Controlling your Destiny

“Honey, the TV’s not working again! Can you come fix it please?”

If you have an entertainment system, chances are you’ve heard some variation of this question more times than you can count. Every new device that you add brings another remote with dozens of tiny, hard to read buttons. Have you ever gathered the family together to watch a movie, and then spent 15 minutes just trying to get it to play?

With the right universal remote, these issues can become a thing of the past. A custom programmable remote allows you to perform complicated functions with the press of a button. A single ‘ON’ button can power up your entire system. Watching a DVD is as simple as pressing the button that says, ‘DVD.’ No more juggling multiple remotes, no more headaches, and no more frustration.

When choosing a universal remote it is important to remember that all remotes are not created equal. A poorly programmed remote creates more problems than it solves. Consulting a professional installer when making your choice ensures that not only will you enjoy a high quality remote, but also a level of support that’s just not possible with an entry level, do-it-yourself unit from a big-box store. Having professional support available when you need it can make the difference between having an enjoyable evening and wanting to throw your TV out the window!

With the right remote setup it becomes possible to locate your equipment virtually anywhere. Moving unsightly equipment into a cabinet or closet can enhance the appearance of any room, without sacrificing ease of use. In addition to controlling all of your audio and video gear with one easy to use remote, it’s also possible to control lighting and window coverings using the same one-button remote. The possibilities are endless.

In this life there are all kinds of things out of our control. The TV should not be one of them. Take control of your remote, relax, and enjoy the show!

Steve Moore is Project Manager with Karbon Consulting located in Pleasant Hill, California. He can be reached at

Local Tea Party Movement Rumbles on the Faultline

Local Tea Party Movement Rumbles on the FaultlineAmerican history tell us that this is a country of patriotic folk heroes, pioneering entrepreneurs and political activists since the colonists first sent a loud and clear message about how they were being misgoverned. Today, constituents who get involved about their frustration with Washington politics in governance have earned an unlikely sobriquet of Tea Partiers, or the contemptuous name of Tea Baggers by their detractors. Whatever we take from the series of national Tea Party Movement events—it is making a difference, as hundreds of thousands attend national events, even though their ideas or ideals may either coincide or collide about the present overspending on social programs, drastic changes in national and international government policies, or the discourse of too rapid-racing laissez-faire and ever-shifting political trends. The “taxed enough already” Tea Party movement was born as an anti-tax and Bush TARP bailout bill protest in October of ’08 and the Obama ARRA Stimulus bill .

The Tea Party movement, rumbling on the national fault line, emerged to symbolize citizens’ outrage about out-of-control government spending, which could lead to the bankruptcy of the greatest country in the world, built on the raw guts and tenacious endeavor of dynamic people, and that good old standby that gets us through the untamed wilderness of risk-taking—individual freedom and capitalism. What can apolitical observers take from the movement, if not, a perspective that citizens have taken robust action to show their outrage and frustration that their voices of patriotic dissent are not heard?

As we navigate the political landscape, we see a trend that active Americans—“We the People” –have molded this nation leaving imprints on policy-making and leaving enduring legacies enriched by vigorous contributions. The results of recent mid-term elections have proven that Americans want better pro-taxpayer representation and politicians who understand the power of their constituents’ influence at the ballot box—and those fence-straddling lawmakers who ignore them may be thrown out of office in November. The historical baggage of out-of-control spending, earmarks, deficits, Federal government debt and unfunded liabilities (related to bankrupt entitlement programs) have driven a lack of confidence in government. Simply stated, Americans are tired of the empty promises and Washington double-talk and are terrified of the mounting debt (approximately $13 trillion) and unfunded liabilities (estimated in excess of $100 trillion).

We must never forget the primary theme running through the nation’s founding: freedom, which included inalienable individual rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, protections from unwarranted search and seizure, the right to bear arms, the right to a speedy trial and individual property rights. The framework of our government was intentionally limited for the benefit of every single individual versus the state. The Constitution outlined what the government could not do to individuals while providing checks and balances intended to ensure limited citizen government for the benefit of a nation of individuals—the likes of which had never been known. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are not living breathing documents designed for the State. They are blueprints intended to protect every single citizen from centralized government command and control.

America was built with the help of its natural resources and the resourcefulness of its citizens. The Tea Party Movement is a riveting story of grass roots non-partisan like-minded freedom-loving individuals exercising their rights to protest against failed government. Tea Partiers simple believe that representatives should represent citizens, the reason for voting for them in the first place— while fighting for individual freedom, limited government, limited regulation, limited taxes, limited spending, limited debt and defense of our borders.

I attended the Alameda County Fairground Pleasanton Tea Party in April to get a first-hand account of the phenomenon of people of all party affiliations coming together to voice their concerns for the over-spending and dismantling of the constitution by subtle modifications not intended by the constitution framers. The local Tea Party event, spearheaded by Dr Bridget Melson in 2009, states she is “a lobbyist for the people and that the TPM should maintain a level of integrity.” The event attracted over 10,000—estimated by the city of Pleasanton’s Police Department—the media under reporting attendance as 3,000 to 5,000, taking early morning set-up numbers, rather than the actual attendance.

The movement evolved, supposedly from a concerned citizen’s blog that has mushroomed into a national phenomenon translating from the historical dissent of overtaxed colonists. As we remember from history; in 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act by retaining tax on tea in the American colonies and hand selecting the Loyalist tea consignees. Over one thousand people calling themselves “The Body of the People” gathered at a Faneuil Hall meeting to protest for their rights and question the integrity of the decision, already tax-stressed by the 1764 Sugar Tax Act and the Stamp Act forcing tax on newspapers and legal documents. When the tea ship ‘The Dartmouth’ sailed into Boston harbor, and off-loading the crates was forbidden until all taxes were paid. A decision was made to return the unloaded ship to England, however, Customs Agents declined clearance to leave harbor. About six thousand protesters gathered, leading to 342 chests of tea to be dumped into the harbor. The following year, George III punished protesters with the Boston Port Bill, closing all ocean traffic and placing the town under martial law. When British soldiers destroyed a Concord weapons’ depot, the Battle of Lexington resulted, entering the Boston Tea Party into the annals of American history—becoming a symbolic event of freedom from government manacles and peaceful protest.

The present Tea Party Movement retells the discourse between irresponsible government and the all-party constituents—gathering to protest peacefully the machinations of over-spending, over-taxing and over-reaching fiscal limits—thus taxing the future generations who are not even born yet.

News of the Tea Party protests, in nearly all the fifty states and Washington D.C. is sure to send a very loud and clear message to our chosen legislators to take a long hard look at what the people really want. “Read our lips; no more taxes, no more spending, no more government programs, smaller government”—and listen to the November voters—they are sending very loud messages to Washington.

Life With A Dog

Life with a DogIf you have a pet, especially if you are a dog owner, you can skip this article right now and move on to something else, because you get it already. What I am about to say is nothing new and not surprising, since you are already privy to what millions know.

But if you have somehow continued to this second paragraph, you will also know that as I realized what was happening to me, I knew that I had to tell someone. So I guess you are it.
Bonnie, is a semi-pure Border Collie. I say semi-pure because the rancher who we got her as a puppy from, pointed half-confidently to several dogs running about the open field, saying, “He’s the daddy, er… no…wait he’s the daddy, er… no, wait… maybe he’s the daddy…”

Experts will tell you that as your first dog, Border-Collies are a handful. I will however, tell you that the experts are dead wrong. Border-Collies are much, much more than handful! You will question your decision to own one, many times. As puppies, they tend to be the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, but as they grow into teenagers and test your fast-thinning patience, you will wish you had gotten an easier dog—a less, shall we say, “questioning your authority” dog.

At the low point in the training of a Border Collie puppy (and there will be many), you will suddenly realize and ask yourself this very profound question, “Exactly who, is training whom?”

What I have learned

Food is the by far the universal language of negotiation. It can be used to reward, thank, ask, demand, coax, punish, and promise. Food should actually be a part of every international foreign policy negotiation. I doubt that you could ever bomb someone, after you have just enjoyed a meal together.

Dogs are part of a sleeper “sofa cell conspiracy” by the furniture industry, because after you get a dog, you quickly realize that you need to plan on getting new furniture one day soon! You will find teeth imprints, evidence of gnawing in the finest wood tables, chairs and cabinetry, and rips and tears in your cherished upholstery, on an almost daily basis. Constant vigilance and training eventually gets this to stop, which is when you will decide to go shopping. Coincidence? Me thinks not.

Walking a dog is healthy! I lost 20 pounds in the first eight weeks after we got Bonnie, and have kept if off for almost seven months. I did not miss food, I simply was able to burn off the calories during the two walks per day that pretty much any dog needs. The strengthening of your back, arms, and legs from the walks pretty much takes away any aches and pains as well. And you will find that you sleep much better than before too. So, I will absolutely guarantee the 20 pounds in eight weeks to anyone.

Walking a dog is therapeutic! You might start the walk thinking of ways to kill certain people in your life, or begin it with any amount of negativity you might be carrying around. But by the end of the walk, you are euphorically serene, fully oxygenated, and have all but forgotten any negative thoughts.

The reason for this is, possibly, by being focused on your dog, and making sure you take them through the many behavior and trick training exercises, and that they walk next you properly, and so on, your brain is able to let go of one set of problems by your focusing on the dog. Kind of like Lamaze. Do not be surprised though, if, as your contemplation starts to show on your face, your dog catches you sometimes even crying a bit on the walk. And do not be surprised if they give you that, “What’s wrong dear?” look you will no doubt need at that moment.

A dog makes you a more cordial person. I am constantly surprised by how much more I smile and say, “Hello” to people I pass when walking Bonnie, and how nicely people react and say “Hi” and smile back. Often, we even stop and chat! Of course, it’s about the dog, but to engage with perfect strangers in a simple cordial manner like this is unheard of—even in the suburbs. Heck, especially in the suburbs! And don’t get me started on the conviviality of fellow dog owners. It’s a regular “high school reunion.”

So, a dog can literally and metaphorically save your life. Sure we’ve seen and heard all about the amazing rescue stories of dogs pulling children from house fires and so on, but the seemingly real emotional connection a dog provides you, borders on (dare I say it) the holy. Certainly it is profound. Who are these creatures that hang on your every look, step, or gesture? Do they know what you are thinking and are they sentient? Is it all really just about the food?

You will ask yourself these and many more universe shattering questions as you scratch behind your dog’s ears, pat them on the head and find yourself endlessly stroking them like some lost blanket. For this moment at least, you and your dog are at peace!

Dog (and owner) etiquette:

Never automatically assume that the other dog owner is comfortable with stopping and letting your dog say “Hi” and start sniffing and playing with their dog. Always ask if it is OK. Some dogs are a bit aggressive or shy and not as friendly, so always ask. Also, know your dog. She might not be interested as much as you think.

Clean up! There is nothing worse than trying to walk through a minefield left for you by an un-courteous dog owner. The process is really easy and not any more than you did for your child. So carry the bags with you and don’t be shy! It is far better to be seen picking up poop, rather than trying to pretend to get away with not doing it.

When taking your dog to a dog park, make sure that if your dog is being aggressive, dominating, bullying, growling, or hurting the other dogs, you check this behavior and put them back on leash immediately. Trust the rest of us, it isn’t “cute”, your dog isn’t being “just excitedly friendly”, and they aren’t “just playing”. Nips and bites can lead to infections and scarring, and no one wants to have to deal with that on top of an already full list of doggie duties.

Train your dog. We all have certain human behaviors that we were trained to do. It is no different for your dog. Sit, Stay, Come, Good, Bad/Stop/No, these are the basic commands you should make sure your dog can execute by your voice. Other tricks and behaviors are dependent on you and your dog’s intelligence, imagination, and will.

Things That Scare Me

Michael Copeland
With Halloween on the October calendar, it conjures up the image of cute little kids dressed as scary ghouls, ghosts and goblins. By and large, I’m not easily scared. I have, in fact, even been considered brave when it comes to killing big nasty spiders or climbing on the roof of my house to retrieve a Frisbee. So while no one has ever dared refer to me as a “fraidycat”, I am unnerved by a few things in our world that likely put a little fear in most everyone.

The Devil Scares Me

When I was young, I almost never wet my bed thinking the Boogeyman was in my room, yet when I saw The Exorcist I couldn’t sleep for weeks. I’m no more or less religious than the next guy, but the idea of the Devil existing amongst us mortals here on earth makes me quiver. In theology, the Devil is described as the personal supreme spirit of evil and unrighteousness. Whether referred to as Lucifer, Satan or Beelzebub, the Devil seems to have a stronger presence around Halloween than say, Groundhog’s Day. Preferring good over evil, I’m all for boycotting the Devil this spooky season as he undoubtedly has something to do with the bad economy.

Scary Movies Scare Me
Beginning with the afore-mentioned Exorcist, my history of weeping and shaking hysterically while curled up in the fetal position under my theatre seat is long and slightly embarrassing. Why did I subject myself to Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Carrie, The Omen, The Sixth Sense, Scream, The Blair Witch Project, The Ring, Halloween and The Devil Wears Prada? Only my therapist knows for sure. The movie studios have made hundreds of millions of dollars off people like me. More recently, the movie trailers for The Last Exorcism and Devil make my head spin 360 degrees and cause me to vomit something resembling Progresso’s split pea and ham soup all over the coach. I should really stick to movies made by Disney, Pixar and Adult Line Cinema.

Big Snakes Scare Me
While I’m fascinated by the Animal Planet’s specials on Anacondas, Boa Constrictors and Pythons, the thought of wrestling one of those constricting slithering reptiles is enough to make me lose my breath. Remember how Kaa the snake tried to manipulate Mowgli for Shere Khan in the Disney animated adaptation of The Jungle Book? Note to self, strike Disney movies. It’s really no surprise that snakes also have a connection to the Devil. Raise your hand if you knew the serpent in the Garden of Eden became a willing conspirator with Satan in deceiving Eve? Need I say more? I didn’t think so.

Biker Gangs Scare Me
I’m totally into the FX series, Sons of Anarchy, about a fictitious biker gang based in a fictitious Northern California town. The biker characters are tough and mean and do things that could be perceived as slightly illegal (gun running, extortion and arson) however, the father and step-son running “SAMCRO”, appear to have heart, compassion and a moral compass, albeit slightly off course. Real bikers might not be as remorseful after then pummel a potential witness with a tire iron or drag a rival down a gravel path tied to the back of their hog. Biker gangs are especially scary if they have evil names such as Devil Dogs or Satan’s Warriors. However, if I was in prison or facing off against some other angry social networking group from the streets, I’m relatively certain I would be grateful to have the assistance of a biker gang. But, for now, I’m just going to keep my distance from the Danville chapter of the Hell’s Angels.

Sixteen Year Old Kids Driving Scares Me

Sure I couldn’t wait to get my license at the age of sixteen, but if 50 is the new 40 then 16 is the new 6 and no six year old should be operating a moving vehicle. I think I was at the DMV at 12:01 am on July 29th in 1978, but the thought of my daughters maneuvering a 3,000 pound SUV through the city streets of the Tri Valley terrifies me. Sixteen seems far too darn young for that type of joyriding responsibility. I question whether or not teenagers should be allowed to operate Vespa scooters, motorized Razors or riding lawnmowers. A visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles has been described as a trip to hell which is reason enough to suggest they delay the legal license age to eighteen.

The Economy Scares Me
When are we going to see local and national companies see a pick up in business and begin hiring again? I have several out of work friends that are educated, motivated and right now aggravated. If you didn’t believe in former President Reagan’s trickle down theory before I bet you do now. Corporate revenues are so low that companies aren’t hiring or have asked employees to take pay cuts. If your disposable income has been reduced you aren’t going out to lunch or dinner as often. Restaurants are forced to reduce staff or close on slow days. Sadly, waitresses end up doing their own manicures and waxing. Conversely, spa employees are now forced to cut out their leisure and entertainment expenditures, such as tickets to the Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath concert at Sleep Train Pavilion. Poor ticket sales forced The Blizzard of Oz to cancel his entire North American tour. Wait one “Prince of Darkness” minute, wasn’t Mr. Osbourne, accused of Devil worship in the 1970’s? All of a sudden, everything is becoming very clear to me.

If you add Raider fans, middle school boy/girl dances and a call to my computer company help desk as other things that scare me it would appear that the Devil has his fingers in a cornucopia of activities. It obviously doesn’t help matters much that we live at the base of Mt. Diablo (Devil Mountain). While it might be difficult to prohibit kids from dressing up as a New Jersey Devils hockey player or discourage local area cougars from adorning a naughty demon outfit at Menar’s annual Exotic/Erotic Ball, lets all pledge to admonish the Temptor, the Evil One or Apollyon from future neighborhood activities. Truth be told, the Devil is what scares me the most.

What Drives the Monkey on Your Back?

Tina Swerdlow

Okay, so you’re ready to head home after one of the following nerve-racking experiences: a job interview, an important sales presentation, or a first date. As soon as you close the car door, start the ignition, and drive away—the internal tirade begins. That’s when the voice inside your head gives a play-by-play account (often in slow motion) of every small, medium, and large blunder that you made.

Then, after the initial litany of insults begins to wind down, the voice in your head declares that, “You’re too old, stupid, incompetent, or fat—to get the job, sale, guy, or gal.” Finally, this second phase successfully makes mincemeat of your ego, and that’s when the ruminating shifts to criticizing your conversational content. For instance, you’ll hear a rant like, “I can’t believe you said…blah, blah, blah!”

Our self-criticisms often go up one side and down the other without ever pausing for a breath. Sound familiar? If so, meet “the monkey on your back,” also known as…your Inner Critic.

An Inner Critic is the part of ourselves that negatively monitors what we say, what we do, and how we look. Unfortunately, as shown in my example, this list can go on and on if an Inner Critic is overdeveloped. Like a muscle that gets enlarged from repeated flexing, an Inner Critic that is exercised too much may also become ENORMOUS.

Meanwhile, most Inner Critics have no respect for the passage of time and don’t accept the fact that we can learn from our mistakes. Accordingly, Inner Critics love to dwell on past blunders and overlook all the GREAT things that we’ve accomplished. Let’s face it, overgrown Inner Critics can suck the joy right out of our lives and…wreak havoc on our self-esteem!

In my private practice, I work with many clients who struggle with low self-esteem. These clients often see me because they want to increase their confidence and re-invent themselves in this ever-changing, fast-paced world. They may be looking for a new career, a new partner, or may simply want to hold on to their current job or significant other.

When low self-esteem is a client’s challenge, we often explore the Inner Critic. I explain how, as adults, many of us have Inner Critics who have been “monkeys on our backs” for decades. Untamed Inner Critics use all the smoke and mirrors they can muster in trying to intimidate us. However, if we get past their facades, we’ll see how small and vulnerable they actually are at their cores. And, here lies the answer to this article’s initial question: “What Drives the Monkey on Your Back?” The answer is most likely…FEAR.

Surprised? Yep, I was too, many years ago when I first faced the hostile monkey on my own back. I worked with a therapist during this time, and the growth process was amazing. I learned that my Inner Critic had unexpressed feelings that needed to be understood so I could downsize my self-destructive energies. Clearing out the anger gave me access to the fear underneath.

Ironically, when we venture past the bullying behaviors, we’ll find that most Inner Critics have our best interests at heart. So keep in mind, when Inner Critics attack, they’re often trying to protect us. Yet, this ineffective “method of protection” can damage our self-esteem and ultimately leave us feeling hopeless.

Learning how to compassionately dialogue with the Inner Critic can be life changing. For this reason, I teach many of my clients how to tame their Inner Critics. And, in case you’re interested, I will talk about the Inner Critic during my October 21st workshop at John Muir Women’s Health Center. In fact, I’ll show “before” and “after” posters (that I illustrated) of the Inner Critic. First, I’ll show when it appears as a judgmental monkey—perched tauntingly on our backs. Then, I’ll show the monkey tamed, off of our backs, onto its own back (belly up). From this new vulnerable position, we can hear what’s really going on with our previously unconscious and critical monkey.

Finally, when the Inner Critic no longer acts out of fear and anger, it can serve as a healthy protector of our best interests. For instance, a “reformed” Inner Critic can help us set appropriate boundaries in our lives. And, when the Inner Critic isn’t allowed to zap our innate positive energy and enthusiasm, we’ll feel safe enough to playfully express ourselves…and learn to relax into “our own skins.”

Trina’s Upcoming Workshop: Managing Emotional and Compulsive Eating for Women at John Muir Women’s Health Center: 1656 N. California Blvd., Suite 100, Walnut Creek, Thursday, Oct 21, 6:30-8:30 pm. Seats are limited—register today: (925) 941-7900 option 3.
For more info, go to & click on “Private Sessions & Workshops”
To receive my FREE newsletter “Trina’s Transformational Tips for Mindful Living,” sign-up on my website:

Trivial Matters

I have finally recovered from my funk for making a large boo boo a couple months back. I will do my best to restore trust. As we enter the fall season, let’s get seasonal.

  1. Who was the Oscar winning actor who appeared with Joan Crawford in the movie “Autumn Leaves”?
  2. Who was the piano player that made “Autumn Leaves” popular?
  3. The World Series is called the Fall Classic. Which two teams appeared in the first one in 1901?
  4. Ella Fitzgerald and other female singers made a jazz classic out of the fall season. What was the song?
  5. Who wrote “The Fall of the Roman Empire”?
  6. Who was the male star of “Mulholland Falls”?

September’s Trivia Answers

  1. Tom Ewell
  2. Bobby Grich
  3. Tony Bennett
  4. Phil Silvers as Sergeant Bilko
  5. Cosmo
  6. Richard Widmark

SEPTEMBER TRIVIA WINNER: Jill Salamanca of Pleasanton

The first person to email or mail, no calls please, the correct answers to all of the above questions will win a $25 gift certificate at The Uptown Cafe in downtown Danville, compliments of Ben Fernandez! Entries must be received by September 25, 2010. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn at random. Please email your answers to, or mail to ALIVE East Bay, 199 East Linda Mesa Avenue, Suite 10, Danville, CA 94526. Employees and family members of employees of ALIVE East Bay are not eligible. Restaurant may be changed without notice.

The Accordion

Believe it or not several accordion players have been asked to play at the White House three different times in recent years. They have also performed at the Kennedy Center – these are, to say the least, important and prestigious venues.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities for accordions these days,” said Ron Borelli, popular Bay Area accordion musician and music teacher. “More and more people are becoming interested in the accordion and even young kids, when they see and hear it, want to know all about it.”

Borelli plays with The Golden Gate Concert Band on “Italian Day” and often performs solo or with other area concert bands, including the Danville Community Band. He also arranges musical scores to include the accordion with concert band arrangements.

“The accordion is a great instrument and can be used in many different settings, including opera, jazz, ethnic music i.e. French, German and Italian, to name a few,” he said. “The accordion is portable, unlike the piano which is stationary. It’s a keyboard that you can walk around with giving you a whole orchestra at your disposable,” Borelli explained. The new Roland brand accordion is truly electronic with amplified sounds and speakers and is all digital, thus offering many new sound possibilities.

The accordion is a portable, keyed free-reed instrument consisting of an expandable bellows worked by the players arm and supplying wind to the free-reeds by pressure or by suction depending on whether it is compressed or expanded. It has melody keys or buttons and bass keys or chord buttons. The left hand plays the base notes or chords and also works the bellows. The right hand plays the melody on the keys.

“What draws so many people to the accordion is the variety of sounds it can produce,” said Randall Martin, noted teacher and conductor of an accordion orchestra.

Many think of the accordion as a “polka music” type instrument. On the contrary, Martin says it is equally capable of varied musical forms like waltzes, ethnic tunes, classical pieces and American band and folk favorites. Rock and roll classics like Johnny B. Goode, Twist and Shout and Jail House Rock are often played on the accordion. The instrument has grown in popularity among classical composers. Tchaikovsky, Charles Ives, Umberto Giordano, Paul Hindemuth and Alban Berg have all composed for the accordion.

The accordion was invented in 1822 by Friedrich Buschmann of Berlin. It was improved upon by Cyril Demian of Vienna in 1829. It soon became very popular in Europe.

The accordion was prominent in pop music from the early 1900’s to the 1960’s. This period was called the “Golden Age” of the accordion. In the 1930’s to 1950’s many accordionist taught and also played for radio. Myron Floren was a popular accordion musician on the Lawrence Welk Show during the 1950’s to 1980. Unfortunately, the late 50’s and 60’s saw the decline in popularity of the accordion in America. Counties where the instrument is still popular are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil and Columbia, among others. The instrument has always been a favorite of folk musicians.

Contemporary Artists

“Weird Al” Yankovic was probably the most famous accordionist in pop music who used the accordion liberally in his albums.

Dick Contino, born in 1930, is without a doubt the most well-known accordionists of the 20th Century. He is originally from Fresno, California and became popular to the American public through his appearances on the Horace Heidt national radio programs. He won first prize on the program and eventually winning $5,000, a considerable sum in 1947. His big break came with a recording of Lady of Spain in 1949. Contino appeared 48 times on the Ed Sullivan Show. From a small town, this talented youth became the “world’s greatest accordion player.” This legendary virtuoso is still very active as a popular musician and showman and now lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Tonia. During his youth the bobby-sox crowd went wild for the young, handsome Italian accordionist. Not bad for a young man who worked as a delivery boy in his father’s butcher shop – but he always had his accordion handy and practiced many hours a day – thus becoming the most popular accordion player in history.

You can contact Ron Borelli at Please submit your questions and comments to
Visit our website at for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

A Very Good Time

From the PublsiherThis time, like all other times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve had some interesting conversations lately with many of our advertisers. In the course of these discussions I have noticed an interesting trend—business owners who are open to creative, new ideas and who speak with positive expectations are the ones surviving in spite of the current (apparent) market. Those unreceptive to new ideas or resistant to change have either already closed their doors or appear close to that unfortunate end.  As the dynamics of our economy have changed over the past two years, this trend has become increasingly apparent. But it is much more than just “positive thinking”—it’s all about doing.

Here at ALIVE, we are acutely aware of changes in our own industry. One of the primary elements of that awareness is that in order to better serve our readers and advertisers we have to leave outdated methods behind.  We know that our readers enjoy the printed version of ALIVE, but we also know many of them expect more, as increasingly they look to the internet, video, and mobile devices for enhancements to their “ALIVE experience.”

In lock step with this is a change in how we work with advertisers. Today, the printed version of ALIVE Magazine provides but one dimension in a multi-media platform called ALIVE Mediaworks, where our advertisers’ access to consumers extends far beyond the vehicle of print, with a growing online, cable television and mobile device presence.  For example, we recently launched a consumer-focused website,, which serves as an enhancement to our exciting new ALIVE Marketplace iPhone application.

In addition to these cutting-edge methods of serving readers and advertisers, we have enhanced the “brick and mortar” of ALIVE’s impact by establishing a network of over eighty display racks for ALIVE in high traffic, upscale locations throughout  the Diablo Valley, in addition to a strong, targeted mailed distribution program.

And what has been the result of these enhancements? We are enjoying explosive growth in our readership as evidenced by regular, week upon week increases—sometimes as much as 50%–in traffic on our website. And as for our display racks, at locations like Whole Foods in Walnut Creek and Draeger’s Market in Blackhawk, no fewer than hundreds of issues of ALIVE each week are being chosen by their upscale clientele.

In the coming months, we’ll be adding even more to the value of ALIVE as we launch our Droid and iPad versions of both ALIVE Magazine and the ALIVE Marketplace program.

Indeed, for ALIVE readers and advertisers alike, this truly is a very good time!

Eric Johnson

Market Fresh: Putting the Crunch in October

Market Fresh

Even when midday temperatures soar, early mornings and evenings remind us that fall is here. As children anxiously await Halloween, adults prepare for shorter days and cool nights. At the farmers’ market, the bright kaleidoscope of summer produce also undergoes a welcome change of seasons.

After months of outdoor entertaining, my nesting instincts have kicked in. I find it impossible to leave the market without a bag of crunchy Asian pears and sweet grapes for snacking; a few glossy Hachiya persimmons to ripen at room temperature; an armload of pomegranates to pile onto a shallow delft platter; voluptuous pears to admire in a wooden bowl until they find their way into salads or desserts; and—of course—a family of pumpkins and other big, gnarly squash to decorate the porch. Beeswax candles and fresh flowers abound—now in ivory and shades of gold, rust, and sage. These are the transitional colors that dominate the next 6 weeks—at the farmers’ market, as well as at home.

My oven may be getting a workout on these chilly evenings, but as a native Californian I still can’t resist a good salad. Now that vine-ripened tomatoes are little more than a memory, it’s time to either get creative or return to the classics…and what’s more classic than a Caesar salad?

Even those who are normally spooked by anchovies cannot resist its charms. It’s something a lot of people don’t serve at home, however—the coddled egg and all that last-minute drama can be intimidating. Most bottled Caesar salad dressings—packed with emulsifiers, artificial flavors, powdered cheese, and cheap oil—make me say, “No, thank you.” when passed at the table. I came up with the following recipe during my catering days, and I’m still making it 15 years later. It’s easy as can be, and as practical for weeknight dinners as it is for entertaining and potlucks. In fact, the dressing actually needs to be made a day in advance.

This makes about a quart of salad dressing, which admittedly is enough for a small army—or at least 35 buffet servings of salad. Cut the recipe in half, if you prefer, but I usually make a full batch. (Old habits die hard.) You may be surprised by how many Caesar salads you can eat in a week…not to mention all the other uses you’ll find for the leftovers: to drizzle over veggies; to make the best 3-bean salad ever, or to thicken with a bit of sour cream and serve as a dip.

Packaged croutons are usually as dreadful as store-bought salad dressings, so I’ve included another D.I.Y. recipe. These are baked in the oven instead of fried—with no loss of flavor. Not only do these taste far superior to anything that comes in a box, making croutons is a thrifty way to use up odds and ends of leftover bread from the farmers’ market.

For a Halloween buffet, you may want to zip up this dressing with a generous pinch of chipotle chile powder. Instead of croutons, toss bite-size chunks of peeled sugar-pie pumpkin or butternut squash in olive oil, salt, pepper, and chile powder and roast until tender and lightly browned at the edges. Let them cool to room temperature, and add to the romaine along with the shaved Parmesan and some toasted pumpkin seeds. A guaranteed winner for boys and ghouls of all ages.

Caesar Salad for a Crowd

Market Fresh

For the dressing:
3/4 cup best-quality store-bought mayonnaise
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)
1 (2-ounce) tin flat anchovy fillets packed in olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup California extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
Crisp hearts of romaine lettuce, left whole if small, or cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
Croutons (see below)
A chunk of Parmesan cheese for shaving

  1. In a blender, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, anchovies—including the oil in which they were packed—the garlic, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth.
  2. Add the grated Parmesan. With the machine running, slowly add the oil until the mixture forms a creamy dressing.
  3. Now, I cannot stress this enough: Do not even bother tasting it at this point; because the dressing will be WAY too lemony and out of balance. Just pour it into a quart-size jar, cover, and refrigerate. This dressing needs a full 24 hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to blend and mellow.
  4. Just before serving, in a large bowl combine the lettuce and croutons. Drizzle in enough dressing to barely coat the leaves—it’s better to err on the safe side and just add a bit of dressing before tossing; you can always add more. The leaves should be very lightly coated, never weighted down with dressing. (Leftover dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)
  5. Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin slices from a chunk of Parmesan cheese, and scatter them over the salad. Serve at once.

Great Caesar’s Toast

4 ounces of baguette or other crusty artisan bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (3 to 4 cups)
3 to 4 tablespoons California olive oil or unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, crushed with the flat side of a knife
1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the bread cubes in a shallow baking pan or on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, just until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Discard the garlic and drizzle the oil over the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat, then spread in an even layer.
  3. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the bread cubes are toasted and golden—about 10 minutes if using stale bread, or 15 to 20 minutes for fresh. Let cool completely. Use at once, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Freeze for longer storage.

Variation: For cheesy croutons, add 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and toss before baking.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad and 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

10 Simple Skin Care Tips: Refresh Your Skin for Winter

1. Play It Cool
Very hot water strips the natural oils from the skin and breaks down the skin barrier, leading to dryness and irritation. For a refreshed, healthy skin use warm tepid water to cleanse the skin for maximum benefits.

2. Easy on the Eyes

Eye skin is more delicate that the rest of the skin on the face, so be sure to use products that are specifically formulated for this delicate area. Heavy creams can cause the eye area to break out in bumps called Milia. Lighter creams with vitamins are the best. Our Ultra Firming Eye Cream by Ongrien is one of the best solutions for dry, puffy and dark circles under the eyes.

3. A Light Idea
With the colder months, comes increased dryness in the air. Switch to a more hydrated version of your favorite products so skin doesn’t get dry and flakey. Serums are great for extra hydration.

4. Screen Test

If you have sensitive skin, look for sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These will block the harmful UV rays and won’t clog pores, plus it will feel light on the skin.

5. Dare To Detox

Use a clay mask to draw impurities from the skin and pull out debris from the pores. For optimum cleansing everyone should detoxify the skin at least twice a month.

6. Get The Glow

Exfoliate the skin every day and in the shower. This helps remove the top layer of the skin, irrigating the skin and smoothing the surface. Moisturizers and creams can penetrate deeper into the skin for maximum hydration.

7. Here’s The Scoop
Antioxidants help protect against free radicals, which can cause wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer. Protect yourself inside and out by eating foods with antioxidants including fruits and vegetables. On the surface of the skin use a good topical cream with Esther-C, Lipoic Acid, Q-10, and DMAE. High-potent antioxidants will help prevent free-radical damage to your skin. Your skin will look years younger and beautifully smooth.

8. Skin Deep and a Youthful Complexion

Glycolic Acid, one of the most popular alpha hydroxy acids on the market. When applied to the skin it helps to exfoliate and take off dead cells, giving the skin a younger appearance. What’s more, Glycolic Acid is a valuable addition to many of the super-antioxidant products (such as alpha lipoic acid and DMAE). Because they work synergistically with other antioxidants, enhancing their antioxidant activity. In short Glycolic Acid smoothes the surface of the skin, reducing wrinkles and heals sun-damaged skin.

9. Beauty Secrets

The secret to beautiful skin is all in the cleansing. If you use harsh products and do not cleanse the skin properly your skin will suffer. Use cleansers and toners that are gentle yet powerful enough to clean deep within the pores and the surface of the skin. Do not use products that contain alcohol or chemicals.

10. The Bottom Line

Although antioxidant therapy can help repair the punishing rays of the sun, it can’t completely eliminate the skin-damaging effects of a lifetime of unprotected sun exposure. So I’ll caution all readers: Use at least an SPF-15 sunscreen (in most foundations today) as a daily routine. The thinner, more delicate skin on the face is ground zero for sun damage and aging skin.