Be like a train; go in the rain,

go in the sun, go in the storm,

go in the dark tunnels!

Be like a train;

concentrate on your road

and go with no hesitation!
~Mehmet Murat ildan

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

***Unfold your own myth.***

I hope you will go out and let stories,

that is life, happen to you, and that

you will work with these stories . . .

water them with your blood &

tears & your laughter till they bloom,

till you yourself burst into bloom.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Tour of Our Garden

"A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches
patience and careful watchfulness; 
it teaches industry and thrift; 
above all it teaches entire trust."
~Gertrude Jekyll

A David Austin 'Brother Cadfael' rose with fresh, June blooms.

One of my five Lavateras,
with the Harris Manchester
clock tower as a backdrop.
Before we begin the tour of our garden, let me preface by saying that I have no formal training as a gardener, other than the school of trial and error.  I am no master gardener; I rarely can remember the latin name for a plant, other than maybe Lavatera, and I've never once tested the pH of our garden soil. I just love to garden--pure and simple.  In The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame wrote, "there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."  I understand that sentiment completely, except I would replace the word boat with dirt, because for me there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in the dirt.

"I say, if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, 
you ought to seriously re-examine your life."
~ Bill Watterson,
Calvin and Hobbs

Master digger, Jack.
I've read that there are microbes in the soil that somehow act on the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is a compound in our bodies that among other things regulates our moods; in other words these microbes that are in the dirt that's stuck underneath my fingernails at the end of the day are a natural Zoloft or Prozac. It's a positive feedback loop of the best kind--the more I dig and plant, the happier I feel, and the more I want to dig and plant.

"Gardening is cheaper than therapy,
and you get tomatoes."
~Unknown (but a very wise person).

So that's one reason why I garden--it just makes me happy.  Another reason is the urge to create--I can't not do it.  It has never mattered where I live--a farmhouse, a two bedroom apartment, or a cottage--I've nurtured flower pots, planted lavender, created an herb garden, or added a window box.  It doesn't matter where you are, you can propagate beauty in some small way. There isn't anything that feels quite like creating something out of nothing and for me, there's nothing better than creating beauty.

"I'm going to make everything
around me more beautiful. 
That will be my life."
~ Elsie deWolfe

So welcome to our garden.  It's a little bit wild, it's unmanicured and natural, and it's a sanctuary for people, puppies, birds, bees, and hedgehogs in the middle of a bustling city.  You enter through a little garden gate, that opens onto small stone steps, taking care to duck underneath the archway in the 10 foot tall hedge.

Jack is at the top of the steps, waiting to show 
you around what he now believes to be his garden.

There's a Cotswold stone bird bath in the 
middle, surrounded by Hidcote Lavender.

The 'Brother Cadfael' rose is named after Ellis Peters'
sleuthing Shropshire monk.  It's a medium pink, with
a rich myrrh fragrance and a prolific bloomer.

Because I don't have hours a day to spend in our garden,
I grow things that are easy and don't need a lot of special
 care--hardy roses, lots of lavender, forget-me-nots, 
geraniums, hollyhocks, sage, and Lavatera, to name a few.  
St. Francis, who came along with Max and I from the U.S.,
watches over it all throughout every season, in sunshine or in rain.

I prefer to grow Hidcote Lavender because of it's deep
purple colour that holds it's rich tone even after it's dried.
An apricot climbing rose grows alongside the summerhouse.
An old garden spade serves as a rustic trellis.
This is our summerhouse and my inner sanctuary. 
A place to sit and read, a place to dream and breathe,
or sometimes just a place to get out of the rain.

This is our wild corner, reserved for hedgehogs, and there are three
hedgehog houses buried under fresh cedar and ivy clippings.  We 
have plenty of gaps in the hedges too for hedgehogs to slip under, 
since they're known to travel up to 2 or 3 km a night.  A large 
butterfly bush and a quince protect it all from wind and rain.

A teacup bird feeder hangs from the quince bush.

Peek over the brick wall that's the backdrop for my roses, and you 
can see our neighbour's lovely garden, her white roses blooming against
 a canvas of green.  The black and white house in the background 
to the right is No. 1 Mansfield Rd. where C.S. Lewis lived when 
he first came to Oxford.  He must have looked out of that little window 
and saw the same black walnut tree that I look out onto from my 
kitchen window. The Harris Manchester clock tower is to the left of it, 
and tolls the time for Jack and I as we work and play in the garden.

There are benches to sit and drink Pimm's and watch Jack play.

Who turned out the lights?!
The chicken coop in the background is fortified and ready 
for the two Burford Brown hens we've ordered, 
Mrs. Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs. Havisham, to move into in July.

We even have apples, quince, blackcurrents, and gooseberries.

A quince blossom.

We have a bumper crop of apples this year.

Tangy gooseberries.

And that's about all there is to show.  Our garden will never be
 on a garden tour or win any awards; it's the place we 
find sanctuary, a place I can get my hands dirty 
and create beauty.  It's where our dogs can play, 
hedgehogs can find shelter, bees can feed off lavender, 
and birds have food year round--and those are things 
that can be created anywhere, no matter where you live.

"Gardening is about enjoying the smell of 
things growing in the soil, getting dirty 
without feeling guilty, and generally taking 
the time to soak up a little peace and serenity."
~Lindley Karstens

Jack will show you the way out because he likes to show off how he can 
bound and leap down the steps now. Thanks for visiting and 
don't be afraid to get a little dirt under your fingernails--
just grow what you love and the rest will follow.

"The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth."
~Dorothy Frances Gurney,
Garden Thoughts

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below--what do you love to grow, where do you garden?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Oxford "Bests"

Opinions always vary of course, but these
are my own, personal bests from Oxford.

The best reason to visit Oxford ~
"There's something rather wonderful about the
fact that Oxford is a very small city that contains
most of the cultural and metropolitan facilities you 
could want, in terms of bookshops, theatre, cinema, 
conversation.  But it's near enough to London to get 
there in an hour, and it's near enough to huge, 
open spaces, without which I would go insane."   
~ Mark Haddon

BEST BOOKSHOP  ~ Blackwell's on Broad Street.  
A rabbit warren of books, that seems to go on 
forever, and a book lover's dream.

BEST VIEW ~ The church tower of the 
looking out over the Radcliffe Square, 
All Souls College and the High Street.

BEST AFTERNOON TEA ~ The Randolph Hotel, Beaumont Street.
A leisurely, and oh-so-English afternoon tea 
in the drawing room.  Not fussy, relaxed, with 
deep sofas and chairs that encourage lingering.
Be sure to book ahead.

BEST BURGER ~ Maxwell's on Queen Street,
for when only a burger will do.
A tradition in Oxford since the 1970's.

Flagg's on Broad Street.
No self-respecting tourist in Oxford can
go home without a sweatshirt or a 
handful of postcards, or even
a Harry Potter magic wand for that matter.

BEST WALKING TOUR  ~ Oxford Walking Tours, Broad Street.
This one we admit to being completely biased about, but
Stuart's Oxford Walking Tours are the best in town.  Stuart
prides himself on the fact that the tours go INSIDE the colleges.
More importantly, you have to walk to experience Oxford,
since cars and buses aren't allowed down many of the streets.
Only take the open-top bus tours if you want to sit in traffic,
otherwise always opt for walking Oxford.

BEST PLACE TO BUY LUGGAGE ~ Boswells, Broad & Cornmarket
If you've spent too much time in Blackwell's Bookshop
buying books or in Flaggs buying sweatshirts for nieces
and nephews, and find you need an extra piece of luggage
to get home, Boswells is your place.  It's also the place to 
buy a fan if you're staying in the colleges' un-airconditioned 
rooms for the summer, picnic baskets, teapots, towels, 
rugs, candles, and so much more.  A true 'department' 
store, locally owned and run since 1738.

BEST CUP OF COFFEE ~ The Missing Bean, Turl Street.
Opened in 2009, it's already an institution in Oxford
and 12,000 students can't all be wrong.  They're 
independent, roast their own coffee, and offer the 
perfect vantage point for watching the world go 
by on Turl Street, across from Lincoln college.

BEST PUB ~ The Turf Tavern, 
between Holywell Street and New College Lane.
The 'best' pub is probably the most arguable 'best', 
but the Turf Tavern is our favourite, since it's our local pub.
Low ceilings, local cask ales, lots of outside seating with
warm fires in the winter, an Inspector Morse connection, 
and one of the oldest pubs in Oxford.

BEST CAR RENTAL ~ Budget Car Rental, Osney Lane.
For purely practical reasons, this is the best place
to pick up a rental car in Oxford, since it's a short 
walk from the city centre and just near the train station.

BEST SANDWICH SHOP ~ The Alternative Tuck Shop.
on the corner of Holywell Street and Mansfield Rd.
Three hard-working blokes serving up fresh sandwiches
and delicious treats from dawn to dusk.  We love the
Satay Chicken on a fresh granary bap.

BEST COLLEGE GARDEN ~ New College Garden
With New College Don and history professor Robin Lane-Fox
as it's master gardener, this garden is stunning perfection all
through the year.  There's an Elizabethan mound that was
 created purely for viewing the garden and the herbaceous border,
which runs along the old city walls, is one of the best of it's kind.

BEST COLLEGE TO VISIT ~ Magdalen College, the High Street.
If you can only visit one college in Oxford, Magdalen
College offers it all.  Beautiful grounds to wander through, 
Addison's Walk, one of C.S. Lewis' favourite walks, classic 
Oxford dining hall, chapel, and cloisters, a cafe on the river for 
afternoon tea, and it's open until 7pm during the summer months.

BEST WALK ~ Christ Church Meadow
This is my favourite walk, a wide-open space in the middle
of a bustling city.  There are views of  Magdalen, Merton, and
Christ Church colleges, pathways along the Cherwell and the
Thames, daffodils during the spring, wildflowers during the
summer, ducks, geese, heron, and if you look closely, deer
and fox.  Watch rowers on the Thames and punters on the 
Cherwell, picnickers on the river banks, and schoolboys
playing rugby.  It encapsulates all that is Oxford.

These are the "bests" for Stuart and I,
but come and and find your own..............

"It is not down in any map;
true places never are."
~Herman Melville

Friday, 12 June 2015

A Photo Album of Wee Jack's First Month in Oxford

"Happiness is a warm puppy."
~ Charles M. Schulz

Our Jack has been with us for a month now, and as with anything 
wonderful that comes into your life, we don't know how we ever 
 lived without him. He is pure joy on four legs and covered in fur.

Jack came with two settings--'Sleep' and 'Reckless Abandon'.
It's difficult to get a clear photo of him because, 
"how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand"?

He does try and help out around the B&B, but 
then I turn around and he's asleep on the job.

 Sometimes it's difficult for us to get any work done,
with all his busy, puppy antics........

......but then he has us completely wrapped around his little paw,
with those big brown eyes, so we don't mind.

Jack is so very smart and figures out routines quickly. Every 
morning, just before the guests come down to breakfast, 
we put on a CD.  Now as soon as Jack hears the New College 
choir sing, he jumps into his bed, curls up with his friends,
and goes to sleep--knowing  it can be a hectic time and it's 
best to stay out of the way of busy feet.

He loves all his friends, but bunny is his favourite.

Jack's favourite place in the world is our garden, the lawn awash
with daisies, "helping" me dig and plant flowers, investigating 
new smells and sounds.  It's all a wonder to him.

His favourite thing to do in the garden is to be chased round
and round in circles, around the bird bath--by me.  Puppies
and daisies and running in circles--it's like being a kid again.

We go round and round until one of us is too dizzy.

He also thinks digging is a pretty good idea.

"Come on mummy! Hurry up!!"

Stuart, Jack, and I quickly formed a strong little pack
and Jack sometimes has a hard time when we're 
not all three together.  Here he is, laying on my
gardening shoes, patiently waiting for my return........... 

...........and waiting for Stuart to return home from his evening ghost tour.

It didn't take Jack long to discover where the bacon hangs out..............

..........and he thought he'd move his bed closer to it for convenience.

Jack can't go for walks yet, until all his vaccinations have kicked in
and he's fully protected, so sometimes he's a little sad that he's stuck indoors.

He does get lots of playtime and sun though......

......and he even had a sweet little playmate come and stay.  She was
on a girlie trip to England with her mummy, but she was able to
spend lots of time in our garden, playing with Jack.

Jack is a doll, whether he's asleep.......

.....or awake.

But above all,  we think he's an angel with fur, our Jack.

"Whoever said you can't buy 
happiness forgot little puppies."
~ Gene Hill

A word about our Max......

Max is just fine, but he had a hard time adjusting to a new pup around the house--which at 13 he's entitled to.  He has severe arthritis, especially in his hind legs, and a little puppy jumping all over his made him very miserable and snappy.  So, until Jack is a little older, bigger, and can defend himself, Max is happily ensconced with Stuart's dad in Bicester.  He's very happy with Grandad and they keep one another company.  In a few weeks, once Jack is all done with his puppy vaccinations and can be out and about for walks like a big dog, Max will return home and we'll continue the process of Jack and Max getting to know one another.  Until then he's happy at Grandad's, being over-fed, under-exercised, and cuddled while they watch the footie together.

And you can read about how Jack came to live in Oxford here...........

Thanks for stopping by and meeting Jack! Tell us about your furry loved ones below, we love to hear from you.