Sunday, October 14, 2018

An Interview About My New Book, The Carnival of the Animals

I know I've been promising pictures of the riverwalk in Monforte, and I've downloaded lots of nice pictures to share. These will be forthcoming later in the week.

But first, fellow writer, Craig Briggs, who lives in Galicia, interviewed me for my new book, The Carnival of the Animals.  You can read the interview HERE. And check out the book HERE

Fellow author, Craig Briggs.
The book has received some very kind blurbs:

“Thanks to Elizabeth Varadan, you will roar with the lion, bound over clouds with the unicorn, dance with the tortoise, weep with the elephant, feel the friendship of a magical bird, know the enduring love of a swan…and more.  Best of all, you will enjoy the genuine magic of this carnival of creativity!”
T. A. Barron, Author of the Merlin Saga

“. . .These stories beg to be read aloud to children again and again. . . . Since Carnival’s characters are from all over the world, these stories will spark discussions with young children about cultures, languages, and even animal habitats. Truly a wonderful work of art.” 
--JaNay Brown-Wood, author of Imani’s Moon, NAESP Book of the Year, Northern CA Association of Children's Librarians Distinguished Book for 2014, a Reading is Fundamental (RIF) Multicultural Book for 2015. Her newest book Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

“The stories in Elizabeth Varadan's The Carnival of the Animals are a wonderful tribute to Camille Saint-Saëns' musical suite. Children will be drawn to the clever, charming narratives and come away with a real appreciation for both the stories and the music that inspired them.”
-- Steve Richardson, Author of Canlandia, (winner of the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for best juvenile fiction in 2014, and the Arizona, New Mexico Book Award for best juvenile fiction in 2014), and Lavender Blue and the Faeries of Galtee Wood (winner of the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for best in juvenile fiction in 2013)

 “A beautifully penned tale inspired by the musical suite The Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saëns. The story and its settings will delight children of all ages. Varadan’s magical menagerie is marvelous!”
Victoria Lindstrom, author of The Tale of Willaby Creek

Craig Briggs, by the way has an interesting blog for its own sake, and a fabulous series telling of the adventures he and his wife had coming to and staying in Galicia. Many of you have expressed interest in Galicia. The books and his blog combine to give a wonderful "guided tour" of the area. Check out his website HERE You can scroll on past the interview to read other articles about small towns and villages of Galicia. Lovely pictures, too.

Questions: What moves you most when reading about a new area? The articles or the pictures? Or both?  Do you enjoy author interviews?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Back in Beautiful Galicia

I certainly meant to post before now, but soon after arrival and opening the house, etc., I came down with a cold. Here we are arriving in Santiago: True to recent trips, I took pictures of surroundings, etc. but got so engrossed in conversations with friends I forgot to take THEIR pictures. Still, here is a picture of my husband's feet, camera bag, and carry-on, as we left the airport.

Our friends, Terri & David, picked us up, and since they were leaving on a trip of their own the very next day, we all stayed over at a charming casa rural, "Casa de Amancio" not far from the airport, so that we could drop them off and then drive home. "Casa de Amancio" was delightful, reasonably priced, and tucked away down a winding road so that you felt far removed from the heavily trafficked highway to the airport.

See the fresh flowers?
Fresh flowers were everywhere.
There was no fire that night,
but you can see how lovely one
would be in winte
Rajan and I stayed in the room on the left (behind the outdoor table & chair set). For those staying longer, the room is equipped with a tiny kitchenette: microwave, sink, and fridge (where I was able to keep my glaucoma drops that need to be refrigerated.) We showered after our long flight and then met up with Terri & David in the little lounge above.

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Later, we went in into one of the dining rooms (they had three tucked in different areas.) This one was hard to show because of the lights and mirrors, but it was charming. And we had one of the best and most reasonably priced fish dinners we've had in Galicia. The place also offers a nice breakfast. It also seems to be a popular stop-off for peregrinos (pilgrims) walking El Camino, since it is right on the way to the Cathedral, the pilgrimage destination. The speckles you see on the dining room wall are coins people have left.

Then there was the drive home and we were at our beloved village of Trasulfe at last. We love this place. I write poetry to Trasulfe and the surrounding villages and countryside. It all just fills one with such serenity:

Our patio and a glimpse of our
little field across the sheep path. 
A good view of the potatoes our
neighbor Miguel plants each year. 
This is what it looked like when we arrived twelve days ago. We immediately walked over to our neighbors, Eva, Manolo, & Raquel to say hello. Then Eva walked down to our new Dutch neighbors, and then Elías, who frequently comes from Barcelona, came out and joined us. I was too tired to take pictures, but we all had a fine chat.

The time has really flown by: We had already set up dinner dates to have friend over last Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Before and after, Rajan and I took turns with head colds (nothing serious, but a little vexing when you want to be out and about visiting!) Still, we sit at our window in the galería, gazing out over coffee in the mornings, and that, too, is nice. Meanwhile, Miguel harvested his potatoes (and gave us a huge bag of them). He had spent the week before helping friends and relatives with their harvest, and then last Saturday morning, four men and a woman came with two tractors and an interesting wagon with metal wheels (along with baskets and small and larger buckets) and made short work of it in about two hours. Here is how the same scene looks now:

The little tree on the left is a
volunteer peach tree that, sadly,
hasn't borne any fruit in 13 years.
Sadly, in our area, while the vegetables have done well, the grapes haven't, due to a too-wet spring, mildew, and recent scorching heat. Other fruits are  delayed, if they fruit at all. The fig tree beyond our wall is usually loaded with figs this time of year. This year they are the size and texture of hard, unripe cherries.

In my next post I'd like to take you on a nice river walk we took in Monforte on one of our "revived" days last week. And after that, I'd like to take you on a little tour of Trasulfe itself.For now I'll leave you gazing on our harvested field, imagining all the things one can cook with potatoes.

Which leads me to ask: What is your favorite potato dish, and do you share your recipe?

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Happy Life Story, by Sharon Emecz


I came across this gem of a book written by the wife of one of my publishers. For anyone who wonders what one person or family can do to make a difference in a troubled world, this little book opens a door to possibilities. Happy Life, a children’s home in the suburb of Kasarani in Kenya, Nairobi, rescues abandoned children and finds adoptive homes for them. 

Happy Life started as the brain child of two couples: Sharon and Jim Powell in Delaware, USA, and Peter and Faith Kamau in Nairobi. Both Jim and Peter were pastors, and met through Peter’s brother who had attended a retreat in the U.S., where he met Peter. The program has a three-pronged approach: rescuing children and finding adoptive homes for them; providing a Christian based education that meets their needs according to age; and a hospital, since many of the children come to Happy Life with medical problems related to their abandonment.

The beginnings of Happy Life were small: five children in the Kamau home, 2001, but now it has expanded to two sites in Kenya – Kasarani and, close by, Juja Farm. In 2017, the combined total of children at the two sites was 101. In between those years, as children have been found, cared for and adopted out, 300 had been adopted. Since not every child gets adopted right away (some can take years), Happy Life commits to care for these children until they become adults. School now goes through high school and includes training for life skills, and at Juja Farm, the church and schools are open to the local community. They also have a garden and a bakery.

Funding depends on donations from churches, individuals, businesses, some foundations, but there is no government funding. They have a paid staff, but volunteers also come from all over the world with teaching and nursing skills, or a simple willingness to spend quality time with the children. Sponsors for individual children are also appreciated. The author discovered Happy Life on a short trip and loved the experience so much, she and her husband now spend a few weeks there each December. In his words, “These are some of the happiest children I’ve ever seen.”

The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs of the children, the schools and hospital and living accommodations, and the various neighborhoods, as well as wild life preserves in visiting distance. 

You can learn more about the program and opportunities at the Happy Life website.  
You can buy the book HERE

How about you? Do you do any volunteering anywhere? Do you ever get discouraged by today's news of bad happenings and wonder if there's something you can do to help?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Sorry So Sorry - An Arresting Collection of Poems

 I've been reading a lot of poetry lately (and writing it, too), and Sorry So Sorry, The Complete Collection, by Angie Outis, is a beautiful discovery, although a thread of sadness runs through all the poems. ("The Complete Collection" because parts of the book have been previously published as separate booklets. Now they are all together, tracing the course of the author's dissolving marriage.) Angie Outis is a pseudonym, for purposes of privacy, since these poems were written during the author's divorce.
             This lovely collection of 78 poems actually unfolds like a novella in verse. Each poem is connected to the one before and the one after, like pearls on a string. The language is elegant, yet simple; spare, but full to bursting with restrained emotion as the protagonist gradually awakens to the reality of her life. 
            The book opens on her 30thbirthday, but her awakening actually began a year earlier when an outside incident with her husband revealed a violent streak. She has always been a dutiful wife and mother, following the precepts of her church: Women are obedient. They don’t question. A husband’s love is enough to cover any unease in the home life. He is the one who knows best. In her case, he’s also a leader in his church and community. 
            But is he as loving as she always thought? After visitors come to the house (no spoilers here) she also has to wonder if she even knows who he is. The poems throb with pain as they trace the insidious deterioration of the relationship. He is not loving. He is not kind. He’s a stranger. She’s afraid of him and makes plans to leave. Her inner strength grows—and grow it must, because friends, parents, and the church are against the choice she makes. (The title, Sorry So Sorry, highlights the guilt she feels for disrupting everyone’s life to find her own.)
            I especially appreciate how the author avoids pitfalls of melodrama or cliché. The wife’s journey progresses like an opening flower, showing how a once shrinking life can finally bloom.

You can learn more about the author and her other works on her Amazon author page HERE:

Thanks for stopping by.  Do you like to read poetry? If so, what kind? Free verse? Rhyme? And who is your favorite poet? Do you write poetry? If so, what kind? For adults? For children? 

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Few Last Fleeting Moments of Braga

These are mainly street events that captured our interest as we walked around Braga for three days. In addition to some street performers, there were locals all dressed up and walking around seeing the sights themselves. Then there were the school groups. Lots of them, although I only caught two of them here.

And a couple more performances of interest on stage. The first was dramatic. The second was a musical group.  I loved all the music that was going on.  

That ideal audience member performers appreciate!

I hope you've enjoyed these last scenes of Braga Romana. Which happenings
did you find the most interesting, performances or street scenes?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Braga Romana and Belly Dancing


A popular feature at the Braga Romana Festival is the belly dancing.  Last          
year when we went, we only saw one group                             perform. This year there was another group as well, a pair of dancers and two musicians. The first picture to the left is of the group we saw last year, Radiki, led by a cousin of the fadista (fado singer), Marisa da Rocha, we've been privileged to know. They danced to recorded music. The second picture is of the pair of belly dancers and their two musicians. They first danced solo and then danced together. We didn't see them last year, but then, so much was going on, we may have just missed them. Sadly, we didn't get their names. 

You might wonder at a connection between ancient Rome and belly-dancing. Well, it is thought belly-dancing (sometimes called "torso dancing") originated in Egypt, which was part of the Roman Empire, and spread to places like Turkey and Greece, also part of the Empire. So it merits inclusion in this wonderful festival, both historically, and for its beauty as an art form.  

It has an interesting history as depicting childbirth and being instructive for mothers-to-be rather than the rather provocative associations given it in cafes where patrons tuck money into a dancers bra. Here is a YouTube showing the beauty of this form of dance. This particular group is called Raksat Brazil, and they are performing in Dubai.

We were struck by how creative and graceful the performances we saw in Braga were. Enjoy the pictures below — first by Radiki, and then by the paired dancers. Each choreography was so unique, and again, so graceful:

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And then the other stage. 
First the lady in blue: 

Then the lady in red:

Then the two together:

 Don't you just love the costumes? And the use of the scarves?

Have you ever seen belly dancing? Do you enjoy dance performances? Modern? Ballet? Bollywood or the old Hollywood musicals? Hip Hop? Have you ever taken special dance lessons?