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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Descanso Gardens and the Camellia Lounge

Outside the hustle and bustle of the City of Angels lies a heavenly oasis known as Descanso Gardens.  This fine estate was once the home of E. Manchester Boddy, the newspaper publisher of the popular Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News.  After purchasing a one-hundred and sixty acre tract in La Canada, he hired James E. Dolena, the then architect-of-the-stars, to design an impressive twenty-two room home for him, his wife, and his two sons.   The beautiful house, constructed in 1937, encompassed many luxurious amenities of the era, including a built-in sound system, and a separate foyer for Boddy’s private office where he conducted business.  The three bedrooms of the home each had their own bathroom and sitting room as well.

From a feng shui perspective, the house is beautiful designed.  James E. Dolena used geothermal principles when planning the layout of the home.  Not only does this aid in creating a temperate climate within, it also helps air flow (and chi) move around freely.   In addition to the high ceilings, built-in bookcases, and enormous kitchen, the home offers a glimpse into a vintage way of life.  Although the furniture showcased is not original to the home,  each piece is of the era, and remarkably preserved. This includes a gorgeous grand piano which my friend Andrea was dying to play – but the velvet ropes guarding the display dissuaded us from touching.   Further information on the house, gardens, and the Boddy family is displayed throughout, including many historical photographs.  Only the downstairs level is open to the public, but I do hope they make some of the upstairs available soon.  I would love to see the whole house in all of its preserved glory.  Friendly docents are available, should one have questions while walking about the house.  Boddy and his family resided here until 1953 when he sold the estate to Los Angeles County.  Shortly thereafter, Descanso Gardens became open to the public.

Across the driveway from the main house is the original garage, which has been converted into the Sturt Haaga Gallery.  Unfortunately, on the day we visited, the gallery was closed for installation of a new exhibit.  But we did explore the outside of the structure.  I was most taken with the grand vertical garden along one wall of the gallery.  I would estimate it to be about fifteen feet tall, with a variety of rich, thriving plants.  I would love to have a smaller version of this in my own home environment.  I was a little disturbed by the statue on the right, until I realized those orbs on the sculpture were pomegranates.   The pomegranate, in feng shui folklore, is an auspicious symbol of fertility because it’s full of ripe seeds.  It’s also symbolic of familial happiness, and luck for one’s descendents.  This fruit is also rich in antioxidants.  A good way to get more pomegranate energy into one’s life is to eat the seeds raw, or toss them into a salad or smoothie.   Pomegranates also grow on the property.

This cooling waterfall was hidden down a garden path we found.  Metal, earth, water, and wood are all alive here, with the fiery energy of the sun radiating down.

Throughout the grounds there were all sorts of beautiful, open spaces like the lawn above.  I could sit underneath the shade of those trees all day, reading a Stephen King novel.

For the young (and young-at-heart), there is a hedge maze of miniature proportion.  Known as The Children’s Secret Garden, this lavish area was funded by a secret admirer of Descanso.  The walls of the hedges are about three feet high.  In the center of the maze is an opening complete with miniature wooden benches and chairs; child-sized models of similar ones found throughout the park.  As charming as those were, I was taken with the stone statues of friendly animals, two of which are pictured above.

Descanso is also home to the largest collection of Irises in Southern California.  Being that we visited the gardens in August, many of these were out of season.  But these vibrant purple ones continue to thrive.

We also visited Cafe Descanso, a casual eatery located by the front entrance.  Operated by the Patina Restaurant Group, the cafe offers sandwiches and salads.  The seating is all outside, either on comfy cafe chairs, or brick benches.   On this rather hot day, I opted for the following:

  • Bottled water.
  • Chardonnay – I had one glass of their house white, which is Crane Lake Chardonnay.  Although more of a low-brow selection, this delicious chard is crisp and refreshing.  In stores, bottles of this usually run $3:00 – $6.00.  An excellent wine for the price.  A generous glass here is about $7.00.
  • Mushroom Panini – Served on a role with Portobello mushrooms, light pesto, and white cheese (I think it was fontina).  The sandwich was good and quite filling.

Later in the day, we paused for some cocktails at The Camellia Lounge.  Hidden in a tea house next to the Japanese Garden, this quaint hideaway offers a select Japanese menu, as well as beer, wine, and refreshing summer libations.  It has very limited hours, being only open three days a week, but definitely worth a visit.  Although we did not sample any of the food here, the aromas drifting on the air were mouth-watering.  Here’s what we had:

  • Camellia Collins – A take on the classic Tom Collins.  But here, they add chamomile tea to the composition, which was exquisite combined with the gin.  The beverage was cool, refreshing, and generous in size.  I could drink these all day.
  • Green Hornet – Andrea ordered this, and it was not to our liking, chiefly because sweet-and-sour mix was used in lieu of lime juice.  Not only is this a major faux pas from a taste perspective, it’s also bad feng shui.  When the option to use a natural ingredient over a not-so-natural alternative, it is always preferable to select the natural choice.  When we consume items into our body, we absorb the energy of that item.  Therefore, natural or organic ingredients are preferable to chemical or sugary alternatives.  Had the required lime juice been used, I’m sure the drink would have been wonderful.

Descanso also has a great gift shop, and offers a variety of events for the whole family, including live jazz concerts, tai chi classes, and story-time for kids.  I will most assuredly be coming back here, probably in March, when their lilac garden is in full bloom.   The grounds are also used as film locations for many television series and movies.  A large paved lot is provided for ample, free parking.  If you are looking to escape into a Secret Garden, and add some more creative and rejuvenating wood energy into your life, visit Descanso.

Descanso Gardens

1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge 91011

818 949-4200

Admission:  General $8.00   Senior/Students $6.00   Children (5 to 12 years) $3.00    Garden members and children under 5 are free.

Hours:  Open Daily from 9:00 to 5:00.  Closed Christmas.   (Hours extended during the summer and for special events – call ahead)

Boddy House and Sturt Haaga Gallery:  Open Tuesdays –  Sundays 10:00 to 4:00.   House tours given Saturdays and Sundays at 12:00.

Cafe Descanso:  Open Daily from 9:00 to 4:30.

Camellia Lounge:  Open Tuesdays – Thursdays 3:00 – 8:00, during the summer months.  (Call ahead to verify hours of operation.)

http://www.descansogardens.org/