Fabulous food and friends

My very first dinner party in honour of Thanksgiving went off beautifully! I was able to treat my UK and Italian friends to their  first taste of traditional American Thanksgiving fare. And my green bean casserole and bourbon mashed sweet potatoes were a huge hit!

The decorations were ultra simple due to time and budget, but they worked well. (Ignore the cutlery placement, lol)

Patterned napkins, slips of brown package paper with handwritten names, and stray sprigs of rosemary that didn’t make it into the turkey roasting tin.

My friend Irene and her little girl Emma brought us some alphabet biscuits they’d made at home and they were the perfect addition to the table setting! So sweet.

We had a lovely time, especially the kids who had their own little table and all got along so nicely.

Such a wonderful night, capped off with stunning aromatic Italian coffee (thanks Lorenzo!) that had me awake at 3am and still smiling with thoughts of my dear friends.

 

 

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Grey skies

After a particularly distressing weekend with sad news from home, my surrender of the NaNoWriMo challenge, and two sick kids (AGAIN!), I seem to have lost all motivation to even… breathe.

Call me Gretel, who, after carefully laying down her trail of breadcrumbs in the heart of the darkest woods, turns around to find them gone. There’s no way back. I must move forward.

It’s the forward part I’m having trouble with.

I was torn with the decision to throw in the towel on the WriMo novel. I hit 23,090 words yet could go no further. Strangely, I feel at peace now. And I feel accomplished. To date it is the longest piece of work I’ve ever written and that in itself is a great achievement. I still intend to finish, but in my own time. When I have the time…

Yesterday there was fog. I ventured out to buy milk and was met by a thick, damp haze. I stepped forward almost blindly, trusting that my feet would remember the path it so often treads. I let the fog envelop me and didn’t miss the irony. Me, stumbling through a fog.

Now I am at a crossroads. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to cook, clean, or go to class. I don’t want to write notes, novels or essays. I don’t want to try, think, or care. I just want to lay here with a mind as empty as a clean glass jar. Waiting to be filled with something bright and alive.

I’m having a patch of grey skies. Someone send me a sunbeam.

Always Thankful

I’ve decided to update my blog by giving it a fresh, new autumn theme. I felt it would fit right in with American Thanksgiving being right around the corner.

I love Thanksgiving.

We celebrate it every year, no matter which country we’re in. (I can assure you that finding Stovetop stuffing in the UK is a nightmare). My husband is American by birth and our children are American by default. I am just an all-things-American-loving imposter. We cherish the time of family, togetherness and fabulous food.

Of course, our family is divided across an ocean this year, but I still plan to celebrate with our girls. I truly have so much to be thankful for.

(have a peek at our yummy menu)

 

 

I write, therefore I am?

What began as a perfectly reasonable day ended in me threatening to cry into my borrowed raspberry vodka cocktail.

I can’t quite put my finger on the point where it all began to unravel, but I think it was somewhere between watching Inua Ellams recite his poetry in my Publishing class and mock bidding for art’s festival funding in my Creative Professional Development class.

On the train home the tears sprung up. A seven hour stretch in class will do that to you. I suppose it didn’t help that I was also listening to a bit of Ed Sheeran on the Tube.

I suddenly became rather melancholy and morose. It was one of those uncomfortable moments when you begin swimming in sadness and are not quite sure why.

Fatigue? Frustration? What was it that ailed me? I still don’t know.

I just recall that the weight of the world slammed squarely onto my shoulders whilst I sat in Metro bar with my friends after class. I stirred up the plump raspberries that floated in the fizz of my drink and thought, what exactly am I doing here?

I am lonely and homesick and without two of the most important men in my life – my husband and son. The sacrifices of this MA get bigger every day. It’s been 10 months and 4 days since I last gave my little boy a cuddle or a goodnight kiss.

I push myself onward with blind reassurance – it will be worth it, completely, in the end.

In the meantime I struggle with feelings of guilt and fear and worry all wrapped neatly into a bitter package. I try to convince myself that I’ve done the right thing. For everyone. In the long run.

But it wasn’t just my guilt that made me abandon my drink and my half eaten bag of cheese and onion crisps. It was something else. Something bigger than me, that dragged me down with hooks of despair.

It was the writing.

I have never been so fully immersed in my craft and it is taking on a life of its own, morphing into something I didn’t know it could be. In the midst of tears that threatened to spill as the train zipped me home, I had  a very small epiphany that I think had been there all along; yet I had been ignoring it.  I want to keep writing and not just as a hobby.

How this realisation caused me to arrive at a mini meltdown I can’t understand but maybe it was the gravity of the acceptance. Finally admitting to myself that what I really want to do with my life is the thing I both love and fear the most.

NaNoWriMo ate my brain!

Thirteen days and 12,667 words in and I am recovering (barely) from a massive 2 day writer’s block. The kind that found me staring blankly at my laptop screen in an I-don’t-know-where-my-plot-is-going stupor. I’ve spent the weekend hiding under my duvet and scarfing copious amounts of chocolate in an attempt to forget that I still have 37,333 more words to write. In 17 days…

Because my novel is at the crucial point where it has to start coming together I think I panicked a little. In fact I’m still panicking, just a bit less. I’ve introduced all my main characters, built up suspense, added a mystery, an ex-boyfriend, a new boyfriend, a dodgy boss, a flashback or two, and an amazing peach cobbler.

I think I need to blow something up.

Or bring in the aliens.

Hmmm….

Here is an excerpt for your viewing pleasure:

Synopsis

Good question. I’m just writing as it comes to me.

Right now Ava is on a train to somewhere. It is nighttime and there is a sense of foreboding. The train is late. It’s never late. She is tired, resigned, and wearing uncomfortable clothes.

She might be going to meet someone or deliver a package. She will likely find something unusual along the way which will plunge her into a world of mystery and chaos. Or she might meet the man of her dreams. However, I get the sense that her character is less about the lovey dovey and more about action and intrigue.

Slow and steady wins the race? Hope so.

Excerpt

She glanced up to see that there was a man sitting in the opposite row of seats. She was surprised that she hadn’t noticed him before.  He smiled and she returned the pleasantry. He was tall, middle-aged but heading for a crisis. She could tell by the leather jacket and the gelled hair. Dirty blonde tresses, carefully spiked. The I-just-rolled-out-of-bed look which took half hour to perfect. His eyes were very blue and very clear – like a swimming pool that you can see to the bottom off. He was reading a book that she recognised. A corporate-world crime novel.  She had begun reading it once but didn’t have the motivation to finish. It bored her terribly. She had a fleeting urge to lean over and ask him what he thought of the book, but she didn’t. He seemed perfectly approachable but she simply couldn’t muster the energy or presence of mind to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.  Not now. Not tonight.

Outside, light and shadows flickered across the window. Flashes of billboards and skyscrapers dissolved as quickly as they appeared. She rubbed her eyes, careful to avoid smudging her mascara. Her head hurt. A dull, clodding type of  headache.  One that thudded at the back of her neck and radiated upward to her temples. She closed her eyes and uncrossed her legs to stop them from falling asleep. They had started to tingle. She pressed her back into the seat and felt her dark curls tumble across her shoulders. She noticed that the cardigan was not only flimsy but it itched like hell.  After tonight she would make sure it found its way to a charity shop where some other unsuspecting soul would be tempted by its crimson threads, conned into its prickly embrace. It gave her a grim sort of satisfaction that she could pass on a bit of her misery. Romantic notions like karma meant nothing to her. You lived the life you were dealt. She’d learned this the hard way.

No sleep for the weary

“I don’t wanna go to school!”

This is the refrain that echos off our sleep silent walls each morning, with the slight variation of “I don’t wanna go to ballet” on Saturdays.

Pillows are clung to and the covers are pulled up over a reluctant, pouting head.

A four-year old’s finger pokes me in the eye.

“Don’t be ridiculous mom. If you don’t take me to class who will? It’s already seven-four-six…” She says the four and six separately for emphasis.

I groan a feeble “I’m coming” and roll back over. Emilie has been up with the roosters (not that we have any) and has already helped herself to 2 pots of yoghurt and a sloppily poured bowl of cereal. I, on the other hand, have been smashing and snoozing my alarm for the past hour.

Smash, snooze. Smash, snooze.

Emilie dresses herself expertly while I lay lethargic in my swaddle of blankets. I peer at her through half closed eyes, checking that she hasn’t put her blouse on backward or her tights on inside out.

“Don’t forget your shoes,” I mutter, my tongue slick with sleep.

“I’m already wearing them mother.” This kid takes independence to a whole new level.

I am eventually coaxed from the confines of my cocoon and dress with the zest of a zombie. The brisk 15 minute walk downhill in the crisp, cold morning air puts life in my legs and lungs.

By the time I have deposited my darling daughter at her classroom door and tackled the journey back uphill I am alert, fully awake and all hopes of returning home to salvage my slumber has evaporated like the morning dew.

I pray for Sunday…