Well, we made it through another year. 2021 is drawing to a close which is so hard to believe. It’s crazy to think in this year we witnessed the Covid vaccine rollout which helped alleviate some of the stress and fear that this once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic provided. The relief I felt after getting the first jab and then the second (and most recently, the third) gave me a feeling of optimism that had sorely been lacking the year before. Protecting my family and community felt attainable after so many months of uncertainty.

This year I took as many opportunities as I could to live life to the fullest. I think if nothing else, the pandemic taught us to really treasure each day and not take our health for granted. When it was deemed safe to do so, I went back to some of our favorite restaurants and ate indoors. I was lucky to get out of town a handful of times and embrace the pleasure of travel with loved ones. And speaking of embrace, it was nice to hug friends and extended family once again, too. Seeing the boys return to in-person school felt monumental and witnessing them return to a modicum of normal teenage social interaction felt special, too.

So, it’s with sincere reverence when I congratulate you on making it to the end of the year because no matter how many struggles we faced as a family, I recognize they pale in comparison to those who were REALLY affected by this disease and all the problems, restrictions and issues it brought. The real estate market in our neighborhood thrived which is very good news for all of us homeowners and real estate professionals alike. With inventory low and the interest rate even lower, it was an extremely busy year for both buyers and sellers. The nice thing about this area is that the homes are perpetually increasing in value. And with Google getting ready to move onto Pico as well as Apple and Amazon making their way into Culver City, I think the new year will bring a real uptick not only in home values but new shops and restaurants, too. But the good news is: we are a neighborhood full of great shops and restaurants already. In fact, just for fun, I’ve compiled a Top Ten List of Lee Family Favorite Things for 2021. So with all do respect to Oprah and David Letterman, here they are in no particular order:

1. Coffee and muffins at Undergrind: Thank you for staying open past 3:00pm so Hamilton students can come by after school and enjoy your coffee drinks and hospitality. 2713 S. Robertson Blvd.

2. Fish Tacos at Dolce Isola: Their baked goods are delicious, too, but treat yourself to a fish taco first. You won’t be disappointed 2869 S. Robertson Blvd.

3. Anything at C and M Café: They’ve moved since their days on Motor. Now you’ll find this delightful café tucked into a mini mall. Everything I’ve tried is delicious. 10645 Woodbine St. #104

4. Canales at Ludivine Paris: Let the diet go and do yourself a favor by trying the specialty of the house. They’re that good. 10509 W. Pico Blvd.

5. Coal and Ice Boutique and Gifted: My wife loves this clothing store. She swears by their selection of jeans, sweaters and the overall quirky yet cool collection. So ladies, pick something nice for yourself before heading next store to find unique and fun gifts for the whole family at Gifted. 10588 ½ W. Pico Blvd and 10590 W. Pico Blvd.

6. FOOD: With an ever changing selection of delicious fresh salads as well as all the favorites off the regular menu, dining here feels like the high-end home kitchen of the neighborhood. You’ll always find someone you know and Judy, the owner, makes everyone feel like family. 10571 W. Pico Blvd.

7. Arancini & Quattro Formaggi Pizza at Sestina: You will seriously be shocked and amazed after eating here, wondering how in the world could it possibly be vegan? Trust me. You would never know that what you’re eating is dairy/meat free. It’s so good. 9725 Culver Blvd.

8. Perfect Cleaners: You may have seen bright green drawstring bags on doorsteps around town. That’s just laundry that gets picked up by Tang or his helpers from Perfect Cleaners. A day or two later they get returned in tip-top shape: pressed, hung and perfectly cleaned. I’ve been a customer for years and can’t recommend the service highly enough.

9. Knox Hair Salon and Danny’s Barbershop: My wife has been getting her hair done at Knox for the last few months and is a fan. She says it’s a small intimate space, very Covid safe and does a top notch job with color and cut. 2823 S. Robertson Blvd. The boys and I have been clients of Danny’s for years. A no-nonsense cut, convenient location and congenial community atmosphere. Can’t get better than that! 10456 National Blvd.

10. The Apple Pan/Children’s Book World/Marty’s/John O’Groats: The oldies but goodies of the neighborhood, you’ve probably been to them as often as we have but it’s easy to take the classics for granted. Locals know the gold standard but perhaps you can take your visiting relatives to any of these locations for an extra special treat over the holidays. various addresses on Pico BlvdAnd no list would be complete without a number 11 for favorite local real estate agent, right? If we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet, I look forward to helping you handle all your real estate needs this month and beyond. Until then, I wish you a happy and, more important, healthy holiday season. I hope you continue to be well, stay safe and have a fantastic, festive and fabulous month ahead!