Monday, September 4, 2017

Another Summer Come and Gone...

Sadly, this summer ended up being far less productive than I had hoped. Reviewing my “to-do” list of items that needed addressing, it seems I have only been able to complete a few of them. Now there is only the hope that the coming Fall may serve to be a more productive season as far as the house is concerned.

No, this is not the reason for my lack of productivity. A nice addition to my tiki bar, thanks to the good people at Windsor & Eton Brewery.
A large part of this was due to our trip to the UK in mid-May; between holiday planning and the weather upon our return, this set me back about 3-4 weeks in terms of my usual summer work schedule. In recent years, we’ve been able to open the pool during the first week of May, with another week or two after that to handle annual chores like cleaning the patios, doing touch-up painting on the decks and some outdoor furniture—which all has to be hauled out of storage—tidying up the perennial beds, setting up our tiki bar on the back deck and bringing all the seasonal decorative items out of the garage, shed and basement. This is then followed by planting of tropical-looking annuals in beds and in pots all around the pool.

Monday, June 12, 2017

OLD BOOKS, NEW REVIEWS: Country Life 1897-1997 The English Arcadia

Once again we take a brief moment to talk about one of the books in our collection; I have wanted this for some time, but was only recently able to obtain it on Ebay for a low price. Always a great fan of Country Life, I collected many issues years ago when it was commonly available at the local news stand (I never could bring myself to spring for an annual subscription) and I still keep some of these scattered about in the house. Lacking more recent issues, I was happy to report a successful effort to grab a single copy at Heathrow before we returned home from our recent UK trip.

I finished reading this book right before we left, and though it certainly relates a lively and interesting story of the magazine’s history and significance, it does an excellent job of weaving that history into a vivid panorama of Britain during the last 100 (now 120) years. It’s hard for me to imagine that this book has actually been out for so long; nevertheless, the subject matter is as essential today as it was in 1997. With a fairly substantial production run, it is still easily available from online booksellers such as Amazon and Abebooks.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

UK TRIP 2017: London and Environs

Things have been quiet for some time, as I have become involved in a local historic preservation project as well as ongoing work at my own house. But over the coming weeks I’ll try to fill you in on the highlights of my recent trip to the UK, where I was able to take in a number of memorable sights and enjoy a fair amount of good pub ale.

A grand staircase at Hampton Court Palace
To simplify things, we based our stay in London; I had initially planned to book accommodations in three different cities, but there was simply so much to see—and with a pre-booked single day-trip via Eurostar train to Paris—we figured it would just be simpler to stay in one place, which in this case was a wonderful small hotel in Belgravia.

Liberty of London. This department store is just as amazing on the interior.
We took in all the obligatory London sites—Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London, St. Paul’s, Tower Bridge, etc. as well as personal favorites like Shakespeare’s Globe and Liberty of London. Half-day jaunts to Windsor Castle and Hampton Courts were also on the list—as was a visit to Highclere, which my daughter requested, being a fan of Downton Abbey. Not my first choice for a country house tour; I would have preferred something more in the vein of Wightwick Manor or Cragside…but that must wait for a future visit.

The Thames at Windsor. Had a lovely lunch at the restaurant across the way.
I will get into more detail in follow-up posts. Suffice it to say that the trip was all that I had expected; the London Underground was superb and so easy-to-use, the pubs were picturesque and delightful, the people were friendly and the architecture was sublime. Everything you could hope for.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Basement Renovation: Part 2: A Modest Wine Cellar

Let me first come clean and explain that I am not really a wine enthusiast. I do drink and enjoy it at times; usually at a meal, when paired with the right food. When my wife and I travelled to Napa a couple of years ago, I loved the wineries. I loved sampling the wines—especially when they served them with some really tasty chocolates.

Nevertheless, when it comes right down to it, I am a Beer Guy. Not the vapid swill that passed for beer during most of the last 50 years, but better quality craft beer and exports.

Finding this door for $50 was one of the best
things about this project.
My wife likes wine, but generally she prefers very sweet wines—Muscato, Prosecco, ice wines or an occasional Reisling. For the most part, these are not the kind of wines that hang around very long—or that improve significantly with aging.

So, why a wine cellar, you may ask?

Well, for one thing, we have friends who like to drink wine, maybe before, during or after dinner. So it’s always a good idea to have some on hand.

In addition, I planned to store some craft beers in the cellar as well—in particular, those high-gravity stouts, porters, ales and barley wines that do age and mellow well.

A Bird’s Eye for Country House Design

While I imagine a number of people throughout the UK are familiar with the handsome work of artist Jonathan Myles-Lea, he is clearly not a household name here in the US. Best known for his house and landscape portraits, his work recalls past masters like John Constable and Johannes Kip. My personal favorites feature the traditional “bird’s eye views” of country houses—a style popular throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

A view of Burghley House - from the west. Image Rights: Jonathan Myles-Lea.
Though Myles-Lea had been well-established as a noted painter of landscapes and houses, the commission he received for the April 29, 2009 cover of Country Life, featuring a fantasy 10-acre estate, clearly solidified his reputation as a worldwide talent. The resulting Dream Acres project was a central part of the 10-week series appearing in the magazine—featuring the stylized aerial views for which he has become particularly celebrated.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

National Trust for Scotland Launches House Tour Program for Americans

Through its Grand Houses and Gardens Tour Program, set to run from September 15-23, 2017, Scotland’s National Trust has developed a deluxe travel package that will offer visitors a chance to explore a number of historic properties, including C.R. Mackintosh’s Hill House, Fyvie Castle, Falkland Palace & Garden, Craigievar Castle and many others.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's best known house - Hill House
The trip package is the first of its kind offered by National Trust for Scotland Foundation, USA (NTSUSA), which helps raise funds for the charity in the United States. Among the many trip highlights, art historian Dr. Evelyn Silber will lead a tour of Glasgow, taking in Charles Rennie Mackintosh's buildings, including the Glasgow School of Art as well as Hill House in Helensburgh, currently the subject of a fundraising appeal.

In the northeast, highlights will include Pitmidden Garden, the Robert Adam-designed Haddo House, pink-turreted Fyvie Castle, and Drum Castle, which now houses a contemporary art gallery.

Craigievar Castle was home to the Forbes
family for over 350 years.
"We are so pleased to offer an exceptional tour to Scotland designed with an American audience in mind, said Kirstin Bridier, executive director of NTSUSA. "This trip combines visits to iconic sites like Edinburgh Castle with behind-the-scenes access at National Trust for Scotland treasures including Haddo House and The Hill House. We can't wait to share the extraordinary beauty and history of Scotland with individuals from the US."

You can find out more HERE.