You're never too young to learn to ski at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows, CA.

You’re never too young to learn to ski at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows, CA.

I smell the cookies baking. It must be December. Not that I don’t bake cookies all year, but from the time I was young, baking for the holidays began early in the month. My Mom, sister, and then my daughter and I would begin our ritual of selecting which favorites and which new recipes would warm our kitchen. They were meant to be sampled and mostly, meant to be shared. In the last two years I had last minute writing assignments and performing gigs that made my life too hectic to spend casual time listening to holiday music while I kneaded, mixed, and decorated an assortment of goodies. Cooking and baking are cathartic. They feed my soul, not just my belly. I already “sense” this December will be different. We have one trip planned to visit relatives, parties to enjoy, and two cookie exchanges for which to prep. I’m feeling merrier already.

May you have the holiday you either remember or one you wish to have. Here are some possibilities that may stoke your imagination or get you to pack your bags for a new adventure.

HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS

Even I, a complete chicken when it comes to anything involving heights and the possibility of me hitting the bottom in an unintended splat, might consider taking advantage of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows’$49 Learn to Ski and Ride Weekend, December 14-15. The package includes lift tickets, a half-day lesson and full rental packages for first time skiers and riders. Reservations are required for kids’ lessons (ages 12 and under). 13 and over can register online. Walk-ins to the California resorts are welcome. There are more than 6,000 skiable acres, 42 lifts and 270+ trails at Squaw and Alpine Meadows on one lift ticket or season pass. To rsvp: Squaw Valley, (530) 452-7225, and Alpine meadows, (800) 403-0206.

Can’t make the December dates? No worries. Check again for Jan. 14-30 when Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month offers lessons by professional instructors. If you’re like me and skiing is just a tad scary, maybe the second annual Last Chair Festival featuring music acts and cultural seminars will be more your style. Here’s who’s playing during the Jan. 9-11 festival.  www.Squaw.com/LastChairFestivalThe Flaming Lips; Matisyahu; Jurassic 5; Mayer Hawthorne; Fitz & the Tantrums; Random Rab; Chali 2na (and the House of Vibe); Ben Rector;   Tennis; and West Water Outlaws

 

Rockers' music sales saves lives

Rockers’ music sales saves lives

Would you like to change the world if you had the time? Rockers for St. Jude, a a gathering of celebrated musicians from the history of rock n roll, would like to think you would. They’ve even created an inspirational song called (what else?) “If I Had the Time (I Could Change the World).”  Each time the song is downloaded, 50 cents will benefit the work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® in finding cures for pediatric catastrophic diseases. Celebrate the holidays by helping others in need. The benefit song is written and produced by legendary lead guitarist and songwriter, Dick Wagner (“The Maestro of Rock,” Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Lou Reed, KISS, and more). Among the more than 50 Rockers performing are Mark Farner (formerly of Grand Funk Railroad) on lead vocals; Chicago founder Danny Seraphine on drums; bass superstar Lee Sklar (James Taylor, Jimmy Buffet, Dolly Parton, Jackson Brown); Fred Mandel on piano (Alice Cooper, Queen, Supertramp, Elton John); guitarists Elliot Easton (The Cars) and Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson); and legendary Trini Lopez on lead vocals. The download is available worldwide or you can buy it on iTunes, Amazon.com, and cdbaby.com.

Art lovers who happen to be in London this month should take advantage of the gorgeous displays presented by The Wallace Collection. Each room’s walls are drenched in vivid colors. The antique furniture is breath-taking, The art has been collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marquess. It was bequeathed to the British nation by Sir Richard’s widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897. The Wallace Collection in Hertford House on Manchester Square in London is open daily from 10 to 5. Admission is free. Can it get better than that?

Check out this amazing view from Mahali Mzuri, Sir Richard Branson’s new Kenyan Camp. Then check out the deals being offered in December and January which include their existing all-inclusive amenities, including accommodation, meals, drinks, and activities. Located in the Motorogi Conservancy, Mahali Mzuri features 12 luxury tents and those incredible views of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. www.mahalimzuri.virgin.com/

Mahali Mazuri overlooks Kenya’s Maasai Mara

Mahali Mazuri overlooks Kenya’s Maasai Mara

THE NEW YEAR BRINGS SWEET TREATS

Avatar fans are already mixing their blues to paint their skin the right hue when the new Avatar-inspired “land” comes to Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando in 2017. Meeting planners may not be painting their attendees blue, but they can start planning how to work conferences and events around the expected floating mountains and bioluminescent rainforests. Walt Disney Imagineering is in collaboration with filmmakers James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment to re-create this world. There’ll be live performers on Discovery Island and a new night version of Kilimanjaro Safaris. Before Avatar opens, Disney has another surprise for conference groups in 2016. Downtown Disney is being transformed into Disney Springs, a one-of-a-kind destination with exciting new private-event options. If your group just can’t wait that long to visit, then look for the opening of The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in New Fantasyland in 2014. A musical roller coaster will feature a first-of-its-kind train of ride vehicles mounted in cradle-like pivots that allow the cars to swing back and forth during the ride.

I have always dreamed of sleeping in a castle, surrounded by plush linens, fine banquets, and startling views of the countryside. All that is possible at Peckforton Castle in London and during January, March and April, groups can book the medieval castle with special rates and exciting extras, such as a one-hour Land Rover experience. Just quote WINTER2014 when booking. Work on the castle began in 1842 but wasn’t completed until 1851. During WWII, it was used as a hostel for 200 physically handicapped children evacuated from the London area. In 1952 it received Grade 1 Listed Building Status by English Heritage. It has since become a venue for meetings and events and includes both the 1851 Restaurant and a large wine cellar. There are 48 stunning, individually designed bedrooms for overnight stays and their function rooms can hold up to 180 people. 01829 260 930 opt 2

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii is offering a tasty deal for the new year. Book a minimum 4-night stay and received a 4th consecutive night free, including complimentary breakfast at the new Ulu Café for two adults per day.  The offer is valid for stays most nights January 5 through April 7, 2014 if you book by January 15, 2014. The offer excludes  suites and 3-bedroom Grand Villas.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady

 

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