Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends and family.


Feels odd being here in England on Thanksgiving! I am English but with an American husband and time spent living in Tennessee, I have one foot in each country. I think it’s a lovely tradition and I wish we did more of it over here. Our roots here go back thousands of years and it’s hard to know, remember or even think of our origins. However we do have so much to be thankful for. My list is endless, it really is and today, such a special day, I am thankful for my family and friends and that includes all you bloggy followers.

I am making a pumpkin pie for Larry, although he doesn’t know it yet.  It must feel so strange for him being here today, his second year living in England away from his family and all things familiar. We’re going to have a turkey dinner out somewhere nice later on.

So Happy Thanksgiving one and all from my pen to your computer.

Oma x

Trees and conservation


When I was living in Tennessee, I noticed lots of things which were different to over here in England. One of those things was the trees. The trees are very different, all of them. They are all beautiful but different, rather like people! I noticed that there were many more trees in America but that they were being mown down to be replaced by buildings of concrete. You can see it clearly from the aeroplanes. When I first went over, I saw the roofs of the shopping malls and I thought they were large car parks, but the sheer expanse of concrete covering the earth is alarming.

Please stop it!

You don’t need to do so much building. When a shop goes out of business, you don’t need to move on and build more, you just need to revamp what you have.  America is such a big country, huge, massive! that it is thought the land is endless but it isn’t. Pretty soon you will lose your trees if you don’t stop the endless building. I saw it at first hand. Living in Knoxville, we were on the west side. The east side came first, I believe and now a large part of that is derelict, just left to decay. Sad, very sad.

In England we have done the same in years gone by and that is why I say ‘stop it’ to you over there. Keep what you have and appreciate the beauty.

Here is a quote from one of my favourite books:

‘Over many centuries, ancient Britain was transformed from a land covered in natural forestation in which clearances were made to a ”land of clearance” with only isolated patches of forest.  However, the average person still had the security of working the land.  This changed drastically as the peasants were thrown off the land by the institution of the General Enclosures Act of 1845 and while Britain became dangerously deforested by the demands of industrialization, there was a rise in the amount of new species of trees planted as wealthy landowners landscaped their gardens and estates.  On the one hand the rough grazing land of the peasants was taken from them, enclosed and cleared of growth for the plough, while on the other, having cleared so much land, landowners had to literally remake copses in order to house the game they kept for sport.

When timber became the long-term crop of private woodlands, new species of trees were introduced and established.  These were mainly fir, larch and spruce, and they were planted alongside our fastest growing softwood, the Scot’s pine.  During the twentieth century, great conifer plantations arose as a result of the need for quickly produced timber, especially during the times of world wars, after which they became purely commercial producers.

The Forestry Commission was founded in 1919, and it advised private landowners to acquire and plant trees on any land unsuitable for agriculture.  While the Forestry Commission has been guilty of planting acres of sombre, uniform conifers, it has in fact also been successful in arresting the decline of many of our remaining deciduous forests, specifically the seven National Forest Parks.  It is heartening to realise that a new generation of foresters (or woodmen) are now concentrating upon replacing areas of hardwood trees, for deciduous woodland shows the seasonal beauty of Nature in its fullest glory.  New forests are being born out of sympathy with nature rather than for monetary gain and the skills and wisdoms of old are once more taking hold.’

from ‘Tree Wisdom’, by Jacqueline Memory Paterson


The American Museum in Bath, England.


On our recent visit to Bristol, to visit with my eldest son and his partner, we took a day to go to the American Museum in Bath.’ The museum takes you on a journey through the history of America, from its early settlers to the 20th century and illustrates the complexity of American culture through its remarkable collections of folk and decorative arts.  Its furniture, paintings, maps, quilts, silver and glass are presented in a series of period rooms within a historic manor house near Bath in the beautiful Avon Valley in the West of England.

The museum grounds encompass 125 acres of parkland, gardens, and an arboretum and throughout the year, children’s activities, living history, workshops, lectures and seasonal celebrations are all part of the life of the Museum.

The only museum of Americana outside the United States, The American Museum in Britain was founded to bring American history and cultures to the people of Britain and Europe.’

The  museum was founded in 1961 by two men who had a great love for the decorative arts of America and who wanted to share this passion with the people of Britain.  They were Dallas Pratt, an American psychiatrist who served in World War II and his partner John Judkyn, a British antiques dealer.  In the 1950’s they were struck with the popularity of newly established historic site museums such as Winterthur, Williamsburg, Sturbridge Village and Historic Deerfield.  So why not found a museum to demonstrate that America was more complex than in the Hollywood movies people were familiar with?

Acquiring a 19th century manor housse near Bath to display their collections, the founders planned a series of period rooms for their decorative arts collections and the interpretation of American life.’ from the ‘Aspects of America’ guidebook.

Here are some of the pictures Larry and I took when we visited:

The house itself is beautiful and the view from the front is spectacular.



This is the view from the front:


‘This room is the ‘keeping room’ .17th century ‘keeping’ was a term used by colonists to describe where they lived.  The Keeping Room includes a pedestal table that may have belonged to Peregrine White, who was born aboard the Mayflower’:


IMG_2492 IMG_2494


What follows is the ‘Stencilled Bedroom’ ca. 1830. ‘Stencilling was done by itinerant painters who travelled across the country decorating walls with paint, as a substitute for more expensive wallpaper.  The popularity for stenciling travelled back across the Atlantic to Britain, where it also was used in the 19th century.’


We had such a good time here and looked and looked until we were too tired to look anymore! We had lunch in the beautiful refectory where all American food was served, which was nice for Larry because although he wouldn’t admit it, he must feel homesick sometimes.

After the house we visited the exhibition hall in the grounds where a Kaffe Fassett exhibition was being held. I wrote about it here if you missed it the first time round.



Ramsey Plantation House

Constructed about 1797 for Francis A. Ramsey, the late-Georgian house has a central passage plan on both floors.  Ramsey’s eldest son, William B.A. Ramsey, inherited the house in 1820 on his father’s death.  In 1840, he sold it to his brother James G.A. Ramsey, who in turn gave it to his son Francis A. Ramsey as a wedding present in 1857.  In 1952 Knoxville Chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities purchased the house from a subsequent owner and began to restore it.  The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

Last Saturday there was an open day and we went along to look at it. There was a Craft Fare in the grounds and the weather was lovely so we had a great time looking round the house and visiting all the stalls. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside the house so there are none of those to look at, but if you ever get the chance do visit it yourself.  It’s well worth the trip.

So here I am outside the house. There is a central door with a path leading up to it, but we were told that the original residents didn’t use the path much, preferring to go round the back because the area at the front of the house  is swampy. Opposite the house on the other side of the road was a large, swampy pond. At least one of the original owner’s children died from Malaria which was caused by a mosquito bite. Mosquitos breed in watery places. After the death of his dear child, the owner had the pond drained.  How sad to lose a little girl like that.

The house has a central door on the first floor, right above the main front door. This was used when furniture needed upstairs. The furniture would be hoisted up and through that door. To the right of the main house is a log cabin. You can see it in the picture. At first I thought this was going to be the kitchen, but later found out that it was the original house where the owner and his family lived whilst the main house was being built.  To build and own a house as large as this one made the owner a rich man because most people would have lived in a log cabin in those days.

The next picture shows the kitchen which was added on to the main house. Usually the kitchen was in a separate building owing to the risk of fire. If the kitchen caught fire, then it probably would not spread to the main house. That was their way of thinking back then.

This is a wooden house quilt on the wall. Isn’t it pretty?

One of the first stalls we came across was a friendly couple who were making and selling popcorn.

…and soon after a stall selling home-made ice cream. We had to try it!

Then I found this lovely old veteran from the Civil War and asked if I could have my picture taken with him. He obliged and this is the result.

Next picture shows the back of the home-made ice cream stall with all the paraphernalia needed to make the delicious ice cream.

The people at the next stall were cooking something delicious in a Dutch oven. From Wikipedia = Dutch oven is a thick-walled (usually cast ironcooking pot with a tight-fitting lid. Dutch ovens have been used as cooking vessels for hundreds of years. They are called casserole dishes in English speaking countries other than the USA (“casserole” means “pot” in French), and cocottes in French,

Tennessee – University of Tennessee Gardens – Knoxville – September 2012

My regular readers will know that Oma has been uprooted and transplanted into Tennessee for the next few weeks. Incredibly, I have been here for one week already! The other day we went for a very pleasant walk around the University of Tennessee pleasure gardens, which is where I took these photos. Now I need your help because I don’t know what a lot of these tropical plants are called. Please could you tell me if you know?

The first picture, above, shows some very pretty plants, which look like a kind of aloe vera.  Am I right?

The red plant in the next picture reminds me of a coleus.  Am I right or is it something completely different?

I know that the next very pretty pink plant is a Sedum. Anyone know which variety of Sedum. Sedum is known also as an Ice Plant and it is very popular with butterflies and bees.

No prizes for the next pic., which shows some gorgeous water lillies doing their thing in a man-made pond. Just lovely.

How about these yellow beauties?  Anyone know what they are?

Now the cactus. What sort of cactus is it and is the fruit edible?  I’ve seen fruit on this before when I’ve been over but I have no idea if it is edible or what to do with it if it is.

The last picture today shows me admiring a sunflower.  It is full of seeds and the birds were enjoying them.

I have more pictures, but that will do for today.

The last time I went to the University Pleasure Gardens was back in February when almost everything was dormant.  What a difference I saw this week. Lots of colour and vibrant growth and the butterflies were gorgeous.

I hope you’re enjoying your day.

Oma’s Tennessee garden

I’ve completed my journey and arrived back in Tennessee, looking forward to another game of Scrabble with Larry.  A while ago he made this Scrabble board because we both got fed up with the restrictions of the usual one.  I like this one much better and the game lasts all through the evening, which is a pleasant way to spend time. Larry is my husband.

It was also nice to see my familiar things like this old table, which belonged to my Oma.  The table lived in Holland for much of its life, then travelled to England with my mum and finally has its resting place in Tennessee.

I say finally, but then you never know do you.

The lovely knitting needle case on the table is very appropriate for where I am in my life at the moment, i.e. a little old lady with grey hair who spends her time knitting and spinning…

I have lots of dried roses as pot pourri.  They always smell so wonderful.

Now I’m going to show you some pictures from the Tennessee garden, through the year so far.

When I arrived I had a very sore back and I’m still suffering with it. However, maybe after a few day’s rest, I will feel better and be more mobile.

I did manage to walk round Joanne’s today though (wink). I love that place.  It’s full of gorgeous materials and yarns and scrap-booking stuff etc.  All the things that make me a happy me.

The lychnis is pretty in the next picture.

So for the next few weeks I will be blogging from Tennessee. I hope you’ll follow along with me as I live my American life?

First Encounters in America or ‘How the hell do I get out of this airport?’

My first impressions of America were made in Atlanta, on arriving there from England for the very first time in April 2006. I was going to spend ten days with my Fanstory friend, L and I was very excited about it.

Atlanta airport is massive and I, having been detained in the immigration office for four hours, was unsure of where to go next. I was alone with my carry-on bag as I found my way down the long escalator to the two waiting underground trains.

I had no idea where they went. In my mind, I thought they probably went to downtown Atlanta and that was definitely not where I wanted to be. I needed to meet up with L and as quickly as possible. Would he still be waiting for me, after four long hours with no communication? He would know that the plane had arrived and must be wondering where the hell I was since everybody else had already come through the International Arrivals.

I discovered all too late in the immigration office that my English mobile phone did not work in America, despite the fact that the young man in the telecom office in my local shopping mall in England, assured me that it would work!

I decided to ask the immigration officer if he would be kind enough to phone my friend and let him know that I had been delayed. He did let L know, but not by phone, so at least L knew I was in the airport, but other than that, L would not know why I had taken so long to reach him. Perhaps he would guess what had happened or perhaps not. I had no way of knowing. I began to worry that L would get tired or fed up waiting and return to the hotel he had booked for us to stay in that night.

I looked at the two trains and decided not to get on either of them. I would ask directions first. There was no-one around down there in the train hall so I went back up the escalator to find the Enquiries Desk and asked one of the airport officials if they could tell me how to get to the International Arrivals desk? They looked at me as if I was stupid and indeed I did feel stupid. On the other hand, I had never been to Atlanta before or America even and I was not familiar with the airport or the systems they had in place there. They told me they couldn’t help me, which to this day I find remarkable, so back I went down the escalator again. Since there was nowhere else to go but onto the train, I tentatively got on it and went a couple of stops. Then I got off.

I looked around, but could find no map of the airport to help me and still there was no-one else around to ask. I decided it was pointless to ask a fellow passenger, who would probably be as befuddled as I was. A cleaning lady, pushing a large trolley full of mops and buckets and cleaning equipment came into view. I asked her for directions.

‘I want to go to the International Arrivals,’ I told her.

She was more helpful than anyone else I had so far encountered, telling me to get back on the train and go to the Baggage Hall, which was at the end of the train ride. I was relieved to hear that. At least I wouldn’t find myself in the middle of the metropolis, out of the airport and completely lost.

I got back onto the train.

The stops on the train ride are labelled in letters of the alphabet and a mechanical voice tells you where you are, not necessarily where you want to be.

‘This train is now stopping’, the disembodied voice kept telling me. ‘The next stop is Concourse C’….

At the baggage hall I felt my feet getting sore. I was wearing high-heeled shoes and they had begun to pinch. I looked around for the console containing the luggage from flight BA226. There was none. I concluded that everyone else had already got theirs and mine was who knows where! My heart sank. My new camera was in that bag. Again I would have to find help and ask where the bag was likely to be.

All this took more time than I wanted it to. Eventually, I was told that my bag would have been taken to the B.A. office at the front of the airport and I would be able to claim in the next day after 12 o’clock noon. I did a quick time check. That would mean that L and I would have to stay near the airport in order to pick up my bag from the left luggage after noon, when the Check-In office opened. That meant that we would not be able to leave the airport when we wanted to, but would have to wait at BA’s convenience. ‘Could this get much worse?’ I wondered, scenes from the movie ‘Terminal’ playing in my mind. Perhaps I would be marooned in the airport forever more unable to find a way out or locate my friend. Plan C suggested looking for food in rubbish bins in order to stay alive and sleeping in corners where no-one would see me, but the mind was playing tricks because I was tired.

Fighting off the need to cry, I saw another escalator ahead of me. Surely this one would lead to the Arrivals Hall? If I didn’t see L soon, I would go mad. There is only so much one person can stand and I was reaching that limit.

I walked towards the escalator, clutching my carry-on bag tight. Stepping on, the escalator began to ascend. I could see an enormous mural at the top, welcoming new arrivals. I must be in the right place, but would L be there for me or would I be all alone in this new land?