Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Mother Kvelling About A Daughter’s Novel

Valentine’s Day was the launch of daughter Eleni’s second book, first novel, “Other Waters”, published, like her first book, “North of Ithaka",  a travel memoir, by St. Martins Press.  Despite having surgery a week before, she’s thrown herself into publicizing the book with book signings and presentations in Coral Gables, Florida (at Books & Books) , and tonight in Manhattan at the Barnes & Noble on 86th and Lexington.  (Tomorrow she’ll be speaking at the Library in her hometown of Worcester MA, and then  on to Boston, Denver and who knows where else.  With a six-month-old baby.  Who’s still breastfeeding.)  To find out exactly where and when, check out her website:

I’m amazed at how many more ways there are to promote a book than there were back in the 1970’s and '80’s when my husband and I were doing it.  Today many of those roads for making your book known involve the internet—a subject I’m going to write about later, when I’ve seen all the ways Eleni’s using them and how effective they are.

“Other Waters” has already had excellent reviews from the likes of Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews (which is traditionally hard to please).  Kirkus called it “A lovely read” in a review that began  “Can goddesses walk among us?  Can an entire family really be cursed?”

But today I just want to kvell—a more picturesque way of saying “brag”-- because today I saw the review of Eleni’s novel, “Other Waters” in the  March 5 issue of People Magazine—the one with “Elizabeth Smart’s Dream Wedding” on the cover.

The review starts with a photo of the book cover and a small headshot of Eleni and People gives it four (out of a possible four) stars.  The review is by Caroline Leavitt and just In case you don’t have a copy of People handy, I’ll quote it for you here: 

“A Jane Austen-ish plot gets a delicious Indian accent in this effervescent novel by former People editor Gage.  Maya Das, a psychiatric resident torn between her parents’ traditional values and her bustling New York City life, finds her world upended when her grandmother’s death ostensibly unleashes a curse.  Maya’s boyfriend dumps her and she’s faced with a malpractice suit, so she heads back to India to remove the curse, save her family and reboot her life.  But in this exotic, mysterious setting cultures collide, love grows more complicated and Maya finally discovers just whom—and where—she is really meant to be.”

Jane Austen-ish!  A family curse! Exotic, mysterious India!  Doesn’t this review make you want to rush out and buy “Other Waters”?  Well, do it now.  You can even buy and download a Kindle version of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Amalía Fashionista, Chapter 2

Having challenged Suri Cruise to a fashion showdown for the title of style leader to the pre-school set, granddaughter Amalia, who’s now nearly six months old, knew she’d have to be on top of her game for several important occasions recently.  She paid close attention to the news out of New York’s Fashion Week.

When her Papou and I arrived in Miami, she rejected the ladybug hat we’d brought her, calling it “too Gaga”, but she thought better of the ladybug jammies that came with it. 
 She approved, however,  of the moose-themed onesie from Aunt Robin and Uncle Bob, who live in Jackson Hole, WY.  She said she’d use it while roughing it in Yellowstone Park.
 Valentine’s Day is a big challenge for a fashionista, and Amalía said nothing is “tutu much”  for such a romantic occasion. (Mommy is wearing Missoni from Target.)
 February 16 was a very important occasion, as well, because it was the launch of her Mommy’s new novel “Other Waters” with a reading and book signing at “Books & Books”, the renowned bookstore in Coral Gables (and several other locations.)  Amalía greeted everyone with her usual warmth and charm, but unfortunately fell asleep and slept through the entire presentation.  (But she’ll be at several more book parties, readings and signings in Manhattan, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.  For details check her Mommy’s web site:
 Yesterday, because her Grandma and Grandpa were staying at the famous Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, with its elegant pool, Amalâ knew she’d have to choose a swimming ensemble equal to the glamorous 1930’s ambiance of the place.  
She settled on a navy and yellow daisy-themed one piece bathing suit with a cloche swim cap and matching sandals.  It even came with its own terry robe.

Amalia spent the day by the pool, but the combination of sun and water proved exhausting, and she decided to take a power nap before dressing for dinner.
And today, like the jet-setter she is, Amalía had to choose her wardrobe for her flight to Manhattan, where her resort wear wouldn’t do at all, especially in winter’s cold.  The first thing she packed was her (faux) leopard coat.  She knows that it’s all about animal prints right now.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine’s Day the South Beach Way

(This Valentine Vision, seen on Lincoln Road selling the plants perched atop her  voluminous skirt, seems to have escaped from "Alice in Wonderland".)

I’m back in Miami Beach and every day I push my grand-daughter in her stroller up and down Lincoln Road, the 8-block long pedestrian mall which is the main street of South Beach.  As we promenade,  my jaw often drops at the exotic, outrageous and just plain weird things I encounter on this Main Street of Bizzaro World, home to art galleries, drag brunches, mimes, clowns, evangelists, flea markets, produce sellers, Hasidic Jews, bikinied beauties and a whole lot of homeless people rubbing elbows with tourists, models and club goers.  Adding to the excitement are the many kinds of vehicles threading through the crowds: skateboards, Segways, bicycles, and every kind of stroller and motorized chair.

Like every Main Street in the U.S.,  Lincoln Road is now awash in Valentine’s Day decorations and gifts, but here in South Beach they do Valentine’s Day their own way.
The Britto Art Gallery on Lincoln Road is devoted entirely to selling the work of Miami’s most famous (and controversial) artist, Romero Britto.  He was born into abject poverty in Brazil in 1963, is self-taught and arrived in Miami in the 1980’s.  His cheery, comic-book-like images of Mickey Mouse and smiling cats, the Statue of Liberty and the Virgin of Guadalupe now sell for many thousands of dollars each, and he has  designed for Miami huge street art, parking meters, china, purses, umbrellas, luggage, even the uniforms worn at Miami airport.

Serious art critics in Miami scorn his art and dismiss Britto as a “hack” but yesterday, people were streaming into the gallery, filled with his “heart” images for Valentine’s day and streaming out with purchases in his distinctive winged-heart shopping bags.
 Many other stores on Lincoln Road had striking Valentine-themed displays yesterday, suggesting that you tell your valentine you love him/her/it with:
 Wigs and dresses,
 Paul’s French bakery had heart-shaped bread and macaroons.
 A sports bar encouraged Happy Hour with an inflatable teddy bear
 A man was kissing two parrots he had saved – one fell from a tree, the other was given up by his owner.
 A psychic was busy doing readings.

By this morning (Monday) things had quieted down a lot and the crowds had thinned out except for two models being photographed.
 But on Valentine’s Day lovers of every persuasion will be thronging to the outdoor restaurants, bars and happy hours, the flames of the outdoor heaters will flicker (because it’s unusually cool for Miami Beach), music will be blaring from every restaurant and bar, and South Beach will be celebrating love—every kind of love—in its own unique way.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let St. Anthony Find Your True Love (A Valentine Day Ritual from Mexico)

(Last year, while I was traveling in Mexico, I posted this blog post about a ritual and a restaurant I encountered in Morelia.  The restaurant owners claim that thousands of women have found their soul-mates thanks to their "shrine" to St. Anthony.  I'm reprinting this again because the post turned out to be so popular  And at the very end I'm adding a photograph of the Spanish language pledge to the saint posted in the restaurant, because so many women have asked me for it. )

On Tuesday, arriving in Morelia, Mexico on Day One of the Monarch Butterflies and Michoacån Cuisine tour, I didn’t see a single butterfly but did learn about a place that may be more efficient than E-Harmony and in helping single ladies find the man of their dreams.

It was San Miguelito, the restaurant in Morelia where we ate the first night.  It calls itself a “Restaurante, Bazar, Galeria, & Museo” and they’re not kidding. 

 In addition to scrumptious Mexican food, they sell Day of the Dead figures, Botero-like fat little angels, a wooden chair that is also a skeleton, and aprons imprinted with Guadalupe.

 But the main draw is the back room, which, in addition to dining tables and chairs, holds more than 700 images of St. Anthony of Padua all UPSIDE DOWN.

For over twenty years, according to proprietor Cynthia Martinez, single women have been thronging to this room to beg St. Anthony to intercede for them and send their destined mate to their side.

 There are bulletin boards filled with photos and thanks from satisfied customers who have finally met their soul mate.

Here is what you have to do:  take 13 coins of the same  denomination from two bags hanging nearby.  Line up 13  coins on the base of the main St Anthony statue.  Walk around the statue 13 times.  Pray to St. Anthony.  (Suggested prayer below.  The restaurant also provides a Spanish-language version.)

There is a three-hole notebook below the statue on which you can write your specific request.  One woman covered 21 pages detailing her requirements in a mate.

Nearby is a shelf holding some of the dozens of notebooks  which have been filled in the past two decades with single women’s requests.

Back in the U.S. I had heard that people wanting to sell their homes would bury a statue of St Anthony in the front year, upside down of course, to speed up the sale. (A new friend, Christina, tells me that that’s actually St. Joseph.)

I think the point of the St. Anthony ritual is that, when your wish is fulfilled, you will release the saint and turn him back over.  But the St. Anthonys at San  Miguelito restaurant in Morelia have been standing upside-down for so long, while bringing couples together, that I  don’t think they have any hope of landing on their feet again.

Here is a poster on the restaurant’s wall advertising the Saint’s miraculous powers to lead you to love.
If you want to try this ritual at home:  get your own statue of St. Anthony and 13 identical coins and give it a try.  Here is a suggested prayer I found on the internet.  If you would like to have the Spanish-language prayer given out by San Miguelito Restaurant, a photograph of it is below.

Oh Wonderful St.Anthony, glorious on account of the fame of thy miracles, and through the condescension of Jesus in coming in the form of a little child to rest in thy arms, obtain for me of his bounty the grace which I ardently desire from the depths of my heart. Thou who was so loving towards miserable sinners, regard not the unworthiness of those who pray to thee, but the glory of God that it may be once again magnified by this request which I now make to you. Amen

Here is  a photograph of the St. Antonio pledge that was posted at the restaurant:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Suri Cruise has a Fashion Challenger

Did you know that Suri, the pre-school daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, has a fashion blog that reports on what she's wearing every day?  Suri is famous for her pint-sized designer dresses and the fact that she often wears mini-high heels, even to the playground, causing moms of other pre-schoolers to gnash their teeth.

But Suri had better watch out, because there's another little girl who is threatening to take over as fashion guru and predictor of new style trends. And while Suri is five years old, my granddaughter Amalía is only five months old.  Yet she's  making daring and eclectic fashion choices.

It's all about accessories, and Amalía knows that God is in the details.  Here she  uses her lavender Bumbo chair as a striking contrast to her gray knitted dress.

But when she's in a spring-like mood, she plays off a flowery garden party number against the lavender Bumbo.

Sometimes she wears designer labels like Calvin Klein for public appearances.

But at heart, she's true to her school. (Her mommy's school--Bancroft.)

A daily decision is whether to wear stripes

or dots

or stripes on stripes

or stripes with lavender butterfly sandals

or to solve the dilemma by combining the stripes with giant polka dots.

The unusual fashion choice is what sets a fashion guru apart.  Like a frog hat.

Or better still, rocking Papi's beret.

When it gets chilly in Miami Beach you should really bundle up.

Amalía's life has become complicated with the introduction of real food (in addition to breast milk.)

So many decisions like:  What to eat?

And when you're teething, anything handy looks like something to chew on.

And after a whole day of making cutting-edge fashion decisions, sometimes you just give up and fall asleep in your high chair.