Selecting Dinnerware-Ann Marie Helps you Choose!


At Ann Marie’s we understand that purchasing a dinnerware set can often be an overwhelming process.  There are so many different options available that it is hard to know where to begin and how to decide.     Our sales staff  like to get to know our customers preferences:   what are your colors, what is your design style and lifestyle?

Then of course, where you are in your life makes a big difference.  A young couple just beginning choose something together that they want to share.   The current trend seems to start with something simple like a white or cream dinnerware that can eventually be mixed and matched with pieces that a couple may collect during their lifetime.   Then there are the empty nesters who have been waiting for the kids to “fly away”  before they invest in something a bit better, maybe with more pattern or more style.  But everyone is different and it is fun to discover what it is that you like.

And what about purchasing holiday dinnerware?   The idea of an additional seasonal dinnerware set is overwhelming, and well, a bit extravagant.   For those of you who are more minimal and practical,  we recommend to bring in particular pieces to complement what you have.   Holiday dessert plates and mugs that fit with your current dinnerware is a simple yet fun option.  For me, I cherish my set of holiday dinnerware and can’t wait to bring out the set in the month of December, using it for entertaining through the New Year.

We are thrilled to help people to discover and create their own tableware collections.  Whether is is one pattern or mixing several patterns and textures we find it is satisfying to help our customers put it all together.   Or to simply offer then the chance to compare the abundance of different tableware to choose from.   This season we have put together a collection of holiday table settings to entice you.

Here are some terms to understand your dinnerware or dinnerware you are thinking of purchasing.

Earthenware Slip Pottery is a liquid pottery that is poured into a mold.  Like pottery made from solid clay it’s surface and texture is not as hard and durable as a China or Porcelain.  The nature of Earthenware is that is is a more casual style and fits many lifestyles these days.  Emma Bridgewater Pottery and Burleigh Pottery to name a couple of our favorites are Earthenware Slip pottery and meant for everyday use.

Earthenware Thrown Pottery is not usually manufactured in any volume.   The clay is formed usually on a wheel by an artist or hand shaped by an artist before it is fired and glazed.     Our Nicholas Mosse Pottery and R Wood Ceramics are two manufacturers of clay pottery.  The pottery is lower fired and the surface not as hard as a high fired porcelain.  But the beauty and the amount of hand work that goes into clay pottery is extraordinary and well worth the price.  Many people collect it for it’s more artistic and handmade nature and it’s amazing colors.

Stoneware is also made from clay but not as porous as pottery and is also more durable.   The Polish pottery that we have at our Garden Shop is stoneware.  It is incredibly durable and because it has been fired in the kiln at a high temperature almost all pieces can go from freezer to oven to table.

Porcelain is informally referred to as china or fine china.  It is a very high fired material so its surface is very hard.   It is translucent in nature and very light and delicate in it’s weight.  It is very strong and more chip resistant than pottery.   The porcelain tends to be used in more formal settings and tends not to be used for everyday.   Our Belleek Fine Parian China is a form of Porcelain and called bone china.

Happy table styling ( if you need help just give us a ring.) 800 706 9993

~Ann Marie

Stay tuned for ideas on natural decorations for you holiday table.  This year it’s all about the fruits, nature and the forest.


Lovely colorful fruit and nature decorations make a lovely table center.








About Collecting & Ann Marie’s Emma Bridgewater Cupboards

Some people start collecting because they like accumulating beautiful things and they feel a sense of fulfillment by being surrounded by them.   Others treat collecting like a treasure hunt, achieving fulfillment when they acquire an object that is especially hard to find. Whether this is true or not, is something that only the collectors can answer this question:   “why do people collect stuff?”

I  started collecting Emma Bridgewater the minute I opened my store and  started selling the Copperplate Design made by Emma Bridgewater for the US.

Here are some of my cupboard photos, embarrassingly not the entire collection.

This week be sure to pick up some treasures at our 20% pre-holiday Emma Bridgewater sale starting on Wednesday, both current and collectable pieces.


Cheers and Happy Collecting.

Ann Marie.



Britts Amazing Journey to Simon Pearce Glass Works.


In September, Ann Marie’s Garden Shop manager Britt had the opportunity to visit Simon Pearce Glass in Quechee, VT. While there, she and her husband Bill were treated to a VIP tour of their hand-blown glass and pottery production facilities.



Simon Pearce Glass originated in 1971 in Kilkenny, Ireland. Simon (a real person!) learned his trade by studying at the Royal College of Art in London, and by working in many famous glass blowing houses throughout Europe.

In 1981, Simon, seeking to find a less expensive energy source for his glass blowing operation, found a 19th century water-powered woolen mill along the Ottauquechee River in Quechee, VT. Seeing the incredible potential for inexpensive, sustainable power, he purchased the old mill, and began the process of converting it to produce hydroelectric power. As you might imagine, producing glass requires a tremendous amount of electricity. The Simon Pearce power house produces enough electrical energy to power the entire building, and often times they are able to sell excess power back to the utility company



When they first moved to the United States, Simon and his family lived in the upper floor of the mill, while the lower floors contained the glass furnace and production areas for his amazing hand-blown creations. Along the way, a wonderful cafe was added to the mill. Today, the cafe continues to turn out some incredible food, showcased of course by Simon Pearce glassware!


While they still produce many of their stemware pieces at the original Quechee mill, today much of the Simon Pearce production takes place a few miles away at a beautiful facility in Windsor, VT. The facility was designed to fit perfectly into the idyllic surroundings of the Vermont countryside, and it was very evident that this is a special place to work.


This glass house employs some amazing craftsman who produce each piece one at a time from molten glass. The skill, care, and pride that goes into each piece is so very evident. Each piece is truly a work of art! An adjacent building houses the corporate offices and the pottery production area.





Both the glass blowing and pottery facilities are open to the public for scheduled tours. Britt and Bill however were actually allowed onto the shop floor to meet some of the craftsman and learn a little more about their craft. It was simply amazing to see how they transform a glob of molten glass (the heat from the furnaces was incredible) into beautiful art.


For many of their pieces, the artisans would work in teams to form and shape the glass with a variety of custom tools produced in-house at Simon Pearce.


After each piece is finished and allowed to cool, it goes through a careful inspection to make sure it conforms to the standards established by the designer. Polishing, cleaning, and VERY careful packaging complete the process.


We have long-enjoyed the beauty and the feel of Simon Pearce glass creations. Having seen all that goes into producing these pieces and meeting the people that take such pride in their craft, we can truly say that a Simon Pearce product is more than just a glass-it’s a work of art!



About the author: Britt Kent is the manager of Ann Marie’s Garden Shop in downtown Minocqua, Wisconsin. She and her husband Bill enjoy traveling throughout the world seeking out new food, cultures, and experiences. When not in the Garden Shop or off seeing new places, you can find her in her kitchen baking or in the woods behind her home in Minocqua walking her Cocker Spaniel Garmin.


Fill Your Cookie Jar with these Delicious Cookies.





A precious condiment to both professional and home chef’s alike, Fennel pollen is prized for its flavor and health benefits. Enjoy in salads, over roasted meats and vegetables, atop pureed vegetable and bean soups.  Italy.

Here is a great recipe that Britt, our in house Ann Marie Gourmet expert has made for us. The best cookie I have ever had ~Ann Marie:

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Fennel Pollen and Vanilla Sea Salt

1.5 cups sifted all –purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

.5 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon fennel pollen  (available at

1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 cup granulated sugar

.5 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups uncooked oats (not instant)

12 oz bag of dark chocolate chips

Vanilla sea salt*


  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Cover cookie sheets with parchment, wax paper or leave them ungreased
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and fennel pollen and set aside
  4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy
  5. Beat in the eggs and vanilla into the butter mixture, just until incorporated
  6. Stirring slowly, work in the flour mixture completely, then the oats and chocolate chips- the batter will be fairly stiff
  7. Drop the batter onto the cookie sheets by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart and sprinkle each cookie with the vanilla sea salt.
  8. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown
  9. Enjoy!


*Vanilla Sea Salt

1 box Maldon Sea salt  (available at

2 Madagascar vanilla beans, split (available at

Put the sea salt and split vanilla beans in a lidded jar and shake it every couple days, letting the vanilla penetrate and perfume the salt for a week or so. Use as a finishing salt in baked goods, or even berries and delicate fish.

Fall Forest and the Hunt

We are deep into October and it’s getting quite a chill the air and I am wrapped up in my padded jacket and have brought out my insulated Wellies.  In the Northwoods, the colors have gone from vivid golds, rusts and reds with a background of dark green pines, to what will soon be a faded memory of autumn.  The leaves are dry and crispy as Sky and I walk through the woods, and the clearing trees offer a view of the most brilliant blue sky, breathing that lovely crisp air.  The forest floor has a musty aroma, but not in an unpleasant way, in a deep, rich way, like it smells when you walk into an old English lodge.  Then she scares up the grouse, and the fun begins.    Sometimes I wish to be transported to that country lodge in England, so romantic.  But I can create that feeling at home through the lifestyle I create-food, wine, rustic European tableware.  Transporting myself far away and yet nestled in my “no place like” Wisconsin home with friends and family nearby.

It is time for the hunting season, whether that means wild game…grouse, pheasant, quail, venison…or foraging for woodsy mushrooms or wintergreen berries and the rich traditions that brings.  I keep my eyes open for mushrooms but my mind wanders as I simply enjoy the beauty of being in the woods with my dog.  As we turn back towards home, the smoke from a fireplace drifts out of the chimney and the smell of pine wood fills the air.  I begin to think of what something warm I will prepare when we get back and tucked into the warmth of the house…mmmmm, maybe a Pumpkin Spice latte.

I have fallen in love with a set of Gien dog plates from the Hunting and Fall patterns…so pretty…and they pair so beautifully with the Juliska Forest Walk pattern for a feel of a rustic European lodge.  I’ve selected some of my favorites for this collection of Hunt, Rustic European Lodge Tableware and Accessories.

Here are some of our favorite dogs.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

12 oz latte

2 shots of Pumpkin Spice Coffee ~ espresso grind

10 oz steamed milk

Pull your expresso shots and slowly pour or fold in your steamed milk

Sip and enjoy.



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I Think It’s Time for Tea

Emma Bridgewater Bird Mugs

Tea with Emma Bridgewater

Those of you who have visited our Ann Marie’s shops,, have read my blogs or have seen my travel pictures know what a love affair I have with the traditions of tea. Having recently written about my visit to Highclere Castle in England and enjoying a proper afternoon tea, I thought it would be a nice time to share a little more about tea.

Tea is second only to water as the most widely consumed drink in the world. Drinking a cup can be very soothing, and there are a number of health benefits that have been linked to tea.

China the likely birthplace of tea as its consumption has been documented there for centuries. The British were exposed to tea in China and brought it back home. The British took it to India in an effort to compete with the Chinese monopoly on the product. The climate in India was very conducive to the cultivation of tea plants. Today, China and India are the world’s top two tea producing countries. As popularity of the drink has spread, more and more varieties have become available.

Tea Culture Across the Globe


Since the beginning of the Ming dynasty, teahouses sprung up all over the country, and people of all ages would come at all hours of the day to drink tea and enjoy each others’ company. In this way, tea was never confined to a strict time of the day, but could be taken at any time. The teahouses would usually serve nothing except tea, and became a part of most people’s daily ritual. Today in China, while the teahouses still retain popularity as gathering places, the importance of tea in daily life is usually evident at the table. Tea is one of the most important parts of every meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. At home or in a restaurant, one will always find a cup of tea set in front of them. Besides mealtime, tea is served to welcome guests as a form of respect, and is a long-held tradition in all classes. In China, green tea is consumed the most, with oolong tea being a close second, followed by Pu-erh. White tea and black tea are drunk less frequently, but still deserve some recognition.


Although tea took some time to spread from China to Japan, many believe that Japan was where tea met perfection in the art of Cha-no-yu, or the Japanese tea ceremony. After arriving in Japan many schools of the tea ceremony began, with influences ranging from monks to samurai warriors. These separate schools existed until the 16th century, when Sen Rikyu, considered the highest tea master, brought together these differing principles and set forth the practice that is still followed many years later. Today the tea ceremony is still practiced by many in Japan and abroad, and survives as an honored and thriving tradition, rather than an antiquated relic. The essence of the tea ceremony has made it a poignant reflection on life, even in today’s world. Cha-no-yu’s fundamentals lie in the humility of the guests, appreciating the moment’s uniqueness in terms of time and place, season and those present, and the art of simplicity and balance in form, movement and objects. These three fundamentals have found their way outside of the tea room and into many aspects of Japanese life. Consider, for example, the simple architecture of houses and buildings in Japan, or the balance and harmony found in the shapes and textures of a garden or in ikebana style flower arrangements.

Morocco, Egypt and Turkey

These three countries have quite a few similarities with regards to their tea drinking habits, though also many unique differences. Egypt is one of the world’s largest importers of tea, and most people drink several cups of black tea every day. Usually strongly brewed black tea is served in small glasses and is heavily sweetened.

In Morocco mint tea is drunk throughout the day, though especially during and following meals, because of the mint’s naturally ability to aid in digestion. Preparing tea is a masculine role in Moroccan culture, and because of the high honor of this role is usually performed by the head of the household. Regional variations exist, however the basic recipe for mint tea is as follows: Chinese green tea is mixed with fresh or dried mint leaves and a large lump of sugar in a tall silver or stainless steel teapot. Hot water is poured into the vessel and allowed to steep for a few minutes. The tea is then poured from an almost standing height in a thin stream into the small glasses arranged below. This extravagant pouring gesture aerates the mint tea into the room and fills the space with its refreshing aroma.


In England today, the tradition of afternoon tea continues on in the home, in upscale hotels, in department stores and even in the small neighborhood cafes and tea rooms found in every town. Whether it is a short break for a cup of tea and a small cookie, or a 3 course event of cakes, scones with jam and Devonshire cream, sandwiches and other treats, afternoon tea will continue to be a true English tradition. And tea itself will have a lasting place in English culture. Besides afternoon tea, the English consume large quantities of tea throughout the day, from breakfast to dinner and the last cup of the night. This love for tea is not unique to the English alone, but is found in most citizens of the British Commonwealth, including all of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and South AfricaThe Queen of England is widely believed to have tea in the afternoon.

United States

Our tea drinking began before this country was in existence.  The Dutch East India Company was importing tea to New Amsterdam (New York) in the 1600s.  Although,  the U.S. is most notably identified as the home of iced tea and tea bags, our consumption of black, herbal, oolong, white and green teas continue to grow at a rate faster than coffee.  American tea consumers have become increasingly interested in the origins of their tea as the market for global sources for tea has grown.

A Tea for Everyone

There is a tea to please everyone. Whether you are looking for something spicy, sweet, relaxing, or are in need of a jolt of caffeine, there is a variety to meet your needs. Some of the most popular types are black, green, oolong and chai.

Black Tea – This is widely consumed. It was even served at a State Dinner at the White House in January of 2011 when China’s President Hu Jintao came to town.

Green Tea – The medicinal properties of green tea have long been touted. It is minimally processed and rich in anti-oxidants.

Oolong Tea – Researchers believe that green tea may help prevent cell damage and diseases such as cancer. Due to its caffeine content, it may even help to improve mental alertness. Oolong is a favorite in many Chinese restaurants.

Chai Tea – In some languages, chai is the word for tea. It is made by brewing black tea and mixing it with other spices that may include cardamom and ginger.

This time of year as the weather turns cooler and added spices warm our bodies and our senses, try some of the wonderful spice teas available. Spices such as cinnamon, clove, allspice blend beautifully with orange, pumpkin and apple filling up the room with beautiful aromas. Try our Harney and Sons African Autumn, a lovely, antioxidant rich, herbal tea with notes of orange and cranberry.

How to Use a French Press for Your Tea

For coffee lovers, the aromatic pleasantness and delicious outcome of brewing coffee in a French press is a special way of greeting the day or pausing for a moment of reflection. You can also brew tea in a French press. To make the best tea, follow a few tea brewing essential tips. If you have been using your French press to brew coffee, clean it thoroughly to prevent leftover coffee residue from tainting the taste of the tea. Rather than using tea bags, choose your favorite tea in a loose-leaf variety, the type normally used in tea balls or infusers. Place about one tablespoon of tea per cup in the bottom of the French press. Prepare the water by heating it to a high simmer, just before the boiling point. You can use tap water, but, depending on the chemicals in your local water, it could impact the delicate tea flavor. You might want to consider bottled or filtered water instead. Carefully pour the heated water into the pot. Place the lid on the pot, but do not depress the plunger. Allow the tea to sit and steep for two to three minutes, then depress the plunger. Pour the tea in a pretty teacup or mug, savor the aroma and sip. Any tea left in the pot continues to steep and become stronger, so it is best to only brew the amount you intend to use immediately. A French press is a versatile addition to any kitchen and makes a fabulous gift for coffee and tea drinkers alike. Keep a selection of black, green, white and blended teas on hand to enjoy yourself and share with special company. A cup of tea brings an aromatic and delightful experience to every day.


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Fall’s Beautiful Bounty


The sun is rising later and setting earlier.  The mornings are chilly, if not just plain cold.  While summer never seems to last long enough, fall brings with it a sense of slowing down, enjoying the fruits of our growing season. The satisfaction of putting my hands in the dirt for one last time as I clean out my gardens brings with it a sense of gratitude, reflection and excitement as we enter into a new season of festivities.  The smell of a wood fire follows me on my walk with my dog and transports me to the valleys, castles and medieval villages of Abruzzo, Italy, home of my mother’s family.  For others, though, fall is a bustling time of bringing in the harvest.  Whether it is wheat, apples, olives, grapes or the multitude of crops that are brought in to nourish us through the year, the bounty is beautiful.

I am so grateful for the wonderful farmers market that delivers local produce, meat, eggs, and flowers.  It is truly wonderful to walk and talk with the growers, meet friends, and share in the celebration of the season.  Game birds and venison will be on the table, along with gorgeous vegetables.  My senses are inspired by the colors and textures. I try not to get ahead of myself during this glorious time and just take in moments before we are blanketed in white.

One  of my favorite pottery artisans, Ireland’s Nicholas Mosse,  continues to delight me with old favorites and new patterns that will be on my table and in my kitchen this fall and winter.   Traditional designs like Reindeer and Winter Robin and the new Lawn Pattern  bring color, celebration, and function that create the perfect invitation to sitting down for a lovely evening with family and friends.


Ann Marie

With the chill in the air I crave the smells, colors, and flavors of roasted vegetables.  This butternut squash gratin is the perfect fall dish.  Serve it with your favorite game; roast duck or venison.  But it is equally good enjoyed as a main course with a beautiful salad and some chewy bread spread with this yummy Mushroom Spread with Truffle.

Butternut Squash Gratin

I like to cut the squash in 3 inch sections and roast it first.  I am not a big fan of wrestling with peeling uncooked squash so I have found roasting the squash in sections simplifies using any winter squash in a recipe.

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 (2 pound) butternut squash
  • fine sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • Casina Rossa Truffle and Salt (use as a finishing salt) *optional
  • 1/2 cup grated Fontina or Gruyere cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4-1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Alba White Truffle Oil *optional

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Slice the squash in 3 inch chunks, remove seeds, and place on a rimmed cookie sheet  that has been drizzled with olive oil.  Drizzle squash with a bit more oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.  Roast for 45 minutes.

Remove squash from oven.  Butter a 9-inch baking or gratin dish with  1 tablespoon butter.  Using an oven mitt or hot pad, peel the skin off the squash.  Slice the squash into 1/4 inch slices and layer into the baking dish, sprinkling some salt and pepper between each layer.  When the dish is half full sprinkle 1/2 of the cheese and rosemary over the squash.  Continue layering the squash with salt and pepper.  Pour the cream over the top, add remaining cheese and rosemary.  Cover the dish with foil and bake an additional 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven, remove the foil and let rest for 10 minutes.  Drizzle lightly with Truffle Oil and sprinkle lightly with Truffle Salt.

Serve warm.




Fall Harvest and Festivals In Switzerland.


It is always a struggle for me to decide whether to travel to Europe in the fall-it is the most fantastic time to go, when the tourists have abated and the festivals of wine, harvests and the “hunt” for game and mushrooms are beginning.   But, it is always hard for me to leave my beloved northern Wisconsin which has amazing color and weather this time of year.  So I usually wait for the last moment and go in October to catch the best of both.    Some of my best memories of fall in Europe are the visits with my husband Stephan to his home town of Schaffhausen, a beautiful city in northern Switzerland.   We stay at  the Park Villa Hotel.   I cannot compare this place to anywhere else I have ever stayed.   The proprietor Max is a true gentleman, the ultimate host, and let me add, quirky and entertaining.   The entire hotel, including the guest rooms, are stuffed with amazing antiques…not your usual antiques, but truly amazing one-of-a-kind.    His kitchen is wonderful.   During the fall, the truffles and other mushrooms are on the menu along with incredible game dishes that Max has worked his magic on.   Swiss wine is always a treat.  You rarely see it here in the states because they do not export very much, so that light, wonderful, local wine of Schaffhausen made from Pinot Noir grapes  is something I always look forward to.   All around Shaffhausen in the country villages there are the festivals for the fall, usually centered around the wine harvest.   And we always find room for a  lovely sausage and beer.  Also, one cannot miss a trip to the Rhinefalls- the biggest waterfall in Europe.

One of the things I love most is that life changes season to season and always there is something to look forward to.   I think when I am home I get caught up in the day to day activities, but over there, the seasons and harvest bring out such different tones.   I think it is the traditional vs our modern world.  They retain the traditions and keep them alive for future generations.   My kind of world.

For the season at our Ann Marie shop I have brought in some special dinnerware -Forest Walk, new from Juliska of Portugal.  Also, our vintage pewter pieces from Arte Italica are a handsome addition to any celebration and add a luxury element to your Forest Feast.  It is a time to start thinking  feasts and platters and wine and celebrations and creating a lovely table for the upcoming celebrations.

For food and drink I am stocking my pantry with Ann Marie fall gourmet foods like Chestnut Egg Tagliatelle, Truffle Salt, Truffle Oil, Truffle and Olive Pate, Polenta, and Risotto.   For a delicious warm up try our  Pumpkin Spice, Cinnamon Cranberry, and our special Harvest Fall Blend Coffee.   More inspirations include Cherry Bitters for a hot toddy and Hazelnut Cranberry Crisps to serve with goat cheese.

Happy Fall Celebrations,

Ann Marie



Inspired by fall in Shaffhausen, enjoy this pasta with mushrooms along with your favorite Pinot Noir and a simple salad of bitter greens with a classic vinaigrette.  The town of Shaffhausen owns a vineyard around the Munot Castle that sits in the center of town overlooking the River Rhein.  The wine they produce is named Munoetler.

View on Rhine river and famous Munot fortifiction. Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

View on Rhine river and famous Munot fortifiction. Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Pasta with Fall Mushrooms

Serves 4-6

2 packages 8.8 oz. Chestnut Egg Tagliatelle 

1/2 pound assorted wild mushrooms (golden chanterelle, shiitake, cremini, oyster, porcini, etc.), trimmed and sliced

2 cloves garlic minced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup heavy cream


freshly ground pepper

Truffle oil

Grated Pecorino Cheese to taste

Handful of chopped Italian parsley

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil.

In a large saute pan, over medium high heat, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for just until it becomes aromatic and careful not to burn.  Add the mushrooms and saute until they begin to brown and release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and let reduce about 5 minutes. Add the cream and reduce about 5 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and quickly toss with mushroom sauce.  Finish with a drizzle of truffle oil, a sprinkle (or more) of delicious sheep’s milk Pecorino cheese and parsley.





Inspired By the English Countryside

My Trip to Highclere Castle

Since my very first trip to England back in the 80’s , I have been smitten with the English countryside.   The gardens of England are always in my dreams, and are the inspiration for my garden at our Ann Marie shop.   I have been to England several times since on business but imagine my delight when I won a trip to Highclere Castle, home of the filming of one of my favorite English shows, Downton Abbey.   The trip was sponsored by Heritage Lace, a maker a beautiful Downton Abbey inspired curtains and tablecloths.

Being able to make the trip with my good friend Jan, also an avid Downton Abbey fan, made it all the more special.   We started our tour with an all too brief stop at Oxford. A quick walk around, a great English Hand Pie from the market and we were off to Bampton Village in Oxfordshire where some of the Downton Abbey village scenes were shot.   The village is so quaint with lovely brick houses and window boxes filled with flowers still in bloom.  After a quick visit to the St Mary’s church where 2 weddings, a fair and a funeral had taken place on the series we were off to our last stop; the greatly anticipated main event of Highclere Castle.   As we approached the castle I was in awe of the intricate nature of the façade on the castle. Wandering through the castle I recalled the many scenes from the series and was again inspired by the country life of England.   Elegant but rustic, it brought visions of the history of the castle as I had read about. A real feeling of a home, though in grand style, of course.   I paid special attention to the lace window treatments and tablecloths as we wandered through.   I was excited to go home to market our lovely Downton Abbey Lace Curtains and tabletop wares to our avid customers who also love England.   The grand finale was our lovely High Tea in the carriage house on the grounds. Scones with jam and clotted cream, a lovely piece of raspberry filled sponge and as usual, the best English Tea. A perfect end to a lovely day.

On my arrival home I could not wait to share the experience with my husband and enjoy the pleasures of another English afternoon tea served in our new Coronation Meadow pottery from Burleigh of England.   The pottery is Inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales’s Coronation Meadows project, which aims to establish wildflower meadows across the UK. The “Coronation Meadows” pattern is a celebration of the British countryside. A perfect ending to a perfectly fine English experience.


Coronation Meadows by Burleigh, England


Enjoy these favorite tea-time recipes that have just the right hint of lavender to transport you to the Gardens of Highclere.

Lemon-Lavender Shortbread



  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the chopped lavender and grated lemon zest. Beat in the butter at moderate speed. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to a sheet of wax paper and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Form the dough into a 4-inch log and chill for at least 45 minutes longer.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Slice the shortbread dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and place the rounds on ungreased baking sheets. Freeze the rounds for 10 minutes.
  • Bake the shortbread for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Transfer the baked shortbread to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make Ahead

The cookie-dough log can be frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw slightly before slicing. The baked shortbread can be stored in an airtight container.

Lavender infused sugar

I love this infused sugar to sprinkle over fresh baked sugar cookies, in my morning tea, or incorporated into my favorite pound cake recipe. It keeps beautifully in an airtight container, and every time I open the lid, I get a waft of lavender essence.

2 teaspoons fresh, chopped lavender leaves and flowers to 1 cup sugar. Stir the lavender into the sugar and store in an airtight container.


Ann Marie



Who is Ann Marie?

Little Ann Marie RD2

Taking a cue from that classic film “You’ve Got Mail”, I would like to start this letter as if we are in the middle of a conversation. As though we were sitting at a corner table together, sipping foam from the top of perfectly poured lattes, and talking about the intricacies of our lives.

The thing is, I’d like to tell you a bit more about the Ann Marie who is behind Ann Marie’s. That is, me. The girl whose vivacious Italian family and love for beautiful shapes and colors grew into a three decade romance with all things European and a little shop in the deep woods of Wisconsin.

My adoration for shapes and colors and textures began when I was a young girl playing with rows of canning jars in my grandmother’s pantry. Canning was a serious business in our family, and the light shining through green and blue hued glass always brought me into a sort of reverie. I used to imagine that pantry was my own little shop with shelf after shelf attracting the attention of lovely ladies from far away places. This sort of day dreaming only seemed to last as long as it took for my older brother to discover my haven, pull my hair, and tease me for dawdling. The vision never truly faded.  My first European experience then set the tone for the rest of my life.

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I can only describe those few weeks in Scotland as the first time I have ever truly connected with the warm feelings from my childhood.  Kathryn, a friend from college, and I would wake each morning and walk across cobblestone streets and bridges, experiencing all the incredible spaces Edinburgh had to offer. Our trips to the many tea rooms with our Scottish friend Christine were an absolute dream.  We spent our days exploring every inch of the city we could afford to get to, drinking loose leaf tea out of porcelain teacups and scones off of beautiful cake trays. There’s nothing in the world better than a perfectly steeped tea poured from a fine teapot, except perhaps the smooth feel of fine china on your lips. We would sit and watch the Edinburgh castle light up every night, take the train up to the highlands and the Isle of Skye, and find the absolute best sweaters and water color paintings and, of course, more tea, and pottery.

My first visit to Europe left a lasting impression on my senses. I knew it wouldn’t be my last.

It wasn’t long after being back amongst the long green shadows, the fragrance of pine, and the ghostly white of birch trees of Wisconsin that my mind was transported back to my Scottish days, and the wonderful conversations over tea. I decided then to recreate the warmth of that European adventure in the woods of Wisconsin. I decided then to create, “Ann Marie’s”.

The stores Ann Marie’s began in the late 1980’s as a tiny coffee and tea house in a garden in Minocqua, Wisconsin, run by that same lively, curly-headed italian, now a young woman, with a lot of determination. Ann Marie’s takes me back to the cobblestone streets of Europe in search of new items to bring back to my shop – French linens, Irish pottery, Dutch toys, or Scottish capes, among other things. I have had ridiculous adventures, found the loveliest little places, made the very best of friends, and had a lot of luck. Today, Ann Marie’s has grown to two beautiful locations. Our original Garden Shop with lush outside spaces filled with flowers and aromatic herbs, a bounty of fresh organic vegetables in the kitchen, tables laden with hand-painted European pottery from such exquist, and huge vases of fragrant blooms throughout. And our new Chalet Shop – built in the traditional style of a Swiss Chalet – filled with amazing natural light and the very best of the things I’ve found during my travels. Our loyal customers come back each year updating us of their own personal adventures in Europe and about, sharing their amazing finds, and enjoying all the things we’ve added into our Ann Marie’s collection. Throughout the years we’ve cultivated a keen eye for exceptional European pottery, developed the very best European style coffee, imported beautifully blended teas, and curated extensive collections from the finest brands including Emma Bridgewater Pottery, Nicholas Mosse and Burleigh. In the last decade, we have taken the uniquely intimate experience of Ann Marie’s stores nationwide through our website making our products available to our customers worldwide via our online shop. So there you have it. A glimpse into the tenacious and wonderful beginning of my dear little shop in Northern Wisconsin. Through these letters, I hope we can continue to share our uniquely adventurous lives together. Continuing on the journey.

Your Friend,

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Ann Marie