Recently we attend the phenomenal light show at Longwood Gardens. We arrived early and set up our chairs in the front row, very close to the center, so this display is very similar to the one was viewed. i was much too captivated with the experience to record the show so was delighted that this 'sneak peak' was so similar. The background music for the evening we attended was jazz, and if you follow my blog, you'll know I was delighted! This will give you an idea of the spectacular event, and hopefully it will inspire you to check the Longwood Garden site to check their schedule, purchase tickets and attend!
While we were at Longwood Gardens, I heard it referred to as "America's Versailles". I disagree. The variety of plants, artistry of presentation, reverence and dedication to nature and seasonal displays make Longwood far superior. The Versailles gardens were such a disappointment, but isn't it delightful to know we can save the airfare to France and have a much more delightful experience here? For those who are more interested in the history, architecture and furnishings at Versailles, it's worth the trip, but if you are going for the gardens, you may want to reconsider and head to Kennett Square, PA.
We passed this sleepy tree on the way in, already yawning by late afternoon. He probably didn't stay awake for the light show, but he's undoubtedly seen it many times!
We had a leisurely dinner at 1906 while we waited for dusk. Everything there is a step above what is expected. This is their shrimp appetizer - jumbo shrimp served on a square of tomato aspic with sorrel and touch of horseradish. Not only delicious but a work of art!
Although I've been to Longwood Gardens many times over the years and experienced each of the five seasons - spring, summer, fall, holiday and winter - at least once, this was my first after dark experience light display. I'm adding it to my collecting firsts!
The summer solstice officially arrived in Baltimore, Maryland at 6:34 on Monday, June 20. Hopefully you took time to honor the cycles of nature and to celebrate the longest day of the year. This year's event was especially precious as it coincided with the "strawberry moon", the name given to June's full moon. The combination of the solstice with a full moon is a rare occurrence, The last time this rare phenomena occurred was forty-nine years ago, in 1967. Hopefully you enjoyed its assent as it won't occur again until 2062,
Strawberries may have been the fruit of the day, but I had peaches on my mind! This, dear friends, is
Baltimore Peach Cake
A dear new friend and neighbor, Howard, called late afternoon and said he had made Baltimore Peach Cake, warm out of the oven, and wondered if I would like some! Um, yes!!! So I hurried over and he met me at the door with his calico cat Petunia, weaving between us, hoping for attention. I knelt down to pet her and he mentioned having heard that all calico cats are female.
(Note:I've heard all my life and decided it was finally time to look it up.
"The mutation that gives male cats a ginger-colored coat and females ginger, tortoiseshell, or calico coats produced a particularly telling map. The orange mutant gene is found only on the X, or female, chromosome. As with humans, female cats have paired sex chromosomes, XX, and male cats have XY sex chromosomes"
We walked through the hallway, adjacent to a stair case filled with family photos, into the kitchen where I had my first glimpse of 'the cake'! He had given me half and when I protested, with very little conviction or enthusiasm but felt it was the right thing to do, he insisted. I let him have his way! We talked about some of our recent Facebook posts while he finished wrapping the cake. Babe Ruth, his gorgeous and gregarious McCaw, sat on the open door of his cage from the next room, watching and occasionally making a comment or whistling. Howard, Babe Ruth and I are all dedicated Orioles fans and when Babe wants to see a game, he'll request, "Watch TV?"
As I said thank you and good bye to Howard and his furry and feathered family, I felt overwhelmingly grateful to live in Lake Walker. The homes, with their front porches, are anachronisms not only in their physical structure, but in the resulting lifestyle. Neighbors are outside - on their porches, working in their yards and gardens, and walking their dogs of every shape and size. They are receptive, even openly inviting, to conversation and community.
But back to the cake! Oh my heavens!! Its arrival only hours before the summer solstice made it seem all the more heaven scent. Yes, I know. I wrote heaven sent first, but the fragrance! It is indeed heaven scent! The peaches and cake dominated, But there is just a hint of cinnamon - not the usual over powering that often diminishes other flavors - but a subtle suggestion. It is almost as if he waved a cinnamon stick over the sublime creation and let the perfect amount of flavor descend. Perfection!
My first taste of Baltimore Peach Cake will be added to my 'collecting firsts' category. Actually, I've been thinking about a "Collecting Firsts in Baltimore" category, because there have been so many since I arrived. I do adore this town - it's passion for history, art, music, gardens and parks, fabulous food and restaurants, sports, culture, eccentric charm, Hons, Balamerese, and most of all, oh how I love the people!
Visiting the Lexington Market has been on my wish list since I moved to Baltimore and I finally made it! What a delightful experience! The sounds of the steel drum band added rhythm and beat as moved from stand to stand. There were oranges, lemons, limes, grapes and strawberries in vibrant jewel tones.fish and shell fish in iridescent white, silver and pinks. Scrumptious cupcakes, pineapple upside down cake, cinnamon rolls, and breads of every size and shape, color and texture. Something for everyone and the prices were fantastic! We would have stayed longer but we had too much to carry!
Today's treasure is a Facebook post from friend and author Floyd Stokes -
TBT - seconds after Olivia was born July 2008. I decided to post this because earlier this week, someone asked me, “When should I start reading to my baby?” We should start reading to children when they are in the womb. If we missed that, we can always start today. Reading and talking with our new born is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. And it’s so much fun!
Floyd's comment from Facebook -
MIkell, this was taken one day before our release party. It was a crazy good time in my life. You did an amazing job capturing my vision for the book. We are making a difference. I read it yesterday at a summer camp to children in Hburg and they are still in awe of the illustrations.
Today's treasure was a birthday gift, even though my birthday was in February! I firmly believe in keeping celebrations going as long as possible, and this may be a new record! Our boat was also appropriately named "Celebration"!
Two young boys gathered the group and directed us to board. "My grandfather was the captain on the ferry from Lewes, DE to Cape May, NJ and before that he was in the Coastguard", one young man noted proudly.
Breakfast was served immediately and we carried it up on deck and found a table with a view of the water. We saw our first dolphin shortly after we left the dock and they appeared frequently through out the two hour ride. The weather was ideal with the sun beaming warmly but not oppressive.
The Captain directed our attention to groups of dolphin as they appeared, in addition to sharing He said one of his most memorable experiences was watching the birth of a dolphin and seeing the mother joyfully toss it up in the air. He noted that dolphins swim in pods, not schools, and are very sociable. The average life expectancy of a dolphin in Maryland is 40 to 50 years, about the same in captivity as in the wild.
The trip was a delightful blend of relaxation, interspersed with repeated sighting the playful rompers! There is a sense of ease to their movement - and aquatic dance. A pirate ship passed by, the ferry, and numerous other boats, wave runners and surfing boards. I'll treasure the memories os this delightful experience forever!
On the morning of the race, I felt well prepared. I had purchased my hat for the Preakness weeks before the race at the Downton Abbey exhibit at Winterthur in Delaware. I waited until the day of the race to purchase the flowers to decorate it, hoping for them to be as fresh as possible. The Black-Eyed Susan is the state flower of Maryland, as well as the official flower of the Preakness, so I was certain that local florists and farmer's markets would be abundant with fresh blossoms to adorn my hat for the day's race,. There wasn't a Black-Eyed Susan to be found. Well, at least not of the floral variety.
There weren't even any silks available. I purchased a garland of daisies and hurried home to paint the centers with acrylics, thankful that it was a quick drying paint. Next year I'll be prepared, and may even try to force some blossoms for the event.
Even California Chrome, the winning horse, was deprived of the thrill of wearing an authentic garland of the official flower. Instead his 10 foot long, 4,200 bloom blanket was made of golden yellow chrysanthemums with black in the center.
Numerous people, including a local florist, told me as recently as the day of this year's race, May 17, 2014, "the flowers used for the race and the blanket that covers the winning horse are daisies with the centers painted with black lacquer or shoe polish." However, more reliable sources state they haven't used that technique for over fifteen years.
Susan Reimer, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, noted that the archives of the Sun first mentioned the Black Eyed Susan taking the place of the rose blanket for the Maryland Preakness race in the late 1930s. "In 1939 the Sun described what it said was a blanket of black-eyed Susans gracing the neck of Preakness winner Challedon. Racing writer Jesse Linthicum said the change gave the race 'a real Maryland flavor'."
As far as the origin of the daisies with the centers painted black, Reimer reveals the beginning and the end of the mystery. The Black-Eyed Susan, a wild flower too delicate to hold up to the technique of being woven into a blanket and remaining fresh and hardy for a couple of days, doesn't even bloom until late June. "It was Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Price Day, writing in The Sun in 1946, who revealed that florist and devoted horse lover George Cook had been painting the center of yellow daisies with shoe black for years. He'd made every blanket from 1928 to 1953, and he died just days before the 1954 race."
The choice of the Black-Eyed Susan is in honor of it's position as the official flower. The state legislature of Maryland officially endorsed the Black Eyed Susan as the Maryland state flower in 1918. There are thirteen petals, as there were thirteen original colonies which included Maryland, and the black and yellow beautifully represent the colors in the Maryland flag. Admittedly, other than its untimely debut and fragile nature, it is a worthy choice for the official Preakness flower!
The rustic Enchanted Woods at Winterthur contrasted with the polished and elegant surrounding of the rest of the Dupont Estate. It was pure fantasy! I have always believed in fairies but this is the first time I actually felt like I was one!
The tree I'm standing in is made from a one hundred year old tulip poplar tree! There is room for two chairs inside, skillfully carved with squirrels and acorns.
The wildflowers are just beginning to bloom. Virginia blue bells, spring beauties, sorcerer's violet, trout lilies and blood roots grew in profusion, creating colorful carpets.
Be careful crossing the Troll Bridge, and if you dance in the center of the Ring of Toadstools you may well disappear!
There are so many reasons to visit this 1,000 acre site! Winterthur is abundant with treasures, varied and delightful, ever changing with the seasons!
The exhibit of Downton Abbey Costumes at Winterthur is exquisite. There are a few samples. If you want to see the wedding gown, numerous gowns with hats, fur trimmed coats, the men's costumes and the artistry of haute couture tailoring in all of them, you'll need to visit Winterthur! The exhibit will be there until January 2015 and is the only site in the United States that will showcase the collection.
Winterthur is a treasure trove of enticements. Francis Dupont (1880 - 1969) was the visionary who created Winterthur,.The Dupont mansion expanded from the original 14 rooms to 250 to house his collectibles. There are 2500 American Eagles, a collection of soup tureens, ceramics, needle work, textiles, furniture and more, all of the highest quality originality and craftsmanship. The library contains over 100,000 items, featuring rare books on architecture, design, nature, children's books, women's magazines, and numerous other topics centering on the artistry of living life with beauty and grace.
The estate is situated on 1,000 acres, artistically planted with trees from all over the world, Among them are seasonal plantings that bloom from late January through November, providing an endless living mosaic of blooms. He was known for his artistry in combining colors and fragrant, ever changing landscapes are a testimony.
The Enchanted Woods boasts a Story Stones, a Troll Bridge, a Tulip Tree House, Acorn Tea Room, Forbidden Fairy Ring and a Fairy Flower Labyrinth.
Time spent at Winterthur will leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized. I came home filled with inspiration and ideas to apply in my own space, admittedly on a much smaller scale. There are always opportunities to increase the beauty and sensuality in our world. The inspiration at Winterthur is endless.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
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