Friday, February 1, 2019

Year-end celebrations

Our winter holidays started in early December with a trip to Massachusetts to attend the wedding of Lisa Wilt and Gabriel Johnson. We've known Lisa since before she was born having met her parents when they were expecting their first child, Lisa's older brother. We were honored to be included in such a special day.

book-ended by Lynn Adams and Pam Wilt - friends for over 30 years!

We reunited with friends at the welcome dinner the evening before the wedding.
the newlyweds
sadly, there is no photo of all three couples together
I'm in the middle again because I'm tallest

it's fun to get dressed up!
Tom and I were able to use some of the dance steps we've learned in our lessons. So much fun!

Since I was already on the east coast, I took an early Christmas to my parents in Lititz, PA.  

I flew back to CA spending a week re-organizing myself and doing some baking. Tom and I flew together to Chicago to spend Christmas there with Alicia and Shane. We rented an airbnb house within a short walk of their apartment. The home had lots of family photos on the walls, but the Christmas decorations were a very pleasant surprise. A bonus of our time in Chicago was being able to have dinner with good friends from our years in Zurich, Fred and Marisel. They're originally from Chicago although living in Pittsburgh now. They plan to retire in Chicago and had just bought the house where they hosted our dinner. 



I baked our traditional gingerbread in CA and transported them naked to Chicago. We had fun decorating them together. (It was Shane's first time.) Of course, eating them is the highlight.

there's always a cookie decorated to represent everyone present
I knew from Alicia's first year in Chicago that they have a Christkindelmarkt - just like in the German speaking areas of Europe. We were able to fit in a quick visit to it on Christmas Eve. None of us realized we were arriving an hour before closing, but since it's very small, it was enough time. Very reminiscent of our days in Switzerland.

I even added to my collection of Gl├╝hwein mugs. 

Christmas day was a quiet one at the house. Everyone loves stockings.

Spread the Love

pleased that the favorite is included
My big project for fall was making Alicia's Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt collection into a quilt. She had so many, I didn't use them all or it'd be too big.

I think she likes it.

playing Codenames while the pork was roasting

cute couple

in height order - here I'm the shortest!

One of the adventures of renting a house is not being sure what the kitchen equipment will be. This one had a double oven in the space of a normal range. I'd never seen this design before - it's not very practical. The larger oven is basically on the floor. I don't think it would be large enough to accommodate a turkey, but luckily we weren't planning on that anyway. I made it work.

I'd heard about the light display put on by the local zoo and wanted to see it. Its name amuses me because Lincoln Park is the name of the town in NJ where I grew up. The LA Zoo also does a light display which I've never seen. Maybe I'll go next year.

We didn't see the live animals, but the lighted ones are nice. 
fun zebras

The light display was set to music with the lights on the trees and ground changing. Very well done.

Back in CA, we were ready for our next new experience: helping decorate a float for the Rose Parade. Since Tom works for Farmers Insurance, we worked on that float. It was tedious work in a chilly, open warehouse, but also fascinating to see the detail up close. Several floats were under construction in the same building and we looked at them all.

first glimpse of the float
Farmers float is a carousel of characters from some of their commercials which are all based on real claims. 

First assignment was to "prep the mums". We were to take them off the stems, turn them upside down and put glue on them. Then they'd be ready to be put on the float. I eventually got a spot at a table.

This is just a tiny sampling of the prepared flowers. I did this for about four hours and my wrist was complaining about it the next day. Lots of repetitive turning of the wrist.

I made the right decision when I said I didn't want to climb. Tom was sitting on that plank for nearly as many hours as I was prepping flowers. He was attaching them to the float.


 Company logo in progress:

adding blue iris petals

detail with black beans and ground white rice
The coordinators steered the many volunteers to tasks and let us work. These people were separating the individual leaves and putting glue on one side. (prepping the leaves) Later, they were glued onto the pillar on the float. It took a lot of leaves!!!

Luckily after our lunch break, I was given another job. I got to get up on the float and help finish the squirrel. I put chopped walnuts on the top of his feet, ground rice on the pads of the feet, coffee on the acorn stem and also filled in some gaps on his "fur". It was a nice change of pace and fun to attach something to the float. 


Tom had some different assignments also
Tom is working above me

I didn't ask permission, but took the opportunity to tour the building looking at other floats and the "tools of the trade." It was quite fascinating. 

 So many flowers at the ready!

 Roses are cut very short and put in individual vials of water.


roses ready to be put on a float
tedious work - using tweezers to remove lavender petals!

This woman is using a blender to chop flower petals into a purple powder.
barrels are full of dry ingredients

enormous amount of glue

Float decorating actually begins in early December when all dry items (beans, seeds, rice) are put in place. We worked on December 30 when the float had to be finished by the end of the day. We left at 4:00, but there was another shift coming in to stay as long as it took to finish.

Tom wears the T shirt given to volunteers - picture of float is on the back
our view

Finally, our shift was over and it was time to go home. Although we were tired and very stiff from the awkward positions, we took the time to look at the other floats - still swarming with workers and partially obstructed by scaffolding. I'll intersperse the construction pictures with the finished floats as presented in the parade.

Tom had a corporate connection (Western Asset Management) invite him to attend the parade live (and a plus one = me). The company headquarters overlook the parade route where we were provided breakfast, gloves (it was quite chilly), and a perfect vantage point. Definitely the way to see the parade.

balcony accommodating many


Traffic was stopped in anticipation of the parade. Some religious fanatics took the opportunity to proselytize with bullhorn and signs (in multiple languages!). 

The Melody of Life was the parade's theme with many floats having musical elements. The Farmers float wasn't first, but it was near the beginning. We were very interested to see the finished product. This was our first view of the float floor and sides covered in roses. The float earned the Queen award for the most outstanding presentation of roses.
The "Carousel of Experience" rotated while the float traveled the parade route.

my squirrel even has a rider!

bottom left shows roses in their individual vials

It took a lot of people to cover the side of the lion's car. Finished product looks great.

Ride Captain Ride by Trader Joe's honors their crew captains. It looks a bit like a pirate ship, but not - it's all fun. 


 Detail of the back:


dried orange slices

 The American Legion float had incredible detail, especially the seal.



Our host for the morning, Western Asset Management, had their own yellow submarine.  

They even gave us pins shaped like the float - perfect for my collection!

Service Rocks by the Rotary

brussel sprouts!
Stella Rosa is a local wine from San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles. (I don't understand the name of the winery either.) We've tasted the wine since it was a gift. It's lightly sparkling and a bit too sweet for our taste, but I like their float.

Home Tweet Home

birds are larger than humans!

Rhythms of Taiwan by China Airlines

colorful drummers

A Divine Melody Resonates in all - simply lovely

Lutheran "Joy to the World"

they don't all fit in one picture!
Of course, there were bands who traveled many miles to participate as well. Most were very large groups. 

guess which state they're from

trombones lead the way

don't see marching French horns very often anymore!

There were so many beautiful and whimsical floats! About 10 were constructed in the building where we worked. The rest we enjoyed from our balcony view.  

that's a lot of almond milk!

some plants are representing themselves

The remaining floats can be seen online.

Unfortunately, the parade didn't end as anticipated. Where we were located, approximately 2/3 down the route, it seemed to just stop. We knew from the program that a few more floats should come. Eventually we were told that a float had caught fire! Luckily, no one was hurt and it was a float near the end of the parade. I'm guessing that it blocked the way and the last few floats couldn't make it past.  We should have seen the Wells Fargo finale float: a replica of the Rose Bowl stadium with a huge trophy and a crowd of colorful flower faces. It never came, but after a 15 minute wait, the stagecoach and small float made it to us. 

anticlimactic finale

Float building and viewing the parade were both very special experiences. There may never be another opportunity, but if there is, I'd do it again.