The real reason we travel to Northern California in the depths of winter (OK, anyone living east of California can stop chuckling) is to visit family. We avoid the crazy traffic during the holidays, so in January we visit family and friends, deliver (and receive!) gifts, and try to fit in a few activities.
This year we had several unexpected changes to our schedule, including the death of my brother-in-law’s mother. We also planned on a memorial dinner for Harriet’s mom who died last year, but ended up canceling due to several unfortunate mix ups. And the final change was to my plan to attend a debate that Geneva (my niece) was scheduled to participate in. Sadly, that got canceled.
Still, we fit in MacWorld, Harriet visited with her Elf posse, I spent some time checking out San Francisco’s Comic retailers, we saw Harriet’s sister and family, my sister and brother and their families, my mother, my grandparents, and a fabulous stairway. Some of the highlights are:
Ah, the Elves. Harriet has a group of high school friends who still gather from time to time, and they call themselves The Elves. I’ll try to explain that name at another time. During our trip, they arranged to have a dinner in San Francisco, which I, unfortunately, had to miss (okay, chose to miss may be a better description). Pictured here are Jan, Meredeth, Debbie, Linda, Janice, and Harriet. I must admit, they are a diverse, and very impressive group of women. Their second annual 50th birthday party will be in Santa Barbara this year, and explaining that title will also require a separate posting.
Oh, during this dinner, I was busy checking out several of San Francisco’s comic book retailers. My favorite was Cards & Comics Central on Geary Street where I bought a copy of Girl Genius Collection #1 by Phil & Kaja Foglio. A very fun read, and now I’m committed to getting the next issues in the series.
Somehow we never got a picture of Marla and Jory from this trip. We had a great dinner with them at a Peruvian restaurant in Noe Valley (San Francisco). It was good to see them both, even though the event wasn’t quite what we originally planned. Jory introduced me to Peek a Poohs, which are small, plastic Winnie the Pooh figures dressed in odd outfits that you buy from vending machines. Apparently, these are hot collectible items at his school, and I now own the Flamingo Pooh.
As we left San Francisco, Debbie insisted we check out a new stairway installation on Moraga Street, just off 19th Ave. Called the 16th Ave Tiled Steps Project, it was a community effort. The mosaic was created by artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher with over 300 community folks participating in its construction. It was inaugurated August 27, 2005, and it is a beautiful mosaic with changing views as you walk up and down the stairs. Well worth the very short detour.
Here are a couple of pictures of my mother and my nieces Kimber and Monica. Mom and my sister Karen’s family share a house in Santa Rosa, and as you can see, it’s cold in Northern California. Okay, okay … it’s relatively cold in Northern California.
We had a very fun visit, the highlight of which was a soccer match. I’ve not seen any of my nieces in full athletic mode, and in comparison to my childhood, it’s a really different experience. Unfortunately, the pictures from Kimber’s soccer game are blurry and dull. The event was really cool. Indoor soccer has some interesting differences from the outdoor soccer I’m used to seeing, but it had the advantage of letting me see Kimber body check an opposing player into a wall (thank goodness I’m not closer or I’d be one of those really annoying soccer uncles).
During the rest of the visit we had a chance to see some video tape of the girls, and then we went to dinner at what turned out to be a really mediocre Thai restaurant. Next time we go back to a fabulous Vietnamese restaurant they have up there.
After visiting with Karen’s family, we spent the night in Guerneville, which was even colder than Santa Rosa. But, Marge and Andy were delightful hosts and treated us to a fine breakfast. The trip down to my brother’s home in Santa Clara was a traffic nightmare, and we ended up arriving much later than we planned. This meant we missed my sister-in-law, Dorthy.
This is the rest of Mark’s family. Can you believe the two old guys in the shot are brothers? Yes, I know, Mark got the looks-luckily for his daughters.
Okay, I have to use an old-person statement: My nieces Geneva and Eloise are looking so much older! They’ve got that whole young woman thing going on. And although it’s a little sad to lose the little girls that I first got to know, I couldn’t be happier with the teens that they’ve become (okay, I’d be happier if they came to visit for a few days – but that’s a different rant).
In the family picture, Artemus is looking a little less than happy with the whole family unit thing. But, in his defense, he had a bad night with the flu. Luckily, Uncle Alan and Aunt Harriet arrived with a bag full of presents to distract him, a bit. At least enough that we could get this lovely picture of him sitting in his dad’s lap. And I really like the picture of Eloise with her dog Pepsi.
Our last stop before the drive back to Santa Barbara was to visit my grandparents. Ethel and Gabriel Vega, Jr. are in their 90’s and still living on their own in Morgan Hill. Grandpa is still recovering from a fall which left him with a broken hip. They both maintain a very productive vegetable garden, and we always leave with some young fruit tree that we promptly kill. This time we are trying to make a home for a black fig.
And those were just the highlights of our annual, winter holiday, Norcal trip.