Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “A to Z Blog Challenge”

Z is for Zarkana, Cirque du Soleil

To celebrate the end of the A to Z Blog Challenge, I plan to see Zarkana!

Zarkana, “a fantastically twisted acrobatic extravaganza,” will begin its second season in New York City at the Radio City Music Hall on June 6, 2012. It is an “operatic rock opera that blends circus acts with the surreal.”

Zark has lost his true love along with his magical powers. He wants to regain both. Through chaos and craziness, Zark struggles to find his love, and when he does, Joy-filled festivities break out. Incredibly choreographed, the story unfolds through  gravity-defying acrobatics, flying trapeze acts,  gymnastics stunts, and elaborate dance.

See the video clip at the end of this post to catch a glimpse of the special effects in this magical kaleidoscope of lights, sounds, colors, (outlandish) costumes, and actions.

Many words have been used to capture the essence of Zarkana (and other Cirque du Soleil performances): extravagant, surreal, mesmerizing, extraordinary, spectacular, flamboyant, fantastic, but none of these words adequately describes these truly indescribable events. One simply has to experience one of these shows to understand why describing it is so difficult. So much occurs on stage at all times that your head will swivel throughout the performance.

The stage set for Zarkana has a reported weight of 800,000 pounds. With a working budget of $50 million, the show must fill 6,000 seats a night. But don’t worry, Cirque du Soleil has sold 100 million tickets since its opening in 1984.

I saw my first Cirque du Soleil performance, La Nouba, in Orlando. It was so incredible, I had to see it again.

Other Cirque du Soleil shows can be seen in Los Angeles,  Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and in Canada and Europe. If you have a chance, go see a Cirque performance. Take your children, too. They will love it.


Y is for Yowling on Any and Every Occasion

Cats are endearing creatures, but one of their less endearing habits is yowling.

Presenting The Lady Ginger, champion yowler. She yowls on any and every occasion!


Check out The Lady Ginger’s Metro Goldwyn Ginger Yowl!


X is for X is a Tough Letter

X is a tough letter.

Even Webster’s New World Dictionary can’t post more than a page and a half or so of X-words. Eliminate proper nouns, and you have just slightly over one page of X-words.

Most of these X-words are not very common: xanthein, Xanthippe (she sounds like an interesting character!), xebec, xenon, xeroderma, xylold, and xyster. How many of these words did you recognize?

Here’s a xenops (the bird) and a xiaosaurus (the dinosaur). You do recognize these, don’t you?

X-ray and xylophone seem to be the big winners for being the most known X-words, with both of them hitting the big time on alphabet charts for kids. (Hey, a few alphabet chart makers tried to be different by using fox and eXhale for the letter X. Try drawing eXhale so a child can understand what the heck it’s supposed to be!)

Look for middle and ending Xs, and maybe you can find a few more: axe, saxophone, Texas, taxes, New Mexico, six, mix, Kix,  fox, box, ox, Xerox, addax, calyx, kexes, zaxes. . . .

Let’s not forget the U.S. Government. It has a very special use for X as seen in Taxes from A to Z.  X is a substitute for a signature in certain cases. Now that’s a pretty important use of X!


How many words can you think of that have Xs? (And no fair checking a Scrabble dictionary or Internet list.)

V is for Va-ca-tion in Italy

The other day I mentioned that serendipity is one of my favorite words. Here is another word I love: vacation. Say it slowly and listen to all of its sounds: va–ca–tion. Lovely.

It sounds even better when you say,”Va-ca-tion be-gins on Fri-day.”

Of course, one could say that I am on vacation all the time since I am retired. But no, that’s not true. Time gets filled up with the essentials of living after you get your official AARP card! How did we do all this before we retired?

This Saturday in Florence, I will meet my sister-in-law, Carol; my niece, Christine; and her friend, Inger. Then we are off to our villa in Positano, Tuscany for a week. The villa is close to San Gimignano, a well-preserved medieval town. We hope to visit  San Gimignano at sunset before we retire to recover from jet lag, then visit it again on Sunday.

From Positano we will make day trips to visit various small towns in the region. On one long day trip from our villa, we will explore the Italian Riviera, Pisa, Livorno, and Volterra.

Other towns we plan to visit: Siena, Lucca, Chianti, Montepulciano, and of course, more time in Florence.

In Florence, we will do a bike tour to get our orientation to the city, before spending time over two days to visit the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, the Ponte Vecchio, Galleria dell’Academia to see the statue of David, and any other sites we can work into the schedule. Of course, cafes, market places, and trattorias are on the schedule, too. I’m afraid we will be typical tourists in the sense that we will try to cram in as much as we can see in a short visit.

On Saturday, Carol and I will leave for Rome by train. Christine and Inger will head back to their homes in Norway.

In Rome, we’ll take the hop-on, hop-off bus to get a general orientation to the city, then over the week’s time, we’ll visit the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. We will take a day trip to Pompeii later in the week. Our hotel in Rome, the Hotel Navona, is centrally located in the Piazza Navona.

I am sure we will run out of time before we run out of things to see, but we will do our best to see as much as possible. This will be my third trip to Rome, but I still plan to see all of these sights as a first-timer, with wide eyes and an eagerness to learn everything. I plan to take a lot of pictures for future posts so I can share my experiences with you.

So for now, Ciao. I leave on Friday, April 27. Don’t worry, my posts for X, Y, and Z for the rest of April are ready almost ready to go. Early May will feature some leftover A to Z posts.

T is for Taylor and Gabi’s Sign Language Cooking School

When teens get together, there’s always fun in store.

Watch Taylor and Gabi make rainbow cupcakes–giving directions in sign language.

Gabi is my very talented granddaughter, and Taylor is her very talented friend.

And of course, there has to be a cat or two in there somewhere. Clue: watch the bloopers, and you will see two black cats!

Enjoy the video that the kids made themselves.


R is for Ruff (as in No Ruff Days)

One of my daily favorites is the email announcing a new #dogpic on the NoRuffDays blog.

The tag line for NoRuffDays is, “I hope to make a good day better and a ruff day good.”

It’s a bit of cheer that arrives in my inbox, a message I open as soon as I see it.

Now doesn’t today’s picture of an Australian Terrier just make you smile?

An inspiration thought or amusing comment for the day appears along with the promised dog picture. Today’s comment:

 And the sign said, “Long-haired freaky people need not apply.”- FIVE MAN ELECTRICAL BAND.

Klout says that I am influential in dogs and cats. I guess you can see why. I retweet NoRuffDays on a regular basis. Just trying to spread the cheer!

Have a great day.


Do you have a dog? What does your dog do that makes you smile?

Q is for (Eleven) Questions and Lonely Eleven

A to Z Blog Challenge: Letter Q       Blog Game: Eleven Questions       

Bonus at the end of this post: Lonely Eleven

I was just tagged by justjacqui2 in a bit of foolishness game called Eleven Questions. And as luck would have it, I have been tagged a second time by Mike Schulenberg. His questions are different than Jacqui’s, so I will answer his as the *drum roll* Second Eleven.

How handy. The letter Q in A to Z Blog Challenge is coming up here. I can check off two three birds challenges with one post.

And that also gives me one more item to add to my blog post on “10 Best Procrastination Techniques for Writers” (which I am putting off until May): get trapped tagged in one more blog challenge.

This Eleven Questions challenge requires three things:

  1. Answer the proposed set of questions. (Okay, but short answers they will be. I’m not seeking literary prizes!)
  2. Ask 11 new questions. (Easy. Guaranteed.)
  3. Identify 11 friends former friends blogger acquaintances bloggers who might will might answer the questions. (Okay: Sue, Mary, Ellen, George, Sabrina, Sarah, Lola, Henry, Tina, Angie, Robert. If your name is on this list, you are tagged!)

Seriously, this is sorta fun. And it did give me an idea for the A to Z letter of the day: Q for Questions.

First, I have to answer Jacqui’s questions.

1. Would you rather be trapped in a sanitarium or a Stephen King novel?

I understand that a sanitarium is a quiet resort in the mountains or by a beach where people go to rest. That sounds good to me. The beach would be fine. You think I am crazy enough to be trapped in a Stephen King novel? No way!

2. What’s the one thing that makes you smile no matter what?

Kittens, half-grown kittens, cats, YouTube videos of kitties, Simon’s Cat cartoon books….whatever, kitties always, always, always make me smile. (I wonder how my poor, non-cat-loving friend, Mo, puts up with me!)

3. What do you like most about yourself?

Do I have to answer that? Really, I don’t want to embarrass myself with the length of my list compendium catalog.

4. What is your greatest fear?

That I will get inundated with tags in the 1000 Quickie Question Quiz. I hear it’s going viral. Watch out, it might get you, too.

5. How do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered when my friends make plans for their next trip or cruise. I’ll be ready to go when you are. Anytime. Anywhere.

6. Where do you want to be five years from now? Ten years?

Five years: At a nice beach anywhere in the world. Ten years: At a nice beach anywhere in the world. I just need to make sure I can plug in my computer somewhere.

7. Ninja or Samurai?

Ninjas are turtles. They like beaches. So I guess I’ll go with the turtles ninjas. One problem though. I posted a video of an attack turtle giving a passel of kitties a very hard time. My ninjas have to be pacifists. No fighting with my kitties! Or else!

8. Pick two: happy, humble, famous, rich.

Happy and humble. They both start with the letter H. Happy, Humble Heck has a nice alliterative ring. (I’ll add those qualities to my catalog in question 3.) Famous and rich don’t rhyme, and they are not alliterative words. They just wouldn’t go with my personality.

9. What is your favorite piece of music? 

Recently I have been singing the Hallelujah Chorus a lot–at church, in the shower, in the car. So that must be my favorite piece of music for now. Next week, I will be singing something else.

10. If you were a fictional character, what would be your fatal flaw?

Like Colombo, being enough of a smart alec that people won’t take me seriously. Really!

11. Telekinesis or pyrokinesis? Why?

I rather like the idea of telekinesis. Maybe I could get someone (my husband?) to pick up the broom and sweep the floor or open the dishwasher and empty it.

Now for Mike’s Eleven:

1. If you could live in a fiction world, where would that be?

A world where I would have to learn a new culture and language. I would prefer to live in a nonfiction world and learn a new culture and language in Italy, Spain, or France. I’d like a little kitty there, please.

2. Fiction or non-fiction?

I prefer nonfiction (memoirs, history, travelogs), but I also read a lot of fiction (mystery, suspense, crime, historical fiction). I read a lot, but I wish I had even more time to read. My TBR pile is enormous. And even my Kindle is getting heavier with all of my selections.

3. Do you read in noisy or quiet places?

I can read anywhere. I can read and carry on a conversation. Of course, I won’t remember what you say, but no matter.

4. Do reviews influence your choice of reads?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A good review will make me go and buy the book. For nonfiction, intriguing titles catch my attention. I recently read Indigo, In Search of the Color that Seduced the World by Catherine E. McKinley and loved it. I found it on the New Books shelf at the local library.

5. Audio books or paperbacks?

Both. I like audio books in the car. Paperbacks at the beach. My Kindle the rest of the time.

6. What was the first book you remember reading?

I remember reading all the stories in my basal reader in school–before the class read them round-robbin. Yes, I went to school a long time ago. And I loved the stories in the basal readers. Well, except for the Dick and Jane stuff.

7. Favorite author?

Poet T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

8. Classic or Modern Novels?

Probably classic novels.

9. Have you ever met your favorite author?

When I was in college, I went to Boston to an event where T.S.Eliot read his work. That’s where I met Old Possum and his Practical Cats. There was a big crowd, so I didn’t meet him personally.

10. Book groups or solitary reading?

Both. I belong to a book group in my church, and we meet once a month. I also read a wide variety of material on my own, mostly nonfiction.

11. If you could read only one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Something timeless, that encourages strong values, with memorable selections, some poetry, some prose, some biography, some history, some intrigue, maybe a few murders, maybe some philosophy, religion… Hmmm, that sound remarkably like the Bible.

Now for eleven questions to be answered.   This means you: Sue, Mary, Ellen, George, Sabrina, Sarah, Lola, Henry, Tina, Angie, Robert. Anyone else, feel free to answer! I need some new people to pick on in challenges friends.

Really, I would like to get to know you. Seriously.

  1. What is the name of your blog?
  2. What is the address of your blog?
  3. What is the logline of your blog?
  4. What is the theme of your blog?
  5. How long have you been blogging?
  6. WordPress, Blogger,Technorati, Weebly, or Hub?
  7. What do you love about your blog host? What do you hate?
  8. Which blogger challenges have you been hit with bombarded tagged with?
  9. Do you like mayonnaise or mustard with your blog?
  10. What do you wish you could do over with your blog?
  11. What was your biggest mistake on your blog?


Now, for those of you who have hung in there this far, here is a little treat: one of my favorite Sesame Street cartoons: “Lonely Eleven,”  by Amanda Heck and Mari Jaye Blanchard.

Mari Jaye did the illustrations and Mandy (my step-daughter) wrote and sang the lyrics. Heck, it’s a good cartoon, even without cats. Really. Seriously.


M is for Mentions and Mash-Ups

Judythe Morgan honored me by pegging my blog with the Liebster Blog Award. Thanks again, Judythe.

If a person receives the Liebster Award, that person needs to identify five other persons whose blogs seem worthy of recognition. My last blog post gave a bit of background on the Liebster Award. You can read that if you want to laugh become more informed.

This blog should really be P for Procrastination (in the A-to-Z Blog Challenge) because I have procrastinated for more than two three four days on this post. But P is scheduled for May 18, and I have several other topics already stewing on the back burner for that letter. Besides, I’m not sure I could finish a post on procrastination by Wednesday. Maybe next month.

I am also wondering if I should delay my M post until Monday morning.  (Ha, too late for that now-it’s here already.) That would add two more Ms to the title. But, no, that would be too ridiculous much alliteration. Besides, I have not one, but two posts for M. Which one should I run? Or maybe I should do a double M. But enough of that.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the Liebster Award is to encourage bloggers to visit each other and make connections. Generally I  follow blogs on travel, food, YA literature, nonfiction, cats, grammar, and anything else serendipitous (accidental but delightful discoveries).

You might say I am an eclectic person (well, some would call me random, but whatever). Let’s just say I have a lot of interests and can be easily distracted by any number of them at any given time. I like clever loglines (not like mine, but wait a bit, I am thinking on it) and unique blog design. Sometimes the design catches my attention, then I read the blog.

For my Liebster Award nominations, I decided to check into some of my competitors cohorts in the A-to-Z Blog Challenge. It seems that this particular A to Z Blog Challenge has distracted them us from other serious writing activities.  I found so many good blogs, that I could stretch this post out for a month. Maybe I’ll post Mentions and Mash-Ups on a regular basis. On Mondays?

Here are only a few A to Z Bloggers that I feel a connect with. I could easily list many more.

1. DGHudson-Rainforest Writing. Her log line says “Writing is an adventure into the unknown. Photography enhances the trip.”

Hudson’s theme for the A to Z Challenge is “Paris,” and she photographs and writes about art, film, people, places, food, and so forth. Travel is my middle name, so of course, I have to claim her as a favorite. And then she gets an extra bonus because she threw a cat into the mix with the G blog: “Gay Purree-A Feline Adventure in Paris” complete with an animated film clip voiced by Judy Garland.

Hudson’s post for M day was “M is for Montmartre,” a lovely photo essay. The photographs entice me to go back to Paris! Go check them out. By the way, in case you want to meet me in Paris, here’s the web address for Air France.  How about May? I hear it is lovely in Paris then.

2. Kittie Howard-Kittie’s Stories — with a Dash of Insight. The connect for me here is that Kittie grew up on a farm, but then as an adult, she traveled the world, living in Europe, Asia, MidEast, and Africa. I did the same-but I have only lived outside the continental US in Alaska, then Asia. Can a girl from a small farm town make it in the big world? Well, yes. Here are two of us.

Kittie’s theme for A to Z is “seasonings in the gumbo” of Louisiana. Her M post is “M is for Muffaletta.” (I told you I like food!) Picture a large, round, crusty load of bread stuffed with meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, olives (the most important ingredient). One muffaletta, a staple of New Orleans, can feed a small army.

For her “A” post, Kittie talked about her theme for the A to Z Challenge (Lousiana) with “A is for Alligators” as her first post. She included a recipe for Cajun Grilled Alligator Kabobs. Umm, no thanks, Kittie, I just finished dinner. Maybe next time.

3. Tawn Krakowski, totallytawn-the universe through my eyes. Tawn writes with humor, introspection, and perspective (her words). I just like her ‘tude and writing style. She’s filled with the “Aloha Spirit,” but she has lived all her life in Illinois. She has a “Zombie Love Story” in her repertoire. Gotta read that one.

Tawn writes the truth about morning in her M blog: “M is for Morning.” She starts out with this line, “Oh, Morning, why do you torment me so?” Yes, it’s just as though she reads my mind!  My husband finally brought my coffee (and 1/2 of a forbidden WAWA crumb coffee cake), so now things are better for me. I hope Tawn’s morning has improved, too.

4. Maryann Miller  writes commentary about life, writing, and the absurdities of the human condition in her blog, “it’s-not-all-gravy.” I found her “C is for Cats” on April 3rd, so I know she is a more-than-okay person.

Besides liking her blog title, her logline, and her post on cats, I like her list of thirteen (bad luck) mysteries tagged onto her “M is for Monarch” day. It seems that masses of monarchs migrate through Texas every year and stop to munch on milkweed. Maybe M should be for Monarch Month!

At any rate read Maryann’s blog. Today she is writing about nuts, the kind from trees, not the ones who write.

5.  Carole Ann Carr, The Adventures of a Children’s Author. Carole Ann, a Brit, has published four children’s books (historical fiction, fantasy, and a picture book). I love her whimsical, serendipity blog page design. And lookey here, she has a blue-green-tan striped cat on her whimsical border. Bonus points. Check out those teacups and checkerboard cupcakes. These spell FUN.

Her M post is “M for Mortal Madness,” a YA book review.  Valentine the Explorer brings a malignant piece of Old-Tech, known as Medusa, back to London with alarming consequences. Carole Ann gives this book a high rating.

Now, back to the Liebster Award. If these five nominees are so inclined, they may just add five more honorees to the Liebster Award list. This is a fun challenge, but sometimes it doesn’t fit into everyone’s schedule. So if it doesn’t fit, you Lucky Liebsters, feel free to pass until you have more time. It’s been really nice getting to know you and your writing.

Well, now just look at the time. It is Monday morning. I’ve got those two extra Ms in after all. Well, I’d better quit before I find more M words! Look for a second M post in a moment or two.  Or maybe later today.


Which bloggers do you connect with?  What is your personal connect with those bloggers? How much time do you spend looking at other blogs? What do you learn from other blogs?

L is for Liebster Award

What the heck is the Liebster Award?

I ask because this noble (well, I think it is noble) award has just been bestowed on my baby blog.  Special thanks to JudytheMorgan for this honor. Judythe surveys all on her blog: Voices and views from the front porch and down the road.

Lucky for me, Liebster starts with the letter L, which just so happens to be today’s letter in the A to Z Blog Challenge! So here it is, a ready-made topic for my L day post.

Liebster sounds German, doesn’t it? And several Lucky Liebster Lads and Ladies (sorry about that) suggest that the German word ‘liebster’ means “loving” or “beloved.” So a person who bestows the Liebster award on someone else’s blog is showing love to another person. Kinda nice.

In 1724, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a cantata in Leipzig named ‘Liebster Gott,’ translated “Dearest God,” as in “Liebster Gott, What did I do to deserve this prestigious award?”

I checked my sources: 1HeckOfAGuy.Com reports that “If each winner required a month  to re-reward the Liebster, after one year more than 89762301673555230720 blogs would be flashing the Liebster prize.”

That’s pretty impressive! You think?

At any rate, the real purpose of the award is to spread the news about budding and blooming blogs with less than 200 followers. In the process of winnowing down the number of deserving blogs, we visit other blogs, meet new friends, and steal pick up new ideas. A nice community of bloggers who support each other develops. In other words, it’s a heck of a good way to make new friends. Hmmmm. Good idea.

Rules for this award of dubious importance follow:

  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  • Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
  • Copy & paste the blog award on your blog.
  • Reveal your 5 blog picks.
  • Let them know you chose them by posting on their blog.

And now, I have a ready-made post for my A to Z Blog Challenge for the letter M scheduled for tomorrow around midnight: Midnight Mentions and Mash-Ups in which I announce my five nominations for the Liebster award. Oh Heck, it might take me all day and all evening to sift through 89762301673555230720 blogs, but I’ll do my best. Don’t worry, I won’t nominate 1HeckOfAGuy. He’s already won it!

By the way, at first glance, I thought that 1HeckOfAGuy might be related to me (you know, OneHeckOfAGal), but turns out he is not a real Heck. His true name is Leonard Cohen. No matter. He is still a new friend. And he is also the designer of the theater marquee at the beginning of this blog. I borrowed it. Okay, Leonard?

A to Z Blog Challenge: A is for April Anthem

Writing challenges abound on Internet. Some of them make me chuckle; some I join. The Blogging from A to Z Challenge, April 2012, is right up my alley: I know my alphabet!

This challenge, the design of mastermind Arlee Bird (http://tossingitout.blogspot.com) asks writers to post on our blogs almost daily during April, taking only three Sundays off. That’s twenty-six days/posts, one for each letter of the alphabet. Some of the bloggers have themes like

These all sound like fun. I’ll watch the progress of these bloggers from my ringside seat. Maybe I’ll have some popcorn and Diet Coke while I read their posts.

The organizers of the A-Z Challenge thought they might get 1000 bloggers; at this point, 1762 bloggers have signed up with another day open for joining. Amazing. (I am number 1596!)

Ah, but the pressure is on. Will my blog posts have a theme? Will they be random? If I start out random, will a theme emerge? Will I blog for 26 days? Will my perfectionist tendencies bog me down? Will they laugh at me when I blog?

We’ll see. Here’s my first entry.

A is for April Anthem

April 1, 2012 is Palm Sunday in the Christian tradition, so I attended my church in Margate-by-the-Sea, NJ, where I am a member of a world-famous the choir composed of talented singers. While we do have a few professional-sounding voices in the choir, the rest of us sound more like, well, I’m at a loss for words….  Oh well, we do try our best. You have to give us credit for that. And once every three of four years or so, maybe five,  the church membership actually breaks down and claps for an unusually good performance. They have learned not to over-encourage us; after all, we might just want to sing two or three anthems on Sundays instead of our usual one. Then church time would extend over the precise one-hour time allotment, and the local restaurants would have to wait longer for our lunch-time arrival. Not a good idea.

At any rate, this morning, in good Palm Sunday manner, the MCC choir walked down the center church aisle in our salsa-red robes and salsa-red and white cowls with our fat music binders, palm fronds waving–a sight to see, believe me.

At the appointed time we sang “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty,” an anthem describing the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We actually did a decent job of it.  No standing ovations, but whatever, and I won’t post the YouTube video of our performance. Sorry.

Ah, but next week, Easter Sunday, we will definitely sing two anthems, and church services may just last a few minutes more than the prescribed one hour. Our second anthem will be the “Hallujah Chorus.” Now that should get the membership off their feet!

Seriously, though, today begins Holy Week, the most important week of the year for Christians. We celebrate the life of Christ and remember the sacrifice He made for us. This sacrifice underscores our beliefs, actions,  habits, attitudes, values, and our lives.

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