Beatrix Potter’s Birthday and I have News!

Guess what tomorrow is??? Beatrix Potter’s 151st Birthday! MUSICA 🎶 And I have news!

The Genius, Generous, Life of Beatrix Potter.

Here’s where I was on this day, July 28, last year, celebrating the 150th Birthday of Beatrix Potter with so many of YOU and the Brewster Ladies Library, on Cape Cod. What a fun day that was!

Right after that, my Girlfriends, who also happen to be my nun friends (I’ve written about them before), sent me this wonderful little thimble to celebrate. Wasn’t that the sweetest thing? They love Beatrix like I do.💞

Because not all of you are intimately familiar with the life of Beatrix, I thought I’d at least give you a very simple time-line of her life so you can get the lay of the land, so to speak.

Most of you know how crazy I am about Beatrix because I wrote the whole story of my slow discovery of the person that she was, not just an artist, not just a scientist, not just an author, not just a business woman, not just a house-lover and adorer such as we, but more, so much more, a fierce, forward-looking conservationist whose passions still reverberate today ~ she changed her part of the world, and hence, in a sense, the whole world. . . that’s the hero I tried to tell about in my book A Fine Romance, Falling in Love Love Love, with the English Countryside.

So, to celebrate today, I thought I would take you on a special tour through a brilliant book about Beatrix that was published by Penguin Books in 2006. It’s written just as if it was Beatrix’s own scrapbook, in first person. But inside it says, “This is a work of fiction based on the journals and letters of Beatrix Potter.” Not entirely fiction, but kind of, because Beatrix didn’t actually make this book herself, it just looks like she did.

Using Beatrix’s words to tell the story of  her life, the designer who compiled this informative book (who is not mentioned anywhere, but must be a kindred spirit, and girl after our own heart), filled it with Beatrix Potter artwork, mementoes, personal letters, stamps, and photos, and with words in what looks to be Beatrix’s own handwriting, with entries dated, as in a journal … and many of the things in the book, like the little photo album above, are glued-in and three-dimensional! I’m not kidding! Books like this don’t come along every day! Unless you make one yourself!

Pure charm, filled with pressed flowers and wonderful old photos, that’s Norman Warne there …

Above are glued-in “proofs” of the pictures for her first book. There’s even a real envelope that opens and inside you can pull out a perfect copy of the famous letter she wrote to Noel, her governess’s child, illustrating the story of Peter Rabbit for the first time on paper.

And on this page, an illustrated map of the Lake District unfolds … I could put ten exclamation marks after every page!!! Books aren’t usually made this way!!!!!!

Then, at the end, just when you think you’ve seen it all, and  you are already sighing because you don’t want it to end, you find an amazing surprise embedded in the inside of the back cover. See the little ribbon? “Hmmmm,” you say to yourself, “What’s that?”

At first you don’t see it, but then, with a little tug, an invisible door opens . . .

and inside is an exact copy of Peter Rabbit that Beatrix had printed herself after having been rejected by publishers. (This was a very brave thing for her to do, considering women’s “place” at the turn of the century, but only the beginning when it comes to the bravery of Miss Potter). If you ever need a hero that will help you be brave, I suggest you read the biography of Beatrix Potter by Linda Lear. Forevermore, after that, you will say to yourself, “If she can do it, so can I.”

Her first printing, in black and white to keep down costs. A totally delightful surprise! I have to say, I think I might be forced to paint inside these little line drawings!

But you can do what you want when you get your hands on this little jewel, because, to celebrate the 151st birthday of my hero, Beatrix Potter, this book, and the book where I wrote about sailing the wild and windy Atlantic, then trekking across England in order to fulfill a long-time dream to finally walk through the doors of Beatrix Potter’s house at Hill Top in the Lake District ~ will both become the property of one of YOU darling people. Just leave your name at the bottom of this post, click on the tiny word that says “comments,” and leave a few words … and in a wee bit o’ time, we’ll draw a name and see who these books get to go home with. Happy Birthday, dear Beatrix. We will never forget you! 💞

One other thing . . . you remember the picnic we had last year in Stourhead, Wiltshire, England? Of course you do! And you remember how it happened? Well, just in cases, I’ll tell you again:  When we knew we were going over to England last year, I wrote here on my blog, “Joe and I will be in the park at Stourhead, having a picnic, at 12 noon on September 18, and we would LOVE anyone who’s going to be in the neighborhood to BYO Picnic Basket and come join us and say hello!”  We had no idea what to expect. Would anyone come? Might there be seven people? Could there be fifty? No idea.

As it turned out, there were sixty of us kindred spirits spread out on the lawn on a lovely spring day, next to a 12th century stone church, in a garden designed by Capability Brown over 200 years before, with the sun weaving in and out of the clouds . . .

And we had a wonderful, joyful afternoon, sitting, laughing and talking and getting to know each other, marveling over the unlikelihood of this happening at all … it was really a thrill. Lots of people from the US, lots from England, some Americans who now live in England, and others from Europe . . . a surprise and so perfect, I still live in the glow of it. People brought things, like gorgeous quilts they’d made, or their own Petey dolls, or their children, and lots of delicious lunches … and I signed books, and we had a great day.

We took a “class picture,” and I think you can tell by the smiles what a wonderful time we were having.  “We all kept saying, we need to do this again!” Well, dear hearts, we are going to do it again . . . we’ll be taking the picture for Class of 2018 next year on May 11,  and we hope you can come, wherever you are!  But this time, we’re be having our picnic someplace else … so if you want to come . . .

You will have to drive through countryside like this . . . sorry, but you have to!

Where oh where are we going . . . ? ? ? It’s a mystery! MAS MUSICA ~ we loved playing Vera Lynn in our car while we drove through the English Countryside . . .

Past lakes with swans and and wildflowers, pulling over at a pub for an icy Peah Cid-ah . . . it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!

In May, hillsides of English Bluebells will be in bloom!

You’ll have to meander between narrow hedgerows speckled with cow parsley, watching for bunnies, rolling down your windows to hear the wood pigeons coo, “My toe huts Bet-tee … “

Past curving rock walls and gingerbread stone cottages . . . can you guess where we’re going yet? You probably can, but you probably can’t believe it! Me either!

Almost there ~ must go through bunting-decked villages where the buildings look as if they’re covered in frosting … oh darn.

The frosting makes them shine from the hill sides  . . . you’ll be stopping to get your camera out.

Because you’ll be marveling over handmade chimney tops and slate roofs like these . . .

. . . as you drive past hillsides with cows and lambs and sparkling lakes, turn off your car to hear the wind through the trees . . .

. . . and through the hedges of wild roses and rhododendrons. But, a hint:  Before you go, you’ll probably want to read this wonderful little book  . . .

For inspiration. ❤️ Squealing yet?

Because, Yes! OMG, I’m not kidding! Where we’re going to have our picnic is totally impossible, it can’t happen, but it is and it can . . .

We’re having our BYO Picnic Basket Party right here, next May 11, at Castle Cottage, where Beatrix Potter (Mrs. Heelis) and her husband William lived for 30 years! Just in front of the house, across Post Office Meadow (which will be filled with frolicking lambikins in May), is the gate to Hill Top in Near Sawrey, heavenly Lake District, beloved home of Beatrix Potter!!! That’s where we’re going, Girlfriends!

And here’s a preview ~ this photo is actually from inside Castle Cottage, sent to me by my friend Mandy, showing the wonderful view over rooftops of Near Sawrey (with Mandy’s Ollie Dog in attendance) . . . From here, you can see the famous Tower Bank Arms and the entrance to Hill Top ~ the very same view that Beatrix had. For us. Us us us us us! We get to go go go!!!

Here’s how this miracle happened,  . . . As you may remember, I was asked to speak at Beatrix’s 150th Birthday Party last year by Betsy Bray of the Beatrix Potter Society (are you a member? I love the wonderful newsletter I receive from England, and their luv-lee E-Newsletter called Pottering About) ~ that’s Betsy on the left . . . she and I have kept in touch, and a couple of weeks ago, she came to lunch and brought her friend Mandy Marshall, who just happens to LIVE in Castle Cottage (shaking head in disbelief) . . . and we started talking and our talking turned to plotting and then it turned to planning and I just heard from Mandy yesterday that she would love to have us for our picnic there (she opens the house only by special arrangement, which this is!), and Betsy wrote to say she’d be there too! So now, we’re inviting you! And if you CAN’T get over there in person, that’s okay, because we will take so many photos you will think you’ve been there! That’s a promise!

Happy Birthday Beatrix Potter!

Love you dears, leave a comment to win the books, and mark your calendars for May 11, 2018! Oh! I almost forgot, the cups! They are in LA, sort of stuck in a mire of Homeland Security (very dangerous cups) and Customs. We call, we holler, they ignore us, but it should be soon now. 💞 Bye for now! xoxo

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Highclere and Other Things of Interest

Hi all! Off we go to Highclere, to find Downton Abbey! But first, an update on our cups . . . almost here! Sweet  MUSICA for YOU!

Our cups came in from London this morning! They’re in LA! All they have to do is get through customs (they have to wait in line), and our Studio is only four hours by truck up the coast! Shouldn’t be long now!! They’re on the way!

And something else: The other day I remembered that I had designed a bluebird wrapping paper for Spoonflower. I even had a roll in my closet. Really nice thick gift wrap. Which means that the bluebird gifts I ordered for my girlfriends are going to be wrapped in bluebird paper!

Which made me leap out of my chair to go design some Santa paper!

And some leafy fall paper for the Autumn cups! Those last two designs, Santa and fall leaves, should show up on the Spoonflower website within the next two weeks. And btw, these designs are not only gift wrap, but they’re also on fabric and wallpaper too! Spoonflower is amazing! And GUESS WHAT European Girlfriends? Spoonflower is available worldwide! AND, more breaking news, last week I found a UK retailer called Nursery Thyme who will carry our mugs exclusively in her store in Devizes, Wiltshire, and on line …. you can get your cups starting this very day (it’s Carole’s first order from us, she didn’t take a whole lot of them), so if you’d like to have one, now would be a good time to do it) without paying the crazy shipping from USA. Your cups go directly from the factory in Staffordshire to her store in Wiltshire! We are the world! Which is saying something considering our cups are only sold in eight small but wonderful stores in America, one in England, and here in our online store!

So what else . . . well you know I’m writing about Downton Abbey and Highclere today, as promised, but I thought I’d show you the Easter Lily blooming in my garden in July. They’re actually a midsummer flower, forced for Easter display. It’s high summer on the Island and hot hot hot!  

Even the wild turkeys need a bath . . . (other people get flittering wrens and finches around their birdbaths, and we get this) ~ we’ve actually adopted this one I think.

As my Twitter Girlfriends know, I brought some cat mint in for Jack . . . and he L O V E D it!

Soon after this glassy stare, he became comatose, curled onto my desk, and didn’t move for three hours. 😻

Hydrangea. Used to be daylilies were most visible “Island flowers” but I think now it’s hydrangea. They go so good with picket fences and black and white kitties.

I picked these wildflowers on the dirt road on our way out to the water this morning, on our walk. There are two small secrets hiding in that bouquet.

I got out my wildflower books to find the names of our found flowers … but the secrets are there on the right. Oh yes. The trees in our woods are already “reconsidering their leaves.” 🍂 And I heard cicadas singing loudly, first time this year, while hanging clothes on the line the other day . . . so time, she is passing . . .🍁

So here we go Girlfriends. Our day at Highclere Castle was better than I even imagined!

We stayed here the night before . . . and had a delicious dinner in the pub . . . before we squished our fat selves into the smallest . . .

teensiest room imaginable. I Think maybe a Model T might have lived here at one time. Or perhaps a horse. I’m taking this photo from the stall door. We were fine, and glad we only booked one night!

But of course I loved the William Morris wallpaper.

And breakfast was wonderful… I mean who could resist “Dippy Eggs and Soldiers” on the menu? I had to see what it was. I thought some sort of kid’s food.  Well, there it is, “Soldiers” are strips of toast about 1/2″ wide. One more in the long line of proof-positives that the Brits are an adorable people. 🇬🇧

So, fortified with many soldiers, off we go to hunt down Highclere Castle…. Hill and dale, map man and Sat Nav guiding our way.

Round the bend we go on the wrong side of the road . . . because all the way to heaven, is heaven. 💞

Yes! Castle closed! But don’t worry! When we got our tickets, we discovered that the castle was closed ~ due to the lateness of the season ~ it was already October.  I took a moment to have a melt down, but then discovered they were offering a special event to celebrate the 300th birthday of Lancelot Brown … the famous 18th century landscape architect, better known as Capablity Brown, the man who designed the gardens for Highclere (and lots of other places). We learned on the Highclere website that for a little extra money, a “limited number of guests” could have an exclusive Castle and Garden tour that included a short lecture on the life of Mr. Brown, and a welcome from the Countess of Carnarvon. So we said, of course, sign us up!

I thought you might like to see other landscapes designed by Capability Brown, this one is near our friend Siobhan’s house. He designed over 170 parks in his lifetime, surrounding the finest country houses and estates in England, and many of them still exist … He always included water, long inspiring views, trees as focal points, follies, bridges, swans and lambs.

This one is at Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill spent much of his childhood. You can go to these places and walk miles and miles through some of the prettiest countryside there is. We took pictures on that bridge.

And this one, some of you may remember, where we had our BYO Picnic Basket Party last year, near the grass bridge at Stourhead in Wiltshire. After touring lots of English gardens, you actually begin to recognize those designed by Capability Brown:  the clues are water, bridge, follies, and trees . . . often viewed through tears in your eyes.

Our picnic was almost like Downty, sans servants. BUT, we win because our food was real!

I had the diary I kept on our last visit to help me tell this story, sloppily written as it is, it was a huge help in reminding me what happened! Oh Downty, how we miss thee!

So down the long long driveway we went . . . lambs on all sides of us . . .

Camera at the ready, braking for pheasants . . . we would brake for peasants too, but nary a one to be found . . .

Here’s our first glimpse! MUSICA. Rather recognizable don’t you think?  I always try to imagine myself in a horse and buggy when I come up on these houses . . .

Almost there! Note size of amazing tree on right!

Oh my goodness . . . it’s deja vu all over again.

Just like on TV!

We parked . . .

I tried to take a picture with Petey ~ this was as good as it got. I was in too much of a hurry and he refused to hold still!

Joe was much more steady than me!

So yes, you just walk through the gates and up the path to the front door! Amazing, just sitting there for centuries, and now anyone can go there!

Most surreal thing in the world!  Halloooo, anybody home?

We were met at the front door . . . in the entrance Hall, and taken to my very favorite room from the TV show, the dining room! We entered through that door in the back corner, but it didn’t look like this ~ the dining table wasn’t there. So I didn’t recognize it.

Here’s the layout of the downstairs . . . The dining room was filled with chairs for our group, there was a podium up front ~ I didn’t even realize I was in my favorite room! I was expecting that long dining table!  The large gorgeous oil painting we saw in every show, Charles I on horseback, was behind us, I was too delirious to see it! Later on, during the tour, I asked our guide, “Where’s the dining room?” She looked at me funny and told me I’d been sitting in it for a half hour. I had to go back!

And it all came clear. Here’s a  fun website that gives inside info about the filming at the dining table…

I believe this is the front hall, front door on the right, and that door in the right corner led to the dining room. They didn’t allow cameras inside, so I’m a bit mixed up …  had to get these photos from Google. Remember the gallery upstairs? Scene of the crimes? Dragging of the body? Birthing of the baby? Skulking around by Thomas, rude intrusion by smug Miss Bunting? We were able to go there too, and into all the bedrooms. It was truly wonderful.

The bedrooms are all around this gallery. In some ways, considering how big it is, it’s really a very cozy house.

Another of my favorite rooms (but I think now they all are!) and  even more beautiful than I expected, more gold and carved ceilings, luscious velvet and brocade-covered down cushions with petit point chairs and pillows, rich carpets and trimmed draperies, oil paintings of family in gilt frames, silk wall coverings, sparkling chandeliers and lovely marble fireplaces.

THIS is my favorite room. It’s the Morning Room, where the ladies go for their morning coffee and tea.  We were able to ask lots of questions about the paintings and photos and learned so much about the colorful history and architecture of Highclere Castle and the fascinating people who lived there. The Countess spoke to us before the lecture and couldn’t have been sweeter or more normal. She would probably make a very good Girlfriend! Tea at her house would be fun, and I have no doubt it would morph into Twine!

So off we go ~ after a seeing the house, we enjoyed a grand tour of the grounds around the house.

See the little white dots? They’re lambs of course! The long view, very Capability Brown!

One of the Highclere follies, and little pet gravestones leaning …

Our tour guide was telling me that all this brown weedy stuff around us was wildflowers … late in the season, and no longer in bloom.

I can only imagine what this must look like in the spring when it’s all in bloom!


One video is worth a hundred photos.

This way, my sweet!

Again, late fall is not prime garden time, but I loved the paths and the big balls of mistletoe in the far trees.

You always want to follow the curved path and see where it goes.

Very old, formal garden ~ that path in the way back leads back to the Castle.

Lots of pink roses between the hedges.

The last of the season … and undulating lawn . . .

Of course, every self-respecting Castle must have a greenhouse!

Quiet now, all put to bed for winter.

On our way back to the Castle, this bust of Capability Brown, surveying his creation, amongst the birds and falling leaves.

And back to the castle . . . (It’s like there’s a movie star standing just behind my shoulder and I’m pretending not to notice!)

I was right where Robert walked with darling dog, Isis. I loved this opening, the music, and that big sweet lab. Go HERE to see how the Downton characters do with American accents ~ too funny! But now, finally! It’s time for the real reason we came! Gift Shop! Tea!

So ’round to the back of the building we went . . . see Downton peeping over the top? 

Here we are at the courtyard. Isn’t it pretty, this brick building? I would be perfectly happy to live here!

I don’t know what was in this building, but I loved it that when they built these places there was no building department telling them OH no, you can’t do it like this! See what we would miss?

So off to the tea room we went!

All organized for us . . .

The tearoom’s painted-brick walls were covered with scenes from Downton Abbey.

Lots of cute things in the gift shop, everything from Highclere Stationery and key chains, to Downton Abbey feather boas and tea things, but these hats were my favorites!!!

Then back outside for more pictures. They let us stay on our own for as long as we wanted. It was delightful.

We have this Castle photographed backwards and forwards.

And here we are . . . saying goodbye . . .

Just as pretty leaving as it was coming in …. they send you out a different way. Look at that tree straight ahead … 

Magic!So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! What else? I’ve been painting like crazy and loving it! Painting because I want to, not because I have to!  Here’s a little preview for my Girlfriends. . . Believe it or not, this is for the 2019 calendar! Taking my own sweet time, and painting new things . . . pretty heaven around here.

While I was rifling through my diaries today, this piece of paper came flittering out. I had it all figured out in 2010! I do like God to be happy with me!

Thought I would leave you with roses! Though I forget the name of this one right now …

This is Just Joey! Smells wonderful! It’s that time of year!

Bye All!  Until we meet again . . . Blessings! ❌⭕️

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