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Early Holiday Spirit

December 6-15
Written December 7+
Dear Friends, Family and Diary,

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:
d181206_02_sorensensign.jpg I think my favorite hang-out gallery is Sorensen's.  There are over a dozen artists and craftsmen (and women) scattered around a huge and airy (= drafty) space. It is possible to take a few hundred pictures, but I was more selective this time.
Here is Chris Sorensen in action.  At 90+ years old, he still creates art from donated material, as he has for decades.  People bring him junk and he produces fun and whimsy.
I have already taken and posted pictures of much of the other art at Sorensen's, but Jim??? stopped me as I passed and he insisted on showing off his metal-craft San Francisco scenes.  You know what?  They are pretty darn good.
d181206_10_klizsign.jpg d181206_11_bulbs.jpgd181206_12_colorful.jpgd181206_15_flowers.jpgWithin the Sorensen complex, Bob Kliszewski's glass studio produces truly remarkable work, colorful and demanding of photos.  I can never take enough.
d181206_14_teapots.jpgI think these tea pots are new>  I wonder if we need one?  Maybe next visit.

d181206_17_lecture.jpgd181206_19_hotwork.jpgBob goes out of his way to share his process with anyone who will listen.  On this ArtHop Thursday, a group of young international students listened to every word.
d181206_20_albert.jpg d181206_24_potclose.jpgd181206_22_pots.jpgNext to Klissglass, I noticed a sign for "Edward Albert Design",  a new place for me.  Ed's craft/art is thin and colorful concrete planters. Since ArtHop was pretty slow, we chatted and he told about the difficulty of making concrete both thin and tough. Another enthusiastic artist.  Nice
d181206_30_clayhands.jpg d181206_34_decrations.jpgd181206_36_closeup.jpg
d181206_32_xmasbells.jpgClay Hand Studios is a cooperative for ceramicists, again a place I have photographed before.  This time, I limited myself to shadowy hangings.
d181206_40_figtree.jpg d181206_42_redsquare.jpg
Fig Tree Gallery is next door to Clay Hand and rotates artists.  For this December ArtHop, "Red Square" by Bill Bruce struck me, so that's my only shot.
Robert Ogata's studio is across the street from Clay Hand and Fig Tree. His art may be my favorite, although we  will never own a wall large enough !
d181206_60_mstreetsign.jpg I was obliged to stop by the M Street Arts Complex, but I was disappointed.  This is the gallery where Marianne has shown a couple of times so we would like to see it prosper.  Unfortunately, it seems to be struggling.  This month's ArtHop featured mostly school-sponsored work, but not much from individual artists.  Nothing against student work, and most of it was pretty good, but nothing inspired me enough to click a picture.
d181206_66_ambersand.jpg d181206_64_senseofplace.jpgAt the end of the ArtHop evening, I passed by Ampersand, the local  ice cream store. Tempted though I was for a snack, I kept on program and stopped at two nearby galleries instead.  "A Sense of Place" (left) has very nice works and we have even been known to buy things here.
Across the street is the Mah Ly Atelier, run by a painter we know from M Street.  He moved about six months ago and says he is managing well enough. He has definitely improved the quality of the art on offer and we wish him well.
d181206_70marianneartsign.jpg d181206_72_card.jpgThe last artist I visited was, absolutely, my favorite.  MarianneArt was displaying Christmas cards, original-art Christmas cards, the product of days of work and development.  I am sure our family and friends will recognize that, while others are giving up on annual cards, Marianne most definitely is not.

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!


d181209_02_driveover.jpgd181209_04_ritahouse.jpgOn 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.

Chris worked hard cooking plenty of sausage and veggies.  It was all tasty.
Inside, guests waited patiently, laughing and chatting and competing with phone pictures.
The kitchen staff held up their part of dinner preps.
The whole bunch crowded around the table, each with their matching chair.  (Ask Chris about THAT story.)
d181210_40_zsolttomklare.jpg d181210_30_girlsrest.jpg
After the octogenarians left for bed, we young folks hung around watching the Warriors game, finishing the open wine bottles, and laughing.  Lots of laughing.

Tuesday started without a complex plan, as vacation days should, but ended up very busy, as family gatherings sometimes are.


For breakfast, Marianne and I walked from The Colton Inn down into downtown Monterey.  We followed the "Path of History", at least for a little while and paused at the Larkin House.   This building housed the American Consulate in the 1840s, while this was still a Mexican territory.  See, California does have history, over 150 years of it!

Eventually, we made it to the Old Monterey Cafe - a good breakfast recommendation.

d181211a_12_daliexplainer.jpgd181211a_14_expainer.jpgd181211a_10_dalidoor.jpgDown 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. 

d181211a_18_typical.jpgd181211a_16_famouslitho.jpgDuring 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.

d181211a_12_break.jpg 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.)

d181211a_20_mma.jpgd181211a_22_yearwoman.jpgFrom 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. 

d181211a_40_wilson.jpgJust inside the entrance, Chloe Wilson was showing several street silhouettes. At first, I  thought they were nice photos, but no, they were wonderful paintings.
d181211a_30_hooven.jpgd181211a_32_hooven2.jpgLocal ceramicist Coille Hooven had a display of "Shoes".  These were part of her theme of ordinary items done in a most extraordinary manner.  Nice.
Alyssa M. Endo's woodcut art was extremely well-displayed, with both prints and the carved blocks showing just how complex and detailed the process is.
Work of photographer Edna Bullock covered the walls of three rooms.  I think she was given so much space because her eighty-year career covered a wide her range of local subjects.  I was taken with her versatility and dedication.

d181211a_70_mccormick.jpgM. Evelyn McCormack showed a pair of her colorful paintings of local work life, at least as work was back in the day when Monterey was more fishing village than tourist attraction.

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.
d181211b_10_chriseric.jpgMeanwhile, 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.
d181211b_30_rest.jpgNevertheless, 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.

d181211b_60_oncouch.jpg 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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