For the first 50 years of my life, my perfectionist self mistakenly believed it was all about knowing more, getting it right, planning, attempting to prevent bad things from happening, and keeping all of my chicks in a row. It took me this long to discover that the JOURNEY is all that matters. This quote from Gilda Radner sums it all up:

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Secret Cottage Tour

When rain forced us to cancel our plans for a biking tour of the Cotswolds, I made a last-minute booking for "The Secret Cottage Tour" instead.  I want to thank the rain, because 
I can't imagine a better tour of the Cotswolds than this!

Before this trip, I had never heard of the Cotswolds.  I came upon them when I was 
googling places in the English countryside.  The Cotswolds is an area of @800 sq.
miles of villages from the middle ages, remarkable churches, rolling green hills, baaing
sheep, beautiful gardens and idyllic thatched-roof cottages built with local yellow limestone. It actually feels like you have gone back in time.  It has been designated an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" in England, with regulations to maintain the character and intergrity of the region.  For instance, if a cottage has a thatched roof, you cannot update it - it must remain thatched.

After picking us up at the railway station at Moreton-in-Marsh, we were loaded into a 7 person Mercedes minibus.  On our way to the Secret Cottage, we stopped at an ancient church and graveyard next to a large manor house.  

Across the road was a field with hundreds of baaing sheep.  I had never heard anything like it before. So pretty!  We proceeded a short distance down the road to the Secret Cottage.

The cottage was originally divided into three separate dwellings, each with a large fireplace for cooking and heating, and a winding staircase to the upper level.  It has been transformed into a one-family dwelling where the Simpsons now live with their family. 

Upon entering the cottage,  Polly Simpson greeted us with a warm smile
and a farm table brimming food displayed on Spode china.  We were given
a tour of their home (no pictures allowed except in the kitchen) and left
about 1/2 hour later with a full tummy and ready to venture out into many picturesque

Life in the Cotswolds is slower paced - MUCH slower.  Many of the 
country lanes we traveled were wide enough for only one car.  The 
speed limit signs were indicative of this much different lifestyle.  The
signs also demonstrated the friendliness and politeness of the people. 

Everywhere you looked, there were flowers!

The tour guides were beyond excellent - very knowledgeable about the
area and its history, friendly, and very willing to man the camera
for any of the guests wanting pictures.

It is common for the cottages to have names:  "The Grey Cottage", "Mill View Cottage".
We saw one named "The Cottage With No Oven", 
and not to forget "The Secret Cottage" which the tour was named for.

The name Cotswolds has a meaning, as do the often odd-sounding names of its hamlets and villages.  "Cots" are sheep enclosures and "wolds" are gentle hills.  In medieval times,
the area was known for its wool trade when over 500,000 sheep grazed the hillsides.

"Chipping" relates to the old English word for "market",  
so the the town of Chipping Norton  meant "market town in the north".

"Slaughter" meant "boggy place, hence how the villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter got their names.

It was a feast for the eyes!  Footbridges across streams, mills, enchanting stone cottages...

We hardly noticed that it was drizzling!  I felt like we had been 
transported back to a different time and place.  
Peaceful, quiet, enchanting.

We walked through this pub in Chipping Norton.  There were mugs
hanging from hooks on the ceiling.  It was explained that years ago,
patrons of the pub would hang their own mug on the ceiling and use it
whenever they went there.

We also noticed many old telephone booths that had been
converted to defibrillator stations.  Since pay phones are no
longer used,  thousands of the red phone booths 
around the country have been repurposed as lending libraries,
mobile charging stations,  coffee booths, and in this case for 
defibrillators available to save the lives of residents and visitors.

We commented that there don't seem to be very many windows
on most of the thatched cottages, and the windows are very small.
The tour guide explained that the people that lived in the cottage would
get up early in the morning and leave to work at the manor house,
and come home after dark.  They were hardly there during the day,
so the lack of natural light made no difference.

Here is a close-up of the roof!

We returned to the Secret Cottage for a wonderful lunch and for high tea in the
afternoon, with clotted cream and scones.  

At the end of the day, we were taken back to the train station
to board the train back to London.  We had smiles on our faces
and dreams of returning to this fairy tale place once again!

Friday, July 14, 2017

What Impressed Me the Most About London

When I look back on my time in London last month,
the single thing that made the biggest impression on
me was NOT this iconic red phone booth.

While the cupcake at Peggy Porschen Cakes
 was the best I have ever eaten,
and the store was deliciously PINK and beautiful,
it was NOT what I liked the best.

The London Eye was pretty cool.  
It gave us beautiful views of London.
We liked it a lot.
Still, something else was more remarkable.

Visiting Warner Brothers Studio to experience their fantastic
Harry Potter tour was a day we will never forget.  Learning how 
scenes were filmed, seeing original sets and props, and being filmed flying 
on a broomstick over London and Hogwarts was a big WOW!
It is right up there as one of our best days.

Our apartment was a nice place to crash at the end
of a long day of walking.  Nice, but not a top memory.

Harrods was an expensive, impressive department store,
but too pricey for me.

Londoner street signs were unique, and the Underground
was clean and easy to use.  It was easy to get around the city.
Memorable for its practicality, but not my favorite thing.

One day, we tracked down the house 
whose exterior was used in the filming
of The Parent Trap movie.  
Though it was fun for a few pictures.,
it was not on top of my list.

This cat was one of the best things in Notting Hill,
but not the most notable memory.

We happened upon this special exhibit in Kensington Palace -
"Diana - Her Fashion Story ". 
It was all about Princess Diana and how her sense of fashion evolved.
There were many dresses that I remember seeing her wear, 
along with photos of the occasions when she wore them.
I found this extremely interesting, and it opened up discussion with
Annie, who to my surprise didn't even know Diana was William
and Harry's mother!  We enjoyed the exhibit a lot!

The Princess Diana Memorial Garden at Kensington Palace is 
a garden designed to be appreciated from the walkway around
the perimeter - creating a simple, reflective place.
Too structured for my taste, but beautiful nonetheless.

It's the fairy-tale food that almost got Goldilocks killed.
Porridge with honey and bananas was on almost every 
breakfast menu.  For some reason, it tasted better than
oatmeal, even though it was oatmeal.
Tasty, but too filling to eat an entire bowl.

Biking anytime is fun, but when it saves your 
feet from walking more miles than necessary,
it's even better!  It brought big smiles to our faces.
Again, it did NOT take the #1 spot.

Seeing this musical was Annie's favorite thing of the entire trip!
I loved it too!  It was a perfect way to end our trip after just 
getting back from Paris!

My favorite thing was not a place.
It was not a tourist sight.
I couldn't take a photo of it.
Yet, I remember it fondly, more than anything else.

What impressed me very deeply, 
was the nature of the British people.

When I visit a foreign country and interact with the people
in many situations over the course of my stay,
I form a general impression of the
people based on my experiences.

I found the Brits to be 

Although the British accents make anything sound nicer,
the words they choose and the tone they use made me
put me at ease and made me feel like I was talking to a friend.
For instance, when I went to the snack bar at the theater to 
purchase some ice cream,  the older gentleman greeted me,
smiling, like this:  "Hello there, Love!  What can I get for you?"
He made my day a little brighter.

Add to their warmth 
their strong sense of orderliness and decorum
and you have won me over completely.

Everything made sense. 
 The Underground signs were clear and we had no 
doubt whether or not we were on the right train.
When you crossed the street,  it was written in
large letters on the road in front of you which direction
you should look to check for oncoming cars.
Feet were painted on escalator steps to demonstrate
that you are supposed to stand on the right to let
people pass on the left.
In parks, you didn't hear parents yelling at their children.
No cars were blaring their horns in traffic.
Even dogs, who were let off-leash in the Royal Parks
seemed to know their manners and how to act.

So while I enjoyed the places we went and the things we saw,
my experiences were made even better by the people.

So THAT was my favorite thing about London!

Friday, July 7, 2017


This is the message I received a short time ago
 from my daughter, Kerry.

Today is her 25th birthday. 

For the past 5 years,  
I have written a "birthday blog" for each of my children 
on their birthdays.  
Kerry is obviously worried that I forgot!
Well, I didn't!


A little over a year ago,
Kerry moved back to CT from Nashville.

I don't know if she realizes how much it has meant
to her dad and me to have her around.  Even though
she's not living at home, we see Kerry a few times 
every week.  Sometimes we share a meal,  or watch a TV show.
Other times I just stop to see her for a few minutes when
I'm in her neighborhood.

It's just nice.

I know they often say that "quality" time
is more important than "quantity".

While there may be some truth in that,
I think there is something to be said
for just enjoying ordinary everyday moments. 

We have done a lot together this past year. 

Kerry was able to go on vacation with us to Lake George.

We ate a LOT of ice cream together!

When Kerry is around,  we also get to spend
time with her friends (an added bonus!)

A short winter trip to Florida was a lot of fun!

Fletcher has gotten to know us too.

Kerry has a quality about her that 
makes things fun.

She also enjoys spending time outside
in nature - which we have in common!

She come up with quirky ideas that 
(for some reason)
we all go along with.

We celebrated her 25th birthday last night
with family visiting from New Jersey.

Janis, Gary, Kimiko, Miya and Grandma Alice joined our celebration.

As happy as we are to have Kerry living close-by,

I think she is just as happy.

At some point in the future, she may decide
to relocate again,   and that's ok. 
We are fortunate to have this time for now.

Happy 25th to our beautiful daughter!
We love you!