Sunday, September 30, 2012

Favorites And Funnies

Hey all,

A quick blog today.  I'm off to get packed for our weekend in the Black Forest of Germany.  So much last minute stuff has come up, I just couldn't get to the blog in time.  So I'm putting up a few of my favorite funnies to fill in.


Until Wednesday!


CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beer is Proof that God Wants Us Happy.

Hey all,

That paraphrased quote by Benjamin Franklin pretty much says it all.  Beer is what's important in life.  Especially when it comes to Octoberfest!  And that's what today's blog is all about.

First off, let me say everything you've heard about Octoberfest is pretty much dead on truth.  It is a crazy time. 

We arrived in Munich on Sunday afternoon, and after we checked into our hotel, we headed straight for the festival. It was the second evening of the celebration, so it was pretty busy, and the difference between Sunday night and when we went back on Monday morning was amazing. 

 We fast realized it's 5 o'clock somewhere, EVERYWHERE at Octoberfest. The tents open around 10:30am, and people start drinking (if they haven't already) immediately. So by the time we got there about 4:00pm, there were people already flat on their faces. 

It's a trip to experience. You walk up to the "entrance" and all you see is a sea of people. Weekend nights are very crowded, and we didn't expect to get into a tent (we had no reservation). So we decided to wander and absorb. You can't walk around with a beer--you have to sit at a beer garden--so we thought we'd walk and gawk, and then find a place to sit down. 

The tents are beyond amazing. You've got to understand, they build them from scratch each and every year, and they are bloody HUGE. They decorate them differently.  Each of the breweries has it's own tent, and the outside decorations are outstanding. Every place you looked there was another creative building front.   There are dozens of smaller tents with beer, food, drinks, souvenirs and other Octoberfest stuff mixed in between.  It's like a fair on steroids.  Everywhere you look there is something new and eye catching.

We got about 1/2 way through, and to our surprise, found a tent (HB) with the doors still open. So in we went, thanking our lucky stars. And I knew the night was going to go well when the first person I met, a six-four muscular college guy, raced up to me, took my hand, and sang, "Will you be my girl?


In the back of my mind, the practical part of me thought, "Hell, I'm old enough to be your mom!" But I'm not stupid. Here's a cute, built guy standing in front of me. So, duh...I went with it. 

I glanced back at Jonathon, shrugged and said, "Sure." Gave the dude a big, sloppy kiss on the cheek, and he slavered my hand with kisses. Then he shook Jon's hand, very seriously, and thanked him for lending me out.  I was in stitches, laughing so hard, I had to lean on the wall. The guy kissed me again, then wandered off, probably to find another girl.  Typical. 

Men can be so fickle.  LOL

We squeezed in and found a place to stand.  Ordered a couple of beers and settled in to have some fun.  And fun we had.

It's an amazing time.  People just let all their inhibitions go.  No matter who you old or young you are, if you even are a party animal or a stay-at-home type of person, this is a spectacle you can't miss.

I can't count the amount of times we raised our glasses to the traditional, Ein Prost toast...

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit.

Which roughly translates to...

A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times.

People jumped up on the benches (not the tables, that's a no-no) to sing and clink their glasses together.  It's important to meet the gaze of the person you're toasting.  German custom states if you don't, you're condemned to seven years of unsatisfying sex!  You know I stared good and long at everyone!  Just in case.  LOL

Anyway, we stayed in the tent singing, drinking and nibbling on pretzels for several hours.  We made new friends--somehow we found a table with a bunch of other expats--and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  We learned new songs, Jon leered at the scantily clad ladies in their Bavarian dresses, and I gawked at the hunky guys in their tight leather lederhosen.  Yum!

Once we had our fill of noise, bright lights, music and drink, we said goodbye to our table buddies and headed out to wander the rest of Ocoberfest.

It's even more interesting after dark.  More people, more drinking and more people lying on the ground passed out.  The lights are vivid, colorful and EVERYWHERE!!!!

And by the time we headed home, giggling and singing songs, we'd experienced all of the fun a night at Octoberfest could give us.  And it wasn't over.

The next day we went back in the morning when the crowds weren't so bad and we were able to go into most of the breweries.  Take a look at these...  Tents, inside and out.

Anyway, it was an awesome time, and I highly recommend if you have a chance to go to a Munich Octoberfest, do it.  Even if you don't drink, just going to the festival and people watching, is totally worth it.  But of course, drinking is the real reason most people go.  As the famous philosopher Plato said,

"He was a wise man who invented beer."

Until Sunday!


CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold...

Hey all,

I admit it.  I'm a book geek. (As if you didn't know.)  I may write romances and mainly read that genre, but I'm a fan of all kinds of books.  Mystery, Thrillers, Horror, Sci-Fi, and of course, Fantasy.  The classics are books I can read again and again.

One thing I adore is when they take a classic book and turn it into a movie.  A GOOD movie.  Not the grade Z movies that even the actors wish never existed.  I'm talking about those movies that are so good, you consider they may be as good (almost) as the book itself.

Case in point for me were the LOTR movies.  I loved them.  Even though they didn't follow the book exactly, it was still an excellent storyline that made me lose myself in the fantasy.  Awesome.  And each one was that way.  I think J. R. R. Tolkien would be proud.

So, as you can imagine, I am very excited about the new Tolkien movie coming out.  The Hobbit was the first book I ever read from this author, and to this day I have a mental picture of the dragon, Smaug huddling over his illgotten treasure.

It's a great book, and I've seen several versions of the story, so I'm very curious as to how Peter Jackson has envisioned The Hobbit.  I know he's picked some great actors, so I think it's going to be a thrilling movie over all.

Check out this trailer...

As you can see, AWESOME...  I adore Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and of course you can't lose with Benedict Cumberbatch (Necromancer), Hugo Weaving (Elrond) and Cate Blanchett (Galadriel).  My heart still goes pitty-pat when I think of Orlando Bloom as Legolis, and after watching two seasons of Sherlock, I'm half in love with Martin Freeman (Bilbo).  A great cast, beyond wonderful storyline, and if the CG in the trailer is accurate, the graphics are going to be so realistic we'll be able to feel the heat of Smaug's breath.

But what about you?  Are you looking forward to this movie?  What is your favorite Tolkien book?  Are you pleased or irritated they are breaking The Hobbit into two movies instead of one?  Let us know in the comments below!

Until Thursday,


CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Legitimate Problem...or Crying Wolf?

Hello all,

Hope you've had an excellent fall so far.  For me, it's been different.  Living in other countries and dealing with the weather is always an adventure.  We had very little summer, but I'm holding out for a nice long autumn.  LOL

Anyway, today's blog is about perception.  How we look at things.  How things are intended.  We all know that perception is huge, not only business, but in our daily life as well.  But what happens when daily life is taken to the next level and put on display.  Or is it???

This is the latest brouhaha in media.  The cover on Vogue magazine.  According to many domestic abuse advocacy groups...

this image of model Stephanie Seymour, appearing to be choked by a lover, glorifies violence as an act of love.

Now, as you all know, I have written a book to address the despicable problem of domestic violence.  Second Chances III: Life's a Dance touches on this horrible and cowardly act.  And, I've had personal experiencing it's aftermath.  So I feel I can safely say I have a right to weigh in on this cover.

And in my opinion, saying this cover promotes domestic violence only hurts the cause as a whole. 

This cover isn't's sexual.  

Just because the man has his hand around her throat doesn't make it abusive.  That's like saying having a man's hand on your ass is abusive.  Because it might lead to spanking.  *rolls eyes*

Can it be abusive?  Of course it can and often is.  But saying this picture shows domestic abuse is ridiculous.  When I look at the picture I see an amorous embrace--one probably leading to sex. 

While it isn't something that turns me on, even erotic asphyxiation can be used to heighten arousal.  And while I don't think this is what is happening here, EA isn't domestic abuse.  It's a sexual act between two consenting adults.  Just like spanking can be.

So why are the watchdogs howling in protest?

Perhaps it's a way to bring their concerns about domestic abuse to the media.  To make it more mainstream, but I really don't think pointing out a photo on the cover of a fashion magazine is the way to do it.  If you really want to highlight domestic violence, tell people the truth.

When I did my research on Life's a Dance, I discovered so many horrors about domestic abuse, I cried for hours.  I've been involved in dealing with this problem since college, but having the statistics staring me in the face, just broke my heart.

The forward in my book says this...

According to statistics, an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical or emotional abuse by an intimate partner each year.  85% of domestic violence victims are women and historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they know.  Females who are twenty to twenty-four years of age are at the greatest risk, but unfortunately most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.  
Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.  In addition, one in four women (25%) has encountered domestic abuse in her lifetime.

Those statistics are heartbreaking.  Find a way to show those to the public, instead of pointing out an artsy-fartsy cover on a magazine and crying wolf.  Because we all know what happens when you cry wolf.

People stop listening to you all together. 

What do you feel about the cover?  How do you think we can fight domestic violence.  Let me know in the comments below.


CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Drama of Wine and Cheese

~~~Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches, or June and moon, or good people and noble ventures.

I've never been much for wine.  In fact, if I have a choice, I'll choose beer every time.  At least I would have five years ago.  But with all the traveling I've been doing, that's changed.  While I still enjoy a good beer, I've found that wine is just as delicious.

As for cheese, I've enjoyed it in the past, but in my mind, it's JUST CHEESE.  Yet like wine...I've learned how wrong I was.  Cheese is something very special.
Jonathon and I just did a marvelous wine and cheese tour nearby where we live in  Switzerland.  We toured both the Emmental and Gruyeres cheese factories, walked the UNESCO vineyards in Lavaux along the banks of Lake Geneva and tried some really delicious wines.

One of the best things we did--something we'd been looking forward to--was having some traditionally made Swiss fondue.  And OMG...was it good.

For those of you who don't know, Swiss fondue is usually made with a mixture of cheeses.  The best one we tried was one made from Emmental and Gruyeres cheeses.  Add some delicious wine and a little bit of Kirsch--a type of cherry brandy, and you have a fondue fit for a king.

A hell of a lot better than the Velveeta and milk fondue of my childhood.  LOL 

Now, unlike the fondues in the US, here in Switzerland they don't use meat to dip with.  Instead, a variety of other things are used.  The basic bread which comes with the fondue as well as a small dish of boiled potatoes.

But the two other items available to dip were something quite unique.  Small cocktail onions and gerkins.  Not something you'd expect at all.  Yet they were completely delicious and added to the meal in a surprising way.  I don't think I'll ever be able to have fondue again with out them.

The meal was one of the best we've had since we've been here.  We ate until we were stuffed--three bowls full (it's unlimited fondue), and enjoyed a bottle of a local wine.  We sat in the sun and talked and laughed and ate--egged on I might add by a server who LOVED the fact we ate so much.  LOL  I batted my eyes at him and he gave me the recipe.  It might be a little different...after all, he couldn't give up ALL the secrets, but I'm assured it's his grandmama's receipe, so you know it's going to be good!

And because I like sharing, I thought I'd give it to all my readers so you can enjoy the delicious cheese fondue as well.

CJ's Waiter's Traditional Swiss Fondue

  • 1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kirsch (or cherry brandy can be used)
  • 1/2 pound Emmental, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Gruyère, coarsely grated (2 cups)

Rub inside of a 4-quart heavy pot with cut sides of garlic, then discard garlic. Add wine to pot and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat. 

Stir together cornstarch and kirsch in a cup. 

Gradually add cheese to pot and cook, stirring constantly in a zigzag pattern (not a circular motion) to prevent cheese from balling up, until cheese is just melted and creamy (do not let boil). 

Stir cornstarch mixture again and stir into fondue. Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to fondue pot set over a flame. 

What to dip:
•Cubes of French bread
•Tiny boiled potatoes
•Cocktail Onions (white)
•Tiny gerkins

Let me know what you think of the recipe in the comments below.  I'll be back on Thursday with another fun blog for everyone!

Hugs to all,

PS...sorry if this post looks weird.  Blogger was having a bad day.  *sigh*

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kissing Around the World

Hey all,

I'm back from my weekend with some news about this blog.  Due to the way Jonathon's days off are going, I think I'm going to change the days I blog.  At least for a while.  Instead of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I'm going to start blogging on Sunday and Thursday.  That way I'll usually be here when it publishes and I can interact a little quicker.

So, starting this next Sunday, and going forward from the 16th on, I'll do only twice a week.  That may change once we're out of Switzerland, but then my daughter comes to visit and who knows what will happen then.  LOL

Anyway,  I thought today I'd share some of the places I've been.  For as long as we've been married, we do kissin' pictures in special areas I want to remember.  Some are silly...others are beautiful, but I've never regretted a single kiss.

My latest kissin' pic.  In the UNESCO vineyards on the banks of Lake Geneva, Switzerland.  These are the most amazing acres of farmland I've ever experienced.

Next is one we took at Guall Park in Barcelona, Spain.  One of my favorite places made even better by my sweet baboo's lips!  LOL
And here is one we took a long time ago when we were living in Australia.  You can see it's a scanned pic.  The original was taken looooong before digital.  We are standing on the beach in Queensland just before we headed off to go on a night dive.

One of the most interesting places on the planet, and one I'd love to see again.  Ankgor Wat in Cambodia is huge, impressive and very romantic for those who dream dreams.

You can see where this is...The Great Wall of China.  We loved it here and sharing a kiss at the top of the mountain made it even better!

I was laughing while this pic was taken.  Back in the early days of our marriage when we visited the swamp and were taking this picture, I felt something tickle my foot.  Of course I thought an alligator had come to call.  LOL  But it was Jonathon trying to scare me.  So I was snickering at myself as the picture was snapped.

Another amazing place in China.  Xian, where the terracotta soldiers forever stand at attention.  When you walk inside the biggest building for the first time, you stand in awe.

And this picture was taken in a park in Singapore.  It had a treetop walk which allowed you to look out over the jungle.  We saw monkeys, exotic birds and huge monitor lizards.  Another amazing place to kiss your sweetie!!!

And I'll leave you with one of my all time favorite pics.  Remember I told you Jonathon proposed to me in Northern Island?  Well, we renewed our vows at Gretna Green in Scotland.  I'm so lucky.  I'm married to a very romantic man.

Which picture was your favorite?  Do you have a special "thing" to do to remember someplace special?  Let me know in the comments below!

I'll be back on Sunday with another fun blog for everyone!

Hugs to all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Monday, September 10, 2012

To Prank or Not To Prank

Hey all,

I often go to the HuffPost Weird News when I want a laugh, and I never fail to find one.  I was surfing today, looking for something to chat about when I came across this bit of fun.  
They did a post of the 10 Funniest Public Pranks and I had to admire the ingenuity of some of the pranksters.  Take a look and let me know which you think is the BEST of the lot...

An office is a great place to pull a prank, but you have to be careful not to go too far and get yourself fired.  This classic post-it note wall paper has been done since the things were invented.  Not all that creative, but you have to admit, the sticktuitiveness of the perpetrator is amazing.

Pranksters in Spokane, Washington, built not one, not two, but three of these pyramids out of picnic tables in different public parks. It took a bucket truck and about $500 to dismantle each structure.
You have to admit whoever did this picnic table prank was quite creative.  Just how the HELL did they do it?

Summer, 2012: A Hamburg street artist adds a Photoshop toolbar to the H&M outdoor swimwear ads. Point taken!
Since I'm living in Europe right now, I shop at H&M and have seen this ad.  When I saw this I laughed like a loon.  Perfect!!!

Is this s bit of fun or a political statement?
Some of the best pranks are those with a bit of truth.  And as you all know, this is 100% true right now.

Arthur O'Neil has been collecting these kitschy, pink lawn flamingos for four years and often likes to dress them in seasonal attire.  But he's been seeing red since May when the first rash of robberies happened. Since then, it's happened three other times.
Late last month, there was a break in the case: One of the fake flamingos was returned with a ransom note scribbled on it with a black Sharpie: "If you want to see the rest of the flamingos, call this number," and listed a Massachusetts phone number with a Worcester area code.
A prank or theft?  I'm not sure, but I have to admit when I read this article it tickled me.  I feel sorry for the guy who is having his property stolen, but the idea of having flamingos kidnapped just cracks me up.

The Bushman says this...  I'm hiding in a bush costume. I love to scare people. I thought this dog was going to bite me!!
And this one cracked me up.   The best prank I've seen in a long time, but he's lucky it didn't end differently.

Hope you enjoyed them.  I  thought a few chuckles were a good way to start the week.   Which one did you think the best?  Have you ever pulled a prank?  Let me know in the comments below!

Hugs to all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Lighter Side of Language

Hey all,

As I travel, I often find myself giggling like a crazy woman.  Sometimes, it's because I heard a funny joke, sometimes it's because I see someone wearing something I consider "odd".  And a lot of times I laugh because I've seen some sign or heard someone say something that just cracked me up.

One of the biggest reasons I laugh is when I read something in a different language that reminds me of something else in my own.  The two usually mean something completely different, and that's what makes it even funnier!

Let me give you a few examples I've seen over here.  Maybe they'll tickle your funnybone too!

This sign is one you see everywhere here in Switzerland.  And I have to admit each time I see it, I giggle like a thirteen year old.  I know it may be silly, but you say it a few times yourself--especially while snorting into your hand.  I'll bet you giggle too.

I found this online, but I have a picture of this same sign that I found in Singapore.   It made me want to make sure I had all my signage translated into dog.  Dog is a language too, you know.

And how about this funny one I found in Zurich?  Perhaps the guys NAME is Schmuck, but still...not so sure I want to buy anything from him!  LOL

And this one just made Jonathon and I crack up when we saw it.  I'm sure it's completely innocent, but try reading it out loud.  You'll see what I mean.  *grin*

And this one I found in a mall in Singapore.  I sure don't think they meant it this way.  LOL

And finally, one of my I found in one of the Hong Kong metro stations.  Had to stop and snap a picture.  Then I pondered and puzzled as to how I could go back to my behind and IF I'd even want to.  LOL

I hope you enjoyed the funny language pictures.  I find them in every town I was in.  Translating is a hoot!  And finding a word that looks similar to a naughty, funny or indelicate one in English always makes my day.

Be back on Monday with more.

Hugs to all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Climb Every Mountain...Till You Find Your Dream

Hey all,

I'm exhausted.  Jonathon and I just got back from a long weekend.  We rented a car and traveled to the Berner Oberland area of Switzerland.  It's only about two hours away from Zurich, and one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  We wandered and hiked, we drove all over the area, and saw some absolutely gorgeous scenery. 

I'd been to Switzerland before when I was about eighteen and remembered it as being filled with lovely mountains and verdant valleys.  But we just drove through, barely stopping at all.  (I was on a singing tour and on our way to the next gig) This time we did stop, whenever we got distracted, and I promise you, THAT happened a lot.  LOL

We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  From the mellow sounds of cowbells in the night air, to the crashing roar of a waterfall as we stood behind it.  We tasted local beer, wine and cheeses in some of the most scenic places you can imagine.  We hiked for miles--sometimes uphill to find all those sweet spots most people don't get to see.

We trekked to the base of the Shilthorn mountain in the Jungfrau area, following a goat trail and drove over the Sustenpass (about 7,300 ft), literally touching the clouds where we had a very cold, very wet, snowball fight.  We followed the Woodcarvers trail in the tiny hamlet of Axalp, where there are dozens of wooden sculptures made from tree snags all along the way.  That was like a treasure hunt and added to the enjoyment of the hike.

And the last day we went to the Ballenberg Open Air Museum where they've brought together actual houses, barns and outbuildings from all over Switzerland.  The different styles of buildings, traditional Swiss crafts and different animals make this place great!  You can learn so much and all in one place.

But I think my overall favorites--if I have to choose--were the times we spent at two places very close together.  Reichenbach Falls (of Sherlock Homes fame) and the nearby awe inspiring Aare Gorge.

I had to go to Reichenback Falls.  It was so close to where we stayed and since I adore Sherlock Holmes as a character, seeing the area where he "died" was special for me.  We took the funicular up to the viewing platform, trekked higher, where we had a drink at the top of the mountain with a beautiful view of the valley, then trekked to the actual ledge where he and Moriarty battled to the "death".  Then we trekked back down through an old forest on a lovely peaceful trail.

The other area I enjoyed just as much was one of those places I found by accident.  Nearby Reichenbach Falls is something most tourists don't know about--a place that is now one of my favorite places in the world--AND the inspiration for my story about Switzerland.

The Aare Gorge is beyond description.  We went the first night we arrived--Sunday--because they keep it open late and illuminate part of it.  Pathways traverse through the gorge following a swiftly moving river, cutting through solid rock as well as having boardwalks poking out over the river itself.  It was amazing and so much more than the pictures you can see online.  I can't begin to describe the magical feeling it gave me.  And as I wandered, I dreamed up the next story for my Wandering Star series.  

Tentatively called, The Dragon and the Damsel, it gives a nod to the legend of the Tatzelwurm, or land dragon that is said to live in the gorge.  You can even hear him in one area--where the water rushes through a channel less than a meter wide--he growls at the idea of being forced into such a narrow area.

I love getting inspirations like that.  The story jumped into my mind as soon as I heard the growl, and since I'd wanted to write a fantasy here in Switzerland, this was perfect!!!  And knowing I would have missed this gorgeous place altogether if I hadn't taken the extra time to click on a link, tells me serendipity is alive and well in my adventurous life!

We pushed ourselves from sunrise to sunset and had to come home to get some rest!  LOL  But it was worth it.  We've now gotten our first taste of what Switzerland has to offer and we're hungry for more.  In fact, next weekend we're taking that hunger and going on a cheese and wine region tour down near Lake Geneva.

We can't wait to go get exhausted again!!!

Until Friday,


CJ England
Follow Your Dreams