Abundant garden

Why try to explain miracles to your kids, when you can just have them plant a garden? – Robert Brault, American author

Since we had our dahlia garden rejuvenated and backyard landscaped, we have been blessed with an abundance of beautiful flowers. Seems the last time I posted, May 28th, nearly six weeks ago, I have made myriad bouquets. Apparently, too many to try to keep track of, as I try to label them for this blog. Alas, let’s just say that all of these flowers were either a continuing birthday present for a good friend or an auction bouquet for the winning bidders from Korematsu Middle School or El Cerrito High School.

While I have an abundance of dahlias, which I am absolutely giddy about, I have been experimenting with a number of different kinds of flowers. Gaillardia, rudbeckia, echinecea, helenium, helichrysum bracteatum, osteospermum, to name a few. And I have been lurking in and out of the various nurseries in our area. Of course, Annie’s Annuals, but also Flowerland, East Bay Nursery, Westbrae Nursery, and my first foray into Berkeley Horticulture Nursery. I’ve been trading jewelry and clothes for nature’s jewels, so to speak.

So without further ado, my weekly bouquets – at least four a week, sometimes more – up to the 4th of July. Enjoy! Even though I consider the 4th of July the midpoint of summer, there is so much more summer to bask in.

I had so many cut flowers that I was able to make four bouquets on this Sunday, June 4th, so everyone got a bumper bouquet for the week.

First bouquet’s other side – it looks like a completely different bouquet. I love gerbera daisies, but after the initial impressive blooms, the blooms grew smaller, and then they just withered.

The second bouquet with the mighty ginger plant in the middle.

The third bouquet.

Close-up of the third bouquet. One of my favorite flowers – scabiosa “fama blue.” I bought several small plants at Annie’s Annuals to ensure a larger crop. I’ve not had success getting more than a handful of these beautiful flowers all season. We’ll see what I get next year.

The fourth bouquet, anchored by an ongoing crop of ginger.

Early June Korematsu bouquet in monochromatic burgundy, magenta, and pink.

Ginger plant, dahlias, scabiosa, dianthus (carnation), osteospermum (African daisy), and hydrangea.

Another close-up. This spikey deep burgundy dahlia has been a strong performer this season.

The second Korematsu bouquet in yellows and oranges.


And zinnias, gerbera daisies, scabiosa, and alstromeria for a dwarf bouquet.

A June 11th bouquet for Kelly – orange and yellow with a hint of burgundy.

June 13th El Cerrito High School auction winner’s bouquet.

An extra dwarf bouquet in burgundy and pink.

Close-up with chocolate cosmos, dahlia, daisies, and featuring African daisy “Zion Copper Amethyst,” so named because these daisies are prolific at Zion National Park.

June 16th, first Korematsu bouquet.

Close-up featuring a delicate miniature pinkish creamy calla lily.

A tiny arrangement with chocolate cosmos and Zion Copper Amethyst cape daisies.

Close-up overview.

Second Korematsu bouquet.


Second miniature bouquet companion for the second Korematsu bouquet. Hot combo of purple and orange.

June 18th ECHS bouquet.


June 18th bouquet for Kelly.

Close-up featuring gaillardia “Arizona red shades” at the lip of the vase and frilly red geums on the left and top.

Close-up showing off the gaillardia, geum, alstromeria, and, of course, dahlias.

June 20th saw a bumper crop. Four bouquets when I usually only deliver one for the ECHS auction winner.

Close-up of a ginger plant and hot pink and deep burgundy dahlias.

Second bouquet featuring the very pretty helipterum roseum “Pierrot” and scabiosa caucasica “Fama Blue.”

The second bouquet with a rare dahlia, which is one of my favorites.


Favorite dahlia in the light.

Another close-up of the favorite dahlia.

The third bouquet.

Close-up of the third bouquet.


After all was said and done – four floral arrangements.

June 24th Korematsu bouquet. The light yellow dahlia on the left, right, and below the one on the right, is also a strong performer.

The same bouquet on the other side – it’s like another bouquet.


Second Korematsu bouquet.

June 25th bouquet for Kelly.

June 27th’s ECHS bouquet with alstromeria, dahlia, venedio arctotis, sacbiosa, and featuring helipterum roseum “Pierrot.”

Close-up. One of my favorite but rare dahlias in the garden is the pink variegated version in the middle.

I succumbed to three dinner-plate-size dahlias from Costco – white, deep burgundy, and pink. An extra bouquet was happily given to Joann, our fearless LUNAFEST film festival chair.

A close-up.

And another close-up, which never gets old for this photographer.

I made a bouquet to greet my cousin Janet and her husband, Tim, when they arrived for their annual 4th of July visit. Against the backdrop of my favorite painting (by Gary Stutler) The Lamp Lady, this bouquet complements its setting.

Close-up. It never gets old.

I made two large bouquets that I gave away to my friends Jane and Raissa after our 4th of July party. I forgot to take pictures of them. But I did make a lot of small arrangements that I sprinkled throughout the patio and house. Here is an arrangement destined for the patio bistro table.

This red-and-white beauty has been a staple in our dahlia garden for years. It is just now popping up. And how!

My cousin Janet and I checked out Urban Ore in Berkeley, one of our traditional destinations over her 4th of July visits. I found this heavy beautiful rectangular vase, which was perfect for displaying the dinner-plate-size white and pink dahlias.

Luminous. The small bouquet for Janet and Tim’s guest room.

More luminosity.

One of two Korematsu bouquets for July 7th.

The second Korematsu bouquet – with the first gladiola of the season. Usually gladiolas come up in early June, but they were disturbed during the front yard landscaping. On the upside, there are a lot of little blades of gladiola leaves popping up!

Korematsu bouquet close-up.

The garden transformed

May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends,
And many books, both true.
– Abraham Cowley, 17th century English poet

So it begins. Spring has arrived and after last year’s disappointing gardening season, I knew a new beginning was in store this year. We are in the midst of a big landscaping project. We started with the side garden in late February – revitalizing the dahlias by digging them up, separating the tubers, replanting them in amended soil, and installing a new sprinkler system. I anxiously checked out the side yard every few weeks. In April, to my great delight, the soil broke as the dahlia plants slowly made their way to light. With great care, I sprinkled Sluggo and diatemaceous earth around the sprouts. I even came out in the evenings and early in the mornings to scrap slugs off the leaves onto the flagstone.

Dahlias sprouting in the pots.

Fledgling dahlias in the side yard in April.

Dahlias in pots and in the ground in the side yard.

Nurturing the dahlias with Sluggo and diatemaceous earth rings around the plants.

Then I hurt my back playing with our dog, Sammy. I couldn’t walk, drive, or move much. So for weeks I was unable to tend to my garden. And then after Mother’s Day I came down with a nasty virus. I’m still not quite over it, but I was able to get out this Memorial Day Weekend to work on the yard – placing the pots in the backyard, weeding, and pinching back buds so that the dahlias will give me big blooms. The leaves are still being eaten, so I need to take care of those insects, but after being absent from the side yard for weeks, I was pleasantly surprised to see how strong the stalks are.

An April birthday bouquet for Kelly – the calla lilies were starting to expire and the alstromeria were going bonkers.

Mother’s Day bouquet for my mother-in-law, Ann. One for Kelly and one in my heart for my mom.

A May 21st bouquet for Kelly reveals the first dahlia from the garden!

Close-up of the first dahlia, surrounded by hydrangea, dianthus, and alstromeria.

Another close-up with a delicate hydrangea.

One more close-up.

To date, 88 plants have sprung up. One dahlia – the orange and yellow ones in a pot – has bloomed. And more will be ready within a week or so. I have committed to the two school auction bouquets this year – my last year with Korematsu Middle School (as Isabella enters high school in the fall) and El Cerrito High School. One of the moms who got the Korematsu weekly bouquet is a repeat winner. She got it two years ago. She split with another family, so even though they agreed to have a bouquet every other week, I’m going to see if I can do two bouquets for each family each week for 10 weeks. And then the third one will be for the high school auction winner. And finally, this year I gave as a birthday present a weekly bouquet to my friend Kelly. Let’s see if 88 plants can give me four bounteous bouquets for 10 weeks, starting the first full week in June. Fingers crossed.

I was asked to make three bouquets for the graduating senior baseball players’ families, which I happily obliged for the May 3rd game.

I was able to use the watsonias from our front garden, even though the flowers were on their way out.

A little scabiosa and our neighbor’s succulent purple plant.

Just enough to make three bouquets at once.

The alstromeria will soon be giving way to the dahlia bouquets.

The ginger plants are sprouting like crazy, too. This ginger plant anchors this Memorial Day Weekend arrangement.

I’m really looking forward to this gardening year. In the backyard we will have six planting beds. Two for vegetables and four for flowers. I’d like to expand my dianthus garden. We’ll see what else the garden will grow this year. It should be a beautiful, colorful summer of flowers.

A healthy crop of dahlias.

A bit uneven as not all of the tubers sprouted.

I spent the weekend weeding and pinching back buds. I was heartened to see how thick the stalks are.

Even the dark corners are sprouting dahlias!

Fingers crossed for these vigorous dahlias!

The side yard dahlia garden is resembling the healthy garden of 2013.

Talking about the Filipino American experience at UC Davis

Ethnic studies may be effective because it is an unusually intensive and at-scale social-psychological intervention.
– Thomas S. Dee, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, director at the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis, and co-author of the report The Causal Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum, a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper

The University of California at Davis is my alma mater, and while I was an English major, I was one class shy of having a minor in Asian American Studies. So I was very excited to have the opportunity to do a talk for Professor Robyn Magalit Rodriguez’s Asian American Studies class 150: the Filipino American Experience this past Thursday, April 27th.

The quad at UC Davis, where I spent many a sunny afternoon reading and having lunch with friends and classmates.

Another view of the quad. Lots of political signs up. I remember listening to Desmond Tutu speaking to a capacity crowd on the quad. Those were the days.

My older sister Heidi is also an Aggie alum. Here we are posing with some Aggie swag.

Professor Rodriguez showed Marissa Aroy’s documentary, The Delano Manongs: the Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement. Then I read an excerpt from my novel, A Village in the Fields. Afterwards, we did a Q&A session, which included my talking about the importance of Asian American Studies in my life – personally and with my writing. Professor Rodriguez and I both stressed the importance of recording the stories of our families, and emphasizing the value to our parents and grandparents of their stories. They need validation of the importance of their stories.

Reading an excerpt from the novel.

Talking about the process of writing A Village in the Fields.

Talking about the importance of Asian American Studies in my life.

I had the opportunity to talk with a number of students after the class. I am uplifted every time I spent time with college students, especially those in Asian American Studies. I was energized by their passion and commitment to AAS and the history of Filipino Americans.

Getting to know one of the AAS students who is majoring in history.

I really enjoy talking with students after events. Here, Rebecca is an English major who is minoring in AAS.

Who doesn’t enjoy signing books?

Thank you, Professor Rodriguez, for a great, enlightening evening!

Celebrating Cesar Chavez Day, University of CA, Office of the President

On Wednesday, March 29th, I was the guest speaker at a lunchtime event sponsored by the Latino Staff Association/Asian Pacific Islander Association affinity groups at the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP). The event, entitled, “When Mexicans and Filipinos Join Together: The Farmworker Movement and Unity in the Making,” was in celebration of Cesar Chavez Day. After reading an excerpt from my novel, A Village in the Fields, I sat down with Belinda Vea, Policy and Program Analyst in Student Affairs for UCOP who did her graduate work on Filipino literature, in an “in conversation” question-and-answer session. Belinda is also co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Association.

Among other topics, Belinda asked me about the research process and my family’s story within the novel. The floor was opened up to questions from the audience, which numbered between 45 and 50, which was really nice to see. It was gratifying not only to respond to such thoughtful questions, but to see the interest in people’s faces. In addition to UCOP employees, the event was also advertised to employees from Kaiser Permanente, whose building was across the street in downtown Oakland.

I’m posting photos taken of the event, with gratitude to the photographers, Juliann Martinez, Employee Relations Specialist and chair of the Latino Staff Association, who kindly extended the invitation to speak, Alina Tejera, Pamela Palpallatoc, and Ben Tsai, co-chair with Belinda of the APIA.

The flyer advertising the event.

A wonderful poster welcoming the audience.

A nice spread of Filipino and Mexican cuisine.

A very nice slide show of Filipino and Mexican farm workers was shown before the event.

Reading an excerpt from my novel.

A close-up of my reading.

Belinda Vea “in conversation” with me after my reading.

Belinda at the ready with her questions.

One of the things I talked about was the value taking Asian American Studies classes at UC Davis both in my personal life and in my writing.

An animated me answering a questions while the audience leans in.

A beautiful basket of vegetables and two of my books were raffle prizes at the end of the event.

Me with Pamela Palpallatoc, who works for UCOP and is a UC Davis alumna.

Talking beyond the lunch hour about Filipino American history.

My hosts – Belinda Vea, Ben Tsai, and Juliann Martinez.

LUNAFEST East Bay – 10 years, by the numbers

I think the best role models for women are people who are fruitfully and confidently themselves, who bring light into the world.
– Meryl Streep, American actress

As LUNAFEST East Bay wraps up its LUNAFEST season, it’s worthwhile to look at the committee’s impressive 10-year run.

Our VIP event.

Nineteen filmmakers have attended our film festival since its inception in 2008.

In 2015, Emily Fraser and Katherine Gorringe, were our guest filmmakers.

LUNAFEST screened a total of 89 short films “by, for, about women.”

The Lunafest filmmakers for the 2014-2015 season, at the San Francisco premiere at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Two hundred attendees came in 2008. Last year, 377 filled the El Cerrito High School’s Performing Arts Theater. The final numbers haven’t come out yet for this year, but we’re looking at approximately 325 people.

A full house once again!

LUNAFEST East Bay has raised $32,053 in its 10 years for the Breast Cancer Fund, now called the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.

Jeanne Rizzo, RN, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, spoke at our 2015 event. She is amazing, energetic, and inspiring!

The committee raised $13,984 for El Cerrito High School’s Information Technology Academy (ITA), which has purchased, among other things, a 3D printer for the ITA students. LUNAFEST East Bay began funding the ITA in 2012.

The ITA students served food and greeted guests at the VIP event. They sold raffle tickets, checked in ticket holders, helped with the raffle prizes, and did so many other tasks during the evening that made for a smooth event. Thank you, ITA and committee members Melody Shah and Crystal Ngo, who oversaw the students.

At least 151 attendees filled out our 2017 survey. While many attendees hailed from El Cerrito (62), Berkeley (20), Richmond (17), Albany (14), and Oakland (13) were well represented at our event. For 31 people, it was their first LUNAFEST. Four people have attended all 10 screenings. Twenty people have gone five times, while 24 have gone three times, and 26 have gone twice.

Happy campers anticipate the 2017 screening.

How did our attendees find out about LUNAFEST? For 74, word of mouth made a difference. Emails drew 31 attendees, while the infamous “other” lured 47 attendees. One-hundred forty-four affirmed that they enjoyed the films, with 150 saying that they would tell a friend about next year’s LUNAFEST. So if you came this year or came in previous years but had a conflict this year, be sure to come next year and tell a friend. We’ll see you next year!

LUNAFEST in review – oh what a night!

Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try.
– John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

Ten years ago, LUNAFEST East Bay was created, chaired by the indefatigable, ever resourceful, community leader Joann Steck-Bayat. This year, LUNAFEST toasted its first decade of bringing the traveling, fundraising film festival to El Cerrito. What a major accomplishment. And we are the richer for it. In the course of watching fabulous, funny, thought-provoking, moving short films “by, for, about women,” we have learned about environmental risks for breast cancer and supported research done by the Breast Cancer Fund, our main beneficiary.

As we enlarged our world view by watching films by women filmmakers all over the world, we raised money for El Cerrito High School’s Information Technology Academy (ITA) to purchase such equipment as a 3D printer and supplies. We were moved and exhilarated watching the short film that the ITA students put together to let us know how the money we raised for their program enriched them and enabled them to realize their creative dreams and carry out their technological projects.

We got to know, as one of this year’s guest filmmakers, Diane Weipert, noted, some “kick-ass” women who are making important films that speak to a woman’s point of view and are making noise to be heard. We hear!

The morning after, as I looked at all the photos that I and my behind-the-scenes LUNAFEST partner and husband took, I knew that I would let the photos tell the story of yet another successful LUNAFEST film festival. I ran into a friend as I walked our dog Sunday afternoon in the neighborhood. She called out, “Brava!” Another fine show. Thank you to my LUNAFEST committee members, our guest filmmakers – Lara Everly and Diane Weipert – to our families and the ITA students who helped us out, and to our wonderful community who welcomes us every year.

LUNAFEST filmmaker Diane Weipert and her son, Theo.

Welcome to the LUNAFEST VIP event! Our bubbly committee member Jeannine Pagan is ready to check you in.

Tanner Nevill, committee member Stephanie Nevill’s husband, is ready to hand VIP’ers their glass of champagne to toast 10 years of LUNAFEST East Bay.

Our ITA student greets our VIP guests.

Our LUNAFEST VIP event was catered this year by Joanne Bailey, owner and chef of J Gourmet Catering.

ITA servers offer vegetarian stuffed mushrooms and pulled pork sliders with coleslaw.

VIP attendees getting their raffle tickets.

LUNAFEST committee member Peggy Murphy is excited about the 10 raffle prize packages.

Our scheduled piano player didn’t show up, but one of the ITA students tickled the ivories in a pinch. Note the tip jar – a LUNAFEST East Bay VIP event staple!

Nice spread of fruit, veggies, cheese and bread and crackers, thanks to LUNAFEST committee member Stephanie Nevill.

The weather cooperated and many guests enjoyed the outdoors.

Our cheerful bartenders and runner – LUNAFEST committee member Rebecca
Boe’s son and husband and Hossein Bayat, committee chair Joann’s husband.

Our veteran raffle ticket sellers at the VIP event – Dylan and Wyatt, sons of committee members Anja Hakoshima and Peggy Murphy.

Anja’s husband, Tom, and son, Dylan, assist VIP guests on which raffle packages are the most popular – such as the $100 gift certificate to Chez Panisse.

Selfie with LUNAFEST filmmaker Lara Everly and Elease Lui Stemp, producer of Lara’s film, Free to Laugh.

Committee member Carol Seuferer and former committee member Rhoda Haberman.

Chatting it up outside where the temperature was pleasant.

Peggy, Stephanie, and Hazel Nevill – her first LUNAFEST as raffle ticket seller!

It’s time to head to the El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater. ECHS alumna Anna Schumacher, who was also a LUNAFEST filmmaker last year, was our master of ceremonies, and our guest filmmakers were Lara Everly and Diane Weipert.

Time to interview Diane and Lara on stage before the film screening (photo credit: David Rossi).

Diane discusses what inspired her short film, Ninera – her experience as a new mom amid the Latina nannies who were taking care of children other than their own (photo credit: David Rossi).

Lara talks about wanting to highlight an underserved community – women who were formerly incarcerated – in her short film, Free to Laugh (photo credit: David Rossi).

I really enjoyed how passionate Diane and Lara were when talking about their film projects and why they are so relevant in today’s world (photo credit: David Rossi).

Diane listens with rapt attention as Lara talks about her next project, Patriettes, about an undocumented girl who gets kicked out of the mock government summer camp. Lots of respect for each other’s work – and deservedly so! (photo credit: David Rossi)

Lara agrees with Diane about how politics is central to what they are creating – and how important it is to be vigilant about these issues, especially in today’s political climate (photo credit: David Rossi).

During intermission, the ITA table was covered by ITA lead teacher and LUNAFEST East Bay committee member Melody Shah and English teacher and committee member Crystal Ngo, with one of the ITA students.

Last chance to view the raffle prize packages!

Attendees knew where to go to get the scrumptious Braxtons’ Boxes baked goods in the lobby.

The best baked goods ever by Pamela Braxton and her son Zachary of Braxtons’ Boxes.

The films are done and now it’s time to announce the raffle ticket winners! Peggy entertained us while the ITA kids helped out. Side note – that’s my son, Jacob, trying to be cool on stage.

Somebody went home with this gorgeous and enormous bouquet of flowers.

The Pine family – Tim and Anne Marie and daughters Charlotte and Maddie – make it a family night at LUNAFEST. Thanks for coming out and supporting our film festival!