Wednesday, December 31, 2014

this little piggy ...

Good thing this little piggy went to market yesterday, before it got clobbered by a chair. Anyway, injuries aside, welcome to my experiment!

I'm thrilled that I have a few happy campers/January austerity enthusiasts. *Claps hands wildly*

As promised, forthwith I give you the master grocery list for week one, which starts TOMORROW! I know you’ll already have many of these items in your refrigerator/pantry, but maybe not. Also, as far as exact amounts, I’ll leave that up to you. Maybe you’re cooking for one. Maybe five. So.

Enough greens for ten salads/sandwich stuffings, etc. I like to mix it up. Mache, bibb, red leaf, romaine, etc.
A bag of cuties or another sort of orange/tangerine – type citrus fruit
Three white or yellow onions
Two bulbs garlic
Bunch of baby asparagus
A couple green apples
Fruit for smoothies. Berries/bananas, that sort of thing
At least four lemons
Head of cauliflower of some florets 
Two limes
Enough sweet potatoes for three meals
Kale (you knew that would be on the list, right?)
Chard (colorful!)
A couple carrots
Green onions
A couple tomatoes (big)
Grape tomatoes or small tomatoes (8 - 10)
Some red potatoes
An array of colorful peppers: one of each, perhaps

Pearl mozzarella
Feta cheese
Plain Greek yogurt

One box of pasta (whole grain or made from quinoa preferred)
Sprouted wheat English muffins (I like the Ezekiel muffins, cinnamon raisin is my fave)
Rice cakes!
Rice (you can get brown rice but it doesn’t agree with me, so I bought Lundberg Basmati/Wild rice)
One loaf Killer Dave’s multi-seed bread or an equivalent hi-pro, low-carb bread
Corn tortillas or wraps

Carton of eggs
Two meals worth of fresh fish (cod, halibut, salmon, tilapia… whatever’s fresh)
Two cans of water-packed tuna
One jar crunchy almond butter
Tofu – two packages
Sliced turkey from the deli
Two different types of ground meat (I chose wild boar for one of mine!)
Beans. Canned or dried or ready made. Your favorite types enough for three meals
A bag of raw cashews (bulk section)
A bag of raw almonds (bulk section)

A couple of Amy’s single serving burrito type thingies
Applegate, gluten-free chicken breast tenders – one or two boxes

Buying jam? Make sure the fruit is listed first
Olive oil
Vinegars (I’m keen on coconut vinegar – it’s like apple cider vinegar. Also, balsamic – but check out the calories/sugars and use sparingly)
Mayo (sparingly, of course)
Butter (again, sparingly)
A variety of herbs and spices, particularly curry/turmeric/cinnamon/ginger/basil/tarragon/oregano
Hot sauce
Golden raisins
Rolled Oats (for making granola!)
Jar of spaghetti sauce
Fruit-first jam (see picture)
Almond milk (a couple of cartons)
Chicken (or veggie) broth – one or two cartons
Quercetin (more on this later in the week, but it’s the one supplement that I think is worth the $)

So, I’ve built in three one-serving treats a week. Your choice. Maybe you’re an ice cream fan? Maybe you love chocolate? Maybe just a handful of ginger snaps will do? Whatever your poison, it’s all about portion control, right? Here’s the caveat though. Week one, if you really want to “jump start” your movement away from excess, do without the treats and add them in on week two. Okay?

300 calorie breakfast
THE DIET. DAY ONE. (Jan 1st)
Okay, ladies we’re aiming for this 3/4/5 calorie breakdown (gents, you get to add 100 calories to each meal. Another way in which life isn’t fair). I stole the idea from the 7 Years Younger book.
Breakfast: 300
Lunch: 400
Dinner: 500
(add 200 – 300 calories of snacks in after week one)
Oh yeah, and drink your water! Seriously. Water!

1 Ezekiel muffin, toasted
1 tbsp almond butter; 
1 tbsp fruit-first jam
1 tangerine

Garden Turkey Sandwich w/ Lemon Mayo (2 ounces turkey/1 slice bread/1/2 tsp mayo mixed with squirt of lemon/1 tsp dried cranberries/couple of chopped cashews/celery/lettuce)
1 Apple

Poached fish (bake your 4 ounce filet in parchment paper with drizzled olive oil/tarragon/garlic/lemon)
Roasted sweet potatoes/red potatoes mixture (3/4 cup)
1 rice cake (you can spread up to 1 tsp almond butter on it, or hummus)
Large salad (greens/red peppers/almonds) with homemade oil/vinegar dressing (below)

Suzy’s Salad Dressing
I’ve made this for years. 85 calories a serving, I usually make 3 servings at a time:
6 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Honey
1 tsp lemon juice
1 clove chopped garlic
1 tsp mustard
(I heat the honey/garlic/mustard in the microwave for 15 seconds, then add the rest of the ingredients)

Happy New Year! Clink your last glass of champagne with me tonight. Comments/hints/other ideas/links are welcome!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

climbing on the wagon

snap of the ghost of Christmas Present from the Goodman Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol
It's that time of year again. Where "Let's Talk About Writing" becomes "Let's Talk About Eating."

I outdid myself this holiday season, in terms of cookie, chocolate and alcohol consumption. In my mind, I resemble the Ghost of Christmas Present in "A Christmas Carol." Everything inflamed and larger than it should be. My stomach gurgling and hurting. My skin blotchy. I picture my liver being blown up by a ball pump. And the vessels in my heart choked and lined with fat. The bad fat. You know, LDL and whatnot.

I know what to do. Of course I do. I have a 80thousand dollar education from Syracuse University to prove it. A diploma somewhere in storage claiming I have a BS in dietetics. I know that fad diets are lame and losing weight fast is stupid and unsustainable, and that there is no fountain of youth. I also know better than to cram my face with peppermint patties, almond roca and figgy pudding. And yet, each year, I eat like a pig for a month, washing it all down with gin and red wine - sometimes both in one sitting. Fa la la la burp la.

It's no secret that we tend to eat three times the calories we normally do in the five weeks or so between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Booze, bon-bons, crème brûlée. Champagne, cheese, chocolate. In that cold, dark month, we Americans pile on as many calories as we do from June to October. And we exercise half as much. Wonder why we tend to feel like shit on December 30th? And guess what? We still have a week's worth of parties to attend! I'm all about The Royal We here, because, obvi - 'tis the season of the diet book. A whole shitload of them pubbed today as a matter of fact. Here are a few:

The Zero Belly Diet
The Burn: Why Your Scale is Stuck and What to Do About It
Supermarket Healthy
The DASH Diet Younger You

Of the above books, I recommend the DASH one. And it's probably my frame of reference, coming from a clinical dietetics background, but this book includes some of the latest academic information backed by actual scientific research. I'm a snob about that stuff. So shoot me. There's another book I like too - and it has a similarly unfortunate "snake oily" title: 7 Years Younger: The Anti-Aging Breakthrough Diet. I am gleaning stuff from both those books, and making my lists, checking them twice.

With a caveat.

The thing about any prescriptive book for creative types? We have a hard time following directions. Guilty as charged. For instance, I'm not going to eat oatmeal. My loving husband does. Every single morning. I hate oatmeal. Unless you put lots and lots of butter and brown sugar in it. Period. Also, low fat cheese. What's the fucking point of low fat cheese? I say, eat half the amount of regular cheese. Plus, no way am I giving up coffee. I am giving up booze though. For a month - then adding it back in judiciously. Also, limiting sugar with a goal to wean myself off of it 90% of the time.

So, upstart that I am, I've developed my own version of a diet, stealing a lot from the aforementioned books. It's anti-inflamatoryish, balanced as far as the carb/protein/fat thing goes and it's between 1400 and 1500 calories, so it's reasonable. As far as writing things down? I have the apps. A really good one is My Fitness Pal, and an even better one is Fooducate. MFP is free, and the bells and whistles Fooducate one costs a few bucks a month. They're helpful to track the calories in/calories out thing, but the best way to get on the healthy eating wagon after a period of over-indulgence is to plan ahead. Buy the groceries, plan out the menus, know what you're going to eat at the start of the day.

So, guys, here's how I'm going to do it. I'm going to post my "menus" every day and my "shopping lists" once a week. Here on the blog. Staring tomorrow, New Year's Eve, until January 30th (at which point I'm off on a week long holiday with some fabulous gal pals, and yes, I will eat, drink and be merry - but hopefully, somewhat healthily, too).

Wanna join me? No pressure. Only that tight waistband.

Friday, December 19, 2014

my neighbor, ned

In the many, many years before this one - when I would sneak into bookstores and libraries stealthily with the sole purpose of spying the exact spot on the shelf my books would live if any of them ever got published - I often lamented my near-the-end-of-the-alphabet name. Vitello. Fat chance of an impulse buy, there, right? Was it too late to rename myself Suzy Aaron?

Back when I thought my eventual books would be housed in the literature section (hoity-toity, I know) I imagined myself wedged between Jules Verne and Kurt Vonnegut. That's right, my dark prose would rub elbows with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea on one side, Cat's Cradle on the other.

But when I started writing YA, I shifted my surveillance, and began nosing around the end of the alphabet in kid lit. And that's when I discovered Ned Vizzini. Vizzini! A YA paisan, I thought. The Italian last name. The teen angst themes. I brought It's Kind of a Funny Story home for Carson. And the Teen Angst book, too. He particularly took to Teen Angst, because he was doing an autobiography unit at school. Turned out, though, I had to go to bat in my son's behalf when his 7th grade language arts teacher declared he couldn't read it for credit.

I had to tamper down my Bea Arthuresque indignation, whipping into the school in my cape and  wine-color lip liner. "This is exactly what middle school boys should be reading," I argued.

"It looks like a cartoon book," she said. "It's not serious autobiography."

Oh, but I was prepared. I had the list of accolades from esteemed sources claiming the book's merit. In the end, she reluctantly agreed to let him read it, but she wasn't happy about it.

Carson was devastated by my pushiness. And embarrassed. But he loved the book, and read, rather than skimmed it - which was a supreme accomplishment.

So when I got my book deals, I began thinking of Ned Vizzini as my soon-to-be neighbor.This guy who shared my sense of snark and disdain for asshole teachers. Who wrote his truth directly to his audience - and was known as a sensitive, kind soul who spent hours chatting with his fans in bookstore lines. A neighbor anyone would be thrilled to have.

In various bookstores, I stalked the  P - Z young adult shelves, my eyes grazing along until they landed on the (always face out) white and black map head cover of Funny Story. There, I thought. That's where my books will live next year. Next to Ned. My little ramble-shack cottages next to this architectural masterpiece!

And you probably know this, but a month before I officially moved in next door to Ned, one year ago today, in fact, he committed suicide. He jumped off a roof within view of the Brooklyn Public Library - a place he publicly supported and revered. I saw the tweets, one after another and I was bowled over in disbelief. This guy who had saved teenagers' lives - an outspoken advocate for mental health intervention - had been suffering more than anyone guessed. Somehow I felt that since he wrote about his darkest fears - offered up his journey through depression and pointed toward hope and salvation - that he was immune from a devastating outcome.

Today I ran across this lovely tribute by an author-friend of his, and it gave me further insight into my bookstore neighbor, Edison "Ned" Vizzini, and all day I've been thinking more about the separate lives of books - and how they're lived apart from their creators. The life inside of a book is often a hopeful construct. An imagining that ends in triumph. I think of Ned and me. Our side-by-side stories on the pine shelf - our characters' heartbreaks and salvations - I like to think that the worlds we built, Ned and me, and all those lucky authors with first-half-of-the-alphabet names, are transcendent of our failures. That they connect readers with their humanity regardless of the fragile nature of the artist.

And that's why I'm hoisting a glass to Ned tonight instead of feeling sad. Ned Vizzini left us at the young age of 32, but he left us rich and fat as fuck. I love that his books are squeezed up against my books. That the heartbeat of story continues, no matter what. Thank God, Ned. Thank God people still write.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

just say naNOwrimo

Yep, it's that time of year again. Leaves are damp, dying bits of organic compost, we're all diabetic from Halloween, and we're putting our compensatory ass-sitting gadgets in place for a month of marathon writing.

Except, I'm not.

I've done the NaNo. I think, for generative purposes, it's terrific, but at my age, the cons outweigh the pros. The tiny repetitive-motion injuries to obscure, but necessary, muscles and fascia. The headaches. The bleary vision. For me, to write 50K words in a month is physically dangerous. It just is. My eyes, my head, my shoulders.

Better for me is a modified 800 words/five days a week plan. With yoga, walks, and non-screen tasks built in. That's 16K words, folks. Not even a novella. But, it can be just as generous and generative to the idea behind NaNoWriMo, which is, wrapping your mind around a sustainable project, and falling in love with it - seeing it through the long game. Because writing a novel is a long game.

There's the first draft, the second draft, the sixth draft. There's the getting readers excited about it draft. The being able to boil down the idea to a two-sentence conceit draft.

That's why, I'm proposing something different here on this blog post. A sustainable alternative to the life-fast that happens when you're pumping out the pages. Here's how it works:

Choose one project. Doesn't have to be a first draft, either. Commit to visiting it five days a week. Set either a word count or a minute count (e.g. 1K or 90 minutes), and write your last sentence of the day, each day, in the comments section below.

Who's in?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

halloween fun - plus chocolate

You guys, I've got a little promotion going on this week to celebrate the blog tour for The Empress Chronicles, and to add to my collection of memorabilia.

You don't HAVE to have a copy of my book (though, I'd love it if you did). Only an imagination and the spirit of whimsy. Whimsy's good, right?

So here's the deal: take a halloweenish type of picture that is YOUR interpretation of #EmpressHalloween. If you're on any of the sites: Instragram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, tag me , or just use the hashtag #EmpressHalloween, or send me the pic to post socially.

I'm going to randomly choose a photo at 4:00 pm Friday, Oct. 31st, and the owner of that picture will win a spicy array of confections from Alma Chocolates. (I have to keep this contest to U.S., unfortunately, because of the shipping regulations.)

Love to you all, and get me your pics! Any and all!
p.s. - I'm also checking the blog post comments sections every day, as well, so if you leave an exceptional comment on one of the blogs, I'll see that too and put it in the running.

Monday, October 20, 2014



I read this yesterday, mulled it over, and I feel a correlative coming on. Ready? So.

Once upon a time, I moved into a heat-less, two-bedroom, barely one-bathroom farmhouse with my partner and two small children even though I’m a comfort-loving hedonist. Maybe it was (probably, it was) due to a lowly guilty feeling I’d carried around since childhood – my Oma’s voice in my ear screeching “Duty! Duty! Duty!”

In any case, the interment lasted just shy of three years. We moved out during a record cold-snap, a week before the epic Oregon floods of ’96. Yes, friends, it was the Gulag. 

But the first several months of that experiment were accompanied by a sort of runner’s high brought on by continual Aegean tasks and extreme discomfort. Scrubbing 60 years of bacon grease off the kitchen walls, for instance. And scraping inches of black, asbestos-laden adhesive from the vertical-grain fir flooring so we could grind it further with rented machinery. Oh, and the chopping of wood! The carrying of septic water! Chickens and kittens and farm dogs, all with their pratfalls and mange! Not to mention a jungle-sized garden dug into the soil above an ancient cesspool. All of this under alien power lines that scored the horizon, buzzing, hissing, begging us to play in the clover.

Bliss, I tell you.

filtered reality
But here’s the thing. On balance, the ever-diminishing percentage of my life spent toiling out there has given more than taken (until one of us gets diagnosed with some sort of cancer that we can trace back to the myriad carcinogen-laden activities from that time). For now, I can honestly say that not a week goes by when I don’t draw from the bare aesthetic of those years. The way my senses were heightened living closer to the bone, the earth, the peril. Half of my latest novel is set there, in fact. If a novelist’s (or memoirist’s) job is first and foremost to absorb experience, then ’93 – ’96 were the spongiest years of my whole life, and I continue to wring the nectar, drop-by-drop, onto the page.

Okay, so this whole preamble is the preface for an explanation as to what in the ever-living-fuck possessed me to sign up for an iPhone 6 +. I mean, the size and shape and fragility of it renders it useless as a carry-it-everywhere tool that you can slip into pretty much any pocket, any time. Which is the way I used my 4. On paper, I bought it for its supposedly superior photo/video stability feature (I make videos on my phone! For my books!). But after a weekend of reflection (and, after reading the afore-mentioned NYT article), I amend my impetus. My new theory is, I bought the cumbersome device as punishment. As a self-styled 12-step Program, if you will. Returning to those soft-salad days where I chose to subvert my centrally-heated luxury dwelling in a tony NW Portland neighborhood in favor of back-to-the-land endurance, I’ve tricked myself into giving up my vestigial-organ-made-by-Apple.

For instance. Yesterday afternoon, under a delightful Indian summer sky, I hiked up to a neighborhood high spot naked. And by naked, I mean, phoneless. Which, if you know me, is unheard of because I’ve become one of those constant recorders of quotidian insight. You know: getting just the right filter on a spectacular flower and posting it on social media: #OctoberRose. Which is followed by a preoccupation with how many likes it corrals and the ensuing conversations therein. A prompt for community discussion!

So, sans phone, I had to take the fucker in. Its color, its smell. Its particular juxtaposition to the light. Yup, I had to stop and smell the roses. I did! And other things, too. The sensual reality of a sunny Sunday afternoon. The two girls on their front lawn in shorts unfolding a vintage Twister game. The ruckus of a Cocker spaniel and a boxer, their dual noses sniffing the fence crack as I walked by. The disappointment of some tourists at not being able to see Mt. Hood at the top of Council Crest because clouds were forming there. 

My senses were alive in a way they are not when I’m preoccupied with capturing a snapshot and living life for the soundbite. Oh, sure, I’m blogging about this, so, clearly, I was still mining my adventure for its artistic merit. But, my tool is language. It’s always been language. I am not a visual artist, and I think my pocket-handy device had me believing otherwise.

Right now, I’m in the development phase of the next Empress book, which requires me to exercise my muscle for voice and observation. Which means, I should eschew the multi-tasking in favor of more sustained and quiet being. The sexy, model-thin phone, like all divas, is useless in the pocket. The curious device has announced that it may be employed for specific tasks, but it will not be, will never be, an extension of my body the way its predecessor was. I am forced to do the heavy lifting the old-fashioned way. While I still have use of my internal hard drive.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

making it up

In case you missed it on the Manifestation Blog yesterday, here's my Empress "origin" story. Plus, more pictures from my initial Sisi research trip. #Homesick

Monday, August 18, 2014

once upon a time

I’m in a lovely place, writing-wise. Two weeks before book launch. Finished with a serviceable draft with my Moment sequel. About to undertake the next Empress book.

However. Times like these (pauses in the process) are historically fraught with upheaval for yours truly.

And by upheaval, I mean, leaps. Mostly, that’s served me well. Case in point: 25 years ago this month I encountered Portland for the first time. Me, my Subaru, my one-year-old daughter and two-and-a-half year old son.

We had been temporarily living in North County San Diego after my first husband died (how we got there from upstate New York is a whole other blog post). Anyway, I’d been renting this tiny cottage in Solana Beach. Every morning I’d plop the kids in the jogger, and off we’d go – into the surf.

Sounds dreamy, right?

For most people, it would be, but I was restless. I wanted to find a permanent home – a city where I could afford to raise my kids. I longed for green. Much as I love the bustle and energy of city life, I need down time. Quiet. Regroup space.

I belonged to a support group back then – for young people who had lost spouses. I met all these wild widows (we’d go on widows-gone-wild trips to Mexico… again, I’ll leave that for another post). While in this group, I met a young woman who’d been raised in Oregon, and she piqued my interest. 

One morning, instead of plunking the kids in the jogger, I strapped them into car seats and drove north. The Pacific Northwest felt like home the minute the first log truck passed me on the I-5. Seriously, all of it: the natural beauty, the go-your-own-way spirit of the people, the various shades and interpretations of green.

Twenty-five years later, here I am, happier than ever with my adopted city. 

So, where am I going with this metaphor? I’m ripe for a writing practice version of Portland. A way to approach writing and putting my work out there that honors the pioneer spirit inside of me. A set of practices and participation that stokes the fire. That feels authentic to every cell in my body.

I think I’ll start by throwing a party. Something in October. Stay tuned – I’m heading north again.

What makes you feel reawakened? 

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Hey there folks! I'm pleased to present my VERY FIRST RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!

I'll be giving away a signed copy of THE MOMENT BEFORE as a way to thank you all for the tweeting and viral shenanigans you're all going to help me with in service to spreading the word about the new book. Which is out in less than a month. How crazy is that?!

So, signed free copy of a paperback edition of MOMENT to the automated winner of this game. It's like going to Vegas without leaving your desk, right?

USA residents only because, postage! And all those other forms you have to fill out at the PO for overseas mailing. But to my international friends, worry not!

There will be an e-copy giveaway of the new book next month. Ready, set, go!


 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 03, 2014


THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES is all set to launch one month from today, and if you’ve been
following this blog lo these many years, you know what a long-in-coming milestone this is for me.

TEC isn’t officially my debut, but it sort of is. I wrote the novel (many times!) a couple of years before THE MOMENT BEFORE – which came gushing out of me like a flood. In contrast, TEC feels like a pregnancy that went on way past term – coming into the world as a toddler rather than an infant. It walks, talks, and drags me around behind it, offering bold suggestions and defying my attempts to shape it.

Even though MOMENT rushed out of me, during its launch it wasn’t very demanding. I was feeling out this whole debut author thing step-by-step, and I puttered, and muttered, and scratched my head. That first book, I could leave it alone in its high chair, and it would just smile and wait for me to offer the next thing. (Come to think of it, my first child, Sam, was sort of that way too.)

This child? Not so much. (Ah! A theme here, Maggie, my second child, was much more, whoa Nelly!)

So. Today begins the official launch-before-the-launch known as the Cover Reveal (here’s a link to the hoopla party). I didn’t get a CR for MOMENT (another way in which that book was less of a diva), so this’ll be new territory. I feel a little like a movie-of-the-week character. You know, like those undercover muckrakers who set out to write scathing articles about beauty pageants, and while gathering data, fall in love with the process? Well, I’m smitten. My cover is drop dead gorgeous, don’t you think? (I can say that, because I had nothing to do with its creation.) But even better, the cover truly, truly reflects the tone, themes and energy of the book.

Whereas MOMENT came out at the beginning of the year, TEC is launching at the “real” beginning of the year – when school starts up again. And not only that, but it’s conveniently making its way into the world at the dawn of Oktoberfest, and since you already know how precocious the book is, you won’t be surprised if its swilling the beers in a couple of months and I'm already planning the party!

So, speaking of party, you want to help an author out and keep TEC the sassy little thing she is? Click on this e-book pre-order page. But if you want to wait for the physical book links, I hear ya! Especially if you live in Warwick, NY or Portland. OR, because I’ll be doing readings in those towns and I will totally keep y’all in the loop.