Still Cooking at the Cafe

Happy New Year to all. We’re still cooking here at the café, happy to leave behind a year that has been so devastating around the world.

Political turmoil, natural disasters, the struggle for justice –– and through it all, a pandemic disrupting our lives in numerous personal ways and making even simple things challenging.

We’ve all been through so much, and still the pandemic continues and surges, with many months predicted to go. We’ll still have to persevere, practice patience and resilience, and be vigilant in taking the precautions that stop the virus from spreading.

Yet arriving at this new year is still a celebration. A fresh start always brings inspiration and energy, and we can take hope in the progress we’ve made in the midst of crisis.

On today’s cafe menu: lentils, a food eaten in several countries on New Year’s Day, or the eve before, to bring good luck in the new year.

As we head into 2021, who couldn’t use a bit of luck in their efforts? Wherever you are, I imagine some lucky New Year’s food was on your table too. Our red lentils above are flavored with curry, lime juice and coconut milk, served over brown rice, and topped with a chopped fresh spinach salad. What was on your menu?

Fight on, Covid warriors. With perseverance and a little luck, we’ll get through this together. Wishing you good health, good food, and good fortune this year.

Copyright M. Vincent 2021. All photos copyright M. Vincent.

Fourth of July Dogs on Parade

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As Covid-19 cases resurge across the U.S., our Independence Day celebrations will be constrained, and numerous traditional events — fireworks, fun runs, festivals, parades — have been canceled, including a favorite local institution, the dog parade.

Let’s revisit one of these fun events held in our California neighborhood. My partner and I are fond of dogs, though we don’t have one, and what photographer could resist a chance to shoot cute canines in patriotic costume on a bright July morning in the park?

We quickly spotted the parade queen: a petite Hollywood star in stylish hat and sunglasses, relaxing in her elaborately decorated carriage. Here she is taking a beauty nap before the show gets underway.

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With the costumes and accessories some dogs were sporting, I wondered: Do they enjoy any of this? Or, do they just gamely soldier through it to humor their beloved humans?

The queen’s owner assured me when I walked up to chat that the little star loved to dress up, caper around the house and elicit cheers for her performance.

Observing the scene, I found it plausible that dogs might enjoy these dress-up performances. They were certainly getting lots of attention from children, photographers and other parade goers, as well as their devoted families.

Some even seemed to be playing to the crowd: The parade queen sprang from her nap refreshed and sparkling when the event began, and here she is rolling along like a star engaging with an adoring audience.

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Imagine discerning dogs choosing their outfits, being groomed, arrayed, and checking the results in the mirror as the household cat trots by with a snicker heading for secret, solitary adventures.

The popular bulldog below outdid the parade queen for fancy attire in a dress with varied patterns, textures and decorative details. She even managed to keep those flags attached and intact.

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Next is the gregarious chihuahua I call “Ms. Congeniality.” She strolled the crowd before the event with her ruffled skirt rippling behind her, meeting, greeting and shaking hands. Was her stylish costume made by the bulldog’s designer? Look at the design details. Those two were the most elaborately dressed dogs we saw.

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Other dogs chose the minimalist route, such as these two rocking some glamorous neckwear and a “less is more” attitude.

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All were very civilized and fun to watch and photograph. I hope their photos and stories have provided some holiday humor and cheer.

Wishing all my readers and their canine companions a peaceful, refreshing and hopeful weekend.

Copyright M. Vincent 2020. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2018-2020.

Food/Photography Friday: Photography from Hell

MV Surreal door with quote

What to do when you feel like hell? Dream up a fun photography project and get shooting. That was my answer this week to the battering illness blues. My uplifting escape.

I’ve been fighting a mean case of bronchitis, with those coughing fits that crack like gunshots and feel like glass shattering in your chest. Recovery requires rest, but it’s not my strong point. I needed action, and doing art always takes me to a happier place.

Shooting Rabbits

With spring and Easter on the way, what better models than some playful rabbits? Here are some photos from my shoot:

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Hip-hop rabbits on pink background

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Hip-hop rabbits on blue background

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Rabbits with a loving greeting

No rabbits were harmed to create these photos.  Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Copyright M. Vincent 2020. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2020.

You can find licensable, high resolution versions of the photographs in this post at https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Vince360/sets/259568063. Or, click here to view my Vince360 Shutterstock photo portfolio.

 

 

A Poem for Year’s End. Wishes for a New Year’s Beginning.

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About the Poem

I’d never heard of New Mexican writer, Pat Mora, until I came across her 2018 book –– Encantado: Desert Monologues –– a wonderful collection of poems inspired in part by Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. She had me at the first two poems, Señor Ortega and Encantado, the poem you’ll find below.

Encantado is a small, fictional city by a river in the southwestern United States. Its name means “enchanted” in Spanish, and its diverse inhabitants include many of Hispanic heritage. Their touching stories are told in first-person, with the themes of loss and departed loved ones running through the poems.

Part of the town’s enchantment is the spirit world, an integral part of the community. We learn about some of the spirits from those left behind, who mourn a wife, a husband, a grandmother, a beloved aunt. In the Day of the Dead poem, we hear their voices, as they return to Encantado — “in we drift …”

They speak of gathering annually at the river, and “later drifting again through familiar dusty streets and rooms … through sounds of the living, patting heads we love, comforting the attentive.”

A Visitation of Spirits

For many of us, the last days of the year are a time of feeling particularly close to special family members and friends, long ago or recently departed, who have influenced our lives in profound ways. While they’re always in our thoughts, we may feel their presence more keenly during the holidays because we have more opportunity for reflection.

My partner vividly remembers his English grandmother leading the assembled family and grandchildren in singing her traditional Christmas song. In her honor we sang it on Christmas morning. The evening before, multi-generational family members, gathered on the other side of the country, surprised us with a serenade by phone.

Whenever I’m happily immersed in cooking, my Italian grandmother, who taught me so much, is there. A favorite memory of growing up is spending time in her kitchen: learning to bake the fragrant anise biscotti she made every Christmas, stirring a risotto, absorbing the approach of a joyful, instinctively creative maker who lovingly transmitted her knowledge and passion to me.

These departed spirits, and several others, were very much with us during our quiet, contemplative holiday time. It kept me returning to this poem and Mora’s book, so fitting for a season of remembrance and reflection. 

Encantado

The last nights of the year,

kind, departed spirits return

to Encantado as stars,

meander

down dark streets and hallways,

peer into windows,

congregate around cribs,

again leave glowing glints

of themselves;

intertwine with our dreams,

shine on bare boughs,

pines, and cactus spines.

— Pat Mora

I hope that your own “kind, departed spirits” were with you at year’s end, bringing happy memories and inspiration.

New Year’s Wishes

Thank you readers, followers and friends for visiting My Eclectic Café last year and for your thoughtful comments and encouragement. I’ve enjoyed discovering and following your work and look forward to what you’ll create this year. Best wishes for all good spirits in the new year.

Copyright M. Vincent 2020. Photos copyright M. Vincent 2017-2020.

Encantado is from the poetry collection Encantado: Desert Monologues, copyright Pat Mora 2018, published by The University of Arizona Press.

 

The White House Easter Egg Roll: 141 Years of Tradition

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Greetings, and Happy Easter weekend. However you spend the holiday, I hope you’ll have as much fun as I did creating the whimsical photos in this post: “Rabbits ride the teacups” (above) and the minimalist egg series you’ll find below.

Rabbits, the Easter Bunny and colorful decorated eggs are an Easter tradition worldwide, with many variations. Here in the United States, there is even an annual Easter egg roll on the White House Lawn, hosted by the president and first lady.

The event, traditionally held on Easter Monday, marks its 141-year anniversary this year and has a fascinating history. Here is a brief look at how it began and its evolution through changing times:

Informal Underpinnings

According to the White House Historical Association, Washington, D.C. residents celebrated Easter Monday on the west grounds of the U.S. Capitol beginning in the 1870s. As part of the festivities, children rolled dyed hard-cooked eggs down the terraced lawn.

By 1876, landscape concerns led Congress to pass legislation restricting public use of the Capitol grounds, which effectively proscribed future egg rolling there. However, in 1878, a group of children seeking a new venue for their egg rolling games marched to the White House, hoping they’d be allowed to use the hilly South Lawn. President Rutherford B. Hayes let them through the gates, and thus began the official event.  

An Increasingly Popular Public Event

The egg rollers’ move from Capitol grounds to White House lawn was a very popular change, and the event began to attract more and more people. A series of newspaper articles cited by The White House Historical Association indicates the large turnouts: By 1911, attendance is estimated at 10,000 to 30,000 in different years, “depending on the weather”; in 1927, 30,000 children were rolling eggs; a 1940 article reports that record attendance to date was 53,180 in 1937.

Racketeering Rascals Busted

As the event attracted larger crowds, a rule was set to limit the number of people entering the South Lawn: a “grown person” would be admitted only when accompanied by a child, and vice versa. In response, lone children and adults started teaming up to gain admission. Some enterprising young rascals (imagine Spanky, Alfalfa and the gang) even charged a fee to get a succession of adults past the security guards. According to a 1939 newspaper report, the practice became so scandalous that Secret Service men were stationed at the White House gates to “break up the kids’ rackets.”

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What Is Egg Rolling Anyway?

From its inception, egg rolling has been the event’s primary activity: Children rolled colored hard-boiled eggs across the grass to see whose could travel farthest before cracking. In the early years, other egg games –– such as catch and toss and egg croquet –– were also played.

In 1974, Richard and Pat Nixon introduced egg roll races, which have become one of the day’s favorite activities. The Easter egg hunt is also a staple of the event.

Each First Family Adds Its Own Spin

Through the years, each First Family has put its own spin on the event. That’s part of the tradition. Some notable examples in addition to the egg races:

In 1969, one of first lady Pat Nixon’s staffers dressed up in a fleecy white rabbit costume, and the White House Easter Bunny was born. Since then, the bunny is always a member of the administrative staff.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy were the first to use wooden eggs for the Easter egg hunt. Wooden eggs later became the official White House Egg Roll keepsake. The Reagan eggs were signed by famous people. Now this keepsake is inscribed with the signatures of the president and first lady. Designed to reflect the current year’s theme, it’s given to each child under the age of 12.

Have you attended the White House Easter Egg Roll as a D.C. resident or visitor? What is your personal Easter tradition? Please leave a comment.

References

Information for this post was derived from the White House Historical Association website: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/collections/white-house-easter-egg-roll

For more about the White House Easter Egg Roll, including interesting photos of the event through the years, the site is an excellent resource.

Copyright M. Vincent 2019. All photographs copyright M. Vincent 2019.