The Adventures of Manny

Hi Mom,

I’ve had a great time with Ute and Ralph.  This is where we are staying.

Map of SpainIt is hot here, and we lay out on the patio every day.

13b Ralph's Apartment

Today I got kind of mad at Ralph because he made us pose with our blankets.  Mom, it was HOT!  I felt like I was sick or something.  All those pillows.  Danny is really nice, and he wanted to kick the blanket out the window.   I threw a pillow on the floor.

1a Fanny, Manny, Danny and new baby bear with Marsha's quilts

Fanny liked it because she had a new baby bear, I call him Lanny.  Lanny liked cuddling under the blanket.  Fanny kept KISSING him on the ears.  Blaaaah

Ute, Ralph & Bears

Ute is cute.  I still love Ute best.  I think Danny should stay with Ralph, and I’ll go home with Ute.  See how nice she holds me so I won’t fall.  I LOVE Ute, Mom.  She was tickling me under the chin.  I didn’t even kick her.

Bye, Mom.  I love you.

Manny

Dear Manny,

You haven’t told me anything about the trips you are taking.  That is a lovely picture of you and Danny with Ute and Ralph.  But, where were you?  It is so beautiful!

Manny Goes To Spain

Remember when you were making those blankets?  You were so sleepy you could hardly sew the line straight.

Manny Goes to Spain031

You stayed up almost all night.  Mama is glad that Ralph took a picture of you three with your blankets.  I hope you picked up the pillow.  Those are Ralph’s new pillows.

Have you been to Ronda?  Everyone talks about how beautiful and historic it is.  You know how much Mom loves history.

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Kalev misses you and wishes she had come along with you.  Chloe says hi, too.

Write soon,  Love Mom

Dear Mom and Dad,

OK I’m going to send you some pictures, and you have to guess where they are.

Manny & Danny  traveling

I was a little scared here because it was a long way down to the bottom of this wall, and Danny sometimes likes to wrestle and pulls me backwards.  We were both on our good behavior.

Manny & Danny traveling 2

We wanted our picture taken with this arch.  It’s really old.  Like maybe Roman times!  I bet Roman soldiers built it!  Do you think they did, Mom?  Ralph let us sit on the table so we could look at it better.

8 Ralph in BP

Ralph had to wear sunglasses here because the buildings are so sparkly.  Do you love them, Mom?  Did you guess yet?  Go ask Dad.  He doesn’t get lost like you do.

I gotta go.  We’re busy, Mom.  Sorry!

Love, Manny

Wednesday Challenge: Focus

Focus. This week’s challenge is inspired by Matthew George’s post on focus, in which he introduced us to the basics of depth of field and aperture. He explained what an image with a shallow depth of field looks like (or conversely, a photo with a greater depth of field), and how the aperture setting on your camera affects it.

Edward in a tree

I didn’t accomplish this with aperture, but the lighting blurred the background for me somewhat.

20130824_0099

Another issue of focus occurs when one member of the pose does not really want to be there.  Then you have a focus problem.

Want to be my buddy?
Want to be my buddy?

Now I am stretching myself to find something that meets the bill.  This was taken this spring at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.  Flowers are especially good at posing like this.

SFW Fall in Foothills_281So are leaves.

Falll Foothills 14

Cotton can do it, too.

Like a whirlpool, it never ends.
Like a whirlpool, it never ends.

Even Manny likes to pose best when I blur the background.  Oops, what went wrong?  Manny’s not happy about this!  🙂

Manny's in Focus

Whew, that’s better!

For more ideas click here.

Tuesday Review: Interview with JT Weaver

the interview

As I continue to try to find my voice as a blogger, I find myself drawn into the role of book reviewer.  As I continue on this pathway, a next step that I notice among other blogger reviewers is the INTERVIEW.

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Since I am blogger friends with JT Weaver, who authored Uphill Both Ways, he’s my interview guinea pig.  Thanks JT  🙂

Hi JT,

Let’s begin with an ice breaker question.

jt

What makes you laugh?

I guess I like intellectual humor; the kind of story that has you going in one direction and then at the last-minute gets you laughing at what you missed.  I’ve never been a fan of slapstick Three Stooges type of humor.  The Bill Cosby “Himself” album still cracks me up.  I was raised on the droll tangentially humorous stories of my father and it became easy for me to adapt any of my own stories into the format that he used. 

What do you think contributes to your success as an author?

To be honest, I don’t know what “success as an author” really means.  I wrote some stories and then discovered that, without any approval process from the world of “Big 6” publishing, I could self-publish my book at almost no cost.  Years ago being a published author meant you went through several gateways, signed your rights away, hired an agent, hired an editor, and were accepted and printed by Houghton-Mifflin.  Because of these gateways, the title of “published author” carried with it an aura of prestige that perhaps no longer exists.  While my stories were individually lauded and my book is 5-star rated and reviewed, it is also doing well in the marketplace.  

The impetus of the project was to document the important parts of my life for my children in such a way that they could understand who I am.  At the beginning of the project, there were no ideas or discussions about compiling these stories into a single volume; that discussion came later.  The mere idea that someone outside the family might have the slightest interest in these stories is somewhat shocking to me.  I am, of course, delighted that people enjoy them and even want to buy them, but that was never my intention.

 Since you wrote this book to your kids, what is their reaction to your its publication?

“Congratulations Dad, what’s for dinner?”  I haven’t really discussed it with them.  I have a sense that they may be a bit uncomfortable with it all.  From their point of view, this was supposed to be my “letters” to them.  Now the world has access to it.  It somehow has lost it’s personal appeal to them I think.  Many of the stories in the book are familiar to them already.  Some of them probably make them a little uncomfortable. Just because I was documenting my life for them didn’t mean that they had to read it now.

Another part of the emotions of a document like this is the finality of it all.  I think to them it signals the beginning of the end.  Kids grow up thinking their parents will be around forever and only when something happens, an illness or an accident, do they ever think that their parents are even mortal.  They have both moved away from home and are leading their lives to the fullest.  In their minds, they can visit Dad and Mom anytime they want.  Reading this memoir may signal to them that a time will come when they won’t be able to do that.  And to me, that’s OK.  When they’re 60 and I’m long gone, this will be something I hope they will enjoy reading.  I think they’ll like to reflect back on things and this will help them do that.  Perhaps they’ll even want to read some of these stories to their own grandchildren, who knows?

What part has your wife played in getting this book off the ground?

At first, I just began writing a story.  My wife, Karen, really wasn’t involved.  Then I wrote a little something about Social Security and then something about the 2nd Amendment.  Then I found the picture album my parents had made for me and wrote a story about one of those pictures.  I honestly was just fooling around with it.  As I was writing, Karen and my college roommate John were both reviewing each piece.

 Then a discussion started among John, Karen, and I about what it was I was doing.  They thought these stories were better than I did.  At one point John said that he thought he was looking into my soul, and because he knew me so well, he was a little uncomfortable with it.  From that came the idea came the thought from Karen that this would be a nice gift for the kids and it was then that I wrote the letter that would become the Prologue to the book.  When I published that letter, the blogging community took notice and my readership exploded.  At that point Karen got involved with every aspect of the writing.

What obstacles did you run into as you went through the process?

Generally, the writing was very easy.  All I had to do was remember things that happened and write them down.  It wasn’t like writing fiction where you have to make sure everything fits.  In a memoir, if it happened, then it fits, plain and simple.  The difficult part was the rigorous editing and publishing.  I had no previous experience with any of these things so I had to learn it all for the first time.  I am a consummate researcher so I spent many hours trying to understand everything.

I did have some difficulty with some of the chapters.  Recounting military school and the death of my friend Rick was one, some of the experiences in my teen years were some others, and the last chapter was very difficult.  What I found was that a wonderful healing that occurs when you commit these things to paper.  I was surprised and gratified that the weight had been lifted.

Do you have another book in mind?

As I continue to write, I may consider compiling a large series of essays into a book.  That would depend on the enthusiasm of my blog readers.  If the quality of my writing stays up, and people want it, I can publish another book.

What place in the larger picture of American history do you think your book holds?

 From my point of view, the answer is none.  It’s something that we cannot know.  The wonderful letters home from the Civil War are a perfect example.  They were simple and innocent when they were written however; now give so much insight into life at that time.  I cannot know what people will interest people in 100 years.  To me this is a good look at what it was like to grow up in the 1950s and 1960s.  It wasn’t an ideal life perhaps but then no one knows what that is.  I just lived my life in the best way I could, married a wonderful woman, and raised two great kids.

What was your favorite period in your life?

 The best part of my life began on August 22, 1984 and has continues every day.  That was the day that I met Karen in San Francisco.  

What surprised you as you went through this writing process?

Everything!  I’ve never written anything before.  I’m a pretty good storyteller like my father before me.  In my mind, I simply placed myself in a favorite chair by the fireplace and enjoyed the warmth it gave me.  I would enjoy some fine wine and aged cheese and daydream into the past.  When the children came into the room before bedtime, I would tell them a story.  What you read in my book are those stories; nothing more complicated or fancy about it.  It was extremely easy to write these stories down because I had lived them.  I think the most surprising thing for me was that there are people who like these stories. 

 What would you change if you were going to write another book?

The process would be the same, I think.

What are your favorite songs?

This is the “record” he wore out as a teen.

If you enjoyed learning about John T. Weaver, then you will enjoy his website.  You can go on his site and see what he’s working on now.

memoirs

Have any of you written your memoir?  It’s amazing how little our children actually know about our lives before they were born.  Do JT’s motivations to write his story remind you your own?   Would your children read it?  How did the events in history touch your life? Let me know what you think!  🙂

Monday: Ask Marsha: Making Italian Sauce

Vince’s Dad was the sauce maker in the family.  Every Sunday he made sauce.  We would go to visit, and Dad would always send us plenty of sauce home with us, frozen and packaged in perfect serving sizes.  Every time we came, he would say, “I got a special buy on tomato sauce.  You have to use X Brand of tomato sauce.  That’s what makes it so good.”  So here is Vince’s and my version of Dad’s recipe.

Vince's sauce
I know you are getting tired of this picture, but it is my only one. It always looks the same. I always use this pan, and this spoon. The meatballs are always this size.

Tomato Sauce

  • 4 cans of tomato sauce – Costco brand (he he – it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 5 cans of water – 1 for each can of tomato anything
  • 1-2 fresh basil leaves from the garden
  • 1 bay leaf from the Costco jar I’ve had for at least 10 years – maybe more

Start it cooking, it has to cook for hours.  If you put less water, you can’t cook all that water out of it.  So be sure to put the water in so you have to start making the sauce at least 3-4 hours before you want to eat it.

Meat balls

  • 1 pound of hamburger (I don’t worry about lean or not lean, but I don’t put the grease in the sauce.)
  • 1 c Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • salt & pepper ( I just do about a teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp mint (secret ingredient – DON’T TELL ANYONE ELSE!)
  • 1 tsp oregano (Dad didn’t use this, but I do sometimes.)
  • 1 tsp basil

Smoosh them all together, roll them into balls, and you get just enough meatballs to cover a medium size pan.  Fry them over a low heat until they are lightly brown on all surfaces.  You can’t go off and blog for a bit while they are cooking or your husband will come in and hover over them like they are going to hatch.  He might anyway because they do smell delicious.

Spoon them into the sauce trying not to splash tomato sauce all over your clean white blouse.  The meatballs need to cook through and through.

Other Meat

  • 1 large package of hot Italian sausage ( I used to use mild, and nobody objected.)
  • Country Style Spare Ribs (I never used these, but Vince did, and he likes it better.)

Cut the sausage.  Dad used to cut the sausage into small chunks because he thought that made the flavor come out better.  Vince cuts them into two chunks.  I’d leave them out if it was up to me.  In the meatball pan brown the sausage until it is light brown on every surface then spoon them into the sauce.  They need to cook for hours as well.

spare ribs

Next, cut the spare ribs into chunks and brown them leaving the fat on them.  When they are light brown, then put them in the sauce as well.  Discard the grease unless you want heart troubles.  If you are taking your medicines, then go ahead and pour the grease into the sauce.  I don’t.

The rest is up to father time.  The meatballs start screaming at Vince after about two hours.  “Get us out of here!  It’s hot!  I’ve been in this tomato bath long enough!”  He caves every time, and stands bent over the pot with a meatball on a fork and tomato sauce dripping into his cupped hand – like no one is going to find him if he doesn’t move away from the stove!  After he has eaten a couple, we cook them for another hour or two so he can replenish his appetite, and then we start the pasta.

mostaccoli

Vince’s sister knows exactly how much pasta each person will eat, and sets the timer to the precise number of minutes.  I just throw in about a half a box of pasta.  Then, as if she doesn’t trust the timer, asks Vince to try the pasta to see if it is al dente.  It always is.  We both have left overs, so I don’t think it matters.  The good news is that, to the true Italians in the family, they all THINK the pasta is better the next day.  (Lucky for me – I made too much!)

Once the pasta is al dente you pour off the water, and ladle in two large spoons full of sauce and stir the pasta, which has to be Mostaccioli (I like Angel Hair pasta.)  After that, you serve each person the set amount of pasta, and ask how many meatballs and other kinds of chunks they want.  Cindy and I always have two meatballs.  Vince has two to start with some sausage and other chunks.  Spoon more sauce over the top.  Completely cover the entire mixture with parmesan cheese, grated, not Kraft.  Costco brand is ok.  Serve with green salad or three bean salad and garlic bread.  Be sure to pinch off all the little slimy skins on the garbanzo beans when they come out of the can before you add them to the salad. Plan to sleep for an hour after you finish eating the chocolate cake or homemade cookies and ice cream for dessert.

pasta dinner
Oops we used the curly pasta. Vince likes that kind, too. I like the appetizers. Want to know how to make them?

Sorry for the blurry pictures. Usually I’m in much too much of a hurry to eat to bother with pictures.  I guess my hands were shaking!  🙂

Bread is less important.  We only had English muffins this Sunday.  Add butter and garlic and anything works!  🙂

So that’s it.  You know all my secrets.  You know all Dad’s secrets.  You are now officially Italian, like I am.  🙂

What do you want to talk about next week?

No Sordid Post Friday

I have 26 minutes left to publish a Friday post.  Yikes!  I could publish trash, which would be sordid, but instead I’ll leave you with a pleasant picture, and see you on Monday.  I have lots of interesting things to share with you next week.

Vince's sauce

Vince’s dad’s authentic Italian special pasta sauce recipe, with secret ingredients.

jt

Also, I have a wonderful interview with new author, JT Weaver.

You will enjoy getting to know him better.  Ute arrives in Spain, and Manny will be touring that country with his favorite dancing blogger, Ute, and Ralph, of course.

Tomorrow we are celebrating our friend, Paula’s daughter’s birthday.  (Thirteen, Berna?)  Way too many, however many it is.  Then we are off to a Bologna Feast of white bread and bologna sandwiches with a contest of bring your own white trash appetizers.

twinkie dogs

Vince is really getting into this, so watch for those exciting eats.  I saw one recipe that made me gag – Twinkies stuffed with hotdogs!  I don’t think we will take that one!  It’s a contest.  What do you think we should bring?  Vince is thinking something with Spam in it.

By the way, I am going to be giving away ten prints of my artwork or photography as found on my Facebook Fan Page. (winners’ choices) when I get to 100 fans.  That’s only 28 more.  If you invite your friends to LIKE me, and let me know, you will be entered twice.  Here’s one of my favorite guys, hand-drawn by me.   I wonder if Ralph is keeping Manny on a short leash?  hmmm

Manny the Sailor BearWith that I will bid you good-night, pleasant dreams, and a wonderful weekend.  🙂