Wedding Day


The day of the wedding, Sunday, finally arrived.  The first bus left for the winery at 2:30 so we had the morning to ourselves.  We found a church nearby so that we could go to Mass that morning.  After Mass we just decided to sit and relax until it was time to get ready.  I must admit that I really don’t remember when I wore a jacket and tie last.

Anyway, we got ready and headed down to the lobby around 2:00.  People were starting to gather. Here’s Kathy with Rosely and Foster, our niece’s aunt and mother.


This lucky lady standing next to Kathy won a trip from Africa to attend the wedding.  Melisa’s uncle James ran a contest at work with the winner receiving a trip to the wedding and a visit to the U.S.  The woman next to me is Theresa, a sister to Rosely and Foster.


Uncle James and his wife, Theresa arrived.  Here they are with Rosely’s son Harold and his wife Angelic.


My brother and sister-in-law, Len and Carol, parents of the groom.


Dayna and Mike, parents of the bride.


The buses arrived.  We got on and headed to the winery.  Tables were all set for the reception.


The scene was set for the ceremony.



The sun was high and it was hot so we were given protection.


The officiant, my brother, was in place.


The groom, Jason, was waiting.


Here comes the bride.


Marissa read her vows.


Jason reads his.


It’s official.  You may now kiss the bride.


Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Jason Hamera.


Marissa’s parents.


Jason’s parents.


Both sets of parents.


Hamera family:  Len, Carol, Marissa, Jason, Leonard (best man and Jason’s brother) and Melisa, Leonard’s wife.


Aunt and uncle with the happy couple.


The cake.


Cutting and eating the cake.

Father/daughter dance.


Mother/son dance.


First dance.


Party continued into the night.


Needless to say, we are so happy and proud of Jason and Marissa and wish them a long happy life together.  May their love for each other continue to grow through good times and rough times.



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San Francisco


Thursday morning we were told to be ready to leave the hotel by 9:30 so that we could head down to San Francisco which was about a hour’s drive from Santa Rosa.  With work traffic it would probably take longer.  We had tickets for the 11:00 boat to Alcatraz.

Years ago when NCTE was in San Francisco friends and I walked to the wharf and saw Alcatraz across the bay, but we didn’t take the tour.  Since then I knew I wanted to get back and take Kathy there.  Today that was happening thanks to Jason and Marissa.

Traffic was slow moving and we got to the pier with just minutes to spare before boarding began.


As we approached Alcatraz


the Golden Gate Bridge was to our left.


When we arrive on the island a ranger spoke to us for about 15 minutes.  He told us that the walk up to the prison was about three stories.  We knew that this might cause problems for Kathy with the leg issues she is having so we opted to ride the tram.

On entering the prison we were greeted with this sign commemorating the 75th anniversary of the prison.


As the tour began we passed the place where prisoners were given their clothing and where each one was required to shower before entering.  No privacy,


We were all given a headset sine it was a self guided tour.  First up was a cell block.


Looking inside the cells showed how small, at least by my standards, the cells were.


Not much room for anything inside them.


Prisoners who caused problems were sent to solitary.


According to the tour guide, prisoners actually liked being sent to solitary because there were windows on the opposite wall that actually let the sun into the building.  Also, in this section of the prison the sounds of San Francisco carried across the bay so prisoners felt connected to the outside world, especially on New Year’s Eve when there were parties going on in San Francisco.

Prisoners were allowed exercise time so it was out to the yard.


Administrators and their families lived on the island as well.  I can’t imagine raising children on Alcatraz.


San Francisco, so near, yet so far.


On returning to San Francisco we decided to walk along Fisherman’s Wharf.


There were some interesting sculptures to be seen.


Kathy liked the flowers around this one.


We couldn’t be on the Wharf and not stop for lunch.


The food was delicious, but I decided not to take a picture of it.

After lunch it was time for dessert.  There was only one place Kathy and I wanted to go.  The others didn’t really want anything, but because the two of us did Jason made sure to take us there.


How could we not stop?  Forced , not really, myself to eat a hot fudge sundae.  Savored every mouthful.

After we left San Francisco we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge – Jason pointed out the spot where he proposed to Marissa – and drove into Sausalito.  We had the option to get out and walk around if we wanted to, but no one opted for that .  We decided we wanted to get back to Santa Rosa and just relax.  Jason drove us back and then he and Marissa headed back to San Francisco.  They had a photo shoot that evening.

We took it easy and rested for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  To be honest, my six day drive was catching up to me.

On Friday we spent an exciting day going to a local laundromat.  Kathy and I both needed some clean clothes.  It was really interesting talking to the people there.  They were curious about our trip and we learned lots about them and the community.

Saturday we found a quilt shop in Santa Rosa about five minutes from the hotel.  You knew that this was coming somewhere in our travels.  Of course we went and of course Kathy shopped.

During the afternoon we walked around the city and stopped in at the visitor’s center.  We were looking for something special to buy as a gift for our vet.  She and her staff always take good care of our cats when we travel.

That night there was a welcome party for all the wedding guests.  It was so nice seeing people we haven’t seen in a while.

People gathered.


Kathy and one of our Beverly.


A wave from Nellie, our niece.


Great group.

People enjoyed themselves.


Our nephew, in the back smiling, and the best man.


Kathy and Nellie.


Next week I will bore you with wedding pictures.



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Sightseeing in California


Well, we got to Santa Rosa a day ahead of schedule.   We were so glad to get to our room. It looked real inviting.


Looking out our window the next morning we saw we had a view of the fire pit which was lit each evening.  I knew we would have to find some time to sit around it and just enjoy.


We now had a day with nothing planned.  What should we do?  Should we just rest after six days of driving?  Should we walk around and explore Santa Rosa?  Turns out we didn’t do either of these.

We went down for breakfast because we bought the package deal and the breakfast buffet was included each day.  Besides, it was only an extra $25.50 per person per day.

As we were waiting in the lobby in walked our nephew, Jason, and his fiancee, Marissa. his parents, my brother and sister-in-law, Marissa’s parents, Dayna and Mike, and Marissa’s grandparents, Frances and Nick.  They were surprised to see us because we weren’t scheduled to arrive until later today.

After greetings and hugs Jason told us that they were all planning to do some winery touring and he invited us to join them.  Of course we said yes.  At 10:00 we met in the lobby and loaded into the van Jason had rented.  Our first stop was the Foley Sonoma Winery.  This was the venue for the wedding.

The vineyard and mountains would make a beautiful backdrop for the wedding.  This is where the ceremony would take place.


Of course, this area will look much different on Sunday when decorations would be in place.  Here are some more pictures of the winery.

After some wine tasting we were off to Francis Ford Coppola’s winery.  Impressive first view.

Since we got there around noon it was a good place to have lunch.  We had a nice table out by the pool, had a delicious lunch, and enjoyed a bottle of Coppola’s blended wine.


These are the tables we put together for our lunch.


After lunch we toured the museum.  The first display was that of costumes used in Coppola’s film, Dracula.


Imagine drinking wine from this glass.


Of course it wouldn’t be a Coppola museum without a tribute to The Godfather.  Here is the Don’s desk.




How about a car that was used in the movie?


Celebrating the movie.


Here are his awards.


Of course, his daughter, Sofia, was also represented.  Here are two ships from her film about Marie Antoinette.  The woman in front of one is Marissa’s grandmother, Fran.




One final shot.


Since this turned out to be longer than I expected I will stop here.  Next week, our visit to San Francisco.



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Traveling West


The cats were boarded.  Mail delivery was halted. Newspaper was stopped.  Bags were packed and in the car.  It was 9:10. Time to start our trip to California.  My goal was to cover 400 to 500 miles each day.  Stop when we were tired. Do no night driving.  Stop wherever we wanted to see something.

Well, for the most part we followed this plan.  We did cover on average 500 miles a day. Only drove once at night – more about that later.  We did see some sights along the way, but not as many as I had hoped.  I think we were so concerned about getting to California by Wednesday that we didn’t take the time for many side trips.  There were several highlights during this trip.

On our first day of travel we got as far as Sandusky, Ohio.  We stopped here because looking at the map we saw it was just about 10 miles off I 80, but the drawing point was that it was on Lake Erie.  I had never seen any of the Great Lakes so this was our chance.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn at Cedar Point.


Here is a great view across the street from the hotel.


Of course we had to have dinner so we were attracted to the Thirsty Pony.


If you wanted to, we didn’t, you could get a 48 oz. drink served in one of these.


Yes, I know saxophone is misspelled, but maybe after a couple of this size drink spelling isn’t important.  Food was delicious.

The next morning before we restarted our trip we took a ride into Sandusky and out the Jackson Street Pier.


Lake Erie.


Can you see the amusement park rides across the lake?

Here is another picture.  Can you see Marblehead Lighthouse in the far distance?


I thought this plaque at the pier was interesting.


We then got back into the car and headed back to I 80 to continue our trip west.

One of the most exciting parts of our trip west was a stop at what is billed as the world’s largest truckstop, Iowa 80.  What made this exciting was not the fact of its size, but the fact that we were going to meet up with a fellow slicer.  We have been reading and commenting on each other’s Tuesday Slices as well as March Challenges for quite a while.  However, we had never met.  Here we did.  What a great visit we had.  90 minutes passed in no time at all.



Our next interesting stop was in Lincoln, Nebraska.  It was late afternoon.  The car was thirsty and we were hungry.  Looking for a place to eat we came across this.  I ask you, how could we not stop?


After all, the king was visible from the highway.


Kathy even made a friend.


Inside decor was just as interesting as what was outside.

The burgers lived up to their name.  One burger filled the plate.


Refreshed after a rest and some food and the fact that it was still light we decided to continue driving.  We made it as far as Kearney, Nebraska where we decided to spend the night.  Since this was Saturday night one reason we wanted to stay here was because we knew there was a Catholic church and we wanted to go to Mass on Sunday before we continued our journey.

We found St. James Catholic Church.  Talk about a small world.  As we entered the church men were handing out information about a men’s group that was forming.  One gentleman wanted to give me one but I told him we were just passing through.  On hearing we were from PA he told us his brother lived in Lebanon, Pa which is less than an hour from where we live.  He has been there several times to visit.  What are the  chances?


Continuing our journey the next place of interest we stopped was Salt Lake City. Since it was just off the interstate we thought why not go see the Mormon temple and grounds.  So we did.  It is really a beautiful area.  Interesting sculptures  in in garden.

The temple was something to see.

We did see the Great Salt Lake, but I wasn’t paying attention, imagine that, so I missed the exit to get off to take pictures.  We also drove by the salt flats.  amazing.

Tuesday afternoon found us in California a day ahead of schedule.  Did we want to stop for the night or drive through to our destination in Santa Rosa.  After calling the hotel to see if there was a room available, the one we booked actually was, we decided to drive straight through.  Here is the only place we had a problem.

We hit Sacramento at rush hour.  The roadways were not well marked, at least I didn’t thing so.  Somehow we got on the wrong road and got lost.  After asking at a gas station how to get back on track we found the right road.  At another gas station I decided to turn on the GPS.  We had been using Triple A’s maps up to this point.  It was getting dark.  We still had an hour to go.

With the help of the GPS we got to Santa Rosa around 10:30 Tuesday night, a day early.  We made it.

Next week, some sightseeing.


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Getting Ready


I never said that I was the best packer in the world.  In fact, I think I am one of the worst.  I tend to over pack.  I fear the same is happening for our upcoming trip out west.

I started gathering clothes, just to see what I have that I might want to take.  I had piles of shirts and slacks all over the bed.

OK.  What do I really need?  One thing that is non-negotiable is a suit, dress shirt, tie and dress shoes for the wedding.  What about other things?

How many slacks and jeans do I need?  I am figuring jeans will comfortable for driving.  I am not a shorts person out in public.  Probably jeans will be fine for walking around Alcatraz.  We do have tickets for that.  OK. Three pair of jeans should do it.  Besides, the hotel does have laundry facilities.

What about tee shirts?  Right now I have about 20 pulled.  Way too many.  If I stick to basically a few solid colors I can always dress them up by putting another shirt over them.

Speaking of shirts how many of them do I need?  Not counting the one for the wedding itself I need something for the welcoming dinner the night before the wedding.  Maybe 3 others just in case.

Now I am thinking about shoes.  A pair to wear with the suit and maybe two other pair of shoes just to alternate.  Maybe one pair of sandals just to wear around the hotel room.

If I stick to this kind of plan maybe I can pack light, at least light for me.  I guess the bad thing is that we are driving so I don’t have to worry about weight limits.

Well, we shall see what happens when it is time to do the actual packing.


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NYC Trip


As we do every year, Kathy and I spent a day in New York to celebrate our birthdays.  Our trip always includes two Broadway shows. a matinee and evening performance, dinner, and a stay at the Marriott Marquis.  As we always do, we had a great time.

We took the 9:10 Amtrak from Middletown.  It is a 3 hour train ride but really relaxing.  The train arrives in NYC at 12:15 which gives us enough time to have a small lunch, get checked in, and get to the theatre for the 2:00 matinee.

Our favorite place for lunch is the European which is on 8th ave. between 42nd and 43rd streets.  Because Kathy is having some leg problems, more of that in a future post, I decided to get her some lunch while I took the bags to the hotel and checked in.  I would come back after I took care of things and then have lunch.

Because it was only noon our room at the Marquis wasn’t ready so I checked our bags and headed back to join Kathy for lunch.  After we finished eating it was of to the theater for our first show.  Since we were going to 44th street it was just one block and around the corner.

We saw


The show was pure Disney.  Many Wow factors.  We both really enjoyed the show.  Here is a picture of Kathy that I took inside the theatre with the stage as a backdrop.


After the show it was off to dinner.  We had reservations at Osteria al Doge.  Great food.  Dinner was delicious and made more enjoyable because our nephew, Jason, and his finacee, Marissa.  It is their wedding that we are traveling to in a few weeks.

After dinner we still had plenty of time until out 8:00 show.  I thought we would go back to the hotel and see if our room was ready.  It wasn’t.  6:00 and our room still wasn’t ready for us.  The clerk at the check-in desk was upset that this happened so she worked at getting us a $50.00 credit on our bill.  This worked for me.

Jason wanted to take us out for a drink to celebrate our birthdays.  We thought we would go up to The View, which is on the 48th floor of the hotel and has a revolving lounge.  For all o the tines we stayed at the Marriott I had never been to the View.  We went up and I had my chocolate martini.


Here are Jason, Marissa, and Kathy enjoying drinks.


A picture of Manhattan from the View.


If you notice that thing jutting out from the building in the back, that is a balcony.  No way I would step foot on that thing.

After drinks we went off to our second show.


What an uplifting show.  Highly recommend this.

I know there are many different kinds of jobs in this world.  Looking out of our room window on the 45th floor I saw a job that there is no way I would ever want to do.


I would say, “Let the rains wash the windows.”

After breakfast at Juniors we just spend some nice leisurely time in the city until it was time to head down to the train station for our 2:10 ride home.

As always, we enjoyed our day in NYC and look forward to our next trip, whenever that may be.



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Birthday Freebies


I admit that I like celebrating my birthday.  It seems that many places like to give you free things for your birthday.  The nice thing is that the offers you receive are usually good for several days before and after the day itself.

I celebrated my birthday on Saturday.  About a week prior to the day I started getting offers.  Ruby Tuesday offered me a free burger.

If I want a free meal I could get one at Applebee’s or Houlihan’s.  We plan on using the Houlihan’s deal the day we come back from NYC.

What is a birthday without dessert?  I can get a free dessert at Garfield’s.  How about a free blizzard at Dairy Queen?  My personal favorite is the chocolate covered cherry blizzard.  If I want something a bit lighter there is always a free ice at Rita’s.

If I would rather shop than eat there are many stores that offer me birthday discounts.  Best Buy, Michael’s, and Staples are three of them.

I am sure that there are many more offers out there for people celebrating their birthday.  All you have to do is sign up on their website.

So, where did I go to eat on my birthday?  Shady Maple Smorgasbord.  A free meal and no coupon necessary.  Show proof that it is your birthday and your meal is free.

Yes, I do enjoy celebrating my birthday.  An added plus is that Thursday is Kathy’s birthday so the celebration s can continue.


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