Tag Archives: Holidays

Great Marin Holiday Light Displays, Part 1

This year it feels like the holiday season is rushing away a little too quickly. Christmas may be over, but the winter season has just started. If you, like me, love seeing houses lit up against cold nights; the conviviality of friends and good food; the cheery decorations, pine smells, and warm greetings, you are in luck because our people, the ones who decorate to the hilt and then hang around their houses night after night to talk to strangers of all generations and absorb their joy, tend to leave their decorations up as long as possible and linger in the season’s cheer.

In my neck of the woods, there is a house that is stunningly decorated, and — most incredibly — welcomes people, inside and out. Novato, CA’s Rombeiro family begins decorating on Labor Day each year and doesn’t start dismantling their creation until Kings’ Day, January 6th.

Here’s hoping your neighborhood affords you fun light displays. It’s always stirring to see such unique and joyful creativity on display and to see so many people, in groups large and small, experiencing simple awe and warm community.

This is a fantastic resource for holiday light displays all around California. This is a great resource for the best Christmas lights around the U.S.

Rombeiro House, 34 Devonshire Drive, Novato

The granddaddy of Marin County’s decorated houses, The Rombeiro House has been a family tradition for us since our daughter was small, and for the Rombeiros for 18 years. I know of nothing else like it. “Labor of Love” only scratches the surface of the intense effort that Ed Rombeiro and his family put out every year.

This is the outside:


The Rombeiros greet everyone who comes to their house, every night from early December to January 6. And they welcome them inside their home, where people walk, sometimes in slow-moving lines, from room to decorated room.

These are the living and dining rooms:





The family sacrifices living quarters and sleeping quarters. Nearly every surface is covered with charming displays of animatronic and wonderfully themed snowmen, elves, santas, angels, penguins, bears, wise men, reindeer, and toys. These are two bedrooms down a hall, which is also decorated:


There’s even a whole room that is transformed into an elaborate model train tableau.


It is said that the Rombeiros use more than 100,000 lights and that 39,000 people come through the home to experience its magic each year. (There’s a collection box outside to help the family with their electric bill.) We usually get a hello, a goodbye, or both from Ed Rombeiro, who told us that the tradition of extensive holiday decorations (perhaps not this extensive) originated in his family’s native country the Azores.

Photos: Rombeiro Family (top), Susan Sachs Lipman

See also Great Marin Holiday Light Displays, Part 2

Let Nature Decorate your Holiday Table

Nature often makes the best decoration. Especially in Fall, leaves, fruits and nuts are readily available in public spaces, in addition to being eye-catching, pretty, and free or nearly so.

Of course, the hunt is a highlight of the pre-planning. It provides a fun family tradition, and a way to enjoy nature together in the beautiful Fall, before bringing some of it inside for lovely — and free — table decor. My favorite tabletop finds include buckeyes, chestnuts, multi-colored leaves, ivy, pine boughs, pine cones, branches with berries and, from the store, mini pumpkins, persimmons, apples, mandarin oranges, and pears.

Above are fall tables from two different years. Both feature collected items from nature and inexpensive store-bought fall flowers that my family and I arranged in a shallow bowl, using a “frog” to hold the stems in place. All of our glassware and china has been handed down, including the festive red glasses. I layered inexpensive tablecloths and fabric runners.

One Thanksgiving morning, our cousins gathered branches and boughs for their table and made cute homemade placecards for each guest.

Another guest provided this very festive and yummy cake. I made the Cranberry Crunch squares from Susan Simon’s The Nantucket Holiday Table. They’re very good, and a great use for cranberries.

If you’re fortunate to be able to collect buckeyes, chestnuts or acorns in your area, they can make an inexpensive, natural, interesting filler for a large vase of flowers.

Friend Mary Mauro cleverly filled a very tall vase with mini pumpkins for a gathering. (She is also a gifted flower arranger.)

I hope you have an inspired, happy Thanksgiving.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Mill Valley’s Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day Weekend is always a very special time in Mill Valley. The Historical Society sponsors a “Walk into History”, which covers a different neighborhood and theme each year. There is music outdoors on the Community Center lawn, and friends and neighbors mingle, eat, dance, and have fun. This year the food was great and the music was Latin, from a band called Rumbache that kept us on our feet.

The actual Memorial Day parade may be a weekend highlight. Anna marched its mile-plus length down Miller Avenue when she was 2 years old! She and I (and sometimes Daddy) were in every parade since for 10 years — with the original Sustainable Community group, then with Kumara Pre-School, then with Richardson Bay Girl Scouts.

This year, Lippy and I watched from our perch on the balcony of Mill Valley Music. Anna, a teen, was with her own friends downtown. The parade was as sweet and old-timey as ever, with its mix of politicians-in-convertibles, town notables, bands playing from flatbeds, scouts, martial artists (who stop and perform), wiener dog troops, swim teams, bikes, scooters, and the uniquely Mill Valley “Fashion Police”, who zoom up on scooters to give out tickets (clothing store discounts) for “Reckless Coordinating” and “Failure to Heed Spouse’s Advice”. Yeah, we’ve gotten a few of those.


It wouldn’t be a parade without lots of Scouts.

This year’s Mountain Play, which is performed each spring in an outdoor ampitheater on Mt. Tamalpais, is Man of La Mancha.


The Marin Youth Performers just put on The Music Man. What an impressive float!


This long-time drumming circle is based at the Redwoods Retirement Community.


Swimming to a pool near you ..


We are patrons of plumber Stanley Searles, whose distinctive blue truck is seen around town.



‘Til next year!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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