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September 10, 2013

Off to England!

Jane AustenI’m headed to the UK to lead this year’s Historical Fashion Tour. My group will be in Bath for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival, then in Winchester and London. You can follow us over on my Facebook page, where I’ll be posting pictures and insights from the trip.

Come along with us for a virtual tour of England and all things Jane and historical fashion!

March 18, 2013

Closing out the 2013 Tour list!

BathCostumesWell, the little time I’ve had online has been spent working on this year’s tour instead of formatting pictures from last year’s! Time is flying by far too quickly. In less than seven months, we’ll be in Bath, Winchester, Chawton, and London, touring Jane Austen sites and viewing historical fashions up close.

The guest list filled up very quickly, but I’ve had a few drop-outs that have left a couple of open slots. However, I’ve got to give my final numbers to our hotels and museums so we can wrap up all our tickets and such as soon as possible. That means I’m going to close the group next Monday (March 25). If you would like to join us, please let me know!

This is going to be one fantastic tour, as we’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice and have the opportunity to attend a full costumed Regency ball in Bath (including supper, card tables, and all the trimmings!). We’ve got more Jane Austen stops on this trip than on any trip for the past four years, so if you’re an Austenite, this is the tour for you!

Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll be happy to help.

September 17, 2012

Charming Lacock Village

On our way to our hotel near Bath, we stopped for several hours to enjoy a leisurely afternoon in Lacock Village. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with a light breeze–perfect for tea and strolling around!

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A wonderful pause before our big Regency day in Bath!

September 10, 2012

We’re here!

20120910-171112.jpgIt was quite an adventure getting from Kenya to Manchester, including the last-minute surprise of a child’s expired passport, a long walk through Dubai Airport, and a running dash for the train to Manchester, but we did manage to get here at last. We met up as a group Sunday night for our first get-together and a marvelous evening of Show and Tell, starring Suzi’s gorgeous collection of historical bodices and corsets and some added attractions brought in by special guest Cathy Hay of YourWardrobeUnlockd.com.

My laptop decided to crash on me the day I left, so I’m blogging from my iPad, which is going to keep posts short and sweet this trip, I’m afraid! I can’t align photos as nicely as I can from the laptop, but I’ll try to do photo highlights from each day’s fun the day after. Here are shots from our gathering last night!

20120910-171824.jpgOne group member examines an 1870s bodice up close.

20120910-171802.jpgCathy Hay arrived in a reproduction Ginger Rogers ensemble–too adorable!

20120910-171929.jpgThis is a ca. 1900 skirt Cathy picked up for a song at a vintage clothing shop. Look at that gorgeous Chantilly lace! (sorry this one’s a bit blurry–I’ll see if I can find a clearer one later on….)

20120910-174653.jpgThis set of stays was made by Jean Hunnisett for Ann Margaret to wear in a film. The fabric is original and from the 1780s!

20120910-172009.jpgInside of the stays.

20120910-171952.jpgSuzi talks about the significance of each piece in her collection. Everything has a story!

20120910-171751.jpgAll ears…in spite of jet lag!


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Cathy even brought a part of her famous work-in-progress, the Peacock Dress!
 

Today we toured Quarry Bank Mill, which evokes images right out of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I’ll do my best to post on that tomorrow!

August 31, 2011

2012 Historical Costume Tour!

Beautiful Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire boasts an incredible collection of original Tudor/Elizabethan tapestries and embroideries. We’ll be visiting!

I’ve got all the details posted on the Tour Pages, so pop on over if you want to see what will be on tap in September 2012. I opened up the tour to my waiting list first, and all slots filled within two days. However, I do keep a “just in case” waiting list, as we have had drop-outs each year due to schedule conflicts or other difficulties. If you really want to go in 2012, please drop me a line at contact AT sensibility.com, and I will put you on the list. If slots open up, they will be offered to each person on the list in order until filled.

Looks like it is going to be one FUN trip! I’ll be posting details about our itinerary over the next few months, especially as I want to showcase wonderful Manchester and Derbyshire! We will have a short London extension at the end of this tour, but London will not be the focus, especially as the V&A’s costume collection is not available for private study until they finish moving it to its new storage facility. So we’re headed northward to enjoy new stops, and we’ll bookend with the opening of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath with its Costumed Promenade–always a blast!

March 3, 2011

Preparing for 2012 Tour!

There just wasn’t time to plan a 2011 tour, as our family moved overseas to Kenya in January and has been settling in since (very exciting!). But I’ve got 2012 in my sites and am planning for a very new and different tour to places not yet visited with a “bookend” in Bath for the Jane Austen Festival launch, which is always a hit.

If you are interested in joining us in September 2012, just drop me a line through my contact form, and I’ll put you on the info list. Those on the list get first dibs on tour spots before I post here or on my message forum. And if you have ideas of what you’d like to see in England, don’t hesitate to share by posting comments here!

September 24, 2010

Last Day in London…

This has been a week to be remembered! I am especially pleased that my mother got to come along on this year’s tour. She hadn’t been back to England since 1994, and we were able to visit dear friends on Tuesday. First we had a nice visit with my friend Sarah in Dulwich:

Sarah and I have corresponded for years and love to meet up whenever we can…

My girls loved playing with new friends as “Grammie” looked on…

We even cajoled Jenny into coming along for the visit. Here she entertains my littlest one…

After returning to our hotel, we met up Tuesday evening with my late father’s British co-author and his wife, whom I haven’t seen since I was 16 years old! It was a wonderful reunion. So our visit drew to a close at last. Wednesday morning I tied up loose ends by running a few errands nearby. This area of London feels like a second home to me now. The streets are so familiar, and it’s fun to know what is around each corner. It’s like visiting an old and well-loved neighborhood from childhood and finding it just as inviting as ever. I do love Kensington!

Six of us shared a taxi to Heathrow Wednesday morning (which is a real deal if you have a group of people traveling together–cheaper than using the express from Paddington). Because of Mom’s knee surgeries, she got the royal treatment from Heathrow staff, riding in her own “chariot” and enjoying the use of the comfortable Special Assistance Lounge while we waited for our gate to open:

Mom entertains the baby as we wait for our flight…

Heathrow’s refurbished Terminal 4 is like a palatial mall filled with shops, restaurants, and bookish corners. Our wait went by so swiftly, and we were boarding before we knew it. The flight back to the US was uneventful, and we’re glad to be back home and recovering from jet-lag. I came home to find six emails from people wanting to go on a future tour, and several of this year’s participants already say they’d like to go again. We’ll just have to wait and see how things work out! I’ll be sure to post here if we plan another jaunt across the Pond.

Thanks so much for following this year’s trip and leaving fun comments. It has been lovely to share this journey with you!

January 20, 2010

The 2010 Tour Is Now Filled…

…but if you would like to be placed on the waiting list in case of drop-outs, please let me know! We did have folks who had to drop out last year, which meant there were slots available later. I’ll be happy to keep you on the list if you’re interested. All the details of this year’s tour are at this link. Thanks!

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October 24, 2009

Bringing England Home…

102_1379Ever since I can remember, my parents served hot tea–not always a full afternoon tea, but definitely the steaming cupful with milk and sugar. Mom and Dad brought this tradition home with them from England on an early visit when I was little, and it stuck fast. Having grown up with “teatime,” I just naturally kept to it when I was married, and now I love to share it with my own children. Some days it’s just a hot cup during afternoon quiet time without ceremony. But, every now and again, we pull out all the stops and put on full afternoon tea. Today was such a day!

After our recent tour, sweet Amanda and Cari gave me a gift from Fortnum & Mason of loose-leaf tea, strawberry preserves, and tea biscuits. We broke these out today, enjoying the unmistakable fragrance that came when we opened the lid of the tea canister. Oh, this was going to be good! I pulled out our favorite “pink” china (a gift from my folks for my hope chest when I was 15), polished up the “Silver Beethoven” cultery, and laid out the tea tray with all we’d need.

Next, I tied on my favorite apron (a new find from the scrumptious Cath Kidston store in Bath!) and pulled out the ingredients for Suzi’s utterly delicious scones: self-rising flour, butter, sugar, salt, and buttermilk.

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Let me tell you, I’ve tasted scones from all over, and Suzi’s are the best I’ve ever eaten. They have a moist texture and a slightly sweet, almost creamy taste. I’ve never had better. But don’t take my word for it! Here is Suzi’s recipe:

My mother worked in a cafe in Stratford on Avon, and was given this recipe by a French lady who ran the place. It was called “The Cobweb Tea Rooms.”

  • 10 oz self-raising flour or 1 1/4 cups (You can use all-purpose flour with a raising agent – the best thing is to read the instructions on the packet for this, if you can’t get self raising flour.)
  • 1.5 oz sugar (3 tablespoons)
  • 1.5 oz. butter or margarine (I think about 3 tablespoons – equal weight to sugar.)
  • pinch salt (don’t leave this out – it really helps.)
  • about 1/2 cup sour milk or buttermilk, or milk curdled with lemon juice. Plain milk will also do.

Rub the flour, sugar, salt, and butter together until they look like breadcrumbs. Stir in the milk, very gradually, to make a firm, pliable dough. Don’t let it get too sticky. Roll out on a floured board to about 1/2″ thick. Cut in circles – I use a cutter about 2″ – 2.5″ across. Place on an ungreased baking sheet – you should get about 12 from this quantity.

Put in a hot oven, 200 degrees C (that’s about 400 degrees F), less for a fan oven, for about 10 minutes. I know this has to be different at altitude, but I don’t know by how much.

Serve with strawberry jam and thick heavy cream, or clotted cream if you can get it.

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Now, I completely forgot to bring home clotted cream from England, so we had to make do today with whipped cream. If you’d like to try clotted cream (which is like a thick, rich, sweet butter), you can get it Stateside from the English Tea Store, which offers lots of exclusively British teas and treats.

Here’s our spread with the scones hot from the oven!

Care to join us?

Care to join us?

Suzi's famous scones...

Suzi's famous scones...

We sliced our scones in half and dolloped whipped cream on top, followed by a generous teaspoon of Fortnum & Mason’s strawberry preserves:

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102_1383Absolutely delicious! We savored every bite and enjoyed the amazing tea fresh from the pot. My girls adore the ritual of a proper afternoon tea, complete with cloth napkins and beautiful silverware. I am thankful to my parents for always bringing home the best of foreign lands and for taking my siblings and me all over the world when we were growing up. It’s one thing to travel and just be a tourist; it’s another thing to study each culture you move through and come to appreciate and enjoy its own unique traditions and pastimes. Going through England and Germany as a teenager and staying for a goodish stretch in South Africa was a great gift. So was driving all over the United States and Canada and visiting in different homes. Each family has a culture, too, and it is so good to learn what is important to others and what they treasure. I feel my life is infinitely richer for the gift of “studious travel” given to me by my parents. They whetted my appetite for more. My husband and I desire to give our children this same gift as the years go by. On my next trip across the pond, I’ll be taking my daughters. I can hardly wait to share my love of England with them first-hand!

But you don’t have to hop in a plane or board a ship to dip into foreign places and learn from them. There are books galore that will take you on journeys, show you exotic ports, and even let you step into another household and see how life is lived there. Over the years, I’ve picked up books at used book stores, flea markets, and all kinds of yard sales, including lots of “coffee table” eye candy. These books have influenced my decorating style, my color choices, and even my taste in literature and food. Here’s a stack of some of my favorite (well-worn!) books on English living:

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102_1385I never tire of dipping into these and enjoying a glimpse into someone else’s well-loved home. If there’s anything that describes the English house, it’s certainly “cozy.” Little nooks for reading, warm kitchens, wide hearths, groaning bookshelves–these are England to me. Pots spilling over with flowers in abundance, gardens crammed with color, roses climbing old stone walls–these, too, are England. And how much richer our lives have been from bringing these things home, whether from a trip or from the pages of a book! This last journey over with our lovely tour group was an opportunity to share the things we love with others, and we are so glad we had the opportunity to do it. It’s a pleasure we hope to repeat with our children and with friends many times in the coming years. Perhaps you’ll come along next time and drink it all in? I’d love to have you! Thank you for sharing “my” England with me through this blog and indulging my lifelong delight in all things English. Until next time….

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October 16, 2009

Trivia Contest Giveaway!

Okay! Now it’s time to sharpen your wits and see how closely you’ve been paying attention! I’ve got four little giveaway packages from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. Each package contains a commemorative keyring and a keepsake card celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s move to Chawton Cottage (card is blank inside and includes an envelope):

I have two of the cards on the left and two of the ones on the right, plus four keyrings. First four people to send in correct answers win a card and a keyring!

I have two of the cards on the left and two of the ones on the right, plus four keyrings. First four people to send in correct answers win a card and a keyring!

So, without further ado, here are the questions:

1. What was the first official event of the 2009 London Historical Costume Tour?

2. Which two ladies got to serve as models at Shakespeare’s Globe for “Ophelia’s” costume?

3. Which famous 19th-century church did my family attend the first Sunday?

4.  What was our first stop on Monday the 14th?

5. Which play did we see at Shakespeare’s Globe Monday night?

6. Who got to model Cathy Hay’s fabulous oak leaf gown?

7. What was the name of the special 1950s exhibit at Kensington Palace?

8. Who was our guest speaker at the Fan Museum’s Orangerie on Wednesday?

9. Name the two places we stopped to tour on our way to Bath.

10. What was the name of the group that performed Sunday night in Bath?

11. Name one BBC miniseries that used Lacock Village as a location.

12. Name two of the inns/pubs in Lacock Village.

Okay, that’s it! The first four people to send in correct answers will win! (Please don’t post your answers in the comments — be sure to use the feedback form.) I’ll announce them here on the blog as soon as I have them. :)

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