Saturday, July 31, 2010

Visiting England: St. Paul's Cathedral

A statue of Queen Anne presides over the west entrance of St Paul's Cathedral.

I have been wanting to visiting St. Paul's Cathedral since July 29, 1981. Are you with me?

It was the morning of Lady Diana Spencer's wedding to Prince Charles. What a day!

Eleven years later I chose a candlelight white wedding gown and soft white bridesmaids dresses for my wedding just as Diana did. It was gorgeous!

It meant a lot to me to stand on these steps and enter St. Paul's cathedral just as she did 29 years ago. It was the closest I would ever get to her life and somehow it was a way to pay my respects.

I could tell you a million facts about the cathedral, dome and its history, but honestly for me, it was all about Diana.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Visiting England: Afternoon Tea

Was I happy or what? This mini-masterpiece was just one of the little desserts on our 3-tiered tray during high tea at The Goring hotel in London. I would describe it as a dark chocolate cake with layers of chocolate mousse and raspberry ganache. They must use a razor blade to cut the raspberry in half perfectly!

Afternoon tea at The Goring is served on a glass-walled terrace that has upholstered chairs and accent walls in sunflower yellow. The entire tea service (teapot, creamer, sugar, plates) is in the gorgeous pattern you see here; I had never eaten on bright yellow china and I loved it. The food looked so pretty highlighted with a yellow rim.

I happened to be carrying a yellow cigar box purse with me to tea and I was able to take a gorgeous photo of it on the table before tea was served. What a perfect backdrop! I will post it here soon.

The British Tea Guild awarded The Goring their "Award of Excellence" in 2008 & 2009 and I agree! The food was delicious and the setting was out of this world.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Visiting England: Access To Sheep

Isn't she sweet? I was so happy when I was driving toward Chipping Campden and found this open fence and endless pasture. When I was planing our trip, I had visions of being able to photograph sheep in green pastures and was having a hard time finding some! Yes, I could see sheep in the distance (the English countryside is beautiful!), but not anywhere that I could get the car close enough to really compose a good shot.

I needed access to sheep! Meanwhile, I was planning to meet up with my friend, Lynn, who lives in the Cotswolds for a "cream tea." Unfortunately she had to cancel due to illness, but she kept in contact with me by texting suggestions of things she thought I should see. Such a big help!

At one point, I considered asking her if she had any "access to sheep." I had been driving in the Cotswolds for two days and hadn't secured a sheep shot!
But then I found this sweetheart. Relaxing in the shade and greeting me with a light-hearted "Baa."

Doesn't she look like she wants to tell me something?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Visiting England: Ledbury

We charted our route to include the little town of Ledbury so that we could visit the Elizabethan England shop and kitchen. Elizabethan England is a a brand of jams (they also make a very popular lemon curd) that is available in gourmet shops in the United States. But alas, the tiny flagship store was no where to be found!

I don't know if the brand has been sold, or simply moved locations, but there was no sign of the company I had read all about in Victoria magazine years ago.
However, I was lucky enough to find Cameron & Swan. I quickly forgot my lemon loss when I was able to sit outdoors at this lovely cafe. I had a warm goat cheese tart with roasted vegetables, homemade bread and a side salad that was so fresh it must have been picked that morning. Yum!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Visiting England: Garmin

Let me be perfectly clear...if you want to whirl around England, I think you should have a navigation system. We joked all week that "this trip is sponsored by Garmin!"

Remember last year when I was in Paris and blogged about how tiny the Europe chip is?

Having a navigation system charting our way took alot of the stress of driving on "the wrong side of the road" away. The little pink line on the screen showed exactly which exit in the roundabout to take and reassured us time and again that we were on the right road - it was heaven.

We were on tiny dirt roads, quiet lanes and beautiful pasture-edged tracks that really let us see rural England. It was so pretty and the entire time we knew that we were still on the way. Love it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Visiting England: Chipping Campden

Of all the sweet villages within the Cotswolds, I took the most photographs in Chipping Campden. I found the combination of stone buildings, rambling roses and blue sky impossible to resist.

The look of this house and courtyard is right out of the mini-series Cranford! It was all so inviting that I could almost "see" an apron-clad mother putting a batch of ginger cakes in the oven to bake.

I wanted to walk up to the door and invite myself to tea.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Visiting England: La Fromagerie

It is not often that I walk into a shop with articles about the place torn from a magazine. But I was very organized on this trip and I wanted Patricia Michelson to know that I had been reading all about La Fromagerie and had been wanting to visit her store for a long time.

La Fromagerie was on my "Moments of Delight: Visiting England" tour and I thought that she would be pleased to know it. Luckily, Patricia was in the Moxon Street shop when I came for lunch and I was able to introduce myself to her. She is so nice and what a beautiful shop she has!

Dark shelves of vinegar, jam and chutney. Beautiful open baskets of local produce. A glass-walled cheese room showcasing the prettiest selection of cheese I've ever seen.

Dan and I had lunch in the tasting cafe and shared an Ewe's Milk Cheeseplate (Perail, Wigmore, Ossau & Beenleigh Blue) served with Confiture de Cerises Noire (Black Cherry preserves) and a variety of fresh breads. It was delicious! We also shared a La Fromagerie Charcuterie Plate, which was a selection of cured meats accompanied by Duck Rillettes, Celeriac Remoulade and Cornichons. It was a midday feast and we ate every bite.

My visit was certainly a "Moment of Delight" and I was sorry that I wasn't going to be in town just a few days longer to be able to attend an in-store event in honor of Patricia's new book, Cheese.

If you are in London, be sure to visit La Fromagerie. I know ewe will love it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Visiting England: Rose Gardens

Who could possibly have enough roses in a garden to make the landscape look like fabric? I'll tell you who, David Austin!

I thought I knew what I would see when I made a pilgrimage to David Austin's Rose Gardens in Albrighton, England a few weeks ago. Roses, pathways, pergolas - I love gardens and I couldn't wait. But let me tell you, I was not prepared for this. This garden far exceeds anything I have seen in any category anywhere.

This garden is decadent. It is beautiful. It is hard to believe that it is real. Every aspect of "what it is to know a rose" is shown here in its best light.

David Austin (and his son of the same name) design roses. They use science to breed new roses by developing the color, scent and shape from exisiting species. You must look here at how they explain the process. Fascinating!

David Austin knows how to care for roses. The water, the fertilizer, the pruning and shaping. The experts in their field tending to their specialty on site. Each plant is strong, healthy and loaded with blooms.

David Austin knows how to arrange and display roses for maximum enjoyment. A garden wall, a reflecting pond, a shaded bench. Perfect pathways lined with rose after rose after rose. The literature says that over 800 species planted in the garden. But I'll tell you now, there are far more rose bushes than species. I walked every inch of their 2 acre rose garden and every direction I looked was as full as the photo above.

There is no limit to roses here. The David Austins love roses and they want you to see why. Bravo!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Visiting England: Blenheim Palace

"Honey, I'm home!"

Can you imagine? This spectacular residence turned museum is Blenheim Palace, a gorgeous estate, park and museum about 90 minutes from central London. While the history of this spectacular estate dates back to the early 1700's, it is most famous as the birthplace of Winston Churchill. I saw his "onesie" (cotton baby shirt!) preserved under glass as proof - such an unexpected memento from the life of a very important man. The museum is also loaded with fantastic artifacts, letters and paintings (done by Churchill!) - history buffs will be in heaven. And the palace has the prettiest gift shop too. Don't miss it!
It was a hot and quiet afternoon the day I visited and as a result, my photos have no tourists in them. It looks like I own the place! Oh the dishes I would buy if I could entertain here. And soup tureens, gilded chargers, demitasse cups...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Visiting England: Living Wall

In 2009, I read an article in Wired magazine about Patrick Blanc's "Living Wall" at the Athenaeum Hotel in London.

He created a vertical garden on the exterior of a building and I wanted to see it! The plants on the wall thrive on a network of slats, artificial felt and an automated water/fertilizer system. You can read all about how he does it here.

But as you know, London is enormous and although I carried the article with me on my trip, I thought the chances were slim that I would be able to find/visit it during my short stay in London.

The day we arrived, as we rode from the airport to our hotel in a taxi cab, my ever-calm husband casually pointed out the window and said "I think that's the hotel you wanted to see."

All I can say is that I practically gave the taxi driver a heart attack with my exclamation. He quickly realized that all was well and that I had simply "found something" that I was looking for.
There it was! We had found it by accident! The next day we made sure to walk by The Athenaeum on our way back from dinner so that I could photograph it properly.
Love it!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Visiting England: Cath Kidston

I have loved the work of Cath Kidston for years and made a beeline to one of her shops when I arrived in London.

I love her light-hearted prints, her vintage-style travel accessories, her commitment to oilcloth. Seriously, I believe in this brand and I think her approach to lifestyle design is perfect. I have seen very few designers with such a complete vision.

Cath Kidston just started making a magazine out of her print catalog (genius!) and decided to commission vintage candy tins (full of travel sweets) to sell in her store. A tin of sweets was the first thing I picked up when I arrived at her Portobello Road shop.

Because if you are going on a Summer holiday and you are packing your car full of vintage-style luggage pieces and oilcloth travel pouches, you'll need some candy for the trip, right? I love how she thinks.

I hope that someday everyone will know the name Cath Kidston.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Visiting England: High Tea

I couldn't wait to have High Tea in London. As I did research for our trip, I poured over travel books, magazine articles I had saved in my "England" folder and everything I read pointed to Brown's Hotel.

It was lovely. We had a table for two at the window in a formal wood-paneled room. You can see photos here - we sat just to the right of the fireplace. A pianist played a baby grand piano softly in the corner and nothing could have felt more like a vacation in England to me than to sit and share a pot of "Brown's Afternoon Blend."

Delight is about appreciating the wonderful moments of your life and while this was an exceptional experience, I made sure to relish every minute of it. We enjoyed our table, the food, the soft music for 2 hours and I wouldn't change a thing.

The angle of this photo is so that you can be right there with me. We started with homemade scones, strawberry jam and yes, that is clotted cream. It is silky and cold - absolutely delicious and much prettier than it sounds. In America, I haven't found many scones that would turn my head. They are all too big, quite dry and easily skipped for something higher on the tiered tray. These, however, were so light and satisfying that I ate three!

Our reservations for tea at Brown's Hotel (Note: you can book online!) was at five o'clock and since it landed between shopping and the Columbia Road Flower Market and visiting The London Eye, our high tea became lunch and dinner. We ate trays of tea sandwiches, scones, sweets and topped it off with cake! I have more pictures to show you, but for now enjoy the first course.

Would you like one lump or two?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Visiting England: A View from The London Eye

Now I couldn't tell you about the London Eye without showing you too, could I?

We had a spectacular night to view the city - it was around 8 o'clock when we "boarded," the sky was as clear as a bell and the sun was beginning to set.

I took this photo through the glass walls and I am so happy with it!

I wanted to tell you about a neat event that will be taking place on The London Eye in October of this year. During the London Restaurant Festival, the London Eye will become a revolving restaurant with 11 celebrity chefs! Doesn't that sound wonderful?

I know, someone bid on (and win) the Gordon Ramsay charity capsule and I'll fly over and join you!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Visiting England: London Eye

When I am talking to my friends about the highlights of my trip to London, not everyone is familiar with The London Eye. It is a giant observation wheel on the banks of the Thames that was built to celebrate the millennium (the wheel is said to be symbolic of time turing into a new century).

Giant glass pods rotate so slowly that the wheel never stops. Guests simply step out of the pod when their rotation is complete, the wheel slowly moves to the next station where new guests step on for their "flight."

I love a beautiful view, but am wary of standing too close to the edge of anything, so I wasn't so sure about The London Eye. I wanted to love it, but was a little nervous. Poof! My fears disappeared the moment I was on board. It is roomy, solid and moves so slow that you hardly think of it as a "trip" at all.

I decided to show you how impressive The London Eye is by letting it dwarf Big Ben. There is no camera "trickery" going on. I simply stood on a bridge and captured both structures in the frame.

Now you can say what I said, "Wow."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Visiting England: David Austin English Roses

Our trip to England was to celebrate our wedding anniversary and was planned with one thing in mind: David Austin English roses.

My dream was to visit David Austin's Shropshire Rose Garden when it was in full bloom. I'll tell you now that I cried.

You see, my favorite roses are by David Austin.

It might sound funny to use the word "by" but it is true. David Austin and his son design roses, propagate them and nurture them into the masterpieces that you will see here.

I have so many moments and images I want to share from my visit that I have decided to sprinkle them throughout the series (rather than have an entire week dedicated to roses). I promise they will take your breath away.

This magnificent show was on one plant, happily wafting in the breeze. My only regret is that I couldn't whisper the name of it into my camera to be able to identify the bloom for you. I know that you will enjoy it just the same.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Visiting England: Cupcakes at Treacle

Flowers and cupcakes? I told you that I was in heaven at London's Columbia Flower Market! After making my way from one end of the market to the other (and then back again), I was ready for a snack.

A pretty bakery caught my eye and as I approached, I read the motto painted over the window: "Our true intent is all for your delight."

I was in the right place! These yummy cupcakes are from Treacle, a bake shop dedicated to new nostalgia (old-fashioned recipes, vintage-style aprons, enamelware tins). 

I've never heard it called new nostalgia before, but I like it!
I wanted to show you this interesting display. They have taken mini cupcakes and put them on a wooden skewer (like a shish kabob!) on an outdoor grill. Certainly eye catching and the cupcakes look even prettier than if they had simply been in a box. So clever!

I had a traditional vanilla cupcake with pale purple frosting, edible glitter and candied violets on top. I ate it on the street with gusto and think I sold a few more cupcakes for them in the process.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Visiting England: Columbia Road Flower Market

I was in heaven. I arrived at the Columbia Road Flower Market around eleven o'clock on Sunday morning. Though hardly an early bird, I was certainly in good company. The place was packed!

Vendors were shouting seductions into the crowd like, "Here you are, Love, something for the front room."

Although it was dim in this photo, the sun eventually broke through clouds and it was like wandering through an Impressionist painting. I loved every second of walking this stretch of historic road. I may have been a million miles away from my garden, but I was right at home.

When you are in London, be sure to come to the Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday morning and buy a bouquet of flowers for your hotel room. What a delight!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Visiting England: Fortnum & Mason

One of my first experiences in London was shopping at Fortnum & Mason.

I was bleary from travel, but the moment I saw these window displays I was snapped back to reality! The entire ground floor is dedicated to tea, jams, honey and sweets. Somebody pinch me!

I wandered the entire store (established in 1707) nibbling a homemade raspberry marshmallow and making mental notes of all the things I wanted to buy.

If I had it to do again, I would scrap the "mental notes" part and head directly to the checkout counter. I thought that I was being smart and considering my choices, but I couldn't decide and missed out on some beautiful souvenirs.

The good news is that the Fortnum & Mason website does ship internationally if I decide that I just have to have the tin biscuit box that plays "Happy Birthday" when you crank it. Seriously! It was so cute.

What I did end up with is this darling tote and lots of motivation to return to London!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Visiting England

Won't you walk with me through the gate and into the beautiful world of England? I have an incredible number of photos and stories to share from my private tour of England and I am starting the blog series today. While I am still working on my book dedicated to Paris, I have no doubt that I will write another on the delights of England.

On my flight home, I found myself thinking about what my friends had asked me so often before I left on my first trip to England, "Which do you think you will like better - England or France?

As I sat in my seat thinking about my experiences and all of the people that I met on my trip, I realized that I get two completely different (but wonderful) reactions from people in each country. While the French seem genuinely happy that I am visiting, the English didn't want me to leave.

Time after time, I was greeted with warmth, interest and a gentle chiding that if I wasn't moving on to the next region so quickly, they could have sent me to so many places that I would love. Most concluded that, "Well, you'll just have to come back and spent some more time with us." How nice is that?

And there is no doubt that I will.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What a Day!

It was a gorgeous day for an art show and I am so happy with how everything went.

I want to say thank you to everyone who came by to say "Hi" - what a day!

This picture is from the entrance to my booth. I wanted to greet people with flowers! I put a collection of my hand-painted and "ANA" Private label jam jars vases for sale. So pretty!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Shades of Gray

There are times when we all could use a little mystery.

You know me for my love of color, sugar and all things "super cute."

But I also love layers. I probably notice a collection of similar shades before anything else.

I took this striking photo years ago from my room at the Hotel Beau Rivage on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

The ironwork balcony, the rolling fog, the slope of the landscape was just beautiful. I think the hum I heard was the historic paddle steam boats on the lake. A moment like this gives you the freedom to think.

Just after this photo was taken, I went down to dinner and the waitress expressed her regret that I wasn't seeing the area at its finest. I smiled with understanding and assured her that it all looked beautiful to me.

When you are presented with a cloudy day, make sure to look for the beauty in all the shades of gray.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Watermelon Gazpacho

If a waitress ever mentions "Watermelon Gazpacho," say "Yes!"

I have been meaning to experiment with this type of cold soup - something that could be sweet, spicy and refreshing. This soup was made with an incredibly small dice of celery, cucumber and other crunchy bits - I loved it and am made up a recipe for myself (and you!).

My gorgeous lunch is from Martha's Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay, Michigan. Martha's is a relatively new restaurant in Leelanau county and I was pleased when chef Mario Batali praised Martha's in Esquire magazine last year. What a compliment!

Do you remember my Mario Batali story?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Blue Angels

Wow. wow. wow. Seriously. You know how I love the Blue Angels and once again they put on a fantastic air show at this year's National Cherry Festival in Traverse City.

I went to the air show twice (Friday & Saturday) and loved every minute of it.

On Saturday, I also went to the official NMC Aviation Pancake Breakfast at Cherry Capital Airport with some of my friends and was able to meet one of the Blue Angel pilots. Lieutenant Jim Tomaszeski flys in position #2 (in photo above, second row, plane on right) and spoke to the group about having big dreams, the importance of time management and his favorite part of life as a Blue Angel, being a positive role model and goodwill ambassador for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. It was a great speech and the applause were loud!

I have a cute Blue Angels story for you. One Christmas Eve, my entire family was exchanging presents and I was handed a small odd-shaped tissue-wrapped gift. When I opened it, I was amused to find a metal replica of the Blue Angels F-18 Hornet. My three nephews (approximately 8, 6, 4 years old at the time) were sure that I had been given the wrong package and that this model plane was for them.

"Oh no, boys," I said, "this gift is definitely for me."

I keep my model plane in my office and it reminds me of how much fun it is to have a life full of varied interests.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The United States of Jell-O

Do you love it? The 4th of July is not complete without The United States of Jell-O. My Mom bought this mold years ago through the Jell-O website, and I am sad to say that they don't offer it anymore. Perhaps if they hear from enough people they will bring it back. Although the USA isn't available anymore, you can celebrate with a darling flag mold.

I love this mold because it is so funny to see the family going through the line and picking "the Dakotas" or "California" for their serving. This year I chose the coastal area near Washington, D.C. - yum!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Slight Delay

Oops! I brought the wrong computer with me and I don't have my England pictures available to me. I promise to overload you with British delights starting on Monday, July 12th.

Fort McHenry

When we were in Maryland, we had a day to fill before our night flight back to Detroit. A day trip to Fort McHenry seemed like the perfect activity and on a clear day like this, the chance to photograph an historic fort was irresistible.

Fort McHenry is the birthplace of our National Anthem. Francis Scott Key was inspired after witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. When he saw the American flag still flying over the fort the next morning "in the dawn's early light."
I thought it was neat when I heard that each May, three to four thousand school children re-create a "Living American Flag" at the fort by standing in a particular spot in either red, white or blue shirts. From above, it makes a giant flag of stars and stripes. Cute! (Click this link to see an example!)
I hope you are having a wonderful holiday weekend.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Parade Route

Every small town in America has a parade on the Fourth of July. It is a time of sunshine, school marching bands and, occasionally, a really great float. This cow, Ruthie, which is sponsored by the Leland Mercantile ("The Merc") is my favorite by far.

I have been in Leland for the 4th of July parade every year (but 2) since I was a baby. I remember years watching the parade with my entire family, including both of my grandmothers. I remember hoping for candy to be thrown my way.

Now a million years later, we have an even bigger crowd - my parents, brothers and sisters-in-law and all the kids sit on blankets along the road and enjoy this little bit of Americana.

The parade is exactly the same every year and as "short and sweet" as this moment is, I love it just the same.

And now its my teenage nephews that make sure to hand me a Tootsie Roll after the floats go by.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Beach Fire on Lake Michigan

Tonight is the night! The first beach fire of the year and I can't wait. If the wind stays calm, we can sit on the shore of Lake Michigan and watch the sun go down.

Sitting at a beach fire always makes me want to write a screenplay. I can't think of the last time a campfire at sunset was the setting in a movie, can you? I really think that the romantic comedies of today are missing out and I would love to see some honest conversation in front of a crackling fire.
I can see it now...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Local Flower Market

And I mean LOCAL, these are all from my yard! Just before I left for England, I told my Mom to come over because I was going to cut ALL the flowers in the garden and we were going to make arrangements.

"No," she said in disbelief..

"Now is the hour!," I explained. I was leaving town and no one would see the garden for 2 weeks, so I could cut everything and make bouquets!

It was really fun. We got out a variety of vases, containers and bottles (including jam jars and French lemonade bottles) and some floral food (to prolong our creations) and got to work.

What you see is only a fraction of our "inventory" - it was glorious!