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

Monday, 31 December 2018

While angels sing with tender mirth,
 A glad new year to all the Earth.
 ~ Martin Luther (1483–1546)

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Our Morning Kitchen at Christmas

Let Christmas not become a thing
Merely of merchant's trafficking,
Of tinsel, bell and holly wreath
And surface pleasure, but beneath
The childish glamour, let us find
Nourishment for soul and mind.

Let us follow kinder ways
Through our teeming human maze,
And help the age of peace to come
From a Dreamer's martyrdom.
~ Madeline Morse

The kitchen has been the heart
of my home ever since I began
keeping house 42 years ago.
It's especially true still, 
since the heart of any B&B
is its kitchen.

Our kitchen sideboard really comes to life at Christmas.

Our kitchen is also where I probably
do the most Christmas celebrating.
hesitate to even call it decorating
because it's all too precious...
every piece has a meaning or
memory attached to it.

I've been collecting snowmen since
I had a little kitchen/gift shop in the
1980s. Some I found myself, some are
gifts from my kids or friends.
All are treasured.

There must have been some magic
 In that old silk hat they found 
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around . . .
~ Frosty the Snowman

Even the chickens get Santa hats to wear.

Favourite books leave their
bookshelf homes and take
centre stage at Christmas.

"Thank you little Robin," he said, "for
making this the best Christmas tree
tree we've ever had. Now fly away home!"
~ Noel Barr
The Wise Robin

 for a Happy Christmas

🎄Fill a house with equal parts
Love, Hope & Peace.
🎄Add the Joy of children and
the strength of older people.
🎄Season with the music of
laughter & some mistletoe kisses.
🎄Warm before a crackling fire &
serve with Tidings of Comfort & Joy.
~ Susan Branch
Christmas Joy

Susan Branch's joy of
Christmas all distilled down
into one little gem of a book.

And right next to it, a treasured
'early Christmas present' from my
 granddaughter, lovingly made and
tucked into my suitcase when we
were there for Thanksgiving last year.
💗 'To Nana in England' 💗

So many of my Christmas treasures have
been traveling with me since the 1980s or earlier,
like the wonderful Pioneer Lady's Country Christmas
Cookbook, which was published long, long before
there was ever a Pioneer Woman named Ree.

This little hand-painted German Christmas tree
ornament has traveled with me since 1976,
one of the first Christmas decorations I bought
as a young bride. I was so proud of it as it hung
alongside all my other handmade ornaments.
These are the things I treasure most, so much
history, so connected to my life as it unfolds.

Handmade Christmas bunting
from Scotland, in tartan of course.

A little knitted snowman watches
over the tea and toast making this
morning, making sure all runs
on schedule for a busy breakfast.

 And another makes sure the scrambled
eggs are cooked to perfection.

 My Christmas aprons always make
the dark mornings seem more cheerful,
and this vintage Santa is a favourite.

Even all my little lamps get
dressed up for Christmas with
tiny, red bows.

And a Christmas valence on the door
leading from the kitchen out to the
breakfast room, made from two
Sophie Allport tea towels.

I've had a little kitchen Christmas tree
with chubby robins since the 1990s,
and everything but the little metal bells
traveled with me when I moved to Oxford.
 I couldn't imagine moving without my
 'Christmas', and it all sailed safely over
the Atlantic Ocean in our 40ft container.

Isn't it funny that at Christmas 
something in you gets so lonely for...
I don't know what exactly, but it's 
something that you don't mind so
 much not having at other times. 
~ Kate L. Bosher

Some things were temporarily lost
in my big move across the sea,
as it took ages to sort through things
since moving into a B&B is no simple
matter. As I rediscovered each little
Christmas treasure in my new life,
it felt as though I was reclaiming pieces
 of myself.

Moving here has been one of the most
difficult things I've ever done. Most 
people just see the, "oh you live in
England!!" part, forgetting what being
a long-haul flight away from your family
and friends must feel like. So every 
Christmas ornament from home becomes
a way of settling into my new home
and life. A way of melding the two
worlds so this feels just as much
home as my American home now.

Whatever else be lost among the years,
 Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing;
 Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,
 Let us hold close one day, remembering
 Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men. 
Let us get back our childlike faith again.
~ Grace Noll Crowell

The little hand-knitted mittens on the
bird tree have traveled with me since
1985, and a half dozen little wooden
soldiers even longer, 1977. Treasures,
no matter how small.

 And now our morning breakfast isn't
complete without Tex in the kitchen,
waiting with the vain hope that a piece
of bacon will suddenly come flying
through the air and straight to him.
Maybe this year a Christmas miracle
will happen, and his wish will come true.

 Christmas music plays nonstop
on my little bluetooth speaker
 from November to New Year...
no exceptions!!

Favourite Christmas carols include
In The Bleak Midwinter,
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,
and O Holy Night. I also have a playlist
of all country Christmas from the 1980s
and 90s, back when country music wasn't
so overproduced and intense.  Nothing says
Christmas quite like Tennessee Christmas.

It is Christmas in the heart that
puts Christmas in the air.
~ W.T. Ellis

...And that's why I feel like all our Christmas
treasures are so much more than 'decor'.
All the angels & snowmen, books & baubles
are just outer reflections of the inner Love
we share with one another at Christmas,
 reflections of our hearts. That is something
money cannot buy, but is worth more
than any earthly treasure.

At Christmas, all roads lead home. 
~ Marjorie Holmes

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Christmas Joy...The Business of Heaven

Winter, a lingering season, 
is a time to gather golden moments, 
embark upon a sentimental journey, 
and enjoy every idle hour.
~ John Boswell

Because even though the weather
outside can be frightful,
as in 36F and raining,
our hearts can still be cheerful.

C.S. Lewis wrote,
When you are behaving as if you
loved someone, you will 
presently come to love him.
I think the same might be true
for happiness and a cheerful 
heart. When you behave as though
you are happy, soon you will come
to feel happy.

Having said that, I do know exactly
how difficult Christmas can be sometimes,
when everyone around you is full of the
joys of the season (or you think
they are).  I know all too well what
depression can do to happiness,
as well as what grief does to
Christmas cheer.

Twelve years ago last week we lost
our dad, just a few days before his
December birthday. When I was
little we always put our Christmas
tree up on the night of his birthday,
December 12th. My dad loved 
Christmas. I mean really loved it.
My mom did as well, but
being the harried mother of 5 kids,
she didn't have the time or energy to
emote all over Christmas. She was too
busy creating it for five of the most
rapscallioniest pastor's kids you've
ever seen.

The best of all gifts around
 any Christmas tree:
the presence of a happy family all 
wrapped up in each other. 
~ Burton Hillis

This was taken right after our dad's funeral.
When we looked back at it we were able
to see the joy in our eyes; a joy reflected
from the hope and of the preaching 
of the Gospel that dad lived.

Most of my memories of Christmas
are tied to Dad. I remember once
on a snowy Michigan evening, dad had
me come outside with him and we stood
on the sidewalk marveling at all the
Christmas lights on the houses reflecting
off the snow. When I was a little older he
let me come along when he would visit 
parishioners in nursing homes on
Christmas Eve day. Then we would go
Christmas shopping for my mom at
Frederick and Nelson's. Leather gloves,
a soft sweater, perfume and maybe a new
purse would accompany us home, along
with a peaceful and happy good cheer.

Losing dad just before Christmas has made
those memories bittersweet and oh, so dear.
Since that time we've added 12 little people
to our family, but also lost two more, our
mom and brother. My daughter in law
has also just lost her little brother and this
is the first Christmas without him.

So yes, I do know grief, I know depression.
But I also know the Source of Joy, the
kind of Joy that is as C.S. Lewis calls it,
the business of heaven. So I don't panic 
when I feel sad at Christmas because I
know my heart has become big enough to
hold both the happy and the sad.
It isn't either/or.
It's both/and.

Both/And living means you
can smile at the snowman your child gave
you 20 years ago, and you can cry
over the silly Christmas mugs your dad
impulsively bought you at Shopko 19 years
ago. My heart can definitely hold both now.
For me that's one of the messages of Christmas,
from the baby in the manger who later said,

Come to me, all you who are weary 
and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from
 me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
~ Matthew 11:28-30

The sadness is no longer a burden
 then, and the joy is not forced. Both
are gifts to the spirit. The Christmas
Joy is anchored in a deeper mystery
that cannot be dulled. It shines like
a star in a midnight blue sky and
cannot be put out.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Be of Good Cheer!

Reindeer games in the
University Parks yesterday. 

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.                  
~ Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Dressed Up For Christmas

The people walking in darkness
 have seen a great light;
 on those living in the land of
 deep darkness a light has dawned.
~ Isaiah 9:2

If the world around you seems dark,
find a way to light up your corner of it.

I love that our Christmas lights shine out
and light the way for our guests walking
home down Holywell Street.

Christmas is the season for kindling
 the fire of hospitality in the hall,
the genial flame of charity in the heart.
~ Washington Irving

Little Christmas Robins greet
people as they walk past.

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons--That oppresses,
 like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes-- 
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar, 
 But internal difference,
 Where the Meanings, are.
~ Emily Dickinson

The Legend of the Christmas Robin

On that first Christmas, it is said, the night was wrapped in a bitter chill. The small fire in the stable was nearly out, and the Mother Mary worried that her baby would be cold. She turned to the animals about her and asked them for help. "Could you blow on the embers," she asked the ox, "so the fire might continue to keep my son warm?" 
 But the ox lay sound asleep on the stable floor and did not hear her. Next, Mary asked the donkey to breathe life back into the fire, but the sleeping donkey did not hear Mary either. Nor did the horse or sheep. She wondered what to do.
Suddenly, Mary heard a fluttering of little wings. Looking up, she saw a plain, brown-coloured little robin fly into the stall. This robin had heard Mary calling to the animals and had come to help her himself.
He went over to the dying fire and flapped his wings hard. His wings were like little bellows, huffing and puffing air onto the embers, until they glowed bright red again. He continued to fan the fire, singing all the while, until the ashes began to kindle.
With his beak, the robin picked up some fresh, dry sticks and tossed them into the fire. As he did, a flame suddenly burst forth and burned the little bird's breast a bright red. But the robin simply continued to fan the fire until it crackled brightly and warmed the entire stable. The Baby Jesus slept happily.
Mary thanked and praised the robin for all he had done. She looked tenderly at his red breast, burned by the flame, and said "From now on, let your red breast be a blessed reminder of your noble deed." And to this day, the robin's red breast covers his humble heart.

Since J.R.R. Tolkien was our neighbour
many years ago, down at No. 99, it
seems fitting that I use his beautiful cover
painting from Letters From Father Christmas
as the inspiration for our breakfast room
at and blue.

If you find that not many of the things
 you asked for have come, 
and not perhaps quite so many
 as sometimes, remember that this
 Christmas all over the world there 
are a terrible number of
 poor and starving people.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, 
Letters from Father Christmas

Chair pads are changed to
red gingham.

Christmas robins flit here and there.

And therefore, Uncle, though it has
 never put a scrap of gold or silver
 in my pocket, I believe that
[Christmas] has done me good,
and will do me good;
 and I say, God bless it!
~ Charles Dickens, 
A Christmas Carol

Mankind was my business.
The common welfare was
my business; charity, mercy,
 forbearance, benevolence, 
were all my business. 
The dealings of my trade were
 but a drop of water in the 
comprehensive ocean of my business!
~  Charles Dickens, 
A Christmas Carol

We have a tiny tree in the corner
to light up the dark mornings
of the winter solstice. I miss having
real Christmas trees, but I don't miss the
ambulance trips to the hospital around
Christmas because of allergies to
trees. I'd rather have many, many
Christmases to come than suffer
a real tree...but I do miss them.

A few greens here and there helps
with the lack of that real
Christmas tree smell.

Our breakfast room tree as it stood
last year, all silver and white. 

A piece of vintage sheet music
inspired the mantel over the fireplace,
along with angels I've had for years that made
 the trip over the Atlantic ocean 11 years ago.

Angels descending, bring from above,
 Echoes of mercy, whispers of love. 
~ Fanny J. Crosby

Silver bells, silver bells,
It's Christmas time in the city,
Hear them ring, 
 Soon it will be Christmas day.

The swan holds a special place on the
mantel in honour of our beautiful swans
in the University Parks who give us so
much beauty & joy through the year.

One of the best Christmas decorations this year,
Tex! In his favourite spot by the fire.

Breakfast clean up this morning in my new,
vintage, non-ironic, 90s-era Christmas 
sweater. It's a little big, but with leggings or
my favourite plaid PJ bottoms, I have a feeling
it will be my Christmas uniform this year.

Outside on Holywell Street, Advent services
are all around us in the college chapels.
 Yesterday I walked home
from the Post Office behind this group of
choristers returning from another service,
looking like beautiful, red Christmas Robins.

Speaking of the Post Office, I made my very
last trip yesterday. Hip, hip, hooray for me!
Since no cars are allowed in the city centre, we
walk everywhere, which means trundling to the
Post Office daily until all my packages are mailed
back to the States. But now I'm done. I've done
all my wrapping, posting, buying, packaging,
you name

...tomorrow we're off to Wales again for
a bonus four nights. We were able to take
some extra time off for a few days peace
and walking...peaceful walking...walking
whilst peaceful.

Walking at our happy place on
Offa's Dyke on a crystalline cold
morning in Wales.

 We shall find peace. We shall hear angels,
we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. 
~ Anton Chekhov

Wishing a blessed Season of Advent to
all of you from No. 14 Holywell Street,
Stuart, The Boys, and I ...

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given, 
 and the government will be on 
his shoulders. And he will be called
 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6