Let’s Get Lost

On Sunday September 5th, Steve and I had a little party at The Spotted Dog in Digbeth.  It was actually a double celebration.  First, we wanted to celebrate our wedding with some Midlands-based friends.   We each wore the wedding clothes that we wore for our civil wedding ceremony at the Exeter Register Office.

21st May, 2010

Landlord John Tighe set aside an area in the garden for us which has a big screen TV.  Steve put together a DVD of our fabulous wedding photos which we projected.  The music was what we listened to at our wedding reception.  We both love popular and jazz music from the 1930’s and 1940’s and put together a great playlist on Steve’s iPod.   We also took Devon-based food.  Venison pasties from the butcher over the road from us, Clive’s vegetarian pies and two vegan chocolate cakes from the Plant Cafe in Exeter.  Oh, and of course clotted cream.  We took some Prosecco for a toast in honour of our honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast.  We gave everyone organza bags with sugared almonds and gummi bears.  It was a fun evening.  As we were on our way to Amsterdam for our anniversary trip, we sent everyone home with delicious leftover food.

Nicky Getgood, a wonderful Digbeth-based blogger and cyber-networker was in attendance, which was great.  I met her online after my first trip to Digbeth in August 2008.  I had written about my trip here, her blog found my blog and the rest, as they say, is history.  The night that I went to The Spotted Dog on my return trip (September 5th, 2008) I met my husband Steve.  So this was our other reason to celebrate – the night we met.  Here are some photos that Nicky took with her iPhone at our Spotted Dog party.

I’m also writing about our trip to Amsterdam on my blog Inspiraculum.  Here’s a photo of us taken at the Prins Hendrik Hotel in Amsterdam.  One of the musicians we love, Chet Baker, died there in 1988 and we went to pay homage and drink a toast to him.  Here’s one of “our” songs:  ‘Let’s Get Lost’, perhaps the definitive Chet Baker tune.   Recorded in 1956, it’s a perfect example of the cool and breezy West Coast sound.  A romantic tune that highlights both Chet’s horn and his singing.

Steve & Melinda - lost and found

Bread of Life

One of the wonderful wedding gifts that we received was a pair of bread boards.  They were made by our friend Hen’s husband Wes and her father.   They are made from hand-hewn, hand-turned sycamore and the loveliest part is that they are inscribed on the back with our names and our wedding date.

Steve and I have been really, really busy this summer with a lot of socialising, some travelling, quilt deadlines (me) and business travel (Steve).  Which is why the blog has been just a bit quiet.  Steve was away all last week, and I was working every day on a quilt for a challenge (My Favourite Artist) in Kent.  I finished it on Friday, so to celebrate (and my husband’s return), I made a special Italian dinner with antipasti and used one of our new wedding bread boards.  No matter how busy Steve and I are, when we are at home together, we always find the time to cook and share food together.  We set the table with our lovely dinnerware and cutlery and the right glasses for whatever we’re drinking.  We break bread together and talk about our day or make plans for the future or just enjoy each other’s company.

To break bread together.  The original meaning of this seemingly simple phrase, which dates back to Biblical times, actually referred to the physical act of breaking bread. Even in antiquity, bread was considered so essential to the maintenance of human life that there was no act more social than sharing one’s bread with others. In those days, people did not use forks and knives, but ate with their fingers. Thus, bread was never sliced, it was literally “broken” – or torn apart – to be shared.

This Marriage

This Marriage

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

– Rumi

Photograph by Steve Chamberlain, taken on an iPhone with a Lomo app.


A dowry (also known as trousseau or tocher or, in Latin, dos, or in Croatian and Slovenian, dota) is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage.   It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride’s parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage.

The material goods that I bring to my marriage are largely related to cooking.

The Merriam Webster dictionary adds another definition to dowry:   a natural talent.  I consider all of my artwork, so far and yet to be created as a part of my dowry.

Art quilts

In some cultures, eg, Thailand, Pakistan, the dowry is displayed at the engagement party or at the wedding itself.  My art quilts decorated the granary barn of the White Horse Inn  where our wedding feast was held and I made the table runners for each table.

Earth, air, fire and water

I also made our wedding quilt, which hung at the altar during our wedding ceremony and now hangs over our marriage bed.
I love the idea of my dowry encompassing my creativity and transcending mere ‘stuff’.  Not only because I don’t have a lot of ‘stuff’, but many of the greatest treasures that I bring to my marriage have no material body or form.  Such as my flexibility and steadfastness, my understanding and communication skills, my love of beauty and ability to create a beautiful, harmonious environment.
More of the treasure that I bring to my marriage comes in the form of my wonderful family and friends.


Here follows the speech I gave at our wedding reception:

“A dowry is what a bride brings to a marriage.  It might be cattle or land.  Or it might be gold or fine cloths.  It might be stocks and shares.

My dowry is in this room.

One of the most important things I bring to my marriage is the wealth of the friendships I forge and the family that I have.

When I first met Steve, I immediately told my closest friends and family about this wonderful man I’d met.  And I wanted him to meet my wonderful family and friends.

It’s beautiful to have some of the people who are most important to me here today to witness and bless our marriage – and to be a part of our future life together.”

Our wackiest wedding present

Sarah hails from San Francisco and owns Otto Retro on Fore Street in Exeter.  I wrote about it here a couple of years ago.    I’ve been one of her steadiest customers and went through a spate of first aid kits for a while.   Quite a lot of the furniture in our living room is from Otto Retro.  Like me, Sarah is a West Coast refugee and she came to our house for our very first Thanksgiving dinner last year.

Sarah came to our wedding party towards the end of the day (as Saturdays are one of her busiest days of the week) and brought a beautifully wrapped gift with mysterious picture hanging hooks poking through the paper.  She also organized a couple of other guests to schlep all of our wedding presents over to our flat for us, as we were knackered and starting to say good-byes to people who were leaving.  What a sweetie!

Sarah’s gift is a Paragon first aid case

filled with American candy and an invitation to acquaint Steve, now by virtue of our marriage, an honorary American with our AMERICAN SNACK HERITAGE!!

The case now resides in our tea & coffee cosy corner and houses herbal teabags.

Here’s one of the first photos in our album from Emma Solley celebrating our cross-cultural marriage.

West Coast meets West Midlands

Picturing love

My friends Jenny and Simon came down from Scotland to attend both of our wedding ceremonies.

Jenny Rose is a very talented artist with a background in clothing and textiles and has fabulous seamstress and millinery skills.  (Hmmmmm  .  .  .  .  .  what exactly is her background? (Note to self:  Interview Jenny and post her amazing artwork on my other blog Inspiraculum)). She sent us a card with this lovely drawing inside – click on it to see a larger view.

” It was wonderful to be among such loving
and interesting arty folk for your weddings.

The Humanist service and your vows were beautiful and moving –
such potent energy speaking from the heart and soul
and the labyrinth was an engaging fitting finale.”

Simon Robinson is an ace photographer and had at least one of his (non-digital) cameras with him. We’re looking forward to seeing some of his photographs from the two days when he has finished gearing up for his upcoming exhibitions.

Photograph by Emma Solley

The stability of the earth

One of my hopes for our marriage (and one that is already being fulfilled) is for it to be a solid place of stabiity for both Steve and I.  When we first met and were living 200 miles apart, neither of us was sure where we would end up, but we knew that it would be together.  We were each lightly perched, Steve in Birmingham and I in Devon.  Steve said something very early on about holding on to one another and letting our world take shape around us, that home is here in the space where our hearts meet.  One of my visions for our marriage is it being a place from which we can each go out to meet the world from and return to for replenishment and grounding.

Centering is about making a place for ourselves in the world where we can both feel safe and supported. More than the simple task of “homemaking,” it involves seeing our environment with new eyes, letting it calm the mind and soothe the soul. In this peaceful context it is only natural to see past the surfaces – past the fatigue and trials of the day  to the deep and caring person we’ve married. It becomes easier to maintain our equilibrium and to be caring even in the middle of crisis. In the process we will also learn how best to soothe one another – in fact, to become sanctuaries for each other, no matter where we are. (Excerpted from Marriage from the Heart)

While I was working on my Earth table runner for our wedding feast, I came across this lovely blessing:  ‘Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.’  Details of the making can be found here.

‘How surely gravity’s law, strong as an ocean’s current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it towards the heart of the world.’
– Rainer Maria Rilke

Our marriage begins . . . .

After two days of celebrations, we’re off to the Amalfi Coast for a week’s honeymoon.  I didn’t pick up a camera once over the past two days, but here are a couple of snaps.  We’ll be writing all about the final run-up to the two ceremonies, the ceremonies themselves and our romantic Italian honeymoon on our return.

After the civil ceremony

Post-wedding bliss

The journey will continue  .  .  .  .  .  .


Our wedding days are coming up at the end of the week.  The energy is very intense.  We still have some aesthetic, creative things to do for our soul ceremony.  We will have about 16 friends and family members over for supper on the night of our civil wedding ceremony and the eve of our soul wedding. I am finishing the quilting on Cleaved and then can tidy up our living room, which has been transformed into a fibre art studio.  We have yet to pack for our honeymoon to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  plus, I’ve been suffering from pre-wedding dementia – just forgetting people’s names and words and doing things like looking at my keys and saying ‘Where are my keys?’

But it feels really good, these final days before our wedding.  The time feels full and ripe and ready to be plucked.  I was in the apple orchard near my bus stop last week and envisioned our wedding as a beautiful apple blossom slowly and gently coming into flower.

I love orchards and the idea of marriage as an orchard, orderly and fruitful.  After the wedding, our marriage will continue to ripen and bear the fruits of our life together.

In full flower

Going with the flow

It’s just over a week to our nuptials!  I got a little bit stressed over an incident with my wedding shoes a couple of weeks ago.  I pretty quickly realised that I was having a case of pre-wedding jitters and just about anything could’ve kicked it off. Apparently PWJs are very normal and can affect both bride and groom to be.  They make sense – not only are we planning what we hope will be a beautiful gathering and party for about 60 people and would like for all of the myriad facets to slip effortlessly into place, but we are about to change our whole lives.

Steve and I both knew that we would like to marry each other quite soon after we met.  In many ways, we feel like we already are married – while each keeping our own sense of autonomy, we each consider the other in all of our decisions and have plans and hopes for our future life together.  We’ve been making a home together for over a year.  We have similar personality types which helps immensely in communicating and conflict resolution.  And we are both creative artists, Steve with words and me with visuals, so we can understand and support each other’s artistic natures.  Still a wedding is about new beginnings as well as separating and loss.  It is about letting go and changing and adapting to another person as well as a new sense of who we are.

I’m currently doing some work with the four elements.  Not only am I making table runners for our wedding feast based on Earth, Air, Fire and Water, but have been connecting with my creativity and spirituality through them.  When Steve discovered that, due to work commitments, he wouldn’t be able to be home on a day that we had a series of appointments and errands scheduled, I decided to go with the organic flow of the river.

Water can teach us to hold plans and expectations lightly and notice where our energy is taking us and to be fluid like the element of water.  I rescheduled the things that we both had to be at and made plans to go to the ones that I could on my own.  It actually turned out to be a great day!  I had my hair cut and while I was at the salon, I found that all of their spa treatments were 50% off, so I was able to indulge in some pre-wedding pampering and relaxation which I had hoped to anyhow, but wasn’t sure about when I’d find the time.

Here’s my Water table runner and you can read about the construction techniques here.