Light the Candles and Set the Table

“Traveling is all very well if you can get home at night.  I shell candlewould be willing to go around the world if I could be back in time to light the candles and set the table for dinner.”  Gladys Taber.

           MUSICA

going home

What a week!  We had a wonderful time in Connecticut, but it is so nice to be home!  Here we are on board the ferry heading back to Martha’s Vineyard the slow way.  We’ll be home in time to light the candles and set the table for dinner.

flowers

the island

There’s the lighthouse and some of the little cottages along the shore . . . Good clues for knowing we’re almost home.

Home

alabama

There are a few wooden schooners like this that live permanently in the Vineyard Haven harbor.  So beautiful, love catching glimpses of them under sail. Wind, sea, seagulls crying, more lovely hints that we are drawing nearer. 

docking

When we see the church spires, we know we’re there . . .

kitchen

And now, here I am bright sunny Monday morning . . . Waking up to the quiet, to the going-nowhere-today, to birds singing and morning sun slanting through the maple trees . . .to a cup of tea and . . .

Jack

To the kitties, here’s Jack posing, Girl took off the moment I pulled out the camera. I checked to see what Vanna was doing, and found her bed empty.  She’s not even home.  The nerve of some peoples’ children. There was a note “Be back soon.”  OK.

garden

Then I thought, “Good. I have it all to myself.” First thing I did was walk out to see what grew while we were gone.  We had a good drenching rain storm, so the mock orange (left) and the pink Beauty Bush are cascading over each other and smelling like exotic perfume. 

pink-perfection

roses

Pink perfection “Linda Porter” (named for Cole Porter’s wife, he wrote the song you’re listening to) is blooming.

Old roses quote susan branch

rose

pink-flowers

strawberries

I picked strawberries for breakfast . . .

perfection

And washed one

gone!

Y U M !

small treats

hanging clothes

I got the laundry going and started hanging it on the line. I really wanted to come in and update the Blog, and pick the winners, but would you look at this day! So, you may have noticed, I’m late.

Beauty Bush

I suppose one of these days we will have to cut the beauty bush back, we can barely get through it to get to the back garden, but probably we won’t be doing it today.

GoldfinchesHello to the Goldfinches . . .

So here’s what we’ve been up to since we last talked . . . We’ve been away ~ I was asked to speak and sign A FINE ROMANCE at the annual meeting of the Friends of Gladys Taber, in Danbury Connecticut.  If you don’t know who Gladys Taber is, you can read more about her HERE. But she is an author that I have loved since I discovered her many years ago.  So I was honored and thrilled when they invited me to tell the story of how I found one of my heroes ~ it’s just another odd and wonderful way to find out how connected we all are, even when it is least expected!

Finally.The day before I was to give the talk, Joe and I were invited to see Stillmeadow Farm, and the 1690 farmhouse in Southbury, CT that Gladys Taber called home ~ many of her books are centered on this house. Here I am arriving at Stillmeadow for the first time in my life. I am verklempt. 

heroes

Stillmeadow

Because what does anyone do when they see a fabled place for the first time?  They cry, tears pop out horizontally. I thought I was strong, but the moment I got out of the car, I was mincemeat.  Gladys’ granddaughter Anne had come out that door to greet me and what did she find?  Mincemeat. The moment I saw the house, my imagination jumped to the picture of Gladys and her best friend Eleanor seeing this adorable little place for the first time, and saying, “I’ll take it!”

ohhappyday

Stillmeadow

The house is not a museum, it’s still family owned, and I don’t think anything has been changed or moved since Gladys lived here. For about two hours, Joe and I had the privilege of wandering around Stillmeadow taking pictures, visiting with Anne, hearing her stories, drinking her tea, eating her cake.  In addition to writing books, Gladys raised thoroughbred cocker spaniels and this iron bootscraper on the windowsill is one of the little reminders you notice here and there around the house.

Gladys' typewriter

celebrate

Some of Glady's books

Gladys was born in 1899, she lived through two world wars and the great depression, and died on Cape Cod in 1980, but despite the turmoil in the world, she managed to carve out a “safe space” for herself, where peace and contentment reigned supreme ~ she stayed happy and grateful her whole life.  She wrote fifty-nine books (all out of print now, but still available in used bookstores and flea markets if you are lucky ~ collecting them is part of the fun), about one a year for her whole writing career beginning around 1925. She also wrote homemaking columns such as her “Butternut Wisdom” for women’s magazines.  She was a hard worker and very prolific, very wise and very funny.

Here I am standing in front of the famous fireplace where Gladys would simmer baked beans and other wonderful things during the wild snowstorms she described in her books.  I was wishing it would start snowing. Snow us right in so we would have to spend the night! “Oh darn,” I would say!

happy?

living room

See Gladys granddaughter, Anne, in the mirror?  She is telling Joe how she’s working to upgrade and protect Stillmeadow and the surrounding countryside, and these days that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Speaking of sounds . . . Mas MUSICA?  Something for Gladys.

Christmas in Connecticut fireplace 4

There is a wonderful movie called “Christmas in Connecticut.”  Have you seen it? Because if you haven’t, you have something to look forward to!  Write it down and save it for this Christmas.  You will love it!  One of the most adorable movies ever, starring Barbara Stanwyck and lots of other wonderful actors.    Supposedly this movie was loosely based on the Gladys Taber Ladies Home Journal Column called “The Diary of Domesticity,” started in 1945.  As you can see from my photos, Gladys’ living room didn’t quite look like the one in the movie version ~ she lived the life she wrote about; simple, humble, and very real. 

kitchen window

Here we are in her tiny kitchen where “the cheese melts, the butter sizzles and the cream sauce bubbles.”

kitchen linoleum

kitchen

You can see, as my sister would say, this is a one-butt kitchen.

kitchen table

Not like the kitchen in the movie . . .

movies and life

house of books

There’s an old spinning wheel and the house is filled with old books. Stillmeadow is not open to the public.  There is no support money arriving from anywhere.  It is just as Gladys left it, not really so long ago. 

everything old

Gladys loved milk glass

We readers of Gladys Taber all know how much she loved milk glass, and here it is, in the corner cupboard, just as she described it.

narrow stairs

Here are the stairs to the second floor, straight up, almost like a ladder, with a rope to hold onto.

photo 8-staircase

Here are the stairs in the movie. I like them both.  

upstairs

Upstairs, three tiny bedrooms, still in use.

room with a view

With quiet views of a quiet place. The same view people saw here three hundred years ago, when Stillmeadow was new.

upstairs bedroom

I love all these old headboards and footboards, look how beautiful the wood is. Anne spent part of her childhood here.  

Gladys' bed

This is Gladys’ bedroom . . . The daybed (on the right) is where her desk and typewriter were.  

“I suppose I am a sparrow, a stay-at-home-bird.”  Gladys Taber

little birds

Gladys' Bedroom

Her desk was in front of the window on the left.  The books are just as she left them.

Me with Anne

I told Anne that the house reminded me of Beatrix Potter’s house, it was like an English house, and she said, “Well, it was an English house!”  Yes, oh my, she’s right, because in 1690, when this house was born, this was Southbury, England!

Stillmeadow

Then Joe and I went outside to wander around ~ Anne and her husband David are doing lots of work on the house, working to put it into better shape, the way it was when her grandmother lived here.

good things

Stillmeadow

These old houses are so “natural” they could be compost within a very short time!

Quiet Garden

This is a famous spot in Gladys’ books called the “Quiet Garden.”  Over the years, the trees grew thick over it and growing things were shaded out, most of the garden has disappeared, but do you see the new posts?  Anne and David did those just recently.  They are bringing it back.  The reason it’s called “Quiet” is because it was fenced in with a gate; it was one of the few places on the forty acres that the dogs were not allowed.

Gladys

animals

This is Gladys in her glory, and we can judge her heart to be the best.

quiet garden

Thyme used to grow between the stones, roses tumbled over the picket fence, and will do again someday; they are planning to thin the trees that grow around the Quiet Garden. Once the sun shines on it again, it will be fun to see just what comes back on its own!

The well

Here’s the old well.  This was the topic of conversation for Joe and I (our Morning Science episode) for our walk through the woods today.  How was it, we asked ourselves, on a drizzly, icy, snowy afternoon, to pull up a bucket of chilled water from the girl-in-bathwell (because you had no running water in your house so this is what you had to do), fill a pail, carry it inside, then go out (brrrrr!) and get another, and another until you had enough, and then heat it over a fire, and start filling a tub for your bath.   Then go bake the bread for dinner. And make a quilt.   We are baby food compared to our ancestors.  But they had something over us.  They had quiet. Pure, clean, sparkling like stars (and lots of them), deep-breath quiet. Maybe a jingle of reins, maybe a clip-clop of the horses. Church bells. But that was it. No dishwasher noise, no TV, no radio, no cars, no beeping things or phone answering machines, no snow blowers or leaf blowers or lawn mowers or hair dryers, and no, “you’ve got mail.”  

Mountain Laurel

Deep breath . . . Mountain laurel runs rampant around Stillmeadow and the Connecticut countryside in general.

beyond the fence

This is the new fence that David and Anne have been building.

Sanford Road

This is the unpaved street in front of Stillmeadow. Much effort to conserve this area has been inspired by Gladys and taken up by many others who live nearby. In your heart, you look at it and you say, please never change.

Joe

Because it’s lovely to take a walk up this quiet road, see the beautiful old houses and red barns and smell the green things growing.

Nature!

And listen to the water fall . . .

Stillmeadow

pink-flowers

saying goodbye

So now it’s time to go.  There are almost 200 people coming for the Reunion . . . and thanks to Anne, they will all have a chance to tour Stillmeadow.  A rare occurrence, so there’s lots of excitement in the air.

Time to go

We get ourselves together, put our cameras away, and off we go . . . I have to practice my speech!  Two Hundred People, Yikes!  I was not born to get up in front of two hundred people.  I will do it, for the cause, but I am wicked scared.

heroes

Me with Susan

The big day has arrived.  Here I am with Susan Turnley, the hard-working editor of the wonderful Gladys Taber Newsletter. girl with hearts(Saving the memory and legacy of Gladys Taber is not a money-making enterprise, no one is paid, everyone does what they do with the fervent wish that Gladys Taber books and wisdom will be around to help in any small way to guide the future. If you’d like to help, you can sign up HERE and receive your very own copies of the best Newsletter I’ve ever seen. Thank you Linda, Carol, Nancy, Vernon, Louella, Paul, and Teresa!)  Susan is introducing me, and giving me a gift, which turns out to be this adorable little children’s book about lambs!

lambs!

The perfect thing for me, because I am crazy about lambs!

lambs-art

lamb book

Published in 1931 ~ Just my cup of tea.

“It’s not that I belong to the past, but the past belongs to me.”  Mary Antin

Friends of Gladys Taber

So now it was time to face the MUSICA . . . these people made it easy . . .

Simply The Best

I thought about putting some of my talk here, but the way I discovered Gladys Taber will be in my new book ~ my talk wasn’t short ~ I’ve already kept you waaaaay too long, and I’m not even done yet!  We still have our drawing!  I woke Vanna, she is stirring!

FOGT

The best part about being here was this lovely group of kindred spirits.  Can you see the little girl  at the first table, she’s looking at her camera (I think) wearing a light pink top and has dark hair? 

Kate, Eileen's granddaughter

Here she is, you might remember this photo of her, her name is Kate ~ her grandmother sent this to show her reading A FINE ROMANCE.  She was there, so you can see, I was among friends!

cute!

stopping on the way home

And then, too soon (Susan and I planned to do this a year ago, it’s been in the future for so long), it was over, and we were on our own again, doing what we do best, traveling the backroads in our rolling billboard toward home, stopping at antique stores and bookstores, 

planting

Doing our best to help support the country people by stopping at their darling nurseries and buying flowers for the front porch.

OK, Here we go, Girlfriends . . . the big moment has come!

fence-with-flower

OH VANNA?  We are so ready honey, come on down! (Still groggy, feet clomping in pink satin slippers, sweeping down kitchen stairs now, she had a big day yesterday, I should start another blog called Life of Vanna.) She’s wearing one of those black satin eye-shaped masks that keep out the light, the ones with the eyes embroidered in pink thread ~ pushed up on her head. But she’s pulling out the names with her normal verve and style, she can do this in her sleep, despite the kajillion names on tiny pieces of paper, like confetti . . . between these last two posts, we had over 4,000 comments.  Yes, dearest girlfriends, this is definitely a record around here!    

Vanna's shoe

OK, here we are, Winner #1, for the unbound proofs of my 2015 wall and mini calendars . . . the winner is . . .

pink border 

calendars

Gwyn Whelband! A Girlfriend in Australia!  Congratulations Gwyn!

tiny-oranage--heart

And now . . . fingers crossed that YOU are the winner . . . behind door number Two, the signed HEARTS and FLOWER quilt made from my Martha’s Vineyard Fabrics goes to . . .

pink border

Hearts and Flowers

Roxanne (the Roxanne with a pie stand in her kitchen)

Congratulations Roxanne!!!

tiny-heart-pink

And, here we go, door number THREE, my Tea Party fabric tea ballcollection, including a bolt of yellow bees, the Little Fat Quarters, and the baby fabric . . . (I hate to even announce this last winner, I would so like it to be all of you! But it must be done . . . and we do have small consolation prizes for everyone)  HERE WE GO, the winner is . . . yikes, I’m even nervous saying it . . . 

pink border

Everything but Jack

Linda from Idaho!!!

Congratulations Linda!  And to all of you lucky winners!!! Look for an email in your boxes from me!  Send me your addresses letterso we can get everything off to you!  Thank you to everyone who put their name in . . . I’m determined to keep giving things away until everyone’s got something!  It’s getting harder, but I’ll keep trying, so watch for the next Giveaway!

Now, the consolation prizes, and then you are free to go live your life, in the spirit of Gladys Taber: listening to the birds, enjoying the little things in life.  Little things like this: 

YUM!

Don’t let summer go by without trying this amazing Lemonade, it’s like no other!  It will cheer you right up!

creativity

And for you all, because your creative heart shone through in your wonderful comments (that I will never get over actually), a special BOOKMARK just for my Girlfriends ~ you can print it out on card stock . . . from me to you with love and gratitude.  

And now, on to my next “project.”  Four of my best high school girlfriends are coming from California on Friday for four days!  . . .

Karen and me

Cathy, Marilyn, Lynn, and Karen  (that’s Karen on left, me on right ~ yes, Karen’s the one I met the Beatles with!) I need to get out my old photo albums!  Planning menu, island tour, fluffing bedrooms (throwing rubber bands for Jack, hugging Girl Kitty, my work is cut out for me).  This is their first time on Martha’s Vineyard!  Who’s more excited, me or them?  Has to be me!

Bye for now Girls, Keep in touch!  I hope you have a wonderful day! One more bit of brilliance to cheer your day . . . look at this!  Fred and Eleanor and more Cole Porter. The end is positively spectacular!

All the flowers . . .

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601 Responses to Light the Candles and Set the Table

  1. Donna Babbitt, Brea, Ca. says:

    OMGolly, you jumped right into my heart!!!! Silly Jack! There is nothing to discuss, buzz right over and get that darling ol’ geezer dog who is waiting for you, checking of course to be sure he is kitty friendly and let the joy begin!!!
    I got my first rescue dog ten yrs. ago at 69, now 79, me not the dog……………………..I hate that I wasted so many years not knowing the wonder, the blessing of a dog in ones life!!! I was always a kitty person. Our Bo is …………………………there are no words, I just thank God constantly for the delight our pets give us, just think how many times a day they make us smile…………………..pure pet gold!!!!
    When I adopted my older kitty Chloe at a rescue place last year they made me have a back up person in case I popped off so she did not end up back in the pound…………….very wise. Of course you have a daughter who surely would be super thrilled to have another kitty, God forbid you should pop off, just sayin.
    Oh, pretty please post pictures!!!!! Can’t wait for the good news!!!!!

    .

  2. Vivian in Tennessee says:

    When I saw that you were also a Gladys Taber fan, I couldn’t believe it, because no one else I’ve known has been a fan. I thought I had found a treasure. But am I glad you told us about the Friends of Gladys Taber, now I am one of the group, and love the newsletter.

    About Beatrix Potter, I bought a movie on DVD, “Miss Potter” with Renee Zellweger, and I thought it was great. It mentioned Hilltop, and the 4,000 acres she bought for preservation. IF you don’t already have it, you might enjoy watching it.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh yes, I have that DVD too. I put it in whenever I want to cry . . . I love that movie!

  3. Joan Lesmeister says:

    We made your “Corn Salad” from “Summer” for dinner tonight, 1st of the summer!! I grilled the corn last night, & used the leftovers. Don chopped & the corn flew around the kitchen a bit….got most of it in the bowl!! Great recipe – I could sit & sip the dressing quite happily, so good!!! Yummy salad..thank you GF!!!!!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      Grilling the corn has got to add so much flavor — I have to try it that way!

      • Joan Lesmeister says:

        oh yeah, outside grill, no husks on corn (usually I leave on & soak corn in water then grill, but this corn was husked), a little olive oil, s & p & let a little char..umm good…!! Back from doc, P.T & 3 more weeks of sling & left hand hunt & peck…& don chopping etc, my servant he says!!! I’m typing this, was not sure he could do good !!! & xcxccxcxc 🙂 ♥ to you!!

  4. Jack says:

    Due to prior commitments ….which require being out of the house for as much as three days at a time, new pets will have to wait until we can be home with them 24/7, which won’t happen until after July 18. It’s ranging over 100* during the day right now — not a time to leave your dog in the car. And we wouldn’t want to bring a new pet home and leave it unattended while we are gone all day. I’ve always had a Dog and am a strong proponent for getting one from the Animal Shelter, I can’t wait! So everyone be patient, as will I. You’ll be the first to know! xoxo Dad

  5. Jack says:

    PS… The feral cat will still be allowed to be free as it wants ….even if it decides to hang it’s hat with us….. So in the meantime we can still work on gaining it’s confidence

  6. Jack says:

    PPS….I hope this explanation relieves your troubled mind and soothes your cold,cold heart !

  7. Lynn Cunningham says:

    What wonderful pictures of Stillmeadow!! Thank you so much for taking us along on the walk down Gladys Taber’s unpaved road: “the woods are lovely, still and deep….” No wonder Gladys and “Jill” loved the place so much ~ it really is a place where unicorns might roam. Looking at the Quiet Garden, the yard and fireplace, I could see Gladys there. I love it that her granddaughter is caring for, and loving, Stillmeadow. Wouldn’t Gladys be proud of her!

  8. Jack says:

    PPSS …..back of hand to eyebrow —-sigh—- ……jeez!

  9. Jack says:

    A big HELLO ! To all the Canadian Girlfriends today from the Blogdad … We recognize your ” good-neighborliness ” and friendship and do appreciate it . We are an excellent example to he rest of the community of countries as an example of living in adjacent
    Harmony , in this strife torn world GOOD FOR US!

  10. Laura says:

    You came to mind today and just wanted to pop by and tell you Hello!!! I hope you and Joe have a Happy 4th!!!!

    Hugs,
    Laura

  11. Angela Cook says:

    Thank you for sharing your “happies” as we call them in my family, from the beauty of nature to the beauties of your art and inspirations. May you continue to be inspired and inspiring. Happy 4th to you and your staff.
    Today is a good day for a good day!

  12. Annette McD says:

    BEST BLOG EVER!!!!!!! Thank-you, Susan!

  13. Liz says:

    Dear Susan, Is there any chance you would share the brand of cute jeans you were wearing at Stillmeadow? They look so trendy and up-to-date in their styling but not like what is available everywhere for kids. Thank you!!

  14. Nellie says:

    Love! Thank you so much for such a glorious post.

  15. carmel says:

    Happy 4th of July, everyone! Our country has imperfections of course, but for me and my family through the generations it is a privilege to be born and live here. My grandparents were Catholic converts and were persecuted in their country of birth many, many years ago. They waited their turn to immigrate here and we are so grateful they did! Courage! I don’t take the freedoms we have for granted. And as always we look for opportunities to make this an even better country. Joy to all!

  16. Toni from Sylvania OH says:

    Happy, Happy 4th and please, God, bless us everyone:-)))
    Hold onto your hat, Susan…looks like it’s going to be VERY windy and rainy up your way…stay SAFE!! Toni xoxoxo

  17. Renee Mumford says:

    Dear Susan,
    Hope Arthur has left your shores! Heard, he was moving fast through your area. Belated, Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.
    Take care,
    Renee M.

  18. Peggy McAbee says:

    Susan, Just closed your book”A Fine Romance”. I was so sad to see it end. I must admit that when you left Hill Top Farm on your second visit I shed a tear too. I have always enjoyed your books and drawings, but this book really touched my heart! Sitting outside among my flowers and reading your book was pure joy!Thank you, Peg

    • sbranch says:

      You are so welcome Peg, thank your for your sweet review, you just made my day. xoxo

  19. I love your uplifting post. You can really paint a picture with your words and I will be buying your book for a great read. I am so looking forward to spending the weekend engrossed in the book. Take me away. And to tell you I have pictures that look like that!(Beatles!) Thank you.

    PS: where can I get your book? I have plans for the weekend and it involves your book.

    • sbranch says:

      Are you talking about A Fine Romance? You can get it here in my web store, at the top of the page is the cover, just click on that. Bookstores have it too, so does Amazon, but from us, you get a signed copy.

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