Thursday, February 26, 2015

I love that language, that soft bastard Latin...

I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,
Which melts like kisses from a female mouth,
And sounds as if it should be writ on satin,
With syllables which breathe of the sweet South,
And gentle liquids gliding all so pat in,
That not a single accent seems uncouth,
Like our harsh northern whistling, grunting guttural,
Which we’re obliged to hiss, and spit, and sputter all.

I like the women too (forgive my folly),
From the rich peasant cheek of ruddy bronze,
And large black eyes that flash on you a volley
Of rays that say a thousand things at once,
To the high dama’s brow, more melancholy,
But clear, and with a wild and liquid glance,
Heart on her lips, and soul within her eyes,
Soft as her clime, and sunny as her skies.
-Byron, Beppo S. 44-5.
Read this beauty the other day and it conjured immediately the images of my favorite sunny spot, my most-dreamed of fairytale place, the Amalfi Coast. Visions of wine, and kisses and hair wet from the sea, mingled with pizza, and pizza, and dare I say...more pizza. 
But good God, y'all, Byron could write. 
xx  see you back next week for a recipe + travel motivation. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Peek: The Library of Panopticon

My newest book takes place in a world out of my imagination..but it also heavily features the world of 1900 Detroit. When doing research for this novel, I realized that there were holes in the history of Detroit. The articles are heavy with tales of innovators like Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, Thomas Edison...but unshockingly, much lighter on information on the lives of women. Of children. Of anything other than motor cars and lightbulbs and progress, progress, progress. 

And because I am a woman, and a romantic, and someone who likes to envision the lives of regular people, I felt the lack keenly. But, as I also am a huge fan of innovation myself, I set the world of Detroit in the pages of a book, added magic and made a world that is both more to my liking, as historically accurate as possible and also...magic. Take a read on this Completely Unedited excerpt from my newest work, The Library of Panopticon,  out in April/May 2015. A step back in time to imagine the first time an automobile is heard on Woodward Ave, Detroit:

“Yes, it is a rather invigorating thought. Wind in your hair, flying down the streets like magic…”

Lively left the sentence unfinished, and it floated through the air around her parted lips. “Like magic”...there was a certain amount of that around already, fortunately no one else seemed to notice her unfinished comment. Victoria fluttered out and Clara was hurriedly dressing Lively’s hair whilst adding warmer layers over her heavy cotton blouse and cinched-waist wool skirt. She brought out the cold weather overcoat lined with satin and the mink stole, muttering under breath how much better a matching fur coat would be than Lively’s heavy wool one—satin or no. 

Less than half an hour later and they were all bundled up and buttoned, ready to be fetched by Mr. Chasseur and the indomitable Madame Beauchamp. A strange noise could be heard coming down Woodward Ave. It wasn’t loud or discordant, but instead, simply different. Lively could hardly help herself from opening the door to peek out and investigate. Mr. Chasseur and Madame Beauchamp were coming to a halt in an open black coach with that looked like four large bicycle wheels . Their cheeks were bright and pink with cold, but both were glowing with happiness. They were laughing, and more than anything Lively wanted to be a part of that joke, whatever it was. A splash of color in the grey and white November day.  
The two girls burst from the front door, Aunt Charlotte tottering behind them, her girth making quicker progress undignified and impossible. The younger women, under no such impediment, encircled the motor car with enraptured squeals. 
-- excerpted from "The Library of Panopticon" by Alexandria V. Nolan

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Roasted Tomatoes

I like easy things. There is enough difficulty in my life (probably your life too), and so when there is a simpler way to do things, I'm all 'bout it. 

For dinner, I like things with few ingredients, and not a lot of skill. I don't like following directions. I don't have nor do I want a food processor. I do not like to read the word "fold" in a recipe (i.e., fold in eggs to batter...cringe) I don't like the idea of making egg whites into anything, like, meringues or whatever, except cooked egg whites (with the yolks still in them.) If there's more than 10 ingredients, foggedabotit. 

So, I make a lot of soup. I make a lot of soup by roasting vegetables and then placing said vegetables in a blender and then processing them. I then pour my roasted veggie liquid into a pot and let it simmer for a few minutes, whilst giving myself copious props, kudos and excessive pats on the back. 

One of my favorite soups to make is a roasted tomato-red pepper. No dairy, no broth (unless you wanna) and only two necessary ingredients. Tomatoes + Red Peppers. Big surprise, right?

Anyway, it dawned on me that many people don't know how to roast tomatoes, so, I'm here to preach the good tomato message. And then possibly share the soup recipe at a later date. Or, you can figure it out on your lonesome. 

Tomatoes, many varieties 

Set oven to 400 degrees.
Cut tomatoes in half, or in quarters if they are enormous. (some of mine were massive, that's what she said) Some people like to slice the tomatoes, and if that's you, get down with your bad self.
Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top and then slam into the oven, roasting for 25 minutes. 
Peel skins when they cool a little, or immediately if you like your fingers to have blisters. 
Tomatoes are ready for whatever recipe you want, or can be processed for soup. 

Optional: feel free to use basil, oregano, cumin, whatever to season the tomatoes. I don't like them to have an Italian taste for the specific recipe I normally use them with, so I just add salt and pepper. If you want them to, ain't nobody gonna hold you back. 

Anyway, enjoy or whatever.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

4 Years

4 years ago today, we met and fell in love in one night. 
I don't want this to be cheesy, but let me say that of all the successes I have had in my writing, or he has had in his career, nothing holds a candle to a mostly happy marriage. 

My grandma once told me, that the secret to marriage was to find someone you could tolerate the best. And I think that is absolutely true. There are periods of insane happiness, times of romantic kisses, but there are also long car rides and sick days and WHY CAN'T YOU HANG UP YOUR OWN PANTS? THIS IS A HANGER, YOU PUT YOUR PANTS ON IT. And tired days, and too much time on the computer days and I don't know if I ever want to have kids but I have all of their names picked out, but I don't actually want one, and if you want one so much then you get a uterus and have one, and now you changed our mind because you saw a baby at Target that looked like a demon.  And there's all the little things in between.

I love you, you love me, we're a happy family. Sending love to all you readers, and hope you have someone worth tolerating. xx

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day Stockings

When I was growing up, holidays were always a big deal for my family and Valentine’s Day was no exception. My dad really knew how to celebrate. We even had Valentine’s Day stockings. 
I’m. Not. Kidding.

My love of celebrating Valentine’s Day has continued into adulthood. For my husband, it is both a blessing and a curse to be married to someone who is preparing to give and do so much on Valentine’s Day, but also expects so much in return. However, the Valentine’s Day that I see on every Kay commercial ever made is just not us. For us, Valentine’s Day (or any holiday) is a great day to eat a marvelous meal with someone you care about and spend some time under the sheets doing something besides checking our Facebook and snuggling with the cat. Which is fine, because the beautiful thing about starting your own little family means being able to re-invent holidays and creating new traditions. (Dad would be proud.)
Here’s how we’re taking back Valentine’s Day:
Coming from a large Italian family, I know that the most important part of any holiday is sharing a meal together. A large meal. With carbs. But I don’t believe in going out to eat on Valentine’s Day. It feels fake. I just don’t understand why going out to eat is such a big deal, especially when it’s an overpriced prix fixe menu of crap I probably don’t want to eat anyway. So instead, I make something festive: pasta with red sauce, heart-shaped pizza…heck, heart-shaped anything. Cooking at home (together) is fun and sexy. (My husband in the kitchen? Yowza!)
Even though we aren’t going out to eat, another Nolan family tradition is to give our appearances a little extra pizazz. For me, it can just be doing a little extra with my hair, or makeup — anything that makes me feel sexy can really set the mood and remind me of how I was splitting with excitement for our first Valentine’s Day together. And I like to remind him that he is in fact married to a woman, not a bag lady. (Some people might mistake sweat pants for laziness. Crazy, right?) For my husband, it’s a little extra hair wax, a spray or two of cologne, and maybe a few push-ups make him look a little more like Christian Grey. These little things that we do that seem shallow or unimportant are really our way of reaffirming to each other that our relationship is still important, still valid…that we are both worth trying to impress. And that’s a powerful romantic gesture.
On Valentine’s Day, or any special date night, we also make it a rule to ban technology. (We also ban technology on days when we’re either about to crawl into our phones and live in them or, conversely, chuck them out the window.) It’s so easy to get overly-plugged in, so bogged down with all of our “online responsibilities;” there are nights when we get in bed and realize we haven’t even spoken beyond discussing how good the quiche was that we had for dinner. That’s. Pathetic.
Making time to give each other our undivided attention is better than any bouquet of flowers, fancy dinner, or expensive jewelry (although I never mind getting attention AND jewelry). Being able to talk to my husband and really talk and really listened to, that’s a memory made that trumps any Hallmark — St. Valentine, Patron Saint of Beekeepers — holiday. (Seriously, look it up.)
Yes, it’s an oft-misinterpreted holiday that’s easy to dismiss as stupid, but celebrating love is a good thing. If the “traditional” way of celebrating isn’t for you, then make your own holiday that reflects who you are as a couple and represents the parts of your relationship that are most important to you. We put in the work to reclaim Valentine’s Day to make it a celebration of our relationship, not a copy of a Kay commercial. I just wish we had stockings.

This post originally appeared here, The REWM, Taking Back Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Love Note

taken at Ladybird's, Houston

Hey, you. You're looking mighty fine today. There's just something about your smile, your eyes when you read, that crinkle in your eyebrow.

There's something about you that just makes my heart beat. I can't get enough of you. Sometimes when I see you I feel like I can't breathe, like the breath is stuck in my chest, like if I exhale then a little piece of me will be breathed out into you, and you'll inhale me in. 

Hey, you. I can't describe what it is about you. I don't even know myself. Something about your eyes, maybe? Or the way you move? Or maybe it's the color of your hair when the sun shines on it? Maybe it's all of those things and none of those things. Maybe it's the ghost of the things about you that I've never seen but felt were there. Maybe it's all the things I don't like about you and I still can't make myself hate you. Or perhaps it's the sound of your laugh when no one is around, or the way you look at yourself in the mirror when you don't know I'm looking.

Hey, you. You're looking damn good today.

xx Happy Almost Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pizza Night

I think it's high time for another recipe. 

Here in Nolandia, we have Pizza + Wine Fridays. Why? Well, because pizza. And wine. Anyway, it's a fun meal that we make together and then eat and feel terrible about ourselves and then we make a blood pact to wake up on Saturday morning and workout. 

I come from a big Italian family, and so we ate a lot of pizza growing up. ( Although, I  do realize that basically if you are a human with a pulse you probably ate a lot of pizza, I'm just saying that I am Italian, so my pizza is obviously better than yours by default.) Sometimes we ordered in, but usually made at home. My uncle is like the king of pizza. We were always having family parties and each one was celebrated with his famous homemade pizza. He didn't have a dedicated pizza oven, but he like lined his entire oven with pizza stones and so they all come out like glorious pies of joy. 

For myself, I usually buy a crust instead of making it in the kitchen-aid as my father taught me. I usually go up to the pizza counter at whole foods and barter my unborn children in exchange for one of their house made Neapolitan-style crusts. I only buy fresh mozzarella, which I slice thinly. None of that shredded bullshit for me. 

Finally, the sauce. 

Pizza Sauce of the Gods:
one reg. size can of plain tomato sauce
slivers of garlic
2 tbsp butter
salt + pepper

Note: I don't give any amounts of ingredients beyond the butter and tomato sauce can. This is because I don't know what you like. I'm not sure, but I think our tastebuds are probably slightly different. Like, sorry, I know it's basically Italian blasphemy, but I really don't like garlic all that much. Yucky. So, yeah.
-heat 1 tbsp of butter into liquid in small sauce pan, stirring in garlic. Cook just until garlic begins to turn translucent
-Add tomato sauce and shake in herbs. 
-Stir in other tbsp of butter and add parmesan shavings. 
-Cook just until flavors are blended and then add to crust.

Other note: Some people prefer olive oil. The butter I use is some kind of vegan butter, but I like the creaminess it adds to the sauce. Use oil oil if you like, but I always feel like the butter really steps up the flavors and feels less acidic in my stomach.

Some might tell you that good pasta sauce or pizza sauce should take "hours". But the message I got from my Italian grandmother when I asked her about that was, "phooey! You cook all the flavor outta the sauce!" So, there you have it. 

Anyway, pop in a movie (may I suggest a Harry Potter-athon? Mr. Nolandia and I are just finishing ours up) throw a pizza in the oven and pop open a bottle of juicy red wine. 

Here's to the weekend, (almost!)


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tivoli: The Danish Disneyland

Yes, you read that correctly. There IS a Disneyland style park in Copenhagen, and what's better? It's way older. In fact, it was on a trip to Denmark that Walt Disney envisioned his Disneyland + Disneyworld parks. Tivoli is the inspiration for what would become a great deal of my favorite childhood memories. 

Need a little MORE convincing? There is WAY more booze at this park. Like, from the moment you walk in these Italian guys (????) were like throwing gløgg (which is like warm wine with raisins and slivered almonds for no apparent reason. Like hot wine with trail mix) down our throats. They were all like (in an Italian accent) "Would you like EXTRA schnapps?" You bet your ass I want extra schnapps! GRAZIE, my friend! 

We wandered around the rides (which sucked pretty hardcore, but, I mean, IDGAF I have extra schnapps in my gløgg and I'm already coming up on the next kiosk that for some reason serves even tastier gløgg...  and she's all like "You want extra almonds and raisins?" but this time in a Danish accent, because, Denmark and we basically just unhinged our jaws while she poured it in.)

Then we went on the ferris wheel which was basically like every ferris wheel ride ever, except that it was snowing and I couldn't smell any elephant ears (which was the only downside of our day. Also, I have just been told that in the south you don't have elephant ears, but instead funnel cake? FTS.) Anyway, the view from the ferris wheel over Copenhagen was understandably beautiful, and we basked in it for the whole minute of our ride.

Next, we explored a little more and then Mr. Nolandia found the Bavarian section of the park... so, on Christmas, by noon we already had two glasses of gløgg and each of us had like an XL stein of beer. If that doesn't scream holidays, then maybe the massive German style pretzels we ate with the beer helps.

At this point, we were kind of drunk, very merry, but hungry. We got our return tickets stamped so we could come back later and watch fireworks, (you know, when it gets dark about 5pm.) and Terrence had to buy woolen socks from some man dressed as a forest sprite because he is from Texas and doesn't understand winter. 

As we passed out of the arches of Tivoli, we were smiling ear to ear. Warm on the inside from the schnapps, warm on the outside because I know how to dress for winter and Terrence had new socks, and feeling very festive indeed. Coming back at night for the lights + fireworks (and more drinks)? Even better.

Disney World.... you've got a run for your money. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Starlight Symphonies Featured on Ereader News Today

Click HERE to see it on the website!

I am so thrilled to announce that Starlight Symphonies of Oak & Glass is featured on Ereader News Today! It is being offered for a bargain price of $.99 for today-Wednesday. Download on the kindle app, (Which is completely FREE!) for only a dollar. Less than a dollar, technically.

Anyway, I am pumped, you should be pumped. Let's get excited and order some books, dudes. 
Thank you from the bottom of my little Michigan heart, for your support. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kronborg, Hamlet's Castle

Good ol' Hamlet.  As a writer, of course I admire the bard, but many people do not know that it is, in fact, my specialty. In university I earned a degree in English with a focus in Shakespearean Literature. So, when Mr. Nolandia suggested the famous Elsinore (or Helsingør) for a day trip, I was like all like it's freezing cold. And he was all like, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Nah, just kidding, I was game. So early one morning, before breakfast, we hopped the train for Helsingør.

But a trip up to the north of Denmark WAS cold, and the castle itself was like a meat locker. No coats being taken off there. And unfortunately, all of the restaurants were closed. At the castle and in the town, (it was the day after Christmas.) We decided to try and put our hunger out of our minds and explore.  But we had a blast walking the halls and the galleries and dancing awkwardly in the ballroom. I could definitely see how this castle could inspire one of the greatest works in English literature. Dark corners for dark deeds, indeed. 

The castle definitely seemed more rugged than Rosenborg Castle or some of the others we have visited in other travels, but it had a very eerie, romantic quality too. Especially with its position on the sea, it had a kind of poetry all its own. 

After putzing around and dreaming of days gone by, banquets hosted and battles lost and won, it was definitely time to go. We could only eat the chocolate covered almonds from the gift shop and wander around in the refrigerator that was Kronborg Castle for so long. 

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Namely, food. So we hiked around and finally found a little hole-in-the-wall serving up falafel sandwiches, because frailty, thy name is woman. and this woman had tummy rumbles like a mofo. 

Which takes me to my last oddly placed Hamlet quote, "To be or not to be, that is the question" and for us, we always pick to be, especially when it's the option to be in a Danish castle.

Explore, more. 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Can you ever tire of castles? I think it may be something uniquely American though, this fascination with castles. I'm sure Europeans admire them, and are just as thrilled with their majesty...but there is something so completely American about the way we adore the idea of royalty. 

I think because we have no castles of our own, so that perhaps they seem like a fairytale dream. Something on par with unicorns and magic. A place where storybook princesses live. As per usual, the truth is much more dreary.
To go to a castle and see portraits of unattractive Kings and Queens, and to see that they were built "strategically" and made to withstand a "siege" certainly makes them a little bittersweet, but still, our imaginations catch fire. And Rosenborg Castles in Copenhagen is no exception. Especially with the marble ceilings and walls, colorful rooms decked out with tapestries and a rainbow of colors. An elegant throne room enough to make me drool most unbecomingly.

And... the crown jewels kept in the basement. Multiple crowns, necklaces, brooches, rings, pins, scepters, and other bauble doo-dads that I would love to take a bath in. 

I guess castles are kind of magic. (especially the jewel part.)

Next on the blog: Kronborg Castle, Helsingør Denmark

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Copenhagen Continued

Can you capture a city in pictures? Can you get a notion for the soul of a place based on a few lucky snaps? When the light hits a certain way does it reveal the city's secrets?
Hell if I know. 

But, that doesn't stop me trying. How would I describe the city? Well, it always seems lazy to compare a city to other cities. Like, is it fair to say that Copenhagen is like a cross between Dublin and Amsterdam? (Especially since I have only by chance been to the other cities prior to this one.) I could just as easily make a different comparison. Copenhagen is Copenhagen. It's cold, but friendly. The cuisine is exciting and inventive. The people are intrepid in the cold, and smile more often than I've seen in other places. More than anything, Copenhagen hit home that I have been NOWHERE. That there are so many places to go, so many cities to see, and I haven't cracked the surface. For whatever reason, I felt small. But in a good way, that made me hopeful...if that makes sense. 

We visited our share of castles and Tivoli, the Danish Disneyland (both topics for other posts), we explored as much of the city as we could bear on foot, some days walking as much as 16 miles in the ice and snow. The result? We began to be comfortable with finding our way around, heck, we were old hands at navigating København. But, I also sprained my PCL and Terrence got a bone bruise on his foot. (can't win 'em all, I dare say.) 

A beautiful, fairytale place, home of Hans Christian Andersen and castles every corner and the prettiest copper touches and statues, and little mermaids and dreams everywhere. A magical place to spend the holiday, and a wonderful place to continue to wander in my mind. 

See you next week for more Copenhagen. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gadding About Copenhagen

Copenhagen. It's not a place I ever really thought about, to be honest. Terrence brought it up one day in passing, and it grew like a weed in my conscious. 
It was strangely exotic to me. A Northern cosmopolitan with very little daylight and castles and queens and home of the best restaurant in the world. It would be a world of Christmas markets and hot-spiced gløgg and smørrebrød and it is literally the happiest place on Earth

So we went, for Christmas. And it was all we thought it would be. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, the castles impressive. It snowed on Christmas morning, the whole world outside our window sugar dusted for the rest of our stay. With pink cheeks and light hearts we explored this forever twilit city. The sun did not rise until after 8, and it set no later than 16:00. But far from falling asleep with that darkness, the city came more fully to life. Twinkling white lights lit the city from harbor to center and the streets were aglow with candles in the windows. 

Stay tuned for more of our Copenhagen adventures next week, and maybe start planning your trip. A lovelier, cozier, friendlier place does not exist for Christmas.