Lessons Learned from a Pink Plaid Mouse

Creativity is Growing at Willowbrook!

I’ve got some fun things to share with you!

But first: for those of you who are new readers, I’m Terry, owner and caretaker of Willowbrook Manor English Teahouse and Farm Stay.

This email comes to you because you either signed up for this newsletter, made a reservation at Willowbrook Manor, are a friend of mine, or are a follower of my mother, author Liz Adair, who has her own corner here in The Willowbrook Word. There is a giveaway at the end of each newsletter, so make sure to read to the end. (If any pictures come to you sideways, click on the link at the top of the page to view this in your browser.)

 Our Winter Weekend Workshop  ~

Willowbrook chamomile was one of the featured herbs in our Winter Weekend Workshop last November.  I planted a chamomile crop because of its calming properties in tea and in bath and body products.  Each chamomile flower looks like a miniature daisy.  They make me smile every time I see them.

Robin Haglund of Garden Mentors taught us how to craft home-made herbal gifts for holiday giving. (View a short snippet from the class HERE.) It was a wonderful day of learning and creating with herbs.

Nin Kits ~

Each Winter Workshop guest enjoyed assembling a darling pink plaid mouse from kits I made.  The fabric came from my grandmother’s collection, purchased when I was a teen. (I’m sure the yardage was intended to be a good-looking tailored suit.)  For years I’ve had a quandary about what to do with the yards and yards of nice wool fabric I inherited. I came up with the idea to use the wool to make stuffed animals and feature them in a children’s book series called The Willowbrook Woollies.

The First Willowbrook Woolley ~

Nin, the mouse, lives in a burrow under the willow tree in a land called Willowbrook. Her friend Georgie the dog teaches her how to pick and dry chamomile. Nin finds that chamomile tea helps calm her anxiety.

I’ve enjoyed creating this book and sharing my chamomile farm as seen through the eyes of a child. In the story, Nin learns to manage unsettled emotions through talking to wise friends, being in nature, and sipping chamomile tea.

A Glitch ~

My last newsletter (read HERE) gave a sneak peek into this first book in the Willowbrook Woollies series. Initially my little pink mouse was named “Mim.” I was just about to send the book off to print when I discovered there was already a children’s book title with a mouse named Mim! So I had some editing to do. Thus the book was not ready by Christmas.

A Delightful Valentines Day Gift ~

I changed the name to “Nin” which is the childhood nickname of my youngest cousin. When I asked permission to use her pet-name, she told me that her mom used to refer to her as her “little mouse.”  That connection made “Nin,” my pink plaid mouse, even more endearing to me.

So now the book Nin is available for purchase, accompanied with a package of chamomile tea. This makes a clever gift for your valentine, be they young or older  ($30 for the book and tea). Click HERE to order.

Make it a gift set by adding a teacup from the Willowbrook teacup collection as well as a monogramed tea strainer ($80 for the book, tea, strainer and teacup). Click HERE to place your order.

More Nin Kits?

People ask if they can purchase a Nin kit to make their own little pink plaid mouse.  I’m sorry to say that I only made enough kits for the Winter Workshop.  But I am already working on the next Willowbrook Woolley, a pinstriped bear. I would love to put you on the list to attend the 2024 Winter Workshop (November 9th) where you can make your own. Click HERE if you are interested. I will send out invitations to everyone who has signed up once the reservation portal goes online.

Planting Tulips ~

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival features Tea and Tulips as one of their annual events, and I’m augmenting my tulip beds for it this year.  I have a special patch in the Wishing Well Garden. Last November my “minions,” as I call them, planted tulip bulbs in preparation for spring color. 

Tea and Tulips ~

This picture is from last April’s crop, which lasted into May. After months of winter, the vibrant color of blooming tulips is a welcomed site. Add high tea to the experience and you have a “celebration of spring” event to remember! Click HERE to make a reservation for Tea and Tulips.

Farm-Fresh Sweets and Savories ~

Willowbrook’s tea menu includes home-grown herbs that are picked fresh for the savories we make.  My “to-die-for” sweet-cream scones are made from locally grown and ground wheat.  Farm-fresh eggs make the “luv” we bake into our sweets even tastier.  When you come to Willowbrook for tea, you get the goodness of Skagit Valley farmland. Click HERE to reserve a table for Mothers Tea.

Time for Liz ~

This is where I turn the newsletter over to my mom, author Liz Adair, to share a bit of her world with you.

Liz Sez ~

I learned to sew on my grandma’s treadle machine when I was nine. Grandma had set me to making nine-patch squares for a quilt out of feed sack print.

The machine was a Singer, shiny and black, and I had to sit on the edge of a low chair so my feet could reach the treadle. It took a while to learn the knack of getting started. You had to give the wheel on the machine a spin and press down on the treadle at the same time to get the momentum to keep going.

About that time Mother bought a featherlight Singer, a small portable electric sewing machine that is in demand by quilters to this day. Mother prized it because it didn’t take up much room when we were packing to move to the next dam or power project Dad would be working on.

At age eleven I would pull out Mom’s machine and get into her fabric cupboard and create doll clothes, only they were not baby clothes. They were more like Barbie clothes, but a little bit bigger. I must have been ahead of my time, as Barbie hadn’t been invented yet. Mom looked at what I was doing and said I might as well start sewing for myself. So I did.

My first item was a gathered skirt. Then I made a broomstick skirt. It’s a three-tiered gathered skirt that women used to dry tied around a broomstick to ensure pleats. After those two skirts, I was off to the races.

By the time I was thirteen, I was a  competent seamstress, making all my own clothes. Whenever we drove into town, Mom and I both spent lots of time in the fabric section of stores, stroking the bolts of cloth and poring over pattern books. She would buy dress lengths of material we liked to have in the cupboard for when the need or creative urge would arrive.

When I got into high school I went kicking and screaming into Home Ec. I already knew how to sew and cook. What were they going to teach me? I was right about the cooking, and I chafed at precise measuring and the slow pace. But I was totally wrong about the sewing. I learned tailoring from a master, and I was ready to step up from cotton dresses to tailored wool suits.

That’s when Mother began adding woolen yardgoods to her cupboard. I made myself several tailored dresses and a couple of what they called “walking suits.” They had three-quarter length coats and exuded feminine power. This was a full decade before pantsuits.

Above is a picture of me about age nineteen in a beige woolen dress I had made. Biege isn’t a good color for me, but that’s what was in the fabric cupboard when I decided I needed a new dress.

I grew up in a time and a segment of society where women were multi-talented. Need a prom dress? What do you want it to look like? Need a haircut? Sit down, I’ll get my scissors and clippers. You’re getting married? How many tiers do you want in your wedding cake? This was mostly out of necessity.  If a mom was able to do those things, it helped the family economically. Also, we always lived out in the boonies, and those services weren’t available, even if we could afford them.  

So, if you were in town and in the yardgoods section of the store—you’d be surprised at how many department, five-and-dime, drug, and hardware stores had fabric departments in the first half of the twentieth century—and you saw some fabric you liked on sale, you’d buy a dress length and put it away in your fabric cupboard.

And so now, when sewing your own clothing is no longer economical, the fabric cupboard is a thing of the past. But it makes me smile to see the woolens my mother tucked away used to make Willowbrook Woollies.


Now back to Terry ~

Giveaways ~

This Month’s Winners! ~

The winners of my mother’s murder mystery Trouble at Red Pueblo are:

  • Susan S from Newberg, OR
  • Leigh K from Woodinville, WA
  • Edna H of Bellingham, WA

For those of you who wanted to win but didn’t, you can download a copy for free. Click on the link below:

Nin Giveaway

My mom writes murder mysteries and I write about stuffed animals in a magical land…

I could not have managed the whole publishing process without my mom’s mentorship and I am excited to be able to give away three copies of NinClick HERE to enter to win. Make sure to include a little note to let us know how you are doing.

Hero of the Month ~

“If you are brave you can have a treat afterwards.” That was the text my brother sent to my mom on her way into surgery.  (It’s what she used to tell us kids when we faced scary ordeals.) So at 10:00 that night, after her surgery, we stopped for a Frostie in Hurricane, on the hour and a half drive from St. George hospital to her home in Kanab (UT). I was so proud of my mom. She has been “Florence Nightingale” through all of my dad’s 21 surgeries and now it was her turn. To say my mother is my hero is an understatement, and I get a lump in my throat thinking about it.

Her recovery has been swift. This picture is two days after surgery, where she is doing what she does best, creating absolutely scrumptious meals for the people she loves. Click HERE to send her well-wishes.

That is it for this edition of The Willowbrook Word!

A picture of me transplanting celery. I was SO proud of actually growing celery this year that I put it into a pot to winter over in the greenhouse.

Thanks so much for being part of my newsletter family!

Post Script.
Here is my calendar of events (click on the link listings for more information):