Ann's VERY occasional Blog


It's already over two weeks since Foresta and Daniel's wedding party, but it took awhile, even in this digital age, for some of the photos people took to brcome available. And since then we've been away (there are pix about that, too, which I'll get around to next). So it was only Monday I started compiling a facebook photo album about the wedding. Didn't intend to post it until it was done, so I was surprised when comments started coming in. Facebook strikes again!

But in case anyone's curious... as you perhaps remember, Foresta got married back in March, but they decided, in effect, to hold their reception in May. They were thinking of doing as we did 34 years ago, and holding their bash in Berkeley's Cragmont Park, which was either free or very inexpensive when we did it, but when they investigated, it turned out it would have cost $350 to reserve it. We offered to pay that, and the cost of having the event catered, but Foresta had another idea. Several other ideas.

We were a little worried about inviting upwards of 70 people to our house, but Foresta promised she--they--could handle it, it would be fine. And it really was. Dan and I put some energy into making house and yard presentable, which included helping Daniel bring home some salvaged lumber to make benches to supplement rented and borrowed chairs and tables. They also rented glasses, and borrowed barbecues and other equipment. As the day approached our refrigerator filled with food; cases of wine, gigantic bags of chips were everywhere. The weather forecast began to look iffy; we pictured stretching a tarp over our deck in the rain.

But though May 15 dawned grey, by noon the sun was breaking through. The invitation said "firing up the barbecue at 3; toasts at 5" and that's about how it went. I recall when Daniel's sister Mariel appeared with a tray of Chilean "ponche." We failed to get a good picture of it, but when I saw the sun sparkling on the red and gold glasses: white wine sweetened with sloced peaches, red with strawberries, I knew the party was going to be very special.

Knowing that many guests would arrive on bikes, we had cleared an area west of the house for bicycle parking, and it filled up fast. I'd been afraid of having to talk to a lot of people I'd never met, but though I got introduced to lots of them, so many old friends and relatives were there that I felt right at home!


Well! just discovered that our many-featured but useless made-in-China-by-child-slaves answering machine HAS been answering calls, and making solemn promises, but, like a busy roommate, has not been delivering messages. For weeks, probably.
This weekend I'll try to call people who might be fuming. If you are one, please call or email (step 1 is to put an explanatory message on that piece of junk; step 2 will, I hope, be to fix or replace it). Meanwhile, lord knows we're usually here early mornings and evenings, and your call really is important to us..

Maybe you, or somebody, left a message while we were out at Hayward Shoreline on Thursday, enjoying choice birdwatching. Every kind of wading bird, song sparrows in full voice, cliff and barn swallows collecting mud as if they were afraid there wasn't enough to go around... Three vultures happily feasting on something dead; a Northern harrier flapping along, making a feint into a flock if sandpipers in case it could snag one on the wing. This picture may be of a black necked stilt... if you know better, please set me straight, but don't bother to tell the machine...

3-25-10 Survived! Take that FTB!

I have to post my accomplishment here because I neglected to put TAXES on my to-do list and so can't cross it off. As is my habit, I used a free online service for the federal taxes, but had to do the state's in the old-fashioned way, to dodge a $10 charge. Which turned out to be more of a nuisance than usual, I'm not sure why. Since when is the CA540 form 5 pages long?

Daniel (Foresta's new spouse) tells us that in Chile, you log on and if your situation is uncomplicated the program informs you what they believe your earnings etc. to be, and asks if you agree. If you do, all that's needed is to pay what's owed. Seeing as the IRS and state tax board already have all this information (W2s, 1099s and so on), isn't there a duplication of effort taking place here? Or maybe an economic stimulus program for accountants! Plus when people like me file handwritten 540s to save $10, somebody in Sacramento has to decipher them and process our checks at taxpayer expense....

3-13-10 Foresta and Daniel are married!

Daniel Antezana Castillo and Foresta Sieck-Hill plighted their troth just after sunset on March 4, at Middle Harbor Park in the Port of Oakland, before eight participants and a few seabirds. They plan to throw a proper party in May, and that will be wonderful, but this speedy, legally necessary wedding was romantic in a different way.

Daniel arrived on February 23, after many months in bureaucratic limbo applying for a fiance visa. (Hearing of the earthquake just a few days later was hard for him; fortunately his family, mostly in or near Santiago, is okay.)

On the afternoon of March 4, we gathered at our house for High Tea, including champagne and oatmeal cookies baked by the bride:

We caravanned to the harbor, and made our way to the water's edge.

Lights glittered on loading gantries while to the west the bay shimmered silver. Yerba Buena Island and San Francisco seemed very near. In the gathering dark a few boats and a long barge made their way up the channel.

Trust me, the bride was so radiant our (many) cameras shoukln't have needed flashbulbs. But it was cold out there, and we wound up the party at a Vietnamese restaurant, where a fine time was had by all. I think we were safely home by 9:30 or so.

Since then we're settled in as a very pleasant extended family + cats, Foresta and Daniel having the upstairs. Depending on when and where Daniel finds work, it may be awhile before they can take a honeymoon, but they did a lot of travelling last year, so for now they're very glad just to be together again. Daniel has had a chance to meet many of his new inlaws already, including my sister Lisa from Indiana, who was here for a wonderful visit just days after their wedding.. But if I get started on that, I'll never get around to posting this...


2009 Yearend letter

This should be short, since I lost my 2009 day book/journal in November, and had a computer crash that emptied my email correspondence folder in May. Who knows what's slipped my mind?

The first excitement of 2009 was Foresta's return in January from South America, where she had spent 2008 (and completed her BA in Development Studies from UC Berkeley). She went right back to work as part-owner of Pedal Express, where she is now a very well-educated bike messenger.But having left her heart in Chile, she went back to visit it for a month in the spring and again this November, and put a lot of effort in between into getting a fiancé visa for Daniel. (Yes, it looks like we're going to have yet another Dan in the family; fortunately Daniel Castillo pronounces his name Dan-yell.) If all goes well he'll be here in February. We are impatient to meet him!

One thing I've wanted to do for a long time finally happened this year, with the help of a very active neighborhood group. We hosted a party in June at which neighborhood children painted signs such as "PLEASE GO SLOW ON OUR STREET!" and "SLOW DOWN AND WATCH FOR KIDS AND CATS!" on recycled plywood. After a certain amount of trial and error (poster paints fade instantly in sunlight) and another painting workshop at a big block party in September, 20 signs are now up, about 2 per block, bolted to signposts or nailed to telephone poles for a Burma Shave effect. Reaction from neighbors has been very positive; the city has not complained… Maybe some folks short-cutting through our 'hood are being reminded that real people live here. I hope we can put up a few more, and maintain and improve them in the future.

I turned 60 in July, and feel very old. It didn't help that on the week of my birthday we had friends of Foresta's as houseguests: Eliza and Tammy, very decorative young women from Australia, who have, or are, a touring rock band called Royal Chord. They are well-behaved, especially as rock bands go, and we like having them visit, but still...

At least I'm the youngest member of "Three Beats for Nothing" my ancient music group. Though all 6 members continue to get more ancient, this year the music did not: we've strayed from our home turf in the 1500s to attempt works by 19th and even 20th century composers, most recently Fauré and Barber.

Many of the trail reviews I've written this year were of places we went on the East Bay Regional Parks' "Tuesday for the Birds" walks, which lure us out every week at 7 am. I am here to tell you that even in August, it can be so cold you can't keep your binoculars straight, but we love it.

Dan, Ben and Foresta went backpacking out of Yosemite for 5 days in August; then in September Foresta and I took a car-camping trip that included a visit with my brother David, his daughter Coral and her son Elliot, and after that, 3 nights in the mountains. The weather was hot; our eccentric '91 minivan suffered sorely and made sure we knew it as we struggled over Carson Pass (8,650 ft.), Monitor Pass (8,314 ft.) and Sonora Pass (9,624 ft.). Nevertheless we had a lot of fun, even enjoying the unscheduled stops to let the car recover, at places we would have driven right by had the car been willing. Foresta proposes that going over high mountains should be hard, and that our inability to charge up those long grades (or down them, for that matter, with the car's dodgy transmission) enhanced our experience.

I can't completely disagree with her, but (in the next heat wave!) Dan and I took a weeklong camping trip to and past Lassen National Park and the car had trouble again, though our itinerary was shaped to avoid high passes. Enough is enough! I am very happy to report that we have given that car to someone who will drive it only near home, and bought a car 11 years younger and hopefully ready to storm over any pass we want to tackle with AC blowing. We would have done this long before if the prices for wheelchair-adapted vehicles were not so shocking.

Sadly, my beloved old cat Petya was ill most of the year, and we had to put him to sleep in October. We had him less than 3 years, but I've never loved a cat more, and I miss him.

Of course, we now have a new kitten named Lucky who is trying very gallantly to fill Petya's 7 league boots. He's one third Whisper's size and has three times her energy. The house frequently thunders with the running of the cats as they chase one another up and down. We feared for the Christmas tree, but it survived the season, and we had a fine Solstice.

I have a long list of New Years resolutions:

1. Don't let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good
2. Don't let the Good be the enemy of the So-so
3. Don't let the So-so be…

I try to leave no buzzword unbuzzed, but at the end of the day, we just keep muddling, do we not? Have a happy New Year anyway!*

*going forward