Christmas 2004

Happy Holidays!

On top of Sandstone Peak (Mt. Allen), el. 3111 ft

Holiday greetings to you all! Our empty nest filled up again in January when Cathy and Kirk moved in while their new house was being built. Those months of having “roommates” provided lots of entertainment, as well as two additional cooks and bottle-washers; Larry especially enjoyed the many day-long hikes he and Kirk took on various Santa Monica Mountain trails. The completion of their Valencia house in July left us with lots of space, but we missed all the great LAPD stories—and the sight of Kirk sneaking around corners upstairs while practicing for tactics training for the next day’s roll-call!

With Christine and Klaus Hornung

In late July we played the international version of “meet the parents”—in the charming village of Pullach, Germany (outside Munich). Brian had proposed to Marion in London in February and she accepted. They began the fiancée visa process and returned to their respective countries to start preparing for some life-altering changes. His return to California in late March meant one more roommate for us. But the man with a mission stayed here just long enough to get a job in San Diego with Incisix, a start-up company. By May he had job, apartment, car and a few sticks of furniture. There were, of course, odd boxes of dishes, books, and other gear he’d left with various friends and relatives to be collected and put to use, but it was Marion’s task when she visited late that month to get it all organized into a home.

I love my new kitchen

Just to make things interesting, our long-delayed kitchen demolition started in May and the new kitchen finally became ours in late September. We were all good sports about the chaos and upheaval and were grateful for good weather because we could usually barbecue and eat outside. The vegetable garden produced plenty of squash, zucchini, and eggplant for barbecuing, tomatoes in abundance, and bushels of apricots which had to be frozen as we couldn’t jam or stew this year. If we’d only had a fish pond and a few laying hens, we’d have thought ourselves quite self-sufficient.

The trip to Germany included a stop in Zurich, where we met up with brother John, joining us to represent the “extended family” before we headed to Pullach for the Polterabend in the Hornungs’ garden.

It’s a traditional “evening of mischief” (poltern = “to make a racket”) before a wedding. Guests often bring dishes to smash in honor of the couple, and have been known to haul in old ceramic toilets to add to the broken mess of crockery. There was a whole roasted pig, creating some consternation when it developed that no one knew how to carve it. But Marion’s brother Veit, an M.D. who does research, was quickly pressed into service on the strength of his surgical training. We ate, talked, laughed, and toasted the couple. We enjoyed skits and poems written in English by her friends to “roast” Marion and Brian. We agreed it was quite a memorable event, especially since the rain held off till the next day, when it came down in torrents, and certainly a wonderful way to meet Marion’s family and friends.

Innsbruck lunch with John, Marion, and Brian

After the celebration, we headed south toward Austria with John to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck for some sightseeing before parting company. John’s itinerary took him back to Zurich, ours to Prague in the Czech Republic and to Bratislava in Slovakia—the latter a place we truly enjoyed for its slower pace and less crowded streets, and the opportunity to explore the old Celtic ruins outside the city, and search for the three “hidden in plain sight” comical bronze statues in the town center.

Elaine Skeete and Mary near Mt. Shasta

We had a few other getaways this year. A trip up north to the Skeete “ranch” included a trek in the snow around Mt. Shasta. On a cruise to the Mexican Riviera with the Searls we swam with the dolphins and dodged rain much of the trip. But with the long kitchen remodel we needed to stick pretty close to home for some months. And my seester Teresa and I did the 3-day Breast Cancer event again this year, she wearing out shoe leather walking from Huntington Beach to Santa Monica, and I slinging hash on food service crew. What a great way to meet some really amazing and dedicated people.

Suffragette and Keystone Kop at Halloween

Cathy and Kirk are mired in the new homeowner slough, with landscaping yet to begin, but it’s a great house, especially for their over-the-top Halloween party, with different themes in each room and Kirk’s famous tri-tip buffet.

Jenny finished the big IBM trial in February, took some much-deserved time off to go on a Mediterranean cruise, and then spent two weeks in Italy. She’s now working on a health-care case where hospitals and insurance companies are at loggerheads, and she confirms that the U.S. health care system is held together with chewing gum and bailing wire.

Brian’s job continues, though they don’t yet have a stable source of venture capital for their product, but the next year may improve their economic prospects. Marion’s visa came through, and they will marry in La Jolla between Christmas and New Year’s at a small family ceremony, and then her family will visit us in Newbury Park for a couple of days before flying back to Germany. We plan to do a driving tour of L.A. in the brief time they will be here, enough to at least give them the flavor of Malibu and Rodeo Drive with its million dollars’ worth of Baccarat street lights.

David continues working at InfoSpace, doing web design for marketing ring-tones for cell phones, which finances his priority, the club scene in Hollywood and Los Angeles. His current project involves Virgin Mobile, which may provide him a future travel opportunity to the UK.

Larry does house, yard, and computer projects, and has been active in our homeowners association. Equipped with a new ultra-fast dual monitor PC, he assures me that the Flash and XHTML skills he has been learning will soon give my course websites a glitzy new look.

My classes this semester have been interesting, engaging, and challenging; I’m looking forward to finishing finals week and turning in grades so I can think about weddings and visitors and fun things like that!

We hope you have a great holiday season!