31 December 2009

Happy New Year, and a recipe!

My Mom made this recipe tonight to New Year's Eve. If you observe the eat-blackeyed-peas-for-good-luck on New Year's, and you like a little kick of heat in your food, this is for you!

Source: AmericanProfile.com
Submitted by Joyce Gates, Clovis, NM

Black-Eyed Pea Soup

1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 pound Polish sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas with jalapenos
1 (14-ounce) can reduced-sodium beef broth
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (10-ounce) can mild diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 (4-ounce) can chopped mild green chilies
1 to 2 medium jalapeno chilies, seeded and chopped (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt


1. Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onions and cook until beef is browned, stirring frequently. Drain excess grease.

2. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover tightly. Simmer 45 minutes.

3. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Reheat before serving. Serves 8.

Tips: Browning the sausage before adding it to the pot adds flavor. To reduce fat, try using turkey kielbasa.

Nutritional facts per serving: 360 calories, 20g fat, 21g protein, 23g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 1210mg sodium.


29 December 2009

A bit of happy news, and a video!

Hi friends,

It's been a busy holiday season, so I apologize for the lack of recent updates! I hope everyone had fun hunting for clues in the Raven Happy Hour contest - I'll pass along who the winner is as soon as I hear.

UPDATE: The winners have been posted! Click here

My bit of holiday cheer comes in the form of a new review for A Ghost of a Chance - 4.5 stars from Romantic Times Booklovers Magazine! Since Beaudry's Ghost got 4 stars, I've been holding my breath on this one, hoping AGoaC would do as well. :)

Before I take off for God's Country (aka North Carolina) for New Year's, here's a video from Rampant Scotland - a recent Parade of Clans in Edinburgh. Get ready to hoot and holler for your favorite!

28 November 2009

Welcoming the Crone Years

Tomorrow I turn 50. And you know, the more I think about it, the wider the silly smile on my face gets.

Tomorrow I will be eligible to join the Red Hat Society.

Tomorrow I will be allowed to sit at the virtual "adults table" with my friends at O.B.O.D.

Tomorrow I can begin calling myself a crone.

Far from a wizened, terrifying hag depicted in stories designed to keep little children shivering under the covers at night, the crone of the ancient Celts is Annis, the keeper of wisdom and the old ways.

She is Badb, an Irish shapeshifting warrior goddess, guide through the cycles of birth and death, of inspiration.

She is Ceridwen, keeper of the cauldron.

She is the Cailleach, the Scottish goddess of seasonal rites and weather magic.

She is Macha, the Irish wild woman who battles against injustice to children and women.

She is Nicneven, goddess of Winter.

And she is the fearsome Morrigan, the Celtic crow goddess who understands the nature of Death.

This has been a year filled with transitions. A daughter who returned home to temporarily roost until she attains the degree that will help her fly the nest. A son preparing to leave high school and navigating the stormy waters of first love. A new mother-in-law to take part in our family traditions and introduce us to a few of her own. And a father who passed from this life to the next.

Turning 50...just another transition. A good one. I figure every birthday that arrives and I'm still breathing is a good birthday! Since I was 5 and diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, every birthday where I'm still on my own two feet and able to flip the proverbial bird at this disease is a victory. :) Even if it does take a small medical army, a cocktail of modern medical pharmaceuticals, and a few spare parts to keep this body moving, I'm grateful.

I think that's the big thing. To arrive at this age grateful, unbowed, unashamed to show my grey hairs, laugh lines, and most of all, the scars life's battles leave behind.

This is a great age to be. In my 40s, the need to care about what others think of me began to drop away. In my 50s, I expect I'll lose it altogether. Hee! This is going to be fun! I know I'm supposed to be older, wiser, more mature...but in a way I'm returning to the freedom of the very young. Shedding the trappings - and traps - society has placed me in as a woman.

Now excuse me while the Morrigan and I go lift a few pints. We have a glorious battle to plan. :)

The Crone Years
by Judith TreeCrone

Contrary to the sanctions of a culture
that worships and glorifies youth
The crone years are not simply
the interlude between life and death
Oh no!
These are her omnipotent years
These autumnal years
when her womb is fallow
but she continues to give birth
from her fruitful creative self
Her nurturing spirit comes not from hormones
but from her wisdom of choosing to live fully
Both her inner and outer vision see new possibilities
Her awareness of her connectedness
to all of creation
is enhanced
She cherishes the poignancy of the sunrise
on the horizon of each new day
She embraces the quiet of the darkness time
when she shares her harvest of life stories
This is the legacy she bequeaths
Be who you are
Trust who you are today

23 November 2009

Kilt Candy

Just a little something to brighten up your Monday!

09 November 2009

Celtophile Monday

It's here! Rampant Scotland's annual Scottish Pictorial Calendar! Best of all, it's free! (Too many exclamation points for a Monday?) Click here to view and download

Meet the Cybraphon
Edinburgh based art and music collective FOUND have been hard at work over the past few months creating the monster that is Cybraphon. Taking inspiration from the 19th century player piano, the band have created a modern day equivalent, an autonomous music machine, built to create music without the need for any human interaction. Read more by Paul McFadyen

Scotland Outdoors
Spectacular pictures from the 2009 Etive River Race. I like to kayak, but you won't catch me launching myself over a waterfall! See more

Scotland Outdoors - Online Games
Test your skill in Rockface Rescue or Navigate Scotland. Play here

Scottish Teen is Youngest to Conquer "Unclimbable" Mountain
A 16-year-old boy from Kinross has conquered what has been described as an 'unclimbable' mountain in the Himalayas. Calum Macintyre is the youngest person to have climbed Ama Dablam, which at 22,525ft (6812m) is five times the height of Ben Nevis. The young mountaineer was raising money for the Teenager Cancer Trust. Calum's father and sister have both been treated for cancer in the past three years. Read more

All Things Dylan Thomas
Visit this site for a comprehensive overview of the life of Dylan Thomas. Includes fun stuff like a random poem generator. Click here

Blog of the Week:
Bluegrass Ireland Comprehensive and up-to-date news of bluegrass and old-time music events in Ireland

01 November 2009

Halloween Photo Fun

I know, I know. I usually post on Halloween, but I knew last night was going to be a blast so I waited so I could share some pictures with you. Last night we went to the first honest-to-god costume party we've been to in ages. Maybe since college! It was held by (deep breath, long-winded explanation coming) our son's girlfriend's parent's neighbors, who bought and are restoring the old farmhouse the girlfriend's father's grandfather owned.

Anyway, the owners were kind enough to invite my husband and me, and I wish you could have seen how much pleasure they took in decorating. Literally no part of the house, barn or outside property was neglected. Everywhere you looked it was like stepping into a macabre version of Disney's haunted mansion. Here are just a few pictures from last night:

Starting off the evening right -- my husband scaring the snot out of little children.

I hurried to snap pictures of the fabulous food and decorations before the party-goers devoured everything. Here we have lady's fingers, bones, and globs of unidentified organ meat. (All cookies and nut clusters)

Eyeball cookies and zombie cake.

I thought the reduced fat Ritz was a nice touch. I'm not normally squeamish, but if that was cheese dip in the body cavity, I didn't try it!

Just one of the amazingly creative decorations. Note the glowing eyeballs in the photos. The skeleton at right was doling out cheese dip from his coffin.

The previous photos were taken out in the barn, where the main party was held, but the hosts' home got equal treatment in decorations. I wish I could show you everything but there isn't room for 500 photos - no part of the house was untouched. They even put Halloween dresses and masks on their doll collection! You had to duck underneath low hanging "spider webs" everywhere. This was the coffee table in their TV room.

Outdoors, each area of their several-acre property was a different scene. I didn't get a good photo of the cemetery in the front yard (complete with a zombie with fog pouring out of its mouth). This is their koi pond, which had a skeleton floating in it. (I'm sure the koi were not amused.)

A screaming banshee bride wails underneath a giant oak tree near the barn.

Me, partaking of a lady finger. Yummmm!!

Hope you had a great weekend! Me, I'm a little, er, rough this morning. But it was worth it!


Celtophile Monday: Happy Celtic New Year

The Celtic New Year
For the Celts, Samhain marked the start of their new year. The hard word of summer growing and fall harvesting is over, and it's time to celebrate - and hunker down for the cold winter ahead. The Living Myth site offers a nice overview. Click here

Sea Power May Cut Scotland's Carbon Emissions
Opening up the Pentland Firth to wave, tidal and offshore wind projects would cut Scotland's carbon emissions by 30%, according to Scottish Renewables. The energy trade association said this was equivalent to taking more than 4.5 million cars off the roads. The Crown Estate said on Wednesday it plans to allow companies to produce "green" energy in the sea between mainland Scotland and Orkney. Wave and tidal devices could be generating power by 2020. Read more

FREE Audio Walks Around Historic Scotland
The Open University in collaboration with the BBC have created a series of audio walks around historic locations in Scotland, with narration from Neil Oliver and input from local experts. You can download them and take them with you on your mp3 player. A new walk will be released each week. Read more

Scotland's History
Interactive maps help you explore early chapters of Scotland's history. Click here

27 October 2009

Win Free Stuff from The Romance Studio!

It's the great Thirteen Days of Halloween Contest! Sign up to win free books.
Click here.

26 October 2009

Celtophile Monday, Halloween Edition

Cassandra the Village Witch

Backyard Quidditch
A great game for a Halloween party! Click here

Traditional Scottish Halloween Recipe

Cloutie Dumpling
A traditional Scottish recipe for a steamed pudding, steamed in a cloth or 'clout', which is normally served at celebrations such as Christmas, New Year, Halloween and also other special occasions. Click here for recipe.

Traditional Halloween Legends and Lore
Interesting article from mysteriousbritain and scotland.org Click here and here.

Scottish Ghost Stories
How and where Mary Shelley was inspired to write "Frankenstein"; dastardly doings at Greyfriar's Kirkyard, and more. Click here

Halloween Horrors of Edinburgh
Things that go bump in the night on the Royal Mile! Click here

Ghost Cams
Craig-y-Nos Castle, Powys, Wales

Spiritfinders Scotland

TAPS in kilts? What's not to like? Click here

20 October 2009

If You Can't Get Jiggy With This...

...there's simply no hope for you. :) Thanks to my friend Vaerna for the link!

12 October 2009

Celtophile Monday

Something To Make You Smile on a Monday!
Scottie, the master of RampantScotland.com, was kind enough to share some photos from his son's recent wedding on the shores of Loch Lomond. Men in kilts, lovely ladies in love. What could be more romantic? Thanks, Scottie!

Scottie writes: "In the last email to subscribers I mentioned that the Culzean feature had been delayed in part due to my son's wedding and the slide shows I created as a result of it. Of course, I have had requests to let readers see some of Martin and Nicola's wedding photos and I've created a short slide show in response. The wedding took place at Luss parish church on the banks of Loch Lomond and the reception was at Ross Priory, also at Loch Lomond. The weather was dry but misty, as can be seen in the photos. Nicola is from Wales - hence the Welsh and Scottish flags. Martin and most of the ushers wore kilts for the occasion - the one exception had a good excuse - he had flown in from Texas to be there. Included in the slide show is also a picture of "Cariad" - a Welsh love spoon made of chocolate." Click here for video!

05 October 2009

Celtophile Monday

Some of the Lewis Chessmen which were found on a beach in the Western Isles more than 150 years ago are being reunited for a tour of Scotland. A total of 30 of the 93 pieces will go on display at locations including the island of Lewis, where they were found. They are thought to have belonged to a 12th Century merchant who visited Lewis as he journeyed from Ireland to Norway. Read more

UK Mammals Have "Celtic Fringe"
DNA tests on British populations of small mammals show a genetically distinct "Celtic Fringe", say scientists at The University of York. Voles, shrews, mice and stoats in northern and western areas have different DNA from their counterparts in other parts of the British Isles. The paper, in Proceedings B journal, says the different populations arrived at the end of the last ice age. The authors say the work sheds light on the origins of the Celtic people. Click here for complete article by Judith Burns

Scottish Families Set 50-Mile Food Target
An experiment is under way in the Scottish Borders which will see 50 people try to source all their food from within a 50 mile radius of home. The Tweedgreen initiative centres on Peebles and will last throughout the month of October. Organisers hope it will show how eating local food can help to do "the least possible damage" to the environment. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/south_of_scotland/8282846.stm

Writer Says Scots Fiction Stifled by Mediocrity
A row has broken out among Scotland's leading authors on the state of fiction north of the Border. James Kelman, the influential Glasgow writer, accused the literati of favouring populist offering such as JK Rowling's Harry Potter, and detective novels, such as Ian Rankin's Rebus, over encouraging new innovative talent. Mr Kelman, who won the Booker Prize in 1994, derided Potter as "upper middle class" at the Edinburgh Book Festival and accused Scotland's literary establishment of rewarding mediocrity. He also accused it of failing to encourage contemporary literature by being anglocentric. He said: "Praise and position is given to genre fiction in Scotland. If the Nobel Prize were given to a Scot, it would be given to a f****** crime writer, or a children's writer who writes middle-class books about a child magician." Read article by Fiona MacLeod

All Things Whisky!
The Scotsman's definitive guide to uisge beatha, Scotland's national drink. Read more

Test Your Knowledge of Scotland
How well do you know Scotland? Put it to the test with this quick quiz from the website www.scotland.org. Click here

McNappy Tartan
In a bid to get more parents to "switch from bin to pin", Real Nappy supporters came together last week to launch the McNappy Tartan diaper. Click here for story by Kirsten Johnson

Sea Eagle Numbers in Scotland Soar to 150-Year High
The number of sea eagle chicks hatched in Scotland has reached its highest level in 150 years, according to the RSPB. The charity said that 36 chicks were successfully hatched in 2009, eight more than last year. Two new breeding pairs of the sea eagle, the largest bird of prey in the British Isles, were seen during its annual survey. Click for more

Wales Photo Galleries
Digital photographs of Wales submitted by BBC Wales readers. Click here

02 October 2009

Kilt Candy

Please join me and other Beyond the Veil blog authors on the Samhain Cafe from 7-9 tonight for a chat and book giveaways! Click here.

And now, the real reason you're here. Something to start off your weekend! These are from kiltmen.com. Most of these guys are just normal men who love their kilts, and it shows. Who can resist?? Enjoy!

Kilted paintball, anyone?

Yup, just normal guys...why don't they live on MY block??

Love the shirt (it says "men in kilts do it better")

Is that a horn in your sporran or are you just happy to see me??

A man and his dog...

With a bit of a gladiator flair...

Chestnuts roasting on an open fiiiire...Jack Frost nipping at my-- uh, never mind.

Red-shirted guy: "I told you we were underdressed."
Suit: "Shut up and smile for the camera."

Semper fi!

Have a good weekend!

28 September 2009

Celtophile Monday

What Glass Ceiling?
Founded in 1908 by three women who were denied access to male-dominated climbing clubs, the LSCC has been going strong for over 100 years. Among their accomplishments are first ascents of several rock climbs in Glencoe, and the first all-female expedition to the Himalayas in 1955. Click here. Related site: Mountaineering Council of Scotland

For My Fellow Horse Lovers
All things horse are explored in articles and video on BBC Scotland. Horses at work, play and show and the people who love them! Click here.

How's That Again?
Let Scottie of RampantScotland.com lead you through the twisting of the Gaelic tongue in this lighthearted look at how to pronounce Scottish place names. Suffice to say what you see definitely isn't what you speak. Click here.

Scotland Above and Below the Waves
Diver Helen Hadley;s photographic tour of Orkney and Shetland. Click here.

Weatherman Walking!
Derek Brockway's blog about his travels and observations of the natural world of Wales. Click here.

Ireland's National Archives
Are you a history or genealogy nut? This site is a treasure trove of historical documents, with a searchable online database. Click here.

24 September 2009

Annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners!

It's here! It's here! The one contest that makes me proud to be a writer. The only contest where bad is good, and worse is better. Enjoy!! Click here

**Disclaimer: Not responsible for damage caused by spewage. :)

21 September 2009

Celtophile Monday

Scotland's Earliest Face Found
A carving believed to be Scotland's earliest human face, dating back thousands of years, has been found on the Orkney island of Westray.

Scotland's Storytelling Tradition Resurges
Listen to radio story or read transcript here. Visit the Scottish Storytelling Centre here.

Free, detailed descriptions of walking routes across the Scottish Highlands, including maps, GPS locations of waypoints, 3D Virtual Highlands tours, downloadable tour apps, and photographs taken along the routes. Plus a whole lot more. http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/

Thanks to Inez Kelley for pointing me to this video:

Highland Diary
Explore the natural world of the Highlands with BBC natural history specialists. Click here

Castle of the Week
Fatlips Castle Okay, yeah, I picked it for the name. :) That, and it's an unusual looking edifice - looks like a stone cottage perched on top of a tower.

07 September 2009

More haunted places in Scotland

I figure it's time to add to this list. :)

Dunrobin Castle
Ancestral home of the earls of Sutherland, this castle is purported to harbor the ghost of the 14th earl's daughter, Margaret. She fell to her death while attempting to climb down a rope to run away with her lover, a stable hand by the name of Jamie Gunn.

Rait Castle
This 800-year-old Nairnshire hall castle is said to be haunted by a ghost in a blood-stained dress and no hands. Legend has it that the Cumming laird invited a delegation from clan MacIntosh in the guise of making amends; the real plot was to kill their enemies. The laird's daughter, whose lover was among the party (it's always about a girl and her lover, isn't it?), found a way to warn him. The MacIntoshes were saved, but the girl's father, enraged, chased her down and cut off her hands. She leapt to her death from a tower window. From that night, no one has inhabited the castle.

Loch Ashie
Situated between Inverness and Culloden Moor, a silent, spectral army is said to appear on the shores of this loch on the 1st of May. It's thought to be the site of a battle between Highlanders and invading Norwegians.

Have time for some video? Check these out!

Have a good week!


05 September 2009

Kilt Candy

I think the smile does it for me on this one. :)

01 September 2009

Vacation pictures - Colorado

A small selection of the hundreds of photos I took on our recent family trip to Colorado. Click the pictures for a larger view. Enjoy!

Hallett Peak above Nympth Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

One of several species of trout in Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Lightening-struck tree, RMNP

Marmot, RMNP

Chipmunk, RMNP

View from Sprague Lake, RMNP

Trees and sky above my writing spot along Glacier Creek, RMNP

Cloud formations above a ridge along Trail Ridge Road, RMNP

Moose, Kawuneeche Valley, RMNP

Mule deer, Kawuneeche Valley, RMNP

Elk, Trail Ridge Road just after sunset, RMNP

Tree bark (pine?), RMNP

An August full moon, Estes Park, Colorado

Garden of the Gods, near Colorado Springs

Kiva, Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Medicinal wildflower, Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Pike's Peak, the morning we drove to the top

My personal NatGeo moment! It took me half an hour and several tries to catch this mama bird feeding her chick as it stuck its head out of a hole in the chimney of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument visitor center.

Loading 7 people in the phone-booth-sized elevator for the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine tour in Cripple Creek. Note the sign!

Wildflower outside the Garden of the Gods visitor center.

View through the windows of the magnificent Air Force Academy chapel.