Birthday Time at Rattlebridge Farm

Dear Michael Lee,

I know you are a southern woman, writer, cook (exhausted), relentless renovator.  I devour your blog whether you are telling us about door colors, the saga of the columns and the corbels, farmstock living in your gorgeous front hall, or garden adventures with attack goats and boughs.  The food ~~ did I mention that?  As a non-cook (yet still exhausted), I can only gaze in wonder at your photos, salivating and googling the mysterious (to me) ingredients that sometimes creep into the recipes.  (Recently I learned about chorizo sausage.)

Your books are here in my house with other writers I “know,” by which I mean to say I met them, shook hands, chatted, shared a meal or munchies.  From some I wrested a signature in exchange for purchasing a book.  I have not met you, nor do I have your signature honoring my shelf (your book tours never make it up here!), yet of all these women, I feel I know you best.  Maybe those Libra stars that shone in the heavens over us both at birth helped, but I think it has more to do with the characters I have met and the adventures we, and all your readers, share through your wonderful writing.  Yes, your characters speak with a southern accent, as all of the commentaries and reviews of your books point out, but it is a southern voice which I can hear well.  And I am a Yankee.

I know that one of us northern girls has inspired you, and I want you to know that your fan base is not limited to the states where a dusting of snow is a welcomed, unusual sight.

The southern ideas of house as person, location as character, and family as the center and root of all things that matter are things I understand.  Up here, it is said, we don’t dress up our crazies and put them on the porch.  Actually, we do, but we disguise them and we are unlikely to admit it.  Those porches up here often have ceilings painted “haint” blue, too, but for the most mundane reason ~~ to keep the mosquitoes away.  How much more alive it seems to sit on a porch under a blue ceiling, knowing the blue is protecting us and all we love from the haints and their cohorts.  And how invigorating it is to leap into the worlds you portray and share the intensity of life which your characters experience.  In your books and blog I find passionate women I either want to meet or run from.  I read with interest, amusement, and fear that I will meet myself in one of them.  I nod, cry, and sigh.  I pick up my phone and call my mother.  Here, too, we have secret recipes and family secrets and secret family recipes.  My mother’s recipes always include the secret ingredient.  She says to me, “I’ll tell you the secret.  Don’t write it down.”  Now I’ll tell you. It always starts with S.  Sugar, Salt or Smell it to see if you need to add more.  Nothing as sinister as Teeny’s recipes, yet potentially harmful none the less.  As I read Teeny’s family recipe book, I reflect.  That place where women dream up revenge recipes and write them down — I want to escape both to that place and from that place. 

Reading your books or your blog is the best kind of armchair travel.  When my trip through the South ends, I am enlightened, moved, usually exhausted and either wishing for more or happy to be home again (no, I do not want to live with a few of those ladies, but Teeny, well, I’m the houseguest who won’t leave!).  I have experienced descriptions of southern landscapes which have me opening the map to find this new place I should visit (or avoid), and houses so clearly drawn that I can feel them breathing as I step inside the pages.  When I travel I collect tiny houses.  The first time I met Teeny I thought of this one in my collection.  It is one of my favorites.  Is it because it is pink?

I wish I could share a birthday cake with you, and in fact, I did make one.  It was red velvet, from Jacqueline’s Purple Chocolat Home recipe (I have made it several times and it is delicious–you would have loved it), but then I had the brilliant idea of decorating it.  I used to do that with my mother when I was just a kid and she took all those classes our mothers took in the 70’s –cake decorating, ceramics, flower arranging.  In the memory I have created I was quite good back then.  But apparently cake decorating is a skill that is not like riding a bike.  Yes, the cake decorating was a disaster.  Teeny level.  So I rushed downtown where I found two huge red velvet cupcakes.  One for you and one for me!  

I will stick with what I know best ~~ setting the table for your birthday celebration.

Our incredible autumn this year has meant fewer red and orange leaves but more flowers still in bloom, and these are from my yard. 

We can wash down the red velvet cupcakes 
with this New England nectar ~~

~~ from a favorite local vineyard.

These cupcakes are huge enough to require forks.  The baker told me someone had already been in this morning and purchased the dozen normal size cupcakes he had.  When he saw the crazed look on my face he rushed into the back and came out with the big ones.  

This one is for you.

And I’ve added six candles.  
I’ll spare you my singing, but you can still make a wish.

Michael Lee, thank you for your books and your blog. (Oh, yes, those Pins …  I could get happily lost there, too.)  You have given me many moments of joy, ideas to reflect upon, and much inspiration.


From the depths of my Connecticut Yankee heart 
I wish you 
a joyous birthday
and a wonderful year ahead.

And when Teeny takes cake decorating lessons 
again, I will, too.  

Linda 🙂

~~ visit Michael Lee West at Rattlebridge Farm ~~

~~ for more tributes to Michael Lee please visit Jain or Mary ~~

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22 thoughts on “Birthday Time at Rattlebridge Farm

  1. Linda, Reading your birthday post and tribute to Michael Lee this morning touched and transported me. You should write a novel! I’m nodding with agreement reading this, ‘passionate women I either want to meet or run from’ so true. Family and crazy relatives, whether paraded on the porch or carefully disguised, are all something we can identify with, whether you live above or below the Mason-Dixon line! I love your oversized cupcakes, served up in your blue and white chocolate chip-filled bowls.Your New England nectar looks perfect for a Southern celebration and and I love your 6 candles and dainty floral party crackers.Thanks so much for joining our fun. I know Michael Lee will be moved by your Happy Birthday wishes and tribute.

  2. Linda, what a thoughtful birthday post to our friend! Sharing Michael Lee’s characters and books was a lovely tribute to the Queen. She is so very inspirational and just draws us into her life. I know she’ll enjoy your cupcakes and find it so cute about the disaster!! I enjoyed reading your post so very much. Happy Birthday, Michael Lee! Xo

  3. Linda, you described beautifully the reasons why we all love ML!! Wonderfully written tribute to our favorite author!

    Your cuppies are darling & cleverly displayed & I love that you still have flowers to share. I could have brought in some mums if I’d thought about it.

    Happy Birthday, Michael Lee…and many, many more!!!!

  4. So much fun, I devoured your words, I love the way you wrote from your heart~I was born in Conn, and arrived in Alabama long ago after growing up in Calif~I feel like I understand the ways of several regions, and you nailed it with your explanation of the crazies on the porch, how northerners have them, but keep them disguised or rarely admit to them~I consider myself a Southerner now, and whenever some one is rude or inhospitable we say, “they must be from the North!” I love that you collect houses, and what you said about seeing and feeling the houses in MLW’s books~you transported me back into the pages~and after all the memories a big fat red velvet cupcake on a sea of chocolate chips is just about the best way to celebrate I can think of!! Happy Birthday Michael Lee, so much pleasure you bring us~

  5. Linda, Your post is so wonderful! and such a great tribute to Michael Lee…I too love her books and her pictures and everything else. I can certainly identify with so many things in her books because I am a born and raised in the south girl…and still here!! even sharing the birth year with our great southern author…
    Love, Mona

  6. LInda, this is a beautiful, heartfelt post. Your sentiments echo my own thoughts about Michael Lee. I’d loved reading her books and her bog. How blessed I feel to “know” her as a friend. I love that you collect tiny houses. Like you, MLW transports me right into the houses she describes, not to mention the fun of following along with the details of her current restoration. Amazing Lady, that Michael Lee West! Wishing her a heartfelt Happy Birthday! ~ Sarah

  7. Linda, your words lifted my heart. I’d love to pick up a fork and dive into that scrumptious red velvet cupcake. I know what you mean about icing. Not too long ago, I made cupcakes and had to scrape off a mess of orange icing. It took hours to clean the counters and floor. I still don’t know what went wrong. lol I just didn’t get the Icing Gene. Thank you so much for writing this letter. I will treasure it. xxoo

  8. I have found a piping bag-challenged soul mate! I smiled all of the way through your post. You were smarter than I was. You started earlier in the day so you could still run out for cupcakes. I procrastinated until, well, I just had to do my best. Lovely table and touching post.

  9. oh i love your tribute, sharing your treasured shelf… you wax as poetically as michael lee yourself, what a fabulous voice you share! i am enthralled, enchanted… egads what a treat to read this!

    your photos are exquisite, right down to selecting that gorgeous bottle of wine… and the burning candles, oh i LOVE YOUR POST! i have had the best time visiting everyone, but yours is so heart felt it surely must bring tears to her eyes.

    thank you so much for joining in the celebration, i feel honored to have shared the day with so many talented women, happy birthday mlw!

  10. Love your ” from the heart words” and gorgeous pictures of your birthday tribute cupcakes. Such a pretty presentation in the blue and white bowls with special candles.

    I loved attending your party. I know Michael Lee was touched.

  11. Linda, Linda, Linda. I have visited your blog many times, but I never knew your were such a writer. I loved this warm toast that you did! You have such a way with words. The cupcakes are gorgeous surrounded by chocolate chips — a great food for a Southern lady. My daughter has made her aunt’s red velvet cake many times….Such lovely photos. Joni

  12. Linda, this is my first visit to your blog. Wow! I love this birthday post for this sister Southern woman of whom I know not. That is about to change, because you make her sound like a goddess – and I must check out her blog to see for myself. Those cupcakes!! I love this post, girl!!! I enjoy a good laugh and some inspiration, so thank you, friend! I’ll be back.
    His blessings,
    Kim @ Curtain Queen Creates

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