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PostHeaderIcon Around Town

PostHeaderIcon Chairs Made of Skis Give Charities a Lift

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Barry Mendelson, the founder of Chairs 4 Charity, has taken the woodworking skills he learned from his dad, old skies and some elbow grease and turned them into dozens of Adirondack chairs that are auctioned at charity events and nonprofit fundraisers.



While on a ski trip in Squaw Valley, the 39-year-old Concord father, athlete and business man, had his interest peaked when he spotted some Adirondack chairs made of skis at a resort restaurant.

Earlier, he had constructed a bench from a used snowboard and decided to pursue the idea further as a step to express himself in an artistic endeavor. As the thought kindled into a reality, his concept morphed: to keep wood from landfills and to raise funds for Bay Area charities. His sister in Danville also inspired him with her talent for making quilts to donate in support of funding public education.


About four years ago Mendelson (left) launched Chairs 4 Charity in his home, garage and backyard. Being an avid cyclist and skier, who also coaches his two young daughters’ soccer games, he retrieved donated skis that had been traded in at Tri-Cities Sporting Goods and Walnut Creek Sports Basement, where he is a familiar face.


A sampling of Mendelson’s colorful Adirondack chair designs are on display at Sports Basement at 1881Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek. Beneficiaries of proceeds from auctioned chairs are: Green Valley Elementary in Danville, Highlands Elementary in Concord, Pleasant Hill Middle School in Pleasant Hill, Woodside Elementary in Woodside , International Mountain Bike Association, Have a Ball Foundation, Clayton Valley Rotary and the San Ramon Valley PTA.

Building the chairs is often a family endeavor for Mendelson, a registered investment advisor who founded his own company in Walnut Creek, Elevation Wealth Management. His children, Sydney, 8 and Eliot, 6 help their dad by doing some sanding and adding screws to the chairs where needed. His wife, Kristin, is also very supportive, he said.


Mendelson said that being a 14-year cancer survivor, he wanted to give something back. In addition to Chairs 4 Charity, he has raised about $10,000 in a 100-mile cycling event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


He also sits on the board of directors of Cancer Support Community of the San Francisco Bay Area, which offers free services, support groups and educational programs to cancer patients and their famlies. To donate used skis, snowboards and lumber, or for more information, send an email to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .--- KRB



Karen Balch is a retired nurse, avid traveler, freelance writer and San Ramon resident. She writes regularly for allnewsnoblues.com

Last Updated (Tuesday, 07 January 2014 22:24)


PostHeaderIcon Meredith Maran Shakes Things Up

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Oakland’s bestselling author Meredith Maran has released her first novel: “A Theory Of Small Earthquakes" and will be at San Francisco  bookstore talking about the book next week.

On Thursday, March 15 at 7;30 p.m. Maran will be at The Booksmith at 1644 Haight St. in San Francisco in conversation with Michelle Richmond.  More info. here.

You might remember Maran’s gripping book, "Class Dismissed," about the lives of three high school seniors from Berkeley High School’s class of 2000. The school is known for its diverse mix of teenagers -- children of judges and carpenters, software consultants and garbage collectors, homeless kids and those who are Harvard-bound --and Maran did an incredible job of chronicling the trials and tribulations, successes and setbacks of the teens.

In fact, Maran had penned ten nonfiction books before turning her journalistic eye to novel writing. Her new book is a family story spanning two decades and set against the social, political, and geological upheavals of the Bay Area, she said.

Maran lives in Oakland and has two grown (and growing) sons, Jesse and Peter. She's also the proud aunt of Nick and Josie. She said she's been happily married to the horticultural genius Katrine Thomas since long before "gay wedding" yielded 1,120,000 hits on Google.For more information, check out her web site at meredithmaran.com-- KB

Last Updated (Tuesday, 13 March 2012 01:29)


PostHeaderIcon Hootenannies Alive and Well in the Bay Area

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Although the Grammy Awards jammed Contemporary Folk and Traditional Folk music into just one category, folk music of all types is alive and well and even growing in the Bay Area. The real folk action is not in the struggling nightclubs but at a series of open jams – what were once called hootenannies – held virtually every weekend in Oakland, Berkeley and beyond.

A good introduction to the scene would be the East Bay Fiddlin' and Pickin' Potlucks (http://www.pickinpotlucks.com/index.htm), held at private homes on the 2nd Sunday of each month. In addition, folk singer/retired teacher Hali Hammer hosts a jam/potluck on the 1st Sunday of the month at her home in Berkeley, and folk singer LaWanda Ultan hosts one every 3rd Sunday at her Berkeley hills home.

There's also a San Francisco Folk Music Club, with Faith Petric, the 96-year-old woman pictured at the left,  that hosts a jam every other Friday night on Clayton between Carl and Parnassus Streets.

And in Marin County, banjo player and sound tech John Bowman hosts a jam on alternate Fridays at his home in San Anselmo.

“I've been doing this for years and each year the turnout has increased,” Bowman told me at a jam I attended on a recent Saturday at a large private home near Lake Merritt.

At the jams I've attended, turnout often looks like about 50 people, and it's an older crowd than you'd see in the nightclubs, though there are usually a few players in their 20s and 30s. Instruments include guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolins, bass, autoharp, flute, accordions, clarinet, harmonicas, kazoos, a musical saw and an occasional harp. Many players are quite accomplished, others still learning.

What's it all about? The official description of the SF club says it best:

“San Francisco Folk Music Club (SFFMC) is a non-profit corporation of singers, instrumentalists, performers, song writers, dancers and listeners who embody a set of personal and musical relationships whose longevity and hybrid vigor attest that what we do is something in which we deeply believe. Its purpose is the enjoyment, dissemination and preservation in individual, family and community life of that acoustic music roughly defined as folk.”--ST

Last Updated (Tuesday, 25 June 2013 16:55)


PostHeaderIcon Reel Blondes Returns With Colorful Show

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The Blondes are back!  Reel Blondes, the wacky musical that cavorted around at the hair salon known as Victoria’s Hair on Stage for 14 seasons is returning to Danville after a 4-year break.  There is a new venue, The Village Theater, and a new dimension, live music.  Otherwise, there is a lot of familiarity to be found in the revitalized show.

Reel Blondes began as a concept by Victoria Brooks, a lifetime Danville resident, who has always had a flair for theatrics.  In kindergarten, she entered a talent show as a tap dancer even though she had never tapped before.  Her love for theater continued throughout her life.  She eventually performed in musical productions and eventually brought her talents and drive to her two Danville hair salons.  At first, in the early ‘90s she put together a show in her Blackhawk salon with music and dancing which had been her lifelong dream.   In 1993 Barrett Lindsey-Steiner, a well-known local director and performer, saw her show and offered to help make it bigger and more special.  He took over the writing and directing and the show was moved to the larger salon in Danville, Victoria’s Hair On Stage.

Dubbed ‘Bleach Blondes’ at first, the show was set on the stage in the salon and immediately generated positive reviews.  Comparisons were made to the long-running San Francisco icon, Beach Blanket Babylon.  So much so that a lawsuit was initiated, claiming that the Danville show idea as well as the similar title, were copyright infringements.  Discussions ensued and the case was made that Bleach Blondes was, indeed, unique so the show title was changed to Reel Blondes, the lawsuit was dropped, and an East Bay legend was born.

Reel Blondes played for 8 months out of the year on Saturday nights to sing-along and laugh-until-you-cry crowds for 10 years.  During that time, a new show was created each year.  It would change throughout the season, depending on the headlines and celebrity news.  Some of the titles included, “Rooting Around Planet Rogaine,”  “Hair We Go Again,” and “Perms of Endearment.” 

In 2004 Victoria and her husband and co-producer, Bob sold the salon and the show along with it to their son-in-law Don Greene.  The name was changed to “Wigged Out!” and perked along in the same format with most of the talented ensemble cast intact until the salon was sold again.  In June of 2008, Wigged Out! took its final bow and Victoria’s Hair on Stage became a memory.
But Victoria and Bob Brooks were not through.  Victoria’s dream was just on hold.  She has assembled much of the original writing staff, which is, coincidentally, also comprised of performers in the show.  She has reserved performance dates at the Village Theater through 2014.  She participates in the making of costumes, uses her Danville home for rehearsals, sells tickets, works on sets and props, and does everything she can to bring her show back to the thousands of locals who have missed it during the interim.

As in all of the previous shows, the setting is on the hair salon of our heroine, Blondie (portrayed by Peggy Stratton, a 14 year veteran of the show), who is not only quirky and funny, but also has political aspirations.  Director/performer Jeff Seaberg also returns along with Choreographer/performer Paula Wujek, performer/Assistant Director Bob Stratton (also a 14 year returnee), Donna Turner and Danny Santero.  The show also boasts newcomers Debra Knox (who is also the Musical Director), Nick Quintell, Jen Kosta and a cameo by former Danville Mayor Mike Doyle!
In August of 2008, John Stenger, a long time friend and cast member and favorite of many Reel Blondes fans, passed away.  The cast is dedicating their new season to his memory.

So Danville gets to share in Victoria’s-dream-come true starting February 24th.  There are 14 performances stretching to the end of May.  Tickets are $30.  For tickets or details go to: www.VictoriasReelBlondes.com or call:  (925) 736-2858.--BS

Last Updated (Friday, 24 February 2012 05:29)


PostHeaderIcon Gloria Steinem and Alice Waters Headline Conference

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World renowned journalist/activist, Gloria Steinem and celebrated local chef and author, Alice Waters top the powerhouse lineup as keynote speakers at the March 5  East Bay Women’s Conference, (EBWC) presented by the Walnut creek Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau and Chevron Corporation.

Now in its 7th year, the EBWC convenes at the San Ramon Marriott, 2600 Bishop Drive, San Ramon, CA. from 8 a.m. to 5p.m.

Gloria Steinem is recognized around the world as an articulate, outspoken leader, writer, lecturer, editor and feminist activist who has been involved in issues of equality and social justice movements for more than forty years. She has been the voice for the rights of women when women had no voice.

Alice Waters, chef, author and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley is a pioneer of culinary philosophy based on using only the freshest organic products, served only in season. Over the course of 40 years, Chez Panisse has developed a network of local farmers and purveyors whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assure the restaurant a steady supply of pure, fresh ingredients.

Joining Steinem and Waters are emcee Jan Wahl, San Francisco Bay Area film critic and historian, and guest speaker Ann Tardy, who shares secrets to finding moxie and making a difference.
The mission of the annual all day conference is to provide women an opportunity to come together and participate in a program of personal and professional enrichment, development, and networking activities.  The goal is to provide women the tools they need on the journey to their personal best as individuals, team members and leaders in family, community, political and business arenas.

The only conference of its kind in San Francisco’s East Bay Area, it is recognized by the community for programming excellence and has enjoyed sold out attendance since its 2006 inaugural event.  Attracting women of all ages and positions in life, young professionals, women in work/life transitions, business leaders, community volunteers, activists and retirees, topics of interest span the diversity.

The conference is intended for women seeking information, inspiration and action plans as they move through life, from one stage to another.  The programs always include subjects for discussion on leadership, personal development, professional advancement, finance, health & well being. Recently included are subjects relative to social media, embracing change and preparing for employment transition.

The annual all day conference blends premier keynote and featured speaker presentations, interactive breakout sessions focused on contemporary issues, featuring industry experts in personal development, business leadership, entrepreneurship, surviving change, technology & social media, health & nutrition and money & finance. Exhibitor booths and a fully stocked bookstore and author signings complete the agenda.  Conference highlights include continental breakfast, full lunch and afternoon reception. Free John Muir Women’s health screenings in the morning include blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and bone density.

A prize drawing offers participants a chance to win a necklace donated by Tiffany & Co. of Walnut Creek or a barrel of wine valued at $1,000. Registration for the all-day EBWC is $175 a person, and pre-registration is required. To register, contact the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau at http://www.walnut-creek.com/ or 925-934-2007.


Karen Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer and avid traveler. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated (Tuesday, 07 January 2014 22:29)

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