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.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Hold Fast To Dreams

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die 
Life is a broken-winged bird 
That cannot fly. 

Hold fast to dreams 
For when dreams go 
Life is a barren field 
Frozen with snow.
~Langston Hughs

A bed and breakfast uses a lot of dishes. A lot. We need big plates, little plates, side plates, toast plates, butter plates, cups, saucers, milk jugs, pitchers, juice glasses, water glasses--and then there are cereal bowls, fruit bowls, porridge bowls and sugar bowls, finishing with teapots and cafetières. Like I said, a lot of dishes.

I found the dishes we use for the B&B ten years ago, long before we even had an inkling we'd be running a bed and breakfast. I was rummaging through an antique shop and found a dusty cardboard box of Mason's Denmark pattern dishes--enough for a full service for twelve. The best part was it was only $25. I told Stuart at the time that I had no idea what I was going to do with them, I only knew I would need them one day. A few year's later they made the Atlantic crossing to England and we've been using them since our very first breakfast in 2008.

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

Masons & Crabtree and Evelyn blue and white
transfer ware~ treasures since it's no longer made
Since 2008, I've filled out the first set of Denmark dishes--and then some. This is England after all,
the home of Spode, Burleigh, Wedgewood, Emma Bridgewater and all the rest. So I've spent the last 8 years collecting teapots, jugs and odds and ends--some for the B&B and some just because I love it.

Spode, Masons & Crabtree and Evelyn,
and Burleigh fill a dresser in the breakfast room.

It's all wonderful but then comes the problem of just where to put it. We live in a 500 year old house, with a Victorian kitchen and storage is at a premium. There were no such things as closets when our house was built, and built-in kitchens were not even dreamed of, even in Victorian times. We did put in a new kitchen ourselves, but I still needed more cupboard space. I inherited this old dresser from the previous tenent, which I painted, added a little curtain underneath and made do with--but my kitchen cupboards were still crammed full and not very convenient, especially in the middle of a busy breakfast.

Our kitchen cupboard disarray grew and grew until this month when I'd had enough, simply enough, and I started looking for a Welsh or kitchen dresser. Before kitchens were built in, most kitchens had a dresser for dishes and crockery. They're still often called 'Welsh dressers'--and I was on the hunt for one.

I could just about afford the doll-sized
pieces in this tiny kitchen.
The trouble was I needed a big one, but didn't have a big budget for it. I wanted a dresser that would fill an entire wall, unfortunately I also had at most, a post-Christmas-early-February-pre-taxes budget for a doll-sized dresser. But those kinds of minor inconveniences usually don't stop me. I had a good picture in my mind of the dresser I knew I'd find, plus the financial scheme in my head of how to pay for it. It only took a couple of days and there it was on Ebay--and best of all, it was a third of the price of most dressers the same size.

The dresser as it was shown on Ebay.
It's six feet long and six and a half
feet tall--and just what I had in mind.

When you can dream then you can start 
A dream is a wish you make with your heart 
~Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston and
Mack David
'A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes' 

I had finally found the dresser I wanted, mulled it over with Stuart and then slept on it overnight. The next morning it was still there, so I knew it was ours--knew it belonged in our kitchen. Within a half an hour it was purchased and arrangements made for it to be delivered in two days. I could hardly wait--but we had a bit of work to do in the meantime.

First we had to pack up the old dresser.

The well-travelled storage containers from
 our move across the ocean came back out. 
When we moved over to England from the
U.S. in 2008, we had a 40 foot container
full of these, plus furniture.

It's a good thing we had the day off and
weren't serving breakfast the next
morning, because about all we
could have given people was cold cereal.

Stuart doing his bit for the cause and
cleaning where the old dresser stood.

Jack was not happy with the upheaval
in his kitchen, so he hid out in the
breakfast room the entire time.

The wall where the new dresser would
live, all cleaned and ready. The ugly
shelves would go back into hiding.

Once the big job of clearing the way for the new dresser was done, I was on to my next thought--getting it into the house. I still have nightmares about the week we moved in almost eight years ago; trying to carry things up three flights of stairs, around tight corners and through small doors.  We had to saw the legs off of our love seat and chairs just to get them through the front door, so any time we move furniture in and out the looming questions is, "Will it fit?!?!?!" Luckily I knew the dresser was in two pieces so I was fairly confident.......but still.........

And it did fit! Brilliantly. The courier was a star and helped Stuart move it in and set it into place. And there it was, the newest addition to our very hard-working kitchen. The best part was that as soon as it was delivered, Stuart had to go off and conduct a tour which meant I was left alone to do what I love doing best--putter about and play house. It still feels just as fun as when I played Barbie Dream House. I could rearrange my entire kitchen and the new dresser with no one but Jack and lovely music for company.

The finished product, which a week
ago was only a thought in my head.

Brushed pewter knobs replaced pine.

There's room for all the things we use
at breakfast, like milk jugs, teapots
and egg cups, plus space for treasures.
Beloved books and cookbooks
have a special place.

Which came first, the
chickens or the eggs?
Stuart and I in Beatrix Potter form~
he reading his paper, and me

with my tea and my thoughts.

I learned early on as a fledgling antique
collector that if you buy what you love,
somehow it all just works together.

Inside is all the extra space our
kitchen sorely needed. I added a
little battery powered light,
since the faster we can reach for
things during breakfast, the better.

“I suppose I am a sparrow, 
a stay-at-home bird.”
~Gladys Taber

The calm and order has been restored to Jack's kitchen and on this cold, rainy February day, with lamps on and music playing, there's no nicer place for us to be. Which is to say that I've come a long way in the past decade. Nine years ago from this very moment I was bed-ridden with Epstein Barr & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as chronic pain. I couldn't work, I could barely move. So even with all of that, nine years ago the dream of this English kitchen was somewhere in my heart. It must have been, because here it is today, the heart of our home in Oxford.

The Lewis Tree outside our kitchen
window--we're always under the care
of it's wide branches and steadfast roots.

(It's a very dark, dreary day today--
you can't see the pelting rain.)
Lamps light the corners of the kitchen
and my little bluetooth radio is always on.

The kettle stands at the ready, so "bread
and water can so easily become tea and toast."

The future belongs to those who
believe in the beauty of their dreams.
~Eleanor Roosevelt


For more insight in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID), or in Britain, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), I've found the book, Medical Medium by Anthony William extremely helpful.

I've lived with ME for over 20 years, and chronic pain even longer from degenerative disc disease from the age of 19, and here's what has helped me most over the years:
1) Sleep! And more sleep.
2) Naps! As often as possible.
3) Clean, healthy eating--I eat as much sticky toffee pudding and scones as the next person, but steer clear of fast food.
4) Yoga--since 1985, even if it's ten minutes a day.
5) Meditation and prayer.
6) Find one thing a day to be grateful for, no matter how small, no matter how inconsequential it may seem.
7) Happiness. Even in pain, even in fatigue. Every thought we have releases a corresponding neuro-chemical in our brain which directly affects our well-being.
8) Never, ever identifying as a sick person, but only as a person on the path to perfect wellness, perfect health.

Happiness is a form of courage. 
~Holbrook Jackson


  1. Hi
    what a lovely post - beautiful kitchen and china.
    I have some Spode Blue Italian and Burleigh Calico ware.
    Hope to visit Oxford later this year
    Anela x

    1. Hi Anela ~ Love both those patterns and the blue Burleigh Calico is one of my favourites. Sure hope to see you in Oxford this year. All the best, Carrie

  2. What a fantastic find! Thank you for such a blessing of hope and encouragement! God really does give us the desires of our hearts and sometimes plants them there Himself. ♡•♡

    1. Yes, sometimes the best gifts are hidden as something else altogether. xxxooo

  3. Good job on all the hard work! So interesting, Carrie, on many levels! I adore blue and white, too. I have a rather large set of Blue Willow, some from my grandmother, other pieces I've added here and there, and some Delft from the Netherlands. Love your new dresser -- a great improvement. I know how you are loving it. So much more space, and the pewter knobs are a great replacement. It's fun seeing your kitchen! And so many of Susan's things that I have, too, books -- the wall calendar! I am sorry to hear of how you have suffered but your attitude is wonderful and has contributed to your wellness now. A wonderful encouragement to anyone who suffers with pain. I have recently had a little experience with this which is unusual for me. I hurt my right shoulder, maybe the rotator cuff (I'm waiting to see the doctor), and sleep has been difficult -- 4 to 5 hours a night, and I've been dragging. I've never been sleep deprived and have a new appreciation for those who chronically have this problem. I think God is allowing me to have some empathy for Gene who does have it! But I love #8 in your list: "never identifying as a sick person, but only as a person on the way to wellness and health." Thank you so much for sharing all of this. It is always a very bright spot in my day when I see FAWLTY SPIRES in my inbox!! And always love having glimpses of Jack!! His coat is beginning to fill out again. He is adorable!! Jane xo

    1. I imagine all our kitchens have many 'Susan' treasures in them, as well as other things since we are all kindred spirits of hearth and home.:-) I'm so sorry to hear of your shoulder pain and difficulty and hope it's sorted quickly and you're back to your old self once again. Oh and yes, wee Jack's coat is starting to fill out--not as fast as I'd like--but it's grown about an inch. Another month and he should start looking like his old, fluffy self again. Take care and prayers for your shoulder. xxCarrieoo

  4. I had a chuckle while looking at your pictures as you prepared for the arrival of your Welsh dresser (which is beautiful!). We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel so there's quite a bit of organized chaos in my home right now - and my dogs don't like it. I know the amount of dust will be worth it soon though! Like Jane said above, I too am sorry to hear of the pain you have dealt with. The graciousness in which you welcome your guests is quite the testament to your strength. Praying for healing and more good days than bad. Thank you again for sharing your England with us fellow Anglophiles. Best regards, Kristen

    1. Oh I do not envy you and your kitchen remodel.Never have I experienced such dust and mayhem as when we did ours a few years ago. But you're right, it really is worth it in the end. Jack hated the upheaval from the moment I started taking things off the old dresser--he likes his little world order. Thanks for the prayers and good thoughts and all the best (and sure hope to see you in Oxford again one of these days!) xxCarrieoo