Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!

The lights are up at our place!

'Tis the season for sleeping, eating, reading, and making of stuff... Due to the (comparatively) cold and damp weather we 0W20-blooded Californians have had (ooh, it got down to 40F, brrrr!) we haven't really done as much outdoor recreation, yard work, or house maintenance as we might prefer. That's largely been supplanted by less active pursuits, but the upside is a surge in creative output. Also, there's been time for family-friendly hikes and visits with friends; if this continues a few more days, I might even get my latest batch of beer bottled up!

I hacked out a spoon of sorts with my Christmas present of sharp cutting tools, and Anna started planning what she would do with her gift of a pile of electronic parts. Nimue immediately got to play with her coveted computer drawing software, and we all got to read our Christmas books while cozy in new socks.

Before, during and after Christmas day, we played around with making 3D-printed, randomly-generated snowflake tree ornaments. Anna found the original concept on the web (where else) and then I made an LED-illuminated version. Anna figured out that they could be spray-painted and coated with glitter, and now they look pretty spectacular.

Most recently, we went for a hike up to Black Mountain on Christmas Day. Through the edges of the Ridge Winery vineyards, and the clear air left by the previous day's rain, we got to enjoy a crisp but lovely day.

The day after, we walked around the levees of the Baylands trails. We came across a bunch of guys dressed for standing around in the cold and damp... at first I thought they were duck hunters (it being that time of year) and indeed, I spotted a fair number of ducks that they had bagged earlier in the day. But they all had big fishing rods set up, too. My mom asked one fellow, as we walked by, what they were fishing for -- to my great surprise, he said they were after sturgeon!

I had no idea these huge, ancient fish came in to the SF bay today; certainly they did once upon a time, but the only stories I had heard, even from when I was a little kid, had to do with sturgeon up in the Sacramento river. But apparently they do come in, following the tide - our fishermen were anticipating hooking a big one within the hour. Along the way, I spotted what must be the coolest marsh-travelling vehicle ever - the "Aquamog"!
Behold - the Aquamog!

We also took a ride on the Niles Canyon railway - a chilly ride from Sunol down to Fremont and back, on a charmingly decorated vintage train festooned with lights inside and out. We had a great outing, despite the preponderance of loud small kids whose enthusiasm sometimes drove us out into the "open" railcars -- which really made for better photos anyway, and weren't *that* much colder than the enclosed cars in any case.

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