Fortnum & Mason, London

William Fortnum was a footman, Hugh Mason was his landlord. In 1707 the two collaborated to set up shop together and the rest is history. Quintessentially English, Quintessentially British, Fortnum & Mason is exquisite both inside and out.

With it's many foods, fruits, spices, and teas, Fortnum's is most famously a proper food hall. The store started due to William Fortnum's hobbying interest in being a grocer. Later, his grandson Charles would introduce more specialty items and luxury ready-made foods. Fortnum's is after all the inventor of the Scotch egg, a savory egg dish dating back almost 300 years! Obviously Fortnum's is where one might go to get their Christmas pudding.  And it's all about quality here, folks. Food lovers rejoice.

Six flights high, each floor seems to have its own personality to add to the story:

Basement - wine, cheese, chocolate, and charcuterie
Ground floor - tea, coffee, and confectionery
First floor - home goods, hampers*, china, glassware, ice in the Parlor, and the Candle room**
Second floor - dedicated to the ladies with jewelry, handbags, perfumes, hat making, and pampering rooms
Third floor - personal items and personalized items, including leather goods and accessories for the gents
Fourth floor - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Tea salon

Not bad for a grocery market turned department store.

Though was Fortnum a mere footman, he held this position in the royal house of Queen Anne, no less. Shortly thereafter Fortnum's grandson, Charles, also served Royalty, Queen Charlotte. Needless to say, Fortnum's is entrenched in British Royal history. A royal family favorite.

Not only are the products themselves fancy smancy, but the store itself is a site to see. Decorated in marble and crystal and all things lovely, it's easy to feel a look-but-don't-touch mentality. Even from the outside just the window dressings themselves can gawk attention.

So, while in London, touring the sights, popping in and out of pubs, don't forget to soak it all in with a stop by this oldie but goodie. Located a stone's throw away from its humble beginnings in St. James's Market, the flagship store on Picadilly Street is a must see.

* Mind you, when we say hampers here, it means a picnic basket, not a basket where one might toss dirty garments.

** The Candle Room is iconic considering capital for the enterprise came when Fortnum the footman was selling the Royal family's discarded candles for re-use. Talk about any early renewables initiative! One we are all quite thankful for.

Dinner at Wiltons in London

Do you ever rustle your hands into your pockets and happen to come across something you didn't know was in there? It's one of my favorite things.

Well the other day my husband went to put on his winter Barbour and felt something in his pocket. Instinctively he pulled it out and we both took a look. We looked up at one another and just smiled. It was an old receipt from Wiltons in London. A momentary reminiscence.

Dinner at Wiltons is not something someone would quickly forget. The Oysters were so fresh that you could taste the Ocean. They were the perfect accompaniment to our bubbly champagne. Then there was the Crab appetizer and Lobster Bisque, followed by my delicious Sea Bass and my husband's classic Roasted Pheasant. We finished with some Port, Chocolate Molten Cake, and a Fruit tart. Yum, yum, and yum! Worth every pound...

55 Jermyn Street
just down the street from the Ritz

Shiner Birthday Beer

To celebrate its 106th birthday, Shiner has come out with a remarkable treat. They call it a chocolate stout, but really they should call it liquid birthday cake, because that's how it tastes. And smells. It's truly unbelievable. 

** Available only for a limited time **

Where to eat Indian Food in London

Located down a quiet, enduring side street off the busily buzzing corner of Picadilly and Regent Street, the restaurant seems to have been swallowed up by time (how fitting, considering the entrance is on Swallow Street). It's Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. So, don't expect door to door taxi service. To get inside, one must approach via a pedestrian only alley. Talk about old school. It's cool.

Veeraswamy was opened in 1926 by Edward Palmer, the great-grandson of an English soldier and an Indian princess, and is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the United Kingdom.

The menu changes with seasonality, which is obvious from the the freshness of the dishes. That said, there is still an abundance of offerings, ranging from your usual Indian offerings to specialties of the house. But in short, the food is just delicious. Highly recommended.

99 Regent Street
Picadilly Circus, London

Christmas at the Ritz

Above photograph courtesy of The Ritz London

A few years ago we delighted in celebrating Christmas at The Ritz. It was everything and anything it was supposed to be. We were greeted by the bellhops that somehow already knew us by name and continued to remind us of such for our entire stay. Service with a smile. Talk about feeling at home.

Inside, the tree surely was a sight to see, and became better and better as we ascended to our room, lights flowing down the middle of the staircase providing a transparent curtain of intrigue.

Above photograph courtesy of The Ritz London

Spending the holidays in London is a treasure in itself, but staying at The Ritz put the cherry on top. Each night I would marvel as we strolled our way back across town to the hotel. One night I even had the cab drop us off a few blocks away so we could merry in the wonder of the site of it all.

Buckeyes, a nut and a cookie

It may be 'tis the season, or it may be pure nostalgia, but I love making Christmas cookies.

I distinctly remember one specific year growing up when my mother and I spent the day baking Christmas cookies. It was extra special because my mom allowed me to play hooky from school that day so we could bake the Christmas cookies together. I was the third child so it was a rare opportunity to be able to have time with my mom all to myself. It's a day and a memory I will always treasure.

But back to the cookies, especially a favorite to us Michiganders and Midwesterners alike - the Buckeye! Not the nut, but the cookie. Super simple, super easy, and super delicious.

Yields about 2 dozen, depending upon size.


1 cup of peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened

1 12-oz package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons butter

Breed & Company

Tis the season of gift giving and from homeware to hardware, Breed and Company has options to meet every shopper's needs.

Let's start with some great handbag and travelware brands like Jon Hart and Spartina.

And don't even get me started on the kitchen... there's the Kitchen Aid mixer and all things Cuisinart, Le Creuset for your dutch oven needs, my recently acquired best friend, Nespresso, and my even more recent best friend Breville for their fabulous tea maker.

Breed is also popular for wedding registries because of their great China collections with brands such as Lenox, Herend, and Waterford. And don't forget your Lismore crystal.

And a personal favorite of mine - collections of classic Blue and White or Woodland Spode.

But don't worry boys, there's stuff for you too...

Garden & Gun Hard Copies

What's better than Garden & Gun magazine? Compilations by Garden & Guns editors, but of course. And conveniently enough, these seem to be released just in time for the holidays...

Last year for Christmas I received The Southerner's Handbook:

This year for Christmas I asked Santa to put Good Dog in my stocking.

I mean, come on, how good do these look on the bookshelf...

Rosemary Trees

When items are multi-functional, I'm a big fan. So of course, come this time of year when I am decorating for the holidays, I like to go straight for the Rosemary trees. 

They are perfect for the season, but then become quite useful in the kitchen shortly thereafter (or even in between!).

Wedding Registry: DOs & DON'Ts

Congratulations, you're engaged! It's such a fun and exciting time, but it can also be a bit overwhelming with so much to do in so little time.

Indulge in all of the cake tastings, have the caterer create mini samples for selection, and don't forget to register for your favorite things. After all, it only happens once in a lifetime.

When registering, it's always nice to have help with where to start. Check out Williams-Sonoma's registry guidelines for tips on creating the perfect registry.

Below are my own lived-and-learned registry DOs and DON'Ts:

DO - Have plenty of options

Some people like to buy that one original gift "so they always think of me when they use it" whereas others want to buy whats practical, like your everyday glassware. Different items and different price ranges will be pleasers.

DON'T - Be too practical

Quit saying to yourself, "Oh, I don't want someone to have to buy that for me." It's their decision to buy it for you, so have fun! Now's the time. It's a rare occasion that you get to shop with other people's money.

DO - Keep it in the family

I'm a big fan of passing things from generation to generation, whether it be traditions, everyday practices, or material things. So if grandma has a set of China, or Aunt Judy has a set of silver, and long lost 2nd cousin half removed so-and-so has a set of crystal to pass along to you, take it! And then build off of it.

DON'T - Over register

Granted, all of this being said, don't have so many outrageous options that you end up receiving impractical items that you will never even take out of the box (our juicer falls into this category).

DO - Copy cat

It's totally acceptable to look at registries of other friends and family and take note of their ideas. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

DON'T - Forget your own style