Playtime, Girlfriends! ♥

 Time out from all that cleaning and grocery shopping!  Let’s get to the good stuff, the decorating!  ♥  When I was young I would pour over my decorating magazines gleaning every teeny scrap of inspiration about homemaking and decorating.  Of course nothing has changed; I still do it.

(But we need music for the rest of this story, don’t we . . . us dreamers? Yes, we do, click there, and come right back.)

There was nothing I loved more than going to a restaurant by myself, taking my newest issue of Country Living Magazine, finding a cozy table, and ordering lunch.  I would lay my knife across the pages to hold them flat, and slowly go through the whole magazine, absorbed, lost in dreamland, reading every bit of it, while stuffing my face with a BLT, or dipping  French Fries in tartar sauce.

 My favorite restaurant had a tall open fireplace and old, scruffy wooden floors.  Snowy afternoons in front of the popping fire were the best. From the silver-rimmed windows that ran across the harbor-side of the room, I could see the ferry coming into view through the snow and mist and the choppy grey sea.  Because it was winter and freezing outside, I would often have the whole restaurant to myself.  I would wrap my green-plaid shawl around my shoulders and burrow in for an afternoon of uninterrupted home-born happiness. 

The magazines were full of crochet-edged pillow cases, rose-covered picket fences, old hutches with tea cups hanging in a row over baskets filled with apples, and snowy scenes streaming in from what I called “cris-cross” windows.  I dreamed of old stoves and homemade noodles; I learned to tie up fresh herbs and hang them to dry and polish brass candlesticks; I would go home, inspired to try a new recipe, embroider a dishtowel, make curtains, stencil my walls.

There seemed to be a lot more rules about decorating in those days, and one of them was that it was gauche to use faux flowers or fruit.  That’s over now, anything goes, it’s all mix and match, and I’m so happy to finally admit, I love fake fruit!

I love my little faux lady apples in the tiny Longaberger basket, on my miniature chair in the little scene on my stove shelf!  I love the little red pear in the Love creamer my girlfriend Rachel gave me (she’s coming from England for Thanksgiving!), and I love that perfectly wonderful fake little pumpkin!

Over the years I’ve collected fake fruits in pottery, paper, clay, glass, wood, wax, and marble, whenever I run into one, which isn’t that often.

There’s a lot of good things I can say about fake fruit, first off, it doesn’t rot! It doesn’t attract fruit flies; it’s not expensive, and you only pay for it once; and if you get tired of it, you put it away in a bag until you want it again.  A bowl or basketful livens up a dark corner. . . (I just found out, we have a few boxes of pears and crabapples left in our web store, if you need some!)

. . . adding a bit color and whimsy.

It’s fun to mix fresh and fake . . . the pinecones, the little pumpkin, and the sweet-smelling tangerine poked with cloves are real; the rest isn’t.

This marble apple had a hole in the top.  I went out to the driveway and found this little stick, so now the apple has a stem. Mixed media.

This miniature mixing bowl is going to be part of our Thanksgiving tablescape.  And my fakery does not stop at fruit . . . oh noooooo  . . .

I like fake birds too, on a fake tree!  This is my favorite holiday decoration — I started putting this on our kitchen table during the holidays about ten years ago.  Jack the kitten helped me put it up yesterday.

Here it is several years ago, when my sister Shelly lived on the island and had her little Lovebird “Grace” here with her. Gracie gave the tree some serious je ne sais quoi. 

I’ve collected birds forever, some of paper, some with feathers (Jack particularly likes the ones with feathers).  One day, I went around the house gathering all my birds from their perches, from book shelves and bedside tables and when I saw them all together, I realized I had enough for a tree full!  My Bird Tree was born. 

While decorating for Thanksgiving, I’m also planning ahead, so that the Christmas decor will slide right in as the Thanksgiving guests go out the door!

And speaking of decorating and speaking of kitties:  Girl Kitty has been very helpful; jumped right up to help me put on the Thanksgiving tablecloth.  Such a big help! BTW, Girl and Jack touched noses for the first time this morning.♥ 

 But mostly, when he isn’t knocking jars full of paintbrushes and pens off my desk, or climbing up Joe’s pantleg, Jack’s playing with his ball!

One last thing: here’s one reason I love REAL fruit, in particular, the delicious juiciness, beauty and versatility of a red pear.  If you need a little color for your Thanksgiving dinner, ripe red pears are perfect!  Top any green salad with chopped up red pears; or make a sparkly fruit salad with them: Mix together chopped red pears, pomegranate seeds, green grapes, thin slices of red onion, sheepmilk feta cheese (or blue cheese crumbles), and a sprinkle of walnuts or toasted pecans.   Make an orange dressing from 3/4 c. fresh orange juice, 1 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate, and 1 Tbsp. orange zest — simmer together and reduce to 1/2 c.  Chill and pour over cold fruit.  Serve ice cold.

Or have pears for a healthy breakfast; chop them and put them in a bowl along with blueberries, over creamy plain yogurt, and then sprinkle everything with good granola. Yum!

OK, so I think we covered it all, fake fruit, fake birds, real fruit, one real bird, salad, and breakfast.  xoxo

This weekend, I’ll announce the win-win-winner of the book-book-book!

 This, by the way, is what 95% of the photos I’ve taken of Jack look like, he is a blur.  This moment as we speak, he has just reached up out of my lap and has the island-shaped pendant on my necklace his mouth!  Help!!  I gotta go now! ♥ TGIF Girlfriends!!

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285 Responses to Playtime, Girlfriends! ♥

  1. Christine Anderson says:

    Little fake birds!!! Once I read A Red Bird Christmas by Fannie Flagg I collect “red Birds” I see ! They are so cheery and bright. My special tree is a Bear, Bell tree!

    I so look forward to your blog and of course Willard – They just make me smile!!
    Thanks 🙂

  2. Sandi Zier says:

    Do you ever sit down? Thank you for what you do and share.

  3. Kimi says:

    Somewhere in your heart and soul lives a lovely lady why? loving old fake fruit me too! don’t laugh. I have to admit it and crochet pillows cases and kitchen towels old plates too. I see your old magazines and how everything comes together here in your home. Susan this is what been in you all along you just simply made it happen, not all people can full fill their dreams I’m glad you did and every now and then I can come and visit. “Happiness is in the Heart it found yours and everything shows its very nice. PS> Glad the kitties are getting along. Take care

  4. Linda says:

    I’m glad the anti-faux fruit rules were voted down. I mean after all, the bunny figurines aren’t real either!

    Many years ago when my children were quite small, we moved to snow country in the east and I made a couple dozen or so red felt cardinals with real red feather tails. Those plus the white silky snowballs decorated our tree that year. When we came downstairs the next morning, we saw graphic evidence that our cat (who was definitely beyond kitten stage) had spent the night bird hunting and chasing snowballs. OH. MY! Not a particularly nostalgic Christmas scene.

  5. Lee Ann G. says:

    I giggle every time I come over to your blog because I’m happy to hear the music you’ve picked out. Loved this one especially! On another note, have you ever heard of Recently I starting using it and it has every kind of music you can think of. And you can listen to the full album. I have a 40’s playlist all made up. I know you would love it Susan.

    I so get you regarding finding your favorite spot in your favorite place to sit and read your magazines for hours. I still do that, but it’s usually at Barnes and Noble with a chai in my hand. When the article about you came out in the Stampington and Company magazine, I poured over your article alone for at least an hour. Loved every minute and word of it!♥

    Oh and I love your bird tree. I love birdies too!

    ♥Lee Ann

  6. Mecky says:

    Fake fruit isn’t what it use to be! Now you can hardly tell it isn’t real! You are right. They don’t rot or attrack flies. BUT they do have to be cleaned. (or just toss and buy new ones! hehehe)
    I never thought of collecting birds. They are cute. The tree is a cute idea.
    I see you have some old issues of Country Living. Those old ones are great. I still enjoy looking through them. I have several that I keep tucked away. Everytime I think of tossing them, I just can’t go through with it.

  7. Carol says:

    Susan, you are SUCH an inspiration to me! I’ve been plodding along lately, knowing that the holidays were quickly approaching, but I just haven’t been able to get off my duff, or get myself in the mood to cook or decorate or anything. (Even though my husband and I are hosting The Big Family Dinner with 90-year-old Grandpa, all the siblings, nieces and nephews and all their significant others. BUT THEN….I just saw your photos and read your descriptions of your Thanksgiving plans, recipes and decorations, and I feel positive inspired and renewed! Thank you so much for just being YOU– friendly, artsy and inspirational–What a combination! If I am lucky enough to win your new book, I just might even bcome inspired enough to throw my own kitchen tea party! Yowza!

  8. Liz Sullivan says:

    Love, love, love your bird tree Susan! My favorite Christmas ornaments!

  9. Marilyn ( in Ohio ) says:

    I’ve thought & thought why I enjoy your blog (& Willard”!) so much. I’ve decided it’s because you decorate a REAL home in just the way YOU want to do it! After watching many design & decorating shows on television, I began to realize that it’s all about being modern, trendy, so-called “clean”” lines, latest (& most expensive) materials available.
    To me there’s a difference between a house & a home – those are just houses, yours is a HOME! That includes fake fruit & all – I’m with YOU!!!!!!!!! It’s got personality (reminds me of a song!)
    Keep it comin’.

  10. Patty says:

    Just wanted to share my Thanksgiving kitty story. About 35 years ago we were living in our first house. We decided to have my parents and my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. Because our dining room was small, we decided to set the food on the kitchen counter buffet style. At the time we had two girl kitties – Lolly was a very sweet little black cat with a white bib, Tootsie was a feisty little tiger. When the turkey was done I took it out of the oven to rest for a few minutes before we cut it. As my husband and I were setting out the rest of the food I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Tootsie had sunk her teeth into the leg of the turkey and was dragging it off the platter. It weighed more than she did. She must have thought she hit the jackpot. Thankfully everyone was still in the living room. We put her in one of the bedrooms and dinner went on without a hitch until halfway through the meal when I went back into the kitchen to make sure there was still enough turkey cut and to refill the gravy bowl before anyone went for seconds. There was Lolly, curled up asleep on top of the warm rolls in the basket. Did I mention that my mother-in-law wasn’t crazy about animals? She wouldn’t have thought it as cute and funny as I did. I gently removed Lolly from the basket, brushed off the rolls and no one ever knew.

  11. Arl says:

    Susan, I love today’s blog, oh wait it’s yesterday’s blog. It is a comfort to know that I’m not alone in the love of decorating magazines. My love started around the age of 12. Still have most of the old mags and books (I kept my favorites. I couldn’t keep them all). They are mixed in with my new ones. I still go to them for inspiration when there is a celebration, an event, and the for Holidays. Oh how I love the Holidays. Just today I was showing my daughter ideas for the thankgiving dinner table and the fireplace mantle and it was from one of the older mags. We started decorating for Thanksgiving

    I’m happy to read that GIRL has touched noses with JACK or “Jacques”,as my 9-year old likes to pronounce it when we are reading your blog together. She likes to think he’s French. She drew him wearing a beret and sporting a goatee to go along with his mustache. I should send that to you. She wants a kitty that looks like Jack. :/ I didn’t know what to say. This was the first time my husband didn’t say yes. 🙂 I am sure she will fall in love with a bitty kitty as soon as she lays her eyes on him regardless if he doesn’t like to wear berets and is missing a mustache.

    • sbranch says:

      I put a beret on him too, and a bigger mustache. I’ll have to use that art in the blog! He’s such a fun little sweetheart! Tell your 9-year-old I said a special hello to her will you please? I hope she gets her wish!

  12. Dear Susan:
    I have been reading your “Willards” for a while now, along with following you on Twitter (not to mention the bookshelf full of every book you have ever written). Anyway, this morning as I read about Jack’s cat shennanigan’s and your holiday preparations I felt something awaken in me that has been dormant for way too long. You have inspired me to decorate and fluff and puff my home and store again. You see, I am in the business of creativity but haven’t been motivated lately to do much of that for myself. Something in your post today just gave me the motivation to pull out some old decorations and get creative. So for that I just wanted to say thank you.

    I close every blog post with “Encourage one another”. Thank you for encouraging me!


    Suzanne Zingg
    Strawberry Patches

  13. Noelle says:


    I love seeing that you posted something new, it makes my day! Everything you do reminds me of something or someone from my childhood and we had so much fun, makes me feel so warm and cozy. Thanks for being you! Love the photo of the magazine and the fireplace and just the thought of sitting all warm watching the ferries coming in, well yes it makes me want to dream, loved the song too! You are an inspiration! Happy Thanksgiving.. love the Jack stories..

  14. I still lament the fact that years ago I must have thrown away some of the old Country Living magazines that had such a lasting influence, to this very day! But that’s always the stickler, isn’t it — having to CHOOSE the magazines that must be recycled to avoid a nomination for a spot on Hoarders? And hooray for tastefully done faux fruit and greenery! We all know that apples, in order to retain their crisp sweetness, must have cool storage, else they become MEALY, which is the worst sort of fate for any apple. I found a few years ago that a garland of faux fall leaves twined itself beautifully on the top of an old rectangular stained glass window in my dining room, and that the equally non-fresh scatter of small, inexpensive gourds looked cozy on the chestnut table (and did not get brown spots!). Susan, does hearing “You’re such an inspiration!” ever get old? BTW, we’ll all wait to see how young Jack interprets the big Christmas tree — decoration or large, personal toy? ^_^

    • sbranch says:

      I have to say, BEING inspired is my favorite thing in the world, to think that I might give it out too is pure happiness to me–no, it never gets old! Thank you!! I’m going to be curious to see what Jacks thinks of the tree too, sort of nervous!

  15. Vicki says:

    I love your kitchen, Susan! Your last post which showed your breads drying out on the ironing board reminded me of my mom and paternal grandmother making our traditional Southern dressing.
    Mother would lay out white bread just like you do and make up a big batch of cornbread in her big iron skillet. She made it plain without too much sweetness–the cornbread was left to dry out too! She always combined both to make the dressing, adding broth, sage, poultry seasoning, celery and onion sauteed in butter. Oh, how I love those smells wafting through the house as we watched the Macy Day parade! Along with the turkey roasting in the oven, of course! One batch of dressing had a jar of oysters added to it–soooo good! The other batch was plain, but delicious too! Thanks for the memories! Love your blog and Willard–such a treat!

  16. Janie Phillips says:

    Happy sigh. I love magazines, but I love your blog more. You go right to the heart of what I hope to find in a magazine, breathe life, love, and friendship into it, and then you throw open the door and invite us all in. You inspire me in so many ways, make me laugh out loud, let me share the magic of a kitten, and even delight me with a glimpse of a familiar little envelope in your Longaberger basket :). This is a week for giving thanks, and I want you to know that I’m thankful for all the goodness you bring into my life.

    I’ll be thinking of you and Rachel this week! Happy Thanksgiving! xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      She gets here tomorrow Janie. Thank you for the little envelope, I love it so much, and for this nice comment too xoxo

  17. Enikö says:

    I was wondering where you got that gorgeous fake Lovebird till I finished reading that Gracie is, in fact, real. Your posts really are a lot of fun. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! (I’m heading north to care for my dad -he turned 90 this year! -so my sis can have a Holiday break). Hugs to you & Joe!

  18. MerrieSherrie says:

    Been a bit “out of commission” lately, but today what a lovely way to start the day with your sweet blog!! Gotta love the faux fruit!! Just was up at the cabin yesterday, where the little faux punkins where hidden away, making room for holiday faux tarts and little red candles, faux pine (hubby’s is concerned for fire…not in the fireplace, even though piney woods abound outside!), and red gingham ribbon. Using the faux fruit, I know I won’t be feeding any little forest critters! Feeding them out of doors is fine. Inside, not so much!! Wishing you, Joe, kitties, and family and friends a wonderful Thanksgiving!!! With much love, Sherry xo

  19. Deb says:

    I was so surprised to see a copy of The Country Kitchen by Della Lutes in one of your photographs! I’ve loved this book since I found it at a tag sale years ago. I was lucky enough to find another of her books – Home Grown. She certainly makes the past come alive in her writing.

  20. Terry Lummer says:


    I can not get enough of your blog. I read and re-read your posts. They bless me with so many wonderful ideas. They bring out the best in me. Thank you. Did you ever consider doing a magazine? How does The Susan Branch Magazine sound? Then I could take it with me wherever I go and read and dream, then go home and create just like you did with Country Living. Which is the publication where I discovered you almost thirty years ago.

    P.S. I also use your books and your blog to teach writing to my fifth grade students. Your writing is wonderful when I am teaching how to use your five senses in writing and how to show instead of tell. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


  21. Angie(Tink!) says:

    Merry Monday Sweetest Sue..I have Been Catching Up on your last two Blogs…Fabulous way to Begin The Thanksgiving Week! Yay!…The Video of Jack…Purrrrfection My Dear…Jack Makes Me Smile…Meow! Kitty Kisses to Him & Girl~Kitty! The Touched Noses…Beyond Cute!…I’ve got ♫♥ “Dreams”♫♥ Playing in The Backround…Wonderful & I woke feeling very Dreamy Today.♫♥…I L♥ve Your Birdie Holiday Tree!….omg! & Your Fake Fruit & Your Real Fruit…& The Tiny Chair…Taylor Gave Me a Tiny Chair that I keep One of My Dad’s Teddy Bears On…( My Dad collected Teddy Bears!) & now I have a Few of Them…Priceless! Now I am craving a BLT & a Plate of French Fries…Yum!…Today I am Baking Three Pumpkin~Pies! Scrumptious Smells fill My House! Yay! Twirling into Thanksgiving~Bliss! Have a Yummy Week Sweet♥Sue! xoxo Poof! 🙂

  22. Connie Michael says:

    Love those pictures of Jack & Girl Kitty….. I did notice in the picture where they are sitting across from one another that Girl is SMILING. She has a smug little cat grin going on there – ! My-oh-my she is quite pleased….. won’t be long before she is romping around with her new friend, teaching him the rules of the house (hers)….. Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours! The pecans look great! 🙂 Thank you for being a bright spot in our world.

  23. Debbie Ferguson says:

    Love and Happy Thanksgiving to you Susan and Joe, Girl kitty & Baby Jack!

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