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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Our Artist Vacation - Day 5

Day 5 and we wake up in the lower level of my brother's and his wife's house in Cheshire, CT.  Their cat, Lucky, has been inadvertently shut in with us and has made his bed next to my hip all night.  I'm hoping his name is a portend of what our day will be like.  After Ken drives me the 45 minutes to Danbury he's going to call the dealer in Massachusetts to see what's happening with the minivan.  He had planned to do his own sightseeing in the area while I spend the day at the Friends of Gladys Taber (FOGT) Reunion at the Crown Plaza.  We already had a room here for the night rather than going back to my brothers because it puts us 45 minutes closer to home.  We planned to get home by mid-afternoon so we could celebrate a couple family birthdays and Father's Day.  I joined FOGT just so I could attend their reunion because Susan Branch was their slated speaker.  I have read bits of Gladys Taber's books and enjoyed them, but it is for Susan that I'm here.  When Ken drops me off the A Fine Romance van is parked along the curb and Joe Hall is speaking with a gentleman....

I walk past them unnoticed into the hotel....

I'm directed where to wait and find my two Tasha Tudor friends!  I'm so glad because I don't know a soul here.  Soon we are in the line to get our name tags so we can go find good seats in the conference room.  It is set up with round tables and we are able to find seats open at a table in the front off to the side.  Susan Turnley, the FOGT newsletter editor, makes a few announcements about things we needed to know about the buses we'd be taking to Stillmeadow and then she told us how she'd come to find out about Susan Branch....

Meanwhile I am checking my phone to see if there are any messages from Ken about the car.  I'm wondering if we're going to be able to get home the next day.  This is when I notice that despite the fact I'd had my phone plugged in all night charging it was about to run out of battery!  To add to my dismay I only had one signal bar.  Soon Susan T. brought Susan B. up on the stage....

I think Susan noticed my camera.  She keeps looking in my direction.  I hope she doesn't mind that I'm videotaping her....

She spoke about how Gladys Taber had affected her life.  You can read a little about it here on her Blog.  I wrote her and asked permission to share the part about why Gladys Taber meant so much to her, but she implored me not to use it because she was putting it in her new book and wanted it to appear there first.  You know Susan--she felt bad for asking me not to use it on my blog.   I wrote back, "No, no, no.  Don't feel bad....Your friendship is more important to me than any "scoops" I might have."  She had explained that sharing the details of how she discovered Gladys with the audience was her way of thanking us for coming.  I do have a little clip, though, that I can show you.  It is when Susan Turnley presented her with the thank-you gift she showed everyone on her blog....

Susan had spoken for about 45 minutes then went on to answer questions from the audience for another 45 minutes.  During this time someone asked her if she had a Bucket List what would be on it.  Again, she revealed a surprise that only WE, the audience, know now, and she asked me to keep it a secret.  In the next video she shares the second thing on her Bucket List.  It is safe to share since we already know about the book she's in the process of writing....

All too soon it was 11:00 which meant that if we were all to make the buses on time Susan had to stop talking and start signing books.  Part of the audience was told to eat and the rest of us were to get in the book-signing line.  That was my group so I got in the line to buy a book from Joe first.  We were asked in advance to only bring one book to be autographed and since I already have an autographed book by Susan I offered to buy one for my neighbor (the one watching Poetry for me) who planned to give it to her mother who dearly loves England.  My friend's father had been a pilot for Pan-Am and they'd made several trips to England during her childhood.

The line was getting so long at Joe's table that they started another line was for cash only.  It was shorter and because Susan's line was getting so long I decided to get in the cash line.  Therefore, I never did get to actually meet him....

It was a little after 12:00 by the time I reached Susan.  When I told her I was Cathy from Maryland, the name I use when I comment on her Blog and pointed to my little painting of Poetry the Calico Cat, my Twitter avatar that I had attached to my FOSB name tag, which I had attached to my FOGT name tag, she looked at my name tag and said "Oh, Cathy Schultz!"  She promptly raised her arms to hug me.  I don't think she realized just how much I needed that hug.  I was tired from standing for over an hour, hungry, and wondering if Ken had tried to reach me concerning the car.  If I was feeling tired and hungry I figured Susan was too, although she never let on if she was.....but I just could not impose any further and ask for my photo to be taken with her.  Instead I took a photo of her signing my the book for my friend's mother....

I then hurried out to the front desk of the hotel to see if Ken had checked in or left me a message.  Nothing.  I went back in to finally eat and found there was no food left....just scraps.  At that point I was ready to cry.  But I pulled myself together--I had my inspiration just across the room after all--and found someone to ask about more food.  More arrived promptly.  I ate, tidied myself up and went to find the last bus before it left.  As I climbed on the bus (my two friends had already left on Bus 2) I looked for my minivan in the parking lot, hoping Ken might have just arrived to check in.  If I saw him, I was going to jump off the bus to finally find out what was going on.  Wait!  He'd be driving the Nissan SUV,  and I had no idea what it looked like.  I settled into my seat and kept checking my phone instead for a signal, or a message, or something!  As we drove along the Interstate I finally gave up and just looked out at the New England scenery and finally remembered to pray the three little prayers--Lord have mercy--Thee I adore--In Thy Hands.  Low and behold about half-way into the 30-minute trip to Southbury where we were to tour Stillmeadow I got a signal....and four messages came all at once from Ken:  "Villager ready at noon.  I am leaving soon $650.00.....I have Villager.  Coming back.....Villager and I at hotel room 821." Yay!  We can go home tomorrow!  My little minivan is fixed!  And for much less than I'd feared.  All that worrying for nothing!

Whew!  That's taken care of.  Now I can enjoy the rest of my day.  It seems my looking for the Villager in the parking lot was not a mistake.  At that point Ken was about half an hour from the hotel--it had been a 90-minute-drive to and from the dealer.  When he got back around 1:45ish he said he saw Joe and Susan carrying things out to their van.  Just as we pulled up to Stillmeadow I was able to reach him by phone and ask what had been wrong with it.  It seems it was the electronic distributor!

Susan Branch has some wonderful photos here of the tour she was given the day before, if you'd like to check those out, too.  As I walked through the house and around the yard I was listening to all of Gladys' devotees expressing how thrilled they were to see all the things Gladys had written about.  Because I'm not in that category I kept reminding myself that I was the same way about Tasha Tudor's house.  It was a good reminder for me that my enthusiasm about the things I love is not necessarily understood and appreciated by others.  As I took my photos I was looking at the room and its' objects from a photographer's eye.  I think that's why Susan's photos are more appealing to me.  She was looking at the room and its' objects with her heart.

We were given floor plans and maps  and I thought I'd include them here.  I know that if you have read and loved Gladys Taber's books about Stillmeadow, you will want to see how the rooms are laid out and what the property looks like.  If you need to, just click on the photo to enlarge it....

I was quite surprised to find the house so small.  I imagined it to be a large, rambling house from Gladys' description.  I suppose, compared to her tiny New York apartment it was large.  When Gladys bought the house in 1933 she was told it was built in 1690, but research in the 1990's by the Southbury Historical Society showed it was circa 1785....

The door that is open in the above photo is actually a side door.  This is the actual front door that they never used....

This is the view from the other side of the house.  The actual front door can be seen on the left....

If we go back around to that side door that was used as the front door you can look down the walk to the gate....

This is just to the left of that side front door.  The bump-out was "Jill's" room....

I walked away from the house to the left and took a picture from this angle of the well....

You enter into this room through the side door.  That is the type of typewriter Gladys used to write her columns and books....

The next room you enter is the den/dining room.  This is the fireplace they would sometimes cook in....

Gladys' bedroom was just off the dining room.  Gladys' granddaughter, Anne, who lives in the house part-time, put the hospital bed (on the right) in this room for her ailing mother, Connie.  I believe she said her mother is in an assisted care facility now and brings her up to Stillmeadow for visits from time-to-time.  The bed is where Gladys' desk used to be....

This old stove provided heat for the room....

There was a door in the bedroom that led to the old entryway.  This is looking out that old front door....

We leave the bedroom the way we came, go through the dining room where we meet Anne and her daughter, Kate....

Then it's on to the kitchen....

Gladys raised and showed dogs so she had little reminders all over the house such as the dog in the window....

And this doorstop....

After walking around the yard for a bit I took this photo of the driveway....

And the front gate from the road....

Now that I've seen the house for myself I find I'm much more interested in reading more of her works.  I will have to go back and reread the "Stillmeadow Album."  Published in 1969, it is full of photographs of the house and grounds.  If you are interested in Gladys Taber I highly recommend getting it along with "The Best of Stillmeadow," a collection of stories about how she came to buy it, divided into stories for each month of the year.  This one is hard to find at a reasonable price.  If you click on the title, you may be able to find it in a library.

Since Stillmeadow is a very old house I looked to see if there was a ghost story connected with the house.  Gladys wrote in her book about Stillmeadow that they were able to buy the house below market value because there had been a murder in the house.  She writes, "The previous owner had shot his wife and killed himself...The ghosts never bothered us...They had loved our house, that I knew.  And I felt they were happy because we were giving it life again."

We all got back into the bus.  To fill the afternoon the tour included a stop at the house that Victor Borge lived in for many years.  We also made a stop at the cemetery to visit Gladys' grave, drove past her church, and made a stop at the Southbury Historical Society Museum where several tables were set up to show more of Gladys Taber memorabilia....

It was also a refreshment stop.  This is where I met up with a wife and husband who had also been on the same Tasha Tudor tour I was on.  They were from California but had lived in the Washington, DC area for many years.  It is a small world, indeed.

We got back to the hotel at 5:30.  Ken was in the room waiting for me.  We talked about what we each did all day, then I went back downstairs to find my Tasha Tudor friends for supper while Ken headed off to a diner for his.  You may be wondering how Gladys Taber, who was a writer not an artist, was going to fit into our Artist Vacation theme.  I was, too, until I asked the gentleman sitting next to me at dinner whom I'd met on the bus earlier what he did.  He was an artist!  His specialty is painting sail boats.  When we three Tasha Tudor fans started talking about Tasha Tudor, whom he knew nothing about, it turns out he did know about her father Starling Burgess, a yacht designer, and her mother Rosamund Tudor, an artist....

After our meal Susan Turnley presented an excellent powerpoint presentation made by Dagmar Rosenberg on the life of Gladys Taber.  At least I think it was Susan Turnley.  At that point in the evening my mind was mush and I could hardly keep my eyes open.  As soon as the lights came on I told my friends goodbye and headed up to my room.  It wasn't long before I was blissfully asleep in the most comfortable hotel bed and pillow I've ever slept on.  Thank you Crown Plaza!

We were on the road by 7:00 the next morning after only having coffee in our room.  We never did stop for breakfast and were home by noon.   We were just too eager to see our family, Poetry & Gabriel and our sweet little granddaughter.  Here she is being held by her grandpapa....
When we were just a few blocks from home I started feeling excited.  Our son and daughter-in-law had brought Gabriel home and were waiting for us.  They told me that Gabriel started getting excited just before we arrived.  He must have sensed my excitement!

And now I'm excited to tell you what I found at the Quechee Gorge Village antique shops--Susan Branch's "The Summer Book" cookbook....

And because I already have one, and because this is the first week of summer, I'm making this one my giveaway for reading this post about my vacation and leaving a comment.  As I said in Day 4, if you leave a comment on Day 4 and on Day 5, you'll be entered twice to win Susan's book.  The second name I choose will receive Tasha Tudor's book.  I'll draw the name on Tuesday and announce it on my Out and About - June post.  I'll also reveal the final chapter in my Villager Minivan saga.

That's it!  The End.  Now I can put my suitcase back up into the attic.


  1. Cathy, memories of your time with Susan and friends must be very special to you. Not that it matters, but I got confused when you said you got in line to buy your book from Joe but never actually got to meet him? (It’s the end of the day, and MY mind is beginning to turn to mush!) And, really … we have to wait until Susan’s book is published before hearing the juicy details of her heart’s desire? You DO remember how long that’s gonna take, don’t you? (Just kidding LOL). The floor plans and map of Stillmeadow are a great resource; thanks for including them, as well as the tidbit about the dating of the house to 1785. I don’t have the two books by Gladys that you referenced, but do have a few others. Having read them, I too had envisioned a much larger house and grounds. Your photos provided additional glimpses to those Susan shared. It sounds like it was a long and exhausting day. Family and home had to be a sight for sore eyes, and Olivia is simply precious. Thank you so much for a most pleasant and educational journey with you these past few days. I already have Susan’s Summer book, but wouldn’t mind seeing if I’m ‘meant’ to have Tasha’s!

    Hugs from Alabama…

    1. But it DOES matter, Sharon. My mind was turning mushier by the moment these past two weeks as I tried to get these posts all done in a timely fashion. I've gone back and clarified that "scene" in my story. Your comment shows me that you were really reading what I had to say and that is a compliment in itself! ☺ So that you don't have to go and find the spot I'll explain here. Joe was selling the books by himself. When the line got too long someone started taking cash purchases for him while he did the credit card purchases. The Best of Stillmeadow is merely selections from all her books about Stillmeadow, so if you have those you haven't missed anything. The FOGT newsletter had an article about the revised date of the house so I was surprised that at the Reunion they kept referring to it as 1690. Concerning the Giveaway, I'll give the winners the opportunity to swap if they didn't win the one they wanted. ☺ Good luck! Maybe you should find yourself a black Scottish cat or one named Lucky to come sit in your fairy garden!

    2. Sharon, I forgot to mention. The first thing on her Bucket List isn't something she's saving for the new book. I'm sure she'll tell the rest of her readers on her Blog as soon as her plans are set.

    3. Ahhh ... feeling much more serene ... **smile**

  2. Oh, another great "tour" you have taken us on!! Susan and Gladys' home all in one day!!! Also, glad that your van was fixed and able to complete the journey, taking you home to Gabriel (such a cutie) and Poetry. Thank you, again for sharing this vacation with us and for the opportunity to win wonderful books! ~ Donna =)

    1. Add another mushy mind to the mix...I thought that your granddaughter's name was Gabriel...Sorry. =/

    2. Ha, ha, ha! I thought you were saying my Westie was a cutie, because I would agree! ☺ You're a relatively newcomer to my Blog so I guess I should introduce everybody. Gabriel is a West Highland White Terrier, Poetry is a Calico Cat, Ken is my husband, and Olivia June (aka Olive) is my granddaughter born in April--our first. My 3 sons and their wives (only two are married) prefer to remain anonymous so they are referred to as such. I also agree that Olivia June is a cutie. I have some photos they took of her last weekend when they went to the beach that I will be showing on Tuesday's post. I'm invoking my privilege as a grandmother to brag about my granddaughter so you'll be seeing lots of pictures of her.

    3. ...My Three Sons... where have I heard that before? LOL

  3. I'm glad the van story had a happy ending! It sounds like you had a wonderful holiday, with lots of memories to ponder. That's one of my favourite things about coming home from a nice vacation - thinking about the highlights of the trip. That's neat that Gabriel sensed your presence before you arrived. And your granddaughter is such a sweetheart!

    1. I have read several books on the topic of a dog's extrasensory perception. They've done real research using cameras and have videoed dogs going to the door to wait for their owner miles before they reach--long before any sense of hearing or smell could detect the owner's arrival. And it was at a different time, so it wasn't a "programmed" time to arrive.

  4. Wow, Cathy. You certainly had one heck of a time! If all that had happened to me, I would have needed a substantial amount of time to recover from my "vacation." LOL. Great hearing about your FOGT event with Susan, your tour of Stillmeadow, the saga of the minivan, and everything else. Thanks for including those Stillmeadow floor plans - they clarify a lot for me. And what a gorgeous old house. Just think of all the stories it could tell! You'll love reading anything you can get by Gladys - Susan sometimes has her books in the "vintage" section of her webstore. I've bought 4 of them there. Luckily you got your texts from Ken, but I was wondering. Did your cell phone end up losing power completely at some point? My phone can be weird like that too. Fully-charged it can last 3-4 days - or 1 day. I never know so I charge it every night. Loved your videos of Susan [never knew she was a redhead]. Good news about your vehicle too. And PS - that baby! OMG - check out those cheeks. She is just the cutest! Looks so bright and alert when she's "talking" with her Grandpa too. OK it looks like we're in for a few very warm days here on the Eastern Seaboard, so stay as cool as you can and take care!

    1. I kept turning my cell phone off so it never died on me, so once I got a signal I was able to use it. I had to text my brother about what was happening because the worst case scenario was that we'd go back to his house on Sunday and spend the night with him if the car was to be ready on Monday. If it was going to be any longer than that we were going to rent a car Sunday and drive home and have Ken fly back to get the car later in the week! So we felt we got off cheap with just having to pay to get the car fixed. I think I have been recovering from our vacation for these past two weeks! Writing it all up in these posts has helped both us enjoy the great parts about our vacation. All the memory of the stress we felt (especially for Ken since he had to deal with the problem) got wiped away by dwelling on what was good about the trip.

  5. Hi Cathy,
    I am having such a difficult time commenting on your blog, so decided to put up the IPad and try the PC. We will see if this goes through.
    Your trip reminded me of Susan's Gladys Taber quote on her Stillmeadow post. "Traveling is all very well if you can get home at night." There is nothing more deflating than car trouble! But if you travel very much, sooner or later, you are going to have a vacation story that involves a dead car!
    When I saw Susan's pictures of Stillmeadow, it was exactly as I had imagined it! " House sprawl" is a very modern phenomenon. When I think of the 4 bedroom house I grew up in, definately smaller than Stillmeadow, My parents, 3 children and my grandmother and 1 bathroom! I never thought I grew up in a small house. Now, I think it is small! We have come to expect so much more living space!
    You have done such a great job sharing your vacation and introducing me to artists and places I otherwise did not know about. The Readmore Inn would be on my Bucket List if I had one!
    I know you are glad to be home. It's always wonderful to have our fur babies back in our laps, and kiss the Grandbabies!
    Just to add, when I met Susan and Joe last September in Hudson, they are the real deal. Their patience and caring is really unrivaled. You never felt rushed by Susan and the line was LONG and it was really warm in the bookstore. So I am so happy that so many of us have gotten to meet her in person. I must have smiled for a month!
    Glad you are home Cathy, safe and I will see if this posts!
    Chris W

    1. Thanks, Chris. I agree with Gladys Taber about getting home at night, but I must say again how comfortable the bed and pillow was at the Crowne Plaza. In fact, I've written them to ask about buying the pillows. Someone wrote back to give me the manufacturer and details, but I need the UPC according to the manufacturer to make sure I get the exact same pillow. So I'm hoping the hear back this week with that information. This was the first time in all our years of travel that we've experienced this kind of car trouble that required a tow. In fact, the only other time I was out shopping in the next town over with 3 little boys, one a baby. That was an ordeal because the police was having my car towed while I was off trying to find a phone to call a tow truck! Thankfully, I got back to it in time, but I had to run and was out of breath and was pushing my baby in the stroller, and was practically hysterical because of it all. But that's another story for another time. As for small houses, as a child we moved just about every year after 4th grade. Once I had to share the dining room with my little brother as our bedroom. And my husband had to share a bed with his little brother once he came along when he was 7 until he left home. Yes, times have certainly changed.

  6. Thank you Cathy for sharing your time with FOGT. Stillmeadow does seem quite different than I imagined. So happy you were able to meet Susan Branch--that is still a dream of mine. How nice you were able to get home in a timely fashion, even with car problems. Your granddaughter is such a doll! I know you are in love. Grandchildren are just the best. We just finished planning a little vacation with our youngest grandsons. I can't wait--I know it will be tiring, but filled with joy. Welcome home, dear Cathy. There's no place like home!
    Oh, I already have the Summer Book of Susan's, so if I get lucky, please draw another name in my place. ♥

  7. Oh, that sounds wonderful. Where are you going? And how old are they? I'm looking forward to doing the same when ours get old enough.

  8. Our youngest grandsons are 9 and 11 years old. They are such sweet little boys--spoken like a grandmother! We are just taking a 3 day trip to Williamsburg. Alex ,the eleven year old, requested that we go to Busch Gardens. His brother, Miles, seconded that idea. Not my favorite thing to do, but we will, and then go to the Colonial area. Their Dad, our son, is going also. I'm sure we will be spending a lot of time in the pool . ♥

    1. At least you'll get to show them the Colonial area. And they'll think you're the greatest for taking them to Busch Gardens!

  9. I was going to read right through, you see I've only heard of Gladys Taber through Susan and am so hungry to find out more, but then I got to the bit where Susan hugged you and I burst into tears ~ how silly am I? So, now I am going to go and compose myself and come back later. Computer really acting up so I have about 18 blogs to work my way through today including several of you lovely entries! I'll be back later :) Waving from ATP Debs in Wales :)

    1. Oh, dear. I hope you are feeling better! Sometimes a good cry is what we really need and then everything comes into better focus. I think your heart was telling you something you need to listen to......I think this is why we love Susan so much. She makes us feel loved even through her Blog. Her words and pictures reach through the computer to hug us all the time. And it sounds like she feels the same way about our comments. ☺ I know I do! ....feel that way about your comments! Knowing I've said something or provided a photo that makes people feel happy or helps them in some way to find out what WILL make them feel happy is truly a blessing in itself. Waving with a big HUG to you, too, Debs!

  10. wow, two amazing house tours in two days! What a dream trip--- aside from the van trouble! Im so glad it got resolved! I love your pics of Gladys' house. I found her books in my library last year when I was about to go on my own trip to New England. I just loved her little stories and writing. Its like she was writing blog posts before blogs existed ;) thanks so much for sharing!

    1. I'm so glad you found my posts. I enjoyed looking at your Blog--such wonderful artistry!

  11. Just returned from a short vacation to Stillmeadow and Still Cove. Found your blog and pictures while searching the internet. Loved it. I am a big fan of Gladys Taber; also, I collected Tasha Tudor books for my children. Her artistry is beautiful, and I enjoy the Corgis and owls that adorn the pages of her books.

    1. I hope you saw my posts on my Tasha Tudor Garden Tour, too.

  12. What a delight to find your blog post! I came here from a Facebook group, fans of Gladys Taber, because you shared the photos of her house, and the floor plan. It gives folks like me, who will never have a chance to visit Stillmeadow, a way to visualize it.
    Then I discover that you're also a Susan Branch fan, AND OF COURSE ... a Tasha Tudor fan! I have adored Tasha for many years and collect her books. It was so fun to go on this tour with you! Best wishes!

    1. M. K.. I'm thrilled you enjoyed my Gladys Taber post. I hope you will visit my Tasha Tudor posts as well. Be sure to go to my Take Joy Society blog to read more Tasha Tudor posts as well as Susan Branch posts there. And you MUST see the Martha's Vineyard posts about our week there just down the street from Susan's house.


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