A little bit about a lot of things:

• Love Gustine’s community spirit.....that is a town that goes all out with events that celebrate patriotic pride, the Portuguese heritage and, of course, the Christmas holiday.

Gustine will hold its fifth annual Christmas in the Park next Wednesday evening, Dec. 19, from 6-8:30 p.m.

I enjoy the downtown celebrations Newman and Gustine host each year to kick off the holiday season, but the Christmas in the Park festivities offer a particularly special atmosphere.

By mid-December, a chill is usually in the evening air.....and isn’t that just perfect for Christmas? Free hot chocolate and s’mores, among other refreshments, help ward off the cool temperatures and, well, kind of make it feel like Christmas.

Plenty of activities are in store next Wednesday, and you can bet that Henry Miller Park will once again be filled with families soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying the spirit of the holidays together.

Santa makes time in his busy December schedule to attend, a host of activities are offered and, well, a special night is in store.

• Tis’ the season for Christmas decorations.....and we’ll be cruising the streets of Gustine and Newman this week in search of our communities’ best and brightest to share with our readers in photos.

Scouting out Christmas decorations is always interesting. Some subscribe to the theory that the more lights the better, while others opt for more understated displays with a “less is more” approach. Both can produce striking, though far different, looks.

Touring the communities to check out the various holiday decorations is one of my favorite parts of the days leading up to Christmas.

Christmas displays inside and out are often part of long-standing family traditions.....or traditions that are being newly-created....and they are as individual as those who go to great lengths to decorate for the holidays.

• So.....never thought this would happen.

Our canine companion Zoey, like many members of the animal kingdom, has plenty of smarts.

I’ve read somewhere that the average pet dog knows 70 to 80 words. I don’t know if that is true, or if Zoey actually knows that many.....but she definitely has a few down pat.

“Bath” is a word which she definitely recognizes. When that “b” word starts flying around the living room, Zoey quickly disappears....but we know where her hiding spots are.

“Egg” is another word the dog knows quite well. Mention it to her, and she’s right there, excitedly waiting to be served.

So the other morning, as Kat and I were discussing the day, I mentioned that I might make Zoey an “E-G-G.”

“You realize,” she said (Kat, not Zoey), “that you are spelling in front of the dog.”

Well, I guess I was.

What can I say?

• Yep, the house looks a little different these days after solar panels went up on the rooftop last Wednesday.

Hopefully within a couple of months (that’s what we are told the time frame is for PG&E to complete its side of the work) they will be fully functional and producing clean energy which offsets all (or virtually all) of our electrical energy consumption.

That’s not to say, though, that we are going to become complacent about energy use....if anything, I think we will be more aware and look for ways to cut energy waste.

We’re excited about finally getting solar after talking about options for quite some time, and can’t wait to see how well it actually works. That is going to be the true test.

Since we got serious about solar, I have been paying a lot more attention and have come to realize just how many homes in our communities are already equipped with solar panels. Solar panels are becoming more and more commonplace.

Homes with solar are certainly no longer the oddity that they once were, and now that California has mandated rooftop solar for most new home construction starting in 2020, the panels will become even more prevalent.

Certainly a sign of the changing times.....in the meantime, let that sun shine!

• Here’s an amazing little fun fact.....the Dig Pink breast cancer research benefit held each fall by volleyball programs at Yolo and Orestimba raised more than $12,600 this year for the Sideout Foundation.

That is nothing short of amazing....and brings the total amount raised locally to more than $82,000 over a nine-year period.


Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.