Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Great Start to November

We are home, now, and two things have started November off on a lovely note: One is my new picture book, Dragonella, that was waiting for me when we got home. The other is the after school Art Club that kicked off Thursday on the Day of the Dead.

Dragonella was released in October, by Belanger Books, but we were in Spain. The fabulous art work is by Brian Belanger. Wonderful pictures on every page.

We got home last Monday evening, late, and have been catching up on sleep and getting back into our routines since our return. What a wonderful trip it was! And how wonderful it is to be home again. I'll still be posting with pictures about our Spain trip, but right now I'm focusing on getting the word out about Dragonella, and there are some samples of the Art Club sugar skulls below, as well.

Here is a LINK to Amazon for those of you who are doing your Xmas shopping for little ones. It's for ages 5-8, but good for younger kids who enjoy being read to.

Here is a blurb about the book from the back cover:

For those of you who like to give books for Christmas (and there is no greater gift for a child — it opens the whole world to them) — SCBWI has a marvelous online Bookstop site you can browse to consider books for children of all ages. Here is the link for SCBWI BOOK STOP

You can find great selections in both Traditionally publishes and Independently published books.

And here is the link to my page at the Bookstop:  If you have time, please stop by and like my page and sign the guestbook.

NOW TO ART CLUB: Each year I volunteer teach fine arts once a week at the South Natomas Community Center. Last year I didn't, because I didn't know whether my glaucoma was going to call for surgery in my left eye, and I didn't want to start a class and then discontinue it. Happily, the prognosis is good and I'm back in the art room. I teach on Thursdays between trips to Spain, and happily this Thursday was smack dab on El Dia de los Muertos. How cool is that? We did sugar skulls, using sample pictures as inspiration, but I always encourage the kids to take off in their own direction. We used oil pastels on pastel paper, and this is what they came up with:

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How about you? Do you like art? Do you do any form of art? Do you like books about dragons? Have you started your Xmas shopping yet? (Don't depress me by saying you are all finished — I haven't even begun!)

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween and that you have a Happy Thanksgiving coming up.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

An Evening of Fado, and More

Ever since I first heard Maria do Ceo sing Fado on a summer night four years ago, at Rectoral de Castillon, a "casa rural" in Galicia, I've been a fan, both of Maria do Ceo and of Fado. (You can read my post about it HERE )  

The following spring, 2014, when my husband and I went to Braga, Portugal for the first time, a friend at the hotel suggested other famous Fado singers we should hear — Mariza, Amalia, Anna Moura — and we've both been hooked on Fado ever since.

So it was our special good fortune that fall to meet a Fadista in Braga, Mariza da Luz, and   
become friends with her. Since then we try to see her perform every time we go to Braga. (We had started going to Braga for research on a mystery I've written that is set in Braga.)



Last week was no exception. Originally we had heard her sing at a restaurant, but Saturday we heard her and several others sing at a dinner put on by a Fado Association. As you can see, Fado is emotional and expressive, pulling a listener into a different world — and the singer, as well. Traditionally a fadista is accompanies by two guitars: an acoustical guitar and a twelve-string  Portuguese guitar (which somewhat resembles a bouzouki with its bowl-shape, although they are not identical by any means.)

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Not every member of the association is interested in Fado as a career; some are simply aficionados who took turns singing during the dinner. All of the voices were good, though, and the ambience of the evening was full of hearty good will and a deep love of Fado. (Nearly everyone in the room could sing the chorus of every single song.)  

I'm always comparing Fado to opera, especially the serious/somber Fado, the Fado that dwells on fate and thwarted destiny. If you were to take one of the serious operas  and cram the essence of it into one aria, you'd have the depth of emotion and the lyricism of Fado.
But, like opera, Fado has a comic counterpart as well, and the gentleman at the far right in the top row sings these humorous Fados (although, as our friend, Marisa, pointed out, they often have a subtle serious overtone as well, inspiring the sort of chuckle that can fade with too much thought.)
                  Too soon, it was over. At the end of the evening, all the singers gathered for final applause and photos.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, a young man at Centésima Página, the bookstore/eatery we love to visit, told us a great deal about well-known fado singers and the history of Fado. He introduced us to a CD of Fadistas from Coimbra, a city famous for its male fadistas. The recordings are old and "tinny", in that they were recorded back in 1928, 1929, 1930. But all of the voices shine, their  power and expressiveness evident.  I've mentioned that Fado reminds me of opera, and this CD showed the operatic power of their voices. We left the store with a bag of CDs to enrich our musical library. As I have said before, I can never leave a bookstore empty-handed (even if it's CDs).

                                         Centésima Página - "The 100th Page"
                                  You can see the "100" in the window)

How about you? Do you like Fado? Opera? What is your favorite music? Do you love book stores and music stores?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An Interesting Series About Galicia

Craig and Melanie and their sweet
dog, Slawit. 
While we are here in Galicia, my postings would be incomplete without reference to friends of ours, one of whom has written a series about living here in Galicia.  Craig and Melanie Briggs actually sold us our house in Trasulfe twelve years ago. (How time flies!) Since then, we've added touches to make our second home more commodious, but we have always enjoyed the house from the get go. And they have always been special friends.

Meanwhile, Craig has written a series of books describing their adventures when they first came to Galicia 14 years ago and, step by step, became more and more immersed in the life of the area, until they decided to live permanently in Galicia. Originally they hail from Huddersfield, England, but 14 years of living here have turned them into Spaniards. They live in a village called Canabal where they have fitted right into village life. (Expats seem to average about one family per village here, and the villages are scattered around larger towns that are hubs of grocery and clothes shopping, etc., not to mention the abundance of fiestas. Canabal is close to Sober, which has a wonderful wine festival each year and often offers classical musical concerts.)

The Books: These are the books in the series:

The very last one, Opportunities Ahead, has just been released.
As you can see from the titles, this is a joyful series, recording how they met challenge after challenge and found that they were not simply "expats" but actually, finally, "home".  This series will give you a good feel for the challenges and adjustments, but also the joys of life in Galicia and what it is like to find a new life in a new setting, speaking a new language.

All of these books are on Amazon, in print and in ebook form. You can go to and (an maybe other sites as well).  A good way to know your options is to go to the Briggs' travel blog HERE, which makes for delightful reading about certain villages and towns in Galicia and historical signposts that make the area unique.

In addition, a new, humorous posting once a week — The Someday Supplement — includes tidbits of local news and some pretty good local recipes.

You can also reach Craig on Facebook HERE to catch up on latest posts of interesting events and sights.  Happy reading.

How about you? Do you have an author friend who has released a new book lately? Does the author have a site you find particularly interesting? (If yes to either or both, by all means share with us.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Back in Beautiful Galicia Again

We are back in the place we love in Spain — for 7 weeks this time. Alas, the first week has passed in not very good health: I came down with a case of shingles a few days before we left. Layered, so that I couldn't spread the virus, and armed with medication, I was fairly comfortable on the long, long flight, and rested up the first few days after arrival.  Luckily, as you can see, this is a peaceful place to rest up and muse upon things.

Shingles is active for a couple of weeks: Small welts blister, then crust over, and once they do, you aren't contagious to others (which is why you cover yourself thoroughly during the time that you are.) They are very painful, and in a peculiar way. The wounds are abrasively painful, but your muscles ache, and you feel a general mess. Think of it as grown up chicken pox, because it's the same virus. If you had chicken pox as a kid, you have the virus in you for life and can get shingles as an adult.

I had expected to feel much better this week-end, so off we set with friends for a day trip to Castromayor, a Celtic settlement dating back to 400 b.c. to 100 a.d.

A "castro" is a Celtic hill-fort typical of Galician culture before the Roman conquest. In this case, Castromayor appear to have been concurrent with a Roman settlement nearby, which we did not see for reasons I'll mention later.

Castromayor is a point just off the main pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela. In this picture, you can see some pilgrims ahead of us, walking along the main entrance into these ruins. The stone ruins are basically the foundations of the old settlement, built the way "dry walls" are built — i.e. no stucco or cement to hold the stone in place. And while some areas have fallen to rubble, it's amazing to think of these foundations still existing for 2400-plus years. Have a look:

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More pilgrims here and there.
"The Camino" is something I have wanted to walk for some time.  To get a certificate, you have to walk 100 km minimum. Being realistic, though, I don't think I'm going to be able to do anything more than walk parts of it. Actually, that's fine with me. I was excited to be walking on a small stretch of it Saturday—less than a kilometer. But it was the Camino!

Meanwhile, here is a good layout of the entire settlement. Rajan and I were simply amazed.

After that, we went to an interesting town called Portomarin, with full intention to sight-see some more after lunch  But then the aftermath of my shingles was catching up with me. I was suddenly very tired and hurting all over again the way I hurt when I first broke out in shingles.

I made it through lunch — and a delicious lunch it was, at an Italian lunch that really knows how to make penne pasta and pesto sauce, not to mention dough pizza with herbs. But I digress. We came home early, deciding to keep further sightseeing for another day.

At home, Googling it, I learned there really is something referred to as "shingles aftermath". You feel the pain, though not as keenly, but there are no new sores or blisters. You lack energy and may have sore muscles (like flu symptoms) Apparently you can feel this way for months afterwards. I don't think that's going to be my fate--again because I had the shingles shot, which has made everything less severe than it might have been, from everything I've read.

But I am so glad we went! I felt so good until I felt so bad, and I would have felt horrible to postpone and perhaps miss this trip, as our time here is more limited than last time.

Meanwhile, Trasulfe is a great place to recuperate. It never looks the same way twice: This is what it looked last night before the rain and then this morning after the rain.

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How about you? Have you ever gotten a sudden illness you didn't expect to have? Do you make a good patient? (I try to, and I'm usually a "good sport" for about two days, then I get cranky.) Do you like ancient cities? Does ancient history fascinate you?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cliff & Rock Formations at Praia das Catedrais, Galicia


For nearly two months I have meant to blog about a week-end trip Rajan and I took with friends Terri & David and their neighbor, Montse, to a town called Foz and the nearby Praia das Catedrais—"Cathedrals Beach in Galegan." The many stretches of beach are on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, essentially the north coast of Galicia and Asturias, and we actually visited Praia das Catedrais last fall for part of one afternoon. We are drawn to beaches, and this collection of beaches has captured our imaginations.

The name "Cathedrals" or "Catedrais" is due to the fact that wind and tides have sculpted the cliffs into shapes that suggest cathedrals. The tides especially have carved out caves that can only be safely entered when the tide is out. Here I am above inside of one of the caves, entranced by the fact that these caves go on and on. You wouldn't want to be trapped inside when the tide comes in.

I'm not sure what kind of rock the cliffs were to lend themselves to being shaped so interestingly by the elements. The rock in every case seems in layers and at angles. Simply beautiful and mysterious.

Here are a few pictures that can give you a feel for how deep some of the caves are, looking in from the outside, and then looking out from the inside.

We were also treated to a solo concert by a man dressed in traditional Galician garb who played his gaito (a Galician type of bagpipe) for quite some time. I don't know if he's always there, but he was there the second day we visited, and apparently he's there often enough to earn the moniker, "the Gaitero Galego."

We were able to visit the area two days in a row, because Montse's brother owns a flat in Foz. (It's currently for sale, so it was un-occupied.) Though Foz is now a beach tourist town, it was once a whaling town, so there is a promenade with a breathtaking view to a history center that tells a little of the town's past. Here are some pictures of our little group and a view from the promenade.

Terri, Montse (with dog I want) me
Rajan and David, deep in conversation

The view.

This man was reading his paper as he walked
So much for the view!  😊😊

There was also a small bird park where I saw black swans for the first time in my life. Swans are perhaps my favorite bird. (Well, peacocks are pretty high up there, too. )I have always thought swans so beautiful, and these were no exception. The light just shimmered off their black feathers. And look at those graceful necks. Naturally they made me think of the ballet, Swan Lake, and Odile, the sorcerer's daughter.

And soon it was time to pack up, find lunch, and return to Monforte and Trasulfe—about a three hour drive. But it was certainly a week-end to remember! Rajan and I want to go back during our next trip to Galicia so he can take some good black-and-white film photos.

How about you? Are you drawn to beaches? Do like swans? Have you ever gone deep into a cave?