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Early Holiday Spirit
December 6-15Dear Friends, Family and Diary,
Written December 7+
After a couple of weeks of suffering a bad cold and not having much interest in anything else, it seemed like time to do something worth writing. I had hoped for a few photo days in Yosemite, but that could not happen due to impact from my cold and smoke from Northern California fires. I did not want to breath the combination of sooty and high-altitude air.
-- Dec 6: ArtHop
-- Dec 7: Tree and house decoration
-- Dec 9: Deliver art to Santa Cruz
-- Dec 10: Monterey family BBQ
-- Dec 11, Monterey touring and dinner
-- Dec 12, Breakfast and back
Now I am well, and we will have a few things coming up, but first I needed practice taking pictures and the most colorful scenes I can find around Fresno winter were at the monthly ArtHop. I have used this before as an excuse to take pictures and I still like it. Here's where I went and what I saw:
Fancy decorating for Christmas is not a given in years when we plan no visitors - like this year. I mean, who will see it? However, in the end, we did make the effort to crawl up in the garage attic and retrieve MOST of the containers of Christmas decorations, just like every year.
We did concede on a smallish tree this year. A big tree does look good in our high-ceilinged living room, but small is much easier and I am into easy. A real benefit is that we limited decorations to just lights (modern LED, an improvement over the olden days!) and dangles that have meaning. These gifts from family and friends did a nice job of reminding us of all the folks out there.
Stage one was the tree and bits of decoration.
By evening, Marianne had made our little living room as full of holiday spirit as it possibly could be.
She even managed to put out most of our German and Ukrainian decorations, the displays that have come to represent Christmas for us. Nothing from K-Mart or Costco!
On Sunday, we left for our two-stop coastal visit. Stop one was at Rita and Peter's house on the bluff above Santa Cruz's small boat harbor. Wonderful friends and a wonderful location and our goal was to add a bit of decoration to the place - a MarianneArt totem.
With input from daughter Alexis and the artist, Rita chose a site in the back yard, next to a big Redwood. I worried that roots from the tree would be too big and would block any chance of sinking the three-foot spike the totem attaches to, but luck held and there was a just-big-enough spot between roots. It looks good, don't you think?
After all this hard work, Rita prepared lunch sandwiches and served white wine. It was a good opportunity for the girls to catch up and I enjoyed just looking out over the harbor. (That gap in the redwood limbs had been specifically cut for the view!)
From Santa Cruz, it was a one-hour hop down to Monterey and dinner with Klare and Jack. More nice family conversation, just like Christmas Season should have.
On Monday, Marianne and I started off with a nice, slow vacation day. Breakfast at Starbucks took a couple of hours, while we talked about current news, family, and us in general. We could do that at home, but don't very often, so it is nice to be away. After the slow start, we even shopped for hours together, something we never do at home. No gym time. No chores. No painting. No video editing. No elder care.
After hours of goofing off, it was time to join the Hidas clan for BBQ dinner. It really was a remarkable gathering with more family in one place than we have seen in years. Klare's brother Zsolt came from Ohio, his son Eric from Colorado, Chris and Marianne's brother Tom and wife Kate drove down from the San Francisco Bay Area and we, of course, came from far-away Fresno. A happy dozen folks.
Tuesday started without a complex plan, as vacation days should, but ended up very busy, as family gatherings sometimes are.
Down the street, toward the bay, we ran across the Dali Expo in the Monterey Museum. The "Dali17" exhibition there tells the story of Salvador Dali's time in Monterey. The artist had moved to the US in the late 1930s during the Spanish Civil War and did not return to Spain until 1948.
During his time in America, Dali spent several extended periods working in Monterey resorts, reportedly because it felt like his home on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. The Expo features dozens of Dali lithographs, mostly from the 1960s. We wandered past most of them and were reminded of just how strange Dali's art can be. Years ago, we had visited the Dali Museum in Spain and seen a full range of his art, much of it far more imaginative than two-dimensional prints.
Leaving Dali, we ran across "Crȇpes of Brittany!", and dropped in to see how authentic it might be. We had spent a week in Brittany in 2003 and had tired of these pancakes because it seemed there was little else available. As soon as we came in, Daniel, one of the owners, started selling us on their products. He was successful, in part because of his own, interesting back story. (Raised in Paris, Normandy, and Monterey.)
From our second breakfast, we walked to our second museum, the Monterey Museum of Art. The MMoA is one of our favorite art museums and it changes displays at least as often as we visit. Currently, the "Year of the Woman" featured the work of several local artists.
While Marianne and I were enjoying crȇpes and art, the rest of the family was busy too. Leisa had invited Zsolt and Klare to her fourth-grade classroom for show-and-tell. Reportedly, Zsolt was willing to talk for far longer than his sister would allow. Maybe next time.
Meanwhile, Chris and Eric had taken the dogs for a run on Carmel Beach.
After lunch, the most-senior seniors took naps while we youngsters went for a hike in Del Monte Forest. As the least-young of the group, Marianne and I may have struggled a bit, but it was all fun.
Nevertheless, I think resting-on-a-log was my favorite part of the hike. By the time we finished, my Fitbit told me we had added 7,000+ steps, almost my entire day's goal, on top of our earlier walk to breakfast and museums. Hopefully, this was enough to compensate for the BBQ of the day before - or the upcoming dinner.
Chris had chosen the Beach House Restaurant for our big-family-night-out. Good choice. Marianne and I arrived first and, while she caught up on email and texts, I wandered around "Lovers' Point" hoping for a great sunset. OK, it was not great, but good enough.
Dinner was fun. Lots of chit chat, even with the teenagers. The noise level gradually increased, perhaps aided by Happy Hour wine prices. Several of us felt bound to take advantage. I think most of us took advantage of Happy Hour food prices as well and, despite the bargain, it was all good. We may need to make this a regular spot.
Most of us reassembled at the Colton Street homestead for just a little more conversation. This was a good ending to the visit by Zsolt and Eric and the reunion for most of the California family.
We are now all set for the Christmas season with other family and friends.
On Wednesday morning, Marianne and I checked out and returned to "Crȇpes of Brittany!" for savory buckwheat crȇpes. Plenty of calories for the three-hour return drive to Fresno.
That's it for a week or ten days. As far as I can tell.
John and Marianne
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