Category Archives: Food

O WorldCon, My WorldCon


by Lillian Csernica on August 26, 2018

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Oh my stars and garters! The past two weeks have been one long road trip. First, my mother had to go to the ER, and was then admitted to the hospital. It’s been two weeks today and she’s still there. In the midst of this ordeal, I had to leave town for the 76th World Science Fiction Convention, aka ConJose 2.

Here are just some of the highlights of this grand adventure:

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The Art of John Picacio

The T shirts! The Program Book! The Badges! Biiiiig badges, suitable for my ribbon whore tendencies along with plenty of room on the back for one’s participant schedule. Very considerate design, that.

Seeing Old Friends

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Kelly Buehler and Daniel Spector

Two of my favorite people, Kelly and Daniel now reside in that lovely country where Kelly will be co-chairing ConZealand in 2020! Start saving up now, kids! That will definitely be the happening spot on the planet!

The Usual Suspects from BayCon — You know who you are. All the people who came running up to me outside the entrance to the Dealers Room, seizing me in hugs so enthusiastic that some left a few bruises. Fine with me. The newer folks who introduced me to Cards Against Humanity at BayCon were there, including Karen in all her pink-tiara-and-camo glory.

David J. Peterson — Jedi Master among conlangers, creator of Dothraki for the Game of Thrones TV series, and an all-around sweet fellow. He once turned my name into a word in Dark Elvish, suitable for Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. The word? “Liljahi,” meaning to love. Not a word you’d hear very often in a warrior culture. Thanks, Dave!

Making New Friends

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Brenda Clough

 

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Joseph Malik

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Manny Frishberg

Room Parties!

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The Expanse — You have to love these fans. They really know how to throw a party. General ambience of red light. Marvelous Expanse-themed décor. In one room hung a tree that lit up from the roots to the branches. Solid color, then rainbow. Hypnotic! There was music playing and a bar and lots of people packed in there having a good time.

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Locus 50th Anniversary Party — A milestone in the industry, for sure. What stands out most in my memory is the planet cake with the fondant rockets and aliens. Way cool, excellent frosting, and high quality chocolate cake. OK, so I’m a foodie.

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Hal-Con — This event is put on by a fan group from Kawasaki. I met them in the area of the convention center devoted to fan tables. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to speak my tourist Japanese to actual Japanese people. I don’t get anywhere near enough practice. They invited me to their room party that evening. Oh wow. Lots of Japanese snacks, the great stuff you can’t get here in the States. Four Japanese ladies got me all wound up in a heavy brocade obi, the kind worn with a bridal kimono. Three different people were taking photos and video, including my usual partner in crime, Patricia H. MacEwen. I know the “obi fairies” tied at least two separate knots as demonstrations while I stood there with both hands holding my long hair piled on top of my head. I did tell the Kawasaki folks about the stories I’ve written set in Satsuma, Kyoto, and Fukushima. At the end of the evening, they did me the honor of giving me the obi.

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B-Cubed Press Table

Several of us who contributed to Alternate Theologies gathered at the table in the Dealers Room to sign copies. Bob and Phyl had badge wallets for us in purple, my favorite color! It was good to meet the other writers in the anthology, especially David Gerrold. He’s a hoot, he really is.
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The SFWA Suite

It’s good to hang out in the company of one’s colleagues. It’s even better to hang out in the company of one’s idols. Cat Rambo, Harry Turtledove, Nancy Kress, Diana Paxson, Saladin Ahmed…. At ConFrancisco, back in 1993, I made my first visit to the SFWA Suite as an Active Member. It was a thrill then, and it always will be.

There was cake. Lots of cake. The Analog party, the Clarion reunion, another author’s novel promotion.

One room of the suite was devoted to watching the Hugo Awards. I spent most of my time in what might be thought of as the conversational salon. Had a chance to really enjoy my time floating from one conversation to the next.

Next year we head to Dublin!

 

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How History Books Will Make You a Better Writer


by Lillian Csernica on June 27, 2018

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Why do I write about history?

History gives me an opportunity to get the big picture on how different countries have tried to make different strategies work. Economic strategies, military strategies, and the more cultural and artistic strategies that come under the heading of fashion.

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A good example is Scotland, which has a long history of internal clan conflicts and the border wars with England. The weather in Scotland tends toward clouds and rain. Sheep do well on the landscape of Scotland, so you see a lot of wool in their clothing styles, notably the kilt. I know a lot of people who have spent a great deal of time looking up their family tartans. The truth is, clan tartans are an invention of the Victorian period. This is one of those annoying facts that bursts the romantic bubble of many an amateur historian.

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I’ve written often about my fondness for Japan. Feudal Japan was an era of strict social classes, laws about fashion, and precise rules about social etiquette. While the tyranny of the Tokugawa Shogunate was eventually its own undoing, I must confess I would find a certain comfort in having so many matters of culture spelled out for me. Modern Japanese also enjoy the two-edged sword of knowing exactly who they are and where they stand in whatever social context they find themselves. In the time of the Tokugawa, clothing, hairstyles, personal ornamentation, and weaponry were the indicators of social position. Today we see all that grandeur reduced to the common everyday business card. That has become the crucial indicator of status and context for the Japanese. Westerners are advised to bring plenty of their own. Otherwise there are businesses available which produce cards very quickly with one side in English and the other in Japanese.

It was Eleanor who paid her son's ransom when he was captured

I write romance novels, so I get to take a close look at the techniques of wooing in various times and places. Medieval Europe had the concept of the Court of Chivalry. Eleanor of Aquitaine was largely responsible for this idea. Knights were measured against the Code of Chivalry to see if they met the beau ideal of those times. The real purpose of the Courts of Chivalry was to keep the women occupied while the men were off on Crusade or fighting battles closer to home. Bored noblewomen can be dangerous noblewomen, as Eleanor of Aquitaine herself proved on more than one occasion. In our present time the High Court of Chivalry deals with matters of heraldry.

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Novels from the Regency and Victorian periods entertain me because they’re all about clothes and money. Social position is the bottom line, and so many of the characters are looking to trade up. Finding someone you can love for the rest of your life is nowhere near as important as finding someone with a respectable income of so many hundreds or thousands of pounds per year. It’s possible that I’ve become a tad cynical regarding romance. When you’ve been married for thirty years, the starry-eyed honeymoon phase is a rather distant memory. That’s probably why I enjoy recreating it in my stories.

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Oddly enough, ancient history holds little appeal for me. The mysteries of ancient Egypt focus so much on the afterlife. I know more than I ever wanted to about the process of mummification. I find it interesting that the Egyptian gods have animal heads, which also occur in the Hindu pantheon. What does this similarity mean? What exchange of culture might have gone on that modern archaeologists have yet to discover? As with so many cultures, the most noteworthy people are the upper classes, especially the royalty. The lower classes, especially the slaves, had a hard life. 

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One of the most fascinating aspects of history is food. For the first novel I ever wrote, I had to go looking for Basque cookbooks because the novel was set in Navarre. It took quite some doing, but I finally discovered what my heroine would have for breakfast: chestnuts boiled in milk and sprinkled with nutmeg. Compare that with the necessity in Egypt of having many festal days where the upper classes distributed beer and bread to the lower classes. If not for that, many of the commoners and slaves in Egypt would have starved to death.

In Medieval Europe, bread, watered wine, ale, meats such as venison, game birds, and roast pork, and large wheels of cheese made up the main meal. You can find a number of cookbooks online that provide recipes from the Middle Ages. The key difference in culinary art between the Middles Ages and the Renaissance came down to the use of spices. The Middle Ages saw lots of spices thrown in for rich flavors. Renaissance cooking became more selective, creating unique dishes centered around particular flavor combinations. My research in this area taught me the pleasure of chicken prepared with cinnamon.

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Then there’s jewelry. I could go on and on about the delights of dressing up my heroes and heroines in the bijouterie of their particular time periods. From the hair ornaments of the geisha to the mourning rings of the Victorian period, from the jeweled inlays of the Egyptian pectoral collars to the prayer ropes of the Middles Ages called paternosters made from ivory beads or garnets or even pearls, the treasure chests of history are overflowing. I once had the pleasure of visiting the Smithsonian Institution and seeing the earrings of Marie Antoinette. Given that their total weight was more than 35 carats, it’s a wonder she didn’t end up with earlobes stretched like King Tut’s!

History is full of fascinating details. There are so many ideas out there just waiting to inspire you. Read those history books, those biographies, those memoirs! You never know when you’re going to find the one detail that opens up a world of inspiration.

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #24


by Lillian Csernica on May 24, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Demonstrate refinement in everything you do.

THE STANDARD OF LIVING

Deanna watched the fire, adding some sticks to keep the flames at the right height. The grill Johnny had found in some trash heap held four skewers with five small chunks of meat on each skewer. Deanna didn’t know what kind of meat. She told herself it was animal protein, and that was what mattered. It could have been worse. Even with the city burning and the streetlights smashed and the blood smeared on the sidewalks and the doorways. Somewhere Johnny had found some meat. It might have been tofu.

Deanna could make herself put up with a lot of discomforts. She’d braided her long brown hair to keep it tidy. Her jeans and blouse were still fairly clean. She’d have given up her gold chain for a toothbrush and some toothpaste. Eating junk food and drinking sodas or energy drinks or anything else they could find, that she could live with. She drew the line at tofu.

Johnny came jogging back from his latest hunt for supplies. Deanna let out a sigh of relief. It had been quieter today, but still. The sight of his greasy blue overalls, curly black hair and long legs made her feel a little calmer. This morning they’d moved to the sheltered spot on the side of the high school facing away from the road. It was better to keep out of sight, hiding in a place where they could hear the scavenger crews coming. Two nights ago Deanna had seen a boy swept up in the mob rushing down the street. She didn’t want to think about what might have happened to him.

“I found some good stuff in a basement.” Johnny plopped down beside her on the flattened cardboard box they used for ground cover. He rummaged in his backpack. Glass clinked. With a big grin, he held up two bottles of some off-brand beer. “Nothing like a barbecue under the stars!”

Deanna managed a smile. She loved Johnny for his upbeat spirit, for his endless cocky remarks reflecting a confidence she didn’t feel. Four nights ago the world had gone insane. The power grid failed. Computers all failed due to some big horrible virus sent out by some mysterious gang of international hackers. All the news outlets had been shut down. No phones, no TVs, nothing but hysteria and violence and whispered rumors about who was behind it all.

Deanna pulled a clean bandana out of her backpack and set two skewers on it, offering them to John. She pulled out another bandana for herself, then two of the paper napkins.

Johnny pulled the heavy keyring out of his hip pocket and pried the cap off one bottle of beer and handed it to her. “It’s warm, but hey, that’s how they drink it in England, right?”

Deanna nodded. She accepted the beer, watched Johnny open his own, then held up her bottle.

“To better days.”

Johnny grinned. “Better days, baby. You bet.”

They clinked bottles. Johnny drank a long swallow of his beer, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. Deanna ducked her head to hide the wince she couldn’t stop. A diamond in the rough, she told herself. He worked hard at the auto shop, he’d always been polite, and he made sure Deanna felt safe and comfortable. She’d just have to do what her grandmother taught her and be the one who preserved the manners in the family.

Grandma Elaine set a perfect table, gave the best presents, and made sure Deanna knew all the proper phrases for formal occasions. “Congratulations.” “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “Happy Birthday! Wishing you your best year yet.” On and on, handwritten thank you notes, party invitations, and the list of Christmas cards. Deanna’s mother had abandoned writing by hand in junior high in favor of electronic devices. Mama had laughed at Grandma’s slow, old-fashioned ways.

Tears blurred Deanna’s sight, smearing the flames into so many orange flickers. Nobody was laughing now. Deanna had been out with Johnny when the house caught fire. Mama and Grandma were already asleep. Deanna hoped the smoke killed them before the fire did.

“Hey,” Johnny said. “Hey, honey, why are you cryin’?”

Deanna sat up straight and wiped her cheeks with her napkin. “The smoke, Johnny. That’s all. Just smoke in my eyes.”

Johnny looked up at the sky. “Yeah, the wind’s picking up. Rain would sure help, but we gotta find a place inside first.”

Deanna nodded. She bit into a chunk of the meat, ignoring the peculiar taste. Protein meant strength. Strength meant survival. Survival meant living to see those better days, living in a house again with nice furniture and fresh flowers and guest towels in the downstairs bathroom. Concentrating on all the proper details Grandma would expect to see in Deanna’s new house made it easier to force down the strange meat and the bitter warm beer.

She’d survive. Grandma would consider that a lady’s duty, to preserve civilized behavior.

END

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #19


by Lillian Csernica on May 19, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Your shoes will make you happy today.

 

 

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #16


by Lillian Csernica on May 16, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.

VICTORY IS SWEET

Regina sat in the highest room atop the marble tower on the Isle of the Turquoise Clouds. In honor of the coming moment, she wore midnight blue velvet, her river of black hair swept up and held in place with clusters of diamonds. On the desk before her lay two pieces of parchment. On one, a list topped by the word Temptation. On the other, a similar list topped by the word Opportunity. She contemplated the words written beneath Temptation, inked in the blood of a rare night bird. Words of power. Words of warning. Dangerous words. As such, all the more attractive.

Beneath Opportunity lay words written in ink made of water from the Sacred Spring of Seven Rainbows mixed with the crushed petals of the Sunrise Lotus, which blossomed only on the morning of the first day of the New Year. Fortune favored the prepared mind. Regina had made her preparations with the greatest care. The decision that lay before her could alter destinies beyond the scope of her imagination, perhaps even beyond the reach of her dreams.

The first full moon of Spring hung round and bright. The night-blooming flowers raised their faces in its silvery light, loosing their fragrances upon the evening breeze. The constellations graced the heavens with their sparkling patterns. Regina read the lists again, then bent her head. A nod, a bow, a gesture of surrender to the ineffable powers of Chance and Fate.

The hourglass ran empty. The moment of decision had arrived.

At the base of the tower, the ship’s bell rang three times. Regina rose from the desk, taking one list with her. She walked to the ivory lattice gates that opened onto a shaft running the length of the tower. Summoning a turquoise cloud, Regina descended to the ground floor. She raised one hand and the heavy oaken door swung inward.

Before her stood a creature that came up to her shoulder. It wore a white shirt, blue lederhosen, black shoes with shiny buckles, and one of those ridiculous Robin Hood-style hats that failed to hide the creature’s pointed ears. On one small hand rested an oblong box wrapped in scarlet silk. On the other hand rested another oblong box wrapped in silk the blue of a perfect summer sky.

“The red,” Regina said.

“You are certain?” The creature’s high, reedy voice sounded like crickets. “The penalty is the loss of our deliveries for the remainder of your lifetime.”

“Do not presume to instruct me. The next decision I make could cause you considerable pain.”

The creature bowed. “As you wish.”

Regina took the scarlet box and unwrapped the silk. To choose Temptation was to risk everything she’d learned, everything she’d built. To choose Opportunity meant running the same risk, but the reward was tremendous.

The silk fell away, baring a box made of sturdy brown paper. She opened the end flaps. A tube of mirror-bright silver slid out onto her palm. Inside lay twenty-four discs of the finest baked confection known to any living being.

“Well chosen,” the creature said. “Few can penetrate the logic of the double-bluff.” It stepped back and made Regina another bow. “Until next year.”

END

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie 10


by Lillian Csernica on May 10, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.

All God’s Children

Gloria had a rough time living up to her name. During some Christmas when she was just a little girl, somebody had told her about “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” Gloria liked the sound of “Glory to God in the highest” in Latin and in plain English. She figured out “the highest” meant Heaven. It was the other thing she figured out that ended up causing all the trouble.

Gloria’s mother Jenny started out looking a trifle too wild for the folks at St. Michael’s. She had tattoos, a few piercings, and a braid dyed pink and blue and purple. She turned up in the soup kitchen on the same weekend we were there serving dinner. Three of our church ladies had done the cooking. I was the parish council Treasurer in those days. I played a fair amount of football in college, so a big solid linebacker came in handy loading and unloading the church van as well as making sure our church ladies didn’t have any trouble with some of the rougher folks we served.

Jenny started to turn up at St. Michael’s on Sundays. At first she just needed the box of donated food from the church pantry. Pretty soon she was coming to Mass. She wore long sleeves and left most of her jewelry at home, and covered up her hair with a nice floral scarf. In the beginning Jenny was just being polite, showing respect and coming to Mass as a way of saying thank you for the help we gave her. The one time I saw Gloria’s daddy out in the parking lot, it was obvious he wasn’t much of a church-going man. Reminded me of the more unpleasant type of tough guy who spent most of his time pickled in alcohol.

Jenny gave birth to Gloria the day after Christmas. By then Jenny had been coming to St. Michael’s for over a year, helping clean the church and the hall, working in the garden, and pitching in wherever help was needed. She was grateful for all the help the ladies gave her, making sure she saw the doctor and took her vitamins and knew what to expect. Jenny showed her gratitude the best way she knew how, with good old-fashioned elbow grease. Whoever she had been, she let that phase of her life go. She’d more than proven herself to be a good woman with proper manners and a kind heart.

Jenny asked Fr. Daniel if he’d baptize Gloria, and he was happy to oblige. He offered Jenny the same opportunity, and she accepted. That was one of the happiest days at St. Michael’s I was ever privileged to see. Jenny never talked much about herself or where she’d come from. That didn’t matter so much. She’d joined the family of our parish.

Poor Gloria. When her mama was a wild child who worked hard to do right by her baby, that meant Gloria had a lot to live up to, especially being a girl. Everything seemed to be just fine until the day Marigold moved into the apartment next door to Jenny and Gloria. Confirmation classes had started, so Gloria was twelve, that dangerous age between child and teenager, between playing with dolls and wanting to hang out with the big kids. Marigold was a sweet enough woman, fresh and pretty with her white blonde hair and ’60s style clothes. She wore enough bracelets and necklaces to sink a battleship. We always knew when Marigold was coming because she jingled louder than the bells on Santa Claus’ sleigh.

Marigold’s front yard was full of garden gnomes and copper dragonflies and wind chimes and bird feeders and those colorful flowers with big petals that spun in a stiff breeze. Gloria loved it, and she loved Marigold’s black cat Sable. Jenny told me later that she should have been more careful about letting Gloria run over to Marigold’s place so much. Jenny knew what all the candles and crystals and little fairy figurines meant.

Marigold called herself a witch.

I’ll admit that caused some of us at St. Michael’s quite a bit of worry. Fr. Daniel just smiled and reminded us to look to the health and well-being of our own souls. So we watched and we waited.

Gloria took an interest in all the pets in the neighborhood. Cats, dogs, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs. There was one boa constrictor, but Jenny was relieved to see Gloria had no desire to play with it. This all seemed like a healthy, innocent hobby, even when Gloria wanted to start having little birthday parties for the pets. Jenny noticed Gloria was spending a lot more time at the library. When she wasn’t there, she was over at Marigold’s place.

Gloria had a problem. The animals couldn’t talk. How could she find out what to give them for birthday presents? Marigold let her borrow a book on astrology. That’s what started it. Gloria looked up all the birth dates she’d been able to learn, and then made up a few for the animals whose owners had no idea. She ended up with a notebook full of page after page devoted to each pet and what the astrology book said about its sign.

Giving Sable a birthday party with a Leo theme seemed harmless enough. Catnip toys and kitty treats and a special salmon cake. Gloria had saved up her pocket money.

This led to reading more books about stranger subjects. Jenny put her foot down and sent Gloria to have a talk with Fr. Daniel. I’d have given a lot to listen in on that conversation. I was in the church hall when the two of them came out of Fr. Daniel’s office. He thanked Gloria for giving him so much to think about. Gloria said she’d take “those” books back to the library.

Advent had come round again. That Sunday Fr. Daniel gave a sermon we’d all remember.

“In the Bible Christ tells the Apostles, ‘Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for such is the kingdom of heaven.’ I have many books in my library. Many of the writings of the Holy Fathers. Recently I learned an important lesson, and it came to me not through ancient teachings but from the goodness of a child.

“Our dear Gloria explained to me that she had finally understood the true meaning of her name. It comes from ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo,” which is ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ When she first learned to read, Gloria saw all the tags on the Christmas presents. They said To and From. Some also read From and To. Gloria thought about the Latin phrase and in her innocence believed the angel must have left out a word. Gloria wanted to do as the angel said and give the Baby Jesus a birthday present. She believed the angel meant to say, “From Gloria, To God in the highest.”

A murmur of fond amusement swept through the nave.

“Gloria knows that God created all creatures great and small. Her recent practice of giving birthday parties to the pets in her neighborhood is her way of giving God the pleasure of seeing her show love to His creatures by celebrating the days they entered Creation.”

Fr. Daniel paused and looked down at his notes. He cleared his throat, sniffed, and blinked a few times.

“I want to thank Gloria for sharing this with me. In this season of celebrating the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us all keep in mind that we are all God’s creatures, two-legged and four-legged. Let us celebrate the image and likeness of God everywhere we find it, and give thanks for finding it in so many, many places.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

With one voice, we all answered, “Amen!”

END

Author’s Note: This story is dedicated to Archpriest Basil Rhodes and all the folks at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Saratoga, CA. They were kind enough to teach me many lessons about how much God loves us.

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The Great Fortune Cookie Challenge!


by Lillian Csernica on May 2, 2018

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Now that I’ve had a chance to catch my breath after the A to Z Blog Challenge, I feel like keeping the ball rolling. For years I’ve had the peculiar hobby of keeping every single fortune I’ve ever received from a fortune cookie. I eat a lot of Chinese food, so I’ve amassed quite a collection.

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Every day in May (except Sundays) I will post a new fortune. Here are your options:

Write a flash fiction story, 500 words maximum.

Find or create an image that expresses your interpretation of the fortune’s meaning.

Tell us how the day’s fortune has come true for you!

Once you’ve created your blog post, come back here to that day’s fortune and post the link to your blog entry. That way we can all run around seeing the variety of interpretations everyone comes up with.

Since we’re starting off on the 2nd of May, I’ll give you two fortunes to choose from:

There are big changes ahead for you

Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.

I will pop in later with my own fortune cookie post. Let the creativity begin!

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#atozchallenge: T is for Tea


by Lillian Csernica on April 23, 2018

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From Cha’s Tea Blog; The Story of Tea:

In the early 600s AD, tea was introduced to Japan through contact between Zen priests and Chinese Buddhist monks. The Japanese Zen priest, Saichō returned to Japan in 815 after many years spent in China. He brought with him compressed tea bricks and tea seeds, which he presented to the reigning Emperor Saga. Interest in tea remained guarded and centered solely around the court and its high-ranking officials for several centuries, until the Japanese Heian era of 794-1185.

During this time, the Japanese Samurai class rose to power, along with a flourishing of the arts and intellectual pursuits, tea drinking among them. The Zen priest, Myoan Eisai introduced Chinese tea seeds and bushes to the island of Kyushu, and they were then transported to the outskirts of modern day Kyoto, where some of Japan’s finest teas are produced to this day. After many subsequent visits to China and a deep immersion in the tea culture, Eisai wrote, Kissa Yōjōki, translated as, “Drinking Tea for Health,” lauding the medicinal and health benefits of the ancient beverage. Many other writers poetically connected tea to the changing seasons and landscape.

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From Britain Express:

Curiously, it was the London coffee houses that were responsible for introducing tea to England. One of the first coffee house merchants to offer tea was Thomas Garway, who owned an establishment in Exchange Alley. He sold both liquid and dry tea to the public as early as 1657. Three years later he issued a broadsheet advertising tea at six and ten pounds per pound (ouch!), touting its virtues at “making the body active and lusty”, and “preserving perfect health until extreme old age”.

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Tea gained popularity quickly in the coffee houses, and by 1700 over 500 coffee houses sold it. This distressed the tavern owners, as tea cut their sales of ale and gin, and it was bad news for the government, who depended upon a steady stream of revenue from taxes on liquor sales. By 1750 tea had become the favoured drink of Britain’s lower classes.

Ironic, isn’t it? What first began as the ceremonial beverage of the upper class traveled around the world to become the daily drink of the common people. I love history!

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Let Me Entertain You


by Lillian Csernica on February 28, 2018

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April is coming. That means the A to Z Blog Challenge.

Those of you who joined me last year may recall my theme was Art Nouveau jewelry. We had a good time with that, I think. Lots of people said nice things. I began my life of Pinterest joy and now I’m up to a dozen different boards.

So here’s my question to you: What do you want to see this year?

I’ve covered writing terms, sword&sorcery movies, all things made of chocolate, and yes, the art nouveau bling.

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I could go with a steampunk theme and tell you strange tidbits of technological history and the men and women behind them.

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There’s a world of info about Japan I could share.

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We could go for classic monster movies, the Golden Age of Universal and the everlasting talents of Karloff and Cheney and Rains.

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Give me your ideas! Tell me what you want to see me tackle. I live to amuse you, so bring it on!

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Filed under Art Nouveau, artists, bad movies, Blog challenges, chocolate, classics, creativity, editing, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Food, Goals, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, research, steampunk, sword and sorcery, travel, Writing

Family Gardens, Family Trees


by Lillian Csernica on Februart 12, 2018

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“To be one woman, truly, wholly, is to be all women. Tend one garden and you will birth worlds.” –Kate Braverman

Springtime with its new growth of plants and flowers always makes me think of my maternal grandmother’s flower garden. They say inherited traits skip a generation. That means we’re more like our grandparents than our parents. This is certainly true of me and both of my grandmothers.

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My maternal grandmother was a woman who lived large in a time when that just wasn’t done. Her role model was her own mother, my great-grandmother. Back in the ’30s Nana had gotten a divorce then opened her own modeling agency, two actions that were way beyond the social norm for women of her time. My grandmother was raised in that environment of independence and determination. Grandma became a fashion model. The natural companion for a model is a photographer, right? My grandfather was a professional photographer with his own studio and darkroom. I have many of the photos he took of Grandma, showing her devilish smile and the wicked sparkle in her eye.

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Grandma wrote a society column, full of parties and events and the kind of good-natured gossip that makes for lively reading. Not only did her column appear in the paper, but her photo as well, and under amazing circumstances. Once, on a trip to Enseñada, Grandma donned the traditional traje de luces of the bullfighter, complete with hat and cloak, and fought a bull right there in the bullring in front of God and everybody. And she won! I now have that “suit of lights” as a treasured reminder of the wild woman Grandma really was.

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When I think of Grandma’s house, I think of the garden out in the backyard. It might have been the Hall of Flowers at the county fair or the sales floor of an upscale nursery. When I was three years old, we lived with Grandma for a short time. I was just old enough to start getting into everything, and that included the garden. The roses looked good enough to eat, in sugary pinks, deep golden yellows, and reds even darker than Grandma’s lipstick. Their scents mingled with the delicate fragrance of the night-blooming jasmine and the down-home sweetness of the honeysuckle vines. On hot summer days I liked to sit out there and just breathe.

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There was a lot more to Grandma’s garden than just flowers. A tall tree with drooping branches would blossom with thousands of pale lavender petals. This was a “jacaranda.” I loved that word. It was new and strange and made me think of spicy food in faraway lands. There was the raspberry bramble, a dangerous place for little hands and little tummies. The best berries were always deep in the bramble where the birds couldn’t eat them, which meant I had to stick my hand way in there past all the thorns and spiderwebs and bugs. One day my cousin Kevin ate a bunch of the berries before they were ripe. His stomachache taught me the value of patience, and of letting him go first!

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The garden remains a symbol for all those traits I saw in Grandma. What the child I was saw and remembered the woman I am can now interpret and understand. Grandma was beautiful and exotic and livened up her surroundings. Some days Grandma could be thorny. There were places in her house and in her life that little kids just didn’t go. Boundaries are reassuring to a child, even when they provoke unbearable curiosity.

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Then there’s my father’s mother. She married my grandfather and set up house as a farm wife, giving him three sons and three daughters. She survived the Depression and both World Wars. She lived at the same address all the years I knew her. She made a great mulligan stew, played Yahtzee like a pro, and never once commented on the length of my husband’s hair (At one point he had a ponytail halfway down his back).

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Grandma lived in a trailer park in Ohio. When I think of her garden, I think of the little field beside her trailer, a shaggy patch of weeds and blackberry vines, dandelions and wildflowers, lizards and birds and bumblebees as big as the tip of my thumb. It’s a great big happy organic mess. Mother Nature is left to her own devices there. If anybody understood the importance of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” that’s my Grandma.

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As you can see, my grandmothers are two very different types of women. From Grandma Lownesberry come my sense of adventure, my fondness for costumes, and my love of travel. From Grandma Chamberlain come my cooking skills, my love of board games, and my contentment with less than perfect housekeeping.

From both my grandmothers I’ve inherited the need to locate and preserve photos of every generation of the family back as far as I can find. I want my two sons to at least see the relatives they won’t have the opportunity to meet. These photos have become a garden of memories, one that will show my boys and their children the root stock that we come from, the sturdy vines and delicate blossoms, the everyday ferns and the hothouse roses. I hope that all the babies yet to come will one day know they are the latest buds to blossom in a garden tended with love.

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