A Treasure Hunt in Rome

I remember the day distinctly. A friend and I were wandering through the ancient alleyways of Rome’s old Trastevere district when we happened upon a tiny, old shop. Our eager smiles faded when we realized the shop was closed. Even in busy Rome, most shops are closed all afternoon so Italians can enjoy a relaxing meal and a nap before returning to work.

The shop was very dark inside. We glued our our faces against the shop windows in an effort to peer past the reflection and glimpse the enchanting merchandise inside. I gasped when I saw the gorgeous Italian linens behind the glass. We pointed and whispered to each other, “Look at the linens on that shelf…and stacked on that table!”  Well, there was nothing to do but jot down the name of the alley and hope we could find the shop again.

The next day was our last in Rome. We decided we simply HAD to find that shop before we left the Eternal City. Of course, this was not going to prove easy. The alley was too tiny to be included on our street map, and all the alleys started to look the same as we tried one after another. But with the help of a strong espresso, we persevered and finally found our shop!

The gentle shop owner welcomed us inside and assisted us as we explored her vast selection of gorgeous Italian linens. It was amazing. The beautiful colors of the Umbrian landscape and sky were woven into such elegant Italian designs. The rich woven linen had such depth. When I held the fabric in my hand, it seemed to reflect the light and display its own natural iridescence. After much fun deliberation, we finally made our selections and bid the kind senora “Arrivederci!”

Yes, it was love at first sight. The timeless linens of Tessitura Pardi, beautifully loomed in the province of Umbria, were destined to come home with me to Ann Marie’s.

Our Heart-Warming Hoilday

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Every single Valentine’s Day since the 1400’s (think Geoffrey Chaucer’s time in England), lovers the world over have taken a mid-winter break to express their romantic love by presenting cherished gifts to their sweethearts.  How many millions of flowers, sweets and sentiments have been exchanged over these six hundred years?  It boggles the mind just to think about it.  But one thing feels certain. Valentine’s Day has the power to cheer us up and warm our hearts, no matter how bleak and cold it might be outside. With its bright shades of red, soft heart shapes and sweet cupid messengers, St. Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I can’t even imagine February without it.

A Special Visit to William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage

Driving north toward along the eastern shore of magical Lake Windermere, we pull over to see one of the Lake District’s most beautiful villages, Grasmere. Good fortune is smiling today. As we pass over the threshold of poet William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, we are greeted by a young man who clearly loves Wordsworth and can hardly wait to share the good news: we have arrived at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage on a very special day. Indeed, it is not only National Poetry Day in England, but also the 210th wedding anniversary of Wordsworth and his dear wife Mary. And Dove Cottage was the first home they shared together.

Our young docent leads us from room to room, explaining how their daily lives were lived. The rooms are small, the ceilings impossibly low, and the stairs to the second storey uneven and steep. Within this charming cottage filled with Wordsworth’s letters and pens, England’s beloved Poet Laureate hosted many meetings with fellow writers Southey and Coleridge.streaming film Nocturnal Animals

At the top of the stairway, from a tiny room with a simple desk and small window, I can see why William so loved the Lake District and why he felt its beauty spoke to him through poetry. Our gentle docent reads the lines written by William to express his love for Mary on a previous anniversary. Such beautiful words. From the window, I watch the rich autumn colors, dark heather-covered hills and mists rising off Lake Windermere. William launched England’s Romantic period from this very spot, looking out at this same beautiful but ever-changing view.

The Charms of England’s Lake District

After visiting England’s historic potteries in Stoke-on-Trent, we travel north by train to seek inspiration in England’s famous Lake District National Park. We arrive on a dark and stormy evening, in the middle of a chilly drenching rain. But when we awaken at our lovely B&B the next morning, the skies are clear, and we head off to explore. Pure, poetic beauty greets us around every curve in the road — ancient oak forests, lush fern-covered glens, clear blue lakes, and country pastures which are a carpet of the most amazing emerald green. No wonder the Lake District has been home to so many of England’s most famous writers and poets. Inspiration is absolutely everywhere! More →

‘Til We Meet Again


Summer is winding down. The days grow shorter, and our nights are cooler. In the evenings, I slip into my snuggly slippers and smile as I recall all of the treasured summer memories we made with all the dear customers and friends who visited us in beautiful northern Wisconsin during the glorious summer months.

Although many of you are closing your cottages for the season, packing your cars and heading south to warmer climes, I hope you’ll carry with you many fond memories of your visits to Ann Marie’s…enjoying the aroma of fresh-roasted coffees and perhaps finding a charming gift for someone special in your life.

As I sit and write this, my mind is already bubbling with ideas for next summer…interesting new plantings to show you in my garden and a new selection of Ann Marie’s Favorites and Special Finds I know you’ll love.

The Birds, the Bees and the Butterflies

The amazing blooms in our garden have attracted a variety of visitors. Summer visitors to Minocqua wend their way down our garden path to visit us at our Garden Shop.  But a host of other visitors seem content to stay hard at work outside in our garden: A nesting robin is sheltering her young in the cedar tree again this year, happy bumble bees methodically move from the bright red Bee Balm flowers to the stands of Gooseneck Loosestrife, Monarch butterflies flex their wings on our yellow Heliopsis, and several hummingbirds zip back and forth as they fill up on sweet Honeysuckle nectar. A few weeks ago, a truly unexpected visitor literally fell from the sky: A baby spotted sandpiper apparently ventured away from his parents’ nest, fell from the roof next door and was wandering about near the crabapple tree. By the next morning, he was gone — I hope he found his way to the lake nearby and is enjoying his summer as much as all of our other visitors.watch The Jungle Book 2016 film online now

First Stop Switzerland

Greetings from the road. Our first adventure stop was Zurich. We landed and took the train via Lausanne to Vivey where we’re visiting my husband’s Swiss family. Before boarding the train, we had to stop and buy our favorite snack for the trip: Swiss pretzel sandwiches.


One of Switzerland’s main languages is French, so I feel totally immersed in French sensibilities without actually being in France. However, from my brother-in-law’s window I can see France across Lake Geneva. The lights of Evian (you know the water!) can be seen on clear evenings.download movie Madraza

I’m not sure if other retailers find this true, but without the inspiration of travel and family, I don’t think I could bring such lovely things to my customers. Just viewing the landscape of Switzerland through the train window gives me a fresh perspective and rejuvinates my mind and soul.



Shrove Tuesday Pancake Recipe from Emma

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Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day) is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the  first day of Lent.   Shrove Tuesday is mainly observed in English-speaking countries, especially the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Australia and New Zealand — and interestingly, also the Phillipines and Germany.watch Baby Driver film online now

Here is Emma Bridgewater’s fast and easy pancake recipe for your Shrove Tuesday celebration.

Off to Find Treasures

This weekend, I’m on a short jaunt to New York City to meet with several of my European vendors who daringly take a trip to New York now and then. One of my favorite parts of the trip is meeting with the artists from Deruta. Their pottery is oh-so-special. I hope to bring home a few treasures for our summer visitors and, of course, for our online visitors as well. Be sure to post some of your favorite European finds. I plan to have a few surprises for you, too.