Debbie Croft: Foothill towns in the holiday spirit

12/20/2013 7:31 PM

12/20/2013 9:25 PM

The Christmas concerts, play rehearsals and parties are almost behind us. That leaves only a couple last-minute gifts to buy perhaps, and some baking and cleaning to do before the big day next week. What follows is one more invitation to visit the foothills before the year ends, and an introduction to a new local author. Plus a couple random holiday thoughts:

• There’s a touch of Europe on Main Street. Or New England-style Americana.

In the historic mountain communities of Mariposa, Sonora, Columbia, Groveland and Angels Camp, holidays bring an old-world feel to the downtown areas. Bordered by tinsel, garlands and lots of colorful lights, plate glass windows offer glimpses of what each store holds.

At our shops you’ll find antiques and collectibles, hand-tooled leather crafts, outdoor gear for hunting, fishing and snow sports, home décor, fashions and accessories, handmade jewelry, horse tack and saddle-repair services, dried fruits, chocolates, candies and nuts, coffees and teas, souvenirs of Yosemite, plus a lot more.

Some shop owners offer hot apple cider or coffee and samples of delicious treats, especially this time of year. The pace is slow, the weather is chilly but not blustery, and cozy ambiance draws visitors in, enticing one and all to stay awhile.

When your shopping is done, our coffee shops, cafes and restaurants will satisfy every taste.

• In the Mariposa County Museum and History Center gift shop, old-fashioned gifts and books can be purchased. Admission is free to shoppers, and all proceeds support the non-profit organization. Handcrafted items and classic books with charming illustrations are available, as well as wooden toys and games. I’ve heard their toys require no litter box, collar and leash, power cords or batteries.
• We’re aware of Ebenezer Scrooge, and the night of extraordinary events that turned his life around. But once Christmas Day was over, what happened then?

That’s the question Judy La Salle asked herself and attempted to answer in her first novel, “Scrooge: The Year After.”

La Salle is a former Sun-Star columnist and a retired peace officer.

“Scrooge had been so bad for so long,” she said. “Then suddenly he’s a paragon of virtue. But what about his old habits? I’ve just always wondered.”

In La Salle’s novel, Scrooge’s redemption transforms him into a gentleman. Not only is he compassionate and generous, he discovers a sense of humor. Surprisingly, he also becomes the recipient of attention from the ladies.

The plot revolves around his search to uncover the mystery surrounding his sister’s death. La Salle, of course, includes many characters from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Within the narrative readers are introduced to a couple new characters.

La Salle enjoys serious fiction, and her experience in law enforcement assisted her in developing a solid mystery.

In “A Christmas Carol,” Dickens left some loose ends that La Salle creatively ties up. Such as how the sister died and who Fred’s wife is. Although it’s not really a Christmas tale, the story ends on Christmas Eve of the following year.

“I hope Dickens would approve of my handling of the sequel to his original story,” La Salle said.

An intriguing storyline, engaging dialogue, and well-crafted writing will keep readers turning pages.

The book is available in nine independent bookstores in California and Nevada and on and in a few Central Valley libraries.

“Scrooge: The Year After” is getting great reviews. Congratulations to La Salle. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work in the future.

• Our strands of twinkle lights were obviously left up too long after past Christmases. A mama hummingbird built her tiny nest on the wire, and three pairs of chicks have hatched so far. We don’t dare take the lights down now.
• Just in case you’ve ever wondered, how could we tell if Martha Stewart moved to the country? All her sheep, goats, chickens and cows would be dipped in egg white and rolled in powdered sugar, with a touch of glitter – to add a festive look to the ranch.

Greetings of this blessed season to you and yours!

Editor's Choice Videos

Join the Discussion

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service