SPROUTS & BUDS

Finally, I’m here, with our trip to find the sprouts and buds of spring. And we did, and I’ve brought them right on back to you! Settle in, get yourself a cup of something delicious and let me tell you a story! With nice road MUSICA!

 I promised you a little armchair travel, so here we go!  Williamsburg was wonderful! Virginia was great! But there was so MUCH of it, I may have to divide this post in two! (Which I should have but I didn’t!) What a hands-on way to get an education! Say hello to George Washington! Get ready to know him better! 

So, end of March, we drove out of a cold, grey New England rainstorm into a world totally unrecognizable to our first president (honk-honk-beep-beep, honey, you have change for the toll?), and spent our first night on the road in a historic, brick-and-clapboard, Pennsylvania borough called Doylestown ~ which was filled with charming shops, budding trees, and interesting restaurants (we have to go back!) and had a delicious dinner with old friends at a luv-lee restaurant called Domani Star

The next morning, on our way out of town, we investigated the local supermarket, something we love to do when on the road. We like to see what everyone else has! This is Wegmans!! We knew we’d love it the minute we walked in~I stood at the peppers and took this first view.

You can BE a tourist in this supermarket; we were there for almost an hour taking pictures. Disneyworld for cooks and eaters! If I lived there, anyone who came to visit, I would take them to Wegmans. Part of the tour!

First time we’d seen something like this in a year! Lightness of heart occurred!

Bought these . . . Could not resist British Daffodils all the way from Cornwall. 

Then it was back into the van and off, under blue skies, to Mount Vernon, beloved home of George and Martha Washington, a home so appropriate for our first President. Gravitas.

As you can see we were not the only people who had the idea to visit Mount Vernon this day! We had bought our tickets online before we left home, and signed up for a timed tour, so no standing in line for us!

There it was, as it looked since third-generation, American-born, George Washington finished renovating it in 1754, it’s where he brought his bride in 1759 (after their honeymoon in Williamsburg!)

We’ve had this framed print I found in an antique store hanging in our kitchen forever. They were the perfect people, in the perfect place, at the perfect time. Reading Ron Chernow’s biography Washington, you see that from the moment he was born, everything that happened to him was another clean and clear step to him becoming who he became. I’ve never seen a life more on-track for destiny. And Martha! Equally fascinating. Oldest of eight children! Good with horses! She wore a yellow dress with lilac slippers at her wedding to George. 💞 (Married before George, had four children and lost two of them, and then lost her husband.) So interesting to see them as real people, not just figureheads. Because you know, they had to get up in the morning and stretch out, and get clean in their colonial way, and stumble downstairs to get some coffee and pay bills and all the things normal people do. Look how much they got done with no TV, radio, phone, cars, planes, trains, or even a typewriter. Pretty amazing. Says something but I don’t know what!

Here you can get the lay of the land at Mount Vernon because there’s a lot of it, tons of gardens and other buildings you can visit ~ everything that kept a house going had to be produced on the property in those days, they made everything. There’s a museum, a gift shop, and the tomb of Martha and George is there too.

They did not allow photography inside, I’m sorry to say, but the tour was wonderful, so if you can’t get there soon, there are lots websites where you can see the rooms online.  We stood in the front hall where guests were welcomed (they had dinner parties all the time), saw the parlor and dining room, Washington’s beautiful study, and the bedchambers, upstairs and downstairs. The rooms had high ceilings, lots of original furnishings, and walls brightly painted in authentic period colors of turquoise, bright blue, and Kelly green. Above photo is the back of the house ~ with the famous cupola crowned by the “Dove of Peace” weathervane commissioned by the President in 1787, symbolizing his hopes for peace in the new nation.

Sitting here on the piazza (back porch) designed by Washington, with his view of the Potomac, seeing what he saw, is where I felt him most.  The fly in the ointment in all that we observed is slavery. All rosy views take on dark hues because it just doesn’t go away, it was a part of everything, part of history, you can’t rest your eyes anywhere where you don’t feel the ghostly presence, not on a cup, a dish, or a doorknob. You have to be able to hold two opposing things in your mind at once, one very light that makes you feel so much pride and the other brutally dark that makes you feel so bad. The first slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, the year before the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts  ~ and because 2019 is the 400th anniversary of that event, there were exhibitions focused on that history everywhere. I’m glad we don’t try to hide it. But it’s painful, and touching, so be prepared.

As it was getting late, we decided to spend the night in nearby *historic* (you can just put that word in front of every place we go in Virginia!) Fredericksberg, where spring was bursting out all over, sprouting and budding everywhere we looked.

Charming, easily could have spent more time wandering around here, but we let all things historical take second place to the excellent antiquing in this little town!

They sure do! They had every bit of Americana you could ever hope for! I brought home a quilt! You’ll agree I’m sure, it’s irresistable! ⬇️ And every tiny handsewn stitch is visible!

It was off to *Historic* Colonial Williamsburg the next morning, with a stop on the way for a tour of the *historic* Shirley Plantation, dating from 1614 (six years before the Mayflower landed in Plymouth!) The house itself was built on the banks of the James River in 1738 and is still owned by the Hill-Carter family as it has been for eleven generations!

Down the long unpaved “twelve-oaks” driveway, where buggy wheels and horse hooves, a little black 1908 Model A, and a 1947 Chevy sedan presumably traveled, we went ~ to the house, on whose wide lawns wounded Union soldiers were brought from battle to die, and were nursed in their last hours by the Confederate wives and mothers of the Shirley Plantation, who woke up one sad morning to look out their windows to a sea of broken men.

Our first peek at the house . . .

As we drive along, we forget (because we’re on the inside) that we are driving a billboard!  Sometimes people wave or honk and we wonder why! On this trip someone pulled up next to us at a stoplight, rolled down her window, waited for Joe (with his confused face) to roll down his, and then hollered, “Is she writing children’s books now?” Ha ha! Just makes it all more fun.

The whole point of this trip was spring!!! All the first clues were there.

We’re used to seeing trees like this in England . . . not so often here at home. But there were some old and stately beauties on this property. If this doesn’t inspire tree-hugging nothing will!

Again, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house. Unfortunately, because it was charming with portraits and old sepia photographs, antique furniture and history belonging to the generations that lived there and now I have to write a thousand words to tell you! No, I don’t, you’re saved ~ I found a wonderful interior video.  The Carter family still lives on second and third floors so those spaces were private, but we were invited in to see the ground floor with its famous “flying” staircase. Displays like the one above were in some of the outbuildings ~ above was the kitchen. Again, we learned about the suffering that built this place, while hearing stories of first settlers, the family-loyalty to the American side of the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War. We met adorable three-year-old twins belonging to that newest eleventh generation, out playing with the chickens in the chicken coup. The beat goes on! Just like the person who planted that willow oak 350 years ago, for us, for the future, the Carters have just planted a brand new orchard of Pecan trees, for us, for their children, for the future. It’s what was left behind in everything we saw that was so touching, but also how it was preserved, honored, and brought through the centuries so we could know our history, and grow with the knowledge. Makes me want to plant an oak tree!

Then off to Williamsburg for more! Joe and I were there almost exactly a year ago. We were driving to Florida to board the Queen Victoria for our trip to England, and had only planned to spend one day and overnight in Williamsburg ~ which turned out to be nowhere near enough! We vowed to come back. So here we were. For five glorious days!

We stayed at the Williamsburg Lodge which is within walking distance of everything.

We unpacked, got our Cornwall Daffodils into some water, and out we went to explore. Now I’ll give you a little taste of what it was all about:

First off, we made reservations for the hotel online, and at the same time we bought tickets for our entire stay that would let us see everything in Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown (all day, every day we were there. Very handy, just whip it out and you automatically get into everything). Something else interesting, wherever you eat, whatever you buy in Williamsburg, you can charge to your room, no matter which Williamsburg hotel you choose to stay in!

As you walk around, you’ll notice flags in front of some of the buildings  . . .

Wherever you see one, it means come in, hear a story, take a tour, welcome! Like a big box of chocolates, you never know what you’ll get, but guaranteed, it’s all good!

It was a wonderful flag, combining old world and new!

Most flags are accompanied by a docent in costume.

Despite the delightful fact that no cars are allowed, it’s a real town, with stores and taverns where our patriot ancestors used to plot and plan ~ it’s the largest living history museum in the world where you can experience life in 18th century colonial America while wandering around 300 lovely acres. At one end of the main street (Duke of Gloustershire, shortened by locals to “DoG” Street) is William and Mary College, where Thomas Jefferson went to school . . . the students still hang out on the wide streets. One thing I regret because I didn’t know, you can bring a picnic basket because there are many wide lawns and huge leafy trees to sit under that would be perfect for a picnic, and a luv-lee cheese shop in the Market Place with perfect picnic fixin’s ~ and plenty of people-watching to make it interesting! And you can do that without a ticket. You can walk all over Williamsburg without a ticket. It’s only if you want to go into the flag-marked historic sites, enjoy the guided tours, galleries, museums, see the silversmith, watch the blacksmith, which you do want to do if you have time, that you need a ticket.

Walking through Williamsburg is a feast for the eyes . . . at one time it was the capitol of Virginia. You can easily imagine the tall figure of George Washington trotting down DoG Street on his great white horse with Martha and her two children coming alongside in their coach and six horses. It was a four-day bumpy ride from Mount Vernon for them (a smooth 2 1/2 hour drive for us!).

You can try the ride for yourself . . .

there are lots of colonial conveyances to choose from . . .

Adding all kinds of quiet back-in-time charm to the bucolic neighborhoods. When rebuilding, they put all the utilities underground, no wires, no poles, just tall trees, chimney tops, clouds, skies, and church spires. 💞

And you’re welcome to wander around anywhere on the property,

Open gates everywhere you go say ‘come in’ . . .

Follow the path to serendipity because you don’t know what is around the next picket fence . . .

Except for more picket fences . . . go through that gate on the right, across the bridge, through the garden, out the back gate, and down the path to who knows what ~ to the Gaol (“jail”) where Blackbeard’s Pirates were kept in 1704!

because the whole magical thing is a museum saved for us all to enjoy mostly with the interest and financial backing of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. who began reconstructing a very run-down, almost-ruined Williamsburg in 1930. It’s a huge wonderful story I hope you get the chance to go to Williamsburg to hear one day.

People do live in some of the houses, you see costumed docents going in and out, we met one on her way home who stopped to visit, explaining that if you live there you can’t have anything older than 18th century visible (ladders must be exception, those don’t look like wood to me!) . . .

but there are rules, and one of them is you can’t have an electric lamp in the window ~ some residents use black-out curtains to hide the 21st century from view. Walking around at night, it’s DARK, and rather interesting to see because it wasn’t that long ago when all our cities and towns were dark at night. Very good for star-gazing!

And don’t forget, we’re colonial! No indoor plumbing here, at the Plantation, or at Mount Vernon. Quaint outhouses were a feature everywhere we went.

Each day at noon, they shot the cannon to tell the town it’s lunchtime! Tradition!

Every evening at 5 pm, there are marching fife and drums dressed in colonial costume. Crowds march alongside, keeping time to the drumming. Very Yankee Doodle Dandy. 🇺🇸

This adorable little bluebird was my favorite.

He just sat there, for a long time, looking at me like this, and not flying away.

He hopped around and did a complete 360º that included his backside! Made my day!

The Governor’s Mansion tour was wonderful . . . with detailed displays and a costumed, well-informed docent. You can ask all the questions you want and these people seem to know the answers and love talking about it. The Governor for each colony was appointed by the King of England, which put Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore in a real pickle when the Revolutionary War came to town. In passing, we learned that Lord Dunmore was a Murray who married a Stewart. As was my grandmother, a Murray who married a Stewart. I’m sure, no relation, but I don’t care. Love it anyway. History! Just the most exciting thing! And here, it all comes alive!

There’s an English garden behind the Mansion ~ if you look closely you can see a boy wearing red, and a girl wearing white (barely visible) in the maze. We watched them enter the far back side, go in opposite directions and run like mad to see who could find their way out first. Last we looked they were still running ~ sometimes only inches from each other without knowing!

There were terrific restaurants . . . not just touristy junk food, but the real thing, carefully and freshly prepared.

We loved Cochon! Just delicious, so pretty with candles and peach roses, and the Most AMAZING Potatoes Anna. We also enjoyed The Trellis for lunch where I had a salad I loved so much, we went back again, ate the same thing, wrote it all down, and made it for my girlfriends when we got home! Blue Talon was good too, but I’m not so sure about Fat Canary, which has a really good reputation ~ but not so much the night we were there. We loved the Rockefeller Room at the Williamsburg Inn. The nearby outlet stores are a total crapjob aptly said with a British accent, don’t waste your precious time, but in town, the store called Scotland, don’t miss it. All the coziest Scottish clothing, scarves, sweaters, shawls, kilts, woolens, tams, gloves, and shoes, the real things, wool, cashmere, and PLAID! I bought a Murray tartan scarf in honor of my grandmother!

Then it was time for a lovely 23-mile country drive to Jamestown and Yorktown . . . don’t miss these two. They’re nowhere near as big as Williamsburg, almost look like nothing comparatively, but do not be deceived … they’re SO interesting. Jamestown is the 1607 site of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. We were surprised to learn that we’ve been an immigrant nation from the very start. Many first families trace their roots back, not primarily to England, but to Germany, Poland, and Slovakia . . . The English brought them to work the settlement, in fact, America had its first workers’ strike in 1619, “No vote, no work,” which was settled very quickly when these first citizens got the right to vote. All this before the Mayflower!  Yorktown is where the last land-battle of the Revolutionary War was fought. Needless to say, fascinating!

Along the scenic “colonial parkway” there is no commercial development, only the shoreline (generally) the way it was long ago, but with plaques and memorials, and displays showing the history and how the Continental Army won the war, RIGHT THERE, where General Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington in 1781 and ended the Revolutionary War!!!! Yay! . . . and so tricky of our guys, the way they did it! Stop and read everything! So interesting! Although, how you win a war in Virginia while the entire British Navy still owns New York is beyond me. Communication in those days  s l o w e d  everything d o w n . . . How did Boston even know what was going on in Virginia? Not to mention the King of England and his ilk. Three weeks it took the Continental army to march from New York to Williamsburg when they decided to “surprise” the Redcoats in Yorktown! Good grief! Whole thing hung by a thread! Anyway, it all worked out. If it hadn’t, think, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, would have all been, gulp, hung. Destiny! What a trip!

On top of all that fragility, it may not have happened at all without the French! The names of the French soldiers who made our success in Yorktown possible were memorialized, never to be forgotten. I love France. I love that they are always there when we need them, and that we are there for them. I love them most of all for giving us the Statue of Liberty. And today, right now in fact, because the news is just breaking, we come together again at this heartbreaking moment of profound loss. It’s happening as I write ~ I’m sure there will be national mourning, but this is a loss of great treasure to the entire world. A work of art and heart, a testament to the ingenuity of mankind that was Notre-Dame de Paris, since 1163, had every one of us in its DNA. It signified Hope, as so many historical things do and will be a deeply felt loss. My prayers go to the firefighters, saving what can be saved and then to the rebuilding. Because that is what will happen next. I know America will give as good as she’s got from the French people. 😪   MUSICA

We were touched to see that someone had thought to bring a rose, here, along the side of the road, at the Jamestown memorial.

Note: 1765. Fomenting went on for a long time, one Boston Tea Party did not a Revolution make. First there was a LOT of talk. Wonderful museums in both towns show it all, plus, there are colonial buildings, short movies, interactive displays, all so well-done and impressive.

There’s a special exhibition in Jamestown that will be there until January 2020 that shows what archeologists found when trying to recreate almost the unfindable, the forgotten, barely-recorded lives of the earliest female Virginia colonists. To sum it up, you would NOT want to be one of the earliest female Virginia colonists. OMG. These girls were in a man’s world to the nth degree. Virginia was not settled by poor families, husbands, wives, and children, escaping religious persecution like those on the Mayflower  . . . no, this earliest of American settlements was made up of men only. Wealthy English gentlemen, backed by rich investors, had come to the New World to find their fortune. (Money-money-money, always a problem.🤑) Sadly they quickly discovered something new about themselves: they didn’t know how to do anything. Couldn’t forage or cook, make a garden, build a house, do laundry in a river, sew on a button, make candles, didn’t even think to bring along a tiny jar to put a wildflower in for hope, (probably forgot their pillows too), poor babies, they were used to having servants do such things. It was dark! They were hungry! Took them one miserable year before they sent home for some indentured servants to boss around. Some destitute women in English prisons were given a choice to rot where they were, or go to Virginia to work and possibly accidentally marry one of these men. What would YOU do? In the first few decades of the Jamestown Settlement, men outnumbered women 6 to 1. Thank you. No. Prison for me! The boat trip alone would have killed me! But they did it, they survived outrageous things, and their fragmented, poignant stories are here in Jamestown for us to marvel over.“Our Principal wealth . . . consisted in servants.” John Port, 1619

Here we are at the “Siege of Yorktown” experiential theater, and there it was, a half-circle screen in full-glorious color, of the last battle. And for the first time in my life, I actually understood what was going on! I could not begin to show you everything Colonial Williamsburg has to share ~ it’s huge, so much to do, our five days didn’t even cover it. I think two more may have, or perhaps three, which is nice because going back sounds wonderful. Plus, the neighborhood, Richmond, all the Civil War things, Virginia is a treasure trove. Fabulous antique stores! I was going to leave you here, but there is one more wonderful thing I want to show you! Would be wrong if I didn’t.

Bassett Hall . . . the home of John and Abby Rockefeller, right there in Williamsburg, about two blocks from our hotel.

In 1927 the Rockefellers (both of them born in 1874) bought this colonial house in the falling-apart, left-to-die-on-its-own, but still loved by tourists, town of Williamsburg. The wonderful story of how they got involved, secretly started buying up Williamsburg houses, and saved the town for posterity, I will leave for you to hear when you get there. But their house, furnished and left just as it was when Abby Rockefeller died in 1948 was open for us to visit and so we did.💞 This time we were allowed to bring cameras!

You’ve seen this view of Joe before!

It looks like two houses, but it’s really one. The front house is original pre-Revolutionary War, but behind it is an extension that connects the two buildings, added by the Rockefellers along with the back house. They called this place their “Little Colonial Home.” Extremely wealthy people, his father started Standard Oil ~ but the glitter of all they HAD has almost eclipsed the magic of all they DID. For instance, besides saving Williamsburg, Abby started the Museum of Modern Art in New York, they donated the land for it, and for the United Nations building; they provided crucial funding to Margaret Sanger in her quest to improve  women’s health; contributed to our National Parks, and raised millions for soldiers after WWII. Just for starters. It goes on and on. They were an amazing couple, you can read about their life of philanthropy HERE. All the credit in the world goes to them, figuring out what needed to be done and doing it, making our world a better place in many more ways than one. Generous, not only in gifts, but also in spirit, embracing “enemies” and even helping them. Good people. Heroes, really. Interestingly, they were born when Beatrix Potter was 8 years old, and all of them with the same instinct for preservation and giving back. And boy, did Abby love to decorate. And boy, did she love Americana. There is a wonderful museum in Williamsburg with her name on it, filled with her collections. Your ticket gets you right in. She loved hooked rugs and I love hooked rugs, so there you go, kindred spirits! Want to see her house? Let’s go!

Look how cozy. Cuddle up with a good book in one of the two seating areas in this room, lots of movable chairs for when their six children were with them, charming needlepoint, candles, luvlee lamps, fireplace, and the rugs! I should stop right now and show you the rugs.

And this is just for starters! Whimsical charm!

Add so much color and warmth to the house. There was a collection of smaller, older, hooked rugs in the museum too.

This was my favorite, although it was really hard to choose just one. I was the only one on the house tour with my camera pointed down!

They’re in every room . . . mixed and matched in the hallways . . .

. . . along with flowered slip covers and bits of china . . .

Fresh flowers, silver, and pretty lamps. I love the hat!

Curtained windows, shaded to protect the vibrant colors . . . my photos don’t really do it justice.

Many large chandeliers, seemingly not electrified.

Lots of pink in the house. There’s that whimsical first rug.

This was the formal parlor. Look how deep and tall the fireplace is in their “Little Colonial House.”

It goes on and on, there was big square formal dining room, the table was covered with architectural plans for the renovation of Williamsburg . . . but let’s go into the kitchen, shall we?

Eeeek! I have dishes that look so much like these, only pink  . . . although I do NOT have, like, what is it, two cupboards-full of individual chocolate pots? (You can see how extensive her glass-front cupboards were in the reflection.)

See? Mine are called “Pink Cockatrice,” made in England by Minton. I looked but couldn’t find her pattern, perhaps they were “Rockefeller Only” by Minton.

More in Abby’s wonderful kitchen.

Fridge is still here! Don’t you love that color of green?

The door at the back leads to her flower room . . .

Where the vases were kept and arrangements made.

Abby’s kitchen, with views of the garden from every window. They had servants, a couple, who lived in another part of the house (also in darling rooms) and took care of things when the Rockefellers were away ~ I don’t think Abby did much in the kitchen having been born in a kitchen-free zone.

The kitchen wall-calendar was left turned to March 1948, the year Abby died, when time stopped in this house. This was really her place, her decorating, her baby. The house was bequeathed to Colonial Williamsburg by the family, and so here we are, learning about this couple, in remembrance and gratitude for every good thing they left behind.

Curvy sink and hanging dishtowels, view to forever out there. (Don’t worry, I’ll take you!) 🌳

No matter how many photos I put up, I am not doing it justice, if you haven’t been to Williamsburg, I hope your curiosity-hackles are up and someday you go see it for yourself.

The garden in early spring. When I saw the garden, I looked to see if Abby had any connection or special love for England and found that it was the first foreign country she visited in her life! Of course, look at this  . . . all of Williamsburg is a little cutout-piece of the English Countryside.

Here’s the view of the house from where Joe was sitting in the photo above, taking advantage of the sunshine. 🌞

There are acres and acres to explore if you have time. So civilized! And I do mean civilized! That’s what I loved about this trip. We went from rough, cold, violent and plumbing-free 1607 to 1948 (up to 2019 if you include us!) over 300 years of growing pains . . . and saw the progress, ever-forward, people doing everything they knew how (as Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you DO better”) to make this world a better place, even when they had to fight for it, even against the odds, and never giving up. Remembering the thousands of heroes that took us from the shame of slavery, and zero rights for women and children, to the time of trusting science to cure disease that brought us from the dark ages! People have built and persevered and brought us forward, sometimes kicking and screaming, and found freedom that caught the imagination of not just Americans, but everyone, the world over. Isn’t it wonderful? So far, despite massive opposition, and terrible setbacks, which we still see in places, no one gave up, goodness wins in the end! Faith has triumphed. Because of people like us.💞So there you go. That was our trip, in more than a nutshell. Sorry I kept you so long. I know you have a life!

So yes, we’re home, and once again, reveling in the quiet morning light . . .

My boy was so happy to see us. The quilt is still in the kitchen because I’m not done looking at it yet! Look at them, aren’t they cute together? Black and white is such an excellent kitty color!

It’s a little pillow/doorstop I used a magic marker on to make it match Jack.  A little confusing for him!

I brought home a treasure trove of inspiration!

My new Tea Time Magazine was waiting! I love this magazine. It’s not very thick, but the recipes and pictures are beautiful!

Had a lunch for my girlfriends . . . two of which just got back from Paris!

I fed them my Williamsburg lunch, and for dessert, Siobhan’s Polenta Cake (from A Fine Romance), with strawberries and cream, we exchanged travel stories, drank pink wine from Provence, had tea and lots of laughter and a little show and tell . . .

. . . while the wild turkeys came to visit.

And the daffodils and forsythia began to bloom out back.

Then, Jaime had a Birthday Party for me. Isn’t her table beautiful? This is the true miracle, that I moved here from so far away and found such wonderful kindred spirits to have my birthdays with!

Lowely made the cake! Orange cake, with Orange and Pineapple Filling, Orange icing, and coconut on top! Sooo delicious! (Yes, Vineyard Seasons has it! Here’s the recipe!) 🍊

Margot wasn’t wearing any rings she could put over the candles, she put her earring on the cake so she could have her wish when I blew them out . . . it worked perfectly! Necessity is the mother of invention! (Now you know why it’s taken me so long to do this post! Lots of real life going on around here!)O U R   W O R L D

Driving down Main Street, spring is in the air on Martha’s Vineyard, porches are being swept, windows being washed, the season has begun ~ and first thing’s first, filling the planters with FLOWERS!

This is what happens here in the spring! The worker bees come out. Joe’s been composting the garden! It’s so nice to be home.

Thank you, George, for the world you left. As my dad would say, “You did good work!”I hope you enjoyed that, Girlfriends. Thank you for your great suggestions on where we should go in Virginia, you were a huge help . . . and thank you for being my friends. 💞 Now . . . this just in! Cups are shipping from England tomorrow!!!! If you can today . . .

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SPRING FLING

Waking up this first full day of spring with the full worm moon peeking through my Studio windows! Hooray! MUSICA! Note below, it’s the Early Bird!

This was our moonrise last night! How do we get so lucky?

Out behind the barn, snowdrops are coming right up through the melting ice. Daffodils too!

We’re doing a little bit of forsythia-forcing. So easy to do. Just bang stems of budding trees and bushes with hammer and put in warm water in a light spot and soon, very soon, you will have . . .

This! Forsythia is such a harbinger of spring on this island! Our first very strong color and after months of none of it, it’s like a dream we want to celebrate.

And so we do! I hung my wreath on our front door just a couple of days ago.

Yesterday, such a gorgeous sunny day, although still only 46º . . . Out in California everyone is in wildflower heaven, so much rain, the hillsides and valleys are covered in bright orange poppies and blue lupin, and probably to them, this photo above looks like it has yellow-grass, leafless, dead-tree syndrome, but I wouldn’t change our four seasons for anything, because as so many of you know, this is SO GOOD after all these months of cold, it feels like a miracle and nothing could take its place. I can barely have words for what this chilled clean salty air feels like as it is now caressing our sheets and infusing them with spring. 🌸 We are dancing out there! Each little rebirth is a celebration!

And soon it will be tulip-time! There is something whimsical about tulip colors and shapes. I decided NOT to plant bulbs last fall . . . to wait for spring. Our nurseries aren’t open yet, but when they do they BURST with spring bloom ~ pots and pots and POTS of tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, crocus … and I get to GO and buy tulips already in bloom ~ and get triple bang for my buck. Too often I buy a bag of mixed tulips and they are ALL yellow, or I buy orange that turn out to be purple or Parrot Tulips that turn out to be not to be Parrot Tulips. This way, instead of little brown bulbous mysteries, I’ll get the color and variety I want and can mix color the way I like! I can’t wait. It will be whimsey-land out there!  Have you ever seen Angelique Tulips? Oooh la la!

More oooh-la-la to look forward to, the weeping cherries will soon be coming into bloom.

And nothing will have to be “forced!” They will come to us gladly!

And soon . . . this ⬇

These last few weeks, the light has been making me crazy, it’s been coming in and landing on everything, and making the most interesting shadows! Running to get the camera before it moves!

You love glass, but when it does this, you love it more!

Pops like sparks all over the house . . .

I walk by, and there’s me on the kitchen wall. Have to stop and give you a wave!

Look at this one. I’ve never seen this before. Perfect for this old house.

Just a touch here and there . . . draws your eye…

Even Jack, look at the light on his toes!

This boy! Asleep in the middle of my art table right this moment. Put my foot into my shoe this morning, felt something. Guess what? Rubber band.

Him.

More sparks of light . . . colors from prisms on the lamp . . .

THIS is a picture through my kitchen-counter windows out toward the picket-fence garden, and INCLUDES the reflection from the windows behind me, where that bird is on the window sill …

My rusty birds make such nice shadows!

See? Doubles my pleasure!

And yes. Still doing it. Sixteen pounds lighter and happy as a clam. Here’s a normal breakfast, two scrambled eggs, with steamed spinach and green beans with mixed seeds on top. So yummy and so good. Just heard a disheartening report this morning, that of the top three “dirty” vegetables (meaning smothered in pesticides), spinach and kale are two of them. So think “organic” for these spectacular veggies that your brain is craving.🥗

My other favorite breakfast: Organic oats, sprinkled with cinnamon, with blueberries, chopped walnut, and chopped apple. Makes you feel like Superwoman. 💪

These are the new noodles I told you about, Shirataki, they come in a liquid in a package, and have barely any calories at all, plant-based (not soy), gluten-free. You use them as carriers for healthy roasted vegetables, or stir fry, or soup, or thick tomato sauce with ground grass-fed beef, onions, basil, garlic (no added sugar), a sprinkle of dry red chili pepper, and grated Parmesan.

Another breakfast . . . Organic broccoli-slaw (sold in bags in the vegetable section of our supermarket) sautéed in butter with mixed seeds and two scrambled Omega-three eggs. It doesn’t feel like a diet, it feels like joy.

MAS MUSICA?

So what is new. Does anyone recognize this? You’d have to be a sort of Houdini if you do. Hint: I told the story of it in my Fairytale Girl book. Ring any bells?

It’s my first painting, the one that I did in 1977 after I was given a gift certificate to an art store for my birthday where I went and bought watercolors, then came home and painted the geranium sitting on my kitchen table, and received a bit of a shock that it DID look like a geranium. Yes, the one I didn’t have the confidence to sign . . . and when I did, I signed it with my new initials (was getting married the next month, becoming an SB). I just had it reframed to go in my newly painted dining room. Look at that little thin gold frame! I’m really happy with the way it came out.

But before I had it framed, I asked myself, maybe some of the Girlfriends would like one of these? So, I had them copied and made into beautiful fine art Giclees on gorgeous thick watercolor paper . . . here they are, I’m signing and numbering them, there will only ever be 750 of them in the world.

They now look like this, after all these years, finally signed with my whole name . . . and available HERE.

We’ve actually had a few Giclees available for a long time ~ like this one of Zinnias and Baby’s Breath which I did in 1984, just before I wrote Heart of the Home . . .

Or this one, Grandma’s Bowl, the original is in our bedroom now, after the years it hung on my Grandma’s wall . . . kitchen art!

Or this one, called Lighthouse Beach, which I did just after I moved to Martha’s Vineyard . . . and was cat crazy in love (and still am!). BUT the good news is, the new news, is that we found a way to have our giclees done less expensively, because we wanted to be more affordable, and so we did, and they are. 💞

All newly signed and ready to go.

So yes, before we eat those joy-filled healthy-breakfasts, we go walking on this dirt road through the woods out to where it opens onto the sound. It’s been glorious this entire week. Only in the 40s, not exactly beach weather, but better than 20s, and cold doesn’t stop us, we bundle up and walk out into the wonderful spring sunshine every day. We need our exercise. Basking in the morning light has been heaven. We’ll be going in a few minutes, right after I press “Publish” on this post!

We find a sheltered spot out of the icy wind and sit for a few minutes soaking up the bright sun. ☀️

What else? I’ve been working hard on our new book . . . and loving every moment of it. Look at that thing, it’s STUFFED with memories.

So there’s my March 2018 calendar and my Scotland Diary for reference (I’m putting our 2016 trip to Scotland in this book too)  and my new cup and I’m on my way . . . to ENCHANTED!

Making all kinds of new bookmarks along the way . . . so when we go on a book tour I will be bearing gifts~

I’ve been staying away from stressful news (I only allow myself a half hour a day lately), and have been on an old movie kick… I can’t say enough good about TCM … Turner Classic Movies, it can cure what ails you. 😘

 

But Joe and I decided we deserved a mini-break (as Bridget Jones would call it).

Yes! It’s on the calendar! FUN! So excited, we’ve moved it up a day and we leave tomorrow!!!

Road trip! We’re going to Virginia! We’re going to drive out of our baby-budding spring in to the REAL THING. We’re going south for a tour of George Washington’s House at Mount Vernon. You have no idea how excited I am. I read the Ron Chernow biography of George Washington last year and learned so much ~ before I read it, he was just a figure, something to do with cherry trees, wooden teeth and first President, now he is a man, a husband, a father, and a hero. Flawed, as we all are, except Beatrix Potter, but human and real. I’ve been wanting to immerse myself a little bit in his world. So here we go!

I have a new book to take with me . . . The Revolutionary War story of Washington’s Spies! I saw the great mini-series TURN (which is still on Netflix, I just rewatched it), now I want to read the book. Also taking the one I’m just finishing, the wonderful Africa House by Christina Lamb. A mini-break week of reading, who could ask for more!? Antique stores too . . . we brake for them! Nurseries too! I guarantee the Fine Romance Van will be coming home stuffed with springtime!After Mount Vernon, we’re going back to Colonial Williamsburg! We were there almost exactly a year ago on our way to board the Queen Victoria, but only had one day, barely time to get the lay of the land . . . we promised ourselves we’d be going back, and so we are! I was thinking about putting photos of our trip on Instagram, where I’m @susanbranchauthor ~ my imagination tells me there may be more of you on Instagram now than on Twitter?  Let me know where’s the best place for them! I could put them on both if you like . . . 💞

Look at this place! William and Mary College, started in 1693 (Second oldest in country after Harvard), is at one end of mile-long Duke of Gloucester Street (almost 100 feet wide and no cars allowed) where George Washington often came riding in on his white horse.  We didn’t get to the nearby Jamestown Settlement last time … I’m excited to see the first permanent English colony in America, founded in 1607. We’ve got tickets for everything!

Going back in time, our favorite place to be . . . I hope we can take a carriage ride!

Look how charming . . . I love the simplicity. We’ll only be gone one week, blink and we will be home, which will then look more wonderful than ever.So I want to leave you with a few small gifts.🎁 Spring has sprung which brought us all new Free Stuff , thanks to Kellee who is a mind reader in her spare time. She knows what we like. Four new springtime stationary designs you can print out on nice paper . . . this one above celebrates our full moon, matches my new cup! But you can choose from the other designs, or maybe you’d like a new screen saver . . . just click on Free Stuff and off you go!

And while I’m away, you may need the recipe for the MOST delicious Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. Tis the season! Makes 30! But you can halve the recipe if you like. Take them to work and the fans will go wild! You’ll also find the recipe on page 138 in the 30th Anniversary Edition of my first book, Heart of the Home.

And this adorable thing . . . Just in cases you’re in the mood for Lamb Cake ~ Here’s the How-To ~ Sheri just brought in some new lamb molds . . . this cake is  also excellent for baby showers and Mother’s Day! Cover it in pansies! We have a Bunny Cake Mold too! 🐰

We’ll only be gone a week, you’ll blink and we’ll be home. When we get back, I’ll settling back into my chair, all refreshed, where I’ll be spending this summer windows open, flowers wafting from the garden, deep in the diary, writing Enchanted, England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, reliving everything we did at almost this very time last year. Talk about armchair travel!

And one more little gift I found on Youtube . . . an armchair walk through the English Countryside with a very knowledgeable English man. The Lake District to be exact . . . HERE you GO!  Stress reliever extraordinaire. Enjoy! ❌⭕️❌

Later gators. xoxo

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