Being a Guest Blogger – Art & the Writing Life

Hi there!  Check out my latest guest blog post on Amelia Curzon’s blog Carte Blanche –

Just to whet your appetite, here are a few images & a very memorable video to get you in the right mindset…

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Book Thoughts: Apron Anxiety

Alyssa Shelasky’s, Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen, is a complete hoot!  Alyssa makes you cry when she does, laugh, dance, sing and…well, maybe not shout but close.  While she has had an intriguing life as a freelance journalist and food writer writing for prestigious publications (Us Weekly, New York magazine, Grub Street…), she has also had some incredibly sobering moments.

In this memoir, Alyssa shares the heights and the lows with her readers.  No matter what ethnicity you are, you will identify with this wonderful Jewish woman.  She and her family exude warm through each line and page.  The bonds in her family are so strong they are palpable which makes her tale even more poignant.  The reader feels almost like an extended family member giving the story a more intimate feel.

A key story line of this memoir is Alyssa’s affair with a celebrity chef from Bravo’s Top Chef, Spike Mendelsohn and how it did not end as she had originally expected.  She went from being kitchen-phobic to mastering the kitchen and becoming a respected food writer.  The memoir includes 30 recipes that are featured in the story of her life. 

At times while reading Apron Anxiety, I was reminded of the movie Forrest Gump.  Forrest seemed to be present (and part of) major events in history as his story unfolds.  I get the same feeling with Alyssa’s story.  She has ‘been there, done that‘.

I’m not sure if you’ll come away with any new insights (other than the few dozen cool-sounding recipes), but it is a wonderfully told story of a challenging period in this young woman’s life and well worth the read.  There are also great celeb mentions and moments that pepper the story as well.  Some of them make you smile with  remembrances of what you were doing at the time and others are bittersweet.

Rating: 4 Blogairy Notebooks

Short Story: Twerking Cougar

Recently, I completed a short story that had been playing around in my mind for a bit.  In the midst of writing it, I fell while rollerblading, fractured my dominant writing hand wrist (ugh, right??) and wasn’t able to finish it in the time frame I wanted to.

So, it is now done!  It’s called Twerking Cougar.  To read it, just click either link.  You can also access it by going to the “Short Story” tab in the upper right of the “Home” page and go right to the story.

From time to time, I will be posting new stories there for your reading pleasure.  Sometimes long ones, (like this one), or sometimes, I’ll post flash fiction (less than 1200 words).

Without further ado, here’s the synopsis of the current story…

Twerking Cougar

Shonell Murphy, a mature and sexy woman in her early 40’s, is a dancing diva at night and trendy working stiff by day.  The typical woman except for the fact that secretly, she never wants to get old.  She dates younger men, she keeps her relationships inconsequential and her friends are at minimum a decade younger as well.  Shonell has a phobia when it comes to ageing.

When her doctor tells her she has extremely high blood pressure and she has to change her lifestyle Shonell…ignores him.

Out clubbing, Shonell meets a Yuandre Maban.  He’s an attractive self-possessed hot yoga instructor that intrigues Shonell with poetry and insightful comments.  However, their budding romance is halted by a downturn in Shonell’s health.  She must face her inner demons; but will she be able to face them head on?  Or, will she take the easy way out?

(P.S. – I am healing.  My wrist still cannot rotate but I can type reasonably well.)

Good Summer Times…CookOut NYC! 2012

Balmy weather and warm sunshine greet this weekend’s CookOut NYC! happening at Governor’s Island Saturday, July 7th and Sunday, July 8th from 11:30am to 4:30pm.
Not only are fab BBQ samples available there are hot sauces such as CK & PB’s “Slap-Ur-Mama-Hot-Sauce” and High River Sauces that are reallyhot, spicy and flavorful. 

A surprise treat in all of the traditional cook out fare was Fossil Farms’ farm raised wild boar burgers.  Daniel, the NYC sales rep, told me that boar is not exactly in the pork family.  It is definitely related but because these boars are raised in a safe and monitored environment the flesh has a consistent taste and the gamey-ness is not present.  You get some of the sweetness that you find in pork but then there’s a totally different flavor present.  This intrigued me and I just had to try one.  It was very good!  The flesh was tender and had the firmness of a medium-well chicken breast.  It was not gamey at all.  If you can’t make it out to CookOut NYC! tomorrow, you can order your own boar, ostrich, wagyu beef, pheasant and other exotic specialties directly from Fossil Farms.

After happily munching on the boar burger, we wandered over to High River Sauces and I, being too scared of the heat, hung back while my sons tried their hottest sauce — Hellacious Hot Sauce.  As you can plainly see, his face says it all — IT’S HOT!  He tells me it’s really good and full of flavor when you first put it in your mouth but then when it’s going down — whoa.
Tom’s Roid-Rippin’ Hot Sauce was next but we were all too heated up to try it (or chicken, take your pick…).  Their tent was inviting and colorful and I’m sorry we didn’t stop there first!

Next was Mama O’s Premium Kimchi tent where there were 5 different kimchi variations available.  All are sold in Whole Foods and have no preservatives in them while still full of the great health benefits that kimchi is known for.  What’s kimchi??  Traditionally, it is made with cabbage which is fermented.  The fermentation process allows for good bacteria to form which has a number of excellent health benefits for women and is a great digestive aid.  Kimchi can be used as a topper for burgers, hot dogs, on eggs — anywhere you’d like a kick of flavor.  While the traditional preparation uses fish sauce, Mama O’s has two options that are vegan and one is Kosher. 

One of the highlights of my day was our stop at Lucky 777 Chili where they had this absolutely wonderfully spicy turkey chili on a spicy hotdog.  My vote for best hotdog goes to the triple sevens!!  You can also try them out yourself by visiting them at 116 MacDougal Street, NYC from 11am – 4am (212-777-2422).  They also gave out the coolest mardi-gras necklaces…

By now, the unlimited sampling of CookOut NYC! was getting to me.  I had to take a break and wandered over to the Zagat tent.  They’re putting out a new restaurant guide soon and are seeking feedback from the public (us!!) to see what we think about restaurants that are notcurrently in their guide; even restaurants in the outer boroughs.  When you provide reviews/feedback on 15 restaurants, you receive a Zagat embossed gift for your troubles.

Zio Restaurant was present and made a mean pork belly with grilled pineapples.  I did not get any (sadly), but my son raved about it.

There was one tent there that offered braised pork tacos with a cilantro/pineapple sauce with a hint of jalepeno which was very refreshing (near the front against the fence).  The restaurant’s name is Jimmy’s No.43 located at 43 East 7th Street, NYC.

And what was for dessert?? Wooly’s Shaved Ice and MELT ice cream sandwiches, of course.  The Wooly’s shaved ice was creamy, light, refreshing, not too sweet, yet delicious simultaneously.  This “snow ice” is a cross between Hawaiian Ices and Tawainese Ices.  The owner/operator of this food cart, Danny Che, uses a Hawaiian Ice machine that cuts the block of ice into thin sheets and then tops the luscious smooth ice with sea salt lemon or strawberry syrup and a smattering of healthy fruit toppings.  The small is $5 and the large is $7 and very very reasonably priced.  Once you taste this shaved ice, you will crave it!
MELT was right next door to Wooly’s and we chose the Red Velvet Cake Cream Cheese Ice Cream Sandwich.  Rich.  Creamy.  Delicious.  At $4 each, it was well worth it.  They also had a Snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich.

Wooly’s Shaved Ice

Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream Sandwich

Melt Bakery’s Ice Cream Sandwiches

Wooly’s Shaved Ice – Food Cart Extraodinaire

Daniel, Fossil Farms – cooking boar burgers

High River Sauces – Hellacious Hot Sauce Guy

Hellacious Hot Sauce Face!

Mama O’s Premium Kimchi

Try and catch it tomorrow.

The Happy (Lazy) Side of the Writing Life

The laziness of a cat astounds me.  These images just touch the tip of the iceberg of how lazy — or comfortable — a house cat can become once they feel safe in their surroundings.  Humans love their pets; cats are particularly loved.  There’s even a Pet Camp in San Francisco where feline “campers to have the opportunity that most citified cats never get – the chance to explore the great ‘outdoors’ within a safe, secure environment.”  (You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, right?)

I have a feline friend as well, or rather, my children do.  I’ve been watching him for the last few weeks.  He’s a well-fed, happy guy who sleeps, eats, poos, races up and down, scratches his post and gets massaged by both children daily.  He’s happy.  This feline king does all the things necessary for his happiness and comfort.

As writers, what do we do daily to make sure our writing selves are happy and comfortable?  Writing, on certain days, can be a chore; we all know that.  However, how do you take yourself out of the writing doldrums?  Do you paint?  Do you jet-ski?  Do you fish?  Do you write limericks?  Do psychotherapy??  Or, do you too, like these funny felines kick back and relax?

There are so many stories that people from the previous generations tell.  I recall a story my Grandmother used to love to share.  This man was a workaholic.  He was providing for his family and doing a very good job of it.  He had been suffering with headaches on and off for a few weeks but thought nothing of it.  Drank some coconut water and sat a few minutes extra after meals before dashing off to the next thing.  One morning, he got up and rushed out even though he really did not feel well.  Later that day, he died of a heart attack.  My Grandmother told us that the doctors told them that if he had just rested a few extra minutes — 15 to 30 minutes — he would have lived.

So, now when we look at this kitten who fell asleep in their food, well — what can one say except this kitty is following the doctor’s orders!  Now, I’m not suggesting you start pumping out Zzzzs at the table right after (or during) dinner but what will make you purrr with pleasure?  Remember to do things that pump up your excitement for writing…again.  If painting by numbers does it for you — do it!  If Zumba classes make your creative juices run — get moving!

In a recent post by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, he writes:

“Creativity researchers aren’t so confused. They have long-ago accepted the fact that creative people are complex. Almost by definition, creativity is complex. Creative thinking is influenced by many traits, behaviors, and sociocultural factors that come together in one person.”

So, if creative people are so complex, why do people always ask us dumb stuff like — when’s your next project going to be finished?  Where do you get your ideas?  Or, my personal favorite — What’s your writing regimen?

When you’re working hard to balance work, family and your creativity these questions are tough to answer because our priorities must shift every day, every hour and sometimes every minute based upon what’s happening in one’s immediate life.

Due to the aforementioned complexity of our inner selves, the answers to the questions posed abouve should be suitably complex as well.  For instance, when asked when your book/next project will be completed you can say…

The absolute absurdity of your inquiry astounds me.  How can you blithely put forth this request when the molecules within my cerebrum and hippocampus are still processing the creative merit of the filament of an idea that jumped the chasm between my neurons in the billionth of a second that has just past.  How tremendously oxymoronic of you to stifle my creativity!  Hhmpf.

Or, if this answer is a bit much to roll off your tongue smoothly, just grab hardcover book and drum incessantly until the inquirer backs away slowly and flees when they’re a good enough distance away.

Seriously, writing has to remain fun or else the stresses of everyday life and the pressure of meeting one’s self-imposed goals start to wear one down and the inevitable happens — no writing is done.

Remember the fun of writing.  The absolute joy you experienced when you first wrote (and completed) your first story, novel, essay, or poem.  Encapsulate that joy and breathe it in every time you feel the pangs of worry, angst, or writer’s block coming your way.

The best cure for insecurity in your writing is — gasp — TO WRITE.

Until next time — happy writing!!