More January TLC ♥ ♥ ♥

Dark January requires lots of TLC!!  So, first I have a song for your heart (click here and come right back to listen while you read), then a little something for your soul, and then something for your tummy! 

I can’t give you hyacinths today, but I can give you violets! 

A bright and pretty picture like this definitely feeds my soul!

Today would have been my grandma’s 103rd birthday!  People who have my calendars often ask why I paint a balloon on January 8th — that’s my grandma’s balloon, it was her secret birthday message since my first calendar.  She’s gone but she’ll never be forgotten.  Normally I’d be sending her flowers today, but instead, I’m sending them to you!  I have to be satisfied knowing she’s my guardian angel.  And if she’s my guardian angel, she just naturally, by extension, has to be yours too.  It was her idea I give you “hyacinths” this morning.  She was one of my very first “girlfriends.” 

Nothing on earth can make up for the loss of one who has loved you.  Selma Lagerlöf

Here’s the sweetest “hyacinth” that’s been feeding my soul ever since he came into my life a couple of months ago!  I cannot say enough good things about this little bundle of joy!  What a doll!!!!!  Here he is helping us put away Christmas decorations.  He has to go in to be neutered on Tuesday 🙁  No, I don’t want to do it.  If he was a girl, I would let him have babies, but he is going to be a strong beautiful young man cat that will be dangerous to the kitty population of the world if I don’t do this.  So in he goes.  Waaaa.   My baby. 

I’m hoping my mind will be kept off what’s happening to Jack, because starting early Tuesday morning and ending late Wednesday evening, the first Willard of 2012 goes out!   (I hope you’re signed up, if not, you can do it right here. It’s free!)  Willard has so many fun things for you!  I’m excited, I love surprises!!  (I don’t love to be surprised mind you, I hope I have seen my last surprise birthday party ever!!!!  So frightening!  I just like to give surprises!)  This toast “to us” is the barest of hints!  But there’s a new giveaway coming too!  OK, that’s all or it won’t be a surprise!

So many great stories and tips in the last post!!!  Thank you so much, you really helped jump-start a better eating/exercise program for me.  All that consciousness raising! I’m so inspired!  Thank you! 

So here, in honor of that, I’m sharing with you my grandma’s birthday cake.  Despite how it looks, there’s plenty here for all of us, and just so you know, it’s an orange cake, with a crushed-pineapple filling and orange frosting!  And guess what, it’s virtual!  Fat free; no calories at all!  And it comes with all the love that’s baked into any birthday cake, and candles for you to make a wish on  . . . Happy Birthday Grandma! And to anyone else who might be celebrating this lovely day!

 Can we count this as “something for the tummy?”  Maybe not . . . So, here’s something you can make happen yourself:

But first, a few more hyacinths!

 And this is the last one for today . . . as promised, it’s my favorite recipe for low-fat, high-energy chicken soup that will warm you, heart and soul. Now that you have your rich chicken stock all ready (you do don’t you? 🙂 If you have no idea what I’m talking about, scroll down to the next post for that recipe), here’s how to make the soup.

C H I C K E N   S O U P 

After removing all the fat that has risen to the top of the deep, dark, and delicious chicken stock you made with your very own two hands, you self-sufficient person you, reheat it and taste for strength . . . remember it has no salt in it yet, no herbs, so it will taste plain (we’re about to fix that!).  If it’s not strong enough, boil it down a bit to get it the way you like it.  If it’s too strong, you can add a little water. I cook most of the ingredients separately to keep them from overcooking, and to give the vegetables some TLC of their own.

Now You Need:

  • 4 or 5 containers of mushrooms (about 2 1/2 lbs), sliced a little thick; if you are lucky and find tiny button mushrooms, they can stay whole . . . I use all kinds, baby portobellos, shitake, and also regular white ones; dried ones too if you like; reconstitute them by soaking them in a little cool broth for a half hour before slicing and adding them to soup. They have a nice texture.
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 3 or 4 large brown onions, peeled and chopped into about 1″ pieces
  • 3 lg. cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
  • 1/2 small can tomato puree (adds wonderful flavor and great color)
  • the fresh cooked chicken you set aside when you were making the stock, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 c. fresh chopped parsley
  • Tofu “shiritaki” noodles (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat up your pot of stock and check for strength; add thyme; partially cover the pot and allow to simmer. Don’t wash the mushrooms, just wipe off any dirt with a paper towel (you really don’t want them to get wet).  Slice, discard stems, and put them all into a heavy dry skillet (I use a big black iron pan) over high heat.  They will begin to exude their juices, which is what you want them to do.  Add the chopped celery.  Stir often, and let juices cook down until they’re gone; remove the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.  In same skillet, put about 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Over high heat, add chopped onions; cook and stir until brown and caramelized. When they’re done, stir in the garlic, let everything cook about a minute more, then add it all to the stock.  Also add the reserved mushrooms.  Using a whisk (because it has a tendency to want to clump) stir in the tomato puree.  Bring it all to a simmer.  Add the bite-sized chicken and chopped parsley.  Taste and then add salt and pepper — I usually start with a half teaspoonful of salt and move up from there — I like lots of pepper.  The soup is delicious with just a bit of grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese over the top.  It’s wonderful just like this, plain and simple, but I often throw in lots of tofu noodles and sometimes garnish it with slivered fresh spinach leaves — as you can see, this soup is highly adaptable, feel free to add anything from potatoes or rice to broccoli and carrots, the richer in vitamins, the better.

Cool the soup down before you refrigerate it — then put it in the fridge uncovered until it’s cold; or you can freeze it.  When you go to serve it, just transfer however much you need to a saucepan with a measuring cup and heat it up.  That way you won’t have to reheat the entire thing every time, overcooking the chicken in the process.  And that’s all!  Enjoy!

And that’s also it for today!  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to try not to sing this song all day long.  “Oh, this is the kingdom of heaven . . . “    I, for one, have been singing it for a week.  Thought I would spread the wealth. XOXO Have a wonderful day!

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360 Responses to More January TLC ♥ ♥ ♥

  1. Pom Pom says:

    Oh, poor Jack. Will he have to wear a cone on his tiny head?
    Happy Birthday to your angel-granny. That’s quite a cake!
    I may have to purchase a few hyacinth bulbs. I’ll dig out the special little bulb-forcing vases!
    January is a good girl, don’t you think?

    • sbranch says:

      So far she’s been very good. I don’t know if Jack has to wear a cone! Probably!

      • Pat Mofjeld says:

        Neutering Jack will make him a lot better pet and from what I’ve heard, keep him from “spraying” in the house when he gets older…and I will bet you will hardly notice he had surgery when you pick him up. Having a female cat or dog spayed is a LOT more invasive and impacts their actions for a couple of days but I’ll bet you are going to be surprised that Jack doesn’t act like anything happened at all…wait and see if I am right! 🙂 Incidentally, that photo of the African violets at the top is a beautiful picture of African violets–I’ve never thought of grouping them–will try it now–and the colors together look so much like spring!

        • sbranch says:

          They do, would be nice if we could miniaturize ourselves and go in there for a walk!

          • ooh! Yes! Like a little fairy garden! I have had thoughts of doing a miniature fairy garden outside under our big maple tree where one of our bird feeders hang, with a little door on the tree, for the little fairies to go in to sleep! Maybe this year my Granddaughter and I can do this!

          • sbranch says:

            Wouldn’t she love that? And then you can be her age too!

  2. Vicki M says:

    Susan, I love your collection of music that you include with your posts. I always listen to them (sometimes twice!) as I’m reading…just as you intended. Jack is just adorable…I love “Jack news” and pictures, and often tell my mom to view them as well…she loves kittys too. Happy B-day to your grandma 🙂 My grandmother’s last remaining sister just turned 106…and is still living in Florida! Amazing, I know. She still plays card games with the family, and is usually seen wearing pearls with her nails done. Cute, yes? Have a great day eating that awesome chicken soup!

    • sbranch says:

      Very cute, lucky you! I’m so glad you like the music, I know some do and some don’t — that’s why I do it that way! Thank you for b’day wishes!! Have a wonderful day!

  3. Lynn McMahon says:

    Good Sunday Morning!
    Thank you for the post this morning…a little more serious and definitely beautiful!
    I don’t know who much more laughing I could have taken after the last one!
    Good luck to Jack! We have had male dogs that were ” pound puppies” and when you adopt one that is one of the rules. Give him a little extra love & a hug! Give Girl one too!

  4. Beautiful!

    I learned a very important lesson this year. Do not order your Susan Branch calendar from Amazon in late January along with several other items and opting for free shipping.

    After nearly two weeks, it has now been tracked arriving at my local Post Office too late for Saturday delivery. I am in calendar withdrawal. 🙂

    In the meantime, I continue to enjoy December, 2011.

  5. Cindy Garner says:

    I feel your pain for your furry friend….:0( I hated taking my boy in, but your right….the neighborhood will thank you…and your home (male cat spray is nasty)….LOL
    Was it your Gramma who had the car with a trunk filled with presents, as it pulled up in front of the “Geranium” coloured house that would be 103 today?
    Well it was very nice of you and your “Gramma” to think of sending Hyacinths a.k.a. African violets…lol

    have a Blessed Day.


  6. Jeanette says:

    Good morning, Susan! Thanks for such a sweet, poignant post. What a special way to remember your Grandma. The quote is so very true. I lost my Mom just two months ago and have acknowledged the “hole” will always be in my heart, I chose to fill it with love, sweetness and fond memories rather than dwelling on the sadness. There will be those moments that we must experience, I think you honor their memory through expressing each emotion. Hugs to you today as you recollect your precious Grandma.
    Give Jack a hug on Tuesday morning, I’ve gone through that with my pups – not easy. However, doing the right thing isn’t always easy. You are an outstanding kitty Mom!!!
    I have a quick question for you. I tried to take some photos of the gorgeous full moon this morning with the same camera you use and I couldn’t find the right setting to capture it and the trees it was peaking through. ARGH! And, do you use the telephoto lens? HeLp!?! Thanks so much.
    xoxo, Jeanette

    • sbranch says:

      Oh Jeanette, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. A loss I still cannot fathom. We know love never dies, but it must be very hard. xoxo

      As for the camera, I just use the lens it came with and I leave it on automatic. Sometimes I can’t get it to focus either, especially if there’s something in front of it, like a tree limb, the camera may try to focus on that. Hope this helps!

      • Jeanette says:

        Thanks, Susan. I’ll have to give it another shot. No pun intended. He, he he. Oh, a dose of patience too. Was a bit nippy out in my jammies this morning…was hoping to capture the essence of the magnificent moon!

        • sbranch says:

          I went too, forgot to put on a jacket, what was I thinking??? :-)!

          • Jeanette says:

            Obviously the same thing I was!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

          • Karen Saunders says:

            dearest jeanette…i’m so sorry about your dear mom. you are so right in that they leave such a big hole in one’s life. (no one loves you like your mom and grandmas.) but the good news is….sometimes you have a dream of your mom and it is so real you feel like you just got a visit from her! I wish you many dreams and i will be praying for you. karen

          • Jeanette says:

            Thank you, Karen! How very kind of you. I know it’s been the prayers and thoughts that have carried me through. And, yes, dreams are like a secret, special visit. Hugs to you!!!

    • Lynn McMahon says:

      Sorry for your loss (which is always felt more deeply during the holidays,)
      I lost my mom & dad almost 4 years ago. I miss her physically but I talk to her
      ( and dad) daily. Thank God for the gift of (the) precious memories they left me,

      • Jeanette says:

        Lynn, I’m sorry for your loss, time knows no boundaries. Yes, it’s the memories that we hold with preciously-cupped hands. I now have my 82 year old Dad living with us, it was to have been them both. I too talk to my Mom. A friend shared with me a Greek proverb when you’ve lost your Mom – each time you think of her, she is thinking of you. This brought me such great comfort. I know we think of each other a lot! Here’s to sweet memories.

      • Janet says:

        Condolences to ALL you girlfriends who’ve lost your moms and/or dads – I can relate too. Lost my dad in June 1998 and my mom only 16 months later Oct 1999. Lots of people told me they missed each other too much and couldn’t be apart – and I think maybe that’s right. And Karen who said you’ll have dreams that are so real they seem like visits is exactly right! And in reality, who knows? Maybe they really ARE visits… I miss them terribly too – but I do “talk” to them all the time and the older I get the smarter they’ve become . I totally understand why they taught me this or that… insisted I learn A or B etc. Wish I could have told them “in person” that now I get them! So many things we don’t appreciate until they’re gone. An important but painful lesson to learn….

    • Karen P says:

      Jeanette……I, too, am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing with us. Hopefully, knowing that so many others are praying for you and sending warm thoughts your way will lift your spirits. And it’s so nice to have something special like Susan is doing today with the gorgeous violets and the yummy virtual birthday cake in honor of her dear grandmother. Wonderful to have had someone so special in your life, isn’t it….such a blessing. xoxo….kp

      • Jeanette says:

        Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, I type through tear-filled eyes of gratitude. Susan’s post today brought me so much comfort and validation at the same time. I do feel so blessed. I fervently believe the breadth of your grief is equal to the breath of your love for the person – which is truly remarkable and a HUGE blessing in itself! Hugs to you. xoxo, Jeanette

    • Jeanette, sorry for your loss, we do have to go through all the emotions when we lose a loved one, but it’s wonderful to be able to fill that hole with fond and loving memories. The older I get the more I miss my Mother, and wish I had known her as an adult.

      • Jeanette says:

        Jeannie, Always know she is watching over you! Sending you a hug today. We will never have too much time with our parents. xoxo, Jeanette

  7. Country Gal says:

    A wonderful post ! Jack is such a cutie and very playful ! Loved the photos of him. Your Grandma is watching and listening to all so Happy Birthday to Susans Grandma ! May you rock the heavens above ! Have an awesome day !

  8. Jack says:

    One more little hint re: your diet — cravings for those crunchy salty chips can be nicely satisfied with a couple big ole red radishes with just a touch of salt …… in fact they taste better! The news just showed a double amputee, from these stupid wars, running a marathon with his artificial limbs ……. another proof of what you can do if you set your mind to it!!
    BTW, cats have long memories — Jack looks like he could hold a grudge. Be careful. Dad

  9. Laura says:

    Those that we have loved are never truly gone…they live in us….love is eternal. Xoxoxo

  10. Marie (Long Beach, CA) says:

    Good Morning Susan!

    Just wanted to let you know, we had our precious Max neutered when he was six months old. Here’s the good news… he came home like nothing had happened! He actually wanted to play with his toys. They’ve got the procedure down pat for the boy kitties. Be sure to let us know how he does. They are our little fur persons and we love them to pieces! 🙂


  11. Francine says:

    Good morning Susan! I just love all the pictures of your sweet Jack! They bring a smile to my face. What a sweet boy. He’ll be fine! My special grandma’s birthday is Feb. 4th! She’s been gone about 32 years, but I still think of her daily. I hope my grandchildren remember me as their “special” grandma! Loved the cake and the flowers! A beautiful way to honor your grandma! And speaking of grandmas…..I’m still waiting for that new granddaughter!!! Now she’s overdue! She must be pretty cozy in that womb! Have a great day.

  12. deborah says:

    Too much excitment and anticipation for a Sunday!!!! Can’t wait for Willard and all the surprises!!!!!
    Such warmth you radiate, Susan. Thank you for sharing the cake with us! One of my fav kinds too! I understand about your grandmother! I find myself thinking of my own so often….she has a permanent place in my memories and all good. Jack is quite the little ham in all your pic! So adorable~

  13. Francine says:

    p.s. Regarding health and fitness, I just read that as you age, your balance isn’t as good as it used to be. They suggested balancing on one foot while brushing your teeth, and bending at the knee and moving your leg back and forth! I thought that was interesting! I tried it…seems I can balance much better on my left leg than my right! It said, the more you do it, the better you’ll get! Worth a try!! I guess!

  14. judyCinNC says:

    Oh, Susan – if Jack has to wear the Elizabethan cone will you take a picture for us – guaranteed to garner all the sympathy he will need to pull him through. Poor baby.

    I am loving your beautiful violets. We also love hyacinths and I usually send them to my husband on Valentine’s day as it it his favorite flower. This is such a wonderful tribute to the love you have for your grandmother. Happy birthday grandma – birthdays in January are so very special for us little old grandmothers – we love being remembered.

    The music is outstanding – everytime the birds chirp, my husband says “you must be on Susan’s blog, what is the music today.” We love all of the old songs and I Tunes and my Marty are wonderful friends. When our computer crashed, I Tunes even allowed him to replace a lot of his lost songs without charge. They care.

    My day is always so much brighter after reading your blog and I am motivated to have a wonderful day – creativity calls and making my space more cozy is what I am after today, along with some homeade soup simmering. Judy C

  15. Peggy says:

    Glad to know what the ballon represents how lovely I LOVE YOUR CALENDAR
    Have a white hyacinth in bloom in my living room window

  16. Anne says:

    What a nice Sunday morning blog! Happy B-day to your Grandma – from your books I know how much you loved her. Grandma’s are the best aren’t they? My Grandma’s 112 b-day was on December 11. Like you I always mark the calendar – she lived til the ripe old age of 99. She was a wonderful cook and baker. I make her recipes all the time. That’s how we honor and remember them isn’t it? Thanks for the beautiful flowers and lovely song – I’m humming away right now! Have a great day:-)

  17. Bonnie Crawford says:

    Good Morning Sue…. 🙂
    I feel like my Grandma is my Guardian Angel as well, and she has been gone 23 years now, which is hard to believe! I sometimes feel like she is looking over my shoulder. We always hold our loved ones in our heart, and I hold my Dad there as well…. He passed away a year ago tomorrow, and I miss him terribly! 🙁
    Jack will do great….it is easy on the males, and he will be in and out of there in no time! And I am pretty sure he won’t have to wear a cone…..he sure is a cutie, and I can see he brings you lots of joy!! 🙂 Hugs to you today!! xoxo

  18. Beth Keser says:

    Thanks for explaining the balloon mystery! And thank you again for sharing Jack with us -makes me smile to see his cute little face. My kitty Ricky has been gone 2 1/2 weeks and I can’t believe how much I miss him. He was so much a part of my daily routines, and was just always there. I’m sure you know what I mean 🙂 I hope Jack gets some extra treats on Tues! Maybe he will stay out of trouble for one day 😉 Have a wonderful Sunday, and thanks for making my day start out on the right foot!

  19. Gail says:

    Good Sunday Morning Susan,
    Thanks so much for the beautiful “hyacinths”. Are those your African violets blooming so beautifully? I’ve always wanted to try growing them. I bought a beautiful orchid plant yesterday with twenty lovely yellow flowers. It came with directions and orchid food so I’m excited to learn how to take care of it.
    Happy happy birthday to your angel grandma. I’m sure she’s looking down on you and smiling right now. Did you know that today is Elvis’s birthday too! Wishing you a wonderful day. xoxox

  20. Rita Baker says:

    I love the quotation you wrote today – it is so true! I miss my 2 sisters and parents so much – AND the pets I have lost during the years. I feel for you regarding Jack, but try not to worry – have faith – he will be o.k. My friend’s husband is having cardiac surgery the same day, so I’ll add Jack to my prayer list for that day. I know you won’t feel better until you’re holding that sweet kitty in your arms again.

    • sbranch says:

      Well, it’s nothing compared to your friend, wishing you the best with that. Thank you for thinking of us Rita!

  21. Dannelle Kinslow says:

    Jack will be just fine and “dandy”! (LOL pardon my humor.) He looks like my Charley- down to the crazy eyes tht look like he is either psychotic or “what me? no way, didn’t do it!” Charley boy has tail dis-association – he doesn’t know it belongs to him. Good for some real chuckles!
    My Gran’s birthday was the third, she would have been 129! Born in 1883 and died at 80 when I was 16. I still miss her and remember how she was my best friend growing up. Hyacinths for all our Grandmothers!

  22. pam says:

    That sweet Jack will be fine I’m sure. Look at that face. what an imp. Love your windowsill of treasures. Love you xo

    • sbranch says:

      I actually had to take all the treasures down, because the imp has made that spot his main bird watching perch!

  23. Karen Saunders says:

    Snip snip! That’s about all it takes with boy’s. He’ll think your taking him for an ice cream but he’s going to be about two scoop’s short afterwards…..
    My Mom’s birthday was Jan. 5th and my Dad’s is the 7th. I miss my Mom so much and I still put on my calendars the day she left us. Heaven will be a nice place to go to with all those Mommies and Grandmas!! Can’t wait…..well yes I can.
    (Don’t worry Susan, Jack won’t even miss a beat, he’ll be rippin’ and tearin’ like nothing ever happened.)

  24. Linda M. says:

    Your soup recipe looks wonderful, it’s on my menu plan for next weekend! Thanks again (hope you got my thank you note, I sent it to the SLO PO box) for the amazing vintage book, we loved it! It was displayed in place of honor on top of my small book pile along with A Child’s Christmas in Wales, A Christmas Carol, and a small Christmas book solely consisting of illustrations by Peter Spier.
    GL to Jack with the *procedure*!

    • sbranch says:

      Hi Linda! I haven’t got it yet, that’s the business address so it will work it’s way from California to me…SO happy you liked it. It’s a pretty wonderful little story, I read it to my nieces just before I sent it to you and they loved it. Thanks so much!

  25. Karen Saunders says:

    ps…… my husband just came home with some scales… you think he’s trying to tell me something?? (i guess i better make some of your soup!)

  26. Joan says:

    Hi Susan – Happy New Year!

    “Onion Casserole” ?????
    Thank you.

  27. dottie says:

    I wondered what that little balloon was about. Lovely post this morning and poignant as someone else said. I’m making a little bookmark from the hyacinths image to use in my book of daily readings. Loved the cake — yummy for the tastebuds and for the eyes.

    I wanted to say that I especially love your bookends, especially the furry black and white one. He truly does have an impish gleam in his eyes! I am a huge bookaholic but have recently been good and sent many bags to Friends of the Library and several boxes to Goodwill and am aiming to keep only those I truly cannot bring myself to part from for several reasons. Bookends catch my eye and yours lovely ones have inspired me to search out a few vintage specimens.

    I love making my own chicken stock and soup of many variations, but yesterday’s post arrived when I had half the New Year’s Day beef roast to either add potatoes, carrots and onions to it or some noodle or some dumplings or some combo of these. SO — I went looking for a good recipe using beef broth and found Beef, Barley and Kale soup in JAn Brody’s Good Food Gourmet cookbook. Alas, no kale. Was going to substitute spinach but hubby voted for neither and he was right and it was delicious even without the kale.

    • dottie says:

      P.S. My Grandma was the African violet Queen — I have tried them and had few successes — now I just admire other people’s African violets.

      • sbranch says:

        Sometimes I wonder if there are hours enough in the day for the requirements of African violets. They’re like kitties without the hugs and laughs!

    • sbranch says:

      Where there’s a will there’s a way!

  28. Kimi says:

    Hi to you dear Susan
    I want to tell you that yes your grandma is with you and she is with you because our Lord understands the love we have for our loved ones so yes she see you and watches over you, You can be sure of this…Susan my old cat Charlie from many years ago had this done and when he came home he behaved as nothing was done to him just a crazy as can be, so Jack will be fine don’t worry he’ll get thew it. You are doing him and all cat lovers a good thing! and jack will be a much better kitty too and get along with girl kitty even better. I love your flowers and Illustrations lovely to look at nice for the eyes, and thank you for the chicken soup recipe. Be at peace Jack the cat will be fine PROMISE.

  29. Karen says:

    Dear Susan~
    I loved your cake and birthday tribute to your grandmother. My precious grandmother died three years ago at the age of 98. We celebrated her birthday with her favorite German Chocolate Cake on December 19th. She would have been 101 years old. There is no love like the love of a grandmother and their lives should be celebrated forever!

  30. Kelly J. says:

    My Nana passed just a few months after my first was born in 1992 & my Nonni passed on Christmas Eve 2001(as if that year didn’t suck enough…pardon my French:/), so luckily both of my kids got to know her. I like to think that they are guardian angels for my kids as they make their way in the world. And by the way, Nonni would have LOVED that orange & pineapple cake. She was an awesome Italian cook, and made the best risotto EVER. My Nana used to make pork & sauerkraut when she had us all for dinner, even though I was the only one who liked it 😉
    I think I will start putting balloons on their birthdays on my calendar….what a great way to remember them 🙂 Thanks for taking me down “Grandma Lane” today…..

    • sbranch says:

      Happy you could join me! My grandma died in July 2001, I was happy she never knew what happened in September!

      • Pat Mofjeld says:

        That is what I thought, too, re my dad’s death and 911–I’m so thankful he never knew…I think it changed all of us a little bit, even those of us far removed from there…

  31. Susan says:

    Today’s not for chicken soup. Today’s for “Touchdown Chili!” and FOOTBALL! I like to serve chili on white or brown rice, with a sprinkling of cheese (any kind but cheddar’s better) and a dollup of fresh sour cream on top. Red beans + rice = way good and good for you too! Can’t wait to make a big batch of your chicken stock and soup too. Those noodles! Amazing w/o carbs. Glad Jack’s getting neutered; he’ll be much healthier & happier as he grows. Good for you for taking him to the vet! FOOTBALL!

    • sbranch says:

      Stop with the deliciousness!! I was melting by the time you got to the sour cream!! I don’t have to tell you to have fun!!! 🙂

    • Lynn McMahon says:

      The big football game for me is next week when the Packers play! My grandma loved them too! She is cheering from Heaven!

  32. How did you know that African Violets are my absolute favorite flowering plant? Thank you for the lovely photo. Now, about Jack and his procedure if he is like two of our “barn kitties” on the farm that we had neutered the hardest part is trying to keep them quiet and not jumping around!!! Just to alert you and I’m hoping this doesn’t happen with Jack, one of our boys Mylo had a testicle that hadn’t descended so that required more surgery to go in and try to locate it and remove it. Anyway, that required antibiotics and more loving care….on the positive side it will be done and over with and he will only miss not being at home. It is also a good thing health wise for pets to be spayed/neutered. I loved Jack’s photo in the box our Smokee loves any box brought into the house if it is small he will cram his 18# body into it and act like it is a perfect fit!!!! You are doing the right thing for Jack and all will be well, and Girl will have a small vacation with you.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, she won’t miss him too much. She’ll think it’s a reprieve from what appears to her now to be a life sentence.

  33. Priscilla says:

    Was this the Grandma who would grab you at the last minute when you were slipping out of bed early on Christmas morn? Is this the same Grandma who vacationed at McCook lake? Happy Birthday and lovely memories for your Grandma today. Jack is adorable on the book shelf. We will keep him in our prayers Tuesday. I am sure his little snip snip procedure will turn out fine.

  34. Martha Ellen says:

    What a lovely tribute on your grandmother’s birthday! Love is so powerful–it never dies. We make such a difference in the lives of those we love–especially children–grandparents have that unique ability to make us feel like we are the most important person in the whole world! How lucky you were to have her–she lives in your heart.
    I made your stock yesterday and tomorrow I’ll try this recipe for this yummy sounding soup! I bought mushrooms yesterday but not as many as your recipe requires. I’ll have to add a few veggies to fill the void.
    Thinking of Jack and know that he will do just fine! He’s so spunky, he won’t let a little snip put him down. ♥

  35. CindyK says:

    I always enjoy photo’s and stories of your sweet Jack! 🙂 He truly IS a doll! And don’t fret over his little “procedure”, it’s fairly simple for the male, at least I hear that. Poor little guy, but he will be a better man for it! He will thank you some day! :).
    I LOVED grandma’s cake! Not only does it sound delicious, but it is one of the most prettiest cakes I’ve ever seen! I want one just like that when my birthday comes around in April!
    And…….thank you for the lovely flowers!! They are ALWAYS a sure way to cheer up any day!

  36. pat addison says:

    hello Susan, good morning. good morning and hello everyone. aww poor jack but he will do just fine and be just as full of mischief and fun as ever, and be a little lovebug as well. i have 2 males that went in for neutering, and they are just as full of sass and mischief as ever, and regular lil lovebugs besides. just a little extra TLC when Jack comes home and he’ll be up and about in no time and sassy as ever. love the chicken soup recipe, good cure for a cold. guess thats on tonight’s menu, chicken salad sandwiches and hot bowls of chicken soup. oh i posted yesterday about my friend’s hubby…. they moved him from ICU last night, they have removed the breathing tube and he is breathing on his own, but still running a high fever. it appears he didn’t have a major stroke when she took him to the hospital for a doctor’s appointment, his lung were filling up with fluid and one had already collapsed and the other was filling up fast….. he was literally drowning in his own fluids. he is clear now and they are keeping a close watch on that fever, and scheduling some tests to figure out why he has the fever…i think its pneumonia myself. but i just want to thank everyone for the good thoughts, wishes and prayers, they were all passed along and my friend sends her thanks to everyone. got to go chase some chickens, coming Susan???? LOL!!! hugs……. 🙂

  37. Terry says:

    Hi, Susan!

    Thank you for sharing your soup recipe, but thank you, even more, for sharing your guardian angel.


  38. Judy says:

    Jack is so adorable. I took care of Oliver a cat that is active like Jack after he had been neutered and he wasn’t bothered by it at all. In fact the vet had a list of things to follow, one of them being to keep him inactive for 24 hours and what a joke. Oliver was mad at me for trying to keep him quiet in a room by himself so I finally let him out and he was back to his normal self of being up to mischief all the time. He did meow all the way home from the vet and I thought he was in pain, but it turned out he just didn’t like being in the cat carrier.

  39. Kerry S. says:

    I understand about your Grandma completely! I still miss mine and she died over 30 years ago! I have saved a few pieces of clothing that she made me for my freshman year of college. Won’t ever fit me but it’s part of her legacy that I treasure. Hugs of remembrance to you!
    This time Dad does not know best – Jack will come through it all just fine! He loves you too much to hold a grudge!!
    Have a wonderful week! Happy thoughts to all!

    • sbranch says:

      My dad was born to tease!

      • Kerry S. says:

        He’s like my dad! My friends thought he was just the best – even though he was our high school principal!! LOL

        • sbranch says:

          Your dad was your high school principal! Wow! That could be quite a combustible mix!!!

          • Kerry S. says:

            Oh yea! That’s an understatement Susan!

          • sbranch says:

            We moved out of my school district when I was in the eleventh grade, but I was able to continue at the same school because I got a ride with my girlfriend whose dad was the Science teacher. That was close enough for me! My girlfriend had a lot of pressure to be “good!” And he wasn’t even the principal!

  40. Cindy Tuning says:

    Violets are my absolutely favorite flower with Roses a close 2nd.Spring Violets are so beautiful that they have made me cry more than once just to look at their passionate purple color……and the scent!!! Heaven! I just made a cup of tea and sat down with a cookie( I couldn’t help it,sorry)in what I call my French room.On week-ends it’s the French Room,on week-days it’s Riley’s playroom.Look through my favorite magazine ROMANTIC HOMES and who do I see ?? You Susan!! That must have been Girl Kitty’s ears peeking over the cake pans?I just love running into you!

    • sbranch says:

      That’s great Cindy — I didn’t know for sure if it was out yet! And that’s actually Jack peeking over the pans, my little shadow!

  41. Nellie says:

    Beautiful music, beautiful flowers, beautiful cake, and beautiful soup! What’s not to love about this post today, Susan?:-) Great work!!!!

    My father was born in 1909 (mother in 1908), so he would be the same age as your grandma. He left us far too young, in 1973, while still 63.

    Jack will be fine from his trip to the vet. If he’s like our cats have been, the most trying part of the appointment is the trip in the car.:-)

    It is a dreary January day here, but the sun is shining in our hearts! Can hardly wait to see the next Willard!


  42. Kathy Phenix says:

    Lovely post! Especially appreciate pics of Jack. What a charming fellow!! We (Wendy, the dog and Chuck, the cat, & me) will say little “furry prayers” on Tues.
    I’m sure Jack will come through it just fine and you will be thankful that you did it. The indoor spraying to mark territory is not fun. I had one “furry son” spray the draperies in the middle of a dinner party. Was my face RED!!
    Happy Birthday to your grandmother. I miss both of mine very much. I was privileged to know two of my great grandmothers also. What a blessing! Kathy

  43. Jane says:

    I had my puppy neutered and although he wasn’t feeling that good, I had to laugh when he was groggy and walking into walls. Keep a close eye on Jack {I know you will}.

    I am going to make your chicken stock today…I am excited! I’m looking for that wonderful aroma to fill the house and to let everyone know I LOVE them!!


  44. Cindy Tuning says:

    I forgot to tell you, there’s also an article about the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in this issue. It’s fate I tell ya! It’s fate!!!

  45. Joann says:

    Hello Susan,
    How wonderful to honor your grandma is such an amazing way…..I KNOW she’s your guardian angel–how wonderful!!! We all need an extra one or two!! I made your chicken stock yesterday and today, we’ll have soup!! The house smelled so fantastic yesterday, we didn’t go out at all…

    As for baby Jack, it IS the right thing to do, but he’ll have some pains, I know. But, you’ll love him up real good and he’ll be good as new in a day or two. My youngest daughter graduates from vet school in May and she’s done numerous surgeries already…..she just says, ‘It’s just pop, pop and they’re out and it’s done.’ I could NEVER be a doctor of any kind. 🙂

    Oh my….. well, I played ‘Hold My Hand’ while I was writing….you listen to really good music…..I’ll imagine you singing it now….

    Can’t wait for Willard!!!!!!!!


    • sbranch says:

      How wonderful your daughter is becoming a vet! No, I’m not the Doctor type either, people normally don’t want their Dr. fainting on them!

      • Pat Mofjeld says:

        Ha! Me, too! (fainting) Friends used to tease me and ask me however I managed to do medical transcription when I was doing that for work. I told them I really never LISTENED to what the doctor was dictating–I let my fingers respond to what my ears heard and didn’t “process it” or else I would have been out cold on the floor in a faint most of the time! 🙂

  46. Nancy says:

    Happy Birthday Susan’s grandmother! My niece’s birthday is today also. My grandmother’s birthday is in January too…..she’s been in Heaven many years but I miss her every day. 😉 Sweet, sweet Jack… adorable….may he not even
    know what happened to him!

  47. LJ says:

    No, I haven’t tried to make the chicken stock but…it is on the list. Please explain “brown onions”. I’m close to ancient and have been cooking close to 60 years and don’t EVER remember running into “brown onions”. I’d sure like to know.

    • sbranch says:

      Ooops, my grandma and mom called them brown onions, but they’re more commonly called yellow onions or Spanish onions. They just have brown skins.

  48. debbie says:

    Hi Susan!! What a blissful post! From the flowers and the music, to Grandma’s adorable cake and the delicious soup…it is everything a girl needs on a Sunday afternoon. Hugs to you and Jack♥ on Tuesday…he will be just fine 🙂

  49. Sarah Maldonado says:

    Thanks for the beautiful pics and music! Thanks, also, for being such a responsible pet owner. Jack will do just fine because you love him so much and he has all of us thinking of him, too. Happy Heavenly Birthday to your Grandmother. I always write that on my calendar for my mom’s, dad’s, and other loved ones birthdays who have gone on. I talk to them lots and I like what one of the friends said on here: that means they are thinking of us when we think of them. Comforting thoughts.

  50. Noelle says:

    What lovely flowers! Happy Birthday to your grandma! My grandma would have been 106 in December. She loved balloons, she adored flowers, and she would have loved your grandma’s yummy birthday cake too! And everyone is right, the kitty doctors have the procedures perfected so that young Mr. Jack will recover super quickly, especially since he is still a bouncy kitten. 🙂 A bit of rest and a little slurp of chicken soup and he should be back to normal in no time!

  51. Lori from Maine says:

    Hi Susan and girlfriends. Susan, your memories of your Grandma stirred up memories of my Nana. I used to stay at her house a lot and we’d have so much fun! We’d make pies and she’d let me roll and re-roll the crust, then I’d put raspberry jam on it and fold it up. It would be so TOUGH from all the rolling and squishing, but she’d declare it to be the best she’d ever had 🙂 ! I got my love of baking and cooking from her. I have a lot of her bowls, pie plates, etc. and I “talk” to her when I use them.
    I have some hyacinth bulbs that are just sending up leaves now and an amaryllis bulb starting out. I love watching them, they grow so quickly. The hyacinths will smell soooo heavenly. Can’t wait! Happy Sunday. xo from SWH

  52. Gert says:

    Oh Susan…your post was just lovely!! Those flowers, cake & music (which we love!) were just the thing we all needed on a cool January day!! (you notice I didn’t say ‘cold’ January day…lol) Here in Iowa we’re having some unseasonable weather! I’m a January birthday lady too & so would love to wish your Grandma in the heavens a Happy Birthday!

    Am sure Jack will do fine (love your Dad’s comment!)…be sure to him a ((hug)) from me when he comes home!!

    Looking forward to Willard…(big smile)…thank you dear lady!


    • sbranch says:

      Thanks so much Gert! It’s the grandma that grew up there in Sioux City so she’s probably listening to you!

  53. pat addison says:

    Susan, don’t worry about Jack, he’ll be fine. the worst part of it all is the trip to and from the vets office, after that he is okay. if he is staying overnight at the vets, they are just being careful due to the anesthesia and to be sure its completely worn off. he won’t be in any pain or discomfort, well itchy maybe as they do shave his lil behind. its not bad… and Jack will be back and full of sass and mischief. my cats had to stay overnight so i asked if i could include their favorite blanky (blanket) in the cage with them and that way they knew they were coming home, also it comforted them. he’ll be up and about in no time at all and full of fun. you might want to let him take a pom pom toy with him for comfort. hope this helps. hugs to you and big hugs to Jack!!! 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      Love the idea of his toy with him. Thank you! He doesn’t have to stay overnight I’m happy to say.

      • Pat Mofjeld says:

        Males almost never do, even dogs. But like I said before, spaying is so much more “invasive” and requires more anesthesia and care. I’ll bet Jack doesn’t even have to wear the “lampshade” cone collar when he comes home like the females do…or at least the female dogs do…

  54. Bonnie Jo says:

    When we took our kitten to be neutered (many years ago), my then 5-year old son cried out, “I don’t want him to have his tentacles taken off!!” We still laugh about that!!

  55. Pamela Jo says:

    I will keep you and Jack in my thoughts this week. I know all too well the feeling of having to take a sweet, furry baby to the Vet. Love your recipe for chicken soup, as I add mushrooms to just about everything I can. I’ll try it soon!

    I spent yesterday putting up all of my Valentine’s Day decorations. Today, my mom had a lunch party to commemorate Elvis Presley’s birthday…We listened to his music and she had 3 life-size Elvis cutouts in the kitchen, along with hanging 45 record decorations, Elvis place mats, and even an Elvis centerpiece! Some friends came and also a couple of neighbors who love Elvis, too! It was lots of fun! We had cheeseburgers and milkshakes, as my mom wanted to have Elvis’ favorite foods. My dad said “You never make such a big deal of my birthday!” and my mom replied “Well, you’re not Elvis!” LOL!!!

    As always, thank you for sharing so many enjoyable things with us! Looking forward to the latest “Willard!” ~xoxo~

    • sbranch says:

      🙂 How cute, lunch to celebrate Elvis!

      • Pamela Jo says:

        We enjoy doing things like that. I’m beginning to plan a special dinner for April 14th to remember the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Going to use the book “Last Dinner on the Titanic” and choose recipes from First, Second, and Third-Class menus. I’ll set the table with repro place cards, etc. I’m even going to create Boarding Passes and send them to invited guests about a week before the event. Also have a CD with music which was played on the ship, which I’ll use to set the atmosphere that night. I’ve been interested in the Titanic since I was a child. So tragic and sad. I thought it would be nice to honor the memories of those poor souls who were lost.

        • sbranch says:

          What a fabulous idea for a party! They are going to love receiving that boarding pass!

        • Janet says:

          That is a wonderfully-creative idea for a party! Martha Stewart, move over! I’m a bit of a Titanic buff myself – and one of my dreams is to “make a crossing” on the QE2 – like you Susan! Such a lovely civilized way to travel! Anyway, have lots of fun at your Titanic party – maybe you’d let it know a little about it when it’s over…??

  56. April Anderson says:

    Susan, you may want to postpone your kitty’s surgery until he has developed all of his guy characteristics like a fuller face and greater muscle mass – until he’s at least six months old. He needs to be able to get to kitty puberty first. 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      Everyone is saying 4 months old!

      • pat addison says:

        Susan our vet recommends 5-6 months old as the kitties can handle the anesthesia whereas at 4 months it makes it so much more difficult for them to come safely out of the anesthesia, they may not be able to handle it then. its just safer for the kitties if they are 5-6 months old thats all.

      • April Anderson says:

        Well, I’m somebody.

        • sbranch says:

          Oh! I’m sorry, of course you are! I meant my vet and the people at the shelter. I don’t know, it’s too late now. Hope he’ll be OK.

  57. D Sorenson says:

    Joy is what you bring with every little thing, whether it’s a photo, a recipe, or a
    memory of a song we used to sing or movie we’ve many times seen!! My love of making homemade soups has increased a lot in the past few years. I made a batch of Turkey Noodle Soup last night. I enjoy using fresh vegetables and it puts me in the frame of mind to be healthy. Getting back to the exercise frame of mind, not so easy! Happy to tell you one of my best Christmas presents was a collection of Susan Branch items. Yippee!

  58. Patty says:

    Susan, PLEASE,PLEASE, READ THIS! First let me say I love reading your blog. But today I got as far as reading that if Jack were a girl you’d let him have babies. My heart broke and I cried. I have a friend who is the veterinarian at our local city ANIMAL SHELTER. I wish it was just a shelter. Unfortunately there are too many unwanted animals to shelter. It is especially overflowing with CATS AND KITTENS that have been dumped there. And they are the Lucky ones. MOST of them are EUTHANIZED because they just don’t have the room or funds to care for them all. How can I say say the euthanized ones are the lucky ones? Because they aren’t starving to death, freezing to death, being abused or worse. (You don’t want to know.) Every week my friend has to euthanize more than you want to know. It’s horrible. You (I use the word “you” to mean “anyone”) can say, “But they weren’t the kittens my cat had. I found homes for all of them.” That may be true, but for every kitten “you” found a home for another kitten went homeless. The MOST HUMANE thing anyone can do is have their pet “fixed”. Please do a search of the internet. There are many websites that will tell you this same thing. It’s also healthier for the cat for it to be fixed. Thank you for listening. Please never let any of your cats have kittens or father kittens. Also, indoor cats have a longer life span than cats that go outdoors (ours lived to be 18 to 21 yrs old) and they miss nothing by not going out as long as they’re played with.

    • Alice says:

      Amen, Patty. Lots of wisdom in what you wrote.

      • pat addison says:

        i have to agree with that, its heartbreaking to see how many cats and kittens are put to sleep and to see the volunteers just literally in tears as there is nothing they can do about it. i know, i’m one of the volunteers and every time they put the cats to sleep, i cry!!!

        • sbranch says:

          I couldn’t stand it!

          • pat addison says:

            i can’t stand it, thats why every time they ask me to take some kittens to that room i refuse to do it. i want to take them all home with me and keep them safe. unfortunately that is not exactly practical. thats why i am all for spaying and neutering your pets, its more humane, and my vet says that a female cat should be spayed, not allowed to have a litter and then spayed, its not healthy for them. spaying them prevents cancer of the utereus…. allowing then to have a litter or 2 and then spaying them increases their chances of having the disease.

          • sbranch says:

            Good information.

  59. We love that song! First heard it on “Susan Slept Here”, one of our favorite Christmas movies… Who couldn’t love that white tree with bright red ornaments, or all those fabulously wrapped packages and vases full of poinsettias?

    As for Jack, as the only man on here… good luck little buddy.

    • sbranch says:

      You’re speakin’ his language. 🙂

      • EsSuzy says:

        There’s a movie called Susan Slept Here??? and it came out in 1954, the year of my birth and my name is Susan!!! I have NEVER heard of that movie! Susan branch, your blog is sooo educational. 🙂
        Did you see my hyacinth pic on twitter on New Year’s Eve? First time I’ve forced one in years It had a much bigger root display than it did blooms.
        My sister always has gorgeous blooming African violets. I’m usually better with outside plants.
        Happy birthday to your grandma yesterday and to my brother today. XO SusanL

  60. Janice says:

    Just had a chance to get caught up on your blog.
    Take lots of pictures on your trip in New york. We love that you share them with us.
    Chicken stock is the base for my Greens. My family made a request for them today. Sew they are simmering away. The kicthen smells wonderful, my daughter is are they done yet? Greens are also good for dieting as they are cleasning. If you like cabbage there is a soup in the seventeen day diet book that is real good. I’ll make it up and freeze it up and there’s lunch for the week.
    Take care and thank you for all your tips and tricks we love your Blog…..

    • sbranch says:

      I’ve been so inspired by everyone’s comments . . . it’s jump started me — I’m doing good so far!

  61. Cindy Maulin says:

    hi susan!! you are a woman after my own thoughts!! first..i will be thinking of jack on tuesday…we have been “parents” to many a cat and we know the feeling…it’s worse knowing what is to come!!!….jack will be in his loving home to recoop..lucky dog..(i mean cat!!)… mom was famous for her chicken soup and her recipe is surprisingly similar to yours..even the two-day thing!!…she passed away 3 years ago dec 4 and not a day goes by that she doesn’t tug at my heart…her soup had such magical powers that we call it “the medicine”… : ) i have used it to heal my friends in time of strife…served it to my family for celebrations and to ward off the cold…and yes….even to (shhhhh..the “d” word..) DIET!!!!! i made your recipe yesterday..chilled overnight..finished it off today and we had it this evening while watching the NFL Wild Card games…i have been cooking for my husband for 37 years…he said tonight..” you have outdone yourself!!”…music to ny ears..and to yours even if you are so far away!!! sooooo delish!!! thanks susan for the uplifting post…and the great soup recipe..we love it!
    love, cindy
    ps..we are going crazy cheering for Tebow and the Broncos….GO DENVER!!!

    • sbranch says:

      Made my day Cindy! I think I will start calling my soup “the medicine” too — might as well cut to the chase! I don’t know much about football, but I am so excited for you when you say that, I have to agree . . . GO DENVER!! 🙂

      • Cindy Maulin says:

        thanks susan!! yippee !!!!!! they won in overtime!!!! : )))

        • sbranch says:

          How exciting! I actually have four brothers, so we grew up welded to Pop Warner — I was also on our drill team, went to every game, and do know something about football. Joe doesn’t watch it, I’m saving it for my old age, when I don’t feel like I have to do 9 things at once. Football requires looking at the TV and mostly I just listen to it! I’m so excited for you — I know how fun that is!!

  62. Kate says:

    You would be the funnest girlfriend, I just know it. You make everything fun and I am so happy I found your blog. It’s the last thing I read before I close down the computer for the night because it always makes me feel happy. Give your kitty lots of loving after his surgery. He’s going to feel a little less “masculine” and will need the assurance he’s still a lovable ol’ boy.

    • sbranch says:

      He swaggers when he walks, it’s so cute, very John Wayne! I hope he keeps that! Also, the ball chasing, I hope he keeps that too!

      • pat addison says:

        don’t worry Susan, Jack will still swagger when he walks, mine do that to and i have 2 males and one female, all black cats and they are the love of our lives and the joy of the day around here. with all the mischief, and fun they get into its hard to start the day in a bad mood. LOL!! don’t worry the lil guy will still have his swagger when he walks, might look a little funny with a shaved behind for awhile though…hehehehe!!!!! 🙂

  63. Lucy F. says:

    LOVE the violets! I have a 10 year old plant that continues to amaze me.
    Also, thanks for the pick-me-up. I’ve been lamenting my fluffy state all week! This chicken soup is just the ticket!
    Can’t wait for Willard.
    Good luck to Jack. If he’s anything like my furry baby, Abbey, the car ride will be worse than anything afterwards.

    • sbranch says:

      Oooo you must have a very green thumb!

      • Lucy F. says:

        It’s by my kitchen sink. I got it as a gift from a former student and I take extra special care of it. She is now graduating high school and 2000 miles away. If I kill it now I would be devastated!

  64. Sara says:

    Oh poor Jack!!!

    Happy Birthday to Grandma! You have made her a wonderful cake!

    I am going to have to make this soup it sounds delicious! 🙂

    I truly enjoy the beautiful flowers!! My daughter (she is 6) just brought me in a fresh cut Gerber Daisy from her very own garden. It is in my bird vase on the kitchen wondow sill. So brilliantly colored!

    AND since the game JUST ended I must say…… YIIIPPPPPEEEEE Tim Tebo and the Broncos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  65. DonnaRay says:

    So ironic that Jack is perched on the shelf that houses the bird books! Will he be less of a hunter after the snip? I’m just crazy about his face…. sometimes he looks like he is in disguise with a fake mustache…. in other photos he looks quite dapper and European. Whatta guy! Hope all goes well.
    The violets are lovely. My grandma’s kitchen window sill was full of violets….nothing fancy, just the plain old purple ones. Mother always had violets over her sink, also, and now so does my sister……even my daughter-in-law now that I think about it. Your photos reminded me that I should have some, too……. how did I miss noticing that “tradition” before now? Susan, your words and photos seem to always shine a light on something wonderful that has been in my life all along. Thank you.
    I’ve got to find those noodles! Chicken soup just isn’t complete without noodles slapping your lips.
    By the way, the moon is absolutely lovely here this evening. Sure wish we had some snow to reflect it’s glow. Can’t wait for Willard.
    Glad you are doing well with good eating and exercise…….me, too! Seems easier with you all alongside……Onward! As always, DonnaRay

    • sbranch says:

      It does! Seems like the more we talk about it, the better I get at remembering to be good! We walked down to the harbor last night, instead of snow reflecting, we had the water! It was sossosososo beautiful!!!

  66. You can send one of Jack’s toys with him or something that has your fragrance on it so that he won’t miss home too much (and give you a little comfort knowing he’s being comforted).

    Your little heart for your grandmother’s birthday is very sweet. How long has she been gone from this life (she doesn’t sound “gone” at all in the real sense since she continues to live in your heart!)

    By the way, I’ve heard of yellow, red, and green onions, but never brown onions?! Will yellow do?

    I, too, crave color this time of year and love your offering of violets and the water color of the primrose. When primroses appear in the grocery store each year in February I always buy a few to brighten the living room, then plant them in the garden when Spring comes.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, oops, I really do mean yellow. We call them brown around here, because of the color of the skins! My grandma died in July of 2001. We had a family reunion/memorial in late August. My mother and her brothers were in a boat, putting roses on the ocean along with her ashes when the twin towers were coming down. Such an emotional time. I’ve always been glad she didn’t see that.

      Hard not to think about spring, just a little bit, this time of year!

  67. Karen C says:

    Thank you for the January TLC! What could be better than your chicken soup for our souls. Looking forward to the first 2012 Willard, always makes me spirit smile. Jack will be absolutely fine, will keep him in my thoughts on Tuesday. Glad you shared that today was your Grandma’s birthday, what an amazing woman she must have been to give you such inspiration. Loved the virtual cake too. Must go now, have to get ready for another manic Monday, and another ordinary week.

    Go Denver!! We love Tebow here too.

    • sbranch says:

      I think everyone is happy with Denver today! I might have to start paying attention to this!

      • Lynn McMahon says:

        Wait until next weekend!! Let the games begin!! Go Packers!

        • sbranch says:


        • Karen P says:

          Tebow is definitely a great man of character and seems to be doing well for the Broncos but I’m with Lynn….GO Packers!!!! Bring it on!!!! (Thanks for putting up with us, Susan, on your sweet blog!)

          • sbranch says:

            I really like it! I don’t know one team from another, but I love the excitement around it! If I was there, I’d be the one making the football food!!

          • Karen P says:

            Well, Susan, I’ve lived in Green Bay, WI for the past 8 years. It’s a wonderful town and I love living here but the Packers are EVERYTHING here. I’ve never seen so much Packer apparel here in my life! Everyone gets decked out. You can come and cook for our Super Bowl party!!! I have a special guest room waiting just for you! 🙂

          • Karen P says:

            AND, if you come to Wisconsin, we can travel around and take pictures of barns and maybe have a butter burger! (hee-hee!)

          • sbranch says:

            I got the prettiest barn pictures when we were there last, just gorgeous!

    • Lynn McMahon says:

      Oh no..we are not going there again with the ’s are we? LOL! BUT….
      Super Bowl parties are a great time to make some great (and naughty) food!
      Green & Gold EVERYTHING…Jell~O (& shots of it too!), Tortilla chips, deviled eggs to name a few. Then of course I have to make a football shaped cake !
      I admit it…I am a little obsessed! We won’t even go there on decorating…I love it almost as much or more than the food!! Parties ( and planning them) is just so much fun isn’t it?

  68. Karen P says:

    Susan! Wonderful soup recipe….my tummy is growling sitting here at the computer. That is my cooking project for this week. And I need to get a big stock pot! How big is that one you had on yesterday’s blog? Is it a heavy one or one of those lighter aluminum ones? I have a couple of big dutch oven pots (I think that’s what they’re called) but not a big enough pot for a good big pot of soup stock for freezing, etc. I always have stock running over when I cook a chicken for soup. Any recommendations?

    Love your yearly tribute to your grandma. I had a wonderful one, too, and I miss her all the time….she had a big influence on my life. Thank you for continually sharing things that make us think in new ways. Love you for that! xoxo….kp

    • sbranch says:

      The blog is acting up … I just saw Karen’s comment and answered it . . . now here it is again. Does that mean my answer is gone? Who knows! Anyway, here we go again, sorry if this is a repeat! I got my big pot in a restaurant supply store … it’s commercial-grade heavy aluminum. Not sure the exact size, but I think it would hold a couple of gallons. Hope this helps!

  69. Karen P says:

    Susan! Wonderful soup recipe….my tummy is growling sitting here at the computer. That is my cooking project for this week. And I need to get a big stock pot! How big is that one you had on yesterday’s blog? Is it a heavy one or one of those lighter aluminum ones? I have a couple of big dutch oven pots (I think that’s what they’re called) but not a big enough pot for a good big pot of soup stock for freezing, etc. I always have stock running over when I cook a chicken for soup. Any recommendations?

    Ooohhhh!!!! Can’t wait for this Willard!!!!

    Love your yearly tribute to your grandma. I had a wonderful one, too, and I miss her all the time….she had a big influence on my life. Thank you for continually sharing things that make us think in new ways. Love you for that! xoxo….kp

    • sbranch says:

      I got my pot in a restaurant supply store a long time ago; it’s heavy commercial aluminum. How big, not sure, not the biggest they make, but pretty big. I would guess it holds a couple of gallons. I also got those big sieves I use to drain the soup in a restaurant supply store — use them almost every day, to dry lettuce and grapes — so many good uses!

      Thanks Karen!

      • Karen P says:

        Thanks for the tips! We have a nice restaurant supply place here as well as a Cook’s Corner store, which I LOVE! Will check both places!

  70. Tamar Weaver says:

    The birthday cake for your Grandma really touched my heart. So sweet. I’m so glad you had such a wonderful Grandma and Family. Being remembered after we are gone is precious.

  71. Charlene Hisayasu says:

    I did it! I made your Chicken Stock! I started late but am staying up watching the start of Downton Abbey’s second TV season while that yummy broth simmers away. 🙂 Yes, indeed, the house smells wonderful!
    I have all the ingredients for your Chicken Soup written on a shopping list and will pick them up in the morning. 🙂 My husband is looking forward to this!
    Thank you for your sweet memories of your Grandmother. ♥ I hope to be that kind of grandmother for my own grandkids. 🙂
    Also…thank you for being such a loving, responsible pet owner. I love how much you love Jack and, yet, are taking care of business…before he does!!! ♥ Have a great week, Susan! ♥ Our household is off to a great start with your Chicken Soup recipe! ♥

  72. Sandy Perry says:

    Good evening Susan, I just love all of the stories about Jack! He is a very clever one and frisky. I love that you include your Grandma’s birthday on the calendar. I was once #4 of 5 generations of women in our family(my daughter was #5) now there is just me,Michele and finally my beautiful granddaughter Andrea Rose(the Rose is after her Great-Grandmother(my Mother). I know that everyone of them watches over us everyday so there is a Big Party of Grandma’s in Heaven watching all of us. I enjoyed having a piece of your Grandma’s beautiful(no Calorie) Birthday cake and helping blow out the candles too! Happy Birthday Angle Grandmaxoxoxoxo

  73. Joann says:

    Well, to Cindy Maulin, your cheering must have helped as the Broncos did indeed win….

    I made the soup; thought you’d like to see Rod’s happy face! He loved it!!

  74. Susan says:

    Jack is as cute as a bug! The neutering should have no effect on his lively personality or behavior, and it will be beneficial in so many ways (his emotional and physical wellbeing, no unwanted kitty babies, your peace of mind, etc.).

    Thanks for letting us share you granny’s b’day cake. It was a lovely tribute to her.

  75. Mary S. says:

    Probably lots of people have already told you this but here goes anyway…. Jack’s trip to the vet to get “tutored” will be a breeze! Plus, he’ll be happier and healthier! He looks so adorable (as always) sitting in your box!!! lol
    I almost started crying when I saw your ShinyBrite box!!! How wonderful that you still have that! My mom used to have some of those from when I was little and she got rid of them!! And lots of other things I wanted!!! *sob*
    Anyway, thank you for the beautiful flowers and cake! Happy Birthday to your dear Grandma!
    Oh! I noticed all your Beatrix Potter figurines, etc, are back up on your windowsill. Does that mean Jack doesn’t get up there anymore? Or maybe that’s a picture from days gone by?

    • sbranch says:

      That’s a picture from when there actually were garden flowers! No, Jack rules wherever he goes, it won’t be long and he’ll be a little less excited about everything! Until then, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is safe.

  76. Pam says:

    I thought that was a lovely post about your Grandma and I’m sure she is watching over you. It would have been my dad’s 100th birthday in March so we are going out for a meal with my sister and her husband and we will drink a toast to Dad.

  77. Lisa R says:

    Such a lovely post Susan!! “She was one of my very first “girlfriends.♥” I LOVE that!! Happy Birthday to your Grandma!…who was obviously adored by her sweet granddaughter. What a blessing our memories are!
    Thanks for the delicious, No calorie, pineapple and orange cake! 2 of my favorites!!

    • sbranch says:

      The real cake is my very favorite, SO good, it’s on page 128 of Vineyard Seasons!

      • Lisa R says:

        Thank you Susan! I will be ordering Vineyard Seasons soon!! One thing I forgot to tell you, when I was out shopping yesterday, guess what I found for $5! A DVD of Somewhere in Time! Have to hurry up with my chores today, so I can sit down and watch this!! It’s been years since I’ve seen it.

  78. Such a nice post about Grandmas. Unfortunately, I was only close to one of my grandmothers and I do miss her so. She died when I was 22.
    Jack will be fine, males are so easy. He will be back up and “investigating” in no time at all. (I still think he looks like Hercule Poirot!) I remember when we had my Moodie done – after I picked him up, he was just a big baby and wanted to lay on my lap all evening.
    Love the African Violets – so beautiful. I don’t do indoor flowers, the dirt seems to bother our allergies. I have roses outside and a hydrangea.
    Soup recipe sounds wonderful – I think I would add carrots and definitely the spinach. One of my favorite soups is Chicken Tortilla – same basic broth except omit the celery and mushrooms, I add a can of drained and rinsed black beans, some frozen corn, chili powder, fresh jalapeno, chipotle peppers and lime juice. Then serve with strips of baked corn tortillas, cheese, diced avocado and some sour cream. Yummo!
    Do so appreciate your blog – {{{Hugs to you}}}

    • sbranch says:

      How could that be anything but delicious! Yum! Thank you Raquel. Sorry you lost your grandma so young . . . I only had one too, my dad’s mom died when I was too young to know her. Thank you for that recipe! mmmmm.

  79. Audrianne in Holland Michigan along the shores of Lake Macatawa says:

    Help! Susan I haven’t received a Willard since the Christmas Cookie one in 2010. I keep resigning up but nothing gets sent. What do I do?

    • sbranch says:

      I bet you’re fine . . . we usually don’t send another Willard after the Cookie email until after the holidays — everyone is so busy in December . . . which means tomorrow, our first Willard since the Cookies, and the first of 2012 starts going out! If you don’t have it by Wednesday night, be sure to let me know!

  80. Patricia says:

    Today is all about catching up with Susan Branch and the girlfriends after the hectic holidays and then the crazy “first week back to work and school” of last week. I’ve missed you all! As soon as Alice is on that bus I’m brewing up…I’ve missed you all! (did I say that already? Must be true) A lovely first post to catch up with- I recently wrote a little essay on my grandma’s and how special and meaningful they were in my life. So it was lovely to see your cake for your grandma on this post, Susan. xx

  81. Jody Thomas says:

    Thanks so much for the recipe….I think I may make it this weekend! Made a great soup yesterday, but not nearly as healthy as this one. Poor Jack, but you’re being a responsible Mom! You can just give him extra love and TLC when he comes home. Since I had to send my 20 year old girl to heaven, I keep looking at the kitties in the paper; I have a feeling I may be getting my own new little friend soon. Can’t wait to try the soup! XO jody

    • sbranch says:

      It’s been a long time since I had a kitten. I forgot how crazy, wild and wonderful they are. I’m being the best mom — maybe better than last time, spending lots of play time with him, I want to raise an amazing long-lasting little pet.

  82. Natalie says:

    What a yummy looking cake for your grandmother! My grandmother would have been 96 on December 27. She is no longer with us but I still remember her birthday by making her favorite cake, a maraschino cherry pound cake with cherry coconut frosting and having pizza which was her favorite birthday meal. Best wishes to Jack on Tuesday!

  83. Aggie says:

    Thank you for a lovely post evoking memories of my loved ones that have passed. I lost my grandma when I was only 10 but remember her so dearly and still have a very nubby – worn out – once pink bunny she gave me for Easter. Can’t wait to make the soup! As for Jack, he will be just fine. I have had more boy kitties than girls over the years and each once came through the “event” just fine – even one that was a reformed barn cat 🙂

  84. Christy says:

    My dearest brown-eyed Susan,

    It was inevitable – Mama has fallen, I am sick. I am going to the store right now…. and I’m making the stock today – the chicken soup tomorrow. Thanks once again, for being my substitute Mom (I need one from time to time).

    your substitute daughter,
    : )

  85. sue says:

    your you tube links always brighten my day! here is one for you that i hope brightens yours. ps using my chicken stock to make white chili for dinner!

  86. LOVE the old Persian poem at the beginning – a long time favorite of mine. I first heard it about 40 years ago when my grandmother pulled it from her purse and read it to me. She’d read it somewhere as a young girl, and kept a tattered copy in her wallet.

    Jack is so adorable, and kudos to you for having him neutered. I’m a huge spay/neuter advocate – the world has quite enough unwanted cats.

    Your chicken soup looks delicious! Just made chicken soup myself last night, but the PA dutch chicken-corn kind. Hubby’s favorite, and since everyone at the office was running around sick, I thought it would be a good preventative, hehe. 🙂

    Looking forward to Willard!
    ♥ Carolee

  87. Susie kilgroe says:

    Just wanted to finally say thanks for starting a blog. I get them delivered to my email so I don’t ever miss one. They are most lovely and encouraging.

  88. Candice says:

    Poor Jack, but he will live to a ripe old age and be happy and healthy, and not have to worry about going out to fight for the “girls.” I have three lovely little boys, all neutered, and they are the sweetest things ever! It’s a good thing you are doing, Susan!

  89. Diane says:

    Happy Birthday to your precious Grandmother!!!! I love that you honor all people everywhere….even those who are most definitely in Heavenly places! You have such a gift of bringing dignity to people through your words. I love that about you! Thank you for your chicken soup recipe….and although I do have your books, it is wonderful to see pictures! I always love your blog because you mix in the cutest drawings/paintings and “real” pictures…and all of them have wonderful descriptions. Thank you for that! I can understand your nervous feelings about little Jack since he is still just a baby, but I just know he will be totally fine! I went through the same feelings when we had our two fixed when they were kittens. Prince was first, and they told us that he wouldnt eat for 24 hours at least, and when we picked him up afterward, he was so groggy and wobbly that it seemed that he would just curl up and go to sleep. Instead, he literally crawled and dragged his little body directly to the food bowl as soon as we opened the door to his carrying cage! He ate and seemed to gain strength! Muffin was pretty typical and he did sleep after making certain he was back home again….and they both have been tip-top ever since. They are like our own children, so I can never help but worry just a little! Hang in there…it will be all over soon, thankfully! 🙂 I loved the cake you sent us……I am on a strict eating plan right now and 0 calories from your cake is just perfect to fit into my plan! lol. Have a wonderful day and many blessings sent your way…….

  90. Lori C. says:

    Susan, don’t know if you ever read Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” or not – but such a sweet book about his Aunt Sook – instead of balloons – they had kites. And Jackie Boy will be just fine – neutered male cats are the best! They have a tendency to grow up a little larger in size (compared to a normal non-neutered male kitty) and are very, very sweet-natured. So you’ll be drowning even more in little Jack’s affection!!! We’ll be holding your hand and little Jack’s paw!!

    • sbranch says:

      I’m just going to put it out of my mind tomorrow, it’s the right thing to do and I know he’ll be fine! I’ll have to look for that book! Thank you Lori!

  91. Nina says:

    Hi Susan What a lovely story….Your Grandma was your first girlfriend! What a legacy she left behind!
    My own Grandma passed away when I was 15 years old but she too left a legacy of her own… She was Estonian and met and married an English sailor in 1904 on board the HMS Baltic, they said goodbye to her family & came to live in England and she could not speak a word of English. she was 18 years old and she never saw her family or her Mother again (things were different back then!) My Grandfather was a bit of a ladies man and soon he and my Grandmother split up, her family sent her the money to go home but my then she had got two little ones (my Mother being one.) She didn’t want to take the children back home because by then they were settled in school and she didn’t want them to encounter the problems she had coming into a strange country.
    My Grandma never married again and lived till she was 84! So she had lots & lots of time for us Grandkids! She used to tell me all kind of sories about when she was growing up on her Grandma’s farm in Estonia and I would ask her loads of questions! Oh I would love to have known her as an adult the questions I would have now would be unrelenting!!
    She had a great soup recipie made from breast of lamb and pearly barley and a great recipie for “Estonian rissoles” she used to call them. We used to burn our fingers pinching them out of the hot pan!
    Sorry if I have gone on a little but this is what you do Susan you inspire us so much and evoke memories that are sometimes long forgotten! I am sure your Grandmother is so very proud of you when she’s watching over you…
    What was her name? Thank you for sharing your stories Susan and love to Jack..Mother knows best! xxxx

    • sbranch says:

      How interesting and what a strong woman your Grandma was!! Of course, they were all strong, but it’s so hard to move to another country like she did, and then raise the children alone! My grandmother was Florence Orr, born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa.

      • Nina says:

        How sweet even their names were strong! My Nan was Shura Vierly xx

        • sbranch says:

          Very tough times for them, not only what your grandma went through but to top it off, they had the Depression and the Second World War!

  92. Karen Saunders says:

    I have to say one last thing about Grandmas. As I said in an earlier post my Grandparents lived with us since I was in the 5th grade till I left for college. I shared a bed with her. I could never have friends over to spend the night and my friends would chide me about it. But I loved them living with us, and I’ll never forget making my Grandma stay up late (when I was a SENIOR!!) because I was watching a scary movie and I was afraid to stay up alone!! (sissy!) She would sit at the kitchen table and do her fingernails… My Grandparents enriched my life so much. Both my parents worked so it was so nice to come home and have them there. What a blessing.

  93. Marie (from Virginia) says:

    Susan~sending up a birthday wish to your Grandma’. I truly believe all our Grandma’s who have left us, are up in heaven, in their floral aprons, cooking and baking together. What wonderful talks they must be having in their “heavenly garden” about their grandchildren becoming “Girlfriends.” I know your Grandma’ is so proud of you…for all you do for us.

    Ohhhhh, my heart goes out to Jack. As we all know, it’s the best and right thing for sweet Jack.

    Marie xo

  94. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Good afternoon Susan! I will say alittle prayer for Jack Tuesday morning. He will be fine, but I know you will give him alot of TLC when he gets home! Remember that all things are temporary, and he will soon perk up and be his old self again. Perky and happy!!!! Also, I will send a prayer up to heaven wishing your grandmother a happy 103rd birthday! I once read somewhere that “Grandmothers are just antique little girls.” (I like that saying.) Love -up your precious Jack today, and have fun with him!

    • sbranch says:

      I’m now feeling very confident, with everyone’s great comments, that Jack will come through this with flying colors! Thank you Carilyn!

  95. Julie Cavrich says:

    Happy Birthday to your Grandma. Mine has been gone for sometime, but I still miss her. I had my Ranger “fixed” the week before Christmas. He is just fine. Lazer surgery is the way to go. Also had a micro-chip put in, just in case he gets out. He and his brother Hunter are back to wrestling again. Can’t wait for Willard! Big Hugs to Jack!

  96. Christine Anderson says:

    One of my grandmother, Wawa’s, favorite sayings was about the hyacinth! Thanks for the reminder today of her. Wawa was the most gracious lady and beautiful things were such a part of her life! That is what she passed to me, the love of beauty!!
    Thanks for my memories Susan. XXX

  97. Chris S. says:

    Poor Jack – but he will be a much better adult kitty for it…he won’t spray (Oh my does it smell bad) and he won’t be wanting to pick on other kitties, so hopefully no cat fights in his future…
    Love your recipes…keep them coming. I’m going to try chicken stock and chicken soup this weekend…can’t wait!
    Thank you for all your kindness and support – I look forward to all your blogs and Willards…you always talk about stuff that is real life – useful helpful ideas and thoughts & I appreciate that.
    Have a beautiful YOU day Sue…

  98. Connie Michael says:

    Hi Susan! Your boy will be a little groggy when he comes home – he’ll be fine in a day or so….have a nice little “treat” for him (some good wet food) and he’ll forget all about his snip-snip! My two furry boys were fixed at 4 1/2 mos. and they were fine….I really believe neutering males as early as possible puts any and all thoughts of those spraying tendencies right out of their little heads. Sweetens them right up! 🙂 I absolutely love your tribute to your Grandmother. Love it. My dad passed two years ago tomorrow (1/11) – and your blog couldn’t have been better timed to help raise my spirits – have been feeling a little blue the past few days. Raise a glass to all those who have passed but live long and strong in our hearts! XOXO to you and Jack… chm

    • sbranch says:

      Very sorry about your dad, those pangs of loss show up when least expected. Love your toast! Thank you Connie!

      • Pat Mofjeld says:

        It has now been 11-1/2 years since my dad died–so hard to believe, it doesn’t seem that long a time…Gosh, I miss him so much…you know that is part of life but still hard to take…

  99. Angie(Tink!) says:

    Happy Birthday to Your Beloved Grand~Ma Sweet Sue (Another January Baby) I Love it! I Love Your Birthday Cake Painting too! Gorgeous! did You Know Elvis’s Birthday is also On Your Grand~Ma’s Birthday? & Herbster’s Daughter Nancy (Turned 44) is also January 8th…pretty magical! I Shall Be Keep Your Jack in My Prayers…Meow & Yikes!…. 🙂 & I am so Excited about The First “Willard” of 2012!….Yay! Love & Fairylicious~Kisses for Your Day! xoxo Poof!

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