In the Good Old Summertime

Another beautiful day in Paradise and lots to share in celebration of the good old Summertime!  And a drawing-winner too! Plus MUSICA

From the land of swaying flowers and fat bumblebees . . .

I bring you the glory of summer . . . starting with ripe tomatoes . . .

This was our first taste, one of our favorite days of every summer, the ripening, the picking, and the eating of the first tomato . . . we shared it, very simple, sourdough toast, mayonnaise, sweet, vine-ripened, still-warm-from-the-garden tomato, salt & pepper … heavenly! Summer joy.

Now this is the part of summer I could really live without. We get humidity sometimes (that’s not rain out there), and it’s so heavy and thick, you actually have to chew it before you can breathe it.

This is how I feel on those days. Hideously inelegant.

So, I turn on the air conditioner, and read in my chair with Jack, my kitty, next to me, while the sun flitters over me, and count my many blessings.

Because soon . . . these summer days will just be a memory . . . even on our walk, the leaves are starting to show the strain of having to hang around for much longer . . . 🍂

So we are intent on getting everything out of these summer days possible. This is my great-niece Maggie who came to visit … she’s nine ~ she would say hello, but she’s busy. We loved enjoying a little bit of summer through her eyes!

And my here’s grand-nephew Wyler… he’s 7 . . .

This is Eliza, who just turned 13 … Look how brave they are… jumping off this bridge is a right of passage in a Vineyard summer.  I don’t think I would do it, but they all did! Their parents too!

There goes Eliza!

Family came to visit! From New Hampshire, my niece Jess, her husband Cory, and their two girls …  and from Durango, Colorado, my nephew Ben, and his wife Paige, and their two boys.💞

And so it was . . . we did all the Vineyard things . . . like clamming … this is Paige, married to my nephew Ben, with their youngest son, Beckett, who’s four ~ he’s got clams!

This is Ben, Ben is Paige’s husband, my nephew, and Jess’s brother …😘

Ben and Jess are the children of my brother, Jim. This picture of Jim and Ben has hung on my wall for years, I LOVE it. Colorado, with snow on the high mountains and wild flowers under their feet, and two good boys. Have I confused you enough name-wise? Well, there will not be a test, ignore everything . . .

That’s Jim, next to me (with rollers in my hair) … back row on right… closest to me in age, he was my partner in crime crowing up … 💖

So, it was wonderful to have his children here . . . this is Jessica, Jim’s daughter, Ben’s sister, my niece, and the mother of these two . . . .❤️

. . .Eliza and Maggie, who’s father, Cory, you’ll meet in a moment.

There he is, in the back row, in pink with the hat on! Here they all are. Lovely people! So much fun!

They brought home lots of clams and Uncle Joe showed the boys how to shuck them. Fascinating!

Then Joe taught them how to make stuffed clams (kind of lost the boys here, but definitely not the rest of us!).

I showed them how to make my Dad’s famous garlic bread (their great-grandfather, hard to believe!). Almost ready for the broiler! (P.66 the new Heart of the Home!)

Of course we had the Island food of choice . . .

Bowls full of steaming lobsters . . . Paige demonstrates, while her son,

Brave Beckett, touches lobster (of course, already cooked).

And me and Jess, we’re just happy!

We ate outside every night. Paper plates, candles, and twinkle lights! Corn on the cob rolled in the butter stick, watermelon chunks, hot bread, crispy potato pancakes, fresh swordfish and juicy pink steak. We had it all!

If you’re happy and you know it, say “Rawr,” and show us your watermelon!

My backyard never looks like this. Ever ever.

But I liked it. They told me this was a “rocket ship to the moon!” Looks pretty good! Excellent imagination and creativity! They got an A!

Inside was a human sacrifice. Somebody had to do it. We’re talking science here, the furtherment of mankind. Three cheers for Beckett!

And here? The proud sisters of Mission Control, Eliza and Maggie.

The first morning, while everyone was still asleep, I peeked out my upstairs bedroom window like I always do to see what the weather is like, and was shocked! Where was I? What’s all that stuff on the lawn? Blink-blink. This can’t be my house!

I went downstairs to find the victim taking his revenge on the girls of Mission Control …

Off we go on an Island tour in the Fine Romance Van! Turn up the MUSICA! Because

We drove all over, had lunch with a fabulous view at the Aquinnah Shop above the Gay Head Cliffs. (That man over there, standing, wearing the hat, really liked us!)

And I can see why . . . Ahhh, family!

Here comes the french fry thief …

This is where we were eating. Very good view from the roof for the french fry thieves. See the three jars down there,  on the left on the railing?

Sun tea. My kind of restaurant.

Here we are in Menemsha (where Jaws was filmed) … walking the jetty, looking at the boats …

Joe got us a plate of ice-cold oysters to share . . . (Jess and Cory again, who run five miles a day or so, even in the humidity!).

Delicious! Icy, shivery, like liquid silver! (If you’ve never had them, don’t worry, they taste MUCH better than they look!)

Here we are, Paige, Joe, Cory, Ben, Beckett, and me … al fresco eating at it’s very best!

While Maggie and Eliza looked for buried treasure . . .

. . .and found it, tiny little shells and beach glass, the best sort of Island souvenirs. (Love the color on Eliza’s nails!)

One day we were looking for these two…found them leaning against the washer and dryer in the pantry. Why? We don’t know . . . Wyler’s T-shirt says “Shark Proof.”

Little pile of sweetness ~ Cousins! Maggie, on the right, is going to be a writer. She was telling me about the Warrior book series she’s been reading (by Erin Hunter) … all the characters are kitties in clans (such as Riverclan or Thunderclan), with names like Tigerstar and Squirrelflight.  She was SO excited and animated telling me about these stories, now I want to read them!

We so enjoyed every moment with them . . . and then as quickly as they came, it was over, poof! and off they went …  but the memories, along with summer, stayed …

So we went looking for some more

Freshest air in the world, salty, windy, lovely sound of the waves . . .

We went to visit Joe’s niece Jennifer and her husband Mark … they live in New York, but they’ve rented this “camp” by the water every summer for years. We had gazpacho (con tomatoes!), salad, and quiche! When I see Jen, I think of this quote . . . ❤️

You get to their house by a very (very!) long dirt road through the woods and scrub oak . . .

The house is unfinished inside, has no insulation, it’s the opposite of fancy, but really comfortable, perfect for reading and dreaming . . .  this is the view from the kitchen window . . . there’s nothing out there but the wind . . . I could barely keep my eyes open!

It was a perfect day for a walk on South Beach ~ that’s Mark and me and Jen, Joe has the camera.

Looking back from the beach to the house …

Can you picture yourself here? Deep breath of ocean air, feeling drowsy? . . . ommmm . . . .

Sometimes people ask me what to do when they come to Martha’s Vineyard, and honestly, this is more or less it. You listen to the screen door slam. It’s the opposite of what to do, it’s more like how to be!

And so, you know Girlfriends, it’s time . . . you have been so patient . . . but Vanna has arrived in all her glory . . . and it’s time to give away the luv-lee journal of Beatrix Potter.

And my story of finding her in the English Countryside, at the end of a very long path I began to walk when I was around 22.

Don’t forget, you lucky winner, about the secret that’s hiding in the back of the Beatrix book!  SO, who shall it be darling Vanna? I want you to know, Vanna’s toenails are polished gold, they’re shiny, like earrings, and she is now perched, toes curled and clutching the edge, on top of my art table. Now she’s up, graceful as a swan, and over, and INTO the vat she dives, with all your names, swirling down and down and down . . . scissor-kicking her way to the bottom, a whirlwind of papers, flying around and through the air now . . . and . . . here . . . she . . . comes . . . clutching one fluttery piece of paper, and now, handing it to me . . . the winner of our luv-lee little giveaway, chosen especially by Vanna from over 2,000 entries from all of you darling kindred spirits, is YOU, dear KERRIE FOLEY, (but only if you promise not to DIE if you win, like you said you would do in your comment!). Because you just did win!

CONGRATULATIONS, KERRIE! I’ll email you; you can reply with your address ~ I’ll sign both of your books and pop them into the mail for you.💞

AND, now it’s almost time for me to go write a new WILLARD, because by the time I’ve written it, and you receive it,  it will almost be September, we will be feeling it (eeek with joy), and I have new news to share.  Make sure you and the ones you love are signed up for this little bit of “All Good News” celebrating the change of season, that starts off a little like this (in case you’ve never seen it):And, oh my goodness! Just as I was about to sign off . . . UPS pulled up outside my window, be still my beating heart … I grabbed my camera . . .

. . .  and ran to the kitchen door, because I feel like I’ve been waiting forever, and now, Hooray! It’s my turn! So many of you have been writing on Twitter and Facebook to tell me you got your cups! And I’ve been whining and moaning because mine hadn’t come yet!!! But just as I was finishing this post, here they are! (Yes, three boxes, I told you I was doing my Christmas shopping!)  Sorry, I was too excited to hold the camera still . . . and then I took a big time-out for the grand opening of the cups …

Ta-daaa! First box I opened turned out to be the Bluebird of Happiness. How appropriate! I love it! 

(‘Course the moment I grabbed the camera and began to run to the door, my shadow was right behind me!) What is it, what is it? A cup? Are you kidding? All this for a cup? 🙀

And then, more appropriate timing . . . the next one out was the Martha’s Vineyard cup!  Then the Santa cup, and then the darling new smaller size, Autumn. Which means, I am SET! 💙What a nice note to end on! Blessings to you all…. I hope you are loving these last lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer, these ARE the good old days!  Thank you for all your sweet comments, Girlfriends. More fun for us to come soon. And now . . . I’m going to make a cup of tea! XOXOX

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | 434 Comments

Beatrix Potter’s Birthday and I have News!

Guess what tomorrow is??? Beatrix Potter’s 151st Birthday! MUSICA 🎶 And I have news!

The Genius, Generous, Life of Beatrix Potter.

Here’s where I was on this day, July 28, last year, celebrating the 150th Birthday of Beatrix Potter with so many of YOU and the Brewster Ladies Library, on Cape Cod. What a fun day that was!

Right after that, my Girlfriends, who also happen to be my nun friends (I’ve written about them before), sent me this wonderful little thimble to celebrate. Wasn’t that the sweetest thing? They love Beatrix like I do.💞

Because not all of you are intimately familiar with the life of Beatrix, I thought I’d at least give you a very simple time-line of her life so you can get the lay of the land, so to speak.

Most of you know how crazy I am about Beatrix because I wrote the whole story of my slow discovery of the person that she was, not just an artist, not just a scientist, not just an author, not just a business woman, not just a house-lover and adorer such as we, but more, so much more, a fierce, forward-looking conservationist whose passions still reverberate today ~ she changed her part of the world, and hence, in a sense, the whole world. . . that’s the hero I tried to tell about in my book A Fine Romance, Falling in Love Love Love, with the English Countryside.

So, to celebrate today, I thought I would take you on a special tour through a brilliant book about Beatrix that was published by Penguin Books in 2006. It’s written just as if it was Beatrix’s own scrapbook, in first person. But inside it says, “This is a work of fiction based on the journals and letters of Beatrix Potter.” Not entirely fiction, but kind of, because Beatrix didn’t actually make this book herself, it just looks like she did.

Using Beatrix’s words to tell the story of  her life, the designer who compiled this informative book (who is not mentioned anywhere, but must be a kindred spirit, and girl after our own heart), filled it with Beatrix Potter artwork, mementoes, personal letters, stamps, and photos, and with words in what looks to be Beatrix’s own handwriting, with entries dated, as in a journal … and many of the things in the book, like the little photo album above, are glued-in and three-dimensional! I’m not kidding! Books like this don’t come along every day! Unless you make one yourself!

Pure charm, filled with pressed flowers and wonderful old photos, that’s Norman Warne there …

Above are glued-in “proofs” of the pictures for her first book. There’s even a real envelope that opens and inside you can pull out a perfect copy of the famous letter she wrote to Noel, her governess’s child, illustrating the story of Peter Rabbit for the first time on paper.

And on this page, an illustrated map of the Lake District unfolds … I could put ten exclamation marks after every page!!! Books aren’t usually made this way!!!!!!

Then, at the end, just when you think you’ve seen it all, and  you are already sighing because you don’t want it to end, you find an amazing surprise embedded in the inside of the back cover. See the little ribbon? “Hmmmm,” you say to yourself, “What’s that?”

At first you don’t see it, but then, with a little tug, an invisible door opens . . .

and inside is an exact copy of Peter Rabbit that Beatrix had printed herself after having been rejected by publishers. (This was a very brave thing for her to do, considering women’s “place” at the turn of the century, but only the beginning when it comes to the bravery of Miss Potter). If you ever need a hero that will help you be brave, I suggest you read the biography of Beatrix Potter by Linda Lear. Forevermore, after that, you will say to yourself, “If she can do it, so can I.”

Her first printing, in black and white to keep down costs. A totally delightful surprise! I have to say, I think I might be forced to paint inside these little line drawings!

But you can do what you want when you get your hands on this little jewel, because, to celebrate the 151st birthday of my hero, Beatrix Potter, this book, and the book where I wrote about sailing the wild and windy Atlantic, then trekking across England in order to fulfill a long-time dream to finally walk through the doors of Beatrix Potter’s house at Hill Top in the Lake District ~ will both become the property of one of YOU darling people. Just leave your name at the bottom of this post, click on the tiny word that says “comments,” and leave a few words … and in a wee bit o’ time, we’ll draw a name and see who these books get to go home with. Happy Birthday, dear Beatrix. We will never forget you! 💞

One other thing . . . you remember the picnic we had last year in Stourhead, Wiltshire, England? Of course you do! And you remember how it happened? Well, just in cases, I’ll tell you again:  When we knew we were going over to England last year, I wrote here on my blog, “Joe and I will be in the park at Stourhead, having a picnic, at 12 noon on September 18, and we would LOVE anyone who’s going to be in the neighborhood to BYO Picnic Basket and come join us and say hello!”  We had no idea what to expect. Would anyone come? Might there be seven people? Could there be fifty? No idea.

As it turned out, there were sixty of us kindred spirits spread out on the lawn on a lovely spring day, next to a 12th century stone church, in a garden designed by Capability Brown over 200 years before, with the sun weaving in and out of the clouds . . .

And we had a wonderful, joyful afternoon, sitting, laughing and talking and getting to know each other, marveling over the unlikelihood of this happening at all … it was really a thrill. Lots of people from the US, lots from England, some Americans who now live in England, and others from Europe . . . a surprise and so perfect, I still live in the glow of it. People brought things, like gorgeous quilts they’d made, or their own Petey dolls, or their children, and lots of delicious lunches … and I signed books, and we had a great day.

We took a “class picture,” and I think you can tell by the smiles what a wonderful time we were having.  “We all kept saying, we need to do this again!” Well, dear hearts, we are going to do it again . . . we’ll be taking the picture for Class of 2018 next year on May 11,  and we hope you can come, wherever you are!  But this time, we’re be having our picnic someplace else … so if you want to come . . .

You will have to drive through countryside like this . . . sorry, but you have to!

Where oh where are we going . . . ? ? ? It’s a mystery! MAS MUSICA ~ we loved playing Vera Lynn in our car while we drove through the English Countryside . . .

Past lakes with swans and and wildflowers, pulling over at a pub for an icy Peah Cid-ah . . . it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!

In May, hillsides of English Bluebells will be in bloom!

You’ll have to meander between narrow hedgerows speckled with cow parsley, watching for bunnies, rolling down your windows to hear the wood pigeons coo, “My toe huts Bet-tee … “

Past curving rock walls and gingerbread stone cottages . . . can you guess where we’re going yet? You probably can, but you probably can’t believe it! Me either!

Almost there ~ must go through bunting-decked villages where the buildings look as if they’re covered in frosting … oh darn.

The frosting makes them shine from the hill sides  . . . you’ll be stopping to get your camera out.

Because you’ll be marveling over handmade chimney tops and slate roofs like these . . .

. . . as you drive past hillsides with cows and lambs and sparkling lakes, turn off your car to hear the wind through the trees . . .

. . . and through the hedges of wild roses and rhododendrons. But, a hint:  Before you go, you’ll probably want to read this wonderful little book  . . .

For inspiration. ❤️ Squealing yet?

Because, Yes! OMG, I’m not kidding! Where we’re going to have our picnic is totally impossible, it can’t happen, but it is and it can . . .

We’re having our BYO Picnic Basket Party right here, next May 11, at Castle Cottage, where Beatrix Potter (Mrs. Heelis) and her husband William lived for 30 years! Just in front of the house, across Post Office Meadow (which will be filled with frolicking lambikins in May), is the gate to Hill Top in Near Sawrey, heavenly Lake District, beloved home of Beatrix Potter!!! That’s where we’re going, Girlfriends!

And here’s a preview ~ this photo is actually from inside Castle Cottage, sent to me by my friend Mandy, showing the wonderful view over rooftops of Near Sawrey (with Mandy’s Ollie Dog in attendance) . . . From here, you can see the famous Tower Bank Arms and the entrance to Hill Top ~ the very same view that Beatrix had. For us. Us us us us us! We get to go go go!!!

Here’s how this miracle happened,  . . . As you may remember, I was asked to speak at Beatrix’s 150th Birthday Party last year by Betsy Bray of the Beatrix Potter Society (are you a member? I love the wonderful newsletter I receive from England, and their luv-lee E-Newsletter called Pottering About) ~ that’s Betsy on the left . . . she and I have kept in touch, and a couple of weeks ago, she came to lunch and brought her friend Mandy Marshall, who just happens to LIVE in Castle Cottage (shaking head in disbelief) . . . and we started talking and our talking turned to plotting and then it turned to planning and I just heard from Mandy yesterday that she would love to have us for our picnic there (she opens the house only by special arrangement, which this is!), and Betsy wrote to say she’d be there too! So now, we’re inviting you! And if you CAN’T get over there in person, that’s okay, because we will take so many photos you will think you’ve been there! That’s a promise!

Happy Birthday Beatrix Potter!

Love you dears, leave a comment to win the books, and mark your calendars for May 11, 2018! Oh! I almost forgot, the cups! They are in LA, sort of stuck in a mire of Homeland Security (very dangerous cups) and Customs. We call, we holler, they ignore us, but it should be soon now. 💞 Bye for now! xoxo

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2,060 Comments