Thursday, January 31, 2008


Three years ago...A while back...Just today I got my first AARP magazine. You know what AARP means, right? It means American Association of Retired Persons, which I'm not, but anyway, I joined and they send me this magazine. The Lord of the Manor laughed right out loud when it came and said he wouldn't read it, but HA! he does and especially the latest issue. He turned to the article about Jack Nicholson and read the whole thing before I could even look at the magazine. But I got my turn later and I found several interesting articles.

Isn't that just the way it is? You don't think you belong to a group, and yet the subjects that appeal to that group appeal to you, so you MUST belong to that group. Anyway I liked this article.

If you have arthritis, read it. It says that diet CAN increase inflammation which is often directly responsible for joint pain and tissue damage. (And didn't we read recently that inflammation could also be responsible for problems like heart disease?)

The author's first rule is:
These contain all the bad stuff like omega-6 fatty acids & high-fructose corn syrup.

His second rule is:
Eat more fish and add a fish oil supplement.

Third rule:
Blood sugar spikes increase inflammation. Learn more about controlling that here:

Final rule:
And, no, french fries are not a vegetable.


This article was good too. Basically scientists have found that exercise is good for your brain too. It improves memory, concentration, and abstract reasoning. It seems exercise increases blood flow to the brain which actually promotes new neuron growth. Yipee! New brain cells! We could all use that, eh?
And next to that was an exercise called Superbrain Yoga. I'm gonna try that too.

I feel better and smarter just reading those articles. Now does anyone know a seven letter word for "mollify"?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dangerous Shoulder

Oh dear. It seems the Lord of the Manor needs surgery. Over the years he has put his shoulder to the wheel too much; restoring old sailboats, remodeling old houses, installing signs, lifting, hammering. All that has taken a toll on his shoulders and now he has a torn rotator cuff. As I understand it this means the end of his shoulder muscle's tendon is tearing away from its attachment to the head of his arm bone. Doctor used the term severe to describe it.

He has complained of shoulder pain for years, but always shouldered through it. I first remember a problem in 1984 when he was working on Tilly Whim our old Laurent Giles cutter. Then occasionally over the years he'd feel like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and just ignore it. But lately the pain has increased, accompanied with weakness and drooping. A few weeks ago he was nearly brought to his knees just lifting his arm to close a door!
So last week's MRI confirmed the worst: his arm is literally going to fall off his body if he doesn't get it fixed right away! Ok, maybe it won't fall off, his skin will keep it attached, but this is serious and it needs to be repaired. So within the next few weeks he will have to square his shoulders and have outpatient surgery. He'll have to stay home for a few days, then he can go back to work with a sling to immobilise his arm. Thankfully now he's at a desk all day and writing and computer work will be allowed, but there will be no lifting or heavy work for 9 months!
No lawn mowing. No hoovering. No painting. No installing signs. No pruning trees. No lifting of any kind. No putting dishes away. No putting luggage in overhead bins. Can you hear me, LOM?
We will stand shoulder to shoulder with him and take care of the garden. And we can do the housework without help, but LOM is going to be bored out of his skull! What will he do to entertain himself? Let me speak straight from the shoulder: I think he'll drive us batty here Amongst The Oaks.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Glittery Mantra

I made this little project last night. First I cut out these letters with my trusty X-acto knife and painted them gold. Then I applied glitter to the front.

This morning I selected a ribbon and started stringing them onto it.

S.....U....F.....No, that's not right!.....C.....O.....F.

Don't ask me why I strung them backwards,

but here it is. I hung it on my bathroom mirror so every morning it will remind me to focus on the good stuff. By the way, right below the U S is us, another one of those good things on which to focus.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Yesterday between rainstorms I went for a walk. Up by the walk bridge someone had thrown trash all about. I tried not to focus on it, but it was difficult. It looked so ugly and out of place there.
I soon passed it by and focused on nicer things like these pretty red berries....

this beautiful quince blossom....

this perky daffodil.....

this new frond....

and this brave little violet....

When I got home I looked up focus in my big fat dictionary.
Definition #6 said:
a center of activity or attraction.
I like that. I think my new word is focus. My mantra for 2008.
I'll focus on nice things and ignore the trash.
Oh, the trash will still be there and I'll help where I can, but it's not my fault and not my responsibility to clean it all up. If I can just keep my corner tidy and focus on the good stuff, I think things will be good here Amongst The Oaks.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Wee Pick-Me-Up

It's been dreich for days now. Dreary. Wet. Boring. And we're all tired of it.

But look what was waiting when I got home from work yesterday. Yippee! a package. Doesn't a package with your name on it just perk you up? Even the styrofoam thingies were a cheerful pink color.

And here's what was in the box. A lovely red transfer ware tea pot. I found it on Ebay. Love it.

And if that doesn't cheer us up, maybe a wee dram of whiskey will? It was Burns Night after all!

P.S. I think I've solved this problem. I googled it and found out I need HE washing powder. So look for this logo if you have the same problem.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Heading Home

Our trusty Yaris did indeed take us over the river and through the woods to cousin James' house. He lives in a charming little town in Dartmoor National Park. We explored the town and especially enjoyed shopping at Webber & Sons and James Bowden & Son where I purchased my Wellies. They say if these shops don't have it, it can't be had! Quality produce was readily available and one day a week the fish monger brings her mobile fish shop to the Market Square. I think I could live here quite comfortably.

One day we drove to Dartmouth and Dittisham. We decided to take the ferry to Greenway House, so I dutifully rang the bell.......

and the "ferry" arrived........

and off we went to visit another garden. It covers acres and we walked every path. Good exercise I thought. I could have visited even more, but the Lord of the Manor can only do about 10 gardens per week and then he says, "Enough!"

When we got home, James' wife was making red current jam on her Aga. I wanted to drool all over it (the Aga, not the jam), but I restrained myself. Too bad Agas are so heavy... and expensive... and hot. I'd love to have one. Isn't this just the cutest photo of Elizabeth and her puppy Maggie? Their house was newer, but charming, and it had things like an endless roller towel, an airing rack, a stable door (Dutch door) in the utility room, and a crunchy gravel drive. And Elizabeth said things like, "Would you like some chokie bikkies?" and "How killing!" (I'll translate for my American audience: Would you like some chocolate cookies? and That's hilarious!)

Again we said our Thank Yous and Goodbyes and headed towards Heathrow, going through the town of Tintinhull. Look at this beautiful building. I love the color of the stone and tried to capture it when we plastered our house.
After lunch we....Oh! Look! Another garden!....visited Tintinhull House Garden. I liked this garden best of all the ones we visited.
We spent quite a bit of time here examining every part of the garden and talking with the head gardener. After studying it in my gardening books for years, it was a real treat to see it in person. Everything was just perfect and so, well, um, British. Look at the size of this fabulous wisteria covering the shop.

And now it was time to leave this magical land and step back into our real world with its jobs and kids and hustle and bustle. We left reluctantly but sure in the knowledge that the door is always open should we ever return.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dartmoor Animal Park

Much as we enjoyed our visit at the cousin's cob cottage, it was time to move on and so we said our goodbyes and headed towards Dartmoor National Park where another cousin lived. All 234,000 acres of the park are owned by someone, but the park guarantees legal access for the public. So the folks who own the land go about their business of raising sheep, the public enjoys walking amongst the tors, the wild horses wander anywhere they want, the sheep sleep on the roadway, and somehow(!) they all exist in relative harmony. You can go on your own tour of the park or learn more about it here.

This is the medieval Clapper Bridge.
At one point we got a little confused so the Lord of the Manor stopped to ask a local for directions, but just like in St. Ives, we couldn't understand a word he said!

The wild ponies were everywhere and being protected, are free from molestation. Tarmac or moor makes no difference to them. They do whatever needs doing wherever they are. The cars simply stop and wait for them to pass. Or get out and visit with them as we did.

The sheep, being of value, are more tightly controlled. Whilst heading home one afternoon we had to pull over and wait for this to pass. The farmer told us they needed to continue to use the roads to move the sheep between pastures or their rights to do so would be taken away. He further told us he had to have the sheep shorn, even though it was financially a loss, because it was so hot lately.
The sheep calmly walked past me and made their way down the lane and around a corner. A common occurrence here, but very unique for us.

And tomorrow.......... Over the river and through the woods to Cousin James's house we go.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

the West End

I know you're probably tired of this trip to England, but I have a little more to tell. Ok, maybe a lot more to tell. Ok, lots and lots...I could ramble on forever, but I promise to tie this up by Friday. I hope.

While in Cornwall we visited a place called Eden Center. In 1994 someone got the idea to transform an old clay pit into a diverse microcosm of the world's plants. The pit was terraced, Biomes were constructed, and plants and animals were introduced. It is an amazing feat of engineering and vision, and rather space-age looking, but inside it's pure nature with a Warm Temperate Biome and a Humid Tropics Biome. It's a wonderful learning center, but also a venue for public events.

We spent quite a bit of time here sweating our way through all the Biomes and when we got outside it was just as hot! Truly unseasonable weather for England.

We also drove down to Falmouth that day to see the famous Falmouth cutters. Many years ago when we were cruising, we read books by a couple who cruised around the world on a Falmouth cutter they built. The black boat in the photo looks a little like their boat.

The next day we drove to St. Ives. What a beautiful setting. The ocean is so blue and the harbour so picturesque. And the tourists are so thick, but the natives speech is thicker! For example:

While trying to find parking we asked an attendant if he could direct us to the closest car park that might have space. Honest, I'm not making this up....He said, "Go uh thi way ta tha hrow-ry club an.." I interrupted and asked, "the Rotary Club?" He said, "ya, tha hrow-ry club and ..." I interrupted again, "did you say Rotary Club?" and finally in exasperation he said, "Oin tryin to tell yu Luv! Go uh thi way ta tha hrow-ry club and you ca par thare." I still could not understand him at all! But we went off in the direction he had pointed and at the top of the hill we found...the...RUGBY club. Hilarious laughter ensued, but we did find a parking space. With his heavy accent it seemed to us that he was swallowing his words or speaking only from the back of his throat, or not using his tongue at all, because very few consonants made their way out! Now when I interrupt the Lord of the Manor, he says in his best Cornish accent, "Oin tryin to tell yu Luv..."

Added later: I found this great clip of a Cornish accent. Give it a listen.

While in St. Ives we visited the Tate Art Museum, the local museum, the Oldest House, this old arch, and the harbour.

Then we drove to St. Michael's Mount. The tide was out so we were able to walk across the causeway. We made the strenuous hike up to the top and toured the castle too. It was a fascinating place.

Thanks for putting up with yet another post about England. Tomorrow we'll dodge horses and sheep on our way through Dartmoor National Park and we'll visit another garden and more relatives. I bet you're saying Yipee! right about now.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Into the Fold

We arrived at the gate at tea time as instructed. The house and gardens were hidden behind the typical walls and hedges. Suddenly we lost our bottle; we'd never met these people and we were to stay with them for three days! But then the dogs started barking and we were found out, so in we went to meet the cousins.

And they were brilliant. Tea and biscuits were produced and we all sat in the back garden to get acquainted. Alec is the Lord of the Manor's third cousin once removed (I think). Alec's grandfather stayed in the UK, and LOM's great grandfather immigrated to California in the 1880s. Alec is retired from the Navy, but they are still busy busy. Not only do they manage this little farm with sheep, a horse, chickens, ducks and eight dogs, but they are active with local politics, the church, shooting, dog breeding and a lobster hatchery. Alec mows the lawns and Ann tends the borders. One day we helped Ann pick gooseberries and later she made jam. We were amazed at their energy.

Some parts of their cottage date back 600 years. Our bedroom was in this oldest part where the cob walls are 3' thick. Other parts were only 500 and 100 years old. In the kitchen a Rayburn perked away heating the water. In the winter it's delightfully cosy, but that July it was extremely hot so we ate all our meals outdoors.

Although we had stayed in B&Bs and were somewhat familiar with English domestic arrangements, actually staying in a relative's home was a different story. I'm not saying all English homes are like this, but they had 5 dogs in the house, three dogs outdoors, clutter everywhere, a conservatory, lots of books, well loved furnishings, baked tomatoes for breakfast, tea at 4, wellies by the garden door, pudding after dinner, telly in the evening, and the latest copy of Country Illustrated in our bedroom. The doors were never locked, the kettle was always ready, eggs were gathered, dogs were walked, minks were cursed, meals were enjoyed, and ideas were shared. I was in Heaven!
Every morning we'd share a typical breakfast of cereal, fruit, tomatoes, eggs, bacon, toast and tea. Then we'd be off on some excursion; Eden Center, Falmouth, or St. Ives. We'd be back for tea at 4, a quick clean up, then cocktails at 6, dinner at 7, telly at 9, bed at 10.
Our three day visit passed quickly and too soon it was time to go. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and I'll never forget that time we actually lived in a 600 year old cottage in the English countryside.