MINI WILLARD/ ZOOM is COMING!

Good Morning from Stormy Martha’s Vineyard! Welcome to my Mini Willard . . . a little catch-up and our Zoom Party sign-up … but always always, it’s better with MUSICA! Doing our very best to feed ourselves from the very, very, deep well of sweetness… 💖 It’s not that hard, so much of it around!

Our kitchen window has been better than a fish tank these freezing days . . . cardinals, mourning doves, chickadees flying in, fat squirrels hanging off the feeders . . . and us, warm and cozy, on the other side.

We left some lights up  . . . thinking the world needs as much light as possible these days. I’ve been busy, but it’s sort of groundhog day-ish here … I’m up early, wrapping myself in a shawl, turning up the furnace, feeding Jack, making tea, starting laundry, heading for my studio where I am working on my most wonderful book. And there I stay, wrapped in it, deep in thought with “What would they like to see” running through my head. And repeat it all tomorrow! Yup, Groundhog Day: “They say we’re young and we don’t know . . . “🎶 Not EXACTLY the same everyday . . . We’ve lost electricity sometimes . . . that adds some spice!

 Because it’s January and it’s what happens… but it’s not all bad, and it doesn’t last. We’re in the middle of a wind and rain storm right now . . . it’s still dark out, but I can hear it blowing . . . I HOPE the electricity doesn’t go out while I’m writing this, but I’m ready. I write three words and hit save; put in a picture, hit save… Candle and matches are right here next to me!

And we have this! No matter what happens . . .

This is is our kitchen window . . . see how it is? Like a fish tank only with birds! We stand there together, me Joe and Jack, drinking tea and watching . . .

We’ve been cooking because that’s what winter is for! This is what Joe came up with for breakfast the other day. He is such a good cook! He made the batter of eggs, cheese, and cream . . . topped it with two MORE eggs and bacon . . .😲 definitely MAN food! Had it with homemade sourdough bread that our neighbor Martha brought us! No, I did not eat it! Last winter I gained SO MUCH WEIGHT, I am trying not to do that to myself this winter. Yes, the pandemic (may I say it?) sucks⚡️, but I am not going to let it kill me… if I can help it.

So I had my oatmeal, apples, blueberries, cinnamon, and almond milk and loved every moment of it!It’s keeping me from drying up!🤣 

I’m writing my book, stretching out on the dining room floor, walking when we can, taking naps (cuts the chaos in half!), meditating, and for dinner . . . three cozy scrambled eggs . . . with only one yolk . . .

With different vegetables to make it interesting . . . as healthy as can be! Winter will NOT last forever! So they say! And I have places to go and people to see! Our total reward is coming, so much to look forward to… I hope you have good things on your calendar! It helps! ♥️

 

Here’s Jack again, still loving his new rug! I guess he KNOWS that there’s a tuxedo kitty on this rug, but it still surprises me that he goes there specifically to loll around or give himself a bath.

And here’s Ripper . . . his first experience with snow . . . isn’t he picturesque in his little red coat? Elaine said he was a little bit wary, being a California dog, but as long as squirrels are out there, he’s still interested!

So are you ready for a ZOOM? It is going to happen day after tomorrow, on Wednesday, January 19, at 7pm EST … go HERE to sign up . . . the lovely Cary Library in Lexington MA will send you an email with a link so you can join. . . THIS is my big excitement! Can’t wait to see you all. 

I’ll have my winter cup o’tea and light a fire so we can be cozy! Look at the bottom of this Willard . . . I’m putting a comment list from another Zoom talk, maybe you’ll find yourself there . . so many names I recognize after all these years of Girlfriend-hood! Zooms are amazing, that we can be warm and toasty at home, yet all together! Can’t wait! Until then, I hope you are all being good to yourselves. Modern times are coming as a bit of a shock . . . Deep breath . . . 

You’ll have to enlarge these ⬇ to read them! But you’ll get the idea! Love you! ❌⭕️❌⭕️

 

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2022

Oh my! 2022 Happened! This is going to take some getting-used-to! Fingers crossed, prayers made, kisses for luck, wishes on candle, black-eyed peas eaten, even threw salt over my shoulder just in cases . . . we’ve covered our bases to make sure this year is better than last! Let’s see what we get! Definitely things to look forward to! At least we’re together, so that’s one good thing. Here’s to a year filled with good things! MUSICA!

And, would it be too much to ask if we can please start Christmas over? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a Christmas Covid story. Ours was a dilly ~ don’t worry, it has a happy ending. ish.For us, it was all about Christmas dinner ~ which we were going to have with SIXTEEN very close friends, despite everything, a true celebration because we couldn’t do it last year, and earlier-on we THOUGHT we could do it this year, so everyone planned hard for it starting way back in the summer ~ we even had 3 of our beloveds came over from England! It was going to be the high-point of our Christmas. Being together again! We were loath to give it up despite the bad Covid news … we were all very very aware of what was going on, so we decided that in order to come together everyone had to be extra careful on the days leading up, and feel GREAT with out a touch of sniffle or body ache, and we each promised to take a covid test just before we left home.

All dressed and ready to go, our coats were on, food, drink, Christmas crackers and confetti poppers, light-bulb necklaces, and gifts were in 3 big shopping bags on the kitchen table, so excited as we waited for the results of our tests which we knew would be negative.

And just as expected, first Elaine and then me, were negative. And then it was Joe’s turn… Joe, Father Christmas, most careful Covid guy, cleanest hands, most often seen in a mask, fully vaccinated and boosted, of course . . .

. . . tested positive.😳 That pink line? That’s a big no-no. We just stood there and stared. Took a moment to realize what it all meant. Whaaaaat? Joe, poor baby, put on a mask.😷

Despite zero symptoms for any of us, we could do nothing but cancel. Call Bob and Peggy’s enchanted house under the stars, and tell them we couldn’t come to Christmas dinner. And, because they had been around us recently, they felt they had to cancel the entire party just in cases. At that moment, their cozy house was warm and smelled like heaven ~ the turkey was done, cooked perfectly, the baby onions bathed in cream, Bob’s gravy flavored to a T, the candles were lit, the table sparkled, the roses were in their vases, the wine chilled, the tree gleamed, the fire crackled, everything was ready … but too bad, it all had to be put away ~ and on December 25, 16 people went and got in their jammies and checked to see what they had in the fridge. Joe was totally verklempt, and so were we all. The most anti-climatic thing we could imagine! Wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t set our hearts on it!! Best laid plans . . . struggled to act like grownups and not throw ourselves on the floor and have a fit.

Siobhan (Shi-von, remember?) was here from England, staying at the little house with our friends Bob and Peggy. She was supposed to move in with us the day after Christmas and stay for the rest of her visit. For crying out loud. 😩 Literally. All on hold.

Nothing left to do but go take pictures in front of the tree. Elaine and I told Joe he could take his mask off because whatever he had we had ~ and we might as well enjoy what was left of this abbreviated mini-half-life. But you see in the photo, he didn’t want to breathe on me, and that was the best smile he could muster.  And then it was over. Elaine went home to her dog Ripper. We stared at the fire and drank a glass of egg nog, I sang Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is . . .” Pitiful. Wracking my brain doing the Pollyanna thing, trying to find the good in this. Of course, it’s always there. Nobody would be sick.

But to make a long story short and cheer you guys up ~ it had a happy, if long, ending! We were the lucky ones. No one went to the emergency room. Joe tested again that night, and he was negative. He tested two more times at home during the next couple of days, and both times he was negative. And then he had a test at the hospital, and once again, yay team, he was negative. Maybe the whole thing was God’s way of saying, “No, people, I don’t think so.” But anyway, three days late, and with the all-clear sounded, everything got better when Siobhan moved in.

We wasted no time doing what we love best . . .

Walks to the sea . . .

Happy picture-taking for the memories . . .

Through the woods . . .

and then, another day, with Peggy and Elaine . . . and Ripper too . . . on Peggy’s walk which is so much like our walks in England, past little farms and across wooden bridges over ponds . . .

. . . lined with winterberry. Hill and dale in the fresh air. 

We walked past this wonderful old barn . . .

. . . I had to take pictures of this crunchy old beauty . . .

Abandoned but still welcoming . . . Must be a story to tell in those jagged shingles at the top . . . the handmade walls with little rocks tucked among the big ones . . .

Back home, Jack was our plaything . . .

Siobhan was crazy about him, although you can tell by his expression, he was blaming me for allowing this…. not too many people besides me actually pick him up. Look at those eyes!

Every night before bed I do what Jack has trained me to do, and shoot rubber bands down the stairs to his waiting delight. Why? We don’t know. It’s a Jack thing. Mine is not to wonder why. And I never get to take videos to show you because it requires two hands to shoot rubber bands ~ so Siobhan took the video!

XOXO

If you’ve been getting Willards long enough you remember how Jack got his start. This is him as a kitten. He taught me to throw balls, and he brought them back. Then he graduated to love for ponytail bands. Soon enough he quit bringing those back to me, only rarely if he thinks I might leave the room! I’m just supposed to SHOOT the bands! MAS MUSICA!

Wishing you all a crazy cat in your life . . . 🥰

By the time Siobhan left, Jack was jumping up and rubbing on her…

We shopped, cooked, ate, walked, visited, drank tea, gave each other tips for mental health, and caught up with our lives …

It was all about spending time together . . .

Despite the emergency interrupt, we had a wonderful time!

I cried when I first saw her ~ it felt like it had been forever, this old covid has kept so many of us apart ~ and I cried when she went away. So complicated to travel these days, we were just grateful she came!

All too soon, she was gone. She tested negative in Boston, spent New Year’s Eve flying over the pond, and tested negative again in London. We stood and watched the boat disappear with that bright red coat waving the whole way.
Time is a great healer and by New Year’s Eve we were ready to try again … Elaine, Peggy, Bob, Lowely, John, and us, toasting Siobhan, sending her videos on What’s App, and wishing for better things for 2022 … and we were all home in bed by 9 pm!
We poured the wine into these gorgeous old shallow-bowl etched champagne glasses we found in an antique store and have been using for years because when you toast with them, they ring like bells. If they could only talk! The perfect thing for going back in time, so 1936 . . .
There was so much bad news in 2021 ~ seems that’s all we heard. After everyone left, Joe and I sat for a while in front of the fire and counted our blessings. We were reminded to be grateful for all we had, our home, our families, and friends ~ each other. We said prayers for those who couldn’t be with their loved ones, for those who have suffered losses to covid, for people whose homes had burned in that freak Colorado fire, and for those who survived tournedos and floods … but, despite this, 2021 wasn’t all bad … the human race made great progress too, the news just seems to like the bad stuff better . . . read HERE for some of the good things that happened in 2021! We took better care of bees!🐝 There was an orchid found in England they thought was extinct!😲 We fully vaccinated half the human race in only a year! Almost 5 billion vaccines given so far!👍 So much reason for hope. In Britain you can now rent chickens for a few weeks to try it out!🐓 Twin pandas took their first baby steps!🐼 They finally found the long-lost blue dress worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz! You have to look for the silver lining, but it’s there. Betty White passed away before January 17 which would have been her 100th birthday, it was very sad . . . but now, because she was such a passionate spokesperson for animals, people everywhere are donating $5 in her honor to their local animal shelter to celebrate her birthday! I marked it on my calendar! Goodness begets goodness. We are so strong. The earth tilts toward the light.💖 So much beauty.

And look, we even got snow! Goodbye 2021, hello bright New Year! 

So it’s back to normal for us . . . putting away my bird tree today . . . birds tucked into their box for when I need them again!

Jackie got a rug for Christmas from his darling friend Karen!💖 He loves it! He’s always on it! It’s a Claire Murray design. Thinking I need to embroider a mustache on that rug! (Note, ponytail band behind the door!)

We tried out the new egg maker we got from Lowely and John . . . my favorite kind of machine, with only one button.👏

Soft boiled . . .

. . . perfection!

I put all the birthdays and anniversaries, sailings and picnics onto my new Calendar and hung it up (we ran out of wall`calendars at the Studio this year! If you didn’t get one, I think they still have some on Amazon! We still have the Mini, the Blotter calendar, and the Purse calendar, fyi) . . . there’s a TRIP TO ENGLAND ON MINE …. eeek! May First will be here before we know it! So excited!

Of course we’ve been walking . . .

bundled up, on cold and foggy days …

Made much brighter because we are listening to this and feeling that we are walking in foggy London with Charles Dickens in 1843!

Books and imagination will take you everywhere!♥️

Because it really is the little things…📚

Right now we have a fire going ~ it’s 24º this morning! . . . Joe’s outside filling the bird feeders, bringing in more wood, and putting away Christmas things because we are being told to expect snow in the next couple of days! He brought the snow shovel into the house so he won’t have to dig it out from the barn during a snowstorm with his hands! Very organized!

And so we say fare thee well to another Christmas . . .⭐️

All my little things get put away. I watched my dear ex-mother-in-law cut out those paper dolls before my very eyes! She learned to do it when she was a little girl. They’ve been on all of my trees for over 40 years! I made the star and the candy cane when I was in my 20s. I was with Elaine in San Luis Obispo in 1975-ish when we each bought one of the rocking horses in a little shop on Chorro Street. Every tree is a tree of memories! 

My treasured felted-wool Jack doll took center stage on the mantle this year. I have to hide him from the real Jack or he will EAT him! He came complete with felted red ball.❤️

 When Jack was little you couldn’t separate him from this ball!

We’re leaving the trees up and lit, both inside and out, until Twelfth Night. By that time, I’m sure this one will crumble into dust! I tiptoe by it and hear the tinkling sound of falling needles! But it’s still pretty! Let the celebration continue!

Back to reality . . . Up early these freezing mornings as always, turning on the heat, taking a cup of my favorite Earl Grey tea with Lavender through the quiet house to make a dream come true ~ to work on my project, the Secrets of Life, Distilled Genuis, Quotes from the Ages. I love it ~ working on it is like going into a happy cave! Where I hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.🙉🙈🙊 It is SUCH a cheery thing during a Dam-panic that is making so many of us basically, dare I say it? Miserable? The words in these quotes are full of hope, joy, enlightenment, humor, and thousands of years of wisdom from the geniuses of the world; hope from the past bringing hope for the future. I’m praying you’re finding your own ways to see the bright side of life ~ these days are so trying, isolation, and worry for children just doesn’t seem to end. It can be exhausting. I’m with you. We’re all in it together!
Because a fresh New Year is a

 and anything is possible, especially if you know you are in charge, and can make a dream come true . . . winter is so perfect for this! 

I want this book done, off to the printer, and in your hands before we leave on the ship. That’s my plan.  TICK-TOCK!!!

Every year Kellee makes us a special Christmas Card, always so creative! On this one she added my watercolored winter hats! She’s magic … they all are. Running a business from 3,000 miles away for so many years requires a very special relationship. Loyalty, understanding, respect, compassion, and dependability is a requirement for all of us. Add these people to my long list of “Things I’m Grateful For.”💖

This is a screen shot of me and Jack taken by one of our girlfriends during the Enchanted Book Club Webinar ~ I promised I would get you a link for it in case you weren’t able to attend… HERE it is! (and yes, free!) Hope you like it!

And FYI, there is another Zoom Webinar coming to a screen near you from Cary Memorial Library in historic Lexington MA on Wednesday, January 19 at 7pm EST (4 pm in California, but I’m afraid, way too late in Europe!) Mark your calendar… Fill your teapot and join us for a cozy, January talk in front of the fire. I don’t have the link for you to sign up yet, but I’ll put it in my next post as soon as I get it!

As for our trip aboard the Queen Mary 2 in May . . . as you know, we’re still going! (Basically wild horses can’t pull us away!!! We WANT OUT 🤪 {calm down Sue. okay.}). Are you still coming? I’m sure, for a variety of reasons, some of you had to cancel … and those who did were able to get a complete refund if they canceled by December 31 … which MEANS, that perhaps the “sold-out ship” may NOT be “sold out” anymore!👏 So if you’d like to join us on this crossing, give a call to Susan Gannon at Cunard . . . she’ll let you know what’s what and when! Her number is 800-468-7752 ext 41663. Tell her you’d like to join the Susan Branch Group #TNM/USA (or if you’re from Canada, it’s TN3/Canada) ~ Voyage #M211. Be sure to ask about their plans for Covid protection and what their cancellation policy is. Remember, there are several small tours planned (designed by me with all my favorite places, call Kelsey at 866-563-7077 and let her know you’d like to join the SB tours) so you won’t necessarily have to drive when you arrive in the UK. The tours are all scheduled for 8 days, and at the end, everyone on a tour will be reunited at our picnic in Stourhead. But you DON’T have to take a tour to come to the picnic … which will be on the lawn in beautiful Stourhead on May 15 around noon, just show up and BYO picnic basket! England will be so pretty, all decked out in bunting to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee … we were there for her Diamond, and now, the biggest of them all, Platinum! PLUS, we get to have a Magner’s Pear Cider on the ship. Oh! The yearning!🤪 

Here’s a photo of our first picnic at Stourhead . . .hopefully you will get to meet some of the characters from A Fine Romance there!♥️

 

 

Well, dearest ones . . . off I go, back to book work… first I need to go throw another log on the fire and while I’m at it, shoot a couple of ponytail bands for you know who! Thanks for stopping by! Happiest New Year to everyone! ❌⭕️

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