Trivial Matters

I have finally recovered from my funk for making a large boo boo a couple months back. I will do my best to restore trust. As we enter the fall season, let’s get seasonal.

  1. Who was the Oscar winning actor who appeared with Joan Crawford in the movie “Autumn Leaves”?
  2. Who was the piano player that made “Autumn Leaves” popular?
  3. The World Series is called the Fall Classic. Which two teams appeared in the first one in 1901?
  4. Ella Fitzgerald and other female singers made a jazz classic out of the fall season. What was the song?
  5. Who wrote “The Fall of the Roman Empire”?
  6. Who was the male star of “Mulholland Falls”?

September’s Trivia Answers

  1. Tom Ewell
  2. Bobby Grich
  3. Tony Bennett
  4. Phil Silvers as Sergeant Bilko
  5. Cosmo
  6. Richard Widmark

SEPTEMBER TRIVIA WINNER: Jill Salamanca of Pleasanton

WIN LUNCH ON BEN!
The first person to email or mail, no calls please, the correct answers to all of the above questions will win a $25 gift certificate at The Uptown Cafe in downtown Danville, compliments of Ben Fernandez! Entries must be received by September 25, 2010. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn at random. Please email your answers to info@aliveeastbay.com, or mail to ALIVE East Bay, 199 East Linda Mesa Avenue, Suite 10, Danville, CA 94526. Employees and family members of employees of ALIVE East Bay are not eligible. Restaurant may be changed without notice.

The Accordion

Believe it or not several accordion players have been asked to play at the White House three different times in recent years. They have also performed at the Kennedy Center – these are, to say the least, important and prestigious venues.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities for accordions these days,” said Ron Borelli, popular Bay Area accordion musician and music teacher. “More and more people are becoming interested in the accordion and even young kids, when they see and hear it, want to know all about it.”

Borelli plays with The Golden Gate Concert Band on “Italian Day” and often performs solo or with other area concert bands, including the Danville Community Band. He also arranges musical scores to include the accordion with concert band arrangements.

“The accordion is a great instrument and can be used in many different settings, including opera, jazz, ethnic music i.e. French, German and Italian, to name a few,” he said. “The accordion is portable, unlike the piano which is stationary. It’s a keyboard that you can walk around with giving you a whole orchestra at your disposable,” Borelli explained. The new Roland brand accordion is truly electronic with amplified sounds and speakers and is all digital, thus offering many new sound possibilities.

Instrument
The accordion is a portable, keyed free-reed instrument consisting of an expandable bellows worked by the players arm and supplying wind to the free-reeds by pressure or by suction depending on whether it is compressed or expanded. It has melody keys or buttons and bass keys or chord buttons. The left hand plays the base notes or chords and also works the bellows. The right hand plays the melody on the keys.

“What draws so many people to the accordion is the variety of sounds it can produce,” said Randall Martin, noted teacher and conductor of an accordion orchestra.

Many think of the accordion as a “polka music” type instrument. On the contrary, Martin says it is equally capable of varied musical forms like waltzes, ethnic tunes, classical pieces and American band and folk favorites. Rock and roll classics like Johnny B. Goode, Twist and Shout and Jail House Rock are often played on the accordion. The instrument has grown in popularity among classical composers. Tchaikovsky, Charles Ives, Umberto Giordano, Paul Hindemuth and Alban Berg have all composed for the accordion.

Background
The accordion was invented in 1822 by Friedrich Buschmann of Berlin. It was improved upon by Cyril Demian of Vienna in 1829. It soon became very popular in Europe.

The accordion was prominent in pop music from the early 1900’s to the 1960’s. This period was called the “Golden Age” of the accordion. In the 1930’s to 1950’s many accordionist taught and also played for radio. Myron Floren was a popular accordion musician on the Lawrence Welk Show during the 1950’s to 1980. Unfortunately, the late 50’s and 60’s saw the decline in popularity of the accordion in America. Counties where the instrument is still popular are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil and Columbia, among others. The instrument has always been a favorite of folk musicians.

Contemporary Artists

“Weird Al” Yankovic was probably the most famous accordionist in pop music who used the accordion liberally in his albums.

Dick Contino, born in 1930, is without a doubt the most well-known accordionists of the 20th Century. He is originally from Fresno, California and became popular to the American public through his appearances on the Horace Heidt national radio programs. He won first prize on the program and eventually winning $5,000, a considerable sum in 1947. His big break came with a recording of Lady of Spain in 1949. Contino appeared 48 times on the Ed Sullivan Show. From a small town, this talented youth became the “world’s greatest accordion player.” This legendary virtuoso is still very active as a popular musician and showman and now lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Tonia. During his youth the bobby-sox crowd went wild for the young, handsome Italian accordionist. Not bad for a young man who worked as a delivery boy in his father’s butcher shop – but he always had his accordion handy and practiced many hours a day – thus becoming the most popular accordion player in history.

You can contact Ron Borelli at www.ronborelli.com. Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net.
Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

A Very Good Time

From the PublsiherThis time, like all other times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve had some interesting conversations lately with many of our advertisers. In the course of these discussions I have noticed an interesting trend—business owners who are open to creative, new ideas and who speak with positive expectations are the ones surviving in spite of the current (apparent) market. Those unreceptive to new ideas or resistant to change have either already closed their doors or appear close to that unfortunate end.  As the dynamics of our economy have changed over the past two years, this trend has become increasingly apparent. But it is much more than just “positive thinking”—it’s all about doing.

Here at ALIVE, we are acutely aware of changes in our own industry. One of the primary elements of that awareness is that in order to better serve our readers and advertisers we have to leave outdated methods behind.  We know that our readers enjoy the printed version of ALIVE, but we also know many of them expect more, as increasingly they look to the internet, video, and mobile devices for enhancements to their “ALIVE experience.”

In lock step with this is a change in how we work with advertisers. Today, the printed version of ALIVE Magazine provides but one dimension in a multi-media platform called ALIVE Mediaworks, where our advertisers’ access to consumers extends far beyond the vehicle of print, with a growing online, cable television and mobile device presence.  For example, we recently launched a consumer-focused website, www.alivemarketplace.com, which serves as an enhancement to our exciting new ALIVE Marketplace iPhone application.

In addition to these cutting-edge methods of serving readers and advertisers, we have enhanced the “brick and mortar” of ALIVE’s impact by establishing a network of over eighty display racks for ALIVE in high traffic, upscale locations throughout  the Diablo Valley, in addition to a strong, targeted mailed distribution program.

And what has been the result of these enhancements? We are enjoying explosive growth in our readership as evidenced by regular, week upon week increases—sometimes as much as 50%–in traffic on our AliveEastBay.com website. And as for our display racks, at locations like Whole Foods in Walnut Creek and Draeger’s Market in Blackhawk, no fewer than hundreds of issues of ALIVE each week are being chosen by their upscale clientele.

In the coming months, we’ll be adding even more to the value of ALIVE as we launch our Droid and iPad versions of both ALIVE Magazine and the ALIVE Marketplace program.

Indeed, for ALIVE readers and advertisers alike, this truly is a very good time!

Eric Johnson

Market Fresh: Putting the Crunch in October

Market Fresh

Even when midday temperatures soar, early mornings and evenings remind us that fall is here. As children anxiously await Halloween, adults prepare for shorter days and cool nights. At the farmers’ market, the bright kaleidoscope of summer produce also undergoes a welcome change of seasons.

After months of outdoor entertaining, my nesting instincts have kicked in. I find it impossible to leave the market without a bag of crunchy Asian pears and sweet grapes for snacking; a few glossy Hachiya persimmons to ripen at room temperature; an armload of pomegranates to pile onto a shallow delft platter; voluptuous pears to admire in a wooden bowl until they find their way into salads or desserts; and—of course—a family of pumpkins and other big, gnarly squash to decorate the porch. Beeswax candles and fresh flowers abound—now in ivory and shades of gold, rust, and sage. These are the transitional colors that dominate the next 6 weeks—at the farmers’ market, as well as at home.

My oven may be getting a workout on these chilly evenings, but as a native Californian I still can’t resist a good salad. Now that vine-ripened tomatoes are little more than a memory, it’s time to either get creative or return to the classics…and what’s more classic than a Caesar salad?

Even those who are normally spooked by anchovies cannot resist its charms. It’s something a lot of people don’t serve at home, however—the coddled egg and all that last-minute drama can be intimidating. Most bottled Caesar salad dressings—packed with emulsifiers, artificial flavors, powdered cheese, and cheap oil—make me say, “No, thank you.” when passed at the table. I came up with the following recipe during my catering days, and I’m still making it 15 years later. It’s easy as can be, and as practical for weeknight dinners as it is for entertaining and potlucks. In fact, the dressing actually needs to be made a day in advance.

This makes about a quart of salad dressing, which admittedly is enough for a small army—or at least 35 buffet servings of salad. Cut the recipe in half, if you prefer, but I usually make a full batch. (Old habits die hard.) You may be surprised by how many Caesar salads you can eat in a week…not to mention all the other uses you’ll find for the leftovers: to drizzle over veggies; to make the best 3-bean salad ever, or to thicken with a bit of sour cream and serve as a dip.

Packaged croutons are usually as dreadful as store-bought salad dressings, so I’ve included another D.I.Y. recipe. These are baked in the oven instead of fried—with no loss of flavor. Not only do these taste far superior to anything that comes in a box, making croutons is a thrifty way to use up odds and ends of leftover bread from the farmers’ market.

For a Halloween buffet, you may want to zip up this dressing with a generous pinch of chipotle chile powder. Instead of croutons, toss bite-size chunks of peeled sugar-pie pumpkin or butternut squash in olive oil, salt, pepper, and chile powder and roast until tender and lightly browned at the edges. Let them cool to room temperature, and add to the romaine along with the shaved Parmesan and some toasted pumpkin seeds. A guaranteed winner for boys and ghouls of all ages.

Caesar Salad for a Crowd

Market Fresh

For the dressing:
3/4 cup best-quality store-bought mayonnaise
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)
1 (2-ounce) tin flat anchovy fillets packed in olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup California extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
Crisp hearts of romaine lettuce, left whole if small, or cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
Croutons (see below)
A chunk of Parmesan cheese for shaving

  1. In a blender, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, anchovies—including the oil in which they were packed—the garlic, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth.
  2. Add the grated Parmesan. With the machine running, slowly add the oil until the mixture forms a creamy dressing.
  3. Now, I cannot stress this enough: Do not even bother tasting it at this point; because the dressing will be WAY too lemony and out of balance. Just pour it into a quart-size jar, cover, and refrigerate. This dressing needs a full 24 hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to blend and mellow.
  4. Just before serving, in a large bowl combine the lettuce and croutons. Drizzle in enough dressing to barely coat the leaves—it’s better to err on the safe side and just add a bit of dressing before tossing; you can always add more. The leaves should be very lightly coated, never weighted down with dressing. (Leftover dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)
  5. Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin slices from a chunk of Parmesan cheese, and scatter them over the salad. Serve at once.

Great Caesar’s Toast

4 ounces of baguette or other crusty artisan bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (3 to 4 cups)
3 to 4 tablespoons California olive oil or unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, crushed with the flat side of a knife
1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the bread cubes in a shallow baking pan or on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, just until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Discard the garlic and drizzle the oil over the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat, then spread in an even layer.
  3. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the bread cubes are toasted and golden—about 10 minutes if using stale bread, or 15 to 20 minutes for fresh. Let cool completely. Use at once, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Freeze for longer storage.

Variation: For cheesy croutons, add 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and toss before baking.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad and Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM or visit their web site at www.pcfma.com.

10 Simple Skin Care Tips: Refresh Your Skin for Winter

1. Play It Cool
Very hot water strips the natural oils from the skin and breaks down the skin barrier, leading to dryness and irritation. For a refreshed, healthy skin use warm tepid water to cleanse the skin for maximum benefits.

2. Easy on the Eyes

Eye skin is more delicate that the rest of the skin on the face, so be sure to use products that are specifically formulated for this delicate area. Heavy creams can cause the eye area to break out in bumps called Milia. Lighter creams with vitamins are the best. Our Ultra Firming Eye Cream by Ongrien is one of the best solutions for dry, puffy and dark circles under the eyes.

3. A Light Idea
With the colder months, comes increased dryness in the air. Switch to a more hydrated version of your favorite products so skin doesn’t get dry and flakey. Serums are great for extra hydration.

4. Screen Test

If you have sensitive skin, look for sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These will block the harmful UV rays and won’t clog pores, plus it will feel light on the skin.

5. Dare To Detox

Use a clay mask to draw impurities from the skin and pull out debris from the pores. For optimum cleansing everyone should detoxify the skin at least twice a month.

6. Get The Glow

Exfoliate the skin every day and in the shower. This helps remove the top layer of the skin, irrigating the skin and smoothing the surface. Moisturizers and creams can penetrate deeper into the skin for maximum hydration.

7. Here’s The Scoop
Antioxidants help protect against free radicals, which can cause wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer. Protect yourself inside and out by eating foods with antioxidants including fruits and vegetables. On the surface of the skin use a good topical cream with Esther-C, Lipoic Acid, Q-10, and DMAE. High-potent antioxidants will help prevent free-radical damage to your skin. Your skin will look years younger and beautifully smooth.

8. Skin Deep and a Youthful Complexion

Glycolic Acid, one of the most popular alpha hydroxy acids on the market. When applied to the skin it helps to exfoliate and take off dead cells, giving the skin a younger appearance. What’s more, Glycolic Acid is a valuable addition to many of the super-antioxidant products (such as alpha lipoic acid and DMAE). Because they work synergistically with other antioxidants, enhancing their antioxidant activity. In short Glycolic Acid smoothes the surface of the skin, reducing wrinkles and heals sun-damaged skin.

9. Beauty Secrets

The secret to beautiful skin is all in the cleansing. If you use harsh products and do not cleanse the skin properly your skin will suffer. Use cleansers and toners that are gentle yet powerful enough to clean deep within the pores and the surface of the skin. Do not use products that contain alcohol or chemicals.

10. The Bottom Line

Although antioxidant therapy can help repair the punishing rays of the sun, it can’t completely eliminate the skin-damaging effects of a lifetime of unprotected sun exposure. So I’ll caution all readers: Use at least an SPF-15 sunscreen (in most foundations today) as a daily routine. The thinner, more delicate skin on the face is ground zero for sun damage and aging skin.

Everyday Style: Beyond the Fitting Room

I’m obsessed with the fall trends for 2010. While there are indeed plenty of looks available this season, there are quite a few that seem to be actually “wearable.” But, not everyone can wear every trend, although some women like to try…and sometimes, all at the same time! Yikes. Moreover, who wants to break the bank on clothes that are not reasonable for an East Bay lifestyle? Not me. I have choices to make when it comes to my fashion dollars! Here are my top picks for the season and whether they are a “splurge” or a “scrimp”…

Five must-haves for fall 2010:
Everyday Style
1. Something, ANYTHING camel. The color is, in a word, rich. If you have never invested in a camel coat, now is the time. If there is already one in your closet, dry clean it and bring it back into your wardrobe’s rotation. Over a turtleneck sweater, skinny jeans and boots, the camel coat (or jacket…or poncho…or cape) transforms a casual look into a head-turning diva moment. SPLURGE on this one. Camel is a classic, and if you spend a bit more money, you’ll have a great quality garment that you can enjoy for many years.

2. Attention! Military-inspired fashion is a force this fall. Streamlined cargo pants (in olive green, of course), leather bomber jackets, camo prints and lace-up leather boots are big this fall. Throw on a chunky-knit sweater or shearling vest to add texture and warmth. The look is on-trend, but I would SCRIMP on this one. I’m betting it’ll be
oh-so out in 2011.

3. Nice kitty, kitty. While always a fixture in fall collections, leopard prints have exploded on the runways this season. Hats, shoes, bags, dresses, skirts, leggings, outerwear…EVERYTHING is available in leopard print. It’s exotic—the perfect way to transform a wardrobe from basic to fierce. Here’s the deal, though; only ONE leopard print item in your ensemble. (Seriously, DO NOT over-indulge, Cat Lady—you know I mean you!) This trend is found at every price point, so you can SPLURGE on a statement piece like a jacket or SCRIMP on an accessory at bargain stores like H&M and Zara.

4. Delicious Jewels. A sheath dress (for day or evening) in rich, saturated hues of teal, wine, amethyst, emerald and blueberry create a regal feast for the eyes. This silhouette is flattering on all body types, and the colors are gorgeous. While the Little Black Dress is always a go-to staple, that LBD will stand out so much more if it’s purple. You can certainly splurge on this if you want to, but there are many stunning dresses out there (priced $100-$200) at Nordstrom and Macy’s. Sometimes, even Marshall’s will have them, so you can SCRIMP on this one.

5. Not so sky-high heels. OMG…a more manageable heel height, thank you! This season’s slim, cropped slacks require a sleeker, lower heel to pull off the look. Flats, kitten-heels, boots and loafers are going to steal the spotlight from the 5-6” platforms we’ve come to know and love (ok, maybe not love). As with any shoe, you want them to be comfortable, so go with the best quality you can afford…SPLURGE!
Now, go out there and SHOP!

You WILL get the JOB … When You Understand This!

The answer is right under your nose.

You will get the Job. Wherever you are at this moment, quietly bow your head, breathe and say to yourself, “I will get the job. Brain, understand this.”

Go ahead and say it, even though it may sound silly. Studies from the University of Kansas and the University of Alaska, Anchorage found that children who were talked to the most have strikingly higher IQ’s than children whose parents didn’t talk to them very much. Try 150 IQ versus 75! One of simplest ways to raise intelligence is to talk.

In the same way, words still carry weight. Oh, they sure do. Just think of the last time a family member cussed you out; or a stranger decided to whisper obscene profanity and give some sign language to you as your were driving in your car. You may not have heard the “words” but you felt them.

“Life and Death are in the power of the tongue!”
Proverb.

Coaching individuals in this market is the BEST! Why? Because I get to separate the “wheat” in one’s life from the “chaff” that has been growing as you await the job of your dreams.

Now you may be saying to me, “Coach Ron, I’ll take any job.” Well, that what we must correct. That’s been the problem for most people their entire life. They have been saying those words. They heard their parents, teachers, mentors—whoever—using just that sort of negative language. What I want you to understand is that Words do have power! They have molded and fashioned you in a way. You may be paying for negative words heavily right now. I hear people all the time saying things like, “I’m just trying to make ends meet,” or, “I really don’t want to do this, but…”

The answer:

  1. STOP SAYING WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT YOU!
  2. START SAYING WHAT YOU WANT

Speak about the job you want. This is not magic trick, it’s a neurological thing. In short, your brain, much like an infant’s, adapts to words. Words frame your thinking and thinking is what you speak. What you think about is what you speak about. So in order to get the job of your dreams, you better be thinking on things that bring you the results you want. It’s that simple.

And, the words you speak are a matter of heart. Whatever is in your heart in abundance is what is going to come out of your mouth. Fill your heart with the truth about your passions! Your love for people, skill sets, passions, likes, flavors, music—all those things you start to dance over when your heart is touched.

As I coach companies, I advocate that employers pick out the wheat from the chaff. I coach them to discern between employees that are there for a “pay-check” versus those who have had a “heart-check.” Once an employer hears words come out of your mouth that have been touched by your heart, the JOB is YOURS!

Your assignment: Get a tape recorder or use your phone to record yourself talking. Do it in various settings. You will be shocked what comes out of your mouth. Life and even death. Next month More on get the Job of your dreams. Email me. You’ve got what it takes- GO FOR IT!

Ron Kardashian

Ron Kardashian


Ron Kardashian is a life coach, fitness expert, educator, conference speaker, author, national television and radio personality, and NSCA-certified strength and conditioning coach. Kardashian was one of America’s first life coaches. In 1994, he founded Kardashian Life Coaching & Personal Training and has since inspired hundreds to reach their full physical, mental and spiritual potential.

Kardashian has been twice nominated as Personal Trainer of the Year. He has been an honored speaker for the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Considered a “coach’s coach,” he has empowered executives to operate at peak performance; personally, professionally, and most important , spiritually.

Ron also heads a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation that is relentless in its efforts of bringing optimal health to people of all walks of life. This organization’s mission is to fight obesity and related diseases on a global scale. Across the globe, Kardashian’s unique approach has garnered amazing results, making him a powerful, voice of change for professional athletes, CEOs, political leaders, and clergymen of every age, religion, and creed. Ron lives in California with his beautiful wife, Tia, and two children.

For an appointment or bookings you can reach Ron at: info@kardashian.tv, or call 888.918.HEAL. Visit Ron’s website at www.kardashian.tv.

Drive for Show & Putt for Dough

That is, unless your competing at the World Long Drive Championship. These guys hit long balls for money. How long and for how much? Well next time you see 16 year old Clayton Valley High School Junior, Dominick Mazza, roaming the halls at school, ask him. He may have to tell you twice because he is modest, doesn’t talk real loud, and because the first time he tells you he drove it 436 yards, you will need to hear it again. Unfortunately for him, he cannot accept any money but his dad will tell you that it’s just for fun.

I started working with Dominick a few years a back. When I first met him I thought he was another kid who played a lot of sports and I would need to improve on his fundamentals. Turns out that not only does he like golf but he throws an 87 mile per hour fast ball and is left handed as well. You might say there are plenty of coaches out there that are lobbying hard for him to stay focused on baseball.

So what’s his secret? Well he is pretty strong. He has big hands, weighs about 180 pounds and my guess is, stands about 6 feet 2. Dominick generates tremendous club speed and knows how to use leverage. He recently had his club speed checked and I happened to be there. His club speed was in the high 130’s which would be one of the highest on the PGA Tour. That would send a ball about 340 to 350 yards in the air. That’s what we call, “Bubba Watson long!” He is pretty much a “natural” at hitting it far.

My job is to help him control what he’s got. We have adjusted some things, ironed out a wrinkle here and there but basically, it’s all him. The shafts he uses are so stiff that you can’t flex them. He hits it solid and has wonderful balance. Oh, probably should mention that he is pretty good at the game of golf, too—he won a Junior Tournament this summer which proves he just doesn’t hit it long.

How lucky was his 436 yard drive that registered to be the second longest drive ever recorded at that grid? No luck at all, considering the fact that he qualified for the finals with five of his six balls traveling 400 yards or more! He put on a clinic and “shock and awed” everyone there, including his dad.

Dominick will be traveling next month to compete with the world’s best. You can bet they will be watching him closely. After all, he is still a growing boy!

The Dirt Gardener: Thanks for Asking

Dirt Gardener
Q. How would I go about preserving the seeds produced from my vegetable plants, and use them for next year’s planting?

A. Collecting and saving seed from one year to the next is not all that difficult, however, not all vegetable seeds are created the same. Seed saving makes perfect sense with the open pollinated or heirloom types of vegetables but not with the hybrid varieties. It’s all about genetics. Open-pollinated varieties are self or cross-pollinated by bees and/or the wind. Their seed produce plants that are very similar to the parents. Their seed carries on the qualities of the parents, or “breed true” as the saying goes. This is not the case with hybrid varieties. Humans cross two different specific parents to develop the F1 hybrid. Their offspring produce a new, uniform seed variety with specific characteristics from both parents. For example, a breeder may choose to cross two tomato varieties to make an F1 hybrid that exhibits the early maturity of one parent and a specific disease resistance of the other. The unique characteristics of a hybrid are very uniform but only in the first generation, F1. Seed saved from these varieties have unpredictable characteristics the following year. You’ll need new seed and/or plants each year to duplicate these varieties. The seed packet, catalog description, or plant label should indicate if a variety is an open pollinated or hybrid variety. Other clues include: F1 or F2 appears in parentheses after the name, it is a hybrid. If the letters “cv” are visible, it means the seeds are from a “cultivated variety” and thus are not suitable for seed saving.

Seed is collected from healthy plants with mature fruits that are dried as soon as possible. A seed may not be mature at the same time a fruit reaches its mature color, so be patient. Tomato seeds and others are contained in a gel-like material. You separate the seed from the gel by placing the mixture in a jar of water, and stirring it a few times a day until it ferments. Once it ferments, the seeds should drop to the bottom of the jar. The liquid is poured off and the seed is collected for drying. One method used is to spread the seeds out on paper towels, which are placed in a warm, dry and well-ventilated location for about a week. After the seed is dried, you remove any pulp that may remain on the seed before packaging the different varieties in envelopes with a label. The envelopes are stored in an airtight glass jar, such as a pickle or mayonnaise jar with a packet of silica gel. The silica gel removes any moisture that develops. The rule of thumb for storing seed from one season to another is to keep the seed cool and dry. Ideally, they are stored in a refrigerator; otherwise, the garage will do. You sow the seed in flats next February for planting into the open ground in April and May.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is www.dirtgardener.com and you can send questions by email at dirtgarden@aol.com or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523

Luxury Expertise or Smoke & Mirrors?

Q. Tom, I plan to list my home for sale in the next 30 days; we live in an upscale community – the value of my home is $1,500,000 +. I have seen some real estate firms advertise their ‘luxury home’ or ‘estate home’ sales marketing expertise; is that kind of exposure beneficial to me as a seller or is it just marketing ‘smoke & mirrors’?

It can be either, depending on which company and/or agent you work with. A select number of real estate firms have experienced agents in the upper-end or luxury sector of the market and you will most likely benefit from the exposure they can provide for your home. Agents who specialize in the luxury markets tend to have detailed information on past and current sales, usually have ‘inside info’ on upper-end homes that were privately bought and sold (not on the MLS), a database of business contacts with upper-end clients who fit the ideal target buyer profile and sometimes an exclusive affiliation with an international luxury marketing brand that provides a bit more advertising sizzle. So, how do you find out which agents and companies have the best luxury marketing resources? Pay attention to the “for-sale” signs on similar homes in your community (especially if a SOLD rider is hanging at the bottom). Conduct internet research and outright ask the agent you are interviewing which and how many $1,000,000+ buyers & sellers they have represented in the last 12 to 24 month period. If your home is more ‘Nordstrom’ than ‘Wal-Mart’, you’ll want to align yourself with a real estate company that caters to affluent clientele who can afford a fine home in your upper-end price range.

Q. I am a buyer and I feel a bit uneasy providing a big ($20,000) deposit check at the start of a home purchase transaction for fear that I may lose the money if I later back out for a legitimate reason. At what point does the seller get to keep my deposit?

I’m not an attorney but as a licensed real estate broker I can assure you the seller cannot retain your deposit money until it is proven that you, the buyer, have breached the contract. And it takes a lot to do that. Among other safeguards, the standard California Association of Realtors’® (C.A.R.) purchase contract has three major contingencies: 1) loan, 2) appraisal, and 3) inspection. Upon releasing or waiving those contingencies, you ‘firm up’ the contract. If the buyer (you) walks away from the transaction after that, the seller may then lay claim to the deposit.

Q. Nearly every agent I speak to regarding selling my home wants to put a lockbox on or near my front door so that agents may access the house key inside it when I’m not home. Is a lockbox a smart thing to agree to? Is it safe?

In the vast majority of instances, electronic lockboxes are a very secure way of providing access to a home. Many sellers are not home (nor should they be) when agents show the property to qualified buyers—and that’s what it’s really all about—getting the right buyer in to see the home. So, allowing agents access by utilizing a state-of-the-art lockbox is a wise thing to do. Keep in mind, only agents can access the house key in the lockbox, agent ‘access codes’ are updated weekly as a security precaution and each entry to your home is recorded electronically, to the minute, should your agent need to identify who was in the home for any reason. One last feature: most newer electronic lockboxes automatically ‘lock down’ every night about 9 pm, until the next day, to keep everyone, including agents, out of the properties in the later evening & night time hours providing peace of mind for all.