Sunday, November 25, 2018

Autumn in Sacramento

Years and years ago, Jo Stafford, whose voice was like velvet, sang a song called "Autumn in New York." It was a beautiful, plaintive song with a haunting melody. A love song, of course. But I think there should be a song called, "Autumn in Sacramento," one with a deeply stirring melody to capture the lushness of color and the pleasure of walking around Midtown with leaves crunching under one's feet and beauty stunning one's eyes.

For starters, there is the brilliance of Ginko trees, their leaves a bright golden yellow that simply dazzles me:

       Autumn has become my favorite season. In spring, I love the colorful flowers, but I've come to realize the power of autumn is the range of colors in the trees themselves. In early spring, you get the flowering fruit and nut trees for a short time. Then the green mist of unfurling leaves, and finally the green of summer. But in fall, a season that unfolds in various stages, you get a range of rich colors in the trees themselves. Some leaves still cling to their green; others are in various moments of turning: the liquid ambers, the Japanese maples, the elms, the plane trees, and several whose names I don't know:


There have been various names for Sacramento: Often it is called the "River City." Sometimes "City of Trees." There has been a tentative stab at "The Big Tomato," I suppose due to the past history with the canneries, and maybe with a nod to calling NYC "The Big Apple", but the tomato moniker didn't stick. I'll go with "City of Trees." The trees really make Midtown, and in summer even make Midtown about 5-6 degrees cooler than the suburbs.

Here are more brilliant colors. Every street in Midtown is like this.

           Sadly, I have to include a tree I love but doesn't love me: the beautiful plane trees of Sacramento. During the spring they grow pastel patches of bark and by summer the trunks and branches have shades of sandy yellow, pale green, a pinky tan, pale taupe, and ivory. As  fall comes, the colors start peeling, exposing the underbark, and by winter's end, trunk and branches are a smooth ivory/bone. Then in spring, it all begins again. Well, I just love this tree! Unfortunately, it has three pollen seasons, and I'm allergic to every one of them. So, as I walk down the street, eyes appreciative of their beauty, I am sneezing and coughing during those periods. But I can't help loving their beauty.

Plane tree in distance, already
shedding its patches

Finally, I couldn't resist these two pictures below on my "nature walk" today: a cute little bungalow whose owners have already decorated for Christmas. The two trees out in front just blew me away. They were so beautiful, they made me wish I had a leafless tree in front of our house to hang Xmas balls on.

How about you? What is your favorite season? I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Are you starting to decorate now for Xmas?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Back Home and Signing Books!

We are home now, and getting settled back into life in Sacramento. We arrived exactly two weeks ago tonight and hit the ground running. Whew! We got our flu shot the very next day (and that wiped us out!) Then there was Halloween.  Then dashing to the printers to make up postcards and bookmarks. There was the election last Tuesday and several days of madly reading the propositions on our ballot ahead of time. I had already set up a book signing at Time Tested Books last Thursday, and books had been delivered, so there was just the matter of firming up details and sending reminder invitations.

And then the day itself arrived, November 8th, and I have to say, it was so much fun. I had a good turn-out of neighbors, teaching friends, art friends, poetry friends, and friends from my critique groups. It was like a reunion. Here are a few pictures to capture the spirit.

When I first walked in
the door, before the book
signing, this lovely lady was
purchasing my book! My
first signing! 
On the far side, Kristina Halvorsen and her
husband, Patrick. She taught at my beloved
former school, Elder Creek Elementary.

Kristina's husband, middle. On the
right, Don Brown, former team teacher
at Elder Creek. On the left, Don's
beautiful wife, Ruby Alcartado. (Later,
I read early drafts of Carnival of the
Animals to Don's class for feedback.
They gave great suggestions)
Several writer friends from critique
groups here and another colleague,
 from Elder Creek, Shari Beck,
smiling at the camera

My current critique group who made
this a better book: Jen Hansen, Skeeter
Britton, Nancy Herman, Rosi Hollinbeck.
We were only missing Randall Buechner.
On the far left, Shirley, whom I've met
at SCBWI events.  

The group again — "Storytellers",
all excellent writers. 😍😍

Next to Nancy, Marsha Sylvester
from my other critique group, "Story
Catchers". Another good writer.

Oh what memories. Tom Fante
close right, from a years ago group,
"ASH" (Alumni of Sands Hall.)
What a great group that was before
before people moved away, went back
to school or got involved in other
projects. Other members of the group:
Naomi Williams, David Hagerty,
Nancy Herman, Skeeter Britton,
Randall Buechner.
Part of the crowd

Veronica and Norma, two
lovely ladies from the poetry
group I attend at Hart
Senior Center. The pretty
lady with the golden scarf
is our former neighbor,
Alice Welborn
And this was a thrill and surprise:
Former students from my after school
Art Club at Natomas Community
Center and their mother. The second
sister who was a student isn't in this
picture, but they both were such good
artists. (The younger one here was
too young for the class then.)

Wrapping up with Skeeter and Jen.

This week I'll be visiting students at Matsuyama Elementary School, and I'm really looking forward to that. I love school visits, and I've visited Matsuyama before for earlier books (Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, Dragonella). Both times it was a wonderful experience.

About Time Tested Books. Theoretically t's a "used book store" but they order and stock contemporary books as well. They are a wonderful bookstore and one of my favorite hang-outs in Midtown whenever I have time to amble and browse. I do stock some ebooks, but I love the feel of print books and the atmosphere of book stores. Books that I re-read tend to be print books.

How about you? Do you have a favorite book store where you like to hang out? Do you attend book signings? Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Riverwalk in Monforte

There are three rivers that have affected our lives when we come to Galicia, Spain: The Minho, which we cross in our trips to Portugal; the Sil, which has inspired poetry from me when we've climbed to the cell of an ancient monk atop a hill that over looks the river and Doade; and the Cabe, which flows right through Monforte de Lemos, the nearest town to our village. Here is how the Cabe looked from one of the bridges mid-September a few days after we arrived.

Over the years that we've come (14!), more and more features have been added. And now, below the beautiful park on one side that borders the parking lot, a river walk has been created — a path behind many restaurants and homes.

You can see the famous "castle" of the Conde de Lemos atop the hill in the center of the town. I love this castle. It's my dream to one day paint a picture of it on canvas. The town built up around it at the base of the hill, and it dominates the landscape for kilometers.

On the river walk, in one direction is the bridge I mentioned above; in the other, the old Roman Bridge, (puente Romana), still functional (for autos as well as pedestrians) after centuries!

And everything is reflected, as if in glass. And who cannot like ducks? (There are swans here, too, but I didn't get pictures of them this time.

Or fountains?

 If we lived here, I would probably spend every day (well — in good weather) at this park and river. And I would picnic and feed the ducks.

But since we don't, I'm so happy the main parking lot abuts the park, and every trip to do business means walking across the river on one of those two bridges.

How about you? Do you like rivers? bridges? fountains?  castles? parks? picnics?

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.

Add caption

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?