Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tanya Writes About Cowboytown Redux

Sometimes pictures really are worth a bazillion words!

The guys rocking our world.

My hero and me. Isn't he a cutie?

Same here for our dear friends, Charlene Sands and hubby Don.

Grub was good. Shrimp...what else?

Thanks for the pix, Char!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tanya Writes About Cowboytown

Ditsy Tanya's Almanac #6

It's gonna hurt every now and then. If you fall, get back on again.
--Dunn, Brooks, McBride, Terry

Of course, cowgirls do cry. Once in a while when the journey's tough. But...they get those tears wiped off right away, and often with the help of friends.

In this case, it's my dear friend, award-winning romance author Charlene Sands.

Valentine's Day 2008 wasn't a good one for my hero and me. It was his fourth day of chemo (3 X BEP) and already he wasn't in the mood for See's Candy Bordeaux chocolate hearts. I got him some anyway. And the day at the hospital, that first round, was about eight hours long. So Charlene took me out to lunch. It isn't the first time she's "saved" me from crying my eyes out, but normally it's a rejection. This time was pretty serious.

So a while back, she found that Brooks and Dunn were coming to L.A. Did I want to go? Well, duh. So we asked our hubbies, who both like country music and B and D in particular, and it was decided for the four of us to celebrate Valentine's Day a few days late.

Last night was the big night. We had dinner first (shrimp, what else) at Bubba Gump's (all of us knew all of the waitstaff's questions about the movie), then trekked into a throbbing theatre of eager fans. What's not to like about cowboy music? The guys didn't disappoint.

None of them. Not even the two opening acts: Gloriana and Jason Michael Carroll.

(The only teensie disappointment for me was the guys not doing "That Ain't No Way to Go...") But they far made up for it. Pausing dramatically during "Cowgirls Don't Cry..." my hero jabbed me and said, here she comes.

And there she was. In the flesh. Reba joined them on stage for the that magnificent refrain. Wish she could have stayed longer. But wow.

And during "Only in America," there wasn't a dry eye in the house when four servicemen joined the guys on stage. Red, white, and blue streamers shot through the air like a thunderstorm.

And ZZ Topp coming out for a guitar riff. Wow.

Whew. My ears are still ringing a bit, but I am soooo sorry it's over. It was a to-die-for Valentine's Day...just gotta wonder what next year will bring?

Well, whatever it is, I'll have my own personal hero and my wonderful friends by my side.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tanya Writes About Vincent (Starry Starry Night)

Ditsy Tanya's Almanac #5

Love makes one calmer about many things and that way, one is more fit for one's work.
--Vincent van Gogh

I majored in Art in college and last summer's visit to MoMA in NYC was my art history class come to life. Oldenberg. Pollack. Warhol. Rauschenberg. A bazillion others.

Starry Night!


That van Gogh masterpiece has long been a favorite of my hero's too...despite his non-art major, so we ran in near delirium throughout the museum looking for it. Finally we had to ask a docent. Tragically, the painting is off-display temporarily.


In a letter to his brother Theo, he wrote, "This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star* which looked very big." Painted in the Asylum in St-Remy in 1889, Vincent added the village to the remembered scene, the spire apparently invoking his native Netherlands.

How perfect to have created something so perfect? Even if I do see the scene on placemats and cloth bookbags and other mundane things.

Perhaps Don McLean said it best in his classic unforgettable song.

The world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Tanya Writes About Love on Valentine's Day

Okay, I admit it. I'm a sucker for romance. Duh. Who'd ever suspect that? I guess it started when I was little and my mom made little red heart-shaped jellos for dinner on February 14. The same little pans helped create heart-shaped cakes, and she'd stick ready-made pink sugar roses on top.

And in those days, regular schoolbox Valentines weren't pretty enough for your best friends. In Girl Scouts, we'd paste them on heart-shaped doilies before gifting.

And Daddy always brought Mom a giant box of See's chocolates which she readily shared with the family. What a treat to find in my lunchbox for the next few days a perfect piece of chocolate as my dessert. Back then,, Fifty Famous Fairy Tales was my second-favorite book after Little Women, Disneyland my favorite place to hang out.

Small wonder I now write romance. Sigh. Can't get any better than this.

Even still...I gotta confess the last three Valentine's Days in this house sort of sucked. That's a fact. Last year was the worst, with my hero suffering in chemo. The year before he had an routine but invasive and unpleasant medical procedure on this date. And the year before that, he had a knee rebuilt that he'd busted up chasing forest fires up mountains.

So we figured we deserved a real treat this year....even if it won't happen until February 22. On that night, we'll see a concert by one of our favorite country duos, Brooks and Dunn. We're going with wonderful friends and having dinner first. So it's all good; it's all worth waiting for.

And inbetween, we're having the grandbaby over on Valentine's Night for a heart-shaped pizza, so his mommy and daddy can have a date night all their own. Oh how I rmember the precious days when his daddy --our beautiful son as a little boy-- would sit at the miniature table in his room, pouring and pouring over the little bag of Valentines he'd gotten from his classmates.

So in the spirit of love and St. Valentine, I'll leave you with some quotes* to get you and yours in the mood.

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
~~ Lao Tzu

Age does not protect you from love. But love, to come extent, protects you from age.
~~Anais Nin

Love does not dominate; it cultivates.
~~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.
~~Nora Neale Hurston

The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.
~~Vincent van Gogh

Love is life. All, everything that I undertand, I undertand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.
~~Leo Tolstoy

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.
~~Albert Einstein

I'm a lucky one to have met my own personal hero with a love story a million pages long with a happy ending still in the works.

And I'm so thankful. God is love, after all.

*courtesy of and

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tanya Writes About Mr. Lincoln At Cactus Rose

Ditsy Tanya's Almanac #4

Writing is the great invention in the world.
--Abraham Lincoln

What great words for a writer to read! Today is the bicentennial of President Lincoln's birth, and I've paid homage to this great American at my fellow authors' blog
at Cactus Rose, the Western historical division of my publisher, The Wild Rose Press.

I hope you join me over there today, and throughout the weekend. All who comment and mention my personal blog here will be in a name-draw for a gift certificate for The Wild Rose Press...which of course I hope you'll be putting toward Marrying Minda when it's released in June.

Happy birthday, Mr. President!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tanya Writes About the Other Side of Everything

aka Ditsy Tanya's Almanac #3

I try not to let it , but sometimes it all plays back inside my head. --Jill Kinmont, The Other Side of the Mountain

I watched it again last night, a movie of such gut-wrenching sadness my chest is still tight today: The Other Side of the Mountain. In my life I've found a few other movies that haunt me, among them Dr. Zhivago, The Way We Were, Jeremiah Johnson but this one is different. Because the events are true and happened to real people.

My hero and I first saw it as newlyweds, the tale of Jill Kinmont--played by a radiant Marilyn Hassett, a perfect 1950's teen with her twinsets and pony tail who is a championship skier bound for the Olympics along with her best friend, A.J. She lives on a storybook ranch in Bishop, California, with an adoring supportive family, is coached by Dave McCoy (the ski legend who would later develop Mammoth Mountain), and is pursued by two hottie hotshot skiers.

Then the unthinkable happens: A.J. contracts the hideous childhood disease, polio, and tells Jill from her iron lung Jill must ski for them both. And so Jill does, until the unthinkable happens again. Fighting for a spot on the U.S. Ski team, she suffers a tragic fall and becomes a quadriplegic. The first hottie ski-boy vanishes when she tells him she'll never walk again, much less ski. But Mad Dog Buek, played by the adorable Beau Bridges at age 30 or so--convinces her of his love and plans a house and life for them.

Then the unthinkable happens: He's killed in a plane crash.

Yes, despite the viewers's tears and aches while watching, you can't help but feel tremendously inspired about human perverance. Not only does Jill survive these tragedies, she leads the charge for disabled people being allowed to pursue teaching certificates and achieve classrooms of their own.

Watching the movie last night, its backdrop of tall, white snow-covered Sierra mountains really hit me, loosing those floodgates of memory and emotion. For today is the day it all started, one year ago. My hero's own journey through the hills and valleys of chemotherapy. That first morning as we left for hospital to start the BEP protocol, the small mountains bordering our county were blanketed with snow.

Just like today, after last night's storm. They look the same. Like Jill, I try to hold it back. But sometimes there's just no way.

Olivia Newton-John sings the theme song, Richard's Window, as the movie ends. By then, even though I know all of this, I was weeping anew. For there's a cowboy in Texas named Richard I've come to know who's got 35 days of chemo under his belt...and many more weeks to go. And I know full well what a tough road lies ahead. more really needs to be said right now. Other than I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tanya Writes About Charles Dickens

On this date in 1812, Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England.

So what? He didn't write romance. But I do. And there is a tie in.

Of course, he's another of my inspirations. During her travels to the UK twenty years ago, my mother brought back a print of Dickens writing in his study. "You hang this up by your desk," she ordered, knowing how I loved to write. Indeed, the print often held the place of honor on my bulletin boards during my years as an English teacher.

Where I taught rapt freshmen to adore (wait for it) Great Expectations, that marvelous, timeless coming-of-age story that I actually see in the plotline of Good Will Hunting.

Those were the same years our local newspaper sponsored a serialized romance novel and held a contest to pick eight authors to contribute to it. I was thrilled to be selected, and yes, my picture appeared in the edition just as school started that fall.

What a great object lesson it was for my students. GE had been serialized itself. In fact, Dickens had to meet a specific word count...and sometimes included a scene or character that baffled the kids. Until they knew the reason why.

Well, to honor him further, Riverside, California (about 2 1/2 hours from home) holds a Dickens Festival every year. This very weekend, the 2009 "Nickel's Worth of Nickleby" Fest is happening in historic downtown Riverside. Events for all ages include plays, street performers, food vendors, educational workshops, musical performances and Victorian exhibits.

I didn't even know until I read this morning's L.A. Times. I intend to get there next year.

The festival has previously presented eleven original adaptations of Charles Dickens' works, including international award-winning marionette artist, David Simpich version of "Great Expectations". Wow, I wish I'd seen that. I'd love to take the grandbaby if they do it again--one of his favorite quiet-times is watching the "Lonely Goatherd" puppet show in The Sound of Music.

Furthermore, GE and A Christmas Carol are two of the original book adaptations written by local writers and directed by Inland Empire artists. My holiday season isn't complete until I read that short wondrous novel and watch George C. Scott's Scrooge on Christmas Eve while I wrap gifts and stuff the stockings.

Numerous cultural events are added each year, such as "Queen Victoria and her Royal Court" and Mr. Fezziwig's Victorian Ball. Other presentations that call out to me are the Victorian teas, costume fashion shows and contests, lectures, book discussions, Evensong Concert, and historical and art exhibits.

But with my family in mind (I am the history buff and museum-a-holic), I'm thrilled that the festival also features Pub Night, a mini-faire for children, and London Marketplace. Here vendors and craft demonstrators sell their wares and costumed characters mingle.

Oh, I have been an Anglophile ever since the Beatles landed in New York...on this date in 1964 when I was still in elementary school. When our daughter planned a study abroad during her junior year in college, she picked England, to my elation. And of course my hero and I hopped a Virgin Atlantic jet soon after she settled in for a visit. When she wasn't in class, she was a fabulous tour guide.

Oh, we had such fun minding the gap.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tanya Writes About The "Chili Bowl"

The fam holds it every Super Bowl Sunday. The chili cook-off. And the prize is a well-seasoned bronze pot that the winner is expected to take with him (or her!) everywhere they vacation.

I won last year, kept the Bowl displayed in the living room, and remembered to pack it in my suitcase (with notes for the inspectors explaining just what it was) to New York City and Kauai. And although I was sad not to win this year, the Bowl won't be leaving my living room. My hero won it this year!

Even though I didn't win the big one, I decided to post my variation of a recipe I found in a magazine. It was hot, wet, and something you should try at least I named it Oral Sex.

Here goes:

2 1/2 pounds of cooked, chopped chicken. (I cooked mine with garlic and onions.)

32 oz. chicken broth (I used fat-free, low sodium)

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can pinto beans with jalapenos, gently rinsed to retain more jalapeno flavor

1 1/2 7-ounce cans Herdez salsa

1 cup nopalitos, drained (these are green cactus leaves and very yummy)

1 4-oz can diced green chilis

1 tblsp. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. red chili flakes

Combine everything BUT THE CHICKEN in a big pot. Bring to boiling, reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, then add chicken and heat through.

Sprinkle with cilantro before serving. Serves about 6.

P.s. The grandbaby vastly preferred "The Puppy Bowl" on Animal Planet.