Dear friends, thanks so much for popping in today. I took a little unplanned hiatus from the blog, as life just got in the way. Between traveling right before the holidays, to the sheer amount of work required to execute all that is involved with holiday decorating, entertaining, gift shopping & wrapping, cooking and enjoying family, it left me with zero time for this outlet, my blog. But I’m back, ready to share with you some highlights from my holidays, and all the things that kept me away from my little spot in cyberspace.

MY CHRISTMAS TABLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comSUNDAYS WITH CELIA VOL 50 | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comMY CHRISTMAS TABLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comI'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Eve | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com


Now that we are empty nesters the dynamics of the holidays have changed a bit. That’s because our kids are spread out across the country and have to travel long distances to visit us. Two of our 4 boys are married and must split their time with inlaws. So this year our kids didn’t arrive here until the day after Christmas. On the one hand I simply looked at it as extra time to get ready for everyone, and in our minds we tried to imagine that it really wasn’t Christmas until everyone was here under our roof. But, admittedly, I knew it would feel a bit lonely on Christmas Eve if Brad & I were home alone. So, I was delighted when our friends, Brenda & Jim, invited us to spend Christmas Eve with them, as they too had children who hadn’t yet arrived home.

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Eve | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Brenda is the quintessential hostess, amazing chef, and very talented fine artist. Over the years I have shared much about her here on this blog. Not surprisingly, our quiet Christmas Eve spent in her beautiful home turned out to be a wonderful way to usher in Christmas.

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Eve | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

As I shared with you previously, Brenda has a wood burning pizza oven in her kitchen, so our Christmas Eve dinner began with woodfired pizza as a delicious appetizer accompanied by a great bottle of celebratory champagne.

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Eve | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Eve | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The main course was Jamie Oliver’s warm and comforting recipe for Italian Bread and Cabbage Soup. You can get his delicious recipe by clicking here.  I’m telling you, this soup is so scrumptious, and is perfect for a cold winter’s night.

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Eve | Jamie Oliver's Italian Bread and Cabbage Soup | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

For dessert we enjoyed homemade Tiramisu which I failed to photograph. However, I did snap a pic of Brenda’s darling owl shaped gingerbread cookies.

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Eve | Gingerbread Cookies | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Eve | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com


As I mentioned, our grown children didn’t arrive until late on the day after Christmas, so we celebrated Christmas on the 27th, which also happened to be my/our 25th Wedding Anniversary. My sweet husband surprised me with the largest flower arrangement I believe I’ve ever received. The photo doesn’t do the flowers justice, as I failed to take a photo of them until they were several days old. And since our anniversary is 2 days after Christmas we always postpone any celebration. This year, in honor of our 25 years together, we decided to mark this achievement by giving ourselves a transatlantic cruise that ends in England where we honeymooned.

I'M BACK | 25th Wedding Anniversary Flowers | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Turns out a favorite cookbook author, Susan Branch, also celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary on a transatlantic cruise to England. She and her husband then spent 2 months traveling the English countryside, all of which she documented in her charming book entitled, A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside. The book came highly recommended by a respected friend, so I purchased it and gave it to my husband as an anniversary gift. I figured it would not only bring back fond memories of our honeymoon in the Cotswolds, but it would help us plan our upcoming trip to England as well.

I'M BACK | A Fine Romance By Susan Branch | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This charming book is part love story, part travel guide ~ a beautifully handwritten and watercolored diary/journal of Branch’s six-day transatlantic crossing on board the Queen Mary 2, and a two-month ramble through the backroads of rural England. How ironic that we too planned the very same journey in celebration of our 25th anniversary well before I knew of this book. If you have any plans to travel to England, or you simply want to be an armchair traveler, I highly recommend this 5-star-rated book. I couldn’t put it down! Get your copy by clicking here.


OK, so it was the 27th of December when we finally sat down as a family for our traditional Christmas dinner.

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas Dinner | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Interestingly enough, my Christmas dinner also has roots in Merry Ole’ England. I was eleven years old when my father first took me with him on a business trip to England. That’s when I fell in love with everything English, including the amazing meal of Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding we lavished over at the oldest restaurant in London, and my favorite English eatery, Rules.

I'M BACK | Rules Restaurant London | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This super charming restaurant has been in business for over 200 years, spanning the reigns of nine monarchs. I make sure to visit every time I’m in the city. And, as a ode to the food I enjoy in my favorite city in Europe, I make a traditional English meal every Christmas. The menu consists of:

Cocktails & Appetizers In The Bar

Watercress Soup

Popovers or Yorkshire Pudding

Bone-In/Salt Crusted Roast Prime Rib of Beef

Fresh Horseradish Cream

Creamed Corn

Creamed Spinach

Our Christmas Dinner always starts with Cocktails & Appetizers in the Bar. My grandbabies really enjoyed their special Shirley Temple’s. And everyone loved the appetizer I prepared that consisted of pear slices topped with crisp prosciutto and crumbled goat cheese, then sprinkled with fresh thyme and honey. Easy to make, delicious and unique. Thanks Maureen for the yummy recipe.

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Following that I was so busy preparing dinner that when I got it all on the table I failed to take pictures, except for a couple photos of my delicious recipe for Watercress Soup and the accompanying Popovers. Try eating just one popover, I dare you!  That’s why I always make a double batch!

I'M BACK | Delicious Watercress Soup Recipe | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Delicious Popovers | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

My Christmas dessert varies each year. This year I decided to make a Christmas Yule Log. It’s a chocolate chiffon cake filled with pastry cream and covered in chocolate frosting. YUM!

I'M BACK | A Christmas Yule Log | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comI'M BACK | A Christmas Yule Log | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And it’s not Christmas without Christmas cookies. So I whipped up a batch of my yummy recipe for Pecan Snowballs…

I'M BACK | Pecan Snowball Recipe | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comI'M BACK | Pecan Snowball Recipe | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and a batch of my recipe for Super Moist Sugar Cookies With Sprinkles. My grandchildren loved them and admittedly, so did I.

I'M BACK | Super Moist Sugar Cookies With Sprinkles Recipe | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Christmas Cookies | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Before going to bed I made sure the table was set for a special breakfast in the morning.

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | A Magical Christmas | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Our Christmas breakfast always includes my Crustless Quiche, one of the all-time most popular recipes on my blog. If you haven’t yet tried it you really should.

Italian Style Crustless Quiche | A Tutorial for this easy recipe | By www.AfterOrangeCounty.com


I invited the neighborhood kids over for a Cookie Decorating Party with my Grandbabies. It’s been awhile since our home has been filled with children. Decorating Cut-Out Christmas Cookies is a tradition I had with my mom growing up, and then continued with my own children.

I'M BACK | Kids Christmas Cookie Decorating Party | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

However, I had yet to make Christmas Cut-Out Cookies with my grandchildren, so I decided this was the year.

I'M BACK | Kids Christmas Cookie Decorating Party | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Using my Grandmother’s Cut-Out Cookie Recipe we rolled, and cut, and decorated cookie dough. I think more sprinkles landed in their mouths and on the floor than did on the cookies, but it made for some very happy kiddos. They each got to go home with their own little basket of the cookies they decorated.

I'M BACK | Kids Christmas Cookie Decorating Party | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The childlike imperfection of their cookies is what made them so special.

I'M BACK | Kids Christmas Cookie Decorating Party | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The following day we made gingerbread houses, which also resulted in more sprinkles being consumed than used to decorate the Gingerbread Dog House and Vintage Travel Trailer. Again, imperfection at its childlike best. 

I'M BACK | Gingerbread Vintage Travel Trailer & Dog House | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Gingerbread Vintage Travel Trailer | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Gingerbread Dog House | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com


We are so fortunate that the iconic Lake Arrowhead Landmark, SkyPark at Santa’s Village, has now been open for a second year, with new and improved attractions to be enjoyed by all ages. We are making a visit to Santa’s Village a new family tradition to be enjoyed with our grandchildren at Christmas. If you live in, or are visiting Southern California, put a visit to SkyPark high on your list. You won’t be disappointed.

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This year we got to enjoy an English Style High Tea with Mrs. Claus.

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And Uncle Taylor took the kids out on the ice rink. Ice skating and all the equipment is included with the price of admission.

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The kids also got their faces painted by one of Santa’s Elves, went rock climbing and ziplining, took a train ride on The North Pole Express, visited Santa, had a delicious lunch at St. Nick’s Patio & Grill and much more. It was a magical afternoon.

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I'M BACK | Skypark At Santa's Village | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Well, that concludes the very lengthy (I’m sorry) review of my holiday season. I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season with the people you love. Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year!

So there you have it: I’M BACK

Thanks so much for dropping in! 

Express Yourself!

No blog post is truly complete without a word from you. I’d be so delighted if you’d leave a comment below. 

All opinions expressed in this post are my own. All photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission. This post contains affiliate links which help to make this blog possible.


  • Patti Kohler

    Oh Celia!!! I love this post! Thank you for the recipe links, as well as the amazing photos of your beautiful Christmas holiday! Happy 25th Anniversary to you and your husband! I can see you two live love out loud! Those flowers looked Devine! I agree with you about Skypark at Santa’s Village! What a wonderful place to visit! Have a very Happy New Year! <3

  • Gee thanks so much Patti for your very kind comment. I am delighted you will be trying the recipes. And yes, we are so lucky to have SkyPark in our backyard. What an amazing job they have done with it.

  • Yes, thanks so much for the recipe. I loved it so much at your Christmas party that I incorporated it into my Christmas Dinner menu. It was so special spending the day at Santa’s Village with you guys. All of my photos of Elle and Rayah were not blog worthy:( Probably because as it turns out Elle was also sick with strep throat at the time. We did miss Rayah at cookie decorating but lets plan a redo as soon as both girls come to town again. XOX

  • I’m so glad your back! The holidays have been a flurry of activity and it looks like you had a great time with friends and family. Thank you for sharing. Happy New Year!

  • Ah thanks…
    Happy New Year to you too!