Saturday, November 29, 2014

Annual Inn to Inn Holiday Cookie and Candy Tour

This year marks the 18th year that the inns in the Mt. Washington Valley will be celebrating the "Taste of Christmas". On Saturday and Sunday December 13 and 14, from 11am to 4pm, eleven inns will open their door and offer cookies, candy and refreshments and a tour of their inn.

We did this tour several years ago and it was a blast. You book a two night stay at one of the participating inns and your tickets will be provided along with a delicious breakfast by the inn.You will also get a potter ornament and a copy of the all the recipes. It you visit all 11 inns, you get a brass ornament.


This years participating inn are    include the Darby Field Inn in Albany; Inn at Crystal Lake and Pub in Eaton; Covered Bridge House in Glen; Notchland Inn in Hart's Location; Glen Oaks Inn in Intervale; Inn at Ellis River in Jackson; 1785 Inn,  Eastman Inn, and Old Red Inn & Cottages in North Conway, Snowvillage Inn in Snowville, and Admiral Peary Inn Bed & Breakfast in nearby Fryeburg, Maine.
Tickets can not be guaranteed without the an inn package. Those not wishing to reserve an overnight package may purchase tickets December 1-7, 2014 for $30 per person by calling the Old Red Inn at 800-338-1356 or 603-356-2642. Tickets reserved by phone will be available for pick up at designated pick up locations. Tickets are limited. 
Be sure to bring along a container to hold all your delicious cookies and candies.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Photo Friday Tuckahoe Plantation Richmond, Va.

Located along the James River to the north of Richmond, Tuckahoe Plantation was built by John Randolph in 1733. For seven years of his childhood, it was also the home of Thomas Jefferson.
The side of the house away from the river.

Visitors painting the view

The overseers cottage

The herb garden

Roses still in bloom in November

The lane is thought to be haunted

The river side of the plantation

Bloom from the garden

Gorgeous zinna




To visit Tuckahoe Plantation you need to arrange a private tour. Photography is not allowed in the house.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Flashback Thursday University of Virginia

University of Virginia



Founded and designed by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia was the project of his old age. Not only was he an active contributor but he hosted dinners for the students at his home, Monticello. The design of the university is unique. He planned 10 pavilions where professors would live upstairs and teach downstairs and these were connected by one level high student housing. At the head of the lawn would stand the library, at most universities it would have been the chapel. It was founded on logic and knowledge and here was no religious affiliation.

It is a beautiful campus and the Rotunda is outstanding. Guided tours are offered by students of the University and we opted to take the tour. We met in the Rotunda. Here we learn that this is not the original building. In 1895 the Rotunda burned to the ground and what was rebuilt was an exact replica.

While we are touring the Rotunda we get to see the ‘hot seat" the chair where doctoral candidates read their dissertation. If it isn’t up to standards, they take it from your hands and throw it in the fire. You need to be able to climb stairs to take this tour. We went up three flights of stairs.

After touring inside we walk out to the lawn to hear about the "Code of Honor" and the student housing along the lawn.  Fifty-four 4th year students receive the honor of living in the lawn housing. We were lucky because one of our guide’s friends has housing here and he opened his door and let us see his room. They are very nice and historic but they have no plumbing. Students must use public bathrooms and showers. Professors are also chosen to have the Pavilion housing; they however get to stay until they want to move out.

The University was founded in 1825 and had 123 students. In 1995 there were 18,000 students. The University remained open during the Civil War and even though the enrollment dropped to below 100, it was able to survive. The first Afro-American student graduated from UVA in 1953. Today the University of Virginia is ranked #2 in Public Universities in the U.S. and among private and public #24. Mr. Jefferson would be very  proud.

The guided tour takes about an hour but allow more time to enjoy walking around the campus on your own. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Historic Holidays in Springfield, Illinois



[Springfield, Ill.] - Make merry in historic Springfield, Illinois with candlelit seasonal events, festive restaurants and cozy accommodations. Many of the city’s historic sites offer special holiday decorations, tours and activities to help put you in a festive mood. 

The Lincoln Home National Historic Site will offer “Christmas with the Lincolns” daily from Dec. 3 – Jan. 2. Visit the only home that Lincoln ever owned, decorated with period holiday garlands, boughs and holly. See where the boys hung their stockings in anticipation of Father Christmas’ arrival and imagine the Lincoln family’s preparation for entertaining friends and family during the holiday season. Free admission tickets to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site are available at the site’s visitors center. 

Visit historic downtown Springfield for the Old Capitol Holiday Walks, Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 17 from 5:00 – 8:00 PM. Visit over 30 unique and local shops and restaurants, ride in a horse-drawn trolley and give Santa your wish-list at this festive event. The Old State Capitol will offer “Holiday Stories with the Lincolns” during the walks on the Dec. 3 and 4, a holiday concert with the Lincoln Land Community College Choir on Dec. 10 and “Caroling with the Lincolns” on Dec. 17. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House will offer evening tours on Holiday Walk evenings at 5:00 PM, 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM. The home’s Sumac gift shop will be open for shoppers.

Abraham Lincoln was a frequent visitor to the Elijah Iles House, the oldest home in Springfield. Take a candlelight tour of the home on Friday, Dec. 5 and Friday Dec. 20 from 5:00 – 8:00 PM. Donations accepted. 

Meet Illinois Artisans and see them demonstrate their work at the “Holiday Art Spree” at the Illinois State Museum Friday, Dec. 5, from 5:00 – 8:00 PM, Saturday Dec. 6, from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM and Sunday Dec. 7, from noon – 4:00 PM. Artwork will include ceramics, glass, jewelry, painting and wearable art. Free admission to both the Art Spree and the Illinois State Museum. 

Santa Claus is coming to town on Saturday, Dec. 6 for the 43rd Annual Springfield Christmas Parade. The theme this year is Christmas Comedy, and this downtown evening light parade is full of floats, Christmas characters and holiday fun.

On Dec. 6, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Oak Ridge Cemetery will be the site for the “Vietnam Christmas Remembrance” program from 1:00 - 3:00 PM for all Illinois Also on Dec. 6, visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum for “Holiday Story Time.” Join in the fun with stories, crafts and music. The Eddy Flute Choir will perform at 11:00 AM in the museum plaza. At 3:00 PM, Civil War Santa will arrive for story time, a craft and cookies. 

Celebrate Christmas at the Clayville Historic Site, a former tavern and inn along a stagecoach route between Springfield and Beardstown, Illinois at a holiday event on Dec. 6 from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM featuring carols, refreshments, children’s activities and visit from Santa Claus.  Admission. 

Mark the 100th anniversary of the 1914 WWI Christmas Truce at the Illinois State Military Museum’s program “Christmas at the Front: A Centennial Celebration,” on Dec. 13. Visitors can listen to brief talks, meet WWI soldier reenactors, enjoy hot drinks and cookies, and listen to carols by the Sweet Adelines Sound Celebration. The program begins at 2:00 pm and admission is free.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Breakfast at Marlborough Pizza in Marlborough, Conn.

As most of you know, we live in Portland, Conn. We do have some good restaurants and bars in Portland but because it is a small town and because we eat out a lot, we sometimes need to go farther afield to dine. Marlborough is only a few towns away so it is a place we can get to easily. 

One of our new favorites is Marlborough Pizza. They are under new ownership and are offering breakfast on Saturday and Sunday morning. We have gone to Sunday breakfast three times so far and I have to say that the food was exceptional. 
pumpkin pancakes

The first time we went we had a combination of lunch and breakfast, it was after church and about 11:30 so it was possible to have either. 
Cinnabon pancakes

I had pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon butter  the first two times and if I am honest, they are probably the best pumpkin pancakes I have ever had. This week, it was Cinnabon pancakes and again excellent. Enough for breakfast there and then a shared breakfast at home with Al on Monday. 

Al has gotten omelets and they are perfect, no crispy brown at all. They have very nice toast as well. Homes fries, pretty pedestrian but bacon is thick cut and very tasty. 

We went with Kasey twice and she got an amazing waffle with fresh fruit, it was as beautiful as it was delicious. The boys got the sausage biscuits and they cleaned their plate. Chris ordered it the first time and Brandon the second. He had tasted Chris' the first time and wanted them for himself.

I know that going to a pizza restaurant for breakfast sounds unusual, however, the food is worth the drive and we are obviously doing it frequently.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Goya at Boston Fine Arts Museum

Last week, I took a trip up to Boston to visit the Fine Arts Museum. They have mounted a new exhibition of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. Entitled Order and Disorder it features 170 of the artist's works across a variety of mediums. 

Spend the $5 to take the audio tour. It is very well done. It is the first time I have had one on an iPod and it made it quite easy to listen to the exhibition curators Stephanie Stepanek and Frederick Ilchman giving lots of information about the artist, the work and the times he was working in.

The works are displayed by theme and towards the end of the exhibit you are exposed to the violence and horror of the Peninsular War that ravaged Spain for 6 years. 

With 170 works, it is a huge exhibition. Personally, I wish they had included benches in the earlier rooms, it was a little hard on me in the last few rooms you can sit and listen to the audio. 

The exhibition ends with his monumental painting  “Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz” as well as his self-portrait with his physician from the later years of his life. It was a very powerful exhibition and even though I would never say he was one of my favorite artists, this was a very well done exhibition and I enjoyed it a lot. 

It will be at the Fine Arts Museum through January 19m 2015. If you have the opportunity to get to Boston to see it, please do, you won't be disappointed. 

Of course we had lunch in the cafeteria and as usual they food is excellent. I made myself a salad and it was wonderful. In case you wonder what I got there is a curried chicken salad and some pickled veggies including beets.

While you are at the museum, don't miss the "The Art of English Regency Gallery" and the wonderful Chihuly sculpture "Lime Green Icicle Tower" in the Shapiro Courtyard.
To find out more about the exhibit: with the MFA website.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

American Girl Store in Natick, Mass.

What little girl hasn't dreamed of going to the American Girl Store? For one little girl, this dream came true on Saturday, November 15, 2014. Located in the Natick Mall, the store is not as overwhelming as I expected.You do have to enter from the exterior so keep that in mind when looking for parking. 
Two American Girls

On the first floor are the special dolls, those that have a name. I was proud to see that Isabelle appears to be one of the newest and most popular dolls. The Bitty Babies and the Bitty Twins are also on the first floor. 

It is so hard not to be distracted by all the lovely things around you. My youngest granddaughter Sydney seemed to be able to keep her wits about her as she walked from one display to another. She touched, she looked and enjoyed. She took her time and didn't make any snap decisions. 

On the upper floor are all the dolls that only have a number but who you can get to look like your own American Girl. Syd brought her doll with her and we went to the hair salon where they will also pierce the ears of your doll. You pay at the register and they give you 3 pairs of earrings and place one in the dolls ears. 

There is also a cafe where you can have lunch. Kasey made reservations well in advance so that we could have a very special lunch. It really is special, you order an appetizer and a main course for a set price and the food was really very good. I enjoyed a cappuccino and Syd has mini ice cream cones for dessert. Of course, her doll dined with us.

It was a wonderful day and Syd was able to pick her Christmas presents.

Natick is close to Boston and right off of the Mass. Turnpike at exit 13.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Photo Friday Nemours Estate Brandywine Valley

Alfred I. duPont created his dream home in the Brandywine Valley at Nemours. Photography is not allowed inside the home but the grounds are stunning enough as the photos show.




A small but high quality car collection.

Second floor terrace view



View from the second floor terrace

The mansion

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Beloved Home: Monticello



"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden." T. Jefferson


For many years I was not a fan of Thomas Jefferson, mostly due to the fact that not only was he a slave owner but he likely fathered children with a slave. I wrongly believed that he never freed Sally Hemings and her children, he did free the children. Perhaps he could just not bear to part with Sally, we will never know. The fact that Sally, even though she was a slave, was his deceased wife’s half-sister makes for interesting possibilities. But I digress. 

We began our visit with a stop at the Monticello Visitor Center. This will give you a good overview of the man and the home. There are loads of displays, a video, a cafe and a very nice gift shop. Take the time to watch the video before you go up to the house, you can visit the museum either before or after. There are some very interesting displays about the slave families that lived at Monticello. 

Monticello, the home that Jefferson designed, can only be visited on a guided tour. You may want to pre-order your tickets online especially if you are visiting at a busy time of year, the behind the scene tour is very popular. You are bused up the hill and taken through in groups. The grounds, gardens and the cemetery you may visit on your own though additional tours are also offered.  Last year, we took  two tours at Monticello; the regular house tour and the behind the scenes tour. With the behind the scenes tour, you get to visit the dome at the top of the house. It is well worth the extra time and cost. 


On the house tour we learn that Jefferson was very much the gentleman farmer and beyond his ventures into politics, enjoyed his time spent building the home of his dreams. He was a man who lived by a schedule and there is a clock in every room. We were there at 11:45 a.m. and he would have been writing letters at that time. The desk in his private sitting room was made by John Hemings.

A visit to his book room is eye opening. What we see are the books he acquired after 1815 when he sold his personal library to the Library of Congress. He kept meticulous records of everything he owned and where it was in his library. He learned Spanish in order to read the original explorers travel journals.


Jefferson was a self-taught architect who was influenced by the style of Paladio. The friezes on his bedroom ceiling are taken from Paladio’s book. The design of the University of Virginia was the hobby of his old age. He chose the location so that he could keep his eye on it from Monticello. 

Additional displays are located in the basement of the house and also in the north and south terrace cellars. Pavilions are located at the end of both the south and north terraces which can also be visited. Mulberry Row is where the former slave quarters were located as well as many of the building necessary to keep an estate the size of Monticello running. 



It is easy to walk from Mulberry Row to the cemetery. The bus that drops and picks up at the house also stops at the cemetery so you can get back on there. 


Allow at least three hours to visit here. More if you really want to see everything.