Dia De Los Muertos

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My altar
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Catrina draped in my grandmother’s rosary beads
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A lamp made by my brother

Dear Reader:

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a misunderstood holiday celebrated in Mexico, and in my home, on November 2. Given the timing of the holiday and the macabre imagery and costumes, people assume it’s simply “Mexican Halloween.” But, the meaning of this holiday is so much greater.

In the year 2000, my 35-year-old brother was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer and I did what I always do when presented with a major life challenge; I researched and read about the topic of death. Books have always been my saviors. During the toughest year of my life, as I watched Matt die, the accumulated wisdom of others brought me comfort. It was during this time that I learned about Day of the Dead.

The holiday takes its origins from the Aztecs and was celebrated around the end of summer like Halloween. With the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, Catholic influence led to the combination of the holiday with All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. Dia De Los  Muertos follows the same two-day structure. In the Catholic tradition, All Saints’ Day calls us to reflect upon how we should live; All Souls’ Day is a celebration of those we’ve loved and lost. In the Mexican tradition, November 1 is the day to remember the loss of children and November 2 is the day to remember adults who have left us. The most important aspect of the holiday is the belief that the spirits of the dead join the living for the celebration.

In preparation for the party, altars are created that contain remembrances and offerings to our departed loved ones. (Sugar skulls are often included for children and alcohol for adults. You may have noticed KAH tequila in my display.) I love arranging my tribute each year and I love talking about my altar to visitors in my home. Those who are represented are gone but not forgotten; that truism is comforting to me.

I remember:

  • My grandmother, Rose Carmella Bartucci. She had a big heart and memories of her make me smile. My daughter never knew her, but her middle name and nickname (Rosebud) are in her honor.
  • My brother, Matt. I miss you so much.
  • My father-in-law Jim. My husband inherited all your best traits and my daughter adored you.
  • Bart, my faithful four-legged companion. The pink shed isn’t quite the same without you.

During the time that my brother was sick and following his death, I often felt very alone in my grief. It’s not easy or natural to speak of death and dying in our culture, but I believe very strongly that we should. What better way to start a conversation than by bringing the departed back into your living room?

I’ll end this now as it’s time to toast my loved ones.

Cheers,

Michele

 

 

Q is for Queen

Dear Reader:

I’m an unapologetic Anglophile! What’s not to love about our mother country?! The castles are beautiful. The tea and cakes are delicious. The museums are incomparable. And, the monarchy has evolved into a family one can (almost) relate to…far more human than royal.

I’ve had the pleasure of travelling across the pond three times. Two of those visits took place in June during Royal Ascot, the horserace of the year, as well as the social occasion of the summer. The race was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne and is attended each year by the monarch and other members of the royal family. The town of Ascot is a short six miles from Windsor castle. I learned this on my first visit when much to my surprise we found ourselves outside the gift shop and in view of the entrance to the castle and its circular drive. Suddenly, we were surrounded by others and the whispers began.

“The queen…the queen will be leaving soon for Ascot!”

We pressed ourselves against a security gate and held our iPhones high hoping to get a shot of the monarch. OMG! I can not tell you how excited I was to see the queen waving at me…at the little group that had serendipitously found itself within royal view. I returned to the same spot the following year and my enthusiasm at seeing the queen had not dimmed in the least. I’ve now seen the monarch twice and I happily relate that information to everyone who will listen. She’s a rock star in my book. I admire her strength, commitment and service.

I was rather amused recently to read in Vanity Fair that the queen enjoys not one, not two…but four alcoholic drinks a day! This is a woman I can relate to. According to the former royal chef, Darren McGrady, the monarch starts her day with a gin and Dubonnet, enjoys a glass of wine and a dry gin martini at lunch and turns in for the night after a glass of champagne.

At 91 years of age, she can do/drink whatever she pleases! And, I believe at 57, I too, as queen of my domain, may enjoy whatever I please at any time of the day.

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The queen, in red, on her way to Ascot 2015!

Cheers,

Michele

A Competition of Elegance

Dear Reader:

The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (French, literally a competition of elegance) is ten years older than me and considered to be the most prestigious event of its kind. It is a charitable automotive show open to both prewar and postwar collector cars in which they are judged for authenticity, function, history and style.  Only the 200 best collector cars in the world roll onto the celebrated 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links where one will be awarded Best in Show.

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2017 Winner: 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer

 

But the Concours is only the finale of Monterey Car Week held annually in my back yard every August. The entire week is packed with events celebrating the classic automobile. Most of those events come with a high ticket price, but if you have the resources you won’t be disappointed and you’ll be contributing to a good cause. Last year, over 2 million dollars was raised for various children’ charities.

I remember the first August we spent on the peninsula; I vowed to never do it again.

“Let’s just leave!” I told my husband.

I’d had a bad day. It took me 45 minutes to get to the grocery store. The parking lot in front of my favorite restaurant had been reserved for show cars and I missed my lunch date. The town was packed and I was crabby. Then… I saw a lipstick red Ferrari that took my breath away! I truly admire beautiful things of any kind… including cars. My father had been a vintage car collector and I’d spent hours watching him toil in the garage of my childhood home restoring several Model T’s and a gorgeous 1929 maroon Ford Phaeton. Cars are in my blood.

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Look what I found on the streets of Carmel: a Triumph TR6

I’ve learned to appreciate and look forward to car week. I’ve only attended one official event, but I enjoy the spectacle each year. There are so many opportunities to view cars all over Monterey County…  no ticket necessary. I enjoy getting dressed up throughout the week and strolling the tiny streets of Carmel hand in hand with my husband. We point and ogle and marvel at what we see drive by and occasionally we stop to sneak a photo! It’s fun, despite the disruption to our quiet lives!

Michele

 

 

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Dear Reader:

Baseball is seductive. I have not always been a fan, but it didn’t take long for me to surrender to its charms. My husband introduced me to the game about ten years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. I’m in the enviable position of being a San Francisco Giants fan. We grabbed the title in 2010, 2012 and 2014. We play in AT&T Park. With its expansive arcade bordering the San Francisco Bay, it’s one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. There’s no better place to be when we’re winning.

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But, alas, baseball is like life:  you win some; you lose some.  There hasn’t been a lot of winning this year. So, my expectations were low when we showed up last week to watch our boys battle the Chicago Cubs. I figured we’d lose badly, but enjoy ourselves nonetheless. After all, being at AT&T allows one the opportunity to enjoy the sites and flavors of being in the city by the Bay. And, my husband and I were being joined by my daughter and her friend, so it was sure to be a good time.

First stop for me at the park is always the Farmer’s Market Stand where I order a Crazy Crab Sandwich and glass of Cabernet (organic, of course)! My younger companions had other priorities, and who can argue that the Ghiradelli hot fudge sundae is not worth the calories?!

 

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Suzie Katz and my girl…one sundae, two spoons!

 

I prefer a bit more “grown-up” dessert myself. I wait until the sun has set and the air is cool to enjoy another San Francisco treat:  the Irish coffee. Tourists have flocked to San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe ever since 1952 when Americans were introduced to the Irish coffee. Bartenders, wearing white jackets and black ties, make nearly 2000 warm, sweet frothy drinks a day. The parks version compares well, despite the fact that the bartenders are a bit under-dressed by comparison!

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Mmmmm…Irish coffee!

 

So, as you can see, we enjoyed the flavors of the park. But, as in baseball and life, one can be surprised. And, we were. We saw two well-played games…we won two well-played games! We felt the old familiar glory…for a couple of days.

I don’t care if I ever get back,

Michele

 

P.S. If the Giants win, the crowd is treated to the sounds of Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” That never gets old.

 

 

Ladies, Let’s Buy Reebok!

In case you were wondering when it IS appropriate to say, “You’re in such good shape…beautiful,”…

Dear Reader:

When our president looked at Brigitte Macron, the first lady of France, and said, “You’re in such good shape,” women of a certain age knew exactly what he meant. At 64 years old, she is 24 years older than her husband. Our first lady is 46 years old; our president is 70. Interesting mathematical coincidence, huh?!

I’m a glass half-full kind of gal; always have been, so I haven’t stopped looking for something good to come out of the results of our presidential election. Perhaps having the most openly chauvinistic president ever inhabiting the White House will force a light on the fact that we’ve got work to do. I hope so.

Michele

I Remember a Tree

“People don’t remember each tree in a park but all of us benefit from the trees. And in a way, artists are like trees in a park.”

Yoko Ono

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Carmel Valley Ranch

Dear Reader:

There once was a tree. I remember it well…a large oak, in the center of a parking lot, that regularly shaded my car. Unfortunately, the beautiful oak reached the end of its life a few months ago. I remember the day; the entire property looked different without its grand  presence.

The tree is once again part of the landscape in the form of a bench. I’ll remember a particular tree every time I pass by or stop to rest on a particular bench.

Michele