Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas at the Kilns II

December arrived and tours lessened a bit. We all welcomed author Greg Bourgond who prepared and actually wrote his second book while here. He even wrote during our scholar Christmas party--a dress-up Narnia Christmas party. While Mr. Tumnus was one of our very own, we also had Lucy, Edmund, Susan, Mrs. Beaver, Prince Rilian, Reepicheep, and many more. Another crowd of 30 or so guests! This time I only did minimal baking and the scholars bought or made the goodies to eat. The house looked warm and inviting in contrast to the cold and snow outside. Lots of pleasant conversation and more tours of the house took place. Greg returned home on the 23rd and the scholars drifted off to homes and friends to celebrate Christmas day. I "happened" to get invited to the best-known cook in the neighborhood's house for Christmas dinner. So, after a lovely morning church service I joined Robert and Dierdre's family for a traditional English Christmas dinner. We had crackers (not food) at the table, wore crowns and told the riddles that were in the crackers, and had real Christmas pudding (and the traditional brussel sprouts ...). Several of us went hiking in the snow after lunch and then returned for a full Christmas tea with trifle pudding. I returned home sufficiently stuffed and having learned much about English Christmas traditions! Skype phone calls home made the day wonderfully complete!

Christmas at the Kilns

Along with celebrating early in November, we had Christmas parties in November as well. Since the term lets out the end of November, the Oxford CS Lewis Society held their Christmas party at the Kilns. I decorated three mantles with lites, holly branches from the woods, and pine cones. Candles burned in the fireplaces and pine branches strewn on tables gave a festive yet natural look. About 30 people turned up and all had the cookies I had made (I hadn't stayed up baking Christmas cookies since my kids were little!)plus mulled (spiced) punch and other goodies. We split up into 3 groups to tour the house and, Cole Matson, Michael Ward, and Walter Hooper and I led the tours. Walter was great--since he knew Lewis he had all sorts of stories to tell for each room. I think I had the best group:-)! Then we gathered for some poetry reading (yup, only groups like this one would thrive on poetry reading:-) while Cole and Michael recited poetry or read funny stories. Walter had to take the Mr. Popularity award as I have pictures of him with a dozen or so students all grouped around listening excitedly to his experiences with CS Lewis.

Christmas in Oxford

Well, Christmas in Oxford begins early--in November! We decorated the house by Thanksgiving as celebrations begin that week. There are wonderful Advent and carol services at numerous churches throughout the city with the boys' choirs lifiting hearts and voices in heavenly songs. I attended two such services--both at Magdelen College, where Lewis taught when he was in Oxford. I didn't at first know we needed to get tickets so I went to "turn up" and was given a seat outside of the chapel area. Upon entering the church, I met with the vicar and since I know him, he asked where I was sitting and then offered to "trade" a guest ticket that he had in his hand--so, I sat up the top of the chapel, right behind the choir and two seats from the vicar who was performing the service. I did get tickets for the carol service but too late to get good seats, and once again, one of the chapel staff moved me (and a fortunate friend) up to the front of the chapel area. We had a good view of the choirs and the services were in honor of our Lord. What a perfect way to begin the Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

As Time Passes

Well, it's been a month since I last blogged! Time and circumstances caught up with me a bit but now I "think" I'm settling down into a much-needed routine. I'm finding foremost that there is quite a bit of entertaining with this position. Besides lots of small teas with drop in guests, we have had the CS Lewis Nature Reserve group meeting here--and my first time volunteering to help out in the Nature Reserve on their once-a-month work day. Well, now, that was an experience! These are what is known here as true "tree huggers"--I thought I would be picking up litter to help the reserve look nice, but they spent the day hauling logs, building bridges over bogs, and cutting down trees (not branches, trees . . . ). I made it through 2.5 hours and after carrying fewer logs than the 70-something lady, I made up an excuse to return home for an appointment--and yes, I had one . . . with the tub and epsom salts! The people are delightful, though, and I'm glad to have them as some new friends! One of our highlights was celebrating Lewis's life and works on the date of his passing, Nov. 22, 1963 (same as JFK and Huxley). We had a formal tea (pictures are soon coming) and read favorite passages as well as some of the journal comments from his brother, Major Warren Lewis (in Brothers and Friends). Then we went to Magdalen College in the evening for a service at Lewis's chapel in the college where he worshipped. A highlight was the Oxford CS Lewis Society's Christmas party they held at the Kilns. Christmas is celebrated early in Oxford and I frantically hunted down "fairy lights" and headed to the woods for holly and pine branches. Since the house has been restored to the 1950s then I made sure to decorate in keeping with the time period--understated, yet festive. I stayed up until 1:00 am baking cookies--an activity I have not indulged in since my children were younger! We had over 30 people and everybody got to have "nibbles" (treats), a tour with one of the three tour guides, and some poetry readings. We had lots of stories about Jack Lewis from Walter Hooper (he was on my tour) and Michael Ward read a delightful humorous piece. Today we're preparing the house once again for the scholars-in-residence Narnia "dress up" Christmas party--all attendees are supposed to dress as a Narnian character . . . until next time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Week 4

I found a "real" grocery store this week. Typically the stores are small, but when I can locate someone with a car to drive me, I can now shop at Tescos, a store with 3 aisles of produce--I was estatic! Aiden Mackey, renowned GK Chesterton scholar, recently moved close by and offered his services whenever I need a ride to the store--yes, freedom from busses and small loads of groceries that are only carriable! Besides grocery shopping and the typical tours by Michael and Cole, Dr. Bernard Brandstater was our house guest for a few days. Since I had stayed at his and Bev's home in Redlands, I had fun returning the favor by taking Bernard to church with me, eating at the Eagle and Child, touring the Ashmolean (museum) and Oxford, visiting Lewis' church and seeing the beautiful Narnia window and his gravesite. As soon as Bernard left on Monday, I quickly prepared for my first "proper" tea at 4pm with Walter Hooper and the dean of Christ Church (college) and his wife among the 9 guests. Since this tea came at the last minute, I of course, phoned up the English Rose tea house in Chattanooga, TN and they graciously guided me in planning out the menu and how to make everything--even down to the cucumber sandwiches! The English Rose serves the best English tea I have ever had anywhere and I thank them wholeheartedly for saving me in my risky endevour! I knew I had arrived when the dean's wife looked in the dining room and said, "Oooh, a proper tea!" and Walter Hooper took me by the arm and said in the presence of everybody, "These are the best cucumber sandwiches I have ever had in my life!" Ahhhh, victory!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Week 2 &3 at the Kilns

Adjusting is the name of the game for weeks 2 and 3. Our third scholar returned from his conference in NY (and fell in love with NY), I had our first and second set of house guests (the first was a speaker for the Oxford CSL Society, Ann Loades CBE--Commander of the British Empire and spoke about Lewis and Gender--and the second were 2 guests from the CSL Foundation who were preparing for the upcoming Oxbridge conference in the summer), more tours were conducted by our very capable and interesting tour guides, Dr. Michael Ward (author of Planet Narnia) and Cole Matson (Renaissance man). The Aga stayed lit--the Aga man, Tony, told me to toss out my cookbooks and develop a relationship with the Aga . . . ; however, the upstairs heat wouldn't work so capable Tony trekked over here and got the radiators working just in time for the 42 degree weather and the second set of house guests. And I'm rereading George Sayers biography on Lewis--quite good! Off to week 4--see ya!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Week 1 at the Kilns

Well, my first week was mostly spent trying desperately to get on the correct time zone for sleeping, and handling tech issues with email access for the Kilns site. The time zone was critical due to the fact that others expected to see me at other times than three in the morning when I happened to be most awake, and the emails were critical due to the fact that people wanted to schedule tours and that particular site combined with my not being in a zombie-like state was what hinged on their being able to pay the place a visit . . .
Lots of things happened during week one: one of the 3 students left for the week for New York for a conference, the AGA quit working (see google for AGA: it is a type of cook stove that stays on all the time--without it we could not cook, nor would the kitchen stay warm), the temps began to drop into the 50s and damp, I gave my first tea to Christopher Mitchell and his guests from Ireland (try making a full tea without a stove . . .), I attended my first Oxford C.S. Lewis Society meeting where Walter Hooper was in attendance (and he and I chatted about enjoying the small things in life [profound] and electric blankets [practical]), I met the AGA repairman and the gardener (you fix tea for the workmen over here--it is expected), I scheduled lots of tours, sorted out tons of emails, and unpacked in between it all (and did I tell you that my rooms are always in "showable" mode for the tours?).
Take a deep breath--I also walked everywhere as I had (and still have) no vehicle--but made it by bus to get groceries, hit the charity shops (2nd hand shops are a big thing over here as they help heart and cancer patients and have very nice things in them--I was able to pick up a very-much needed wool coat for 8 pounds/12 dollars).
There's a lot more, but here's one story to get the feel of things: One person phoned the Kilns from outside the gate (where the number is posted) and wanted a tour right then and there--I had just gotten out of the shower and said we have tour days (not right then, of course)--"Could I please show them the house now?" as they were only in the area for a short time--I sent them to look at the pond outside the house, dried my hair, and then showed them inside--only to have them be very rude . . . go figure . . . but that's just one person (actually two, but only one was rude); the typical groups who schedule to come through here are absolutely wonderful and have lots of questions and are very grateful for a chance to come and visit. We've had people from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Russia, and more. This place remains a witness both to those who live here as well as to those who visit--I hope I am as much of a blessing as I feel that I am blessed already!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I've Arrived at the Kilns!

I "thought" I would leave that Monday when I wrote my last blog; however, the visa still did not arrive--so we had to reschedule one more time. I arrived last Thursday afternoon into the UK. The reason you have not heard from me for a week is that I was having difficulty logging onto my blogsite. Well, the arrival was interesting. I was only detained for 30 minutes in customs this time (instead of 7.5 hours)--and I was thoroughly grilled on what I was doing with my personal research--I even had to recite some of the Lord's Prayer in Old English for the customs man--then he believed me! Fortunately, I had a bit of OE memorized . . .
I was treated royally upon my arrival. One of the scholars gave me flowers and fixed me supper so I didn't have to go shopping the first night and then a friend asked me to supper the second night. I even had an invite for the third night but I needed to rest up a bit from all the jet lag and jet setting! I appreciate all the prayers and support from everybody! More to come . . .

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Visa Is In!

Good news! The visa has been approved and my ticket has been rescheduled for Monday at 9:20 pm. I have spent my last weekend in the US with my daughter who now lives in the San Diego area. We celebrated my visa arrival and her new business venture with a trip to the San Diego Zoo--simply awesome!

A Journey of Restoration

Once again, the journey of "waiting" for the visa has turned into a blessing--this time in the physical realm. I was told that if the visa waited just "one more week" then I would be able to use a gift (from some awesome friends) of attending the wonderful Restoration Ranch with Dr. Mike Casey for a health cleansing ( The visa indeed did wait so off I trekked to Yucca Valley, CA, home of the Joshua Tree National Forest. The high desert flora was beautiful, the sunsets awesome, the hospitality and gorgeous ranch incredible. The health lectures alone were worth the stay, but alongside the cleansing smoothies, and healthy eating and exercising, I couldn't have asked for a better preparation for my soon-to-come adventure [and no, you don't fast for days without eating . . . in fact, you never feel hungry at all]! I left with new friends, new knowledge, a clearer mind, a healthier body, and many spiritual lessons from the Bible! Plus, I gained an appreciation for the beauty of the desert--it is truly breathtaking. The entire experience was so invigorating a retreat that I recommend it to everybody hands down! So, now that I'm all physically, spiritually, and mentally renewed, I'm ready for the door to open into the Kilns! "Further up and further in!" (The Last Battle).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So You Wanted to Hear About Dog Beach?!

I've had enough inquiries about my beach hotel experience that I thought I had better tell the tale . . . It all began when I headed down to Ocean Beach, San Diego to visit my daughter while taking care of visa business. I arrived into the Ocean Beach area very late at night and after checking out seedy hotels, very expensive hotels (as in $450 expensive), and a "close to the beach" hotel, I finally returned near midnight to the "close to the beach" hotel.
I reasoned with the desk worker, "Do you really want to leave a room empty when it could be rented to me at a bargain price?"
She thought I had a good point and asked, "Do you have a dog?" After replying "no", she asked me the same question another three times as she checked me into my bargain room. I chalked her responses up to "late night syndrome."
I woke the next morning to a great view of the ocean and quickly ran out to sink my toes into the sand, but as I did I noticed about 25 dogs running around on the beach, swimming in the water, catching frisbees, and otherwise having a splendid time as only dogs can do. Well, the beach just happened to be officially called "Dog Beach" (yes, there really is one) and the hotel was a "dog friendly" hotel. Everywhere I went people were asking where my dog was . . .
Actually, The Ocean Villa Inn was very clean, friendly, and the view was great! I highly recommend them, and I'm sure to stay there again, but if you decide to check them out, be extra careful about those cookies on the counter--they're for doggy residents only!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

And the Journey Continues . . .

From Palm Springs I headed to San Diego! What a beautiful place to live and the most perfect weather anywhere on earth! While taking care of further visa paperwork, I was able to spend free time visiting with my daughter (who is moving to San Diego). We had a fun time while she was busy apartment hunting and setting up her new business in Ocean Beach. Apartments on the beach have to be one step closer to heaven! On the visa note . . . after sorting through four types of visas we finally located one that worked. There have been many changes over the past year in UK visas, but I'm now set up and just waiting for the processing--which should happen in the next week. So . . . I could be over in the UK by the end of next week or sooner (or later, but we won't talk about that)! Cheerio to you all!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jet Setting Around the US

After leaving the D.C. area and seeing some wonderful friends there--being dined by many--childhood friends, church friends from long ago, musician friends, and Tolkien Elven language friends, I headed to North Carolina, then back to Atlanta, stayed with more friends, this time from Southern, and then jetted over to a "very" sunny and hot, hot, hot California [115 degrees]! We have heard it said that "God works in mysterious ways" and I'm viewing my being able to visit with long-ago friends as a true blessing. Each and every person has offered new perspectives on life, Christian experience, and, of course, encouragement and support for me in my venture. One very important thing that this entire move has brought to the forefront of my attention is that I have the best friends in the entire world and would not trade even one of them (no matter how much they tease me:-) for anything! The laughter, the concern, and the care of others, isn't that what life is truly all about?! A God-given family indeed and I feel very privileged!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back in the USA

Well, after Dr. Debbie landed at Heathrow airport in London it was discovered that visa stipulations had changed in the past year for her type of position, so . . . she is back in the the Washington, D.C. area . . . waiting. After the company she is volunteering with has gotten their paperwork in order then she will apply for the new type of visa. Hopefully this is only a glitch in the big picture of her volunteer work and research in Oxford . . . She has been told that her room awaits her--Warnie's room, for those who are familiar with The Kilns. Warren Lewis was C.S. Lewis' brother and his room is on the main floor with direct access to the house library. Till we meet again . . .

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

After an eventful night of packing until 6am, three hours of sleep, a final trip to the storage unit, and the sale of my car, a friend whisked me off to this side of Atlanta to meet another friend who drove me to the airport at 6pm. Of course, I had to repack bags at the counter due to weight limits and then finally I had all four bags checked in, my heavy carry on of all books and my backpack hoisted onto the security belts . . . and then, I was through the final security check! My 9pm flight was on time, flying was smooth, movies were good, veggie meals yummy and after a few hours of sleep we touched down in merry ole England . . . [more to come as the travel adventure is just beginning].

Monday, August 2, 2010

Community Effort!

Well, I've decided that a move this big takes a community effort! As someone mentioned the other day, "You sure must have a lot of good friends" and yes, I do! I have had friends from church, friends from the university, friends from my equestrian activities, students, and many more, pitch in to get things sorted, things packed, and things (like my duplex) cleaned up and out!! I officially moved the last of my belongings into the storage unit last Thursday when I hired a math major and his friend to "sort" and pack the unit--they considered it a game of Tetris and did an awesome job of packing things to the top of the storage unit! All is in there with room to spare for a few things I have left to sort. Today I'm officially out of my duplex and staying with a generous friend . . . (and even her dog Pepe likes me . . .). Tomorrow I sort and pack some more--and oh, yes, for those thinking I was leaving today for England, well, I had an ear problem (and a "I'm not finished packing problem) that gave cause for an additional couple of days. Tomorrow will bring more sorting and packing and taking care of my horse and his accommodations. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Travel Prep

Well, have you ever tried to pack all your belongings after being in one place for many years? And then put them all in storage?! This is taking me much longer than I had ever imagined; but it is interspersed with fund raising, doc appointments, lots of good byes with friends, and celebration of times to come!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Welcome to Debbie's blog on the Kilns!

I'm getting ready to head over to Oxford on August 1. Life is exciting right now--packing away and getting some fund raising done . . .