We always remember to eat and drink during the holidays. But don't forget to be merry!
This time of year brings stress -- good and bad -- so remember to live in the moment as the season unfolds. Enjoy traditional entertainment or explore some of the many options for new experiences, such as the Lantern Light Festival at the Alameda County Fairgrounds or the presentation of "A Christmas Memory."
Walking is great for raising the spirit, and Pleasanton's World Walk to Wellness group is hosting walks every Saturday in December plus on the morning of New Year's Eve.
Or be spontaneous and gather the tribe or go alone to walk up and down Main Street to enjoy the decorations and window shop -- a good way to burn energy off the younger generation and get older folks out of their chairs. When exploring Main Street, you can make notes to return for shopping or to enjoy a meal.
Meals out during the holidays take on a festive mood amid decorations and cheery servers who get into the spirit. It doesn't have to be fancy -- but it can be and that is the joy of it, especially in Pleasanton where dining options run the gamut.
When having friends and family over, keeping it simple helps to keep it merry for the hosts. The latest in entertaining is a "grazing table," which goes well with holiday punches and provides leftover nibbles for filling in the gaps between holiday meals.
So much eating, drinking and merriment, outside and inside our doors.
Origin of the phrase
The full saying is "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die," which blends two phrases from the Bible:
* Ecclesiastes 8:15, "Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry."
* Isaiah 22:13, "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die."
Lantern Light Festival
Described as a "nighttime spectacular of light and color," the Lantern Light Festival is a celebration of Chinese culture featuring hundreds of huge, handcrafted lanterns in themed displays that include a 400-foot dragon, giant panda, flower gardens, lantern tunnel, safari animals, shark, dolphins and much more. There also will be acrobats, artisans and food vendors, something for everyone.
The festival is open from 5-10 p.m., Thursdays and Sundays; and from 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. Parking is $10, and ticket prices range from $18-$23. Call (651) 504-2000 or visit www.lanternlightfestival.com.
Walk, walk, walk
World Walk to Wellness offers walks each Saturday morning, and on New Year's Eve will host three walks at Ken Mercer Sports and Recreation Community Park, beginning at 7 a.m., 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
The first World Walk to Wellness was on the morning of Dec. 31, 2007, when the group launched the community walk as a fun and healthy way to end the year. Four years later, founder Ron Sutton began sponsoring the weekly walks in local parks and trails.
December also will include an early morning Winter Solstice celebration at 7:11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 22, the day after the actual solstice, with walkers bringing treats to share.
To request the free weekly e-newsletter and join the fun, email walks@WorldWalkToWellness.org. The group also has a Facebook page and a website: WWtoW.org.
Story time at Swirl on the Square
Livermore Shakespeare Festival actors will give readings of Truman Capote's beloved short story, "A Christmas Memory," at Swirl on the Square, 21 S. Livermore Ave., in Livermore while guests enjoy a glass of wine or other beverage and a tapas sampler plate. Performances will be at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays, Dec. 12 and 19, with tickets ranging from $55-$65. Visit LivermoreShakes.org or call 443-2273.
"Our mission is to create community through the arts, and the holiday season is the best time to bring folks together for a shared moment of celebration and nostalgia," said Lisa Tromovitch, artistic director of the Livermore Shakespeare Festival. "I always enjoy the sense of enjoyment and peace that settles over the audience as they hear the stories."
Stress-free holiday entertaining
The holiday season is meant for spending quality time with friends and family, not stressing out over hosting. With some simple tips, you can cut down on hectic preparations while creating a memorable holiday full of food and fun guests can savor.
Consider these suggestions from the entertaining experts at Real California Milk:
Elevate holiday classics
Elevating classic appetizers is a simple way to savor the season. A trend on the rise, the grazing table starts with the table as the canvas, adds elements of the traditional cheese board then takes it to the next level with an arrangement of appetizers or brunch dishes and seasonal decor.
Prepare dishes and decorations in advance
Preparing for guests can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of hosting. Decorating at least a day ahead and setting the table the night before, for example, can help minimize stress. Welcome guests with holiday cheer and trendy decor like a virtual yule log made of melting cheese, complete with holiday music.
On large board, plate or tray, arrange sliced toma cheese, almonds, prosciutto, salami and aged cheddar. In center, place burrata cheese and top with olive oil and herbs.
On separate small plate, place blue cheese; crumble.
On medium board, arrange braided string cheese and dry salami slices.
On serving platter, arrange antipasto skewers around bowl of yogurt pesto dipping sauce.
On separate small cheese board, place Gouda, brie cheese and cheese log.
On slate, arrange cheese bundts. On separate plate, place dry jack cheese.
In separate bowls, place piquante peppers and green olives.
Arrange boards, plates, bowls and skillet of queso fundido on table, as desired.
Fill blank spaces on table with breadsticks, tortilla chips, dark chocolate sea salt caramels, dried oranges, dried lemons and bread slices. Add floral arrangements and holiday decor for finishing touches. Complete table with cheese knives and spreaders.
Sweet citrus and spice cheese board
dried oranges, sliced
pepper jack cheese, sliced
honey, for garnish
fresh herbs, for garnish
To assemble cheese board: On large board, plate or tray, arrange brie cheese, olives, dried orange slices, sliced pepper jack cheese and almonds.
On smaller board, arrange raspberries and blackberries around burrata cheese placed in center of board. Garnish cheese with honey and fresh herbs. Place smaller board into empty space on larger board.
-- Family Features