About Kiera Reilly

Traveler, dog lover, F1 & Olympics fan in search of amazing coffee, gin and whisk(e)y. Social Media manager; group travel planner; alumni relations professional. Redondo Beach, CA

Perfecting the Indian Spice Cocktail

Blink your eyes and six months passes  by without a blog post! It’s time for me to start writing again, and today, on a hot weekend Fall day that feels like summer, I’m thinking of a refreshing cocktail recipe I discovered this summer.

While waiting for my lunch order this summer, I decided to browse the gin selection at Barsha Wines in Manhattan Beach. Last year, I discovered St. George’s Gin there, and I wanted to see if there was anything that looked interesting to try.

I noticed this bottle of Indian Summer Gin. I liked the pretty flower on the bottle – because bottle design is always a way to tell if a gin is good, right? The gin being infused with saffron seemed interesting.

IMG_8030

And then I noticed this cocktail recipe attached to the shelf near the bottles. Lemon, mint, ginger beer and gin? Sounds like my kind of cocktail (i.e. not sweet)! I purchased a four-pack of Bundaberg Ginger Beer and headed home to try the drink that night.

Indian Spice cocktail recipe with Indian Summer gin

Indian Spice Cocktail recipe

After converting the metric measurements to ounces, I put everything together.

Indian Summer gin, mint, lemon, ginger beer, club soda

The makings of the Indian Spice Cocktail

Bundaberg Ginger Beer from Australia and fresh lemons

Bundaberg Ginger Beer from Australia and fresh lemons

Fresh mint for Indian Spice gin cocktail

Fresh mint in a cocktail – always a good idea!

Dave and I enjoyed the drink, but felt that the club soda masked the tastes of the other ingredients. The next time I made it, I did not use any of the club soda, and we both agreed it was better without it.

The Indian Spice Cocktail with Indian Summer gin

The Indian Spice Cocktail with Indian Summer gin

IMG_8038

This quickly became our go to summer cocktail. Dave, who is normally content with sparkling water, soon started requesting “that special drink you make,” pretty frequently. So frequently that we polished off this bottle of gin in about a month! A record for us.

After we polished the Bundaberg Ginger Beer, I tried this ginger beer I found in Trader Joe’s. The ginger taste was not as strong, and after a taste test, we decided we liked this beer better for this cocktail. But, if you like a strong ginger taste, Bundaberg might be the one for you.

The Indian Spice cocktail with Trader Joe's Extra Ginger Beer

Trying the cocktail with Trader Joe’s Extra Ginger Beer

Indian Spice cocktail with ginger beer from Trader Joe's and Indian Summer gin

Trying the cocktail with Ginger Beer from Trader Joe’s

One night, when we were low on the Indian Summer gin, I made one drink using Indian Summer and the other with another gin. I gave both drinks to Dave to taste in a blind tasting. Like me, he preferred the drink with the Indian Summer gin. Since then I haven’t tried any other gin with this drink – why fiddle with something that is pretty close to the perfect summer drink?

Indian Summer gin infused with saffron

Indian Summer gin infused with saffron

The Indian Spice Cocktail - our favorite gin summer drink

The Indian Spice Cocktail – our new favorite summer drink

Indian Spice Summer cocktail pinterest

 

 

For the Love of Leonard’s Malasadas

We are flying to Oahu early next week – and I’m already anticipating our regular visit to Leonard’s in Honolulu. I honestly do not know how I knew to visit Leonard’s (although Dave says that he told me about it), but for my first trip to Hawaii back in 2001, we visited, and I have made a stop there almost every year since then.

Leonard's bakery in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii as seen in August 2013

My Instagram post of the exterior of Leonard’s in August, 2013.

My first trip to Oahu was as an alumni relations officer for the University of Pennsylvania, so it is only fitting that I first learned of malasadas when I was a student at Penn. Each year, Penn hosts, “Spring Fling,” a weekend festival for students featuring parties, performances, band, fun games and activities, and a break from attending classes, writing papers, and taking exams. Held in the Quadrangle at Penn, there were many food booths on the perimeter of the lower Quad area, and one food booth that was there every year was the Hawaii Penn Club, manned by students from Hawaii. They sold malasadas in their booth. I did not think much of it, other than that’s must be what they eat in Hawaii.

Flash forward to my first trip to Oahu and tasting malsadas from Leonard’s. And, oh my goodness….they are good. So good. Fresh, warm dough covered in sugar, and inside is delicious filling of chocolate, haupia, or custard. Quite simply, Leonard’s malasadas are to die for.

Malasadas from Leonard's bakery in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Malasadas from our last trip to Honolulu in February, 2016.

Basically a malasada is a very doughy doughnut, covered in sugar and often filled on the inside with a pudding or custard. As described on the Leonard’s website:

A malasada is a Portugese doughnut without a hole. We fry generously-sized balls of dough until it’s golden brown on the outside and light & fluffy on the inside.

Malasadas from Leonard's bakery, honolulu, oahu, hawaii, august 2015

Malasadas!

There’s a story inside Leonard’s about the bakery (they do sell cakes, cookies and other goodies, but honestly, we only come for the malasadas), and the Portuguese origins of the malasadas. Here is a bit of the history of Leonard’s, also from their website:

In June 1882 the British sailing ship ‘Monarch’ brought Arsenio and Amelia DoRego from San Miguel Island, Portugal to Maui, Hawai’i under contract to work the sugar cane fields. Some 33 years later, their grandson Leonard was born. In 1946 Leonard and his wife Margaret moved to Honolulu with their daughter Diane, age 8. Leonard worked at Snowflake Bakery until he founded Leonard’s Bakery℠ in 1952.

Leonard and Margaret were no strangers to hard work, both coming from very large families. The bakery prospered. Not long after opening, Leonard’s mother suggested making malasadas for Shrove Tuesday – a Portuguese tradition. Although thinking it may be too ethnic, Leonard’s bakers complied. Malasadas were a huge hit. And, the appetite for malasadas in Hawaii was born.

Leonard's bakery in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii in August 2015

The inside of Leonard’s bakery in August, 2015.

Leonard’s is a short ride from the hotels in Waikiki, and we’ve walkdc there in the morning from our hotel – so we feel less guilty about eating a second malasada. Because you can’t only have one!

leonard's bakery, honolulu, hawaii in June 2009 Oahu

We walked to Leonard’s from our hotel in June, 2009.

There is always a line whenever we visit, though it moves quickly. Even though the parking lot is small (see in the photo above), people do not stay there long, so cars are always pulling in and out of the lot. There is street parking on the side streets, but if you wait a few minutes, a spot will open.

Since they sell so many, the malasadas are always fresh. You can take some to eat later (we brought some back on the plane once), but they really are best enjoyed the day you purchase them.

Box of malasadas from Leonard's bakery in Honolulu, Hawaii

The distinctive pink box with blue type holds delicious Leonard’s malasadas. This photo is from July 2011.

Leonard’s offers several different fillings for the malasadas  – the chocolate is our favorite, although for me haupia (coconut) is a close second. There is a flavor of the month – guava is one I remember, and you have to try the monthly special! There are also different sugaring options – regular, cinnamoin and Li Hing. Regular sugar is delicious, but Li Hing is also pretty tasty. It’s a sweet-sour taste, that adds to the flavor of the malasadas.

Malasada menu at Leonard's bakery, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii in August 2015

The Malasada menu at Leonard’s

We did enjoy a malasada at one other bakery once during a previous trip to Honolulu, and it was good, but it wasn’t as good as Leonard’s. So, we’ll stick with what we know and love.

Leonard's bakery, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii in August, 2013

There’s always a line at Leonard’s, but it moves quickly. Here is the line and cashier in August, 2013.

You know that I’ve been talking about Leonard’s a lot when one of my friends said when she thinks of Hawaii, me and malasadas come to mind! Basically, whenever someone mentions that they are traveling to Oahu, I tell them that they must stop at Leonard’s!

Box of Leonard's malasadas in Honlulu, Oahu, Hawaii August 2015

Dave holds our box of malasadas in August, 2015. We ordered six – 1 original, 1 li-hing (for me), 2 dobash (chocolate), 1 haupia (coconut) and 1 of the monthly flavor, macadamia.

Have you visited Honolulu and tried a malasada from Leonard’s?

If you haven’t stopped by Leonard’s before, I highly recommend you make it a stop on your next visit to Honolulu!

Leonard’s Bakery

933 Kapahulu Avenue

Honolulu, HI 96816

Hours:

Sunday – Thursday 5:30AM – 10:00PM

Friday – Saturday 5:30AM – 11:00PM

Here is Leonard’s on a map:

And here’s a view on the map so you can see how it is relatively close to Waikiki – and also to H1, so if you leave your hotel in Waikiki, you can make your way to Leonard’s before jumping on the H1 to get to Hanauma Bay, for example:

Leonard's bakery sign in Honlulu, Oahu, Hawaii August 2013

It’s a beautiful day for a malasada from Leonard’s (in August, 2013).

box of malasadas from Leonard's bakery, Honolulu, Oahu, hawaii, August 2013

I love the distinctive pink box!

Irish Whiskey Tasting in Killarney

The days and weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day always bring back memories of my trip to Ireland. Two of the most memorable experiences on my trip was the Irish Whiskey tastings I had in Dublin and Killarney. While I like Scotch, and Scotch or bourbon-based cocktails, I was unfamiliar with Irish Whiskey until I traveled to Ireland. And now, I am a big fan and have a small collection of Irish whiskeys on hand at home – always ready to mix a drink or pour a dram to savor on its own.

I first learned about Irish Whiskey at a tasting in Dublin at the Jasmine Bar at the Brooks Hotel. Brendan Vacations arranged the tasting for for me and my friend Lisa Niver of We Said Go Travel. You can read what I wrote about that experience here, and what Lisa had to say here.

I so enjoyed the tasting in Dublin that when I traveled to Killarney later in my trip, Brendan Vacations arranged for me to have a another tasting at my hotel, The Malton. This tasting put me over the top, and I fell head over heels for Irish Whiskey and whiskey in general. Now when I travel, either locally to a bar for a cocktail, or overseas for a vacation, I want to peruse the whisky/whiskey menu, see what is on offer, and sample something new.

Similar to my experience in Dublin, the tasting was at the hotel bar. I was introduced to Jerry, who asked which tasting I would like. There were several options on their bar menu, and as whiskey was still new to me, I asked him for his advice. Eventually, he poured these three whiskies to try: Greenore Single Grain, Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt, and Knappogue Castle Sherry Finish 16 Year Old Single Malt.

Tasting Irish Whiskey at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland. Greenore, Bushmills and Knappogue

Tasting Irish Whiskey at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland. Greenore, Bushmills and Knappogue.

As Jerry and I talked during the tasting (the bar was not very busy), he explained how the aging in different barrels changes the taste of the whiskey. And to prove his point, showed me these bottles from Tyrconnell.

Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey tasting at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland.

Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey – each aged in different casks, producing different tastes.

The same whiskey is aged in casks that previously aged madeira, port, or sherry. The whiskey on the left was aged fourteen years in a single cask. Jerry shared micro-pours of these so I could compare how aging in the different casks produced different tastes in each one. I also learned that Tyrconnell is the name of a horse, and the distillery was founded in 1762 (as noted on the bottle).

Another whiskey Jerry introduced to me was Red Breast. Known as the “priest’s whiskey,” it is so called because it is more expensive, so only priests could afford it (I believe this was decades if not a century in the past when the people of Ireland were so poor that life as a priest provided a stable income – or at least enough to purchase Red Breast).

RedBreast Irish Whiskey - aged 12, 15 and 21 years - tasting at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

RedBreast Irish Whiskey – aged 12, 15 and 21 years

Here the difference was not the type of casks that aged the whiskey, but the length of time that the whiskey was aged. I really enjoyed the Red Breast whiskey – it is very smooth (and I might have purchased some at the Duty Free in the Dublin airport on my way home).

I asked Jerry about the difference between bourbon, Scotch whisky, and Irish whiskey, and he challenged me to a blind taste test – to see if I could tell the difference. I surprised myself by correctly identifying each one – there are distinct taste notes to each. And while my preference now is for Irish Whiskey, I still appreciate bourbon and Scotch whisky – I think it is safe to say they are all in the same spirit family!

Tasting the difference between Bourbon, Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey, the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Tasting the difference between Bourbon, Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey

After I finished the tastings and micro-tastings of the whiskeys, Jerry prepared this cocktail for me – the Lembuca. He created it and said it won an award at a cocktail competition. It features my other favorite spirit – gin!

The award-winning Lembuca coctkail with gin by Jerry at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Bartender Jerry’s award-winning cocktail, the “Lembuca”

Punchbowl Bar cocktail menu at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland - Lembuca cocktail with Bombay Saphire Gin

The cocktail list featuring Jerry’s cocktail, the Lembuca

I thoroughly enjoyed this Irish whiskey tasting and all that I learned from Jerry. If you can see the display cases behind us, I barely scratched the surface – there are so many different whiskeys to sample. The bar also included an excellent selection of Scotch whisky’s, so there is something there to suit everyone’s taste. And, if you are not sure of what to order, or what you like, ask the bartender. Jerry was a wealth of knowledge, and he was more than happy to answer my questions.

I highly recommend an Irish whiskey tasting on your trip to Ireland. Even if there is not a “formal” menu for this, you can easily create your own tasting by ordering a few drams at a bar and comparing them as you sample each. You might be surprised by what you like!

Irish whiskey tasting at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Posing with Jerry behind the bar – look at all those bottles of whisky and whiskey!

My whiskey tasting was arranged and paid for courtesy of Brendan Vacations, but the opinions about the tasting and the whiskey are entirely my own.

Have you tasted Irish whiskey? Do you have a favorite or a whiskey you would recommend I sample? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

https://kierareilly.com/2017/03/16/irish-whiskey-tasting-in-killarney/

Visiting the Petersen Automotive Museum with LA F1 Fans

After several years of gathering to watch Formula 1 on television in bars around Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Formula 1 Fans meetup group gathered for a non-race event to tour the Petersen Automotive Museum last Sunday.

Inspired by a Twitter discussion of Bugattis, group co-leader Mara picked a date in February for us to gather and tour the museum. I had not visited the museum since it re-opened in December, 2015, after a $125 million restoration, so I was excited to see the museum with fellow car racing fans. Not sure how many  people would attend an event that did not involve watching Formula 1, Mara was pleasantly surprised when over twenty people pre-paid so that our group received a discounted ticket rate.

Meeting in the museum lobby, Mara checked everyone in and purchased additional tickets while we mingled and discussed the latest developments in Formula 1 (the hot topic was Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement, Valtteri Bottas’ signing with Mercedes AMG Petronas to replace him, and Felipe Massa’s un-retiring to drive this year with Williams).

Everyone gathered to pose for a photo in the lobby before we entered the museum.

LA F1 Fans group photo before our Petersen Automotive Museum tour

LA F1 Fans in our first non-race viewing event at the Petersen Automotive Museum

After trying to squeeze all of us in the elevator, and bouncing a few times, our group split and made our way to the third floor to begin exploring the museum. The top floor featured early cars, such as this replica of the first practical car, an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, as well as General Motor’s 1996 EV1, the world’s first mass-produced electric powered vehicle.

The first practical car an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen replica at the Petersen Automotive Museum seen with LA F1 Fans

The first practical car – an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen (replica). One prototype was built and 25 replicas.

1996 General Motors EV1 at Petersen Automotive Museum

General Motors’ 1996 EV1, the first modern, mass-produced electric vehicle.

This being Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood and the film industry, there are several cars featured in movies on display.

1963 Volkswagen Beetle, Herbie, driven in the film Herbie Fully Loaded on display at Petersen Automotive Museum

1963 Volkswagen Beetle, “Herbie” driving in the 2005 film, “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

We wandered the exhibits on our own pace chatting with fellow F1 fans.

LA Formula 1 Fans at the Petersen Automotive Museum talk by a 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37

LA F1 Fans discuss car design in front of this 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37

This 1953 Nash-Healy was particularly beautiful.

1953 Nash-Healey designed by Pinin Farina on display at Petersen Automotive Museum

1953 Nash-Healey designed by Pinin Farina

For those more interested in race cars, this 1997 Porsche 911 Gt1 was a special treat to see.

The McLaren P1 on display showcases the production vehicles developed by the other side of the McLaren F1 team parent company.

2015 McLaren P1 at the Petersen Automotive Museum

2015 McLaren P1

An exhibit on American racing legend Dan Gurney opened January 28th. “The Eagles Have Landed: Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers,” features 11 AAR cars, memorabilia and short films on the walls of the display about Dan Gurney’s racing career.

Dan Gurney exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum featured the 1967 AAR Eagle Gurney-Weslake V-12 #36 F1 Grand Prix Car

Dan Gurney exhibit featured several of his race cars including the 1967 AAR Eagle Gurney-Weslake V-12 #36 F1 Grand Prix Car

Dan Gurney Moet & Chandon magnum sprayed from 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans podium at Petersen Automotive Musuem

Dan Gurney memorabilia on display includes the original magnum of Moet & Chandon champagne he sprayed from the podium when he and A.J. Foyt won the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The ground floor of the museum featured a large exhibit on the Bugatti. Most of the cars are from the Mullin Auto Museum (perhaps one day we can organize a group visit there).

1931 Bugatti Type 50 S on display at Petersen Automotive Museum

1931 Bugatti Type 50 S

The 1925 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum

The 1925 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix

Mara suggested that we meet at Tom Bergin’s (the second oldest bar in Los Angeles) down the street from the museum once we were finished touring the museum. I was part of the last of our group that was in the museum, and there was a small remaining group in Tom Bergin’s by the time I arrived that enjoyed beer, Irish coffee and lunch together.

LA F1 Fans at Tom Bergin's after touring the Petersen Automotive Museum

The last of the LA F1 Fans at Tom Bergin’s after touring the Petersen

LA F1 fans have lunch and Irish coffee at Tom Bergin's after a Petersen Museum visit

Yvette, Mara, Mike and Eric enjoying lunch and Tom Bergin’s famous Irish Coffee

LA F1 fans enjoy lunch at Tom Bergin's Irish pub after the Petersen Automotive Museum visit

Anmol and Alen enjoying lunch at Tom Bergin’s

LA F1 fans enjoy Irish coffee at Tom Bergin's after a visit to the Petersen Automotive Musuem

John, Dave and Kiera enjoying Irish coffee at the bar at Tom Bergin’s

In all, the first LA F1 Fans non-race meetup activity was a success. Everyone seemed to enjoy the museum and the opportunity to visit with other Formula 1 fans.

Based on the success of this gathering, Mara already scheduled our next meetup on March 12th to visit the Malibu Cars and Coffee gathering.

The 2017 Formula 1 season opens on March 26th with the Australian Grand Prix. Join the Los Angeles Formula 1 fans meetup group to see where we will gather to watch the race.

Travel Treasures: Ceramic Plates From Florence

Poached eggs on avocado toast is a staple in my breakfast repertoire. What makes this breakfast meal particularly special for me is serving it on this pretty dish I purchased in Florence, Italy.

Avocado toast on dish from Florence, Italy

I bought these dishes when we were in Florence several years ago. While Dave rested in our hotel,  I used the free time to shop and went to a ceramics store recommended in this adorable shopping guidebook, The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence by Louise Fili. The book is four inches square, so it’s easy to carry with you while exploring and shopping.

Luckily I still have the book because I can not remember the name of the store, but I remember the inside clearly. There were tables and shelves of beautiful plates and ceramics, each more beautiful than the next. It was hard to decide what to purchase, although I was limited by my desire to take the items with me and not ship them home.

I purchased four of these plates to use for small bites, snacks and sandwiches. They are bright, colorful and always bring a smile to my face, and they remind me of our wonderful trip to Florence. I also purchased four small bowls which are the perfect size for serving ice cream at home (unfortunately, while the bowls remind us of Florence, the ice cream is not the same as the gelato we had in Italy).

I recommend purchasing this book if you plan to visit Florence, and you like to shop! There are so many artisan shops listed here, and we also discovered a list of gelato cafes to visit. Those suggestions alone were worth the price of this book!

Here’s the page for the ceramics store from the book – Sbigoli Terrecotte – I made notes! Normally I don’t like marking my books, but for this one, I decided to jot notes to help me remember which stores I visited and what I liked about each one.

The Civilized Shopper's Guide to Florence by Louise Fili book on ceramics on Florence Italy

The page for Sbigoli Terrecotte ceramics shop in Florence from The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence (note Lau Lau on the bottom left looking up at me)

The book is divided into walks around different neighborhoods in Florence. Each walk includes a section on eating and drinking, and we used these suggestions to try different gelato shops. Vestri was one gelato cafe we particularly enjoyed (my notes in the book say, “Yummy!! I think best gelato we had.”). There is also an index by specialty in the back of the book, with categories such as Frames & Prints, Children, Linens, and Paper Goods, for example.

Vestri gelateria in Florence Firenze Italy

Dave enjoys Vestri gelato and chocolate in Florence, Italy

Although ceramic plates are difficult to transport while traveling, I realized that I enjoy purchasing items to bring home that I need, rather than a random souvenir. I use these dishes and bowls every week, and it is nice to have a small reminder of our trip in our kitchen.

Have you been to Florence? What special items did you bring home?

Travel Treasures Ceramic Plates from Florence Firenze

 

Save

Save

South Bay Scenes – December 26, 2016 – January 1, 2017

The chilly temperatures of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day continued in the week between Christmas and New Year’s in Los Angeles. With family visiting, I did not make it to the beach and outdoors as much as I normally do, but I was able to venture outside a few days and take some pictures while out walking the dogs.

Our walk on Thursday night, December 29th started late, and soon we we were walking in the dusk and then the dark along the Strand. But with so many houses displaying Christmas lights, there was something to enjoy. I realized I had not taken any photos of the decorated Manhattan Beach Pier, so I made sure to walk on the pier to capture the pretty lights.

sbs-dec-29-pier-1

Strands of white lights lead the way to the “tree” atop the Round House Aquarium

Manhattan Beach Pier Round House Aquarium Christmas tree lights

The Pier Christmas Tree in lights

My phone could not focus on the lights with the darkness, but I still thought they were pretty even though they are blurred.

Manhattan Beach Pier holiday lights

On the Manhattan Beach pier looking east to downtown Manhattan Beach

Looking from the end of the pier back to Manhattan Beach

The Season’s Greeting sign hanging across Manhattan Beach Boulevard was there as usual.

Season's Greeting lights over Manhattan Beach Boulevard

Looking west on Manhattan Beach Boulevard to the Seasons Greeting sign and the Manhattan Beach Pier

Seasons Greetings in Manhattan Beach with pier in background

On New Year’s Eve, we were determined to take the dogs for a long walk on the Strand. They needed to stretch their legs, and we wanted to tire them out before the inevitable fireworks at midnight that scare them.

It was a cold and windy day. I brought their rain coats in case it started to rain, and not ten minutes after we started walking, the rain came. It was a steady rain, so even though the boys do not enjoy wearing their rain coats, it kept most of the water off of them.

Koa and Lau Lau dogs wearing raincoats in Manhattan Beach on New Year's Eve

Heading down a walk street to the Strand in Manhattan Beach

Wet and rainy Manhattan Beach

It was very gray, but the sun is peeking through on the horizon.

There was hardly anyone out on the Strand. The wind made it feel colder than it was and my hands felt very raw. Luckily I had a good rain jacket that kept me dry.

Manhattan Beach strand and flowers on New Year's Eve

Looking through the flowers to the sun on the horizon

Dogs in raincoats on the Manhattan Beach Strand on New Year's eve 2016

Koa and Lau Lau making the most of the wet, cold and windy weather on New Year’s Eve along the Strand.

Manhattan Beach Strand on New Year's eve with ships in the ocean

Sun on the horizon lights up the ships in the ocean

Snack shop on El Porto Beach in Manhattan Beach on New Year's Eve

This snack shop is normally busy no mater what time of day you walk by.

Manhattan Beach Strand on New Year's Eve 2016

The wet and windy Strand on Manhattan Beach on New Year’s Eve. No one was out!

Manhattan Beach Strand sunset on New Year's Eve 2016

The sun setting with the gray clouds overhead

Manhattan Beach Strand sunset on New Year's Eve 2016

It was sunny on the horizon but not where we were! Look at the light catching the tips of the plant.

Final sunset of 2016 from Manhattan Beach Strand on New Year's Eve

Last sunset of 2016

Dogs wearing rain coats on Manhattan Beach Strand on New Year's Eve 2016

The boys sporting their rain coats.

Dogs wearing rain coats on Manhattan Beach Strand on New Year's Eve 2016

Lau Lau in the front and Koa in the back.

The next day, the storm and the clouds moved on, and we were treated to a bright, clear day at the beach. The Strand was very crowded, especially compared to the day before, as everyone was outside enjoying the day and the first day of 2017!

Manhattan Beach on New Year's Day 2017

What a difference compared to the day before!

Manhattan Beach Strand looking north on New Year's Day 2017

You can see on the far right the snack shop is busy compared to the day before! And you can see the mountains near Santa Monica and Malibu

Instagram 2016 Best Nine

Happy New Year! Everyone is once again doing the round-up of their best nine Instagram posts for 2016. I had fun looking at my top posts last year (see my 2015 best nine here), and it was interesting to see which photos generated the most feedback and likes. As we approached the end of 2016, I was curious to see which of my photos were the most popular.

Here are my best nine Instagram photos for 2016:

Instagram 2016 Best Nine

Most Popular Photo – Stickhouse Gelato

My most liked photo (in the top left of the collage) is from Stickhouse Gelato in Santa Monica, California. I had heard about this shop that sells gelato on a stick, and I finally made time to try it in June. It was delicious!

 

Second Most Liked – Alfred Coffee

The middle photo in the top row is from Alfred Coffee in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, near my old office. One weekend, after a meeting, I was able to stop there for an iced coffee. I loved the decor.

 

Photo #3 – Manhattan Beach Sunset

The third most popular photo (top right corner) is of a Manhattan Beach sunset. Sunset photos always seem to be well-liked when I post them, but this one was especially vibrant because the sky was filled with smoke from the Sand Fire in the Angeles National Forest in July. The fire was fueled by high temperatures and windy conditions. I remember when I was walking the dogs along the Strand on that day, everyone was taking photos of the surreal sunset.

Fourth Most Liked – Magnolia Bakery

While visiting New York City in August, I met friends for dinner on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. For dessert, we stopped in at Magnolia Bakery. Their cakes and cupcakes were beautifully decorated. But, I did not have a cupcake – we ordered their famous banana pudding. Oh my goodness, it was delicious. And, I have since learned that they have a location in Los Angeles! It is probably better that it is not too close to home, because I would want to eat a treat there all the time.

 

Middle Photo – Sunset in La Jolla

Our family spent a week in La Jolla, California, in May, renting a house a block away from this beautiful scene at Windansea Beach. Unfortunately, on most days we experienced the, “May Gray,” skies typical for this time of the year in southern California. But this one night, the sun broke through and we had a beautiful golden hour of light before the sun set.

The sun broke through right at #sunset last night. #LaJolla

A post shared by Kiera Reilly (@kierareilly) on

 

Sixth Most Popular – Plane Video!

I used to always want to sit in the aisle seat when flying cross-country, as I liked the ability to be able to stand up and stretch my legs without needing to disturb my seat-mates. Recently though, after a few flights sitting by the window, I now pick the window seat when flying over land. I am often mesmerized looking out the window at the clouds or the landscape below. This is video I took while departing LAX in December. It was a beautiful day for flying.

 

Seventh Place – Santorini

After spending a week exploring Crete in May with fellow travel bloggers, my friend Kat and I took the ferry to Santorini for a short two-night stay. I wanted to see this magical island which seems to always look its best in photos. The stark white buildings, vibrant blue sea and stunning landscape of Santorini did not disappoint.

Bright white, blue sky and sea in Oia, #Santorini #Greece

A post shared by Kiera Reilly (@kierareilly) on

 

Last (Ninth) Place But Not Least – Flytographer in Budapest

This photo, from a photo-shoot with Flytographer in Budapest, is actually two years old. I was visiting European Christmas markets on a solo trip in December, 2014. And at the last stop on my trip, in Budapest, I had the opportunity to have a Flytographer photo shoot. Wow, the pictures captured the magic of Budapest’s Christmas markets, and the photographer Roky took so many fantastic pictures, it is hard to pick a favorite one. It makes me want to return to Budapest for more mulled wine and sparkly lights! You can see more photos from my shoot and read more about my experience in my recent post here.

The Best Nine

2016 was so much more than these nine photos, but it is fun to share daily photos and see which photos receive the most likes. Once again, food and coffee photos are popular, as are sunsets on the beach. I try to mix up the things I post, so that there is a sampling of beautiful cars, food and drink, and a travel location. It will be interesting to see in my mix of photos for 2017 what everyone likes the best!

Have you discovered your #2016bestnine?

To generate your, “best nine,” Instagram posts for the year (which nine posts received the most likes), visit https://2016bestnine.com/, type in your Instagram user name, and the site searches your posts and compiles the top photos in a collage you can post to Instagram, share to Twitter or save as an image. The site also compiles your total number of likes (15,935 for me) and the total posts you shared in 2016 (362 – a little more than one each day).

Happy New Year! Here’s to a great 2017!

Strolling Along Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo

After sixteen years of living in the South Bay, I finally visited El Segundo’s Candy Cane Lane on Christmas night. Every holiday season since 1949, the 1200 block of Acacia Lane in El Segundo, California transforms into a festival of lights.

Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo

Closed off to vehicle traffice, Candy Cane Lane attracts all ages to wonder at the beautiful Christmas light displays.

On my way home from a family Christmas dinner in Santa Clarita, I decided that I should stop off to see the lights. Driving south on the 405 Freeway, I took the 105 Freeway west and exited at the first exit past the end of the Freeway (California Street). Acacia Lane is only a few blocks away. Luckily, I was able to find a parking spot on Acacia Street only a block from Candy Cane Lane, perhaps this was because it was Christmas night. I hear parking can be a challenge during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

House decorated on Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, California

A simply decorated house on Candy Cane Lane. I love the greenery around the front door, lit wreath overhead and Christmas tree in the window.

The street is blocked off to vehicle traffic so pedestrians can walk freely and appreciate the lights without worrying about being hit by a car. There were a fair amount of people the night I went, but it was not overwhelming. Many families with children were enjoying the lights.

Candy Cane arch on Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, California

The Candy Cane arch at this home was a popular spot for taking pictures

Every house had a different look or theme, but all of them were covered in lights.

Animals in the yard at Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, California

Animals in the yard at this home

Simply decorated home with Christmas lights on Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, California

One of my favorite light displays – I love the lighted jars and chandeliers hanging from the tree.

The lights might still be on for New Year’s Eve, and some homeowner’s have started taking down their displays. But, the opening date for Candy Cane Lane in 2017 is already announced – December 9, 2017.

It is well worth a visit if you live in the South Bay, or if you are traveling through LAX Airport in December. Candy Cane Lane is a short drive south from LAX!

See more photos from my visit below the details!

Details

What: El Segundo’s Candy Cane Lane, 1200 Block of Acacia Lane, El Segundo, CA

When: Opens nightly, 7:00 – 9:00 PM, starting December 9, 2017

Parking: Street parking in El Segundo (be prepared to walk several blocks on peak nights leading up to Christmas)

Cost: Free

Note: Santa visits on certain nights – be sure to check the schedule on their Facebook page.

Christmas lights decorate a home on Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, California

One of my favorite decorated houses. I love the wreaths in the upstairs windows

 

Model trains and Christmas lights on a home on El Segundo's Candy Cane Lane

This house had several train tracks running trains on their lawn

ccl-north-pole

This home had a North Pole Airport theme, appropriate since it is only a short distance to LAX Airport

 

 

Pinterest pin Strolling along Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo Christmas Lights

Festival of Trees Sparkle at the Indiana Historical Society

Earlier this month, we were in Indianapolis for Dave to attend a conference, and I had a free day to explore. While driving through downtown Indianapolis, I saw a sign for “Festival of Trees.” Since I love all things Christmas, I was intrigued. A google search led me to the Visit Indy website, which listed many interesting things to do and explore in the city – including the Festival of Trees at the Indiana Historical Society!

Located downtown, close to other museums, the Indiana Historical Society’s annual Festival of Trees featured 72 decorated trees throughout the museum – up from 50 trees in 2015. The exhibit opened November 18th and closes on December 30th. It seems to be an annual exhibit, so if you miss the display this year, be sure to mark it on your calendars for next year!

The trees are spread throughout the museum, which offered me the opportunity to explore the entire building and all of the exhibits (though I admit I was determined to see every single tree!).

Pro tip: Admission to the Indiana Experience is $9 for adults and includes complimentary parking in the lot behind the museum.

After purchasing my admission, I collected a guide to all the trees and their locations, and started my journey.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway sponsored Christmas tree at Indiana Historical Society FOTrees

In the lobby, it was hard not to miss the tree decorated by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The main hall of the museum displayed many of the trees – each decorated or sponsored by a different local organization or company.

Christmas trees in the main hall at the Indiana Historical Society FOTRees in Indianapolis

Walking through the main hall I found the Cole Porter salon – a room dedicated to Indiana native Cole Porter, the famous songwriter and composer. His Tony award for Kiss Me Kate was on display as were other photos documenting his life. A singer was leading the room in singing of Christmas carols and Cole Porter songs, which was especially festive.

Cole Porter's Tony Award for Kiss Me Kate on display at Indiana Historical Society

The Tony Award Cole Porter won for Kiss Me Kate

Paris Christmas tree in Cole Porter room at Indiana Historical Society Festival of Trees in Indianapolis

The “I Love Paris,” themed tree in the Cole Porter room

While I enjoyed the beautiful trees, there were also interesting exhibits to explore. There were interactive exhibits on Ball Mason Jars, Eli Lily and Company, and the founding of the state of Indiana. In each of these exhibits we were ‘transported’ back in time as actors/historians dressed in period dress and answered questions.

Indiana Historical Society Ball mason jar exhibit in Indianapolis

Women works at the Ball mason jar company exhibit

Eli Lily exhibit at Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis

A worker answers questions as we enter Eli Lily’s druggist store

Founding of Indiana exhibit at Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis

These gentleman told us about the founding of Indiana and the writing of the state constitution

These exhibits were all interesting, as were the facts about Indiana’s statehood displayed throughout the museum (and they were especially timely as Indiana was celebrating its Bicentennial on December 11). But, I wanted to be sure to see all the trees, so I kept wandering.

Snowman Christmas Tree at Indiana Historical Society FOTrees

Snowman Tree presented by At Home – the Home Decor Superstore

Book Christmas tree at Indiana Historical Society FOTrees

A tree of books

Zoo Christmas tree at Indiana Historical Society Festival of Trees

I loved this tree decorated by the Zoo

Frozen themed tree at Indiana Historical Society FOTrees

This Frozen themed tree was downstairs near the cafe. It was presented by Total Restoration General Contractors – I appreciated the metal pipes/tubing decorating the tree

The museum’s cafe is one level down from the main entrance, and offers hot and cold food and drinks for purchase. With the cold weather outside, it offers a nice option for a rest and a snack break while exploring the museum.

Pro tip: Check the cafe’s serving hours. I saw a sign saying the cafe closed at 4:00 PM, but when I went down for a snack at 3:30 PM, they were no longer serving food.

Ball Christmas tree by the Ball Brothers Foundation at Indiana Historical Society

A Ball themed tree presented by the Ball Brothers Foundation

It was truly magical wandering the museum and seeing all the differently decorated trees.

Festival of Trees at Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis

So many trees!

After seeing all of the trees, I voted for my three favorite trees near the entrance. It was hard to pick a favorite as each one was unique.

I saved time at the end of my trip to visit the gift shop, and I am glad I did. There were many items made in Indiana, including a few Indiana Bicentennial Christmas ornaments (I purchased one), t-shirts, books, games and other novelties. I was impressed by the selection!

Pro-tip: Be sure to check the sale rack in the back of the shop. I found a book on a WWII photographer from Indiana for $5!

Indiana Historical Society Festival of Trees

The Enchanted Forest tree presented by Carson Pirie Scott sits next to the ticket desk and right outside the Basile History Market

If you love the Christmas season, and are like me, can not get enough of holiday decorations, the Festival of Trees at the Indiana Historical Society is not to be missed if you are visiting Indianapolis!

South Bay Scenes – Week of December 12 – 18, 2016

I have not posted any South Bay Scenes in a while, and this week’s scenes all come from this past weekend. But the skies were clear and the golden hour light beautiful when we walked the boys late on Saturday afternoon, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures!

Earlier in the week, there was rain and then high winds, so it was not ideal for nice walks along the beach. By Saturday the rain had moved on, and it was a glorious day.

beach volleyball in El Porto beach in Manhattan Beach California

Beach volleyball in El Porto, Manhattan Beach

looking north from the walk section of the Strand in Manhattan Beach California golden hour

Looking north from the walk section of the Strand in Manhattan Beach

Looking south on the Strand towards the Manhattan Beach Pier in Manhattan Beach California

Looking south from the walk section of the Strand toward the Manhattan Beach Pier

This group was playing beach volleyball while the sun was setting.

Playing beach volleyball in Manhattan Beach California

Playing beach volleyball as the sun sets

Beach Volleyball north of the Manhattan Beach Pier

The Manhattan Beach Pier, a setting sun reflected in the water and beach volleyball

Manhattan Beach Pier with Catalina Island in the distance

The Manhattan Beach Pier with Catalina Island in the distance

The sun getting ready to slip beyond the horizon.

The sun sets in Manhattan Beach California

Even as we walked away from the Strand, I kept taking photos of the pretty sky.

Manhattan Beach walk street as the sun sets

Walk Street Manhattan Beach

walk street in Manhattan Beach with street lights decorated for Christmas

Pretty street lights decorated for the holidays

The weather was beautiful, but it was also cold. When I went out to my car early on Sunday morning, there was frost on my windshield! I do not think that has ever happened here in Redondo Beach. I took a picture of it after I scraped it off so I could see where I was driving!

frost on windshield in Redondo Beach California

Frost on my windshield

It’s time to turn on the heat!

cold temperatures in Redondo Beach California