Tuesday, December 29, 2009

California Christmas

On Christmas Day we drove down to Hermosa Beach to exchange gifts and have breakfast at the home of John and Marilyn Neuhart, parents of my first husband and dear friend Ben Neuhart. I've been celebrating Christmas morning at their home for over twenty something years, ever since I met Ben in art school. My current husband is Greg, but, we are still one big jolly family with art and liberal politics as our core.

Going to the Neuhart's is an aesthetic delight. John and Marilyn are graphic designers by trade and have a very keen sense of modern style. Having been part of the mid-century design scene with Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard and Herman Miller, their aesthetic is extremely iconic. If you happen to watch any of the short films by the Eames, particularly House: After Five Years of Living, you will notice simularities in their color palette, folk art designs and simple forms.

We arrived with our gifts and the poppy seed cupcakes Eve had made topped with little silver pine trees purchased on Etsy. After exchanging gifts, Marilyn and John did their final preparations for the Christmas morning feast.

Marilyn sets a gorgeous table, always with fresh flowers and a colorful, graphic display. With the warm sunlight pouring in the open door this image to me was the perfect iconic California Christmas.

Our meal consisted of a fresh fruit salad with mint, prune bread, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, zuchini bread, fresh slices of oranges and the poppy seed cupcakes. The oranges are a standard at every Neuhart Christmas, it is a tradition that Marilyn continues from her childhood in Long Beach.

The Neuhart home is a visual treat for the eyes. I remember coming here during art school and spending many hours pouring over their collection of books as well as drooling over the beautiful folk art found through out the house.


Eve received a camera that was on her wish list, thus she and I went to a few remote regions of the house looking for good photo opportunities. Ben had told me that the drawers in the upper side room would be particularly interesting to me.

Ben was right, the first drawer I opened was filled with old perfume bottles and apothecary items.


Eve and I could have easily stayed upstairs looking through the treasure drawers and taking photos for hours, however, it was time to go. Marilyn and John were off to visit the rest of the family in Long Beach.

We gathered up our gifts, a few left over cupcakes, slices of bread, scarves and mittens then headed back to our little house in the woods for more gift giving, feasting, movie watching.  Another merry, handmade California Christmas come and gone.

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