Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day



Boxing Day which falls on the 26th December is a public holiday in Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and has nothing to do with pugilism, or getting rid of Christmas wrappings. It was originally a day when alms were distributed to the poor, and servants/employees received gifts in money and kind from their masters.

Alms or poor boxes were placed in every parish church. Traditionally, these were opened the day after Christmas and the money distributed to the poor of the parish.

Household servants were always required to work on Christmas Day, and were given the following day off to spend with their families. It was customary for their employers to give them gifts of money and food.

It was also a time when wealthy estate owners would box up their leftover food, and unwanted gifts, and distribute them among the tenant farmers who worked their land.
All these gifts were usually placed in wooden, or clay boxes, hence the term Boxing Day.

Boxing Day traditions have fallen somewhat by the wayside, today it is seen more as a day for hitting the Christmas sales than for giving to the poor. The original concept, however, has not been totally lost, as it is still customary to tip trades people such as the postman, milkman (yes, we actually get milk delivered to our doorsteps in Britain), newspaper boys and girls, and refuse collectors. Also, many employers do give bonuses to their employees at Christmas. Today though, these tips and bonuses are usually given before Christmas.

Happy Boxing Day everyone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas

I’m doing a bit of a cheat here, as I’ve posted both these items on my other blog, so my apologies to those of you who read both. It’s just that there’s not a lot happening around here, except the usual Christmasy things. I’ve been doing battle at the stores buying presis and groceries. Ensuring that the postal service stays in business by spending a fortune mailing cards and presis back to England. Decorating the Christmas tree, and hanging stockings on the fireplace for us and the cats. As well as baking up a storm. It’s also been bloody perishingly cold, my neighbor told me today that her outside thermometer registered 0°F on Sunday and Monday nights. Brrrrrr.

But I did want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who takes the trouble to stop by here and comment, and to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and the best of New Years.



I hope this joke gives you a giggle.

HOLIDAY FRUITCAKE

With Christmas coming, here’s a fruitcake recipe that will help take the stress out of this normally stressful time.

Ingredients:

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups dried fruit
1 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
3 oz lemon juice
1 cup nuts
1 gallon Absolut Vodka

First sample the vodka to check for freshness. Take a large bowl. Check the vodka again to be sure it is of the highest quality.

Pour 1 level cup of the vodka and drink it. Repeat. Repeat again.

Turn on electric mixer; beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add water, eggs and 1 tsp sugar and beat again.

Make surr the vodka is still OK. Cry another tup.

Turn off mixers. Chuck in the cup of dried fruitt or something. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck on the beaterers, pry it loose with a Drewsciver.

Sample the vodka to check for consistancity.

Next sniff two cups of salt. Or something. Who cares?

Check the vodka. Now sniff the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar or something. Whatever.

Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin 350 degrees. Don’t forget to beat off the turner. Whip the bowl out the window. Check the vodka again.

Go to bed. Who the hell likes *!#&*^$ fruitcake anyway.


A Christmas Meme


I saw this on Jo’s blog http://lifeinwindermere.blogspot.com/ and as it’s Crimbo, I thought I’d enter into the spirit and play along. Feel free to join in, if you wish.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. I’m one of those sick individuals who actually likes wrapping presents.
2. Real tree or Artificial? It has to be real, messy, but I love the smell.
3. When do you put up the tree? The weekend before Christmas.
4. When do you take the tree down? On the twelfth day of Crimbo.
5. Do you like eggnog? No, it’s too sweet.
6. Favourite gift received as a child? A doll’s house.
7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad.
8. Easiest person to buy for? Mick, he’s easily pleased.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? No.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards. Mail.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? When I first moved to California, my mother-in-law always sent me tights (hose), in that ghastly shade of American tan. (Well, she was in her late 70’s then, bless her, and I suppose they were cheap to mail). The thing is, I hardly ever wore tights in California, and certainly not American tan.
12. Favourite Christmas Movie? The Great Escape. I know, I know, it’s not a Christmas movie, but they used to show it every year in England at Christmas, so I always associate it with the holiday.
13. When do you start shopping? Usually, end of October through November. I like to get everything sorted out before Thanksgiving. I can’t bear the madding crowds of Black Friday onwards.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don’t think so, though I may have put some in the bin.
15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas? Turkey with all the trimmings.
16. Lights on the tree? Of course, but not the flashing ones, I hate those.
17. Favourite Christmas song? There are a few, all ancient, but I like them anyway. Do they know it’s Christmas by Band Aid, Mistletoe and Wine by Cliff Richard, I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday by Roy Wood, and White Christmas by Bing Crosby. For carols, I think Silent Night.
18, Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay home. Christmas in England is always so much more fun than the US, but I hate travelling in winter, and I hate flying anytime.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? No.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Neither, I don’t put anything on top of the tree.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The crowds, and the commercialism.
23. Favourite ornament, theme or color? A few miniature sweaters I knitted my self.
24. Favourite for Christmas dinner? Turkey and all the trimmings.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? For a publisher to show some interest in my book.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Award


Sarah over at http://www.britgalusa.com/ gave me the above award a couple of weeks ago, and I am only now getting round to posting it. Which only goes to show how little I deserve this award, as I have been anything but a superior scribbler of late. But thank you for thinking of me, Sarah, I do appreciate it, and I do promise to mend my ways. In fact, there are quite a few things I want to change about my lifestyle come the New Year, but more about that some other time.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how hectic this time of year is, because you already know that. Usually, I like to have all my Christmas presents and cards bought before Thanksgiving, that way I am spared the madding crowds from Black Friday* onwards.

This year, that wasn’t possible, and last Saturday was a case in point. Mick and I went Christmas shopping in Joplin, Missouri, along with the rest of the four states, me thinks. The main highlights of the day were to be a visit to the bookstore, and lunch at a pub style restaurant that serves a pretty mean fish and chips. Now I love bookstores, and had we spent the rest of the day in there things would have been just fine, but we didn’t.

After the bookstore we went to the mall. After seeing the endless lines in every shop, we decided, forget about it, and went in search of lunch. Mick dropped me at the door of the restaurant while he went in search of a parking space on the crowded lot. One glance inside told me that fish and chips was off the menu, there was a line of about 20 people waiting to be seated.

Outside, Mick was still circling, but he was so intent on finding a parking place he didn’t see me wildly gesticulating to him to pull over. So there I am chasing him around the parking lot, and I didn’t catch his eye until he actually found a spot. The relief on his face soon turned to dismay, when he saw me.

In the end, we had lunch at a Chinese place, followed by some grazing in Sam’s Club. They have that many free samples of food on offer in that store that you really don’t need to eat lunch. Anyway, we bought a load of food to stock our new freezer, and decided to call it a day.

I bought the remainder of my Christmas gifts on-line, all from the comfort of my own home, with no sodding queues to deal with.

*For the Brits, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when the whole of America descends on the stores.


The Sky at Night



Also, I don’t know if you noticed the sky at night on Monday, December 1st, if you did, you would have seen a rare alignment of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter. It was quite a spectacle. I did take a photo but it didn’t turn out too good, so I cribbed this one off the net.


Here in Oklahoma, the crescent moon was standing on end, with Venus and Jupiter to its right.

British astrologer, Jonathan Cainer, http://www.cainer.com/ had this to say about the conjunction:

"Those two bright lights, so close to the Moon last night, were Venus and Jupiter. Their rare sunset spectacle does not, on its own, signify the end of the credit crunch. The pessimism genie has been let out of the bottle and it may take some months before enough optimists team up to chase it back in. Still, we should be encouraged by the planets of prosperity and good fortune aligning so closely this close to Christmas. It augurs well for a fruitful festive season a New Year, with a new President, pursuing new policies from which many benefit."

Let’s hope he’s right.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm late, I'm late!


Jan Meng's studio at Hungry Holler


First of all, my apologies. I’ve been quite remiss with my blogging and commenting of late, but I will catch up with you all real soon. My arm is finally on the mend, and this week I have been frantically trying to catch up with the housework, and shopping prior to the holiday. And, as most of you know, if you don’t find me here, you’ll find me slaving over a hot stove at my other blog, Range Warfare. :-)

I hope everyone has had a very happy Thanksgiving. It’s not an English thing, but we’re certainly not averse to the time off. I am often asked what we do in England at Thanksgiving. My answer is always the same – nothing, because we have bugger all to be thankful for in England. Only joking folks. :-) Personally, I think I won the lottery of life being born British.

But I did cook us a roast dinner, not turkey though, as we like to have turkey at Christmas. We had roast lamb, and Mick made some mint sauce to go with it. It’s the first lamb we have had since we moved to Oklahoma 4½ years ago, it just doesn’t seem to be a very popular meat here. We bought this lamb joint on a recent trip to Missouri, but we have since managed to talk a local butcher into getting some for us. We also had roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, veggies and lashings of gravy, so basically, a traditional English Sunday lunch.

On Thanksgiving Day, the weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and about 68°F. Today, is quite a different story. I awoke to snow this morning! Temps are now in the low 40’s, and below freezing at night. Brrrrr! I’m not complaining too much, as I would far rather be cold than hot, and it’s a good reason for a log fire.

Also, if you’re interested, you can find my latest article for Oklahoma Living magazine here:

http://www.ok-living.coop/Feature_3.php

Oh, and btw, the typos are not mine, that should read wander/wandering.

The article is about a recent visit to a local arts center called, Hungry Holler, home of renowned artists, Jan and Marc Meng. Jan is a self confessed gourdphile, who creates beautiful works of art from homegrown gourds. The article shows some of her work on exhibit in their small rustic gallery. If you’d like to see more, check out their web site at: http://www.hungryholler.com/



A Gourd decorated with recycled bottle caps


Marc is known as the Zen Spoonmaster as he lovingly handcrafts cooking utensils from woods such as maple, wild cherry and walnut. Each spoon he creates is totally unique and will last a lifetime. Also the spatulas are made for right and left handed cooks.



I have begun my own collection as you can see below. I really enjoyed my visit to Hungry Holler and will certainly be making a return trip.




On a little side note. I posted about this article on Range Warfare and several people asked me where the spoons were, as it seems they have disappeared from their web site. When I checked it out, I noticed that they have updated the site, and I have e-mailed Jan Meng to find out what’s happened to the spoons. I’m sure it’s just a temporary glitch, and I’ll get back to you about it as soon as I hear. But check out the gourds anyway, they are fabulous.

Also a big Thank You to Sarah, I just noticed your comment about the award. I'll post about this real soon.

I hope you all have a good week.

Toodle pip for now.










Monday, November 17, 2008

Oh Deer!

It’s true what they say, it doesn’t rain but it pours. Not only am I still having problems with my arm, but last week, Mick hit a deer on his way to work. He was driving on a two-lane highway, with a 55-MPH speed limit, when the deer ran right out in front of him and stopped. He had no chance to brake, or swerve to avoid it. The deer went right across the bonnet (hood).

The result:
Damage to Mick – zero
Damage to car – bad, but repairable
Damage to deer – terminal.

At first glance, the car doesn’t look too bad,



but one headlight is smashed, the bonnet (hood) is dented and warped,


and the side panel is cracked and hanging loose.


But at least Mick was only shaken, not stirred, and that’s the main thing. Still, one cannot help but wonder, what else is going to go wrong?
On a brighter note...
One of my friends got married at the weekend. She is, or was, a member of my writer’s group, The Grand Lake Wordsmiths. The blushing bride is a septuagenarian, and her beau, an octogenarian. I wish them lots of love and happiness in their future lives together. C. is moving to Missouri, and will be sadly missed by the writer’s group, she is an excellent writer and a masterful poet. Sorry, about the photo, they all came out a bit dark.
































Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Worms


Would you believe it’s now two weeks since Alvin bit me, and my arm is still not completely healed? One of his teeth went particularly deep, and it’s this that is still causing me problems. To compound matters, I had an allergic reaction to the first lot of antibiotics, and the bottom half of my face swelled up until I looked like a hamster with lip enhancements. Alvin, of course, made a full and quick recovery from his ailment, and shows no signs of remorse for having maimed his mummy.

Anyway, last week, just to add to my woes, I had to get a story into Oklahoma Living magazine by Wednesday, and typing was very difficult. But, not having much choice in the matter, I did it anyway. I am such a martyr to my trade. :-)

Writing with a pen or pencil was also very painful, worse than typing in fact, and I really can’t start my day without a cup of tea and my crossword. My favorite crossword is the cryptic one from a Scottish newspaper called The Herald. It’s one of the few newspapers that still offers a free printable crossword on-line every weekday. If you’re interested you can find it here: http://www.theherald.co.uk/crosswords/
I could have done the on-line version, but it’s just not the same. To me crosswords have to be done on paper.

Just to digress a moment, although the crossword was invented by an American, the Brits took the idea and came up with the cryptic crossword. These are particularly tricky crosswords, as you have to work out what the clue means before you can answer it. It’s like a battle of wits, and sometimes all out war, between the compiler and the solver.

Anyway, unable to do my crossword, I came across a word game on-line called Bookworm, and now I’m hooked. If you want to check it out you can find it here:
http://get.games.yahoo.com/proddesc?gamekey=bookworm#ffabtn
But I warn you, it’s addictive. I am now having to wean myself off it, but at least it kept me occupied during my incapacity.

I am a huge fan of word puzzles and word games, particularly Scrabble, but then I suppose words are my stock and trade. I call them worms, because they are so squiggly and squirmy that they wriggle away from you just when you need them the most.

On a final note, a big thank you to everyone who stopped by and commiserated with me in my hour of need, I really appreciated it.

Toodle pip for now.






Friday, October 31, 2008

Damn Cats and Ghostly Goings on in the Attic

I’m sorry I haven’t been around much this week, and this is going to be the case for a while longer. On Monday and Tuesday, I wasn’t feeling very well. Then on Wednesday, my cat Alvin was ill, so I took him to see the vet. Unfortunately, while the vet took Alvin’s temperature, I held his head. I thought I had a firm grip on him, but he managed to get loose and sunk all his teeth into my arm.

As it was a very nasty bite, I went to the doctor for a tetanus shot. She also gave me antibiotics and painkillers, as she was particularly concerned that Alvin might have passed his infection onto me. She also told me to keep my forearm elevated for 2-3 days, so I’m not supposed to be typing, but I just wanted to let you know what was happening.

My right arm is red and swollen from the wrist to the elbow, and is extremely painful. It was so bad that I couldn’t get the childproof caps off the antibiotics and painkillers, and had to wait for Mick to get home from work before I could take any. :-) But the good news is, Alvin is recovering from his infection, so hopefully, normal service will be resumed with me very soon.

Anyway, as it’s Halloween, I’ll share some ghost stories with you. I posted this a while ago when no-one was reading this blog. I did want to add another ghost story to it, but that will have to wait for another time. Happy Halloween!

Ghostly Goings on in the Attic

Last weekend, my daughter called and told me that she had a ghost in the attic. My granddaughter had been using the attic as her bedroom, and saw this ghost on two occasions. Although my daughter thought she had probably dreamt it, she took it seriously and moved her to another bedroom. She then put two of her boys in the attic, and gave my granddaughter strict instructions not to mention the incident to them. The two boys also saw the ghost, each on separate occasions. This is what my granddaughter told me about the experience:

"It was really dark in my room, and I remember waking up, I didn't know what time it was. For some reason, I just felt really scared and I didn't know why, and I couldn't move anything but my eyes. I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye and so I looked. I thought it was dad, because it was about the same height and it looked like a man. It was a bit blurry, but I presumed that was because it was dark. It was bending down and picking stuff up and looking at them before putting them back down again. It was near my teddy bears so I thought it was picking them up. I can't remember anything else so I must have fallen asleep. I asked dad why he'd been messing with my teddy bears and he said he hadn't. He looked confused so I believed him. It was there the next night, doing the same thing, in the same spot. I carried on looking at it, and I just remember seeing it kind of fade from the bottom upwards, and seeing it with no legs."

This reminded me of a strange encounter of my own. At one time, back in England, I worked at an office where I used to run a job club (to help people improve their job search skills). The job club took place in two of the upstairs rooms in the office. In one room I did the training sessions, and the other room (which we called the resource room), was used by people to apply for jobs. In that room they had newspapers, magazines, telephones, stationery, computer, everything that they needed to apply for jobs. There was also an old typewriter in there that nobody ever used.

One day, I arrived early at the office, before anyone else got there. The canteen was upstairs, so I went up there to make myself a cup of tea. On passing the door to the resource room, I heard typing, which surprised me as I was sure none of the other staff were in yet. As soon as I opened the door the typing stopped, but there was no one in the room.

I did hear the typing several times while I worked there, and it always happened when the room wasn’t in use. I probably would have thought I was going nuts, but I later discovered that other staff had heard it, too.

And funnily enough, when I told the office manager about the mysterious typist, she told me yet another ghost story. She had been in charge of another office at the time, and one Sunday she got a call from the police. Neighbors across from the office building had seen lights on upstairs and thought it might be a break-in. When the manager and the police got there, there were no lights on, and no sign of a break-in.

But, what really mystified her was that the upstairs of the office wasn’t used. The office had originally been a church until it had undergone a conversion. The contractors who did the renovations had put in a false ceiling to hide the high church roof.

After another Sunday call-out due to lights being on in the upper story the manager thought there might be some sort of electrical fault, so she called in an electrician. He found that not only were there no lights up there, there wasn’t any electrical wiring either.

Spooky!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Autumnal Asides

My Chrysanthemum looks lovely at the mo.


The weather here in Northeast Oklahoma has been absolutely perfect for the past few days, sunny, 75°F, with cooler nights and mornings. The skies have been the deepest of blues, and not a cloud in sight. A few trees have already lost most of their leaves, but the vast majority are only just beginning to change color. How is autumn panning out where you live?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks around here. I got my latest assignment done and into Oklahoma Living Magazine, ahead of deadline, but a couple of hundred words longer than it should have been. I hope the editor doesn’t cut it, she usually doesn’t, but you never know.

The article was about a local arts center, and I so enjoyed my visit there that I had a bit of a struggle when it came to writing the story. You see, I’m not allowed to include my own views and opinions in these articles, everything has to be written in third person. Anyway, I wrangled it eventually, and I really hope I have done the place justice. I’ll tell you more about it after the piece is published at the beginning of November.

I no sooner got that piece sent in, when I received an e-mail from the editor asking me to submit story ideas for next year’s editorial calendar. Truth be told, I didn’t have a single idea in my head, and only five days to come up with something! Anyway, after a lot of brainstorming, a lot of research, and a couple of sleepless nights, I did manage to put a list together, and got it in by the deadline. (Phew, wipes sweat from fevered brow). Now it’s fingers crossed that she throws a few crumbs my way for next year.

And as for "the bloody thing," (my book), if things go much slower they’re going to stop. I keep changing my mind about what I want to include, and then have to do a load more research, oh, hum.

And this week, I’m off to do another interview for my next Oklahoma Living story.

On a lighter note

I saw a funny joke this week on Jo’s blog at: http://lifeinwindermere.blogspot.com/

GORDON BROWN (British Prime Minister) was visiting a primary school and he visited one of the classes. They were in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings. The teacher asked Mr. BROWN if he would like to lead the discussion on the word 'tragedy'. So the illustrious leader asked the class for an example of a 'tragedy'.

A little boy stood up and offered: "If my best friend, who lives on a farm, is playing in the field & a tractor runs over him and kills him that would be a tragedy."

"No," said GORDON – "that would be an accident."

A little girl raised her hand: "If a school bus carrying fifty children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy"

"I'm afraid not," explained GORDON – "that's what we would call a great loss."

The room went silent. No other children volunteered.

GORDON searched the room. "Isn't there someone here who can give me an example of a tragedy?"

Finally, at the back of the room, little Johnny raised his hand... In a quiet voice he said, "If A plane carrying you and MR. DARLING (British Chancellor of the Exchequer) was struck by a 'friendly fire' missile & blown to smithereens, that would be a tragedy."

"Fantastic!" exclaimed GORDON. "That's right. And can you tell me why that would be tragedy?"

"Well," says little Johnny, "it has to be a tragedy, because it certainly wouldn't be a great loss, and it probably wouldn't be a f**king accident either!"

Toodle pip, ‘til next time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ICE and an Award


No, this isn't a post about last winter’s ice storms, but about a Canadian initiative called ICE which is an acronym "In Case of Emergency." I came across this post on Gill’s site at http://thatbritishwoman.blogspot.com/ and thought it made a lot of sense, but then the simple ideas usually do. Perhaps this is something we should be doing in the US?

"ICE - 'In Case of Emergency.' We all carry our cell phones with names & numbers stored in its memory but nobody, other than ourselves, knows which of these numbers belong to our closest family or friends. If we were to be involved in an accident or were taken ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn't know who to call. Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency? Hence the 'ICE' (In Case of Emergency) Campaign.

The concept of 'ICE' is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As cell (mobile) phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name 'ICE' (In Case Of Emergency).

The idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents, there were always cell phones with patients, but they didn't know which number to call. He therefore thought that it would be a good idea if there was a nationally recognized name for this purpose. In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital staff would be able to quickly contact the right person by simply dialing the number you have stored as 'ICE.' For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3 etc. A great idea that will make a difference!

Let's spread the concept of ICE by storing an ICE number in our cell phones today! Please forward this. It won't take too many 'forwards' before everybody will know about this. It really could save your life, or put a loved one's mind at rest. ICE will speak for you when you are not able to. "

An Award




My apologies to Sarah, http://www.britgalusa.com/ I’ve been a bit remiss in posting about the award she so kindly gave me. Thanks Sarah.

This award recognizes those readers that regularly show their support with comments, so I would like to pass this on to my few regulars. I don’t post as often as I’d like, but I also have a cooking blog and it gets very time consuming. But I do want to thank you for taking the time to stop by and for all your lovely comments. Pam, I would have included you, but Sarah beat me to it.




Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cats!

We are in a battle of the wills with our cats at the moment, we are trying to change their diet, and they don’t like it! A few months ago hubby, Mick, joined an on-line cat forum, and has learnt a lot about cat nutrition, as well as general health and well being.

Apparently, dried food is not good for cats. It's full of carbohydrates, something that they can well do without as it lacks the moisture that is essential to a cat's digestive system. Cats are Obligate Carnivores, which means that to remain healthy they need to eat meat. They are naturally desert animals and have a low thirst drive, they depend on getting their required moisture intake from their kill. Dry food contains no moisture and dehydrates them, which can lead to kidney disease/failure, one of the biggest killers of cats. According to the folks on the cat forum, feeding your cat the worst wet food is better than the best dried food.


Wilson, the lounge lizard.

Wilson, at eight years old is a lost cause. When we adopted him from the Humane Society three years ago, he was a totally indoor cat, and had no claws. De-clawing is something else I strongly disagree with as it leads to all manner of physical and psychological problems, but that’s a whole other story.

When we adopted Wilson, the Humane Society gave us a bag of Science Diet, dried cat food. The first time I heard him crunching down on this food it seemed really funny as I had never known cats to eat biscuits. In England, cats ate canned meat, biscuits were for dogs, though I don’t know if this is the case nowadays.

In the early days, we did try to introduce Wilson to canned meat but he wouldn’t touch it, so we continued with the dried stuff. I wish now that we had been a bit more persistent with him, because three years on he is even more set in his ways, and adamantly refuses meat. But, we have switched him to a better dried food called Eagle Pack, Holistic Select. He has been eating this food for two weeks, and I’ve noticed he doesn’t eat anywhere near as much of it as the old stuff. And not because he doesn’t like it, but because it has a higher nutritional content than Science Diet. This can only do him good in the long run as he is very overweight.



Alvin, as a kitlet.

Alvin, (adopted as a kitten from the Humane Society), and now 3 years old, is more amenable to the wet food, but he still stubbornly sticks out for dry stuff if he’s that way inclined. Alvin is a very willful boy. On the other hand, he does catch plenty of his own food, small rabbits, mice and other rodents, so I’m not too worried about him. Still, I would prefer to get him off the dried food.


Tommy Ticklemouse, can't a cat get any privacy around here?

Tommy is 2 years old and has taken to the wet food without any problems, he just eats whatever’s in his dish. On occasions though, even he has stuck out for the dried stuff, but he’s not as bad as Alvin. Mind you, he has never been a picky eater. He wandered into our yard as a kitten, and the poor little mite was starving. He looked like a bag of bones with the skin thrown on, so he will pretty much eat anything and everything. Tommy is also not as murderous as Alvin, though he does catch an odd mouse, and eats Alvin’s leftovers, he, therefore, does need to eat more meat.

It’s going to be a slow process, as cats don’t like change, well not unless they’ve been consulted and agreed to it in the first place. We have had no problems with the switch to the Holistic Select dried food, but the canned food is going to take a little longer. The wet food is also Eagle Pack, Holistic Natural Canned Formulas.

Quote of the week: Dogs have owners, cats have staff! (source unknown).






Sunday, September 28, 2008

Brits on Tour



A while ago, Pam at http://pamokc.blogspot.com/ asked how a couple of Brits from northern England ended up in Oklahoma. I did tell her I would post about it one day, so here it is. I warn you though, this is a long, and rambling story, so do yourself a favor and stop reading right now.

It all started back in 1994 when we went to stay with an old friend of ours in the San Fernando Valley, just outside of LA. Towards the end of our vacation, Mick was offered a job at the company our friend worked for, and we told them we’d give the offer some thought when we got home.

Arriving home, and staring at the prospect of another miserable English winter, all that California sunshine was very tempting. But we both had good jobs, nice cars, and our own home, so we had a lot to lose, did we want to throw it all away on a whim? I think the thing that really swung it for us was, we were both of an age where we thought if we don’t do it now, we never will. In the end, we decided I would take a two year leave of absence from work, we would rent out our house, and come over for a year, thereby minimizing our risks.

We lived in the SF Valley for a year, and though we enjoyed it, the pace of life was a bit hectic for a couple from a small rural village in England. So, when Mick was offered a job in northern California, in a lovely little main street town called Benicia, forty miles outside San Francisco, we decided to give it a whirl. We lived there for 4 years, and absolutely loved it. While we were there, just before my leave of absence was coming to an end, the Civil Service (luckily for me), decided to jettison some staff, and as they don't make people redundant, I ended up getting early retirement.

Then Mick was offered a job back in southern California, at a place called Oxnard, which is right on the Pacific Coast. We had both always wanted to live by the ocean, so we moved again. The company Mick worked for sponsored Mick for his green card, and eventually we both became permanent residents here.

After that we decided to sell our house back in England, and buy something in California. But house prices were so high there that we couldn’t bring ourselves to take out a massive mortgage on a property we didn’t even like. That’s when we started looking into relocating. We spent a long time researching a lot of different states, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. But something kept steering us towards Oklahoma, and we moved here in May 2004.

We took a monumental risk moving here, we neither of us had a job, we had no home to go to, and we didn’t know a soul here. Anyway, it all worked out well in the end, and we are both so glad we moved. Sure, there are disadvantages to living out in the sticks, but in my opinion the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

So that’s it in a nutshell.

Toodle pip ‘til next time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

British Telly



I don’t watch much TV here as we don’t have cable, and on the two channels we can pick up choices of programming are very limited. I usually tell people that we are too tight to pay for cable, but the truth is, we coughed up the cash for cable for years when we lived in California, and still hardly ever found anything worth watching. When we moved to Oklahoma, we decided we wouldn’t bother with cable, and I must say, I haven’t missed it one bit.

Now with this digital TV thingy coming into play next year, we got one of those converter boxes and discovered we couldn’t get any channels at all. So that idea has been cast aside like a squeezed lemon.

Anyway, as luck would have it, Mick made a great discovery on an ex-pats forum. He found out about a couple of sites where you can download British telly programs for free. From what I can gather, it works a bit like shareware. People in the UK upload progs to the site, and when you download a program onto your computer, you leave it there for a while to "seed," meaning other people can access it and download it from you. Seeding scores you points, and the more points you have the more programs you can download.

I know it all sounds a bit complicated, and I confess I’m not totally au fait with how it works, but Mick assures me that if a technosaurus like him can do it, anybody can. Full instructions are available at both sites. You can find them at:

www.thebox.bz this is the better of the two sites as they have far more choice of programs.

There are literally thousands of programs to choose from, dramas, comedies, soaps, sports, documentaries, wildlife/nature, all sorts of stuff. Mick says that ex-pats from all over the world are using this system.

And, after you’ve downloaded a prog, you can transfer it onto a video memory stick, plug it into the front of your DVD player and watch it on your telly. So I’ve been watching British telly this week, and it’s been lovely. Jo at: http://lifeinwindermere.blogspot.com/ was talking about a new series "Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and I said I couldn’t comment as although I’d read the book I couldn’t get the series. Well now I can. How kewl is that?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lipstick






I usually steer well clear of politics on this blog, not being a citizen I am not allowed to vote. But I am a permanent resident here, and I pay my taxes, so I think that qualifies me to have an opinion. And, truth be told, I find it hard to keep my mouth shut about the latest debacle that is sweeping the nation, namely, Sarah Palin. I ask you, what is so special about this woman that it’s causing voters to regard John McCain with new eyes? After watching Charles Gibson’s interview with her last week I confess I’m totally mystified.

Palin managed to confuse, obfuscate, and generally waffle her way around every question she was asked. Questions about her experience in foreign policy were answered with her stance on energy issues, the proximity of Alaska to Russia, or the fact that she had met international trade delegates in her role as governor. She didn’t even appear to understand the question when Gibson asked her what she thought of the Bush doctrine.

Also, she seemed to think there was one rule for the USA and quite another for Russia, or any other country for that matter. She thought it was acceptable for American troops to cross borders into Pakistan (without authority from that government) in their quest to root out terrorists. She said, "In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target."

Yet it was totally unacceptable for to Russia cross borders into neighboring Georgia. She said, "And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable."

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. What about the US invasion of Iraq? They may not have been a democratic country, but there are other non-democratic countries in the world that we aren’t invading. My question is, what was the provocation in Iraq? And who decided that Russia wasn’t provoked?

The only question she answered directly was on the issue of abortion. Gibson asked her, "John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. Do you believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is in danger?"

Palin replied, "My personal opinion is that abortion allowed if the life of the mother is endangered. Please understand me on this. I do understand McCain's position on this. I do understand others who are very passionate about this issue who have a differing." (Any errors here are not mine but are in the ABC transcript of the interview).

Honestly, I was gobsmacked with this reply. This woman would set women’s rights back years, nay decades. And to say that women who have been raped, or been the victims of incest ― and in most cases of incest we are talking about very young girls ― should not be allowed an abortion is appalling.

If Palin is so worried about the high abortion rate in this country shouldn’t she be advocating free birth control for women, rather than taking this Draconian stance on abortion. But we all know that's not going to happen, considering John McCain voted against measures that would have mandated health insurance companies to cover birth control.

The prospect of four years with McCain at the helm fills me with horror, but what's even more scary is John McCain is no spring chicken, and this woman could end up running the country. Now, that really is something you should give some thought to before casting your vote.

If you missed the interview you’ll find it here:

http://abcnews.go.com/

But better still, read the transcript, it’s much easier to cut through the waffle, sorry, rhetoric:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/story?id=5782924&page=1

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The British One Hundred

I posted this list on my cooking blog yesterday, but I thought some of you might find it fun, so here's the British One Hundred.

In response to the Omnivores One Hundred, Helen at Food Stories: http://helengraves.co.uk/ has created The British One Hundred. I love lists so I couldn't resist having a go.

Here are the rules if you would like to play along:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Link back to Food Stories, if you would be so kind.

1. Grey squirrel. (Having eaten crocodile, wilderbeast, and zebra in Kenya, I think I’d give it a try).

2 Steak and kidney pie

3. Bubble and squeak

4. Spotted dick

5. Hot Cross Buns (A traditional Easter favorite)

6. Laver bread

7. Toad in the hole

8. Shepherds pie AND Cottage pie

9. Scotch egg

10. Parkin

11. Welsh rarebit

12. Jellied eels

13. Stilton

14. Marmite (I hate this stuff)

15. Ploughman’s lunch

16. Cucumber sandwiches

17. Coronation chicken

18. Gloucester old spot.

19. Cornish pasty

20. Samphire

21. Mince Pies

22. Winkles

23. Salad cream

24. Malt loaf

25. Haggis

26. Beans on toast

27. Cornish clotted cream tea

28. Pickled egg

29. Pork scratchings

30. Pork pie

31. Black pudding

32. Patum Peperium or Gentleman’s relish

33. Earl Grey tea

34. Elvers

35. HP Sauce

36. Potted shrimps

37. Stinking bishop

38. Elderflower cordial

39. Pea and ham soup

40. Aberdeen Angus Beef

41.Lemon Posset

42. Guinness

43. Cumberland sausage

44. Native oysters

45. A ‘full English’ breakfast

46. Cockles

47. Faggots

48. Eccles cake

49. Potted Cromer crab

50. Trifle

51. Stargazy pie

52. English mustard

53. Christmas pudding

54. Cullen skink

55. Liver and bacon with onions

56. Wood pigeon

57. Branston pickle

58. Oxtail soup

59. Piccalilli

60. Sorrel

62. Chicken tikka masala

63. Deep fried Mars Bar

64. Fish, chips and mushy peas

65. Pie and mash with liquor

66. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding

67. Pickled onions

68. Cock-a-leekie soup

69. Rabbit and Hare

70. Bread sauce

71. Cauliflower cheese

72. Crumpets

73. Rice pudding

74. Bread and Butter Pudding

75. Bakewell tart

76. Kendall mint cake (horribly sweet)

77. Summer pudding

78. Lancashire hot pot (I'm from Lancashire, so I was weaned on this)

79. Beef Wellington

80. Eton mess

81. Neeps and tatties

82. Pimms

83. Scampi

84. Mint sauce

85. English strawberries and cream

86. Isle of Wight garlic

87. Mutton

88. Deep fried whitebait with tartare sauce

89. Angels on horseback

90. Omelette Arnold Bennett

91. Devilled kidneys

92. Partridge and pheasant

93. Stew and Dumplings

94. Arbroath smokies

95. Oyster loaves

96. Sloe gin

97. Damson jam

98. Soda bread

99. Quince jelly

100. Afternoon tea at the Ritz

I think I would add Bangers and Mash, Kippers, Victoria Sponge, Jam Roly Poly, and Lancashire cheese.

Which ones have you tried, and are there any you would like to add?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

An Award!



This is the first award I’ve received for this blog, and I’m absolutely thrilled. The honor was bestowed on me by Denise at: http://anenglishgirlrambles.blogspot.com
Thank you so much for thinking of me Denise. Now I have the pleasure of passing this along.

The rules that accompany this award are:
1. Put the logo on your blog;
2. Add a link to the person who has awarded you;
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs;
4. Add links to those blogs on yours and
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

And my seven nominees are (pause for drum roll)





Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fall


Autumn Light

Could this be the start of fall? It started raining here yesterday evening, and it’s chucked it down all day today. Overnight our temperatures have plummeted 25 degrees, yesterday it was 90°F, today it’s 65°F. I’m not going to get too excited about it though, as I’m sure there’s still lots more hot weather to come, but hopefully more of the low 80’s rather than 90/100’s.

I am so ready for the fall. I’m sick of the heat, I’m fed up of feeling sweaty, I want to wear a cardi (cardigan/sweater), or even a coat. I want to see the leaves changing color on the trees, and the lovely yellow early morning/evening light. I want to see an end to stinging, biting, and bothersome bugs.

I’m looking forward to the long cold nights, cozying up in front of a blazing log fire with a good book, or some knitting. I’m longing to snuggle under my comforter after pressing the snooze button on the alarm clock. Just 10 more minutes.

I’m fed up of barbecuing and salads. I’m looking forward to homemade soups, casseroles and curries, and the smell of roast meat and Yorkshire pudding filling the house. I’m longing for mashed potatoes and gravy, Halloween candy, and Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, I’m ready for fall.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Very European Evening


Turtle soup, anyone?
An English guy, Errol, and a German guy, Martin, have been delivering a training course at Mick’s place of work, so on Wednesday we invited them out for a meal.

By some amazing coincidence, Errol is from my home county of Lancashire and many of his relatives live in and around the area I’m from, so he knew the place well. And even though he now lives in South Carolina, he hadn’t lost his Lancashire accent at all. Martin lives in Germany, and though he spoke excellent English, I think he had a little trouble keeping up with three northerners at times.

We arrived at the restaurant at 6:30pm, but we were gassing that much it must have been about 7:30pm before we even ordered our starters (appetizers), and it had to be another hour before we got around to ordering a main course. By 9:30 we were the only ones left in the restaurant, and had the place stayed open later, I’m sure we would have still been there at midnight. I could see the staff milling around in the bar area waiting for us to leave. I’m surprised they didn’t start vacuuming the carpet by way of a hint (that has happened to me before), but no, they were much too polite for that.

Anyway it was a wonderful evening, with great company, (talk about laugh, I damn near wet myself), fabulous food, and a very patient server.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Writer's Rights




In the comments on my last post I tried to explain why I can’t publish my article on the Black Death on my blog, and this got me thinking that I should maybe say a little something about writer's rights.

The vast majority of publications ask for "first serial rights," this means that the writer grants a magazine the right to publish their work one time only. After publication all rights to the work revert to the author.

Sometimes first rights will come with an additional proviso, usually some sort of time constraint. The magazine may ask to retain rights for three months, or they may pay you an additional fee to publish it on their web site for an agreed amount of time, in which case rights don’t revert to the author until that time has elapsed.

So if a magazine wants first rights to your work they don’t expect it to have been published elsewhere, and with most editors that also includes blogs.

Now in the case of the Black Death, I wrote this for a kid’s history magazine and if they publish it they want "all rights," that means exactly what it says. If a writer grants all rights to a piece of work it means they forfeit the right to use it ever again. A lot of children’s magazines take "all rights." Neither does this particular magazine publish articles on their web site, so no links either.

I should point out that I write very few things for publications that take all rights, for obvious reasons. In this case I don’t mind giving up all rights to the article, it’s what I call "a throw away piece." And it doesn’t mean that I can never write another article about the Black Death, after all, the magazine doesn’t own all rights to history, but it would have to be a different article.

I hope that clarifies things a bit. And this list of rights is not exhaustive, there are few others, but these are the main ones, so if any of you write with a view to publication make sure you know your rights.

Anyway, if the magazine doesn’t publish the Black Death, and there are seldom any guarantees in this game, then all rights revert to me, in which case I’ll post it up here.

And I'm sure you've all dozed off by now, so I'll wish you Night night and sweet dreams.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sorted!



I did get my driver’s license sorted out last week. It wasn’t too painful, I only had to wait about an hour before getting "processed," and I had a book with me so that passed the time along. The only painful part was there were no loos (restrooms) at the place, and I’d had two cups of tea before leaving home. I was just about ready to burst by the time I got back. %-(
Oh, and the other painful part, my photo, it’s quite gruesome, I just hope no one asks me for ID in the next four years!

The book I was reading and have since finished was Tess Gerritsen’s, The Bone Garden, and I confess I was a tad disappointed with it. Part of the book is set in "present day" and part in the 1830’s. The historical mystery was engrossing, but I found myself getting annoyed when it switched back to modern day. The present day aspects of the novel were just a ploy to introduce the historical, and IMHO, could have been omitted altogether and the novel would have been better for it. The ending was also a bit naff, (English slang term, used in a variety of ways, but in this case means cheesy, or clich├ęd). If you’re a fan of Gerritsen’s (as I am) you’ll read it, and for the most part enjoy it. But if you haven’t read her books before, I wouldn’t start with this one.

After doing some final revisions to my piece on the Black Death, and adding some discussion topics and activities for the kiddywinks, that was sorted and sent in on Monday. Whenever I write an article ― time permitting ― I like to leave it alone for several days before I do the final edit, that way I approach it with fresh eyes and am more likely to spot my mistakes.

Yesterday, I read it to my writer’s group, Grand Lake Wordsmiths Unlimited, and they all liked it. One of the members is a retired teacher and she really praised it, I only hope the editors like it as much. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a real hit and miss affair this writing lark.

In the meantime, I’m still working on "the bloody thing," which lately has been a bit like pulling teeth. This is a bit of a dumb expression, do dentists find it hard work pulling teeth? I do wonder sometimes if this book will ever be sorted. I also have a short story running around in my head that I know is going to demand to be written soon.

Anyway, I must dash, there’s dinner to be sorted.

Toodle pip.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Big Read




I saw this on my good friend Raquel’s blog at http://kitchenmysteries.blogspot.com/ and as I support any initiative that encourages people to read, I thought I’d reproduce it here.

The Big Read is being promoted by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. you can find their web site at http://www.neabigread.org/

I’m not sure where this list comes from as it does not appear on their web site, it may just be some meme from the blogosphere. But allegedly, the Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of these 100 books. I guess that makes me an above average adult as I’ve read 56 of them. :-)

Anyway, wherever the list came from it’s fun to play along.

  • Bold: I have read.
  • Underline: Books I love. I haven't figured out how to underline so will put an asterisk *
  • Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read only 6 and force books upon them!!

1. *Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen*

2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3. *Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte *

4. The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling (I haven’t read the whole series, just 2 of them)

5. *To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*

6. The Bible

7 . Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman

10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 . The Complete works of Shakespeare (I haven’t read them all, but a lot of them)

15. *Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier*

16. The Hobbit --J.R.R. Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19. The Time Traveler's Wife

20. **Middlemarch - George Eliot** (I really love this one)

21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. **Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck** (I really love this one)

29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 . The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 . Emma - Jane Austen

35. Persuasion - Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41. Animal Farm - George Orwell

42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47. *Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy*

48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50. Atonement - Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52. Dune- Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54. *Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*

55. **A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth** (Another of my faves)

56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72. Dracula - Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses - James Joyce

76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons

78. Germinal - Emile Zola

79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80. Possession - AS Byatt

81. *A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens*

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85. *Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert*

86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92. The Little Prince – Antoine de St. Exupery

93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94. Watership Down - Richard Adams

95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town like Alice- Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet- William Shakespeare

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


I will add a proviso, jsut because I haven't added an asterisk, doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book. I enjoyed reading them all.

In addition, I think there should be something on this list from Annie Proulx, The Shipping News, That Old Ace in the Hole, or Accordion Crimes. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is also notable by its absence. I could think of lots more worthies, too.

Who would you include?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Sorry Saga of the Driver's License


Me and my bruvver. We're just two guys that love each other.

Well, it’s been a busy old week. I am still working on my book, which is now known as either the bloody thing, or that damn thing. I guess you could call them working titles. :-) Amazingly though, I do actually have a title for the bloody thing. I usually struggle to come up with titles for my stuff, most things I write don’t get a title until they’re finished. This one has a title, but it’s nowhere near finished.

I’ve also been working on a piece about the Black Death of 1347-1351 for a kid’s history magazine. That has proved a bit tricky. It’s difficult writing a piece about the Bubonic Plague, which killed a third of Europe’s population, without making it too gruesome for the kiddywinks.

Also this week, I had to go and renew my driver’s license, and what a nightmare that proved to be. I had intended to get to the licensing place early, but things didn’t quite go according to plan. Do they ever? And when I did finally set off, I got held up with a train for 20 bloody minutes while it shunted some carriages into an industrial park. I got to the licensing place just as they were closing for lunch. Come back at 1pm, they told me.

As the temperature was 97°F. with a heat index of 108°F. I went to the store to keep cool in their A/C. When I got back there, the place was packed with people, and I was told to sign in and come back at 2:30pm. I then went to the library to stay cool.

At 2:30, the licensing place was still wall-to-wall people, but at least I had something to read while I waited. At 2:50, someone acknowledged my presence, and asked me why I was there. I was sorely tempted to give him some fly answer, but I refrained. I mean why the bloody hell did he think I was there? Anyway, he tells me that as it’s only a simple renewal I can do that at the tag office. I could have punched him. Why didn’t he ask me that at 1 o’clock? Needless to say I was spitting feathers by this time.

At the tag office, the lady there tells me I do have to go to the licensing place as I have to produce my INS documents (green card), which of course I don’t have with me. By now it’s 3:15, and I haven’t got time to drive home and back before they close at 4pm. Had I known, I could have done that instead of going to the library. (Spit!)

As they only do the licensing one day a week in that town, I now have to go through the whole process again at another town on Tuesday. Great! Bureaucracy, doesn’t it drive you nuts?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sweeney Todd 2

Pam’s comment on Sweeney Todd made me realize that I didn’t say anything about the actual plot.

Without giving too much away. Sweeney Todd is happily married to a beautiful woman, and they have a little girl. An evil judge, played by Alan Rickman, has designs on Todd’s wife, and trumps up a charge against him, the result being Todd is transported to Australia for 15 years. When he gets back to England, he finds out his wife is dead and he vows to get his revenge on the judge.

Todd returns to his old lodgings in Fleet Street, above Mrs. Lovett’s (Bonham Carter) pie shop. Here he works his revenge, and in the process provides Mrs. Lovett with meat for her pies.

There is also a sub plot in which a young man Todd meets on his return trip from Australia, falls in love with Todd’s daughter, who is now the judge’s ward.

And there is a very neat twist in the tail at the end.

Sweeney Todd




I like Brit Gal in the USA’s movie reviews so I hope she doesn’t mind that I’ve half inched (pinched) her idea. The thing is, I don’t watch a lot of films, (as you can probably tell, this one has been out a bit), but it was so good I felt I had to comment on it.

I first saw Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street performed on stage in England, back in the mid-80’s, and I loved it. When I heard it had been made into a movie I was curious to see how the stage musical would transfer to film. Obviously, Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics are magnificent, but would Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter be up to the job of performing them?

I needn’t have worried. Depp once again proved what a wonderfully versatile actor he is. With the exception of the pirate movies, I love all his films. Helena Bonham Carter was equally magnificent as Mrs. Lovett, the pie shop owner. In fact, the whole cast was so superb I can’t heap enough praise on them.

Mick and I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and highly recommend it. Don’t let the fact that it is a musical put you off. Though I must say, if you don’t like the sight of blood, don’t watch it, as there’s an awful lot of it about.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rejection




Two big thumbs down

A few weeks back, I told you I sent my book proposal out to seven publishers, this week I got three rejections on consecutive days, so that’s three down and four to go. Fortunately, rejection no longer fazes me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it, I just don’t let it upset me any more. Three years ago, when I first began trying to get my writing published, I used to take rejections really personally, and I’d get totally disheartened when those SASE’s kept turning up in my mail box. It was as though they were saying that my work wasn’t up to scratch, and didn’t meet that publications high standards.

I now know this is not so. Getting a piece of work published is a very hit and miss affair, and frequently more miss than hit. It’s often just a case of being in the right place at the right time. Publishers and editors almost always say in their rejection letters, that your article, story, book, or what ever, doesn’t meet their needs at that time, and there can be any number of reasons for this.

That's why it’s very difficult for beginning writers to break into new markets, or any markets. No matter how well you write, the competition out there is fierce. Once you do manage to break into a market though, that editor is usually more than happy to work with you again. In some cases, they will even ask you to come up with ideas for the following year’s editorial calendar. But getting into that position is very tough.

Over the past few years, I’ve had to develop a very thick skin, and a dogged persistence. Sometimes that persistence pays off, more often than not it doesn’t, then you just have to cut your losses, and move on. But I always keep everything I’ve ever written, because I may be able to use it again one day.

As regards the three rejections, I’ll dust off my proposal, pick another three publishers from my list, and send them out again. Hopefully, one of them will end up in the right place at the right time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Everything in the garden's looking lovely

We have actually managed to get through a whole week without rain, a first this spring and summer. The bad news, however, although we have had no rain it is still very humid, and hotter than a camel's armpit. The temperature yesterday was 92°F, but when you factor in the humidity, the heat index made it 105°F. Today, it’s 94°F, but really it’s 107°F. And it’s set to get even hotter next week! I’m just thankful that we had a new heat and air conditioning system installed in the spring, as our old one was forever conking out.

Anyway, the garden has been loving all the heat and rain we’ve had, even though we’re now back to watering regularly. Mick usually takes care of all the veggies around here, and I take care of the flowers, and herbs. Here are a few of the flowers I’m growing this year.


Petunias

I've forgotten what this is called


Lucky Pot of Gold Lantana


More Petunias. This area is overgrown as it's a place the toads like to hang-out.



This is a weed, but it looked so pretty


Dreamland Yellow

Dreamland Coral, which are almost at the deadheading stage.

This Verbena is taking over.

Imperial Blue Plumbago

Skyscraper Sunflower, this will flower any day now, and is living up to its name. That is the roof of our shed in the background!


Black-Eyed Susans. I know these grow wild everywhere around here, but I like them. She's cozying up with basil. The stones on the right are Toad Hall.

White Begonia. Either side of her, out of the picture are two Flowering Dogwood saplings.

Red Begonia, with her friend Basil in the background. In the pot with the mesh around it is an Eastern Redbud sapling.

White Geranium

Pink Geranium

Anyway, I must dash as I need to bathe in bug spray, and get the hosepipe out.

Toodle pip.




Saturday, July 12, 2008

Weird Weather

Alvin can't help but wonder...



Oh, I almost forgot. Since moving to Oklahoma in 2004, I’ve seen a lot of strange weather phenomena, and last Saturday night was no exception.

It was dark, and the sky was clear except for one large cloud that hovered over the town, and within this one cloud was what I can only describe as a lightning show. It wasn’t raining, (for once), there was no thunder, just lightning in that one cloud, and the show lasted for about 2 hours.

Funnily enough, the cloud was located in exactly the same position as the previous night’s firework display had been. I think Nature was giving us her very own firework display, and I have to admit it far surpassed the town’s 4th of July exhibit.

Unfortunately, we didn’t take a photo, but even if we had I don’t think it would have done justice to this amazing spectacle.

Computer Injury, Reading, and The Coleman Theatre


The Coleman Theatre, Miami, Oklahoma -Photograph by Gary Crow


My neck and shoulders are much better now, but I have to limit the time I spend on the computer as it still gets achy if I overdo things. I certainly don’t want to have a repeat of all that pain; it was so bad that Mick took me to the emergency room. I think if it recurs I will have to see a chiropractor. Anyway, enough of the whining.

But it has been damned inconvenient as regards the book. I was unable to work on it for over a week! And this is one I can’t write with pen and paper, as all my research is on the computer.

On the plus side, I did get some reading done. I read James Michener’s Alaska which I thoroughly enjoyed. This is historical fiction at its best. The book covers the history of this amazing state from the arrival of the Mastodons and Wooly Mammoths in prehistoric times, right up to the mid-80’s. I will definitely be reading more of Michener’s books.

I’ve also started reading Michael Palin’s Diaries 1969 –1979, which covers the Monty Python years, up to now it has been pretty interesting.

My latest article appeared in the July edition of Oklahoma Living Magazine, it’s about the restoration of the Coleman Theatre (yes, they prefer the English spelling) in Miami, (pronounced Miamuh, for some obscure reason) in NE Oklahoma. If you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, I highly recommend a visit to the Coleman. The volunteers have done an amazing job of restoring the place to its former glory, I was mighty impressed. If you would like to read my article you’ll find it on Oklahoma Living’s web site at:

www.ok-living.coop

It’s under the heading "The new old Coleman."


The Coleman Theatre - Photograph by Gary Crow