Monthly Archives: December 2015

Tiaras, Clappers, and Party Necklaces for the Kitties

I did say I would probably write today about the ups and downs of this past year, but it’s still beyond me. When something is hard to write about in a poem I try a list poem. Here is a list even if it’s not a poem.

January–Doll God, my first book of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press

castle promotional cover

February–my father had surgery for a catastrophic heart event last December. He had a 50% chance of getting through the surgery, but once through that phase, the expectation was that he would continue to recover. By February it was clear Dad was not getting better, but it didn’t seem as if the medical establishment was listening. To top it all off, my daughter moved to the other side of the country.

March–visited my father and went with him to the doctor for his diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma, then helped him decide on whether or not to have treatment (no treatment)

April–Dad and I continued to talk several times every day. Both my children flew to visit Grandpa.

May–my father passed away

June–my oldest cat Mac passed away

July–adopted Nakana (soon began to call her Kana)

August–first real vacation in a long time was both stressful and good

September–what a blur–oh yeah, no wonder–I did the Tupelo Press 30/30 poetry project all month!

October–visited Mom for the first time since Dad passed away & visited daughter who lives the farthest from me she ever has

November–Doll God was a winner in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards

December–something new on the horizon, but not yet surfaced, in my son’s life (stay tuned)

I hope this year is stable and joyful and healthy for all!!! The kitties say HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Click on (or hover over) the image for the caption.


Filed under #AmWriting, Book Award, Book promotion, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, Nonfiction, Poetry book, Publishing, Writing

Raise a Glass

Just what you didn’t expect from me (maybe): a wine review. While it’s not in time for Christmas and Hanukkah, surely you can’t drink champagne all New Year’s Eve! Mix it up with some Chardonnay, my favorite wine.

Hubby clipped coupons for Total Wine & More, a big box store around here, and we loaded up a cart with a variety of Chardonnays for me and a bottle each of vodka and port for him. Notice that Chardonnay is capitalized, but port is not. I have no idea what is correct, but that is how I view the world. And that is how you will find this review. Chardonnay from the viewpoint of Luanne who knows very little about wine.

Oops, I probably should have pretended to know a lot, so you would think I know what I am talking about. But when you read the language I use to describe the wines you will figure it out anyway.

When I go to a restaurant I never know what to order. That is only partly my own ignorance. It is also because most restaurants seem to carry some crappy wine they can mark up. Some will mix it up with a brand that “everyone” knows, such as Kendall Jackson. So when I go to a restaurant, I tend to order Kendall Jackson, not because I think it is a great Chardonnay, but because I know what I am getting and find it palatable. Note that I’m not talking about fine restaurants here, but the kind I frequent.

Standing in the aisles of Chardonnay at Total Wine it struck me that I really miss the wine store in Kalamazoo called Bacchus. They always had a big choice and it wasn’t a big box, equity company-owned store. It also struck me that there are a lot of Chardonnays I never hear about because they don’t sell them at most restaurants. I wondered if I could find something I like better than Kendall Jackson or La Crema, a brand I began to drink after a friend gave me a bottle for a gift.

If you wonder about the origins of Chardonnay, here is a brief history from Wine Access:

The best Chardonnays in the world continue to arrive from the region where the grape first emerged: the chalk, clay, and limestone vineyards of Burgundy and Chablis. While the origins of the grape were disputed for many years, with some speculating that the grape came all the way from the Middle East, DNA researchers at the University of California Davis proved in 1999 that Chardonnay actually developed, most likely, in eastern France, as a cross between a member of the “Pinot” family and an ancient, and nearly extinct variety called Gouais Blanc.

My results will follow a typical wine rating.

Luanne’s 100-Point Scale based on that used by Wine Access and other sites:

  • 95-100 — Classic; a great wine
  • 90-94 — Outstanding; superior character and style
  • 80-89 — Good to very good; wine with special qualities
  • 70-79 — Average; drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
  • 60-69 — Below average; drinkable but not recommended
  • 50-59 — Poor; undrinkable, not recommended

But don’t expect talk of pears and apples and oak and all that rot.  I only use the word oak when I ask a server which is the most “oaky” of the less expensive chards. These are my impressions of the ones I chose.


This wine seemed flat, without much taste. But sour, definitely puckery. Kind of like sucking on over-sized California lemons. (You’ve probably heard that the larger the California-grown produce, the less flavor, and that’s a fact). I’d give this one a 70 to be kind.


A screwtop worried me at first, but I shouldn’t have been. I will buy this again. The taste was very focused. Maybe what I mean is a rich flavor like when you let soup or sauce cook down. No after taste. No harshness. This one gets a 94 from me. Maybe it would be higher if I could get over the screw top. (That said, I did drink a nice box wine on vacation).


I really disliked this one. It’s so bitter and tasted like old carpet. You know what I mean. When you find some older carpet remnant underneath old carpet you pull up. ICK. On the second night of this wine I noticed a sweet smell that quickly turned chemically. The wine seemed rotten to me. Let’s give this one a 50. Oh no, I just realized there is another bottle of this on my wine rack. I must have bought two because it was less expensive. Ugh.


Drank just enough of this one that I forgot to record my thoughts. I’ll give it a 90 because that must be a good sign!


This one tastes like a basic chard you might order from a mid-range restaurant. It’s a 75. Go for it if the price is right.


I asked my daughter to also review this one. I was so infatuated with a name that sounded literary (like Augusten Burroughs’ memoir) that I wanted to make sure that I could give you a more objective viewpoint. Her view is that the wine the first night was light and oaky (yup, she said oaky), with an aftertaste of olives and a salty bite to it. OK, maybe she should be the one reviewing wine, not me.

What I thought about the wine was that the first sip has a pucker factor and a weak flavor, but then the taste develops and becomes richer. And it does have an olive taste to it. The second night gave me no pucker at all. There is a nutty undertaste to it, if that makes sense. I ended up thinking this was a 90-94, but I will need to try another bottle to make sure ;).


I bought this one at Whole Foods. What an interesting wine. This chard has a woody smell, almost like a firepit. The taste is “narrow,” meaning that there isn’t a wide range within the taste. There is no after taste and no pucker, although there is a slight bitterness. I really like this and give it a 95. Maybe Whole Foods is a better place to buy wine than Total Wine & More.


This one reminds me of Kendall-Jackson and La Crema, so if you like those, you will probably like this one. I particularly love this name because I have always been partial to St. Francis, with his love of animals and the poor. And also because Francis was my father’s middle name and a “family” name.

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For the record, the best Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted was made by a Temecula (my home town area for almost 20 years) winery called Leoness. Temecula is the southern California wine region. Leoness has been sold out of Chardonnay for some time and when the new year is available will be sold directly to fine restaurants instead of at their winery :(.

Most of these Chardonnays I “sampled” don’t even show up on lists of the best Chardonnays. Oh well, I sure had fun sampling. And after this whirlwind of a year it felt very refreshing.

I want to dedicate this post

to a young woman who lost her life tragically and far far too soon. Jordan Schuman was a 22-year-old TV reporter in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina and grew up on Long Island, New York. She was in a fatal car accident two days before Christmas. She was vibrant and talented and her friends are remembering her with red lipstick and high heels. Her mother, a friend of mine, has asked us to raise a glass in Jordan’s memory and hopes to “blow up the internet” with people toasting to Jordan. Her favorite wine was Pinot Grigio. Please join me in a glass of Pinot Grigio for Jordan. #cheerstojordan





Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Food & Drink, Nonfiction, Writing

Endings and A Hope for New Beginnings

The year is winding down, and it’s been quite a year for me. I guess it was my turn. You’ve probably had your own years with lots of ups and lots of downs. I feel a post brewing about mine, but I don’t feel up to it today. Maybe I’ll write it for New Year’s Eve.

So I’ll show you some other endings: the sunsets in Arizona have a lot of pink and red in them. I took this one at a truck stop along the 10, and the sky was a vivid burgundy. I wish the color here were more true.

This one is typical of almost every December night. Sometimes there are palm trees silhouetted across the pink and dark blue sky.

OK, those were the endings of the day. Now for the hope of new beginnings!

I know a few “special needs” cuties in Phoenix that need a home for Christmas and beyond.

This is Betty. She was born in 2007 and has lived at the shelter for years. Yes, that says years. She is overweight, although you can’t see that from this glamour shot.

Why is she overweight? Maybe because for a very long time she was confined to a cage without exercise. She now gets to roam free in the cat roaming room with the other cats.

Betty (I think she needs a name change) had gotten a reputation for once in a while biting someone. I haven’t been so honored (yet), but I am trying to figure out what causes her to do so. I think it’s when she gets mad because she is being touched when she does not want to be touched. A volunteer might be petting her for a long time and then starts to forget she’s petting her, which means she is ignoring her. Betty might bite a bit to get her to stop over-stimulating her or to pay her attention. Anyway, several of us brush her and she likes it. When I sit on the floor at the shelter, she crawls into my lap and likes me to pet her and then stop and just let her sit there for as long as she likes.

Betty needs a home with an experienced cat person who wants to give someone who needs a chance THAT CHANCE. Betty will reward that person with loyalty and demonstrative love.

Lisa is a sweet black cat with a wonky left eye. Her vision is fine, but the eye itself is scarred so a bit cloudy-looking. Her official name is Lisa Left Eye, but I refuse to call her that. In this photo, I think she’s praying for a home.

Here is Lisa again:

Finally, here is 4-year-old Slupe, a darling Calico that has been at the shelter since long before I started there (which is now almost a year!!!).

Slupe doesn’t like living in a shelter environment and desperately needs a home of her own. Recently, she has lost fur in a few patches on her body, and I think it’s a reaction to stress. She loves to play in water and hide in boxes. She enjoyed playing with the kitten Scarlet, but Scarlet was just adopted so now Slupe needs a human friend and a home. Slupe is considered special needs because she has not been adopted for so long.

Even if you don’t have the right home for one of these adorables, please share their photos and stories in case you know someone who can! They are available here:


10220 N. 32nd Street
Phoenix, AZ 85028


On a cat-related note, I gave my daughter my Homer’s Odyssey book to read. I wrote about it in this post Cat Heroes. Now I see that there is a sequel out about the blind wondercat Homer!


I can’t wait to read about Homer’s life as a celebrity :). Raising Betty, Lisa, or Slupe would be a piece of kibble compared with raising lively blind Homer.

Our shelter’s cat newsletter contained the following very important Christmas tip for cat owners:

This holiday season be careful with all those curling ribbons, tinsels and other Christmas decorations. According to Pam Johnson-Bennett, “Cats have barbs on their tongue that point toward the back of their mouth. These barbs are used fo r both grooming and removing the meat from the bones of their prey. These barbs are the reasons cats cannot easily spit items out of their mouth; things get stuck. This is why toys with thread and string can be dangerous if left unattended.”   Pam also warns us about real pine needles being toxic to cats as well as the tree water, so you should never let your cat (or dog) drink it. You can use netting or Sticky Paws for Plants over the reservoir to ensure your pets don’t have access to it. To read more about how to deter your cats from nibbling on tree brunches or Christmas lights and more, read Pam Johnson- Bennett’s article here

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope yours is full of peace and joy. And for everyone, I wish you much peace and joy in your lives. See you next week!


Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing

Getting All Out of Art

When we visited New York in October, we saw this sculpture:

I didn’t really understand what it was, although there was a sign that said it was the Merchant Mariners’ Memorial at Battery Park. I thought it was amusing because of the bird perched on the guy’s head.

Tourists were in front of it, snapping photos, and I had a hard time getting an angle I wanted.

And there was a fence around it, too.

I was with hubby and daughter and we walked on through the park. After all, we could see the State of Liberty and Ellis Island. I don’t know much about Merchant Mariners other than:

  • my dad’s uncle was one during WWI (he died in his 30s from a car accident)
  • my dad’s friend when I was a kid was one (he was a very sweet guy but used to get drunk and in bar fights when he was on leave)
  • Daniel Keyes, the author of Flowers for Algernon (run to library if you haven’t read it), joined the Merchant Marines at age 17 and practiced medicine on the sailors

Daughter has been visiting (and has to leave today BIG SOBS). She’s packing right now. I just ran across these pix and wondered more about the sculpture. A lot of effort and money goes into these public art projects, so what is this one about?

Apparently, it’s supposed to look like THIS:

American Merchant Mariners' Memorial, designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar, is located just south of Pier A on a rebuilt stone breakwater. It is a representation in bronze of four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat in World War II

American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar, is located just south of Pier A on a rebuilt stone breakwater. It is a representation in bronze of four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat in World War II

These men were drowning after a Nazi U-boat attacked their ship. And look how powerful it is. Why is it so blocked now that you can’t get the effect of this drama? A beautiful work of art, but because the “setting” or “context” is no longer correct for it, much of the meaning and beauty is lost.

Like a diamond needs the right setting and a painting needs the right placement, does writing need the appropriate context, too? Are there ways that the full expression of a book, story, or poem is lost because the context has changed? Or is writing something that we can always access in just the way someone did 20 years before? or 200? What do you think?




Filed under #AmWriting, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing

Where Do You Store Your Treasures?

I store photographs and documents in a fire safe in hopes that if there was a fire, they would be safe, but from what I’ve read, it depends on how hot and how long the fire lasts whether even a fire safe can save them.

Other treasures I store in an antique trunk I stole received from my father years ago. He gave it to me to use because he didn’t have room for it, so I got it refinished because I was 25 (many people would say I should not have done that), and I’ve loved it ever since.

The furniture restorer followed the original look of the trunk–with the alternating light and dark oak stripes. It’s an antique dome-top steamer trunk that would have been used for travel.

antique trunk

The pictures inside are classic Victoriana.

Here are some close-ups.

So what do I store in my antique trunk?

I store holidays decorations, including Hanukkah decorations and my grandmother’s vintage glass Christmas decorations.

Where do you store your treasures?


Filed under #AmWriting, Family history, History, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

Poetry Potpourri

the museum of americana is a literary magazine with a mission close to my heart:

the museum of americana is an online literary review dedicated to fiction, poetry, nonfiction, photography, and artwork that revives or repurposes the old, the dying, the forgotten, or the almost entirely unknown aspects of Americana. It is published purely out of fascination with the big, weird, wildly contradictory collage that is our nation’s cultural history.

They’ve published two of the poems I intend for my chapbook of poems based on my family history. You can read them here.

Two poems by Luanne Castle

I love how my interest in family history and genealogy and research connects with my partnership with poetry in these poems.

On another note, if you bought a copy of Doll Godsend me your address and I will mail you a sticker to complete your book cover.

If you haven’t bought a copy, please consider it if your finances allow–either for yourself or if you think you’ll hate it (gotta allow for that) as a gift for someone you think will enjoy it. Amazon says it will arrive before Christmas.

Have I ever told you what book existed before Doll God? It’s a scrapbook my daughter made for me two years ago. In it, she hand wrote many of my poems and she included posts from the adoption blog, Don’t We Look Alike, that we worked on together.

In the slideshow you can see a sample of the scrapbook. Note the subtle cat-themed touches. And if you see a pic of a high school couple just remember that it’s easy to find stock pix online (big winky face).

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Filed under Book Award, Book contest, Book promotion, Books, Doll God, Family history, Literary Journals, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture, Writing

On the Trail of MaryGold I Came Across Pinkie

MaryGold has not made an appearance. She isn’t under the bed, and she hasn’t sent me a postcard. As some of you pointed out, her disappearance is a mystery. MaryGold has a story to tell. But I don’t know what it is!

In a little twist, while I was searching for her yet again last Thursday, I happened upon her sister! Her sister’s name is Pinkie, and though she isn’t in Doll God, she does look remarkably like MaryGold. In fact, she could have been MaryGold if MaryGold hadn’t been MaryGold. You know what I mean, right?

Isn’t she something? Almost a twin, except for her pink outfit. You won’t catch her playing in mud puddles like MaryGold. She has her own merits, but she’s not my MG.

She’s even more flowery than MaryGold.

That’s why she’s named after PINKS, which if you are not a gardener, is a type of flower also known as Dianthus.

Still on the scent of MaryGold. And I do mean scent. After her frolics in the tidepools and mud puddles for her photo shoots, she exuded a lovely beachy dirt smell when I last saw her.

Several of you mentioned that I ought to write about MaryGold’s disappearance. Cinthia who wrote Dolls Behaving Badly mentioned she might do so. Marie at 1WriteWay had a great idea: that if enough people write about her she might turn up! So if you want to write about The Mystery of MaryGold, I would be thrilled to publish it here on my blog!

In the meantime, Pinkie will have to sit on my bookshelf and keep the books company.


If you wonder why I am being so silly, it is fun, but also I have been trying to get my mind off the San Bernardino tragedy. I taught at the university there for fifteen years and still feel part of the community. Also, the killers’ home in Redlands? The same town I had my poetry reading at last month. And while it was all going on, I was driving past the city. It really shocked me. I still feel numb.

On a smaller and even closer to home note, this weekend hubby was tree trimming with the landscaper and he looked up at the worst moment: when a big branch came crashing down. He has a corneal abrasion. The doctor used a dye and optical light to examine it. He showed me the scratch across his eyeball. It looks as if I took a big diamond and scratched the window on purpose. He wouldn’t fill the Percocet prescription, but I am making him take the antibiotic four times a day because apparently it’s easy to get an infection from a tree branch scratch on the cornea. But it should heal well.



Filed under #AmWriting, Doll God, Dolls, Inspiration, Writing, Writing prompt