A New Post . . .

My dad says, “I’m ready for a new post.”  But my mom’s house has a kryptonite barrier that resists computer connection! And then it turned to . . .

and memories of the island and home and fall and leaves and all of that came washing over me.  My colorful little leaf collection I make every year, with leaves gathered from the dirt road where we walk each morning.  I string them together for my kitchen window with a needle and thread . . .  I

My backyard with layers of crunchy leaves drifting down and clouds of undulating starlings flying over trees and picket fences, the smell of salt air up from the harbor, my girlfriends popping in, not to mention Iris . . . a bit of homesickness seeps into this post  . . .

Missing my dishtowels dancing in the cool autumn air . . .

There’s just something about October . . . but since we are now in California, we recognize there are other kinds of beautiful fall days in other parts of our country that “vagabonds with gypsy blood” simply cannot resist, and when you are there, it’s best to play the MUSICA of the neighborhood . . . go with the one you’re with . . .

Hello October in sunny Seal Beach, California!  Can you hear the waves roll in?  Feel the warm sun and soft breeze blowing?  As Marilyn Monroe would say, “It’s all so delicate.”

And here’s a bunch of gypsy vagabonds if ever I saw them ~ heading off to Kokomo!

Just another day in paradise.  If you look waaay over there on the left horizon, you’ll see a tiny little white half-moon looking bubble . . . see it?  Well, next to it, you can’t see it in this photo, but it’s definitely visible to the naked eye (because of the smokestacks), is a huge gorgeous ocean liner so elegant it sends a chill up your sun-warmed spine. . . and you say, I got to GO there . . .

. . . and when you get closer, if you didn’t know before, you find out it’s the legendary Queen Mary launched in 1936 by King George V (Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather), a world class ocean liner still complete with old world ambience and authentic Art Deco decor and permanently berthed in Long Beach as a hotel with restaurants and bars and tours and shopping for all the world to enjoy!  So of course my first thought was, “Let’s go for tea!”

I cannot imagine a better place to park The Fine Romance Van than in the shadow of this great ship.  You just drive right up and park and walk right on board!

We were getting out of the car when Joe discovered Petey in his bag.  Surprise!  I hid him there.  🙂  He’s so happy.  I know you can’t see it on his face, but trust me, he’s thrilled.  (Petey is thrilled.  Joe?  Not so much. “What’s this doing here?”      . . . I can’t seem to get the boy to swallow all the Kool-aid!)

Our cameras never stopped clicking as we walked up to the gangplank, me, my mom, and Joe.

You get on board and it’s so wonderful you actually want to run in all directions at once.  Here we are on the Promenade Deck, trying to be ladies and gentleman about the whole thing.

So much to see!  And we get to do it with my mom!  The ship is huge; they said if you stood it on its end it would be taller than the Eiffel Tower.  You’re free to walk all over it, stem to stern as they say.  The ship’s horn blew (honked) on the hour and each time it did, I waited for the ship to do this:

She seemed fully capable of taking off and looking just like she did in her heyday . . . and we kept thinking, you go girl!

. . . Back then, passengers cavorted with the likes of Clark Gable and Loretta Young, Bob Hope and Walt Disney, British royalty and Prime Ministers too. This ship saw more than its share of glamour and we felt it everywhere we went.  During WWII she was painted a (successfully) invisible sea-grey color ~ nicknamed the Grey Ghost, she transported thousands of troops and was a hero in her own right.  The  history of this ship is rich with story and there for the taking and imagining.  In the bars, you can still catch the blurred images and feel the anxiety of boys (our dad’s and grandfathers) in sailor suits going far from home to save the world.

. . . and now us, Joe, my mommy and me for a proper tea in the Tea Room, no blurred images, and only one sailor suit . . .

A table for four please . . .

Yes, we will have this.  The food was wonderful, as you can see, it tasted just as good as it looked!  Little perfect tea sandwiches . . .

. . . egg and chicken, melon and prosciutto, some with caviar and salmon . . .  Mom and I had a full tea, Joe had a large shrimp salad.  The food was great!

The tea desserts were painstakingly made and delicious!  I took about a thousand photos in the Tea Room, but I know you want to see the ship . . . so let’s go do that shall we?  Let’s start in the gift shop!  It’s the normal thing to do. 

If you ever need a crown for any reason at all (and who doesn’t even if it’s just to wear around the bedroom), this is the place to shop for them.  They come in all shapes and sizes, sparkly reproductions you’ve seen at many famous queenly events.

They even had crown rings . . . my mom and I had lots of fun in here!

Tea pots, flowered china cups, special teas . . .

. . . all kinds of fun things . . . being the practical girl I am I bought only one thing in there: a red tin box of bandaids that said, “Keep Calm and Carry On” on each bandaid.  I could not resist.  Cute and useful too.  My two favorite things in shopping.

Many of the shops carried vintage-looking clothing and accessories . . . I liked the red shoes so much I looked up the maker, Chelsea-Crew, to see what else they had!  I now predict new shoes in my future.  Cute and useful!

And look at these darling reproduction watches!  Aren’t they adorable?  I want one!

The shops look like this and showcase lots of interesting and wonderful things.  I bought a gold scarf covered in sequins for Diana! (From the book? To thank her one more time for telling me to go with Joe to Boston!  She loves anything that sparkles and I love her! )

Besides the shopping, they have a self-tour you can take that gives you peeks (through glass walls) into the rooms decorated as they would have been back in the day.  This is the children’s playroom, filled with old toys and children’s furniture.  Many of the original murals are still here too . . . making it very easy to step back in time, and positively no sea-sickness involved! Gorgeous mural huh?  Would be nice in my dining room! 🙂

This would have been the Captain’s Quarters.  Nearby were the much-smaller, windowless, but still lovely rooms for the Captain’s Steward which included a tiny pantry complete with teapot and bar still filled with the old glasses.  I could easily live here if I had too.

Speaking of the bar, here is the Observation Lounge out on the bow of the boat with a wonderful view of the shore, swirly Art Deco ceiling and original mural.  Some people seem to dress up and play the part of elegant passengers here.

Here’s a closeup of part of the mural over the bar . . .  I love the lady in pink, and the bow on the woman on the right!

There are over 300 one-of-a-kind staterooms you can choose from if you come here and spend the night.

You get off the elevator in the hotel part of the ship and it looks like this, hallways filled with the rich wood paneling and gorgeous rugs that decorate almost every space on the ship. The hotel also has a spa and a fitness room.

Here’s one of the main dining rooms . . . can you imagine?  At sea, this beautiful room?  Pearls and glittering diamonds and red nail polish, satin, lace, perfume and tuxedos, the band plays Cole Porter.  So very extremely civilized.  Cary Grant makes a toast and clicks delicate champagne glasses over the gardenia bouquet at table number six! Myrna Loy bursts out laughing.  What could it all mean?

Not to be completely outdone in the realm of “not too shabby” here is one of the dining rooms where we had dinner on the Queen Mary 2.  They managed to keep the amazing ambience of specialness with a capital H for Heaven, just like the movies.

The Queen Mary is filled with 1930’s sophistication and style, carpets are all gorgeous on this ship!  I actually took a photo of every one of them.  One of these days we’ll just do photos of “rugs I’ve known and loved.”

And the same style echoes on the Queen Mary 2 . . .

Of course the whole thing comes with stunningly beautiful panoramic sea and shore views!  See the tall building with the green roof?  That’s where my mom and dad had their first date.  He was wearing a sailor suit and my mom tried not to swoon.  We are a hotel dating people, apparently.

For Joe, we saved the best for last.  He had tea, he kept his pinky in the air, he dealt with Petey with a certain kind of grace, he shopped, he looked at darling rooms, now it was time to take the elevator to the bottom of the boat . . .

. . . deep down to the bowels of the ship where they keep the engine room . . .

Joe was beside himself in here, he loved it . . . four floors of pipes, funnels, switches, gauges, nuts, bolts, and engine-type things for him to marvel over.

Look at all those dials!  So exciting!!!  Straight across the room there’s a sign that says, “control panel.”  I was thinking we could use one of those in our house.  Push a button for instant control!  If only . . .

We stayed all day, until it got dark and we think we only saw maybe half of what there was to see.  But it was time to get home, must save a few hours for our nightly game of Rummikub and eat our Potato Chip Cookies!

Out one of the windows of the Queen Mary we could see Long Beach Harbor and the docks and cranes where ships from all over the world come to unload their containers filled with goods.  So exciting to think that in three weeks, a ship will come into this dock and unload pallets filled with the second printing of our very own book!

Yes, we’re still receiving your darling “traveling photos” — our book gets around!  Here it is with our girlfriend June, at Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham on the Cape!

And for all of you who have ordered books and are waiting ever so patiently, your signed copies of A FINE ROMANCE will be the very first to go out in the mail . . . the girls in the studio are ready!  Girlfriends, we have sold out of the second printing too!!  We are new customers to the Long Beach docks, but they will be getting a third shipment with our address on it at the end of November!  Who woulda’ thunk it?  We are as happy as those kids riding the waves here in Seal Beach ~ we’re on our own little wave of sorts. I look to the left and the right, and there you all are, on your boards, riding the waves with us.

On October 15, new charms arrive . . . more Girlfriends charms (for those of you who missed the first ones) and our new Fine Romance charms will be here too (to join the other two, the third one’s the charm ) . . . and we were so excited to learn that our Tea Tins came in on Tuesday!  Along with my two favorite and now our signature blends of tea . . . the lavender tea with roses I wrote about in the book ~ and my favorite organic every-day Earl Grey tea.  It’s all here!  Most of you have already figured it out ~I used to be the one who gets to announce things, but you are too fast for me!  You know stuff before I do!  I brought my own tin along with me so I’ve had it this whole trip, but I still can’t wait to see them all at the studio today!

Yes, this is the day we reach our destination for this first cross-country leg of our trip after a month of living out of the back of a van, we will settle in to our house for a month!  Squealing with joy (in a whisper, because my mom and Joe are still asleep). I have my tea and I’m sitting at my mom’s kitchen table where, for the moment, I have the quiet all to myself.  Only the sound of munch of cookie.  The stars are still twinkling in the sky, a little blurry through the soft fog from the Pacific.  We’ve had a wonderful time, every day we pick a new restaurant next to the water to have lunch at!  Every night it’s Rummikub and homemade something.  And later today we’ll drive up beautiful blue Pacific Coast Highway along the ocean, winding past Malibu, Zuma, Trancas, and Ventura, into Santa Barbara, then over the mountains with a possible pitstop at Cold Spring Tavern (if we can bear to stop, those last few miles to home are always the longest, almost unbearable rounding the last two curves) to Arroyo Grande where they are expecting a balmy high of 71 degrees today, thank you very much.   For the first time in two years, we will see Kellee, Alfredo, Sheri, and Bonnie (who’s been helping out at the studio lately), and meet the two kitties, the “Studio cats” that everyone adopted since the last time I was there!  There are two mooshable, petable kitties at the end of this rainbow!  I will need to be careful not to pounce on them!  Then I get to have lunch with my darling BFF Diana on the beach at my favorite restaurant in Shell Beach and let the laughing roll!  I lived on the Central Coast from 1971 until 1982 (the formative years, but then again, aren’t they all . . .) until I moved to Martha’s Vineyard and I’ve kept in touch with several people there. Lots to look forward too.  Four high school best friends are coming to the Remnants Show on November 10th! (I hope if you can, you’ll join us!)  Karen (with the beautiful red hair with whom I met the Beatles), Marilyn, Cathy and Linda (we made our Drill Team pom-poms together at a slumber party at Marilyn’s ~ among other things).  So much fun!  I have a garden here too that Alfredo has been watching over for us.   I’ll take lots of pictures!  I must close now, with lots of love and kisses.  And I think it’s only right that I give my mother the last word:

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548 Responses to A New Post . . .

  1. Jane says:

    I was cleaning house today and happened upon a new post and made myself wait until I was finished with my chores to sit and enjoy my lunch, but not as much as I enjoyed your update. I miss you like crazy when you’re gone. I’m sure we all feel as if you are one of our dearest friends. A year ago today, my husband and I departed for three weeks in the UK so I’m feeling very melancholy and will have a little “cream tea” later today. Thank you for the lovely tour of the QM — next trip I’d love to cross in a boat! Enjoy the balmy weather — I’m sure you’ll be feeling cooler soon — So nice to have something else to read besides all of the bad news from Congress. I laughed out loud at the grape Koolaid comment and almost smelled it with my nose! You are so dear.

  2. Judy says:

    Hope we can fit in a game of rummikub or just a arnold sitting on your back lawn before you leave.

    xoxo Judy

  3. Stephanie says:

    Thanks to your Dad – he’s right – we did need a new post. Thanks Sue’s Dad!

    Your mother is beautiful -and now we know from whom you get your style and grace. Mom’s pearls were perfect for tea. I still laugh at the scene from your book (which is so vivid) where she is knitting and “nudging” you with questions about Joe – so funny!

    The china at tea looked like Corelle-ware (Corning Ware) – and while I love Corelle (I love ALL plates) – I do not want it for tea on the Queen Mary for goodness sake. Where is the british tea set? Yikes!

    I’m already bummed that we won’t get our Halloween post with the prep and the chilli post-madness party around the fire… (I don’t even like Halloween, but I love your Halloween post each year) – but enjoy California!

    Finally – can you get the tech-genius people at the SB Empire to organize your posts into year/month? All we need down the side is year and month listed (2012, then under that Jan, Feb etc.) – that way in fall we can click back on other fall posts (or christmas posts etc.) to find things. I went to look for that lime drink you made Joe once and it took forever. I had to go out to google to find it and then it brought me back here. Anyway – it’s on my wish list! 🙂

    Amazing post as always. So excited for a 3rd printing – just in time for me to buy more for Christmas gifts!

    • sbranch says:

      Not at all, perhaps the photo was just funny, it was true china, not corelle-ware. I should have taken better pictures! That list is on my wish-list too Stephanie … will talk about it with everyone when I get to the studio. Thank you!

      • Suzanne says:

        I vote for a list on the side bar too with a “Kitty”, “Recipe”, “Holiday”, “England” etc. list. It could be our Christmas gift from you to all of us – taken care of in one fell swoop. I’d love that. I recently needed photos of Jack (you’ll see why when you come to see us next month) and had to scroll for miles to find them. Although I absolutely loved the journey an ability to search would have so helpful.

      • Janet in Rochester says:

        FYI – I THINK there are blog-hosting services that can do this in the template that is used for the blog itself. But I’m not very knowledgeable about the Blogopshere – and these blog-hoster deals MAY cost a small fortune – so take this info with a grain of salt. :>)

  4. Susan says:

    Loved all your photos of the Queen Mary! My next door neighbor worked for several years as a pastry chef on the Queen Mary (since she’s been docked in Long Beach, I mean). She loved it there and has often remarked about it being “haunted”! I’d love to check it out for myself some day! 🙂

  5. Ginny Petitt says:

    I just love your blogs, can’t get enough! We previously took a few trips to Pismo Beach in our motor home and always loved it. So I know exactly where Arroyo Grande is! Wish I could be at the book signing at The Pink Madonna! I have been in there before and it is such a unique venue! Unfortunately, I am in Arizona, so our circumstances don’t allow for a trip that far! I know those that do have the good fortune to be there will have a day they will never forget! Thank you for sharing your trip!

  6. susie says:

    Susan, So much to see and do…what a wonderful trip. i have seen the Queen Mary, on my trip to L.A. area. We went up and down the coast line. You mother is so cute….you are blessed to have her. I loved Joe’s face , upon seeing Petey had stowed away. So funny. Blessings to all , xoxo,Susie

  7. Sara McKeefer says:

    Dear Susan… Magical, this entry on your blog is just pure magic, not that the others have any less of your sweet whimsy. I love the picture of you and your mom looking at the rings… a wonderful photo of the beautiful mother and her bubbly daughter doing a bit of memory making. Incidentally, my mother loved Rummikub too, and I have her set now that’s she’s playing her girlfriends in heaven. Now I’m the grandmother to whose house the children come to play her favorite game.

    I know the longing for home, the teary squeals of delight at first glimpse, and the momentary, wondrous silence when you roll up to the house… and breathe a sigh of relief before tumbling out in a rush of pure joy.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us, and tell Joe we’re so glad he is there with you. Oh, I almost forgot, the first two charms I purchased arrived a few days ago… they are beautiful and delicate and everything I thought they would be. Waiting with anticipation for the Fine Romance one! Let us know how your kitchen garden-west is doing.


  8. Heartsdesire says:

    What a lovely blog post today, Susan. I so enjoyed the tour of the beautiful Queen Mary with you, Joe and your mom. Your mom’s potato chip cookies sound yummy. My daughter is visiting for a week and so we plan to make them. My tea tin and organic tea is ordered. Hope it doesn’t take too long to get here. A third printing for your book, how great is that? Of course, all the girlfriends knew it would be a success.

  9. Mary A. Brown says:

    Well, I for one, am not surprised that the first and second printing are sold out. The third, fourth, and fifth will be too. So, we need another travel book. What about one on Italy? Japan? Germany? Anything ring your bell?? Need an assistant??? Mary A

  10. Brenda Caldwell says:

    Susan, I’ve decided….You just take your beauty and wonder everywhere you go. It is inside you…Thanks for the tour 🙂

  11. Patty says:

    The first part of your October 3 post brought to mind a poem one of my teachers had us memorize XX years ago (Let’s just say Mr. Sheppard, the author, was still alive and well.).

    October in New England
    And I not there to see
    The glamour of the goldenrod,
    The flame of the maple tree!

    October in my own land….
    I know what glory fills
    The mountains of New Hampshire
    And Massachusetts hills.

    Vermont, in robes of splendor
    Sings with the woods of Maine,
    Alternate hallelujahs
    Of gold and crimson stain.

    I know what hues of opal
    Rhode Island breezes fan,
    And how Connecticut puts on
    Colors of Hindustan.

    –Odell Sheppard 1884-1967
    American writer and educator

  12. Niki says:

    Thank you for giving us a sneak peek of the Queen Mary. My family and I are staying on board during our vacation to California in February. We are very excited to go!

  13. Charlene H. from So. Calif. (S.F.Valley) says:

    WELCOME to the West Coast and California! I am thankful that you and Joe arrived after the high 100+ degree days we were having here in So. California. I am looking forward to seeing you at Vroman’s and Remnants. (I promise…I am NOT stalking you.). I’m a lucky gal to have two trips planned…Vroman’s with Girlfriends and Remnants with my sister! Actually, I’m making a quick day trip up to the central coast area to go apple picking next Monday, too!
    I loved your visit to the Queen Mary! It brought back great memories as my son’s prom was held there back in 1998. I was there as a parent chaperone. :))) It was a memorable evening for those kids…me, too!
    Hoping that you are enjoying your home-away-from-home in Arroyo Grande! Hoping, too, for some rest for you, Joe, and Petey! Love knowing that your sweet cheer is here on the West Coast. I so look forward to seeing you…Charlene

  14. Alison from RI says:

    Hi Ms. Branch,
    Not too Fall-ish here yet! We are in a spell of Indian Summer! 🙂 But I will say the colors are stunning right now. The Queen Mary looks charming! I can only imagine it all those years ago. California looks beautiful too. Keep enjoying your trip!

    – Alison from “Little Rhody”

  15. I can just imagine Joe in his element in the engine room– I’m in my element reading this blog post!!! Thank you for the photos and tour, it’s all so beautiful!

  16. Ellen says:

    Oh Susan, such a wonderful post. You always manage to make me feel like I’m right there with you. It’s obvious how much you are enjoying yourself. What fun!! Thanks for sharing your journey, family and friends.

  17. Frances Fowler says:

    O.M.G. Fun overload! Fun overload! Fun overload! If anyone has ever seen Mr. Bean’s Christmas special when he wakes up on Christmas morning and jumps around, I feel that’s what I would have done on the Queen Mary. And I must say that the first picture of you and your very youthful mom is adorable. Susan, you look like you are a girl in the 50s. Love the building where your mom and dad had their first date. Enjoy your California time!

    • Frances Fowler says:

      And I have to ask — what time do you usually go to bed to get up so early? I’m a 7-1/2 hour kind of girl, but I’ve always heard lots of really creative people don’t need a lot of sleep!

      • sbranch says:

        Because sleep is healthy I always get at least six hours, and try for eight, which never works. Usually 6 or 7. Then I wake up too excited to go back to sleep. Unless something REALLY GOOD is going on, I head for bed around 8 or 9 pm. It’s the morning I love the most.

  18. Karen C says:


    Thank you for taking the time while on vacation to give us a new post! Your photos of the Queen Mary were great. I felt like I was right there with you, Joe, Your Mommy, and Petey. I really enjoyed the tour. Hope your visit continues to be as wonderful as it looks. Fall has started here in NC, but right now we are having a bit of an Indian Summer. Temps in the high 80’s. Tell your Mom that I send a big Hello to her from NC. Take care. Hugs. Karen C

  19. Carol says:

    Thanks for the Queen Mary tour, it was wonderful! I want to do that someday, passed up the opportunity a few years ago.
    I wonder why I get weepy over many of your posts?! Maybe ’cause we are the same age, you are so good at this that I can almost smell the scents and feel the air you describe, and I want to be there with you!
    Thanks girlfriend,
    Carol on the farm in Iowa

  20. Krista says:

    Hi Susan:
    My cousin and I will be at the Madonna Inn on Nov 10–we already have our books, but we’re looking forward to meeting you and our Waterfall Room! Thank you for the tour of the Queen Mary. The QM took my dad to England in WW2–it was used as a troop ship! Even though I live very near Long Beach, I still haven’t made it to tea there and to see Diana’s dresses. Maybe 2014. Love it that you can’t get Joe to drink ALL the Koolade! Krista

  21. Wendy Louise says:

    Oh Susan, Joe and Mum, Thank-you so much for the tour of your wonderful day on the Queen Mary! Paul loved all the pictures too and was very pleased that you got to the engine room, that is just up his alley too! You are having so much fun and so much more fun to come, just keep rolling a long and I can’t wait to meet all your wonderful California Girlfriends. Again what a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Blog. The Blog of HAPPINESS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OXOXOXO Wendy-Lou !

  22. A Girlfriend from Southwest Missouri says:

    Hello California!
    Your new blog post gave me a legitimate half hour detour from my work on my laptop tonight. It’s a rule that… if I see it, I have to read the new post immediately. Since you are my “home page” I always know when there’s a new post…the little birdie told me!
    Fun post. High Tea on QM … how fun is that?!
    Have fun in California.
    A Girlfriend from Southwest Missouri

  23. Mary Redle says:

    Wow! I finished your new book and finally clamed myself down about going to England and here I am in love with Queen Mary, tea, tea pots and china, jst everything. You have a wonderful way of sharing the “best” of the “best” with us in your pictures. Travel safely. The leaves in Ohio are turning too quickly, time to get ready to celebrate my favorite season.

  24. Jackie P says:

    Another fun blog! ❤ Really enjoyed the Queen Mary tour. Fabulous. Will be traveling to the Cape tomorrow with my girlfriends for a weekend of rug hooking, good food, twine and just relaxing on the porch gazing out over the ocean, inhaling that wonderful salt air. Can’t wait. Will blow a kiss over to the Vineyard for you!! (We miss you on the East Coast, but can see that your West Coast friends are happy to have you back for a while!)

  25. Joanne says:

    Was so happy to see your post!! I was hopeful for one today. Glad you are home in California. The tour of the boat was beautiful…someday I hope to get there. Your mother is darling. Warm and toasty here in the Boston area today. Have a wonderful stay in California!!

  26. Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

    Susan, we are in Detroit MI tonight, on our way back home from a lovely three day stay on Mackinac Island. I thought of you several times while we were there…you would fall in love with the place, especially this time of year. The weather was perfect, the trees and bushes are in full brilliant color, beautiful flowers growing all over themselves everywhere we looked. Nothing short of enchanting. And, to top it off, we took a carriage ride (no cars allowed on the island!) to the Grand Hotel for lunch and spent an afternoon wandering around the hotel and it’s gardens and rocking in comfy chairs on the exquisite front porch. Had to laugh when I read this blog, because I took pics of the carpets, too!!! So happy you’re enjoying precious time with family and friends. Life certainly doesn’t get any better than that. Happy, too, that your tea is available…I’ve already ordered my tin with the lavender and rose petals and look forward to getting it. We bought some Michigan honey in the Tea Shop in the Grand Hotel..hubby is a beekeeper but likes to try local honey from other areas when we travel. I have half and half in the fridge at home, so I’m ready to enjoy my “Susan Tea” the way you recommend 🙂

  27. barbara miller says:

    thank you to your lovely mom for loving you to the woman you are! I use to live in seal beach [a very long time ago] so enjoyed the visit. ta

  28. Sharon of Morro Bay, CA says:

    Welcome home to the Central Coast!!! Hope to see you at the Antique Show in SLO. With any luck I will see you on the streets or restaurants of Shell Beach and San Luis. I am mid way thru your book and loving it!!

  29. Janice says:

    Now I’m hoping that I will someday find that adorable teatime clock in this blog for sale in your gift shop!

  30. Anna, Camano Island,Wa says:

    I loved going on your tour of the Queen Mary. Another comment mentioned that this is the best blog around and I whole heartedly agree, it is just such a pleasure to read, it is often the only blog I look at. You and your mother are two peas in a pod, two lovely women. – Seeing this post made me want to visit the Queen Mary someday, When I was ten years old, in 1961, my English granny and grandad came on the Queen Mary to America to visit us, I remember granny’s photos of the trip, it was a trip of a lifetime for them. My parents had saved for this special gift to them. One photo has my granny poking her head thru a life preserver with the words Queen Mary on it, she looks like she is having such a wonderful time. I would love to visit and get a feel of their experience. My mother was english, my father was dutch, we lived in Holland but crossed the chanel often to visit my mothers family before we immigrated here in 1957. This blog is and your love of all things English always bring a little of my mother back to me, she was english through and through. Of course all your blog post subjects are wonderful. Thanks a bunch!

  31. Joyce, Chicago says:

    More than 30 years ago, a girlfriend and I took a trip to California and stayed for 2 nights on the Queen Mary. We loved it, too! Seeing your pictures and reading your comments brought back many lovely memories.

  32. Oh Susan, how beautiful you and your mother are! You have her smile, hair, eyes, and nose! What fun you are having. I lived in Seal Beach for a while, also Belmont Shore near Long Beach, but I grew up (4 mo’s to 10 yr old) in Laguna Beach and 10 to 20 yr old in Arcadia. Don’t you just love the early morning fog at the beach? What an exciting trip you are having! I love to drive across the country to CA, also love to drive up the coast, what a great drive that is. I know you will have an absolutely wonderful time with all your friends, and the book signing will be so fun! I am so excited that your (our) book is such a hit, course I knew it had to be! Reading the book is like being over there all over again, and replaying the videos is so much fun! Thank you dear Susan for such a fabulous trip!
    Carol (Jeannie)
    from WNC

  33. Hello,
    Have a fun time in California. I am excited to see photos of the kitties. 🙂

    I am so happy for you.
    xx oo

    • sbranch says:

      We have just had our first finger to nose meeting . . . They are adorable, we are so lucky, we get to sleep with kitties tonight!

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

    WELCOME to the West Coast and California! I am thankful that you and Joe arrived safely AND after the high 100+ degree days we were having here in So. California. I am looking forward to seeing you at Vroman’s and Remnants. (I promise…I am NOT stalking you.). I’m a lucky gal to have two trips planned…Vroman’s with Girlfriends and Remnants with my sister! Actually, I’m making a quick day trip up to the central coast area to go apple picking next Monday, too!
    I loved your visit to the Queen Mary! It brought back great memories as my son’s prom was held there back in 1998. I was there as a parent chaperon. :))) It was a memorable evening for those kids…me, too!
    Wonderful to see your parents, their good health, and your wonderful relationship with both of them. I laughed outloud at your comment, “We are a hotel dating people, apparently.” 😀
    Hoping that you and Joe are enjoying your home-away-from-home in Arroyo Grande! Hoping, too, for some rest for you, Joe, and Petey! Love knowing that your sweet cheer is here on the West Coast. I look forward to seeing you…Charlene

  35. carol oliver says:

    Hello Susan,
    wow,I thought I recognized the Beach Area…of course…Seal Beach…I am just a skip away, over the Bridge in San Pedro. Your Mom looks great, have not seen her for years…Book Signings, and when she came to the Auto Club in Long Beach to …see me…and bring me some of your newest things…awesome. Yes years ago…but she does not age. If I knew you were soooo close, I would have come to say..HI…I am also planning a Queen Mary trip…dying… to go on the Ghost Tour, always wanted to. Before the year is out…also want to do the High Tea thing, but after the Ghost Tour, I will need to go to Observation Lounge(lovely place) and have a Drink! I have been in there Dancing with the Girlfriends, good place and great View and ambiance.
    Yes, its Hot here…and going back to 90s….I hope to see you Next Month at The Remnants of the Past….I will be there…for sure. We will also go to The Ventana Inn…for Happy Hour…(I know you like it there) I bet you are Happy tonight…back to your Home on the Central Coast…my favorite Place in Calif.
    bye for now…and thanks for a great Blog..ask your mom if she remembers me.
    Carol O. in So. Calif. with your Red Toile Gravy Boat…xo

  36. Cyndi in NC says:

    I love the ship! I love Art Deco so I know I would be uw-ing and aw-ing all over the place. I’ve often day dreamed about living on a ship like that, all grand and beautiful, and going to one exotic place after another. I’m sure you could put together a great book about the ship from top to bottom. Also I had to laugh as my family loves Rummitile as we call it, there are several variations, different rules, and we’ve played I think easily a thousand games if not more. *L* Of course there are lots of good snacks that went with the games, lots of popcorn too! Good times. Thanks for sharing another great time. Hugs.

  37. Chrissy Thrower says:

    Sue Sue! Oh, What a welcome post! Who wouldn’t have wanted to join you and your darling Mom and Joe (and Petey) on the beautiful Queen Mary! What a day back through time! Dreaming…
    So glad to hear the new charms, etc. are coming back to shopping wonderland! There are so many ‘gotta haves’ coming that we didn’t ‘gettahave’ yet. yay!
    Finally! You can roost for awhile at your CA digs. Enough pack..unpack. Enjoy your family, dear friends and home. We’ll wait :). XXOO Chrissy
    PS do those shop kitties have any fur left or has it been sweetly petted away? LOL!

    • sbranch says:

      They’re sleeping with us! 🙂

      • Janet in Rochester says:

        Are they tuxedos too?

        • sbranch says:

          They are brother and sister, but the boy is a tuxedo and the girl is calico.

          • Janet in Rochester says:

            Oh, that’s great – two lil sibs that got to stay together! They’re company [& security] for each other… :>)

          • sondra fox says:

            What a wonderful combination. I’m without kitties right now & I’m not liking it. I’m so old (75) that I’m afraid of getting more pets. I’d hate to put them through getting used to my home, then when I pass on, they’d have to get used to another home. Seems selfish of me to get more kitties. (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

          • sbranch says:

            That’s not so old. Maybe an older cat who needs a mommy? That’s the furthest thing from selfish. You’ll probably live to be 105! You can’t even think about trying to do that kitty-less! 🙂

  38. Jane S. in PA says:

    Wow! That was a post worth waiting for. Loved the Queen Mary tour, and it was fun revisiting your post of how you met the Beatles. As soon as I saw that Jean Shrimpton/Yardley ad again, it brought back memories of the clothes and music & feeling young again. lol. I gave a copy of your book to my Mom & a couple of my special girlfriends, & they love it. There’s no way I could have waited to give them for Christmas as was my original intention. Happy to see you with your Mom, too. She must be so proud of you. xxoo

  39. Marion Rose says:

    Good evening Sue,

    Love the tour your gave us on the Queen Mary. It’s a wonderful place to have a Tea Party with you Mother. You both look so happy!!! The food looked soooo good. Thank you for sharing.
    I had a relay with my girlfriend on Tuesday. I take her half way to Boston and meet up with another girlfriend to take her the rest of the way. My girlfriend is having chemo treatments for her cancer at a Boston Hospital. We are working together making this easier for everyone. Well, the leaves are all changing color and the view was beautiful for our trip. I think the colors are a little early in our area. You are missing a beautiful Autumn in New England but you will see it next year. Our weather is real warm during the day and cool at night, great for sleeping with the windows open. With the warm dry
    weather we need to water our plants everyday. Usually in the Fall watering isn’t needed as much.
    The Remnants of the Past Vintage Show sounds like fun to me, I did enter to meet with you. Someone will have a great time in California with our special friend, Susan.
    Enjoy your month on the West Coast. Hope you have time to rest a little with your favorite cup of Tea, Marion

    • sbranch says:

      Your girlfriend must feel surrounded in love in such a scary time. Thank you for the view into New England Fall! It’s a gorgeous Saturday here, and we’re going to do NOTHING with a capitol N. 🙂

  40. Barbara Serio says:

    Just love visiting the Queen Mary and walking around imagining the life of the passengers back when… I hope you got to visit my sister’s t-shirt shop at the Queen Mary – It’s called T-shirt Territory! It’s crammed full of fun stuff! 🙂

  41. Ginnie Judd says:

    You are the best tour-guide ever! Loved your comment about Joe and Petey the stowaway, too. That made me laugh out loud.

  42. Sandy says:

    Loved this post. We stayed on the QM2 in the 1980s and loved it. Memories…thanks for the memories!

  43. Deb Johnson says:

    I am hoping you did not leave Arizona before driving through Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. We just got back from our yearly stay at the Briar Patch Inn on Oak Creek. If you have not stayed there it is a MUST on the Bucket List. We stay in the Casa right on the creek. The most expensive cottage, but worth every penny. We call it our “Heaven on Earth” I know you would love it. You can look at the website to see the beautiful pictures. The most beautiful spot in Arizona and so peaceful!

    • sbranch says:

      We’ve been through both places and you are so right, just gorgeous! Haven’t stayed there, just too close to my dad’s to do that, but it’s a good recommendation for our Girlfriends, Deb, thank you!

  44. Pam G says:

    so wonderful to see you with your Mom-she looks so young and vibrant! Mom’s last words are all things I heard from my mom too. Cherish your time on the west coast, Susan. I hope you get to spend oodles of time with your mom and friends.

  45. Heidi says:

    Oh!! I was just there in May!!! My hubby and I were visiting family in OC and we decided to go see the QM. We had tea there in the very same tea room you did, which we learned btw, used to be the location of the pilot house. My aunt sailed on the QM across the Atlantic in the 1950’s. She was a single girl exploring Europe all on her own ~ in style!. My hubby and I did go on the haunted tour, and I have to tell you…it scared the wits out of me!!! Big time!!! The indoor pool was super creepy and the stories gave me the chills. I couldn’t run out of there fast enough! It IS a very beautiful ship though with lots of interesting history. It looks like you saw the very best parts, and how fun you got to share it with your mom! 🙂

  46. Lucia says:

    Hello Susan,
    Welcome to California! Thank you for your latest post, it was great to see you with your Mom, Joe and Petey. Loved seeing the Queen Mary, what a lovely ship.
    Enjoy your stay here in our wonderful West Coast. Thank you for taking the time to post your blog, I enjoyed every minute of it and congratulations on your 3rd printing of A Fine Romance!
    Lucy fron the San Francisco Bay Area

  47. Carol D. in Sierra Madre, CA says:

    I couldn’t believe it when I opened your blog this evening. Seal Beach! We have a place there and were just there last weekend. I would have loved to have run in to you on Main Street or on the pier! Too bad we missed each other. There was a special reason for being there last weekend. My husband Michael and I were married in Seal Beach 24 years ago on Monday, the 30th, so we decided to celebrate our anniversary there this year. Our reception was on the Queen Mary in the Windsor Salon! We almost went there to have dinner at Winston’s, but decided to stay in Seal Beach and went to the restaurant where we had our rehearsal dinner, a nice place called Spaghettini. So, when I saw what you were writing about today, I was so happy and surprised! I love all of the things that you talked about, and all of it means so much to me. We will also be in SLO for the Remnants show, just to see you, of course. And we’re going to stay in Shell Beach at the Spyglass Inn. We stayed there one other time… when we made the pilgrimage to your wonderful little shop in Arroyo Grande! I’ll see you at Vroman’s, too. I hope you don’t think I’m stalking you!! Honestly, I DO have a life! I just appreciate and relate to you so much. Have a great time visiting your mom and all of your friends, and I’ll see you in Pasadena!!

    • Carol D. in Sierra Madre, CA says:

      P.S. We honeymooned in New England, to enjoy the autumn weather. Nothing more romantic than the crisp, cool days and evenings where one can have a fire burning in the fireplace and dinner by candlelight at lovely B & B’s!

    • sbranch says:

      Looking forward to it Carol! Happy Anniversary by the way!

      • Jack says:

        Ahah Sierra Madre –fantastic rain gutters in the streets We stayed there for about two months in 1933 , when they had the big earthquake in Long Beach Calif. –that was where I got my first Bee Sting while I was messing around in the Wisteria Vines as a ten year old –right on the back of my neck !

        • Carol D. in Sierra Madre, CA says:

          You know, Jack, the big historic wistaria vine (over 100 years old) is still here, and we have a Wistaria Festival every year in March. Lots of fun for the locals anyway! It’s a sweet little town to raise kids in…still.

  48. Natasha says:

    Hi Susan! Welcome home to the central coast!
    I was on the 101 three times today and kept an eye out for the van. Hope you did not get caught in the awful hwy shutdown/ accident. What is your favorite dish at cold springs? I love the venison with blackberry. Hope you have a nice restful month at you west coast home. Thanks for all the beauty and fun you share. Makes my day!

    • sbranch says:

      We sailed right through. No traffic problems at all…didn’t make it to Cold Springs this time, but we will!

  49. Teresa says:

    What a fun time you are all having. Love seeing your beautiful mother! I would love to make her old fashioned potato chip cookies…do you think the pecans are important to the taste/texture of the recipe or could they be eliminated. I like pecans, but was not sure.

  50. Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

    Love the posting today!! A chance to tour something new from your point of view. Your mother is adorable!! How very lucky you are to have her with you still. My mother died when I was 20 and I have a bit of envy whenever I hear of someone doing something special with their mother since mine has been gone now for 38 years! Big sigh. Anyway…I ordered your new tin of tea and shall be receiving it momentarily AND I ordered 2 new Emma Bridgewater mugs! (I fell in love with that new pattern orange marmalade and couldn’t resist). The weather here in Mich is very much Indian Summer! high near 80 today and quite perfect! Leaves falling and swirling about. A friend is having a bonfire party tomorrow – annual event – and it’s always so wonderful, her backyard full of people in the dark – drinking cider, mulled wine, laughter in the dark. For the small children, there is the traditional “Marvin’s Ride of Terror” (her husband pulling the children behind the riding lawn mower in the wagon about 2 mph as they scream in the dark) LOL Later on, as the crowd begins to thin, many of us stay mesmerized by the campfire, trying to stump each other with trivia questions. Can’t wait.

  51. Jennifer P says:

    We spent New Year’s Eve on the Queen Mary one year, it was tons of fun!! My parents are sailing from London to New York on the QM2 next week, I am so jealous!!

  52. Rae Ann R...back in Michigan...forever... says:

    Thank you again, Susan, Joe and Mom for taking us along on your travels…it is such fun to share your adventures…still settling in here in northern Michigan…cooking a bit more…making 5 hour no peek stew for dinner on the rainy Friday…the grass is strewn/is that a word??? with red maple leaves…I love fall…keep on having fun…xoxo…

  53. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Thank-you for posting all of the photos of the glorious Queen Mary! Wow, just like the days of the Silver Screen Movies. I can only imagine how much fun it was to spend the day roaming around after such a perfect High Tea. And with your Mom!! My Mom loved all things British too and she would have so loved to have had a day like this. I kept thinking at each photo, ,Oh I wish that had been me and my Mom. How absolutely perfect to have Petey along for the event and camera ready. Could this find have been any more perfect for your current book tour? How totally perfect to have you, your van, Joe, Petey, and your Mom on board for a day while waiting for yes, THE THIRD SHIPMENT, of your incredible book!!

    This trip for us girlfriends ,that started last April, just keeps wowing us at every turn. Just when it looks like it can’t get any better, we end up on a virtual tour of the Queen Mary from 1936 for high tea with Petey!

    Enjoy your stay at your California home!!

  54. Fleur Merriman says:

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you so much for creating your wonderful new book on England!
    My Mother (Pam Fortune) pre-ordered a copy for my birthday last year and tucked an IOU in my card! We have both been eagerly anticipating it’s arrival and Mum has been keeping me up-to-date with your progress as she regularly reads your blog. At my birthday lunch last Saturday she presented me with my very own copy of your beautifully finished book. What a lovely birthday surprise – thanks Mum! I can’t wait for the working week to be over to start reading!! Enjoy your book tour Susan and thanks again for creating such a treasure of a book.

    Fleur Merriman

  55. anne-marie vogt says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your pictures of the Queen Mary. I would love to visit it myself but I don’t expect that I’ll get to any time soon. Blessings to you and your family. Have fun and as I say to my children, “Be safe” !!!

  56. I am so glad you get to rest for a while- the trip must have been exhausting 🙂
    It sounds like a lovely visit though- my Dad is always the one who wants to see the engine room. Probably because he used to work in one LOL And kind of appropriate that you stopped at the Queen Mary I on your promotional tour for the book in which you travelled on the QM-II 🙂
    Meanwhile, here on the East coast, we’re having summer still. Which is nice, because it means I get nice weather for my birthday tomorrow- which is also my sister’s Wedding Day back home in England- only I couldn’t make it 🙁 I was feeling a little sad about it, so your post has cheered me up a little!
    Your mother looks lovely!

    Hope you enjoy your little rest before heading back East!

    • sbranch says:

      Oh that’s sad, but she knows you are there in heart Rachel. Happy Birthday to you!!! Do something sweet for yourself. xoxo

      • Thank you Susan! I plan to be the ‘virtual’ Bridesmaid (we have iPads ready to go LOL) and there is definitely cake in the plans too. And maybe sticky toffee pudding!

      • Jack says:

        The” engine room” reminds me that Jeanie and I were having dinner on the QM and ran into an old friend, Johnnie Ryan. He was a machinist and worked in the engine room on board. He tried too find the Captain so he could marry us, but Captain wasn’t on board … He did arrange for a complimentary stateroom however, so we stayed the night in a dark wooded room — no ghosts showed up! The next weekend we got married up at Lake Tahoe. Ran into your brother Brad — and he was best man. The Minister was also a Boy Scout Leader — so I always kid Jeanie telling her we were married by a Boy Scout Leader…much to her disgust.

    • Melinda says:

      We are Birthday Girlfriends, Rachel! It is mine too…October 5 just has that special ring when said or written! Sorry you could not be in lovely England sharing with your sister but a trip another time may be more special with just the two of you spending time together rather than sharing time with a large gathering.
      Happy Birthday! Enjoy your day and treat yourself well.

  57. Marsha MacLean says:

    Dear Susan, I almost shouted with glee when I read your post while sitting out here on the porch yesterday afternoon! You may remember that last spring, thanks to a little encouragement from you, I went to the Queen Mary for the evening with one of my girlfriends to see “the meeting of the Queens” as they brought the newest Royal, the QE3, into the harbor for a meeting with the Queen Mary. The ship’s decks were loaded with passengers, and it was an exciting event!
    My friend and I live too far away to make the drive home afterwards, so we stayed on board in a stateroom. It was LOVELY! We went early and had tea, wearing our big hats, and just loved our time walking the ship. I even took a picture next to Fred Astaire! It was so much fun. Thank you for allowing me to revisit that experience, as well as seeing it through your eyes. When we were there, in the window of one of the shops, we saw another Petey doll. He was just watching the world go by, not being for sale. Was he still on display?
    It was a Grand adventure. Thanks!

  58. Carrie says:

    Hello Susan,

    It was wonderful to see the pics of the QM. We are hoping to travel there next weekend for my birthday. Sure looks grand in a lovely vintage/oldsy woldsy sort of style. A couple of weekends ago, went to Half Moon Bay and it was glorious.

    The pictures of you and your Mom reminded me of the fun trips I had with my mother – we had a ball together. Your Mom must be bursting with pride, I know my buttons would be popping. You both are just bursting off the blog page with your joy.

    I was talking to a friend about what actor we thought would best portray you in a movie of your life and/or “A Fine Romance.” My friend automatically said, Diane Keaton. Then I see your picture with the bobbie socks and skirt and I thought, very Annie Hall-ish. The Box Office needs “A Fine Romance.”

    • sbranch says:

      Oh! Next week is your birthday Carrie! What a fun place to spend it! Hope it’s a wonderful one.

      You must know how much I love Diane Keaton!

  59. Alison from RI says:

    Hi Ms. Branch!
    I left a comment earlier, but it seems to have disappeared! Whenever I go back to see if anyone responded, it doesn’t show! (It’s probably my computer being weird!) But anyway, here it is again!
    Don’t worry about missing any chilly NE fall days or eves, as we are in a spell of Indian Summer here! 🙂 (But I will say the foliage is stunning now). The Queen Mary looks so charming! I can only imagine it in its hey day. California looks beautiful too. Keep enjoying your trip!

    – Alison from “Little Rhody”

    • sbranch says:

      I was in the car all day yesterday and am still working through the “moderation” of the comments this morning. Maybe yours is in that batch. I’m sorry, it’s because I like to read them all! Thank you for the East Coast weather update! Save a few leaves for me!

  60. Dinahsoar says:

    Another–as always–wonderful wonderful post. You make we want to travel!! I haven’t had the wanderlust so badly in many years. Thankfully I get to share your life and all of its goodness via your blog–and that makes my life so much richer. I learn better ‘how to live’. Now I must check into the game Rummikub–we used to play games and loved it but tired of the same old same old…we need fresh blood and this may fit the bill….from the hills of TN.

  61. I have always wanted to see that ship and now I feel like I’ve toured it myself… almost. 😉

    Your mom is beautiful!

  62. jan says:

    Wonderful! I just love the scenic tour of the Queen Mary. Thank you for all the pics. I have to go visit now, it all looks so beautiful. Your blog makes it all come alive for us that live far away (Kentucky). Thank you, Susan, and I can’t wait for the new charms!


  63. Barb in MI says:

    What a wonderful post! I have to put a visit to the Queen Mary on my list of things to do. Your photos and descriptions are so captivating, no matter where you are, we always feel like we’re there with you! Hope you have “Fun, Fun, Fun”, as the Beach Boys would say, during your stay in California.

  64. Patty in Redlands says:

    Hi Susan~
    So glad that you’re FINALLY in California! We’ve been waiting for you. And as you know, it’s a perfect time to be here because fall starts to arrive about now. Warm days but cool nights that are easy for sleeping, pyracantha berries turning red, Birds of Paradise starting to bloom orange, liquid amber trees changing colors, all say autumn is finally here too. Enjoy our more subtle but very appreciated seasonal beauty.

    We stayed on the Queen Mary for an anniversary a long time back and our daughters had the adjoining maid’s quarters room. We felt like we were on an ocean adventure and it’s still a fun family memory.

    Can’t want to see you at Vroman’s! Will you be doing a presentation too? We all want to hear you and cheer you! And try to find Redlands. It’s really a lovely town and you have a big and enthusiastic fan base here.

    • sbranch says:

      It’s subtle, but the backroad from my house goes through rolling hills of wine country into SLO which, at this time of year, always carries a big wallop of fall color. For Vroman’s, I’m not sure if they are scheduling me for a presentation or just a signing. I always love to talk too, and especially, I love to take questions . . . seems much to cut and dry to just sign books without a big hello! You can call and ask them, it might encourage them toward it too!

    • I’m visiting in the Redlands area for the next month. Where do you go for tea?

  65. Debbie says:

    Good morning from Austin. I’ve so missed reading your blog–wedding for nephew over and I can get back to normal. So in one post you’ve brought back sweet memories of fall on the east coast and my mom’s annual October visits to celebrate her birthday. We shopped for Gladys Tabor books, visited little tea shops, and collected colorful leaves for her to take back to Texas. Hope you find your way to Texas for a book signing. Enjoy being at your mom’s table eating potato chip cookies…a treat if ever there was one.

  66. We were lucky enough to take a cruise on the Disney Wonder out of the Long Beach harbor. We saw the Queen Mary, but didn’t have time for a tour. While the Wonder was wonderful, and designed to be like one of the ocean liners of old, I’d still like to see the Queen!

  67. Jack says:

    Well breakfast (oatmeal) is done –crossword puzzle worked (with help from Jeanie) so now I’m looking for a project ……might start cutting out growth on Grape vines today. Get the pruning done on peach tree too , leaves starting to yellow …..Fall has arrived .. Temp was 52* this A.M. Expect about 75 today………me gone . Oh yeah , nice post 🙂

  68. Mo'a says:

    If I had the slightest clue on how to use Twitter, I would have know yesterday that you put up a new post 🙂 Note to self: learn how to use Twitter.
    Lovelovelove this post. How lucky you are to be able to share your passions with your elegant mother. Your two fellows seemed to be on their best behavior…that is if you are telling the full story 😉
    Here on the east coast…Philadelphia to be exact…there is an ocean liner called the SS United States. Sadly it is in disrepair and it’s future is not certain…here is a link to it’s story.

    Every time I shop at IKEA I see this lovely ship…in my minds eye see it as the beauty it was. My father bought a model of the SS United States a few years ago. Two years after his passing it still sits on his desk.
    Would it not be lovely if the East Coast Girlfriends could party on this ocean liner one day?

    • sbranch says:

      I wonder if the ship has any of the original decor intact, or if it’s been stripped. I tried to find it on the website but didn’t see photos. If it does, it would really be worth saving . . . such a famous ship!

      • Mo'a says:

        Sometime in the 80’s there was an auction of the furnishings and the all the small items.
        I seem to remember that my father bought a piece…a creamer I think…during that auction.
        From the photos that I have seen it looks totally striped on the inside.
        There are a lot of YouTube videos on this ship and here is a CNN link with some photos cnn.com/2013/04/07/travel/ocean-liner-united-states/index.html
        Tomorrow I will check with my mother about the creamer…I hope my memory is serving me right 🙂 If she has a piece from the SS United States we will give it back should it be needed sometime in the future. We can hope 🙂

        • sbranch says:

          So sad that everything inside is gone. And lucky for your dad to have that piece! We need to be better conservators of our own history.

      • Margot in Virginia Beach says:

        My husband and I agree. We saw it in 2010.

    • Jack says:

      ‘seeazy to see Sue on Twitter .. Go to right side bar on sue’s blog — click on “what Sue’s saying on Twitter” – That’s it!

  69. Pat Johnson from Paso Robles, CA says:

    YOU ARE HERE!!!!! WELCOME HOME!!!! So good to share with you once again. And then to visit the Queen Mary!!!! I live in Paso and I still haven’t gone to tour that wonderful ship. I decided that I must do this with my grand-daughter, Isabella – she is a Senior this year and I do believe she would really enjoy it. Thank you for that journey …… and with your wonderful Mom. The mural over the bar had to be one of my favorites – the lady with the bow was to die for!!!! And I agree that the red shoes were MARVELOUS! I just knew there was a different feel in the air – it was YOU & JOE & PETEY sharing air with all of us on the Central Coast!! ENJOY!! XXXXOOOO Pat

  70. Dear Susan!
    I have followed your work for 20 years (I think it’s been that long). I think you are amazingly talented. How do I order a signed book?

    Kolene Spicher

    • sbranch says:

      At least that long Kolene! Thank you …. you can order a signed book by clicking HERE or by calling my studio at 805-474-5836 — it will be sent to you the minute they arrive from the printer — which is supposed to be the last week of this month.

  71. Sb says:

    What a great post! I look forward forward to seeing your California garden. It’s funny, I saw the picture of Petey dining, and I immediately gravitated to the design on the carpet. I thought to myself that the Queen Mary probably had some interesting flooring, so I would totally appreciate a post on rug designs you’ve met in your travels, lol. Enjoy your West Coast autumn!

  72. Lesley Kemp says:

    It was around 1975 that we took a trip to Disneyland with our three girls…ages 10, 8, and 7. We stopped to see the Queen Mary and inquired about the cost of staying there. With sad faces we told the man that we could not afford to stay. Hearing our 10 year old begging to stay, the desk clerk, offered us two adjoining rooms at a much lower price. Our youngest daughter wrote a post card to her Nana telling her she had “taken a bath in the Queen’s bathtub.” We will never forget our stay on the Queen Mary and the very kind desk clerk.

  73. Peggy says:

    Thank you for the wonderful blog and the spectacular pictures of the Queen Mary. What a fun way to spend the day with your Mom. Thanks for including Petey and all of us in one more fabulous adventure. You made my day. You’ve “got the gift”, girl! THANK YOU!

  74. Miss Marion says:

    I am so glad you got to spend a whole day on the Queen Mary!! I hoped to see a picture of the chapel there because I was married on the Queen Mary! (or should I say Queen Marry?) That was many, many moons ago. There was a retired Navy chaplain to perform the ceremony and because we had such a small wedding we had the smallest reception room. But it was the best one because it had a little outside balcony area where we could stand and admire the fabulous view!
    Then a few years later, my HS class had our 10 year reunion on the QM. I was about 14 months pregnant (so it seemed) but I went anyway. Thanks for bringing back all those memories!!

  75. Sara McKeefer says:

    I was just scrolling down through your blog, Susan, to see if you’ve anymore replies, and Be. Still. My. Heart., I saw what looks to be a Gardenia shrub there dockside by the Queen Mary! I think my boarding would’ve been considerably delayed due to burying my face among the delicate blooms to breathe in the heady fr of my favorite flower and heady scent. Do gardenias grow year round there? ?

    • sbranch says:

      They do, although that was an Iceberg Rose, but there is a gardenia growing next to our front walk, I will have to take pictures, because they are my favorite flower and just so beautiful and smell like heaven!

    • sondra fox says:

      Sara, If you want to view majestic Gardenia bushes, visit Disney World’s RV park. As you drive along the beginning of the road to your campsite, on the left you’ll see the tallest Gardenia bushes I’ve ever, ever seen. I too LOVE Gardenias & their wonderful scent. I just could not believe the growth of the bushes in Disney World. Wonderful, just wonderful. When our daughter got married, twenty two years ago, she asked me what sort of corsage I’d like for her wedding. I told her I’d like a single Gardenia. I smelled the scent of that beautiful Gardenia all through the wedding day & never tired of it. (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

  76. Sara McKeefer says:

    I was just scrolling down through your blog, Susan, to see if you’ve anymore replies, and Be. Still. My. Heart., I saw what looks to be a Gardenia shrub there dockside by the Queen Mary! I think my boarding would’ve been considerably delayed, because I would have had to bury my face among the delicate blooms to breathe in their heady fragrance. I had a healthy, potted gardenia on the deck of my Gulf Coast home, but when I came back home again to Indiana, I had to leave it there with a guy friend, who loved it almost as much as I did. 🙁 Do you have one at your California home?

    • sbranch says:

      It was an Iceberg Rose at the Queen Mary, but we do have a big Gardenia bush next to our front walk. I read your comment, ran out and took pictures of it. I’ll put it up soon. I think you will almost be able to smell it! I know how you feel, be still my heart, to me, they are the best flower in the world.

  77. Karen P. - Wisconsin says:

    Susan, I got my tea tin today! Had to brew up a cup of tea right away! A bit of honey and some milk and it is purely divine! I love the lavender and rose flavors. Oh do good! I hope we can get it always from your store. The tin is so perfect in my kitchen! Love it! Thank you. xo… Karen P.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh that makes me so happy to hear Karen! Tea can be a very personal thing … I like lots of different kinds, but I fell in love with this! We’ll keep it available, and as time goes on, maybe we’ll add other kinds to it.

  78. Bonnie says:

    Awe, making me miss all my old go-to places I used to visit when I lived in CA. Must be about time to take my new sweetheart to see where I spent 23 years with my first sweetheart. I’ve avoided it for going on 9 years now, but I think I’m about ready. Have fun visiting the west coast!!!! 🙂 B

  79. Chrissy says:

    Loved this post. About 20 years ago, my brother, an over the road truck driver from “boondocks” midwest, was near the Queen Mary, and as it is in our family, was feeling adventurous. He visited the ship, traipsing all over it. He loved it, and the only uneasy moment came when he walked into a gala affair where everyone was dressed to the nines. ” Dressing up”for the guys in our family consists of new jeans, a semi-dress shirt (usually a snap-button cowboy shirt), newest give-away cap from feed store or implement place, and freshly oiled cowboy boots. It was quite a contrast to him and he quickly backed out the door he came in. I was so glad he got to visit such an enchanting place.

  80. Pam Fortune says:

    Hi Susan
    I love the photo of you and your mum having afternoon tea on the old QM, it reminds me of my afternoon tea with my daughter Fleur on the old Royal Yacht Britannia. I enjoyed it so much, something special a very nice memory. I hope that you are enjoying a very happy family time and also to let you know that Fleur loves your book and couldn’t put it down, she thought she had better put out the light at 1am as it was work next morning. Continue having a wonderful holiday and safe journey on your return.

    • Pam Fortune says:

      Fleur sent you an email, I’m so pleased as she loves your work. I first bought one of your books in Richmond near London whilst I was teaching in Esher and educating my three daughters. The book shop mostly contained publisher’s first proof runs and I saw your book and fell in love with it. When Fleur saw it she coveted it and when she got her first flat I gave it to her which was in the 1990’s. So we have been fans for a long time.

      • sbranch says:

        That’s saying something — there were never many books or products in England. Thank you for being in touch!

  81. Joy Pence from Ohio says:

    Looking forward to seeing pictures of your California home and garden. I am waiting patiently for my tea and tin to arrive in the mail, maybe today will be the day. I liked your dad’s chore list…..today I plan to cut back my blackberry canes, they produced so well this year 🙂
    Loved seeing you with your pretty momma, you look a lot like her. Have a restful weekend!

    • Joy Pence from Ohio says:

      My tea and tin came today. Just had a cup with honey and a splash of milk…oh my goodness; it is amazing!!! Will you be selling the tea by itself?

      • sbranch says:

        Yes, we’re just waiting to get more in so we can do both, with and without the tin. We’ll have it forever, that’s the plan. I’m SO glad you like it, Joy! I also have an idea for a holiday tea that I’m checking into … so hopefully we’ll have that too.

  82. carmel says:

    Wow oh wow! What a gorgeous ship! I regret not visiting it when as I was growing up in California but then I do think I would appreciate it even more now that I’m older. So must put it on my list! Those red shoes made me drool – want them! I’m a high tea girl and love taking my friends for their birthdays, but I’ve never seen tea sandwiches presented so beautifully. Most of all, I loved the pictures of you and your mom. She’s really the beauty of the ship. Together, you also remind me of me and my mom (anniversary of her passing is the 13th) and all the loving memories of spending time together and all the homemaking she taught me. Thanks for sharing so generously. Loved everything.

  83. Gert~Iowa says:

    Oh Susan…I can not believe I didn’t leave a comment after I read your post the first time. (Sorry..) I must have gotten interrupted. Oh, how you must long for MV this time of the year…however…I’m thinking those CA temps and treats sound really good right now…smile.. Your trip to the QM brought back such wonderful memories for me! Now these memories go back almost 30 years, but…the picture of the bay and the QM…makes me think of it as if it were yesterday. We had our RV directly across the bay from this glorious ship. At that time Long Beach had a RV park there,and in the evening we could see it all lit up in its glorious splendor! Of course we were poor…(smile) and when we went over to the QM side and sat in that expect parking lot you were in, Tom said “we can take a candy bar in you purse..go on board, have the candy bar, then we can say ‘we ate on the QM’..ha..ha!” But we never did it! I’m so thankful for you once again, for giving us a tour!

    Bless you and hope you are now in your home….

  84. maureen says:

    Right after college I moved out to LA.
    One of the places I visited while I was looking for a job was the Queen Mary. Who knew that some years later I would go on the Queen Mary II to travel back from England to The US. It was a site then. It looked gorgeous from your pictures.
    Glad to see that you made it across the country and have had fun while doing so.

  85. Melinda says:

    Oh, happy day! It is my Birthday today! Wake up & quietly head downstairs while still dark out. Not the lovely Fall weather I love, back here in Central CA but at least crisp air at night which stays until midmorning. So open some windows to increase October, Autumn feeling and turn on a few lamps. Start the tea kettle, snuggle into couch with October issue of Victoria and tablet for porthole to loveliness(Your blog!). Fun reading while my 3 beauties are still asleep and wonderful start to my day.
    The usual squeal of delight from seeing a new post was released then seeing OCTOBER written in SB loveliness felt like a little present!
    I am right there with the other girlfriends who have expressed sympathy of you missing most of the Autumn glory back “home”. When I first read the dates of your trip, of course excitedly looking for a stop that I could attend, then it hit me WHEN you and Joe would be gone and felt so sad! Then seeing the great photo above of your Halloween towels dancing on the clothesline above a carpet of autumn leaves…epitome of bittersweet! Sorry you will miss it but thank you, again and again, for what you and Joe are doing for all of us. Treasure at the end of this map is time with your dad and with your mom. The photo of you and your mom is just beautiful. I miss my mom so incredibly, especially at certain times like today, but seeing others utterly delighted with the gift of time with their own beautiful moms is very heartwarming. Enjoy!

    • sbranch says:

      Isn’t the wind beautiful this morning? I’m clicking tea cups with you Melinda, Happy Birthday! … a gorgeous start to the day!

      • Melinda says:

        Oh, thank you so much! Always so touched to receive a response and to have one today was extra special. Thank you kindly, kind Susan!

  86. salve says:

    Oh God! I’m speechless! You made me so very happy with this ‘October’ blog! Thank you ever so much!

  87. Jack says:

    Can’t stop eating these Oatmeal cookies —so tasty and chewy–I got them as a dry mix from the store (I know Cheater !) and added raisins to the batter …..Baked they turned out to be about 3/4 in. Thick and 3″x4″ sizewise…flavorful and chewy —I might end up in a facility to “kick the habit” …..already thinking about going back to Walmart for a couple more packages of the Mix —only $1.78 a package and it makes a big plateful……
    Ain’t life grand ?

  88. Oh, what wonderful photos of the Queen Mary! It’s been ages, and Seal Beach too (remembering dinners at Walt’s Wharf followed by lattes on the pier as we watched the sun set, *sigh*)…

    Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, and big congratulations on the third printing! Thinking I need to order another copy, as my daughter took mine to England a few weeks ago, and though she’s back, so far hasn’t returned it, hehe.

    ♥ Carolee

  89. Faith rose says:

    Oh what a beautiful boat! Its all so very romantic! Its one of those things that you just stare at ! Can’t you just picture Ginger Rogers coming into the bar with the most gorgeous dress on! I love your mom you look just like her! Thank you for updating I enjoyed it!

  90. Marianne in Hidden Meadows, SoCal says:

    Such a beautiful post of the Queen Mary! Reminds me of my one adventure on it. Waaayyy, waaayyyy back in 1977, we were invited to a wedding followed by a reception on the QM in Long Beach Harbor. We decided to spend the night aboard ship. The reception was magnificent: live mariachi bands, dancing, wonderful full-service dinner and lot — and I mean LOTS — of free champagne. Around 3:AM, Good Night Ladies was sung and we headed for our room. The elevator seemed to be taking its time going WAY, WAY, down. Finally the elevator doors opened and we stepped into…. the hull of the ship! There were boxes and tools and things everywhere. It looked like a huge warehouse. Sober enough to know we had the wrong deck, we got back onto the elevator. We rode up and down that thing for over half an hour before realizing our deck could only be reached by taking another elevator – I’m sure the champagne had nothing to do with it. Anyway, we had a lovely stay there and have a fun, if slightly embarrassing, memory of the good time we had!

  91. Jack says:

    Sue — I went back to the Antique Store and found you a spectacular gift !……that I will mail to you on Monday morn . I hope you like it –it’s a snazzy , rare and unique antique and fits in a large brown envelope . Naayh hahah.
    ….Too bad for Margo , her Mermaid was gone …..it’s like I say ,if you think you might want something
    later — get it when you see it !

  92. Sandy from Ca. says:

    Yeah, you are back in Ca…Welcome Home Susan and Joe 🙂 Not to much longer and all of us on the West Coast get to see you both. I was lucky to have stayed on the Queen Mary in Long Beach one year when my husband had a conference there! We stayed free for a whole week but there wasn’t the wonderful gift shop you and your lovely Mother went to. So happy we all had a chance to meet your wonderful Mom….is she coming to San Luis Obispo, Ca with you? Hope so enjoy your last part of the trip to the Central Coast 🙂

  93. Cindy Tuning says:

    I can just imagine how happy you are to have kitties to sleep with again. So easy to get attached to them isn’t it? They don’t have to do anything but just be their cute selves. The Queen Mary looks breathtaking! I was so excited, I showed the pictures to honey Ted wondering if anything jogged a memory for him since he came over from Scotland on it as a small child. He said it did but I’m pretty sure he was just goofing with me. I so love Gardenias and wish we could grow them in this part of the country but just not possible. In fact, for my daughters wedding,I ordered one as my corsage but the florist advised against it and substituted something else. Maybe their rarity is part of their charm for me. Looking forward to seeing how your garden grows and seeing the Fine Romance charm. I was lucky enough to get a Girlfriend charm. Fingers crossed!!!

    • sbranch says:

      I wore a gardenia to a party a long time ago and it’s because of the (and I do not use these words lightly) intoxicating fragrance of that flower wafting up all night that the party became unforgettable to me. Something about them! I try to grow them inside, but it never ever works, and yet, every so often when a I see a little bush all in bloom, despite the fact that I know better, I’ll do it again.

      • Jack says:

        The secret is water –they are very sensitive to the amount , too much or not enough they die ….we keep a close watch on ours with a tester
        And so far it is thriving –bouffant shiney leaves and perfumey super white flowers

        • sbranch says:

          I think winter is the thing that always seems to kill ours off. Not enough light in a day, plus the HEAT is so drying. I could do it if I was a better plant-mommy.

      • Cindy Tuning says:

        I know! They always seem to be in the stores in the dead of winter. I think I can cover it up and keep it warm for the ride home but they must be so fragile to the cold that the buds become damaged and fall off. That’s what I’m told anyway. I’m too stubborn to stop trying!

        • sbranch says:

          Happens to me too.

          • sondra fox says:

            A Gardenia hint that works for me, hope it does for you as well, if you try it. Gardenias seem to thrive in pots! I had one that was enormous & lasted for lots & lots of years. That plant seemed to love the pot it was in. I also fertilize with Epsom Salts. I know. You’re afraid to try it, but truly it works. I fertilize EVERYTHING with Epsom Salts. Plants love it. (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

          • sbranch says:

            Good — love experienced advice! Thanks Sondra!

  94. Asha says:

    Hello Susan, Joe, Susan’s Mom & Petey! Thank you for a wonderful bird’s eye view of the Queen Mary! I am retiring in 10 months and hope to visit friends and relatives in CA. The Queen Mary would be an absolute dream come true to visit also! I will let you know if that dream comes true! It has been an absolutely beautiful autumn here in central MA. My summer flowers have never lasted this long as far back as I can remember. It’s a real treat. Mother’s Famous Last Words was so right on. I said all those things to my children who now are saying them to theirs! You are a joy, Susan Branch! I ordered your tin with tea = can’t wait to receive it. Safe travels! 🙂

  95. Carol (Daisy) says:

    Thank you for the post today. I get worn out just thinking of you guys traveling for the past few weeks, really!! I just had to comment on your surprise of putting Petey in Joe’s bag. I would’ve received the same reaction from my husband. I would have been giggling to myself the whole time just waiting for him to find the surprise and then. . . . the big moment. . . the reaction. . . the big letdown. Yup, just a ‘what’s this doing in here’ type of response from hubby. Continue to have a safe and wonderful trip and thanks for the great pictures as always!!

  96. Raenell Cannady says:

    Hey Susan…
    I am so glad you are having a wonderful time on your tour with your new book. I know you are having so much fun, yet missing home (There is no place like home!)
    This blog touched my heart….I spend many days at Seal Beach (my favorite place to be) and I used to work on the Queen Mary…so you were in my stomping grounds for sure! It is a lovely ship…so glad you enjoyed it!
    Can’t wait to have my book signed by you in Pasadena 🙂 waiting for that!
    Continue with safe travels….xo Raenell

  97. Carrie says:


    Yesterday I was in my hometown of Ripon, CA. Visited the shop that used to be the dime store when I was a kid but now it’s a home décor/vintage/funky/
    miscellany type store.

    In the very far corner, behind the counter is a large book case, floor to ceiling filled with bits and bobs. And there it is…eyespye! It is a beaker (mug no handles) celebrating the “coronation of Edward VIII” on May 12, 1937. It had a chip and slight crack, but that little gem came home w/me. Isn’t that a kick – the coronation that never was but the souvenirs were already in the stores 🙂

  98. Cindy Tuning says:

    We are on a weekend trip to Skaneateles ,NY and just stopped at Beak&Skiff Apple Farm to buy some treats. The owner said that on the first day of ‘pick your own’ the Honey Crisp trees were completely sold out! He said they are going to add a lot more of those trees next year . So,you are in good company with your taste for Honey Crisp!

  99. Barb from Ohio says:

    Hi Susan,
    What fun, going on a beach in October! Would make you almost not miss the turning leaves and cooler autumn temperatures. Been warmer here in Ohio, upper seventies and eighty one day, but trees seem to be changing too fast. Summer annuals are still blooming nicely and look odd amongst some fall mums I planted. I love the pictures of the Queen Mary and especially of you and your mother. She is a lovely charming lady and it’s easy to see where you inherited that from. Not to second place your dad because he seems to have his own wit and charm from the comments I’ve read from him on here. It must have been fun going on the Queen Mary, and reliving memories from your cruise. It would be the next best thing to actually going on a cruise for any visitors who never have. Your post about this ship sparked a memory from years ago, a good story to tell especially in October. A lady I worked with once told me about her son, who lived in California late seventies, early eighties, and was working on the Queen Mary. I don’t remember for sure what he was doing on the ship, but it might have been maintenance or renovations since that was going on over the years to turn it into a hotel/tourist attraction. Anyway, he had a scary experience one night while working there. He told her a dark, shadowy something passed through where he was working and he froze on the spot! I think he was alone at the time. He said it seemed to emanate the feeling of evil, and he prayed until the thing passed. She said he found another job shortly thereafter, not wishing to encounter it again. I have since found out via the internet, that there there are quite a few stories about the ship being haunted, even a book on it. Who knows? Anyway, it wouldn’t keep me from taking a tour if I ever got out to Long Beach, just as long as it were in the daylight hours!
    Please keep the posts coming whenever you can, we all feel like we’re on vacation with you. Enjoy your visit with your Mom and soak up some sun for us.

  100. Janet in Rochester says:

    Just came back from looking at photos of the book-signings. Which made me think: how is the supply of “original” bookmarks holding out? The ones you made from all your doodling and color-testing pages? So pretty – all the colors and squiggles stacked together. From the sizes of the crowds you’ve been getting, I’m guessing they must be gone by now! ??? Just wonderin’ :>)

    • sbranch says:

      You’re right, they’re all gone. I have to write another book, get us some new squiggle bookmarks!

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