Monday, October 29, 2018

War Rooms

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born November 30, 1874.
Obviously he was best known as Prime Minister, but did you know he won the Nobel Prize for Literature?
How did I not know this?

After spending the whole day in a fictionalized Downton Abbey, we spent much of the next day learning all about the very real Winston Churchill while touring the Churchill War Rooms. It was fascinating. I could have spent the whole day inside.
If not for the crowds, it would be easy to overlook the famous rooms. The original basement store was chosen because of its location near Parliament and also Number 10 Downing Street.

I tried to imagine what it was like being a part of this underground world while I walked through the rooms. We were told the area was smokey and airless. I can tell you with much certainty, I would not have survived those kinds of conditions. I'm not good at all with any kind of smoke. I think I would have taken my chances and ran for the exits to inhale fresh air!

Along with the smoke, there were rats, insects and noise. The blare of bright lights must have been difficult also.  Doesn't it sound like a great place to hang out? thanks.

Churchill hated noise! Go figure! The typewriters had to be special noiseless ones, and he hated whistling! Oh the enraged anger when he would hear someone whistling! I guess everyone has their irritants!

Churchill had few real weapons in the early days of the war. He attacked with words.
He gave many speeches which are among the most powerful and inspiring ever given in the English language. He was a gifted speaker, indeed.

As I love to write, I found it very fascinating when I read just how much Churchill loved it too.  After losing the election in 1945, Churchill wrote. He was about 70 years old. So inspiring. You lose, but you must keep dreaming and doing the next thing.

This is a picture inside one of the war rooms. Just think, this is not fiction. Real life stuff happened in this very room. Things that changed the course of the world.
I wonder what it was like?!
Like him or not, Winston Churchill lived a pretty magnificent life. Prime Minister, husband, father, painter, writer. Did you know he was a prisoner of war for a time in South Africa? Yep. Amazing, intelligent human being.
I'm learning more and more about him as I research the London Blitz.

History. I love it.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Playing the odds

Did you know swimming with sharks is safer than petting a dog, driving a car, or sleeping in your own bed?
Who knew?
Lottery frenzy was crazy this week here in the states. Almost a billion dollars was at stake. I think everyone gave in to the madness and coughed up the $2 to play the odds. I mean, someone's gotta win, right?

And someone did win. It just wasn't me! Or likely, you.
The fact is, your odds of falling out of your own bed and dying are better than winning the lottery. I know. Depressing, huh? Getting mauled by a dog, or dying of a bee sting are also on the list.

So, why do we do it? Why do we think we're the ones that will win big? 
The short answer is ...Why not? What do we have to lose? I can think of a lot worse things to spend $2 on.
The problem is when we trick ourselves into thinking we will win the next time and the next and the next, and pretty soon we've got a gambling issue. But, for the sake of this post, lets just say we only spent $2, shall we? 

Why did I play?
It's  kind of fun to think of all the possibilities, don't you think? What would I do with all that money?

Well, for starters, I would give a significant amount to my siblings and then tell them to never ask me for money again!! 
I have plenty of charities I would give the money to, and of course, I would help my children. 

But after thinking about all the things money can buy, I really started digging deep. 
What can't money buy? Turns out, lots of things.

Friendships. The deep ones. The real ones.
A rich marriage
Finishing a manuscript
Quality relationships with family

The list goes on and on.
I'll keep my life, thank you very much.

Will I buy a $2 ticket if the lottery gets to a billion again? If I'm honest, probably.

The reminder of what's really important is worth it.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Finally arrived

Cue the music!

Pinch me. I'm here.
Everything about Downton Abbey came alive when I stepped out of our van and on to the property. In many ways, I felt like I was stepping on to a set. It just was all so surreal.
Julianne Fellowes is an amazing writer. Downton Abbey is character driven and he did that so well when he created Bates and Anna, the Crawley family and all the others. Each character came alive for all of us. Remember the craze of the show? People dropped their plans to watch what would happen next.
Now that, my friends,  is creative writing at its best. Julianne hooked us from the get go.

Such a bummer that we couldn't take photos inside. I get it. But still. SIGH.
Looks exactly like the opening scene doesn't it?! I tried to get this photo just right!

 We walked much of the estate. Wherever you ambled, you could always see the castle.
Why, of course, there are gardens. Secret ones. Lovely place to collect your thoughts.
It was rather warm while we were in England and things were pretty brown, but as you can see, there were spots of beautiful color.
In the series, Downton was used as a hospital for those soldiers in the war.
In real life, Highclere was used in the same way. I'm sure the history of this castle played a part in the episodes where the hurt were brought to heal.
Almina Wombwell was a real person who was instrumental in carrying out this cause.
She was adored by the patients. She was revered for her help in little touches, giving whisky before supper, and helping to contact the patients' next of kin.

One such patient praised her:

"... Highclere hospital-it is quite the best I have seen and its little Lady is a marvel, another Florence Nightingale..."

I love history. It's such a treat to be able to visit such esteemed estates in England. If you get the chance, GO! What a lovely way to spend your day.


Monday, October 15, 2018

One more stop

One more stop before Highclere, but first...

***********BREAKING NEWS!*********************

Have you heard? Meghan and Harry are having a baby! Oh how I wish Princess Diana could be here.

And did you watch the wedding of Princess Eugenie? Didn't you love her dress? I especially thought it was so wonderful that she proudly showed off her scar from having had surgery to treat scoliosis.

I remember having to be checked for scoliosis in school. A vivid memory of having to bend over as the nurse checked to see if my back was in alignment. Interesting what triggers our memory. Such a lovely nod to those charities and hospitals that help treat the medical condition.

As the guests held their hats due to windy conditions outside St George's Chapel, I found myself surveying the grounds, hoping the camera would scan the crowds and the buildings surrounding the castle. It's always so fun to see the exact spots where I walked just a few months ago.
The steps of St George's Chapel.
It's smaller than it appears on TV.
The Chapel.
See that small entry over to the left? That's where Meghan entered and the world got their first glimpse of her dress as she exited the vehicle and walked up the steps to the chapel. 

Princess Eugenie paraded up the same steps to meet her prince.
(More on the Chapel in a later post!)

Off to Bampton.
You'll recognize some of these sites if you are a fan at all of Downton!
Remember Debbie, our tour guide?  Here she is familiarizing us with the village.
Recognize this?
If you guessed  Isobel Crawley's house, you'd be correct!
Remember the scenes with her and the Dowager? They made the best characters. I loved their zingers! 
The church hosted many scenes throughout the series.
Weddings, funerals, and even a jilting at the altar!
I never tired of ambling through the churchyards in England. If markers could talk...

I can see why Bampton was picked for the village scenes. It's a lovely place of which I could easily be found in my mature years of life!


Thursday, October 11, 2018


Unfortunately, there are moments in life that are seared in our brains. As long as we walk on this earth, we never forget.

I've been troubled the past few days and couldn't figure out why. I woke early this morning with him on my mind. My dad.
October 9 was his birthday.
Was. Not is. Was.
He has been gone now nineteen years.
I remember the day he left like it was yesterday.

My phone rang. A stranger on the other end telling me I needed to get to hospital as soon as possible. I still don't know who. Likely, a nurse.

We rushed. Sped. Flew through more than one traffic light to get there.

I ran through the hospital doors and met my brother's dazed look across the emergency room. He didn't have to tell me. It was written all over his face.

My dad was gone. Dead. I hadn't made it on time. My knees buckled. I shook. So much so, I had to be held up until someone could drag me to a chair. I rocked back and forth. The smell of antiseptic nauseated me. I threw up. 

I remember a touch. A stranger's hand on my shoulder.  A woman. Definitely, a woman. She never said a word, but her whole face glowed with a sincerity of sympathy I will not ever forget. She was there, and then she wasn't.

He had a jovial laugh, my dad. And  he ate the weirdest food combinations. For instance, cool whip sandwiches.
White bread with cool whip on top. Gross!

I wasn't with him when the above photo was taken. He's in the Alps. It's one of my favorites. I was able to snatch it when we went through photos for the funeral.

It sits on my desk. I see him every day. 

I'd like to think his look of awe in the photo mimicked his gaze when he first saw heaven. 


Monday, October 8, 2018


For the life of me, I can't remember what was said when I snapped this photo, but it begs the question, don't you think? That look on hubby and Debbie (our guide) faces says a lot.  Something like, "Wait, what? Did you really say that?" It certainly could not have been anything I said-wink wink!


I was going to bring you straight to Highclere Castle, but alas, there is a stop along the way that I had forgot about. Gasp! I know, I know. How could I forget this place.

Where, you ask?
Well, here's a hint. Can you say elopement?

Here's another hint.
Give up?
This is the Swan Inn.
Series 2.
Lady Sybil and Branson stayed here while planning their elopement. SIGH!

We were able to walk around a bit. Typical English village. Idyllic. Beautiful. I could live here.
Photo op with hubby at stone bridge.
It looked like it might rain on our parade, but it never did.
Can you read the sign? Twenty's plenty!
Could it be that sign was referring to the amount of photos I was taking?!  Nah!!
There are footpaths all over England.
They are public so you can walk wherever you want. I really wanted to see where this led, but the rest of the group voted against me. Shoot!
It never gets old ambling through English villages.
You come across such simple pleasures. Amazing isn't it?! How did those flowers pull themselves through this bench? I just thought it was kind of neat.

Where to next?
Stay tuned.



Thursday, October 4, 2018


Leviticus 25:10 states "...And you shall hallow the fiftieth shall be a jubilee for you..."

My 50th year is flying by. I don't want it to end.

Here's a recap thus far...

January started in St Paul MN.
The St Paul Hotel is one of the nicest hotels in the Twin Cities. We spent time at the Winter Carnival too. Winter. It's a big deal here!
In February we skied across the bay.  We used muscles we didn't know we had!
So nice to return to the Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield WI and relax.

I bought a Mini!

April...Sorry. No photo, but we went to Matt's Bar in Mpls. The BEST Jucy Lucy I have ever had!

 May brought a second ear surgery. I'm actually quite thankful for surgery. Second time's the charm. I love my ENT.
June was a sad month as Kate Spade took her life. On so many levels, this very troubling news gave me pause. Mental illness pains me in a very personal way. I felt the need to find my way to one of Kate Spade's stores and buy one of her pieces. In a strange way, buying my wallet was a way in which to never forget her "happy brand."

The end of July and first part of August were spent in my happy place. I'm still in awe.
This is where we stayed in Oxford. I could go on and on...

September we ventured to Grand Marais MN
It was cold and rainy. We camped. It was an adventure!
A few more months to continue on with the jubilee...I'm searching for ideas to finish well.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Tree Farm

Oh the joy of reliving my enchanting holiday across the pond.
I was going to just give you a rough outline of the trip, but that would never do. Selfishly, I want to go back and remember it all.

So, lets do it again, shall we?!

Our second day in the UK was a most brilliant one. We took a tour of set locations for Downton Abbey.

Today I bring you to Yew Tree Farm. Remember the place?
It was where Marigold, Lady Edith's illegitimate daughter, was being brought up.

Mr Drewe was the tenant farmer here at the fictional Yew Tree Farm.
But, in real life, the name of the farm is Cogges.
There are chickens and pigs and horses, oh my!
Most of the farm scenes took place in series 4 and also series 5 on the show. The scene (in this case, the farm) is just as much a character as Bates or Lady Edith. Being there, it was easy to pretend I was back in time.     
I ambled around, pinching myself to make sure it all was real.  I loved every single minute of this day. We had plenty of time to see the entire farm. I didn't feel rushed at all.
Don't you love the sandstone of the Cotswolds? Those lucky Brits get to see the Cotswolds whenever they decide its time to go for a drive in the country. Oh, to live there. Perhaps one day I will!
Doesn't it make you just anticipate the movie? I can't wait!
This is Debbie. She was so much fun. A very talented tour guide. She knew her stuff! We watched a bit of a movie that gave us little tidbits about the farm and also Highclere.
Me and Debbie.
I can still hear her saying, "Brilliant!" That's one thing I love about England. The accents!

"Come and have a look!" Debbie said that to me ALOT! I think we could be pals. much fun.

I'm off to listen to the theme song now. Next stop, Highclere!