Monday, December 31, 2012

Day #366

Here it has come, the final day of the year.  This is where we ought to contemplate the past 365 days (this being day 366).  What did this year give us?

For v and I; we were reminded of what wonderful, loving and generous friends we have.  This year also returned to me an old, and dear friend I'd lost contact with. 

We also lost two of our longtime companions, Hannah and, I must inform, Agatha, the 100-year-old cat who  went peacefully in her sleep on a warm afternoon in October.  Hannah, who once topped out at 125 lbs, ate organically and inorganically, was repeatedly warned of a premature death due to her weight and peculiar dietary preferences, and lived to an advanced age (16 years) for such a large dog.  When Hannah arrived at our home as a small, bewildered puppy, she was immediately adopted by Agatha who never ceased to care for her, groom her, and worry over her despite their size and species differences. Agatha was just a hair's breadth away from 20 years old, an agoraphobic who graciously accepted v into her life despite his insistence that she take advantage of fresh air, at least, daily.

There are so many other things mentioned in this blog, and not, that came to, or left us this year, but I've mentioned the most important: Friends and Family.

We're not much for New Year's Eve celebrations. Monterey puts on First NIght, we always think about going...But what we look forward to is New Year's day and The Gathering.  We open our home to our friends to come by to share some black-eyed peas and rice, wine, cheese, and long conversations into the night.  This is how we welcome the coming year.

Happy New Year! Bring it on!

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Farm Road

We've been having a lot of rain lately.  The day after Christmas I took a drive to see the countryside.  I chose a long, rutted stretch just off the Monterey-Salinas Highway that cut through the fields.  

At this time of year the sun just seems to suddenly drop from the sky.  Time to go back home.

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Still Christmas

Christmas day may have passed, but Christmas is far from over for us.  The workshop is still in production, or maybe even more so.  Then there is the preparation for our New Year's gathering.  It's one of those events that start small and grow by accident.  Many years ago, when I was caring for my father, I started fixing black-eyed peas and rice for New Year's day to bring good luck and prosperity for the year to come. It became a ritual for us, something he remembered from year to year.  I introduced it to v.  We now crowd far more people around our kitchen table on New Year's day than should be possible.  It's an extremely casual event.  I may be sitting here, a week from today, reporting our quiet evening around a large pot of black-eyed peas and our after dinner activity of packing the leftovers away in the refrigerator and freezer.  We only give a start time.  The entire event is just to wish all a happy new year and to have, at least, a ceremonial tasting of the dish for the magic of prosperity and good fortune in the year to come.  The outcome is always subjective.  No guarantees, but it's a nice way to start off the year and to see some of those closest to us.  

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Wish

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting Ready

Getting ready. (This could be for you)

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Friday, December 21, 2012

We're Still Here

After three cycles of chemotherapy v has improved.  We are so happy and thankful for this news from the doctor.  His largest tumor has decreased in size by 50% and other sites have either decreased or stabilized.  He starts another three cycles on Monday morning.  We are ready.

We are also tired today.  v is now on antibiotics for a sinus infection.  It saps his energy.  I discovered that I can no longer tolerate a cup of coffee at all hours as I once had done.  Life is constant learning and I learned that having a warmed up cup of coffee at bedtime is not the same as a nice cup of peppermint tea. I did get a lot of thinking and planning accomplished as I gazed out the window into the starry night sky.  I was privileged, and thrilled, to catch sight of a shooting star at about 2:30 this morning.  I even had the alertness to make my wish as it arced across the sparkling sky, thanks to my bedtime cuppa. I had only the most momentary concern that, perhaps, I was witnessing the beginning cataclysm I've been hearing about with the Mayan Calendar predictions.  

We're still here.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We Have a Cold

We have a cold.  One shared cold.  Two cups of peppermint tea (one with honey) at bedtime.  Freeze warnings outside tonight, this is when I am so very grateful for the gifts of bed warmers from my dear friend in Spreckles.  Two minutes in the microwave then pop them at the foot of the bed like the hot water bottles of old.  Toasty toes.

Poor v is more at risk with a cold due to his chemo.  It suppresses his immune system.  At least this week is his break (fingers crossed for that CT scan tomorrow morning).  We've been pretty careful about his exposure, though I can't seem to keep him imprisoned in the house all day, he gets out somehow.

Another helpful, and just plain luxurious, gift recently arrived: Harry and David! Oranges, apples, and (my favorite) pears!  Thank you notes are to be written in the morning! 

Christmas is coming! Christmas is here!

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Walking along the river

The other day v and I took a wintery walk along the Little Sur river in Big Sur.  The sycamore trees still have most of their leaves, but they've finally turned to rust and bright yellow.  That warm autumn we enjoyed delayed the visible changes of the seasons.  My mood, however, drew me to the blue-greens of the cedars and the redwoods.  After all, this is December and evergreens are the stars of the moment.

Despite the recent rains the river isn't running high at the moment.  It makes for a more contemplative walk.  We don't have white Christmases here, they're more of a mossy green and gray.  It's cold enough, though, to appreciate a cozy cafe and a hot cup of tea or coffee at the end of the day.  And warm, thick socks with slippers.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Grace Moments


In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A View

A view from Hurricaine Point looking out at the Pt. Sur Lighthouse in Big Sur.  There are a number of old Victorian buildings on this rock, the light itself is just a little blip on the side of the mound.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Friday, December 14, 2012

Best Friends

One of the great joys of living near the coast is going to the beach with your best friend.  

And meeting up with other friends.

What is a better way to spend an afternoon in winter, or any time of the year? 

Sometimes it's too much to resist wading out into that inviting water.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Sandy Hook tonight...

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I'm so lucky that v reads the paper.  He informed me that some of the highest tides of the year are happening this week; yesterday, today, and tomorrow morning.  We'll be heading out bright and early to see what we can catch.  

I have to admit that I have a personal preference for really low tides.  Oh sure, high tides are dramatic, crashing waves and all that, but low tides are revealing.  The tide  being sucked out to sea, its watery fingers  slipping their hold from rocks, sand, and sea grass.  It's the best time to go tide pooling and seeing the most diversity of the near rocky  shore marine life.  The sandy beaches are vast and reflective.

Piles of giant kelp lie in great clumps along the shoreline. The winter storms have ripped them from their anchoring holdfasts.  Low tide holds the beach in anticipation. Marine life holds its breath while alien life forms comb the rarely exposed portions of sand and rocky crevices.  Anemones, Barnacles, limpets, and muscles have all closed themselves tightly to wait out this exposure.  Can you imagine living in an environment where you may be, periodically, pulled under water for minutes or over an hour, holding your breath while waiting to breath the air again?  Unfathomable.

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Beach Walking

December on Carmel Beach.  v is feeling so well now that we can resume our walks.  I love walking on this beach or along the walk above it.  It's a beautiful beach. We were married here.

Oddly, today we didn't have much company, there were only a handful of people walking along.  Mostly locals with their dogs.  It's a very dog friendly beach.  We used to bring Hannah with us.  She wasn't much for getting wet, but she enjoyed the companionship of the other dogs.  

On one of our walks with her we were joined by a beautiful chocolate lab. The two of them became instant friends sharing in a happy game of fetch.  After playing this game for about a quarter of a mile, the lab thought it was time for a swim.  He ran straight into the surf splashing and leaping.  Hannah stopped dead and stood staring at him.  He barked a couple of friendly invitations for her to join him. She turned and trotted back to us, not giving him a backwards glance.  He came out of the water and ran over to encourage her to join him.  She had nothing more to do with him for the rest of the walk.  He finally gave up and headed, dejectedly, back in the direction we'd come.  

Our treat before heading home, a trip to the library and a cup of coffee on Ocean Blvd.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Monday, December 10, 2012

Decorating the Porch

This decorated Victorian porch courtesy of v.

Eggnog anyone?

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Favorite Places

A few of our favorite places near and far:

The old adobes of Monterey

And their gardens

The Big Sur Coast

A favorite coffee house: East Village

                                                                                                    The village of Cambria

San Francisco

The old missions of California...just to name a few places.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Friday, December 7, 2012

December Tomatoes

We've had so much rain in the past week, it's been lovely.  The hills are all green and sparkle. Rain is welcome here.  We never get much unless we have an El Niño which generally floods the hillsides away.  v tells me this year is going to be a weak El Niño pattern. We shall see.

Our little potted pointsetta from last Christmas has been coaxed along all year.  She's been nestled between the beans and tomatoes in the vegetable garden.  The leaves aren't as lush as they were when she arrived from the hothouse last Christmas, but she is lovely nevertheless.

I just took a walk out in the garden to see what has developed since the heavy rains of the past week.  We are having a morning of glorious sunshine and everything is still soaking wet.  The garden is  a mess and cries out for a little tending.

We are still  having tomatoes! It's December and we have tomatoes! Those San Marzanos will be in a sauce this evening.
The sauce I make does not necessarily require San Marzano Tomatoes, but they have such a reputation for being the best sauce tomato I planted them and I use them.  We also have a "volunteer" tomato vine out by the compost bin.  Those tomatoes are round and just as delicious in a sauce. They're also great sliced in a sandwich.

Way easier than pie tomato sauce:

2 lbs of peeled tomatoes (canned are acceptable)
1/2 stick of butter
1 medium onion cut in half 
salt to taste

Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a saucepan with the butter and onion.  Place over low to medium heat.  Occasionally stir the sauce and gently press the tomatoes against the side, from time to time, to break them up.  Simmer, gently, for at least 40 minutes.  Salt to taste. Serve over spaghetti noodles and grate lots of parmesan cheese over it all.  

I've sometimes let this simmer for over an hour and it is fine.  It is so sweet and delicious you might just want to eat it as a soup.  I love the stewed onion, v doesn't.  It doesn't matter, it's the smooth tomato sauce that is the star. So good and so easy.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Flannel Sheets and Coming Home

Ah! Finally the weather has turned cool enough to change over to the flannel sheets! Soft flannel sheets that have been folded and stored in the blanket chest with bags of lavender.  They smell so good and they are so snuggly.  It's also time to add the wool blanket to the bedding as well.  Flannel sheets and the wool blanket and a really good book to read at bedtime. Winter is coming.  We're ready to hibernate like dormice. 

Of course, the Central Coast isn't as cold as so many other places.  The higher elevations get snow occasionally, but I doubt anyone around here even owns a snow shovel unless they use it for something other than shoveling snow.  I saw more snow in Southern California.  That was because where I lived was surrounded by mountains.  One only had to look up and there was the snow.  v spent several years in Connecticut after coming to this country.  He knows snow.

I wonder about his first impressions of the snow and the cold.  He arrived in this country in the month of February.  He was flown from Rome to New York to be met by the people who had adopted him, he was nearly twelve years old, spoke no English, had been born in Genoa, raised in orphanages in Florence and Rome and suddenly found himself meeting people who spoke no Italian and lived within a landscape of white.  He tells me that when he came to the little village of Carmel he immediately felt as though he'd finally come back home. I think we must all have that little inner compass that tells us where "home" is. Not everyone heeds it. 

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another Update

Chemo update. 

 v has begun the third round of chemo.  Last round they added an additional chemo drug which he continued this round.  He'll be having a scan at the end of this round to determine whether he continues, or (hopefully) if he can begin what we've been told would be maintenance. He still has his hair, though it's a bit thinner.  We are encouraged by his continued gain of strength and endurance.  His appetite is good and he has no difficulty with eating and swallowing.  

Yesterday we joined our shift at the aquarium for their weekly update and education.  Everyone was very happy to see him after so many weeks away.  He was greeted with hugs and claps on the shoulder.  We took an abbreviated tour of the aquarium itself for v to check his energy level to see if he might be up to a return.  Not yet.  A lot of walking is involved. It's a large facility.  

Last night he accompanied me to a performance of the Monterey Peninsula Flute Choir.  I'm doing some photography for them. They were performing at Asilomar as part of the annual Christmas at the Inns event in Pacific Grove.   We're planning on joining them for another performance this week, Friday, December 7, at the Monterey Museum of Art in downtown Monterey for another great annual Christmas event: Christmas in the Adobes.

The Inns event features the Victorian Inns of Pacific Grove and the Adobes is a gorgeous tour of the old adobes of Monterey dating back to 1756.  Some of these adobes are only opened to the public for this event, others are in continuous use as commercial establishments.  They are all beautiful.

Early December is the time to visit the Monterey Peninsula and join in the festivities, and always leave time to travel up Hwy 101 to San Juan Bautista for the pageant at the old mission put on by El Teatro Campesino.  We do Christmas pretty nicely here on the Central Coast.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Sunday, December 2, 2012


The image above is this year's poster for El Teatro Campesino's production of La Virgen del Tepayac in San Juan Bautista, California.  We, v and I, just came home from today's performance. They do two on Sundays and the next show begins at 8 p.m.  

The Christmas pageants put on by ETC are the kick off for our Christmas season.  La Virgen is the story of the  four appearances of the Virgin Mary to the Aztec messenger, Juan Diego, in the year 1531.  She is most widely known as the Virgin of Guadalupe.  

These performances are stirring, they move you with the color, the music, and the dance.  It is really hard to stay seated when your feet just want to join in with the brightly costumed cast who are twirling and stomping in feathered headdresses, shelled breastplates and anklets.  Their ages range from very young children to men and women old enough to have been retired for a time. 

The performance is mesmerizing from the first sounding of the conch shell blown to call the four winds to the unfurling of the image of the Virgin by Juan Diego. Although the dialogue is entirely in Spanish the actors and the action keep non-Spanish speakers on line with what is happening throughout the play.  There are no actual sets only props and costumes with the backgdrop of the 215 year old church. That is enough.  v and I leave each performance choked with tears brought on by such beauty and passion.

El Teatro Campesino has been putting on the Christmas plays of La Virgen del Tepayac and La Pastorela in San Juan Bautista since 1971, mainly under the direction of Luis Valdez (of Zoot Suit fame).  For the past few years he has stepped aside and his son Kinan Valdez has been directing.  Every season brings a slightly tweaked version of the story which keeps the plays alive for those of us who come back year after year.

We came late to the discovery of ETC and their Christmas shows.  Five years ago v was teaching at a high school down the Salinas Valley.  There was no drama department, or class, at this school so v pulled together a small group of students for an after school drama program.  He chose for their first production a play written by Luis Valdez, Los Vendidos.  It was when he was tracking down permission to perform the play that he discovered ETC and was able to speak with Luis Valdez who in turn invited the kids, and the two teachers, v and a colleague, to come see that year's production of La Virgen. We haven't missed a season since. And in praise of v: although he no longer teaches at that school drama is now an established part of the curriculum. 

Christmas, most welcome, has come upon us.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Storm Watch

Between storms on the Monterey Bay


Harbor Seals resting in Hopkins Cove.  They've been joined by some juvenile elephant seals, not showing in this photo.

Looking at Pebble Beach through the sea spray at Asilomar.