A Castle For Your Dreams

13th Century - Restormel Castle, Cornwall, England

13th Century – Restormel Castle, Cornwall, England

Hundreds of years ago someone imagined a life on hillside overlooking the River Fowey. Not content with the natural height provided, they scooped up the earth to build a motte and bailey design castle. The first structure appeared around 1100 in what would eventually become the stone remnants you now see in the photo above. Restormel Castle in Cornwall is considered one of the best remaining examples of a motte and bailey castle and according the English Heritage site, one of 70 remaining in Britain.

Fulfilling the dreams of others

When my best girlfriend Patrice came for a short visit in 2011, she had a list of things that she wanted to do while she and her partner Lisa were here for a few days. One of which was a visit to a castle.

I took them to Sunday services on St Michael’s Mount and later John walked with us through the attached castle, but I wanted more for her. I wanted her to see a remote castle with no furnishings and few people, a place where she might have a moment alone to think about her mother who had died a few years earlier without going on the ‘Castles of Europe’ tour she’d always imagined she’d see one day.

I remember Patrice telling me how she’d asked her mother if there was anything she wanted to do in the time she had left and how they had talked about castles before her mother began chemotherapy. Her mother died without going on that trip so this was more than just another tourist stop for Patrice, it had a special meaning and while she didn’t mind which castle she saw, I wanted it to be really special and I had a feeling that Restormel Castle might be that place.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

When I see this photograph of Patrice, I can almost hear her saying, ‘I’m here, Mama’ as she pauses in the first entrance to the castle.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see a second entry point into the castle where the person in blue is walking under the arch. The gatehouse was originally three stories high but was partially dismantled during the Civil War. I found the history of this building style fascinating when I researched Restormel Castle. If you’d like to know more, I have done some of the work for you by providing the highlighted links above.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see the entrance to the chapel in the center of the photo above. The chapel projected out past the circular structure and had points of entry from smaller side doors.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel CastleLooking to the middle left of the photo above, you can a side entrance to the chapel as well as an arched entry leading directly into the sanctuary.

Patrice & Lisa

Here’s a shot looking mostly down into the space. I’m afraid these images are not my best work as it was wet and windy shooting that day, but perhaps you can still get a sense of the space.

Patrice & Lisa

From this angle so you can see how thick the walls are and get a glimpse of the lovely view from the castle walls.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

There are stories about a dungeon, but I’m not sure they are more than stories.

Patrice & Lisa

There are stairs which lead to all kinds of hidden areas like this one with Patrice. I said she looked like a monk from a distance with her dark hood up to avoid the rain so she assumed a prayerful position at the end of a moss-covered passage way.
Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

In this photo, you have a window in the center with an open space  to the left where a fireplace once stood. There’s a matching window (not seen here) on the other side of the fireplace shell.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

I wondered how many faces must have looked though these great stones windows over the last 800 or 900 years and thought about how the view must have changed along with the ownership of the castle. My imagination goes wild thinking about the lives of those privileged to have been able to stand or sit near the windows in a room with such an important function.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see how the windows and fireplace might have looked in the great hall by double clicking on this image of a plaque from the castle grounds.Patrice & Lisa, Restormel CastleHere’s a last look at what the interior of the keep might have looked like. You can see the window outline and the fireplace off to the left in this photo of one of the English Heritage information plaques. I usually take a quick photo of these to use later as a reference when I want to do more research online at home. I thought these might be helpful for this post.
Duchy Nursery

One more shot of Restormel Castle from a distance … the first and last photographs were taken during the last week and all others in September 2011.

It was good to help Patrice complete a goal that had been one of her mother’s dreams. Two castle visits may not have been the ‘Castles of Europe ‘ tour her mother dreamed of, but walking through Restormel Castle and St Michael’s Mount, I can’t help but think that Patrice’s mother would have had a little chuckle to see her daughter fulfilling a few of mom’s unfinished dreams.

I imagine most of us have something like that. There are so many places I see living in the UK that I know my dad would have loved to see himself, but the thing I feel most keenly is the connection he and I shared with writing and imagination.

My father left a fair amount of unpublished words and ideas and at least one story he wrote for his daughters. I know he would have been a big fan of my writing (being my dad) and would have encouraged me to go beyond the limitations of my blog. I hope to manage that one day and do something that he, like Patrice’s mom, never had a chance to do himself.

How about you? Are any of you secretly hoping to complete a dream desire that someone special to you can no longer do for themselves or maybe one like mine that you shared with a parent or other loved one?

Christmas 1942 – Somewhere In England

152nd Station Hospital -1942

I found this tiny program in some of my great-aunt Wylly’s things when I went to see my cousin, McKenzie last summer. I had a whirlwind trip where I scanned photos and documents for most the time I was there. It was a quick overnight visit with me quietly scanning through the night while the rest of the house snoozed. Aunt Wylly was my writer aunt that I’ve mentioned before and sweet to me like a dear old grandma. She was McKenzie’s great-grandma and after McKenzie’s mother died suddenly a few years ago, she’s been the one to keep the family history safe.

Going through things quickly, I learned a lot about my family I hadn’t known. This Christmas menu and program from 70 years ago was tucked in a box, no doubt saved by Aunt Wylly who left a serious paper trail. I knew my Uncle Tom had been in the army, practically everyone called him Sarge when I was growing up so it would have been hard to miss, but I did not know that he’d been in England during WWII. Finding this little treasure from 70 years ago left me with loads of questions with no answers. I gleaned a bit online, but I’m hoping a older relative or adult child of someone who might have served with my uncle will see this post and get touch with me.

Thanks to the internet I was able to learn where the 152nd Station Hospital was located, and found that my uncle was in Bristol, about a 14o miles from where I live now. Frenchay Hospital was much smaller before the Americans arrived in 1942 and they added more buildings to make a medical complex that is still in use today.

I wish I knew more about his life and his time in England during the war. My husband, John was less than three months old when Uncle Tom sat down to the Christmas dinner you see on the program below. Given the shortage of food and rationing going on in England at that time, Uncle Tom’s Christmas dinner was likely much better than what the English were having that year.

Christmas Menu 1942 152nd Station Hospital

Since I’m talking about food and family, I thought I’d share a bit of our Christmas day with you.

Christmas 2012

Our Christmas dinner, the American version … no roast potatoes, sprouts or parsnips. I like them, but I wanted a more familiar taste of Christmas and John was fine skipping them this year. He cooked the turkey and made the gravy, I made the rest from handed down family recipes. We did have the English version of pigs in a blanket which were wrapped in bacon versus biscuit dough.

Christmas 2012

That pink mass before you is a cranberry congealed salad. It stuck a bit in my jello mold so it’s not very pretty, but it was tasty. This traditional Christmas salad has been the subject of a great deal of ridicule from John. I get that congealed isn’t a very appetizing name for it, and that it tends to look like something that has already been eaten once, but it reminds me of my step-mom, Cullene and it’s very special to me. John thinks it is very similar to what they call a blancmange (sounds like bla-monge) which does sound a bit more grand. He had a decent sized portion with his dinner so I think he may be getting used to it.

IMG_3027

Here’s a shot of John waiting patiently for our present opening to begin. I’ll be back with another post on gift-giving as I received something very special from him.

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Since we’re talking about food in this post, here’s a shot of me with one of the carrots I took on our walk to the pub for our traditional Christmas drink. The couple that own our village pub offer everyone in the village a free drink on Christmas day if they come in on regular basis. I was carrying carrots hoping we might come across a moorland pony or two, but we stayed in the lanes on our walk making it less muddy and we bypassed the moor and the ponies. I did get lucky though as you can see below.

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This sweet horse was having a Christmas walk and had the benefit of the carrots in my pocket. Murphy munched them down pretty quickly and we went on to the pub.

Thomas Franklin St John

Thomas Franklin St John

I’ll leave you with this photo of my great-uncle Tom taken in uniform. I don’t share any of his DNA as he’s my uncle through marriage, but it’s kind of nice to feel a connection through both our military (Army) ties and our Christmas dinners in England.

If you’re visiting older relatives this Christmas … ask them about their life or you may be sorry later when they’re gone. 

A Big Serving Of Hate With A Side Order Of One Person’s Version Of Christian Love – No Friend Of Mine

Some people seem to have lost their minds over the election and not just people like Donald Trump.

My friends and family have remained civil over our political differences of opinion, as should be when people who care about each other disagree.

Some folks however, have gone into total meltdown mode and have been spewing some shocking rubbish.

And the really scary part is they actually believe what they’re saying. Heaven help us if these people have guns because they’ve been whipped up into such a frenzy who knows what they might do in the name of God.

They scare me.

The day after the election I was forced to ‘unfriend’ someone on Facebook. She’s the only person I’ve ever had to exclude from my Facebook life and ironically, for the second time. About a year ago, I don’t remember exactly when, I unfriended her the first time. We’d graduated from the same high school, although years apart and I never knew her. I had approved her request both times based on mutual friends I could see that we had in common. The first time I unfriended her had to do with what I considered to be aggressive over the top hate talk, but it was nothing like what she said on Wednesday after President Obama was re-elected.

I unfriended her quietly the first time and thought no more about her, but the problem was that she came back. After a some months I got a friend request from her and I must have not been paying attention because after seeing her connections to a lot of my high school friends, I accepted her friendship. This is a mistake that will not happen again!

I’ve omitted her name as I have no wish to shame this woman and she probably won’t even know this post has been written, but what would her Christian friends think about her hate filled rant … what about her adult children and her grandchildren?

It might be easy to just dismiss her as unhinged, hope she gets help, and move on, but she’s not alone and that’s the really scary piece to me.

Most of you who’ve read my blog for a while know I have many questions about faith and God and how I feel. I’ve touched on it here before and I’ve been open about my doubting Thomas thoughts about the power of prayer, but I have to admit that lately I find myself whispering a few words that begin with ‘God,’ and end with ‘please, keep him safe,’ because I think President Obama needs some extra protective energy around him, especially now.

I don’t know what you’ve heard, but here’s a look at one person who while no longer in my social circle, is still very much out in the world sharing her message of hate while calling herself a good Christian.

(Internet Image)

This was the comment on Facebook that cause me to unfriend her:
“Obamacare will be the death of America!!! WE see what it has done to other countries and we don’t like it. We like our freedom of choice in doctors. We work hard and we deserve what we want and can pay for. Those living on welfare need to get off their ass and go to work!!!! I’m tired of keeping them up and all the give me programs out there. The US economy did not grow, it’s terrible! The number of people laid off work, loosing their homes, cars etc. If it grew it was the RICH that got richer from it. The news media would like you to think that because they are all corrupt liars! Obama is an EVIL, communist muslim! I doubt very seriously that any of it was legal. Blank panther parties keeping out voteres, maching going down, Am. soldiers votes lost…..blah blah blah!!!!!!! I don’t know where your from Claire but if you live in the US your in for a rude awakening. Wait and see! America is a nation divided …and a nation divided will fall!!!!!! A nation without God is doomed and that is what America has become. America has a disease….That disease is socialism with unlimited federal power and it will take the entire strength and will of the people to overpower it.” SAD SAD day in America….. November 7, 2012 …. the day America died.”
Then she sent messaged me on Thursday with the two comments below that were sent a minute apart.
Elizabeth….. YOU know nothing about me and that is clear to see. You speak not with your lips! It is clear to see that you are the typical Liberal that thinks only his/her way is right. I have seen OBAMACARE first hand with my parents. I know what it exsists of and I have read most of the papers on it. As have my friends. All he wants is to help the elderly die…quick so he doesn’t have to pay for them. You have the right to post what you like but I also have that right as well. Being on FB and posting allows you to say what you please as most people do or defriend them, as I did you. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you or hate you, I choose not to be your friend any longer. It doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not, Obama is clearly NOT a Christian. ( that is NOT why I didn’t vote for him ) Nor was he born here in the USA. Time will reveal that, I only hope and pray that it isn’t to late. Whether he wants evil for us or someone has named him as the person to do the job, evil is upon us.
From what I’ve heard, and I have friends in the UK, the health care system there is a mess! WE don’t want your type of health care~!~~ Most americans, the ones that actually work for a living, do not want OBAMACARE! We want our country to stay the same with the freedom to choose our doctors and type of medical treatment. When you have spent your whole life working at a job and retire with benefits, the president should not be allowed to strip them from you. THAT IS COMMUNISM my friend! Most Americans don’t need welfare, food stamps or free health care. Only the sorry, lazy people need that!
NOT one single person can name anything that Obama has done good for the USA….NOT ONE! The people that voted for him or the ones that one FREE everything….they live in a give me, give me state of mind, constantly demanding freebies, they are lazy and worthless, white, black and any other color!
I personally do not care if the President is black, green, purple or orange or his religious beliefs ( as long as he keeps it to himself) …for without the help of congress and senate the president can’t do anything…but what I do care about is the fact that our President needs to be more concerened with our military, protecting our men in other countries, not vacationing in VEGAS and lieing to cover his ass from NOT being here when this country needs him and OBAMA has not been! He has also proven that in the latest storm on the east coast where he showed his face for TV, and they are still without power, food & water. NO help has been sent in. He is a coward and a lier!!!
Truthfully John I don’t care who is upset with my remark, what bothers me is that you ENGLISH think you know what is best for us in the USA!!! The USA was not founded on Communism or muslim beliefs and we don’t want it forced don’t our throats! If they try there will be another revolution like you have never seen! You need to listen to other news stations or media sources and get ALL the facts before voicing your childish remarks.
Unfortunately there are not a lot of educated people on politics in the USA, they just go vote based on one thing that bothers them like abortion or gay rights. Those are things that need to be addressed but not the sole reason ( which most have proven here on your page ) when voting for a President. They should be more concerened about the happenings of this country and where it is headed. I’m ashamed that Americans are that stupid and uneducated!
My feelings about your comments would be a waste of my breath. I feel you have NO say so in the events of this country since you are now a citizen of the Brits! I don’t count duel citizenship. You can not be loyal to two countries during a time of war, so I don’t understand why they even give that. Makes no sense at all to me.
I wish you nothing but happiness, because I am a good Christian person with a huge heart of gold and would never wish bad on anyone. Hope you new country gives you more happiness than the one you left :)
I did not mean to offend you or John, I would never do that and for that I’m sorry. I just want you to know where I’m coming from with this letter.

*************

I did find the smiley face a bit much in light of what she said during her ‘letter’ to let me know where she was coming from.

According to CNN, a lot of unfriending is happening on Facebook post-election, and I wonder if any of you have had a similar experience.

Birthday Surprises!

John Winchurch (Painted by Lauren Finley)

John Winchurch (Painted by Lauren Finley)

You probably already know this about me, but if you don’t I’ll say it now.

Sentimental and Mushy

I am a seriously sentimental mush and my gift giving behavior usually reflects this. 

Knowing that John had a significant birthday this year, I wanted to be sure that I acknowledged it in a way that would be lasting and memorable. I try very hard to give thoughtful gifts that will be appreciated and I rarely give something that someone could buy on their own unless I know it’s something they want but wouldn’t splurge on for themselves.

A Constant In Our Relationship

One of the unexpected gifts of my life has been my time with John, a good bit of which has been spent walking. I know that may sound awful to those who don’t enjoy walks in the country or along the sea, but even when the trails have been tough, I’ve loved the experience and sharing it with him.

Long walks and mountain climbing have always been a part of his life, along with periods of dinghy building and sailing when living near the sea. While I’ve been an outdoorsy sort and have done a good bit of running over the years, I’d never considered doing something like our 105 mile hike through the Alps in 2008 or thought that my everyday life might include the coast path walks we do regularly in Cornwall.

We’re just a four months shy of the fifth anniversary of our first face to face meeting and I have thousands of photographs of John. I have always taken more photos than he necessarily liked, ten images where two would have been welcomed and I can often be heard saying, ‘Just one more shot, please?’  

It was one of my photographs that inspired my birthday gift to John. I took it during one of our coast path walks in Cornwall and it reflects his spirit in a near perfect way. Looking rugged and windblown, I can almost smell the sea behind him and I am reminded of the times I’ve tasted a faint bit salt on his lips when we’ve stopped on the path for a kiss.

My friend, Lauren Finley turned the photograph into the more lasting gift you see above. She is an accomplished artist who does lovely things with watercolor and I never considered anyone else once I decided to give John a portrait of himself for his birthday.

(A Side View To See What It’s Painted On)

Lauren and met for coffee last summer while I was in Atlanta to discuss the photo I’d chosen and when I returned to England a few weeks later, I brought the painting back with me. John never saw it until the day of his party and was very pleased with what he thought was a more handsome version of himself.

My Birthday Surprise – A Dream Of Things To Come

Some of you know the story of how I woke up dreaming of John on my birthday, in September of 2007, a few months before we met online. 

You read that right, I said before we met!

I’ve had some other dreams and waking experiences that were unusual, but even I thought it was strange to dream of having such an overwhelming feeling of love for a man who I identified in the dream as my husband even though I’d never met him and had no idea why I would dream such a thing.

It was very powerful and stayed with me for a few days, but as it didn’t fit the life I was leading in Atlanta and made no sense, I forgot about it until five months later when I made a trip to Cornwall to meet John.

We were out on the coast path and I was walking behind him pausing as I do to snap a photo and I looked up as he crested the hill in front of me and watched as he walked into the sun causing his body to appear mostly in shadow and backlit.

He was the lean image of the man I seen in my sleep and I was suddenly flooded with the memory of the feeling I’d experienced in my dream.

It was an ‘Ah hah’ moment of grand proportion. I got a bit teary as the awareness flooded over me, whispered a quiet thank you to the origin of the dream and hurried on to catch up. 

People often ask me how I could change my whole life as I did by following my heart to another country and the only answer that really makes sense is, how could I not? 

 

Oversharing – Opening The Door A Bit, But Not All The Way

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent for about seven weeks. I just closed for business without so much as a sign on the door or a note saying I’d be gone a while and disappeared.

I didn’t intend to stop writing and it was not due to lack of interest in blogging or a shortage of things to write about but rather an overwhelming indecision about how much I should share about an unnerving experience I had last November. It left me feeling as if everything I wanted to write about was either too much or too trivial so I got lost in the inertia of indecision.

I often worry about over sharing the details of my life especially the darker parts of it and I rarely hit publish without considering the long-term effect a revelation might have on my future or that of someone I love.

It’s tricky deciding how much is too much. I notice other folks asking the same question from time to time, most recently Caitlin Kelly and Cindy La Ferle and I often wonder what my readers think.

Sometimes I happen upon a blog that is so deeply personal I feel I’ve stepped into someone’s therapy session by accident and I don’t know whether to pull up a chair and join in or slip quietly out the back door. I don’t want people to feel that way when they stop by GOTJ, but I do want what I say here to have meaning. That said, there are times when I worry that what I want to say is too personal … so much so that instead of spilling it here I go quiet afraid that if I open the door I’ll unleash a beast I can’t call back.

My words and posts are about my life and my experiences. It’s not always been happy, but it hasn’t all been bad either providing a balance that usually makes it easy to avoid the darker topics for less weighty ones. I generally feel as if I’ve been gifted with the power of resiliency, enchantment, and joy  … almost as if storybook fairies paid a visit to my crib and waved their magic wands over me as an infant saying a few words to try offset the evil they knew would surround me as a small child.

Childlike enthusiasm and leading with my heart have been used more than a time or two to describe me and where some might see these as the attributes of someone weaker than others, I see them as defiant badges that affirm my ability to hold on through the hard times.

But as strong as I am I sometimes need support.

Last November I had a panic attack. I’ve never had one before and actually thought I might be having a heart attack. John was out for a walk with his daughter who was down for a visit and I was alone in the house. Just as I was about to dial 999 for an ambulance, I did an abbreviated version of what I’d heard a doctor friend of mine refer to as a systems check.

Once I realized I was having a panic attack, I sent my old therapist a short email and she responded within ten minutes which I found remarkable considering I had not seen her as a patient for 17 years. I’ve mentioned Nancy Loeb here in the past and I say again, if you have a history like mine and need someone who can help you change your life, she’d be the one.

During my unplanned blogging hiatus, I spent three weeks in the US only returning about a week ago. While I was in Atlanta, an old friend of mine from my university days sent me an email after noting my blogging absence to ask if I was okay. Here is a bit of what I said in response.

” My reasons for not blogging lately have to do with a few internal struggles. I can’t decide whether to blog about it or not, but I have so much of substance that I want to say that it makes it difficult to write about travel and trivial things. In many ways I am doing very well and in others I feel I’m walking the edge at times as I deal with some ghosts.

It may sound odd, but the Paterno/ Penn State media coverage followed one night by student protestors being beaten with police batons and unable to escape triggered what I can only imagine was a panic attack of big proportions. I don’t have panic attacks and almost called an ambulance it scared me so bad. I was having trouble breathing and thought it was my heart for a minute and in reality it was my heart, but in an emotional way.”

Later, when reread the email I’d sent to my friend, I thought, ” Oh no, I meant Sandusky/Penn State “as he was the abuser, but then I realized that for me, I got it right the first time. The world is full of people like Sandusky, but it’s the Paternos of the world who are the real disappointments.

I think people who have the power to save a child and do nothing are as bad as the abuser and part of what caused me to become undone that day was description of what Mike McQueary witnessed and the obvious collusion involved that allowed a pedophile to have continued access to children. McQueary’s trial transcripts coupled with a video of college students being beaten while protesting, acted as a trigger for the panic attack and forced me over the last few months to confront my thoughts as to how much sharing is too much.

Secrets like the ones I had growing up are usually kept due to fear or shame. Good therapy can change that, but even when I think I have said all I need to say whether in therapy or with the people I’m closest to, there are still times when the urge to say more here is overwhelming.

Pat Conroy, author of one of my favorite books, The Price of Tides, was quoted years ago in a Vanity Fair article saying, ” One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family ” and I’m sure he would give me added points for having a family with deep southern roots as well.

Bits of my life creep into my characters when I write fiction which satisfies me for now. Some things are still too horrible to write on their own and I think writing it into someone else’s imagined life gives me the distance I need not to get lost in my own story. That may be a better option for me than memoir, at least for now.

That said, I’ve decided that certain details will not be part of what I write here. It doesn’t mean the tough topics are off-limits, just the amount of detail I’ll share about any similar personal experiences.

Many thanks to those who sent an email to check on me during my time away … it makes me smile to think I was missed.

Kitchen Renovation x Three

When my husband John bought our home seven years ago, two years before meeting me, he chose it thinking he would do a bit of renovation and sell it as he had all the houses before. He enjoys remodeling homes and selling them on and has done quite a few since he finished working in television about fifteen years ago.

Built in 1997, it had spent its whole life as a rental before he saw its potential and made the local owner/builder/landlord an offer they both found acceptable. When you live in a house built by someone who still lives in the village who you see in the pub, you may find you are also surrounded by others who had a hand in the building process or who lived in the house before you. I won’t go into it now, but we’ve heard some interesting stories that could fill more than a few pages.

I’ve seen a lot of John’s before and after shots of his renovation work in earlier properties and I appreciate how he is able to see possibilities where someone else might walk away. The first three photographs will give you an idea of what the kitchen looked like when he first bought it. There was a great deal of reddish dark wood throughout the house like you see in the window of the first photo giving it a completely different look than it has now.  (All of the early photographs were taken by John)

I don’t know if this is the original kitchen from 1997, but having always been a rental before John bought it, I can’t imagine anyone investing money to leave behind. I know it’s done all the time in New York city apartments and I’ve known people who have spent $30,000 on a kitchen renovation in a place they did not actually own, but they’d lived in for twenty years or more.

While I never had to live with the linoleum tile pattern on the floor, until recently the brass switch plates that came with the house were still on the walls. I’m glad John agreed that it was time for them to go. The new lighter ones blend so much better and are easier to clean.

You can see the beginnings of the first of three big kitchen changes dating from when he bought it in 2005. Thank goodness he added more ceiling lights too. I can’t imagine working with only one or two lights in the kitchen as this one had.

Here you see the cabinets going in. John bought the cabinet doors from Ikea and built the rest of it from big sheets of furniture board because it was as he said, “less expensive than ready-made and more flexible.”  The countertops are the old ones from 1997 just before John tiled them black like you see in the photo below. He believes in reusing materials when possible.

The second kitchen redo was much smaller, taking place in 2009 when my things arrived from the US. John added more glass fronted cabinets for my china and other glassware along with another solid cabinet on the left side of the window over the sink.

The other side of the room where the table sits is shown during the first renovation in the third photo above. As you can see by the funny bit of wall sticking out in that picture and the one below it, our table placement choices were severely limited and it never felt as if the space was large enough to move comfortable in especially when family and friends joined us.

Here’s a last look before the wall came down. After John built the extension so I might have a room of my own to write, the configuration of the house changed making it unnecessary for the entry door you can see in the photo below. Before building what he jokingly refers to as the East Wing, that door opened into the master bedroom. After the addition of a hallway, my studio space, and two bathrooms, it became possible to take down the corner wall and open up the room a bit more.

The out-dated Artex ceiling went too, along with the door leading from the main hall into the East Wing hallway. Then he pulled up the small bit of dark wood that had been part of the hallway floor and took out the door you see on the right. He fixed the wall afterwards and then put a new door and partial wall in where the hallway begins. The ceiling is dark in this shot because the plaster was still drying.

Here’s how it looked yesterday when I tried to catch a bit of light on a rainy day. I could have used my blogging friend Kerstin’s property photography skills as my pictures don’t do as good a job of giving you an accurate feel for the space. Notice we still have the leather chairs along with four more in the attic. John is okay with them, but I have a different vision in mind and I’ll update you later when we make a change. That lamp in the corner needs a bit of work or replacing. John enjoys a softer evening light so we’re likely to keep something there.

This cool piece is one of two that came out of an old smithy that was attached to another much older home that John owned years before meeting me. Both were stored in the garage and I’d imagined them inside the house from the first time I saw them. Renovating the kitchen created a place for this larger one and the smaller one found a home in the living room.

The little potty was one I used as a child on overnight visits with my great-grandparents who did not have indoor plumbing. I can see a few cobwebs in the slot where it’s sitting. (Note to self: dust more!) This piece was missing a drawer and I put the potty there as a funny reminder of a time when grand houses would have a screen off to the side during dinner parties so guests might relieve themselves without straying far from the table. Given that we are fortunate to have three bathrooms, this will never be necessary if you come for dinner.

John suggested this one might look better painted the color green you see in the kitchen, but that’s not happening! I love the primitive look of it and like seeing the dings and peeling paint from its use in blacksmith’s work space.

John built the new cabinets in the photo above using old materials to create units that were more shallow than the ones there before. He replaced the laminate floors with hardwood and I found a smaller entry rug for the door in the things I brought over in 2009. We think it’s a good match. Everything had a fresh coat of paint and the cooker hood or range hood as I’d call it is one that John found online. It works so much better than the old one making me especially happy when John cooks fish.

You may notice that we have not settled on a decision for the backsplash. John likes it as it is, but we tend to be messy and I think we’ll need at least a sheet of glass or acrylic to cover the green part up to the molding he installed. He also turned an unused space into a cookie sheet storage area by hinging the small wooden strip below the oven and adding a pull.

The lights in these cabinets are actually pale blue, but they’ve turned deep purple in this photo. You can see the new countertops John installed. He did a lot of work on them to help make them less prone to staining.

See the two raised boards he made from leftover counter-top wood … this works well to keep wet products off the wood so it doesn’t stain. You must be more careful with these, but I love the look of them and have not had to work that hard to get used to working with dry ingredients in one part and wet in another.

I moved some of the art that I brought from the US. These pieces had been in other parts of the house and added one (on the left) that I bought during a trip we made to Wales. I think it all came together fairly well.

You may have noticed that the art work on the sides of the window near the sink is in the spot where cabinets used to be. We had considered open shelving there for dishes and stuff, but I’m glad we found another way. I prefer the art and like how the space feels bigger and less cluttered.

John is already on to his next project, working on plans to change to the interior stairs and the entrance to the house. He never stops.

My friend Jean commented the other day on how lucky I was after seeing pictures of some of the renovations we’ve been making and “by we, I mean John.” That little saying about what we are doing has become a bit of humorous phrasing for me, but one meant to playfully acknowledge all the effort he puts into making our home so comfortable and appealing. He does such a nice job and I do feel lucky, but it’s his gentle spirit and kind heart rather than his construction skills that make me feel fortunate to share a life and space with him.

How about you … any projects on your list this summer? Share a link if you have one or leave me a link to your favorite home remodeling blog. I’m more than a little addicted to bloggers who are known for their DIY skills.

Where Do Broken Blogs Go … Can They Find Their Way Home?

If I said I had been kidnapped by a monster to explain my lack of posting here over the last two weeks, it would not be far off from the truth. I took this photo at Eden Project over four years ago when I was in the process of relocating my life to Cornwall from the US. The monster in the background is made up of old electronic equipment, broken bits of televisions, washing machines, out-dated computers and other kinds of gadgets that can improve our lives or sometimes imprison us.

Held Hostage By My Indecision

Computer changes are at the top of the long list of distractions that have kept me from writing lately.  I’ve been getting updates from Apple for months letting me know that I needed to move to iCloud as Mobile Me was ending. Don’t worry if none of the details make sense to you, just know that over the last year I’ve known this was coming and put it off making a decision until now.

Keeping My Email

One of my chief concerns with not moving to iCloud had to do my email and I was only able to decide once I discovered I could leave it as it was and let some other significant parts of my online/connected life go. Even then, I waited until the last four days possible to do so and only after reading loads of confusing information. See what I mean about monsters and indecision.

No More iWeb

My first blog was through iWeb, which was a big part of the problem because it was affected by the discontinuation of Mobile Me and the required move to iCloud.  That blog became an archive for my earliest posts after I moved to WordPress in early 2009, a move necessitated by my lack of ability to moderate comments that were being left by a female stalker who did a variety of things to try to make my life miserable.

The early version of GOTJ no longer exists now. What you will see if you look for giftsofthejourney.com is this post as I mapped the domain name to my WordPress account knowing my iWeb version of the first GOTJ would disappear at the end of June.

I saved a copy of the first 80 or so posts and plan to move them over to this blog one post at a time, backdating them so they show up in the time period in which they were originally created. Even though it will take some work to republish them along with their comments, I think it will be worth the effort to have all of my posts since June 2008 finally in one place.

I’ve been wanting to use my domain name here without the addition of wordpress.com and hopefully this change to giftsofthejourney.com won’t create any problems for those of you who have subscribed to my blog. We’ll know after this post.