Hi Everyone! Welcome! Your Willards start going out today! Perhaps by the time you read this Blog about Remembrance you will have yours already! MUSICA?Willard goes out in groups, twice each day, today, Wednesday and Thursday (we go gently in order not to break the Internets) ~ if  you’re signed up and you haven’t gotten yours yet, you will soon. And when you do you’ll find out we have a Giveaway of lots of new products!

These to be exact!  I thought I’d help out with someone’s holiday shopping this year! You’ll read more about it in the Willard, but for now, all you have to do to enter is leave a comment at the bottom of this post (look for tiniest words at the bottom, “leave a comment” ~ click there, leave a comment, and you’ll be entered).  In a few days Vanna will pull a name, I’ll announce it here, and let the winner know via email! And now, on to our regularly scheduled programming . . . 

Would you like your story for today? That’s why I’m here! Storyteller Blog lady! It’s almost November … and I’ve waited a whole year to tell you about this wonderful thing that happens in England in the first weeks of November, which Joe and I discovered last fall when we were visiting. 🍂 And now, I figure, we’re close enough!

It’s actually a lovely tradition that started in America in 1920 when the Poppy flower was proclaimed by the United States to be our national emblem of Remembrance.  For Armistice Day, for never forgetting and for the prayer of peace.  See Joe?  See that red poppy on his jacket?

Here he is again, walking home from shopping at Blenheim Castle in Woodstock Oxfordshire, with a poppy on his jacket. Because in England in November . . .

You rarely see anyone who isn’t wearing one . . . I wish I’d taken a photo in a train station, so you could see how popular it is. You get used to it, then you start to fall in love with it, and especially the idea behind it.

This is Joe and Paul ( Rachel’s adorable husband, English man extraordinaire, one of your funnier and more charming humans on the earth), both poppy-decked of course.

We went to a dinner, and everyone was wearing a poppy . . .

Me too . . .

And Rachel too.

Because they are everywhere you go, and for a donation to the Royal British Legion ~ a pound for a poppy, you can pin one of these to your coat. The appeal raises millions for the care of British Veterans and their dependents, and by the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the whole country is decked in solidarity-red for remembrance, and silence is observed to honor those who were lost.

We read the paper and learned the significance of the Poppy.

As the years went by, other wars and all their memories have been added to what was the war to end all wars, the first world war. Flanders Fields were the battlefields in France where so many were lost,  the “western front”. . . is now covered in poppies for remembrance. And a beautiful heartbreaking poem was written:

The first Poppy Day was celebrated in England in 1921, and has continued every year since.

There will be no forgetting . . . the whole country shows their gratitude and old men wear their uniforms on the street with pride. I think maybe because when bombs literally fall on your house and your neighbors house, you have a different relationship to war than others that don’t.You turn on the radio, and there’s Vera Lynn singing We’ll Meet Again back in the day with the voices of servicemen and their sweethearts singing along, and you can feel the heart in the moment . . .

Poppies are everywhere, including pillows and sachets in the Blenheim Castle gift shop!

And we ended up with a bouquet of them for our kitchen counter.

You would find them on the street in simple little places . . .

And in the cities too . . . these are part of the Field of Remembrance, a small graveyard set up each year next to Westminster Abbey in London.

And there are remembrances in every small town . . .

Here we are in downtown Woodstock where we were staying, a small town in Oxfordshire with a population of 3,000, just around the corner from Blenheim Castle where Winston Churchill was born.


We had just come walking back to the High Street from the Castle (staying in the Bear Hotel ~ some parts of it 900 years old, you can see it on the right), and didn’t know what was going on when we saw a crowd had gathered, families, babies, and dogs, people of all ages, clergy and soldiers too.  It was 11 am on Remembrance Sunday, and the village had stopped to honor Armistice Day as they had done for 95 years, for all those who served and died in war since then ~  this quiet remembrance was happening in every small and big town in England at this same moment. MUSICA.

Afterwards we discovered that Winston Churchill was buried nearby, in a tiny churchyard in a small village called Bladon. So off we went through the golden air of the English Countryside with this music playing in our car to find Churchill’s grave. 🍂

When we found Bladon, we fretted about leaving our car parked halfway in the street that was only a bit more than one car wide, but it was the best we could do and still be in the town. How they could have had a state burial for one of the most famous people in the world in this teeny place with zero parking lots is a mystery.  But look at that beautiful house.  See the roof line, all curvy and crunchy from age? It’s a miracle that they managed to hold onto the beauty of the architecture as times changed and such things as bathrooms and electricity were invented ~ how they did it is beyond me, but they did!

Nothing in the town had changed since the day the Prime Minister was laid to rest, except the people. The generations have turned over more than once.

We walked through the quiet streets of the village looking for the church listening to the birds singing . . .

 . . . enjoying cottages and curtains . . .

. . . and people who brought nature inside.

We peeked in the windows at the far end of this house with the amazing vine . . .

. . . and saw these! It was the Studio of a sculptor . . . ohhh, I wanted in so bad!

Open Daily 10-6 (EXCEPT while we were there) said the card in the window . . . but another sign said, Closed!

So I was happy to take pictures of stone houses with names on them . . .

and of course, the little charmers out for a walk . . .

And there it was, the flag flying over St Martin’s Church . . . where the bells had just rung for Armistice Day.

A small rather austere church . . .

with lovely details

And a sweet peaceful graveyard, these being my favorite, family gravestones held in nature’s embrace.

Next to Churchill’s grave were simple memorials, and benches for sitting . . .

with rather an amazing drain in the stone path ~ I had to take a photo of it!

Churchill’s grave sort of broke our hearts. Everything so real. I couldn’t help but think of my dad who had fought in that war and had died a few months earlier. 😢 We’d been to Churchill’s wonderful house called Chartwell and learned about him and his fascinating wife Clementine ~ and here they were, buried together. History of the world,  just waiting for us to find and remember and learn.

Sure and certain hope.

Afterward we stopped at a nearby pub to read our paper and eat “Sunday Roast” ~ which most British pubs have every Sunday ~

a glorious menu consisting of your choice of beautifully cooked roast beef, roast chicken or roast pork ~ with Yorkshire Pudding, stuffing, roasted carrots, parsnips, and potatoes with gravy.

And poppies on the mantle . . .

After lunch we drove to Oxford to see Carrie and Stuart, who took us on a wonderful tour ~ here we are in one of the churches.

Then back to Carrie’s kitchen which was in full-remembrance mode. We had a wonderful visit with them . . . but when we got back to our rental house, I noticed I had lost the poppy from my jacket. wah.

We spent more weeks in England, taking long walks under blowing leaves, enjoying the fall, and did not return to America until late November ~ celebrating Thanksgiving on the ship!

And finally home, where our sweet kitty Jack was waiting, and of course we brought our poppies home with us . . . And a few days later, a package arrived from England.

A book gift from Carrie, along with the poppy I’d dropped at her house! Total perfection!And that’s my story for today, Girlfriends . . . in a couple of weeks, it will be  November 11 … Veterans Day, I hope I see some Poppies to buy!

Here is my kitchen this morning, sparkling with light from the sunrise…It’s our time now . . . and one of the gifts of remembering is the gift of knowing the real and important things of life, and passing  them to the ones we love . . . 

Clothespin caught a leaf, and I got to make a wish.  So I think we can all make a wish!Ah yes, time for tea! Hope you enjoyed our trip to England . . . now, look just below here, see the tiny words, “leave a comment?” That’s where you enter for the drawing! Have a wonderful day! xoxo

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People often ask me what inspired me to move all the way across country, from California where I grew up, to New England ~ to an Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, so very far away from home, where they had this thing called winter. MUSICA? Well, the short answer is the break-up of my marriage in California and the strong urge to escape the pain of it. But the deeper answer is . . .Not just autumn, but all of it . . . everything New England seemed to offer (from all the books I’d read), deep traditions, romance and inspiration that comes with nature, the authenticity of the old houses that had seen so much~ it all seemed to represent a solid foundation where I hoped I could build a solid new life.

And no, 35 years later, I’m still not used to it. I don’t think I ever will be.

I still see the change of seasons as a miracle. Four-times-a-year for extra celebration, totally organic, not man-made, God provided, and real as real could be. So I thought I’d give you my “Best of Autumn,” just in cases you aren’t yet in the mood 🎃 ~ hopefully when this post is done, you will be, because what I want to do is help you . . .

Is that color possible in nature? No. Not possible. Probably the camera had a piece of red cellophane over it!!!  Wrong. But that’s actually what I used to think when I was a child and would see photos of New England in the fall. It just couldn’t be real.

Now that I know better, you would think I would get used to it, but apparently that’s never going to happen. Looks like magic to me.

I’ve walked down a dirt road through the woods to the water almost every day of the last 35 years. The first five I did alone, then I met Joe, and we’ve done it  together ever since, in all seasons. I told you, I love tradition. The over-and-over leaves an ownership imprint, and someday far into the future, Joe and I will haunt this place for eternity. When I wear this loosely woven sweater, I can tuck in stems of the wild things I find growing along the side of the road. 🍂Then of course Joe feels the need to hide in the bushes all the rest of the way home!

Is this not romantic? Sooo romantic, little cottage by the sea, we walk by it every day. Simple and surrounded by color . . . in the foreground is bittersweet, it grows wild and free, it makes a celebration where there might not normally be one. You see? Not my idea. It’s nature! We gather it to decorate our front door. 🍁

In the fall you can feel the icy breath of winter in the wind that blows leaves through the air. Black crows fly low across the road, cawing the whole way. Someday I will catch one with my camera!

My traditions hold inside the house too.  My little rusty birds, garlands, wreaths, leaves, owls, birds, festoons, out of the boxes they come!

Then of course, there’s the dance of the tea towels . . .

I can tell you about the fall breezes, but here you can see it . . . and we can smell it too ~ and not only the fragrance of the sea ~ but as it flits around the Island it gathers perfume from everything that grows wild: goldenrod, clematis, wild apples and pine, blueberries, sandy beach plums, asters and bayberry. 🌻 As I wrote in Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, “the salty breeze slips in and out of seashells, climbs tree trunks, dives into squirrel holes, slides along old porch rails, stumbles through the bittersweet, skips along picket fences, scoots beneath falling leaves, whistles past ancient graveyards, flits over and under dragonfly wings, and steals all the wishes off the dandelion puffs, flinging them in every direction, wishes for all.” It’s the pure romance of the seasons. 🍂

And my little bo-bo waits for me to come in.

Our very best tradition. Cat-loving people that we are. True blessings are all around us.💞

I brought in the last Just Joey rose of the season ~ in the little blue bottle Joe found while digging the hole to plant our Dogwood tree. And you can see our best tradition peeking out from the corner of the screen door.

The garden isn’t finished yet. I plant things that bloom late so we keep ourselves stocked in garden flowers for as long as possible, till the first freeze.

To some, marigolds are common, but they are the BEST when it comes to fall color right from the garden. Long-lasting flowers that know their job and do it well.

Lighting candles, part of the tradition of the season, for the shorter days and colder nights, wind beating our shutters against the house. And P.S.: LAST NIGHT!!! PBS was golden! The new season of The Durrells started (you would love it), and after was Poldark, and advertised was the new season of Victoria starting in January! So much to look forward to! Right now, while I’m writing you, I’m listening to the BBC production called Byron (as in Lord). I just spoke into my remote, and there it was!

Lounge lizard.

More wind, crunch leaves, sweet smelling sheets . . .

This is a sandy driveway where the leaves have been driven over so many times they are imprinted. I thought it would make gorgeous fabric.

And we’ve been cooking too . . . this recipe cooks at 250 degrees for 7 hours! Makes the house smell heavenly. It’s Spicy Short Ribs, I made it for you last Christmas in another post  . . . just click HERE and scroll to the bottom for the recipe. It’s so good!

And here’s the Marmalade tea bread! (Recipe is HERE, just scroll to bottom of this old post.)

All for my favorite thing, setting the table, with my purple Windsor Ware . . . and, here’s a little tip: flowered dishes look best with striped, plaid or plain-colored napkins.

Some things are a must at this time of year . . . homemade pie crust is one of them. I have to say, if you haven’t had a real homemade pie crust in a while, you don’t know what you are missing. Fill it with pumpkin . . . homemade is best! There is nothing like cooking and nurturing to make you feel 100% better about the world.

Am I right, or am I right?

I love this photo. It was on a door of a tea room we visited years back and I just love it ~ it screams halloween! 🕷 Or maybe I scream halloween. But definitely, someone is screaming! 😱

And this foggy day showed all the dripping little webs that normally you don’t even know are there. In our woods they’re on the ground, between every leaf  and twig. . . sparkling in the mist and dew. 🕸

And now, about pumpkins . . .

We found these pumpkins at a craft show. They are easy to make, but you have to grow them and mark them while they are young ~ it’s so easy, you can put your family name on them, read HERE for a How To. . . it’s pure magic for children! 🎃 There are so many interesting pumpkins available these days. Below, the warty ones are called Knuckleheads . . . there are Cinderella and Lakota too, beautiful and fun to grow, remember for next spring! Put it on your calendar so you don’t forget!

I’m a star pumpkin girl myself, but Joe always does a few faces . . .

Don’t forget to put cinnamon and nutmeg on the inside of the top of your pumpkins for wonderful smells when lit.

And of course him. Casper. Our ghost. SUCH a tradition. This house would not be a house without our ghost.  How many years have we had him now? Maybe twenty!

We have a street coming toward the house, with a stop sign out front, and for twenty years Casper has been in our upstairs window saying HELLO to everyone who goes by. I’ve never seen another one like him, but I think it might be possible to make one (not by me, but I think Joe could do it, or maybe you can! Or perhaps you have a Joe of your own who might like a project that will last forever) …. would you like some photos of his innards? I can do that!

You can get an idea of his frame by seeing the light through the cloth ~ its like a wire dress form. The cloth is cotton, starched to the nth degree, and lightly covered in the finest glitter. There are two tiny lightbulbs attached inside to the frame, top and bottom, and one inside the pumpkin all on one cord that we plug into the wall.

Here he is from the front, holding a pumpkin . . . which is also framed in wire ~ its fabric is felt.

There are two round frames, one on the bottom (which you can see in the photo above) which is what Casper sits on, the other is visible in that first picture ~ from the back ~ up toward the top of the head. And all the vertical wires are hooked to them.

The little arms are separate, and here’s how they are hooked to the main frame.

There are two lightbulbs fitted into the two round frames.

There’s a tear in the ghost fabric to hook the frames together, to hook the pumpkin to the ghost, and for the light for the pumpkin to go through. The pumpkin hides the tear.

 And voila!

You can see him up top center window.

There have been a lot of Autumns at this house. Tradition, authenticity, romance, endurance, security, dreams, and somehow, despite everything, a symbol for the continuity of life, the manifestation of my childhood faith in forever. Cue the Musica . . .  🎵 I would love to see how it looked inside on the day this photo was taken, what they were doing in the kitchen, go to the barn and see the horses … go for a ride in the carriage down to Main Street . . .

Gathered from the woods, from the farmstand and from Michael’s Crafts.

We are ready! Bring. It. On. We get a jillion kids at halloween. We have a responsibility to give back some of the magic we’ve been given.

Our other house decoration is our big BOO in the window!

Lovely wonderful bittersweet. Another miracle from nature.

Last year we were in England for the fall . . . I’m standing in the 13th century churchyard looking at the moon across from where our dear friend Rachel lives. Whoooo . . .

Here we are at Carrie’s darling house in Oxford! Lots of you know her from Twitter . . . go say Hi! Aren’t blue and orange perfect together?

And here we were, apple tasting with our friend Siobhan in the glorious English Countryside . . .

Perfectly wonderfully charming . . . an apple on every fence post . . .

Last October 19 we were busy setting the table and decorating the dining room in a house in Bath where we were staying (with Ray’s friends and family) to help celebrate Rachel’s birthday! Yes, balloons and hats and bunting, streamers and candles!

While we were doing that, she was waiting in the kitchen ~ no peeking!  Drinking wine and overseeing the cooking of the birthday dinner. 

Here’s Ray’s cake, with all of our rings on board, ready for her to make a wish and blow out the candles. It was a wonderful time and a luv-lee memory. And now, here we are, one year later! We can surprise her again, Girlfriends 🎉 . . . click HERE and say HAPPY BIRTHDAY 🎁 … or, HERE . . . or, if you live in the UK, go HERE, and get a sample of the amazing Sugar Moon Brownies she makes, packs and sends in the mail! Her birthday is on Thursday and I’m not going to say a THING . . . 🤐 shhhhhhh.💞

In the meantime, I go to my studio every day .  .  . making new things, painting for the 2019 calendar with my little three haired brush . . .

And this week, I’ve been choosing thread colors for my newComing soon . . . Have I told you? Yes, we found someone wonderful in the USA to make them for us . . . coming to our web store soon.

This is the newest . . . just finished and needs ironing, but I think it’s going to be darling! This is cross-stitch, but some of the kits will be printed too . . . Nothing like needlework to take your mind off the cares of the day and leave it to wander and dream in an aimless, do-something kind of way. Hand sewing and old movies go together like ice cream and cake. I speak from lots of happy experience. I tell you more very soon.

Jack’s been helping us plan our next trip to the UK! Maybe not helping, perhaps blocking.

Also, for you who’ve been asking ~ two of our “Sold Out” cups came back in! The manufacturer let us know they had some “leftover” decals ~ and asked if we wanted them to make a few more . . . we said we’d take them all . . .

So, there were two . . . the 16 oz. Martha’s Vineyard . . .

And the 11 oz. Autumn cup ….

We didn’t get many, but I hope this will fix it so that everyone who wanted one, gets one!

One more of my favorite fall traditions: I just bought the most delicious new flannel jammies. I love thick cottony flannel for our wintery nights . . . the best ones I’ve found are at Garnet Hill . . . . when I find something good, I need to tell my Girlfriends! 💋So off I go to write a new WILLARD . . . in case you don’t know, WILLARD is my Newsletter, you can sign up and every so often it will just appear in your mailbox . . . lots of interesting things to tell you about . . . it  should be going out sometime next week. Until then my dear, darling Girlfriends, remember to choose love.

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