The blog that wasn’t

This seems to be a theme for me this week, anticipating the momentous and not so momentous and having neither turn out the way I planned.

ImageThis past Sunday, my husband, son and I were to have our first in-store demonstration of our Highland Haggis in a large grocery chain here in southeastern Wisconsin. To be in a retail chain is potentially huge for us and we have been thrilled by the opportunity to reach a wider market for our products. To make a convoluted and potentially long story short, it didn’t happen.

I’m still not quite sure where the miscommunication happened, but happen it did. After we’d invited groups of people to join us: local writer groups, Scottish groups, and people from our martial arts community. So, what did we do when we showed up with pounds of pre-paid and prepared food and were turned away?

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We went to the pub. Not to drown our sorrows, but to celebrate our friends and the fact that they came, some at considerable distance, to support us.

Before that, we donated four pounds of cooked product to a local restaurant, Puddle Jumpers, that caters heavily to Irish and Scottish workers in the surrounding area. This worked out better than you might think because we had already pitched product to them and they have been receptive. Good will on our part and they get to try before they buy. Then we went to an Irish pub, gave them some of our product (hoping to acquire a spot on their menu as well) and spent the afternoon with all those people who showed up to support us. We had a great time with great friends while trying to make as many new opportunities for our business to succeed as possible under the circumstances.

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I couldn’t think of anything to write for today’s blog…something that doesn’t generally plague me for long. Then I picked up my worn copy of Anam Cara by John O’Donohue and picked a page. When I’m stuck on a scene or a chapter or even a theme for a new story, I often do this for inspiration. Here’s what I found: “…A day is precious because each day is essentially the microcosm of your whole life. Each new day offers possibilities and promises that were never seen before…”

As January’s hope for a new, productive, energized year full of well thought out plans bleeds into February’s frustration with what hasn’t been accomplished, I’m trying to focus on what did get done and what has gone unexpectedly right.

The promises and the possibilities that have come to me so far this year have been plenty and unexpected. My writing community has been a source of encouragement, support and a kick in the pants when needed. Our Scottish community has been expansively gracious and more loyal and loving than any I have ever known. Our martial arts community continues to be there for us no matter how crazy they think our adventures are. There have been a few people in our lives who have not been there when we needed them, but thankfully unexpected others have been there to fill the void.

Fellow author, Jill James, posted on FaceBook today about the joys of FB friendships. I think that simple post got it right. When people come into our lives and offer support, friendship and love, best not to think about what’s missing or what isn’t, but be grateful for what is and the people who are there.

Here’s hoping the rest of the week goes as planned…

LOOKING TOWARD THE LIGHT ~ Yule, Christmas & Hogmanay Celebrations~aka:WE SCOTS HAVE FUN

This Friday is the Winter Solstice, the close of the dark half of the year and the rekindling of the light half, which begins on Saturday. I love this time of year, not only because Yule & Christmas celebrations are in full swing, most of which are joyous, but because the resurgence of the light fills me with renewed energy and more than a little hope that the New Year will bring more blessings.

I am a light person. I wouldn’t fare well in Alaska where there is no respite from the light during the sun season, but I’m not one for complete balance either. I like more light than dark. Yule, Christmas and Scottish Hogmanay are all celebrations of light and hope, love and joy.
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In Celtic traditions, evergreen boughs are traditionally brought in to decorate the home and remind us of the greenness past and to come. Fires are lit to capture the essence of the sun and to celebrate it. Holly is traditionally venerated because it stays green year round and its berries, red and white, are seen as representative of the Deity. I love the symbology, the richness of the season and most of all sharing it with those I love.
Hogmanay
I come from Scottish and Norse traditions and love everything about them. HOGMANAY is a uniquely Scottish celebration. There are some loose translations for the term, including: “Great love day”, “New Morning”, “Man is Born-or-ReBorn”. Yule is a Norse festival and the New Year is called, “Yules”.  As many of you know northern Scotland, especially the Isles, has a strong Norse influence, making their festivals a dramatic joy to behold. I embrace it all!
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Here’s a photo of the Norse Up-Hella-A held in Scotland (Shetland) as part of the Yule Fire Festival. The farther north (Shetland and Orkney are far north) the more noticeable and powerful the coming light is and the fire festivals hold huge significance. In southern Scotland fireballs are thrown into the air for Hogmanay. Hospitality is always huge, but especially on New Year’s Eve when a “tall, dark, handsome stranger” at your door carrying a piece of coal (prosperity-comfort) and cake (fulfillment) is a good omen. Blonds…not so good (left over from Viking raids). This is the tradition of “first footing” and although no one much cares about hair color anymore, gifts of warmth, food and probably whisky are given to all those entering the home.

Cleaning is still a Hogmanay tradition. The idea is to say goodbye to the old year and its sorrows by sweeping away the old and those things no longer needed and welcoming in the new with a clean heart and the open arms of hospitality.

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More recently (1788) the singing of Scottish poet, Robert Burns’, Auld Lang Syne is sung to an even older (1700 or so) Scottish tune. In the last 20 years the Loony Dook has been practiced on New Years Day morning when people get dressed up in their finery, go down to the River Forth, strip and take a dip. I won’t be doing that, no matter how much Scotland’s bonny river banks may be calling.

We will celebrate the Solstice, Christmas and Hogmanay with those we love this year. We will each light a home-made candle and help lay the fire. We will sing and dance and welcome the New Year with joy in our hearts and hope for even better days. We will eat Krumkake (Norwegian cookies) and Macski’s Haggis (National dish of Scotland) and  smoked salmon. And I think more than one glass will be raised to you and all those we hold dear.
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Merry Christmas, Happy Yule and a “Guid New Year” at Hogmany to you All!

Krumkake Recipe (handed down by my grandfather):

3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup flour. Beat eggs until light and gradually add remaining ingredients. Drop 1 Tbs into the center of a heated krumkake iron. Savor the goodness.

Scottish Haggis, Neeps & Tatties:

Simple and delicious, prepare one Macski’s hagggis per instructions and serve with buttered mashed potatoes, boiled & mashed rutabagas or parsnips, and a wee dram of your favorite Scotch whisky.

A traditional Yule Ball plays a part in A Potters Woods Christmas, a Christmas short story that is part of Authors of Main Street Christmas bundle.

RT~Girl Power, Hunks, Haggis & the Highlands

RT 2013 was an exceptional experience for my husband and me. Vince and I did an interactive workshop on how to write realistic fight scenes for your female characters. I hope we get a chance to do it again next year and get more people from the audience to try some of the techniques. It’s always easier to describe something when you’ve done, felt, seen or in some other way experienced it. No one wants to experience an attack, so this offers a safe and entertaining environment to see how it may play out for your heroines. DSCN3171DSCN3173DSCN3181

I loved it. Vince loved it. I think the audience loved it.   DSCN3195

Vince also had the opportunity to present on Cathy Maxwell’s panel: Hunks, Haggis & the Highlands, with Susanne Saville, Kimberly Killion, and Jody Allen (Scottish History Scholar). Last year we took our Scottish food business, MACSKIS HIGHLAND FOODS, national. Our flagship food is HAGGIS. Vince and Jody attended Cathy Maxwell’s session on the Highlands at RT 2012 and piped in when some of what was presented about haggis wasn’t accurate. Far from taking offense, Cathy asked them both to join her in 2013. The presentation rocked, not only because all the presenters were wonderful, but because Cathy Maxwell is so darned funny! And, Yes, there was Haggis to Taste! AWESOME….

DSCN3252 DSCN3296   I got the chance to meet and get to know Cathy Maxwell, which pretty much made the conference for me; that and tossing my husband around 🙂  I also got some quality time with Mia Marlow, Bobbie Smith and Heather Graham. One of the highlights for me was meeting fellow Authors of Main Street author, Jill James, in person. How wonderful of her to come to our workshop!

The last year or so has been one of jumping in the deep end for my husband and for me. I’m writing full time, attending as many Highland events across the country as I can while we develop more food and gear for MACSKIS and market it to high-end restaurants, grocery stores and venders at Scottish events. I’m also working with historical researcher, Jody Allen to organize a national conference for writers of Scottish and other Celtic historical romance.

Sometimes jumping in is the way to make things happen. Yes it’s scary…believe me, we live that. It’s helpful when you jump in together. I am thankful for my best friend, the man who lets me take him to the ground in front of a group of mostly women shouting, “Kill him again.” And he does it with a smile and sense of humor that never fails to crack me up. He didn’t balk when I said I needed to see how the lambs where treated before we took our haggis nationwide. He flew me to Colorado to tour the meat processing facility. Not only did this vegetarian go, I saw the animals. (No antibiotics, No growth hormones, These animals weren’t scared or jammed into tiny spaces, they were treated ethically.) He also helped develop a vegetarian version and a gluten free version of haggis. Many die-hard haggis makers wouldn’t even consider that.

The best thing about going to RT or any of the conferences within the writing community is the people you meet. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some fantastic people. The thing that makes this wonderful ride so filled with joy is that I’m on it with Vince. Thanks to best-friends everywhere. You make our worlds, which as writers can be filled with solitude, complete.

DSCN3138   Thanks to everyone who came to our presentations! We had so much fun participating! If anyone would like to get a group together for next RT, I’m all over that :). It would be wonderful getting to know you.

Here’s to jumping in with both feet no matter what you decide to jump into,

Leigh

 

Wednesday’s Blog that Wasn’t: Living your Bliss: Haggis at RT in 2013!

“My mama told me there’d be days like this…” What she didn’t say was that following your bliss was going to be filled with chaotic days and restless nights fraught with emotion, not all of it good.

So what does that have to do with forgetting Wednesday’s blog?

Everything. (In the chaos of the week, I sincerely thought my Wednesday to blog was this coming week.) Let me explain.

My last name is MacDonald. I am very Scottish; by heritage and more importantly, by inclination. I’ve been immersed in Scottish culture, lore and traditions since birth with the passionate ferocity reserved for American transplants generations removed from the Highlands. I am a generational Highlander, if you will :). Trust me, the most Scottish Scots reside right here in the good ole’ USA.

Image Just ask a native Scot. (I’ve heard this so many times on my trips to Scotland. They think we’re bloody-hilarious with our avid kilt-wearing and caber-tossing).

Right here, in Milwaukee, we have the world’s largest Celtic Festival. We celebrate Highland Games, Highland Flings, have a diverse and energetic St. Andrew’s Society, and this month all across the globe, people of Scottish descent or inclination will be celebrating the life of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

Robert Burns is most famous for his song: Auld Lang Syne, which we sing on New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year. But it’s his ‘Address to a Haggis’ that ties to my BLISS.

My husband and I are HAGGIS makers – Macski’s Highland Foods.

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Our HAGGIS will be featured at RT this year ~ more to come in another blog about that.

So, did Haggis make me misjudge my blog date???  YES!

On Thursday the 10th, my husband and I were interviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel food editor, Nancy Stohs; who is a wonderful, funny and engaging person. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday we met with new potential vendors. Tuesday the online article came out and Wednesday the paper version hit the stands.

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Hence the blown blog…sigh followed by happy dance…HAGGIS ROCKS!

Following my passions, my bliss, at this stage, is a life choice. It’s like nose-diving from the cliff of relative comfort; exhilarating, frightening, and while you’re taking that leap, you don’t know how you’re going to land.

As for me, I’m adjusting for wind shear, turning so I land on my feet poised to take off writing romance ~ mostly with a tie to Scotland ~ and bringing Scottish culture to life, with a distinctly American flair. I plan on spending as many days a year as I can in a kilt right along side my kilted family. Here’s to the romance of tilting cabers in the wind and following your Bliss. Live Well and Eat HAGGIS.

So what are your passions? How do you incorporate your Bliss into your daily life, especially when your bliss isn’t being so blissful? I’d love to hear from you!