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.


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.


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.


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. 

Remembering The Day We Met – Valentine’s Day 2008

I took this picture last February when John and I were in Paris on our honeymoon and I’ve been saving it for just the right time. Today is the third Valentine’s Day we will spend together and the anniversary of the first time we met face to face.

Yesterday evening, John called out to me from his study and I went in to find him rereading a series of short emails that passed back and forth between us on February 13, 2008. We were emailing each other right until they closed the airplane door, documenting our thoughts and excitement as I was getting on the plane to fly over to meet him for the first time. He’s that kind of man, tender, romantic, and permanently etched on my heart. I am grateful everyday for him and I love how he remembers the details of our romance. Well loved, every day is what I am, but on Valentine’s Day it is especially nice to remember how we began.

If you don’t know our story yet and you’d like to know more, you can read about our first meeting below. After I take him a little breakfast in bed, we’re going back to Bedruthan Steps to recreate that first walk. We didn’t manage a photo the first time, but we took one a year ago and if you come back later you will be able to see a photograph from today’s walk posted underneath the one from last year at the bottom of the page.

Will You Stay With Me, Will You Be My Love

February 14, 2009

Today is the anniversary of the day I first stepped off a plane in England and into John’s arms. We’d spent the previous six weeks first emailing and later talking on Skype so we’d seen each other online for quite some time, but had never touched. Very quickly, I developed a huge crush on the darling Englishman who is now my husband. That we met for the first time in person on Valentine’s Day was more because it suited my work and travel arrangements than by romantic design. Because I had so many frequent flyer miles and a keen interest in seeing John in his own space, I suggested the idea that I come to him. I came with an open mind and a tender heart, but no expectations beyond the idea of getting to know him as only one can when actually in the same physical space.

As I write this, I have just been reminded by John that one year ago today, exactly 30 minutes from now, my plane touched down in a tiny airport in Newquay.  It is a vivid memory for us both and it’s funny now to look back and remember the thoughts and feelings I was having as I walked down the steps of the commuter flight across the tarmac and into his warm embrace that morning.

Any of you who’ve been reading my old blog at ( for long are aware of how this first meeting progressed from friendship and mutual attraction to the sweet ceremony we went through not quite two weeks ago. It seems appropriate to share our buttercup story and why these tiny yellow flowers have such meaning for me now.

When I arrived on that chilly day February 14, John asked me if I felt up to a little walk along the ocean on the coast path at a place called Bedruthan Steps. It was on the way back to the tiny village where he made his home and he was exited to show me a bit of the Cornish coast that he’d been telling me about for weeks. Despite having been too excited to sleep on the plane, I was definitely interested in seeing any of the places I had heard him refer to during the hours of talks we’d had using Skype.

We gradually worked our way back to the village and after putting on wellies we took a walk though a beautiful wood that opened into what I now refer to as the buttercup field. Of course, in February there were no buttercups, but I was intrigued as John described how by May the field would be covered in gold as the buttercups competed  with the constant green of the grassy space. As he told me this I thought how lovely that would be, but it was only after having spent the better part of two weeks with him that I knew with absolute certainty that I needed to come back to this field and stand in the middle of the buttercups that he said would come with the month of May.

Jumping ahead here and skipping over the activities that happened in order to bring me back, I arrived  back in England on May 13th. As I got closer to my travel date, I kept asking John, “ Have the buttercups bloomed yet? “ I was so worried that I would miss them.

Below are some of the images from the day I arrived in May last year. Few things in life are just as we imagine they will be, but this day was special and it was better than I could have imagined.  When I first saw the field of gold, I could almost hear Eva Cassidy’s voice singing in my head providing a romantic soundtrack to accompany the images that filled my eyes.  The song I heard was Fields Of Gold and I now think of this as our song. Take a minute and listen to it here.

I love the part of the song where she sings, ” Will you stay with me, will you be my love…”  These words were embroidered on a special linen tablecloth by my new friend Tina to use on our table for our wedding reception. The flowers you see are the two buttercups I picked that day in May. I tucked them in a pocket on the side of my pants and played in the buttercup field with them where they stayed until we returned  home. I forgot they were there and when I noticed them again, I took them out and pressed them in a book. They dried twined together having fallen into the position that you see in the picture. I took a photograph of them and Tina created a sketch from it and the tablecloth design is a now a lasting memory of the day I came back to John and saw the buttercups for the first time.

I’m off now to climb Bedruthan Steps with John as we go back to the place we walked one year ago today. Today we’ll celebrate old memories and look forward to making new ones…and soon we’ll be walking in fields of gold again.

Bedruthan Steps – February 14, 2009

Bedruthan Steps – February 14, 2010

A Sweet Day Out

Thanks so much to everyone who left us a sweet message for our anniversary. Although the rain made it day to stay in, we ventured out for lunch to a special place to celebrate the day. In Cornwall, there are some places that receive a great deal of attention for their food and the place where John and I had lunch is one of those that people talk about. In addition to serving up yummy meals to please your palate, they also serve the community of Cornwall though a special apprentice program modeled after Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation and restaurant in London.  Tucked away in a place called Watergate Bay, we enjoyed the sea views from our table even though we were not inclined to brave the beach as some of the people you’ll see below.

We had a front seat view of the ocean from our table for two by the window and while I usually stick to water with meals, I surprised John when I said,  ” I think I’ll have a cocktail.”

Mmm … a Cosmopolitan, just like I remembered from evenings out with the “Girls” back in Atlanta.

Here’s one of John at the end of our meal … well fed and relaxed.

There was a Tuscan theme to the menu this month as our food choices below reflect.

Cornish smoked mackerel with celeriac remoulade and wild rocket.

Pappa Pomodoro ( a rich tomato and bread soup finished with a good oil).

Roast fillet of pollock with Fifteen’s amazing squash caponata, spinach and aceto di balsamico.

Roast Cornish rare breed pork loin with oozy polenta, Savoy cabbage and salsa verde.

And we are back where we started …  well sort of anyway … burp … oops, pardon me.

After a quick picture and …

… a last look at the beach …

… we said goodbye to Fifteen and headed for home.

I wanted to say that John was completely surprised by my anniversary gift. He had no idea that the tiny heart was there and he suggested that I post a photo showing more of the building so you might see its size in contrast with the rest of the wall. If you are having trouble finding it, look to the far right and you will see it about half way down the wall. Adding to our lasting memory, Kristin over at Gypsylife has a sweet story of her own. It made me smile to see that my post had triggered a special memory for her … I wonder if you have one of your own you might like to share below.

One Year Later – A Shelter For My Heart

First wedding anniversaries are traditionally paper, but I have something a bit longer lasting for John than my words here today. Tucked in the corner near the edge of the new addition is a lasting reminder of how grateful I am for the love and life I have with him. It seemed a perfect way to express how I feel and the words that came to mind when he first told me that he wanted to build a space for me, a room of my own to do whatever I wished … a quiet place to find my words and rest.

A shelter for my heart was what I thought that day … he’s building me a shelter for my heart!

As lovely as the idea of a quiet place of creativity and retreat is to me, the reality of how safe I feel in this relationship is even more important. Safe, respected, and well loved … in his gentle way John provides a shelter for my heart everyday, by loving me as I am which is a gift far greater than one built of bricks and stone.

Last July when the rock walls were going up on the exterior of my new studio space, I took a small stone heart that I had found on one of our walks and pressed it into the still wet cement bordering the cornish stone on the extension. I hoped John wouldn’t see it until today so I could use it to illustrate just how much he means to me using this tiny bit of rock as a symbol and marker for our story.

Standing outside yesterday as I took the picture above, I thought about who might see the heart shaped stone years from now and if they would wonder how it came to be placed there. I could almost see them, younger than we are, but full of the hope that comes with new love, happy for the chance to create a story of their own in this space … a place with a permanent heart shaped reminder, that love that once lived here.

If you would like to see some pictures from our wedding day and read a bit more about our love story, I have few links you can follow below. One year ago today, John and I made a very public declaration of a lasting kind. It was a lovely day filled with family and friends and unexpected surprises like this one found here. With no fears and no doubts, we said I will and I do, making legal the commitment we had made earlier while standing here, alone, on a bridge built to last forever.

Like Wrapping A Gift

Back when my studio space was mostly an unfinished shell, we decided to use an Ikea single (twin) size bed as a daybed. For months I had been struggling with just what to put in my space going back and forth between a sleeper sofa and a daybed of some kind. I wanted to avoid anything that took up too much space and most of the traditional daybeds seemed a bit heavy and bulky. As to the aesthetics of the piece, it needed to be a bit on the contemporary side and I wanted it to have interesting legs. The daybed needed to be comfortable for napping or to act as an extra bed should we have more overnight guests than the guest room could accommodate. Since its primary function would be a place for me to rest or read, I was intent on it looking more like a sofa of sorts than a bed.

Below you can see some of the stages it went through in its transition. I’m not finished yet and I have a design question for you at the bottom should you care to share your opinion.

Here you see it upside down, resting on its thin Ikea mattress ( see the 2.5 inch pad underneath the larger frame)

This one has the contemporary legs I was looking for in my design.

Do you remember when I gave you a preview here of the  fabrics I brought back from my Thanksgiving visit to Atlanta?

It would be easy to wrap the bed like a package if you laid it out length-wise like in this picture.

Well, the easy way is rarely found in my vocabulary and I wanted the swirly waves in the design to move in an upward motion when you looked at the piece rather than across. Taking the pattern across would have required the least amount of work, but would have changed the energy of the fabric design so I got out my scissors and sewing machine … disclaimer here, I’m not very experienced with this machine (or any machine) and by no means what you would call a seamstress, but as is my way, I worked it out.

If you look closely you can see the seam where I joined the two pieces, but realistically who’s going to inspect it that closely besides me.  I managed to get the upward motion of the pattern and after laying it out and lots of back and forth measuring and calculations, I set to work making it a more permanent part of the Ikea bed frame.

Armed with John’s staple gun, I went to work stapling it snugly to the frame tucking my corners so tightly that I almost felt as if I were back in the military. I moved back and forth from side to side in an effort to keep things balanced and did my corners (the end pieces) last.

It was important  to me that both corners looked as close to identical in image as I could manage and I was pretty pleased with the results.

This was what it looked like at the end of my efforts. It really was a bit like wrapping a gift. Now remember when I said I that I needed a little help from you? Here is what I’m trying to decide and I would love to hear your thoughts. I have some fabric left that I want to use to make pillows. In keeping with the upward motion of the pattern, I have enough to make four good-sized pillows about 24 x 24 inches, but I want to use another fabric on the backside of each one. These are my choices below … green or orange. Both colors look great with the front facing patterned fabric, but I’m still not sure.

I considered backing all four with same color or mixing it up with two of each. You should know as you are making your decision that I intend to recover a chair in the green fabric and it will likely sit near the end of the daybed. I’m giving my bathroom a finally coat of paint today and then I need to get my pillows done this evening or maybe tomorrow.

John has done such a brilliant job with my bathroom that I can’t wait to show it off. Yesterday, he built a perfect wooden sink stand based my specific design requests. I am so pleased with how he was able to build it just as I described. Plus, I don’t know if you noticed in the pictures above, but there is a dark hardwood floor now that John put down where there used to be a raw builders floor waiting to be finished. I can hear the table saw from the garage where he is working on something … bookshelves I think, since he’s building them for my space and finishing the inside of my closet this week. After that, I’ll be ready to unpack my things and settle in. Please help me out with a suggestion below regarding the color for the back of the pillows and thanks for your interest and help.

Thoughtful Consideration

I could not let this day pass without acknowledging the significance of today. Every relationship has milestones and today marks one for me and John. Two years ago on January 5, John received an alert that I had no idea I had initiated while viewing his profile on the UK dating website, Guardian Soulmates.

After seeing this picture and reading his profile, I saved him to my favorites and went on with my day. Little did I know that saving his profile would send him an email saying that he had a fan. John responded with a email to me and after I recovered from my surprise, I sent him one back. He responded to mine and ended it with his email address for a more direct contact than through Soulmates and let me know he was interested in continuing to talk. I had not intended on establishing contact with anyone … I was really just looking at profiles as a distraction and out of curiosity. I wrote about this last year here in great detail, but I didn’t say then that after our initial contact on the fifth it took me until the seventh to send him another email.

It took two days of thinking about why I should or shouldn’t be developing something with a man in another country, but ultimately I thought, oh go onit’s not like you’re going to get married or anything.

John likes to think of  the fifth as our anniversary since it was our first meeting … at least through email. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long you’ll know that we have another anniversary coming up next month. I bet most of you won’t need a hint to guess what we’ll be celebrating then.

A Gift For Abelard & Heloise


Carolyn guessed correctly that I was taking my bouquet to Père Lachaise cemetery, the burial place of many people famous in their day and in their death. Many know that Jim Morrison of The Doors fame is buried there, but some may not know that Moliere, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Isadora Duncan, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissaro, Richard Wright and Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas rest there as well along with too many others to name here.  While many of these grave sites would have been a good place to leave my flowers, I had a different location in mind.

As you can see from the title, I took my bouquet to the shared grave of the famous lovers, Abelard & Heloise who while separated by horrible circumstances in life, now lie together in death. I’ll leave you to read the stories that tell the tale of love, separation, and the loss that accompanies their doomed love affair. Much has been written and I’ve long been interested in the letters they left behind in The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (Penguin Classics). I’ve owned a copy for longer than I can remember and still take it off the shelf from time to time to reread parts of it.

They were secretly wed in real life and I thought it a sweet gesture to leave my wedding bouquet where modern day lovers or those who are loveless have left their own letters for years. If you know the story of Abelard & Heloise, it may seem odd to leave a happy token of our special day in a place where one might see only the sorrow of lovers separated in life, but I tossed my flowers over the iron fence that surrounds their grave for Heloise who never wished to be the bride of Abelard (because of her love for him and her fear of the consequences) or of Christ, but seemingly followed the wishes of the man she loved to the end of her days. It’s a romantic gesture of hope for lovers who wish for deep and abiding love.  

My images are not quite as I would have wished…the grave site had scaffolding around it as repairs were being made to to the aging monument and it was difficult to get a clear shot without the barriers.


Two Heads Side By Side On Pillows Of Stone




Angling For A Good Landing Spot

Angling For A Good Landing Spot

My Overhanded Toss Of The Bouquet Captured By John

My Overhanded Toss Of The Bouquet Captured By John

Perfect Landing!

Perfect Landing!


Abelard & Heloise

A Gift For Abelard & Heloise