A Busy Few Days

GiveawaySince we’re all going to be busy these next few days, I thought I’d wait until after Thanksgiving to  draw the name of our lucky winner and Giveawaymake sure everyone has had time to sign up for our Giveaways (there are two, scroll down to next post to read about them) ~ this allows everyone to BE the actual winner for a little bit longer. Until the bitter truth is revealed by our in-house bitter-truth revealer, Vanna, when she draws the winning name. Until then, maybe a blog filled with photos of all kinds of holiday decorating? And MUSICA?


But first off, speaking of honey. Look at us, we’ve got almost 1800 comments on the last post and everyone of them is a pure jewel. If you ever feel sad about the world, which is easy to do these days, read the comments on this blog and it will cheer you up. I sit here and cry when I read your Thanksgivingwords of encouragement and kindness ~ you’ll never know ~ and when I read that you’re waiting for a tornado to pass, that you’re raising three rowdy boys and a husband, that you have Chinese friends, or you are Chinese, that you are from everywhere, Mexico, Germany, England, The Netherlands, that you have tea parties for your girlfriends and read to your moms. You are true Fairy Tale girls, getting through surgery, new knees and chemotherapy; nursing, celebrating and remembering loved ones, sharing love old moviesthe things that make you feel grateful, cuddling your pets and your children, watching old movies for strength (Little Women makes the MOST wonderful background sounds while you are rolling out pie crust btw), laughing about how your daughters race to change the calendar page each month. You stop mopping the floor to read Willard, you love Gingerbread tea, and you send blessings to each OTHER ~ yes, you do that ~ you even talk Arf and Arfy to me now. Your Christmas cookbooks have magazine articles tucked into them, you love Louisa May God bless this house susan branchAlcott, you love wearing your elf charm with the card that says: Go. Be. Love. The World Needs You. And that’s just the beginning of the beauty of YOU.♥ Thank you so so SO much. You reaffirm my forever belief that the world is filled with wonderful, good-hearted, loving people. If you need any reaffirming yourself, I encourage you to read these comments. And leave one yourself, if you haven’t already. All comments from these two posts will be entered into the drawing. Oh yes, and thank you from the bottom of my pea pickin’ heart. I wob you too.

Now, down to business Girlfriends: let’s talk about tablecloths and silverware, place cards and table settings, shall we? (Would like to Un-invent spell check, so far we have table scares and silver wipes.) 

dining room

Here is my dining room on a relatively calm day. No big projects on the table, but you can see it’s the holidays because I have paperwhites on the window sills. The calm before the storm.

place setting

This was a table setting for New Year’s Eve a few years back . . . champagne corks for place cards . . . and old books, and old glassware I’ve collected over the years.


And here I am thinking about tablecloths and bread baskets . . .(for some reason I’ve been singing this song all week, now it will be your turn!)

girl kitty gets ready to change the tablecloth

And here is Girl Kitty trying out the tablecloth . . . Oh yes, I have lots of help! Don’t think I do any of this all by myself.

table setting

And here is the table set for Thanksgiving. I use all our mix-and-match smaller chairs in order to get more people around the table . . . two at each end, so we can serve 14 here. I like it best when people are a little bit squashed together. The party is more lively that way! Secrets can be told! And little bouquets, all the way down the table, so no one has to peer through flowers.

table setting

You all know what a china and linen fiend I am, just like so many of you! It’s the never-ending quest for beauty. I love setting the table more than I love cooking! The cooking is the support system for the table setting!christmas pie

The painting is the support system for the cooking. It’s all tied together.


We have three “eating places” inside the house. This table is in the living room, for when it’s pouring snow and when we want to have a small cozy dinner in front of a crackling fire.

table cloths

Here it is, all draped and ready, pillows on the chairs for a comfy dining experience. You’ll note that I don’t really care if everything matches perfectly. The red tablecloth on the bottom, by the way, is an old bedspread.

art of home

place setting

Here we are in the kitchen for a casual dinner and no tablecloth, with napkins that don’t have to be ironed. But the candles are lit, the cute bread basket is there, the mugs I got years ago at Dansk in Carmel, the iron candle sticks I found in an antique store, and the heavy pottery pieces I bought way back when, done by Santa Margarita (CA) artist Paula Teplitz in the 1970s. You wouldn’t believe how I would haunt craft shows looking for her work. I found everything one piece at a time. Each is different and all depict animals and nature. 

Oh my! I just decided to Google her and see if she was still around. And she is! Go here and “like” Paula . . . this will be a total surprise for her! I don’t think she knows how much I loved her things and still do. 

table setting

I still set the table with Paula’s creations. Or bake pies in them.


Speaking of setting the table ~ This is how my grandmother taught me to do it at Thanksgiving when I was little, except in those days it was much simpler, only one fork, not two, and one glass and the one glass was for MILK (mmmm, a big glass of ice cold milk? YUM! I can hear the eeeewes from here). And the napkin goes on the left.

table setting

Sometimes I get so excited to take the picture, I do it before I should. Here I’ve already lit the candles (on the bedspread) while I’m trying out glasses. Ignore the napkin placement, it doesn’t stay that way . . . thank you.

table setting

See? Sooner or later I do figure out where the napkin goes! I love a romantic, old-fashioned table, one that brings back memories we’ve maybe never even had.movies


You’ve probably noticed, candlelight makes everything more beautiful. BTW, be sure to take photos of your table. I’m often so busy I forget, and now I wish I had them all! (See Girl Kitty, under the table?)

table setting

Candlelight puts a twinkle on everything at the table including into the eyes of the people you love. And of course, don’t forget the MUSICA.

table setting

And of course, I’m a big one for quotes, no matter where I am!william morris quote

Books for table

I think books make the MOST interesting table decorations and use them all the time, this is a set of Shakespeare we found in an antique store (I must sound like a broken record, but the truth is we rarely buy anything new). The corks are from other memorable parties. I’ll tell you about housethose leather baby shoes in my new book Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams . . . I found them in my first house, they’re part of a magical mystery. You realize that I’ve told you all about what happened before I went to Martha’s Vineyard, and lots about after I got here in my books and on my blog, but not very much about the five interesting years after I first arrived on the Island in 1982, totally unprepared for pretty much everything, and until I met Joe in 1987. We’re about to change all of that. In words and pictures.

Oops, books. As decor. Yes . . .

books for table setting

Thanksgiving is a good time to evoke memories with cookbooks and an old recipe box. Little bowls of faux fruit and wooden spoons, why not? As I always say, shop the house for table decor.Feed Your Creative Heartbooks for table scape

This romantic setting was for a Valentine’s Day party.


old booksAll books work: Christmas books, old fairy tale books, red-birdgarden books, books on tea, bird books, vintage Christmas Bookchildren’s books, books of poetry, wildflower books, books by favorite authors, even songbooks ~ all make wonderful companions at the dinner table.

books as table decor

We use this old set of Charles Dickens for Christmas (plus some of Joe’s childhood books).trees

Christmas Tea

Old Christmas books are perfect in front of the fire for a Christmas Tea. You can see them here, emitting comfort from their very presence.


little house


house candles

They also fit well with my small collection of house candles . . . because  home is where my heart is.

place cards

And now? Place cards . . . just a few little easy ideas . . . because place cards are a very nice thing to have. That way people know where to go, no bumbling around the table. Something I did once for a buffet but unfortunately did not take pictures of: I enlarged cute and funny pictures of all the guests on my copier and used them for place mats instead of place cards. When they came to the table with their filled plates, they knew just where to go.

love thee like pudding

champagne cork placecards

So easy if you are a champagne-cork saver . . . This way all your past memories join with the ones you’ll be making at the dinner table.

place cards

They almost make themselves. I just used scissors with a decorative edge (from Michaels Crafts) to cut out the cards and the wires on the corks did the rest of the work.

place cards

Leaves, from the yard. Beyond easy, almost cheating. I used a whiteout pen to write Joe’s name on this nice thick rhododendron leaf.

place cardAnd they can be small and simple . . . A watercolor brush and readable handwriting is all you need for this little card. I try to write the names big enough and dark enough so people can see them without their glasses!

cleaning silverNow of course, you need the fastest way possible to shine up the silver, right? You really don’t feel like sitting there all day polishing it piece by piece . . . so here’s what you do. (Click and be amazed.)

wooden spoons

And maybe your wooden spoons are dried out and almost splintery looking? Can’t have that. So easy to keep them dark and buttery . . . Use a pasty brush to coat the wood with mineral oil ~ let it soak in and voila! You can read more about your wooden things HERE. P.S. My dad carved the Sue spoon.


Most of the time, my house is decorated rather simply, unless it’s the holidays or we are having a party. The living room, in real life, is almost naked.

I change pillows and quilts for the season and leave room for flowers. It’s a little like a movie set.


Because flowers change everything.They are really the only decoration you need. Maybe some nice votives too.

fall flowersA little bouquet here and there cheers everything up, don’t you think?

bread basket

My bread basket cheers me up too. I found it at a flea market, zeroed in on it, mine, so mine. It is the little things! Now, don’t think you have to do ALL of this, or even any of it. Mostly, you know, it’s just about the gravy. And having fun. And hugging the people you love. Now, a couple of last things before I go, something you should all be aware of ~ There are:

santa hat santaclausAnd let’s talk about Black Friday, which is the perfect day for a stroll in nature. . .and if not a stroll, then perhaps a little sit. How they ever made the day after Thanksgiving dedicated to spending money I will never understand. So, turn your Black Friday into Earth Green . . .

go outside and play

the walk

This is the perfect place to pray for our world because even the smallest voice can be heard from here. How can people fight over television sets in discount stores when there is this? 

the walk

and this ~

on the walk

and this?

our walk in autumn

Gladys Taber

go. be. love.


XOXO With love forever from me to you . . .from this House of Creativity to yours . . . now about to celebrate its 166th Thanksgiving.

books 002ferry

P.S. For anyone who might have missed WILLARD (with all the newest news), click there. And if you’d like to have Willard emailed to you in the future, click here to sign up.

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863 Responses to A Busy Few Days

  1. Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

    Oh Sue, pick me! if you haven’t already drawn the name, I would so like to be that special winner. 🙂

  2. patti says:

    OMG I hope I didn’t miss the drawing !!! I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with the man I married 36 years ago. This was actually our 40th Thanksgiving together. I know I met him when I was 12, lol… He is the dreamy type that when I look into his beautiful brown eyes, I fall in love with him all over again. So no tears here. The two younger boys couldn’t come home b/c they are in Virginia getting ready for the Nutcracker (professional ballet dancer’s don’t get to celebrate the holidays ;( ) We did get to FaceTime though and my youngest son made a dessert (my recipe) for his company family. I was there in his food. How cool is that. I raised a son who see’s the importance of what I did all those years. How much more can I be thankful for<3…

  3. Patty Healy says:

    Thank you for letting me be your friend! Reading your blog and Willards is like having a pen pal. I reread your books all the time. It’s like having a good long talk with an old friend! Have a wonderful holiday season!

  4. Donna Squires says:

    Hi Susan,

    I would love to be the owner of your books! Makes me smile just thinking about it!


  5. Carrie Hilliger says:

    Dear Susan
    Sat down to catch up on your Blog and was thrilled. But then came the tears as on one of your table settings you had that darling piece with the words to the song “Little Brown Church in the Vale.” My dear parents use to harmonize together with that song often.
    Well I enjoyed every picture and comments. Thank you so much.
    May you have a wonderful holiday season.
    Love from Carrie

  6. Judy Young says:

    Thank heaven for your blog and the new Willard Susan! It gives me an escape to take my mind off my troubles. Thanksgiving this year was pretty well ruined for my family by issues involving my youngest son (he’s 34!). I need a miracle for him so that he gets the help he so desperately needs. I am very thankful that I was able to read all the girlfriend comments. It has lifted my spirits!

    • sbranch says:

      Many families suffer with this Judy, as I’m sure you know. I’m so sorry, and I am praying for you and for some answers to these kinds of troubles.

  7. Lori says:

    always love reading your blogs…waiting for the Dec. screensavers I love…

  8. Barb from Cape Ann (I'm waving to you! :0) ) says:

    Oh Susan — you’ve done it again…..cheered me with your delightful pictures and encouraging words to make my own little world just as cheerful. That is a love of mine too, and it so much fun to see how you do it. Wish we could peek into all of the “girlfriends”‘ worlds and see how they do it too. Christmas is just around the corner and what fun it is to “cheer up the house” to welcome the festivities. Blessings to all

  9. Jana says:

    I hope I’m not too late! We had a very busy week/weekend so just catching up here.
    I also just finished reading “The Fairy Tale Girl” and LOVED it……

  10. Teri V says:

    Back home after our vacation to the Central California Coast. Fun cruising through and pointing out places mentioned in the book. I read Fairytale Girl on the trip and loved every word! Sad, but also uplifting. I’m very much looking forward to reading about a part of the country that I’ve never seen. This is the first book in a long time that I’ve been able to read without falling asleep within minutes of picking it up! Thank you for your fun writing style. xoxo Teri

  11. Ashlee says:

    I love your house!! It’s just dreamy. I love when I have an email from you! Happy holidays Susan!


  12. Pat Mofjeld says:

    3-4″ of heavy white snow this morning with more predicted tonight–instant Christmas!!! 🙂

  13. Lynette Morley says:

    Thanking all the good things above that we girls get you in our lives…..You affect so many people in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I cherish you and all kindred spirits!!

  14. Lori Monroe says:

    Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving! We have a lot to be thankful for. We have our first born new baby girl! Please pick us!

  15. Kathy G says:

    I’m prompted to have a Christmas Tea with an aunt in a care center. I’ll pack in my basket tea cups/saucers/spoons, some Christmas tea, some tiny cooky treats on an antique plate, even a lacy table runner and an ornament. I’ll set a tea table for Aunt Isabelle, my husband and me and enjoy!

  16. Trudi Varton says:

    Well, how I missed this before Thanksgiving I do not know. But today is my birthday so what a sweet surprise to read this & smile at its loveliness! All of your pretty table settings just touch my heart as does the love that radiates in everything you do, Susan. I especially loved your comments on “Black Friday” – what a waste of a day. May the busy days ahead be filled with joy & happiness for all the “girlfriends” out there. BE the change you want to see in this world!

  17. Thank you for the love and light.
    I solemnly swear that I will not ever be a Black Friday shopper, let alone defile Thanksgiving with the quest for some appliance. 😉

    I love your decorations, every thing is cozy and charming- just like you.
    I did go to Paula’s page and left her a message about finding her work through you. It looked like lots of other girlfriends did too. It’s like you gifted some of us to her. 🙂

    Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and bright and that your December will be too. We have much to be thankful for even though it’s been a tough year- Rick is up and walking again so maybe next year will be better. <3
    Love to you and all the girlfriends, kitties and Joe!

  18. Lynn Cyr Crawford says:

    I agree that setting the table is almost more fun than the cooking. This year I covered the table in brown paper, wrote the names of the guests on the paper, and scattered colored pencils about the table for everyone to play with. Not our usual decor, but fun and easy. I hope you had a delightful thanksgiving. No matter the trouble around me there is always, always, plenty to be thankful for. Sometimes I need a nudge (gentle or otherwise) to remember that truth.

  19. Debbielynn Allen says:

    The ideas for the table are awesome…thank you so much. I enjoy coming here to visit and always leave with a smile.

  20. Linda C says:

    Happy December 1st Susan 😊
    I am on a quick road trip and just stopped in Arroyo Grande with some Girlfriends and we just came across your 1st cookbook in an Antique Store on Branch St a couple doors down from your old store … We are trying to decide which one of us gets to claim it and take it home !!!
    After that we want to drive around the area to see if we can spot your old house … Tho to make it easier on us is there ANY chance you could atleast tell us the name of the street it is on ???
    Merry Christmas to You & Joe … Enjoy 😊😊

  21. Lori Cooper says:

    So happy to finally find the time to read Willard. And I while reading about your upcoming book tour I thought–oh, what a dream it would be for Susan to come to Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara. And then I saw this charming bookstore on your map! I liked Chaucer’s on FB and left a comment about wanting you to come to the store to sing your new books. Fingers crossed!

  22. Linda C says:

    No, the one with the cute tall bird feeder in the middle of the garden with the white fence …
    My girlfriend has a good eye and spotted it this afternoon : )
    Beautiful day here … You are missed on the West Coast !!!

  23. carol brisco says:

    You are good medicine for my heart and soul.

  24. Aurora Lyons says:

    I absolutely love reading your blog! It brightens up my day whenever I get the time to read it. It’s always so cheerful and I absolutely adore the way you write. XOXO!

  25. Sheryl from Magalia CA says:

    I always wondered what and how you could clean silver this way. Thanks for sending me there. I know I am very late for any prize. The prize for me is reading your blogs, using all your cookbooks, reading your last two books. Last night I actually went to bed intentionally thinking of all the happy things you write about. Yes, because sometimes the world is just too harsh to think about and fall asleep too. Love you bunches. Sheryl

  26. Lovely visiting with You as always.Congrats to the two lucky ladies.I have chimes/bells going off once in awhile on My blog. A certain asian website has them to download, and I love them. Your home and lifestyle always charms Me,it’s a true delight to be invited into Your life. Merry Christmas-Happy New Year and of course God continue to bless You-Denise

  27. Laurie Walt says:


  28. Susan Noonan says:

    Dear Sweet Susan,

    I am oh, so grateful for your creative talent that you bless us all with. I am not an artistic girl but know what I like when I see it and I love ALL you create!!

    Happy Christmas to you and yours, precious girl!



  29. Starr miller says:

    Hello Susan,
    You and Joe and kitties have a magical home. Thank you for sharing it with your devoted girlfriends.
    I tried your silver polish shortcut and it worked. Wheeeee thank you!
    Merry Christmas and may your New Year be full of love and good health.

Comments are closed.