Made In America

There is something about seeing an American flag planted firmly on English soil even for a day that makes my expat heart beat a bit faster. Driving down the lane six days ago to James and Gillian’s home for their annual July 4th celebration, I felt a kind of excitement similar to that from childhood, the one reserved for Christmas morning and the hope that Santa might have answered the dreams of a wistful child.

I wondered to myself and even aloud several times to our American guests if the flag would be there like last year. It seemed impossible to think that it wouldn’t since I had seen it properly folded as an American flag should be, and tucked in a box the week before when talking with Gillian about the party plans for the day.

Still, the part of me that doesn’t like to be disappointed was holding back a bit of enthusiasm and expectation, just in case. In case of what I’m not sure, but nothing pleased me more than seeing the flag airborne as we came down the lane.

I don’t think I ever felt as giddy in all the years I’ve seen it flying including the times when I stood saluting the flag as a soldier in uniform while serving in the American Army. Perhaps it has something to do with making a home in a new country that makes me realize and value a few things differently … things I may have taken for granted before moving to the UK.

I don’t want to get too deep and philosophical in this post. I’d like to show you instead how we all came together with our mixed lot of British spouses along with some unmarried but permanently settled Americans and those working here who will likely go home to America to live one day.

I want to show you the fun. I think it was a good experience for our visiting American guests, Jamie and Barbara and one they may talk about when sharing their UK trip with friends back home. I can’t help but wonder what they’ll remember though and what mattered most to them that day.

It would not be a proper American celebration without a little ” baseball ” although for me to call it baseball would be a stretch. In Gillian’s version, (I can’t remember if she called it baseball so I’m taking a bit of creative liberty here) you had a choice of what type of ball you wanted hit or kick and also a choice of bat, racket, or use of a cricket bat for smacking your ball of choice.

The kids all seemed to love it and the adults were willing to continue to play even as the rain came down.

You can see the rain in this shot especially if you click on the photograph. It’s a bit blurry as I was trying to protect my camera from what John will charmingly often refer to as a ” spot of rain.”

Our scorekeeper Mitt made notes throughout, but I don’t know if there was a winner as I fled for dryer quarters while the rest of the braver folk stayed at it.

Between the ball game and the meal that followed, I went on a walk and photographed a few colorful images not associated with the July 4th holiday.

You can just make out John in the background trying to get a shot of me while I was trying to coax this peacock into posing for a portrait and since my friend Cindy in the US mentioned she’d like to see a photograph of me from the 4th, I’ve added the photograph that John was taking in the shot above.

Then I spied a Dogwood tree still blooming even though it was July. In Georgia, Dogwoods welcome the spring months not the warmer months of summer.

After a the game was over and while the burgers were cooking, the adults divided into four teams for the ever popular quiz that is such a part of British life. At Gillian’s request, I had prepared a 20 question quiz of all American questions that carried us into the mealtime which is one of my favorite parts of the holiday.

Everyone brought some of their favorites and I brought Pioneer Woman’s sheet cake in mini-cupcake form as well a potato salad made from my family’s recipe. I don’t have food pictures as I actually put the camera down for a few minutes to eat, but the sing-a-long afterwards made for a few interesting shots.

We’re finishing up the dessert portion of the meal and getting ready to rock … er sing I mean.

Gillian and Tina chatting about the music … I think.

Gillian getting the children involved. They had instruments too.

I’m not sure what Tina said here, but it Barbara seems to have found it funny.

I like this photograph of a young father and an older more experienced one talking to the baby girl.

The always tender father-daughter moment although one might argue that she was searching inside his shirt collar.

Gillian with her children as they led us in song complete with hand gestures.

Now with the baby girl from the earlier father-daughter shot going to mom for the sing-a-long, Gillian’s MIL looks on at the song lyrics that Gillian prepared for the party.

My friend Jamie showing a little fan appreciation with his applause after the song ends.

Gillian always does such a great job with everything making a party for 30 or more seem like no trouble at all. I love the way she completes the evening with music and once again, I’m grateful to be included in her circle of friends. Her husband James certainly does his share too and while you’re not likely to see him with a guitar in hand he can make you feel welcome in any number of ways in addition to grilling the hot dogs and hamburgers to perfection.

 

Gillian

James

Is This How Pioneer Woman Does It?

Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake As Mini-Cupcakes

Unless you have made these yummy treats you have no idea how delish they can really are. What you see here is the result of turning Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe into mini cupcakes which were perfect for the party we went to last night and the July 4th celebration we’re going to on Sunday with some of our expat community. It was the first time I’ve made them in mini-cupcake form and the success was clear by the clean serving trays we came home with after watching my cupcakes disappear into the mouths of a mostly (except for me) group of Brits.

Several people asked as they complimented my bite-size cakes if they were an American speciality to which I gave credit where it’s due and said, ” Yes, but not a family recipe of mine. ” I told them it belonged to this wild woman out West who went by the name of Pioneer Woman.

Okay … so maybe I embellished a little with the wild woman comment, but as most Brits seem to think they’ve mastered an American accent if they sound like John Wayne when imitating us, (likely having learned their technique as my John did from old western black & white films) I thought wild woman out west would fit the image many seem to have of us as a tough talking, gun-toting, straight shooting, slightly unruly lot.

Passing by the dessert table or puddings, as all desserts are sometimes referred to here was a teenage girl who overheard me give credit to PW and turned to me and said, ” Oh, I read her, did you see what she said about iPad on her blog? ” I have to admit that PW seems to be moving farther abroad than she may realize. Thanks to the internet, not only has she young American followers like my daughter reading her, she’s picking up teen readers in rural England as well.

While PW appears to have a tidy kitchen when making her varied goodies, I must admit that my prep area looks a bit different.

Not Pioneer Woman's Kitchen

Thank goodness for lots of counter space or work-tops as John would refer to kitchen counters.

Messy Cooking With Elizabeth Harper

Gone, these are all gone now.

I call the cupcake closest to you, ” The Half and Half  ” for half nuts/ half not … neat huh? Okay, so I ran out of the frosting with nuts and had to use some without. I bet no one even noticed at the party last night. Creativity is key in marketing. I think I like that … Half and Half … I wonder what I could call my other kitchen mishaps.

My daughter once referred to my turkey meatloaf as looking like cat food, I must say years after that high recommendation by my then seven-year old, it’s one of the things I do best now. (Pssst, I’ll be making my cat food/turkey meatloaf for some American visitors this weekend) I promise I really do use ground turkey … no cat food involved. Cross my heart.

Remember what I said earlier about messy … I wonder who’s going to help me with these dishes!

Maybe I could do a reality show for messy cooks … how about you, are you messy or neat when whipping up family favorites?

Had I Known You Were Coming, I Would Have Baked A Cake

Atlanta – December – 2006

That’s me in the cell phone picture above, wearing a borrowed apron while presenting the first cake I ever made from scratch to my guests at a Christmas party in Atlanta. Judging from that smile and what I remember, I was clearly giddy with delight at how well it turned out. Yesterday was a day like that for me too. After clicking publish on yesterday’s post, I checked a few blogs that I read regularly and went out for a run that quickly turned into more of a brisk walk due to a pulled back muscle.

Imagine my surprise when I realized on my return that my blog had been selected by Joy, an editor at WordPress, as one of eleven blogs to be showcased on the Freshly Pressed site for WordPress.com. It is always special to receive recognition, whether it’s a group of your friends with an appreciative sweet tooth eating up your first apple cake or a group of strangers who show up all at once to see what’s shaking at your place … support like that can quickly make a girl go all giggly and Sally Field-ish.

It was great fun to see your comments and watch my sitemeter numbers go up throughout the day and although they didn’t climb quite as high as they did when Pioneer Woman sent all her friends over for a visit, it was pretty exciting on its own.

Thanks to everyone who took time yesterday to leave a comment and say hello. I haven’t made it around to all of your sites yet, but if you have one, I’ll be by later today and if you happen to be feeling like serving a little snack, I’d love a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

In case you don’t have a good cake recipe of your own, I’m happy to share my favorite from Carole Clements, The Cooks Handbook.


Pioneer Woman’s Husband And Ellen DeGeneres

I know you are probably thinking … what in the world does Pioneer Woman’s husband, Marlboro Man have in common with Ellen DeGeneres? That is exactly what I thought when they both showed up in the same dream the other night. After all, it’s not like Pioneer Woman and I are big buddies or anything even though we did meet briefly along with about 799 other women in Atlanta one night. You may remember when I wrote about the experience in my post, I’m No Pioneer Woman.

Pioneer Woman & Elizabeth Harper

Strange dreams are not that unusual for me, but I’m generally not dreaming about other people’s husbands or celebrities like Ellen. This one was so weird that I had to think about it a day or so before I decided to mention it to John, my own sweet husband pictured below.

I’m not sure why Marlboro Man decided to spend some time with me while I was trying to catch up on my rest, but my friend Tina and I did have a little chat about him while out on a run earlier in the day so maybe he was trapped in my subconscious somewhere.


I can’t remember how he came up in conversation, but we were discussing his assets and how they are so frequently highlighted by Pioneer Woman in her blog. We were completely appropriate and only briefly touched on her pictures like the one here, before moving on to new topics.

One of the most endearing things about Pioneer Woman is how much in love she is with her husband and I know just how she feels especially when I see pictures of my darling man like the one below.

Or this one taken during a visit to Scotland.

Pioneer Woman occasionally likes to show you pictures of Marlboro Man in his younger years and I have some favorites of John from his mid-thirties that do it for me too, like this one at the beach in 1979.

And I just love this picture taken with his girls in 1972.

I have to say though that I really fell for him when he emailed the picture below during our early online dating days. Seeing him playing bouncy ball on the lawn with his little granddaughter was just about the cutest thing and is part of what I find so attractive about him.

So I know how Pioneer Woman feels when she shares pictures like this one of Marlboro Man in his daddy role or this tender one , because they are the kind I tend to like best.

But getting back to that dream I mentioned … It seems Marlboro Man came for a visit and he had a bunch of tiny cow bells with him. It makes no sense to me either as I know they don’t raise dairy cows. What made it even more interesting than seeing him show up in Cornwall was the reason for his trip. He explained that every time he saw a person doing something kind for someone else, he was there to give them a tiny cow bell to acknowledge it. I am not sure how to connect it all, kindness and cow bells and Marlboro Man, but even more confusing was when Ellen came dancing into my dream to pick up her bell. Maybe it was because she has been so kind in her comments on American Idol this season, but I could not say for sure.  Although I am usually pretty good with dream interpretation, this one has me stumped. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to what it might mean?

The Morning After A Visit … From A Few Of Pioneer Woman’s Friends

Does anyone remember when I wrote about meeting the woman pictured below? It was my last night in Atlanta before flying back the next day to England. Well, if you missed it and would like to know what the Pioneer Woman and I talked about, you can read all about it here.

This post is just a little thank you note to Ree Drummond for sending 2300 of her blogging buddies by yesterday to have a look around Gifts Of The Journey. They were such a quiet crowd that I might not have noticed they were here if I had not seen my sitemeter numbers spiking so quickly. I’ve never had a party where so many folks stopped by and a party is exactly what it felt like here as I watched my numbers rise. This morning was just a memory though with nary a scrap of anything left behind except a nice comment from Rebekah who was at the Atlanta gathering with the other 800 or so of us.

If I had know they were coming, I might have made a batch of Ree’s famous cinnamon rolls for everyone like I did for some of the folks in my village on Christmas Eve or maybe shared stories about how well my her stuffing tasted with our Christmas dinner or I might even have shown pictures of all of the blackberry cobblers I made and gave away to people here who had no idea what a cobbler was. As it was, I felt slightly unprepared and could only shout throughout the day to my husband John saying, ” I’m at 902, 1106, 2001…,” and so on while whispering a little thanks for stopping by as I saw folks departing.

Seriously, thanks to everyone who took the time to visit and I hope you come back again when you can stay a bit longer. Oh, and if you’re looking for some horses and cows like PW has hanging around her place, I’ve got some of those you might like roaming free on the moors and other places around here.


I’m No Pioneer Woman

I know it’s been a little while since I’ve been here. Have you missed me? I’ve missed being here, but I have been so busy during the last three weeks that I just haven’t had a block of time to write. It’s late here … almost 2:30 am and I still have to pack. Tomorrow I fly back to England and as much as I have enjoyed my visit home, I’m really looking forward to getting back to my life in Cornwall with John.

I have loads of stories to share, but tonight I had a chance to meet a special blogger who I’ve been following for the last couple of years. If you haven’t had an opportunity to check out this really lovely woman, scoot over here and have a look around.  Take your time there’s a lot to see and I’ll be here when you get back.

Right … I hope you took time to see what Ree Drummond, aka ” The Pioneer Woman”  is all about. I’ve been learning a lot from her over the last year or so especially in the kitchen. In fact, I think there are a few people in my village who might say I have really got the hang of this dish ( scroll down towards the end of the post) that I took straight from her website.

It’s no surprise that I found myself waiting to meet the Pioneer Woman on my last night in America ( for the next seven months, not forever) along with hundreds of other people. She was in town on a book tour to promote her cookbook which I am sure will make my kitchen experience a lot safer for my computer. I picked up one for myself, my daughter Miranda, and her former college roommate Emily. My good friend Patrice came to keep me company while I waited and after browsing through my cookbook, she quickly decided she had to have one too.

My daughter Miranda is a huge fan of PW and wanted to be there, but had to work so I snapped a bunch of photos so she could get a sense of what it was like.  I’ve been to book signings before and never have I seen so many people turn out and wait so patiently. It was a laid back group of mostly women with a smattering of men around taking pictures and helping with children. I did meet one man who was there to buy his wife the cookbook although he confessed that he had tried quite a few of PW’s recipes that he found on her blog. His wife reads the blog everyday, but he prefers to try out things like the cinnamon rolls which he confessed were too good to make very often.  That sounds like a perfect Christmas morning treat.

There were several surprises for me tonight which added to the evening making it even more fun. As soon as I walked upstairs, I ran into a woman I used to work with at a hospice organization in Atlanta. Carla was one of the sweetest people I met there and exactly the type of person you want walking you through things should you or someone you know ever need hospice care.  She was delightful as always and she gave me permission to post a picture of her that I lifted from her facebook page. She’s a newlywed as you can see by the photograph. She wasn’t there for the book signing, but I still raved about the recipes in the cookbook. So Carla if you’re reading this, go over to PW’s place and check out the brisket.

When Patrice and I finally made it to the line, (they called us to it in groups according to numbered color coded wristbands…very civilized ) we were talking with each other when I easedropped overheard two women behind us doing something that sounded familiar. Barely pausing, I quickly turned around and interrupted them in the middle of what I remembered as the torture that goes with the practice of selling drugs. I blurted out, ” Are you two drug reps? ”  They were practicing a sales call with one being the doctor and one the pharma rep. It turned out to be a migraine medication which is kind of funny since I suffer from them from time to time. If you’ve read my blog for long you know that I worked in the same field for too many years. They were in town for a POA (plan of action) meeting and even had a sales aid with them to practice while they waited. As much fun as they were, I am so grateful that my life is no longer like theirs.

Joyce is in red and Deb (go here to see her post) is holding the sales aid or marketing piece depending on how old school you are.

This is me killing time goofing around with my knitting which I brought in case I needed something to do. I just pulled it out for a photo opportunity as there were far too many people to watch and chat with to focus on knitting.

Still these girls seem to be able to focus on the task at hand.

I was too busy focusing on babies like little Helen here above with her mom and the sneaky pic of the sweetly sleeping child below nestled in her mother’s lap.

We waited and watched others leaving with their cookbooks and PW T-shirts… a great gift for those who got their book signed.

Looks like someone is going to give a lot of cookbooks for Christmas.

This is a fuzzy shot of Pioneer Woman going in to her signing area  … people were so happy to see her that they clapped when she arrived and she wasn’t late either …she was way early.

She spoke for a minute, but I couldn’t hear her very well. The sound system was iffy and I was too busy checking out her boots.

It was all go right from the beginning and the smile you see below at the beginning of the evening was still there…

…when I got my chance to say hello and have my books signed.

That’s me telling her all about the time I told my daughter about my blog (when it was new) and her response afterwards. After taking a look around my blog, I asked my daughter what she thought about it and she said, ” It’s okay, but you’re no Pioneer Woman.”  No Pioneer Woman…I was the one who introduced her to the PW in the first place!

She’s still gracious and smiling even after I asked Patrice to take about four pictures of us.

Patrice and I finished up the evening with a signature from Betsy & Hyacinth and after picking up a T – shirt, we said our goodbyes and headed for home.

One last shot before I go.

I may not be Pioneer Woman, but thanks to her cookbook I can sure cook like her now… so fire up the oven John, I’m coming home!  Oops… I forgot myself for a minute and started talking like a rancher’s wife.

I’ll be back in a day or two…blogging from our little village in Cornwall. See you then.