Rosamund: What do you think makes the English the way we are?

Violet: Opinions differ. Some say our history, but I blame the weather.


good morning

tea timeA two hour Downty means you will need a cup of tea to go with this recap of the very last episode . . . and wasn’t it wonderful!?  Run, go get your tea, I’ll wait!Spring songI had a scientific revelation during Downty last night.  I realized just how important good news is to the human psyche. ♥  Each time something wonderful happened I had a physical reaction, I could almost feel my endorphins popping, my heart warming. We need to include more of this in our daily diet.  I think we would live longer with big helpings of good news in our lives.sweetnessTwo hours of it. Thank you Julian. I could barely see through the camera because of the laughing or the tears.


Did you love the chemistry between these two? What a difference now that they are an old, committed, married couple. Oh dear, I already have a lump in my throat and this is only the first photo! But they were so sweet!IMG_6351Him wanting to find something better to do than race car driving, and her, SO supportive and sweet.IMG_6347And jokey and mooshey and cute!IMG_6353

The other thing, there must have been a hundred kisses in last night’s episode, did you notice? Everyone was kissing everyone!IMG_6222I loved her outfit here, in the beginning when he was so worried about his future.IMG_6227

And this gorgeous cocktail party on the lawn, must be cocktails before dinner because look what they are wearing. I don’t think they would do black tie for a barbecue. For that matter,  they probably wouldn’t do a barbecue.IMG_6229Where will we go for this kind of elegance in the future without Downton? Could someone please tell me? IMG_6251

I loved how Henry had become one of the family.  Mary let him just drive off with her previously reviled sister, alone across the English Countryside, under the wild sky, past the sun-splashed lamb-filled meadow to take her for her rendezvous with her lovely Aunt Rosamund for din-din at the Ritz.


In London. And despite the perched hat, how kind he was to her. Like a brother. For a moment I thought perhaps Julian would make something shocking happen between these two.  But then I thought, maybe if it was Season Two, but never here, never.


She shares with her new brother that pretty much for sure Marigold’s father, Michael Gregson, is NOT coming back. Which surprised me, because I had pretty much figured out he WAS. But no, Spinster Edith will be putting Marigold in school in London and live out her life alone forever. While Henry was fretting all the time, what would he do in the future. Note: Edith’s dress sort of goes interestingly with the drapes, circularly speaking.

IMG_6490But there was never anything to worry about, because the three best friends, young and alive in 1925, could do anything.


Making a life for themselves in a time that really, for people like them, there were no lives except taking care of huge houses. So they are the mother of invention. I would definitely drive to York to buy a car from them. Just for the conversation alone!


Henry was worried Mary might not like it, it might be beneath her.


But ARE YOU KIDDING? Heck no, she LOVES it, loves him, loves everything! And P.S. for a little frosting on the cake, she whispers to him that she is going to have a baby!!!


Could she have been any better last night? She was personally responsible for several of my endorphin pops . . . she’s visiting her “spiky” Granny when she gets an idea! Very mysterious.


And then later, when Edith shows up at the Ritz with her Aunt Rosamund . . .

IMG_6288wearing a lovely outfit with sexy arm bracelet, delicate beads, interesting filmy dress piece around her neck, which is a good thing because . . .


She discovers there’s been a set-up and that instead of her Aunt, she will be dining with Bertie, richest man in the world who recently dumped her and who has the mother we fear.

IMG_6294He declares his undying love for her and says he canNOT live without her and wants her to marry him immediately, with Marigold and all, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. With only a slight hesitation in the name of self-respect, she goes for it, and moments later . . .

IMG_6300Robert is telling Cora that they are going to Brancaster Castle to meet Bertie’s scary mother and have a party to announce the engagement. And everyone is thrilled!


And off we go . . . because wherever they go, we go!


And that dinner at the Ritz was all Lady Mary’s idea. Total redemption. And there’s that new puppy.


And there’s Edith’s new home. (Brancastor aka Alnwick Castle)


Despite the fact that the scary mother has already said that she wants her son to rebuild Brancaster as a Moral Center (frightening thing) to which Robert rolls his eyes and says the immortal word we all love to hear, “Golly.” Edith makes short work of that by telling the mother the truth about Marigold. Which the mother is not happy about and calls Edith Used Goods. Gasp.

IMG_6383But Bertie is having none of it, and will walk over his mother’s body to get to Edith. So far so good. We are proud of Bertie’s backbone.

IMG_6402But we don’t know what might happen at the announcement dinner, to which the entire world had evidently been invited, because the mother seems bound to ruin things.  (Who are these people? I always wonder if Julian’s niece is there, all the sisters and brothers of the actors, because it does look like a nice party and it would be good to get some double duty out of it).


And for instance, who are those two women? I don’t recognize them. I think maybe Julian’s entire family, and the family of his friends wanted to make history by being on the last episode of Downton Abbey.


Anyway, Robert comes to the rescue of Bertie and Edith with a whispered last minute threat to his mother, “If you want to keep your son, you better do what he wants.”


And so she bites the bullet and announces the marriage of her son to Lady Edith who then becomes the future Marchioness of Hexham.

IMG_6412It’s a done deal!!!!!  Perfection. Based on honesty, which the scary mother truly comes to respect Edith for. Well-done Edith!!!

IMG_6409And mummy is thrilled just like the rest of us.  Love the crown.

IMG_6420And more kissing occurs. And Marigold will grow up in Brancaster not in London. Hopefully Edith gets to keep her magazine, but it didn’t come up.

IMG_6323Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Carson is spilling wine and feeling bad  because he’s developed shaky hands and everyone is worried.


See? Worried.


And if they’re worried

IMG_6331We’re worried


Meanwhile the evil butler Barrow, turned child-adoring wonderful man is leaving Downton for a new position. Having been more or less shoved out the door for this entire season by Carson.


Miss Baxter kisses him goodbye and he tells her, “You believed in me before I believed in myself.”  That’s the truth! And off he goes to his new job . . .


As one of only three servants in this dead-quiet house of mirthlessness that really ought to be instantly turned into an antique store so I can go shop there immediately.

IMG_6401First thing I would buy is A. all the small lamps, B. the horse boxes, and C. the candle snuffer.  Poor Barrow. His life has just narrowed down to nothing. Talk about lonely.

And while he’s trying to adapt. . .

IMG_6304Isobel is telling Violet (in a room filled with delicate softly-worn furniture) that Lord Merton (Dickie) has a dread disease and that she is now crying all the time and wishes she had married him, but his hideous daughter-in-law Amelia, slams the door in her face, and she and his rotten son Larry seemed to have kidnapped him and won’t let her see him.

IMG_6389Violet is having none of that. Lightening flashes in her eyes. Because, “It’s good to be in love whatever age.”

IMG_6394And advises her shocked best girlfriend, let’s do what my father always said, “If reason fails, try force!”


So off they go, right making might, to break down the door to rescue Dickie, which they literally almost have to do because that woman is so nasty . . .


And Isobel tells him, get your things, you are moving in with me. And Dickie gives these creatures the house and sets himself free . . . even though he is still dying from pernicious anemia, at least, we think, his last moments will be happy.

IMG_6544So Lord Merton and Isobel get married because they are in love and need each other. But still more joy to come, because they are told by the doctor he doesn’t have pernicious anemia after all, only plain sensible handleable anemia! The regular kind!!!  Hooray! And he was smart enough to marry a nurse!


And then there is Anna, big with child that she is clearly carrying a little low, and feeling a bit achy.


And who is there to once more save the day?


Mary of course.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” she says, “I’ll give you one of my nightgowns, get into my bed.”  Carson’s reply when he hears Anna is having her baby in Lady Mary’s bedroom? “Surely not.”  He was already upset by having a pregnant ladies maid in the first place, but this, in his estimation, took the cake. Poor Carson. Nothing is going right.


But darling Henry is all aflutter when he runs to tell Bates!


And Anna and Bates have a son! Not twins, like I hoped, which would have been over the top Julian-wise, I’m sure, more American than English. I’m perfectly happy with this bouncing baby boy. More endorphins of joy.


And there they are, celebrators in chief, with the champagne for the new mummy and daddy. Aren’t they sweet?


More kissing. And their baby will be brought up in the nursery with Mary and Henry’s baby.  Could anything be better????


And all the while, women are growing in power.  Denker puts on nail polish. “Nude.” So racy.  Still a holy terror, this woman.


Mary gets a hair dryer.  Hey! I didn’t have a hair dryer like that until the 70s or something! We had a box, with a big plastic hood!  But here it is in 1925 in England!


Daisy has a love interest we’ve all hoped for for a long time, Andy. He likes her.

IMG_6312Despite her disapproval . . .


. . . and great advice from Mrs. Patmore. Daisy isn’t in to Andy at first, because, as Groucho Marx (and Mrs. Patmore) said, “She won’t belong to a club that would have her as a member.”


Until one day, she sees this, and we see the endorphins visibly racing across her face. Women love men who can fix things. It’s a common truth.


She’s “never changed her hairstyle in her whole life” but now, because of Andy, she wants to look cute at Edith’s wedding, so she borrows the hair dryer and gets the scissors and decides to take matters into her own hands.


But when we see her next we realize there’s been a problem . . .


It didn’t work out quite the way she hoped.


And Andy, not having the brains he was born with, laughs.

IMG_6531And, Anna, hairdresser to the star, takes over and fixes everything. Because there can never be too much kindness in the last episode of Downton Abbey.  IMG_6653And Andy loves it and loves her, and they go to live happily ever after on Mr. Mason’s pig farm, along with of course, Mrs. Patmore, because Mr. Mason makes it clear he wants her there. Sigh. Joy. Exploding Endorphins.

IMG_6483All the while Robert is irritated because his wife Cora has an interest that isn’t about him. He complains that she spends too much time at the “wretched” hospital.

IMG_6487But then the adorable Rose returns, a new mother herself, and wiser than ever before . . . and in the nick of time . . .


Because after her welcome-home dinner where Mary looks incredible in red


And Rose shines in pink . . .

IMG_6466And Edith sparkles in silver . . .IMG_6501Rose takes Robert to watch his wife in action at a meeting for the hospital.


And he is impressed to see her

IMG_6502being so important to so many others, and instead of being jealous anymore,


Robert realizes that not only is Cora good, kind, and beautiful with excellent taste in hats, beads, nightgowns, and glassware . . .


That she is a whole person with needs of her own and he is proud, PROUD of her, and loves her very much. Tears.


And Granny forgives Cora for taking her job . . .

IMG_6645And there is still another kiss. I mean could it get any better?


Well, yes, it is lovely when Edith thanks Mary for giving her her life back and Mary says they are blood and they have to try harder to be nicer to each other in the future. OH MY. Did you ever imagine this day would come. . . .?


 And Mary continues her streak of kindness, she won’t announce the baby until later (she whispers in the church) because she doesn’t want to steal the moment from Edith. The ultimate sacrifice has been made. It is official!


It just didn’t end. Edith was radiant in her wedding gown, the woodwork was gorgeous, and the flowers were wonderful.


Lots of guests to witness her aura of light, and her dad is so proud of her.


And she marries for love while her mother looks on sobbing from inside, like me.


She was a beautiful bride . . . his ascot is lovely. Her headband is tickety boo, too.


After Edith changes her clothes to go on her honeymoon, she says goodbye to her new mother-in-law . . .


. . . who turns out to be a doll and they kiss of course.

IMG_6619And Edith’s editor, Laura catches the bouquet, which is perfect because Tom needs a wife and he already made it clear to Laura how much he likes strong women.

IMG_6584But at the reception that is also a New Year’s Eve party, complete with toasting and a beautiful Christmas tree, Carson has a terrible time with the shaking. Something clearly must be done.

IMG_6585And who happens to be there to help out?  Our boy. The sad one who misses all his friends at Downton terribly but is resigned to his sad new life.


And the deal is made that Carson will retire, and Barrow will take over as Butler, but Carson will be in their lives forever and the two most important men at Downton Abbey shake hands and express deep gratitude to each other. This is killer.

AND THEN, just when you think you can’t take it anymore


   Mrs. Hughes begins to sing Auld Lang Syne and it echoes all over the house


And joyous Barrow pours wine for Mr. Moseley who now has his own cottage and a permanent teaching job, and I would have to say, the future MRS. Baxter Moseley . . . if he ever has the nerve to ask her.


And the singing echoes out into the snow, and across the land, “should auld acquaintance be forgot . . .”

musicAnd with that, every T is crossed, every i is dotted . . .


And just like Gone with the Wind, Downton Abbey is a story with history and characters that we will never forget. Well, done Julian Fellowes and everyone who put this wonderful thing together! We enjoyed every fragment of it!
Spring songAnd now, what can I do to take your mind off the pain? How about some new  FREE STUFF? Springtime computer wallpaper, stationery, a Mother’s Day crown, things you can print out for you and your friends? Just click there, and it’s yours! From me to you with love.DoctorOrderedIMG_6112

And remember these little darlings? The dancing cupcake toppers?


The easiest do-it-yourself project in the world?


We have them, in time for Easter, which comes early this year, on March 27th!
IMG_7058And don’t forget these wonderful Springtime Recipe Cards (you could also use them as postcards or even cocktail invitations for your next lawn party, or Easter egg hunt).


And the recipe cards would be a great gift along with our Lamb Cake Pan, perfect for Easter, Mother’s Day, Earth Day, or a new baby. See the tricky way we figured out how to keep the head on the cake? Here’s the How-To along with the RECIPE for the most delicious cake . . .

Spring songAnd here’s what is cheering me up . . .


These are what’s called “the signatures” for the new book. Like little pamphlets of 16 pages each, this is the way it looks before the book is bound.


But they are the real thing . . . Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams, in full color on the same paper that will be in the actual book . . . SO exciting . . . they did a wonderful job, all printed in the USA!

Martha's Vineyard, Isle of DreamsHere’s the way they look if I start spreading them out . . . They will ship from the printer in about 3 weeks, and you will have yours as soon as we receive them.  Kellee and Sheri are gearing up at the Studio, getting lots of extra help so you won’t wait any time at all. And all of the information is up on GoodReads.dancing chicken And here is one last thing to cheer your day. It’s a video one of our Girlfriends sent me, a darling interview with Maggie Smith I know you will love . . .


Bye for now Girlfriends. Don’t forget, a new WILLARD is coming April 19th, be sure you’re signed up because this one will be a doozy including a wonderful Giveaway I’ve been planning since last fall! By then if everything goes right, you should all have your books!

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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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