IT’S NOT SNOWING

No, it’s not really snowing here. In fact, it’s snowing in West Texas. Snowing in West Texas BEFORE it snows in New England. Call the weather police! But we don’t care! Let’s pretend it’s a marshmallow world out there! MUSICA!  Better go get yourself a cup of something hot to drink, keep warm, brrr. 

So beautiful. I worry that someday people will read about the four seasons in a book, see old photos of snow and falling leaves and fields of daffodils on blogs like mine, and think, “Oh how quaint!” My poor baby California is on fire right now. 😥 Please say a prayer, there is no good time to lose your home, but Christmas must be the worst. And pray for the  brave firefighters and first responders 😘 ~ that they be kept safe. The thing I know is that everyone will gather to comfort and help each other as always in times of trouble, because that’s who we are. Have you seen THIS? It’s a video of a man saving a bunny from the fires. Come back and see it later . . . it’s so wonderful it will make you cry.

 I’m sure our snow will come soon . . .  it’s cold here.

Isn’t imagination a luv-lee thing?

We’ve had a fire almost every night.

In these quiet few days before all the festivities get going . . . while we’re decorating and wrapping and sending gifts across the sea.

Our boy is stretched out . . .

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Love this photo with the early morning shadows across the kitchen while I was polishing up the gravy boats, getting things ready.

My little stack of bread baskets . . .

Joe brought in some branches with leaves from the garden . . . and I set the table …

This is how the dining room looked when we first bought the house in 1989. I was setting the table for a lobster dinner, and there’s girl kitty (the first!). Love the befores and afters!

Finally decided which dishes to go with . . . all I needed were the napkins and the table would be done . . .

Jack was helping me fold them . . .

Because our kitchen is the heart of the home, where everything happens ~ folding clothes and kitty kisses too . . .

And rolling out pie dough . . . cooking up  a storm . . . thinking of the many Thanksgivings prepared here in this kitchen, counting my blessings. Our turkey, filled with my grandma’s dressing, came out perfectly.

So here we go . . . making the house pretty for the neighborhood . . . my own personal private elf-man doing a great job.

My guy. He is amazing.💞 Not just for this, but for everything.

There are so good ways to decorate . . . in case you’re in the throes of it like we are, here are a few ideas …

H A P P Y    D E C E M B E R 

We hang up all our loved bits of collected Christmas paraphernalia!

Bits and pieces end up on the kitchen cupboard knobs . . .

And as always, the shelf on top of my stove is in full Christmas mode . . .

The little house I found at a flea market several years back . . .

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care . . . and the memories flow . . .

Remembering childhood Christmases at home with my parents and brothers and sisters brings back all the magic (although, in this photo, we still have one sister to come, here we are only seven).  My favorite Christmas memory is when the little kids would be in bed, the older boys in the family room in front of the TV, I would go into the living room, turn off all the lights except for the colored tree lights, lie on the sofa in the twinkly dark and listen to Frank Sinatra sing I’ll be Home for Christmas.🎵 I do it every year and it’s as dreamy as it’s always been.

I was reading our local paper the other day, the Martha’s Vineyard Times ~ an article about the first death from a car accident here on the Island in 1902. It happened because the speeding vehicle was allegedly going more than 15 mph! 🙀 Yes! Lock him UP! Must have been difficult, the change that took place as horses were replaced by automobiles. I’m sure many held out forever for the horse, and the car people must have been very frustrated. The island town governments jumped into action and set the new speed limit at 5 mph. (I think my car goes faster than 5 mph when it’s in neutral.) It was another world, another time.

See the Linden tree on the right? That’s the same one I wrote about in Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams ~ in this photo it’s still young, but it grew to be huge, spread like an umbrella of leafy dappled light over the town when I came here in 1982 ~ and covered with lights at this time of year.  Amazing how so very little has changed in this photo. The Times, my favorite newspaper, recently started something new I think you might like. They send out a very short daily email called “The Minute” ~ it tells about the daily doings here on the Island, has a quote of the day, and a “what’s-for-dinner” recipe. It’s free … If you’d like it to show up in your mailbox, go HERE.

So yes, we do try to slow down time a little bit during the holiday season so as not to increase its speed.

We went to the movies on the night of the super moon. I looked up through the trees on Main Street in Edgartown, and there is was, in all its glory, peeking through the clouds. So festive to be out on cold nights during the holiday season, when everyone is out and about and everything is decorated!

We had a delicious dinner at Alchemy … Edgartown was all lit up …

They make a very good Old Fashioned at Alchemy… but you know Joe makes them a little bit better ~ here’s his recipe:

And since I wrote this recipe, we have discovered THE PERFECT WILD CHERRIES for this drink. Dark, almost black, and intensely flavored, there are no other cherries for us. Absolutely forget about maraschino cherries. They’re called Fabbri Amarena and are available HERE… delicious in an Old Fashioned, and also, just as heaven over vanilla ice cream or on cheesecake or between layers of a Chocolate anything. 💋 Somebody should put these in somebody’s stocking. You’re welcome.

We went to see The Man Who Invented Christmas . . . the story of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol ~ so good, perfect for anyone who loves the book, or wants to know a little more about Chas Dickens, has ever tried to write a book, or is fascinated by imagination and invention. In addition, MATTHEW (from Downton) plays Charles Dickens.👌He’s never been handsomer ! Wowzer. I rest my case.

XOXO

SO, other than that, here’s what I’ve REALLY been doing. Stealing hours and sometimes whole days, to paint. I discovered something I never knew before ~ Youtube has audiobooks! So I’ve been listening to Mansfield Park while I paint (that’s what you hear in this video). And dreaming of this . . .

This, my darling girls, is the view from the house we’ve rented in the Lake District for our picnic on Beatrix Potter’s lawn at Castle Cottage next May 11. Eeeek. That’s all I can say. If you are new to this blog and not sure what I’m talking about . . . then go HERE, where you can read all about it, and possibly join us, a whole bunch of kindred spirits, for a luv-lee afternoon in the historic English countryside.  BYO Picnic Basket!

And yes, the Royal Wedding is going to be sometime next May! We’ll be there! So I’m fairly sure the entire country will be decorated in bunting!!! Petey is ready to go, Mrs. Rabbit is blessing my new Castle Cottage cup; I’ll be making special name tags for everyone, too. I’ll put them on the next blog post so you can print them out. MUCH more fun when we recognize our kindred spirits!

That’s Post Office Meadow above, which Beatrix Potter owned, and it will likely be filled with baby lambs when we are there . . . and behind it, the white house, that’s Castle Cottage ~ and our picnic will take place in the garden! I can barely believe it, but I know it’s true.

Something else hard to believe. This is real, but this photo could never tell the whole amazing story because bluebells drift over every hill and dale in England in the springtime, in some places, as far as the eye can see.

So I had to include bluebells on our remembrance cup . . .

This quote tells the whole story . . . and on the bottom it says, “Memories are made of this.”

I wrote on them,”Picnic, Near Sawrey, Lake District, UK 2018″ ~ Never to be forgotten! And don’t worry if you can’t make it ~ we are taking everyone along with us, virtually . . . through pictures and videos ~ you won’t miss a detail! I will stick my camera into everyone’s picnic basket!

So, yes, you may have noticed . . . I finally received samples of the actual real cups that will be coming the beginning of January. Aren’t they gorgeous?  Bone china is such a nice thing! I photographed them all, fronts and backs so you can really see what you’ve signed up for. 📷

They came out wonderfully . . . this one I called Valentine Love . . . it’s good for husbands, boyfriends, sisters, and girlfriends, moms and dads, and everyone in between …

 I couldn’t wait to put this wonderful quote on a cup ~ because anytime is a good time to give a toast to love. On the bottom it says, “Of thee I sing…”💞

Here are the bottoms of all four cups . . .

And here’s the Winter cup (the bottom says “Not fit for man nor beast!”). Mrs Tittlemouse cozied right up to this one. I adore seeing that my Beatrix Potter figurines go so well with my cups!

There’s a snowman on the winter cup. . .

And a good wintry tea quote!

And this one is Girlfriend’s Tea … on the bottom it says, “If friends were flowers, I’d choose you!”

Also good for Valentine’s Day, with lovely words by Nancy Luce. Pay no attention that Nancy wrote that about her chickens she adored so much! Love is love! Right, Mrs. Tittlemouse? Right! (Of course she would agree, she’s almost a chicken herself! Oops, look at her face, I think she heard me say that!)
And for you who bought the cups already and are just waiting for them to arrive, don’t forget I made gift cards just in cases you wanted to give them as gifts this year . . . just click HERE and you can print out a card (like above) so they know something is coming.💞 Cups and other dishes are still up for presale right HERE.

Because guess what else, everything in this photo will be here early next week! Antique-store finds of the future! Whew, we tried so hard to make them arrive in time, and I think we did it!

For all you embroiderers . . . I’m so happy you’ve been enjoying our new kits! We sold out of Tea Party already! And there are only a few of the Ornament Kits left. We’ll be getting more I think, but in the meantime, we have two brand new kits arriving at the Studio very soon. A bunny pin cushion and a little robin to hang on your door or cupboard knob . . .

And here’s a wee gift from me to you with love, these two bookmarks . . .. . . just click HERE and print them on card stock… you can laminate them and make a sweet little stocking stuffer. And Kellee says to look for new wallpaper and other free stuff   HERE ~ it should all be up sometime this weekend! And new Winter Recipes are waiting for you HERE. We are going to keep you busy! (er!)

And one of the things I’ve already started . . . I’m writing us another book ~ it’s going to be all about our trip next spring . . . it will be another diary, loaded with watercolors and photographs, I dream it every day, this time there will be Ireland in it!  It’s all I really want to do! Because now I know I have a tiny bit of Dickens blood in me. Not the genius part I’m sorry to say, the slightly insane part.😜

Now, I want to ease your mind, because I know you’re busy, but don’t worry one minute about getting everything done ~ I found our fortune in a cookie last night and all is well:

Love you girls, Have a wonderful time, whatever you’re doing. Prayers, prayers, and more prayers for those suffering in this most wonderful time of year. Digging a bit deeper in the wallet this year, for lots of people and places are so dearly in need. Blessings on you and yours. ❌⭕️ Your Pal for Life, Anna Susana Branchburger the third.

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HOMEMADE

Everything is homemade this time of year, so let’s celebrate! 🎃 Because really, it’s one of the most amazing and wonderful things that make us human … our creativity! All hygge, all the time! MUSICA? 

So what’s been keeping me busy at home? I’ve been working on new embroidery kits. I want a large, old-fashioned HOME SWEET HOME cross-stitch, and thought the words should be stacked, and decided to wrap embroidered flowers around the first ‘H’ and the last ‘E’ … so first I drew them in pencil  . . .Here are the embroidered letters so far . . . I think its going to be cute. I’m going to make a pillow out of it to match my blue kitchen! I’ll let you know when it’s done.  In the meantime some of our 

. . . like this one, have arrived at the Studio! The Redwork Ornament Kit is here! The little house with the heart is already hanging in my kitchen! These ornaments take no time at all to make, so simple!

And “Tea Party,” a counted cross-stitch kit has also arrived!A nice way to spend the evening, light some candles, put on a good old movie or listen to some good old musica and sew something up for the holidays. Creativity is the best! There are no better words to say than “I made that!”
And what else? . . . Oh yes, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams has gone in for a second printing . . . the printer just sent me all of this ~ to approve color, paper, and layouts ~ so that’s been keeping me busy too. The only difference in the new printing is that we fixed some spelling and punctuation mistakes 😜 (better late than never), and added a banner to the cover that says, “New York Times Best Seller” (my first and only on that august list, so I want everyone to know it)!

The new printing won’t be in until February (if all goes as planned), but we saved back a few signed copies for our Blog and Facebook Girlfriends, just in cases you need them for gifts. 💞

Joe and I are still in the throes of planning our trip to England and Ireland . . . we think and talk about it a LOT, every day ~ we’ve picked out some houses we like (to rent!). I keep thinking about the baby lambs we will see there in the spring and have begun to paint them . . . because I’m going to keep a diary while we are there, and paint a new book of this trip when we get home! That’s why we’re taking such care to plan interesting places we want to take YOU!  Before we know it, it will be time to GO!And don’t forget . . . May 11!

My shadow helps me paint … there’s always room on my art table for a kitty. My theory is that cat hairs in watercolor add to the homemade quality and make every page more valuable!

See this? This is an old painting of the village of Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds where we will be staying for two wonderful weeks. This painting was done in 1903, but I’m pretty sure this town hasn’t changed a bit. The stone cottage we’ve rented is one house down the narrow little road on the left! You can almost see it! It’s across from the Old Mill, and walking distance to pretty much everywhere. When we get there, I’m going to stand right here, and take this exact same photo as it is today. Hopefully there will be descendants of these very ducks waiting for me.  I can’t wait!

And here’s what else I was doing one cold, late-fall, sunny morning when we got back from our walk ~ making crisp HEART-SHAPED WAFFLES.  

They’re so quick to make from scratch, and so delicious and festive and homey. I put a recipe for them in my LOVE Book (p.41) … but recently I found the most perfect waffle iron, not electric! and wanted to show you because there will be many times in the months to come where heart-shaped waffles will be the perfect thing. This time I used a girlfriend-approved gluten-free waffle recipe made with crunchy cornmeal . . . so here we go! First, into your mixing bowl goes 3/4 c. medium-grind cornmeal. (Don’t worry I’ll put the full recipe at the bottom of this post.)

. . . then add the same amount of gluten-free all-purpose flour. I got mine from King Arthur Flour ~ measure for measure, and completely interchangeable for “real” flour.

Whisk in baking soda and baking powder   . . .

add cinnamon and nutmeg . . .

And a tiny bit of sugar . . . and whisk all dry ingredients together well.

Mix a cup of buttermilk with two beaten eggs . . .

Melt two TB of butter over low heat . . .

Add the buttermilk-egg mixture to the dry ingredients along with the melted butter, and whisk until well blended. It’s supposed to be thick.

And here’s what makes it fun. You know whenever I get something I love I try to carry it in our web store? Well, this pan makes these waffles so easy ~ all you do is pour the batter into one side of the pre-warmed pan. (It’s coated so nothing sticks, although I also spray it lightly with vegetable oil~ the top separates from the bottom for easy cleaning). And something I didn’t do, because this was my first time using this pan, I didn’t take a spatula and spread the batter evenly. But you can and should. The first time you use this pan, it seems like you might have to hurry . . . but you don’t, you have all the time in the world, because you can regulate the heat under it. And the handle doesn’t get hot!

You just fill one side of the pan with batter, put the lid down, and wait a few minutes while it cooks over medium-high heat. And yes, you can peek! And if it’s going too fast, pull it off the heat, or lower it . . . and yes, it works with an electric stove too.

And while I was waiting the few minutes for it to cook, just outside my kitchen window  . . .

… a squirrel was having his breakfast too!

He saw me see him! Here’s where he tried to decide if I was real, and if I was, how actually close was I? He finally figured it all out, and went right back to stuffing his face, confident of the double-glass that separated us, oblivious to me and my camera!

I turned the waffle maker over, cooked a bit longer to brown the other side, and there they were! You can lift the lid and put it back down until they are the crispness you desire. You can see that if I had spread the batter better, the hearts would have been perfect! But perfect?

Joe thought they were perfect, buttered and syruped. And that’s all that mattered.

Here’s the pan … it’s very thin and can even go into the dishwasher. Way better than the old electric waffle irons!

When we sell them in our store, we include the recipe card above, with the original recipe. Hope you get a chance to try them! (By the way, the recipes work in any shape waffle iron!) Next time I’m going to add a little bit more milk, and put in 1/4 c. cocoa powder and make chocolate waffles!
And I’m  sure you are all fully aware, next Thursday is

A L R E A D Y ? ? ?  Yes!

And for me, first thing I have to do is get the bread for My Grandma’s Turkey Stuffing. It has to be the cheap kind, forget about any fancy “healthy” bread, these soft old-fashioned loaves I used to get my baloney sandwiches on are what makes the perfect Grandma-approved stuffing texture. 🍁

This recipe is on page 106 of the original Heart of the Home, on page 112 of the 30th Anniversary Edition, on page 64 of my Autumn book, and I think it might even be in my Christmas book ~ BUT if you don’t have those books, here’s the How-To . . .

My mom made this dressing every Thanksgiving of my growing-up life, and I’ve made it every year from the time I was able . . . my grandma learned the recipe from her mom . . .  it’s the way I’ve kept my mom and Grandma close every Thanksgiving.  The butter and sage fill our kitchen with fragrant memories of home. It taught me that you can do that for people, with foods and smells of their childhood, you can take your loved ones back in time. If you have someone new coming for Thanksgiving this year, and they want to bring something, ask them to bring the food of their childhood. 🍲

So onto the ironing board goes the bread tomorrow because it must air-dry for three days! Can’t dry it in the oven because, like everything that matters, this luv-lee recipe won’t be hurried. ⏰
And I’ve already made the first half of the gravy. This little trick for added abundance is such a huge help, because you can never have too much gravy! I’ll make my cranberry sauce on Wednesday so it will be icy cold . . .

The thing I love about this recipe, besides that it’s the most delicious I’ve ever tasted . . .

. . . is the color! Isn’t it pretty? Very gorgeous on a mostly brown Thanksgiving plate. Here’s the recipe . . .

Could not be easier!Another colorful thing for your table, especially if you are feeding children or even the young-at-heart, is my layered Jell-O … festive on the table, and absolutely delicious too … it’s not too sweet ~ it’s tempered with sour cream, adds a wonderful lightness to an otherwise heavy meal, and you can find it on page 62 of my first book, Heart of the Home.

I’m trying to decide my Thanksgiving table settings . . . which plates do you like? I have these two vintage designs from Vernon Kilns … that one ⬆️ is called “Chintz” ~

This one is called “Delores” ~ I mix and match both designs when I use these two.

OR, should I use these?  This is the Johnson Brothers “Windsor Ware” I used for our waffles ~ I like the purple with other fall colors . . . time for decisions! It’s all coming together, slowly but surely, for my favorite holiday! I love tradition ~ And this one, all about counting our blessings, is even older than our country.Touch hands, touch hands with those who stay . . . 🍂 Be sure and take you and yours on a walk in nature for a breath of fresh air on the otherwise soul-eating Black Friday (still trying to figure out who’s idea this was, and I think I know 🤑) and make it a tradition in keeping with the word “Thanksgiving.” Maybe then it will become Green Friday. 💞

Here’s my darling Jack. Who watched the entire waffle-making experiment from the kitchen table and never changed this expression!  But I read everything I need to know in those green eyes. We rub our foreheads together, and there’s information transfer. 💓

Jon, from England, who works for the manufacturer of our bone china cups, came to the Island to visit us yesterday. Joe asked him, “Would you like a cup of coffee, or tea?” And Jon said, “Yes, please, coffee.”  I sat in front of the fire talking to Jon ~ Joe went to make coffee and when he came back he brought this tray for us! So pretty! I jumped up and said, “Don’t touch that, let me get my camera!” Joe. What a guy. I’m reminded every day. Blessing counting!

With all my L O V E …. XOXO 

H E A R T  –  S H A P E D ,   G L U T E N  –  F R E E ,   C O R N    W A F F L E S 

  • 3/4 c. gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. med. grind cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. milk or buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter

Lightly spray your waffle iron with vegetable oil, and preheat it. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk eggs well, whisk in buttermilk. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients along with melted butter and whisk until well mixed.  Use a measuring cup to pour batter into the waffle maker, filling each heart, spreading the batter to get into all the holes. Close waffle maker, cook for a few minutes, turn the pan over, cook for a bit longer. Check for color, and cook until browned and crisp. They pop right out of the pan when you are ready. Keep warm in the oven while you make more, or serve immediately, hot with butter and heated maple syrup, powdered sugar, or fresh fruit. If you’d like chocolate waffles, add 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder to dry ingredients, and 1 TB additional milk. ❣️

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