I do not like the drive into Los Angles, but yesterday I was happy to be headed east.
I was meeting these two very special people, my sister on the left and my cousin on the right, for a Christmas lunch.
This picture was taken last January and it was the last time I saw my sister because she has been working in London for the last few years and rarely in California.
I am so happy that her project is complete and she is back in California.
The first stop was Marcia's house where I managed to snap a few pictures - her Teddy Bear Tree in the family room,
some of her magical fairies and a fat old Santa.
We didn't have much time because we were meeting our cousin Vicki in the charming little college town of Claremont - it's the halfway point between Vicki and me.
We met at a favorite shop, Barbara Cheatley's, where both Vicki and Marcia purchased some Maileg elves, enjoyed a great lunch and exchanged Christmas gifts.
My absolutely favorite part of Christmas as a child was our stockings - mother went to a lot of trouble to select special items for each of our stockings - and Marcia keeps that tradition alive for me.
My bag was filled with items lovingly collected especially for me over the past year.
Mother always put a bear in my stocking and Marcia buys me a bear or two each year - the one on the left is from Budapest and she found the one on the right in Salzburg.
Marcia found fun gifts at this shop in Prague - notice the little angel in the window.
I now have a cute little angel along with a necklace made of cloth beads and a felted pin.
Marcia always find me sweet things for my crafting - these buttons will be part of the Valentine hearts I plan to start making next week.
And, she always includes something from our childhood - we shared a cherished fairy book and neither of us know what became of it.
A beautiful tea cup and some delicious Godiva chocolates will be enjoyed when I browse through Tea Time and Victoria magazines on my iPad.
I love all the wonderful gifts from my sister and her love of tradition,
but by far the best gift this Christmas is that she is back home and it won't be another year before I see her again.
I hope you are deep into the "traditions" part of Christmas with your family.
After being ill in the fall, I had a lot of time to think and I am slowly coming to the realization that I don't have to do everything in a huge way.
Yesterday I was a little stressed because many of our neighbors were coming over at 7:00 p.m. for a planning meeting - the organizer of our New Year's Eve Progressive Dinner has some family issues and the rest of us need to step up our efforts.
I wanted to have the house clean and I wanted to bake treats for the meeting -I had the ingredients to make caramels, fudge, Christmas cut out cookies and peanut butter blossoms.
But, I also wanted to take a long walk with Steve - we are working on creating a new habit of walking at least 2 hours a day.
When it came time for us to go on our walk, I only had the peanut butter blossoms made
and the dining room table set.
I almost told Steve that I couldn't walk with him, but I stopped and asked myself how bad it would be if I only had peanut butter cookies for my guests - Lulu wasn't in favor of the walk because dogs aren't allowed on the beach we were walking yesterday.
I am so glad that I got my priorities straight because I would have missed out on
a garden of rock sculptures lining the beach . . .
tightrope walkers practicing on the promenade . . .
the changing sky
as the sun hid behind the clouds . . .
our neighbor and his daughter in their Santa hats celebrating her winter vacation - she teaches at the local college . . .
adding to my collection of heart rocks and sea snails . . .
Steve didn't tell me how far the walk would be.
We walked all the way to the World War II gun turret, barefoot on the beach - in the end it was 3 hours and just short of 8 miles.
I was so exhausted when we got home that we called for pizza and I barely finished vacuuming before the first neighbors arrived.
It was dark when our guests arrived and no one even noticed whether I had cleaned or not.
The vote was unanimous - dinner and midnight champagne at the Cook's this year.
But, I am keeping my priorities straight for New Year's Eve - everyone else is bringing the food and I just have to remove all my Christmas decorations to make room for the 47 people who have been invited.
And, today made it Day 6 of our long walks- we combined a little shopping, walking Lulu and our exercise into a walk downtown - this time it was only 6 miles.
I am not glad I was ill, but I am glad that I figured out what is most important in my life.