First, Girl Kitty. Then, Heart-Shaped Rocks. Then Project.

As you’re about to see, Girl Kitty is thinking out loud this morning, and she has a lot to say.   When she’s finished venting, I’ll show you a little crafty project I just finished.  But first, of course, musica (darling, from Love Actually) . . .

Ahh yes, she’s thinking, I know what I want for Christmas, I want it to be the good old days.  When it was just me.

Because now, every time I turn around . . . He’s there.

 I sit on a pillow on a chair, HE sits on a pillow on a chair.

He thinks he’s so cute!  With those goo-goo-googly eyes.

But I’m beautiful too, aren’t I?  Aren’t I just as beautiful as HE is?

Yes, my darling cat girl, you are.  You will always be my number one.  All I want for Christmas is You. 

This photo of hearts really hasn’t much to do with anything, but a couple of our girlfriends were asking (in “comments”) if I would put up photos of the heart-shaped rocks we pick up when we’re out on our walk, so before I tell you about my project, I thought I’d do that . . . here are some of them, arranged on the window sill in our upstairs guest bathroom.  The light blue one is actually beach glass.  The red one is a worn-down old brick.  The white one is a seashell.  I think the black one might be from old blacktop.  These little treasures are all natural, this is how they were when we picked them up, washed up from the sea, in the sand.

Now on to the project.  It’s not really a Christmas project, but so easy and definitely something I wanted to get done before Christmas.  Here’s a picture, below, of our downstairs guest bathroom:

 It’s a small room, but it has high ceilings; it’s where we’ve always hung old family photos along with things we find in antique stores.  We like to have an entertaining bathroom — and I wanted to take it one step further.

I love looking at photos and mementos; that’s my great-great grandmother in the round frame, and below it is a thank you-for-dinner note from Peter Mayle (who wrote A Year in Provence and came for dinner once!!  Of course I had to frame his note!!). I thought this narrow wall between the window and the bathroom door might be perfect for a real picture wall.

So I pulled out some favorite old photos of us with our friends and families (and kitties) . . .

And on a sheet of foam core, using a metal ruler as a guide, I cut around each photo with a sharp exacto knife, protecting the table top by turning my blotter calendar upside down and using the heavy cardboard back as a cutting surface.

I put down newspaper to protect the table cloth, and then sprayed acid-free photo-mount on the back of each photo and, as carefully as I could, attached it to the foam core.

So now the photos are more substantial and will stand out from the wall a bit.

There’s me when I first started painting, us at Joe’s 40th birthday luau, Joe out sailing when he weighed one pound, John with his girls when they were babies, the girlfriends singing on the porch of my old studio (♫You don’t own me, don’t say I can’t go with other boys . . . ♪), Joe and I when we first met, Margot’s children.  Good old memories.  To the back of each foam core photo, I attached a sticky double-sided foam mounting square . . . so I could hook the photos to the wall.  The mounting squares are removable — just in case this turned out to be a terrible idea!

Then I started sticking them to the wall, one at a time, years of wonderful memories and our favorite people.  Sooner or later everyone passes through here and now they will find themselves on our wall.

There is only one “seat” in this room (unless you’re Jack!), and it’s directly across from the picture wall.  (A very long time ago this bathroom, which is at the far end of the house, in a corner off the pantry, was called, according to papers that came with the house, a “three holer.”  Those were the days!)

And that’s my excitement for today — it’s done!!!  Right now we’re about to trek up to the attic, me and Joe, to dig around in the boxes, and bring down the Christmas decorations.  We’re bringing in the tree, although we have huge fear of this (Thank you Mari!).  Below is a photo of our house last December . . . the way it’s going, I think this snow may be all we have, just in a photo, because in real life, we’re about to get the yard furniture back out of the barn where it was put away for the “winter” and maybe plan Christmas dinner around the Barbecue!

 I hope I am speaking too soon, tomorrow a blizzard will fly in!!  It’s so beautiful here in the snow, I can dream can’t I?

Our Cookie Jar starts going out to you Willard Girls next week . . . with all my favorite cookie recipes!  When you get it, just click on any recipe in the jar, and it will come up so you can print it out.  Here’s one right now . . . if you’ve never tried these chocolaty-chewy delights, they are delicious and always a big hit at the cookie exchange parties.  Bye for now girlfriends, our Holiday Screensavers are UP, help yourselves! . . . And have a wonderful day!!  Go to the top, play that song again!!!

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281 Responses to First, Girl Kitty. Then, Heart-Shaped Rocks. Then Project.

  1. Aggie says:

    Love, love, love those kitties and you tell their story so well! One day you’ll find them cozied up together and will say “awwww”. Hope the Christmas tree survives and does not become a jungle gym!

  2. Anne W says:

    Hi Susan,
    I love the antics of Jack and Girl and did have a tree mishap one year…with three kitties around you’re never sure who the culprit is until we realized which one was staying as far away from the tree as she could once we had gotten it put all back together. As always, love the blog and thanks so much for the screensavers. I chose your charming house since as I have always loved the old homes out on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. I wish you snow…

  3. Patricia Wehner says:

    Love the picture wall! What a great idea for a small skinny place. Ah the kitties – I bet it won’t be too long until they are great snuggle buddies. It’s hard at first, when you’ve been an only child 🙂 Give them big hugs!

  4. Ellen Beeton says:

    Oh poor little Girl Kitty having to divvy up her time and space with Jack. But he’s so cute! I don’t blame her for being jealous, but I still believe they will be best buds in no time. Love, seriously love the heart rocks. Thanks for the background photos.

  5. Karen P says:

    Just noticed that cute little painting of Jack toward the end of the blog! Adorable with the little French beret….”Oui! Jacques!”

  6. Heather Mavis Rushing says:

    It’s nice to know I am not the only one who when hearing people wish for NO SNOW (“last year we had enough!”), I’m thinking to myself,”well, we’ll see if you get your wish but I’d be happy to see a thick blanket of white a few times.” Drab gray-brown-green winters are just plain boring. What is there for kids to DO outside in a winter like that? No, give an old fashion snowy winter. Thank You very much.

  7. Kathleen C. May says:

    Susan please let Girl Kitty know that she has a fan out there (me) who thinks she is a most beautiful cat 🙂

  8. Leslie says:

    Jack is darling! I feel like I can see his personality just by looking at that mischievous little face.

    Now Susan, you KNOW you have to take Girl Kitty aside, in private, where Jack can’t hear, and make sure she knows she is still the favorite. Just make sure she knows she has to keep it a secret. : )

  9. Jenny says:

    I can’t get enough of the pictures of Girl Kitty and Jack. Especially since Girl Kitty looks EXACTLY like the cat I had growing up, Kit Kat. Although Kit Kat never would have made it up to the dining room table as he weighed 23 lbs for most of his life! But when he was a kitten he did manage to bring the Christmas tree down by wildly climbing up the trunk! So, I wish you lots of luck with your tree this year. And I look forward to all the stories you will soon have to tell about Jack and the Christmas decorations : )

    • sbranch says:

      I think we might be in for trouble. We have brought home at least 15 little balls with bells in them, 4 bright colored round pom-poms, and two stuffed mice, and cannot find even one of them. We crawl on the floor looking under everything!!! He must eat them!!! Joe was going to bring in the tree, but before he does that, he just left for the market to buy more toys, while I make myself into kitty toy. When Joe gets back, the tree comes in, the biggest kitty toy of all.

  10. Kelley S. says:

    Please tell Girl Kitty that she is looking positively regal these days. Having a youngster to boss around suits her. She really is gorgeous. Our first Christmas with our black and white kitten was a hoot. My 6’6″ husband was putting the lights on the tree when a little face popped out at him from the top of the tree. Both of them yowled and there was quite a bit of thrashing by man and kitten. Our little fella never climbed Christmas tree again, choosing instead to spend the next 15 Christmases ensconced on the tree skirt and gazing up through the branches. There is nothing quite like a kitten in the house!

    • sbranch says:

      Joe is out wrestling the tree right now, it’s coming in. I will tell him this story and maybe it will work for us too!

  11. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for the inspirations and all the yummy recipes 🙂

  12. Doreen Strain says:

    Hi Miss Sue,
    I told you Miss Girl Kitty was going to “bong” Jack in the head with that front paw of hers….didn’t I!????? A girl can only take so much!!!! LOL! Esp. when she’s the “Queen Of The House”! Nice to see the picture of your house in the snow all decorated…so makes me miss New England! Here in FL…we wear shorts on Christmas and flip flops…! 🙁 I’m going to have to plan a Christmas one of these years up at our log cabin in Upstate NY! Enjoy your decorating and keep Jack safe from “Miss Queenie” LOL! FOSB 4~Ever! ~ Doreen ~

    • sbranch says:

      We just bought in the tree and sang while we did it! The singing has stopped, momentarily, while we figure out what to do with a tree trunk that is too big for the tree stand! 🙂

      • Doreen Strain says:

        Oh dear…..maybe another trip to the store to buy a bigger tree stand???? Our tree is up but not decorated yet. We have a 10 footer this year, narrower than we’ve had in the past but beautiful nonetheless. There are a few spots that we’ll need to hang the “heavy” balls so the branches come down a little further. No matter how it’s decorated…it’s going to look just beautiful. I get such a wonderful feeling just sitting in the dark with my cup of eggnog the lights on the tree lit and Frank singing his favorite Christmas songs and a fire in the fireplace…..with the air conditioning on high…LOL! Nothing like the silent moments of the season for reflections of Christmas’ gone by. Have fun with getting your tree in the stand! Make sure it’s in there good…cause I think “Jack” might become a tree climber! LOL! FOSB 4~Ever! ~Doreen~

        • sbranch says:

          It’s up, it’s tied to the wall, it smells like heaven. Merry Christmas!

          • Doreen Strain says:

            Hoorraaayy! LOL! I think the smells in our homes at this time of year, help to make the memories even nicer…don’t you think so too “Girlfriends”? I mean…the smell of the fireplace, the Christmas tree, holiday candles burning, cookies and breads in the oven baking, standing rib roasts or turkeys roasting in the oven, hot cocoa with a peppermint stick hanging out of it….oh yes…the simple pleasures of the season! Gotta love em! Today I’m making your “Christmas Wreaths” from your CHRISTMAS JOY book! I think they’ll look simple wonderful on my cookie plates this year that I pass around to my neighbors! Have fun keeping up with Jack and please give the “Queen” Miss Girl Kitty a little treat of some tuna fish….from me! 😉 Merry Christmas from our home to yours Susan, may it be a blessed one! FOSB 4~Ever! ~Doreen~

          • sbranch says:

            They’re sticky to make, but they look adorable on the plate, very one of a kind! Have fun!

  13. suzy says:

    New kitty looks as though he has a salvador dali cool!!!

  14. Arlinda says:

    Hi Susan,
    I love seeing Kitty and Jack together. It’s only a matter of time. 🙂

    You gave me a great idea with your picture wall. My daughter has cute photos of her friends and cousins which are hidden in her albums. I’m going to duplicate them, mount them on her wall, and surprise her. Thank youuuuu.

    I also am happy to know that we aren’t the only ones who get their trees early. We know no one else that does that. We buy our trees the first weekend after Thanksgiving. We decorate it the day before the Eve of Christmas and light it on the 24th.

    (Here in New York, the trees come from Canada and the sooner you get them in water the better. Many purchase them closer to the 25th of December thinking they are going to be fresh, not knowing that the trees they buy have been in a lot the whole time. 😀 )

    I LOVE your home and the beautiful light that shower your rooms. I am always struck how happy the pictures make me. The light is so intoxicating. Love it!

    PS- Jacques nous sommes en amour avec vous. We love him in the baret. My daughter couldn’t stop laughing. She has the picture she drew of Jack in a baret tacked to her picture board. She and I are in love. Oh Jack!

    Thank you Susan.

    With love,

  15. Gina says:

    Dinner with Peter Mayle (sigh) I have long admired both of you and your work. You each bring more life to life! I wish I could have been there having dinner with you two! Love the photos of the kitties. Girl Kitty reminds me of my own Penelope that I had for fourteen years. Good memories….

  16. Teresa Jensen, CA says:

    In that picture of the two of them on the table it looks like Girl Kitty is actually rolling her eyes!

  17. Chris Z says:

    Enjoying the kitty the white table cloth really a table cloth or a matelasse blanket repurposed? Lovely

  18. Jo says:

    Thank you for the screen savers, Susan. I was just looking last week and hoping there might be some winter/Christmas ones. I chose your house! Beautiful! If I ever make it to Martha’s Vineyard I just know I could spot your house, it has to be the cutest one on the island.
    Thanks again!

    • sbranch says:

      Old New England architecture is wonderful! Part of why I moved here, I just had to live in an old house!

  19. Cynthia Krynock says:

    Loved the Girl Kitty and Jack story…makes me miss my Miss Em…thank you too, for the recipe…am looking forward to The Cookie Jar….it is a Christmas “staple” that I keep right in my pantry!


  20. Carol says:

    Oh Susan…big sigh. You have encouraged the lost child in me to create again. Thank you. Tromping in our Michigan snow to get to our woods to gather dried berries has been so refreshing for my spirit. Today I intend to create wreaths and luminaries for my herb garden. Each time I visit your blog I am encouraged. Thank you.
    My 6 four-month-old kittens prefer Latte, my seven-month-old kitten over me and of course Latte prefers me over them. He wrestles with them, but once he is bored, he just walks away leaving them bewildered as to what they did to make him leave.
    I wish you a wonderful weekend with your sweet family!

    • sbranch says:

      So wonderful to hear Carol! Mixing in nature like you did, that seems to me to be the very best way for spirit refreshment!

  21. Sharan says:

    I so look forward to reading your posts. Life is so busy and I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy all that really matters to me, especially during the holidays. I get up early each day when the house is quiet and enjoy a cup of coffee and look to your blog for some inspiration (after I feed my two kitties who won’t give me peace until I do). Our Christmas trees are up too, but just lights right now. We have decided to take our time and decorate slowly, enjoying each step. Simplify and slow down 🙂 Merry Christmas Susan and girlfriends!

  22. Sandra says:

    Oh how terrible to have to **share**! gasp! Girl Kitty will come ’round, eventually, and then she and Jack will be BFF’s. Through a series of fortunate, and one unfortunate, event, I have five dogs with a sixth, Jake, who comes and goes. We all get along well, except when we don’t and then have to sort ourselves out. (Jake is a border collie who is, by far, the smartest thing on this farm and that includes the human!) smile
    Love the photo wall, what a fabulous idea.

    • Marilyn says:


      One of our dogs is named Jake, too. He is a Jack Russell terrier mix, and our vet thinks part of the mix is a border collie. So we also believe Jake has the highest IQ at our house. 🙂

      As it is, we all but hand him a grocery list, the car keys and have him make a grocery run for us!!! I almost think he could figure it all out.

      Have a great day,
      Marilyn (in Dallas)

  23. Sandra says:

    Meant to ask you if you’re familiar with Jacquie Every time I send, or receive, one of her cards, I think of you.

  24. Mary Cunningham says:

    Merry Christmas Susan (and Joe, and Girl Kitty…and Jack), such an exciting time at your house…be sure to let Girl Kitty open her presents first on Christmas Thank you for the delicious recipe, can’t wait to make those! . Love the picture wall in your bathroom, we call ours the, lots of time spent in there by the men folk…why is that? HA….a friend of mine had a graffiti wall in the hallway between her living room and dining room…friends have written on the wall little quips, poetry, drawings, she has some post cards from travels up there too…quite interesting…last time I was there, she had painted it clean,,,she is going through a divorce and has her house by the lake for sale….memories gone,hope she took a picture first. Wishing for snow..just a little !

  25. Tracy says:

    Hi Susan – love the tree and can just smell it from here all the way in Illinois 🙂 We can’t do real trees because of allergies (achooo!) and I do miss the smell. I have found that Bath & Body Works makes a wonderful “Fresh Balsam” candle and it helps bring in the aroma of a real tree! Got such a giggle out of the possibilities of Jack in the tree. When I got my first apartment, my roommate and I each had a kitten. We were quite proud of our first Christmas tree. We came home one night to see four “extra” lights in the tree – our kitties were perched mid tree and peeking out at us. The “lights” were the reflections of their eyes. Too cute. Right now my kitties like to hide under the tree and pounce out at each other and our dog, a 4-year-old Westie who thinks she’s a cat. Happy Holidays!

  26. Enikö says:

    Margot’s enchanting guest bathroom just got some serious competition! Love the photo wall! xo

  27. Glenda says:


    Thanks for sharing your kitty photos. Too fun. I like your photo project for your bathroom, but wonder how anyone will ever leave once they go in there. Definitely entertaining and a great way to share friendships. I love all of the music and movies you select. I have played The Best Things in Life Are Free by “Whispering Jack Smith and find myself singing it or humming. Driving beloved crazy! 🙂 I had never heard of WJS, until you shared it. Thank you……

  28. Cindy Maulin says:

    hi susan,,,your beautiful homey post today was wonderful. we have been baby-sitting our sweet grand-daughter(3 years old) this week-end…and she was on my lap when i pulled your blog up. She asked, “whose house is that?” i replied, “my girlfriend Susan Branch. She lives on Martha’s Vineyard..close to your uncle Jake.” ( our son lives in Boston). Jessie replied..”could you please tell her that i would like to come over and visit her kittys?”… sooooooo sweet!!! : ) Things in St. Louis are really gearing up for the holidays…we got the tree up…..the house is decked out…..some granny/grand-daughter baking time (cupcakes AND cookies)..
    bringing her up right!!!! ……… and company for a light dinner and football (watching..not playing …!!!! ) …whew!!!!! Next’s gingerbread house time…..a tradition i started for my grandkids….we have four now…each one decorating their own house…..wish us luck!!!! i can tell you and joe are enjoying this special time of year….we love it too…got your wonderful Christmas book on my coffee table… it….21 days…enjoy !!! cindy

  29. Carol Rehme says:

    I made macaroons last week from your Christmas book (an annual tradition at our home) … but only discovered your blog today. What a joy to peek into your house and watch you prepare for the holiday season. I feel as though I’ve known you for years!

  30. Megan Dickson says:

    Although, I am an enormous Shiney Bright fan, by hubby is an even bigger fan of your Chocolate Dipped Macaroons, he waits in my mothers kitchen every Christmas for his very own batch, it’s his own little bit of heaven!

  31. Sonya Hewes says:

    Okay, so I was about to send you a present and get it in the mail this weekend all the way from Alaska, but then I read your post and thought do I still send it or don’t I? So this is what I decided to do:
    I’ll tell you what it is – I know how you love your bird tree and I was shopping the other day and found a little red cardinal that was sitting in some branches and it was all inside a glass blown kind of ornament and it reminded me of you. So what I’m going to do is hang it on my tree to remind me what a special person you are and how I look forward to your blogs because they really make my day special!
    Thank you, Susan, for making our world warm and cozy and making us feel special! ♥

    • sbranch says:

      OH, you have NO idea how much I love knowing that little bird will be hanging on your tree! It makes me feel like I sent it to you! Thank you so much Sonya for that wonderful thought!

  32. Debra says:


    I just love this story about Girl Kitty and Jack. It is so close to my heart. I had the same situation years ago with two black and white cats. I had Miss Kitty first – for years & then got Marley. I believe that Kitty had the same thoughts as your Girl Kitty – like “Are you kidding me?” And I always told her that she was my number one. Kitty looked exactly like your Girl and Marley looks a lot like Jack. They eventually became friends but were so different personality wise. Kitty was so regal and Marley is a clown – LOL.

    I lost my Miss Kitty in February of last year (2011). Saying bye to her was one of the hardest hings that I have ever done. However, I have still have my Marley to make me smile.

    Thaks for sharing the pictures and antics of your beautiful babies. It made me laugh and cry at the same time.



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