There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


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.
~Rumi


May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett


Saturday, 18 June 2011

June Brides

Doorway roses in full bloom
in Burford, Oxfordshire, taken just
this past week.
Marry when the June roses grow, over the sea and land you will go.

There are so many English phrases we use every day, never thinking what their origins might be.  A "June Bride" is a perfect example and it most likely originates from the 14th or 15th century.  It would be nice to that the phrase came into being because young girls chose to marry when roses were in bloom throughout England, but it's for a far less auspicious reason.  People often married in June because their yearly bath (yes, once a year) was usually in May or early June, as the weather warmed.

Fresh from their baths, people would then marry, hopefully still smelling sweet and pure. Since the yearly bath often didn't quite get rid of the smell, brides began to carry a posy of flowers to mask any remaining lack of freshness. The custom of a bride walking down the aisle with a bouquet grew out of this and now no bride is without her lovely bouquet.


A cottage doorway still looking much as it did
centuries ago, framed by hollyhocks and roses.
Burford, Oxfordshire ~ June15, 2011
The groom would then take his bride home and carry her over the 'threshold' of the front door of their cottage.  The threshold literally held in the thresh or straw that lay on the cottage floor.  This custom also has a less than auspicious beginning, linking back to a time when the bride was often kidnapped and forcibly taken into the groom's household.  It was also considered bad luck if the bride tripped on the threshold, so the groom apparently immune to this superstition, carried his bride over so she wouldn't trip and bring years of bad luck into their home.

A June bride entering
Harris Manchester College
A June Bride now just conjures up roses in bloom and the scents of summer filling the air around the bride and her maids, with superstitions about brides tripping on thresholds long since vanished.  On any given Saturday afternoon it's hard to walk by any Oxford college and not see a beautiful and well-bathed bride emerging with her equally clean groom.  College chapel bells peel good wishes to the young couple--in fact, sitting in my kitchen, I hear them right now, blessing a couple on their way.

Victorian wedding party
Worcester College, Oxford.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Thursday, 2 June 2011

June Roses


June is for strawberries and roses in England.  We pass this house every day when we take Max for a walk after breakfast.  Today the roses in front of the house were in their glory.  The Oxford Blue of the front door looked so beautiful as a backdrop for the creamy roses.

If you take a walk to Holywell Cemetery, you'll pass this house on St. Cross Rd.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Full Bloom


Oxford is abloom this weekend with books and flowers.


We've reached daffodil full bloom along the River Cherwell.  You can find the river and the daffodils on the beautiful walk around Christ Church Meadow ~ entering the meadow through the Christ Church entrance on St. Aldate's or by Rose Lane, off the High Street and next to the Botanical Gardens.

Also this weekend, Christ Church is one of the venues hosting the Sunday Times Literary Oxford Festival which offers 550 speakers over 9 days at Christ Church, Corpus Christi and Merton Colleges.  You can find more information at: http://www.oxfordliteraryfestival.com  




Friday, 4 March 2011

Perfect Porridge



The days may be getting longer and a wee bit warmer, but I still get requests for porridge for breakfast.  Sadly, I do not have this Highland Hottie here in my kitchen to help cook the porridge, but I have learned a few tips over the years about cooking oatmeal.



Porridge oats are often thought of as being particularly Scottish, but a form of porridge is eaten throughout the world, with different types of grain.  Oats are the easiest grain to digest, so in the past they were often given in a thin gruel to people who were ill.  Gruel is like porridge, only much more watered down, and was also given to prisoners or people in Victorian workhouses--as in Oliver Twist's, "Please sir, can I have some more?"

Porridge was a mainstay in the Scottish diet and eaten throughout the day, and as Samuel Johnson once snarkily pronounced, it is "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people."  A big pot would be cooked in the morning, poured into a drawer and left to cool.  It was then sliced up, wrapped and taken by working men to eat later in the day.  Since I have some Scottish blood in me, it might explain why I love cold, thick porridge.

Our guests get their porridge hot and steaming though, and I usually use either Scottish or Irish oats, never the instant kind.  I even have my trusty wooden porridge stirrer, with the Scottish thistle on top, which came straight from the homeland in Edinburgh.  The biggest trick in making a creamy porridge is starting with cold water and milk, and then adding the oats while the water is still cold.  I usually use a little bit less oats than the recipe calls for at first, because I add some more oats just before it's done cooking to give more texture and 'oatiness' to the porridge.  Adding a few shakes of salt also makes the oats taste oatier, and a touch of brown sugar in the last 10 minutes of cooking makes the porridge sweet without tasting heavily of brown sugar.


If you've cooked the long version of porridge, you'll know that the pan can be a bit stubborn to clean.  My top tip for that is to soak the pan in cold water and then the porridge will slide right off, in fact I have a pan soaking right now.  So here's my recipe, which makes about 3-4 servings, of which I've probably had 3 of the servings today.  It is for rough cut or steel cut oats, like Scottish or Irish oats, not the more processed kind with the Quaker on the front


2 cups cold water
1 cup cold milk
1 cup oats + 1/4cup to add near the end
A pinch of salt
1 or 2 T. of brown sugar
Gently cook for 20-30 minutes--it shouldn't 
come to a full, rolling boil and stir 
often with a wooden spoon.

"Good love is like a bowl of oatmeal."
~Robert Johnson, Jungian Psychologist


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

HAPPY ST. DAVID'S DAY


Today is St. David's Day, which commemorates the patron saint of Wales, in Welsh, Dewi Sant.  It's customary on March 1st to wear a small daffodil or leek, which represent Wales, but the daffodil is a little bit more celebratory than a leek.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be in Wales on St. David's Day and was in awe of not only the beauty of the daffodils in bloom, but also by the sheer number of them.  They were everywhere.  I began the trip by taking pictures of them, but early on I realized I couldn't keep up and I'd end up with 2000 pictures of daffodils.  They were blooming on roadsides, on the banks alongside the sea and in parking lots.  They dotted village greens, were outside pubs and of course in peoples gardens.

Daffodils are prolific in England too, although not on the Welsh scale.  They grow wild as well as in gardens.  I've always wondered who planted the wild ones along the roadsides, mile after mile.  I picture little Miss Marples in their woolen skirts and sensible shoes diligently planting bulb after bulb--a little grey-haired road crew.  In any case I'm awfully glad they are everywhere and in Britain at least, they are the best harbinger of spring there is.