Bloody Hot

 . . .And we’re STILL doing it! MUSICA.Bloody hot almost everywhere in this country 🥵, and here too, but I have some ideas on how to fight back because THIS reality is unbearable! Gotta get some fun out of life! But first, Kellee is getting lots of phone calls asking what are Susan and Joe doing, are they moving, where are they moving, when are they going,  will there be an estate sale?  So she asked me to say: Yes!  Joe, Jack, and I are moving to California (where I grew up) and we’re putting our wonderful old house on Martha’s Vineyard up for sale! I know. Seems crazy because of how much we love it. Love this old house. Far as I’m concerned, in my mind it is always going to be mine.  Love our neighborhood. Love the seasons, love the people, LOVE MY GIRLFRIENDS, love it all.  But there is a time for every purpose under heaven and we’ve been gifted with 35 glorious years as the “caretakers” of this house. Now it’s time for someone else to take over and enjoy all the fruits of all the labors of every single person who has ever lived here for the last 175 years, not to mention the history or the DNA of love.💖 My strongest feeling now is gratitude and of feeling SO LUCKY.👏 And Yes, the other question being asked,  there will be an Estate Sale. Not forgetting. 💞Our Vineyard house is 3,500 square foot, but we’re moving into 1,800. We only get to take a third of our stuff! Which means years and years of happy antiquing treasures will have to be left behind! It’s going to be a fun estate sale! 👏I will put the date here as soon as I know it, but probably in a couple of months, after the house is sold. And YAY!  Joe and I get to have new adventures. AND . . . I get to redecorate!!! How bad can it be? SO win-win. Plus, we’ll be back to visit in the seasons we love best, and when we do, we’ll take you with us! 💞All is well, we have glorious memories, plans to make more, the beat goes on, the floors in our CA house are all one level and no steep ship-captain stairs,  all is as it should be! Did I mention how much I love my girlfriends?💖And here’s where we’re going:

Look! Year-round gardening! No ice! And note: Fog. Glorious, cool, delicious, morning fog comes up from the Pacific, and pretty much stops at the house next door, making our weather slightly cooler than any around, and very good for roses and sweet peas. And low humidity. I’d pay big money for that right now. But we don’t have to because we’ve had this California house for 23 years. 👏

  All the details about our move . . . are in the blog archives of every Willard I’ve written since the end of March 2024 (scroll down and look on the right of this page for ARCHIVES) ~ and there are even more details if you go back to February! AND NOW, FOR “BLOODY HOT” . . . because who doesn’t want to talk about this ridiculous weather!!😳Idea #1: Turn on the music and take a nice cool bubble bath … Feet up, window open, birds singing, a cup of tea! Put on something loose and forget about the shoes… Go downstairs and feel the cold floor on your bare feet . . . make a pile of ice cream sandwiches to put in the freezer! And there’s more! 💝

Make it a throwback Summer ~ Fill it with charm. Set your mind at ease . . . Watch the entire series of Ted Lasso, it’s just as good the 2nd or 3rd time ~ pure calgon-take-me-away. Makes you realize how beautiful people can be and mostly are. More charm? Read Enchanted April . . . a wonderful book that starts on a cold rainy day in London. Brrr. Go into the kitchen and whip up cool, bright, fresh summer food! Have an outdoor dinner party with your friends under the moon and stars ~ hoist a sheet to a tree, set up some chairs, do a slide show of all your old photos, or have an early morning breakfast party! (Remember, mosquitos don’t like wind over 10 mph!) Or enjoy it all inside, right in front of the air conditioner!! Make the moments last forever, take lots of pictures . . . for the memories. And despite everything, you know this summer will never come again.

Drink a Pink Grapefruit splash with lots of ice, in a tall glass with straws!

Make Honey Crisp Apple Coleslaw, with cold lobster or shrimp, and easy creamy lime dressing … topped with leaves of your choice

It’s the perfect time of year for ice-cold, fresh, healthy, crunchy delicious Gazpacho ~

Make it a main dish with the addition of steamed shrimp or lobster ~ delicious with a dollop of sour cream topped with a chive flower.

Homemade crunchy granola, the best! Filled with toasted nuts and seeds and fruit and orange zest sweetened with honey and maple syrup … use gluten free Bob’s Red Mill oats… Good with fruit stirred into yogurt, or sprinkle it over cereal, cover with fresh fruit, and cold milk.

I always keep the ingredients for my Linguini in Clam Sauce on hand for a spontaneous summer dinner, its a big favorite … Start with Gazpacho and have this with Blogdaddy’s garlic bread and a glass of ice cold rose! (I always thought that EVERYONE made garlic bread like this . . . but now I know it’s not true. So here’s the recipe for something, once you taste it, you will long for it the rest of your life!)

Taste-bud excitement, a recipe my mom used to make … I’ve always loved the textures in Avocado and Grapefruit salad!

And this, Cold Asian Quinoa Salad with pea pods, nuts, raisins, green onions, fresh ginger, lime zest, a bit of this and that, sesame oil dressing … great to take to a party!

Breakfast of champions . . . crunchy Blueberry Corn Cakes with real maple syrup . . .

Fried eggs…

And don’t forget German Pancake! So impressive! Food for the tastebuds AND the eyeballs!

Make it extra special, even birthday special, have your summer breakfast outside under a tree, and include Baked Bananas with a scoop of ice cream… and ice cold fresh squeezed orange juice. 🍊 YUM! Right?

What do all these Summer Dishes have in common? These, and so many more (Lemon Chicken! Basil Ice Cream!), are in the updated 30th-Year Anniversary Edition of my first book, Heart of the Home, which besides recipes, the kitchen garden, and other things, is filled with the hopes and dreams of a whole lifetime as I think you can tell when you read it! Here’s an excerpt from my 1985 diary while I was writing it…

For this Anniversary version I added lots of new recipes . . . here I’m painting the recipe for “Beer Butt Chicken.”

Heart of the Home was my dream, a homemade book for a homemade life ~ so unexpected that it happened the way it did, and it changed everything for me. You never get too old for that yearning, that wonderful desire to do more, be more, to be a Valentine for the world. In our crazy world, I worry that dreams could get set aside, even lost. What fun would life be without dreams? In your heart, divide the world from you. Go there when you need to. The world still needs us, and as a group we need to do our best to make it a good one, but you can still live the life you dream if you put you and those dreams first… Go there first, go to social media second because if all we do is talk about it every day, we’ll never get anything done!!!

Use your own rules for making things wonderful, just like Ben Franklin did in his autobiography, yours are the only rules that matter . . . look at this wonderful bookend . . . this was one of my life rules, and will always be! I’ve found nature’s teachings wherever I’ve gone, and feel very happy to go forth in the quest for more!!!

While packing both Joe and I have discovered wonderful memories hidden in folders and files, in the barn attic, and between covers of books! Look at this! Christmas 1992! A party for 50 on the 23rd, a Christmas eve dinner on the 24th, Christmas Breakfast, and Christmas dinner for 17 … all the guests and all the food! What fun!!! It’s good to be young and not know what you’re getting yourself into! Thank goodness “Heather” came and did the party dishes! I remember feeling so decadent having her!

And this from 1996 . . . a Christmas card from Mrs. Bowditch and a letter from me to her ~ she’s the wonderful garden person who lived in our house from 1949 to 1980 with her Dr./woodworker husband and four children …  She was 91 when she sent me this Christmas card, and as I told her at the end of my letter, I was 49 and Joe was 45! I am keeping a copy, but the originals will go with the house along with these . . .

. . . lovely old photos that were given to us when we bought the house! Going to keep the history going!The new owner can look back at my blog and even at my calendars (especially my 2021 photo calendar) and pretty much figure out what this house was doing in every season, in snowstorms and nor’easters, Summer nights, Halloween, Memorial Day, in the garden, or my Studio, in the kitchen, and under the arbor, for years and years!⛄️☀️🌷🍂

They’ll meet Jack . . . my boy.💝

. . . and they’ll find the little graves of his predecessors, the Man kitties and Girl kitties who’ve shared our lives, buried in the garden under the marble stones behind the barn. 

Here is Girl Kitty II on HER cross-country trip in our van… she loved it!💞 We did too! Now it’s Jack’s turn! Fingers crossed for him! (And us!)😳

They’ll know all there is to know about this move, and they’ll mourn when they realize we took our famous upstairs-window Halloween ghost with us.👻 I’m so sorry, he asked to go, and who are we to say no. And I’m thinking, depending on how things go, he would probably make a good housewarming gift to the new people.💖 He does look so good in that window ~ he’s become a tradition. But the new people will make NEW traditions!🌺 So off to California he goes!👏

OK, Judy has asked me to spread the word to all our girlfriends who have shops, work in shops, or bookstores or antique stores, because once again, the world has turned, something new has come along, and our little company is now able to sell wholesale! There is a site called Faire, it’s there that even the smallest  retailers can buy wholesale from lots of manufacturers! And now Susan Branch Studios is one of them! This could make a big difference for us (Thank you Judy!😘) Shops can carry our stationery, calendars, stickers, cups, books, all kinds of things. We’re in stores again!!!💖 So thrilled! If we manage to sell more, maybe  when I get home we can MAKE more. And wouldn’t THAT be fun!!?? Faire is having a virtual trade show for shops and bookstores July 23, 24,25 with lots of discounts and free shipping … check it out HERE!

Something else I want to tell you! Guess what? Now, when we move we can take our landlines with us! Joe got his first iPhone yesterday (mainly for the camera) … but we asked them if we could transfer over the number of our landline and they said yes! His new phone now has the number I got when I moved to the island 1982! ☎️. . . so when our friends call, we’re always home! Isn’t that great? He bought the phone yesterday and it’s already hooked up!

OK darling people, time for me to go!

East to west . . .

and everyone in between, You are the BEST! Thank you!💞 Hope you have a wonderful day!!! Remember to make some fun! And I will too! We probably leave in another week or so . . . but due to multitudes of phones, I’ll always be in touch! ❌⭕️ One last reminder . . .

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We’re Doing It!

Check this out! We’re doing it!!! I’m so proud of us! As you know, packing up a house to move is not easy! But we plod along, one foot in front of the other ~ and it’s working! Even with breaks to have fun! This is my studio window … from where I’m sitting right now! The view has changed! Scary, or what? Need Musica! 

I SO love old music!!! I hope you do! New music too, but there’s just something especially touching about this old WWII stuff. So what’s new? Basically Joe and I have been flitting around in two worlds. The wonderful world of our friends, and our “normal” springtime Island life, the garden,🪴 walks, books📚, parties, and making lots of wonderful new memories 📸 (because it ain’t over till it’s over, and even then, I promise you, it ain’t over) ~ and the other world, slow-moving, dust-eating🧹, boot-kicking, forced-march, teary-eyed, earth-based, packing🧳, barn-emptying, decision making, deep-cleaning ~ discovering lost things, wonderful things, and remembering💌. Put it all together, and we have Real Life. Something we are learning to rise above!🥳

I probably don’t need to explain much with these pics! I think you get it… This is the packing room. Formerly known as the dining room.

Do this long enough and you begin to look around the house for new creative ways to pack things! We’ve hired a wonderful old friend to help us, and this is totally HER!👏 A true packing genius! First time I realized, that space thing, it’s an art!💞

From the dining room to the living room, she has marked all the boxes, listing everything that’s in the boxes on the boxes, they are numbered and the numbers correspond with a list of everything on paper, plus she photographed them. All bases covered, this should work! 🤞

It’s not pretty! Probably more like making sausage.

But you know what is pretty? All the clean and empty rooms, with clean and empty closets! It’s been one room at a time. Packing up what we’re taking. We took the four poster in this room. We have three, having four-poster beds is based on my childhood books and old movies, and I HAD to take one of them with us. For Louisa May Alcott. For Beatrix Potter. For the memories.💞 Do people even have them anymore?

We took this one. Bought all our four-posters 30 years ago at Leonard’s Beds in Rhode Island.💝 

I’m kind of proud of how pretty the rooms look even with nothing in them! This is the “baby room.” These walls used to have all my oldest family photos on them, my grandparents as children, and our kids (my siblings) as babies.

You’ll recognize this one . . . it’s my Peter Rabbit Room  (click here if you never saw my Peter Rabbit Room💝). You can still feel the coziness in this lovely room tucked under the eves, so much like a tree house (easy to feel it lying in bed, looking at the tops of trees outside the windows) . . . and I left behind two tiny bits of Peter-Rabbit-Room: a cloth purse in the cupboard lined in blue and white check, Peter Rabbit on it, with his cotton-ball tail, and there’s a door hanger as you go in, with Peter Rabbit on it, that I got at Hilltop. But those two things up there ⬆️, they go with us.

Our bedroom, see any tiny ears?

There he is! This is his “rubber-band room” … We play every morning and every night before bed … and whenever he can trap me up there during the day. I stand at the door and shoot rubber bands (thick hair-ties) over the bed to where he is standing on an exercise bench! He catches them… see his eyes? He is waiting!

My studio . . . kind of my last pack-job, not done yet. For any of you involved in this same kind of nightmare ~ all this just proves that if we can do it, you can too!

Yeah, we tried that. Doesn’t work. It’s actually a lot like writing a book, or any big project ~ at first it’s so disorganized it feels overwhelming, but then, you just put one foot in front of the other, and one day progress becomes visible, and you are surprised to say “I’m DOING it!” Deadlines are helpful for me, but we have changed ours 3 times, however…

The kitchen . . . Not done, because we still live here, but getting close! We took everything off the fridge, and now it’s all working its way back on!

The truck got here yesterday and they started loading . . .😳I’m not thinking about it. 

Not even trying to hide this truck! It’s like having Godzilla in your driveway.

Joe and a helper worked until about 10 last night when it was cool and moonlit ~ they got a lot done!

The whole trick in loading a truck is balance. Is what they say. (Carrie in England and I have been texting back and forth ~ she wrote this funny thing: “Is there anything worse than moving? No. Nothing. By the end you’re chucking hammers and screwdrivers in with the China.” 😂🤣 And that’s exactly where we are right now, and exactly what we’re doing. Soon we’ll likely be throwing last-minute loose papers, shoes, tea balls into the back of the truck!)

They finish loading today . . . and supposedly that truck full of stuff will be on the ferry this Saturday! We’ll see. Then we clean up the house, and make it look beautiful. That’s when we officially put it on the market, and in about three weeks, we pack the van … an ice chest full of goodies goes between our seats, Jack’s carrier sits on top of the ice chest, and we fill the van with my original art and other stuff that goes with us! And off to see the wizard we will go!

And in the MEANTIME … the other side of our lives, the beauty side . . . because that’s there more than ever!

We walked over to Lowely’s the other night, walked home under this moon, amazing how pretty pictures of night sky can be with just a regular iPhone.  

Daily I take my scissors and go out to visit Joe’s little wildflower garden, our first, to pick a flower or two, and to see what new thing is coming. We have no idea, we just got a big bag of mixed seed on the internet and threw it out there. First up was poppies! Something coming now I have no name for . . .


Here it is!

We went out to Menemsha for dinner aboard our friend’s sailboat   . . . to hang out, eat, drink pink wine, and watch the sun go down ~ Jaime brought these gorgeous flowers, we brought potato salad from John’s, the fish market I told you about in the last post … they make it JUST like I do, except they don’t use onion, relish, or celery. But they do the hard part, so we just gussie it up and voila! Tis the season, and if you can’t get to John’s, look here! It’s the best recipe! (From my Summer Book if you have it.)

Be sure to add the mayo to the eggs and potatoes while the potatoes are still hot or warm! It’s the trick to the deliciousness!

So there they were, waiting for us . . . that’s Jaime in the hat with the blue dress. She’s my friend who had TRIPLETS (a total surprise), all boys, and then a year later, ANOTHER boy! No one could have done it better. But, I’m still not over it. I probably would have given up on life that very moment, even before the actual BIRTH!😳 But the boys are wonderful and in their 30s now. Back then I saw an article about Jaime in our local paper … then I saw her for the first time shopping in Edgartown. I knew it was her because she had a stroller for THREE, and those 4 babies were all in there! What a gal! In so many ways. Besides making life for all her friends so much more festive, she’s a famous caterer here on the Island.💖 

There’s George, the Captain of the ship (called appropriately LOL, because that’s what you do when you’re on board), working the bar.

Such a gorgeous night . . .

Before we went to the boat, I saw this set-up on the beach … had to go take a picture … I think it was a wedding shower! What a party! When I first moved here, my sister and I took a table & chairs, champagne, cake, salad, paper cups and plates, tablecloth, and brought my Dad here for his 60th birthday in my little old VW convertible. We bought cooked lobsters at the fish market up the street, and celebrated his birthday right in that same spot on the beach. Swam to get the butter off, and drove home under the trees with James Taylor singing to the stars. Now that’s a memory!


On the boat, same thing, we ate, we drank, we talked, we laughed, we breathed this rarified air and watched the sun go down. More wonderful memories.

The sunset turned Joe pink, and made his hot pink shirt even hotter!

Well, I have a hundred more things to tell you, but this is already long enough and I still have more! For one thing . . .

Remember this? Recognize it? Yup! Downty!

Better known as Highclere Castle (as in Downton Abbey). I did a whole post about this wonderful day… you can read it HERE!  

Well, guess what? Highclere Castle is having a contest that anyone can enter! I got an email from Laura who reads my Willards and is also their media person ~ she told me about the contest and said I should tell you! The winner will receive a three-day, two-night trip for two to Highclere Castle this September complete with airfare, accommodations, ground transportation, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Castle and estate, and tickets to an invitation-only VIP cocktail party hosted by Lord and Lady Caravan! AND she sent us a bottle of the Highclere Castle Gin! It came in a velvet bag, tied with gold cord, and even a little recipe book! It’s good to have friends in high places! Made with botanicals from the estate and from the orangery and with the lavender planted in the 9th century by the Bishop of Winchester. We got it, but we haven’t tasted it yet. Saving it for when that truck goes away! Or tonight, whichever comes first.😁

You can enter the contest HERE. They say if you buy a bottle of Downty gin (I renamed it) they’ll give you 20 chances to win the trip ~ it’s a promotion … but you don’t have to in order to enter, Laura stressed to me that it’s free! Nothing to lose! And it’s all inspired by the coming release of the third Downton Abbey movie! Big-time Red Letter Day!💞


So what else … in my last post, at the bottom, I listed a whole bunch of books and movies to read, listen to, and watch … I need to add Band of Brothers to it, which streams on Netflix . . . as suggested by one of our Girlfriends. We watched the first episode last night, so GOOD. Killer good. Scared to see the next one as we are talking D-Day, but ready to sqwinch my eyes closed just in cases. Just finished Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, so good. We both cried at the end. No wonder so many baby boomers ended up on drugs in the 70s and 80s … everyone had PTSD after the terrible violence of the 60s, I was only in the 11th grade when John Kennedy was killed, it was one after another, John, Martin, and then Bobby … and I have brand new respect for President Johnson. Little tug of my heart for him.💖 Books are such wonderful things.

Something else, if you go to the top of this Willard you will see “Home Cooking” . . . put your cursor there for a drop-down … Take your time, look at “Summer Recipes,” and “How to Cook” … for lots of summer deliciousness and cooking demonstration blog posts. Kellee did a wonderful job putting it together! Happy cooking!

Look Here . . .

We got the Secret Notes back in! They’re hand-made so it takes a while, but so special. . .

This is our first year without shrink wrap on our calendars .. NO plastic. I’m happy! I can’t believe all the tags and plastic and stuffing there is with everything we buy . . . I hope it works well. Be sure to let me know if you have problems. Fingers-crossed it works.💞

So, time to go and start throwing things into the truck! But I had to show you . . .THIS was the very first night in our house way back when. JUST the beginning of 35 years of wonderful friends, food, and FUN! (But I think what I’m hearing here is “We need more beer!”🤣)

Here’s to us Girlfriends! Happy summer! Thanks for all the wonderful sweet comments! Love you! 😘

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