First thing's first ... Perhaps, to enhance your reading enjoyment, a cup of tea? Go get it, get into "relax mode." We'll wait. And, now? MUSICA! Oui! And, VOILA! Here we go! We're home! Two and a half months in the luv-lee United Kingdom and our two crossings on the Queen Mary 2, over and back, going by the beautiful Statue of Liberty each way, passed in what feels like an instant. Didn't we just leave? But reading over my diary and looking at the photos ... we magically get to relive every moment of a wonderful dream-come-true of a trip. I have so much to show you!

SO, for the next few months, while the snow is falling and the fire is popping, and Jack is curled up on my art table within reach of fur-rubbing, I'll be adding posts to the blog ~ with lots of new photos of the luv-lee English and Scottish Countryside, the cutest little houses (not to mention the BIG ones, like Highclere, oh yeah, we went there!), bunting galore, tea rooms, everything plaid, ancient walls that shoot sparks through your hands when you touch them, Sunday roasts, British Autumn, and our take on some of the most interesting pub recipes we tasted like Tatties and Heeps, Dippy Eggs and Soldiers, and Rumbledee Thumps. Get ready, it's going to be fun.

Imanaged to do a couple of posts while we were there, but access to the Internet was always so spotty ... sometimes we would have it, but the photos wouldn't load, or if they did, it might take an hour per photo, and then they could just disappear after four hours of sitting around waiting for them to go. I do not come equipped with that kind of patience (and you can cut that by 50% for Joe, standing at the door, camera in hand, waiting to go out), so I gave up, and turned to Twitter, which was good for the photos, however the story part of it might have gotten a little lost with only 140 characters to tell it. I did manage to do a post about our Girlfriend's Picnic Basket Party, if you didn't see that, go HERE! It was wonderful!

Also, there's a fairly long post that included the story of our visit to see Working Sheepdogs ~ one of our very favorite things we did while we were in Scotland. Show it to your kids or grandkids, because this was such a treat, out there in the wind and sky, with the dogs and the sheep and the shepherd, we had tears in our eyes, everything was so perfectly in harmony. Go HERE to see it ...

Now we are home, cozy and happy in our Norman Rockwell, New England town. When we walked in, Jack's eyes got big and perfectly round, he smelled my hand, wrist, and halfway up my arm (he's our kitty, you probably know that by now), then uttered a short meow and rolled over on his back to be petted ~ I shot him a ponytail band, and now, two days later, it's as if we never went away. It hasn't snowed here yet, but our lawn is frosted silvery grey this morning, we crunched across it to the car, to go on our walk, in jackets, hats, and gloves, out where the pale sun beamed on the red leaves still hanging onto a few of the maple trees, and we took deep breaths of this rarefied ocean air and thought, whew, we made it back alive, and how wonderful it is. On the agenda, after unpacking, is getting the house ready for Christmas, like HERE. In fact, as I write, Joe is bringing boxes down from the attic . . . all our traditions are packed up in them, ready to be unwrapped, along with the new ones that we brought home from England.

I'm not sure yet if I will be writing a new book about this trip, but I definitely could, I did a few watercolors and kept a diary everyday we were there (I can't tell you how many ideas I have in mind for new books, I just wish I had eight arms, each with a paintbrush or a pen in it ~ I'll wait and see which of these ideas becomes the loudest voice in my head) ... but the very first thing I have to do is design my new 2018 calendars which are due at the end of January! I know, 2018! This is why I never know what year it is. But I'm really looking forward to painting lots of new artwork for them! Can't wait to swirl that brush in paint . . . it's a perfect job for winter!

This is the March top page from the 2017 Wall-calendar. The “ how to Write a Diary” page . . . we still have this calendar available in our webstore, plus the mini calendar, the brand new Family Planner, the purse calendar and the large blotter too … just in cases you’re still needing some practical gifts.

The other great thing, sorta great and sorta not, is that we have completely sold out of A FINE ROMANCE on Amazon! Oh, yes we did! (In case you don't know, this was the diary I did about our trip to England in 2012.) They're all gone for now ~ until after the first of the year when we hope to send it back to the printer for its 5th printing! We did save a few signed copies, just for our Willard Girlfriends, so if you want one for a gift . . . go HERE and Kellee and Sheri will whisk it off to you in time for Christmas.

I have a couple of recipes I want to share with you, because it's that time of year! The first is my delicious Cranberry Tea Cake and Vanilla Sauce … it's from the 30th Anniversary edition of my first book HEART OF THE HOME, which just came out this year ~ which you may not have yet. I wanted to update the original book, to celebrate this impossible Anniversary with lots of new recipes like this one ~ because that book was really the culmination of all my years of learning to cook, of helping my mom by making desserts when I was very young, all those brownies and potato chip cookies for sack lunches for my brothers and sisters, then finding cooking to be my passion, digging deep into Banana Cream Pie and Spinach Souffle, and graduating to dinner parties for my friends and family, and then, seemingly from no where, almost unplanned, came HEART of the Home! As you know if you read my autobiographical trilogy, it came as a big surprise to me.

This cake is as delicious as it looks, maybe even better, that's why I wanted to make sure you have it, perfect for a Holiday Tea, or for Christmas morning, or for a dinner with friends (it's on Page 144-145 if you have the book). For you from me with love from the Heart of the Home. Thirty years! Can you believe it? Me, neither. And, don't forget to try the Blueberry Corncakes on page 164, they are pure heaven, crispy-edged with hot maple syrup, yummmmmm. Good for dinner too, on jammie night, in front of the tree.

I'm about to plan a TGIF for my girlfriends, who I've missed since I've been gone so long! I have a philosophy when it comes to entertaining . . . I go by the six senses. Does it smell good, look good, sound good, feel good and taste delicious? (The sixth sense is Imagination.) If all those bases are covered, I can't ask for any more. Bourbon Old Fashioneds with orange slices and juicy French cherries that have been soaked in Brandy in front of a roaring fire, Cranberry Cake cooling on a wooden rack, fragrance of roast chicken wafting from the oven, old MUSICA playing, lights turned down, candles and tree lights aglow, old Christmas books piled on the coffee table, all make things wonderful and old-fashioned and homey . . . and if the church bells ring across the street, then it’s perfect. Most important to remember: It’s not what’s on the plates that counts, it’s what’s on the chairs. Your friends and family. A party is a gift you give the ones you love.

Another recipe you will love, not in any book (yet) but a dreamy drink that Joe has perfected over the years.

And a little reminder for this time of year ~ as you know time is the most important gift of all, and hardest to come by, especially a little bit of it just for yourself, and breathing is more important than doing. Take time out to do the things that put meaning into your Christmas, walk in the cool air, make your own anything, wreath, decoration, popcorn and cranberry strings, put lights on your house, take a long bubble bath with a good book ... Life is unbearably short, as I was reminded this year with the loss of my dad, our connection to each other is everything ...

And don't forget to do something weird this holiday season to keep your family on their toes. My grandfather Willard liked pork chop gravy on his chocolate cake. This made us all roll on the floor pretending to be sick. He had a dog he taught to hold a cigarette in his mouth ~ with these personal oddities, our grandfather insured that he will never be forgotten. My dad assured his immortality for his eight children in many ways, one of which was how he told a ghost story. We are all likely permanently damaged in some way because of them. So put on that blue nail polish, sprinkle that glitter in your hair, knit those nap blankets, make that family recipe book . . . and live forever in the hearts of your loved ones.

And don't think I would forget the Cookie Jar! Never! Click HERE, and then whichever recipe you want, and it will come up … have a cookie exchange party! It's a great way to mix with friends, get a whole bunch of different homemade Christmas Cookies and only have to make one batch yourself!

I have a couple of surprises for you...if you go to my Blog, scroll to the bottom of the first post, to the very end where you will see the tiny word "comments," click on that and leave a comment, just a word is all that's necessary, and voila! You will be automatically entered into my new Welcome Home Giveaway! I'll announce the winning name on my blog in a week or so . . . and email the winner.

Wnd what they will get is the newest version of HEART of the HOME (personalized for the winner), PLUS, a bird in a gilded cage all the way from England (I bought one for me and thought you might like one too, so delicate, it glitters all over), PLUS, our two newest dream charms, Christmas Joy and Heart of the Home (and if you win and you already have any of these things, then think of them as a couple more gifts!) The other surprise you'll find on the Blog!

In closing, our country has been on a bit of a wild ride with our recent election that took waaaaay too long, but remember we all live together on this small beautiful planet whirling through space. What we do does matter. Believing in our country will take us forward, as one, not through fear and reaction, not by blaming the other, but by sober deliberation, perseverance, through love for all the little children of the world, and by keeping the spirit of Christmas alive all year long. ". . . Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight . . ." XO

PSDid you get to read the August WILLARD? If not, you can click HERE, and there you go! And also, click HERE for Free Stuff, lots of seasonal things like bookmarks and stationery that make excellent stocking stuffers!

Good Christmas Shopping at We have recipe cards, Tea Things, Emma Bridgewater, Framable SB Prints, Susan's Favorite Reads, Angel Chimes, Banners, & Gift Certificates!