Saturday, December 28, 1985

1985 Christmas (12/14, 25-28/1985)

Saturday, December 14, 1985
Tree trimming day.
Kyle and Erich
Kent stringing popcorn and cranberries
Kyle cutting out a snowflake
Our Christmas tree
Wednesday, December 25, 1985
We got the phone call at 7:00 and hurried in the fog over to Modena Avenue where the boys were anxious to come downstairs and open Christmas gifts. This year Barney’s son, Ben, was there. They had been allowed to open their stockings up in their rooms. This year they tore through the gifts in record time.
Erich and Kyle
Kyle opening a gift on the run
More clothes...
I helped get breakfast ready, and afterwards we went home, by 9:15. We had our gift exchange, and I had gotten three Japanese prints framed for Kent, and I gave him a beard trimmer. He also received a nice shirt and tie, and Trivia Bits crackers from Kathy Cunningham. I received a Dansk apron from Julia, Pyrex measuring cups from Beard, and a watch from John Cameron Swayze (known from the Timex commercials)! Santa gave me a net necklace and silver hoop earrings, candles and a pewter candle holder, and a shower curtain from Les Toiles. We then started using our gifts.

Thursday, December 26, 1985
Kent had to do some business while I went to pick up Kyle and Erich, and we came back in time for the arrival of Kent’s parents.
Erich, Kyle, and Kent
Grandma S
Grandpa S
Kyle and Erich model their sunglasses
After more gifts, we had dinner of Cornish hens with rice and green beans with almonds.

Friday, December 27, 1985
After lunch, the grandparents took Kyle and Erich to their hotel to use the swimming pool. Kent and I waited for the Bs, but when they didn’t show, we called to learn they thought the event was tomorrow! We tried to find other takers for the tickets to the Pierre-Auguste Renoir exhibit at the Boston Fine Arts Museum, but no go. We were ready to go by ourselves, when Jim called back to say Susie had a cancellation and they found a sitter, so they could go after all! We left together at 15:00 and arrived in the parking lot at 16:00, the time stated on our tickets! So we got in to the exhibit that was large and well lighted. It was arranged in such a way that it was difficult to get consistent good views of the paintings, and it was very crowded and very stuffy. However, we saw some magnificent paintings. It was interesting to see the variety of styles, how Renoir was influenced, and how he seemed to be one of the first Impressionists, but rejected it totally at one point, only to return to the style again! He supposedly developed the Impressionist style with Claude Monet in such paintings as “Le Pont Neuf,” “La Loge/Theater Box,” and “La Balançoire/The Swing” (all different to my eye!).
Renoir was accused of not growing and maturing, but foundering as he lost direction. But perhaps he was always being innovative, original? Others view him as the sole inventor and practitioner of Impressionism with visible brush strokes, a pervasive light, and a rainbow palette. We saw some of this in “La Promenade,” “Claude Monet Reading,” and more so in “Nude in the Sunlight,” “Woman at the Piano,” and also “The Swing.”
Renoir has also been accused of putting people in linear straitjackets/straight jackets as in “Children’s Afternoon at Wargemont,” but that seems to be inevitable when doing commissioned portraits. Certainly his later people were not linearly bound, but simply and amply nude (“The Judgment of Paris” and many “Bathers”)! Renoir was influenced by Raffaelo, Titiano, and Peter Paul Rubens, though admittedly was not as good as they were.
Renoir was also accused of empty edges, which I never really noticed before. He did use background effectively, such as the one painting with flowers forcefully to the forefront, and the subjects in the background; unique. The voids also focus one’s attention on the subjects, and I saw nothing wrong with “The Sleeping Girl” or the “Box at the Opera.” The critic liked the busier “Moulin de la Galette,” but he accused Renoir of having cluttered canvasses like “Seine at Argenteuil.”
Renoir was varied in his use of color, from bright palettes to subdued hues, which can be contrasted in different paintings of “Girls at the Piano.” Although one critic feels that many paintings ooze sentimentality and sweetness, I did not get that feeling. It did seem like Renoir would sit out on the lawn with a fellow artist and simply whip up a painting, as if a mere hobby. He was prolific.
One all-time favorite was “Dance at Bougival,” that one critic felt was a great storytelling vehicle, to let the imagination figure what will happen next. It also expressed a “joie de vivre,” and it is true that none of his paintings were depressing. He tried to make his subjects more beautiful, and his women sensuous. Also his subject matter in the Impressionist style was more varied than the landscapes of his fellow Impressionists Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Camille Pissarro. I was glad to see the Renoir collection, but if they are going to criticize him so much, it would have been helpful to see the paintings to which he was compared.
After the exhibit, we looked through the museum gift shop, then drove to Newbury Street to do some (window) shopping. We went to the Harvard Bookstore and Café (yes, they were combined!). We had dinner at the Taste of Thailand. The others ordered beer, and I got an iced tea, because it seems water makes spicy hot foods hotter! We shared four appetizers, a chicken soup made with coconut milk, strangely sweet to my taste, wonderful spring rolls, fried egg and shrimp balls, and a salad with a spicy peanut sauce. For the main courses we had a Seafood Dynasty that was not as hot as its one star indicated, but was still tasty with shrimp, scallops, squid, celery, cashews, and mushrooms. There was a one star spicy salad with chicken and shrimp, rice noodles, lemon grass, etc. The yellow chicken curry dish was the spiciest, and had potatoes in it. The Chicken Volcano was good with Cornish hen quarters basted with a sweet herb sauce and dipped in a very hot sweet and sour sauce. The Bs got the dessert of vanilla ice cream with coconut, lychee nuts, corn kernels, and mango bits. The total bill was $75.

Saturday, December 28, 1985
Kyle had basketball practice this morning, but after a brunch with the grandparents, Kyle and Erich went to the hotel again for swimming. Kent and I did errands. Later Cathy and Don M came for egg nog and cookies. After dinner, we said our goodbyes to Kent's parents who are leaving tomorrow.

Monday, December 23, 1985

1985 Essex, CT (12/22-23/1985)

Sunday, December 22, 1985
After lunch at 13:15, we started driving to Essex, CT, arriving at 14:45 and checked into the Griswold Inn. Simple, nice old furniture and a bathroom with a shower.
Room at the Griswold Inn
Kent at the Griswold Inn
We turned down the piped in music and went out to explore Main Street with all the little shops and boutiques. We read the Essex historical marker, then returned to our room. At 18:45 we heard Jan & Kirby coming up the stairs. There was a large yellow tabby cat snoozing on the narrow steps. We greeted J&K, then we all changed into evening wear and headed downstairs for our 19:00 dinner reservation.
The main dining room was crowded and very noisy. Service was slow because they were so busy. A fire was blazing in the hearth and the decoration was nautical and Christmas-y. Kent and Kirby got an apéritif of champagne with a raspberry liqueur. For an appetizer I had clam chowder with a celery taste, and Jan had the Boss’ Favorite, a vegetable soup. Kirby had the country pâté and Kent had smoked salmon. We noticed that other tables had crackers and condiments, and had the busboy bring us ours. There was a corn relish, cottage cheese with chives, and a garlic spread for the crackers and breadsticks. Then warm rolls arrived, and salads with the dressing on the side. Kent had fried oysters and I had the Carpetbagger special of a butterflied filet mignon and fried oysters with a Béarnaise sauce. Jan had broiled bay scallops and Kirby had roast beef, a sizable chunk. We each also had a baked potato and sautéed zucchini. Later the others had coffee, and we shared a piece of chocolate buttercream pie that was like a fine chocolate mousse pie. The bill with tip came to $140, which also included a bottle of red wine, and a half bottle of white wine.
There was a German woman who was going around seeing what people had for dinner, and generally wandering. Later she complained to the maître d' that the waitress was treating her like an enemy, and that she ordered moose, but was given something else. (They had venison, rabbit, moose, goose, pheasant, and quail on the Christmas menu.) And this had caused a rift between her and her husband…
We went to our room to exchange gifts with J&K and talk until midnight.

Monday, December 23, 1985
It had snowed during the night, creating a New England winter wonderland. We met Jan and Kirby in the library at 9:30 for breakfast. It was self-serve with tomato juice, coffee, and a variety of teas. Plus English muffins, oranges and cantaloupe. After breakfast we checked out and took a walk down Main Street.
Griswold Inn sihn
Griswold Inn 
Main Street door with boxwood tree
Main Street house
Main Street houses
We had to say our goodbyes and we left at 11:25 to drive Kent to work at BIF by 12:30.