Happy New Year everyone! It’s 6 am here, the boat whistle, my favorite sound, just blew, echoing up from the harbor ~ first trip to the Mainland today. I have tea, Jack is asleep on a pillow in the drawer of my desk, his new favorite spot. Joe is still under the covers, no cars, no noise, just us. The clock goes tick-tick-tick, quietly moving forward. Get a cup of tea and a cookie and imagine we’re sitting at the kitchen table. I have lots to tell you! MUSICA

I took this photo of our full Wolf Moon from my freezing-cold kitchen porch at about 5 am on the first day of the new year. And before I forget, in case you haven’t found it on my blog or on Facebook, here’s your Moon Bookmark for 2018. Including dates and Native American names for the full moons for the whole year. Just click HERE, and print it on nice paper. You can laminate it if you like. Fun for kids and good to pop into an envelope for your moon-crazy girlfriends!

It’s been a wild winter so far, weather-wise. Big snowstorms, a nor’easter, then ICE (in all caps) that left us unable to go for our morning walk for weeks. Our fence blew over in a windstorm, branches fell out of the trees, but no one has slipped and killed themselves yet so all is well. And it’s been beautiful, hushed quiet, birds and squirrels busy at the feeders, snow drifting down. My mom used to talk to me about her Iowa childhood and the snow storms she remembered. One of the reasons I had to come find out for myself. She was right, magic.

And then last week the temperature went up to an unimaginable 50º and stayed that way for three glorious days! The sun came out, the snow melted and off we went, every day, on our walk down to the water.

Two very happy people, taking big deep breaths of freshest air in the world, washing lungs clean after weeks of shallow breathing of closed-up-house-air.


Soaking in the cold sunshine. . . Down to the water where the fishing shacks are boarded up for the winter and the ice along the shore hasn’t melted yet. Still, after all these years away from California, to see snow and ice on sand is SUCH a conundrum to me!

We did what we always do when we’re out there, listened to the waves and seagulls, wander and search for sea glass ~ the reward for the mile and a half we walk to get there.

Gorgeous Day, amazing sky, delicious air.

On the way home we found this heart puddle . . .
perfect for Almost-Valentine’s Day!

And good timing because our new cups have arrived from England! They aren’t exactly “Valentines” but any cup about Love is a Valentine to me. And for our British Girlfriends, it was crazy that the cups were being made in England then shipped to us in the US, but you had to pay an arm and a leg for us to ship them back! So we found an English retailer who has a store in Devizes called Nursery Thyme and also sells on line. You can order directly.

They should cover all the Valentines in your life, moms and dads, guys and gals, and Best Friends Forever.

And here’s the souvenir cup I designed for our Castle Garden Picnic happening in May. Bluebells and lambs! I drink out of this one everyday since I got it, puts me in the Castle Garden groove while dreaming about our trip. You can find all three HERE.

If you preordered yours, you should have it by now. I did order extra of Winter, but it’s so difficult to know how many to get ~ putting them up for presale is a big help for numbers but I never really know. I hope everyone who wanted one got one!
Even before we got them, the Winter cups sold out!

Other than that, everything has been quiet here. Mostly we just stay in, make a fire, read, write, paint, look at maps of Ireland and England, and shoot pony tail bands for Jack. We work in our little art factory, we plot and plan. And guess what? I just looked out the window . . . it's snowing again. I went to the kitchen to put some sausage in a pan and hollered to Joe upstairs, "it’s snowing!" He yelled back, "Yay!” Mmmm, sausages and maple syrup and cinnamon toast, oh my!

Besides weather and food, Jack is our main entertainment. I realize my purpose here and is as cat-photo delivery system. Jack knows it too, and models for you, reveling in his adorable catness.

He watches TV with us on most nights. Luckily, he seems to like what we like, has not yet made a grab for the remote. We just finished season two of The Crown. Loved it, history! The vague stories I heard when I was a child came alive ~ lots of aha moments. Victoria is back on Masterpiece on Sunday nights ~ the palace is awash in candlelight and firelight, piano music, flowers, dresses, wallpaper, and intrigue ~ what’s not to love! I wonder if she's ever going to get used to being pregnant all the time, because she’s only just begun!

A came home the other day, said, “Get ready, Beach Road is serving oysters for a dollar each from 5-6pm!" So we piled on the coats, hats, scarves, and gloves, and went out. Just the two of us, slipping across the icy parking lot in the dark, into the warm candlelit restaurant to a corner table where we split eighteen ice-cold oysters, fresh, raw, and local. Queen Victoria could not have asked for more! We had salads with roasted and caramelized carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes over greens, with a delicious sherry dressing. We ate with our hands, happily slurping oysters and cold white wine, munching on hot crusty bread, planning our trip the whole time. The food was so elegant, I’m still not over it, but I have to be, because the very next night, that restaurant closed for the season! Our last oyster was shaped like a heart. Joe wrapped the shell in his handkerchief and brought it home. Love is all around!

Aeed more ideas for romantic dinners? Click on any of the dishes below and the recipe will come up.

Yes, we are! The time draws near (too many palace shows make me say “draws."). (The book? The perfect Christmas gift from my darling English girlfriend Rachel!)

Iur ship leaves March 9th! MUSICA I can hardly believe it. We’ve been planning like crazy ~ lots to do, but loving every moment of the dream. Because it’s true about getting there!

Ireland! Wales! And England! Oh yeah! I’m almost verklempt with excitement! And, to make it even more fun, we’re taking everyone with us. This means YOU. I’m going to keep a diary of the whole trip, and put pictures of our crossing on my website and give you a view of the middle of the wild Atlantic, and drive you through the countryside on the wrong side of the road, and show you all the reasons we’ve fallen madly in love with this part of the world. It will be our first passage on the Queen Victoria, first time to Ireland and Wales! Come along for the discoveries, bring your mom and dad, your kids and hubby, your Nana and Pawpaw, your aunties, girlfriends and sisters. If you have a classroom of little ones, bring them for a visit!

We’ve lined up all the houses we’re renting ~ Isn’t this one adorable? We tried to find cute ones. But for sure they all have a fireplace because there is nothing like a brisk walk through hillsides of wild bluebells on a chilly spring day, and then home at night to write in your diary, cozy in front of a warm fire.

And I painted you something. See? A lamb!

Name Tags! For those of you joining us for our BYO Picnic Basket Party in Beatrix Potter’s garden in the Lake District (at noon on May 11). Wear your name tag and write your name big so we will recognize each other. Kellee and Sheri from the Studio will be there in full name-tag regalia, they’re staying with us! People have asked if the picnic is free, which it is . . . you just show up with your picnic basket, park in the Hill Top parking lot and we’ll be there. But don’t worry if you can’t make it, Girlfriends don’t leave Girlfriends at home . . . we’ll take tons of pictures and post everything on the blog!

So, for you armchair travelers, this name tag also makes a wonderful bookmark. Just click HERE, print it on nice paper or card stock, cut around the guideline and Voila! If you’re interested, you can read more about the Picnic HERE. Everyone is invited, from everywhere, virtual or otherwise, a meeting of the minds at Castle Cottage in the English Lakes.

Be still my heart. When I think of a 23-year-old girl (me) buying my first Beatrix Potter figurine so long ago, and these many years later, meeting my Girlfriends at a picnic in Beatrix Potter’s actual Garden! What are the chances? Zero. Could. Not. Happen. Yet here we come!

Ship Ahoy ~ we leave on the good ship Queen Victoria on March 9th. Yes, another Victoria ~ we like themes even in our ocean liners! It’s a two week sailing to Southampton with our first stop in Charleston, South Carolina! We’ll be tying up downtown, in the heart of the historic district, on Sunday March 11 (everything seems to be happening on the 11th in the M months!) ~ Cunard didn't give us an exact time of arrival, said only, “late afternoon.” Soooo, what I was thinking is that maybe some of you might be in the neighborhood and would want to meet us that evening at the Westwood Plaza Barnes and Noble in Charleston for a book signing? Wouldn’t that be fun? It’s at 6:00pm. Wear your name tag!

And perfect timing for a signing, because we’ve had two books which have been out of stock but the sixth printing of A Fine Romance, and the second for Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, arrive from the printer any day now. Joe’s been handling the fun stuff, shipping, insurance, billing ~ making sure the books will be here on time. This will be my first book signing where I arrive by ship, maybe the cherry on the top in our life quest for the road less traveled.

My new box of watercolors is all ready for the trip. A brand I’ve never tried called "Schmincke ~ Horadam Aquarell". I hear they’re perfect for travel ~ it’s like going back to school, new notebooks and sharp pencils. You need tiny fingers to set this up because you have to open each of the tiny colors and keep them in order in the tin. They include a card so you can paint in the colors, light to dark, matching colors to numbers. That way, when one color is gone, we can order another of just that color! Isn’t that handy?

We'll be gone until July 1 ((((chills)))), that’s a long time. I have to make sure our house and the Studio have what they need to live without me for a couple of months. A lot happens between now and then, seasons change! The 2019 calendars go to print in February, and they aren’t even done yet. But they will be!

And when spring comes, we’ll need new cups. I told you I’d do four seasons of cups, so we’re going to need a Spring Cup to go with our other seasons! And here it is!

And in May, we'll need Mother’s Day!

And we have to have an English Countryside Cup! Right? Of course we do!

And, last but not least, Jack! I painted him for this new cup and one of our Girlfriends named it, "Jack in the Books." All four cup designs just went to England to be made into fine bone china in The Potteries. We should have them in our Studio by April 12 if all goes as planned. And all four are ready for Presale now. The Spring cup is 11 oz. to match the other seasons, and the rest are all 16 oz. Click HERE to read more about them.

And, believe it or not, before we get home, we’ll need Summer Cups! I can’t just go gallivanting off without making some plans around here! I still have to design them ~ I want to make something special for the 4th of July to celebrate coming home to the USA!

Please don’t worry (because I know you will and so will I), Jack will be well taken care of, he has good babysitters, trained pony-tail-band throwers, coming here to live while we’re away. It’s going to be hard to leave him because he and I are now joined at the hip. He’s still on the pillow in my desk drawer next to me, purring in his sleep. But we have to go. Life is short, dreams await while our legs still work. He’ll be fine, it’s me I worry about. I actually thought about taking him. You can bring animals on the Cunard boats, there is a kennel on board, you can visit them during the day. But I’m afraid Jack does not know he is an animal. He is definitely not a kennel guy, not boat people, not even a car guy. He’s a back-of-the-sofa, next-to-you-in-bed person. A homebody. So home he will stay, safe in the world he knows the best.

And so off we go, the countdown has begun . . . thank you for all your wonderful responses and comments on the blog, you know I love reading them. Sending you wishes for all good things, the kindness of a warm cozy bed, the inspiration of nature, the colors of a rainbow, the joy of a wild apple tree, the generosity of the sun, the whimsy of a hummingbird, the wonder of the moon and stars, the fragrance of something baking in the oven, the music of the breeze, and a little quiet time to yourself to contemplate all these things.

I’ll close with a Hafez quote “Let’s get loose with compassion, Let’s drown in the delicious ambience of love.” Yes, let’s! Happy Valentine’s Day Girlfriends. Come to the BLOG for a fun Giveaway!

Oh! P.S. Sheri reminded me, for you who’ve asked, there are a few retail stores that carry our things ~ sometimes we run out before they do ~ you can always check to see if they have what you're looking for and they will ship. If you have a shop and would like to work with us, contact [email protected]

1. Apple Farm—San Luis Obispo, CA 880-255-2040
2. Bunch of Grapes—Vineyard Haven, MA 508-693-2291
3. Crème de la Crème Atelier—Davis, CA 530-758-0851
4. The Cook Shop—Brewster, MA 508-896-7698
5. Wishful Thinking—McKinney, TX 469-714-4303
6. Barbara Cheatley’s—Claremont, CA 909-621-4161
7. Daydreams and Tea—Cleveland, OH 330-571-5828
8. Happy Go Smile—Cayucos, CA 805-235-4353
9. Oakhurst Giftworks—Oakhurst, CA 559-683-7845
10. Sugar Island Bakery—Surf City, NC 910-254-1110
11. Titcombs Book Shop—East Sandwich, MA 508-888-2331

For our UK customers: Nursery Thyme in Devizes carries our cups.