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Sunday, November 11, 2018

It's been quite some time since I last posted on my blog, but there couldn't be a better day to do it than today, Veteran's Day 2018, precisely 15 years since I came home from my 66-day tour of America and wrote my "Chasing Charley" manuscript. Life got in the way, shall we say, in the intervening years between then and just three weeks ago, when I was spurred to revisit the project and, finally, publish "Chasing Charley". The below is an article published through Fairfield HamletHub online news service which describes this emotional moment and how you can obtain a copy of my book. Enjoy! And, as always, happy travels! 

Fairfield, CT Writer Mike Lauterborn Releases “Chasing Charley” Book, the Sequel to John Steinbeck’s 1960 “Travels with Charley” Adventure

FAIRFIELD, CT— Exactly 15 years after returning home from a 66-day, counter-clockwise tour of the United States, Fairfield Writer, Photographer and Journalist Mike Lauterborn is celebrating the release of his new book, “Chasing Charley”, essentially the sequel to great American Author John Steinbeck’s 1960 “Travels with Charley” travelogue adventure. 
The 388-page volume, printed as a paperback with several photos and also available as an e-book, both through AuthorHouse, documents Lauterborn’s 2003 journey from his Connecticut home north to Maine, west to Washington state, south to the bottom of California, east to Florida and back north to home. In all, he traveled nearly 16,000 miles through 35 states and four provinces of Canada, using Steinbeck’s book as his road guide. His aim was to follow the author’s route as closely as possible, meet some of the same people Steinbeck met back in 1960 and supplement the voyage with some of his own agenda items.
Lauterborn finished writing his book a month after he returned from his trip on Veteran’s Day, 2003, “feeling exhausted like a militiaman coming home from combat,” he described the feeling. But then life got in the way and, after some false starts to shop the manuscript, then a divorce, he abandoned the project, printing it out and resigning it to a binder to retire on a shelf. Still, though, it nipped at him. And his Dad nipped at him. And his publisher nipped at him. And friends nipped at him. All urged him to see the project through to fruition. 
But it took an act of almost divine intervention to spur him to action. On the morning of Sunday, October 21, 2018, Lauterborn was browsing vendor tables at local Fairfield Warde High School’s monthly parking lot flea market and met a self-described Psychic Medium, Rev. Jackie Bumm, who grasped his hand, looked directly at him and said, “You have an unfinished writing project.”
Lauterborn reeled back, wondering how she could possibly know such a thing and Bumm said, “You just confirmed that I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing.” The very next day, Lauterborn called AuthorHouse, contracted for a production and marketing team and submitted his manuscript. A little over two weeks later, in early November, after content evaluation and a subsequent full text edit job, the book was approved to go to print.
“This has been a very emotional process, from the moment I submitted my manuscript to AuthorHouse and gave them the go ahead, to reading and thoroughly editing — essentially reliving — the journey, and then getting the green light for print. It’s surreal, actually, and I can’t wait to hold the first copy in my hand,” he said excitedly. Lauterborn expects to receive his author copies the week of Nov. 12. One of the copies is already promised to his dad, Robert, who is also an author, of marketing books, several of which have been translated worldwide. Robert always encouraged his son’s writing and instilled in him a love of words. 
Lauterborn’s book is also dedicated in part to his mother, Sylvia, who passed on Memorial Day in 2013, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. In her early career, Sylvia was a stewardess with Pan American Airlines and traveled to over 80 countries ultimately in her lifetime. She instilled in her son a passion for travel. 
The book is also devoted to Lauterborn’s sons, Evan, 23, and, Phillip, who will turn 19 at Thanksgiving and is a freshman at UConn’s Stamford, CT campus. They instilled in Lauterborn a sense of child-like wonder and are referred to frequently in the book. They were just 3 and 7 when their Dad set off around the country in his 1995 Ford E-150, 10-passenger van, piled up with clothing, books, food, camping supplies, maps and more. Evan’s class actually tracked his Dad’s progress around the country, marking up a U.S. map every time Lauterborn checked in from the road. 
“It was the adventure of a lifetime,” said Lauterborn. “I figured that, even if my book never saw the light of day, I would have this trip memory to savor always.” Highlights included having a drink with Steinbeck’s sister-in-law at the author’s Sag Harbor, Long Island home prior to setting off, meeting the same dairy farmer Steinbeck had in New Hampshire, fishing for salmon near a hydroelectric plant at the top of Maine with French Canadians, visiting a buffalo ranch and later dining on moosesteak at the top of a glacial mountain in Wyoming, sleeping amongst the Redwoods in California, sitting with famed Film Director Francis Ford Coppola in San Francisco, overcoming vehicle troubles and a persistent health challenge, meeting a Navajo medicine man on historical Route 66, reuniting with family in Houston then again in North Carolina, and savoring the pristine white sand beaches of Florida’s panhandle.
Lauterborn came to appreciate the breadth and sheer magnitude of the trip Steinbeck — then he himself — had undertaken. And he learned much about Steinbeck and was startled by the many similarities between the author and himself with regard to family, heritage, abilities, interests and writing styles. Lauterborn also came to understand Americans better and had the rare opportunity to meet them in all their walks of life, see how they lived and understand the commonalities between us, though our accents, lifestyles and homesteads might be quite different. 
If you have ever dreamed of doing the great American road trip or are a fan of Steinbeck’s classic works like “Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men”, then “Chasing Charley” is a must read. 
And here’s how you can learn more about and order it:
Chasing Charley
By Mike Lauterborn
Published: Nov. 2018
Formate: Perfect Bound Softcover (B&W) with several photos
Pages: 388
Size: 6x9
ISBN: 9781546267751
Paperback Price: $20.99 / eBook: $3.99
FOLLOW THE PROJECT ON INSTAGRAM: @chasing_charley_travelogue  for news about author appearances, readings, signings and more.

Monday, August 17, 2015

An Omelet At 2 a.m. Just Because

Funny to discover this draft, which I created in March 2010, more than five years ago now, when I was making a transition from the formal corporate world of sales promotion and advertising to writing and photography. It was a time of great discovery and exploration for me, and an urge to cook was just one illustration of the time. Here's the write-up... and I still have that plate!

Look out Man vs. Food -- Mike Lauterborn is stove-side again and cooking with a vengeance. Today's middle of the night concoction? A little dish he likes to call a Glomlet, 'cause you really want to "glom" it down once you get that first sample. So pay attention People, 'cause we're tipping you off to the special ingredients that make up this eggy artifact. Here goes:

- 3 medium eggs, beaten
- Splash of milk
- Sprinkle of shredded mozzarella cheese
- Chunks of sweet Italian sausage, pre-thawed, pre-cooked and mixed in
- 1/2 red onion diced
- 3 mushrooms sliced

Cook mushrooms, onion and sausage until brown. Combine eggs, milk and mozzarella and pour over the cooked red onion and mushrooms. Cook overall until firm then serve with whole wheat muffin topped with blackberry jam. Mmm-mmm.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Winter Farmers Market Springs to Life on St. Patrick’s Day

 Winter Farmers Market Springs to Life on St. Patrick’s Day
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Weston, CT – Norfield Grange rolled out the greens – and a couple of goats – in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day Saturday, drawing families to its Winter Farmers Market for natural foods, apparel and other local artisan products.

The Winter Market, at 12 Good Hill Road in Weston, has been held every Saturday from 10a.m. to 2p.m. since November 9, and will run through June 9. It’s conducted annually rain, shine or snow and typically offers 20 to 25 vendors – farmers, specialty food producers, artisans and crafters. To liven up the setting for the Irish holiday, Butterfield Farm Company was on hand with its goats Ada Oklahoma and Cabo, for children to pet and feed.

“We’re regular vendors here,” said Butterfield Farm co-owner Tara Bryson, “and today we’re just having some fun educating the community about goats. People get to meet the animals that produce the goods at the farm. We make all goat milk based products including cheese, yogurt and bath and body items. Goat milk products have been shown to have many health benefits.”

Butterfield’s inventory is a good fit with other vendors’ goods, explained Lyn Kimberly, Market Master and a Norfield Grange officer. “Everything is handmade, homemade or homegrown.”

As the morning grew warmer, visitors wandered from table to table, set out on the grass and inside the Grange structure. Lilting Irish music played from a sound system and the combined aromas from bubbling soup, soda bread, seafood and garden greens mingled in the air making the Market setting more Spring-like than Winter oriented.

Bodega Taco Bar Adds Magic to Traditional Mexican Fare

 Bodega Taco Bar Adds Magic to Traditional Mexican Fare
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield County Life Magazine April 2012)

Fairfield, CT – Fulfilling the vision of its three partners, Bodega Taco Bar in downtown Fairfield has been satisfying local palettes for nearly a year now with its own distinctive take on traditional Mexican cuisine.

Forty-two-year-old Partner and Chef Michael Young took a moment recently to speak with FCL about the culinary path that led him to Bodega, his collaborators Mario Fontana and Luis Chavez, and signature menu items.

“My father was a chef in Long Island, where I grew up, in Massapequa on the south shore,” Young said. “He worked at different places – Italian, American, European, French. Sons look up to their fathers and I started dabbling in cooking.”

Young’s mother was also an influence. In his sophomore year of high school, she handed him a BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) school catalog – essentially a guide to trade vocations. “She said to pick something,” Young said. “Being a travel agent seemed inviting, which required one year of experience in the school’s culinary classroom. I liked the cooking aspect and didn’t even move on to the travel portion – just continued on with cooking.”

Instead of going to college, Young moved to Manhattan and kept cooking. “My first job was at Two Boots, on Avenue A, the original location,” he said. “I liked it, was happy and was supporting myself.”

He bounced around over the next few years at different restaurants, meeting a girl along the way who wanted to be with a professional man. It spurred Young to go to college, to Baruch, from which he graduated with a B.A. in Banking & Finance in 1994. He began working as a broker, but was unhappy with the career choice, on the outs with the girl and missing cooking. “I found myself visiting my friend’s restaurant, Erizo, after a long day at work.”

He met another girl, Jennifer, whom he ended up marrying, who told him to do whatever he wanted to do. He went back to cooking.

“As there were almost no new innovative Latin chefs or non-Latin chefs making Latin food, I thought there was an opportunity to pursue Latin cooking,” he said. “I got a shot cooking at Patria in New York under the tutelage of Douglas Rodriguez, where I really learned Latin cooking.”

Several restaurant experiences followed -- Blue Maize, CO; Lansky Lounge, NYC; and Quissano, ME – before Young moved to Fairfield County. Mario Fontana had just opened the first Nuevo Latino restaurant in the area, Habana in Southport, and brought Young aboard as Chef.  Fontana then started Ocean Drive in South Norwalk and Young took the cooking reins there. “I hired Luis Chavez, initially as an oyster shucker,” Young said.

After five years, Young left to open Valencia in Norwalk. Chavez came on as his partner. But Fontana came back into the picture in 2010, after finding the Bodega space, and Young and Chavez joined him as partners.

“The concept we created was modern tacos,” Young said. “We put new spins on traditional Mexican dishes and, on June 9, 2011, opened at 1700 Post Road. The reception has been outstanding, everyone wants to be here at the magic hour. Customers are worldly and have a good palette. We give them what they need and desire.”

As a starter, guacamole, always fresh to order, is a popular choice. Among Antojitos, which range from $4 to $12, leaders are the Cerviche de Mariscos – citrus-infused shrimp and scallops – and Bodega Grilled Corn.

The Platos, or main dishes, are priced from $13 to $16, and include Mahi Mahi a la Plancha and Slow Roasted Pork “Lechon”, wherein the pork is marinated for 48 hours in brine and slowly roasted.

A much-requested Side is Blistered Brussel Sprouts, glazed in a secret pineapple glaze.

Salads are tagged from $8 to $14. An excellent choice is the Massaged Kale, which is both nutritional and unique. Tortas, at $8 to $12, include the Drowned Sandwich, comprised of an over-easy egg with chili sauce on an open-faced piece of bread. The Burrito Tinga is spicy pulled chicken with rice, beans and pico de gallo.

Tacos are the foundation of the eatery, comprising half of all patron orders. There are nine different flavor expressions, at $4 apiece. A star is the Lady Tata – a taco in a lettuce cup.

At the bar, visitors will find over 60 kinds of tequila. These can be sampled in flights. There are also many imported beers, such as Modelo, Pacifico Clara and Tecate. A small selection of hand-picked wines is also available.

On the horizon, Bodega will be hosting a Cinco de Mayo celebration, on May 5, featuring a pig roast, tent and live music.

Bodega Taco Bar is located in Heritage Square, 1700 Post Road, Fairfield. Phone: 203-292-9590.

Faye Kim Designs: Timeless Classic Jewelry

 Faye Kim Designs: Timeless Classic Jewelry
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield County Life Magazine, April 2012)

Westport, CT – A mother’s whim became a career path for an Asian immigrant whose Westport-based fine jewelry store has become a destination for well-heeled women with a penchant for unique accessories. Faye Kim, of Faye Kim Designs at 190 Main Street, spoke with FCL about her start in the field and why her clients keep coming back for more.

A Wilton resident and mother of three, forty-eight-year-old Kim was born in Korea, the middle of five children. At age seven, she and her family emigrated to Islip, NY, where her father pursued the telecommunications business.

As Kim emerged from high school, her father tried to steer her to medicine or computer science. She tried to please him, earning an economics degree from Stony Brook University and then doing some accounting work with her sister. “But,” she said, “It wasn’t a good fit, and, yet, I didn’t know what else I wanted to do.”

Her mother suggested she go to the Gemological Institute of America in New York, after hearing about a family friend’s experience there. Kim enrolled in a six-month program, achieving a graduate gemologist degree. “The experience opened up new doors and I began working for a wholesaler on 47th Street, sorting diamonds,” she said.

Without contacts like other GIA graduates that had come from jeweler families, however, her prospects appeared limited. Then her instructor recommended her to the famous Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue. She became a merchandiser there, in the pearl department.

Two years later, another great opportunity presented itself. “A friend recommended me for an assistant buyer position in fine jewelry at Bergdorf Goodman,” she said. “Tiffany’s gave me the opportunity to work with pearls and loose stones, while Bergdorf exposed me to the high-end luxury retail business.”

She was quickly promoted to buyer, however, began to find the work grueling and “all about numbers, not creativity, which was my leaning,” she said. At the same time, she had recently married and wanted to start a family.

She left Bergdorf and used the “time off” to raise her children while also exploring the design and manufacturing side of the jewelry business, through classes at Parsons School of Design and Cecilia Bauer Studios. “I learned a technique called granulation, or fusing, that’s done with high carat gold, which has become my present-day signature.”

Kim and two classmates from Cecilia Bauer began renting a working studio together, sharing resources and developing their individual style and techniques. Kim then moved from New York, first to East Norwalk, in 1995, then to Wilton four years later.

“My jewelry design pursuits became my saving grace in the suburbs given the change of life from big city energy to quiet rural living,” she said. She made pieces for family and friends, and did the occasional trunk show, until 2003, when a combination of factors led her to open her own shop in Westport.

“I had a client in Santa Barbara who carried my jewelry and encouraged me to start the business,” Kim said. “Her clients – confident women in their 40s and 50s, for whom name brands were not a driving pursuit – were my buyers. They liked my casual, unique wearable items.”

Her initial location was steps away from the present site in the same retail complex, in what is now Luxe wine bar. She was there for eight years, selling jewelry and some home accessories. Ultimately, she said, “The business evolved, the designs evolved, I evolved, and in October 2010, we moved across the lot to a space that had been occupied by Cocoa Michele.”

The current site boasts an 800-square-foot showroom, which is exclusively dedicated to her own designs. A large majority of the inventory is made in an adjacent workshop.

“We try to make our space welcoming and nurturing – elegant without being fussy,” she said. “I carry every category and many different precious metals, though most pieces made are 18K green gold. I don’t do trendy pieces, but am mindful of fashion and colors. Jewelry is an investment and having a person behind the product with the knowledge I have is important.”

Faye Kim Designs is located at 190 Main Street, Westport, CT. Phone: 203-226-3511. Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 10am to 5:30pm and by appointment.

Girl Scouts Mark 100th Anniversary with Town Hall Ceremony

 Girl Scouts Mark 100th Anniversary with Town Hall Ceremony
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – Daisies, Brownies, Scouts and, of course, cookies were all on hand late Monday afternoon on the steps of Westport Town Hall as the Girl Scouts of America celebrated its 100th Anniversary.

The gathering at the 110 Myrtle Avenue site also included parents, former Scouts, organization leaders and local and state government officials, including Congressman Jim Himes, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg and Selectwoman Shelly Kassen, each of whom addressed the crowd.

Called “The Promise Circle”, the event recounted the history of the Scouts, and featured several formal observances including a flag raising, Pledge of Allegiance, singing of the National Anthem and a recitation of the Girl Scout Promise. Kassen also read a proclamation designating March 12 to 17 Girl Scout Week. The ceremony concluded with a Friendship Circle in which all in attendance formed two large circles and clasped hands.

“This is really a rededication of ourselves to the organization and to help girls understand the importance of being true to themselves, telling the truth and being the best they can be,” said Judy Frey, a long-time Scouts volunteer and the event coordinator.

Frey, who was a Scout herself as a girl, said there are over 40,000 girls in Connecticut in the program and that this local observation is just one of several gatherings that will be conducted in months to come. Frey added, “The mission has stayed the same but how you get there has changed, reflecting how the role of women has changed. With so many working women, the challenge today is getting adults to volunteer as troop leaders.”

Along with thanking the Scouts for their good work, Congressman Himes, in his remarks, said, “Thank you for introducing me to Thin Mints and Samoas.”

The GSA was not the only birthday honoree. Brownie Lynnea Moskowitz was marking her eighth birthday as well. “It’s fun to celebrate on the same day as the Girl Scouts,” she said. “It makes it more exciting.”

Kids “Toy” with Mixed Media on WACky Family Fun Day

 Kids “Toy” with Mixed Media on WACky Family Fun Day
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – The scene at Westport Arts Center Sunday afternoon was certainly wacky as dozens of kids put their imaginations to work creating toy-themed artwork.

The Center’s WACky Family Fun Day, held four times a year, offered four craft activities that aligned with the site’s current “Toy Stories” exhibit, which runs through March 18. The series is sponsored by local retailer Melissa & Doug, which offered a Play Zone for tots.

A highlight of the day’s program was the recognition of the six winners of a call for toy designs. In all, 166 designs were submitted by local children, and judged by Melissa and Doug Bernstein. There were first, second and third place awards in each of two categories: ages 6 to 9, and ages 10 to 14.

“The winning entries will be replicated as plush toys,” explained Danielle Ogden, Director of Education. “The winners also get a one-hour tour and meet with the toy designers at Melissa & Doug headquarters.”

With regard to craft activities, one offering, “Funky Faced Robots”, was led by Teaching Artist Evan Neidich. “Kids use found objects to make their robots, repurposing materials that would otherwise be thrown away,” she said.

A table over, Artist and Art Teacher Martha Bloom guided kids on “Calder Inspired” creations. “Alexander Calder was famous for his “Circus” of simple found wire and cork characters,” she said. “In the Circus spirit, kids are creating their own animals and performers from pipe cleaners, corks, wire and scraps.”

Further down the line, Teaching Artist Nell Bernegger showed children how to make mosaics, using small boards as a base, on which geometric shapes and designs were drawn and colorful foam cubes affixed.

A particularly silly activity was “Animation Puppets”, wherein Teaching Artist Angela Stempel guided kids on piecing together limbs, faces and objects from magazines and assembling them into figures with pushpins and wires.