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HMB THE ANNUAL HOLIDAY ISSUE

HALF MOON BAY REVIEW MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2011


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HMB

HALF MOON BAY REVIEW MagaZine

» PUBLISHER’S NOTE DEBRA HERSHON

Magazine changes coming in 2012

Publisher Debra Hershon Managing Editor Clay Lambert Writers Lily Bixler Mark Foyer Mark Noack Stacy Trevenon Photographer Charles Russo Production and Design Bill Murray Mark Restani Business Office Barbara Anderson Circulation Sonia Myers Advertising Sales Louise Strutner Marilyn Johnson Barbara Dinnsen Find us P.O. Box 68 714 Kelly Avenue Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 p: (650) 726-4424 f: (650) 726-7054 The HMB Magazine is published on the first week of every month and inserted in the Half Moon Bay Review. The entire contents of the magazine are also available in PDF format online at hmbreview.com

T

he first-ever Review magazine was published February 1995. Back then it was bimonthly, coming out every other month. That first issue focused on health and fitness on the Coastside. The black-and-white cover shot featured Michael and Nani Powers, and the interview was with a young Liesl Kolbisen — then a student at the University of the Pacific — who talked about swimming, motivation and the Olympics. The following year, we began publishing the Review Magazine monthly, so if my math is right, I’ve been around to oversee 198 publications since its inception — something I am very proud of. The magazine was always my “baby,” and turning it over to someone else has really been difficult. The good news is that the person I’m turning it over to is Bill Murray, who takes over as publisher of the newspaper and magazine in January. He is an artist and creative genius, so look for some exciting changes beginning with our next issue. We have a new printer, better quality paper and reproduction, larger size, and, best of all, we’ll be featuring local art and artists on the cover each issue. The Review magazine will definitely be something you’ll be proud to display on your coffee table all month long, and you’ll want to collect and hang on to each one. Looking back on that very first issue, I was heartened by all the advertisers who took a chance with us back then, investing in an unseen, unknown, new publication. While many of the advertisers in that first heath and fitness issue are long gone, many are still around as regular advertisers with the Half Moon Bay Review and our magazine: Dr. Bette Gould, Mark Heath, Susan Hayward, La Petite Baleen, just to name a few. I am forever grateful and so appreciative of the local businesses that believe in community news and continue to support the hard work we do here at the Review. For that reason, I’d like my very last words printed in this column simply to say, “Thank you.”

HMB December 2011 3


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Âť CONTENTS

The Holiday Issue. 10

Q&A

26

High school music director sings praises of the sounds of the season

14

10

from the pole to the coastside Some local agents for Santa Claus bring word from the big guy

20

Parenting through the holidays Local therapists speak of limiting the naughty, highlighting nice

20

26

south for the winter

14

Many Coastside residents flock to Mexico for Christmas

HMB THE ANNUAL HOLIDAY ISSUE

HALF MOON BAY REVIEW MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2011

On the cover

Illustration by Bill Murray

Departments

7 UPCOMING EVENTS 35 downtoearth 36 SIGHTSEEING HMB December 2011 5


6 December 2011 HMB


» UPCOMING EVENTS DECEMBER

Holidays approach Enjoy ‘Nutcracker’ ballet

12/10

Around 70 ballet students, age 3 to 18, will dance the beloved story of the “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Susan Hayward School of Dancing at Sixth and Le Conte streets in Montara. The school has presented “The Nutcracker” an estimated 20 times since the first one in 1986. Admission is $15/general and $12/seniors and children under 16. 728-7519.

An elegant Christmas

12/10

Christmas in the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, will sparkle and shine with the eighth annual Gingerbread House Contest. Held in conjunction with Coastside Children’s Programs, the contest displays gingerbread houses in the hotel lobby through Dec. 10, when winners will be announced at the Tree Lighting Ceremony. That takes place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the Gazebo Lawn. There will be a silent auction too. 712-7000.

Light the boats

12/10

Pillar Point Harbor will hold its annual boat-lighting contest and ceremony spotlighting the holiday decorations on the harbor’s commercial and residential craft, starting at 6:30 p.m. Afterward, enjoy the party at the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club. 726-4382.

Improvisational fun

12/10

You can enjoy fun and be part of it too, with the regular show by Blue Blanket Improv troupe at 8 p.m. at the Wine Bar in Harbor Village. The show will involve short-form improvised scenes inspired by audience suggestions. Admission is a $10 donation to Blue Blanket’s scholarship fund. blueblanketimprov.com.

A joyful noise

12/10

The Coastside Chorale presents its Winter Concert of holiday and winter music at 7:30 p.m. at the Coastside Lutheran Church at 900 N. Cabrillo Highway in Half Moon Bay. Tickets are $10/general and $5/students. Joan McBride, director, 726-9266.

A chorale of choirs

12/11

Christmas at the harbor 12/10 You can celebrate Christmas with the oceanside

ambience of Harbor Village in Princeton. Santa will be there to hear children’s Christmas wishes, starting at noon on weekends continuing through Christmas. But there will be lots of other activities to promote holiday cheer. There will be a display of Christmas trees festooned with decorations made by students of local elementary schools. The students will make their decorations in their classrooms and then come one day to put them on their class tree, with one tree per classroom. The tree display will continue through the month in the Harbor Village mall. And Harbor Books, besides offering gift ideas for all ages, will present local author Therese Ambrosi Smith at 7 p.m. on Dec. 10, in a book-signing featuring her novel “Wax,” about the women who helped the World War II effort by taking over the jobs held by men sent to fight overseas. 726-4241.

Choirs of several Coastside churches celebrate Christmas in song in the annual Community Carol Sing at 7 p.m., hosted this year at the Community United Methodist Church, 777 Miramontes St., Half Moon Bay. As in previous years, local churches — including Our Lady of the Pillar Catholic Church, Holy Family Episcopal Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Moss Beach, Coastside Lutheran Church and Pescadero Community Church — offer sacred and festive songs while ministers tell the Christmas story and the audience joins in the caroling. The Coastside Chorale will sing, too, and the event will culminate with everyone singing the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” Free. Refreshments will follow. 726-4621.

Take in a Christmas tourney

12/16

The Half Moon Bay High School girls basketball team hosts its annual tournament, Dec. 16 through 19. The Cougars play their opening round game at 8 p.m., Dec. 16, hosting Burton of San Francisco. There is an admission charge for all games. 712-7200.

Twenty years of talent

1/6

Coastal Repertory Theatre salutes two decades of local talent with the 20th annual Talent Show. Master of Ceremonies Michael Lederman with Ken Crowell conducting members of his jazz band Chops present youth to seasoned adult singers, dancers, instrumental musicians, comedians, novelty performers and more, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the theater at 1167 Main St. in Half Moon Bay. There’s an admission fee. 569-3266. HMB December 2011 7


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Q&A

O Christmas treat

High school music director sings praises of the sounds of the season

What would the holiday season be without music? It would be just long lines and fruitcake. Luckily, the holiday season has a tradition of festive music that spans cultures and transcends generations, from old-world folk songs to Eartha Kitt (or Madonna, for that matter) singing “Santa Baby.” So on the topic of seasonal sounds, we quizzed maestro John Evans, Half Moon Bay High School’s longtime music teacher, for his insight on all things jing-jing—jing-a-ling… — Charles Russo So what kind of holiday music do you perform with the students during the Christmas season?

We don’t do a Christmas concert, per se. But our band concert is Dec. 7 and we always do a few holiday songs. I start pulling them out for the students to learn … in early November, and the kids don’t take long to figure them out. Last year we did Fireside Christmas, which includes “Rudolph” and “Frosty,” “Home for Christmas,” and “Winter Wonderland.” A lot of what we do is usually based on medleys. In the case of the Hanukkah songs we did last year, it was a medley of – “Hanukkah Hanukkah,” “Maoz Tzur” and “Mi Y’Malel.” Do you have any favorite holiday music from over the years?

One that I really do like a lot is an English one, “The Sussex Mummers Christmas Carol.” It’s a composition that you don’t hear very often; it’s based on an old English folk song. And that’s one of my favorites. It’s interesting, really, because every country has a different approach and a different sound and a different feel for the holidays. In Russia, you’re going to hear a sad sort of music (even though Russians are a happy-when-they’re-crying type of people). If you go to Germany or England, you’re not going to hear something like “Jingle Bells” or “White Christmas.” Even though, if you look at where these Christmas carols come from, they’re from all over the globe. (Flipping through a book of traditional Christmas songs:) “The 10 December 2011 HMB

First Noel” is French, “Deck the Halls” is Welsh, “O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree)” is German, of course. So you can see how every country has a different style, shape, and color to how they celebrate the holidays. On the other hand, what’s your least favorite holiday song, is there a jingle that drives you crazy?

I guess I’ve reached the point that the popular songs are all kind of pedantic to me. I hear them and then I just let them spill out of my head. Christmas caroling is a really old holiday tradition that you don’t see as much anymore. What do you do with the students in that regard?

Our choir still goes caroling every year. We go around the school and sing on the last day before the holidays. And this year, we’ll also get dressed up to sing at the lighting in the harbor. Last December we sang at Sam’s Chowder House. We’ve done it at Oceano (Hotel and Spa) before, the Women’s Club and Mezza Luna. We’ve been doing it for years. I’m not saying we’re keeping the tradition alive, but it’s good for the kids. They like doing it and it exposes them to a part of our culture. So, in general, what quality do you think this type of music brings to the holidays?

Well … hopefully it brings back good memories, joy and happiness. How can you not be happy singing “Jingle Bells” and having a cup or two of egg nog with your pals? The majority of holiday music has a happy message. The end of the year is a time for all of the festivals and the old year becoming the New Year … it’s a time of change, and so it’s a bit sentimental. Oh, one last question – who would you rather hear sing “Blue Christmas,” Elvis or Johnny Cash?

Well … I like Johnny Cash better than Elvis. Although, Bing Crosby was famous for “White Christmas” and I think Sinatra would have done a nice job on “Blue Christmas” too, but I’ll go with Johnny Cash.


Charles Russo / Review

Steve Bacich, president of the Half Moon Bay Cougar Boosters Athletic Corp., sits in a cart that has been tricked out in orange and black to better. The cart is a mobile concession stand, helping the organization raise more money for Cougar athletics.

“We have a great group of parents that give their time and energy week after week. but it’s also amazing how many people in the community without kids contribute as well.” — Steve bacich, president of the Half Moon Bay Cougar Boosters

HMB December 2011 11


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F rom the

North Pole Coastside to the

Some local agents for Santa Claus bring word from the big guy

I

t’s that time of year when strings of bright lights appear twinkling around housetops, shop windows fill with glittering gifts and everything shifts from orange to red-and-green. In shopping malls, eager crowds will soon be gathering around a luxurious chair on which sits a big guy in a red suit and boots with a rippling white beard. He’s known as Santa Claus. On the Coastside there are folks like octogenarian John McGhee of La Honda, a World War II Marine veteran who for eight years has donned a cheery red suit as Saint Nicholas for the Half Moon Bay branch of the Knights of Columbus’ Christmas party. There McGhee, a deacon at Our Lady of the Pillar Church, tells the story of St. Nick. Also on the Coastside live a couple of agents for that big guy. They’ve seen Santa’s experiences with all kinds of people. And they’re well qualified to bring Santa’s message of the spirit of Christmas, straight from the big guy in red.

14 December 2011 HMB


Charles Russo / Review

John Lynch speaks with customers outside of New Leaf market while raising money for the Adopt-a-Family program. Lynch has participated in the program for about 15 years.

John Lynch John Lynch makes one thing clear: He’s not Santa Claus, but Santa’s elf, here to show Coastsiders how to make Christmas merry for neighbors in need through Coastside Hope’s Adopta-Family. Dressed in an elf ’s red jacket and leggings and hat, with a pillow under his jacket that would make Santa proud, Lynch can be found outside New Leaf and Safeway markets on weekday afternoons, outside Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee and the Half Moon Bay Coffee Company on weekday mornings and at the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. Preferring to be a clean-shaven elf, he passes on a beard. “It’s too itchy,” he said. In front of the stores, he explains to all who will listen about the Adopt-a-Family program, in which Coastsiders “adopt” needy families and seniors by shopping to fill their wish lists in time for Christmas. He’ll pass along information and sometimes sign up generous Coastsiders willing to adopt. “People pay attention” to an elf, he said.

Sometimes passing children ask to sit on his lap to tell him their Christmas wishes to pass along to Santa. “I let them tell me,” he said. “I let them know I’m only Santa’s helper. They accept that.” Being Santa’s helper fills a need. “It helps build awareness of the (Adopt-a-Family) program. That’s the only reason I do it,” he said. “A lot of times I have to fully explain the program. “To me it’s pretty hard times,” Lynch continued. “I used to support the program through my working career. I never volunteered until I retired.” When he retired from his career as a ceramic engineer, his grandchildren wondered “what the heck Grandpa was going to do,” he said. “So I’m volunteering.” Sometimes he works with a helper. Shirley Brey filled that role until her death five years ago, and now Lynch works solo when he can’t fill her place. Layering himself in gloves and a jacket, he will be out in front of the coffee shops and grocery stores until all the roughly 400 families and seniors are adopted. “Adopt a needy Coastside family this Christmas,” he said.

HMB December 2011 15


Russell Bissonnette In 1971 — shortly after completing his military service — Russell Bissonnette signed on with Western Temps, a major employer of Santa’s agents. Now, he carries membership cards from the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, which boasts a mission statement of enhancing Christmas, and from the Fraternity of International Real Bearded Santas, which enable him to serve as Santa’s agent. But it doesn’t take membership cards to prove Bissonnette’s dedication to that big guy in the red suit. “I work for the spirit of Santa. That spirit is honest and true,” he said. “It’s amazing where Santa Claus has taken me.” He shares some of Santa’s own feelings. “Something about the children looking at you with those eyes, just being honest with you … I see things I don’t like, but most of them are good. “It isn’t so much the toy,” he continued. “If that makes kids happy, so be it, but I really believe Santa stops bullets. Wars stop at Christmas … And macho melts away.” Bissonnette continues Santa’s thought. “It’s the truth, that’s what it is. To be able to be the spirit of Santa gives me a chance to bring joy to the planet. “And that spirit does exist,” he said defiantly. “No matter how much people try to deny that Santa does exist, Santa is on every street corner across the U.S.” Helping Santa has taken Bissonnette to the Macy’s and Hillsdale shopping malls, to Skyline College where Santa visited with a large group of mentally challenged children, the San Francisco Ballet, the Three Bells convalescent home in Montara, a dot-com Chinese party and the Black Hawk Country Club in the East Bay. “It’s amazing where Santa Claus has taken me,” he said again. “I never know where I’m going.” But he knows where Santa will be next: Pillar Point Harbor on Dec. 10. While the winners of the annual boat decorating contest are being decided, Santa will arrive by boat to the strains of the San Mateo Elks big band. He’ll also be on hand at the Unknown Motorcycle Club’s annual poker run and toy gathering for needy children. “One hundred bikes and me,” said Santa 16 December 2011 HMB

Pete Douglas shares a laugh with Santa agent Russell Bissonnettee.


through Bissonnette. “My mission from God this year is to raise toys for poor kids,” Santa said. “We need toys. Santa Claus will be very happy if he could give back toys this year. That would make (his) season.” Bissonnette appreciates Santa’s dedication to how others see him. “You can’t counterfeit Santa,” Bissonnette said. “If you put on the suit you represent that spirit. You can’t put it on halfway. You are something bigger than yourself and you have to open your heart to it. There’s a responsibility when you get into that suit.” That’s one that Santa takes seriously when he visits Three Bells, where some residents are in deteriorating health. But Bissonnette says Santa can see a glint of recognition when he bends over them. He recalled the time a comatose woman took Santa’s hand and held on. “She didn’t let go for 20 minutes,” Santa said through Bissonnette. “The staff flipped out. Her family flipped out. The last thing I was going to do was try to take my hand away” and he didn’t, but took pictures with patients on his other side. Bissonnette starts in March to accept bookings for Santa through Associated Entertainment Consultants in Burlingame. He helps Santa assemble his suit to the tune of $2,700, which covers seasonal, circa-1800s bells (21 total in his bandolero) and glasses. Mrs. Claus, who resembles Bissonnette’s wife, Michelle Robelet, helps out because “it’s very difficult to drive in the suit,” he said. But it’s not hard for this agent to see how Santa gets “the love and joy from people. When (a kid) looks up at you and you look in his eyes and he believes in you, that’s instant temporary sainthood. “When you have 400 to 500 kids sit on your lap, you learn about yourself. Kids open their hearts so much. They believe in truth. They believe in goodness.” He pauses to consider. “To me, what’s wrong about being a cheerleader for joy?” he asked.

David Cline Realtor David Cline of Half Moon Bay started being an agent for Santa more than 30 years ago. Friends living on Tunitas Creek were holding a holiday party and Cline helped Santa get up on an old fire engine so he could arrive at the party not in his sleigh but with sirens wailing. Since then, Cline has helped Santa get into one of his three red suits for visits with Coastside groups and events including Senior Coastsiders’ annual Christmas dinner for seniors at the I.D.E.S. Hall, the Rotary club, the Bridge School, convalescent homes, Night of Lights, and benefits for the Boys and Girls Club, which Cline says has a special place in Santa’s heart. Santa will sometimes give his time in return for donations to the club, Cline said. But Santa declares that what he does is “definitely not for personal gain ... For me this isn’t a job. It’s like a seasonal gift, a way to give.” Cline is close enough to Santa to understand why he gives that gift. He tries “to explain that Christmas is about the spirit of love, and the spirit of giving and getting.” When Santa visits with children, As an agent for Santa, David Cline brings Christmas he tailors himself to their ages. cheer to holiday gatherings. Santa told Cline that infants are easy to interact with but, starting at about 9 months, they are spooked by the big guy with the beard. So Santa gets mothers, and fathers, too, to perch on his lap between him and the toddlers. “Santa doesn’t discriminate,” Cline said. Instead, Santa shows children new things. Cline tells Santa’s story of a little girl whose family couldn’t afford presents but who wanted a bracelet, so Santa got a helpful elf to get contact information to send her a bracelet. And though Santa keeps tabs on popular toys, he suggests that children consider less expensive, creative things like coloring books or building materials. He may ask them what they plan to do for Mommy and Daddy for Christmas. Help in the kitchen? Lend a hand with holiday parties? What does Santa do with older youth who insist he isn’t real? He has honest conversations with them, Cline said, sometimes out of earshot of littler children. “I’m representing the spirit of Santa Claus,” and when they’re old enough to understand some things, they’re “old enough to participate in Christmas in a whole other way. We talk about their little siblings and friends, how they can help them go through the transition of understanding the spirit of Christmas.” When teens get rowdily insistent about Santa’s identity, Santa looks them straight in the eye and reminds them, “‘This isn’t about you. You were little once.’ Usually they stop.” And when Santa visits convalescent homes and seniors long past childhood, he welcomes them on his knee to talk about their families and Christmas memories. Sometimes Santa “gets some unusual requests” like a date with him for Christmas, but he explains that Mrs. Claus (who looks a little bit like Cline’s wife, Diana Plank) might get upset. Cline said that Santa gets ready for the season months in advance with healthy eating and going to the gym three days a week, so he can accommodate many children and larger adults on his lap. “This year Santa’s definitely going to try to set an example,” he said. Santa does what he does as “an act of kindness,” Cline says the big guy said. “It’s a way of giving back to that really good part of the human spirit.” 1 HMB December 2011 17


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Parenting through the holidays By Lily Bixler

Local therapists speak of limiting the naughty, highlighting nice While the holidays bring to mind visions of families gathered at candlelit dinner tables and pajama-clad Christmas mornings, this special time of year can also conjure up naughty behavior. Too many sugar cookies tend to end in midafternoon meltdowns, and gifts galore can bring out the “gimmies” in an otherwise well-behaved kid. Local Marriage and Family Therapist Phyllis Neumann says children’s behavior ultimately stems from the “energy of the family.” Stress abounds as Mom and Dad run around setting up a Christmas tree, cooking feasts, buying and wrapping presents and managing complicated family dynamics. The kids catch on when parents don’t let holiday stresses dictate their lives and when they focus on experiences rather than material goods. Neumann urges families to simplify: set lower expectations and get all family members to help with the preparation. While children respond differently at various stages in their development, young people tend to mirror their parents’ attitudes. The Review polled a few local therapists, parents, and educators for a roadmap to parenting during this demanding — yet magical — time.

20 December 2011 HMB

Age 0-3 Why is your toddler clinging? According to Neumann, it’s because he or she is picking up on your stress. Parents should attempt to keep the schedule as stable as possible for toddlers, even in the face of holiday events. That includes feeding your young ones the same foods and ensuring they get enough sleep, according to Marriage and Family Therapist Lisa Cresson.


simplify: set lower expectations and get all family members to help with the preparation

Age 3-5 Preschoolers are getting more excited about the holidays. Parents can get their kids involved by asking their children to help make decorations, says Cresson, who is also an art therapist. “Making decorations is a great way to spend time together as a family,” she said. “It deepens the meaning of the holiday for the child, and it allows the child to express themselves creatively.” Going back and forth between households can be demanding on a kid. Marriage and Family Therapist Joan Ross stresses the importance of children, like toddlers, getting enough rest and parents limiting disruptions to their routines. Age 6-12 Older kids develop more expectations for the holidays, but they are also able to help around the house more. When the holidays overwhelm home life, the classroom can be a constant for kids. Expectations haven’t changed at school, even though lessons may be themed around reindeer and latkes, and the classroom is decorated with snowflakes and dreidels. “I’d certainly have to keep the boundaries there so that the classroom was the most normal place where the children could be,” said longtime Hatch Elementary School teacher Ann Mangold, who retired this year. “As much for my sanity as for the children’s, it gave us a bit of relief to know exactly what was expected … it allowed learning to continue.”

Santa: Your child’s first betrayal? Why one local therapist thinks Christmas folklore damages trust While local therapist Phyllis Neumann acknowledges Santa Claus is a magical legend about generosity and kindness, she’s advocating a controversial position: The Santa story can teach a lie. “Most children grow up remembering the magic of the Santa Claus myth with few, if any, serious consequences. However, other children can harbor hurts that can last for years,” Neumann writes in her essay, “Santa Claus: The Child’s First Betrayal.” “When the child eventually learns the truth, which inevitably happens, he can become confused and distrustful. What parents may not realize is that the brunt of the joke is really at the child’s expense, which can set the tone for many years to come.” Neumann stresses that establishing trust is key to development for children. Furthermore, she argues, if a parent tells the child a lie — even if it’s an innocuous lie — the kid can be confused about reality and question who to believe. During the holidays, keep the spirit of Santa Claus alive because he represents the joy of giving, Neumann writes. She suggests maintaining him as a myth and not as a reality. “Don’t compromise your child’s trust in you for the sake of that myth,” she says, “The price is too high.” — Lily Bixler

HMB December 2011 21


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To shift the focus away from consumerism, Neumann suggests framing the holidays as more of a family affair and less of a gift grab. “It becomes all about presents,” she said. “Make it about being together.”

To shift the focus away from consumerism, Neumann suggests framing the holidays as more of a family affair and less of a gift grab. “It becomes all about presents,” she said. “Make it about being together.” Also, with the economy as it is, parents should consider setting limits on how much is spent on gifts. Involve the child in the decision, according to Ross. She suggests explaining that there may be certain things you want to get for your child but you can’t get it all. Make a list and figure out the priorities and involve them in the decision, Ross said. To decrease the amount of consumer-

ism, families can make gifts like soaps, candles and jewelry, Cresson added. This is also a time when kids start to understand volunteerism. They can make food for a homeless shelter or donate their time. Age 13-18 The teenage years can bring more screen time. If you allow your teen to Facebook, text or use other electronic means to socialize, make time for them to do that. If you know you’re going to be away on a family outing or gathering, allow time for your teen to connect with their friends electronically, Cresson said.

Teenagers are prone to disappear with friends during the holidays if things are tense at home. “When parents’ energy at home is happy and smooth, kids want to hang out more,” Neumann said. As kids grow, try giving them more responsibilities. For example, consider assigning a certain night as your son’s turn to make dessert or an afternoon when your daughter will wrap gifts. Teenagers can even contribute by taking photos or filming holiday activities. As long as it stays fun, not frantic, delegating responsibility allows all family members to have a stake in the holidays. 1

HMB December 2011 23


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Elizabeth and Gabriela Flores are preparing for their annual Christmastime family reunion in Santa Maria, Mexico. The holiday season gives many Coastside families a once-a-year opportunity to revisit their hometowns in Mexico.

When going home for the holidays means going back to Mexico Many coastside residents flock south for christmas By marK noacK

26 December 2011 HMB

L

ike Santa Claus in his sleigh, Veronica Ortega and her family ride their trusty truck on a globetrotting journey to deliver a payload of gifts. In what has become a holiday tradition, the Coastside family takes an epic 2,000-mile trip from Pescadero all the way south to the tiny town of Ambrosio, Mexico. The Ortegas — including Veronica, her parents and two siblings — packed up and left Ambrosio 15 years ago when they came to the United States. But while her parents found more opportunity coming to California, they had to leave behind their hometown and dozens of relatives. She was 15 years old at the time. “I didn’t want to come; I wanted to stay home,” she said. “Now I come back and I can’t believe I used to live there.” The holiday season gives the Ortegas a once-a-year chance to go back to Mexico and revisit their roots, and they’re not alone. Traveling south of the border for an extended family reunion has become an annual ritual for many Hispanic families on the Coastside, and many of those people come from the Jalisco state in Mexico. No good numbers are available to illustrate how many families take this trip each year, but some describe it as a mass exodus. In


“WHEN MY DAD WOULD PULL THE TRUCK OVER, I’D SEE A LOT OF TRUCKS JUST LIKE US. WE SAW PEOPLE FROM NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, FROM ALL PARTS OF THE U.S. THEY WERE ALL GOING TO MEXICO.”

past years, local schools have seen a sudden drop in attendance from December to January. The Half Moon Bay farm-worker housing community, Moonridge, can seem like a ghost town during the holidays, according to managers. Veronica says her family prepares months in advance for the trip, buying everyone gifts such as clothes, toys and appliances. Most consumer items are cheaper in the United States, and the family hunts for bargain gifts throughout the year. But people don’t care about the value, she said, hesitating to find the right way to phrase it in English. “It’s the thought that counts,” she said. The Ortega family set off last year in early December, charting a route down south to Los Angeles, then zigzagging east through Arizona before coming to the border crossing at Nogales. Looking out her window at the other cars on the highway, Veronica could see a multitude of other Latino families tightly packed into cars overflowing with presents. When her father would park for a bathroom break at a rest stop, they’d talk with other families and learn many of them were on the same pilgrimage south to Mexico. At the border crossing, a sea of cars were lined up like a department store checkout at

— gabriela floreS

HMB December 2011 27


The border crossing in Nogales, Arizona always sees an increase during Christmastime.

“I WISH I COULD WIN THE LOTTERY BECAUSE THIS TOWN DOESN’T HAVE A CHURCH. ONE OF THESE DAYS MAYBE I COULD MAKE THIS FOR THEM.” — veronica ortega 28 December 2011 HMB

Christmastime. “It was a huge line of cars with lots of suitcases and boxes,” Veronica said. “Sometimes it’s hard because (U.S. Customs) thinks that you have something else, and they don’t let you take all the gifts.” Around the same time last year, Veronica’s neighbors in Pescadero, the Flores family, were also on the highway heading south to Mexico. Gabriela Flores, 20, switched driving with her father over three days to head down to their Jalisco hometown of Santa Maria. “When my dad would pull the truck over, I’d see a lot of trucks just like us.” Flores said. “We saw people from New York, Washington, from all parts of the U.S. They were all going to Mexico.” The Flores family first came to the

United States seven years ago and had their paperwork approved for permanent residence in 2010. That meant last year was the first time they could safely visit Mexico with a guarantee they could return. Both families say they were very cautious while driving through Mexico out of fear of the drug violence that has increased in recent years. The Flores family said they only would drive during the day and they avoided small towns. Neither family had any major troubles on the trip. When they arrived, it was difficult to get acquainted again with more than 50 family members, Flores said. Everyone had grown up; cousins now had children of their own and people had changed. “I thought all my friends would be the


762,575

826,476

1,156,634

925,204

860,870

996,968

1,200,000

1,050,000

900,000

750,000

600,000

450,000

same, but they weren’t,” she said. “I had trouble remembering names of all my little cousins who were just born.” There was also a larger cultural divide that took some getting used to. Flores’ younger sister, 18-year-old Elizabeth, said she had kept in contact with her cousins in Mexico over the Internet. But she had become accustomed to the television, music and habits of U.S. residents. “We assimilated with this culture,” she said. “I had reverse culture shock because I was used to living in the U.S.” Their hometown, Santa Maria, is a suburb of the huge city of Guadalajara. In the Flores’ old neighborhood, many families also had relatives visiting for the holidays and the mood in the community was celebratory. There was a party every night because many events like weddings

and quinceañeras would be postponed until December so more people out for the holidays could attend. “There were huge parties, tons of food and music, and lots of singing into the night,” Elizabeth Flores said. That experience was also true for Ortega, who traveled to her hometown Ambrosio, a tiny ranch village that makes Pescadero look downright cosmopolitan. The town features about 30 homes and little else except dirt roads, a schoolhouse and a small market that doesn’t carry produce or meat. “I wish I could win the lottery because this town doesn’t have a church,” she said. “One of these days maybe I could make this for them.” But Ortega says the town teems with life in December, when everyone has

Sep. 2010

Aug. 2010

Jun. 2010

May 2010

Apr. 2010

0

Jul. 2010

Total passenger and pedestrian crossing in the town of Nogales, Arizona. There is often a spike in December as travelers visit their hometowns over the holidays.

Mar. 2010

Feb. 2010

Jan. 2010

Dec. 2009

150,000

Nov. 2009

Oct. 2009

300,000

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

relatives back for the holiday, effectively doubling the size of the community. She said the neighbors became like a big family and the town was a non-stop fiesta. Both families participated in the traditional Posadas celebration, a nine day re-enactment of the Christian Nativity story. The families also brought back some presents for themselves. The Flores family loaded up their truck on the way out with cheeses and other specialty foods that can’t be found on the U.S. side. This year, Ortega says she can’t make back to Mexico this year, but Elizabeth and Gabriela Flores say they’ll be there. This year, the Flores family is bringing two trucks loaded with presents down to Santa Maria — one of which will be left there as a big gift to their relatives. 1 HMB December 2011 29

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Âť SEEN IN THE SCENE

Puente garden party

Kate and Jeff haas hosted puente’s second annual afternoon thank you party on oct. 2 to recognize puente volunteers and supporters. nearly 175 participants attended the event held at echo Valley farm in loma mar. pescadero resident, Janet murphy, received the second annual ray a. nelson award in recognition of her decades-long work with farm and nursery workers and their families. la honda resident barbara turner received a Volunteer recognition award in recognition of her decades-long work as an esl teacher and mentor. chef amy glaze created a menu using foods by local farmers and producers.

rita mancera, edith flores, alicia Vega, peter chupity

carren dixon

Jose castro, chef amy Whitman glaze

peter and margaret cross with honoree, Janet murphy

Karen Herbert, rick Herbert

Jim Brigham, Janet murphy

Juan and leonardo gonzalez

tessa grismuk, chenda cope, Jay and suzie trexler

mark Kokolestsos, lorena Vargas

Kate and Jeff Haas

alicia Vega, gabriel echeverria

Kerry lobel, marta drury

HMB December 2011 31


» SEEN IN THE SCENE

Art auction benefits Doctors Without Borders The 5th Annual Coastside Doctors Without Borders Art Auction held an opening reception Thursday, Oct. 27 at the Pasta Moon Music Box in Half Moon Bay. For this event, 42 Coastside artists donated their art to benefit those in health crises in troubled or poor regions around the world. The opening reception was a silent auction to open bidding for the donated art. The bidding ended Nov. 17 with a gala closing reception and live auction. Judy Shintani, founder of the annual event, said the theme for this year was ‘Journey,’ in acknowledgment of all the different places Doctors Without Borders goes to support those in need. The fifth annual auction was produced by a new committee of artists including Shintani, Jennifer Clark and Susan Friedman.

Karolynne Meyer, Christa Brenna

Emelia Preciado, Lucca Preciado

Jonathon Captain, Catherine Favre

Committee: Judy Shintani (organizer and curator), Susan Friedman, Jennifer Clark

Victoria Woodrow, Lisa Lindhal

Larkin Evans, Lu Clavijo, Patty Clavijo

32 December 2011 HMB

Carole Brehm, Chris Downing

Jim Holly, Rachid Bousellam

Vicki Cormack, Chris Ridgway

David and Hi-Jin Hodge

Kathleen Bristol, James Rudolph

Josephine, David Latimer, Esther Aeschbach

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» SEEN IN THE SCENE

Coastal Rep marks 25 years About 170 members of Coastal Repertory Theatre and Coastal Theatre Conservatory celebrated CRT’s 25th anniversary under a large tent outside the Oceano Hotel and Spa in Princeton on Saturday, Nov. 5. The theme was “Moroccan Nights,” decorated by local designer Kristi Will. Attendees were in costume or evening dress and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, danced to the Bodacious Bobcats and enjoyed performances by local belly dancers and vocalists. Amy Cowan sang “The Sound of Music” and was joined by husband Brian Thorsett for a selection from “Cinderella” done by CTC. Courtney Hatcher sang from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “Cabaret” and Patti Appel sang from “Man of La Mancha.”

Sean Rollings, Kellie Morlock, Angela Niemann

Greg Joswia k, Ginger and John Cutter

Bobbe Sue Love, Susan Bassin, Jackie and Ron Thomas

Mark Heath, Roxane Ashe

Patti Appel, Joe Guistino, Roxane Ashe, Michael Lederman

Kristi Will, Angela Reeve, Betsy Warren, Allison Levy

Priscilla Klass, Jane Seifert

John Ediger, Eileen O’Brian, Clyde and Lisa Hinshelwood

Leslie and Clifford Hunt

Claire Turner, Robyn Hatcher, Stacy and Mark Drumm

Tara Hatcher, Perry Martin, Courtney Hatcher

Ginger Cutter, Jack and Jamie Weintraub

HMB December 2011 33


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34 December 2011 HMB


» DOWN TO EARTH

Q&A i’m trying to get a bunch of planting in to take advantage of the rainy season, and i need some help with plant selection. there are many very hungry deer in my neighborhood, so i want to plant deerresistant plants that are pretty too! What should i plant? — tom b., half Moon bay

G

Staying spring fresh in winter

W

ell, it’s winter. How is that different here on the Coastside than summer a few months ago, you ask? It’s not. Here is a short list of my favorite things to do in the winter to keep the “spring” in my garden:

ood for you for being brave enough to plant now! You’ll be happy, come April or May, when your plants are settled in and thriving. As for what to plant, hmm … “deer-resistant” is never a sure thing. But I can recommend some pretty plants that they usually will avoid (unless they don’t). They do tend to avoid plants with a strong scent: t Lavender, all types; t Allium (ornamental onion), all types; t Most herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives, sage, etc.); t Nepeta, all types; t Daphne odorata; t Nicotiana, all types; t Germander; t Heliotrope; t Lemon balm; t Mint; t Sweet alyssum; t Sweet woodruff. Have fun shopping and planting! Make sure you watch for snails (another pest). And as soon as you see new growth — probably in a couple of months — apply an organic fertilizer. Soon you’ll reap the rewards of your hard work.

cMl

1. Refresh: After cutting back the old and replanting a few new plants, I like to top-dress my garden soil with compost or nitro-shavings (that I get from the Soil Farm). For potted gardens, I top-dress with micro-bark (found at HMB Nursery). I plant with foliage color this time of year — a mix of silver, dark green, blues and yellow leafed plants make for bright, interesting planting combinations. Whether they bloom or not, you still have color! 2. Rearrange: I like to completely pull my pots away from the house and rearrange them. Mixing up what you have can make a big impact, with little to no money. Also, if you have terra cotta pots, buy some glazed pot feet in different colors. It’s a simple design tweak that looks great! 3. Treat yourself: Splurge on that fabulous plant for your office or home. I love carnivorous plants for my bathroom, or orchids in my bedroom. Something blooming and alive is a nice boost in winter. For carnivorous plants or help with indoor plants, email me: jenn@wildflowerfarms.org.

Contact Jennifer Segale, Wildflower Farms, 726-5883 and Carla Lazzarini, Earth’s Laughter, (650) 996-5168.

JlS

HMB December 2011 35


» SIGHTSEEING WITH CHARLES RUSSO

Heaven and Earth

n When: The month of October n Where: Various n Camera: Nikon D90 n Notes: Classical Japanese artists had a belief that a successfully rendered landscape would incorporate all the elements of “heaven and earth.” This philosophy emphasized including people in the scene as well as earth, sky and water. It is a practice you can use for your photographs as well. People give context and scale to a landscape, and a focal point to anchor the eye. A swell crashing over the rocks at Pillar Point is hard to assess without a surfer waiting to enter the water; the rows of ready-to-harvest Brussels sprouts are lacking a story without the foreman testing the crop in the background. If you find yourself fixed on a compelling landscape, wait a minute to incorporate that extra human element. Not only will you be creating better pictures to show off … you’ll marry heaven and earth in the process. 36 December 2011 HMB

Charles Russo is the Half Moon Bay Review’s photographer. You can reach him at charlie@hmbreview.com


Haynes, Beffel and Wolfeld welcome it’s newest patent agent, Ryan Davis. Ryan grew up in Los Altos, studied law at Santa Clara University, received his Masters from Irvine and his undergraduate from Vanderbilt. His pastimes include fishing and travel. He loves the small town feel of Half Moon Bay and leisurely walks on the coastal trail.

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HMBMagazine_Dec2011  

HALF MOON BAY REVIEW MAGAZINE THE ANNUAL HOLIDAY ISSUE DECEMBER 2011 P LAY W ITH Y OUR F OOD P LAY W ITH Y OUR F OOD www.mytoque.com Open Ev...

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