Good Morning Girlfriends! Well, it's thirty-two degrees this morning, officially freezing for the first time this fall. I pulled on my old sweater, and before I came downstairs, I stopped for a visit with my new kitten, Jack, who is still acclimating to us (and more importantly, to my other cat, Girl Kitty). Jack is residing, for now, in the Peter Rabbit Room. I scooped up his little 12-week-old self and we went to the window to look out over the backyard; our reflections rippled in the old glass panes. The rooftop had a thin coating of silvery ice that was dappled by the morning sun, coming up over the harbor, shining through the birch and holly trees out back. The lawn too, was frosted silvery gray. I put Jack back on the bed; he did three backflips, a slanted gainer with a full twist, and one triple lutz. Then he cartwheeled across the nightstand, did a flying-buttress-spring-board dismount, then a drop-and-roll with the pink boa feather thing he has grown attached to, and broad-jumped back to the bed and into my arms, crawling up my front to burrow his head between my neck and my ear, all in the blink of an eye. I can't say enough good things about having a new kitten. I think he will be my best holiday decoration, and perfect example of how great the little things in life really are!

Oops, I was so busy thinking about Jack swinging from the chandelier upstairs, I almost forgot to give you this Willard's musical selection . . . something that always puts tears in my eyes, my grandmother's favorite song, sweet and old-fashioned for the holiday season, click on it, and let it play in the background while you check out this medley of fun “little” ideas to make your holidays bright . . .

So in the spirit of all those little things, I thought I would continue this WILLARD with more of the same!

  I love seeing how other people set the table, so I thought you might like to see a couple of my table settings from Thanksgivings-gone-by. I still haven't come to the place where I want to use too much turquoise when decorating for the holidays (although I could not resist buying a pure white feather tree for the Peter Rabbit room for Christmas! Have you seen them? So cute! ). I love using plaid and colored napkins for Thanksgiving, because they're homey and casual, and unlike my starched white Christmas napkins, they don't have to be ironed. The colors provide such warmth to the table that I looked around to see if I could find something like them for you. And I did!

Here is a little thing that becomes huge because it's so good! It's just the best most wonderful way to make cranberry sauce. Ridiculously easy, and tastes delicious, but best of all is its color . . . after they're cooked, the berries are bright garnet red. Good hot or cold.

To serve 6
3 c. fresh, washed, cranberries
1 c. sugar
(That's 3 parts cranberries to one part sugar). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the cranberries into an ungreased casserole and pour the sugar over, don't stir. Put into oven, stirring occasionally as they cook, until the berries just begin to pop, about 35 min. Remove from oven, serve hot or cold. It's that easy! If you have any left over, mix the cranberries half and half with orange marmalade, pour into jars, it's “Christmas Jam” . . . perfectly wonderful as a gift for all your friends; worth making the cranberry sauce for.

And more little things; our Tree-Shaped Bundt Pans came back in! We have the perfect Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe that we send along with the pan. Moist and delicious, elegant and cute at the same time, with powdered-sugar snow sprinkled over the trees; serve it with ice cream or whipped cream; it's the perfect thing to bring to a holiday party, and if by any chance you manage to save a piece for the next day, try it with a bite of cranberry sauce! Makes a delicious breakfast! Martha's Gingerbread Cake also fits into this pan and looks especially festive at Thankgiving!

We also brought in a few more boxes of my Christmas Cards, two different cards in each box, so if you missed out on the first printing (like I did!!!), I'm happy to tell you (us), they're back.

What else? Oh! Yes, there's a new book out, from Where Women Cook Magazine, called CELEBRATIONS! Recipes from twenty-six well-known cooks, like me for instance! On page 14, I'm featured in “A Kitchen Table Tea.” Other names you might recognize include Ree Drummond, Cheryl Day, and Ashley English. If you like cookbooks with lots of wonderful photographs, you will love this one! We're giving away a signed copy on the Blog, just come and leave a comment in the next couple of days, and you'll be entered for the drawing!

And, more of our Red-Lidded Jars came in, in the nick of time! They go with my red-lid jar collection, make perfect and affordable containers for gift giving, they come as a pair, keep one for yourself! Fill them with Homemade Granola, Butter Bit Croutons, Spiced pecans, Homemade Marshmallows, -- or look for something special from our famous Cookie Jar, coming to you the first week in December! And while I'm handing out recipes, someone asked for my Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Sauce and Whipped Cream recipe. So here it is!

We've added one of our gift certificates to every page of our web store for holiday “guy guidance.” Your man can now enter our web site more comfortably than ever before, through the “Man Cave” we installed on our shopping page. :-) He may want to go there to get you one of our dated yearly Christmas Ornaments -- I think this is our fourth year for all you collectors out there! Or maybe he'd like to get you this month's copy of CAPE COD HOME MAGAZINE, and see the nice feature they did about me for their holiday issue.

So I guess that's it. The longest Willard in the history of the world! And believe it or not, I had to stop myself; it could have been worse! This season has me so inspired! Can you imagine if this was a real letter? You'd need a forklift! I'll just save the rest of it for the Blog! Next stop: Thanksgiving!

Our dinner is usually ready about three o'clock on Thanksgiving. And I have a little ritual: When everything is done, the candles are lit, the turkey is carved, I call our guests to the table, and as they begin to pull themselves away from the fireplace in our living room and gather around the dining table, I grab a jacket, and slip out the kitchen door. The cold bites my cheeks as I step off the porch onto the lawn; I'm suddenly alone in very quiet world; and instantly aware of nature and God. The sun slants low in the sky, through the bare branches of the maple trees; I take a deep breath, exhaling a little cloud, and I can smell woodsmoke in the darkening sky. I'm out there for a reason, so I can look back in at the view through our dining room windows, and take this snapshot in time for my memory bank.

The people I love, laughing and talking in the golden lamplight, lips moving, but I can't hear them, are reflected in the mirror over the sideboard, along with Pumpkin Cheesecake, Martha's Gingerbread Cake under a glass dome, and my Cranberry Apple Crisp in a blue striped pie plate. Lowely's mom's polished-silver mashed-potato bowl is on the table just like it was last year; there's a glass dish full of bright red cranberry sauce; Joe's bringing in the turkey, wearing his Thanksgiving tie; behind him is Gerry with the gravy boat; John's pouring wine, Paul is pulling out Lowely's chair, Martha has her arm around Anna, Rachel is putting the dressing on the table.

It's a Norman Rockwell moment, happening all over America on the same day, and reminds me of everything I have to be thankful for, for the love of my friends and family gathered here, behind the small panes of glass, pinpoints of light on the tiny island of Martha's Vineyard, in Vineyard Haven, Dukes County, Eastern Massachusetts, North-American continent, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Universe, and the mind of God. When I go back inside, stamping my feet on the little rug by the door, the smell of my grandma's stuffing, all oniony, sage and butter, the smell that's defined Thanksgiving from my earliest childhood memory, settles on me like one of her knitted nap blankets. Like the song said, “♫How sweet that memory, how long ago. . . ♪”

This year could even be more fun, bring more memories, we could have a kitty doing a double salchow across the table!

Enjoy this wonderful season girlfriends. Take time to stop and smell the flowers, even if you have to put it on your calendar, make a space for appreciating. Breathing is more important than doing. xoxo