Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Magical Place

Every little girl dreams of being a princess at one time or another and I was no exception, thats why I love visiting castles. The UK is full of them and on my recent trip to Scotland I was lucky enough to visit one. Dundonald Castle was built in 1371 and used as a royal residence by the early Stewart Kings. It sits on a hill overlooking the village on Dundonald, not far from Troon, where I was staying.

It was a magical place

This is my country

The land that begat me

These windy spaces

Are surely my own.

And those who toil here

In the sweat of their faces

Are flesh of my flesh

And bone of my bone.

Sir Alexander Gray

I’m off to Ireland tomorrow, but I do hope to get back to Scotland one day.

Scotland

I was in Scotland this past week to meet with a group of women writers. All of us have written or are in the process of writing books about women and the perils they sometimes face. We were there to listen and support one another through the tough process of writing, publishing and promoting our stories. I feel honored to have been included in this newly formed alliance and look forward in seeing where it takes us…

Ingrid Schippers the Dutch co-author of Bloodlines Touch Not the Cat, and I, stayed at the Bargany B&B in Troon. I had a beautiful view of the Firth of Clyde from my room and woke up every morning to the delightful smell of a full Scottish breakfast waiting. Ingrid is also in the process of writing a life-make-over book for women.

Full Scottish breakfast

On our first evening before meeting up with the others, we had dinner at a local pub and were joined by her co-author of Bloodlines, Tom McKerley. Tom lives in Troon and their book is a Scottish Genealogy Mystery Novel, which is a fantastic book that I highly recommend. No surprise Ingrid and I ordered fish & chips for dinner, while Tom ordered Haggis (I did try it and here is the picture to prove it) It tasted okay, I guess, but I don’t think I’ll be eating it again.

When in Scotland, do as the Scottish…

The following day, Ingrid and I set out for the town center and what do you think was the first thing we came across? A used bookstore – which is every writers dream! I was thrilled to find a book of Scottish Love Poems. A great souvenir.

We also stumbled across a great little coffee shop that sold original Scottish arts, craftwork and jewelry called, The Little Shop With No Name. Where we procrastinated intensely over a selection of homemade cakes offered and ultimately ended up with an assortment of them all. They were delicious and easily washed down with two cups of piping hot, green tea.

Lemon Drizzle Cake, Scottish Dumpling, Rich Macadamia Fruit Cake and Cinnamon Apple Scones – yummy!

We worked off our sugar rush with a long walk, on the soft sandy beaches of Troon…

Later that evening we joined the others in a literary powwow, which lead the way to plenty of laughter, a few tears, some spicy Indian food and Champaign. I’m glad I went.

Troon Center

The promenade along the beach

Thanks for a great day Ingrid!

Exchanging stories


Its fun meeting new people while traveling and hearing their stories. Everyone likes to tell where they come from and are usually excited about where they’re going. All around the world people are flying in and out of airports, crossing the globe and trading places.

I was recently on a flight from Norway to Amsterdam and sat next to a young woman from Geneva. After hearing I was American, she told me told me an incredible story about her first and only trip to the US. She was on her way back from a wedding in Canada and decided to take a twenty-four hour stop over in New York.

She checked out of her midtown hotel early the next morning and set out to explore the Big Apple. She planned on heading down to Battery Park, to see the Statue of Liberty and The World Trade Center first. But due to a mix up, she got on the wrong bus and found herself heading uptown instead. After taking a stroll through Central Park and checking out Time Square, she began making her way back towards downtown Manhattan.

She was suddenly stopped by roadblocks, turmoil and sirens screaming throughout the city. It was September 11, 2001 and she soon found herself stranded in a chaotic city, with no money and no where to stay. She turned to the Swiss Embassy for help and it was five days before she was able to finally leave New York. Sigh.

A few days later, I met a Scottish woman on my flight from Glasgow back to Amsterdam. We got talking and after telling her I live in Norway, she told me she had once rode her bike to Norway.

“From Glasgow?!” I asked.

No – she was an art student living in Denmark at the time. Her and her Danish boyfriend took a ferry to Sweden and then cycled all the way to Oslo. She felt so empowered by the trip that upon her return, she packed her bags, left her boyfriend and moved back to Glasgow to become a rich and famous artist. Ten years down the road and she’s still single and struggling. Her Danish boyfriend however, is married, has two children, lives in a beautiful house and owns a very lucrative art gallery. After telling me her story, she shook her head and said, “You know what the worst of it is Maggie? I felt so guilty after leaving him, that I paid half his bloody rent for a whole year.” Ouch.

Afterwards, while franticly flipping through the pages of my passport, an officer at the passport control counter in Amsterdam asks, “Why are you going to Norway?”

“Because I live there,” I answer.

He then asks if I have a Resident Card, I tell him no. I only have a stamp in my passport, which he points out has expired. (Oops) With a crowed of inpatient travelers grumbling behind me, he calls for another officer to come and take me away!

I’m taken to the Immigration Office, asked to have a seat, and then bombarded with questions… How long have you been living in Norway? Why do you live there? Why have you not renewed your Norwegian Resident Permit? I see you also have an outdated, Dutch Resident Permit in your passport, why? Do you have a Norwegian personal number (Social Security number)? I answer the questions, give him my personal number and he calls the Norwegian Immigration Office, in Oslo.

By now I’m wishing I’d simply told them I was going to Norway on vacation. I was also wondering if he had the power to ship me back to New Jersey. Then as if nothing happened, the officer hangs up the phone and says, “Okay, you’re free to go, have a nice trip.” Phew.

Is it like this when you travel?

Around and around I go

 

Khloe with a feather she found on her walk

One of Khloe’s favorite pastimes is chasing her own tail. She’ll spin around and around in hope of catching it, but she never does. Sometimes I feel like I’m chasing my own tail as well.  Meaning – nothing I ever do seems to get done!

I can spend the whole day washing clothes, go to bed, wake up and the basket is full again!

I go food shopping twice a week and yet we’re always out of something.

I sent my first child off to school in 1982 and my last child still has two years left to go. That means I’ve been packing gym clothes and school lunches for thirty years now! Don’t even get me started on the homework (If I’m not helping, I’m nagging them to do it).

Day after day, year after year, Its my job to decide – WHAT to make for dinner? I don’t even mind cooking it as much as I hate deciding WHAT to make.

And as hard as I try, I just can’t seem to get my inbox empty these days either (I guess thats thanks to blogging)

I’m not complaining… Well, maybe just a little.

My husband works and travels a lot, so its hard to count on him for any of the ongoing tasks that keep our house running. Instead, he’s in charge of projects and repairs. These things can take weeks, even months to finish, but eventually they get done and he can move on. After he’s finished everyone will praise him for a job well done, or tell me how lucky I am to have him.  Sometimes I wish our roles were reverse and he could chase his tail for a few years…

He just called me outside to show me the new project he’s started. He’s building steps from our house, which sits on top of a cliff, down to the water.

I took this picture to show you what he’s up to…

I wonder how many months this will take

I better go – I think I hear the dishwasher peeping…

 

A Love Story

I just finished reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion for the second time and find myself even more wowed over than before. Persuasion is a gripping tale of two people who are meant to be together but are not. The story begins eight years after Anne Elliot was persuaded by her family not to marry Captain Wentworth, a decision she very much regrets. When Captain Wentworth unexpectedly resurfaces and no longer seems interested, Anne’s heartbreak is renewed.

Persuasion was written by Austen in a race against failing health in 1815-16. Almost two hundred years later and we’re still swooning over the plight of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Modern day romances will have a hard time matching that.

No stranger to the unique experience of reuniting with a lost love, I was totally swept up in the fate of this pair. I could feel my heart pounding over the quick glances, caught breathes and silent flustering between them. Anne’s journey from resignation to joy is beautifully and sympathetically written over the course of this book.

Anne Elliot may not have the vitality of Elizabeth Bennet or the wittiness of Emma Woodhouse, but she is sweet, modest, steadfast and patient. I’m also inclined to believe that after building up his own wealth, Captain Wentworth is equally as dashing as Mr Darcy. If you need more proof, here are some of the words he wrote in a letter to Anne:

Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than a woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.

*sigh*

If you’ve never read Persuasion, you are truly missing out.

It won my heart.

The perfect Sunday

 

 

 

 

Today was such a great day here in Norway that I thought it might be nice to share…

First the grandkids came for a visit.

Emily danced for me.

Adam colored a picture.

Emily shows off her little sister Annabell. (I didn’t forget to turn the picture, I took it like this)

I spent the rest of the day enjoying the nice weather and doing absolutely NOTHING!

Don’t you just love days like this?

 

 

Going Home

 

I know my last post was about life getting back to ‘normal’ after a long and exciting summer, but summer’s not quite over yet. I still have two trips to take…

First, I’m going on a mystery trip to Scotland. The reason I call it a mystery trip, is because I’m going to meet a group of writers, I don’t really know. We will be discussing a joint venture, I know nothing about. I’m not even quite sure why I’m going, all I know is something in Scotland is beckoning. More to come on that…

I am also going on a trip to Dublin, with my husband, four of his old football (soccer) buddies and their wives. This trip is strictly for pleasure. More to come on this trip too…

What I can tell you about now, is my trip ‘home’ to New Jersey. I still call Jersey home because it’s where I come from, it’s where my family lives and where all my childhood friends are. No matter how long I’m gone it always feels familiar and I still sound like I belong there. Now you’re probably thinking… What?

I’m talking, or should I say, ‘tawking’ about my language and Jersey attitude. Living in a foreign country, talking ‘their’ language, with an accent and not having a clue how to joke around, mostly leaves me feeling like an outsider. Not the case in Jersey…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few more reasons I like visiting Jersey in the summer are, warm weather, something you canNOT count on in Norway. Shopping, there is 0% tax on clothes in NJ and 22% on clothes in Norway. I could sit here all day telling you reasons I love the Garden State, but guess what?

Norway is my home now, it’s where my father, husband and two of my sons were born. I have three children and three grandchildren living there (two of my children and two grandchildren live in the US). I have friends that feel like family and my two pets, Khloe and Mia are there. The house my husband built and the home we built together are there. I feel safe in Norway and have soon lived there half of my life (six more years). I guess I have two homes…

What do you think, is home where you come from, or where you’ve gone?

 

Another fresh start

 

This is not a blog-award-post, but I am going to tell you two things about myself.

First, I love sugar. Especially when it’s in cake.

Second, I hate exercise. I’m more of a sofa lying, cookie eating type of gal.

I struggled for a long time feeling tired and unfocused. I also had headaches and a persistently runny nose. Fed up with feeling bad all the time, I begrudgingly decided to cut back my sugar intake. I also gave up dairy, and was determined to exercise a bit more than just walking my dogs everyday. I joined a gym.

Everyone says (and I read), the more one exercises, the more one likes it – Not true. (for me)

Everyone also says (and I read), the more one exercises, the better one feels – This is true.

I also found it easier to stick to my diet when exercising. I didn’t want all the work I was doing to be in vain. I spent half an hour on the treadmill and went to a forty-five minute spinning class three to four times a week. Luckily I had friends who also joined, otherwise I may have given up (I’m very easy on myself).

I also bought a juicer and started making my own juice every morning. This gave me energy to keep up at the gym and get my ‘five a day’. I tricked my son, who doesn’t like any fruits or vegetables into drinking it as well and we had a remarkably healthy winter.

Then summer came – School ended and we started traveling. I had no time for the gym, and who passes on desert while vacationing? Not me, thats for sure.

Once I was off track, I started using that as an excuse to stay there. For example; I’ve already had one piece of cake, so why not have another.

Now here I am, back to square one…

Thats why as much as I love summer (and I had a good one) I’m ready for it to end, get back to the gym and get my sweet tooth under control. For some reason, I can only make fresh starts after summer and Christmas.

So here goes…

A list of what I put into my juicer every morning (it may vary from time to time):

3 apples

1 pepper (any color)

A small piece of ginger

Half a cucumber

1 celery stick

1 orange

Half a lemon

A couple of radishes

A couple of carrots

A piece of pinapple

A handful of Kale

 Cheers!

Summer so far…

I

Have you ever had trouble making up your mind? It looks like this flower did. I took this picture in my garden.

Do you ever feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? Well, this guy does. I took this picture in Monterosso Italy.

Have you ever had a submarine sandwich? Jersey Mike’s are the best! I took this picture in Brick, New Jersey.

Is there anything better than a cup of tea with an old friend? This is my friend Annie, we met in kindergarden. This picture was taken on her front porch in Jersey.

Is there anything more precious than a baby? I would have to say, no. I took this picture of my granddaughter last week in Norway.

Have you ever seen pink and purple water? It always amazes me. I took this picture a few weeks ago from my kitchen window in Norway.

How about orange water? This picture was taken at midnight. Don’t you just love Norwegian sunsets!

 

A demanding house guest

 

I feel as if I’ve been living in a cocoon this past week. My nine-week-old baby granddaughter stayed with me while her family was on vacation. They went to Lego Land in Denmark, which is not exactly the best place to take a small baby. I volunteered and was looking forward to all the great bonding time I’d be getting with her. What I hadn’t thought about is how time consuming one little baby girl could be!

I was just back from America and hadn’t even unpacked my suitcases when my little house guest arrived. A car load of baby gear was soon moved in, and a long list of instructions, hung on the refrigerator.

She slept all night, from around eleven in the evening until seven in morning and boy do I know how lucky I was! Especially since I was wrestling with a touch of jet lag myself. However, from that first morning bottle until the last, the day belonged to her.

She took short little catnaps throughout the day, which never lasted more than twenty minutes or so. And when she did sleep there was plenty for me to do…

Her clothes had to be washed separately.

Bottles sterilized.

Formula mixed.

One bottle got vitamin drops, while another got malt extract added to it.

I also made up a bottle of fennel tea which she drank a little of in the evenings to help fight colic. (you can tell she’s my granddaughter, already drinking tea)

When she was awake, besides giving bottles, burping and changing diapers, I took her for a walk in the carriage everyday.

She also needed to lay on her belly a few times a day, to get used to holding her head up. (she didn’t like that)

She had a stuffy nose, so I had to put drops in five times a day.

She had a bath every other day, but needed to be cleaned up every morning.

She had to be dressed for the day and pajamas put on in the evening.

Her skin was dry and needed lotion rubbed on her twice a day.

For her entertainment (thats right even at nine-weeks, we humans need to be entertained)

The #1 thing was the vibrating, bouncy chair. Especially if she could see what I was doing while sitting in it, or see the television (no comments on that please)

#2 the baby gym. It’s a square mat with toys hanging over.  A blinking, musical star hung right in the middle and she could stare at that star for a good half hour. The only problem was the music only played for five minutes, I would therefore, run back and forth, turning it on again and again!

#3 if all else failed, rock, carry ,walk and soothe her. I’d say we walked quite a few miles last week.

I was amazed by how much work went into a baby, and wondered how I ever manage to do it myself - FIVE times!!??!!

Now that she’s gone home to her family, all I can think about is her smile, how good she felt in my arms, that sweet baby smell and how much I love her… Oh, now I remember how I did it.

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