Thursday, November 29, 2012

Early Christmas Presents

Early Christmas Presents
Edward has been walking around this past week
 with a permanent plum red lipstick mark atop his furry white head. 
 I just keep hugging him and planting a kiss right there. 
 For I will tell you the truth: 
 even better than writing the book and seeing it published more beautifully than I'd dreamed
 is knowing people are loving it. 
 It just makes me so happy.
Reading the generous posts written by bloggers I adore brings a tear to my eye 
and puts an extra spring in my step.
  I wonder, can lipstick permanently stain white fur?

Thank you dear Jeanne, Brooke, Helen and Karena!

Read the lovely Jeanne's post HERE.
Find the ever inspiring Brooke at Velvet and Linen HERE
And the talented artist, Helen Tilston, HERE.
Also, an interview with the delightful artist, Karena!  HERE

And get your copy of From the House of Edward HERE.
Remember, if you'd like it wrapped for Christmas, please indicate that 
in the little paypal box!

Big Post on Christmas Books coming Later in the Week!

Sunday, November 25, 2012



This very night, if one is fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of the American History Museum in New York City, a marvelous sight will unfold.  Large pools of undefined colour lying on charcoal grey streets will slowly begin to rise in the air and take shape, a block-long arm here, a skyscraper-tall nose there, as the gargantuan balloons of the annual Thanksgiving Day parade come to life.  In this staging area, anchored by sand bags and nets, they will bob and nod in the midnight air as they await their frosty morning march through the Manhattan streets.  Delighted New Yorkers will watch and wave from balconies and windows as fifty million more of us view the merry procession on television.
 In town and country kitchens from sea to shining sea, sweet potatoes are being whipped into tasty concoctions, pies are baking, and yeast rolls are rising.
  Football teams are bouncing on sidelines, anxious to play the big games. 
Soon we will hold hands.
We will say Grace.
It is admittedly rather wonderful to live in a country that celebrates thankfulness.

It has frequently been pointed out to me that I am a positive person.  Sometimes this has been said with a sneer, as if my sanguine personality is at best quixotic, or at worst,  nothing more than silly eccentricity.  It’s quite true that, like dear Beatrice, I might not have been born at a merry hour, but “a star danced, and under that was I born”.  For while I am hardly unacquainted with the dark, I tend to always look for the light.  And I usually find it in the midst of gratitude.  

   Through the years I’ve discovered it’s a mistake to wait for some huge bounty to be thankful.   Gratitude does not mysteriously descend.  It needs to be cultivated and nurtured as a way of life, as a habit.  I am no stranger to bad days but I have learned that to be truly thankful, to shelter and tend my own gratitude, I must give what I don’t have.  Patience when I can’t find any.  A smile when I don’t have one.  Laughter when tears seem more comfortable.  In taking my eyes off myself I find my spirits lift as my eyes open to the beauty all around me.  As I am filled with thankfulness, more and more, beautiful wonders begin to follow my footfalls and embroider my pathways.  

Thanksgiving Day is a marvelous tradition celebrated with a feast.  But if thankfulness is merely a once a year emotion, our hearts remain thirsty, our souls are malnourished.  If we are lucky, in the midst of all this weekend’s festivities, each of us will find a quiet moment outside.  Under the trees, under the stars, under an afternoon sky, we will express our own private gratitude for breath and hope, for love and goodness.
 And we shall awake to more love and goodness every morning of the year.

I am thankful for each and every one of my readers
 and wish you all the joy of gratitude in your own lives.

Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”
Mary Oliver

From the House of Edward, 
gaily wrapped for Christmas presents,
is flying out the windows of Wild Bouquet Press.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Release the Festive Fellow... A List for November

Release the Festive Fellow
A List for November
This is the week it happens.  As strange and unlikely as it may seem, the holidays start in just a few days and I am just about to release the festive fellow in the painting up above.  He who has been waiting and waiting for eleven long months - twiddling his fingers, tapping his toes - will fly out of his hiding place, laughing, and immediately set about filling all of my rooms with a holiday light.  That most reflective of occasions, Thanksgiving, is arriving on Thursday (yes, Thursday!) and it signals the start of the holiday season here at the house of Edward.  Wreaths will be up on the windows by Friday and a permanent grin stitched on my face for the foreseeable future. 
 For the start of this week, and to catch November before he packs his bags, 
here’s a celebratory list to enjoy!  
Isn’t this a wonderful time of the year?  

1.  Back To Scotland
I’m planning a trip back to Scotland.
And I can’t get this place out of my head. 
Is it just me, or doesn’t that room look like absolute heaven? 
Has anyone stayed HERE?

2.  The Further Adventures of Peter Rabbit
Beatrix Potter is a heroine to me.  Not merely for her graciously beautiful stories of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit himself, nor for her amazing artwork, but for her quietly remarkable efforts in land conservation in the Lake District of England.  Most of the gorgeous land around me in the photograph above owes its preservation to Miss Potter, or Mrs. Heelis, as she became upon marrying solicitor William Heelis in 1913.  In the second half of her lovely life, Beatrix became a respected farmer of Herdwick sheep, winning bouquets of ribbons at country shows. She used the profits from her beloved books to buy Lakeland property and at the time of her death bequeathed over 4000 acres and 14 farms to the National Trust.  What a glorious gift to her country.   
 As an unabashed fan of Miss Potter’s, and as someone leery of sequels in any form, I was seriously conflicted when I heard of the Further Adventures of Peter Rabbit by none other than Emma Thompson.  But then, over a cup of tea a few afternoons ago, I chanced to hear Miss Thompson give a radio interview about the writing of this new book.  She read a few excerpts and I found myself, despite myself, utterly charmed. 
 This new edition happily includes a CD of Emma reading the story aloud which, 
I’m not ashamed to admit, I cannot wait to hear.  
Hear the NPR interview with Emma Thompson HERE.
See the book HERE.


3.  Gorgeous Scarves
Love Scarves.
Love Liberty.
Love the UK.
Love Animals.
Love These!
There are so many fabulous scarves to be found at Liberty of London.
It boggles the mind.
These celebrate the wildlife of Scotland (pictured above) Ireland and Wales. 
Find them HERE.

4.  From the House of Edward Book
To employ one of my favourite words, the response to my book has left me gobsmacked!
Copies have been wending their way all over the world which is equally thrilling and humbling.  As a special treat for the holidays, we are offering to gorgeously wrap copies for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts.  You can even have copies mailed directly to friends and family if you wish.  Just put in the Paypal instruction box if you’d like this done.
   It tickles me beyond belief to know these books are destined 
for a cozy place in a stocking somewhere!
Get your copy HERE.
And a very special thank you to the beautiful Brooke Giannetti of Velvet and Linen
for her incredible post about our book.
Read it HERE


5.  Manners, Kindness and Courtesy
The several unsavoury, anonymous, and totally off-topic, comments left on my recent post, Butterflies, (most of which I erased, a few of which I left), caught me off guard and caused me to view last week’s passing of Letitia Baldrige with more poignancy that I perhaps otherwise would have done.  In a New York Times article commemorating her life, writer William Norwich called Ms. Baldrige an “oracle of manners, kindness and courtesy”, and she displayed all three attributes in full measure during her years serving in the Kennedy White House as classmate Jackie Kennedy’s social secretary.  Her philosophy can be be eloquently summed up by the title of her last book, “Taste: Acquiring What Money Can’t Buy”, and though some might view her views as a trifle out of date, (she did, after all, once advise “infrequent shampooing when staying on a yacht, to be considerate about conserving water”) her elegant, stalwart defense of good manners and kindness in a fractious world should never be considered passe. 
 She shall be missed.
You can read Mr. Norwich’s tribute HERE.
Or read Miss Baldrige's book about her time in the Kennedy White House.


6.  A Beautiful Garden Wall
In November, we rake lots and lots of leaves. 
The magnolia blooms have disappeared.  The hydrangea bushes stand leafless and stark.  
 We put out mulches and blankets of pine straw to shelter the tulip bulbs just beginning their long naps till Spring.  It’s now that the garden reveals its architecture, the frames that encircle the paintings of summer and spring.  We see with new eyes the hedges, the benches, the moss-covered pots.  Garden walls are in their element now and when I saw this one, I was completely enchanted.  
It’s wonderful.  Don’t you agree?
See more HERE.

7.  Value

One night when I was much younger, I happened upon a PBS production of a play entitled, Best of Friends.  It was an exploration of the friendship between three remarkable people:  Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, director of Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Sydney Cockerell, and Dame Laurentia McLachlan, a Benedictine nun at the Stanbrook Abbey in Worchester.   Taken mostly from their own writings, the dialogue was witty and smart - the ideas considered, expansive and illuminating.  I was utterly enthralled and thought about this play for weeks afterwards.  Without the benefit of public broadcasting, I would never have known of this production as it contained neither the bombast nor the torpidity required to entice television advertisers.  So much of the most memorable, moving and thought-provoking offerings on American television are to be found on Public Broadcasting. Freely given, it is where we turn for  symphonies and ballets, enlightening documentaries and theatre.  I continue to be grateful for its existence in my everyday life.
Eons ago, books were luxuries filling only the houses of the rich.  Then came the wonderful invention of the public library, making the magic of the written word available to everyone, opening minds and fashioning ideas.  When television and radio came along, the idea of free public access to both became a reality in the states with National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System.  Throughout the ensuing years, NPR and PBS have become the places I turn to for the type of programming that makes me think and lifts up my heart. 
 It was disheartening to hear the losing candidate vow to end public financing for these institutions during the recent presidential campaign.  Public access to art is vital to our national health, and PBS is about so much more than Big Bird.  While federal funding only counts for a fraction of these budgets, to me, the issue is not about money.
It is about what we value as a country.  We ignore expressions of grace and beauty at our peril, for nations are remembered for their art. As President Kennedy once said, “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”
I was tickled to see that the play that meant so much to me years ago is now available for purchase. 
 You can find it HERE.

8. The Perfect Holiday Shoe
Exquisite black dress.
Hair worn down.
One extravagant ruby ring.
and these shoes!
Find them HERE.
Stay tuned!
I have so many things planned for the holidays!
Book lists, gift lists, recipes!
Like I said, isn't this a wonderful time of the year?!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fancy a Trip to Paris?

Fancy a Trip to Paris?
My bags are packed and the ragtop is down. 
 I’ve picked only the best music for the journey; a little Mozart, a little Petula Clark.
Edward has the back seat all to himself,
 but there’s room up front for you.
  Fancy a trip to Paris?  That’s where we’re heading!  
When the beautiful Tish Jett of the delightful Parisian blog, A Femme d’Un Certain Age... (My go-to blog for all things beauty, fashion and fun.  Better than Vogue, no kidding!)  asked me to write a special essay just for her readers, I was thrilled. 
 So come along with me!  
Better pull your hat down tight, the wind can be murder crossing the pond!  
 Just click HERE and we’re off!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Like the Sound of the Sea

Like the sound of the sea, some words are a balm to the soul,
 weaving delight and gratitude in equal measure. 
These words did precisely that for me this morning.
I gave Edward a big hug and we went for a walk under a bright November sky.
We were both smiling.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Irresistible Domesticity of November

The Irresistible Domesticity of November

Certain rooms in my house see more of me during certain times of the year.  On a May morning when the curtains blow into the room on a rose-scented breeze, I can often be found in my bedroom, reading or writing on my chaise lounge by the four-poster bed, listening to bird song.  My library, being the coolest room in the house, is where Edward and I spend hot summer afternoons, him dozing, me reading, while the southern heat melts the bright palette of springtime into a landscape of faded, impressionistic vignettes.  But, November.  Everyone knows to look for me in the kitchen when the eleventh month appears.  Rolling out pastry, stirring thick soups, sitting at the kitchen table with my knitting on my lap as I wait for sourdough bread to rise in the pan.  Perhaps it’s the faint scent of woodsmoke on the brisk, chilly wind.  Or maybe its simply the colours of autumn - the hearty gold, the cheerful orange.  Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, I cannot seem to resist the soul enriching warmth of domesticity in November.  I turn inward, close the door and light the fire.

This particular November finds me the proud owner of a brand new stove, albeit one both unwanted and unneeded until about a month ago.  At the risk of revealing myself to be thoroughly and irreparably spoiled, I confess that I’m one of the lucky ones.  The Songwriter makes me breakfast every morning.  I know, I know, ... but it has something to do with his preference for absolute quiet when he wakes up, a state of being I seem to shatter when I rejoin the land of the living each day.  As I could never be mistaken for a “morning person”, waking up to the fragrance of hot coffee already made and ready to pour is truly a treat unparalleled.  Several weeks ago, fancying a bit of cinnamon toast, The Songwriter opened the cabinet above the stove and reached for a too-eager, tiny glass bottle of cinnamon which proceeded to jump off the shelf before he could take hold of it.  The little thing plummeted down, down, to a tragic demise on top of the glass surface of the stove where it made a tiny, seemingly insignificant crack.  Then, with a sickening slowness, like the pouring of syrup, the crack, though thin as an eyelash, began to spread - an almost inaudible pop here, a hushed little crackle there - as The Songwriter, clad in striped jim jams with a sad piece of bread in his hand, watched in silent horror.  Like the shifting of tectonic plates under the floor of the desert, the entire surface of the stove slowly shattered.  It took two whole minutes to complete the process and I still can’t help but giggle every time I imagine The Songwriter’s horrified face as he watched it unfold.  

Laughs were less frequent however, when we began to search for the stove’s replacement.  We live in an old house and these days appliances are created for new ones.  Like Goldilocks searching for her perfect chair, every stove was either too tall or two wide to fit in our kitchen.  No showroom had one.  So like most modern families, we turned to the internet where we found a big, sturdy fellow sporting a spacious oven and shiny dials just made for imaginative cooking.  He fits perfectly, and with the arrival of November, he is being put to excellent use.  I have made an apple pie a week for the past three weeks, one for a neighbourhood bakery auction where all the proceeds went to the animal rescue facility from which Edward and Apple were rescued, one for a beach weekend with friends, and one, made only last night, for The Songwriter himself.  There have been two big pots of soup and yes, just this morning, The Songwriter finally chanced another breakfast of cinnamon toast.  I’m happy to report it was both tasty and uneventful.

I do highly recommend rediscovering the wonders of your own hearthside this November and to that end, I’m sharing one of my favourite soup recipes.
  It’s a scrumptious minestrone from my neighbour, Nancy.
  Delicious and healthy.  

Oh, and Edward and I are humbled, and quite tickled, by the amazing 
reviews of our new book!
Read Art House Design's Review HERE
And Splenderosa's HERE
And get your own copy of From the House of Edward HERE.
Be sure and put in the instructions box if you'd like the book
 wrapped for Christmas and shipped to a friend!

November Minestrone
2 Teaspoons of good olive oil
1.5 cups chopped onion
1 medium carrot, sliced lengthwise and chopped.  About 3/4 cup
1 clove garlic
1.5 cup brown rice ( I use a mixture of brown and red rice, with barley and rye thrown in, yum!)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2.5 cups water
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 10 oz can of organic chicken broth
1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise and chopped (about 2 cups)
1 15oz can cannellini beans
1 10oz pkg of frozen spinach
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil on medium high heat and add onion, carrot and garlic.
Saute 3 to 5 minutes.
Add rice and next 4 ingredients.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat.
Simmer until rice is done.
Add zucchini and next 4 ingredients and simmer till ready to serve.
Sprinkle each bowl with freshly grated parmesan cheese before serving.

Monday, November 5, 2012



There are moments throughout each life that become the defining ones.  We can all flip through the gilded pages of our individual histories and point to them much like Napoleon could point to Waterloo or St. Paul to Damascus and say, 
“There.  Right there.  I was a different person after that”. 
 Poor Burton was never the same from the fated hour he walked onto the set of Cleopatra and beheld Taylor, and at a seemingly innocuous autumn fete in a Liverpool churchyard, two teenage boys named Lennon and McCartney met for the first time and the whole of the world was changed. 
  Like the aforementioned examples, sometimes those moments radiate a historical importance that is vivid even to others.  The scope of their influence is so all-encompassing as to be impossible to deny.  But though other moments are smaller, insignificant to a wider audience, these are so often the ones that manage to hone our individual characters in the most decisive ways.  They make us who we are.  One of those moments happened to me when I was about seven years old and through it I learned that it’s possible to be right even when those with more volume and authority tell me I’m wrong.  I learned to question.  I learned to learn.  I learned to trust myself.

It had been a day much like any other of my childhood; one spent playing outside.  One of my little neighbours had shown up at some point with her four year old sister.  During the course of the afternoon, in the midst of exploring our gardens and yards, I chanced to explain to the littlest one how caterpillars turn into butterflies.  I cannot remember her reaction, but I suppose she was suitably impressed.  That particular bit of nature’s quirkiness has always fascinated me.  Later that evening came a loud rap on our front door.  My mother opened it to find a red-faced woman standing on our porch with her hands on her hips, her newly enlightened four year old standing behind her with her little facial features arranged in an expression reflective of her newest emotion, Scorn.  
The lady proceeded to proclaim her displeasure at my “tellin’ tales” to her little girl saying, 
“She’s gonna go to school now and repeat this stuff and everbody’s gonna think she’s nuts.
Tell your girl to stop tellin’ stories.”

Indignant, I wanted my mother to come to the defense of my credibility with a vengeance but, no doubt to her credit, she simply stood there and took it, realizing, even as I did myself, that intelligent argument was destined to be a futile exercise.  Though a lifetime ago, I can remember everything about that five minutes - from the way a setting sunbeam caught dust motes floating in the air to the cotton fabric of my mother’s shirtwaist dress.  I remember being stunned, as much by the lady’s ignorance as by the arrogance that accompanied it.   I have no doubt that this one moment churned and bubbled in the back of my mind, stirring up a concoction that has flowed through my veins ever since.  I still deplore that fatal mixture of ignorance and arrogance.

I was reminded of that long ago day this past week, en route to a beach weekend with friends. Driving through a tiny Alabama town around lunchtime, hungry, but reluctant to partake of the available offerings of fast food and donuts, I decided to stop into the local supermarket, The Piggly Wiggly, and pick up some yogurt and fruit.  Laying a carton of Greek yogurt and one perfectly ripe banana in front of the check out lady, I raised my eyes to meet an incredulous stare.
“You gonna make somethin’ with this?”, she asked.
A bit confused, I said, “Um, no.  This is just my lunch.”
“THIS is your lunch?”  She practically sneered.  
“Well, yes”, I meekly replied.
She looked at me as if she considered me utterly and completely ridiculous, then asked, 
“You ain’t gonna eat no real food?”.

Now I have to confess, it’s not often I find myself at a complete loss for words.  In fact, I’m usually the one blurting out something flip when the occasion definitely demands that I don’t.  In hindsight, I rather wish I had suggested that my seemingly lame choices for lunch constituted a much more nutritious meal than a basket of chicken nuggets, but at that moment, standing in the full heat of that girl’s supercilious stare, I had nothing.  I limped back to my car in stunned silence.  And when I reached my little green Fiat, I stared forlornly down to the spot on its back bumper where my two little Obama magnets, there when I went in, were now missing.
I still had nothing. 
 I drove for miles and miles with nothing but a dial tone in my head.
 But I have thought of butterflies all week. 
I normally remove any comments that are ugly and upsetting for the simple reason that I do not wish to subject my readership to such acrimony. That is not what this blog is about. Upon reading through these, mostly anonymously written, examples this morning, however, I decided to leave them up.  They seemed a fitting coda to this particular post, which was never intended to be even remotely political.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Holiday Home Tour - Chapter Two

The Holiday Home Tour
Chapter Two

Negotiating the icy cobblestones that led to the front door of Buckden House was a tricky business and Margaret was nearly there before she realized the crowd she had expected was nowhere to be seen.  In fact, she soon found herself standing quite alone at the bottom of the steep stone stairs leading up to the heavily carved front door.  There upon it, hanging from a silk cord the colour of mahogany, was a plain wreath of noble fir, (obviously not a Stonefield design) but nothing else to signify holiday festivity of any kind.  Margaret reached into her pocket and pulled out the holiday tour brochure to make certain she had the right day, clumsily opening it up with her red-gloved hands.  Yes, there was the date plainly written, December 12th, ten to two.  She turned to look over her shoulder but no one was following her up the drive; she could see nary a soul coming along down Simpson Street.  Margaret sighed.  It was impossible she had the wrong day, equally impossible she was too early; the tour was scheduled to begin in ten minutes.  Standing so close to the house she’d dreamed about since childhood gave her more confidence than she’d normally have possessed in such odd circumstances, so she squared her shoulders, marched up the stairs and raised her hand to rap loudly on the door. Before her gloved hand could accomplish that mission however, the door slowly, almost nonchalantly, opened a crack. 

Margaret froze, red-gloved hand still raised.  Through the tiny crack in the heavy door she could smell a hint of , ... oh, what was it?  Lilac?  Rose?  No, gardenia.  That was it. Odd to have gardenias at Christmastime.  Timidly, she reached out and nudged the door open a bit wider.  She peeked inside.  There was no one there.  No smiling docent dressed in holiday colours to welcome her in and take her tour ticket.  No other tour patrons milling about in the entry.  The hall lay dark and empty before her.  Overwhelmed by a curiosity she couldn’t deny, Margaret stuck her head around the door then, holding her handbag to her chest, she took a step into the hall.  

A single lamp, its glass shade reverse painted with forest scenes and deer, cast a  faded light over a long wooden entry hall table.  Directly in front of her, a carpeted stairway rose up into darkness.  The conservatory lay to her right, its stained glass dull and opaque in the dim light of the icy morning. Looking to her left she saw a long shadowy room, its walls lined with William Morris wallpaper and many tall bookshelves.  A grand piano sat in the corner by one of the mullioned windows, draped in a silk shawl embroidered in flowers of fuschia and crimson.  There were capacious high backed chairs arranged throughout the room upholstered in red damask and soaring shadows cast by a crackling fire in a massive stone fireplace moved about the walls like grey-gowned dancers.  From somewhere in the house came the sound of music playing.  Margaret strained to listen.  It was a tune she recognized.  Mozart?  No.  Oh yes, she knew it now... Saint-Saens Dance Macabre.  What a strange piece to be playing during a Christmas home tour.  

She called out in a soft voice.  
“Hello?  Anyone here?”  

Margaret stepped tentatively into the room.  To her right by the doorway was an octagonal burl wood table on which sat a large collection of silver and gold picture frames.  She bent down to get a closer look.  A series of faces gazed back into hers.  Here, a regal looking gentleman in an Egyptian kalasiris stared out at her, his black eyes warmly kind.   There, a beautiful woman in Victorian dress holding the lead of a lanky Irish Wolfhound.  A smiling raven-haired child sitting atop a white pony.  On a rocky beach, a tall willowy lady was laughing as she looked back over her shoulder at the camera pointed her way.   And was that... could that be...?  Yes, there in a freshly polished silver frame sat a photograph of Virginia Woolf wearing an expression that could only be described as a grin. Her curiosity superseding her confusion, Margaret stood up straight and looked around.  She listened.  Still no other sound but Saint-Saens.  She followed her drifting, dazzled gaze over to the many colourful spines of the volumes lined up on the bookshelves.   Most, she saw, were classics.  Lifting out a weathered leather copy of Twelfth Night, she turned it over and over in her hands.  She opened it up, rubbing the fine parchment between her fingers.  With astonishment, she then noticed an autograph scrawled on the frontispiece.  
W. Shakespeare.   It couldn’t be?  Could it?

Just as she heard a distinct rise in the volume of the music, Margaret also heard footsteps; the clickety clack of ladies’ heels, hurrying along a corridor somewhere beyond the end of the room.  Her heart began to beat faster.  Whoever it was was coming this way.  Suddenly, the door behind the piano burst open and two young women flew threw on a cloud of gardenia scented air.  Both were in dresses of pale pink satin, bias-cut,with masses of white pearls strung casually round their necks.  Their hair hung down in dark curls and their lips were red as cherries. They were the most gorgeous girls Margaret had ever seen in her life.  They practically shone. 

“Oh Margaret, you’ve finally arrived!  We were so worried you wouldn’t find the way!”

“Stella, look!  She has the invitation!  I told you that would work”.

Margaret instinctively looked down at her holiday brochure, crumpled in her red-gloved hands and stepped back a step.  But the two women reached out for her, taking hold of her arms saying,

 “We’ll have to hurry to get you ready in time.  Mathieu has just finished your gown, and wait till you see it!  You’ll be the most sublimely dressed one at the party. Come ON, Margaret!  This way..”

Stunned to numbness, Margaret found herself following along behind the beautiful creatures at a clip.  Out into the entry hall and up the carved staircase where, she noticed in passing, lights were now glowing from every available surface. Catching a glimpse into the conservatory, she saw the stained glass was now technicolour; the room afire with rainbows.  Two flights up, they turned, almost at a run now, down a hallway papered in pink and green flowers.  Dahlias and roses, peonies and lamb’s ears.  Everywhere.  Margaret’s head was turning this way and that to get a good look at it all when all at once the girls stopped short at a tall dark door.  Flinging it open, they pushed her inside.

“ Here we are.  This is your room and, for goodness sakes, get ready as quickly as you can!  The music starts in ten minutes and you simply cannot be late!  You’ll have everything you need and we’ll meet you in the garden when you’re done.  Ten minutes, now Margaret!”

“Oh and it’s just lovely to see you finally!  You’re just as lovely as we imagined you’d be!”

The door shut with a click behind them and Margaret turned to face a room unlike any other she’d entered in the whole of her life. A gilded light flooded through floor length windows, transforming everything, from chair to candlestick, to shining gold.  Light pooled on each gleaming surface of the polished wood furniture like cupfuls of honey in morning sun.  The four-poster bed was dressed in a pink so pale it could almost be white; the sort of pink that fills the sky in that one single second just before summer dawn.  Lying across the foot of the bed was a gown that could only be described as unique.  Margaret had never seen one to equal it, not even in the glossiest of fashion magazines.  With a dark aubergine velvet skirt and a bodice of emerald green feathers, it looked as though a magnificent bird had landed atop the lavishly draped bed.  Surely she wasn’t expected to put this dress on.

Convinced completely now that she’d never even awakened this morning, that she was still deep within a dream brought on by the weather or an impending virus of some sort, she decided she’d just go ahead and try the dress on.  Pulling off her red gloves, unbuttoning her hooded coat, she giggled to herself at the silliness of it all.  The emerald feathers tickled her neck as she slipped the exquisite frock over her head.  The dress fit like a dream, which of course, Margaret thought, it would, considering it was one.

Turning around to look for a mirror, she noticed there was no one to be seen.  She moved to the trio of shining windows at the back of the room but her reflection was invisible in the glowing light streaming in from the garden.  Margaret gazed down upon a wondrous scene.  A Halloween party, it had to be.  Fat orange Chinese lanterns hung in a forest of scarlet-leafed trees.  A tuxedoed orchestra was taking its seat on a stage draped in fairy lights and flowers.  There were tables bedecked with tapestry cloths and white pumpkins, towering cakes with snowy icing and crystal glass bowls of pink wine.  She could see bannered boats on Grove Lake, drifting lazily along as the laughter of their sailors floated in towards her ear.

Margaret’s hands held folds of her aubergine velvet gown.  She couldn’t even begin to think clearly.  At the very same moment she noticed, over in the corner, a familiar red tartan bed, she heard a faint scratching at the door of the room.  She crossed quickly to the door and threw it open.  In trotted Emmett, heading for the dog bed where he plopped down with a contented sigh.  Margaret stood still, her mouth agape.

She began to hear, faintly at first, then clearer and clearer, a chorus of voices calling her name and so went back to the window and peered out to the garden.  There, such an array of unusual faces looked up her way, glasses raised, smiling and laughing.  People of every colour, every age, all in exotic finery much like her own.  All were smiling up at her window.

“Come out Margaret!  It’s time!”  A chorus of voices traveled up from the garden.

Margaret patted Emmett on his little brown head and turned at once for the door, her skirts floating over the floor like a soft wind off the lake.

In the late afternoon of December 12th, Graham Stonefield and his little brother, Michael, were delivering Christmas wreaths to the houses of Simpson Street, a task they enjoyed each year.  People always loved to see the brothers during the holiday season.  The lavish handmade wreaths from the Stonefield Farm were a treat unique to Grove Hill and a tradition much prized by the neighbours on Simpson Street.  The boys earned enough money in one week to keep them in comic books and DVD’s for the rest of the year.  The temperature was dropping now, and Graham had just decided to wait till the hopefully warmer next morning to complete their deliveries, when he noticed Michael standing at the gates of old Buckden House. 

“Shame about that place.  Someone should fix it up.  It’s just falling in”, said Graham.

“Yeah”, Michael replied.  He so longed to see inside.  He always had.

“Come on,” yelled Graham, his voice muffled in the icy wind.

Reluctantly, Michael Stonefield turned to leave the gates of Buckden House, his booted foot trodding on one unnoticed red fair isle glove as he ran.