WE DID IT! The luv-lee days of 2018 have come and gone, and we survived! And now? Now, MUSICA! Off to 1928, Together! And I promised you a Christmas in this old house of creativity! So here we go!
It was Christmas number 168 for this old house. You can hear the echoes of Christmas past ~ time for us to add another layer. Blessed to be
And then, for frosting on the Happy Cake, we had a house full of darling English People! Saying things like clingfilm, vile, hang-on-there, jolly, and ghastly, with their cute little English accents. All my favorite words! That’s my darling friend Rachel (in the middle), her mum, Diana, and her husband Paul … they came over the sea to help us celebrate.
Here we are, on Christmas morning, opening our presents in front of the fire . . . books, shortbread in red English-phone-booth tin, scarves, and socks! ‘Twas Merry Merry! We crossed hands and snapped our tiny snappers! See them, Joe’s got one, everyone has one.
A happy mess when it was over!!! Cups overflowing!
Jack watched over it all! The adult in the room!
We’d been looking forward to having them with us since we said “so-long” to them in England last June . . . We knew we didn’t have to say good bye, because they’d be coming for Christmas . . . that made leaving England so much easier! Which it never really is!
So, I wanted to have everything ready when they got here so all we had to do was cook, eat and play! Adoring being home for Christmas. Nesting like crazy.
Made my grandma’s frosted Molassas Cookies, the cookies she boxed up and sent to us every year. And since the kitchen table was covered in wrapping paper, I discovered that an ironing board is not just for drying bread (for Thanksgiving turkey dressing), or even ironing! It can be like a moveable counter ~ so lightweight, and perfect for cookie-cooling duty! Made croutons and spiced Pecans and apple crisp, and bread pudding too, which we fried in butter for breakfast.
I also printed out a few memories of my long sweet friendship with Rachel and her darling family ~ to put on the fridge, like a little open photo album. Reminding us . . .
And Joe was busy too, making luv-lee wreaths and garlands with spicy pine, holly, and boxwood from our garden.
🎶Wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re gonna go through it together . . . 🎵
A man and his barn . . .
A woman and her cups. I got the dishes washed . . . we were having sixteen for Christmas dinner, so I prepared accordingly, sorted napkins, washed glasses,polished silverware.
. . . Wrapped presents . . .
And hung stockings by chimney with care . . .
Washed the candles sticks and gave them new candles . . .
And finally, all the way from England, after a one-night glitch where a storm prevented them from getting over on the ferry, they arrived! I put Ray and Paul, in the front bedroom, and Ray’s mom, Diana had the Peter Rabbit Room. And basically, in a nutshell, we poured the wine and began to eat!
And to make up for it, we walked out to the pond . . .
then went to lunch in Oak Bluffs. Very balanced. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see Ray again. I’m going to tell the whole impossible story about how we became friends in my new book, in Enchanted!
We all climbed into the Fine Romance van and went on an Island tour, up to Menemsha (the little fishing village you saw in Jaws), where we stopped at a food truck to pick up little paper bags of hot French fries . . .
. . . then to Alley’s General Store for Coffee, then to the Red Barn Art Gallery for culture. There was also Christmas shopping in Edgartown, and two Christmas parties, down the street to Lowely’s one night, then over the lawn to Martha’s the next.
Walking out back to Martha’s under the full moon. Looked like this . . .
Felt like this.
We also managed to squeeze in a couple of old movies . . . after dinner one night we rushed to our chairs for a wonderful evening of Love Actually.
So much fun! 🎉
Before they came, Joe made a new leaf for the table so we could fit all our Christmas dinner guests at one table. But when he put it in, the table was so long, it sagged in the middle. So the two “engineers” as they called themselves, spent Christmas Eve in table fortification . . . you can see them in process here. It was just the beginning. They glued all the wobbly chairs too! Mas MUSICA?
While they did that, we watched The Bishop’s Wife. There we were, minding our own business, mooshed into the sofa, quiet, teary-eyed, watching lovely old black-and -white movie, with Cary Grant, the ice-skating angel, about Christmas and miracles. Joe and Paul were going in and out to the barn for tools and other manly pursuits, we ignored them, made silent eye-roll-girl-nod at the Empire State Building they were constructing under the dining table. Then Paul walks into our teary silence, and says, “Look at you, nest of . . . ” he’s thinking what to call us, I’m thinking, “bluebirds?” then he finishes, “vipers.” Ha! Vipers? And this photo above was our reaction, us being vipers! Speaking for the least viper-like group of people I know! So funny. Only Paul. This is one of the many things I love about English people, command of language. 🇬🇧
Then Paul, expert ironer, ironed the tablecloth . . . it had a very thick piece of flannel under it, so what better place to iron than on the table!
This is Paul, the last time he was here, doing his ironing in the pantry!
Paul set the table . . . while Joe put the roast in the oven . . . Our two guys love Christmas as much as we do!
Ray and I feel SO LUCKY that our guys liked each other so much! Makes for very nice hanging-out! 💞
I did the centerpiece, then Paul took over!
We set up a side table for the food (and lookout post for Jack) . . . Rachel brought presents for EVERYONE at the table! Over the years our friends have gotten to know them . . .
Ray put a gift on every chair! So thoughtful. She wrapped sixteen gifts! It was such a fun way to begin the dinner!
W h a t e v e r , said Jack. Only interesting thing about gifts, as far as he’s concerned, is the ribbon. He’d rather eat flowers. Not allowed either. 💞
Years back, one of our girlfriends made me the MOST charming set of place cards as a gift. They escaped their original box, so I don’t remember who sent them to me, but this was the year I pulled them out. So adorable, all different, handmade, glittered and painted, and there were exactly sixteen! (Hope whoever made them is seeing them ~ I loved them so much!)
Joe made pink and juicy roast beef with delicious gravy and horseradish sauce and salmon too. I made cream-cheese mashed-potatoes and a Pumpkin Cheesecake. Ray made roasted root vegetables and cauliflower in cheese sauce (asking for recipe, so good, will share!). Paul cut little crosses in the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts, steamed and served drizzled with balsamic syrup. Lowely brought a beautiful spinach salad scattered with pomegranate seeds, another friend brought creamed onions . . . Ray also made her famous Brownies. A Christmas feast!
And here we go! Anna and Peggy went first!
It was Diana’s first trip to the Island. Isn’t she cute? Everyone loved her! Joe put light-necklaces on the chairs . . . I said, “Good Job, Joe!”💞
Paul lit a fire, and manned the bar, poured the wine, Joe opened oysters . . .
And when everything was ready and the candles were lit, off went the lights . . .
We put my camera on a tripod to take our official Christmas photo. Beloved faces, names of friends you’ve heard me mention, Martha and Gerry, the Schwiers, Lowely and John, their children, nieces, and brothers, our luv-lee English People, and at the far end, me and Joe …
Feeling grateful that somehow out of this entire world, we had found each other. We’d all come a long way to do it!
I had to detach myself for a moment, pull back as interested bystander, to see the flickering candles, the trees and twinkling lights, the smiles, how pretty it was, the sounds of laugher, of cutlery on china, to realize once again, how lucky we are, and how fleeting the moments. Another Christmas. Maybe our best ever. After dinner Martha played the ukulele and we all sang Christmas carols in only tree and fire-light.
Something I’ve heard from many, it was our best ever! And then, it was time for goodbye. 😩 I moped around for days. Took naps. Did laundry.
Got out my calendar and moved Birthdays and Anniversaries from 2018 to 2019.
Washed the tablecloth and Christmas linens and dried them outside. Deep sighs of missing our friends. No one calling me a viper. No one asking for clingfilm. 😪
Walking made it better . . .
So I decided to visit iPhoto and remind myself about 2018. The only time I’ve ever gone to a book signing by ship! Here we are docked right downtown Charleston, South Carolina . . . walking back to ship after saying hello to Girlfriends . . . just before Anchors Aweigh!
I was reminded about dreams come true, how we re-visited Hill Top, the precious cottage Beatrix Potter left for the world to enjoy.
We got to walk and walk and walk through the beautiful English Countryside. And the Wales Countryside, and the Irish Countryside. Heavenly.
Was this only last May?
The morning I was the only one up walking through a perfect English Village ~ Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds, where a river runs through it.
And then home again . . . the moon followed us all the way across the sea.
Our ship sneaking into town on little cat feet . . . writing in my diary that London was 1,500 years old when New York was founded.
Heart swelling with pride . . . curious as if I’d never seen it before. What a gift!
Home, to delight in the familiar.
Decorations away, table back to normal size. Lights off the house, ornaments wrapped and back to the attic.
Making seedy toast, because I like crunch. I bought all different seeds in small amounts in the bulk section of our market . . . and mixed them together in a jar . . . I chose seeds from THIS LIST … read about their health benefits!
I sprinkle them on my buttered toast for extra vitamins and crunch! They’re good on anything, on fish, casseroles, rice, roasted veggies.
Standing at the kitchen sink, eating my toast, watching the woodpeckers at the feeders. Wondering where the snow is!
We’ve seen none of this yet, we miss it! This is New England and snow is a requirement! (Knock on wood, be careful what you wish for!)
Beginning again. It’s 2019. Stuff to do!!! I have a book to write! I get to spend the winter dipping my brush into watercolors, painting borders and lambs, scratching my pen across paper, and choosing the best photos to tell my story. New Calendars for 2020 are due soon. I’m laying the first one out on the back of my sofa (above) . . . January, February, March . . .
I’m designing a photo wall-calendar for 2020 … in addition to my normal painted wall calendar. It’s called A Year in the English Countryside. Choosing the photos has been so much fun ~ I’ve never done a photo calendar before! Very exciting.
HAPPY NEW YEAR dear ones . . . and, “Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so.” 💞 Belva Davis
And last of all . . . Our New Year’s Eve … we walked over to Lowely’s house and spent it with a small group of our oldest and dearest. Lowely made a delicious dinner, I made an angel food cake, we played Pictionary (hideous game, I chose “Bambi” … no one understood my drawing of a fawn. Next year I make the categories!) So before you watch this video, turn down the sound, save your ears . . . we sing! 😘 Note rings around candles, so everyone’s New Year wishes come true.
There’s no place like home… 💞 P.S. I’m going to design us a new cup. What should be on it??? xoxoxo