Diane Sawyer Newsletter/Blog #12 October 2013

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and thank you for your kind comments. Welcome to my new friends from the Thursday Morning Writers’ Group and to the reading enthusiasts I met at the Tampa Bay Times Reading Festival.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading!

 

This and That

To celebrate October, here’s a brief look at how Halloween is celebrated in various countries around the world. (Regrettably, there’s only room for a small sampling.)The USA and Canada top the list for the highest level of popularity of Halloween celebrations, decorations, and candy. Ireland gets a special place of honor on the list because the holiday originated in Ireland. (Did you know that? My Irish mother never told me that, but the Internet says it’s so.) Like their ancestors, the Celts, today’s Irish light bonfires on the hillsides. The children dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating, but there are several other lesser-known traditions too. They play the snap-apple game, trying to bite into an apple hanging from a string (something like bobbing for an apple in a tub but without the messy water spilled all over the floor). The wee Irish lads and lasses have fun with their neighbors as they play knock-a-dolly. They knock on a neighbor’s door and run and hide before the neighbors can open the door. (Fun for the kids, but are the neighbors laughing?) Then there’s the traditional food, barnbrack, a fruitcake that contains a muslin-wrapped treat baked in the cake. The treat supposedly predicts the future. A bit of straw, for instance, is known to guarantee a profitable year. A ring predicts a wedding.

Welcoming home the souls of dead relatives plays a large part in Halloween traditions. Austrians leave bread, water and a lighted lamp to welcome them back to earth. The Belgians light candles in their memory. The Chinese, who call the Halloween festival Teng Chieh, leave food and water in front of photographs of their dearly departed and light bonfires and lanterns to light their way home. The Japanese celebrate the Obon Festival, similar to Halloween, (also known as Matsui or Urabon) in July or August. They hang bright red lanterns everywhere. They also light candles, place them in lanterns, and set them afloat on rivers and seas. In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, Halloween is a three-day holiday known as Dia de los Muertos, a joyous time meant to remember departed friends and family. In Sweden, Halloween is called Alla Helgons Dag and lasts from October 31 until November 6. The Friday before All Saint’s Day is a vacation day for Sweden’s school-age children.

 

Travel

Your enthusiastic emails tell me you love to travel. If or when that’s not possible, you like to read about travel. Good! This month, as promised, I will continue with Eastern Europe, a region that I visited via a bus tour several years ago with two good friends, Marce and Sharon. The last day that we were in Budapest, there was enough free time to take an optional trip with our guide Kili to Szentendre (senTENdray), a colony of artists, painters, and sculptors, situated 20 miles from Budapest on the Danube. Originally the Serbs fleeing from the Turks in the 17th century inhabited this town. Today there are museums, galleries, and workshops along the winding, hilly cobblestone streets.

Our group of about 20 visited a small Serbian Orthodox Church that is now a museum, enjoyed cake and coffee at a sidewalk café, and saw countless shops filled with handcrafts and souvenirs, lining one long street. Best of all was the work by internationally renowned artist and sculptress Margit Kovacs (1902-1977), who combined modern and traditional elements in her work. Her ceramics, clay, and other distinctive works rest on tables and shelves or hang in the ten rooms of her beautiful Baroque home-museum. The former salt house dating from the eighteenth century has white-washed plastered walls, small front windows with grilles, a magnificently arched gateway, and a tranquil garden that encourages meditation. In the basement and a wing her works inspired by religion are on display.

Some of my favorite works highlight Kovacs’ interest in showing girls and women involved in daily village activities: “Fishermen’s Wives” (sorrowful women dressed all in brown with scarves pulled tight against the wind, wring their hands and look out to sea); “Lace-Veiled Girls”; “Mother With Child”; and “Dressing the Bride.” This artistic, unique town, a must-see, was very popular with the group. Be advised: If you are ever in the Budapest area and decide to visit Szentendre to visit the Margit Kovacs Home-Museum, lines form to see her magnificent collection and you may have to wait.

*****

I’d like to end the Budapest part of the trip with an amusing anecdote. We traveled along the famous scenic Danube Bend drive and arrived at our hotel in Budapest, quite far from the center of town. Marce, Sharon and I checked into our apartment—yes, apartment, not room—consisting of master bedroom with king-size bed, bath, kitchen, and living room with a sofa that contained a pull-out bed. A problem arose when we tried to release the bed. It took the three of us on our hands and knees, tugging, pulling, pushing, working up a sweat, but we finally did it. We then called the front desk and asked room service to provide extra towels and a cot. The funniest event of our entire trip then unfolded when two young Hungarian women with carrot-colored hair arrived at our door and dragged a cot into the room.

Their exaggerated facial expressions, which were meant to convey what their language could not, reminded me of rubber-faced big-eyed Lucille Ball and Ethel Mertz in the famous episode where they worked in a candy factory. Like Lucille and Ethel, these two maids wore loose smocks. Their pockets overflowed with spray bottles, cleaning cloths, packets of soap and shampoo and numerous other treasures. One of them spoke some English; the other didn’t know a single word.

We pointed at the sofa and explained in words and then with pantomime the struggle we had gone through. They quickly approached the sofa and snapped it shut in 30 seconds with the mere touch of an index finger and moved the cot beyond the sofa near the window. When we said with panicky voices, “No, please leave the sofa open for us,” we said and acted out the aerobic routine we had gone through to open it. They looked at each like we were escapees from an asylum and snapped it back open. Again, they accomplished this feat in 30 seconds. But the bed took up most of the floor space, so we acted out “Please move the sofa-bed to the side of the room.” Without hesitation, they snapped it shut, moved it, and snapped it open as if they were completing a military maneuver.

They checked a notepad and peered into our bathroom. There quickly followed spurts of the dramatic mysterious-sounding Hungarian language, which is neither a Romance nor an Indo-European language, but is related to Finnish and Estonian. We were fluent in neither. We replied in English and pantomime explaining or trying to explain the lack of towels. We counted to three on our fingers, pointed to the three of us, and pointed at the two towels. “Aha!” They counted on three fingers in Hungarian and pointed to the three of us, rattling off strange-sounding words, the equivalent we figured of our “one, two, three.”

In a flurry of activity, nodding of heads, and rapid sentences in Hungarian, the two women sprang to action. Towels appeared, linens popped out of drawers we hadn’t noticed, and before the dust had settled they had our room in perfect order and breezed out the door, chattering away and laughing. The last I saw of “Ethel Mertz” was the high-heeled open-toed open-heeled sneaker of her right foot going out the door. Marce, Sharon, and I collapsed on the cot and sofa and laughed ourselves silly.

 

Cooking Delights

Easy Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two 9×5 loaf pans

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

****

2 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups (a 15-oz can) pure pumpkin

1/2 cup vegetable oil

****

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (if using frozen, drain any ice that has formed or the bread will lack firmness)

Preparation:

  • Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Combine the next 4 ingredients in a small mixing bowl; beat just until blended.
  • Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture; stir just until moistened.
  • Fold in cranberries.
  • Spoon batter into the 2 prepared loaf pans.
  • Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 55 to 60 minutes until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5-10 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Bon appétit!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fondly,

Diane

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