Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Annabella said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Annabella is our great niece.  Her Dad is a pilot stationed at Travis Air Force Base.  When I first met Annabella last year she was three years old.  She asked if I had a guest room for her. A few months later she and her family came for brunch, the first thing she wanted to see was the guest room.  It seemed to pass muster.

Her big brother had made the trip alone to see grandparents last month.  She is too young to fly without an adult.  I thought I would give her a little trip this weekend.  We planned to pick her up Saturday morning to visit us.  Her family would come for lunch on Sunday and take her home.  Dad thought she would want to come. 

I had a few plans, just in case she hated something.  We had a Plan A, B, and C.  Plan A was take her to Children's Fairyland.  This is the place that inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland.  Plan B,  Smurfs.  Plan C, put her at the kitchen table with a computer and earphones and stream movies from Netflix.  We won't tell her parents about that one.

 Dad Tres called us.  Bella doesn't want to spend the night.  It is just too big a step for a four year old.  I understand.  I was the kid the parents had to come pick up when it was bedtime.  I am disappointed.  But better Bella likes the idea than Bella come and get homesick and have an hour's drive home crying. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Trip to Wine Country

This week our nephew Tres ( father of our pretend children) Skyped us.  He invited us to join Casey and him for a VIP wine tasting on Saturday and then dinner in Napa  Would we like to join them?  Hell yes.  We love wine tasting.  We love road trips, no matter how small.  We love to spend time with Tres and Casey.

We went to Cline Cellars.  This is a beautiful winery.  It looks like an old farm, which it is, only better. The gardens are wonderful.  Old fashioned flowers are planted everywhere.  They have a small museum, ponds, grassy places to picnic, and lots of little animals to look at. 

Tres and me in front of the main building.  The porch wraps three sides of the farm house.  Our private wine tasting was on the right side of the porch.  It was a very pleasant day in Wine Country, with a gentle breeze.

Our guide took us on a tour of the property.  While we walked we sipped a lovely sparkling wine. They built a traditional building from the bricks of a building that was torn down in Sonoma.  They use this building for events.
This is Ruth our guide and the miniature donkeys.  We all fed them apples.  Very cute little animals.  The donkeys were originally used as pack animals at the wineries.
The museum is the history of the missions of California.  The missions were built a day's horse ride apart.  Just as Kentucky's county seats were set up.  We are looking at models of the missions.  They were built for the Pageant of the Pacific in 1939.  The models were going to be destroyed and the owners of Cline saved them.  These models are so detailed, they are perfect miniatures of the real buildings.
                                                     Another mission.      

On the tour.  Note Marty holding our empty flutes.  He is in front of the tanks the grapes go into after being crushed.
Tres and Casey in the Barrel Room.  This is a working warehouse and is also used for events. 
We are in a room that holds the stainless steel tanks that hold wine as it ages.  After being here, the wine either goes into small barrels or into bottles depending on how long it is aged.
Ruth is checking what wine is aging in these stainless steel tanks.  She was looking for a particular Chardonnay and a Syrah.
Never ever have we been on a tour and the guide has given us samples from a tank that is for ageing.  She wanted us to taste the wine when it was very young to compare with the aged product we would taste later.
This is a barrel head that was behind the table where we did the wine tasting. 
Casey and Tres sitting at our private table for tasting.  Ruth has gone for some of the bottles for us to taste. 
Marty and me waiting for the next pour.  We had some lovely wines.  And we bought some for a special meal at home.
Tres having some cheese to cleanse his palate.  You see Casey's arm.  She was making notes on everything we tasted.  Then she bought some bottles from her notes.
Marty finishing tasting one of the Zinfandel's.  They were really nice.
Ruth is pouring one of the wonderful wines.  Poor Tres loved the tasting, but he was the designated driver.  So he took very small tastes and passed his glasses to Casey and to me.  We thanked him and enjoyed our extra tastes.
When we arrived Forrest on the right, was on the front porch.  Casey wanted a picture with him.  When we were ready to leave, Forrest was inside the building.  Oh, Forrest is a mannequin.

We had a great day.  Lots of laughing, tasting, and we finished with a lovely meal in downtown Napa.  Thank you Casey and Tres. 

Friday, August 26, 2011


Well, I can answer the above question easily.  The brides and grooms have gone to Friday.  My friend Joe married 11 couples last Friday morning.  And today, who knows how many he will marry.  Fridays have always been the busiest day for couples to come in to marry.  But Monday used to be a close second.  Not this summer.  I am lucky to have more than two couples come in to be married.  The County Recorder's Office has been very slow on Mondays and Wednesday. 

Monday I had two couples, Wednesday only one.  It was so slow I feel asleep at my desk.  The couple I  married Wednesday ticked me off.  It was a for legal purposes only marriage. 

The couple was Jewish.  He was wearing yarmulke, she was wearing a shawl.  Their witness was one of the pushiest women I have ever met.  Every question I asked the couple, she answered.  She even was telling me what to do in the ceremony.  I finally told her it was not her wedding, they were the ones getting married.  She backed off some then.  They told me they had had a religious ceremony and they wanted the legal part of the marriage ceremony totally separate from the spiritual.  Thus the two ceremonies.

Except they had brought their book from the religious ceremony.  They wanted to read the vows they used at that ceremony.  ???  Separate, no crossing the line from legal to spiritual???  So they stand up front, the bride wraps them both in her shawl.  They stood there looking bored, they had big smirks on their faces.  No way are they doing their marriage in a respectful way.  They start reading their vows, which had nothing to do with marriage or love.  The vows sounded as if they came out of a peacenik's  tree hugger's rant. They read in a bored tone, sometimes reading really fast as if to be done with it, sometimes plodding word for word.    And they kept the big smirks on their faces.   They made a mockery of their religious vows and of the legal/real wedding. 

I was glad to see the back of them.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ava's first birthday

Today's blog is mainly for family.  This is so family can see what they missed by not being with us yesterday.  Saturday we took a little road trip to Davis.  Our niece Ava was having her first birthday party.  It is hard to believe this darling (and I don't use that word much) child is a year old. 

                Ava just one year ago.  We could see the beginnings of her red hair.

                               Ava now, with Mom Casey

Ava in her party dress.  She is ready to receive her guests.

Marty and I brought gifts for Hall and Annabella also.  Just because it isn't your birthday doesn't mean you don't want or deserve a gift too.

                                 Big sister Annabella helping Ava open her gifts.

                                       More help from Annabella.

               Why are these people looking at me?   What's going on?
 Annabella and Hall on the left.  Big girl cousin on the right.

A crown for the birthday girl.  And she was not happy with it.

 What is this dumb thing on my head?  Get it off!!!!!!!!!!!!

               CAKE!  This I understand.  Gimme!

 Notice the pretty dress is gone.  Stripped to just a diaper, the perfect way to eat my cake. MINE!

 Notice Annabella approaching the cake.  Ava does not notice, she is too busy eating icing.

I see you there Annabella.  Stay away.  Notice the swipe in the back of the cake.  Annabella did damage before Ava started watching for her.

If you are still reading this post, you are family, love goofy pictures, or a stalker.  We had a fun time with Ava and her guests from both sides of her family.  We are so happy having Tres and Casey and their little ones close to us.  

Happy Birthday Ava.

Friday, August 19, 2011

So very slow at the Marriage Factory

Monday I did only two weddings.  There was a threat of 8, but more about that later.

The first couple were from Afghanistan.  They were very reserved.  After I pronounced them married, he laughed and said they would do the kiss in private.  The groom did ask me the number one question I get.  "How many weddings a day do you do?"  And I gave my stock answer, "Zero to 9 in a three hours shift, average around 5."

Wedding two the couple were Hispanic.  They had already exchanged rings and did not want the ring ceremony.  They were a little weird.  He had a death grip on her hands.  She kept pulling away from him and playing with her bracelet.  He would grab her again and finally he held her so tight she couldn't get loose.  I was getting worried,  It looked like maybe she didn't want to be there. Should I stop things and talk to her? Was she going to balk?  She seemed to relax and I didn't stop the wedding.  After I pronounced them married, great big kiss, big hugs, everyone happy.  Still it was strange.

Then an empty lobby until 3:55. We had couples everywhere.  The clerks told me we had 6 couples punched in to buy a marriage license.  I could be there until after 5:00 if they wanted to be married in our wedding room.  As it turned out 5 couples were only buying licenses.  One couple wanted to get married today.  But there was a problem, they had lost their license. (many couples pre buy their license) So could we just pull up that license and then we could do the ceremony.  No.  They needed to buy another license.  Each license has a number, and you can't print another one without the original being there.  When they found out they would have to buy a new license for $85, they went home to look again for their license.

Sidebar: I am having major allergy problems.  They have drug on for months.  The doctor has tried different things, but we never get the whole respiratory thing cleared up.  The last several weeks I have really been bad.  So I haven't gone in as often to do weddings.  New meds start tonight.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Hopefully next week I can make both Monday and Wednesday at the Marriage Factory.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I won, I won, I won!!!!!!!!!!!

My friend Janet Rudolph writes several blogs: one on chocolate, one on her business on Team Building, and one on mystery related topics.  Sometimes she has authors guest blog on the mystery site. And sometimes Janet says if people post comments they will have a chance to win a book by that day's author. Last week the guest blogger was Sue Ann Jaffarain.  I commented and I won! 

I was allowed to pick the book I wanted from Sue Ann Jaffarian's three series.  One series I hadn't read yet, so I picked the first book of the series, The Ghost of Granny Apples series.  Ms. Jaffarian writes with humor, plots well, throws in surprises, and has clear characters. I never forget who characters are in her books.  And trust me some books I have to keep a score card to remember everyone.

These are highly entertaining books but not fluff.  If you haven't read her work, pick a series and enjoy a good read.

A statement she ended the blog with I have heard other authors make. "The series writes itself, I am just the medium."  I often wonder what it would be like to have all those characters running around in my head. The authors must feel a desperate need to write and let the characters take over. 

A big thank you to Ms. Jaffarian for writing books that are so enjoyable.  And a big thank you for the book I have won. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A wedding first

Wednesday I thought the afternoon was going to be slow, maybe not even have any couples to marry.  I sat and read over an hour and finally a marriage license was brought to me.  In the remaining hour and a half I did 4 marriage ceremonies and staff did 2.  So business picked up a little at the county building.

We all tend to stereotype cultural groups.  All grey haired Southern women look like Paula Dean.  Northerners are loud, talk too fast, and never develop deep relationships outside of family.  Asian don't show emotion or affection in public.  The French all smoke, don't bathe, and wear incredible clothes.  And on and on.  Very often we have couples who prove the stereotype. 

And then someone breaks the stereotype . . .  I had a couple from Cambodia.  The bride starting crying during the vows.  He held her to comfort her, and when I pronounced them married, they kissed!  Asians rarely kiss, they barely will hold hands.  I was surprised, and tickled at the same time. 

Next was a fun couple.  They had lots of guests.  The bride had on a lovely taupe, knee length, lace dress.  She carried a bouquet of white mums.  Now for the weird part.  The bride had on a black coat sweater that came almost to her knees.  I thought she would remove it for the ceremony.  No, not only did she keep it on, it was belted over the dress.  Not quite tacky but close.  Why, I don't know.  Her dress was lovely and should have been shown off.  The only guess I have is the dress was too little and it wouldn't zip, so the sweater to cover the back.

Now to the wedding first.  Our wedding room looks like a little chapel.  We have lots of dark wood and 4 pews.  It is a really pretty room.  People always are surprised that a government wedding room is so nice.  The couple were cute.  She wore a grey dress and carried a bouquet of white iris.  He had a huge iris just stuck into his shirt pocket.  He wore a straw fedora hat, as did their year old son.  When we turned the corner and the bride saw the room, she burst into tears. No one has ever cried from seeing the room.  She couldn't believe what a nice place she was being married in.  She cried throughout the ceremony, laughing at the same time.  A very happy couple.  There was love in the room.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wedding Extremes

Monday I did several weddings.  I was helping to train an intern who wants to be a marriage commissioner.  She was going to watch me to see how we handle weddings. 

The first license was interesting.  The bride is 41 years old, the groom is 31 years old.  Age doesn't matter, but she has already done a lot more living than him.  This was his first marriage, and it was her fifth marriage.  They told me they wanted the shortest ceremony I could do. I told them only three sentences are required by law to be married.  Were they sure they wanted that cold of a ceremony.  Oh yeah, that's what they wanted. "We are having a real wedding later."  You know how well I take that statement.  I told them they were breaking my heart.  ( I hate doing the three sentence ceremony.  It doesn't seem real.  It also seems pretty tacky.)  I did the ceremony as requested:  Do you. . . ? Do you. . .?  I now pronounce you . . .  She jumped his bones and we had a tacky tongue down the throat kiss, and I eased them downstairs to do the paperwork. 

The intern was lucky. She saw the extremes that come to the wedding room. We had the three sentence wedding and the next one was a full blown extravaganza.  There were 30+ people in the room.  The bride wore a knee length white strapless dress.  It had a deep purple sash.  She carried white roses with purple flowers mixed in.  The groom wore black slacks, black vest with a deep purple shirt and purple boutonniere.  Their toddler daughter had on a white dress with a deep purple sash.  Do you see the theme here?  Everyone at this wedding had on purple.  Many had on corsages/boutonnieres. Even I had on a blouse that was a shade of purple.  I had received the memo. We had a great look going on. 

The couple had a best man and a maid of honor stand up with them.  Few of the couples do that.  I did the sweetest fluffiest ceremony I have.  The bride cried, her parents cried, the maid of honor cried.  It was a lovely ceremony.

I was worried about pictures after the ceremony.  With so many people it takes a long time.  The lobby was full and I needed to get the next couple. I needed the picture taking to be quick and everyone move out.  I shouldn't have worried.  One of the guests was armed with a digital Nikon and she was organized.  She barked orders like a drill Sergeant:  all the girls with the bride and groom; next all the boys;  next all the children; next Mom and Dad; next . . .  I asked Nikon girl if she would come in on Mondays and Wednesdays and help me. 

This was a beautiful wedding.  They had everything planned, they listened to my rules, they told me what they wanted, and the guests were great.  It was fun, it was lovely, and it was so nice after the cold three sentence wedding.  The intern was excited to see two such extremes.  She didn't realize people came in wedding dresses with lots of guests.  These two weddings taught way more than anything I could have told her.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The parents are just stupid

This afternoon we went to see Cowboys and Aliens, which is rated PG-13.  That means there is stuff in it that little children should not see.  I really enjoyed this summer entertainment movie.  But it had scary stuff, icky stuff, jump out at you aliens.  The aliens were gross, they dripped icky mucus stuff. They had body parts that were disgusting. They were scary. Then we had deaths, bloody wounds, dead horses and cattle, and a dog in danger.  Nothing here for very young children.

That did not keep lots of parents from bringing their little ones to this movie.  A family walked in and the little girl was already upset.  She kept saying, "I don't want to see this, I don't want to be here."  Guess where they sat, right behind Marty and me.  The little girl walked up and down the row, bouncing my chair, bumping my head, pulling my hair, and whining.  And her parents talked throughout the picture to the children, not even whispering.  This was one time that the loudness of a movie got points from me.  It helped to drown out this family.

There were crying children, whose parents had to take them out. There were bored children and their parents took them out. Thank you parents. Some of the little ones were scared, and probably will dream about the gross scary aliens (hell, I may dream about them).  The parents should not have brought their kids to see this film.  It is highly entertaining, but it is an adult film.  Get a sitter next time parents, don't subject your children to a scary film. And don't subject the audience to your upset children.

And that is this old lady's rant.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

If something goes wrong, I'll be the one doing the weddings

Wednesday started out as a nice slow day at the Alameda County's Clerk Recorder's building.  So slow I sat over an hour before I was brought a marriage license.  They were a very sweet couple, we had a normal wedding ceremony, and they were out the door.

I get the next license and go out for the couple.  They had several guests, everyone is happy, and we start signing after the ceremony.  The witness signs and says my name is misspelled.  Great, another couple who did not proof the license before it was printed.  And for some reason they don't have a souvenir marriage certificate. We have to get the real license corrected and reprinted and everyone sign again.  We also have to get a souvenir certificate.  The clerk starts the process and the whole computer system in the building goes down.  Nothing can be done.  So she goes to type up the souvenir certificate and makes a mistake.  So she does it again.

While this is going on I tell the next couple I will take them up as soon as the system is back up.  Hoping it will come back up.  Sometimes it can take a really long time.  Finally the system comes back on line, I sign and go for the next couple. 

No groom, he has gone to feed the meter.  We wait, and wait.  She calls him, it goes to voicemail.  So she runs outside to find him.  Lovely, no bride or groom.  Finally they come back in and we do the ceremony.  It is a confidential license.  They tell me they just wanted to marry quietly, and will have a "real" wedding later.  There is that nasty word again, REAL.

When I come downstairs, the lobby is full of couples and their guests. I figured the computer system is acting up again.  I am asked how late I can stay, too many couples to be done by 4:30. I tell them I'll stay until it is done. I call Marty and tell him not to come get me until I call him. The bigwigs from upstairs are telling all the couples not to worry, they will be married and go out the door with their paperwork that day.  We peons are thinking, how can you promise that?  What if the computers go down again.  Nothing can happen without the computers.

We lucked out, most of the couples were just buying a marriage license. The computer system did not crash again.. But I did stay late to get the weddings done.

My next group nearly drove me crazy.  It was like herding cats.  I could not get their attention, they wouldn't get on the elevator, they would not hush.  They bride told me she wanted to play gospel music before the ceremony.  I said OK, but only one verse, we are on a tight schedule. (the building is now closed, and I don't know if more couples are waiting downstairs) Then the couple can't make up their minds on who will bring the rings up, their children or adult friends. Then they had to discuss whether they would stand alone or have friends stand up with them.  Finally decisions.  The bride wants everyone seated and then she will walk in, OK.  Then they hand me a CD and tell me to play it. I asked, "On what?"  They thought we would provide a CD player.  No, we provide a room and me.  They wanted to argue about it, and I cut them off.  NO CD PLAYER HERE! 

Finally, after telling everyone to please stop talking on your phones, to please sit down, I am the only allowed to talk now, I motion the bride to come in.  I start to say my first words, and a man burst into song.  Luckily he had a nice voice, but he sang forever.  I was floored.  You think someone would have told me about plan B. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

National Night Out

Tuesday was National Night Out.  Our neighborhood had our first party last year.  This year we had a few more people, some new and some repeats.  We were to bring an appetizer and something to drink. This year we didn't have any police or fireman join us.  There was an upsurge in parties and they couldn't attend all of them.  We met the new people, renewed acquaintances with folks we hadn't talked to since last year.  We live on a long curvy street.  We wave to each other, but not much talking goes on with the down hill people.

This was at the entrance to the cul de sac across the street from us.  The neighbors who live on the cul de sac let us have the party there.  The street we live on is on the bus line so it isn't safe to have a party on the street.  And we can't block off the street because of the bus line.

On the left is a google earth picture of our street.  On the right our names and a push pin.  We moved the names and stuck them into our houses.  It was fun to see where we all live.

                  Marty and Dee (our organizer) set up trash bags by the food and drinks tables. 

Marty is talking to a little one who is trying to ride a scooter.  She couldn't figure out how to have one foot on it and one to push.  So she just pushed it around the circle.  Notice in the back the little boy in a cape.  He also had a mask he wore part of the time.  He was one of the transformers.

This is a shot of some of the neighbors.  Not everyone was there yet.  We had two full tables of food, a cooler with beer and white wine, and a table with tea, water, and red wine.

The party was 7:00 to 9:00.  Just in case you didn't notice in the pictures, we are wearing coats, sweaters, sweatshirts.  The fog was coming back in and it was right brisk.  We think next year we will have a neighbor bring his patio heater. 

The group is going to form an online or email informational group.  With that we can let others know if strangers are wandering on the street.  Our area has a low crime rate, but we need to be aware who belongs here and who doesn't.  Also if people are traveling we can be aware to  keep watch on their houses,  we can set up gatherings for holidays etc.  Suggestions were also made to have a neighborhood facebook page. 

The evening was a success and it was fun.  We are lucky to have someone like Dee do all the work to put the evening together.  She is a good neighbor.