Hi all! Off we go to Highclere, to find Downton Abbey! But first, an update on our cups . . . almost here! Sweet MUSICA for YOU!
Our cups came in from London this morning! They’re in LA! All they have to do is get through customs (they have to wait in line), and our Studio is only four hours by truck up the coast! Shouldn’t be long now!! They’re on the way!
And something else: The other day I remembered that I had designed a bluebird wrapping paper for Spoonflower. I even had a roll in my closet. Really nice thick gift wrap. Which means that the bluebird gifts I ordered for my girlfriends are going to be wrapped in bluebird paper!
Which made me leap out of my chair to go design some Santa paper!
And some leafy fall paper for the Autumn cups! Those last two designs, Santa and fall leaves, should show up on the Spoonflower website within the next two weeks. And btw, these designs are not only gift wrap, but they’re also on fabric and wallpaper too! Spoonflower is amazing! And GUESS WHAT European Girlfriends? Spoonflower is available worldwide! AND, more breaking news, last week I found a UK retailer called Nursery Thyme who will carry our mugs exclusively in her store in Devizes, Wiltshire, and on line …. you can get your cups starting this very day (it’s Carole’s first order from us, she didn’t take a whole lot of them), so if you’d like to have one, now would be a good time to do it) without paying the crazy shipping from USA. Your cups go directly from the factory in Staffordshire to her store in Wiltshire! We are the world! Which is saying something considering our cups are only sold in eight small but wonderful stores in America, one in England, and here in our online store!
So what else . . . well you know I’m writing about Downton Abbey and Highclere today, as promised, but I thought I’d show you the Easter Lily blooming in my garden in July. They’re actually a midsummer flower, forced for Easter display. It’s high summer on the Island and hot hot hot!
Even the wild turkeys need a bath . . . (other people get flittering wrens and finches around their birdbaths, and we get this) ~ we’ve actually adopted this one I think.
As my Twitter Girlfriends know, I brought some cat mint in for Jack . . . and he L O V E D it!
Soon after this glassy stare, he became comatose, curled onto my desk, and didn’t move for three hours. 😻
Hydrangea. Used to be daylilies were most visible “Island flowers” but I think now it’s hydrangea. They go so good with picket fences and black and white kitties.
I picked these wildflowers on the dirt road on our way out to the water this morning, on our walk. There are two small secrets hiding in that bouquet.
I got out my wildflower books to find the names of our found flowers … but the secrets are there on the right. Oh yes. The trees in our woods are already “reconsidering their leaves.” 🍂 And I heard cicadas singing loudly, first time this year, while hanging clothes on the line the other day . . . so time, she is passing . . .🍁
So here we go Girlfriends. Our day at Highclere Castle was better than I even imagined!
We stayed here the night before . . . and had a delicious dinner in the pub . . . before we squished our fat selves into the smallest . . .
teensiest room imaginable. I Think maybe a Model T might have lived here at one time. Or perhaps a horse. I’m taking this photo from the stall door. We were fine, and glad we only booked one night!
But of course I loved the William Morris wallpaper.
And breakfast was wonderful… I mean who could resist “Dippy Eggs and Soldiers” on the menu? I had to see what it was. I thought some sort of kid’s food. Well, there it is, “Soldiers” are strips of toast about 1/2″ wide. One more in the long line of proof-positives that the Brits are an adorable people. 🇬🇧
So, fortified with many soldiers, off we go to hunt down Highclere Castle…. Hill and dale, map man and Sat Nav guiding our way.
Round the bend we go on the wrong side of the road . . . because all the way to heaven, is heaven. 💞
Yes! Castle closed! But don’t worry! When we got our tickets, we discovered that the castle was closed ~ due to the lateness of the season ~ it was already October. I took a moment to have a melt down, but then discovered they were offering a special event to celebrate the 300th birthday of Lancelot Brown … the famous 18th century landscape architect, better known as Capablity Brown, the man who designed the gardens for Highclere (and lots of other places). We learned on the Highclere website that for a little extra money, a “limited number of guests” could have an exclusive Castle and Garden tour that included a short lecture on the life of Mr. Brown, and a welcome from the Countess of Carnarvon. So we said, of course, sign us up!
I thought you might like to see other landscapes designed by Capability Brown, this one is near our friend Siobhan’s house. He designed over 170 parks in his lifetime, surrounding the finest country houses and estates in England, and many of them still exist … He always included water, long inspiring views, trees as focal points, follies, bridges, swans and lambs.
This one is at Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill spent much of his childhood. You can go to these places and walk miles and miles through some of the prettiest countryside there is. We took pictures on that bridge.
And this one, some of you may remember, where we had our BYO Picnic Basket Party last year, near the grass bridge at Stourhead in Wiltshire. After touring lots of English gardens, you actually begin to recognize those designed by Capability Brown: the clues are water, bridge, follies, and trees . . . often viewed through tears in your eyes.
Our picnic was almost like Downty, sans servants. BUT, we win because our food was real!
I had the diary I kept on our last visit to help me tell this story, sloppily written as it is, it was a huge help in reminding me what happened! Oh Downty, how we miss thee!
So down the long long driveway we went . . . lambs on all sides of us . . .
Camera at the ready, braking for pheasants . . . we would brake for peasants too, but nary a one to be found . . .
Here’s our first glimpse! MUSICA. Rather recognizable don’t you think? I always try to imagine myself in a horse and buggy when I come up on these houses . . .
Almost there! Note size of amazing tree on right!
Oh my goodness . . . it’s deja vu all over again.
Just like on TV!
We parked . . .
I tried to take a picture with Petey ~ this was as good as it got. I was in too much of a hurry and he refused to hold still!
Joe was much more steady than me!
So yes, you just walk through the gates and up the path to the front door! Amazing, just sitting there for centuries, and now anyone can go there!
Most surreal thing in the world! Halloooo, anybody home?
We were met at the front door . . . in the entrance Hall, and taken to my very favorite room from the TV show, the dining room! We entered through that door in the back corner, but it didn’t look like this ~ the dining table wasn’t there. So I didn’t recognize it.
Here’s the layout of the downstairs . . . The dining room was filled with chairs for our group, there was a podium up front ~ I didn’t even realize I was in my favorite room! I was expecting that long dining table! The large gorgeous oil painting we saw in every show, Charles I on horseback, was behind us, I was too delirious to see it! Later on, during the tour, I asked our guide, “Where’s the dining room?” She looked at me funny and told me I’d been sitting in it for a half hour. I had to go back!
And it all came clear. Here’s a fun website that gives inside info about the filming at the dining table…
I believe this is the front hall, front door on the right, and that door in the right corner led to the dining room. They didn’t allow cameras inside, so I’m a bit mixed up … had to get these photos from Google. Remember the gallery upstairs? Scene of the crimes? Dragging of the body? Birthing of the baby? Skulking around by Thomas, rude intrusion by smug Miss Bunting? We were able to go there too, and into all the bedrooms. It was truly wonderful.
The bedrooms are all around this gallery. In some ways, considering how big it is, it’s really a very cozy house.
Another of my favorite rooms (but I think now they all are!) and even more beautiful than I expected, more gold and carved ceilings, luscious velvet and brocade-covered down cushions with petit point chairs and pillows, rich carpets and trimmed draperies, oil paintings of family in gilt frames, silk wall coverings, sparkling chandeliers and lovely marble fireplaces.
THIS is my favorite room. It’s the Morning Room, where the ladies go for their morning coffee and tea. We were able to ask lots of questions about the paintings and photos and learned so much about the colorful history and architecture of Highclere Castle and the fascinating people who lived there. The Countess spoke to us before the lecture and couldn’t have been sweeter or more normal. She would probably make a very good Girlfriend! Tea at her house would be fun, and I have no doubt it would morph into Twine!
So off we go ~ after a seeing the house, we enjoyed a grand tour of the grounds around the house.
See the little white dots? They’re lambs of course! The long view, very Capability Brown!
One of the Highclere follies, and little pet gravestones leaning …
Our tour guide was telling me that all this brown weedy stuff around us was wildflowers … late in the season, and no longer in bloom.
I can only imagine what this must look like in the spring when it’s all in bloom!
One video is worth a hundred photos.
This way, my sweet!
Again, late fall is not prime garden time, but I loved the paths and the big balls of mistletoe in the far trees.
You always want to follow the curved path and see where it goes.
Very old, formal garden ~ that path in the way back leads back to the Castle.
Lots of pink roses between the hedges.
The last of the season … and undulating lawn . . .
Of course, every self-respecting Castle must have a greenhouse!
Quiet now, all put to bed for winter.
On our way back to the Castle, this bust of Capability Brown, surveying his creation, amongst the birds and falling leaves.
And back to the castle . . . (It’s like there’s a movie star standing just behind my shoulder and I’m pretending not to notice!)
I was right where Robert walked with darling dog, Isis. I loved this opening, the music, and that big sweet lab. Go HERE to see how the Downton characters do with American accents ~ too funny! But now, finally! It’s time for the real reason we came! Gift Shop! Tea!
So ’round to the back of the building we went . . . see Downton peeping over the top?
Here we are at the courtyard. Isn’t it pretty, this brick building? I would be perfectly happy to live here!
I don’t know what was in this building, but I loved it that when they built these places there was no building department telling them OH no, you can’t do it like this! See what we would miss?
So off to the tea room we went!
All organized for us . . .
The tearoom’s painted-brick walls were covered with scenes from Downton Abbey.
Lots of cute things in the gift shop, everything from Highclere Stationery and key chains, to Downton Abbey feather boas and tea things, but these hats were my favorites!!!
Then back outside for more pictures. They let us stay on our own for as long as we wanted. It was delightful.
We have this Castle photographed backwards and forwards.
And here we are . . . saying goodbye . . .
Just as pretty leaving as it was coming in …. they send you out a different way. Look at that tree straight ahead …
Magic!So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! What else? I’ve been painting like crazy and loving it! Painting because I want to, not because I have to! Here’s a little preview for my Girlfriends. . . Believe it or not, this is for the 2019 calendar! Taking my own sweet time, and painting new things . . . pretty heaven around here.
While I was rifling through my diaries today, this piece of paper came flittering out. I had it all figured out in 2010! I do like God to be happy with me!
Thought I would leave you with roses! Though I forget the name of this one right now …
This is Just Joey! Smells wonderful! It’s that time of year!
Bye All! Until we meet again . . . Blessings! ❌⭕️