It’s nothing new, marking the turning of seasons by the waxing and waning appearance of the sun. Certainly the most striking is during the morning of the winter solstice, when once-lengthening nights roll over into ever-lengthening days and the promise of warmth, new crops, and renewed life. So of course ancient people celebrated the midwinter return of the sun.
And where better to experience it than through the carefully-aligned great trilithon, the largest of the standing stones of Stonehenge? It and the others were lined up thousands of years ago to pinpoint the specific morning that for eons has heralded the return of Grian – which Celtic people called the sun.
Savory pies are the soul food of northern England. The go-to salve that sells out early the morning after a lost football match, or when BBC coverage of politics gets too much to bear. When a local lass needs a little comfort or cheer.
And – apologies to every opinionated foodie out there – the very best are hand-crafted at The Real Thai Pie Company, offered for sale at tiny Haworth’s Bakery. It’s just a short hike uphill from town center in Darwen, nestled in the West Pennine Moors of Lancashire. Right across from the Vic, if you get lost or need directions (ask anyone).
On his travels in Thailand some twenty years ago Doug, the laid-back but passionate baker, came up with a unique, award-winning creation – chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots, and piquant pinch of fiery spices in just enough creamy gravy to keep it just right for eating out of hand. In a word, addictive.
This is just a photo. Can’t capture the friendly Lancashire gemutlichite found at this fragrant little shop, much less the steamy wares of the Real Thai Pie Company. Get there early.
“Quell’orror bello che attristando piace” – that beautiful horror which delights while it saddens (Italian poet Ippolito Pindemonte)
Stumpery. First time I heard the word was one of those finger-snap moments, a cerebral light bulb thing.
I mean, who’da thought it was a thing? I mean, we’ve been doing it all along, right?
But here I am, nearly thirty years later, actually standing in the oldest stumpery in the world, and thinking about how to enlarge my own backyard collection of tree trunks, stumps, and gnarly limbs (and how my kids will have a hell of a time dismantling or burning it all down when I’m gone). Continue reading “Stumperies – Beautiful Horrors”
I never take for granted the privilege afforded me by the Royal Horticulture Society to attend its world-famous flower shows, especially on Press Day when a few selected journalists are allowed to mingle with and interview designers, horticulturists, craftspeople, and vendors. Over the years I have visited behind the scenes numerous shows including Chelsea, Hampton Court, Tatton Court, Harlow Carr, Sissinghurst, Wisley, and others; in their unique ways, all are just…WOW.
This summer kicked off with a new one for me, held for the second year at Chatsworth, a magnificent house and gardens nestled high in the Peak District of Derbyshire, central England. Though last year’s Press Day was closed early due to horrendous downpours – what the British correctly call “chucking it down” – this year the weather was perfect. Continue reading “Peek at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show ’18”
Ever see an old guy jump with joy and click his heels in the air?
Exactly what I did when I first walked into the HUUUUUGE tent – over ten times bigger than my entire home property – that housed the astounding floral exhibits for the 2018 Royal Horticulture Society’s flower show held on the grounds of the majestic Chatsworth estate in the Peak District of north central England.
First thing I and all the other visitors saw was a pair of bottle trees adorning a major display, right under the big marquee. Not by a long shot the first of the many popular glass garden sculptures found at every RHS flower show, but the first authentic, home-made bottle trees. Ever. Continue reading “Bottle Trees on the Big Stage”
NOBODY really knows who he is. Or much of anything about him, other than the whispered rumors that the Dos Equis guy – who is said to be the “most interesting man in the world” – wants him dead. Don’t know why he wears such an impeccably-tailored glow-in-the-dark suit and fedora. And even less is known about the even more enigmatic Senorita Misterioso – his sister perhaps?
I first found him alone on the second shelf of a dusty VooDoo shop hidden on a side street of New Orleans (true story). For years he stood on the dash above the steering wheel of my antique truck; one stormy night his glow-in-the-dark ability helped comfort and guide me and Dr. Dirt through a Texas deluge so heavy we couldn’t see the edge of the pavement.
When the old truck was temporarily stolen, he disappeared for awhile, along with our dashboard hula girl (a ceramic beauty I rescued from an antique shop in Hawai’i). They have made it back, and while she gyrates around America in the truck, he travels the world with me, occasionally coming out from his special pouch of my canvas murse.
With clasped hands and half-hidden smile, his stoic, contemplative, non-judgmental demeanor is immutable.
Oh – and have I mentioned that he glows eerily in the dark?
Other than claiming somewhat cheekily that “I’ve got Señor Misterioso in my pocket – at least for now” there’s really nothing more to say. Either you get it, or you don’t.
Scroll over these images to see where the iconic man has been sighted.
Visits remote towers in the moors of England
Still Dapper in the Jungle
Real Ale Pub
Communing with Gnome
Señor Misterioso Examining the Pomelos
Glows Eerily in the Dark
Quietly Hiding in Snow
Soaking in a beer reputed to be one of the world’s best in the Czech Republic
Admiring a local Czech ale in Prague
Really getting into a local Czech ale in Prague
ADDENDUM: Turns out, as I discovered after an alert follower shared a possible connection, that Señor Misterioso is actually based on a revered Venezuelan physician and popular folk figure, Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, who died in 1919 and has been venerated by the Catholic church (and considered a candidate for sainthood. Striking resemblance, and there are many small statues of Dr. Hernández – including this small one – which pretty much nails him as the original inspiration for Señor Misterioso…
For the past thirty years – since my now-grown son was still in a child restraint seat – my old antique pickup truck has had a diminutive but productive potager garden overstuffed with flowers, herbs, and vegetables. That’s right, the working truck has a working garden in the back!
I started it out from frustration with one too many people whining about not having a place to garden. Thinking “What’d be the hardest place, the acid test, to give it a go?” I decided to try it in the back of my pickup truck.
When fellow board members of the American Horticulture Society approved a venture in which American students would share school gardening projects with those from other countries, I packed my man-purse with seeds, grabbed my worn-out passport, and headed to the airport. First stop: Ghana, West Africa.
Long Story Short: The project involved growing vegetables in portable, water-saving EARTHBOX® which had been donated for the project. Participants shared experiences and results online.
Not saying anything about anything anyone believes or not…
…but WAY before church leaders – both ancient and modern – deliberately started putting their own holy days onto the existing festivals of others (look up syncretism), people noticed and rejoiced on the day the sunshine started coming back…
Regardless of your own beliefs, it’s a good day to celebrate – hope the new sunrise brings you good cheer and comfort through the next year!
It’s Grinch Time, but I’m not going there – not after all the cheer I found in the German Christmas Market in Manchester, northern England.
This is my sixth or maybe eighth year to celebrate the open-air bazaar, and to suffer the cheesy singing moose that lords over its two-story pop-up beer hall. For two weeks hundreds of vendors in rustic Bavarian-style wooden stalls offer nearly everything imaginable, from local specialty foods and drinks to ornaments, flower bulbs, glass- and wood-ware, and hand-carved nutcrackers.
Christkindlesmarkets, first recorded in Vienna in 1298 (yeah, that’s over 600 years ago), and soon afterwards in Munich by 1310, are hot holiday destinations for locals and international tourists alike. The outdoor markets include a Nativity scene, holiday decorations, traditional Christmas treats, and live music, but I mostly frequent the hand-crafted cheeses, sausages, fudge and other sweets, hand-size meat-and-potato pies – all winter mainstays – and wade through the alluringly fragrant steam wafting from huge cauldrons of savory stews.