A Christmas gift from a bright young star

Today, I am handing over this blog to talented, nine-year-old author, Ella Lopez.

Ella has co-written a book with her mother, Jennifer. C. Lopez, about their experience of home-schooling.  Entitled: ‘Thanks, But I’ll Teach My Own Kid’, the book explores fearless thinking and learning without borders. Their book has been honoured by their local library association, and featured in publications across the USA. Ella has also written her debut novel: ‘Legend of Beams’.

I challenged Ella to take me, and my handbag, on a Christmas adventure.  The young, innovative adventurer imagined a placed for the three of us to meet. Ella created a multicultural, celebratory setting and she is delighted to share it with you.

 

Ella’s Christmas Gift of Creativity

Jennifer, Ella and Jessie were having a good ole chat online about our writings, great books we’ve read and even cultural travels, when suddenly the internet line began to crackle. Their laptop screens went dark, but they could still hear each other faintly…they also heard some sort of bells ringing subtly from inside the screen and a jolly deep laughter- on both ends of the line. Jennifer, stared at the screen in disbelief as a faint image of Jessie grew larger out of the blackness. Suddenly, Jessie popped right out of the computer- and joined us. They were all together now, staring at each other in disbelief. Completely befuddled, they looked around. They heard bells and the sound of jolly laughter. They had all been transported through cyberspace when Ella pressed ‘escape’ on the laptop.

Thistle bushes, vibrant green shamrock plants and Noche Buenas of red adorned the landscape. The land appeared to be the most complex and unique combination of two distinct cultures: Mexico and Wales. It was an exuberant pallet of color, music and culture they witnessed unfold in front of us and beyond. Silvery snowflakes fell continuously, leaving a glistening canopy over the entire landscape.

They heard a faint voice echo beyond the grand red and green plants.

Voice of Christmas: Welcome, Bienvenidos, Croeso! You three have arrived in the land of Nadolexmas. This is the land of celebration where we merge experiences and cultures- a blending so unique and filled with pure beauty. You were transported here because the three of you have an immense appreciation of culture that encourages others to feel it too.  We want you to spread good cheer, and Nadolexmas beautifully blends both your loved cultures :Wales and Mexico. Please, sit down for your first meal.

The voice continued…as if closer now- but still there was no one visible within their sight.

A table and three chairs magically emerged on the landscape. Lights enveloped enormous trees that now surrounded our beautiful table. The table was adorned with a ‘Tapete’, hand woven in every color imaginable. Jennifer and Ella recognized it as from their favorite region of Mexico: Oaxaca. The table was set with gold placemats.  Each place setting had a Christmas cracker and some chocolate dragons dressed in festive costumes.  Tangerines and chocolate coins were also spread generously on the table and many plates of scrumptious plates began to appear.  Feeling grateful for this feast before us, Jessie reached for the plate of laverbread with cockles and bacon. She must have been thinking of  a Welsh breakfast.

Ella and Jennifer looked a little dubious at the green laverbread, but always willing to try new things- they placed some on their plates.  Jessie tried to think of something served by her Spanish sister-in-law then presented some additional prawns, with the shells on, cooked in garlic and chorizo. She was thrilled with the scrumptious holiday dishes she’d dreamt into reality, but was still looking for the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Ella BEAMED with joy and closed her eyes then, thinking of her favorite dishes during Navidad (Christmas) in Mexico. A simple few of her favorites came dancing through the air to the tune of ‘Feliz Navidad’. First was Ponche, filled with bubbly sweet fruits. Then, came Chiles Rellenos filled with rice, meat and cilantro. As the dishes gently settled themselves onto the table, Ella reached immediately across the table for a chocolate dragon.

Ella: Mama look! It’s Beams! It is the dragon in my story.

Jennifer: Ella it sure does look like Beams, but you are forgetting your table manners and also- you know we save the dessert for after the main dishes.

Ella: But Mama, it’s the holiday and a special time with Jess. I’m only going to eat just this one now- in honor of Beams. And I’d like to try some Welsh cakes.

Mama: Well, since there definitely doesn’t appear to be a land where rules apply… I suppose just the one Beams Chocolate can’t hurt.

Ella: Jessie, I think the prawns are my favorite. I didn’t know the Welsh loved Chorizo too. We have that in common! Please…you need to try Los Tamales de maíz, fresa y canela now (corn tamales with strawberries and cinnamon).

Jessie: You bet, Ella! I can’t wait. I love how they’ve been prepared inside of the corn husks and wrapped as if they are a gift. Just beautiful.

Jennifer and Ella: ¡Feliz Navidad Jessie!

Jennifer and Jessie raised their glasses to toast this most magical celebration with Sparkling Pear Juice. Jessie smiled.

Jessie: Nadolig Llawin. Now, we have all wished each other a Merry Christmas.

Ella: We have some gifts to share Jessie and it seems there is no better time than now in this special place. It just feels so Christmas-like here.

Jessie: I agree sweet Ella. Might I ask you to open mine to you- first? You know the gifts we share are never material in nature, and I’m awfully excited to see what you think of yours.

Ella: That is really sweet of you to want me to open mine first Jess. I’m just as excited as you are, to find out what is inside!

Jessie: Great, let me grab it out of my Handbag sweetie. I can’t believe my HANDBAG somehow traveled here with us through Cyberspace- but who am I to question the beauty of this mysterious experience!

Ella examined her gift from Jess. Inside was a red velvet bag. She opened it up and bright light immediately illumined the space around Ella and spreads across her face as she smiled. They were the most vibrant sparkles in all shapes and colors.  Ella stared, speechless.

Jessie: I give you the gift of imagination, sweet Ella.

Ella hugged Jessie tightly.

Ella: ¡Gracias! Actually, I’d like to say, Diolch (thank you in Welsh)! I know this gift will help me tremendously.

Jennifer and Ella: We have something here for you now, Jess.

Jennifer and Ella handed Jess a bag of multi-hued golden silk. She looked at us smiling and then down at the bag in her hands.

Jessie: Oh, my goodness- this will go beautifully with my holiday handbag. It almost looks like pieces of iridescent Abalone! How in the world did you make these Ella and Jen?

Ella: Well, Jessie it’s the gift of continued growth in creativity. I think we had similar thoughts on sharing something with each other that we’d always be able to keep with us. You probably won’t be able to guess what these are- that give you the continued growth in your amazing creativity so let me tell you. . .

They are the scales from a most magical dragon. There’s only one of her kind and they can only be found in the Realm of Castelina, where this growing dragon, Beams lives. As she grows, so does her magic and her iridescent wings shed scales during the growth spurts. They will give you much happiness and encourage your creative side to continue to fly. Here, you can read my new novel: ‘Legend of Beams’.

As Ella spoke, the beautiful shiny scales started to rise up out of Jessie’s handbag.

 

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

The trouble with my handbag adventures

Connecting with the virtual world of WordPress, Twitter and Facebook has encouraged me to find a message in the ordinary world around us.  I am always looking for photograph opportunities to support a tweet, Facebook post or blog. My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas and it’s great. These adventures can result in some fulfilling interactions in the real world, but my photographing adventures can also get me in into trouble.

On the whole people are very accommodating and let me take photographs of their shops, museums, pubs, gardens, houses etc.  For instance, the porters on The Grand Hotel, in Brighton, were happy to let me capture the glamorous setting with my camera. I needed the photographs for Ally Bunbury’s book review and interview.  The helpful porters even cleared some luggage to enhance the shot.  Later that day, a kind gentleman pointed out various signs for me to capture in his grocer’s shop, but I did get a little suspicious when one of the signs read: ‘New husband for sale’.

During my adventures, I have learned to smile at the museum curators and carry on.  Unfortunately, I was chastised for photographing Churchill’s writing desk. Though, I was delighted to be informed that Churchills would ‘fight me on the beaches’ if I dared to take photos.  Another curator pretended not to see me taking a view of the garden from the window.  One antique shop owner looked at me suspiciously when I declared, ‘I need pictures of old spades etc to display as murder weapons.’  I intended to use these in a murder story lark developed, on Facebook, with Angela Petch and Patricia Stoner.  On this occasion, I didn’t use the photos but they will be useful at some stage.

Walking through the Beacons, I decided to write a blog about the inspiring environment.  I spied an opportunity to throw a stone in the water to represent a big splash.  The splash would represent a thought or an idea.  Unfortunately, I was chased away from the lake by the people who were fishing for trout.   I did ask if they would like me to ‘sling my hook’ but they weren’t amused.

Sue Moorcroft’s ‘Just for the Holidays’ got me into the most trouble.  I required some images of holiday items as mine weren’t glamorous enough for a friend of Leah.  While shopping in a supermarket, I saw lots of holiday goodies. Bingo! I set to work removing the various items, placing them in better light and clicking my camera phone.  The Canadian security guard was not impressed with me and said, ‘Ma’am, would you please follow me?’  I followed him.  Disappointingly, I was led to his security post and not his horse.  He was very polite and soon accepted my explanation.

The most frightening experience occurred when I was taking a photo of a street sign for Muddles Green.  That day, I was in a muddle with editing so the sign was perfect.  I stood in the middle of the quiet country lane to snap the image.  A motorbike almost ploughed into me as it raced around the corner. It was worth it when lots of authors connected with the message.

Not everyone can connect with my adventures.  I asked shop owner if I could place Jan Ellis’s The Bookshop Detective’ in his window display and then take a photograph.  Sadly, he wouldn’t allow it as he was concerned that there would be breakages.  How did he know that I am clumsy?  Maybe, he thought that I was the detective and wanted to get inside of the window display.

It is great fun to think about representing my adventures through social media. It is a bonus that my everyday experiences and thoughts mean something to like-minded people out there in the world.  My handbag adventures have enabled me to connect with a wealth of creative people who challenge and inspire me.  These connections wouldn’t have happened without social media, and now I am exploring how I can further develop some creative collaborations.  I am looking forward to working with Jenni Lopez from @TheJennieration.  

 

More of my adventures can be found at Handbag Adventures and see my blog at jessiecahalin.com