LITTLE LUXURIES for SUMMER

I thought today I’d do a post about some little luxuries you might like to think about for your garden. The dictionary says that Luxury means “extravagant living,” but that’s not the kind of luxury I’m talking about today  . . . I’m talking about the little things in life with some sweet MUSICA for you. 

picnic cloths

We can’t control what goes on in the whole wide world, but I know you know we can make life very sweet in our own small corners of it.  Spring is the perfect time of year to watch the paper for local yard sales and flea markets.  Meandering at this time of year is a wonderful thing ~ take your camera and when you see a tree or flowers you love, take a picture or get a clipping so you can ask for it at your nursery.  Lots of wonderful treasures await you for the season.  Here are some ideas for summerizing your life. . .

tablecloth

You can usually find really good deals on vintage tablecloths and napkins and they make your outdoor table especially welcoming.  They would also make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift! And see the tiny bird house church on the top of the bench behind the table?  Keep your eyes open for little garden items like that ~ look for things made of natural materials such as wood, straw, cotton, pottery, stone, brick and wicker.  They are the perfect materials to compliment a natural environment like your garden.

vintage tablecloth

Old handmade cloths give a feeling of romance around the house and garden . . . and here are more ideas for that . . .

around-the-house-romance-1

Choose a flowering tree to plant in your yard . . . it will give you YEARS of joy.

IMG_6508

This is the dogwood we planted three years ago . . . it gives me something to look forward to every spring . . . makes me so happy to see it blooming.

orange tree

Or, if you have the right climate, plant a tree that will provide you with sweet smelling blossoms and free food like this little orange tree.  Apples are good too, grapefruits and lemons and figs, oh my!

albizzia tree

Or a wonderful flowering tree like this albizzia (at our house in California) with pink furry flowers that grows huge, like an umbrella; it shades the house and keeps it cool all summer.

trees glorious trees

Yes, trees do take time to grow, but that time will pass anyway and you’ll be surprised at how soon you’ll get huge enjoyment from a tree, almost immediately. :-)

picnic

And that way you’ll have a place to put the old quilt or blanket you find at the flea market, take your book and a pillow, wait for leaves to move in the wind, look at the sky and feed your soul.

picnic

Picnics are the joy of spring summer and fall . . . this is one we had with our girlfriend Rachel at a lovely spot in England called Stourhead.  See the baby geese?  It doesn’t take much to make a day you will never forget.  Almost every town in America has a beautiful place where you could go for a picnic.  Food, drink, blankie, and thou. That’s all you need. Plus a little mas MUSICA.

twinkle lights

And then there’s light.  The magic of the night.  We have the moon and the stars and lucky for some of us who get fireflies in June, but there is always room for more ~ twinkle lights around the door, over arbors, along fences, between trees and bushes . . .

twinkle lights

help make summer memories . . .night lights

You can find all styles of lights in craft stores, almost any big box store, even big drug stores.

lights

And keep an eye out for “chandeliers” if you have a place to put one over your picnic table.

summer night

bug buckets

Even your bug buckets (buckets filled with citronella candles to keep away mosquitoes) can be cute if you look for them.  (And by the way, a quiet fan in the garden is also a great way to discourage mosquitoes, they are too weak to withstand the wind.  HA, take that!).

candles

While you’re at those yard sales, keep your eyes open for interesting candle holders, ones where the candle goes deep so the wind can’t blow them out.

little vases

And, of course, look for tiny vases and old jars for your flowers.  See that blue one?  Joe found that in the hole he dug when he planted the Dogwood!  Buried treasure!

little vases

little vases

A tiny vase of flowers takes about a minute to put together, needs very few flowers and look how cute.

little vases

Watch for something like this bird planter for your outdoor table.

everything old

for summer drinks

I love gorgeous old pitchers too . . . so much charm, especially the colored depression glass.

vintage glasses

And drinking glasses too  . . . everything tastes better from glasses like these.

pink-flowers

vintage dishes

Old glass makes the prettiest bar . . . You don’t have to go get all of this at once, in fact you really shouldn’t even if you could. Collecting is half the fun!

Good Housekeeping 1911-11

tea time

Little luxuries at this time of year definitely includes sun tea.

sun tea

fountain

We bought this small fountain for our porch because of the soft musical noise of the flowing water.  It was very inexpensive, there was only one of them, and I’m not sure where it came from, but keep your eye out.  They have so many of them these days and it’s such a nice thing to hear near the kitchen door.

frog prince

Of course this, to me, says it all.  It’s how I feel every day. 

hydrangea border
basket

Now look waaaaaay over there to the right.  Under that little pile on the lawn is a large flower basket with a tall handle.  That is my BEST garden thing.  You’d be surprised at how many weeds and things that basket can hold ~ tons! ~ and it’s still easy for me to carry it. So if you get to a basket shop, look for a large flower basket . . . the kind with the scooped out bottom, the bigger the better.

bird bath

Of course a bird bath in the garden where you can see it easily is a pure source of natural joy. 

birdbath

This one is at our house in California ~ we also love our bee skep and the strawberry pot . . .  see how all the natural-looking materials fit right in with Mother Nature?

heaven

yard furniture

Yard furniture is another thing we like to find at big flea markets ~ like the one at Brimfield here in MA, or the once-a-month Swap Meet in Alameda in California ~ they have such cute and different things.

rocking chairs

These rocking chairs were made even more adorable (and comfortable) with the little tie on pillows and backrests.

Contentment

swing

We found this old swing for our tree at the Ventura Swap Meet.

chairs

Over the years we’ve amassed a mish-mash of old chairs, adirondack and wicker, mix and match is always fun.

bench in the garden

And even a plain old bench is nice to have in your garden ~ it gives you a place to sit and smell the green things growing and it makes a good work table too.

To plant a seed

porch

This old and very heavy wrought-iron table and chairs belong to my girlfriend ~ and for a true luxury, it you have a place for it, OMG, this PORCH.  What pure heaven.  I’m taking the photo from the sofa she has there . . . I would live here all summer if this was mine.  YEARS of fun, right here, don’t you think?

wisteria

Near the door you go through most often?  Something that smells wonderful.  This is wisteria . . . and because of where it is, fragrance comes into the bedroom windows too.

smells so good

And this delicious smelling vine of pink jasmine, grows over both doors in California, it blooms mid-winter through spring.

rose trellis

And another thing, if you have a place for it, is a trellis.  They can be put against walls or fences or made into arbors and look especially pretty with the addition of a lovely climbing rose like this New Dawn.

Old roses quote susan branch

quilts on the line

And once you get your clothesline up, you are very likely going to need a good strong . . .

laundry basket

laundry basket.  And if you don’t already have one, I would suggest you get one of those fuzzy things to go in it, because that is a little luxury you will adore year round.  

flower border

I hope I’ve inspired you today to

go outside and play

garden diary

Keep track of your garden with a garden diary . . . write down what you plant, put in little photos so next year you will know what’s coming before it does.

long shadows

The first thing I notice in the spring are the very long shadows that come across the lawn and into my windows in the early morning. They pop up in places they never are during the winter.

flower border

early morning

They splotch sunlight in the most interesting places . . .

the before

inspirationAnd remember this?  The stories I’ve written and collected from my diaries for years — the pile of papers I showed you a couple of months ago?  I’ve been working hard putting together what I hope will be a wonderful story about my first little house here on the island, moving to Martha’s Vineyard and starting over.  Every day the book becomes a bit more pulled together, makes a little more sense, telling another story of island life.  I am over the moon with it.  I never want to be done.  I’ve never said that before either.  I will miss this one when she is gone. ♥   Writing this book has been taking me away from blogging more than normal, but it won’t last forever, I promise I’ll be back and I hope you won’t miss me at all when you see what I bring with me.

flower border

long shadows

That messy bunch of paper above has now turned into those sun-splotched pages with numbers and everything!  In a book, neatness counts!  I have you in mind with every word I write.   That’s what makes it fun.  It’s kind of like a giant blog.  Or like A FINE ROMANCE, only in Martha’s Vineyard and California instead of England.  It’s hard to tell when it will be done since I’ve never written anything like it before.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Sail away with me Girlfriends. . .

sailing

And one more thing . . . I’ve had several people ask about the event we’re attending in New York at the end of this month called Book Expo.  It’s not open to the general public which is why I haven’t made too much of it here on the blog, but it’s truly an honor to be invited to do an author signing at the Baker & Taylor Booth . . . so, just in case you ARE going, Joe and I will be there and signing A Fine Romance on Thursday, May 29, at 2 pm ~ please come say hello!  And we’ll be seeing many more of you in Connecticut at the Gladys Taber event in June!  Lots to look forward to!  Bye for now, Joe and I are heading out on our walk, taking my own advice to go outside and play!   It’s a gorgeous day ~ 65° here right now!!! Wishing you the MOST wonderful day! XOXO

flower border

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It’s May! Brrrrr!

RABBIT~RABBIT!  According to folklore, these are supposed to be the first words out of your mouth on the first day of a new month to insure a month of good luck . . . and here we are . . . It’s MAY!  Brrrr!  And it’s MUSICA . . .

bunny-bunny

AND It’s Spring Girlfriends (everywhere maybe but not exactly here) and you have been leaving the most gorgeous comments and today, we have gifts to give. So I’m wishing all of you the very best of luck.  Rabbit~Rabbit.

spring

But, first a little tour of our garden and the neighborhood to catch you up on what’s new. Put your jacket on, that sun is very thin out there, but “pretty” is returning to New England after a long brown and sepia-colored winter ~ in the form of sweet-smelling pink and yellow blossoms, so gorgeous we barely notice the chill, we are so happy, we do not look gift horses in the mouth.

pink flowers

spring in bloom

The cherry trees are blooming.  One of the things I wait for every spring.  They are such a gift!  What flower store could do a better job with a bouquet?  This tree is the gift that keeps on giving year after year.  It puts a song in my heart.

Edgartown cottage

pink flowersSpring is the perfect example of the glass being half full around here.  We’re still waiting for the season to really pop with most of our plants.  When you drive around most everything is still like it looks in this photo . . . but I did want to show you a picture of one of my favorite little cottages in Edgartown.  I’ll have to remember to go back when the roses are in bloom on that arbor!

dots

spring

And these are the trees just across from that gorgeous cherry tree in our garden.  Still waiting for their leaves to come.

dots

roses

We mulched and fertilized the roses last week, and you can see they appreciated it.  But this is not California . . .

roses in california

This is California! Kellee sent me this picture of the garden at the studio out there, where the roses look like this right now…

Susan Branch pink-daisy-border

violets

That’s OK, on the island we’re  happy to have our wild violets blooming in the lawn . . .

wild violets

They’re so sweet and they just say, “MAY” . . . and when you need a cute little edible flower to decorate springtime cakes, puddings, pies and even salads, voila!

Susan Branch pink-daisy-border

cherry tree in bloomBut back to romance in tree form . . . cherry trees in bloom ~ we have them in palest pink . . .

springAnd dark Pink . . . these are weeping cherries . . .

springThis one is just behind my picket fence garden . . . they give us terrible cases of . . .

springfeverdots

from the gardenI bring it all inside.  If looking at flowers cheers you up and you need more  . . . HERE YOU GO….

pink-flowers

rain

It’s still early for us . . . all week it’s been like this. We’ve been able to go on our walk, but we have to wear our full winter garb when we do, hats, gloves, scarves . . . and this morning it’s been sheeting down cold gray rain, so we’ll try to go later . . .  

bunny

But it’s OK,  I have lots of spring cleaning to do and this is the perfect weather for it.  We have a lot going on in the next few weeks.  We’re going to New York at the end of the month for washing the porchBEA (that’s Book Expo America at the Javits Center) where I’ll be one of the authors signing books there (we love New York and haven’t been in a long time).  In June I’ll be joining several of you at the Gladys Taber Annual Reunion in Danbury Connecticut where I’ll be speaking and signing A FINE ROMANCE ~ can’t wait for that . . .  AND THEN, on the 20th of June, four of my high school girlfriends are coming to stay with us for a few days. Very excited! We’ll get to take everyone on Island Tours (our own version, Nancy Luce’s grave, etc.) which we love to do. I have the perfect excuse to gussie up this house which I need!

pink flowers

dots

spring cleaning

Starting with this dusty shelf of cups and things . . . It needs a little bit of TLC after a long winter indoors with us cooking everyday. . .

cups

It’s the perfect rainy day thing to do ~ put it all in the dishwasher and get everything shined up.

BUT, before I start any of that, I need to get Vanna up and let her know we’re waiting for her.  

V A A A N N A ?  I call up the stairs in musical tones . . .(one does not want to scream or yell at Vanna if one wants cooperation, one has learned ).

jack

And look who comes out!

Jack

So I stand at the bottom of the stairs and shoot the rubber band up to the top for Jack (of course this wakes up Princess Vanna which is just what I was hoping; she loves Jack so much she is never mad at anything he does) ~

Jackie

He watches me . . . seeing if I wait for him to drop it or if he needs to chase after me . . .

Jack

This is him taking it out of his mouth . . . The eyes!  Can you believe those eyes?

Jack paintsAnd when he’s not on the stairs, he comes and drapes himself on my art table and tortures me by chewing on everything he can get his paws on.  That’s OK.  I have Girl Kitty who is a perfect lady and almost makes up for the shenanigans of Jack.

pink shoe

Ah, here’s Vanna ~ she just walked into my studio wearing pink satin slippers and yellow satin chinese pajamas with belled sleeves and wide legs looking exotic and quite divine considering the ungodly hour this is for her normal life . . . her hair is tied back with pink ribbon and she’s ready to draw magicthose two names; in fact she is snapping her fingers at me ~ “Get the show on the road” is what I think I hear her saying. (I don’t get no respect around here.)

So, with no further adieu, VANNA, start your engines please.

She slips off her mules and high-dives into the huge basket where we’ve put all of your names and she is spinning to the bottom, her legs going like scissors, twirling and mixing the names, doing her normal fabulous job of it, they are flying Girlfriends.   But here she comes . . . and, yes, she has got one . . . and now, there’s the other one . . . and here we go . . . Fingers crossed it’s you!

seashells

The WINNER for the Emma tin filled with gen-u-wine Martha’s Vineyard jingle shells, the 1900 copy of Elizabeth and Her German Garden and the first edition copy of A Fine Romance, IS our lucky Girlfriend . . .

JANET MARKLEY

Congratulations Janet!

And now . . .

"Story" Books

For the two signed “STORY” BOOKS . . . the Lucky WINNER IS our Girlfriend:

PATRICIA STANLEY

Congratulations Patricia!

OK, Janet! and Patricia! There are emails waiting for you in your email boxes.  Be sure to write me back with your mailing addresses so I can sign your books and get them out to you.  CONGRATULATIONS to you both.  This was a very big contest and look, YOU WON! Isn’t that amazing!

dots

And the rest of you?  Thank you so much for being here.  I can’t tell you how much I wob you.  I’m sorry you didn’t win.  Because I really wanted you all to win. Maybe next time!  (My hardest thing is this.)  xoxo

selfie

Is it possible you weren’t wearing your lucky necklace?  Take note, I did a selfie of my lucky necklace.  Because I got my KITTY LOVE charm from the studio and now all my “people” are here (There’s Joe and the English Countryside and A Fine happy-girlRomance, Girl and Jack in Kitty Love, home sweet home with Martha’s Vineyard, and YOU and the blog with Girlfriends!  What more could a person ask for!) ~ I only take this necklace off to sleep and I put it right back on the minute I get up in the morning. It’s my lucky charm, I wear it while I’m writing and I don’t know for sure if it’s working, but I’m going so good and having so much fun that I have to give these charms the credit!  I’m on page 523, Girlfriends.  I would say, “Somebody stop me” but I would be lying. Please, no one stop me!

yum

Now here is something new I hope will be of interest to you . . . I just discovered it and thought you might like it too. It’s this roasted pineapple and pepper sauce we found at Costco.  It is so good.  Just a little bit spicy, but not so much that it would terrorize anyone, just spicy enough to make life interesting.deliciousness

It’s like a pepper jelly, so you can serve it on crackers with cream cheese, or on crouton toasts.  There are delicious-looking recipes on the side of the jar.  It’s gluten free; we had it on salmon and it was wonderful.  The other night we sauteed onions and ginger in a skillet with a little bit of oil, we cooked boneless, skinless chicken thighs until they were almost done, tossed in one of those gorgeous yellow pears in the picture in the last post (chopped), added chicken stock and some of this sauce, put a lid on it; let it come to a simmer and finish cooking the chicken along with the pears and it was just delicious, spicy, sweet and different.  

And we liked the sauce almost as much as a dip with these wonderful “Popchips” . . .

pop chips

Also gluten free, also delicious, half the calories of potato chips, healthier and very crisp and at Costco too … Needless to say I have no personal interest in either of these products, only so far as my taste buds are concerned, but I thought you might need a very yummy consolation prize today.

Rain rain go away

I hope where you are it is NOT raining (unless you’re experiencing a drought, then I hope it is a steady strong rain just like here) and NOT snowing, prayers for NO tornadoes in the sky, just a gentle spring breeze, soft sun, and blessings over all.  That’s my recipe for your day.  Thank you for every dear word expressed in all of your comments.  XOXO

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