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My Dinner Party (or, What Martha Stewart Never Talked About)

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

At last! After nearly a decade of living with my ugly ‘80’s kitchen, I was able to finance a remodel. Sure, it was three months of doing dishes in the bathroom sink while construction was underway, but finally I had my gorgeous kitchen and was in the mood to celebrate! What better way than to throw a dinner party for friends from my women’s group? It would be SO “Better Homes and Gardens”! And to be honest—amid all my whining during the building phase, I had somehow let it slip that I would have them over when it was done. My big mouth, getting me in trouble again…

Determined and delusional, I committed myself to the event. Never mind the fact that other than cooking meals for me, my boyfriend, and my daughter, and throwing Easter Egg Hunts and pizza parties for my kids’ birthdays each year, I had never singlehandedly made an entire meal for multiple guests in my home. Besides that, I hate cooking!

But any moron can follow a recipe, right? Little did I know that I would later compare my well-intentioned soiree to “giving birth.” Should any of you be toying with the dinner party idea, I beg you— read my helpful hints before proceeding:

  1.  When making dinner for a group, choose dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. This way, unlike me, you won’t be stuck at the stove while your guests stand around, watching you cook. For my main entrée, I chose Sundried Tomato Chicken Spaghetti. After all, according to the food stylist’s website (“food stylist”? That should have clued me in right there), this was an “easy” chicken recipe. The problem was, the sauce had to be prepared right alongside the boiling of the spaghetti. No cooking ahead on this one! I was torn between talking to my friends and cubing heirloom tomatoes. Trust me, both the sauce and my conversation were sub-par.
  2. Read the recipe carefully beforehand. Somehow, I missed the instruction about grilling the chicken breast using a “grilling pan,” even though this was set out clearly in Step 1. What the heck was a grilling pan, anyway? I rummaged through my pans and grabbed what I now know to be a roasting pan, laid it across two stove-top burners, and found a leftover grill from an old toaster oven. Presto, a grilling pan! Not really. I managed to grill the chicken, but also the pan, amid clouds of smoke and the smell of burnt fat and metal. I knew it was bad when my bichon, Oscar, who is normally obsessed with food and immovable from the kitchen during any type of cooking, crept out of the room with his tail down.
  3. Wear an apron! I used to think aprons were unnecessary and somewhat dorky. Wrong again! My plan had been to touch up my hair and makeup, and change to a nicer outfit right before my guests arrived. But once the cooking got underway, I was glued to the kitchen for fear of blowing up the meal! So, in addition to being completely frazzled, I had steam-flattened hair, an oily glow to my skin, smelled like grilled chicken, and was wearing portions of the menu…

A few more lessons…don’t lend your boyfriend your mixer and not get it back. I wound up whipping the cream by hand for my dessert, and after the slog of getting the main course on the table, used up what few molecules of vitality I had left. Forget coffee with dessert—I was too busy whipping cream to make it! Another thing, if you have a guest or guests with very specific dietary restrictions, don’t go overboard trying to tailor the meal to these individuals. I was concerned about my friend who has food-allergy-related migraines and eats only “whole, raw foods,” but she wound up being a no-show anyway because—you guessed it, she was in bed all day with a migraine.

As the dust (and cooking grease) settles, I realize my last, and probably most important lesson from having a dinner party: when entertaining, don’t undervalue the huge merit of caterers, take-out, and potluck! Note to self on that. Bon appétit!

The 100’s Richard Harmon—What It Takes to Make It Happen

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

To be a “seasoned” actor before the age of 25 is nothing less than amazing, considering the sheer numbers of would-be’s vying for spots on the big screen and television—especially TV series lasting longer than a season. Richard Harmon, best known as dodgy, relentless John Murphy in The 100, one of the 37 television productions and 14 films to his credit already, seems to have the formula.

Born in 1991 in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, Richard was raised around the entertainment industry. His parents are director Allan Harmon and producer Cynde Harmon, and actress Jessica Harmon is his older sister. Obviously his family influenced his career choice, but beyond the benefit of their experience and encouragement, the rest was all Richard. In fact, one gets the sense that he’s worked all the harder to prove himself in his own light.

Making his acting debut at the age of 10 in the 2002 television series Jeremiah, Richard didn’t decide to pursue acting as a career until he was about 15. He tells us, “I’m incredibly grateful for those first few years of my career. I look back on them as practice, sort of…they were getting me ready for when I truly started putting my effort into this.”

With his prominent brow, chiseled features, and huge, deep-set eyes, Richard already conveys significant intensity just through his looks, and with no formal acting training, his giftedness as an actor seems completely organic. Whether playing Murphy, a character you hate until you find yourself admiring him, or William, a tense young man eternally condemned to replay the scene of killing both his parents in Cruel and Unusual, or Alex, a sightless yet determined track runner in If I Had Wings (for which he received Canadian Screen Award and Leo Award Best Actor nominations), Richard seems committed to giving his all. Known to simultaneously juggle multiple projects, he states, “I put a lot of stress on myself to succeed in this field. At the same time, though, that’s one of my favorite things about the job…I would never want that stress to go away.”

As Richard continues to grow with his career, we see not only increasing depth to his acting, but more maturity in his perspective. “It’s not just about doing the acting,” he tells us. “There are other facets of the job that I view as equally important. You always have to come prepared, be kind, and never cause distractions to the other members of the crew doing their job. There is nothing I love more than being on set, but my family played a very important role in [my] understanding that at the end of the day, this is my job.”

Fortunately, there are distractions. Richard’s other loves are Notre Dame football, Mario Kart video games, Bob Dylan, Sponge Bob, wolves, tattoos (he has five, including a werewolf on his back) and occasionally lavender ice cream. Not to mention (but we will) beautiful women, with sources linking him to actress Ciara Hanna.

It’s pretty apparent that Richard’s friends, especially the ones who share his acting passion, are a major influence in his life. Asked about what inspires him, he says, “Music, other actors, mainly my friends. I have been lucky enough to surround myself with some of the hardest-working people I have ever met… some of them are close personal friends of mine. Any time I see a great performance in any facet of art, it inspires me to do the same for someone else. If I can get someone to feel inspired through my performances…that’s what it’s all about, really.”

Perhaps the most important part of his success—applicable to any career—is willingness to work hard. Says Richard, “…any time I start slacking off, all I have to do is look at those around me, and it reminds me that the second I start to take things a little easier, there is going to be someone else who is willing to put in the work, that is gunning for my spot.” Richard advises young aspiring actors to have patience and not to compare themselves with others. “Everyone’s path is different,” he states. “You just gotta keep following down yours.”

Currently, Richard says, he’s been trying to find projects that mean a lot to him personally, although admitting this is probably the dream of every actor. In his words, “If there is a role that really clicks with something inside you, it’s like you don’t even need to try when you’re performing it…you know you’re not going to give anything less than the best you have.” Given Richard’s track record already, we can’t wait to see what his future brings.

It’s Here! YA Science Fantasy… “Water Tower”

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

 

Water Tower (Three Kingdoms, #2)

Water Tower

Book Two of the Trilogy “Three Kingdoms”

The Water Nation is in chaos.

Citizens of the Water Nation are not quite themselves these days. Madness is everywhere and the residents are split into violent factions. Brother turns on brother and the Hubs they call their homes are being destroyed. What is going on?

Fifteen-year-old Sam Cutter has every intention of finding out. It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t been more than a day since Sam fought against the New Power in their assault against the Sky Nation. When one of the world’s five eternal royals asks you for a favor, you don’t turn them down.

Besides, when has Sam ever avoided a fight? His friends know all too well that when he’s around, crazy things just seem to happen. But in a world of forces struggling for control and domination, a trouble-magnet like Sam might be exactly what’s needed.

Join Sam again as he heads to the Water Nation on the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes all it takes is one brave, determined, and somewhat awkward kid to stand up to powers far beyond the ordinary, whether they be good or evil.

Good and evil is just a matter of opinion anyway.

Download your copy today!

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18281337-water-tower

Sea Caves, Suess, and Seven Hundred Kayaks

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

My boyfriend John and I both love the outdoors, and we have taken in some amazing natural beauty over the past few years. Whether biking on the wet sand at the beach in San Clemente or exploring the nature trails scattered throughout San Diego County, we share our attraction to wilderness experiences and seek them out during our free time together.

Therefore, when I saw an offer for discounted admission vouchers for a sea cave kayaking tour in La Jolla, I jumped on it. In all the years I’ve lived in San Diego, I have never seen these caves up close. Carved into the cliffs by the pounding Pacific over decades, they promised to be an incredible sight. According to the tour description, because we were kayaking to the caves, we would also experience all kinds of tidal zone sea life. I pictured John and me paddling around inside a mystical cathedral of carved rock studded with glittering shells and pebbles, then staring down through crystal-clear water to see a variety of fish, including large leopard sharks known to breed in these waters. This was sure to be awesome.

But when I called to make reservations, I found out from the water-sports shop that “voucher people” were only booked into the 7 am, 9 am, or 11 am tours. I thought of how my boyfriend and I were usually lucky if we made it out the door by 1 pm on Sundays… When I heard we’d have to get up early, I have to admit, I was ready to chuck the whole idea and ask for a refund! John and I love outdoor adventures, but at our own pace. After talking about it, however, we decided to push ourselves that morning to get from north county San Diego down to La Jolla.

So at 10:15 am (we had to be there 45 minutes early), we arrived at the shop, after finally finding a parking spot several blocks away. It wasn’t a sunny morning, unfortunately, and there were only a few glimpses of blue sky through the coastal cloud-cover. Around the area where the shop was located were at least six other sports shops offering sea cave kayaking tours, in addition to snorkeling, diving, surfing trips, and of course, any kind of gear you can imagine for ocean enthusiasts. Besides this, there were plenty of small restaurants for all the people coming from the ocean, ravenous and ready to buy a big snack. I checked my wallet.

Because John and I were punctual for probably the first time in our lives, we were quickly signed in and given our life vests and plastic safety helmets. After all, there was liability involved here! What if our kayak got grounded on an underwater rock formation, and we happened to bounce out and hit our heads? Or what if one of the centuries-old stalactites inside a sea cave suddenly became dislodged and crashed down upon us? The life vests were wet and smelled a little funky, but I thought John looked very cute in his shiny, yellow helmet. God knows how I looked, but I was destined for a bad hair day.

We assembled in a group on a nearby lawn, among probably 50 to 70 people. Turns out several different excursions were scheduled at the same time, from a bunch of different shops. Eventually three tour guides – none of whom looked a day over 16 – led us yellow-helmet people down the street to the beach.

Our main guide was Blain. Or maybe it’s “Blane” or even “Blayne” (this must be one of those Generation Z names). Blain was the epitome of the San Diego surfer dude – tall, slim, tan, and obviously right at home in the ocean. Clever and very witty, he made some cute jokes about kayaking and first-timers, somehow managing to slip into his introductory spiel the fact that he has a girlfriend. I figured he probably found this necessary to ward off all the young, female tourists doubtlessly hitting on him all the time.

The beach was crowded, and I almost lost John among the dozens of kayaks, surfers, snorkelers, and pairs of flip-flops waiting to be reclaimed by their owners. Somehow we managed to get kayaks from the right shop (like the helmets, they were color-coded), and we headed out to the open ocean with the rest of our group. I found the swells and breakers far less hazardous than avoiding all the other kayakers launching at the same time.

Once out in the ocean, we “coagulated” (Blain speak) as a group, and listened as Blain told us about the five-foot leopard shark he had seen that very morning, and the abundance of fish usually hanging out in the offshore kelp bed. However, with this many boats, fins, and divers in the water, I didn’t really understand how any fish would have the nerve to be anywhere within miles of this spot. John must’ve figured the same thing, because he vigorously paddled us ahead of everyone else, trying to be ahead of the group in case any sea life might still be in the area. I, being the virtuous, rule-abiding, Catholic-school girl, was frustrated at his speeding ahead and separating us from the group, but finally I surrendered and stopped rowing altogether. John was doing fine without my help.

Nonetheless, ne’er a fish was spotted by either of us that morning, unless you include the brief flash of an orange Garibaldi in the water near the sea caves. Blain gave us the 4-1-1 on those, though. According to him, their color is caused by the fact that they excrete waste through the entire area of their skin, instead of from one opening. Lovely. I don’t think I’ll ever think about the Garibaldi – the state marine fish of California, by the way – in the same way.

We did learn lots of interesting trivia about such things as Dr. Suess’ former home being located right along the shoreline near the caves, and the major fault-line a few hundred feet south of this, an off-shoot of the famous San Andreas fault which promises major land-gulping destruction once “the big one” hits. And how some ridiculously wealthy banker is building a multimillion-dollar home right there along the cliffs, despite the fact that after 25 years, his master bedroom will likely be in the ocean.

As far as the sea caves themselves, we came within about 20 feet of their entrances. They looked pretty much like what you would expect, only not as colorful. As we dodged local snorkelers and bumped into the hulls of other kayaks, our guides told stories about particular caves. But with all the people, noise, and ruckus, John and I were never able to get our kayaks close enough to actually hear the stories, so we were left to our own imaginations. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to actually enter any of the caves…something about the tide not being right. I guess I was wearing the hair-smashing helmet for nothing after all.

My favorite part of the trip was seeing the large populations of birds and sea lions, which still carried on as if they didn’t have 1,000 people staring at their daily activities. I couldn’t help wondering why they didn’t wise up and move on, as crowded by pesky humans as they are. As if reading my thoughts, Blain informed us that the local mayor is currently involved in a huge campaign to displace the birds, since the smell from the huge quantity of bird-poo is offending visitors.

And so it goes, man versus nature…maybe more specifically, man exploiting nature for profit until they ruin it altogether. As far as wilderness experiences, I think John and I will lay off the vouchers for a while and stick with trails and beaches as far away from humans as possible. This way, we might actually get to see an undisturbed tree, or maybe even a rogue offshore fish. One thing’s for sure, though: we’ll sleep later before heading out.

Marketing Sample: Robert’s Healing Massage

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

My emergence as a massage therapist/healer began in 2001, when I took a three-month course in relaxation and Swedish massage at the Vitality College of Healing in Solano Beach, California. Within this brief period, I deeply sensed my calling to be a healer and made the decision to leave my longtime job as a salesman.

Over the next several years, I continued studying massage at Vitality College, receiving my Massage Therapist Certification after completing 500 hours of training. In 2005, I obtained the national certification required to maintain my practice in San Diego. Throughout this period, I was able to work full-time as a massage therapist and strengthen my skills in all areas of massage healing.

My earlier years in the field provided me a great variety of experiences, including performing countless massages for guests requesting this service at high-end resorts in and around San Diego. I became very adept at communicating with all types of people, and able to successfully assess their needs in the realms of massage and healing.

My areas of concentrated study include Therapeutic massage, Deep Tissue massage, Reflexology, Cranio-Sacral, Trigger Point Therapy, and Myofascial Release. A few years ago, I was introduced to Ayurvedic massage (I spent four weeks in India learning this technique), as well as another body of knowledge called Ortho-Bionomy (for a more thorough discussion of these various techniques, see my website and blog).

The methods I’ve mastered serve a variety of purposes, depending on the needs of the person with whom I am working. Sometimes it is merely relaxation. Other times, the goal is pain relief, rejuvenation, or spiritual integration. This is what I find so exciting about massage therapy – it is a specialized, personalized, and oftentimes complex process, unique to each individual.

The ability to actually rid my clients of pain, whether it is from a new injury or a chronic and unresolved issue, brings me intense gratification. Some people have come to me believing that they must learn to live with certain types of pain simply because they’ve had it for such a long time. They are then amazed to find that they can be pain-free after I correctly identify the source and target my healing work.

I am also greatly rewarded when I can bring peace of mind to many of my clients who scare themselves by self-diagnosing their condition as cancer, arthritis, or some other serious medical condition. Imagine their relief when, after some sessions using Trigger Point therapy in particular, I am able to resolve the pain completely!

My approach to healing is primarily holistic and medication-free. I am not a fan of introducing foreign substances into the body. I find some of my clients have been taking various prescriptions for years and years, and although I certainly realize that medicine is necessary in some cases, my focus is the use of Trigger Point therapy, Myofascial Release, and/or Ortho Bionomy to gently work out identifiable sources of pain.

While many of my clients are referred by chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and doctors – as well as life coaches and personal trainers – I am proud that many people find me through word of mouth from other satisfied clients.

Answering my calling to be a healer has been key to realizing my potential and finding my wholeness – a true gift. The circle is only closed, however, when I can share that gift with others. In another part of this site, I share my thoughts on massage, meditation, and spirituality, addressing the less tangible – but equally or perhaps even more significant – benefits of holistic massage.

Mi Papa

Monday, June 11th, 2012

I’m nothing even close to Italian, but I like the sound of mi papa. Mi papa – my dad. I love him so much, I simply have to say why. Also, I’ve spent a good part of my life not appreciating him the way I do today. This is sad, but the reality.

Mi papa’s picture can be seen in the dictionary under “good man.” I remember papa taking the four of us on camping vacations all over the country, in our van-conversion (converted by him, of course). Strong, totally smart – brilliant, as my mom says – and competent, he knows how to do everything from fixing a stalled car engine to making full-course bacon-and-egg breakfasts on a Coleman stove. I remember when our camper stopped dead in the middle of “the longest bridge in the country,” a 10-or-20-mile monstrosity we were traversing in some distant state I can’t remember. I was scared and crying, but as usual, my dad found a way to get us going again. As long as my dad was there, I always knew we would be alright.

Papa is level-headed and a good model for slowing down in the midst of a problem to reason it out. I took it for granted how reassured I felt when he didn’t panic about stuff. Steady, quiet, modest, moral, responsible – these are the things I see in my dad as I try to be them myself these days. Consistent and always there for us as I grew up, I relied on his presence and comforting assurance. I remember when I had the measles – or was it the mumps? Down-and-out on the couch in the porch, I felt awful. But papa was working in the yard close by. I could hear the lawnmower and smell the cut grass. And even though I was sick, I felt better just knowing he was there, nearby.

It was my dad who took us out sailing on boats he himself built, and his skillful hand that kept us flying over the waves of Seneca and Canandaigua Lake. He it was who took us to the golf course after dark in the summer to pluck night-crawlers off the watered grass for fishing bait the next day. It was my dad who took us tobogganing in the nearby hills in the wintertime. Who helped construct a five-foot-long paper maché model of a grasshopper, in all its scientific detail, for a school project. And Dad who painted and refinished every single wall and floor inside our house, sanded and painted the outside, and laid new shingles on the roof. He who installed our backyard above-ground pool, while letting the neighborhood boys help with this important, grown-up construction project. He planted tomatoes, grilled hamburgers, explained math problems, supported us working as a mechanical engineer for Bausch & Lomb for over 20 years. And these are only some of the things I remember from the oblivious haze of being a kid.

It wasn’t always easy growing up with papa – he was loving, but got angry and yelled too. I learned to be afraid of him sometimes. Why did I let the bad stuff overshadow the good in mi papa for so long? I know a big part of the answer: me and my “issues.” Seems as though I’ve had those since almost my birth. They stressed me and caused so much rushing around looking for approval that I never realized mi papa did love me the whole time. In his special, perfectly papa way.

Mi papa, I love you too.

Deepest Wisdom and Truth

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – Mother Teresa