Sunday, November 10, 2019

Veterans Day - A Look Back

Last year, Rick and I spent a lovely October in England and our last stop was Midford, a village near Bath, where we rented the home of a friend. It was one of the hightlights of the trip. On our last day, a gorgeous, crisp day, we took a walk and were reminded of the sacrifices of those who fought in World War I (and of course, all wars since). England's male population took a terrible hit in the WWI, which led to a generation with a significant number of "spinsters" and new roles for women, who had left the traditional working roles of service and teaching for jobs previously held by men. 


It was a brutal war and many of those who returned had witnessed horrendous battles, attacks by mustard gas and experienced what we would now call PTSD, along with terrible physical injuries. The War to End All Wars only was a prelude to yet another that would decimate Europe.

The post below is slightly edited from what appeared last year on Veterans Day. 

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As we look at a week that includes Remembrance Day in England and Veteran's Day in the United States, It's fitting that we visit Monkton Combe, near Bath in the U.K. as we honor veterans of the Great War and all others with a visit to Harry Patch's grave.


Who was Harry Patch, you might ask. I did. And the answer is simple -- Henry John Patch was briefly the oldest man in Europe, but more fitting for this day, he was the last surviving combat soldier of World War I in any country. He fought on the Western Front and when he died, he was a month short of being 112 years old. He died on July 25, 2009.

Rick and I encountered his grave during a walk on our last day in the UK, when we stayed a Morgan's Forge. "Turn left and soon you will come to the grave of Harry Patch," said my friend Mark, from whom we rented the house during our visit. So, on a cool, crisp, sunny (mostly) day, Rick and I ventured toward Monkton Combe. Harry's grave was the only one in the small and interesting cemetery that had been remembered, with two bright wreaths of poppies. It was a fitting remembrance.


Imagine what this son of a stonemason saw in his lifetime. Born close to the turn of a century -- the last century -- he saw the advent of electricity, the automobile, passenger air travel, the internet, everyday appliances. And he saw war.

Harry Patch was drafted into the British Army two years into World War I and had a bumpy time in his early years, becoming demoted after a fist fight with a fellow soldier. He arrived in France in 1917 and fought at the Battle of Passchendaele, where he was injured and returned to England. He wrote:
When the war ended, I don't know if I was more relieved that we'd won or that I didn't have to go back. Passchendaele was a disastrous battle—thousands and thousands of young lives were lost... We've had 87 years to think what war is. To me, it's a license to go out and murder. Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language I couldn't speak? All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that?"
Photo: Wikipedia

Harry Patch received eight medals for his service and  after decades of not speaking about the war later shared his story in British documentaries and the series World War I in Colour, which is seen periodically in the U.S. on the AHC channel. He became an advocate for preserving sacred battlefield land in France and recognized that life on both sides was lost and should be honored. During the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, he described war as the "calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings" and said that "war isn't worth one life. Two years before his death, he wrote his autobiography, The Last Fighting Tommy. 


Harry Patch's funeral was held at Wells Cathedral and he was buried at Monkton Combe, the small cemetery adjacent to St. Michael's Church.


It was called "The War to End All Wars." But we all know that didn't happen. It was, in fact, the effects of World War I on Germany the bred discontent and the rise of Adolf Hitler and the second World War. Harry Patch didn't serve there and no doubt he had deep feelings about the war from his personal experiences. In his later years he was an advocate of peace and involved with the British Poppy Appeal and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.


But perhaps his greatest legacy is that he told his story -- and like all stories of war, we must never forget its impact on those who served, those who were left behind and those who live free because of the actions of brave soldiers, decades, even centuries ago.


Here's to our grandfathers and great grandfathers who served in this war. And to those who have served in others since. (Much info for this post about Harry Patch was pulled from Wikipedia and other websites.)


I know I'll be thinking of my dad and his WWII service today.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

November. The Busy Month.

The gingko leaves were falling from the tree like golden coins, landing swiftly and silently on the ground below. These lovely fan-shaped leaves were the last to change color and close to the last to fall. The temperatures -- about 25 this morning when I got up -- are falling too.


It is November.


Where did that time go? We had Snowloween this year. We definitely overbought candy -- this year, only eight little ones came to the door. If we'd known, we would have given them handfuls!


All my Halloweenies have been put away, leaving pumpkins and other non-witchy fall things in their place. This little guy was new this year...


...and this one, both from the wonderful Vintage by Crystal sale. I started a small collection last year and I'm hoping they have a Christmas sale too -- then I'll have one for all the biggies!

 
I sometimes think November is the craziest month of my year. It comes with the last of outdoor clean-up, my annual art sale, and a good deal of holiday preparations.


While I don't like to decorate for Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving (I'm still in my PJs when I start bringing out the holiday cheer on Black Friday!) I'm doing a lot of the holiday prep -- Christmas cards need to be created and ordered; out of town/country presents pulled together and mailed and shopping lists reviewed. Dishes to wash! Hello, turkey dishes -- welcome back!


And then there is Thanksgiving. We can never seem to get our Thanksgiving act together early enough for me. I like a plan. Most of the time I don't care what the plan is, but I just want one. For the kids, juggling three families who all want kid and baby grand time, is a challenge. It often means we don't know how the arrangements will work out till closer to the date.  This year is different. Hooray! We can make a plan!


A week or so ago, Rick and I went to baby sit the Toddler Twosome for the weekend. There was time for play...


...movies...


...cuddles....


...meals to make... and devour!  
             
                  

When they tire out you know it. They just stop.



But little monkeys who are almost three and 16-months don't tire out often!


Mostly, there were big smiles.


And teeth.


And when all was said and done, we were exhausted! But they aren't! (Do you remember when you could do that? And smile at the same time? I can't.)


As I write this I'm thinking I should get on the stick and finish cleaning the house and wrapping birthday presents for my friend Suzanne's visit later this afternoon. We'll have good times hitting the movies, eating at her favorite restaurants and staying up late to talk over old times. Really old times.


There are still watercolors to mat and frame and cards to slip into their sleeves for next week's sale. (If you're in the mid-Michigan area, stop by! Feel free to email me for more specific directions!)



This photo is from last year but I'll have a similar set-up this year (but also include some of my felties, and of course, the framed or matted watercolor originals).


I'm having a hard time falling back. I always do. The time change in the fall is rough for me. It doesn't help to look outside and see this.


Meanwhile, someone is wondering if she'll get enough attention.


I don't think we have to worry about that!

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Monday, November 4, 2019

Halloween at Southern Exposure

What if you went to Southern Exposure and didn't think you were going to do a project? Just have a wonderful witchy time?


It would still be good!


Somehow, we have lucked out with weather going to our favorite place and it was still pretty much full-fall when we arrived. So of course we took a wander through the gardens. To be honest, I find great beauty in faded blooms.


They remind me a bit of how we might feel after having had a wonderful time and now we are tired and ready for a rest.


Honestly, haven't you ever felt like this?


But some, like the hydrangea, are just as lovely in their faded place as they are in full color.


(Although a few were really hanging in there!)


I just adore how they do their bird baths -- and it's so pretty with the reflections!


Loads of berries now. I'll bet the birds are loving these!


But on to dinner! Our first stop was in the Corn Crib. This is my favorite of the rooms and I loved this view when we entered.


Angie was making drinks. She hollowed out apples to serve as vessels. This was called her "Poisoned Apple" drink and was vodka, pomegranate juice and other juices, including Hawaiian Punch. (I didn't like the Hawaiian Punch in there -- made it a tad too sweet for me. But I LOVED the presentation!)


The appetizer was a Brie with chutney in phyllo cups. Yum!


Then we walked through a canopy of lights for our next course in the Hog House.


This featured a beautiful salad with a lovely raspberry dressing...


...and the cutest rolls I've ever seen with a delicious spiced butter. After I got home I looked up recipes online for these and found a couple of links. The Southern Exposure ones used the pumpkin and there is a recipe similar HERE. If you don't want them orange, you can make them with pre-made dough and I found one for that HERE.


Then it was off to the Milking Parlor for the main course. We had roasted rack of lamb, a veggie and a Thai rice (which is deep enough purple to be considered black). And that was served in these cute hollowed out peppers. I can't wait to do something like this with the Baby Grands. Pasta or mac and cheese would work!


We were pretty stuffed, but not too stuffed to move on for Creme Brulee and ginger snaps. And best of all, when we moved to our final station we found a project for us! We did little bloom-stuffed Jack Be Littles.


And here's mine, shown at home.


All in all, a most glorious evening. The next time I return it will be in December. The garden will be gone completely (and if we are lucky it will not be covered in snow! Too soon!)


Oh, I can hardly wait!

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