Ornamental Odyssey: A Local Story

Posted on December 2, 2016 by  
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traveler-linda-clarkIt’s safe to say that Los Altos resident Linda Clark loves holidays. Her attractive mid-century ranch home undergoes several seasonal makeovers each year, with the biggest transformation at Christmas.

A frequent world traveler with her husband, Dean, Clark has visited Africa, Indonesia, the South Pacific, the North Pole, Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, China, the Baltics, South America and more. The couple’s home is decorated with mementos from many of their trips – including fans and masks from Indonesia and South Pacific islands – and a guest bedroom is known as “The Africa Room.”

Clark’s love of Christmas decorating began as a young girl. Her parents found it too much work, so it became her job. “It really began before my teens, or just about at that time,” she said. “Every time something grabs my fancy, I buy it. Every time we travel, I try to buy something representative of the country.”

She’s found that one of the drawbacks to group travel is the lack of shopping time. “Every Stanford trip we’ve been on, I always write (on the evaluation afterward), How can I help support the country’s economy if you don’t give me time to shop?” Clark said with a laugh.

Clark couldn’t say offhand how many ornaments are now in her collection, but the largest tree, in the living room, has more than 1,000 ornaments on it. And there are 13 other trees. Even her tiny Santa’s workshop tree – a Manzanita tree branch – has more than 200 ornaments on it and is “very painstaking to decorate” because of the diminutive decorations, she said.

Her Santa and Mrs. Claus trees have very few ornaments because of the difficulty in finding pairs of the Christmas couple. She’s always on the lookout for them and was pleased to find a pair at Los Altos’ Cranberry Scoop last year.

Other themed trees include the train tree (for her husband, who loves model trains), the angel tree, the travel tree and three kitchen trees; the latter have more than 600 ornaments on them. When the Christmas season approaches, the Clarks retrieve 35-40 storage bins from their shed and get to work.

In addition to finding treasures while traveling, Clark is always on the lookout at craft fairs, artists’ open houses and favorite stores such as Cover Story and Cranberry Scoop in Los Altos.

Some of her ornaments go way back, such as her Santa and Mrs. Claus applehead dolls, which she estimated that she’s had for 50 years. Friends add to her collection from time to time, and she has also made many of the ornaments herself.

In addition to Christmas, Clark decorates for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day and Flag Day. She also has ornaments for many other occasions and events, such as baby showers, wedding showers, travel and school.



New Zealand Couple Stops In Los Altos

Posted on August 7, 2015 by  
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Fred SmitsHaving driven 28,000 miles around the United States the past 12 months in their 1957 Mercedes-Benz 220S towing a modern camping trailer, Fred and Elisabeth Smits stopped by the Saturday morning car gathering outside Main Street Cafe & Books July 18 to share their experiences and do a little show-and-tell.

The recently retired couple decided a few years ago to spend their first five or so years of retirement driving around the world. The Smits started the journey by shipping their completely rebuilt Mercedes and custom camping trailer from their home in Auckland to Los Angeles. From there, they have driven across the southern states to Florida with a diversion to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, up the East Coast to Maine, then across the northern U.S. with a stop at the Indianapolis 500 race, and finally past Mount Rushmore to Seattle and down the coast to Los Altos.

The Smits had learned of the local gathering from members of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America and stopped by during their last two weeks before their one-year U.S. visa expires. They will be crossing into Mexico and the second leg of their journey.

During the next 12 months, their plan is to drive all the way to the tip of South America before returning north to Buenos Aires, where they will ship their rig to Europe. From there, plans are a little more flexible – maybe even 18 months in Europe – before crossing Russian and China and heading down through Southeast Asia, then shipping the rig to Australia for the last leg before home.

So far, so good, they report. During this year they’ve flushed out and repaired a few mechanical issues with the rebuilt car and settled into a routine of camping on the road for approximately two weeks at a time before spending a few days in a hotel to catch up on laundry and correspondence.

Elisabeth said not one day have they wondered why they undertook the odyssey or thought about heading home early. With nearly 30,000 miles under the wheels already, the Smits said they’re still looking forward to each new day and the sights it will bring.