Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ana discovers the Italians' best use of the frittata

Ana Darcy Méndez has always enjoyed talking to people from other countries. In her first years on Earth, she occasionally asked embarrassing questions, but she soon learned to use her cover story, of being an immigrant from Argentina, as an entree to a discussion. It never failed--people are invariably pleased to enlighten interested listeners about their homelands.

Now, married into a locally prominent New Mexican family, she takes pleasure in hosting international visitors and guests, many associated with the local university. It was from one of these, a faculty member from Italy, that she learned that a frittata is not merely an omelette, no indeed. It's a way to make leftover pasta into a new and tasty dish!

The photo above shows the result. She started with a bowl of leftover spaghetti and sauce, wonderful the first time around, but now a little dry. Using the knowledge she gained from her Italian guest, she packed it into a pan, covered it with an egg slurry, added some grated cheese on top, and fried it. (A few minutes in the oven helped melt the cheese and brown the top.) Served garnished, in wedges, it was delicious. The origin of the dish would be nearly impossible to guess!

Ana's other food ideas and recipes:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ana gives us some Luvit proverbs from the planet Thomo!

Ana Darcy's native language, Luvit, is spoken by the people of the planet Thomo. (The photo above represents Thomo and its two moons.) There are a number of Luvit words scattered throughout the various Distant Cousin books, but there is no point in providing more than a few, because Luvit is almost completely unintelligible to us. (There is, on the other hand, a fair amount of Spanish in the books, and not all of that needs to be translated. There is also a bit of French, in the first volume.)

We know, however, that Luvit is related to English, Spanish, and French, and to all the Indo-European languages generally. It was, in fact, one of the first languages to split off from the original, long-lost Proto Indo-European of some thousands of years ago. This knowledge comes to us from Dr. William Sledd, a linguist and philologist, as a result of his studies with the assistance of Ana in volume 1. A more complete account of what he discovered is found elsewhere on this blog.

A number of readers have asked for more samples of Luvit, however, and because the various posts of Spanish proverbs on this blog have been popular, we asked Ana if she would provide us a few proverbs in Luvit. We felt sure there would be proverbs in Luvit, and there are. She graciously assented, and they are listed below. Thoman proverbs are as colorful as Earthly proverbs!

Some preliminary notes:

1. The Thoman writing system is as unintelligible to us as the spoken language. While the International Phonetic Alphabet can precisely indicate the sounds of all languages through the use of an elaborate system of symbols, that too is difficult to decipher by all but practiced linguists. Accordingly, we will render the proverbs as closely as we can using standard English orthography.

2. Ana's editor, your humble servant, happens to be a practiced linguist, and while not terribly familiar with Luvit, we will attempt to point out, in notes which follow, a few words which may show possible connections between three of the great families of Indo-European languages: Germanic, Balto-Slavic, and Italic. (See a chart of the branches here.)

3. You might be surprised, after looking over what seem to be harsh sounding words below, to hear spoken Luvit. It is generally rather soft and smooth sounding.

The Proverbs

1. pez bra:sh nyesu kola:sh

      Without work, there are no cakes.

2. pez bensh, do hoshpodzh nelesh.

      Don't go to the pub without money.

3. neilepsh kuchakh ye hlad.

      Hunger is the best cook.

4. vnochi cherna: kazht

      Every cat is black at night.

And a nonsense tongue twister, with NO vowels:

5. strsh prsht skrz khrk

      Stick a finger through your throat.


1. "Pez," in proverbs 1 and 2, would seem to mean "without." "Bensh," in #2 reminds us of "pence."

2. The symbol "a:" indicates a low central vowel, like the vowel sound in "thought."

3. In proverb #1, "kola:sh" probably means "cake," and might be related to Czech and Polish (and English, for that matter) "kolace."

4. In proverb #3, "kuchakh" must mean "cook." German is "koch." English has "cook" and "kitchen," of course.

5. In proverb #4, "vnochi" probably means "night" or "at night," and might be similar to Spanish "noche," French "nuit," and Italian "notte," not to mention Latin "nox, noctis." Also, "cherna:," "black," might be related to "czerny," "black" in Polish. And perhaps "kazht" is similar to "cat" or German "katte," or even Spanish "gato."

6. For tongue twister #5, we have only one comment: if you say, carefully, "shtrk," you can say a "word" with no vowels. A linguist would say it has a "semi-vowel," that is, a way to slide from one consonant to the next. Apparently, that's all that's needed for a few select words.

Thanks, Ana!

Mexican-American proverbs: One  Two Three

Spanish nursery rhymes: One  Two

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guest Blog! Wheelchair Mommy!

We are delighted to present a guest blogger today, a vivacious young woman who writes one of my favorite blogs. She has been so occupied with the latest addition to her wonderful family--her third boy!--that she has opted to post something from her own blog from the not too distant past, about her discovery of the Distant Cousin stories!

Two points of interest about her post below. She knows me as a former college student of a few years ago. Whether that had anything to do with it or not, she's a wonderful writer. Her blog is a lively source of information for parents and full of touching anecdotes from a warm-hearted modern family. The second point is that she, like Rebecca Pechefsky, harpsichordist, and Claudia Quintero, a talented painter, have actually met Ana Darcy (even though they may not have realized it at the time)!

Thanks again to the Wheelchair Mommy for her post, and we invite you to visit her delightful blog (link below), and perhaps even become a follower!

Alrighty. Wow. I never minded book reports in school, but when it comes to reviewing a book written by someone I KNOW and want others to read, I seem to be at a loss for words. Imagine that? Me? With nothing to say?

That’s precisely the problem. I have too much to say and I don’t want to give ANYTHING away. I want you to order them RIGHT now and read them so we can talk about them.

When I read the first book I had NO idea there would be second, third and fourth. I was thrilled each time another one came out though! I wonder if there will be a 5th? [YES!] [And now #6!
[And now #7: Distant Cousin Santa Muerte!]

Ok. So you probably want to AT LEAST know what it’s about? Well, it’s science fiction. A woman from another planet (Thomo) comes to Earth. There’s a bit of a love story. (She meets someone.) There are HUGE lessons in learning to accept others! (She’s an alien for crying out loud.) There’s humor. There’s action & murder. There’s growth.

I can not pick a favorite out of the 4. I like them all. I would LOVE for Hollywood to pick this up. It would make an AWESOME mini series. Just incredible. [Hollywood is working on it!]

So there you have it. My ideas of how one should review a series, written by a friend; without spoiling anything. . . I will just tell my readers that they must just click below and order now.


And Thank you!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ana learns to love the Mexican observance of El Día de los Muertos

We may not know many specifics of the human society on the planet Thomo, but we can be sure of certain features in general. Families are important; ancestors and descendants are important. The arts--music, painting, poetry, literature, and so forth, are important. Religion is important. So is food. Security, love, manners, means of getting along, are very important.

We would expect when Ana Darcy (née Anneyn Darshiell) came to Earth she recognized the importance of those things in our society, even if she was unfamiliar with the details. (Her first impressions are recorded in Distant Cousin.) After all, where her people had one basic set of beliefs and customs, we have thousands of cultures and languages and cuisines. These were an unimaginably rich treasure for her to explore. They still are.

Given that she settled in southern New Mexico in an Anglo/Hispanic area, it stands to reason that she would be intimately exposed to the customs of both those cultures. One Mexican tradition struck her as so appropriate to her own society on Thomo that she adopted it herself, immediately. This customary observance might seem strange to the English-speaking world, enough so to deserve a note of explanation here: the custom of El Día de los Muertos, the day of the dead.

The origin of the observance lies some 400 years in the past, with the arrival of Spaniards in Mexico. The Spaniards--Catholic, of course--already observed All Souls' Day, the day following All Saints' Day. They blended this observance into the indigenous Indian celebration of their ancestors. The result is El Día de los Muertos, in effect, a Catholic celebration with Aztec overtones, among others. (This process, common in Catholicism, is called syncretism.)

There is nothing morbid about it--it is a joyous remembrance of one's ancestors. In the English-speaking world, we remember those who went before to some degree, with perhaps a few photos or paintings, a hymn or two, perhaps, and, if we're really thorough, a reading of old correspondence or sharing of family stories with younger family members. In Mexico, this process is formalized and elaborate. Cemeteries are cleaned up and decorated. Whole families spend the day there, have picnics and music, and decorate their houses with altars and flowers. Unlike Halloween, death is regarded as another phase of life, something to be commemorated and revered. Even food and drink are provided, for the spirits of those ancestors.

In Ana's Thoman society, each generation is numbered and remembered individually. There are many epic poems about deeds and persons of the past, somewhat like the ancient Greeks, which keep the past alive and help guide people into the future. Ana herself is the subject of one of these epics (in Distant Cousin: Regeneration). In any case, Ana instantly understood the importance of El Día de los Muertos, and enthusiastically adopted it. (Many Anglo families have as well. Being Catholic is not required for remembering one's ancestors!) The appropriateness of Ana's observation of El Día de los Muertos was featured in Distant Cousin: Reincarnation.

Below are two photos of observances of an El Día de los Muertos celebration (a third is above, at top). These three, from central Mexico, show a cemetery, elaborately decorated and crowded with celebrants, musicians, and the like. (You may right click these to open in another window to better see the details.)

The two below show observances in Mexican homes.

This one shows an altar in a college Spanish classroom in the United States. One of the students evidently remembered an ancestor who enjoyed weight lifting (left foreground).

And here is an altar in a non-Catholic Anglo household, with photos of ancestors, flowers, and items those ancestors enjoyed--including a bottle of liquor, center rear.

If anyone is interested in trying this custom, nothing could be simpler. Several days before November second, merely set out photos or representations of one's dear departed, add characteristic items they enjoyed, along with flowers and candles. Light the candles each night. You will find yourself thinking of those who preceded you more than you ever have before!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

MORE Mexican-American Nursery Rhymes, Songs, Games

Has the news got you down? Not feeling that great? Maybe a dose of pure fun will help, as it did with this reader:  “Things have been extremely difficult around here…. The adventures of the Mendez family provided a wonderful distraction. And the ending filled me with hope, for some inexplicable reason. I love the warmth and togetherness of the family.”
Add the Mendez family to your list of friends!

Ana's people on the planet Thomo are devotedly child-centered. Their early problems surviving on a harsh, new planet were mentioned in Distant Cousin and several of the later volumes. Children, lots of children, saved them.

If you'd expect them to have lullabies, nursery rhymes, and games for children, you would be correct. We are working on obtaining some examples, but it is far from a simple matter. Not only is their language, Luvit, unknown on Earth, their writing system is illegible to us. The words could be rendered in the International Phonetic Alphabet, but how many of us can read that (or write it)? Nevertheless, before long we hope to have at least a sample or two of children's rhymes, proverbs, or other common refrains heard on Thomo. [Editor's Note: We have now obtained some "dichos," or proverbs, from Luvit, Ana Darcy's native language, here: post.]

Closer to home, Ana's family has been raised speaking Spanish as well as English. (Her children also speak Luvit and Hindi, and have a basic familiarity with several other languages as well, as explained in Distant Cousin: Reincarnation. There is a discussion elsewhere on Ana's blog about raising bilingual, biliterate children--see below.)

All Spanish-speaking countries have many, many traditional children's rhymes, games, songs, and verses, of course. Below are some examples of the ones that Ana learned from her mother in law and grandmother in law in southern New Mexico. Most would be familiar to Spanish speakers from other countries, with minor variations. Ana's children know these by heart!

If you've ever seen the moon reflected in the waves of a lake, you should like the imagery of this little verse.

Allá está la luna,
Comiendo su tuna
Tirando las cáscaras
en la laguna.

(There is the moon, eating its tuna, throwing the husks into the lake. The husks, you see, would be the crescent-shaped reflections on the water!)

Here is a counting game with toes, similar to "This little piggy went to market...."

Éste compró un huevo.
Éste trajo la sal.
Éste encendió el fuego.
Éste lo guisó.
¡Y éste pícaro gordo se lo comió!

(This one bought an egg. This one brought the salt. This one lit the fire. This one cooked it. And this fat bully ate it!)

Here's a song for sleepy children:

Los pollitos dicen:
"Pio, pio, pio,"
Cuando tienen hambre,
Cuando tienen frio.

La gallina busca
el maíz y el trigo,
les da la comida
y les presta abrigo.

Bajo sus dos alas,
hasta el otro día
duermen los pollitos.

(The chicks say pio, pio, pio when they're hungry and when they're cold. The hen finds corn and wheat to feed them and lends them an overcoat. Under her wings, snuggled together, the chicks sleep until another day.) This is the melody:

A traditional nonsense verse with a rollicking rhythm:

Pin, marín,
De Don Pingüe,
Cúcara, mácara,
Títere fue.

Here's a singing game, with children sitting in a circle. A girl sings, counting the syllables and pointing at children in turn. When she gets to the last syllable, that child must get up and dance with her.

Arroz con leche,
me quiero casar
con un mexicano
que sea cantar.

El hijo del rey
me manda un papel,
me manda decir
me case con él.

Con éste no,
con éste sí,
con éste mero
me caso yo.

(Milk with rice, I want to marry a Mexican who knows how to sing/The son of the king sent me a note ordering me to say I would marry him/with this one no, with this one yes, with this very one I will marry.)

Finally, perhaps the most popular and most used rhyme, for when a child is hurt and needs comforting. (If a teacher performs this, generally with a stroking motion or a gentle pat, it's likely that every child within earshot will locate some tiny scratch and form a line so they too can be healed.)

Sana, sana,
Colita de rana.
Sí no sanas hoy
Sanarás mañana.

(Heal, heal, tail of a frog. If you're not well today, you'll be well tomorrow.)

Ideas on raising bilingual, biliterate children  1  2  3  4

Monday, August 1, 2011

MORE Mexican-American Dichos (Proverbs)

Ana's father in law, and his mother (Abuelita), eventually figured out that their son's/grandson's wife was the famous but elusive woman from outer space--the planet Thomo. Each kept her secret to themselves for a good while, however, because they realized that if word of her real identity were to get out, their peaceful family life in rural New Mexico would be over.

Ana Darcy, for her part, also welcomed her low profile life as the home-making wife of a moderately prosperous landowner. One way she did this was by following her interests in the languages of Earth and becoming fluent in Spanish, since her husband's family was bilingual in English and Spanish, and Spanish is the second language of New Mexico. Abuelita, in particular, was her devoted tutor in the social customs of southern New Mexico and in Spanish, which included many, many dichos (proverbs) from Abuelita's enormous store of practical wisdom.

They are great fun. Many are similar to proverbs in English, of course, but some reflect novel cultural differences. Some of these have already appeared here. Here are some more:

Cada oveja con su pareja. (Each sheep with its twin; birds of a feather stick together)

A cada santa se le llega su día. (Each saint's day arrives; every dog has his day)

Lo barato cuesta caro. (What's cheap is expensive (in the long run))

Panza llena, corazón contento. (A full stomach makes a happy heart.)

Es mejor que haya un tonto y no dos. (Better there's one fool and not two; you've made enough of a fool of yourself already)

El hábito no hace al monje. (A habit doesn't make a monk; clothes don't make the man).

Antes te hablar es bueno pensar. (Think before speaking.)

Comer frijoles y repetir pollo. (Eating beans and talking chicken; talking big but acting small)

De lo perdido a lo que aparezca. (From having lost it to whatever may appear; something is better than nothing)

La mala yerba nunca muere. (The bad weeds never die; the bad penny always comes back)

Más vale andar solo que mal acompañado. (It's better to be alone than in bad company.)

Quien a feo ama, hermoso le parece. (Love makes even the ugly beautiful.)