'Ello, Guv-nuh!

I was so excited to see my latest articles in the fall/winter 2010 editions of Dallas Brides and The Atlantan Brides magazines.

One even includes Gov. Rick Perry. Well, more like his son and new daughter-in-law and their fantabulous wedding blowout in Dallas!

Piqued your interest, have I? Read on, dude.

Click on each image and, once it's loaded, click again to zoom in and read.

Don't forget to enter my pretty turquoise giveaway! I need all the help I can get!


Dreaming of red, white and blue...

It just occurred to me a few days ago that the 4th of July is nearly here! And it also just occurred to me that I'll be missing out on the American celebrations for the first time in my life. Which, of course, I'll have to do my best to remedy by making a playlist of every patriotic song I can get my hands on and cleaning off my stove-top grill for some steaks and chicken. Or I might have to consider burgers... this bad boy from MarthaStewart.com looks pretty good.

We'll load up on some Coors Light at the store and rent a movie like Top Gun or some other classic American film. Any suggestions?

I think it's time to start streaming 99.5 The Wolf and think red, white and blue thoughts.

Patriotic gazebo from MarthStewart.com

These are some shots of our 4th of July party last year with some friends in Katy. Gosh, I'd give anything to be in that hot Texas heat, enjoying a nice cold pool and a fresh beer right now! I also miss my precious dogs, Jersey and Shiner!

Yep, this will be the "leanest" Fourth we'll ever have. No BBQ grills or fun-filled swimming pools, no Bud Light and, sadly, none of our friends. But we will remember this Fourth for a long, long time. Like during every patriotic get-together after this, when Mike and I will turn to each other and say, "Remember when we celebrated Independence Day, just the two of us, living in Scotland? That was so crazy!"

We are proud Americans by default, Texans at heart.

I still get misty-eyed when I think about all those who have loved and lost so that we can experience the freedom we have today. The freedom to think for ourselves, to pursue our dreams, to live our lives the way we choose, to simply be.

Not everyone in this world gets to experience such freedom. It's a well-earned commodity that often comes at a high price. Our nation's forefathers were the ground-breaking thinkers of their time, the strong-willed cornerstones of a greater America.

"...one nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all."

It pains me to think that there are actually people out there who want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance. Have you lost so much faith in your country, in your fellow mankind, that you have become cynical enough to forsake the very being that brought you life? Shame on you.

We sit in our office chairs or behind our teacher's desks, we live in a world where electronics are our mainstream, our life source and means of communication. We live freely, with the ability to travel in our cars or planes anywhere we choose to go. We say what we think, we pursue what we want, we spend time with the people we deem important in our lives.

This was not always the case.   

There once was a country full of lion-hearted patriots, men and women who proudly lived and died for their land. Who bravely fought for their right to simply speak out, to set an example, to showcase their passion.

They have passed this nation onto us, laid it in our hands for safe-keeping and nuturing. And if we're not careful, we'll tear it apart from the inside out. There are still brave souls in this country, most of them are across the ocean fighting a war they are no longer supported in. Isolated from their America, criticized by their countrymen.

Is this what our great America has come to?

Stand up and be proud of your soldiers, be proud of your freedom. Be proud of your country.

Be proud to be an American.


My Recipes: Chunky Minestrone Soup

I've been trying to stick to healthy eats lately, and really wanted a thick soup with loads of veggies. So I found this "base recipe" for the main ingredients to create minestrone soup and then, of course, added my own adjustments. I did not measure everything, so judge the following by how thick and hearty or thin and soupy you want the dish to be.

*Note: finely chop your vegetables to ensure they are soft and well-cooked. Thick ones might still retain crunchiness if not left to stew long enough.

Onion, chopped
Zucchini, chopped
Carrot, chopped
Celery, chopped
1 or 2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can red kidney beans, drained
Palmful of Italian herbs
Bay Leaf (I didn't have those, so left it out and didn't notice)
Salt & Pepper
1/2 bag of pasta (use whole grain for healthy kick)

*I even threw in a can of pre-made minestrone soup I had sitting in the cabinet!

Saute chopped veggies in a little olive oil in the bottom of a large pot. Stir continously.

When they've browned slightly on the edges, add the diced tomatoes, 2 cups vegetable broth, red kidney beans, Italian herbs, a bay leaf, salt and pepper and simmer for about 30 minutes.

While soup is simmering, cook your pasta to al dente. Then add to soup during the last 5-8 minutes. Voila! You've got a hearty, healthy, homemade hot meal. Top with cheese and serve with whole grain garlic toast.

And like any good summer meal, it's always best with an ice cold lemonade and Crown. Mmm mmm!


Puttin' Around...

With Mike out of town all weekend, I've had a pretty quiet one myself with some well-earned R&R and movies! I absolutely love watching movies. As I write this, I've got Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull playing. The Indiana Jones movies are some of my favorite, I used to watch the old ones over and over when I was a kid. Basically, I just love Harrison Ford! The Fugitive is another one of those movies I'd watch on repeat.

Two of my favorite actors. And yes, I took a picture of my TV.

And Shia LaBeouf is quickly becoming a star in the new generation of actors. I read a background piece on him in a magazine about a year or two ago, he's so humble and such a hard worker. (You can read the article here, but beware it's in Playboy magazine!) He really won me over in Indiana Jones as well as Transformers. Have you seen Eagle Eye? Terrific movie. I'm looking forward to seeing him in Wall Street opposite Michael Douglas. His parents were major hippies, he grew up in a one-bedroom apartment and his dad sold hot dogs on the street corner dressed in a clown costume. That kid has certainly worked hard to get where he is today.

Friday was a long day for me, I was out running my first company golf day and it went really well! Most of the hard work was done beforehand, so when the actual day arrived it was just a matter of keeping everything running smoothly. While I cued up the teams to tee off, I snapped a couple pictures of the gorgeous scenery atop the "golf hill" we were on. You just don't see that everyday! And now that Aberdeen's finally in its true summer, everything is lush and green.

The golf clubs here don't use golf carts like they do at home. Players either carry their clubs the whole way or put them on wheels. Or if you really want a little help, you can invest in a motorized golf bag. I had never seen one before! Apparently they come with a remote control so you can "steer" them along without having to even touch it. Just get a dang golf cart already!

As we near the end of our one-year adventure abroad, I'm trying to enjoy every last minute that I can. It's hard to believe it's been nearly 12 months already! Small things like busy little roundabouts or granite-made libraries (where I discovered my love for Stuart MacBride books) are things I want to remember when we're long gone. Not to mention all the amazing places we've traveled. Those are well-represented in picture frames all over the flat.

Your local Ferryhill library.

The sunny weather today got me motivated to crawl out of bed before noon, so I went to the gym for a morning spin class.

Next I headed down the road to Asda for our weekly groceries.

There are some food items I will miss, and some things I won't! For instance, anything Haggis-flavored can stay put in Scotland.

And canned or bottled hot dogs? No thank you.

Odd varieties of potato chips aren't my thing either.

But I have come to love their super fresh black olives and sun-dried tomatoes, usually straight from Italy. Delicious on salad!

Plus, the chocolate here is amazing. Outdoes Hershey any day.

The addiction I had to break? (For fear of gaining chocolate-laden pounds.) Thorntons Mini Caramel Shortcakes. Heaven in a package!

How was your weekend? Hope it was loaded with sunshine, rest and relaxation!

"We do not follow maps to buried treasure, 
and X never, ever marks the spot."
~Indiana Jones speaking to his students in the Last Crusade


The Inspector Has It!

I just finished my final Stuart MacBride book and in record time - 9 days! It was just as good as all the others, and I love, love, love MacBride's humor, the Aberdeen-based setting and reading "Scottish speak."

Dark Blood

'Inspector?' A shivering constable grabbed the blue-and-white 'POLICE' tape, stretching it up and out of the way. 'They're over there, sir.'

Logan McRae plipped the locks on his mud-spattered Audi, then ducked under the tape and slithered his way across the pale sand, making for the knot of figures gathered outside the SOC tent. It sat between a pair of massive sand dunes, the white plastic sheeting flapping in the frigid wind that whistled in off the North Sea. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, but the low sun hadn't made it over the crest of jagged pampas grass yet, leaving the crime scene shrouded in deep blue shadow.

Balmedie Beach wasn't exactly the Costa Del Sol at the best of times, but half ten on a cold January morning it could freeze the nipples off a polar bear. Aberdeen - two degrees north of Moscow.

If the city had a zoo, they'd have to give the penguins bobble hats in the winter.


I'm about to get started on a new series by fellow UK writer Ian Rankin. Hopefully it's just as addicting!


"A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it."
~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958


Pizza, Washers and Grape Jelly

Since we had a long day of drinkin' yesterday - someone had to cheer on USA at the World Cup! - it's been a quiet post-work afternoon with intermittent patches of sunshine and equal amounts of gray clouds and rain. Boo. Where's summer when ya need it?

Out with the gang.

The husband representing USA!

One last bar for one more beer before the walk home.

I've been trying to keep up with our laundry since we got back from Italy, but with such a teeny tiny washer and dryer (one that takes hours to get the job done, mind you), it's been a slow process.

So inbetween loads, I took a gander at the Rachael Ray magazine my mom-in-law sent over recently. And it's the grilling issue - score!

Makes me miss hot Texas summers and BBQs even more. I'm eager to try out some of the marinades I've come across, especially one that involves cayenne pepper and grape jelly. Yep, I'm not kiddin'.

At the last minute, Mike was able to join a friend's stag party out in Newcastle this weekend, so he's leaving tomorrow morning. Meaning I've got to come up with ways to entertain myself while he's gone. (Working a golf day all day tomorrow, so fortunately that just leaves Saturday and Sunday.) I'm the one in need of as much social interaction as I can get from the small pool of people I do know over here... and he's running off for a weekend of fun and mayhem! Ah well, it's just as good since we're leaving soon, and it's a prime opportunity for him to kick back with his buddies and soak up Scotland while he can.

Since he's out of town this weekend, we're relaxing tonight with pizza, beer and a movie. What's not to love?

Hope everyone's gearing up for a nice weekend... in the sun!

An 8-Legged Update

I realized yesterday that I never did post another update on my two sweet cats, Snowball and July, since explaining about the whole health debaucle and Snowball's 10-day intensive vet care.

Fortunately there's a happy ending to share, all turned out well! It was a relief, too, since Mike and I were off traveling Italy and I had been up around the clock arranging Snowball's care and her transportation between the overnight vet and the day vet in Alabama from thousands of miles away and on a six-hour time difference!

My mom and step-dad, Louis Dean, both came to the rescue and burned up the highway to get to Alabama and retrieve my kitties from my cousin, who'd been keeping them since last year. The next day they brought Snowball (13) and July (18) back home to Texas and have been showering them with lots of TLC.

Mom with Snowball in Alabama.

July on her way back to Texas.

Snowball was dianosed with diabetes and had been wasting away, and July is now successfully on a thyroid medication to help her overactive thyroid. Both cats were very emaciated and not in good health when my mom picked them up, reporting they were lethargic and depressed. That's not like my kitties!

Though they are old, they are a big part of my life and very loveable with noticable personalities. They always follow me around the house when I'm home with them. So to hear they just didn't seem interested in their surroundings was not a good sign.

Snowball at the vet, poor kitty.

Miracle of all miracles, though, both cats have already gained some weight back and Snowball's feeding tube was removed and they're both on a diabetic cat food diet. Snowball is currently not receiving any insulin whatsoever. The vet in Texas said that the doctors in Alabama did a great job treating her and as long as she's eating, the insulin won't be necessary.

Back at the home she grew up in, July is happy as a clam.

I am so happy they are doing so great, and they seem quite pleased with themselves to be the center of attention in the Chapman house! My step-dad is spoiling them with daily brushing and plenty of affection. I think they're growing on him. ;)

Snowball receiving oodles of lovin' from my mom and step-dad!
The insertion from her feeding tube is nearly healed and she's recovering well.

And I'm so thankful for family and all the help we've received from various family members over the past year to help make our time in Scotland possible. We couldn't have done it without yall! Animals have always held a special place in my heart, I've had some tremendous pets over the years and am still on my first ones since my kitty cats have lived so long!

Sometimes they are just what you need to put a grin on your face, reminding you how much you miss them from far away. Like my doggie, Jersey, who's decided to spend her naptimes in the Texas heat atop the patio table at Mike's parent's house. Smart girl.

"The difference between friends and pets is that friends we allow into our company, pets we allow into our solitude."
~Robert Brault

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