Photo of the month

It was like an early present when we got our new living room furniture delivered on Christmas Eve. Glenn tests out one of our two recliners while watching TV. Photo by Roni.

January 2008

Roni has vaporized our old sofa! Actually, we've trotted it out to the garage in preparation for tomorrow's delivery of our new furniture. She takes the opportunity to do some spot carpet cleaning. Photo by Glenn.

Minutes after delivery on Dec. 24, our new living room set still bears its factory tags. Photo by Glenn.

Roni finds the new recliners perfect for cozying up with her laptop to do some reading. Photo by Glenn.

OK, so now we've got at least one shot of everyone using the new recliners. Ben would rather be opening Christmas gifts, seeing as it's Christmas morning and there's a mountain of presents under the tree... Photo by Glenn.

...As we said. Photo by Glenn.

Tradition dictates that you've gotta start with the stocking. Ben checks out one of his many packs of trading cards. Photo by Glenn.

After the stocking comes breakfast. We don't each much bacon these days, but for some reason we can't do without it for Christmas. Photo by Glenn.

Another year, another attempt at baking the Christmas bread. Normally prepared Christmas Eve, Glenn had to make the dough a day early and chill it on account of his work schedule. It seemed to work out fine. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn tries to guess what's inside the pretty wrapper... Photo by Roni.

...It's the Jimmie Johnson NASCAR diecast he wanted. Thanks, Ben! Photo by Roni.

Ben appears to be making careful work of his giftwrap. Appearances can be deceiving. Photo by Glenn.

This is one of those gifts that provided hours of entartainment — well, maybe a few extra minutes. Glenn acts out his rock 'n' roll fantasies. Photo by Roni.

Did we mention that this was actually Roni's present? She's stumped as to what it might be. Photo by Glenn.

It's a lawn ornament. Sort of hard to wrap with the large metal stake. It doesn't carry a tune though. Photo by Glenn.

Ben reacts to receiving the latest book in his favorite "Warriors" series by Erin Hunter. Photo by Glenn.

The stress of three hours of gift exchanging appears to finally have gotten to Glenn. Just having a bit of fun with the candy canes. Photo by Roni.

Hey, Eevee, what do you think of this great catnip toy that "Santa Claws" brought you? Wait, where are ya goin'? Photo by Glenn.

Roni really wanted this angel statue, which she found under the tree on Christmas morn. She finds a home for it on the rim of Summer's Garden. Photo by Glenn.

They look right at home together. Photo by Glenn.

Not quite sure why the angel has its head in its hands. Probably trying not to see what a weedy state our yard is in. Photo by Glenn.

A pair of Americana-style metal chickens gifted us from Glenn's folks find a home beneath the windmill in our back yard. Photo by Glenn.

Roni spent a lot of time restoring her mother's old silverware set to give as a gift to her sister Jacki. She sanded down the wood box and here is refinishing it. Photo by Glenn.

We take one last look at the Christmas lights for this season. It is about 1 o'clock in the morning on New Year's Day, and the decorations will all be packed away by the end of the afternoon. Photo by Glenn.

January is notorious in California for its kick-butt storms. We got a whopper of one on Jan. 4-5, which brought 70 mph wind gusts. One of them took down this set of wind chimes from our pergola. Photo by Glenn.

Our yard escaped severe damage from the storm, but our ailing mulberry tree emerged a bit worse for wear. The tree's trunk developed its pronounced lean after being battered by the high winds. The root system is quite weak, and we were lucky it didn't topple onto our back fence. Time for emergency intervention. Photo by Glenn.

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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

This page was last updated on Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 12:50 hrs.

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