Monthly Archives: September 2011

Whatever Happened to “Real” Reality?

In my never-ending quest to keep you well informed, allow me to tell you about a little article I came across today.  It was in regards to hooking oneself up with, are you ready for this?  …a mock girlfriend!

Are you lonely? Going through a dry spell? In the closet? Trying to avoid getting set up by your well-meaning friends?

Well now thanks to a little texting site called, “FakeGirlfriend.co” (it IS co… there is no “m”) you can pretend to be in partnered bliss.  It’s easy to use; all you need is a cell phone!

You set up your contacts with your imaginary mate’s name.   It’s up to you whether your gal is a sexy “Veronique” or perhaps a much more wholesome “Kathy.”  You then give that contact name the FakeGirlfriend.co phone number.  At some point during the evening, after informing your friends about the hot, little babe you’ve been seeing lately, you send a text message to that number.  A minute or two later, you’ll get a text message back that will appear to have been sent by your sweetie pie.  As if that isn’t good enough, give it another few minutes and you’ll get a genuine phone call with a pre-recorded voice message.  Yes folks this IS for real!

I guess this should come as no surprise in today’s society where texting has replace visiting or even, phoning one another and our popularity is based on the number of Facebook friends we can brag about.

I love the Toyota commercial with the girl who claims to be worried about her parents because she set them up with a Facebook account and they only have 19 friends (because they’re actually out experiencing life) while she sits at a table with a laptop and brags that she has 680 friends.  True it’s funny, but it wouldn’t be if it didn’t really speak about today’s culture.

Why go through all the trouble of getting to know a real live person when you can fake it and still be home early enough to watch your favorite reality show?  Oh, reality shows… don’t get me started on those!  Hahaha!

It just goes to show that somehow along the way our “reality” has become very muddled lately.  Instead of visiting friends like they did in our parents’ day, we’d rather watch spoiled “housewives” on television who can’t seem to spend more than a few minutes in the same room without almost coming to blows.  We sit on a sofa and watch others have an “amazing race” around the world, pick their fiancé from a dozen professional models or witness total strangers get themselves in shape by becoming the biggest loser while we eat donuts watching them do so.

I cannot claim total immunity to the techno-copout, faux reality lifestyle.  I must confess that I am oddly interested in finding out if Nancy Grace can indeed cha-cha better than Ricki Lake, although I must admit with the lineup of celebrities this season, Dancing with the Stars may have to change its name to Dancing with the Wannabes.  I text silly messages to my buddy Tom across the country instead of phoning and I do spend a rather large amount of time staring at my laptop.

That said; I am trying to live my own dream by finishing my novel and getting my children’s story published.  This morning’s long, hard look in the mirror after my shower has set me on the path to exercising for my health and hopefully my soapbox stance today may make others re-examine their own rut as well.

If however you do for some strange reason (and believe me, I don’t want to know why) you are in the market for a fake girlfriend, I am glad I was able to oblige!

The Girlfriend of the Future?

Until next time,

Don

 

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Living the Blog:

Yesterday we had a dear old friend come to stay with us.  Barbara has been a part of our life for twenty years.

She was to arrive sometime after 4:30 PM and spend the night.

By the time James and I had finished our work, Barbara was at the gate.  This left us literally no time to prepare dinner.  Not wanting to go out to a restaurant, we checked the resources in our pantry and fridge.

After taking careful inventory, we decided to make some homemade fettuccini.

It was all hands on deck, as velvety smooth layers of fresh pasta dough rolled out from the press.  Barbara not only enjoyed the process but decided to purchase a pasta maker of her own.  Before we knew it, we had enough fresh fettuccini to feed a third world nation.  Dressed with crispy sautéed pancetta bits and garden fresh peas, for me the dish needed little more than a sprinkle of cracked black pepper and a good helping of parmesan cheese, but the added touch of toasted breadcrumbs really brought it all home!   

We paired the meal with roasted peppers and some grilled baby eggplants topped with a golden brown mixture of breadcrumbs and parmesan.  A caprese salad made with halved grape tomatoes and tiny fresh mozzarella balls gave us a great opportunity to use the basil we grow in our back yard and was simply yummy!  It was a meal fit for a king that caused yours truly to proclaim, “Who eats better than us peasants?”

Of course what visit to our home would be complete without a freshly baked Aunt Lucy Cake?

As we sat at the table, sipping on coffee and enjoying a small piece of pound cake, I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I realized that my Blog is truly a journalistic diary of our day-to-day life.  I guess to put it simply; I am literally “Living the Blog!”

 

Leftover Aunt Lucy Cake, waiting for tonight's dessert

Until next time,

Don

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Magnificent Mermaids!

Last night I had to attend a networking event at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel.  For the most part, it was a very pleasant event with a lot of really nice people.

The thing that most stood out to me about the entire evening was that in the bar were three or four very large windows on which the other side lays a huge aquarium.

This glass vivarium not only played host to some lovely underwater plant life but also housed a bevy of beautiful mermaids!

I know that it should not have rendered me quite as giddy as it did, but to be honest, since my early childhood I have been awaiting for just such an opportunity to come along.

Back in the early 1960’s the television airwaves were filled with commercials and promotional programing for Weeki Wachee Springs and the beautiful Weeki Wachee Mermaids.  You can only imagine how two young children living in a Brooklyn tenement, were enthralled with the idea of one day traveling to see the magnificent park and its glamorous mermaid attraction!

Finally in 1975, my sister who was now married was planning a trip to Florida with her husband and I, now a teenager, was to accompany them.

Maureen and I were like children planning our big trip that was to include, Daytona Beach, Orlando with trips to Sea World and of course, Disney World.  We knew however that we could not go all the way to Florida without taking the time to see two places that until this day we had only dreamed about; Cypress Garden’s (which back in the day, we had learned of through our 3D, GAF Viewmaster slides) and the famed Weeki Wachee Mermaids.

We drove down to Florida in my brother-on-law’s old, beat-up, powder blue station wagon.

I remember that we had to stop to replace oil in the car more times than we needed to stop for the trio of us to use a restroom, but we were young and had no fear.

Daytona Beach (then a new community) was absolutely wonderful.  There were boardwalk shops that ran the length of the white sanded seashore and cars were allowed to drive right up onto the beach!

Orlando was also everything we could have wished it to be and more.  Maureen and I had sat watching the Wonderful World of Disney Sunday after Sunday for two decades and this visit to Walt’s magic world was like our childhood dream come true.

Then came our opportunity to head north to see Cypress Garden’s and at long last, the fabulous Weeki Wachee Mermaids.

We quoted the TV advertisement from our childhood days verbatim, laughing as we drove along the deserted stretch of hightway.

That’s when it happened.  It started rather subtly at first, but before we knew it, the ole’ station wagon was jerking and making sounds that could only be described as grasping for its last breath.  Within moments, we were parked along the side of the road on a seldom used bit of highway with smoke rising up from under the hood of our motionless auto.

This was way before the days of cell phones, so there was really nothing for us to do but remain there until someone came along to help us. 

Luckily in only a short time, a young man came riding along on a tractor… yes a tractor!  After learning that we were from New York, he was first most curious to know if we were acquainted with a young woman he met in school who was also from New York.  I do believe that he was actually surprise and disappointed that all of us New Yorkers did not know each other, but he was kind enough to take my brother-in-law off on the tractor to the nearest gas station.

Maureen and I had to be left behind with the car.  We couldn’t sit inside it in the sweltering Florida sun and outside we were being swarmed by thousands of insects we came to learn later were affectionately known as “Skeeter Hogs!”

In the end, the car was towed and a make-shift repair was done on it that we were hoping would get us home.  Needless to say, Weeki Wachee slipped back into our dream of places and things to “one day” see.

I have lived in South Florida now for over sixteen years and every time I asked about Weeki Wachee Springs, I was told that it had closed down.  I know that Cypress Garden’s finally did, but not before I had made my pilgrimage.

I had all but forgotten if not given-up on the whole mermaid idea when last night quite by chance, I was enveloped in accidental mermaid mania.

Thank goodness for modern technology, as I did not have a camera with me but I did have my cell phone, which has a camera of its own.  So I not only saw the beautiful mermaids swimming elegantly to their water ballet, but I was also able to get a photo for posterity.

It just goes to show that you never are too old to have a dream come true!

Magnificent Mermaids!

Until next time,

Don

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Unforgettable Teaser # 3

Summer 1943:

Mario sat in the barber’s chair.  The same chair he had sat in so many times before.  It was good to be home, back among familiar things.  He had wanted to stay in the army but they insisted on an honorable discharge after he was missing in action for weeks.  Mario had been found, half dead, in the jungle.  He owed his rescue to a buddy, the one person who refused to give up on him.  Mario recalled the young soldier emerging through the trees and shrubs.  In his weakened state, Mario had thought for a moment that the man was an angel as he stood before him backlit by the strong Burmese sun.  He remembered the young man giving him a drink from his canteen and drawing out the ticks from his body with a lit cigarette.  He had felt so weak, not a feeling this body builder was accustomed to.  But that was behind him now.  He was back home.  Back with his family and friends and that awful war seemed light years away from the warmth of the neighborhood barber shop.  Tonight his father was hosting a party to celebrate his safe return.  Everyone in the town would be stopping in at some point of the evening to welcome Mario home and he wanted to look his best for them.  So here he sat getting a shave and a haircut. 

As the barber spoke to him, Mario noticed a young woman across the street and suddenly, the barber’s voice seemed as distant as that far away jungle.  He was hypnotized by the young girl’s beauty.  It seemed as though the whole world was standing still and she was moving through it in slow motion so that he could take in every last nuance of her being, the way she looked, the way she moved.  When the breeze tossed her hair into her face she jerked her head to flip it back behind her shoulder.  It was almost as though she were moving to music.  In fact Mario could hear the music in his head when a very irritated barber suddenly yanked him back into reality with a tap on the back of his head.

“Hey you… Mr. Biga Shot… you hear me?  Hey!..  I’ma talka to you!”  the Italian immigrant asked with mock indignation.

“Huh? What? Oh sorry,” answered Mario.

“Whatsamatta wit you?

Mario smiled, “See that girl across the street Joe?”

“Ahhh…Molta Bella!”

“You can say that again.  I don’t know who she is or where she’s from, but somehow, someway, I’m gonna make her my wife!” 

“Yeah… ina you dreams maybe…”

“I mean it Joe, it’s not just that she’s beautiful, I have this feeling about her, like… inside somewhere… that we were meant for each other, kind of like it’s our destiny to be together.  Do you know what I mean?”

“Ah… biga shot dream boy.  Sit back in the chair and stay still, unless you thinka Miss America over there lika the boys with one ear!”

“Oh you just don’t understand old man!”

Joe rolled his eyes and got back to the business of cutting hair.  Mario never took his amber eyes off the beauty as she looked in the shoe store window then the millenary shop.  After what seemed like an eternity, Joe finally said “There all done” he reached for a mirror to show Mario the back of his hair, but Mario quickly pushed it away with one hand while pulling off the barber smock with the other.  “Here, here’s your money Gotta run… bye.”  As Mario ran across the street he saw Trudy turning the corner.  He quickened his pace to catch up with her but as he turned the corner himself, she stepped onto a bus and it pulled away.  “Shit! Damn it! Shit, shit, shit!”

All that day Mario could not get the girl off his mind.  If only he walked faster, if only he had gone for his haircut one minute earlier, if only, if only, if only!  It was maddening.  Now hours later, here he was in an apartment filled with people, all of who had come just to see him, and all he could think about was the girl that got away.  The one he thought was sent to be his soul mate.  

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Until next time,

Don

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Timeline to Donald and the New Baby Release:

Several people have been contacting me wanting to know why it is going to take so long before my children’s book; “Donald and the New Baby” is released.  To better explain the procedure, I have bullet pointed each step of the process and the amount of time that they should take.  In the end, it’s like having a baby.  Although you may be anxious for it to arrive, it’s still going to take nine months!  I will just have to consider this book, my baby!

After submitting my manuscript per the Production Guidelines, my book will be scheduled for production. Upon receipt of my properly formatted manuscript, they will provide me with a production start month. Production will typically begin two to three months from the time the manuscript has been received.  I have already done this!

Copyediting

My manuscript will spend a month undergoing scrutiny to catch and fix typos, misspellings, grammatical issues, formatting issues, and other errors.

Conceptual Editing

Also a one month process.  The conceptual editor will give the manuscript a thorough review, looking for story flow, clarity, internal consistency, continued spelling errors, and continued incorrect grammar usage. My editor will also be a fresh pair of eyes to my manuscript and may have additional recommendations based on his/her professional experience. However, editors will not make dramatic changes to a manuscript. Any recommendations that they do make will be suggestions only and will ultimately be my responsibility to integrate or not.

The manuscript will undergo a second review by the editor, during which he/she will review and incorporate the changes and revisions I may have made. This will be a month-long process as well. Conceptual editing generally lasts for three months total.  For books needing illustrations, (such as mine) it usually only lasts for 2 months with the 3rd month instead being slated for the illustrations phase.

Layout

The members of the layout department are not editors. They will not read the manuscript, nor are they able to make changes it.  So, it is crucial to make sure that the manuscript is in final form before it goes to the layout department.

After this editing stage is complete, only blatant mistakes and errors will be fixed. 

Cover Design

About two months after my conceptual editor contacts me, I will receive a phone call from one of the graphic designers. With my input, the designer will create a book cover that is both marketable and professional. The cover design stage lasts for one month and may overlap one month of editing.

Since my book is a children’s book, an illustrator will be in touch with me following the completion of the editing process. I can discuss ideas directly with the illustrator as he or she begins the illustration process. The illustration process lasts for one month.  Seems that one month is the general rule of thumb for each step along the way.

Layout Design

It is at this stage that my manuscript starts to look like a book! I’ll receive a PDF proof via e-mail, which will show me exactly how my book will look when it’s printed including font sizes, page size, and other formatting issues. The layout design process is one month. 

Final Review

After any necessary visual changes are implemented into the layout, they will mail me a perfect bound book proof including the front cover and back cover for my review.

Marketing

Their first conversation with me will be in regards to initializing my first book printing and developing a list of contacts for book signings. At this time, my book will begin the registration process with the distributor and a release date will be set. The release date is usually 90 days from when they send the book to print for the first time. It takes this amount of time to get the book through all the right hoops and in all the right places so it’s available to all major bookstores and online websites by the release date.

So that is the entire process in a nut shell.  Kind of cool heh?  So I must just remain patient and before I know it, I will be a published author.  Hey I’ve waited 36 years; I can wait another nine months!

                                                        

    Until next time.

    Don

 

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Momma Mia! That’s a Nice Spicy Pasta!

For some reason I seem to have pasta on my mind today.  Hmmm… Maybe it’s the Italian in me?  In any case, we have so many yummy recipes in our arsenal that it is sometime difficult to choose.

Today I am favoring the idea of artichokes.  I didn’t really have them growing up but I have come to love them as an adult.  Their tender texture and earthy flavor go excellent with this spicy pasta.

I don’t know what kind of weather you’re having, but on a gloomy, cool or rainy day, this always hits the spot for me.  After all, when do you most need to add a little spice to your life, if not when the day is gloomy? 

* This meal can be made with sweet sausage and omit the red pepper if you are not a fan of spicy!  Also, chicken sausage can be substituted for pork. 

Spicy Sausage Pasta with Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes 

Ingredients:

1- cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil) drained and roughly chopped

3- tablespoon olive oil
2-3 Italian hot sausages removed from their casings
2- 8-ounce packages frozen artichoke hearts (or 2-3 cans drained)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped

½ teaspoon (or to taste) red pepper flakes (We like it hot so I add double)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 3/4 cups chicken stock

Two very good handfuls of shredded Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
A fistful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 ½ – 2 cups of fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed (I use the mini balls from Costco packed in oil – well drained and cut in half)
Freshly ground (coarse) black pepper

1 Box of your favorite pasta (I prefer corkscrew shape or mini rigatoni but linguini or penne would also be a great choice)

Salt for pasta water

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown off, breaking the meat into small pieces with a fork. Transfer the sausage to a bowl.

Add the artichokes, garlic and the red pepper flakes to the skillet, and sauté over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic (burned garlic becomes bitter).

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the wine and simmer for about a minute.

Then add the chicken stock and simmer over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces and flavors intensify.  Stir every so often to prevent possible burning, about 7-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt and pasta.  Cook pasta until al dente.  You will finish the cooking process in the sauce.

Drain the pasta and add it along with the sausage, Parmesan/Romano, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture.

Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta and the cheese creates a thicken sauce.

Remove from heat and pour into serving bowl.  Stir in the mozzarella and the cracked black pepper.

Sprinkle liberally with additional Parmesan/Romano cheese and additional parsley.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Hope you enjoy preparing and serving this recipe.  Please let me know how your family liked it and any adjustments that you may have made along the way.

Until next time,

Don

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Holiday Are Coming…

I can’t believe that I have spent the last two days already getting prepared for the holidays. Incidentally, don’t mean Halloween or Columbus Day… I am talking about Christmas!  Well at least on a corporate level.

As event planners in South Florida, once season hits in October, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to complete all the work we have to do, let alone holiday preparation.  So I have been taking advantage of a slight lull in business to get a jump on the holidays.

I have to admit, it’s been great fun.  Ever since I was a child, I have always loved Christmas and all of the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it.  So, as I filled the air with classic holiday tunes (yes, I am that corny) I browsed catalogs and surfed the internet looking for just the right Christmas cards, gifts and although I can’t believe I am admitting this… more music!

I am very much a music lover and I have well over a thousand CD’s alone, not counting thousands of mp3 tunes on my iPods.  In that vast array of melodies are about 200 Christmas CD’s from legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby and range all the way to Coldplay, Train and Mariah Carey.  I also have all kinds of obscure CD’s like “TV Christmas Hits” featuring The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and Archie & Edith Bunker!  I know, I know… I’m obsessed, but music is my only vice.  Well, music and cheese!  Oh yes and potatoes, but I promise that’s it!  Hahaha…

It is a bit surreal preparing for Christmas in the middle of September, especially when you factor in my location being South Florida, where the temperature is a balmy 88 degrees and the palm trees are swaying.  But still, it has added an air of excitement to the past couple of days.  I guess it just goes to show that in the inimitable words of Johnny Mathis, “Christmas Is a Feeling in Your Heart!”

Well back to the grindstone.  By the way, am I the only one in the mood for eggnog?

 

 

Is this what they mean by "Cup of Cheer?"

Until next time,
Don

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