A Year In Mill Valley

Archive for December, 2007

Cornish Visitors

Two years in a row we’ve been lucky enough to have visitors from Cornwall over the holidays. Last year was the Rileys, this year the Roads.

Before Christmas they stayed at the Stanyan Park Hotel (a real find!), near Nicky’s sister in San Francisco. We saw them once before Christmas when we took Alex and Nicky to the Smuin Christmas Ballet; dinner at Moose’s beforehand, and drinks/dessert at Medjool afterwards. They headed to Tahoe over Christmas, and then spent two days/nights here at Casa Leahy before heading off south to Disneyland. It was great to see them all, though the weather could have been a bit better (very English weather).

Here are the boys with the three Roads children.

And Nathaniel with the Rileys last year.

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Two Christmases, 45 Years Apart

Merry Christmas!

The boys got up early and brought their stockings into our bed to open. Ahhh, the delights of childhood…the wonder on their faces…the light and sparkle in their eyes…long may it last.

The big hit this year was Lego. Rachel found someone on Craigslist who was selling “a large amount of Lego”, but because there were no pictures it wasn’t clear how much there was, or what kind. Rachel had been emailing with him for the past three months or so as we kept trying to find an excuse to go up to Santa Rosa. Finally we went to visit Chris and John in Healdsburg, and stopped in Santa Rosa on the way.

“A large amount” was an understatement. We got there and were met by a very nice father whose son had gotten to the age where he wasn’t using it anymore, and Dad was ready to have it out of the house. There were four very large clear plastic boxes, full of many other smaller clear plastic boxes, all brimming with Lego. Rachel took one look at it and was about to ask if she could go through it and pick out stuff (she’s on a don’t-bring-anything-extra-into-the-house-because-there’s-no-room kick), but I could see that Dad just wanted it all gone. I said “How much?”. $40. “Sold. We’ll take it all. Rachel, can help me carry it out to the car? (and sotto voce) We’ll go through it later.” We brought it home, and on Christmas Eve filled up small two boxes with men, helmets, bits of boats and space ships…a multitude of pieces…wrapped it, and placed it under the tree. The boys are loving it.

We had my brother and sister’s families up for dinner, plus Michael and Teresa (bring some outsiders along…always a great way to keep the family in line don’t you think?). As you can see in the picture below the table for 16 just fit into the living room…diagonally. Not quite as much room in the house as when we had 30 for dinner in Sausalito 6 years ago, but lovely and cozy and great fun nonetheless.

Dinner started with crab. Then soup. Then ham, mashed potatoes and green beans. Then Chris’ famous ice cream with Mom’s chocolate sauce, and Jeannie’s apple and pecan pies. Yum.

Forty-five years ago we had Christmas at my grandmother’s house in Brookline, MA. Here I am (bottom left corner) with my sister Jean, Mom (in blue), and cousins Andy, Pat and Peter Mahoney. I found this picture when we were at the Cape this summer. Can’t wait to go digging for more next summer.

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Books: The World Without Us

Just finished The World Without Us. A real page turner…well written…fascinating…couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended. A+.

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How Far Do You Let Your Child Roam?

Great piece in the UK paper a while back about how the distance we allow our kids to roam has been drastically reduced over the last 4 generations. I can’t find the article, but this graphic says it all…

p.s. Thanks Rodney (see comments) for finding the original article at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=462091


Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

I sent an email to Nathaniel’s principal at Tam Valley Elementary School awhile back, and came across it again as I was cleaning out my inbox…I think it’s worth remembering.

Hi Gail,

Got your letter about Nathaniel’s tardies…most, maybe all, of those are my fault. Not that it excuses anything, but maybe if I told you that when I was in high school I only made the bus a handful of times in three years (walked or hitch hiked the rest of the time) it would help you understand a little bit. Anyway, we’ll try and do better next year…

By the way, thank you for doing such a great job at Tam Valley. Nathaniel has been to six different schools (three here, and three in the UK), and the big difference between the schools has all been related to the headmaster/headmistress. Those who are good at their jobs have good schools. Those who are great at their jobs have great schools. And those who are mediocre at their jobs have mediocre schools. Thanks for creating a great school.

By the way, I came across this video that you might enjoy. It’s about 15 minutes, and well worth a watch as he’s both entertaining and interesting.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

With warmest regards,
— Frank Leahy

Nice note back from Gail…


I just watched Sir Ken Robinson’s talk and loved it. We’re always trying to balance the instruction of the basics with promoting creativity, and it’s a tough act. I’ll recommend this blurb to my teachers.

Thanks so much,

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Kosek’s Christmas Tree Farm

On Saturday we made our yearly pilgrimage to the Kosek’s Christmas Tree Farm on the coast. Exactly 5 miles below the Pigeon Point lighthouse, about half way between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, I’ve been going there every year — except the two we were in Cornwall — since 1979.

That year I was at UCB in the doctorate program in Operations Research, and I spent most every weekend at the Kosek’s (homesick as all get out), and usually at the ranch. Jon would pay me $35 a day…planting trees (I must have planted 5,000), trimming trees before the tree-selling season, or doing any number of other chores that needed doing. Two or three weekends a month and I could make between $150-$200, enough to supplant my scholarship which covered fees plus a stipend which covered the rent (but not enough for food, books or anything else).

We met a bunch of friends out there…Whitney and her Mom, Dave, Michael and Teresa, Julie and Steve and their two. Dr. Jon was there of course, and all of his kids were there too…Peter and Marion and their four down from Oregon, Mary and Rich and their three, Ann and William and their two, Mugs and Pablo in from Peru, and JonJon and Julie with Rose down from Mill Valley. Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen them all in one place since Mugs went off to Peru about 10 years ago.

We ate, and we talked, and we hiked, pushed the kids on the swings, made wreaths, rode the tractor, ate marshmallows by the fire, and relaxed in a way that only happens with lots sunshine, fresh air, and good friends.

On the way home we stopped at Duarte’s in Pescadero. If you’re ever in that part of the coast, I highly recommend stopping in for the fresh local fish, and a piece of black bottom pie. The oysters were especially good too.

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‘Tis The Season

Took Rachel and the boys to A Christmas Carol at A.C.T. this afternoon. Very nice production. Had both boys riveted. You should have seen Sebastian’s face…mouth wide open as Marley rose from the bed.

Afterwards we watched them light the menorah in Union Square, then went to dinner at Trattoria Contadina in North Beach. One of the few old places left with linoleum on the floor, simple but good food, and a great homey atmosphere…highly recommended.

All in all, a great afternoon as the Christmas season sneaks up on us.

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