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Rich and Friends

August 8-15
written August 10+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

d140807_02_zaiden.jpgAfter almost a week with Ava and Sam, the house seemed quiet.  Sometimes, we old folks prefer it that way, or so we tell ourselves. Fortunately, we had a chance for a quick babysitting hour with little Zaiden, nephew Henry's almost-one-year-old.  Cute kid with a great disposition.

However, by Friday we received new visitors.  Grandson Rich and his mom Jen arrived at Fresno International airport on Friday (8th), and we started more activities.  We didn't even allow them to unpack before we visited Mamo and her pool.  Like us, Mamo really does prefer the noise and chaos of young visitors.
Airport Greet
At Mamo's
Afterwards, we had a big dinner at our near-to-Mamo's standby, Red Lobster.  There was plenty of food and we all headed home to rest after our hectic day and full meals.

d140809_02_market.jpgBrian left Colorado early to join us, but he had a two-hour flight and a three-hour drive between there and Fresno.  That gave us time to putter around home and make a short visit to the Saturday farmer's market.  (Fresno has over 30 farmer's markets in the summer, a byproduct of being "the nation's food capital" - according to the local mayor, at least.)

Brian did make it after lunch, looking pretty awake, considering he had been awake for almost 12 hours.  Like the family the day before, he was granted no rest and we went off to Mamo's pool right away.  (It was over 100F after all.)
More Pool Time
For dinner, we managed to host a BBQ with Babi, Ruben, Mamo and the Colorado crew.  No pictures, since I don't seem to be able to both grill and take snaps, but, trust me, it did happen.

d140810_02_newgame.jpgd140810_04_technique.jpgOn Sunday morning we started with breakfasts, each on his own time line.  The first group event was a quick try at bocce on the unfinished court.  The curves and bounces added to the challenge, but that only added to the fun.  Rich & Jen's team won, but Brian and I will get a re-match next time!

Our next tourist stop was Forestiere Garden, a Fresno tourist attraction that we had never managed to hit, despite a convenient location that we probably pass several times a month.  The garden was built in the first third of the 20th Century by Baldassare Forestiere, and Italian immigrant who came to Fresno to start a fruit orchard, but ended with something else entirely: a 20-acre underground home and, almost, a resort. After buying an 80-acre plot near old Fresno, Baldassare discovered that it was all covered in "hard pan", a sandstone-like formation of dirt several feet thick that was un-farmable.  Over 40 years, he managed to turn a refuge from the Fresno summer heat into a year-round labyrinth of below-grade rooms and gardens.
Entrance and Ballroom
The oldest tree, plus the living room, kitchen, and bathroom.
Many of the original vines and trees still bear fruit, including several trees grafted with multiple fruits, Baldassare's specialty.  (He managed to grow seven different fruits on a single tree!)
Sunday afternoon, we were invited to Marianne's nephew's son's first birthday.  Zaiden is a cute little guy, who properly attacked his birthday cupcake.  Rich didn't do too bad in the cake attack as well.

Brian had to head down to San Jose that evening to start a California workweek.  We will work on a longer visit next time.

On Monday, Jen, Rich, Marianne, and I headed north about an hour to the  Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.  Rich is a real expert on trains, thanks to the railroad museums back home in Colorado, but the whole crew enjoyed the excursion.
The hour-long ride wanders through a national forest that has replaced the clear-cut from the original logging operation.
Number 10 is the largest narrow-gauge engine ever built, with all the wheels driven by a "Shay" arrangement built for steep grades, not high speed.
Our chairs were logs, great for seeing the forest.
On the way back, we stopped for some local shopping.  No, we did not take anything home.

While the area around the Sugar Pine Railroad was pleasantly cool, Fresno was hot when we returned to town.  This was an excuse for a visit to Mamo and her pool.  Before we jumped in, she tried to teach us a Hungarian card game, and Jen managed to remember a few of the terms.  I'm sorry, but the language remains a mystery to me.  While we kids were swimming, Marianne worked up a great dinner, done in the European style Mamo loves.

Our Tuesday excursion was to the Castle Air Museum, again about an hour away from Fresno.  Over five-dozen war planes are on display, gathering the dust of the San Joaquin Valley.  Rich demonstrated that he is even more of a war plane expert than a train expert and he was able to recognize, and describe, many of the display aircraft.
The SR-71 greeted visitors in the parking lot.
Inside were all kinds of freighters, personnel carriers, fighters, and interceptors,
but my favorites were the bombers, especially the Cold War B-36, with ten engines (four jets, six propellers), and a replica of a massive 1950s nuclear bomb.  Despite the uncertainty in the world today, this was a reminder of a time when humanity was much closer to the brink of true disaster.
That afternoon, we met with Gabby, Ava, and Sam at Mamo's house and pool.  Again, we all enjoyed the break from local heat and the little cousins had a chance to meet Rich.  Everybody, but the duty photographer, enjoyed several rounds of ring-around-the rosie before quiet play, dinner, and bedtime.


Rich and Jen needed to return to Colorado on Wednesday, but we managed a quiet start, including watching some backyard wildlife before it was off to Fresno International Airport.
d140813_10_bird1.jpgd140813_12_bird2.jpgd140813_14_bird3.jpg --- d140813_02_airport.jpg
That afternoon, there was yet another swimming session for Ava, Sam, Gigi and me.
Mamo brightens when the little kids are around, as do we all (mostly)
Pool games of sharks, jumping, and kid-throwing wore everyone out, especially Opa!
After pool exercise, it was time for dinner back at the Trotter patio.  Another fun evening for everyone.

Our Thursday excursion was another trip on the Sugar Pine Railroad.  Same train as Tuesday, but a new audience.
Ava and Sam, do you remember what the blue rings meant?  Do you still have your train tickets?
d140814_80_evening.jpgBy the time we made it back home, everyone but Ava and Opa was tired enough to take naps.  Sam took his normal two or three hours, so that put us on a very late evening schedule.  We still owed Mamo and her pool a visit, so Ava and Sam got their first experience at swimming in the (almost) dark!  I think they're hooked.

d140815_02_tvaudience.jpgd140815_04_driveaway.jpgFriday morning everyone was up almost as early as usual.  As a final treat, the kids could watch cartoons at the breakfast table and they were glued to the screen.  Eventually, the tv was turned off and our visitors searched the house for all that they had brought with them.  Then they got into their big, black limo and drove off for one last visit to Mamo and her pool.  Opa stayed back home to catch up with house and office chores (including this diary).

The house returned to it's normal quiet and we miss all the kids' noise and chaos!  Hopefully, we will get more visits and noise in the not-too-distant future.

John and Marianne

The garage project continues.
Our painters are back.  Pretty soon we will have a usable garage.
While we were gone on Monday and Tuesday, there was progress on trim and electrical
On Wednesday Tony fixed our windows while Benny and Jorge preped for paint
Thursday was a big day, with the final "dash coat" on the stucco by Paul and his crew, interior and exterior painting by Benny and Jorge, and Ramon installed a nice garage door.
Almost done.
On Friday, more painting and almost the last of the electrical work.
Benny and Jorge worked Saturday and finished the painting.  I managed to rearrange the junk storage and now we have a real place for our car!
Ben promised completion of the electrical work early in the week and Gary says the walkways should go in just after.  I THINK that will be the end of our latest (and last?) home construction project.


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