The Fair and Pleasant Land

Rabbit-Rabbit girlfriends! Hello from this Fair and Pleasant Land.  With MUSICA we were listening to last night (because I brought a playlist on my phone, a minor miracle it seems to me ~ you can now carry around the soundtrack to your life! 🎵 How can you not be happy with this playing as you unpack and dance around strange new surroundings?) . . . Missing you, missing me?helloOctober

Ah yes, it’s time once more for Vagabonds on Parade!


I almost don’t know where to begin, we’ve been so hill and dale since last we met! Sorry it’s been so long, I promise, I have tried daily, futilely, hopelessly, to upload photos for the last two weeks, to no avail!!! But we are in a new place, and although quite squirrelly (as one would say in America), due to extreme foreignocity, it is surprisingly working this morning and I am making hay while the sun is shining!  SO, HELLO Girlfriends!!! What a trip we are on, what an amazing sojourn! So let me show you a bit of it, because, as you knowa picture


The sky has been outstanding, day and night!  The short version so far, is that we left Stourhead, still on wings because of our amazing picnic which I wrote about in the last post . . . and drove, oh where, oh where did we drive, it is going way too fast already! SO, consult trusty diary:  Ah yes, its all coming back now . . . we found a luv-lee cottage in the Cotswolds for a few days, and relearned how to turn on bath water and how to work washing machine, as we do wherever we go, because, it seems, no two plumbing units are teathe same.  On our daily walks, we’ve traversed mud flats, gotten up close to lots of pheasants and discovered an abandoned WWII air strip. We visited farm stores for award winning butter, and have gone to pubs for Scotch egg with crispy strips of pancetta, and poached trout with Marie Rose Sauce (a lot like 1000 Island), we’ve had tea and Lemon Cake, and scones with British marmalade, and in Stratford-on-Avon, at the birthplace of William Shakespeare, we learned that putting bells on the toes of your shoes was a popular women’s fashion of the 15th century. Luv it. Not often, but often enough, it’s poured rain so Joe bought wellies (I brought mine), but we’ve had plenty of sun, and always massive clouds, like these above, and that sky up there, my girls, is over Scotland!!! Oh yeah, that’s where we are this fine bright sunny morning! In Scotland, contemplating the true meaning of plaid and grateful to be doing it.


But more than anything, this is what we came for, these long walks in the English Countryside and this is why we’ve been Falling in Loveall over again! Not just any old love, no, mad love! That’s Joe ⬆️ outside the little hotel (that’s not the hotel in this photo!) we found by happenstance called the Devonshire Arms Hotel, on a 30,000 acre property owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire (please tell me, who owns 30,000 acres? But VERY grateful to the Devonshires, because they share!). ‘Course we didn’t know all this when we checked in . . . and here we are, straight out the front door of the hotel, not even unpacked yet, going for our first walk, even though it was getting late, but the grass smelled so green, the air was so fresh and clean, the path was calling our names. The walk started out rather normal, despite the fabulous rushing river alongside us the whole way, then we rounded a bend and waaaay off in the distance, we saw what appeared to be castle ruins, and immediately kissed our 6:30 dinner reservation goodbye because nothing could stop us from going there that very moment!englandwithitshistory


As we got closer and closer, we became more and more curious, what IS IT?  And then, castlewhile walking around and through it, we found out it’s called Bolton Abbey. Owned, yes, it too, by the Duke and Duchess. AMAZING place. Half of it is ruins, the other half is a church, we went inside and lit candles, and wandered through the lovely old graveyard. This place had all the accouterments a person could wish for. Besides the story of people and history, there was a charming tea shop, and walks that went on forever, over bridges, past waterfalls, through fields of cows and lambs, on stones across the river, skirting places so narrow you would think they wouldn’t allow the public to go there. All ours, we could just go till our hearts content.justrightimg_0939

Crisp breeze, fast moving clouds . . . (isn’t he just asking for a tea bag to get caught on those glasses???)


YOU walk through them, no YOU do it, no YOU do it . . . Okay, we’ll both do it . . . and so we did … not one thing happened. No biting, no stampeding. Getting to know our farm animals. We have been too cut off from the farm!



Oh boy!


Only the tiniest bit of fall was beginning to be visible, but there was a sweet chill in the air, and the roar of the river, and we were cozy in jackets and boots . . . birds sang and skittered in the trees, mallard ducks flew right across in front of us, quacking the whole way . . .tea time!img_0995

We walked it, every day, a different trail. We’d planned to spend one night at that hotel and then head north, but each day, we just could not leave, so we added another night, until we had stayed four. We slid in mud, we got drenched, and we were so happy we tried to take a selfie to record the joy. Let me say first that we are not selfie-takers. This was our first stab at it. One out of three ain’t bad.


Realizing my head would not fit in picture, Joe says, “Here, let me hold the camera…”


“Okay, but let me get my glasses off . . .”


Third time is charm… we don’t wear makeup or dye our hair but we are happy in the English Countryside!luckyinloveimg_7739

Still showing signs of being caught in the rain, we came back from a four-mile trek feeling birdravenous . . . to, of course, a tea room, which they have so charmingly and strategically placed everywhere we go. We are so grateful! While sitting there, the sun shone on us AND it rained. We fed a little brown bird scone crumbs and took about a hundred pictures of him. Nice that we don’t have to buy film anymore, because we’d be in big trouble.😜


This was the hotel … You wouldn’t believe the breakfast that comes with the room. Silver tea things for starters. Lovely in every way.having tea


Even Petey was sorry to have to say goodbye.  (Come on Petey, get in the car . . . nooo, don’t make me . . .)


girl and dogBack-tracking a bit . . . to talk about dogs!!!!! They are everywhere. 💖  Everyone has a dog. They are on our walks, on the streets, in all the pubs.  I feel lost without one. When we walk, we are the only people who don’t have dogs.  We love meeting the owners, stopping and saying hello  . . . This was a guy named Peter and his adorable Airedale, George.


This is Rex . . . a beautiful border collie . . .  he is standing next to a “fairy ring” we’d just found (we weren’t sure what it was), built by


this wonderful English gentleman named Mike, who’d just come around the corner on that path . . . we visited with him for a long time. He told us the circle was a fairy ring he’d made from tree stumps ~ the idea of his recently deceased dear wife named Hazel . . .


And there it was. Ready to be found in the woods by just anyone (like us), who would take balloonspictures of it and forever wonder how it got there. When I first saw it, I thought it would be great to take my girlfriends here, make a bonfire in the middle, and do that thing I’m always wanting to do . . . toss in certain silly or incriminating pages from my diaries saying prayers for wisdom as they go up in smoke . . . but Mike said that recently there had been a children’s birthday party here ~ which was just what Hazel had hoped for. 💖 And so, the things of her heart (no doubt there were many more than this) will last forever.If you do it with heartdog

And now, back to dogs, they are always in pubs, we love them, and we love a country that allows this . . .  we go and take pictures of them . . .tea time


We have tea or dinner (like this delicious risotto) in front of a cozy fire watching dogs and people, listening in on conversations we can barely understand, while Joe looks at maps and I write in my diary or read about what we did that day . . .


Or we read local magazines to learn about what’s going on  . . . (that’s our Bolton Abbey on the cover of this magazine!)  “Our” Bolton Abbey! Ha! Newly claimed! Don’t tell the Duke and Duchess! We’d like to stay on their good side!


The food has been beyond wonderful. These are roasted vegetables, parsnips, carrots and tomatoes, poured over mixed greens that could not have been more healthy and delicious. Seven pounds by the way, at the Devonshire Arms Hotel Brasserie. Go there! 👏cake


Cakes! This was a tea shop in Sedbergh. But this scene is everywhere. Thank goodness for the walking.


Sedbergh also had the winning bunting of the trip so far.  In a country filled with charm, that is saying something. But I’m sure you have to agree, lamb bunting wins!



The lambs went all the way down the street, criss-crossing back and forth across the amazingly narrow roadway built for horses (that car is making it’s way down the street)! I think maybe the kids at a local school made it.  BTW, the cake shop is just behind where I was standing to take this photo. I got the lemon cake.yumimg_4694

Here’s the other thing I’m thankful for. Map man. Electricity guru, Cool-Hand-Luke wrong-side-road-driver, and heavy-lifter extraordinaire, not to mention Pear-Cider toaster like nobody’s business.💞


Our Sat-Nav in the car (better known in America as GPS) is trying to tell us how to get out of this town!  Joe does it with élan.


There is so much more to show and tell in this wonderful place with constantly thought-provoking images like this one, but it’s time to go outside and see what’s going on around here, we arrived just after dark and we’re not sure where we are yet . . . on our first full day in Scotland . . . We are staying at a little cottage in Laggan, so far from the madding crowd it is almost scary ~ two hours north of Edinburgh, at the base of the Cairngorms National Park for the next two weeks, and interestingly, just down the street from the Dalwhinnie Whisky Distillery ~ I think there are distilleries everywhere, whisky being a major cash-crop for Scotland ~ we saw it on our way in. There is a fireplace here! And my iPhone plugs into their stereo! And it’s so quiet, we slept like lambs last night. Who could ask for more?  So lucky. How did this ever happen? Must have been Joe.Lucky us

img_4682I’ll keep taking pictures for you . . . I love having you along. Watch Twitter if you can, because so far it’s been much easier to send pictures to Twitter than it has to get them to go from my iPhoto onto the blog!  I know some of you don’t use Twitter, and that’s okay, I don’t think you have to really join, but if you go here you can just look at the photos. Off to mess with the washing machine! Wish me luck!  Love you Girls. Have a wonderful day! ❌⭕️

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Well, I’m going for it. MUSICA 🎵👏All day yesterday I tried to get photos to come from my iPhoto to my blog, and all I managed to get were these ten, and, despite turning computer on and off girlartand using all the computer tricks I know (swearing, begging and bribery), one hundred percent zero came up this morning! So I give up. Ten photos still sounds like a lot, but I have to say, there is so much more I wanted to share with you. Walks in the countryside, packing our Picnic. and so MANY up-close and personal photos of our wonderful Girlfriends and their families who joined us … It’s okay, we are going to a little town today that supposedly has computer help, and also, we’ll be moving along at the end of the week, and who KNOWS what we’ll get when we do. Maybe I should be celebrating getting this far!  Glass half-full and all that rot! But anyway, I wanted to say Hello, give you these few photos, and say


This is Rachel, me, and Siobhan, reunited at Stourhead, and toasting the hot air balloons that appeared out of nowhere,  that we were just SURE could see us from their gondolas!magicmagic

And we got it! Magic above the church lawn, just across from our cottage . . . hot air balloons over the 13th century church, lovely juxtaposition of old and older. We all agreed Fairy2you couldn’t get us up in one, so we toasted their crazy bravery and enjoyed every moment of their flight. Joe and I left the Queen Mary 2 last Friday (I spoke on board! It was scary! But people were so nice! And books sold out! Photos are, grrr, trapped! MIA!), and traveled the lovely country roads to our cottage in this beautiful amazing place called Stourhead . . . on Saturday morning, Siobhan came, then Paul and Rachel.

dinner flowers

Paul brought these flowers and wine and Prosecco . . . to tell you the truth, they all brought everything. Flakey English salt, tiny little sausages, six kinds of crisps (potato chips in English), olives and cheese and pork pies . . . Siobhan made her amazing gluten-free bread dishes to match the flowersand apple jelly ~ we had it for breakfast with yummy fennel tea. Rachel brought a Plum Crumble with British double-thick spooning cream . . . I wish I could show you the dinner we made . . . butterflied roast chicken with rosemary from Siobhan’s garden, crisp roasted potatoes with homegrown onions, raw veggie salad ~ while at the same time we were boiling potatoes and chopping celery for our Picnic potato salad, making tomato and mozzarella salad, slicing Ray’s meatloaf and icing down the pear cider. It was a regular Big Chill night in Stourhead. AND, believe it or not, our cottage came complete with a set of Johnson Brothers Rose Chintz dishes! How did they know?  So our table looked beautiful and the next day we piled plates into our basket and took them to the Picnic. During dinner, Paul put on a cd of the most wonderful  John Garth music, I hope you are listening to it right now!

cslyr8oxeaqiiphLater on we toasted the full Harvest moon, sharing the moment with all of you! Same moon for all of us, the world over!The moon belongs to everyone artwork Susan Branch

gate to gardens of stourhead

And finally the big day arrived, Sunday dawned bright, blue and sunny . . . the day we’d been planning since last February . . . our BYO Picnic Basket Party! Where the question would finally be answered, “Would anyone be Painting Beatrixthere besides us?” Either way, we knew we’d have a wonderful time! A picnic is a picnic, after all, totally a win-win, but we were really hoping to meet people we’ve only known through the Blog, Facebook and Twitter ~ our faraway friends. We knew we had three important things to remember in a toast. First off, we wanted to make a little salute to Capability Brown . . . who designed this dynamic garden at Stourhead ~ it’s the 300th Anniversary of his birth! And of course, it’s our darling Beatrix Potter’s 150th Birthday Anniversary this year . . . and we also wanted to raise our glasses to missing friends, to all of you, to Deb in Wales, and especially our Twitter Girlfriend Karen💖.a gardenimg_0668I could almost taste the fragrance of fresh-mown grass as everyone began arriving to the constant refrain of wood pigeons cooing musically, “My-toe-huts-Bettee.” Families and friends, husbands, sisters, and children, expats, newlyweds, Birthday Girls, and 50th wedding-anniversary-celebrators were here ~ counting everyone we had 55! It was a sit in! You can see Siobhan way out there in the hat, and Ray is closer, in the middle, kneeling in a blue dress with her white hair. We think it was about 40% Americans.  Can you believe this setting?  I know! It’s amazing. I promise not one speck of Photoshop was used in the preparation of this blog! (Actually it never is, but this one is especially hard to believe! You would think, “Let’s put a grass bridge here, add a lake, pop in some ducks, frame it all with lawn and trees, add Apollo’s Temple in the way back, film Pride and Prejudice here, and voila!”) img_6621

We were lucky because just as the sun was getting a little too bright and warm for comfort, it dipped behind some English clouds and stayed there, making it perfect sweater weather for the rest of the day! We wandered from blanket to blanket visiting and sharing food (and I have photos of all of it 😜!).  Some people brought books for me to sign and yes, there were gifts, like this delicious homemade muffin these little dolls were giving me . . . that’s Siobhan in the hat behind them, looks like she is telling a good story . . . and that’s Paul there on the stool, in his British picnic finery.img_6666

Petey and Mini JackOur Blog Girlfriend, Nicoline, came from the Netherlands with her husband Gabriel, and brought Petey’s brother with them! We were laughing because they thought he was scary looking and we think ours is too!  We don’t like to have them in the room with us while we sleep! But we both brought them with us anyway!friendsimg_0679

Here we are, class of 2016, assembled in this magical place like a fairy tale come true . . . I know some of you will recognize some of them.  It’s impossible, but here we are, from Colorado, Salt Lake City, and Oregon, from Oxford, Cheshire, York and Kent, Scotland and Wales and Holland, and all over the place!  It’s a fact!words fairytale dream

img_6652See that smile on me? It never left my face, my cheeks ached (in the very best way) at the end of this day! Here I am with our Girlfriend Janette (who made the most darling little book bags for everyone) ~ this is how it was, blanket-to-blanket, sitting, eating, and gabbing for Englandhours . . . I have so many more photos that I can’t access right now, pictures of us toasting, of Rachel handing out the freshly baked Sugar Moon salted caramel (and some even gluten-free), homemade Brownies she made for everyone! . . . there are pictures of cute quilts, tea sets, and picnic baskets, of Ann and Alan, Carrie and Stuart, Heather, Gabi, Susan and Bob, Morwenna, Cadie, Joann and Rod, englandnames you recognize if you’ve hung around here long enough! Kindred spirits all, Bernie, Karen and Rosie, Katrina, Paula and Burnell, Olivia, and Joy were all there . . .  to name a few . . . I’ll have to save these photos for another time.

Mad at this computer. It has now lost any good will I ever had for it ~ it won’t let me have pictures, and as of now, it has fully deleted this post twice. And yet, I have not killed it. I have outsmarted it, and saved it all . . . it’s tricking me right now, pretending to be okay, but the moment I press “save draft” it will try to delete everything. SO, if you actually do see this, it will be a miracle. Which we believe in don’t we? So let’s see what happens. Bye for now dearest ones! Thank you for traveling with us! ❌⭕️

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