Zoas…?

I had the best intentions to write my Z post on William Blake’s The Four Zoas.

If I had had a brain in my head, I would have written that “Z” post during that first, fresh week and squirreled it away. But I didn’t. And I didn’t.

And now I have zero idea of where I wanted to go with that post. Zip.

So here – I will at least show you a pretty picture of his Zoas – Tharmas (sense), Luvah (love), Urthona (imagination), and Urizen (reason).

The Four Zoas

Literary scholars have spent their lives’ work studying this unparalleled yet uncompleted prophetic vision of Blake’s. So I’m not sure what I thought I was going to accomplish with one small blog post, coming on the heels of 25 other blog posts about random crapola:

A – Author

B – Butterfly Kisses

C – Coffee

D – Details

E – England

F – Fact or Fiction

G – Got Gray?

H – Helium

I – Idiopathic

J – Jesters

K – What Writers KNOW

L – Library Lions

M – Meat

N – Ni! and Neee-wom and Noodles 

O – Operation Organize Office

P – Playing the Part

Q – Quixotic

R – Rock and Roll Riders

S – Sun Kink

T- Training to be a Dirty Girl

U – Review of Amanda USEN’s ‘Scrumptious’

V – whose post has VANISHED into thin air – creepy!

W – Writers’ Retreat

X – Xigua

Y – Yodelittle

Z – wasn’t really about the Zoas at all. MAYBE NEXT YEAR!

I hope everyone had fun blogging and reading from A to Z! And I hope to see you on the blog hop next year. Until then, feel free to stop by this little corner of the web to say hi.

Zee ya latah!

Yodelittle

I almost got tripped up on letter Y. One day away from the finale – I can’t be fresh out of ideas! All I kept thinking was yogurt. But I didn’t want to write about yogurt. I do eat it every morning (greek non-fat vanilla mixed with non-fat plain to cut the sweetness) but that is WAY more info than you need to know about me and yogurt!

Then I thought – Yodelittle. It’s like a yodel, in that it’s a song that easily gets stuck in your head. (I’m sure most of us are all guilty of crooning  “Ricola!” at odd times in our lives, am I right?)

Yodelittle is a ditty about a little lady, written by Al Schnier and performed by his band moe. It’s a charming folky-funky earworm, with a chorus that warbles:

Yodelittle lady who

Yodelittle lady that I love

Yodelittle was one of the first songs I ever heard moe. play live, and I thought it was so catchy and clever. It made me fall in love with them. As I started researching it today, I was astonished to realize 2 things:

  1. 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of this song – if first appeared on their debut album, Fatboy
  2. I was in the audience at the first known gig where it was performed

According to Phantasy Tour, an impressive website that tracks a crazy amount of stats on jambands, Yodelittle has been played live 303 times to date. It debuted on 2/15/92 at the Scrapyard in Buffalo, NY. And was played most recently at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore on 3/10/12. It is still a crowd favorite, and I love hearing the fans roar in approval when they recognize those opening notes being picked out.

The show list was fun to peruse. I had forgotten about that little gig at the long-gone Scrapyard. I love that it was played at 14 of their 24 shows at the legendary Wetlands Preserve in NYC (if I’m counting correctly.) In the early days, it was played at Frat house parties, like Pi Kappa Alpha at RPI in Troy, NY. But it’s also been played at venues as large as the Molson Amphitheater in Toronto, Canada.

How cool that it was played in the middle of the ocean twice – once in 2004 aboard the Norwegian Sun, and again in 2007 on board the Norwegian Jewel; two fan cruises that moe. orchestrated.  Fans in Yokohama and in London have heard it live in their cities.

It was also played on 4/23/01 at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ. This holds a special memory for me, as it was the night I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. (No wonder my legs felt so tired while I was dancing up a storm to Yodelittle!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little stroll down Yodelittle memory lane and the song’s ongoing legacy. Do you have a “Y” song, or any song, that you love and would like to share?

X is for…Xigua (and what did we do before the Internet?)

A few months ago, two other mothers and I took our daughters to the bowling alley. The girls have been friends since preschool, the Moms enjoy spending time together, and we often go out as a group on weekends.

Although all three are in fourth grade, they now attend different schools. One girl brought her homework assignment along, thinking it would be fun to complete together. “I have to write down a healthy food for each letter of the alphabet,” she explained. The other two quickly jumped in. Apples! Bananas! Cereal! (That one is debatable.) Just as the Blogging from A to Z Challenge has sparked our creativity beyond the average ABCs, this list became the highlight of their day…over the crash of bowling pins and greasy pizza.

I can’t remember their choices for every letter, but I do recall being astonished at how varied their vocab was, and their favoring the exotic over the everyday (tilapia over tater tots). And did I even know what kale was at ten years old? Had kale even been discovered yet?

Then we got to Q. The girls made a real effort. (No, Kumquat starts with K. But has a Q in it. Nice try!) So we moms gave them some gentle hints (Quince won out over Quinoa, as it was easier to pronounce and spell) and we rested back on our laurels.

Until… X. Between the three of us moms, we had 6 college degrees combined and a collective 130 years’ life experience. But could any of us think of a freakin’ food that began with X?

I think one of us may have come up with xanthan gum. Not exactly a food.

The girls were determined. They needed to complete this quest. Bowling was abandoned. The pizza grew cold on its plate. X! We need an X!

Being the only female present in possession of a smartphone, I pushed a few buttons and announced to the group, “Xigua. It’s a Chinese type of watermelon.” Relief, elation! Everyone could sleep that night.

Funny that this post comes on the heels of my singing the praises of a digital sabbatical. But seriously, what did we do before the Internet? I received my Masters in Library Science right before the 90s ‘Net boom, so I know how to research old-school with the best of them. It would have taken me a bit longer than three seconds, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to do it in the middle of a bowling alley!

I tried to impress upon the girls how much more difficult and time-consuming research was before we had the internet at our fingertips, but they were, in the end, unimpressed.

I’m pretty sure this is the equivalent of our parents telling us they had to walk barefoot to school, ten miles in the snow, uphill both ways…

Writers’ Retreat!

(This post is dedicated to my dear friend, Wellins. He’s not a writer and he’s not retreating, but everyone should have a Wellins in their lives!)

W is for…wow. Almost there! Like scheduling a spa day after a grueling workout, I’ve got something to look forward to after a long month of blogging (and other) deadlines: a writers’ retreat. My first!

This weekend, eight members of the Western New York Romance Writers will converge to brainstorm, to laugh, to eat and drink but mostly, to write. We come from all backgrounds – working women, stay-at-home-moms, even Grandmoms – and we all write different genres: from chic lit to erotica to category to women’s fiction. But one thing I think we all have in common: we are very dedicated to our writing, and we never have enough time in our “regular” lives to pursue it.

I relish the prospect of writing on my own schedule for two straight days; it’s a rare luxury. No playdates to supervise, no carpooling to undertake, no laundry. No alarms in the morning, no…wi-fi!

This last thing will be a good thing. I have my Smartphone for email, and for “quick” reference checks if I must. Rest assured my blog posts will be finished and scheduled! Other than that, and my writing medium of choice (laptop, Word doc), I am officially taking a “digital sabbatical”. I first heard the term a few days ago, when blogger Katie Testa of Watch This Space used it in her U is for Unplug post. Imagine – time away from almost everything electronic to study and rest. I don’t know about your world, but my world has been taken over by what I call digitalia. Digital everything! Its fed by everything, and it feeds upon everything. Daily. Hourly. By the minute.

Time to take back my world.

So I have high hopes for these two days at the writers’ retreat, with my fellow authors. I hope we all meet whatever writing goals we set, as well as reap the benefits of sharing space and breaking bread together. Quality time with good people, and limited time sucked away by faceless technology. I am ready. Write on!

U…review and recipe!

Hey, U! We’ve hit the 21st letter in the alphabet! Is everyone still hanging in there? It’s been a uniquely fun, unusually time-consuming blogging month…but I am so glad I signed up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Now, onto the letter of the day, brought to you by this tall, dark and delicious guy:

Scrumptious by Amanda Usen

Um...yum!
(And the cupcakes look pretty good, too.)

Gimme a U! Gimme an S! Gimme an E! Gimme an N! Usen, Usen, Usen! Today I’m shaking my pompoms and grinding my pepper mill in celebration of Amanda Usen‘s debut culinary romance, Scrumptious! Amanda is the brains behind the dreamy hero who inspired the cover, as well as the signature tall, dark and delicious chocolate cheesecake her heroine creates in the book.

Grab a fork and let’s dig in, shall we?

While I am not your typical romance reader, I do appreciate a good love story and I adore books with a culinary slant. Paired together like a fine wine with cheese and written as solidly as a 3-star Michelin review, Scrumptious is the perfect combination of heart and heat.

When I think about the words “food” and “cooking”, certain descriptors come to mind: home, comfort, warmth, luxurious, transporting, decadent. Now who wouldn’t want to apply each of these when thinking about their attraction, both mentally and physically, to their ideal mate? Great chefs will tell you that cooking is chemistry, but it’s also an art. And the same could be said for love…do you sense a pattern in my thinking?

Usen plays up the pattern delightfully, pairing up a “love ’em and leave ’em pastry chef” with a “cocky superstar” chef-for-hire. Marly and Joe vie for bragging rights in the kitchen of Chameleon, a restaurant owned by their mutual dear friend, Olivia. A kitchen, I might add, that has been turned upside down and run into the ground by Olivia’s philandering husband, Keith. Joe was only passing through town on his way to fulfill his mother’s two deathbed requests: to dry his father out, and to find a “nice” girl to settle down with once he took his dream job out West. He stays on temporarily as a favor to Olivia, which sets Marly’s temper (and her desire) higher than a torch caramelizing a crème brûlée. Not only has Joe taken over her rightful place back on the hot line, but he puts her in her place by turning her advances down cold.

Marly is just Joe’s type – feisty, fun and ready to roll. She’s not shy with her passion for food, or her passion, period. But she’s appears to be exactly what his mother had begged him to give up. He abstains…but only for so long. It was fun to watch Marly and Joe succumb to each other’s culinary delights, as well as to their prowess in other skills outside the kitchen.

But strange things are afoot at Chameleon. The subplot involving sabotage within the ranks at the restaurant had me totally immersed. I don’t want to give away the farm, but there is high stakes poker, mob men and an Italian grandma with a secret of her own before Usen wraps up this clever tale. And let’s not forget the pig roast!

I think what I savored most of all was the behind-the-scenes kitchen action and the ease with which Marly and Joe handle it. There is a sexiness and a confidence in the way they man (and woman) their stations, along with a genuine love for the food, and for the restaurant they fight to keep afloat.

Usen readily admits she enjoys chocolate cheesecake for breakfast, and she had a hot chef steal her own heart: the day her husband walked into class on their first day of school at the Culinary Institute of America. By day, Amanda teaches pastry arts classes and by night, she’s writing romance and cooking up lots of laughs with her husband and kids.

As pleased as I am to dish about her debut novel with you here, I am utterly thrilled to tell you THERE’S MORE! Luscious, the second sizzling book in Amanda Usen’s series, is due out in July!

Luscious by Amanda Usen

Ultra-yummy bonus: Amanda shares her recipe for the Mocha Rum Cheesecake that knocked Joe’s socks off in the book!

TRAINING to be a Dirty Girl

It’s official – I’m gonna do the Dirty Girl! Oh, get your mind out of the gutter – it’s a mud run!

Dirty Girl Mud Run 2012

Got Dirt?

Three days ago, my fabulous foodie romance author pal Amanda Usen sent me the link for the run – there are 9 Dirty Girl events this year, and the only one in New York happens to be about an hour’s drive from us. She asked, “So, do you wanna?” And I was like, “Bring it on!”  (Well, maybe we spoke a bit more eloquently than that. We are authors, after all.)

Needless to say, we were psyched to create a team and take on this challenge. Go Team Dirty Word Girls!

Dirty Girl is a non-competitive 5k course consisting of 11-15 insanely fun obstacles designed by an elite Ex-Army Ranger. The course will be a mix of off-road, trekking through forests, and whatever other interesting terrain the organizers can incorporate! Oh, and a portion of the fees and proceeds go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Fun for a good cause? I’m all over that, like mud on a…um, Dirty Girl.

Dirty Girl Mud Run

Amanda’s husband recently participated in the Tough Mudder, which inspired her quest to find a muddy mountain of her own to climb. She witnessed him conquer, as she put it, “twelve miles of mud, fire, monkey bars, walls, barbed wire, electrified wire, hills, dales, rusty pipes and a ton of other crazy shit.” Inspiring, indeed!

So now…we train. Both of us are yoga fans, which helps with our core, our balance, and our sanity. I spin 8-10K twice a week (when I’m not making up excuses as to why I can’t go) so that should benefit me as well. Hopefully we’ll find some time to run together when the nice weather hits.

But then there’s…the mud. I’m wondering if we should prepare for that. It’s a big part of the course, after all. Funny, some of our friends’ first reactions were “I don’t get dirty” or “I don’t like to get dirty”. The dirt factor hadn’t really phased me. I don’t intentionally seek out mud, but if I get a little on me, I’m usually OK. After all, I do moe.down every year – a 3-day music and camping festival in Upstate NY that sees its share of wet weather. But then again, I usually have my pretty rain boots and hotel! So OK, I guess I don’t really become “one with nature” there.

I did, however, put in several years of hands-on mud-training in my single digits…my mother tells me my favorite activity as a kid was making mud pies and basking in backyard mud in my bathing suit – just like Mary Ann in my favorite children’s book, Mary Ann’s Mud Day, by Janice May Udry . Sadly, the book is long out-of-print and hard to find. But in my mind’s eye, I remember the story, as well as the whimsical happy illustrations by Martha Alexander of Mary Ann and her mud creations. And I have a vague recollection of my mother getting in the mud and playing right along with me. (She tells me now the neighbors must’ve thought she was crazy!)

Mary Ann's Mud Day by Janice Udry

So yeah, this summer we will do some running, and some upper-body strengthening. And maybe…just maybe…we’ll find/make some mud (for the kids, of course). Got Dirt?

S is for…Sun Kink

SUN KINK: a buckling due to high temperature, causing the track to shift laterally and form a curve in what is otherwise a straight pair of rails. Such conditions can cause a train derailment.

sun kink

This is a sun kink.

Probably a term you don’t hear every day.

It’s currently the name of my first novel.

Sun Kink

This is also a Sun Kink.

I look at those 300 sheets and am amazed – that all fell out of my brain!

Sun Kink chapters

Aftermath of one of the first phone calls with my agent, discussing the book chapter by chapter.

Has your life ever been derailed by something, or someone?

Ever been chugging away on a straight and rigid path, only to be thrown right off track…and surprisingly, you find you’re exactly where you want and need to be?

SUN KINK.