Tuesday, September 29, 2020

SORRY FOR THE LONG SILENCE: WE MOVED!

 


We moved to small condo downtown at River Front Plaza from our beloved midtown home of 22 years. And if you don't think moving even just 2 miles away is disruptive, think again! For about three months leading up to the move, all we did was cart things to Good Will or Friends of the Library, and call friends to see if they would like certain pictures and momentos, since we were downsizing from a three bedroom, two bath, plus basement and garage to a two bedroom, one bath with a parking space below the complex. Then there was the move. Then unpacking and finding a place for things. Here I am at our front door, masked, of course. Below, I am unmasked, proof I still look like a real person. (In that pic, I'm taking pictures for a "guided tour" I gave on Facebook, lol.)

 

Before I move on, speaking of masks and such things, how are you weathering the Covid challenges? I hope none of you have been ill or lost someone. (We haven't lost anyone, but we learned three of our relatives in India were hospitalized with it. Thankfully, it was not fatal and they are home, now.)  

I'm not doing a guided tour here. Instead, I want to share with you some of the fun things I've seen on my walks. I love street art (well every kind of art), and I especially like murals. In midtown,  there were many, and I'm afraid I took them too much for granted to take pictures. But there are many here downtown, too, and here are two of my favorites:

  Aren't they lovely? Each So different, but they give me a lift. I especially love the mother and child to the left.

Then there are the painted utility boxes! I had noticed a few in midtown, but usually I was usually on my way to somewhre and didn't wonder too much about them. But there is a project all over downtown and midtown called the Capitol Box Art Project. Various local artists paint one of the utility boxes, and on all sides. Here are some samples from my walks: 

















Cool, right? Here is their link if you want to know more about the project or the artists: https://capitolboxart.com 

On another note, in the months I've been away (since April!) things seem to have changed in Blogger's layout. I'm going to have to study the changes, because, frankly, these pictures are much more spread out than I wanted them to be. Sorry.

But it's great to be back!

How about you? Do you like to take walks around your neighborhood and look for special sights? Yard art? Beautiful trees? Lovely gardening by someone who loves plants? Did you enjoy these painted utility boxes? Do you find moving disruptive? 




Monday, April 13, 2020

Making the Most of Staying In

That sounds like I've been productive, which I haven't been at all. Rajan and I spent a whole morning improving our home-made masks, which we finally found viable. Here they are:

Rajan took an engineering approach and came up with a clever pocket where he can insert a new coffee filter every morning for additional protection. I stuck with the original plan but just modified it so that I could fasten it in two places and pull a bottom layer over my chin while keeping two thicknesses. Both are washable.

What else have we been doing?

Rajan has been going over his negatives and printing some with his enlarger. He's also been doing the grocery shopping. And he starts the day reading news.

I've been reading news (signing petitions), perusing social media, checking on friends and loved ones, and doing a lot of reading.

Both of us have been doing experimental cooking, cleaning up the back garden, taking walks (keeping a social distance), and doing a lot of talking. Somehow the time drifts by. I keep thinking I should feel guilty about not writing. When I told Rajan I'm actually enjoying just day to day living, he said, "It's called retirement." And he has a point: When I retired from full time teaching years ago, I still subbed for friends, I volunteer-taught an after- school art class once a week, went to conferences, took writing and art classes and workshops, wrote and sent out stuff, and got five books published as well as several poems and stories. I didn't really retire.

And I know I never really will: Pretty soon, my fingers will be itching, my plot points will clarify, and I'll be writing away with new energy. But for now I really am following that old 60s phrase, go with the flow. I'm going with the flow.

One of the benefits of walking is seeing all the neighborhoods in bloom: I particularly like dogwood. When we lived in Georgia 38 years ago, I was smitten with the abundance of dogwood trees, both pink and white. There is something about those blossoms and the way the branches layer . . ..

The pink one here is my neighbor's tree. It hasn't reached its full bloom yet.

The white one is a couple of streets away. I took this one a few days ago.

Other things are blooming, too: Daffodils, Irises, Tulips, Lilies, all the bulbs, in fact. (I haven't always had my phone.)

                               One of the places I like to walk is around the garden that surrounds Sutter's Fort, which is spread out between K & L Streets and 26th and 28th Streets. On the K Street side, there are two little ponds with fountains on either side of a low bridge, and walking trails that let you walk through the park to the other side. It is so restful to walk through there: The sound of falling water is one of the most peaceful sounds to hear.

















         I do have to admit that yesterday, Easter Sunday, we were a little tired of cooking and tired of leftovers. So we decided to order an Easter meal curbside pickup at one of our favorite happy hour places, Piatti's on Fair Oaks Blvd. They had the perfect selection for us, which we went and picked up: Vegetarian Quiche, roasted potatoes, and a bottle of wine, all for a reasonable price. To that, I added a toss salad. (We are not big eaters, which makes for happy restaurant bills). We set the table with roses from our garden and a candle. I don't have pictures of the meal, but here is the table:





I know the purple pattern looks like a rug, but it's actually a tablecloth we've had for years.

And so, today we were back to normal. Or what my godmother used to call, "getting back to not normal." Soon it will probably be hard to be cavalier about staying home.

I am mindful that if I were younger and not retired, I would not have the luxury of being laid back about staying at home and would instead be chafing about rent/home payments, salary loss, unemployment, health coverage. So, while I am making the most of it at this point in my life, it's another reason I stay informed, sign petitions, call my reps and senators, etc., and I truly worry about all the healthcare workers and front line workers that are bearing the brunt of things.

But I hope, in light of all they are doing, everyone will stay home, stay safe, and stay well.








Saturday, March 28, 2020

A School Visit Before the Coronavirus Struck

        

So much can happen in a month! I had the good fortune to read from Carnival of the Animals at Elder Creek Elementary School, on February 28th, and March 2nd of this year. The              school was celebrating Read Across America. On Friday, I read for two morning assemblies, one primary, and one intermediate. On Monday I read for 4 individual classes, 1 kindergarten and 3 first grade. Then after school I sold some books!

For the assemblies, I read from Carnival, as I did for Monday's 3 first grade classes. For the kindergarteners on Monday, I read from Dragonella. All of the kids were just wonderful. So attentive and involved. I have always loved reading to Elder Creek kids. I've read there several times from my various books through the years. I used to teach at Elder Creek, and I've basically adopted the school,

I don't have pictures from the assemblies. The principal took some and was going to mail them, and then Sacramento schools, like so many schools all across the nation had bigger things to think about — Covid 19. Our schools are closed for the rest of the school year, and the teachers and students are having classes online — a brilliant solution, although I can only imagine how much work for the the teachers and school administrators, not to mention parents. Let me just say, I would definitely find it daunting and I applaud how they are all stepping up to the challenge.

While I don't have assembly pictures, the teachers in the classrooms were kind enough to take pictures with my smartphone. (I just haven't gotten around to downloading them before today.) I hope you enjoy this little sprinkle of the experience. First, the kindergarteners:


It was great fun to read from
Dragonella again! I missed
that little dragon!






















You will notice the students have their back to the camera. That's a policy in many schools now, so that kids aren't easily targeted by strangers who troll the internet sites, including blogs. (A policy I totally approve of.)

Then, it was on to first graders and The Carnival of the Animals, and I had a lot of fun acting out the stories that I read.




















So today is a little bit of "catching up" with my blog friends. Next, I'll go visiting blogs that I've missed this month. I've meant to post and visit before now, but somehow house and yard projects have kept me busy, as well as spending a lot of time contacting friends and family to make sure they are safe and well from this Coronavirus. Luckily, my husband and I are faring well so far. We take all the precautions, and we do take walks (being careful to maintain social distancing). How about you? How are you using your indoor time, as we wait out the dangerous period? And how is your health and the health of your loved ones? Do take care and stay safe and well.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

February! Where Did Last Month Go?

Well, January went to a lot of literary activity. That's where it went! I had a book signing at Time Tested Books for Deadly Vintage. It was a small crowd (it was the Super Bowl playoff Sunday, and also a lot of worthy programs were going on to celebrate Dr. King's inspiring life), but those who attended were attentive, and after the reading, we had time to interact more personally than usual: One couple said the excerpt and my lead-up convinced them that their next trip has to be to Portugal!

The gentleman with the camera and the woman next to him
are the couple who now want to go to Portugal.
Here are a few pictures:

Me, reading.


Neighbors, writing partners, and a few total strangers!
Writing-group friends.

Also, this morning, Kings River Life Magazine, a California online magazine full of great information about books, writing, events, news, etc., highlighted a nice review of Deadly Vintage. Here is the link to the magazine.   And Here is the link to the review. Check it out. They are also featuring a giveaway for the book for those who live in the U.S.

Then I firmed up an order for copies of my poetry chapbook, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, which is being released February 14th from Finishing Line Press. ("Saudade" is a special sentiment or emotion that is typically Portuguese.) This is the first print run, and you can order a copy directly from them here: You can also read some nice blurbs about the chapbook by other poets. 

At the same time, I firmed up two school visits to read from my story collection, Carnival of the Animals, at a school where I used to teach. I will be speaking to an assembly on February 28th, and then reading excerpts to individual classrooms on March 2nd. (For those who want to know more about Carnival, you can go to my interview with Craig Briggs, here and order the book here.)

Aside that, I've been going to writing groups and poetry workshops, and beta-reading a friend's book. I've also been reading a tone of good books, some mystery, some historical novels, some poetry. Pretty soon more book reviews will be coming.

And last, but not least, last night I went to an even called Stories on Stage, here in Sacramento, where Pam Houston was one of two featured authors. The event is structured so that the author is present, but a person with good stage history and background reads the excerpt and dramatizes it as they read.  Houston's book, Deep Creek, is a memoir. Her other books were for sale, and at the break, I bought Cowboys Are My Weakness, the book that launched her so to speak. I had never read it, and the wonderful writing that showed through the reading made me realize I needed to read more of her terrific writing. So far I've read two of the stories, and, frankly, her writing just grabs me, even if the lifestyle doesn't. 

Speaking of reading good books, what books have you been reading this month? Any good mysteries you want to share? Any poets? Story collections? I mostly read books recommended to me these days, so . . . any recommendations? 








Monday, December 30, 2019

Happy New Year!

               
Time has been flying, so I'm wishing you a Happy New Year sooner than later, since "later" could turn into "way late," the way life has been rushing by.

I had two exciting pieces of news in 2019 - my poetry book, Saudade, was accepted for publication and will be released in February, and my cosy mystery, Deadly Vintage, set in Portugal was published. The poetry book had a lot of work attached to it, and I have a book signing for the mystery coming up January 19th at Time Tested Books (my favorite independent bookstore in Sacramento). But I expect spring to be a little calmer than recent months.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. We did, with our god family in the Bay Area, as we do every year. And three days before that, we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary. Here are what is left of our flowers (the white mums and the lilies),  supplemented with some dianthus (the red and the red-edged ones) that we inserted last week to prolong the bouquet. (This is in our kitchen nook.)

Before our anniversary, we had a 9-day trip to the east coast to visit my niece and her husband in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and my husband's brother and his wife in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Both places were cold for us poor, wimpy, central Californians. Pittsburgh was the coldest. It even snowed one night while we were there. But the visits were wonderful.

Then two days after Christmas, we and another couple celebrated the 50th anniversary of mutual friends in the home of some of their friends who gave them a  wonderful party that went all afternoon. A really lovely celebration.

And yesterday one of my writing groups met to critique manuscripts and then to exchange gently used books. That, too, was so enjoyable. But . . . see what I mean? Way busy!

 Now I expect to take it easy right up to New Year's Day. Reading is big on the agenda. We don't go out for NY Eve anymore but watch the ball drop from the comfort of our living room. We'll probably watch a good movie.

As for New Year resolutions — I do sort of make them. I have two main ones this year. One is finishing my next book and the other is working on my Spanish. I will keep you posted on how both of those turn out.

How about you? Are you ready for the New Year? How was your Christmas? Do you make resolutions?

Best wishes for all good things to happen for you in 2020.






                                                                      

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Before Spain, Let's Go to Portugal; Here's Why


My new book, a cozy mystery,
set in Braga, Portugal. 
My new book, a cozy mystery, set in Braga, Portugal, was released Thanksgiving Day (while I was busy cooking). If you click on the link, you can go check it out HERE.

This book is near and dear to my heart. I got the idea for it before I ever went to Braga. I just liked the idea of setting a mystery in Portugal, and that was the closest city to our area in Spain (Galicia). I felt I could go to Braga and do first-hand research.


When we actually went to Braga, we met wonderful people who became our friends, and now every time we go to Galicia, we take a few days in Braga for further research — and to see our friends.

What is Deadly Vintage about?

Carla Bass, an interior designer has accompanied her husband, Owen, while he oversees a hotel remodel for his employer's new chain. They rent an apartment in the historical part of Braga, where most of the story takes place. (As you can see from pictures below, it's a picturesque and charming area.) When a wine seller gives Carla a mysterious bottle of Port by mistake (she thinks) she returns to his shop to give it back to him and finds him dead. The last to see him alive, she's now a suspect.

Here are a few scenes from Carla's Braga:
This is Carla's favorite bookstore:
Centésima Página ("Hundredth Page"
in English. See the "100" on the glass?)
Carla and Owen often eat lunch there,
as there is a food bar and small tables
 inside toward the back.
The lobby of the same building.
That's a cardboard cut-out of the
poet Pessoa lurking by the lamp.
And Carla often sees this woman
playing her violin on the streets
near the music college.


This  fountain, a defining landmark
of the historic Praça da República, has
colored lights playing on the jets each
 evening. The arcade is to the left, and
a MacDonald's that you can't see is
to the right. The corner building is the
National Bank. The red building is the
hotel Owen's employer is remodeling. 
Detective Fernandes is
investigating the finances
of someone (can't say who)
at the National Bank, and . . ..

   
Cafe Vianna has a long literary and
political history in Braga, although
now it is simply a favorite cafe/eatery
and is always busy. Carla and Owen
hang out here a lot, after hours. 
The last scene in the book
takes place here, as a matter
of fact. But first, there's a
mystery to solve . . ..

Carla has to talk to Maria about . . ., well, you'll find out. But Maria chooses the Jardim de Santa Barbara (Garden of Santa Barbara) for their discussion. 

A nice place to relax and talk
honestly, don't you think?
Well . . . it should be
And then there's the matter of Maria's boyfriend. This time Carla chooses the place to talk — the Museu Imagem (the Image Museum). You go right through the Arco da Porta Nova, then the museum is on your right, after a souvenir store. 
The Arco da Porta Nova (Arch
of the New Gate), designed by
André Soares, an architect of
Northern Portugal, famous for
his Baroque design.

The Museu Imagem: the modest-looking red building. It's a 
free museum, specializing in wonderful photography exhibits. 
If you go through the arch and turn left, on a corner a street away (not in the picture) is the house where Carla attends an estate auction and ruffles someone's feathers.
Before the auction, She and Owen dine at their favorite restaurant: Taberna do Félix (sometimes called Félix Taberna), and catch up on their news of the day. 

A romantic place, if your conversation isn't about dead bodies.
The next day, unexpectedly she has coffee with someone at A Brasileira (The Brazilian Woman) and the mystery deepens.

A Brasileira originally started in Lisbon (or
Lisboa), but it has a rich political history in
Braga. Its logo boasts that the best coffee is
that of the Brazilian Woman.

And the logo is printed on cups, napkins, even sugar packets!

I hope you've enjoyed this little taste of Portugal and the teasers that went with it as much as I enjoyed sharing them.  Your comments are always welcome.  Meanwhile, check out the book if you like cozies, HERE and have a great day.