How are you? As many of you know, I've been away, but I'm home now and SO happy to be saying hello from the green chair in the studio in the front room of the house of creativity! Sometimes you have to leave home to feel the full weight of the heart magnet drawing you back . . . we came home on our trip the slow way, winding across this beautiful country on a train in our "room with a view," rolling on the tracks through twinkling city lights, and dark deserts with the moon as company; then crossing the sound by boat; to drive through storm-washed island streets with leaves flying up at the car window. We pulled onto Spring Street, finally, after midnight. The almost-full moon put a silvery outline on our old white house. We opened the side door by turning the key and kicking it in just the right place; were welcomed by the familiar smell of home, the gold light, left on for us, from the lamp in the wood-room, and the black and white kitty Girl. We made it!

That was a week ago; since then, I've been nesting, lighting candles at night, making soup and having tea and cookies with the newest Gladys Taber Newsletter, writing in my diary, walking out to the water, getting back to normal. Joe's outside rebuilding the rose arbor on the back of the house, and I'm decorating and "getting ready." It's the start of "dinner party" season, when we light the fire, cook up something delicious, put on some old music, and invite our friends over. We have company coming from England for Thanksgiving! And about 300 scary children will knock on our door in a few days; things need to be done!

Now click here; and then come right back. This is the old music I love . . . I consider it my theme music; perfect background for redecorating the house, perfect for cooking, perfect for dinner parties. I love Frank especially when he's with Tommy Dorsey; there are lots of cd's on Amazon, you sort of have to pick your way through them if you want it for yourself, to get started, go here.

I've been listening to Frank and decorating the house. Lately, I find myself having a thing for the color black. Is black a color? I put it around the house in the form of pillows, rugs, vintage iron pieces I've found in flea markets. Black has an old-fashioned, English library feel to it, like there could be leather nearby; feels cozy for cold weather; but it can also be quirky. It looks good with all the other colors of the season too, perfect with ruby red and orange, good with grape, lovely with gold and green. It's really good with everything. So I wanted to show some of it in case you like it too, to see if any of this would work for you. Girl Kitty is my big inspiration; her colors look good on anything, so I thought, let's try for more of that! I dug around in closets and drawers, and was surprised at all the black I found to gather up as decorating props.

I've had this needlepoint pillow for years -- needlepoint is so great in the cold months, I think I need to look for a kit and make myself another one this winter!

These two iron pilgrim candleholders are something I found antiquing with Joe at Brimfield Flea Market several years ago; I get them out every Fall; love them on the Thanksgiving table.

The owls are vintage too; I found them at a garage sale; they're actually trivets. I have them on a narrow ledge above the fireplace. I also ran into a whole box of letters which I keep around the house to label things. Like my "YUM" on the kitchen stove.

I've loved black and white check for a long time, almost as long as I've loved black and white kitties!

This is our kitchen floor leading into the pantry . . . when the old linoleum wore out, we replaced it with these black and white squares. We have several black hooked rugs in the kitchen, both new ones and vintage.

One of my spotted dogs. Polka dots are always good if you can squeeze them in.

This is the downstairs guest bathroom . . .black, in the form of iron paperweight dogs and black-framed silhouettes against gray starry wallpaper.

Our dining room chairs are mix and match just like everything else in this house; we bought this one last summer, at an estate sale down the street for $15. There were two and we got them both! And sang oui, oui, oui, all the way home! Very exciting day!

I've also been making maple butter like I do every year. I've had this mold forever . . . it has seashells and roses in it, but only one leaf, so I make one butter pat, freeze it, pop it out when I get around to it, make another, until I have enough. Maple butter is perfect for autumn eating, and so easy to make . . . just cream together a stick of softened butter with a 1/4 c. real (Vermont) maple syrup, and 1/2 tsp. Mexican hot pepper sauce (like Cholula); whisk it until well-blended. It's different and delicious with biscuits or corn bread; I love to serve it with this . . .

The recipe is on page 37 of my Autumn Book and if you've never made it, this might be the time to try it. It tastes delicious and looks extremely interesting on the plates! Little packages of corn bread. Very evocative.

You need a bag of corn husks -- in our market, they're right next to the tortillas. If you don't have them, write one of your friends in California and ask them to send you a bag. Soak them in water for about an hour. Then stir together

2 c. yellow cornmeal1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. brown sugar1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon1/4 tsp. cayenne

Add 1 1/2 c. boiling water and mix well. Form the mixture into little rolls (12 or more), roll them in corn husks like tootsie rolls. Tear off strips of husk to use to tie the ends. When ready to serve, drop the rolls in boiling water, and cook 10 min. Serve hot in husks with Maple Butter. Makes six servings. (You open them, butter them, and eat the bread out of the husks.)

Other fun I've had this week, I tried making some burnt Halloween place cards; I cut them out from card stock, and put names on them two ways, writing the name in black marking pen, and using rubber stamps. I held the card with tongs over the gas flame of my stove, burnt the edges of the card, patting it on a wet cloth to stop the burning, and voila! So easy and perfect for Halloween dinner.

Morning Science Update: Joe and I have a kind of game when we go on our walk out to the pond each day. We call it Morning Science, with tongue in cheek because we know nothing about science, but we are always trying to divine the secrets of nature; we ask each other questions about the things we see everyday, what's this, what do you think of that, how did that get there? For example, yesterday, we were out almost to the pond, coming out of the woods; it was a beautiful clear day, the clouds wisping in the sky like curls, as if they'd been swept with a giant broom and the wind chilly and spiced with something fresh and tangy.
I put my nose, kitty-like into the air and said to Joe, "Mmmmmm, smell."
He said, "Yeah, pine."
"And Burberry?"
He looked at me, "Do you mean Bayberry?"
I said, "Oh, yeah, Burberry is a plaid or something, right?"
He answered, somewhat disdainfully if I may say so, "It's a raincoat."
End of Morning Science. We've had a thousand of these conversations and we still like each other. I just wish I would have written more of them down. They are so dumb.

Now, go to the blog, see the surprise I have for you there. Happy almost November Girlfriends! Thank you for coming along on the train ride . . . it was wonderful knowing you were there! Did we have fun, or what? Even Joe thinks you're cute! xoxo