Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas California Style

 At the grandparents' house, no one goes in to see what Santa has brought until everyone is lined up and the great living room door gets unlocked.
 Joss was so excited he had to check his heart rate.
 When we finally got the door open, he found a new Razor scooter and limited edition Minecraft Legos. He was happy that Santa found him out in California.
 Sebi and John, trying to figure things out through a princess cake hangover (Sebi) and a fog of Mountain Dew (John).
 There was lots of presenting and lots and lots of wrapping paper to get out of the way. For the first time in my memory we didn't have a fire in the fireplace on Christmas because of bad air quality. Instead my sister set up her laptop with a full screen flickering fireplace. Unfortunately the laptop didn't get rid of the wrapping.
 Joss made off like a bandit with oodles of Lego kits. Minecraft and Batman and Creator and on and on.
 Uncle John dove in with both feet and tried learning how to play Flash Point at the same time he taught it to two overeager boys. It's a great game -- you try to save the victims of a fire before the house collapses and you cooperate with the other players.
Maddie got clothes, boots, jewelry and more clothes.
 In the evening we took the three boys over to the cemetery to try out their new toys:
 a giant scooter for Sebi, 
 a longboard for Will, 
 and of Joss's scooter too. Mountain View cemetery had lots of nearly level roads to try out, and a lot fewer cars to bump into. 
 It was a beautiful sunset.
It's a beautiful place to live. Rob kept asking why people live anywhere else. I couldn't give him any satisfactory answer!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Eve

This was the beautiful Christmas Eve table. 
Joss gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up. Good holiday fun!
And the food was excellent too.
Rob made up a special bunte teller for the Lyons of their traditional pfeffernusse and that gingerbread star from Fatapples. Yay, Fatapples! We would have gone there any way, but to find a gingerbread star that we love? Excellent!
We retired to the living room to sing carols and read Luke 2 . . .
. . . and have Aunt Kiecoo read How the Grinch Stole Christmas . . .
. . . and open pajamas . . .
. . . and eat princess cake!
Nedra and Barbara. Barbara introduced us to princess cake in 2008. I think I first had it while I was pregnant with Joss, and perhaps that is why Joss and I are just crazy about the stuff. Joss managed to get people to give him both the slice with Santa on it, and the snowman at different times. Yum! I could devour a piece right now, I could.
Barbara also brought over this astounding gingerbread house from a charity auction. It was breathtaking. So much so that my kids wouldn't even eat it -- they had too much respect for the medium. (How often does that happen?!)
Everyone got fleeced up and ready for bed.
Even J-man. And it was off to bed.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mincemeat and Sea Glass

 On the morning of the 24th, we all descended on the kitchen and made mincemeat. This is a family tradition that's been around since before I was born. Other people make pickles or salsa. Rob's family always made applesauce. Mine makes mincemeat. Yup, it's true. And we make true mincemeat, which contains meat and doesn't have any brandy. Here Grandpa and Sebi have got the unenviable job of grinding the suet. And if you don't know what suet is, I won't ruin your next meal by telling you. 
 Pretty much a hive of industry.
 John and will had to peel all of the apples. Back when I was a kid we would often buy the apples in Watsonville while we were down at the beach during General Conference weekend. What?! You didn't go to the beach for General Conference? Well that explains why you don't make mincemeat. If you did, then you would.
 Maddie got the fragrant job of stirring in all of the spices and raisins.
 And Joss and I juiced and zested all of the lemons and oranges. He is an excellent juicer.
 This is the only picture I got of my mom, she was zooming around so fast. In all the other pictures she was simply a blonde blur. After we'd assembled our parts and stuck them all into the great pot, Rob and I rounded up the kids and drove them up to the beach behind the racetrack. And we left Grandma and Kiecoo to do the careful and hot work of canning.
 The kids needed to be loud and get wet and searching for sea glass manages all of those things and more.
 I agree with my friend Janet -- all of those picturesque beaches named Sea Glass Beach never have any sea glass. What is required for sea glass are broken bottles and rocks. The beach behind Golden Gate Fields has plenty of both!
 Joss managed better than most kids to get himself sopping wet. But if you can go to the beach on Christmas Eve day? Knock yourself out. We may have even gotten a little bit sunburned!
Some of our sea glass haul. Once we'd gotten all the squirrelies out, we were ready to drive back home via Berkeley and see our old haunts.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fort Mason, Lombard Street, Ferry Building and the Parrots of Telegraph Hill

 Once we were back in San Francisco we called Rob to  come pick us up from his adventures through the city. Rob was on a quest to see as much of the city as possible while using free parking. John called Clarissa who was on the far side of Golden Gate Park. I didn't know how we'd ever find each other, but it came together like something out of The Italian Job. We told Rob to stop at the pier's driveway, and as he pulled up, Barbara and Clarissa slid in right behind him. I tell you, Shumway in-laws are nearly superhuman when it comes to timing! 
(like the time Rob, Sebastian, and I traveled back to Boston for a conference -- Jeff and Saydi lived nearby and were expecting their first child. When we arrived at our bed and breakfast, we got a note that Saydi had gone into labor. She had Hazel that night at a birth center that was five minutes walking from the place we were staying. Those odds are next to impossible on both Saydi's part and Rob's!)
We drove over to Fort Mason and unpacked our picnic at the community gardens there (and the parking was free!).
 Because we had seven of us all in the Pilot in San Francisco, we decided to go down Lombard Street. Just because we were there. Admittedly, Maddie's experience standing out the sunroof with grandma was more memorable, but it is still an obligatory tourist experience. 
 Rob finally relented and we paid $1.85 for parking and walked over to the Ferry Building.
 The Ferry Building was all bedecked for Christmas and I was able to get the persian lime olive oil I've been waiting for for years. Yay!
 And we perused the cheeses, the breads, the salted pig parts, and shriachup and so many other delicacies.
 Walking back to the car, we saw four of the famed Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. They have a book and a documentary about them. I hope this is just a splinter group and not the only survivors. But it felt like a good omen to spot them.
[click to enlarge] It was a full day of touring San Francisco and it was so clear and warm and beautiful for a bunch of pasty frozen Utahns. I think we thawed out a bit!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

San Francisco: Sea Lions and Alcatraz

Months ago, Sebastian began declaring that he wanted to go out and see the grandparents for Christmas, so we decided we'd have a San Francisco holiday. And as I so often do, I got a bee in my bonnet. This one was about taking the kids to Alcatraz. I knew they'd be disappointed someday to have been in the Bay Area so many times and never seen it. In preparation for the tour, we listened to Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko while driving out in the car. It was good preparation, since it talks about the kids who used to live on Alcatraz and where they played, lived, and went to school. Rob opted to stay in San Francisco with Joss, and my brother John opted to come, so the five of us were dropped off on the Embarcadero early Monday morning.
In typical Shumway fashion, we arrived plenty early. We whiled away the time by walking down to Pier 39 and saw the sea lions. They were frisky and loud, and they were getting their pallets hosed off at K dock, so we watched them all diving into and out of the water.
They're one of those fortuitous additions to the San Francisco tourist scene. You can read about them here at the Pier 39 site.
Maddie wants to learn how to slip out of the pool as gracefully as they do!

Next we caught the ferry to Alcatraz. The last time I'd been here was when I was dating Rob. We'd gone with some friends to see The Rock and then decided, spur-of-the-moment, to jaunt over and visit the island. Those were the days -- when we had enough disposable income and time to spend an entire day on a Nicholas Cage film!

There were an impressive number of plants given that the island is a rock and all earth had to be imported. Gardening figures prominently in Al Capone Does My Shirts, too.
The audioguides were good. There were also a bunch of people there. I don't know what they're doing right, but it was sold out into January. You can't just hop on a ferry to Alcatraz any more -- you have to plan it days or weeks ahead!
Will and I tried out the solitary confinement. Which wasn't so solitary with two of us.
 The lighthouse (Alcatraz was used for a lot of things!). 
The remains of the warden's house.
The kids made quite a fuss over these jailhouse geraniums, trying to figure out what they were in for. We had exceptionally good weather. 
And the view back to San Francisco. We saw more in the afternoon, but I'll post that next.