June 22, 2016

Dollhouses & Murder

About a year or so ago, I had the chance to visit the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore and see their fascinating collection of dollhouses… of a sort. Actually what I got to see were the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of 19 small dioramas handmade in the 1940’s in 1:12 inch scale. IMG_0823[3]

The detail in these houses is extraordinary, and their creator, International Harvester heiress Francis Glessner Lee, handmade many of the pieces herself, having been taught the womanly arts of sewing, knitting and decoration as a young women. Pieces were knitted on straight pins, fabric was washed and dried dozens of times to creat the wear patterns, drawers open, cabinets are filled, and calendar pages are not only correct, but show the subsequent months. chairs

All of this is a way of letting you know that my office is hosting a lecture on Wednesday, July 13 in Baltimore on the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Tickets are $5.00 per person and can be ordered here. IMG_0828[3]Although the Nutshells won’t be there because they’re part of a permanent exhibition at the Medical Examiner’s office, there will be plenty of fascinating information and amazing images of them. For more information on the lecture, please check my MedChi Archives blog, here.

June 16, 2016

The Tivoli Tea House at Ladew Gardens

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that one of my favourite places is Ladew Gardens, a spectacular topiary garden about 20 miles north of Baltimore. I generally get up there several times a year, usually once a season. IMG_1347
I headed up there this week for the opening of the Tivoli Teahouse. There’s a funny history behind this little space. It used to be, or was modeled on the ticket office at the Tivoli Theatre in the Strand in London. image
It sits at the far end of the gardens, secluded in its own little world. It was a place where Ladew’s owner, bon vivant Harvey Ladew could take some time to himself, away from his numerous and constant guests. He could sit in an easy chair in front of the fireplace and make notes to himself about what he’d noticed in the garden. And because he was Harvey, there was a secret bar for tête–à–tête cocktails!
I decided to walk down to the tea house via the garden paths, rather than through the big bowl. IMG_1335
Many of the gardens are planted according to colour or variety, so I started out in the pink garden, IMG_1423
headed through the rose garden, IMG_1351
stopped to chat with a frog, IMG_1349
checked on the bees, IMG_1375
watched the late afternoon sun in the yellow garden, IMG_1371x
and finally spotted the cocktail tent. IMG_1357
Ladew was serving some of the 1950’s food that they found in some of Harvey’s cookbooks, and the cocktails were from the same era. One of the best hors d’oeuvres was a butter cracker, some parmesan cheese on top and a piece of bacon wrapped around it and baked. YUM! The cocktails were served in glasses with a fun pink elephant copied from those that they had found in the secret bar. IMG_1427
The flowers on the tables all came from the gardens, and since Ladew is north of Baltimore and on a windy hill, they’re about a week later in flowering than in the city. IMG_1362
I LOVE pink peonies!IMG_1385
After a few words and some of the history of the Tivoli Teahouse, it was opened!IMG_1364
Harvey had a great and sly sense of humour and the teahouse reflects some of that. The window on the rear of the house looks out over some spectacular rolling hills, so he framed the view.IMG_1404
He was an amateur artist, so he painted the walls in a pale pink with a chinoiserie theme. The staff knew that he had some china for tea, and spent ages looking for it, until they realized that it was the china they used for their lunches every day!IMG_1406
During an earlier renovation, the original walnut floors were removed, but someone on the staff had the foresight to keep them, and they were refinished and reinstalled!
Harvey had cleverly hidden a bar behind a mirror, and my friend, Emily, who’s the Executive Director at the Gardens, was equally clever and had a picture of Harvey printed out at 50% halftone and adhered to the mirror. I might have to do that with a picture of our ghost!
As I wandered back to the car, I noticed the amazing detail in the garden, IMG_1416
how beautifully everything is situated, IMG_1412
and how incredibly lucky we are to have Ladew Gardens in our back yard!IMG_1440
And I took time to smell the rosed. Literally.

June 14, 2016

Gardenia Season

On Facebook, you can see what you posted on this day in years past, and it seems that just about this time each year, I am celebrating my gardenia blooming. I have had this plant for about 20 years. It was originally a cutting from a plant that my parents have had for about 50 years. image

It has its ups and downs, mostly relating to where it is. Over the summer, I put the plant on my front porch where it gets the afternoon sun. In the winters, I bring the plant inside and place it in a south-facing window where I hope that it can absorb as much light as possible. image

A few weeks after I bring it in, usually around Thanksgiving, the plant rebels and starts throwing its leaves on the floor. But once I put it outside, usually in late April or at Easter, but this year not until mid-May, it starts getting healthy again. When I open the windows and the plant is blooming, the scent is glorious. It’s sweet and peppery at the same time.image

The blooms are small, only about two or three inches across. So that poses a dilemma of what to put the buds in. Earlier this year in England, I bought several salt & pepper shakers, but the salt had corroded the top of one of them. Viola! A perfect bud vase.


In my office, I keep a small Chinoiserie vase on my desk and when the gardenia’s blooming, I bring blossoms in every few days. image

I also have some small Wedgwood vases which work perfectly.image

Having fresh flowers around is very important to me, and I love to photograph them for my Instagram account in their various vases.

June 7, 2016

The Queen’s Birthday

Although her actual birthday is in April, HMQEII celebrates it in June, when the weather’s bound to be much better. One of the things I loved about living in the UK was that the country celebrates special occasions together, like the opening of the Olympics in 2012, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee the same year.

For her 90th birthday, many villages, towns and even just streets have celebrations, and this year, the pubs will be open late to keep the fun going. image

Everyone gets involved and it really brings the whole country together. Here are some of the celebratory events I’ve found. In addition to charming events, the posters are wonderful!

HM is the patron of the Churchbell Ringers, and they’re having a luncheon on the Mall.image

The villages of Chideock and Seatdown are having a party and you’re invited.image

The beautiful Regency town of Bath is having a picnic. image

Great Yarmouth Minster is having a sing-along.image

Mayfair… Gonna be classy, innit?image

Pescod Square is hosting a shopping event. image

Wolverley Memorial Hallimage

You might have noticed a theme here: Bunting!image

I have the Union Jack bunting hanging on my front porch,image and although my Appalachian-American neighbour objects strenuously, (he keeps telling me that I am Amurican and I should fly the Amurican flag!) I am keeping it up until at least next week!

Cheers, your Majesty!

June 3, 2016

Presenting: Figue

A little more than a year after Connor’s death, I have finally gotten another dog. I would like to introduce you to Figue (the French spelling of Fig, because we’re klassy that way!). IMG_1139

Honestly, if I had to list the breeds of dogs that I was looking for, Yorkie would have been close to the bottom. But once I saw Figue, I just fell in love. She was a stray, and had no chip and no one claimed her. She’s about 15 lbs, so not too small, but certainly easy enough to pick up!IMG_1143A friend of a friend of a friend had found her, and tried all sorts of venues to find her owner, but to no avail. I heard about her, and went to visit her and just adored her. Scrappy, spunky and full of personality. And house-trained, too!

She has settled in pretty well, so far and seems quite comfortable in her new surroundings.IMG_1122She sleeps through the night and has a pretty good appetite. We need to go to the vet and get her chipped… and spayed! And all her shots, and her nails clipped and some more things. IMG_1129

I am thrilled to have a cute little companion and look forward to many happy years with her.

May 31, 2016

Scenes from an Early Summer Weekend

Phew! My two month spate of non-stop events has almost come to an end… just a few stragglers over the next two weeks and then the summer is blissfully quiet (ha! just jinxed that!).

Our weather in May has just been ghastly. Rain, cool temps and cloudy skies. Luckily, the long weekend wasn’t a complete washout, and we managed to get a couple of great events in. IMG_1035

Saturday started with the best yard sale ever! My friends are collectors, and at auctions, when you buy a box lot, you take the whole thing, whether you want it or not. Mostly, you just want one piece, so what do you do with everything else? You have a massive yard sale!IMG_1013IMG_1015IMG_1017IMG_1019

Of course, I picked up a couple of things, and I had to go back on Monday, just to check out what was left! Here’s what I got:

Three fun urns. Planted them with red, pink and white geraniums.IMG_1033

English transferware blue & white plate.IMG_1075

Here’s the back-stamp. IMG_1031

Black jasperware Wedgwood box. IMG_1085

French porcelain pin dish. Nothing funnier than musical cats!IMG_1087

Of course, what else do you do over a long week-end than have a glorious dinner outside in the country garden? Although the day had been hot, a breeze came in late in the afternoon and made it comfortable to sit at this beautiful table outside on the lawn to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. IMG_1064

But first, a stroll around the garden, which is a few weeks late in blooming. IMG_1045IMG_1047IMG_1049IMG_1055IMG_1057

The weekend ended with a cookout with great friends filled with lots of laughter and love. It’s such fun spending time with friends who make you laugh so hard that you cry.

How was your long weekend? What did you do?