STRAVITHIE CASTLE

If you haven’t gotten your Willard yet, you will soon! It began going out Tuesday morning (that’s today!), so everyone should have it by Friday. There are a few surprises in there, I don’t want to give them away, so in the meantime . . . MUSICA! Let’s travel a bit, shall we? Good old comfy armchair travel. Let’s take our kitty with us.

But first, Oh Dash! Oh Victoria! Oh Lord M!  Prince Albert and his selfish, cruel “Uncle Leopold!”  Tell me no secrets and I’ll tell you no lies.  Sunday night’s Victoria was a teary one.  I did like the puppy though, all was not lost.

A cold and dreary wet day it is out here in the wild Atlantic ocean. But I have my wee cup of Constant Comment in my Castle Cottage cup, the fire is burning, can’t really ask for anything more. I thought I might take us to Scotland today! I hear lots of you are going to Scotland, or might go, or want to go, so if you do, I thought I’d show you a wonderful castle we stayed in, maybe you would like to stay there too.  So off we go to the land of clans, lochs, lairds, lads and lasses, Bonny Prince Charlie, Outlander, and Balmoral, the beloved home of Queen Victoria.

 It was late evening when we went looking for the two rooms that our friend Elizabeth had “found online.”  We were traveling together, Joe and I, Elizabeth and Mike ~ she had no idea what this place would be like and neither did we. But how could we go wrong, we were together and having a great time.

Through tunnels of Scottish trees we went looking for a sign that said “Stravithie” on it. It was out there somewhere, so we were told! We’d traveled up from Edinburgh that day, the long way, along the Fife coast, stopping to eat, walk along the beach, pick up sea glass, go to a fishing museum . . . it’s where the cutest little  fishing villages are, all festively criss-crossed with bunting flapping in the wind ~ now we were stopping overnight on our way to St. Andrews.

I was crazy about Edinburgh, everything I loved about York, there was twice as much of it in Edinburgh . . .  the red line on this map traces the world famous Fife Coast where we’d been that day.

We probably passed it twice, but finally we quit talking and started concentrating, and there it was. What a nice little sign we all thought, very low key, and a cute little guardhouse too. So far, so good!

We turned down the drive . . . the lovely drive . . . Not too fancy, kind of real . . . the suspense is building, what will we find?????

This was our first glimpse of the house . . . ooooh, aaaah . . .

We drove around to the front, and this is when we began to call it a castle. Isn’t it the MOST? Couldn’t Jane Eyre be living in that pointed turret? We were saying to Elizabeth, “Where did you say you found this?” The thrill of discovery! You really never know what you might stumble upon . . . 

 The Laird of the Manor, David Chalmers, with his cute Scottish accent, came out to welcome us. We were already peering into the hall, at the doors, the heads and horns on the walls, the lamps. What mysteries lie ahead?

I thought I would show you a better photo of David. Such a very nice man! And he knows all the best restaurants!

So into the front hall we went. I loved the lamp, I loved the ceiling trim and the little bit of green. I loved the whole thing. This is David’s home, he lives here, on  30 acres of gardens and a river with his wife and two children, so it’s a home they love to share with others, because as you can imagine, it’s fascinating!

I don’t know what they call this long, deep wood-paneled room, but there is the very old head of an alligator up on top of that dresser. The hunt room, perhaps. Leathery and manly, perhaps the smoking room.

I took photos of everything! Pretty lamp, pretty molding.

The dining room was filled with old carved furniture and things from days gone by.

Elegant old china and cut glass and silver . . .

Mrs. Chalmers came in a little later . . . we could hear one of their children practicing the piano somewhere in the house. Made it even more perfect.

Very much a family home. “My parents gave it to me.”  That’s what David said when we asked how he came to live here. Of course they did!

Off we went to our separate wings to see our rooms . . . Joe and I climbed the red stairs in the turret . . .

looking up as we climbed . . . those are stairs. How did they do that? We don’t know. (I take that back, I’m sure Joe knows, but it’s not even light out yet, he would not want me to wake him to get this question answered!) My job is to admire curves and shadows.

Down this hallway-sitting room we went . . . loving the furniture,

Loving the fabric . . .

Loving the lamp . . .

Loving all the lamps!

Into our charming room with a view of the lawn and the river,

. . . framed by the heavy, lined drapes you find everywhere  in the UK.

We came in through the hall on the right, the bathroom is off that hall, and the kitchen is through the door on the left … We each (meaning each couple) had our own kitchen. I’m happy, Joe’s happy, everyone is happy!

Perfectly appointed, all you need, bright and clean. . .

And more . . . they’d left everything we could possibly want for breakfast, Scottish bacon, ham, fresh eggs, sweet rolls, bread, butter, jam, tea, milk, juice, yogurt and cereal, a feast! And the table was set . . .

So pretty in front of the window . . .

And the view . . . How did Elizabeth ever find such a place?! Must hang out with her more!

We unpacked, went out to dinner to a wonderful restaurant David suggested, and toasted Elizabeth, and our friendship, and Scotland, and life and all good things!

And came back to the castle under this beautiful moon . . .

XXX

The next morning, of course we had to go for a walk, across the lawn and along the river we could see from our bedroom windows.

On a path through the woods. The perfect antidote to modern times.

Let’s to church! as they said in Shakespeare in Love. Yes, let’s!  A lovely quiet spot out in the middle of nowhere with a beautiful old sleepy graveyard.

I imagine this walled lawn may have been a vegetable garden at one time. But I was most curious about the little rock sitting on the stone. There was something on it.

I came closer . . .a small piece of slate or maybe granite with something scratched into it:

My imagination says it may have been here since 1993. But if I let myself go, maybe 1593. Or maybe, stretching, just plain 93, as in Druids. We don’t know, but we didn’t touch it, left it as it was for other lucky travelers to happen upon. I automatically think very highly of the person who put it there. Little magic-maker. Hope she’s reading this.  Love is the Law. Truly, it should be.

Back through the ancient wood the merrie folk did go.

We climbed a hill and came upon these worn stone steps and, oddly, that hole filled with water (I guess, needless to say, no one tasted it). 😜 Unmarked. No explanation.  A hot tub for fairies? A little last-resort bathtub? (One of our Girlfriends suggested it was a “tail wash for dragons!”😂) But why here when there is a perfectly good river nearby? We had no idea. We saw no hose bib. I know it rains a lot here, but this much?

It’s perched on a kind of ledge, actually, the entire thing is rock. You could step behind those ferns on the left, walk off the edge and fall, maybe 20 feet? (I’m not good at falling distances.) There’s a very old, moss-covered, slippery-looking stone stairway to the bottom of the ravine that no one wanted to go on. But the boys wanted to see how deep the hole was. Nothing pulled Mike in, which was good. I stayed about this far away from it the whole time wishing I had my dangerous mastiff at my side.

And again, an answer from one of our Girlfriends. It’s a Druid’s well! It’s an actual thing. You can read more about it HERE! Fun!

Flowering things grew wild from the rocks. Because it’s Scotland. Did you know the national animal for Scotland is the Unicorn? Oh yes. Magical Scotland, land of legends and ghosts.

It was a wonderful time. If you would like to stay in a castle in Scotland, you can, so easily. Go to www.stravithiecastle.co.uk.  Or write stravithie@yahoo.co.uk or phone 01334 880251 It’s close to lots of nice things. And tell David we said Hello!

As promised in the new WILLARD, a Giveaway! This England, this green and pleasant land, this cup. For thee. And the book . . . a signed copy of A Fine Romance. That’s one.

And behind door number two, the new Spring cup, and one of my brand new cross stitch kits for Home Sweet Home, because they kind of match, and go together. Also for thee. Two giveaways! They won’t arrive from England until the first of April, so you’ll have to wait for spring. I’ll be away, but Sheri will make sure you get them the moment they arrive. All you need to do to sign up for both giveaways is leave a comment at the bottom of this post, where you see the teeeeeny tiny word that says, “comments,” click there, say anything, and voila, you’re in the drawing! I’ll contact you if you win, but you can come back in a few days to see if Vanna chose your name. Life is good!

Must go now . . . Say Goodbye to my muses, these . . .

And this one. I’m thinking of changing his name to Dash. Beloved puppy of mine. Have a wonderful day dear ones. Keep in touch! There are adventures and more surprises ahead! 

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HAPPY 2018!

 Hello Lovely People! Happy 2018! I hope you aren’t worried about me! It’s been too long ~ Tick Tock! I’m sorry, but all of a sudden I have two major deadlines looming, one is this Friday. The designs for the Springtime cups are due. I’ve been working in a frenzy, but they’re done… they’re with Kellee now ~ we’ll get them in on time. (A little preview is further down.) Also, I want to design some special badges for our Picnic at Castle Cottage. And, believe it or not, the 2019 Calendars are almost due! Which I’ll get back to doing after I finally say HAPPY NEW YEAR to you!  MUSICA (Girlfriend Requested😘)

We had such a wonderful snow on Christmas . . . it was perfect, thick and quiet, and like a fairytale.

A winter wonderland . . .

And just right . . . in an uncertain world, one thing mankind has always been able to trust, the one thing that never disappoints, the seasons will change. You can set your clock to it.

I love how snow blows and drifts and piles up and makes everything more interesting.

Early morning, walking through our pantry, I saw the view of our barn from the window and ran for the camera.

And of course, there’s Joe, as viewed through snow flowers… Joe, who makes it all possible. He loves shoveling snow! I don’t know why, but he does!

We’ve had fires almost every day…

On New Year’s we went to my girlfriend Lowely’s house two-doors-over for dinner ~ and afterward we played Pictionary! I bought the game about twenty years ago at a yard sale, but we’d never gotten around to playing it. It was so fun! We laughed ourselves silly! This is Joe showing off his depiction of the movie, Tarzan! I would have said HangMan, but luckily there were other people playing besides me! I drew Beauty and the Beast ~ but despite excellent “pretty-girl” drawing (including bow in hair and small crown), no one got “Beauty” ~ and despite excellent depiction of beastly beast, no one got that either! 😜 I need practice! But how would you draw “Beauty?” Inquiring minds need to know!I need all the help I can get!

This is the New Year’s “Wolf” moon, early Jan 1, just setting, from my kitchen porch ~ what a gorgeous moon we had, right? Memorable. By the 3rd, our rising moon was still huge and had turned yellow. Which reminds me, I have something for you for the New Year! Our Full Moon Bookmark with dates and Native American names for all the full moons in 2018. Just click HERE, print it out, fold in half, glue sides together (laminate if you like), and  Don’t forget to make your wish on every moon!

Most of our decorations are all packed up and back in the attic, waiting for next year. Sad to say goodbye, but they’re a big part of what makes Christmas so different and special from any other time of year!

We still have our lights. We leave them up out back, we light them in the summer too. I took this photo from the dining room window ~ you can see through the porch windows, through the windows over my kitchen sink, all the way to the barn door with the wreath on it! Three sets of windows to the barn. I don’t know why but I like this!

I like this too. 💞Jack is in love with his Christmas kitty toy! He’s ecstatic about this feathery thing!

Those eyes! That mustache! What a baby. Several of you have asked for a Jack Cup ~ I just designed one! I’ll show you soon! Yes, I can tell you true, that is the softest belly in the world.

And now, time is rushing on, soon it will be Valentine’s Day, which is fine with me, I love my heart bunting and especially love something sweet to look forward to . . .And you know me, I think Valentine’s Day was invented for women 💞, it’s as close to the tooth fairy as a grown up person can get! So, perfect timing, because a whole bunch of Valentines just arrived from England! The cups are in!

And for our UK Girlfriends, we found a retailer in England to carry them ~ no more terrible shipping costs! If the new cups aren’t HERE yet, they will be very soon. They still have a few of the older designs.I hope some of you that preordered have received yours already? Kellee, Sheri, and Alfredo been working late at the Studio to get them out ~ I hope you Love them! This will be our first dated collection ~ I’ve always liked things with dates on them ~ all the cups coming from 2018 on will have the year on the bottom. So in the year 2083, people can look at their cups, say wow, old, and wish they could talk ~ just like I do with every old thing I have!

Sunrise is coming earlier and days are getting longer, HOORAY! Each day a step toward spring, spring, SPRING, only 68 days to go! Yesterday, shockingly, we had a rare 50-degree day! We went for a walk for the first time in weeks! Just beautiful out at the water, the seagulls white against the bright blue sky, drifting on the wind off the water, wheeling away with long cries. . . they were celebrating just like us!

Before we know it snow flowers will turn to the real thing!  This might be a form of denial, but isn’t it all so lovely?  The pure magic gift of the changing seasons always gives us something wonderful to look forward to!

I have no problem getting out my Spring photos for a little pre-celebration! Daffodils, Freesia, spring rain, and cherry blossoms! That little blue bottle in the window is the one Joe found in the hole he dug when he was planting our Dogwood tree. You should have seen my face when he brought it in ~ just like Jack with his Christmas toy! It’s the little things! 🌸

I was looking for some bergamot seeds on line the other day, and found the most inspiring website that put me completely in the garden-prep mood! It’s British (and unfortunately, they don’t sell to America), but it’s such inspiring reading that it doesn’t matter! It’s a web store for Heritage Seeds, where Brits can buy the oldest varieties of flower 🌺, herb, and vegetable seeds to make their own 15th (16th, 17th, etc.) century gardens! You can go here to see it: http://www.thomasetty.co.uk/seeds/index.html  Some of the lovely old descriptions will fill you with ideas for your own garden: Such as this for MEADOWSWEET: ‘..the floures boiled in wine & drunke, do make the heart merrie. The leaves & floures far excell all other strowing herbes, for the smell thereof makes the heart merrie.’ 💞 Who doesn’t love a “Merrie Heart” ~ I want to run right out and get me some of those seeds!

Yup, soon it will be time for this! Lamb Cake! Go HERE if you’d like to see how this guy was made.

So you see? January is wonderful! The month of New Beginnings. All you need is a little imagination! (Help! Turn up the heater, get my shawl, warm my slippers, bring me tea!)

Our temperatures have risen, but for a couple of days last week it didn’t get over two degrees. Brrr! But I discovered something excellent about the cold ~ cut flowers last longer! That’s Stock in that little jar (I have a thing for tiny jars 👏), Joe brought a bouquet home from the supermarket ~ I didn’t have the heart to tell him this is basically a two-day flower and not worth the money we spend on it, despite how delicious it smells. Well, we’re going on a week now and look at that flower! Fresh as new! In the window, close to the cold, they thrive!
I have much to do before it’s really spring ~ I can seriously use all the “not-spring” days I can get … . Calendars need to be finished by the first week of February. I think I may have already showed you September, but just in case you missed it . . . 

I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying painting new art for them…

This is my happy place!

Okay, I promised a preview of the new spring cups I’m working on. This is only a glued-together paper mockup, not perfect, but it gives you a fairly good idea. The colors of the pansies will be more like the colors in the paint box. They will be gorgeous on that bone china! Want to see the other side?

Here you go! And those little wildflowers above will go all the way around the bottom.

The handle will look like this except I think it might be in better focus! I adore pansies, such a happy, tender little flower. L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) wrote: Nobody can keep on being angry if she looks into the heart of a pansy for a little while. 

The “Jack” cup isn’t quite done yet, I’ll show you the other side soon. Here he is, peeking through the books with a ponytail band in his mouth. So “him.” These new cup designs won’t arrive to our Studio until April . . . but soon there will be a new WILLARD where I’ll show the other two designs, the new “Spring” cup, and the “English Countryside” ~ by then they should be ready to go up for presale. I’ll also have a link so you can print out your badge for the Picnic ~ (and BTW, if you are wondering what a WILLARD is, it’s my free Newsletter. Click HERE to read old issues, find out why it’s called Willard, and sign up to get your own💞). WILLARD will also have a new giveaway. Lots to look forward to!

Made this last night, a double batch of Macaroni and Cheese. We have a friend who had surgery, so we brought half to him and we kept the other half. My mom’s recipe. The Best. Comfort food for the ages.

So easy. Whoever invented pre-shredded cheese deserves an award! The recipe is in Heart of the Home, and seriously takes about ten minutes to make! Twenty-five minutes later, you are in heaven.Here are the rest of Joe’s flowers, I just wish I could send you the fragrance, I close my eyes and put my face right in the middle … it smells like a flower store in the spring. The added benefit during this extreme cold when the furnace is blasting and the fire is roaring and the macaroni and cheese is bubbling in the oven … is the pitcher of water these flowers are in. It helps to put moisture in the air so that when you reach for your kitty, or kiss your dearest other, you don’t shock them! So your lips don’t chap and peel off your face. If you don’t like using a humidifier, do what we do. Besides bowls of flowers, we dampen towels (I use the spray thing in my kitchen sink) and hang them in the rooms we use most, the bedroom and the TV room. And I drink water all day, starting with a big glass every morning before my tea, cold water topped off with 100% unsweetened cranberry juice ~ and another glass just before bed. That’s it, winter tip of the day!

Have you seen The Darkest Hour? We just saw it. It’s the story of Winston Churchill’s first month as Prime Minister. SO GOOD, SO SO GOOD! You’ll love it. History, wonderful acting, gorgeous visuals, and no violence. Look how pretty “Clemmie” Churchill is. I would like the whole outfit. Maybe not the head net, maybe not the fur-body, but for sure the rest of it.

V for Victory. I won’t give anything away . . . just go see it!

I came home and Googled Churchill’s wife, Clementine, wonderfully played by Kristin Scott Thomas, because, for one thing, I was curious to see if she really wore those darling curls as shown in the movie . . .

And those scarves, and her other interesting head gear. And she did!

So off I go, off to make new Calendars. Love you Girls, I hope you are all well and fine and doing everything you can to make your dreams come true.That’s what I’m working on! All my very best for a wonderful, peaceful, creative 2018 ~ “To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” Love, from your Pal for Life. We share this planet, isn’t that amazing? Born at the right time.💞 XOXO

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