Expeditions & Visits

Ellie’s Table

Posted on Feb 6, 2014

Ellies Table sign

 

Isn’t it great to find a new place to eat in town that is not only good, but excellent?  By excellent I’m referring to delicious food, gorgeous atmosphere, and an incredible location. Recently some friends told us about a new place in our town with all three qualities.  They begged us and all their friends to give it a try so the new business would survive because they loved that much. Ellie’s Table at North Beach in San Clemente has some of the best, freshest food in town, has a beautiful french-meets-beach interior, and the location, within sight of the beach, can’t be topped!

 

Ellies Table interior

 

Ellie’s Table is run by the talented folks at Jay’s Catering and is a cute little bistro type restaurant with a little outdoor patio attached to the newly reopened historic Casino. Formerly a dance and music club which hosted many of the Rat Pack entertainers during the 1960’s, (Casino means dance-hall in Spanish), the Casino has been renovated for hosting gatherings such as weddings. The folks who run Ellie’s Table cater the the Casino’s events and make wedding cakes, in addition to running the restaurant.

 

Ellies Table counter shot

 

As soon as we walked up to the front doors we knew we had found something very special.  The place was buzzing with people and the aroma coming out of the restaurant was heavenly- something akin to butter, fresh bread, and home.  Everything looked good.  One of each, please!  Ok, I behaved, but I realllly didn’t want to. The whole front counter was covered in mouthwatering sweet pastries begging to be tasted. All those scrumptious sweets in front are excruciatingly difficult to pass up (life’s short-eat dessert first!).  Every single thing, cookies, cupcakes, tarts, macaroons, pastries of many kinds, all look worthy of whatever calories they cost!  I vowed to try them all! (Eventually, not at once, even though I wanted to).

 

Ellies Table veggetable  palm sandwiches

 

Around the corner of the front counter are their famous palm sandwiches, (just the right size to fit in the palm of your hand) and the side salads that go with them.  So far my favorite palm sandwich is the veggie, with a flavorful variety of veggies nested in that soft, fluffy, fresh cheddar roll.  YUM! Unfortunately the veggie sandwiches always sell out first so you have to get them early.  If I have one complaint about Ellie’s Table, it is that they need to make MORE veggie sandwiches! I’ve only tried three of the side salads so far, but I really like the beet and the broccoli salads.  The rest are on my list to try…I know, I’m going to be busy!

 

Ellies Table almond croissant

 

But wait!  There’s more!  Carry on past the palm sandwiches and you’re to the reason our friends were so adamant about keeping Ellie’s Table open. One word: Croissants.  The mere mention of the word sends thoughts of the flaky buttery goodness that is an Ellie’s Table croissant to mind, obliterating my ability to concentrate.  Never much of a croissant person, The Mister had to convince me to pass up that heavenly swirl of a pecan roll and drag me, fingers sliding across the glass case, away from my idea of breakfast perfection down to the savory croissants.  Fine. If I didn’t like it I could go back the the pecan roll…

 

Ellies Table croissant sign

 

 

My first was the brie, mushroom and caramelized onion croissant. Heated so the cheese was melty and the pastry was at it peak of flaky greatness, the buttery layers literally melted in my mouth as the sweet onions, velvety brie and sauteed mushrooms played their part in what was surely the Best Croissant In The History Of Croissants! H.e.a.v.e.n.  I am a convert.

 

Ellies Table croissants

 

Since that first glorious encounter I’ve tried almost all of the savory croissants (hence the reason I have so much more tasting to do on the other items) and I can tell you every single one is absolutely delicious.  The quality of the ingredients, the freshness and outstanding quality of the house-made pastry make for a great choice, regardless of which you choose.  If you were to ask my favorite I couldn’t say, but I order the ham and cheese a lot. Oh, and the bacon, egg, and cheese a lot. Oh, and the brie, mushroom and caramelized onion a lot. The best advice is to go frequently so you can try them all!

 

Ellies Table ham and cheese  croissant

 

Which is exactly what we do.  Every Saturday, The Mister and I get up early and walk to Ellie’s table to try something new or, something we’ve already tasted and just need. And it doesn’t hurt that Ellie’s Table is located in a beautiful spot.  You can’t miss the beautiful setting.  Just up from the beach , Ellie’s table sits among some of San Clemente’s most famous buildings including the Casino and the Beach Club.  Both were built during the founding of the city in the 1920’s in the classic Spanish Village style(white stucco and red tile roofs) .  Mature palm tress grace the sky over head and, across the large park-like lawn at the Beach Club, the Pacific Ocean is in full view from any table on the patio as well as through the windows from inside. There’s something about all that white stucco with sunlight bouncing off of it that gives the whole area a soft beautiful light….a perfect setting to start one’s day.

 

Ellies Table shirt

 

We don’t worry about Ellie’s Table going out of buiness any more.  Word is spreading and it’s one of the hottest restaurants in town.  So if you live near by, or if you’re ever in San Clemente, stop by Ellie’s Table for some incredible food with charming atmosphere in a gorgeous location.  You don’t have top worry about keeping it going, though.  Open from 6:00 a.m. -3:00 p.m., the only time they’re slow is while it’s still dark out:0).

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with Ellie’s Table or Jay’s catering, but luckily they’re close enough that I can walk.  I’ll take it!

 

 

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Macaroon Love

Posted on Jan 20, 2014

Bouchon bakery at the Venetian Las Vegas

 

Macaroon Love.

That’s what I call it. I have fallen in and fallen hard. Crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle and filled with a creamy goodness that has to be tasted to be understood. Mmmmmmmmmacaroons…..

I had never tasted a classic French macaroon until a recent trip to Las Vegas. (I’ve had coconut macaroons and my friend Kathy’s are THE BEST .  I will strong arm her for her coconut macaroon recipe and share it soon.  Promise.)
My first French macaroon was a raspberry number at the Bellagio Buffet, “The best buffet in the world” according to my daughter when she was 1o. Bright pink and alluring, it was quite good. Surprisingly chewy and not overly sweet.  I was intrigued. I ventured into the apple. Um, no. Not so hot.  Both had a jelly filling, which I have come to learn is not the proper filling for a French macaroon.
A couple of days later I was wandering the Venetian and stumbled upon a hidden gem tucked in a corner next to the bridge that carries pedestrians across the street. Bouchon Bakery.  Pretty little pastel circles all neatly lined up caught my eye…

 

Bouchon macaroons in case

 

Fetching, they called my name, particularly the caramel. I thought literal and expected a blob of caramel for the filling. No, no, no, no, no. The macaroon was crispier and chewier than its it’s poor cousin from the Bellagio and it had the most delicious creamy caramel filling.  Heaven on my tongue!! I wish I could adequately describe how melt-in-your-mouth, fresh, creamy delectable it was. That filling. (Sigh). Exquisitely, surprisingly delicious.

Don’t get me wrong, they have other mouth watering pastries.  However, these gems were all I could see!\

 

Bouchon Bakery Caramel macaroon

 

O.K. I’ll be honest. It was so good that I went back and ordered one of each flavor. Yep. Hey, it’s research for my blog!

 

Bouchon macaroons in a box

 

Mind you these are not inexpensive macaroons, but they may possibly be as good as any you’ll get in France, and certainly among the best here in the States, with stores in New York, Las Vegas, and Beverly Hills, how can they not be great?!

 

Bouchon macaroons 2

 

Here are the macaroons I got from Bouchon Bakery:

Caramel-soooooo goooood. ‘Nuf said.

Vanilla bean– you can see the bits of vanilla bean in the cookie and in the cream filling. If your a vanilla purist, you won’t be disappointed.
Coffee bean– again, you can see the bits of bean in both cookie and filling. The filling is creamy and hints at coffee rather than screams it.
Chocolate– not overpowering in flavor, rich without being heavy. The cram filling is fudge-y.
Raspberry– light flavor in the cookie, the creamy filling is where the raspberry comes through.
Pistachio-the number 1 seller, it’s sweet and nutty with a true pistachio flavor. Not much of a fan of pistachio flavored desserts, this is surprisingly delicious.
Bonus: Peppermint– I got the last of the seasonal special flavors. Bright red with a white filling, it isn’t your traditional monochromatic macaroon, but just tasting it makes the holidays come flooding back!

 

 

Bouchon macaroons 1

 

What sticks me most about Bouchon Bakery’s macaroons is that the cookie consistency is wonderful; that perfect combination of crispy and chewy. Then there’s the fillings. Not one was a gelatinous blob. Each was soft, like fresh sweet cream and perfectly flavored.

Would I recommend Bouchon’s macaroons?  Um, yeah!

Did I sit out side the cafe for an hour taking a bite of each one and making notes while taking pictures. Guilty.

 

Bouchon macaroons with a bite missing

 

For more about Bouchon Bakery visit their website at bouchonbakery.com.  I didn’t see anything about delivery, so you have to go to them.  Check out their website for info on locations.  And if you’re ever in their area, visit!  Let me knwo what you think of the macaroons.  And if you’re not willing to sample them all, go for the caramel:0).  You can’t loose!

Disclaimer:  If only I had an affiliation with Bouchon Bakery, my wildest dreams would come true!

 

 

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Botanical Gardens

Posted on Jan 13, 2014

Botanical Gardens floating begoniasIt’s warm here for January.  The expected high is 72° F.  I just sent my poor kid back to school in New Jersey where it is 2° with a -17° wind chill.  It got me thinking…about botanical gardens.

Don’t ask why my mind works the way it does.  The Girly (aka my daughter) and I often laugh about how we get from one random thought to another.  Still, there’s something about cold weather, even if I’m not in it, that makes me want to garden, to think about things growing and blooming, to let my mind run wild with thoughts of beautiful gardens and what-might-be.  That got me thinking about botanical gardens {I’m trying to help you follow my train of thought here}. Can you imagine being able to live in a place so intensely gardened and maintained?  I feel like I did at my last house!  Haha!  It really is the stuff of royalty and the exceptionally wealthy, but with so many Botanical Gardens at least we can all go for a visit and enjoy.

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens

I’ve been to a few.  Probably the first was Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom.  It was lovely.  I went with fellow students from the Landscape Architecture department at Cal Poly Pomona.  We were there, frolicking around the gardens on the Fourth of July. The irony was not lost on us as we made a human pyramid in celebration. Yep, right on that grass outside the Palm Pavilion.

Kew Royal Botanical Gardens Palm house

 

Versailles

The next was probably Versailles.  Definitely not a botanical garden, but clearly the stuff of royalty.  We visited on that same trip.  I never even went inside the palace: there was too much to see on the extensive grounds.  I loved the Orangerie, the fountains, the French Pavillion (every room has windows on three sides- my dream house!), and of course Marie Antoinette’s hamlet- where she reproduced a quaint village to get away from the tedium and insincerity of palace life- granted it was much nicer than any real village in France or anywhere. Kind of reminds me of Disneyland it’s so perfect.  (see…it’s hard to stay on my thought-train!) I went back 11 years ago.  It was January and cold and I went inside this time.  I still like the outside better.  Regardless, it’s one of my favorites and I have emulated elements in different landscapes over the years (I had a “petite” orangerie at one house).

 

The Huntington

The first official botanical garden I ever went to was Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, CA.  It’s right near where the Rose Parade is every New Year’s day in Pasadena. I went as part of a Landscape Architecture field trip.  The place was stunning!  That time I did go inside and saw “Pinky” and “Blue Boy”, those famous paintings that everyone had in the 50’s. They are part of the permanent collection.  But what I really remember are the gardens.  Roses, water lilies, the Japanese Garden, the Chinese garden, all stunning in their own way for how they make you feel (settled, a part of something, comforted, relaxed, joyful), and all laid out in a pleasing way to stroll through and take one’s time.  Versailles light in Southern California.

 

Atlanta Botanical Garden

My daughter used to swim competitively and one spring we found ourselves at a several-day swim meet with extra time in Atlanta, GA.  To help keep her relaxed, she suggested we go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, also known as Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  It was still early in the year so there weren’t a lot of flowers ( or leaves, for that matter, but it we could tell the bones were beautiful).  We spent hours in the massive conservatory where they have the largest collection of orchids in North America-maybe the world.  Thankfully we both had digital cameras at the time because, between the two of us I think we took something like 2000 pictures!  It was so beautiful, though and we wanted to capture every unique variety, like precious gems that we could carry home. That was a really good day…

 

The Butchart Gardens & Filoli

I’ve also been to the extraordinary Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay, BC, Canada as well as Filoli in Woodside, Northern California, both former family homes turned into exquisite gardens.  I’ll never forget the size of the tulips we saw at Filoli, 6 inch cups, maybe? They looked fake.  My friend tried to convince one of the grounds keeper to give her the fading bulbs, to no avail. “They’re just going to throw them out!” she argued.  I also loved the double flowering wisteria on the front of the building.  Scrumptious!  What’s not to love about Buschart Gardens?!  It is the Disneyland of flowers!

 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden & Winterthur

There are two botanical gardens I would still love to see, Winterthur and Brooklyn Botanic Garden, aka, Brooklyn Botanical Garden.  Winterthur because I’ve heard so much about it and have received their catalog for years and Brooklyn Botanical Garden because I remember seeing an article about it being decked out for the holidays.  In all my travels I had never seen anything so stunningly beautiful as those photos.  I can’t remember the magazine, it was years ago, but I think they mistakenly called it the New York City Botanical Gardens.  I went to New York on a girls’ trip and kept asking about the New York City Botanical Gardens and the closest I got was directions to Central Park.  Um, no. On a recent trip back to visit my daughter we ran out of time before we could get there, but we made it to a botanical garden in Queens, I think.  Actually, what I remember is we were race-reading the last “Hunger Games” book, trying to see who could read it first.  We even missed the first train out because we decided last minute to dash to a book store a couple of blocks from Grand Central Station to pick up the just-released book.  The train was pulling away as we ran onto the platform.  So we sat and race-read for an hour until the next train came.  When we got to the gardens we enjoyed the grounds and then sat on the grass reading our books.  It was lovely.  See how easily I digress?

Still, I will get to both one day.  After looking at all these pictures I want to go now!  There will be new memories to make while I am there. I think I will wait for the weather to get warmer, though.  -17° doesn’t sound like botanical garden weather anywhere!

 

 

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Savory Spice Shop: Spices, Seasonings, and More

Posted on Jan 9, 2014

Savory spice shops window

 

Savory Spice Shop  is one of my favorite finds over the holidays.  Well, I didn’t “find” it, my daughter told me about it and we headed to the store in Corona Del Mar, CA.  She wanted to go shopping for Christmas gifts for “The-Most-Difficult-Person-To-Shop-For-In-The-World,” her dad-  and she did not leave empty handed.  Neither of us did!

What do I like about Savory Spice Shop?  Hmmm…

How about the fact that they have loads and loads of spices from all over the world? Yep!

 

Savory spice shops wall

 

How about the unique balsamics?  Yep!

 

Savory spice shops mango balsamic

 

How about the books, and other accessories?  Yep!

 

Savory spice shops books

 

How about the fact that they have tasters for every spice in the store? Oh, yeah!

 

Savory spice shops tasters

 

That’s right, you can taste any spice in the store (they have water and cups) and whatever you have left on your hand you can just drop on the floor!  My daughter and I had so much fun to trying and comparing notes on the savory and sweet spices while tossing the remainders on the ground.  And the flavors, wow! Not only is there a huge variety of spices, there are multiple options within a type of spice.

 

Savory spice shops cinnamon

 

Since I like baking more than cooking I spent most of my time in front of the cinnamons.  (Yes, plural!)  Savory Spice Shop carries at least 6 different types of cinnamon from around the world.  My favorite is the Chinese Cassia ground cinnamon.  It’s flavor is deep and satisfying, significantly more flavorful and aromatic than typical grocery store cinnamon.  I wanted it just because it tasted and smelled so good, but when I made my first batch of cookies with it, WOW!  The cinnamon was so much more complex and interesting without overwhelming the cookies and made them taste incredibly delicious.  I had never tried a really good cinnamon before and had no idea what a difference good, fresh spices make! Not only did that Chinese Cassia cinnamon go in my cookies, I used it in my Swedish meatballs, apple pie, and even sprinkled some on my coffee.  Yum, yum, yum! 

Pricey, you’re thinking.  Nope.  My bottle of fresh cinnamon was the same price I’d pay for regular cinnamon in the grocery store. When I bought my cinnamon, the cashier put the purchase date on the bottle so I could keep track of its freshness.  When I run out (which will be well before it can go bad!) I can take the bottle back to Savory Sweet Shop for a refill and get $1 off my next refill. So I get great cinnamon for even less than the grocery store price.  Um, yes, please! Oh, they have cinnamon sticks too.

 

Savory spice shops cinnamon sticks

 

I was also swayed by the flavored sugars.  Vanilla bean sugar?  Like the seagulls in Finding Nemo- Mine! Mine! Mine!  Yeah, that one went in my coffee, too:0)

 

Savory spice shops sugar

 

The BBQ section was where my daughter headed while I assessed the cinnamon.  There are several rubs, marinades and seasonings for all kids of beef, poultry and fish.  She leaned toward the tropical flavored ones for her dad. Since we eat chicken regularly, she wanted to get him a poultry seasoning.  The Gold Coast Tropical poultry seasoning was a huge hit. With orange peel, black pepper, coriander, ginger, annatto, and allspice, how could we go wrong? Nom nom!

 

Savory spice shops BBQ rubs

 

She also found this gem, a Himalayan Salt Brick, for cooking.  My friend Mary has been talking about these for months, but I didn’t get the appeal.  When my daughter saw it, she knew immediately that she wanted to get it for her dad, rattling off all kinds of ways he could use it. “Salmon would be great cooked on this. Oh! And chicken!  Especially Daddy’s Old Bay chicken!…”  And it went on.  It’s nice when a father and daughter have things in common (especially if I get to enjoy the fruits of their labors…)

 

Savory spice shops salt brick

 

They also offer different pastas as well as many other delicious things.

 

Savory spice shops pasta

 

Did I mention Savory Spicy Shops carries a lot of delicious things?!  Butterscotch sauce?  Oh, my! Needless to say, my daughter found great gifts for her dad and I found great gifts for me ( What? I share…)

They have locations in 12 states, but don’t worry if you don’t live near a Savory Spice Shop: they ship.  You’re welcome :0)

For more on Savory Spice Shop check out their web site at http://www.savoryspiceshop.com.  Warning, with the ideas and recipes they offer on line, be prepared to drool…

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with Savory Spice Shops.  If I did I would sleep on a bed of Chinese Cassia cinnamon!

 

 

 

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Reclamation- East Coast Meets West

Posted on Jan 6, 2014

Reclamation wall

Over the holidays I had the opportunity to visit some shops I’d been meaning to get to, but hadn’t yet.  One of my favorites is Reclamation in San Clemente, Ca.  As the name implies, Reclamation carries mostly things that have been reclaimed and re-purposed in some creative new way, with a few gently used items mixed in as well.

Reclamation is the brain child of Louise Mayer-Grodski and David Grodski , two transplants from the East Coast.  After checking out a lot of the Orange County area on a mission to find a location for their new business, the last day proved successful when they found downtown San Clemente.  A beach town with a casual feel and a great old-school downtown business district, San Clemente’s lovely community feeling reminded them of home in Sag Harbor, NY, on eastern Long Island.  Louise has a background as a retail designer and consignment background. David makes most of the light fixtures.  Louise and David expect San Clemente to grow even more with a lot of young people moving into the area.

Reclamation is a store that, “Crosses over from women to men and age gaps.  Our things are original, unique, repurposed, eco-friendly and vintage that also give back,” as Louise describes it.  I’d add beautiful and interesting as well.

One of my favorite things in the store is a beautiful, huge pendant light with rippled glass that looks like its seen a lot of living.  It is positively striking, as are so many of the one-of-a-kind light fixtures, a mainstay of the store.

 

Reclamation lamp

 

Reclamation also has more traditional reclaimed items like this beautiful wrought iron fencing.

 

Reclamation wwrough iron grate

 

Cork flooring samples, unique lighting, purses, and jewelry are all available at Reclamation.

 

Reclamation wrought iron lights

 

Reclaimed bottles are all over the store.  I especially loved these reclaimed liquor bottles turned into soap dispensers.  How great are these for a man cave?!

 

Reclamation booze botte soap dispenser

 

Talking about a man-cave, these bottles cut in half vertically and sanded smooth make interesting accessories.  This is the best looking ash tray I’ve ever seen.  I don’t even know anyone who smokes cigars, but was tempted :0).  Check out the masculine and modern gear table underneath.

 

Reclamation cigar

 

This same bottle is also a clever nic-nac container.

 

Reclamation jewelry jar with tag

 

I love the color of this blue bottle and it is perfect for wrangling these bangles.  At Reclamation Louise and David take it a step further.  They like to sell things that allow for people in need to be helped.  This jewelry, for example, is the project of a woman who puts women to work in Africa.  25 women now have jobs transforming donated old jewelry into new works of art.

 

Reclamation jewelry jar

 

Aren’t these the most adorable purses? They are made from reclaimed fire hoses.  A portion of the profits from each bag sold go to the Alisa Ann Rusch Foundation named for an 8-year-old burn victim from northern Louisiana.

 

Reclamation purse

 

They also carry sunglasses made from argon oil, 25% of which goes back to the women who extract it.  This And That Equals This, a brand Reclamation carries, collects donated designer textiles and makes them into pillows, the proceeds of which, support women of domestic violence. So reclamation not only carries art-quality items, but also carries those items that help their customers give back to the local community and around the world.

So, if you’re ever in downtown San Clemente, stop by Reclamation. You’ll find something for nearly anyone (including yourself) and feel good about how your money is being put to work.

Welcome to San Clemente Louise and David.  We hope you stay for a long, long time!

 

Reclamation door sign

To find out more visit shopreclamation.com .

Disclaimer: Reclamation is a great addition to the downtown area of San Clemente and I actually shop there. I have no affiliation with the store, but if I did, I’d take that gorgeous pendant light as payment:0).

 

 

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The Ultimate Among Christmas Tree Shops: Rogers Gardens

Posted on Dec 20, 2013

Rogers Gardens Christmas tree shops cover

 

Rogers Gardens, located in Corona Del Mar, California, is THE Christmas tree shop to visit.  Of all the amazing Christmas tree shops in the United States, Rodgers is at number one.  Why?  Because they have unparalleled artists, decorators and quality in absolutely everything they do.

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Thankful For Fall And Its Color

Posted on Nov 27, 2013

Orange Maple leaves

Yes, the holidays are right around the corner.  Soon we’ll all be caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, baking, parties, family, friends.  Just for a little longer wouldn’t you like to enjoy fall? Without school nights, home work and tests to worry about anymore, it’s quite possibly become my favorite season.

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Julian, California

Posted on Nov 25, 2013

Julian, California.

Famous for pie.  It’s fall.  I need PIE.

Do you ever have one of those days where you think like the dog in the Disney movie “Up”? Sort of scattered, easily distracted, with limited grammar?  These are my exact thoughts on a recent trip to Julian, California with my family.  My only excuse?  It was early.  And I was hungry.  And I was tired of the gloomy beach weather.  And… and, I am simple, like a dog, when it comes to pie …

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Apple Picking

Posted on Nov 13, 2013

Apples on tree TIH&G.com

 

Every fall I have some primeval urge to go out among trees-  not the palm trees that line the local beach, but real trees, with changing leaves towering overhead. It must be a gatherer instinct.  The colorful leaves, the crisp air, the clear sunshine, all call me outside and toward trees.  This fall, instead of ignoring it, I managed to convince the whole family to head out apple picking. Continue Reading

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The Place To Go On Halloween

Posted on Oct 30, 2013

halloween gargoyle on fence

 

Does your town have a place where everyone goes on Halloween?  You know the place, that no one wants to miss because it is just that special.

In San Clemente, California, and for a lot of Orange County, there is a place to go on Halloween.  The Place to go trick or treating. It is an unexpected cute little beach town block of Barcelona street.  The appeal isn’t because giant-sized candy bars are handed out or that there are commercialized haunted houses.   Nope.  It’s because a guy named Jim put out a few pumpkins 30 years ago. Continue Reading

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