Tuning Up: CLOUDS

For this, the second in the Tuning Up series here on ritaLOVEStoWRITE, I’m presenting CLOUDS by Zach Sobiech.



Sobiech was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, at the age of 14. After 10 surgeries and 20 rounds of chemo it became apparent that the end game was at hand. His mother, Laura, asked him to write farewell letters to the people who were important to him. He found that difficult, but he was able to write music. He penned CLOUDS.

The song was recorded and released on YouTube where it has been seen by 11.8 million viewers.

Here’s the original with Sobiech on vocals and acoustic guitar. The session was produced by Karl Demer and engineered by Merritt Benton. With John Lynn on piano, Zach Miller on drums, Sean O’Hea on bass and Matt Vannelli electric guitar


The song reached #1 on iTunes and charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

After his death a local radio station held a tribute concert with 5000 people — a mix of school choirs, church choirs, and fans — singing the song at the Mall of America.

Sobiech’s hope in releasing the song was to promote awareness of Osteosarcoma and help others with the disease. His family established The Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund at Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

The sheet music is available here for free. (click on the image at the bottom of the link for a pdf download). A request for a donation to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund is recommended.

I’ve done this song with several of my voice students. I love the message of the song and that it lets us, as performers, look beyond ourselves to a greater need.

Here is my Monday Night Trio, (Ellie, Meg and Emily) singing the song… (It is a little quiet)

Muffin Thursday: Zucchini and Berries

IMG_0750This recipe is similar to the Zucchini Double Berry recipe I posted in July of 2013. But if you click HERE you’ll see this is quiet the different recipe.


  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 cups Vegetable Oil
  • 3 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Orange Extract
  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1 3/4 cups White Sugar
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 cup grated Zucchini
  • 1/2 cup whole Blueberries
  • 1/2 cup mashed Blackberries
  • 1/2 cup Slivered Almonds
Batter in the extra-large muffin cups, ready to go into the oven.

Batter in the extra-large muffin cups, ready to go into the oven.


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prep 12 extra-large muffin cups by spraying with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl beat the Eggs then add the Vegetable Oil, Vanilla and Orange Extract.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the Flour, Sugar, Salt, Baking Powder and Baking Soda.
  4. Mix the dry into the wet and stir until well incorporated.
  5. Fold in the Zucchini, Blueberries, Blackberries and Almonds.
  6. Divide evenly into the muffin cups.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes until tops of muffins are golden brown and the muffins pass the toothpick test.
Ready to eat.

Ready to eat.

My tester Bill called these “really delicious” and gave them his stamp of approval. They are sweet, as one would expect from a muffin with that much sugar and fruit. I think they will keep and travel well because they seem to be firm and not too moist.

Give them a try. I think you will be pleased.

Thought of the Day 9.16.12 Lauren Bacall


RIP Lauren Bacall.

Originally posted on ritaLOVEStoWRITE:

“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

— Lauren Bacall

(Photo courtesy: Tweedland )

Betty Joan Perske was born on this day in the Bronx, New York in 1924. She is 88 years old.

She grew up in a middle class family. Her father, William Perske, was a salesman and her mother, Natalie Weinstein-Bacal Perske, was a secretary. Betty’s father, an alcoholic, left when she was six. Her mother changed their last name to Bacall. (The Romanian form of her mother’s maiden name.)

Bacall loved to dance but was smitten by the acting bug too. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. And got some work in off-Broadway productions. She had her first paid acting gig in Johnny 2×4 it was a walk on role, she was 17. She ushered at theatres to make money. She also…

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Tuning Up: Jolene

This is the first in a series of post centered on music I’ll be exploring with my voice students. Today’s pick is the classic Dolly Parton song, Jolene.

The song, which has been named one of Rolling Stone Magazine‘s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” was  released by Parton in 1973.

Here’s the queen singing it…

I’ve always loved the heart ache and haunting melody of the song, so I approached my older voice students to see if they might want to add it to their repertoire. They loved it. The girls and I universally agreed that we would not “beg” anybody to not take our man — if he was fool enough to cheat on us, he’d better be the one doing the begging! (And good luck with that.)

Here’s a version with my student Bailey and I covering the song…

Hope I’ve got your toes tapping now. And I hope you like this new musical feature.

Comments welcome.

“Muffin” Monday Peach Lavender Zucchini



If you haven’t guessed by now… I like to bake with what is on hand. And right now… the gardens of Maryland are bursting with Zucchini. Although my particular Zuke plants have been stubbornly unyeilding, my nephew John gifted me a zucchini the size of a small child.  I scooped out the seeds, sliced it up and put it through the food processor.  I got enough grated Zucchini for this recipe, a bonus batch (Dark Chocolate Chip Z. Bread) and some rather yummy Zucchini and sausage soup. So don’t throw out those over sized Zukes.

2 cups Sugar
4 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
4 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 Eggs
1 cup Oil
3 teaspoons Vanilla
1 teaspoon finely chopped lavender plus 1 teaspoon sugar

crushed Rosemary
1 cup very ripe peaches, chopped
3 cups Zucchini, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and prep 8 small loaf pans with baking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine the Sugar, Flour, Salt, Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Pumpkin Pie Spice.
3. In a smaller bowl beat the Eggs. Add the Oil and Vanilla.
4. Gently fold in the Lavender/Sugar  then add the Peaches.
5. Add the liquid to the dry and mix.
6. Add the Zucchini and mix.
7. Divide batter evenly into the loaf pans.
8. Bake for about an hour or until the loaves pass the toothpick test.
9. Let cool for 15 minutes and enjoy.

final shot


BONUS RECIPE: For the Dark Chocolate Chip Z. Bread… replace the peaches and Lavender with one bag of Dark Chocolate Chips. (Yes, I am that clever.)

Both Zucchini Bread variants were well received. I think the Lavender scared a few people off, and I got more requests for the Dark Choc. Chip. But really, both the peach and the lavender melted into the batter and were barely detectable after everything was baked. the same with the zucchini (It probably helped that I used the fine whole side of the grater blade.)  Both these recipes were delicious. The Chocolate had a bit more flavor, the Peach Rosemary was for more refined tastes. The house smelled AMAZING through out the entire process.


Muffin “Monday”: Zucchini Cherry

Zuke Cherry plated

Yeah, so I’m LATE again in posting my Muffin Monday post. And, yeah, this isn’t technically a muffin. But if once you (make and) taste this awesome Zucchini Cherry loaf you will totally forgive me.


  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 4 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 4 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice (you can use Cinnamon if you don’t have Pumpkin Pie Spice)
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 cup Oil
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 3 cups Zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup Cherries, chopped and pitted.



1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prep 6 mini loaf pans (this recipe also make 24 med. muffins.)

2. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients.

3. In a small bowl crack the Eggs and slightly beat them. Add the Oil and Vanilla.

4. Combine the wet with the dry and stir until well mixed. The batter will be on the thick side.

5. Add the Zucchini and Cherries. (This will moisten up the batter considerably.)

Zuke Cherry Batter

6. Divide evenly into the mini loaf pans.

7. Bake for about 1 hour (for mini loaves) or 40 minutes (muffins).

8. Use the toothpick test to judge if the loaves / muffins are done. (I prefer a drier Zucchini bread.)

Zuke Cherry baked

9. Let cool and enjoy.


Not only do these baked goods taste awesome, but they travel well and are perfect for shipping out to loved ones needing a little TLC from home. The fact that they use up 3 cups of grated Zuke is a total bonus. They are perfect for the squash you’ve left on the vine a bit too long. You know the one’s I’m talking about… the one’s that are roughly the size of small dog?

I’m waiting to get my reviews in from those darlings who received a package from me this week. But I’m confident these Loaves / Muffins will receive two, crumb covered, thumbs up.





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