THE LIEBSTER AWARD

Thank you so much to Rachel Peck for nominating me for the Liebster Award.  This is my very first such nomination, so I’m pretty happy with her.  Ha ha!  You should check out Rachel’s blog, she’s an amazing writer.  I actually interviewed her a while back – An interview with author Rachel Peck.  I met Rachel on Writing.com and she is an amazing poet.  She writes with such passion and emotion, it’s no surprise she’s been published. She’s pretty new to WordPress, so go and check out her blog and give her some love.

Random Facts About Me . . . 

    • I grew up on a farm in rural New Zealand.  It was a beef farm, about 330 acres.  Apart from 18 months when my parents did a working holiday in UK, I’ve lived my whole life in New Zealand.
    • I grew up with a lot of British humour in my life, partly because New Zealand as a country has a very strong British heritage, and partly because my parents are both English.  As a result, I tend more toward the British sense of humour than the American.  And yes, I think there’s a difference.  😉
    • I love making homemade gifts.
    • I love rollercoasters.  Am hoping to go on at least one REALLY big one when we go to the UK next year.  There are no really big rollercoasters in New Zealand.
    • I don’t drink alcohol very often, but I have a pretty decent alcohol collection.  The whisky belongs to my husband, and the vodka and port are mine.  At the moment, I have toffee vodka, feijoa vodka and the very cool Royal Dragon vodka, both the Elite and Imperial.  I’ve just found out there’s also an Emperor version of the Royal Dragon vodka.  #want!  My favourite port is Taylor’s tawny port, but I also like Sea Red, a red dessert wine from Clearview Estate Winery in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay.  I like to try/collect weird and unusual alcohols too, so I always have a bottle of Purple Death in the cupboard. It’s delicious over vanilla ice cream.
    • I’m not afraid of public speaking.  I was a precocious child, and did debating in high school and joined a public speaking group in my teens.  I wouldn’t say I enjoy public speaking, but I’m comfortable enough with it.
    • My oldest online friend is Kris.  We met online in 1997, and have never met.  He lives in Belgium.  I’m also still in contact with friends I met on Livejournal in 2001 when I first started blogging.  Haven’t met them either since they live in America.
    • I get more enjoyment out of starting a project than completing one.  Which explains why I have so many unfinished one, right?
    • I read on an iphone (nope, not a Kindle, just the Kindle app) and write on a Gigabyte laptop.  I did have a Mac laptop previously but I grew up with Windows and would get frustrated with the differences between Macs and Windows.
    • I use a lot of Kiwi slang when I talk.  Some of it comes through in my writing, but it’s more prolific when I talk.

I would like to nominate the following wonderful blogs:
Mtnbeachmama’s Blog. This blog is full of beautifully worded observations, of both nature and people. Rivers is a good example post to check out, I think. I love the photos as well as the descriptions.

The Feisty Pauper. You gotta love it just from the name, right? 😛 Another good example of her humour can be found in this post. I’ve never read anyone else saying that they need glucosamine and good sneakers to survive the zombie apocalypse! Ha ha!

Stories for Strength. Observations from a real woman facing real life and encouraging us all to laugh at ourselves, empathise and unite. I love this post – Dinner: Why must they eat it every night?. As a mother, this was the one that won me over. If you have any life hacks to offer Rachael, please do share them with her!

Enchanted by Books. If you like books, you have to check out this blog. Book reviews, book tags, everything book-related you could ask for. Everything from The Art of War to Harry Potter. 🙂

made things. Poetry, musings, gratitude, and insight. I love this poem – castle of my imagination.  There is loads more to love too, go and check it out.

My answers to Rachel’s questions:

  • Most importantly. What type of chocolate do you prefer? Dark, milk, or white?
    Milk.  Definitely milk.  I’m not a fan of dark or white chocolate.  I have recently discovered caramelised white chocolate though, specifically Cadbury Caramilk, and I think I’m in love.  Ha ha!
  • Is there a time of day you are most creative?
    No, I don’t think so.  But I do find I get more ideas when I’m driving than at any other time.
  • Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?
    I like to listen to classical music when I’m writing stories, and rock or classic rock when I’m writing poetry.  Nothing in particular when I’m blogging.
  • When did you know you were a writer? Have you always known?
    I started keeping a journal when I was 14, and I probably started writing poetry then too.  I remember writing and sharing  poems while on Scout camps, and that was between ages 14-16 I think.  I suppose I considered myself a writer from then on.  I knew that most people my age weren’t writing poetry at that time, so I was different – a writer.
  • Who has had the most influence on your writing?
    The people at Writing.com.  Through their feedback, examples and inspiration, they’ve helped me grow more as a writer than anyone.   I could name names, and there are two in particular that come to mind (one for poetry and one for stories) but it’s a cumulative thing, you know?  A combination of a variety of feedback and inspiration and then taking what works for me, and leaving what doesn’t.
  • How do you promote your own work?
    Hmm…   Posting it on social media (here, G+, Twitter, Tumblr) is the extent of my promotion.  And it’s kind of a ‘take it or leave it’ kind of promotion.  I don’t put a lot of thought into convincing people to read or like.  If they do, they do.  If they don’t, they don’t.
  • What is your all-time favourite film?
    Hmm, that’s a hard one.  I’m more of a reader than a watcher.  Before I had kids, I never watched cartoons or animated movies, but now I find some of them quite brilliant.  Ice Age was just hilarious.  I liked the X-Men series and the Die Hard series.  Despite that, I do tend towards chick flicks.  Honestly I don’t know about a favourite though.  Tough question!
  • What authors did you love to read as a child?
    Ooh, another tough question.  I went to a very small primary (elementary) school.  There were only 60 kids there, and it was a little country school, with a library to match.  I read every book in that library.  We always had books at home, but it was a relatively small, static collection.  I didn’t belong to a public library because we lived in the middle of nowhere and the nearest public library wasn’t convenient to our house.  My mother teases me that I was so desperate for reading material that I would read cereal boxes, or the newspaper used to insulate the house walls.  I didn’t really develop a ‘favourite author’ as a child because I didn’t have the luxury of that I guess. The first author I can remember considering a ”favourite’ was Anne McCaffrey, and that was in high school.  High school came with a whole new library of books to read!  Ha ha!  So yeah, Anne McCaffrey was my first favourite author, probably followed by Jean M Auel and her Earth’s Children series.
  • Do you belong to any writing or critiquing groups? How important do you think that is?
    Only Writing.com.  None in real life.  But Writing.com has been vitally important in my development as a writer, and also in my perseverance as a writer.  I had a break from Writing.com for a few years when my children were very small (and money was very tight) and I wrote very little (apart from blogging/journaling, no poems or short stories) and my writing didn’t develop or grow.  So yeah, I think that feedback, inspiration and encouragement is very important.  It is to me, anyway.
  • Who is your favourite author? Do you write in the same genre as them?
    Um…  Right now, my favourite author is probably Jaime Reese, followed by Maya Banks.  They both write romance.  I write…whatever I’m inspired to write.  I think I probably write more children’s fantasy than anything, but some romance.  I think I’m slowly starting to veer more towards romance, as I gain confidence in writing in that genre.

My questions for my nominees

  • What’s the first indulgence you’d buy yourself if you won the lottery?
  • What’s your favourite comfort food?
  • Aside from writing, what are your hobbies?
  • What kind(s) of music do you like to listen to?
  • What’s the most important thing on your bucket list?
  • What’s one thing about blogging or blogs that annoys you?
  • In your personal opinion, what is the most annoying sound in the world?
  • What time is bedtime for you?
  • Do you have a ‘signature dish’ that you make for dinner guests or when it’s your turn to cook?  Tell us about it!  (Bonus points if you share the recipe! Ha ha!)
  • Have you ever fallen in love with a place through a book or photo?  Have you been there in real life, and if so, how did it compare?  If not, do you plan to go?
  • Which of your personality traits would make you hard to live with?

Rules Rules Rules. Here is what to do, once you’ve been nominated.

      1. Thank the person who nominated you, and put a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you. They will thank you for it and those who you nominate will also help you out as well.
      2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
      3. For the 2017 Liebster Award, I will be shaking things up! Write a 150-300 word post about your favourite blog that is not your own. Explain why you like the blog, provide links.
      4. Provide 10 random facts about yourself. (This year I’m making this optional. If you wish to engage with your readers it’s a great idea to include random facts about you.)
      5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 200 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
      6. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here or simply link to this post). Once you have written and published it, you then have to inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post or the original one if you don’t have all the information so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!).

I found it interesting that the posts don’t seem to actually be following the rules.  The questions and answers aren’t noted in the rules, but are mentioned on the original page.  Possibly a leftover from previous years, but clearly people enjoy learning about others through the questions.  I did, so I’ve included them. 🙂  And I’m not sure I have one favourite blog to babble about, but I’ve tried to share why I’ve nominated the blogs that I have, and you should definitely check them out.  They deserve to have more than 200 followers!

#real life

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting much lately.  Just….work.  I can’t say much, obviously, in a public forum, but yeah.  Work.  I heard this song while I was driving to work, and it really summed up how I was feeling last week.

When things calm down again, I’ll be back.  In the meantime, I’ll try to post when I can.  I recorded a poem on my phone the other day when I was driving home, and my friend Rachel nominated me for a blog thingie, so I’ll try to post those.  Oh, and I made some homemade foodie Christmas gifts on the weekend which I want to post about.  I’ve got heaps of entries from blogs I follow to read (stashed in my inbox!) so will slowly work my way through those too and throw some likes, etc. out to my fellow bloggers.

So I guess I’m just asking you to be patient with me until real life lets me get back to the virtual world.  🙂  Thank you, kind readers!

Brain-dump

I fell in love with the idea of referring to my writing as ‘my latest verbal hairball’. Ha ha!

Learning to love the silence

Stand on a street corner
A sign around my neck
“Would you like to read my poetry?”
Seeking instant gratification,
Without wifi connection.

(I wrote most of it while gazing
In deep contemplation
Of my possibly expanding midriff.)

Excuse me while I rehearse
14 lines of free verse
About my vintage Converse
Written on the obverse
Of a battered clutch-purse.

(I could be a hipster too
Except I shaved my beard off
Because it bothered me.)

Appreciation hungry,
I push my latest verbal hairball
Under your nose
Wonder whether its worth it
To see you so repulsed.

(Writing is therapy,
It doesn’t need to be read
But editing might be a beneficial)

Wordsworth never had these problems,
But then if he lived today
He’d be too busy
Taking pictures of daffodils
On his smartphone
To write poetry.

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Livejournal

Holy shit, there’s a tool on WordPress that allows you to import your Livejournal posts!  *mind blown*

Yeah, it’s not that big a deal.  I only have 3,483 blog posts on Livejournal, dating back to 2001!

I’m so excited!  Now, if only my teenager hadn’t nicked off with my laptop charger.  *facepalm*  Will have to do it when he comes back from staying overnight at a mate’s place.

 

Edit: It was too good to be true.  It doesn’t work.

Music for the occasion tag

I couldn’t resist! Ha ha!

The rules are super simple. Answer the questions, tag the creator (www.theroadtoelle.com) and tag some friends to answer! Simple, huh?

A song that reminds me of home:
Bliss by Th’ Dudes

Play this song in a pub full of kiwis (New Zealanders) and I guarantee every one of them will start singing at the top of their lungs. Yes, it’s old. Yes, it’s dated. But it’s a classic NZ anthem.

I could also have chosen anything by the Exponents or the Mutton Birds, or How Great Thou Art as sung by Sir Howard Morrison (sends shivers up my spine every time) but I had to pick just one, right?

Five songs that are must-haves for a road trip:
I Was Made For Lovin’ You by Kiss
You’re The Voice by John Farnham
American Pie by Don McLean
Dream On by Aerosmith
Never Tear Us Apart by INXS

My actual road trip playlist is well over 100 songs, so this was a near impossible choice. They’re all songs that every member of my family (myself, hubby and the two kids) know the words to, enjoys and will sing along. They’re upbeat (except maybe American Pie!) and you can wind the windows down and crank it up. Oh man, now I feel like a road trip! Anyone?

A song that inspires me:
The Longest Time by Billy Joel

This song always reminds me of my friend Chelsea, and the creative, colourful journals she used to keep. I was a bit OCD about my journals, which were very neat and uniform, and I was so jealous of her creativity. She was the first person to help me step out of my comfort zone when it comes to creativity.

A song that puts me in a good mood:
Dear Penis by Rodney Carrington

It was my father-in-law who first introduced me to this song. I could also have used this for the next question as I know all the words! It’s funny and it makes me laugh. I nearly chose Gonna Make You Happy Tonight by Tripod, which is another good one.

A song I know all the words to:
Lola by the Kinks

I knew all the words to this song long before I ever heard it performed by the original artist. My uncle used to visit us and he’d play this one on his guitar. Also, Dead Skunk In The Middle Of The Road by Loudon Wainwright III, and My Old Man’s A Dustman by Lonnie Donegan. That reminds me, it’s been so long since I heard Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour… I must make sure my kids know that one. 😛

A song that annoys me:
Lips of an Angel by Hinder

I detest cheaters and I hate the lyrics to this song and the attitude the narrator has to his girlfriend. Drives me mental. I’ll admit, the Crazy Frog song was my first thought though!

A song I used to like but don’t anymore:
As Long As You Love Me by The Backstreet Boys

Yeah, I went through a Backstreet Boys phase, I’ll admit it. It was short lived, I promise.

A song I thrashed:
Run Like Hell by Pink Floyd

This is absolutely my favourite song. I’ve been known to listen to it on repeat and it still doesn’t get old. I love this song! It works best with Young Lust first though, amiright?

A song I like to play loud:
Freaks by Timmy Trumpet and Savage

My kids introduced me to this song, and it’s so damn catchy. A fun song to play loud and dance around the house to.

A song that makes me want to dance:
Runaround Sue by Dion and the Belmonts

Speaking of dancing… When I was growing up, my dad played in a band. We lived in a small rural community, so he mostly played easy listening, middle of the road stuff. There is a whole list of songs that remind me of my dad and my childhood, but this one always makes me want to get up and dance, like we did at those old community hall gigs.

A song I like to listen to when I’m angry:
Teenagers by My Chemical Romance

I used to have an angry playlist. Actually, I lie, it was an angry CD. Ha ha! But this song reminds me that I’m not the only one dealing with teenage dramas, and it’s just a phase. I actually first heard this song when my younger (by 2 years) sister was going through her rebellious teenager phase, so it definitely reminds me that all is not lost!

A song I like to listen to when I’m going to sleep:
Why Worry by Dire Straits

This is the perfect song for nodding off to, both in terms of music and lyrics.

A song by a band that I’ve seen live:
I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons

I’ve seen some amazing bands and artists live (all fairly recently!), including Adele, the Eagles, Guns N Roses, etc. I went to Mumford & Sons with my sister, mum and mother-in-law for my sister’s birthday. I only knew two songs, and my expectations were low. How much can you expect from a band that has a banjo player? But it was amazing. High energy, great fun… One of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

A song I play when I’m doing the housework:
Fake It by Seether

I have a whole playlist, but this song is right near the top. Nothing to do with the lyrics, just a song that makes me want to get off my ass.

Tagging:
Christina Weaver
Reb Kreyling
Pooja at Life’s Fine Whine
Thompson Crowley
Tiny Rubies
A.C. at An Anonymous Escape From Life
Nic Starr
Jess of Earth
Rachel Peck
Susie Lindau
Phil Taylor at The Phil Factor
Michelle at The Writing Hufflepuff
Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek
and of course, anyone else who would like to give it a go!

Lemony goodness

A long time ago, I used to have a blog called Cooking with Caitie which started because my daughter was mad for anything cooking or baking related.  She was super cute too, and as I was working on my family recipe book (which is still not finished), I started documenting our adventures in the kitchen.

It’s hard work though, especially when you’re a working parent like I am.  We only had time to potter in the kitchen on the weekends, and I’d forget to take photos or forget to update the blog, and eventually it fell by the wayside as so many blogs do.

Caitie still loves cooking and baking though.  She’s 12 now, and has just started taking on the role of making the weekday dinners.  I usually get home after 6:30pm and while my husband might be home a little earlier than that, he usually disappears into his study to do more work (he runs his own business).  Having Caitie make the weekday dinners is a huge help, but it does require some pre-planning.  I try to always keep mince (ground beef) in the freezer, because that’s an easy one for her to make nachos or spag bol with.  Today I went out and bought a roast chicken for her to do tomorrow night.  A couple of days ago she made One Pot Cheesy Italian Pasta Chicken, from The Slow Roasted Italian which turned out brilliantly.  My husband and son had second helpings, and I had some for lunch the next day.  It was easy for her to make, filling and yum.  What more can you ask for?

On the weekends we try and experiment a little if we have time.  Last Sunday we made slow cooker cabbage rolls which were a sad fail.  They were really mushy (to the point where I couldn’t take them individually out of the slow cooker, I just had to serve scoopfuls) and exceedingly bland.  Tonight we’re making Chicken Lettuce Cups and Easy Pad Thai from Epicurious which I’m looking forward to trying.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kat from Bad Mum Cooking had an overload of citrus fruit, and I ended up with a couple of supermarket bags of lemons.  I decided to take Caitie up to my mother’s to make some lemony things, and we stopped in at my dad’s house to drop off some of Kat’s kimchi to him (more on kimchi in another post!), only to be told he had excess lemons too.  His lemons were small but super juicy, and Caitie and I picked a whole ‘nother bag full from his tree.  Now, what were we going to do with three bags of lemons?!

I wanted to make some of Mum’s famous lemon drink.  It’s in the family recipe book for a reason!  She was given the recipe by the Plunket lady when we were very small children.  We were living on the farm then, and had a small orchard, so I imagine lemons were fairly easy to come by.  The recipe makes a very sweet concentrate that you then dilute to taste with water.  Mum says she used to make it during shearing season for the men shearing the sheep, as it was very refreshing.

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So Mum made the lemon drink, which we separated into two bottles, one for her to keep and one for me to take home.  While she was doing that, Caitie made lemon and coconut biscuits using a Chelsea Sugar recipe.  They were really hard to put on the tray without getting them overly warm from our hands, but Caitie did a good job.  Next time I think we’ll freeze the dough into a roll, then just slice off portions to put on the baking tray.  They were delicious though, very moreish.

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I was busy making lemon curd, which used a recipe I found back when I was doing that old Cooking with Caitie blog.  It’s from Kitchen Alchemy, and I’ve used the recipe multiple times and it always turns out perfectly.

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And after the drink was made, Mum and Caitie made a lemon cheesecake, and Mum’s Cointreau-infused citrus salad to go with it.  Mum said the cheesecake didn’t transport well, as she’s made it a few times, so we took our portion home ‘deconstructed’ and had deconstructed cheesecake with alcoholic citrus salad on the side.  Well, the kids obviously didn’t have the alcoholic part, they just had cheesecake.  It was really yum.

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On the way home from Mum’s, I stopped by Kat’s house and left a jar of lemon curd and a container of lemon coconut biscuits on her doorstep to say thank you for the lemons. She said she enjoyed both.

For dinner we had lemon fish, with leek rice risotto.

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So overall, a very productive, albeit lemony, day! We ended up with lemon drink, lemon and coconut biscuits, lemon curd, lemon cheesecake, citrus salad, and lemon fish with leek risotto. Yum!

If anyone wants any of the non-linked recipes, just let me know in the comments.

A novel present

It’s September, and I am making plans for Christmas.  Ha ha!  Yeah, that’s pretty typical of me.  I’m the kind of person who buys gifts throughout the year to spread the cost and take advantage of sales.  My children’s birthdays are in the middle of the year, so the first half of the year I buy birthday presents and the second half of the year I buy Christmas presents.

This year we’re not buying Christmas presents.  We’re saving to go overseas next year for my sister’s wedding, so if they do get anything, it’s going to be passports.  And next year for their birthdays they’ll get plane tickets.  Which is more than enough, right?  But Christmas is a big deal in our family, and I have an idea…

In 2012 I did National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where you’re challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month.  It was madness, but I managed to write 30,000 words of a children’s fantasy novel.  It stars my children, my nephew and my godchildren, and a variety of mythical creatures.  The plan was to write a story that would challenge my children’s reading abilities while still being appropriate for their age and maturity.  See, my kids are both ‘gifted’, particularly in English, and both have reading levels well in advance of their peers.  This made it hard to find books that were at or slightly above their reading level but not too advanced in subject matter (such as sex or violence).  So my plan was to write something that used big words, was educational to an extent (my son was obsessed with mythical creatures at the time), but didn’t contain any material that wasn’t suitable for their level of maturity.

I intended to give it to my kids as a gift, but I never finished it.  Each year I’d remember about it, but I’d procrastinate and not get it done.  The kids in the story are 11 and 7 years old, and my kids are now 16 and 12. *Facepalm* Still, I want to finish it, and the sooner I give it to them, the better. I mean, better at 16 and 12 than 32 and 28, right? *Laugh*

I’m going to handwrite the story into journals, one each for my kids and my nephew.  See, the story centers around a handwritten journal, so it seems apt. To encourage me to stop procrastinating, on Friday I bought three journals.

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I think they’ll make neat Christmas presents.  Can you tell which one is for my daughter?  Ha ha!

I’ve written eight chapters so far (on the computer), but in the story the kids are trying to work out how many more adventures they can go on before the journal is full.  So I think I should handwrite in the completed chapters and adapt the story so that it ends at the end of the journal.  The worst thing would be if it was half a dozen pages too long for a single journal!

So yep, that’s what I’m working on at the moment. The first chapter is about a taniwha, which is a dragon unique to New Zealand where we live.