Friday, February 17, 2017

The Magic of Greek Music

Last Sunday we were fortunate enough to hear the riveting music of Orestis Koletsos and Athena Labiri, at the Greek Food Imports on Fulton Avenue (near Fair Oaks Blvd.) Athena sings and plays the guitar; Orestis plays the bouzouki and sometimes joins her in song. Together, they are a perfectly synchronized team, and for three hours Rajan and I were mesmerized. You may (or may not) be able to hear a few strains in this short video.

We first heard Orestis Koletsos play the bouzouki last September at the Greek Festival, which for years has been at the Community Center on J Street at 14th, each Labor Day week-end. (This year it will be at the Greek Orthodox Church on Alhambra Blvd., across from McKinley Park in October, instead.) Since we enjoyed the music so much, we were delighted to learn of last Sunday's concert. We enjoy Greek food, so the Greek Food Imports was a great find for us. They have a deli, as well as imports from Greece. Being vegetarians, we were able to enjoy delicious snacks while we listened to the music (and the retsina was pretty good, too.) We also met some lovely people at our table. (Good music and food have a way of doing that.) I'm uploading a couple more videos, and I hope they will play well on this post. 

Meanwhile, if you enjoy Greek food, definitely check out the Greek Food Imports. (They have a page on Facebook, too, so you can learn of coming events as well as check out their menu.)

If you enjoy Greek music, definitely check out the Facebook Page for Orestis so you can learn of other performances, both in the Sacramento area and other towns.

And if you like both Greek food and Greek music, watch for the Greek Festival the first week-end in October. Opa!

Do you know of other festivals that offer good music and food? What are your favorites? 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Inspirational People

Almost a week has gone by since the march  last Saturday, and two days have gone by since a visit to good reading and writing friends, Romain and Pam Nelsen.

 I'll talk about the friends first, and then later in this post add more pictures of the march.

I met Romain and Pam when Romain was a fellow student in a series of workshops conducted by Sands Hall in Sacramento. We were all so sorry when the last class ended. (Hall is a remarkable teacher.) When the series ended, a group of us decided to form a writing group, and we called it ASH. (Alumni of Sands Hall.) Romain and his lovely wife were kind enough to host the group in their home in Davis for a few years, until health problems made hosting difficult. But I and others remember those days so warmly. It was a great group, the critiques were truly stellar, and many of us went on to become published. It was wonderful, Wednesday, to sip tea, eat pumpkin bread, and reminisce about the old days.

For her part, Pam is an avid reader (she reads her husband's work), and we have found we share a great love of mysteries, among other genres.
Meanwhile, in recent years, as well as being a fine writer of short stories, Ro has gone on to do woodworking. He created the guitar you see in the pictures above. (He can play that thing pretty well, too.)

On to the women's march: Through the years, the Nelsens were always inspirational to talk with about politics. We are much on the same wave length. And they would have been marching if their energy levels were up to it, so Rajan and I marched for them as well as for ourselves. In fact I march for another couple, dear friends in Colfax, who are dealing with some health issues, and another writer friend in Sisters in Crime who was not free to march that day. It was a march to remember, for sure. Several other friends were marching, but the crowd was so thick, we didn't run into them. Organizers had expected 10,000, but over 20,000 showed up! To give you some idea of what that looks like, here are some pictures.
Add caption
Add caption
It was also exciting to hear how many marched all over the country and abroad. We go to Braga, Portugal periodically in connection with my cozy mystery.

A friend there wrote that Braga had a march, as well as Lisbon, Porto, and many other cities in Portugal.

 But the newspapers reported over 50 countries had marches, and there were marches every continent, including Antarctica. Wow!

 Knowing that gave me such a great feeling of solidarity with people in a world that is larger than "Me first!"
Add caption

How about you? Did you march? Did you have friends who marched? Do you find peaceful gatherings inspirational and energy boosting, or do large crowds make you nervous? If you are a writer, to you have an alternative hobby like woodworking or some other handicraft? What do you do for inspiration?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Celebrating Submissions & Good Books

I had mentioned earlier that one of my New Year's resolutions was to write more. Well, I've been scribbling notes for WIPs and new works, but more importantly, I've been submitting work—last week, a picture book and a chapter book. Today, I submitted10 poems to a contest.

On another note, I'm celebrating two good reads: I ordered and have begun to read, Anne Bronte's The Tenant at Wildfowl Hall (which I mentioned in last week's post on my blog next door: Victorian Scribbles). And I'm halfway through Amy Thomas's The Detective and the Woman and the Winking Tree. Expect positive reviews for both in posts to come.

What a pleasure good books are!

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog. (You can go to any of these sites to add your name to the links, if you want to participate. I recommend it, because it's always fun to see news that others are celebrating, and to share your own as well. )

What are you celebrating this week? Did you make New Year resolutions? If so, were you able to start applying to at least one of them? If not, are you somewhat skeptical of resolutions, and do you just go with the flow or wing it each year? Any good reads to share?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sick this week . . .

I expected to have a New Year's post early in the week, but came down Tuesday with a really unpleasant virus. If I hadn't had my flu shot, I would swear it's the flu. I'm on the upswing, so I expect to be back posting next week. Until then, belated Happy New Year and everyone have a great week-end.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Joyeux Noel, A Movie We Watch Each Year

German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment pose with men of the Royal
Warwickshire Regiment in 'No Man's Land' on the Western Front in
December 2014. Photo is in the Public Domain. You can read the
article HERE
Every year for the past three years, I've returned to an earlier post about a film that continues to move me deeply: Joyeux Noel, the 2005-2006 film that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film. This has become my favorite Christmas movie, and I watch it each year. (You can order it from Amazon here: )

The individual stories highlighted in the film (among them, a German opera singer gets permission to join her lover at the front for Christmas Eve) were fictitious, but the over all story is based on a true happening on a Christmas Eve in 1914, in the theater of war: Scottish, French, and German troops agreed to a cease fire, and put down their weapons to celebrate Christmas Eve. Bonds were formed. The next day, troops  even warned each other of planned shellings and offered refuge in each other's trenches when the shellings occurred.

A few years ago, Sacramento Bee published an article about this phenomenon, a phenomenon that actually occurred in several places across Belgium and across the Western Front. One such place was Flanders Field, (the site of John McCrae’s famous poem later, comparing the blood of slain British warriors to red poppies.) You can read the article by pressing "HERE" under the photo above.

In Joyeux Noel, on Christmas Eve, German soldiers began playing music familiar to both German and Scottish soldiers. Then the French joined in. Soon an informal truce was struck. Troops visited each other, gave each other food and small gifts. Some played games. For a little while, peace broke out. The Christmas mass was conducted out in No Man's Land with all of the soldiers responding in their different languages.But afterwards, (as happened in the movie), army generals took steps to make sure it couldn't happen again. In the following war years, at Christmastime, generals stepped up the fighting to ensure that no one would even think of a truce.

In this case, for all three military groups, the only thing that saved troops from being tried for treason was the fact that 200 or so in each case would have to be tried. Instead, all the participants were transferred to other fronts to prevent future occurrences.

Joyeux Noel is a remarkable film--a reminder that we are human first, and that the human impulse is toward peace. It is the political impulse that moves nations to war. Basic decency is core to the human heart.

So here it is again: The New Year is on its way. We still live in a troubled world, wondering how to meet the challenges, though the Christmas message is clear—one we should be thinking of as we decorate our trees, hang our lights, send our cards: Peace on earth, good will to all.

Best wishes for a time of true peace, when love is stronger than fear, and people can be united again in their common humanity.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October in Galicia

Early October.

Little lambs everywhere. So cute.
Our trip to Galicia this fall seemed to fly by. When we arrived, the weather      
seemed like summer. Except for a couple of rainy and windy days that were chilly, the temperatures have been fabulous. Blue skies and warm afternoons, with moderately  chilly mornings or evenings.  You can see in the picture below that even now fall is only beginning.
Now the trees are starting to turn.

On the far hill is a small village called Piñeiro. It used to show more completely, as well as another small village below it called San Lorenz. But as the population ages and the young people move away or go abroad for jobs, there is less farming. The trees aren't cleared. Also, for the older people, the calefacción is replacing the wood-burning stove for heating the home, and so fewer trees are chopped down for firewood.
 Due to my eye surgery, we couldn't come to Trasulfe until October, and then we squeezed in 4 days of that time to go to Braga, Portugal. (I've been posting pictures of Braga on my Facebook Timeline.) But this was one trip where I didn't work much through the week. I had rewritten my mystery for the trillionth time and sent it off, and except for a couple of book reviews, I let myself kick back and relax on this visit. Rajan and I just spent time with neighbors and friends, or going into Monforte, the nearest big town, and joining others for coffee or lunch or dinner. It was great! Rajan, of course, was better about taking his daily walks and taking black-and-white photos everywhere on country roads and in the small hamlets.

I did take loads of pictures, though. Despite the fact we are about to go home in three days, I'll be posting about the trip, starting today with a post about the feria. Ah, the feria!

We love it! It's simply the old village fair, although there's a fair or market day in every town or village, no matter what size. Monforte de Lemos (Monforte for short) has three each month, always on the same dates: the 6th, the 16th, and the 24th. The 24th is the biggest one, though, and simply packed with stalls and people. Other towns around have at least two, but Monforte is our favorite. You can buy anything: shoes, clothing, dishtowels, tablecloths, winemaking supplies, stills to make aguardiente, a killer brandy that goes into café or is used to make flavored liquors in every home. (It's legal here to distill brandy for home use, although you can't sell it.)

These made us laugh.

Rajan passing produce stands.

Wine-making vats.

Yup. Stills in all sizes for the home.

We went with our neighbor Miguel, as we do at least once each trip.

In the big hall you see pictured below, the specialty is pulpo (octopus). Now, at first, the idea of eating octopus had me wary, but both Rajan and I were surprised to learn we like it—a lot! We look forward to lunch with Miguel on every trip, now.

The way they prepare pulpo at the fairs is to boil it in a copper pot until it is tender, then cut it in small pieces and provide toothpicks instead of forks. Once on the wooden plate, they sprinkle paprika or red pepper, depending on whether you like it picante — we do — and drizzle it with olive oil. (You can also get broiled meat, but we are vegetarians, although we do eat seafood.)

Sonia preparing the pulpo to serve. We see her at all the ferias, including at Ferreira and at Escairón. (She's actually neighbor to an acquaintance near Tuiriz. Slowly you learn these things.) Since the fairs in each town are all on different dates, it works out well for her to make the rounds.   The meal includes a bottle of the house wine and a long loaf of bread to tear into pieces and dip in the olive oil on your plate. (Mmm, good!)

The olive oil.

Miguel, savoring pulpo. 

The pulpo.

Wine, bread, and pulpo. A great trio.

We arrived early, and sat at one of the long tables while Sonia prepared our order. As you can see, the place hadn't filled up yet, but by the time we left, the regulars had arrived—whole families—and the air was full of laughter and greetings.
Before the crowd.

Later—a good time being had by all.

Then it was time to go home. Hope you have enjoyed your afternoon at the feria! More photos and posts to come. Meanwhile . . .

Have you ever been to a village fair? Have you ever eaten octopus? If so, how was it prepared? Have you ever eaten a dish you never expected to eat? What is your favorite "new" food that you tried for the first time?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Two Follow-up Videos of the Musicians at the Greek Festival.


Rajan took these two videos at the Greek Festival, and they really capture the music. But for some reason I can't get the sound to work on this blog. Any suggestions?

Meanwhile, they do play on Facebook, if you want to go to my Facebook Timeline HERE.

 Happy listening!