Posted in Food Favorites, Freedom Friday

Food Photography

Taking pictures of food has become a hobby of mine. For a long time, I took the photos not knowing what to do with them until one day it’d dawned on me. I didn’t need to do anything with them. The photos of the food not only represent edibles, but of times gone by. A single image floods my mind of all the good times associated with those meals. Let’s have a look at some of those photos and of what they mean to me for Freedom Friday.

Mamma's Penne Pasta
Mamma’s Penne Pasta

My mom’s pasta is to die for. I don’t know how she makes the sauce, and believe me, my wife’s tried to replicate it, I’ve tried, yet to no avail, we have never been able to duplicate it from scratch. In its place, my wife has her own recipe, which I love with a passion, but it’s not mamma’s sauce. Don’t worry, my wife knows how I feel, it’s no secret. The point being, this photo of my mom’s penne pasta coated with her delicious sauce represents a typical Sunday meal at my parents place. Whenever I look at this picture, memories of all those good time family gatherings come back to me. Every so often, we also have the typical Sunday meal here at my house.

Curry chicken, corn, green beans and marinated eggplant
Curry chicken, corn, green beans and marinated eggplant

Every Saturday afternoon I cook something special for the family. It’s my time when I treat everyone to a culinary creation of my choosing. One of my favorite dishes I enjoy making is chicken. I think I’ve cooked chicken in every way possible, yet, I’m sure someone will say to me, “Have you tried it this way?” I’m sure of it. This photo has all the fall colors wrapped in a delicious assortment of vegetables and chicken. For anyone curious, those are marinate eggplants. I enjoy this photo because it reminds me of our Saturday family time together.

Sushi
Sushi

Sushi reminds me of special occasions, long weekends and my absolute love for Japanese food. For those who don’t know, I make my own sushi. It took a long time to understand how all the ingredients worked together, their names and their distinct flavors. Nowadays, it’s second nature making this stuff. This photo is of one of the long weekends here at Casa Flacco, and of how I spent my afternoon. Salmon, avocado, sticky rice, all wrapped with nori. The other dish I made with cucumber, sticky rice and nori. I love long weekends because of our sushi binges.

Salad
Salad

Nothing quite tops a good ol’ fashioned salad in my family. Salads remind me of summer and fall. We make our salads from the choicest, freshest ingredients. All of it organic and most of it comes from our backyard. This photo captures the essence of what our meals are like in the summer. Every day is salad day with olive oil, feta cheese, Greek olives and onions as extra ingredients. What this photo does not capture is the hard work involved with tilling the soil, watering, babying it every single day to allow it to bring forth an incredible bounty for all of us to enjoy.

Now do you see why I take photos of food?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Are you one of those folks who also take photos of food? What is your favorite food to shoot?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Autumn Photography

Every autumn I go on safari. Not really. I treat it as a safari, though. I pack my camera in my satchel, slip on a warm jacket, and head for the woods. What am I hunting, you may ask? Trees, leaves, nature—anything really to depict this glorious season we call fall. And that’s my Freedom Friday introduction to fall photo gathering.

A path to the foot of the woods
A path to the foot of the woods

The adventure typically begins at the foot of the woods a couple of minutes from my home. You see, I live in farm country, near where all the folks from Toronto get their corn, strawberries, and other assorted goods. How close do I live to the woods? I’ve seen foxes chase rabbits from the brush across the street into the neighbor’s backyard at 5:30 in the morning. This happened ten feet from my walk. I’ve seen multiple raccoons frenzying on garbage cans as if bitten by zombies. And I’ve smelled. Yes, smelled—skunks near where I trod. I’ve seen them, too. Tail sticking up. Those are the animals I fear most spilling from the woods. Oh, did I mention the coyotes? We have them, and they’re the dreadful parasites of our town’s existence.

As I was saying, the adventure begins at the foot of the woods. During this time of year when the forests give up their leaves, I’m there capturing it all. I suppose it has to do with the color the season exhibits. Boy, can anyone deny autumn is colorful? I think not. And here I am, in the middle of the woods, the threat of coyotes at every turn, snapping photos of anything that may inspire me to share with others.

Beautiful morning majesty
Beautiful morning majesty
The woods
The woods
Leaves that have yet to change color
Leaves that have yet to change color

The time I get the absolute best photos is either early in the morning, as the sun makes its appearance in the horizon or in the evening just when the light turns all sorts of golden hues along the edge of the tree line. I’ve taken shots in the middle of the woods just as dusk approached. Reminiscent of Dorothy’s travels through The Wizard of Oz’s Dark Forest, the day fades, the wind howls, and it does get creepy. But it doesn’t stop teenagers hitting the woods at night to have their secret rendezvous. On occasion, I’ve come across the remnant of empty bottles near a felled tree, a spot I suppose popular with the young crowd.

The log where teens hang out
The log where teens hang out
I think I know where I'm going
I think I know where I’m going
Enjoying the crunching leaves
Enjoying the crunching leaves
Inside the woods
Inside the woods

The woods have paths I can walk yet there are times the leaves cover the paths making it difficult to find my way back. I’ve gotten lost several times only to find my way back after having remembered what the trees looked like from mental notes of my journey. Believe me when I say it’s not fun not knowing where you are in the grand scheme of things.

I have to say this: whenever I’m out there with my camera taking those eye-popping photos of the foliage, sometimes my breath catches. It’s as if I’m seeing things for the very first time, enjoying every moment. The colors are vivid and beautiful, the air crisp, and the area is so much at peace without human interference. I’m glad I have the woods as my fortress of solitude. Everyone needs a place of refuge. The woods are mine.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Do you take photos of the foliage every year? Do you have a fortress of solitude?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m so glad you’ve taken a moment of your day to visit. It truly is a pleasure to be here as well. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. To you, I tip my hat in honor of your steadfast support of my work, and for all that you do for me over the course of the year. May this year bring you good tidings.

Happy New Year
Happy New Year

As always, my goal is to entertain you.

So, what are my plans this year? Well, last year was interesting, to say the least. I wrote tons about zombies, went off on a tangent delivering my perspective of the Jodi Arias trial, and completed my Ranger Martin trilogy.

My wish for 2016 is to be able to provide you with the best entertainment you can’t find anywhere else. This will take a lot of work from my side, delivering engaging topics, discovering new theories, and highlighting my favorite things.

I think, though, it will be worth it. Much of what I have planned for 2016 will be in the context of what I come to realize as truth then impart to my readership the information as lessons learned. I may actually write more about writing given folks have been asking via email how do I maintain a site so consistently and still deliver a book a year.

You may also find me talking more about human nature, overcoming trials, and getting along.

New York Fireworks
New York Fireworks

But not everything will be serious. I’ll always continue to provide my favorite recipes, my very best photos, my vacation summaries and most of all, an honest opinion. I really want to make this new year a banner year for creativity—not only for me, but for everyone visiting my site.

If this is your first time here, have a look through my archives. I have them grouped in sections so that you can enjoy them as individual pieces or as part of a series. I’ve written my site with two purposes in mind:

  • To attract readers interested in the topics I love writing about, and
  • To support my books

Some topics, such as cooking and family life are not what one would come to expect from a writer who has written about zombies for over three years, yet I think it’s important to get to know a writer from all angles. That’s my honest opinion.

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, I am in awe that you are still here. The longer I keep contributing my thoughts on my site, the more I realize how wonderful a support you have been toward my writing and me. I’m very thankful for your kind words, your generous views and most of all your ceaseless faith in what I do here, week after week.

Like I said, I’m in awe.

Now, I’m not much for resolutions, yet given today is the typical beginning of New Year’s resolutions for most people, I thought I’d add one for myself.

My resolution for 2016 is to become more transparent with my writing goals in order to provide my audience a peek into what I’m working on.

What’s that? What am I working on now? I can’t say. Shh, it’s a secret.

Oh, well. So much for resolutions.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What are you doing for New Years’ Day? Have you made any resolutions for 2016?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

More Games I Love Playing

When I’m not writing, I have a number of hobbies to keep me entertained. I enjoy photography, and if you’ve been a regular reader of my site, then you’ll know I get a thrill telling you about my love affair with capturing the right moment. I also enjoy food. Being Italian, I’ve come to appreciate the big Sunday meals at an early age. In fact, I’ve shared those things with you many times. I can’t deny it is one of my favorite things to do as a way to bond the family. And, along with all the other hobbies I have, I love listening to music. There’s nothing quite like having a song appear on a playlist to take me by surprise and change my mood. Tell me the theme Raiders of the Lost Ark doesn’t make you want to jump on a horse and conquer the world. Yeah, music, there’s nothing like it.

But of all the hobbies I have, the one that excites me, and keeps me focused for hours, is playing games. One quick game of chess on my phone is a great way to distract me enough to feel refreshed and carry on with my day.

I have a number of new games I’ve been playing that I thought I would share with you. I enjoy getting lost in these games, so they may not be for you. I do find, however, they are entertaining enough for a mention.

SimCity BuildIt
SimCity BuildIt

SimCity BuildIt—I discovered this game one weekend while searching for something to do between eating lunch and going to my kid’s recital. If you haven’t played any of those time-sensitive games, where you’re creating a farm, a town, or in this case, a city, then take this as a lovely introduction. The first thing you’ll notice with SimCity BuildIt is its incredible attention to detail. Sometimes, I simply sit back and watch as the scene changes from day to night. The building model is quick. You have to zone areas for growth, add electricity, add water, and, if you really would like your citizens to be happy, a park or two. The economics are in perfect balance with player expectations. When you build a residential neighborhood, you don’t have to wait long to see growth. The added city that comes with the game is a pleasure to watch come alive. This is a great game to pick up for your phone or tablet.

Card Shark
Card Shark

Card Shark—I’ve played many Solitaire games, but none quite like Klondike in the Card Shark universe. The game has many other card games, such as DrawPoker and MemoryMatch, yet I really do enjoy having that quick game of Klondike when I travel. Even at home, it’s a wonderful app to play until dinner is ready. I think my favorite part about this app is all its options to customize the playing field. You can choose from a bevy of card decks to play, different backgrounds for the table, and even go so far as to choose if you you’d like uniform or messy stacks for the deal and discard piles. And to top it all off, the game looks great. I have yet to encounter an app with cards that look as realistic as those presented in Card Shark.

Action Movie FX
Action Movie FX

Action Movie FX—Okay, so this isn’t a game per se, but I can’t resist getting enough of this app. It’s a film studio on your phone, complete with real special effects from well-known movies. The most recent version I downloaded has the little robot from the new Star Wars movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens as one of the effects to use as part of a clip you can capture yourself. The way it works is you shoot a video with your camera or tablet, process the effect with the app and share it with all your friends. The app makes ordinary shots hilarious, and equally funny when sharing it with people you know. For instance, one morning I took a video of my wife sitting at the table having breakfast while she was reading. In the clip, I then added the Star Wars robot rolling into the scene and blasting her in her seat. We couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the scene. The app also has explosions, rocket and other robot effects to play with. I love this app so much that I do consider it a great way to spend a few minutes playing with it to see what else it can do.

I had a longer list of games to go through, but these are the one I like the most.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Do you play games? What games do you play, and which game would you recommend I should play next?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

What Excites You?

An article in Psychology Today eloquently titled What Excites You?—yes, you can smack me later for ripping off the title—states that the prevalent thought in psychology according to Silvan S. TomkinsAffect, Imagery, Consciousness is that humans have an inherent need to maximize positive and rewarding emotions while minimize negative ones.

Pizza with tons of toppings
Pizza with tons of toppings

Given it’s Freedom Friday, I figure the best way to maximize positive thought is to provide you a peek into what excites me. Later in the comments, you can tell me what excites you. How does that sound?

A Good Song: First up, nothing can really replace a good song. You know when it happens as soon as it hits your ears. Your feet begin to shuffle, your fingers begin to tap, and you’re off bobbing your head to the rhythm of the beat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a lousy mood only to rise from the dumpster when one of my favorite songs is playing on my earbuds. My secret weapon for curing the blues is three hits of AC/DC, two chasers of Led Zeppelin and one shot of John Williams.

Good Food: How can I describe the feeling I get when sitting at the table anticipating my mom’s home-cooked meal? There’s a whole method to the act of patiently waiting. I’m Italian, so a meal doesn’t only consist of the main course but it includes the antipasto, the salad, dessert and other foods I can’t bare writing about without eating part of my anatomy. The whole experience is reminiscent of a grand opera served on a platter. Delicious.

Exercise
Exercise

Good Exercise: I love taking walks. I love doing my stretching exercises. I love physical activity outside. Actually, let me qualify that last bit. I love physical activity outside if there’s a goal to achieve. Cleaning up a garage is not my idea of a physical activity I like. I’ll do it, but it’s far and away not on my Top Ten list of things I love doing. Okay, back to my walks. When I go for a walk, I grab my phone, plug in my earphones and soak the tunes while I perform a half-hour jaunt around my neighborhood. The music helps me focus and my love for my neighborhood allows me the convenience to say hello to all my neighbors. The activity is also great on the heart.

Good Friends: Lastly, meeting with good friends over a meal or a ball game makes for one of the most wonderful times ever. I’ve known my best friends, those people who I can call on and say they are my friends, since I was a single. We go to each other’s houses, have BBQ’s, picnics, etc. and we simply enjoy each other’s company. What’s not to like? People change, but the friendship always remains. That time together will one day become a memory worth talking about.

These things excite me. They thrill me, lift me up and inspire me to do better in all that I do.

What excites you?

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RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
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What activities do you enjoy doing? What would recommend that I ought to try?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Brian O’Conner

Turbo-charged, Nitro-boosted Brian O’Conner—the cop with the metal—exceeds all limits this week on Wednesday Warriors.

Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner

The Fast and the Furious movie franchise may not win awards, but what it lacks in praises by the academy it more than makes up in heart-pounding, adrenalin-soaked, action-packed racing sequences. The photography is a blur, the editing is jarring, and the shear thrill of its biting score burns tread marks around the competition of wannabe imposters.

Inspired by article focusing on street racing in the 2000s, The Fast and the Furious torched the box office, raking in $207 Million on a production budget of $38 Million. It shot to #1 throughout North America in 2,628 theaters on opening weekend. Even then, the film had the markings of a juggernaut series few would reminisce in disputing.

Among the players stands Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), a bulk of a man tearing like thunder on four wheels. A hijacker. A family man. He’s the guy who the cops have been wanting to jail for a long time. Next, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriquez), the strong one. She’s Dominic’s girl. She has earned a god-like status among her admiring peers as a crazed driver that no one ought to mess with.

Brian O’Conner
Brian O’Conner

Then, there’s Brian (Paul Walker), the cop. The guy sent in to bring Dominic to justice.

How can one describe Brian without spoiling the story? He loves the thrill of the chase. He loves speed. Give him a choice between sitting in a sandwich shop ordering tuna and cranking the juice on his NOS (Nitrous Oxcide Systems) tank—he’ll choose street racing any day of the week. He is not a cop who goes by the book.

Torn by his allegiance to the police force and his newfound friendship with Dominic, Brian searches for a way to breach the boundary between duty and honor. Falling for Dominic’s beautiful sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) was not in the plan. Yet, neither was burning dust in one high-speed contest after another.

Eventually, Brian questions his abilities and weighs the consequences against losing the one thing that drives him. Respect.

[Author’s note: The first time watching The Fast and the Furious I remember how actor Paul Walker seemed like the everyman. His boyish grin and stellar gaze certainly captured the attention. When I heard of his passing on November 30, 2013, I didn’t know what to think. I was still recovering from the shock. I eventually learned Walker was the passenger that fateful day of the accident that had taken his life. Reports stated he died instantly. I still can’t believe he’s no longer with us.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you seen any of The Fast and the Furious movies? What did you think of Brian?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Experiencing the Moment

I love playing with my camera. My camera has served me well over the years. During the past eleven years, since the time I’d purchase my first digital camera, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some of the most beautiful places I’ve had the privilege to visit. From Niagara Falls all the way to Nova Scotia, I have an archive full of memories I’d love to share with you this Freedom Friday.

To start—I’ve learned a lesson. The lesson I’ve learned is this: To enjoy what I’m doing while I’m doing it. What I mean by that has a lot more to do with experiencing the moment than it is to relive the moment. Photography has a way of capturing a photographer’s imagination to the point where the subject becomes just that—the subject. I had that happen to me where I did what I could to capture the subject that I’d forgotten to capture one thing. I’d forgotten to live the moment.

Nowadays, I’m careful to put my camera away and take a deep breath to look at what’s going on around me. It’s amazing what I see when I do that. Gone is the worry of thinking I’d miss a shot if I don’t have my camera readily available. Now I see an event for what it is—an experience. And because it’s an experience, I enjoy myself more knowing it’s there to capture not with the camera, but with my heart.

Pretty sentimental stuff, eh?

Okay, I have a whole lot of photos I want to share with you, so I think I’ll start with a few of my favorites from the East Coast. My wife’s family comes from Nova Scotia. Every time I’m there, I end up taking a gazillion photos of the area. One of my favorite places happens to be Citadel Hill in Halifax. The first time I’d visited there, the clouds hung low and gray, and my family and I were afraid of a thunderstorm catching us unaware. Luckily, subsequent years provided a different experience. Here, have a peek:

Path leading to Citadel Hill (Fort George), Halifax, Nova Scotia
Path leading to Citadel Hill (Fort George), Halifax, Nova Scotia
Soldiers march in Citadel Hill, Nova Scotia
Soldiers march in Citadel Hill, Nova Scotia
Rock beach somewhere in Nova Scotia
Rock beach somewhere in Nova Scotia
Fishing trawler near Dartmouth
Fishing trawler near Dartmouth
Marshes in Nova Scotia
Marshes in Nova Scotia

Next up, Niagara Falls. I love this place. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. Since it takes less than a couple of hours to get there from where we live, we end up going there quite often. You can read about some of our trips I’d written from past posts. Whenever we go to Niagara Falls it’s a mini vacation with lots to do and plenty of restaurants to visit during our stay.

Nightlife in Niagara Falls
Nightlife in Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls' Canadian Midway
Niagara Falls’ Canadian Midway
Attractions in Niagara
Attractions in Niagara
Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, Canada
Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, Canada
Niagara Falls, Canada
Niagara Falls, Canada

Lastly, here is a collection of some of my favorite photos I’ve had hanging around collecting dust (not really). Some are random shots I’d taken in the heat of the moment, and some I’ve planned. Try to guess which is which, ’cause honestly, I can’t remember.

My view on the train one day coming back from the city.
My view on the train one day coming back from the city.
On the set of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.
On the set of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.
First snow of the season.
First snow of the season.
Buried in snow.
Buried in snow.
My love for making sushi.
My love for making sushi.
A game of Mousetrap.
A game of Mousetrap.
The story of the stationary Canadian quarter. This actually happened.
The story of the stationary Canadian quarter. This actually happened.

I hope you enjoyed this little slideshow of memories. Granted, they are my memories, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, too. Nevertheless, they are but a glimpse into my life and why I think experiences are special to have and to hold as captured moments of time to relive forever.

[Author’s note: In celebration of spring, I’ve changed the header color to reflect the season. I hope you like it!]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you like photography? Have you taken many pictures that remind you of the memories?