Another page on the calendars
January 27, 2008
We love calendars. It doesn't matter how many we have, there always seems to be room for a few more. At least that is what we thought before this year. If the quality of a year can be predicted by the number of calendars on one's wall, then 2008 should be exceptionally good.
It has become a New Year's Eve tradition that shortly after the champagne cork is popped, the sour cream herring consumed and the last of our cheese and crackers put away, we make the rounds of the house and swap out the old year's calendars for the new ones. Last year we struggled to find enough calendars to occupy all the spaces we have set aside to display them. This year we filled all those spots and are desperately trying to come up with more. At present there are 14 calendars pinned to our walls with at least five more than need a home. We sometimes joke that we may need to expand the house if only to provide more interior wall space.
Part of the reason for our calendar explosion is the vacations we took last year. While on our summer tour of New England and the East Coast we picked up calendars in Boston, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania's Amish country. Heading to Pismo Beach in the fall got us another from Santa Cruz. We've made our annual winter visit to Orchard Supply Hardware and collected both their trains and flowers calendars (free with purchase!) Christmas saw calendars in abundance, with the receipt of a couple of homespun family calendars, and others themed around comics, cats, wolves and lighthouses. Then there were the inevitable freebies sent to us by businesses or scored off the discard pile at Glenn's work we are swimming in handouts from the National Audubon Society, Kendall-Jackson Winery and Kaiser Permanente. And on top of all those, Glenn purchased the annual publication of the American Wind Energy Association.
But we'll display them all, one way or another.
You certainly don't need a calendar to tell that winter is upon us; just take a look at the weather. January has been rainy, cold and blustery, as it almost always is. It seems hard to believe that is was two years ago we lost two of our fences to a heavy wind storm on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. But memories of that unpleasant experience still haunt us when we get weather like what we had the night of Jan. 4 and 5. The Bay Area got hit with a powerful Alaska storm that dumped several inches of rain and blasted us with wind gusts over 70 mph. That's about as close as we get to hurricanes here, and reminds us why we're happy to not live along the Gulf Coast. The house and yard survived the ordeal well, although the wind chimes on our pergola got a workout. A couple of our heavier chimes were blown down, and one of our long ornaments literally got wrapped around a 2x6 beam. The eight-foot garden windmill we installed last fall got such a workout that the blades, which are designed much like a bicycle wheel, blew off the ball bearings in the hub. Our newest fences both withstood the assault, but we only realized after inspecting the yard that perhaps it was due to luck more than careful construction; our fruitless mulberry tree, which has been in declining health for a couple of years, nearly blew over in the storm. Its roots are very weak. One good gust might have taken it down right on top of our back fence. We have been trying to nurse the tree back to health and didn't realize just how bad off it is. It now leans about 20 degrees. We had planned to prune it back some more, but now we're seriously considering just cutting it down. If we do, we'll replace it with a tree the gopher doesn't like, or we'll just be sure all its roots are safely caged.
One tree not in danger of toppling any time soon is our ornamental plum in the front yard. It has been with us since the house was built in 1988, and while it won't get any taller, it has become bushier. We took advantage of a break in the stormy weather Jan. 19 to lop off a few of the bottom branches. It should start budding within the next month. Can't wait for those splendid pink blossoms.
Pruning the plum was just the start of that weekend's yard chores. Roni tackled her roses, while Glenn climbed up on the ladder to liberate the roof and gutters from the wisteria vine that has taken control of just about everything. The wisteria sends out thin shoots that sneak between cracks in beams and roofing material. As the shoots mature they grow thicker, wedging their way beneath shingles and into the attic. We don't want that. We cleared off the roof and filled the garbage can with a tangle of vines. We also trimmed back some of our hedges, including a guava tree that had become infested with honeysuckle vines. We spent more than an hour disentangling the guava from the honeysuckle, and by the time we were through we discovered that about 70 percent of the shrub had been honeysuckle vines!
There's plenty more that needs to be done in the yard, but it will have to wait until the good weather returns to us about a month or so from now. The weeds are returning with a vengeance.
The rain gets a bit depressing when it goes on for days at a time. But worse than that has been the cold. Folks usually think we're nuts when we tell them we don't use the heater during the winter months. We'll put it on for the holidays and if company comes to visit, but we manage to keep comfortable the rest of the time by bundling up in sweaters or curling up under blankets. It is usually easier to make ourselves warmer in winter than cooler in summer, and we'd much rather conserve our PG&E bill to splurge on the Christmas lights and some air conditioning on a triple-digit August afternoon. Still, it's not much fun crawling into bed at night on sheets that are as inviting as a slab of ice. We've got three comforters on our king-size mattress right now, and Roni has a flannel blanket that we put between us and the bottom sheet to get warm more quickly. Ben, meanwhile, has more blankets than any of us. Plus he's got Eevee to keep him warm at night. We do just fine. But it doesn't make it easier to get up early on a chilly morning, when all you want to do is hit the snooze button and stay curled up in the warmth for another hour or two. The highs have been in the low 50s this past week, and the lows have gotten down close to freezing. We've seen some fog, although that will soon be ending.
At least our time spent trying to stay warm indoors has been made a bit more comfortable by the arrival of our new living room set. We wrote last month how we were going to take delivery on Christmas Eve. We carted out the old sofa and chair to the garage on the night of Dec. 23. We'd already given away our loveseat, which was still in decent shape, to Roni's sister Jacki and her family; her husband Kevin and son Robert came by with their truck to haul it away a couple of days earlier. The sofa and chair were fit only for the dump. With the living room cleared out, Roni took the opportunity to spot clean the carpet and we vacuumed all the spots we hadn't seen in the past six years. Then around noon on Christmas Eve, a couple of strapping young delivery men from Lane Home Furnishings came by with our new leather sofa and a pair of recliners.
The sofa and recliners aren't from the same set, although their wine color is a close match. The recliners both have glider and swivel bases, allowing us to turn easily to face the TV. We have to keep them a couple feet away from the wall to avoid scraping when we recline fully. That makes the room feel a bit smaller, but the setting is more intimate than it was with the old furniture. Ben and Glenn have already discovered that the chair that replaced the loveseat is perfectly situated for playing video games. You're practically on top of the TV screen there. It is also the best spot in the room for watching movies, sports or whatever. Roni's favorite recliner is the one on the opposite side of the room near the fireplace. The swivel feature enables her to turn to face the TV, which she couldn't do in our old stationary chair. As a result, the arms of the old chair took a beating from us sitting sideways to better view the screen. But more often she is reclined there with her laptop computer reading e-books or working on her writing projects.
Because we all seem to prefer the chairs, the sofa has been a bit neglected. Not that it isn't comfortable. We chose it because it is similar in design to the old sofa it replaced. With low arm rests, it is an idea place to curl up for a nap.
We hadn't been too excited about the furniture delivery taking place the day before Christmas. Who wants the inconvenience of having your living room in disarray when you're trying to get presents wrapped, do your baking and finish shopping? But it was a blessing to have those comfortable seats on Christmas morning as we gathered around the tree to open presents. Sort of made the furniture feel like another Christmas gift, even though that wasn't exactly how we'd planned it. It was sort of an eclectic mix of gift-giving this year. None of us really had anything specific on our lists that we wanted, except for Ben who dearly wished for a Nintendo Wii. That didn't materialize, although he did get several other video games for the PlayStation 2 and his Nintendo DS. He has become interested in a Japanese anime series called ".hack//roots" (pronounced dot-hack). He got a game along with a DVD of some of the episodes and a couple of books. He also got our old color printer and scanner along with a digital voice recorder so he can create content for his web site that he's been working on for the past few months.
Roni asked for and received several novels she'd been seeking, along with a pair of coffee table books about wolves. She asked for a small angel statue we'd seen at one of the local garden centers, so when she found it under the tree on Christmas she immediately found a home for it along the bricks that make up Summer's Garden in the back yard. Glenn, who has been into lighthouses since summer, received a DVD box set profiling several East Coast lights, as well as a ceramic replica of the Point Judith Lighthouse that we visited in Rhode Island. He also got a suede leather coat that has been put to good use on some cold nights driving home from the newspaper.
That coat also came in handy when Glenn visited his brother Sean on Jan. 12 to check out the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at The Tech Museum in San Jose. The controversial exhibit features more than 20 real human bodies that have been preserved through a process called plastination. The bodies are displayed in various poses, offering visitors the chance to view muscle and bone structures, various organs and other parts of human anatomy. For example, there was one posed as a skier in mid flight, a baseball player swinging a bat, a pair of ice skaters doing a performance. They didn't allow photos, but there are plenty of places on the Internet where you can get an idea of what the exhibit looks like. Highly recommended if you have an opportunity to go see it.
So there's not too much more to tell about January, except that we are sticking close to home and counting the days until spring (hopefully) makes its early appearance. We did a little wishful shopping at the Orchard Supply Hardware garden center on Thursday and picked up a miniature terra cota chimnea that we set up on our dining room table and outfitted with a candle to simulate the roaring fire we'd build in it if it were outdoors. It created a romantic mood for a couple of weekend dinners of lasagna and stir-fry neither one of them the Mexican dishes we should have been eating to accompany the chimnea, but a nice ambience all the same. A few flames to kindle warm thoughts through the remainder of the cold winter.
Glenn, Roni and Ben