My Sugar Glider- First Post

by Tracy L.  Carbone

Last Sunday my daughter and I were in our local mall and noticed a gathering of people. We moved toward it, wondering what all the commotion was about.  To our astonishment, it was performance by a company called Pocket Pets. Three young men in khaki parachute pants and button down shirts paraded around carrying the cutest creatures I’ve ever seen. They explained to us that they are called Sugar Gliders. Tiny marsupials who bond with their humans and, once bonded, will want nothing more than to snuggle with you in your pocket, or on your shoulder. They live for 12-15 years, like a dog or cat.

I worried, because I have a dog and a cat. Would they try to kill this little creature? No, the men said. As did the literature they encouraged us to go read and seriously consider. Marsupials and not rodents so regular domestic animals don’t have a frame of reference for them and don’t know what they are. Certainly, they don’t try to eat them. I wanted to believe this so badly. And all they eat is pellets and fruit and veggies. No vet visits, no shedding, no major care at all, you just have to cuddle with them a lot.

We asked the cost. $489. Yikes. But it was all inclusive-animal (you get to pick your own pet), a VERY large well-made two level cage, food, vitamins, water bottle, food dish, heat rock, a CD we had to listen to before we touched her again. And unlimited access to a website that told us everything we’d need to know. It provided a network of people to talk to, and they’d send emails every day for the first month to make sure we were on the right track. My daughter and I looked at each other, got all excited, and said YES!!!! Then they said we needed a bonding pouch as well and encouraged us to buy a 2 yr supply of food and vitamins. Okay, done. Total $601. About the price I paid for my little dog 5 years ago.

Here’s our record so far:

Day 1-we brought her home in a pink fuzzy zippered “bonding pouch” which we were told to keep around someone’s neck for 3-4 hours before setting her in her new cage (after we set it up and listened to the CD).  Abby and I would switch off holding her in the pouch. She skittered away and hid and made an ungodly loud noise for something that only weighs a couple of ounces. The site says if she screams it means “I’m SCARED, hold me tighter!” So we did the little squeeze technique under her blanket and she quieted instantly. We put clothes from Abby and me in her cage so she could learn our scent. We also put a dog toy in there that we rubbed on the dog and cat. She didn’t make noise all night like we thought and our dog and cat didn’t realize she was even here. They were confused about the giant cage however. We named her Niama.

Day 2-Dying to play with her but we’re supposed to leave her alone for two days to destress. We added and took away her 1/8 of an apple as recommended, which she only nibbled at. Still, we watched her when she came out and ate. The dog and cat still show nothing but a passing interest. No barking dog or hissing cat. They’re just mildly curious. We snuck this picture. My daughter has renamed her Mia. We took a video and uploaded it to YouTube.

Day 3- It’s killing us that we can’t play with her. Ugh! She’s so cute. She’s “barking” when we get close or our dog sticks her nose near the cage. Anna, the dog, is terrified but still curious. We are changing her food and sprinkling her apple with Glid-A-Mins every other day. She readily comes out of her cuddly spot and eats while we watch.

Day 4- Abby took her out of her cage and put her in the pouch and let her sit there all day till I came home. She let her pee and poo (as shown on video) twice. Mia wriggled a lot but Abby kept her mostly wrapped up. I came home and took her from the pouch and held her the special way. She screamed a lot and shook and bit me about 100 times before I could rearrange her. It hurt but didn’t break the skin. After about 20 minutes I put her back in the pouch and held her. Abby bonded with her all day and now it was my turn. Around 11pm I put her in her cage. She ate some apple and scurried off.  I don’t hear her up all night playing so am worried but she seems healthy. She’s on another floor though so maybe she plays quietly. Oh, she ate apple out of my hand and licked blueberry yogurt.

Day 5- Abby took her out of her cage today and let her go pee and poo. She sat in Abby’s hand for an hour somewhat wrapped in a paper towel. She fell asleep. She’d wake and cry and Abby would squeeze and she’d settle down. She spent most of the day in and out of the pouch. I came home and she was in her cage so I took her out, let her pee and poo and held her in my hand for about an hour. I didn’t get bitten!!! Maybe I’ve learned the grip better or she’s getting used to us. She licked peach juice off my fingers and fell asleep in my hand. She’s now sleeping in her bonding pouch. When I get up and move around she screams but a quick rub comforts her immediately.

I think we’re going to be just fine. 🙂


Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, a middle grade paranormal mystery, published by Echelon Press. Buy now on or Amazon.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

Chocolate Lava Cake

About four years ago I was in Key West and visited Michael’s Restaurant.  According to Zagat’s, it’s the #3 restaurant in all of Florida and the #1 in all the Florida Keys. It was a charming place on a side street, very gourmet. I rode my bicycle there, which is the best mode of transportation around the island.  When ordering dinner, the waiter asked if I wanted dessert (Chocolate Lava Cake), as it would take a half hour to prepare it and I needed to decide right then. I said yes, please, since it’s their signature dessert my friends highly recommended it.

Till then I’d never even heard of Chocolate Lava Cake, Volcano Cake, Molten Chocolate Cake or any of the names it’s known as these days as it grows in popularity. It was the best desert I’ve ever eaten and when I arrived home I went on  a quest to find a recipe for it that would replicate the taste and quality of the one from Key West.

After many failed attempts, I finally did find a recipe from a restaurant in Aspen, Colorado. The place is Jimmy’s and if their dessert is representative of the rest of their menu, then I suggest anyone living out west scurry over and check it out. Clink this LINK for that recipe and others. They call it Volcano Cake.

I made Volcano Cake again tonight for this blog to walk you through some of the steps. There are only a few ingredients in the recipe but the preparation is very important.

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and leave a cookie sheet warming in there  for at least 15 minutes.


  • 12 tsp unsalted butter (a stick and a half)
  • 6 oz Bittersweet or Semisweet Chocolate (I used 1 and 1/2 four oz bars of Ghiradelli 60% cocoa)
  • 3 large egg yolks, and 3 eggs
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter together over simmer water.

Set the chocolate aside once melted. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine all the eggs and sugar. Beat on medium high speed for 5 minutes until it’s light and thick and resembles pancake batter.

On low speed, add in the flour and chocolate mixture until blended.

Set out six ramekins and thoroughly grease them. Don’t use cooking spray and don’t skimp on the butter. It needs to be slathered on or else the cakes will stick. “Flour” the ramekins with unsweetened cocoa powder. I used Hershey’s but any good cocoa will do. Fill them 7/8th of the way and place them on the preheated cookie sheet (back in the 350 degree oven) for 15-18 minutes.

This next step is VERY IMPORTANT. If you over or undercook the cakes even by a minute, they won’t come out right so practice and know exactly how long your oven needs before you decide to make these for guests. Tonight, mine cooked for 16 1/2 minutes and they were perfect. They should just begin to pull away from the sides but not all the way.

Unlike some Lava Cake recipes which place a chocolate treat in the middle this one relies solely on the center being cooked less than the outside to give it the drippy center.

Once you remove them from the oven, place them on a cool surface for 3-5 minutes. Next, use a knife to loosen the edge and flip the cake onto a plate. When you cut it open, it should look like this.

Top with vanilla ice cream and serve warm.  As an alternative, I added rum extract (for the whole batch about 1/2 tsp) and it tasted very good. The same amount of peppermint extract would likely taste good too. Try this recipe and let me know how it comes out. If you’re ever in Key West, make sure to check out Michael’s restaurant and thanks to Jimmy’s of Aspen, CO for the amazing recipe.



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Dolls in Horror

by Tracy L. Carbone

I blame some wonderful horror literature and beautifully crafted TV shows and movies for my aversion to porcelain dolls. In my opinion, those dolls are up there with clowns when it comes to innocent things owning the potential for evil.

Despite my fear of them as a “toy,” I have my Audrey, pictured above. She fell several years ago and cracked her face. I didn’t have the heart to throw her away so made her an eye patch. Over the years several people have attempted to throw her away because she’s “creepy.” I disagree, but want nothing to do with all the other dolls like her out there.

I took this picture in NYC at the American Girl Place a few months ago.

I didn’t quite have a panic attack but it was not a fun place to be.  Every second, I was sure they’d start moving, rapping their pretty manicured hands against the glass to escape. Honestly, if they are really harmless, why encase them in a glass cage?

So who propagated this image? Who took pale curly-haired dolls in fancy dresses and made us all start seeing them as devils? Too many to mention, but my favorites follow. These are the ones that frightened me so badly as a child that, except for Audrey, I quiver around dolls.

The first  TV scary doll  memory I have is from an episode of Night Gallery.  It’s called “The Doll.”  It’s part of an episode that contained three short stories back to back. This is the last of the three. I’ve included the whole episode so you’ll have to fast forward. It’s well worth it. One of the classic lines is, “The doll has teeth.” Enough said.

The next one, which I enjoyed watching even as a child but fostered my doll aversion nonetheless, was “The Living Doll” on Twilight Zone. It’s also known as Talky Tina. Click this link to see a great 2 minute minisode. How many of us wish we had a Talky Tina to sic on people? I know I wanted one.

The last two were classic theatrical films, and both I can honestly say I have not seen. I can handle a lot of horror, from haunted houses to exorcisms and everything in between, but because of  Twilight Zone’s and Night Gallery’s evil doll portrayal, I  still haven’t brought myself to watch these.

The trailer for Child’s Play (Chucky) was enough to keep me from the theater. In short time, this evil little boy doll became the poster child for the 1980’s evil playthings.  It’s still pretty easy to find Chucky dolls in Newbury Comics or online.

The second was Magic. Granted, the monster here is a ventriloquist’s dummy and not a porcelain doll, but falls into this category because I’ve never been able to watch more than the trailer on this one. I encourage horror fans to see it, if they haven’t already.  It was made in 1978 and features and all-star cast of Ann Margaret, Anthony Hopkins, Burgess Meredith.

There are dozens of other television shows, movies, and of course short stories and books that transform the innocent to wicked, too many to list. And there will always be horror writers to find the malevolence in the pure, the dark in the light, and to bring us to sinister places where  childhood toys frighten us with delight.

Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be released August 15th, 2010, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe

Shifting away from my usual “take on writing and life” blog I wanted to share a great recipe and step by step instructions for Bread and Butter Pickles. A couple of years ago I was at a country festival and saw a woman selling jars of homemade Bread and Butter pickles at $8 a jar. I asked her how hard they were to make and she assured me they’re quite easy. I’ve tried a few times and she was right. I got a new recipe this week from the Blue Book Guide to Preserving. This is Edition 32. I’m also adding in tips I’ve learned along the way and made some minor modifications. This blog entry is more hands on for newbies than conventional cookbooks.

First, buy 4 lbs pickling cucumbers. These are the stubby ugly cukes not the shiny salad ones. Choose ones with bumps. They’ll make for a better crunch. Buy a bag of onions as well.

Clean and cut the end off the cukes then slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. I use a mandolin to make ridges but it’s not necessary. Next, cut 8 small (I used 5 medium) onions into thin slices. Combine the onions and cuke slices with 1/3 cup pickling salt. I used Kosher salt. I’m not sure what the difference is but mine works fine and you can buy it anywhere. Set them in a bowl and cover with ice then with a towel. Weigh it down with something heavy. I use my flour canister. Leave for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill your canning pot (huge pan made for canning) with enough water to cover the jars and place a lid on top.  

At the 90 minute mark (time for the salt to draw liquid from cucumber mix), turn the stove on high and let the water in the canner start to boil. It takes a long time.

Thoroughly rinse all the salt off the onion, cucumber mixture. Drain and rinse and drain again. This is very IMPORTANT. My batch a few months ago was ruined because there was too much salt left on the veggies.

Clean your jars with hot sudsy water  (even if they’re new) and set aside. Place your caps in a pan of water to boil  and then simmer them. These need to stay bacteria-free so leave them in the hot water till the last second. Place your bands next to the jars. Get out your ladle and large mouth funnel and set those aside for later. If you can’t find a special funnel, cut the bottom off a paper cup. It’s messy but it works fine.

Next, in a large saucepan add all the below ingredients together. Once added, bring them to a boil stirring occasionally.

2 cups sugar, 2 tbls mustard seed, 2 tsps tumeric, 2 tsps celery seed, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp peppercorns, 3 cups white vinegar. (I’ve used apple vinegar as well)

Once boiled, fold in the onion/cuke mixture. You’ll notice as the water returns to a boil, the cucumbers will turn from dark green to faded pickle green.

When you’re at a good boil again, shut off the stove and start ladling the mixture into jars. I used quart jars but the next size down would be fine. Leave 1/4 inch headspace and add liquid with the solids. Adjust two-piece caps. Don’t overtighten. Add the jars to the now-boiling water canner. Wait for the water to boil again (shouldn’t take more than a minute or two) then process (meaning, sit and wait) for 10 minutes. The jar lids will pop noisily. This is normal.

After 10 minutes (don’t cook too long) remove from heat. With tongs, take the jars out and set on a towel on the counter. Don’t touch them for 24 hours. The book says it takes 4-6 weeks for the flavor to fully develop but I always open one as soon as the 24 hours is up to try them.

I hope you enjoy your canning experience. Let me know how it works for you.


Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be released August 15th, 2010, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

disillusioned balloonmen

by Tracy L. Carbone

In the e.e.cummings poem  in just- cummings refers to the “goat-footed balloonman.” He’s a whimsical mischief maker, full of life, a figure who personifies spring.

It’s a great image, but how many merry balloonmen are really all that happy? How many street-entertaining, balloon-animal making men remind you of Pan?

I took the picture above of a  man in the park the other day.  His demeanor wasn’t jolly. He seemed defeated. Tired. He wasn’t dancing around, making balloon animals, or tossing them about to the children who romped nearby. He simply leaned on his cart.

I was reminded first of Levon by Elton John. Who’s sadder than Levon who “sells cartoon balloons in town” with a son who blows up balloons and dreams of moving away? Levon certainly doesn’t come across as a happy character.

A balloonman is supposed to represent joy and in cumming’s case, to symbolize spring and the god of fun. I was then reminded of Neil Gaiman’sAmerican Gods.” It’s the foremost fiction novel about disillusioned gods. Okay, maybe it’s the only novel on that topic but it’s brilliant.

As I looked at my tired balloonman that day, I had to wonder if underneath he was just a modern-day Pan. The worn out Pan of our generation. The one kids ignore because fun is acquired too easily. Compared to a Wii or X-Box game, an old man in a clown costume shaping balloons into dogs pales in comparison.

Maybe one of these days they’ll invent a holographic balloonman who smiles and jumps around like Loki, who twists rubber into amazing creations; and then the children will flock to him and the archetype will be restored. Till then though, if you see a balloonman, smile at him, encourage his whimsy, and please tip him heavily.

Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be released August 15th, 2010, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.