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Finish February - Start Spring and Kid Visit

February 18-29, 2016
Written February 22+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Now that our Bluegrass extravaganza is past, what else will February bring? Not a lot, I'm afraid.  No more travel, even locally.  Somewhere else I would blame it on the weather, but not here in the Central Valley. There has been just a single day of rain this month, bad for farmers and lawn-owners, but actually pretty pleasant.

d160220_02_sunrise.jpgd160220_04_windows.jpgSo, what is our "normal day"?  Sunrises come early enough now that I get up in the light, nice rosy light, if I am lucky.  I go downstairs to make coffee and spend some quiet time in the office.  This may be my favorite quiet time, although our life has plenty of "quiet".  I read the news, while avoiding news television.  The current election circus has completely discouraged me from watching telecast news.  The cold economy and the heating-up Middle East don't help either.  Old people are notorious for lamenting that the world is collapsing, and I consciously try to avoid such thoughts, but it takes more and more effort.

After quiet, we get our days started for real:  healthy breakfast and, most days, trips to our gyms.  We have become born-again-Christian enthusiastic about health and conditioning.  I count calories, in and out, religiously, using technology Geoff suggested.  I think it appeals to the nerd in us and it provides a way to properly balance calories eaten with calories "earned" by exercise.  It also makes painfully clear how much cardio it takes to compensate for a donut or a couple glasses of wine.

d160220_40_gym.jpgMy gym is "Fitness Expansion", a no-frills facility filled with dozens of torture machines.  Standard practice is 20 to 40 minutes of cardio, depending on the previous day's eating, followed by a half-hour on machines, mats, and weight benches.  I may be the oldest person in the room.  I am also one of the few with no tattoos, store-bought or prison-acquired.  It's a Fresno crowd, after all. 

d160220_42_matcurves.jpg Marianne goes to "Curves", a chain that caters to women and employs a series of machines and in-between stretching and calisthenics.  It seems the clients make more or less of the challenges offered, but the method does have a loyal following - including Marianne.  We have to admit, that this discipline has yielded positive results.  We are both in better shape than we have been in decades, and lighter as well.  Not bad for 70-year-olds!

Social activities
d160220_10_pathunter.jpgd160220_12_signs.jpgMonthly, we hit the art scene.  Fresno has a surprising assortment of art galleries and workshops and most open up on the first or third Thursday and the following Saturdays. On the 18th's ArtHop, we stopped by three shops not far from home.  The first was the gallery of Pat Hunter, a water-colorist who has several illustrated books published.  Each covers some part of local or California history and travel.  Nice themes and nice work.

d160220_18_art.jpgOur favorite local gallery is "Brush and Easel", run by friend Valerie.  Marianne has taken classes here and will have her own showing in the April ArtHop.  But on this evening, we were distracted by a pop-up bakery selling delicious pies and cakes.  (Later, I figured out that my pecan pie could be balanced by 45 minutes on the elliptical machine.  Worth it.) 

d160220_20_greet.jpgd160220_22_doc.jpgOn Saturday, neighbors Jon and Susan invited us over for Korean short ribs and wine.  The ribs were good, the wine plentiful, and the collection of neighbors a great deal of fun.  Aided-by-alcohol conversation included discussion of the troubles of central Fresno, but I'm not sure anyone learned much new.  The facts are that we live in a great neighborhood in a not-so-great part of a struggling city.  I'm hoping for the completion of the high-speed train to San Francisco so we can become a Silicon Valley bedroom community.  But, can we hang in here until 2025?

d160220_30_blossoms.jpgFor the rest of the month, the plan was for regular life, plus a visit by Gabby and the kids.  Always a highlight.  Plus as many neighborhood gatherings as happen.  And some time to take more pictures of Spring flowers.

Kid's Weekend (26th to 28th)

It's always a big weekend when we get a visit from Gabby and the kids.  "Kids" includes Zoe now.  On Friday, everyone settled into our house and, after Ava's and Sam's art practice, we all enjoyed backyard and patio time.  I know we should be praying for cool and rain, but the unseasonably warm evening was quite pleasant and promised more in the months ahead.  (I won't mention the daytime heat that comes with it in July and August!)

Saturday's big event was Ava's birthday party at Mamo's.  Mamo loves hosting a party and we are always happy to descend on her.  Aunt Babi did a great job of decorating the patio and brought cousin Zaiden over to join the party.  He certainly enjoyed the chocolate cupcakes!

Ava had an excellent present event, with a hammer, wrench and screwdriver set from Opa and clothes from everyone else.  There were so many outfits that she had to put on a fashion show.  Sam, as usual, needed to join in too.  Great models.
Fashion Show
d160227_42_sucker.jpgd160227_40_sampiano.jpgFour-year-old Sam then went inside to give us a piano recital -- sort of.  Actually, he started out just banging on the keys, but by the end, he was gently plunking notes up and down the keyboard.  Mommy: he needs lessons!

d160227_44_clue.jpgAfter the recital, Ava and Sam had to follow a trail of clues to find a prize. I'm not even sure what the prize was, but it's the journey that matters.  At least that was Saturday's message.

We finished the big day with a "sleep over" at Mamo's, stretching the festivities as long as we possibly could.  (Speaking of "long", the last event of the evening was watching The Warriors' Seth Curry sink a game-winning shot from 38 feet out, with under a second to go.  It was special being excited with Sam and Gabby and Opa.  Family memories I trust.)

d160228_02_breakfast.jpgOn Sunday, we started slowly and headed out for a neighborhood Denny's breakfast. Everyone ordered what they wanted and Sam even got to order twice!  He finished his first sausage and eggs breakfast and declared that he was still hungry, so we repeated the order.  I can imagine he will be an expensive mouth to feed when he hits his teens a decade from now.

From there, it was good byes all around.  We returned Mamo to her home, much too quiet now, and headed on our way to prepare for our second weekend event: An Oscars party.

No pictures from that party, maybe because adults are less tolerant of invasive photographers or maybe because the photographer was enjoying himself hosting our great neighbors.  There were about a dozen of us, stationed at two or three TVs, and it was good occasion to have both lots of folks and smaller gatherings as well.  Our Cambridge Avenue neighbors remain one of the best features of our Fresno life.  And Mamo.  And Babi and family.  And visiting kids.  And Zoe.

It's all good.

John and Marianne


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