Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cesar Chavez

Labor Folk Hero Cesar Chavez

"Sí, se puede"("Yes, one can")

This saying - popular with sports-related teams as a “pumper upper” - is a motivational phrase used by politicians and in labor strikes in movies as well as rallies. Cesar Chavez, the man behind that saying is an iconic folk hero who dramatically impacted the lives of migrant farm workers.

Chavez was best known for his Latino American civil rights activism and strong lobbying for the American Labor Movement. His two-sided communication made him successful in publicizing a nonviolent yet forward push for the farm workers’ struggle. After his passing in 1993, his image grew as a symbol of struggle and success for the Latino community and his slogan "Sí, se puede" rang true around the world. 

Born in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez grew up in a family of six children. His family owned a farm and a grocery store, but lost their property in the Great Depression.  After many types of fallout with their home and jobs they eventually moved out to California to become migrant farm workers.  Picking produce year around he and his older sister Rita were responsible for driving farm workers and neighbors in bad conditions to the hospital.  

Chavez dropped out of school in the 7th grade to become a full time migrant worker to reduce the amount of work his mother had to do. After two years in the Navy, he married his high school sweetheart Helen Fabela and they moved to San Jose, California.

In 1952, he became an organizer for Community Service Organization, (CEO) a Latino Civil Rights group.  He trained under Fred Ross, an activist against police brutality, and began urging Mexican Americans to vote. Ten years later, he co-founded the National Farm Worker’s Association and by 1970 his strategies had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the middleman for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida. 

Following his death the UFW decreased in numbers, although his work on behalf of unions and protective labor rights remained effective.  Cesar Chavez’s birthday March 31st is a national holiday in California, Colorado and Texas.

This Labor Day Weekend, we are grateful for this folk hero’s journey. Cesar Chavez’ sacrifices, bravery and achievements, in spite of difficult odds, shows all of us what can be done when one is fighting for justice.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Celebrate Hitchcock and ‘The Birds’!

B50: Experience

 The Bounty of Bodega

Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds" has international appeal and attracted fans to visit the remaining original film locations in Bodega, CA. This includes The Potter Schoolhouse and the historic St Teresa of Avila Church- famous by Ansel Adams' iconic photo of the church.

The most recognizable and historically significant building in the small town of Bodega is the Potter Schoolhouse. Built in 1873, the building served as the schoolhouse and town center where dances and social functions were held upstairs. The building was closed to the public in 1962 and remained vacant for years until it was purchased and turned into a private residence.

B50 is two day community event with a rare opportunity to see the inside of both, along with docent led tours and displays of the town history. This family friendly event benefits the Rancho Bodega Historic Society and Bodega Land Trust, bringing the history of Bodega to life and helping preserve the land for the future.

 For more information and tickets for B50:  http://www.bodegabirds.com/

Monday, August 19, 2013


Catacomb Legends & Lore

For the traveler who isn’t afraid to get “lost in life” visiting a catacomb might just be the perfect thing for you. Catacombs are man-made subterranean passageways often used for religious and burial purposes. Historically, many catacombs are located under cities and have been popularized by folk stories and urban legends that suggest they have become smugglers' hideouts, meeting places for cults and hotspots for ghost hangouts.

The first place to be called catacomb was the system of underground tombs of the Appian Way in Rome, where it was believed the bodies of the Christian apostles Peter and Paul were buried.

One of the most famous catacombs is in Palermo Sicily, southern Italy and houses over 8,000 bodies that line the walls.

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo started in the 16th century when the Capuchin monastery outgrew its original cemetery and needed a place to bury fellow friars. However, in the centuries to follow, being buried in the catacombs was a symbol of social status and became very popular amongst people. The catacomb’s hundreds of miles of tunnels and halls are divided into categories: Women, Men, Children, Virgins, Monks, Priests, and Professionals. The bodies are preserved with a combination of formalin, glycerin, alcohol, salicylic acid, and zinc salts to give them an almost life-like look that closely resembles their appearance on the day that they passed.

The monastery's catacomb survived off of donations from the deceased’s living family. When payments stopped coming in, that person was taken off of their place on the wall and was put on a “shelf” until the family began payments again. The catacombs were officially closed in 1880 but were still visited by tourists.

Legend – a category of folklore - has it that if one goes into a catatomb without a tour guide, the chances of coming back out are slim to none. It’s very easy to get lost amongst the halls of bones and the hundreds of miles of spirits telling the past. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, Vincenzo Coronelli

   Globe Master                                    

Have you ever wondered how globes are created?

 There have only been a few quality globe masters over the past centuries. Globes began by commission for the wealthier class in North and Central Europe. This art form was created in Italy and among the initiators was the talented Vincenzo Coronelli.

At 10 years old, Coronelli was trained as an apprentice to a xylographer, who created relief printings onto wood blocks. It was from here that he started learning techniques to begin his journey as a renowned globe designer.

Born August 16, 1650, over 363 years ago, we celebrate this amazing craftsman’s birthday.  His drive, skills and  momentous work are something to be recognized  A man of many trades, Coronelli accomplished a variety of projects including founding the first geological society in Venice known as Academia Cosmografica degli Argonauti. He also published volumes from Atlante Veneto, which were a part of his 140 published works.

However, Coronelli’s globe work was what really pushed the envelope. After creating globes for Ranuccio II Farnese, Duke of Parma, Louis XIV requested some of Coronelli’s globes be made for him. They became so popular in the upper class that many would use them in libraries for artistic flair.

Coronelli’s work on globes could be described as elegant and enthralling. All of his globes were composed of bent timber spindles. They went through cloaking processes with plaster and tough unfinished fabric. The finshing touch was a thin fabric that both provided texture and allowed the painting of the globes.

His work made a difference in the world and will carry on through his works and his preserved globes. A historic and all encompassing Renaissance man, we salute this folkhero.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

All Hail to the Tomato!


La Tomatina

Have you ever thought about joining a food fight... with 50,000 people?
Then you must be dying to throw tons of ripe tomatoes at people, right?
You’re in luck and in the nick of time because La Tomatina is the world’s biggest food fight and you still have time to get your ticket! The event is always on the last Wednesday of August (8/28/13). Now you just need to book that fight to Bunol, Spain.

The small quaint city of Bunol is located in Spain near Valencia and is the destination of the food fight.  Its normal population is 9,000 but for this event they expand way past maximum capacity to more than 40,000 people.  Throughout the last week of August leading up to La Tomatina, the city is host to many festivities, dancing, fireworks and a paella-cooking contest.

As in true folklore tradition, no one really knows for sure exactly how this food lore custom began.  The most popular story about it is that in the mid 1940’s disgruntled townspeople attacked city councilmen with tomatoes and it took off from there. During the reign of Francisco Franco, the festival was banned because Franco felt it had no religious significance, but in the 1970’s after his reign, it was reinstated. 

On the day of La Tomatina, the fight technically begins at 11 a.m. in the Plaza de Pueblo in the center of the city; however, it really begins after a daring person has climbed up a two story building in pursuit of a ham on a greased wooden pole.  Once he has retrieved the coveted ham, the water cannons go off and the fight begins.

All food customs have their rules and this event is no different. Before people head  out to the tomato war zone many shop owners cover their windows to avoid too much tomato carnage. Many contenders wear goggles, gloves, and closed toed shoes. Cameras to record the fun are waterproof and a post-fight trip to the Bunol River to wash off the tomato residue are also elements of the folk wisdom surrounding the festival.  Interesting to note that the city’s water canons are only used to rinse off the streets but not the visitors.

If you won’t be going but still want to feel like a part of the festivities, here are some recipes you can try from the comfort and safety of your own kitchen:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Game Are You Playing?

Throughout time, the common game has changed drastically; just look how much it’s changed in the past decade from board games to high-technology dance studios and all too realistic armed warfare. It’s hard to imagine people playing “go fish” and “poker” so long ago but everything has a history, right?

In 9th Century China, during the Tang Dynasty, a  deck of cards was created and forever changed the way people played games. The cards were then brought to Europe in the 14th century where they eventually received a major face-lift: Chinese characters and symbols were replaced by kings, queens, knights, and princes and the 4 suits (spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs). These symbols are very similar to what we see today.

During the Renaissance, these cards were used to play games such as Primero, Cacho, and Flor. Primero is actually very similar to modern-day poker and while there can be many variations to how it is played, this is one of the most common. You start with a 52-card deck and take out the 8’s, 9’s and 10’s. The remaining cards are given point values like a face card counts as 10 and aces count as 16. Four cards are dealt to each player and they can choose to bid, stake, or pass. This is when the game gets a little trickier and certain rules need to be followed in order to achieve different goals. The directions to play Primero are available as Much Ado About Sebastopol’s August Monthly Favor . Download them to help you get in the Renaissance spirit before Much Ado About Sebastopol's special educatinonal fundraising Renaissance Faire on September 14th and 15th.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Crumbs Worth Having

Crazy Girls Cookies: Pass the Plate

 What's not to like about cookies, right? They are the perfect dessert. They often fit nicely into the palm of your hand and can be eaten warm or cold. Great for on-the-go, they are also ideal for savoring with a favorite cup of coffee, tea or glass of milk. And, oh yeah, let's not forget the crumbs. Cookie crumbs get such a bad rap, but honestly, I love the crumbs.

I recently learned about a really cool cookie website. Crazy Girls Cookies bakes up monthly mouth-watering treats for the rest of us to enjoy. I asked Crazy Girls Wendy VanHatten and Anna Campbell - who, by the way, are really grown women with impressive literary careers – to tell me their cookie story.

We all know that the story behind something as sweet as this is like icing on the cake, er, I mean cookie!

Q: When and why did you established Crazy Girls Cookies?

A: (Wendy) When we both lived California, we would get together once a month since we lived about two hours away from each other. And, when we got together, we always ended up looking for a fun bistro or cafe and then hunting down a delicious bakery for dessert. When we found a French restaurant with amazing desserts, too, we were in heaven! We would take pictures, write up a fun blog and share our monthly experience with our friends. 

When Anna moved away to North Carolina, she says it was like leaving a piece of her behind. Not one to let anything get either of us down, we came up with this brilliant idea to continue our monthly get-togethers and still post our fun adventures.

Q: Why are you crazy about cookies?

A: (Wendy) Cookies are so much. They are fun, easy, and yummy desserts that just about anyone can make and almost everyone loves! You can eat them with coffee, milk, or whatever you like. They can be a snack, a dessert, a mid-morning treat, an end to a special meal, even compliment a glass of wine…the possibilities are endless.

After all, didn’t we all LOVE Cookie Monster?
Q: Sharing food customs is an important food lore ingredient. Do you have a favorite cookie-making (or cookie-eating) custom?

A: (Anna) I love smelling my food. Ha! Ha! I always break up my cookies and smell their yummy goodness before devouring them.

(Wendy) I love dunking cookies in coffee, something Grandma Hansen taught me. She was Norwegian and made many of her cookies for holidays…Christmas, especially. She is the one who taught me how to bake cookies.

We both have recipes passed down from our grandmas and aunts that we make at special times. We will pass those recipes down to our grandchildren as well.
Q: According to The History of Cookies The first cookies were created by accident. Cooks used a small amount of cake batter to test their oven temperature before baking a large cake. These little test cakes were called "koekje", meaning "little cake" in Dutch.
In keeping with this have you or someone you know created 'accidental' cookies? If so, can you tell us a little bit about that?

A: (Both) The best accidental cookies would be adding cake batter to your cookie dough and baking the most delicious cookie ever! We have the recipe posted on our website! :) Another accident that happened recently is when I didn’t have enough dark chocolate to melt for my brownie cookie bites. Often I add a little espresso powder to my regular brownies…so I added some to the melted chocolate I had and the result was wonderful. These little bites turned out tasting like a bite of a mocha!
Q: Why does Crazy Girls Cookies host monthly recipe contests?
A: (Both) We love learning of new and fun recipes from our readers and we love keeping our readers involved. Plus, we love trying out these recipes in our ‘test kitchens’ and on our families. From that came the idea of a contest. Our readers provide the recipes, we have our panel of judges test them, and pick a winner. We know this will be hard…we have so many wonderful recipes. But, we’re up for the challenge. And, so are our judges.

It’s like being part of a worldwide family…with cookies! It doesn’t get much better than that.

If you're a sweet-toothed aficionado looking for new recipes, have one of your own to share or want to add your favorite online bakery to their list, visit Crazy Girls Cookies.
And, remember to preserve your cookie stories, too. You never know when that'll come in handy!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Late Summer Fun

 August Festivals

 Are you sitting at home on your couch watch television shows, cruising the Internet and thinking “Man I’m so bored?”

Well then, close your laptop, TiVo your favorite shows and come explore all the festivities and events happening around the San Francisco Bay Area in August. There are numerous events going on including Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park, the Origami Festival, and the San Francisco Chef face off in Union Square. 

CHEF SF  (Aug. 4). For five years this culinary event has given chefs a chance to compete and show off their skills and for the public to enjoy a food lover’s paradise. This year will include a cake off!  There will be food and drink vendors galore with the top wines and brews. At the end of the event there will be a cake off and the top chef will take home a Guittard Chocolate Company gift.

If you are looking for visual art that’s challenging then check out the Origami-Palooza Festival (Aug. 10)  in Japan Town. Instructional booths will be set up to show you the proper ways to fold and craft your origami. One particular booth will learn how to fold paper cranes for the holidays. At the end there will be a paper airplane-folding contest. 

Lastly, Outside Lands (Aug. 9-11) offers three day of all-genre music in Golden Gate Park. There are numerous stages across the park with bands that range from “just moving into the music scene” to “well-versed professionals” like Paul McCartney, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Grab your picnic blanket, a ticket and head to Golden Gate Park the second weekend of August to experience it live!

Want to find out about more festivals?