A LITTLE BIT OF BEATRIX’S HOME SWEET HOME

Hi Everyone, First MUSICA!  I hope you received your Willard! If not, don’t worry, it just started going out this morning and it takes a while these days, it has to go in batches so we don’t break the Internets . . . but it should be in everyone’s mailbox no later than Saturday afternoon. If you are new to my Blog and are wondering What in the heck is she talking about? ~ Willard is my Newsletter, go HERE if you’d like to sign up for it (it’s free), and read about how Willard got its name.  Past Willard’s are there too, just in cases you need a little something more to read! 🤓

This is the blog where we like to talk about all things Home Sweet Home.  Since we’ve become acutely aware that we have no control over World Sweet World (not that we eschew it totally; we don’t, since we belong to it and are proud citizens of it) but we have narrowed our interest to our own little bits of Paradise where everything is just the way we like it, because for once in our lives, as opposed to school or work, or the fickle finger of fate, at home we are totally in charge! We can turn off the MUSICA any time we want. The curtains can be lace, or linen, or shades or blinds ~ or none at all. And if we want something, and it’s too expensive, we figure out how to make it. Or save for it. TV can be on all day, or never . . . We can feed the birds, or we don’t have to. And no one cares because it is our own world and no one else’s. It is highly empowering to realize that it’s true, our home IS our castle, and that we all live much better than the king of England, Henry VIII did on his very best day, no matter how many jewels he had, because jewels don’t keep you warm and because we have heat and indoor plumbing, and we recognize how lucky we are, so the other thing we enjoy doing is counting our many blessings.

We do it by kissing our little petty pets (who know you want to take a photo and so they do this), by admiring our clean kitchens, and hanging wet laundry on the line ~ by baking birthday cakes, or knitting socks ~  

Or digging holes to make the garden beautiful . . .

Then taking pictures of it . . .

And celebrating and loving just being in the place that means the most to us. I’ve felt the honor of living in this old house every day since we bought it in 1989. I give it things. I give it old lamps and old dishes I find in second-hand stores. And when I come home, its arms wrap around me. We are symbiotic.💞 We belong to each other.More blessings . . . out picking flowers from the garden for my little vases then inviting somebody wonderful to lunch. And one of the wonderful people I invited to lunch lives here . . .

In the house on the right . . . look familiar? Is anyone screaming yet?

It’s called Castle Cottage, does that ring a bell?  And my guest for tea lives there right now, the only person in the world to live in this exact house has come to America for a visit. How impossible is that? When you think about it? Totally not possible. But there she was!

Yes, my guest for tea lives in the house in the village of Near Sawrey in the Lake District in England where this couple lived and loved for thirty years, lived their very abnormal normal little lives ~ Beatrix Potter and William Heelis.

So, I started to get ready . . . I brought in spring peas from my other blessing, this picket-fence garden. Twenty years of loving this spot. Want one? Here’s how! First? Mas MUSICA! (We’re in the groove…)

There might be one or two of you that don’t know that Joe made my picket-fence garden ~ I wrote about it in 1996 in my Summer Book . . . it’s been a gift that keeps on giving.💞

. . . and I watered the lawn and came back in and there Jack was waiting, behind the screen, my shadow.💞

I made lunch and added the peas to my coleslaw . . .

And gave the Beatrix Potter People a bath . . .

And dusted my studio shelf of BP love . . .

 And had a wonderful little lunch of Coleslaw with lobster chunks (For recipe, scroll down HERE) and Clams Casino in the garden. Joe joined us, along with Betsy Bray on the left, who is the first overseas Trustee ever elected to the Beatrix Potter Society (which I know several of you belong to too!) ~ if she looks familiar, it’s because some of you saw her last year with me at the 150th Birthday Party for Beatrix Potter . . . and Betsy brought her friend Mandy Marshall (don’t these girls have fairy tale names?) the current resident of Castle Cottage. BOY! Was I ready for some brain picking. And my first question was and always will be, what was Beatrix Potter’s kitchen like?  Because Castle Cottage has always been a private home, and rarely open to the public. I may never get the real answer to that question, because, as Mandy explained, it’s been changed and moved and is no longer the kitchen where Beatrix made her tea. 😩 (I took it every well.) So my imagination will have to suffice. But I learned a lot. About the views from the sitting room across Post Office Meadow to Hill Top, and the life Beatrix and William lived there, we gossiped about them like we were in high school and they were the popular kids every one knew but didn’t know . . .  and Mandy told us that when they first moved in, she and her husband had discovered a secret garden so overgrown that from the ground it was just a wall of thicket and nothing more. Time had made it invisible. It was only from an upstairs window that Mandy’s husband was able to spot some sort of outline that made him curious. Anyway, Mandy brought a whole book of detailed photos of Castle Cottage, and it all came alive. She was so good, answered every one of my questions with a smile. Now I think I better go visit her. We toasted to that great idea with tea in two of my brand new English cups that I’ve been telling you about (samples came in! Real things are being made right now!)

Beatrix, in her third life re-invention (after scientist and author), became a farmer committed to the preservation of Herdwick sheep, she won awards for them (that’s her proud self in the hat). She was an amazing person. The Life Story of Beatrix Potter is something to be reckoned with.

And Mandy, being a business woman, honoring all things BP, has gone into the sheep business herself  . . . having beautiful products made from the wool from these very particular Lakeland sheep.

Betsy is about to lead her first tour called “Beatrix Potter’s Lake District Legacy” ~ she’s the perfect person to do it, she’s been there dozens of times, gives talks on Beatrix Potter’s life and knows all the secrets, including how to get inside her friend Mandy’s house! Some of our Girlfriends are going with her! I’m so jealous! She is so excited, she leaves on Saturday… The tour is full, but that link I gave you is for this time NEXT year, if any of you have a yearning to go, she’ll be doing it again . . .

So everyone’s gone, and here I am, just me and Jack in my studio, writing you . . . and this is the view I have from this very spot where I sit, window wide open, birds landing in the rhodies, spring is out there sparkling away. And I’m going out to get me some of that! I hope you enjoyed a little Beatrix Potter in the Heart of the Home.Blessings on you all! XOXO

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THE ROMANTIC BEAUTY OF JUNE🌺

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t start this post with the romantic beauty of June . . .

Our first peony of the season bloomed just in time for the tea party!  The sun did come out and shone softly all day, it was barely 70 degrees, a fairytale day! ~ we could open all the doors and windows and let the sea breezes in, and have our tea on the picnic table under the arbor ~ it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Our tea had the perfect amount of sweetness! I don’t know if I can fit all my spring fever joyousness in one post ~ my teacup runnethed over!

But before we go to the party . . . Vanna is standing here, drumming her pink tapered fingernails on my art table, waiting for me to pay attention to her . . . she has a tennis date with some guy who’s out there waiting in the driveway (in a yellow convertible Porsche, of course) next to my studio window under the rhododendron, sunglasses on, looking at his phone, with his MUSICA blaring . . . he even looks a little like Bobby Darin. Where does she find these guys? I think they find her!

One of our Girlfriends (in a comment) asked if Vanna was at the tea party yesterday ~ the answer is yes and no.  She came for a moment ~ she never stays, just long enough to show off her summer frock (pink dotted swiss), her tan shoulders, her long mermaid-like arms, her full skirt and narrow belt, her silver and pink sandals, ~ she twirled for us, grabbed one of the heart-shaped tea sandwiches, and ran off carrying the widest brimmed straw hat I’ve ever seen, the satin ribbons from it fluttering in the wind, on her way to the “beach club for Pimm’s cups” . . . We love seeing her, especially we love talking about her after she’s gone.  This time it was about that heart ring on her finger. Wow is what we were saying. Was it from Bobby? We don’t know . . . could have been from Ken Doll (because I know for sure it came from the Toy Box here on the Island).

So here we go . . . Right now is my favorite part of our Giveaways, the moment between the known and the unknown, the past and the future, right now while everyone is still a winner. BUT, that has to change, we have to choose a name, we must have one very special lucky winner! Our vat, made specially to hold the thousands of tiny bits of paper, each with one of your names on it, is filled to the brim, and Vanna is ready, perched on top of my art table, polished toes curled over the edge ~ and up-up-up she goes (we have very high ceilings!), almost stopping in mid-air, then over into a swan dive, and down down down she goes ~ streaming into the vat ~ she’s gone! Scissor-kicking in a whirling dervish of little papers, flying around the room now, like the feathers after a pillow fight.  La, la, la, . . . let’s see, while we’re waiting . . . have I ever shown you the house where Vanna grew up (that is, where she would probably have grown up if she was actually real)???? You have to see this, it explains a lot.

 That’s her bedroom, the front left corner of the pink house on the second floor. See that tree on the left? By the time she was ten she was reading in it, cradled in the branches, hidden in the leaves, at thirteen she began crawling out her window and climbing down that tree, singing Tammy, Tammy, Tammy’s in Love 🎵 ~ she has a real thing about freedom . . . off to the party even then. I love this girl. Joie de vivre personified.

And here she comes, clutching between thumb and first finger, one small fluttering tissue slip that she actually just pulled out of the air, one of the little floating feathers . . . oh so serendipitous! And the name is . . . ready? Okay, here we go . . . the name is . . .

MARJIE COLLINS ~ But, there’s a twist . . .  Marjie entered for her Mom, so the actual winner is MARJIE COLLINS’S MOTHER!

Congratulations *Lucky Marjie* and hugs to your *mom,* I’m so happy for you both 💞 … I’ll email you soon, and you can let me know which mug you choose, and where to send it!

And to everyone else who entered, I have to tell you, your comments are just too much. 💖So sweet and thoughtful, you make me laugh, you make me cry, and I just want to thank you for taking the time to say hello and share your lives, not only with me, but with each other.👏 You are truly an amazing group of wonderful people. I wob you! 💞

So, are you ready? Shall we go to a tea party?

So here we are, as promised, on our first really lovely sunny day, under the arbor built so many years ago by the creative man who lived here before us, Mr. Bowditch, the handy man, doctor, husband, and father of four I never met, who took such good care of this old house.  Not such a complicated structure for how much pleasure it has brought us, it holds up roses and twinkle lights and lets the stars shine through on summer nights . . . he and Mrs. Bowditch called it the Teahouse of the Vineyard Moon.

And it’s not raining! How did we get so lucky!? My favorite part, setting the table, and putting out soft pillows for the girlfriend hineys ~ always a good thing . . .❤️

I did a really simple menu . . . The tiny new potatoes were so perfect at the market, I decided to roast them with fresh rosemary . . .

They were so photogenic I had to keep taking pictures, and then I couldn’t choose which photos to show you, so I narrowed it down to only three! Pardon my enthusiasm. But cute is cute!

Cute! I rolled them in olive oil, salted and peppered them, and put them in a hot 425 degree oven, shaking the pan every so often until they were soft and cooked through . . .

I haven’t done this in so long, create a party, my girlfriends give lovely parties all the time, but I’ve been away . . . it is SO my turn, and I am loving every moment of it . . . windows open, music on . . . 

After the potatoes cooled a bit, I cut off the tops (saving them to fry up for breakfast), hollowed them out a little, added a speck of butter into each hollow along with a bit of the roasted rosemary ~ and put them in the fridge. Before serving, I put them back in the hot oven to crisp up the skins . . .

Then filled them with sour cream and sprinkled them with snipped chives and served them warm.

I decided to make filled eggs instead of egg salad sandwiches . . . something else for those who don’t touch bread. It’s my recipe from Vineyard Seasons ~ egg yolks (with two extra yolks), minced red onion, minced celery, sweet pickle relish, celery seed, a few drops of Tobasco Sauce, freshly ground pepper, and just enough mayonnaise to bind, keeping the filling nice and thick and yellow and piling it high . . .

We had an emergency while I was cooking . . . giant black ants all over the built-in breadboard ~ I pulled it out and they were everywhere, even in the back of the cupboard!  Yikes . . . Joe went after them and saved the day as usual. My hero. A small reward appeared on the counter in front of him. 💖

I decorated the plate with chives . . . And into the refrigerator they went. I love, when I’m cooking, to “have to” go to the garden to get things, like chives and rosemary . . . I grab my scissors ~ it’s the perfect break while my hero is splayed out on the kitchen floor dealing with the ants, to go out and see the birds splashing in the birdbath.

But first, we need mas MUSCIA, don’t we? I’ll turn it up loud so we can hear it in the garden ~ and out the screen door we go! These are the same chive plants I put in the ground when Joe built my picket fence garden back in the 1990s! They are such a miracle . . . so faithful . . . They come back every year, they make flowers all spring which you can put into salads, and they taste delicious. Get some for your garden. They’re good for you, they look lovely planted next to roses, and help protect them from bugs. Totally win-win!

I just planted the marigolds, but thyme, oregano (golden), and cat mint are like chives and come back every year . . . Jack adores catmint. I bring him some branches from the garden and he rolls on them in pure delight.

We needed carnations in our garden, they smell so good! My garden isn’t big, in fact that’s the glory of it, small and easy for me to keep . . . this year it’s filled with hollyhocks, peonies, foxgloves, English daisies and lots of other cottage-garden flowers that go good with our old house … and to eat, besides herbs,  there’s rhubarb that’s gone by, but the strawberry patch is blooming with flowers and berries ~ we’ll have them for breakfast soon, my tomatoes are in and caged, and we have a couple of potato plants coming up. Cucumbers and peppers are next. Fresh picked herbs and veggies, from our own little garden into the house for dinner, who could ask for more?

Here’s our picket-fence garden from an upstairs window of the house. We’re not in charge of the whole world, but we are in charge of this! Just getting started, but ahhh spring!

Back in the house where my shadow awaits.

Time to melt the bittersweet chocolate . . . I dipped the strawberries, then put them on waxed paper and into the fridge so the chocolate could harden.

I took off the stems so everyone could just pop the strawberries into their mouths . . . and we did!

Lowely brought cucumber sandwiches, I made curried chicken and walnut sandwich fingers and heart-shaped crunchy peanut butter and cherry jam . . .

. . . with red grapes, like 2nd grade . . .

And lemon rosemary cookies . . .

Here we are, almost 4 pm, and everything is ready!

A pitcher of iced lemon water and glasses . . .

… are on the bench next to the picnic table near the luv-lee wildflowers . . .

And on the other side of the bench, the “twine” part of the tea party . . . a bucket of ice and a pitcher of Cosmopolitans with lime wedges . . .

I hear the pitter-patter of little feet . . .

Annie brought the two amazing cakes, an old English recipe for almond jam cake (she surrounded with chive flowers), and a moist lemon loaf, both gluten-free and both totally delicious!

She also came with her adorable purse which I had to show you. That is thick brown satin that the shimmery disks are sewn to . . . It wouldn’t be so hard for a person to make one of these!

While everyone helped taking things out to the picnic table, I poured the tea . . . There were two kinds,  one with caffein and one without . . . first, my favorite, my  private blend of roses, lavender and Earl Grey loose-leaf tea, which I even took to England with me I love it so much (coals to Newcastle), the one I drink every day with honey and milk . . .

. . . and another of my own tea concoctions . . . Fairy Tale Tea ~ camomile, cornflowers and lemon verbena . . . loose tea that looks like a woodland floor but tastes soft and gentle and puts a person directly into ommmmm. Which is good, under blue skies, with the birds, among the green things growing. 🌿

Come and get it! Pinkies-up, Girlfriends!

Photos came to total stop as eating and talking commenced!  While we ate we talked about everything that really matters . . . . . . what we’re planting in our gardens this year and how to get the infestation of tiny black caterpillars off our roses (if you would have told the 17-year-old me that someday I would pick up caterpillars with my bare hands, or crush aphids with my naked fingers, I would never have believed you! Eeew! But I do. It’s cheaper than spraying, better for the earth, and way more dependable! And now I know I’m not the only one who does it!). We heard about Jaime’s cat that won’t stop wandering into town, everyone on Main Street knows Jaime’s cat! There’s a new Asian restaurant in town (yay) ~ we talked about what we’re reading and how we’re living with TV news  ~ having inquiring minds, we do want to know, but we don’t enjoy being driven insane with world news that is more like a soap opera than news (Jaime told us about a website she found called Snopes ~ it checks facts and rumors for truth or not truth, proven or not proven. They fact-check political stories of course, but not just that ~ it’s everything!  Such as, was there really a 3,000 pound great white shark caught in the Great Lakes as reported? Or, does cooking with aluminum foil cause Alzheimers? Even the origins of Memorial Day ~ everything, and you can put in your own questions!) ~ we talked about what we’re working on ~ besides being tea drinkers, travelers, readers, cooks, and gardeners, we’re a bunch of painters (➡️ Margot at work), caterers, mothers, grandmothers, and housekeepers. We know our way around each other’s homes almost as well as we know our own. Wendy (on the left in the photo above, wearing turquoise) is our friend who is moving away to South Carolina, so we heard all about the house she and her husband are going to build, and that she’ll be keeping a studio here on the Island and not cutting her ties. Wendy is the woman who did our “colors” a few years ago … remember that post? (If not, you can read about it HERE) . . . she has actually changed our lives and has given us inspiration along with hours of conversation and connection we might not have had without her. This was a thank you, good-bye party . . .

Lynne sent this photo to me this morning, it might be the only picture taken from the other side of the table. What am I praying for NOW? I don’t know. Just grateful, I’m sure. To have such wonderful old friends. That’s Carol ~ she’s probably telling me about her grandchild that’s on the way, Jaime’s next to me, and that’s Margot on the right, being thoughtful and serious, likely solving some world problem, which they should just let her do, she is so creative.💖

In the heart of the home, Smallville as my dad would call it, where we have tea parties, seed the lawn, pick the bugs off the roses, wish on stars (when we can find them), watch for the moon, and where, on the good days, if we’re lucky, hardly anything happens at all.

S O U L   S O O T H I N G

Doing the dishes . . .

With a little help from my friend . . .

So now the party is over, and reality is back, and look at this mess. BUT, darling people, this hideousness is the BEFORE picture . . . check it out now . . .

Is this scary or what?  SO neat and tidy, I don’t recognize myself. I’m not done either, this is my vision for the whole house ~ but I wanted to give you an update. My studio is heaven, simplicity central, but filling up (invisibly) with ideas for new projects even as we speak. I’m working with a new company on making the little teapot plate . . . it’s always a bit time-consuming when you first start a new project with folks you haven’t dealt with before, but we’re working on it. All our mocked-up cups for Fall and Christmas, the Bluebird and the Island cup, are being made right this minute! Thank you for the preorders . . . we’ll know how many to order because of YOU! 💝 And thank you for all the cup “reviews” in your comments!  Things taste better in small houses, and in big cups!

And one last thing before I go.

There is a wonderful summer tradition on Martha’s Vineyard that’s been going on every year since 1979. It’s an auction Joe and I have attended many times because it’s not just any auction, it’s called Possible Dreams ~ and you can learn more about it HERE (turn up the volume!).  Bidders have a choice of a whole array of amazing donations that are otherwise not for sale anywhere . . . from behind the scenes trips to movie studios, to original art by famous painters, a private dinner cooked by a prominent New York chef, vacations in a gorgeous house in Ireland, a sailboat ride with a famous singer, fishing trips with well-known local fishermen, every imaginable thing, and every year the dreams are all different, and all the money goes to support the Island Community Services. And even if you don’t bid on a single star-studded thing, as you can see, the party under the white tent is fabulous. Funny, fun, a lovely summer’s-day thing to do. Tickets are $25 and there’s a raffle too. SO, just in cases you are going to be on the Island on Sunday, July 30th, there will be many truly exciting dreams to choose from and make your own ~ oh, and P.S., guess who else will have a dream in this year’s event? Oh yeah. Moi. How much fun is that!? I’m so honored to be asked 💓.Here’s what will be written in this year’s Possible Dreams program:

Welcome to the Heart of the Home and an Afternoon with Susan Branch. The lucky bidder on this item, along with three guests of their choice, will tour the working studio of author Susan Branch in her 163-year-old whaling captain’s “House of Creativity.” See the writings and art from her handwritten and watercolored books come to life as Susan shares with you what inspired her illustrated diaries and how to create your own. She will cook for you, a seasonal lunch with delicious recipes from her cookbooks ~ the venue will be your choice depending on the time of year: experience a picnic in Susan’s garden, enjoy a kitchen-table tea party, or eat in front of a crackling fire. And today, because Susan is a big believer in the concept of instant gratification, our winner will take home this delightful vintage basket that includes an antique quilt from Susan’s own collection, one of Susan’s collectible bone china cups made in Staffordshire England, her 2018 wall calendar, and signed copies of her books, A Fine Romance, Falling in Love with the English CountrysideMartha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, and Heart of the Home.

I’ll put all of these things into an old basket for the day. And between you and me, the books all have my bookmarks in them, the painted ones I use when I do my art. I don’t know if they will take call-in bids ~ I suppose you could call and ask, never hurts to do that! I do know there will be a huge silent auction. I hope some of you can make it!

So here we are this morning, in the House of Creativity at first light . . . all quiet on the Eastern Front, just me, Jack, tea and a silently humming house . . . and YOU.

The garden hasn’t felt the light yet . . .

One last deep dive into the peony before we go, ahhhhh . . . bye for now, Girlfriends, as far as I’m concerned, you are ALL winners. xoxoxo

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