{August 8, 2011}   Candy is Better in England

My uncle just gave me candy called wine gum here on my visit to Bridgwater, England.

“Is it like gummy bears,” I ask, because I hate gummy bears.

“Sort of,” he replied.

Since the chocolate in England is way better than any you get in America, I threw my disdain for chewy little creatures aside and took a bite.

Ooh, not like a gummy bear at all! Sweeter, less chewy. I tried the red. Then I tried the orange. Awesome. And then yellow before I threw the bag aside.

What’s happening to me?! I don’t really eat candy at home! Here I had a meal consisting of chocolate and chips.

Chips–they call them crisps, which I guess makes more sense. They are so innovative with crisps that we look like dullards. I think they just take two odd foods that don’t belong together—and have no business being involved in any sort of crisp ingredient listing—and put them together. Beef and pickle, anyone? The odd thing is they’re so weird that they’re goooood.

I just ran into a corner store to see what I’d find. Right there on the bottom of the shelf was Flame Broiled Steak. Let the festivities begin! 

I won’t mention how I bought cookies, called chocolate biscuits, to go with tea earlier because they were called Funky Monkey.

Tea. That’s another story. I’m totally confused about tea here. First, we drink it non-stop. This is not an exaggeration. It is almost always tea time.

But then, there’s TEA, which is somehow different from drinking tea because it involves eating a meal. Dinner and supper are two different things and they are not at our dinner time. For Tea, the meal, one night we had bangers and mash, which is funny just to say. The next, it was fish and chips, which my mom thought I’d “ruined” by bringing a salad.

I opted to save the extra salad so asked where I could get a container. Then three sisters (in how my sister’s boyfriend calls me and my two sisters the Ya-Ya sisterhood) barked contradictory orders at me:

“Put a paper towel underneath it the salad.”

“Put a paper towel on the top of the bowl.”

“Put a paper towel on the top of the bowl and cover it with a saucer.”

I followed the last one since it was the most recent one to barrage my ears. And it was from my mother so I’m used to her telling me how to do things.

“Happy?” I ask.

“Yeah. Too bad you used a plate. That’s not a saucer.”

Oh yeah, isn’t a saucer used for tea?


“I get so sick when I travel. The last plane trip to Abu Dhabi, I got so sick. I just took medication.”

Then, you don’t want the person sitting next to you on a plane to do this…

Babble excessively about her theories of life at the wise old age of 19 to the guy across the aisle, and then take out a quilt-like blanket, pull out the tray table, lie down on it, and drape the blanket over her like a tent before passing out.

Because what’s going to happen?

You’re going to have to go to the bathroom.

My mom and I were flying to England to visit relatives. My mom drinks at least five cups of tea a day and has to have a bathroom break at least four times as often as that. Naturally, we had tea before we got on the plane, and of course, she had to go to the bathroom almost immediately.

Throughout the flight, the woman next to me flung her arms randomly while trying to sleep, almost knocking over the food on my tray. She kept scratching her head, almost like a nervous reaction. But the repeated action filled me with terror thinking she had lice and I was in their jumping distance. When I finally dozed off, I woke to find she’d put her pillow on my shoulder and was sleeping on me. 😦  I don’t like strangers touching me.

Halfway through the flight, the itchy pharmaceutical sitting next to me unveiled the tent and dashed out of her seat. My mom practically mowed me down to use her get out of jail free pass to the bathroom. When I walked down, I noticed the bathroom stall read Vacant so I pushed the tiny door in. Who was perched, no hunched, on the toilet? Our seat mate. She slammed the door shut and locked the door so it now read Occupied.

“Mom, you need to book the aisle seat in the future, not the window.”

“You can do that? I just took what they assigned.”

This is from a woman who has flown to London every year or two since she moved to America forty years ago. Apparently, she hasn’t noticed that you can choose a seat—even though you check in on line now and it asks if you’d like to choose a seat. What is this strange speak of seat choosing? Who does that?

You just take what life gives you!

I have to share this super easy and healthy recipe for kale chips. Whenever I make them, they rarely make it out of the pan because well, I’ll admit it; it’s me. I’ll walk in the kitchen while the chips are still cooling and say, “Ooh, kale chips,” and take a handful. Next time, I return — same thing. Nobody else in my family has this compulsion to return to the kitchen repeatedly to see what treat awaits upon the stove. But, it’s healthy, and better than eating regular potato chips.

Now on to the easy recipe:

  1. Rinse a bunch of kale and tear leaves into smaller pieces; discard stems.
  2. Let the kale dry completely. You may want to dry it faster patting the kale with a clean dish towel. I emphasize this step as I impatiently try to hurry things along and not wait, but the chips get much crispier if you let them dry.
  3. After the kale is dry, preheat an oven to 300 degrees.
  4. Spray a baking sheet with Pam or lightly coat with olive oil.
  5. Put the kale on the sheet and spray lightly with Pam.
  6. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and/or other spice.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until desired crispiness.

When I first tried it, I thought, “these are weird, but good.” One recipe described it as crack-like. Try it and see.

This recipe is so easy and so good, I have to share.

Chop one avocado and one mango and combine in a bowl.

That’s it! It’s now ready to eat on its own or you can add what you like.

Some options I like include flax seed or wheat germ for a healthy, nutty taste; almonds; feta cheese or goat cheese.

If you try it and find new things to add, add them here!

To get into a writing mood, you might want to consider setting up a routine. For instance, when I was on deadline to finish a book, we’d get the kids to bed and then I’d play Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black CD while nursing a Disarronno Amaretto.

Now that I’m trying to get back into a daily writing routine again, I’m trying to add a little spicy chai in the afternoon. Here’s the recipe:

While steeping black tea (regular, Earl Grey, etc.), add any/all of the following:

  • A splash of vanilla
  • A couple of cloves (or sprinkle of ground cloves)
  • A dash of pepper
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • A dash of allspice

After 3-5 minutes, remove the tea bag or loose tea and add milk. If you use sugar, add some as well, but this is tasty on it’s own.

Do you have any routines you use to get you in the writing mode? A hot cup of coffee? A specific CD?

{June 10, 2011}   INSANITY ASYLUM – Game Day

Some co-workers and I often get together at lunch and try INSANITY and P90X. Instead of having a leisurely lunch, we move until we’re worthless piles of sweaty, breathless flesh agreeing with Shaun T. that “We’re in it to win it.”
Now we’ve moved on to the next phase — THE ASYLUM!
Game Day was 61 minutes of intense, heart-pumping madness. This was one of the longer workouts; the others were around 45-50 minutes. Basically, you go through a series of sports training for a few minutes or so – track, basketball, wrestling, swimming, baseball – you get the point. Unfortunately, I’ve never good at team sports and baseball will stick in my mind for a long time. I don’t know how to pitch a ball so the whole raise front leg movement threw me into an uncoordinated collection of flailing limbs.
At one point, there were some pull-up or chin-up variations. It looked like fun and intense, but we didn’t have the pull up bars so we went for the alternate — push-ups. I love push-ups, but trust me — there were a LOT.
So what do I think? It’s challenging as hell, but also fun. I hated it. I hated [translation = loved] it so much that I was thinking I need an ASYLUM tank top for the next workout.

{May 26, 2011}   So many books…

It was the town-wide yard sale and I came home with more books. My husband will be overjoyed — he’s declared “No more plants and no more books” on several occasions. Since I’m not a good listener, I added to the collection of books I’ll never have time to read in this lifetime.
What should I start with? If you’ve read any, let me know what you think. Mucho thanks, you voracious readers, you!

  • Wicked – Gregory Maguire
  • Dry – Augusten Burroughs
  • The Weight of Water – Anita Shreve
  • A Woman’s World – Traveler’s Tales
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
  • Eat, Pray, Love
  • Julie and Julia
  • Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal
  • Tao Te Ching
  • Sonnets from the Portuguese – Barrett Browning
  • Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
  • Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac
  • Prayers for Rain – Dennis Lehane

Women in the Marines, fighting Afghanistan insurgency | PRI.ORG.

I love articles like this one that show how female Marines are making a difference in Afghanistan.

{May 17, 2011}   Swallowing my words

I swore I’d never blog. I have too much to do, too much to write, I said.

On a whim, I went to WordPress and here I am.

I’ll probably write about the things I tweet about: books, the military, travel, fitness, recipes, gardening, the various short jokes I hear (I’m five feet tall), so stay tuned.

Now I’m going to finish my Sookie Stackhouse novel, Definitely Dead. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest awaits.

BTW, I think I look like that girl on the right – on a Saturday night – after I’ve had a few drinks. Don’t ruin my delusion, ha ha!

et cetera