Saturday, August 30, 2014

Vermont: Touring the Vermont Teddy Bear Company Shelburne

One year on the way home from Quebec, we decided to take the western Vermont route instead of going down I-91. We stayed in Shelburne, Vt. Shelburne is known for a few interesting things but one of the most interesting is that it is the home of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. 
 I knew that there was a factory tour offered showing how the teddy bears are made. They are not mass produced they are hand cut and stuffed. They are, however, sewed on machines. We signed up for the next available tour and then walked around the huge gift store at all the bears that are for sale. If you want, you can make your own. There were lots of kids taking advantage of this option. 

Our tour was a real mixed bag with lots of kids but also parents and obviously grandparents. You walk through the different operations. Our guide gave a running commentary but there are also signs giving you additional information. Photography is allowed. 

We were able to see the workers sewing the bears. No one was cutting out the material but there was a sign showing the 10 parts that make up every bear. It also takes ¾ of a pound of stuffing to fill a 15-inch bear. 

The part of the tour that everyone loved the best was the bear hospital. With a lifetime guarantee, many bears will be mailed to this hospital for everything from simple to catastrophic repairs. The cost of taking this tour is minimal, $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for children. If you are going to be in the area, especially with children, I highly recommend that you stop by and take the tour. It is very enjoyable.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Massachusetts: Deerfield Photo Tour

A couple of years ago, my friend Cindy and I had one of our girl's getaways in Deerfield, Mass. We stayed at the Deerfield Inn and toured the village. I am always attracted by flowers in bloom and attractive plants and this was no exception. I wanted to share them with you just in case you haven't had a chance to visit there.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flash Back Thursday Sunday Carvery Bear Inn

Sunday Carvery is a great favorite of ours. Having arrived in Wheatcroft at the Old Granary we decided that since it was Sunday we would like to get a pub carvery dinner. We talk to Martin and Amanda and they had a few suggestions. The first one we called was only serving until 3:30 and it was 2:45 so they suggested the Bear Inn

Martin started to give me the directions; they were so detailed and lengthy that I decided I had better write them down. It is a very good thing I did. It was one of our real adventures; we had to go through several one lane roads, up hills so steep the wheels spun, down hills so steep it took our breath away. It took us about 45 minutes to ride less than 10 miles. Was the ride worth it? Oh my yes. It was a very good Sunday carvery.

We knew as soon as we pulled into the huge parking lot that was very close to filled with capacity at 4 p.m. when service ended at 5 p.m. Entrance is at the rear of the building and you walk up the hall to the front right of the building. This is where the Sunday Carvery is set up. It is very popular, we made reservations, and I suggest that you do the same. You will be assigned a table number. You take your seat and then you go to the bar and order your drinks. You can pay for them right away or put them on your tab. You then get in line to get your food.

The first thing you do is to choose which one of the joints you would like sliced for you. There was a large beautiful roast beef but for Al, it was a little too well done (Paul the cook told us that the meat is rarer earlier in the day so if you want rare come at noon); a juicy pork roast, perfectly cooked lamb and turkey breast. You can have one or all and the portions are as generous as you want.

You then move on to the accoutrements. There are three types of potatoes, boiled, roasted and mashed. You will also see a pan full of Yorkshire puddings, the individual sort. There were serving dishes filled to the brim with sliced carrots and parsnips, cauliflower au gratin, stuffing and green peas. Proceed to load your plate. Next you will find the appropriate condiments, delicious beef gravy for the roast beef, mint sauce for the lamb, cranberry sauce for the turkey and applesauce for the roast pork.

Lastly, pick up your silver-wear and head back to your table to have a feast. You may return to the buffet as many times as you like. Not only was the quantity of food astounding but the quality was excellent. Everything was homemade and tasted of fresh local products. Dessert is not included but if you are so inclined there is a board by the bar listing at least ten choices among which I noticed profiteroles and ice cream. we really enjoyed the Sunday Carvery at the Bear Inn and would highly recommend it to anyone.

Bear Inn

Alderwasley - Belper

Derbyshire, England, DE56 2RD

+44 (1629) 822585

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Virginia: Harvest Festival at Monticello

Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello

Celebrate the legacy of revolutionary gardener Thomas Jefferson during the 8th annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello.  Pre-Festival Events on September 11-12, 2014.  Full Festival on Monticello's West Lawn on Saturday, September 13, 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pre-Festival Event
Edible Landscaping with Rosalind Creasy and Ira Wallace
1 pm to 4 pm

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Pre-Festival Premium Workshops
9 am to 5:30 pm
Keynote Presentation with Aaron Keefer
5 pm to 6:30 pm
Chefs' Harvest Dinner on Montalto
6:30 pm to 9 pm

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Festival on Monticello's West Lawn
9 am to 6 pm
Festivities include:
Check out for a complete list of programs.
Get an exclusive experience with our Festival VIP Pass.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Vermont: Visiting Hildene in Manchester

Robert Lincoln, the only surviving son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln built Hildene in Manchester, Vt. in 1905 as a summer home. He visited the area in the 1860s with his mother and his brother Tad and found the area very attractive. He purchased 500 acres of land and had his house built in the Greek Revival style. At the time it cost $63,000.

The house remained in the Lincoln family until 1975 and in 1978 it was purchased by the Friends of Hildene who set about restoring the property. There are no surviving descendants of Abraham Lincoln, which I found very sad.

Your visit begins at the Welcome Center, which is in the old carriage barn. An introductory video familiarizes you with the history of the house and some family history as well. Hildene is located up a very long driveway: it is a full mile. The location is very scenic and depending on the time of year, the views range from amazing to spectacular.
Entrance to Hildene is $18 for adults and $5 for youth. There is no brochure or map to guide you around and it is a self-guided tour. During the summer there are guided tours offered twice a day. Your admission also gets you entrance to the farm, eight miles of walking trails and the Pullman Car.

There was someone who welcomed us into the house and he was also more than willing to answer any questions we had. He told us a lot about the Aeolian Organ, which is in the entrance hall and was a gift to Mary Lincoln by her husband Robert. It is a pipe organ with a player attachment and 242 rolls of music. It has all been digitalized, and the organ plays on a regular schedule. We were afraid we would miss it but have no fear if you are anywhere inside the house you will hear it; it is quite amazing. Robert paid $11,500 for the organ, which is about 1/6 of what he spent to build the house.

The 24 room house was modern from the moment it was built. It had electricity and modern plumbing and was really state of the art when the Lincolns moved in. There were 15 servants who kept things running smoothly at Hildene, and of the 15, six remained here in Vermont and the other nine moved with the family to and from Chicago, where they lived the rest of the year.

It was interesting to walk into the butler’s bedroom and see how simply he lived. In the butler’s pantry, there is a call box with all the rooms marked so he would know where he was being called from. There are plaques in each room giving you some basic knowledge about what you are seeing.

On the second floor, there is a room dedicated to Abraham Lincoln and it is here that you can see his stovepipe hat and the sculptures of his hands. They are big, and you are encouraged to touch them or compare your hands to them.
The gardens are quite spectacular and well worth a walk especially in June when the peonies are in bloom. With its setting in the Green Mountains, it is obvious that the fall leaves would make the views even more spectacular.

For anyone who has an interest in Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, this is a very interesting place to visit. You will learn some interesting facts about both Robert and his mother and their relationship. With the house’s convenient location outside of Manchester, Vt. there are plenty of places to stay, dine and especially shop in the area.

The house is decorated for Christmas time and is charming to visit

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Presidential Sites: Calvin Coolidge Historic Site

If like me, you enjoy visiting historic presidential sites, The Calvin Coolidge Historic Site in Vermont is one that should not be missed. While ‘Silent Cal” was not exactly an exciting president and I knew next to nothing about him, the village is interesting enough on its own to make this a place you will want to add to your next Vermont visit.

The site is located in Plymouth Notch, Vermont which is the location of his boyhood home and it was where he was when he got the notice that he was now the President of the United States after the unexpected death of President Harding. His father, who was a Notary, swore him in.

The site is maintained by the State of Vermont which was given possession by the president’s son John. This is not just one building, there are several buildings in addition to his childhood home including the church that he attended, barns, the general store and a restaurant.

The Calvin Coolidge Historic Site is open from late May to Mid-October daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults and $2 for children 6-14. A family pass for up to 8 people is $25. Plymouth is located about 30 miles from Rutland, Vt. There is plenty of free parking. All the buildings are ADA compliant.

Begin your visit to the Calvin Coolidge Historic Site at the visitor center. There is a film to watch, to introduce you to our 30th president as well as a small museum with changing exhibits. What we saw were pictures and stories about his parents and grandparents, his sister, his wife, and sons. It chronicled his life from boyhood through his last years in Northampton, Mass. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, there is an exhibit here in 2014 entitled "The Coolidges, Plymouth, and the Civil War."

There are tours every hour that leave from the general store. We ended up watching half of the video when we arrived at the visitor center and then going to take the hourly tour, and then when we were finished with our visit we returned to the visitor center to see the end of the video and check out the store.

Frankly, the tour is pretty lame, basically, however, you need to take it to get into the house where he was born, the barn and the house where he grew up and where his father swore him in as president. Our tour guide was sweet but had nothing of any interest to tell us, and even my husband thought she was the worst guide we have ever had. Plan on figuring most of it out on your own.

Upstairs at the general store, which his father owned during his lifetime, was the summer white house. There was a silent film that you could watch there about the time he spent here during summer of 1924. The room has remained much the same as it was then.

One thing not to miss is the Plymouth Cheese Factory.   There is a small, but well-stocked, store downstairs and a museum upstairs, all you ever wanted to know about the production of Plymouth Cheese and even more. I bought quite a few items from the store, they have all Vermont made items and some like the cheese and some soap are made right here in Plymouth Notch.

Probably the biggest draw is the church where the Coolidge family worshiped. It was built in 1840 and follows the Congregational tradition. It is built in the Greek Revival style with a beautiful wooden interior with perfect acoustics. It is no longer an active congregation which is very sad since it is a lovely church. There was a docent in the church who was happy to talk about the church which used to be her parish.

There is a small restaurant on the site which comes in very handy since you will spend several hours here and may very well need sustenance.  Don’t leave the area without stopping by the cemetery to see the multiple generations of Coolidges, including the president, who are buried there.

While Calvin Coolidge is not one of the better-known presidents, his presidential site is extremely educational and interesting and one you will be glad you visited. We certainly were.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vermont: Gardens at Hildene Manchester

The Gardens at Hildene, Robert Lincoln's home in Manchester, Vt are quite spectacular and worth a visit at any time of year. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Flashback Thursday The Old Granary near Matlock, Derbyshire

While searching the Internet I came across a site called It was here that I first read about the Old Granary. Okay, I’ll admit it, the fact that it had a four season hot tub did influence my decision but it really was the picture of the kitchen that convinced me that this was the house for us. We needed three bedrooms and not only does the Old Granary have three bedrooms it also has three bathrooms. What could be more perfect?

I followed the link to the Old Granary website and after looking at all the photos we knew we had found the place we wanted to stay. I emailed the owner and after several emails we had a bank draft drawn for the full amount done in British Pounds and sent off to Amanda Brown.
The Old Granary is just that, an old granary conversion. Martin, Amanda’s husband, did the conversion himself and is justifiably proud. The house is lovely, way beyond our expectations. The kitchen has every modern convenience, a five burner stove with two ovens and a grill, a microwave, hot pot, washer and separate dryer, dish washer, refrigerator and freezer. The center of the room is dominated by a farm table and six chairs. There are plenty of dishes and everything else you might need including dish soap and washer soap.
The living room is very comfortable with a couch, love seat and wing back chair. Amenities include a wood burning stove, satellite TV (also in all the bedrooms and the kitchen) and a stereo that allows you to play your DVD or CDs in any room you want; there is even a PDA –MP3 docking station. A powder room is located on the main floor so you don’t need to run upstairs when you need the facilities. We really appreciated that powder room!!

Upstairs there are three bedrooms. We choose the king room with the half tester bed. It had a wonderful light and bright look with white bedding. The room has a vanity with a three part mirror, an armoire that holds the safe, blow dryer and plenty of hangers. The window looks out to the back of the house and has stunning views. In the distance you can see the towers of Hardwick Hall and Bolsover castle. Our bathroom had a shower and was ensuite.
The twin room had blue toile bedspreads and had a large bathroom with a humongous tub but it is located in the hallway. The other king room has a French style bed with red toile spread, embroidered pillow cases and an ensuite bathroom with shower.

Everything about this house is 5 *, the floors are tile and are heated. It was a wonderful treat to feel really warm and cozy. Not only are all your physical needs cared for but the house is esthetically beautiful.
The Old Granary near Matlock, Derbyshire
The house has plenty of information about what to see and do in the area and of course the hot tub is just as beautiful as it looks on the Web. Yes we did bring our swim suits and yes we did use the hot tub. It was amazing looking across this beautiful landscape while sitting in the steamy water with snow flakes falling. 

Old Granary
Beech Farm, Wheatcroft Lane Wheatcroft
Matlock, England, DE4 5GU
+44 (560) 2931292

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Delaware: Brandywine Festival of Arts

Brandywine Festival of the Arts
(September 6 & 7, 2014)
The Brandywine Festival of the Arts has been a perennial favorite for over fifty years.  Typically listed among the top one hundred national shows, this annual event in Josephine Gardens in Wilmington’s Brandywine Park attracts hundreds of visiting artists and craftspeople from the East Coast and beyond.  Although the show is juried for quality, it is not pretentious.  Remarkable, one-of-a-kind pieces in a wide variety of media are available at an equally broad range of price points. In fact, the festival is considered to be one of the foremost places in Delaware to purchase original pieces of art that are sure to satisfy both the casual consumer and the avid collector.  Live music, a food court and free admission to the Brandywine Zoo are added bonuses.

Post provided by The Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vermont: Fairbanks Museum St. Johnsbury

The Fairbanks Museum traces it beginnings from the personal collections of amateur naturalist, Franklin Fairbanks. The Fairbanks Museum has been delighting the residents of St. Johnsbury for over 100 years. Franklin hired architect Lambert Packard to build a museum of natural science. The result is a sandstone Romanesque building that resembles a castle with turrets as much as a museum. It was dedicated in 1890 and, by 1894, it had to be extended to accommodate the ever-growing collection.

Franklin, together with taxidermist William Balch, created a collection of mounted animals that to this day is the finest in northern New England. There is street parking in the area and we didn’t have any trouble finding a spot right across the street. Just a note, in Vermont they take crosswalks very seriously and as soon as you step into it all traffic will stop, it was a very nice surprise.

Entrance into the Museum was $8 for adults and $6 for children, under 5 are free with a family total of $20. The building itself is large but the museum compared to many we have visited is relatively small. Your attention is attracted right away by the magnificent bears. They are very realistic and one of them has a very ferocious snarl.

We found out right away that Brandon has been to the Natural History Museum in Boston and he was unimpressed by the fantastic collection of stuffed birds. I found the peacock to be quite outstanding and the owls were beautiful. The hummingbirds filled several cases and I had no idea that they came in that many colors and varieties. Brandon also was unimpressed by the bison; his comment was "I have seen bigger," and the moose left him cold. Rest assured however, this museum isn’t a bust, we got his attention back as soon as we got to the bald eagle and the Bengal tiger.

The second floor is reached by climbing some very steep circular stairs and is not for the faint of heart or the bad of knees. Here we enter a totally different world. Beginning near the north end on the east side we came across a fine collection of dolls and historic toys. There are over 1000 dolls and accessories. Some of them are baby dolls and others are ethnic dolls. About 750 of these dolls were donation to the museum by Marguerite White

There are small collections of items from Egypt, India, and many other countries. Being a typical boy, Brandon was enthralled by the exhibits of weapons. Daggers and sabers and also some fine guns. The second floor consists of two balconies that overlook the lower level. On the west side we have historic items. There are early maps of St. Johnsbury and also a nice exhibit of St. Johnsbury’s role during the Civil War. Among their treasures are the drumsticks of a 12-year-old named Willie Johnston who enlisted as the Company D Vermont regiment's drummer. At age 13 he was awarded the nation's highest honor.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Vermont: Planning a Visit to the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

The St.Johnsbury Athenaeum is located on Main Street in St.Johnsbury, Vt. This magnificent Second Empire building was designed by John Davis Hatch for Horace Fairbanks in 1871 as a public library. Mr. Fairbanks gifted it to the people of St. Johnsbury. Horace was the nephew of Thaddeus Fairbanks who invented the platform scale and was a partner in the company his uncle had founded. Described by Time Magazine as "The oldest unaltered art gallery still standing in the United States," the Gallery at the Atheneum was added in 1873. 

It originally housed a goodly number of copies of old masters that had been acquired by the Fairbanks on their various trips to Europe. The determining factor in the design of the gallery, however, was the acquisition of a monumental painting by Albert Bierstadt entitled ‘The Domes of the Yosemite”.

This painting originally graced the Rotunda of the Lockwood Mansion in Norwalk, Conn. When the owner Lagrand Lockwood died, his widow needed to sell part of his estate to meet expenses and she sold the Bierstadt to the Fairbanks. It has remained here since that time and members of the Lockwood family still come to check up on “their” painting.

There was be a docent in the gallery to answer any questions as well as guide books that you may use to identify the paintings, they are also for sale if you want to learn more about the Athenaeum. If you have the time, there is an eight-minute headphone tour if you choose to take it. It is worth listening to but do talk to the docents, they have lots of stories to tell and are more than willing to share them with you. They are also very child friendly. One story that I particularly liked has to do with Mr. Fairbanks portrait which hangs in the Fiction Room, look closely at his feet I won’t tell you any more, you will just have to go to see for yourself.

Beyond the old master copies and the Bierstadt there is a very nice collection of American Hudson River paintings as well as other pictures that would have been painted contemporary with Mr. Fairbanks' life. I particularly like the painting by John George Brown “Hiding in the Old Oak” it shows three young girls hiding within the trunk of the tree. Until recently, it was thought that there were two girls but when the painting was cleaned the third one became visible deeper within the tree.

Keep in mind that this is still a public library and the book collection here is quite amazing. Originally consisting of 8,000 volumes, it now has over 45,000. Like most public libraries they also have Internet access on the second floor.

This building is worth visiting just to look at all the magnificent woodwork. When we visited the entrance was $5 for adults (children under 17 are free) to visit the gallery and none of the pictures anywhere in the Athenaeum may be photographed.

There is metered parking on the street.