Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Recap

We love Christmas time.  We decorate our home, we go to parties, sometimes we have parties, some years we have family visit, Erik and his wife sometimes join us for a meal or appetizers, and we go into San Francisco on Christmas Eve.  We try to send out a Christmas letter every  year, but that doesn’t always happen.  This year the letter was written, fancy paper bought, and we never sent it out.  Maybe another New Year Letter.
Our little tree.  With 12 foot ceilings even a 6 foot tree looks small.
We rode BART into the city and our station has an entrance into a shopping center.  We walked through and looked at decorations, and pretty things we had no use for.  Then we met friends for brunch.
Marty taking a picture of the tree at Union Square.  Yes, at night would be better.  But we knew we would be elsewhere in the city at dark.  The tree is gorgeous and huge.
These are gingerbread houses at the Palace Hotel.  They were several feet tall.
As  you walk into the Palace Hotel, you see this massive table with roses on it.  There had to have been 5 dozens or more roses.  Simple elegance. 
This is the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel at Embarcadero.   Look at the people to get the scale of the trees, hanging lights,  and sculpture. 
Around the sculpture is an fountain of sorts that has sheets of water.  Much like an infinity pool.  Between the water and the sculpture they set up hundreds of little houses, shops, tree, people, etc.  Pictures don’t really capture the beauty and fun of it.  But click on the picture to enlarge it.
After we looked at store windows, Union Square, hotel lobbies, The Ferry Building, we waited on a pier for it to get dark. 

  We stood and watched the Light Show on the Bay Bridge.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas Day.  Below are a some of pictures I took yesterday as we did our traditional Christmas Eve in San Francisco.  More will be posted through out the week.

This is the Gingerbread Castle at the Westin Hotel on Union Square.
The lobby of the Hyatt Hotel at Embarcadero
The Garden Court Restaurant at the Palace Hotel

Monday, December 23, 2013

17 Weddings, 17!!

When I arrived at the county building this morning, people were waiting for us to open.  Looked like a busy day to me, and I was right.  Most Mondays are busy, but not until about 9:45.  Today by 10:10 I had done 5 weddings.  My desk was covered with licenses.  We went to plan B, a runner to bring up couples and I would stay in the wedding room. I didn't leave the Wedding Room area until 12:30 when the next volunteer arrived. Total 17 weddings for the morning.

As I said last week, when I can't make notes I don't always remember dresses or fun details.  But I do have some things to share.

The first wedding the bride and groom were both in the Navy, stationed in Japan.  The bride was gorgeous!  Her hair was in 3 or 4 inch dreads.  On her head was a white fascinator.  Her dress was elegant, creamy white lace over taffeta.  It was strapless with a heart shaped bodice.  The skirt was semi full with a train.  Little pearls were scattered over the gown with brilliants at her waist.  The groom wore a dark blue suit. I loved watching them hold hands and gently rub each other 's thumbs.

The next bride looked mad.  Her face was tight with I thought anger.  Oh boy, this could be interesting.  Nope, she was trying to not cry.  The tears won.  Gentle tears spilling from her eyes.

Another bride was a little pixie woman.  So cute wearing a white knee length lace dress.  I then noticed she doesn't shave her legs.  It was a little bit of a shock, usually the non shavers look a little more Berkeley.

And then 12 weddings with no more notes.  I do remember some details.  Two tiny women dressed in very crisp pant suits with buzz cuts.  A same sex couple had done research of where to marry in the Bay Area.  They told me they were thrilled I did their ceremony.  My name had popped up in a review of  Alameda County Weddings as the best, very caring.  That made my day.

Other memories: a groom was in his Navy uniform and his bride in a cream colored dress.  The dress had a peplum, which I usually hate.  But her body shape made it work.  I had women in beautiful saris.  Guests in peek toe shoes and lovely black dresses.  Today most of the couple and their guests were extremely well dressed. One bride wore a very different wedding dress.  I am almost sure she found it in the lingerie department.  It was a nightgown, I just know it was.  At least it wasn't see through. 

Nearly every ceremony someone cried, men and women.  Today every wedding the love was felt by everyone in the room.  It was a fabulous morning of weddings.  It also was very tiring and I took a very long nap this afternoon.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas party with the A Team

We have a group of friends who meet over food.  We call ourselves the A Team.  Long story that probably years ago I explained.  We all love good food and enjoying cooking.  Last week we gathered for food and for the love of each other.  Out Texas friends didn't make the party.  We have our finger crossed they will join us this summer.

The food is important, but the fellowship is what it really is about.  We have been through illnesses, deaths, moves, hard times, just about everything life could throw at us.  We stand together with love.  We sometimes get ticked at each other, we bitch about how someone does something, we forgive and forget.  But heaven help anyone else who tries to hurt one of us.  We are a family, we can pick on one of us, but no one else can hurt us.

Our party was wine, more wine and wonderful small plates.  Lots of food, love, and laughter.  I got permission to have a little wine and to taste some of the decadent food.


Our host Lew and some great food: spiced nuts, asparagus with aioli sauce, roasted cauliflower, deviled eggs, and more food to come.  And that is my glass of champagne.

I told you we laughed a lot.  Hank on left Thom on the right.  Usually Thom isn't in candid pictures because he takes all the pictures.
My country ham puffs.
Hostess Nancy placing  poached pears in a cabbage soup.  Yummy!
The beautiful table
Yucky picture of a fabulous dish.  This quesadilla was one of the best I have ever had.  Duck confit with incredible salsa.  We are still waiting for you all to share the recipe Lew and Nancy.  
Sinfully delicious!  Chocolate on chocolate with caramel and sea salt.  Thank you Hank and Thom for shooting my diet all to hell.
Hank and I have just said, . . .    well I won't go there.  Much laughter ensued. 
Nancy and me saying good bye.
It was a lovely party.  Good food and wine, good conversation, lots of laughter, and very special friends.  Love you A Team.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

It really is close to Christmas

Tuesday, as usual, I was at Kaiser School with the first graders.  Mostly I was grading papers and making up packets of graded work to go home.  But I also was keeping tabs on who wasn't working up to speed. 

They were doing a cut and paste math sheet that was the 12 Days of Christmas.  There were boxes that had each verse symbol: a partridge in a pear tree with the word first, a turtle dove and the word second, and so on.  They cut them out, put them in order, and glued the boxes to a long sheet of paper.  Before the work could go on the drying rack they had to read the words to an adult.  Then they wrote 3 sentences using the ordinal numbers.  They could all sing the song, and some were upset that I pointed to random boxes and they had to really read.  Mean Ms. Appel.

They later had to fill in blanks of three sentences.  They had to write it exactly as Ms. H had it on the board.  First blanks for  names, second blanks use any number and then a noun. They could put anyone and anything in the blanks.  Spelling counts, handwriting counts, and again it had to be as she had written it.  Really an easy exercise.

On the first day of Break  my friend Betty  gave to me,
3 dolls .

On the second day of Break  my  _______ ______  gave to me,
_______ ________.

On the third day of Break my _______ _______ gave to me,
_______ ________.

One lovely "I will do it my way" child wrote it out about 8 times.  I would erase it, show him the words he left out, explain again how to fill in the blanks, and he would just make up a whole new form. Mostly he left out one of the sentences. This is not a slow child, he reads well and does math well, but refuses to follow directions.  A major part of life is following directions.  He lost recess, and was also going to lose lunch recess.  He is pigheaded and always has to do work over and over.  When he finally accepts we won't allow his  half ass work, he will do the work perfectly.  Ms. H calls him her passive aggressive child.

Now for the it is close to Christmas.  Several things set off a classroom: substitute teachers,  rainy or snowy weather, a change in routine, and holidays.  Christmas and Halloween are the big one to make children go nutso.    The silent children were talking, the talkers were yelling across the room, some were just wandering from table to table chairs fell over and books were dropped.  A normal week before Christmas break. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Weddings, lots of weddings

Usually when I am doing marriage ceremonies, I make notes before and after each one.  Otherwise I wouldn't remember details to write about.  But when we have a day like last Monday, no time for notes.  I didn't have a ceremony until close to 10:00, and from then until the next volunteer arrived around 12:30 we had  a steady flow of couples.  I did 11 ceremonies in that time and others did Spanish and Cantonese ceremonies.  When the next volunteer arrived there were 8 licenses lined up on the on the desk and more kept coming.  While I waited for Marty, I checked licenses and did paper work for her.

My first ceremony was a do over.  An Indian couple had divorced 5 years ago and now were remarrying.  Their teenage daughters were the witnesses.  After I pronounced them married I said  "Congratulations, you may kiss."  The groom said, "Oh, we can't in front of our daughters."

There were several same sex marriages.  The witnesses for two women told me I had married them on the first day it was legal for them to marry in 2008.  They gave me big hugs and told me they were so glad I was doing the ceremony for their friends.

One bride was heavily pregnant and told me a sad tale.  She and her "husband" had had a cultural religious ceremony.  Later the priest told them they weren't legally married because he hadn't told them to buy a license.  They spent a couple of years trying to find a way to have the marriage declared legal.  They would need a lawyer, a judge's ruling, and to spend a lot of money.  Some kind person told them just go get married with a license.  She was embarrassed, and wanted this done before the baby was born.  I told her they were not the first couple we have married who thought they were married.  She seemed to be relieved that it happens to others.

I had a May/December wedding.  The bride was around 20 years older than the groom. (I love to see  brides who are older than the grooms.  Reminds me of my mother and Papa Jack.)  She adored the groom, huge smile all through the ceremony.  She wore a pink chiffon beaded skirt.  Her top was in matching shades of pink and also was beaded and sequined.  The groom was very stoned face until I pronounced them married.  Then he broke out in a huge grin. 

One group won the prize for best dressed wedding party.  The women had the most wonderful shoes and purses ever.  They were all gussied up in beautiful outfits. The groom wore a dark blue suit.  The bride wore a dark blue knee length dress with a bell skirt.  The dress was a satin material with an overlay of a sheer blue material.  But on her head the best little fascinator ever.  It was just perched on the side of her head and made quite a statement.

My favorite couple, a quiet Asian bride and groom.  Both seemed very prim and proper. He was almost stone faced.  And then he started saying his vows and started giggling and laughing.  He was fighting to not laugh, but it wasn't working.  Then she started laughing and so did I and all the guests.  Finally he got through the vows and was back to stone faced.  I started the ring ceremony and he lost it again, red faced belly laughs.  I loved it.

There are other stories, but the above are the best.  Love was in the room and in their hearts.   

Saturday, December 14, 2013

About that cocktail party . . .

As I told you all yesterday, Friday afternoon we were invited to a cocktail party.  It was for members of one of Marty's business associations .  The invitation said let them know who you were bringing so they could have name tags.  It was being held in a hot spot in Walnut Creek.  We left home in plenty of time to be the first ones there.  It was only a 25 minutes drive, usually.

Five minutes from the house we see one of the info Highway signs,  RTE 24E crash two left lanes closed at Fish Ranch.  For non Bay Area folks, that is the first exit as you come out of the tunnels, right where we going.  Where thousands of cars are going, about the only way to go East.  Every highway on the west side of the tunnels was gridlock.  We bypassed the tunnels and went up over the Oakland Hills,  and came down past the accident. Thank goodness we know how to do that, most people don't.  Still gridlock on HWY 24E.  From our house to the party, one hour and a half. 

We walked into the tavern, no table with name tags and only two people in the group there.  We made four, no one else showed up. NO ONE. The other two people had been eating and drinking for over an hour and had places to go, people to see.  That was not a party, it was a failure.  We had planned to eat out after partying and decided to go back to San Leandro to a favorite spot.

We are back on the highway now going West.  Normal rush hour traffic and close to gridlock where 13 ends at 580.  We got off and took surface streets in Oakland.  We were not in the best area of Oakland.  As we crossed a street I yelled, "Look!" It was a whole street decorated for Christmas. We were at Seminary Avenue and Picardy.  Marty made a U Turn, (legal in California) and we drove up and down Picardy. 

Not the best pictures I have taken,  but we were in the car driving slowly.  You will get the idea of how great this street looks.

This made up for the awful traffic, non party, and again bad traffic.  We felt much happier, and felt the Christmas happiness. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Where has the week gone?

I find it hard to believe it is Thursday night.  The week flew by and I did so little.  Monday no Marriage Factory.  Marty had a 7:30 meeting in the opposite direction, so I stayed home.  The curse of only one car.  But Tuesday I made it to Kaiser School and worked with the first graders.

I have mentioned how record breaking cold the Bay Area has been.  One of my medications makes me be cold when everyone else is hot.  But Tuesday the classroom was cold, everyone had on their coats.   No heat over night and the room didn't warm up for a couple of hours.   It wasn't unbearable, but I was uncomfortable.  I was missing my electric throw. 

I mainly was organizing  homework packets and making packets of work from the last couple of weeks.  I also listened to the children read. Then I was called into extra duty.  During recess Ms. H came in and asked me to go to the playground and take the class to the library.  She was taking care of another class while the teacher received some first aid.  So off I went outside to the cold cold playground.  Thankfully I wasn't there long before time to go the library.  Ms. H was back in about 20 minutes.

Back in our classroom I read to the class.  Then they did some creative writing.  Their phonics' sound for the day was ar.  As Ms. H said, "Who knew ar could be so hard."  They had listed lots of ar words such as dark, car, start, star, barn, far.  But they just didn't lock into the sound.  So they had to draw a car, a very special car.  It could go into the future, or go back to the time of the dinosaur's.  Maybe their car could fly, or was silly.  It was their car and they had to write about it using ar words in three sentences.  They really got into their special cars. 

Wednesday made I country ham puffs for a  party this weekend.  These can be made ahead of time and frozen.  So I made extra for Christmas brunch.

Today was another clean out the closet day.  I filled a huge bag with clothes to go to the Salvation Army. I have now lost 52 pounds and most clothes in my closet hangs on me.  This is a good thing, except I am now down to my smallest clothing.  Five more pounds and I will have to buy clothes.  I have found a shop a block from us that has really low prices and cute clothes.   This will be my new favorite spot to shop. 

Marty just told me we are invited to a cocktail party Friday afternoon.  I am going even though I won't be drinking.  Marty says he will be taking me to dinner afterwards.  YAY, no cooking!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Party Time!

We went to a party in San Francisco last night.  Out hosts Dan and Ben are great hosts. They provide  wonderful food, a bartender to pour what ever you want (my one drink of the night was a large champagne), interesting guests, and a beautifully decorated home.  Oh, I forgot the two adorable dogs who gave us all lots of love.

The drive to our hosts' home non rush hour, non holiday takes at most 40 minutes.  We were 1 hour and 30 minutes on the road.  Most of the time was at the bridge toll plaza and on the bridge.  Saturdays you get people with no Fastrak, that slows down all traffic as they try to figure out where are the cash lanes and then they fumble for cash.  Finally onto the bridge, and we have another stop and go situation.  The bridge and the views are stunning, but people come on this is a highway not a look out point. 

I so wanted to take pictures of the food, the table, the party.  But I decided that would not be classy and maybe rude.  But you all would have loved seeing the table.  It was in tiers with food identified for people with allergies.  Some food was slanted on two tiers, some placed at just the right angle, a knockout table. 

60 guests were invited, and probably 59 were there.  Men were all over the house.  Eating, drinking, talking, having fun.  We had a great conversation with a couple we have seen at other parties over the years.  We sat in the office and caught up from last year.  Once again I was the only woman there.  Marty and I were the token straight couple. 

We had some fun excitement, Ben was showing us his new kitchen toy, a cartridge that makes instant whipped cream.  Pour in, shake, and shoot.  Well, it was "empty" and he was taking it apart to pour in more cream.  He pulled and whipped cream went everywhere.  Up walls, all over him, Marty was beside him and had whipped cream in his hair, on his shirt and slacks.  I was at least 3 feet away and I was hit too.  In my hair, on my fancy red top, on  my velvet slacks, on my hands and face, whipped cream had landed. It was so funny.  We laughed and then cleaned ourselves  up.

Great party Dan and Ben!

Friday, December 6, 2013


First, I did not go to Kaiser School this week.  I was up and dressed and had time to check email before leaving.  Ms. H had sent an email saying she hoped I read it before coming to school.  They had a field trip and she had forgotten to tell me.  Good thing I am addicted to email. It would have been bad to drive for 45 minutes and no First Graders at school.

What to do, I am dressed in full make up and nowhere to go.  Luckily two friends are spontaneous.  We went to breakfast. 

This week has been so cold.  Wednesday night it went down to 26 degrees.  That is cold anywhere.  But in the San Francisco Bay Area, that is record breaking.  Tonight they are talking snow in the Berkeley Hills.  Yuck!  Hopefully where we live will only get rain.

I have lost 46 pounds since the great hospital drama of September.  I have gone from a 18-20 women's to a 14 petite.  I still have more pounds to lose.  I will keep you posted.

Tomorrow we go to our first Holiday Party.  I am excited to be able to fit into my pretty clothes for the party.  I also an excited about the food that will be there.  Ben and Dan are really good cooks.  Last week the doctor told me I could taste "bad food" and one meal of the wrong food won't kill me.  I even get to have a glass of wine.  Marty is loving I can't drink much.  He gets to drink and I get to drive home.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Worst wedding dress ever, and other happenings at the Marriage Factory

Lots of weddings on Monday.  Some in English for me, and others in Cantonese and Spanish.  My first wedding was a destination wedding.  A same sex couple from Arizona had come to California to marry.  They were so nice, a couple of teddy bears.  They loved how nice and easy everything was handled in Alameda County compared to complicated wait times in San Francisco.  Then they noticed the art work was all marriage related. They took lots of pictures by each piece of art.  A great couple to start off the day.

Sometimes I get couples with hard to pronounce names.  Remember I grew up in a little town in Kentucky.  Not much diversity there.  Until I started doing marriages I didn't have to be able to pronounce hard names.  Friends taught me to pronounce their names, and that covered it.  But now, lots of diverse names, Mongolian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Romanian, Hispanic, Indian, and on and on.  For an example check this out: Qixia.  This is Chinese and I do pretty good most of the time.  But a Q and a X in the same word threw me this time.  I was close but no cigar.

Remember my rule, ask if everyone is here, before we go upstairs?  Didn't go as planned. The clerk told them they were next and I would be right out.  (Wish she wouldn't do that, what if I needed a bathroom break, or another commissioner is doing a Spanish wedding?)  Any who, I go out and one of the grooms is missing.  He is paying the parking meter.  They made a point to tell me how long they had been there, an hour!  Really, you think you are the only ones getting married?.  The lobby was packed.  Finally the groom comes back, everyone is here, and we go upstairs.  I call the two grooms over and only one shows.  The guy is missing again.  He had gone to the bathroom.  I admit I got a little testy.  I had a desk full of licenses and these people have taken as long as a ceremony and we haven't started yet.

In my defense for being testy the couple before this one had been a problem.  I started asking questions and realize the groom did not speak/understand English, not a word. The clerk had to know this.  So I had to get them out of the Wedding Room, and then go get the above couple. That is always awkward. 

Now about the awful wedding dress:  Visualize this. . . a mullet dress.  It gets worse, the top is black strapless but she is wearing a black bra that is not strapless.  It gets better and better, the mullet skirt is a leopard print and sheer.  Thank goodness she had on black hot pants under it.  I just can't unsee this hot mess.