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Europe on $1,000 a Day

An Alert Reader received this and sent it to me as an example of excess.

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From me:

01 A practical joke
02 My grandparents die
03 English Tour
04 Barn swallows
05 Buying hubcaps
06 Group photos
07 Mr. Science
08 Backpacking, Middle English
09 Leukemia
10 Comfort Clothes
11 Marmots and Texas
12 Eagle, Turkey and Emu
12 Accident and Hike

From Alert Readers:
01 In the Foothills
02 Excess
03 Things unsaid
04 11 Kids
05 Multiple Choice
06 . . . bit my ear
07 Facts and Stats
08 Neiheisel Review
09 Family and Horses
10 Sing a Song
11 The Professional
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Erma Bombeck & Martha Stewart
Around the World
Coping with DUI
Defining Pretentious
The 12 McQ's

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Dear Family & Friends,

I hope this holiday season finds everyone in good health and good spirits.

I am looking forward to all things merry and bright.. .I would like to take this as a sign that I am becoming more like my mother, and her mother before her, one of those amazing S--- family matriarchs - one of those take-everything-in-stride, gentle and eternal optimists? But let's get real: I've got such a long way to go to live up to my ancestors!

This year has been a little less wild than last year, though the adventure continues with, and the drama never stops at work. I'm free of my crazy, dysfunctional boss, but she's been replaced by a confusing array of managers and mismanagement, bolstering the work-as-dysfunctional-family theory. Modern corporate life grows ever more insecure. Wall Street is still hurting post dot.com, hi- tech bust, and our firm has announced a major restructuring, i.e. layoffs to be completed before year-end, pre-bonus. Merry Christmas!

My life as a poet is being squeezed into an ever-shrinking box, but the box does seem to contain an oxygen supply. . . I am still able to write the occasional poem. And every time I am able to write I get an immense boost to my spirits. Where there's a will there's a way..

There's been loads of fun this year and many blessings - it's hard to pick the highlights, so here goes another chatty letter, with headings for those of you who prefer to skim. Be prepared: I'm the queen of the exclamation point. Don't even mention the dash...

Springtime in Florida

In May, I visited my sister J---- in Jacksonville, Florida. Her home is on riverfront property with huge oak trees dripping Spanish moss, more Georgia than Miami. We took trips to Jacksonville Beach, Amelia Island and St. Augustine, the oldest city in the States, with beautiful Spanish architecture - and a grand hotel, Casa Monica, where we like to sip a lavish martini while sitting in their Moroccan style bar, a la Casablanca. But honestly, true to song, just sitting on the dock of the bay (swinging on her "porch" swing) is vacation enough! At least for a poet who lives in the city that never sleeps and sits on a trading floor filled with blinking computer screens, ringing telephone lines, blaring overhead announcements and men, and more men - never mind the outbreaks of cursing and the testosterone matches! I was fortunate to plan my trip to Florida in the Spring rather than during Hurricane season, as Jacksonville was hit pretty hard - tornadoes, trees falling into neighbor's homes, flooding, etc., but all is well at Casa K----.

Weddings! Weddings!

I missed my trip back to Washington State this year (and I missed seeing everyone!), but I had a wonderful excuse. Two of my best friends from the West Coast got married this summer - a week apart so I was able to attend both weddings, one outside Portland and one in Napa Valley. Both weddings were beautiful, joyous and true to each couple. Congratulations S---- and D----! Congratulations B---- and B----! Love you and wish you every happiness. During that West Coast wedding tour I was able to visit with Mom and J---- (as S---- so kindly invited them to her wedding). We had a grand old time with the time we had! And I managed my annual trip to Breitenbush Hot Springs in the Oregon Cascades. Ah, peace and more peace. I was also able to stay with my friend M---- in SF. She is the hostess with the mostest. I loved her gorgeous new home and its gorgeous spirit. We had fun bopping around SF - a little shopping + gelato, some picnicking in Golden Gate Park, and an adventurous moonlight hike with a group of her friends, which ended with another picnic, this one on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, watching the moon rise over a nearby cliff.

Sun! Snow? Cookies!

Summer was a whirlwind of weekend trips with beachcombing on Fire Island, hiking upstate, and hanging out in the country with my good friend G---- at her most heavenly 200-year-old stone cottage built by Dutch farmers - a place so alive with good energy she has her own name, Bonny. G---- and I are headed there for our annual Christmas cookie- baking extravaganza the weekend before Christmas. Can't wait!

Paris! Venice!

In September, x---- and I celebrated his 50 birthday by going to Paris for three days and then Venice for another six days. We focused our energy on seeing great paintings - being both painter and birthday boy. It was my first time traveling to Europe and I loved it of course. In three days I got just a taste of Paris, but we stayed in a very charming hotel across the street from a gorgeous gothic cathedral, the Saint Severin. From our hotel window, we could look directly onto the church's roofline and see all its spires and gargoyles - amazing! Far in the distance we could see the Eiffel Tower, including its frenetic light shows at night. The hotel was in a great location too, on the left bank near the Notre Dame Cathedral, also magnificent. I've always loved gothic cathedrals with their vaulted ceilings and spires, all that upward energy. We went to a perfect jewel box of a cathedral as well, the Sainte Chapelle, with spectacular stained glass windows. Ah, I've never done so much walking as on this trip - and I live in a city of walkers! We took long walks along the Seine, on our way to the Louvre (perhaps another kind of cathedral). I had an excellent guide - it feels like a privilege to look at paintings with someone who is both such a good painter and a knowledgeable art historian. So many of the paintings are incredibly powerful. We had to laugh at the rock star treatment of the Mona Lisa, a huge crowd of people jockeying for a better view, a true frenzy of flashbulbs. had no patience for all the nonsense, but I got close enough to have my breath taken away by the painting's beauty and subtlety - something no photo I've seen of it captures. We also visited the Impressionist collection at Musee D'Orsay, which is located in a magnificent old train station. And after walking through the museums, there was more walking. We strolled through The Tuilleries (I love those grand British and European gardens) and stumbled upon a fantastic, old-fashioned merry-go-round, all flashily lit up in a grove of trees with dusk approaching. And though we strolled the Seine many times, we hiked the Seine all the way from the left bank to the Eiffel Tower one night for dinner at a wonderful café with sidewalk seating and a truly jaw-dropping, close-up view of the Eiffel Tower. A few of the other highlights (because good food was definitely a highlight): Passion fruit chocolate macaroons from the patisserie Pierre Herme, afternoon tea service at Marriage Freres, and the rose essence, orange-scented champagne cocktail at Hotel Meurice.

As Promised, Venice

Venice is magical - sometimes like stepping into history; sometimes like stepping out of this world - a city of seaside light and color, a treasure trove of palazzi (palaces), piazzas (plazas) and churches, an impossibly complex maze of winding streets, canals, bridges, and dead-end alleys. Required: a compass and a detailed map! Oh, and really good walking shoes. But it's great fun to get lost, maybe the most fun of all. We stayed in two different hotels during the course of our visit, the first palazzo in San Polo, closer to local Venetian life, and the second in the heart of Dorsoduro just off the Grand Canal. Our room at the second palazzo had its own name, and how fitting: Ii Poeta Fanatica. Aside from the beauty and intrigue of the city itself, I most loved the paintings. I've never seen anything like them for pure mastery, even at The Met. Although we had sunny, gloriously temperate weather for most of our trip, on one day, we got stuck inside a church (without umbrellas and coats) while a very rainy cold front passed through. What a church to be stuck in: Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Fran. The paintings there are stunning, truly rapturous: "Assumption of the Virgin," by Titian, "The Madonna Ca' Pesaro," also by Titian, and the Bellini triptych with Madonna and Child. I was also amazed by the paintings at The Accademia, particularly the poetic and haunting "The Tempest" by Giorgione. The Scuba di San Rocco was filled, wall-to-wall and over the entire ceiling, with Tintoretto paintings. My favorite was "The Crucifixion," high drama worthy of a filmmaker. We took a short train trip through the country to the sister city of Padua and saw the beautiful, delicate Giotto frescoes in The Scrovegni Chapel, which were painted in the 1100's. I would have loved to talk about all these paintings with my brother R----, whose birthday would have been today as I write and who loved Renaissance art so much. Of course, we took the requisite trip to Piazza San Marco to sit at an outdoor café, sipping Prosecco, listening to classical music, and gazing at the gold dome and elaborate spires of the Byzantine church, San Marco Basilica. Another time we passed through the square along with hundreds of actors in 18th century costume shortly after Lasse Halistrom had finished filming a scene of a hanging for the upcoming film, Casanova. And then where would we be without food? Venice is notorious for bad food, but we brought a couple of food guides and ate very well. Every chance we got we stopped at Tonolo, a pasty shop in San Pantalon in the Dorsoduro district. Sometimes I still wake up in the morning longing for their pastries, particularly this almond, crème-filled croissant-like pastry. I tried to aspire to my friends', the G---- Girl sisters' mission to have gelato three times a day while in Italy, and came awfully close most days, one day even surpassing the target. We had a sublime pumpkin flan appetizer at La Zuppa and wonderful butternut squash filled ravioli with nuts and cream sauce. Sigh. We also found a first rate restaurant with outdoor seating along the Canale di San Marco, a vast "bay" with a view of the architectural masterpiece, San Giorgio Maggiore.

Art Opening!

In November, x---- had an opening for a solo show of his paintings. Despite torrential rainfall that night, he had a great turnout, and during the month the show was up, it attracted many artists and several critics (including a critic from The New York Times who came to see the show three times!). The show was gorgeous. I can't even begin to describe how beautifully he paints. His paintings are full of pleasure and challenge, and they demand your attention - they have impact. There was also a very cool portrait of me in a red, old- fashioned cowboy shirt, sitting in a corner, holding a Johnny Cash album. Dad would have loved it, as would have R----!

Well I should sign off now. I guess it's obvious now how much I miss my writing time!

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Much love,

This is one page of over four dozen devoted to Christmas news letters. The main Christmas News Letters page has links to more examples, plus some general guidelines and specific suggestions for writing Christmas news letters. If you have an example, either good or bad, that you'd like to share with the rest of the world, send it to me and I'll add it to these pages.

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This page updated: June 21, 2014