Saturday, December 3, 2011

Deborah Barnes--mother, author, hero!

It is said that the best movies of the year are released in December, to top off all other movies of the previous eleven months. Well the same can be said of books. I had the privilege to read and write a review before the official release of The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey.

In today's gloomy world beset by a beleaguered economy, one is uplifted through the dark clouds to the radiant sun by the ordinary. Deborah Barnes is an extra-ordinary person, well almost. She's not a Nobel winning scientist, a war hero, or a reality-series celebrity. Deb is a divorced mother of two sons, in her fifties, who like many of us, lost her job but unlike many, she fought her way back thanks to the lessons of her furry children-- her two, three, seven cats!

She is like many unknown, unsung heroes, everyday people,  who clawed her way back to the top.  By leveraging her knowledge, her hard work ethic and an inner strength, Deb regained steady footing and reached her long-ago dream--becoming an author.  What I admire most about Deb is that during her darkest moments, she did not despair, thanks to her cats.  In this rough economy, some pet owners first relinquish their pets, anything to lessen a financial burden. Deb Barnes instead watched and learned from her cats, pets that were content with a little food and affection. Their world was complete and happy.

This is a valuable lesson that we can learn from others less fortunate and that we should give what we need.

Deb inspires me. In reading her book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey, I felt we were kindred spirits. Committed cat ladies with a greater cause--to overturn the misperceptions of cats through education. Deb accomplished this with her book. But it's the journey to her goal that makes her a heroine in my eyes. I love stories of ordinary people who are really extraordinary.

This holiday season and New Year, if you're looking for a good book to read, one that combines real life challenges and uplifting humor and hope with a happy ending, then here it is! Thank you for supporting a budding author!

Merry Christmas & Happy, Blessed New Year
Christine

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

Christine and Johnny Walker


Creativity, fun, camaraderie, sweet treats--those spell out my favorite holiday--Halloween!

Yes how I love dressing in costume and not be myself. This time the opposite happened. I exposed myself, took off my mask of Christine Michaels and showed my true colors, my inner essence and unleashed the animal in me.

Ok so much buildup when you probably guessed my not-so-secret secret. I was Sexy Cat Lady the honorary title bestowed on me by the neighborhood. So if you guessed Cat Woman--you were heading in wrong direction--she was one of the villains in the Batman series. I'm a heroine--or hope to be!

At my office, I went solo and used the occasion to elevate, celebrate and educate the ignorant about the beauty, grace and intelligence of Black Cats. Yes my goal is to turn around the misperceptions of the black cat. So I furiously worked on creating posters of stunning black cats to cover and grace my wall and cubicle "windows". For effect--I brought Johnny Walker, a foster black cat. Was he scared? Of course not! Johnny welcomes humans greeting him like a king. He behaved well and walked around with his striking diamond collar and leash. For the rest of the day he napped on his cat bed under my desk and woke up a few times to ensure I was working diligently (guess who's the new boss?) and turned around for a different sleeping position.

The good news is that more and more retailers are NOT making "scary black cat" fixtures, decor as America is learning that black cats and dogs are the least adopted and the most euthanized. Halloween hurts their image and chances for a furrever home. We still have a long way to go.

Black cats are graceful, elegant and intelligent!





Poster 1


Poster 2


Poster 3



Desk display--diamond frame requesting donations. Video: myths about black cats,
and book about Homer


Statue of Egyptian Goddess Bast--a Black female cat
Adorned with encircle 5 diamonds (yes these are from my home)


Posters covering cubicle windows

Signed photo of Christopher Coppola and Biker Cat


Gypsy--one of the cat models that strutted down catwalk of Black Cat Gala

My new vanity license plate!

Homer is famous black BLIND cat from Miami
Now resides in NYC. Survived 9/11 after 3 days without food


Christine Cat Lady with Calex, the Matador!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Today's my Birthday, a New Stage Begins

It's my birthday!  So what celebratory fanfare marked this special day? Well today the weather was atypical and intermittent rain showers kept me indoors--a welcoming change. Often on the run, juggling three jobs and a semblance of a social life, I decided to stay in and just do nothing. Breakfast in bed, feet up (could use a foot massage), reading birthday emails and answering birthday phone calls absorbed my morning and early afternoon.  Aah, to be remembered and feel loved. Too bad there aren't more days celebrating a single person.

So October 9, 2011 was a day of relaxation, reflection and gratitude.  Gazing through my glass doors and beyond my balcony, the city of Miami lay there before me.  What an incredible view.




My view
The dome is the new Miami Marlins stadium, the highway is I-95
and inbetween is the Miami River

Today I give thanks for my health, my job, my family and friends and the ability to balance it all. I also gave thanks for the opportunity to give. Does that sound silly? My volunteer work for helping homeless cats (and dogs) has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I knew this was the beginning of new stage in my life.

Then I begin to reflect on goals for the coming year. Or am I suppose to do that on New Year's Eve?
Doesn't matter.  I'm in charge of my life! (The advantage of being single). So I made a big decision at the unmemorable age of 43. While it's not cemented and I'm in the research phase, I've decided to create a 501c3 nonprofit organization, to expand on my efforts in raising awareness of the plight of homeless cats and reverse the trend.

There are several wonderful nonprofit organizations focused on rescuing cats and dogs from the streets and from euthanasia at the overcrowded shelter and conducting TNR (trap-neuter-return). We are at war and a small army of dedicated volunteers are in the trenches doing their part.

Something is missing. I recall the book Three Cups of Tea. In the US war against Afghanistan, author Greg Mortenson leads us to the powerful solution--education. After a mountain climbing accident in Pakistan, a group of villagers nurse him back to health. In his recovery he learns of the customs and challenges of the remote village.  The children, all the girls, have no education. They are forgotten. The young boys are targets for recruits of the Taliban.  Greg vows to return and build a school and he does. The village people are grateful and an average US resident becomes their hero. He becomes a change agent in the war against terrorism. Education was his weapon of choice.

In my daily routine and in speaking to strangers, the average person does not know about  the epidemic of homeless pets (approximately 400,00 in Miami Dade county), the number of low-cost clinics to spay/neuter pet and stray cats and dogs ($25), and how to recognize the universal sign of a sterilized cat. Imagine if  one in every five people did? What would that mean to half of the stray kittens that die every day under the age of 8 weeks. It would reverse the cruelty and suffering of strays and homeless animal population.

So I begin my homework of the endless legal paperwork to file, the fees (amounting to at least $2,000), and the list goes on. I begin a new stage in my life! Obstacles, more hard work, sweat, tears and joy, all await me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs a Legend

My heart is heavy today in learning of the passing of a great American figure, Steve Jobs, the driving force behind one of the greatest American brands and business models, Apple.

So much can be said and is being said by the media and bloggers and users of Apple products from the young to senior citizens...I imagine a new record may be set in tributes to this icon who was a visionary leader and humble at the same time. Everyone admired Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs exemplified numerous qualities. What inspired me the  most is a rare personal moment that he shared during a commencement speech at Stanford University. In referring to his ousting at Apple "When I was rejected, I was still in love".  Even though the Apple computer company pushed him out at its pinnacle (the first wave), Steve still had a passion and followed it. He still had ideas and no one, no company, nothing would stop him from following his true love. In continuing to prove his incredible talents and vision at Pixar and other companies, Apple brought him back and Apple rose to meteoric highs.

For some, coming from a lower middle class family, money is a motivator. For Steve, not lacking in basic necessities, technology occupied his fascination and motivation. At the age of 17, he even picked up the phone and called the President of Intel for computer parts.

Steve became rich not at the expense of shareholders, but with shareholders. So when he returned to Apple, he did not earn a typical six or seven figure CEO salary with gross bonuses. He was content with $1 a year. ONE DOLLAR.

Steve Jobs provided "jobs". A technology that broke new ground and found users in all age groups  demanded a premium and customers were willing to pay. He went against the grain that Internet content should be free and charged a dollar or two. But $1.99 x  the number of people who downloaded an iTune translates into HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars. Genius.

Greatness like Steve Jobs come once in a lifetime. There is DaVinci, Thomas Edison, Sam Walton, and in my adult lifetime, Steve Jobs. I am honored and will remember his words during times when I feel alone and defeated in my quest to follow my heart and make a difference.

Below is a video from ABC News recapping his life. To quote Jobs about death, as life's "single best invention of life", as a change agent, to clear out the old and bring in the new, "You are already naked, there is no reason not to follow your heart".

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Christine's Hurricane Preparation--It's Exhaustive

Well you're probably wondering why I'm writing about hurricanes when my blog is meant to be joyous. Well to that point, PREVENTION is  my middle name. As one of my strengths I want to share valuable lessons.

After listening to all the various news reports post Hurricane Irene and residents in states like Vermont that never experienced a hurricane, I decided to share my list and it's more than your usual canned food, batteries and flashlights. As a native Floridian and having lived in Miami since 1997, I have learned from experience.  It's exhausting preparing for a hurricane but I fared better than most after Hurricane Wilma. It was disturbing to learn of residents struggling without power for three weeks.  Imagine taking cold showers or worse, not having a hair dryer or curling iron? Horrors. Yours truly invested in a battery powered generator for small appliances.  While most neighbors looked like something the cat dragged in, they would stare at me "You looked like you walked out of a salon!".  I say "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best".

1. Select a shelter that is above ground but does not require you to take an elevator or kill your knees descending 20+ flight of stairs. WHY? During hurricane Wilma that impacted Miami, it hit hardest in downtown Miami, my home.  While many buildings in Miami are supposed to have one elevator working on a generator, the fact is after Wilma, many of the NEW buildings failed when it came to functioning generator/elevator or even running water. Residents in condo highrises were forced to climb down the stairs and stay with friends or in hotels. Currently I live in a new highrise on the 39th floor. Trust me, I will be seeking refuge in my OLD condo building on the 4th floor.

2. On that note if you don't want your home smelling like a sewer, fill your bathtub with water.   You will need that water to flush your toilet and for other urgencies if there is no running water in your home or condo or apartment.

3. Unplug all devices and move any furniture or items you don't want damaged should the windows shatter. A false sense of security are hurricane shutters.  They do NOT prevent windows from shattering. They DO protect your windows from projectiles. During Hurricane Andrew, we learned that houses with shutters saw their windows explodes. Now in new buildings with hurricane "windows", don't count on them staying intact. 

4. In a condo building, camp out in the hallway corridor. That's what we always do as it's the most secure interior. In an apartment building, stay in the most interior room with no windows. Keep your cell phone with you at all times. Or bring in regular phone with long extension.

5. Invest in a regular land phone line and have old fashion phone with push buttons that don't require plugging into a wall. Who would have thought that old-fashioned technology "the land phone line" would be the only source of connection and to ask for help. Even before any hurricane strikes, cell phone usage is nonexistent. Naturally during the hurricane forget it. Cable service was also down for both television viewing and internet. Our cable service was down for a week post hurricane. Recently I made my elderly mother get a land phone line from AT&T. Yes it costs more money than the new internet based phone services but this way we can stay in touch easily. The downside, AT&T is horrific with operations. They never came out after my mother took a day off of work. It was a nightmare getting them to come out.  We are anti AT&T but they are only company that offers land line.

6. Ensure you have enough clothing, food, water for a week. This is NOT the way to lose weight.
7. Fill your gas tank! So many gasoline stations were closed after Hurricane Wilma, cars were running on fumes and fading in the middle of the road.

8. STOP AT NONFUNCTIONING TRAFFIC LIGHTS. It's amazing how many people forget the traffic laws. If you approach a traffic light that's nonfunctioning, you have to treat it as a stop sign.

9. Park your car inside an elevated concrete garage like bank building.  Plan ahead. Talk to your local building owners and ask if they would allow it for hurricanes. Too many cars are damaged  or destroyed with fallen trees or damaged from flooded rains. 

10. Make copies of important documents. Photocopy or Scan documents and store them in digital warehouse. This should be done during nonhurricane season.

11.  Never leave your pets at home. Bring them with you or drop off at secure shelter for pets. If they accompany you, bring plenty of pet food, water, and paper towels, disinfectant spray and plastic bags to clean up after their bathroom business while indoors during the hurricane.

12. No matter where you are staying, even in your home, have a small luggage ready with clothes and essentials in case you have to evacuate suddenly.

13. BUY RAIN BOOTS and raincoat! Most hurricanes leave behind a trail of streets converted to rivers.

14. Have playing cards and poker chips and other board games handy for long nights with no television or Internet. The silver lining in hurricane, it brought together families and neighbors and every evening was one big barbecue or dinner party! Oh yes, bottles of wine bring levity post hurricane during cleanup and recovery and the wait for power to return.

15. Invest in sternos and aluminum pans with frames to warm up foods.  Many party stores sell portable sternos. Another option is little habachi grill and charcoal with lighter fluid. Be sure to buy LONG stem matches. If you have meats in freezer or fridge, cook those first. Save dry food for later.

16. Have one or several coolers filled with ice. Even if the ice melts, you may be able to buy ice nearby and refill the cooler to keep water and drinks cool.

17. Buy battery operated radio to keep up with news.


One of the most important lessons I learned during Hurricane Wilma, while it was only a category 1, the damage and destruction was similar to a hurricane 3. Why? We are facing a double natural disaster. Microbursts or mini tornadoes spun out after Wilma.  This explained why there was no drop of rain on the streets but many windows were blown out of buildings and automobiles! This is why it's extremely important to stay away from windows, stay in interior room, stay on low floor but not ground level.

Be prepared! Be Safe!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rob Zuckerman, Photography Exhibit at the Betsy Hotel

Robert Zuckerman, photographer and Christine Michaels, blogger

Last Sunday was a dual celebration. The exhibit of famed celebrity photographer Rob Zuckerman, and the appearance of two cast members from Charlie's Angels at the Betsy Ross Hotel in South Beach.  Which one won most attention? The exhibit! The photos that hung in the lobby, the downstairs bar/lounge and in the guestroom corridor pulled you in and one is mesmerized, addicted, reading.

The black and white photos were my favorite. Why is it they seem to tell a deeper story than a photo in color? The shades of black and grey and shadows of light all tell the story. Photographers amaze me. Robert Zuckerman has spent 20 years photographing Hollywood celebrities on film sets. His interest in his subjects later included average people.


According to Lydia Martin, Miami Herald:
Whether he’s training his lens on megawatt movie stars or taking impromptu shots of regular folks he encounters on elevators and street corners, in car rental joints and hotel corridors, photographer Robert Zuckerman is after the same thing: that fleeting, unguarded moment when the camera disappears, artifice drops and subject and shooter really start talking.
The one photo that captured this caption and also my favorite was a black and white of Morgan Freeman. Quiet, pensive, a million miles away. What occupies is mind?

Zuckerman’s presence behind the lens won’t be denied in the low-light portrait of Will Smith, caught in a wistful, weary moment at the end of a gray day spent shooting a new album cover.

So how does he do it? Is it practice perfected? Is it Science?

Zuckerman learned early on that a mild-mannered style always trumps an in-your-face stance when you’re trying to get people to drop their guard in front of a contraption that can come across as obtrusive, impolite, even thieving. That low-key approach is critical for a photographer who values emotional content above anything else he might be able to capture with his cameras.

“I think with anything you do, the intention you put behind it resonates in the results. It’s not something you can easily put into words, or teach to someone else, but if you have the intention of finding a glimpse of someone’s true character, that somehow comes through. It’s like magic. Or alchemy. It’s about a connection you can make, even for a moment, with another human being.” [Miami Herald, August 22, 2011]


How does a photographer capture that look, that mystery, the essence? I have to agree, it's alchemy.  Probably a little practice too. His subjects are treated the same, both celebrities and average Joes.

Robert Zuckerman's series Hindsight is on exhibition throughout the Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive--the colonial building at the end of a row of Art Deco Hotels.



Downstairs lounge Betsy Hotel


Christine sits and drinks champagne on velvet sofa in downstairs lounge



When asked which celebrity was surpisingly cooperative and which was difficult, Zuckerman actually names names! Read the complete article in the Miami Herald.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The new Charlie's Angels--Will it Kick Ass?


The third incarnation of the 70's hit series,  Charlie's Angels is filming in Miami and fills me with ambivalence. Excitement is from the $4 million per episode budget which pumps funds into our dire economy. Nervous? My stomach is aflutter! As a fan of both the original series and the film adaptation, I wonder will it flop or raise the bar for female action heroines? Any remake is a high-stakes game.

In doing some research I learned producers opted to film in Miami instead of Los Angeles, signaling a number of changes to come.  The Angels, ironically, are former con artists, and the premise is "realistic" and "friendship". The goal is to broaden their characters and reportedly, while the Angels will be stylish, there will be less "flesh". It's more than sex appeal. According to Executive producer, Al Gough in speaking to television reporters:
“We wanted to make this more grounded, make these women feel real, to give them a past. We wanted audiences to have something to come back to each week. The show is about redemption and second chances”

So far so good. The girls are an ethnic trio (representative of Miami's diversity and criminal element), perform many of their stunts, and face real life incidents and stories.  So I'm thinking it's part ALIAS (former ABC series starring Jennifer Garner where she performed her own stunts) part....? Hmm have to give this more thought.  What do you think?





The actresses are relatively unknown.  “Grey's Anatomy” actress Rachael Taylor (the brunette), Minka Kelly (blonde) of “Friday Night Lights” and Annie Ilonzeh, last seen on “General Hospital,” will take on the roles first made famous by Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson. Instantly I thought of the late Farrah and how the role propelled her to international sex symbol. Remember that iconic poster? Find out where it is now. Farrah went beyond and fought for roles with characters of depth.

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to meet the cast at the Betsy Hotel in South Beach. Again I had mixed emotions. Heart throb, Ramon Rodriguez plays Bosley. He's only 31! Yes he's the actor from the movie Transformers about a teenager who befriends giant toy-looking robots vs. the bad guys--another gang of robots. As the "manager" and go-between for Charlie and the Angels, shouldn't he be older than the girls? More mature?  The trailers confirmed it. "Bosley, adult swim is over" says Minka Kelley, the blonde angel, to Rodriguez who's sandwiched between two gorgeous bombshells in the swimming pool. Well, he's suave-looking and Latino--very Miami. I'll get past my hangups.



The other big question: Who will be the voice of Charlie? At first Robert Wagner was signed on. However, recent reports indicate Wagner was dropped due to "scheduling issues". The program makers have kept a tight lid on the voice of a new Charlie, someone whose voice has the sufficient “mystery, paternalism and authority.”


Unfortunately with the swarm of people around the cast this past Sunday, it was impossible to get a photo with the stars without performing my own daredevil stunt to distract the throng and land beside Rachel Taylor like Spiderman. I should probably say Cat Woman, given my local "fame".

Regardless, I'm looking forward to the new series and secretly hope one Angel is part geek like the character played by Cameron Diaz in the movie version to show beauty on the outside and the inner nerd in all of us.

Charlie's Angels is set to premiere on September 22 at 8pm on ABC.

Iconic Farrah Fawcett Poster


For all the baby boomers and Generation Xers like me, you remember the most coveted poster from 1976!  The red swimsuit that helped make "Charlie's Angels" actress Farrah Fawcett a 1970s icon is now displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Fawcett's longtime companion Ryan O'Neal donated the swimsuit and other items to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in January of this year. A 1976 poster of Fawcett in the dampened one-piece swimsuit sold 12 million copies--the highest selling poster in history.

Did you know that Farrah Fawcett never wore a bikini? Why? Watch the video to learn the answer.





The poster was produced first and sales skyrocketed once Farrah appeared on the debut of Charlie's Angels in September 1976.  According to Wikipedia,  she received more in royalties from the sale of her poster than she earned from her salary at Charlie's Angels.

In a 1977 interview with TV Guide, Fawcett said: "When the show was number three, I thought it was our acting. When we got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra".[ [wikipedia]

Ok men, did you have the poster in your locker or bedroom? What was the appeal? I thought it was her golden lockes and smile.

Farrah was more than beautiful. She was intelligent and a talented actress proven by serious roles she later took on. In 1983, Fawcett won critical acclaim for her role in the Off-Broadway stage production of the controversial play Extremities.  Replacing Susan Sarandon, she was a would-be rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker.


The following year, her role as a battered wife in the fact-based television movie The Burning Bed earned her the first of her four Emmy Award nominations. The project is noted as being the first television movie to provide a nationwide 800 number that offered help for victims in life threatening situations, in this case victims of domestic abuse. It was the highest-rated television movie of the season.

Farrah was also courageous when opening up about her battle with cancer to the public through a documentary. She died in 2009 of anal cancer at the age of 62.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bathing suit or Lingerie?

Photo courtesy of Eco Swim

Growing up on unspoiled beach, a virgin to commercial development, I was fortunate to spend many Sundays building sand castles, surfing and collecting sea shells until my parents had to drag me back to the car at sunset. I never wanted those days to end. I was sure that with time, I would naturally transform into a mermaid.

As an adult reality set in and never forgetting my childhood of ocean breezes, clean beaches and passing dolphins, I found the next best solution. After several years living in suburbs of Maryland, I returned to my homestate of Florida and settled in bikini kingdom--Miami. I would spend one day a week in a bathing suit and relax by the beach or pool, welcoming the serenity after a long work week.

This past week was Swim Week in Miami and I felt like a kid in a candy store— a dazzling patchwork of bikinis and one-pieces, breezy caftans and see through tunics, peek-a-boo pants and skirts, exotic prints and the occasional cape for drama and protection from the sun.

Two drawers in my chest are a treasure of assorted bikinis.  Which loin cloth and bosom lifter would be my lucky choice for 2011?

Staying in shape becomes increasingly difficult with age. There's nothing to love about waist handles. So I'm actually considering a one piece that cinches the waist without making me look matronly. What about the one at top of this posting? Looks like a teddy lingerie.  It's a consideration.What do you think?

Or I go could go in opposite direction--flirtatious, sexy, a tease...Below is a video of the Beach Bunny swimwear line.




To view videos of other top swim brands and the sexy models, click here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Homer's Odyssey, a book review


Homer's Odyssey is by far the best book I have ever read about an animal, in this case a cat. Not just any cat, a special needs cat. A black blind cat! This book taught me so much about the strength and courage of animals with special needs. Their preternatural abilities, they're almost superhuman.

In reading other reviews many readers indicated they had reservations. Usually the ending is tearfully sad and the pet dies. Not Homer. He will exceed your expectations.

Before I continue with my review, since I'm all too familiar with the misconceptions surrounding cats, I want to take out of turn my recommendation as to who should read this book. This books is NOT for cat people.

I encourage this book be read by:

- Anyone who says they're not a cat person. Believe me I used to say the same!
- Anyone who's hesitant about adopting more than two cats. Three's a lucky charm.
- Any woman or man who worries about the effect of cat ownership on one's dating life and relationships. This book offers excellent examples.
- If for no other reason than to learn about the incredible strength and spirit of a blind animal. This cat had no fear, not even of jumping into unknown depths!
As the chairperson of the inaugural Black cat gala by The Cat Network, to turn around the misperceptions of black cats and save them from epidemic rates of euthanization, I had heard about this book and the author even donated a few books for our event. Finally after finishing Dewey (another book about a famous library cat), I finally reached this book on my reading list.

This book jolted me immediately for a number of reasons. First, I identified with the author, Gwen Cooper who had two cats and lived in Miami. Moreso her rollercoaster career, the highs and lows was a copycat of my own career struggles. Marketing and Public Relations are finicky careers in the Miami market. All of my colleagues have shared the expected job layoff every three years like clockwork.

At the age of 27,  Gwen received a call from her vet, about a special case, a stray kitten. In this case a black BLIND  kitten. Would she take him? That vet, Dr. Patty Khuly, surgically removed Homer's eyes to rid of the infection and gave him a fighting chance to live. The question was, would a human see past his looks? This altruistic soul, is now a well-known veterinarian in South Miami, a writer for Miami Herald pet column and blogger. I encourage you to follow her on The Daily Vet.

In the foreword, Dr. Khuly writes:

The kitten had bounded back to life after surgery...How could I help but be smitten with his scraggly little blackness, his tiny sucken sockets, his insatiable appetite for feedings, pettings, cuddlings, and play sessions? Yes, he even romped like a normal kitten, despite his eyelessness. In short he was eminently lovable at least by all standards except the one with which most humans preoccupied themselves with: his appearance.

Amidst the topsy turvy career of a young woman already loaded with two other cats, there is the unplanned adoption of a third stray kitten, barely two weeks old and blind. Gwen Cooper is chronically living on the edge and now caring for a special needs animal. Does she become the crazy cat lady?

The book continues with Homer's odyssey from kittenhood into adulthood, moving multiple times from house to condo and to an even smaller apartment, from Miami to New York City. It is that odyssey of antics and adventures alongside the growing pains of a young woman in relationships and career that Gwen is the one who learns about love and life's lessons-- from a blind cat.   Homer steals the show.  I found myself as amazed as the author as she learns that Homer is not only unencumbered by his blindness but is actually more capable in other areas because of it. The episode wherein the author discovers Homer's ability to catch flies in mid-air is worth noting.

His courage of climbing a seven foot tall book case and taking a "blind leap" to depths unknown was more than pure courage it was symbolic.  This cat embraces life and enjoys it to the fullest. His gallant unswerving, and fierce loyalty even saved Gwen from an intruder in the middle of the night. That story alone and what he trained himself to do at the senior age of 11,  is worth reading the book.

But Homer looms larger than life in my imagination...He's Daredeveil, the famed marvel Comics superhero who list his sight in an accident while saving a blind man, but who gained superhuman use of all his other senses. Like Daredevil, Homer's senses of hearing and smell, his ability to map and negotiate all obstacles in an unfamiliar room simply walking through it once, border on the preternatural...He's a cat who can spring straight up five feet into the air and catch a buzzing fly in midflight. Every leap from a tabletop is taken on faith, a potential leap into the abyss...My other cats can see out the windows of our home, and so they know the boundaries of the world they inhabit. But Homer's world is boundless...and therefore infinite.


The chapters about her dating life and relationships initially had me nervous and before I knew it I was laughing. Nowadays having three cats does not carry stereotypical weight as let's say five cats? More comical, it turns out the guys were more interested in Wonder Cat than in Gwen and they would ask if they could still visit Homer "as friends" after breaking up with Gwen. Can you believe that?


Homer initially came into my home because nobody else wanted to take him. So it never fails to amaze me how fascinated people are --even people who aren't particularly interested in cats--when they meet him or even just hear about him. He's the ultimate conversation starter...
Gwens' writing style was refreshing, never monotone or mundane, lively and created a three dimensional nonstop mental motion picture.

I can already envision the movie, the actors, but who would play Homer? Hmm maybe a black cat audition! Between the casting cat call and the movie, black cats would have better chance of survival! Oh I'm getting too excited over a fantasy. Back to reality.

If you claim to love animals, open your mind and you'll thoroughly enjoy this book. It's great for a summer or vacation read--Humorous, enlightening, moving and inspirational!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dating with Pets

As a single female in Miami with pets, I love to read other stories and blogs about women in a similar situation. It makes me smile and laugh! Is it so hard for a single woman with multiple pets to date? Is it harder or the same as a single mother with kids? What do you think?

Here's one story about a veterinarian, Dr. Justine Lee. After the loss of her dog JP, she decided to fill the void and start online dating. She posted photos of her and her dog in the profile section. One JERK actually responded with an insult! And he still had the gall to suggest she call him! Can you believe that?!?! What do you think?

Naturally we develop first impressions. But if you want to meet someone, shouldn't one use honey to attract bees and not insect repellant? Hence, Justine reciprocated in a straighforward and honest reply by saying "Buzz Off".

The last guy I met, a young, successful dentist (I say young because I knew he was in his 30's--just following Demi Moore's example) seemed genuinely interested in dating moi. I gave him my business card with cell phone number and personal email address. A few days later I received a polite follow up email indicating he enjoyed meeting me at this unisex baby shower for a common friend, and suggested he would call soon. ONE POINT.  True to his word, he phoned the next day and proposed we go see Cirque du Soleil if he didn't go on a trip to west coast. TWO POINTS. An event like Cirque du Soleil is no cheap date. I was impressed and agreeable.  Sure enough he called the next day to say he was heading off on a last minute trip to Costa Rica. What happened to San Francisco? Must be nice!

Well Mr. Dentist Jet Setter said he would call on his return. I never heard from him again. Was he kidnapped by jungle monkeys? Was he in a coma induced by bananas falling on his head?  OR...maybe he saw my website on the business card--the CAT website.  I'm proud of the work I do with outdoor homeless cats. But just maybe he assumed I'm a crazy cat lady.  It's possible.

Well I didn't lose any sleep over it.  Nor am I searching for Mr. Right. My philosphy to meeting my perfect mate is the same as clothes shopping. Men = clothes? Yes it's true.

Whenever I'm looking for a specific apparel item and set out mall hopping, I never find it.  Only when I least expect it, will that brown skirt with the slit appear and on sale!  That's exactly what happened.

So as not to scare off any potential suitor, I decided not to hand out my kitty cat business card, although I just ordered my vanity license plate, "Sexy Cat Lady" with graphic image of sexy black cat. Now I'm working on creating a personal business card. 

What do you think about the dating degree of difficulty for single persons with multiple pets?  Share your stories and opinions by clicking on comment below!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I'm Featured in Brickell Magazine!



Christopher R. Coppola, Otto the Biker Cat and Christine Michaels
 on a Harley at the EPIC hotel in downtown Miami (a pet friendly, 5 star hotel)

How exciting! I received a call this weekend from my mother who picked up the latest issue of Brickell magazine. Her voice quivered with excitement and pride.  "Honey you are featured in the magazine!"

That evening she brought the issue and I also ran to my computer to check for a digital version.

Under the "Entrepreneur" section, the title was "Kitty Care".  The article spoke about the conception and the event called Le Chat Noir, the Cat Network's inaugural Black Cat Gala, to raise awareness about uniqueness of black cats, reduce euthanization rate while increasing their adoption rate.

Here is the link: http://www.brickellmag.com/digital/BM/7_11/files/44.html
To magnify the page, just click on the article. Below are the captions for each photo featured in the article.

Except there was a misstatement in the article that I need to correct here.  It was NOT the state of Maryland that mandated not to send black kittens. It was the shelter in Bowie that made the call.
(Note: Please know the article was the draft the reporter wrote and I had corrected it but the reporter is no longer with the magazine. I had sent several emails to the reporter and editor with corrections but this was earlier in the year. )


Susan Sonson holds India, another black cat model


Swimsuit model and black cat model practicing the cat walk

Gypsy--Black Cat model

Christopher Coppolo holds celebrity guest, Otto the Biker Cat
at entrance of Wolfgang Roth Partners Fineart gallery

MY FRIENDS
This event was pulled off by a few volunteers.  Amazing! But we definitely need more help for the next one.  I especially want to thank my personal friends, who came through for me and the cause when I needed help. You are true Friends!!!


Thanks to Nikki Hawkins (professional model), Algeria Bridges (another model) who drove all the way from Miramar, Adrienne dAnnunzio (who should be a model), my mother Elizabeth who's always there to support me, and most of all Jennifer Angel, international astrology celebrity who undertook many responsibilities that made this event shine!




BLACK CATS WAITING FOR A FURREVER HOME
If you are interested in adopting a black cat, I have the perfect pair. Introducing Johnny Walker and Audrey Tiffany Hepburn.   CLICK HERE to view more photos and learn about their unique personalities. If you adopt JW and Tiffany you will also receive a lovely gift basket worth over $75 for free! It's a great starter kit. PLUS you'll also receive a bottle of COPPOLA wine personally donated by Christopher Coppola. Instead of cigars, wine is healthier to celebrate your new family members! Cheers!!!

Johnny Walker

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Brickell Magazine is a high end magazine focusing on the Brickell area which is downtown Miami. Brickell is often referred to as the "Manhattan of the South" but obviously on a smaller scale. It includes both upscale,  high rise condominiums south of 15th Street, and bank buildings north of 15th and an increasing number of moderate to high end restaurants.

Here's to raising awareness and making a difference!
http://www.riverfrontcats.com/

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Last Launch, a closure of my childhood


Tomorrow Friday is the last scheduled launch of the space shuttle program, the Atlantis is the protracted finale. This will be the 33rd flight for Atlantis and the 135th shuttle mission overall.

This sad news weighs heavily on my heart and marketing mind.

Growing up with the space program since the first shuttle launch brings back fond memories of my childhood intertwined with the race to space. It was a time of pride where our country continued to pioneer new territory, new technologies. A "race" to be the first, to be the best, to beat the Russians.  It was also during the Cold War.  My visit to communist Poland and Czechoslovakia are forever engrained from the age of 12.

Titusville, Florida (my hometown) sits across the Indian River from Kennedy Space Center. The city is laid back, very laid back.  The heat, slow tempo, and the location, made it too easy for many residents to continue in slow motion, with little motivation to pursue lofty career or life goals. At a 20 year reunion of my grade school, most classmates continue to reside in Titusville as PE coach, hairdresser, and a nail technician. I wonder if the abrupt hiatus of the space program after the explosion of the Challenger launch in 1986 dampered or halted a person's aspirations.

Thanks to my parents, the nuns of St Theresa school, and the space program, their confluence pushed me to study and work hard.  I learned "anything is possible".  Thankfully we moved to the suburbs of Washington DC,  a beltway of fast movers, thinkers and the need to succeed.

And so I studied hard and earned mostly straight A's from grade school to my MBA. I discovered my passion for marketing and its transforming powers in uplifting lives, starting or saving a business, even saving lives.

Then I ask, "What will happen to the Kennedy Space Center? Will the fire of the space program endure and still draw tourists or will remnant flickers fade in time?   Why does it feel like I'm about to lose my childhood friend from next door? Is it more than the predicted 7,000 job losses? I think so. I continue to ask, "After the Cold War, did we lose our competitive spirit?" Looking at advances in telephone technology such as the iPhone and iPads and the revolution in social media such as Facebook and Twitter, clearly not.  Then why the flickering flames?

Could it be that collectively, with younger, nonbaby boomer generations, the space program can not compete with the attraction or sizzle of technologies that impact our quotidian needs? Look at generations X and Y and tweens leading the use of Facebook and texting and tweeting. It's about our daily uses. The iPod, iPhone and now the pervasive iPad. How about an iShuttle? There's a thought! A more efficient way to transport humans and cargo to the space station?  Do we dare think it?

Aaah but US companies such as Blue Origin, Boeing, Space X and Sierra Nevada Corp. are bankrolled by the space agency to develop new spacecraft to ferry astronauts and payloads into orbit. However, none of these companies have home bases in Florida. Experts say we're still three years away from shooting humans into orbit. In the meantime,  plans call for NASA to pay Russia to deliver Americans to the International Space Station at $50 million a seat. 

Technologies evolve and they are also getting smaller and faster. The cell phones and laptops are prime examples. Each space shuttle launch cost a hefty $1 billion plus.  But the shuttle was designed in the 1970's long before cellphones existed and Internet reached mainstream.

Having witnessed the economic devastation from the avalanche effect of the two shuttle explosions my immediate concern remains. Will the Kennedy Space Center still survive as a  tourist destination? According to the Space Coast office of Tourism, the shuttle launches represented about 5 percent of the destination’s tourism business.  So there is hope the current attractions of the bus tour through the KSC, the guided tour which gets you closer to the launch pad for amazing photo opps, the IMAX films, the Astronaut Encounter, the new interactive multimedia Space Exploration, and the Astronaut Hall of Fame will continue to pique young engineering minds, inspire a nation and visitors and preserve a chapter in American space history.

Thankfully Titusville has another secret treasure. An unspoiled national seashore and wildlife refuge that boasts the nation's largest birding festival and a new 260-mile St. John's River biking-hiking trail.
Ecotourism is their new pot of tourism gold.

I encourage anyone reading this post, to visit the SpaceCoast. There is something for everyone and makes for an ideal family vacation. I will rediscover my own hometown and make new inner-child memories.

Kennedy Space Center
The Space Coast

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pitney-Bowes Contest for Small Business Owners

Here I am again as cheerleader of small businesses --a critical sector of the economy.

There's another contest sponsored by Pitney Bowes who will provide a suite of tools to help one lucky small business with their communications campaign to increase awareness and sales. So now you have a chance to give them free exposure (by sharing this link to your contacts via email and Facebook) and by voting!

In reviewing some of the entries, there is a real need for this contest. Many of these are one person operations pursuing their dream (GOOD FOR THEM!) However, I see many entries who have not clearly described or communicated exactly what their business offers. Luckily there's a way to leave a comment on Facebook so I left some helpful tips.

Here is my SELECTION:

Rosie's Swim Center for Dogs. Not only did I select this because I'm an animal lover, but equally important, Rosie's Swim Center for Dogs clearly communicated the service and benefit they offer. Including a video and adding their blog website in their entry was very smart as well.  They follow my philosophy--it's not about the professional web design or photos, it's about the content! In this case, they shared their story succinctly and actually showed their service via the video.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to start a small business. I'm confident Rosie's Swim Center will make the most of their winnings to help dogs, post surgery or with injuries (maybe one day for cats too)

Swim therapy is heavily used for humans, so why not for dogs after surgery or age-related ailments? Please VOTE for Rosie's Swim Center by clicking here!

Here is their blog/website.  Please support it by adding your comment!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Julie & Julia

"Bon apetit!"

I just watched the movie and only wished I rented this movie sooner or actually went to the theater, a rarity.

This movie is an affirmation, a sign! Before I continue, you must know this movie is based on two true stories. The lives of  Julie Child (circa 1940s-50s) and Julia Powell (2002-2003).

That this young woman (Julia Powell) used blogging alongside her passion to cook or learn to cook is brilliant! First, like Oprah said, "follow your passion". (Oprah's farewell show was the inspiration for my previous posting).

Julia Powell wanted to be a writer and in her career struggles she found comfort in cooking and baking. Now I know the secret-- adding egg yolks to chocolate, sugar and (what was third ingredient?) produces thick, creamy, heavenly chocolate. 

How is this a sign? There's that word again, that reminder to follow your passion.  But I know my passion or passionS. My challenge is that I think I'm a cat with nine lives and accomplish multiple life goals all at once. No I'm but one person. So here again I ask myself, how do I narrow the field? I love to write or rather blog, travel, showcase my home state of Florida, and save  homeless cats by educating the masses? Is there a way to combine all three ( so I combined travel and Florida into one task--finally I simplified one goal!).

My new positive anchor is the French theme music from the movie.

Add to TO DO LIST: download french music from iTunes.

I recall when I was a little girl and didn't feel like putting away my toys or cleaning up as part of my chores I would hum the tune to Mary Poppins where the children also need a little motivation. If Julie Andrews sang to me,  I certainly would be motivated.

We need motivators to keep us on track. 

So now I know what skyrocketed the blogging frenzy. Looks like I was actually ahead of this trend!

Just follow your passion!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Farewell to Oprah Winfrey Show

If I had but one wish, it would be that a kind person would help me figure out how to use my DVR that has been collecting dust in my entertainment cabinet. (Well of course I'd love to win the lottery but I'm being realistic of my odds).  For those that know me, I don't ask without making attempts to figure out  a solution myself. (Supposedly I need a cable box which I don't subscribe to, that still may be the problem). How I wish I had my old chubby TV with the VHS recorder!

Today is the last day of the Oprah Winfrey show.  While I never taped an Oprah segment, I always watched whenever I was home sick or on a holiday.  Oprah Winfrey is so many things.
She's a powerful media mogul. She's insightful, articulate and most of all, she geuninely helps others. Now I may not have always agreed with her on some social and political issues, but Oprah is a successful, powerful woman willing to share insightful lessons and experiences. Learning from her imparting wisdom is valuable to anyone who wants to grow whether personally and/or professional. It's free advice. Take it!
I dragged up a chair to make myself a "front row seat" but failed to bring the tissues. The segment was not a spirited show of materialistic giveaways.  It was an episode of reflection. It was classic Oprah.

She began by encouraging us, her audience, to follow our passion, to continue believing in our cause. No matter what the cause may be. I knew she meant more than just charity work. It could be a person battling an addiction trying to improve him or herself, coming forward about abuse, learning financial discipline and not overspending and getting into unncessary debt... the list is almost infinite. 

Oprah also reminded us, just as she started her first TV job with no physical audience, "You have a reach, an audience and while your reach may vary in size whether it's 20 people..." or 20 million viewers,  we all have our platform, our own Oprah Winfrey Show.  She's absolutely right. Oprah encouraged us to never stop believing in our cause.

So during the commercial break, I reflected on my cause. Yes my reach is 20 people. But one day it will be 200 million.

 Like a 30 second movie trailer, my mind raced with a montage of my efforts to help voiceless,  homeless animals in my immediate neighborhood. The 20 homeless cats that live outdoors, and thanks to others, they live humanely.  Capture kittens, nurture them and find them homes, create flyers, distribute flyers, talk to neighbors in the hallways and elevators,  capture new cats for spaying/neutering, create a website, recruit volunteers to feed the cats, take cats for shots, ask for donations, keep recruiting volunteers, buy cat food twice a week, capture new friendly cat, ask for donations... my heart is fulfilled. Never have I worked so hard for free and felt so rewarded. I'm on the right path and making a difference.  The cats are smiling, purring and doing their happy feet tap dance. They really do! My heart is smiling.

Next Oprah shared her most valuable lesson-- the energy you emit is the energy you will receive. She made reference to the character that Whoopie Goldberg played as Ms. Sealy in the Color Purple, a black woman abused by her husband who had the courage to finally walk away, even while he threatened her. As Ms. Sealy steps into the car, she turns around and holds out arm and two fingers like a V prong toward his eyes, foretelling her abusive husband that he will receive the same treatment he bore on her.

The next segment after the break was her revelation that no matter if someone is good or bad, struggling or challenged, everyone wants to be VALIDATED.  "Do you see me? Do you hear me?  Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants validation." Indeed she is so right.

Oprah recognized her 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, who was sitting in the audience, as the first person to liberate her.  Allowing Oprah to be herself, to pray in class...

A ridge of tears formed on my lower eyelid. Oprah and I share something in common. It was also my teachers, actually they were nuns, that helped me understand how special I was to God and the world. Specifically it was Sister Phil (short for Philomena), one of the strictest nuns I have known, but I've been told even as an adult (and affirmed in my Meyers Brigg test) that I possess a rare insight.  I knew Sister Phil had a soft spot despite her ruly exterior that fits the Catholic school stereotype. Sister Phil always told us during religion class, that we were each unique. And that God loved us all. It wasn't just our parents telling us we're special, but the strength and wisdom in her eyes shined, I knew God was speaking through her.  She encouraged us not to let peer pressure deflate our self worth or degrade our self worth.  She offered the analogy of when the people who one day praised Jesus in the streets, all turned against him just days later. It was the popular thing to do.  But does it make it right? That story, that analogy stayed with me. Jesus was good a man, with good intentions. He did not deserve to be crucified.  I understood well, despite my shortcomings, that God loved me. While I may not have been popular like my younger, attractive sister, I knew I had something to offer the world and God. And I couldn't wait to fast-forward the teenage years to discover my own talents and gifts and more importantly, how I would make a positive difference.

Thank you Oprah for the memory.

It was no surprise that Oprah repeatedly acknowledged God "HE had a hand in all this," she started. "God is love and life. God is always speaking to us. Sometimes it may be whispers but listen to it. "What's whispering to you now?"  I thank God everyday for my beautiful home, my health, my family, my outdoor companions and the opportunity to serve HIM. The silver lining in my hardships, is that I learned to enjoy the daily, simpler things--the view from my balcony, a homemade meal, the selfless love of homeless creatures.  My life is very fulfilling thanks to God.

Lastly Oprah showed a black and white photo of a young black girl, exposing her belly "Who would have thought a little black girl in rural Mississippi would end up here."  The tears came rushing like a thunderous waterfall.  Why didn't I grab the Kleenex tissues at the last commercial break?!  Indeed anything is possible.  If you ever take my Art Deco walking tour, I talk about the women who contributed to the foundation of Miami (Julia Tuttle), the preservation of Miami Beach's Art Deco buildings (Barbara Capitman), the savior of the Everglades (Marjory Stoneman Douglas), the growth of downtown Miami as a business community (Mary Brickell).  One person can make a difference!

I hope to follow in their footsteps. Whether helping homeless animals, or small business owners, and just following my dream to build my own small business, by lassoing my talents as a marketing professional, writer and activist, I hope to leave the world a little better.

Now where's that darn Samsung DVR manual? Maybe there's a way it will work with my new Samsung flatscreen TV? Anyone? God?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Free Webinar for Female Owned Businesses

As a female entrepreneur and supporter of small business, I wanted to share this important notice to fellow female business owners looking to sell to the U.S. government.

American Express OPEN, in partnership with Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), is offering a free, one-hour tutorial from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday (May 25), to help women business owners participate in, compete for and win federal contracts.

There are about $27 billion in contracts set aside specifically for women business owners and there are as many a 684,000 women-owned businesses that could potentially benefit from the program, American Express OPEN and WIPP said.

The webinar is part of the Give Me 5 Program, a national program created by American Express OPEN and WIPP to help women business owners sell to the U.S. government.

Business owners who are interested in joining the Webinar should visit http://www.wipp.org/, see the Calendar of Events on left hand column, and click on Give Me 5 131: Using your WOSB Certification to Win Contracts.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day at the National Hotel



Every year I look forward to Mother's Day. As busy as we both are where weeks go by without a phone call or email, we know it's a day of quality time. It's always a day around an activity whether it's brunch at a tropical garden or whizzing along murky waters canals in noisy airboat for alligator sight-seeing. Activities of extremes indeed.

Sometimes mom tells me if she has something in mind and her wish is my command. Or if no fanciful notion has caught her attention, then my creative marketing mind kicks in gear.  This year I chose the traditional route with a twist. As an Art Deco-phile (lover of  Art Deco) I invited mom to brunch at the National Hotel.  I absolutely love this hotel for its Art Deco decor, some original, some new installations. Since they announced their Poolside Brunching  I immediately made reservations for Mother's Day.  This was a special treat.

First, since it was close to a record-breaking hot day, we chose to sit indoors with floor to ceiling windows facing their famous 250 foot long rectangular pool.  The National Hotel offered a sumptuous spread and mom and I indulged in three servings.









On a perfect spring day with blue skies minus any clouds, the pool dazzled like a brilliant aquamarine gem. It was quite inviting. The best part is we could "dip" or use the pool as brunch customers, as part of their new promotion.  We came prepared and changed into bathing suits and coverup.





We highly recommend the National Hotel for brunch and a dip into their pool. I loved it so much that I'm starting another Art Deco tour, and I will chauffeur clients during the hot summer months to learn about this Art Deco treasure that was part of Millionaire's row in it hey day! So be sure to take my tour to learn the fascinating stories and complete your visit with great food, pampering pool and bar service, and a slice of history.

Cheers!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vote for Innovation, Sustainability and Small Business Owner!

Often in news reports we hear how critical small businesses are to the economy.  Growth spurts in this sector are encouraging innovative thinkers to take that leap forward.

A good friend of mine and former colleage, Daniel Lessem, is that entrepreneur mind who recently developed a business plan for a new venture called Urban Forager℠, an energy efficient micro-distributorship of locally grown food from bio-diverse farms in Florida to area chefs.

In March, he entered his plan in The Miami Herald Business Plan Competition and has been selected by leaders of industry as one of 6 finalists out of 222 entries consisting of both pre-existing and start-up phase companies. (I'm not surprised at all!)

To win, Daniel needs your vote!

Please watch his 90 second video clip about Urban Forager℠ and cast your vote! There are two groups or tabs. One is the "Community Track" and the other is the "FIU Track". Daniel's video of Urban Forager is in the "FIU Track".  The site accepts one vote per email address and no other personal info is requested from you. (I'm voting for BLOCK UV in the Community Track). The ballot is located at the bottom of the page below all the video clips.


Here is the link to Daniel's video, learn more about his concept and vote:

http://www.miamiherald.com/businessplanchallenge/vote/

Please forward to friends and associates to view and vote! Your vote can help influence decisions of potential investors to pay attention to new projects in sustainable foodservice.

Voting end 11:59pm on Monday, May 9th.

GOOD LUCK DANIEL!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

To Wear or Not To Wear...a Hat!

Nigel Rayment hat
Yes my affinity for hats is back thanks to the upcoming royal wedding and all the fanfare about fashion and hats.

In the spirit of the royal wedding, I've been looking for The Hat to wear this Friday and had no luck this weekend on Lincoln Road. So I wondered how many people or women will wear hats more often now or just for the day of the wedding of Prince William and Kate? Even more curious, how many of you will wake up before dawn to watch the Royal Wedding?

Take my two question survey to the right! Thanks for playing along!

It still amazes me how fashion trends are ignited and spread with fury by one person alone. More recently, the fashion craze was lead by Lady Gaga, but since the engagement of the Prince and his long-time girlfriend, Kate Middleton has set a ablaze a new record for more web searches, Facebook mentions, and YouTube videos. It's all about the soon-to-be-Princess and what she wears. Times never change.
To see more Nigel Rayment hats and learn what the peacock fuss is about the "fascinator" visit my shopping blogs for more outlandish hats and hairpieces including one worn by Sarah Jessica Parker.

Cheers,
Christine

If you're Royal junkie, here are some more facts
For the complete guest list, click here.
For the schedule of the royal event and each phase, click here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: Dewey, A small-town cat who touched the world

Eeveryone who knows me as an animal lover will not be surprised that I read this book. However, I was surprised as to the extent of this cat's ability in uplifting an entire community, his story that made news around the world.

Dewey starts like many "rescue" stories where he was dumped, in this case, in the book-return slot of the town library of Spencer, Iowa. Lucky for this ginger, frost-bitten kitten, Vicky Myron the library director, found him and nursed him back to bouncing health.

The staff is endeared by this orange furball and Vicky entreaties the board of directors to allow him to stay at the cost of individual staff and not library funds.  Baptized  Dewey Readmore Books, he proves his worthiness. This stray cat earned international fame and recognition not just for himself, but for the small town of Spencer, Iowa. This is a valuable lesson for any neighborhood, town, hotel or condo with a flock of stray cats. The situation can be turned around to everyone's advantage. Even economic gains, but it has to be a genuine story.

I know animals are intelligent. However, this cat takes the prize until I read or learn about other cats of equal or greater abilities.  Dewey was sociable thus disspelling the myth that cats are standoffish. He literally welcomed  the morning library guests. Like many pets, he follows a routine. After salutations, he heads to the children's room where he carefully selects his resting point. Most impressive of all, Dewey melts the hearts of curmudgeon members, and even more amazing, he helps a little girl with special needs to come out of her dark shell.

A small tight-knit farming town has its advantages and disadvantages. With regard to the latter, hostilities may arise between residents even family members. Dewey with diplomatic repetoire, eases tensions between a strained mother and daughter or even coworkers.  (If only there was a Dewey for every office).

That ability and his social skills also make for an ideal poser. Yes Dewey posed on cue for photographs like a supermodel. Soon word spread to neighboring counties. The unknown town was now receiving visitors from out of town, across state lines, and soon internationally.  A Japanese film crew flew half way around the world to film the library cat. The library's email inbox exploded to the verge of crashing. Keep in mind, visitors had to drive three hours from the closest main town to make it to Spencer, Iowa.

The reader will learn about the landscape, economy and the people of a midwestern town in 1988. You will also follow the life triumph and trials of the author and library director, Vicky Myron. Dewey's life was inextricably linked to Myron, the town, the staff. The world was his audience.

The most important lesson of all, this story supports the growing studies and evidence that cats aid people with medical and physical ailments and do wonders for our health.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mary Brickell, founder of downtown Miami


As a Florida native, tour guide, and property owner in Downtown Miami, uncovering more stories and learning the history of my backyard, downtown Miami, is like finding a hidden treasure.

Brickell Avenue is named after the Brickell family, William & Mary Brickell. Interesting and coincidentally, just like Miami's founder, it was Mary, the woman, who had the vision. Miami, north of the river, was founded by Julia Tuttle from Cincinnati, Ohio. In downtown Miami, Mary Brickell planned for a "city of handsome homes" wide streets with shrubbery, parks, and plotted lots to sell. She even loaned money without collateral and never foreclosed on a home or business. She believed in helping locals who lived year-round to grow their business and city so it was not dependent on tourism.

In Miami Herald, this article features the forward-thinking Mary. Click here to read the entire article.

Soon a book will be released William & Mary Brickell: Founders of Miami & Ft. Lauderdale.
Stay tuned to order your copy here!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Art Deco Weekend Festival 2011

Christine & Ma Cherie in front of 1970's Mini Cooper

It was a glorious weekend in terms of both weather and fun in South Beach. This weekend Ocean Drive closed its streets for the 34th annual Art Deco Weekend Festival, one of my favorite cultural festivals. "Selling Glamour & Style" was this year's theme and it certainly spoke to fashion and design enthusiasts.

The festival aimed to educate visitors that Art Deco is not limited to architecture but encompasses design in furniture, fashion, and jewelry.  From lectures, to a red carpet fashion show to a series of films about tropical deco elements in advertising and the power of persuasion in the 1930s and 1940s.

Under a clear, blue sky and spring-like temperatures, the festival kicked off with a parade Saturday morning of collector antique cars ranging from a 1936 Ford, to 1953 red Cadillac to a 1968 Chevrolet, the lines, the fins, the colors were pure CLASSIC.



Some cars carried owners, local politicians or hunky, shirtless firefighters.



Christine with hunky firefighters

Behind the cars was the "Arf Deco Parade", a dog parade. Owners and dogs were asked to dress up in their best. I think most attendees missed the owner dressing up part as I seemed to be the only one in Art Deco attire. My little girl, Ma Cherie, was fashionably dressed in her red coat with leopard fur trim on the collar and sleeves.  Her hair swept up in red and white Cartier bows.  I can't tell you how many photographers asked us to pose for their cameras--both tourists and professional photographers.  Surely we made it onto some local newspaper. If I only knew which one!

The festival is held every year around the third weekend of January and organized by the Miami Design Preservation League. A highlight are the hourly guided tours. They include the regular tours "Ocean Drive & Beyond", "Criminal Underworld Tour", and "Lincoln Road Tour".  A new popular tour is "Cocktails with a Twist".  This tour incorporates Art Deco history while sipping a cocktail in an Art Deco building.  All lectures, exhibits, films are free. The tours cost $20 a person except for the Cocktail tour which costs $30 per person.
Speaking of cocktails, no one has invented the Art Deco cocktail yet! Now there's an idea!
Cheers,
Christine