I have the magazine "Where Women Create" coming tomorrow to photograph my studio for an upcoming issue. Many people would not see it as a great thing to have a magazine bringing cameras into their house, which I totally understand, because there are definitely drawbacks. But for pure cleaning inspiration, you can't beat it. And I appreciate the inspiration; we have lots of company coming for the holidays and so we're already in the house-fixing-up mode. This put a finer point to it; gave us the magical ingredient, a deadline.

There has been a dining table that seats six in my studio for about eight years. Originally I thought it would be a good work space, but instead it's been a behemoth, gathering piles of paper both on it and under it, looking a lot like a small dumpster, crowding the room, and for all it's size it was basically useless for it's original purpose. (I didn't know how awful it was until I began to experience the great relief of having it gone!) I let it go, year after year, not wanting to drag Joe in here to move it, not wanting this bit of disruption...eight years! But here comes that magazine, and like a miracle, poof! That table is GONE. The piles of paper are organized. Thank you "Where Women Create." You made me create....space! Why do I do this, why didn't I give myself relief eight years ago? I don't know. All I know is that inspiration is a wonderful thing. Nothing like company coming to get yourself in gear.

We always seem to have lots of family and friends visiting during the holidays, so we're getting the guest rooms ready. I hung all the comforters on the line this week and watched as fresh autumn air blew through them all day. I made the beds, with clean comforter covers, put all the cozy winter blankets back on, and could barely get out of bed this morning, it was so delicious. Joe's still in it.

It's OK, he needs the rest. He put in a new garden fence for us, the old one was crumbling; he's painting the guest bedroom, he's wallpapering the guest bathroom, he took that table out of my room; he is my hero. Isn't a man working around the house just the total aphrodisiac? When my girlfriends come over, I tell him he if he goes out and digs in the yard, they will all swoon when they see him. He was surprised, he never knew it was this easy.

If you have company coming to fill your guest room this holiday season, here are a few ideas to inspire you. Even a couch in the corner of the family room can be made more cozy and special with just a few small touches:

Speaking of family; I would like you to meet my grandfather, Willard Smith. When I was around 11, and in full letter-writing mode, I sent a letter to his house in Sioux City, Iowa. For some reason I had fallen in love with "the olden days" and so I wrote to ask him for pictures of when he was young. He sent me this photo of himself at six-years-old; he's the dapper little groom in this photo taken around 1911.

My grandfather also sent me this photo of him making sure everyone knew he was a pilot! The head gear says it all. This is the man that wrote a newsy letter at Christmas and sent it to everyone he knew. He was the first person our family ever saw do this. We thought he invented it. One day someone else sent us this same kind of letter, my mom brought it to the dinner table to read, and my brother Stephen, who was then about twelve, recognized it, saying, "Oh! It's a Willard!" Of course this sent all of us into hysteria, we thought he was so brilliant and brave. We didn't usually call Grandpa by his first name for one thing, it was normally frowned upon. But my parents were laughing too, this was a good one. So when it was time to give my newsletter a name, my choice was obvious. It's a Willard. I just thought you'd like to see a picture of "Our Founder." He also sent me a photo of his dog Jack, sitting up with a cigarette in his mouth! (Don't think for a moment I agree with this, I cringe a little when I see it now, but it was of it's time.) Of course we kids loved it. Willard was the bee's knees. Liked pork chop gravy on his chocolate cake. A legend in his own time.

(BTW, Let this be a lesson to you, if you want to be remembered, toss a few quirky antics into your repertoire, your grandchildren will never forget you.)

What else? Oh yes, I have a recipe for you! Remember this cake I made last year? We just got the TREE-CAKE-MOLDS back into the web store and I have a bundt cake recipe for you that's so right for the season, for any holiday, all gingery and cinnamony; but the thing is, it's moist with this really chewy crust, which makes it perfect for this pan because the more edge, the better, and those trees have lots of edges. This recipe for GINGERBREAD CAKE came from a New York Restaurant called Gramercy Tavern; it's already famous, but in case you don't have it, I can't leave you to go through life like that. You deserve to hear the little screams of delight you get when you walk into a party with this cake. They're all saying, "who made this?" and that's even before they've tasted it! Just click on Gingerbread Cake (above) for the recipe.

Kellee and Judy at the studio have been really inspired too... have put up lots of fun new things for the HOLIDAYS, dish towels, mugs, rugs, cute candy-striped guest towels, and our new dated Christmas ornament -- and since so much time will be spent in the KITCHEN, we have darling aprons; plus timers, zesters, and a wonderful Candlewick domed cake stand. I love mine; use it all the time for tea, birthdays, and holiday parties; makes cakes and cupcakes taste even better!

We have STATIONERY too, great little stocking-stuffers; something special for everyone on your list.

If you're in the sewing mode and looking for something to make your dining room or kitchen table look extra special this season, check out our new PATTERN for CHAIR CUSHIONS. As you can see, it also looks adorable in a person's sewing room.

One more thing: We have been getting calls...people not knowing if their friends already bought a calendar or a certain book, and asking us if we can help. We don't have the kind of computer wizardry around here, so Kellee came up with a GIFT CERTIFICATE idea -- just in case you'd like to give something but don't know what...hope this solves the problem.

For the important question of gifts to self, like a little food for the creative spirit? Like some inspiration for the inspiration? Try your own version of this:

Get a quilt, spread it on lawn, look up into tree, smell the good air, listen to birds.

Joe finally pulled himself out of bed; I took a time-out while writing this Willard and we went on our usual morning three-mile-walk, out to where the pond opens into the sea. The tide was rushing in, the gulls were screaming like happy two-year-olds, we watched the fishermen put on their waders, and waved to a lobster boat cutting through the water, against the tide, on his way out to work. As we walked back down the dirt road, I pulled out my trusty little clippers and we cut goldenrod, clematis, bittersweet, wild asters, bayberry, cedar, and who knows what else.

Now my vases are full. Free, from the woods, that's right. Life is good