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Happy New Year!!

Valerie Zane

As promised, a blog dedicated to Champagne Concoctions…

Like many of you, I love champagne. I love the triumphant pop of the cork, the festive fizz, the easily overflowing glasses and, of course, the bubbles… anyone who follows my blog knows I have a fondness for bubbles.

Not only is champagne fun to drink but it’s a lot like a celebration in a glass. Even if you have nothing in particular to celebrate, it makes you feel like you do and there’s nothing wrong with that. And while I have no problem drinking champagne straight up (and occasionally with a straw); it’s always fun to get creative. So add whatever you like but here’s a breakdown of what I consider some highly successful and yummy creative champagne concoctions.

Popular Concoctions: These are some champagne fan favorites. For those of us who love champagne (me!!) or just simply don’t like beer…

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My New Year’s Resolutions (More or Less)


Take less
Give more
Procrastinate less
Write more
Thirst less
Drink more
Spend less
Save more
Snack less
Workout More
Whine less
Smile more
Cocktail less
Wine more
Ache less
Sleep more
Dry out less
Moisturize more
Worry less
Meditate more
Nitpick less
Celebrate more
Cry less
Laugh more
Dislike less
Love more
Bitch less
Adore more
Sit less
Play more
Limit less
Imagine more
Fear less
Dream more
Want less
Be more.

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It’s Christmas time and Christmas is about family so I’ve decided to reblog one of my favorite blogs about my family. It just so happens that this particular blog also has a Christmas connection. Well, sort of. Enjoy…

Valerie Zane

My brother accidentally uploaded a photo of his penis onto FaceBook. Need I say more?

OK, I needn’t but I will.

Yes, I’m actually blogging about my brother’s penis.

This is actually a relatively old story, since it happened late December (the 25th to be exact). But, I promised (or threatened) him that I’d eventually blog about it.

Well, Frank, your time has come (so to speak)!

Think of it as a Christmas story, if you will… It was (or ’twas) Christmas Day, and we had family over for dinner. My husband cooked a huge, yummy feast, as usual. We had just said the prayer (like good Catholics, we pray on Christmas, Easter… and Thanksgiving). We were stuffing our faces and chit-chatting. It was nice, but then again, I love all events that involve family and food. Then, out of nowhere and with no warning whatsoever, my brother…

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Imagine Your Own Death

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This was a writing workshop project. It’s fiction and not meant to upset anyone. It’s not a prediction, fear or self-fullfilling prophecy.


The exercise originated from the book “4AM Breakthrough.”

In a nutshell, the instructions say to write about my own death. Creepy, right? Even creepier, there were about 100 projects to choose one and I picked this particular one because it shrieked at me when I tried to turn the page. Even though I tried hard not to choose it, none of the other exercises seemed as interested in me as this one. Looking back, I think I knew from the moment I spotted it that I needed to write this. I also knew it would be a challenge to look inside of myself and openly share this level of fear and reality. Once I started writing, another challenge replaced the first: the 500 word limit!

The instructions say “prepare to freak out over this exercise if you take it seriously.”

Well, I definitely took it seriously. Even though it is my nature to attempt to handle the most difficult and painful things in life with some level of awkward humor, I will say that there were moments when the depth of this topic really hit me. I’d say I smiled and sobbed equally.

It was a meaningful and very therapeutic exercise. I highly recommend it.

#95 Imagine Your Own Death

A psychic told me I would die during childbirth.

I was sixteen-years-old when I borrowed my parents’ car, packed it full of friends and braved a joy ride around Philly. Of course, we wound up on South Street. It was the trendy spot (it seems every city has its own version); an endless strip of record stores, condom shops and tattoo parlors with panhandling blue-mohawked teens sporting Doc Martens and smoking clove cigarettes. We were so anxious to drive at night sans chaperone and, yet, we parked and spent most of it walking.

People watching and pretending to fit in, we were so cool arguing about whether we should get our tongues pierced before or after stopping at Lorenzo’s for a slice. We agreed the scoop of Rita’s water ice should come after. Then I saw the sign. Well, technically I walked right into it.

It said “Psychic Readings: $5.”

The psychic said she saw us coming. She would have had to be blind not to see five catholic school girls rushing through her front door waving Lincolns.

Each friend received a slightly different version of the same reading. Then it was my turn.

“Oh, Dear,” she said after, looking somberly at me while skipping the details. “I’m sorry.”

I laughed it off and went on with my life but the psychic was always there in the back of my head. She was there when I lost my virginity and soon after when I got my first pap smear. That bitch was there during every late period in my early 20s. She was there when I said “I love you” to a man for the first time, and much later when I said it and meant it. She was there on my wedding night and two years later when my husband and I decided to “take out the goalie” as he oh-so-romantically put it. For five bucks, she gave me nightmares which turned into panic attacks during my pregnancy.

Needless to say, she was there when I gave birth to my daughter.

I was convinced I was going to die that day.

I didn’t.

It wasn’t until two months later when a fever that refused to break sent me to the emergency room at South Nassau Hospital—the same hospital where I didn’t die giving birth to my daughter.

It took the doctor five days to diagnose me with Polycystic Kidney Disease.

“Poly wh–?”

“You’ll need a new kidney,” he replied.

My husband immediately wanted to give me one of his but I wouldn’t take it.

I couldn’t leave him with one working kidney. And what if something happened during the surgery? I was no longer afraid of dying. I was afraid of losing him or making our infant an orphan.

So, I opted to wait for my donor to die. I prayed that some sort of tragedy would bring this gift to me. I went from fearing my own death to hoping for someone else’s.

I died waiting.


Ms. Hempel Chronicles

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In the first chapter of Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, we meet our young protagonist, Beatrice Hempel. Ms. Hempel is a middle school teacher but by her own self-proclamation not a very good one.

The chapter is titled “Talents” and it takes place during a school talent show. This setting is very clever because it gives Bynum an organic opportunity to introduce characters one by one as they appear on stage. Also, by showing us the talents of the students and faculty, we also learn, by comparison, that Ms. Hempel, as she admits to a student, has zero talents herself.   

Ms. Hempel is an interesting character, made up of many positive and negative qualities, though it seems she is only aware of the negative ones. That is the thing that really grabbed my attention as a reader. Her self-awareness and defeatist personality quirks are not simply part of her charm and likeability but it’s obvious they also serve as a sort of foreshadowing for things to come.  

Ms. Hempel does not believe herself to be a good teacher. When one of her students described her as an “affable” teacher, Ms. Hempel “was moved, but knew that affable, while a vocabulary word, was not synonymous with good.” At one point, we learn that she became a teacher because of “tremendous opportunities for leisure and the satisfaction of doing something generous and worthwhile.” But after a few years teaching seventh graders she started to think of teaching as an “infection” as she realized “her students now inhabited her dreams, her privacy, her language.” Her decision to become a teacher, she believes was a “mistake” and she feels that in becoming a teacher she lost what was left of her “potential” and any talents she may have had.

Awkwardly self-aware (she worries about her teeth when smiling at parents and about her panty hose rolling down beneath her dress), insecure (she was happy sitting in a dark auditorium because it meant no one was watching her), lazy (she gives pop quizzes because they’re easy to grade), insecure (she bribes her students with chocolate) and immature (she wonders if she should laugh when students fart) are just some of her negative qualities. Ms. Hempel also seems depressed and lonely, and she even gets inappropriately excited when a popular male student touches her hand. At the same time, she loves her students and knows so much about each and every one of them. With so much depth, Ms. Hempel is more like a real person than a character.

I can already tell I’ll be able to use this book as a lesson on character creation and introduction. In chapter one, we’ve already met Ms. Hempel as well as numerous students and faculty members. Bynum does an exceptional job at smoothly introducing these characters and providing all the necessary detail about them both physically and emotionally without making it feel force-fed. She makes it seem so easy but as an aspiring novelist I know this is no small accomplishment. It takes knowing your characters truly and deeply, and it also takes patience. These are good lessons for a writing student like me.

Even with all the detail, descriptions and depth of characters, the story remains an easy read and the pace is fast and fluid. It’s told from an omnipotent point of view, something I personally tend to often dislike. But in this case it really worked for me. This all-knowing narrator tells Ms. Hempel’s story in such an engaging way that it made me feel like the story was being told directly to me, like I was a teacher or other faculty member, standing around the water cooler in the faculty break room listening to gossip about another teacher, Ms. Hempel. In that way, I felt like I, too, was part of the story.

I’m looking forward to reading more of Ms. Hempel’s story.

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‘Tis the season…

Valerie Zane

My holiday baking and candy making extravaganza begins today!

A self-proclaimed chewy-gewy treat addict, I’ll admit I’ve waited all year for this. I’ve always loved to bake and get otherwise creative in the kitchen.

I think all of us creative types need a second imaginative outlet. If you’re primarily a painter, perhaps you also like to sing? If you’re a musician, maybe you also act? Many writers I know turn to the kitchen, whether it be baking or cooking or creative drink making (and drink drinking), for the release of that unspent pent up artistic energy.

While I too partake in the occasional drinky-drink for various inspired and not-so-inspired reasons, personally I love baking. It satisfies my creative needs and soothes my soul, much like writing. And in recent years, to the gratitude of my family and friends, I’ve added making candy and canning jellies and jams to my repertoire!…

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Trying Again

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Trying Again:

Oh, 4AM Breakthrough, why hast thou forsaken me? So many sleepless nights spent working, writing, caffeinating, counting. Finally done and now do over? Be kind, rewind? Definitely looks that way.

But Val Zane’s no quitter or towel thrower inner! She sticks with it like an overly obsessed addict slash hyper sensitive perfectionist through tears, pain, wind, rain, hurricane, bad hair days… sure, whatever. United States Postal Service has nothing on her!


Hell yeah!

Smooth Jazz. Yellow Submarines? Crying baby? Sorry, just procrastinating.

Inching ever closer. Progressing painfully. Slow. Steady. Still hanging!

Goal suddenly within reach. Feeling increasingly optimistic.

Skim. Scan. Examine. Snagged four smarmy stowaways!

Continue reading. Thoroughly searching for possible reiterations. Caught one blunder. Oops, two. Delete. Erase. Eradicate mistake after… ha, missed another landmine!

Repeat process. Found somewhat random echo. Die unwelcome redundancy!

Gaining confidence.

Spoke too soon?

Microsoft software should provide adequate assistance. Damn you, Bill Gates! Spellcheck was totally useless here. Find function worth only slightly more. Ugh.

Second verse same as the first? Shit.  Calculating words certainly sucks. Even worse? Math mixed into nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions—grammar arithmetic? God, what a mess.

Brain malfunctioning, shooting stinging synapses from senseless screen staring.

Classmates, (hello, Kevin?), please use your keen editorial eyes! Help! Check my work. Calculate all accidental doubles, triples, quadruples. Inspect, dissect, collect, highlight any potential errors made.

I can beat Kiteley’s game. Want to bet? Vegas odds? Friends, this time, say exercise #43 will not win!



Who knows?

Word Count = 250