Sunday, December 31, 2017

Saving Fish from Drowning

So, the premise is that 12 travelers to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, go missing and a perusal of all the details that accompany that fact. At first, I thought this book was a disappointment after Tan fare like The Joy Luck Club and the Kitchen God's Wife. Nonetheless, Tan, true to literary style, enchants with cultural, political and other engaging details and even outdoes herself with the most outstanding character development I have ever read of each of the characters. In all honesty, I was a bit bored until about midway through the novel when I became hooked with the mini-drama of each person's life and realized I was reading a television reality show, aka Survivor, but creatively told from the viewpoint of the deceased original Chinese tour guide, Bibi Chen's ghost.

Did I mention that this book is also chock full of great quotes, life reflections and philosophical quips? Here are some of my favorites:

“The only thing certain in times of great uncertainty is that people will behave with great strength or weakness, and with very little else in between.”

“From what I have observed, when the anaesthesia of love wears off, there is always the pain of consequences. You don't have to be stupid to marry the wrong man.” 

"What bloody good was human adaptability if people weren't willing to change? Wasn't that why no penal system really worked to prevent crime, why people went to psychiatrists for years eithout any intentions of overcoming their obsessions and depressions? Humans had this extraordinary fondness for their own peccadilloes. That's why you could't change a Republican into a Democrat and vice versa, why there were so many divorces, lawsuit, and wars. Because people refused to adapt and accommodate to others even for their own good!" p243

“There is a famous Chinese sentiment about finding the outer edges of beauty. My father once recited it to me: 'Go to the edge of the lake and watch the mist rise... At dawn, the mist rose like the lake's breath, and the vaporous mountains behind faded in layers of lighter and lighter gray, mauve, and blue until the farthest reaches merged with the milky sky...Here the lessons of Buddha seemed true, she thought. Life was merely an illusion you must release. As she grew older, she was aware of her changing position on mortality. In her youth, the topic of death was philosophical; in her thirties it was unbearable and in her forties unavoidable. In her fifties, she had dealt with it in more rational terms, arranging her last testament, itemizing assets and heirlooms, spelling out the organ donation, detailing the exact words for her living will. Now, in her sixties, she was back to being philosophical. Death was not a loss of life, but the culmination of a series of releases. It was devolving into less and less. You had to release yourself from vanity, desire, ambition, suffering, and frustration - all the accoutrements of the I, the ego. And if you die, you would disappear, leave no trace, evaporate into nothingness...” pp228-9

Amy Tan, Saving Fish from Drowning

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Letters from Father Christmas

Posing as Father Christmas, Tolkien wrote letters for over twenty years to his children, John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla. Almost every letter is a juvenile literature classic with plots and subplots, characters, instructions and advice.

It's impossible not to fall in love with NPB, North Polar Bear, and his downfalls and antics, and the humorous interplay between him and Father Christmas, both writing their own versions of incidents, mostly at the North Pole. There are delightful moments like NPB getting stuck in the snow, developing the whooping cough and barking like bears on Boxing Day, and how FC talks about with the right organisation you can get about 1000 stockings a minute done. He also gives insight to his character and fatherly sense of level-headed justice. "I don't forget people, even when they're past stocking age, not until they forget me."

There are snowboys, the children of snowmen, of course, and all kinds of magic, which Tolkien says, is strongest at Christmas.
Finally, the illustrations, which are also Tolkien's handiwork, are a treasure in and of themselves.

A highly recommendable read, but one to take slowly, maybe starting right after Thanksgiving and reading a bit every day to savour it all.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Gloria In Profundis

There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is split on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.
-G,K. Chesterton

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Brotherhood of San Isidoro

Mass and banquet of the extremely ancient, the "Very Illustrious, Royal and Imperial Brotherhood of the Miraculous Banner of Saint Isidoro of León", founded as an order of chivalry in 1147AD when the Leon's Emperor, Alfonso VII, became inspired by Saint Isidoro to fight and reconquer Spanish lands from the Moors. Now, of course, it has more to do with the power of the pen than the sword. Enrique was invited to join five years ago as a result of his writings and work on behalf of the province of León.

Friday, December 8, 2017

La Virgen de la Esperanza

She's my favourite image of the Virgin, Mary, dear mother of Jesus. I love God very much, but don't consider myself very religious, which is humorously ironic since it's tradition for my very Catholic man to visit every church and cathedral of every city and town we come across. That means we've taken in centuries of Virgin Mary renditions. This Virgen, however, makes me stop and gaze a little longer. I asked Enrique her name and he said she's the Virgin of Sweet Expectation. She's just resting her hand on her unborn son, feeling him move and loving him as mothers do. She's so serene and calm at an event that will change the world. It's all about love. What a beautiful thing.
"The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Luke 1:28 Just a simple maiden with her hands stretched out to God saying, "Lord, thy will be done. I will abide."
#lavirgen #virgendeladulceespera #lavirgindelaesperanza #marydidyouknow
in the  Catedral de León.

I've never seen these; they are lovely, too.

Monday, November 13, 2017



The magical moment my students saw their beautiful melted crayon and leaf stained glass art against the light,

Finding a treasure today, my favorite bedtime tea in León, Spain, which I'm sipping as I write,

Going out for tapas and little beers with my wonderful friend and partner in lifes' joys and challenges,

Reading "Patria" together, a gripping Spanish novel and birthday gift from my literature students.
Many more blessings, but that's a start.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Murano's Fancy Glass Beads

Fancy glass beads from the Venetian island of Murano. Murano glassmakers have developed and refined centuries-old glassmaking techniques for centuries and continue to specialize in their craft to to this day.
This bowl of beads, cast aside amongst so many other valuable treasures caught my eye. Eash one is so individual, so interesting. Many are porous, others are perfectly round, but almost all have some sort of flaw shouting out, "I'm hand-made, the real deal." Maybe that's just like us.
To be authentic we have to have holes and gaps and flaws. In all of it that's why we are most unique and beautiful. The collector in me wanted to bring the whole bowl of eye-candy home. I satisfied my longing with this photo instead.
#fancyglass #crystallineglass #enamelledglass #smalto #goldenglass#goldstone #multicoloredglass #millefiori #milkglass #lattimo#glassgemstones #figurines #comtemporary #traditional #Murano#Venice #Venetia #Venezia

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Pastries for the Dead

Pastries for the dead, or los dulces de los muertos sounds macabre. It sounds like something you'd find at the bakery, perhaps at Halloween, but in actuality these sweets are for All Saint's Day, All Saint's Day is celebrated every November 1 in Spain and many countries, as a day families remember those that have passed on.
The typical way to celebrate is meeting together at the gravesite (after mass for those who attend) of the loved ones, having cleaned and put new flowers on the tomb, and then continue the family reunion at a restaurant or individual homes. It's a sweet time of remembering those we loved and love. And these are the typical pastries to accompany the tradition:

Cada primero de Noviembre se celebra el Día de Todos los Santos. Además, esta celebración cuenta con varios dulces típicos de este día.

Saints Bones
Saints Bones, a marzipan dessert filled with egg custard from traditional recipes that have a popular name due to the shape of the roll which looks like a bone.
Huesos de Santo
Huesos de Santo, un postre de mazapán relleno de dulce de yema, una receta tradicional que ha llegado a popularizar su nombre por el aspecto de canutillo que recuerda a un hueso. 

A typical recipe for All Saints' Day that is made up of a dough of flour, butter and egg that is fried in oil. Similar to Saints' Bones, its origin is surely the Arabic kitchen, like that of most of the oil fried sweets.
(Metric) Ingredients for Fritters:
125 grams of flour
30 gr of butter
1/4 l of water
40 gr of sugar
4 eggs
grated lemon half
olive oil

Buñuelos de Viento
Una receta típica del día de Todos los Santos que están compuestos por una masa de harina, mantequilla y huevo que se fríe en aceite. Como en el caso de los huesos de santo, su origen seguramente, como el de todos los dulces que se pasan por aceite hirviendo, esté en la cocina árabe.
Ingredientes para la receta Buñuelos de viento:
125 gr de harina.
30 gr de mantequilla.
1/4 l de agua.
40 gr de azúcar.
4 huevos.
ralladura de medio limón.
aceite de oliva.

Además se nota la interacción con otros mundos, la cual ha traído dulces diferentes de otras zonas que se van integrando, algunos cercanos como los panellets catalanes, pero también los dulces que en México preparan para otro día, Día de los Muertos, para ofender a los muertos a los que llevan comidas sabrosas como una evocación de su amor por ellos.
-Texto Español de El Faro

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Little Art Theory

Wednesdays are fast becoming the best day of the week.
Un poco de teoría de arte. Los miércoles rápidamente se están convirtiendo en el mejor día de la semana.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Leaves Fallen Flat

I once had a wooden frame that held two pieces of glass which I could slide out to place natural flower and leaf specimens between the panes. It was an especially beautiful way to exhibit and examine special finds from my walks. This time nature produced the same stunning effect as my frame did with autumn leaves fallen flat by the previous day's rain, horizontally pressed against the ceiling of Madrid's Cristal Palace.
#Madrid #parqueretiro #naturewalk #leaves #leaves #otoño #naturegeek #paseos #otoño #elretiro #palaciodecristal #cristalpalace #nofilter

Monday, October 16, 2017

Me Too

In case you are wondering why "me too"
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
Age 12 on a Navajo reservation. Home and my step-father for years. Teen, my older boyfriend, date rape. College student, a flat mate in a new city. Objectification, husband. Too many inappropriate and unwanted touches to mention. Enough is enough!
It hugely impacted my life; immobilized me and fed my fears when I was younger and distorted my trust when I was older. I'm so thankful for my present relationship and the strength gathered personally to denounce this evil with my sisters globally.
"Keep saying it, because we are fighting not one guy here, but a system that can only be challenged by collective rage, not individual shame."
#metoo #abuseofpower #powerover #harveyweinstein #sexualharassment#widespread

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Los Arboles Lloran

Mi corazón está tan apesadumbrado con los fuegos en California, mi cuna. Todo se está quemando, es una devastación total; la flora y la fauna han desaparecido, casas y vidas humanas perdidas. Es una tragedia.
Hay tragedias que no podemos evitar, pero hay otras formas de devastación que se producen debido a la ignorancia. Como el desconocimiento acerca de cómo funcionan los árboles y lo que afecta a su salud. Éste es el tipo de devastación que estamos viendo aquí en Astorga y en tantos lugares donde están podando los árboles en exceso. Los están mutilado en la forma que ves aquí. En lugar de podarlos en el invierno profundo, se cortan sus ramas ahora tantísimo y cuando aún su savia está en lo alto. Los dejan sin hojas para alimentarse y las heridas de las motosierras dejan los cortes abiertos expuestas a las enfermedades. Esto es criminal.

Catalonia, Too Much, Said the Fish

What's does a Fish have to do with the separatist movement  in Catalonia? Well, it's a fairy tale about a magical fish and a Catalonian government that every time wants more and more from Spain. While the outcome surely won't be the same, the demands and expectations of Spain's most prosperous province sound much too similar. First, you'll have to have read the Grimm Brother's Tale of The Fisherman and his Wife to understand what I'm going to write next.

¿Qué tiene que ver el Pez de la fábula con el movimiento separatista de Cataluña? Bueno, hay un cuento de hadas sobre un pez mágico que concede deseos y alguien que siempre quiere más, como el gobierno de Cataluña respecto de España. Si bien el resultado seguramente no será el mismo, las exigencias y expectativas de la región más próspera de España son muy similares. Primero, tendrás que haber leído el Cuento de Grimm "El Pescador y su Esposa" para entender lo que voy a escribir a continuación.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Jet Lag

Jet lag and traffic jams have a lot in common. You need to arrive to a state of sleep or to a mapped destination, but either way you are stuck, pinned down physically by an external that keeps you from moving ahead. "I refer to jet lag as 'jet psychosis - there's an old saying that the spirit cannot move faster than a camel."
#jetlag #insomnia #nopuedodormir #stuck #traffic #trafico #spaldinggray

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

About Connection

"What curriculum did you use?" a new friend asked me when she discovered that we both homeschooled our children for well over a decade. We both had used the same integrated studies based on our love of literature. There was an immediate sense of commonality that got me thinking about connection and it's meaning at a deeper level.
Life can be many things to many people. There's commonality, what we share, and then there's a reaching out and making contact, and that's connection. A seedling reaches upward towards a bright sunlit sky and finds the nourishment to grow and flourish. A foal reaches up to its mother for warm life-sustaining milk. A single cell attaches and holds onto nutrient-rich lining to multiply into a complexity that still baffles scientists.
There's a bridging of chasms where otherwise there'd be nothingness. Death is bridged by life. I love life and therefore the giver of life. I love when a limp little creature bursts forth helpless from the womb and finally gains its strength, or a wet butterfly emerges from is cocoon and actually has the chance to dry its wings to fly. And, I love when Christ, the only figure to do so in all of religiondom, reaches out, spans the expanse of eternity to make peace between a just God and a world of hopelessly separated individuals. I love that there's a God, who's not just about commonality, but of connection. Of reaching out. Of life.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Dogs of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara on the central California coast, has the Santa Ynez Mountains as dramatic backdrop, Spanish Mediterranean-style white stucco buildings with red-tile roofs, upscale boutiques and restaurants offering local wines and seasonal fare. There are two impressive botanical gardens, the Franciscan Mission, multiple art galleries and museums and many more attractions, not to mention the fabulous beach and coastline!
But, that's not what this post is about. It's about how, in an exclusive city like this one, dogs of all shapes and sizes are so welcome and seen everywhere, even in the poshest of places.

Santa Bárbara en la costa central de California, tiene como telón de fondo dramático las montañas de Santa Inés, edificios de estuco blanco de estilo español mediterráneo con tejados de teja roja, boutiques de lujo y restaurantes que ofrecen vinos locales y comida de temporada. Hay dos impresionantes jardines botánicos, la Misión Franciscana, múltiples galerías de arte y museos y muchas más atracciones, por no hablar de la fabulosa playa y la costa!
Pero, no es eso de lo que trata este post. Trata de cómo, en una ciudad tan exclusiva como ésta, los perros de todas las formas y tamaños son tan bienvenidos y vistos por todas partes, incluso en los lugares más lujosos.

There are even doggie treats in the bank for that patient hound.
Incluso en el banco hay golosinas para los perros mientras esperan.

Dogs small and large are welcome to enter and shop.
Los perros, pequeños o grandes, son bienvenidos en los comercios.

Which ice-cream should we choose, Mom?
¿Qué helado debemos elegir, mamá?

Friday, September 22, 2017


An awesome two hour two of one of the most stunning botanical jewels in the USA. We were fortunate to book a 10am limited tour of the 37-acre Montecito estate of Ganna Walska, a polish opera star from the 1920s. Walska created the gardens between 1940 and 1980s and we got to see al, but the Japanese Garden, which is being renovated. Just look at this list! Not only are there tropical and subtropical plants, but every imaginable plant in the following gardens:

Aloe garden, blue garden, bromeliads, Insectary Garden, cacti & euphorbias, cactus garden, cycad garden, Dracaena circle, fern garden, orchards, parterre, palmetum, shade palm garden, succulent garden, theatre garden, topiary garden, tropical garden, water garden, water stairs and cypress allée

Since it's so well photographed and featured in several YouTube publications, I decided to put down my camera and just enjoy the stroll and sights in Sara's company.

Well, this last video won't disappoint because it's the explanation of how a determined and very beautiful Ganna Walska walzed through a life of wealth and luxury by way of marriage and good fortune. She had 6 husbands. A few died and she divorced a few and her accumulated fortune as a result allowed her to create this extravagant garden masterpiece.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Sunflowers Do

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It's what sunflowers do. -Helen Keller
Not thinking backwards nor forwards; just loving these bright yellow days of September's garden with my favourite sunflower.
#sunflower #girasoles #septiembre #september#sunshine #lompoc #daughterlove #helenkeller#visitagenial #daughtertime #fallbouquet