Our 2021’s Season’s Greetings

In the West, the last month of each year is a carnival month surrounded by festivals: in addition to the well-known Christmas, there are also festivals such as Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve.

Our local Altadena Christmas Tree Lane is famous and a tourist attraction for its 101-year-old history.

It’s been almost 2 years of pandemic, now the omicron is aggressively spreading. We have to be super cautious again and have cancelled all big gatherings.

Our local Government has strongly urged staying home not traveling during this holiday season because of our hospital facility limitations. However, the festive atmosphere of in our neighborhood is still there. I walk with Gigi every morning, I’m so inspired by the feestive scenes: Christmas trees by the windows, colorful lights decorated the house, wreaths at the gates, at our front door, neighbors left their Holliday goodies. At our home, greeting cards flying like snow flakes while I’m baking Christmas cookies. I won’t let the disaster deter my spirit — to keep myself busy. The Mexican poet Octavio Paz (Nobel Prize winner in 1990) wrote: “Our festivals are explosive. Nothing is more interesting than Mexican festivals. … Through festivals, society separates itself from the past. It is liberated from the established norms. It mocks its own divine principles and laws: it denies its own self.”

Quoted from Octavio Paz: “Labyrinth of Solitude”

The Year of 2021 is our social activitie year!  After the disastrous 2020, thankful to the invention of Covid vaccines, we began to invite families and friends again, not just relying on Zoom.    We saw our fully vaccinated family members and friends in person for the first time after the whole year.  

January: It was a dismal month with the Covid cases hit the peak and the ICU wards were in a full capacity in LA County, we were just hunkering down at home.  To bring an optimistic spirit , we rebuilt our orchard on the hill, Poncho and Cristiano were rays of sunshine.  They planted 12 fruit trees, and built a beautiful wall by using our leftover Mexican tires.  I succeeded to register for our first shots of Pfizer vaccines on 1/27.  Not much side effects for both of us.  

Our New Orchard

March: The garden luncheons began!  We bought an outdoor heater and held a weekly garden party with our fully vaccinated friends.   Finally our social life had become a little normal.  Of course,  we were keeping super cautious only in the garden.  

February: We had a Chinese New Year with An Yao and her sister who happened to have Covid test done In Chinese Consulate before going back to China.  An and I went Shanghai Conservatory together when we were in China.  She is an outstanding Guzheng (Chinese version of zither).  It’s so nice that we saw each other after 30 something years.  I made an authentic Shanghaiese banquet such as “Yan-du-xian” (a Shanghai delicacy made from a duo of cured pork and fresh pork with fresh winter bamboo shoots) and the steamed duck with “Eight Treasures” (a famous Shanghai cuisine).  We also had our 2nd shots of Pfizer.  

Our Weekly Luncheon.

April: More garden luncheons with friends to share ideas.  Bill went ER once and he refused to go to the Rehab afterwards, I began to hire Angel 3 times a week.  He is a real Angel who has tremendous positivities.  

Weekly Luncheon with Our Friends.

May: Planting vegetables, cooking with my own produce, walking Gigi kept me so occupied.  It’s not too bad we fully enjoyed our home.  Bill also got used to the pastoral life at home.  We “zoomed” a lot.  Bill calls them “computer parties”.  We kept in touch with families and friends from all over the world.   

Continued Garden Luncheons

June: Solitary life is the best time to be creative.  I kept writing blogs on “WeChat” (in Chinese) and “Wordpress” (in English).  I shared my cooking experiences and other life observations with my readers all over the world.  I’m absolutely galvanized by their comments and supports.  My old Shanghai Conservatory friends, Anthropologist Professor Li Wei and his talented wife An Yao (We saw each other in February) came,  that was so lovely to reunited after a long period of 30 something year.  To see our local Shanghai Conservatory friends was lovely after a long period of isolation.  My   mostly lovely niece Becky got married to her soulmate fiancee on 6/26, but, due to multiple complications, I wasn’t able to attend the wedding.  Lindsey (Bill’s grand daughter)’s visit inspired us to visit LACMA after 1 year and half of absence.  

July: It’s purely our “staycation” accompanied by a soothing pool, relaxing jacuzzi and an abundant organic vegetable garden. I cooked a lot for our friends.  During this pandemic, the positive side what I got is that I’ve been polishing my cooking skill.  On July 4th we had a traditional barbecue  with Leslie, David, Kazi and John.  On Bastille Day, I made Coq au Vin and ratatouille to remember our dear late French friend Charlotte.  We celebrated the French Holiday with June,  Shed, Doris and Tuck.  

3 Years Ago, July 4th Party at Our Home.
Three Year’s Ago, Bastille Day at Our Home.

August: I did a lot of gardening under the scorching sun, then jumped into the pool. Doing this routine was a really paradisal feeling. The highlight of the month was to celebrate the Chinese Valentines Day – Qixi Festival: looking at the starry milky way from our garden. 

September: For Bill’s birthday celebration, we celebrated it with Bill’s niece Linda and nephew-in-law Ken plus 2 zoom parties, I also took him to the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market for nostalgic purpose, he tasted a lot of food.  We had to cancel the Ojai Festival last minute due to Bill’s illness.

October: Bill’s Encounters III was beautifully performed by Jon Lewis and Wade Culbreath during the “Hear Now Festival”.  We had a Chinese friends reunion party after 19 months of separation. main occasions. 

William Kraft: Encounters III
Our New Young Neighbor from Shanghai.

November: A busy family visiting month.  Firstly we met Heather (Bill’s granddaughter)’s family, welcoming the littlest Geneva; secondly my niece Becky and her newly wedded husband Chris came for honeymoon from UK; Lastly Jennifer (Bill’s daughter)’s family came for Thanksgiving.  A lot of cooking tasks for me: vegetarian, barbecuing, Chinese, turkey feast etc., kind of challenging.  We celebrated our 30th anniversary quietly after everyone left.  

My Niece Becky Celebrated Her 30th Birthday with Us

December: We began our subscriptions to Disney Hall and Ahmanson Theater series for the season of 2021-2022.  The first week of this month, we went to hear 2 premiers by LA Phil and “A Christmas Carol” in Ahmanson Theater.  We celebrate every holiday of all cultures, that’s what America is about. I love this country because it gives me the freedom of speech and I love the diversity. California is a perfect place for us! 

The year of 2021 is about to end, Covid is still active, we’re fighting Omicron, but we see the light of at the end of the tunnel — the medicines are coming.  At this time, we cherish you for your love and friendship. We wish this holiday season will sparkle and shine. We hope pleasures will accompany you, and your family.  Peace on earth! 

Wreathed in smiles and boxed in happiness, 

Joan, Bill & Gigi

December, 2021 

Published by Joan Huang

I'm a freelance composer living in bucolic Altadena, the suburb of Los Angeles. Besides music making, I love cooking, drinking wines with friends, gardening, hiking and traveling.

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