Hot As A Rocket Turkey Sausage Blues

My husband John is always teasing me about how competitive I am. He likes to say that it’s an American characteristic and lets me know when I get too invested in winning. I have two words for him when that happens, ‘ American Revolution! ‘

Saturday night I might have shown more of my American side than usual while participating in what Helen, our party organizer kept reminding us was meant to be fun. I need to say that even though I was the only American there, there seemed to be quite a few Brits thinking and talking about how the trophy below might look on their shelf.

Helen, the woman I mentioned above for her peace keeping, party planning skills, also makes a great trophy. Last year it was the Pasty Making trophy I wanted to win and this year it was all about the sausage. Sadly, the picture I took while holding the 2011 Best Sausage trophy was the closest I got to bringing it home.

While my entry, Hot As A Rocket Turkey Sausage Blues, did not win or even place, my super spicy turkey with blue cheese was very tasty and there was nothing left on the plate when the night was over.

With only one sausage maker between about 20 or so contestants, we talked and tasted each other’s entries as they came out of the oven while waiting to stuff our skins with the secret mixtures we made at home.

We made eight each with four to going to the judges and four to the table above for peer-to-peer judging.

There were some interesting names and some crazy mixtures. The Chicken Delight was not too wild, but it was tasty.

I’m afraid I had to skip the Fish Pie sausage because I’m not a big fan of fish, but John really liked it.

Now this one was interesting. It looked a bit like something that you would try not to step in if out for walk, but it was actually a Christmas Pudding sausage.

These guys were two of the courageous judges and I have to say, I would rather cook it than eat as much as they had to that night.

Anne moved to the village from London about a year ago and her sausage (I think it was pork) came in first place. That’s the third judge standing behind her. He’s a professional sausage maker.

Ian and Irene tied for second and no, they did not drink all those empties alone. This is Ian’s second year coming in second place. I’m going to have to really watch out for them next year.

If you look closely at this photo you can see John’s head way in the back of the room in front of the woman in orange. John was responsible for the baked beans along with two other men, Steve and Mike, who made mashed potatoes and onion gravy to go with the sausage feast.

Gill tied for second place with Ian and Irene and she had a fabulous Chicken sausage with sun-dried tomato and feta cheese.

Way back in the top middle of this photograph is Rebecca, the winner from last year. She’s the laughing woman in green and purple. She made a venison sausage with pickled walnuts and I think she called it, Pickled Bambi. (Click to enlarge)

Craig doesn’t live in the village, but likes to come by every so often to party with the locals like Mandy who always has something funny to say. She made me put away my knitting and act like it was Saturday night.

Irene and Elizabeth

After our evening of sausage making, eating, drinking, judging, and being judged, most of us ended up at the village pub where we shouted over a great band, had a few drinks, and took a turn on a dance floor barely big enough to turn on.

I’m hoping we will do desserts next January because I have more than a few killer recipe’s, not that I’m feeling competitive, well, not yet anyway.

Making It My Business

For longer than I want to admit, at least one or more of the books above have had a place on my bookshelf. Despite having good intentions for years, everything else has always been more of a priority. Until now.

I’m hoping that some of what I write this year will find a home thanks to the content and directions found in these books. I’m writing each day treating it like it’s my work because finally, after years of scribbling unfinished stories, I’m making it my business.

Thanks to everyone who left a kind message of support and celebration on my last post. Completing my first short story and getting it out by the deadline was a turning point which feels like just a beginning.

Some of you expressed an interest in reading it and asked if I might post the story. I would love to share it, but since I’ve entered it in a competition, I can’t post it here. I am grateful for your interest and hope you’ll be able to see it somewhere soon.

Entering To Win

The Postman Cometh

I took this photograph in October of 2009 thinking I might need a photo of the Postie making his rounds to help tell a story one day, and today is that day. As some of you may remember, I picked the word Completion for 2011 and I have been hard at work trying to tick things off my list since we rolled into this new year.

Today, I ticked a box that I had not even planned on and I had to complete it fairly quickly to meet a deadline. Somewhere around the middle of January, I decided to enter a piece in a short story competition here in the UK. I had something that I had worked on a few years ago thinking that it might evolve into something bigger , but had never completed it. So I dusted it off and began to work with it and quickly realized that writing a short story is very different than writing a novel.

Looking at it now, it’s difficult to see more than the roots of the original story and I learned during the process that it is easier to write a new one than try to graft a piece on here and there to make it fit.

I was surprised by what unfolded and how good it felt to see it on its way today when I dropped it into the post box outside our village shop.

I’ll keep you posted (no pun intended) on any feedback I receive, even if it turns out to be nothing more than a thanks for entering. I am going to sleep tonight satisfied that I’ve completed a good first step in creating a work life where things go out the door with an intention and focus on publishing.

You have to send it out to have a chance and mine left about 4:00PM today.

Steve Jobs And The Future Of Apple

Child In Apple Store In Paris 2010

Speculation filled the internet with the announcement yesterday that Steve Jobs would be taking another medical leave. Being a long time Apple/Mac fan, I had a normal sense of , ” Oh no, ” for the man before moving into wondering how this might affect the future of Apple. I know it takes a lot of people to tend any garden, but Steve Jobs has long been head gardener in the Apple orchard of ideas and I had to wonder what future harvests might look like if he did not return.

I took the photograph above shooting through the glass into an Apple store in Paris last September when I was there with my sister Margaret. The child on the table intrigued me and I thought immediately that she was likely a future consumer for Apple products and I could not resist taking the shot.

I have long been a fan myself and while I have used a variety of computers in my corporate life, my creative life has been nurtured and supported by Apple since 1993 when I purchased my first computer, a Macintosh TV.

Photo Credit - Vintage Mac Museum

One of only 10,000 made it was pulled from the market after a short while and remains a collector’s item. It was not my smartest computer investment, but being a sentimental sort I still own it.

Although I was already an adult of 33 when I bought my first computer, I still feel as if I grew up with Apple and despite a temporary flirtation with PC’s brought on by my business life, I have been totally faithful since my return in 2004 when I became the owner of iMac G5 which seemed like a Lear jet when compared to my Macintosh TV.

Computers aside, I do hope Steve Jobs is only taking a short break and soon has a return to good health, but truly it’s more for his own sake and the people who love him than concern for the company. Apple has deep roots thanks to Steve Jobs and nothing is likely to change that … at least not for this Mac user.

In Memory And Hope

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I know it’s difficult sometimes to continue to believe that good can win over evil and that by working together like-minded people can create a positive change, but if we allow cynicism and hopelessness free rein in our hearts and minds then the efforts of many are wasted.

There are times when it’s a struggle for me to walk in the light. On those days I try to remember what my friend Carla said to me back in 2008. I wrote about it on my first blog and you can read about it here.

Update: I had to come back and add a link to my friend Benjamin Wagner’s blog. He’s written a powerful post titled, ” Sing With New Meaning “ that I promise you will not regret taking a moment to read.

 

The 2011 Bloggies – Who Do You Think You Are

 

What's Really Inside

What my title should really say is, ” Who do I think you are? ”

I’ve just spent the last few minutes choosing my nominations for the 2100 Bloggies which is a weblog award that is decided by peer and reader selection. First you nominate your favorites and then you come back later and vote.

I’ve wanted to vote for those nominated each year in the past, but always seem to miss the deadlines. This year I’ve managed to squeak in at the last minute as they close nominations today at 10:00pm EST.

What I found most difficult was deciding which category best suited my favorite bloggers. I know some of them might be surprised to see where I thought they should be based on how I see their blog contents.

All of this deciding here for one or there for another made me consider once again how we see ourselves versus how others see us. It’s deeper than I want to go today, but I am curious to know if you are a blogger, which category might you see yourself in if you were asked to define where you fit.

If you’re curious, take a look at the 2011 Bloggies Award website and then come back and leave us a comment about what blog category you might fit into. I had trouble defining my own blog after seeing the categories and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. It might explain why I hesitate when people ask me what I blog about. Perhaps next year they might have a new category called Hodgepodge where blogs like mine would feel at home.

While I did not have someone for each category, I did get to put forward some bloggers I really enjoy. They don’t expect you to fill in all the blanks, but they do require that you choose at least three.

Fingers crossed, I’ll see some of my top picks when nominations are over and the final votes are counted.

Remember Nominations close today, January 16, at 10:00 PM EST (UTC-5) if you have someone you think is a winner.

February 1, Finalists are announced and voting reopens to all to choose the winners.

February 20 voting closes at 10:00 PM EST

February 27 8:00 PM EST – Winners Announced!

You won’t get rich from a big financial payout as the Weblog of the Year only receives a prize of 2,011 US cents (US$20.11), but you will feel the love which is more important than money anyway … right?

Don’t forget, have a look here and then come back and tell us who you think you are.


Dreams So Real You Want To Shout At Your Sleeping Spouse

My poor husband John has no idea how close I was this morning to giving an indignant shout of,  ‘ How could you ‘ when I was waking this morning with one foot still firmly in the tight grip of a vivid dream of betrayal. Even though my dream husband was not John and in fact no one I even recognize, the fury and shock I felt in my sleepy state made me pull away from the dear man sleeping next to me.

Being a vivid dreamer is a bonus for writers and I frequently make notes after a busy night especially if it feels like my subconscious has presented me with a little gift of insight or some seed of a story and I searched for the details as I was waking up trying as best I could to commit them to memory.

Last nights journey down the path of marital infidelity seemed like a bit of both insight and story on reflection this morning. Stay with me while I try to explain. Over the last few days, I have been working on a short story that I originally wrote in the third person which according to more than a few folks I’ve read, is not the best way to write one if you hope to have it published.

I do understand the concept of how writing in the first person is designed to be more immediate putting you directly in the middle of things in a way that writing in the third person cannot and why it works well when telling a tale with less words, but I think I usually prefer the options that third person point of view offers. I have seen it done successfully with both the novels and short stories of writers who have managed to publish, but they are all pretty recognizable names and I have to wonder what happens to the rest of us (the unpublished) who may choose another way.

As I have struggled to shift the point of view in my short story rewrite, I have been challenged in a way that I think has provided a good mental exercise regardless of which version I send out the door. In a world where many of us can get bogged down in one-way, right way, my way or the highway kind of thinking, changing my story has begun a subtle shift in my characters as well.

For example, when I woke from my dream and began going over the details imagining how my character (who looked just like me only with a bad eighties hairstyle) might have responded had I not cut the storyline short by waking up, I found myself shifting the dream reaction into a much more interesting and creative outcome.

Granted the point of view was not affected, but in much the same way that I am giving myself the freedom to play with point of view in my current work, it seems to be having a positive effect on my creative process providing me with more options than the typical ones we think of when faced with an all too familiar plot of infidelity and betrayal.

Additionally, while I learned a few more things about staying open to the different perspectives possible for my characters, it was also interesting to note that when my waking body language tried to pull away this morning, I woke to find John’s hand wrapped gently around my wrist as if even in sleep he was saying, ‘ Don’t go.’

A Little Night Entertainment From Our Village Pub

You never know what you might see on rainy night in Cornwall when you pop down to our village pub for a pint and a bit of conversation. Last night the Trigg Morris Men were in high form showcasing their talents with music, dancing, and a Mummers play. I’d studied Mummers plays also know as Miracle or Mystery plays in Theatre History classes at the University of Georgia, but this was my first time to see one performed live.

This man does a great job so be sure you watch at least a second or two of his clip. The woman you hear commenting is not me. I’m too busy trying to keep the camera steady.  It’s local woman by the name of Jo and she is playing the violin in the next clip.

The history behind this type of performance is fascinating and worth reading more about if you have the time and interest. I hope you’ll take a look here to learn more about the history and origin of the Mummers Play.

In addition to the play, we had music and sing-a-longs and dancing outside as well.

One brave soul joined the Morris dancing (he’s the one not in a costume) and yes, I think that is me you can hear giggling towards the end of the video.

You must forgive my shaky camera work. I’m new to video, but hope to do better next time.

Why Some Goals Are Easier To Complete Than Others And Some Lessons You Never Forget

My daughter took up knitting when she was student at Virginia Tech and after she made a scarf for me and later some blankets and other things, I asked her to teach me how to knit. I picked out a yarn that I thought would be soft around her neck and had a mix of her school colors and after she started it for me, I set to work to complete it.

What I overlooked was that she doesn’t wear scarves, not now, not ever. I am known for almost always having one looped around my neck in all kinds of weather and I’ve worn them since my mid-twenties so it’s rare to see a photo of me through the years without one, but Miranda doesn’t wear them.

She did try to tell me this more than a time or two, and it took me a year of ripping out mistakes and redoing it before I heard her. I was so intent on presenting my first project to her especially as she had introduced me to it, that I never thought that this gift was more about me than it was her.

Miranda took me through the basic stitch so many times when I saw her over the last year that you think I could have worked it out, but I had such trouble with it that I began to knit only at the pub on quiz nights when my friend Jean could fix it for me when I made a mistake.

In the end, I shipped it unfinished to Georgia with my knitting needles to wait for our arrival from our New Zealand trip with the hopes of finishing it before Christmas. By Christmas day it was a major mess and when I showed it to her after lunch, unfinished and still on the knitting needles, she suggested gently that while I was good at many things, knitting did not seem like one of them.

There was something in the way she said that along with repeating once again that she did not wear scarves that I finally heard and suddenly I was able to let go of my need to finish the thing!

So she tied it off for me and I decided that I would give it to her dog for a neck warmer at least for purposes of a photo shoot because he doesn’t wear scarves either. Even though he won’t wear it again, it didn’t look so bad on him.

Afterwards, I told John that having tried my hand with the first one, I had some lovely yarn in just his color. He has not really protested, but thinking about it now, I am not sure I have ever seen him in a scarf either.

 

Life In The UK Test

There are still some things I seem to still be able to pull off with a better outcome than my knitting experience and the letter and news above was really big for me. I shared it yesterday on Facebook and received so many lovely responses that I was quite overwhelmed by all the support and since some of my readers only see me here, I wanted to tell you my news as well.

There are many steps on the way to being able to stay in the UK and most people assume if you marry a Brit it’s an easy-peasy process. Except for shaving a few years off the time it takes to become a British citizen, married folks go though the same process as everyone else.

Yesterday, I completed a major step in my goal to stay in the UK with John. I passed the Life in the UK test!

My next immigration appointment is on the calendar and if all goes well, I will have my Indefinite Leave to Remain approved after we are interviewed in a few weeks. Passing the UK life test was necessary to complete before the interview so I managed it just in time. I had mistakenly thought it was not required until you applied for a dual citizenship so I was on a tight timeline to get it done.

After I get though the next stage in a few weeks, I can apply within a certain period of time to become a naturalized citizen and have the right among other things, to vote, run for public office, and carry a British passport.

I don’t have to give up my American citizenship to do this and will have a dual citizenship when I finish the process.

I do want to acknowledge my long time friend Diane and her unknowing help with my test yesterday. We were roommates during my first year and her last at the university we attended together in New York. After she graduated, I transferred to the University of Georgia and she spent a year with an élite group of educators traveling and teaching University students study skills they might have missed in high school.

As a nontraditional student, I was older and had already served in the army and even though I was doing well in my classes, I spent many, many, hours studying to make this happen.

When Diane came to town in 1985 to spend a few weeks with the brainy young women of Agnes Scott, a college in Atlanta, she took a some time to show me a few things about note taking and review which changed my life and still help me to this day.

I kept the book she left for years until Miranda went off to VA Tech and I offered it to her in case she found she needed help to keep up. I don’t think she ever used it and I cannot remember the name of the book, but I will send a link to Diane in hopes that she can leave the title in a comment below.

Long story today to talk about lessons learned, but I did want to acknowledge how Diane’s help back in 1985 made prepping for the important test I took yesterday fairly easy and made me feel pretty confident going in to it.

If you live in the UK and want to test how much you know about your own country, you can take an online official practice test of 24 questions by going here.

I want to thank Miranda too for her patience in teaching me how to knit and let her know that I may try to make something else for her in a few years after (if) I manage to finish John’s scarf.

 

I Want To Wear My Shirts Tucked In Again

Loch Lomond, Scotland - Summer 2004

Okay, so I know that tucked in shirts are not exactly what folks are wearing these days, but I would really like to be able to flaunt my unfashionable side in public. Why, you may ask … because it would mean I had reclaimed my waistline. As we’ve moved into a new year most of us are working on something. Along with half a dozen other clear goals, I want to work on my fitness level and drop that new middle before my hips and bustline merge completely together.

I think I have made peace somewhere with the woman who said mean things to herself only a few months ago and frankly I’m not sure how or when it happened. While I weigh more now than I have in years, I am much more gentle with myself in terms of name calling and I think I can let go of what I should look like and get on with what I do look like.

There is a level of acceptance that makes it possible to see the larger picture which really IS about health and fitness. Maybe turning fifty had something to do with this shift … I’m not sure. What I do know is that my chief concern now in losing weight and getting rid of my middle ground has more to do with the health benefits such as decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease than it does casting a thinner shadow.

Plus, I secretly want to be able to be strong enough to do pull ups from a dead hang like I was doing in the photo below.

Or strong enough to climb stairs from the underside like I did in late 2005 when I needed to paint a wall and didn’t have a ladder tall enough to reach. My friend Patrice took this with her cell phone while I was  hanging and painting about 20 feet from the floor below. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the smartest way to do it, but I got the wall painted and had a little workout that day.

The photo below is one of the most recent. John took this on Christmas day with his camera and I can tell you now the bulge stretching the fabric around the sleeve is sadly not muscle.

The picture of us together in the snow was taken by my daughter Miranda and might give you a better idea of what I’m talking about regarding my midsection. I know you can’t actually see my waistline here, but I am definitely not looking fit.

When I was 29, I lost 42 pounds. I called it my post pregnancy weight, but by then Miranda was almost three. I used several resources to make that happen and followed a healthy diet and exercise plan. It took me about five months and it stayed off because I made the changes to keep it off. Twenty years later it’s time to revamp the program and while I don’t have so much to lose this time, I am looking for a little support and a program to follow.

I found SparkPeople online and after giving it a review, I think it might help me address both the fitness and weight loss aspects along with developing some new habits with my nutrition choices. While they have loads of great online support pages, you may be interested in browsing though the SparkPeople blogs of real people working on their own goals. I forgot to mention that it’s FREE!

I doubt I will take time to blog about the process on the SparkPeople site … I’ve got too many other things on my plate (no pun intended) but I have a catchy name over there if I do decide to share. I call myself  NONFATEXPAT.

If you have any experience with SparkPeople, I would be interested to hear your stories.