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First Half of February

February 1-15
written February 4 and later
Dear Friends and Families,

We are into February now, and I hope the moving and settling activities slow down, even if that makes these diaries less interesting.  I'm ready for less interesting.  (By the way, "less interesting" will certainly be more for our own diary record than for others, but anyone can browse the mundane.  Don't say I didn't warn you.)

January ended with our furniture unpacked, the yard cleaned up, the art studio under renovation, and our car stuck in New Jersey.  Now we anticipate (2/15 status in parentheses):
-- finish art studio enough to add the artist  (Not yet  -- but closer)
-- hang pictures (one or two  -- not very successful)
-- more time with Mamo (OK)
-- socializing with locals (not much neighborhood activity since the first week)
-- start planning a garage expansion (Architect under contract.  Start of a multi-month process)
-- develop a back yard master plan and start some new plantings - low water ones, I hope (plan started)
-- get our Audi (Arrived Feb 11)
-- Fresno Philharmonic (February 15 too)
-- receive little guests (Ava, Sam and their mom - next diary)
-- visit Longmont (next diary)

Whew, I'm tired again.

Here is what we have so far, starting with Tuesday - Feb 4.

Caesar has done a lot of structural work on the art shed, even if it doesn't show much. Now just  a new roof, new floor, a new sink, paint, etc.  For a 12 ft x 12 ft box, there is a lot of "etc."
A couple more rooms look presentable, but pictures still need to be hung.
Mamo visited and then, back at her house, I harvested a few of the many sweet grapefruits in her tree.
We are working our way through the lamps that need fixing or replacing.  This old one on the patio was probably pretty nice in its day, but finding missing parts is impossible, so we will need to just replace it all.
Finally, on February 2nd, Marianne and I had our own Super Bowl party, with snacks and a chance to just sit and stare at the TV.  To me, this was the first time it felt like we were goofing off.  (The Denver Broncos were DEFINITELY goofing off, as they barely came in second in the lop-sided game against Seattle.)

Wednesday - A mixed day, for sure.  We started with normal chores and normal-lately aches and pains, except Marianne's foot was bad enough to schedule an afternoon trip to Kaiser.  Before the doctor, we tried some shopping therapy out in Clovis, Fresno's eastern neighbor.  Clovis has a cute Old Town, a handful of streets and one-story buildings reminiscent of many small western towns where old is anything before the 1950s.  We browsed several antique stores, seeing not a thing of interest in any of them.  We had a mediocre lunch at a very authentic small-town cafe who's name I failed to note.  But the highlight, for us anyway, was Clovis Appliance, a small, local store of the type we resolved to use when practical.  In fact, they had the range, range hood,  and dishwasher we had been scouting out on the internet and their prices were close enough to the big box stores to be "practical".  (Later, we determined that installation in our old kitchen may be difficult, but we'll try to make things work.)

After a discouraging trip to the doctor (= one with no obvious solution offered), we decided to try wine therapy and went to "Pinot Wine Bar & Taste Kitchen" down in the Tower District, near our new home.  Pinot had been recommended by Ross, the guy who sold us our water treatment system.  We take recommendations wherever we get them.  After some misgivings at the plain "bar-ish" decor,  we ended up being charmed by the enthusiasm of the owner Daniel.  He introduced us to his family and talked about ambitious plans for the wine club he was re-starting (and which we joined). 

He also introduced us to Betty from the Fresno Filmworks, a volunteer group that arranges monthly showings of independent films at the nearby Tower Theater.  Also at Betty's table, we met Fran, who recommended the Fresno Folklore Society for local folk music.  All this sounded like just the community activity we had hoped for in our new almost-city life.  Now, we just need to take advantage of it all.

d140206_02_shedTent.jpgThursday and Friday blended for me, mostly because I was in bed with a cold much of Thursday.  While this second cold of the season didn't last long, it reminded me again of how badly I handle sickness -- no patience with being a patient.  Meanwhile, out in the yard, our little art shed got tented and poisoned against bugs and such.  We wouldn't want our artist to be bitten.  (Actually, her ankle is currently swollen, perhaps from an earlier bite.  We have heard that Black Widow spiders are particularly prevalent in trees in this area.  Great!)

By Friday I was well enough to help finalize on our new kitchen, at least our new kitchen appliances.  This is our fifth kitchen remodel, and we hope it will be the one with the most limited scope: only new appliances.  No matter how limited however, remodels involve expense and inconvenience.  Hopefully, both will be limited to just February.

Friday evening we went to dinner with Mamo at Red Lobster.  I regret not having a picture of the "lobster fest" we had, as it was very elaborate and pretty darn tasty.  Mamo enjoyed picking out the meat from her crab legs, I think, but we agreed with a laugh that this may not have been the best choice "for a blind person".   She is an inspiration when she remains cheerful despite the difficulties 94 years have left her with.  SHE is a much better patient than I am!

Saturday morning started rainy and cool.  California appreciates this weather, as it is putting a bit of snow up in the mountains, snow that needs to provide water for the rest of the year.  If this continues for 60 days, we will be in good shape, but the odds are against it.  After wet Bavaria, we are getting used to different climate worries.

The damp weather could not stop us from our appointed chores: Marianne went to her hair appointment and I went shopping for house and garden bits and pieces.  I do a lot of that lately, with a new shopping list developed every day over breakfast.  This moving-in business is very much full time.

We have discovered a nice, small garden supply store in our neighborhood, Gazebo Gardens.  Today, we bought rose fertilizer, "Bill's Special Blend", and bark mulch to cover our rose beds to protect them during the hot, dry, Fresno summers.  We also looked through the selection of trees and plants to get an idea of what is possible around here.  There is virtually no overlap between garden plantings in Pommersfelden and here in California's central valley.  Another learning experience.

d140208_10_Tomales.jpgd140208_12_Beer.jpgOn Saturday, Gazebo Gardens is also home to a beer garden and food truck stop, even on cool winter evenings, so we needed to learn a little bit more.  There were only two food trucks: Dusty Buns and Casa de Tamales.  We chose tamales, because owner Liz was celebrating her birthday. Her birthday, but we got a blueberry and cream cheese tamale as a gift.  Thanks!  We washed chicken and pork and pepper tamales down with a local beer, flavored with a hint of coriander.  Believe me, this beer garden food and drink were not at all like what we enjoyed in that other neighborhood, Franconia. 

d140208_02_shed.jpgNow it is Sunday morning and Marianne and Mamo are at church.  We will have a local breakfast, before we start the day's garden chores.  There is fertilizer and mulch to spread, general garden planning to decide on, and an art shed ready for some serious cleaning and paint prepping. (Building painting, not artistic painting IN the building - yet.)

d140210_02_Shed.jpgMonday (10th) was more of the same, getting the art shed clean for painting, planning the back yard, house arranging, and a bit of shopping.  This little studio is getting closer and closer to done, but, like any remodel, building from scratch would have been easier and cheaper.  Will we ever learn?

The big news was arrival of our car.  The Audi had left New Jersey six days earlier and, according to Jesse the driver, crossed the East Coast and Arkansas in snow storms.  It showed.  The salt and dirt were half an inch thick and the windows were opaque.  I can't say it was a surprise, but just one more reason to be upset at our shipping company, who had promised container shipping all the way to California.
Which car was ours?  The one with grime and packing tape.  Grime, I understand, but tape?

d140212_02_washed.jpgOn Tuesday, we washed the old machine and drove it a bit. The shipping company CEO called and offered to pay for a detailing on the car, an offer we will probably take up, as soon as we can go without a car for a few hours.  The nine-year-old Audi looks pretty good. 

Later in the day, we met with Brent the architect and Gary the builder to discuss our garage project.  It is a simple enough addition, but complicated by the fact that our house is in an historic district and requires special permits, no matter how humble the change.  That's OK, we've been through such complications before; it just takes time.

d140212_04_Mamo.jpgRuben and I spent a few hours Wednesday painting the art shed.  The old wood absorbed primer so fast we ran out before we were half done with the first coat.  We will post pictures when the changes are more apparent.

We finished the day at Mamo's house, where Marianne fixed up a wonderful dinner, despite being tired after her extensive eye doctor appointment earlier in the day.  She's a good sport and chef.  Given Marianne's good European-style cooking, Mamo is a good eater and cleaned her plate.  (I ALWAYS clean mine, unfortunately.)

d140214_32_hutOutside.jpgd140214_34_HutInside.jpgThursday came and went in a blur.  Ruben and I finished the primer  on the art shed and he painted the inside a light blue as well.  It's looking better each day.  Marianne has grand plans for outside colors, but that may take some time.  The electrician came by and looked at our long list of fixes that he promised to take on when we are back from Colorado.  All part of our mini-remodel.We also had a phone conference with our retirement financial adviser.  It is always a bit strange talking about a plan until we are gone, but that's what is required I guess. 

On Friday, while Marianne ran off  "to nails", I took the opportunity to walk around our neighborhood.  Here's what I saw:
Our neighbors: big houses and bungalows.  Some in nice shape and some ... more interesting (note the "unsafe to enter on the last picture, on a "named house" no less.)
Spring is starting here and the neighborhood has plenty of classic California Arts and Crafts homes with nice old trees and gardens.
The local high school is also being rebuilt and it really will be as nice as a small college campus.  I stopped at a small bakery, call P de Q, across from the school, and ran into yet another friendly atmosphere.  The clerk was celebrating Valentine's Day with special cookies, which I passed on.  However, "P de Q" stands for Pao de Queijo, a little baked treat that I remembered from Brazil.  I had three!
Finally, here is the tower that is the central landmark of the Tower District.  Home.
The rest of the day was quiet.  President Obama, who was in town talking about the drought, did not visit.  Maybe next time.  In any event, we have finished more than a month, settled in our house, and I suppose it's getting "normal". 

Later today, Gabby and Ava and Sam will show up, but that's another story.

John and Marianne


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