Monthly Archives: January 2015

Memories of Robbie’s Night

As you likely know, last Sunday was Burns’ Night, celebrating the life and work of the Scots icon, Robert Burns. Born in Alloway, Scotland on 25 January 1759, Burns wrote many poems but I didn’t know that he also wrote Auld Lang Syne. Well, you learn something new every day 🙂

The night always brings back happy memories. In the mid 1980s, AJ’s job meant that we had to move to Warwickshire (Shakespeare Country). We lived in a beautiful town not far from Stratford-upon-Avon and in the two years we lived there we had a very active and happy social life. We made wonderful friends, many of whom are still friends today, and were always out and about enjoying ourselves. We went to so many formal occasions – Masonic ladies’ nights, police balls, civic functions – that I splashed out on a really gorgeous evening gown. I still have the dress although, alas, I fear I could no longer fit into it. Nevertheless, just looking at it brings back a multitude of good memories and happy times.

One of the happiest occasions during our sojourn in Warwickshire was a Burns’ Night organized by a Scottish friend, Alec. It was a pretty raucous occasion and great fun. We still talk about it today. We stood by our seats at long tables while the haggis was piped in (I love the sound of bagpipes), followed by Alec reading the Address to the Haggis, the ode that Robbie Burns wrote for the dish. Back in those days I wasn’t yet a vegetarian, but remember not especially liking haggis.

During and after the meal, there were toasts to Robbie Burns and readings of his work. It wasn’t an especially serious affair and at one stage Alec, suitably dressed in his family tartan kilt, placed one foot on the table and made a toast. A little the worse for one too many whiskeys, he came dangerously close to revealing the answer to that age old question 🙂

It was a really fun evening, surrounded by good friends, good food (unless you count the haggis) and much laughter. I can never let the 25 January pass by without a toast to those happy times and wonderful friends.

I Love My New Painting

PART_1420147115191_20150101_121947My cousin is an artist that does beautiful creations. She came up to help me when I was looking at paint and floors for the house. One of the rooms I had painted was the kitchen. The color is harvest but more of a harvest yellow then a harvest gold. I was mentioning that I needed a picture that would compliment the color and… I love it.

To make it even more special the teapot–gravy bowl was taken from a teapot that was our grandmothers. It’s sat in a promenent place in my kitchen for years. When Barb painted it she said it wasn’t a teapot like I thought but a gravy bowl. I said, “I don’t think so it looks like a teapot.” “No.” She says. “I did research and its definitely a gravy bowl.” When we hung the picture it was perfect in every way but she did paint a gravy bowl and Nana’s is a tea pot. We laughed and thought about how much Nana would have laughed with us.

Tea pot – gravy bowl– the picture is absolutely perfect. Do I feel special, oh yes it isn’t everyone that has a cousin like I do and I treasure the time we spend together.

A great way to start a new year. Thank you Barb.

The Birthday Saga

My birthday is in June. My husband’s is in December. There’s something to be said on behalf of summer birthdays. Seems like less chance of being sick, which is the story for this birthday tale.

My husband hit a milestone birthday on December 29th. It had been a year of dealing with our first major illness, which he’s happily pretty much recovered from. However, I think it scared the heck out of all of us, especially the kids. So we planned to whoop it up and make the birthday something special.


Our plan was an open house style gathering here at our place. It was during the Seattle Seahawks football game (Go, Seahawks!!!!) and we could watch the game, visit, and celebrate Mark’s birthday. Over 50 people were coming. Food was planned out, the cake ordered.

Then I got sick with a cold (that lasted more than 3 weeks). And the day before the party, hubby caught that cold. With this being prime cold and flu season, the right thing to do was put the word out. Neither of us wanted to pass on these germs.

So we did just that and scaled the party back to minimal food. We still had 8 hardy souls who said they’d already had this cold come by, and we’re grateful for that, but also very, very glad most didn’t come. Being sick is NOT fun.

Hubby, with his wonderful sense of humor, put caution tape up to keep folks from getting too close. 🙂

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Anyhow, it was still a fun birthday. Lots of cards and emailed and phoned birthday wishes came in. The Seahawks won! And our children spent the two months prior putting together a special video and picture montage of greetings for Dad. Eighteen minutes of love we’ve watched several times now. It was, and still is, the highlight of our December.

So big birthday plans became small because of illness, but it ended up being a larger than life birthday, with lots of good memories to kick off a new decade with. The only major drawback? All that leftover cake. Lol.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Here in the USA, we have a holiday in January celebrating the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr. He played a pivotal role in the fight for equal rights in this country. One hundred years after the American Civil War, the black community was still being denied their rights. The right to vote was given to them way before it was given to women (just after the civil war vs early 1900s) but they were still not allowed to register in certain areas of the American south. Local governments made it difficult with various tests and even poll taxes to be paid.

One of the things this meant was that this particular community wasn’t allowed to serve on juries since the jury pool was selected by the voter registration roles. So, all the juries were white and therefore there was no real jury of the peers of these disenfranchised voters.

One of the goals Mr. King set was to right this injustice and he wanted to do so in his non-violent way. Peaceable means to his goals was his watchword. I’ve read about this period in history. I was a very small child at the time so I have no personal recollection of it.

My son and I went to see the movie, “Selma” which tells the story of the march from Selma to Montgomery to try to enforce the voting rights. This movie was compelling and horrific at the same time. I cried through the majority of it and even had to cover my eyes a few times. The injustice, violence and cruelty of the bigots in this time was just astounding. I mean, I knew about how horrible some of the white people in authority were but this film made it real in a way that no reading of a history book could. They didn’t pull any punches- literally and figuratively. Go see it if you can but bring tissues.

The actor in the lead role was amazing. His speeches were stirring and very real. He had to be channeling the real man as he recited them. I also found it interesting that the two lead white characters, President Johnson and George Wallace, were played by British actors- I guess no American wanted to portray them. Can’t say I blame them there.

Happy MLK, Jr, day. Celebrate freedoms.

Watercolors? Yes, Please! by Valerie J. Patterson

Have you heard about the new rage gatherings called Paint & Sip?  These are parties where family and friends gather at a home or venue and sample various wines while all painting the same picture.  Several of my friends have been and then simply oozed enthusiastic stories about their evenings and how much fun they had.  So, I put it on my “To Do” list and waited for the opportunity to get in on one.

Then, my church’s Ladies’ Ministry group had a Paint & Praise and I signed up.  Had the time of my life!  The instructor for the evening was a lovely lady from our church that I had no idea could paint!  And, she’s incredibly talented!  Instead of the wine sipping, we listened to music and had a great time of fellowship while we all filled our canvases with the same image only different to our own perspective.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get a picture of my painting to upload, but I will keep trying and will hopefully get it posted later today.

If there’s a paint & sip happening near you, I strongly encourage you to give it a go.  Never know…might just find the artist inside of you!

Until next time, may the joy in your life color your days with beauty!!

The Incredible Cauliflower

images1-2015When we first started Over The Backyard Fence we used a lot of our Monday posts for recipe’s. Since I don’t cook much it didn’t take too long for me to run out of tried and true dishes so lately I’ve concentrated more on food. This Week I chose Cauliflowers. I can remember when it was just another vegetable, used mainly in soup and almost always included in raw vegetable trays with dip. Rarely did I use it as a side dish, but when I did, mostly for holidays or company, it simply had to have a cheese topping. Now I use it as an alternative to potatoes. It fries and mashes really well. Put in omelets it is a healthy addition.

Cauliflower traces its origin back to the wild cabbage which resembled kale or collards more than the vegetable that it is today. It went through many transformations and reappeared as an important vegetable since at least 600 B.C.

I didn’t realize that cauliflowers can come in different colors as I’ve only seen the white ones. They also are yellow, green and purple. 201px-Purplec

I looked up recipes and one that caught my attention was using cauliflowers instead of rice in fried rice. Ummm. Also in stir fries. Anyone have any recipe’s to share?

As always, we love to have guest bloggers. Click on Contact us if you have a blog to share.


It’s a New Year

It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that another year has gone by.  It seemed just like yesterday I was ushering in 2014 and now it’s 2015. I’ve made my goals for the year and I’m putting my schedule together. … Continue reading

Fire Me Now

Yes, it’s January 8, 2015, at 4:11 pm, a Thursday. And yeah, I JUST realized yesterday was the first Wednesday of the month and I totally flaked on blogging. Fire me now. I’m worthless. But before you fire me, here’s some fun pictures of the devil incarnate, Hobbes. AND Happy New Year!



Out of My Comfort Zone

As you probably are aware, I like to paint. It’s a wonderful hobby and given me a lot of fulfilment, but also a lot frustration. This is apparent when a painting doesn’t work out quite as envisaged. Or when my husband, my harshest critic, doesn’t like something I’ve created. His opinion of art is that a painting should be photographic in its image, especially when observed up close. He doesn’t understand a painting is simply an artist’s interpretation and that most art should be seen from several feet away. I think this is the main reason I become increasingly self-critical and hesitant to start a new picture, to the point towards the end of last year I had totally lost my mojo. This, for me, was bad news. Put simply, I had no idea what to paint.

I spent hours trawling the Internet for images, days scanning photographs on Pinterest seeking that one picture that would get the creative juices flowing again. I splashed out on half a dozen large canvases, took long drives with camera at the ready – anything to fire the enthusiasm and push me into opening a tube of paint, dusting off the brushes and setting up the easel. All to no avail. I seriously thought I was all burned out where painting was concerned. And staring at a blank canvas, not knowing what to put down, is as bad as a writer staring at a blank sheet of paper or computer screen at a loss for words.

Then one 100_6751day, whilst idling a morning away on Facebook, an advertisement popped up of a forthcoming day’s art class being held in my region. The tutor, Jeremy Ford, a professional artist I knew from watching many painting programmes on TV and whose work I admired even though he doesn’t use acrylics, was tutoring in pastels – a medium I had tried a couple of times but always a disaster and incredibly messy to use, let alone all the chalk dust created. The fee was expensive but all materials were to be supplied and open to beginners and established artists alike. I wondered whether trying a different medium might give me some inspiration as I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms from not painting for so long and frightened I might lose what little talent I had. Having nothing much else to do in the middle of November on a dreary Saturday, I thought what the heck! Let’s give it a go. So I booked. And wondered what I had let myself in for.

Poppyfield PastelThe location was some distance from home, an hour’s drive through heavy fog, as it turned out, but the moment I walked into the venue I felt at ease, even though I was the last to arrive, and a little late! We got down to work, with Jeremy explaining step-by-step how to use pastels correctly. And most important of all – how not to make a lot of dust. The most difficult part is using the fingers or side of the hand to blend in the colours. If done right, no dust should be created at all. Brilliant! It was hard work but the day flew by. Although we were all painting the same two paintings, one in the morning, the second after lunch, everyone’s work was different. I was more than pleased with the two works I did, and so enthused I came away with a pastel pad and a bundle of pastels Jeremy said we could keep if we wanted in order to do some pastels at home.

Lake District PastelI drove home elated, satisfied with the day and the work I produced. More importantly, I have regained my confidence and found my mojo. Since that day I have produced another painting in acrylics, started another and even attempted another pastel, although I binned that as it wasn’t good. But I shall not give up. It certainly paid to step out of the box for once and away from my comfort zone. Long may it continue.

A Happy New Year to you all and I hope 2015 proves to be a great one for you.

Take Five and Focus – A New Year

Happy “Thank God We Can Get Back To Normal Life” Day! You’ve officially survive the holidays. Now that all the hubbub is over and we’ve begun a new year, for me, it’s time to figure out my focus for the year and how I can reach my goals. As an author, there are always goals and things to do. I can say the same thing about being a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.

But I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and I’d like this to be a gentler year. By that, I mean not quite so rushed and more in the moment. Being a planner, I have this bad habit of being in one moment, but thinking/organizing/planning the next. I’d like to break that habit and be more “now.” Enjoy THIS time, not anticipate the next time.

One of the ways I’m going to try to bring that about is to de-tech a bit. For instance, we have a landline phone, so why do I carry my cell with me around the house? If it’s important, folks will call the house phone, right?

Another thing I’ve started is to “Take Five.” I read somewhere that taking five minutes each day to sit quietly and be with yourself is great for reducing stress. So in October, I started a Take Five page on Facebook, thinking I’d chronicle my attempts to take five and see if anyone would find and join the page. Well, I haven’t been very good at doing my five minutes a day, since I’ve only commented on the page twice since then. I need to step it up, which is my plan for this new year.

Since I work from home, I’m also going to try to set “office hours” and walk away from the computer when those hours are done.

So that’s my goal this year. To learn to be in the moment. How about you? Any goals you’d like to share? Or do you prefer not to set goals? There’s a saying with writers. You’re either a plotter (planner) or a pantser (roll with whatever happens) kind of person. I’m a plotter. How about you?