Weekly Photo: Unexpected

Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Unexpected by NVS

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Authors Help the Philippines with an Auction

Text by Nora Vasconcelos

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One more time the power of the written word takes action, this time to help victims in the Philippines who have lost everything after the terrible destruction caused over there by the Haiyan typhoon passed, on November 8th.

With the initiative Authors for the Philippines, people from all over the world can bid on different items donated by different authors, such as signed books, manuscripts and submissions critique and mentoring, a character named after you, writing courses, blog-to-book advice, editorial advice, original book illustrations, among other things, to add in total 484 items listed.

The auction, set by the author Keris Stainton, ends this Wednesday, November 20th, at 8 pm (GMT). All the money is going straight to the British Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan Appeal

This is the second time that Stainton has set up an auction to help the victims of a Natural disaster. In 2011, she established Authors for Japan to help people in Japan, after an earthquake and a tsunami slammed that country. That time, 12,000 British Pounds were collected and donated to the British Red Cross for them to help the Japanese Victims.

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Weekly Photo: Layers

Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Layers by NVS

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Tasty gardens

Herbs garden by NVSText and Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Some time ago I had the chance to visit the Nestle Food Museum Alimentarium, in Vevey, Switzerland. Over there, right at the entrance of the museum, there’s a unique garden, one made of herbal plants.

As I walked close to it, the amazing smell of different fresh herbs, all combined, made me close my eyes and take a very long and slow deep breath.

Ever since, I got fascinated with the idea of growing my very own herbal garden. Although I’m still trying to put it together, I’ve done some successful attempts to grow plants like chives, coriander (cilantro), celery, oregano and parsley. Some other herbs are a little more difficult to grow such as dill and basil (they come and goes).

To accompany on my efforts, I’ve found a very comprehensive book, which contains not only different ways to grow herbs, but also practical solutions to different problems.

The little guide of Herbs, published by Fog City Press, stars talking about a very important thing: Understanding your garden, as it explains that different variables will bring different results, so things like the weather, the environment, the topography, the sunlight and the soil will have and impact on your garden. Getting to know your garden, will help you to grow “the right plants at the right time in the right place”.

This part of the book also contains advice on how to maintain the plants healthy, and the way they should be harvested and stored.

The second part is a guide in which can be found some basic physical details of each herbal plant, their preferred weather and their primary uses in the kitchen.

One last part brings different options to work with the herbs once they’ve been harvested as to produce different goods such as oils, aromatherapy liquids, vinegars, salad dressings and herb butters.

So, while I keep on going through the book, enjoying the singular experience of learning this much about these herbs that so many times are taken for granted, I’ll keep on trying to set, some day, my dream tasty garden.

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Exotic and inspiring places for writers

Text and Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Exotic by NVS

Just a few days ago, while traveling around some tropical islands, several thoughts came to my mind. First, looking at such exotic places with solid green colors and soft blues, the idea of Gauguin getting all fascinated by the Polynesia came to me in a very clear way, understanding all of a sudden, how the artist found this source of inspiration so great, as it was so different from his home town back in France.

Then I started thinking about how much the weather and the scenery influence writers and provoke them to produce pieces that they might not have written if they hadn’t gone through all these new experiences.

So, I remembered how Albert Camus wrote in his famous The Outsider, how the extreme heat was the cause of a violent act while in Algiers, which, the main character, Raymond Meursault, may not have committed otherwise.

I also thought of Beatrix Potter, famous for her lovely and colorful Peter Rabbit stories, as she spent a good deal of time writing, inspired either by her little pets and farm animals, as well as for the time she spent outdoors surrounded by the green British scenery.

Also inspired by his surroundings, Ernest Hemingway developed The Old Man and the Sea, one of his most famous stories in Cuba. It was a fisherman who lived there, the waves and the warm scenery, that made Hemingway came up with the story of old Santiago trying to succeeded with his last catch.

But cities also have a very big influence in writers, and I keep wondering how is it that some cities are (or seem to be) more inspirational than others?

Places like Dublin, Saint Petersburg and Prague seem to have a special magic that brings out most of the best and deep stories, like the ones written by the Czech author Jan Neruda, who, in his Tales of the Lesser Quarter, shows vivid descriptions of the local customs and what it was like to live in the 19th century Prague.

How this magic works is a question I haven’t actually find an answer for, but of one thing I’m sure, the most important thing for any writer or avid traveler (they usually combine) is to keep your eyes alert, your ears attentive and your heart wide open.

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Weekly Photo: Habit

Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Impossible to resist!
Impossible to resist!

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