winged skull stamp

Quote of the week

“Grief is a sneaky motherfucker and just when you think it’s gone, it turns out it was just napping. And when it pounces, it cuts your heart with razors and then sprays the wounds with gasoline. Grief is a psychopath. And the dead, the person who loved you most and who always protected you, is the person who introduced the two of you. So, a bit of anger is unsurprising.” –Litsa Dremousis


A heartbreaking story of love, loss … and mountain climbing

In the basement of The Strand, my favorite used book store in New York City, there is a maze of shelves dedicated to advanced review copies (ARCs). For those unfamiliar with the way the publishing industry works, ARCs are the uncorrected proofs of books that are about to be released. Publishers send these unfinished manuscripts to authors for blurbs and critics for review. Since The Strand is located in the publishing capital of the world, it receives thousands of ARCs. And while most are stamped “Not For Sale,” the store sells them to help build buzz about upcoming tomes.

Whenever I’m in the city, I always make it a point to visit this section to discover some new writers. Authors and publishers will occasionally send me ARCs as well, in the hopes that I’ll write a review or perhaps share a positive comment on social media. When I have the time and inclination, I’m always happy to do so.

I mention this because there’s a wonderful book by a brand new author hitting store shelves today.

altitude sicknessPortland indie press Future Tense Books is launching a line called Instant Future eBooks, and its debut title is “Altitude Sickness” by Litsa Dremousis. The book, which is available on Amazon, tells the story of how the author dealt with the death of her best friend (and on-again-off-again boyfriend of 20 years). More than just a treatise on grieving, “Altitude Sickness” delves into the physical and emotional consequences of mountain climbing, and how society’s attitude toward this activity needs to change.

M and I read an ARC of the book earlier this month. Reading together is one of my greatest joys. Even though he’s deaf, his hearing aids and my lower-timbered voice work well enough together to allow me to read to him. So on our fifth wedding anniversary, we took a drive and I shared Litsa’s tale of love and loss.

This might seem like an odd choice of reading material for a romantic night out on the town, but it was actually quite fitting. We’ve been friends with Litsa for many years, and have a boundless adoration for her. Also, we became aware of her best friend’s mountain climbing accident while on our honeymoon, so the pain of his death and the joy at our pairing will always be intertwined.

I loved this book’s wit and wisdom. While Litsa plumbs the abyss of her grief, she somehow manages to return to the surface to breathe and love and share the knowledge she gained from all that suffering. Her goal is not to memorialize the man she lost, but to remember; not to preach, but to enlighten.

We laughed while reading numerous chapters — the Courtney Love and Clif bar ones were my particular favorites — then discussed the book’s many scientific revelations. Although neither of us are mountain climbers, M and I came away from this reading with a better understanding of the sport and its participants. I’ll also admit to breaking down in tears at the end. Even though I knew what was coming, it was incredibly difficult to read that last line.

So, if you’re looking for something fascinating to read, I strongly recommend checking out “Altitude Sickness.” You won’t regret it.


The Fall haul

M and I went a little crazy at Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vt., this morning. We ate half a dozen delicious apple cider donuts, drank freshly pressed warm apple cider and brought home both a bushel of apples (we picked ourselves) and two monster-sized pumpkins (one was 31 pounds, the other 35 pounds).

I definitely see some baking in my future.

Zombies Run

Seeking music to move my feet

While my husband was jaunting about Europe for his 40th birthday, I was tasked with walking our dog Duncan. To keep myself from going mad from boredom, I would take my iPhone along and turn on a wonderful app called Zombies, Run!.

Here’s how it works: The zombie apocalypse has arrived. The undead are everywhere, and it’s your job to run/walk for a certain amount of time and obtain supplies for your tiny town of survivors. When zombies get near, you run/walk faster (thus providing interval training). All the while, the app’s characters are giving you orders, sharing stories and basically making you laugh. In between the story segments, the app connects to your workout playlist and plays your favorite tunes to keep your spirits high as you trudge through the monotony of exercise.

The app’s tagline says it all: Get fit. Escape zombies. Become a hero.

After using the app for more than 20 hours, I’m almost finished with the first season of adventures. I reached my step goal last week and will likely do so again this week. More importantly, I’m dreading these physical activities just a little bit less.

The downside? I’m getting tired of my music. Here’s what I’ve been listening to:

* $165 Million + Interest (Into) The Round Up by David Holmes
* Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band
* Ain’t Nuthin’ But A She Thing by Salt-N-Pepa
* All I Really Want by Alanis Morissette
* Alphabet St. by Prince
* Beat It by Michael Jackson
* Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve
* Bodyrock by Moby
* Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us (12″ Club Mix) by Ollie & Jerry
* C’mon And Get My Love by Cathy Dennis
* The Chemicals Between Us by Bush
* The Classic Drum Battle by A&T
* Diamond Dogs by Beck and David Bowie
* Everybody by Black Box
* (The Forgotten People) by Thievery Corporation
* Freakshow On The Dance Floor by Bar-Kays
* Freedom by George Michael
* Get Off (Extended) by Prince
* Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) by C+C Music Factory
* Hard to Handle by The Black Crowes
* If by Janet Jackson
* Jazz Machine by Black Machine
* Jump N’ Move by The Brand New Heavies [featuring Jamalski]
* Jungle by Jamie N Commons & X Ambassadors
* Let the Music Play by Shannon
* Let’s Dance by David Bowie
* Let’s Go Crazy by Prince
* Living Dead GirlRob Zombie
* Love Runs Out by OneRepublic
* Man In the Box by Alice In Chains
* Mas by Kinky
* Modern Love by David Bowie
* Open Of My Love by Jennifer Lopez
* Peter Gunn by Art Of Noise
* The Power by Snap!
* Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic
* Pump Up The Volume by Marrs
* Push It (Remix) by Salt-N-Pepa
* Raspberry Beret by Prince
* Salome by Chayanne
* Samba Hey (Magalena Mix) by el general
* Shake Your Bon-Bon by Ricky Martin
* Shakin’ by Eddie Money
* She Bangs by Ricky Martin
* Sidewalk Talk by Jellybean
* Situation (US 12″ Remix) by Yaz
* Slang by Def Leppard
* Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson
* Supermassive Black Hole by Muse
* Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) by Eurythmics
* Techno Rave Entrance by Blade
* Thunder by Prince
* Too Funky by George Michael
* The Truth (feat. Roisin & J-Live) Techno Rave Entrance by Handsome Boy Modeling School
* U Got the Look by Prince
* UK Jamaican by Tricky
* Unbelievable by EMF
* Vogue by Madonna
* Weapon Of Choice by Fatboy Slim
* You Dropped a Bomb On Me (Single Version) by The Gap Band
* You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) by Dead or Alive

As you can see, I have eclectic tastes. While I do tend to prefer tunes from the ’80s and ’90s, I’m game to try just about anything with a good beat. If you have suggestions, feel free to leave ‘em in the comments.


The bit at the bottom

I love cooking. Baking, too, though I’m told by professional chefs that these are two very different skill-sets. The former involves creativity and experimentation, the latter is science and beauty. Yet to me, both activities are kitchen witchery.

There’s something magical about cooking and baking. You take ingredients from all parts of the planet, combine them skillfully, add heat or cold or motion — and ta da! A dish appears. You can transform the remnants of meat sticking to the bottom of a hot pan into a smooth and silky sauce. Combine cornstarch, vanilla, butter, sugar, eggs and milk in a pot and the concoction will transmogrify into a thick and delicious pudding. Pour heavy cream into a cold stainless steel bowl, whip it into shape and the liquid becomes a delectable, fluffy cloud.

Serving food to others is also an enchanting experience. Friends and family, why, they already adore you. But wake ‘em up with the smell of freshly baked bread or cinnamon rolls, and love will fill their hearts. Hand ‘em a mug of steaming tea or coffee or cocoa on an frigid winter’s day, and you’ll warm their bodies. Sit ‘em down over a holiday table, and the food you serve will not only feed their stomachs, it’ll create traditions and memories.

The best part of edible alchemy occurs when no one is looking, for that’s when I revel in the secrets of cookery. Inside the kitchen, I make music out of banging pots and clinking silverware. I use the colors and shapes of ingredients to create art on a plate. With herbs, spices and salts, I intensify the flavors of food. And before any meal is served, I take a moment to enjoy the bit at the bottom: the gritty, chocolate brownie batter; the smooth, warm comfort of custard; the last dollop of creamy mashed potatoes still sticking to the wooden spoon. That tasty morsel is all mine.

(Photo by Humusak2. Used with permission.)