Finding Funds When Your Money Tree Has Been Cut Down

In the US, you can sometimes overhear parents telling their children that ” Money doesn’t grow on trees ” so imagine my surprise when I noticed a money tree that had been cut down and left along a walking path here in the UK.

Never having seen one before, I decided that I must have just grown up in the wrong part of the world for money trees. Judging by what you can see below, I’ll agree that it might take a while to accumulate enough for a major purchase seeing how most of the money looks like pocket change.

I’m usually just fine these days with what I have in life and grateful for the things I own. I feel fortunate on many levels, but sometimes I must admit to coveting the occasional ” want ” or some item that not really a need.

Recently I woke from a dream with a clear memory of a bicycle. It was red and retro with a perfect little basket and even in my sleep I wanted it.

Yesterday, John and I walked into a store near where we live and there it was, the bike in my dream!  Okay, it was missing the basket, but I have one already that’s been waiting for the right bike.

Given the price, it’s going to take me some time to save up my money because I have other places I need to spend it now. Plus, it’s not really a need and I’m not going to die if I don’t get it, but like a child whining for candy in the checkout line,

I waaaant it!


Hmm … I wonder if I can remember where we saw that money tree.


Vintage Dresses And Wedding Day Dreams

Vintage 1940s Wedding Dress (click to enlarge)

Like many women, I’ve had a box that has moved with me many times over the last 25 years. Even as I write that I can’t believe the contents have been with me for so long. In 1986, I bought a vintage wedding dress from an antique store in Athens, where I was in the middle of my third year at the University of Georgia.

I’m not sure why I longed for a wedding dress from another era, but when the shop owner carefully helped me into the dress she’d brought out from a safe place in the back of her shop, I felt like I had stepped into a black and white movie. She guessed the age of the dress at 1940s, and I liked that it had a history before me.

I wondered if the bride who wore it originally, felt as elegant in the candlelight colored satin as I did and I loved that it had a rich weightiness to it that modern-day dresses did not. The delicate glass beadwork that circled the neckline added to the simplicity of the dress, making it seem like something from Walt Disney’s, Snow White.

While I looked much larger than my petite mother, Judy, I was an American size 9/10 (Probably more 10 than 9) when I wore the dress which was long enough to allow my  5’5″ self to wear heels with it.

Vintage 1940s Wedding Dress (click twice to see glass beadwork)

I spent much of this weekend recovering from a virus of some kind and during moments when I felt well enough, I read up on Etsy and Ebay sites for directions on how to sell items online.

After my daughter reconfirmed that she did not want my professionally cleaned and stored dress, I decided 25 years was long enough to keep it locked away. I’m putting together a sale page to move a few things on to a new home and hopefully, this will be one of the first items to go.

If you know a bride who is looking for a dress that is true vintage and not a reproduction, something that will be a unique look that she won’t find variations of in current Bridal magazines and will make her feel special without taking too much of her wedding budget, please send her my way for details.

Feeling Puny

In the American South, where I spent much of my life, to describe one’s self as ‘feeling puny’ meant you were sick or ill in some way and not your usual self. That’s me today, feeling puny even after sleeping eight hours and having had a nap the day before. I have so much I wanted to do today, but with a throat that feels as if it’s on fire and an overall unwell feeling, I think I’ll just go back to bed … at least for a few hours.

For the record, that’s not my bed in the photo above. It belonged to the master of the house at Lanhydrock. Although it does look inviting, I rather be snug in my cozy bed below. I may be back later today with a book review I’ve been working on, or I may not. I hope your Saturday is more productive than mine appears it’s going to be …and Donna, if you’re reading this, ‘ Thanks for the hostess gift. ‘

Seriously, I do hope she’s feeling better. After leaving us on Thursday, she began to feel ill by the time she made it back to London and according to an email, she felt even sicker on Friday. Being ill away from home makes it much worse and I’m grateful for my warm bed and my sweet husband who’s close enough to check on me now and then.

By the way, the online dictionary I use does not define puny as having anything to do with feeling ill so I’m guessing it’s just a southern thing.

Fast Talking Our Way Around Cornwall

Donna Freedman Arriving In Cornwall 2011


How much can you squeeze into a short 42 hour visit and still catch a few hours of sleep? John and I had a chance to find out when Donna Freedman rolled into our Cornish community on Tuesday afternoon.

I’ve included only a few pictures from our short time together and I have to add that while I took quite a few pictures of Donna, I did agree that I would not post them without approval. I understand that completely as I’m that way too and it’s a promise I make a lot so people won’t be put off by my documentary style of shooting.

Here’s an outline of what we managed to see and do while she was in Cornwall.

DAY 1:

After a quick sandwich and luggage drop at home, we made a mad dash over to Port Isaac to see a Cornish fishing port that also serves as a part-time set for the television show, Doc Martin.

We had a good walk around the village, stopping to pet a few dogs, eat some Cornish ice cream, and tour an art gallery located in former Methodist church.

On the drive there and back, we passed through a few villages complete with churches that looked a lot like the church in photo below. They’re everywhere here even though they are rarely full these days. Churches in England suffer from a lack of members as my friend Alycia points out here and it’s a struggle to keep them up.

During our drive, we met an oncoming car in one of our narrow lanes and John whipped it into reverse backing up so fast that I think his speed surprised Donna in much the same way it did me when I came over the first time. He should have been a race driver as good as he is behind the wheel.

Driving across the moor in the dark, we came upon a group wild ponies hanging out in the road and Donna wondered aloud as I often do whether they might move for the car. I always hope the moorland ponies will be visible when people come to visit and was pleased to see them.

John made a turkey chili for dinner while I handled the salad and dessert. Since it was Shrove Tuesday, we had pancakes with a baked apple/pecan mixture inside and vanilla ice cream and maple syrup on top.

After that we rushed off to a neighboring village so Donna could see bell ringing practice and try her hand at it as well. John went the pub next door for a pint instead of church and we stopped in after for a minute before heading for home.

Once home, Donna and I stayed up talk, talk, talking, sitting side by side on the sofa, holding our laptops and sharing our stories until my eyes began to close. I went off to bed and she stayed up to finish some writing and managed to post to her blog while I was getting some rest.

Day 2:

After breakfast on Day 2, Donna and I walked to the village shop so I could post a letter and pick up some pasties for lunch. While there, she had a chance to see how helpful folks are here as I asked someone in the shop about what I thought were locked church doors. ( There’s a roster of folks who open and close it each day)

After two phone calls, Margaret determined the church was actually unlocked already and that I just needed to go back and put some muscle to the door. Feeling slightly silly for having been too fragile about it, we walked back to the church where I gave the door a push so we could have a look around. Our village has one of the prettiest churches around with parts of it dating back to Norman times although it was transformed in the 15th century.

Around noon, John and I took about an hour or so to join some others from the village attending the funeral of our next door neighbor who died a week ago Sunday.

We went home for a quick pasty lunch and to pick up Donna before heading out to see Boscastle, a fishing village that was ravaged by a flash flood in 2004, but has since recovered. It’s a good place to pick up the coast path and I was focused on getting Donna on the coast path at least once even with the limited amount of time she was with us. You just can’t come to Cornwall and leave without a walk on the coast path!

We made it back in time for me to make a couple of blackberry cobblers with berries I picked and froze last summer. Saving them for dessert later, we walked down to the pub for dinner and quiz night.

We Won!

We joined friends, Jeff and Robert, teaming up to WIN the pub quiz while Donna very kindly treated us to dinner. I was chuffed that Donna was here and part of the win.

I had a yummy, faceless, veggie burger for dinner while John ordered a meal that stared at me the whole time he was eating it, plus I could see its teeth. Donna had a more traditional meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, veggies, and yorkshire pudding.

After dinner, we celebrated our quiz win with a dish of  blackberry cobbler that was topped with Cornish ice cream. Donna and I stayed up late again talking, changing subjects quickly as we tried to cover more topics than we had time to do properly.

The Final Day:

This morning we were all up early as Donna had an 8:06 train to catch back to London. Donna was very much like her blog persona which I find reassuring in a way. I tend to think people are who they say they are which can be a bit naïve, but I’ve been lucky when it comes to meeting blogging buddies who really are as they appear to be online when we meet face to face.

42 hours with Donna was as fast paced as an episode of The West Wing, mixed with the energy of newspaper office full of journalists, much like those I’ve seen in the movies listed on this Top 10 Newspaper Movies list.

Do have a quick look so you’ll know what I mean. Not surprisingly, some of the very movies I had in mind were on the list. Donna’s career as a journalist was very apparent in our conversations and her sense of humor, and John and I both enjoyed her visit.

We talked a great deal about writing as you might imagine and she was kind enough to share some helpful tips along with answering my questions on editing and publishing.

I began this post after she left this morning, but partway through decided to take a quick nap. Clearly my subconscious was prodding me to finish it because while I was sleeping, I woke from a dream hearing Donna offering an editorial suggestion to the piece I was supposed to be working on instead of lazing around in bed.

I’m sure it came from observing her writing discipline while she was here and it did not go unnoticed that she was able to meet her deadlines while still having fun.

Walking into Port Isaac

Another view on the path to Port Isaac, but looking back in the opposite direction.

The harbor in Port Isaac with the old school on the hill in the distance.

This is St Breward Church where Donna had an opportunity to ring the bells.

While Donna is not in this blurry shot of some bell ringers in action, I do have some video of her learning how to control the rope.

In the shot above, you can see the two tiny figures of John and Donna off the left of the image about half way down in this photograph of Boscastle. (click twice to enlarge)

I’ve never noticed Rosemary with blooms and snapped this as John walked into my shot.

I love this photo of John near the harbor entrance at Boscastle.

Winchurch Family - Boscastle 1930

After John saw today’s blog post, he gave me this photo that his dad took 80 years ago when he was 16 on a family outing at Boscastle. I had to add it so it could be seen with the photo of John that I took yesterday.

42 Hours To Share What I Love About Cornwall Life

We’ve got a visitor arriving by train in a few minutes. It’s Donna Freedman, who until now has been known only to me through her blogging here and her column at MSN Money.

Lest you think she’s a total stranger aside from being blogging buddies, Donna used to work as a journalist at the Anchorage Daily News with my brother-in-law, Leon. She has an interesting history and writes about how to live well on less.

She’ll be pleased to know that the flowers in her room are from the garden and the blackberries I’ll be using in a cobbler tomorrow, are frozen from the fifteen pounds of berries I picked last summer after reading about how she freezes them for winter use.

With only 42 hours, we’ll be moving pretty quickly. I have no idea what she’d like to see as she has left that up to us. We still have a few normal commitments during those 42 hours, such as a funeral service for our neighbor, but I figure we can leave her in downtown Bodmin for an hour to explore some of my favorite charity shops or she might want to stay home and write.

She’s posting about her frugal travel experience some of which includes staying in hostels in London. Having stayed a few hostels myself, I think she’ll find our guest room a nice alternative.



Saying No To Pork Pies And Other Meaty Topics

John Thinking Of A Roast Pork Dinner

Let me begin by saying that while I am not a vegetarian, I do tend to eat far less meat than most people I know, and will usually order a non-meat dish when having a meal out. I don’t mind chicken so much if I don’t have to cook it first, but if I have to handle raw meat, I struggle to get it down later. I think I’m best described as someone who likes to pretend that meat is grown in the garden along side the cauliflower and the peas. (two of my least favorite veggies)

There are some generous people in our village who like to share their wealth when it comes to a good hunting day and one man in particular who frequently offers me fresh rabbit and pheasant for the ‘ soup pot. ‘  I always decline politely and he must think me an odd one passing up fresh game. Even if he gave it to me cleaned of fur or feathers, I know I would not be able to manage a bite.

I even have trouble with the smell of some meats as they cook and John very courteously closes the kitchen door when he has a taste for one of the cute creatures below. Cuteness can have an impact on my digestive capabilities and I would not be able to get past the memory of the pink eared smiling lamb pictured below. John always jokes about mint sauce when I linger on a walk to photograph sheep, but we both know it’s not really a joke to him.

Smiling Sheep (Click Twice To Enlarge)

Last night we had some sausages made by a neighbor who provided regular Facebook updates on her growing piggies from point of purchase as piglets, to turning them into sausages for the skillet. John bought some not long ago and last night cooked them for dinner in a chili/veggie/ pasta stir-fry.

While it was a tasty meal, I ended up pushing most of the meat to the side. I knew too much about those pigs and could not pretend that I was eating something other than what it was. I do sometimes enjoy sausages with eggs, but I don’t like to cook them myself and they must be over-cooked to the point of being crunchy.

The photos below are not the pigs I mentioned earlier, but I can’t help but think of these porkers when considering a bacon butty or a pork pie for lunch.

A mama pig with her piglets.

I know these are hardly in the same cute category as the lambs, but look at those eyelashes … who knew pigs had eye lashes for pete’s sake! I feel a distinct hiatus from meat coming on.

Nobly And Faithfully, She Did Her Duty

Bessie, wife of  J.H. Henderson, was a woman it seems with little history other than this beautiful tribute given in her memory at St Mary’s Church in Tenby, Wales. Like many places of worship in the UK, there has been a church at this location in some form as far back as Norman times although the oldest part of this structure is only as old as the 13th century.

You may laugh when I tell you that I spent at least six hours trying to discover more about the woman who inspired the memorial above. I wanted to know what type of duty she did, ‘ Nobly, and Faithfully.’

I was disappointed to find little information about her, right down to not being 100 percent sure I’d discovered her true given name. I found evidence of a son who died at 38 in wartime France in 1917, but as hard as I searched I could not find much more than that.

I’m usually very good at this type of detective work and while I located loads of family, Bessie, Betsey A, or Betsy, never seemed to be around at census time and with no marriage license it was hard for me to confirm some of what I found.

She showed up in documents twice during her childhood, but only once during her adult years and even then, she was with her in-laws on the day of the census. While her plaque identifies her as Bessie of Red House, in the two census reports that occurred during the time she and her husband were living at Red House, only John Henderson, her husband, made the census report.

All of the dead ends today made me think about what someone might be able to discover about me 92 years from now. I think I’ve made it pretty easy having written and published 470 posts (a combination of this blog site and my first GOTJ) so even if I don’t get to say everything I’d like to before I die, I will have left enough for someone to have a pretty good idea who I actually was in this life.

While standing close to the memorial, I snapped a few photos quietly, respectfully, and without flash, just like I always do when I’m visiting a church and then I snuck the two pictures you see here. I never moved from my location and was a fair distance away so I don’t think woman I was trying to photograph noticed me at all.

I didn’t linger after taking the photo as I didn’t want to disturb her, but I wondered then as I still do now, who she might be remembering with her candle.

Nobly And Faithfully, She did Her Duty

How about you … do you have any idea of how you might want to be remembered ?

Branching Out – Tales Of The Traveling Twisted Willow

Baby John With His Mother, Margaret Winchurch - 1943

Eighteen years ago, my husband’s mother died. She had not been in the best of health, but her death was still unexpected when it occurred. It happened fast, one minute she was going about her life and 36 hours into a hospitalization for stomach pain, she was gone.

A few days before she died she was still well enough to be making floral arrangements for her home and had put a bunch of cut branches from a twisted willow tree in her garden, into a vase of water. The cuttings were still there when my husband John noticed them a few weeks after her funeral while stopping by to check on his dad.

Even though there was little water left in the vase, they had been there so long they were putting out roots. He picked up a handful of the cuttings as he was leaving, and took them home to plant around his house. Moving five times during the eighteen years since her death, he’s always taken a few cuttings grown from the original twisted willow that he found in the vase that day.

I loved the twisted willow that John had planted in the garden right from the beginning, at first because it was so pretty, and even more after he told me the story of how pieces of it had moved with him over the years. My grandmother was always picking up cuttings or passing them on and the story he told reminded me of how she would pinch off a piece of something I’d admired and send me off with directions on how to make it grow.

Two days ago, I was disappointed when John said that he had done a massive pruning of the twisted willow plants in the front garden. I love the way they create a green barrier throughout much of the year making our front outdoor space feel much larger and more private than it actually is. They grow so fast and thick that I know he was right to prune them as he did, but I was still sad to see the large cuttings laid out nearby.

Later that day, I was on my way to meet a friend from the village at the mobile library van and on impulse, I picked up a branch to take along to her thinking she might have a place for it somewhere. I left it outside her gate when I went on the van and forgot until I got home that I had not actually given it to her.

After leaving her a message on Facebook, another friend from the village saw it and asked if she might have a cutting too. I was delighted to share more of the twisted willow and even left another piece for a third friend in the village who then asked if her future mother-in-law might have some as well.

Today’s post is an updated version of one I wrote here, where I shared a story of how two friends I met through blogging who came to our village back in 2009. I sent them home with a small piece of twisted willow so there are more plants from the original cuttings growing somewhere closer to London now too.

Considering the amount of cuttings being passed around along with the twisted willow plants left in the ground at the five homes where John planted it over the last eighteen years, and you can easily see why I chose the title I did.

John thinks this vase is the same one he took the cuttings from after his mother died. He put some twisted willow in it this morning and I could not resist taking a quick photo to include with the post.

As focused as I am on telling the stories of my life, I can’t tell you how much it makes me smile to be able to share a sweet part of John’s story. Never having met his mother, I can’t know what type of relationship might have developed between us, but I do know that it makes me feel good to be able to share cuttings from the last plant she took from her garden before she died.

The new leaves are coming out now with the change in the season and by next spring, plants descended from Margaret’s twisted willow arrangement will be growing in gardens all around our village. I wonder what she’d think of that.


Riding The Memory Train To Destinations You Can’t Forget

I am ten and sitting quietly having learned the reality of the physical threat implied in my stepfather’s words that, ” Children should be seen and not heard. ” Safe for the moment and out of reach of the driver, I choose my side of the car because I have learned that although my mother’s hands are capable of causing physical pain, they are attached to arms too short to reach me if I stay pressed close to the door.

My sister claims her regular space on the right side of the backseat in the only car we own and I am surprised when my mother turns slightly and reaches back from the passenger seat to give me a paperback copy of a book I will come to treasure. Setting out on a long car trip once again, moving as we have so many times before, it doesn’t take more than a page or two for me to disappear into Judy’s Journey, a story published in 1947 that reveals what it’s like to be ten year-old Judy, the daughter of a migrant farm worker.

Some books stay with you all your life and even if you no longer have the book in your hand, the story never leaves you. I saved my copy of Judy’s Journey after our move from California when I was partway through my fifth year of school. Back home again in Georgia where I’d been born, I found myself confused by many of my subjects as the American school curriculum varied from the east to west coast.

While I may have struggled through some of my classes, I excelled at reading and lost myself in the school library and books wherever I could find them. Beaten into silent submission at home through both psychological and physical blows, I longed for the safety of someone else’s life and found them in books about other children.

My mother came from a family of readers and writers, and books were always among the gifts I received from my extended family on birthdays and at Christmas. I had acquired a good number of them by the time I was able to escape from my mother’s house at fourteen when I made my last childhood move into safety of my dad and stepmother’s home.

My mother would not allow me to take my books and they were left behind with my childhood things after she decided that I could only take my clothing and gifts that my father had given me.

I remember how sad I felt seeing my fourteen years of living packed into only two or three boxes when they arrived by bus a few weeks later.

My books from childhood were marked as mine by my name written in varying degrees of penmanship. Some had Elizabeth in the adult script of my grandparents and great-aunt, while others were identified by a more childish scrawl and dated from when I first began to write my name.

With two sisters still with my mother, my books bypassed my sister Margaret who at twelve was too old to be interested in many of them and went straight into the hands of my four-year old sister Pam who later claimed them completely by scratching through my name and adding her own. It would be many years before I saw my mother, my sisters, or my books again.

Judy’s Journey disappeared somewhere along the way like many other things from my past, but the memory of the story made me talk about it at times and one Christmas, I found a used copy under the tree, a gift from a friend who understood its significance.

I didn’t begin this post to write about this topic. I’d intended to carry on from yesterday’s post about books and libraries before it took off in its own direction. Memories are like a train with multiple destinations and today’s post is an example of all the directions one story can go especially when writing about it.

John came into my studio space about a week ago and said that he thought I needed to write my story. I told him that memoirs were filling the shelves of bookstores everywhere and people were beginning to write disparaging reviews about those who spilled their secrets in a book for all to see. I added that there were many stories out there like mine and why add one more to the mix. I said I was bored with it most days and imagined others might be as well.

I went on to say that there were parts he did not know and more still that the people involved might not want shared, but he reminded me that it is my story and said quietly that he thought it would be good for me, and to think first about myself in the writing process and not worry about the rest.

Yesterday, I was reading what this gifted writer said here about how writing heals and intellectually I know she’s right. I’m sure John is on to something as well, knowing me as he does.

It’s always bothered me seeing my name replaced in books that had been mine, so much so that I don’t have those books with me anymore. I offered them to my daughter in case she has children one day, although she might rather have new books than those with such a sad history. I mean really, how would she explain that to her children …

I wondered what my sister Pam thought as she was too young to remember me when I left. Did they bother to explain the name already in the books or did they say, ” Just scratch it out and put your own in there.”

I thought about what my sister Margaret said about how they never said my name in the house after I left, how my mother and stepfather if pressed by situation would only refer to me as, ” The one who left,” which made me sad on earlier reflection, but now feels more like the name you might give warrior who was brave enough to leave on a vision quest.

As to healing through writing my story, I thought I had done most of that by talking with two remarkable women I’ve mentioned before, but perhaps writing my story rather than telling it might be a good next step whether anyone ever reads it but me.

Time now for she who has been called, ” The One Who Left ” to go out for some sunshine and exercise. Having worked on the past a good bit today, it’s time now to work on my body.

Books On Wheels Program In Danger Of Being Parked

I heard about the Mobile Library Service about two years ago, but today was the first time I made a point to catch it when it rolled into our village this afternoon. Despite being on a pretty tight schedule with fourteen stops in his day, Peter, the guardian of the traveling book van was happy to answer my questions about possible cuts to library services in Cornwall and the impact for readers.

It looks as the five library vans in Cornwall are safe for this year, but after hearing how few people are actually taking advantage of the mobile service, even I might be tempted to agree that money spent on mobile libraries might be better used in support of some other library needs, unless we can raise awareness and increase use.

There are loads of good choices in the van and I left with four books. I could have checked out eighteen, but I need to balance my reading time with my writing and don’t need the distraction of a good book staring at me. The van will be back in two weeks and between now and then I hope to encourage a few local folks to meet me then for a book date.

This little Miss meets the book van every two weeks so I’m sure I will be seeing her there again.

How about you, are you or members of your family using the library services where you live? I’d also be interested to know if there’s a mobile library in your community and if you’ve had a chance to use it.