Archive for April, 2011

Westside Band Fest is the Best

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

I’m guessing that everyone who attended the Westside Band Festival last Wednesday night left the Petaluma High School gym in a better mood than when they arrived.

How can you not have your spirits lifted after listening to 50 or so Petaluma Junior High school band students enthusiastically play “Louie, Louie” while the parents in the audience tapped their toes and clapped in time with the music?

That was just one of the party songs played at the concert that brings together all the bands from all the west side elementary schools, Petaluma Junior High and Petaluma High School. I still have the mile-a-minute rendition of “Funky Town” that the PHS marching band played stuck in my head. But I’m not complaining.

Attending the Westside Band Festival makes me think that I would rather sit on butt-numbing bleachers in a high school gym and listen to pre-teen music students play “Don’t Stop Believin'” than attend a performance of professional musicians in comfy seats at Davies Symphony Hall. This is so much more energizing.

I love hearing the progression of the kids’ skills from the various elementary school bands playing simple tunes such as “London Bridge” to the junior high students – who thanks to Mr. Bailey’s training and discipline – really look like musicians, to Mr. Eveland’s high school students who are well-rehearsed, sound great and enjoy the opportunity to show off a bit in front of the younger kids.

As we were waiting for the program to start, I started thinking how fortunate it was that there was an after-school music program at Cinnabar Elementary the year that Jennifer was in sixth grade. Otherwise, she never would have started playing clarinet. You see, our house has plenty of art supplies but musical instruments are in pretty short supply. And since I never played an instrument ““ yes, I played the accordion briefly as a child but that’s not a musical instrument, it’s a piece of furniture ““ encouraging our children to take music lessons wasn’t on my list of enrichment activities.

So I really appreciate the schools that give students the opportunity to learn to play an instrument because I know how much it has enhanced Jennifer’s life and school experience.

After enjoying the performance so much, the least I can do is relay the announcement that Mr. Eveland made about the Petaluma Music Festival happening on August 6 at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds. All proceeds go to fund music programs in Petaluma schools. Visit for more info.

Full from Butter & Egg Days

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

This year I had the opportunity to be the volunteer coordinator for the Butter & Egg Days Parade.

After being involved in the preparation side, it strikes me that putting on an event such as the parade is like hosting a dinner party. A lot of work goes into preparing for the evening; planning what to serve, shopping, preparing all the dishes, cleaning the house, etc. The guests arrive, everyone has a good time for a few hours and then they leave. The hosts are left with the clean up and the question of whether or not hosting the party was worth the effort.

So that leads me to asking that question about the parade. Was all the work that the Petaluma Downtown Association, the 150 volunteers and numerous businesses and organizations put into making the parade happen worth the effort? While it doesn’t need to be a life-changing experience, was going to the parade like eating fast food ““ consumed and then quickly forgotten ““ or was it more like having a really good meal with people whose company you enjoy in a nice place. Was it something that you talk about afterwards and remember for years to come?

I think it is the latter. I talked to several people who said they go to the parade because they get a chance to chat with neighbors who they only wave hello to as they drive off to work in the morning. Many people look forward to the parade because it’s something that all generations of a family can enjoy together. Many go because it celebrates our community spirit and heritage. And based on the way I saw many twenty-somethings dressed, they go just because it’s a big party. And that’s ok too. It’s only unfortunate when some kids go to the parade solely with the goal of getting hammered.

So back to my original question. Is it worth the effort? I think that everyone involved in the parade ““ and I include myself in this ““ should feel gratified because no matter what motivates people to come to the parade, the vast majority of them leave the event feeling that they got what they wanted from the experience. Being in downtown Petaluma on April 16th added to their lives. And that’s why the Butter & Egg Days Parade is such a resounding success.

Priced to Move

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

The weather finally cleared and we were able to hold the garage sale yesterday that we had postponed for months.

We had held a garage sale less than a year ago but this time we approached it differently. Last time, we used a neighborhood-wide garage sale as an opportunity to clean out a couple of closets. This time when I went through the house to decide what to include in the sale, it was a “take no prisoners” kind of effort. 

We are going to put our house on the market and hopefully, sell it and move. So when I looked at everything in my cupboards with the thought of having to pack it up, the decision about whether to keep or try and sell the fragile glass chip and dip set that I haven’t used since we moved here 17 years ago got a lot easier.

Steve, always the marketing strategist, had been thinking about how we could improve our message and merchandising for this latest retail effort. For starters, on Craigslist and the signage, he decided it should be called a “Moving Sale” instead of “Garage Sale.” Moving sale has an “Everything must go ““ including valuable stuff” urgency about it. “Garage Sale” represents it much more for what it actually is, a family trying to get rid of a bunch of dusty, random junk that has been taking up space in the house and garage for years.

Instead of just spreading all the vases, kitchen gadgets, gardening materials, and hardware bits and pieces across tables and waiting for people to ask for a price, Steve separated the stuff into three categories: free, $1, $5 and then big items like the dog kennel and gigantic easel into a “Make me an offer” category with easy to read signage.

We had our son’s old Alienware laptop and an eight year old desktop that we also wanted to sell. Knowing that outdated electronics have about as much market value as old underwear, Steve set them up on a table in the driveway and strung an extension cord out to them so at least people who were interested could see that they worked. And then he priced them for not much more than a few gallons of gas.

The DVD’s, gardening supplies and tools sold quickly. Thankfully, a couple of strapping young men bought a couple hundred pounds of books for $4. We hung in there for a little longer and by noon, some of the clothes, a good portion of the household stuff and even the computers and easel had sold. However, it turns out that you can’t even give stuffed animals away.

By 12:30, we went into free mode. Steve was practically sneaking the remainders into the cars of anyone who stopped to browse so we wouldn’t be left with several carloads of stuff that needed to go to Goodwill.

The day was definitely a success. We had chatted with many of our neighbors throughout the morning and by the time we wrapped it up at about 1:00, we only had the clothes and stuffed animals left.

There is one item that didn’t sell and that we couldn’t fit into the car to take to Goodwill.  Know anyone who wants a well-weathered Dogloo?

It’s me or the cat…almost

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

This is a plea for help from any cat whisperers out there.

How can we stop our orange cat, Nigel ““ the one of our feline trio with way too much brain and far too little to do ““ to stop plucking the carpet to get us to do his bidding?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how Nigel was getting us up in the middle of the night to feed him. Steve or I would add a fresh scoop of cat food to the mound that was already in his dish, and usually after a few bites he would jump back on the bed and settle down to get cozy again ““ at least for a few hours before repeating the process.

However, for the last couple of nights, he’ll follow us out to the kitchen, maybe eat a few bites and then be back in the bedroom. The warmer weather means that he doesn’t care about getting back on the bed. Nigel has decided it’s time for the household to get up and so at 4:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we hear that distinctive thwap, thwap sound as his claws make contact with the carpet backing.

We tried putting his favorite kind of cardboard cat scratcher in the bedroom. But he has figured out that using his claws on the carpet gets results while using the cat scratcher doesn’t.

We tried squirting him with a spray bottle. By the third night, he was thoroughly accustomed to it and sauntered leisurely past us while we’re madly spritzing him with water.

Let me note here, that we are getting ready to put our house on the market so although our carpet already has 17 years of wear from three kids, three cats and a dog, another threadbare patch isn’t going to help our short sale measure up.

It’s pretty bad when you start thinking that you have to go to bed early to make sure you’ll get enough sleep in case Nigel insists one of us gets up to enjoy the sunrise with him.

We can’t be the only people who have a rocket surgeon cat. So I’m looking for suggestions ““ besides opening the front door and letting him find his own nightlife outside. He may be smart, but he’s not street smart. His spongy pink pads have never touched anything rougher than tile.