Monthly Archives: May 2016


Wickenburg and Lake Havasu

At this point on our recent road trip we have driven down I5 through the Los Angeles corridor and then over to Surprise Az which is just east of Phoenix. Now we are heading back home via Las Vegas and Bend. … Continue reading

Lavender Fields Forever

Isn’t it interesting that we plan trips to faraway places and yet so often miss what’s on our own doorstep? It’s the sort of conversation we’ve had at OTBF before, but it hit me as particularly true this week. AJ and I love our trips to the South of France, especially the Cote d’Azur, but we’ve also enjoyed trips further east along the coast to Provence to see the Lavender Fields. Miles and miles of glorious colour and scent which can take your breath away.


About five miles from where we live Somerset Lavender Fields  boast over five acres of lavender with more than 50,000 plants of amazing varieties. You can walk the fields and breathe in the delicious scents while bees hum and butterflies flutter by. The lavender fields have been there for over a decade and I’ve passed by on the nearby main road dozens of times, but only recently thought it was about time to plan a visit. It was so worth it.

There is so much to see and learn. Apart from walking the fields, there is a healing garden full of wonderful herbs, a pretty Rose Arbor to browse through, a shop selling varieties of plants, lavender of course, and gifts of candles, essential oils, biscuits, soaps, etc. We enjoyed morning coffee on the pretty little verandah overlooking the gardens and fields, and I’m proud to say I resisted the home-baked cakes and scones. 20160527_120201

Visiting the Lavender Farm on a particularly beautiful morning added to the sheer charm of the place, and made us want to return. Since it’s dog-friendly, I’m thinking Ms. Vivvy will be accompanying us next time and will especially enjoy a long walkies in the adjoining fields beforehand. We’ll certainly make sure to head back for a visit during harvesting time, usually late July/early August.20160527_120546

It made us realise that it really is worth taking the time to search out things locally to find little treasures and surprises. Now I’m off to browse my new Cooking with Lavender cookbook and then later will indulge in a warm bath scented with relaxing lavender essential oils fresh from the farm. Perfect.

Artists and their gardens.

I promised in my April blog to tell you about one more treat I had, an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse is the latest block buster exhibition and a feast to the eye, particularly for those of us who love gardens. It ended on 20th April and I am unsure if it will be shown elsewhere. I studied art history and achieved a Masters Degree in History of Art:Venice and Europe from Warwick University in 2000, when I was 52. A life changing event as my core term was 10 weeks in Venice studying Renaissance art, I left my husband and family to study for a year at university as a postgraduate student – took a lot of nerve and support! My plan was to start on a whole new career but health issues prevented me, despite the setback I am left with a love of art which will not leave me.

The delight of this exhibition was that works by many artists I’ve not heard of were displayed. The rooms featured paintings of Impressionist Gardens, International Gardens, Gardens of Silence, Avant-Gardens, Gardens of Reverie but the main focus was on Monet’s early years at Giverny and his later years at Giverny culminating in a room featuring his Waterlilies. As well as paintings one room had a scaled down model of Monet’s heated greenhouse with seedlings and plants ready to plant. Monet moved to Giverny in 1883 and lived there until his death in 1926. His work covers that period including the years when failing eyesight, a cataract, affected much of the colour palette of his work. I cannot describe much of the work as I am limited in space but suffice to say I was transported. I wish I had bought the catalogue but my house has hundreds of art books and catalogues and little space so I resisted!

The paintings included work by Scandinavian artists, French, American, German, Spanish – some personal others huge displays. Scattered through some of the rooms were notebooks detailing botanic sketches of various plants and huge photographs of some of the artists working in their gardens. Some with their team of gardeners!. The viewer has a glimpse of the world of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Architecture varies which reflects colours and textures of various countries. The warmth of Spain, the cool colours of Northern Countries, each work is a blend of colour and vibrancy. Camille Pissaro’s vegetable garden contrasts with Renoir’s wild gardens, others bring the outside inside through glass windows and reflections but everything stimulates the senses.

I hope I have given a flavour of my wonderful day, a difficult task for me to undertake as I cannot cover the long list of work. I have put a link to the website which has a little about the exhibition as it’s finished but lots of other interesting information so do check it out. The exhibition catalogue will be available on-line if anyone would like to buy it. I haven’t included any images myself as I’m uncertain of rules regarding copyright. The main thing is that gardens offer places for quite contemplation, sharing with other people, eating and drinking, playing – particularly with children – but plants in window boxes can offer a different perspective of gardening. In the UK many waste spaces are being reclaimed by local communities, orchards are being planted in the middle of built up spaces, roundabouts are cultivated and many of these initiatives offer free fruit and vegetables. The schemes don’t seem to get vandalised either, bring communities together and get neighbours talking. All show the power of the garden.



We have had some great weather in Western Oregon this year.  Very strange for us.  Gardens are up, and we don’t even usually plant until Memorial Day.  Flowers are gorgeous this spring and the fruit trees already have fruit on … Continue reading

I Ate Bacon and Eggs at 8 AM by Valerie J. Patterson

On April 15th that was the text my husband sent me.  Never before has such a simple sentence brought forth such varied emotion in me.  I laughed.  I cried.  I rejoiced.  And I gave thanks to my Heavenly Father.

Really?  You might be asking yourself.

Yes.  Really!

You see, he sent me that text two days post colon resection surgery.  March 22nd, Steve had a routine colonoscopy.  When the doctor came to get me in the waiting room, he very gently told me he found a tumor and believed it to be cancerous.  Immediately, my heart broke and I began to cry.  He placed his hands on my shoulders and told me not to cry, that Steve would be all right.  I asked him the survival rate and he replied, “Ninety-nine percent plus the Lord Almighty!”

Instantly, peace filled me and I believed right there that he was telling me the truth.  Steve didn’t know yet.  He was in recovery.  When he went into his room, I went in and as soon as his eyes locked with mine, the tears welled in my eyes.  How could I tell him?  How could I break this news to him?  First I had to calm down.

I drew several deep breaths, stood at his bedside and told him they’d found a tumor, but that he was going to be all right.  Steve’s dad came in and we three talked and tried to laugh.  Finally, the doctor came in and explained in more detail what he found and then he recommended a surgeon, stressing that surgery needed to be sooner rather than later.  And thus began our journey.  This blog article is not about the cancer.  It’s about the courage, the hope, the faith, the power of prayer, and the people placed on our path for this particular journey.

The Surgeon: A humble man who–upon hearing us thank him for his expertise–said, “Thank you, but I am not as good as [the man upstairs].”  When his eyes lifted Heavenward, I smiled because it was proof that God had placed him on our path.  I trusted him at first meeting.  He set us at ease as he explained exactly what would occur as well as the healing process.  He answered our many questions, and he took excellent care of my very best friend, my biggest blessing.  Just before he took Steve into surgery, he squeezed my hand and told me it would be all right.  When he came to get me in the waiting room, our eyes met, and he hit me with an enormous smile.  “It went very well.  Took a little longer than expected, but it went well.  I got everything.”  We are thankful that he is on our path.

The Oncologist:  A very sweet, very intelligent, very knowledgeable, very patient man.  He is perhaps the very first–and only doctor–to ever look at me and ask me what research I had done prior to arriving at his office.  I told him what I had read and he took the time to explain what I’d read, how it applied or didn’t apply to Steve, and then went on to not only explain his course of treatment for Steve, but also the science behind it.  He provided us with literature to back up his plan.  When he explained that Steve would not require chemo or radiation, tears sprang to my eyes because I and so many others were praying for this.  He never missed a beat.  He smiled understandingly before handing me a box of tissues.  Our journey with him has only begun, and yet I am thankful he is walking this path with us.  We’re trusting him with Steve’s health.

The Church:  Our church family has been standing in the gap from the beginning.  When there is an entire body of believers praying, miracles happen.  There is power in prayer.  Every night, Steve and I would hold hands and pray.  When two or more are gathered in His name, He is there in their midst.  There’s power between those two.  Imagine the power of hundreds of people joined in the same prayer!  Steve’s cousin’s church was praying.  Our church was praying.  Family and friends were praying.  I am so very thankful for each individual.  I am in awe of the love shown to us through prayers, cards, lawn mowing, offers of meals, hugs of support, encouraging texts, phone calls.  I cannot begin to show my appreciation.

Our Pastor:  Our pastor was with me at the hospital during the long hours of waiting while Steve was in surgery.  He was there to visit with Steve, to pray with him, to encourage him, and to bolster his faith.  He was in our driveway at the first sign of an emergency that put Steve back in the hospital for an 8-day stay.  He was only a text away.  He and his wife provided me with comfort, hugs, care, love, and encouragement.  They were the source of a smile when I needed it, too.    And their care has not ended.  I do not have words enough to express everything I’m feeling.

Our Family:  The glue that holds us together when we are facing the tough, the difficult, the heartbreaking things that life throws our way.  It’s easy to take family for granted, but truly life is too short to not tell those precious to you that you love them, value them, and appreciate what they bring to your life.

Steve’s journey will be long, but the hardest is behind us.  We are thankful.  We are grateful.  We are fully aware that we are not walking this path alone.  We are rejoicing for blessings small and great.

Like millions of people, I never wanted to hear the “C” word, but now that it’s out there, I’m genuinely thankful for the very special people who are on this journey with us.

I am thankful for proclamations like: “I ate bacon and eggs at 8 AM!”

Life got extreme, and we fell to our knees.

Until next time, may your journey be peaceful and may there be exceptional people walking it with you.


Summer has arrived

At least for me summer has arrived, anytime the weather gets above 75 for several days then it’s summer.  And that’s what we’re getting her in the Pacific Northwest. Not that I don’t like the sun, I love it.  I … Continue reading


Lilac Gardens

Another beautiful place close to home. Strange how I can travel hundreds of miles from home to see places and miss what’s almost in my back yard. Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens is a National Historic Site in Woodland Washington. How … Continue reading

Family Memories

Happy day after Mother’s Day! I hope all the mother’s who read this had a day full of smiles and pampering.

Most of you know that my mother moved in with us in January. It didn’t take long for us to realize it was time for her to not live on her own anymore. So, with her blessing around the first of February, we began sorting through items in her house. We were lucky because our niece wanted to move in, which meant we didn’t have to talk about selling it. Everyone in the family knows how hard that would have been for Mom.

So the process of sorting through and clearing out 40 years of accumulation began. It quickly became a reason to gather. Mom loved being in the center of things as work progressed, loved the camaraderie as we found beloved items from our childhood. This may seem a bit silly, but we got sentimental over a meat grinder. Mom always made the most awesome homemade minced ham sandwiches. 🙂

There was a calendar from our childhood with the dishwashing schedule. Trust me, with five kids constantly arguing it wasn’t THEIR night to do dishes, those calendars were a must for Mom’s sanity.

We found our beloved step-father’s well-used fishing hat. He passed away in 1993 and we all still miss him. P1110712

One of the most amazing finds was newspapers saved from when Pearl Harbor was bombed, when armistice was called, when J.F. Kennedy was shot. Those are now in archival packaging in the hopes we can preserve them.

We also brought bin after bin of paperwork and pictures out to the house for Mom to sort at her leisure. She’s been doggedly going through it all and is down to about 10 photo albums. She kept hospital bills from when my sisters were born. I’ll post a pic of one of them here because, well, the cost of hospitalization for 5 days back then was a LOT less than these days.Hospbill

So now, my niece and her husband are ensconced in Mom’s home for the last 40 years, with her happy blessing. And we’ve had an amazing journey these past couple of months. We’ve laughed and cried over pictures and memories of events. And we all feel so blessed that Mom could be here to share it with us.

Something that could easily have been depressing turned out to be an awesome experience for all.

Have an awesome week, everyone!



I Am a Dull Person

Jillian here. This past three weeks, I’ve been sick with some stupid crud. I can’t seem to shake it and so basically all I have done is go to work, come home and rest and then do the same the … Continue reading

In And Out The Dusty Bluebells

Spring has finally turned a corner in England now we have slipped into May. Typically, it being May Bank Holiday here, the weather is still on the chilly side (I have the heating on!) and it’s raining. The forecast promises warm weather by the end of this week, much to everyone’s relief. It has been a good year for spring flowers though and now the daffodils have given way to the most glorious (I think) wild flower displays this country puts on, for May represents bluebell time. Whilst in some locations they often appear in April if the weather is warm enough, invariably it is the non-native species that bloom first.

mXPDKBMIt is a sad fact that English bluebells are unique but being slowly but surely eroded by foreign counterparts introduced here way back in the early 1900s.  Known as Spanish bluebells, they are different in many respects to our own native species but so common now, most people do not know the difference. The plants are common in people’s gardens too, as seeds can be readily purchased and easy to grow. As a consequence, they have self-seeded along hedgerows and verges and able to cross-pollinate with our native species, thus destroying their uniqueness. This is such a shame.

So, how can you tell which is which? There are four simple ways.


The Spanish Invader

First is colour. In the Spanish varieties (hyacinthoides hispanica) the bell-shaped flowers are pale blue, often white, and occasionally pink. The native English (hyacinthoides non-scripta) bluebell flower is darker, more a cobalt blue. The second is the way the flowers hang on the stalks. In the foreign variety, the stem is upright with the bells flowering around it, the flower heads fairly large, open tipped and more prolific. In our native plant, the stem arches with the flowers hanging on one side only, and with fewer bells.

English native

English native

The third clue is pollen: the Spanish flower has blue or green pollen; in the English variety it is white or cream. The fourth, and to my mind the most important, difference is perfume. There is no smell to Spanish varieties whilst the true English form will scent a woodland glade with a subtle, honey-like perfume that is unmistakable.

There’s nothing quite like an English wood when it is in a full swathe of blue glory. A walk through these can raise the spirit and lift the heart as they herald the onset of summer. The show is short-lived as once the leaves on the trees come out fully, the flowers vanish. It’s one of the reasons why I love painting bluebell scenes – to preserve this unique English spectacle for longer. Now, if only I could find a paint that has the same sweet perfume…