Beautiful cool morning here, quiet, foghorn and boat whistle . . . I’m in my studio, listening to the birds drinking my first cup of tea … How are you? I’ve been missing you! This post is a book, prepare yourself, go get tea and get comfy, while I rev up the MUSICA ….
Joe and I left home for our cross-country book tour on April 30, and last Sunday, we drove off the boat and made our way through the familiar streets of home, and finally, into our own driveway, with 9,800 brand new miles on the Fine Romance Van ~ and wonderful memories of an amazing trip we will never forget.
First thing we did was hang our 4th of July flag, and ever since then we’ve been unpacking, stepping over piles of stuff (and THIS ⬇️ was just the beginning!),
Taking naps💤, walking the dirt road through the woods to the sea, shaking road noise out of our heads (it’s like the rocking you can still feel after getting off a boat), collapsing boxes, rearranging, cleaning, making lists, filling the fridge with deliciousness🍒🍊🍓🍉, and putting our house back together.
We couldn’t wait to get into the garden, trimming back dead things and filling in the dark spots with blue and orange flowers and peach Brandy roses,
Because, after all, first thing’s first. Ahhh dirt. How I love thee. Pure road-noise expunger.
And tomatoes and marigolds and roses and lots of other things . . . it’s July, the Island is in bloom, green and lush . . . and we can’t let this season escape us!
I put out my favorite garden decor . . . I even had him at Holly Oak . . . he seems to feel a lot like I do about life.💞
Flowers accidentally broken off during planting . . .
Come inside for the little vases . . .
This is what I call bang for the buck, takes less than a minute to pop a flower in there, easy to change, and looks just wonderful ~ perks up everything! Even the Queen is enjoying it!
But mostly, it’s undivided attention for you know who! We unload the car and Jack makes himself King of the Mountain. Who? he asks looking at me with wide-eyed innocence, What did you say your name is? He might not recognize me, but I’m sure he recognizes the camera.
The children. Don’t they look happy? LOL. I look in vain for a change of expression. But no. It’s just me. I’m the only one doing the happy dance. They keep their feelings buried deep inside. But I know they’re there.
Jack was on the ironing board in front of the kitchen screen door, watching the world go by when I came in. I walked up very slowly and reached out, he sniffed my hand, then furrowed his forehead with quizzical eyes and sniffed me again, what could this be? With each sniff, he seemed slightly more interested ~ that’s the best I seem to get from this puff ball that I adore from the tips of my toes to the ends of my hair! But for me? No problem. I touch foreheads with him, I circle him in my arms and whisper sweet nothings in his ear.
I pick her up and cradle her in my arms like a baby and walk around the house rocking her and cooing to her . . . She’s 15 years old now . . . I always worry about her when I leave the house. She never likes it when I’m away. And shows it by not eating. Very scary. Do I go or do I stay. But ever since I walked through the door she has been STUFFING herself, 2 or 3 cans a day! Plus taste treats.
And here was my first view of the house from the car window as we were turning to back the van into the driveway. The excitement was tangible. Opening the car door, putting foot on terra firma, getting out of the car, was surreal. It all smelled exactly the same. Mixture of boxwood, linden trees, and ocean air. The house has been here since 1849. Nothing about it had changed. My house since 1989. 😘
But before I go on with the future, and all the news I’d love to share, and will, when I can, I need to celebrate a little more of the recent past . . . this book tour to celebrate the completion of this … my memoir trilogy of books. Four years of concentration (or something like that) to write the story of my first little house on the Island where I tried so hard to figure out who I was and how to make my dreams come true, and when the writing and watercolors were all done . . . for better or for worse . . . there was a reward:
R O A D T R I P !
I chronicled about half of it in the last post, so we’ll start here, with sweet kitty “Sasha” on top of some of the art binders on a shelf above Kellee’s desk at my Studio in California. It was good to be at our other-coast “home” and reconnect with our faraway friends and family, and meet our wonderful west coast Girlfriends.
And see my garden out there . . . and just settle in for a week after a month of serious country-crossing to get here . . . Seeing this photo makes me think of changing my Vineyard garden from blue and orange back to lavender and pink next year . . .
Loved meeting my good friends for lunch, darling Elizabeth on the left, her sweet aunt Marion and dearest Diana (Elizabeth’s cousin, and daughter of Marion), in Danville California, perfectly apropos because almost every bit of this book tour has been a family affair 👩❤️👩 . . . sometimes mine but for sure, everyone else’s! Moms and daughters, grandma’s and granddaughters, husbands and wives, sisters and best friends, aunts and nieces have all come to the book signings together . . . and I have to say, it was a total Love Fest! Right? I saw lots of YOU there, was it NOT a Love Fest??? Oh it was!
Speaking of which, for starters, here’s Aunt Susan with her two beautiful nieces, Karis and Trisha, in Morro Bay, California. Love fest.
Karis was there with her husband Henry, and this little doll, the newest addition to our family, Xavier ~ I’m his great aunt, and he is even cuter in person, if you can imagine that! He’s the joy of so many people’s lives!
And there’s Kellee and Sheri from the Studio on either side of me, plus, my best friend Diana (if you’ve read my last three books you know all about Diana💞), and Bonnie who also works at the Studio during moments of supreme emergency (like when books come in and we need strong hands and good hearts to help out 📚). They were my perfect welcoming committee for this event, which was also a benefit for the San Luis Obispo Women’s Shelter (thanks to the great energy of Joanne and Linna at Coalesce Bookstore). 👏
This was on the wall where I gave the talk and did the signing . . .THINK! Is it kind? Good advice, don’t you think?
I have to mention, I could not have done any of this without my beloved intrepid pathfinder, guardian angel extraordinaire who is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind 💖.
One by one, I got to meet and shake hands with all our Girlfriends who came to Rakestraw Books in Danville, CA … And this, as you see it here, was how it was everywhere we went. Roomfuls of happy, interesting, funny, friendly, kind, people, moms, sisters, best friends ~ if they came as a stranger, they went away as a friend.
Mom and daughters and the Fine Romance Van featured as photo bomber!
The line kept going, we took tons of photos, signed lots of books, and…
By the time we finished, it was dark outside!
Our girlfriends are so cute!
The smiles never ended . . .
I think you can see why we were honored to be there . . .
Mostly Joe took the pictures, but every so often the tables were turned. He loved meeting everyone as much as I did . . . he was always roving around the line where there was always a buzz of talk and laughter I could hear from my seat at the table.
But then, once more, it was time to move on, and look, the California fog is rolling in . . . all those old volcanos are peeking through . . .
It was a constant change of scenery as we traveled from place to place across our beautiful wonderful country full of good and kind faces . . .
See what I mean . . . this is Pasadena, at the wonderful Vroman’s Bookstore where my grandma used to shop! If you ever need a suggestion for a wonderful new book to read, your Independent Bookstore will send you in the right direction! That’s what they do. The caring human touch. Always a good thing.
It would take several blog posts to show you how much fun this was. See the girl in blue standing up in the back, almost in the middle? That’s Kris, I went to high school with her! See what I mean? And I got to meet everyone here!
Mom’s and daughters . . .
And whole families!!!
And husbands and wives.
The guys, I have to say, were a blast! Funny! One thanked me for being his wife’s therapist! He thought the price of the books was a deal! LOL!
I could see “guardian angel” in their eyes.
While waiting, these two made posits to commemorate the end of the long line, and those posits are now in my diary. Kind of what Joe and I are saying to each other now! “We did it!”
We hated to leave the ocean-views, brunch-with-wine, and joie de vivre mentality of Southern California . . .
But onward and upward . . . we were people on a mission. I thought you might like to see how we packed. There is method to this madness, never fear. Two ice chests in the Fine Romance Van, one on the floor between our seats where I could access it anytime, and another one in the way-back for staples and an extra bag of ice . . . plus, we had my favorite earl grey and lavender tea, the tea kettle, cups, spray starch, laundry soap, a zillion quarters for the machines. No stone unturned, we had it all!
Hither and yon we go. At this point heading through Arizona, and for the following month we never saw the underside of 90 degrees again! One time, in Texas, we got in the car in the morning and the car thermometer registered 132 ridiculous degrees!! You know how we (in Northeast USA) “warm up” the car in the winter? Well, out here, we’d go to the car early to turn it on to ice up the air conditioner!!! You go from freezing-cold, air-conditioned hotel room to the hideous heat, hurry to the car, and just about the time you get there, you begin to thaw out. In the nick of time, you jump in, slam the door, and ahhhh, saved by the bell.
HOT. But interestingly, the desert was “in bloom.” If that is what one wishes to call it.
But then we went to the High Desert, to Prescott, Arizona for a lovely tea party . . . here is just a tiny hint of the deliciousness that awaited us! They made them!!! And they were gorgeous!
Clotted cream and jam and homemade scones! And sandwiches too!
They set up tables on the lawn of a beautiful old house ~ it was a tea-party, fund-raiser, book-talk and signing hosted by one of our Girlfriends (up there on the porch with her husband), Mary Heiland, benefitting the local library and Hospice . . . and it was so beautifully done! Flowers and party favors on every table.
Everything was in bloom . . . still warm in the mountains but with a lovely breeze through the draped bunting (white, like on Downton Abbey) and the weeping willow that gave the house its name, Willow Tree Manor, swayed gracefully in the wind . . .
They welcomed us, and everyone, royally . . . (and gave us the sign to take home! It’s already hanging above the door in the wood room!) …
Hats! (Hi Dianne, Bev, & Merci!)
These girls knew how to celebrate . . .
Much as I loved ALL the hats, this baby-pink one had to be the winner . . . might have had something to do with that little face . . .
On each side of this group is a Mary . . . these two Mary’s are the best friends who are responsible for the gorgeousness of this party ~ and those are their beautiful daughters who’ve known each other all their lives. We met both Mary’s at the Madonna Inn in California about three years ago, where there was a drawing to see who would be our dinner partners for that evening. Mary’s name was drawn, and of course, she brought Mary! And now here we are, experiencing one of the tea parties they have each year ~ pure serendipity! I think this was their 23rd!
This is Mary Heiland’s (the Mary on the left) 97 year-old-mom, and so now you know where this family got its beauty . . .
Here’s the winner . . . both for the auctioned-off quilt that made $600 for Hospice (whoever bid on it, gave it to her, I told you, the most wonderful people were there) AND the hat ~ I think she was having a red letter day!
And to complete my red letter day, I received this!
To put in my keepsake box along with this . . .
Joe has gotten so GOOD at taking pictures of the things he knows I’ll want to see when we get back to the hotel and I get my hands on the camera again! I get to see everything I missed!
And then, down through southern Arizona, near the Mexican border and miles and miles and miles of beautiful Texas . . . wildflowers and desert and hottest heat in the world . . . Too hot to stop and shop in Fredericksburg … so now we have to go back! Need to shop at Magnolia Pearl! Too cute to miss.
A little intimidating to make this left turn, but we survived . . . (yikes!).
We loved every mile of it . . . (look at the little orange sign on the left)
And we knew we’d entered the weird world (their words not mine)) of Austin when the first thing we saw was this. It is a bar that moves as the customers PEDAL , it has no engine . . . it drove across the road while we were sitting at the light ~ and I scrambled for the camera! We don’t have one of these on the Island.
We went to dinner at the historical Driskill Hotel and sat directly across from that romantic little table on the left (pushed together for a larger group) where President Lyndon Johnson proposed to Claudia Taylor, better known as Lady Bird, on their first date!
She made hime wait a full six weeks before she accepted! Ahhhh, young love. 💘 Later the people for whom that long table was reserved arrived . . . a woman sat in Lady Bird’s seat (as I imagine it would have been) with her back to the wall, her partner was across from her in the chair and it was ALL I could do not to rush over there and tell them DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE SITTING? Joe was a little embarrassed when I asked the waiter to tell them. I couldn’t help it. They had to know. I would want to know, wouldn’t you???
And now, here we are at BookPeople in Austin, with my Twitter Girlfriends! Wonderful to finally put the real people with the names!
And dearest Texas Girlfriend from many years ago, whose name I just love to say in my fake Texas accent, Mary Alice Yelverton (try it in your fake Texas accent and you’ll see what I mean, even better if the accent isn’t fake!), 97-years-young and still writing her column for the Boerne Star Newspaper, which is how we met, when she called to interview me for her paper because she liked my cookbook Heart of the Home! We go way back! I was so touched that she came.
And another warm welcome from a room full of kindred spirits! I have never felt so loved. You girls, you should know, it was heaven for me.
One of our long time Girlfriends, very creative Rachel, made packages of cookies for everyone at the Austin Book People signing from my recipes . . . that’s Annie Hall’s Butter Cookie made into Texas cutouts, and my mom’s Potato Chip Cookies were there too, which is also one of my favorites! It’s on page 209 of The Fairy Tale Girl, but in case you don’t have it yet . . . here you go!
That’s our cutely dressed Girlfriend Kat on the left, and there’s Rachel with a to-go box of cookies on the right… xoxoDifferent kinds of cookies, but still very sweet: mom’s and daughters,
Fairy Tale Dudes and their Fairy Tale Girls . . .
It was a long trip, but look at these smiles, how could I not love it? My feet were about 3 inches off the ground the entire time!
We had a surprise, unscheduled, “pop-up” book signing at The British Emporium in Grapevine Texas ~ mainly so I could shop there! I’d heard about this wonderful store for years, and there we were, so close, how could we not stop! So we called them and told them we were coming, and they invited a few of their customers for an impromptu signing. Also I wanted to THANK them for selling so many copies of A Fine Romance. I did a whole lot of Christmas shopping there 🇬🇧😃 and signed a bunch of books to leave behind! And then, it was time for . . .
Tennessee! Off to Memphis and the Booksellers at Laurelwood.
And don’t think that we didn’t keep ourselves correctly hydrated throughout our trip!! That’s not Coke, it’s just ice, into which I poured fresh cold water from our cooler, with just a splash of lemonade to keep it interesting.
And the food was really good everywhere we went, look at this crisp, icy, crunchy iceberg wedge with all the trimmings. Just delicious. We also discovered that Wendy’s makes a perfectly wonderful fresh salad with not a limp bone in its body. We became road food aficionados!
In Memphis we had breakfast at this famous (it’s been in lots of movies) old Arcade Restaurant . . . (that’s not our suitcase back there, we kept ours in the van!).
… Where nothing’s changed since the 1950s.
And where, for the first time, I was able to sit with the new book and look through every page. Of course, there’s Joe with the camera.
So I showed him some new pages. I really love this book. It was fun to do it, like remembering all the years it took me to get the nerve to write it in the first place . . . and giving it a brand new outfit with new pages and perky new art.
Are you sick of this yet? I hope not, but if so, stop now and save some for later! So, anyway, Here I am at Channel 3 in Memphis getting ready to go on TV. Don’t I look relaxed? Well, I’m not. In case you missed it, here it is.
And later that night, here I am with such hardworking girls, Nicole and Macon, (who treated every one of their customers like they were the most important person in the world) at The Booksellers at Laurelwood. I felt so proud to be at all of these independent bookstores, proud of how hard they’ve worked to keep afloat in these changing times, and proud of everyone who supports them.
Were you there? Can you see yourself . . . ? Wasn’t it fun?
Here’s another angle . . . See the dark-haired lady way back sitting next to the woman in the black top? See her necklace . . . I told her it was cute . . . scroll back up and you’ll see that she GAVE it to me!!! And she did it through the bookstore owner so I couldn’t even say no! She was already gone! So I had no choice! And of course, I love it!
More wonderful Girlfriends . . . I would speak for a while, then I’d take questions and that was my favorite part because my Girlfriends ask the best questions!
Smiles I loved meeting . . .
It was a pure treat and the pleasure was all mine!
Then through the cornfields . . . to Woodstock, Georgia ~ close to Atlanta, to an event put on by FoxTale Book Shoppe. Talk about Southern Hospitality!
You guys tried to make me cry by giving me a standing ovation!!!! I’m sorry, but this was verklempt-ville for me😂.
Cutest things, and a black beret in honor of Joe!
Joe took perfect pictures of these three . . . adorable . . .
Baby sister is feisty!
But big sister wins for most adorable shoes and socks!
Bambi’s enthusiasm could seriously move the world! And the world could definitely use some moving! Believing there is hope for the world (as Gladys Taber said) is a way to move toward it. Believe and Vote.
Everyone . . .
Was just adorable. And I . . . was just lucky.
And in Woodstock we went to Starbucks to get the Sunday New York Times because that’s what we always do on Sundays on the road, and saw this for the first time . . .
In print! In the New York Times Book Review for the first time in my life. (See? Number 3 under Travel! That’s us Girlfriends. Because it’s your wonderful word-of-mouth and your kind comments on GoodReads and Amazon and to each other that made this happen! You have rocked my world! I’m eternally grateful.💕)
Those customers at Starbucks were just LUCKY I didn’t run to every table screaming because I definitely wanted to. I know I did leave the ground for a few seconds. Then Joe and I high-fived and stood around glowing (hearts leaping) wondering when someone would come up and ask us why we looked so happy while we waited for our iced mochas! This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day . . . and I have to say, our whole trip was like that, just amazing, profound in its own way, lengthwise, and spirit wise, not to mention event-wise and beauty-wise.
At Malaprops they did some sort of magic, and moved all the books and displays to the side to fit all the Girlfriends in. Their shelves must be on wheels, because when we left, this room looked NOTHING like this! Every chair was folded up and gone, and the space was filled with rows of bookshelves!
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 👏
Hello everyone! 💏
As usual, lots of fun in the line!
The woman on my right is a star of my Twitter world, @NellieBragg, with her husband and their daughter . . . They brought us a quart of fresh picked blueberries from their garden ~ the best we ever tasted and provided us with a healthy breakfast for the rest of the way home!♥
Here’s the funny Fairy Tale Boy who thought I was a good therapist! And his darling wife Becky who made us a teacake and embroidered this precious thing . . .
which is now hanging in our guest bathroom! (Teacake is LONG gone, YUM! 😎)
Thou shalt not covet. I tried to remember that when looking at that HAT with the little pink flowers. Covet-Ville USA. And more Fairy Tale Girls and Boys!
Daughters and Moms, I felt so honored!
And now hill and dale, from North Carolina to New Jersey . . .
Past fields of wildflowers . . .
Little churches . . . houses and barns . . .
with country roads we’re just dying to go explore . . .
We got off the main roads as much as we possibly could . . . no traffic, could hear birds, see people, very gentle way to go . . .
It took a little more time, but it was so worth it . . .
Here’s a little bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway . . . 400 miles of this beautiful country.
With views to everywhere . . .
We’d leave early mornings for the long drives . . .
And were rewarded with amazing sunrises . . .
And lovely roadside views, truck free . . .
To famous Bookends Bookstore in Ridgewood, New Jersey with store owners Pat and Walter Boyer who were SO MUCH FUN!
where I got to meet another lovely crowd of Girlfriends . . .
and Boyfriends with good attitudes . . .
And now it was starting to get a little bitter sweet . . .
Because we were getting so close to home, and this had been so fun, yet we were getting close to HOME, and I really needed to be home . . . with only one more stop to go!
A welcome home party at wonderful Titcombs Bookshop on Old Cape Cod. It was 4th of July weekend. You have to drive over a bridge to get to Cape Cod and of course traffic was backed up, because that’s the gateway to the Islands, Provincetown, and Hyannis and all the lovely old towns on the Cape . . . I didn’t mind a BIT, it was the best traffic jam, I enjoyed every moment of inching toward home!
My camera tried to break right about here (like saying my hand fell off! Still dealing with it!) . . . But it was a gorgeous afternoon, and look, there’s Elizabeth . . . she, and everyone who works at Titcombs, was wearing a beret on this way too hot day, just because they are darling. I left one and a half billion signed books here . . . in case you are looking for Christmas Presents or any other thing!
And now, the end of this manifesto, and the beginning of the next phase of life, which is obviously going to be just as crazy as the last phase, as I will tell you all about when next we meet. Joe and I are taking the train to Durango, Colorado on Tuesday, for a family reunion. We’ll be staying in a wood cabin in the high mountains, under the trees next to a lake around a campfire and under the stars. Sounds like a prayer and for my family, it will be. 🌲 My brother will be singing “I’m so Lonesome in my Saddle Since My Horse Died” ~ we will all sing along and tell family stories and I wouldn’t miss it. With all the beautiful things that happened on this trip, there were other things I wasn’t able to talk about (even though I was sometimes asked by audiences, I had to lie, I’m sorry, it was too fresh and I would have dissolved), and I still have trouble, and will always have trouble, but we lost our dearest darling daddy in May. Blog Daddy to so many of you. Dad to his eight children. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to upset you, but I knew I had to tell you, he was your friend too. I will save a eulogy for maybe next Father’s Day when I hope it’ll be easier. Impossible this year. Life goes on. I’ve been so spoiled to have had him, wide awake and smart as a whip, for as long as I did. I do most everything I do, most probably for my dad, and I know that will never end. So my family is getting together for a group hug.💔 And some singing. And Joe and I are packing . . .
Me and my dad watching my brother sing in Durango a few years ago.XOXOXOXOXO
LOVE YOU GIRLFRIENDS, thank you for everything! ❤️ Hug your loved ones tight. If the TV news is too hurtful, turn it off, and right after you call your congress person and demand they do something about gun violence 🌎 (because we are the world and what we do does matter), settle into your favorite chair with your kitty or dog, and watch a wonderful old movie. Make my mom’s Potato Chip Cookies and take half to a friend. Put a flower in a tiny vase on your kitchen sink.💐
Little things, old movies, baking smells, petty pets and girl talk, I promise, will restore your hopeful heart. 💖 Blessings to you and yours from us and ours.Later . . . P.S. I’ve just finished reading somewhere around 400 comments on this post . . . and wanted to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. My dad loved reading your comments too, he would talk about them with me on the phone as he was slowly getting to know you. My prayer is that he’s reading them right now, he would be honored! Your words are so comforting, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your stories and really, your hearts. Our Girlfriend Mary S. left a quote I love . . . “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” I know this is true. Because yes, Gabi, my dad did raise me to be a trooper, just like he was.
“I love you too, Sue. I love everything about you.” 💞 Dad, just 2 days before he was gone.
Those words were all I ever wanted, and all I’ll ever need. How can I mourn when I had such love. I’ll celebrate his life every day of mine. As for Joe, while he drove, I cried, and there was my guardian angel, reaching across the ice chest with his comforting hand to hold mine. I smiled through the book signings and wondered if anyone could tell. I knew what my dad wanted me to do and I did my best to do my best. Looking forward to the laughter and the music I’m about to share with my family! I know it will be a celebration we will always remember. Thank you so much everyone. And yes, off we’ll go to England and Scotland in September! And we will have so much fun! So get ready. I’ll be sending out a brand new Willard filled with new news and gifts and fun things next month! Life is for the living. My dad’s greatest gift was his love of life. He revelled in it. I want to be just like him when I grow up. XOXO