SINCE 2006

Jennie's Blog

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Which Austen heroine are you?

A friend told me I needed to update my blog, but since this one revolves around England and my travel there last year, it’s one that sometimes has to languish for lack of good things to post! But I have a fun one today. I get the Jane Austen Centre e-newsletter, and today they had a link to a little “test” to determine which Austen heroine you most resemble. Here’s my result:

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Take the Quiz here!

Hooray! I have to admit I was rather happy not to turn out to be Mary Bennet or even Emma Woodhouse. LOL! I’ve always related to Lizzie because of her tendency to prejudge people and then smart for it later. Reminds me of my teenage self to a “T.” My parents had long years of hard work to help me learn to take every report with a grain of salt and not believe the worst. But that often led to my swinging to the opposite end of the pendulum and believing the best about people who later turned out to be undeserving (like Mr. Wickham). Learning to assess people maturely and take a long view is, I believe, a lifelong skill to learn. Like Lizzie, I am still at it! 😉

Cheerio,
Jennie

Pictures of the Front Garden in Spring!

Well, I finally got the camera and have taken a few shots of my front garden. I’m so excited that the things I planted last year actually didn’t die! I was afraid the roses wouldn’t fare well with the cold snap we had in early April, but they came through it unscathed and are blooming beautifully.

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New pictures coming soon!

My front garden has surprised me this spring with an abundance of annuals that didn’t die over the winter! My attempt at an English cottage garden has really encouraged me to continue planting. I didn’t think I’d inherited my mother’s green thumb, but my roses are so healthy and hearty (even after a late freeze) that I am tickled pink! I’ve now planted Catmint, Dianthus, “wave” Petunias, “carpet” roses, and a little purple flower whose name I’ve forgotten.

My wonderful husband is over in England this week with a group of close friends, touring up through Yorkshire and into Scotland, so he has the camera. When he gets back, I’ll take pictures of the front garden to share — and maybe I’ll share some of his pictures from this latest trip. What a delight!

P.S. – You can see photos taken by one of dh’s friends of their current jaunt through England and Scotland at this link!

Chipping-Campden

Finally! I’ve got the last of the pictures in the gallery. Hope you enjoy seeing our last day in wonderful England! Click below to access the album:

Chipping-Campden

And I can’t resist sharing a photo to demonstrate how our trip to England has already influenced some changes here at home. They are simple but have really made a fun difference in our house! First, I painted our front door a deep, rich blue. Then, I had my dear husband hang two baskets that I filled with flowers. Finally, I planted some shrub roses (which you can’t see here). I took this picture shortly after this was completed; I’ll have to take a more recent one so you can see the flowers in the height of their glory! Little bits of England cling to us still….

Derbyshire and Chatsworth


Now I’ve uploaded the pictures from our drive through the hills and dales of Derbyshire and our visit to Chatsworth House. I hope you enjoy all the incredible scenery as much as we did!

Derbyshire Scenery

In and Around Chatsworth

P.S. – Whoops! I got a note from someone who said the Chatsworth photos would not enlarge. I figured out why and fixed the problem. Now you can click to get enlarged photos in that gallery. Thanks for letting me know, Lisa!

Costume Photos and More!


I’ve finally gotten through our photos from the Jane Austen Centre, Museum of Costume in Bath, and the interior of Warwick Castle. There are lots of delicious things to drool over in these galleries!

Click below to go directly to them:

Inside the JA Centre and Museum of Costume

Inside Warwick Castle

Links to Picture Galleries!


Well, it is taking a while to resize and upload pictures to the online galleries. Thank you for your patience! I do finally have three galleries on line and am working on the others as time permits. Let me know if you have any difficulty accessing these links. Here we go:

Scenes from our day in London

Inside the V&A Museum (lots of historical costume shots!)

Jane Austen’s House and Hampshire

I hope you enjoy looking at these! I’ll try to get the rest up soon. It is fun to relive the memories!

Visit to Chipping-Campden in the Cotswolds

At last we’ve gone through our pictures, and I’ve finished the blog post I started while at Heathrow! Here are the details of our last day in beautiful England….

We packed up our belongings Wednesday morning and loaded the car around 9:30. Melissa and I dashed into some of the shops in Bakewell to see if we could find some more gifts for family and friends. There are so many charming little stores in this tiny village. What interested us the most was seeing how vastly different the fashions in the windows are compared to those in London and Bath. There we saw much more avant garde clothing–lots of trendy, skimpy things. Up here, where the temperature is a good 10-15 degrees lower already, the fashions in the windows are far more sensible! Here you find woolen shops with tweed jackets and long skirts. We admired lots of beautiful sweaters made locally and further north. After picking up a few things, we headed back to the car and set off for Chipping-Campden, which is where Melissa’s father’s family came from.

The day started out overcast and windy, but as we approached Gloucestershire, the clouds scattered, revealing a bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine. By the time we reached Chipping-Campden at 2:15, it was warm enough to leave off our jackets for our walk about town. This place immediately won our hearts as our favorite village. Its buildings are of a yellow limestone even warmer than the color seen in Bath. There are doorways in shades of royal blue, forest green, and deep red, and flowers hang in abundance from wrought-iron baskets. Melissa’s third cousin, Barry, waved at us as we drove up, then greeted us warmly with kisses on the cheek and a handshake for Matt. We immediately liked him and felt at home. Melissa’s father visited Chipping-Campden almost a year ago and took the “grand tour” of Keen family sites, and Barry had offered to give us the same tour. We started out at the Eight Bells, a B&B and public house that served lunch. Unfortunately, we were too late by half an hour for lunch, so we walked down High Street to a small bakery that served lunch until 3pm. Barry treated us to a delicious meal and afternoon tea.

When we finished, we began our tour by stopping to look at a building that used to be the Live and Let Live Pub, which Melissa’s great-great-grandfather owned in the early 1900s. It now houses an antiques shop. We decided to return later to look through the antiques. Further down the street we visited the town’s market stall, built in 1679. It is an impressive edifice for a “stall!” Melissa’s great-grandfather etched his initials somewhere inside the building, but there are so many carvings that it has proven impossible for Barry to locate those particular initials! We gave it a good try and saw carvings dating to 1737–others without dates were deeply worn and had no doubt been there much longer. The uneven floor was made of worn stones and dipped in the center of each aisle, showing where years of foot traffic had gone.


Looking for initials in the market stall!

Next to the market stall is a tall memorial for WWI. Melissa’s great-grandfather designed and carved the memorial. He had apprenticed as a woodcarver and stone carver in a town guild and used his skills to ornament altar pieces for local churches as well as gravestones. We walked across High Street and headed back toward the town center to see the house where Melissa’s grandfather was born. The house is called the “twine house,” since it is next to an alleyway where men made ropes. Below you see the house, then Melissa standing in front of the house with the alleyway to the side.

After taking several pictures, Melissa and I decided to visit the antiques store before it closed. Matt and Barry walked on to St. James’s Church, which is where many members of the Keen family were baptized and buried. The antiques store proved to be one of those that you cannot skim! Melissa and I browsed all around the upstairs, which was filled with all kinds of fine china, silver, pewter, and more. Then we spied the stairs to the basement and headed down. There were three rooms jam-packed with more china and pewter, with scads of mugs and cups hanging from the rafters. It was unbelievable. Boxes on the floor held mismatched saucers and cups at 30 pence each. We poked around quite a while, then went upstairs to make our purchases. By then, the shop was closing, so we hurried on our way once we had our bags in hand and saw Matt hurrying toward us from the opposite direction. The churchwarden was on the way to lock up St. James’s, so we’d have to dash if we wanted to see the inside.

This beautiful parish church was built by Sir Baptist Hicks, who also built the market stall and a huge estate in Chipping-Campden. His name shows up all over the town, in fact, and plays a large part in the history of the area, as do the names of his parents. Inside the church is a tomb for his parents, who lie in marble effigy atop. Next to this are statues of Sir Hicks and his wife, along with a bust of their daughter, Penelope, who “died a mayd.” Sir Hicks’s wife commissioned the sculptures after the death of her husband and had them portrayed holding hands:

On the left you see the bust of Penelope.

The interior of the church is lofty and grand. We spoke with the churchwarden (who was actually running late–very fortunate!), and Melissa was able to look up her Keen ancestors in the church’s record book. Barry told us he had not been able to find the grave of Thomas and Elizabeth Keen, since its marker had been moved some time in the past. But as Matt walked out of the church, he saw the marker opposite him in the low stone wall next to the walk! Here is Melissa next to the tombstone:

We walked through the churchyard, marveling at the many stones (some of which may have been carved by Melissa’s great-grandfather), then we looked across a field to the ruin of Sir Baptist Hicks’s grand estate. The great house burned down a long time ago, and several gate houses are all that remain behind the high wall of the estate. The gate houses themselves are so huge that they’d easily contain a large family! Some mullioned windows stand partly open, and you can see remnants of curtains inside. Torture for the truly curious! Wouldn’t we love to see what was inside those 400-year-old houses! Here is the main gate into the estate, which stands next to the church:

We finally wended our way back down to town proper, passing the church’s almshouses on the way. These are as neat as a pin and beautifully kept, a testimony to a church that cared for its poor and widowed parishoners. Would that the modern church shared the same vision! It was now nearing suppertime, and we hoped to grab a bite before heading back to Heathrow, but the Eight Bells did not serve food until 6:30. Melissa took some last-minute pictures of the inn, which was originally built to house the men who built the church’s bell tower. It is a beautiful place, so warm and inviting! These pictures can’t do it justice, since a flash takes away from the warm glow of its atmosphere.

We bade Barry a fond farewell, hoping we’d see him again in the future. It really is amazing how you can “go home to a place you’ve never been,” but that’s just how we felt in Chipping-Campden and in Barry’s company. He is a delightful English gent, and we were so glad Melissa was able to meet one of her Keen relations across the Pond! We drove back to Heathrow through Oxford, finally reaching our hotel around 8:30pm. Thankfully, they were still serving supper until 10pm, so we were able to get a bite to eat! Then we repacked all our luggage to cram everything in, did some blogging, and took a brief nap. The hotel desk forgot to call our room to wake us up at 3am, so I awoke with a start to see 3:45 on the clock and leaped out of bed! Thankfully, they had called Melissa, who was already up and had gotten a cart for our luggage. After some wrangling to get things down the narrow hallways, we managed to get into our taxi and made it to our gate well in time. Security in Britain is far more strenuous than it is in the US (and you thought it was bad here!), but we made it through and boarded our flight without any delays. An uneventful flight across the Atlantic brought us back to DC, then to Atlanta, where Melissa’s mother picked us up and drove us home. It has taken until today (Monday) to get over the jet lag, which is far worse coming back than it is going over! But now we are happily settled back into our regular routine, enjoying memories of wonderful days in England and hoping for a return visit in the future.

Thank you to everyone who has left kind comments on the blog! It has been a pleasure to share the trip and all our fun with everyone. What a blessing to be able to go on such a journey with so many friends cheering us along!

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P.S. – Yes, I will upload the rest of our pictures and post links to them — watch for those in the near future!

P.P.S. – Someone wanted to know what kinds of “sculptures” were on the grounds of Chatsworth, but we didn’t waste camera memory on them! Just as an example, here are some brief descriptions: An upside down “boot” that looked like it was made of melted and burned marshmallows; a tall, skinny bunny beating a tambourine with a stick (looked like the Energizer Bunny after a diet–LOL!!!); various pieces of twisted metal painted bright, obnoxious colors; a waxwork (or latex or something) sunburned woman in a bikini lying on a lawn chair (I kid you not). We just tried to airbrush them out of our sight as we viewed the otherwise heavenly scenery all around! Perhaps some day the grounds will be returned to their former splendor and rid of the silly pop “art!”

Just a few random musings…

I don’t have pictures formatted or uploaded yet, so I’m not ready to post about our last day over in the Cotswolds, but I’ve been mulling over so many of the wonderful parts of our trip and figured I’d post a few thoughts before I forgot them. It has been wonderful to keep this travel journal while memories are fresh and I’ve had the time!

One thing I loved about English architecture was seeing how local materials are used to greatest advantage. Everywhere you go, it looks as though the buildings could have grown up right out of the ground. In Alton and Chawton, the brick is all a warm red that came straight from the native soil. In Bath, the golden limestone was quarried nearby and looks like it is happiest when the sun breaks through the constantly shifting cloud-cover. In Derbyshire and the north midlands, you find stone fences criss-crossing fields in abundance–built as the farmers pulled the stones out out while plowing (just as in my native Virginia). The same grey stone forms most of the houses and village shops as well. As you travel back down through the midlands, you see more red brick formed from the soil, then an almost yellow-gold stone meets the eye in the Cotswolds. Each area has its own unique color palette and texture.

As I flew back over the US on our way home, I could look down on fields that closely resembled the English countryside (particularly in Pennsylvania and Virginia), complete with native-stone fences and buildings (those over 150 years old, at least). After we landed in Atlanta and started our drive back home to Alabama, though, I couldn’t help but notice the vast tracts of “quickie mansions” all over the place. I’ve seen them before, but they just really stood out to me this time as flimsy and disposable. I know there are similar buildings in Great Britain, but they are so few and far between as to be the exception rather than the rule. I have to wonder why we Americans live such a fast-food existence, even when it comes to creating homes and places of worship. I’m really inspired to get back to saving clippings and pictures for a “future ‘real’ house” file. My own mother did this for years prior to designing the house we built when I was 12. Mom designed the passive solar house to last, and she made the most of the rocks that came out of our ground when we did our own landscaping and gardening. She scoured flea markets and garage sales for old doors, windows, and cabinets–some doors over 200 years old and built with pegs! Every nook and cranny in that house tells a story. I am thankful for the new house we live in here in AL, but I have to wonder how long it will last. Will it be here 300 years from now, a testament to hard work, skillful labor, and long-term planning? I have to admit that I doubt it. One of my dreams is for our family to build a house out of native materials that will stand the test of time and be a testimony to coming generations of the creativity and planning of their ancestors. Maybe it’s a silly dream, and maybe I’ll never see it realized–but perhaps one of my children will. Who knows? So I continue to stuff that manilla folder with ideas….

More random thoughts: I love the tradition of tea (morning and afternoon) in Britain. It’s actually a habit I formed myself when I was a newlywed, and my children love to see the teapot come out. They know it means a respite from the day’s pursuits and a few moments to sit, talk, and reflect. I loved all the tea shops in England, and I’m already using the lovely tea cozy Sarah sent home with us! One funny: When we had tea at Naomi’s house last Sunday, she said, “Now, do you mind having yours in a mug, or do you want a cup and saucer? I know how Americans rather expect the cup and saucer, but we English do use mugs!” We had to chuckle. I prefer a mug myself, since you can fit more tea into it, but my girls still love the delicacy of cups and saucers!

And, finally, though I’ve said it before, it bears repeating: the flowers! Everywhere. The tiniest cottage and the grandest estate all burst with beautiful flowers. There are hanging baskets, window boxes, pots, edged walks, even stone walls brimming with flowers. I have a rather notorious black thumb, to the consternation of my giftedly green-thumbed mother, but I am determined to overcome it and do more with flowers next year. They really do make a home something special–no matter how simple the landscaping. I’m already drooling over pictures of geraniums, nasturtiums, impatiens, sweet peas, and roses. Ahhh!

Well, that’s enough musing for now. My little ones will be up from naps shortly, and we’ll be having supper with dear friends. I hope your weekend is as warm and wonderful!

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