Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter Wonderland

A snowy home in Brownsburg, Indiana
My friend Scott, our Indiana correspondent, sent photos a few days ago of his snowy part of the world!  Beautiful, huh?

While I like snow, I have to admit that trying to live your everyday life in it is not a lot of fun.  So, to all you folks out there, living in snow... you have my sincere condolences.

After the snow plow has been through
Here in Southern California it's in the 40s and 50s (F) and we're all complaining about being cold.  (You may laugh if you want to, it's still cold for here.)  When I went outside last night, I could see my breath!  This is a big deal here.  And maybe in Arizona, too, just in case you are still laughing.

That's why I have to post photos of places like Indiana.  It helps ground me.  Tomorrow it will be time for the Rose Parade up in Pasadena and all you will see on TV will be clear skies and sunshine.  You won't understand how chilly it is - to us who live here.

Wherever you are, and whatever weather you are having - Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas In New York City

The magnificent Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
This is the 80th Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.  This Norway spruce stands 80 feet tall, is illuminated with 45,000 LED lights and crowned with a Swarovski star.

It was lit on November 28th at a star-studded concert attended by thousands of New Yorkers and tourists.

This tree is a world-wide symbol of the holidays in New York City, but few people know that once Christmas is over, the giant tree is cut into lumber and donated to Habitat for Humanity.

When I learned that, I was so happy!

Rockefeller Plaza
I wish I could say that I had visited the Big Apple this year to see the lights, but I didn't.  These photos are courtesy of my neighbors, who took the photos, told me all about the experience, and are letting me share with you!

It's a lot warmer and more convenient than actually having been there myself... at least that's what I'm telling myself.

First stop is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  As you can see there was a special Bernini exhibit there, as well as an exhibit of British Silver.

The museum's Christmas tree
I love all the Renaissance angels on the tree.  It's truly beautiful.  I love the Holy Family there in the middle.  Here is a detail of it.

Bernini clay sculptures
Having seen the wonderful Bernini art works in Rome, Italy, I recognized his style immediately.

In addition to the Bernini exhibit, there were many other wonderful things to see:

Faberge Eggs - Fabulous!

American Artist George Bellows

Furniture and vases from the late 1700s and early 1800s with inlays of turtle shells, pearls, and gems were also on display.  The vase has cobalt blue stain enameling.  I love that time period and the beautiful workmanship of these pieces.

Works by Henri Matisse were also on display
I took one look at the painting above and thought, "Oh, how lovely, a Matisse!"  Then I thought, "Oh, it's been a long time - what if I'm wrong?"

Then I looked it up.

Mom and Dad, you would be proud.  My education was not in vain.  It is a Matisse.

Phew. I was worried for a minute, there.

Medieval British Silver - just gorgeous

Stained glass by Tiffany

The building is as beautiful as the exhibits.  I love this shot of the windows at the museum,
with the New York skyline seen through the glass.

No trip to New York would be complete without visiting Radio City Music Hall and seeing the famous Rockettes!

My friends were impressed by how lovely the decorations were, everywhere they went.  So many buildings were decorated - they said it put L.A. to shame.

To hammer home their point, they took this picture of a random office building not far from Radio City Music Hall:

The Christmas Tree in the lobby
As my office building barely managed to put up a few poinsettias in the lobby, I had to agree with their assessment!

 A good deal of the fun of visiting New York is shopping in all the little shops.

Roni-Sue is actually Rhonda Kave, an entrepreneur and a chocolatier.  Her shop is in the historic Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side.

This is Roni-Sue of Roni-Sue chocolates
Love your work, Roni-Sue...

Love, love, love your work.

Holiday Wreath workshop
Holiday wreaths - I can just imagine how good this must smell!

A yummy chocolate fountain from the folks who gave you potato chips, and Waldorf Salad!

Wonder what they'd say if you just stuck your head in there...

Okay, better to order the hot chocolate, perhaps?
I asked Ray if the hot chocolate picture showed hot chocolate from the Waldorf and if it was any good, and he wrote, "Yup.  It was very chocolaty.  Wish I had one right now."

Ummmm.  Me too!


Spices from all over the world
The Chelsea market bazaar had little shops with all kinds of fun things to buy.

Pop Karma - Popcorn snacks that are good for you
According to the co-owner, Wendy, this popcorn shop has only been open for five months, but they are doing well.  It seems to be a great hit!

Inside the Pop Karma
They make the popcorn fresh daily.  Their Popcorn flavors? How about: 

Classic Mediterranean: organic extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt (vegan); 

Zen Cheddar: Simple pure white cheddar goodness (Vegetarian); 

Pure Carmel: a light coating of real caramel at its best (Vegetarian).  

Then there's the Seasonal Popcorn:  

Porcini Cheddar: deep fall flavor that celebrates the forest’s bounty (Vegetarian) with dehydrated Porcini and shitake mushrooms; 

Masala: (The riotous flavors and colors of India blend harmoniously into Popcorn (Vegan); 

Gingerbread Stout Caramel: The Yuletide in popcorn, with sugar plum fairies on your tongue (Vegetarian).

Seeing their flavors, I realized I already make something similar to their Masala popcorn!  (Garam Masala and a bit of spicy curry makes for a wonderful spiced popcorn.)

Yes, I'm a huge fan.  I love popcorn.


I would have loved visiting here.
Wendy, the lady behind the popcorn counter
My neighbors really liked this bright young woman and were impressed by her popcorn professionalism.  (Well, they said she was really nice! and the popcorn was yummy.)

A visit to New York just simply must include some theatre.  It's the law.  Here are a couple of shows that are playing right now:

A fun show for the holidays - you pick the ending
I saw Edwin Drood at the La Habra Depot theatre some years ago.  It's a very fun show!

My friends also fit in the revival of perennial favorite, Annie.

Who doesn't like Annie?
Seeing that sign, don't you just feel like singing, "Sun'll come out - Tomorrow!"

Okay.  I confess, I saw it and had to hum a bar or two.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial is not exactly a fun thing, but my neighbors found it beautiful and very moving.  They had to stop for a moment when they came to this name:

Somehow reading the name 'Helen Crossin Kittle and her Unborn Child' moved them to tears.  It just makes you stop and think how our lives can be changed in the blink of an eye - forever.

New York is an interesting and vital city with lots of things to see and do.  My friends crammed a lot into the long holiday weekend they were there.  I'm glad they were willing to share with us!

Hope you are enjoying the holidays, too!

-Photos courtesy G.D.Leigh and R.Fry

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Office Christmas Luncheon

The restaurant was beautifully decorated for Christmas
The Athenaeum is a formal, members only, restaurant at the California Institute of Technology, also known as CalTech.  Membership is open to individuals associated with the teaching, research, or administrative staffs at either Caltech, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory ( JPL), the Huntington Library and Art Gallery or the Palomar Observatory.  You can also be sponsored to dine there, so being able to do so several times in my life is a pretty big deal to me!

The first formal dinner was held there in 1931 for Albert Einstein, when he arrived for a 2-month visit to CalTech.  I think dining where Einstein dined is a fun thing!

I can feel my IQ rising as I enter the building.


We had two tables for our employee luncheon

Carmen and I enjoyed the beautiful atmosphere
(And No, I'm not wearing a red bow Fascinator! It just looks that way)
As we entered the restaurant, we passed a huge, beautifully decorated Christmas tree and were greeted with a tall glass of egg nog - you had a choice of alcohol free, or alcohol laced.  I had the alcohol free and it was delicious!

The restaurant is beautiful anyway, but it was just lovely all decorated to the hilt for the holidays.  We made our way to the patio area where a large buffet table was set up.  It was also decorated beautifully.

Another huge Christmas tree graced this room.  A chef stood at the far end of the buffet, slicing melt-in-your-mouth prime rib.

Buffet Table decorations

Barbara and Carmen loading up their plates.
All the dishes that I tried were delightful.  There were soups, a Chinese chicken salad with a delicate ginger dressing, a bow-tie pasta salad, a tuna salad, a melon salad, a red potato salad, and all kinds of veggies.  I grabbed a piece of chicken and some of that thinly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth prime rib with horseradish sauce, too!
My loaded plate, full of yumminess.
There was also strawberry lemonade to drink.  Well, we had a choice of a bazillion things to drink and I chose strawberry lemonade.

And  you didn't have to have the buffet.  Several people chose to order off the menu instead.

The turkey sandwich and fries served in a cute little tin

My dessert was three different kinds of gelati with a chocolate dipped biscotti
In addition to the excellent meal, there was a wide variety of different desserts.  I am a huge fan of gelati, so I had that.  It came with 3 scoops - one of chocolate, one of mango, one of cashew brickle.


This is a Chocolate Date cake, filled with chocolate, drizzled with chocolate and nuts,  served with a delicate pear sorbet
The service there is excellent, even though the place was packed and the servers were practically running to take care of everyone.

It was a really nice lunch, with great people.

I'm such a lucky kid.

Happy Holidays to all!  I hope you are still enjoying the holidays.  It isn't quite over yet!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An Oregon Christmas Card

Welcome Friends!
My friend Desiree, our Oregon-based correspondent, writes: "I decorated this wreath with all of my favorite things for Christmas so everyone who comes to my door is greeted by the beauty of the season."

A Christmas Amaryllis
The amaryllis bloomed last week just in time for Christmas!  Desiree writes that her kitties love to look at it, but she puts it out of the way in case they feel tempted to eat it!

Because they will...

The Holly and the Ivy
She continues: "My English Holly is decorating my gardens so beautifully.  I cut sprigs and made a beautiful centerpiece [for my table] with local noble fir boughs."

A Christmas Village
She also bought a bunch of miniature people and a bridge and made up a little Christmas village scene on a Styrofoam board.

I love this!  The little old-fashioned gas street lights look so festive.  I also love the little people.  My stepmom also has a Christmas village as part of her holiday decorations.

What special things do you do to decorate for the Christmas holiday?

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas holiday!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Kitty Christmas

Kitties Rocky and Angel enjoying the Christmas tree
This is a fragrant, flocked noble fir all ready for Christmas.  Both Rocky and Angel love playing with their toys around the tree skirt. They will accidentally-on-purpose manage to send their toys under the skirt!

So far they sound like every kitty I've ever met.

Their human, Desiree writes: "If I don't pull the toys out, they will pull the skirt out into the middle of the floor and sleep on it."

But, of course!

Rocky inspecting the tree skirt
I love kitties.

Merry Christmas, everyone!