Comfort (v.) late 13c., conforten “to cheer up, console,” from Old French conforter “to comfort, to solace; to help, strengthen,” from Late Latin confortare “to strengthen much”

Comfort is one of the things I treasure the most in my home and in my relationship with Steve.  We live in a beautiful and warm house with a well stocked larder which supplies much physical comfort. I also get a lot of emotional comfort from my marriage.  Yesterday, Steve was here working from home in the kitchen and I went into my studio to make some Holocaust Butterflies for a project with the Houston Holocaust Museum.  I am making mine with images of the Native American Holocaust, which is personally very relevant to me as I have Muscogee (Creek) ancestry.

Chiricahua Apache before and after assimilation into Carlisle Indian School

Chiricahua Apache before and after assimilation into Carlisle Indian School

We started the morning in our light filled kitchen with coffee, tea, breakfast and The Observer.


I went into my studio for the afternoon and had a very deep art-making session, sometimes tearful, very healing.  Occasionally Steve would pass on his way to another part of our house or poke his head in to offer a cup of tea.  I asked for a hug from time to time or came into the kitchen and show Steve what I was working on.

From my studio window, I spied a pair of jackdaws, perching close  together in the still bare branches of a tree.


At the end of our day, we came back together in the kitchen to talk about our respective days and to share a hearty meal of braised ham and cabbage with carrots and haricot verts.  Nourishing, comforting food for the body and soul!


The love that endures a lifetime


A part of every woman and every man resists knowing that in all love relationships Death must have her share.
We pretend we can love without our illusions about love dying,
pretend we can go on without our superficial expectations dying,
pretend we can progress and that out favorite flushes and rushes will never die. . .

If lovers cannot stand these Life/Death/Life processes,
they cannot love one another over and beyond hormonal aspirations. . .
As woman is keeper of the cycles, the Life/Death/Life cycles are at the center of her concern.
Since there can be little life without a decline in that which has gone previously,
lovers who insist on attempting to keep everything at a psyche-scintillating peak will spend their days in a increasingly ossified relationship. . .

When lovers are able to tolerate the Life/Death/Life nature,
when they are able to understand it as a continuum
—as a night between two days—and as the force that creates a love that endures a lifetime. . .
Then together they are strengthened, and both are called to deeper understanding of the two worlds they live in,
one the mundane world, the other the one of spirit.

– Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This Marriage

I’m in our kitchen and realise, have realised for some time now, that neither Steve nor I have been writing on this blog.  But that’s OK.  Other things are happening.

I came across this song tonight.  It is a setting of ‘This Marriage’ a poem by written by Rumi (13th century) to music composed by Eric Whitacre (21st century).  This poem was in a book of poetry by Rumi given to us by a friend and well wisher on our Soul Wedding day.  It felt good to become re-acquainted with it in song tonight and to be looking forward to celebrating our second wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks.

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.


A Post Pre-Valentine’s Day Post

I wasn’t going to write about our Valentine’s Day.  It was very unromantic.  At least, that’s what I thought at first.

To begin with, Steve and I didn’t even spend Valentine’s Day together.  He was away for his work.  So we decided to celebrate on Sunday the 12th.  We were into our first week of the Dukan Diet*,  so I made a Dukanised version of Poulet Suffisant en Cocotte for dinner.  The recipe is from a little cookbook called The Best of France.  It’s only a small gifty type book, but all of the recipes are exceptionnel.

Poulet Suffisant en Cocotte

  • 1 chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon each of thyme & rosemary, minced or crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, 2 carrots, a celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup drained and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400°F/190°C.

Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with half the herbs and season it with salt and pepper.  I browned it in a skim of oil in a big skillet, then transferred it to our ceramic chicken casserole.  I love this casserole!  I saw it in the window of the charity shop on the way home last September and went back first thing in the morning and bought it.  It looks like it was made in the 1960’s, perhaps has a Scandinavian influence.  Steve thinks it looks smug (which it does) so hence Poulet Suffisant, or Smug Chicken.

Le poulet sussifant

Then I sweated the chopped vegetables in same skillet I browned the chicken in, with a little water and with the lid on for about 5 minutes, followed by the mushrooms for another 5 minutes, with the lid off, stirring occasionally.  If it starts looking too dry, add some of the wine or chicken stock or water  All this time, no oil is required and the veggies soften up and even brown quite nicely.  I never would’ve thunk it, because I cut my teeth on Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which is all about butter, oil and more cream, s’il vous plaît.

Stir in the wine, stock, tomatoes and remaing herbs and bring to the boil.  If you’re using a vessel that you can put straight into the oven, put the hen in at this boiling point.  Or pour the juices and vegetables over your chicken, in it’s unique ovenproof dish, once they’ve boiled.  Hope that makes sense to you!  I’m confused.

Ready for the oven

Cover the casserole and braise the chicken for about an hour, until the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with a fork.  I usually take the temperature with my instant read thermometer and look for 180°F.

Take the chicken from the pot.  We discarded the skin a la Dukan.  Carve it.  Strain the vegetables from the stock to serve with the chicken.  Skim the fat from the stock and reduce over high heat, adjust seasoning.  Voila!

I was so interested in sitting right down to our romantic dîner pour deux, I didn’t take any ‘before’ photos.   It was excellent.  Very succulent and tasty.  Although we can’t drink alcohol in the Cruise phase of the Dukan diet, it’s OK to cook with as the alcohol burns off.  I actually used some dry Italian Vermouth and it imparted a lovely depth of flavour to the dish.  Normally, I would have stirred in some soft, unsalted butter at the end, but it was really good without it.  In fact, that’s one thing I noticed from the start with the Dukan diet.  Food doesn’t need to be cooked with butter to be good.  I feel light when I get up from a Dukanised meal, because it’s so low fat.  This time of year is a good time to be doing this, as Spring is coming and the days are slowly lightening up and lengthening.

My leftovers

Well, the meal together in our candlelit salon was wonderful and romantic.  Even though we’d spent the whole day together, we’d each been in our little worlds.  Then we went back into the kitchen and got back to work.  Steve at his laptop and I looked over the collages I’d made the day before in Sandra Meech’s Digital Imagery Onto Fabric workshop.


We did take a momemt to have our Valentine’s Day portrait taken.

Anyhow, I started out by saying that I wasn’t even going to write about this.  But we’re listening to Jazz FM and they just played ‘My Funny Valentine’ recorded by pianist Gene Harris.  Steve and I looked at each other and remembered that everyday is Valentine’s day.  And sometimes just being in the same space, even when we’re inhabiting our individual worlds, is romantic enough.

I couldn’t find Gene Harris’ version on YouTube, but I love Chet Baker’s from 1954 the best anyhow.

*For those of you who don’t know, Steve and I started the Dukan diet on 6th February, 2012.  It really works!! Pass it on.

Long Live the King and Queen!

 “What sign are you?” It’s a question that we’re asked remarkably often. When we reply, “Leo and Leo,”  the response is: “How does that work out?”

Anecdotally, we can confirm that Leo & Leo is a partnership which, in our case at least, works out pretty well. But, as our shared birthday weekend has just ended, I trawled through the online astrological literature to see what it has to say about Leo-Leo compatibility.

It seems that relations between natives of the same sun sign often have more good than bad aspects to them. But, the bad ones can be almost impossible to get over, simply because each Leo shares the same flaws.  However, there is a secret to success. And that secret is compromise.

Compromise is important because – of all the sun signs in the zodiac – Leo shines the strongest. Not surprising, given that Leo is governed by the Sun itself, at the centre of the system and so fully deserving his or her title of “King” or “Queen”.

What this boils down to is that a Leo-Leo relationship can be excellent – provided that you always remember that the Leo next to you feels the same need as you do for compliments, admiration and simple adoration.

In other words, you have to give as much as you expect.

The fact is: that shouldn’t be too difficult. Because, just like you, your mate is passionate and ardent, full of ideas and wanting to live life to the full.  Every Leo knows that what they do is refined, what they buy is stylish and what they think is bright. In a Leo-Leo relationship where each respects the other, each of us have found it remarkably easy to discuss what we do before we do it, what we buy before we buy it and what we think before we say it out loud and to company.

So how does this feed into our desire for more than a royal throne. How do we reconcile this apparent deference to each other’s views with our fascination with the power that we expect  to come with our regal position.

For us two Lions, our love story resembles that of a king and a queen. A great love, but sometimes a great rivalry too.  If you know how to offer each other enough power of decision and respect, this royal relationship is based on equal terms. We share the same elegant taste and refinement, the tendency towards hosting celebrations and parties, the love of going out together. As befits a royal household, neither of us are particularly good at administering money – so it’s a good thing we both know how to make it.

As Leos, we love being in love, flirting and paying court to each other. Each of us has finally found a partner who feels the same way as each other. Even now, we still pay court to each other.

Of course, there are some warning signs that the astrological experts are keen to bring to our attention. A Leo-Leo relationship, they say will certainly not lack for optimism. But, this means that we have to make an effort to remember to think about the future, too. You know, all that stuff about savings and long-term planning. Being extravagant and liking to spend a little on the good things in life, it appears, has a downside: it’s called tomorrow.

What they say about the Leo Man…

“He doesn’t attract the usual, the mundane, and the ordinary. To succeed in a relationship with him, you have to be somewhat eccentric and willing to forego numerous conventions. You also have to dress well, appreciate good food and be heavy on the compliments. This man is romantic and somewhat egotistical. But much of the time he’s worth an extra effort. No matter how exasperating he may be, he is likely also to be proud of you.

“He loves to see you laugh, as long as you are laughing with and not at him. The Leo man demands attention. He is fiery, romantic. He can be an easy victim of the green- eyed monster, too. He can also be offended and aloof if he feels you regard him as anything less than the centre of your universe.

“The Leo man likes the theatre, but dislikes theatrics. The Leo male admires beauty but not the obvious kind; he prefers the subtle. He is repelled by women who use too much makeup, by women who cry openly, by women who laugh too loud and – most importantly –  by women who steal the spotlight. He believes in equal rights for men and women, but expects you to accept the concept that he is just a little superior. He’s also affectionate and lovable.”

What they say about the Leo Woman…

“If you are pursuing a Leo woman, compliment her and tell her she’s beautiful…and she will be. She has a flair for the dramatic. Let her have the spotlight. But, maintain an air of mystery. She loves to hear about herself: read her palm and check her horoscope. She demands that you be aware of her. A touch, a gesture, a secret signal, something special. That’s the way to woo and win the Leo lady. Your own manner should he regal. She wants to be with someone who is admired by others. In more intimate moments, she admires tenderness: a caress more than heavy- handed overtures.

“She is sexy but she wants you to want her for more than physical reasons. She values herself and doesn’t give herself away. That is, you must court her; thoughtful gifts mean more than their cost.

“She is romantic and needs to be needed. She is likely to be attractive and she expects to be jealous of you, but doesn’t want to be reprimanded for her own flirtatiousness. Make yourself a fascinating challenge. Involvement with a Leo woman can be fatiguing, but you will learn about life and living and love. Her nature is fiery; she is passionate, giving and generous. If you win her, the prize will be a great one. She is stubborn, but she is usually trying to work out what is best for you. Recognise her good qualities, which are numerous. In being amorous, avoid being coarse. Sex, for the Leo lady, is just one part of love. It is the rhythm of life but to be a part of her life you must first earn her admiration.

“She abhors the humdrum, routine, and stupid. She revels in the creative, in excitement. She could be an addict of the theater and she will share the spotlight if she feels you really have something others would admire. She’s unusual, complicated, and opinionated but she can be one of the most beautiful experiences in your life.”

As two Leos who are together, each of us feels that our relationship is based on trust, honesty and loyalty. Each of us knows that we need to avoid competing with each other and to complement each other, making room for each other to share in the spotlights we crave.

Together, as two Leos aware of both our strengths and our weaknesses, we are more powerful than two lions wandering alone. We have respect for each other. We have the ability to take pride in each other’s achievements. We have a love forged in the heart of the Sun.


There is a wonderful richness to be cultivated in the ‘ordinariness’ and stability of marriage.  I love our rooftop home and seeing pairs of jackdaws every morning, day and evening from the front and back windows of our penthouse apartment.

Far from being boring, the stability of marriage can offer a blessing in the form of fertile ground from which each person can grow to great heights.  It is such a joy to be at home, in the place that Steve and I have created together which is all at once comfortable and dynamic, vibrant and secure, familiar and fluid.  All the while, knowing that the ground of our marriage is firm beneath our feet.

“One has to be in the same place everyday,
watch the dawn from the same house,
hear the same birds wake each morning
to realise how inexpressibly rich
and different is ‘sameness’.

This is the blessing of stability”.
~ Thomas Merton

Solid ground

For both Steve and I, marriage represents the confluence of two streams and also a rock:  solid ground from which to step out – lovingly – into the unknown of the ever flowing future.  Not only do we step forward together on shared ventures, but each of us envisions our marriage as a stable base from which we can individually grow into our unique Selves.

I had an immense day on Saturday in which our home and my studio were on the Moretonhampstead Secret Studios Trail.  I felt Steve’s emotional and physical support in every way in the weeks that I prepared for this event:  my début as an artist.  Although I have been completely comfortable identifying myself as an artist for a number of years, until now, I haven’t had a solid place to base myself as an artist.

Besides welcoming guests into my newly re-Vamped studio, a very special part of the day was taking small groups of people to see our wedding quilt Cleaved.  I showed them the slate which I’d photographed together with the red rose petals sent to me from Steve and told the story of our meeting and long distance courtship.  Then I showed our wedding invitation with the photograph on it.

And then the quilt itself.  The front with the appliquéd grey slate and red rose petals, and water ripples, river washed stones and two feathers quilted onto the white silk.  I also revealed the back of the quilt made from fabric I’d painted, stamped and then screenprinted with words from our written and emailed love letters.

I finished by reading out loud the quote from Rainer Maria Rilke that is screenprinted onto the front of our quilt:

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky”. – Rainer Maria Rilke

It was a very special part of a wonderful day to share and reflect on one of the hopes and intentions for our marriage, and to realise that it is indeed manifesting itself as a very solid place to stand and to venture forth from.

Married Christmas

Our first married Christmas is a snow-blessed one: crystal white tinged with dawn pinks and afternoon golds that have added their magic to our celebrations.

Still life with wedding bouquet

Last year was our first Christmas in our new home. Then, we had lots of decisions to make; where to site the tree, display the Christmas cards and place the decorations.

Christmas Lovebirds

This year, by contrast, all those decisions were already made and our home was dressed in its seasonal garb in the twinkling of an eye.

There were other new ‘traditions’ that took their place in our preparations. The choosing of an advent calendar and trips to see Steve’s family in Stoke and old friends at the annual Freelance Festive Feast in Birmingham.

Mr and Mrs Schwakhofer-Coxon setting the fashion standard at
the 2010 Freelance Festive Feast in Brum

And, of course, there were menus to be planned. Christmas Eve: pan-seared scallops and pasta with Alfredo sauce. Christmas Day: a breakfast of mimosa cocktails with North Staffordshire oatcakes, bacon and cheese. As for Christmas dinner: slow-roasted pork loin with dauphinoise potatoes and Brussel sprouts braised in cider. Steve also made a pork pie and a ham & chicken pie for Boxing Day.

All complemented by the contents of a Fortnum & Mason ‘Epicure’ hamper – our Christmas present to each other.

The F&M 'Epicure Hamper'

So how does our first married Christmas compare to our previous two festive seasons together? More settled, certainly. More predictable, in a good way, in some ways. But just as lovely and as loving as ever.