Hello Everyone! Snowdrops ~ my favorite Valentine bouquet. 💋 Joe went out to the compost pile and came in with these on Valentine’s Day! 💝 Surprise!  And quite early ~ despite know-it-all groundhog.  MUSICA. (Try not to fall out of chair when Helen starts to sing. . . 🎵 rock and roll!)

They’re the perfect flower for one of my little vases. And really, for all of us. The folklore, superstition, and myth around Snowdrops is endless . . . They’ve had many other names: Fair Maids of February, White Ladies, Eve’s Tear, Dew Drops, and White Queen. Snow White’s name in the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales was Snow Drop! In most countries they’re protected ~ collecting bulbs from the wild is now illegal. Go HERE to read a lot more of the who, what, where, why, and when of the lovely brave snowdrop.

 It’s still very cold here ~ they show true courage and huge nature-hearts by daring to peek out this early, but they come prepared, they make their own heat and melt the snow around them. It’s not a surprise to learn they are a symbol for optimism, the emblem of hope and rebirth.

Still winter, but we have our bright blue sky days . . . and courage flowers . . .

And roses, symbols of love, honor, and faith ~ and lighting a candle for the intrinsic goodness of mankind, for grief, for children.🕯 Not so into platitudes or finger-pointing these days ~ throwing arms around ballot box, the symbol of hope. 🙏

I had to show you the Valentine card I found for my darling Joe. Isn’t it perfect?  He’s REAL! I still can’t believe my luck, coming so far away, to a tiny island, and there he was. (I decided he’s the Unicorn and I’m the Fairy . . . clearly neither wins an award for beauty! But, equally magic and he’s the big guy!)

Beloved gumball-machine gift from the unicorn to the fairy.

While a frantic mentality, minutes, hours, and days on the calendar that rule each day at our house, little piles of stuff are everywhere in the house . . . we had a luv-lee time packing up Valentines for our loved ones . . .

I did, I did, I did, love making brownie bites, tying them with heart ribbon, and sending them off in LOVE cups.

We hid all the stuff that’s been piled on the sideboard, making room for a Valentine Dinner Party . . . we cleared off the table . . . and I set it with my red Copeland Spode Tower dishes and lots of candles . . .

Plus sweetheart roses, tulips, and white hydrangea . . .

I took so many photos of this! I’m keeping it down to a dull roar for you, because to the naked eye, I’m sure these photos all look exactly the same. I love Valentine’s Day, it’s the perfect time to pull out all the stops for gushy Queen Victoria romanticism. (Which, by the way, I had my DNA done ~ it just came back this week ~ and I’m in the same haplogroup as she was, whatever that means. Still figuring things out! Very fun. Wanted to do it before we left so we have a clearer picture of our origins. Joe too, my mom, my brother, my sister . . . all in on the action. But I digress! I’ll write more about it later!)

I made all comfort food for dinner (for eight). Spicy short ribs with buttered wide noodles, a green salad, HOT crunchy bread with salty butter, YUM. And here are the desserts, homemade pound cake with fruit, and lots of bakery delights, like strawberry shortcake and coconut cream cake. And in case you missed it the first time, here’s the short rib recipe.  SO delicious! And easy, you don’t brown the meat, just throw the sauce over it ~ it cooks for seven hours in a 250º oven, till the meat turns to buttah and falls off the bone. There’s gravy for the noodles, to sop the bread into. I rest my case.

And here’s a new little short rib tip from the learning curve: This time I took the finished beef out of the pan and set it aside … I thickened the gravy still in the pot (as the recipe suggests), but then I poured the gravy into a shallow pan and put it in the freezer. There was too much grease last time! The fat rises to the top in about a half hour, I scraped it off, and put the ribs back into the roaster, poured the de-fatted gravy over,  and back to the oven for another hour of cooking. Worth every second of it. Still enough fat for flavor, but nothing like before. Eat with abandon! 😘

So this is us, going a mile a minute! The old fashioned way.

With Time-Outs for kitty kissing.

Here’s one the piles we’ll need to take along! Talismans of luck and love. We are turtles and carry home on our backs when we travel. A few little tastes of home, to make us feel cozier in a new, exciting, filled-with-all-new-things, world. Like my pillow for instance. Of course. And maybe one tiny vase, like the one Joe dug up in the back garden. Tiny. Would look so cute with a bluebell in it. Like that.

And this is Charleston . . . the good ship Queen Victoria (starting to sense a theme!) will dock right downtown next to the cobblestone streets of colonial Charleston on March 11 … I hope those of you in the area can join us at the nearby Barnes and Noble for a book signing! Arriving by ship is a definite first for us! Read more about it HERE.

I’m lucky because I can work no matter where I am. Kellee and I are getting expert at it, we’ve been 3000 miles apart for years, producing calendars, cups, bookmarks, and books, with the help of our machines ~ cameras, phones, and computers ~ couldn’t do it without them. I can’t really take four months “off” ~ this will be a “working” trip with really nice work perks and surroundings. Like pubs, for example, and castles. And darling English friends. And the amazing, heart-stopping English Countryside. And Ireland. And Wales. And a Picnic at Beatrix Potter’s house. Somebody stop me. I get up early, so I’ll paint and write while Joe is sleeping, and then, OFF WE GO! Discoveryville!

So, I’m excited because the “Real” samples of the newest Spring cups came in! I thought I would take a pretty photo in front of the roses. I got it all set up, then suddenly, as usual, a shadow popped into the lens of my camera.

“Outta the way Jack!” But nooo . . .

I was sitting in the chair on the right, camera pointed at the cups, and this is where he chose to sit. I love him so much.

So I moved to the kitchen shelf where he would have to be able to fly to get in my way! Here they are! Tomorrow’s the day I have to give my final number for how many they should make . . . I always add a couple hundred to make sure everyone gets one, but sooner or later, we always run out . . . I hope you have yours on the way, they will arrive with the daffodils, in early April. You can read more about them HERE. 

I finished the 2019 calendars too! Yay! This will be the February page of the new Mini Calendar. “Think on these things. . .”

  And here’s the January page for the new Wall Calendar, coming in July if you can believe that! I previewed it on Twitter the other day. Shhhhhh . . . 💞

When we get home, I’ll start thinking about making this tiny vase. I think we all need one. Hang it around our necks. Keep whiskey in it.

Love you Girls, so filled with acts of love, making peace wherever you go. Kindred spirits forever. Enjoy your day. I’m going to pack some more and design some summer cups! XOXO

“It’s believing in roses that makes them bloom . . . “

P R A Y ,   L O V E ,   R E M E M B E R . . .

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Time for VANNA to go to work!

Hello dear ones! How are you this fine day? I’m good. Time for Vanna to go to work! Lots more to tell you . . . but first, MUSICA! 🎵 And then, more good news!First off, I want to make sure everyone got their WILLARD?  Sometimes he takes a detour into spam files … if you are signed up but didn’t get it, you might check your spam file and see if he’s there. And, if you’re having trouble, a new suggestion from one of our brilliant Girlfriends: put into your address book! It worked for her. It’s like a “welcome home” when Willard tries to enter your email box. And last but not least, here’s a link to the newest newsletter! And now, shall we get right to it? The hardest part of every giveaway is choosing the winner. I’m SO GLAD it’s Vanna’s job ~ she is the responsible one, not me. 😜 It’s not my fault! But I wish this was loaves and fishes and everyone could win! Cup-half-full, cup-half-full, at least there will be two winners, and with all my heart, I hope it’s you. Because you deserve it, leaving all those gorgeous comments! Thank you!

So here we go, Vanna is here, perched on the edge of my art table, pink-cheeked with red lipstick perfectly applied, wearing a costume of lime green leotard with yellow-polka-dots, and her yellow daisy-topped bathing cap, perfect for swimming in paper, with just one tiny curl of her red hair peeking out. Poised to leap! Toes curled! Her knees bend and Up Up Up she goes (good thing we have high ceilings) and then, a perfect jackknife in the air, she’s DOWN! GONE, twirling and whirling dervishly amidst thousands of precious names . . . slips of paper are blowing all over my studio like confetti, and suddenly, breathless, she’s up! She’s just handed me the names of our two winners! 👍 And so it is: Behind door #1 there’s a signed (personalized if you like) copy of my hand-painted A Fine Romance (which, btw, if you already have it, makes a very good Valentine present❤️), AND, in addition, my new and very adorable England cup coming in April. Okay, I’m reading, I’m reading . . . . . and so, wasting not another minute, the winner of this luv-lee prize is, ding-ding-ding. . .L Y N N   B A R L O W !!!  (hint: the Lynn Barlow whose website ends in Lynn, Congratulations, you now have all the essentials of happiness: something to do: drink tea. Something to love: love cup. Something to give: give book. Something to hope for: you got what you hoped for! 💞

And for our second winner: Behind door #2, my new Home Sweet Home embroidery kit, 

. . . AND my new Spring cup, also coming in April! Here we go once again. The winner is

A B B I E   B E C K
 (hint: the one whose middle name starts with an M)

Congratulations, Abbie! I hope we’ve made your day! I’ll email you both so you can give me your address! Makes me so happy. Only a little thing, a giveaway, but at least it’s something to show my great appreciation for all that you do, not only in the lovely comments you leave, but in the lives you lead. Amazing people, Girlfriends, one and all. And here’s another little Valentine thing I thought you might like, because it’s . . . so YOU!

A Valentine Bookmark you can print on card stock, cut out and laminate if you like, and give to yourself and to everyone you love! Just click HERE.So, what else?  I’ve been working like crazy on the new calendars . . . I thought you might like a preview of the 2019 wall calendar! This is January! You see why I love doing this, it’s like a Calgon moment, totally taken away while planning each page, thinking, “how can I make this month special, what would the Girlfriends like?”  I put a video of my Studio “in action” on Instagram yesterday, in case you’d like to tour the mess! I have to get everything done before we sail away early next month! 🚢 Not only the four 2019 calendars, but the summer cups too because we won’t be home until next July! I’m thinking about designing a Royal Wedding cup for the Summer collection. What do you think of that? If I have time before we go, I would love to do it! So romantic. And speaking of cups. . .
FYI to our British Girlfriends, Nursery Thyme has finally received the winter cup collection at their shop in luv-lee Devizes, or, you can find it in their online store HERE. They can deliver to England, Scotland, Wales, and to Northern Ireland.

Yesterday it poured snow, but today the sky is bright blue, the sun is shining, and this morning was filled with a wonderful sunrise that spread golden light all through our house.

Even on my crown! Very inspiring when it comes to dreams. A quiet joy. When the world was all in candle light and lamplight, I imagine people lived in shadows like this much more than we do now. Wavering shadows from flickering flames. 

Something else, coming soon! New Castle Cottage kits, art printed on fabric, requires finishing and just a bit of embroidery embellishment. Everything happening at once since I’m trying to run out the door!

But so cute. The tiny company we’re working with to make these kits is called the Posy Collection ~ only two people, three counting Posy’s husband (which of course we DO) ~ we love each other already ~ they are such go-getters!

Posy just came home to Texas from their first show at the National Needlearts Association and sent me a photo! She’s so excited! Makes me love working with them. Nothing like a bit of positivity in this little world of ours!💞

You know Joe and I are sailing into Charleston, South Carolina on the Queen Victoria? 😲 We are! Parking right downtown in the historic district on March 11 (that’s like tomorrow!). At 6 pm that night, we’ll be meeting whichever of you Girlfriends that can make it at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Westwood Plaza. Read more about it HERE, and try to come if you can. 💞 Bring everyone! We can say Bon Voyage to each other because the next day we leave to sail across the wild Atlantic!

I’m calling it a spa boat this time. We’ll be on it for two weeks, and I plan to take advantage of the trappedness of it and arrive well slept, well fed, and well exercised! After racing to get ready to go, it will come as a shock to come to a full screeching stop at the gangplank! All the normal things I think about and worry about at home, I have to suddenly give up and learn to think about other things! Ommmm!Petey is beside himself. He LOVES hanging out in England.

If you feel like getting in the mood for going back in time along with us, watch the movie Mrs. Miniver. It’s a lovely movie on every single level, including history . . . but the house!!! That’s the killer. See the kitty on the floor? Need I say more? This is their dining room. 

You see the fireplace on the right? Then if you look through to the chintz-covered chair in the living room, you see another fireplace. Heaven. And the stairs to the bedrooms are on the left. I loved how, in the old days, they would put curtains, not just at windows, but also at the entry way to rooms ~ perhaps, at one time, before heating, to keep drafts out. Isn’t it cozy?The stairs. The grandfather clock. Just lovely. Not sure why the hose and buckets are on the floor, but I love the plants on the left, and the plates on the stairs, all so cozy and real. These old movies are what taught me what I wanted in life. Mostly, old houses, curtains, candles, lamps, wallpaper, tablecloths, and family. Wonderful old movies like this one helped me to find my dreams.💞    Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon and the Mrs. Miniver Rose. You’ll love it.

So, off we go, Oh, Girlfriends of Mine 💞 . . . back to work! Wishing you all the most wonderful of days. Count your blessings, we are all so very lucky. I’ll see you later! XO In case you see something like this: Gotta be ready! 😘

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