Giving to the Homeless

To giveLately, there is something going on in the Universe, because many people are suffering for different reasons. In the past two weeks I had a girlfriend tell me she has cancer, another friend had such bad leg pain that she said she didn’t want to live anymore, a guy I work with is angry, because we are not getting normal hours at work to support ourselves… the list goes on.

I’ve been challenged with this job hunt myself. When I feel a low, I remind myself that we don’t stay down forever. At some point, as we continue to be persistent and think positively something changes and we are catapulted into a whole new direction.

Today I was at Starbucks doing my job search. There was a homeless man sitting by the entrance. I see him there a lot. As I was looking his way, I though I should do something nice for him, because I know how I have appreciated acts of kindness. So, I pulled out a $5 and I went to him and asked if he would like a coffee or something. He was surprised and thanked me. He took the money and went to buy something to eat, but apparently the packaged food at Starbucks is more than $5, so he started to give me the money back, because it wasn’t enough. If I had been working, I would have bought what he wanted, but times are tough for me too.

I told him to keep the money and buy himself “something” to eat or drink. He went back to the counter and bought two bags of chips. Then he came back to me with the change and offered me a bag of chips. I smiled at that, but again I told him to keep the chips for himself. Not long after he ate his chips, he came over to thank me, but then started to tell me how he didn’t want to get married, that it causes a lot of problems, etc. It was the strangest conversation. I listened, but then told him I had to get back to work. He was a very polite and well spoken man, I was happy I had helped him.

For my friend, who said she didn’t want to live, I sent her a pocket silver angel in the mail with a very nice note. She called saying she loved the angel and that she was feeling better and starting to go to physical therapy.

Finally, for my co-worker, I searched and sent him some job postings. I know how the job search is, not fun, it sure helps to have someone else help us out.

Oh… at the grocery store, someone had a gift card they were using. The cashier told them they still had $4 left on it. As they were about to leave, they turned around and handed the gift card to the man behind them and said, “Enjoy $4 on us.” The man was surprised and thrilled to have this lucky gift card.

Sometimes, we ALL need to know someone cares.

So, let’s all go out and do an act of kindness. It makes us feel good and we can change the recipients life around.

Query letters to agents… so, you’ve been rejected!

 

 

This week I have been working on the dreaded “query letter.” I’ve finished one of my children’s books and last year I sent it out to a few agents. Two wrote back that they weren’t “feeling it.” Well, not their exact words, but basically they didn’t have the “wow, factor” when they read my story. Two others never responded, which is par for the course.

Rejection is hard, because it makes us second guess ourselves. Our first reaction is to toss our story into the trash can, like Stephen King did. Done, finished, it wasn’t meant to be! After a good night’s sleep and soul searching, we start to think. Was it really my story or maybe I am not querying the right agents?! We pull our story out of the trash, dust it off and start again.

We take another pass at our story, maybe have a person or two read it and give comments. We tighten up the text and we start the query process again. If you are a writer, you know the drill — research sample query letters, research agents, research publishers, etc. Trying to find that one golden nugget that sparks inspiration where we type like mad and pat ourselves on the back for our brilliant query letter.

THAT is where I am today. Focusing on the end result, which is ALL of YOU lining up for a signed copy of my book only to find out I’ve run out of books! Laughing, didn’t that sound good!

In all seriousness, if you’ve written a winning query letter, please share some pointers. It’s time to turn this story around from rejection to signed contract!

Pizza in a cast iron skillet?

cast iron pizzaFourth of July holiday is coming up, which means a lot of barbecuing. BUT, what if you prefer pizza.

I have exciting news for you. If you own a cast iron skillet you can make your own gourmet crunchy crusted pizza in 15 minutes. Make life easy on yourself, buy the pizza dough already prepared.

Here’s what you do:

Roll out the pizza dough. Warm up your cast iron skillet on medium/high on your stove top, dust the pan with a little bit of flour, no oil needed. Put your dough in the pan. While your dough is warming up, sprinkle some olive oil on it, pizza sauce and add your chosen pizza toppings (i.e. mushrooms, pepperoni, whatever you like) and then pop your pan into the oven at 425 degrees. Your pizza should be ready in 12-15 minutes.

I had no idea!

Now, I just need to find a good deal on a cast iron skillet and I’ll be a Chef in no time!

Bon Appétit!

Baci – Want some KISSES anyone?

55DBB27E-DAB9-4901-806A-435CE3CD096AIf you are in Italy and someone asks you if you want a “Baci,” at first you might think they are being fresh! That is until you see they are starting to hand you a chocolate. For those of you who don’t know Italian, the word “baci,” means “kisses.”

If you like chocolate and you like hazelnuts, you’ll fall in love with Baci chocolates. As you see in the photo, each chocolate has a full size hazelnut inside. It’s a treat to eat one, they are delicious. Now, they are a bit expensive, so receiving one as a gift means the person wanted to surprise you with a decadent gift. Oh, and they are similar to fortune cookies, in that they ALWAYS have a love note inside written in four different languages (Italian, English, German, Spanish, French, or Chinese).

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Baci’s are made by Perugina (1907), an Italian chocolate company, located in Umbria, the town of Perugia. Nestlé company purchased Perugina in 1988. This past trip I did not have a chance to visit Perugia, but that is for next time.

On the Perugina website, they offer chocolate cooking classes. The classes are 3-4 hours long, which would allow for site seeing in Perugia. I know, some of you might be thinking… I cannot make it to Italy, how will I ever take their master chocolate class. Well, if you are in or traveling to America, you have the option of going to New York or Chicago for master chocolate classes.

While I am not an expert cook or baker in any way, I do find the idea of being surrounded by Italian chocolate exciting! Something to add to the “Bucket List.”

When I was staying with the relatives in Florence, I gave them Baci’s right after dinner, because I wanted it to be a surprise. It’s amazing how one box of chocolate created such excitement! Baci’s can do that!

Have you seen Pepper (Microsoft robot)?

3E7428A0-58A8-4FE8-8DA8-29921390913FThis weekend I met “Pepper.” He… although, I think it looks like a “she,” was working for Microsoft. I was curious and wanted to see what the robot could do. The Microsoft Sales Rep said that Pepper was new to the company. So, I decided to give it a whirl. Basically, Pepper welcomed me and brought me to a Main screen where I could click on different links that would describe products, a Q&A section, services and so on. It was interesting.

While I could not engage Pepper in a normal human conversation, he did sense my movements. If I moved to the left, his face would follow me. When I moved closer or further away from him, his hands would open and close, face would move and the color of the lights in his eye would change colors too. Blue was when you could ask a question.

While the interaction with Pepper was fun for about 5 minutes, it certainly did not replace interaction with a real human being. Pepper was not meant to sell the product, mainly there as an interactive information screen. I was amused when I saw the robot. If I was in the market for a computer, maybe I would have stayed longer. So, Pepper did attract my attention, and I entered the store, kudos for that.

A few years ago I worked for an electronic manufacturing company and one of our projects was a telepresence robot, which was called, “Anybot.” While there were a lot of issues with getting the Anybot robot to function properly, it was fun, because it was so darn cute. Back then I was doing research on robots and many of them are created in Japan.

Using a telepresence/humanoid robot is not cheap. Visiting Pepper’s website (SoftBankRobotics.com), I saw that he sells for $25K, our Anybot robot was selling for $15K. Pepper was built by a Japanese company that merged with a French company and they are now called, “SoftBank Robotics” working out of San Francisco.

So, what do you think… would you like to have Pepper help you with chores around the house or serve you coffee, tea? Those days might come sooner than we think!

Kate Spade… We will miss you!

09CB115E-2D8B-42DD-9416-B808F4C021EBBy now, you’ve heard the news about Kate Spade’s passing. We refer to her as “Kate Spade,” when really her name was Katherine Noel Brosnahan. This is a sad day!

Why did we love her handbags so much? Back in the 90’s, when we started to see her purses, they were special because they were different. She used bright colors, different patterns and when we opened her purses they always had beautiful colored linings inside.

Kate Spade’s attention to detail was top notch. You can see from this original purse I have of hers. The material for the giraffe pattern was high end, the leather piping was perfectly sewn, the leather strap was thick, not thin. Look at the lovely gold feet with rich dark brown quality leather on the bottom of the purse, the stitching is faultless. Notice that in the beginning, she did not have her name placed on the outside of the purse, I liked that. Instead, her name was on the inside, creating mystery as to “WHO” designed such a rich looking purse.

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I have other purses of Kate Spade’s, this was an all time favorite. I always received compliments on it for it’s unique style. She was the mystery designer back then. Who was this marvel with a bright preppy fearless style? When walking through the department store, we had to smile at the colors, patterns and textures she chose. Simply wonderful!

Katherine, you were a beautiful and talented designer. Your memory will live on through your handbags, accessories and now shoes! I’m sorry you were suffering, you will be missed!