REAL Beatrix Potter People

Meeting “real” Beatrix Potter People, as you know, was wonderful, and truly

my cup of tea

Of course I put on good old-fashioned English MUSICA for them, and now for you, so you can get the feel of the thing.  The talk at Vineyard Haven Library was so interesting; Betsy Bray (and American Trustee ~ the only American ~ from the England-based Beatrix Potter Society) was constantly interrupted by the Beatrix-AFR vanloving audience who wanted to put in their two cents, so it was really more like a wonderful conversation.  Then it was piling into the Fine Romance Van for the two-block ride to our house for a quick tea, because they (including Betsy’s friend Barbara and their friend Suzanne who is also a “real” Beatrix Potter person in the form of North American Liaison Officer for the Society) had to get to the ferry to go home.  And of course, as you would imagine, we were ready.  Tea for the five of us, the three “real” BP People, Joe and me and of course the two kitties, one of which loved it, the other of which, ignored the whole thing and stayed comfy in her normal spot on her pillows in the Peter Rabbit Room.

flower border


First I’d like to tell you my Philosophy on Tea Parties:  A formal tea, with starched tablecloths, crochet-edged linen napkins, shiny silver things, dainty china cups and saucers, several kinds of cakes, cookies, scones, four kinds of sandwiches, and two salads is really good for your very best friends tea(or for larger parties) because all the fou-fou will not put them off, they already know you like to play house to the nth degree, they have forgiven you for it, and now they lean in,  they appreciate it and feel perfectly comfortable, not stilted.  Then there will be twine, stuffing of themselves, good gossip, and all will be well.  But if you go formal with a small group of people you’ve never met before, you take the chance that they may get the wrong idea and think they should have worn gloves, perhaps be uncomfortable, cups could shake and clatter in saucers, and worst possible thing, it could curtail conversation, leaving the room with only fork-hitting-plate noises, and put them off of telling the scandalous things they know which is just unacceptable.  What would be the point?  Take no chances.  First rule of tea party etiquette, unless you are of the Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes ilk, is to have comfortable guests (even those who live “north of the park”) and FUN.

July 08 Vineyard 1460  That being said . . .

we went blue

We went blue.  We went mugs, cozy comfy simple, the opposite of intimidating, mugs . . . oh I love to play house . . .

polenta cake

We went with the Lavender~Orange Polenta Cake, because it’s like true English, not quite as sweet or birthday-cake-like as the Orange Cake (with Pineapple filling, YUM!which is so beyond good, it almost hurt not to make it), but I thought a plainer cake would be more traditional for tea, delicious with soft and crunchy all inclusive, also not intimidating, and it was in our book too (recipe’s on p. 214 or HERE).  It was originally made for me by Siobhan, a real English person, so it just seemed right to do it.  Plus it’s gluten-free and you never know these days.  (P.S. for our Girlfriend Gina P from NY, Recipe for Milk Cake is on p. 90 of A FINE ROMANCE, or HERE.)

tea time!

We went with my favorite afternoon tea (actually breakfast too, I’m addicted) Lavender and Roses Earl Grey Tea (the one I took to England and found to put in our web store so the rest of you can try it).  More MUSICA?


Joe made soft little smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, I made cucumber triangles and egg salad fingers.  I like to use a potato masher to break up the hard-boiled eggs . . .


Such an easy way to do it . . .

egg salad

You keep going, right in the bowl, until it’s the texture you like ~ so much easier than chopping with a knife.  Then you stir in minced celery, minced red onion, celery seed, a drop or two of hot sauce, bind the whole thing with mayonnaise and put it on white crustless bread.  Radish sprouts are a nice little garnish with these, but I couldn’t find them at the market.

lit the fire

We set everything up so when we got back with the girls, we could just put a match to the fire and be ready . . . Joe did that, while I took the girls on a little tour through the kitchen . . .


… and up the back stairs to the Peter Rabbit room . . .


On the way up the stairs I gave them a disclaimer, because it’s really a very tiny room, and not even overwhelmingly Peter Rabbitish, because these girls . . .

Beatrix Potter

would be very hard to impress, since I’m sure they have it all already.

PR Room

Our Peter Rabbit room is just a nice little bedroom above the kitchen.


I’m still not over the fact that I saw this dresser in an antique store somewhere out in Kansas or Iowa or something and DID NOT BUY IT. What an idiot.


 My Peter’s were still hanging around the bonfire on the dresser, although it wasn’t lit at the time.  After the tour which they seemed to enjoy (which actually took less time then this telling of it. . .) we poured the tea, grabbed our mugs and settled ourselves in front of the fire.  And this is when I lost it with the camera and forgot to take pictures!  That’s OK.  Joe took this picture after we’d talked our heads off and were no longer strangers . . .

me, Betsy, Barb, SuzanneFrom left: me, Betsy, Barb and Suzanne.  See the little pins we’re wearing?

my badge

They brought me one as a gift . . . Do I love it?  Oh, yes I do!  I gave them 2014 calendars.  We were a mutual admiration society with so much in common.

our book near Hill Top

These two “real” Beatrix Potter People (Betsy and Suzanne) were already familiar to me because they’d gone to Hill Top and taken our book with them and sent me a photo a few months back!  Wasn’t that sweet of them?  Our book in the Lake District, at the post office box across from Hill Beatrix and WillieTop!  Our conversation never stopped, zero fork-hitting plate noises were heard, and that’s why I forgot all about the camera.  We talked about all the going’s on in Near Sawrey, they showed me pictures of the inside of Castle Cottage, the house where BP lived for thirty years with her beloved husband ←Willie Heelis.  Which they were saying might be made into a Bed and Breakfast!  Be still my heart.  We talked about how wonderful the newest Society Journal and Newsletter was (which, if you don’t belong to the Society is SO worth it, so interesting, I know you would love it); that the Society is building a new more wonderful website right now.  We talked about Beatrix like she was our friend, and how we each came to find her and that because of the amazing way she lived TeaTimeher life she made the perfect hero for us.  (One book that gives the entire story is Beatrix Potter, the Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius, you can read my review on Goodreads.)  I’m sure Beatrix would not think of herself as a hero.  She was just doing what came naturally.  But what came naturally to her was wonderful.  There was lots of laughing about how it was for us to drive on the wrong side of the road, there were plans for meeting again.  And then, with only five minutes to spare before their boat left, they ran out the door, jumped in the van and Joe ran them down to the dock!  That’s when I remembered the camera, and took some pictures of the table, sans lace and fou-fou, but still, there were roses . . .

tea party

And lots of good leftovers!  Which I always plan for, because, why not?  As long as you’re making things anyway.

tea party

The Art of Beatrix Potter was with us.

tea party

Emma was there ~ and so were YOU, we talked about how much fun we had all going to Hill Top together.  


Jack sat here during the whole party, such a good boy, the perfect tea party accompaniment.

little vases

And even though the visit is over, I still have my little vase of flowers . . .


And plenty of cake . . . and a wonderful entry in my diary.


This was Jack at dawn this morning . . .


Life is good.

shadowsThis time of year, with days beginning to lengthen, when the sun comes up it makes long shadows through curtains into my kitchen and living room . . .  I thought I’d show you some of them while we talk about Downton.

SPOILER ALERT; if you haven’t seen episode 2, you may want to skip the shadow-pictures part of this post . . .

But, I guess anyone who thought the first episode of Downton Abbey was “slow” is over that now!


Apparently the writer of this show, Julian Fellowes, isn’t happy unless our hearts are beating fast, we’re either crazy happy or miserably sad, or angry like we are right now, wanting to go through the TV screen and get that guy!!!  (I’m sure in real life, during that time, with women as important as we can all see that they are, this was something that was not unknown in a household this big. It’s still not unknown.) Now we wait and see what she’s going to do.  I have faith in her.  (Not so much the writer though, he’s scary).  And if Lord Gillingham is going to keep going with Mary, which I hope he does, then this rat, his butler, is going to be coming back!!!!  We’ve got trouble my friends, right here in River City.


Then wanting to tell Tom to lock his bedroom door because spider woman Edna is trying to break in ~ how come he’s becoming insecure all of a sudden?  Isn’t she hideous? I was glad that O’Brien left, but this woman is even worse! I almost had a heart attack when Mrs. Patmore had that pain, because I really love her.  I was thinking that dastardly Julian Fellowes, he’s killing the good people!  But whew, she’s fine.  I know he has to do this stuff to make a good story and get us going, but he’s sort of asking for it!


Happy to see Mary laughing again ~ but her father should not be allowed around money ever.  Could you believe that??   I had huge laughs-out-loud for this one, especially when Lord Grantham after being chastised by Lady Grantham for being such a snob turned to Carson and said, “I blame you.”  And Carson, such a snob himself, wondering why Lady Raven would ever be invited to the house because she lives “north of the park.”  Too funny!


OK that’s enough!  I have two more things to tell you.  Number one, I found a wonderful website filled with garden things.  It has a hedgehog house and a bee bole like Beatrix Potter’s which even comes with bees.  The store is in England, so I don’t think we could get our bee boles sent with bees, but go look, it’s a lot of fun, all wonderful natural garden things at Hen and Hammock.  They’re having a sale, but it’s also fun just to look.


The second thing is that Costco is going to carry our book!  I don’t know how many of the stores will have it, so you can call yours and check, but I will be doing my first Costco signing ever on February 15, from 1 to 3 pm at the store in Avon (near Stoughton), MA ~ perfect timing, because they have all those yummy free tastings Petey with A Fine Romanceright around lunch time, you can shop, have lunch and say hi to me!  I was looking for a way to introduce myself to people who’ve never heard of me . . . and Costco looks like a good way to do it.  We are still around #2 on Amazon for English Travel,  which is pretty darn good; we have an amazing 238 five-star reviews there, which I hover over happily, and thank you for personally.  We aren’t doing as well in England where we only have three reviews, but they are famous for minding their own business over there and there is no complaining from here.  You know we always have signed copies in our web store if you need them. 


Love you Girls. Hope you enjoyed our tea party half as much as I’ve loved reading your comments about cakes and tea parties and your take on the characters on Downton Abbey.  So fun!  Byeeee! XOXO

PS Oops, forgot to say, Janie’s Valentine Banners are up! 

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498 Responses to REAL Beatrix Potter People

  1. Annette McD says:

    What a beautiful day and how exciting! You live in a such a charming home and it is so full of warmth and love, I am sure the ladies felt so much at home with you. If you ever have a second career you would be great at having a B&B, everyone would want to be your guest including all us girlfriends. Thank you for sharing your day with us, that was truly special.

    • sbranch says:

      I always thought I would love to do that! I would like one in the woods, with maybe ten little cabins that I could decorate all differently.

      • Annette McD says:

        Little cabins in the woods, hmmm, reminds me of a story… Jemima Puddleduck’s Waddle Inn. Seriously though, I think your idea is a beautiful one and I know you are good at making your dreams a reality. You never know, it might be an interesting endeavor to pursue. If you do, reserve me a cabin, I’m in.

      • Sue Yarberry says:

        A woodsy B & B with cabins all decorated with a different theme…..sounds simply divine! Sounds like a good retirement investment to my husband & I. You could buy it and hire us as proprietors to run it coming by from time to time to chat with guests and see how things are going. It would be a hit!
        Sweet Sue of So Cal

  2. KarenP (Wisconsin) says:

    What a lovely, lovely tea party!! That picture of the four of you looks like a group of good friends getting together for a nice afternoon! Everything looks perfect. The nice thing about having company and preparing a beautiful “spread” is the leftovers the next day!

    Love having a forum to hash over Downton Abbey with girlfriends who love it as much as I do!! Maggie Smith amazes me at every turn! Just LOVE her. And I didn’t even THINK about the fact that if Lord Gillingham comes around to court Mary that that VILE man will be with him….but of course, he will! Anna may still have to be worried about Mr. Bates finding out and killing him and winding up back in prison!! Oh my!!! The drama of it all! Wonderful work, Julian!! Even if he DOES tear at our emotions!! I’m doe now! 😉 xo

    • sbranch says:

      Mr. Bates needs to be tricky if he is to exact deserving revenge. Love your take on it Karen!

      • Karen P (Wisconsin) says:

        I also meant to comment on darling your Beatrix Potter book/figurine arrangements are! You DO take the best pictures! Love the candle in the teacup with the soft light shining up on the figurines! Bliss! I love that we girlfriends all love the same things! Such a pleasant place to visit is your website! xo

      • Julia says:

        You know how it will play out now? Poor Anna but there
        will be a BIG question coming up!

    • Debs OBrien says:

      I know! I know! I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to forget it all~~this is now such fun that you are all seeing it too. {sqeeeals with excitement watching all the wonder and puzzlement on your faces}

  3. Stephanie says:

    How lovely! It feels like we were there with you. Loved all of it. Whatever those white-linen-crochet coasters are… we’ll be needing those in the store! Loved. Them. I need a few dozen so hopefully the fairies of the universe will bring them to us??

    Congrats on Costco – I read somewhere that they are one of the biggest booksellers in the country (which surprised me!) so this is great. All good things for 2014!

  4. Debs OBrien says:

    Oh! Oh! Oh! Please excuse me while I dry my eyes. Vera Lynn always makes me cry.

    Of course that was the most perfect tea party! I mean, who’d want to be in Elizabeth’s shoes over at Hyacinth’s with the ‘handpainted periwinkle china’? It looks like the most wonderful time was had by all. Lucky ladies! Lucky you! I love all that blue and white Emma collection. Did you see her new pattern, Roses and Bee? I am in love~~~again! 🙂

    Did you see, I know you must have, about the rare fungus Beatrix Potter sketched in 1896? Well, here’s to the spooky stuff now~~~my Nanna was born in that very year and just yesterday I found a rare 100 year old photograph of her {my family, I am sad to say, did not go in for having photographs taken, I guess because we are working class and maybe that is not something working class did? I don’t know. Anyway} and her brother. I have shared it on Twitter and FB.
    Okay, here’s the thing, that photo was taken in 1914, and her brother, my Uncle Jim is in it with her. She was just 19, he was 16, yes, just 16 and is in his army uniform as he was preparing to go to France to serve his country in The Great War and do you know he lied about his age just so he could go? I can’t imagine, and he looks like a baby in the photo, I wish you could see. gosh, I’m rambling now, aren’t I~but you see, I’m so excited about my little photograph. Means the world to me! And, I know I’m being silly, but all these dates are tying in sort of. You can tell I’m excited, can’t you? Today, they are also releasing, online, the wartime diaries too. So emotional that will be. I hope they publish in book form.

    About the Amazon UK reviews. I will go back over there now you’ve reminded me, but do you know it would not let me review my copy? I don’t understand why, but I was able to comment on the {then} two comments.

    Waving from Across The Pond xoxo

    p.s. I’m thinking about changing my last name from O’Brien to something else just to distance myself from “O’Brien” 😉

    • sbranch says:

      LOL! Don’t do it, we could never get you mixed up! How lovely to find that photo, of course, you must be beside yourself! Thank you for trying with Amazon Debs! You are too sweet. So happy for you!

  5. Joy B says:

    Oh, what a fun tea-party! I’m sure they all loved your Peter Rabbit room but they probably loved getting to know you and Joe even MORE!
    In response to that first post about you having a B and B (wouldn’t that be wonderful for us) I think I’d like, not to HAVE one, but to be able to decorate one with someone else’s money, and have someone else run it for me, but to be able to go visit any time I wanted. We can dream, can’t we? 🙂

  6. martine levy says:

    a very good friend of mine has introduced me to your website and especially your blog,just before the holidays.You are my twin sister!I couldn’t believe we have even the same china,and our house looks similar to yours! I ran to buy your book,it was my special gift to my self for Christmas! I can’t tell you enough how much i enjoyed it ,in fact i didn’t want it to end!I am going to read it all over again.I have been a librarian and a book seller for 30 years ,i know all your wonderful books[my favorite is the Autumn one]but “A fine romance”is the BEST! thanks for sharing with us all your adventures.So now i have signed up for a “Willard”,and i read your blog after breakfast,which is a very good start for the day! By the way i couldn’t agree more with what you wrote about Dowton,What a RAT,i am not looking forward to the next episode! So,here is a big hug from sunny and DRY California.Actually,here in Los Altos it has been very cold this season,not to compare of course with your blizzard. Keep the fire burning!Talk to you soon.

  7. Barbara (WA) says:

    I once went to an over-the-top tea party and I was indeed afraid to talk. And afraid to eat too much – I really regretted that! I love your way to doing Afternoon Tea. I am in the midst of reading Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life – fascinating!

  8. Angela Fehr says:

    Well! I had to stop reading because I haven’t seen Season 4 of Downton yet and you were just giving it all away! I’m still not sure I’ve forgiven Fellowes for killing Matthew – my heart is broken and I don’t want it to mend.
    But I wanted to comment because of our little Beatrix Potter dresser. When we added on to our house I knew I wanted a Beatrix Potter room for our daughters, who were then 1 1/2 and newborn. We painted the room such a pretty shade of periwinkle blue, and I painted Peter Rabbit on the wall, four feet tall. You know, the page where his mother is dressing him in that blue coat and he looks OH so uncomfortable? And their ugly little wooden dresser got a coat of fresh white paint with little white knobs and on each knob I painted a Potter animal, squirrels and bees and kittens.
    The girls are 10 and 9 now and their room has been painted a couple of times (it’s currently Granny Smith apple green), but the dresser remains and we love it.

    • sbranch says:

      I’m so sorry! I should have thought before running off on Downton like that! I added SPOILER ALERT to the blog, that should help. Thank you for the reminder. Such a cute dresser — sounds adorable.

    • Karen P (Wisconsin) says:

      Angela, your Beatrix Potter girls’ rooms sounds darling! It is wonderful to have the gift of painting. I could do what the dresser is above (apply appliques) but that’s about it! Susan, I feel so sad for you that you have that lovely picture to look at but not the actual dresser! Sometimes, I tell my husband, it is GOOD to be an impulsive shopper rather than living with regret! LOL! I still think you could (and SHOULD) so easily replicate it! Will watch for pictures! 😉

  9. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Hello Susan! Your “casual” type tea party photos are wonderful!!! Such a simple, yet chic way of serving tea! You truly have entertaining down to a “T” !!!
    Thank you for sharing……thank you for teaching…..I always learn so much from how you entertain your guests. So unique! (And Jack is such a perfect “accessory” to your decor, as always he makes us smile!!!!) Keep cozy!

  10. Lynn L says:

    What a lovely tea party! Thank you for sharing. And Downton, oh, my. I was so wound up I couldn’t sleep! The acting is so incredible and intense. I have to say I am not sure how much more I can take. I want to watch happy endings!! I want to see what’s going to happen, but not looking forward to it as much as I was before. I don’t want realism in my entertainment!! ha, ha.

    Isn’t it fun to be able to talk about these things with everyone?!

  11. I know it’s impossible that I’m truly the first one to comment, but want to say thank-you for such a lovely tea, Susan! And all the lovely links. AND … how on earth did you know exactly when the first music would be over, as I read along, and that I would need a new music at Just That Moment? You’re clever 🙂 I’m filled with inspiration after reading your blog posts to go do something fun, joyful, and beautiful. But also inspired simply to be happy and spread happiness around. Love your Peters around their bonfire. How adorable! Now, to go peruse the Hen and Hammock. Such a fun name 🙂

  12. Gina P. from NY says:

    Oh Susan, thanks for the shout out! “A Fine Romance” is on order from Amazon – I haven’t gotten it yet, so didn’t realize the “Milk Cake” recipe was in there! Can’t wait to check it out because anything sweet with milk in it sounds heavenly! I know I will enjoy each and every page of the book, so can’t wait to get it. Your home looked beautiful and welcoming, as it always does, and I’m sure they were as enchanted as we all are when you share the wonderful pictures of your home – only they got to see it up close and personal! I was thinking the other day and I must visit Martha’s Vineyard sometime in the fall or winter. I’ve always been there in the summer – having taken the Ferry from Hyannis – when it’s crowded and bustling. Must be an entirely different world in the autumn and winter. I love seeing the pictures of the snow covered trees and the ocean that you post at this time of the year. Serenity at its best…

    • sbranch says:

      Well, good, that’s why I put the recipe up there too, I wasn’t sure. Streets are empty, parking spaces all over Main Street, no traffic, just windswept and quiet. You’d love it.

      • Gina P. from NY says:

        My honey and I just need a quiet, elegant, cozy Inn somewhere on the island with a fireplace in the room where we can hang out and look out onto the winter landscape. We are walkers, like you and Joe – so we’d definitely have to find a path/shore to navigate. The cold does not bother us! We are hikers too and live near the Hudson River about 35 miles north of NYC. We have Bear Mountain State Park here – with loads of trails and views you would not believe from the tops of the mountains and trails! Talking about “leaf peeping” in the fall… it is something to behold here too… I am going to make that milk cake this weekend! Thank you for posting it…

  13. denni from MN says:

    With several inches of new fallen snow I look at your photo of the burning fire in the fireplace you have for your tea party guests and miss my old fireplace! That cozy feeling would be great to have today! I can enjoy getting my teapot set for a moments delight reading a good book or watching an ‘old’ movie!
    I just hold my breath at times when ‘Downton’ takes the turns it does with its characters. Can’t wait to see what happens next! Thanks for all the fun you bring to us with this blog, Susan!

  14. Asha says:

    Hi Susan! Your tea party was such a delight to attend via blog! Thank you for inviting us. It was fun meeting the Beatrix Potter people. I’m going to join the society. So looking forward to having new interests when I retire this summer. Discovering your blog couldn’t have come at a better time. My sister introduced me to it. BTW – I have your Lavender and Roses Earl Grey Tea and it is absolutely delicious! Everyone that loves tea should buy it. Especially love the pics of Jack! He is such a ham! I’m ordering the Valentine banners and the three books set written about Beatrix Potter. Can’t wait to get them. Kisses and hugs to you, Joe and the kitties!

    • sbranch says:

      Lucky you, Asha, retirement — I love how you’re planning for it! So happy you are enjoying the tea, I’m hooked on it. xoxo to you and yours!

  15. Pam Wright says:

    How wonderful!! I’ve been waiting for today to find out how everything went at the tea party. The setting was perfect!! I wish I had some friends like that to have over for tea. Unfortunately it seems that lots of people today don’t take the time to do all the fun things you do so well. You’re really an inspiration for all of us!. I agree totally with your philosophy of making people feel welcome in your home. The little extras like home made dinners and treats and a welcoming atmosphere go a long way to make people feel very glad they came. I’m looking forward to your next post!! Thanks so much!!

  16. Rosanne Murphy (Oregon) says:

    Oh, thank you for inviting me to your lovely tea party! You are always at mine, at least in spirit. I used Emma mugs at my last girlfriend tea party because one of the girls had a broken wrist and I thought it would be easier, and it was nice using mugs. How do you successfully make loose leaf tea in a pot? Do you use a tea ball? In tea rooms they usually just put the leaves in the pot, but then you have to drink it right away and can’t let it sit. As for Downton, I laughed out loud when Lord Grantham blamed Carson, who really is the most terrible snob. I didn’t even care that the first episode lagged a big. I just love being there in that beautiful house with all of the great characters. Mrs. Patmore is wonderful, but I identify most with Mrs. Hughes. Downton is such a nice gift to unwrap every Sunday night.

    • sbranch says:

      Well, Mrs. Huges is the most normal, organized, loving, helpful and understanding. That’s probably why. 🙂 I use a tea ball (really it’s like a tea ball, but used for bouquet garni in soups) for the loose leaf in a pot, but then I pour the tea before it gets too strong and then add more water.

      • Rosanne Murphy (Oregon) says:

        Thanks so much for the tea tip! Very smart method (of course!). When you put it that way about Mrs. Hughes, maybe I just aspire to be like her.;) I definitely belong below stairs, though, because at 5 feet tall, I’m just not tall and willowy enough for those beautiful upstairs gowns. Ah, to be willowy. Sigh.

        • sbranch says:

          I was going to try to choose upstairs or downstairs, but then I thought, how really alike both of them are. All a bunch of birds trapped in a gilded cage.

  17. Deb W says:

    A dresser similar to that Beatrix Potter one would be SO easy to do yourself! You could choose your own color(s), drawer pulls and illustrations cut from an old book. I ask you, how could you have ever gotten that dresser home the back of the already crammed-full van? One that you do yourself would be so much cuter!

  18. Elaine says:

    Your posts and photos are always so fun . Nothing like a tea party with friends , family and goodies . I also mash the hard boiled eggs with a potato masher for egg salad sandwiches . Thanks for sharing with us all . Have a wonderful week !

  19. Ann says:

    I loved reading and seeing the tea party. I agree with you about going simple with those you don’t know well and love going all out for special friends. That BP dresser that you regret not buying (and I don’t know why you didn’t!) is something you can replicate yourself. Decoupage! Just print color copies from one of your books and decorate a dresser or little table. As to Downton Abbey, I am still a little angry at JF for writing that scene. I know he is trying to show us all aspects of life for the downstairs crew, but why Anna. (Yes, I know, Mr. Bates is going to be very angry when he finds out–and he will.) Mrs. Hughes keeps a lot of secrets. Anyway, happy to have the girlfriends to discuss this with.

    • sbranch says:

      I know, why Anna. Of course, why anybody. I just want revenge. I hope Julian gives us that, on a silver platter, with all the frills attached.

  20. Maria in Long Beach, CA says:

    Costco, Susan?! You better have bowls of ice nearby to soak your pour little hand and arm in 🙂 Of course, I’m basing that on how busy Costco is here in CA on any given day.
    Thanks for letting us join the tea party. Beautiful!
    As for Downton…our poor Anne! I’m so upset! What will Mrs. Hughes do? She knows what happened. And Bates is no dummy. This could land him back in jail. Of course, we can probably expect that Anne will become pregnant and have to lie about the father.
    My favorite character is Mrs. Patmore as well. I’d rather spend all day with her than be “upstairs.” When she told Daisy she was the one who sent her the Valentine, I burst into tears.

  21. Angie(Tink!) says:


  22. Carla Ludwig says:

    Hi Susan! Loved hearing about your tea party, knowing you would love every minute of it!! I agree with EVERY WORD about Downton!! I could not believe this episode…..sooo upset over sweet Anna!! We will just have to wait and see how she handles this. Have a wonderful rest of the week!

  23. Joan Waites says:

    Susan-can’t tell you how much I am enjoying reading “A Fine Romance”. As an illustrator, I have appreciated and admired your art work for years, but wasn’t familiar with your books until I started reading your blog. I feel like I am traveling right along with you to places I have always wanted to see. It’s so wonderful that I just bought another copy to give to a friend. Thank you for sharing your travels and beautiful life on Martha’s Vineyard with all of us!

  24. Pat Mofjeld of St. Paul, MN says:

    How fun your tea sounded–and you have enough leftovers to have girlfriends over for a second tea! What time should we come? 🙂 I smiled to see the way you break up the eggs for egg salad–that is exactly what I have always done. But I add finely-grated cheddar cheese (just a little, not a lot) and sweet pickle relish–try that sometime. Yummm–now I’m thinking I’d better go boil some eggs and make that for our lunches this week…and it is wonderful on warm buttered toast for breakfast, too! Incidentally, in Twitter someone was sending you a recipe for hamburger soup. Any chance they, or you, would post that recipe? We just got 5″ of more snow last night and I’m in “storm mode”–have hamburger in the freezer and lots of fresh vegs in the refrig–I’d love the recipe…

    • sbranch says:

      I only got half the recipe! wrote down what I had, but didn’t get it all. If you’re over there, could you ask for the rest and include me? It was sounding good!

    • Pat Mofjeld of St. Paul, MN says:

      Oh, I forgot to say that when I make the egg salad, I add for seasoning a little dill weed, lemon pepper, Lawry’s seasoning salt, and a bit of prepared mustard! Will look for the hamburger recipe–I didn’t see it on Twitter…maybe the girlfriend will write it in here? 🙂

  25. Candice OHIO says:

    Hi Susan,
    I was actually looking for the recipe for your Cold Day Bean Soup which I am making for supper. I have soaked my beans and ready to put the ingredients together and put them on to cook and I was thrilled to find you had added your tea party for the BP people story! So I made a pot of tea and have been enjoying reading it. Mmmmm, egg salad sandwiches one of my favorites. I use a pastry blender to mash up my eggs when I make egg salad and to make my filling for deviled eggs too. It works great.
    Your tea table looked wonderful, very English with the lace and I love how you used mugs! They are wonderful to wrap your hands around when the it is so cold out! I am sure all the ladies were impressed and enjoyed it all immensely! So now I have a “bee in my bonnet” to hold a tea for several of my close friends if only the weather cooperates, as some have to drive a little ways to my home and we live in the country. We haven’t been able to get together for our little holiday gathering that we usually do. So maybe I will have to throw something together!! Thanks for the daily dose of inspiration!!

  26. Hi Susan,
    I loved the tea party. Thank you for taking us with.
    I love Jack…he is such a sweetheart for attending the party so well.

    Have a great winter day. We are receiving snow today…love it.

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

    Watching the gently falling snow as I read your new blog entry…when I heard the “musica”, I wondered right away if you have read “The Secret Keeper” by Kate Morton…I started it last August and finally finished it earlier this week…with our move etc., reading wasn’t at the top of my list, but now it is…anyway, I think you might like “The Secret Keeper”~it takes place partly in Australia, but mostly in England during WWII…I was NOT expecting the ending AT ALL…but LOVED it…hope that has piqued your interest ;-)…you and your tea party ladies look so content and happy in the picture you posted…I thought “and a wonderful time was had by all”…of course we girlfriends know you are the party planner extraordinaire…I would LOVE it if you had a B&B and would definitely come stay in one of your little cabins…there are lots of establishments in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan…some are painted on the outside…others are little log cabins…I’ve always wondered what the decor is…I’m going to have to venture next door to our very cccccold 107 year old cottage and take a picture or two of our doorknobs which are just like yours~all patina and beautifully carved…I’ll do that and try to figure out how to post a picture here…5 hour no peek stew in the oven for dinner tonight…what are you having for dinner???…xoxo…

  28. Julia says:

    It was a lovely tea party and looks like so much fun. I like
    that you said that your “true” friends will forgive you for
    being so prissy! I hope mine forgive me although I do get
    some grief for not using paper plates for outside events.
    I use old restaurant china, mismatched, of course!

    • sbranch says:

      Of course! 🙂

      • pat addison (cave junction,OR) says:

        of course!! why buy paper plates that leak and flop over and let stuff spill all over you??? I’m with you I use mismatched old restaurant dishes. so I end up washing them, beats a soggy or greasy lap any day of the week.

        • Jennifer says:

          I do so agree!! I love, love, love my dishes. Nothing can take their place. I know there are times, when I have used paper, but it’s just not a celebration with paper plates. And I adore mixing them all up! Sigh. Simple joys!

          • Pat Mofjeld of St. Paul, MN says:

            Well, now that some of the girlfriends are being honest, I’ll have to say that if I ever come for tea at your house, Susan, would you PLEASE use your Spode teapot and cups and saucers? While it was nice to make your guests feel comfortable and there was the time issue, I love using the fine china and cups and saucers if I have friends for tea as it makes it more “special”… LOL! 🙂

          • sondra fox says:

            I take comments from friends about not using paper plates when camping or eating outside, as you do. I DO NOT enjoy paper plates. I don’t even mind washing dishes. That new magazine you told us about Susan, “Celebrating Everyday Life,” has become my motto. Everytime I set the table, even just for me, I try to make the setting/settings look nice. I will not watch TV while I eat. I’m trying to enjoy my meals & want to focus on the joy of eating.

  29. Juliana - Jackson, NJ says:

    Well Susan and Girlfriends, it has been quite a while since I’ve commented, just because of life getting in the way of things, not for lack of wanting to! I think I’ve finally caught up with all the blogs, all wonderful, as always! Your tea looked delightfully cozy – exactly what you intended! Lovely to see on this dreary, rainy day! Very exciting that you will be at a Costco, still waiting to see if you will come to New Jersey/New York area. My sister was sweet enough to get me an autographed copy of your book while in New Hampshire, and I would love to reciprocate for her! As far as Downton – I couldn’t agree more! I had also thought about the “Mary/Lord Gillingham” situation bringing back that animal – Ugh!!! Love how you describe Edna! Oh, the intrigue! We will have to wait and see what will come, this is why we love it!!! As always – thank you for brightening my day!!! xoxo

  30. gretchen says:

    While I am sure you must be aware of this new book, I can’t take the chance that it might have slipped under your radar during the road trip and holiday excitement. Do you know about “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” by Marta McDowell? Just released around Thanksgiving time by Timber Press, it is wonderful. A must have for your collection. (and I must add that it looks adorable on my nightstand alongside my copy of “A Fine Romance”!)

  31. Barb from Ohio says:

    Hi Susan, looks like your tea party was a roaring success! It sounds like the Beatrix potter book you mentioned would be an interesting read to learn more about her, so i just may check it out.
    As far as Downton Abbey goes, I watched the episode Sunday night and it was DVR’d; my daughter knew “what” was going to happen to someone in the show (internet spoilers from across pond”, but she wasn’t in the mood to watch it just yet. She says there is too much of “this” in a lot of young adult books, even books for teens and she just gets disgusted that writers feel they have to put that in their stories. That being said, it might be interesting what the Granthams and Lord Gillingham will do if they find out what happened. I believe Cora and Lord Grantham will definitely stand behind Anna and see that the perpetrator gets his just desserts, but keeping Bates from killing him if he finds out will be another thing.

  32. Jody says:

    Love your blog..I so look forward to it… heart was breaking for poor Anna….love Downton Abbey and you….thanks

  33. Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

    Susan, your comment about the British Amazon reviews of A Fine Romance cracked me up! You may have only three but they are all five stars, and as you said, those people over there are famous for minding their own business!! Love it. Yaaa, Rachel and Nina and Mrs. Burett 🙂 Have fun at Cosco! I’m sure you’ll make many new fans there. We have a BJ’s not too far from us, and I’ve found two of your cookbook scrapbooks there. Of course, they both came home with me!

  34. Sharon says:

    What a lovely tea party! Thanks for inviting your readers albeit virtually. I loved your comments and could not agree more. Congratulations on Costco!

  35. Wendy says:

    What a nice little tea party! I have to say, I’ve never been to an actual tea party. I’m more of a coffee kind of girl, and have spent many an hour at coffee shops chatting with friends over a hot cup of half-caff. 🙂
    Love the blue mugs you went with.
    And LOVE the black and white feline companion you had, as always. I just need to squeeze him and kiss his little kitty head!

  36. Sandra R says:

    I loved the pictures and tea party commentary. I especially loved Jack! He always looks like he is up to something rascally. Maybe it is just the ‘stache. As to only having 3 reviews in Britain, not only are they rather proper, but really, they live there. A British travel book may not be their cup of tea, so to speak.

  37. Judy says:

    Looks like great fun. Since you mentioned Julian Fellowes and his ilk, I wondered if you have ever seen the British series Monarch of the Glen. It takes place on a real Sottish estate- they don’t even change the name of the estate for the show (something my husband learned from a co-worker who is originally from a nearby village). Of course it is about a family who can’t afford the upkeep on their estate and they are always looking for ways to make money. The lady of the house wears her beautiful twenty year old wardrobe from the late eighties and early nineties (imagine still being in Laura Ashley). Julian Fellowes actually plays the part of a local landowner named Killwilly. His character is a self-important snob. I haven’t had time for the entire series-it lasted several seasons- but it has been fun to watch.

    • sbranch says:

      I have seen a few of those episodes. I also read a book by Julian F. recently called, guess? … right, Snobs!!! I went away thinking that his characters don’t have enough to occupy their time! That’s why he knows just the words to put in Lord Grantham and the Dowager’s mouths. Been there, done that.

    • Tawni urrutia says:

      My husband and I love that show! And that goofball Kilwilly, all decked out head to toe in Burbury…hilarious! But we fell off the sofa when Angela Landsbury introduced the wrtitter of DA, and it was KILWILLY!

    • Pat Mofjeld of St. Paul, MN says:

      We watched the Monarch of the Glen series (from the library) last winter and LOVED it! Beautiful scenery, good characters, and very entertaining. Highly recommend it but if you watch it, watch them in the order they were written as the story builds… 🙂

  38. Judy says:

    Oops. That was Scottish.

  39. Jennifer says:

    Susan, the tea party looks lovely. How delightful it must have been to chat about such wonderful things.
    Tea cups always catch my eye and last summer I was lucky enough to be at an estate sale where the lady there collected tea cups! Humble, charming cups and saucers. So, with a little cash in my pocket, I bought what I could….6 and they are all different and just thrill my heart! When I brought them home, my other teacups welcomed them and I heard the chatter amongst them (a lot of clinking and clanking)…so I know they were happy for new girlfriends. 🙂 A friend and I co host a cooking club once a month and in the spring…..we are going to have a tea party! I can hardly wait.
    And since I am a hat lover, I have enough for us all to don a bonnet and drink our tea and nibble on tasty cake and such! 🙂

    My Mother lives with us and she and I LOVE Downton Abbey! We laugh, we cry and sometimes shake our fingers at the bad guys! 🙂 We even went and bought the first 3 seasons so we can do that all over again when we need a dose of English and Society! 🙂 Truly, we so look forward to it on Sundays!

    I wrote a book. Sorry. Tea and Downton. Two favorites. 🙂

  40. Barb says:

    Dear Susan, I do hope your ears were not burning last evening. I was at my Columbian Reading circle and was talking about you. I was to give a bookl review and chose to do an author review, with just a hint of your A FINE ROMANCE book(which I loved!). Out of the 8 women there, I was the only one that knew anything about you. I took with me the seven books I own and one from our local library(which only has two of your books). As I was talking about you as an author and illustrator, I passed around the books. The gals seemed really interested in the books and to learn more about you. I am hoping our local library will get your new book to share with their patrons. I know whom ever reads it will love it! I also mentioned your website, blog and WILLARD news letter. Maybe I put interest in them to search you out and to become new “girlfriends”. Thank you, Susan, for your love of live that you share with all of us.

    • sbranch says:

      YOU are a darling Barb, I can’t thank you enough. Word of mouth is such a gift as far as I’m concerned, and I’m touched you would do that. xoxo

  41. Cheryl says:

    Oh, what fun that looks like it was. I love the blue and white mugs, yes, much more casual and comfy. Downton! Ugh, why Julian, why? I cannot stand the storyline with Anna, that is a mess. Poor girl. My favorite line too was Lord Grantham’s “I blame you” to Carson. I must tell you that my Mother and I are planning a trip to England early September and are using your book as our guide. It’s always good to have girlfriends steer you in the right direction! Thank you sweet Susan!

  42. Terri says:

    Thanks for the tea party story. I feel like I was there. The only way it could have been better is if Beatrix were there herself.

  43. Janet in Rochester says:

    Lovely party. A pretty table, a fire, delicious hot tea and a few perfectly-chosen and prepared nummies. And Jack. As you said, so much better than a groaning table full of treats when you have a small group. Re Downton, I agree – O’Brien was not nearly as bad as Edna. I just wanna shake the little snip! At least with O’Brien it felt as though she was just trying to hang on to/protect her position in the household. But this new one looks like she plans to play the Upwardly-Mobile game. I predict she’ll make a play for Branson. Or Edith’s publisher. Or dare I say it, Lord Grantham? With Julian Fellowes, who knows?? And hey, that’s great about Costco!! Hope you can get out of there without spending a fortune. That’s what I always want to do when I go there. Fortunately I don’t have room to store all the stuff I COULD bring home, so my shopping is “edited” by lack of available space. Thank God. OK, rainy, gray and dreary-dull here in upstate New York as it sounds like it is all over the Northeast. Take care & stay cozy.

  44. Francine Werlinger says:

    Thanks for sharing your guests and tea party with us!! I always love to see your dishes…..and food! What what fun to read while I’ve got a pot of your bean soup simmering away on my stove!! My first thoughts when it started to boil ……. Ow, this is just how Susan’s house must have smelled!! Yum! I enjoyed your thoughts on Downton Abbey as well! You’re better with all their names than I am!

    • sbranch says:

      You get better when you have to write about them! 🙂 Hard to say, that guy in the black suit with the grey hair, but I wanted to!

      • Pat Mofjeld of St. Paul, MN says:

        Wow, whoever would be the guy in the black suit with gray hair as they all seem to be wearing black suits a LOT!
        LOL! 🙂 I just always wonder when the servants had time to keep their uniforms so neat when they were so busy taking care of the Upstairs People and their clothes. Just think–no drycleaners back then…

  45. Angie(Tink!) says:

    ¸¸.✶*¨`*.✫*¨Good Afternoon Sweet Sue I Do Think Those Blog~Gremlins Got Me! 😉 I’ll Try Again… I Love Your Tea~Party! Everything Scrumptious! (Of Course! ) 🙂 Yay! & Now Your Beatrix~Potter Lovely Ladies Are Now “Girlfriends” 🙂 I Love The Pin They Gave You! I Love The Photos of Jack! Rub His Belly for Me (Kitty~Kisses Too!) As For Downton Abbey…OMG! I Was Happy To See O’Brien Go Too! Edna is A Viper! Tom! Be Careful! 🙁 & Mary Needs More Dancing & A Little Laughter & To Be A Good Mum! & I Want To Give Matthew’s Mum A Big Long Hug…Isobel! 🙂 I Can Not Get Enough Downton Abbey! I Know Just Breathe…. 😉 Whew! Anyway Sweet Sue That Cozy Comfy Bed in Your Peter Rabbit~Room I Would Fall Fast A Sleep Dreaming Sweet Dreams & Then Girl Kitty Would Meow Loudly & Say…”Hey Look! Who’s That Sleeping in MY Bed?” 🙂 Then She’d Purrrrrrrrrrrr & Tell Me To Go Downstairs! 🙂 Wishing You A Delightful Day Sweet Sue! Ready for The Wolf~Moon? Make Your Wishes! xoxo Poof! ¸¸.✶*¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.✶*¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.✶*¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.✶*¨`*.✫

    • sbranch says:

      Girl would probably cuddle right up to you Angie!

      • Angie(Tink!) says:

        *¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.✶* 🙂 Awwwwww Then Girl would Purrrrrrrrr & Say “Move Over Tink I’m Sleepy Too” 🙂 Meowy *¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.✶*¨xoxo Poof! 🙂

  46. Vickie Getty (Little Rock, AR) says:

    Congrats on your book being in Costco! I was hoping for Barnes & Noble so maybe, just maybe we could get you to Little Rock, AR!! But it was truly a pleasure for my daughter-in-love and I to meet you in Kansas City. My girlfriends enjoyed their signed copies of A Fine Romance for Christmas!

  47. Alison from RI says:

    Hi Susan!

    The Tea Party looked absolutely dreamy!

    Having already seen all of Season 4, I knew this episode was coming again, and it is always hard to watch at the end. But without spoiling anything, I can only say that the plot just gets better!!! Isn’t Mrs. Hughes wonderful?? I feel like she’s the keeper of the keys, the holder of secrets, and the source from which the staff draw their strength to carry on. I felt so bad for Tom at the party, and something tells me that Thomas will get his paws on this story! What my question is, is what is the connection between Rose and Braithwaite? Why did Rose make the excuse for her about her “aunt,” etc. and what is in it for her? She’s always up to something!
    Always love reading your blog!

    — Alison in “Little Rhody”

    • sbranch says:

      Please don’t tell me there’s a connection between Rose and Braithwaite!

      • Karen P. - Wisconsin says:

        I think that Rose just made a connection with Edna because Rose was the one who posted the help wanted ad at the shop. I think she made up that lie so she wouldn’t have to have the interview at Downton and face the people who REALLY know why she was let go In the first place!

      • Alison from RI says:

        I don’t know! But it still baffles me. I just think it was out of character for her to put the sign in the shop window… she was so mysterious about it too and making up excuses. I actually like Rose. A lot of my friends don’t and at first I didn’t either, but I think she’s fun! It would be a shame for her to get tangled up with Braithwaite!

        • Alison from RI says:

          But I assure you I do not want to spoil it for you! Trust me, I actually have no idea, and would not have brought it up otherwise. But at any rate, how would Rose know about all that? She was in Scotland when that happened…. hmm…

        • sbranch says:

          I like her too!

  48. Sue Yarberry says:

    Just loved the photos from your “tea party”. I was with you in spirit and just loved the table set all warm and cozy by the fire with Jack lounging nearby being is impeccable cute self! I cut and pasted the egg sandwich recipe and will try it this weekend with brunch my husband & I are hosting for friends. Still looking for a lavendar-rose petals-herbal tea blend for friends who are unable to have caffeinated tea. Any suggestions? We did find some purple rose tea cups and saucers and purple glass plates suitable for tea yet still looking for a purple rose or purple flowered tea pot. Do any of you watch Doc Martin which is filmed in Port Isaac in Cornwall, England? It is our favorite show and I was amazed when I recently discovered that my great grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Argall and many generations before her lived in Cornwall. No wonder I like all things that are English country. Love your blog with musica, photos & artwork, your home that is always so cozy and inviting and your latest book, “A Fine Romance” which I read in just a few days (couldn’t put it down) and am now reading out loud with my husband in the evenings. Have a great and awesome day Susan and girlfriends!
    Sweet Sue of So Cal

    • sbranch says:

      My favorite non-caffeinated tea is available in most supermarkets . . . Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice. Just delicious — and one of the few herb teas that have the same depth and body as caffeinated tea. Have fun at your Brunch Sweet Sue!

      • Sue Yarberry says:

        Thanks Susan for the herbal tea suggestion. We will be sure to get a box when we go shopping and have it available for our brunch this weekend. Give Jack a cuddle for us and have a most delightful day!
        Sweet Sue

  49. I don’t think there’s any blog more perfect and, clearly, I’m not alone… Tea parties, cooking and baking, Englishness, Downton Abbey… You cover everything worth covering! Have a wonderful day, Susan!

  50. Laurie Walt says:

    Susan, you live a magical life- by choice. That’s what I love most about you! You inspire us to do the same. It is so windy here in Illinois today that I am in fear of losing the arbor over my deck! Say a prayer girlfriends, I am really afraid!!! I have not watched Downtown Abbey yet. I will now, such passion from all of you! I will get series one and go from there. Life is beautiful:-) and windy:O

  51. Joan says:

    Mouth watering at the “leftovers”!!! 🙂

  52. Gloria L. Nugent says:

    Your tea party was everything I thought it would be….LOVERLY!! I love looking at all your cups & agree with the girlfriend that those coasters are “just the ticket”. Please know that my pkg from Calif arrived yesterday containing the wonderful lidded bird mug and cute tea tin! Both exceeded my expectations & I treasure them. Need to have a cuppa now after reading the blog!

  53. Lisa R (northern Az) says:

    What’s not to love about everything you do Susan! Your Peter Rabbit bedroom is enchanting. How fun to be a guest just for a bit….. loved the Beatrix Potter Society pins. My girlfriends and I have matching pins that we wear whenever we get together each month. Ours is a silver bowl of cherries, and the sentiment that came with it was, “Take time from doing to enjoy being”, which is what we have been doing for about 18 years now. I think that’s why I so enjoy all of your girlfriend get togethers that you share with us. Such a busy world these days, it’s so important for women to make time for fun. Your tea party was lovely, yummy food! and where did you get those lace coasters?? Would love to have a few! …..Now, Downton……as I shake my head. My daughter quit watching when Lady Sybil died. Long time ago, I know. But she had had enough. I know there must be drama, but not Anna! She’s been through enough. And when Edna arrived the first time, throwing herself on Tom, and then finally sent packing by Mrs. Hughes, I was ecstactially pleased. So you can imagine the absolute horror I felt when she came back, to serve Lady Grantham no less! Hideous is too kind a word for her! I have to remember the reasons I love Downton….. I would have a hard time choosing my favorite character, Mrs. Patmore or the Dowager Countess…..well, I think one should have a favorite from upstairs and downstairs, as well… them both!

    • sbranch says:

      The little coasters, of course, antique store! I bet in real life, in America, Mrs. Patmore and the Dowager (imagining them in high school) would be best friends and laugh themselves silly.

  54. No, Susan. Thank you! Thank you for being our inspiration and our friend. I am so happy that others are discovering what we already know. Twine for everyone, girlfriends…

  55. Hello Susan…loved the newsy post! Just got in from grocery shopping…made a cup of tea and found your latest entry…so lovely…made my day! Your tea party sounded wonderful…too bad it was too short…but all the same, it sounds like you had a wonderful ‘kindred’ time. Cake selection looked yummy! I am tempted to make some today; it’s cold and blustery outside. Couldn’t agree with you more on Downton, laughed outloud about keeping Lord Grantham away from the money!! Our English friends tell us there will be a Season 5 for Downton, but afterwards, there is talk that he wants to do a Gilded Age in the late 1800’s in New York City…now wouldn’t that be FUN?! Congratulations on your book — I think it’s by far the best ever…Have a cozy, warm day on Martha’s Vineyard…Have always wondered how it got it’s name??

    • sbranch says:

      History says that Gosnold “discovered” the island and had a daughter named Martha. There are wild grapes in all the woods around her first house. Hence: Martha’s Vineyard!

  56. Oh, my goodness. What a delightful tea party. I hope I didn’t disrupt too awfully much with my sniffling just a bit when I heard “The White Cliffs of Dover.” It happens every time…

    Now that the party’s over, I’ll bet you might find the time/make the time/pretend you have time to buy an old dresser, one clearly needing a good home, and creating your own version of that lovely antique. Right now my head is filling with ideas.

  57. shirley burt says:

    Lovely, just lovely. New friends relaxing in front of the fire, laughing, talking sipping tea and eating, but would eat more, if the talking and laughing didn’t interfere. I am so glad you chose the “British” cake. You were so right, I was wrong. And thank goodness for leftovers of it all. As you eat, you will remember the pleasant memories of the night before.
    You can make that dresser yourself and even cuter. I know it. Oh by the way, I have out my treasured fabric bundle that is whispering it is time to make me into a quilt. I will let you know when it is completed.
    Much love and bunny hugs to you and yours,

  58. Joan says:

    I am so excited that you are coming to Avon, MA. I live about 5 miles away.
    I will be there with bells on!! So excited!

  59. Pat Johnson from Paso Robles, CA says:

    Oh what a lovely Tea Party! I immediately stopped and fixed myself a cup of tea in my Hunka Munka tea cup and sipped away, basking in all of the news. What a lovely thing to do. I loved the Tea Party “lay out” and it just made me wish I was there! This visit was definitely a treat for all of us. I also didn’t read the info on Downton Abbey because I haven’t seen any of it yet – been too busy with “Doc Martin” and “William & Mary” on BBC = now I will be on to the stuff everybody is talking about. Bye the bye, I think you and Joe would really like “Doc Martin” – the village is so quaint and the people so fun and Doc Martin is someone who definitely grows on you – all on BBC. . . Acorn TV. And I loved the thought of “our” book in the Lake District! We definitely left our mark on that trip, didn’t we? Thank you so much for allowing me to have tea with you today. I really needed that before I go out and attack the world!! Keep up the good work and bringing us tidbits of info that make us smile and feel good! XXXXOOOO Pat

  60. Carol C says:

    I’m with you about Edna. Get her OUT! Am also tired of Lady Grantham being so easily duped by the servants. Let’s give her a little more brain, please. Can’t imagine that she would be so gullible. Wasn’t particularly charmed by Lord ? who rode with Mary and certainly not his valet. This installment went a little too negative for my taste. I like Lord Grantham even if he is a little stuck in the past, and hated to see how he was so ridiculous to gamble with his waning assets. Thank goodness Mrs. Patmore is okay. What a blow to the show if she weren’t on it. Don’t like the tension between Anna and Bates. All the good people that lifted the show are hitting difficulties at the same time. I can’t take it!!!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      OUT! Yes, more brain for Lady Grantham. She handled snobbishness well, but has hideous judgement when it comes to lady’s maids. Lord Gillingham. I kind of like him so far. I can’t take it either!!!

      • Karen P. - Wisconsin says:

        What else REALLY bugged me was how quick Lord G. was to attack Anna (via Mr. Bates)with the accusation about her being jealous of Edna! Ill judgment on his part.

        • sbranch says:

          I think I missed that! You are saying Lord Gillingham made remarks to Mr. Bates about Anna being jealous?

          • Karen P (Wisconsin) says:

            No. Edna destroyed a blouse or scarf or something of Cora’s and pretty much (without saying her name) laid the blame on Anna, who had NOTHING to do with it at all! So, she told our wonderful Barrows about it, he went to Lord G. blaming Anna for being jealous of Edna’s arrival and position and Lord G. mentioned it to Mr. Bates who was befuddled by it, as well he should be! Sometimes I want to just SMACK that Lord G!!!! And Edna comes off smelling like a rose!

          • sbranch says:

            Ohhh, yes!

      • Diana - Highland, IL says:

        YES.. I have wondered all along why Lady G is sooo gullible where the servants are concerned.. It has gotten her in trouble on more than on occasion.. You would think by now, they know which ones are trustworthy, but maybe they just don’t pay that much attention…. It is all going back to the spat between Bates and Barrows… they don’t like each other and resent each other and I can’t STAND Barrows.. he is evil…. phew….I am not usually so hard on people but he riles me !! LOL… I am ready for good news.. and Please Tom.. .buck up.. you are just as good as anyone in that house… REMEMBER SYBIL!!!… ok.. off my soapbox…

  61. I really love the shadow the pictures!!!!! It reminded me of the country house I grew up in when the sun wasn’t behind my house as it rose. I am really looking forward into getting a new house pretty soon. I will make sure I get sun into my kitchen.

    I also loved the rest of you post. Thanks for bringing us along.

  62. Nese says:

    My heart was absolutely pounding when Anna ( not Anna!! ) was being attacked and no one could hear her screaming. I think I was holding my breath! I hope she tells “Mistah Bates” and justice is served quickly, I can’t take it! I love how Edith’s story is unfolding and how brilliantly Sir Anthony handled the gambler and stuffy Lord Grantham. If Branson falls into the same trap again ..well, you know what they say, fool me once …..

  63. Debbie says:

    Hi, Susan. You probably are aware of this, but novelist Susan Wittig Albert did a series of novels with Beatrix Potter as the main character. They are charming, well-written books that I have enjoyed reading. Based on her life and animals, with a little mystery thrown in, I think you would enjoy the books, too.

    • sbranch says:

      I read the first one . . . it was charming and I wrote about it in the Beatrix Potter part of the blog under I LOVE ENGLAND.

      • Debbie says:

        Sorry, I didn’t recall that. Maybe that’s where I discovered them. 🙂

      • sherrill says:

        Hello Susan and Debbie,
        I read the first one and loved it!! Went on to read all the rest of them. I love that I can read about the English Countryside, meet Beatrice and her husband-to-be, even though it is fiction. I keep wondering if the author(ess) will write any more. I loved them all!!!

        • sbranch says:

          I have too many wonderful things waiting to be read, but I’d love to read more of these! I know, just wonderful to “be” there for as long as possible.

  64. Vicki in Cincy says:

    Hi Susan, I love daydreaming with you! Work has just been a bear and reading your posts definitely lifts my spirits. Life beyond work….there is one!! LOL Calgon, take me away! Though I don’t need the calgon, just your blog, so Susan take me away! I loved reading about the tea party fun LOL :)love you girl!

  65. Mary S. says:

    Looks like your tea party went wonderfully!! I agree with having the first one be more informal!!
    I totally agree with all your takes on Downton!! Edna is disgusting!!! And yes! Why is Tom all of a sudden having all those dumb feelings?!?! And poor Anna!! I can hardly wait for the next episode!!
    Love from Mary S. in Fresno, CA

  66. Trisha K says:

    As it often happens, I did not want this post to end. Lovely tea party, everything is so cozy and welcoming. I agree with a previous girlfriend post, your picture looked like a group of friends, a group of kindred spirits for sure! I love the archive feature you added to the blog, I had some time this afternoon and I started going back to previous January posts. I got to see the Green Bird Salt and Pepper shakers again, and the heavy snow that you and Joe adventured in last year. I remembered the slow way that Girl Kitty and Jack first shared your office desk and the couch. I re-read the inspiration for Girlfriend’s are Forever, and the snail mail Willards. This is just what I needed when I was feeling a little blue, a happy small things in life pick-me-up. And, I have completely missed Downton Abbey. How did I do that? I loved Gosford Park, and hearing all the comments here, I really feel I have missed out. I’m having trouble finding the old seasons to catch up. I can’t decide if I should just start watching the 4th season? Or should I wait until I can watch it from the beginning?

    • sbranch says:

      Go ahead and start now. Then Google Downton Abbey synopsis, and get a basic understanding, mostly of who people are. You can then go back via Youtube or maybe Netflix and see the rest of them. It’s pretty good, and lots of fun to share, but truly, it’s only a very well done soap opera. You’ll be fine without it, but it’s sorta fun with it.

  67. judy from connecticut says:

    I am so behind, I just have to comment on Iris, I have been SO busy. When you left on your trip, I didn’t think she would be there when you got back, after seeing the pictures of her. When I saw her again on the last post, I was reading along and realized I not only had tears streaming down my face , but sobs coming out !!! It is just amazing that an animal can have such a sweet spirit that she can make someone cry who has never even met her !! I do know that all of our animals will be in Heaven- it is a PERFECT place and it would not be perfect without all of the animals we have known and loved, so of course they are there. There will be lots of wagging tails and purring when we get there.

    Susan has given us all the gift of an extra day on July 31st. To honor Iris, let’s all do something nice for someone on that day, that would be a tribute to Iris and make the world a better place.

    Now I am going back to read all about the special tea !!!! xo Judy

    P.S. I ordered the I love you dishtowel from your childhood drawing, can’t wait to get it, so very special !!!!

  68. Bonny ~* says:

    I inherited my grandmother’s “Crown Ducal – Bristol” dishes…a service for 12 (I think you have some of this pattern). I’ve added to it over the years with other patterns that have the same pinkish tones and sprinkled in some pink depression glass. It’s the perfect set for a formal tea party! I also have a “Blue Onion” set that has more mug type cups that would be perfect for a more casual tea party. And then there’s my everyday…Fiestaware…5 pastel colors. Yes, I’m a dishaholic too! Such fun…dishes and linens…can’t have too many of either!

    Downton: Anna needs to tell Lady Mary. She helped her drag a dead man out of her bedroom after all. Mary owes her don’t you think! ~*

    • sbranch says:

      Brilliant! I just got an email from a girlfriend that said the unthinkable. What if Anna is pregnant?

      • Ricki says:

        I was thinking the same thing. She absolutely must tell BAtes. I woke up thinking about that very thing. Perhaps I’m becoming Downton obsessive?

      • Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

        NOOOOO! Oh, I hope not 🙁 I’m new to the Downton Abbey party. The very first episode I saw was last week’s two hour season opener. I didn’t want to go back and watch the entire series, so I did the “readers digest” version and read every season’s synopsis online. I must admit that I thought last week was a bit dusty and dull, but I gave it another go Sunday night…poor Anna! She and Mr. Bates are such sweet, sympathic characters! And you KNOW she’s going to come face to face with that horrid valet again because there is definitely a spark between Lord Gillingham and Lady Mary.

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

    As always, thank you for sharing these wonderful moments in your delightful life. I love seeing how you “do” things. It gives me encouragement and inspiration!
    In this blog, I enjoyed your tea party with REAL B.Potter people, your business acumen (Costco!!!), and your Downton Abbey review!
    SPOILER ALERT for Comment Readers!!!
    -My husband, who also enjoys watching DA with me, was a little miffed when I started talking to (actually, yelling at) Tom Branson, “Don’t talk to HER!!!”, each time he and that terrible Edna spoke. WHAT is he thinking!?!
    Enough…gotta get back to my day! I can drift along in blogland for hours! Thank you for sharing…charlene ♥♥♥

  70. Shanna says:

    Loved this Beatrix Potter post. I’ve been a collector of her books and figurines, too. I recently read a book by Linda Lear called “Beatrix Potter–A Life in Nature” which was very fascinating. I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning about her life.

  71. Patty Lucas says:

    I love your site. Our cat Lucy (my hubby calls her Lucifer) sleeps like your Jack on her back. I have had cats my whole life and never had one like that and now there are at least two. Lucy likes to crawl in her cat condo and watch TV. We have an older and much, much larger cat, Gertie, and our two pit bulls are deathly afraid of Gertie but they love to play with Lucy. Thanks again for your wonderful stories.

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

    a lovely tea party, thank you for inviting us. hello Susan, and girlfriends. I loved the Beatrix Potter room, so adorable. and Jack what a good boy he was. I have a question for you all, has anyone ever tried that tea that flowers inside the teapot??? I think its Jasmine tea not sure but I wondering if anyone had ever tried it. well life on the chicken farm is getting interesting, the chickens are finally happy, more sunshine for them to enjoy and that means more eggs for them to lay, they have been a bit stingy on the egg laying lately due to the shorter days, now that they are starting lengthen, they are getting back into the swing of regular egg laying. I have 35-40 hens and we usually get 2-3 dozen eggs a day, but with the shorter days we have been getting 4,5, 6, 8 eggs a day or less with an occasional 13-14 eggs. now they are getting back to normal, so that’s good. we are looking forward to the spring and busy nests full of little peeps ( baby chicks), also lots of little ducklings and little turkeys if we can coax the wild females to stick around. well its also time to contemplate spring cleaning. time to get the mops, brooms, dust rags and buckets back in business and do a thorough spring cleaning. time for my tea, chat later.. hugs everyone…….. 🙂

  73. What a wonderful time you all had! Thank you so much for letting us come too. Now I can’t seem to stop thinking about that lavender-orange polenta cake. I have to be honest I had never heard of lavender as an ingredient in food – does it taste like flowers?
    I love the pic Joe took of the 4 of you – looks exactly like the kind of friends I imagine myself having – all comfy and sweaters! Wonderful! Now that they have met you once, I am sure you could go all fou-fou on them next time and they wouldn’t bat an eye.

    • sbranch says:

      It has a very light flavor, like a breeze through the lavender flowers rather than the actual plant. Heaven. And I think you’re right, fou-fou would not phase these girls. They can fou with the best of us!

  74. Georgeann from Texas says:

    Oh wish I had been there for the blue mugs and polenta cake plus visit to Peter Rabbit room! So glad days are getting longer! Ordered my love banner yesterday and also an autumn banner since I didn’t get one before. Sent your book to my aunt since she enjoyed the actual accounts of your trip so much. Thinking of sending one to dear friend whose mom was English but died a few years ago. Each “adventure with Susan” gets better and better

  75. Diane says:

    Oh, but what about the blossoming of Lady Edith and her beau, proving himself to Lord Grantham while planning in love to go unbeknownst to the gathering storm in Germany! The jazz parties and dresses are a world away and a beautiful escape. More music!, more dresses,! more happy maidens! instead of new suffering for our beloved Anna.

    After my first trip to the UK, I learned to bake scones, Scottish style, and held a tea party for my sister’s wedding shower. After my third (yes, very lucky…) trip, a walk in the Cotswolds, I have been seeking to recreate the outstanding fluffiness of their scones from the tea shops. So far, no luck! But I will keep trying. I think maybe the southern white lily flour might be the ticket.

    I read A Fine Romance during the Christmas holiday and had to ration it out to myself to savor. I am still trying to cope with the idea that other people (aka you wondrous, Susan) are living my childhood/teen dream of living on the Vineyard. But I have succeeded in having a black dog most of my adult life, as well as the t-shirts.

    • sbranch says:

      More musica, more dresses! Toss in some picnics. Let’s go to London. Let’s see the countryside. Let’s have Beatrix Potter to dinner. Or Elizabeth von Arnim. She would be perfect. The Dowager would hate her!

  76. Georgeann from Texas says:

    Oh I should say “Susan and Joe”. We need to see more of him!

  77. Deborah Heater (Indiana - Feb. 01) says:

    Thank you Susan for sharing your tea party with all of us and I think you chose the perfect “goodies” and dishes. I have not had the pleasure of watching Downton Abbey and do not want to start now without beginning from the 1st episode. My daughter loves it and Pat M. has tried to get me into getting the first 3 yrs. at my local library and that is on my to do list. Now, I have to admit I knew what was in store for Anna long before the 2nd show (Angela saw the spoiler from England); so, I asked Pat if she wanted to know what was coming and she did so I gave her the scoop. I didn’t even consider giving the Spoiler Alert to the rest of you Downton lovers because of the subject matter. I will say and this is only from my years of being a “Soap” viewer, if the writer continues with his warped writing behavior it wouldn’t surprise Pat and myself that he allows Anna to “be with child” (should I say) with that devil’s child?? I’m hoping for all of you that the storylines take a fun, positive turn so you can enjoy, escape, and not have to tense up every week! Here’s to Happy Endings!

  78. Bethany says:

    Downton Abbey and Beatrix Potter in the same post! If we were neighbors, we’d be best friends! Loved it all!!! (But not that evil guy… I’m still quite disturbed!)

  79. Gail Buss says:

    Oh Susan, I’m heartsick about what happened to Anna and if she ends up expecting, she will have to tell Bates who will end up going after that creep and Bates will be back in prison. I think Anna and Bates are my favorite characters. Espisode 2 seemed to go by so very fast. I loved it when Cora got upset with Robert over hime not letting the singer eat with them and she said that she was the only one living in the 20th century! That was great. I just even love the music. I absolutely hate Cora’s new maid……….she is sneaky and horrible but then again you can’t have everyone nice or there wouldn’t be any story I guess.

    So happy your tea went so nicely. Glad you all had a wonderful time. xoxo Gail

    • sbranch says:

      They might scare us that Anna is expecting, but I don’t think she could be. That would be going too far. Don’t you think?

      • Gail Buss says:

        I hope not but who knows since anything is possible with television! The more outrageous the better they like it sometimes. I surely hope not – what happened is bad enough and would have scarred her for life. Anna is a great actress and plays all her parts beautifully though. Now I can’t wait until next Sunday night. Gail xoxo

  80. Ruth Thomas says:

    I just retired!!!! Now I have time to really make my house shine – and have tea parties with my friends! I love how informal/formal your party was and leftovers are an absolute must. I didn’t watch Downton because I missed a few of last season, so I’ve taped them and will watch them one after the other before the weekend. I’m a huge football fan so that has really taken time on my weekends. My team is in the playoffs and hopefully they will win and I’ll have a weekend off until the Superbowl (go Broncos). Thank you so much Susan for sharing so much with us. Am also going to read “A Fine Romance” again!

  81. Deb from Dixie says:

    Real Beatrice Potter people ♥ ♥ ♥ You all look like you have been friends for years…..comfortable together! I like your philosophy about tea parties…. cozy and talkative, so much more enjoyable . But, I think I would have to have put up the “pinky” just once, just for fun!! LOL,,,,And that Jack, right there in the middle of the action, looking so cute.

    I wanted to ask you about the Earl Grey tea, ( I am a fan), but have never had tea infused with flowers. Do the rose and lavendar, give the tea a pungent or perfumey taste? Do you taste the individual flowers? I’m trying to decide if I would enjoy it ……..or maybe be wiser to stick with the cinnamon apple or gingerbread tea, which are spices I know and love.

    Watched episode 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey last night, one after the other…and wow……I think I would have been glad to be living a bit “north of the park” hmmmmm……less “stiff”, more of a put on your comfy sweater and fleece pants, cuddle up on the sofa, and eat dinner on a tray, gal. LOL, ( Mrs. Huges…..” I have no need of a butler, I am older, alone and I eat dinner on a tray every night!”) And….she has a kind heart.
    That formal attire, strapped into corsets…..or being in a tux, every night…..just the sheer discomfort of it probably contributed to some of the snobby meanness. maybe?

    Thanks for the great recap…..and so glad you had a wonderful time at Tea with the Potter gang.

    • sbranch says:

      Tea is so subjective, it’s hard to advise. I love gingerbread tea and cinnamon apple, how could you go wrong? But there is something very different about the lavender rose, I would say slightly perfumey, but to me, in a good way, seductive. But I’m addicted, so you can’t go by me.

      LOL, I thought immediately that I should move north of the park if I can find the park! Oh, that was so funny about “eating on a tray!”

  82. Kathie says:

    Such a lovely day you’ve told us about. Always welcome and a change of pace to make preparations and, then, discover so many pleasant things. I loved your take on Downton and so agree with you…..even your thinking about Fellowes. I hope he keeps the perspective…..I mean those lovely Edwardian/Victorian ladies are not going to flip and turn into (God forbid) 21st century women all at once. There are beauteous things about the chaste and self-contained woman, truly, who knows the world and where she blooms in it. Hard to explain, but which one of the women in Downton approaches that? Well, it’s a great series, or has been, so far. Thanks for sharing. We love you, Kathie and friends in the dry part of Washington State.

  83. Mary Baynes/Indana says:

    Loved your Tea Party…….gave me lots of ideas for my Knit Club’s Spring Tea in April.
    My only question is, what were the two salads?

    Also, you expressed my feelings Exactly about last Sunday’s Downton Abbey episode!

    And, please, please, please keep us posted on the potential BP B & B! I would Love, Love, Love to stay there!

    Thanks, Girlfriend!

    • sbranch says:

      I make a very thinly sliced cold slaw with either apples (in stick shapes) and yellow raisins … or with pineapple and sliced almonds; I would dress either of them with mayo thinned with lime juice. The other salad might be either avocado and pink grapefruit, or a curried chicken salad with apple pieces. Lotsa mayonnaise at a tea party!

      If I get news on that B & B, you can be sure I will let you all know!

  84. Stella says:

    Commenting on Edna, I was reminded that the Granthams address her as “Braithwaite” (her last name). That rang a bell with me. I am also a huge fan of Doc Martin and realized that Martin Clune’s wife’s name is Phillipa Braithwaite. Coincidence?

  85. Aunt Lou says:

    Oh, my goodness, there’s your (plural) Norah Wellings sailor mascot, again! I enjoyed playing “where’s Petey?” in A fine Romance. I think most of us doll persons notice the dolls, just like most of us book persons notice the books, in pictures where other observers seldom notice them.
    It sounds like a lovely day. I know that feeling of grabbing the camera and thinking, “Oh, wait! I was having such a good time I forgot.” That’s a good time! 🙂

  86. Susan, you amaze me every time I read your blog. I soooo enjoyed the tea party, with your new friends, and all the photos of the doings. It was lovely. And Jack, and the Peter Rabbit room, and the tea sandwiches, and the blue and white mugs, etc.
    and then to hear your account of Downton, which I did watch, (wouldn’t miss it!), and feel the anger, and fear all over again for our Anna!
    I have read AFR three times, and read parts of it over and over and over. It is wonderful to “go” to England with you and Joe again and again. Thank you so much for bringing adventure, and then cozy, homeness into our lives! Love you. xxoo. JO

    • sbranch says:

      Love you back Joanne, thank you! xo

    • Sue Yarberry says:

      I agree with you Joanne about “A Fine Romance” . I also have read and reread it and my husband and I are now reading it together. Reading it is like going to the English countryside and it feels so personal and inviting like someone opened up their door in one of those English cottages and said, “Come on in and stay awhile!” And yes Susan’s blogs whatever the topic is always give you that warm, cozy and homey feeling that makes you feel like you have known her all your life. Thanks Susan for opening your heart and home to us all!
      Sweet Sue from Southern California

  87. ChrisTea says:

    Great tea party! Could you please send me some of the leftover polenta cake? LOL. That sounds so wonderful with tea! Glad you had a great time. Thanks for posting about it.

    • sbranch says:

      I would like to. I am eating the entire thing in 1/8″ slivers, I never put the knife away. I’m telling myself, oh yes, gluten free, so healthy, like diet food.

  88. Denise from Wpg Canada says:

    Thanks for another charming blog, so glad you are all fired up about Downton Abbey. Did you recognize the Opera singer in last Sundays episode she was
    Dame Kiri de Kanawa , she sang at the wedding of Charles and Diana a heavenly voice ! So funny that they would consider giving give her supper on a tray, as a celeb she was not appropiate company for a dinner guest ….. can you imagine doing today to Beyonce , Celine etc … Lady Grantham soon put the snobs in their place ! Love the new tea cloths

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, I knew her too, the odd thing is that in 1982, on March 6, I was on the ferry, heading into a grey freezing sea toward Martha’s Vineyard, escaping from my old life. I sat on top of the boat wearing almost everything I owned including headphones. I was listening to the perfect music … Kiri Te Kanawa singing O mio babbino caro which I had heard in the movie Room with a View. My first opera singer that I made my own.

  89. Elfie Haab says:

    HI Susan, I loved your tea party as much as everyone else that commented today. Can I come eat the leftovers? Everything looked so inviting, I know you all had fun. I finished A Fine Romance over the holidays and hated for it to end but I have dreams of taking a similar trip one day with my husband to all of the places you went to. I showed my hubby your book and all of your wonderful pictures and pub visits. The added bonus on your blog today was the rehashing of DA! I am am furious too with what has happened to Anna. My heart was racing and now I fear what Mr Bates will do to him when he finds out. I don’t want to see him go back to prison!! Hate this spider woman Edna too. I love Mrs Patmore the most. I want to be in her kitchen, don’t you love the copper pots and all the food preparation and cooking? I can identify with Mary’s grief and Matthew’s mother as I mentioned I lost my mom. So much going on so far in the show . Speaking of my mom, she read us all of the PB books and we have many of the figurines as well. I am crazy for your little Peter Rabbit room. I also collected Joan Walsh Anglund dolls and books . Maybe I can share a picture of my collection that I passed down to my daughter . She is 20 now so the collections have been packed up and are in the attic for her children as we made a few moves . You make me want to get them out again. xo

    • sbranch says:

      I identify with Matthew’s mom too. So sad, her son. I have a girlfriend who lost her son. I imagine her watching, and I wonder what she must think. I am hoping there will be some healing in that part of the story, that everyone might learn from.

  90. Rhonda D. says:

    Your tea party was charming. It must have been thrilling for both you and Joe, and your guests from the Beatrix Potter Society. It’s wonderful that we get a sneak peek through your eyes into history being made. I loved it when you said Joe ran right in and started the fire, and then the picture of it…could feel myself snuggling in for the rest of the post. We are so blessed. I never mentioned this to you before, but my grandfather studied baking for 3 years in Edinburgh, Scotland. That’s what he did for a living. We have his cookbook, all handwritten by him in the 1920’s, that includes his study notes as well. I love the historical part of it…one recipe is for King George VI(#?) Birthday Cake. Isn’t that fantastic! My Seafood Chowder Party was a great success. Had an email from a guest yesterday that said, “It was wonderful and so well done. What a lovely hostess you are and everything was so tasty and beautiful.” I received so many nice compliments. See how much you have taught us? I felt like you were here with me, helping me to “pull it all together.” You are changing the world, one post at a time! I’m also very excited about the new series of Downton Abbey, but I guess I shouldn’t have read so much in the blog today…I haven’t seen the 2nd episode. A relative of mine in Wales was excited to hear that I was watching DA. She said that I’d like “Mr. Selfridge” if I liked DA. Maybe I’ll have to check it out. Thank you for sharing so much with us. xo

    • sbranch says:

      Have you made any of your grandfather’s recipes? It IS fantastic, you are so lucky to have that cookbook!

      • Rhonda D. says:

        I have to say that I haven’t made any of the recipes. He baked for us and all the ladies in the community when he came to Canada to live, so I know that they are delish. I’ve read some of the recipes and since that was getting close to 100 years ago, they are a wee bit hard to understand. Good friends of our family from Holland who own a smoked fish business, and are also very good cooks, asked me one time to get together with them and make some of these recipes. I had forgotten all about it until I read your post today and things started “clicking” in my mind. It makes me think about your English friend Rachel baking the recipes of her forefathers and loving every minute of it. I will definitely check this out and make sure I photocopy the recipe book for my family members…things have a way of disappearing sometimes. I guess I didn’t realize how very valuable this is until just now.

        • sbranch says:

          Oh yes, it’s priceless. You are so lucky. I know how those old recipes can be, “add a knob of butter” 🙂

          • Rhonda D. says:

            You’re right, not only are some of the measurements different from that era, but some of the scottish terms and ingredients can be hard to figure out. I lived with my grandparents for many years and knew the scottish quite well, but I still can’t figure out some of these. Just maybe this will be a good future project, fun and historical, to figure this out, some by trial and error…and re-write the cookbook.

  91. Love, love, love this! I will reread tomorrow. 🙂

    I have to admit watching the last episode of Downton with my hand up and slightly behind fingers, as if I was watching a scary movie. Talk about ups and downs! And as we know they can kill even our favorites off at any time (I don’t care if the actors do have other commitments!), no one is safe.

  92. Ann Y in PA says:

    What a lovely party….you made us feel as if we were there ! And how true about how you can be – as my friends like to say “chi chi foo foo”- for close friends, but you want visitors to feel comfy and at home. What a wonderful memory to have – and leftovers, too !

  93. Elizabeth says:

    Hello Susan! This is my first comment though I have been a happy reader for awhile now (I was a Girlfriend on the voyage to England, but I was very hidden in the suitcase!). Talking about tea parties reminded me of going to The Empress hotel on Vancouver Island, Canada and having their High Tea! What an experience! This was sometime in the 80s and I was there on vacation with my dear mom, who passed away last May. I enjoy being able to talk about the things we did together, it helps to share her with kindred souls…we also watched Downton Abbey, so it is very heartwarming to be able to talk about it with Girlfriends who are also in love with it.

    I noticed you commented that someone had sent you an email about something that I’ve had the same horrible thought about: Suppose Anna gets pregnant? Bates, a worldly intelligent man would put the story together from how he found her (why did you change your clothes? Why do you have a bruise? — he knew sometime was amiss, but Anna was so reassuring) and when he finds out WHO has done this, recall that he told Anna “I learned a lot in prison.” So, he might know how to commit a murder and not be caught?!

    As you can tell, I really love to speculate!! And you have such a supportive group here, Susan, to rant with!

    hugs from Mississipppi, formerly of Arizona

    • sbranch says:

      I love our rants! I don’t know what would happen. I think he should try poison. Apparently, in those days, you could do it and get away with it. But what I really want is for those two to have their lives back, and I’m not sure that’s ever possible again. SO unfair. Nice of you to leave a comment Elizabeth, happy to meet you!

  94. Gert~Iowa says:

    Susan..oh what a fun tea party you had! (How I loved having my own little spot, that cake and those egg salad sandwiches were amazing! Love the fact that you made me my very own size! Wasn’t Jack good? Amazing he didn’t notice me in the corner…..normally he loves to chase me all around the house! lol)

    Seriously great post…looks like an amazing visit, for both of you ! smile

  95. Holly says:

    I’m so glad you gave us the scoop on your tea party, I was just dying to know how it went, and what the ladies were like. Today’s post is amazingly delicious!!
    Wonderful news about Costco & your book! I just bought a copy for my sister’s birthday. She’s in the middle of her second round of chemo (non-hodgkins lymphoma), and really only has energy for reading. I sent her instructions to plan where she wants to go, because when she is well enough, WE are going to England!!

    Loved Jack’s photos. He knows how to get comfy!! (my kitties sleep that way too… so adorable!!) Thanks for the great photos of everything!

  96. It sounds like a lovely party. And darn it on the I should have sent my family your book for Christmas- I can’t believe I never even thought of it!

    I am glad you enjoyed your party though!

  97. Christine says:

    Hi Susan~
    Thank you for inviting us to the tea party! Enjoyed it very much with your Emma cups and polenta cake, Jack, roses, and even a Beatrix book.
    I wanted to ask you more about the Beatrix Potter dresser. Can you remember where you did see it– Kansas or Iowa? Antique Shop? Would love to track it down to see it up close and personal. Isn’t it darling?

    • sbranch says:

      It’s adorable, I’ll have to ask Joe, he always knows where we were for what. Remind me tomorrow Christine!

  98. Kathryn in Los Angeles says:


    Loved your synopsis of Downton Abbey. Two episodes and the tension is already almost unbearable! I can foresee a real problem coming up for Anna with the possible results of that night. Oh my! And dear Tom is going to get himself into a real mess. This is all too much! Bring Shirley MaClain into the melee and what will we get next? Maggie Smith is superb. What zingers she comes up with. I can’t get over losing Matthew. Loved that character. This show has me emotionally exhausted.

  99. Barbara Thomas says:

    I was so upset over Downton Abbey I could not sleep that night! The characters have become as real to me as you and all the girlfriends! It’s nice to has the storyline out with all of you!

    Whatever pattern is that lovely pot next to the blue cups ( on the left)? So cute! Loved today’s post, as always!

    Barbara in Lodi, CA

  100. MoeWest says:

    No spoilers here but I watched season 4 of Downton Abbey when it aired on the BBC. I couldn’t wait, so I downloaded it from the internet. You’re going to love it. When we were visiting family in Vancouver over the holidays, we went to a favourite used book store to poke around. I was so excited to find Heart of the Home! I rescued it and I love it!

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you so much for the rescue!

    • amy says:

      Ditto Susan’s comment:)!!! I really am not a soap opera fan….never have been….and that is what this show seems to be turning into…….the intention… of not letting anyone have a chance at happiness…..If that is the case I am bailing no matter how much I adore some of these characters!

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