A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I had been on a Henry VIII reading binge for months and it was spreading forward into Elizabeth I and other Tudor history.  At the same time I was becoming really interested in plants and gardening – because of climate similarities, most of my research led me to English gardens and gardeners.

Alone on my patio one sunny summer morning in 1984, I thought about my brother in Germany (for a year), my mother traveling in Europe (three weeks), and my daughter touring Europe with a girlchoir.  I had never been further away than Indianapolis!  Not fair, I thought, this has got to change.

Pondering the logistics of a single woman and 14 yr old daughter traveling in a foreign country led me to the inescapable conclusion that England – with no language barrier, no summer heat & a reasonable rate of exchange – was the perfect destination.

In the heart of Salisbury, Wiltshire

And it turned out that it was.

That first trip to England was perhaps the most wonderful three weeks of my life.  Absolutely nothing went wrong or dissappointed.  We even had some exceptionally good food!?!  I felt a deep and warm connection with everything I saw and I fell hopelessly in love with all things English.  This vacation also took what had been a good mother-daughter relationship to a whole new level of communication and enjoyment.  We added a deeper level of friendship that has lasted us through as many trips to England as we could afford over the years.

Some very good English food at Lewis's Tea Room in Tintagel, Cornwall

This love affair has now carried over into most facets of my life and if you read this blog long enough, you will find out more about England than you ever thought you would.

Sheep and standing stones in Amesbury, Wiltshire

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Self Diagnosed

I have CDO.

It's like OCD, but all the letters are in order like they should be.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Having been recommended to me by nearly everybody since it first came out in 2008, I was recently given a copy of this lovely book by a lovely in-law so I sat right down and started reading it.  The fact that I spent nearly all of one day and evening reading straight through tells you how much I enjoyed it.

Having several Guernsey postcards in my collection certainly enhanced the experience.  Being able to picture the setting adds so much to a good read and in this case, as the book consists of letters between the main characters, it was doubly welcome.  The day after reading the book I dug out my Guernsey collection and herewith share a couple of them with you.

The same day I went looking for the eponymous recipe.  As is typical with internet adventures I came up with a multitude of possibilities, which included ‘best guess’ recipes and outright denials that such a thing even existed.  I will trust the publisher’s website for the book (however foolish that may be) and provide you with their recipe, including their comments:

Here’s a recipe for a potato peel pie, but I warn you, it tastes like paste. The more authentic it is, the nastier. These ingredients will make a very small pie (expand at will):

1 potato
1 beet
1 Tablespoon milk

Peel the potato and put the peelings in a pie pan. Don’t cook the peels, because you’re in the middle of an Occupation and you don’t have any fuel. Boil the potato and the beet together in salty water, but not for very long, due to the fuel problem, just until you can stick a fork in the potato. Take them out and mash them up with the milk. Pour the glop in the pie pan. Bake at 375 for as short a time as is consonant with digestion (fuel again), say, fifteen minutes.

The finished product will look quite attractive and pink. If you squint, you can almost imagine raspberries. Don’t be fooled. It looks a lot better than it is. However, if you forgot that you were in the middle of WWII and added a bunch of butter and milk and salt, it could be quite tasty.

You will notice it says “could be quite tasty”,  not was quite tasty.  If they weren’t willing to try an enhanced version, I think I will pass also.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Few Postcards

Not too long after my first trip to England, while still totally infatuated, I went to a large antique show.  Walking down one aisle I noticed boxes full of postcards and a tab labeled “Yorkshire” caught my eye.  I took the cards out of the section and discovered one of Staithes, a small coastal village which had been one of our more enjoyable overnight stops.  (Someday I’ll tell you the story about the Staithes horse breaking wind…maybe)  I looked up at the dealer and said “I spent a night there.”  She replied that she had spent several years just a few miles from there and we were off on what has become a fairly typical conversation for me…Where did you go? What was your favorite village, museum, inn, building, shop, garden, etc?

Staithes, Yorkshire

In a moment of inspiration, I thought it would be fun to collect an antique postcard from all the places in England where we had spent a night.  After all, we were only talking about maybe 20 cards and they seemed to be quite reasonably priced.  Thousands of postcards later…..

So let me tell you about deltiologists (postcard collectors).  Most of us come to the hobby as a result of working a family tree, working a stamp collection, or documenting a hometown, hobby, or favorite vacation.  It is hard for us in this time of cell phones and the WORLD WIDE web to imagine that postcards were the means of everyday communication for most of the English speaking world in the early 1900’s.  Some places in England had 6 mail deliveries a day and you could send an invitation to dinner that same night and get a response before it was time to put the potatoes on to boil.  As a result, there are millions of postcards out there to sort through and more surface in grandmother’s attic every day.  I am pleased to have the 1914 postcard that was sent from my great aunt to my grandfather (back on the farm with his three boys) telling him that he was finally the father of a newborn baby girl – my mother.

The advent of modestly priced cameras allowed anyone to take pictures of grandma on the front porch or dad’s prized mule team and have them printed direct onto real photo postcards….more millions of cards.  And then the blossoming wealth of Americans in the fifties and sixties meant world travel - all documented by postcards…millions of them.

Cards can be purchased from 10 cents for a typical chrome view from the fifties to thousands of dollars for beautifully printed, pristine cards by well known artists of the day or real photo cards from defunct far east nations.  There is truly something for every interest, bank account, or perversion.  Yeah, there are plenty of ‘those’ postcards too.  If you collect postcards, it is not long before you have thousands.  I make no apologies.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Can’t Help Myself, I’m Nostalgic

My rubber ducky circa 1950 and a bottle from my 1986 England trip

This morning, I was reading a cartoon (Cow and Boy) that started with Boy saying “I tend to live in the past. I can’t help myself, I’m nostalgic.”

I have, over the years, used a lot of different words to describe the non-physical me:  procrastinator, creative, verbal, collector, common-sense, organized, and a great many more that are less flattering.  Now I think I must add nostalgic to that list.

Much like I discovered at the age of 50 that I had been “a bit” dyslexic when I was a child (Mom didn’t seem to think I had any need to know, and in retrospect, she may have been right – no opportunity for excuses or self-pity), I suddenly realize that being nostalgic explains a whole lot about my character…and my whole life for that matter.

I have bored countless friends and fellow employees over the years with stories about my ex, my mother, my college years, and my travels.  I cannot part with anything that belonged to any of my ancestors, and that includes that hideous cup one of my great-uncles gave to my grandmother.  I reread my favorite books about every ten years.  I have much-perused photo albums and journals from every trip I have ever taken.  I’m nostalgic.

For the scientifically inclined, this appears to be a genetic trait.  My daughter still has every note that she was passed in all her school years.

***In case you are curious:
            Boy: “Heck, I was still wearing diapers when I was five.”
            Cow: “Cuz you were nostalgic?”
            Boy: “Well, maybe that was more cuz I was lazy.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Shop at Fat Lady Stores

I hate it when someone says I have such a pretty face.  What they really mean is "You've got a really pretty face for someone with such a lardy ass".     - Sex & Chocolate

These are some things that really bother me about being fat.  And just for the record, I am not pleasingly plump, circumferentially challenged, or modestly overweight.  I have been all of those things at some point in my life, but right now I am fat.  There are mirrors in my house – I am fat.

* I once had a sister-in-law who would stop in the middle of a sentence rather than use the word “fat” when talking to me, as though she would be insulting me just by using the word in any context.  That really bothered me.

*Fat male comedians who make brutal jokes about fat women – but never fat men - I am pretty sure they have mirrors in their houses too.

* Fat people who are never seen eating at parties.  Who exactly do they think they are fooling?

*Plus-size clothing manufacturers who seem to think that because you have gotten fatter, you must also have gotten taller.  This results in necklines that hang off your shoulders and sleeves 5” longer than your arms when all you need is something that goes around your lardy ass.

If you assume that fat people are either stupid or lazy, or possibly both – go read someone else’s blog.  But be careful out there, keep it to yourself.  You’d be surprised how many people have dear relatives and loved ones who are fat, smart, and hardworking.  They probably won’t say anything to your face, but they’ll never really forgive you either.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tucked into Jane Austen - another bookmark

She walked down these stairs every morning when she lived here with her mother and sister in Chawton, Hampshire.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Losing is Not an Option

I have had it with that phrase.  I am done with it.  What world do you people live in?

Losing is ALWAYS an option.  And it seems to me I always hear it from people under the age of 30.  Once you have worked your ass off for a company and had it close its doors, once you have given a spouse everything you had to give and still wound up divorced, once you have watched someone fight for their life against cancer and succumb…you know losing is ALWAYS an option.  Thinking otherwise is going through life with your eyes closed.

Tell me you are giving it everything you’ve got; tell me you’ve worked, prayed, practiced, studied and are wearing your lucky socks.  Just don’t tell me losing is not an option.

***and besides….everytime a contestant on Dancing with the Stars or Top Chef says it, they are always the next one out.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Bookish Idea

Thomas Hardy's Childhood Home, Lower Bockhampton, Dorset

I have a lot more good ideas than I have time or money.  Unfortunately, I usually find enough of both to start something – but often not enough to finish.  Let’s be honest, I’m just not good at finishing things.  So if it’s a good idea that can be worked in stages, there is a chance for some success.

Most of my trips to England have several slots in the itinerary for the homes of my favorite English authors or locations associated with their lives or books.  This is not difficult as England is just crawling with both of these.  If I like an author, I want to read everything he has written and I want the books on my shelves because I am one of those odd ducks who rereads books on a regular basis.  (This is something I will probably discuss at a later date.) I try to buy used books whenever possible – it saves money, it saves books, and I often get a pleasant little surprise that has been inadvertently tucked in the book by the original owner.  I’ve found such things as a French train ticket, a vintage London bookstore receipt, and a ticket stub from an early Star Trek movie – not to mention bookmarks from exotic locations, like Cleveland. 

So here is a lovely idea I had which I would like to recommend to any avid readers out there.  When you are ordering prints from your vacation – get an extra copy of any that are associated with a book on your shelf, write the date and general information on the back, and tuck it in the book.  I can imagine someone, perhaps a grandchild, opening Hardy’s “Mayor of Casterbridge” and finding a photo of  The King's Arms' Hotel in Dorchester High Street - its "spacious bow-window projected into the street over the main portico," through which Mrs. Henchard saw her husband being entertained as Mayor of Casterbridge.  More likely, they’ll open a Harry Potter book and find the Gloucester Cathedral Cloisters, a filming location for several of the movies.
Here is an example: The Book

The photo of an actual Mousehole Cat taken in Mousehole, Cornwall in 2007:

A photo of my miniature Cornish Kitchen with the Mousehole Cat sunning himself:

(more about this kitchen later)
 I’m actually doing this – and someday, someone’s gonna really love it!

A little library, growing every year, is an honorable part of a man's history.  It is a man's duty to have books.   - Henry Ward Beecher