Thursday, October 18, 2012


With all eyes intently focused this fall on Season 3 of Downton Abbey in the UK, there's always interest in a day trip to one of the beautiful historical homes scattered around the countryside of England. Although our choice of days this fall ended up being a soggy, wet one, our trip to Chatsworth proved to be a delight nevertheless.

Chatsworth had been on my bucket list of "must-sees" and it certainly lived up to its title of one of England's top 10 Stately Homes. Chatsworth is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and has been home to his family since Bess of Hardwick settled there in 1549.

Hopefully, we can return on a sunnier day someday soon to spend more time in the gardens which cover 105 acres of parklands, woods and fountains. The Chatsworth Home itself is the hub of some 35,000 acres of agriculture and estate, including several local villages, driving home to me just how influential this family has been through the ages.

Entering through the main hallway, we began our tour of this beautiful home of 126 rooms-although only 30 are open to the public, since the current 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire currently make their home there.

The home contains one of Europe's most significant art collections.

Every room is an eye-opener, including this guest room set in Edwardian times,

with the mistress's clothing ready at her disposal.

We spent quite a bit of time in the Great Dining Room which was beautifully set for a formal occasion,

and where "Alfred" as I referred to him, explained at length the customs of the time.

One of the prominent former residences of this estate is Lady Georgianna, who was married to the 5th Duke of Devonshire. Perhaps you recall the recent book and movie, The Duchess, about her life, starring Keira Knightly. 
An interesting woman to say the least, she was quite popular in London society and the daughter of the first Earl of Spencer, and when her friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, became her husband's mistress, their friendship continued. Lady Foster even conceived 2 children by the duke, but Georgianna allowed her to live with them at Chatsworth in a strange ménage à trios, until her death at age 48, after which the 5th Duke married Lady Foster.

I was fascinated the day of our visit, that the current Duchess of Devonshire, Amanda Cavendish, showed up in the hallways snapping photos herself of the floral exhibition that was taking place there on the day we visited.

I overheard her tell "Alfred" that the dining room had never looked lovelier.

More about the floral exhibition in my next blog!

Since our stroll through the gardens was cut short by rain, we opted to go to the lovely gift shop where we found these cute chocolate wellies. We could definitely have used some rubbery wellies that day ourselves!

A perfect complement to the day was high tea that we enjoyed in the former stables of the estate.

Warm, cozy and dry, we enjoyed our time chatting together and celebrating a "Girls Day Out" in the countryside. 

There's more to share about our day, coming up soon!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pumpkin Hunt

Back in Houston again for the annual Pumpkin Hunt and Photo Shoot with the grand-kids. It's always more challenging to do it in 90 degree weather, but off we went for a bit of fun.

First changing Jackson into something photo-worthy,

then we were off as Jordan pointed us in the right direction.

Pre photo shoot,  a lot of pumpkin analysis,

hugging of trees,

and making new friends with the scarecrows.

Meanwhile, Jackson played a little hide and seek,

and spent a whole ton of energy moving pumpkins

and filling wagons to their brim.

Time for a photo shoot.

It's really tough work for a big sister, holding the perfect smile till a little brother looks into the camera with a charming smile of his own.

Sometimes a sister has to do a lot of bribing,


peek-a-boo playing,

stare downs,

and even some threatening to get a little brother to cooperate!

Uh, oh! I think she means business!

Now the kissin' starts,

Help me somebody!

She's torturing me!

Guess I better give them what they want! How's this for a smile?

And this one?

Finally, the stars align for a great shot,

and when they do,

there's some sweet music


Happy Pumpkin Hunting everyone!