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

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

An Afternoon of Strawberries and Aprons

Mom's bottle was usually a
BubbleUp bottle, since that
was cheaper than 7Up.
When I was growing up in the late 50's and 1960's, it seemed like my mom lived in our kitchen. Of course she did--think about what it took to do just the ironing back then. Mom would take one of her big, white, just-laundered damask tablecloths and sprinkle it with water from a BubbleUp bottle that had a metal sprinkler head on it, getting it nicely damp. Then she'd wrap the tablecloth up in a bag and put it in the fridge for awhile before it could even be ironed. Everything for her, from cooking, to ironing, to cleaning, took two, three, or four times the steps and work it does today. It was a world away from our own kitchens of convenience--push button microwaves, steam irons and high-tech vacuums.

There was always an old pop bottle
in the fridge with a cap like this in
it for sprinkling the ironing.
There's another thing I remember from our kitchen too. I remember that mom was rarely alone in it. When we came home from school, one of her girlfriends would be there and they'd be sitting at the table, drinking coffee and eating toast. I remember thinking, "when I grow up, I'll never just sit around and eat toast. Ever!" Now I'd give anything to sit in my kitchen and eat toast with a girlfriend. We may have convenience, but we are solitary soldiers in our kitchens compared to my mom's generation. They were in and out of each other's kitchens all day long and that's something that's been lost for awhile.

What we do have though, even though it can't ever replace real, human, one-to-one contact, is social media, Tweeting and texting--and it's gone a long, long way in helping me feel like I have someone to eat toast with in my kitchen. I live in the heart of a University town, surrounded by 19 year old students and cranky, old mathematics fellows (professors), so it's not really fertile girlfriend ground. I've always been able to make friends easily and often through my workplace--hospitals and travel agencies were full of girlfriends and friendships blossomed quickly. After moving to Oxford though, it was hard to get used to not having that outlet for meeting friends, but as Henry Ford said, "Don't find fault, find a remedy." And I did.

My neighbourhood has never proved to
be a good place to meet new girlfriends.
I decided to embrace the new way we have of connecting to one another online and started nurturing our B&B Facebook page, and learning how to use the strange and mystical world of Twitter. It didn't happen overnight, but slowly, slowly, I started to connect with kindred spirits and began to make new friends. Sure, they're friends I've never met, but I believe the heart can traverse through time and space. Even Einstein knew that. He spent a life's work trying to define the 'unified field'. The field beyond time and space that connects all life, all love, all eternity. It may be a lofty way to describe Twitter, but I think the mechanism of the unified field is how we all really connect. The heart, my heart, isn't limited to the four walls of my kitchen--it can reach out with simple zeros and ones into the digital world and find a Karen or a Bernadette or a Lisa or a Susan and a Kim.

Most days by 1pm Oxford time, my Twitter girlfriends back in the U.S. are just starting to stir and reach for their first cups of coffee. It's also the time I'm usually ironing or folding laundry, so Tweeting back and forth with them has made my kitchen far less lonely. Plus I have so much more in common with them than the crabby, old professors walking by my house. We're all kindred spirits, but we're also all connected by the common bond of being crazy, fully card-carrying fan-girls of Susan Branch. This means we have the common bond of loving the simple and ordinary arts of homemaking which, through love, is elevated to an artform. We're Anglophiles, sewers, creators, laughers, believers in love, magic, kindness and butter on toast. And we have just as much fun together in the Twittersphere as I did with my crazy dorm-mates back in college. All friends who've never met, but whose hearts connect in that field beyond time and space.

Most of us don’t need a
psychiatric therapist as
much as a friend to
be silly with. 
~Robert Brault

Sometimes we Tweet crazy things back and forth, like my long-time love affair with Tom Selleck or about the ghosts that haunt the B&B, and there's even been a virtual pillow fight. Typos turn into running jokes and there's always someone there to listen. Sometimes the conversation turns more bittersweet, just from a simple discussion about ironing--which turned into what we had to iron as little girls, which turned into talking about ironing our dad's handkerchiefs, which turned into talking about the smell of Old Spice, which turned into the common, loving bond of missing our dads. Like I said, hearts connecting through time and space, without the need for a physical bond other than our phones or computers.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there. When the
soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Which brings us to 1pm yesterday, in my kitchen making strawberry jam, when the girls back home were finally awake and the flurry of Tweets began. After a few minutes I tweeted a photo of my cute Cath Kidston apron and said I was the 'eclectic cook', cooking up the meat for Jack's meals and making strawberry jam. Then someone else Tweeted her apron, and so it began--an afternoon of sharing aprons.

My Cath Kidston apron, the Tweet
that started an afternoon of
aprons--and even better, stories.
Right away I could see how beautiful all the aprons would look together, they had a glow to them, their own loving field, and I knew each one held a story. I asked everyone to share a photo of an apron, so all afternoon the aprons came, one by one, each one as individual as the person who wears it.

Have nothing in your house that 
you do not know to be
useful or believe to be beautiful.
~William Morris

The aprons of kindreds
Lisa, Lyn, Maria, and Karen

If God had intended us to
follow recipes, He wouldn't
have given us grandmothers.
~Linda Henley

The aprons of kindred spirits Georgie,
Cindy, Cynthia and Gabi.

Homemaking is surely in reality the
most important work in the world.
What do ships, railways, mines, cars,
government, etc. exist for except that
people may be fed, warmed, and safe
in their own homes? The homemaker's
job is one for which all other's exist.
~CS Lewis

The aprons of Laura, Georgie,  
Kimberly and Belinda.

Some were the familiar Susan Branch pattern
and fabric that look so pretty hanging,
like four maids, all in a row. 

This beautiful apron of Maria's below was
made from Susan Branch's original
fabric, which is happily available
again on Spoonflower, along with
old favourites and new designs.
for free on Susan's website and it makes
a very special gift or a treat for yourself.

All of the aprons blended so sweetly and
these belong to Kim, Georgie and Kimberly.

Kim's beautiful aprons are perfect against
the pine furniture and her kitchen treasures.
She has two framed and very special heirloom
recipe cards from her mom and grandmother
over her kitchen stove--along with her
grandma's pie pan. They keep her mom
grandma right by her side as she cooks.
The best kind of heirlooms you could have.

We had Christmas aprons that everyone ooohhhed and ahhhed over. The top apron is the Susan Branch pattern  with darling Christmas fabric, made by Maria for Laura after they first became friends--also meeting on Twitter with the help of Susan. A perfect reminder of the start of a friendship between two kindred spirits.

Nellie's Christmas apron blended
right in with Cindy's plaids & stripes.

Bright colours mixed with bold colours
mixed with whimsical patterns
for Jane, Georgie, Laura & Kimberly.

Nellie's aprons below reminded me of my
own past. The top photo looks just like
the aprons worn at every Lutheran
Church potluck I've ever attended, and
the bottom left is from the Pike Place
Market in Seattle, my hometown.
The cute one on the bottom right
are the colours and berries that Nellie
likes to use to decorate her kitchen. 

Lisa sent a photo of a more manly
apron amidst her florals and Karen's
were light & airy pastels. Who knew
aprons could hold so much personality?

We had bittersweet moments too, talking about the glamour aprons our moms and Nanas used to wear when they entertained. Glamour aprons were usually half aprons made of netting, crisp organdy or voile. They were for special occasions only, and would be changed into once the nitty-gritty of the cooking was done. Georgie remembers her Nana wearing the pink one at Christmas and I remembered my mom's red glamour apron with gold rick-rack. 

Mom's red net apron was gathered and full--very bouffant. I used to flounce around the house in it pretending I was Marilyn Monroe or Dorothy Provine (my favourite paperdoll person). The glamour aprons were so versatile too. I'd wear the colourful ones as a cape or a skirt, and the white organza apron usually served as the bridal veil for my marriages to Dr. Kildare or President Kennedy (true child of the 60's).

Thank you Georgie for sharing the glamour aprons and the memories.

The fun, tweets, and apron sharing lasted until about 5 or 6pm Oxford time, so what 3 or 4 years ago would have been a solitary afternoon alone in my kitchen, just me and my strawberries, turned out to be an afternoon of frivolity, jokes and shared memories; what any afternoon hanging out with girlfriends is--and all because of talking about aprons.

In everyone’s life, at some time,
our inner fire goes out. It is then
burst into flame by an encounter
with another human being. We
should all be thankful for those
people who rekindle the inner spirit. 
~Albert Schweitzer

In case you hadn't noticed, the world around us is changing drastically--poke your nose out your front door on any given day and you can't ignore it. Some of the change can be frightening, but I find most of it exciting and invigorating--especially the new ways of loving and connecting to one another. I wouldn't have survived my eight years in Oxford without being able to Facetime, text, Tweet, or chat. I've embraced the digital age with bells on and it helped me survive the transition and the loneliness of leaving my family and friends behind, when I moved to Oxford and began a new life.

Any 'Outlander' fan-girl will
understand this photo of Avebury.
Every time Stuart and I are at Stonehenge or the village of Avebury, I marvel at us humans. We've advanced so far and in so many ways, yet here we are, still reaching out to one another in the dark just as we did when Stonehenge was built 5,000 years ago: lighting our fires to brighten the night, telling our stories to one another, comforting our losses and laughing at our foibles. As C.S. Lewis put it, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'Wait! You too? I thought I was the only one.'

So thank you for yesterday Twitter girlfriends--thank you for taking the time to share both your aprons and your stories with me. You, and your aprons, are all as lovely as can be--and the jam is delicious! It would be wonderful to be all together in one big kitchen--but as it turns out, the whole world is our kitchen. What a nice thought. xxxooo

And there's one more big, big thank you!!
To Susan Branch from all of your crazy
fan-girls, we thank you from the bottom of
our kindred hearts for bringing us all together.

Instead of deadlines and dread,
my home now smells like
strawberry-apple bread and joy.
I should bake more often.
~Dr. SunWolf


  1. Carrie what you wrote was very beautiful!! Thank you. I missed seeing some of the other gf's aprons. Simply beautiful. Especially loved the fancy ones from yesteryear. I have a few of those from my great aunt too. Yes you are so right too that having all the Gf's together every morning via the Internet is like having you all here in my kitchen too. Thank tou sweet friend. ❤️

    1. Thank you Cynthia and thank YOU for brightening my laundry folding, ironing, jam-making days! xxxfromOxford Carrie

  2. I think I lost my comment so here goes again and hopefully not duplicated. :)
    Thank you so very much for this lovely post Carrie. I have enjoyed getting to know the Twitter girlfriends. Each and every apron is adorable. You all fill me with that flame of goodness; the kind reds fan my inner spirit. I am loving your blog and hope to meet you at the picnic- until then I will visit here with joy! <3

    1. Hi Gabi--Yes, here you are ;-) and thank you for your kind thoughts and words. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading about all the aprons--and what a lovely afternoon it was--although my poor phone is still a tad sticky! So looking forward to meeting you at the picnic--how perfect that your timing is so perfect to be here for it. Can't wait to meet you and until then take care, Carrie xxxfrom Oxford

  3. Carrie, you have put so much love and care into this post. It has been wonderful seeing all of the aprons together...we're connected with hearts strings <3 And, thank you for including mine as well. It sure has been fun getting to know all of the Kind Red Lollipop girls! xoxo

  4. Karen P - Wisconsin1 June 2016 at 18:44

    Oh Carrie! Thank you for this heartfelt, sweet blog post today! I think all of us girlfriends feel the same, as one would expect kindreds to feel! Just loved our apron day yesterday! Seeing everyone's beautiful aprons and hearing their stories was such fun and helps us get to know one another in yet another dimension! My mom said to me once, when I was telling her about one of my online friends, "Well, she's not your friend!" I told her that yes, I consider her a friend with much in common that we can share, just not in person. Sitting in my comfy chair with my feet up, sipping a cup of tea and tweeting with a friend is the next best thing to having them here in person! It'sounds true what you say about the different way we have our time with friends than our mothers had. It's a different world now. Life's demands bring different challenges. I am so thankful for the Internet! It'sounds nice to know that there'should always someone to say hello to or share some exciting news! Thank you, Carrie, for being here and there across the Pond all at the same time! (Love that pic of you by Stonehenge! Cute outfit #allaboutcuteness) 🍭👻🍓🌹😙....Karen please excuse typos...had big message before, arrowed back to proof and lost it all...working on my tiny screen here!)

    1. Karen I'm so impressed you got the emojis in there--Andy Rooney's Ghost, the lollipop, the strawberry!! I'm so glad that this touched a chord with you and so happy that everyone is blossoming in friendship and in kindred spirits. These are different times, so it's better to then live differently, and I'm so glad we've all embraced that!! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and catch you later Lollipop! xxx from Oxford, Carrie

  5. Once again Carrie, a lovely blog post! I can't tell you how happy I am to have found another kindred SB girlfriend in you! What JOY you girls bring into my life in the world of Twitter and Facebook. Such sweet memories and thoughts you have brought into my world with this delightful post! Oh how I wish I could swim across the pond and join the other Susan Branch girlfriends in September for her book signing, talk and picnic. I am sure you will capture it all for us Lollipop girls back here in the US in another lovely blog post. Remember, grab the peanut butter for your phone! Have a lovely day and thanks again for adding sunshine and laughter to my day! ;0) xoxo

    1. Thank you so much Belinda and I wish too, that all of you could hop on the boat with Susan and Joe (and haunt them on shipboard like Andy Rooney's Ghost haunts us!) and be here for the picnic as well. But I know that one day I'll see many of you in England--it's all of our fondest dreams, and if there's one thing we know. it's that dreams have a way of coming true!! xxxfrom Oxford, Carrie

  6. Enchanting and charming, Carrie! Such a great idea to share aprons! I'm not "on" when you and the "fan-girls" are --for various reasons, but I do read and catch up as I can. And I, too, have felt the pang of loneliness in a place not my heritage. Susan's books began this all for me, too, and I can't tell you what a window of fresh air, and encouragement to create my own book that was begun in 2005! I will pick up again now that June is here. My goal to write through the summer when hot and sticky here, in my air conditioned cocoon. And of course, to continue looking in and visiting with all the SB Girlfriends and kindreds. We are all so different, yet have the same thread of love of beauty, truth and goodness and creative homemaking and living. I am grateful to have found you, and like a great labyrinth we keep encircling each other and stoking each other's dreams!! Thank you so much! Jane xoxo

    1. Thank you Jane--and thank you also for sharing your apron, your thoughts & dreams. I'm so glad you feel inspired to continue your book--what a great summer pursuit that will be for you. Thank you as always for your support and encouragement and much love from Oxford from Jack and I! xxx

  7. Laura B. Jenkins1 June 2016 at 21:59

    This post is perfectly perfect in every way! One day we will all meet and complete each other's sentences and laugh at the same jokes. My dear local friends don't "get" how I can be a TRUE friend of someone on twitter...I will have them read this post so that they might understand. Just lovely, dear "sister" of mine in Oxford. xoxo

    1. Oh Laura--so happy you found this a perfectly perfect ;-) way of expressing how we all feel--but not just that. That it can help your friends understand as well is a bonus. This is a strange old world we're trying to navigate here and to do it with the help of a sisterhood--well there's hardly anything better than that! xxxfrom Oxford, Carrie

  8. what a fun read... remember the glamour aprons were in the window seat chest. I always looked and never wore... good for you for being brave and wearing them with a flourish!!! One year I made French country aprons out of Christmas prints... I go by bolts of Christmas fabric and feel a longing to buy a yard or two and plan out a new apron or table cloth!! thank you... love you ...

  9. what a fun read... remember the glamour aprons were in the window seat chest. I always looked and never wore... good for you for being brave and wearing them with a flourish!!! One year I made French country aprons out of Christmas prints... I go by bolts of Christmas fabric and feel a longing to buy a yard or two and plan out a new apron or table cloth!! thank you... love you ...

    1. Yes--well I snuck them out of that chest when no one was looking--the added benefit of being the middle child--I could operate under the radar so much better. :-) I still have our French country apron and I'd sure like another one! hint hint Love you too Sissy. xxxCarrots

    2. Karen P - Wisconsin2 June 2016 at 19:03

      Awww....I call my 2 sisters "Sissy" too! 💕💕

  10. Rats! I should not try to comment using my phone. I think it ate my comment since I don't see it.

    Carrie, you captured so beautifully all the fun we were having on Twitter, and I thank you for making it so pretty (including my blah green apron!). You have a gift for writing, and I think you should make books! We know someone with a bit of knowledge in that area who would be a wealth of info! ;-) Much love!

    1. Thank you sweet Kimberly for persevering and sharing your thoughts in spite of your comment eating phone! Thanks for your encouragement--along with everyone else's I might add--about my writing. You all add to my inspiration every day. xxxfrom Oxford, Carrie

  11. Dearest Carrie, I read this again and cried all over again. Like I said on Twitter I am filled with gratitude for finding you and the other "lollipop girls". My life is so full since Susan connected us kindred spirits. I had always said I would never get on twitter but then I wanted to connect with Susan. Who knew I would find a whole bushel of happy, fun, silly, kindreds or Kind Reds as Kim says. LOL! I look forward to seeing what is happening with everyone and I'm afraid to put it down sometimes in fear I might miss the fun. :) I don't have many girlfriends since moving to The Woodlands from Dallas but the lollipop girls make up for that tenfold. I love finally finding friends of like minds and I can be silly without hearing any reproof. I was so sorry you missed our virtual slumber party. I will never forget that fun time we all had and all on our phone or computers. Amazing! I love your blog and your way with words that says just what we all believe. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us and inspiring us to save our pennies for that rainy day when we can all come to your B&B and have tea & toast together. Glad there isn't a character limit here. LOL I am so glad we can call each other "friend"!!
    With much love,
    Lisa Hay xoxoxo

    1. Dearest Lisa--Silly? Us? Really? Andy Rooney's Ghost thinks we're just wonderful! So kind and red. :-) It makes me very happy to think we've all reached out to one another and had the courage to create friendships in a different way. And I cannot wait for the time we can all have tea and toast together--along with anyone else who loves sharing tea and toast. All are welcome! You just have to be able to laugh.....and drink tea.....and like butter on toast! Keep saving your pennies and xxxfrom Oxford, Carrie