Posts Tagged ‘Downton Abbey’

Oh, sweet goodness – the anticipation was worth the wait! IMG_7748 - Version 2

Months after the expertly seamed conclusion of one of my all-time favorite television series, I was finally able to feel the grandeur of Downton Abbey’s exquisite costuming at Chicago’s Dreihaus Museum’s exhibit, Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times. 

My dear friend, Bev, and I were fortunate to be able to enter the Dreihaus Museum and quickly purchase our entry. We leisurely wandered through the exhibit, with knowledgeable staff directing us so seamlessly through the rooms that I imagined Mrs. Hughs hidden behind the curtains orchestrating it all.




These period costumes with their historical accuracy and styling, bejeweled and draped, were nothing short of magnificent. Whether intricately embroidered with flowers or capped with feathers and jewels, it was easy to slip into the London Season of the early 20th Century, or a nurse’s uniform with Lady Sybil.

I was as in awe of the craftsmanship of the costumes as I was of the sleek figures of the actors who wore these period clothes.


Characters always look larger than life on a screen, even a television screen. Becoming so intimately aware of their actual physical size is amazing. I had a renewed appreciation for the seamstresses and costume designers, as I did for those who spend an inordinate amount of time researching period dress. While Downton Abbey is a fictional story, it depicts specific decades, with the mores, customs, historical background, and issues of the times. It was enlightening to see this exhibit and the clothes and adornments of the characters which so beautifully illustrate the time period.

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This was a breathtaking exhibit, in the company of a dear friend, inside a historic turn-of-the-century mansion on the world renowned Gold Coast of Chicago.


Oh! I almost forgot the Dowager  .  . .




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I know it is just a television series. A bit of a soap opera. A serial. I know. I know, but, I just cannot seem to help myself. I am  filled with anticipation, a wee bit of sorrow, but mostly excitement for Sunday night’s premier of the final season of Downton Abbey.

I don’t mind so much that Downton Abbey will end. I know that all good things must, I am just, well . . . I just cannot wait to see what all my friends across the pond already have seen. They have all been very discreet and not spoiled the plot lines and ending for us, and I thank them.

Lady Violet is sure to have her share of pithy phrases, and if I must confess, I really like the Dowager House the best.  Thomas will be typically Thomas, I’m sure. Mrs. Hughs and Mr.Carson will say “I do” (or will they?). There are hints in the trailers about the Ladies Mary and Edith, their love lives, car races (see, Tom, I told you there are “guy things” at Downton) . I do hope Edith finds someone to love her who doesn’t leave her at the altar, or die. The Bates?  Will they find peace in their lives and maybe a wee bairn?  Will Sibbie and George get to play in the nursery together again? What about Branson? I’ll miss Mosely . . . ah, but is isn’t over yet. If fact, it hasn’t even started, so, I think I’ll just put on a pot of tea and see if there are any Christmas cookies left in the tower of tins to tide me over until the opening bars of the Downton theme start stringing their way across the telly.

When I saw this jar of Downton Abbey orange marmalade at Cost Plus World Market over the holidays, I plucked it right off of the shelf like a Sunkist orange grower. I brought it home in sweet anticipation. A certain young lad enjoyed a good bit of it on English muffins over the Christmas visit. Ezra really likes orange marmalade, and seems to especially enjoy this export from the Crawley collection. Our charming  little tyke starts planning his breakfast the moment he gets out of bed, with “orange jelly”  often the first words out of his mouth in the morning, but, I digress, as grannies often do.

Off I go, to start my day, in sweet anticipation of the beginning of the end of Downton Abbey. How about you? Are you a fan of the series? Is another series on your watch list?

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I’m dreaming in green; lush, mossy, magnificent green and longing for those first, tentative tips of spring bulbs and pussy willow blossoms.

Soon. Very soon.DSCN7326

While the sun hasn’t shown her rays very often lately, here along the Cutoff the days ARE growing longer and the seed catalogues are tempting us with old reliables and new introductions.

There is a dream of buds swelling here and there. With a hope that is buried and waiting in this long winter, the daffodils and hyacinths are waiting, their tips of buttery yellow and grape are the epitome of patience under the ice and snow.

With our heads bent to the wind, we will brave the gusts and the cold and the snow and whatever else this season may still throw at us. We will layer on extra clothing as the car warms up. Once home again a cup of freshly brewed coffee or a piping pot of tea. Soup is often simmering on the stove, and now that it is Lent, pepper and egg sandwiches are the fare of choice on a Friday afternoon.

I’ve been enjoying tall cups of hot, Mexican chocolate now and again, with my dear friend Kathryn or with my daughter 9781444730302-1-4Jennifer, at a new coffee house that recently opened not far from here. Tom and went there for an afternoon treat on Valentine’s Day. La Fortuna’s owners are third generation coffee producers. Isn’t it amazing how fast a new establishment can become a favorite?

Books, of course, are always at my side. I’ve been reading “The House on an Irish Hillside” by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, and I’ve been pulling out old issues of Victoria Magazine for inspiration . . .

. . .  and I have ben hopping about, chasing sunbeams with my camera – whenever the sun pokes through.


What are you reading these days?

What are you sipping on?

Where are you going – or where did you just come from?

What are the signs of your season beginning to change?

Will you watch Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey, the Oscars, or both? Neither?

Are any of you watching in Grantchester?


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092114molesleyhairdye-1411337346“Can you please keep Molesley in the kitchens until his hair stops turning blue.”

Lord Grantham to Carson – regarding Mr. Molesley’s hair.

With all the societal changes, turmoil, aristocratic “airs”, a fire, and the juicy verbal jabs of Lady Violet, good old Joseph Molesley’s attempts to appeal to m’lady’s maid, Baxter, provides some comic relief at Downton.  For all his bumbling and missteps, Moselsey is a kind and good man who just wants to make a decent wage, be liked and appreciated, and, to have someone to love.

Of course, I may be partial to his strands of hair, for I have had my own horrors with hair treatments.

Who can forget Moseley’s wild highland dancing in Scotland – after he unknowingly downs a spiked drink meant for the sour O’Brien – or his awkward responses as Carson grudgingly offers him a much-needed job as a footman?  Then, there was his crummy cricket caper. Poor old Molesley; he fumbles and bumbles, upstairs and down, a footman after all, still trying to please his father and catch m’lady’s maid.

Of course, there was much, much more ado at Downtown. Moseley’s hairy problems are just a tinge of what went on for those of us here on the west coast of the Big Pond just catching the new season here.  Did any of you watch Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey?

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I’m ready.

A coveted spot on the couch reserved, an appropriate teacup and saucer, perhaps a candle to heighten the ambiance, and a properly brewed Downton Estate Blend, compliments of the Republic of Tea.

gI_85044_Downton Estate Blend

Are you a Downton Abbey fan?

(Downton Estate Blend from the Republic of Tea is available at Cost Plus World Market. Lord Grantham breakfast tea and English Rose Blend are available at Republic of Tea and other places.)

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Isn’t it amazing what you can find on the internet?

Downton Abbey. Google. A few clicks of the mouse here and there. Up pops Lady Violet – as a paper doll! There are Ladies Sybil and  Mary. Even Thomas and O’Brien. You can enlarge them, print them out, and have your own collection of paper dolls to while away the hours as you brave the long months ahead before season 3!

Speaking of Lady Violet, wasn’t she was in rare form Sunday night on Downton Abbey? After her girlish gushing over Lord Hepworth’s father’s long ago attentions, I just loved how she laid into this cad. After Sir Richard and Matthew Crawley slug it out over Lady Mary, I loved Violet’s snappy  retort of “Do you promise?” as he states he won’t return. It sent me cheering her on. Richard was despicable, the leering villain of old, lashing the fair maiden to the railroad tracks, sneering and demanding her to “pay me the money”.

I digress. I know that Downton Abbey is a bit of a soap opera, but, I simply do not mind. I love the characters, both upstairs and down, and the historical eras it takes us through. The costuming – oh, the costuming. Did you notice a bit more ankle showing in Mary’s elegant ball gown? A hint of the Roaring Twenties?

I felt a sense of relief that Lady Cora finally told Lord Grantham about Famuk. Lord Grantham’s encounter with Mary warmed my heart as he told her to go to America, marry a midwestern cowboy and shake things up at Downton. He freed her from Sir Richard. Now, he needs to set things right with Sybil.

I wonder about that story line of Famuk. What DID he die from?  We know where he died – in Lady  Mary’s bedchamber – but of what? Methinks Thomas slipped something into his drink and as I’m methinking, could Thomas be the murderer of the first Mrs. Bates?What do you think? Whodunit?

The very last scene, in the snow, at the dawn of 1920, with Matthew on bended knee proposing to Mary. It bids all the foretelling of a wedding next season and hints that exile to America for Mary won’t happen.

Or will it?

The most touching story line, for me, has been the character development of Daisy. Her conflicted feelings, the deathbed wedding in earlier episode to the war injured William, her refusal to accept William’s military pension, her scenes with Mrs. Patmore and the Ouija board, Lady Violet’s conversation with Daisy, and Daisy finally going to tea at William’s father’s farm where she finds a father and some self-esteem. They are all wonderfully acted out scenes. Daisy is an endearing character. What are your thoughts?

I loved every minute of the Christmas episode, as I did this second season of Downton Abbey. I thought, however, that last week’s episode with the horror of the Spanish flu, the death of Lavinia and Bates being led away in handcuffs should have been the season’s cliff hanger. Did it have that effect on you? I think I wanted season 2 to end there. I would have savored the wait until next December to have last night’s episode be a bit of a Christmas gift and a teaser for the new season in January.

Well, dear reader, this is getting a bit lengthy, but, I promised some of you I would share a few thoughts on Downton Abbey. Please share your thoughts. I look forward to them.

To pass the time, you can download those paper dolls here. Just in case . . .

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Won’t this be fun?

A year from now, our presidential election will be over and campaign rhetoric will hopefully come to an end.

Then, the real retorts will begin – a Masterpiece.

Season 3 of Downton Abbey is in the works across the big pond, and I, lover of period costumes and films, will enjoy something I already enjoy even more. I just read that a new character will be introduced and I’m sure it is going to be simply delicious to watch. Have you heard about who has been cast as Lady Grantham’s American mother, Martha Levinson?

Shirley MacLaine

I can just imagine the dialogue between Shirley and Dame Maggie; the lifting of the Dowager Countess’s eyebrow or tilt of her head, the fencing of words, the gossip and plotting and, perhaps, a uniting of forces to save fortune and castle?

 It will be grand fun, indeed.

The news led my thoughts to the many movies Shirley MacLaine has starred in and the range of characters she has played (including a few of herself). The mother in Steel Magnolias. The young teacher in The Children’s Hour. The nun in Two Mules for Sister Sara.

The obsessive mother, Aurora, in Terms of Endearment. A movie I laughed and cried at in quick succession and left the theater emotionally spent. There are so many scenes to remember in the movie, but, who can forget new mother Aurora coming home and climbing into the baby’s crib?

Do you have a favorite scene of Shirley MacLaine’s or one of Maggie Smith’s?

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It’s coming!

I’m simply beside myself in anticipation; the story, the estate, the costuming.

Dame Maggie Smith.

The second season.

Eight o’clock.

PBS. Masterpiece Theater.


Downton Abbey

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I seemed to be well among the landed gentry this weekend. I’m lovin’ it!

Wait for Me! by Deborah Mitford, the Duchess of Devonshire, is a coveted Christmas gift that I started reading even as the colorful wrapping was coming off of the present. I didn’t really get a chance to bite into it and chew until this weekend, especially Sunday, with the warm sun streaming in from the cold outdoors and boxes around me, as I was also taking down Christmas.

Most have removed their decorations and trees by now, but, we have always left our holiday trimmings up until the three wiseguys come. The magi, Epiphany, and then, well, it often takes a few more days. Everything has to be boxed “just so”, so all can be found next year.  It usually works out pretty well, but, there is often that one or two pieces that don’t get back in the right box and after Christmas sale of something I just have to have, and, well . . .

. . . off to the red leather couch and expanse of windows facing the trees I went. Book in hand, English tea sending swirls of steam out of a China cup, and boxes, which I carefully ignored.

My all-things-Anglo friend, June, put me on to the Duchess of Devonshire a few years ago, encouraging me to read Counting My Chickens and Other Home Thoughts. We share an appreciation for our English brethren, and, I did just that, finding the book in the library. Like millions of others, I fell for the Duchess’ style and wit and was hooked. When I heard her memoirs of childhood and lifetime were being published, it was etched into my wish list for Christmas, where Tom found it and then found the book for me. Not as easy to locate here in the ‘burbs of Chicago, and, from all accounts, he must have purchased the only book around.

So, there I sat, through a good part of yesterday, immersed in the lives of the famous and infamous Mitford sisters; their and their brother Tom’s unique childhood in the England of the past century, their education, nannies, cooks and associations with the likes of Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, the Kennedy’s and Hitler.

The Dowager Duchess is now a mere ninety years old. She is still full of what my mom would call “spit and vinegar”, which I mean in a most complimentary way. The youngest of the brood, and a girl, not a boy, she begins this book by saying that her mother wrote nothing in her diary entry for the day Deborah was born. Debo, as she is called, writes candidly about her family, the war years in England and the tragedies that befell not only the common folk, but, the landed gentry as well, and the passage of time and mores and ways of conducting oneself.

I read and read until my eyes felt too dry and then . . .

. . . Downton Abbey!

I’ve been waiting for this to find its way to PBS. Last night it did, and there I was, finishing my day in 1912, with the daily newspaper, which has arrived rather late, being ironed by the downstairs staff, as word of the sinking of the Titanic steams up from its pages and, with it, all things as known until then begin to change at Downton Abbey.

So, I will be busy from 8 ’til 9:30 the next three Sunday nights. I’ve a date with Masterpiece Theater at Downton Abbey.

Now, I really need to put those boxes away.

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