SO MANY WORDS, SO LITTLE TIME

So many words, so little time is exactly right as you are about to see. I wrote this first thing last… you’ll have to read to the end to find out what it means!!!

As promised, here we are, driving to Carrie and Stuart’s . . . 

almost there…

It was Insta-bond, they did it last time we met too… map-men! “Tell me again where am I?”

This front door just LOOKS like Carrie! When we met them last time, Carrie (American) and Stuart (English) were living in Oxford where he is the most AMAZING tour guide in case you ever get to Oxford (contact Stuart Holloway at stuart@oxfordwalkingtours.com ~ he was born there and knows all there is to know about it), and she was running a small bed and breakfast. They’d bought a get-away house in Wales. But they sold their place in Oxford, and moved to the Cotswolds. Of COURSE we wanted to see their new cottage … 

We’ve always stayed in touch with emails, at Christmas, on Twitter . . . I was dying to see her new kitchen because I have to say, she does Kitchen so GOOD!

Am I right or am I right?

Their tiny place in the Cotswolds, perfect distance for Stuart to commute to Oxford, and great for walks for Jack and Buddy. Note the door to the garden that goes through her sun porch …

Love the bunting!

Note how window opens into sun porch ~ British Country Living should look at what Carrie does with houses!

Because they are adorable! This was her kitchen in Oxford!

And this her Wales kitchen! (I know you would want to see!)

This is her house in Wales too … don’t you just love it? Such a sparky eye she has! I hope she opens an antique store someday … I would love to shop there!

So out we went, off to the pub, we stopped for a moment at the river across the street so Stu could throw the ball for Buddy!

He’s pure entertainment! (Stu is too, but I was talking about Buddy!)

Happy Dog …

Walking to the pub, this art gallery is dressed for the Queen, just like the rest of the country!

had to stop at the village grocery … 

Bought this one … seems so appropriate!

Our guys ordering lunch! Carrie and Stuart are so lucky… they have this wonderful pub within walking distance of the house … a real butcher shop, the village store, and this! Not to mention walks in all directions!

Carrie and I met at the first picnic we had at Stourhead in 2016.

There they are, very picnic-cute.

We bonded over their shoes ~ I had to tell them how cute they were!

Our time together was too short … but I can say that no matter where I’ve gone or what I’ve done over here! We walked home from the pub through the little village, amid the cow parsley … which is everywhere. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Home, saying goodbye, but Buddy was ready to play ~ me too, doing a redux of our goodbye curtsy at Stourhead … only with pants, not such a good look …

Better with dresses. . . What a wonderful time we had!

The rain had started, and off we went, hill and dale, to our new rental house in a place called Harleston in Suffolk, East Anglia …

It’s that bump on the right side where the D in England ends…  Our first time in this area of the country.

This was our first view of our new village just driving in. Isn’t it festive? The wind was blowing and the bunting was flapping making it all so alive … we liked it immediately. And now, to keep promise number two in my last post . . . to show you why I called our rental here “the Cottage that wants to be a Castle.”

I didn’t really think it when I first saw it … it was a corner flat in an old brick house  … I think my first hint was the high ceilings … and then I started looking more closely …

At the old wooden floor, the dip in the stair leading to the kitchen, the tile . . .

The kitchen was wonderful, old yet modern in a strange way, since very little in it was actually modern.. .

The kitchen counter was aluminum bent into a counter shape! I liked it. I’ve never seen that before, but it seemed practical. You couldn’t hurt it and it would last forever!

Not exactly Carrie’s kitchen, but still pretty good!

These tiles, the ones lying flat, struck me as castle-like … and the rounded brick between the leaded windows… ask me who put the flowers there . . . yup. twas me!

All the windows had the rounded brick . . .

The hanging kitchen lamp seemed rather royal also!

Beautiful gas stove, all built into tile . . . I was beginning to think whoever modernized this really . . .

. . . held onto the past . . .

We thought the kitchen cupboards were put there, maybe in the 1930s. They looked handmade, but the details were timeless . . . which made me curious about the rest of the house . . .

It was a long way to the only bathroom which was upstairs . . . but the tile was wonderful in there too. . .

Details . . . the base of the toilet! Fancy! So queen-like! The sink was set into a dark antique wood table …

The bathroom was big, with high ceilings, a tub, and a standing shower too . . . rather regal, don’t you think?

The hallway for the bathroom, and the two bedrooms was very long . . . with pretty trim …

. . . the arched doors and wood floor were perfect and fit right in . . .

We stopped calling the bathroom, “the bathroom” and started calling it “Tipperary.” “Off to Tipperary” we’d say … and start singing . . .

Back to the living room, where for the first time I noticed the dark green, gold, and purple decor … royal colors! A green velvet sofa, the other love seat is dark green with tiny stars all over it! That needlepoint pillow over there on the sofa I got in an antique store, it’s going home with me!

We settled in and began doing what we love the most, going on long walks in the countryside . . . I am never not amazed . . . it’s all so beautiful. This is one place you don’t have to make your own magic, it’s all here waiting for you.

Going into the ancient churches we find on our walks … saying another goodbye to my beloveds . . . we were in time for evensong, all ages singing like angels filling the high ceilings with song.

Eating chunky chips and English peas, enjoying “pie of the day” in Pubby Wubbies . . .

Visiting WWII museums which are everywhere in this part of the country, full of detailed history . . . You meet the nicest people there, all of them as touched by what was done by the greatest generation as we are. The history of British and Americans during the war too… all of it. So connected.

Of course we were watching all the build up for the Queens Jubilee, 70 years on the throne! All of England is in love with dogs. Sometimes I think we’re the only ones here without a dog!!! 

And taking note of the window decor everywhere we went! This is someone’s house … looks like it’s made from cardboard boxes!

This one was painted in a store window…

Another window of someone’s house. The bunting and decorations were everywhere, it was a huge celebration, the Queen had granted a four day holiday, and the entire country had plans.

Her life story filled the newspapers. It’s been so much fun to be here for this celebration!

But THIS was what Joe and I were waiting for … it was our plan! Ray and Paul and Elsie came to stay for 5 glorious days. Rachel had planned it all, and had many lovely surprises waiting for us!

We had a sunny little terrace outside the kitchen door where we could hang clothes on the line and have breakfast at a small table.

Darling girl!

So this was where we went on the Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s 70th year on the throne!

To the beach! Where the boardwalk was lined in these colorful little beach “houses.”

I’ve seen paintings with these little English “bathing huts” of all colors, but never in person, and certainly not in action!

But we could see inside of them, SO CUTE, with little kitchens and sofa beds… people own them but you can rent them out too . . .

This one is Drama Queen! Because it says so!

Lots of them had handpainted signs on them.

This one was all decorated for the Jublee, people put their chairs out on the boardwalk to sit in the sun. I would think SUN would be operative word here, I don’t think these charming huts would look as wonderful on a cold rainy day!

Here they are from the back as we were walking back to the parking lot.

But back to us . . .

Just a gorgeous breezy day for a walk at the beach. How people put their bare skin in that north sea water is beyond me! But this was maybe the very first really wonderful spring day this year and everyone was out to enjoy it!

They brought their books, had tea, and read in the sunshine . . .

It was so festive, flags flew . . .

Bunting snapped in the wind . . .

In the little village where we went for lunch, there were lots of people with the same idea! But Ray had booked us a table so it was easy and delicious!

My toe hurts bet-tee sang out from the roof-tops . . .

We wandered through town, went up to the church,

We went shopping. . .

And took pictures of each other taking pictures of each other! It was a perfect day that ended in a pub as all perfect days in England should do!

But Listen, I hate to tell you this, especially while looking at this adorable pink pub decked out in bunting… but I have to GO.

I mean, REALLY go! This is our last day here, I just didn’t want to leave without telling you, waving goodbye, and giving you an update! But it’s almost 3 pm, we leave here to drive to the ship at 6 tomorrow morning, and I haven’t packed the 2000 suitcases we brought along with us ~ Yikes!  

So I obviously am leaving some things unsaid!!! Like how Rachel got into that window! I mean we had some serious serendipity take place on this trip that I haven’t even told you about. Bookstore serendipity and Castle serendipity. But I promise, I will!

You know, I shall return! This blog is a home away from home! but still home!

Suffice it to say, it’s been every dream come true and more. We love it here. We love home too, so we are always in trouble, quandary wise.

Ray and Paul are coming to Southampton to see us off . . . and they’ll be coming to visit us soon on the island! And . . . should this day ever come, 

Oh, and a quick PS, I’ve had several people write and tell me I should write a book about the English Countryside . . . So I thought I might mention that I have!!! A Fine Romance comes …

Complete with pictures and watercolors and maps . . .

All handwritten, of our first real trip through the English Countryside and it looks like THIS!

ALSO, guess what? The trucks are picking up our new books at the printer TOMORROW … they are done! It’s really happening! We have a holiday in the middle, but they will be on their way to you very soon! And see this above? In honor of Distilled Genius, I’ve been invited to have my art on the cover of  the catalogs that go out to Independent Bookstores!!! Such an honor, I’m thrilled, as I’m sure you can guess! So many nice things already happening with this book! And guess what else? Joe and I are leaving to go out and sign books on August 4th, driving to California, and stopping along the way to see you … I will give you dates and times next time we meet … but so far we’ll be at Titcombs in Sandwich on Cape Cod, at Unlikely Story in MA, at Learned Owl in Hudson Ohio, and the Pairie Path in Wheaton ILL. We are waiting to hear and hope we can go to Rainy Day in Kansas City, to the Tattered Cover in CO, to Kings English in Utah, to Rakestraw Books and Vromans in CA. And in Nov, we’ll be at RJ Julia in CT. I’ll be more specific when I get time. I know this doesn’t half cover the country, but I’m hoping you can meet me halfway! I’d love to see you all . . .

Oh yes we can! So much more to tell you, I hate having to go . . . but I’ll be on the island in a week! It will feel like no time at all … but we are so happy to be ship ahoy tomorrow, coming into NY Harbor past the statue of liberty soon with miles of memories!

This post is done to here. If I have time, I will go back and add some MUSICA and more art, but first! I have to pack!!! Joe is looking at me!! If you leave a comment and it doesn’t go through, it’s because I’m on a boat, and probably don’t have Internet. Don’t give up on me!💖

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PICNIC THAT WASN’T, BUT WAS 💖

Intriguing, don’t you think? The Picnic that Wasn’t, but Was? Another post that requires a cup of tea, or maybe it’s iced tea where you are (do you KNOW they do NOT have iced tea on any menu in the land of tea?🇬🇧). They don’t! So we drink pink grapefruit squash mixed with ice water instead! Life is good! MUSICA.

Dark dark dark . . . As it drew nearer to Picnic Time, we were watching the weather and it wasn’t looking good. Everyone’s phone said something different weatherwise . . . but mostly, it didn’t look good. Carrie said she was bringing lots of waterproof tablecloths … Joe and I found a Home store and bought huge canvas dropcloths with plastic on the bottom, waterproof, just in case it poured in the morning, and then the sun came out. We could put our pretty table cloths and blankets on top of them. Was the hope.🙏

This would actually be our third picnic here . . . the first one was with Rachel in 2004 … We were staying at Stourhead, and noticed people having luv-lee little picnics all over the lawns, under the old trees, next to massive blooming rhododendrons, with birds singing . .. we wanted to do that!!! So we did, we made every little picnic treat as you can read above, and had our “best day ever” in the magical garden at Stourhead. This picnic was the inspiration for our Girlfriends Picnics ever since. It was just too good not to share!

The ducks and geese brought their babies over for bites of biscuits. That’s how good it was.💖

This gorgeous lawn was our actual picnic destination, and despite forecast, it was a little hard to give up! But what if? We needed Plan B.

I was busy fretting when Joe noticed a sign in the courtyard near the parking for Stourhead . . . right across from us. There he is, taking a photo of it.

A traveling chef! How interesting . . . so he went to introduce ourselves, talk to them, and see what they might be doing after Breakfast on Sunday! A very long shot, they were supposed to lock up and go home around 10:30 am, but it was our only hope!

We walked inside, what a beautiful room, perfect for us! (Is a picnic really a picnic without grass? I’d say yes if that grass is WET.)

Meet Laura, Izzy, & Jo! They’re English girls of course, and traveling chefs! They were at Stourhead to serve the triathlon which ended after breakfast on Sunday.  So we asked if they’d be interested in doing a POP-UP PICNIC after breakfast! They agreed to stay on to give us an indoors for our rainy day picnic, thereby saving the day! They’d have hot coffee and tea and soft drinks and they’d be,“making more bakes” for us!!! Serendipity! In case you live in England and need a pop-up food event, definitely contact irresistible.dezzerts@gmail.com. They were wonderful to us … pretty much guardian angels, and everything they made was delicious!🇬🇧💞

I couldn’t believe we were going to have this beautiful room for a last minute saving grace! It couldn’t have been more perfect . . . Another miracle!💝

Siobhan and Rachel showed up early to help … everything was a GO . . .We were ready, but in our minds, we were still holding out for a surprise in the weather . . .☀️

Love them SOOOO much, these two English girls … 🌷🌷🌷

Anyway, it wasn’t to be . . . we woke up to this ⛈, and made the executive decision, no, no wet grass for us . . . we will choose the chairs in the cozy room where there is tea!

And the clock struck noon . . . a year in the planning, a year of anticipation, and the moment had come …I almost don’t like things to actually come anymore. I’ve fallen in love with anticipation and I don’t want it to be over!

But everyone was coming, and coming from everywhere, and it was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be…. We walked out front to start steering everyone to the warm room . . . Here we have Carrie’s husband Stuart, their dog Buddy, Christie, April, Nellie (April’s mom), Jack, who belongs to Carrie, Dianne, and Siobhan … old car, old house, lovely photo op. Hugs hugs and more hugs.💞

Janice from Northern California brought the bunting and everyone started decorating . . .🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧What to tie it to? Where there’s a will, there’s a way . . .So festive, more girlfriends arriving … some separated on their tours, meeting again with their ship girlfriends … this is Kathleen and Sharon, and that’s Belinda hugging Rachel …

More decorating . . .

In the last post, I showed you the lovely lamb bunting made from our name tags by Sharon to celebrate our girlfriends on Twitter  . . . Sharon brought it to our talk on the ship.👏

She made it in honor of Barbara Urbank, a wonderful woman we knew on Twitter and quite recently lost. She is still in our hearts . . . and it felt good to have her along with us.💖

It looked perfect with Jan’s Jubilee bunting!

SO fun to see Carrie and Jack again!

Everyone! Christie, Sharon, and Nellie!

Tour buses picked up many of our girlfriends at the ship and for the last 8 days they had been falling in Love with the English Countryside like everyone does the moment they lay eyes on it … now the buses had brought them back for our picnic … and had stopped to pick up bagged lunches for the picnic. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Mary’s darling hat!

I went table to table with my camera, wanting to catch these smiles from Monica, Chris, and Tom.

This is Victoria reminding us of a photo taken in Beatrix Potter’s Garden ….our last picnic, in 2016 … this is that photo:

She was saying let’s do it again! The only photo I have of the four of us in Beatrix Potter’s Garden, poor Stuart’s head got chopped off!, Jack too . . . So Henry the VIIIth of the photographer!

Did better this time … with the new inclusion of Buddy. They took pictures of us . . .


And we took pictures of them! That’s Belinda, Jane, Victoria, Nicoline, Diane, and Nancy . . .

Darling Nellie and her daughter April who came over to pick up her mom in London so they could wander together!

These girls (and Jerry) were still feeling the glow of the Cotswolds where they’d been touring for the last week!

Luci ~ in her bling hat ~ wish you could see how it sparkled … she had so many compliments on that hat she said she needed to open a concession!🇺🇸

Nicoline, Patty, Belinda, me, and I think that’s Anne? Creative Nicoline made gorgeous travel diaries, and we’re all looking at them!

Gabri and Nicoline from Holland, talking with Siobhan ~ they met at our first Stourhead picnic, and then in Beatrix Potter’s Garden, and now again, here they are!💞

Anne brought her book . . . several people brought books … they ended getting lots of signatures besides mine . . . they became a sort of year book!

We were all writing in them!✍️

There was time to get into some really delightful conversations . . .This is Ellen, she is a flight attendant from Texas. She wasn’t on the ship, she had a layover in London, hoped on a train and got over here in time to join us! 💓

Here are Rachel and sweet Heather . . .💟

As she does, Rachel brought her famous BROWNIES for EVERYONE … here’s she’s handing out to-go bags for their trips back to London!💛

Dave, another one of the good guys, and Nancy …💘

So, time for class photo, Girlfriend’s Picnic, that Wasn’t, definitely but WAS, 2022 … Everyone lining up . . .

I’m still taking pictures . . . wishing I had step ladders for the faces in the back . . .where are the bleachers when you need them?

Then I get in . . . I tried to bend my knees, but I see now, it really didn’t work!!!

So I turn the camera back on our luv-lee paparazzi!📸

Nancy, Siobhan, and Dianne ~ It didn’t rain! It spit a bit, but even so, I don’t think anyone missed the grass! 👏

Cutie Pies . . . Mary and Victoria 💝

This little thing from Victoria is coming home with me!♥️

Me, Victoria, Melissa, and Patty. Kindred spirits.💞

Melissa brought me her FOSB club card from 1992! Was so fun to see it again! Kellee used to put one into every order back then, maybe I should see if she would do that again! I have to turn it upside down so you can see the “very valuable” part …💖

Luv-lee Jan ♥️

Patty and Diane💞

And so it was, the clock had ticked the hour, the church bells rang, the bus drivers lined up, and off they want, brownie baggies in hand, to London and their next adventures. Hugs goodbye, till we meet again, and we walked back to our cottage . . . 

to take the last pictures commemorating this amazing day… 

Carrie! Get in here!
We look like we all just jumped off the roof like the girls in Practical Magic. A little curtsying and inside we went . . . to drink tea and hash it all over ~ and now, two weeks later and I’m still feeling the glow! Thank you all… I know I saw some of you stow-aways flitting through the trees . . .

Ever since then, we’ve been doing what we love to do, exploring this green and pleasant land, stopping in antique stores, eating in pubs, wandering through history . . .

Taking the back roads through the hedgerows, loving the fields of wildflowers … 🥀

the constantly changing skies . . . sometimes, the sky is so big, you can seriously see the curvature of the earth. Probably not, Joe says, but I think, okay, but probably SO!

Of course the darling villages festooned with bunting to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee which will be going on here in England for the next week … She has given the whole country a four day weekend and the preparations are UNBELIEVABLE!!! Cutest country EVER.🇬🇧💞

Houses right on the street, you can picture it filled with horses and wagons… what a treat to see this, and it’s real, Walt Disney didn’t do it!

I squealed as we drove into the town where we’d be staying next . . . here in East Anglia, a place we’ve never been … perfect for exploring and discovering and learning ~ even discovering, once again, how MUCH there IS to learn!!! You forget when you sit waiting for a dread disease to disappear week after week, year after year, don’t you? Travel, getting out of our boxes in even the tiniest way, huge help to overcoming the “I’m so sick of this” blues!💖

I have to give you this one taste of serendipity before I go! Three days ago, we spent the day wandering around a WWII Airfield Museum for the American 95th Bomb Group at Horham. 8,000 American soldiers descended on this tiny village (350,000 came here during the war where we worked together with the Brits to kick some butt for Democracy) ~ it was so touching and the perfect place to celebrate Memorial Day and remember.🇺🇸🇬🇧 There are airfields all over this part of the country and so many memorials. History is very much alive here. Of course you talk to everyone you meet … This interesting English man (above) was there following his passions ~ as it turns out, he’s a historian. He said there was a book I must look for … written by an American soldier who, while stationed in England during the war, rode his bike everywhere, and fell in love with the English Countryside … 💞

I wrote it down of course. . . the next morning, I was tweeting with Trudy Lindsay (a friend I met at Beatrix Potter’s cottage) ~ out of the blue, she wrote, “Since you’re staying in the area, you must look for a book by John Appleby called Suffolk Summer.” Well, that sealed the deal, I needed to go on a book hunt. Not ten minutes later, Rachel texted me this photo to say this book was in her pile to bring to us when they arrive (today actually!). Wasn’t that enough off-the-wall impossible serendipity? Apparently not…

Later that VERY same day Joe and I drove to Bury St. Edmunds, a town we picked off a map, to see what we could see. We wandered through this HUGE ruined abbey, built around 1000 A.D., torn down during the reclamation … it must have been like a small city, it went on forever! I read Pillars of the Earth, so I think I have SOME vague idea of what went on there … 

We got closer and closer to the Cathedral, following little paths, up crunchy stone stairs ~ And then, on a wall … was THIS!!! We had no idea it would be here … we knew Martha’s Vineyard was named for the 2-year-old little daughter of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold who discovered the island … but had no idea of the connection to Bury St. Edmunds. Martha is buried here in the churchyard. What are the chances?

 But, still more around the next corner. Here, you can discover it, the same way I did:

IMG_0333  ⬅️ Just Click Here! It might take a little time to load, but it’s worth it! Turn up volume for actual demonstration of squealing . . .💞

So beautiful . . . imagine this rose garden when that lavender blooms!!!

But we’re not done yet . . . Connections never stop coming …

Up the path I went, turned to the right to go around that hedge into the Cathedral where we could hear singing . . .but just as I turned the corner . . . THIS …

IMG_0349 . . .

Yes. John Appleby AGAIN, following us through the English Countryside! Isn’t that wonderful??? I can’t WAIT to read his book!!! John Appleby, whatever else he was, which I’m going to find out, is proof positive that, what is true for him, is true for all of us . . .

So around the side of the Cathedral we walked, to go inside, to listen to the choir sing Evensong (which was beautiful by the way, angel voices soaring to the rafters) … I looked back to see this . . .

And noticed . . . how wonderful! Look close, this house was built right INTO the old Abbey wall, into the ruin ~ You saw it in that first video ~ I noticed it from the back while in the rose garden … now look at the ruins above the house in this photo, and the wall going to the ground on both sides … HOW DO THEY DO THIS?? Don’t tell me, I know it’s magic.

It was a whole row of cottages… built into the ruins … ruins on the front, and “new” house on the back…

Then we went to a restaurant for lunch, and this was on the wall! But of course, we already knew that!! And today Ray and Paul come to stay with us for a few days to show us how English people celebrate a “JUBBLY” . . . 

Still getting to know our newest little cottage. We call the bathroom “Tipperary,” because it’s so far away, a long, long way, to be exact . . . but it’s cute and we love it.  It’s a cottage that wants to be a castle and I’ll tell you about it in the next post. As a bonus, we stopped by to see Carrie and Stuart at their home in the Cotswolds, and she’s just given me permission to show ADORABLE photos! Something to look forward to! Sometimes there are no words, and sometime there are a WHOLE BUNCH OF WORDS! Hope you are enjoying your armchair trip through the English Countryside! Bye for now dear ones. Be good to yourselves!

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