Category Archives: inspiration

Czech Christmas Traditions II

The live carp in a bathtub

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – Among the age-old Czech Christmas traditions that I consider as the most bizarre and “fishy” was the purchase of a live carp on Christmas Eve or the day before for Christmas Eve dinner at the Czech open-air holiday markets.

The carp were transported in barrels with fresh water from the carp ponds in Southern Bohemia such as Trebon. The carp ponds were started in medieval times in the Rozmberk area. Annually in the autumn, the ponds are drained and the carp are netted and kept in large vats before they hit the holiday markets on city squares.

We had to stand in lines for fresh carp at the open markets and the no. 1 tip was not to forget your crochet net bag so the carp could breathe in it before you got the poor fish home, that had already been fighting for oxygen with hundreds of carp in the barrels and vats since November.

If you were lucky to get the carp home live, you had to release it into the bathtub. The next day the men in the household butchered it and it was served for Christmas Eve dinner. Sometimes the head was used for fish soup. We have always used the mushroom soup alternative.

The next hurdle you had to overcome was not to get a bone stuck in your throat. The fried carp always had plenty of bones, fat, and smelled of mud from the ponds, if it was big enough. Yet, it was the fish of choice for the festive dinner accompanied by potato salad, and soup.

If you had something different like fish fillets or fried schnitzel, it was looked down upon.

Fishy tradition modified

This fishy tradition I have modified accordingly since there is no live carp sold on American open holiday markets. At least not that I know of. For years I bought fish at the local grocer’s fish counter, until 2020, the year of Covid.

As I frequented farmer’s markets in 2020 due to Covid restrictions, I discovered fishmonger Dan Sodini from Middleville. He brings fresh and frozen fish from the cold waters of Lake Huron to the markets in West Michigan. Last year, he started the annual winter “fish drop” and I rejoiced.

I knew the Great Lakes Fish annual fish drop was as close as I could get to the Czech live carp tradition. During the first winter fish drop on Jan. 16th at the Ada market, I bought our Christmas fish: lake trout, whitefish, and salmon. And yes, I had to stand in a line. Thank you, Dan, for keeping our “fishy” tradition alive.

Some Czech families feeling sorry for the carp let it loose the next day, which was not recommended.

Back to Christmas Eve; those who fasted all day before dinner got to see the golden pig, signifying prosperity. Also if you put a scale from the carp under your plate or in your wallet, you will enjoy prosperity.

Creative Czechs have been inspired by the live carp tradition for generations; it has made its way into movies, folk tales, legends, poems, new blog posts, and radio talk.

If you see a star made from apple seeds by cutting an apple in half, the whole family will enjoy health for the entire year or there will be a birth in the family. On the other hand, if you see a cross from the apple seeds or the center is rotted, there will be a death in the family.

Single girls threw a shoe behind them at the doorstep, if the tip pointed to the door, the girl would get married next year. If it pointed inward, the girl would stay single for at least the next year.

Sometimes, we each floated a nut shell with a candle resembling little sailboats in a pot; the sailboats that traveled away from the edge, meant travel for their owners, the ones that stayed by the edge, meant staying home.

A major difference between Czech and American Christmas is that gifts are found underneath the tree right after dinner. “Jezisek” brings them while we eat.

This was preceded by a long period of hiding gifts, and hunting for them; finding gifts in unusual places and boxes marked with something else than the content. I picked up this tradition from my dad, Vaclav Konecny. Once in Africa, he put my doll in a box from a train. I remember the tears of disappointment, that didn’t last too long.

Mom Ella found her golden bracelets hanging like ornaments on the Christmas tree. Thanks, dad for this fun tradition.

Then, we play traditional Czech carols on the piano and the trumpet. We usually go for the Christmas mass the next day on Dec. 25th. Now, almost exclusively to St. Pat’s in Parnell.

In the Czech Republic, the day after Christmas Day was known as the Feast of St. Stephen, which we all celebrated by visiting with family and going to church.

Since we have been sharing our favorite Christmas traditions on my “For the Love of Books Podcast,” I would be remiss if I didn’t share my own.

Here we go:

Favorite holiday tradition

After a long day of working in the kitchen, my favorite moment was finally sitting down at the festive dinner table, lighting the candles, and seeing all the hungry faces ready to eat after the prayer led by the head of the family.

Check out the “For the Love of Books Podcast” on

http://emmapalova123.podbean.com

Merry Christmas

Copyright (c) 2021. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NaNoWriMo 2021 complete

What am I grateful for this holiday season

First of all, I haven’t had a chance to express my gratitude for this holiday season that I am alive and well.

My deepest gratitude goes to my family, friends, and fans for their support of my work. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to finish the daunting 50k NaNoWriMo word challenge.

This was my third year participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I entered with word count zero on Monday, Nov. 1 after some prep work in October. That same day, our grandson Henrik was born at 2:30 p.m., and I drove to Hastings to babysit his siblings and came back to Lowell the next day.

For days leading up to the challenge, I stared into the historic map of Saugatuck, hoping that awesome inspiration will strike a chord in my heart and mind. The opposite was quite the truth. Every morning of the challenge, I stood up against the same goal: logging in at least 1,667 words a day to reach the coveted 50,000-word summit by Nov. 30th.

Since I picked for my NaNo project the historical fiction genre, I had to do research as well. Weeks of previous research didn’t help much. On the third day of the challenge, I figured out that breaking the writing marathon into two daily sessions will make it more doable. From then on, I worked in two parts: morning and afternoon.

What I found out was that even between the two sessions, I sometimes didn’t know what was going to come next. Just like watching a movie, I worked from scene to scene, not knowing what’s going to come next.

I was in for a few big surprises; I call them forks in major decision-making in the plot. I took advice from veteran Wrimos like author Jean Davis: do something or kill somebody, she advised in a special podcast panel.

Then, came times, when I thought I couldn’t go on physically; my entire being was hurting. I remember in a podcast, the host asked me: “Does writing hurt physically? Can you feel it?”

Yes, I could feel it, but I also felt accomplishment and movement forward, because I had no time to stagnate in murky waters. At one point, I realized I would have to log in more than the required 1,667-word quota, because of the upcoming holiday, and author’s events like Christmas Through Lowell which ran for three full days.

From my previous NaNos, I knew I would have to be fit also physically. I started walking on Oct. 11. I first walked on the Fred Meijer Flat River Trail, then to the Franciscan Life Process Center, and finally, as the weather got worse, I switched to the treadmill upstairs.

To this day, I believe if I hadn’t been physically fit, I wouldn’t have finished the challenge. I reached the 50k summit on Nov. 19th in the morning. I continued to write inspired by my NaNo buddies authors Andrew Allen Smith, Diana Plopa, and Marianne Wieland.

On the final day of the challenge, which is today, I logged in a total of 62,288 words, which puts me at 80 percent completion of my new book “Shifting Sands: A Lost Town.”

I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along this journey including my author buddies, my family, and my fans. I celebrated NaNo today with a haircut, chocolates, music “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and a ride to Murray Lake.

It’s the simple things that count on a writing journey to publishing a new book. To me, it boils down to logging in daily word count, enjoying the journey, sharing insights, and offering support to others.

I was delighted to host podcast episodes of “For the Love of Books Podcast” during NaNoWriMo; it lifted my spirit, and hopefully, it helped others as well.

So take a listen to the following NaNo expert authors wherever you get your podcasts: Jean Davis, Sara DeBord, Kate Meyer, Melanie Hooyenga, Amy Klco.

http://emmapalova123.podbean.com

Happy Valentine’s Day

Have a great Valentine’s. Treat yourself and your loved ones to some good food and sweets or a trip to the wineries of Grand Traverse area. Stay tuned for a story. “Grand Traverse Rediscovered.”

Featured cake by

http://jkarmaskova.wordpress.com

Lake Huron trout and caviar.

Great Lakes fish provided by DMS Fish Supply of Midland, MI. For more info about DMS click below:

https://emmapalova.com/2020/08/28/the-fishmonger/

Copyright (c) 2021 Emma Blogs, LLC.

First festival weekend

Blind Date with a Book

Rolling into the first weekend of the Winter Virtual Book Festival organized by Pages Promotions, LLC, we’ve covered genre from action and adventure, non-fiction to memoir. The theme of this festival is “Blind Date with a Book.”

Events

You pick an event by clicking on the caption below, and register on Zoom.

The participating authors read from their books without revealing the title. The screen shows scrambled covers, and it’s up to you to find the perfect fit.

If you match up the author with the book, you get the bragging rights on social media. Please use the hashtag #ppvirtualbookfestival.

Wheel of Happiness

Diana has given out a lot of prizes spinning the Wheel of Happiness, and a lot more is to come during the month of February. If you win a book, check it for the gold, silver or bronze ticket for major prizes.

If you don’t attend, you can’t win. Invite your friends, fans and family and cast the authors’ event on your TV.

PopUp Book Shop

Visit the festival PopUp Book Shop to meet your next favorite book. It will be up only during the festival month. So do not procrastinate.

http://www.pagespromotions.com/feb21shop.html#/

Register on Zoom

Don’t forget to register for tonight’s poetry and short story readings at 8 p.m.

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_j5NEnqg-TJuqedWh7JuovQ?fbclid=IwAR1lgWWg9kp4MT6ecBEANZ2aLBsbkPy6-0lSDD-r0pZFmiigGKrvrWiOD0Q

Copyright (c) 2021. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

A snowy Friday evening with Indie Authors

Join us this snowy Friday evening for some literary fun at the third Virtual Book Festival organized by Pages Promotions, LLC.

The evening will feature memoirists with the theme “Blind Date with a Book.” You can try to match up the reading with the right book for bragging rights.

So far, we’ve had so much fun while spinning the Wheel of Happiness for prizes galore.

The non-fiction authors from last night crushed it. They were: Caroline Topperman, Angela Verges, Erik Bean and Kelly Bolton.

Below is a link to register on Zoom.

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_KcSF6yd_SHCyYVU6arK7zQ?fbclid=IwAR3FWSVgz8LDAJmXkhbJGGkwf9sV-gW0vZd32geW5d4uhhoieakhj0exMNA

Copyright (c) 2021. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Minddog TV

You can watch this interview at 1 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. today.

See you this Satuday @LowellArts between noon and 2 p.m. Order you books by commenting below, email or facebook messenger.

I will be signing my brand new book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” on Nov. 28 and Dec. 13. Stop by at LowellArts for your holiday shopping. The holiday artists market is on at the main gallery.

I will be in the classroom.

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

31st Anniversary of Velvet Revolution

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia led by late Czech president Vaclav Havel.

https://emmapalova.com/2019/11/27/30th-anniversary-of-velvet-revolution-in-czechoslovakia/

Watch for excerpts from my new book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir:”

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Emma’s author events

Following are Emma’s author events for November and December. I will be signing books at LowellArts on Nov. 28 & Dec. 13 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on both days.

You can also order your books here by sending an email to Emma: emmapalova@yahoo.com, calling or messaging on Facebook messenger. You can pick up your signed copies on the following dates at LowellArts: Nov. 28 and Dec. 13 from 12 to 2 p.m.

Emma’s Virtual Book Launch on Facebook on Sunday Nov. 15 at 5 p.m.

You can submit your questions in the comment section for a chance to win a free signed copy of the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.”

Click the link below to join this Sunday.

https://www.facebook.com/events/3751102538242043

Emma’s book signings at LowellArts on Nov. 28 & Dec. 13 from 12 to 2 p.m.

Lowell author Emma Palova will be signing her books including the new book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” at LowellArts located at 225 W. Main Street on Nov. 28 from 12 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dec. 13 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Stop by to chat with the author and check out the Artist Market inside the beautiful gallery.

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Blue Moon October

A spooky Blue Moon month, a spooky year

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – Welcome “Blue Moon” October with your two full moons, pumpkins, candy, spooky characters, books, Girls Nites Out in ugly sweaters and paranormal investigations in the Fallasburg historic village.

Pumpkins decorated with hair from wool.

The month started off strong with a full moon, a storm in the morning and a brainstorming session in the afternoon with Anthony Mora Communications for the PR of my upcoming book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the USA. As part of the project, they will also be marketing my book no. 2 that never fully reached the market because of covid-19. Thank you Anthony and Lindsey for your work on this project.

While most of the events have been cancelled, the nature hasn’t canceled her show in hues of oranges, browns and yellows. Moreover, today was the Feast of the Guardian Angels. We each have a guardian angel, and this year we need more than one. As I drove to the Vergennes Township hall to pick up my absentee ballot, I noticed a sign on Bailey: “Jesus 2020.”

https://prforfilmmakers.com/

Just 10 minutes before the brainstorming session, I found out from my Romanian poet/publisher friend Valeriu Dg Barbu, that my book has already been translated into Italian. Thank you Valeriu. Valeriu owns a small publishing house Editura Minela at:

Editura Minela

Editura Minela

Autumn Virtual Book Festival

The Autumn Virtual Book Festival organized by Pages Promotions LLC, with authors and books extraordinaire started yesterday.

Follow us all month long on

Autumn Virtual Book Festival

Plus my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary on Oct. 7. Happy anniversary Ludek.

The Pala-Konecna wedding at the “Zlin Zamek” in former Czechoslovaka.

The socially distant Lowell Harvest Celebration will take place on Main Street on Oct. 10. This year, the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce is taking over the Larkin’s Chili Cook-Off. The chamber will be selling $5 wristbands for chili tastings at different venues.

Featured photo: Hannah Rietzema at the Springrove Variety, that is now closed.

Copyright (c)2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Fishmonger

In search of inspiration: The Fishmonger

Dan Sodini, DMS Fish Supply owner at Ada Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hooked on wild caught fish from the Straits of Mackinac at the local farmer’s markets

By Emma Palova

Ada, MI- It all started with a conversation, a few coolers and a canopy. And a brand-new enterprise was born 10 years ago.

But it took six generations of commercial fishermen, a passion for the great outdoors “Grizzly Adams” style and healthy eating to make the old trade work in new times.

Dan Sodini of DMS is the fishmonger, while his brother-in-law Jamie Massey is the fisherman of the Great Lakes based in St. Ignace.

“An opportunity to begin a small family business of taking wild caught fish from the U.P. to Farmer’s Markets around the state of Michigan came 10 years ago,” said Sodini. “We are celebrating our 10th year anniversary.”

The first market was in Midland, home to the DMS fish crew.

The DMS fish supply crew is based in Midland. Pictured are: Allie Sodini, Emma Sodini, Andrew Steger, Jacob Sodini, Jesse LaRue, Mega Sodini and Josie Sodini.

“We could drive to the U.P., stay with the family and get up and go to the market on Saturday morning,” Sodini said.

Rarely, do you see fish peddled at the local Farmer’s Markets. It’s mostly local home-grown produce spruced up sometimes with cheeses, breads and preserves.

“Some people were delighted and bought fish,” said Sodini. “Others took a little time.”

But after Sodini explained where, when and how the fish was caught, it all became easier.

“Once people tried it, they became customers and they’re still buying fish today,” he said.

Speaking about being hooked on genuine wild-caught fish taste.

Linda buys fish at the DMS booth in Ada.

I discovered the U.P. fish booth three years ago based on a word-of-mouth tip from a friend who lives in Ada.

“You know, there’s this fishmonger at the Ada Market and the fish is excellent,” she said. “Try it.”

Being a fish lover ever since I can remember buying trout at the “Rybena” deli in former Czechoslovakia, I didn’t need to be persuaded.

What first struck me unlike buying fresh fish at the stores, was that there was no fish smell around the booth. Everything was immaculately clean, and then Dan’s impeccable knowledge about the fish, surpassed the fish markets of Marseille.

The first time I bought all three “catch of the day”- fresh walleye, whitefish and trout, smoked whitefish and whitefish dip. It was an unsurpassed feast.

This is my favorite recipe: whitefish or trout baked with pesto and lemon. Bake for 20 minute at 350 F or on the grill.

In the beginning, DMS offered only fresh fillets which included: whitefish, walleye, lake trout, king salmon, yellow perch and smelt.

Over the 10 years, DMS has expanded both the fish selection and the farmer’s market locations.

“Once we realized that we could make a go of it, we expanded into other markets,” Sodini said.

DMS added smoked whitefish, lake trout, salmon and Laker bites, which are skinless, boneless bite size pieces of small lake trout.

“We have added our very popular smoked fish pate made with the fisherman’s recipe,” he said.

The pates include: smoked whitefish, salmon and lake trout. Brand new this year are the Laker patties, a fish burger or fish cake made with fresh lake trout, that can be grilled or sautéed in a skillet.

From August through mid- October, DMS has annual wild king salmon sales of the whole fish which averages 10 to 12 pounds. This yields approximately half to ¾ of the fish.

“With COVID we have experienced both a decrease and an increase in sales,” said Sodini.

The decrease mainly because of people not wanting to come out and take safety precautions while the increase is in direct access to wild caught fish vs. the limited high-priced beef and other meat products.

“From the beginning people chose fish for high quality protein,” Sodini said.

Backed by 150 years of Massey commercial fishing on the Great Lakes, Sodini, a former treatment specialist, found himself in the fish business. During his unemployment, the family had this important conversation about starting a fish distribution business.

“We are honored and proud to be a part of the family legacy,” he said. “We appreciate and are thankful for all of our customers from all over the state of Michigan, who are our friends and have supported us for 10 years.”


“I love what I do! Having the opportunity to offer wild caught fresh and smoked Great Lakes fish at local Farmers Markets is a privilege and a lot of work,” Mega said. But what I enjoy most is meeting each new customer and the friends that we have made over the 10 years we have been going to markets.”

On a Saturday market, DMS sells an average of 150 to 200 pounds of fish.

“The kids grew up on farmer’s markets,” he said. “They get paid and they love it.”

Today, the DMS crew does 12 markets a week:

Ada market on Tuesdays

Brighton on Saturday

East Lansing on Sunday

Flint on Saturdays

Frankenmuth on Wednesday

Holland on Wed.& Sat.

Meridian on Saturdays

Midland on Wed. & Sat.

Mt. Clemens on Sat.

Mt. Pleasant on Thursday

Northville on Thursday

The selling season is from May to October. From November through April, DMS does winter fish drops at the farmer’s markets locations.

“People can order frozen fish products biweekly or monthly,” Sodini said. “We deliver to each of the farmer’s markets location. The fisherman vacuum packs, blast freezes all of our fish fillets.”

You can find individual farmer’s locations at the DMS Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/dmsfishsupply

Next in the series “In search of Inspiration”- Springrove Variety, a piece of Americana gone from the US landscape

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.