Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in California

The last two Christmases our family has called the Kona coast of Hawaii our home. This year was the first that we spent with family here in California and we found ourselves at Grandma and Grandpa's for Christmas Eve where, to the kid's shock and awe, Santa Claus arrived with a bag of toys for the kids to unwrap.
"A right jolly old elf..."
It was fun to have our special guest that evening where we spent dinner with family and friends opening gifts and enjoying company and conversation that we have missed in years past. We left around eight o'clock in order for us to get home and for the kids to settle in their beds for a long winter's nap! Santa still had things to do while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads!
The next morning the kids awoke to a wonderment of gifts. Darby shows off her new pink and purple wrapping of her leg. It should heal quickly, despite her one-legged-ness she hops around the entire house because it is faster than the use of crutches.
I awoke to breakfast in bed... which is probably one of my favorite gifts of the day! Daddy and the kids had spent the morning making bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits and for me a cup of hot apple cider. I love my family! After breakfast we all set out to the living room to sift through the pile of gifts under the tree.
Darby began the unwrapping with the first present and she was determined not to rip the paper because it was so pretty. She really wanted to keep it. We were all to impatient at this request and let her know whether or not she ripped it, it was still headed for the garbage.
She was happy to get a few gifts to make cards with mommy, using her OWN supplies!
Dennis was surprised to find a new quick shot camera to use while we travel to Bali this spring. I was happy to receive all of my underwater camera gear for my Nikon D300 including a new fish eye lens, strobes, dome lens, macro lens and housing. I am going to be donning my new 5mm wet suit soon and diving in the pool to get used to all of the amazing work I'll be able to photograph. I just have to be familiar with all of the gadgetry and the use underwater before I make any real dives.
Austin got some new books, including one on King Tut, that he had asked for. He also received a video camera as he had been asking to make videos with his friends.
Dennis was famously displaying his "naughty" cap all day...
Darby was excited to find a lizard she named Gary from her very good friend Ru.
They opened a gift from my sister and brother which turned out to be...
no less than...
a scuba diving nutcracker! I don't know where she found that one but I'm impressed!
My stocking was stuffed with...
and more socks! I think Santa knew I was in short supply!
Dennis found himself a naughty nerd... We all had a fantastic day!

The day before Dennis and I spent the morning and afternoon making my grandmama's fudge and my mother's recipe of almond toffee. Austin got caught this evening with his hand in the "cookie" refrigerator jar!

Yummmy! Happy Holidays!

Gigantic Gingerbread Grandeur

We made gingerbread houses this year! We had a frosting fight! And the kids helped to decorate them! It was fantastic!

Iconic Golden Gate

It is almost impossible to take a bad picture of this amazing structure. Whenever we are in the city I try to get a few shots if we are in a good place to do so. After our minor incident while climbing I asked Dennis to drive me over to a great location where I knew I'd be sure to capture the bridge in all it's splendor and he'd just wait in the car with the kids. I had to run quickly past a few gates and under and over a couple of barricades but I got to that spot and came up with these images.
The sun was just starting to seep through the foggy mass and the vibrant red of the bridge looked as if it were on fire. So with the blue skies rolling in and the sun burning off some of the fog I captured a few images of our gateway to the bay.
I turned a few into black and white compositions, however, to this day I prefer black and white film photography as opposed to digital. I suppose it is a matter of choice, but I consistently see blacker blacks and richer tones with film. Still, I think the few I changed turned out better than I anticipated.

This is probably one of my favorites as you can see the beautiful brilliant red of the bridge contrasted by the vibrant blue of the skies above the fog.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

San Francisco in December

One of the kid's biggest gifts this year was a weekend trip to San Francisco. We can travel there and back in one day easily from where we live currently, but we had many plans that weekend so we decided to indulge a bit and stay at the Ritz Carlton on Stockton Street. The kids were extremely excited to be spending a few nights there. We had plans to go to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, a venture over to the DeYoung Museum to see the traveling exhibit of King Tuthankamen, rock climbing at Planet Granite and to top it all of tickets to see the newest traveling show from Cirque Du Soleil, "Ovo."
The first evening we were there the kids were treated to an exquisite dinner at Fleur De Lys in grand style. They dressed for the occasion and were inspired to request their own three course dinners from the french cuisine offered. They enjoyed the food, ambiance and company. Their behavior was exactly what I expected, to which the owner's wife and many of the other patrons complemented how "grown up" they were and amazed the children enjoyed the food. The wonderful staff, including Marcus Garcia who is the dining room manager and sommelier, were attentive and informative. Marcus, who has children of his own and noting that our children were with us, had the bar make for the kids non alcoholic cocktails that he said he was inspired to make while his own wife was pregnant. They came in tiny martini glasses with magnificent presentation to us all. The children tried each of the three individual concoctions then tried to describe to Marcus what they tasted. He was a wonderful host as well as our server and others who waited on our every need.
It was a beautiful evening filled with complementary discussion about life, school, and of course the food. Austin tried a variety of unfamiliar ingredients to him like fois gras. He was intrigued about what it was and how it would be presented. We didn't tell him right away what it was and he happily tried it with his appetizer but wasn't impressed. I simply stated that perhaps he would enjoy it better if it were prepared another way, to which he replied, "Yeah, I'd like it more if it were seared or sauteed."
Darby also chose an assortment of dishes for her three course menu her favorite was the first course of a beautiful crab salad accompanied with caviar. She politely asked what caviar was of our server, he then described the dish in it's entirety (fish eggs included). She gave me an inquisitive look and I quickly stated that caviar was also found on all the sushi she enjoyed. She smiled happily and was sure of her decision.
During the next few days we spent strolling around town, driving from place to place, and even got a limousine to traverse the distance to and from the Cirque Du Soleil show. We all had a wonderful time. I, as always, carried my camera with me and took a few snapshots of the city from many a car window. I also took a few that I will post in it's own blog of the Golden Gate bridge because I did take a few minutes to pause along the edge of the park and compose those photos. Here are some of my favorites of our city by the bay.
The TransAmerica Skyscraper
China Town
"This ain't 'jamama's' Mazaratti!"
Driving to the climbing gym in the Presidio along the bay with the Golden Gate bridge in the distance.
The Skyline of San Francisco in all it's foggy glory with the Palace of Fine Arts in the center. We like to go there often, but didn't this particular trip.
A view of Alcatraz in the distance and beyond that the city of Oakland and Berkley.
I love how cable car lines crisscross in all directions making a spiderweb effect on some of the photos.

Amazing buildings, structures, glass, iron, steel, and architecture I love it!