Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 can't come soon enough

Will 2010 never end?  If it can go wrong for us this year, it has.   Marty and I want it out the door so we can move on to hopefully a better year 2011.

A couple of minor examples of how the year has gone:  last night Marty was making ground beef from chuck roast he found on sale.  He is feeding strips of it into the grinder on our Kitchen Aid stand mixer. These are workhorses.  Suddenly there is this awful whacking noise.  It sounds as if a spatula is caught in the beater; except there is no spatula nor any beater.  This is not an old mixer, it's less than 5 years old.  People will Kitchen Aids, they last forever.  Not ours. So a trip 20 miles away to the only place in the Bay Area that repairs them is in our future.

Then the frosting on the cake, the big screen TV died.  It also is only 5 years old.  Tuesday it worked, Wednesday we tried to turn it on, nothing, just a flashing power button.  It says temp, lamp, timer. According to the troubleshooting guide that is not a good thing.  Next Thursday the repairman comes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

CHRISTMAS (very long, settle in for a good read)

We have had a wonderful Christmas.  We went to Davis to be with my nephew Tres and his family. Our son Erik joined us.  Tres' father and mother, my little brother and his wife, flew in from Kentucky for a week. Last night they came home with us to spend a couple of days.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were so much fun. We have eaten good food, drunk excellent wines, had a Bourbon Ball taste off, laughed, cried over childhood memories, and had an incredible good time with three little children. 

This post will be long, it will have lots of pictures, it is written to share my good fortune of a family Christmas.

We began our trip on Friday afternoon.  There was a fog warning on the Benica Bridge.  You couldn't see the hood ornament on the car.  Then we had higher fog and stop and go traffic.  We drove for 20 minutes and went 2 miles.  Finally that broke up and we took off.  We are at the speed limit.  And I see on the ramp beside us a Highway Patrol car flying by us and then he begins that zigzag traffic control thingy.  We are the first in line behind him, and our speed drops to 25.  I am expecting a horrible wreck or a white out fog bank.  We go several miles and the Highway Patrol car suddenly flies off an exit.  No reason for the traffic break, so we all crank it back up to 70.  Finally we make it to Davis.  And we are hours behind the party.  Wine is flowing, taste treats are out, and laughter ensues.  We caught up quickly.

Below are some pictures of the two days.  As usual I have edited them down from 65+ to a fairly reasonable amount. Well sort of reasonable.

 Little Brother Hank greeting me.  He does have a weird sense of humor.  But I love him.
 Marty and the appetizers to hold us until supper.
 The beautiful table Casey set for our Christmas Eve dinner.  And those are not napkins on the plates, they  are English Crackers.  All kinds of little toys flew all over the table.

Tres and his father having a timed Spoons hanging from your Nose contest.  Hank won.  Tres says cheating was involved.

 Marty does love fire.  Here he is torching the creme brulee.  It was out of this world yummy.
 Little Brother does have more fun than everyone else.  Love the antlers. 
 We walked down the block to "Candy Cane Lane".  Every house was this decorated.  It was beautiful.
 The children are snug in their beds. Santa's elves are putting together a Disney Princess castle.  Behind them is Casey with the card table cover that makes a "castle". 
 Hall and family dog, Dexter, checking out the toys Santa left.
 More toys.
 Bella on her princes sleeping bag, ripping open a gift.  She was so polite.  They would hand her a gift and say this gift is from Aunt Janet and Uncle Marty.  Before she opened it she would come over and thank us.
 Sister in law Ann opening a gift.
 Casey screaming with joy.  She got exactly what she wanted.  A Garmin sport watch, it tracks all kinds of
things that a Iron Woman athlete needs.
 Tres with Ava, and Marty's hands.
 Closer view of Tres and Ava.
 Christmas Day brunch.  Egg and country ham sausage casserole, 7 layer salad, shrimp salad, cookies, fudge, hot biscuits.  And Mimosas.
 Ann reading the Christmas story to us before we ate.
The adults "helping" Hall with his toys.

We have had such a good time with little children and Christmas. The visit continues. 

Hope everyone has a Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


It is that time again, The Dreaded Christmas Letter. Will they brag? Will they whine? Will they bore you to tears? Will they ramble on and on? Probably.

In January we attended the Fancy Food Show again. Fabulous good eats. Every kind of food you can think of and more. We sampled wonderful hams from around the world, cheeses that I still dream about, risotto made in a Parmesan cheese wheel, wines, chips, chocolates, and more. Loved it.

Janet is still volunteering at an Oakland school. The highlight of the year was going on a field trip with the whole school. She quickly found out that riding a school bus for over an hour is just as uncomfortable as it was in the 70’s. Still no shocks on those buses, or are there any seat belts.

Janet continues to volunteer at the County Recorder’s Office doing wedding ceremonies. The sister of a friend asked Janet to perform the ceremony for her wedding. That was great. The family treated Marty and Janet as if they were blood kin. This was a really feel good wedding and reception.

Janet continues to blog regularly. On her blog she shares what is happening in her life and sometimes Marty’s: X rated weddings, art projects with first graders, testing recipes, chasing down garbage trucks, pictures of our road trips, blowing glass.

Marty is still advising at Phi Gamma Delta. He is on the alumni board and enjoys it very much.

We both worked the San Francisco Aids Walk again. A wonderful event, that every year we hope is our last time. We hope every year that next year there won’t be a need for the walk.

In January Marty went to Los Angeles to watch friend Luis in a billiard tournament, The West Coast Challenge. This is an annual event. Luis is that good, and Marty is that excited about billiards.

Marty is consulting with Horizon Wealth Group and assisting them in their marketing. He also continues to work with Reverse Mortgages. He has a new website so go check out

Marty continues his love of making glass. Throughout the year he has assisted Randy Strong at demos in Berkeley and in San Francisco. He also has crafted pieces that are used by companies and agencies as awards. His website displays some of the pieces he has made.

Marty has continued with his gardening and enjoys seeing orchids blooming all year round. We have 6 plants in the house now full of blooms.

One of the funnest times we have is when we get together with two other couples a few times of the year. We call us the “A Team” and we have a blast going to each others’ homes and cooking great food and drinking some fabulous wines. Look out GORDON RAMSEY. We are on your heels.

In August our nephew and his family were transferred to Travis Air Force Base. Travis is just up the road from us. It has been great to have extended family close to us. Their son asked us to come for his school’s Grandparent’s Day since his grandparents live out of state. We went and had a wonderful time. My brother and his wife are coming for Christmas to be with them. We will join them Christmas Day as will our son Erik

In September we decided to downsize for many reasons. We need to find a place where we don’t do the maintenance, no steps, and a place to grow old in. Well, we are old, grow older in. We got the house ready for market, and that nearly killed us. Erik and a friend moved furniture out to the garage. The stager wanted a nearly bare house. We painted and cleaned carpet. Friends helped us pack up, Marty and another friend put in new windows. Our 72 year old windows were rotten. We had traffic through the house, lots. But no one was buying, just lookie loos. With the holidays, we have taken it off the market. Maybe in the spring we will try again.

We are still fairly healthy. No big issues that a pill won’t fix. We struggle with the economy as the world is. We value our friends and family who support us. We wish we could be with the far away friends and family. But please know we think of you and miss you.

May you have a wonderful Holiday Season and a healthy Happy New Year.

Love to all of you,
Janet       Marty

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Again with the garbage truck

Last week the green waste truck skipped us. Our pick up is on Tuesdays.  We didn't know until Saturday they hadn't picked it up.  Marty did some yard work and saw the can was over half full.  Too late to call and complain.  He did his yard work, filled the can up and then filled a smaller one that is ours and not Waste Management.

Tuesday, pick up day, I hear the truck.  I look out later and the can is open and sitting full at the base of the steps to the street.  WTH???  I called the company.  "Your can is too heavy.  We tried to call last week to let you know, but the number we have is not a working number."  Too heavy? Not a working number?  Not as heavy as the recycling can, and that driver yanks that can up with ease every week. 

We were told no more than 65 pounds in the can.  That is nothing in the garbage world.  I told them we would get the can to the street and they then could use the mechanical arm to dump the can.  No, if it weighs too much the mechanical arm on the truck will snap off.  Really, I don't even  believe that.  We were told to dump their can and place the contents in other paper bags or cardboard boxes.  I told the clerk it is raining and that would not work.  I told her we would put it into smaller cans that we owned.  She then said there would be a charge for an extra pick up.  I threw a hissy fit on that one.  They did not tell us why they skipped us.  If they won't pick up they should notify us.  Finally she agreed to do a free "courtesy" pickup.

So Tuesday afternoon Marty and I dumped the contents onto a plastic sheet, gathered it up, and dumped it into another can.  Then we did that with another can. Green waste is yard waste and food scraps, bones, seafood shells, paper that has food on it. Trust me after two weeks, this was right up there with Dirty Jobs. Rubber gloves and a lot of gagging and we got the job done.

This morning they picked up the green waste.  And then the driver took the three cans back down to our yard. We have read all the info we have from Waste Management.  No where does it say limit 65 pounds.  If they want it that light, we should have two cans instead of one huge one.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Last Wednesday and Monday the 20th there were lots of weddings.  I unfortunately did not do that many of them. Wednesday there were only three ceremonies for me.  Monday they were mostly Asian.  Again it was a lucky number day.  I don't do Cantonese, so I didn't do but 2.  There were also 5 Spanish ceremonies that afternoon.

On Wednesday I did an Indian ceremony.  They will have a cultural wedding next summer.  The bride had on the most beautiful sari I have ever see seen.  And I have seen a lot of them. The sari was the traditional red.  It was trimmed in gold threads, there were gold designs all over the sari, and each design had a jewel in the middle. The witness wore a black tunic, long sleeved blouse, and pants. The neckline was jeweled  like a large necklace.  The sleeves  and the vest were trimmed in jewels and gold trim.  The pants were gold trimmed from the knees to the ankles.  Again there were gold designs with jewels in the middle.  When I say gold trim, I am meaning gold.  Real gold thread.  These were the most gorgeous Indian clothes I have ever seen.

I told the women they won the prize for the most beautiful Indian clothing contest.  These women were magnificent looking. The bride told me that she was honored to have such a wonderful sari to wear.  She also said it was extremely heavy.

As you know I attract strange weddings.  But for once it was not me.  The commissioner J, who works the shift before me had a strange request.  A man came up to her and asked her to redo his wedding.  He was very upset.  He felt the commissioner L who did their ceremony had not shown respect to him and his bride.  He said they were rushed and not allowed to take pictures.  None of us believed this.  The commissioner is a very sweet woman.  She is polite, she takes pictures of the whole group, she is very good at doing weddings.  No way she was disrespectful.  But the customer was upset.  After much discussion the head supervisor allowed  J to do a do over.  The couple was now married, so the license would not be changed.  But J did a ceremony and the couple left happy.

Again no way L had rushed them or been disrespectful.  This woman is just too good at what she does.  But just like Nordstrom's, Alameda County says the customer is always right.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Duck, duck, no goose

Last night we had a spectacular meal.  A friend had given us two wild duck to cook, IF we invited him to dinner.  We love duck.  Marty has a luscious recipe for duck breast on porcini mushroom polenta with a Port wine sauce.  It was easy to adapt to whole duck.  Easy because he did it, I didn't. 

My contribution to the meal was to make shrimp and garlic chive dumplings with two sauces. That sounds easy, takes longer than the duck.  So I am a saint to make them.  They are well worth the effort. Yummy, yummy, yummy.

Below are pictures of the duck being served.  I was told I should take pictures all night of prep, finished product of the dumpling, etc.  Well, I was enjoying the evening and just didn't.  So all we have are pictures of the ducks on the plates.

 Marty is placing the Port Wine sauce over the duck.
 Close up of the rich rich sauce.
 More with the sauce.  Marty also grew all the orchids that are blooming.
 Not great pictures because you can't smell the wine, the porcini mushroom, the duck.  It was fabulous!
I forgot, I took a picture of dessert:  Bourbon Balls.  The recipe is Marty's Mother's.  So it is probably 50 or 60 years old.  The pecans were soaked in Maker's Mark for a month plus.  The sugar has bourbon in it.  These can not be eaten by anyone under 21, we could go to jail for serving liquor to a minor.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Weddings, and a suprising story

Wednesday was really stretched out between weddings.  As soon as I walked in at 12:45, I had two ceremonies to do.  And then nothing until after 3:00.

The couples were all very normal.  And you know for me, that doesn't happen.  They were sweet, in love, nervous, and then all happy the process was over.  So yes, very normal.  Yet I do get the strange ones, if not the couples then the witness.

Oh yes the witness for couple number 3.  I went to get the couple, and the bride is all a flutter, the volunteer witness B has disappeared.  I walked through the lobbies and called her name, nothing.  The bride went in the restroom and called her name, nothing.  The couple is in a panic.  Can they still get married?  I told them that we can always reprint and put someone else as the witness.  But don't give up, we will find her.  I asked where they found her.  She was at the desk next to them with her sister, and her sister is still there.  OK, I will go ask the sister where she is. 

I interrupt politely and the sister tells me B has gone to feed the meter.  So we wait some more.  I noticed the person talking to the sister is not a clerk.  It is one of the top level supervisors who is over the supervisor of the clerks.  Something serious is going down.  B comes running in and says she'll be right back.  I assure the couple that whatever happens they will be married that afternoon.  Finally B runs up to us and says, "Do I have a story for you.  This will be something for you to tell your grandchildren.  I was switched at birth at the hospital and I'm trying to find out who my birth mother is."  Well we were stunned.  You better believe we put the wedding on hold until she told us the story.

She had had some blood work done and found out she couldn't be related to her sister and parents. The blood types just don't match. The Navy hospital where she was born had closed. The records are somewhere.  She wanted the births recorded for the week she was born to be pulled.  That can't be done for many reasons.  She doesn't know if her birth date is correct.  In the 50's mothers and babies were kept in the hospital several days.  She could have been born the day before or 2 days later.   All this woman wants is to know her birth family medical history, and to maybe meet the family.  The family she grew up with wants to meet the blood daughter.  B wants nothing from the birth family.  She is not interested in suing anyone over the mix up of babies.  She said she has a great family who love her and she loves them.  But there are medical issues she needs to know.

Her next step is to try in Sacramento for the information.  If that doesn't work she will contact the Navy, her Congressman, and her Senator. 

And as my blog title says, I have no endings.  This one will haunt me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weddings, some

Wednesday was a little slow at the marriage factory.  I only did 4 marriage ceremonies.  The morning volunteer had more than she usually does, 4 or 5.  Nearly all the couples were Asian.  Wednesday was December 8, 2010.  And in the Asian community 8 is good luck. 

I did two ceremonies that had couples from India.  They could not have been more opposite.  The first couple asked for a short ceremony.  They stood apart from each other. They did not look at each other.  When the ceremony was over, they just walked away.  No touching, hugging, kiss, nothing. She had the traditional hennaed hands and lots of gorgeous diamond bangle bracelets.  I felt as if I were doing a business deal.  And basically that is what it was, an arranged marriage.  I hate, hate, hate doing them.  They really bother my old fashioned romantic senses. I may have been married 43 years, but still think you should be weak in the knees when you see your partner/lover/spouse enter the room.  Don't stand there and hope this will all go away.

The other couple from India and their 2 witnesses were so American.  They were the same age as the couple above, close to 30.  This couple was in jeans, no rings, IPhone for a camera, they were laughing, hugging each other.  So happy to be there.  None of them had an accent.  In fact they teased me about my Southern accent.  They were very in love, very intense during the ceremony, just a little teary eyed.  And yes, big kiss after I pronounced them husband and wife.

And my favorite wedding:  The bride was so nervous. When I got upstairs I asked my standard questions:  do you have rings, do you have your own vows, will anyone stand up with you, etc? After that, I said, "Please come up front and face your guests." The bride looked at me in panic and said, "We're going to do it now?" 

I told her we would not begin until she felt ready.  If she wanted to sit down and pull it together, we could do that. She said she was ready and we began.  She was so nervous and expressed it in laughter and giggles.  Which is very normal.  After the the ceremony she thanked me for such a lovely moving ceremony.

All in all a very nice day of weddings.  What will Monday's weddings bring?


I have some new followers.  Welcome to my world.  I hope you enjoy reading my blog.  I hope you will comment or at least check a box at the bottom of each post.  I don't know who the new people are, and that is exciting.  People are reading my blog who don't have to.  They are not family or close friends who I expect to read the blog.  As I said exciting.

I am honored to have you follow me.  I hope I never disappoint you.  Oh, and tell your friends.  :)

Friday, December 10, 2010


Last Saturday Marty did a demo at the glass studio for Berkeley Open Studios.  He made a piece that is just gorgeous. I took 53 pictures of the hour plus demo. I cut it down to 14 for your viewing pleasure.  Below you will see Marty creating this piece of art.  Remember to click on the pictures for a larger image.

 Marty is heating the glass in the glory hole.  The  glass is at 2000 degrees in the glory hole.  The glass at that temperature is the consistency of warm honey.  The glass artist must keep the puntee moving at all times or the hot glass will just fall off. 
 Here he is letting the glass cool down a little.  He can tell from the color how hot the glass is.
 Here Marty is picking up pieces of dichro glass.  They are in a small oven that heats them so they will work with the glass he has on the puntee.
 Here Marty is using the marver (steel table) to shape the glass.
 Flo is opening the furnace doors so Marty can gather some more clear glass.  After several gatherings the glass can weigh 5 to 10 pounds.  Then you do the physics thing of weight on the end of a 6 foot pipe, and he is hauling around 40 or 50 pounds.  Some of the large pieces they make factor out to close to a 100 pounds on the pipe. Not an art form for wimps.

 Marty is starting to cut the piece in half.  Part he will pull into a Fleur de lis.
 Here he is putting the top he is cutting off in the little oven to stay hot.
Brendan is reattaching the part Marty cut off  now that he has shaped the Fleur de lis.
 Marty is hand shaping the piece with only wet newspaper between his hand and 2000 degrees glass.  Flo is shielding his arm with a wooden paddle.
 Can you say white hot???
 Marty is pulling the tip of the piece and shaping it for the finished look.
 He is twirling the puntee like a baton.  That will stretch out the glass.
 More twirling. He sure looks like he is having fun here.
Marty is knocking the piece off the pipe.  Brendan is catching it and will place it in the annealing oven. The piece stays in the oven for close to 24 hours.  It must gradually cool down.  If it cools too fast it will shatter.

As you can see, glass art is hard work and just a little dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Because I'm getting better."

Tuesday was a busy day at school. When I arrived the children were in small groups and each group had a different project.  My group was working on contractions.  They had a worksheet that had a Christmas wreath on it.  At the bottom of the page were contractions inside a circle that they were to cut out and then paste on the wreath.  All around the wreath were leaves which had the words that a contraction came from.  Between the words was a berry.  The children found the contraction, such as won't and glued it between will and not.  If they had trouble, a chart was in front of them showing the different contractions and their origins.  Not a hard project.  But two little boys just could not focus.  Every contraction I had to prod them to cut it out, find the two words, put on the glue, pat it down.  Then on to the next one.  They just were so easily distracted.  But they finished and it was correct.  YAY!

There are maybe 10 children that I work with regularly in reading.  They have a series of little books they read to me.  The books are 6-8 pages long.  They began with pictures and words in the sentences.  Now they are all words.  There are no more then 2 sentences per page.  We work on the phonics highlighted in each book.  Then they read to me.  Some struggle sounding out every word; some can't remember words they work out the next time it appears; some guess the words; some read slowly and get all the words, and some read quickly with expression.  We have many levels of skill. 

One little boy R was a book behind the others. This happens to many of them for different reasons.  They miss school, the adult helping them doesn't have time to get to all the children, there is special testing, there is an assembly.  I had him read the first book to me.  He struggled, he couldn't remember words from one page to the next. Nearly every word had to be sounded out.  He finished and I moved on to the other children.  They all read the next book and I had time to take R again and have him caught up. 

R came up, sat down, and we began.  The phonics, easy.  He began to read.  Slowly but surely every word was perfect.  Very few words did he even have to work out.  It was if a different child were reading to me.  I complimented him on his reading.  I told him what a great job he did.  I talked to him about how much trouble he had with the first book (which was no harder) and how he breezed through the second book.  I asked him how come he did so well.  And all puffed up with pride, R said, "Because I am getting better."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Monday was very slow.  I did no weddings until 2:30.  Then shortly thereafter another couple.  And then I sat.  It was almost 10 minutes until 4 and P brought me a license and then another.  Timing was just bad yesterday.  I thought I would be out of there right after 4:00 and be off to the grocery.

My first couple was Chinese.  The bride had only a last name.  And the fathers of the bride and groom just had last names. I have only seen this one other time and the bride was from India.

We had one license with a big time error.  The couple are to put in the computer where their parents were born.  If they were born in the United States they put the state.  If they were born outside the USA they put the country.  The groom put his parents were both born in Europe.  Ding, ding, ding, not a country.  Luckily I caught it and the clerk got the correct information and reprinted the license.  The couple had the neatest ring box for the ceremony.  It was hinged blue enamel box with a jeweled butterfly on top.  It was lovely.

When P bought me the next license she said the bride is pregnant with twins.  I did my paper work and went out for the couple.  The bride comes up and tells me the groom has gone to feed the meter.  Great.  Those of you who are regular readers know it ticks me off when they are not ready when I come out.  But this woman is so pregnant, so upset,  so worried I will be upset with her.  She is so miserable carrying twins I can't say anything to her.

 I tell her we will wait, no big deal.  And we wait and wait, and wait. I now know her life story.  (She is 33, she has a 14 year old and a 5 year old by her first husband.  Her mother has a church wedding planned in the spring.  The bride said she won't have these babies unmarried. Her mother will just have to be upset.)  She says she will go look for her groom.  I hurried back to my desk to call Marty.  He was to pick me up in 15 minutes.  I told him to wait 30.  I grabbed the other license and plan to take them up. But the groom has arrived.  I did a lovely unhurried ceremony for them.  They both were so emotional, tear spillage.  After the ceremony the bride told me these are her last babies.  NO MORE!

The last couple were so happy, excited, so giddy.  All through the ceremony he would lean over and kiss her.  Then he would look at me and ask is that OK?  I told him of course kissing is allowed.  They were fun.

We had to wait to get the certified copy of the license.  Another couple was in the office asking about getting married on Valentine's Day.  They wanted to make a reservation right then.  They had the license and wanted a time so they could send out invitations.  We don't take names for Valentine's Day until a month before.  But this couple convinced the Marriage Desk Clerk to do it.  So she entered them at the time they wanted.

Even when I have a slowish day, things happen to make it interesting.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Monday Weddings

Monday I performed seven marriage ceremonies. Wednesday I had an appointment and did work.  On Monday the lobby was packed when I arrived.  Everyone showed up within an hour's time.  At one point I had 4 licenses on my desk.  And then around 3:15, when we usually get the rush, nothing.

The first couple were probably the most extreme in tattooing and body piercing I have had.  Their arms, legs, necks, hands were covered in body art.  They both had multiple plugs in their ears and multiple piercings.  He was not wearing the plugs in his ear lobes and they were huge holes swinging. His lobes looked like a coffee mug would fit in them.  She had plugs which kept popping out.  Their faces had multiple piercings.  Looking at them made me just a little queasy.  Yes, I admit, not fond of body art, face piercings, nor the plugs. 

Again you can't judge a book by its cover.  This was one of the sweetest, loveliest couple I have married.  They were so serious about what they were doing.  They were very intense during the ceremony; listening to every word I said and to every word they said.

Another couple turned out to almost be my neighbors.  They live a couple of blocks away.  And he was from the deep South and even had lived in Louisville.

One couple had lots of family and friends with them.  The bride wore a cocktail dress that was black and white.  That seems to be the choice for the majority of brides lately.  I began the ceremony, the groom was hesitant when I asked Do you take . . .  finally croaked out yes.  Everyone laughed.  I thought that was weird and rude.  Then I began the vows and nothing is coming out of his mouth.  I asked is there an English problem.  More laughter.  It turns out he had laryngitis and sometimes nothing comes out.  Just a squeak. I offered to let him skip the vows since they aren't a legal part of the ceremony.  He said he could do it.  And he did.

Lots of weddings, lots of ethnic groups.  Some deeply touched me. And one I hope will last but doubt it.  The bride was 35 and this was her 4th marriage.  That seems to me to be a person who doesn't do marriage well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What a great day at school.

Today was a great day at school. The children were working on different projects when I arrived this morning.  I worked with the group who were working with antonyms and with blends.  Part of them worked with words that were opposites-such as many/few and some worked on words that began with blends. The blend group worked with cards that had the beginning sound and the ending of the word- sk/unk or br/idge.  The children then had to write sentences with the words they had made. 

Making a sentence is a big deal for a first grader.  It is very difficult to make a sentence, spell words correctly, and to write the letters correctly.  And two I worked with zoned out as we worked.  I had to constantly restart them writing.  They just could not stay on task.

We had a wonderful bonus today.  We had an assembly.  The Pacific Boychoir sang for us.  This is an amazing group of young boys. They are a group of children from the 5 Bay area counties, who attend a school in Oakland dedicated to music.  They are a professional choir that has traveled the world: China, Russia, South Africa, Denmark, Ohio, Hawaii, Germany, Hungary, France. . .They visit schools in the area, they sing with major symphonies, they are Grammy winners.  I have never heard children sing so wonderfully.  I wish I had had my iPhone with me.  I really wanted to record the performance.  Pretty amazing assembly.

After the assembly we had recess and then back to the real world.  We had a math test to do that all first graders in Oakland would be doing.  It is multiple choice, they just bubble in the correct answer. Testing first graders is so hard.  They want help and we can't do more than read the question; they can't find the problem we are on;  they yell out the answer; they get upset because the answer they think is correct isn't one of the choices; they check out the answer their neighbor has; they can't find their answer and are one question behind.  It really is hard to keep all of them on track.  We made it through, mostly.  Some of the children were so upset they just quit.  So Ms. H gave the test individually. 

After the test I read the book The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland to the class. I can't find a good web site. He also is a well known photographer.  The sites are more about his photography than his book.

This was a special day.  The children really enjoyed the holiday show from the boy's choir.  They worked hard in class, and they loved the book I read.  The math test, not so much.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving from Hell

Below is an email from my sister in law.  She and my brother have had the Thanksgiving from Hell.  Their son Tres and his family flew to Louisville from Davis, CA for Thanksgiving and to have their baby christened.  Before they arrived their 6 year old son, Hall, had been ill with a "bug".  They arrived Monday and then the bug went through the family.  By Thanksgiving, when we talked to them, everyone seemed to be well.  Seemed to be.  The California group spent the day with Casey's family. The "bug" was stronger than thought. Hall and Bella are children, Tres and Casey the parents.  Ann and Henry, my sister in law and my brother.  The event Ann is talking about is the baptism and party at her home afterwards.


Let's see, Tres and Casey arrived back home with both kids puking in the (er, MY) car at about 730P on Tgiving night. Hall finished the barfs about 9P and Bella's last episode was somewhere around 230A :) --shortly after, I began feeling like a sledgehammer has descended on me--aches, chills, headache, and a bit queasy  (never the barfs though)--then at 6A I began enjoying the rear end weight loss sessions which lasted till about 11A--took a bentyl--gutted through the rest of the food prep that the kids hadn't completed (bless their hearts) and the baptism. (Yes we DID miss you all!) I finally threw the towel in with about 40 in the house and went to bed with aches, etc. at 3P, followed by Bella (still gagging and fussy), and then joined by Henry around 430P--by 530P when I arose with Bella, Henry was driving the back toilet bus and continued off and on with chills and pukes till 930P. Until 3P or so today, he was totally wiped out--revived by lots of gingerale, gatorade, sprite, mashed potatoes, chicken soup and Zestas. Casey, Tres and Hall are fine as I am now and Henry and Bella recovering, although whenever she even hiccoughs, she thinks she will puke and immediate squeals and panics, bless her heart. This has been some week! Good thing I don't mind doing wash--dishes or linen--and cleaning bathrooms--and blessed be for four bathrooms!!!

Our dinner was pbj--good for me or I would never have gotten off the john with regular meal. Henry was not so lucky as he ate everything twice on the reception buffet we provided! LOL--I just drank tea and wine and had another pbj! I have actually lost 5 pounds.

The baptism was lovely and very sweet--Fr. Moran (Boston Irish) was very sweet but kept correcting himself--he called baby Anna Elizabeth ( my note the baby's name is AVA) 4 times!!! ALL the Duttons were there from 93 year old Grandmother Cordova to 5th generation gtgtgrandchild Molly May! Peggy, Sean, Amy, Mother and Jack and friends of ours made it--Later Frank and Linda (she and Tres took over the party clean up bless them), Jim, Nick, Laura and Tiffany were at the house."

So how did your Thanksgiving go?

Friday, November 26, 2010


If you read my blog on Tuesday, November 23, you will understand why I was nervous doing weddings on Wednesday.  Luckily nothing awful happened.  Very nice couples and fairly normal problems.

By the time I got upstairs with the first couple, I had figured out the bride spoke very little English. I had to go to the Marriage Desk Clerk and have her call several people to get a translator.  I wish the clerks would talk to both the bride and groom.  We have commissioners to do foreign language ceremonies.  I sometimes think some of the clerks just don't want to bother tracking down a bilingual commissioner.  They want me to take it to the Marriage Desk Clerk and let her do the work. 

I shook hands with the next bride and groom and their toddler walked up and stuck his hand out too.  So I shook hands with him.  This couple was young, each 22.  They had 2 children, the little boy and an infant. The bride wore a black and white satin dress and the groom wore a white dress shirt and white slacks.  They had close to 20 people with them and all were dressed for the occasion.  The groom was a nervous wreck.  I was worried he would pass out before we finished the ceremony.  He made it OK. The family was so thrilled with the marriage.  Lots of love in the room.

One more problem couple.  The couple and the witness were Iranian.  He was 68 and she was 56.  He was very debonair looking:  Silver hair, ascot, sport coat and dress slacks, major jewelry. His English was perfect.  The bride said hello and then was quiet.  I asked them if they had rings and the witness started translating to the bride.  I stopped her and asked if the bride spoke English.  They said just a little.  I explained I could not marry them if she didn't understand me.  Oh, they would translate, I said no you can't.  Why?  So I explained that women could be brought in from other countries and married and not know what was  happening.  I don't know what they are saying and brides don't know what I am saying.  So for their protection only our translators may speak for the bride.  We have to be sure they know why they are here.  The groom and the witness were floored.  Who knew there were evil people out there. I questioned the bride, why was she here, did she want to marry, could she understand what I said.  Turns out she could understand basic things.  So I did the ceremony.  Because vows are not a legal part I let the groom translate them and they said their vows in Farsi.

I hated being hard nosed about the translating.  But the rules are the rules.  Good thing the bride could answer my questions.  Because to my knowledge we have no Farsi translators.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nice lovely weddings, oh and a X rated one

Yesterday afternoon  was busy.  I did 7 ceremonies and took up a couple for a Spanish ceremony. And I did my first X rated wedding.  I have had R rated, but yesterday, OMW!

But first the nice weddings, or at least nice in comparison. 

My first ceremony the groom wore a tux and the bride wore a brown and white dress that had an all over small design.  Very striking.  They had their own vows and it was very intense. It was a really feel good ceremony.

The next ceremony could have been the bad one of the day.  But  they were out done by the X rated one.  The bride gave the clerks grief.  She kept asking when they would be called.  Mind you their witness wasn't there yet. They wouldn't be called until the witness showed up and we have no idea when ceremonies will take place.  It is first come first served. She wanted to change into her dress when they were called.  The clerk told if they aren't ready when called, we move to the next license.  So she changed and did her makeup.  She wore a heavy taffeta dress which had a cathedral train. It would have been lovely, but it had not been pressed.  He wore jeans, sport shirt, a leather jacket, and a very bored expression. 

During the ceremony their 2 children (3 and 4 year olds) ran screaming around the room and grabbing the vases of flowers.  I had to stop the ceremony and tell the children NO.  They were so stunned they sat down and were quiet for a couple of minutes. Oh the bride was only 21, do the math.  The witness started to sign in the wrong place on the souvenir certificate.  Three times I showed him where to sign and he got it wrong.  On the legal certificate I all but held his hand so he would sign correctly.

Another wedding was just lovely and fun.  All of the men were at least 6" 4".  The groom was 6' 6" and the bride was 6' tall.  All of the men had on Hawaiian shirts and the women had a Hawaiian theme going also.  Everyone was wearing a beautiful lei. Even the children. I asked if they were all from Hawaii.  No they just wished they were.

Now for the X rated one.  I saw the bride M sitting at the clerk's desk.  M was wearing a leopard silky print micro mini.  The back had a gold chain that hung from the halter neck to below her waist. The links were the size of a teacup.  The front was draped open  from the neck to below the waist. ( think Jennifer Lopez green dress) And the two sides of the drape were 6 inches apart.  She did not have the double sided tape Jennifer Lopez wore with hers.  All the clerks were stunned with how revealing the dress was.  The tiny tight skirt of the dress just covered her hips, but it rode up when she walked.  Her shoes?  Gladiator 6" heels. 

I called their names and they said we are taking pictures, wait.  I said, I'll take the next couple since you are not ready.  They became ready.  As M walked her dress rode up above all decency, and the drapes parted on top. Nipple flashes, I wanted to get her a safety pin.  During the ceremony a breast fell out, and she did nothing.  The men loved it and took pictures.  She finally pulled the dress over her breast. And it happened again, and again.  I couldn't believe it.  A breast falls out once could be a wardrobe malfunction.  Multiple times in a 6 minute ceremony, it is a show. I won't even go into the kiss off between the wedding couple and another couple.  Gross!

Bring back the thin white dresses.  I much prefer looking at underwear than naked body parts.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It is that time again, Open Studios in Berkley.  From November 27 until December 19, every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 -5:00 you can watch artists at work.(the web site says until 6:00, but when it starts getting dark, most studios shut down ) Marty will be doing demos on Sundays at R.Strong Glass    1235 4th Street at Gilman in Berkley.  The last demo of the day starts around 4:00.  This is a great chance so see how hot glass art is made and a chance to do some Christmas shopping.

Below are pictures taken at different times during the last year or so.  Lots of fire, lots of smoke, lots of beauty.  I also have a link to the Open Studios web site below also.  That way you have to read my blog first.   :)

 Marty using the torch to smooth out the bottom of a piece before it goes into the annealing oven.
 Marty heating the glass.
 Marty using the marver (special table used in glass blowing) to begin shaping the glass.
 Wood blocks are also used to shape the hot glass.  Smoke and flames, excitement!
Marty assisting Randy Strong, master glass artist.

To get info about Open Studios, a map, a list of artists go here.  R. Strong Glass is #1 on the list and on the map.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Art project, Ms.H strikes again

Tuesday I walked into the classroom and it was organized chaos.  Children had their shoes off and were tracing their feet onto brown construction paper.  Well, some were.  Others were falling over, they had the paper on the desk instead of the floor and were trying to reach their feet.  You try it, put your foot above your waist and try tracing it. 

Ms. H had an art project.  There were three parents besides the two of us to help the children.  And we were all busy.  It was make a turkey day.  They cut out the traced feet. The feet butted up together and became the turkey body.  Then we traced and cut out hands on red, orange, and yellow construction paper. The hands were the tail feathers. These were to be glued to the back of the feet. Eyes, beaks and waddles were cut out free hand.  All of this then was glued together.

First graders and glue . . .  Oh how they love Elmer's glue. The kids think the more glue the better.  Projects end up glued to the desk, to other children's art project, small pieces on their clothes.  Glue is in globs on the desk and ends up on me, my clothes, in little girls' hair.  They recite the rule, "not a lot, just a dot."  Their dots are bigger than adult dots.

The project was fun. The kids enjoy it and the adults do too. The glue is not really an issue because it washes off people and washes out of clothing.  I didn't scrub real well when I left for the day.  My hands looked like they were peeling from the glue.  My slacks and shirt had glue on them.  I was going home, no big deal. 

Wrong.  Marty picked me up at school and said we needed to go to the bank and then he would take me to lunch.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Really, I am a good cook

Tonight's dinner was a mess.  I planned a Mexican chicken breast dish cooked in the oven at 400 degrees.  I would serve it over rice.  And I would serve sauteed two types of mushrooms, with onions, garlic, hot peppers, and snow peas.  Sounds great doesn't it?

I have made this chicken dish for years.  You skin the breast, pour the sauce over it and stick it in the oven.  In  20 to 25 minutes it is ready to serve.  While it cooks, the rice and veggies cook.  Well after 30 minutes the chicken is still raw.  Not just a little pink, it is raw, dead animal raw.  It is disgusting.  I took it off the bone, cut it into pieces and put it back into the oven.  15 minutes later it is done.  Great.

I plated the chicken over the rice and put the mushroom/snow pea dish on the side of the plate.  We sat down and began to eat. The mushroom dish was so salty Marty wouldn't eat it.  The only thing I can figure is I salted it twice.  We don't use a lot of salt.  But this dish was really bad.  What a waste of great mushrooms, wine, peppers, and snow peas. 

The chicken was good.  And the cookies I made a couple of night ago were great.  But the veggie, really bad. This just goes to show, no matter how much experience a cook has, you can have an off night.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who turned on the burglar alarm?

I have mentioned our house is on the market.  It is a pain to be always ready to show the house. And I have been vocal about that.  I also have told you of the things people will do to belongings in a house for sell.  Friday we had something new, our Realtor had never heard of this one.

Friday Marty and I had an early afternoon appointment and then went to the grocery.  When we returned home I started putting up food.  Then I heard it.  The burglar alarm was doing its chime thing before it goes off.  I ran into the foyer and put in the code.  How the hell did the alarm get set?

When the house went on the market we taped paper over the alarm key pad.  That way we could not set the alarm by accident or habit.  You can set the alarm without the code.  There are buttons for away and for stay.  Some one had punched in the stay button.  Someone had been in the house while we were out.  But no Realtor's business card on the table.  The lock box sends our Realtor an email anytime someone gets the key out.  He had not received an email. 

Someone was in the house using a key, or they picked the lock.  This is the second time we thought some one had been in the house.  Nothing was stolen, nothing rearranged.  Why set the alarm?  Are they just messing with us? 

Had someone been in the house, or was it Casper the Friendly Ghost?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SO MANY WEDDINGS: some lovely, some so much trouble

This week I married 12 couples and one couple I turned over to a translator.  That couple would not admit the groom didn't speak English.  I kept talking to him and all he could say was yes.  I did a practice run on the vows. I take you . . . he kept saying yes. Just yes.

It was a week for the United Nations.  Couples were from Nepal, Mongolia, Vietnam, China, Mexico, Hungary, India, Ethiopia, and the United States. When I have the United Nations of couples I also have the problem of correctly pronouncing their names.  After so many years of doing this I am getting better.  I have figured out the Mongolians. My bride's name was Gangantsetseg. I have learned you pronounce it just as it looks. Of course some names start with Khlg. . . .  Then I struggle.

The group from Nepal were in traditional dress.  The women wore heavily jeweled dresses or tunics and pants.  The jewel work was at the necks like a necklace and around the hemlines.  Really lovely. Most of the other brides were in white or black and white, which seems to be popular now.

There were many very much in love couples and their ceremonies were very nice.  But you know I always get the funny/strange couples.  And that is what I write about.

I was given the license and I checked it.  The couple had put the mother of the bride's birth name the same as the father's.  That happens sometimes, same last name.  I checked it before doing the ceremony.  Yep, it wasn't the mother's birth name. We reprinted and re signed.  I then gathered the couple and their guests.  There were 8 of them.  We are getting on the elevator and the groom says, "The rings are in the car. Should I go get them?"  I said, "If you want them as a part of the ceremony, go get them.  How far away are you parked?"  They were 5 minutes away.  That means 10 minutes total. The groom takes off, I go back to my desk.  Finally they knock on the door, they are ready.  I go out and there is no bride and none of her sisters are there.

They don't know where the bride is.  Why did they come get me?  They call her.  The ladies are in the restroom primping.  I told them they were like herding cats.  We should be all done with trouble now. No.  We get upstairs to the wedding room.  As always I tell them to mute their cell phones.  We begin the ceremony.  Half way through, a phone rings and rings.  I said, "Don't you dare answer that.  Turn it off now."  And then I completed the ceremony.

One more very strange one.The names have been changed to keep me out of trouble.  I am checking the license and see a problem.  The groom's name is El-Cid Jones, but he signed the license with a string of numbers, periods, hyphens and some letters.  Something like  G.G.M.-sqxrbbbb.2d3  Doesn't look anything like his name.  I took it to supervisor R and she said he can't do this.  R went out and talked to him.  Sacramento requires letters only and in English for a signature. He pitched a fit. A loud in your face fit. No one had ever questioned his signature before and it was on his driver's license and his passport.  If the federal government would accept it. . .  And then he pulled them out and son of a gun.  That was how he signed them.  R called Sacramento and they said he could sign that way since the Federal government accepted it.  Now as a little side note he and the bride changed their names from Jones and Smith to a name associated with a powerful criminal Oakland family. 

To end on a nicer note.  I did the ceremony for a sweet so in love couple.  He was Mexican, she was Chinese.  They told me this was their third ceremony.  They had done a cultural Chinese ceremony.  They had gone to Mexico and been married in the church there.  And my ceremony was for the state.  The beauty of this is they responded as if my ceremony was the first one.  They took it very seriously.  Isn't that nice?

Monday, November 8, 2010


Our house is on the market.  Yesterday we had an Open House. I've told you about locking everything up before we leave.  Well, yesterday nothing was stolen.  But it was just weird what happened.

First, when we got home the French Doors were not locked. That is a big no no.  Our electric blanket was turned on.  Not just on but cranked up to 7.  We don't set it higher that 3 on either side.  It was no accident, someone was messing with our stuff.  In the guest bedroom they rearranged all the throw pillows, moved a little stool (it is a high bed and short people need it to get in the bed) from under the bed.  They pulled the stool into the walk way.  They also moved the end table and placed the lamp in a different place.

This morning Marty went out to the green house. Beside the green house he has a three shelf steel rack for his cymbidiums.  He had the one with buds placed on the top rack.  Two pots had been taken down and set on the patio. 

I understand opening drawers, cabinets, closets.  You want to see storage.  But rearranging my stuff.  That is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Once again Marty and I tested a recipe.  This time it was for a honey mustard Bar B Que sauce on chicken breast.  There are a lot of ingredients and lots of steps.  Consequently lots of pictures.  I narrowed the pictures from 52 to 16.  We used a brine on the chicken first.  Then we made the sauce and grilled the chicken.  This recipe was for Cook's Illustrated.  Remember to click on the pictures to enlarge them.

 Always, first Marty studying the recipe he has taped to the cabinet.
 The ingredients lined up for the sauce.  These are mixed and then added to a simple syrup that was caramelized.
 Trimming the ribs off the chicken, then trimming extra fat, and extra skin.
 Starting the simple syrup.
 Spicy brown mustard.
 Lots of honey.
 Red pepper flakes.  Cider vinegar and fennel (which I really don't like) are also in there.
 Adding the mustard mixture to the simple syrup.
 Finished product.
 The automatic lighter didn't work.  Matches always work.
 We have fire!
 All burners are lit.  Almost ready for the chicken.
 Yes, one lonely chicken breast.  This was huge.  We are pretty sure it was cross bred with a pterodactyl.
 After browning on all sides, the chicken was covered with foil and cooked for 25 minutes.
 Slicing the chicken breast.
The finished product.  Look at the plates.  We have a lot of chicken, and it was one, yes one, chicken breast.  We had the extra Bar B Que sauce, southern green beans, and potato salad.  The sauce was good.  But I am not real fond of fennel.  I think if that were left out it would be a better sauce.  It also is a really sweet sauce.  I think I like my Marlboro Man sauce better.   The chicken was fabulous!  When you use a brine the meat is so moist.  I don't think we will make this again.  Too sweet for us.  Marty liked it better than I did.