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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Haiku

Took this photo on a walk around the block




Rather than compete
With the lilies of the field--
I humbly stayed home.

 
This should be a fancy perfume. I discovered it around the corner.

The Black Locust tree
Blends white with black forever--
In scented glory.

 
A little breeze and all of a sudden I feel like royalty!



His hands made me Queen.
I walk through strewn rose petals,
in gardens of green. 




Has the snow melted where you are? Is it a lovely Spring? 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Inspired by the President and Hemingway


Our illustrious Commander in Chief has inspired me to try a new marketing campaign for building my platform and increasing followers. Figure I'd jump on the proverbial bandwagon and find out what all the fuss is about. I mean, if he can tweet, then so can I. 
(Take a breath here--because my Tweets won't have anything to do with those tweets.)

 I’ll be sharing uplifting and inspiring quotes written by famous people and since I’m fairly good at writing one-liners, I’ll be sharing my sense of humor through short, silly jokes or witty remarks with the main purpose of making people smile. For free. There' no hidden agenda other than I wouldn't mind having more twittering friends. (And if you want to re-use something I wrote, please give me credit for writing it.)

My thinking is that since Twitter’s all a-flutter with high anxiety--thought I’d try the happiness approach--thereby creating more interest in my writing--naturally generating more blog readers. And who knows? Maybe I will receive some financial gravy as in book sales and writing assignments too. It can't hurt to try, right?

Although I’ve used Twitter for years, it never seemed like a serious place for an author. After all, what writer wants to be limited to 140 characters? Oh wait scratch that-- I guess Hemingway could have posted his six-word bestseller: 
  “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”


Anyway, follow me at Eve@Eve Gaal for some comic relief. When I can’t come up with anything funny, then it will be a serious quote like the one I just posted on Twitter from one of our greatest Presidents-Abraham Lincoln: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing."

Do you use Twitter? How does it help you? 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Butter Biscuits & Fairy-Tales



The best part about a fairy-tale is typically the happy-ending. I remember asking so many questions about the prince and his stallion. Where did he sleep when he wasn’t near a castle? What did he eat? Where did the witch buy her supplies? Did she make them from scratch? What do you cook for gnomes? Where do Fairy Godmothers buy glass slippers? When a story mentions red lips, does that mean she wore lipstick? Do the stepsisters grow out of being ugly like the Ugly duckling? What was inside Little Red Riding Hood’s basket? And so on and so on....

 I probably drove my parents bonkers with tons of inquisitive questions but they had to enjoy the fact that they could hold my attention for a short amount of time. Sadly, they couldn’t always answer all my inquiries so I ran to the library to read as much as I could about Dorothy and her friends from Oz, by Frank L. Baum. Inhaling books by E.B. White, Antoine de Saint Exupery or books by Jules Verne and any imaginative author who mingled reality and fantasy. I also often wondered whether Huck Finn really existed and if he did--how he managed to walk barefoot all summer?

But this post is about my mother’s butter biscuits. In Hungarian folklore, there’s usually a boy like Huck Finn or a girl, going on an adventure with their knapsack. It’s the magical way our parents pulled our imaginations into the story, ala The Princess Bride. Parents know that you can't go on a quest without tasty snacks. Most likely, he/she is running away to see the world and that’s where the story begins, because inside of the knapsack are the butter biscuits, which might best be described as a form of hard tack or scones, depending on the talent of the grandmother who made them. These are not soft biscuits, but crumbly ones that can survive a journey. In some tales, they have a coating of protective ash due to the old-fashioned method of dropping dough directly into the fire. 

My mother’s tiny tea biscuits are etched into my fading memories and I couldn’t replicate them if I tried. The following recipe is a satisfactory but easy version, nowhere near perfection. Mom used yeast and sour cream, creating a light, airy dough that once baked, melted upon contact with your tongue. Truly, her Pogacsas were--in my mind anyway--legendary. Of course, Red Riding Hood’s basket contained this type of mouthwatering biscuit, because after all, a buttery, biscuit has to be memorable for it to be in a fairy tale.


Hungarian Biscuits or Pogacsa
11 ounces of Ricotta Cheese-(the small tub is usually 15oz at the store.)
2-1/2 cups flour (plus a bit more for the cutting board)
A small pinch of salt
1-1/4 cup of softened, unsalted butter
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
(Coarse salt or caraway seeds if desired.)
Mix the flour and the baking powder
Knead in the butter, salt and the cheese until you have smooth dough.
Cover it and put it into the fridge for at least two hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll the dough to ¼ inch thick and then fold it four times.
Repeat the above step of rolling and folding five or six times.
Using a small one-inch cutter, cut each biscuit and score with a fork.
Brush each one with the egg yolk and place onto a pan sprayed with Pam spray or lined with parchment.
Bake 30 minutes and place each warm biscuit onto a tray filled with either salt, caraway seeds or both.  

Now put on a pot of tea and tell a story! Enjoy. 

Did you like fairy tales too? Do you think you'll ever make these biscuits? 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Want 007 Pants-(A Fashion Post)



I have a gripe about pants. I figured a blog post is a great way to vent about any politically correct subject as long as there’s at least a semblance of humor involved. So here’s my droll scoop about personal issues with length, fit and fashion.

Length

First of all, I’m tall and most women’s pants have a 29” inseam which is average but 32” would ideally hit me at the ankle. Sometimes I see tall-fitting pants for sale in catalogs but they begin at 34” which would be nice if I wanted to wear high heels all the time with my jeans. Unfortunately, that’s not my style and the tall ones are usually in smaller sizes anyway. Most of the pants I own look like cropped pants or what my old high school ‘friends’ called ‘flood waders.” Basically, I have a love-hate relationship with pants because it’s one of those articles of clothing that an active lifestyle necessitates. Plus, I love adventures. Women wear pants for fishing, hiking, bike riding and campaigning for President. After seventeen years into a new century, modern women don’t even own dresses or skirts anymore. Type ‘wedding pantsuit’ into a Google search and you wouldn’t believe the heavenly white ensembles that exist.
 I think pants can look fabulous on women Ala Katherine Hepburn but they should also be flexible without being tight and uncomfortable. In a warm climate, most polyester blended fabrics are much too hot and in winter, twill or denim isn’t warm or flexible enough. Is it asking too much that I want to look nice while chasing after two disobedient Chihuahuas?

Fashion

Fashion wise, the current trend for women is the skinny look which works great if you’re ah—skinny. Some of these pants are cut so narrow, that they wouldn’t even fit my meatless skeleton. If I can pull them on, there’s a rustling sound with each step. Sadly, unless I want to take up Zydeco and pretend I’m playing the washboard, I also have to forget about corduroy. Of course, there are loose-fitting linen pants that look wrinkled all the time or chinos which are like like a cross between jeans and khakis. If they don’t fit right, then they look like Park Ranger-Government Issue pants. Too tight and you’ll feel like you’re back in high school marching band needing a new uniform after having a growth spurt. For extreme casual wear, there’s the yoga pant that looks good in one color only and that’s black. Same with leggings—have you ever seen beige colored leggings on a heavy-set woman? There are some things I wish I could “unsee.”

Fit

This brings me to how pants fit. Men can get away with wearing khaki pants that are loose and baggy. Modestly covering everything, they look perfect on busy dads who need to be able to move with even busier toddlers. Generally, men want to make sure their jeans are not riding too high and by pulling them lower they are baggier in the thighs and the hem reaches the floor. Problems arise because most men don’t have hips to hold up their pants. This is why they wear belts or should wear belts anyway. When men wear business or military slacks in gray, green or navy, the fit is classic, slightly loose and elegant. And finally, there’s the sophisticated tuxedo pant which reminds us of Cary Grant or Fred Astaire.
Those have to be stretchy pants!
I just had one of those aha moments. Remember how Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and even Jimmy Stewart were dancing in tailored tuxedo pants? James Bond is jumping out of an airplane or swinging from a chandelier in a Monte Carlo casino while kicking the bejeebers out of the bad guys. Jason Statham springs from his BMW sunroof and is punching five guys at once while looking awesome in Armani. The mystery must be a form of Hollywood costume finery just like those used by Jack Black in the movie Nacho Libre. Lycra—also known as spandex, was invented in the late fifties, which could explain some of the magic but still leaves me wondering how Rhett tried saving Atlanta before such obviously awesome stretchy pants were ever created.

 Lucky for me, I’m not a slave to fashion and enjoy wearing dresses too. Perfect slacks? Maybe not for my body-type but I can dream, while wearing an old-fashioned skirt. 

Any ideas about what kind of fabric goes into one James Bond suit before it's shaken and stirred?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

We Have a Leak!


We’re Not Quackiott, Duckyatt, Billton or Even the Web-foot Inn.

The ducks are back and Fiona’s not happy about it. I’m writing this upstairs and can hear warfare in the yard. I hear her tiny growl perhaps saying, “What a bleeping mess you make all over my warm stones.” She hates them and treats them like terrorists even though they look like they outweigh her by a pound or two. “Be gone you dastardly, disgusting creatures,” she squeaks. Or maybe she’s displeased because they interrupt her beauty naps, so she responds with a Garbo-esque bark that means, “I vant to be alone.”

The fine-looking ducks swim a few laps and as soon as Fiona noses over to where they are drying off, they rustle up, into the air, over the fence, landing with a splash in someone else’s pool--but not before quacking loudly--voicing their obvious displeasure at such a lack of hospitality. You’d think a rescued pup would have more manners!
I'm scared to bother her so I took this picture from inside.
The sun is setting but she's still on watch


 Maybe, I hopefully surmise, Fiona is working with the pool-cleaning company to make sure the water stays sparkling clean. I wouldn’t put it past her to take a bribe now and then. There’s probably a method to her madness and she doesn’t really care whether I’ve figured it out. After all, one of my nicknames for her lately has been “Special Ops.” While our other dog Pinky, is an exemplary example of a Secret Service type who would take a bullet for his/her management team and pounces out of bed in the middle of the night if someone is within ten feet of our home, Fiona prefers secret spying gigs, sleeping soundly under the blanket all night, perhaps gathering information telepathically from wireless, unnamed sources. Pinky worries about rabbits, but that’s another story. I guess Fiona saves her energy to fight the radical ducks.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Dealing With Distractions



They won’t leave me alone. If you’ve ever written long stories or novels, you probably know what I mean. They whisper in your ear. They laugh and giggle. The nasty ones sneer or even kick you while you’re down, trying to sleep. It’s super annoying and I can fully understand why many authors decide to murder them. Of course, I’m talking about my characters from Penniless Hearts: Penny, Dan and that helicopter pilot Darin. They won’t bugger off and jump out of a plane with a bad parachute, although that’s a supreme idea, but they continuously needle me to finish writing more about their
This is the third cover.
Do you like it? 
escapades. Two years ago, I began writing Penniless Souls and one third of the way through, my life took a turn into some crazy medical-infused territory. We all have our challenges but this depravity feels like a family curse that needs more than the economy version of an exorcism. So, on top of my family problems: phobias, funerals, aches, surgeries, therapies and numerous pains; (thankfully not
I made this hat
and wear it to bed.
all mine—it’s never all about me—thank goodness.), these character trolls are nagging me to finish what I started. I’ll never forget the time Penny had her hands on her hips before she raised an arm to throw something at me. Yes me--her creator. John is patient and rarely shows up but Dan is awful and I’ve already written some chapters to shut him down. Now Tina wants in and she wasn’t even supposed to show up in the sequel. Recently, I began wearing a soft, brimmed hat to bed thinking that it would help block them out but no such luck.


The new setting is Vegas baby and I was under the false impression that what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas. Trust me, it doesn’t. You’ll meet Penny twenty years later. Her daughter Lani is all grown up and John is still doing carpentry but the economy is taking a nosedive and the only place to find construction work is Vegas. Penny and John decide to move temporarily to Sin City where they live in a high-rise off the Strip. She doesn't work for the newspaper but a famous artist hires her to paint murals for his lakefront resort. Meanwhile, hazel-eyed Lani is living with John’s sister where she meets a good-looking guy called Peter. Darin’s out of jail and has changed his ways and Dan? Well, like I said he has been dealt with. Now, I had better get back to writing another chapter before Penny and Tina throw me on the ground and start kicking and pulling my hair. Ingrates. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Have You Seen the Garden Fairies?

Garden Fairies in Early Spring
Eve Gaal



Mortals rarely see
               them.
(We’re too important--
 too mature.)

They swing on tall grass,
hide in tangled roots,
complex like innuendo,
jokes that fly over our heads.
They swirl in the underbrush--
painting spring--
stylishly spraying--
dipping—
creating
a catwalk of colors.
Decorating webs with glitter
pushing around windblown petals
and giggling softly in afternoon rain.

What’s more important than that?
Sit and listen.
Tear your eyes from your phone--
fold away the rustle--
pause--even the crunching of food.
Stop competing with nature.
Wait for it.
The hum of traffic will dim

There!
Have you seen them? 
Dodging under a mushroom
fluttering in a breeze
perhaps holding in transparent wings--

until we step away. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Distracted By Craziness--Here's My Overdue List of Recent Reads



How can it be that I haven’t shared my book list for almost a year? Let me take the high road and blame my crazy dogs rather than those much crazier debates on television. Hope you find these books as entertaining as I did. 


    

The Probable Future
Alice Hoffman

If you enjoy reading stories about “good witches” or fairy-tales spun from the history of secret gardens and unrequited love, you’ll like this complicated tale about an Angel of Sorrow who appeared in 1682. The child who wandered from the wilderness was Rebecca Sparrow who seemed to portray magical powers such as: she never felt pain and when she whistled, sparrows brought her berries. This book is about modern women in Massachusetts—three closely related generations of the Sparrow family who live in an old mansion called Cake House. Each of these women has inherited a special-paranormal gift such as: dreaming other people’s dreams or being able to tell when someone is lying. The youngest, Stella, recently found out she had the supernatural ability to see the circumstances leading to a person’s death.  This troubling ‘gift’ creates some unintended drama and added family anxiety, taking Hoffman’s novel into unique territory. I enjoyed the book, especially the romantic parts but disliked the way the author intentionally jumped into varying perspectives, racing across town from the library to the lake and from Boston to Unity or across centuries past, the point of view sometimes changing not only in the same chapter but also on the same page. I’ve read other books by this author and usually breeze through them but have to admit this one loaded me down with details like snowdrops, snapping turtles, reeds and roses—all spectacular details for a patient reader. Lastly, if you enjoy mystical adventures filled with love, you’ll want to read this book.

All He Ever Wanted
by Anita Shreve


I really wanted to love this book. I’ve read other books by this author and didn’t expect the old-fashioned tone in the writing, which by the way she did in an exemplary fashion, channeling Edith Wharton in its melancholic prose. The title made me wish and hope for a different outcome and without giving away anything or spoiling the ending, I simply felt like the ash that floats up after one of Shreve’s symbolic fires. A sadder me, mulling over the obsessive side of love and the amazing characters in this book. Clearly historic and well researched; the author describes everything from the temperature to the type of vehicles people drove at the turn of the century, somehow putting fate and circumstance on the same track with literary eloquence and style.


The Stranger
 by Albert Camus


The beginning of this novel is a simplified translation for “American readers” with short, simple sentences in order to hold on to our limited attention spans. Though easy to read, I thought the rather bland beginning made a solid foundation for the much deeper second half. The main character, Meursault, is a pitiful, detached person living from one day to the next—uninspiring and uninspired. He’s like a zombie going to work and trying to stay out of any major upheavals in his apartment building. His blasé attitude attracts the lovely Marie but unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst on a hot day at the beach. Could it be the sun? Heat stroke? What made him pull the trigger and does he really care about the consequences? While reading The Stranger, it reminded me of Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, except this guy doesn’t feel remorse and doesn’t understand why they are making a big deal out of it. Meursault’s hidden truth relies on the premise that death doesn’t really matter. Or does it?


Broken Angel
by Sylvia Ney

This is a true western filled with horses, cowboys and the difficult life of a family on the prairie. I enjoyed reading it and found the twist at the end very satisfying. If you're looking for a short story to read aloud to a group or if you're short on time and don't want to crack open some long winded saga about the old West, you'll love the way the writer wraps up the tale in less time than it takes to watch a rerun of Bonanza.


Kihivas: Alone at the Ends of the Earth (Nonfiction Sailing Adventure Memoir) by Istvan Kopar

I love books that take the reader on a journey but usually stick to reading fictional adventures rather than non-fiction but this remarkable tale of heroic achievement didn’t disappoint. In fact, this is a very exciting book that takes the reader around the world in a one-person sailboat. First, the writer describes his maritime past and his future dreams about circumnavigating the globe. For a young man living in a land-locked country his far-fetched ideas sound remarkable to everyone he meets until he constructs his own boat, the Salammbo. After some evening practice sails on Lake Balaton, Istvan sets his course toward Gibraltar, the official beginning of a long, arduous voyage across the Seven Seas. Besides the obvious coordinates and entries into his Captain’s log, are the emotional and physically grueling challenges thrown upon him during immense storms. Storms that tested his courage, determination and his mettle while making him question his sanity. The sensitive addition of reading material, bird-watching, radio chatter with friends and family had entertained Istvan on board, while the waves tossed the vessel through the Indian Ocean and Pacific. Careening through the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties, Salammbo took a beating from giant swells, ice and incredible heat. By the time he reached the Trade Winds on his way home, he had pulled me into his story so deeply that I myself felt slightly exhausted. KIHIVAS-Alone at the Ends of the Earth is an incredible, true story of one man’s solitary triumph and an inspiration for all who set their sights on dreams that sound impossible.


The Mark of the Beast
Rudyard Kipling

I always enjoy Kipling and this one is no exception. Great short story taking place in India about the curse of a nude leper on a man named Fleete, in the temple of Hanuman or the Monkey-God. Kipling created drama while also making me smile. The irony of the English gentlemen defying nature and the symbolic imagery offered by the faceless leper who mews like a cat, adds to the mysterious tale. I liked it and suggest it to anyone interested in something short and eerie.



Very Valentine: A Novel (Valentine Trilogy Book 1)
Adriana Trigiani

There’s a lot to like about this book especially if you enjoy reading about Italian-American families. Adriani Trigiani writes from her heart, carefully placing it full of wonderful metaphors and tons of similes, to keep the family in this book far from the typical stereotypes associated with Italians in the Big Apple. This book made me laugh, cry and towards the end scream but I understand there’s a sequel and hopefully Valentine will realize there’s more to life than just achieving success and you don’t have to wait until you’re eighty to find true love. Or does she? Read about Roman the good-looking chef who knows how to cook but can’t seem to commit to a very passionate relationship. Enjoy the banter between siblings and a rivalry with her brother over the family shoe business. In fact, after reading this book, you may never look at shoes the same way again and you may begin dreaming of the moon in the mist over the Tyrrhenian sea where anything is possible.

Glimmer and other stories: Unusual and curious tales of magical realism, horror, mystery and suspense
Nicola McDonagh


These literary tales surprised me for many reasons but especially for the symbolic thread involving art that runs through most of the stories. A visual palette for the senses, her use of colorful language ties the reader’s attention to the art and then, when least expected, the canvas is torn or the stained glass is broken. My favorite line about an artist appears in Earnest Thirk, “Art was more than the object, more than the value of the piece. It was a way of giving himself to the world without actually having to be part of it.” Her quote might also apply to the artist, Nicola Mcdonagh, who created these riveting works of museum-quality words, thus giving herself to the world, one fearless story at a time.


Have you read any of these books? Do you think you might read one or more of these delightful tales? 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fiona's Concession Speech



RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA-We are happy to report that since our last post the drought in our usually photogenic state appears to be over! Hooray! The upcoming flowers, grasses and trees love every minute. It’s great weather if you’re a duck or if you don’t drive—but most small dogs-- don’t like it very much. Right now, the grass is soaked and clouds are hovering above promising more rain. The forecast is calling for at least another week of slippery slopes, mudslides and complaining pooches. Time to crank up the heat after making sure there’s a pile of yesterday’s newspapers or maybe a fresh puppy pad in clear sight.
 Breaking News!
Speaking of dogs, the candidates are circling three times before finding a comfortable spot to sit down. Let’s see if I can ask a question or two as they pass by entering the auditorium.
“Miss Fiona—Miss Fiona—I’m Eve with Intangible Hearts and our viewers had a few questions about the election. Do you think your views on abortion might have influenced some voters?”
“That’s a ridiculous question because my opponent and I are both rescues. Intangible Hearts? Who are you again?”
“I’m Eve with Intangible Hearts which has a division called PNN.”
“Pin? Not sure I’ve heard of you.”
“No, it’s mainstream—Pee-N-N.”
 "Go on."
“What about the wall? First, you wanted a fence that you and your friends could dig under and then you changed your mind? What happened?”
“The people have spoken-- the election is over so I don’t think it’s important.”
“Do you think wearing pants could have made a difference?” Ears twitching, she turned, yawned and adjusted her pink top.

Noticeably annoyed with my questions, she moved towards the podium to address the crowd.












"It was a long night. Everyone thought I was going to win. Everyone—even my competition—but alas I conceded to my opponent after what amounted to a long and arduous sprint for power. In the canine world, I’ll admit there does seem to be a bias regarding size that can bring down a campaign faster than a wiener dog race in a red state. After all, my ass-sniffing- technique is limited to the height of a drought-resistant blade of grass. Plus, unlike the winner, I don’t play games.

 Still, I have to raise my paw in awe. Though the competition was fierce, the snarls louder, we didn’t lower ourselves into a bloody dogfight. My ears were perked and listening to the entire charade. While my opponent groveled for tasty snacks, I had to beg for itsy-bitsy scraps not fit for a mouse. The phony ‘big eye’ technique worked to get them votes while I delivered speech after speech to the mailman, the gardener and anyone else willing to listen.  I take back some of my heated comments about my opponent's stinky butt. I'd take it all back but it's too late. 

Of course now that the election is over, I’m not disappointed with the results. Seriously, my constituents are smart—they know loyalty when they see it and now that I’m retiring from politics--, they will hopefully back the winner so I can go back to taking long naps."

(Intangible Hearts does not endorse any candidate and this post is intended strictly for fun.)