Good morning Girlfriends — how’s everyone today?  Musica?  (So gorgeous here, I thought you should hear the “voice of the island” then you’ll know just how pretty it is.)  I’ve been getting nice things in the mail lately.  I love mail when it’s like this:

It’s a box from my dad.  First off, it was instantly special because he was recycling the box we sent him Gingerbread from Sarah Nelson’s famous Bakery in Grasmere, England last Father’s Day (the magic of youtube will take you to see the bakery).  Just the box alone was good for a happy memory . . . but I loved how he addressed it, to Jack Branch! (That’s my kitty to anyone who might be new here.)

Joe saw it and said, “Branch?  Not Hall?  Haruumph.”

I said, “Wait a minute, you don’t want me to call you ‘Jack’s dad,’ right?  I told my dad, so of course he took that to heart, honoring you by not giving Jack your name.”

I say to Jack, “Take the rubber band back to your dad.” And Joe says, “I’m not his dad.”

This explanation comes with love from proud Cat Mommy.

Btw, this is the news from Lake Suebegon, where are all the men are brilliant, all the children are adorable, and all the women are crazy. 🙂

So I opened the box, and here was this BEE (my craziness is inherited).  You can pull the pink plastic flower and a buzzing of massive proportions begins.  So I gave it to Jack.

 Jack looks at his father (oops) wondering why his mommy is putting a bee on the chair with him.  It doesn’t look like a rubber band.

Hmmm.  I’m beginning to think there’s a resemblance between Jack and his new friend, something about the eyes.  I don’t think the bee is catching Jack’s fancy.  He’s extremely particular.

He is rubberband-ponytail band man all the way and will go to any lengths to get them.  I moved the scale the other day and there were four rubber bands under it.  This seems to be where he “keeps” them.  There is one in this drawer and he knows it and he badgers me until I open it.

He is one smart kitty boy.  He has me shooting them for him all day.  He catches it in two paws, puts it directly into his mouth, and brings it back to me.  I will come up the stairs and there, right in front of the door, a rubber band, waiting for me, him on the chair, eyes insane, ears in perfect pert pyramids, at attention, waiting.  I wonder if he will ever grow out of this.

The other thing he likes is feathers.   These feathers are at the end of what looks like a fishing pole.  He climbs onto the arm of a wooden chair, and stretches his full length on his tiptoes to try and get it down from the door we keep it draped over.

P L A Y   W I T H   M E!!!  (His mantra)

See that eye?  Pure concentrated attack mode.

Coo-Coo-Ca-Choo . . .

He can climb anything now.  He is my best decoration.

I’ve always loved a little bit of black . . .

It just seems to pop all the other color and give depth to any setting.

Even in the bathroom . . .

So it just made sense to get a color-coordinated kitty.  A little black and white is my best decorating secret.

Even quilts look more wonderful with this fuzzy decorating tip lying on top of them.

Better than throw pillows . . .

Better than vases of flowers — I think Girl’s pink nose also adds to the decoration.  Little pink eraser nose.  Double bubblegum pink. ♥

And I got something else in the mail . . .  this box.  It’s not been in a house of mine for thirty-four years when I packed it up and sent it away, but that’s where it started out.

A lot of you will recognize this box when I tell you what it is.  Those of you who’ve been around since my first book came out will know what this box is even though no one has ever seen it.

Have you guessed yet?  Yes, it’s a recipe box, but not just any recipe box.  It’s my most important recipe box ever.

In around 1978, when I’d been painting for almost a year and still learning everyday (just like now!), my girlfriend Jane was getting married.  So I put together a recipe box for her wedding present and filled it with my recipes I handwrote and watercolored onto cards.  Note: black ink, my way of getting a little black into everything (just to follow up on that theme. 🙂 )

This is Jane’s box with some of the cards I made for her.  She just sent it back to me.  She thought I might like to keep it in my memoirs, because she knows what this box means to me. Such a wonderful surprise. Making her wedding present was the very first time I combined my hobby of cooking, with my handwriting, and my new love of making watercolors and drawing home things like bowls and bananas, putting borders on everything.

This is Jane and me.  We are standing on the “Love Boat” in Long Beach Harbor getting ready to sail away to Acapulco.  Jane is a little bit older than me (not by much ~ but at the time it was enough; I’ve almost caught up to her now) and I looked up to her.  I thought she was brilliant.  She had a powerhouse job, she had a darling house, she was beautiful, smart and fun.  I wanted to be like her when I grew up.  One night, when we were in my kitchen doing dishes after a dinner party, she suggested I write a cookbook and fill it with my recipes, and decorate it with watercolors, just like the recipe box I’d given her.  I almost fainted from the compliment of it.  Of course I thought that she might have gone a bit off the rails in this one exception to her normal genius.  I didn’t believe I could write a book since at the time, no one I knew wrote books except people like Julia Child or Margaret Mitchell.  It took five years and lots more inspiration (such as divorce and huge fear of bagladyhood) before I had the nerve to try, and three years more before my first book came out . . . and I never forgot that it was Jane’s idea.  

Here’s Jane with Elvis.  She’s 13.  He wrote her a letter.   Need More Musica?  (OK, but please, no screaming.  OK, just a little, we are not made of stone here. xoxo)

  See?  How could you not do anything this person told you to do?  She obviously had the magic touch.  You can visit her website, Jane Bay  and read about her on Star Wars Wookiepedia ~ she was George Lucas’s ~ of Star Wars fame ~ assistant and right-hand-person for the last almost-forty years, and just recently retired.

And I feel that this is very much a result of Jane’s believing in me . . .

My first book, which changed my life forever.  We never know where or when the inspiration for our lives will come from or through whom.  I’m only 2 degrees of separation from Elvis Presley!!!  On the same photo of us above, Jane wrote, “Girlfriends Forever” — you can see that photo on the endpapers in the book — her photo gave me the title for my Girlfriends book.  Funny how you come to have guardian angels in your life, who drop their magic and there you go. Like pulling the bunny out of a top hat. Voila!  ♥  ♥  ♥

Jane’s recipe box is filled with recipe cards such as this one — That’s my recipe for Gazpacho as I painted it for her box, and here it is, a few years later, as I painted it a for my book:

Eight years later, when my book was finally published, the recipe had the addition of shrimp and croutons.  If you have Heart of the Home,  you can find this recipe on page 39.  And that brings me to the end of this blog post, because, on this gorgeous Martha’s Vineyard day, I’m on my way to the market to get the things to make Gazpacho — going to treat Joe NICE.  It’s still the best I’ve ever tasted.  Tried and true ~ I promise you ~ for years . . .  and it comes . . .

 H A P P Y   D A Y   G I R L F R I E N D S   F O R E V E R !

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384 Responses to WHO’S GOT MAIL ?

  1. Lynn McMahon says:

    ~Good Morning~
    I just made croutons myself~ no kidding! I have my own recipe that I just made up~ I made them for salad tonight and chili tomorrow ~ yes it is almost that cold here!~ I love your comment about guardian angels and girlfriends~ I’m so lucky to have them as both~ “angels” always seem to come into our lives just when we need them the most! ~ thanks for this post today~ a reminder of how special our girlfriends are….and our parents and our pets~ with us in the flesh or spirit!
    Ps I have a beagle so my accent colors are brown, white and black
    ~Girlfriends Forever!~

    • sbranch says:

      We had chili just a couple of days ago, big rain storm here — but it’s gone by now, and us just pretty out there. Happy Wednesday Lynn!

      • Lynn McMahon says:

        Same to you ;)!

      • Great minds think alike they say! We’re having left over chili today from a big pot I made a couple of days ago! It was cold and rainy here so it was the only logical thing to make : • )

      • Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

        Our chili days are way past! Way! And I love chili….all kinds.

        • sbranch says:

          Me too. Yummy.

        • Lynn McMahon says:

          ~ Dare I bring it up…..again~ noodles or beans or both?!~

          • Lynn McMahon says:

            I made chili hubby’s way with noodles~But he compromised and l made with ground chicken breast~ fair is fair!

          • Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

            OK I give up. Noodles? Is that like Cincinnati Chili? With spaghetti?
            I have to admit Texas Chili is way different than Ohio chili that I am used to, but I love them both. Then I heard about Cincinnati Chili. Maybe we need a mass chili recipe blog.

          • Lynn McMahon says:

            Hi Chris~ my mom made chili with beans and hubby’s mom made it with extra large wide noodles~ To me it will always have to be made with beans! ~ Don’t know that I have ever had Cincinnati chili…..

          • Carol Maurer from Eureka, CA says:

            I have never heard of noodles in chilli…. um 🙂
            I know some like with both beans and meat and some just meat. I like both myself.

  2. Barbara (WA) says:

    Goodness, what a fascinating post – the original recipe box, your friend Jane and, of course, our darling Jack! Fun way to start my day, thank you 🙂

  3. Anna Chait says:

    Susan – that first book of yours is so wonderful. I first saw it in the Kitchen of an old friend of mine, many years ago. I loved the way you put the borders on every page. I began doing it on my own recipes. I have al your books and have followed your blog for many years too! When I visited Martha’s Vineyard several years ago I just knew (somehow?) I would see you on the dock waiting for me! I guess we all feel like we know you now. You’ve given me so many years of enjoyment, and it all started in my friend Gaye’s kitchen with the book you talked about today. Thank you so much for sharing with me.

    • sbranch says:

      That’s one reason I feel like we’re all connected — girlfriends generally do spend lots of time in the kitchen!

  4. Julie Marie says:

    Soo many wonderful things in your post today Susan!… love love love Jack and Girl Kitty!… that one photo of Jack with his paw hanging down over the couch looks like it ought to be on a kitty pin~up calendar!… and Girl Kitty is sooo sweetie~pie sweet!… and how fun your daddy sends the kitties surprises!… how lucky you are to have such a beautiful lifelong friend in Jane… wow, she looks like a movie star herself in the photo with Elvis… and must be just as beautiful inside to send your treasured recipe box back to you… how precious that it has now come full circle… I wish I had a friend like that… one that inspires me and I look up to… wait!… I do… YOU!… wishing you a beautiful day… hope Joe enjoys his Gazpacho… Jack and I celebrated our 36th anniversary yesterday… we had a picnic (inspiration from your Summer book!)… xoxo Julie Marie

  5. Pom Pom says:

    Oh my goodness, every time I see Jack and read your commentary, I want a cat.
    That’s so wonderful that you began so long ago and have continued. So wonderful.
    I DO have that book and I shall check out the gazpacho recipe today.
    Happy summer, Susan!

  6. Vicki in Cincy says:

    Hi! It was fun to hear how all this fun came to be. You are right! Jane is an angel in your life! I think we all have them, it’s just the recognizing them part :)The gazpacho sounds good, even as I am eating a steak salad, here at work. Enjoy the day! xoxo

  7. Charlotte in KY says:

    I have a 6th printing copy of Heart of the Home and can attest that all the recipes are wonderful! I have had it so long the dust jacket is yellowed. I love it that way, shows it is a well loved possession. I loved hearing the story behind your wonderful friendship and how you came into possession of the gazpacho recipe…a true friend…sharing recipes and encouraging you to follow your passion. Also, please more darling kitty pics…been missing them. When you have the two cutest kitties in the world, you owe it to the world to share lol.

    • sbranch says:

      I should let Jack do his own blog!

      • Charlotte in KY says:

        Awesome idea, as long as he includes your artwork. Seriously, you should do that, all your girlfriends would enjoy it!

      • Kathy, Orange CA says:

        What a great idea! It could be for kids to write too Jack. The kids could tell there stories to Jack and he could write back. Jack could have a million pen pals. LOL

        • Lynn McMahon says:

          Or..have Jack & Girl Kitty write their own book~from their perspective~ how fun would that be!!

          • sbranch says:

            I think they are secretly complainers. Like, where’s my dinner, and why can’t I go out, or move over, you’re smothering me.

          • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

            Your comment about the kitties complaining–“where’s my dinner, why I can’t go out, or move over, you’re smothering me” made me laugh. Sounds just like what Fanny and Betti would say!!! (along with “why can’t we go along” when we leave them at home…) 🙂

        • Janet [in Rochester] says:

          Great idea! I have a classroom full of nearly-first-graders who would LOVE to write to Girl and Jack!! We have a LOT of questions here… :>)

    • Laura Ann in Vermont says:

      I have a question about yellowing dust jackets, if Susan or anyone else knows the answer. I have a first edition (1988) of “Vineyard Seasons” and it has hardly yellowed at all. But I have four first editions (1992) of “Baby Love,” with a more plastic-like jacket, and three of them have yellowed so much that they are goldenrod in color. But, strangely, the one I bought first (for baby #2…I went back and bought three more for babies #3, #4, and #5. Baby #1 missed out.) is almost pure white still. Why is the first one in such good shape? Is it something I’ve done? Could the material of the cover changed sometime during production? This has puzzled me for some time!

      • sbranch says:

        Hmm. I don’t know. My Heart of the Home has yellowed too, but my Baby Love is fine. Perhaps something light-sensitive in the paper.

  8. Charlotte in KY says:

    How many printings of Heart of the Home have there been?

    • sbranch says:

      I think it was twenty-eight.

      • Susan Simon (in Illinois) says:


        • sbranch says:

          It was in print for over twenty years!

          • Susan Simon (in Illinois) says:

            I just went and looked at my books… I have several first editions, one third printing, one 9th printing and one says 13th printing. I am short one of your books… the Girlfriends one, as I gave my copy to my girlfriend before she moved out of state.
            Quick question: When you have a new book that first comes out, does that ever lead to some of your older books being reissued? Just curious. Thank you again for all the years of yummy inspiration and wonderful ideas and thought!

          • sbranch says:

            I think maybe the Girlfriends book and Autumn, and maybe even Summer might be coming back. But it could be a couple of years yet, takes so long for these things to gear up from idea to fruition.

    • Charlotte in KY says:

      Since several of your books are out of print and we have a new generation of homekeepers coming up, any chance of a Cooking with Susan book that combines all of the recipes from all of your books into one volume? Or a Keeping House with Susan, since your books cover so many subjects? I know, so much work, but it would be so wonderful! At least you wouldn’t have to paint each page, just organize it (I know you are rolling your eyes at the “just organize it”). For us old timers you could throw in a few new recipes. You could add in so many of your blog entries. I’m always happy to think up work for you haha…just because we all enjoy the fruits of your labor so much -:)

  9. Gail from California says:

    Good morning Susan,
    What a beautiful post to wake up to. Love all the darling pictures of Jack. I just what to smooch him all up. Friendships in life are one of the greatest gifts that we can have. I sure treasure mine, as I know you also do. How thoughtful of Jane to have given you back your reciepe box full of all your favorite dishes and the memories that you both shared. She’s a keeper!!! Enjoy your beautiful day.

    xxoo Gail

  10. Donna says:

    The “Jack” blogs are my substitute for Casey the Cat who left me in December. I am downsizing and moving in a month and FIRST on my list then is a visit to the animal shelter. I’ll bring home a Jack or a Casey or ?? to love and learn new tricks with.

    • sbranch says:

      So much to look forward to Donna! How to make a house a home in the shortest possible time — get a kitty! (Or a doggie, right Pat?)

      • pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:


      • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

        I’m thinking I’m the “Pat” you were referring to–Oh yes, a doggie! But I’ll have to admit, once again, that your photos and stories about Jack sure could be inspiration for a kitty! He is so cute and somehow his actions seem quite “doggie-like”–especially retrieving! One of our schnauzers, Fanny, has several “kitty-like” actions: She likes to go to the living room after she eats and proceeds to lick her paws, taking one of her paws repeatedly up smoothing her schnauzer-eyebrows and her beard down smooth. Then she will walk over and put her front paws against the front of the sofa and stretch. The latter is such a “kitty-motion”, it makes us laugh whenever she does it! Betti, our schnauzer, does NOT have any of these kitty-mannerisms. But having either a kitty or a dog really does add to your life–extra love and laughter! 🙂

        • sbranch says:

          You are the Pat. 🙂 I knew I couldn’t get away without mentioning doggies as long as you’d be reading!

          • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

            I know, I know–I’m terrible…LOL! We’ve had a week of rain and temps mostly in 50’s with lows at night in 40’s and even frost one night just north of the Cities. I love the “cool” as opposed to “hot/humid” but the dark days are getting to me and we have more predicted through Sunday! I read the “woof” above and my inner child reacted. (picture me with hands on hips and a scrunched frown!) Are you all laughing yet??? Okay, I’ll admit that having a kitty go use a litter box, nice and neat and dry, compared to going out and standing at the end of a leash in the rain and coming in with wet dogs that smell like wet dogs even though they are CLEAN wet dogs, well, what can I say…? LOL!

          • pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

            well we’re thinking about getting a dog or 2 for the place, he gets a poodle and I get a husky!!!

          • Janet [in Rochester] says:

            Hello, Pat M – in my case you are SO right! YOU are Schnauzer Pat… and Pat A is Chicken Pat! My ‘woof woof’ comment was intended to be A Woof Per Schnauzer! Off to get myself more coffee but quick! :>)

          • sbranch says:

            Chicken Pat and Schnauzer Pat. Very good!

          • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

            Oh gosh, that IS funny!!! Will that be on my tombstone??? “Schnauzer Pat” ??? LOL! 🙂

          • I’m so happy you do not have Poodles?? haha

  11. Karen P - Wisconsin says:

    How wonderful to see that darling recipe box! I’ll bet you loved having it back again after all those years. And what an exciting friend Jane is! Personal assistant to George Lucas! My, the things she must have seen and the people she must have met! So glad that she inspired you to do what you do. You would have eventually done it but maybe she gave a little push! We Susan Branch loving friends are so happy that you are here! Because we LOVE all that you do….all that you are! xoxo….Karen P.

    • sbranch says:

      I put the box on a shelf in my studio. It sort of shines there, little pride of place. Osmosising inspiration into the air of my house of creativity.

      Thank you so much Karen. xoxo

      • Karen P - Wisconsin says:

        I have to quit coming back and rereading this blog! I am soooo lusting after that recipe box!!! 🙂 xoxo Karen P.

        Oh, and I must make that Gazpacho! The hummus recipe that I made the other day is so good!

  12. Susan Simon (in Illinois) says:

    Good morning, Susan and everyone!
    So nice to see so much of Jack!! I think Jack is just a brilliant little kitty… he makes me smile every single time I see a picture of him. Has he figured out that the Bee would be great fun to play with yet? Maybe rub a little catnip on it.. or put a rubber band on it? Girl Kitty looks gorgeous and proper and her own prim self, too… such a sweet face she has.

    Please tell Jane we ALL say “Thank you!” for her inspirational part in your very first cookbook. I am going to make that gazpacho the very first day we pick our first few tomatoes out of our garden; although, with the kind of cool, cloudy weather we’ve been having, it may be a very late harvest this year. We’ll see!

    Love your black and white ideas, too… very elegant. We have our first outdoor concert tomorrow night at Ravinia and I have your Summer Book and your Heart of the Home book out to go through for inspiration for something wonderful to take with us. Probably will be overwhelmed with ideas… but what fun. Cross your fingers for good weather… we sit on the lawn with our picnic baskets and let the music flow around us… hopefully the rain won’t flow, too!

    Thank you for a wonderful post again, Susan. I had checked early this morning and then a few minutes ago… yippee! Have a wonderful day, everyone!

    • sbranch says:

      There is an amazing sandwich on the June page of my calendar too. You can modify it anyway you want, but it’s heavenly!

      • Holly says:

        I second it – make the picnic sandwich!! I’ve made it countless times and changed it countless ways, depending on what’s in season and it’s ALWAYS delicious!

        • sbranch says:

          I think it’s probably the mashing that makes it so delicious, melding all those flavors. Thanks Holly, I love good testimonials!

  13. Barb says:

    I am the very lucky, very fortunate owner of a first edition of “Heart of the Home” and it is truly one of my most favorite treasures! I fell in love with it (and its incredible author!!!) the second I laid eyes upon it. (My only wish to make it better would be to have it signed by you, but. . . ).

    Thank you, too, for sharing these so wonderful photos of Jack Branch! He is so special! And, we all love Girl Kitty – such a beauty!

  14. sandy says:

    Good Morning! I’m smiling and I haven’t even read all this beautiful cheery blog. I like to savor it, so I will go back and do that. I just have to dive right in like opening a special package that comes in the mail, then go back and look deeper. But since it already makes me happy I just had to share that with you! thanks as always, you’re wonderful, so is your dad, Jack, Jack’s dad, er, your hubby, and all’s right with the world! xox and 🙂

  15. sondra fox says:

    Our dear daughter Is 44 years young & married to a wonderful guy she met when she was 13 years young. They’ve been married over twenty years now, but even so, I still sometimes flub up & call her by her maiden name. Your dad’s mail made me think of the forgetful things I do, not intentional, just a habit of calling our daughter by our last name.

    I sat here laughing at the antics of Jack. He’s a riot. What a smart cat to think of hiding his hair bands, then when he wants to play, getting them & setting them up, right beside you, (his favorite playmate). I simply adore your Jack. What a personality. I love animals but have never seen a cat that acts the way your Jack acts. He’s very smart. Girl Kitty is so queenly, quiet, & loving. Like every human, every animal has it’s own personality.

    I’m off to the doctor this morning. No problems, just a yearly check up. I’ll eat two hard boiled eggs before I go off to the doctors. That way I won’t weigh so much when I get on the scale. I have my ways (or is it weighs?). I know. My jokes are bad. (Sandy from Chihuahua flats)

  16. Wonderful, wonderful post . . now I know I’m not the only one . . gales of giggles . . I got a box all the way from America a few weeks back, from my Very Special Girlfriend . . a gorgeous little Pembrokeshire Corgi called Igraine (we are FB friends too, don’tcha know?) Anyway, my Sweet Igraine (as I call her) sent me a corgi just like Jack’s bee! How wonderful is that? . . and I have a well reused box too! It has been trans~Atlantic four times now, and will make another journey for Christmas (which is now only barely just over six months away . . which means glorious autumn and Hallowe’en are even less than that). I think the box has clocked up around 28,000 miles so far. Yikes!

    Black is such a useful colour, and you are right, it does give an extra pop to things. I used it to mount my samples in collage and everyone else wished they’d thought of it too . . I even worked out how to reverse colour print so I could make white lettering on black background for continuity . . how clever am I? 😀

    What a beautiful and thoughtful gift, the recipe box. It must feel so special to be able to trace your publishing roots (if that is the term) to something you made for a dear friend. You could say this post is boxing clever!

    p.s. L♥ve the Island Musica today . . totally chilled now . .

    Sending Love right back to all the Girlfriends from Wonderful west Wales! Deb xoxo

  17. Robin Karsh says:

    Hi Susan!
    I was in this bookstore umpteen years ago and was looking at the various selection and then I saw this glorious Heart of the Home covered book. I stood there fascinated by the artwork and adored the contents. I was so taken with it I took two home.. Of course I had to give one to my girlfriend!! When I got home I said to my husband “I really would love to write Susan Branch and tell her how much I loved her book. Do you think that would be ok to do?”
    Long story short. I wrote and you answered. I still remember getting that cute note back. I shouted out “GUESS WHAT I GOT??” to my honey. Couldn’t believe it!! Lol
    Through the years I was the AMTRAK person who asked train questions in notes etc and you always wrote back sweet and informative notes to me!
    I first met you in Santa Barbara at a book signing.. I met Joe and your mom. It was so fun!! My darling husband as taken me to many of your events. (And I loved your shop in Arroyo Grande)
    I am so looking forward to receiving your England book. Of course I ordered two.. One for my girlfriend.!!
    Take care. You are amazing. ❤ Robin

    • sbranch says:

      I’ve remembered your name from the beginning Robin! I really do know who you are! Always nice to hear from you — hope I get to see you somewhere at one of the signings coming up! Say hello to your honey for me!

  18. Ann says:

    Loved hearing about Jane. Thanks, Jane, for putting the idea in Susan’s head. Looking forward to learning more about her. And all the Jack photos!! And dear sweet Girl Kitty, too. I think my dogs may like the bee toy.

    • Janet [in Rochester] says:

      Agree with Ann!! Thanks, Jane – for being Sue’s unofficial muse/mentor/cheering section. All of the GFs are grateful to you. I’ll bet you’ve given other folks great ideas too! And of course to Jack Branch’s Mom for being smart enough and brave enough to take it. Sue, you should consider placing this post among the “permanent” posts at the top of the blog – this is sort of the basis of How You Started, huh? :>)

      PS – how in the world does Jack get up on top of that armoire?? He can’t leap from the wing chair, can he? OMG!

      • sbranch says:

        Personally, and this is just between us, I don’t think George could have done it without Jane. “It’s believing in roses that makes them bloom” — she is very good at making roses bloom.

        Jack CAN leap from the arm chair. Hard to look at when he does it.

        • Janet [in Rochester] says:

          No kidding. Probably gets up on top of your fridge with the same effortless leap – kitties ARE amazing. :>)

  19. Rebecca Walsh says:

    What a coincedence! I was just looking at Gazpacho recipes last night, so guess what is for dinner tonight? I love the addition of shrimp and croutons, so will surprise the hubby tonight with something healthy and delicious. Thank you for all your inspiration. I recently reorganized by cookbooks and finally have all your cookbooks together. They look so happy together.

    • sbranch says:

      Like brothers and sisters!

      • Rebecca Walsh says:

        It is so much fun, but moved to a smaller bookcase and now have over 30 cookbooks sitting on the dining room table. Wonder how long I can leave them there??

        • sbranch says:

          I ask myself that kind of question all the time! 🙂

          • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

            Hmmmmm…I think you aren’t the only ones, too…the dining room table is such a convenient place to put things!!! 🙂

  20. Joan Lesmeister says:

    I’ve got mail! And I love it! Great story with your Girlfriend Forever, Jane! Re-gifting the recipe box for your memoirs is very loving of Jane. And, Jack gifting Jack is pretty special too! Glad I popped in to see you for a minute, it’s a wonderful blog! Thank you! Happy Wednesday to you Girlfriend (& GFs) Forever! xo PS Happy Retirement Jane!

  21. Margi Duffy says:

    I LOVED the box for Jack!!!
    I love sending boxes to my kids to that are spread over California from Eureka to Ridgecrest and over to Hume Lake. Who says people don’t send things anymore.
    How blessed you are to have Jane as a friend. What a journey she has been on and what a change of journey she gave you…and I am SO HAPPY that she did.
    I love that there are pictures in your bathroom, I was just thinking of putting some up in mine and hesitated because some one said to me…”in YOUR bathroom”
    But you renewed my thought…thank you.
    Enjoy the beautiful day!

    • sbranch says:

      Bathroom is more logical place than any other. Your audience is usually alone and there for a while, they enjoy the entertainment. 🙂

      • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

        Maybe this is “TMI”, but are we the only ones out there that have nicknamed our bathroom “the library”??? If you hang photos there, do you call yours “the photo gallery”? 🙂

        • pat addison ( cave junction,OR) says:

          I have a shower curtain with old photos of Hollywood stars on it, like Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Paulette Goddard, Vivian Leigh, Errol Flynn and Sir Laurence Olivier. stars from long ago. does that count as a photo gallery???

          • Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

            And, Pat, do you ever say, “I’m going to take a shower with Humphrey Bogart right now.”????

          • pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

            nope I prefer showering with Flynn, much cuter!!!! 🙂

  22. Linda says:

    Susan, Jane’s book “Love & Loss” was wonderful…..what a special Lady…your so lucky to have her as a friend…..Happy Summer!

    • sbranch says:

      So lucky!

    • mary spring says:

      thanks for this connection (Love and Loss), Susan… I think I need to read this book… also, thank you for the Watercolor Club connection (you shared on Twitter)…you are such a blessing to us all !!!… with love…

  23. Hi Susan!! You know the MOST amazing people (us included!!) I still remember finding your first book in the bookstore so many years ago. I knew I had found a kindred spirit….that handwriting! I can’t paint worth a darn, but I did have cute handwriting and seeing a cookbook with adorable paintings and super cute handwriting sent me over the moon. There is a touch of “Susan Branch” in almost everything I do 🙂 Thanks so much for being you AND for starting this blog. xoxo

  24. barbara miller says:

    friendships are soooo important. thank goodness for jane! it seems to me j is an important letter in your life…..jane, jack and naturally joe. just saying. thanks for the ‘black ideas’. have a lovely day today. b

    • sbranch says:

      And June! You’re right! My dad is Jack, also, John! His wife is Jeanie! (I have to stop thinking about this!)

  25. pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

    good morning Susan, hello and good morning girlfriends. I have to agree, cats are the best decorating item around, now my cats love to decorate the top of the freezer, the top of the fridge, the top of the counters and the top of the couch or chairs. and I like it, nothing a like furry, fuzzy, purring cat to add a comfy touch to the room. now your cat, Jack loves the rubber bands, mine love the little plastic rings from the milk jugs, they will chase those and swat them everywhere for hours, and hide them under things like the rugs, tables, chairs and bed, wherever it will go. they have never outgrown it and I doubt they ever will. now that bee would have interested them for a minute or so, then back to chasing the yarn around the living room. of course right now a bird has their interest, a hummingbird. we have a couple of feeders out on the front porch and they love watching the little birds, there is also one out by the kitchen porch and that serves as kitty tv to them. they do have a cricket toy that if they swat it sounds like a cricket and they of course attack it more because of the noise, plus they found a real cricket in the house and followed it around the living room for awhile. life with cats, its never dull. off to go turn on the ceiling fan in the barn to keep the hens comfy, been hot here lately so the fans are going and I have to go set up their sprinkler which will cool them off later, they love it. they run over by the duck pool and run through the sprinkler to keep cool just like kids do all summer long…remember??? have a wonderful day everyone, keep cool and enjoy the sunshine. hugs… 🙂

    • pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

      back inside from the barn, this is a warm lazy day…perfect for a long tall glass of iced tea and sitting on the front porch in the rocker watching the tractor parade and lawn mower brigade roll on by or in the case of the tractors chug on by. have a great day everyone, I have a tall glass of iced tea waiting for me. hugs…. 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      Stay cool Pat! Thank you!

      • pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

        may make a pitcher of my beer margaritas tonight to enjoy with the subway sandwiches … too hot to cook!!! want the recipe for the beer margaritas????

        • sbranch says:

          Yes we do!

          • pat addison ( cave junction,OR) says:

            okay here it is. its really simple just beer and lime-ade. you get a big pitcher for mixing drinks in, like iced tea or lemonade. you will need about 2-3 bottles of good lager beer, not ale or stout, good lager beer or it won’t work, and 1 can of frozen lime-ade, you can find that in the frozen juices at the store. thaw the lime-ade and put in the pitcher, add 1 bottle of beer and mix them together, gently. it will foam up and look like it will foam over, just let it settle and gently add the other 2 bottles of beer. depending on the pitcher you might only need 2 bottles of beer. now chill it, and enjoy it on a hot afternoon out in the yard under the trees or on the front porch in a comfy rocking chair. cheers!!!!

          • pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

            hmmm, put it there yesterday, guess it got ate up. okay here it is again. you need 2-3 bottles of lager beer, not ale or stout as it won’t work, and 1 can frozen (thawed) lime-ade (find in the frozen juice section of the store) get out a pitcher to mix drinks in, pour in the thawed lime-ade and slowly add 1 bottle of beer, let it foam and stir gently to mix together with a wood spoon, careful it does not foam over the pitcher. then slowly add the rest of the beer, you may need only 2 bottles but with some pitcher I go with 3 bottles of beer. chill, and enjoy on a hot afternoon or evening by the bbq or on the porch. cheers!!!! 🙂

          • Carol Maurer from Eureka, CA says:

            Pat A. ~~~ Wanted to stop by your place last weekend when we went up to Washington. My husband was in the mind set of “just getting” there. Wanted to beat the heat as much as possible. Was great until we got to northern Oregon and I became very very hot. He had put in a bottle of water and a wash cloth for me to use. Such a life saver! Kept me coolish without having the air conditioner on. Probably was cooler. We will make plans next time around on stoping by. We hope to go back up sometime in August to see the twins. I will let you know ahead of time. Are you on FB? If so, befriend me (Carol Converse Maurer) and I can send you a message, just to be sure that you receive it.


  26. mari1017 says:

    This is the sweetest post! ♥♥♥ You are so much my inspiration, Susan 🙂 I need to tell you that each time I write, so you know how much I love everything you do – from the very first book forward – I still have my first edition of Heart of the Home 🙂 I rotate your books on my coffee table – Summer and Girlfriends now. The four local farmer’s markets around here are all open now – so it will be a trip this weekend to collect the ingredients for Gazpacho – this is such a great recipe. Thanks for sharing your wonderful kitties, your great friend Jane and your inspirations with all of us!!!
    It’s a perfect day here today – 75 and sunny and no humidity yet in June! Enjoy the rest of your week 🙂 Back out to play in the plants!

  27. Karen P. - Wisconsin says:

    I was just now driving behind a black and white Mini Cooper on my way to the dentist that reminded me exactly of Jack! The Mini logo on the back looks like his mustache! Ha! xoxo…Karen P.

  28. Lovely post! So fun to see the kitties.
    My own mustachioed tuxedo kitty Monsieur Poirot sends his compliments to Jack and Girl Kitty. Our Miss Marple is busy exploring but sends a cuddle to them both as well.
    You never know who will be an angel in your life and I think both you and Jane are very lucky. Don’t you think the aim of life should be to be an angel for as many wonderful people as possible? You do that for us all here by sharing what a marvelous place the world can be. <3

    • sbranch says:

      You are so sweet Gabi, I’ve had so many guardian angels (living with one now), I would love to think I could be one. xoxo

  29. Michele says:

    Susan, as always, THANKS for posting!

    Do love to see new pictures of the kitties, (they have definitely stolen my heart :0)

    I LOVE getting packages, too! Been getting a few, lately, since my Bday was Sunday!!!

    And I made the tastiest Blueberry Crumb Coffee Cake from the June issue of Victoria Magazine!! Too die for! Thought you’d like it. (I substituted greek yogurt for plain yogurt, though, but was still wonderful…and pretty, too!)

    • sbranch says:

      Happy Birthday Michele — the cake sounds wonderful!

      • Judy Young says:

        Wonderful blog post today! Jack just keeps getting cuter..he sure keeps you busy! Wanted to tell you that I made the Blueberry Dream angel food cake this weekend and oh my goodness! So delicious and it turned out great. First angel food cake that I have ever made, so I was very proud. I did use a non-stick pan which helped. Took some to work and it vanished quickly.

        Just checked my books and I have three FIRST EDITIONS! Christmas from the Heart of the Home, Vineyard Seasons and my Autumn books. Wow. My other two include a 4th printing and an 18th printing. I’m still excited about the first editions. How cool is that?

        • sbranch says:

          Congratulations on your cake! Very cool — and for the first editions too! That’s saying something — especially because the first editions for both my first two books were much smaller printings than the rest — lots fewer of them out there.

  30. Jack says:

    And your brother , Bradley “Jay” …..

  31. Jack says:

    And other brother “Jim”……..They called me Junior when I was young …..Jeeeeese this will give you jangled nerves!— ‘Ja ever see so many Js?

  32. Susie says:

    Good morning Susan! Another wonderful treat chocked full of English gingerbread (I can almost smell it!); and sweet Jack. Jack Branch. Giggle. His face is so special. That was such a fun package your Dad sent Jack. He gets you! Sweet!

  33. susie says:

    Susan, OMG, your cat is smart and funny. I love seeing photos of Jack. Does he climb to the top of the cabinet?? I adore old recipe cards. Especially if it’s from someone I have known. Blessings for a great summertime . xoxo,Susie

    • sbranch says:

      He climbs up there and I have to look away in order NOT to watch how he gets down — I don’t want to see!

  34. Linda Pintarell says:

    WOW! Don’t know where to start…except to say I’m enamoured by Jane Bay and just spent an hour reading her website and ordering her books for myself…and for friends. Thank you…you always lead me in delightful directions for knowledge…and fun! What a life! Her 2012 overview was so interesting. Sigh. But then to add James Taylor and Elvis (and Jane actually talked to him and has his letter to her…double sigh!). Started on this journey with you in a bookstore in SLO when HOTH first came out; wrote my first orchid letter; received handwritten note from you…and it continued. Thank you for being YOU and for all the great times along the way…as GIRLFRIENDS.

    • sbranch says:

      You ordered her books, how wonderful! She will love that! Thank you back Linda, love to see you here.

  35. Susan on Bainbridge Island in Wa. state says:

    Man o’ Man…your Dad is a real keeper!!! What a fun thing for him to do, send a gift box in the mail to Jack! How darling is that…and the special box he sent it in! What a great Dad he is! so fun! ……………Makes me wish I still had my Dad. He also was a “Keeper”!……Your friend Jane, what a treasure you have. We are so lucky to have friends like this in our lives. Forever Grateful for their love and our forever friendships. The pictures of Jack and Girl are darling…jack is such a boy and girl is a real little lady….Even if you don’t know them, you can tell their gender, just by looking at the photos!!! Darling little sweethearts…..I adore cats! My Dinah is crazy over the feathers on a stick!!!! She goes nuts and her kittenish certainly comes to the front!!!! ha ha …………………………………I feel that I am so fortunate to be the proud owner of Susan Branch first editions: Heart of the Home, Girlfriends Forever, Summer book, Autumn, Love, Sweets to the Sweet and Vineyard Seasons…I treasure my little SB library….Your new book, A Fine Romance, will also be a first edition to add with the others…I am so excited to read this..I can’t wait and the timing is so perfect for the season…Just about that time of the year, when the trees are dropping their leaves, cold temperatures begin, fire crackling in the living room, soft cozy blankets to snuggle under and a FABULOUS new book to get lost in.
    So am looking forward to that, come November! Again, Dearheart, loved your note today…I get so lost in your inpirations…….And with your art work, it just keeps me motivated with my own!!!! xoxoxo Sue

    • sbranch says:

      He is the greatest dad in the world. Funny, fun, smart, cute, loves life, self-sufficient, and he can fix anything. Some might argue, but this is just my point of view!

      First editions of A Fine Romance for all our girlfriends! Makes me so happy! Thank you Susan!

      • Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

        I was just thinking . . . . “I don’t think I have ANY first editions of Susan’s books!! But, thanks for the reminder–I will have my FIRST 1st edition come September! Yay!

  36. Cindy Tuning says:

    Well all I can say is God bless Jane for inspiring you and bless you for listening to her. Think of all WE would have missed out on. You just never know how our lives will branch out(sorry) and which limbs we’ll go out on. All the friends we would have missed out on,and I don’t care what anyone says….we are all friends! Loved this post!!

  37. Michelle says:

    Oh my gosh! That post actually made me teary! I can’t believe the gift of getting that box back. What a surprise! There is nothing like a best friend, nothing.
    Reading your blog(now that I’ve found it) makes me feel like one of your friends, and nothing could make me happier. I’m actually reading your blog from the beginning. A few pages every night, so I can prolong the pleasure… I have your first book. I’ve had it for years, and it’s changed houses with me a few times. One of my favorites!

    • sbranch says:

      Happy to see you here Michelle — I believe I’m reading your comment for the second time, I think I saw this about 30 comments back — not sure if it’s a duplicate or if it’s the gremlins, but I just wanted to be sure to welcome you and say thank you!

  38. Sue says:

    What a lovely post today, and Jack appeared, we’ve missed him………may I ask why Jane returned the recipe box to you?

    Have a wonderful day!

    • sbranch says:

      She just retired into a smaller place and thought it would be safer with me — as a sort of memory of the books. Because she loves me is what I think the real answer is.

  39. Martha Ellen of VA says:

    There are angels all around helping us find our way. Sometimes we just have to stop and pay attention. So glad that your angel Jane came along and you listened. Susan you know the most fascinating people! The Beatles, now someone who worked with George Lucas and met Elvis–I can hardly stand it! Give your little black and white kitties a hug from me. xoxo ♥

  40. Giovanna says:

    Dear Susan,
    That was a lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing the story for your friendship with Jane. Each time I read your posts it’s like having a nice chat with a friend.

    thank you,

  41. Melissa Leathley says:

    LOVE this post. Thank You,

  42. Andi M says:

    Your Youtube video of the gingerbread bakery made my day! I have been job hunting and it is starting to get the best of me. Also, you hit the jackpot with your friend Jane. How wonderful that she said the right thing to you at just the right time. Gotta love that about our friends. I’d be curious to know why Joe doesn’t want to be called Jack’s dad. I don’t let anyone refer to me as my cat’s mom. I say they are my friends who needed a place to live. When I met my husband he was living with a male St. Bernard; when we married, I said that, Dusty (the St. Bernard) was Victor’s (my husband) bachelor friend that lived with us. Wow, did he ever play the part. It wasn’t long till he became a great friend to me.
    Thank you for your post!

  43. Donna says:

    Oh, now I am going to have to see what printing my copy is! I still use your first cookbook and still love it (and the others I have as well). I was doing some reminiscing of my own and dug out all the boxes of photos and memoribilia from under the eaves and found one of your big green scrapbooks and it hadn’t been used yet! What a find. Never know what one can find when you really get in there and clean!

  44. Carol Hesch says:

    Just lovely!! Your posts are always refreshing. My mom took me to an Elvis concert when I was little and ALL I really remember is the screaming!! Isn’t that funny! 🙂

  45. Debby says:

    Lucky Jane-got to meet Elvis and is friends with you!

  46. Cindy Maulin says:

    hi susan!! love your latest post..I love them all, but the “latest” one is always my favorite!! I always do a little bity gasp when I see that wooden recipe box as I have one exactly like it that was my mom’s. It is packed with her recipes and recipes from both friends and family members….mostly handwritten…very very special little item that sits on my bakers rack in the kitchen. I would personally like to thank Jane for her insight into your future… what a special wonderful friend….Ginny is mine, so I am aware of the preciousness of it all….I sent her the “Girlfriend” book and she fell in love with it…..how could you not??? happy to see all is well on MV!!! love, cindy

    • sbranch says:

      Without knowing each other, we are still connected — me, Jane, you and Ginny, just like that!

  47. Mary Ann in Mexico says:

    Another wonderful blog that brings a smile to my face. I can remember when/where I purchased my ‘Heart of the Home’. My husband and I were at a bookstore on a rainy Saturday. He was in one area and I was in another. He then walked over to me with your book and said, ‘I think you’ll like this’. And I’ve been collecting your books ever since!
    I just looked at Jane’s blog. What a fabulous woman/teacher. Every once in awhile some of us are truly fortunate to have someone like Jane in our lives. My ‘Jane’ recently moved back to California and is enjoying another stage in her life. She is ten years older than me and has such verve and energy! She’s always thinking of interesting things to do and explore. She is curious about everything. We are blessed to know women like that. And on another note, thank you for more Jack photos. I just love that little boy! And sweet Girl Kitty has the patience of a saint.

    • sbranch says:

      She looks a bit saintlike to me. Sweet as pie, she’s right next to me now, curled up on her pillow.

  48. Kristi says:

    What a wonderful post. I just love to see what Jack Branch is up to. His antics make me laugh. And sweet Girl Kitty just sits and watches him, tearing up her home. I was also interested in learning how you “got your start” in writing and art and about your relationship with Jane (another interesting woman). Thanks!

  49. Anna says:

    I fell in love with Susan when I bought Heart of the Home….thank you for many years of recipes, art and love !!!

  50. Pat Stansel says:

    Sarah Nelson’s gingerbread made my mouth water. Their bakery could ‘t be more
    How in the world did Jane keep those recipe cards so pristine? They truely are a
    treasure— a Susan Branch ORIGINAL.

    • sbranch says:

      It seems she was careful with them. Whenever I would visit, the box was in her darling pantry, open, but it wasn’t very light in there, and they aren’t faded.

  51. Cindy Stierhoff says:

    That Jack is a rascal for sure! Just love seeing all that he gets into and how happy with life he is. I’m going to be a cat when I come back for that second chance at life.
    Awwwww, that recipe box of yours is just like the one I have, used to be Mom’s. Inside the lid says Age 14 Elene Whetstone 1932……….and in the very back are some old recipe note cards of mine that look so much like you, at the top is a rolling pin with a red heart at each end and the bottom of the card has several sizes of mixing bowls, could be you?

    • sbranch says:

      Me too, I’m coming back as MY cat. 🙂 That way I know that sometime in my life “she” will give me lobster. Your recipe box is a treasure!

      • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

        We’ve been told more than once by various people that if there is a second life, they want to come back as one of our schnauzers… 🙂

  52. Cathy McC. says:

    What a wonderful friend you have in Jane –returning that beloved recipe box to you! It’s so much fun gaining insights into your past, bit by bit, through your blog. Nice of you to share with all your friends. I would like to know how Jack reacted when the buzzing began. (Is that how he ended up on top of the cabinet?) Enjoy all the beauty around you — Ethel

  53. Teresa J says:

    This book changed my life too! I got it as a wedding gift and love all the recipes. They are my standards and my family loves them too! Now I have all your cookbooks and love getting together with friends to make your recipes. More please!

  54. Jack says:

    Tell Joe , I’ll call that cat ” Jack Hall”, whenever he steps up to the plate!……..

  55. Nancy says:

    Jane sounds like the best forever friend a girl could have. How outstanding of her to give you back her wedding present, probably one of her dearest possessions, knowing that it was so precious to you as it was a defining moment in your life. A friend doesn’t get any better than that. It was your treasure. You gave it to her out of love. She enjoyed it for so many years and then gifted it back to you, out of love. Please give her my congratulations on her retirement.
    And I so enjoyed the pictures of Jack and Girl as I always do, and your Dad’s thoughtfulness to God’s precious creatures. Thank you.

    • sbranch says:

      My dad is almost a dog, that’s how much he loves the little critters. He feeds and watches the birds, loves cats too, but there are predator animals in his area and cats are chief menu item, so he gave up on that.

  56. Sharon Calvert says:

    Hi, Susan: I’ve been so enjoying your posts (and Tweets) … so much informative, interesting, and delightful entertainment! Many, many thanks for sharing. I thought you might enjoy checking out this link that highlights the 60th Anniversary celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation … ivyphyllisandme.blogspot.com/ … which raises my question: what’s the difference between this current celebration and last year’s Jubilee??

    Sharon in Alabama

    • sbranch says:

      I believe the 60-year Jubilee celebration last year was when Elizabeth came to the throne (upon the death of her father), but then I believe (and could be totally wrong) it took a year to plan the coronation celebration, which is what the celebration is this for year. Maybe there is always a one-year wait, I don’t know — maybe one of our British girlfriends would know? . . .

      • Sharon Calvert says:

        Hi, again, Susan: the following is clarification I received from Daphne, author of the blog referenced in my earlier comment:

        … ‘I know it is confusing, but yes there is a difference between the 60th Diamond Jubilee and the Queen’s Coronation.
        2012 marked the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the reason was that King George VI died in 1952 and Princess Elizabeth became Queen, but she did not have her Coronation until 1953, (the big state affair) as it was felt that the young princess needed time to grieve the passing of her father before the Coronation was held.
        So, 2012 marked Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year of reign, and 2013 marked 60 years since her Coronation.’

        Sharon in Alabama

  57. Susan I feel the very same way about friends and things in life: they come back to you. You don’t know when, why or how, but they do. It could be someone you met forever ago, something nice you did for someone once, a gift you gave without a second thought and then over time forgot about, just being there for someone listening and not waiting to speak. Thank you for reminding me every time I read your wonderful posts, what is the most important in our lives. You have such a great spirit. You are truly an inspiration to me and all of the “girlfriends”.
    I am going home after work to prepare your “chicken winglets” for the Bruins game tonight!!! YUM!!!

  58. Ann says:

    I just had to come back and tell all the girlfriends to go check out Jane’s website if you haven’t already done so. She is an amazing woman – just like our Susan. Love meeting friends of “friends”.

    • mary spring says:

      “Amen” to what you said, Ann…I went on Jane’s website yesterday afternoon and was amazed and ordered a book from her…in return, she wrote me a note last night !!…thanks again, Susan, for this and many, many more connections and inspirations you’ve given us all..(and I must add, how we love your sense of humor as well…feels so good to laugh…)

  59. DeniseLynn says:

    Oh how lovely!! Your Heart of the Home cookbook was my first cookbook when I got married {nearly 16 years ago now}. I now have almost all your cookbooks; with the exception of ‘Autumn’which frankly is just not right 😉 I’d better do something about that. Susan, Thank you for being such a dear inspiration to me as I started married life and slid into parenthood.

  60. Dawn (Elmhurst, IL) says:

    Susan, you are the BEST storyteller ever!! It was such fun to read about your dear friendship with Jane and to peek into your special recipe box. What a treasure! It’s time to make a cup of tea and read Heart of the Home again! At the moment, it is on the top of my ‘Susan’ book collection next to my rocking chair… just waiting for me. Wishing you many more happy surprises!!
    Warm hugs,

  61. Marie (Long Beach, California) says:

    Hi! Your dad is such a character, mailing Jack a buzzing bee, too cute. Jack is just so precious and Girl Kitty so regal and elegant. Loved every picture. I also really enjoyed the history and tour of Sarah Nelson’s bakery, fantastic! Made me want to bite into one of those gingerbread squares right now! And the spoon on the Gazpacho recipe card looks so real, it actually shines like silverware, beautiful. Oh and I must let you know you got a giggle from me with your news from “Lake Suebegone”, I ADORE your craziness! Thank you for the fun and yummy post. I’ll be thumbing through my “Heart of the Home” and “The Summer Book” to inspire me to make something yummy. With love and happiness from sunny Southern California! 🙂

  62. Penny H. says:

    Sigh! Another wonderful post – great pictures of Jack and Girl (I have beagles, Teddy and Charlie, but we still love kitties!) – and thank you for sharing about Jane Bay – what a fascinating lady, and lucky to be your GF! Thank you again!

  63. Cyndi in NC says:

    I saw the box and immediately knew what it was as I have one just like it that my Mom gave me. It had been my grandmother or great grand mothers, she wasn’t sure. I have taken it half way round the world and back, twice. *S* It has a lot of my treasured recipes to include my great grand mothers Suet Pudding recipe from her mother. I look at it and smile. One of the recipes is a Gazpacho very much like yours. I love it, so refreshing in the hot months, although I love it year round. BTW, no blog is complete without the sweet faces of your kitties. Hugs to all.

  64. Maureen MacKenzie says:

    Hi Susan,
    What a lovely post. We are all connected and ~wow~ the inspiration we can receive from others is just incredible. What a difference it makes to our lives. I loved the picture of Jack looking at his new toy…his expression is priceless! Have a wonderful week,

  65. Gert~Iowa says:

    Oh Susan..what fun to get a package in the mail…just for Jack! As mart as he is I’m sure he knows how lucky he is..lol My daughter just sent us our Christmas box…with gifts for our Rusty! How spoiled those pets are…smile… How very nice of your friend to return your recipe box! She really understands you..doesn’t she? How blessed you two are to have each other as a friend! Thank you for being “our girlfriend”Motorola..


  66. patty hewitt says:

    Oh, I have always wondered how you got your original motivation/inspiration to start your wonderful paintings, drawings, stories, ideas, recipes, and thoughts to share. You have been my “girlfriend” now since I bought your first book in 1986. I have three sons who now each have a wife, who now each own your first three cookbooks because I just cannot resist sharing them with these these special girls who have become part of my family. Thank you so much for your always uplifing spirit, and for sharing your kitties. I have become allergic to cats in the last 20 years, so I love that you share yours with me “virtually”.

  67. laurie says:

    one thing among many that I like about you Susan Branch is the true love and respect you have for your friends, you truly are a good friend, the friendships you share with us show how true you are to friendship and is so refreshing in this crazy world of today when everything seems so fleeting, you cherish and hold close not only momentos and gifts from your past but friends which are after all our best gifts,
    and ,,, I still love that Jack, he is a doll, that face, that face!!! I love him!!

  68. Heartsdesire says:

    Wonderful to have such a thoughtful, inspiring friend as Jane. The recipe-box wedding gift was so thoughtful of you, and now that you have it back, I’m sure it will hold a place of honour in your kitchen. I have your book, Heart of the Home, given to me by my younger son many years ago when he was 11. Even at that age, he knew what I liked. I have a friend from Vancouver visiting on Saturday, we are going to an estate quilt fabric sale, and I was wondering what I could make for lunch. With a glass of white wine, the gazpacho recipe will be perfect, and I’ll add the shrimp. Thanks for the reminder. Love the photos of your black and white “decor. “

  69. jeanie m says:

    Jack is the “bomb”, as they say. The picture on the couch looks like he is posing for “GQ” magazine. And how sweet and thoughtful of your dad to send Jack a present. You’re surrounded by niceness, Susan, and you deserve it, girlfriend!
    Loved this posting.

  70. Barb, EW, CT says:

    Hello Susan,

    You started us off with “JT” for Musica…….thank you so much, have seen him in concert so many times……one of the best singers ever! Love the new pictures of Jack and also glad to see the one of Girl Kitty in there to. The one of Jack with his paw on the quilts makes me think….he is thinking …..mmmmn…..maybe I will pick this quilt out for myself tonight…..and then Girl Kittty can have the other ones or maybe I will just keep them all to myself. You sure have your hands full but with lots of fluffy love of two great cats!

    Thank you for sharing the background story of how your wonderful friend Jane encouraged you to write your first ever book…….the Recipe Box with all the Recipes included is Beautiful. Thank you also for the link to Janes website…..I read most of all her sight in an hour and Wow what a interesting life she has led, yet so very sad for her great loss of her foster daughter. I must say Susan you have some of the most interesting, caring friends. I thank you for always teaching myself and all the GF’s on here something new with each post. Have a wonderful evening. Hugs & Smiles….. Barb 🙂

  71. pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

    what happened to the bee??? did Jack like it??? or has he ignored it???

    • sbranch says:

      He slept next to it, but it wasn’t bird-like enough to really get him going!

      • pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

        hmm maybe you look for that cricket toy, we got our ours at Wal-Mart. the cats love it, they swat it and it makes a cricket sound and they chase and swat that thing all around the house. when they aren’t too busy watching the hummingbird or the squirrels. off to go turn on the fan in the barn to keep the chickens comfy. spoiled aren’t they??? hugs…… 🙂

  72. Sue says:

    This post is just loaded with “cuteness”! Oh my! Color co-ordinated, Jack Branch!!!:) How sweet!

    And how funny — my husband says the same thing when I refer to him as our kitty’s “Daddy”. “I’m not her Daddy”!:) Maybe it’s a guy thing.:) Probably it is easy for we women to be a pet’s “Mommy” since we seem to naturally have that mothering instinct born into us.

    Also — what a wonderful story about your recipe box! I’m happy to hear it is back with it’s original owner & creator. So kind of Jane — your angel and inspiration — to send it back to you. Very cool story!
    And I’m grateful for her part in encouraging you, urging & cheering you on. You have been a blessing to many. Life without Susan Branch? W-W-What? Your blog, Girl Kitty, Jack, your books, Jack, your Willard writings, Jack, “our” trip to England (while hiding in your luggage:)), and soon-to-be-realeased “A Fine Romance”, your constant “happy gene” that is shared through your blog, Oh, and did I mention, Jack?:) …………………….no, life just would not be the same without you! Thanks to you for all of it — but it looks like a thanks to Jane would also be in order!:) Thank you, Jane!:)

    • sbranch says:

      I can say a big hearty ditto, thank you Jane! And thank you too Sue! Would be no fun here without the girlfriends!

  73. Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

    Thank you, Susan, for making me laugh today when I looked at your pictures of Jack. I wasn’t prepared to laugh so heartily, but when I saw the pic of Jack and his new toy–I just burst out!! It felt so good! It is so nice to have a place to go where there is laughter, good friends, cozy, fun pictures to look at, a good story or two–I guess by now you know that I’m talking about YOU, Susan, and also all the GIRLFRIENDS who by now feel like Sisters!

    I think I’m going to go back and look at those pictures one more time before I leave. I want to soak it all in.
    Love to you!

    • Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

      Hi Linda,
      How did the baby shower go? I checked your weather that day and it looked great, no rain!
      We have had unusually pleasant weather until this week. I come home from work and sit on the porch with Jim and be entertained by the barn cats. But all that ended Monday as triple digit temperatures hit. 104! Yikes! Back in the house we go…..
      Ah summer in W Tx………

      • Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

        Hey Chris!
        How sweet of you to check the weather!! Yes, we had very nice weather! We had the food inside, but people could eat in or out. Julia opened her gifts outside. It was a lovely time. (Lots of cleaning up the next day or so!) But then we had several days of hot weather (upper 80’s–hot weather for us in June).

        Do you know that I was talking to someone from Wyoming today and he was talking about how dry it is there. And I ALMOST said, “I have a friend who lives in West Texas and she has gotten rain recently!” How nice to think of you as a friend, even though we have never met in person. I guess that’s what a pen pal is! So thankful to Susan for bringing us all together.

        Being a part of all these comments is like being on a “party line” telephone of yesteryear. Whenever you want, you can just listen in to all sorts of news, gossip (the good kind), and lots of girl talk! Love it!

        • Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

          Glad the shower went well.
          It is nice to have all these friends. And I catch myself doing the same thing. And we are friends, thanks to Susan! We have a lovely community of good friends, with shared interests. And as time goes on we learn more and more about each other. It is definitely a cherished spot, this little part of our world, the world of FOSB. And I am happy to be here!
          Have a great Sunday Linda…I am off to put a chicken in the oven. Just felt like having an old fashion Sunday type dinner:)
          Talk to you soon.

  74. Rosanne (Oregon) says:

    James Taylor – the voice of your island and part of the soundtrack of my life. Such a mellow voice, and he just makes you want to cry, but not from sadness, but from loving life. My favorite is “The Secret of Life” which I think says it all and fits right in with how I think of you. Sometimes, when I’m taking things too seriously, I’ll put on that cd to remind myself: “Since we’re only here for awhile, might as well show some style, give us a smile, isn’t it a lovely ride.” Tra-la. Jack is darling. My little Bella came here from the shelter 8 months ago, and is just a little furry ball of love. The story about your friend, Jane, is fabulous! You are fabulous!

  75. Laurie Walt says:

    What a gift your friend gave back to you-she recognized greatness then and we are grateful now! Did I miss a Willard? It has been awhile since I’ve seen one. Have a great weekend! My daughter and grandchildren will be here Sat.can’t wait to see all of them! Son in law too-he is so good to them!

  76. Angie(Tink!) says:

    ₡ღ ₡ღ✻
    `*.¸.*✻✿✿*✻ .♥¸✿♥ Good Evening Sweet Sue…Oh Boy This Blog is Amazing 🙂 First Meow & Kitty~Kisses to Girl & Jack! ✿ Jack & That Crazy Cute Bee Toy Kitty~Kute! 😉 I Love how Jack’s Paws reach in to get those Rubber Bands 🙂 & The Photo Of Girl and Her Double Bubblegum Pink Nose Purrrrrrrrrfection… ok Now Your Dad Jack is Adorable for Sending Kitty Jack the Gift! & Your Friend JANE…first the Photo with Jane & Elvis (Herbster & I Huge Elvis Fans) Amazing! then I flew to her Page Amazing! Her Dad & Jane are from Central Florida? Hello I Live in Central Florida I was going to ask You what Small Town? & then when I took a Peek at The Page with Jane’s Elvis Photo She Had The Addressed Envelope on The Board too & it said Tampa Florida which is an Hour from Here Winter Haven Florida & She works with George Lucas? More Amazing!…and Oh So Special That Recipe Box is…filled with all Your Magic Sweet Sue….Even More Amazing! We have had a Few Rainy Days which I Love Cause We Need The Rain! Today was The Last Day of School Here! So All The Kids are Beyond Excited to Start Summer Vacation (Remember those Days?) 🙂 anyway…Herbster Just walked in & said “Time for a Glass of Wine on The Back Porch The Rain is Softly Falling”….Nice… 😉 so Wishing All a Lovely Peaceful Night…Sweet Dreams when it’s Time to Slumber Love & Summertime Pixie~Dust xoxo Poof! ₡ღ ₡ღ✻
    `*.¸.*✻✿✿*✻ .♥¸✿♥ P.S. Oh Sweet Sue Joe is Jack & Girl’s “Daddy” or Papa Joe! Meow & Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr 🙂 & Your Dad is Grand~Pa Jack ;-)♥

    • sbranch says:

      Gran-pa Jack is what he is called, and not just by kitties!

      • Angie(Tink!) says:

        ₡ღ ₡ღ✻
        `*.¸.*✻✿✿*✻ .♥¸✿♥ 🙂 xoxo Twirling into Rain~Puddles xoxo Splash! 😉 P.S. Just Played Your Elvis Video & Herbster was Dancing doing his “Elvis Moves”! Amazing Sweet Sue…. Good~Night~ 😉 ✿♥

  77. Maria in Long Beach, CA says:

    Love that your dad sends gifts to his grandcats! Favorite pic of Jack? The stud pose on the couch with one leg dangling over the edge of the couch. And Girl is just plain beautiful.
    Wish I were there!! This would be my first day on the island at the Ashley Inn. But at least my ankle is on the mend…no surgery. Some day 😮

    • sbranch says:

      So sorry Maria, but you have quite a lot to look forward to and there is nothing more beautiful than the island in the fall. Everyone agrees it’s the best time of all. So get strong, you are going to need that ankle when you get here!

      • Maria in Long Beach, Ca says:

        Thank you so much, Susan!! You always make me feel so much better. I’m considering taking some people who would never have the means to go because I love them so much. More is better. I wish I could meet you and give you a big hug!!! I wish I had your happy gene. Mine sometimes disappears temporarily :0 Do you ever agree to let someone bu
        y you and Joe a cup of coffee somewhere? You truly are a remarkable woman. Thanks for sharing that remarkability(is that a word? Must be specially made for you.)

        • sbranch says:

          Here’s another reason to be happy: If you were here, it would almost be time to go home and then it would be over, Right now, it’s far from over. It’s only just beginning! It’s perfectly normal for the happy gene to disappear right after breaking a bone — it will come back, it sounds like yours already has. Joe and I will be on the road when you get here, criss crossing the country with our new book. So please enjoy the best time of the year for us!

  78. Charlene H. (S.F.Valley) SoCal says:

    Have not written in an age…love the sweetness of this post. I appreciate it on so many levels….
    1. Relationships are a treasure…people- and animal-types!
    2. Seeing the world through appreciative eyes…a little black & white, a box(es) of memories.
    3. Special people… (Reeaaally!???! Elvis AND George Lucas in one life experience?)
    4. Good, fresh food…I have all the ingredients in my thriving summer garden!
    Thank you for tying it all up in a pretty bow of sights and sounds (musica!) for us, Susan. This has been very refreshing! ❤❤❤

  79. Jane Bay says:

    I was very touched that you shared our story with your friends. And you are right, the reason I gifted you with the Recipe Box you made just for me (and how special is that) IS because I love you! After all these years of joy and pleasure in cooking your recipes, I have a lifetime of memories to cherish, like the time you and Joe came to visit me in California and I had a brunch for you in my garden when my local girlfriends and I each made a recipe from one of your cookbooks, your recipes only except for the Schramsberg Champagne and Orange Juice (Mimosa).

    When I packed up my house to retire to a condo in Marin County, a little voice in my head said, send the Recipe Box back to Susan, back to the Heart of the Home for her to have for posterity in her archive collection. It is in itself a work of art, as are you.

    I have to confess I did make a color copy of each of the recipe cards just in case I have a craving for your Buttermilk Bisquits or Banana Fritters on a Sunday morning. 🙂

    Loving you forever, dear girlfriend.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh Jane, how wonderful to see you here! I do remember that brunch very well, and the Schramsberg too! And that wonderful guest room at the top of the stairs with the comfy bed, and the little one with the quilts. So much. Goose, your cat. I loved that cat’s name. xoxo Girlfriends Forever, Mrs. Inspiration.♥

  80. Veronica says:

    ‘Sweet Susan’,I have to say that every blog you do is wonderful. Now,I have to say this is the most wonderful. You see,I have been in love with ‘Mr.Presley’ ever since I was 4 years old. My aunt and uncle took me to the drive-in to see ‘Love me Tender’. I cried all through the movie,I do remember. I remember how sad I felt the whole week afterwards. My mother said I cried all that week. She said I cried all night and all day; that they really didn’t know what to do! In just 9 more days I will be turning 56. Don’t you know I love him more today than yesterday. How that is possible,I don’t know. I only know that I do. I am hopelessly and mercilessly and shamelessly in love.
    So bless you for sharing such a treasure. Please give my gratitude to Jane as well. You didn’t even know it,and you have given me a Birthday present. You know what else ? Its priceless . . . . . . . Love from me to you Veronica

    • sbranch says:

      Then I should add, Happy Birthday dear Veronica! So happy you enjoyed that. Yes, it’s a true miracle for my 13 year old girlfriend — can you imagine? xoxo

  81. Nancy D says:

    Dear Susan–loved your post and hearing about Jane and her idea!! How lucky we are Jane is your friend. Speaking of inspiration, I printed out your bookmark from several posts back and finished them all nice on the back and inked the edges and I’m going to mail them to my six closest girlfriends…so they get a little surprise in the mail! Thank you so much. Like most people who have posted here I have all your books and treasure them.

  82. Oh my gosh! That post actually made me teary! I can’t believe the gift of getting that box back. What a surprise! There is nothing like a best friend, nothing.
    Reading your blog(now that I’ve found it) makes me feel like one of your friends, and nothing could make me happier. I’m actually reading your blog from the beginning. A few pages every night, so I can prolong the pleasure… I have your first book. I’ve had it for years, and it’s changed houses with me a few times. One of my favorites!

    • sbranch says:

      So happy to have you here Michelle! Luckily I’ve only had the blog for two years (in three more days!) — so you don’t have to go back to the beginning of time!

    • Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

      Hey, Michelle in California!
      What fun you will have going through Susan’s wonderful blog! You have some good times ahead of you! Especially when we all crossed the Atlantic and visited England with Sue and Joe. Did we ever have fun!

      It’s fun getting to know each other as we post our comments. Hope to hear from you again!

  83. Nettie says:

    I am so excited…..we are on the cape and hope to hop the ferry to your island one day that it isn’t raining over the weekend. I just need to stroll by the front of your lovely home and take in a few of the sights you mention in your blogs.
    I have just recently regifted something back to a friend something she gave me so I was glad to read about your friend doing the same. Aren’t girlfriends just the best? shhhhh…..I am here with my awesome husband and he really thinks he is the best which of course he is but I am jus’ sayin girlfriends rock!

    • sbranch says:

      I’m just sayin’ you’re so right, life would be terrible without them! Now I’m looking at my things … who can I give something back too!

  84. What a dear gift…your recipe box home again; Jane is a lovely, smart woman. Please, ask Jack if he’d like some sibs; I thought the barn cat population was under control but a newcomer is here with her six offspring. sigh. I used to tell Dave we had a unicorn flying over the farm but no one, except strays, rescues, the lost and abandoned could see the unicorn. The unicorn is the patron saint of the wayward, lost, abandoned, etc. so says fabulous author Jeanine McMullen.

    • sbranch says:

      I wish a unicorn would fly over my house. I have never had a lost kitty show up at my door! They must not know a good victim when they see one!

  85. Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

    OMG.. These posts just keep getting better and better! Talk about the rich and famous! Are you kidding? Elvis, George Lucus and your good friend Jane, assistant to The George Lucas. Susan! Does this mean I know someone who is connected?
    My son was 5 years old when Stars Wars came out. He lived, ate and slept…Star Wars. He had a Star Wars shirt, belt, sheets for his bed, and wallpaper. To this day, he has his light saber and many of the Stars Wars toys. I believe his love of film and film making came from that movie.
    And your friend Jane, how wonderful to have a friend that believed in you and encouraged you. Someone who saw your talent, perhaps before you did. And all of us, the FOSB are the lucky recipients.
    How sweet that your dad sends gifts to Jack. Reminds me of the Mother’s Day card I received from my wonderful German Shepherd. My dad bought the card! Sweet memories from so long ago.
    Thanks for the memories as always and the view into Lake Suebegon! 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      Probably not 🙂 Jane and I are too normal to be connected. Well, I am anyway. 🙂 My twin nephews are still all Star Wars all the time! Lake Suebegon … Where are the women are grateful, the men are genius tool-belt wearers, and the children (cats) are wizards. xoxo

  86. Cori says:

    How I envy you, having girl friends! I don’t know how this happened to me but I really don’t have any. I miss the companionship that only a good friend can give. I used to have 2 or 3 really good ones but over the years one passed away and the others went their separate ways. We still see each other a couple of times a year but I wish I had someone I could go shopping or antiquing with or just having a cup of tea and laughing. I didn’t write this for anyone to feel sorry for me because I do have a good life. I have lots of aquaintances but it isn’t the same. It’s just missing that certain something and I just realized it when I read your blog. I love your writing so much. And I adore all your drawings and paintings, too. Give Jack and Girl Kitty a pat for me.

    • sbranch says:

      Not feeling sorry, but there has to be a way out of this. A very dear friend of mine lost her two most important friends in one week. Hideous week. So she is stepping out of her comfort zone and has signed up for playing cards, exercise classes, sewing get-togethers, volunteering for local charities — because that’s where you can find new friends near you. They do make a huge difference — I have read that they actually contribute to our good health. I will pat the Kitties for you Cori. xoxo

    • Lynn McMahon says:

      ~Hi Cori!
      We are all virtual girlfriends here~ if you keep in touch with the blog you will find that out! We do all those things together~ just virtually!!
      Have a good day!

    • Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

      Seriously Cori, Lynn is right. We have traveled together, gone shopping together, cooked together and cleaned house together. We have prayed together and lifted each other. You have no idea how many friends you have just found!

    • Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

      Dear Cori,
      I agree with Sue, Lynn, and Chris,
      You will have so much fun getting to know all the girlfriends here–and who knows?? There may be a girlfriend you meet here who lives near you and then you WILL have a near by Kindred Spirit to hang out with!! Where do you live, Cori?

  87. Lovely story about Jane. And like “Lake Suebegone”. Only those of us who listen to fun radio shows would get that reference. ;). Oh Jack. Joe will have to give in at some point and admit to being Daddy. 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      I think there are lots of us, but maybe I should explain? 🙂 Joe is Daddy. I never give up.

  88. Jacquelyn ... Bainbridge Island, WA says:

    What a wonderful post. Loved Jack the kitty, and of course Jack, your daddy, but the details about your lovely friend, Jane, and her returning the recipe box to you for your memoirs really were amazing. Thanks for sharing, Sue.


  89. CindyK says:

    Hello Susan! I was just thinking this morning, it must be time for another Susan Branch post!…….and here you are! And what a lovely post indeed! I remember that recipe box! How cool that we get to see it, and the famous recipes in it! I don’t know how in the world your friend Jane could part with it, as I would be holding on to it like gold, opening it up and admiring the recipes and the art work on a regular basis! But how lovely that it has found it’s way back to you after all these years 🙂
    How interesting to read about Jane. She should write a book about her life. Just the mention of Elvis in it would probably make it a best seller!
    I loved seeing Jack! He sure brings a smile to my face!
    I have your very first book. It’s the book my husband and little daughter brought home for me from the library when I was first sick with Lyme disease (still battling it). I loved the book so much that eventually I went out and bought my own copy. So, it is very special to me! You know you’ve “arrived” when you have a book in the library!! LOL!

    • sbranch says:

      Jane is writing a book about her life. I think she might need to do volume one, two and three! 🙂

      Lyme disease! Terrible thing. Lots of people around here have had it, but now our island doctors go straight to the antibiotics if there’s even a whiff of Lyme about the symptoms. Even then it takes forever to go away. Wishing you better every day Cindy!

  90. Arlinda says:

    Jack has quite the personality. He is grown so fast, but he still has the sweet face we’ve all come to love.

    Susan, your blog brought me to tears. I loved reading about your beautiful friendship with Jane and the inside scoop of how you came to be here to us today. I too am grateful to Jane. I now see Jane as one of the reasons why we have come to know you and are blessed with your friendship.

    What a true Girlfriend! -to us all as well. ((hug))

    • sbranch says:

      xoxo Arlinda. I got an email from Jane this morning — sending love and saying how much fun she’s having reading all your comments!

  91. Kay in Iowa says:

    Do you have a Susan Branch store in San Luis? I thought there was one at some point. Now your store is only online, I’m thinking. My daughter, her 3 children, my husband and I will soon be headed to California. We will fly into Sacramento, make the two hour drive to Angels Camp and spend a few days visiting relatives and familiar sights in the area. From there, we’ll head to San Francisco, down to Monterrey, and eventually Morro Bay. We are excitied about staying in Morro Bay…we spent so many summers there visiting Grandma ! We want to show the grandchildren Pismo Beach, Solvang, Cuyucous, the Madonna Inn, Hearst Castle, and much, much more. Eventually we’ll travel to LA and finally San Diego. As teachers, and when our children were small, we had several weeks to enjoy our visits; unfortunately now my daughter’s law practice and the grandchildren’s summer activities at home will not allow for an extended visit. Regardless, we will make the best of the situation and savor as much of California as we can. We are already planning a trip out East next summer…Martha’s Vineyard sounds enticing…your blogs make it a destination we don’t want to miss.

    • sbranch says:

      I used to have a store in California (near SLO in Arroyo Grande) — I had it for three years, but no more. What a fantastic trip…the best part of California! When you leave the central coast to go to LA, check out the coast route that starts just south of Ventura .. it takes you over to 1 and through Malibu. Much prettier way to go than 101, you end up in Santa Monica. Unless you need to be in the Valley, that’s the best way — faster too, and lots of picnic places along the beach for leg stretching and ocean-smelling. xoxo

  92. Marsha MacLean says:

    What a wonderful girlfriends forever story, Susan! My forever friend and I have been “besties” since second grade, and my-oh-my, what a treasure our friendship is! I sent her your Girlfriends book a while back and we have both enjoyed it so very much!
    After reading on the blog from one of the girlfriends about Joe’s cookbook, I ordered one too, from Amazon. It arrived yesterday and it made me smile just now to realize that your decorating tip about black goes right along with the name of the restaurant – Black Dog!
    And you know, it is so Very fun to get our pets involved in our lives, like my Grumpy, a black and white border collie. I love black and white too!
    Thanks for the link to your amazing friend’s website! Jane is amazing! I need to order her book now!
    Your writing is always such fun for us to read! Hope to meet you in the fall!

  93. Dinahsoar says:

    I adore your kitties. And that bee–so stinkin cute and I absolutely do see the resemblance in the eyes between the bee and Jack.

    Jack is the perfect adornment to any home, as is Girl Kitty–she is so sweet. And Jack, is a rascal…wascally Jack–a fur ball full of fun.

    As always, love the blog post–I love reading about your life, your experiences, everything you share……from the hills of TN…

    • sbranch says:

      “Wascally Jack” is so true. I haven’t even mentioned how he tears through the house at top speed sometimes, for no apparent reason — I have no idea what he is thinking!

  94. Donna Kohler says:

    Hi Susan,

    It is always so wonderful to take a break and read your posts. My heart aches for Jack, I send him love vibes all the time, maybe it’s that cute little Poirot mustache and his silky fur. The story of the recipe box and Jane being an inspiration is an incredible story and then Elvis!!! I’m still squealing and panting.

    Thank you for a lovely visit!

  95. Suzanne says:

    What a lovely post. Your friendship with Jane is a treasure. Thank you for sharing the story of how she encouraged you and the story of the recipe box. Enjoy what remains of Spring. We have been in the mid-eighties here in Georgia; I would say Summer has arrived!

  96. Lisa Jorgensen says:

    Love the blog today Susan. What a personality your cat Jack has. Can you ever remember what life was like without him? Girl Kitty looks like a little princess.
    What does she think of the rubber bands?
    When you started painting and writing was it a hobby or did you think you would turn it into a career? Did you go to art school?
    Thank you for moments that always brighten my day!!

    • sbranch says:

      Girl stares at the rubber band activity with vague interest. I would love to know how cats think, their expressions don’t tell too much! The first painting I did was of a geranium and it was “just to try it” (for my birthday I’d gotten a gift certificate at an art store and bought watercolors) — I loved making things, so it was just an extension of sewing and cooking. When it came out looking like a geranium, it was kind of a shock. Then I started doing more paintings and hanging them around the house, especially in our kitchen — I called them “kitchen art” and I liked that I could kind of match my decor! Then I graduated to making Christmas presents, cards, labels for Christmas cookie packages, things like that, just for my friends. Then girlfriends started asking to buy my paintings off my walls. That’s how it started. I never had lessons — and I sure never expected to be an author. All a miracle. But that’s why I figure if it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone. Thank you Lisa!

  97. Pat Johnson of Paso Robles says:

    OK – this post brought about many emotions: Remembering the trip to England made me glow, the many antics of Jack made me laugh, the recipe box story brought tears to my eyes (happy ones), and just thinking about where you are today and what you have given all of us along the way made me go “WOW, this BFF is absolutely AMAZING!” Oh yes, and the Elvis song took me back to when I was 13 – good grief!! The wonderful things you have accomplished over the years (no, that doesn’t mean you are old!), reminds me that I have done just as many things, just in a different way, and I have the opportunity to continue to do so until I exit this world in my red high heeled shoes, red sequin dress and a smile on my face!!!!! I thank the good Lord that you are in my life to light a fire under me. And you know what……..that Susan Branch is one heck of a grand girlfriend!!!!! Getting ready to go back home from the cabin. Closing the door this afternoon and returning in August. Have had great weather, wonderful mornings, fabulous rain, and an impromptu trip to Thompson Falls, MONTANA! I am BLESSED!! XXXXOOOO The Cabin Queen

    • sbranch says:

      It’s all in the way we look at it — like that quote from Einstein that says “there are two ways to look at life, as if nothing is a miracle or if everything is a miracle.” It’s all a miracle to me! Jane, the Beatles, the sunrise, gazpacho, my parents, all the babies of my childhood, learning to embroider. You have the happy gene too Pat! Welcome almost home!

  98. Jennifer says:

    I have ALWAYS wanted to write books. Always.
    Thank you for sharing this story.

    • sbranch says:

      I have to say that it’s a little harder than it looks– at least for me! Recipe books are easiest because the recipe itself takes up a lot of space and you can’t really make too much of a mess of that, as long as you test your recipes and make sure they work — but stories and words, those are harder. And so rewarding, but they require that famous suffering you always read about. It’s hard to pretend you don’t know yourself and see it from some other’s perspective and understand whether or not they would know what you’re talking about — if that makes sense. If you put your shoulder to it, you can do it. Practice, again, that’s the secret. I always tell children to keep diaries. One of my friends belongs to a writing group and I think it’s a HUGE help.

      • Jennifer says:

        Thank you Susan. 🙂 I love to draw and watercolor. Making things, painting with acrylics…the list goes on and on. That’s one reason your books caught my eye the very first time I saw them. They were all about home and the loveliness of life.
        And you were drawing and using watercolor. My very favorite.
        So they inspired me.
        I’ve illustrated two books, both out of print now, but I loved it. A ton of hard work….but the reward is so worth the hours spent. But I have always wanted to create my own books.
        Fun, colorful and inspiring….like yours. 🙂 At 52, my energy level is not the same, but my ideas NEVER end.
        Maybe I could try again.

        • sbranch says:

          Take three forward distinct steps in the direction of your dreams each day and someday you will find yourself to be just where you wanted to be.

  99. Lynn Cooper says:

    It was so hot last week that I ended up buying a cup of gazpacho at the deli, wishing that I had made some and that it was chilling in my refrig. Seeing this recipe and knowing that I will be going to the market tomorrow tells me that gazpacho will be in the works for me this weekend. You are so fortunate to have lovely friends that have encouraged you through the years and sparked ideas to open up new doors in your life and career.

  100. Carol (Daisy) says:

    A great post today. . . as always!! I wonder if Jack searches out the ‘bee’ in the middle of the night and checks it out? His ‘disinterested’ act is so funny!! My niece introduced me to your books with a present of “Christmas from the Heart of the Home” more years back than I care to remember! I have made the Christmas Coffee Cake many times but sneak a drizzle of frosting on top when it is still a little bit warm. How exciting to receive the recipe box with original recipes still inside. It reminded me of when my mom found and gave me back the little sewing basket that I used in Home Economics class back in high school in the mid 60’s. It reminded me of all the fun my two very best girlfriends (who still are) had in that class. . . no wonder I’m now so ‘domestically challenged’. I love the blue DAISY picture at the end of the blog. I would be so happy to have that lovely flower growing in one of my gardens?

    • sbranch says:

      It’s called either blue daisy or blue marguerite — Felicia amelloides. It’s very blue! Love “domestically challenged!” 🙂

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