Highclere and Other Things of Interest

Hi all! Off we go to Highclere, to find Downton Abbey! But first, an update on our cups . . . almost here! Sweet  MUSICA for YOU!

Our cups came in from London this morning! They’re in LA! All they have to do is get through customs (they have to wait in line), and our Studio is only four hours by truck up the coast! Shouldn’t be long now!! They’re on the way!

And something else: The other day I remembered that I had designed a bluebird wrapping paper for Spoonflower. I even had a roll in my closet. Really nice thick gift wrap. Which means that the bluebird gifts I ordered for my girlfriends are going to be wrapped in bluebird paper!

Which made me leap out of my chair to go design some Santa paper!

And some leafy fall paper for the Autumn cups! Those last two designs, Santa and fall leaves, should show up on the Spoonflower website within the next two weeks. And btw, these designs are not only gift wrap, but they’re also on fabric and wallpaper too! Spoonflower is amazing! And GUESS WHAT European Girlfriends? Spoonflower is available worldwide! AND, more breaking news, last week I found a UK retailer called Nursery Thyme who will carry our mugs exclusively in her store in Devizes, Wiltshire, and on line …. you can get your cups starting this very day (it’s Carole’s first order from us, she didn’t take a whole lot of them), so if you’d like to have one, now would be a good time to do it) without paying the crazy shipping from USA. Your cups go directly from the factory in Staffordshire to her store in Wiltshire! We are the world! Which is saying something considering our cups are only sold in eight small but wonderful stores in America, one in England, and here in our online store!

So what else . . . well you know I’m writing about Downton Abbey and Highclere today, as promised, but I thought I’d show you the Easter Lily blooming in my garden in July. They’re actually a midsummer flower, forced for Easter display. It’s high summer on the Island and hot hot hot!  

Even the wild turkeys need a bath . . . (other people get flittering wrens and finches around their birdbaths, and we get this) ~ we’ve actually adopted this one I think.

As my Twitter Girlfriends know, I brought some cat mint in for Jack . . . and he L O V E D it!

Soon after this glassy stare, he became comatose, curled onto my desk, and didn’t move for three hours. 😻

Hydrangea. Used to be daylilies were most visible “Island flowers” but I think now it’s hydrangea. They go so good with picket fences and black and white kitties.

I picked these wildflowers on the dirt road on our way out to the water this morning, on our walk. There are two small secrets hiding in that bouquet.

I got out my wildflower books to find the names of our found flowers … but the secrets are there on the right. Oh yes. The trees in our woods are already “reconsidering their leaves.” 🍂 And I heard cicadas singing loudly, first time this year, while hanging clothes on the line the other day . . . so time, she is passing . . .🍁

So here we go Girlfriends. Our day at Highclere Castle was better than I even imagined!

We stayed here the night before . . . and had a delicious dinner in the pub . . . before we squished our fat selves into the smallest . . .

teensiest room imaginable. I Think maybe a Model T might have lived here at one time. Or perhaps a horse. I’m taking this photo from the stall door. We were fine, and glad we only booked one night!

But of course I loved the William Morris wallpaper.

And breakfast was wonderful… I mean who could resist “Dippy Eggs and Soldiers” on the menu? I had to see what it was. I thought some sort of kid’s food.  Well, there it is, “Soldiers” are strips of toast about 1/2″ wide. One more in the long line of proof-positives that the Brits are an adorable people. 🇬🇧

So, fortified with many soldiers, off we go to hunt down Highclere Castle…. Hill and dale, map man and Sat Nav guiding our way.

Round the bend we go on the wrong side of the road . . . because all the way to heaven, is heaven. 💞

Yes! Castle closed! But don’t worry! When we got our tickets, we discovered that the castle was closed ~ due to the lateness of the season ~ it was already October.  I took a moment to have a melt down, but then discovered they were offering a special event to celebrate the 300th birthday of Lancelot Brown … the famous 18th century landscape architect, better known as Capablity Brown, the man who designed the gardens for Highclere (and lots of other places). We learned on the Highclere website that for a little extra money, a “limited number of guests” could have an exclusive Castle and Garden tour that included a short lecture on the life of Mr. Brown, and a welcome from the Countess of Carnarvon. So we said, of course, sign us up!

I thought you might like to see other landscapes designed by Capability Brown, this one is near our friend Siobhan’s house. He designed over 170 parks in his lifetime, surrounding the finest country houses and estates in England, and many of them still exist … He always included water, long inspiring views, trees as focal points, follies, bridges, swans and lambs.

This one is at Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill spent much of his childhood. You can go to these places and walk miles and miles through some of the prettiest countryside there is. We took pictures on that bridge.

And this one, some of you may remember, where we had our BYO Picnic Basket Party last year, near the grass bridge at Stourhead in Wiltshire. After touring lots of English gardens, you actually begin to recognize those designed by Capability Brown:  the clues are water, bridge, follies, and trees . . . often viewed through tears in your eyes.

Our picnic was almost like Downty, sans servants. BUT, we win because our food was real!

I had the diary I kept on our last visit to help me tell this story, sloppily written as it is, it was a huge help in reminding me what happened! Oh Downty, how we miss thee!

So down the long long driveway we went . . . lambs on all sides of us . . .

Camera at the ready, braking for pheasants . . . we would brake for peasants too, but nary a one to be found . . .

Here’s our first glimpse! MUSICA. Rather recognizable don’t you think?  I always try to imagine myself in a horse and buggy when I come up on these houses . . .

Almost there! Note size of amazing tree on right!

Oh my goodness . . . it’s deja vu all over again.

Just like on TV!

We parked . . .

I tried to take a picture with Petey ~ this was as good as it got. I was in too much of a hurry and he refused to hold still!

Joe was much more steady than me!

So yes, you just walk through the gates and up the path to the front door! Amazing, just sitting there for centuries, and now anyone can go there!

Most surreal thing in the world!  Halloooo, anybody home?

We were met at the front door . . . in the entrance Hall, and taken to my very favorite room from the TV show, the dining room! We entered through that door in the back corner, but it didn’t look like this ~ the dining table wasn’t there. So I didn’t recognize it.

Here’s the layout of the downstairs . . . The dining room was filled with chairs for our group, there was a podium up front ~ I didn’t even realize I was in my favorite room! I was expecting that long dining table!  The large painting we saw in every show, with the man on the horse, was behind us, I was too delirious to see it! Later on, during the tour, I asked our guide, “Where’s the dining room?” She looked at me funny and told me I’d been sitting in it for a half hour. I had to go back!

And it all came clear. Here’s a  fun website that gives inside info about the filming at the dining table…

I believe this is the front hall, front door on the right, and that door in the right corner led to the dining room. They didn’t allow cameras inside, so I’m a bit mixed up …  had to get these photos from Google. Remember the gallery upstairs? Scene of the crimes? Dragging of the body? Birthing of the baby? Skulking around by Thomas, rude intrusion by smug Miss Bunting? We were able to go there too, and into all the bedrooms. It was truly wonderful.

The bedrooms are all around this gallery. In some ways, considering how big it is, it’s really a very cozy house.

Another of my favorite rooms (but I think now they all are!) and  even more beautiful than I expected, more gold and carved ceilings, luscious velvet and brocade-covered down cushions with petit point chairs and pillows, rich carpets and trimmed draperies, oil paintings of family in gilt frames, silk wall coverings, sparkling chandeliers and lovely marble fireplaces.

THIS is my favorite room. It’s the Morning Room, where the ladies go for their morning coffee and tea.  We were able to ask lots of questions about the paintings and photos and learned so much about the colorful history and architecture of Highclere Castle and the fascinating people who lived there. The Countess spoke to us before the lecture and couldn’t have been sweeter or more normal. She would probably make a very good Girlfriend! Tea would be fun, and I have no doubt it would be Twine!

So off we go ~ after a seeing the house, we enjoyed a grand tour of the grounds around the house.

See the little white dots? They’re lambs of course! The long view, very Capability Brown!

One of the Highclere follies, and little pet gravestones leaning …

Our tour guide was telling me that all this brown weedy stuff around us was wildflowers … late in the season, and no longer in bloom.

I can only imagine what this must look like in the spring when it’s all in bloom!


One video is worth a hundred photos.

This way, my sweet!

Again, late fall is not prime garden time, but I loved the paths and the big balls of mistletoe in the far trees.

You always want to follow the curved path and see where it goes.

Very old, formal garden ~ that path in the way back leads back to the Castle.

Lots of pink roses between the hedges.

The last of the season … and undulating lawn . . .

Of course, every self-respecting Castle must have a greenhouse!

Quiet now, all put to bed for winter.

On our way back to the Castle, this bust of Capability Brown, surveying his creation, amongst the birds and falling leaves.

And back to the castle . . . (It’s like there’s a movie star standing just behind my shoulder and I’m pretending not to notice!)

I was right where Robert walked with darling dog, Isis. I loved this opening, the music, and that big sweet lab. Go HERE to see how the Downton characters do with American accents ~ too funny! But now, finally! It’s time for the real reason we came! Gift Shop! Tea!

So ’round to the back of the building we went . . . see Downton peeping over the top? 

Here we are at the courtyard. Isn’t it pretty, this brick building? I would be perfectly happy to live here!

I don’t know what was in this building, but I loved it that when they built these places there was no building department telling them OH no, you can’t do it like this! See what we would miss?

So off to the tea room we went!

All organized for us . . .

The tearoom’s painted-brick walls were covered with scenes from Downton Abbey.

Lots of cute things in the gift shop, everything from Highclere Stationery and key chains, to Downton Abbey feather boas and tea things, but these hats were my favorites!!!

Then back outside for more pictures. They let us stay on our own for as long as we wanted. It was delightful.

We have this Castle photographed backwards and forwards.

And here we are . . . saying goodbye . . .

Just as pretty leaving as it was coming in …. they send you out a different way. Look at that tree straight ahead … 

Magic!So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! What else? I’ve been painting like crazy and loving it! Painting because I want to, not because I have to!  Here’s a little preview for my Girlfriends. . . Believe it or not, this is for the 2019 calendar! Taking my own sweet time, and painting new things . . . pretty heaven around here.

While I was rifling through my diaries today, this piece of paper came flittering out. I had it all figured out in 2010! I do like God to be happy with me!

Thought I would leave you with roses! Though I forget the name of this one right now …

This is Just Joey! Smells wonderful! It’s that time of year!

Bye All!  Until we meet again . . . Blessings! ❌⭕️

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We are having the MOST wonderful summer!  Doing nothing with a capitol N. That’s why I haven’t written ~ what is there to say about nothing? Nothing! But I’ll see what I can do. Because some days I think nothing is better than something, and this is one of those days! Musica.

The Island is all back and going full-speed again, summer people are back, opening up their little summer houses at the shore . . .

And the big ones too … we have all kinds here, and they’re all some kinda wonderful. I think the actual reason I moved here was for the architecture!

The fourth of July was wonderful. As usual, everyone decorated to the nines.

We’ve been walking every day … the weather has been heavenly. No humidity at all, which is a great surprise . . . so far we haven’t even had to put in our air conditioners, knock on wood. It’s been all blue skies, lovely ocean breezes, gorgeous bug-free sunsets, perfect sleeping weather, perfect napping weather too! Oh yeah. Read a little book, take a little nap, let the curtains play in the breeze as you sleep, wake up to lawnmower noise three-doors-over, or an argument between two birds at the feeders. Yawn. Deep breath of happiness. Play some old music. Wander in garden while listening. Joyful nothingness of summer.

The sun shines bright on our walk in the morning…Joe waits for camera-wielding me in a shady spot.

While I stop to wave at you.

So gorgeous. I could never be a city girl. I like to visit . . . but this is my place . . .

Lovely in the woods . . . all dappled and shady …  takes us 45 minutes to do our walk. Best time of our day.

I find myself standing in front of the screen door in the kitchen, leaning on the door jamb, eating my bowl of shredded wheat (the way many women have done, at this same door, before me), watching the bees flit through the roses and the birds play in the birdbath. My heartstrings are tugged, I wipe away a tear . . . words like awesome, wonderment, stupefied come to mind. And gratitude. And joy.

This was a knot garden we saw in England (at Barnsley House). It’s one of the places we learned about shrub textures and colors. I used to plant almost all flowers, but notice here there are no flowers and it’s as beautiful as if there were. It’s because of the different textures and colors of the foliage. We try to do this in our garden ~ we haven’t quite mastered it but we are better than we used to be!

I’m pretty sure, from looking around, that the two things that grow best on Martha’s Vineyard are roses and hydrangeas.

And herbs too … they do well here. See the little purple flowers? That’s lemon thyme … try stirring those little flowers into softened vanilla ice cream. YUM. You can see our tomatoes are coming along nicely.

The old fashioned single hollyhock is blooming …

And Jack waits for me at the kitchen door.

Once in a while we force ourselves to leave the house, like to go to Farmer’s Market ~ we take the van, we turn on the air-conditioning, put down the windows, turn up Frank, drive up-island, stop and get coffee and a donut at the Scottish Bakehouse, pick up some French Marigolds at Vineyard Gardens, and make every excursion an adventure.

We went here for the Fourth . . . to our friend’s home on the water for a pot luck. I’m photographing from their deck, over the garden, to the sunset . . .

Fireworks across the water . . .

The kids out back with their sparklers . . . So wonderful it’s hard to believe there’s ever been a winter around here! That’s why so much celebration! We know what’s coming!

This is Jack when we come home from anywhere. He hears us at the kitchen door, I watch him through the window as I turn the lock, he curls onto his back and begins wriggling around until I pick him up. He makes us feel so welcome!

I made a pie, banana cream, with the most delicious pie crust (from Heart of the Home) . . . and I made three batches of potato salad over the weekend, for all the celebrations we attended! Mas Musica?

And ice cold gazpacho (with lobster), from the Farmer’s Market goodies . . .

While I cook, I watch/listen to old movies on Turner Classic Movies. TCM, the soundtrack to a perfect summer day. Also, the new series Anne with an E (she’d much prefer to be called “Cordelia”), which I LOVED, even though it was a bit different from the original. I hope they do a season two!

I made pancakes for my sweetheart ~ with crispy edges, and heated maple syrup, just the way he likes them. We ate while we watched the last episode of another wonderful new series  ~ a Masterpiece Theater production called  The Durrells in Corfu. Just in cases you’re looking for something new.

Washing breakfast dishes, listening to old movies, looking out the kitchen windows to see birds at the feeders and butterflies flit through the garden, hearing the bells ring from the church across the street. Playing with Jack. Painting Jack. Nothing with a capital N. Gimme more of that.

 I stop to watch shadows shimmer on the walls, greenish light reflected by the leaves of the trees feels like swimming in the pool when we were young. Pulling the shades in the upstairs bedrooms to keep out the afternoon heat . . .When I was little, I could lay on my bed and listen to the birds and the neighborhood noises and stare at the ceiling for hours ~ maybe write or read or fall asleep, just doing nothing.  I have no scientific proof, but I believe in my heart of hearts, all my inspiration in life came from that nothingness. All my romanticism and all my dreaming ~ there must be something in the nothing.💞

I’m still moving forward every day, I need to work, but I’m doing it in a much less frantic way, because first and foremost, I’m trying to fill my creative heart to the brim and overflowing ~ and I think it’s working. I still need more though.

I’m doing a little painting, early mornings when all is quiet, for the joy of it, with just the seagulls screeching over the harbor.


Sometimes I turn on music  . . .

I had to paint my new cup . . . I wob it…. I put the video on Twitter . . .

Perkiest dang thing . . .

And look what came in! The 2018 calendars! Can you believe it? That means, and you know it does, soon it will be time for us to go back to school! 

I know lots of you are waiting for these! Maybe at the end of THIS month … or the first of August … they’re being made as we speak!

And this? I’m still waiting to see how the company that makes these does with color. Fingers are crossed that it will be good. This is a different company than the cup company, so we’ll have to see. I love this little teapot, I hope it works! Things take much longer than we imagine, but I should hear soon.

And this adorableness? I’ve also spent lots of time wandering around the Internet, looking at houses, and then just yesterday Joe and I rented this exact one! For two weeks next year, for another trip to the Mother Country. 🇬🇧 Eeeeek. You can’t hear me but I am SOSOSOSOSOSO excited. It has two fireplaces! SO cozy. I can’t wait to show you (and me) the inside, in real time. Our own little thatched cottage in the English Countryside.  I may have to paint it.  I’ll fill you in when we get closer. But this house was too irresistible not to show you now!I just realized, I haven’t shown you our last year’s visit to Downton Abbey yet!! I will do that next post!

Oh yeah. Until then . . . Hasta la vista, baby. Love you. Enjoy your precious moments.

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