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Labor Day Weekend With Family and Friends

August 28-September 3
Written September 3+
Dear Friends,Family and Diary,

Summer is almost over!  Elsewhere that might not be cause for celebration, but here in Fresno County it is.  We hope the triple-digit temperatures are gone for the next ten months, replaced by a month or two of "warm" (90s), followed by weather that no longer supports shorts and sandals.  The dead of winter might even require a jacket, a light one.  In balance, not so bad.

d180830_02_timstruck.jpgReturn of decent weather also reminds us of home projects and we started with some electrical work - always a possibility in our old house.  This time, it was a new living room light and power for the basement "man cave".  Tim, our preferred electrician, finally had time to bring over his shop-in-a-trailer and helpers. I like Tim.  He's professional, interesting to talk with, and always cheerful.  His positivity comes despite family health difficulties, a reminder that some people are better at taking problems in stride.  Better than me, I think.

d180830_10_preptowerys.jpgThat evening, we had our first barbecue in a couple of months.  We had managed to water our back garden enough that plants did not all shrivel and dry up, but it is only now that evenings are below 100F and suitable for people.  Neighbors Nancy and Gene accepted our last-minute invitation, along with Marianne's mom.  I planned to memorialize the meal with pictures of everyone, but I think we started talking too much and I forgot my camera duties.  Probably a good sign.

d180831_04_avagigi.jpgd180831_02_momdaughter.jpgI'm not sure what we did during the day, beyond the normal: gym, art (Marianne), shopping, chores.  Gabby had volunteered to do the driving on this holiday weekend, so we were able to relax while she was pushing through four hours of traffic. Rose was served on the patio as soon as she arrived.

d180831_06_pizzababies.jpgQuickly refreshed we all headed over to Mamo's for dinner, chit-chat, and a sleep-over.  Marianne created "pizza babies" from store-bought Indian bread (nan), some tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni.  Quick and just what the travelers and locals needed.  With everyone staying over, Magdalena's house was a bit crowded and noisy, but that certainly makes it more fun.


Usually, when grandchildren visit, we do kid stuff, but this time we opted for one of Mamo's favorite excursions: wine tasting across the valley at Cardella Winery.  Ava and Sam enjoyed just coming along for the ride and picnic lunch.

d180901_16_taster.jpgOur guide Pete, the regular weekend host at Cardella, made us feel right at home.  Mamo had her taste, not much more, while Gabby, Gigi, and I did more serious sampling.  We like Cardella for the wine, the lovely grounds, perfect for a picnic, and because the people we have met there are always serious about making a good product and about explaining those products to guests.  Pete was in that mold, cheerful and talkative.  (Enough so that we learned he was facing serious brain surgery that would stop the weekend tasting for a few months.  We wish him well.)
A nice day for family pictures.

Marianne and I had to leave the family on their own for dinner.  We had a prior engagement.  As part of our support of the Fresno Art Museum, we had bid on and won a dinner at the home of Coke and James Hallowell, a couple who are local sponsors for the museum and several other local charities and civic organizations.  We had no idea what we were in for, other than it was all for a good cause, and we might meet some interesting people.

d180901_30_guardcow.jpgd180901_31_out.jpgThe Hallowells live in the Sierra Foothills, about a half-hour from us, in a world far different from our city-center neighborhood.  We followed directions to their rural driveway, drove past the black guard cows, and parked at the foot of an entrance staircase that reminded us of an Aztec castle.

Inside, the home was amazing, breath-taking amazing.   Everywhere, there were museum-worthy art pieces  and furniture. Yet, the 30-year-old home still seemed like the warm home of very welcoming people. They welcomed us visitors to wander the home (and take pictures), clearly proud of their mountain-top retreat and decades worth of art collecting.  As they should be.

d180901_42_party.jpgDinner was charming.  Coke and James played perfect hosts for the dozen guests, serving us themselves. The conversation was active and interesting, prompted perhaps by the hospitality and setting.  I do hope we manage to see some of these people again.

As the sun started going down, I found myself drawn to the west-facing patio and pool-deck.  Between the ancient oak and the sprawl of the foothills and San Joaquin Valley beyond, I could have taken hundreds of shots.  Here are a few.  (The Hallowells agreed to allow me back with better cameras.  I'll see if I have the nerve to barge in yet again.)


Marianne and I got up early and drove over to Mamo's and the little family.  The first order of business was Gigi's "palascinta" (= crepes).  Ava said she ate six of them and Sam claimed six-and-a-half, just because.  We have doubts.
d180902_04_samplay.jpgAfter that, it was a nice slow Sunday with adult conversation and kids playing.  Sam started with his elaborate stories featuring soldiers and dinosaurs. I think this bodes well for his future composition classes.  Meanwhile, Ava worked on more bracelets, her current craft passion.  Everybody but me  ended the weekend with her woven creations.

d180902_02_kidsplay.jpgAfter that, it was time for a little piano practice.  In principle, Ava will end up with one of the family pianos, but that's a whole story by itself. I hope it will happen while she still seems interested in learning. 
While Ava went off to read and Gigi, Gabby, and Mamo had serious conversations, Sam and I attacked a 43-step Lego project. Our job took more than an hour of instruction-following concentration, and Sam really did much of the work.  Family lore has it that his mom was also a Lego fan, so his skills may be genetic.  In any event, this too indicates useful spacial and concentration abilities.  But, all our grandkids are perfect.  Our story.
d180902_10_travelready.jpgSooner than we wanted, it was time for the family to head back to the big city.  As soon as bags were being packed, Charlie jumped up to her front-seat perch.  Ava and Sam then put on their car-theater headset and everyone was ready for the three-hour commute.

After they left, the house was quiet, very quiet.  It's always a bit disappointing, especially for Mamo, as  homes are always more "homey" when filled with the sound and debris of playing kids.

Monday - Labor Day
In retirement, holidays are pretty much the same as any other day.  Morning coffee, work on photos and diaries (me) or art (Marianne), a visit to the gym (me - M's was closed) and a few chores (both). Nothing remarkable, but it is occasionally worthwhile to remember how we spend our regular time.  Memories come in a full range.

Our Cambridge neighborhood did have plans - a Labor Day pot luck. While Jon fired up a wok-load of bacon and other healthier ingredients, the rest of the crew chatted.  THAT's what Cambridge gatherings are really for.

d180902_52_jondone.jpgd180902_54_game.jpg "Chow fun" cooked, we all settled in to eat.  Between wine, beer, chips, dip, crackers, shrimp, pita, salad, and cookies, there were plenty of calories. THAT's also the way these gatherings work.  Some people thought a game of bean-bag toss would be enough exercise to compensate.  Not quite.

Nice end to a holiday weekend of family and friends, new and "regular". 

The upcoming weeks will probably be ordinary enough to not warrant a diary, but I never know.  Stay tuned.

John and Marianne


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