Category Archives: family

Winter 2007 Family Visit

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:

img_2759.jpgAh, 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.

girlgenious.JPGOh, 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.

peekapooh.JPGSomehow 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.

img_2761.jpgAs 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.

img_2798.jpgimg_2801.jpgHere 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.

img_2830.jpgThis 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).

img_2807.jpgimg_2837.jpgIn 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.

img_2846.jpgOur 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.

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Geneva

img_2842.jpgMy long suffering family is aware of – if not appreciative of – my failings as a timely birthday observer. This translates to the fact that I tend to forget people’s birthdays, and am lucky to send a belated something. In this case, I am only now getting to posting about my niece’s birthday from December.

Geneva just turned 16, and this first picture is from our recent visit. Geneva is one of my most talented nieces, being a wonderful artist and really good writer – as well as being smart, beautiful, and funny. Recently (at least from my perspective) she’s discovered journalism, and I had the privilege of reading some of her articles in the school paper. Look out Washington Post.

dcp_0328.JPGThis picture is from the Solstice parade of 2004, and she had just joined in behind the main parade along with her Aunt Harriet. Her sister Eloise and I were there, also. You can see the confetti is still in her hair. Everyone had a great time, and I think her enthusiasm was best expressed by all the ideas she had about the entries she’d like to create. I think coming to Santa Barbara before the parade would be just the ticket for turning some of those ideas into reality.

dcp_0061.JPGGoing further back in time (and she was a very cute kid), my favorite activity with my nieces are the surrey rides along the beach. I’m usually pretty worn out afterwards, because I think they enjoy it the most when they are the smallest. As they get older (and could be more help powering the darn thing) we don’t get out there are much. Aw well, as they get older there are other activities, and the memories are all good.

dcp_0074.JPGOkay, I’m sure this picture will just embarrass her, but I had to include it. Just look at the joy and abandon on that face. It’s one of my favorite pictures of Geneva, and its a part of what I love about having my nieces and nephews coming to visit.

Nowadays, Geneva runs track and field, so she can now add athletics to her list of accomplishments. Oh, and she’s part of the school debate team. I was looking forward to seeing a meet when we visited, but it got canceled, so I’m still looking forward to seeing her first competition.

dcp_0338.JPGAnd finally, a picture with her uncle and our (now deceased) dog, Gilda. Gilda was one of the dogs that showed her that not all dogs are scary.

Happy 16th Birthday, Geneva!

Thanksgiving 2006

img_2551.jpgI’m just now getting around to posting images from our Thanksgiving dinner. Every year Harriet and I host a dinner for those “who are without a family, who can’t be with their family, or who would rather not be with their family” on Thanksgiving. It’s been called the Orphan Thanksgiving, the Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving and the Chosen Family Thanksgiving, but I think my favorite name for the night is Thanksgiving Dinner at Alan and Harriet’s House. It’s something of a potluck, where we provide the bird and a few main dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes, but we ask that others bring whatever side dish most reminds them of Thanksgiving. Some folks go for their family traditions, others use it as an excuse to try new recipes.

The crowd is a fairly eclectic mix of folks, many of whom only know each other from this annual dinner. This year we had 16 people attending. I can’t seem to find a photo with the whole crowd at once, so this first photo was taken fairly late in the evening after several people had left. Around the table, starting at the lower left, are Krista (our fabulous neighbor), myself, Steve (our other fabulous neighbor and Krista’s husband), Marla (Harriet’s wonderful sister), Perri (Harriet’s Sister’s tenant-but really an amazing fellow) , Harriet, Steve (our fabulous neighbor’s fascinating friend), Tara (groovy friend and fantastic house/dog sitter, who took care of our place while we were in Malaysia), and Dave (our fabulous neighbor Steve’s delightful brother). Hmm, maybe isn’t as cool as I thought.

img_2540.jpgI’ll be filling in the full cast of characters with other photos taken earlier in the night, starting with this one of Diane and Wayne. Diane’s a friend I’ve known longer than Harriet; we met in Helpline when we were both doing suicide hot-line work (we were the volunteer counselors, not the callers). Nowadays she’s a technical writer for a medical devices company. Wayne is an old gaming buddy who is now a math professor in San Diego. Can you believe that Wayne, Diane, and I were gaming geeks? Okay, maybe that’s not such a stretch.

img_2542.jpgMoving on to the ‘not so geeky’ people in attendance, I really like this shot of Grace, who apparently fell asleep by the time the group photo was snapped. She was on East Coast time, having just moved out there this last summer. Grace is another long term friend (I’m trying to avoid the word old since it has too much weight for many of us) that I first met at my bank (she was my teller) but whom I got to know during my years as a volunteer at the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center. She was a volunteer and then a staff member and is now working as a school psychologist. It was wonderful having her out to visit for the holiday and we missed her partner John who was at the dinner last year but didn’t make it to this one.

img_2537.jpgThese two are Cecile and Royce, Laura’s mom and her husband. Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture of our friend Laura who was also at the dinner. My bet is she’s now so skinny that the camera couldn’t capture an image. Either that or she intimidated the camera with her kick boxing moves. We’ve known Laura for a couple of years now, and she works for a local medical devices company in some sort of regulatory capacity, although her job has been going through so much flux in the last few months I don’t know if she could tell you what she does. It was delightful having her mother and Royce at the dinner, and they brought sweet potatoes made southern style, complete with the marshmallows.

img_2546.jpgDave is one of those photogenic folks, and a true techno-gadgeteer. He’d probably be happy to know that I had to use a red-eye removal tool on this photo to get it ready for publication. He’s Steve’s brother and currently a manager of a William Sonoma store in LA, but he managed a Stabuck’s for years, and knows a lot about coffee culture.

I don’t have a good shot of Steve and Krista, our neighbors. I can’t say enough good things about the two of them, and both Harriet and I are thankful they live next door. Both of them are graphic artists. Krista works at a financial services company as the in-house graphic designer, and Steve works at UCSB doing graphic design. If you’ve ever logged onto one of the UCSB department web sites and thought “Wow, that’s beautiful” then it was probably Steve’s fault.

img_2544.jpgI like this shot of Steve and Tara. This is the other Steve; not our neighbor Steve, but Steve’s friend. Got it? Currently retired, Steve is enjoying a life filled with wind-surfing and rock-gardens. We’ve known him a few years now and he’s really a delightful guy to talk with and definitely fits into the eclectic category.

Tara is amazing. I can’t do her justice in a short paragraph, and although she’s most easily identified as our house/dog sitter (the dogs love her), she’s probably the person we know who most closely fits the term scholar. She’s the sort of world traveler who will arrive at a town and decide to stay and work a few months, learn the language, the culture, and as much about the people as she can. We’ve known her for years and is an amazing soul.

img_2596.jpgAlthough this photo is from a couple of days later, it’s a great shot of Perri, Marla, and Jori (and our dogs Katie and Buster). Marla is Harriet’s sister, and Jori is Marla’s son, our nephew. They all live in San Francisco, where Marla works on and off as an instructor and developer of educational materials/programs. Jori is an incredibly cool 10 year old who is showing promise as a comic book aficionado.

Although I’ve known Perri for many years as a tenant and friend of Marla’s, this is the first chance I’ve had to spend any significant time with him. They spent four days here and I would have loved for them to have spent more. He was a great cooking pal for Harriet and just fun to be around.

And that’s the summary of this years Thanksgiving. Thanks to everyone involved from both Harriet and I. We are thankful you are all in our lives.

Happy Birthday, Kimber!

Kimber DogsMy middle niece, Kimber, celebrated her 14th birthday on Wednesday. I sometimes refer to Kimber as my stealth niece, because the first impression you get is “cute and quiet”.

Wrong! She’s both gorgeous and really funny. The first time she came down to visit us on her own, I was surprised at how hard I laughed. When she happened to be visiting while I had an improv show, she took money at the door, but she did it wearing a wig and playing a character so well that you couldn’t tell how old she was. I was in stitches.

Kimber BallLast year, her school had a civil war era re-enactment event called the Blue and Grey Ball. She, her mother (my sister), and grandmother (my mother) made the dress in this picture. When the picture popped up on my screen in the email they sent, my jaw dropped to the floor. And now, even though it’s over a year old, this is my favorite picture of her. She still had braces on at the time, so it may not be hers.

I bet she played the part of the southern belle perfectly. That would have been something to see.

I should also point out that she’s no slouch, either. She’s an active soccer player, and has recently been getting more and more involved with swimming. Frankly, I don’t even remember which athletic teams she’s involved with.

Yup, she’s a talented, brainy stud.
The final picture I’ll post here is from Kimber’s most recent trip to Santa Barbara. We arranged the timing so she could be here for the Solstice Parade, which was its usual wacky goodness. And, she baked cookies: chocolate chip cookies. Oh man, how perfect is that.

Kimber Uncle