Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten
Our Christmas Letter 20

Merry Christmas dear family and friends

We have had a good year, with some extraordinary happenings.

We had lots of good family events. The year began with a long-planned trip of Elizabeth and granddaughter Erica to Spain for her high school graduation. They had fun trying new foods, visiting Madrid, Seville and Cordoba, getting lost numerous times while walking around the cities and playing in the snow (yes, it did snow in each of these cities) Then in May, Elizabeth and granddaughter Hillary went to Paris and Rome. What amazing cities and what fun they had. Hillary has taken numerous art courses and so was tour guide in the Louvre. Rome has the best food, they decided.

Grandson Shane, who is finishing his first year in the Marines, visited with girlfriend Katie. Elizabeth and sister Jean did their annual trip to the Shenandoah National Park with nary a mishap this time - except if you consider going on a three mile hike up and down a mountain trail on a warm day without bringing water. For the first time, Niece Dorothy, husband John and children, Erica and Anthony, visited Washington. That family has more energy and stamina than anyone. With Godson Mike, Toni and grandnieces Victoria and Olivia, we did our now traditional (two times now) visit to the Christmas Zoo lights, a spectacular light show at the national zoo.

We added some new National Parks to our "been there, done that" list. After Erica's graduation party, we went to Arcadia National Park. What a beautiful place that is - the mountain, sea and rugged coast. Of course, we mainly had fog the whole time, but Mainiacs love fog. Then in August, we went to the west coast, toured the entire coast of Oregon, and saw Redwood National Park, Crater Lake, Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. While we had some really sunny days, we also had lots of fog. Hmmm. There seems to be a pattern here.

Brian's big (mis)adventure was an attempt at camping in Southern Arizona. Thinking it would save the cost of baggage, he had all the supplies sent to general delivery in Ajo, but inadvertently put in the zip code for Benson. The result: some things went to Benson, some to Ajo, and some were never sent anywhere, including his tent. Actually, he breathed a sigh of relief when it dawned on him it was 35 degrees at night - he can't stand the cold. So, he happily toured the warm savanna along the Arizona Mexican border, while waiting for Elizabeth to join him for a long weekend. She got to see some of the desert National Parks (Saguaro, Chiricahua, and Tumacacori) plus the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, and the lovely Mission San Xavier del Bac.

Elizabeth continues to enjoy her work at NSF. She had an unexpected trip to Berlin in October to represent the NSF Director at a conference of University professors. Over the year, she had business trips to Denver, Philadelphia, Concord NH, Chicago, Detroit and Las Vegas. Only had to be patted down once! In January and then December, Elizabeth organized the award ceremonies for the Presidential awardees in science and math teaching. The teachers got to meet President Obama who spent considerable time with them. He asked how he could help his daughter who was studying for a math test. As one teacher exclaimed - "I got to give the leader of the free world advice!" It is really nice that the nation honors outstanding teachers and should do so in many more ways.

We wish you all a wonderful new year, with new adventures, good times with family and friends and good health.

Brian J. Larkin and Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten
Washington DC
December 8, 2010