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September 16, 2014

The Joy of Owning Good Dogs

Good Dogs and Bad Dogs

There are good dogs like Gracie (Coffee Dog), who I wrote about here, and here. And there are good pigs like Sweet Pete, who I mentioned here. And then…there are dogs like Mollie.

The first post I ever wrote was about Mollie—more specifically, the trouble she caused. And then I wrote about her again to emphasize a point in a post regarding a quaint old saying—Eat Shit and Die.

But I have never actually gone into detail on Mollie or why she makes for such an interesting and often unpredictable day.

Ancestry

Many of the animals who find their way to our sanctuary were abused, mistreated, or abandoned. If they behaved badly, I could find it in my heart to forgive them. But they don’t. They are almost always grateful and loving.

Mollie came here a little more than 10 years ago. She wasn’t abused, nor abandoned. She was the result of the bad behavior of one of our other “troublesome” members—Bear. I have a book coming out about Bear soon, so I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say Mollie was not a result of a “planned parenthood” type of arrangement, and the neighbor whose dog Bear “ruined” insisted that I select one of his offspring.

Genetics

Mollie looks nothing like Bear, as you can see from the pictures. But somehow she seems to have inherited all of his DNA. I know that’s not possible, but she did. Trust me. And one trait more than any other that she “assumed” was Bear’s distrust and dislike for strangers.

When I say strangers, I don’t just mean people. Mollie won’t tolerate new dogs, coyotes, wild pigs, deer…she even goes after the herons who come to feast at our pond. But people seem to hold a special place in her heart, and delivery drivers sit at the top of her list. She has bitten Fed-Ex drivers, postal workers, vets, and her favorite—UPS drivers. One time she escaped and chased down the UPS truck and jumped up into it while it was going down the drive. All in a misguided attempt to bite the driver.

Everyone Needs A Guard Dog

I know what many of you might be thinking—that a good guard dog is nice. It makes you feel safe, protected. That’s true. I won’t deny it. But…there is a problem with Mollie and her mutated genes. She not only wants to bite the strangers, she is so passionate about it, that she will bite anyone who is in her way.

I take that back. Somehow my granddaughter, Adalina, has earned immunity. I don’t know how, but she has. Adalina can tug on Mollie, pull her hair, fall on her, use her as a crutch when walking…it doesn’t matter. Mollie never so much as looks sideways at her. However…if anyone else is in the way of Mollie wanting to bite someone—she will bite that person. Even when that person is me. I have learned this the hard way.

Last week, a stranger dared to get lost. She pulled into our driveway and started up our sidewalk. Foolishly, I opened the back door and tried to sneak out to greet her. The image below shows the result. And this was through long pants.

And just so there is no confusion about intent. This is the third time Mollie has done this.

Getting Back To Genetics

The amazing thing is that Mollie has developed this habit—which is identical to Bear’s habit—all on her own. Bear lives with my son a few blocks away. He has visited Mollie, but he hasn’t been here to raise her. Somehow, that wonderful trait has found its way through the gene pool and into sweet Mollie all by itself. Below is a picture of Bear next to Mollie.

Bottom Line

I know that some of you might think that it’s terrible to keep a dog that bites. But we keep every animal on the sanctuary. None of our “family” is put down unless their time has come. And in so many ways, Mollie is a gentle soul.

I mentioned how good she is with Adalina. But she is also wonderful with the pigs. Even when they were small she never tried hurting them. She is also amazing with my niece, who often visits. And she is exactly what I need some nights to kickstart a laugh. What more could I wish for?

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

September 8, 2014

Launch of New Mystery Book

Murder Takes Patience—Launch of New Mystery Book

Before I get started today, I want to apologize to all of the readers who might have pre-ordered from Nook, Apple or Kobo. I made a huge mistake and uploaded the wrong file. The result is that the book you received—if it was delivered before 9/3—has mistakes in it. I think this only affects Nook customers, but in any case, if you purchased a pre-order at one of those three retailers prior to 9/3, please email me at gg@giacomog.com and I will send you the proper book.

Again, my apologies. You know how much I despise mistakes.

Now on to the good news. My new mystery book — Murder Takes Patience—is now for sale at Nook, Apple, and Kobo. It will be on Google by the end of the week. And it is available for pre-order on Amazon, where it should go live next week.

Friendship & Honor Series

There was a time when a person’s word meant something, when friendship was more than a quick hello or a meaningless handshake. When you didn’t give your word lightly, and honor was something people were proud of.

Nicky Fusco and Frankie Donovan grew up in those times, and they’ve never forgotten the code.

Read the Friendship & Honor series. See what you’re missing.

• Murder Takes Time
• Murder Has Consequences
• Murder Takes Patience   

Murder Takes Patience—Available Now

Book III in the Friendship & Honor Series

Even good people are haunted by nightmares. Some are kept awake by things they did in the past: Lies they told, people they cheated, laws they broke.

The ones who lived the worst lives are haunted by more than lies or broken laws. Their sleep is stolen by the people they killed.

Nicky Fusco isn’t like any of them. He’s not bothered by lies, or broken laws. Not even by the people he’s killed.

Nicky is kept awake by the people he hasn’t killed yet.

For the next week only, buy at the discounted price at Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, or Amazon.


           

Giacomo Giammatteo

August 25, 2014

What Confidence Can Do For You

Confidence Is A Magic Bullet

Why do some people always succeed, while others keep missing the mark? Everyone has different talents and abilities, but some people, even those without a lot of natural talent, seem to rise above the masses and end up at the top. And confidence is often the driver behind that success.

The best sales people exhibit confidence, and the managers responsible for hiring them know this, which is why in any good interview scenario the interview team looks for signs of self-confidence. Displaying your self-confidence is similar to tightrope walking. Lean too far to the right and you are perceived as arrogant. Too far left and you appear to lack self-esteem. But when you hit on all cylinders—then you’ve created magic.

Talk to any sales person who’s been around a while, and they can tell you how it feels when they come out of a presentation and they know they closed the deal.

Realization

I was fortunate to have been raised in a house where confidence was instilled in all of us. As a result, I guess I never gave it much thought until my wife and I started our animal sanctuary. Observing the animals has taught me a lot, and one of the most important things I learned is that confidence is not restricted to humans. It plays a big part in animal politics. Take a look at the picture of Kelly (above). You can even see the confidence in her.

During the past twenty years I have seen dozens of examples, but today I’m only going to show you one of them.

Sweet Pete

Let me give you a little background. On our sanctuary we have about 45 animals at any given time. About half of them are either potbelly pigs or wild pigs. As you might guess, when it comes to feeding time, there is a mad rush. For a long time the biggest and toughest pigs got the lion’s share of the food. But then…

Along Came Petey


As you can see from the picture, Petey is not the most intimidating thing.

• He’s smaller than all of the other pigs. 
• He’s older. 
• He came to us with a broken jaw, which causes him trouble eating. 
• And the biggest handicap of all—his deformities prevented his tusks from growing. 
In the pig world, tusks are the primary weapons. 

But none of that stopped Petey. He had a few other weapons in abundance.

Determination, Persistence, And Confidence

The pigs are fed every day about noon. Petey is never late for lunch. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, cold, or 100 degrees. Petey is at the gate waiting for me to show up. If I’m 10 minutes late, he’s waiting, and he’s normally squealing loud enough to wake the dead.

It takes me a few minutes to prepare the food, and then place it on the feeding platform. The entire time I’m doing this, Petey is positioning himself. The pigs with the biggest tusks normally bully their way to the front and take the prime position on the platform. It’s very much like the game children play—King of the Hill. Once the food goes down, it’s a free-for-all.

King of the Hill

By all rights, Petey should be the loser in this game, relegated to sate himself on the crumbs that fall from the feeding table.

But no one seems to have told Petey that. He is so confident that he pushes, and shoves, and squeezes through—and if the other pigs stop him, he tries from another angle. If they stop him there, he tries something else. He does whatever he has to to get his position on the platform.

And he doesn’t seem to have a care in the world while this is happening. He’s almost nonchalant, as if he knows he’ll get what he wants.

By looking at Petey you wouldn’t think he could accomplish this. The other pigs are bigger, stronger, younger, and have far bigger tusks. And yet, every day, Petey wins the prime position on the platform. He’s determined, and he’s relentless. And before feeding time is over, he’s the king of the hill.

Getting Back To Confidence

The world seems to be getting tougher. People don’t look out for each other anymore, and everyone is on a fast-track in an effort to get to the top of…something. The people who have natural confidence don’t have to play this game. They have the luxury of going through life knowing that if they need to reach a goal, they can. And if they fail, they can start over. If you’ve ever wondered what confidence can do for you, the answer is—everything.

Bottom Line

If you are raising kids, think about what you can do to instill confidence in your children.

The best gift you can give your child is confidence. It will let them live their life on their terms.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

August 18, 2014

Family Is Everything

author Giacomo Giammatteo and his dog Slick

Giacomo & Slick

Family Isn’t Dead

Everyone has problems, and sometimes problems have a way of multiplying as we grow older. Worries heaped atop other worries, and those on top of physical issues. Despite that, I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world.

I grew up in the most loving family I can imagine. And we lived in a neighborhood that I still think of as the greatest place on earth to raise a kid. It wasn’t just our family. It was a neighborhood of working-class people, many of whom were descendants of immigrants—Irish, Italian, Polish, and others.

This neighborhood and the values that we were raised with find their way into some of my books in the friendship & honor series. In my other series, the entire theme is, La famiglia é tutto—family is everything.  

But this post isn’t about books.

This Is About Family

I often worry about where this country is heading, mostly due to what I see as the lack of values in the younger generation—values that were infused in us when we were young. Read the news on any given day, and you’ll be appalled at the stories of things kids do to each other, and to themselves. It makes me wonder just what is being infused into the younger children. It’s depressing to read article after article of bad things happening, so when I run across a good story, especially about a young person, it makes me feel as if there’s hope.

I ran across just such an example recently.

Tim and Mike Ferrier were good friends of mine when I lived in Cleland Heights. Like many of the families at that time, the Ferriers had a lot of kids and they made sure the kids grew up in a very loving family. Mike sent me a poem that his granddaughter Rosalina wrote for a school project. I was so impressed, and so moved by the emotion, that I had to share it. The title of the project was…

Where I’m From

by

Lindsay Tucker

 

I am from a comfortable family,

Not a lot of money, but enough.

I am from the old brick house on South Clifton Ave.

The one that you couldn’t see until the old oak tree was cut down.

I am from the red rose bushes in my Grandfather’s garden,

And the old bird’s nest on top of the fan outside.

I am from the nickname Rosalina given to me by my Grandfather

And the many stories that go along with it.

I am from sun blankey and my yellow sunglasses

That were used when my Grandfather picked me up from school and the sun was too bright.

I am from a Grandmother, who helps me to be the person I am today,

And I wouldn’t have made it where I am today without her.

I am from the family with a million cousins

And plenty of hearts ready to help.

I am from a house that gets packed on Christmas Eve

And has many Italian foods ready to eat prepared by Mike and Marie.

I am from the world’s cutest puppy named Marilyn

And two younger sisters that make me want to pull my hair out at times.

I am from one true best friend that no one could ever replace,

Also known as my Mom.

I am from the brown hair and blue eyes

That comes from my Great-Grandfather.

I am from a small city where everyone knows my Grandfather,

And an even smaller neighborhood where everyone knows each other.

I am from the pizza and Chinese food that my family eats on special occasions

And the birthday cake that has a 0 candle on it no matter what age you are turning.

I am from a family where stress is overcome by love

And problems are worked on together rather than on your own.

I am from a loving family, who cares about everyone,

That would do anything for anyone at anytime.

Rosalina

Rosalina, whose real name is Lindsay Tucker, is 15-years old. This poem is from her heart, and from her experience. You can’t make this up.

This is what family is all about.

What strikes me most about this poem is Rosalina’s self-awareness. “Where I’m From,” is a broad topic for a teenager. I’m sure many of them wrote about their neighborhood, or their city, or even about the country where their ancestors originated.

Rosalina dug deeper than that.

She has an awareness that most adults haven’t learned to recognize, much to their detriment. Rosalina seems to realize, even at this early age, that who she is, the person she has become, is a result of her family and her surroundings.

I am so happy for Rosalina, because I already know that no matter what life throws at her, she’ll do fine. She is a very lucky girl.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

August 12, 2014

Pretty Girl Is Safe

close up shot of pretty girl, a pit bull we rescued on our sanctuaryPretty Girl—No Home Yet, But Safe

Back in June, I wrote a post about Pretty Girl, a pit bull rescue who was dumped on our sanctuary. She was one of several who had been left there, and it was obvious from looking at her that she had been abused or used for fighting. She was very friendly, but animal aggressive, which meant we couldn’t keep her even if we did have the funds, especially considering we had just taken in one of the other pit bulls who had been dumped.

So we kept her for two months, trying everything to find a home for her. But no one would take her. We were determined this good girl was not going to die, so we kept looking. We finally found a no-kill shelter who might accept her, and on Friday, Mikki and I made the drive—a 350 mile round trip—but it was well worth it.

Pretty Girl Passed the Test

All dogs, especially pit bulls, have to undergo a test to make sure they aren’t people aggressive. They test them with food, put their hands in while a dog is eating. Take the food from them. Give them toys and take them away. Play tug of war. And do a lot of other tests to ensure that if someone adopts the dog there will not be a problem.

Pretty Girl passed the people test, but her problems aren’t over.

She Still Needs a Home

Despite being safe and having a home where she will be fed and taken care of, she still doesn’t have a family. And this girl needs one. She is super lovable. She is loyal. She listens well. The only issues would be with other animals. She cannot be with other dogs or cats, or any animals.

What Can You Do?

If you know of anyone in the Austin, TX area who is looking for a great companion, Pretty Girl might fit the bill. She would be fantastic in any situation as long as it doesn’t involve other animals. She walks well on the leash, is well behaved, and follows commands. She is sweet and lovable. She seems great with kids. Please contact us if you know of anyone looking for a dog. gg@giacomog.com

Here are some other pics of her, including Mikki and I saying goodbye.

Pit bull on Tuskany Falls Sanctuary, smiling Pretty Girl smiling. A pit bull we rescued on our sanctuary

pit bull rescue pit bull rescue

Please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

August 4, 2014

What Does Your Profile Picture Say About You?

Will a Casual Profile Picture Doom Me To Mediocrity?

When I first uploaded my profile picture on LinkedIn, I had a number of friends and associates tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I should use a different one.

“Something more professional,” they said.

I’m not one to ignore advice without checking, so I looked into it further. After all, as an author I was going to need an image on a couple of websites, a few Facebook pages, G+, Pinterest, Twitter, and for articles I wrote as a guest blogger.

Social Media Best Practices

Almost every article I read on social media best practices discussed the profile picture, and I think I read them all:

• How to build a profile on LinkedIn.
• How to build a website.
• Enhancing your Facebook and G+ pages.  

After reviewing a few dozen examples and reading advice from many experts, I opted for…being me.

What Does That Mean?

It means that while I occasionally dress in a suit, and I enjoy a formal event now and then, I am most at ease dressed in casual clothes and hanging out with one of the 40–50 animals on our sanctuary. So I decided that my picture would represent that.

That’s me with Slick, the best dog I have ever seen.

Experts told me I was wrong, that I shouldn’t use such an informal picture for my professional profile. But the way I see it, is regardless of whether it’s business or not, you do business with a person. I want to like the people I do business with, and I would hope they feel the same. I’m also convinced that if someone doesn’t like my profile picture, they probably won’t like me. I’m fine with that. What I won’t do is put up a fake picture of me, dressed in a suit with my arm draped over the mantel of a fireplace. So I ignored all the advice and went with my gut.

And To My Surprise…

The feedback has been positive. I’m sure the people who don’t like it simply don’t take the time or have better manners than to say so, but the sheer number of people who have written to say, “I love your profile pic. What kind of dog is that?” Or something along those lines…has been amazing.

Bottom Line

While doing research on this, I didn’t find one article that suggested simply being yourself. I wrote this post for those of you who don’t want to put up a more formal picture. Maybe this will inspire you to “just be yourself.”

You might be surprised at the response.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

July 28, 2014

Smashwords and Overdrive

Building a Library Presence With Smashwords and Overdrive

There has been a lot of talk about Smashwords’ deal with Overdrive. Some people claim that indie authors have been relegated to an “indie ghetto” and that librarians won’t even be able to find an indie author’s books if they wanted to.

Let’s examine that for a minute.

What do you think is Overdrive’s intent? Do you think they spent a ton of money and went to the trouble of making a deal with Smashwords just to hide the indie authors so nobody could find them?

Why would Overdrive do that?

Or do you think it’s possible that Overdrive is simply taking a cautious approach to this expansion?

My Take on the Matter

My take on it is that Overdrive is being perhaps too cautious, but that’s their call to make. The library business is not known for its willingness to accept new things with open arms. Just last month I spoke with Kirkus about their marketing campaigns. One of the first things they mentioned was that librarians weren’t much interested in self-published titles. Some were, but not the majority.

If that’s the case, why would Overdrive, whose main business is libraries, risk putting indie titles in their system? They wouldn’t, unless they believed in the indie movement and were committed to it for the long term.

And furthermore, why would Mark Coker, who has been a fierce supporter of the indie movement risk his reputation on something that didn’t look as if it would pay off? Remember, Smashwords makes no money unless authors make money.

A Closer Look

Coker has always had indies best interest at heart. I cannot see him doing anything to jeopardize that. My mother always taught me to look at intent and find out what a person’s motivation was for doing what they did. Let’s look at this.

Why Would Smashwords Agree To A Deal Where Indies Are Treated As Second-Class Citizens?

I’m not one to be silent about mistreatment. And I don’t like to be relegated to the second tier of anything. So if a cause is there to speak up about, you’ll normally find me at the front of the line. But I like to make sure that the line I’m in is the right one.

People have been blaming Smashwords, when I can’t see why? If a group of authors want to scream bloody murder, first find out who is responsible.

My guess is this was Overdrive’s decision to segregate the titles. And I’m also guessing that it will work out as soon as Overdrive has had a chance to integrate all the titles and deal with issues on the library front. I say it’s a guess, because Overdrive has not returned my calls.

I’m sure Mark Coker has an idea, but he’s not going to say anything bad about Overdrive; they’re a business partner. Imagine being a partner with Apple and saying bad things about them? It’s not good business, no matter who is at fault.

Would You Like Some Whine With That Cheese?

The thing that really bothers me is the way too many indies rally around a few whiners. Think about this, people. If you aren’t happy regarding the Overdrive situation, it’s easy to fix. Go to your Smashwords’ dashboard. Go to Channel Manager, and then scroll down and opt out of any or all books for Overdrive. It’s as simple as that.

Or, you could wait patiently for Overdrive and Smashwords to fix this mess and then—ideally—reap the rewards of having your books in tens of thousands of libraries.

Most of the complaints from indies have centered around being treated as second-class citizens. Guess what? Indie authors have been treated as second-class citizens all along.

  • Independent bookstores won’t accept indies (with few exceptions), but I see no one screaming at them. That bothers me more than Overdrive putting me in a ghetto.
  • Amazon has never treated indies the same as traditionally published authors. Even with the newest deal—Kindle Unlimited—indies are treated like crap and others not. I have to say that bothers me a hell of a lot more than the Overdrive situation.
  • Most of the traditional awards programs won’t recognize indie authors.
  • Many reviewers won’t accept indie books.

The list goes on and on. And do you know what? All of that bothers me a lot more than what Overdrive is doing. Unless an author was with Overdrive before this, and showing up in normal search mode, this situation is not harming anything but their pride. I don’t like it. I don’t agree with it. But it’s not costing me a dime. It does represent a potential loss in income from books that might get into libraries. But the things that Amazon does to indies costs me a lot more money.

  • Being undiscoverable because I’m not in Select.
  • Or being lower in rankings of “average customer reviews” because other books are pushed more. (More on that later.)
  • Or only earning half the royalties because I’m not in Select.
  • Or being forced to price match.

These things cost all indies a lot more than what Overdrive is doing.

What Else Can You Do?

My first suggestion is the same thing I’ve been doing for print books.

  • Talk to librarians as if they were real people and discuss the situation. Don’t complain.
  • Ask your readers and fans to request that their library carry your books. I have found this to be the best way to encourage librarians to stock your books.

I’m convinced that as this program moves forward, both Overdrive and the libraries will see that stocking indies was a good idea. The few items I mentioned will help that along, but the best thing we all can do is continue to write great books.

Bottom Line

If six months, or a year from now, the situation at Overdrive is the same, I’ll join you on the front line screaming. In the meantime, I think I’ll practice patience.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

July 22, 2014

Foods To Die For

Figs With Gorgonzola

I had my annual stress test yesterday. I normally avoid scheduling any such test in the month of July for a number of reasons, but the number one reason is because of figs. You heard me right—figs!
I’m sure you’re wondering how figs could affect a stress test. It’s not so much that the figs interfere with the stress test, it’s more that the stress test interferes with the celebration of figs. I don’t like my meals ruined by thoughts of running on a treadmill and worrying if what I’m eating might affect those results.

For those who don’t know, fig trees bear fruit once a year, and the figs usually last about one month. Where I live, they usually ripen in late June or early July, and, for the following month, we feast on figs. We occasionally just eat the fruit, but more often than not we prepare them the way God must have intended them to be prepared—stuffed with Gorgonzola and lightly broiled. This is a picture of last night’s meal. My son made it for me to celebrate the passing of one more stress test.

As you can see, the figs and Gorgonzola are to die for, but the seafood crepes…oh my God! (By the way, I have never tasted a store-bought fig that was worth a damn, so if you don’t have a fig tree, plant one, or two.)

The figs are sliced and stuffed with Gorgonzola and then placed under the broiler until the cheese starts to melt. What you see on the plate alongside the figs are savory crepes stuffed with shrimp and tied with a chive. They are then baked in the oven until golden on the outside. And what you can’t see is the garlic aioli sauce my son makes, which is so damn good I could eat it with a spoon.

If you remember in last week’s post I talked about what foods were served in heaven. This is one of them. The only thing I’m hoping is that in heaven fig season lasts all year long.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

July 14, 2014

What Food Is Served In Heaven?

A Late Thank You for a Father’s Day Gift

Being a person who cherishes a well-prepared meal—and being Catholic besides—I have often wondered what food is served in heaven. And that is making a huge assumption that I earn my way there.

Sure-Fire Menu Items

I know a few things that are can’t miss items. And these alone are enough to keep me walking the straight and narrow. Let’s take a look at these known foods.

 

  • Spaghetti and meatballs
    • No brainer. If only the Italians voted for it, it would still be high on the list.
  • Seafood Ravioli
    • Another shoo-in. Who doesn’t love a good seafood ravioli?
  • Lasagna
    • I’m hoping it’s Mikki’s lasagna, but I’ve tasted plenty that would suffice.
  • Veal Marsala
    • No more needs to be said.

 

Getting Back to My Story

I went off on a tangent here—which I tend to do when food is involved—so let’s get back on track. For father’s day, my lovely daughter sent me a gift card for my favorite grocery store. Yes, I know, that’s an odd thing, but my daughter knows me well, and she understands that a special meal and a good bottle of wine are better than almost anything. Hence, the grocery-store gift card.

To make this more than just a special father’s day, my oldest son chipped in and volunteered to cook me up a meal beyond comparison.

A Little Explanation

I love tiramisu. I go berserk over sfogliatelle. And figs with gorgonzola…fahgettaboutit.
But there is one dish that I seldom get, and it just might top all of the others.
What is it?

Homemade Ricotta Cheese With Pears and Cinnamon

If you’ve never eaten this slice of heaven, then I offer my condolences. If you have had it, and presuming it was made properly, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Take a look at the picture below, and tell me you’re not drooling.

 

 

Of course, no meal is complete without a glass of fine wine. For this occasion we had Santa Cristina, a Chianti that is inexpensive and delicious.

 

 

The Rest of the Meal

I almost forgot the rest of the meal. My son is not one to dally around with food. When he cooks there is usually far too much for everyone. This is a genetically inherited trait that he got from his mother. She is a compulsive feeder.

Getting back to the meal. He also cooked veal Marsala, which was magnificent, and he made a wonderful salad. But for me, the meal began and ended with the dessert.

What if You Can’t Make It?

Have no fear. If you haven’t had this delicacy, and you can’t make it, or find someone else to make it for you, all is not lost. All you have to do is live a good life, because there is no question that this is a food served in heaven.

Recipe

If you do an Internet search for homemade ricotta, you’ll find dozens of recipes. Some will use lemon juice (or juice squeezed from fresh lemons) in place of buttermilk, but either will work. It boils down to preferences. This recipe can also be scaled up or down with consistent results. These measurements make enough cheese for about a dozen servings with enough left over to stuff shells or ravioli to feed about 8 people. (Stuffed shells with homemade ricotta is to die for.)

  • One gallon of whole milk. (Don’t use UHP ultra-high pasteurized)
  • One quart of buttermilk.
  • One pint of heavy cream.
  • One-half teaspoon of salt.

Note: Add more buttermilk to sweeten to your taste.

  1. Use a pan like what you make your red sauce in. Heat the milk, buttermilk, and cream (and salt) slowly. Stir every couple of minutes for about 10 minutes, until you see bubbles form. Then let it sit without stirring until the temperature hits 170°.
  2. When curds begin to form, remove it from the burner and let it sit (without stirring) for ten minutes. The whey and curds should begin to separate. Lay cheesecloth over a colander and put it on top of a large bowl.
  3. Now pour into the cheesecloth-covered colander, and let it drain. This might take up to an hour. (Wait until the liquid drains completely.)
  4. Put the ricotta in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. You should have enough for a few good meals. (This is assuming you can stop family members from dipping spoons into the mixture while it’s warm and stealing half of it.)

Most importantly, enjoy! Buon appetito.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

photo credit: stu_spivack via photopin cc

July 7, 2014

Happy Anniversary To My Wife

On Being Married For 45 Years

On July 4th, Mikki and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. Way back in 1969, on a scorching hot Independence Day, we swore vows to each other. I was 17. She was still 16. But we knew what swearing to a vow meant. It was the way we were brought up.

jim and mikki giammatteo wedding

I still remember our honeymoon night, if you want to call it that. We had no money, so the honeymoon consisted of our first night in a new apartment. New to us, that is. It was actually an $85 per month roach-infested dump, but we didn’t care.

We Were Young, And In Love

We were talking about our honeymoon as we sat in bed reading the other night. That first night was special, so special that we both remember it almost exactly the same way. A rare thing after so many years.

Then I started thinking about how different things are, comparing how we went to bed back then, versus now.

  • Back then we couldn’t wait to touch each other, our bodies intertwined. Hot and sweaty in an apartment with no air conditioning.
    • Now we are normally propped up on pillows reading books on our iPads.
  • Back then after being intertwined, we would turn off the lights and go to bed with our arms wrapped around each other.
    • Now the light on her iPad goes out long before mine, and we go to bed with a wall of pillows separating us, so our hot bodies don’t touch.
  • Back then we looked at each other with lust in our eyes.
    • Now we look at each other with love.

But Is That So Bad?

I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that not only is it not bad, maybe it’s better. Neither one of us looks like we did back then. We definitely aren’t in the same shape physically. And we certainly don’t have the stamina we did on that night so many years ago.

But We Have Memories

And I believe it’s the memories that get us through the tough times. Memories are hard to compete with. They can be good or bad. For me, the memories are fantastic. I don’t mean that I see her in the same way as I did when we were teenagers.

  • But I’ll catch a glint in her eyes that makes me recall a particular incident, and that brings a smile.
  • Or I’ll hear her laugh, and remember a day when we hooked school and went to Philly. Back then all days were filled with laughter.
  • Or I’ll hear her cry when one of our animals die, and I’ll wish for the days when there was nothing to cry about.

Bottom Line

Regardless of how tough things are, or how tough the road ahead looks, we’re fortunate because we have those memories. And when times get the worst, we can always turn off our iPads, toss the pillows off the bed, and relive a few memories.

Happy anniversary, Babe

Ti amo con tutto il mio cuore.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”




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  • This blog will be a little different from many you see. Contrary to the characters in my books, I don’t really kill people, or catch those who do, so the blogs might be about reading, or writing, or animals. These are the things I have great passion for. It might also contain posts about food, or ancestry, or substance abuse. My oldest son is a great cook. My daughter is a genealogist (rootsintheboot.com) and my youngest son is a recovering drug addict. He has been clean for three years, and runs a rehab center (intoactionrecovery.com).

    I hope you enjoy the posts, and please let me know what you think.

    Ciao,

    Giacomo

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