I'm back! Happy Wolf Moon Girlfriends! We just had our first full moon of the New Year! I've decided you Willard Girls are my "Blue Moon" Girlfriends, the kind that are so special, we're only lucky enough to find them "once in a blue moon." Willard is whispering inspiration in my ear, telling me you need a little MUSIC to go with that sentiment! (Click if you like, and then come right back, you can listen while you read.)

So, now that we are settling down for our long winter's nap, and have time to reflect, how was your holiday season? If you had time to visit my blog in the last couple of months, you know how it went for me. Jack, the new kitten, wins first place in our house for just about everything: for holiday decor, cuteness, laugh-out-loud adorability; he's my procrastination-partner supreme, time sucker-upper, house destroyer, Girl-Kitty attacker, and all around blessing from heaven.

As for Christmas, ours was just what I hoped for, we had a peaceful house filled with love. Plus, I found myself inspired this year with lots of fun new ideas -- so inspired in fact, I made a list and a file for "next year's Christmas" to remind myself of what I want to do so I can get a head start on it. I even wrote on the September page of my new calendar to "Look at Christmas file!" Now we'll see if I do it!

Speaking of my calendar, you probably noticed by now, on the January page, I painted "Reasons for Living," without the middle "S" in the word "Reasons!!!" I was just skipping along, happy with my little brush with the three hairs, watercoloring the heart in the window, putting the doggie in front of the door, thinking of all my favorite things to live for, working to squeeze them into the little house, and I never noticed the missing "S" until it came back from the printer and was already in stores! So sorry; I hope you see it as part of the "charm"--better yet, I hope you don't see it at all! Goes to show, no one is perfect. That's what makes us so adorable! (Nice of me to include you in on this!) I promise to do better next time.

I have to show you ... Look what was waiting under the tree for me! Was there ever any doubt who this was for? That box had my name written all over it!

AAnd look what was inside -- instant love!

Of course I had to take pictures of it all over the house!  To find out where it looks best, and it looks best everywhere I put it! And since it is an Emma teapot of course I had to try it with my old Emma mugs.

Of course this darling thing got me thinking about Valentine's Day. Thinking about a snowy-day tea party for my girlfriends in the dining room!

Ahhh, Valentine's Day! It's always been my favorite day for my best friends. Over the years, as my girlfriends go through times of not being in love, or being in love, or breaking up; not having a partner, or having one, or having a broken heart . . . sometimes there've been moans, of "I hate Valentines Day!"  Poor babies!

I know how to take care of that!! One little red rose can make anybody feel wonderful and get them to fall back in love, at least with this wonderful day. Valentine's Day is a celebration of love, in all forms, kid-to-grandma, mom-to-dad, sister-to-sister, of course BFF-to-BFF; between co-workers too! This is the easiest of all holidays on which you can make somebody's day. Valentine's Day really has nothing to do with romantic love, it's just heart-to-heart with whomever you care for. Remember when we were in grammar school, and we sent Valentines to all our classmates? It had nothing to do with romantic love . . . it was about sweetness and light with a nice big hunk of charm thrown in.

Valentine's Day was invented for women! We're the ones who love it; we're the ones who count on it . . . I love to surprise Joe with a Valentine gift, but it's my girlfriends I really want to celebrate on Valentine's Day, letting them know how much better my world is with them in it, how much they are loved and appreciated -- and most definitely, for the ones who are single or feel like they are, who've become an empty nester or a new mom . . . they need TLC the most of all. That's why I'm writing this now, a month before Valentine's Day. . . so everyone has time to think about the girlfriends they couldn't live without . . . Because where would we be without them? Alone in a boat with no oars. And doesn't every woman deserve a Valentine? Oh yes, they do.

So, the minute I saw this teapot, I went and got some to put in our store, just in case you fall in love with it like I did. I also designed a few little things to help you tell your girlfriends what they mean to you. Especially this wonderful little heart-shaped charm necklace with the Nancy Luce quote in the back of it. I think it says it all.

I designed some cards for you, too -- that say, "To Us" in one of them, and "To Know Know Know You is to Love Love Love You" on the inside of the other . . . not only for Valentine's Day, but for anytime you need to tell someone (girlfriends or boyfriends) they are loved. I designed Love gift tags too! When you get to the bottom of this Willard, you'll see lots of other fun things we put in the studio store to celebrate my favorite day.

I know you know that many of my books have been going out of print. For this Valentine's Day, we managed to find several copies, the last ones forever, of one of my favorite little books, Love from the Heart of the Home. Inside you'll find love potions, aphrodisiacs, an All Chocolate Menu, little stories, wonderful quotes, good advice, fun ideas for romance, recipes for Breakfast in Bed, and a Valentine's Dinner -- there's falling in love and falling out of love and everything in between. I'm going to sign one of these little books, in celebration of the eighteen years it's been in print, write a Valentine card to go with it and give it away to one of you in a random drawing on the blog....So please go to my blog and leave a comment at the bottom of the post with the book in it. (See "comments" written small, at the bottom of the post in gray print? Click on that). Your comment will allow our "Random Number Generator" to know you're there and your name will be included for the drawing. I hope you win!

What else is new? Oh! I was honored to be asked (among others) to talk about "My Romantic Life" in the February issue of Romantic Homes Magazine -- a very fun subject as I'm sure you can imagine! I know some magazines are hard to find in different parts of the country, so we got some of them in our store too . . . just click and there you go!

Another little special thing . . . a Pair of Lovebirds, handmade by wonderful and talented Sheri in our studio, from felt -- and she used my Susan Branch fabrics on the breasts of these darling birds -- we had bits and pieces of old fabrics (no longer being made) and thought this would be a fun way to remember them. While they last, only available from us, they come as a pair, different fabric on each breast . . .

We also decided, although we are too small to buy a kajillion of these, since I am such a fiend for dishtowels, we thought maybe you would like a dishtowel with my Heart of the Home poem on it . . . so we found a place that would allow us to do a small order, and these are them. Another just-for-you item, only available in our store.

I made this little garland to hang on my kitchen shelf. I got the supplies at Michaels Crafts, the letters and the colored raffia. . . in case you'd like to craft up something for Valentine's . . . you can see how easy this is! For yourself or for a friend.

One last little thing, a Valentine from me to you . . . it's a bookmark you can print out.

Yes, I think you can tell by now, we are firmly against a boring winter . . . a tea party in the middle of February is just what any Happiness Doctor would order! A little bit of "playing house" is good at any age. Light all the candles and every lamp in your house, so it's bright and cheery on a dark day and everyone feels the light; tell your girlfriends to wear either red or white -- or maybe everyone wears a "lady's hat;" bring in lots of flowers; set the table with all your most romantic things, an ironed white tablecloth, silver, crocheted-edged or embroidered napkins, and pretty dishes, all the things we go ooh and aaah over; send wonderful INVITATIONS or use one of the Valentine Cards for the invitation, make PLACECARDS for the table, perhaps some little Bourbon Balls or Almond Brittle to tie into bags as favors. If these are your very best friends in the world, you could give them each a heart charm necklace or a little Love book to remind them that "hearts can be united."

A tea party can be just for two at the kitchen table, poured from a teapot into big mugs with buttered cinnamon toast or a poppyseed cake, or it can be for ten of your nearest and dearest. When I have a lot of guests, I like to do a "High Tea" or even "Queen's Tea" (I called my last Valentine's Tea a "Queen of Hearts Tea" -- and btw it's a "Wee Tea" for children!). I use my best teapots; tea tastes so much more delicious poured from a China pot into cups with saucers; I brew one or two seriously strong English teas, like Earl Grey with Lavender, the other pots are for boiling water for a tea bag assortment for those who would rather choose, from my stash of herb teas, green tea, flavored tea, and black tea; there's honey, lemon, sugar cubes, and half and half in a little creamer. I make three or four kinds of soft sandwiches, on different types of bread, which I cut into heart shapes, rounds, and fingers; we have peppery egg salad, thinly sliced cucumber, of course, tomato and fresh basil, cream cheese and green olive, sometimes chicken salad with walnuts . . . and I cut off the crusts so the sandwiches melt in your mouth. I add a small spicy salad to the menu, such as my shrimp and grapefruit salad; and then the desserts! Cream scones with orange butter, chocolate eclairs, an orange cake, lavender cookies and chocolate truffles, maybe even a coconut layer cake -- and, to make it easy, you'll find all those recipes and more on this teapot . . .

Just click on any of the titles and the recipe will come up so you can print it out! I keep the theme romantic and play French music and old Frank Sinatra. Late afternoon is perfect for a tea party, four o'clock on a Saturday or Sunday, which just naturally runs into the cocktail hour, so then I serve wine, and we retire to the sofa and easy chairs in front of the fire for talk, talk, talk. It's a perfect time for a good girl-party joke -- I hate telling jokes, I'm so bad at it, but I can tell this and fix it if I do it wrong -- you'll need it for your party . . . so here goes!

A husband and wife were sitting on the front porch, enjoying a moment of peace at the end of a long day. The woman took a sip of her wine and said, "I love you so much, I don't know how I could ever live without you." Her husband looked at her and asked, "Is that you or the wine talking?" She replied, "It's me . . . talking to the wine."

Happy New Year Girlfriends!