Setting the Picnic Table . . .

Summer is finally here, and for us, the scramble is on to see how many times we can eat outside before it starts to snow again!  Shhh, I shouldn’t even be saying it. That’s how it is in New England (or any snow country, I would imagine)…as opposed to where I came from in California, where a cookout in February is perfectly normal; sidewalk cafes and tables by the sea are available year round; the heat is dry, and there are very few bugs.  Sounds like heaven doesn’t it!?

But the other side of the coin is how ridiculously excited we are on the first beautiful day of spring, or when the first daffodil blooms, or when it finally turns to summer and we see the first lightening bugs flickering through the garden.  I love that feeling, like being a child again, all those “firsts”; it makes me want to get up and godo something!  There’s a finite point to the moments.  We know they’re fleeting. This is the only summer we have, and it’s all right now.  I set the table last night, was such a pretty picture and such a beautiful night.  Did you know I learned to cook because I loved to set the table?  It’s true. The dishes, the flowers, the napkins, pretty glasses, cute place cards, loved it all.  But I couldn’t get people to come look at my cute table unless there was food. Ergo . . . . . . you, guessed it, cooking.

(First time I have ever said ergo!  Who says that???  Do you say ergo?  I feel like William F. Buckley.)

OK, here’s a bit of “How the Blog Turns” news: Our RSS Feed, over there → in that column on the right, works now. When you click on it, you can check a box that will send you a notice via email, whenever I update the blog (if you’re so inclined).  Inch by inch we are figuring out blog world.

Well, that was a fun time-out but it’s back to the drawing board for me.  New book called “Pancakes” is on the front burner!  Meaning I can’t stop thinking about it!

Loving your comments by the way.  So far, I highly recommend blogging … what an amazing world we live in!


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52 Responses to Setting the Picnic Table . . .

  1. mari1017 says:

    You are so right about summer! I have a beautiful old screen porch off the living room (house built in 1930), and I set it up as soon as the weather turns warm. Since it faces southwest, it stays cool and we get all the late afternnon and evening light – it’s just beautiful – anytime – mornings, by candlelight evenings – not huge, but enough for small dinner party or tea or coffee and desserts.

    so enjoying your blog – thank you for doing this! You continue to inspire creativity and friendship. 🙂

  2. Vickie T. says:

    Hi Susan, When will the Pancake book be out? I wish you could tell us a little about it…

    Thanks, Vickie

    • sbranch says:

      I have a ways to go on it, I hate to say a year, but maybe with printing time, maybe less…It’s like an old-fashioned book about family, childhood and friendships all wrapped around the breakfast table. With stories and recipes and ideas for everything I can think of!

      • Karen P says:

        Yay! Sounds wonderful! Breakfast with special family or friends is my favorite meal so I’ll be looking forward to some yummy recipes!!! Love you, girl!

  3. Laurie says:

    Sometimes we need a little reminder to seize (or is it sieze?) the moments! Now is the perfect time. Lightening bugs, fresh peas and strawberries from the garden and someone to share it with! Keep inspiring me to be a better person by following my heart!

  4. deezie says:

    Hi Susan
    One of my favorite things is setting the table with all the fixins, pretty fixins of course:) And sitting outside is the best, but where I am, Connecticut and almost on the beach, there are about a million mosquitoes, none there? There must not be because we tried to go outside last night and sit by the pool but we were attacked by them. I think I need a screened in porch:)
    happy Summer Susan, love what you are painting

  5. Ann says:

    Love to see a pic of you “painting in progress”. I think we missed the eating outside season in Maryland. It’s too hot now to do it.

  6. Angie(Tink!) says:

    ♫♥ Wow…we Must have Just Missed eachother… I get it “That was So Yesterday”♥….lol…I Love this Techno~World of Blogging & Facebook & Tweeting in Twitterville! as For The Summer…Oh How I Savor each Day…here in Florida it’s Been Hot & Dry…so I’ve been Pool~Side a Lot…am Brown as a Berry 🙂 I ‘m Keeping all My Pretty Flowers Alive by Watering Every Evening or Early Morning…I can Hear them Sing “Angie we are Thirsty ♫”….I L♥ve Setting The Table too Sweet Sue & Cooking lots of Yummy Food to fill The Plates! I Love “Ergo” Now we’ll all be saying it! lol Have a Lovely Summer Evening Back at Your Drawing Board…”Pancakes” is gonna Be Fabulous….Every Sunday my Entire Childhood….My Dad would wake us all Up for Breakfast before Church…& He Always made….Pancakes! I Swear! Yummy! lol xoxo Poof!♫♥

  7. Laura Jenkins says:

    Darling post, love the table and especially the napkins…there is a therapeutic thing about the ritual of setting the table…I have a drawer in my sideboard full of placecards…almost a time capsule of dinners and celebrations…and the joy of sitting at a thoughtfully set table, enjoying an equally thoughtful menu…I share your love of creating a special atmosphere…learned it from my grandparents…I was “in charge” of setting the table for every meal…btw, (sorry that I leaked the RSS news before this posted…forgive? Couldn’t contain my excitement..)xo

  8. Cindy Holshouser says:

    I was so excited to find out you have a blog. I love your cook books. I also love setting a table. My mom is having a dinner party in July. Since I always have place cards she asked me to make them for her party. I can’t wait.
    I follow many blogs, and yours, through google reader for the ease of it. Can’t wait to see your new pancake cook book

  9. Jacqui Garver says:

    Making lovely table settings rocks my world. I am a total “dish freak”- addicted to buying pretty serving pieces, dishes and pitchers….have to hold myself back whenever I go to HomeGoods and look at all the pretty bowls and teacups. Of course, one or two always ends up in my cart…

    • sbranch says:

      I’m finding my people here 🙂

    • Karen P says:

      Homegoods is just THE BEST, isn’t it, Jacqui? My dishes are beginning to be so mismatched because I can’t resist those cute luncheon/dessert plates or mugs or bowls! “All things CUTE” is a good thing!

  10. Jake says:

    I can’t wait for your pancake book – your description sounds so enticing! I was reading Reminisce Magazine last night and I noticed that so many memories have the dining table at the center. For me, the smell of bacon and coffee always reminds me of the Sunday morning breakfasts my mom cooked… I can’t seem to make those hashbrowns like she does – crispy!

    Also, I loved the picture of you painting. I love to see images of artists like you actually creating. And, when your technique kind of looks like mine, I feel like I might not be doing it wrong afterall!


    • sbranch says:

      I don’t think there’s a wrong way! If there was, I for sure would have found it by now!

  11. Pom Pom says:

    Hi Susan!
    I love the book already: Pancakes.
    I think I sent you an email long ago to tell you that your pancake story is why I made pancakes every Thursday morning for A LOT of hungry eighth graders at school. The next year they changed the schedule so the pancake making/eating ceased, but some kids still come back to say hello and also mention, “I remember when you made pancakes on Thursdays. Do you still do that?” Thursday mornings at school smelled DELICIOUS that year. Smile.

    • sbranch says:

      What an amazing memory you made for those kids…I know you are someone’s hero for that.

  12. Nellie says:

    Can hardly wait for the Pancake book! I love the story you told us earlier.
    It seems there is always just “one more dish” that I absolutely have to have.:-) I am actually at the age where our 3 daughters should be taking some of them home,
    but I’m not anywhere near ready for that!
    I’m truly loving this blog, Susan!

  13. peg says:

    Just hooked up with the RSS feed! Learning new stuff every day, thanks to you! I am so with you on the al fresco dining! The dishes, the setting, the tablecloth….by the way, did you do the ants on the tablecloth? Too darling. I made a picnic tablecloth years ago for a card table….now must go find it and take a picture to share! Loving the ‘sieze the moment’ reminder…must make time for fun and dinner under the stars! ♥

  14. Cameron says:

    I always loved setting the table too! As a child, that was one of my favorite things about the holidays–it was always my job to set the table with tablecloth, pretty china, real napkins, fancy glasses, candles, etc. It’s particularly fun when a teapot and teacups and saucers are involved, no?

    Like you, I suspect it had a long-term impact on my interest in food. I wound up in culinary school and now work at a tea room… go figure, right?

  15. pam says:

    I love reading all about what you’re doing. We’re staying inside, it’s 97 right now. Just seems to hot. Went to the SF airport though, and saw a lot of fog, so I know we’ll have some cool ocean breezes before the night is over. I’ll have coffee on the porch tomorrow. Thinking of you.

  16. lisa says:

    I gripe about the humidity and moan about shoveling snow, but I would never give up my four seasons. I think it helps me pay attention to mother earth – and she needs it. Besides, who would want to miss out of spring and fall?

  17. Pat Mofjeld says:

    As we live in a townhouse and are not to plant anything in the yard, our deck becomes our “garden” as well as our “outdoor dining room”. I love Fall and Winter–not so much Spring and Summer with the heat, humidity, and storms. The best thing about Spring and Summer is the deck–our outdoor “room” where we eat most of our meals. I love setting a pretty table, too, with flowers, nice dishes, and candles. I have friends over to sit on rockers and read or knit at the other end of the deck. In the winter, when the snow piles up on the deck and we go out to fill the birdfeeders, we have memories of happy meals out there…

  18. Love the napkin with the ants marching across it. We eat outside every chance we get here in NW Washington, too. It’s still chilly here, so tonight we needed sweaters, but it’s hard to pass up any opportunity to be outside. And I’m from California, too, and I’m still adjusting to the cool, rainy weather and short summers here.

    We always set the table with cloth napkins when we eat outside because they’re heavier, so they don’t blow away in the breeze (we live near the ocean).

  19. Cheryl Colazas says:

    So love your table setting. I always say “presentation makes everything better”, whether it’s dinner, a gift, or a party. I love giving gifts that are wrapped just so, our anticipation increases when the packaging is beautiful. Enjoy your summer dinners and thanks for the blog. I too, love it!

  20. Becky Pingrey says:

    I adore that you have a blog now. I’m a long time Willard subscriber so I had been missing you. No bugs in Colorado so we get to eat outside all summer. I hope to someday see your beautiful island. <3
    keep the pics coming!

  21. Gert says:

    Good morning Susan..I just have to get this RSS feed figured out I check your page each day but that would be great to have an email reminder!!! Love your table setting, your pictures are amazing; so inviting! I’ve always loved to set the table — just so much more inviting!! The seasonal change is what makes life so interesting! Nothing is boring in Iowa !!! Bless you dear friend!

    xoxo Gert

  22. I too am happy that you’re blogging. I “met” you a few years ago when you left a comment on my old blog that I no longer am using and we exchanged a few emails after that. I had some life changes and have moved and I started a new blog. I thought about not blogging anymore but I just had to keep on keepin’ on. I finally am in the process of making a quilt using all SB fabrics, I’m using both Tea Party and also some Martha’s Vineyard. In fact, I’m thinking of ordering a bit more fabric from one or two of your newer collections which I’ve been looking at on your website, just trying to pick and choose which I think I want in the mix. I’m using the whites for one side and the colors for the other of the log cabin blocks, I want a lot of white in the quilt. Maybe when it has finally become a finished quilt I can use it for a table covering on our deck! Probably not, I’d be too afraid of getting food stains on it. No matter, I have so much of the fabric in my stash that I will have plenty left to make a tablecloth.
    Have a nice day. 🙂

  23. Dawn says:

    Don’t be mad at me but summer just makes me excited about autumn! I hope you will be on the Vineyard this fall so we can enjoy it through you on your blog. 🙂
    I can’t tell you how happy I am that you have a new book in the works. It’s so exciting!!
    Sending summer solstice love,

  24. Ann Y says:

    Loved your post and table setting ! Know what you mean about setting the table…I also love to create a “tablescape” and my friends kid me about being dish-crazy. But I could now believe it when I read your post because last night it was hot and humid here, but on our little screen porch that we built off of our breakfast nook there was a breeze with the ceiling fan and the flowers in the beds looked so good from all the recent rain…and when we sat down at the table to eat we said “let’s eat out here as MUCH as we can all summer long….becuase before you know it we will be inside our house for months on end..and it is SO nice out here.” Then, on our morning ( eek 5:15 AM !) walk I found a leaf in the grass and was reminded of your page in the Summer Book with the quote about a tree reconsidering leaves after June 21 and I thouhgt – yep, we have to enjoy every minute of this summer.
    Thanks for a wonderful blog and all the great ideas….really appreciate your take on life, your ideas, and YOU !

  25. Liza-Ann Tucker says:

    I love the new blog and more frequent posts and contact. The pictures of your home transport me from the cold rain drizzle & fog we’ve had here in eastern Canada for 6 weeks. We skipped Spring altogether. I will soak up the sun through your lovely blog.

    Can’t wait for the new book. I still think you should do one on Home Decorating Susan Branch Style – something like Country Living for the Kindred Soul by Susan Branch. I know I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Have a great day!!!

  26. Gumbo Lily says:

    I want to start eating outdoors before the bugs get worse! And then….there is snow too. I live in the northern prairies. Love your anty napkins. I’m enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing your good thoughts.


  27. Rachel says:

    the book sounds lovely- and I love the sneak peek into your work 🙂 As an amateur artist I am always intrigued by other artists work methods/equipment etc!
    It has been very summery here in Virginia for a while, and we are not particularly likely to get snow here for a good while 🙂 That being said it *does* get a little hot to eat outside though 😮

  28. Ginny Stanley says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of California but you make it sound wonderful. And who doesn’t love a picnic? There are things I love about all the seasons – can’t imagine living where you don’t have four seasons. It’s like four fresh “firsts” every year.

  29. Linda Trokey says:


    I’ve followed your work for years and although I’m not a painter, I love creativity and found mine through various mediums, i.e., writing, scrapbooking, decorating. You inspire me every day with your love for life and finding the beauty and simplicity in everyday things. My husband gave me a screened-in porch for Christmas and it’s almost done (yeah, it took a while). Because of you and your photos and prints, I know I can decorate it in the style I love and make it a room to live and love in. Thanks for caring about sharing!

    Linda Trokey

  30. Victoria Miller says:

    For years I’ve had your Summer book, and every year as summer rolls around I pull it out and throughout the summer I look through it. It’s become a part of my every summer. And I’ve gotten more of your books, and I was online looking for more and found your website: what a delightful find! Incidently, I’m in California, but with climate change it’s not quite what it used to be, at least not on the coast. Having lived in Ohio and spent time in Massachusetts, I know what winter is. I’ve been in CA for 23 years now, and I still miss the springs of the midwest and east. The two things I miss the most are lilacs and fireflies. Also, visited my daughter and family from October through February (now that I’m retired). Loved seeing seasons change from fall to winter, and the white Christmas. But having had flights postphoned three times, by February I remembered why I moved to California. Anyhow, thank you so much for all your sharing. Your books have enhanced my life, and I really love your website, too!

  31. Susan Veater says:

    Susan, I love your work. Everything you do makes me feel all “homey” and creative. When I read your words and look at your art work my imagination just takes off. Thanks for sharing your talents. About twenty years ago I went to a garage sale not far from our home. The man putting on the sale was the son of the woman who had lived there before her death. He was a “biker” with a long braided hair and dressed all in leather. I found a set of 10 BEAUTIFUL Haviland Limoge rose plates sitting on a table and asked him how much to purchase them. He said $10. I bought them and walked away trembling with my greatest of all garage sale “finds.” I just knew his deceased mother would have died if she weren’t already dead. He didn’t appreciate the beauty or the value of what must have been her cherished plates. I have often hoped she could see how I adore these plates and delight to use them on a beautifully set table with all the little touches that make a meal special. You have often inspired me time and time again to make each day special with little joys and touches. Thanks again.

    • Janie O says:

      Oh my goodness, this story just makes me want to do a little happy dance. First because I know the feeling of a great yard sale find (yours is The Best), next because You found them and not someone else who would not appreciate or take care of them. I am sure his Mom is happy watching you loving these cherished plates. I just played a little scenario in my mind of how an object lives its life out and the way it passes through many different places and families. I am reminded of a favorite old movie (sadly I can’t find it on DVD) The 1942 ~ Tales of Manhattan

  32. Cheryl says:

    I look forward to the emails, and now with the blog… what fun!
    I agree about the four seasons. I love the way they change me and what I do, as they change. Your blissful frog and story reminded me of a day last week. I was just sitting outside enjoying the day with some iced tea, watching the hummingbirds, and smelling the jasmine, mints, and other flowers and herbs. It just doesn’t get any better than that, and I felt blessed to not only be in that spot and time, but to be able to appreciate it. Thanks so much for the way your words and art inspire and challenge me to be more creative, or to try new things.

  33. Nanc Pickens says:

    Susan Branch,

    Few are blessed with talents such as you! Thank you for sharing them with us!
    P.S. this is my 1st. blog!

  34. Judy Mapston says:

    Love your new Blog!!!
    Where do we enter for the giveaway? Here?

    • sbranch says:

      In the column to the right of the blog there’s something under the bird that says RSS FEED — click on there to sign up. (You will also be signing up to get an email whenever I update the blog, just fyi, in case you don’t like that idea — but you can always click out of it later!)

  35. karen saunders says:

    Susan…. are you still going to be in the magazine ‘Where Women Create?’ And if so, when? Every time I go to the store I look for it. karen

  36. Donna says:

    Love your blog – have always wanted to consider that myself…………
    Peanut butter and bananas – I keep sliced bananas in the freezer and put them in a blender or such with peanut butter and a little honey and have instant banana/peanut butter ice cream for my grandchildren…….

  37. Margaret Parks says:

    How wonderful that you have a blog. Its such a reflection of you and like getting a letter from an old friend or a favorite cousin who lives in another city.
    Have a great summer on the Vineyard. Eat some beach plum jelly for me. ( And tell me again…why doesn’t coastal Maine have beach plum bushes? Oh wait, that’s right we have rocks, no beach here on the island.) But we do have lots and lots of blueberry fields….: > )
    Cheers Susan my friend…

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