Being obsessed with a place is a strange thing.  I can’t tell you why I love England and London so much.  I’m either thinking about visiting, planning a visit, enjoying a visit or recovering from a visit.  I’ve just wrapped up my ninth trip to England.  Before you get the wrong idea,  I’m not wealthy and I don’t have any great tips on getting great deals.  I go so often because I work hard at saving up the airfare and I have wonderful friends and cousins that allow me to stay with them.   I’ve gone to many areas but have made sure to visit London each time.  It’s a chaotic, vibrant, ever changing city and I like that.


I’m always impressed with the folks that drive there.  It’s rarely easy.  I watched as my friends wove in and out of side streets, trying to shave a few minutes off of any journey.  I learned to drive in America where we have wide streets and freeways.  We think nothing of driving fifty or sixty miles to try a new taco place.  It’s mind boggling to hear that a person has to plan, map out and schedule a visit to a relative that lives only twenty miles away.  Instantly in my mind its a twenty minute drive, London reality is a two hour drive.  You can begin to see the obstacles here and why the brilliant people of England have some of the best public transport in the world.


This particular visit was pure relaxation,  we didn’t do the tourist stuff this time.  My husband and I visited with our friends at Fox Hill B&B.  We talked a lot, ate more,  watched movies, read, napped, enjoyed cocktail hour and all of the things that get pushed aside in the day to day business of  life.

We took the train one day up to Huntingdon, near Cambridge to visit cousins.  We checked out their jewelry store, Underwood the Jewelers, in the nearby village of Ramsey.  Check it out if you’re in the area.  We had a nice chat while enjoying a pub lunch.   It’s always fun to take the train through the countryside, so beautiful and completely different to London.

      underwood jewelry

We walked  up to the village of Norwood several times.  We enjoyed the cake at Dalhousie.  I tried a Victoria Sponge, made famous (in America) by the movie “Calendar Girls”.  The Blackbird Bakery there is also very good.  We had a scrumptious hamburger at Crystal Palace Market, with some of the best french fries we’ve ever had.  My husband loves cupcakes so much that after going to Ms.Cupcake last September, he was moved to embroider a few sweatshirts for the ladies that work there.


My husband, Neil, and the sassy ladies of Ms. Cupcake-Brixton

We also went with our friends to a little area across from Hampton Court called Molesey for breakfast at Henry’s, excellent food and service.  I enjoyed the fresh croissants and coffee especially.    molesey       I love poking around in little antique shops and finding treasures that are so different from what you would find in America.  Neil is always up to a challenge, so I pointed out a particularly nice metal garden bench and asked if he would be able to make us a similar one.   He has been wanting to improve his welding skills, so I may get a nice bench after all.   I wouldn’t necessarily spend the money to buy it and then pay the expensive shipping from the UK.  Found this funny little brass piece in Molesey. It reminds me of the faces you see on the walls at Oxford College.  It may have been a belt buckle, but I have plans to use it on a custom bird house.


Molesey Jester

The styles and indeed the customs are very different from place to place and that’s precisely why I like traveling.  It’s disappointing, at least to me, to see things like a McDonald’s in England.  I realize that companies want to expand to every corner of the globe.  When you can get the same things wherever you go, why do you need to travel.  I try very hard not to eat at chain restaurants as it is,  mediocre is the word that comes to mind. Try something local, even if in your home town.  You may be missing something unique.

I don’t have the mistaken notion of many who have only traveled to England via TV and movies.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard comments about some of my photos that give me the idea that most Americans expect London/England to be quaint and simple, like the days of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.   There is history and wonderful old architecture with all of the quirky little details all through the ages there. Victorian, Gothic, Roman and Medieval times blend with twenty first century sky scrapers.  Ever changing.  It’s modern and intelligent, and very much up to date.  I read that even Westminster Abbey is adding a tower.  A living, breathing part of modern England as well as a view to the past.                                      west minster tower

With every visit, I take away impressions, knowledge and a little more familiarity with my ancestor’s homeland.  This time I realize that I can love a place that I’m not actually from.  I can feel close to it for my love of it’s history and culture, knowing that if circumstances had been different, I would be a citizen instead of a visitor.   What continues to make it so important and dear to my heart though are the people I’ve gotten to know and the stories I uncover.   I am, as always, happy to be home.  And, as always, thinking about my next visit over which will be very different to this last one, but no less wonderful!  Happy travels.


















Heading Southwest

If you love England, and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t, you are always thinking of the next visit.  It’s a difficult task because, if it were just me, I’d go back and forth across the country until I was able to see every area including Scotland and Wales.

My next visit will probably be a foursome with my husband and our good friends, driving Southwest to Devon and Cornwall and looping around to visit Bath. My bestie’s family is from Christchurch and though we have been to England together, once in 2005, we didn’t get to visit there.  I think it’s so important to go where your family originated if you can.  Go to the church and the churchyard, look for those names that you’ve heard your whole life in family stories or read so often in your research.


My first trip over in 2001, we headed south through Cornwall to Land’s End and up the West Coast to Wales, I absolutely loved it there.  I want my husband and friends to see some of it and for Suzanne to be in the places where her family came from.  I hope she has the overwhelming feeling of home that I had the first time I went to Sussex and walked in the footsteps of my father’s family.  I hope you get to Cornwall and revel in it’s Celtic history and beauty.


The history of Cornwall is fascinating and extensive.   There are lots of books and information online.  There have been people there since 4000 BC, so there is not enough space here to delve into that subject.  I think I am most impressed with the fact that the Cornish people have held onto their culture and are now considered a distinct Ethnic group by the UK government.


We’ll go to London first, our friend Bruce hasn’t had the opportunity to go there yet and there is so much to see.  Of course you can’t do London in one trip, unless you have unlimited time and money.  Hopefully this will be the beginning of several visits over for them.  I will write about what we saw and did after the fact since, as of now, in the early days of planning I’m not sure which attractions we’ll get to see.

London_468x240 (1)

While in London each of us will plan a day out, as well as take a day on one of the jump on and off London bus tours.   Afterwards, we’ll head south by train to Christchurch and spend at least most of a day there, we’ll go to the church, explore the town and have lunch.  A few years ago my cousin Claire gave me a book, “Footpaths of Britain”.  There is a lovely walk in Christchurch along the harbor to Hengistbury Head, it’s about an hour with nice views of the Isle of Wight, a nature reserve and the beach at Sandspit.


Whether or not we find this town interesting enough to stay the night remains to be seen, but after our visit, we’ll hit the road and head towards the West Coast, stopping along the way at anything that looks interesting to any of us.  I love this kind of a trip and I did it in 2001 and again in 2005. You drive along and take in the countryside, looking at maps and signposts until you see something that looks so delightful you just have to stop.  In the afternoon when you start thinking about dinner and bed, you stop in a town and visit the tourist information office.  These places have books and maps for sale, leaflets to give away and loads of advice on things to see or do.  After a conversation with the helpful staff, you just let them know how much further you’d like to travel that day or if there is a particular place you want to stop.  They have catalogs of B&Bs and hotels with photos, so you have a general idea of what to expect. They ask you what you’d like to spend on lodging, and will actually call ahead for you to let them know you’re coming, give you directions and send you on your way with a plan.


Sometimes that kind of visit won’t work because of time constraints, event dates, etc., you wouldn’t want it to be so loose.  Then booking ahead online is the way to go.  With sites like Tripadvisor, Travelocity, and Air B&B you can easily make it all work.


I’ve had people tell me how brave I am to go on an adventure without concrete plans like this one.  I guess it’s a kind of adventure, but really, you are in a civilized country that speaks the same language.  The people I’ve met along the way are always welcoming and helpful, so it’s not the kind of adrenaline filled travel in the darkest forests of the Amazon.  It’s fairly tame and you just might discover something off the beaten path that will make it amazing!


The Hidden Gardens of Heligan

I recently added a channel app to my streaming that has lots of British TV shows.  One of them is “Britain’s Best Bakery” and I’ve decided that we have to stop and taste the fabulous offerings of some of the Cornish bakeries that were showcased.



That’s pretty much the plan for this next excursion.  It’s fairly easy planning I think, pick the date, buy the plane ticket, keep saving to pay for it all.  Then just pack and go!  We already know we would be staying at Fox Hill B&B because it’s my favorite place in London, the rest is up to fate and whimsy.





Missing England

It’s been eleven months since our last visit to England, which is amazing when I think about it.  The time has flown and yet it seems like we were just there.  This last week I couldn’t help thinking about all of the things that I still want to see and experience.

I know I should see some other part of the world.  The thing is, traveling can be stressful but going to England is not, at least not for me.  It’s easy and relaxing.

I feel comfortable there, I understand the language, the transportation, the money.  I love the people, the gardens and countryside, the food and the history.

And it doesn’t matter if it’s a small village, a busy city or the heart of London.  There is always so much to see and learn and experience.  There isn’t a week that goes by that I’m not thinking of what it would take to go back.  The age old problem of time and money.  I have gone back to work part time and can no longer think about going on a whim.  Not that I’ve ever done that, but I could have!

I still haven’t been further north than Cambridge, there is a lot more country to explore.  I love Wales and would like to spend more time there as well.  Then there’s Scotland, where my father’s family, Melrose, is from. The very reason my obsession with the UK started.

So, you see, we have to go again.  On top of the above justifications to make another trek over, my husband has mentioned going back every week since we came home last September!  Hopefully 2016 will be my lucky trip #7.  I better start saving, I have a daughter getting married in the spring as well.  I tried to talk her into a destination wedding.  “It would be the perfect place, if it were you getting married”, was her response.  My 40th anniversary is coming up, maybe Neil would consider renewing our vows in London:)

The Home of Charles Darwin

September 19, 2014

Visiting Darwin House was one of the highlights of this latest trip to England.  It’s in Kent which I have fallen in love with and jokingly tell my family and friends that if I win the lotto, I am moving to Kent.  (Of course it would help if I played).


Front entrance to Darwin House. My friend Sue and I, hiding behind a pillar!

The weather was obliging and it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day,  so the drive down from London was really lovely.  I’m not sure what I imagined it to be before I went, but I know I wasn’t expecting such a large property.  It is a beautiful setting and the grounds are immaculate.  I love the Virginia Creeper climbing the walls of so many places in England, really spectacular.

This is an English Heritage property and they do such a nice job of preserving and presenting these historical places.  I enjoyed seeing the family rooms with a lot of the Darwin’s personal furniture and belongings.  There are a lot of interactive things to do, especially for the kids which would make a nice family day trip.  I also spent quite a while following the time line and history of Darwin and his studies and research.

One thing that is a passion of mine is genealogy and there is a room there which tells about him and his family, very interesting.  I love the story of how his children helped him in his studies as he got older.  They would do experiments on the property and report back their findings.

The back of Down House. It looks out to beautiful, well kept grounds

The garden here is very impressive.  I love gardens anyway, so to be able to walk the paths that Mr.Darwin walked almost daily for the forty years he lived here was pretty exciting.  The green house is outstanding.  There are rows of vegetables with flowers mixed in.  There are orchards and even a giant chess board for children to play with.

If only I knew how to play

If only I knew how to play

We walked around the garden for quite a while and it was every bit as interesting as the interior of the house.  What a wonderland for his children to grow up in and a special legacy for all of us to be able to visit. I love this display in the garden of a simple wooden wheel barrel holding clay pots.


View of the massive grounds at Down House

View of the massive grounds at Down House

There is a restaurant here that uses the same kitchen that was used to prepare the Darwin’s meals.  It also has a great gift shop where you can get books on his theories and research.  There all a lot of really nice things here for children if you like something educational as well as entertaining.

Afterwards we headed to the village of Downe and to The George & Dragon Pub for lunch.  It was not crowded and since it was such a lovely day we ate out back at some picnic tables.  The menu was British pub food at it’s best, fish & chips, puff pastry pies, baguette sandwiches, lamb, stuffed jacket potatoes, curry and Ploughman’s.  I settled on The Dragon Burger and a lemon shandy.  It was cooked just right and so large that I couldn’t finish.

Across from the pub is St. Mary’s church and an ancient yew tree that is completely hollow in the middle, it’s a wonder it’s still living. I’m sure if Mr. Darwin were here he could explain it to me!

Neil in front of The George & Dragon Pub

Neil in front of The George & Dragon Pub


Leaving Sussex for London

Sept 13th, 2014

We headed to the village after breakfast for one more look around.  When we got back, Lin had a video of the history of Billingshurst.  Of course she has lived here all of her life, so she could pick out a few errors in the more modern history.  It was interesting hearing about the village, built on the Roman Road of Stane Street. The oldest building is St. Mary’s Church where my ancestors worshiped, early documentary evidence begins in the 1100s!


St Mary’s Church

There are many timber framed buildings throughout the village dating from the Middle Ages to the 1700s.  There is a wonderful old pub there called “The Six Bells”, which I think I’ve visited on each of my holidays here.

The Six Bells-Billingshurst

It really is a fun and interesting village to check out.  It’s close to Horsham which is also worth the visit.  After a very nice home cooked lunch and visit with Lin’s daughter and grandson, Claire and Warren, we had to walk down to the station and say our goodbyes.


Saying goodbye at the Billingshurst Station

The Billingshurst Train station is a great building in it’s own right.  Many of my predecessors worked for the railroad in Billingshurst so I’m very interested in the history.  The last time I visited,  2 years ago, the signal box was here.   The Grade II listed structure is thought to be one of the country’s oldest working signal boxes dating back to 1876.  The signal box was moved to Amberley Museum and can be seen as you come into the second station.

Billingshurst Signal Box


It’s time to get it all together and head north to London.  It’s been a great visit and I know when I’m home thinking about all of the things that we did and saw, the laughter, the hugs, I’ll again start longing to return.  This is always when my next plan starts to form.  Right now though, I’m anxious to get to London, as I love it as well.  London is the world in one place and I just like to be there.

It takes about an hour to get to the station where our friend Tim will pick us up.  This night we’ll be having dinner and catching up with our good friends and then planning our time here in London.




Boxing Day

I’m not sure if they actually refer to Boxing Day as a holiday in England.  I had heard of it, but before I actually started going over and had friends I could discuss these things with, I thought Boxing Day was the day you boxed up your Christmas decorations.  It has a far loftier history than that.

Boxing day was traditionally a day when servants and tradesmen would receive boxes of gifts from their employers.  The gifts were known as a “Christmas Box”.  From Wikipedia I learned that, “The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations of the term as being from England in the 1830s, defining it as ‘the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box’.”

This custom was started as a tradition because in older days the servants were expected to work on Christmas serving their masters.  In consequence, a good master would give the servants the day after Christmas to be with their families.  Today, at least here in America if you work any national holiday, you expect to be paid a lot extra, time and a half is the standard.

Thinking about the tradesmen who are given small gifts for a job well done all year, what if you are say the postman?  If you had a hundred houses that you delivered to, the take would be huge.  Even if only half of the customers gave you a gift, you’d be carting home fifty small gifts, nice!

From : Celtic myth had it that the robin that was suppose to represent the New Year, killed the wren which represented the Old Year during this time. Wren Boys blacken their faces and go from house to house asking for money to bury the wren. The money they collect is used to buy food and drink for the “wren dance” held on this night.

Sometimes called St Stephen’s Day or the Feast of St Stephen,  a Catholic holiday,  which honors the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death!  I couldn’t really find any reference to an actual feast, so I’m not sure what that’s about.

These days, Boxing Day has become a huge sale day for retailers, much like America’s Black Friday.  It’s also become a big day for sports, with a full program of football and rugby matches.  Sounds like the perfect day for married couples!





September in Sussex


This was the longest flight I’ve had so far going to England.  It may have just felt that way.  After the usual chaos and panic of getting ready and a two hour flight to L.A., we had a three and half hour layover.  We started our trip off with dinner at Sammy’s Wood Fired Pizza.  I should not eat gluten, but that didn’t stop me.  I’m on vacation dammit and I’m going to eat all of the lovely things I’ve been craving for the last couple of years.  I find out later why that was a really bad mistake, but I digress….

Neil and I were  very excited about going together on this trip, it’s been an emotional year, both good and bad and we really need this time away.  Going to a place that I’m very familiar with but he’s never been to is kind of weird for both of us.  He, because I usually wait for him to take the lead and me, because what if he doesn’t see it the way I do?

Of course travel is always an iffy venture.  I was certain I booked the tickets through British Air, which I have always had a good experience with.  Instead it was through American Airlines which I have not.  Honestly it was fine except that the seats were the smallest I’ve ever sat in for a ten hour  international flight.  The movies were great, the food was fine for airplane fare.

Billingshurst Station

We arrived at two the following afternoon, got through customs with me warning my husband not to joke around with the officer asking questions.  They are known not to have a sense of humor. However, the woman that checked us through was awesome and it all went off without a hitch.  We bought our ticket on the Gatwick Express and headed south to Sussex to meet our cousins.  They were waiting there and it’s so nice to have those hugs and catch up time with people that you know and love.  They took us straight back to their lovely, comfortable very British home and a great home cooked meal, then it was time for some much needed sleep.

Linda and Richard are my fifth cousins who I met doing genealogical research in 2001.  They are really, really amazing hosts, much better than I can ever hope to be.  They have taken such good care of me on five other occasions and this was no exception.   They cooked us nice food, drove us around, gave us gifts and even gave up their own bed for our comfort.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for that!  Here is a beautiful watercolor that Lin made for me as a gift.  I will cherish it always!

There are so many beautiful and interesting things to see in Sussex! I love just walking around the villages, stopping in at shops, maybe picking up a few things that are different than I can get in America.  It was nice to show Neil where my family originated, walk in the church yard, see the WW1 memorial that has one of my ancestors name engraved on it.  I love the hardware store there in Billingshurst and go in it on every visit just to  see what interesting things they have that Home Depot does not.

Lin was keen on showing us St Botoph’s Church in Hardham in the Horsham District of West Sussex.  Built about 1050, it has wall paintings from about 1100.  A really interesting and important church, amazing!

Inside of St Botolph’s Church

Lin and Richard then drove us around the gorgeous country here.  We stopped at the town of Petworth which is mentioned in the Doomsday Book.  We walked around the town and stopped in at a few antique shops and St Mary’s Catholic Church.  Petworth was bombed in World War ll in Septemberof 1942, when a lone German plane tried to bomb Petworth House.  It missed the house and landed on the Petworth Boys’ School in North Street. Twenty eight boys died along with the headmaster and assistant teacher. So sad.  I think most of us relate the Blitz only to London, but they also bombed much of the rest of England.

The parish church of St Mary, Petworth

We then drove past the Goodwood Estate which was having a car event of some kind and we got to see lots of vintage cars.  Just up the road is a Rolls Royce factory and there were dozens of new cars lined up outside.  Apparently they were heading for the car show at Goodwood as well.

Richard treated us all to delicious fish & chips, Neil’s first authentic English!  The place was called Andy’s Fish Bar, in Chichester.  The portions were so huge I don’t think anyone actually finished the whole meal.  I find it amusing because whenever I’ve had a conversation with anyone from the UK about food, they will mention the large portions in America.

Arundel Castle

We stopped at Arundel Castle on the way back and walked around the town a little bit.  I had always wanted to see this castle because while doing genealogy, I remember seeing the name “Arundel” in my mother’s family history.  I later found out that what I remembered was “Arundel, Maryland”.  Big let down, thought it meant that we came from royalty!   It was too late to go into the castle by this time so we went in to a little tea shop and had a dessert.

Back home for nice dinner and conversation, talking about all of the lovely things we got to see today and looking forward to more tomorrow.

My next trip to Blighty

It’s happening, I’m finally planning another visit to England and I couldn’t be happier! This one was actually my husband, Neil’s idea.  He asked me if I would like to go with him, he figured that since I wasn’t going to grow out of this obsession with England phase, he should check it out as well.  I am ecstatic, especially since he’s never shown any interest in going before now.

We have been married for almost 39 years and the last time we took a real vacation, just the 2 of us, was our honeymoon. We went skiing at Mammoth Mountain in Southern California.  I had to take lessons because I had never been, he had raced the cornice there.  I was more interested in the food, Burger’s Burger’s (is that place still there?)  yum.  It just seemed that after that, we started a life together, had 3 daughters, and then it was kids and dogs, and going on trips with other families.  When our kids got big enough to leave, we either went away with other couples or separately.  You see, I like history and food and culture, he lives and breathes auto racing. You can see my surprise here.  But he really does seem interested in going this time and I aim to show him all of the things that make me long to be there.

Billingshurst print by Patricia Hall, it hangs in my living room to remind me of where my family hale from.

So, we will spend a few days visiting cousins and friends and London, then just take off, the two of us.  We are not making a firm plan, but waking up and just seeing which direction we feel like taking that day and then heading that way.  We’ll use the excellent Information Service that seemingly, every city, town and village has.

Of course, he’ll have to see London Tower, take the bus tour and, keeping my fingers crossed, The Garden Museum.  If these things don’t entertain him, there is always this:

We are going in September, but he will have a good time looking out for this sort of thing!  I’m hoping there is a tour of the Goodwood Estate and that we can prevail upon my cousins to take us:)  At any rate, I have a fantastic holiday to look forward to, people to see and places to go.  New ideas to write about and a completely different perspective.  Going with someone that has absolutely no idea what to expect will help me see my beloved island through new eyes,  from someone that I love and admire, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Women’s Rights and Mrs Pankhurst

As a baby boomer I grew up in the time of the  Women’s Liberation Movement .   Bra burning, equal pay, “I am Woman, hear me Roar, etc”.   If you are younger than say 50,  you may not realize that as recently as the 1970s,  here in the US, women couldn’t get a loan at a bank by themselves,  they had to have a male family member co-sign the loan with them.  Apparently we were so feeble minded we couldn’t be relied upon to understand complicated business matters.  I was a young wife in 1975 when I got my first job at a bank.  The name of it was “The Women’s Bank of California”, and we prided ourselves on treating women with the same respect as we treated men.  My manager was a man by the way, no surprise there.

At any rate, as I am still working in the banking world, I often share this bit of history with my new tellers. They are usually young 20 somethings and are always amazed by this fact.  Of course, the 1970s probably feels like ancient history to them, but to me it just wasn’t all that long ago.

I was thinking about this the other day which then prompted thoughts of my grandmother’s day and the trials they had to go through.  She was born in 1896 and according to one of my cousins that grew up with her, she helped young women that were “in trouble” much the same way that Imelda Staunton did in the movie “Vera Drake”.  It’s hard to imagine now that a woman had no other choice back then, and they did what they had to do.

Thinking about the hardships of this time then made me think about the Women’s Vote,  which immediately made me remember  “Mary Poppins” and the “Votes for Women” parts of that movie.  Mrs. Pankhurst’s work was mentioned here because Mrs. Banks was a follower.

I did some research on Mrs. Pankhurst and she was a pretty interesting woman.  It’s funny how in history one or two of the players will stand out and we don’t give much thought to all of the others that sacrificed and worked in the background, but those one or two are what make us know about it at all.

There were actually two different movements working for a woman’s right to vote in England at the same time.  I had never heard of the moderate one where intelligent women tried to get the vote through just by arguing the point.  The person that is most well known for this is Millicent Fawcett, and I would love you to comment if you have ever heard about her.  Perhaps if you did grow up in England you learned about her in school, but being an American, I had never once heard her name before doing my research.

One of the most famous woman that worked for women’s rights in England was Emmeline Pankhurst, who favored the militant approach.  She was born in 1858 into a family that had a long tradition of radical politics.  She married Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer and supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.

Mrs. Pankhurst formed the “Women’s Franchise League” in 1889 which fought to allow married women the right to vote in local elections.  In  1903, she helped found the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organisation notorious for it’s activities.  This organisation’s members were the first christened “suffragettes”.  The British general public were astonished by the demonstrations, window smashing, arson and hunger strikes of the suffragettes.  The nation was appalled when in 1913, WSPU member Emily Davison died when she threw herself under the king’s horse at the Derby. She was protesting the government’s continued failure to grant women the right to vote.

Like many suffragettes, Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions over the next few years.  I love this photo of her being arrested and the policeman actually having to pick her up and carry her away!

Can you imagine being a woman at the time and having to go through this kind of humiliation?

This period of militancy  ended abruptly  at the outbreak of war in 1914, when Emmeline turned her energies to supporting the war effort.  She died shortly after achieving her dream of woman having equal voting rights with men at age 21.  It was 1928.

I got this information from a history of Emmeline Pankhurst by the BBC.  I am really awed by the heroism of people in this age.  I feel like in today’s world, we complain loudly about the things we don’t like,  freedom of speech right? But how many of us would do something that would inconvenience us by  getting thrown in jail for our beliefs?

Egg Coddlers and Toast Racks

I wanted to share how impressed I am with a couple of everyday kitchen items  used in England.  Here in America, unless you were very privileged,  meals were eaten with pretty basic pieces.  My mother actually only used the “special” pieces for holidays and special occasions, and these were really only bowls and platters.  Growing up in the 50s and 60s in America we had Melmac and metal cups.


Years and years ago my mother in-law, Jean, who you will remember from my first trip to England, brought me back an egg coddler and a toast rack.   I honestly wasn’t sure what to do with them at the time.

I thought the toast rack really wouldn’t do, I mean, wouldn’t the toast get cold before you ate it?    I didn’t use it because of that reason until I actually went to England and saw that they were used all over the place.  Let’s face it, toast starts cooling off the second it comes out of the toaster.  This is just a nice way to set it on the table when you’re having a family breakfast, and the toast doesn’t get all soggy.

I like poached eggs, but wasn’t sure how to use this fancy new device.  Jean told me she thought you just buttered it, cracked in an egg or two, and then lower it into boiling water for about 5 minutes.   I tried it and the egg wasn’t cooked all the way, it actually took about 15 minutes before the white was fully cooked.  I kind of just put it on a shelf and didn’t use it for years.   Now that we have Google, I took down the egg coddler and tried it again.  You can put all kinds of things in it, like mushrooms or other veggies and of course cheese.  It does take a bit longer to cook than that funny little Teflon egg poacher.  It’s a lot healthier though than cooking in Teflon.   I’ve also learned to appreciate little niceties  like these since I’ve gotten older.  Like having a beautifully set table and using  the dishes and special bowls and platters that you own all the time.  What are we saving them for?   When my mother died I got a few of her fancy dishes that were literally up in the top cupboard and only seen on Thanksgiving and Christmas, maybe Easter if we were lucky.   I use them all the time and I really love that.  I always tell my daughters “now, this belonged to your Grammy” or “this was your Dad’s Grandmother’s”  I want them to feel that sense of family and continuity, but also that this is your life, make it special everyday!

I know a few people that think I’m a little weird to use something so totally out of the norm here.   Someone asked me once “do you actually use your teapots?  You’re the only person I’ve ever met that makes tea in a teapot”!

I’ve  found that you can go to another place in the world and really fall in love with it.  Bringing some little ritual back to work into your life makes you feel a part of it even when you’re so far away, and I think that’s nice.