April 28, 2016

All-American House 2016

One of the projects I’ve been working on is the All American House 2016. The organization promotes American made furniture, crafts, textiles and food. The national chair of this year’s event is Alexa Hampton, who, if you don’t know her, is a lot of fun. Each participating company is all American, reflecting the organization’s purpose of revitalizing and sustaining the competitiveness of American commerce and industry in a global economy.

The VIP opening was so much fun, and I thought I’d show you some of the transormations in this house. You can see some of the before pictures here.

The front hall with its spectacular staircase.IMG_0280

The family roomIMG_0282IMG_0284

The dining roomIMG_0288IMG_0289IMG_0294

The living roomIMG_0296





The upstairs hallIMG_0310

The All American House is open until July, 2016. It’s going to be great!

April 26, 2016

The Regalia of the Races

The last Saturday in April is almost like Christmas to us. It’s the running of the annual Maryland Hunt Cup, often referred to as the most difficult timber race in the world. In fact, the winner of the Hunt Cup is automatically invited to race in England’s Grand National steeplechase the following year (it’s held in early April).image

Much of the planning for spectators at the Hunt Cup is predicated on the weather forecast. If it’s warm and sunny, then shirts and ties, and sundresses and sandals prevail. If it’s cool and overcast, you will see lots of tweeds, cords, Barbour jackets and wellie boots. Regardless of the weather, you will be marked as a rank amateur if you’re wearing high heels, ladies! image

We could take a lesson from some of the race-goers in England with their tweeds and hats. When you see pictures of past Hunt Cups, everyone’s dressed in tweeds, jackets and ties and skirts, including the grooms. This gal in her mustard skirt and jacket and purple tights, and the gents in their tweeds look perfect. Check out my Pinterest board called “What to Wear to the Races… Or Not”. imageOne of the highlights of the day, other than the race, is the pre-race tailgating. Competition for the prettiest and most extravagant picnic is fierce. But we figure that our table has an edge that no one else’s does: We use a retired Hunt Cup Trophy for our floral centerpiece!

J. Fred Colwill won the Hunt Cup three times, in 1938, 1939 and 1940, on Blockade, and after the third win, the trophy was retired and a new one was struck. All of these years later, it is back at the Hunt Cup, but this time holding gorgeous flowers from the garden. imageOf course, the food and drink for the picnic is equally important. Luckily, it’s been cool the past few years, so there’s not much danger of things spoiling. We always have fried chicken, and have found that the Royal Farm Stores (RoFo) has very good chicken. You can order it ahead of time for the race.

People are going to pick at the food all afternoon, so finger foods are best. Chips and dips, cheese and crackers, pretzels and goldfish are all good. If you bring a salad, like we did, wait and let everyone dress their own plate, otherwise, it will get soggy. Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto is an elegant finger-friendly dish.imageWhat you want to avoid is people balancing their plates and using knives and forks, all while standing and trying to look chic. Add a napkin and a drink to that and you have a recipe for disaster.

We always like to have some sweets, and bite size brownies are always good. You can add chocolate chips or After Eight mints, or even swirl some raspberry jam through the brownie batter, to up your game on these traditional favorites. It’s fun to also have some fruit, like strawberries or grapes.imageNow, the critical element: the drinks. We always have Southsides. We have always used the late Mr. Lee’s Mix if it’s available, or home-made if it’s not. As an FYI, if you’re trying to reverse-engineer Mr. Lee’s mix, and think that there’s one critical element missing, you are right. Try grating the smallest bit of ginger into the mix and see what happens!

We aren’t big fans of serving our drinks in Ball jars, instead, we use old silver julep cups. But all the pictures of drinks in julep cups were… juleps!imageHave some soft drinks and plenty of bottled water in a cooler, especially if it’s warm out. You don’t want to be responsible for over-serving your guests. That’s being a bad host.

Be sure to stop by and see our friend Sam Robinson (the man who painted Connor’s picture) who will have his paints and easel set up near the finish line. imageSam’s a plein-air painter, and will be painting sketches of the day. It’s fun to watch him work and see how he interprets the scene before him.

See you at the race!

Reprinted from Baltimore Fishbowl, April 25, 2015

April 20, 2016

Bizzy Busy Bee!

What is it about this time of year that makes it super busy? I have several major projects going on all at the same time. 

As you might remember, my friend Andrea and I are decorating a tent for the Circus Ball at Evergreen house next month. We’ve been busy gathering little circus animals to decorate. This is Andrea’s handiwork, glittered, flowered and feathered within an inch of their lives. image

Meanwhile, I am applying my mad spraypainting skillz and making sure all of the little animals are sufficiently painted. I am doing all of the sewing for the tables. In addition to the pennants (which I’ve had several requests to borrow and buy), I am making the tablecloths and decorating the chairs.

The other big project is called the All American House. This year’s house is at the Carroll Museums in Baltimore where I serve on the board. You can read about it here. This early 1800’s mansion was formerly a house museum, but is now being re-invisioned as an event space. imageWorking with the All American House group, and national chair, Alexa Hampton, local decorators, students, furniture makers, etc. are renovating the house to reflect its All American heritage. Each company is all American, reflecting the organization’s purpose of revitalizing and sustaining the competitiveness of American commerce and industry in a global economy. The debut of this project is May 1, and it’s been all hands on deck with everyone. In fact, on Saturday, I spent the afternoon painting a small bathroom, the largest dimension of which was its height!

And then there’s work! My actual job. I just got the funding to digitize our pre-1900 journals, which is going to be great. But before I can take them to the national scanning center, there’s a lot of work to be done. image

I frequently find things like this in the books that I am searching, and I wonder what the circumstance was that lead to someone placing petals in a 1700’s dictionary of chemistry.

I hope you’re  keeping busy, too! Look for images of all of the events in future posts.

April 13, 2016

More UK Trip Pix

All in all, I took more than 700 pictures on my trip, all using my trusty little iPhone 6. Last trip, I took my digital camera and found that I used it only once! Most of the pictures are pretty decent straight out of the camera but others need a little editing to balance the light and the dark, or to make them pop a little. All of my editing is just little tweaks.

Magnolias in London, along Piccadilly Street.IMG_9070

Daffodils were everywhere I went. Just so pretty.IMG_9144

A great use for leftover silver pieces.IMG_9471

The most amazing rest-stop EVER! They also had a butcher shop.IMG_9623

Bibury and a bike race. The most charming village in the Cotswolds… from my car.IMG_9829

Sunset from the top of Primrose Hill, with St. Pauls Church to the far right. IMG_9862

I love St. Pancras Station and Hotel. Victorian excess at its best.IMG_9886

Always a stop at Liberty of London when I am in town. They’re so creative!IMG_9927

Lashings of tea, with scones and clotted cream. IMG_9946

So glad you could come along with me on my trip! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

April 11, 2016

The Pennant Project

I am working with my friend Andrea to decorate a tent and two tables at a benefit next month at the Evergreen house museum. The theme for the party is Elsie De Wolfe’s Circus Ball and so we’re decorating our tables and tent to reflect that.

Our colour scheme is the always classic blue & white, and with that in mind, we started thinking about what we’d do, with me back in England and Andrea in China. She started a Pinterest board to come up with ideas, and settled on decorating the tent with dozens of pennants as well as blue and white china, tablecloths and napkins.image We decided to use pink as the accent colour.

Luckily, I’ve got quite the stash of fabrics, so pulled out all of the blue and white ones. Just in this picture are fabrics by Victoria Hagen, Ralph Lauren, Lilly Pulitzer, and Brunschwig & Fils. IMG_0146

Honestly, the smartest thing I did was buy a pinking blade for my rotary cutter. It made all the difference in the world and I didn’t spend hours cutting. I also made a template for the pennants.

Originally, I thought I had to make 120 of the pennants, but later found that 60 would suffice. But since I’d already cut out about 100, I decided that we’d find a way to use the others. IMG_0147

Because we’re hanging the pennants on a tent, I thought they needed to be double sided, and thought that a nice blue and white striped ticking fabric would be perfect for the reverse. I was getting ready to go to the fabric store when a yard sale sign caught my eye. So I stopped off and there was a bag with 10+ yards of blue and white striped ticking in a gorgeous chintz finish. The best thing about it was the price: $3.00! SCORE!

I zoomed home and started cutting out the pennants to see how they’d look with the stripes on one side and the prints on the other. IMG_0149

Then I had to calculate how many pennants per side of the tent, which I mistakenly thought was 15x15 feet, but in reality is 10x20 feet. So I measured off 15 feet on my clothesline, so I could eyeball what they’d look like and figure out the spacing. (This was before I added the ticking backs.)IMG_0152

The pennants are about 10 inches wide and 14 inches long. They’ll be big enough to make an impact, but not so big that they won’t flutter in the breeze. IMG_0155

We still have more details to work out, but I wanted to get a start on these and not be pressured to finish them at the last minute. Check back in a month to see how the final tent and tables look!

April 7, 2016

Some Quiet Contemplation

After about nine days of running around, I was ready to be quiet before heading to spend the weekend with my cousins. I knew that the perfect place for this was the incredible Tewkesbury Abbey in the small town of the same name.Tewkesbury Abbey (2)

The former Benedictine Abbey is now a parish church, and the building of this Norman-style church started in 1102! The stone was brought over from Normandy and floated up the nearby Severn River. Just think of that for a moment. The idea that the people who started building places like this knew they would never see it finished awes me. What a leap of faith.

Tewkesbury Abbey (8)

When I arrived, the Good Friday services were still going on, so this gave me some time to walk around the perimeter of this church and see familiar spots. My family had spent a summer in this town and the abbey was right around the corner from our house. Tewkesbury Abbey (7)Tewkesbury Abbey (9)Tewkesbury Abbey (13)

The abbey is so massive that it’s hard to photograph the entire thing from the ground. That’s the Severn River in the background. Tewkesbury Abbey (20)The front of the church gives a good idea of the scale of the place. Tewkesbury Abbey (11)Tewkesbury Abbey (12)

There are so many details in the stone-work, and it takes a few minutes to start seeing them.Tewkesbury Abbey (16)

It’s when you enter the abbey, you really feel the scale of the space. Tewkesbury Abbey (73)Tewkesbury Abbey (23)Tewkesbury Abbey (24)

There are side chapels and niches that hold sarcophagi, including this one where someone left a gift bag for their ancestor.Tewkesbury Abbey (49)

The abbey had been stripped of all the Lenten finery until Easter, Tewkesbury Abbey (29)Tewkesbury Abbey (36)and a massive stone, along with carvings and pieces from the abbey were set up to mimic the tomb. Tewkesbury Abbey (57)

I can’t tell you how much I loved the non-traditional colours of these stained glass windows. Tewkesbury Abbey (35)

While the abbey is Norman-style, you can see the Victorian updates, especially in the floor tiles,
Tewkesbury Abbey (38) Tewkesbury Abbey (39)

and the massive furnaces that attempted to warm the huge space.Tewkesbury Abbey (22)

I just loved the way the afternoon light filtered through the windows and reflected onto the walls and into the niches. Tewkesbury Abbey (47)Tewkesbury Abbey (48)

I stopped for a quiet moment to think about my father and light a candle in his memory. He loved this abbey and went to services there when we lived in the town. They had actually extinguished all of the candles for Good Friday, but the vicar made sure there was one for me to light. Tewkesbury Abbey (46)

In the walls surrounding the abbey, you can see fragments of stone from the building being recycled. I had remembered seeing these, and made a point to find them.

Tewkesbury Abbey (66)Tewkesbury Abbey (67)Tewkesbury Abbey (69)

Soon enough, it was time to leave and meet up with my cousins and have a pub night with their friends.

Tewkesbury Abbey (71)Tewkesbury Abbey (76)

A couple of quick pictures later, and I was off, my soul quieted and my mind set on making the most of the last five days of the trip. It was just what I needed.