Leap Day Fever

Maybe because it’s Leap Day, and maybe subconsciously I’ve decided it’s a “free” day, but something has come over me . . .  MUSICASaturday Evening Post 1926-03-20

I have the worst spring fever, I’m getting 100% nothing done.


Jack too, getting nothing done!  We are besotted. We have . . .springfeverIt has taken me until 1:30 in the afternoon to start a post that I’ve been trying to write since I got up this morning. But I couldn’t. Because of this . . .IMG_2176Remembering the apple blossoms in bloom in Ellen Terry’s elegant garden in England, yearning to be there again . . . so I finally decided just to write about the Spring Fever and quit fighting City Hall. The fever has crowded out all the normal thoughts from my head. Now I have the yearning thing and I thought maybe some of you might have it too ~ It’s that time of year! flowersIMG_1017

I was looking through my photos and found this. The very next photo I took after I took the one I used for the cover of A Fine Romance, as we were driving Musicathrough the magical Yorkshire Dales on our way to nowhere, to do absolutely nothing except serendipity as it came.  Playing this music as we wound through some of the most beautiful, wide open, fairy populated countryside I have ever seen, filled with lambs and wildflowers, crumbling stone farmhouses and views of the Dales that went forever, stopping the car every ten seconds because we just had no choice. Sigh. Homesick for it, fevered. . .


It has taken me since 2014 to turn my diaries . . .

IMG_3848and my box of stories into The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, and another two years of solid focus for A Fine Romance for the two years before that . . . and suddenly I see the big light at the end of the tunnel. Monday is my day for Englandsetting week’s end goals . . . by the end of this week, unless the spring fever takes me out of the picture entirely, I will have all of the 2017 calendars done too. And all I will have left to do is 16 new pages I want to add to my very first book, Heart of the Home, to celebrate it’s 30th year of existence.  And then I will have kept all the promises I made to myself and off Joe and I will go for a long drive across country, a long luxurious, deadline-free, non-face-down painting, drive across this beautiful country to meet our Girlfriends . . . and then, in the fall, back to England again.flowers


So . . .I meant to do my work


Every night Joe and I plan our trip, looking at cottages, and castles. I can’t quit thinking about having tea and cake in beautiful gardens the last time we were there, while making notes so I wouldn’t forget how gorgeous it was . . . so I could tell you.flowersMAS MUSICA, more Vera Lynn, the voice and spirit of England during WWII (in this one you get to hear the soldiers singing with her). It was the perfect musica for winding through stone walls and hedgerows of cow parsley.


Dinner next to our rented stone cottage near a field of buttercups in the Peak District with Darcy (a peacock) and his friend, a pheasant, who Darcy chased all the way across that field and over the top of the hill while we watched ~ their heads popped up every so often above the wild flowers, they ran like the road runner cartoons and we were laughing ourselves silly.


And long walks over hill and dale with my darling Joe . . . my own personal in-house pathfinder . . . and cow protector.flowersIMG_5978

Through the ruins of King Richard III’s childhood home, where now wild orchids grow from the stones. I just stopped myself, Were those wild orchids? It doesn’t sound right. So, I turn to page 185 of my diary, there they are, and of course, they aren’t orchids, they’re Fairy Foxgloves!  How could I forget! (And that’s why I keep a diary!)


And Petey, our wide-eyed mascot, our lucky sailor guy that Joe won in a game when he was 12 and on a ship crossing the Atlantic with his mother, here on the roof of Rachel’s parents’ hen house. I hope I am giving you spring fever too. It’s not the kind of thing one wants to suffer alone.lambs

I mean really. Pink ears? How much more spring fever could there be? Right there, in front of us, all this beauty.  Beauty in Bibury!fairytalesflowersXXX

Walks like this all over England and you never know what you’re going to see. Except for one thing, it will make you cry. sense of beauty; susan branch artflowersIMG_2633

HERE are the wild orchids, in the garden at Stourhead. Acres and acres of this beauty, where we will be having a BYO Picnic Basket party on Sunday, September 18th, 2016 (a September Sunday as Shirley Temple would call it) for anyone who can make it to the English countryside, to Stourhead in Wiltshire, England, on that day. I’ll be there, and so will Joe, and so will Rachel.Green things Growing


And we’ll have our picnic in the same exact spot we had it back in 2004. This is the diary I kept then . . . in the photo I am trying to feed the ducks you can camerabarely see over Rachel’s leg . . . we had the loveliest day there and I would love to repeat it with you!  If you can’t make it, don’t worry because we will send zillions of photos via the Blog and you’ll feel like you were right there with us! This was the diary that I kept on our trip to England in 2004 . . . it was the inspiration for A Fine Romance . . . my friends liked this one so much, I thought I should do one for them and whoever else might like a trip to England without leaving home!flowersJuly 08 Vineyard 1099

This diary is one of a kind . . . but you can see how A Fine Romance was born.flowersJuly 08 Vineyard 1097

Slightly messier to say the least, it never occurred to me that I might want to show it around very much so I wasn’t as careful as I was with yours, and I still had a problem figuring out what day it was! But for sure, because of it, we will never forget the loveliness.


So, anyway . . . Sigh, spring fever . . .


Although this is what our house and garden looks like today . . . a bit on the barren side . . . but still, snow free and sprinkled with snow drops (the flower, not the ice!) . . .

'08 May, Vineyard 124

But a trip through my photos brought me to this . . . a photo from June, when the arbor is covered in roses and twinkle lights . . .

IMG_7198And more spring fever  under the weeping cherry trees . . .

tell him

After all, it’s only three weeks from now!


spring in our kitchen spring

And there is so much excitement coming up, pretty soon I won’t have time to be feverish . . .  a brand new, very fun WILLARD will be coming to you beginning April 19th (it still takes about four days for them all to go out, so from the 19th to the 22nd to be exact, sign up someone you love for this good surprise) . . . filled with spring fulfillment to take down any fevers, with a new recipe special for Mother’s Day, new book (which will very likely be in your hot little hands by then!), new dream charms (!), and a brand new giveaway that is guaranteed to send you girls to the MOON. I’ve been saving it, as you will see very soon. SO hard to keep secrets!!!


Good bye for now Darling Girls . . . I will return. And only one week until Downty Deliverance.  All so good. XOXOaint life grand

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Golly Gum Drops, TELL HIM

Tell Him. MUSICA

(Attention: I’m about to give away everything from season 6, episode 8 of Downty. If you haven’t seen it, run from this space!)


“Tell him!” Cora said to Edith  who was wearing lovely blue lace gloves and sporting a coat with interesting looking trim on the sleeves.


“Tell him,” said Rosamund, who had overdone it a bit with the curling iron and the hair style all the rage called the Marcelle. “Tell him,” I said, and Joe said.  We begged her, but nooooo, Edith’s fatal flaw stays strong, she can’t tell him, she just can’t. Too scandalous to say out loud.


She didn’t trust Bertie. Why, I will never know.


He is such a doll. Cried when Cora was kind to him. Devoted to his cousin. Doesn’t even want to be the Marquess, although he is willing, because he is honorable and believes in duty. And he hopes to use “Edith’s courage” to help himself through it. But Edith has zero courage to share and procrastinates.  It’s clear that someone has to tell him.  Marrying in a lie is not the way to start a life together.  I know, let’s let Mary do it!


She’s in the village with Tom, wearing my very favorite coat when she first hears


. . . that the owner of Brancaster Castle has died, and “worries” that Bertie might be out of his job as agent. “Poor Edith,” she says, smiling.


Later finding out, that NO, in fact Bertie is now the new Marquess. Which makes Mary insta-jealous. Add it to the list of miseries for Mary. (Robert is thrilled when he realizes Edith will be marrying a Marquess and says, “Golly Gum Drops” to show his delight.)


So now it’s time for lunch, Henry has recently stormily departed due to Mary’s edict, and according to Tom, whom Mary tricked into providing confirmation about Marigold, Mary is a bully and “like all bullies, she’s a coward” which makes her the perfect person to drop the bombshell. “You are very forgiving” she says to poor unsuspecting Bertie, “Not everyone would accept Edith’s past.” (GASP! Did you just gasp? I thought I could hear the entire country gasp.) She couldn’t help it, everyone was  having more fun than her, plus Edith would outrank her if she married Bertie. (“Absurd!” she says when she hears), so she decides to destroy her sister’s life over breakfast. Note: Mary did it when her father and mother and granny were not in the room.  She could have just as easily done it at dinner the night before, but she waited.IMG_6019

Poor Edith. Or, as her father would say, “Poor old Edith couldn’t even make her dolls do what she wanted them to.” I don’t see how anyone with that skin wouldn’t be a little bit braver in life.


And off Bertie goes, hurt and dismayed . . . I hope you are satisfied, Mary. But we could see it in her face, she had even shocked herself at this disgusting thing.


So out we go for terrible goodbye forever’s in front of lovely Abbey.


Bertie feels tricked. “Would you have married me in a lie?” He asks. He is such a down-to-earth, elegant man. And she was such an idiot. Because this was real love, not based on money or position, he wasn’t just some “social-climbing banker.” (Although I did have a bit of a worry the way he talked about his mother and thought if I were Edith I might not like living with her.)


And Edith said (showing off the complicated trim on the back of her dress that mirrored the trim on the Abbey), “I doubt we’ll meet again . . . so, good luck.” Proper and mannerly. Just like we knew this would be, right?


Now it is time for everyone to yell at Mary. “Bully! Coward! You finally got what you wanted!  DON’T LIE!”  all from Tom. Eeek, I’m saying to myself. Guess these two won’t be getting married.


“You nasty, jealous, scheming,” dare I say it? “Bitch.” And once was not enough, Edith said it again. “Ubbidy, ubbidy,” Mary tried to lie her way out of it. “STOP,” said Edith, “Don’t demean yourself by trying to justify your venom.”



And I said, you go girl.  Because what Mary did was unforgivable. Even though I love her.


So she went to her gorgeous bedroom and felt sorry for herself. She’s beat Henry back to the point that he’s now called her a gold digger and “abandoned” her, Tom’s disgusted, everyone hates her.


She puts on her black widow spider outfit and feels misunderstood and alone and has no idea why.


And the Dowager comes to the rescue, all the way from France, kind of mad because her butler Spratt isn’t waiting at home to greet her. But it was a good thing she came, because there is no one like a Grandma when times are tough.


And Granny believes in love.


“Oh Granny, can’t you find me some Duke? Mary cries, she just “can’t be a Crash Widow again.” First thing,” Granny says, “make peace with your sister, and second thing, make peace with yourself.”

hearts and flowers



We love Mary. We love Granny. People. We get ourselves into such messes.



So she goes to the graveyard, choking with tears, and tells Matthew she loves Henry and says she wants to marry him and wishes for his blessing. (Why am I crying while I’m writing this?) And then she sends for Henry.


You whistled, I came, so what do you want? Not taking any guff.


This. She wants this. And so, because everyone carries a marriage license in their pocket, we are going to a wedding right now.


Everyone is getting ready for the wedding, and you can see that Anna has a baby on board. And who surprises everyone by showing up in supreme truth and light?


Edith, luminescent with forgiveness. Above and beyond the call of duty, and yet . . . she let’s Mary apologize.  Edith takes it as a matter of course and says, “I assumed you’d be sorry unless you actually are insane.” And gives a lovely speech about how important family is, how someday they will be the only ones to remember Sybil and Matthew, and their parents, and all the souls that “peopled our youth.” So right. For the moment, peace reigns, although how Mary can be happy with her sister having lost the love of her life, I don’t know.


And so Tom becomes the Best Man at Mary’s second wedding.

IMG_6143And I have accepted that my wished-for marriage for Tom and Mary will not be happening. And you are so right, he probably deserves a less foundationally retaliatory kind of person.  And she and Henry are very beautiful together.

And the throwing of the flower petals was just heaven.flowers IMG_6152

But this is where I was finally won over.  It was a wonderful kiss that Henry gave Mary, well done! I predict a very nice first year of marriage!


Although, the hat . . . . .


And off they go!  Where?  Back to Downton? To her room?  Where are they going?


“A New couple in a New World,” says Robert. Bittersweet. Our people are growing up, going away from us.flowersIMG_5914

I had to show the drama and excitement between Mary and Edith ~ we’d waited so long for it! But one of my favorite parts of this episode were the lovely scenes showing the charms of the English Countryside. Like this one of Cora and Edith in the wildflower meadow.

they mow through the wildflowers

(Thought I’d throw this one in just for excitement. You can find this all over England in the spring!)


And the umbrellas, they were fun too. I’ve always hoped they would come back into style! Gloves too. I thought perhaps this germier, sunnier world we live in would require it, but so far, it’s just a wish.


And this scene with the Cruel Miss, boring Lord Merton’s son, Larry’s hideous wife, Miss Amelia Crookshank, having tea with the wonderful Isobel Crawley. Hat, tea, house, grounds, umbrella:happy!IMG_6028

And Isobel tells Amelia that “unless I hear, ‘welcome to the family’ from Larry himself, I’m not joining up!” I do not notice any attraction at all between Lord Merton and Isobel, other than a little hovering on his part every so often. Do you?

IMG_5935This was one of the scenes, I’m not sure where it was, but I would like to go live there for a year or so.

IMG_5960And this pretty scene of Tom and Mary agenting in the woods while he tries to tell her to grow up and quit being afraid and marry Henry.flowersIMG_5920

Now for Mrs. Patmore … this is her reaction when Sergeant Willis tells her that the man in the bushes with the camera in the last episode is a detective, and that the first customers to her B & B were ADULTERERS, that she may have to testify against them in a high profile trial, and that her B & B is now considered a House of Ill Repute!!!! Mrs. Patmore is about to faint.

IMG_5923‘Course her best friend is there for her . . . trying hard not to laugh.


Anna and Mary go into a laughing fit about the whole idea of it.

IMG_6089 You can’t say as much for Carson who doesn’t seem to know from laughter and says he never thought the whole B & B idea was any good from the beginning. He’s upset because  the family is being dragged into a tawdry local brew-ha-ha, and is being a total curmudgeon in every way possible.  “Yes,” Mrs. Hughes says, “But you’re MY curmudgeon.” I don’t know Mrs. Hughes. Except for sturdiness, this guy seems to have very few redeeming qualities. I would like to see him do something silly please. Twirl her, dance with her, get some lemon curd on his coat and lick it off, play a tiny joke, drop your tea bag on your eyeglasses, something!flowerborderIMG_6085

All Mrs. Patmore’s bookings at the B & B are cancelled, she’s ruined! But the family comes to the rescue, they’re going to tea at the House of Ill Repute to give it good repute and avert further scandal. And Mrs. Patmore is so happy, she’s making the tea . . . I just love the kitchen shots.


And that egg holder. I can just picture someone who works on Downton Abbey running down to Waitrose and picking up 3 dozen eggs in two colors.

IMG_6111And here is Mrs. Patmore’s wonderful tea at the B & B. This is why tea parties are so much fun. They are delicious and pretty to look at!


And the cute people in the neighborhood and photographers buy right into it . . . gathering to see and take photos of the Lord and his family.

IMG_6127Who have saved the day  . . .


Because, essentially, this a very kind family.

IMG_6130And Julian gives us the shot in black and white, as it would have been in the day.flowerborderIMG_6066

More charm . . . the school house with heart-on-his-sleeve Mr. Moseley learning to teach, wishing to give these kids the chance that he never had.


Daisy, in some pretty good eye make up, listens in, and later tells Moseley in front of everyone in the servants dining room that he’s “a natural” and “the children were spellbound.” Another very sweet kind moment. Everyone clapped and I did too. How about Mr. Moseley and Daisy as a couple?  No?

IMG_6058Then good Baxter saves Barrow’s life with a premonition . . . and finds him in a bathtub with slit wrists, JUST in time, he is so white we almost can’t tell where the bathtub leaves off and he begins . . . “The suicidal footman in the attic,” cruel Carson calls him.


But we would like to see him happy. Poor lonely guy.flowerborderIMG_6081Mary visits and brings her son to give Barrow an orange and brighten his day, they commiserate about loneliness and doing bad things, and we are left with hope for his future. Even the curmudgeon decides they shouldn’t fire Barrow right this moment because maybe he does have a heart after all.

IMG_6102Oh, here he is, the missing Butler turns out to be in London for tea because Spratt is actually Miss Cassandra Jones, the Lonely Hearts columnist for Edith’s magazine! How perfect is this!!? He’s probably been stealing lines from Granny for years!flowerborderIMG_6162

This second to last episode ends with Edith standing at Sybil’s grave smiling ruefully (first time in my life I ever used that word!) as she watches her darling Marigold . . .


run and play and giving us the idea she has come to acceptance, that she is saying to herself, at least I have my child. OH, Bertie, Bertie, Bertie, come back to us. We need you!

And that is it, for this week. Apparently the Academy Awards are on next Sunday so, the very last episode (wah!) of Downton will come on March 6, just in time to welcome Spring.  But I’ll be back on the Blog before that!


You are probably tired and worn out from this recap, but before I go I had to share a bit of Jack with you this morning . . .Jane AustenIMG_5995

Yes, I know, but he is so precious.

IMG_5998All ready for his morning nap . . . And I’m off to work on the calendars some more . . . I showed some watercoloring in the last blog post (which I did just yesterday) in case you want to scroll down and see it.  Joe just came into the Studio to tell me our New Hope, PA “Afternoon Tea” on our Book Tour has sold out!!! How wonderful, I’m so excited! A whole room of kindred spirits!  Most of our events don’t require tickets, but some do, so be sure to get yours before they’re gone, because I’m going to LOVE seeing you. (There has been a little change to the map at the Event in Kansas City, but it is correct in the listing.)

Alright, off I go! Have a wonderful day Girlfriends! XOXO


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