Travels: All Creatures Great and Small

Photo of Herriot MuseumHerriot Museum in North YorkshireIt was the best of all worlds for an animal lover and writer who is also a decorator!  
I was in North Yorkshire in northern England and found myself at Skeldale House, the home of Alfred Wight, known to those of us who loved his books, as James Herriot.  Now the Herriot Museum, it is where he lived for almost half a century and cared for sick animals.  But most important, it was where this veterinary surgeon became world famous for writing "If Only They Could Talk"and a host of other books that spawned the BBC TV series, "All Creatures Great and Small." Cover of All Creatures Great and Small
The best part, my tour was lead by his son Jim Wight, who took my small group through this wonderful visitor center dedicated to his father's memory.  It is a museum, an attraction and a historic site that gives you an amazing insight to this life of this modest man.  Most important, it was Jim's home and he shared such wonderful stories of growing up in this house.  Of the ups and downs of his father's life as a country vet.
With Jim Wright at the famous red doorWith Jim Wight in front of the famous red door.Our visit began at the famous red front door, which is still largely untouched right down to the old white painted box on the wall, where James would leave medicines for farmers to pick up out of surgery hours.  Much of the furniture in the house is original.  The dining room doubled  as the practice office and farmers would wait at the table to pay their bills.  One client was allowed to leave bags of coal as payment to settle his debt.
The dispensary is filled with untouched bottles and the old shelves are just as Alf would have left them in the 1940's.  My stroll through this home and its beautiful garden made me feel as though I knew this wonderful man.  And the opportunity to share its stories with his son, I will always treasure.  A priceless afternoon in the beautiful English countryside. 

Travels: If a man's home is his castle, this one is fit for a queen

It has been called the most beautiful castle in the world.  And I can't argue.

It is in a fairy tale setting in the beautiful countryside of Kent,  just a short hop from London by train.  But it could be a million miles away from the city!  As I walk down a winding road filled with ponds, peacocks and beautiful gardens leading to the entrance, I am so happy to experience this piece of English history.Photo of Leeds CastleLeeds Castle. 

Leeds Castle passed into royal hands in 1278 and became part of the Queen of England’s dower, the settlement widowed queens received upon the death Photo of a peacockOfficial peacock greeter.of their husbands. Over the course of 150 years it was held by six medieval queens: Eleanor of Castile; Margaret of France; Isabella of France, Joan of Navarre; Anne of Bohemia and Catherine de Valois. 

So, it really is fit for a queen!

And for at least one king:  Henry VIII was a frequent visitor with his Queen Catharine of Aragon.

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Travels: This Week I'm in a London state of mind

I am not sure exactly when I fell in love with London.  But many years ago it became my city.   Again and again I return.  And when I leave, I always wish for more time.

My favorite visit here was with my late father for his 70th birthday.  We covered every inch of London and a lot out of the city during our two-week visit and being able to show it all to him was a memory that I cherish.  Standing on the white cliffs at Dover that he had seen from a naval ship when he was only 18.  Taking trains from tube stations that he had been in during the Blitz.  Seeing Winston Churchill's burial site.  And touring Buckingham Palace and my father saying, “I can’t believe they let us in!”

Photo of Wrenda with phone booths

London  is a city that has my heart.

That is why having this entire week on my own, free to do anything I wish is such a gift.

Soon after arriving today I headed for the Thames Beachcombing Tour. London Walks bills it as 10,000 years of history beneath your feet.  For a history freak like myself, this is pure heaven.  A chance to peak into lives that were here so many years ago!!!  Sign me up.  So, I met up with Fiona, an inter-tidal archaeologist who is also a leading authority on the Thames shoreline.  It was worth braving today’s cold and rain take part in this fascinating tour with 10 other hearty participants.

The brochure says that you are guaranteed to find stuff, and find stuff we did.  Clay pipes, pieces of beautifully decorated bowls, Roman tiles that go back 1800 years, lots of metal remnants from a boatyard.  Just fascinating...

For the remainder of my first day in London, I did a quick run past Buckingham Palace.  The standard is flying, the queen is in. 

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Take Me to the Movies for Design Inspiration!

I love movies.

If I am having a stressful day, writer's block or decorating block, I sometimes will close up my officePhoto Courtesy of Universal Pictures. (advantage of being your own boss!) pick up my purse and head to a movie.  The total escape always reshapes my attitude.  Even when I worked in the corporate world, I would often give my staff a mental break in the middle of the afternoon and take them all to a movie.  Of course, I was their favorite boss!

A good friend from LA came for a visit a couple of weeks ago.  She was coincidently one of my "staff" who learned early in her career, the benefits of sneaking out to a movie midday.  Now she is all grown up and is a successful NBC Universal vice president and I am very proud of her accomplishments.  One of her responsibilities is dealing with product placement and sponsorship in the theme parks and movies.  It is a great job and being in LA, she is immersed in all things Hollywood.  So, our conversation always turns to movies.

This time to the talented Nancy Meyers, the wonderful writer/director who gave us It's Complicated (see kitchen above), Something's Gotta Give, Father of the Bride and more.  Her movies are an interior decorator's dream.  She creates rooms that we love.  They make us want to walk right in and sit down.  They are as beautiful as a

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