ALIVE Poetry Contest

April just happens to be National Poetry Month and here at ALIVE, we want to showcase our local poets. With that in mind, we are calling for poetry submissions for what we hope will be our first annual poetry contest.

The guidelines for our first go at this are simple:

  • We will award a $100 Diablo Jewelers gift certificate to the winner in each of two categories—Young Poets, ages 12-17, and Adults, 18 and older. 
  • Anyone within ALIVE’s distribution area is eligible (if you’re reading this, like to write poetry, and are at least twelve years old, you can enter).
  • You may submit up to three poems, and there is no cost to enter.
  • You may send your poem(s) as WORD file attachments by email to info@aliveeastbay.com, or via US Mail to ALIVE Magazine, 3200-A Danville Blvd., Suite 204, Alamo, CA 94507.
  • Previously published work is okay, though please note where and when it was previously published, along with your submission.
  • All submissions must be received at our office in Alamo no later than March 20, 2017.     

Shorter poetic works are preferred over longer poems, partially due to publication restraints. Sonnet length is a beautiful thing—14 lines, though sophisticated Haiku (3  lines of 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 format) may be chosen. On the other hand, so might longer poems of merit; however, there is a 40-line limit.

We love surprising, creative, unexpected word art; we don’t love clichés or narratives with overt messages. We are looking for “music and mystery” in the lyric; whole lives in the images.

By submitting your work, you are granting us permission to publish it in ALIVE Magazine, at our discretion, however authors will otherwise retain copyright  to their work.

Please include complete contact information with each poem submitted, including name, address, email, and phone number.

The winning poems will be published in the April issue of ALIVE, along with other selected “poems of merit.”

On your mark… get set… ready… write!

 

Suzanna Spring: Music and Yoga

Country singer-songwriter and yoga instructor Suzanna Spring strongly believes that there is a definite connection between her two passions. “In every element of life there are moments of unpredictability. Music and yoga are harmonious, combining elements of breathing, movement and focus,” Suzanna states. “They are both a dance of grace and strength that unexpectedly brings the mind in tune with the heart,” says the charming green-eyed red head I initially met through a mutual friend.

Born in Oakpark, Illinois, Suzanna moved around a lot as the daughter of a commercial pilot. The family eventually settled in the Livermore Valley where she graduated from Livermore High School before attending U.C. Davis, studying fine art and design. She began playing the French horn at the age of eight, but it was her mother, a member of a three-piece country band, who taught her to sing and play guitar. “Stylistically, it was my mother who exposed me to the classic country singers.” Suzanna’s style, in songs and voice, trended more toward the likes of Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Townes Van Zandt as she played in a series to bands during her college years.

After graduation, her graphic arts career kept her busy and moving around the country, however performing was still a big part of her life.  By 1987, she relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a graduate degree at Cal Arts when an opportunity presented itself to join an all-female band called The Mustangs, a country version of the successful alternative band, The Bangles.

During their seven-year run, The Mustangs toured extensively in the western United States, and toured Europe and Scandinavia. Highlights of her tours included appearances at the famed Palomino Club, Los AngelesCountry Fest, SXSW (South by Southwest), the Powerhaus in London, the Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark, and the International Country Music Festival in Zurich.

Nominated by the California Country Music Association as “Vocal Group of the Year,” the Mustangs were featured performers at the Jimmy Dale Gilmore & Friends Show in Austin. Suzanna says there are talks going on currently about a possible Mustangs reunion.

As one of the primary songwriters for the band, Suzanna submitted several songs to a Nashville music magazine as the band was starting to come apart in the mid 1990s. The magazine’s editor forwarded the songs to a music producer who encouraged Suzanna to move to Nashville and record with Cary Richard Beare of Riverdogs. Suzanna later secured a publishing deal with EMI as a staff writer before ultimately finding a home at Bluewater Music as a writer and artist. “I loved writing songs, knowing that my job was to let my imagination soar and play music. The time in spent in recording studios was just magic. All of us who lived that lifestyle felt the camaraderie, the mutual appreciation that comes from recognizing a great song when you hear it.”

Her first solo CD, She’s Got Your Heart, won Music Row’s DISCovery Award and her performances have included Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Café, NPR’s World & Music Program, Nashville Folk Festival, WPLN’s Songwriter Sessions, Nashville’s Independent Music Festival, SXSW Music Festival in Austin, and shows in Boston and New York City.

“Suzanna has a beautiful voice, a quick wit and is a gifted songwriter.”~ Paul Jefferson, Nashville recording artist and acclaimed songwriter.

It was during this period in her life when she also discovered yoga at a Nashville gym frequented by many musicians. “Yoga gave my life balance,” says Suzanna. After studying at studios around town she was one day asked to fillin as an instructor, which turned out to be the beginning of a new love and passion. Today, she is a 500-hour certified E-RYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher).

Following the release of her song, Time, as a radio single for country recording artist Doug Stone, she retuned to California in 2007 to find her home town of Livermore had become a popular wine region and burgeoning music/film community. She was introduced to vintner/musician Karl Wente who invited her to join in on jam sessions on the front porch of his home. After months of jamming with a host of talented musicians, together they formed The Front Porch Band, which played regularly at the summer Home Grown concert series along with a succession of club dates and local gigs. “Playing with a rotating collection of amazing musicians, eventually led me to start my own band, The South Livermore Boys Club band, aka The Surly Jackasses—a name coined by my band mates,” Suzanna went on to explain.

Suzanna was again a featured artist at SXSW in 2013 and invited to play with her band on the Sony City Independent Artists Stage. The band also performed at Craneway Pavilion in 2016 for the Bay Area’s largest yoga fundraiser, Yoga Reaches Out, benefiting cancer research and treatment.

Around this same time, Suzanna also began teaching yoga at studios in the East Bay. Three years ago, she and two other yoga instructors, Laurie Johnson Gallagher and Stacy McGinty, teamed-up to open DragonflyYoga + Wellness LLC in Downtown Livermore. Suzanna and Stacy have continued as owners, while Laurie remains an active instructor. Their highly successful studio resembles a grand ballroom complete with large windows, high ceilings and good acoustics for music. “It has great energy,” says the immensely popular instructor.

When Suzanna teaches there is a magical calmness to the room. Her voice guides me into that peaceful place while her movement inspires fluidity and breathing to create a unique vibration. She cares about every person’s comfort and has the skill to make adjustment suggestions without judgment. She is a true gift.” ~ Pam Clemmons.

At present, Suzanna is on a hiatus with her band while she writes and performs acoustically. During the holidays, she was the feature act for a holiday showcase at Tommy T’s in Pleasanton, performing an amazing acoustic set along with SLBC guitarist Art Thompson. She has also expanded her yoga to include a teacher’s collective called the Tonic of Wilderness, the name inspired by a quotation from writer/naturalist Henry David Thoreau. The group offers yoga and nature retreats and has taken students on trips from Calistoga and New England to Costas Rica, Tuscany and Bali. This year she has yoga excursions planned to Yosemite and Spain. “Creating a yoga community has been such a gift. The practice of yoga gives people the tools to face life’s ever changing circumstances.”

Suzanna’s path is limitless as evidenced by her legions of devoted music and yoga followers.

 

                       

The Record Rage

            Who would have ever thought that a virtual relic from the past would be coming back like gangbusters in the early years of the 21st Century? Yes, that’s right—after all these years the phonograph record is again in the spotlight. Today’s young people are very intrigued with record players and vinyl discs many of us remember from our past. It is indeed true what the adage says, “What goes around comes around.” 

            All of my records from early teenage years in the 1950s and young adulthood from the 60s, have been stored in the garage. They haven’t seen the light of day or been played in years.  Does this phenomenon mean I should get them out again? 

            Our 14-year old granddaughter, Elaine Gerard, said, “All I wanted for Christmas was a record player. All the kids in my class have them and they are such a great thing!” She said the record companies are making new 33&1/3 albums featuring many of the latest popular artists.

             “You can buy the traditional black vinyl or get them in all kinds of colors, including pastels and even clear. They are really cool,” Gerard said.  The price is not so cool, averaging about twenty dollars a record. Gerard noted she really wanted the album of the top musical, “Hamilton,” which sells for a not-so-cool eighty dollars.  Not just new recordings, but many of the old ones are available at record stores and book stores, including Barnes and Noble.

History

            In 1877, Thomas A. Edison, the famous inventor of so many things, including the electric light bulb, invented the phonograph, sometimes called the Victrola.  Edison’s first goal was to produce a ‘talking machine’ capable of producing sound, not necessarily to reproduce music. The machine could record as well as play back sound.  Edison’s first success was recording his own voice reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  Early recordings were Vaudeville sketches and various monologues. The talking machine was manually run; definitely not electric.

             His early method of recording was on a tin-foil cylinder, later changed to a hollow wax cylinder that proved to be superior to the tin-foil. Recordings were made by speaking, singing or playing music into a horn-shaped or megaphone-like receiver. This method was the standard in the late 19th Century and was used for many years. In the late 1880s, the hollow wax cylinder almost single-handedly brought the sound market into the economic fabric of the nation.

            This invention revolutionized the whole musical and listening experience, from the concert hall or salon to the home. No longer did people have to venture out of their homes. They could listen to music in the comfort of familiar surroundings at a moment’s notice. Obviously, the quality of sound they heard from the phonograph wasn’t what they would have heard from the concert hall.

            Emil Berliner produced a machine called a Gramophone. This was an improvement over earlier machines.

Records

             Disc records were first marketed circa 1889. Hard rubber was used and later shellac-based compounds were the basis of earlier disc records. Early prototypes of the discs proved to be inadequate as they produced poor sound fidelity. They were also brittle and easily broken. Berliner then partnered with Eldridge R. Johnson, a mechanic from Camden, New Jersey.  Johnson’s factory produced the motor and later the entire machine.

            They made substantially better records and improved the sound of the machine. Berliner and Johnson organized a company called the “Victor Talking Machine Company.” This later became RCA Victor, which still exists today. 

            The flat disc record had a spiral grove that received the stylus or needle.

By 1912, ten-inch and twelve-inch records could play more than three or four minutes per side, whereas Edison’s cylinders could only play for about two minutes. Various record speeds were tried and 78 revolutions per minute (RPM) was chosen. By 1925, 78 RPM became a standard speed for records.  In 1930, the ten-inch disc was the most popular size and played about three minutes per side. Diameter size of the record determined how many minutes of music could be recorded.       

            Recording sound was an inexact science in early days. Early recordings were done acoustically, not electronically amplified, of course.  For symphonic and operatic recordings, twelve-inch records were mostly used because they could hold four to five minutes of music.        

            The short limitation of recording space on records lasted for many years. It took many records to record a whole symphony or opera. In the 1920s, inventors were developing a way to record using a microphone rather than using the previous acoustic recording method. The first electronically recorded discs were released around 1925.  This technology was recognized as a major development in the recording industry.

            In 1948 the long playing record (LP) was developed by Columbia records and made its first appearance. It could play up to 30 minutes a side. At about the same time, RCA Victor released the first 45 RPM record—a seven-inch disc with a large center hole.

            The major innovation from the old cylinder to the disc was the speed of the turntable from 78 to 33 & 1/3 or 45 RPM. A slower speed with more grooves on the record made possible around 20 to 30 minutes without interruption of having to change records.

            After World War II, 78 RPM records were gradually phased out and replaced by the longer playing formats. In 1945, 33&1/3 and 45 RPM records took most of the market share.  Eventually 331/3 formats prevailed over the seven-inch 45 RPM format.

            Theoretically, vinyl records have the potential to last for many years, even though they may become easily scratched or warped. They don’t break easily, but they attract dust that can cause pops or noise.

            Record albums came into being to hold records of various sizes. The pages are of thick paper or cardboard sleeves, usually with a hole in the center so the record label can be read without removing the disc. The albums became a great sales tool with artistic pictures, graphics and information about the music and artists on the covers and inside.

            The term high fidelity was actually used as early as the 1920s.  It was generally used to designate better sounding products. Stereophonic sound was developed by Alan Blumlein in 1931. It was an attempt to provide the listening public with a more natural sound as heard in nature.

             Stereophonic sound production was first used in 1957.Virtually all discs issued to 1958 were monaural, meaning “only one sound channel.” Stereophonic sound was accomplished by combining two sound channels in a single recording groove on the record. 

              Compact tape cassettes were developed as early as 1963. Digital recordings and compact discs (CDs) appeared in the early 1980s. By 1991, the CD all but took over the market from vinyl records, but many disc jockeys were still using records and record players.

            Mark Coleman, wrote in his book, Playback: From Victrola to MP3 100 Years of Music Machines and Money, “Before the 20th Century, listening to music was a temporal fleeting experience-and a rare treat.” Thanks to the inventors of the past and modern technology we can have music whenever we want it, with exceptional fidelity and fantastic quality of sound.           

            Unbelievably the record has made a big comeback in the 21st Century, especially by young people who were not even born in the heyday of vinyl records. They are buying record players and records by the thousands. Is this new record rage going to be another “narrow tie, wide tie, short skirt, long skirt” phenomenon?  

Guess I’ll go get my old records out of storage in the garage. Like I said, “What goes around comes around.”

 Join the Danville Community Band as they present their annual concert, “A Day at the Museum,” Sunday, April 2, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.  3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle. Free concert with admission to the Blackhawk Museums.  Free parking. 

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.

 

You’re not a Millennial if;

Wikipedia, not me, defines Millennials (also known as Generation Y, Generation Me, Echo Boomers and Peter Pan Generation) as the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort (they used that word twice) starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early1980s as starting birth years and ending birth years ranging from the late-1990s. This puts the average Millennial in the age range of 20 to 36 years old.  The term was apparently coined in 1987, by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, likely as a way to identify a subculture of soon to be tech savvy, coffee consuming, battery car driving, designer label wearing, EDM festival raging, hair product jellying, no body fat trending, self absorbed narcissists. Don’t get me wrong, I have alot of friends and business associates who identify as Millennials. For gosh sakes, my niece and nephews are the “M” word, but if you want to know the truth, as a whole, Millennials can be really annoying.

Personally, I’m a hybrid of two intersecting generations, the tail end of the Baby Boomers and the beginning of Generation X. “Boomers” described again by the people at Wikipedia, are the demographic group born during the post–World War II baby boom, approximately between the years 1946 and 1962. As a group, Baby Boomers were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to the era in which they arrived, and were amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Whereby, Gen X, are Wiki-defined as children who were raised during a time of shifting societal values and as children were sometimes called the “latchkey generation,” due to reduced adult supervision compared to previous generations, a result of increasing divorce rates and increased maternal participation in the workforce, prior to widespread availability of childcare options outside of the home.

Research describes Gen X adults (1963 – 1982) as active, happy, and as achieving a work-life balance. The cohort has been credited with entrepreneurial tendencies. I’m not saying that both the “Boomers” and “Gen Xers” don’t have their share of losers, but as a whole, our Gen-blend has accomplished some cool stuff. Perhaps you’ve heard of Jon Stewart, Garth Brooks, Paula Abdul, Jerry Rice, Kate Spade, Steve Carell, Bo Jackson, Tom Cruise, John Bon Jovi, MC Hammer, Jodie Foster, Bobcat Goldthwait and Chris Christie.  Like me, all were born in 1962.

Getting back to the Millennial generation, I’ve made a few observations about this demographic and come to the conclusion that;

You’re Not a Millennial if …..

You work in an industry other than tech, international finance, sports entertainment, craft brewing or “growing.”

You aren’t on a first name basis with your barista.

Your coffee order has less than three words.

You’ve ever made a pot of coffee.

Your preferred mode of transportation doesn’t involve a Clipper Card.

You wear glasses because they help you see.

You don’t consider playing X Box participating a sport.

You go home from the club before last call.

You’ve ever washed your own car.

You’ve actually “popped the hood” of a car.

You mow your own lawn.

You have a lawn.

Your definition of being a “Gamer” involves a bowling league.

Your favorite vacation destination involves an RV.

Hydrating your body means something other than upping your “shots” count on  

a Friday night.

Your music collection consists of anything besides obscure European EDM DJs.

Your hope of a new car is something other than an Uber XL Max.

You prefer to be at home as opposed to the office.

You don’t consider your smart phone a physical appendage to your body.

You use your smart phone mostly for phone calls.

You spend more than the three major holidays (Thanksgiving,

Christmas/Hanukah and Easter/Passover) and a few birthdays with your immediate family.

You can easily go to bed without one last look at your inbox.

You don’t suffer withdrawals if you haven’t downloaded anything in more than

a day.

You haven’t taken a Selfie at a wedding, funeral or during a medical procedure.

My father was part of The Greatest Generation (The Greatest Generation is the title of a 1998 book by American journalist Tom Brokaw, which popularized the term “Greatest Generation” to describe those who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II). USN Chief Petty Officer Steven Copeland would roll over in his grave if he saw how millennials seem to lack common everyday life skills because most are so driven to create the next (totally unnecessary) mobile app designed for gamers that will appeal to a VC with aspirations of taking it public, that they’re too busy to learn how to change a tire.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate them Millennial generation for the advancements they will likely bring to our future. It will probably be a Millennial who invents the affordable flying car, recreational time travel and a cure for cancer. It might also be a Millennial who organizes a Friends reunion show featuring the entire cast. If David Schwimmer doesn’t attend, it’s not a full cast!

Each generation in our country has offered something different to our cultural landscape, our American fabric or the structure of our lives. How we define their contributions is immaterial. If the Millennial generation ends up kicking-ass on The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen X, then good for them because as a country we win. That said, I wish they would try to be a little less annoying in the process.

The Art of Beauty

Our Beauty Staff Writer, Theresa Taylor-Grutzeck has been writing for Alive Magazine for over 10 years, while running The Rouge Cosmetics, a beauty business in downtown Danville on Prospect Avenue. Every month, we look forward to her impressive articles that share her extensive expertise in the beauty industry with our readers. She has helped thousands of women with make-up and skin care, guiding them in the right direction with the precise colors in cosmetics and advice on how to maintain and improve skin health.

Theresa’s professional expertise in make-up qualifies her to be an expert in the art of beauty. She has dedicated her career to helping women achieve their beauty goals through healthy choices with over 25 years of education, knowledge and experience.   She says, “In today’s beauty movement, ‘less make-up is more,’ while using correct colors can help you look years younger—and more youthful than ever.” 

She loves the Fleur Visage Cosmetic line she carries, because she says, “it is so versatile and natural with all the on-trend styles and great classics.” Fleur Visage Cosmetics updates their line four times a year, allowing customers to experience fresh new looks and stay on trend with the changing fashions. With their vitamin E based lipsticks, natural ingredients, and the custom foundations they have available, she is able to give her customers a network of safe products that their skin will love for years to come. 

The Rouge Cosmetics she carries only the finest skincare products available today. With all the confusion in skin care products on the market today—knowing what works to reduce anti-aging and what doesn’t—she “keeps it real” by choosing Ongrien Advanced Skin Care. Ongrien is a line that is all nutrient-based. They use pure antioxidants to improve the health and appearance of skin and to reverse and reduce the signs of aging.

Theresa says, “Ongrien Technologies uses only pharmaceutical grade ingredients at optimal concentrations with proven scientific results.”  She constantly researches skin care products and updates her own inventory of Ongrien Skin Care products. (Orgrien is one of the only leading skin care products lines that provides scientific evidence to support their product benefit in the industry.)

 To keep her ahead of the curve she recently brought in an all organic facial masque collection infused with pharmaceuticals by Ongrien, including a highly nutritive exfoliator, Marine Peel and a Sea Kelp Masque for all skin types, to name a few.

While Theresa and her staff are busy doing make-up lessons, events, updates and skin care consultations, they are also experts in eyebrow shaping; they take great pride in shaping women’s eyebrows “to perfection.” Looking at the shape of each face, they design the brows to perfectly frame each client’s look to be best it can be. More than a technical procedure, it’s an art that Theresa and her staff take very seriously. Theresa says, “Doing brows is like a work of art. Everyone’s brows are different and you cannot put them all in the same form and shape. Each client we work with requires very precise attention.”  

 Theresa is well known for creating beautiful, natural, everyday “real-on-trend” looks by using precise color combinations to enhance the features of each woman. It’s an art that is hard to find in the make-up industry today, but is the only way to achieve true beauty.  Her dedication to beauty and in helping women through her beauty boutique is exactly where she wants to be. She enjoys the challenges of a woman in business and the constant changes in the beauty industry and in fashion. The entire staff at The Rouge Cosmetics are highly trained professionals in the “art of beauty.”

Every day, Theresa and her staff find more ways to improve their art and give their customers valuable information, trusted advice, and the finest in cosmetics and skin care.       

 

Yummy!: Memorable Meals

Most of us experience meals that are especially memorable from time to time.  Sometimes the food tastes or is presented so wonderfully that we remember those factors, perhaps even forgetting the occasion. Then there are the times when “yummy” was not enough, but something special happened or a celebrity or famous person appeared or was nearby.  Perhaps a simple meal changed into a memorable one simply because of the circumstances.  Here are a few “Memorable Meals” that have brightened and highlighted my life and remain important in my memory.

When I was a small child in the 1930s living in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, I saw little of my father during the week. The Great Depression brought hard times to virtually everyone, and my father was fortunate to have a job that put bread on the table for his wife and bratty little kid (me), paid the rent, and kept the wolf from the door.  He arose at 5:00 AM and was out of the house by five-thirty six days a week.  He did not return home until sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 PM daily.  But HE HAD A JOB; many others did not.

He would load his delivery truck with packaged cakes and pies, drive into the anthracite regions of Central Pennsylvania, and service “Momma and Poppa” grocery stores in towns like Shamokin, Mount Carmel, Shenandoah, and Paxinus.  (I am not certain of the spelling of the latter, but to this day I remember the small bridge leading into and out of the town that frightened me every time we crossed it.  Bridges do not usually bother me, but just thinking about that one bridge still gets me queasy some seventy-five years later.)

When I matured to the ripe old age of eight or nine, on summer days with school out, my father would wake me at five. I got dressed and ready, and got to watch him shave.  Then we headed out to a small diner on Fourth Street where we always had the same breakfast: ham and eggs with toast, coffee for him, and milk for me. After breakfast we, really he, loaded the truck then drove out for the small towns and little stores.  (Super markets did not exist yet, at least not in that area.) I helped him carry the cakes and pies into the stores where the proprietors would make a big fuss about “Cohen’s kid.”  Then they plied me with candy, pretzels, and soft drinks in every store.  I was a “man” helping Dad and working.  I believe I slept most of the time while Dad drove, but I was as happy as any kid on the planet. (To this day, just thinking about those special breakfasts puts a smile on my now old, wrinkled face. Often when something bothers me or some family crisis hangs over us, I manage to get to an old fashioned diner and order, you guessed it, ham and eggs. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner? It does not matter, although I do not recall ordering it more than once in any day. Ham and eggs remains my number one comfort food, only with English muffins and iced tea instead of milk.)

In April of 1950 I was nineteen years old and a student in junior, now “community,” college. A buddy of mine from high school had joined the Marine Corps Reserves and played on their baseball team.  While we were playing catch and hitting fungoes to one another, he told me that the Reserves had a good team, but lacked a first baseman. I played first quite well defensively and hit all right, at best.  He told me that if I joined the Corps, I would have to march around once a month, get $10, and could play first base on their team. I agreed to sign up on a Saturday morning that April.

For the life of me I cannot remember what the occasion was or why I had to go, but that Saturday there was some sort of brunch at my college and I had to attend. I, therefore, did not enlist in the Marine Corps Reserves in order to play baseball. The fateful day was in April 1950, in June the Korean “Police Action” broke out, my buddy and his group were called up to active duty immediately. By August they had suffered 50% casualties. (I do not remember the occasion, the food, or anything else about that brunch, but I thank my lucky stars for that MEMORABLE MEAL.)

In August 2016 my wife Shirley and I celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary.  In addition to a brunch for family and close friends, we treated ourselves to an Alaskan cruise. We had taken the Alaska cruise before, so sightseeing was not our primary motivation.  We had had a relatively difficult year and wanted to be pampered. Someone else would prepare meals, clean up after them, make the beds, and generally take care of the little daily, household chores we wanted to leave behind for ten days. 

For those not familiar with cruising, meals are quite sumptuous, well prepared, usually delicious and plentiful, plentiful, plentiful. Those so inclined can easily enjoy three to six fine, large meals every day as part of the basic fee for the “room and board” on the ship. Most ships also have specialty restaurants where, for an additional charge, one can be served ethnic foods in large portions and delightfully presented. Shirley and I had never bothered with any of the specialty restaurants in our many cruises.

When we arrived at our stateroom as we boarded the ship, we found an envelope outside the room with an invitation to enjoy a special dining experience at the Steak and Seafood specialty restaurant. It was, indeed, special!  The courses and portions could have fed us for two or even three dinners, although we managed to pack away most of it.  The preparation and presentation of the various courses were just delightful.  The taste, or rather, “tastes”? Tres Bien!  Molto Bene!  Delicioso!  In other words: a heck of lot better than our usual fare. It capped our two week celebration of our fiftieth in fine style.  (Thank you, Princess Cruises, for a delicious, memorable meal that greatly added to our already memorable celebration.)

 About ten years ago Shirley and I visited Venice, Italy, for four days.  It was our first, but not last, time in Venice.  We were on a three week Grand Circle tour that included Rome, a week in Sorrento, a week in Montecatini near Florence, and an optional four days in Venice.  Our hotel was an ancient convent that had been renovated, modernized, and made comfortable and inviting. Venice consists of many islands and we stayed on Lido Island.

We decided to take a sightseeing walk around some of the island and search for a place for lunch. We found a place in Italy that served a wonderful American food: PIZZA.  Although Shirley eats chicken, fish, and some beef, she could easily become a vegetarian.  To me, pizza is Hawaiian—ham and pineapple, period.  The restaurant did not have individual sized pizzas (pizzi?), so I asked if we could have one half veggie and half ham and pineapple. One would think I had asked to desecrate the Italian flag or vandalize a church. All the server said was a resounding, “NO!”  Slowly, in English with my newly acquired ten words of Italian, I tried to explain that it can be done and how it is done, using, of course, many gestures.  The server relented enough to say he would ask the boss, his attitude indicating that there was no way for it to happen.  A few minutes later he came back with a puzzled expression and hesitantly said, “Okay.”  We got our half and half pizza.

The pizza was good, not great.  There some places here in the East Bay that, in our opinion, are as good or better, but it was tasty and palatable. (We remember that lunch fondly, however, because we felt that we had changed the course of Italian culinary history.)

When I was about fifteen or sixteen, my family lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  People were just settling into life that did not center on war and the wartime economy that predominated during World War II.  Radio was our primary, indeed only, means of immediate communication with television a few years off in the distance. When I could, I enjoyed listening to Arthur Godfrey over the AM, simple, scratchy quality radios available then.

One day on his show, Godfrey told the story of Ginsberg, a Jewish tailor from the Bronx who had no wife or family and was ready to retire. He decided to give himself a retirement present of cruising back to Europe and visiting the graves of his parents. The first day on ship he was seated with a Frenchman who also was alone. At dinner the Frenchman arrived first, sat at the table, and greeted Ginsberg with “Bon appetite!” as Mr. Ginsberg sat down. Speaking no French, he simply replied “Ginsberg.”  The situation repeated itself at every meal until a steward overheard the two men unable to communicate in a common language. The steward took Mr. Ginsberg aside and explained that Mr. LeBlanc was saying, in essence, that he should have a good satisfying meal, which embarrassed the retired tailor. At the next meal he made a point of arriving first and when the Frenchman sat down, he proudly said, “Bon Appetite!”  To which the Frenchman replied, “Ginsberg.”

When Shirley and I got married, I told her the story and it became a family joke.  (Recently in the dentist’s office, I spotted a copy of the magazine “Bon Appetite,” and said to Shirley, “Look, there’s Ginsberg magazine.”  The receptionist who overheard had a puzzled expression on her face which seemed to ask, “A magazine named Ginsberg?”)   

About twenty years ago when we still lived in Daly City on the Peninsula,  early one morning we got up, drove to the airport, flew to Vancouver, Canada, rented a car, and headed for Banff National Park. By about three-thirty in the afternoon we had not had lunch and both of us were exhausted and famished.  We found a rustic, upscale restaurant high in the Canadian Rockies where we each ordered a salad. It seemed to take forever to prepare the salad, and we both were losing patience when the server finally appeared.

He placed our meals before us and, with a touch of attitude, said, “Bon Appetite!”  Simultaneously we both blurted out, “Ginsberg,” and both of us started laughing hysterically with tears streaming down our faces. The poor server could not understand, asked if something were wrong, and lost his “tude.”  We tried to explain between the laughter and the tears, but we were not too successful.  The memory of that meal was worth every penny of the extra tip I left the bewildered young server.

So to you, dear Reader, when you sit down to dinner tonight, we wish you “Bon Appetite!”  You know the response!

2017 Volvo S90: A Lesson in Elegance!

Around 25 years ago, my parents gave me their old Volvo 240. At the time, my daughter, Cayla, was born and we needed to replace one of our coupes with a four door sedan. I can’t say much about the 240’s shape – it was rectangle and boxy, but, it drove well, was considered one of the safest cars in its price range, and was reliable. With a new baby on board, safety was the ticket. Well, the years have passed way too quickly. My daughter is now 27-years old and Volvo today produces vehicles that continue to be leaders in safety. They are still reliable, and drive well. The biggest difference is that the styling is outstanding and the all-new 2017 Volvo S90 is proof that safe vehicles can also be beautiful!

The 2017 Volvo S90 sedan replaces the outgoing S80 in the Swedish-made product line; however, this isn’t a simple upgrade or minor change with a new name. This is a start-from-scratch; a fully re-engineered effort that delivers what I would consider to be the best Volvo ever. The S90 is the fully-reconceived flagship sedan that is built on a new platform launched last year on the XC90 crossover. It includes a new engine, a beautiful new design concept and not a single carry-over part from its previous model.

Under the permission of its new owners, China’s Geely Holding, Volvo has been allowed to completely rethink and redesign its largest sedan as well as its company’s overall design theme. Instead of chasing after the German sport sedans specification list, Volvo was encouraged to express itself by conceiving an elegant design, spacious and beautifully crafted interior, and a driving and performance experience that is second to none.

The 2017 Volvo S90 is produced in Sweden and available in four configurations: T5 Momentum ($46,950), T5 Inscription ($49,650), T6 AWD Momentum ($52,950), T6 AWD Inscription ($55,450). The T5 models are equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged generating 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The upgraded T6 2.0-liter 4-cylinder adds a belt-driven supercharger to pump more forced air into the turbo stream. This increases the horsepower to 316 and the torque to 295 lb.-ft. My test car was the S90 T6 AWD Inscription and I can tell you, it performs like a rocket.

The exterior is carved with the smooth outline of a coupe and elegance is infused into the curves and swoops of its shiny steel skin. The profile boasts bold and luxurious authority as it stands tall on its 19-inch wheels. The T-shaped headlights are themed as Thor’s Hammer and are laid in concert with the classically long Volvo hood, uniquely- shaped side glass and the scalloped grille. Sensors and cameras are place on all four poles creating a 360-degree aerial view when the transmission is requested to backup. I must admit, I have driven other cars that have this 360-degree view option and the Volvos for some reason take the items parallel to it (cars, bushes, etc.) and stretches them with giant height proportions which created an uneasy sensation when backing up.

The interior is truly worthy of praise. With plenty of room for four adult passengers and a smaller rider (in the center of the back seat), all will enjoy the blending of a living room couch, while having form-hugging seats that will keep you in place during the curviest of roads. Beautiful wood trim is decorated throughout the cabin. Every element of the interior is designed as a work-of-art, from the shifter to the speaker covers. The nine-inch center screen works in part like a tablet as you swipe from page to page to engage your adjustments. I am a guy who enjoys gadgets, but, I must admit, the screen replaced most of the typical control buttons, and attempting to drive and swipe at the same time was very distracting. I would prefer to have buttons which I can quickly access for the common functions.

The T6 trims are engineered with air suspension delivering a comfortable smooth ride or as Volvo coins it “a relaxed confidence.” The suspension loads up evenly and unloads out of a corner with the grace of a ballerina. Passengers will be pleased as there isn’t much bobbing or bouncing over imperfections in the road and the ride is extremely quiet, thanks to its active noise cancellation technology.

Cool Features:

  • Volvo’s Pilot Assist
  • 360 Aerial View in Reverse
  • Rear seats temperature control and heated seats

As we know, Volvo is known for being a leader in vehicle safety and the 2017 Volvo S90 is bursting at the seams with safety features. The S90 will be the first automobile with semi-autonomous driving technology standard across the line. The Pilot Assist system blends active cruise control with forward collision warning and lane-keep assist. This system lets the driver remove his or her hands from the steering wheel sporadically, for up to 15 seconds each time. Blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert systems are optional. There is also a Large Animal Detection system that tracks the movement of creatures like moose and deer, warning the driver, as it takes evasive action as necessary.

In Summary –The 2017 Volvo S90 is comparable to German sedans in comfort, performance and safety, but, at a much better price. It’s better-equipped than many luxury sedans and is loaded with technical features. The styling of the S90 hits the mark and creates a new standard for Volvo. The S90 is a beautiful and luxurious vehicle both inside and out.

Specifications

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription

 

Base price:                  $52,950as driven: $66,105 (including destination & optional
                                    features)

Engine:                       2.0-liter 4-cylinder Super and Turbo charged engine

Horsepower:               316 @ 5,700 RPM

Torque:                       295 @ 2,200 RPM

Transmission             8-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          AWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle            36.7 feet

Cargo space:              13.5 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4222 pounds

Fuel capacity:             15.9 gallons     

EPA mileage:             City 22/Hwy 31

Wheel Base:                115.8 inches

Warranty:                   4 years/50,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            Cadillac CT6, Lexus GS, Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class

 

A Departure from Tradition

This is the month when everyone is Irish…if not in fact, at least in spirit. That alone is cause for celebration, but March also marks the arrival of some of spring’s sweetest crops at the farmers’ market.

While shopping, don’t limit your purchases to spuds and cabbage needed for the traditional American-style St. Patrick’s Day meal. Also treat yourself to a bunch or two of freshly-dug beets; a few baskets of early strawberries; and plenty o’ green: squeaky-fresh artichokes; sweet locally-grown asparagus; tender baby lettuces; plump fava beans; and peas of all persuasions. It’s going to be a good week.

You may also want to re-think the corned beef and cabbage thing. Maybe this is the year you want to simply to nibble something good in front of the television as you watch The Quiet Man. Enter: Irish Nachos.

This hearty dish includes all of St. Patrick’s favorites, piled high onto a bed of warm, crispy potatoes.What’s not to like? Instead of opening a few cans, as one often does for classic nachos, this one is brimming with fresh ingredients, all in the colors of the Irish flag. Think of it as a deconstructed baked potato with a hint of the Emerald Isle. Serve with small plates and forks for a casual supper, or as a super-snack for sports fans.

This crazy fusion is a crowd-pleaser; and all the elements can be prepared ahead, and are easily multiplied as needed.There’s no point in offering an actual recipe here, as you are the master of your nacho destiny. Add as little or as much of the ingredients as you like. Here is the architectural blueprint for making your masterpiece, along with a couple of helpful recipes.

How to Assemble Irish Nachos

  1. Make a batch of Crispy Smashed Potatoes (recipe follows). If you will be serving soon, do not turn off the oven. Transfer the potatoes, along with any crispy potato bits, into a shallow baking dish and topwith a generous handful of cheese.

As far as the choice of cheese, your options are wide open. You can get fancy with crumbled soft goat cheese, but a robust, Irish cheddar or a bit of farmhouse blue are other good choices. If you would rather stick to the basics, use shredded Monterey jack or another favorite, cheddar.

  1. If desired, top with your choice of meat and another handful of cheese. Place in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese has softened or melted (as you prefer) and the potatoes are heated through.

Any protein will do here, but coarsely chopped cooked bacon or pancetta; crumbled cooked sausage; or bite-size shreds of corned beef all work well.

  1. Top the warm potato mixture with a mound of very thinly sliced green cabbage or a shower of baby arugula leaves, and drizzle with Herbed Sour Cream (recipe follows). Place the remaining Herbed Cream in a small serving bowl.
  1. Scatter 2 or 3 thinly-sliced green onions and 1 shredded carrot over the top. Serve at once with a couple of large spoons, so guests can serve themselves. Pass the reserved Herbed Sour Cream on the side. Serves 4 to 6. Maybe.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

12 Yukon Gold or red creamer potatoes, each about 1 1/2-inches in diameter

Coarse (kosher) salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons California olive oil

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover, and about 1 tablespoon of coarse salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat; then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes. (This part can be done hours in advance, so all you need to do is roast the potatoes just before serving.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  1. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the oil, turning to coat.Arrange the potatoes in a single layer. Using a potato masher or a large fork, smash each potato until it’s about 1/2-inch thick. (Don’t aim for perfection here. You want plenty of nooks & crannies, with bits of potato spilling out.) Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes, turning once, until nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

 

Herbed Sour Cream

1 1/2 cups sour cream or plain yogurt

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, basil, cilantro, or tarragon

1teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

  1. In a bowl, combine the sour cream, parsley, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne. Stir until well mixed.
  1. Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Other options to consider

  • Check your produce drawer! Veggies like diced bell pepper, blanched fresh peas, or bite-size broccoli florets add healthy crunch and more green!
  • Guacamole aficionados always appreciate another dose of their favorite green; or a drizzle of tomatillo salsa for a touch of heat.
  • I always think 1 or 2 sliced jalapeno chile peppers are always a good idea. No, they’re not the least bit Irish, but the color works—and I love the added zing.
  • Still yearning for beans in your nachos? Try shelled fava beans or edamame.
  • Not feeling that layer of meat? Omit the meat and cheese altogether and, just before serving, scatter thin slices of smoked salmon or trout over the top.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & 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.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!

 

Seed Germinating Time

Q. I saved the seeds from last year’s tomatoes and pepper plants. When would it be a good time to start the seeds, so I can transplant them into the garden in May?

A. When germinating flower or vegetable seeds, I’d allow six to eight weeks between sowing the seed and planting in the open ground. Hence, I’d be sowing the seed in early March. However, if these were hybrid varieties, it’s not worth the effort and you’ll be disappointed. You only want to save and replant open-pollinated varieties. The seeds saved from hybrid flowers and vegetables varieties are unpredictable. The chances they are duplicates from last year’s varieties is not very good. It’s all about genetics, so I’d start with new plants. If not, the first thing to do is check to see if the seed is viable. Viable seed means it is capable of germinating. This is easily accomplished by pouring the seed into a glass of water or a larger receptacle. You discard the seed that floats on the surface and plant those that sink. The viable seed is dried out by spreading it over a paper towel and covering it with a second sheet. Next, sow the seed into a flat of pre-moistened potting soil, moist like a wrung-out sponge. With a pen or pencil, you make furrows in the soil, sowing the seeds in the rows and then cover the seeds. The flat is then covered with plastic to trap the moisture and heat. Once the seedlings start to emerge from the soil, remove the sheeting and place the flat in an area that gets morning sun. The seedlings are transferred to individual pots when they get two sets of true leaves. Some gardeners prefer to sow seed directly into individual pots and there is nothing wrong with that. But, I prefer the other method as it allows me to select and grow the most vigorous seedlings.

Note: May is an excellent time to plant vegetables, especially tomatoes and peppers. It’s not unusual for summer vegetables to struggle with cool and damp weather in March and April. So, there is a real advantage by waiting until May to plant.

Q. Last year, I planted cucumbers and was disappointed. They had a bitter, odd taste to them. A neighbor suggested that they were being pollinated by the squash plants growing near them? Will moving the squash to a different location solve this problem?

A. The problem will not be fixed by relocating the squash plants. Squash and cucumbers can’t cross pollinate as the genetic structure of the two plants are very different. Only members of the same species can interbreed. Squash will cross pollinate with other squashes, melons and pumpkins. This brings us to the next fallacy of this old-wives tale. If the two plants could cross breed, would it affect the current year’s fruits? The answer to this is also,” no.” When two plants cross pollinate, the results are unknown until the following year when you grow the saved, seed. Now this is a mute point if you plant new plants each year. Thus, cucumbers, squashes, melons and pumpkins can grow a side by side with no problems.                                                                  

The bitterness in cucumbers is due to a naturally occurring compound called cucurbitin. All cucumber plants contain varying amounts of this compound that is triggered by environmental stress. Environmental stress comes from high temperatures, heavy soil that is too wet, dry, and/or drains poorly, low fertility, insects and foliage diseases. Many times it is a combination of many of these factors. However in the Bay Area, I believe that uneven or irregular watering contributes to the problem. This is particularly a problem when the growing season has below-normal temperatures in the spring, coupled with rapid changes in temperatures from mild to hot during the summer months. This is what we saw last year as April was beautiful, May was below normal and then we hit triple digits on June sixth.  We then had triple digit heat spells in July, August and September. Bay Area gardeners tend to water with the same frequency regardless of the temperature. Yes, we water more when it’s hot but never less when the temperatures go below normal. The other factor is the soil preparation. Overall, it’s pretty minimal for our adobe, clay soil. Soil amendments must be added yearly in the spring to replenish what was lost last year. In addition, mulching is encouraged in vegetable gardens to even out the moisture and insulate the surface roots from the sun. Also, overly mature or improperly stored cucumbers may also develop a mild bitterness; however, it’s often not severe.

Note: The cucurbitin is often concentrated at the stem end of the vegetable and in the light green layer under the skin of the cucumber. You can limit the bitterness by peeling cucumbers from the blossom end toward the stem end and cutting off the last inch. It is best to rinse your peeling knife after each slice so as not to spread the bitter taste.

Beauty News: 10 Facts About Anti-Aging

There is a lot of confusion about anti-aging products today. To maintain and improve skin health you need an effective skincare regimen that must include antioxidants and nutrients to prevent future damage, protect the health of the skin, and correct existing damage.  

  1. Effective skin care that protects, prevents and corrects, starts with antioxidant nutrients including, DMAE, Lipoic Acid, Ester C, Coenzymes and Neuropeptides. These powerful antioxidants have been proven by medical science to reverse and prevent aging.
  2. Aroma Therapy, plant extracts and organic oils do not have nutrients to correct or repair the skins surface, therefore they cannot effectively restore or even improve the skins cellular function. While they smell nice, most people are allergic to highly based plant extract products, causing inflammation.
  3. Innovation and antioxidants is key to reversing the signs of aging. Cosmeceutical skin care lines continue to lead the industry with products that provide scientific evidence to support their benefits.
  4. Using Retin A is a good product as long as you use it in small doses. The skin already thins as you age. Using products to reduce wrinkles by deep exfoliation, will not only damage the surface, it will thin the skin causing the skin to age faster, thus forming fine lines.
  5. You need to build the surface of the skin with vitamins and nutrients to protect it from thinning and forming wrinkles. Highly effective antioxidants and nutrients, especially DMAE, will thicken the skin’s surface, protecting it from sagging and losing elasticity. DMAE firms, lifts, repairs, and improves the skin with extraordinary benefits.
  6. Ester C is a superior antioxidant. When combined with nutrients it neutralizes environmental assaults that can cause fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, and serious skin conditions such as skin cancer.
  7. Using an exfoliant every day will not only improve and thicken the surface of the skin, it will allow the skin to function properly avoiding moisture loss and dry skin. I cannot stress enough how important it is to exfoliate every day. Your moisturizers and serums will work much more effectively and they will be able to penetrate into the skin, improving the surface and providing outstanding results in correcting and rejuvenating dry, premature-aging and damaged skin. 
  8. Lipoic Acid is 400 times stronger than Vitamin C and is supreme in anti-aging. This powerful antioxidant has exceptional benefits including, repairing and smoothing the surface of the skin. While Ester C is beneficial, taken together with Lipoic Acid will assist in repairing cellular degeneration and support healthy collagen rejuvenation and elasticity. 
  9. Cleansing and toning the skin twice a day not only allows the surface to rejuvenate, it lifts impurities and oils caught in pores. If you don’t cleanse the skin twice a day it can’t breathe or function properly and will break down, causing wrinkles to form. Do not use harsh soaps or drying products on the skin; use gentle foaming agents or gels for deep pore cleansing and always follow with a toner to balance pH levels.
  10. Last but not least, using a light combination of antioxidants in a serum-to-gel eye cream that contains anti-puff ingredients is essential to anti-aging and beautiful eyes. A good eye cream will protect the delicate eye area from oxidative stress, and revive under-eye skin and reduce the appearance of puffiness. Eyes that are constantly puffy age faster and look years older because of the constant swelling and receding.

The Rouge Cosmetics provides skin care consultations Tuesday through Saturday to help you with your very own customized skin care program. Invest in your future now with superior antioxidants and healthy nutrition in your skin care regimen. Aging is optional with the new standard of technology in skin care today.