A taste of the holidays
December 22, 2010
Our house smells like a bakery. Packages of chocolate chips, sacks of sugar and bottles of vanilla extract fill the counters. The scent of warm cookies, brownies and other doughy delights drifts through the living room almost daily as Roni tempts us with a seemingly unending array of baking experiments. And we, being the loyal subjects of her test kitchen, are happy to sample each and every creation that finds its way to our plates.
There is no surer sign of the approaching holidays in our home than when Roni begins sifting through recipes and fires up the oven. Not that she doesn’t do this at other times of the year as well, but this holiday season in particular she’s been on a tear. We’ve been getting our fill of snickerdoodles, gingerbread, pumpkin spice cookies, brownies and their less chocolatey variant known as Blondies. We have sampled sugar cookies with sprinkles on top, as well as ones formed in a cookie press and topped with dollops of peach, apricot-pineapple and blackberry jam. All so tempting. All so comforting in a traditional Christmasy sort of way.
Roni decided that she needed to bake us into the holiday spirit this year, because after nearly four weeks of decorating, shopping, making up Christmas cards and attending parties and whatnot, we’ve reached that point where there’s little more to do before the Christmas Day gift exchange. Have to keep busy this time of year.
Keeping busy hasn’t been a problem at all for Roni, who this month stepped into a new role as executive director of the Delta Science Center. The DSC, as it is commonly known around town, has led a mostly obscure existence for the better part of the past decade while quietly working to obtain grants to promote science education in local schools. The DSC is currently working in conjunction with the East Bay Regional Park District to construct a permanent facility at the Big Break Regional Shoreline. Roni, in her new position, will be tasked with expanding the DSC’s presence in the community along with its program offerings.
One of her first unofficial duties was to produce the center’s 2011 calendar, which features some excellent nature photography by Discovery Bay resident Bill Klipp. The calendar is distributed free to fifth graders who take part in the DSC’s educational outings on the Delta aboard the research vessel Brown Lee. Just 5,000 copies of the calendar were printed, but they have been so well received that the DSC board of directors is afraid they are going to run out.
It was in part her work on the calendar that won her the part-time job of running the science center a position that is initially budgeted for 30 hours a month but will likely involve far more time as she applies her promotional abilities to work on events and publicity campaigns. She’s excited, and we’re excited for her. It’s a promising way to start 2011.
Already she has been at work on the publicity end, establishing Twitter (@DeltaSciCen) and Facebook pages for the DSC and posting frequent updates. If you want to learn more about the DSC and the California Delta region, stop by and follow or add them to your friend list.
Ben has been enjoying his winter break, which will take him into the new year. He got a bit of an early Christmas present Dec. 17 when he went shopping with his grandma in Antioch, and they had lunch together at the Golden Dragon restaurant, one of Ben’s favorite Chinese buffets. He’s been angling for a new computer along with a lengthy list of anime and manga related items. And of course there are video games he wants. We have a hunch that he’ll be happy with this year’s crop of gifts.
Ben attended a party for his school’s Anime Club on Dec. 20, hosted at the home of his former girlfriend Haleigh. It was a small gathering, much of which Ben spent playing computer games with his friends.
Glenn last month passed the anniversary of his release from the hospital following his bout with Valley Fever. He has since gained back all of the weight he lost in the first half of this year, and is now to the point where he is trying to maintain where he is at. Which is hard to do around the holidays, especially when tempted by Roni’s baking exhibition. So he decided to start walking occasionally as a way to get some exercise in his otherwise sedentary schedule. Four times in the past week and a half, Glenn has gone on 35-minute walks around the neighborhood, including a portion of the Big Break Regional Trail. Ben has gone with him a couple of times. And so far, despite the weather threatening rain more than once, the walks have been dry.
We got together with Glenn’s brother Sean on Dec. 4 and headed over to the annual Christmas Tree lighting event put on by the city of Oakley. It was cool that night, but the first time in several years that we’d gone when it wasn’t either freezing cold or pouring rain. There was entertainment provided by choirs from the local schools, and free cookies and hot chocolate for the huddled masses.
Roni received a text message this month from our cellular provider, AT&T, that the cell phone she’d had for several years was about to be phased out and that she would need to get a replacement. Seems that we are on the 2G network and everything is moving to the 3G and 4G networks, so it was either replace the phone or find ourselves unable to make calls after the start of the year. So we visited the local AT&T store on Dec. 11 and picked out a pretty red LG Neon II that we have yet to figure out how to work. Ben is disappointed that it didn’t come with a data plan that would have allowed him to surf the Internet and send text messages. But it was a free phone, and that’s the way we’d like to keep it until our next upgrade forced or voluntary.
Last month we mentioned attending the retirement dinner for Lenny Byer, a longtime member of the local sanitary district board and several other organizations. The dinner was Nov. 21. Unfortunately, just 11 days later, Lenny succumbed to the effects of cancer. Roni attended his memorial service Dec. 7, which was held at Golden Hills Church in Brentwood and drew at least 400 people. A fitting tribute for a man who did much in our community. He will be missed.
Thus ends what has been sort of a scatter-shot newsletter this month as we try to wrap things up before Christmas. It has been a crazy year, an exciting one too, and we hope the new year will hold as much promise and adventure for you as it does for us. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.