Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Old Friends

What a great day it was.  Jeri and I spent the day with some of our oldest and dearest friends. Certainly some of my oldest friends, and for Jeri, friends she has known since birth.  The only reason Walt wasn't with us was because he was feeling sick, and decided to stay home and rest.

Jeri began the day visiting my mother.  I opted not to go this time, and to give them some grandma- granddaughter time together.  At about 12:15, I called Jeri to let her know I was ready to pick her up.  We had a lunch date.

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Jeri's godmother, Jeri, and her husband Phil (we still have yet to get Jeri & Phil in the same city with Jeri & Phil!) were passing through town and   stopped for a visit.  They live in a mobile home and you never know where they are going to be, so you want to catch them while you have the chance.

Jeri and I met each other at the Newman Center on the UC Berkeley campus and we quickly became good friends.  She was in my wedding, I was in hers; she's godmother to my firstborn and I to hers (though her daughter is not named Beverly -- Harumph!)  As with all of our special Pinata friends, we have weathered lots of good, lots of bad, and the love and support of all of our group sustains us in triumph and tragedy.  Today it only had to sustain us through a Greek lunch in a freezing restaurant (the silverware was too cold to touch comfortably!) with the slowest waitress in town.  But once we started catching up on who is where and how are the grandkids and who has done what to whom, we didn't mind the physical discomforts.
When it was time to say goodbye again, there had to be pictures, of course.

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Phil is fairly new to the Pinata family.  He and Jeri found each other after the death of each of their spouses and they have  been married a couple of years now.  It's so good to see my friend happy again, and to get to know this special man.

We stopped at Trader Joe's to get some goodies to take with us to the Bay Area.  We were having dinner with the Blackfords.  Jeri tries to hook up with Char & Mike's kids, or at least some of them, whenever she is here in town.   It takes just a little over an hour to get there and we showed up around 4:30, with our Trader Joe goodies in tow.  Gradually the house began to fill with familiar faces, and I loved looking at the groups gathered to visit.  No matter whether we've seen each other yesterday or not for a year, it always feels like coming home whenever a group of us is able to get together.

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Jenny's dog, Niki, took it all in stride.

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While Char and I sat and chatted about books, people gradually began disappearing down the stairs.  We eventually discovered there was a lively game of darts going on in the garage.

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The game went on for a very long time, and when it was over, as they are so accustomed to doing, the kids obediently lined up for photos.

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These girls (except for daughter Jamie) have been friends for all of their lives.

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We haven't been friends for THAT long, but more than 50 years.

It was just a great evening, proving once again that sometimes ... many times ... maybe most times ... old friends really are the best.

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(The only thing better is mothers and daughters!)

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Last Christmas

Well, first I must offer an embarrassed apoogy.  Turns out yesterday's entry ws NOT the 5000th.  Somewhere I got my numbers confused and I actually wrote the 5000th entry on December 3rd, so I am now well into the 5000s...5027, to be precise.  I guess it's even more impressive.

Today we finally had the LAST Christmas celebration (the party tomorrow and the one on New Year's Eve are not Christmas parties).  We drove over to Atria at 11 a.m. to start the celebration with Ned & Marta and my mother.  While we were waiting for Ned & Marta, Jeri showed my mother videos from our time with the great grandkids in Santa Barbara.

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Ned and Marta showed up with some gorgeous roses for my mother, which she just loved.

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Cut flowers are SO much better for her these days.  She still loves flowers, but she has totally lost the desire to garden anything.  I must start buying her fresh flowers every week or so because she loves having plants and flowers to look at.  I also think that as her plants continue to die, I will replace them with good artificial ones.

We went off to the Atria dining room and enjoyed their huge Sunday brunch.  We were joined by a couple of other people, which made "family talk" awkward, mostly for me because I was sitting with them and everybody else was at the other end of the table.

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But I was able to get a nice "family" picture after they finally left.

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We went back to the apartment for presents.

JeriSanta.jpg (54019 bytes)Jeri played Santa, handing out the few gifts that were there.  My mother was upset that people had given her things because she didn't have anything for anyone, but when she saw her gifts  -- a calendar for next year, Laurel's annual great-grandkids calendar, and especially her favorite gift, a puzzle with the girls' photo on it -- she stopped complaining.

I was tickled with my new 4 gig flash drive from Ned and Marta.
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I think it's so cute.  Jeri also got one which is a giraffe.  

And I am very relieved that the book I ordered for Jeri, which had not arrived by the time we left for Santa Barbara, was here when we came back, so I was able to give it to her today.

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We made a video to send to Phil, who was sorely missed, and then headed off for home.  My mother was eager to get started working on her new puzzle.

When we got home, Walt was feeling sick, with slight fever, headache, and upset stomach.  He has gone to bed for the night.  Jeri has gone off to Ned and Marta's with their friend Greg and who knows when they will be back again.  I am sitting here, about to dive into the holiday episode of Call the Midwives, so all is calm, all is bright and tomorrow we'll have two more gatherings of people who want to see Jeri before she returns to Boston!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sittin' and Ridin'

All good things inevitably must come to an end, and so our little Christmas vacation has ended.  I was exhausted when we returned home at midnight last night and all I did was ride in the car.  PoorWalt, who drove from 10 a.m. until midnight, with a few key breaks in between.  It is 5 a.m. as I start writing this journal entry and I am hoping he will sleep a lot more hours before he wakes up.  He definitely deserves all the sleep he can get!

Our day started with a gourmet breakfast, cooked by Joe.  He and Alice were going off too and so we were all busy about getting our respective cars packed.   

The first stop for all of us was Tom's house, where we got Jeri and said goodbye to the family. I'm sure Tom and Laurel were looking forward to a quiet day, after four days of partying with many segments of both of their families.  We had a short "hour Baur" goodbye and we took off in different directions.

We listened to playlists on the road -- 1950s rock, Bdwy tunes, the soundtrack from Book of Morman, and a few episodes of the radio show Says You, which I had downloaded for the trip.  

We stopped at one of our favorite watering holes, V's Cafe in King City.  This is the restaurant whose decor blends kitsch with religion.  The place was decorated for Christmas and at one end of a row of booths we saw this...

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while at the other end we found this...

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Walt and I both had "guacamole burgers," which turned out to have guacamole so spicy that I couldn't eat it, and so full of onion chunks, Walt couldn't eat it either!  (Jeri lucked out with her toasted cheese sandwich.)

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Back on the road again for the last leg to Norm and Olivia's house, where we were going to have dinner with them and with Walt & Norm's cousin, Gerry and wife Melissa.  Olivia and I started text messaging our progress.  They had a bet on when we would get there.

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We were rolling along surprisingly well until we hit San Francisco where from the outskirts of the city to the Golden Gate bridge was one solid line of cars.    It must have taken us an hour just to cross the city and at one point we turned on the traffic advisory on the car radio and heard that "The Golden Gate Bridge is a nightmare."  Nice to have our opinion backed by competent authorities.

Once we got onto the bridge, though, things immediately lightened up and it was pretty much smooth sailing to Norm & Olivia's house.

We had a lovely dinner of "Texas Crash" (I'm still not sure if that's a legitimate recipe, or something Norm created) and Norm and Olivia had a couple of gifts to open, from us, and from Tom and Laurel.

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But we didn't linger because we were all fading fast and still had an hour and a half to drive home.  I don't know how Walt made it. Jeri and I were napping.

We arrived home to ecstatic dogs, who were so clean and so sweet smelling (Thank you, Ashley and David!).  Polly immediately raced out of the house and out into the street, this tiny black dog on a black night.  Fortunately no cars on the street at midnight either.  They  way to get her back into the house is to go inside and close the door.  She was back in a flash.

So it is over.  Well, sort of.  This morning we will celebrate Christmas with my mother and with Ned...and THEN it will be over!!

Addendum.  This is my 5000th journal entry!!!!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sittin' and Chattin'

It was a very relaxing morning. Joe went off the work, but the rest of us sat and chatted, for over two hours. Just about anything and nothing in particular.  Always so nice to have a chance to catch up on Jeri.
But Jeri doesn't do "sedentary" very well and wanted to get out and do something.  Alice Nan is kind of that way too.  Walt can go either way.  I am sedentary. They tried to convince me that a walk along the beach and up to the UC Santa Barbara campus would be great fun but I pointed out I would hold them back because I couldn't keep up because of my knees and my weight (also that phrase "up to the campus" was somewhat daunting, as I am familiar with the hill that needed to be walked and it didn't sound like fun one bit!) 

Then Walt suggested I come with them and read in the car while they walked.  But here there are soft, comfy couches and books and TVs and food and why would I want to sit in the car in the sun for a couple of hours and use the smelly outhouse if I needed to. 

So they went off and I stayed here to have a shower, and then settle in for some guilt-free reading, since this isn't my house and there are no chores I  feel guilty for neglecting!

They returned around 3:30 and we headed back to Tom's to be there by 4:30, our appointed time.  We had such a fun evening with the girls.  Bri had received a veterinarian package yesterday, and was happy showing off her new duds.

After a delicious turkey soup that Tom made we settled into the living room for "movie night," watching the movie Mulan, which they had given Jeri for Christmas.  During the movie, we finally had our tea party using my old tea set from my childhood...my mother never gave it to me so I could have tea parties with Jeri, so it skipped a generation, but tonight I had a tea party with Jeri and Bri and Lacie.

Lacie enjoyed it more than anybody and drank so much tea, Laurel had to make a second pot.

I loved watching Lacie run around climbing all over Tom and saying over and over again "I love you, Daddy."

So it's over for another year.  Tomorrow we pick Jeri up at Tom's and then drive to Marin County, to have another Christmas with Walt's brother and cousin and their wives, then home to get ready for Christmas with my mother on Sunday.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Rum Punch

World famous Trinidad rum punch
How many times have I seen this in my life?

We had the opportunity to spend time with friends from college this afternoon.  Originally, we were going to go mid-afternoon for some coffee and cookies, or maybe rum punch.  Then the invite was changed to lunch, definitely including rum punch, and the chance to visit their daughter and grandchildren, who had spent the night after Christmas celebrating yesterday.

We were happy to see the daughter, but we definitely were glad of an invite for rum punch!

We were introduced to rum punch by D, whose relatives were from Trinidad, and who made the best ever rum punch, which was made not only with rum, but also with simple syrup, and dark rum (if possible from Trinidad)...the real McCoy.  Whenever we had a party, he would be called upon to make his rum punch.  

We all eventually married and we don't see each other much, but when we get together, we try to coerce him into making rum punch again.  I don't drink as much of it as I used to, but it still tastes as good and today's did not disappoint. It's funny that I almost never drink anything alcoholic, but I never turn down a glass of that old favorite when I have the opportunity to ship it again.

We had a good visit with the daughter and her children, I was given a set of Wizard of Oz ornaments because my love of Judy Garland is legendary, and we enjoyed leftover Christmas dinner, and then a trip through Paris via a newly finished travel scrapbook (we are both scrapbookers).  Then it was time to go.  Hugs all around and promises to do it again whenever we are in the neighborhood.

It always amazes me how well we get along, since we are at polar ends of the spectrum religiously and politically, and normally very vocal about our views (our husbands are both very quiet) but if we stick to kids, grandkids, rum punch and scrapbooks, we do all right, and even better than all right.

After we left our friends and started home, we conferred with Jeri about a "family movie night," which we try to have whenever Jeri comes to town. Ultimately it was Joe, Jeri, Walt and I who wanted to go and we chose to see Saving Mr. Banks, the story of the making of the movie of Mary Poppins.  My friend and former boss, Derrick Bang, who is still the movie critic for the paper, didn't like it very much.  I sort of disagreed with some of the things he said.  I enjoyed the movie and any movie that makes me leave the theater with an embarrassingly red face can't be all bad!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It was Grand

The beauty of being in the habit of posting journal entries the night before the actual date of the entry is that when you are just too exhausted to move, you can get some sleep, knowing you will wake up in a few hours, and you still have most of the day to get the entry written and posted and the date will still be right.

We returned from Tom's house last night, totally sated with food, with fun, with libation and I couldn't even think of doing anything but diving under a blanket and going to sleep.  Even that was too much physical effort, but I did it and was asleep so quickly that the others in the house were still up talking and didn't realize I had turned out the lights in the family room.  And here I am now, 2 a.m., fresh as a day-old daisy, ready to talk about Christmas and still have several hours of sleep left.  Such a deal.

What a full day!  Walt, Alice Nan and I left for the airport early in the morning.  It's a 2 hour drive. Jeri's plane was on time and we stopped for lunch on the way back to the free way.  It was such a gorgeous day.  I can't remember when I've seen the valley so clear, without a hint of cloud, or smog, whatsoever.

 We got home without problem and we promptly took naps.  Jeri's flight had left Boston around 6 a.m. and she couldn't sleep on the plane, so she was zonked.  Naps seemed logical all around, because we are old people.

Around 4:30, we got to Tom's house, where a karaoke session was going on, with the new machine the girls got for Christmas. Jeri joined in on the fun.

Things will be even better when they get Lacie's own microphone set up, gift from Walt and me.

Walt and Joe were the plaid Christmas brothers.

Out in the kitchen, Chef Tom was busy stuffing a huge loin of pork, and Laurel's table looked gorgeous with my mother's gold-rimmed plates.

To keep the kids' excitement to a manageable level, we decided to open gifts while the pork cooked.  Walt and I gave Bri what every little curly-headed, blue eyed, princess-loving 5 year old girl would want:  a 49er uniform.

That was the last we saw of her frilly Christmas dress!  As for Lacie, once she opened the matching game from Uncle Joe and Auntie Nan, she was happy for the night.

As for me, I was thrilled with my new phone case!

Dinner was finally ready and everything was wonderful.

Even Sir Elton stopped by for a bit.

When dinner was over, we did a FaceTime with Uncle Norm and Auntie O, who were unable to join us this year, and Alice Nan got a lesson in modern communication technology.

Before the evening ended, and after the girls' baths, Bri and I looked at the final door on the Jaquie Lawson Advent calendar I get for her each year.

And so the evening came to an end.  And now, 2:30 a.m., the rest of the family is snuggled deep in their beds, and I am about to join them once again.

Photo of the Day

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Snow Flurries

I tried to convince people that I had been caught in a snow flurry, but since it's 75 degrees here, nobody believed me.
That's the down side of living in California!

The real story, of course, is that this is what happens when you wear a navy blue sweatshirt with a snowman on it...and then try to bake pies.

Sadly, I have no tales of pie baking this year.  Two years ago, I couldn't find cinnamon and Jeri and I spent time grinding cinnamon sticks for the pumpkin...only to discover later that Joe and Alice were having an ant problem, cinnamon is good for discouraging ants, and so their HUGE bottle of cinnamon was in the bathroom.  Funny, that was about the only place I didn't  think to look.

Last year, I brought all the ingredients and the machines to make the pies, and then could not find a can opener to open the pumpkin.  I ended up using a bottle opener and risking life and limb trying to scrape the pumpkin out of the can, avoiding those sharp teeth trying to bite me (they actually had two can openers).

This year--no problem.  I brought pumpkin pie spice, so didn't even try to find the spices.  I found the can opener right away and except for not realizing that the new oven had a knob to turn it on (and turning it off three times using button controls I couldn't read when trying to set the timer), there was no weeping and/or gnashing of teeth...and all came out just fine.

After dinner tonight, Alice Nan hauled out some special shell ornaments.

These shells were made/decorated by a friend from Hawaii and sent to Walt's mother after the family (who lived in Hawaii for seven years in the 1950s) moved back to the mainland.  Walt and Alice Nan decorated the shell tree to use as a decoration.

Then there were the last few packages to be wrapped

and while that was going on, Tom sent a picture of Brianna putting out cookies and beer for Santa (which was what Tom put out for Santa when he was a kid.  By the time Santa got to our house, he was full of milk and needed something a bit stronger.

So Bri is following a long family tradition.  I asked Tom if he would like his Dad to come and help with the beer, but he said that "the mantle had passed." 

Now off to sleep (I hope) and then get up and see what Santa has done in the night.  I hope my insomnia doesn't disrupt plans.