Santa HQ by HGTV Is Already Open at The Oaks

Santa HQ at The Oaks

Curious shoppers asked the staff why Santa HQ was being constructed by The Oaks Mall elves as early as the first weekend in November. It did seem a bit early to see Christmas decor and candy and gifts put out on the shelves of stores that soon. But in this case, while yes, The Oaks is getting into the spirit nice and early, they wanted to provide families a meeting place with Santa soon enough to get those priceless photo memories in the works for holiday cards and gifts.

Seems legit to me.

Santa HQ entrance

It’s no ordinary mall Santa setup, either. HGTV’s Santa HG installation, which appears at 15 locations around the country (so glad they came to Thousand Oaks!), features Santa’s actual workshop where visitors can see the blueprints for toys and an observatory where elves monitor the sleigh’s ride around the world.

Santa HQ kid

Santa HQ Naughty Nice meter

There’s a naughty/nice meter that kids can stand in to be scanned, and then immediately added to the appropriate list. Finally, Santa himself is happily sitting on his sleigh waiting to meet with children and have their photo taken together.

Santa HQ photo opportunity

But that’s not all! There’s an awesome interactive element to this whole situation: Elf-Ray Vision. It’s an augmented reality app that you download for free (luckily the wifi at the mall is strong enough). Then you point your smartphone camera at an “Elf Trigger” to activate hidden delights: elves making toys, the ceiling of the observatory transforming before your eyes, and more.

Santa HQ boy playing app

Santa HQ Elf-Ray Vision

Santa HQ opened last weekend in the JC Penney court (near the food court and kids’ play area) and it will be there until Christmas Eve at 6pm. You can bring your 4-legged pet, too, on Wednesdays through December 7 from 5-8pm. Visit for daily posted hours. Visits to the HQ are free, and photo packages for photos with Santa include 11 prints plus a digital download for a fee, plus you can order photo gifts online.

There will be a charity toy drive and special guests throughout the season, so check it out while you are at the mall getting holiday gifts and supplies, or go there just for Santa HQ alone. It’s a lot of fun, and got my big boys into the spirit of Christmas nice and early. I needed no help in that department!

2015 Holiday Gift Guide

If you are just now in the thick of shopping for gifts for friends, family, clients, faraway relatives, etc., I have a few suggestions. These are items that were pitched to me that I just loved, or things I want myself!

Agoura Hills Mom 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

gift guide

The Winter Collection from DavidsTea

W15_WinterCollection_ENDavidsTea is a loose-tea shop that has locations in US and Canada. A new one just opened at The Village at Topanga, the new outdoor mall in Woodland Hills. Their teas are old-school loose teas, for better flavor. The Winter Collection is a group of 5 flavors – including hot chocolate, which smells amazing, like a chocolate dream with way fewer calories – and it comes with a set of biodegradable filters (or make-your-own tea bags).

hot chocolate teaOr you can gift this set with a pretty holiday infuser mug. Just put the tea in the strainer, pour hot water over it into the mug, and steep.H15_PerfectMugs_Red_BerriesWinter Collection – $25, available in store only (see here for locations – the Woodland Hills store is at The Village: 6316 Topanga Canyon Blvd Suite 1115, Woodland Hills, United States, 91367)
Holiday infuser mug – $23 available also online

2016 Nobody Hikes in LA wall calendar

nhila calendar

For your LA hiker. I post about hiking here all the time, so obviously I am your LA hiker. But please, don’t all order this for me at once. What will I do with 50 of them? Maybe I would give them away on the blog. But you don’t want to get presents for strangers who read my blog. Seriously, it’s enough that you had the thought. Just order one for the other avid hiker in your life.

Nobody Hikes in LA 2016 Calendar – $13 on


Cloudpets Teddy


cloupetsFor your friend or relative who travels away from his or her children all the time. This bear syncs up to an iPad or iPhone, and you can record your voice and send it to that device, which will sync back to the bear. The bear will play your recorded message. The child will hug it and feel loved by you from afar. My son loves his Teddy! Not that I travel all that much, but when I do, it can come in handy.

Cloudpets Teddy – $29.99 (plus S&H) online. Free shipping for active military.


Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone


above us only sky

For the grownup reader. A novel about a young girl who was born with wings, her connection to her Lithuanian heritage. Flips between 1980’s and World War II, and told with a lovely, light touch. Here’s my review on my personal site. I think it’s my favorite book of 2016.

Above Us Only Sky – $21.24 on Amazon


Books For Kids


fortunately the milk

Fiction: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman A dad goes out to buy milk and falls into a fantastic adventure. I can totally see Gaiman telling his children this story himself. Great illustrations and just a fun read for kids.

guinessFor the young reader who loves non-fiction: Guinness World Records 2016 book boasts loads of fresh topics including YouTube, hacking, pirates (the swashbuckling variety), apps and more! Video game fanatics will be ecstatic when they discover the Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer’s Edition features more than 20 pages on the global gaming sensation Minecraft! And of course this must-own reference on video games features all new records for revered gaming franchises like Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda and much more.

Fortunately, The Milk – $5.39 on Amazon
Guiness World Records 2016 & Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer’s Edition – $16.00 and $8.57 on Amazon

Ninja Nesting Dollsninja nesting dolls

These mini-nesting dolls could be for the kids or for a whimsy-loving adult. They are so small – the largest is only 4.5″ tall – and so badass. How could you NOT love them?

Ninja Nesting Dolls – $12.59 by The Original Toy Company on Amazon

What’s on your wish list? Merry Christmas, everyone!

I received samples of some, but not all, of the above products. All opinions are my own.


Holiday Spiked Egg Nog and Blog Hop

It’s another Holiday Blog Hop from Savvy Sassy Moms and the ScoutBox team. This time I am one of the hostesses, because this week’s theme is holiday drinks! One of my favorite topics.


What drink says “holiday” more than egg nog? For years I struggled to get mine just right, and then finally I focused on it. I didn’t make the nog from scratch – just got some at the grocery store.

egg nog ingredients

I experimented with all of the dark liquors in the liquor cabinet to see what egg nog recipe I liked best. This is a combination of old-fashioned recipes and what I thought tasted best. I actually liked it better over ice, too.

Holiday Spiced Egg Nog

1.5 tbsp bourbon
1.5 tbsp dark rum
1/3 cup egg nog
dash nutmeg

What’s great is that you can pour a little non-alcoholic egg nog for your kids, then spike it up for the grownups. A great holiday tradition!

This is part of the Holiday Blog Hop hosted by Savvy Sassy Moms and some other great bloggers. Check out their holiday drink specials here:

Savvy Sassy Moms

Lindsey of The Nashville Mom

Natasha of Hello, Happiness

Carrie Beth & Jen of Magnolia Mamas

Sara of Running from the Law


You can share your own posts with recipes for special holiday drinks by joining in. Just put the URL and name of your blog post into the InLinkz widget below. It would be great if you could visit 3-5 other blogs in the Holiday Blog Hop and leave a comment on their posts. Share this Holiday Blog Hop with your friends and readers on social media using the #SavvySassyHoliday hashtag.