Visiting HGTV’s Santa HQ at the Lakewood Center Mall

It’s that time of year when our family gets all the Santa photos. We love visiting different Santa’s throughout SoCal. This weekend we headed over to the Lakewood Mall to HGTV’s Santa HQ to check out their great Santa set-up. Last year we went to HGTV’s Santa HQ at the Los Cerritos Mall (you can read about it here) and loved it so much that we wanted to check out the one at the Lakewood Center Mall.

HGTV’s Santa HQ adds a whole new dimension to the traditional family Santa Claus visit by guiding visitors through an immersive, interactive holiday extravaganza that uses of state-of- the-art digital technology. something that kids today love! There are 15 Santa’s HQ in the United States. I already mentioned the two in Southern California, the Los Cerritos Mall and the Lakewood Center Mall. They are basically the same, but the Lakewood locations set-up is a bit bigger and has an extra room.

we started off our visit with a greeting from some of Santa’s elves. they we so sweet and spent extra time playing with the kids. they took them through the Naughty or Nice Meter to see if the boys had been naughty or nice this year. of course they made Santa’s nice list….and even saw their names on Santa’s interactive Christmas list. Are you on Santa’s nice list? My boys only made it to the yellow zone…I wonder what that means?

Next we headed into Santa’s Observatory and got to visit the Elf Academy. It’s a fun photo opp where you can elf yourself.

The is also Santa’s Studio where you can create an elf I.D. card digitally.

In the next room kids can check out the control panel. what kid doesn’t love buttons and gadgets to play with.

We got to have Elf-Ray Vision!  Either by downloading the Elf-Ray Vison app on your phone, or using the iPads located on the wall of the observatory, kids can explore Santa’s Observatory by using the app as special goggles. they got to see secret elf happenings on the walls like presents being shipped and the working gears of the observatory.

Finally, we met the big guy himself….SANTA!!!! we had so much fun getting our photos with Santa. he spent one-on-one time with the boys, and made sure to get a good variety of photos that i could choose from. i loved that he took time to speak to each child individually. also, we got to skip the line because we made a reservation. pretty cool huh! guests can now spend less time waiting in line by making reservation online at Santa HQ from HGTV. you can even pre-pay for your photo package, days or even weeks in advance. you can also opt-in text functionality to send reminders about your Santa photo session reservation.

Here’s how our Santa photo turned out. This is the closest that Dani has gotten to Santa without crying. She just woke up, so I would say it was a success.

Santa gave each kids a coloring book, and when we bought our Santa photo package, they gave us free Panettone…how cool.

The kids and i had such a nice evening at Santa HQ from HGTV. i wasn’t expecting our Santa visit to be so special, but with all these special holiday touches and the elves treating my children with love and care, my kids had night to remember. we will be adding HGTV’s Santa HQ to our holiday traditions each year!

In case you wanted to know just a little more about Santa HQ from HGTV…check out this fun video!

The Orange Empire Railway Museum Train to Santa’s Workshop

Last year our family discovered a magical Christmas adventure! We loved it so much that it will now be a family tradition every year. We took the Train to Santa’s Workshop at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris and what a special evening it was. Beginning at the end of November, you can take one of Orange Empire Railway Museum’s vintage trains and embark on a magical train ride to visit with Santa Claus himself at his North Pole workshop. The evening includes not only a visit with Santa himself, but lots of fun activities including a model train display, cocoa and cookies and chatting with Santa’s elves and Mrs. Claus. The Orange Empire Railway Museum is about a 40 minute drive from Orange County without traffic. I feel the trek is worth it, and if you plan ahead, you can grab a bite to eat before you head to the train station to begin your journey.

Since we’ve only been once, I can only provide you with my one time experience, but I continue to hear great things about the Train to Santa’s Workshop. We took the 7:00pm train because I wanted it to be dark and more of a Polar Express experience. It was not crowded at all, but I heard that the 5:30 train was filled to capacity, so I would expect that would change the experience a bit.

I also made the entire family wear matching pajamas. Since I had never been, I read on their website that they recommended wearing pajamas. However, most only children wear wearing them. BUT…I wouldn’t worry about that. WEAR YOUR PAJAMAS. It totally made the night, and everyone kept coming up to us saying we looked so festive and that they wished they would have worn theirs too. So I highly recommend. I asked my kids…including my teenager if they would wear their pajamas again this year, and they all said absolutely. It was so much fun.

The cool thing about this train ride, is that it takes place in a vintage train. A fully working train! You are sitting inside…not outside getting cold. It takes you on a 20 minute ride to visit Santa where you can watch out the windows, or talk to the conductor. 

One of Santa’s elves came through and talked to the kids and gave everyone a candy cane. It was great. Other elves led the passengers in Christmas songs, holiday trivia games and storytelling. 

As the train arrived at Santa’s Workshop, you could see Santa waving at the kids as the train arrived. The kids were so excited! We didn’t know what to expect, but we were very impressed! The entire workshop was dressed up for Christmas, and we couldn’t wait to board off the train to check it out.

We got to get our photos with Santa. You need to bring your own camera. Santa also gives each kids a stuffed toy.

Then we explored the workshop and took lots of photos with the kids. 

After you visit Santa, kids can do Christmas crafts or chat with Mrs. Claus and the elves. There are also lots of photo opps.

There are also train tables to enjoy (check out my older boys playing with the younger ones…LOVE IT), and also Thomas the Train ride ons for the littlest kids. Everyone loves trains.

When everyone had finished visiting Santa and enjoying his workshop, we boarded the train to go back to the train station. Santa waved goodbye to everyone. 

We then took the train back to the Pinacate Station. We were sad to leave…but more fun was coming up.

At the Pinacate Station boarding area, there is a huge model train display to enjoy and also vendors selling Christmas crafts and presents. If you decide to take the 7:00pm train, you may want to visit this area before you head over to see Santa. It closed pretty quickly when we got back, and we probably would have enjoyed visiting a bit longer.

If you wrote a letter to Santa, make sure to put it in Santa’s mailbox!

You can even get a cup of cocoa and a cookie to enjoy while you look at the trains. This is all included in your admission ticket.

It was the perfect way to end the night and keep ourselves warm and cuddly. 

The Train to Santa’s Workshop at the Orange Empire Railway Museum was great. There was a magical feeling in the air throughout the entire night. And my family had the best time. It truly left us with a festive Christmas spirit and fun memories we will never forget. Can’t wait to go again this year!

Make sure to get your tickets soon. Not sure if they will sell out, but you don’t want to miss your chance.

Christmas CHEER Checklist

it’s December 1st!!!! the beginning of my favorite month of the year. i love the colors, the decorations, the sights, the smells and feeling of the season. i love it so much that i started decorating the house two weeks ago. to celebrate my favorite month of the year, i partnered with 1-800-flowers.com, to bring you my Christmas CHEER Checklist!!!!

i thought it would be a fun to create a Christmas CHEER Checklist in case you needed some ideas on how to get into the holiday spirit. these are the traditions i do with my family each year. i love them all so much.

Number 1 on my list is – add a fresh holiday arrangement to my home. i LOVE fresh flowers, they always make me happy and even help me de-stress. something that is very prevalent during the holidays. 1-800-flowers.com sent a beautiful fresh floral arrangement in colors of the season. it arrived at my doorstep arranged perfectly and even more beautiful than i was expecting from a delivery service.  the Natural Elegance by Southern Living arrangement by 1-800-flowers.com put a gigantic smile on my face. isn’t it beautiful?!!!!


i am so happy with the flower arrangement, that i plan to have a few more delivered throughout the month. i’m also going to have one delivered for my Christmas Dinner tablescape. with a few candles, some pinecones, pretty plates and napkins, my table will be ready to go with the flower arrangement as my centerpiece.

the rest of the Christmas CHEER Checklist is just as great – especially for helping to plan out the holiday month. each item will help you  add a special feeling of Christmas CHEER. sit down on December 1st, plan your calendar out, and gather the items that you need to make your home full of Christmas Cheer.  i can tell this year is going to be an extra special one….the yummy scents are already wafting through the air, and we have a new little one to share our joy with. hope that you enjoy the upcoming season as much a we will.

Click here for a the FREE Printable Christmas CHEER Checklist.

and Happy December!!!! hope theses ideas get you in the holiday mood.

{Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. 1-800-flowers.com sent me this beautiful arrangement at no cost. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. }

Best Gingerbread Fudge Recipe

Gingerbread Fudge Recipe1

last weekend, our family took a road trip up the coast to the little town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. while we were there, we visited the town’s candy store where they had lots of unique imported candies, homemade truffles and all the homemade fudge that you could imagine. while we were there, i spotted their seasonal gingerbread fudge. i tasted it, and it was so so so good. i even brought a piece home since my husband and boys also thought it was super yummy. then i got to thinking,…i could make also make this Gingerbread Fudge at home.

i got to work, planning my recipe. i decided to use the old stand by Fantasy Fudge recipe that you find on the back of the Kraft JET-PUFFED Marshmallow Creme jar. i substituted the semi-sweet chocolate for white chocolate chips, and added gingerbread spices…nutmeg, cinnamon and of course ginger.

the end result was this 8 x 8″ slab of fudge goodness. topped with cinnamon red hots, this fudge tastes like gingerbread Heaven. its rich, sweet, and spiced perfectly with the flavors of homemade gingerbread cookies. it looks a little cracked here because i was anxious to get it out of the pan…and took it out before it was fully set.

How to make Gingerbread Fudge

once i removed it from the pan, i cut it into 1″ cubes. the perfect size for a rich fudge treat. Easy Gingerbread Fudge Recipe

Easy Gingerbread Fudge

Best Easy Gingerbread Fudge

i am so happy with the results, that i think this recipe will make it into my list of Christmas recipes that i make each year. if you love fudge…and gingerbread, try it…you will love it. the recipe is below.

Best Gingerbread Fudge Recipe1

Easy Gingerbread Fudge Recipe1
ingredients
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup evaporated milk (do not use sweetened condensed milk.)
1-1/2 cups white chocolate chips (i like Ghirardelli Brand)
1 jar (7 oz.) JET-PUFFED Marshmallow Creme
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp ginger
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 – 1 tsp nutmeg
cinnamon red hots

directions
line a 9-inch square pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. bring the sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. cook 4 minutes until candy thermometer reaches 234°f, stirring constantly. remove from heat.  next, stir in chocolate and marshmallow creme; stir until melted. add vanilla and spices; mix well. finally, pour into a prepared pan. spread to cover bottom of pan and top with red hots. cool completely. when ready to serve, cut into 1″ squares.

enjoy!

 

Christmas Grinch Juice Recipe

The Grinch Punch recipe

Christmas time is here! and it is time for holiday parties, get togethers, and gatherings with family and friends. you may need a fun and quick recipe for one of your Christmas events, so i am showing you this Grinch Juice recipe inspired by one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. so i love to make this green punch and call it Grinch Juice! by dressing up the punch bowl and adding a few fun garnishes, your guest will definitely not be Grinches this year.

Grinch Punch

to make this Grinch Juice, you will need blue food coloring, orange juice, lemon juice, Sweet’N Low, water, vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon-lime soda.

grinch juice ingredients

in a punch bowl or pitcher (i suggest clear glass so you can see the green) combine two drops of blue food coloring, orange juice, lemon juice, Sweet’N Low, and water. stir until combined. next add the vanilla and almond extracts. now you can either chill it overnight in the fridge, or serve immediately.

finally, when you are ready to serve, you can fill your glasses with ice and then pour the juice over the ice. i like to garnish with a candy cane or maraschino cherry. you can also just let your guests serve themselves.

Christmas grinch punch recipe

Grinch Juice idea

grinch punch recipe

to make my Grinch Juice extra festive, i like to use a tall, clear glass punch bowl or clear glass pitcher. then i cut out a heart out of felt or cardstock and affix it on the front of the bowl or pitcher to represent the Grinch’s heart that finally grew 3 sizes the year that he brought Christmas back to the Whos. you can also place How The Grinch Stole Christmas story book next to the juice…or make a fun sign.

grinch juice punch

this Grinch Juice is a great compliment to any Christmas Party. kids and adults will enjoy it’s fun theme. the lemon-lime flavor is a light and refreshing compliment to holiday appetizer spread. and pssst, using the Sweet ‘N Low cuts down on the extra calories of added sugar, you are saving 2 cups of sugar from this drink….plus, i can’t tell the difference in this particular drink. add more or less according to your taste.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas recipe

ingredients
2 drops blue food coloring
2 cups orange juice
1-1/4 cup lemon juice
4 packets Sweet’N Low
6 cups water
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 liter lemon-lime soda
Garnish – candy canes, maraschino cherries

directions
in a punch bowl, mix together orange juice, lemon juice, Sweet’N Low, water and food coloring. stir until combined. next add vanilla extract and almond extract. chill overnight, or serve immediately following the next directions.

When ready to serve:
add add lemon-lime soda and ice to the juice. taste, and adjust any of the flavors to your liking. you can garnish each cup with a candy cane or a maraschino cherry.

tip: to make your drink look extra Grinchy, tape or glue a heart to the outside of the container.

how to make Grinch Juice

 

You might also like to make these Coca Cola Reindeer!!!!

{Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am an Ambassador for Sweet’N Low. All thoughts and opinions are my own. }