gragg came to purchase the adobe. She owned the home until she died of natural causes in 1948. The adobe was then used to house various restaurants until 2017. Previous employees reported seeing the ghost of Stokes on the stairs where he sometimes shoved them and slammed doors. Gragg appeared in the bar where she played the piano and called out staff names. Footsteps, a baby’s cries, the sound of glass breaking and whispering was also heard. Unexplained cold areas were felt and items, such as wine glasses, were seen moving by themselves.
Location: 500 Hartnell Street, Monterey, California.
2. The Robert Louis Stevenson House. Also known as the French Hotel, it is said to be home to a ghostly presence known as the “Lady in Black”. The “Lady” is said to be the former proprietess, Manuela Perez Giradin, who rented out rooms to boarders. There was a terrible typhoid epidemic in 1879 and it soon found its way to the French Hotel. Manuela’s husband died first, and then, after caring for her ailing grandchildren, she succumbed as well. Madam Giradin’s ghost is said to be most active in December, the month that she died. Most of the paranormal activity is said to occur in the upstairs nursery, where she cared for her sick grandchildren. Reportedly, books are pulled from shelves, trunks move across the floor, empty rocking chairs begin to rock and there is a strong smell of disinfectant. I have been inside this building during Christmas in the Adobes in December, and the stairs to the second floor were blocked off to visitors. Perhaps because the Lady in Black is not to be disturbed?
Location: 530 Houston Street, Monterey, California.
3. Herrmann Hall. Built in the late 1800s, the former Del Monte Hotel was the sight of extravagant parties, including one hosted by artist Salvador Dali. Currently owned by the Naval Postgraduate School, those renting rooms have reported seeing a “Man in Gray”, with a long white beard. It has been speculated that this man may be a former railroad employee for the Central Pacific Railroad, or else a missing fireman who disappeared in one of the many mysterious blazes that occurred here. Other reports say the man was a newlywed whose wife was killed on the second floor by a chimney collapse during the 1906 earthquake. He continues to wander the halls asking for help getting upstairs. Other sightings include a spectral socialite who surreptitiously taps guests on the shoulder, erratic elevators and lights turning on and off by themselves.
Location: 1 University Circle, Monterey, California.
4. The Monterey Hotel. Located near Fisherman’s Wharf, this stately building in downtown Monterey is said to be haunted by three different ghosts. One, a female in her teens, is often spotted roaming the staircases and upper floors of the hotel. Another often seen apparition is believed to be a former hotel maintenance worker named Fred. He is thought to be responsible for mischief with tvs, alarm clocks and other devices, including cell phones. Finally, the ghost of the Edwardian architect who designed the hotel is reported to appear from time to time in the front lobby mirror.
Location: 407 Calle Principal, Monterey, California.
5. The Lara-Soto Adobe. Legend has it that when the son of Manuel Soto and his wife Dona Feliciana Lara was born he was strangely malformed. People at this time were extremely superstitious, and believed the child was a devil baby. Even though the child had been baptized as a Catholic, when he died suddenly and mysteriously at age three, grief-stricken Manuel Soto did not bury him in the San Carlos Cemetery. Instead, he dug a hole and buried him in the front yard. He planted a cypress tree above the grave. This act led to a curse on the home which the Spanish and Mexican people called “mal paso” or “evil path”. It wasn’t long before the adobe became abandoned and drunks, squatters and outlaws began to use it. No taxes were paid on the adobe for nearly a century, until 1940, when an artist bought it and renovated it. The author John Steinbeck bought it from her four years later, after having a priest exorcise it. He wrote “The Pearl” while living there, which ironically is a story about a couple who lose their son over a cursed pearl. After the Steinbeck family left, it was purchased by a doctor who began hearing voices, laughter and footsteps in the adobe at night. Middlebury Institute of International Studies is now the owner of the adobe. Several years ago, the tree roots of the cypress tree started to cause upheaval of the brick walkway. The bones of a child were reportedly found under the bricks but were reburied. The huge cypress tree in front of the home has been cut down.
Location: Middlebury Institute of International Studies Admissions Office, 460 Pierce Street, Monterey, California.
6. The Carmel Mission. The Carmel Mission was founded and built by Father Junipero Sero in 1771 using slave labor provided by indigenous people. Beware visiting the mission at nightfall. Candles are reported to have been seen floating in the air. Father Serra is said to pace the church and cemetery in his brown robes only to vanish when approached. Other sightings include a waifish Native American boy wandering the grounds outside the church. A petrifying phantom on a headless white horse has also been reportedly seen during the witching hour.
Location: 3080 Rio Road, Carmel, California.
7. Tor House. Built of craggy granite, eerie Tor House lies on a windswept knoll overlooking the sea. Home to poet Robinson Jeffers and his wife Una in the early 1900s, it it said to be haunted. Jeffers alluded to this in his poem “Ghost”. The home has been featured on the TV show Ghost Adventures. During filming, the crew captured an image they believe to be not Jeffers, but rather, Una. An employee at the home also reported that a book about Una flew off a bookshelf by itself repeatedly. Creepiest of all, when the ghost hunters spilled some ink on a paper on the desk where Jeffers wrote his poetry, it formed into a small devil figure with horns, which you can check out here.
Location: 26304 Ocean View Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
8. Point Sur Lighthouse. Isolated above crashing waves in remote Big Sur, Point Sur is said to be one of the most haunted lighthouses in America. The Point Sur lighthouse has stood duty for over 100 years, warning ships approaching the treacherous coastline. Nonetheless, many lost their lives in shipwrecks here. When I toured Point Sur several years ago, one of the homes was closed to visitors. We weren’t told why it was closed but it was said to be haunted by one of the lightkeeper’s wives who had died. It was an old Victorian home with dark gaping windows and it gave off some pretty creepy vibes. The lighthouse itself is said to be haunted by a man wearing dark blue clothing dating from the 1800s. According to local ghost hunters, there are actually at least 20 active ghosts at Point Sur. If you want to check it out yourself, guided tours are available. Check availability here.
Location: 19 miles south of Rio Road in Carmel, at mile marker 54.
For more information on haunted places in the Monterey area, you may like to read Haunted Monterey County by Patrick Whitehurst or check out Jeff Dwyer’s Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Monterey and California’s Central Coast. Thank you for visiting my blog. You may also like Eight Fall Fun Activities in Monterey County and Fifteen Fabulous Pumpkin Designs For Halloween. Wishing you peace, love, happiness, & a very happy Halloween!
With cooler fall and winter weather, lips can start to get dry and chapped. Sometimes, using balm just doesn’t do the trick. Using a scrub is a great way to exfoliate your lips. By removing dry, flaky skin, smoothing lines, and increasing blood flow, it will leave your lips feeling deliciously soft and healthy. My lip scrub recipe includes cinnamon essential oil because I happen to love cinnamon, but you can substitute any of your favorite essential oils.
1 tablespoon olive OR coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fine granulated sugar
1-2 drops cinnamon essential oil
Combine the oil, honey, vanilla extract and essential oil until well mixed. Stir in the sugar until evenly combined. Store in an airtight container.
Apply to your lips and massage in small, circular motions. Rinse well. Use this 1-2 times a week for the best results. The coconut or olive oil help protect against further chapping. You will love how soft your lips feel! (Do not use on severely chapped or split lips). Needless to say, this recipe makes an awesome gift as well. You can get creative and decorate cute containers for your homemade scrub.
How Long Does It Last?
This scrub will last for up to a year if you store it in a cool dark area, out of direct sunlight. To ensure freshness, do not let any water get into the jar. And don’t forget to label it!
Monterey County is home to some of the most iconic and award winning restaurants ever. Enjoying a special meal involves not only delicious cuisine, but also ambiance. These 7 restaurants offer killer views that will impress you. Whether you are planning a get together with friends or family, or looking for a romantic place to enjoy a quiet meal, these are the very best restaurants for spectacular views as well as good food.
1. Nepenthe features jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean. Located 30 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, Nepenthe is an ancient Greek word meaning an elixir for sorrow. This iconic restaurant has drawn creatives and writers since it opened in 1949. For more information, see Nepenthe.
2. Ventana lies further south of Nepenthe, and dazzles with breathtaking views of Big Sur. It first opened in 1975, and still features vestiges of its hippie beginnings. It has drawn celebrities throughout the decades, from Dennis Hopper to Taylor Swift. For more information, see Ventana.
3. Rocky Point lies just 10 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1. This restaurant is perched on a cliff and features spectacular, panoramic views of the ocean. For more information, see Rocky Point.
4. The Inn at Spanish Bay, in Pebble Beach, features extraordinary views of the coastline. A bonus: just before sunset, a bagpiper plays Scottish tunes. Sit outside around the cozy fire pits and enjoy the views! For more information, see Spanish Bay.
5. The historic Mission Ranch in Carmel features pastoral views of sheep grazing, and beyond, striking views of the mountains and sea. Mission Ranch, owned by Clint Eastwood, lies just around the corner from the beautiful Carmel Mission Basilica. For more information, see Mission Ranch.
6. The Beach House in Pacific Grove overlooks gorgeous Lovers Point Park and Marine Reserve. You may spot sea otters, harbor seals, pelicans, cormorants and more while you dine. For more information, see Beach House.
7. Schooners was voted “best drink with a view’ in Monterey, and is is easy to see why. Located in Cannery Row at the Monterey Plaza Hotel, Schooners offers a great place to drink in the ocean air and enjoy all the breathtaking views of the bay.
Thank you for visiting my blog! I hope you are able to take in the views at one of these amazing restaurants. You may also enjoy The Most Beautiful Instagrammable Spots in Monterey!, The #1 Guide for What to See and Do in Romantic Carmel, Nepenthe’s Phoenix: Bohemian Bliss in Big Sur, Ventana in Beautiful Big Sur, Lovers Point: Legendary Park in Pacific Grove and Mission Ranch in Carmel, California. Wishing you peace, love, happiness & beautiful vistas!
The figs on my fig tree are just starting to ripen. For me, this means making one of my favorite dishes. I love that it only has five ingredients. It is super easy and super delicious and is great to serve along with a charcuterie board if you are having guests over.
- 1/2 pound of soft dessert cheese such as brie. I used Brillat-Savarin, a triple cream dessert cheese from the ile de France region. It is very creamy, decadent and luxurious.
- 4-5 fresh figs, cut into quarters
- 1/2 cup organic honey
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1/3 cup fragmented walnut pieces
Because it is still fairly warm here I don’t bake or warm the cheese, I just leave it out for about 15 minutes. If you would like to warm your cheese, you can cut off the top, then microwave for 10-15 seconds or bake at 350 for a few minutes. In my opinion, it is better to have a little bit of firmness than have the cheese completely melted. As Ina Garten, one of my favorite cooks says, “it should ooze but not melt”. Also, if you are planning to transfer the cheese to another platter, use parchment paper beneath it before warming it to ease the transfer process. Add your fresh figs. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the honey and the thyme until it is silky smooth and begins to bubble. This only takes a few minutes. Drizzle the honey over the cheese and figs and scatter with walnut pieces.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe. I just love it and try to only make small batches because it’s so hard to stop eating it! You may also enjoy Find Your Zen Zucchini Bread Recipe and Sugar & Spice: My Favorite Fall Flavors. Wishing you peace, love, happiness, & beautiful vistas.
Back in the day, visiting the pumpkin patch was simple because there were not many choices. As long as it was round, orange, and capable of being carved into a jack-o-lantern it did the trick. Today we have so many more varieties available, including rare heirloom pumpkins. It’s so exciting to see all the new choices. You can’t help but fall in love with these beauties. Here is my list of the 8 most fantastic rare pumpkins!
1. Rouge Vif D’Etampes, also known the Cinderella pumpkin, was supposedly the most popular pumpkin in Parisian markets of the 1880s. It’s vivid red color makes it perfect for autumn displays. It is also quite tasty, and is a standard for French soup stocks.
2. Speckled Hound features a pale pink color splotched with blue green. I love the name and the color combination. It is also edible!
3. Zucca Barucca, also known as Marina de Chioggia, as well as “Holy” and “Sea” pumpkin, features bumpy green skin . It is said that the name may be derived from the Hebrew word for holy, “baruch” and that Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition brought them to Italy. It is also edible, with a silky, sweet flavor similar to butternut squash.
4. Lumina pumpkins are smooth and white on the outside and have delicious orange flesh within. Other white varieties include Ghost, Full Moon, Valencia, Silver Moon and Casper. White pumpkins were originally a mutation in classic orange pumpkins but are now much beloved for their ghostly hue.
5. Warty Goblin is a frightful, delightful variety that will charm you with its lumpy green bumps. Even though they look scary on the outside, they have a sweet and mild flavor that makes them good for roasting or baking.
6. Porcelain Doll is a fantastic shade of pink. So unique! And it is also edible and perfect for pies, soups and other fall fare.
7. Mint Prince pumpkins feature a lovely mint shade and deep ribbing. These have a flat shape that make them perfect for stacking. They are also good for baking, with smooth, creamy flesh.
8. La Estrella hails from sunny Florida and features subtle orange skin splashed with soft green and tan blotches. Is it edible? You bet!
When I first moved to Monterey County there was so much I did not know about the area. Thankfully, I became educated by not only visiting places but also reading about them. I thought I would share some of my favorite books about Monterey County. If you are visiting, and want to learn more about the area, I suggest you check them out!
Elkhorn Slough, written by Mark Silberstein and Eileen Campbell, is amazing. It is part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Natural History Series. If you visit Monterey, I highly recommend you visit Elkhorn Slough, which lies near the middle of Monterey Bay. It is home to a rich habitat for plants, fish, birds, and other animals. My favorites include the playful sea otters, egrets, and harbor seals. Elkhorn Slough is also one of the top spots to go whale watching. For an up close and personal experience with wildlife here, you can also go kayaking. This book provides a very detailed history of the area and also paints a vivid picture of all the beauty you will find here.
Monterey Peninsula, The Golden Age, by Kim Coventry and Monterey County’s North Coast and Coastal Valleys by Margaret Clovis, are great to read if you love history. Coventry’s book covers the southern scope of Monterey County, from Big Sur through Point Lobos, Carmel, Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove, and finally Monterey. From Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital of the World” to Moss Landing’s fishing and canning operations, Clovis’s book covers the northern part of Monterey County. Both books are filled with legend and lore about the area, combined with wonderful old photos.
The Monterey Pine Forest by The Monterey Pine Forest Watch, includes captures all the amazing things you will find here in the unique ecosystem of California’s central coast. The Monterey pine is considered rare and endangered in its natural habitat. It is thought that the foggy, cool conditions in the Carmel and Monterey Submarine Canyons offshore have provided the favorable conditions to sustain the Monterey Pine Forest for thousands of years. I love this book because it provides not only beautiful photos, but also tells you where you can find the Monterey Pines along with detailed maps. There is also a great deal of information about local flora and fauna.
Know that when you arrive in Monterey County, you are entering wine heaven. The distinctive soil and diverse microclimates here produce some spectacular wines! From the Highlands to the Sea, Exploring the Wineries of Monterey County is a complete reference guide to more than 40 wineries here in Monterey County.
The delightful Fairy Tale Houses of Carmel, by Joanne Mathewson, features illustrations and descriptions of all the storybook cottages designed and built by Hugh Comstock in Carmel-by-the-Sea from 1924 to 1930. It is just adorable!
Carmel-By-The-Sea, by Monica Hudson, offers a glimpse of the history of this charming village. There is so much you can learn from this book. For example, did you know that Carmel was originally named Carmelo by Carmelite friars in 1602? The author states that the area was depicted on a map “well before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock”. Who knew?
Big Sur, A Complete History & Guide by Tomi Kay Lussier, is an authentic guidebook to the Big Sur Coast. It includes landmarks, points of interest, and more. Big Sur is simply breathtaking, and not to be missed. I love all the history and information this book contains, and highly recommend it!
Thank you for visiting my blog! You may also like Top 10 Free Things to Do in Monterey and The Most Beautiful Instagrammable Spots in Monterey! Wishing you peace, love, happiness, & beautiful vistas!
Who doesn’t love pretty nails? With falling leaves and sweater weather on the way, it’s time to think about fresh autumn nail looks. Popular this season are ombre designs featuring a different shade on each finger, geometric art, and designs inspired by nature. From rich fall hues to simply fun styles, here are some of the prettiest fall designs you should try.
I am loving these pumpkin spice latte ombre shades from oliveandjune!
Deep, dark, and mysterious, Every Month is Oktoberfest by OPI is a classic fall shade.
Brown, copper, and neutral nails with natural and geometric designs are fall fabulous!
Fall feels here with plaids, florals and textures, by @4nailedit.
How about some caramel apple spice ombre colors from oliveandjune?
What is not to love about these fab fall colors from Essie?
Show off your scary side with these hauntingly cute pumpkin nails!
Some sweet autumn shades by Color Street by @manicures_by_manda.
This nail design by Whats Up Beauty is perfect for autumn.