April 23, 2015

My Friend’s Castle

When I lived in Wales, I worked in a 12th century castle. image

But one of the friends with whom I worked, actually had a family castle, which I was reminded of the other day, when someone on the Facebook group, Country Houses of the UK and Ireland posted some images of it. image

Fonmon Castle is not a huge castle, but it’s a castle, none-the-less! It’s been in Pen’s family for about 600 years and her brother lives there now. She lives on the property’s Home Farm in a fabulous house with stables. Like many other families with homes like Fonmon, they’re now renting it out as a corporate retreat or a wedding venue. I remember going to a garden show there, which was pretty amazing. Click here for a little video tour.image

Most unfortunately, all of my pictures of Fonmon were lost when my computer was stolen, but there are some good ones that I’ve found!imageimage

Here’s the detail of the ceiling which you can see in the images above. image

This is the old kitchen, with racks of ancient pewter plates and mugs. It’s used for informal dinners. image

What could be better than blue and white china and old books?image

I remember being amazed by this rich colour on the walls. Shame about the weird door on the landing though!image

And how about this kitchen?imageimage

I am so lucky that I had the chance to visit this charming castle and get to know the family who owns it. That’s what I miss about living in the UK.

April 21, 2015

April & May Flowers

Spring has finally sprung here in Baltimore and it’s been lovely. Usually what happens is that we get a day or two of 80° temperatures and everything blooms and leafs out within 48 hours. imageWe had one day of that, but it’s been cool otherwise, so the flowers are lasting and that’s a huge treat!image

There are lots of flower-related events happening in and around Baltimore,image including my favourite, the Ladew Garden Festival. image

This is always the best show and sale, with the added bonus of being held on the gorgeous grounds of the Ladew Topiary Gardens, one of the top gardens in North America. Vendors including Halcyon House Antiques and Pennoyer-Newman (that’s where Snow Bunny came from) will be on hand. Click here for details.

On Friday, I went to a lecture at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore given by Laura Dowling, the recently fired resigned White House Florist. Although people were dying to know what happened, she was very circumspect about it and didn’t reveal a thing. Her floral style is very natural, and while she was talking, she made the most beautiful hand bouquets. IMG_0236

Her advice was the start with one large flower that would be the centerpiece and keep adding flowers, foliage and berries on the diagonal, until you deemed it complete. If your hand wouldn’t fit all the stems, tie it off and continue to add flowers. When you’ve finished, trim all the ends and add more twine for a rustic look, or wrap ribbon around the stems for a more elegant feel.IMG_0239

She loves covering floral foam with small fruits like kumquats, or vegetables like baby carrots or fingerling potatoes, and then adding flowers to the foam. Here, she used double daffodils. IMG_0280

The stunning municipal gardens at Sherwood Gardens in Baltimore are in full bloom now and all of the masses of tulips are out. Today’s cool weather will help keep them around for a while longer. These aren’t at Sherwood, but at a stoplight on my way home from the office.image

Each year, there are a series of steeplechase races just north of Baltimore during March and April. Last weekend was the Grand National, and someone shot the second race, which our friend won, with a drone camera. It’s pretty amazing to see. I am hoping he does the Maryland Hunt Cup, which is the most difficult timber race in the world, on Saturday. There’s a great article about it in the Washington Post, here.


Grand National - Second Race from Circumvolo on Vimeo.


April 19, 2015

Thank You So Very Much

I want to send my most sincere thanks for the unbelievable outpouring of love and support after Connor’s death last week. The e-mails, FB messages, Instagram messages phone calls and flowers have made me realize what an impact Connor made on so many people all around the world.image

Even though I knew that it was going to happen sooner than later, it’s gutting me, and it’s hard to get used to days without the dog clickity-clacking across the hard-wood floors, waiting to go outside and generally being present in my life.image

I think of myself as a glass-half-full person, and so am trying to think of the positive aspects of this experience:

  • I can vacuum the rugs and know that they won’t be covered in dog-hair in hours.
  • I can enjoy thunderstorms again.
  • I can repair my window-screens without ordering the heavy-duty screening.
  • I can have after-work cocktails without worrying whether Matt, the dog-walker, is available.
  • I can wear black cashmere and corduroy without fear of having stray white dog-hairs on me.
  • I have more cabinet space for my food, not Connor’s food.
  • I won’t have to buy useless things to decorate him for the holidays.

imageAs I walk through the house, I realize how many of Connor’s accoutrements have worked their way into the household – his rugs and blankets, his selection of pink pigs, only one of whom he really loved,IMG_0387 the useless numerous remedies for his fear of storms and fireworks, and of course, his various food and water dishes. All will be packed away in anticipation of another dog, sometime in the future.

In a little farewell ritual this afternoon, I took a bunch of his hair that I had been accumulating and tossed it to the winds for the birds to take and use for their nests. Connor shed in clumps and when I’d pull one out, I’d add it to a cup next to his chair to scatter for the birds.image

I am greatly cheered by the beautiful images I’ve taken of Connor over the past years, by the lovely paintings by Sam Robinson, and the sweet pencil sketches by Lady Rosie and by the touching and thoughtful comments, emails and messages you have sent. Thank you so very much.

April 16, 2015

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!IMG_2737

This isn’t the post I thought I’d be writing this evening. My dear sweet Connor died earlier this evening after a stroke that rendered his legs unable to move. I am so glad I was there when it happened because he would have been terrified to not be able to move. He’d been declining for a while now, and had fallen a few times. His appetite wasn’t great and I knew he had been in some pain recently, which made me very unhappy. burrito2

I adopted Connor from the city pound soon after I moved back to Baltimore from the UK. He had been at the shelter for six weeks, waiting for the right person. His philosophy in life was “I wish I was somewhere other than here…” as he always wanted to get out. He leapt out windows, both house and car, got out onto roofs, took off at any opportunity and was nicknamed Houdini. IMG_0208

He ate my gutter-guards, my mini-blinds, a windowsill or two, and a door, but other than that, was pretty good. He shed like no-body’s business and even this morning, I was brushing him and letting his hair fly for the birds to use for their nests. IMG_8911

He’s been sleeping so much and so deeply recently, that he doesn’t even hear me come home, and he’s startled when he wakes. When he’s totally and completely sleeping and relaxed, his little pink tongue comes out. And that’s what happened this evening, with his beloved Baby with him. IMG_8795

Rest in peace, my sweet baby.

Architectural Watercolours at Halcyon House Antiques

Two things: You might know that I am the board chair at the Baltimore Architecture Foundation and one of the things I adore is old architectural drawings and watercolours, and even blueprints. I also love Halcyon House Antiques and would cheerfully move into the shop if I could! So when Halcyon House Antiques and its stylish owners, Stiles and Jonathan, told me that they were hosting a show and sale of architectural watercolours, I suggested that Halcyon and the Architecture Foundation partner up on the project. So we did!building

The opening reception took place on Tuesday and the show will be hanging for another month or so. The shop is filled with the most beautiful architectural watercolours, drawings and models, as well as some significant pieces of furniture, brought in specially for the show.IMG_0059

Most of the watercolours were done in the 1800 and 1900’s and are drawings washed with colours. Most subjects are classical studies. IMG_0063

Some of the special pieces included this beautiful inlaid piece by David Linley, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, whose work is collected all over the world. IMG_0061IMG_0080

Another piece, although not an architectural study, was this beautiful drawing room from the 1930’s, painted by Cecil Beaton. IMG_0078

One of the pieces I loved was this wood and glass lantern.IMG_0046

And this fabulous chair with the forced perspective of the trees,IMG_0077

which reminded me of the allée of trees elsewhere on the property. Winter  (37)

And how about this chair? Can you say leopard!IMG_0073

Some of the architectural models included this pavilion, IMG_0106

and this bridge.IMG_0051

And in the center of the hors d’oeuvres was an birdcage, complete with a porch. IMG_0036

In addition to the framed prints, there was also a selection of unframed prints of various subjects, IMG_0067including this elevation and plan of the Maryland Institute College of Art. IMG_0071

One of the highlights of the events was a brief talk given by the eminent architect, and founder of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, Walter Schamu, FAIA. IMG_0123He spoke on the training given to architecture students in the past at places like the Universities of Virginia and Pennsylvania and of course, Yale. Walter lamented that there wouldn’t be drawings like these of contemporary buildings that people would look back and admire in 100 years because everything’s done on the computer.

If you’re interested in the Architectural Watercolours Show, or anything you see here, please contact Eric at Halcyon House Antiques.

April 14, 2015

Petit Post

I was out at a fabulous event this evening and when I came home to download my pictures and write, my computer decided it was the ideal time to install some updates. Grrr. 

So, here is a teaser of both the event and Thursday's post. Enjoy!

April 12, 2015

The Most (In)Famous Cherry Tree in Baltimore

As I was heading over to the Book Thing today for my weekly allocation of books, I passed the historic Union Memorial Hospital and saw that the gorgeous weeping cherry trees out in front of the old main building were (finally) in full bloom. Weeping cherry trees are my favourites, we had some at the house where I grew up and I just adore them. image

While the tree on the far right might not look like anything special, it actually is. The tree dates back to 1939. The date is not in question because of the donor: the notorious Prohibition-era gangster, Al Capone.

Capone had just been released from prison and came to Baltimore for treatment of psychotic dementia, a symptom of syphilis which was affecting his mental health. Johns Hopkins is/was considered the very best hospital in the United States, but because of Capone’s notoriety, they would not admit him.


So the family turned to Union Memorial Hospital for treatment. Capone, his family and entourage allegedly took over the entire top floor of the hospital where he stayed from November until March. He felt like he was ready to leave Baltimore and head towards the warmer weather of Florida.

But Capone and his family were grateful for the care he had received at Union Memorial and gave the hospital two Japanese weeping cherry trees to be planted in the front of the hospital. The one on the west end was removed during some renovations, and the one on the east side suffered a bad break during our Snowpocalypse winter of 2010 and a massive limb split off. The remainder of the tree was saved, and is still blooming.imageimageThe fallen limb was given to a woodworker who then fashioned bowls, vases and wine-stoppers from it, and they were sold and auctioned to help provide care to indigent patients at Union Memorial. imageSeedlings from the original tree have been planted around the hospital grounds and are known as Caponettes.

Stories like this are why I love Baltimore.

All images, except the first one, courtesy of Union Memorial Hospital.