The Journey is the Reward!

Instead of anticipating the goal, learn to enjoy the Journey for this is where we spend 99.9% of our time.

I’m in love with a Redhead – Review of Gary Gill #21 Pear Shape Tenor Ukulel

Posted by Ivan Olarte on February 20, 2015

Yes that’s correct, I’m in love with a red head!

I first saw a picture  of Gary Gill’s Pear Shaped Tenor Ukulele #21 back in November on FB. It was with #20 and #22… as soon as I saw “her” I fell in love with the sheer beauty of the woods, colors, shape etc.  At the time I though well there it goes a real beauty, someone lucky guy or gal will be very happy out there.

First look...

First look…

I have too many ukuleles, I had no plans of adding yet another ukulele… Or so I thought…

Flash forward to early January, licking my wounds from 2014, mourning the loss of my dear sister in law Lori to cancer on 1/7/2015, dealing with my own battle with cancer, surgery, ongoing recovery and physical therapy, and canceling my trip to the Reno Uke fest due to $$, time and my health… dealing with one of the worst winters that I can recall etc…  I was following Mim’s adventures at NAMM, and somehow I came across #21 again.

I messaged MiM, and as always she replied promptly, yes #21 was still available, we talked numbers, an optional MiSi Pickup, and no case… Bam! I pulled the trigger and she put it on hold.

Now MiM is known for great sales, great setup and getting a hot little Ukulele in you hands before you get a chance to get more than one night’s sleep. But alas, she had to order the MiSi… no worries, I could wait a bit longer… Good thing as the MiSi pickup arrived, she also got a few Fusion Premium Tenor cases that are imported from the UK.

Well here it is 2/20/2015 – it’s 6 degrees out and over 3 feet of snow packed in the front yard and up the streets. But my Redhead arrived, and I’m in love. It is right up there next to my beloved Mya-Moe Ukulele.

I took the day off to pick it up at the post office so it would not sit in the truck all day.

I came home and POW!!! I had not seen any reviews but heard a LOT of talk about every one that owns one being very very happy with the Gary Gill Ukuleles.. Well it’s true. She plays as good as she looks and THAT says a lot. This Ukulele is made of Solid Douglas Fir top/ Mahogany back and sides, with Maple/Redheart Rosette and headstock.

For more information about these and other Ukuleles or the Fusion cases, please contact MiM, at: or via phone at  (540) 505 5444

So here are a couple of pics of what I received today, and a link to a video review I made earlier today.

Video review and first impression…

Note: for some strange reason the first minute of the review is low in volume, it was fine on my iPhone, have no idea what youtube did to it ;-) 

In the wild...

In the wild…

Beautiful Headstock!

Beautiful Headstock!

Fusion Premium Tenor Case...

Fusion Premium Tenor Case…

Swag from my friend MiM!

Swag from my friend MiM!

She arrives...

She arrives…

She's home... but what to name her? Gigi, Juno, Red, Lucy? uhm...

She’s home… but what to name her? Gigi, Juno, Red, Lucy? uhm…

Of course she needs the perfect strap to wear. Kokopellis ;-)

Of course she needs the perfect strap to wear. Kokopellis ;-)

Posted in Music, Ukulele | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Upside Down Rice Bowl Surprise!

Posted by Ivan Olarte on February 3, 2015

I admire all the amazing rice and dish presentations on FB. So wanted to try my own.

An upside down rice bowl that contains the main dish inside like a surprise. In this case it’s beef with mushrooms and onions. It could be chili or some other goodie.

These pictures show the sequence how to make it using jasmine rice which has a nice consistency.

You basically make a bowl with rice inside a soup bowl use a wooden spoon to pack the rice into a nice bowl with the desired thickness etc then use a serving plate put it on top and use both hands to flip it. Use a knife to lift up the bowl off the plate and voila

Call it an upside down rice bowl surpise an rice igloo etc.



Plate with Minions

Plate with Minions

Plate without minions

Plate without minions


Making the Rice Bowl

Making the Rice Bowl


Putting the main dish inside.

Putting the main dish inside.


Putting Serving plate and Flipping

Putting Serving plate and Flipping




Lifting the bowl off the plate

Lifting the bowl off the plate


The finished product with no garnish

The finished product with no garnish


The Surprise Inside!

The Surprise Inside!

Posted in Healthy Living, Personal | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

So sad to say goodbye, to my dear sister Lori O’Brien-Foeri.

Posted by Ivan Olarte on January 12, 2015

Today our family will be seeing and visiting Lori’s body for the last time, and tomorrow we say goodbye as we go through the ritual of her funeral.

A sad loss to us all, to our family and to our community. She achieved more in her short lifetime than most of us ever will. She was an advocate for the elderly. Lori was a dreamer, a believer of rainbows, but even more importantly she was a Doer! Lori was  strong and defiant to her very last breath. Thanks to her strength and energy, I had no reservations in heading into my own battle with cancer earlier this year. She was a source of inspiration and strength to me during my own surgery and recovery.

I’m so proud that she was in my life as a sister and friend for the last 26 years, since I met my wife Raye. Over two decades I remember Sunday dinners at my in-laws and just like Cheer’s “Hi Norm”, I always looked forward to Lori walking through the door with the beautiful radiant smile and positive energy. My Sunday was not complete until she walked through the door. And the few times she was not able to come, the house was a bit less bright that day.

Lori always had time for everyone, on so many occasions I saw her be the one to get on the floor and play with the children, our niece Elizabeth, or any of the boys as they grew into young adults.

As she worked at the Rehoboth Post Office, Lori first got her bachelor’s degree then went on to get her law degree, pass the BAR exam and open her own successful law firm  specializing as an advocate for the elderly.

Lori had the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen on anyone, it came straight from her heart. I miss dearly… My heart feels broken today and for a long time to come. She was even sworn in to the bar of the United States Supreme Court in 2010 so she could advocate for the elderly all the way to the supreme court. You can read her full bio here:

She kept on full steam ahead as she battled inflammatory breast cancer for the last few years. She was relentless in her zest for life, and never lost that beautiful smile even during the worst of times.

Lori will continue to be with us in her inspiration for life and for helping others, and through the memories and positive that she had on all of us. She made me smile, she made me believe in rainbows…

In loving memory of my dear sister Lori O’Brien Foeri (1962-2015).

Lori's smile always lit up her face...

Lori’s smile always lit up her face, and everyone else around her…


Lori, always silly and ready to laugh

Lori, always silly and ready to laugh

A successful law practice as an advocate for the elderly...

Lori Established a successful law practice as an advocate for the elderly…


Our last family get together...


Rainbow Connection was Lori's favorite song... She was a dreamer and a Do-er!

Rainbow Connection was Lori’s favorite song… She was a dreamer and a Do-er!


A beautiful memory of Lori with her daughter Amanda and sisters Kim and Raye.

A beautiful memory of Lori with her daughter Amanda and sisters Kim and Raye.


Memories of Lori. A life well lived but cut too short...

Memories of Lori. A life well lived but cut too short…


Memories of Lori. A life well lived but cut too short...

Memories of Lori. A life well lived but cut too short…

Memories of Lori. A life well lived but cut too short...

Memories of Lori. A life well lived but cut too short…


Memories of Lori. A life well lived but cut too short...

Memories of Lori. A life well lived but cut too short…


She's with the Angels now...

She’s with the Angels now…

Loved ones that live on in my heart...

Lori is with the loved ones that live on in my heart… she is at peace.

Posted in Cancer, Personal, Spiritual Path | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

In memory of my dear sister in law Lori – Rainbow Connection…

Posted by Ivan Olarte on January 8, 2015

I’m reposting this video in loving memory of my dear sister in law Lori O’brien Foeri, who lost her long battle with @#!@# Cancer last night January 7, 2015

This was her favorite tune, and I recorded this a few years ago when she was first diagnosed with cancer. At least her suffering has finally ended

I also want to share with you Lori’s biography. I knew her for 26 years, and I have nothing but great memories of her for her heart was open to all, and she always had a smile on her face and time for everyone. A beautiful life cut short by Cancer.

Because of her strength in her fight with Cancer, I had no reservations about going through my own surgery to battle prostrate cancer. Her strength to the end was inspiring to all of us. It was way too early for her to be gone, she was younger than myself, yet did so much more with her life helping those around her…

I HATE !@#!@#!@ CANCER!

Please take a moment to read her bio, I think you will see what a loss to our community and to our family, she will be.


Lori O’brien-Foeri – 1962-2015

As both an attorney and a social worker, Lori offers a unique combination of legal expertise; advocacy; and compassion to her clients.  As a sole practitioner, her practice concentrates on providing legal services for life’s many changes that often require the practice of law.

  In 2010 Lori traveled to Washington, DC and was sworn into the bar of the United States Supreme Court. She can now represent her clients all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary to vehemently advocate for elders and those with special needs. 

   In May 2009, Lori was accredited by the Department of Veteran Affairs to participate in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for veteran’s benefits.  

  As a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, she works on the Public Policy Committee assisting to write proposed legislation that will help enhance the lives of elders, people with special needs and their families. 

  Lori is a member of the Bristol County Estate Planning Council, the Alzheimer’s Association, and a member of the Committee for Public Council Services litigation unit, whereby she provides legal services to people who are indigent.

  In her hometown of Rehoboth, MA, Lori was the founder and president of the Anawan Friendship Association helping to create a non-profit elderly housing corporation as a means to offer housing options for people aged 65 and older. 

After graduating from high school, Lori worked in for the U.S. Postal Service in her hometown of Rehoboth, Massachusetts. She worked there while attending Rhode Island College, studying for her degree in social work with a concentration on gerontology and human services.  

As part of her social service work, Lori began volunteering as a victim’s advocate at the Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence helping people navigate through the legal system.  She found herself always seeking attorneys who could help her clients.  That’s when Lori realized that she could best advocate for her clients as an attorney.  “That’s when I decided to go to law school.”  So while working, volunteering, and being the mother of two, she earned her Juris Doctorate from the Southern New England School of Law, now the University of Massachusetts School of Law.

Lori has also volunteered at Sojourner House in Providence working within the Elder Abuse Support and Empowerment (EASE) program, and at the Elmwood Community Center in Providence working with elderly survivors of domestic violence.

The social worker in Lori comes out when she says, “I love to sit down with families at their kitchen table.  We talk about their situation and how I can help.” 

Lori makes it easier for her clients to understand complex legal situations, not only taking the time to give full explanations in plain language but often using memorable visual props.  Don’t be surprised when she sets a brightly painted little house on her desk, a red box, or a small orange bucket. 



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

New Year Love Song, by Lesley Fowkes

Posted by Ivan Olarte on January 3, 2015

Fellow Ukulele enthusiast Lesley Fowkes, wrote this beautiful song on December 29th.

She was also kind enough to share it with me. So I spent New Years day learning it and recording my rendition of this beautiful composition.

A very nice way to start the new year!

Hope you like it.

Posted in Music, Ukulele | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Getting through, With a Little Help From My Friends…

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 23, 2014

So 2014 has been a tough year for me, and I can’t wait until it’s over.

Although the holidays have always been nice for me regardless of the ups and downs of life, this year I must say that I feel distanced from the whole holiday thing.

Mind you I’m not depressed, but I am a bit sad. I feel like I’ve lost the last of the innocence about about the holidays, and about life itself, that I had since my childhood.

Having gone through a Radical Prostatectomy on July 23rd, to try to get rid  of my cancer before it spreads, and knowing that I have at least a year before I conquer the side effects of incontinence and ED, I’ve had to focus on myself, question my life as it was and as it should be after this ordeal. Cancer has a way of slapping you right in the face and waking you right up…

But the main reason why the holidays have lost that shine for me this year, is not what I went through, It is about seeing friends and family that are suffering like me or worse. And knowing there are countless others going through the same thing.

A close friend at work lost her son suddenly (still in his 30’s) right before the last new year’s. And just an hour ago I came back from visiting a dear relative who just got admitted to a hospice in Cape Cod as she approaches the end of her journey. And yes she is battling that dammed disease Cancer.

Cancer took my Dad, It tried to take me but I battled it head on and dodged it this time, it is taking a dear relative who is far to young and too accomplished to be taken so soon…

Boy I hate that !@#@# word Cancer!

Just this week as I watched the TV series Crash I found out that Dennis Hopper died from undiagnosed Prostate Cancer back in 2010. By the time they found it, it had done it’s evil deed and spread throughout his body.

And just yesterday Joe Cocker, someone who sang from the heart, who’s raw energy and honesty transformed others’ songs and moved me deeply as I grew up listening to him from time to time during sad and lonely times…

So instead of a Christmas Carol, I wanted to wish all those out there going through tough personal times a bit of rest, a bit of peace, and the shoulder of a friend to rest on as you struggle through the journey we call life.

As you may know, I firmly believe in the power of healing through music, so, I wanted to share 4 short videos that dear  friends of mine made for me or posted on youtube, as I went through and recovered from prostate surgery back in July 23rd, 2014.

You see it was friends from the Ukulele community that helped me through my ordeal. They kept my spirits up throughout.  When I humbly asked that they pickup their Ukuleles and sing a song as they thought of those that they know that have had to struggle with Cancer I got many responses, and several even made the videos shown below  or picked very special songs just for me. I felt special, I felt loved and most of all I did not feel alone during this very scary time.

And so in honor of all those struggling with Cancer and other forms of suffering I want to share these videos and my prayers to you and to your loved ones. May the holidays bring you Comfort and Peace.

There were many responses and postings of videos, but these 3 ladies and one gentleman, made these on the fly as I went through and woke up from surgery. And boy did I feel special!

These videos touched me deeply and I hope they also bring some warmth to your heart and a smile to your face.

From Mim of Mim’s Ukes, the perfect song to celebrate peace and friendship, “With a little help from my friends”


From Lesley Fowkes, who sang one of my favorite songs that the late Bill Tapia used to sing. “I want to write myself a letter”

Kim McLaws had recorded this a short time earlier, but the way she sang “Smile” with such melancholy and sincerity touched me deeply and yes it made me smile in spite of the pain and discomfort of going through surgery.

And lastly, one of my favorites pieces that I learned on classical guitar and here interpreted with great musicality and sensitivity by Stephen Petegral on Ukulele, Bach’s prelude for Cello.


Posted in Cancer, Music, Personal, Ukulele | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

December 12, 2014 – 44 years ago I arrived to NYC.

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 12, 2014

44 years ago today, I arrived to NYC from Bogota, Colombia. I had just turned 9 years old.

I along with my mother and sister Mercedes (now both gone) were the last of our family of 11 to immigrate to the US.

My family life would change as I knew it from that day on. Despite the price one pays as child immigrant, I went on to graduate from Queens College, become a US Citizen, have a family of my own, a 30 year+ career in IT, a return to music and photography after 30 years, studied Martial Arts, ran a Marathon barefoot at 50, continue to manage diabetes,  battled and survived Prostate Cancer, and now expecting our first grandchild 💖😃

December 12, 1970, my first day in NYC.

December 12, 1970 – First Day in NYC, Left to Right – Mercedes (13), Elvira, Nashta, Our Dad, Ivan (9)


December 12, 1970, my first day in NYC

December 12, 1970 – First Day in NYC, Left to Right – Mercedes (13), Ivan (9) Nashta, Our Dad, Elvira.


This was was taken on 12/13/1970 in front of the apartment building where we lived in Flushing, NY. I was 9 years old, and it was ONE day after I arrived at NYC from Bogota Colombia.

It snowed that day, and like a puppy, i played and relished in the snow. I still had a child’s sense of innocence and hope back then. I though I would be reuniting with my family, but unfortunately Immigration has a price, and my family life would never be the same.

It would be the last  2 months that I spent with both my mom and dad, before being sent to live in Philadelphia with my sister Elvira. Less than 2 years later I was alone with my mother when she visited us in Philly when she had her first of several brain strokes.

By the time I was 14, I went from being the baby of the family (youngest of 11) to realizing that I would be on my own as we all scattered and struggled with our own journey to establish our own lives and families in the US.


December 13 1970, my first encounter with snow.

December 13, 1970 one day after arriving to NYC. First snow fall I saw. Taken in Flushing, NY.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to be here in the USA. After all I’ve spent 44 out of my 53 years here, and have gotten many opportunities which I was smart enough to follow through on.

Life is what it is, and it’s one’s responsibility to do the best with what you are given. Obstacles that I encountered have only made me stronger, and my heart more open. I’m glad to be here in the USA. After all I’ve spent 44 out of my 53 years here, and have gotten many opportunities which I was smart enough to follow through on.


One of my favorite photos that I’ve taken is this view of an American flag, from our back window.

Like life itself, the USA is indeed the land of opportunity, but it is up to us to act and participate in what is offered, and to be strong enough to deal with the obstacles along the way.

Ater all “The Journey Is The Reward…”


American Flag as seen from our back window.

American Flag as seen from our back window.

Posted in Cancer, Personal | Leave a Comment »

Why do I share who I am and what I feel?

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 11, 2014

Several people have expressed their appreciation of my openness and sharing in my writing and my music. Others may wonder why I do it, but for me… I don’t care if the world knows who I am and what I feel… It feels good to let it out, and to know that maybe a small handful of people somewhere in this globe appreciate, are moved, or influenced by my raw honesty.

We are all part of the same human condition and for every set of circumstances where we have to struggle, feel afraid or alone, I guarantee you that others out there (in fact countless others across the span of human existence) have experienced the same kind of feelings and emotions that we may be going through. Be it loneliness, sorrow, battles of our own or seeing loved ones battle diseases like Cancer, or for that matter feelings of joy, love, and passion, or seeing your children born… None of these are unique to us, they are universal events of our shared experience.

Too many of us think we are unique, or the center of the universe, too many topics are simply taboo in our society. Cancer, feelings of sadness and yes death and suffering are not talked about. But realizing that we are less than a spec of dust in the grand scheme of it all, also brings a sense of humbleness, and comfort. In fact the acceptance of suffering, and the ability to escape from suffering are part of the four noble thruths that are the pillars od Buddhism. This is why I share who I am and what I feel.

I have listened to my 3 cds in the car since I put them on my iPhone, and I gotta tell you, I may play like Pepe Romero, or may never be able to play those pieces again, but the CLassical Guitar pieces, and the rest of the music moved me a couple of times. It has a rough but honest quality to it. And I’m glad that like photography, I learned to document what I feel through music, photography and writing over the last few years.

I hope you listen to some of my music in your car when you get a chance. Who knows, maybe in some small way, it will move you too.

You can find albums of my music here:

Posted in Music, Personal, Spiritual Path | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

TBT: About my Dad…

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 11, 2014

TBT: This one is about my dad. Jose Epifanio Olarte.

Not only did my dad teach me music, but also most of what I consider my own values and ethics.

He was a man of many talents, taught himself many instruments, puppetry, sewing etc.

He became a music teacher, and toured throughout Colombia playing folk music with his children. Several of my siblings went on to graduate from top music schools in the USA including, Julliard and Curtis institute of Music, thanks to the foundation in music that he gave all of us. His legacy of music legacy continues to this day with a couple of my nieces and nephews who are professional musicians, and with my humble return to music.

Unfortunately he never got to see or know of my return to music, but I think he probably knew this would happen eventually.

Being the last of 11 children, and with my family immigrating to the U.S. starting when I was 4, then my mother getting ill, he was not able to take care of me the way he did the rest of my siblings. However the lessons he taught me through my childhood, and later on in conversations as I grew into an adult stayed with me and continue to guide me through my journey. And he did get to see me graduate college, and have children of my own. He also recognized and told me that like him, I was on my own early on (at the age of 14) and was proud of who I became.

He was raised by Jesuit priests in an orphanage from a very young age, and set out on his own starting his own family and our legacy of music.

The nicest thing is that I see more and more of him in me every day as I get older and wiser. And for that I am most grateful. Like him, I have been a solid provider for my own family for the last 26 years, and for myself for the last 39 since I was 14.

When I studied Buddhism, I realized that my dad was a rare individual a Buddha of sorts in his demeanor, compasion, unconditional love, and the ability to live in the present moment. He was and is my best teacher to this day.

He was a better man than I’ll ever be as he cared and visited my mom every day while she was hospitalized and unable to communicate or recognize anyone during the last few years of her life. After I returned from Colombia at 14, I visited my mom twice and could not deal with seeing her in such a way.

He went through PC surgery when the open surgery was still quite new back in the 1980’s. Although long gone from this life, during my own battle with Cancer he was my biggest inspiration to stay strong and positive.

I’m shedding some tears as I write this, because even though I see him in me and my sons, I miss him, and wished I had listened to him just a bit more, or had spent just a bit more time with him. He was a very special man, and honestly it’s not because he was my dad, it’s because of what was in his heart and soul.

Ironically, tomorrow December 12th will be the 44th anniversary of my own immigration to the U.S. and the end of family life as I knew it back in Colombia. I have no regrets and or sorrows, for its this history that made me strong enough to grow like a tree, to survive Cancer, and to try to live in and appreciate the present moment.

Here is a photo of him 20 years before I was born. It’s one of my favorite photos.

My Dad circa 1940

My Dad circa 1940

One last thing, I’ve never appreciated the phrase “Like Father Like Son” as much as I do today.

Here I am at 14 when I first took a year of classical guitar in Colombia.

Me at 14 - Like Father, Like Son...

Me at 14 – Like Father, Like Son…

Posted in Cancer, Music, Personal, Spiritual Path | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Once again, the POWER of MUSIC

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 10, 2014

This is not one of my videos, but I had to share this with you as yet another example of The Power of Music.

Once again Gentlemen and Ladies, The POWER of MUSIC!
This time it’s with one of the most beautiful instruments ever created…. The Human Voice in perfect Harmony.

As a Prostate Cancer survivor, this is specially poignant as it’s a choir of Men made up by the a Capella group Home Free.

Wishing you and yours a safe and peaceful Holiday.


You can find more Information about Home Free at:

Posted in Cancer, Music, Personal | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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