Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bay Area Adventure


 So after the normal Christmas festivities, it was time for a Christmas adventure.  We went up to the Bay Area, to visit my sister Karen in Alameda.  NOW, I realize I didn't take pictures of many of the other things we enjoyed, like taking walks in Alameda, eating at wonderful restaurants, or relaxing in their beautiful 100 year old craftsman-style home.  Only when we ventured away from our home base did I think to take a few snaps.
 
 

We took the ferry from Alameda to San Francisco, just to spend a few hours in the big city.

We hit our favorite sites, like seeing (and smelling) the sea lion hangout on Pier 39.


Also checking out some cool street performers.  We saw this same guy when we were here almost five years ago, spray painted in gold, doing break-dance moves.


Now he has a silver-painted partner, who does robot moves, and makes robot noises.

It is more cool than it sounds!  Mae ran up and gave them a tip.  Abigail was a little too shy. 

The city was very crowded, so we headed home to Alameda with a sigh of relief.  The next morning, we headed to the beach.  There is David on the right, digging the obligatory hole.


Lots of running, a little kite flying, and some basking in the sun.  It was a gorgeous day!



Finally the hole was done, so in climbed the girls.


Awww.  Aren't they cute?
 

Mark and I wanted to get in the action, too!


The girls were skeptical about our cuteness contribution.  For good reason!



So THEN, we said goodbye to Alameda, and headed down to Morgan Hill, to visit Mark's brother John.  Where we hung out on the deck, played Yaniv, and exchanged gifts.  Once again, I have no pictures until we head OUT, to go for a walk in "The Meadow". 

 
 Here is Zach, with the girls.  And look, I'm IN the picture!  John actually took all the photos.


Mark and Amanda.


The cousins together. 
 
A great grand finale to our Bay Area adventure.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Collection

I have to say, this Christmas felt full of all the things you HOPE for, plus a few extras on top.  First, we did our annual cookie decorating, hosted by friends John and Stacie.
 

With Casey away at college, we were down to four decorators.


They were committed.
 

And proud of their work!

 
Nana was on hand to supervise, and perform spot checks on quality. 
 
A very fun afternoon for all!  Now moving on to Christmas day...
 

Our family of four celebrates at our house from about 7-9.  Then we wander down to my parents' place for round #2.


Our beloved Auntie Karen was "in the house".


Mom and Dad.
 

All the grandkids.
 
 
And Nana too!


The girls were very fortunate this year.


After the presents, attention swings to the kitchen.

 
Prime Rib, Lemon Chicken, and Asparagus risotto. 
 

Fortunately, there were several arms to help stir the risotto!


Casey is on the job too!
 
 

 

And of course, after dinner, what family doesn't enjoy some Christmas arm-wrestling?


The whole family got into it.

 
Women in our family are not petite and delicate.



Scotty with a victory!
 


Casey, don't hurt your dad!
 

 
You either, Megan! 


And of course, the grand finale, Mark and Scott.

 
Yep, maybe we should have gotten ibuprofen in our stockings.
 
Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a strained tendon!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

No Calories, Just Love


The Christmas season brings us many enjoyments, including tasty indulgences.  In my case, they are treats made by other people, mostly because I'm starting my Christmas shopping right about now, with one week left before the big day.  But this year is different.  This year, my Mom and I took a trip to Albuquerque, to participate in a cook-fest with our cousins.
 

Here is the master chef, Claire, showing how to butter a Kringle.  After the butter comes the sugar, cinnamon, and nuts.


The Kringle is rolled and baked, then drizzled with a glaze.  The key phrase of the day was "No calories, just love".  Okay, maybe plenty of both!


My Mom and I, after I finished rolling my first Kringle.  Obviously a real milestone for me!




Here you see the scope of the project unfolding.  After the Kringles, came the Reeses truffle balls, nut clusters, kolache of various shapes and flavors, caramel corn, and nut brittles (peanut, cashew, and pine nut).  By the way, the host and owner of this magnificent kitchen is Carol, standing in the red shirt, green apron.


  Claire with daughter and sous-chef Cheryl.


Mom and Claire, dipping truffle #1456 and 1457.

What a day.  I'm not sure I've had one quite like it.  A celebration of holiday, family, friendship, womanhood, connection, and life.  Can a day of cooking really do that for you?  Yes, it sure can.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Square Nail

Mark has long aspired to bring the kids climbing.  All of 'em...ours and Gail's.  Well, last weekend, it finally happened.  We went to a face called Square Nail, so named for the many old nails that can still be found around the site today.  They are remnants of the old flume that carried lumber from the high country down to the mill.  Here is a Google Earth shot of the area.  Tollhouse Rock is the face on the right.  Square Nail is the face on the left.  Both are accessible within a 20 minute drive, so it is a little sad that it took us so long to do this!
 
 
As you can see, the faces are both far above the valley floor.  Here is the view from Square Nail, with Scotty in the very bottom of the frame.
 

 It did feel a little exposed!  But the kids were unphased. 


After Mark set up the rope, Mae was the first to gear up and climb.  Despite shoes that were way too small, she scampered right up the rock and OUT OF SIGHT.  That was a little disturbing to this helicopter Mommy, but this was Dad's day.

 


Zooming in as she rounds the corner...


 
Next up was Megan.  Not surprisingly, she also scampered up.  Strong and fearless, that one.
 


 
Next up was Scotty.  He was solid, but more (sensibly) cautious about the height.
 


And here goes Abigail.


See, I can make this look even more scary by turning the camera!

But reality is scary enough.  There goes my baby!

She made it down safely, of course.  Everyone then took on the next climb, to the left.  A very different climb, all face.  Abigail and Mae ended up wearing MARK'S OLD SHOES.  If you know anything about how Mark used to climb, he used to jam his feet into shoes that were WAY too small, all in the interest of "feeling the rock".  His quarter-inch thick deformed toenails bear testimony to this bizarre practice.

ANYway, those were the next smallest shoes above the too-small children's shoes.  So the girls slipped them on, and with perhaps an extra inch on the toes, scampered up the face climb! 

But do I have pictures of that?  No, I do not.  But I think you can imagine tiny dots of kids, up on the rock face.  And if you are like me, maybe you'd rather see their smiling faces at the bottom!

 
In all seriousness, I do love that the kids are strong, confident, and adventurous.  It is my goal to not inhibit that with my worries.  Wish me luck!