I'm hoping that seeing a double rainbow yesterday is a harbinger of good things to come in the New Year. It has been chilly here in Southern Orange County, with morning temperatures hovering around 41F (5C) for the past two weeks. Great timing, as it finally 'felt' like Christmas for the first time in the three years we have lived here.
I want to start this post by wishing all of our family and friends, near and far, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. At this time of year, it isn't hard for me to recall all the love, support and friendship I have been blessed with every day, every year, for the past 5 decades. I am so thankful to still have friends from my childhood in Philadelphia, my high school and college years in Maryland, and in every town that we have called home in the past 12 years. I am also so grateful for my newly discovered extended family members ("cousins" one and all!) who have shared their time, their stories and their friendship with me. All of these wonderful folks have added such depth to my appreciation for the inherent goodness of mankind. I have and will continue to try to "pay forward" all the kindness shown to me and my family. Thank you all, so very much!
I guess I'll work backwards in sharing our activities of this holiday season. Yesterday, Maddie and I were out running errands when a storm started making its way in from the North. Storms around here are pretty rare - and thunderstorms are rarer still. I had my new camera with me, a Canon Rebel T4i (thanks, to my darling husband!) which I was itching to experiment with. The storm provided some pretty dramatic scenery that I was hoping to capture. Here's a few of the shots I got before the rain started:
From the parking lot of the Home Depot about a mile from our house
A bit farther down the road toward San Juan Capistrano
Our 'pay-off' for storm chasing for a half hour!
Another fun event that takes place during the holiday season is the LA Car Show. James is an automotive journalist in his 'spare' time, so he always packs up the kids and their friends and heads into town to get his "car guy" fix! I won't bore anyone with the photos of the latest car models - instead I'll share this photo of my two loves taken in a photo booth at the State Farm Insurance exhibit at the show:
On the 22nd of December we hosted a "Girlfriends Christmas Luncheon" for Josie and her friends. It's a chance for all the girls to celebrate the season, share some yummy food and do Arts and Crafts. This year the girls decorated Christmas tree ornaments. Wreaths, Snowmen and Snowflakes were decorated for Grandparents, Moms and Dads and friends. Instead of exchanging gifts with one another, each guest brought and unwrapped toy "for the poor children" (as Josie says!). About 2.5 hours into the gathering, we loaded the girls and the gifts into the car and headed over to our local fire station - the firemen were collecting toys to distribute to the needy children of the county. The girls were able to appreciate the fact that Christmas is a time of giving and that there were children who would wake up on Christmas morning with no presents under the tree.
Jill, Isabelle, Megan, Nyra and Josie share a lunch of 'pigs-in-a-blanket', Christmas tree shaped sandwiches and holiday cupcakes.
Making ornaments for family and friends.
Big sister Maddie helped the girls a lot... She's SO Crafty!
Even Israel helped out once he finished work for the day!
Sweet Jill, granddaughter of our neighbors, Denise and Brad. In the background, Isabelle, granddaughter of our other neighbors, Kathy and Dennis.
Once all the food was gone and the ornaments were set out to dry, we made hot chocolate and piled into the car to take our traditional 'Tour of the Lights' in our neighborhood. We play Christmas songs on the radio and drive along our streets to see who won our community decorating awards. It's the cheapest holiday fun a bunch of girls can have! Here's a bit of what we saw that evening:
It really was a lot of fun. Our party lasted from 1PM- 7PM and there wasn't a bit of trouble with any of the girls.
Earlier that same Saturday, a local pet store was offering free holiday pet portraits. As many of you know, we're dog lovers. Our Casey and Carson are loved so very much! I thought it would be great to have a portrait of them in Christmas finery... the dogs, of course, had other ideas. According to James, they arrived 30 minutes before the 'studio' opened (both dogs get VERY EXCITED by new environments) to get themselves together before the big shoot. Things were going well until the other guests (a beagle and two Pekingese) arrived. Carson made a dash for the beagle, knocking over the Christmas tree in the shop on his way to offer a greeting to his 'new friend'. Casey, in the meantime, rolled onto her back, paws in the air, offering her belly to anyone who would give her a nice rub. This action scattered the large ornaments and greenery being used as props for the portraits. The whole place turned into a circus - with James apologizing to all in attendance as he backed out the door with the troublemakers! I think the owner of the shop took over 20 photos but only 3 turned out good enough to be offered as 'portraits'. Here's one of each dog - what a hoot!
The reason so many of our friends did not receive Christmas cards from us this year: ANOTHER LEAK!!
The morning after Maddie arrived home from college I had planned to take the photo of our girls for our Christmas cards. Josie was still in school when Maddie awoke at 11AM. While getting caught up on all the news in the kitchen, Maddie dropped her phone - which slid under the refrigerator. We had to pull the refrigerator out from the wall to retrieve the phone. When we did, we noticed water dripping down from the cabinet above. "This can't be condensation, right?" I said. Then, we started looking up and over to see bubbling paint, swollen crown moulding and a stream of water coursing along the soffit above the cabinets, down the sides of the cabinets and pooling on the hardwood floors. UNBELIEVABLE!! Our third such leak in the three years we have owned this house!!
Another pin-hole leak in the copper piping, this time in the ceiling of the kitchen. We estimate that the leak ran unchecked for about 12-15 hours. During that time, the cabinets soaked up enough water to distort their shape and the base moulding had also caught enough moisture to swell and push out from the wall:
Bubbling paint at base moulding
Looking up at the soffit and crown moulding closest to the leak source
Since the 17th, our time has been spent entertaining our insurance representative, construction estimators, dry wall contractors, mold remediation experts, packers, and coming Jan 2nd - a complete demolition of the kitchen. The kitchen has to be taken down to the studs as moisture was found EVERYWHERE - including the wall that backs the refrigerator and wall ovens. The other side of that wall makes up part of a closet under our stairs. What a mess! I don't mind admitting that I just wept when I saw the extent of the damage. Luckily, we have an excellent home insurance policy. It will take an estimated 45 days from demolition to installation and finishing an entire new kitchen. The contractor said that the demo team will try to salvage the granite we installed two years ago - but if they can't, we're covered for the loss. It's a bad news/good news/bad news kind of process.
So, when the going gets tough - the tough get going... Right out of town! James and I are taking the girls on a quick get-away to a far better environment. This Friday, January 4th, we're leaving on a 7 night cruise to Cozumel, Belize and Honduras. We're gonna let someone else do the cooking while we contemplate kitchen cabinets poolside! Perhaps I'll finally get that photo for my Christmas cards - which at this rate - will arrive late January!
I hope all of you have a joyous New Year celebration. Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013. See you next year!! xoxoxo
I'm Michele - East Coast born & bred. Married to a native Californian, Mom to two East Coast daughters. When a new job opportunity came up, I told my darling husband, - "You'll have to drag me to California, Kicking and Screaming". And so began our newest adventure...
This blog documents our move from the beautiful Virginia countryside to Southern Orange County, California.