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


Link to read about:

The Story of Jack--
the little heartbeat
at my feet.
June 2015

"My little dog--
A heartbeat at my feet."
~Edith Wharton

Wee Jack at 7 weeks old;
 a Jack Russell Terrier and Bichon Frise mix.

For some reason, about two months ago, Stuart and I simultaneously and spontaneously decided that we needed a puppy.  The thought was just in both our heads one day, "We need a puppy!", and that was that, we were getting one.

I was away from Oxford for several weeks this spring, visiting back in the U.S., and when I returned on May 12th the puppy fever had only spiked.  A day or two after getting home and suffering from jet lag, I got up in the night and began the puppy search in earnest.  It only took 15 minutes and there he was, our puppy, in black and white, furry, roly-poly glory.  I went back to bed and told Stuart (it was 3am) that we'd be driving up to Carlisle, the border of Scotland, on Sunday to pick up our puppy. He just rolled over and said, "Ok darling, that's great."  (That's why Stuart's a keeper.)

So on the 17th of May, only five days after a long-haul flight and returning home, we cleared away breakfast, waved our guests off, jumped in the car and were on our way to Carlisle, 250 miles away.  We didn't think twice about driving 500 miles for our new pup, it only felt like a wonderful adventure. It also gave Stuart the perfect opportunity to sing his favourite song, "I Would Walk 500 Miles" --  for 500 miles.

The M6 in Cumbria and our farm shop stop.
We had beautiful scenery along the way, waved to the Lake District as we passed by, and stopped at a wonderful farm shop just off the motorway before driving into Carlisle.  Our spirits were very high and it didn't take long to find the address we were looking for.  And then four hours after leaving Oxford, we were holding our new puppy, wee Jack, named for our favourite Oxford 'Jack', C.S. Lewis.

As I held him, he calmly looked up at me and we both knew, Jack and I, that he was right where he belonged.  What drew me to Jack, other than the fact he was the cutest puppy I'd ever seen, was that he's a Jack Russell and Bichon Frise mix.  I thought what a great combination--the traits of each breed would enhance the traits of the other, and I was so right.  I could tell right way he was going to be a very special dog and companion.

We let his mummy say one last goodbye before packing him into his special basket and the drive back to Oxford.  We drove the 250 miles in a haze of puppy, Stuart driving and me never taking my eyes off Jack.

Once we were home, it seemed to take Jack no time at all to settle in and become a part of our household and our lives.  Since I'm home all day, I have the time to give the attention such a young puppy needs--which is a lot.  I haven't gotten much sleep since May 17th, or done much of anything other than attend to the needs of a furry, wee babe, but it doesn't feel like work in the least bit--and now we can't imagine our lives without him.

Jack is very, very smart, learns things almost immediately and absolutely 
loves being outdoors.  His very favourite place is in our garden 
and he loves to be chased in circles around the bird bath.

He's been by my side as I plant summer flowers, "helping", 
and the little plastic flower pots have become a favourite toy.

He adores his soft bed in the corner of the kitchen and has already 
learned that breakfast-time is quiet-time, and sleeps peacefully 
in his bed while we serve breakfast.  So smart!

He learned how to navigate the garden steps in one go--the very first time.

And Jack even snuck back under the garden gate, scurrying back up the steps 
and letting us know he was not done playing in the garden.  The little scamp!

Jack is definitely on his way to becoming a fine B&B greeter.  
He accompanies me to the door, greeting postmen and guests 
alike, wagging his little Jack Russell tail like mad. 

More than anything though, he's embedded himself 
deeply and irrevocably in our hearts, our wee Jack.

"I think dogs are the most 
amazing creatures;
they give unconditional love.
For me they are the role 
model for being alive."
~Gilda Radnor

This is a Bichon Frise,
which is a blend of a water spaniel 
and a poodle.  They're known for their cheerful
disposition, and are loveable and enthusiastic.

The Jack Russell, or Parsons Russell Terrier,
is an extremely clever, lively dog, with larger
than life personalities.

So far, Jack is a perfect combination
of both breeds--extremely clever &
sublimely loveable.

Jack, 8 weeks old.

Jack's Excellent Cotswold Adventure
July 2015

Here I am in the car, wondering where on earth we were going
and why my blankie and toys were in the car with me?
I was feeling a little bit worried.

It turned out we weren't driving to the vets office!! 
We were driving through the English countryside 
called The Cotswolds--or 'hills with sheep'. 
There were lots of sheep and I loved how they smelled!!

We stopped in a little village called Lower Slaughter,
which means a damp or marshy place. It has a tiny stream 
running through it with a 'ford' -- you can see it at the 
bottom of the hill in this picture.

We got out of the car and I was supposed to 'ford' 
the stream--it was very, very cold on my paws.

I decided it wasn't too bad after all, and I walked across
the stream, being very careful to lift my paws quite high.

Luckily dad was there waiting for me
and I made sure he got nice and wet like I did.

Then we walked up the hill.......... explore the pretty village.

There was a little church at the top of the hill.

So many pretty flowers which mummy likes to look at.
Some are just like the ones I try to chew on at home.

I wonder if these people have a nice puppy?

More pretty flowers for mummy.

I know this one! It's lavender!!
It smells almost as good as sheep!!

More lavender and a funny, tiny, red building.

Mummy said she'd like to live here.

We drove in the car some more and came to this big,
golden building called the Lords of the Manor Hotel.
This is when mummy took me on a little stroll around the grounds.

I liked these pretty, golden flowers on our walk.
I bet some big dogs live up in that big house 
called Upper Slaughter Manor.

This is me under mummy's chair at the hotel.
She drank something pink are bubbly 
and got all silly--funny mummy!

Someday I hope we can go back and stay.
The people here like to have dogs stay 
in their pretty hotel.

After the hotel we drove down a very small road.

We drove to a pub called The Swan,
 in the little village of Swinbrook.

They had chickens like at our house,
except they were very small.

I liked it much better when I could
watch the chickens from mummy's lap.

After dinner daddy had to drive through 
another 'ford', but then we finally went home.

I was very tired and glad to 
be in my own cozy bed.......

.......but I hope we go back to the 'sheep hills' soon!

Jack's Excellent Christ Church Meadow Adventure
October 2015

 Mum loves to walk around Christ Church meadow
and she promised me that one day, when I'm more
grown-up, she'd take me with her--and that 
day was today! I must be almost all grown up now.

Here I am at the start of our walk.
I promised to be good and stay close.

You can see why Mummy loves walking here
so much--it has a beautiful path with lots of
trees on one side and a beautiful little river
on the other side. The trees hang over the
river like they're saying 'hello friend'.

The funny flat boat that went by is called a punt and
 I think the people on it loved the river and the trees.

There were so many things to look at and smell and 
taste, that I didn't know what to do first. I stopped and 
smelled the breeze and I liked how it felt on my fur.

This was the first time I had seen ducks and geese
up close. I wondered why they like the water so much 
because I sure don't--I hate my baths! It was fun to 
watch them swim and fly and honk and dive in the water.

Another boat went by with some school boys rowing,
I wonder if they'll be in the Olympics one day?

Of course Mum stopped to take lots of 
pictures--and I was very, very patient.

That's Christ Church College in the distance.

 I stopped to look back at Oxford--
those are called 'the dreaming spires'.

More dreaming spires.

After awhile I was very brave and walked
ahead of Mummy--I am very grown-up now.

It was fun to go off the path too, because there 
were squirrels everywhere. Mummy said that
they're getting ready for winter, storing nuts.

Mum took this picture of me talking to my Guardian Angel
 who helped keep me safe on my first grown-up walk.

We came to a little bridge where the small
river flows into a bigger river that goes
all the way to London--that's a long way.

The big river had boats on it and even 
more geese than the little river. There
 were swans too. Mummy said that all the 
swans on the big river belong to the Queen.

There were squirrels up in all of the big 
chestnut trees finding nuts to save for winter.

Then I saw them--cows! Big cows! With big horns!

I didn't know we had cows in Oxford--but there they were! 

I was a little bit scared of them, but mostly curious.
I barked to say hello but they just kept eating grass.

Then we were on another path and I could
tell it was the path that was the direction of 
home. By now I was feeling very, very brave.

This was the last path before we left the
meadow, so I made sure to stop and 
smell every single thing--everything.

That's Magdalen college in the background--
it's a 'dreaming spire'--and there's the field 
where Daddy played rugby and footie when 
he was a little boy at school in Oxford.

Mum took some more pictures of pretty flowers
growing out of a stone wall..............

...........and of Merton College.

Mummy said it was time to leave the meadow
 so we walked back home, past Merton College.
 We stopped to listen to someone playing
 the organ in the chapel, it sounded so pretty.

Max is retired from B&B life now and is living
with a special friend named Julie, who fell in love
with him. At 14, Max suffers from severe arthritis
and all the stairs in our house were just too much 
for him. Julie formed a wonderful bond with Max
and as difficult a decision as it was to let him go, he's
now fully in her care. We miss Max every day but he's
very, very happy and pampered, and all is well...
but Max is still very much a part of our story.

Today is Max's 14th birthday and it's a good time to tell the story of how Max came into our lives. He is a little bit greyer now, than when these pictures were taken, and has a little bigger tummy from the sausage and bacon the guests sneak under the table.  But then how could anyone resist those brown eyes?

Max is of one of the best dogs in the world and certainly one of the best I've ever had (apart from Cloud, Pumpkin, Rags, Maggie, Casey, Murphy, Jamie and Winnie).  We call him our Target dog.

About 13 years ago, Stuart and I were on an afternoon outing to Target (a large department store), back home in the U.S. Actually, I was the one who would be doing the shopping. Stuart just looks at books and magazines. As we drove by the large grocery store next to Target, we noticed a cute, furry, black dog sitting by the front door, looking as though he was waiting patiently for his owner. We both thought, "what a good dog, sitting so obediently."

When we finished our shopping (and reading), we walked outside and the same little black dog came running up to us in the parking lot.  He jumped up on us, eagerly wagging his entire body, and we could see what we hadn't noticed before. He was skin and bones, matted, very smelly and very, very desperate--both for a good meal and a home.

I see sheep!!
The decision to put him in the car and take him home was made mutually, instantaneously and silently. Another woman in the parking lot said she thought he was abandoned and she'd take him home if no one wanted him. We hurriedly said, "no, no, we're taking him", and we quickly put him in the back seat and drove off. We didn't know why at the time, but we were as desperate to have him as he was to have us. We weren't even in the market for a dog--we already had 2 waiting by the front door at home, but we knew we needed Max and he needed us.

Once he was bathed (twice), brushed, and taken to the vet, we were able to see that under all the layers of dirt and shaggy coat was a beautiful mix of long-haired dachshund and Australian Shepherd. He's affectionate and loyal like a dachshund, and smart and sensitive like an Australian Shepherd. He blended into our home with our other dogs in no time and it seemed like Max had always been a part of us.

When we made the decision to move to England, we knew we could only take one dog with us and Max, with his even temperament and small size, was the perfect candidate. So, along with shipping the contents of our household, pet shipping was on my research/to do list. It took 6 months of paperwork, state seals, vet endorsements, microchipping, and immunizations, but Max finally had his "Pet Passport" and was cleared to travel and live in the U.K.

He made the 11 hour flight from Seattle to London on British Air in their lovely, climate controlled pet hold, and then spent a night at the pet holding centre at Heathrow. When he was finally reunited with us in England, he was just good old Max, happy to see us, practically licking our faces off, and as easy-going and happy as ever. It took him about a minute to adjust to life in England.....and he's never looked back.

Max loves life in the U.K. and especially life as a B&B dog. How could he not? There's bacon and sausage cooking every morning and plenty of people to say hello to and scratch his tummy.  He has long walks in the English countryside, city walks in Oxford around Christchurch Meadow or through Holywell Cemetery. He can even go into pubs with us and get a bowl of water after a long walk and then lay by the fireplace--what dog wouldn't love England?

So, if you come to stay at Holywell, I'll be the first person to greet you but Max will be a close second, making sure you feel at home. He'll never bark at you and will be so happy to see you every morning, greeting you like a long lost friend. He asks nothing in return for his friendship, except maybe a small piece of bacon.

Always one eye open for any
stray bacon that may come his way.


As I wait for spring to blossom and explode, and mostly to be able to be out in my garden, I've been doing indoor things like sewing, hanging new curtains, and going through boxes that were shipped over with us nearly seven years ago.  Yesterday I came upon this old ad in one of the boxes, and it's how it all began for Stuart and I.

After my first trip to England back in 1994, I had to find a way to get back to Britain as often as possible, so I went to travel school and started my own little tour company called English Rose Tours. It was travel for small groups of women, seeing the Cotswolds, visiting gardens and antique shops, stately homes and castles, and having as much afternoon tea as humanly possible.  Stuart was our "full-time British guide" and it most unexpectedly and magically blossomed into a full-time life with my British guide. And here we are, seventeen years later--and the story continues.

"Wherever you go,
Go with all your heart."

Stuart in his early guiding days
with his own tour company, Spires and Shires.

"A beautiful start to a life-long love letter." 
~Sara Bareilles

Nearly eight years ago Max and I moved lock, stock, and barrel to Stuart's home town of Oxford.  2008 was the start of a new life and Holywell Bed and Breakfast, but it was eighteen years ago this summer that Stuart and I first met in Oxford. He was my handsome tour guide and within minutes of meeting him I was smitten.

Even though it took a lot of courage to start a long distance relationship, I was bringing with me a broken heart and he nearly 20 years of bachelorhood, we knew we were meant to be together and we persevered.  And now, in spite of the fact that in our eighteen years together we've spent the equivalent of six years apart, and have run two small businesses together for the last seven years (without killing each other), we're still smitten, still writing our love letter.

"We that are true lovers, 
run into strange capers."
~Shakespeare, 'As You Like It'

Sixteen years later.....................
 Stuart still says to-mahto and I say to-mayto.

He's Cornwall and I'm Devon.  

I'm the plains of South Dakota.........

And Stuart is of the Dreaming Spires.

Bats are for baseball........

.......but for Stuart they're for cricket.

Stuart's family went on holiday..........

.........we went on vacation.

The post office delivered our mail.

While the Royal Mail delivered 
Stuart's post.

Stuart revised for a test.............

............I studied for a test.

And I'd rather do this...........

.........while Stuart does this.

We both laugh just as much the 20th time 
as the first time we watched this..........

...............and this.

We never get tired of doing 
this together.........

.............or this...............

..........or this...........

.........and mostly this.

We're very proud of what we've created 
together here...........

............and here.

It's taken a lot of love and a lot of courage, 
but best of all, 18 years later, we're 
still headed here.

Have enough courage to trust
love one more time and
always one more time.
~Maya Angelou