In between the Christmas tree taking not one, but two crashing tumbles in the living room – yes, it’s up for good now albeit with a pronounced lean – there were the happy holiday happenings that salute the season. Christopher Ranch’s party, always a warehouse treat, featured a great new band; the Gilroy Foundation kicked things off with an event outdoors on the terrace at Gary Walton’s fine Fourth Street building where the Foundation’s offices are located; and the Gilroy Assistance League headed up to spectacular view territory at Steve and Teresa Costa’s home. Meanwhile, back at the Very Derry Ranch, new strategies were devised to hoist that 14-foot green beauty upright and get it to stay that way.

Miss Jenny opined at the Paradise Christmas Tree Farm, an idyllic westside choose-and-cut spot on the outskirts of Morgan Hill, that she really would like a tall tree. Just so happened this year’s deal proclaimed, “Anything over 9 feet, and you just pay for the first 9 feet.” Saw, saw, saw, huff, huff, puff, saw, saw, saw … timber. Hauled it home slowly on the pick-up truck, borrowed a neighbor’s brawn and 14-foot ladder, clamped it into the stand, lights on, decorated to a tee. Perfect. Editorial staff Christmas party went off like fun clockwork, then just past the midnight hour, TIMBER. Re-do and a bungee cord kept it upright for another two days, then … well, we lost more than a few ornaments and I learned that the best tree stands are at Battaglia Ranch. I have a new 9/16 wood drill bit now and I know, that despite all the calamity, I do not soon intend to join the legions who have purchased easy-up, no-muss, no-fuss artificial Christmas trees. Nana, my grandmother Derry, would certainly have approved of my Irish stubbornness in this regard. But, honey, how about a 10-foot tree and we’ll put it on a 2-foot box next year?

This year I intend to take grandson Jackson to Gilroy Gardens for the holiday lights show and on the Roaring Camp Railroad steam train in Felton up the hill through the woods choo-choo to the holiday tree walk. That should be fun – and keep his 2-year-old eyes, ears and mind busy.

Busy shopping ahead still? How about a couple of relaxing suggestions? Christmas at Gugli “Tickle me” elmo Winery, 1480 E. Main, Morgan Hill, is about as relaxed as it gets – not to mention tasty. Wine/food/gadget gift baskets galore and, if you’re lucky, indulge in Rich Lico’s bagna cauda that traditional Italian “hot bath” that pairs garlic, butter, melted anchovies with veggies and bread. A glass of wine, a little shopping …

Just a half a piece up the road you can “buy fresh and buy local” at Andy’s Orchard, 1615 Half Road. Chocolate covered apricots are one irresistible specialty, but there are plenty of choices to ponder and the farm ambiance is as far away from the standard cookie-cutter mall as one can get. Just step back in time, take a breath of fresh air and enjoy a few samples while you’re picking out a gift.

Following that train of thought back to Gilroy, there’s a lovely place on Hecker Pass, the Historic Hoey Ranch Barn, filled with gift options, from antique furniture to holiday knick knacks to vintage clothes to garden accouterments. Hosts Jim and Debbie Hoey have a warm fire in the outdoor pit going, and the well-edited collection, under the towering roof in the fantastic old barn that’s incredibly well preserved, is a throwback joy. A look inside the barn alone is worth the stop. (Which reminds me that a bit of the city’s $25 million in the bank could go toward restoring the old red barn on the ranch site at Christmas Hill Park – or the city could do nothing, spend the money to chain fence it, let it fall down slowly and then proclaim, “there’s nothing to do about it now.” With some TLC, vision and cash, it could be a wonderful mercantile space for the Garlic Festival.) But, back to stopping at Hoey’s place … it’s a half hour or so worth a stroll, a chat and a few gazes upward and around to marvel at the design and construction from a bygone Gilroy era.

Bygones are White Elephant gifts by definition, but this suggestion list really went out with the Grinch’s grimy paw prints all over it:
• Perfume or lotion with an unpleasant scent
• Cheap, ugly statues or other decorative knick knacks
• An obnoxious T-shirt or tie
• Workout videos, particularly those with Richard Simmons
• A framed picture of your boss (for a work party – and only if the boss has a good sense of humor)
Word of caution – might not be the best idea in these economic times to tick off the boss.

Boss Troy Garcia’s sister, Ruby, at Heavy’s Grill is spearheading a toy drive on the food side of the Gilroy Golf Course Clubhouse. There’s a barrel, drop in an unwrapped toy, get a round of golf in or just have a fabulous breakfast burrito.
Ran into Bobby Garcia having a lunch version at our favorite hangout, Super Taqueria, where Jesús runs a ship that consistently turns out down-home yummy fast Mexican Food. Bobby is planning his trip to Houston to once again see his son, Jeff, on the NFL sidelines as a Texans QB. If all goes according to plan, the Texans will host a first-round playoff game, Bobby and Linda will head to south Texas with friends who have a friend with a lux box … and I’ll get a picture of Bob and Linda smiling and sporting Texans jerseys emblazoned with #7 to publish right here in this column.

And all my girls will be home from college for the Christmas break today. Now that’s a blessing, and I sure hope the tree stays up for their entire break.

Reach Editor Mark Derry at [email protected]


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