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Pre-Christmas Around Home

December 3-20, 2016
Written December 5+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

'Tis the season.  Over the years, Marianne and I have celebrated December in lots of different places and ways.  This year, we expect to be home bodies and I have to admit I will not miss busy airports and weather-related delays.  Many past holiday seasons were more dynamic and interesting, and hence made better diaries, but I deal with what we have.  I  still like having the record of our lives, exciting or not.

Fresno Fall colors hit late November or early December and push me out for at least one walk for representative pictures.  Our old neighborhood is pretty good.  Few of the deciduous trees are native, of course, but home owners have been planting currently-stylish trees for over a hundred years, so there is a nice variety.  (Our new little crepe myrtles will shine in a decade or so!)
Three Cambridge Avenue homes (Ours on the left, hiding behind trees.)

Sometimes, it's best to just see the leaves.
One neighbor, Fresno City College, offered a craft fair for the shoppers in the area.

And I tried yet more color pictures on the campus.  OK enough.

While I was taking pictures, Marianne and her mom were attending the Fresno Hungarian Christmas Dinner.  Since my Hungarian is weak (= non-existent), I was given a pass.
The young people sang, while the older folks chatted and the very youngest fidgeted.  Everyone was doing as expected.

On Monday (5th), we started the serious Christmas preparations: find a tree.  We succeeded in avoiding the weekend crowds, but choices were reduced.  That's OK with me, since I grew up with "Charlie Brown" trees and am happy with whatever is green.  We ended up buying from "Luis", mostly because I liked his story.  His family brings trees from their own Oregon farm and he was proud to show me a picture of the field where our particular choice had been growing just two weeks ago.
Selected, loaded, and (with effort and strings) standing in the living room.  More pictures followed, as we progressed on decorations.

It's nice to have the Christmas Room filled with our traditional decorations from the Ukrainian-carved Wise Men to a modern German creche.  Cards, real ones, made of paper, arrive too.  Not as many as would happen in the pre-internet days I suppose, but appreciated in any number.

Outside, Cambridge Avenue is getting decorated, house by house.  Our effort is admittedly more limited than that of some neighbors, but somehow it seems appropriate for us.  I will add some more neighborhood pictures here too, as the season progresses.
Night. Our house, our door, and Towery's across the street.

Selland's, Middleton's, and Edward's.  Nice homes (and people) all.

This week (5 through 9) passed with not much Christmas-y, except shopping a bit. The shopping centers are getting busy and even Fresno gets traffic this time of year.  Of course, our streets and freeways are nothing, compared to the big California cities.  Fine with me.

d161210_04_avasamsanta.jpgd161210_06_family.jpgd161210_02_avasam.jpgSpeaking of big California cities, we got some Christmas pictures from Ava and Sam over in the Bay Area.  They are growing up, but not so much that they don't believe in Santa and the need to create a wish list.  (Ava wrote Sam's I think.  Good agent.)  And the Elf-on-the-Shelf reportedly is still tracking their gift worthiness.

On Sunday (11th) we took advantage of nice weather to drive up to a mountain lunch with Marianne's mom.  We chose  Tanaya Lodge near Yosemite, an easy one hour drive and a festive setting. Our exercise consisted of a rolling tour of the empty parking lot, but the mountain air was as fresh as on any two-mile hike.  These excursion are special for Mamo, and for us.

On Monday (12th) we partied at two of the nicest houses on our Cambridge Avenue block, and I failed to take any pictures.  I had my camera, as usual, but just did not manage shots.  My mistake. I really do appreciate having a visual record.  Anyway, the Middletons had sponsored a welcoming for their new neighbors the Kytles. In any event, it was a fun evening with a full offering of holiday food and drink.  The new family is a real addition to our neighborhood since there are two little girls, the first kids on the block in ages. Welcome.

The rest of the week was mostly business as usual: gym, Mamo dinners, reading, watching worriers basketball, etc.  Late Wednesday afternoon I made one swing through our garden, just to see how it was going before winter sets in.  This time, I did take pictures.

Our lemon crop is almost ready.  Probably will not need to contract out for professional pickers.
This may be the last of the color.  Winters that allow flowers in December can't be all bad.
Even the dry leaves offer interesting patterns and our rain gauge was emptied and waiting for the Thursday rains.  The green gauge was filled with an inch-and-a-half before the storm was over.

On Thursday Marianne went back to work, for a couple of hours anyway.  Neighbor Annie had asked us to help at her Middle School with judging at the annual History Day competition.  Marianne had led History Day work at schools in San Jose and Germany, so was very much into helping here.
The 2016 theme was "Taking a Stand"

A few students did traditional three-panel presentations while a larger number prepared websites.  Others wrote papers and one young man reportedly dressed as Winston Churchill.  In the end, I think I heard Marianne commit to run a teacher-training session in 2017 so that next year's work will be even better.

d161219_02_towerys.jpgOn the weekend before Christmas we found our shopping almost all done and all we face are a couple more parties.  On Saturday, the Towery's opened their grand house and put on a wonderful spread for three- or four-dozen folks.  They had invited all the Cambridge Avenue crowd, plus a few others.  Unfortunately, I again failed to feel comfortable enough to whip out the camera and ask for everyone to pose.  I definitely need people-picture training!  But, take my word for it, the food and friends were all great.
By now, we have finished our own house decoration and have decided the best view is through the open front windows, where our Ukrainian-Tiffany lamp and the Christmas tree both show bright colors.  Some year, I may get as ambitious as some of our neighbors -- but I doubt it! 

By Tuesday there was nothing left before REAL Christmas but a little shopping and one more neighborhood gathering.  Have I said how much we appreciate moving into such a friendly neighborhood?  We do.

Jon and Susan Edwards were the host and hostess this time (along with Elsie their "guard" dog.)  Like the last two neighborhood events, the 100-year-old house felt exactly how a Christmas house should feel. We even had cute young guests, just like the season needs to have.

The "Christmas Diary" will start on Thursday, when Gabby, Ava, and Sam arrive for REAL Christmas.  Then there will be a birthday party for Mamo, combined with Christmas, on Friday.

It looks like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day themselves will be quiet, but we will see.

John and Marianne

ps: I have also worked up a 2016 summary index to our diaries, so you can see where you showed up in our year.


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