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

Amber Waves Of Grain

American children grow up learning the words to the song, ” America the Beautiful ” and if you’re not familiar with it, this version by Jon Bon Jovi is well worth a listen.

“Amber waves of grain …” is one of the lines in the song and walking up on the fields of gold this weekend immediately brought it to mind. As much as I love living here in Cornwall with John, scenes like this can make me feel a bit homesick for the US. I’ve only seen wheat fields like this while passing through Kansas so it was not the wheat fields that made me homesick, but rather the song of America that came to mind.

I’ve been knackered since our company left Tuesday morning, worthless in terms of writing, but I still have some photographs from our July 4th celebration that I’d like to share tomorrow.

A Moo-ving Experience

When my American friends Jamie and Barbara arrived last Saturday to spend a few days with us during their visit to the UK, I wanted to be sure they saw some of my favorite places while they were here. On July 4th our day started with a little excitement right from the beginning when we took them by to see the bridge where this marvelous thing occurred back in February of 2008 and later John asked me a very important question.

You know the one I’m talking about, don’t you? The one with four little words that began with Will and ended with Me and led to this sweet day early last year. Since Helland Bridge is such a significant place for us we just had to take Jamie and Barbara by to snap a photo or two. As you can see in the series below it turned out to be a very moo-ving experience for them.

Jamie & Barbara At Helland Bridge

After taking a couple of photographs of them standing in the very spot where John asked me to marry him, I stepped off the bridge for some distance shots and happened to be in the right position to catch the cattle stampede.

Okay, so stampede might be a bit of an exaggeration, but see the man walking quickly towards them … he’s letting them know that now might be a good time to moo-ve. (sorry I can’t help myself)

I bet they thought they were leaving the country life behind for a few weeks when they left the small town where they live in the US.

You guys better hoof it.

There’s some serious traffic moo-ving behind you.

Looks like they’re safely off  the bridge.

Now if I can just get past this load of bull to catch up with them, we’ll be off to explore Lanhyrock.

July 4th – Everything But The Fireworks

We have guests from America here for one more day and we’re off in a few minutes to squeeze as much of Cornwall as we can into their last day. Yesterday was a rocking July 4th for us right down to an end of the evening sing-a-long. I’ll be back later with some funny pictures … (I only took about 300) and some stories to share. I hope your day was as memorable as mine.

If you celebrated the July 4th holiday, I’d love to hear about it and if you’re a blogger and wrote about your day on your site, feel free to leave a link.

* I took the flower shot above yesterday because it made me think of fireworks with all of the bursts of color in the background.

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?

My Changing Perspective On Finding Community

When my husband and I met for the first time in person only six weeks after meeting online, I came to him. I had loads of frequent flyer miles and two weeks of vacation time that I would lose if I did not use it before the end of that month so off I went to England to meet the man I had found quite by accident online.

I had no idea what to expect really even though I had seen photographs of John and Cornwall and even bits of his house and the village, I still did not have a real feeling of what life was like there.

While there are some properties that have parts as old as the 12th or 14th century in the village, we live in a more modern section with many of the houses around us being only twenty or so years old and our home a very young one at thirteen years.

Seeing the houses built so tightly together with so much open land all around them was a surprise to me. I’m not sure why exactly, but I remember thinking at first what a shame it was that the houses were so close. I considered how difficult it must be to feel as if you had any privacy with the houses built as they were.

The view was beautiful though and I was able to see a far distance over the village from my early morning position on the sofa where I would sit with my laptop and write. Blessed with all this beauty I still grumbled to myself about how, as pretty as it was, it would be prettier without the rooftops of other houses.

Can you believe I actually thought that! Let me tell you what’s different about my view now. After living here off and on for most of 2008 and continually since 2009, I’ve settled in and met and made friends with many of the people sheltered underneath those rooftops I once moaned about interfering with my view.

Thanks to days like this and people in the community who reach out to care each other in good weather and bad, I’ve had a chance to meet my neighbors and really learn what it means to be one. I’ve lived so many places in my life and I have become great friends with some people who lived close by, but there’s something different about living in a community as small as this where people come together in the pub, village hall, church and even the village shop.

Finding your own sense community can be difficult due to time and responsibilities. Most of us have too little of the first and too much of second, but if we’re open to looking at things a bit differently we might be surprised by how easy it can be to shift our perspective.

The other day when John was up on the roof working on the house, he encouraged me to climb up and have a look at the view. What I realized standing up there was how differently those rooftops look now that I know the people living beneath them and how much richer my life is for the closeness I feel not just in their physical proximity, but also in the kind way they’ve welcomed me into the community.

I’ve included a rooftop view to help illustrate my new perspective. What about you … is there anything in your life that could benefit from a shift in perspective?