In bloom, here, as I speak, around the trunk of the Albizzia tree right out back, are daffodils! There is nothing normal about Daffodils at Thanksgiving . . . Musica, my darling girls? Oh yes, the prettiest song ever . . . ♥
No, daffodils are definitely not normal, but who needs normal when you can have this:
This is Sasha (our pug-nosed dream) and she is one of our two adorable Studio kitties. I’ve been wanting to give you a tour of our studio/house here in California so I thought today would be a good day for it.
From the outside it looks like a normal cottage ~ a little old-fashioned and romantic with pure white iceberg roses in bloom and picket fences . . .
We bought this place on the Central Coast of California in June of 2002. But it didn’t always look like this. You are about to see what a little paint and elbow grease can do. Here is the “before” picture ↓
You actually paid money for that? It had some very good things about it … surrounded with apple trees, avocados, oranges, walnuts, figs and limes, set in a wide ancient fertile river bed (capable of growing sweet peas almost year round not to mention artichokes and lemons) on eight acres in a valley about five miles from the Pacific Ocean. The land was flat, with wide open spaces, a running creek, lovely sunrises, moderate temperatures, blue birds, and breezes up from the sea, but everything else needed help, desperately. The garage had a corrugated tin roof (and still does but since we painted it green, it looks a whole lot better), gophers and ground squirrels were estimated at 100,000 in round numbers; they drilled holes everywhere providing a happy hunting ground for hawks that circled high overhead constantly. There was an unenclosed goat barn (in the photo, on the right), no garden at all, and rampantly growing weeds; the house was and is a crunchy antique doublewide primarily made from
fake faux paneling and linoleum. And what did we say when we saw all this? We’ll take it!
We weren’t looking for fancy which was a good thing because we definitely weren’t getting it.
. . . but I did need my picket fence garden . . .
So that’s what Joe did first, before we painted the house. He had to dig down and line the bottom of the garden in hardware cloth to keep the gophers out ~ you can see the corrugated metal siding on the garage on the right. Joe covered the metal with white lattice and built an arbor off the side of it.
He built picket fences, planted a lawn, lots of bushes and hedges, flowers, corn and more trees, to make our version of a cottage “built with lilacs and laughter.” Joe, our employee and friend Alfredo, and my brother Chuck painted the house white and enclosed the goat barn for storage . . .
My sister Shelly, my BFF Diana (the one in our Book) and me, we wore white paper painter’s suits and ate ice creams with Joe as our fearless leader, while we painted the whole inside of the house. This is kind of what it looked like when we lived here part of the year, before we turned the living room into our Studio.
And at certain times of the year, the garden looks like this. River bottom dirt is a good thing. (Wild thing, you make my heart sing . . .)
and sometimes the sky looks like this ….
and just down the road it looks like this around 5 pm . . . free for the taking.
When we landed here a few weeks ago after driving from Massachusetts to California in our Fine Romance Van . . .
. . . as we came up the walk, we brushed past a bush you can smell before you see it . . . the glossy green leaves are covered with my favorite flower in the whole world, the gardenia. They grow here, outside. You water them with a hose like any normal plant. I know. Doesn’t seem possible, does it?
I picked this bouquet of ”Just Joey” and yellow “Julia Child” roses from the garden to take to the Remnants of the Past book signing. Two of the best smelling roses imaginable bloom here almost year-round.
My girlfriend just called to tell me that yesterday it snowed two inches on Martha’s Vineyard! And I can’t wait!
Inside the house, it’s just as you would expect, there’s a kitchen and bedrooms . . . but it’s also our Studio now so there are desks, computers, files, an art table, a copier, products, design projects, antiques that need their photos taken . . . It was spotless when we got here — I wish I would have taken pictures then!
here’s our stretching freckled mascot . . .
and guard cat . . .
Kellee comes every day around eight, sometimes she brings Reese, her yellow lab. Sheri and Bonnie work part time, Alfredo is always here . . . This is Kellee’s desk.
Alfredo, Sheri, Kellee (Kellee’s mom Kitty makes our wooden toys on wheels) and Bonnie (we celebrate birthdays at the beach).
This is Reese fishing in the creek.
Reese is one more reason why even our studio is a fine romance.♥
A whole lot goes on at our Studio ~ we may be little, but we are crafty! There are projects in piles everywhere. Here we are putting recipe cards with our Heart of the Home Cookie Cutter sets . . .
. . . while under the table, Sammy is ever alert for treats and or kisses . . .
(Oh Suza-anne ♫ ???? Do you see his beauty mark ?. . . Inspiring, isn’t it? )
This pile of quilts was waiting to decorate our booth at the Remnants of the Past Show and Book signing . . .
Kellee made two of these great big lamb posters on foam core for the show ~ it’s always a work in progress around here!
And just in time for the show, our Christmas and Come~Sit~Stay Tea Towels showed up.
So of course we hung them on our stove in the kitchen of the studio and I grabbed six of each right off the top for my Vineyard Girlfriends!
And look at this other surprise that just arrived:
We received an early Christmas gift from Romantic Homes Magazine with this little spread on the very last page of their December issue! ♥ See anyone you recognize? They asked me for a list and some photos of my favorite things. Which is, in and of itself, one of my favorite things. Like counting blessings in a magazine!
Out back, inside our tiny, handy little goat barn . . .
Joe helps take delivery of our second printing . . .
Then everyone works to ship our new book, A FINE ROMANCE to our Girlfriends . . .
When a new order of books first arrives, it’s a family affair ~ everyone brings their kids to help for the day ~ and they did a wonderful job! Such professionals! Here is lunch with Sheri (on the left), Maddie (Sheri’s daughter), Bonnie, Nathan (Sheri’s son), Eric (Alfredo’s son), Alfredo, Wes (Bonnie’s son), and Kellee. The “magic” that comes out of our Studio has more to do with hard work and a serious enjoyment for making the world a more wonderful place. ♥
When it was time to take the moveable feast to Remnants, Joe and Alfredo packed boxes and furniture into cars, truck, van and trailer to take to the Madonna Inn.
They brought hutches and bookcases for the booth . . .
. . . hung quilts on the walls of the tent (quilts make the best wallpaper!), put in the furniture and the girls began to arrange everything . . . lambs, Union Jack dishtowels, bags, clocks, Emma cups,
. . . heart teapots, notebooks, spotted mugs, Beatrix Potter figurines, my favorite lavender tea, tea tins, books, dream charms, they hung the new tea towels on the hutch doors ~ we brought it all!
Our new Union Jack bunting arrived just in time! We hung it up and that was it ~ Time to open the gates and let the shopping begin . . .
I’m way on the other side of this crowd . . . saying hello, hugging, and signing books . . . and this is pretty much all of the show I saw.
Kellee and the girls said it was like a party all day long! There were over 3,000 visitors to the show on Sunday alone! And none of us ever stopped smiling!
Here are Kellee and Bonnie in their cute aprons (if you’d like the pattern to this apron go HERE, scroll to the bottom and click on FREE PATTERNS) and their TEAM ROMANCE badges . . .
Sheri kept refilling the bookshelves . . . .
That’s my friend Peg . . . the wonderful Peg who has run our FOSB Friends of Susan Branch Facebook Page from the very beginning . . . She was there with her husband Charlie. I’m wearing my three Dream Charms on a chain around my neck … everyone asks me about them, I wear them everyday — they seem so much a part of the book, the trip, and us. xoxo
Joe went down the line (they arranged the line like at Disneyland, in back-and-forth snake fashion which makes it really easy for groups to talk to each other) and said hello to everyone and took pictures. We could hear all the laughter in the line . . . they were making friends and I signed books until waaay after dark.
With these two new best friends watching all the action. In my next post I’ll show you a bit more . . . some good surprises happened at the end of the day. ♥
A FINE ROMANCE is up to 182 five-star reviews on Amazon and still growing if you can believe that!! And I know it’s you! Thank you ♥ ♥ ♥. I’ve gotten so many notes from new Girlfriends who are just now taking their first trip with us to England and loving it as much as we did. ♥ We’ve had a wonderful visit out here . . . and on Friday (or maybe Saturday the way it’s looking) we start for home! Are you ready to go . . . or do you need a few more days with the roses? Tell me . . . XOXO
P. S. Thinking about Thanksgiving!