Tag Archives: United States

S is for Snacks


by Lillian Csernica on April 22, 2016

When you’re traveling, especially long distances, you want to keep a munchie stash with you because odds are good you will get stuck somewhere waiting for longer than you expect.  Low blood sugar makes the trials of traveling even more irritating.  These are my favorite snacks from all the places I’ve visited:

France

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Pain au chocolat (Chocolate croissant)

Germany

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Sausage (bratwurst)

Pretzels

Japan

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Daifuku mochi — Depending on the characters used, this treat is called either “big belly rice cake” or “great luck rice cake.”  The traditional filling is anko, or red bean paste.  Crushed melon is also used, and in the springtime strawberries are popular.

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Anmitsu: It’s a traditional Japanese dessert that has cubes of agar agar jelly, fresh fruit slices, red bean paste, and a dollop of ice cream.  In this case, green tea ice cream.  Looks really weird, doesn’t it?  Pat and I had this at the Haneda Airport during our twelve hour layover.  Not nearly as sweet as an American ice cream sundae, anmitsu combines flavors and textures into a unique and tasty dish.

Mexico

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Galletas (Cookies)

The Netherlands

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Stroopwafels are two large, thin cookies with syrup in the middle.  The size of stroopwafels vary, and you can get them dipped in chocolate, topped with whipped cream, etc.  A small package of these is just right for a snack.

United States

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Northern — Potatoes.  Baked, fried, or scalloped, I do love the starchy little devils.

Southern — Hush puppies and corn bread.  I love hushpuppies.  I would live on them if it weren’t for the fact that by the end of the first week I’d be able to actually hear my arteries hardening!

Eastern — New England clam chowder.  With lots of black pepper.  I do not eat the red stuff.

Western — San Francisco sourdough bread.  Whenever I order breakfast in a restaurant, I get sourdough toast.  No matter where in the U.S. I might be, the yeast starter probably came from San Francisco.

cheeses

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Central — Cheese.  I love cheese, really I do.  String cheese, cheddar on my burger, grilled cheese sandwiches, alfredo sauce, you name it.  Can’t have bleu cheese because I’m allergic to mold.

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Filed under artists, Blog challenges, chocolate, classics, Conventions, creativity, Family, Food, history, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, research, travel, Writing

P is for Plenty


by Lillian Csernica on April 19, 2016

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Japan —  Plenty of koi.

 

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The Netherlands — Plenty of tulips

 

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Las Vegas, NV — Plenty of neon

 

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Paris, France — Plenty of cafes

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Ensenada, Mexico — Plenty of beer

 

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Seattle, WA — Plenty of coffee

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Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, Family, Food, Goals, history, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, nature, research, romance, travel, Writing

M is for Money


by Lillian Csernica on April 15th, 2016

Here in the U.S. today is the deadline for turning in our income tax forms.  Money is a subject very much on most people’s minds.  This can be stressful.  To honor the occasion, here are some highlights from my travels when money was the crucial element.

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One Halloween my friend Don suggested we go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The theater was in Newport Beach, CA, about twenty minutes from my house, where all the rich people lived down by the water.  This may not sound like I traveled far at all, but I assure you, this was a walk on the wild side into terra incognita.  I’d never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I’d heard about it, of course, as all teenagers had in my high school days.

Don said if we showed up in costume, we’d get in for free.  I went as a voodoo priestess and Don dressed up as a zombie.  Zombies weren’t all the rage in those days, so this costume was pretty bizarre.  When we got to the box office, we discovered costumes made no difference to the ticket price.  Neither of us had any cash on us, and we were too old to go trick-or-treating, so our night was about to go down in flames.

A woman sitting inside the lobby stood up, walked over to us, and slapped a ten dollar bill down on the counter.  “You’re in,” she said.  We thanked her up one side and down the other, then hurried in to find seats just as the house lights went down.  The forbidden fruit was all mine, thanks to that generous stranger.

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On the night Pat and I arrived in Kyoto, we were both hungry and exhausted.  The bus from the Osaka Airport delivered us to the Kyoto Station.  It’s one of the five most expensive buildings in the world.  As a transportation hub and a shopping complex, it’s practically a city unto itself.  We found a store that sold take-out food.  Pat trusted me to identify what was in the deli-style racks and cold cases.  I picked out some attractive items and got into the checkout line.  When the cashier told me the total, I could manage the paper money, but the coins defeated me.  There were tired commuters queuing up behind me, so I held out a handful of change with a sheepish, “Tasukete, kudasai,” which is the formal polite way of saying, “HELP!”

The next and larger problem was the way Japanese do not handle money directly.  When you buy something, the cashier puts a little tray down in front of you and you put the money on that.  The cashier then picks up the tray and puts the money into the cash drawer.  I don’t know if this is a Shinto thing or what.  This particular cashier took pity on me and everybody in line behind me.  She picked out the right coins, gave me my receipt, and sent me on my way.

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In an earlier post I mentioned the weekend bus tour I took to Paris while I spent that summer in the Netherlands. The people on the bus with me were mainly retired folks or middle-aged teachers. I was always the last person to get on the bus because I sat in the tour guide seat right up front beside the driver. This put me in the perfect position to lend a hand when some of the older members of the tour needed help with that first step up into the bus.  Since I was on my own, I brought out the parental instinct in everybody.

What does all this have to do with money?

Just before our tour of the Louvre, our bus driver collected everybody’s twelve francs entry fee.  Then our French tour guide showed up.  Slim, glamorous, pushy, and condescending, she took one look at me and we both knew we’d never be friends.  She demanded the entry fee from me.  I told her I’d already paid.  She got very patient in a way that clearly implied I was trying to weasel out of paying my fair share.  The Dutch ladies came to my rescue.  One of them said to me, “You are my daughter.  You are seventeen years old.”  I had no idea what was up with that.  I started to explain that I was actually eighteen.  She shook her head and spoke in the voice of a career teacher, saying, “If you are under eighteen you do not pay.  Come with us.”  She and the other ladies formed up around me and marched me past the tour guide, giving her looks that should have set her false eyelashes on fire!

Customs sign on a Georgian building

On my way back into the country from the Netherlands, my flight had to land in Seattle as its first point of entry.  We all had to go through Customs.  That was simple enough, but then we sat there in the airport lounge wondering what was holding up our departure to Los Angeles.  My name was called over the public address system.  Just my first name.  That was strange.  I presented myself at the appropriate desk.  A Customs official took me to an office where another teenage girl from my flight was looking seriously freaked out. Her eyes were red and her makeup all smeared from crying.  She begged me to help her.  I was the only person on the plane she’d talked to, so mine was the only name she knew to call for help.  She’d made some mistake filling out her Customs forms.   They wanted her to pay them twenty dollars or they wouldn’t let her continue on into the country.  I had the money on me, thank God, so the officials were satisfied and we all got to fly on to LAX.  The poor girl couldn’t stop thanking me and apologizing. When we got off the plane, I was quite relieved to see her mother there to meet her.  (My boyfriend was waiting for me, but that’s another story.)

That unknown lady stepped up and paid my way into the movies.  Those Dutch ladies stepped up and protected me when I needed help.  I’m glad I had a chance to pass on the kindness and help that girl get home safe and sound.

love-money

 

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Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, charity, classics, Family, family tradition, Food, frustration, Halloween, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, parenting, perspective, research, travel, worry, Writing

What’s My Theme?


by Lillian Csernica on March 21, 2016

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It’s that time of year again!  The A to Z Blog Challenge will soon begin.  My theme?

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Join me for 26 days of my adventures around the world!

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‘Kittendales’: Shirtless men do their part to get kitties adopted | MNN – Mother Nature Network


by Lillian Csernica on December 4, 2013

Do you know anyone who likes both good-looking half-naked men AND cute fuzzy little kittens?  The fundraising genius at this animal shelter has brought these adorable subjects together in what may well be the perfect Christmas gift for several people on your list:

‘Kittendales’: Shirtless men do their part to get kitties adopted | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

All the proceeds go to support the no-kill animal shelter.  Please, consider buying at least one calendar.  I just ordered mine.  This is some serious eye candy, and it’s a great way to support the dedication of the shelter staff and the volunteers/models.

Happy Holidays!

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Why Writers Need Public Speaking Skills


by Lillian Csernica on November 14, 2013

The smartest thing I ever did in high school was joining the Speech and Debate Team.  I talk a lot anyway, always have, so it made sense to harness a natural skill and train it so I could apply my speaking skills in the most useful ways possible.  Besides, I like trophies.  Wave one of those in front of me and it’s a powerful motivator.

Writers use their verbal skills on paper.  Sure, we talk to each other, brainstorming and talking shop in the coffeehouse or via Skype or on our cells.  Many of us prefer the wonders of technology as a buffer between us and other people, even our friends.  Face to face encounters can be a real strain.  Why?  Speaking for myself, I can’t handle more than a certain level of noise pollution.  There are restaurants I avoid not because the food isn’t good but because the interior design makes the acoustics painful.  Also, there are some people I know whom I enjoy a great deal, but I can be in their physical presence for only a limited time.  Some people just wear me out.  As extroverted as I am, when I’ve hit my limit, I go into my office and shut the door and hole up in my private sanctuary.  I’m sure you can relate.

In our brave new world of e-books and G+ hangouts and podcasts and other means of transmitting interviews, writers don’t have to stand up in front of live audiences to do their self-promotion.  That’s fine, but it’s also very limiting.  If you’re successful and you build a following, sooner or later you’re going to have to leave your sanctuary, get out there and do a local author reading at the library, a book signing, maybe even a book tour.  Since I work mainly in fantasy and romance, I have the advantage of attending SF/F cons.  I haven’t been to any Romance Writers of America gatherings yet, but that’s been a problem with logistics, not motivation.

When you meet your public, you will be doing public speaking.  Even if you’re just sitting in the conference room at the library, or behind a table in a bookstore, you’re still “onstage,” so to speak.  Being on panel discussions at conventions calls for public speaking skills in the truest sense.  Yes, I know this terrifies some people.  Studies have shown that many people fear public speaking more than they fear going to the dentist or even death itself.  When I started out on the Speech Team as a sophomore in high school, I was quite nervous.  I had a good coach, I knew my topics, and believe me, I practiced for hours.  Still, the fight or flight response pumped me full of adrenalin.  So I do understand.

Now I’m going to indulge in some naked bragging here.  During my senior year on the Speech Team, I won fifteen trophies, ten of which were First Place.  I went on to participate on the Speech and Debate Team at my local junior college.  By the end of my second year there, I’d won three gold medals at the state level, and two gold, one silver, and one bronze at the national level.  I retired Number One in California and Number Five in the entire U.S.

Why am I telling you this?  Because public speaking is your friend.  Once you get over the initial anxiety and learn the secrets, you can actually have a good time at it.  Don’t take my word for it.  I happened across an article that inspired me to write this post:

Six Psychological Secrets To Public Speaking

I have a good time at conventions for several reasons, but one of the most important is that I really enjoy being on panel discussions and swapping ideas with other writers.  The audiences are made up of highly intelligent, widely read, and often opinionated fans who are a pleasure to meet and who have a lot to contribute.  I’m often the moderator on panels because I’m comfortable with the role and I can direct the discussion so every panelist gets his or her share of speaking time.  More than once this has taken the load off the assigned moderator who really did not want the job.  That person might have been more of an expert on the panel topic, but the fear of public speaking made that person want to hang back. Understandable, but self-defeating.  For writers, conventions and other public appearances are all about self-promotion.  You want to project confidence in yourself and your work.

One really good way to get some experience with public speaking is to join your local chapter of Toastmasters.  They have an excellent training program and they’re all about being supportive of the people who want to learn what they have to teach.

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Satisfying Social Conscience


by Lillian Csernica on September 23, 2013

It’s taken me longer to get to this post than I had intended because I discovered I had to more research into the concept of the social conscience.  I was trained to start any debatable subject with a definition of terms, so let’s look at a few:

1) “a knowledge or understanding of what is morally right in a society” from the MacMillan Dictionary.

2) “an attitude of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and problems in society” from Dictionary.com

3) “a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society” from Oxford Dictionaries

There appears to be general agreement about the precise nature of what the social conscience is.  How does one exercise one’s social conscience?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — ““Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Stephanie Coontz, U.S. social historian — “… what’s been building since the 1980’s is a new kind of social Darwinism that blames poverty and crime and the crisis of our youth on a breakdown of the family. That’s what will last after this flurry on family values.”

George Orwell — “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

Katharine Hepburn — “We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”

Stephen Covey — “Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.”

Abigail Adams — “How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking! How often are the laurels worn by those who have had no share in earning them! But there is a future recompense of reward, to which the upright man looks, and which he will most assuredly obtain, provided he perseveres unto the end.”

Looks to me like my research boils down to two points:

The social conscience is the awareness of the needs of others and the ability to recognize when those needs are not being met.

A healthy, active, responsible social conscience compels us to take action, to work for change, to improve the conditions of those members of society who are in need.

So how do we as artists, creators, and (in my case) writers satisfy the awareness conveyed to us by our social conscience?  How do we take action to improve society?

Here’s my brainstorm.  We can go for big changes, we can go for little changes, we can go for whatever action we’re able to take.  When somebody needs our help, when those who have no voice need someone to speak for them, that’s when those of us who work with words can step up and take action.

Volunteer at your local library.

Teach a free class to school age kids on the power of keeping a journal or writing a short story.

Write Op-Ed pieces on the issues that matter to you, that affect your family, your neighborhood, your city, etc.  Take it on at whatever level you can handle, and then grow your efforts from there.

Write for those special niche markets where your personal experience will be invaluable.  Mine is a special needs family, so I can speak to issue that affect parents and caregivers and school authorities and service agencies and of course the special needs people themselves.

When we write our stories and our novels, this is the time to write what we know.  By that I mean the needs we have recognized in society that are not being met.  I know the city of Santa Cruz has the brass-balled gall to charge for parking in handicapped parking spaces in the concrete parking structure down near Pacific Avenue.  We have the license plates for the handicapped on our van.  My mother has a handicapped placard.  Most of Michael’s classmates have either the plates or the placard.

If we can do nothing else, we can get the word out.  We who write can send our messages alerting people to the needs we see.  We can point the finger at the people who should be taking action, by virtue of their paychecks and/or duly elected offices.  We can make these needs known in as many languages as possible, so people know we see them and hear them and recognize their needs or protest their failures to get help to the needy.  SPEAK UP, PEOPLE!  If you’ve been given the talent and the skill to use your words with power, then do it!  Create your beautiful and complex worlds, write your dramatic and poignant stories, blow people’s minds with your visions of how the world is and how it could be.

Edmund Burke said it best: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

So what’s it going to be, people?  Are we going to get out there and do whatever we can do, or are we going to let our social conscience atrophy for lack of use?

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Thoughts I Can’t Stop Thinking


by Lillian Csernica on June 10, 2013

Seven Things That Cross My Mind A Lot:

ONE: What it’s really like to make your living as an actor.  It seems to me the business demands much more of actors than ordinary moviegoers like me really understand.  Actors in America are held to a standard of physical beauty and perfection that has to take up a lot of time in terms of maintenance.  How do those people find that time?  Personal trainers and home gyms must help.  Then there’s the memorization of lines, sometimes newly changed lines every single day.  That would make me crazy.  To be an A list movie actor seems so glamorous, and I’m sure it is at times, but it’s got to be something such people work at 24/7.

TWO: My weight.  My body image.  What I eat.  Why I eat it.  How much I enjoy dining out.  What diseases am I setting myself up for, i.e. hypertension, diabetes, and whatever genetic dispositions I’ve inherited.

THREE: What love really truly is, under all the hype and the philosophy and the hormones.  I know about agape, eros, philia and storge.  Those are descriptions of manifestations of love.  What is love at its absolute core reality?  Does it have one?  Or is it a psychological chimera?

FOUR: The battle between me owning my possessions and my possessions owning me.

FIVE: Whether or not I’ll get to be a grandmother.  I think I’d be good at it, given all my travels and my stories and my costumes and the weird stuff I’ve collected over the years.  This is in the back of my mind as John enters high school with its heightened social interaction between boys and girls.  I will watch John’s progress with interest and no little trepidation.

SIX: How people can be really smart in some ways yet at the same time be really stupid about certain specific matters.  I’m not just talking about love again, for example.  I know somebody who has an astonishing grasp of worldwide military history, yet one day he was incapable of finding chocolate ice cream in a town with two grocery stores, two gas station mini-marts, two drug stores, and half a dozen restaurants.  I’ve heard Southerners use the expression “brilliant but not very bright.”  I think that means some people can absorb a lot of “book-learning,” but in everyday practical matters they haven’t got a clue.  Comments?

SEVEN: All the places in the world I want to visit before I die.  Japan, England, Ireland, Greece, Russia, Spain, Italy, Polynesia, and more of the U.S. too.  It’s sad to live somewhere and know too little about its history and attractions and people and noteworthy local buildings, handicrafts, cuisine, etc.

One life is just not enough, know what I mean?

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X is for X Marks the Spot


by Lillian Csernica on April 27, 2013

You might not know it, but you’ve got a big X on your forehead. Might be black, might be red. It’s the X you see on treasure maps that marks the spot where the treasure is buried.

Flannery O’Connor said, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” Our memories are treasure, sometimes buried, sometimes not. As writers we have to dig into those memories, along with all the other thoughts, images, opinions, likes and dislikes and whatever else we’ve buried under that metaphorical X. We’ve all heard the rule about “Write what you know.” Let’s rewrite that: “Use what you’ve experienced!”

We’re all specialists in our own ways. Me, I know more about the history of Japan than my Japanese teacher does simply because of all the research I’ve done for my current novel. My best friend has advanced degrees in Marine Biology and Physical Anthropology. Those come in very handy when she’s writing science fiction. A formal academic degree isn’t essential. Hobbies and passions and family traditions can provide the basis for in-depth knowledge that adds those special details.

Try this. Sit down and write a list of all the subjects you know something about. Put down everything, from the complex process of bioengineering to the mucky details of unclogging the garbage disposal. It’s ALL valuable, because it’s all raw material for writing. You may well discover knowledge you didn’t know you had. I call that buried treasure!

Dig in. Dig deep. Gold and jewels await!

Buried Treasure: illustration of William "...

Buried Treasure: illustration of William “Captain” Kidd overseeing a treasure burial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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V is for Vigilance


by Lillian Csernica on April 25, 2013

Many people do not understand those of us who choose to make our living through some form of art. Such people measure our success by how much money we do or do not make. They’ve got it backward. Sure, monetary success is great, but those of us who have suffered through the creative process and really understand the toll it takes know how to see things the right way around.

We don’t get paid for our art. We pay for the privilege of creating it.

Dancers sweat. Actors may start out as part of the stage crew while they work their way up to starring roles. Sculptors and potters and people who work in “found art” do exactly that: physical labor, over and over again, until what they’re creating matches the vision in their minds.

What about writers? We pay attention. Think about that. John Philpot Curran said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” I say eternal vigilance is also the price of inspiration. Writers keep their eyes and ears open and their notebooks handy. We write down whatever image, scrap of conversation, or burst of intuitive plotting that pops into mind. Then we begin the complex process of growing a complete story or novel from those little seeds.

People talk about the writer’s Muse. She demands payment in attention, observation, vigilance. The Muse doesn’t just drop an idea on our desks all gift-wrapped and pretty. She often points the way toward someone or something that could be useful to us. She’s like a consultant, and consultants don’t come cheap.

Keep alert for all the beauties and dangers and oddities and funny moments and sorrows of the world. Paying attention is the start of how we writers pay our dues.

Be vigilant!

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