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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Monday, December 29, 2008

Writers Forum proudly presents Teresa LeYung Ryan

Circle of Sharing for Writers

Teresa LeYung Ryan will lead a fun brainstorming session to take our writing careers three steps closer to our big goals.

Writers Forum proudly presents Teresa LeYung Ryan
Thursday, February 19, 2009 - 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Petaluma Community Center, 320 No. McDowell Blvd. Petaluma
$15 at the door

"Writers SWAP MEET & Sharing"

Teresa LeYung Ryan will lead a fun brainstorming session to take our writing careers three steps closer to our big goals. "YOU, talented writers, hold the golden keys to success," says Teresa, who believes we can make our dreams come true with the help of friends, colleagues, and mentors.

Choose two items from the following list and bring them to the Forum on February 19th:

· From the Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc.'s website, look at their database of agents and print out a few pages;
· Submission guidelines from 3 agents (usually on their websites);
· List of clients from 3 agents (also usually on their websites);
· Home page of 3 publishers;
· A magazine or newspaper that accepts “first person” type stories (WCG is one of these!);
· Submission guidelines from 3 magazines or 3 literary journals;
· Home page of an on-line publication that pays contributing writers;
· Name and contact info of a writers‚ colony;
· Submission guidelines to a local and national writing contest;
· Bio and list of events of a living author you most admire (usually on their websites);
· Date and location (and focus) of a writers‚ conference that you've been dreaming of attending;
· Name of your favorite bookstore and their calendar of events;
· Your local library's list of events;
· Your community calendar of events (newspapers, on-line calendars, your city's website, and city's cable channel as well).

Teresa LeYung Ryan is a manuscript consultant and career coach for writers. She helps her clients identify their themes and polish their manuscripts, market themselves to agents and publishers, and map out their careers.

Teresa's mother-daughter novel, Love Made of Heart, is archived at the San Francisco History Center, recommended by the California School Library Association, and is used in Sociology classes and Advanced Composition/English-as-a-Second-Language classes.

PHOTO of Teresa by Cheri Elpin

Writer's Forum - Petaluma
Presented by Marlene McCullen

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Ambassadors of Hope for Marin County Homeless Youth

Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity
Locally produced documentary highlights youth homelessness in Marin, featuring the local non-profit group “Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity.”

Peter Coyote narrates Youth Homelessness… A Growing Trend, a story of the challenges youth face while trying to raise themselves on the streets. They share the problems they experience with existing services and real solutions that need to be implemented.

“We want to continue to spread the word about youth homelessness, because Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity believes that early intervention with this age group can prevent the formation of destructive and costly life-long patterns,” according to Zara Babitzke, AHO Founder.

Babitzke, formerly homeless herself, is founder and director of Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity, a Mill Valley nonprofit devoted to helping Marin's homeless young adults through services, community awareness and political action. "These young people are bright, articulate, creative -- they are not the perception that people have of the homeless," said Babitzke. Ambassadors for Hope assists young people in 11 cities in Marin County, including San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley and Sausalito.

The young adults you see in Youth Homelessness… A Growing Trend are youth who have turned their lives around from a life of homelessness. These young people are now community leaders paving the way toward change both locally and statewide.

MORE: from their web site:

They also have a video you can watch.

Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity
Changing Lives Building Youth Leaders

"...a calling of the heart..."

Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity started as a calling of the heart. A calling that compelled the creation of a non-profit organization focused solely on providing a safety net of stable housing, guidance and community connections for young adults ages 18 to 25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Marin County .

Our young adults are our leaders of the future, most of whom have not had families to guide, nurture, support or believe in them.

The Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity believe in these youth and provide opportunities to support them on their path to becoming independent, contributing adults by offering a specialized menu of options to fit their unique needs. AHO is leading the way in addressing the growing trend of youth homelessness in Marin County, Greater Bay Area and Sacramento, CA.

Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity - AHO
ph. 415.381.7173
fx. 415.381.1057
P.O. Box 2278
Mill Valley, CA 94942

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Gardening in Sonoma County - Winter Gardens

Wake Up Your Winter Garden

Greetings Sonoma County Gardeners! I am Gail Fanning, your new garden columnist at the Gazette: I am so happy to be writing this column for you and Vesta; I hope it will be a long and lasting association. I have been a gardener all my life, inspired by my grandmother, a passionate gardener with a wonderful bamboo jungle irresistible to me as a child. I have lived and gardened in Sebastopol for twenty-five years.

As a professional garden designer, I specialize in helping the “do-it-yourself” homeowner develop practical, economical plans for their personal outdoor spaces. I believe that we can all have beautiful, pleasing outdoor spaces, even on a limited budget. I hope to inspire you to enjoy the your garden more: time spent in the garden is a restorative for the soul and spirit, as well as good exercise.

Today I would like to talk about the process of developing a garden which is beautiful year round. Here in coastal California, unlike much of the world, we are blessed with the possibility of a garden which is alive and changing right through the winter. I delight in designing gardens full of interest, color and structure in all four seasons. In a well planned garden, you will be able to walk out any day of the year and pick a lovely bouquet. My Thanksgiving table featured bright pyracantha and cotoneaster berries, golden yellow buddleja blooms, the glowing reddish-orange foliage of leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’, glossy green ceanothus leaves, and the final buds of one of my favorite roses ‘Hot Cocoa’.

So, if you are looking out your windows over a bare and boring ‘winter’ garden, don’t despair: here are a few tips for energizing your landscape. Grab your Sunset Western Garden Book (a book that no gardener should be without) and turn to the page on Shrubs, then look for the section titled “Winter, Evergreen”. This is an excellent starting point for developing a list of plants for your garden that are beautiful year-round, and also bloom during this dreary time of year.

Old garden favorites on this list include camellias and daphne; I also love the Australian grevillea ‘Noelli’, the viburnums (Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ is my favorite), and the heaths (my Erica canaliculata is covered in pink at this moment). All of these do well in our area with proper care (see your Sunset for specific needs).

Now that cooler weather has come and the rain is starting, California natives are coming out of their summer dormancy: my Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’ is already covered with gorgeous blue blossoms! The coyote brush (Baccharis) is blooming, the cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) is producing loads of glowing silver leaves, and the berries on the toyon are spectacular now. All of these native shrubs will add winter interest to your garden; just be sure to give them well-drained soil in full sun (if you have heavy clay try them in a raised bed).

As you consider these possibilities for creating a winter beautiful garden, be sure to keep in mind the micro-climate in your garden: is it sunny or shady, windy or protected, wet or dry, clay or sand, in the area where you will be planting? How much space do you have: can you use a toyon that will grow to 15 feet, or would a low mounding salvia be better? Aim to put the right plant in the right place so that both you and the plant will be happy!

Are you inspired to add a few shrubs to your garden now? Take your list in hand, read the plant details in your Sunset book, then head out to the nurseries to see the real thing. Or, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the choices, call me for a consultation!

Join me on Saturday mornings at 10:30am for free gardening classes at Bassignani’s Nursery in Sebastopol. The next class is Saturday January 10: I will teach about selecting and pruning roses. If you have a topic or question you would like to see addressed in this column, e-mail me at I hope to hear from you!

Check out Gails's web site at

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Environmental Awareness Promotes Water Conservation

Making the connection between the health of our environment and our water supply is essential if we, as humans, are to survive in concert with the critters. Every life form is dependent upon water. If we are to thrive, they too, must thrive.

By Vesta Copestakes
Over the years I have published this newspaper I have attended countless meetings about fresh water, wastewater, air pollution, potential developments, Timber Harvest Plans, etc. I listen to government officials, scientists & biologists, politicians and environmental enthusiasts, each with their own point of view and personal agenda. I want to be compassionate toward those whose opinions differ from mine. It’s not always easy.

I am in love with life itself and every little critter, every sunny, foggy or rainy day, the rustle of wind in trees…it all thrills my heart that I am alive and can bask in the beauty that surrounds us. I would love it if everyone who is responsible for this planet felt the same way.

Just the other day I attended a meeting where we came away feeling that we had saved something precious to us…Steelhead Beach Regional Park and the waters of the Russian River. There will be no pipeline of treated wastewater coming from Santa Rosa to dump directly into our river. Sigh of relief.

But I came home to a message that Sheephouse Creek Watershed* is about to be logged…again…and the most challenging part of the two plans proposed is that with all the budget cuts in our state government, there are no longer authorities in place to oversee the analysis of these Timber Harvest Plans. These in combination with previous harvests mean that 40% of the land in this vital watershed will have been logged.

That hurts, but what’s more important is that Sheephouse is in a vital watershed area that feeds not only the town of Jenner, but creeks in this area are where biologists are working to save endangered fish. Are the people in charge of all these projects talking with each other? Does one side know what the other side is doing? We can celebrate the acquisition of Jenner Headlands as now protected land, but what about further up stream?

After 11 years, Sonoma County has published the Biological Opinion (see WCG Extra! on for previous articles on this subject) and there is a small army of biologists studying the impact of river flow, etc. on numerous fish species. These scientists are literally out in boats on the river sampling water and counting fish.

They care for two reasons. One is because the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that several endangered fish must be saved no matter what! And the other is because 600,000 people depend upon the water supply that works its way down the Russian River Watershed to the sea. The very water these fish depend upon for life.

When the Sonoma County Water Agency tells people they need to conserve water, they think about their lovely green lawns and how much money they have invested in landscaping. They think about their cars that need to be shiny and clean. They think about nice long, hot showers, clean laundry, etc. Fish just aren’t part of the equation to these water users.

But they are! Fish, rivers, trees, deer, birds, the very clouds in the sky…every miniscule aspect of life on planet earth depends upon water. So these biologists are out there trying to save endangered fish at the same time they are trying to preserve water for our cities and towns who depend upon this watershed when they turn on their faucets.

How do we get water users to CARE about the land, the fish, the birds and trees?

Fiction writers know that the number one rule for getting readers involved in their stories is to make the reader CARE about the characters in the story. The same goes for movies. You have to love them, hate them, feel sorry for them, relate to them, etc. etc. People are easy subjects to engage in emotionally. WE are people. We relate to other’s experiences. Been there, done that…know what that feels like.

How do we get people to see the connection we have with critters who depend upon our water supply. How do we get water users to CARE so much that they change the way they live?
In studies on how people eat, researchers have discovered that children who visit farms, see and touch the plants that grow their vegetables and fruits, have a higher interest in eating these healthy foods. It’s the personal experience connection. Would more people be vegetarians if they spent time in feed lots and slaughter houses? Some yes, others no. There’s no universal truth on how to connect with a person’s heart.

Since so much about caring and empathy has to do with personal experience, any outreach is bound to capture at least a few hearts. School garden programs give children a sense of wonder about the origins of their food. Field trips to parks and wildlife refuges instill a sense of awe about nature. Taking a canoe out on a river or lake makes water experiences intimate.

So many times when we want to make major changes we look to our children as the source of those changes into the future. Right now the future is too far away. Our children are not the only ones who need to care. We adults need to pay attention to our connections with endangered fish and how water that flows from our faucets is the same water in which they live. Both us humans and the fish are depending upon the very same water source for our survival.

Recently the World Conservation Congress revealed that 25 percent of the planet’s mammal species and one out of eight birds are close to extinction. These are not exotic animals in remote places. They are rabbits, deer, cardinals and turtledoves. Critters that we take for granted. Those trees on the hills we see in the distance are our connection to our water supply as well as homes for living beings struggling to survive.

It’s not us OR the fish…it’s us AND the fish. The sooner we experience that connection, the better our chance for survival. Us…right now…our children into the future…and those critters on the brink of extinction.

The moment of extinction is generally considered to be
the death of the last individual of that species

A recent study reports that nearly 40 percent of freshwater fish species
in North America are in trouble.

The study, published by the American Fisheries Society,
found that 457 species might already be extinct.

* See other WCG Extra! stories on the Sheephouse Creek Watershed Timber Harvest Plans under the ENVIRONMENT Category.

AND - check our this Documentary on KRCB Television 22
on January 11th at 10:30pm

A looming crisis under our feet....
KRCB Television 22 presents Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure

How many times each day do you count on there being abundant, clear water?
How would your life change if water were neither abundant nor clear?

Essential to all life on earth, water is the provenance of civilization. Throughout history, thriving cities have had in common the presence of a water infrastructure. Much of the original American infrastructure is unchanged and still in use today. There are risks associated with neglecting our buried assets. Liquid Assets focuses on the natural cycle of our water supply and addresses the health and environmental hazards that our cities face when industrial and residential districts unsustainably interface with the water cycle.

This ninety-minute documentary tells the story of essential infrastructure systems: water, wastewater, and stormwater. These systems - some in the ground for more than 150 years - provide a critical public health function and are essential for economic development and growth. Largely out of sight and out of mind, these aging systems have not been maintained, and some estimates suggest this is the single largest public works endeavor in our nation's history. Exploring the history, engineering challenges, and political and economic realities in urban and rural locations, the documentary provides an understanding of the hidden assets that support our way of life.

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Global Student Embassy Promotes Peace-Sebastopol

Traveling to Promote Peace

By Jasper Oshun

The Global Student Embassy (GSE) is a project that seeks to build a cross cultural dialogue between students in Sebastopol and their counterparts in Santa Fe, Argentina, and Zurite, Peru. The project, started in September, is beginning to catch the attention of our community.

Due to the fiscal sponsorship of the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center (SCCC), and the support of local businesses and individuals, the project is beginning to achieve grassroots success. My brother Lucas and I are grateful for our community’s involvement, evidenced by a successful November 14th fundraiser at the SCCC. The support of the community is vital to making this a successful project. We thank everyone for their support, and we are excited at the prospect of hosting 6 students and two teachers from Argentina and Peru this January.

Our motivation for the project arose from two ideals. Dissatisfied ourselves with our government’s foreign policies and approaches to international relations, we were heartened by the global community’s ability to view us as fellow-global citizens, not as agents of our government. This emboldened my brother and me to seek ways in which we could build extra-governmental relations with friends and enthusiasts of the project along our travels. Providing an opportunity for our South American participants to travel is inherent to the project. Secondly, we sought some way to maintain the passion, excitement and openness of mind we were accustomed to while traveling once we returned to Sebastopol. How could we, two recent college graduates, use our creativity to share the magic of exploring the world with our hometown community? The Global Student Embassy has become our answer.

GSE has three goals, the first being to enable travel for those who would not otherwise have the means or opportunity. The majority of existing exchange programs send privileged youths to study amongst other communities of relative privilege. We want to provide young people in low-income areas an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of our community apart from the narrow representation of American culture that is pervasive around the world. The second goal is to establish a dialogue between communities that fosters understanding and learning through a commitment to public service. Significant contributions to our respective home-towns can be made through the energy and enthusiasm of our youth. Finally, we seek to broaden the horizons of our student participants to promote peace.

To achieve these goals, we teach a cultural awareness and international relations class one day a week at Analy. We explore the values of Sebastopol, its socioeconomic status relative to our sister communities, and the potential of youth to create positive change. Outside of class, our students discuss fundraising strategies, and develop and plan community service projects via Skype with the South American students. From mid-January to mid-February, 4 students from Santa Fe, Argentina, and 2 from an Andean village outside of Cusco, Peru will stay with local families, and engage in public service projects. Our schedule will include a bilingual soccer camp, cultural presentations to students at Park Side Elementary, Spanish classes at the Sebastopol Senior Center, environmental restoration work, a collaborative project with the Graton Day Labor Center, and local tourism.

Lucas and I will continue to fundraise as we work to expand the goals of GSE to other West County high schools. This spring we are planning to explore possible future sights of GSE, both locally and abroad. The Global Student Embassy is a simple idea that utilizes the increasing interconnectedness of the world to connect small communities. Through learning cultural differences, engaging in public service and sharing positive experiences, GSE aims to build peace around the globe. This summer, Lucas will lead a group of students to Santa Fe, Argentina, while I lead a group to Zurite Peru. We invite readers to learn more by calling 829-1026, or at

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Eco-Tourism in Sonoma County

Sonoma County prepares for Eco-Tourism

Several years ago a group of people in the Sonoma County tourist industry realized that they needed to do something to extend tourism year-round so that our town's economy wouldn't rise and fall with the summer season…to have jobs extend throughout the year so the local economy could be more stable. Knowing that our greatest asset is the beauty of our land and sea and that our population is ecologically conscious and concerned, they created EcoRing, to encourage Eco-Tourism as a solution to both economic needs as well as environmental concerns.

By Dawn E. Bell

One of the things that separates Sonoma County from other California counties is the endless variety of experiences that can be had in these 1,768 square miles. The ones that we are most known for – vineyards, coastline and redwoods –
continue to attract attention from throngs of tourists. Among these 7.4 million annual visitors, many claim an unforgettable first impression of our environment. The first impactful view of the wild Sonoma Coastline is an awesome encounter for many. The first walk through ancient redwoods can change the way one views the world there after. And a drive through the changing colors of hillside vineyards causes more shutters to click than a herd of paparazzi faced with their favorite celebrity. We who live here are not only privileged to live with these beauties on a daily basis, but also with the responsibility to care for them.

There are many organizations here whose purpose is to protect Sonoma County’s treasures. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Daily Acts, for example, focus on protecting and caring for our environment; offering natural docent tours, sustainable activities and education. But one organization is blending the best of stewardship with tourism and is poised to help create economic growth through ecotourism: EcoRing. “This is where the river meets the sea and where a kayaker can float up to a seal pupping area, view the great blue heron or watch an Osprey hunt for dinner in its natural habitat” said Toni Tacoma, President of EcoRing. “All of these elements lend themselves to the heart of eco-tourism: responsible travel that sustains the local population. EcoRing expects to be a big part of the ecotourism market for many years to come and to help lead Sonoma County in conservation and tourism”.

Many countries around the world have focused their tourism dollars on eco-tourism. Countries like Costa Rica, Kenya and Australia where people can enjoy any number of protected natural environments. Countries where tourists can also find activities related to the great outdoor experience through “eco-adventures”. Whether it’s free diving off the coast of Australia, going on a photo-safari in Kenya or spotting rare birds in a Costa Rican rainforest, all Eco-Adventures are designed to promote tourism while protecting the environment.

But you don’t have to go to Australia to experience an exotic EcoAdventure. To international and domestic travelers alike Sonoma County is exotic and exciting. To many travelers Sonoma County is a wild place, filled with lush growth, fine weather, rolling hills and vistas unmatched in the world. Sonoma County will become an ecotourism destination famous for its conservation practices, the warmth of its people and the variety of activity. And EcoRing is leading the way to ensure exciting and safe adventure travel and opportunities.

According to a study by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), 70% of British and Australian travelers would willingly pay up to an additional $150 per week to stay somewhere with a “responsible environmental attitude”. The TIES study also reports ecotourism has been growing 20%-34% per year since the 1990s. TIES analysts predict there will be a boom to eco-resorts and hotels and other nature (eco) tourism businesses in the coming year. “All of this is good news for eco-tourism and therefore, great news for Sonoma County”, said Tacoma.

A big part of EcoRing’s mission is to increase ecotoursim in order to positively impact local commerce and to help create new jobs through this effort. “By marketing eco-adventures, green stays and other environmentally important aspects of travel, EcoRing is poised to bring a lot of responsible travel to Sonoma County in the coming year”, said Tacoma. By working with nearly one hundred and fifty local adventure providers (hot air balloon rides, kayak companies, horseback riding, etc.), the EcoRing website ( provides a way for interested eco-travelers to find and book their green vacations, find out about the region and learn practical tips to being a green tourist.

EcoRing will continue to work with its affiliates like Stewards and Daily Acts to market all types of eco adventures. EcoRing will also oversee the sale of group tours and activities through work with outside contractors like travel agents, meeting planners and other hospitality and travel related industry professionals. Through these collaborative relationships, EcoRing believes its goals will be met and that success to this already popular region will increase in the coming years with the added benefit of new and extended employment and an environment that is maintained through thoughtful visitors.

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Holidays with Children - Creating Peace

Creating Peaceful Holidays With Children
This year I want to again share with you an article written by a colleague of mine, Pam Leo, author of the book, Connection Parenting. This article is profound and addresses specific ways and actions you can take to make the pre-holiday time as well as the holidays, joyful for yourself and your children.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!

“The Gift Every Child Really Wants”
by Pam Leo

Whether we observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Solstice, the holidays have become more stressful for many parents and less happy for many children. By the time we add shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, and holiday events to our already busy schedules, we have less time than ever to spend with our children. When children don’t get enough attention from the people they love, their “love cup” gets empty and they feel disconnected and unhappy.

If adults try to make children happy by buying them more presents to compensate for spending less time with them, we teach children that “things” are supposed to make them happy. When gifts become a substitute for love instead of a symbol of love, children begin to measure how much they are loved by how many gifts they receive. The more empty their “love” cup, the more “things” children ask for to try to fill the emptiness they feel.

The saying, “You can never get enough of what you don’t really need,” is especially true for children. No matter how many gifts we buy for children or how much money we spend, if their “love” cup is empty, there will never be enough gifts to make them happy. When children with an empty “love cup” have unwrapped all their gifts, they are still looking for something more. The “something more” that children are looking for is something money can’t buy.

The gift every child I really wants, is the gift of feeling connected, loved, and valued. Those feelings can’t be found in any present or in any amount of presents. Children want to be with us and to do what we do. Feeling connected, loved, and valued comes from spending time with the people they love and from doing things with and for the people they love.

One of the best gifts we can give to children is the experience of the joy of giving. We can encourage children to make an “I want to give” list as well as an “I want to get” list. Children delight in giving their own gifts. When children are allowed and invited to fully participate in the holiday making, wrapping, baking, and decorating, they become more focused on what they want to give than on what they want to get. Children who feel connected, loved, and valued don’t need lots of gifts to fill their “love cup.”

We can break the “presents instead of presence” cycle by doing the holidays with our children instead of for them. Whether our children are still very young and we have a fresh beginning to create meaningful holiday traditions and rituals or we have older children who have been accustomed to receiving lots of presents, we can put the “happy” back into the holidays by filling our children’s “love cup” with connection instead of consumerism.

The following tips are for parents who want to create a “less stress - more joy” holiday season for themselves and their children.
• Make the decision that presents will not be or will no longer be the main focus of the holidays.
• Invite children to join in creating a list of fun and meaningful holiday activities the family can do together and a list of kindnesses your family can do for others.
• Request that family and friends honor your fewer gifts decision by asking them to show their love for your children in other ways. A one-on-one “Holiday Date” is a welcome gift and a wonderful way for family members to form closer bonds with children.
• Give children the means to give a few special gifts. Take a friend’s or a relative’s child shopping or help the child make a gift for his or her parents.
• Ask your children what one gift they want most and a second choice if that one is not possible. When children with a full “love “cup get one gift they really want, they hardly notice what else they do or do not get. Receiving one gift they really want satisfies more than opening ten gifts they don’t really care about.
• Try giving children their most special gift first instead of last. The reason children tear through opening presents and keep asking for another is that they are looking for that special one they’ve been hoping for. When they get their special one first they enjoy the rest more.
• Slow down the frantic pace of the holidays and reduce post-holiday let down by spreading out family and friend gatherings throughout December into January.

Most of all, we can stop trying to “do it all.” The people who really love us will still love us no matter what gifts we do or do not give them and whether or not we send greeting cards. We can tell family and friends that we are changing how we “do” the holidays and that we have decided to spend more time connecting with our children. When we slow down the pace and stop doing and buying too much, our children are happier, we are happier, and our holidays are happier.

Sharon Ann Wikoff’s passion is Listening 2 Children. She is an elementary teacher, piano instructor and an EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Practitioner. EFT is an excellent way to reduce anxiety, stress and/or emotional upset for both children and adults. She may be contacted at (707) 543-6355.

Pam Leo
is the author of Connection Parenting: Parenting through Connection instead of Coercion, through Love instead of Fear. You can read other articles by Pam on her website

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2009 Home Loan Limits - New Rules!

2009 Loan Limits - Sexy!

So……. Loan limits eh? Pretty exciting stuff Hans! Yeah well it may not be that exciting but if you are thinking about buying a home it is very important. So here’s the scoop, our loan limits in Sonoma County have gone up.

Our basic conventional loan limit for 2008 was $417,000 but Congress voted in higher loan limits for conforming and FHA loans (as high as $729,750). It was a bit of a mess. We had one set of rules for loans up to $417,000 and an entirely different set of rules (and higher rates) for loans above $417,000. The bottom line is that Congress told my industry what to do but did not tell us how to do it and so it didn’t help as many people as it could have or should have.

So for 2009 the new loan limits are..... insert drum roll here……… $417,000! HUH!?! Here comes my favorite part ……. There are provisions for higher loan limits in high cost areas. We’ve always had these in Hawaii and Guam but never anywhere else. Now we have them in any area that is determined to be a high cost area. Of course there are all kinds of rules and formulas but I will make it easy for you, here is the chart:

* The limit may be lower for a specific high-cost area; use the resources below to see limits by location.

In Sonoma County, our limit is $520,950 for 1 unit. In Marin and most of the bay area, the loan limit is the new maximum of $625,500. The limits are even higher in Hawaii and Guam.
The real news here is that there is only one set of rules and one set of rates. These new loan limits apply to FHA loans as well and that is a good thing. Normally if we had the kind of market that we have had this past year, our loan limits would have gone down. So we are actually making progress and on our way to actually helping the consumer.

As I write this, rates have just come way down and are currently hovering around 5% to 5.5% for a 30 year fixed rate loan. There is talk about the treasury investing in low priced mortgage backed securities. The goal is to drive mortgage interest rates lower. The plan is not fully cooked yet and they’re not sure if they will include refinances in this new offering or not. Read between the lines people - it’s just talk at this point.

So basically it is just another normal day in my crazy business. There’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of movement and volatility, and no one really knows what’s going to happen from day to day because we don’t have that crystal ball. If I did, I would be on white sand beach sipping a drink with an umbrella in it (virgin because I don’t drink).

Now remember, we can get FHA loans with 3.5% down up to a $520,950 loan amount. FHA has even revived an old program called FHA Access which will allow 100% financing. So not only is it a great time to buy but it could be a great time to refinance as well.

I welcome questions about home loans and the real estate market in general. Please let me know what you want to hear about in future articles.

Hans Bruhner, CMPS is licensed in CA & HI. If you have a question, please contact Hans at (707) 887-1275 or . First Priority Financial, Inc. is licensed by the CA DRE #00654852.


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SHARK BAIT: Answers to Legal Questions: Falling Trees

If YOUR tree falls on your neighbor's house - are you responsible for the damage? Debra Newby educates you on the Yes & Yes and Why and What you should do about it.

DEAR READERS: Do you have a legal question that has been burning on your mind (but are hesitant to ask an attorney…cha-ching; cha-ching)? If so, please send your questions to Debra A. Newby via email (contact information below). Your name will remain confidential. Although every inquiry may not be published, we will publish as many as possible. Finally, this Q & A Legal Column is intended as a community service to discuss general legal principles and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Q: A tree in my yard seems to be a bit “side-heavy” and is leaning toward my neighbor’s house. I was wondering whether I should take some action…or if I don’t, whether I will be responsible if the tree falls during a winter storm and crashes into their home?
Signed: Watchful Eye in Sebastopol

Dear Watchful Eye: The short answer…”Yes”….and “Yes”. Plus, you get an A+ for timing—great question, especially in light of the rainy season being upon us. Now is the time for all readers to give a “health check” to all the plant life that supports us.

First, the basics. If a tree falls and causes damage to real property, the best course is for the owner of the damaged property to file a claim through their own homeowner’s policy. Rephrased, for purposes of getting the fallen tree off the home or fence, it doesn’t matter whose tree it is. The easiest course of action is for the owner of the damaged property to file an insurance claim ASAP. Homeowner’s have a duty to mitigate damages by preventing further damage.

If the tree was rotten, leaning, or in apparent need of trimming or removal, then the insurance company who paid the claim will argue that the tree owner was “negligent”, and in turn will try to recover whatever monies are paid out. This is called subrogation. Insurance companies have entire “swat squads” of subrogation specialist who try to recoup whatever monies are paid out when someone else was at fault. They are relentless, even without their flying jetpacks and colorful helmets.

So, if your tree was noticeably neglected and it falls, causing damage, someone will be knocking on your door soon...and they will insist that you pay for the damage, either out of your own pocket, or out of your insurance company’s pocket. Be warned: claims may affect your premium at renewal.

Next, you should also understand that not all property is covered. Typically, if a tree falls, only damaged real property is covered. This means if the tree crashed through a home, fence, patio, deck, swing set, or the household’s bicycles, the damage is covered. However, if the tree causes damage to the land, such as landscaping or exotic plants, no moola for anyone--resulting in one teed-off neighbor. The neighbor still may be emotional and attached to the damaged property as “irreplaceable”, even if the damage is covered by insurance.

Finally, if there is insurance coverage for the fallen tree, the adjuster will likely adjudicate the claim in three phases: 1) evaluation of how much it costs to remove the tree and repair the damage to real property; 2) how much it cost to remove the debris; and 3) the value of the tree itself in certain conditions (typically, no coverage for the tree due to wind and hail damage).

Bottom line…we should all be good neighbors like you and me and inquire whether our surrounding trees need attention. Before a mishap occurs you can and should take key steps: i) Inspect your trees and the surrounding property; ii) Retain the services of a respected arborist, if necessary, so that the sleeping giants remain healthy and vibrant; and iii) If the tree is near or on the property line, initiate discussion with your neighbor and reach an agreement on fairly splitting the costs of the arborist and whatever work is necessary for the health of the tree and the surrounding area.

Nature renews the spirit and is a key aspect of our existence. We are inextricably intertwined …she needs to be respected and preserved. As Alexander Pope, the 18th Century English poet, elegantly intoned:

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.

Debra A. Newby is a resident of Monte Rio and has practiced law for 27 years. She is a member of the California, Texas and Sonoma County Bar Associations and currently maintains an active law office in Santa Rosa. Her law practice emphasizes personal injury law (bicycle/motorcycle/motor vehicle accidents, dog bites, trip and falls, etc.) and expungements (clearing criminal records). Debra can be reached via email (, phone (707-526-7200), fax (526-7202) or pony express
(930 Mendocino Avenue, Suite 101; Santa Rosa, 95401).

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Recycling Paper, Holiday Trees and Electronic Wastes in Sonoma County

Your Watershed: When the Holidays are Over - Recycling Paper, Holiday Trees and Electronic Wastes in Sonoma County

After the holidays, you’ll likely be left with some cleanup—wrapping
paper and packaging—not to mention the tree itself. If your gifts include new electronic devices, such as a new flatscreen TV, laptop or digital camera, you might find yourself with the challenge of properly disposing of your old equipment. Luckily, there are many opportunities in Sonoma County to easily recycle your wastes.

Wrapping paper--- Recyclable paper makes up a large portion, 27%, of what’s going into our garbage in Sonoma County. Remember to recycle all non-reusable wrapping paper, carton and cardboard packaging in your single-stream curbside recycling cart. Only foil-backed and plastic wrapping paper cannot be recycled.

Packaging---If you accumulate packing peanuts and bubble wrap over the holidays, many local packaging stores, such as UPS Stores, are glad to accept these items for reuse.

Veggie food scraps--Compost your veggies! Fruits, vegetables, peels and seeds can be composted at home or put in the curbside yard waste carts for the municipal composting program. In fact about 35% of residential garbage is food waste, totaling nearly 800 tons a week in Sonoma County--a resource that could be used instead of landfilled.

Christmas trees--- Christmas trees can be recycled into compost and mulch. Your tree needs to be free of flocking, tinsel, decorations and its stand for recycling.

For curbside pick up and drop-off options, call the Sonoma County Eco-Desk at
565-3375 or visit

Electronics---Under a State mandate, electronics cannot be put in the garbage. An electronic device is anything with a circuit board. Look for devices with digital displays or programmable features. Examples include computers, TVs, laptops, printers, answering machines, CD & DVD players, stereos and cell phones.

You have three options for proper disposal of electronics:
1. bulky item pickup
2. curbside recycling, and
3. drop-off recycling

1. Bulky item pickup is available by appointment for residential garbage customers in Healdsburg, Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Windsor. To schedule a home pickup, call your garbage company.

2. Curbside recycling for household electronics, not larger than 2 feet in any dimension, is available for garbage customers in Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Petaluma, Rohnert Park and in unincorporated areas. Devices with screens (such as TV’s, computer monitors and laptops) and batteries are not accepted curbside.

3. Drop-off recycling for non-working and working electronics is available at all County Refuse Disposal Sites, at Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire donation centers, Salvation Army and at other businesses in Sonoma County. For a complete list, call the Sonoma County Eco-Desk at 565-3375 or visit

Batteries---Batteries should not be placed in the trash. Batteries are recycled by different processes than electronic equipment and should be removed from electronic equipment prior to recycling. By law, retailers selling rechargeable batteries are required to take back used rechargeable batteries from their customers. It is often more convenient, however, to use local recycling programs rather than to take rechargeable batteries back to the store from which they were purchased.

Dispose off all kinds of batteries, including alkaline and rechargeable batteries, through Sonoma County’s Household Toxics Program. Call the Sonoma County Eco-Desk at 565-DESK(3375) or visit for more information.

More Recycling Information---For additional questions about recycling and disposal options in Sonoma County, see the Sonoma County Recycling Guide printed in the AT&T phone book Yellow Pages under Recycling, call the Sonoma County Eco-Desk at 565-DESK(3375) or visit

The Sonoma County Eco-Desk is a project of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, a joint powers authority of the nine incorporated cities and the County of Sonoma. The specific focus of the Agency’s efforts is waste diversion required by State law AB939 in the following categories: wood waste, yard waste, household hazardous waste, education, diversion and planning.

This article was authored by Karina Chilcott of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, fisheries restoration, and watershed enhancement.

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REVIEW: Terrapin Creek Cafe/Restaurant of Bodega Bay

TERRAPIN CREEK CAFE in Bodega Bay is just down the hill from Hwy 1 on the north side of the town of Bodega Bay. Turn west when you see Second Wind (kites & candy, etc.) on the corner…you'll see the restaurant on your right next to Local Color gallery.

Terrapin Creek of Bodega Bay - Tasteful & Serene

If you’re looking for a TERRAPIN you look for a creek that is found along the eastern and southern part of the U. S. that has both fresh and brackish water. There you will find the little Terrapin turtle that was given an Algonquian Indian name meaning “a turtle that is very edible”. But if you are on the West Coast of the U. S. you can find TERRAPIN CREEK in Bodega Bay. It is a restaurant located at 1580 Eastshore Road which is the road you turn on to go to Bodega Head. Now I didn’t find any turtle soup on the menu but they serve a Mediterranean Fish Stew. On a night I was dining there a customer at the next table told the owner, “If you didn’t have anything on the menu but this it would be worth coming here over and over again.” Now I haven’t tried the Fish Stew myself but I intend to.

The new owners of this cozy restaurant are Andrew and Liya Truong. In college Andrew, a laid back easy going lad from Georgia was a computer science major and Liya, who was a high energy New York girl was getting her degree in economics. But their interest in cooking took them to Culinary School and when they completed that they set out on a four year plan. For the first part of the plan they drove 40 hours from the East to San Francisco to find an apartment and jobs. They both worked in various restaurants, mostly typical Chinese restaurants and learned as much as they could about the restaurant business from – pardon the expression – soup to nuts. The end of the four year plan was to own their own restaurant so when they found the SeaWeed Cafe in Bodega Bay advertised for sale, they bought it. Liya does most of the cooking and makes the pastries and Andrew handles the soups and sauces and works the front of the house.

The cuisine is mainly California style food with an Asian influence. The menu follows the seasonal vegetables and fruits from the area as they like to take advantage of the fresh produce which they pick up daily on their commute from Sebastopol to Bodega Bay. For example they had gravenstein apple tart and a sweet potato pie for dessert the day of this interview. The atmosphere is comfortable and casual and becomes a little more formal in the evening with candles and fresh flowers. The service is attentive but Andrew says he tries to provide the best service while not interfering with the customers dining pleasure.

Liya and Andrew do all the preparation and cooking and handle the lunch themselves, but they have three employees that help during dinner. The menu has nine items for Starters, several of which are very unique. I had Manila Clams & Homemade Chorizo served on a small plate with creamy Yukon Potatoes, Smoked Pepper Aioli, and a Fennel White Wine Broth for $12. Now that is something you don’t see every day. They also serve Artisan Bread with McEvoy Ranch Organic Olive Oil.

The dinner menu is small but well rounded with options for different pallets. Entrees include the Mediterranean Fish Stew $25, Homemade Pappardelle Pasta with Tomato Braised Beef Sugo, sautéed Tuscan Kale and Parmesan Cheese $20, Liberty Farms Duck Breast with Butternut Squash Puree, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Maple Glazed Bacon in a Red Wine Onion Jus $25, Organic Soba Noodles with Herb-crusted Potobello Mushrooms and Spinach in a Curry-tomato broth $18, and Slow-Cooked Sonoma Lamb Shank with roasted tomatoes and eggplant, with creamy Farro and Feta Cheese for $26.

The lunch menu along with the homemade soup and salads has a sausage & white bean Cassoulet $12, Nicoise Egg Salad Sandwich $9, Zoe’s Prosciutto Panini $11, Pappardelle Pasta $14, and of course, Mediterranean Fish Stew $21. If you just want to snack you can get a selection of local cheese served with seasonal fruit and toasted baguettes for $13 to enjoy with a glass of wine from a very extensive wine list of mostly local wines but also get Sake or beer. The desserts carefully prepared by Liya are $8.

Currently they are open from Thursday through Sunday from 11:00 to 2:30 and 4:30 to 9:00. They are considering adding Wednesday, but it would be a good thing to call ahead of time. 1580 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay. 707 875.2700.
Also you might want to check their web site


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Ask EcoGirl - GREEN & Ecological Solutions to Ant Problems

This month EcoGirl tackles ants as they seek shelter from the cold and rain. If you are noticing ant scouts exploring your home, now is the time to discourage their entry.

Taming Our Tiny Ant Friends

Dear EcoGirl: Help! Ants are invading my home. How can I banish them without resorting to a toxic spray? Signed, Under Siege in Guerneville

Dear Under Siege: Yes, it certainly can feel like an invasion when ants in their (quite reasonable) quest for food and shelter cross the boundaries of our homes, finding warm refuge from the weather and feasts in the crumbs and dribbles that we don’t even notice.

Still, you’re smart to resist the temptation to grab a poison spray, because it can harm the health of yourself and your family — and not even be worth the risk. A Stanford study found that toxic pesticides are no more effective than household cleansers in reducing home ant populations. Also, when ants’ homes are under stress, from winter rainstorms or summer droughts, it can be hard to keep them out no matter what you do.

A better way to preserve both your health and sanity is to use these easy less-toxic methods for constructively managing one of our most prevalent earth companions.

Your First Steps
• Eliminate what’s attracting the ants. Follow their trail to discover what food needs to be cleaned up, sealed up, or put in the fridge. Empty the trash and wash the can. If they’ve found your pet food bowl, place it in a larger dish filled with a soapy water moat.

• Block their entry point. Follow the ants’ trail back to where it enters the house, and plug those holes with caulk or toothpaste.

• Wipe paths with a clean soapy sponge, to remove the ants’ pheromone trail. For more potency, add vinegar.

• Be consistent about keeping your kitchen clean, wiping counters and putting food away. Avoid leaving food elsewhere in the house. I call these little guys “Housekeeping Ants” because (like a white-gloved matron) they show me where I need more attention in my housecleaning practices!

Kick It Up A Notch
If, even after the above steps, your ants still persist in their misadventures, try these additional methods.
• Remove outside attractants. Look at the outside wall of their entry point. Is something there attracting them, such as a garbage can, compost pile, or vegetation? Consider pulling that away from the house.

• Disrupt ant trails by placing pungent scents at key spots, such as entry points and around unavoidable enticements like houseplants. Just strategically sprinkle dried or fresh herbs, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, chili pepper, bay leaves, rosemary, spearmint, catnip, and sage. (Use whatever you have around.) Or make a spray by brewing any of these herbs into a tea; diluting their essential oils in water; or warming orange peels in water. (The latter has become my current favorite.)

If you want a ready-made option, consider the less-toxic insecticide Orange Guard, made from a by-product of steam-distilled citrus peels. All ingredients are FDA food-grade and GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), and the product also works on other insects, such as aphids and fleas. Tests show that it has no significant toxicity to humans, though contact can irritate eyes or skin. Orange Guard is at stores (such as Sebastopol Hardware and Friedman’s) or see .
If It’s Still Serious

For stubborn and significant problems, consider these next-tier approaches.
• Use boric acid baits. If you truly can’t stop ants from coming into your home, this less-toxic pesticide can eliminate ants at their nest. In addition to boric acid (a mined odorless white powder used for a variety of insects), most baits include a sweetening lure and come in a convenient liquid form. Place baits out of the reach of curious pets and children.
Important: Read ant bait labels to avoid those with toxics such as arsenic, which can poison children, pets, and wildlife.

• Hire an expert who specializes in less-toxic remedies, such as bio-pest, 542-3030, .
And, while protecting your turf, remember the big picture — that the 10,000 species of ants around the globe are an essential part of nature’s miraculous interwoven systems. Plus these social insects can lift 50 times their own weight! How cool is that?

“EcoGirl believes that we can all be a superhero for the planet. Then she shows you how!”

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guide to Sonoma, Napa, & Mendocino Counties, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter.
Email your questions about going green to for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at . Also contact EcoGirl for information about carrying this syndicated column in your periodical.

"More EcoGirl columns are available at <>. For more wonderful articles by Patricia Dines, see <> and <>."

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2008. All rights reserved.


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Through the Eyes of a Child - Part 2

Through the Eyes of a Child (Part 2)

In last month’s article I invited readers to take 24 hours and see life (the television, the news, your home, your conversations… EVERYTHING) through the eyes of your child. Many sounds and sights of Halloween can be very frightening or unsettling to children

This month I want to continue this theme, “Through The Eyes of a Child” because topics of great importance continue to be on everyone’s mind and in everyone’s heart!

What types of conversations are your children hearing in your household today? How are your children being affected by the world right now? What are they thinking when they hear conversations about the economy? What is going on in their mind when they hear conversations about Barack Obama’s victory or the passing of Proposition 8 in the state.

Throughout my teaching career I’ve seen many types of approaches by parents to handling such issues with children. Following are three main types of approaches families have with their children regarding their exposure to the “outside” world.

Type A Family: These families were very selective about what their children viewed. They did not take their children to the movies and they did not own a television. They wanted to protect their children from the outside world. As the children grew to be 11 or 12 years of age they would gradually introduce them to more of the “outside world’.

Type B Family: These families thought the experience of their children should not be limited. They allowed them to watch television. They initiated conversations regarding life experiences. When their children saw a homeless person, these families would initiate a conversation about that. They invited their children to ask questions about anything and everything they observed.

Type C Family: These families appear to be indifferent to what their children were exposed too. It just didn’t enter into their thinking that such experiences were important. In addition, this type of parent would initiate a conversation about their child in front of the child. They also might bring up “adult” type conversations in front their children.

Today, being surrounded by the “world of media” I believe that parents need to be consciously aware of the exposure their children have to the outside world and address the important issues, providing children will background information on the topics they are exposed to.

I invite you to sit back and observe the world your child is being exposed to for 24 hours! Observe what he/she sees on the television or listens to on the radio. Observe the conversations he/she is exposed to! See if your child automatically responses to the input or ignores it. Observation is the first step. Become aware of what is happening!

After a period of observation you may know the next step you want to take for your family. It may be to initiate a conversation about a subject they are being exposed to. Or it might be to educate them about a topic. During such conversations, it’s important to separate facts from opinions whenever possible.

I actually had an opportunity to do this the other day with a young adult. This person had not been following the election and was curious about the candidates. So, I had an opportunity to describe each Party in an objective manner, also taking the economy into the situation. It was an interesting experience, attempting to take my “opinions” out of the conversation.

When children are given facts and background about a topic, AND without an editorial twist or a slanted perspective, then they have a foundation from which to think about a topic. Children are wise beyond their years and appreciate objective information. Later you can have a discussion about such topics and encourage everyone to share their ideas.

So, I invite you to once again, to look at the world your child lives in for 24 hours, through your child’s eyes? What are they hearing? What are they seeing? What is your child’s reaction to their experience?

It all begins with observation and seeing what is! And then following up addressing the needs of your children.

Sharon Ann Wikoff is a credentialed elementary teacher and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Practitioner. She is passionate about Listening 2 Children! She can be reached through her websites: and or at (707) 543-6355.

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Hope for Home Buyer!

Hope for Home Buyers!

I know that I am always trying to write about the positive aspects of the real estate market and how you might take advantage of it and I have to admit that I was having trouble maintaining a positive attitude in the last few weeks of the presidential election.

I went out to dinner last nigh,t which was the Friday immediately following the election and the restaurant was completely packed. The owners of the restaurant said they did not expect this type of crowd but they figured that with the outcome of the election people were feeling relieved and excited and apparently willing to spend money on eating out again because they hadn’t seen these type of crowds in a long time. That is the kind of hope I am talking about. You can read between the lines and see that I am a Democrat, but I spoke with some Republican friends who were disappointed they lost but still excited about the change that they felt was upon us both in the economy and the world at large.

OK, OK so what about your positive spin for home buyers Hans? So, we all know that there are a bunch of foreclosures available for sale at good prices but we have been reading the paper and we see that we need to have 50% down payment, perfect credit and at least a 20 year sterling credit history to get a home loan…….

That is simply not the case my friends. I am closing 4-8 loans per month right now. These are not the kind of numbers that I am used to closing and I am working a lot harder to achieve this feat than I had to in the past. The majority of the loans I am closing right now are purchase loans on foreclosed properties with 97% FHA fixed rate mortgages. That is correct, I said that these first time buyers are putting 3% down and getting into homes in this market. If you want to buy a home as an investment, you need to put 20-25% down. The funny thing is that this is the way it was when I got into this business in the early 90’s……

Here is what I am really excited about. There is a loan called an FHA 203k loan and it allows a person to buy a home that needs work and then finance that work into the purchase of the home. Let’s say that you find a home that needs some work but it is a decent home at a great price. You do a little homework and get some bids on what it will take to fix up the house and we lend you a piece of the fix up money as well. There is a streamline 203k loan up to $35,000 in repairs that is pretty easy to do and then there is the regular 203k loan that requires quite a bit more time and effort to make happen but if you need that much work on the home, it is probably worth it in the end. The FHA loan is designed for people who plan on living in the home only. Did I mention that we can do this loan to 97% as well?

There is a conventional loan available as well called Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation which has a catchier name and offers similar options. This loan requires 10% down payment on the cost of the home + fix up costs. There is no streamline option on this loan. Fannie Mae does offer an investment option as well but the minimum down payment would be 20% on investment property.

I don’t want to talk politics with you but I welcome questions about these home loans and the real estate market in general. Please let me know what you want to hear about in future articles.

Hans Bruhner, CMPS is licensed in CA & HI. If you have a question, please contact Hans at (707) 887-1275 or . First Priority Financial, Inc. is licensed by the CA DRE #00654852.


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REVIEW: Sam's For Play Café - Santa Rosa

Looking for a home away from home? Looking for a place, like Cheers, where everybody knows your name? Try SAM’S, founded by Sam Anker.

Sam grew up loving a business where she could interact with the customers. Her mom owned “Dot’s Donuts” in Montgomery Village and Sam spent 25 years working in local restaurants before she decided to open her own. All work and no play was definitely not in Sam’s plans. She wanted to have a restaurant where people could come for home made food and feel just like they were “at home”. Her criteria: quality, home style meals, immaculate & pleasant atmosphere, excellent service, attention to detail and a place that would be fun. She called her customers by their first name and truly appreciated their daily patronage.

On May 1, 1985, Sam opened her first restaurant on Sebastopol road and September 6, 2000 Sam’s For Play Café opened at 2630 Cleveland Avenue in Santa Rosa. I went to this site with a friend who had a business in that area. Of course everyone knew her name and I was blown away by the friendly feeling and the quality of the food. Our waitperson’s name tag was “Anita Raise”. I soon found out that all the staff could make up their own name tags. Examples are “Bev Ridges” and “Diana Hunger” or “Anita Coffee.”

I spoke to “Al Dente” who said he had worked there for about 5 years and he loved his job. One employee has been there for 17 plus years and 12 others have been there over 8 years. I was told everyone was treated the same, dishwasher to manager, and friendliness was key. So I decided to ask the Manager, Troy Anker, what some of his favorite stories were. He told about the customer who actually found a huge fresh CULTURED PEARL in an oyster in his Hang Town Fry. (Yes, the food is all fresh). The customer let the staff display the pearl for a week before he had it made into a necklace for his wife. Another story is the 98 year old customer whose birthday is December 31st. For many years now, every Dec 31st she is there for dinner and the crew pops a bottle of champagne to celebrate her birthday. It seems that the core customers number about 100 and are there almost every day. They are loyal, consistent and predictable such as Bernice Bourne who had her 90th birthday the week I did this interview.

All the items on the menu are cooked to order. You can get breakfast all day which is a plus from my point of view. For lunch you can select from Sam’s Favorites which range in price from $7.95 for quesadillas to $11.95 for N.Y. Steak sandwich; and a variety of burgers from $5.25 to $8.95. Sam’s has an old American tradition, the BLUE PLATE SPECIAL served Monday through Friday for $5.95. If salads are your passion you can pick from eleven different salads ranging in price from $2.50 to $10.95. Also there is daily home made soup or chili from $2.95 a cup or $4.95 for a large bowl.

Dinner offers appetizers, salads and twelve selections of meat, chicken or fish. If your family has one big eater and one not so big eater you can order A LA Carte or a full dinner. For example: A New York steak with mushrooms and fresh vegetables is yours for $11.95 A La Carte but if you want the full dinner with soup or salad, garlic bread and your choice of rice or four different styles of potatoes the cost is $13.95. On Friday and Saturday night you can order their Special Prime Rib Dinner for $14.95 or get it A La Carte for $12.95. Now for those of us who are of a certain age and really can’t eat a lot they have a ‘Senior Dinner Menu’ with many of the same items on the regular menu and the price ranges from $6.95 to $9.95 A La Carte. But I suggest you check the menu out for yourself at

The phone number is 528 2929 at the Cleveland Avenue restaurant. Sam’s For Play Café is open Monday thru Saturday from 6:00 a m. to 9:00 p.m. On Sunday the hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They also offer catering and box lunches for groups and have a banquet room for special events.

And yes, Sam is still around. She makes all the pies which you can buy and take home. She also loves to travel and spend time with her children and 6 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Good for you Sam.


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World-Class Winery - Freestone Vineyards

World-Class Winery comes to the Bohemian Highway

Many great winemakers have for some years been producing world-class wines from vineyards surrounding the hills of the Bohemian Highway near Freestone and Occidental including Cobb Wines, Paul Mathew, Sonoma Coast Vineyards, and Bohemian Vineyards to name but a few, but Freestone Vineyards is the first to open a winery and guest center off the Bohemian Highway allowing us to taste, right here, at home.

In 1999, Joe Phelps (owner and founder of the prestigious Joseph Phelps winery in Napa), with his son Bill, purchased 80 acres of pinot noir and 20 acres of chardonnay in Freestone, California. With a commitment to sustaining the integrity of the environment, the new Freestone Vineyards winery was built into the hillside to reduce both its volume and footprint. The winery employs organic and biodynamic farming methods. The state-of-the-art three story facility uses the force of gravity to move wine from fermenters to barrels, avoiding pumps that adjust temperature and quality also using less energy to produce wine. The wines are unfined, unfiltered, and the goal is to create wines representative of the rugged coastal region where Freestone is located, I think they have succeeded, right from their first vintage.

Freestone Vineyards wines are not widely available yet, not in restaurants or even boutique wine stores (I don’t carry them at Sophie’s Cellars yet…). I did have the good fortune to taste a selection from the Freestone Vineyard’s first releases. After tasting the rosé of pinot noir, the chardonnay and the pinot noirs, I really felt that all of the wines were exceptional in quality. However, the Freestone Vineyards Pinot Noir stood out as a superbly elegant-styled, though slightly spicy food wine. The Fogdog Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are relatively inexpensive for quality pinot noir and chardonnay (retailing $35-$40 at the Guest Center). The Freestone Pinot Noir retails at $75 and garnered 90pts from Wine Spectator. The Freestone Vineyards Guest Center is another wonderful reason to explore our Bohemian Highway joining Freestone, Occidental and Monte Rio, the beauty of which is being discovered by tourists, or, of course, known by locals as the quick way down to San Francisco once Santa Rosa grinds to a halt. The footprint for visitors to Freestone Vineyards is kept minimal as the winery is private and there are no public tours, but Freestone wines may be tasted at the renovated Guest Center facility located at the corner of Bodega Highway and Bohemian Highways in Freestone, currently open for visitors Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. No appointment is necessary. Groups of six or more are encouraged to call ahead ( Check out for more information on The Bohemian Highway.

Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner
It is that time of year again, and I am so often asked to pick wines for Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s a particularly fun time for me as Sophie’s Cellars is only closed on Wednesday, with the exception of Thanksgiving when we close both Wednesday and Thursday… I’m travelling to the Bay Area and am most definitely bringing with me my Harvest Moon Dry Gewurztraminer from 2007 (Russian River Valley), retailing at $24.99 and Ventana Riesling 2007 from Monterey, retailing at $11.99. Both are a perfect complement to a turkey dinner surrounded by the rich accoutrements found at so many T-day dinners. The Riesling, with a demi-sec (light sweet) works well with many spicy foods too. If you’re not sure what is being served, try taking a versatile pinot noir to dinner such as David Noyes Pinot Noir from Sonoma County (retailing at $24.99), it is subtle and complex, with aromas of black cherry, cinnamon and clove. The palate is filled with earthy forest floor and wild mushroom flavors and finishes with toasted oak. It’s a versatile pinot noir - a delicious sipper or a pairing for poultry, fish and some grilled meat dishes. If you’re heading out of Sonoma County, our local wines are always a crowd pleaser.

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.


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Artist Profile - Adrenne Hatkoff

FEATURED ARTISTS: Adrienne Hatkoff is not only an accomplished and prolific water color artist, she's also a gerontologist who teaches local seniors, as well as an art instructor an Santa Rosa Junior College.

Artist Profile – Adriane Hatkoff
My introduction to Adriane Hatkoff happened while I was passing through the lobby of Prudential California Realty in Sebastopol. Adriane was rushing to hang her paintings for the show that is currently on exhibit there. I was on my way out of my office – rushing to my next obligation. At that brief encounter, I knew that she was someone I had to interview. That quick glance at a beautifully executed watercolor might have been what struck me but I now know that it was something more visceral. I identified myself and asked if she would like to be featured in the Artist Profile. Without hesitation, she said “yes” and continued placing paintings throughout the building. Here is a woman who has more things (or at least as many) going on in her life than me.

When first entering Adriane’s home, you know that she has a special relationship with a whippet. There are whippets on the calendar, on a covered dish and in many paintings. The most prominent whippet is Jasper, a rescued pet, who is with Adriane at home or away. Jasper is not the first whippet in Adriane’s life and will definitely not be the last. According to the whippet rescue site, a whippet owner “is involved with her dog, who considers her dog part of the family, and who has an easygoing nature herself.” “A whippet prefers a relatively quiet household. He's sensitive to human emotions.” It sure sounds like Adriane to me.

Some of you may know Adriane from her life as the Senior Day Program director. Three days a week for four and a half hours each day, Adriane entertains, cajoles and inspires a collection of West County residents. Her education in gerontology, the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging, makes her the perfect candidate for this important work. This summer she added teaching drawing and painting for SRJC Adult Education to her resume. The opportunity to teach to highly educated and motivated retirees has merged two of her worlds into a single creative outlet that provides as much satisfaction to her as to her students.

Adriane’s strikingly lovely paintings of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, Costa Rican beaches and lotus flowers create another pursuit, art entrepreneur. Adriane promotes her watercolor paintings in the forms of original artwork, giclees and note cards. The colors are vibrant and the scenes compelling. At one time, Adriane did primarily plein air painting but today she prefers to photograph her subjects or environs from various perspectives and then develop her own interpretation in the solitude of her studio. You can see a large collection of these works at the Prudential Real Estate office at 7300 Healdsburg Avenue in Sebastopol for the next couple of months.

Adriane’s journey to this multi-faceted life in West Sonoma County is equally as eclectic. She started her adult life by rebelling as soon as she reached college in New England. She was away from home and grabbed the opportunity to study art as an elective while still taking the courses that were parentally approved. Her rebellion resulted in joining the New York publishing business as an illustrator of children’s books for J. P. Lippinncott Publishing. A side benefit of the tenure at J. P. Lippinncott was an education in production processes at NYU. This background is evident in Adriane’s business acumen for promoting and selling her art. After a few expeditions and career moves, she decided to move to San Francisco. She bought an old house to renovate and took odds jobs and attended San Francisco State to pursue credentials in gerontology. What she thought was a two year project and lifestyle lasted eighteen years. She moved to Brisbane, south of San Francisco and worked in assisted living facilities on the Peninsula.

While attending a watercolor workshop in Point Reyes, she met a fellow artist who was looking for a house sitter in Forestville. Adriane jumped at the chance and relocated with her whippets that were aging and enjoyed the quiet of the country. There was no going back to the congestion and noise of urban living. Adriane Hatkoff may be busy and may have as many hats as when she lived in the city but her life is calmer and very creative in the serenity of West Sonoma County. Check out her artwork at Prudential or on her website,

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