Christmas in July - part II

With just days left before Christmas,

we took the suggestion of a friendly local

and found the modern art gallery of

the Hess Collection

Modern art 

And nature 

And history 

Melded into

An afternoon

Rich with beauty.

Christmas Eve dawned

with as much excitement as we've ever had.

Whispering and secret conclaves,

exchanging of tape and scissors

amid the small spaces of our home.

Cookie decorating and mirth

spilled over to the outdoor spaces.

The candles were lit,

one for each day of the season,

and we fell asleep with

anticipation of the Dayspring.

On Christmas morning,

Sleepy-eyed children lit

the final light - the Christ candle -

as cinnamon rolls baked in our tiny oven.

Joyfully, gifts were opened

And calls to family made.

To enjoy the rest of the day's light,

We opted to hike through the hills

in the crisp air

and return for a simple supper,

birthday cake, and games

to finish the celebration.

While in the Napa Valley,

we felt required to pay a visit to

the Bouchon Bakery -

along with the thronging masses -

to sample pastries in the sunshine. 

After consuming more than our share,

we took the rest of the day

to view the area's flora and art,

take in the beauty of The French Laundry's kitchen garden,

and sample the confections of Kollar Chocolates.

The town of Sonoma

 charmed us

with its intact history -

the mystery and romance of the northernmost Spanish mission.

Our light-filled Napa visit and 2013

drew to an end,

and Locals' Night at the Oxbow

called us back on New Year's Eve

to conclude 2013 together

laughing,

eating good food,

and giving thanks - for the year behind and the year ahead.

Christmas in July - part I

Christmas in July has always struck me as a funny marketing ploy,

but today as I reflect on our journey, how much of it remains unwritten,

"Christmas in July" seems timely. 

The winter's cold and dark seems almost impossible to recall

in the midst of July's brazen glare,

but the place we chose to stay for the Advent season

felt very much like July,

rather than December,

to our family -

so accustomed to the grey of a Pacific Northwest winter.

The Napa Valley took us in for the holidays.

Four weeks of light 

and food

and art.

The Valley was new to all of us -

the native oaks, 

eucalyptus in bloom,

ripening citrus,

engaging all our senses.

By day we soaked in 

the light of a winter sun, 

(And performed the everyday duties of life)

By night we gathered around our table

in the growing light of our Advent wreath

to read and anticipate

the coming Light. 

The birthday of our youngest child was spent enjoying

the three things she requested:

To paint

To skate

To eat lemon icebox pie.

offered exposure

to some of the area's best foods

at great prices.

There we met locals like

Peter Rubissow and his family

who warmly invited us to spend the day at his family's farm -

Rubissow on Mount Veeder. 

We spent a wonderful span of hours

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walking the fields,

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learning the colorful history of the land,

picking citrus,

swinging,

playing a historic 1930's Steinway,

and running free throughout the vineyard.

Napa mornings were bright and crisp,

perfect for hikes into the hills.

Afternoons were bright and warm,

perfect for making gifts,

painting together,

reading,

and photographing pieces

for the 4 Birds shop

Locals gave us the address of

a must-see spot:

where we enjoyed a factory tour

far too many samples,

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and obligatory photo ops.

Christmas traditions were altered some to fit this mobile life -

a rosemary topiary for our tree - a fragrant miniature for remembrance,

$1 stockings be-glittered

to replace the ones we forgot to bring,

were hung with care.

Lego minifigures,

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felted balls and gilded acorns

emerged from golden afternoons

to dress our tree.

The days of light continued to shorten,

as our candles brightened & Christmas drew near.