We had such fun birthday party yesterday!  Here’s a little song to set the stage!

It was Joe’s 60th and we invited all our oldest and dearest island friends and family — the kind where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came . . .

And while Joe was out back getting the garden ready, I was inside baking cakes!  If you look close in this picture, you will see that I had help.  I can’t take all the credit.  (Hint: my help is fuzzy and there isn’t much of it showing here. He kept skirting away from the camera!)

I started by making Joe’s favorite Cheesecake, a recipe from my first book, Heart of the Home.  He loves it because it’s plain and simple and melts creamily in his mouth. (I know because I watched him eat the last bit of it this morning for breakfast!)

I pressed a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and melted butter into this 9″ pie plate.

. . . Then I beat a package of softened cream cheese until it was light and fluffy.

To that I added a half cup of sugar . . . this recipe is SO easy . . . it’s the perfect cooking project, it makes you feel like you can really COOK!

. . . then a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice . . .

. . . and a half-teaspoonful of vanilla . . .

. . . then I added two large eggs, one at a time, beating after each  . . .

And that’s IT!  Voila!  Poured it into the unbaked crust . . .

And into the oven it went for about a half hour.  While that was baking, I went outside to see what Joe was up to . . .

. . . and how things are progressing; he’s planned a big surprise for his friends.  Since the 1970’s, Joe has been taking photos at every party, event, or hang out; in the car, on boats, at weddings, at halloween parties, graduations, clam bakes, tag sales, dinner parties, christenings, you name it, he took a photo of it.  He promised (some see it more as a threat) to do a slide show for YEARS, but it’s just never come together.  He and his BFF Bob, who also has box loads of slides in his possession (some that one suspects could be quite incriminating) decided that the occasion of Joe’s 60th Birthday seemed like the perfect time to finally do it . . . so they worked on their slides; Joe MADE this “screen”  out of boards and canvas which he then hoisted into the big maple tree out back.  (That’s what’s going on in the picture above.)

These three, Joe, Bob, and John have been cooking Christmas Dinner at our house for the last twenty years!  While Bob was gathering together his slideshow, John came early to help Joe get set up  . . . these three are the true representation of what BFF looks like inside the man cave. 

They made a little theater, with an aisle and everything.

They hung the lights on the arbor that Joe had JUST finished rebuilding on Friday; paint dry?  Yup!  Up go the lights . . .

I could see they didn’t need me . . .  I went back in to make the topping for the cheesecake.

When it came out of the oven I spread this mixture of sour cream, sugar, and vanilla over the top.

Then, I put it back in the oven for another ten minutes . . . and here it is, out of the oven to cool a bit, then into the refrigerator to chill.

While that was happening, I made a three layer Carrot Cake (also from Heart of the Home in case you’re looking for it!).

Here it is cooling . . . three layers of cinnamon and nutmeg spiced crushed pineapple, coconut, walnuts, shredded carrots, and golden raisins.  AND, btw, this recipe makes fabulous carrot cupcakes!

And here’s the cake, all frosted and decorated . . .

New Music . . . for this part . . .  (today’s generation has the electronics, but we had the music!)  This was last night.  I forgot to take photos of the food!  I’m so sorry, because it was potluck and everyone brought just gorgeous things, fresh garden vegetables and salads, lobster sliders, potato salad, and Lowely made a huge moussaka; Joe and John barbecued swordfish and steak . . . then, after dinner, the theater filled up and the show began . . . a trip back to the 1970’s and 80’s!  There were cat calls and teasing, oohing and aaahing, saying, “OMG, Remember that???”  Or, “there’s so and so, whatever happened to him . . . ”  And, “Who’s THAT?”  Laughing, joking, crying, sighing, reliving; this group of people have known each other through thick and thin, they’ve traveled together, in more ways than one . . . they know each other’s moms and dads, sisters, brothers, and children . . .

So it wasn’t just friends, it was families too, which are also friends! All gathered for the memories, and the good times we’ve had, coming together on this little island, most of us from somewhere else, pulled here by the same sort of heart magnet that brought me . . . a long road that lead right here, to our house, last night.

What we lack in wisdom, we make up for in good will. 

Even when we get busy and see less of each other, that just makes times like these more wonderful, to sit in the candlelight and cricket noises and catch up on each others lives.

And here is the happy much-loved Birthday Boy . . . can you see the little string of  hearts hanging in mid air just in front of Joe?  I swear, they follow him wherever he goes!  ♥♥♥♥♥ (Most of the time you can’t see them, but every once in a while, the camera catches them in just the right light . . . which is why I love this camera . . . night time shots may not be clear, but they are real.)

Blow honey!

May all his dreams come true!

And here we are, Martha, me, and Kappy cutting the cakes . . . I’m thinking, as I’m writing, this is what it’s all about . . . friends, family, food and fun —  and all the good things we’ve shared.

I have to show you a card from last night —  for Joe from Iris, the dog we love, that lives across the street with Martha and Gerry and comes over to visit almost every time she gets loose (might be because of the dog bones we keep in the pantry)!  Here’s the front of the card:

Hope you had fun at the party!  We won’t mention that picture of you skinny dipping in Tashmoo Pond!

OK, and here’s another promise I made a while back — remember when we went to the Emma Bridgewater Factory in England?

Where they had that design room where they gave you everything so you can paint your own Emma cups?  Here are the ones we did, the way we turned them in, before they were fired . . . those pencil marks, we were told, would burn off.

 And they did . . .  here they are, after firing; they sent them home to us; they were here when we got back; we drink our tea in them every single morning now, he drinks out of his, I drink out of mine!  I put the word “England” on mine so I would just look at it and remember.

With the date . . .

And here’s the cup Joe did; he wanted the ship.  We love them even more now, and as time passes I’m sure they will become more and more valuable to us.

Maybe someday you will go to Emma Bridgewater and paint your own cup, but until then . . .

Maybe you would like to have an Emma Bridgewater Royal Jubilee cup just like this one, directly from England, for your very own? If you already have one, wouldn’t it make a nice gift for someone you love?  If you agree, just leave me a comment and we’ll have Vanna (our random number generator) stay home from the tanning salon one day next week so she can draw a name and tell us who this cup belongs to!  OK girls, believe it or not, the parties aren’t over yet.  More cooking this week!  Happy Monday everyone! XOXO  P.S.  Just in case, here’s the recipe for the Cheesecake!


  • 2 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 c. melted butter

Combine and press into a buttered 9 in. pie plate, building up the sides. Set aside and make filling.


  • 1 – 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

Beat softened cream cheese until fluffy.  Gradually blend in sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Pour filling into crust.  Bake at 325° for 25-30 min; til set.  Make the topping.


  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients; when cheesecake comes out of the oven, spoon topping over  top of  hot cheesecake, spreading evenly; return to oven and bake 10 min. longer.  Cool; then chill several hours. Serves 8.

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1,033 Responses to FUN BIRTHDAY PARTY

  1. Becky says:

    Pick me Vanna, Pick me!

  2. Rosemary from Oregon says:

    Love that party idea! And I’ve made the cheesecake – Excellent! CHEERS to Joe for his Birthday. Love the Emma cup. Have kept notes on your wonderful trip.
    Would be fun to post parties that Blog friends have done. We did a 30th birthday,Academy Award party for our daughter, coordinated by her husband and brother-in-law in tuxedo’s, as the emcees. She was driven up to the red carpet, by her dad in her brother’s vintage white Cadillac convertible, kids vying for autographs, her sister asking “and who are you wearing tonight?” A piano player was there, a slide show by her sister of various roles and outfits she had worn growing up and a presentation of her Oscar. We later celebrated with pink champagne cake. What memories!
    Thanks for sharing yours with us!

  3. Annie says:

    What a special time….great friends, food and fun. My sweet friend gave me your “Girlfriends Forever” book for my birthday in 2004. She put a photo of the two of us with another kindred spirit in the midst of yours on the first page. Thank you for making room in your luggage for all of us on your trip to England. Our 2nd son’s nursery was Peter Rabbit and friends so your visit to Hill Top Farm was extra special. My mom gave me a book several years ago titled “Beatrix Potter and Hill Top”. The photos you shared are some of the same as in the book. Thank you so much!

  4. willemien says:

    All the best wishes to you and your Joe!
    What a beautiful birthday party, the ligths up in the arbor must have looked very nice. Candle’s on the cake is always very fun too, our oldest son just turned 3 on august 7, he really loved to blow out the candles! Seemed Joe enjoyed it still as much! It’s wunderful to have so many friends and family to share it with you. I feel I got to celebrate a little bit too, with you, through your blog. And ofcourse I’d love to have such a EmmaB.Mug!
    Love from Holland!
    xxx Willemien.

  5. Vonnie says:

    A very Happy 60th to Joe! Looks like a smashing good time was had by all! Loved the carrot cake recipe, I’ve used it before but not for a while…what occasion is coming up?…I need to make that cake again! Would love the cup, but of course with so many loving you and entering, the chances are slim. Can’t win if you don’t play, right?

    Best to you Susan! ~Vonnie

  6. Patti Davis says:

    I am so in love with your blog, Susan!! Oh and Happy Birthday, Joe! I have enjoyed your books for years and they have served to inspire many a “tea party” or “dinner with friends party”. I really hope I get very lucky and win the beautiful England cup….. but even if I don’t I still love your work and am inspired by it, and YOU!
    Thank you~~ Patti

  7. Kathy from Virginia says:

    I agree! Tea would taste so delicious and so British in the Emma cup. And thanks for the lovely post.

  8. Mitzie Styles says:

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely event!!! Birthday wishes to Joe! I feel like I’ve known him for 25 years 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      Maybe you kind of have . . . I met him just 2 months before my first book was published, and he has been my victim ever since!

  9. Oooh, I would LOVE to win the Emma Bridgewater cup!! I’m so happy to get my name entered. And Happy Happy Birthday, Joe! It looks like everyone had a wonderful time at the party!


  10. Nancy says:

    Happy Birthday to Joe!! It’s so wonderful to celebrate each other! I’m happy Willard is back too!
    Blessings, Nancy

  11. Diane North says:

    Having a hard time getting a loved one to eat..I think your cheesecake may be just the ticket!

  12. Debbie says:

    The Birthday party looks wonderful….. so much fun! I can’t wait to try the recipes. Thank you for inviting us in and making us feel so at home with each post! I loved all the England posts, and would be thrilled to have a chance to win the mug!!! I can’t wait until more of the bird cups are in that you talked about in the latest Williard!

  13. Margaret says:

    That cheesecake looks too good! I’m going to have to make it this weekend! And I would love the Emma B mug- to remember my virtual trip to England!

  14. Julie Jenkins says:


    I had to come back and look at the mugs you and Joe did when you were at Emma Bridgewater’s place. Please tell me that you talked to them about a collaboration??!!! I would love to see your distinctive, beautiful writing, and maybe some of your art, on her fantastic mugs. I have several of her mugs, and her tea pot, but would LOVE to increase my collection with one that has a piece of you on it too!!!!

  15. Hi Susan!
    I know that I missed the drawing! Big congrats to the winner! Love your amazing and wonderful birthday party for Joe, especially the slide show and how the green hearts follow Joe around! Happy Birthday to him!!! Thanks!!

  16. Donna from Kennett Square says:

    Joe’s birthday party looked like sooooooooo much fun! What a great idea-outdoor slide show, so great.

  17. Karen from CT says:

    OH BOY! I hope I didn’t miss it!! We got a new puppy last week and I haven’t had hardly any computer time. I was just catching up today because he is finally taking a nap… ;0)
    Please put my name in – if I am not too late – I would love, Love, LOVE to win that beautiful cup!

    • Karen from CT says:

      oh shoot. Just read all the way ahead. oh well…
      Sounds like you have been having a wonderful busy week too!!
      Me too!! Besides getting a darling black labbie boy (we named him Walter), I had my niece visit and I finally made that jam I have thinking about – first time in years!

  18. Susie says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE….YOUR ARE AS TALENTED AS YOU ARE HANDSOME. Your cup painting was just as wonderful as Susans.

  19. Sue in AZ says:

    Loved attending the party, and will certainly be trying this cheesecake soon. I just celebrated my 60th with family and friends this past weekend and felt just as special.

  20. Maureen says:

    Hi Susan, We recently did our kitchen over (actually it’s been 2 yrs. but it seems recent). I painted the walls Moroccan Spice from Benjamin Moore. I also added some gold dust which I think you can get at Lowes. It came out awesome as it picks up the twinkle when the light hits it just right. It looks like you have a nice bright kitchen so it could probably handle a shade like that. That is if you are so inclined. There is just something about a strong color in a food area. Adds a little “spice.” Good luck with your decision, the floor looks awesome!

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