Winter, Animal Kingdom & Downton

More winter, more animal kingdom, Downton and . . .  MUSICAspring!Not really, just kidding.


Conflicting reports on whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not, abound. So we better enjoy this winter of 2015 while we’ve got it, because we don’t know how long it will last. But we definitely have it now, and boy do we.  Boston got 40 inches of snow in the last seven days.  It’s not as bad here, but more than we remember having before.



So we stay hunkered down and enjoy the show . . . because around here it’s mostly animal kingdom. (In fact while I’m writing this, I just saw the turkeys go past the window on their way to the feeders!)


Yesterday there were three squirrels chasing each other around the feeders at the same time, up and down the wisteria trunks, over the top of the arbor, vying for space at the feeders, so cute. I could only get two in my lens at once . . .

squirrel play

Wet and snow spattered . . .

Jack watches

Jack’s right there, enjoying the show . . . I put my head right next to his and we watch together . . .

squirrel at feeders

It goes on all day . . .

squirrels on ice

Squirrels making themselves at home . . . 

did you see that?

Do you see that?  Are you just going to let them do that?

snow birds

And then, look at the birds waiting their turn on the branches in the background . . .


Love it when I catch them in mid air . . .



There are three feeders and a suet cage outside the kitchen windows  . . . the wall between the windows kind of gets in the way of photos . . . it’s like a giant fish tank for us while we cook or do dishes.  Highly entertaining.

path through the snow

Our house “sounds like an ant farm,” says Blog Daddy, from my description of the paths Joe has dug coming from every door, to the street, to the feeders, the trash area, the barn, and the wood pile . . .

Joe at the wood pile

Joe loves it out there . . . here he’s pulled back the plastic to fill his apple basket with dry firewood. . .

Helping Joe bring in wood

Of course Jack misses nothing . . .

Playtime for Jack

He has a well-rounded day . . .

He loves the fire

He LOVES the fire and will sit and stare at it for hours.  Like mother, like son. 


I sneak up on him . . .


working on new calendars

. . . and while all this nothing is going on here in Smallville, paint waterI’m working on the Calendars for 2016, asking myself, as usual, on every month, “what would the Girlfriends like to see?” I’m on September of the wall-calendar now . . .

I also have the mini calendar to do, the big blotter, the purse calendar and the little magnet.  I paint and write most of the day.


my paintbrush, doing what comes naturally

wearing them out

I’m wearing out pencils with all the drawing I’m doing.  When they get low, they become “kitchen pencils” ~ they go into the jar in the kitchen ~ as opposed to drawing pencils.



You know how much Jack loves to retrieve pony-tail bands I shoot for him?


He deserves to live forever, one way or another, preferably both. This is me immortalizing Jack.

Jack on the stairs

Because this guy is an original.

He wants it so bad

He could play like this all day everyday.  But I have to get those calendars done!


Girl has found a new place to sleep.  On the red checked pillows I got at Ikea the last time we were off-island.  But as soon as I come with the camera, she leaves . . . so we are lucky to get this pose from Queen Victoria Girl Kitty.


And even though it is still like this outside (10 degrees this morning) . . .

hibiscus grows in winter

Upstairs the hibiscus is in full bloom in an east window of the “blue room” — which could also be called “the junk room” . . .


The flowers just keep coming. We don’t do anything but water, and I think this plant is happier here than it was on the porch during the summer.

life is good

And we have a fire everyday . . .  for the sound of crackling and hissing, because it’s warm . . . and to give Jack and me something to zone out on.

Downton Fireplace in the LibraryIf I couldn’t have my own fireplace, this would be my second drinkchoice ~ this one in the Library at Downton Abbey . . . It’s hard to have a favorite room at the Abbey (we’re now such good friends I feel I can call it “the Abbey”), but this and the dining room are my favorite. I think it’s because of the elegant carvings over the black fireplace, but there are also gorgeous red sofas in here, it’s dark and romantic and perfect for “cocktails.”

Mary and Tom and the kidsThis is why I like Lady Mary and Tom together. I know I won’t get my way, because Charles Blake is very charming and he and Mary do have chemistry ~ and maybe there is something wrong with marrying your sister’s widower who used to be the chauffeur.  But times are a’changing, as we are only too well aware, and how about for the children?  I think they would all be perfect together.  

Did you watch?  Goodbye Miss Bunting!  Hooray!  I thought maybe she wouldn’t go and screamed OH NO when Tom jumped up to go say goodbye; I hated it when they kissed but then, deep breath of relief, he let her go.  I loved it when Mary said, “Are you happy now?” at dinner. Bye-bye, Miss Bunting, you give Bunting a bad name.

Union Jack bunting

I don’t see why Julian Fellowes didn’t give Tom a perfectly lovely normal feminist to fall for, there had to be one in England at that time ~ they couldn’t all be dinner ruiners.  “Feminist-socialist” does not automatically equal “no manners.”

watercolory flowers

I haven’t mentioned it, but didn’t you love it when Violet was remembering where she met her Russian Prince, the Ball at the “Winter Palace,” and what she wore . . .  “powder-blue velvet with silver lace?”  Made tears in my eyes.  Would have loved to see Violet dancing in that.  Would love to see her being courted by a Prince too. What he might lack in hair laundering I’m sure he would make up for in manners.

Downton Abbey Highclere Castle Series

I’m sure she was beautiful.

Downton Abbey Clothes

She still is, just like her granddaughter.   If nothing else, I would watch for these dresses and what they put in their hair, their jackets and hats.  I love this show!


Poor Edith.  Someone is going to see her making that phone call in Carson’s office.  Probably Mister dark-circles-under-his-eyes.  Have you noticed that no matter how sick Barrow makes himself, he stays mean and sneaky? No more, but no less than before.  He’s on an even keel when it comes to scheming. You’d think he wouldn’t have the energy for it.  One other thing.  Cora suddenly looks, and acts, like an all-American Girl. Golly!  Poor Robert is confused to the point of needing a time out.  OK, that’s enough, now you tell me, what did you think?


Bye from cold, icy, wintry, sunny, bright-white Martha’s Vineyard, from Joe, Girl, Jack and me . . . and Smallville, USA. I’m off to get my warm pair of shoes from in front of the furnace!  Be sure to try the Punxsutawney Pudding and Spareribs on the February page of the Calendar, I promise you deliciousness! 


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594 Responses to Winter, Animal Kingdom & Downton

  1. Jo-Ellen Claphanson says:

    Good Morning~
    It’s snowing here in Downingtown, Pa. but yesterday for a very short period of time in the afternoon the sun was out and it was 50 degrees!! So nice. I shoved the rest of the snow off the porch and my thoughts turned to Pansies. I was tempted to unwrap the summer furniture but decided there is too much winter left so I’ll wait til March. My cat, Merriweather sat at the back door and watched me yesterday while outside and I was encouraging her thru the screen door that soon we would be able to leave the doors open again. She loves to watch the squirrels and the birds too.
    There is a show on Masterpiece Mystery following Downton Abbey that is good too! Grantchester is the name of it and lots of us here are enjoying it. Soon, I think in April there will be Wolf Hall which takes place in the time of Ann Boelyn. So there’s lots to enjoy coming up.
    I’ll miss Downton Abbey when it’s over. I have been thinking for awhile that Mary and Branson will get together. We’ll see. I thought Miss Bunting was so rude to sit at someone’s table and criticize. I never really felt that Branson was in love with her. Others kind of invited her to the parties.
    Thank you for your pictures and your writing. I have all of your books and calendars. So often your pictures help me to recognize and appreciate my quiet and peaceful life spent here and at church because you appreciate so much your life and surroundings. I like your decorating ideas too. I move things around that I have after looking at your pictures.
    So, thank you again! Happy Spring. As soon as Jane’s Flower Patch opens in March I am off to get Pansies. She has the best!!

    • sbranch says:

      Love hearing from you Jo-Ellen!

    • Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

      Jo-Ellen…not sure where you live in PA but are you near Philadelphia? reason – I’m visiting there in May and wonder if there are any tea rooms I might like to visit. I won’t have a car. any recommendations?

      • Janet says:


        I live in Philly and I have heard about this one: I haven’t been but I have dined at the Rittenhouse and I am sure that it would be top notch. Also, if you are staying in downtown Philly (called Center City) it would be easily accessible. BTW a bit of trivia, the soap opera, All My Children, was supposed to be set in one of the posh suburbs on the Main Line. That’s why everyone was always going into “Center City”, aka Philadelphia.

        • Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

          thanks for the info!!! I used to love watching All My Children with Tad and Dixie.

  2. Anita T. says:

    I so enjoy your blog on a regular basis, but I like it even more when you muse about the latest Downton episode. I got to visit Highclere last summer during a visit to England. My spouse took my picture in front of the castle and for that second there were hardly any other people around, so I could pretend it was my house. I do wish I had gone in costume; something about my khaki pants is not quite right.
    I also got to go to Hilltop and pretend that was mine, too. I actually think I may have lived in England during the early 1900s. It feels so right for me to be there.
    A few years ago we sailed up the coast from Georgia to the Vineyard in our 32′ Island Packet and spent a glorious 2 weeks anchored in Lake Tashmoo, A great place, I can see why you love it.
    Again, thanks for the inspiration.
    Anita T.

    • sbranch says:

      Do people go in costume? That would be fun to see.

      • Carol C says:

        I didn’t see anyone at Highclere dressed up but at Hilltop there was an adorable Japanese young couple and she was dressed to the period and was carrying a basket. Just sooo cute. I asked if I could take her picture and her husband was so pleased and proud. I would have looked ridiculous but on her it was just so charming.

  3. Brenda Brady says:

    The Downton Abbey exhibit should be the icing on the cake! The Biltmore will be a great venue for the costumes of Downton Abbey. As I noted in a previous note, I saw the exhibit at Winterthur 4 times. Included were not only the beautiful dresses worn by the ladies of Downton, but also the attire of the downstairs community. The details cannot be appreciated unless you see them in the exhibit. The tailoring in the men’s clothing is beautiful. The fabrics, beading and lace used for the ladies dresses are exquisite. My hobbies are knitting, sewing and embroidery and I have an appreciation for beautiful things. Thank you Susan for your blog. It is a great inspiration to me and a happy way to begin my day.

  4. Christine Morgan says:

    I love everything about Downton, the building, the rooms, furniture, hairdos, dresses, but before Downton comes on here in St. Louis on our PBS channel there is a Ralph Lauren ad. Does everyone see this? It is the most beautiful ad showing the dress being painted in water colors and then as it comes to life with beautiful jewelryand the music. They show it at the beginning and end of the show and I just love it. Has anyone else seen this? The jewelry is incredible! Your snow is beautiful–we just got a dusting yesterday here in St. Louis, but it is 8 degrees. I need to see a beach soon!

  5. Donna Wheeler says:

    Boy oh Boy, doesn’t DA bring out our opinions? love the whole roll of ‘what ifs’ here. Did we say goodbye good riddance to Bunting too soon? will she be back next season? Tom deserves another wife doesn’t he? can’t be Mary!
    Edith’s baby is scandal enough for her pompous father. Do not phone, text or knock on my door Sunday nights.

  6. Annie in IL says:

    In re: Downton – I know Barrow has been the man we love to hate, BUT I simply cannot help but feel so sorry for him. I don’t know what sort of poison he’s putting into himself in an effort to change who he is and conform to society, but I fear he could kill himself. We all know that gay men had a horrid existence in that era; it’s just been sheer luck that Barrow hasn’t been in prison! Just like the man who decoded the Enigma machine and ended up committing suicide because he was imprisoned, ‘branded’ and undergoing horrible treatment. Such a brilliant man who saved untold thousands, maybe even millions, of lives. And the wonderful Oscar Wilde was imprisoned. So sad! Even Anna has shown Barrow some sympathy. Poor Barrow was so fond of Jimmy and watched him ride away knowing he would have a ‘normal’ life somewhere. It was shortly after that that Barrow phoned regarding the ad he saw in the magazine. The show is touching on many social issues. Rose has done a complete about-face and become a responsible citizen with her care and concern for the Russians. Anyway, I love Downton and will be so very sad when it ends – even though I do have a life!!!

    • sbranch says:

      I know, I feel for that part of Barrow too, it was a terrible time. BUT he skulks around causing trouble among people who are NICE to him, so that’s my trouble with Barrow. (I have a life too. . . LOL)

  7. Nancy Fenemore says:

    Ahhhhhhh! Downton Abbey…………….A few observations from me………I wish that, if Cora needed to be validated because of the Lord’s neglect, they could have perhaps cast a “cuter” guy and one that was more worth the flirt………As much as we dislike Barrow, I think he needs someone to care about him……..and then there is sooooo precious Tom……… are right………..again there must have been a more attractive….. personality wise…. feminist, back then to which Tom could have been attracted. Love, love, love Violet………I want to be invited to her house for “luncheon” like Mrs. Crawley.

  8. Glenda says:


    Just love your blog! I found myself laughing out loud at some of the things you wrote this time. Love those pictures too! Thanks so much for sharing. Yesterday we had a cold dark day in CO in the 20s, today it is suppose to be in the 60s1 I do love those snow days though. Can’t wait to get your new calendar. The one for this year is great and I both my usual two and several of the little ones for gifts too, Like you, I am a real DA fan and “study” those clothes and hair pieces. I think I have recommended the books Lady Almina and Lady Catherine before. The real story behind the real Highclere Castle. Really gives the DA series a whole new perspective. I have also just discovered a new tv series you and the girlfriends might like. It has probably been out for years, but I just discovered it. 🙂 We “stream” using Apple TV….The Grand Hotel -lovely people, romance, murder, intrigue. I do have one problem but I think it is the streaming from Netflix….The show is in Spanish with English subtitles. Takes a few minutes to get it going in your brain but you quickly forget and really get into the show. Beautiful people. I have requested Netflix download it for me in English, We still will keep the English subtitles because we can’t always understand the “players” these days. 🙁 A bit of news i read in a magazine at the dr.’s office…Mary use to be engaged to Sean Penn when she was very young. Rose use to do 1,000 push ups a day for something she was trying out for. Guess I shouldn’t repeat if I don’t have all the details uh?…I think it was a People magazine though. Stay warm and happy with your man and your “little persons with fur”,there in your beautiful Smallville! 🙂

  9. So glad you’ve made it through the blitz-zard! The world’s a wonder dressed in white. 🙂
    Sorry I missed the post part 2 until now. My stepmom passed away and we were out of here for a bit. Feeling a bit blue but your dear posts always provide cheer and comfort. Thanks!

    P.S. Every time I see a picture of the back of Jack’s head I have to remind myself that it’s not my Poirot. They are so alike other than the face. <3

    Keep warm and don't slip whilst out on your walkies.

  10. Lovely post. Interesting that you choose Sidney Bechet for your musica. On the very first episode of the Granchester (Masterpiece Mystery following Downton Abbey) his album was featured in the show, right at the beginning 🙂 I am loving the show!

    • sbranch says:

      Discovered Sidney Bechet along with Edith Piaf years back when I would go looking for French music . . . He’s American but his loveliest (I think) music came from his years in Paris.

  11. Linda C. says:

    I beg you NOT to do a pink October. Must EVERYTHING be pink these days? We already have a pink February, the beautiful pink of the Easter and spring season, lovely pink seashells and pink sky sunsets. October and November are always a welcome change.

    On a different note, I was fortunate enough to see the Downton Exhibit at Winterthur. This wonderful exhibit not only showcased the gorgeous clothing and textiles of Downton, it illustrated a side-by-side comparison of England customs and American customs. Truly a must see.

  12. Heather Clementson says:

    Hi Susan!
    I have been following this blog about the restoration on this French Chateau. I thought you may also enjoy the beauty and history of this amazing place. They also have a Facebook page! So many beautiful pictures and exciting history! You will love it!!! 🙂
    Heather 🙂

  13. Rae Ann R. says:

    Hi Susan~it is freezing cold here in northern Michigan…-15* last night and barely into the teens today…I was wondering if you have read Sue Monk Kidd’s book “The Invention of Wings?”…I’m staying in and reading and loving this book..even though it is about a sad period in our history, I am loving the story…xoxo…

  14. Marge says:

    Hello Dear Susan – I’ve read just about all of the comments. It’s funny how we all have different views on Downton. I have the 5th season DVD, and yes, shame on me, I watched ahead. That Jilian fellow sure has us by the neck….making us all crazy about what happens next. The Great British Baking show is just wonderful. Can’t wait to see the next episode of that show. And as for the birds – well I just love them. But like the others, I had to stop feeding them due to the varmites that the seed attracted. A mouse got into the house, and I said, that’s it, no more birds. Which was a great adjustment for me because I just loved them. Thanks for your great posts, they are kinda’ comforting. Pet the kitties for me. And as they say, “I’m outa’ here !”

  15. Judy in OR says:

    I agree with all of your thoughts on Downton Abbey. I too have been thinking that Tom and Mary should get together. But you are right it will probably never happen, I just hope he doesn’t leave for America. I sometimes think I should wait until all the shows are available so I can watch them all at once. It is so hard to wait another week to see what is going to happen next. Why Edith didn’t close the door is beyond me, you just know someone is listening.
    I love seeing all your outdoor and indoor animals. It seems like there is never a dull moment at your house. I am still envying all your snow as we are getting rain via the Pineapple Express for the next several days. Of course, if it was in snow form we wouldn’t know what to do here as it would be more than we have seen in a long time.

  16. Joan in TX says:

    One of these days will you post a video of you sketching something and then painting it? Do you ever get stuck on what to draw? Or when you wake up and go to your studio at the crack of dawn does flow out of you as easy as breathing? Also why do you get up so early?!

    • sbranch says:

      I wake up early because years back I realized I needed three more hours in the day and noticed I wasn’t doing much past 8 pm on most nights except staring at the TV, so I rearranged things, went to bed early so I could get up early and get the morning hours. I don’t need an alarm and I wake up ready to go, doing my art has always excited me and I don’t seem to run out of ideas of things to do. I’ve started trying to take photos of my painting . . . which I can do myself holding the brush with one hand and the camera with the other . . . but I would need Joe to do a video. Maybe!

      • Sue says:

        I vote YES, Susan! Please do the video — it’s a wonderful idea and we frustrated amateurs would be thrilled to see the Master at Work.

        I have the same bird feeder and it’s my birds’ favorite…ditto, the squirrels. LOL. They’re fat little piggies, but entertaining.

        Your last photo with the snow gently falling on your beautiful home was pure magic. Thanks!

      • Joan in TX says:

        I think if I lived on Marthas Vineyard I wouldn’t want to miss a sunrise either come to think of it. I love the still photo shots of your artwork. But I think we would love to see our own Norma Rockwell in action. Whenever I look at a painting I always wonder what it took to create it. Kinda of like the beginning of Miss Potter movies when she was experimenting with her water colors and how they reacted on paper. How do you keep your artwork from just flowing into a big mess. Your artwork is so detailed and realistic yet sharp and soft too.

        • sbranch says:

          Thank you Joan! How do I keep it from flowing into a big mess . . . ? You mean like where do I keep it all? LOL, first time anyone called me Norma Rockwell! 🙂

          • Joan in TX says:

            LOL! What I meant to say is how do you keep your watercolors from flowing and smearing into mess on the paper especially when your art is so detailed.

          • sbranch says:

            The paper is dry when I start . . . some watercolorists wet the entire paper . . . That helps!

  17. Gert~Iowa says:

    Oh, I thought I had a lot of birds at our feeders, but nothing compared to yours!! Love your photos! We seem to spook them when we get close to the windows! Lol I too was glad when Miss Bunting left! I was afraid that Tom would either go with her or ask her not to leave!! It’s really a good show! Love Jack, he is such a blessing to you both! Very entertaining aren’t they? What would we do without our pets?

  18. Beth says:

    Ohh, don’t you just L*O*V*E* Winter??!
    Cozy fires, soups and stews, snowy days, s-l-o-w-e-r life, and DA!
    I especially love the skyscape of naked trees so that I can SEE where the rascally squirrels snuggle, that quawking hawk lights, and the roosting nests of our feathered friends! What delight to watch the tree tops clap and dance in the wind with their leaves gone!
    I would LOVE to see you paint on your calendars some of the “Winter Homes” of our wildlife—just what does happen in those burrows, nests, and dens??? Can’t you just imagine they are having SNOW PARTIES TOO with tea and treats like us!?? I’m sure Peter Rabbit didn’t sleep ALL winter!
    Enjoying all the chitter chatter on DA! I too would love Tom and Mary to get together BUT…I think it would be detrimental and WEIRD for the children–are we cousins or siblings??? And I really think it would be cruel to poor Marigold for her to be ripped again from a secure/loving home at this point in her young life. Edith needs to back off!
    Anyway, there’s my 2 cents on things! THANKS forever lifting life’s burdens!

  19. Pat Mofjeld says:

    For some reason I got the idea that there were only 6 episodes of Downton this season. Last night I read our local public TV magazine and it showed this coming Sunday’s episode as “Episode 6 of 9”!!!! Has anyone else noticed this? 🙂

  20. Bev Wiedeman says:

    Hi Susan: I feel like I know you personally, from reading your blogs. Love them! I agree whole heartedly about Miss Bunting. I cheered when she left too, but hope she doesn’t come back. Interesting thought about Tom and Mary marrying, but anything is possible at Downton. I was cheering when Robert punched the “art lover/intruder/wife stealer in the face! He was championing his wife, his family, his home, and his right to be the Husband! The intruder got everything he deserved and more! I think Cora should just tell Robert to respect her ideas and not be so Victorian, she’s acting too coy and evasive!

  21. Cathy says:

    The cup (or small bowl) with red poppies and a bird you are using for water when you paint in the photo above is just lovely! I checked to see if it was for sale on the website, but I do not see it. Can you tell me if it is new or an antique? I want one!

    • sbranch says:

      I got it at Disneyland just before my 30th birthday and I hate to say it, but I think that makes it, if not “antique,” then certainly “vintage.” It’s the water dish that has served through everything I’ve ever done, including my first painting. But, I’m sorry, I don’t know where you might find one at this time. Just keep your eyes open because I know you will!

      • Cathy says:

        Ah, how nice to learn. I grew up in Anaheim and my very first job was at Disneyland. I will keep my eyes peeled and may find it or one similar. Thanks.

  22. Suzanne says:

    Susan, I totally agree with
    you about watching DA for the
    dresses and hair alone! While
    it’s wonderful that women have
    more freedom in dress today, so
    often what we see “glamorized”
    on celebrities is just NOT pretty.

    Love your sweet world!

    xo Suzanne

  23. Kathy Lloyd says:

    Hi Susan! Love to read everyone’s comments on Downton Abbey, my absolute fave show. My hubby and I are glued to the show every Sunday night at 9 along with everbody else. I even have the DA theme as my ringtone! Anyway, I know you are also a big Beatles fan (you were lucky enough to meet them). I was lucky enough to see them live at Shea Stadium in 1965. Just a reminder that tomorrow, Feb. 7, is the 51st anniversary of the Fab Four’s arrival at JFK Airport. I remember watching it on TV when I was 14 and thinking that nothing was better than this! I can’t think of any musical group today that could cause the excitement they and the whole British Invasion brought to us. It was great to be a teenager then! Keep warm and think of Spring…

  24. lani nelson says:

    We are enjoying rain and wind. Buckets of rain! We live in Eureka California and we needed rain!. You should have seen the birds in our backyard yesterday. Frolicking in the flooded lawn. They were joyous! I am filling the bird feeder twice a day. Thanks to you, we are feeding on your wonderful Chicken Noodle Soup. Fires going in both fireplaces, chicken noodle soup. and rain. It does not get any better than this. Thanks for your inspiration! Fondly, Lani

  25. Therese says:

    –loved this most recent post, Susan.
    As far as Downton goes, I am not feeling one bit sorry for Robert!
    I love the chemistry between Cora and Simon (remember Elizabeth with Richard Grant in The Scarlet Pimpernel?) and hope they get to continue a friendship (or have a fling!) Whatever Cora wants. I’d love to see her cut loose.
    Robert is being an old stick!
    love you and the kitties.
    stay cozy.

    • sbranch says:

      All those upperclass men were old sticks in those days . . . they just had it so MADE, everyone bowing and scraping at them all the time, they forgot to look around and see how things were going for other people.

  26. Tracy says:

    After a long workweek I came home and awaiting me was a lovely, tangy scent coming from the kitchen. My husband saw your rib recipe on our calendar and decided to make it!
    He altered it just a little, adding pineapple chunks to the sauce and using full sized ribs instead. He served these with crescent rolls, potato salad, and baked beans.
    Susan, the sauce was just delicious!!!
    Thank you for inspiring me and my husband!

  27. Patsy-FL says:

    I think Cora has gotten really silly. I’m sorry the writers have turned her into that kind of woman. Branson and Lady Mary, perhaps.

    • sbranch says:

      They’ll turn her back, I’m sure. She needs some sort of backbone, hard to believe that Mary’s her daughter. Mary is so much like her Grandmother.

  28. Rosemary says:

    Your Downton observations are perfectly delightful. I love Mary and her mannerisms and clothes…gliding through the rooms of Downton. We are now recording them on Sunday night and watch during the week sometime….my husband and I. It takes us a minute to get the English going…understanding our language spoken by them..ha ha. I would kind of like the time period to stop right about where they are because I think that is what attracts me to it so much…as opposed to what we see on tv “nowadays”. OH WELL, I am about to reread Fine Romance as my husband and I are heading to England the last of April and first part of May…not on a do it yourself trip except for London we will be on our own for a few days, but then join a Backroads tour of 16 to hit the high spots of the countryside, ending in Edinburgh. Looking forward to it so much. I am just afraid I am going to want to leap off the van to see more things but am happy to be going at all.
    Stay warm. I would like to be looking out at that snow and the birds and other critters. Going to be about 70* here today in Texas. I am sure some people would be happy with that temperature and I am, too. It just looks so cozy at your place… Thanks for sharing.

  29. Lynn Cooper says:

    I just loved the picture of Jack with his, “Do you see that?” expression on his face. What a little cutie.

    This blog makes me want a fireplace, but I already have a wood stove that takes work to fill with wood to heat the house. We will have more snow coming so today is my chance to get more wood into the basement, shovel the second floor deck, get more kindling from sticks in the woods since my supply is quite low, roof rake the garage, and gas up the car because it is almost on reserve. Whew! I’m tired of my to-do list of have-to’s. Reading your blog with my coffee after doing morning chores at the barn and bringing more wood in gives me peace of mind.

    I will hunker down for this next round of snow and enjoy Downton on Sunday. I love my DVR and will tape the Grammy’s but watch Downton. Miss an episode? Never! I have been amazed at the beautiful fabrics of the dresses this season, and I just don’t want it to end. Remember the days when a TV series ran for most of the year? Bring those days back for Downton and maybe I will get my fill.

    Enjoy the next round of snow here in Massachusetts.

  30. Frances Fowler says:

    The picture of round eyed Jack (and when doesn’t he look astonished at all the excitement in his kitty universe, eyes all lit up and full of “go”) is hilaaaarious. I hope that incredibly rude Miss Bunting stays away — imagine, repeatedly embarrassing and insulting your host at dinner! Tom needs a good and far less brashly political girl to keep him with the Granthams. In the meantime, waiting to see what plays out at Downton, enjoy your beautiful snow. Although we’ve had a chillier than average winter, we have had zero snow, save for a few brief, isolated flakes that lasted only minutes. As Yukon Cornelius told Rudolph, “Nuttin’.” The September picture looks promising with a cozy looking teapot and hint of the changing season. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the current portly Punxsutawney Phil and will be trying his recipe soon 🙂

  31. Karen C. says:

    Thankyou, Susan !

  32. Denise S says:

    I’ve enjoyed the comments on Downton. It certainly provokes strong opinions in people which I am guessing is its creator’s desire. My comment is on Girl Kitty. Though Jack with his Poirot mustache gets the lion’s share of attention, I just noticed that Girl Kitty has an equally notable feature–eye liner! And a perfect thing for a girl kitty.

    • sbranch says:

      She’s an elegant girl. Jack is just much more active; Girl’s main activity is climbing onto my shoulder for hugs. Other than that, she is a very quiet little person.

  33. Jack says:

    Squeeze some lemon juice on a hair band and watch Jack beat it up …..

  34. Kathleen Hirst says:

    Hi Susan-we are under a Winter Storm Warning here in Western New York. Expecting about a foot of snow over 2 days. I noticed that no one has touched on the subject of Anna and Bates. Do you suppose Anna might have killed Mr. Green? It is all so intriguing! When I had my knee surgery last April I went to our library and rented all the Downton Abbey DVD’s. My husband and I watched them together. We are retired so we were able to do that. I too wish it could go on longer. Sunday nights that hour flies by so fast. I have my kitty Cheddar sitting on the desk right next to me while I type this out. He is orange and white and the marking on his back looks like Mickey Mouse! He is a special little boy. We love him dearly! You and Joe stay warm and give Jack and Girl kitty a kiss for us. Bye for now!

  35. Joan in TX says:

    I giggle every time I reread the photo caption under Jack’s face looking at you asking if you are going to let that naughty squirrel ransack the bird feeder. And the difference between Girl Kitty’s laid back regal feline eyes and Jack’s big saucer “I don’t miss a thing that goes on within a square mile of this house” eyes. So cute!

  36. Norma O says:

    Tried your pineapple spareribs today. Delicious! The pineapple juice is such a good idea.

  37. Sylvia in Seattle says:

    I watched The Duchess yesterday and loved it! That may not be the best way to describe my enjoyment of it, since I felt mostly anguish for the poor woman, bearing all those children with nothing but contempt from his Lordship 🙁 until a boy finally was born. It’s hard to comprehend it all. I will watch it again with full attention. I was preparing for company the first go through. It was so warm here last evening we had to open a window while playing Scrabble and I had no heat on! And you are getting more snow!!! Hope it’s still fun.

    • sbranch says:

      I thought it was good too, he was HIDEOUS, but the way it was for women in those days, makes you SO grateful for what we have now. I had to watch it twice too . . . it’s amazing to think we were in her actual house. Pictures of her on the wall all through it.

  38. Roseann Davis-Yurasits says:

    Hi Susan,

    Something to give you a smile for all the smiles you send our way. Please visit [email protected]; I think it will delight you. The writer is my daughter and also my best friend, always has been, we are truly blessed!

    Baskets of Wishes,

  39. deborah.t.norling says:

    After last weeks episode of Downton…I too wondered if Mary and Tom might end up together ! It makes sense for many reasons. The last couple of weeks after Downton, I’ve started watching..”GRANTCHESTER”…on Masterpiece Mystery. Set in the 1950’s …the main character..Sidney Chambers…played by actor James Norton, ( quite pleasing to the eyes )..a vicar whose parish is in Grantchester near Cambridge..Chambers fought with the Scots Guards during World War II, then came to Granchester…where.. along with his usual vicar duties, struggles from post war traumatic stress disorder as well as dealing with recent heart break. Chambers takes up solving the town’s mysteries along with the local constable. I am fond of all the main characters and if you watch I think you’ll come to love his housekeeper..and a sweet little black lab pup given to him in the first episode.

  40. Toni says:

    Beg to differ about Robert. Change is HARD. I struggled trying to wear my watch on the other hand. I think a strong case could be made for his ability to change even if it involved a little kicking and screaming into his future. In five seasons, no ill treatment of staff; perhaps paternalistic. But I digress…I was actually looking for a music list. Is there one on the website or shall I re read A Fine Romance to find one. ? Anticipating July packing……Thanks again for all you do for us. Toni

    • sbranch says:

      I agree, change is hard . . . no question about that! For Music, look on page 180 of A Fine Romance . . .

  41. Toni says:

    Thanks! There it is. May someone bring you today the warm comfort you bring us. Toni

  42. Lori from Maine says:

    Uh oh…I watched a rerun of Downton Abbey with my mother in law yesterday and I think I’m hooked. She brought me up to date a bit. I was able to pick out the scoundrels and the nicer ones quite well. Maggie Smith is a dear. I loved her in Harry Potter too. She just has “natural class.” Soooo, I’ll be recording episodes from now on. I also watched an English baking contest – what yummy things they all made. Unlike the US Food Network shows, this is outdoors, in a tent, with all the beautiful wildflowers around. England is so beautiful. I wonder if the girlfriends have watched this show, I don’t recall the name of it, but it’s fun to watch because of the different sort of cakes and tarts they make over there. So – another Downton fan here!!
    I want the snow to stop. Our mailbox is buried. My “Miss Kim” lilac bush is barely peeking out of a snowdrift. I’m afraid there may be some broken branches, hope not. Hubby is shoveling every day. Even if it isn’t snowing, it blows around and drifts. Oh well, rumor has it that Spring will be here someday!
    Brrrrrr – from SW Hbr. Maine

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, I think lots of us are watching the Bake Off! I’m worried about broken branches this year too . . . we may have to get back to putting everything in gunny sacks next year.

  43. Janice says:

    I’m with you – I would love for Tom and Mary to get together!! If Tom ever had the thought, Mary would go along with it just to spite poor Edith! I love your descriptions of the characters. This is the only TV series I watch (other than “The Bachelor”, which is like a train wreck…it’s soooo bad but I can’t help but watch). My hubby bought the Downton season 5 DVD last week and we have already watched it ALL . He loves it too, and we watch it over and over, always learning something we missed the 1st, 2nd, 3rd time we watched 🙂
    Stay warm and I hope you are out of the deep freeze soon.

  44. Beverly says:

    Woa Susan, did you ever think you might have to add Storm part 3 addition? Thinking of you all and hoping relief is on the way…Your water color of Jack with his stretchie in his mouth is priceless! Winter resident Treasure Coast, FL. Bev Martin

  45. Lynn Cunningham says:

    I love how you rearranged your life to become even more productive ~ that took discipline (that I’m afraid I lack). I love early morning hours ~ the way things feel, smell and look as day breaks, but can’t seem to make myself go to bed to accomplish getting up that early!

    Your house looks so inviting and cozy ~ just the place to nurture your creativity. The last post had a picture of your kitchen table and window. Just LOVED all of the pretty things that would make anyone want to sit there and have a cup of tea. (I LOVE that beautiful lamp and the darling bird cutouts and the swag!).

    You captured Jack so perfectly with your painting of him with the hair band in his mouth ~ his green eyes dancing with mischief (what a cutie!). I asked my watercolor teacher where she gets ideas for her paintings, and she said “everywhere I look”. I have a feeling you would say the same thing! Truly creative people look at the world with “different” eyes ~ seeing things that most people probably don’t. Thank you for sharing that vision with us!!! (I would LOVE to watch a video of you sketching and painting ~ what a treat that would be!!).

    And as for Downton ~ can’t wait to see what happens next! Edith’s world will be turned upside-down when her “secret that’s not so secret” becomes widely known. And why does Mary have to say such terrible things to her? (Even though Edith hasn’t been kind to her, either). Tom would make a great match for Mary ~ he is so unfailingly kind to everyone, and of course, he’s quite adorable! And what is going on with Isis……I’m worried about that.

    Have a wonderful week in your Winter Wonderland!

  46. You were the first person I thought of when I received this e-mail. The Biltmore is pairing with Downton Abby and displaying 45 of the costumes from the show. You should head over. 🙂

  47. oh to be in your snow! beautiful and calm and peaceful and oh so lovely. (i know, also messy, and cold and difficult but let’s not think about that. as to downton, i couldn’t wait i confess, so i ordered – and watched – season 5. woooohoooo! so so good. i always have to watch twice…once for the story and once for the clothes/scenery. swoon.

  48. Susan from Bainbridge Island, Washington state says:

    I am missing all your usual “build- up” to Valentines Day from you…It is such a special time of year, filled with so much LOVE….XOXOXO hope to see some soon! Happy Valentine’s Week everyone!!! from my island to yours, Susan….

    • sbranch says:

      I’m just busy . . . I have a deadline for next year’s calendars — they need to get to the printer . . . so that’s where I’ve been. It’s going good though, only the blotter left to do!

      • Susan from Bainbridge Island, Washington state says:

        I sure can understand deadlines…I have a gallery show coming up on march 6th and hang on the 3rd…So much to do to get everything framed and printed…So I can empathize with you…I love it, and like you..wouldn’t have it any other way…We are two lucky women in this world! I still have 4 more small paintings to do and unlike you, I am the night owl and you are the early bird…we do find our quiet times though! Am happy for you that you are winding down and getting your deadline met…then back to normal for a day or two!!! hee hee….

        .much love from my island to yours!!!! (we have spring starting here, now…very unusual, so early) I hope spring comes for you without much flooding….and fairly soon… Happy Valentine’s Day! Sending virtual ((hugs)) for you, Joe and the kit kats!!!! xoxo

  49. Anna says:

    It’s nice to relive Downton all over again on your blog. It finished long ago here…too long ago. I get distracted looking at the rooms and costumes too.

  50. Tay Cutchin Satterfield says:

    So glad to hear you’re surviving the continuous onslaught of winter’s brutality. Keeping busy and having deadlines is good medicine. I always think of you and Joe when I hear the weather reports.

  51. Ruth Thomas says:

    I LOVE Downton Abbey – and I wish too that Mary and Branson would get together but Mary can be a bit grouchy and I’m not sure I see that in Branson – he needs someone a bit younger I think. Love the pics of the island and your vivid descriptions of everything. We are expecting snow here tomorrow in East Central Indiana – had a 43 degree day on Saturday and got away with going outside with just a sweatshirt on but it has been colder the past few days. I love winter because it makes you really enjoy your home since you spend more time in doors. But, I always look forward to spring too with green grass, trees and flowers. Stay safe and warm everyone.

  52. Michele, So. Woodstock, Vt. says:

    Good Morning Susan!

    Well, it is another gloomy, winter day here with snow showers – something new!!! I am enjoying a cup of your Spring tea w/wildflowers in your brown and white bird cup and saucer which is a cheerful reminder that most of winter is behind us and soon (?) all these massive snow banks will disappear and Spring will once again return. (At this rate, we won’t see green grass until June!)

    Your recent posts have been so heartwarming and wonderful during this very long winter. Wow, it is hard to believe that there are only three more D.A. episodes left but I am savoring each one of them. I enjoy watching the reruns of the previous week so that I can get all those little quips that sometimes are hard to hear. I, too, just adore the marvelous costumes and jewelry this year and Mary’s new “do” ! What do you think will happen to poor Edith? I think that she will take over running Michael’s newspaper, live in London with her daughter and suddenly at the end of the season, M. will return. Afterall, Julian Fellowes needs to give Edith a break! Who do you think is responsible for Mr. Green’s demise and what does Baxter know about everything?! I do agree that Barrows deserves a little sympathy as it must have been a terrible time back in those days for a gay person to exist. Oh well, am sure Julian will handle that is all his glory like the rest of this fabulous series!

    Stay warm this weekend – it is supposed to be very frigid here and I want to wish you and Joe a Very Happy Valentine’s Day!!

  53. Ridgely says:

    Made the PP pudding last night….TO DIE FOR. Oh my gosh, such a fabulous, thrify, easy recipe with an elegant ending. Thanks so much for sharing!

  54. Donna Talipsky says:

    The picture of your home with the snow falling took my breath away. How beautiful!
    It was very windy today in Lawrenceville, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Sunny, windy, cold….not at all what the northeast has had to endure. I live in Everett, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston until I was six. I remember being bundled up in leggings,coat and muff and being bundled in blankets and taken on sled rides by my father. There were wonderful snows with great drifts between the piazza and my grandfather’s garage. Your kitties are so sweet and playful!

  55. kathleen says:

    Sus, always love the pictures! You capture the little moments we cannot plan and are the happiness of the day. I am wondering if you would share info re: the fabric on the chair/loveseat/couch in the picture where Jack is enjoying the pony-tail bands – it is 2 pics below your illustration picture, a white/cream background with red and white flowers. I don’t have time to fabric shop, and am trying to find lovely chintz for a special chair and ottoman…do you recall the name of the fabric company/designer? Many thanks 🙂 K.

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