Hello Darlings, I’m here ~ believe it or not, it’s Willard-time again! Starting first with MUSICA! And so much to tell you. I know some of you wondered where I’ve been . . . I’ve been WORKING! Making new things! I’ve missed you, but I was gone too long, I had so much to do when we got home! So here we go . . . catch-up time! But first, Happy November Dear Ones, and Happy . . .
In my last blog post, I took you cross-country 🚗 for a close-up look at our Booksigning Tour 2022. You saw the launch of my newest book, Distilled Genius, and met lots of our luv-lee girlfriends in person . . . and here I am ⬆️ at my very last event, getting ready to give a talk at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, it was a fantastic morning, and that night we boarded the train for home sweet home . . .🚂
Since then, my days have been made brighter because I’ve been receiving such nice messages about Distilled Genius, like from the wonderful Miranda Mills of Miranda’s Bookcase on youtube. She was so kind about Distilled Genius in her Big Book Gift Guide for Christmas ! (click there, it starts at about 17:12, but the whole thing is great!) She is so darling, if you don’t know her, you will love her! She lives in Yorkshire (home of my English ancestor, I always KNEW I should live there and be a sheepherder and paint lambs and “clever” bluebells), her voice is like a song, and her book reviews are brilliant. I’m also getting sweet photos from our girlfriends, like this ⬆️ one from Michelle and her adorable kitty . . .😻 I like to think, and hope, this book is a bit of an antidote to the world madness that attacks us with daily anxiety . . . and it, along with a kitty, a cup of something soothing, and perhaps a nap later on, is a huge help in ironing out stress.💖
. . . and this photo came from Mary Ann and HER kitty telling me how much they are enjoying the book… look at all of Mary Ann’s tabs!! I loved sharing all that genius ~ but didn’t come close to covering it all … I haven’t done pets, or gardens, or tea, or family, or Nature, or Christmas … there’s so much more ~ book two of my 40-year collection is already in the works!
But I have to say, about that quote up there, that love takes the “hard” out of work! Last May, after we sent Distilled Genius to the printer, we left for England for the most amazing trip, we were gone for two months, then home (and hot-off-the-press, Distilled Genius waiting on our kitchen porch!), a month later we were packed again and back on the road until September … You can’t go away that long and not expect to be punished when you get home! Everything needed us! First off I found out we’re almost out of several books! We have only a few of A Fine Romance and Fairy Tale Girl left ~ so we reordered them and the new printings will arrive around February ~ along with a new printing of Distilled Genius ~ but I hope we have enough of DG to last us through Christmas! If you’re looking for any of these books, and can’t find them in bookstores, we still have them here at our studio.👏
I prayed for a long fall . . . and we are getting it! Which means lots of red, orange and yellow leaves are still on the trees! And we still have lettuce growing in our garden! We planted it the minute we got home and harvest only a few leaves at a time for salads and sandwiches, so it should last us until the first freeze . . . when and if it ever comes. This is New England, it is November, and today it’s 70º… 🙀
. . . Even roses and a couple of small tomatoes have survived the shorter days!
And, because we love surprises, we planted a TON of bulbs this year. We were so happy to get home to our own dirt and get all this glory into the ground! It’s going to be gorgeous in the Spring. To plant a seed is a hopeful deed . . .
Just after my last post, Queen Elizabeth died and a piece of our hearts went with her.💔 How lucky we were to have celebrated her 70th year on the throne while we were in England . . . and I realized, I had never painted her. I was so sad, I did just that.
I painted her before and after she became Queen. Because she was amazing. Reticence is a rare quality in a person, she did what my mom always said (which always seems to occur to me about one second too late), “Think before you speak” . . . she could make a point without offending anyone, she cared, and over time, she did the rare thing, she changed and learned to show it more, she kept her dignity throughout her life. She epitomized qualities we admire, steadfastness, manners, love of animals, kindness, hard work, England would just be any old country without her influence on the history of the monarchy. She was only human, but she was the world’s grandmother who’d been through so much, she tried the best she knew how, and was loved for it.🇬🇧
I decided that Queen Elizabeth should be on our new larger 16 oz. cup. This is the first cup I’ve designed specifically to memorialize a person. I might have to do more! I also re-designed my Birthday/Girlfriend Cup to make it the smaller 14oz. size so many of you have requested, and yes, we’re reprinting Santa! In these pictures, the Queen and Birthday cups are paper mock-ups . . . Santa is my real cup … just FYI! They’ll look better in person! Want to see the backs?
Here they are! The backs are as cheery as the fronts, so it doesn’t matter if you are left-handed or right! A win-win! How about the handles? Like to see them?
Yup! A corgi for the Queen! Want to see the sides?
Here you go! Because these bone china cups are made in England (where else?), and because they have the same world craziness in England as we do here, they added a 12.5% surcharge to help them pay for electricity! They’re also going to take longer, we probably won’t see these cups until my bulbs start coming up in May. Yes, it’s going to take forever (anticipation, a wonderful thing in short supply in this instant gratification world!) Spring will be lovely, though, as it should be, and filled with surprises. I tried to order enough cups to last to Christmas next year. I’m not putting them up for presale now, it’s too far away ~ I will, maybe in March … so if any of these designs really matter to you, watch this space, you’ll be able to make sure we reserve one for you. 💖 If you’re not familiar with our wonderful bone china cups, you can read about them HERE.
I also concocted a new loose tea . . . “Genius Tea!” Delicious, soft-flavoured, black tea with a chuchotement (whisper) of blueberries, perfect for feeding the muse. (We have the handy little strainers too, in case you need one.)
It’s already well-known that black tea is good for your brain resulting in relaxation, better focus, and a sense of well-being, so I thought, why not combine it with a superfood like blueberries? I called my little old tea maker and asked what he could do… I loved the sample he sent and said, let’s do it! What else could we call a tea such as this but “Genius Tea?” I think you’ll love it. And don’t forget we have Cinnamon Apple Crisp Tea, too . . . AND, my favorite forever, A Fine Romance Tea (lavender, roses, and Earl Grey!) You can read more about them HERE.
With honey & cream, with sugar, or a squeeze of citrus, they’re all delicious for afternoon tea and cake . . . No cake? Do this: Thinly slice fresh white or sourdough bread, spread with good butter, sprinkle over a little sugar. Voila! Cake! (My mom used to give me this when I woke from my nap, I still love it!)
Or start your day with a little Genius-juice for breakfast and a piece of cinnamon toast . . . I love fall so much!
And one more thing, look what else came in! A new charm! In keeping with the Genius theme, I bet you know some Geniuses of your own who might like to find a Genius Charm in their Christmas stocking, or wrapped up as a celebration of accomplishment! They just arrived!👏 Yup, we’ve been busy! It’s that back-to-school feeling in the air, you just want to make things and be creative! I’ve been decorating! . . . oh yes and cooking! Corn Pudding, Cider Donuts, and Touchdown Chili …
Baking too! We still have our donut pan ~ and here’s the recipe for cider donuts! And as some of you know, this ⬆️ is THE most DELICIOUS cake, I made it for a friend’s birthday! Must celebrate!🕯It’s an easy recipe, my Cranberry Tea Cake, an upside-down cake with a crunchy cranberry topping! It’s one of the new recipes in the 30th anniversary edition of my first book Heart of the Home ~ and if you don’t have that book (which you should 🥰), here’s the recipe:
By the way, I learned a new word from my British Country Life magazine . . . it’s a word for a phobia that only Brits could come up with ~ Americans have fear of spiders or snakes . . . but the adorably quirky Brits ~ even their phobias are charming:
Say it . . . ana-tee-dafobia
My boy has been busy too . . . how I love it when he’s being handy around the house! Look at that maple tree behind him! Stunning weather, perfect for watching paint dry!🔨
We desperately needed to rip off old wallpaper in one of our upstairs rooms, paper that was there when we bought the house! Plus the ceiling was shredding and trying to fall down ~ it looked like that movie Grey Gardens in there . . . We waited too long ~ it was our nightmare room because over the years we managed to cover every square inch of it with STUFF, and it all had to come out in order to paint it. Joe crawled out the window onto the deck outside to caulk and whatever else he is doing out there 🤣, to make the windows tight for winter.
The room is looking BEAUTIFUL, so clean and bright, there is nothing like a new coat of paint! Our old friend Paolo is helping Joe . . . they finished the ceiling and walls, are working on the trim, and then they’ll paint the floor. I thought it would take FOREVER, but they’re moving right along.👏 I love this wall color! It’s the same as our living room: Colonial Williamsburg #519 Green Light, Russell House, Martin Senor. No matter what time of day, sunlit or lamplit, this color makes a room fresh and happy! MAS MUSICA? (Queen Elizabeth would have loved this!)
Here’s the Maple tree today at ground level . . . still beautiful and lighting up the garden! As I said, it’s very warm today, but that party ends tomorrow, temperature will make radical drop . . . maybe 56º high!
and here’s my kitty Jack, aka “Love Muffin,” aka “Poonie Kinita” waiting at the door for me to come back in!
We had a wonderful Halloween. A bit quieter in our neighborhood than usual, but the little kids were as adorable as ever, the parents outDID themselves, their costumes were as cute as the kids.
Case in point: we went to Margot’s house for dinner, she put on the wig and the hat to show us part of her Halloween costume, she’s going to be a gnome, which is perfect as you can see by her house! She should just answer the door like this! You don’t quite get the full hilarity of this photo until you look past her and notice what is sitting next to the fire. I laughed so hard when I noticed Margot and Tom’s granddaughter Georgie back there with Tom ~ I didn’t notice them when I was taking the picture of Margot! In real life, Tom is a gorgeous beardless man. Doesn’t this look like the beginning of a fairy tale? Well, it is . . .
We made it a little eery at the front door . . . but there’s a fire in the fireplace in the living room so it’s not too scary!
And here’s the little family coming to our door . . . aren’t we lucky!? That’s Margot’s daughter Scarlett, mother of Georgie, on the left… buxomness seems to be the way of the gnome!
Most of the costumes looked like they came out of closets at home!
You can look all the way up the street in this one and see what a crazy thing Halloween is around here. The wholesome kind, moms, dads, bumblebees and pirates, laughing and running in the wind, leaves swirling, calling out to each other, and avoiding the darkest shadows … very difficult to get them to hold still for photos!
Unless of course, they’re showing off their wings! Which we encourage them to do!
Not sure what you call our house, but it isn’t boring. We made new place cards for November dinner parties and birthdays ~ they come in packages of ten ~ it’s hard to believe but it’s almost Thanksgiving!🎃 We’re going to the neighbors (I’m bringing the place cards! I’m also in charge of mashed potatoes, pumpkincheesecake, and cranberry sauce! I can’t wait! We’re going to dress up, bring wine, help Lowely light the candles and be SO grateful, thank God, toast our friends, pray for good health, and count every lucky star!
We made darling stickers for your Autumn cards and packages . . 🍂🍁🍂
And THIS … my newest excitement! You are probably saying, hey that’s Susan’s fabrics, I haven’t seen those in forever!” I KNOW, they’ve been in a nice clean box for years … piles of brand new fat quarters! And I think I finally figured out what to do with them. ⤵️
And THIS! Packed away for years. I bet lots of you have never seen these at all . . . made by Michel and Co. back in the 90s. One of a kind, the only set left that we know of. Four Christmas cups complete with quotes, a chocolate pot or teapot, and the best little tray in all the land (I have one and out it comes, every Christmas! Perfect for cookies!) And I finally figured out what to do with these too.⤵️
And this, all four season cups in one place!!! Well, the thing is, I have a lot of one-of-a-kind of things that I just can’t put a price on. So what we decided is to have an AUCTION and let YOU be the ones to do it! That way everyone has an opportunity! And we’ll give the money to charity! Another win win! Kellee and I decided we have so much packed away we can do more than one auction . . . and each auction will benefit a different charity! I’m so excited about this! There will be quilts, original art that I painted in the last century!, mixing bowls, a pair of jammies, old books . . . all kinds of special things. So auction number one starts at noon on Tuesday the 8th, and will last two weeks, until noon on November 22nd… Go HERE for details, it should be self-explanatory . . .
IN THE MEANTIME, I’m getting my loooong fall! Heaven!🍂
The shadows are getting longer . . . days getting shorter . . .
And we go walking every day . . . as always and forever . . .
Out under the blue sky to the sparkling water . . . because Nature is the gift that gives for a life time . . . the smells, the sounds, the air . . . God’s gift to the human race.
On our walks in the woods, Joe and I each have an EarPod in our ears, and lately we’ve been listening to Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict. I love Winston Churchill so much I thought I’d get to know the love of his life, Clementine Churchill. She broke the mold for what a politician’s wife should be back then when women in politics were best seen but not heard. He trusted her, believed in her, and took her advice, making her ideas part of his administration. It’s been interesting to step back to another time, for a close-up look at history. Today, in the book, America finally declared war and I cried tears of relief right along with Clemmie and her Pug because they were so alone, fighting terrible odds, and it meant the Yanks were Coming!🇺🇸🇬🇧 (This powerful couple was joined at the hip, madly in love, she called Winston Pug and he called her Cat, they called their first baby “P.K.” for “puppy-kitten”)… She lived through frightful times in London during the Blitz and felt personally responsible for the health and welfare of people in the shelters . . . she suffered, as you can imagine, from serious anxiety and had to learn how to deal with it right in the middle of being bombed. Her people NEEDED her to be positive, hopeful, and optimistic. Sleep was a key ingredient to her mental and physical health but hard to come by. Several times in her life she went away to rest, to receive permission to sleep until her fatigue finally left her. I liked reading about that part of her, made her more real … and reminded me how many of our Girlfriends are suffering from anxiety too, leftover pandemic, worry about the future, worry about how much their children are worrying, worry about crazy politics, the price of bread, an unsettled world ~ but remember, most of this we’ve been through before, times change, we’ll be okay . . . and, never forget there are things we can do if the world and our responsibilities begin to weigh on us. First off, Google “anxiety.” I would say nowadays it’s more normal to be anxious than not! It means we care. People who’ve had it worse than us had to deal with it too, and if they can make it, so can we.😘
A thought, but probably not the answer!
THIS… is the answer . . .
I’ve been washing the children . . . because Holly, my niece (the one from my preview book of Enchanted) is coming tonight with her best friend! Want my children to be all shiny and bright for her! And PS, Kellee, at the Studio, has come into a boat load of these magical vintage figurines if you feel the yearning . . .💖
Also I’ve been cleaning Holly’s bedroom, warm comforters going onto her bed, making it cozy in there . . . she’s in the front bedroom, the one I would have LOVED to have as a child, upstairs in the trees with a view of the world out the windows. Perfect for dreaming . . . We have four posters in all our bedrooms, because I was a reader when I was a child. This is what books can do to you!
Kellee has also been crazy-busy getting our webstore ready for Christmas adding a little bit more everyday, getting in new shipments of Christmas cards, Bird trees, lots of goodies, plus my book, Christmas Memories . . . Five years of Christmas in one place! I think we might have only 200 of these left, and no more to come, for those collectors among you…🎄
Five years of family photos, five years of Christmas menus . . . all the little details of the holidays . . . even places for your kids to write!
Five years of decorating, and pictures of your trees . . . a wonderful memory book for young families or Grandma’s house!
Okay, so guess what? I have two more booksignings scheduled!! Mark your calendar if either of them are in your neck of the woods. The first one will be November 30, at 7 pm, at RJ Julia Booksellers, a wonderful Independent Bookstore in Madison, Connecticut! I’m excited, Christmas in Connecticut! I see a road trip in our future! Think there might be some Christmas shopping along the way! You can sign up for the event HERE! Be sure to read their interesting history when you go to the website. See you there!
And one more! On Saturday December 10th, from 2pm to 4 pm I will be downtown at Edgartown Books (that’s their staircase) here on Martha’s Vineyard. If you’ve never been to the Island, especially Edgartown, it is quintessential New England, there is a darling Christmas parade down Main Street that day . . . it’s a yearly event, Christmas in Edgartown! Hope you can make it!In addition, on Saturday, January 7th at noon west coast time, 3 pm east coast time … and everything in between in more ways than one 🕰 ~ I will once again be doing a Zoom Talk with darling Hayley Solano from the Enchanted Book Club! We’ll talk about the Magic of New Beginnings! ~ I think she’ll open it to 1000 guests, we’ll put up a link in December so you can sign up!Oh yeah, we can talk!
Coziness from me and mine ⬇️ to you and yours!💖
This is me and mine . . . my other mine is upstairs painting the floor! Time for me to go, . . . Deep breath, Girlfriends . . .
Breathing is SO important … And remember ❤️
Bye for now dearest friends.
Stay safe, stay strong, have fun, do good work, get some sleep! See you next time!