Guess what? Willard's back! Believe it or not, you haven't had a newsletter in your email box since last April! I've been away and I took Willard with me . . . we missed you!!! We're so happy to be home! Go get a cup of tea and get comfy, I have lots to tell you; I thought I'd start us off with something beautiful to listen to . . .

No better time for the celebration of the simple life than August . . . long languorous days, heat welling up from pavement . . . Have you fallen into a pond or river, dipped a limb in a cool lagoon or the sea? Have you walked at night under the moon? Now's your chance. There's an extra moon, a Blue Moon, coming on August 31. The Summer of 2012 is flying by, never to be seen again. Depending on where you live, this could be the best news you've ever heard. I know, it's been hot in the USA. We've been cranky. But we do still need to make hay while the sun shines, don't we? Yes, we do.

It's time for simple summer enjoyment, whether you have an outdoor picnic or dinner in front of the air conditioner (or maybe under that Blue Moon?) . . . you can turn your cold salads (green, rice, bean, or grain, into whimsical flower gardens. Just before serving, sprinkle on friséed zucchini blossoms, hibiscus, or daylily flowers (like confetti); use colorful (unsprayed) petals of chrysanthemums, marigolds, and scented geraniums; scatter tiny johnny jump-ups and borage flowers, also fragrant thyme and basil flowers. A bright orange nasturtium on a salad plate is not only beautiful, it's spicy-peppery and delicious, and turns you into brilliant summer observer and celebrator. Click HERE and scroll down for lots more delicious summer recipes, from Bourbon Chicken to Spicy Mango Salad.

Most of you know that Joe and I just returned home to Martha's Vineyard after spending two months traveling the backroads through the English countryside -- you'd know because I chronicled parts of the trip in words and pictures on my blog (it's all still there if any of you missed it, including Jane Austen's House, if you feel like a virtual escape to the early 19th century) . . . and many of you, via computer, climbed inside our suitcases and came along for the ride. Did we not have fun Girlfriends? Oh yes, we DID!!! We ate bangers and beans (not all of us, just some of us); we drove on the wrong side of the road (and lived to tell the story); we had tea in proper china teapots with proper crumpets and proper jam; we fell in love with Pear Cider; we crossed the Yorkshire Dales and went to Richard the III's boyhood Castle, and we updated our vocabulary with a whole other kind of "English." It was so educational!! Wasn't it? I feel inspired by everything we learned.

And that's put me in a very good mood; I'm so happy to be back in my "House of Creativity," in my own bed, with my two kitties (Girl Kitty was so happy to see us, she cried!), making dinner on my own stove . . . and I feel like my good mood is coming out in the watercolors I'm doing for the Diary. I have to tell you, I love writing this book. I practically fly to my art table every morning, I'm so excited about it. Because of the book, the trip isn't over for me; I'm in my studio painting it, hand-writing it, letter by letter, and reliving it into the pages of the Diary every day. In my imagination, I'm still strolling through gardens, walking wooded paths past meadows of lambs and wildflowers, driving under ancient trees into country villages along narrow hedgerows! With the windows open in my studio, birds chirping on the bird bath, and little breezes blowing in from my own garden, I have just the right sound effects to go with it!

It's been a wonderful week here. One of my best friends is getting married in early October; the perfect time of year for a wedding outdoors on the island; cool wind, and colorful leaves drifting out of the trees; the sea shining blue in the distance; everyone's looking forward to it. There was an Engagement Party for them last week, two doors down, in the garden of my girlfriend Lowely's house ... I tied "I love you" ribbons on wine glasses and made heart-shaped cucumber sandwiches, standing at my kitchen counter, with the windows open, and Joe working out in the barn -- slicing cucumbers with the cool floor under my bare feet; even my toes are happy these August days. I take my scissors out across the grass, bend among the bees and butterflies to cut a few flowers for the vase on the ledge above my kitchen sink. It's so quiet. So ordinary, and I feel so lucky. Give me ordinary please. I'm home.

Oh, The Blessing of Ordinary Days

Look what I found out on our walk, while picking blueberries and asters (wild asters grow everywhere here, purple and starry; they're edible and look charming in salads!) that grow along the dirt road. Oh yes, we know what's coming, the prettiest season-change of all . . . we heard our first cicadas last week, and crickets chirped this morning, pulsing, like a police whistle, all the way out to the pond. These are nature's hints, little tell-tale signs of what's to come. Makes the hairs on my arms stand up. I love fall.

Ohen I was little, fall was all about books and getting my new notebook ready for back-to-school, but as a grown up, just like leaves falling and wind blowing, fall, for me, is all about calendars! It's that time again! All my new calendars for 2013 arrived at the Studio while I was away; I'm not sure if you know that -- some of you didn't get one last year; for the first time ever, we ran out, so we tried to start earlier this year.

This is my new 12 x 12 Wall Calendar -- it has one of my favorite quotes on it; about how extraordinary our "ordinary" Home Arts really are. And that's how I designed the pages inside; homey celebrations for each month, according to the season, the little things that make life sweet. It's the perfect 14.00 Christmas Present, both useful and pretty.

We also have the 7 x 7 Mini Calendar for the small places, the checkbook-sized Purse Calendar, and the Refrigerator-Magnet Calendar (not pictured here, click to see) . . .

. . . And everyone's favorite, the Blotter Calendar, which is your basic Girl Party on Paper.

We've also been rounding up other small gifts for you; perfect little things for holiday gift-giving, so you can get a head start, before it turns into a chore, when it's still fun, and no one's out of anything!

Lots of you will recognize this darling four-piece Brown Bird Mug that comes with its own basket strainer, a lid, and a saucer.

We had them back in March, they sold out instantly because the price is so right and everyone loved them; we've waited all this time for them to come back in. We are nothing if not patient! If you like them, go now, we don't know how long it will be before we see another order come in! (That's the Emma Heart Teapot behind the cup, in case you're interested.)

Uou probably know how hard it is to find the good old Beatrix Potter figurines like the ones on my kitchen shelf -- no one is making them the old ways anymore, so I have to haunt antique stores, junk stores, yard sales -- I buy them when I get lucky, one by one, 'cause I already have mine, and I know you love them too. So now we finally have a little stash in our Vintage Store. They're up, welcoming us all home -- until they're gone! I hope we have just the one you've been looking for!
WWe finally found a source for Recipe Cards where the paper is not waxed! Hooray! It's a good quality, easy-to-write-on card stock, and we designed some canning labels to go with them, 'cause it's almost time to JAM.

Exciting News! While I was away, Jack, my kitty learned to type. Yes, he can type now, he uses the hunt and peck method. And last week, he actually took over the blog for a day, ran the whole thing himself. Took questions; considers himself quite the little expert on what kitties like. He was pretty good! I was surprised -- I don't know why, he's such a smart boy! He loved doing it; I might put him in charge again sometimes; he turns one year old on August 29th, so he's ready for some honest work. Keeps him occupied for a couple of hours while I paint the diary.

Because normally, like today, I've had to get up about seven hundred times to throw the ball for him -- he keeps bringing the ball back and dropping it at my feet; but don't worry, no kitties were harmed in the writing of this Willard.

They tell you that you'll lose your mind when you grow older. What they don't tell you is that you won't miss it. Malcolm Cowley 1898-1989

For you who didn't get a 2011 Calendar, here's what's on the August page . . . just thought you'd like to see it!

How was that?! Did you get your fill? If not, you are more than welcome to come on over to the BLOG to see what's up there! Would love to have you!

Every night, I put myself to sleep with my memories of walking up the path to Beatrix Potter's House. I close my eyes and go as slowly as I possibly can, savoring the experience all over again. I think about what it sounded like, what it smelled like, how the trees looked, what the sky was doing, the joy I felt when I saw Hill Top for the first time; usually I fall asleep before I get to the door. I hope you are making a few good memories this Summer. There's still time! Love you, Girlfriends -- Have a wonderful day!