“He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle ~ and away they all flew, like the down on a thistle . . .” MUSICA 

Wasn’t it wonderful!?  But still, there is one gift left under the tree and the question remains . . .

Yes, there is!  Plenty of honey!  It’s time for our drawing Girlfriends . . . but don’t scroll down too fast.  Allow the moment to last.  Right now, you are still the one who gets it.

 Joe and I took your tea set out for one last spin around the block before she gets packed up and sent away to our lucky winner.  We had a Christmas Day tea party with your tea set, just the two of us, in front of the fire while we opened our presents.  I have to say, this is by far the MOST photogenic tea set I have ever seen.  She smiles for the camera, she dips, winks, and twinkles. She almost wears ballet slippers and is definitely on her toes.  She does what Shirley Temple’s mom always told Shirley to do when the camera was turned her way, “Sparkle Shirley, Sparkle!”

See what I mean?  We should call this tea set “Shirley.”  Shirley sparkles next to the little French butter cakes (also known as Madeleines) my sister Shelly sent us.

She sparkles as she receives two rounded teaspoons (one for each cup) of my favorite celebration tea, Earl Grey with Lavender and Rose Petals (which, btw, is so delicious that we sold out of  it this Christmas; we ordered another batch which is coming soon).

And then the splash and gurgle of freshly boiled water.  For the perfect cup of tea, never reboil water or use old stale water heaven forbid. . . no, no, it must be fresh, otherwise there’s a good chance all the oxygen has been boiled out of it and water with no oxygen is no good, a cup of tea with no oxygen is no cup of tea at all ~ as all the tea aficionados of the world will tell you.

And then, in the old-fashioned way, the Downton Abbey way don’tcha know, because the tea is not in a tea ball of any sort, the leaves are loose and floating in the pot, we have to strain it as we pour it into the cup.  Which gives me the happy and pleasurable opportunity to use the tea strainer I designed for Lenox many years ago.  (There are no more of these strainers, this is my very last one and my pride and joy.)  It looks really pretty with this tea set!  But it looks good anywhere and shows the perfect example of how good “mix and match” can look with both old and new dishes.

The strainer catches all the little flotsam and jetsam keeping your brew completely flotsam-and-jetsam free.

As you fill your steamy teacup.

They make lots of different kinds of strainers . . . just as cute as mine, like this one . . . (which seems to be on sale right HERE … tra-la . . .)

This is the photo where I think the camera catches Shirley tap dancing.

And now for the honey.  Just a little spoonful.  Or sugar, if you are so inclined (that’s your spoon, Girlfriends!) . . . Am I going too slow for you?  Remember . . .

. . . Because there are consolation prizes.  You might not see them if you hurry too fast.

And the stirring of the tea is endlessly fascinating, don’t you agree?  No?

Well then, how about the pouring of the cream?  Fascinating?  We’re almost there … but let’s take a time-out for our

Right here, in the Heart of the Home where we agree that . . .

We took our tea to our lit-up Christmas tree (note, I have already eaten half my biscuit ~ but I know the soul-satisfying secret of where there are more!).

The click of cups in saucers, crackle and pop of fire, rustle of tearing wrapping paper, buttery tea cake and Bing is singing . . . we are counting our blessings. The most wonderful Christmas!

Just being home is the best blessing of all.

Later, our tea things went back into the suds . . . because you know, it’s time for me to wrap up and give away my last present for the holiday season.  Including the cute Emma box filled with my homemade Almond Brittle, we wouldn’t forget that.  Are you ready Girlfriends???

I have to say, Vanna is very out of character this morning.  This girl who always wears pink satin mules tied with yellow polka dot bows with her flowing morning negligee get-up has just come into my studio in the red flannel jammies with big moose heads all over them we gave her for Christmas.  With ornaments hanging from the moose horns. Plus her moose-head slippers.  I’m touched.  Quite a picture she makes.  I gave her tea . . . we are ready.  Open them peepers Vanna, here we go.

I have to say, I feel as excited like I always do when one of my friends unwraps a gift I’m sure she will like!

Long arm goes into giant red Santa hat, swirling the names round and round.   Oops!  Vanna just jumped into the hat!  She’s such a nut!  She’s swimming to bottom, scissor kicking in manner of Esther Williams, spinning and turning, like a small submarine and little names are being kicked up almost like waves.  Jack’s eyes are like saucers, he can’t believe his eyes.  Here she comes, up through the vortex of spinning names, our number generator retriever Vanna!  She is so worth her salt.  Who else would do this?  What an original!  And, in her hand, there is a name.  Only one name . . .  it starts with an A.

The name is . . . oh my goodness, the name is  A S H L E E    H A W K I N S !  In her comment, she mentioned that her husband’s grandmother (wonderful grandmothers strike again) gave her A FINE ROMANCE for Christmas while her Mother-in-law just introduced her to our blog ~ Ashlee’s a brand new kindred spirit!  Ashlee, there is an email waiting for you . . . write me back so I can find out where to send your prize.

C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S   on your new tea set ~ it has been infused with good Tea Party Christmas ju-ju for a lifetime of joy.  xoxo

And now Girlfriends, to assuage some of the disappointment, if there can be such a thing, here is a little something for all of you, (genius Artie Shaw playing Stardust on the Clarinet as if he is not an actual human).

Anyway, something else lots of you have been asking for.  You remember I collect full moons, right?

Lots of us like to make wishes on them, like this one, peeking around the West Chop Lighthouse here on the island . . .

Or that one still high in the sky at dawn on the Queen Mary 2 (waves going Swooosh against the side of the ship).  Mysterious mystical magical mother-moonshine wakes me up at night . . . trying to get in through the bedroom window ~  sometimes I just give up and let ‘er in.

I put the date of the full moon for each month on my calendars to remind us to be ready.  There are only twelve this year and we would never want to miss the opportunity for free wishes!  For the last couple of years we’ve also been giving away a free printout of a bookmark I designed that looks like this ↓ on one side . . . and when you turn it over, all the 2014 full moon dates plus the Native American names for each moon are on the other side.

 So that’s one of our consolation prizes (besides this lovely song). You all get a free bookmark to print out on your computer.  (Or have someone with a color printer do it for you!)  And remember, moons are nice but really . . .

Another something you should know about . . . there is some of my winter art you can print out under Free Stuff in the shopping section of the blog. Just go HERE for fun stationery and computer wallpaper and other goodies from me to you with love.

And last but not least, the best consolation prize of them all: see this delicious thing?  Oh my, it’s beyond delicious, crispy-edged and powder~sugared . . .

My gift to you is that you don’t have to eat this.  I won’t even give you the recipe ~ I won’t even say what it is.  I won’t bring it up.  I will save you.  You are probably as inundated with food as we are.  So, as a public service to those I love, you will not have to eat this.  Later maybe, like February.

My pleasure Girlfriends.  I know the feeling.

Well, that is all for today… a big Congratulations again to Ashlee, and really to all of us because we’ve found each other, kindred spirits in this big wild world we live in.   A kiss for you from me, mwaaah!  Have a wonderful day!  Thank you for playing Christmas Giveaway with Susan Branch! (In manner of Bob Barker!  Hello!  Reading the newest Bridget Jones right now, could you tell?  In manner of speaking?)  XOXO

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423 Responses to LIKE THE DOWN ON A THISTLE . . .

  1. Ruth Ann Ruddell says:

    Thank you, Susan, for cheering me up in so many ways. The summer after my husband retired 10 years ago we did a tour of the British Isles and I got a sterling silver tea strainer from the gift shop at one of the palaces that Henry VIII lived in – I can’t remember which palace I was at, and can’t find the journal I kept that would tell me. But I treasure it – even when it has to be polished! May God bless you richly in the coming year.

  2. Well, I’m happy for Ashley, but I had a Twine all planned for the new tea set… I guess I’ll go eat cookies to make myself feel better. I think I need tea in one of my Emma Bridgewater mugs. Have a lovely day girlfriends!

    • sbranch says:

      You are reminding me of one of my favorite quotes: “If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft, and from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left, sell one, and with the dole by hyacinths to feed thy soul. (Sadi_Gulistan) Tea in Emma will do for hyacinths for now xoxo

  3. Pat Johnson from Paso Robles, CA says:

    Congrats to you, Ashlee 🙂 I know it must seems strange to see your name all the way through this great blog – get use to it because I do believe we all know each other by now. Welcome to our world and the wonderful world of Susan Branch. Susan, a special thanks to you for getting me through another year by filling my life with joy, surprises, adventures and LOVE. I look forward to 2014 and the adventures and discoveries that you will share with all of the BFFs and the BFFs will share with each other. We are all so lucky to have the friendship of each other and the support that gives us courage, happiness and love each time we open the page. You know, Susan, you have done a good thing here!! Saying “thank you” is definitely not enough – but it will have to do because I used my last “star dust” on Christmas Eve. I have the most beautiful grandchildren and Great-grandchild imaginable – hence the need to go to the backyard and look to the sky – thank God – and throw out more star dust! Onward, BFF, into the New Year!! XXXXOOOO Funny Gramma Pat

    • sbranch says:

      Pat, you got yourself through this year with your positive never-giving-up attitude. I’m sure you DO look forward to 2014!! Because you know how to have fun. Look at the sky, say thank you God and then it’s all right in heaven and on earth. xoxo Love you.

    • Susan P. says:


  4. Pamela Riordan says:

    Congrats to Ashley/Ashlee! It’s great to share in the joy of your winning! Susan – what you kept a secret (the delish food that you “took a hit for the team” with) …is that what’s called a Grandmother’s Pancake? It looks like a large popover with confectioner’s sugar sprinkled on top … yes? Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and yours! Pam

    • sbranch says:

      It’s in my first book . . . it’s a German Pancake — so easy to make, but I was trying to save everyone. Something tells me we don’t really want to be saved! 🙂

  5. Carol Maurer~~~~ Kennewick, Wa (Feb. 24) says:

    Susan and all girlfriends everywhere, I hope that all of you had the best Christmas yesterday!! We had a great day…. started out exchanging our gifts to each other, my husband Frank and I. Then we got ready and headed for Spokane… 2 1/2 hours drive. Had good roads all the way. Spent a few hours with my twin grandsons. They are almost 8 months old now. They are sitting up on their own and just having a great time learning all about playing with toys. And, Dylan is having a great time taking all toys away from Jordan, plus taking away his “binky”. It’s fun to see them interact now.

    I’m so happy for Ashlee that she has won the tea set. She must be so very happy, as she has just become a “kindred spirit” of ours.n

    I want to know what is in that dish that looks so heavenly! Some desert I bet. I also really like the tea towel you have hanging up in your kitchen now. Do you have anymore?

    Carol M

    • sbranch says:

      If you mean the one that says Home for Christmas, I’m sorry, no — that was from the way back machine — from a company I worked with years ago that’s now out of business (like so many of them).

      • Carol Maurer~~~~ Kennewick, Wa (Feb. 24) says:

        The tea towel is on this post. It says: Heaven is being Home fo the Holidays. There is a pie in the center. It looks very heavy.

  6. Faith rose says:

    Oh Susan how funny you are! I love your long drawn out manner of speaking!What I love about you is that you never really let us down! Even when we don’t win you always make us feel as though we do win.Thank you , its like a continuous opening of gifts.Again thank you!

  7. SusanB says:

    Congratulations on winning the teapot, Ashlee. Hope you have a tea-rific time with the beautiful tea set.

    Susan, thank you for the beautiful blog., it felt just like Christmas Eve! The excitement felt while reading was like that of a child waiting for Santa! Under, my tree this year from Santa was the Original Snail Mail Willards booklet which is so wonderful, along with other treasures from your store. I so wish the Willards’ could be snail mail again. I would subscribe in a minute. There is just something about getting letters in the mail! My kitty Ruby says “Hi” to Girl Kitty and Jack. Happy Holidays.

  8. Anita Taylor says:

    Hi Susan, I finally received my book A Fine Romance for Christmas! I was told, under no uncertain terms NOT to buy the book as I would be getting a signed copy for Christmas … so for months I have drooled watching everyone post their remarks and pics of them reading their treasured copies. Ha!! Now I have my very own and I am thoroughly enjoyed my trip through the English Country side. This has been a trip on my bucket list for several years… so hope I actually make it someday. If not … I will always have yours. I’m half way through and I don’t want it to end. I am a HUGE Jane Austen fan and I am so jealous of your visit to her home etc. So my dear blogging friend, I thank you, thank you for so generously sharing your trip with all of us.

    Blessings, Anita

  9. Danella on the West Coast says:

    Thank you so much Susan for another lovely post. Congratulations Ashlee! What a beautiful Christmas present. Hope all the girlfriends had a wonderful Christmas. Happy New Year to all!

  10. Sally says:

    Congratulations Ashlee. So happy for you. Enjoy your tea parties.
    Can’t believe how excited I am to get the full moon bookmark. I have one of the 2013 full moon bookmarks on my refrigerator. With folks here for Christmas at least four people mentioned it. I said “Susan Branch did that. I wish she had done one for 2014.” Guess what? She (our dear, faithful friend Susan) did just that! I’m jumping up and down. So very pleased. Thanks for such a WONDERFUL consolation prize. Off to print out bookmarks right now. Happy New Year.

  11. Hooray for Ashlee! What a lucky gal. ☺ Actually anyone who can call you friend is a winner here. I feel like a winner each time I visit your page. It’s like sitting down for a sweet cuppa with a long lost friend. The wind is blowing us to kingdom come here this morning! What a Christmas it has been here in the UK, with gales and floods. Here in Chester we have been protected by much of it, but we are getting the wind this morning and rain. I fear the Toddster will be out in the garden chasing everything back to it’s proper place today. I think an after Christmas tea party is in order! We’ll have turkey sandwiches and little cookie cutter cakes cut out of the leftover fruit cake. Sounds like a plan! xxoo

    • sbranch says:

      I’ve been hearing about your weather! Yikes! Happy it’s going around you so far Marie. Hello to the Toddster! 🙂

  12. willemien says:

    Congratulations Ashlee! You’re gonna love Susans blog I’m sure.
    Thank you Susan, for the bookmark.
    Wishing you all A Happy 2014 from the Netherlands! Where it’s a rainy stormy day, just a day to stay inside and enjoy a cup of tea from your new tea set Ashlee. I’m so happy for you. All you girlfriends enjoy these last few days of the year!
    Love from Holland

  13. Marie (Long Beach, California) says:

    What a beautiful Christmas season! And what beautiful pictures of that gorgeous tea set and spoon. I had my fingers and toes crossed to see my name as the winner, but not this time. Congratulations Ashlee! You’re one lucky girlfriend! I’m so happy to have my Full Moons 2014 calendar! I love having it posted on my bulletin board. It makes it fun and easy to keep track of the name and date of each full moon. Thank you Susan! You sure do spoil us girlfriends. With love and joy to you always. ♥

  14. Lynn says:

    Hi Susan-
    This was such a FUN page to read and look at. The tea set is gorgeous and I know the winner will enjoy it. Question for you: Do you have a post on old Valentines? I love old linens and dishes- I have a soft spot for Demitasse sets! But most of all, I love old cards. I looked in your February archives and don’t see any on old Valentine things, but I could be missing it. Do let me know, please. Two other comments: First, I live less than an hour from Replacements! I read the many references to that on the china collection page. Have to confess I have never been there because it would be too much for me to resist all the goodies! Second, after reading that no one is making your stickers anymore, I am so glad that I hoarded many of them in the late 90s. Your stickers are just the BEST! In fact, I just used some of your candy cane letter stickers on an envelope in my daughter’s stocking. Thank you for your wonderful blog! ~Lynn in NC

    • sbranch says:

      They were darling weren’t they Lynn, I too have hoarded a few…I wish I could do them again. You live an hour from Replacements. That could be very dangerous!! What a temptation! I do have a few collected old Valentines and I thought I put them up at one time but if you don’t see them, I probably just dreamed it! Will have to remember that around the 14th of February!

      • Sharrieboberry says:

        Stickers! I missed stickers?! Maybe you could make a template for us late-for-the-boat people? A girlfriend can always wish!

        • sbranch says:

          Oh yes we had so many stickers and they were truly wonderful … the people who made them got the colors right and they were perfectly die cut. Too cute. But that company doesn’t do it anymore, c’est la vie.

      • Julia says:

        I inherited my aunt’s scrapbook and it had several old
        valentines (from about 1930) and the first year I had
        them, I color copied all of them and sent them for my
        Valentines that year. There was a 4 Roses label in the
        book that said: “Daddy’s first store-bought liquor!”
        Isn’t that funny? That was my grandfather that she
        was talking about.

  15. Jack says:

    I keep going back to look at your mystery pastry — I can’t decide if it’s a crust covered Tuna Casserole or Gma’s old fashion Chicken (or leftover Turkey) Pot Pie — ’tis the season ,
    Hmmmm Turkey Pot Pie sounds pretty good right now and I haven’t had breakfast yet .I think I’m going to have a poached egg on a toasted Sourdough Muffin and a couple mini chocolate covered doughnuts.

    • sbranch says:

      It’s a German pancake Dad… on page 147 of Heart of the Home. If you’ve never made it, it’s a wonderful little project, plus it tastes like heaven. Easy and has a spectacular aspect to it. Serve it with fruit or heated maple syrup.

    • Susan P. says:


      • Lisa from Connecticut says:

        Please, please!!! this looks sooo good. I want the recipe!!! (P.S. I think it’s so cute that your Dad is on your website! Soooo sweet!!! Makes me think of my dear Dad.)

  16. I forgot to add that I love your “Dutch Baby” oven pancake! I’m sure I could manage a small slice before the grim reality of my waistband at the New Year’s Day reckoning. 😉
    Hope you have a wonderful day!

  17. Winding Ways says:

    The other way to distinguish the waxing/waning moon is that if the curve is shaped like the letter D it is being Daring and getting bigger (waxing) but if it is shaped like the letter C it is being Coy and going away (waning).

    • sbranch says:

      That’s fun too!

    • Pam Fortune says:

      That is very interesting,my daughter Antonia once gave me a verse in German to remember the shape of the moon,whether it is waxing or waning but I can never remember it. This idea is much easier to remember. Thank you for that!

  18. Catie Cook says:

    Congratulations Ashlee! And thanks, Susan, for a really lovely post… that was wonderful. And, you can’t fool me… that’s your German Pancake recipe, isn’t it? Soooo yummy. I’m pretty sure I can taste the powdered sugar and melted butter via DSL… yep, there it is alright! Happy New Year to you, Joe and kitties. My daughter is visiting me, here in the Northwoods, from California. Our plan for today is to visit local antique shops in search of Susan Branch items… like that adorable tea strainer… sigh. Enjoy your day, Susan! xo

    • sbranch says:

      Have fun, love to you both! Yes, German Pancake, you are so smart Catie!

      • Catie Cook says:

        Susan! You won’t believe what we (my daughter and I) found while “antique-ing” through the Northwoods…?! A copy of your “Vineyard Seasons”! Mine disappeared a few years ago and I’ve been missing it so. But now my SB book collection is complete, once again. (Yay!) And, here is the cutest part… I believe you will enjoy this … on page 105 is your recipe for “Chicken in Cherry Sauce” and barely attached to the page is a very old post-it note. On the note is written: “Delish. Leave out sherry when Uncle Ed visits”. How dear is that? It is a well loved first edition of your book. Pages 78 (Split Pea Soup) and 132 (Almond Brittle) bear numerous cooking / baking “smears”. I feel very lucky to have come upon this gem. Going through it again, after a long absence, has been wonderful. Just had to share my joy with you. Hope you are preparing for a lovely New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with Joe and kitties. And I hope you’re taking some time for YOU! xo

    • Suzanne says:

      I recently discovered a tea strainer like yours in one of my cupboards of forgotten treasures and wondered how it was used. Now I realize it will be perfect for my SB special tea leaves. I so appreciate the little education on making the proper pot of tea. Sadly I fear I’ve been sucking the oxygen out of my tea water for all these years! Heaven forbid – I had no idea!!

  19. Lucy says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy, Healthy New Year, Susan,
    Many thanks for printing that beautiful Full Moon Calendar for all. I look forward to it each month.


  20. Susanb says:

    It is official, I am addicted to this blog, your dad even joins in! I love it!

  21. Paulie says:

    Congrats to Ashlee on her new tea set! How exciting for a newly wed to own such a lovely setting! I guess Vanna must have been upset because my first post disappeared today. Oh well……….lovley post Susan!

  22. Alison in RI says:

    Congratulations Ashlee!! What a gorgeous set!!!! (Love that spoon!).

    Merry Christmas Susan! Your blog is such a gift!!!

    PS — I Got A Fine Romance for Christmas, and my eyes have been glued to the pages ever since! It is SO wonderful, I had to be torn away from it by my father to open other gifts! Lol. My heart is set on going to England now at some point in my life! I’m only 19, so I think should I ever marry, England would be a fine romance indeed! ( I hope I can only be as lucky as to meet someone like your Joe!) Once again Merry Christmas!! Thank you for being you and inspiring so many women!

    • sbranch says:

      Indeed it would Alison. Merry Christmas and thank you for taking the time to comment. Tell us when you go to England!

  23. Susan W says:

    WOO-HOO! A brand spanking NEW full moon bookmark! Yeesss! Thank you, thank you! I’m so excited! (and sound a bit nuts). I love to print these out for family and friends before New Year’s Eve. My DH keeps his all year through and that’s a “Major Award” (to quote The Christmas Story) as he can and does loose almost anything. It’s snowing now and after all the Christmas Commotion leaves our house we’ll be settling into our cozy house with a new book or two for January, February and March months while the snow piles up outside. I’ll have to reread A fine Romance as it’s a top hit on my reading list.

  24. Jody says:

    Hooray for Ashlee. Thank you for the bookmark, Susan. I, too, am a collector of Full Moons. I think one of my granddaughters will love this book mark so I shall print us two! I gave your new calendars to my big girls — daughter and DIL’s this Christmas. They loved them. Thank you for giving us such good gifts to share with those we love.

  25. Joy says:

    Congratulations to Ashlee! And Merry Christmas to all…

  26. Ricki says:

    Congratulations to Ashlee. This post was lovely Susan. The Tea Set gleamed. Something else wonderful on Gladys Taber’s page. Sweet pictures of Susan and they are so excited you are coming. I”m reading one of Gladys’
    books this week. No one like her and no one like you Susan. Thank you.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh! I didn’t know they’d done this. How fun, can’t wait for June. And thank you Ricki, from the bottom of my heart.

  27. evangeline says:

    Happy happy for you Ashlee!!!. .. we all will “picture” you serving tea in your new absolutely lovely tea set….so very delicate and precious…”Shirley” will serve you well…….I’m sure…”Susan”..again such a wonderful and heartwarming post…I cannot tell you how happy it is to read your blog. I “feel” loved and blessed with so much…Thank you from down deep in my heart for your many many gifts… you really give so much…not just beautiful “Shirley” gifts…but in sharing your home, moon, and most of all your thoughts…you say what we “feel”. I am terrible trying to make words say what I “feel” but you are blessed with being so good with words….thank you is fun to live in your world….glad it includes all of us girlfriends….God Bless You….each one at your precious home….evangeline

  28. Lacy Joy says:

    I have a small collection of dishes in the same pattern as the one in which you have baked something that looks delectable and sprinkled with powerdered sugar. What a treat to see that! Made my day. It’s the little things, isn’t it Susan?

  29. Betsy says:

    How very wonderful and congrats to Ashlee! ♥

  30. Jeannette from the CA coast says:

    Lucky Ashlee!! I’ve been making your “German Pancake” for about 35+ years under the name “Liberace’s Big Pancake” in a cast iron skillet:) Thanks for a wonderful post Christmas blog! Happy new year!!

  31. Rachel from Maine says:

    Yay for Ashlee! And yay for all of us, thank you for the new full moon book mark! I was just looking at my 2013 one and feeling sad that I didn’t have one for 2014. You must be a mind reader, Susan!

  32. Becky Maggio says:

    Congratulations Ashlee and welcome to the club of kindred spirits! I love reading how excited everyone is for you and believe me, we truly ARE! Just something we girlfriends share, a love for Susan and each other. I love that SO much! Each new posting from Susan is like a mini book…we read and re-read them because they just touch our hearts/souls/spirits. Don’t you all agree? I love the idea of “snail mail”, too. I always wanted a pen pal and now, at the young age of 61, I finally have one. A dear new friend who only lives an hour away but we don’t get to see each other often, so it’s letters/cards to keep us connected. I am like a little kid getting to share this way! SO..I was thinking, if there are any other girlfriends in South Louisiana who would like to join in please email me at I hope that’s OK Susan, that I am using your blog to send out this message? We already know that we have so much in common because of Susan and it would be so nice to “connect” personally with some of the girlfriends close to home. Who knows, maybe one day we can start our own chapter of girlfriends in the Bayou Country. That would be so much fun!!

    Blessings to all and warm wishes for a Happy New Year!!

  33. Debra Gibbs says:

    Oh Susan, I was so excited! I saw my dishcloths in two of your pictures in a couple of posts past…so glad you are using them. I am still cranking them out over here and giving them to all my friends. 2013 has been a healing year for me after having major surgery on my nerves in my spinal column. It’s been a very long recovery and crocheting these has become a past time…makes me feel productive.
    Congratulations, Ashlee, on your tea set that we know you will treasure forever!
    And Happy New Year to you, Susan…glad you’re home and nesting…..

    • sbranch says:

      They’re gorgeous Debra, the colors are amazing, I love them! Very productive is what I would say! Happy New Year to you, blessings for a wonderful year of good health! xoxo

  34. Susan P. says:

    Ashlee congratulations on the Tea pot use it and use it and use it…even when there is no party going on. My girlfriend Patsy was in England this year and for Christmas I received a Tea cup and saucer….as I opened it…..I THOUGHT OM MY GOODNESS THIS IS LIKE THE ONE SUSAN BRANCH IS GIVING AWAY. No it was a beautiful Historic Royal Palaces…designs taken from several of the royal palaces….very nice and I will be having tea in it this I will toast you and your new Tea Set. Love, Susan P

  35. Ruthie P says:

    Congrats to Ashlee!!!! Thank you Susan for giving us all the chance to win.I think more than the china the home made candy from you would be the best.To have something home made by you in your MV kitchen…..Thank you Susan for another wonderful year…this one was the best because I got to met you in person.I felt like you did with going to visit Beatrix Potter’s home.Would it be all I thought it might be…well it was more than that…you were just like I thought….warm,sweet smart….adorable.Thank you for that.I told my husband when we left the book store that you held my hand….when I think of all the beautiful things that came from your head down to your finger tips and onto paper to give us all such joy…and to touch that hand….just remarkable.I wish you had that chance with Beatrix Potter.
    I hope you and Joe had a wonderful Christmas,full of happiness and I hope the year ahead is a happy healthy one for you both and the kitties.I know mine will be good…I got a whole lot of Susan Branch gift certificates:)))
    One more thing…I baked an apple pie and my husband walked by and said…”that pie is so pretty,it looks like a Susan Branch calendar …be still my heart. xoxo Ruthie

  36. Sheryl from Chico, CA says:

    It’s so special that a newby gets the tea set. That means there is a brand new set of young’uns on the way. Yay to that. “Carry on”, as the British say.

  37. Elly says:

    How wonderful, Ashlee was the big winner of your lovely tea set! As I was reading your step by step tea drinking time with Joe, I was remembering tea times past,
    I had the pleasure of sharing with my mom throughout the years. She would always tell us children, her favorite time of the day was when we came home from school. She’d be waiting for us, a hot pot of tea on the tea light, and cookies in a tin on the table, waiting to hear all about our school day! What a treat that was!
    Perhaps Ashlee will begin a tradition using her “new” tea-set, with her children, just as I had with my mom!
    Thanks for sharing your love of all that makes a home special!

  38. Diana - Highland, IL says:

    OOOOH ASHLEE!!! How wonderful that you won the beautiful tea set! As one of the lucky people that has won a prize from Dear Susan.. I know how excited you must be!!! Please don’t set it on a shelf to just admire. A set like that needs to have some life and purpose!! I know you will enjoy it soooo much!! Happy New Year to Susan, Joe, Kitties, and all the Girlfriends out there!! Am awaiting the arrival of son #3 and his girlfriend on Sunday and we will have Christmas/Holiday excitement AGAIN!!! 🙂 … Thank you Susan for the bookmarks.. I LOVE to have them peeping out at me from my fav books… I have saved the Fine Romance to kick off the new year.. I gave a copy to one of my sisters.. she is a Librarian at the St.Louis Art Museum and she is a bird lover, book lover, tea lover and I gave her your book, the tea mug with the bird on top with strainer enclosed, and your tea tin for Christmas.. BRILLIANT!!!! She is a VERY happy girl!!! LOVE to see when you hit the nail on the head with a gift!!! THanks for all you do!! Love and best wishes to all for a happy healthy 2014!!

  39. Angie(Tink!) says:

    ⛄❄⛄❄⛄❄⛄ Congratz to A Very Lucky Ashlee! OMG Sweet Sue When You Said “A” My Heart Skipped A Beat My Wings Stopped (for A Second) 🙂 Shoot! Not Me 🙁 C’est La Vie But A Very Happy Ashlee! 🙂 Vanna’s A Nut 🙂 Too Funny I Love Her Shoes! 🙂 Thanks for The Full Moon Book Mark Sweet Sue! I Know That Beautiful Tea~Set Will Be Enjoyed! Whew….I Love Your Christmas Tree Sweet Sue! Merry Friday! xoxo Poof! ⛄❄⛄❄⛄❄⛄

    • sbranch says:

      I knew you need to plan your full-moon twirls Angie!

      • Angie(Tink!) says:

        ♥ Good~Morning Sweet Sue You Know Me! 🙂 Full~Moon Twirls Are Ready! 😉 ♥ Wishing You A Delightful Weekend As We Get Ready for New Year’s Eve…Are You Having A Party? xoxo Poof! ♥

        • sbranch says:

          A party that is just us and one other couple in front of the fire to talk about last year and next. Perfect for us. Perhaps just a smidgen of twirling too.

  40. Linda June says:

    Congratulations to Ashlee! You are going to love this Tuscan tea set. Thanks, Susan, for all the built-up anticipation for this tea set. Loved looking at all the pictures, goodies, and your own tea party with it before sending it off. Just beautiful! And over 3,000 comments! That has to be some kind of a record. I’m off to the kitchen now to have a cup of tea in my “Holly” Emma Bridgewater mug. So fun to use it, and also the “Ivy” one, at this time of year.

  41. Laurel says:

    Congrats Ashlee! I feel like a winner also as my sister-in-law gifted me with A Fine Romance for Christmas! Can’t wait to brew myself that cup of tea and curl up in front of my tree and start reading this weekend 🙂

  42. Congrats to Ashlee ! but i must know what that deliciousness was!! yummy!!
    thank you for the bookmark! must get a new printer very soon!

    I’m trying to play catch up and play with Rilla at the same time lol

    Rilla keeps saying, ”Are yiu done with Susan Branch yet, Mommy?!” lol

    so I must gp play til my next sneak attack!

    • sbranch says:

      Uh oh… I’m like a cell phone to your child! 🙂 That deliciousness was German Pancake and it’s in my first book Heart of the Home . . . I’ll put up the recipe soon. Kiss the kidlet for me!

  43. maddie says:

    Susan,I am so amazed that you respond to nearly every one of the comments you receive!! That is what sets you apart from other “bloggers”. We truely are your girlfriends. So very special in this internet world! Congratulations to Ashlee, here in Oklahoma the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, had just over 45,000 enter her drawing of a pair of BOOTS…!!! Yippee ki O…!!!

  44. Joan in TX says:

    Congratulations to Ashley. Jack’s saucer eyes makes me giggle every time – so cute. Yum – looks like it might be a Dutch baby pancake.

  45. Asha says:

    Oh Susan! When I saw that the tea set winner’s name began with an “A” I was so hopeful; however, I am truly happy for Ashlee. She will have so many wonderful tea parties with those beautiful tea cups! Congrats to you Ashlee! Enjoy a cup of tea for all us blog girl and guy friends! Happy Christmas day two, Susan and everyone!

  46. Ashlee Hawkins says:

    Thank you all so much for congratulating me on my beautiful new tea set! What a lovely way to start my collection. I have already planned a tea party to welcome Shirley to the family! I am so happy to be one of Susan’s new girlfriends! Happy holidays everyone!

    • sbranch says:

      Hello Ashlee! As you can see, all our Girlfriends are really happy for you! Have fun and Congratulations!

  47. Margot in Virginia Beach says:

    I am so glad that a young woman just starting out won the prize! Heaven knows most of us who have practiced the “ordinary arts” for years have enough dishes by now. LOL
    I have been having fun with my new tea strainer, which I found just before Christmas. I even started using milk in my tea!! Am I turning into a Brit??? lol My brother-in-law would be proud if he knew.
    Thanks for saving me from myself, so I may begin my new diet. 🙂

  48. Lisa Jorgensen says:

    Thank you for the Full Moons bookmark! I love looking at the full moon each month and the names that go with them are fun to know. Your Christmas tree looks beautiful, hope your holidays are warm and happy.
    Looking forward to another year of inspiring and creative blogs. Maybe another book sometime soon?
    My kitty Samantha says “meowy Hello” to Girl Kitty and Jack!

  49. Judy in OR says:

    Congratulations to Ashlee. Your german pancake looks yummy. They are so easy to make and that picture is tempting me.

  50. judi says:

    Congratulations to Ashlee and may you have many, many delightful cupfulls of tea with friends.

    My BEST and biggest surprise gift for Christmas…a pkg. from my grandson. It was YOUR 2014 wall calendar. I burst into tears….I had wanted it so bad but, other things were needed before that. My husband had NEVER seen me react like that before. Now with great joy I will fill out my year full of Birthdays and Anniversaries on its lovely pages:) xoxoxo judi

  51. Darlene says:

    Congratulations Ashlee!! May you make many happy memories with your special gift from Susan!! It really is such a pretty tea set and the almond brittle looks divine!! Thank you Susan for all you share with us!! Happy New Year to you and everyone!! xoxo

  52. Julia says:

    I’m happy for you Ashlee. You sound young and I know you will have
    many, many tea parties to make your friends and family happy. I
    love it when the young ones are interested in making a sweet, happy
    home. One time a 40 year old ask me to teach her to do needlework
    because her mother didn’t do that kind of thing and her grandmother
    had passed on. When she came the first time she could not even
    thread a needle! Really! But after several visits she did some very
    beautiful, creative embroidery. I think it was more fun for me than
    her and it felt so good to see the things she was turning out. It’s
    so important to PASS IT ON!

    • sbranch says:

      My favorite thing about learning to cook and sew, was that then I had something I could GIVE … make presents, aprons and embroidered dishtowels and soup for the people I love! Can’t imagine just going to work and never making things!

  53. Chris Wells Knickerbocker, W TX says:

    Congratulations Ashlee! And welcome to the wonderful world of Susan Branch! One can never have too many BFF! When the real world gets just a little “too much”, you can sneak away here and find peace, blessings and rest for the soul. Then, you are ready to tackle the real world once more with a fresh outlook and a renewed spirit. This is a very special place, with more kindred spirits than you can ever imagine. The girlfriends here are amazing.
    Thanks Susan for another wonderful year of gifts and friendship. Like so many girlfriends the highlight of my year was meeting you and Joe.
    The family have all gone home now, it’s very quiet! I think that German Pancake is calling my name…….with coffee in my new Emma Bridgewater mug!
    Happy Weekend Girls!

  54. Lori says:

    Congratulations Ashlee, so happy for you! You are going to love it here!!!!!!! 🙂

  55. Laura Ann in Vermont says:

    So happy for Ashlee! I, too, love that this beautiful set is going to a newlywed, rather than to someone like me who already owns too many dishes. Anyhow, I am completely thrilled and satisfied with the consolation prize of Susan’s blog posting and bookmark. I was thinking that one of the reasons we all love Susan is that she is like a big sister, always looking out for us, giving us little treats, and making sure we are happy! Maybe seven younger siblings weren’t enough for her; she’s taken on all her “blog siblings” as well!

  56. Annette McD says:

    Congrats, Ashlee! We’re all jealous, of course, but extremely happy for you. Welcome to this big bunch of girlfriends who support and care about each other. May your tea parties be many and your cares be few.

  57. Annette McD says:

    Susan, I noticed that there will be a full moon on Valentine’s Day. That sounds like romance waiting to happen, doesn’t if? Maybe we can think of something special for an occasion like this. I wonder how long it will be for the full moon to land on Valentine’s Day again, any way of finding this out?

  58. deb says:

    Congratulations Ashlee!! And, thank you Susan for the “consolation” gifts! I will print out my bookmark and collect my moons through the year. What a wonderful gift, slowing down, opening my eyes and taking notice of the beauty that surrounds me every moment. Thank you!

  59. Ann says:

    Thank you, Susan, for a fabulous blog post and we are all so happy for Ashlee. What an exciting introduction for a new girlfriend. My disappointment was not that I didn’t win the gorgeous Shirley but Susan, you put cream in your wonderful Earl Grey with Lavender and Rose Petals tea!! I was shocked and horrified, lol! I hope you don’t mind me saying but it is SO un-English. Black, maybe with a slice of lemon, or just with milk, but never ever with cream. I hope I can convert you and all your girlfriends to the English way of taking tea. Here’s looking forward to another year of eagerly awaited blog posts in 2014. I wish you and Joe a New Year filled with happiness and blessings in abundance.
    With love from,
    Ann in Thame xx

    • sbranch says:

      My girlfriend’s mom was English, she was the one that taught me to put cream in it. But you know us rule-breaking Americans! We be bad. If we can think of a way to make something more fattening, we’re gonna do it! xoxo Happy New Year Ann!

  60. Mo'a says:

    Congratulations to Ashlee!!! I agree with Lori…”You are going to love it here” and what wonderful start.
    Susan…I have that very same Corning Ware dish…looking forward to February and the recipe.
    Are you having a Downton Abbey party…I am counting the days to January 5th…sounds like I am rushing my life here LOL
    Happy New Year to you and Joe and Kitties xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      My Downton Abbey party is just me and Joe and kitties and knitting. Because people at parties have a tendency to talk, and that just will not do! 🙂

      • Elaine in Toronto says:

        Best party ever!

      • Catie Cook says:

        Indeed…. ahem. One might miss something dreadfully wonderful from The Dowager Countess. (One of my favorite lines from Dame Maggie Smith is her reply to Elizabeth McGovern’s “Well, I will take that as a compliment” statement. Smith’s reply: “Oh my. I must have said it wrong.”.) Though I will never forgive Julian Fellowes for having killed off our darling Matthew, I do enjoy his writing and am looking forward to Season Four with great anticipation.

        • sbranch says:

          Love that, and also, “what’s a weekend?” As for Julian, he also blindly and dastardly stole (with no credit given that I could see) the rose show scene, the exact same one that was for the “Belden Cup” in Mrs. Miniver. It was so blatant I sat there with my mouth open. I love Downton Abbey, the writing and the speed of it is really good — but seeing that didn’t make me love him. So between you and me, Mrs. Miniver and Matthew, that’s two.

          • Catie Cook says:

            Oh my word! You are SO right! Absolute thievery! That did not occur to me until I read your reply… that’s dreadful! Shame on Lord Fellowes. I confess, however, that I am hooked on the program. After Matthew died in that horrid auto crash, I swore that my relationship with DA was finished. But… sigh… I cannnot wait for it to begin again. Only recently did I discover “Call The Midwife” which you also make mention of. I am enjoying that one, too. Have a lovely New Year, Susan. xo

          • sbranch says:

            I’m hooked too. I can’t blame him for Matthew, because the person playing Matthew wanted to leave. Seems there was no choice but to kill him.

          • Janet in Rochester says:

            That WAS shocking, wasn’t it? I actually sat there with my mouth agape too. Could NOT believe what I was seeing/hearing. Is it possible he’s never seen “Mrs Miniver?” Never made the connection. It’s the only explanation I can think of…. ???

          • sbranch says:

            All there needed to be was the smallest ode to Mrs. Miniver..a tiny piece of the original dialogue with a bit of a wink in it would have been great. But the wink, the nod, in that lovely droll English humor way, that would have been the important part and would have added lots of charm. We would have laughed and been happy!

          • Catie Cook says:

            Regarding Matthew’s demise, I believe there were other means of “disposing” of his character without sending him under the wheels of a lorry. For instance, he could have been sent off to New York for… whatever! And then he could have made cameo appearances. Dan Stevens (Matthew) loves the cinema (and did you also know that he is a writer?) and prefers it to TV. So he is working on multiple films, as I understand it. And, in fairness to Stevens, he signed on for a single season BBC drama. However, rumor has it that Lord Fellowes became irate when Stevens declined to remain a “regular” in the series. Thus he, and his dialogue-production colleagues, “done him in” as Eliza Doolittle would say. Humph. We will all miss Matthew. And what’s to become of Lady Mary and her infant son? Can’t think about it without succumbing to the vapors…

          • sbranch says:

            Ha ha ha … well, that’s what makes this fun. I bet she gets someone like Mr. Darcy. Adorable, cute, handsome, with a great big house of his own.

  61. Patsy says:

    Congratulations, Ashlee and welcome to Susan’s world. Not to minimize the beautiful tea set, I just have to mention what I received in the mail yesterday from my dear, dear friend, Katie.
    Drum roll…..inside the box was an autographed copy of A Fine Romance which Katie had signed for me at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA when you, Susan, stopped there on your Western tour. I opened to the very page where you wrote,
    “To Patsy, with love, Susan Branch, 2013.
    I was and am ecstatic with such a treasure. Thank you so much for making my book personal and thanks to Katie for being my Susan Branch buddy.

    • sbranch says:

      How wonderful Patsy! And then we all connect! Amazing world we live in.

      • Patsy says:

        Downtown Abbey here we come. Maggie Smith is so classic in her role. Loved it when she said,”if the poor don’t want the food, bring it to my house. “. She is hilarious
        Happy New Year, Susan, Joe, Girl Kitty, and Jack.

  62. Toni from Sylvania OH says:

    Hi Susan…oh, the GREAT posts:-)
    I must ask…was just going thru “our” books, looking at the German Pancake recipe, and all the other books in y(our) collection and ran across some of my Tasha Tudor books. I LOVED her from was back…she has lovely books and illustrations,…many of her children dressed up in very OLD-FASHIONED clothes, which she then drew. Just wondered if you knew of her?
    love to you, Joe and the kitties:-)))

    • sbranch says:

      I do now, but while she was alive, I wasn’t familiar with her, other than her name. I did a little ode to her on the December page of my 2011 calendar, and painted her corgi with one of her quotes. Now I see why she loved painting Corgis!

  63. Joanie B says:

    My husband and I are taking a spring trip so exchanged only one gift at Christmas. He gave me exactly what I wanted–A Fine Romance! He couldn’t believe I had almost half of it read by the next day. Thank you for letting me travel with you vicariously!

  64. April says:

    Congratulations, Ashley! And thank you again, Susan, for being such a bright spot in so many lives. <3

  65. Nancy says:

    Congratulations, Ashlee! You will enjoy the tea set for years to come. So happy for you! 🙂 Susan, I was wondering if you knew the name of that china pattern? I would definitely like to start collecting some pieces.

    • sbranch says:

      There have been many suggestions among the comments … It doesn’t have the pattern on the bottom I’m afraid.

  66. Tricia Debs says:

    Oh, that was fun! Really enjoyed the sloooow ritual and the tea. And congratulations to Ashlee! Packing for my trip to the sunny Virgin Islands. I’ll be having Iced Tea there! Happy New Year to Susan and Joe. See you next year.

  67. Bernie says:

    Aaah….I was hoping to win, but Congratulations to Ashlee. I am really TRYING to be a good sport! Thank you for saving the recipe for that yummy looking concoction for a later date. I am SOOOOO looking forward to NOT eating so much!

  68. Joann says:

    Congratulations to Ashlee and I hope all of you have a VERY WONDERFUL New Year filled with blessings, love, good health and joy!!!!


    Here’s to another year of wonderful friendships!!


  69. Nancy says:

    I actually did find the is Blenheim.

  70. Carol (Daisy) says:

    I just knew it had to be a what we call ‘dutch baby pancake’ and some of the girlfriends responses confirm that. I can patiently wait for the recipe instead of looking it up as we too, don’t need any more sweet foods in this house for a few weeks yet! I think it is almost mandatory for me to make it as I have the same corning cornflower pattern baking dish and the cover still hasn’t broken which is remarkable for me since we received it in 1967! Have a wonderful, happy, healthy, safe 2014 NEW YEAR to all the girl and boy friends!!

  71. Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

    Good morning girlfriends and Susan! what a fabulous tea set that you gave away – I was sad that I wasn’t the happy recipient, but alas… was not to be. I was, however, so excited to see the German pancake! A friend was trying to describe that to me and she asked if I knew what is was and did I have a recipe (she had lost hers)…she said she used to make on Christmas morning for the kids (in a cast iron pan). I was unfamiliar with that, and lo and behold, you found it for me 🙂 I was able to find it, thank you very much, and whisk it away to her as an attachment. I spent the entire day yesterday at the sewing machine piecing together a baby quilt for a friend’s new grandson born just after Christmas (I had the pieces all cut out, but not assembled – and when I heard the baby was born I had to go into warp speed to get it done). My husband kept yelling up the stairs “What are you doing up there?” I said “come look!” Got it pretty much done by 11:30 last night! Sore back from sitting there all day long – guess I’m not as young as I used to be 🙂

  72. Laura says:

    Notice how all the Girlfriends have such pretty names….Evangeline and Margot and Asha and Rachel and Cate spelled with a C and Lucy and Winding Ways and Faith Rose and Betsy and Daisy and Elizabeth and Maddie and Elly and on and on!! So excited…tonight is the Call the Midwife Christmas special on PBS at 7:30!!!! YAY!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      Prettiest, they really do.

      • Susan from the Cape Fear Coast of NC says:

        And Laurel and Joy and April and Willemien. I’ve also noticed what lovely names some of the girlfriends have. One thing I know for sure…All of the girlfriends on this site are lovely, wonderful, caring, extraordinary people.

        Wishing a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year for everyone.

        • Susan Branch Girlfriends are truly exceptional and they leave THE most lovely comments. I’m so blessed to have had several pop over to my blog to say “HI”. I second Susan from Cape Fear and also wish everyone a Happy New Year filled with health, love and happiness.

      • Deborah T. Norling says:

        LAURA ! So glad I checked in today. .hadn’t known about the, Call the Midwife Christmas Special this evening..THANK YOU !

    • judi says:

      thanks for the reminder….now I’d better write it down:)

  73. Tawni urrutia says:

    Good Morning Susan!
    I opened up my old, well worn, kinda tattered much loved Heart of the Home and made that beautiful German Pancake this morning. So beautiful with it’s edges puffed up like a crown of deliciousness! My husband was so happy to rise and shine to the smell of that baby coming out of the oven! We used his mom’s home strawberry jam on it…HEAVEN!
    Wonderful for Ashlee to have that beautiful tea set, with love and best wishes from you and Joe pouring out of the spout and roiling up out of the lid!
    Thank you for another uplifting post!
    Tawni Urrutia in Lodi, Ca

  74. MaryAnn says:

    Congratulations to Ashlee! She will love the joy the tea set brings. I can’t be too disappointed, having just found a teapot, creamer and sugar at an antique store on a trip a couple weeks before Christmas. It in in the Royal Albert Lady Carlyle pattern, pink!, and I already had a teacup and saucer in that pattern. My sweet husband encouraged me to get it, and I said okay if it could be my Christmas present. It is so exciting to look forward to putting it out when Christmas things are tucked away. So I know how excited you have made Ashlee! Blessings to you and Joe for the New Year. Such a special time right now, reflecting on the year past and looking forward to what the new year will bring. Thank you for the wonderful trip to England and “A Fine Romance” to remember it always.

  75. Julia says:

    I would love to see the Girlfriends Valentines in the web store again.
    There is nothing like the big old fashioned lights on a Christmas tree.
    I have had to go with the artificial pre-lit tree at this time but
    maybe I can think up another way to use my big old lights. I enjoyed
    seeing your old fashioned big light tree. Thanks.

  76. Naomi says:

    Oh Susan – you are so precious indeed! It was so much fun listening to you as you described the beautiful tea set and so suspenseful as you picked the winning name! You are the best story-teller! I was so excited when you announced the winner because I can imagine how thrilled Ashlee is! Congratulations Ashlee! Can’t wait til February to find out what that luscious dish is all about! Looks like something from my childhood, sweet . . . but not too sweet . . . just right! We all love you Susan. Happy New Year! Naomi

  77. Kirsten from So. Cal. says:

    Ha, ha! That is so funny….the German pancake, I mean! I didn’t recognize it…..but I’ve got the book and the recipe. I was about to scold you for making us wait for the recipe until Feb.! The photo looks so delicious…..ummmmmmmm. Glad others are as impatient as me. Oh, congrats to Ashley on winning my uh,er her tea set! I know that the tea will taste devine in those pretty cups! Speaking of tea, I think I’ll go console myself with some too. Love to all the girlfriends and Happy New Year to all!

  78. Pam says:

    Dear Susan,
    What a glorious weekend, and without knowing it, you were a central part!
    This as been a tough year, financially. Blessings and glories abound, but pennies must be counted, and wants weighed against the cost of needs…
    so this Anglophile, who revels in everything you do, had to put the deep desire for your book aside and find contentment in your blogs.

    Then, on Christmas, one of my little students gave me a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble!…enough to buy your book!
    The longing is ended, and I have sat…blissfully mentally traveling to all the places I’ve dreamed about…and without guilt of any sort left housework and chores go untouched!
    My little buddy, Oliver (my cat and best friend) shares the chair with me as we indulge in giddy splendor!
    It is a wonderful book, Susan! Thank you so much for the gift I received within each page!
    Belated Merry Christmas to you! May your New Year be a blessed as you have blessed others!

    • sbranch says:

      How wonderful! I feel like I was just in a Christmas story like the Bishop’s Wife. Happy New Year to you Pam!

  79. Deborah T. Norling says:

    YAHOOO FOR ASHLEE ! Lucky Girl ! Susan your pics of the delicious freshly brewed hot tea in the beauuutiful tea cups were so enticing ! ! I wish I’d been say…Oh yes PLEASE..I’d love a cup… ( no milk or sugar ) .

  80. Elaine in Toronto says:

    Hi Susan are you and Joe enjoying the lull between Christmas and New Year’s? Its my favourite week, just being quiet, no shopping, leftovers to eat, people to thank.
    Back in Oct when you did the post on the life and times of Jack I noticed your little china dalmation dog on the bookcase ( its the picture where Jack is in the drawer). I decided that I would make that my quest – a dalmation dog – on my thrifting/antiqueing forays. Well, I didn’t have long to wait. I found not one but two and they are enchanting. One is sitting like yours and the other is standing. I gave the standing one to my friend and next door neighbour for Christmas. She said she squealed like a kid when she opened it. Everybody happy, right? Not quite. Here’s the rest of the story. My beautiful little dog was accidently knocked off the table he was sitting on. Spots everywhere! I wanted to cry but my husband was so upset that it got broken on his watch that I quickly reassured him that accidents happen and it wasn’t his fault. And here’s the best part. His little head (the dog’s not my husband’s) head was in tact so I am going to make one of those little whisk brooms like the ones with the china head and torso of a pretty lady and the whisk broom part looks like a skirt. It will work perfectly and I now have a one-of-a-kind treasure. All’s well that ends well. May 2014 be a happy year for all of us.

  81. Cindy Maulin says:

    hi susan!!! and congratulations and all the best to Ashlee!! a great treasure to be sure….. It is almost comical that in the blink of an eye Christmas present has turned in Christmas past!! I am not exactly sure what happened~~~ one minute my whole family was gathered in our living room laughing and taking in the seasonal chaotic moments and the next minute….my husband and I are sitting feet propped up in front of the fire..him on the New York Times Crossword (dang that thing!!) and me reading my newest book gifted to me by son Jake…”The Apprentice” ..My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin….and all is calm…..thank you Susan for the lovely heart-warming Christmas story post and now the special completes the season and moves us all forward…I hope that 2014 brings you and those you love many blessings of life…, cindy
    ps…recognized the German Pancake right off!!! haven’t made it for a while but it is melt in your mouth wonderful!!! I betcha that a bunch of us will be making it over the New Year’s holiday!!!! <3 I doubt I will wait that long….xo

  82. Kit in Montana says:

    Yay for the winner! Congrats! I am going to print off a bookmark toot sweet. I have a close relationship with the waxing moon. She watched over me when I was recouping in the hospital after cancer surgery. I would wake off and on, and all nite she was there keeping me company. She had such a calming affect on me. 🙂 Thank you. Kit

  83. Arden Shelton says:

    I might have missed a mention of this somewhere, but I’m just making sure that you know about a new book:
    BEATRIX POTTER’S GARDENING LIFE; The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales. by Marta McDowell: 2013 Timber Press; Portland and London. It’s wonderfully illustrated with her artwork. Lovely…..arden

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, I was lucky enough to get that for Christmas from my dear friend Rachel! I’ve only glanced through it so far — it looks wonderful!

      • Dawn (Elmhurst, IL) says:

        Oh, Susan! I also received “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” as a special Christmas gift. It’s truly wonderful! As I am reading, I often think, “Susan would love this!” There is so much insight into Beatrix, starting in her early childhood. The author lives and gardens in New Jersey. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if both of you could meet for tea one day? It’s the perfect book to enjoy while we are waiting for our gardens to wake up!
        Stay warm!

        • sbranch says:

          She was a private person, who did what she believed in. I recently finished Beatrix Potter: The Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius … it’s a long book, but I loved being immersed in it, it was like being there with her. It’s a scholarly book, with many, many details. But I loved every one of them. Way beyond what she did with her little books, Beatrix Potter was a brave, hard-working, determined, inspired woman, who never let reality get her down, rose above all, and carved out an original life all her own. We all need heroes to look up to and try and live up to and she is definitely one of mine.

          • Dawn (Elmhurst, IL) says:

            The lovely words that you use to describe Beatrix are the exact same words that we would use to describe YOU, Susan!! ♡ You most certainly are following in the footsteps of one of your heroes! Thank you for recommending another wonderful book about this amazing woman! This year, I read many books about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In the new year, I’m looking forward to reading many books about Beatrix Potter! Every year, it’s delightful to reread many books by Susan Branch. ♡♡

          • sbranch says:

            Ohhh Dawn, what a thing for you to say. Thank you. xoxo

  84. Joyce Jennings says:

    Hello! I am new to your website and find that we have so much in common. I am a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, I have collected Beatrix Potter figures for years, and I have the same love for my rescued Basset Hounds as you have for your adorable cats.

    I have been reading back “Willard’s” and blogs and came across your list of favorite sites. I saw that you recommended a site on astrology. I wondered if these practices played a part in your life as I assumed you were Christian.

    Thank you for your time and trouble. Joyce

    • sbranch says:

      I just think astrology is fun ~ but I don’t “practice” it. I’m much too busy for that, although at one time, while wishing Joe into my life, I did ask (in my diary) for a 6’2″ Leo who could cook. 🙂

  85. Joyce Jennings says:

    Dear Susan, I just read your response to a lady in which you referenced both God and Heaven.

    I feel such relief. I have come to regard you as a friend and I sit here crying as I will attend the funeral of my dearest friend tomorrow. Consequently I can continue to enjoy your friendship.

    Have a blessed new year. Joyce

    • sbranch says:

      I’m so sorry Joyce. Sending blessings to you on this sad day. My prayer is that the wonderful memories of your times together overwhelm and blur the grief.

      • Joan Lesmeister says:

        I’m so sorry Joyce. Thinking of you and prayers for your dear friend. Susan your reply is lovely.

    • Holly says:

      Joyce, I’m so sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. You will be in my prayers as you are grieving her. May God give you peace and comfort.

  86. Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

    Hi, I’m throwing this out to all the girlfriends – would anyone know what is it in the German Pancake that makes it puff? and….more importantly, why would one NOT puff up? what would cause one to be flat?

    • sbranch says:

      The steamy air inside the pancake (provided by the eggs and hot oven) makes a giant bubble which is held in by gluten structure (flour mixed with eggs) and that’s why they “fall” so quickly after coming out of the oven. They need the heat to hold the steam. This is a perfect cooking job to hand over to someone you’d like to learn to cook (or anyone who says, “What can I do to help?”) When the pancake comes out, all puffy and beautiful, they are so impressed with themselves, they are hooked on cooking forever and now believe in magic!

      The milk, eggs and butter should be cold, eggs should be lightly beaten before you start adding the flour. Also, it’s all purpose white flour, not cake or bread flour. And the oven needs to be hot enough. That’s all I know ~ Hope this helps Barbara.

      • Catie Cook says:

        Barbara… is it possible that you added your eggs directly into your dry ingredients? If so, that missing step (first beating the eggs – with just a fork, if need be) may be the culprit? Also, you might want to make sure that your oven is accurately delivering the temperature, as set. I have an AGA and I’ve used an oven thermometer for years. If that doesn’t do it, then I would believe the universe simply wants you to bake, and enjoy, another German pancake!

      • Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

        ok! thanks! my friend has a gluten allergy so is using wheat/gluten free ingredients thus the reason it’s not puffing up – I will let her know!! fortunately for me, I’m not allergic 🙂 I knew you would have an answer!! 🙂 thanks. I think I’ll make one for breakfast on New Year’s Day. how fabulous.

  87. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Your German Pancake is divine! We always called it a Dutch Baby Pancake! My husband likes his with butter, powdered sugar, fresh strawberries & whipped cream – a work of art! Me, I like butter, lemon juice & powdered sugar!! So delicious anyway you fix it & eat it just out of the oven! I’ll have to make it in my Corning Ware dish like yours (which was a wedding present 50 yrs ago!), I gave away my heavy iron skillets! xoxo

    • Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

      That’s my new thing to collect – cast iron skillets – the yuckier the better! I look for cheap ones that are covered in thick old baked on blackness! My husband takes a wire brush (on a wheel) to them and in minutes they are back to “square one”, then I spend time seasoning them and gifting them to friends who like to cook. I find such joy in restoring them!! Plus it’s fun to rediscover markings on the bottom and research their age. I print out from the internet any info I find regarding same. The ones I’ve been finding are usually close to 100 years old! THEN when I give as a gift, I deliver to a friend filled with either a cornbread or an apple crisp. It’s fun 🙂 I keep my eyes open for $5 pans at garage sales, then come home and say LOOK! to my husband who rolls his eyes and then gets busy with them in the garage! 🙂 I know he enjoys it as much as I do, after all, he’s the one who had 2 cast iron pans before we got married (1980) and we still use them. We have one that’s perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches and one that’s perfect for French toast.

  88. Trish K from Missouri says:

    Yay! Three cheers for Ashlee! Such a beautiful set! Have fun at your tea party! I myself have never had loose tea, nor have I ever had tea from a teapot or from an actual china tea cup. I use mugs and tea bags, and feel like an aficionado for trying different kinds. But after looking at your many pictures you have posted over the years and from your books, I need to try a real tea sometime. Is it fun if it’s a tea party for one?

  89. Julie Ann Westwater says:

    Can I just tell you that I absolutely adore you, Susan Branch?! I’m relatively new to your blog, but your art has been gracing my walls for years. You are so much a part of my home and I just know that you would feel at home in my home! How I wish I could sit with you in my kitchen or yours over a steaming cuppa with musica playing. We have much in common I think and much to interest each other. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do and share with the world. I am just one of your adoring fans, but you are truly one in a million! ♡Julie Ann Westwater
    PS: I wish you a blessed and happy new year!

    • sbranch says:

      So nice to have you here Julie — I always think of my blog as a little house, with the Peter Rabbit room, the art studio, the kitchen (of course!) — and this main part of the blog, the living room, where we all hang out by the fire. Thank you for being here!

      • Dawn (Elmhurst, IL) says:

        So sweet!! We really do feel like we are stopping by to visit you on MV. We just LOVE the pleasure of being your guests! ♡♡

  90. Hello ~ Happy New Year ~ and Happy New Moon 🙂

    Love your post today. How fun and creative you are.
    Thank you for the bookmark.

    Love, Carla

  91. Hi Susan, I can’t believe I refrained from entering your lovely giveaway for just a little too long, and then the weather closed in and we lost power and phone/internet for a while, so I couldn’t change my mind! But, truth be told, I worked for some antiques dealers for a few years, a while back, and, ummm, I have a DISH PROBLEM. So I really don’t *need* more china. If you know what I’m saying. Ahem.

    Also wanted to tell you that in a local antiques mall (see, I can’t stay away from them!) I saw a stack of your books, and pounced on them and even bought copies of ones I already had, so I could give them to my sister. We are both loving your whole you-ness, so much. I hope the new year brings you many blessings. How could it not. Happy holidays and best wishes from Maine.

  92. Holly says:

    Susan!! Yesterday I found four vintage first edition Gladys Taber books at my little used book shop here in Indiana! I picked Stillmeadow Calendar to read first. I’m still on the first chapter, reading nice and slow, making it last….. but already I’m in love. Her writing is just like getting a long, newsy letter from my Granny ( who has been gone for for 5 years). Thank-you for writing about her. Happy New Year to you and all the girlfriends from the frozen Midwest!

  93. Pam Fortune says:

    Hi Susan
    Another very enjoyable blog and interesting tea facts. I actually gave two China tea sets to the charity shop last year when I had a major down sizing phase. I just have one left and keep most of it on a shelf but the tea pot has a crack in it so can’t be used but it looks pretty on the top of the shelf and it reminds me of my dear father who bought it for me many years ago. I hope that your tea set gives Ashlee many happy memories. Happy new year to you and Joe and all the girlfriends.

  94. Marsha McGinnis says:

    Well, you’ve managed to do it again, Susan ~
    You get more joy out of every little minute than anyone else I’ve ever known. And thank goodness it’s so contagious that even on some of the saddest days you can make me smile.
    My sis and I both love love love your blog. Our 93 year old mom passed away last month. And it was her time, but we miss her a lot.
    Thank you for just being you, you do make a difference in the lives of so many, (just so you know).
    Happy New Year … We love you 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      So sorry for your loss Marsha. I’m sure it’s bittersweet because you know she’s in a better place and you still have your memories, but still . . .

      All my best to you and yours in the new year! xo

  95. Holly Lynn Cook says:

    Catching up on your blog. Isn’t tea time such a wonderful time. Lovely pictures. I’m in the process of putting a tea cart together for my art room. Thank you for the inspiration!!!

  96. Elfie Haab says:

    Susan, you have reentered my life when I needed you most and I am so happy today and ready to face 2014. I have so many things to tell you. This is my first blog comment. My mother gave me your book in 1987, it was my first Susan Branch book. I (we, my mom and I) fell instantly in love with your art, your recipes and you! I love your family. I merrily brought you along for my early years of marriage and child raising and made practically every recipe in your cookbooks. Every dinner party and holiday dinner was that much more delicious. What an inspiration you were and still are to me. I read your cookbooks like novels and each year my mom gave me a Susan Branch calendar and more books. How I loved to nestle into the couch over the holiday break and look over your drawings when my children were small. I have eleven college girlfriends that I see once a year, I gave them all a copy of your Girlfriends book years back! The past two years have been the roughest in my life. My wonderful mother in law passed away at the age of 72 from cancer and then one month later my mother, age 76, got cancer and passed away seven months later, we lost her last February.Two fabulous grandmothers in one year, it was heartbreaking. My mother was my best friend, she was so full of life, an artist, a gardener, a photographer, a fabulous homemaker , wife and grandmother. We made toffee every Christmas. I was named after her and nicknamed Elfie by her. Of course I love Christmas! I hold the best memories and I am lucky enough to live in my parent’s old house. I see my mom in the garden that she tended and feel her presence everywhere. I didn’t know how I would face this holiday without her. I have a wonderful husband, children, siblings, friends … we pulled together as families and friends do in grief. I bought myself your 2014 Calendar as a little present to remind me of my mom. Having an iphone had gotten me away from wall calendars. I discovered that you had a few books that I didn’t own. So I immediately ordered them on Amazon, well I am devouring A Fine Romance. You have given me a gift with this book. I love hearing about your Joe. Did I mention my dad’s name is Joe? My parent’s had the greatest of romances. Anyway, you met Joe in 1987 , the same year I got your first book. My birthday is May 4th, the year I turned 50 and gave myself a birthday party for 50 of my girls friends, you set sail on your two month trip. It happened to be a month after my mother in law died, so I was trying to embrace life as best as I could. Now I have your book to remind me of life’s beautiful treasures. I want to travel to England and see those Castles. I will be reading your blog from now on. You have given me a piece of my mom back as you remind me of her with what you write about in your journal. I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to live for, thank you for reminding me that life is truly beautiful. I also have recently become a cat owner, my daughter brought home the dearest cat. She was meant to enter our lives. My lab Rexy, is such a part of our family, sadly, getting older now too. I love the picture of your dad’s hands on your calendar, so glad to know you parents are doing well. Happy New Year Susan, you feel like an old friend!

    • sbranch says:

      Wonderful to hear from you Elfie, how cute your mom called you that. You write beautifully about your family. Your mom was obviously a very vibrant woman and I can see she passed it on to you. She must be so proud of you, watching from heaven, as you carry on, living life just as she would want for you. xoxo Thank you so much for writing!

    • Sheryl says:

      Dear Elfie,
      Your letter was so heartfelt. Even though you expressed your sorrow, I want you to know that not only do you have Susan to write to, you have many others, like me. All Susan’s girlfriends seem to have a lot of heart and are open to others and sharing; whether sad or happy times. May your new year be blessed with unexpected love and happiness and friends.
      Sheryl Kirk

  97. Tracy says:

    The story of the tea set brought me a wonderful sense of joy. My dear beloved grandmother was named Madeline and her kind funny sister was Shirley.
    Thinking that they are up in heaven having a wonderful tea party.

  98. Marie (Williamsburg, Virginia) says:

    Congrats’ Ashlee! Think of us Girlfriend’s when using your pretty tea set.

    Happy, Healthy,
    Joyful, Blissful,
    New Year, Everyone!

    Cheers & Blessings!

  99. Marylou wood says:

    I would like to order the Christmas ornament. Are they still available to purchase.

  100. Debra in So CA says:

    Woke up this morning very cold, about 65 degrees in my bedroom. (I sleep better with the heater off.) Then I remembered You & Joe there on the East coast, with the winter storm Hercules bringing all that snow & wind! I prayed you would be safe, cozy and warm. How are you doing? I guess it’s not your first storm, so you are prepared with everything you need. I will continue to pray for you all on the East coast.
    I wanted to ask you if you are still taking advanced orders for Yankee Home Magazine, the one that will feature your holiday home. I’ve been searching on your website and cannot find it. Are you going to offer it later in the year?
    Love your Posts, as you keep us so inspired with your creativity. Thanks for the recipes and sharing your latest news.
    Stay safe and warm. Hugs, Debra

    • sbranch says:

      Oh, that’s over with now. Yankee came to my house in 2012 … the magazine came out just this last October …. and it’s sold out, at least from us. You may be able to get back issues if you go to their web site. Thanks so much Debra!

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