Food, Healthy Lifestyle

My Favourite Apple Crisp Recipe

I love desserts, especially ones with fruit. An old favourite is apple crisp. I use a recipe from Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook that was first published in 1983.


The New Laurel’s Kitchen is available on line through various vendors.

Tip: I stopped keeping paper copies of recipes years ago and I rarely buy recipe books. Now most of my recipes are stored on my laptop so I usually view the recipe on the screen propped open on the kitchen counter. That way I have less clutter and I can stay organized.

The Laurel’s Kitchen apple crisp recipe is quite basic with one exception that calls for 1/2 cup of lightly toasted wheat germ. This adds a nutty, rich flavour and goes well with the butter, cinnamon, vanilla, brown sugar and fruit. I usually just use apples, but this time, I included a pear.

Large Flake Oats Topping (before the butter is mixed in!)

Use slow cooked oats. For the inexperienced, shopping for oats can be intimidating. The varieties are based on how much they’ve been processed. You don’t want the instant, nor the steel cut type. For further information about the different types of oats visit the Whole Grains Council website.

Rum-soaked Raisins

Soak ½ cup of raisins in some hot liquor: I used rum warmed for 20 seconds in the microwave to add a flavour boost! Yum!

Sliced and Cored Apples with Cinnamon, Sugar and Flour

A tablespoon of whole wheat flour and a teaspoon of cinnamon are added to sliced apples (I included a pear too). Enough to fill your favourite dish. Mine is a ruffled Emile Henry. It makes everything look extra-fancy!

Add the topping: 1 cup oat flakes with ½ cup butter, ½ cup brown sugar and spices to taste.

Bake at 375F for 30 – 40 minutes (until bubbly and fruit is soft)
The original 1983 recipe calls for margarine but I prefer butter.

I enjoy fruit crisp with some Balkan Style 2% Yogurt, or if it’s summer, some vanilla ice cream! Do you have a favourite fruit dessert to share?

 

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Healthy Lifestyle, Personal Growth, Self-help

The Joy of Obstacles – New Book Offers Inspiring New Perspective

Kathryn Johnson, Author

Kathryn Johnson is my neighbour and before I read her new best-selling book The Joy of Obstacles – Celebrating the Silver Lining in Difficult Days I only knew her in passing. Like any of my other condo neighbours, we shared a quick hello in the elevator or out on the street. I could see she walked with a couple of canes but I didn’t know anything about her.

Kathryn’s website InspiredbyKathryn.com explains that she was born with Cerebral Palsy and that living with a disability has given her a unique perspective of the world: She sees this circumstance as a gift and a vehicle for profound understanding of what each experience has to offer.

In her book Kathryn describes the obstacles she’s had to move through and challenges she’s faced along the way. She explains how she’s built a balanced and joyful life and gives us the encouragement and stories to read so that we can do it too. How can we recognize when it’s time to move forward? She reminds us that we all depend on each other and others can provide support to help us move forward. One of the most important lessons she ever learned was to focus on one thing at a time to keep moving forward and you’ll eventually arrive at your destination! I identified with Kathryn’s difficulties finding her path in school and her career challenges. Like her, I also believe that the bumps I endured along the way led me to a successful career that I enjoyed for over twenty years.

I got to meet Kathryn and find out more about her at a recent book signing in our Strata’s Community Room. After I read Kathryn’s book and attended her talk, I wanted to learn more. What had compelled her to write a book and start a speaking tour?  The next week she agreed to sit down with me to explain more about her purpose in writing her first book.

“The underlying message in my book is that as human beings everything we do is connected. The impacts of our actions can be felt by others around the world now more strongly than ever before in history. As such, it is of paramount importance that we act with our global community in mind. We want to strive to do the best we can in all situations.”

During our chat she explained that she believes we are given obstacles for a higher purpose of learning, to evolve into a better version of ourselves. “We come into this world and things that we find tough are tough for us because we don’t have the skills developed yet; other people may find the same things very easy because they’ve developed the skills. Every time there’s a challenge, at some level, we need to connect with someone else to move through it. For example; we may do some research, talk to someone, take a course, read a book, or watch TV. There’s some information that’s external to us that will help with the answer. We need to connect with others to discover it.”

Kathryn achieved her accounting designation while at the same time becoming immersed in studying personal growth.  Once she finished her academic studies her focus shifted to looking within.  Kathryn’s been studying personal growth for over ten years and she has participated in many retreats in California with leaders in the personal growth movement.

“I think I have a powerful message that people can benefit from. Regardless of where you are in life, my message is universal. It’s important that it gets out to the world and is available for people.”

She adds, “I may have been born with a disability.  I don’t let it affect my quality of life. I have an extensive education, a successful career, I’ve travelled the world, and now I’ve written my first book.”

That’s what Kathryn plans to talk about, “Because whatever it is, our task in this world is to be the best version of ourselves we can be. We all have blocks and blocks have to do with perception and the experiences that we have. Simply reach out, connect and move forward. Do the best that you can – every day. Both you and everyone else in the world will be richer for it. People need to stand up and use their voice and just shine, whatever it is that makes them, if they weren’t needed, they wouldn’t be here.”

After my husband read The Joy of Obstacles it helped him complete an art project that he had been stuck on for months. When he read how hard Kathryn worked through her challenges he was inspired. He credits one of her earliest challenges while still in Kindergarten – learning how to tie her shoe-laces – as giving him a fresh perspective on tackling his project. Even though Kathryn was just a little kid, she broke down the complicated task into small steps and kept at it until she was able to put the parts together into the final achievement.  So too, he was able to section out his project to achieve small successes along the way. This was more manageable and it gave him a feeling of accomplishment and the motivation he needed to complete his project.

I was so impressed with his success that I decided to use the complementary workbook that accompanies the Joy of Obstacles to help manage my current challenge: to increase my blog content. I printed out the pdf found on Kathryn’s website and I’m currently on the last of the nine chapters. At first, I was reluctant to do the exercises, but I finally admitted to myself that I’ve been spinning my wheels in the goals I want to accomplish and this workbook has come along at just the right time for me. It’s providing the gentle nudge and structure that I need! The questions at the end of each chapter led me to remember silver linings I experienced along the way in my life. I remembered leaving a job I disliked to take a riskier opportunity. As I walked down the hall after giving my notice, I felt over six feet tall!

Leslie completing her Joy of Obstacles workbook page 16 / 21

I encourage people at whatever stage of life they are in to read Kathryn’s book and check out all the valuable material found on her website. She’s also available to speak to groups on Overcoming Adversity, Seeing the Gift in Any Situation, and Following Your Passion.

The Joy of Obstacles – Celebrating the Silver Lining in Difficult Days is a best-seller available on Amazon in print and e-book format. An audio version is planned for January 2019. To book Kathryn as a speaker you can contact her via her website InspiredbyKathryn.com .

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Education, School Assessment Policy, School Curriculum

Emerging, On-Track and Extending: The New B.C. Curriculum and Changes to Student Assessment in Grades K – 9

Student interests and passion

The British Columbia student assessment system is being redesigned to align with the new curriculum first introduced for K-9 students in the 2016-17 school year with full implementation in 2017-18.

According to the assessment website teachers will help students learn by exploring their interests and passions. Whether it’s computers, hockey, or art, passion is a motivator for students, and students can connect with their interests to excel in the classroom.

At the base of the new curriculum are literacy and numeracy foundations. A “Know-Do-Understand” model will support this concept-based competency-driven approach to learning.

Know Do Understand model

How will this new approach to learning be assessed? What will student reporting look like?

When the ministry consulted with parents around the province the resulting report, Your Kid’s Progress Engagement Summary Report – October 2017, summarized parents’ opinions on student assessment:

Reasons for supporting the use of letter grades and percentages included the following:

  • Grades and percentages are a familiar measure that can be easily grasped.
  • Students are motivated to achieve a high letter grade or percentage.
  • These measures help prepare students for the real world.
  • Post-secondary institutions and scholarships may not recognize reporting that does not contain letter grades or percentages.

Reasons for opposing the use of letter grades:

  • Letter grades may or may not align with the concepts of the new curriculum.
  • High letter grades make students complacent and prevent striving for improvement.
  • There may be a lack of consistency and accuracy of grading between teachers, schools, and districts.
  • Letter grades undermine self-esteem and foster competition among peers.

Schools will continue to use three levels for reporting overall achievement. But instead of using the old descriptors: not yet within expectations, meets expectations, and exceeds expectations schools are now shifting to emerging, on track and extending.

In addition to comments students start getting letter grades in grade four and letter grades are required up to grade nine. However school districts may use different scales as an alternative to letter grades if they choose but letter grades must be provided if parents request them.

As a retired educator, I continue to take an interest in our public education system and I know parents are very interested in their children’s success in school, and in life!

How about you? What is your experience as a parent, educator or student with school assessment? Comments are appreciated!

 

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Fashion, Fashion Trends, History of Fashion

The Fickle Finger of Fashion: Leggings, Jeggings and the Fashion Curve

Leggings, according to the Macmillan Dictionary, first made an appearance on men in the 14th century:

“Though leggings may seem like a modern invention, the concept of this kind of leg covering goes right back to the 14th century, when they were worn by men and often described as hose, breeches or even stockings. The word legging itself isn’t a newcomer either, dating back to 1763 as a reference to an ‘extra outer covering to protect the leg’”.

In The Measure of a Man, JJ Lee gleefully cites The Canterbury Tales  to explain the shocking impact when men started wearing leggings, “They caused a scandal. Chaucer makes the complaint clear through his Parsons …the buttocks of such persons look like the hinder parts of a she-ape in the full of the moon… that foul part show they to the people proudly in despite of decency.”

The first signs that modern leggings worn by women could be pushed off the fashion scene started a few years ago with the introduction of wide-leg pants. Although many boomers will stubbornly cling to their leggings and jeggings, younger fashionistas will eagerly gravitate to what’s new to their eyes and not what their mothers and grandmothers are wearing.

However, age isn’t the deciding factor when we adopt a particular fashion trend. The fashion progression below is adapted from the diffusion curve first created by social scientist Everett Rogers.

Everett Rogers (1931-2004) was a communication specialist, sociologist, writer and teacher. He is best known for his theory about the diffusion of innovations theory in which he introduced the term ‘early adopter’ or pioneer.

Diffusion curve

Around the same time as Rogers was dreaming up his diffusion theory Edward, the glamorous bachelor Duke of Windsor, was attracting crowds of fans around the world whenever he appeared in public.

The Duke was one of the earliest fashion influencers of the last century. He broke all of the rules: he wore a belt instead of suspenders, he cuffed his pants, mixed plaids and patterns. He favoured American casual style over fussy English convention. His father, King George V, was so shocked and disgusted that he correctly predicted that the prince would ruin himself within a year of his father’s death.

Edward, who was firmly in the innovator section of the diffusion curve, explains his influence on fashion in his 1960 book, A Family Album, “I was in fact ‘produced’ as a leader of fashion, with the clothiers as my showmen and the world as my audience. The middle-man in this process was the photographer, employed not only by the Press but by the trade, whose task it was to photograph me on every possible occasion, public or private, with an especial eye for what I happened to be wearing.”

Here he is in his most recent iteration in The Crown and in person on the right.

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A fall 2018 window display features a trend that can be traced back to the innovative Duke who would have heartily approved this bold mix of colour and pattern.

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A current example of the diffusion curve is illustrated in this image from a YouTube video featuring business innovator Gary Vaynerchuk and guru Tony Robbins. Gary’s outfit of choice is a collarless sweater with a smattering of beard stubble while Tony is clean-shaven in a suit. Gary chooses fashion that aligns with his innovative, pioneering approach to business. What about Tony, where would he be on the curve? A late-majority or even a laggard? Only time will tell!

Tony Robbins and GaryVee cropped

What about you? Are you an early adopter obsessed with fashion and worrying you are not on trend?

How do you handle the masses of fashion items tempting you each season? Do you eliminate what no longer serves you? Or do you cling helplessly to clothing that no longer fits or makes you feel good? Maybe you’ve adopted a capsule wardrobe or worked with an image consultant. I’d love to hear about your challenges and successes!

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Restless Retiree, Retirement lifestyle, Vacation

My Summer Vacation: The Niagara River Whirlpool, the Shaw Festival and a Farm Wedding

I had a wedding to attend in Ontario so I decided to add on a few more days with a side trip to the Niagara region. But instead of staying in tacky Niagara Falls I chose a bed and breakfast in picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The charming 1860’s Wilson-Guy House is just off the main drag, Queen Street. Although we arrived late, our host Maria took time to greet me and my husband and offer some last-minute instructions. Our room on the second floor had a king bed and a sitting area. Outside on the landing there was another sitting area and a mini-fridge to share with the neighbours across the hall.

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After we settled in our room we enjoyed cold beers and some snacks in the backyard garden while listening to a chorus of crickets and cicadas.

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At eight o’clock the next morning Maria left coffee and fresh scones at our door on a silver tray. After my coffee and before breakfast, I went out for a walk along Queen Street. It’s not your typical tourist strip, no fast food chains!  It was a good chance to take photos without the usual hordes of seniors (like me!) clogging up the sidewalk. I didn’t go into any of the shops although they were inviting (my friend bought a really cute hat!)

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Most of the visitors in town are here to attend the Shaw Festival. The festival runs from April to October and after a short break it starts up again in November with a production of The Christmas Carol. Maria told us that things tend to slow down after Valentine’s Day before the new season begins again in April.

Breakfast was divine. After several years hosting, Maria still likes to wow her guests with fancy flourishes. The beautiful breakfast table is set with china and crystal. The fresh local peaches were especially delicious!

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Next on our itinerary was meeting up with friends to tour around the falls, visit some local wineries and attend the musical Grand Hotel.

We ended up in a long line-up for expensive parking near the falls so we agreed to give up our goal of riding on the “Maid of the Mist” and we decided to drive up the Niagara Parkway six kilometres to The Whirlpool.  I first heard of The Whirlpool in an intriguing book by Canadian author Jane Urquhart. After reading the magical story she spun around the mesmerizing whirlpool I made sure I added it onto my itinerary for my next visit to the area.

There’s lots of free parking at the site and if you go around to the back of the gift shop you can have a great view (also for free)! You can buy a ticket to ride in the Aero Car high over the whirlpool.

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Or, you can book a tour in the whirlpool jet. My preference is to watch the churning mass of water from a distance from the back of the gift shop, but maybe next time I’ll venture out in the jet!

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After we had our fill of the whirlpool we spent the rest of the morning visiting a few local wineries. We originally planned to rent electric bikes but it was too hot!

Wine Tasting (note the cute hat!)

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Relaxing outside a winery

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After lunch, we headed back to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a free pop-up concert featuring members of the Shaw ensemble cast. There were many talented singers and musicians giving their time to drum up support for the worthy actors’ fund. Performers took turns passing the hat around the willing audience.

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Luckily for us our friend’s niece is a member of the ensemble cast and she gave us a backstage tour after the performance.

A dressing table backstage at the Shaw Theatre

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Period glamour photos to inspire the make-up artists

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Our backstage tour, I love being on stage, even when it’s empty!

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On our last day in town, we drove a couple of blocks to Lake Ontario where we took a short, but interesting, walk on the beach.

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On our way we passed the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Course. Established in 1875 it has the distinction of being North America’s oldest golf course!

One last stop to visit my cousin and her husband. They had graciously invited us to their new home when they found out we’d be in the neighbourhood. We had a lovely visit catching up on family news from the past 50 years or so!

I hated to leave this delightful region!

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The Wedding

We completed our itinerary with a visit to our family near Sarnia to attend a wedding. When I heard it was going to be on the bride’s grandparents’ farm I wasn’t sure what to expect. At the beginning of the summer pictures appeared on Facebook showing the couple with their friends and family clearing out trees and brush to prepare an arbour for the ceremony and space for guest seating. The result was spectacular and worth all the effort to create a magical setting worthy of the occasion!

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The Head Table

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Maids relaxing after the ceremony and formal pictures

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Back Home

We ended our trip back where we started five days ago at YVR . It’s the first look I’ve had at the newly renovated domestic gate.

The Rivers Monument is part of the Sea to Sky theme, one of eight themes featured throughout the airport. YVR currently houses the largest collection of Northwest Coast Native art in the world.

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I love being away on vacation but Vancouver is pretty hard to beat! Don’t you agree?

 

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Reading, Restless Retiree, Retirement lifestyle, Self-help, Writing

My Guilty Pleasure is Reading Books

I’ve been thinking about how much time I spend reading, “Is it an escape from goals I want to accomplish? Could all this reading I do be a bad thing?”

After some soul-searching, I’m slowing down my reading consumption and shifting gears to include more writing into my day.

How it All Started

Reading has always been a big part of my life. One of my fondest memories is lounging in our suburban backyard during summer vacation with a good book. I had eclectic tastes and I remember the librarian peering at me over her readers as I checked out the salacious Backstreet by Fanny Hurst (Queen of the Sob Sisters). The librarian asked me if my mother knew what I was reading. She did. I remember her disgusted look and raised eyebrows, “You like this trash?”

I became an expert on our local library’s inventory. As a little girl I would have to go to the library to check out a heavy armful of books for my mother when she wasn’t able to go for herself. I was under a lot of pressure to remember what she’d already read!

My Habit Includes Both Fiction and Non-Fiction

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s I read mainly for self-improvement. Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want and Ernie Zelinski’s The Joy of Not Working and many others helped show me the path to reach my financial and personal goals. After I started working at Kumon I read mostly fiction as ‘reading for pleasure’ was a big part of our programme’s curriculum so I had to lead by example! I used the Kumon Book List to track my efforts by checking off each book as I completed it and then writing a short summary to remember the contents. It was a satisfying part of my job that I enjoyed!

After I retired I ramped up my reading. I devoured many best sellers in business and self-help: Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Dorrie Clark, Jim Rohn, Lisa Nicols, Scott Stratten, Dan Pink, Judith Glaser, Alan Weiss, Robert Cialdini, Mari Kondo, Judith Glaser, Simon Sinek, Liz Wiseman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Byron Katie and many more.

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A Typical Stack of checked-out library books

Starting a Blog

One of my goals in retirement was to publish a blog so I began a daily writing practise after being inspired by the teachings of Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice, Writing Down the Bones, If You Want to Write and The Artist Way. I started a weekly publishing schedule but I never developed a routine strong enough to keep me going and things started to fall apart after a couple of months–I just wasn’t enjoying writing and instead I sat in my recliner reading more books from the library!

I remembered a chapter in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron where she suggested cutting out an activity, like reading, that you enjoy so you can free up your creative space. As I thought about how hard it would be to stop reading for a week I remembered what people used to say about my mother, “She reads too much!” At the time I couldn’t fathom that reading could be a bad thing. But now, I realized how she used reading as an escape from the world.  Now I was continuing the pattern with my own reading addiction. I had dozens of books in my Vancouver Public Library ‘For Later’ folder, several books checked out with a bunch more on hold. Since I retired in January the library had taken over my life. I was spending hours each day reading my checked out books, logging into my library account to reserve more books and several times a day I’d check the status on my holds and remind myself of my upcoming due dates and also made frequent trips each week to my local library branch.

So once again I turned to books for help. Conveniently my hold on Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes became available. It’s is geared towards content marketers but it has useful tools for anyone who wants to writes. Handley suggests setting goals for the number of words written rather than for the amount of time spent writing. This was something I could get my head around. I like setting and achieving goals and thought this approach could work for me. She suggests you churn out 500 words then go back and do your editing and tweaking.

Managing My Habit

I have now decided to treat my blog like a job. I tend to be a morning person. (It helps that I have a construction crew jack-hammering across the street starting at 7:15am Monday to Friday.) With a schedule in place I’m starting to look forward to writing and I’m keeping a lid on my reading habit. Now it’s like a yummy desert I can indulge in and enjoy!

How about you, do you have a guilty pleasure you can share? Does it impact other activities you may be avoiding?

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Biking, Healthy Lifestyle, Restless Retiree, Retirement lifestyle

London Heritage Farm and Tearoom: A Delightful Surprise on a Sunny Summer Day!

I was sitting on the patio of the Diplomat Bakery at the end of my bike ride from Steveston Village when I noticed a steady stream of bikes, motorcycles and convertibles rounding the bend in the road coming from the other direction. My husband remembered a stinky waste processing plant from years ago but we concluded that maybe things had changed, so we decided to get back on our bikes and continue our ride. Indeed it was a pleasant ride along the Fraser River and we appreciated the clean air as we passed the new, modernized treatment plant.

As we biked along, I spotted a sign for a heritage farm and tea room so I kept that in mind to visit on our way back after we’d explored the length of the road.

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London Farm Family Family Home

The museum, circa 1880’s – 1920’s has 6 display rooms, a tea room and a gift shop. The Tea Room is open on Saturday & Sunday from noon to 5 pm (last seating is 4 pm) with extended days during the summer. Check their website to plan your trip. The entrance to the farmhouse is by donation and the grounds are open to the public every day all year round from dawn to dusk and entrance is free.

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Blackberries Ready for Canning

The gift shop has a wide selection of jams but I only bought one jar of strawberry rhubarb and I ended up giving it away.  I’ll plan another visit soon so I can buy some of the blackberry jam they were preparing the day I visited!

The tea room looked inviting but we arrived too late for the last sitting.  The server looked so pretty in her starched, white apron!

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In the hallway around the corner from the tearoom, I admired a display of dainty underpinnings and aprons. What a lot of work on Blue Monday for women before washing machines were widely available! It’s interesting to look in the bedrooms upstairs to see artifacts like curling irons and sewing kits that the three London girls and their servants would have used for grooming and mending chores.

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To end our visit we headed outside to roam around the grounds. The gardens are a welcome oasis in the summer heat, the thermostat showed over 40 degrees Celsius!

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Apple trees bursting with late summer fruit, yum!

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Rows of Fruits and Vegetables Waiting for the Harvest…

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Now that I know about the London Heritage Farm I’ll plan to visit for high tea soon with some friends. What about you, do you have a favourite hidden secret tea room to share?

 

 

 

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