The Ducks at the Old Mill

Mill Bridge 01

In feng shui folklore, one of the most beautiful icons of romance is the Mandarin Duck.  Known as the “Love Birds” in China and Japan, a pair of these feathered creatures together is a historic symbol of love and devotion  because they mate for life.  In certain schools of feng shui, these are commonly used to attract a desirable mate and promote marriage.   I think ducks are cute.  Unless a client has a general fondness of ducks or birds, it wouldn’t be my first suggestion to use Mandarin Ducks in an environment as decor.  However, do I want some for my home?  Yes!!  I’ve been keeping on eye on this beautiful fabric on Etsy.com with Mandarin ducks on a red background.

Mandarin Duck Fabric

Provided by the Etsy store Simply Fabric Oakland, this colorful print would be ideal for a set of throw pillows.   More information can be found by contacting the seller here:   https://www.etsy.com/listing/112921502/97-width-chinese-double-happiness?ref=shop_home_active_1

Mill Ducks 02

In August, I was in Boston for the wedding of my friends Diane and Josh.  Thanks to my friend Amy, a bridesmaid, I was able to attend the rehearsal dinner as her date.  Due to their romantic symbolism,  I found it brilliantly coincidental that the happy couple would pick a location highly influenced by ducks – and I don’t mean on the menu.  The Old Mill, located in Westminster, Massachusetts, is housed inside a historic mill with water all around.

Mill Duck Solo

The ducks here are very happy creatures.  The restaurant provides bread that guests may feed to them.  (The duck pictured above practically ate out of my hand.)  Now, while these aren’t specifically Mandarin ducks, the romantic symbolism can still be applied.

Mill Modern Section

Originally a sawmill in the late eighteenth century, the mill was a thriving part of the community for five generations, before falling into neglect about a hundred years later.   In 1921, it was revived into a summer tea house, operating until 1942 when war rationing of staples forced it to shut down.  In 1946, the Foster family took it over, making it a year-round restaurant and bakery.  They have continued to run it ever since.

One of things I love about the architecture of the site is the blending of old and new.  Throughout the environment, homage is paid to the historical aspects of the structure, yet making it very livable and modern.  In the photo to the left, one can see the new addition to the wing, and how it melds into the vintage timber of the building.

Mill Waterfall and Pond

Flowing water, thriving trees, sunshine, smooth rocks, all of these are prime examples of how the elements can come together in completely harmony.

Mill Pond 02

Another scenic view of the pond from the restaurant’s terrace.

Mill Seating

The inside environment was nostalgic and quaint.  Tables seating four to six were neatly arranged in the dining areas.   Earth was the main element present in each room; brown being the dominant color and altered wood the primary material.  Because the wood used here is dead (no longer a living plant), it’s now an earth element.

Please Watch Your Hat

This amusing sign made me laugh because I was wearing a hat at the time.  All sorts of vintage memorabilia adorn the walls, conjuring feelings of warmth and comfort.

Mill Buffet

Due to the special nature of the event, our dinner was served buffet style.  Some of my favorite items were:

  • Corn Fritters with a Maple Syrup Glaze – Scrumptious.  I think I had seven…
  • Baked Haddock Casserole with Seafood Stuffing –  Rich and filling.  A seafood lovers dream.
  • Roast Prime Rib – Tender pieces of beef.  Tantalizing and tasty.
  • Caesar Salad – A classic done right.  It accompanied the prime rib perfectly.

Mill Chocolate Martini

Our Server, whose name I sadly cannot recall, was incredible.   In addition to making sure everyone’s needs were met, she was also our bartender.  She made me, without a doubt in my mind, the best chocolate martini I’ve ever had.  Just the right amount of sweetness, and the glass lined with chocolate syrup.  Flawless and sublime.  I was a happy man.

Mill Strawberry Shortcake

Each guest was given their own strawberry shortcake parfait, completely with whip cream on top.  Refreshing and ideal for the summer weather.

Mill Fireplace

A majestic brick fireplace demanded attention in the center of the room.  The candles atop were arranged by the groom’s mother and grandmother.  The candles add beneficial fire energy to the celebration.

Mill Ducks 01

After the rich and decadent meal, many of the guests made their way outside to feed the ducks.

Mill Bridge 02

In addition to the main restaurant, The Old Mill also offers The Cracker Barrel Lounge, complete with a full bar and its own menu (although the restaurant menu can be ordered here as well).  The beneficial energy of the Old Mill, due to the very happy ducks, the natural surroundings, and the historical beauty of the structure, provide an auspicious area for dining, be it for the whole family or a romantic occasion.  I will definitely be returning here on my next visit to Massachusetts, for the food, the drinks, and to feed the adorable ducks.

The 1761 Old Mill

69 State Road East, Westminster, MA 04173

978-874-0914

Hours:  Tuesday– Thursday 11:30 am – 9:15 pm,  Friday – Saturday 11:30 am – 9:45 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm,  Lounge Hours:  Tuesday – Thursday 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Friday 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Saturday 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Note:  Closed Mondays

http://www.1761oldmill.com/index.html

Mill Pond 01

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Top of the Mark Holiday Drinks

Hopkins Hotel Lobby

After attending the unveiling of the Gingerbread House at The Fairmont, I visited the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.  My best friend Wendy and I were advised by friends to stop by their penthouse restaurant aptly named Top of the Mark.

Candy Mansion 01

Located directly across the street from the Fairmont in Nob Hill, The Mark Hopkins hotel is named for one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad.  In 1875, Mr. Hopkins built his wife Mary her dream house: a lofty Victorian mansion complete with turrets, gingerbread trim, and a built-in pipe organ.  Created by visual merchandising students from The Academy of Art San Francisco, is a quarter-scale model of the famed mansion completely made out of candy.

Candy Mansion 02

Sadly, Mark Hopkins would never see the elaborate abode.   He passed away shortly before the home was completed in 1878.  His widow, Mary, moved into the  forty room mansion residing there for three years, then relocating to Massachusetts.  She developed a close relationship with her mansion’s interior decorator, Edward Searles.   The two were married in 1887.  This created a scandal of the era as Edward was much younger than Mary – twenty years younger.  After Mary’s passing in 1891, Edward donated the Hopkins Mansion to the San Francisco Art Association.

Candy Mansion 04

The Hopkins Mansion had a grand, but brief life.  In 1893, it became the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, its vast rooms now being used as galleries, classrooms and studios.  It stayed a creative conservatory until 1906, when it’s demise came about in a fire resulting from the infamous earthquake of that same year.  Less than a year later, a temporary structure was erected in its place by the Art Association.  It was also discovered that an enormous water reservoir was directly underneath the house.

Candy Mansion 03

In 1910, hotel investor and engineer George D. Smith purchased the land.  He tore down the temporary structure and begin creating a luxury hotel, The Mark Hopkins, which was completed in 1926.  In 1939, Mr. Smith decided to convert the eleven-room penthouse in a skyline lounge called Top of the Mark.   Situated on the 19th floor, the restaurant boasts spectacular views of the city and amazing martinis.

Mark View 02

The view above is right outside the elevators on the 19th floor.

Mark View 03

This was the view right next to our table.   Just exactly how is The Mark Hopkins an example of good feng shui?  First off, we have the spectacular views from every window.  Peaceful landscapes are some of the best examples of feng shui art, and here we have aristocratic cityscapes as far as the eye can see, with hills in the distance.  Simply breathtaking.  Next there is the flow of architecture.  In cities with good macro feng shui, most of the buildings rise and diminish in size gradually, thus supporting a natural, calm flow of energy over and around the structures.  San Francisco does this for the most part.  While the Mark Hopkins does stand out from the crowd (pun intended), there are enough tall buildings situated close enough that the energy flow is beneficial and auspicious, not jarring and uncomfortable as in other highrises.

Top of the Mark Cocktails

Our table was near the half-moon bar on the far side of the lounge.  Of the extremely vast list of martinis offered, we chose to be festive and stick with their holiday options:  The Twelve Days of Christmas.   Wendy went with the Ten Lords a-Leaping, a mixture of cranberry juice, vanilla vodka, Chambord and fresh raspberries.  Sensational and sophisticated.  I opted for the Four Calling Birds.  Comprised of Beefeater Gin, creme de banana, and Galliano, this drink was heavy on another ingredient – grapefruit juice.  I’m not a fan of grapefruit, but I thought it worked in this libation.  Refreshing and tropical.  On a separate visit, my friend Amy tried their Nine Ladies Dancing, which she said was amazing.   These drinks are available through January 1st.

Mark View 01

For more information on Top of the Mark, and a complete list of hours and holiday events, please visit their virtual advent calendar here:  http://www.intercontinentalsanfrancisco.com.customers.tigertech.net/ICHotelsSF/TOTM/2013-HOLIDAYS/events.html

And to all of my readers out there, I wish each and every one of you a wonderful and highly auspicious New Year.  2014 holds some great things in store for all of us!

Kittens on Snowy Wall

Extra Extra! Read All About It

Local Edition Papers

Concealed behind an unassuming storefront, there is a hidden gem of a lounge in San Francisco known as Local Edition.  Housed in the basement of the vintage Examiner building in the Financial District, Hearst inspired cocktails and mid-century libations permeate the area that once contained the newspaper’s printing presses.  Upon hearing of this great bar, some of my friends and I decided to make some headlines of our own on a Monday Night, and headed down for a drink.

Local Bar 02

The entrance to Local Edition is located on Market, not far from 3rd Street.  After one’s checked in with the doorman, a staircase leads down to the submerged tavern.  For residences, I am not a fan of basement level apartments (also known as garden apartments).  These offer far too much yin energy, as one’s home is literally underground, completely surrounded by the earth (similar to a burial plot).  Those who inhabit such dwellings can suffer from a variety of issues, including  feelings of being stagnant, and poor health.  However, this is not a residence – it’s a bar.   When bars or restaurants reuse subterranean spaces like this, it adds a wonderful yang energy to a very yin space.

Local Bank Seating

Everywhere one looks, the history of William Randolph Hearst and The Examiner has been captivated and transformed.  Famous newspapers are showcased throughout in frames or under glass tables (pictured at the top of the post).  Vintage manual typewriters are displayed as monuments to a bygone era of news reporting.  Even the marble-topped tables make a statement.  Not only are they beautiful, durable, and a wonderful example of the earth element, the marble used is remnants leftover from the construction of Heart Castle.

Local Table 01

Honoring and preserving history is of vital importance to every generation.  In order to evolve and grow, we look to the  past to see our former successes and our unfortunate mistakes.  Using this knowledge helps us to decide which paths to take, inspires us to create and innovate to new heights, and further enriches us as a people.

How is preserving history good feng shui?  Well, first you have the green aspect.  When one reuses or repurposes an Local Typewritersobject or material in a new fashion, this helps to reduce energy and resources that would be needed to make something brand new.   It’s also a way of clearing clutter.  An item that has been sitting around collecting dust is employed in a new way, thus changing negative energy into positive energy.

There is also the matter of style, which I find to be of great importance in feng shui.  In our home environments, one common factor is that everyone has their own sense of what they do and do not like.  And, either knowingly or not, history influences our individual style.  There can be a particular time period we are drawn to – or music from a decade we can’t seem to get enough of – or an allure to vintage clothing of a specific era.  We take samples of the past and intermingle them into our modern tastes.  Having items that are personally nostalgic in one’s environment is comforting, and gives one a sense of peace and belonging.

Local Leather Seating

History influences us in all kinds of beneficial ways.  One example is in alcohol and mixed drinks.  All of the specialty cocktails at Local Edition are influenced by vintage recipes with modern flare, looking at those from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Many of the libations derive their names from things of a newspaper origin, or anything connected to William Randolph Hearst.  One drink I didn’t get to try was The Rosebud, a tequila based beverage with vanilla simple syrup and sea salt.  The namesake of this concoction was actress Marion Davies, Hearst’s mistress of over thirty years.  Rosebud was her nickname.  Let’s look at the libations I did try:

The Eagle

The Eagle – My friend Rachel could not stop talking about this drink, so I had to try it – and I’m so glad I did!  Bourbon, soda water, and a root beer simple syrup combined make this an incredible beverage.  I could drink these all day.  Refreshing and addictive.

Local Edition Cocktail

Local Edition Cocktail – The namesake of the establishment, this is Local’s own edition of an Old Fashioned.   Bourbon, cherry-infused bitters, and an orange peel simple syrup are the main components of this headliner.  Strong and bold.

Rex Roth and Fidel and Che

Rexroth – Pictured on the left is the Rexroth, named for the famed poet and political activist.  A complex mixture including Peychaud’s bitters, pisco, and an egg white, this was intriguing and unforgettable – much like Rexroth’s poetry.   His writings are poignant and impressive.  A selection of his work can be found at Poemhunter:  http://www.poemhunter.com/kenneth-rexroth/poems/

Fidel and Che – On the right is Fidel and Che, a unique twist on a mojito.  Although rum, lime, and mint are used as in traditional mojitos, this drink also uses aperol, an Italian apertif similar to campari.  Vibrant and invigorating.

The Pulitzer

The Pulitzer – Named after the famed publisher and journalist, The Pulitzer was the ideal libation to close the evening,  Scotch, honey, angostura bitters and manzanilla sherry served straight up in a small goblet with an orange peel garnish.  Very strong, and perfect for sipping.  Daring and memorable.

Local Table 02

Comfortable  seating, walls draped in scarlet fabric, and high ceilings evoke a romantic and relaxing atmosphere.  Although reservations are not required, my party and I did make some just to be safe.   Decanter service is provided should one desire a favorite bottled spirit.  Local Edition also offers great live music on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  On the record, I will state that is a brilliant and highly auspicious place to grab a drink.  Off the record – This place is awesome!  I can’t wait to come back here again – for the drinks and the history.

Local Edition Entrance

Local Edition

691 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

415 795-1375

Hours:  Monday – Friday 5:00 pm – 2:00 am,   Saturday 7:00 pm – 2:00 am

http://localeditionsf.com/

Shaun Local 03