Friday, October 27, 2017

Celebrating Autumn Beauty




Oh, how my heart thrills to the sight of heirloom pumpkins stacked into glorious towers of color! I snapped this photo at Leaf & Petal at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens earlier this month. Nestled among flowers and topiaries, these vibrant gourds greet guests outside the gate. Even before I stepped into the gardens, I had already decided that this lovely vignette was worth the trip.


This weekend also holds the promise of memory making, as I will be speaking for a ladies day tomorrow at the Hoover Church of Christ. If you live in the Birmingham area, please join us for a special morning. Registration begins at 8:30, and the event concludes with lunch. Hope to see you there!


"October is a hallelujah! reverberating in my body year-round ... ." ~ John Nichols

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Impressions of Fall



The softened light, the veiling haze,
The calm repose of autumn days,
Steal gently o'er the troubled breast,
Soothing life's weary cares to rest.
~ Phebe A. Holder

Monday, October 16, 2017

Roses in October




"And then the rose-border. What intensity in those odorous buds of the Bon Silene, making the very spirit bound as though a message had reached it from heaven." ~ Sarah Smiley


Since we moved to Birmingham, I have had grand intentions of visiting the city's botanical gardens at least once every few months to view each season's blossoms. I haven't done so well at visiting regularly, but Antiques at the Gardens offered a perfect opportunity for joining a friend for an afternoon of loveliness. After we perused the antiques show, we paused for lunch on the terrace of the onsite cafe then spent a couple of hours strolling the grounds. A highlight of the trip was discovering that the rose gardens are still in full bloom. In this flower-filled post, view some of the amazing buds that piqued our attention. And if you get the opportunity, invite one of your amazing buds to take a peek at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens!





















































Look for more garden beauty to come in upcoming posts!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Teapots Steeped with Memories



“Tea is quiet,” explains author and tea authority James Norwood Pratt, “and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.” Many of my loveliest moments have unfolded over teatime — beginning my day in the hush of early morning with a steaming brew, welcoming friends to my table for an afternoon of conversation and dainty treats, or traveling to an exotic destination for the weekend and taking tea in the elegant environs of a historic venue. Whether a few minutes of solitude or leisurely hours shared in the company of loved ones, teatime, for me, is always an occasion to be sipped and savored.

In my home, accoutrements related to serving tea have been elevated to prized objet d’art. Many of these treasures were purchased during visits to tearooms, and their presence evokes fond memories. A porcelain teacup and saucer, tucked among cookbooks in the kitchen, bring back memories of the sweet friend who first invited me to tea then gifted me afterward with this rose-covered memento. A towering trio of white cake plates highlights a buffet in our living room — their shapely pedestals and gently scalloped edges an artful complement to the serene d├ęcor. And gleaming atop a tufted ottoman in the sitting room, a silver tray showcases a selection of my favorite teapots.

These teapots, in particular, hold a special place in my heart. When my husband was in law school and we lived frugally on my starter salary at a publishing house, going to tea felt like an ultimate luxury. Joe does not share my affinity for much of the traditional tea menu, but he loved watching my eyes light up at the sight of such exquisite offerings. During those years, we celebrated my December birthday with an annual visit to an area tearoom, and after our meal, I would wait eagerly in the car while he purchased my Christmas present from items I had pointed out in the gift shop. Decades later, I appreciate not only the prettiness of these keepsakes, but also the sacrifice of love that each one represents.

Today, these teapots add a grace note to my interiors. Sometimes they catch my eye on a busy day — stirring sentimental thoughts of the past. Other days they encourage me to slow down, brew a fresh pot of a seasonal blend, and fill our prettiest china cups for an impromptu teatime. For parties, they often crown the table, brimming with fragrant blossoms. Always, always, they give me glimpses of beauty and remind me how truly blessed I am.

What objects in your decor hold great sentimental value?


Photo by Nathan Prichard. Used with permission.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Celebrating Autumn Pumpkins


"October, ruddy-cheeked, comes o'er the plains,
And as with rustling step it speeds along,
Its feet beat music to the harvest song ... ."
~Albert Laighton


During autumn, my heart quickens with the thought of gathering a cornucopia of pumpkins, gourds and fall flowers. Last year I did not find the array of seasonal colors that I love, so I asked our Victoria stylist if she could recommend a local farmers' market or shop worth exploring. She led me to Andy's Garden Center, with several locations in Birmingham. I began counting down the days to a weekend visit to the company's Hoover nursery. Take a peek at the fall finery just waiting to add harvest beauty to your home!










































"October, I lo'e thee! Thy whisper is soothing;
There is Lore in thy face, there is wealth in thy bowers:
Thy pensiveness adds but a charm to my musing
And sweet are my dreams through thy fast ebbing hours!
~ James Rigg

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Taste of Chicago: The Signature Room at the 95th




"When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses." ~ Joyce Brothers


While we enjoyed many of Chicago's delights in smaller groups -- a Cubs game for the boys, teatime and shopping for the girls, mother and sons watching Hamilton, and Daddy and daughters visiting the Navy Pier -- the culmination of our trip as a party of six was dining together at The Signature Room at the 95th.





Elevators whisk patrons to the top of the John Hancock Center, where extraordinary views await.





Joe timed our reservation to allow us to watch the sun set over Chicago. Through the dining room windows, we saw the city in all its glory.





The cityscape hugs the shoreline of Lake Michigan.





Extending 3,300 feet into the lake, the iconic Navy Pier has been a Chicago landmark for more than a century.





The Signature Room has been a favorite among tourists and locals alike for decades. To complement the elegant setting and breathtaking views, the restaurant offers a delicious menu of upscale American fare.





I had a seat of honor next to Carson. Having dinner at such a stunning locale in this fabulous city is an experience that I will never forget. And one of the most memorable moments was arranged by Joe ahead of time. When he booked our reservation, he was able to share the details of our celebration, plus order a custom surprise. As we were seated, the host offered hearty congratulations to our graduate.





After our meal, Carson was so surprised when the waiter delivered this luscious dessert to our table. It was literally the icing on the cake for a picture-perfect culmination of our weekend in Chicago. As we sipped coffee and sampled slices of moist chocolate cake -- covered in clouds of creamy mousse and topped with ganache, chocolate curls, and fresh berries -- the city lights sparkled.





Our evening at The Signature Room was a feast of beauty ...





for the eyes,
the palate,
and the heart.



"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life -- to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories." ~ George Eliot

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Taste of Chicago: Afternoon Tea at The Palm Court



"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves -- slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future." ~ Thich Nat Hahn


When we travel, finding a venue for teatime is one of my top priorities. During our family's recent trip to Chicago, while the boys took in a Cubs game, the girls and I ventured to Michigan Avenue for a relaxing afternoon that included a visit to the Drake Hotel.





Served in the Palm Court, afternoon tea has been a daily pleasure at The Drake for nearly a century.





Among notable guests, The Queen and Princess Diana have enjoyed tea in this gracious environment.





Our three-tiered server included simple fare, including a selection of savory morsels. Take a peek at the menu here.





To crown the bounty of sweets above, the girls and I were surprised with a final treat.





When the harpist began playing "Happy Birthday," imagine our surprise when our waiter crossed the lobby, chocolate cake in hand, and delivered this candlelit creation to our table. Seeing our confused faces -- we do have winter birthday, after all -- he began to laugh and said, "Just go with it," as the other guests began to applaud. So we enjoyed a delicious dessert, with plenty of giggles at finally getting to see what it feels like to have a summer birthday.  





Our Palm Court teatime turned out to be a memorable experience that offered the perfect beginning to an afternoon exploring the Magnificent Mile! We concluded that day with dinner and a view, so stop by Wednesday to learn more about that special family event.


Congratulations to Nancy Itson, who won a copy of Teatime Parties, the latest release from the editors of TeaTime magazine.

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