Hello all, Welcome! I hope you all got your WILLARD (if you didn’t, don’t worry, you will, it’s going out today but it takes three days for them all to go). I wanted to have everything ready for you when you got here, so yes, in the vernacular of the day, I’ve been “tidying up!” I have lots to show you, but let’s start with the little things that make life sweet with background MUSICA perfect to energize us for the job ahead . . . I love this time of year! Time has slowed down, a lovely long January is gone . . . our Island outside my window is cold blue sky, leafless trees, old houses, quiet and colorless (except for the cardinals, our flying Valentines), and in complete healing-mode from the Summer onslaught. No cars going by, no one on our walk in the morning but us. 😁
If you read my last post, you’ll see my sideboard looks very different than it did over Christmas! I’ve been putting my house back together. It was fun decorating with all the holiday stuff 🎄, I was a little sad to see it go, but then felt huge relief to have it all gone! It’s usually around the 5th of January, when suddenly all the sparkly, pine-needly things I LOVED in December, begin to drive me crazy. The wreaths on the kitchen doors block the light and drop needles every time we go in or out, then leave a Hansel and Gretel pine-needle trail from the kitchen to the studio. Time to say goodbye to the old year, and hello to the new. The tree came down (we don’t drag it through the house because then vacuuming takes forever ~ Joe takes the branches off to keep the mess confined, and tosses everything out the window!), ornaments were boxed up, bows and ribbons are back in the attic, dusty mistletoe is gone from the doorways, my house is peaceful and quiet with only the sound of wood falling to ash in the fireplace, joy is sparked to the nth degree! So, in case you can’t tell, we’ve been watching Tidying Up with Marie Condo. Have you seen it? It’s about a woman who loves to organize, she wrote a book about it, I think more than one, and now has a show on Netflix where she comes to people’s homes and teaches them how to de-clutter their things. Watching someone else clean is inspiring ~ and it’s catching! It makes you want to jump up and get organized ! My eyes suddenly see the chaos around us. How can we live this way!!! If you need help getting going I highly recommend it. Even Joe’s gotten into it and that’s saying something!She has all sorts of tips ~ she teaches people how to fold things into tiny packages (something I will never do because I choose speed over neatness), and file them on their sides in boxes in drawers to make them more visible. Which was thrilling to see, because it meant I was doing something right!! I’ve always done Joe’s shirts that way (except for the tiny-package folding!) . . .
. . . filed them in a row so he can see the logos and know what he’s getting into without unfolding. It’s not perfect or tiny, but Joe loves it!I don’t know if it was Marie, or if it was because it was January, but as I was cleaning up the Christmas things, suddenly I couldn’t stand to see boxes or bags parked conveniently next to a wall, did not care for piles of books anywhere but in the bookcases, didn’t want to see folded market bags piled on my little red kitchen chair, or any little bits and pieces dropped here and there that added up to clutter. 🚫 I needed clean walls I could walk up to like a starving man needs a ham sandwich. I couldn’t even work until I got this house under control! I did it! Everything’s in its place (well, not everything!) with sunshiny face . . . now it’s February (rabbit-rabbit💛) and I’m back to work! Of course, now my studio is a complete mess because as you know creating is not neat, but the rest of the house is heaven. All my best intentions fulfilled, lightheartedness returned!
Most of my table tops have barely anything on them! It won’t last long, but right now I see this and go “Ommmmmm.”
Candlesticks & votives, glass, wood and brass, are sorted and put away, Christmas books are back in the hutch, tablecloth and napkins are starched and ironed, on hangers, in the front closet, floors are swept and vacuumed, we’re dusted and ready for the next event. I think of my house sort of like a movie set . . . once Christmas is put away, everything is organized, I leave it smooth and plainly cozy until the next season or event, then I change the throw pillows, add flowers, bunnies, bunting, garden books, and voila! It’s spring!
There’s a big difference between clutter, and decorated. I do not see these shelves as cluttered! I think it’s because everything up there gets used on a fairly regular basis. I could never be a minimalist and hide everything away. Serious minimalism looks heartless to me. Life is too short not to set out my Beatrix Potter figurines, hang my teacups on hooks, fold cute dishtowels over the handles of my stove, or put a paper calendar on the wall in my kitchen. Real life is not going to allow me to hide away our family photos, or baskets of rosy apples, or old quilts just for some crazy fashion that will change in an hour anyway!
I wrote about it in my Girlfriends Book. How when I was 11 or 12 I would try and get my girlfriends to play, “Let’s go home and decorate our bedrooms.” A game I mostly ended up playing all by myself! I still redecorate the way I wrote about here . . . and put back one “joy bringer” at a time.
Marie suggested that as we sort, we shouldn’t be looking for things we want to throw out, instead we should look for things we want to keep! It does make it easier! Gather everything into a pile, keep just the things you love and get rid of the rest! She sees organizing as a spiritual endeavor … believing there’s a divine spirit in everything. It feels like that to me. A sort of gratitude for all we’ve been given. It reminds me of a quote I put in my Autumn book by Joe Friday (respected elder of the Alaskan Yup’ik Eskimos) . . . who’s gone now but should should be remembered for this lovely thing:
So glad to the wood. Everything is related. Touch one thing, you touch it all. I say thank you as I oil my wooden cutting board, imagining the people who made it, remembering all that chopping for all those dinner parties, as I oil the wooden handles on my old pots and pans,
and my wooden cooking spoons (my dad made the one with my name on it 💞 ). I want them to last forever. I starch and iron my curtains, shine my windows, make my stove sparkle with plain hot water, refold my old quilts, and dust my bookcases. Because things we use every day have character. Makes me happy.These things aren’t just merchandise, part of a throw-away world. They’re gifts. When my Grandma died, the only thing I asked for, since I had always gotten her very best when she was alive, was the old wooden spoon she used to scramble her eggs and mix her cookie dough. Because that spoon had her in it. That spoon and my grandma had cross-pollinated their DNA, while alone in the kitchen, beating brown sugar, butter, and walnuts, a long time ago.
It’s why I love old things and that includes this old house of creativity filled with kindly ghosts of the past. As I was tidying up, it was easy to know which of our things “sparked joy” as Marie says, and which ones made me sing out, 🎵 Yaaaard Saaaale 🎶 as I packed up boxes to go. Our busy lives and this modern world do not naturally provide us with the peace and sustenance we need to grow, space for creating, a gentleness for our families. But we can make it for ourselves. We have all the power. As the Chinese proverb says, “Outside noisy, inside empty.”One more thing, in case you find yourself in a cleaning-emergency on a day when deep tidying and tiny folding is not going to be possible, with possibly just ten minutes to clean your house for guests, here’s what you do:
So, in-between the tidying up, what have I been doing in my studio? Lots. I guess I should say, “we.” We’ve been busy!
Here’s the other half of “we,” my partner-in-crime who plunks his righteous self down in the middle of my art table any time he wants and gives me this look. Like, “What?” Requires belly rub, many kisses. Petty pet of my dreams.
I made a soft little embroidered doll of Jack. Put his heart on the outside. Gave him a little quilt all his own. He’s only 6″ tall (extremely gentle, for children) ~ he and his quilt will come in a sewing/embroidery kit. We’ll have the kit in the web store soon, so some little child out there, maybe yours, can put Jack to bed someday. ♥️
And a quick update, for all of you who pre-ordered and are waiting patiently for your little vases, butter dishes, tea bag holders, and all the others, we are being told to expect them soon. I keep asking, when, when, when, they keep saying soon, soon, soon 😜 . . . so have faith and know the SECOND they arrive, yours will be first to go!! We won’t forget! Soothing MUSICA to make you forget. 🎵 And this:
And, despite kitty distraction in the Studio, new cups are on the way! At the end of the last post I asked everyone what cups they’d like to see and did the best I could to make you happy! So here we go: Four new cups, Fine Bone China, made in England, coming late March! This one, the large 16 oz, is “Bella Luna!” For all you moon-watchers like me! 💛
Every time you use it you can wish on a shooting star! I never painted a shooting star before!
The moon and constellations in a sea of stars . . .
And here is brand new Cup #Two, “Home Sweet Home” . . . this is for you who love the smaller, 11 oz. size, a bunting-draped celebration of . . .
Here’s the side, says it all.
Here is the other side…. a little house of my own . . .
And here is the cute handle! These are only paper mockups, I promise the real things will look much better!
And #3, You all asked, so Yes! A great big 16 oz. Birthday Cup! Because everyone has a birthday and what would be a better celebration than “Having your cake and eating it too?”
There is singing . . .
. . . balloons, a hat, and suggestions for fun!
And another perky handle! Happy Birthday Girlfriends! 🎈
And one more large, 16 oz. cup, due to popular demand, it’s the “English Corgi” cup . . .
With the perfect T.S. Eliot quote surrounded by blue forget-me-nots:An empire of imagination!
And the side . . . complete with Union Jacks, lamb and castle.
And would not be complete without an English rose on the handle.🌹
And, extra exciting news, guess what? For the first time, the actual BBC website is going to carry one of my cups, this one! For their print catalog and web store! And also my book, A Fine Romance, Falling in Love with the English Countryside! So honored! Secretly extra-thrilled as it is one step closer in my diabolical plan to get to the National Trust. Would love for them to carry my book someday. At least now we’re in the same neighborhood! 🇬🇧 👍
They’re already in production in England, and up for Pre-sale now… as you know, I try to make sure there’s enough for everyone, it helps so much when you pre-order, that way, when I give the factory final numbers, I’m fairly sure everyone who wants one will get one! I usually add on some extra for those who forget, but sooner or later they’re gone. So if you have a special birthday coming in September, be sure to think about it now!Movie News: I keep promising you an update on the “movie” ~ the project in the works to get my book Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams onto the big (or even little) screen … and every time I think I will just blab what I know, the person working to make it happen sweetly warns me not to!!! 🎬 Grrrr. So all I can say is that it’s still a possibility. Which is better than saying it isn’t! Seems so easy! Movie about starting over, woman and three cats in darling cottage in woods? What could be better? Just say Yes!Okay, back to the drawing board, 🎨 but before I go . . . I was thinking, what would be a really special giveaway for today? I thought of the perfect thing, then another idea popped up, then another, I didn’t know which to do! I finally gave up and decided to do all three! It’s almost Valentine’s Day! 💖 All you have to do to enter is leave a comment at the bottom of this post (click at the tiny word “comment”), and you’ll be automatically entered for all three gifts! In a few days, Vanna, our resident “Random Number Generator” will draw the names of three lucky winners and I’ll announce them here. So, here’s giveaway number one, very rare . . .
A brand new copy of Girlfriends Forever! When I find out the winner’s name, I’ll personalize it before I send it. They’ve been out of print for a long time, but during my “Tidying Up” phase, I found a small pile of these books in the back of a closet! Buried treasure! And timely, because what could be better for a Girlfriend’s Valentine than a book about best friends! You may have one, but perhaps a special Valentine girlfriend of yours doesn’t! So anyway, this one’s for YOU, and Sheri put the others in our web store for however long they last!
And then I was walking by my newly decorated stove shelf, and was suddenly reminded of this timeless Valentine . . . charming old words I found carved on a stone on a dovecote in England.
Here’s a closer view! Giveaway #2, Love Stays!
And, last but not least, this luv-lee 16 oz, fine bone china cup that asks, “Have I told you lately that I love you?” Is there a better Valentine Message? This one will be going out to some lucky winner in honor of our Girlfriend Dee Lamphear and her husband Brad 💞, to celebrate their forever love and happy marriage.💖
This is the back . . . it says it all, cup-wise, winter-wise and love-wise.
So don’t forget to leave a comment! Remember, you have much better chance of winning here than if you played the lottery!💖
Last but not least, here’s a delicious recipe to help keep your house warm . . . I wish I could send out smells from my computer, so when you opened my page on a freezing cold morning you’d find the cozy smell of baking biscuits. That’s how you would know it’s me. I wish someone would invent that. Unfortunately, under the circumstances, you’ll have to make them for yourself!
Make them in heart-shaped pans and they’re the perfect Valentine gift.
Cut them in half, toast them, add orange marmalade or yummy Christmas Jam and bring them to a lucky Valentine near you. For more Valentine’s ideas, plus a link to get a Valentine Bookmark, go HERE. If you haven’t signed up to receive my Blog in your mailbox, and you’d like that, or you’d like to surprise your mom, sister, grandma, or best friend, please go HERE.Winter is king of intimate delights, Enjoy the quiet, light the candles, make a fire, pull on toasty socks, feed the birds, eat hot biscuits. Life is good. Have a wonderful day Girlfriends, kindred spirits. Bake and stay warm! More surprises in the next blog!