Bad Harvest!

The new greeting of good luck, Bad Harvest!  Bad Harvest and Rabbit Rabbit and Happy February!  Well, that was amazing. Downton, I mean. Is that what a bleeding ulcer does? Remind me not to get one. Oops, Spoiler Alert! It’s Season 6, Episode 5 of the best thing TV ever had. Or at least one of the top best things.  MUSICA

downton abbey

Off to the hospital Robert goes. What a nightmare dinner party!


It started off so beautifully, Granny was busy unleashing the dogs of war, and enjoying the last big fight of her life, Neville Chamberlain, the future Prime Minister of England was there, but then, Oh No! Robert looks so sick, and suddenly he comes crashing onto the table in glorious technicolor. Visually it was terrible, but I also think the sound effects person got his inspiration from Niagara Falls. Then Robert tells Cora, who is now totally splattered with blood, that he’s always loved her, in a way of saying “goodbye.”  I couldn’t bear to take pictures of the carnage ~ I’m sure you saw enough of it too.  Up until that moment, I was LOVING this episode, but suddenly we were plunged to the depths of what looked like certain death for Robert, because obviously no one could live through something like that. Do ulcers gather blood? I mean good grief, a bear eating a man whole could not have much more blood than that. That was slaughterhouse five. Julian saved himself by bringing this mess to a conclusion without leaving us hanging. I doubt if he could have gone out in public if he hadn’t. When this episode finished I was crying and laughing at the same time.Kiss boring goodbye

LOVE DOWNTON ABBEY. Everything was wonderful! Blackmail, love, jealousy, concern, outrage, history, charm, husbands needing training, it had it all!

Then while they were all waiting for the ambulance, standing around talking, and what happens? The Dowager mentions the MARIGOLD secret!!!  And WHO is  in the background lurking and hearing every word?


MARY!!!!  Didn’t we just GASP?? Out loud with OH NO!


But she didn’t say a word. Yet. I had a shiver when I saw them coming down this hall . . . but, for a change, it was just a nice coming together of the sisters with concern for their father.


Five seconds of nobody being mean. Yes, let’s save this confrontation for later… we know it’s coming.


Mary assumes the reins of Downton. It’s lonely at the top.


Mary thought Anna knew something about Marigold.  We close with Mary deep in thought, putting two and two together.  You can actually hear her brain ticking on screen. Something tells me she will figure it out just in time for


Edith’s wedding.  Because we do love those last minute scandal eruptions! For the moment, we have a happy Edith! By the way has she told Bertie about Marigold? We wouldn’t want Mary to tell him, would we?


Edith’s life is going well, she hired a new editor and has probably the nicest flat in London.


And she has a nice boyfriend, who seems crazy about her. I love these people together.  They will make a calm sophisticated life together, lots of country life, pip pip and all that, but fun in London too, and he will love Marigold.


Kiss her!  Kiss her!


Yay! My wish was granted in a very graceful screen kiss.  I was sorry we didn’t get to go with them to the Cafe du Paris!!!


But it was fun at the Carson Cottage having our first at-home dinner together, Mr. Carson being waited on hand and foot, just like when he’s at work. It’s hard being King, so many likes and dislikes to express, almost not enough time to fit them all in. Uh oh. Trouble in Paradise. Bubble and Squeak WITH Lamb!!!!  Has someone lost her mind? Those two things do not belong in the same room with each other! Oh boy is she rusty!

IMG_5367We wouldn’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, because we love Mr. Carson, but he needs some lessons in marriage survival. That little giggle he gave when he asked Mrs. Patmore to help Mrs. Hughes “catch up with her cooking!” In front of Mrs. Hughes. IN the kitchen at Downton. He should start sleeping with one eye open. Mrs. Hughes keeps things inside.


My little couple were busy bees this episode.



Always together, playing brothers and sisters


Tom teaching Mary how to be human


Mary saying she could NEVER marry down.  Tom saying that his marriage with Sybil was a marriage of equals, that it wasn’t based on money or position.  Grow up Mary. “There’s no such thing as safe love.” The wise brotherhood of Tom. Wonder if she will notice. Sturdy, steadfast and true.You can't have everything quote; susan branch artIMG_5445

Loved this coat. Love that hat too, her first time in a Pub.  That is difficult to believe. How unfriendly would life be without pubs? She’s with her brother again, she goes everywhere with him, despite the fact that he doesn’t “play by the rules,” comes to the point, and throws his sister into the lion’s den.


Him.  Henry Talbot. I was happy to hear Anna say she was wary of this guy too.  But I have to admit he has a beautiful smile! I did love it when he said, “Blast!” And, he speaks French.


Branson even took  his sister Mary to watch the car show.


Boys and their toys. Nobody tell me if you know who Mary ends up with. I love not knowing.  This way, in my mind at least, she’s still going to be with Tom. Despite the ten thousand clues to the contrary!


Loved when Denker told Spratt she had a “passionate nature.” And he said, “Any more of that talk and I won’t be able to sleep.” I have never seen him so chipper, humming, singing, bouncing on his toes. For a moment we both thought we were getting rid of her, but no such luck.  Blackmail wins the day! That woman has a very strange thought process, going up and giving Dr. Clarkson a piece of what passes for her mind in broad daylight.


The new little family.  The new Mrs. Mason-to-be, her jealous daughter Daisy, and Daisy’s new non-reading farmer footman husband.  What a darling group. How well they will eat, Picnic Teas and the like. Rather unfair to others to put the entire Downton cooking staff in one cottage! Mr. Mason’s red-letter day! Gets a free farm AND all the cooks! Besides being “tops in pigs” he loves to see a woman bustling around the kitchen.  No stinkin’ Bubble and Squeak with Lamb in this household!


We had that whole thing with Baxter and Molesley, another opportunity for Molesley to stand by his woman, which he did, admirably, even though it ended up not mattering, but other than that, I couldn’t see why they were taking up screen space. Cut to Edith’s flat and let’s see the rest of it. Let’s go into the linen closet, the hat closet and the pantry where they keep the dishes. Right?  Okay, the shoes too.


I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours. . .

Mrs. Patmore was talking about putting together a picnic hamper which I wished I could rummage through and look at the linens, old picnic baskets always had such beautiful linens. And it reminded me of the BYO Picnic Basket (Hamper) party we’ll be having in England next September when the book is finished and Joe and I go back to England on the Queen Mary 2, and take you all along for another virtual trip through the English countryside and, this time, the Scottish countryside too.  This is the big carrot at the end of the stick that I’m aiming for! Can’t wait.


We want to meet everyone in the same place where we had a picnic with our friend Rachel (this is her with Joe) a few years ago.  You can see it’s a . . .

Grass bridge at Stourhead

wonderful magical place ~ called Stourhead in Wiltshire, England ~ we’ll be there in September this year (I’ll let you know when we chose the exact date) and hope to meet many of our English and European Girlfriends (and American too! All countries are welcome!) there for a BYO picnic lunch/book signing in these amazing


It’s acres and acres of this kind of beauty designed a few hundred years ago by flowerthe famous landscape designer Capability Brown. There’s an 18th century mansion you can tour, a pub and a wonderful old church that dates to 1291  where Joe learned to ring the bells.  But it’s the walks in the rhododendrons and along the ponds that is the very best.  Very nice carrots indeed. And I’m getting closer every day.


Here’s where I am on the book. Each of those pages is a double page spread . . . they are upside down so no secrets are spilled, but they are all done and being scanned now!  There are 16 chapters in all, right now I’m just finishing chapter 14.  I think it will likely end up about to be about 390 pages. It is getting very scary! Fluttery tummy and all. I don’t want it to end. I love this book. I hope you do too.Let the Fun Begin


I’ve enjoyed doing some strange sorts of artwork to illustrate this new book.  I have never painted a dune buggy before!  But I write about starting to date again (after getting over a broken heart), and how you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find Prince Charming . . . here is some frog kissing I was doing, only without the kissing. Trust me, this wasn’t my idea.


Dating commentary is always fun.


Off to the market to get groceries for recipe testing wearing my favorite t-shirt.


I included the whole story of why I began to take the train across country . . .

back of the train

How much I loved it and how romantic it was . . .


And  all the times I’ve had to wave goodbye.  I know what I’m saying doesn’t make sense right now ~ these are just tiny hints, because I want to surprise you.  But one thing for sure, and you can depend on this, I promise no one with throw up a swimming pool of blood at any table in my book. That is my promise to you dear readers.


It will be all sweetness and light when I meet you at the bookstores in May and June . . .  speaking of which . . . a new MAP!Book Tour Map

Martha's Vineyard Isle of DreamsThis is an update for our book signing events . . . FTGNameTagThe events you see here are all confirmed. You can read times and dates, and print out a special badge I made for us, so we Blog, Twitter, and Facebook Girlfriends will know who we are  when we meet . . . Go HERE.

If you are a first time reader of my blog, then maybe you don’t know that I’m just finishing the story of how I moved to Martha’s Vineyard and found that little cottage in the woods (in the picture), where I went to start over after a sad divorce. It’s coming out in April, and I hope to have Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams  ready for the printer on Valentine’s Day.  surprise!And you’ll know when I’ve done it because I have a wonderful new giveaway  which is right now simmering on the back burner. I can’t wait to show you! So much to look forward to!


And now, for my special parting gift, if you love Downton, you would probably like to visit (or revisit) Jane Austen’s house in England, where Joe and I went on our last visit. This is your basic Calgon Take Me Away Moment to start your week off right.  Can’t wait for the next episode of Downton!  See you then Girlfriends! XOXO

And just so you remember what it was like driving through the English countryside last time we went . . .Vita quote


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273 Responses to Bad Harvest!

  1. Girl Biker Artist says:

    Hi Susan
    Even though I watched Downton Abbey, your recap is priceless. Going to UK in Spring. Any comfy chic walking shoe recommendations?

    • sbranch says:

      Chic is the problem. I had little short waterproof boots, which were good for most things like walking and the rain. Good with pants and good with skirts. Just have to find the comfy ones.

  2. Ann says:

    hmmm, I wonder if Julian Fellows is fond of the 1955 movie classic Love is a many splendored thing with Jennifer Jones and William Holden? One of my favorite scenes is when the farmers have a good harvest and want to fool the gods wave their hands to the sky and wail ” bad rice! bad rice!” Hey Julian not so original, some of us have a long memory!

  3. Debbie Noyola says:

    I just finished making my family a banana cream pie. Your banana cream pie to be exact. The banana cream pie on page 127 of “Heart of the Home”. My son surprised me with it last week. I love it. The illustrations are darling & the recipes are very tempting. I love a good banana cream pie & this one is delicious. The coconut on top really adds to the goodness.
    I just paused to read your blog on how you learned to paint. Funny thing, you mention starting out loving to cook & how you would have dinner parties & make banana cream pie for your guests. I want all your cookbooks! I’m thrilled to at least have this one. I looked for it online & found one that was a second printing. I showed my son & asked him to order it for me. He did & then the lady contacted him & refunded him because she couldn’t find it. I was sad, but life goes on. Then, unbeknownst to me she contacted him to say she had found it in her personal collection. She said she never really used it & would love for someone to have it who would use it. He told her it was going to surprise his mom who wanted it & loves to cook. She even gave him a dollar off the total for the inconvenience. I love it. Did I mention that yet? Next up is the cheesecake. Yum.

    P.S. I also love jars. I save my Bonne Maman jam jars. They have a lovely red checked lid & there are 10 sides to the glass. I’m collecting a bunch to use for tea bags & I’ll make a wooden shelf to hold them.

  4. Frances Fowler says:

    I held off on reading this post because I just haven’t had a chance to sit down, uninterrupted by any distraction, chore, or bit of school work, to watch the latest episode (not counting tonight’s!). I knew of some highlights, but watching it is a different thing, and I laaauuuughed at the first paragraph about technicolor and Niagara Falls — so true! You know Violet will have to come around! Not many have ever been able to silence Mary and bring her down a peg or two (though she eventually comes around and apologizes) so I love the way Tom, with a bit of cheek, has been able to do that much like, and I know it pains you, a brother, and probably a better brother than Mary would ever have had. Whoever could have imagined the revolutionary Tom, especially as a widower without the protection of darling Sybil, being quite comfortable with a lifestyle he once abhorred, using terms like “fait accompli”, and smoothly extracting a confession from the future Prime Minister, all while remaining humble? And am I ever happy with it! They all must know that Tom, along with Matthew, is the only reason they aren’t also placing tags on the silver for an unfortunate estate sale and having to move in that, um, smaller house seen back in Season 3, the one that any of us would consider Anglophile Heaven. But Henry Talbot, shrewd, self-confident, and flippantly smug, has done this from the get-go, and I guess few women besides the formidable Mary could manage to hold their own without beginning to babble while looking in his beautiful blue eyes. And I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to clout Carson (may he learn!), but it’s not the first time I’ve glared at Daisy for her selfish motives, but since she came from a family of 11 siblings and was sent to work as a lowly scullery maid in her teens, I can imagine that she hasn’t every had much of anything to call her own. But she has come a long way, and I hope the best mother figure she ever had, Mrs. Patmore, will be her true mum indeed. Happy endings for all! On another happy note, I am indeed SO HAPPY that you are finally swinging to Georgia for a book signing — and in JUNE, when I’m out of school! The FoxTale Bookshoppe in Woodstock is less than an hour south of me, and I am so excited! I was watching your video of driving through the idyllic English countryside (kudos to Joe, I think I would have such a hard time not veering to the right), and am always amazed that England seems so big when, not including Scotland or Wales, it’s smaller than my state! Then again, that might just remind me again of how huge our earth (and country) are, and it would take a lifetime to meander around every road in Georgia. My recently married daughter’s Christmas gift to me was a scrapbook album she created about us and our rich little life we have always had together, all but a few years just us two, and it made me laugh, marvel, sniffle, and cry, but in it she included a page of our one-day trip to London, and have it we shall. On to tonight’s episode, and I look forward to your summary!

  5. Collene Bennett says:

    Hi Susan,
    I think that I have every book that you ever wrote!!! I’m so excited that you are coming to a book signing event close to where I live. My girlfriends and I will be there in Danville, CA on May 27th. Can’t wait!!!

  6. Carrie in Medina says:

    Finally! I have finally caught up with you all on Downton Abbey episodes and am able to read these posts! Catching up here as well! And what wonderful, juicy posts! Thank you so much – very much worth the wait! As I’m sure Isle of Dreams will also be worth the wait! Sending you positive thoughts and cheering you on to your Valentine’s day deadline!! (How appropriate!) Thank you!! Go Susan Go!!

  7. Stacey says:

    I don’t think my original comment showed up here, but just wanted to say that I’m so excited to be attending the tea and signing you will be doing in Wilmette, IL! My mom is going too!

  8. Mary boyer says:

    I usually watch Downton sometime on Mondays and I was so glad that I read your entry about Robert getting his “attack” before I watched that episode so I could cover my eyes otherwise I would have heaved too!!!! My 2016 Christmas list will have 2 things on the list, the Downtown dvd series and Upstairs Downstairs series…if it’s still available.
    And btw, I’m with you. 18 inches of snow would be so nice!
    Enjoy it

  9. Laura says:

    OMG OMG OMG!!! I am flipping out with delight that you are coming to Asheville, NC!!!! And I see you’ll be in Woodstock, GA, right before…which means you have an opportunity to drive up I-85 N through Greenville, SC, en route to Asheville…Oh, Susan, if you haven’t been to Greenville you simply must stop! It’s my new hometown by way of San Francisco Bay, San Luis Obispo, and Silicon Valley and you won’t want to miss its fabulous shops and restaurants and gorgeous waterfall in Falls Park all within walking distance of our beautiful, tree-lined downtown! If you pass through, I’ll give you and Joe a tour of a special place where Albert Einstein once slept (also known as my house)! 😉 Regardless, I’ll see you in Asheville, girlfriend!! Can’t wait!! p.s. I covered my mouth in horror and awe at the end of episode 5! Holy cow!

    • sbranch says:

      I wrote down Greenville in case we get a chance, at least we can aim to drive through there! Albert Einstein slept at your house, how wonderful!

      • Laura says:

        You would just love Greenville, SC! And about our house, Albert’s eldest son once lived in it with his family; Albert used to stay here when he visited. It was built in 1938 and we just finished renovating it. We kept all the old touches like the original glass knobs and old-fashioned vents. So fun! #Love!

  10. Susan, congratulations on completeing the beautiful words “the end”. I bet you are thrilled to be this point of your book. As a reward (besides your extra crispy grilled cheese) you might want to check out the fashion exhibit at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum in Chicago.
    They are having an exhibit of 35 of Downton Abbey costumes! The exhibit starts tomorrow, 2/9/16 thru 5/8/16. Hopefully you could come to Chicago before the exhibit ends. I see you will be in Wilmette the week after the exhibit ends, could you
    Make it to Chicago from Ohio in time to catch the last day? Tickets have to be purchased ahead of time. There is also a tea and tour available. When I saw the article I immediately thought you would enjoy seeing these costumes first hand. I will be gong with one of my daughters and hopefully some of my sisters. Hope you can get to this exhibit!

    • sbranch says:

      I think we will just miss it . . . we’re in the car and have dates set for signing, and there’s really no way to skip ahead! We’ll keep looking! Thank you for telling me, I’m sure I’ll get to see them someday!

  11. Elyse H. says:

    Hi Susan,
    My husband and I have the opportunity to move to England for a year with his job – possibly in 2017. I was hoping you might have some suggestions on lovely little towns we could live in. The company he works for has multiple locations throughout England. We are quite excited! I keep thinking to myself, “If only I could sit down with Susan Branch and discuss this over a cup of tea!” Thank you for any suggestions!! xo

    • sbranch says:

      There are so many! Kent is good, that’s the lower right side under London. The good thing is that it’s close to lots of things (France, for instance), it’s called the Garden of England. Most of the towns there, maybe all of them, are wonderful! It depends on if you’d like to get into London often. Trains go all the time. So it’s pretty easy . . . You just have to look at a map, then google the towns, look at “images” and keep doing that for a while to narrow it down. But there is just so much beauty, I think it will be hard. Everyone LOVES the Cotswolds, too, above London, slightly to the west. I think your choices are massive! What fun!

  12. Jocelyn Knight says:

    Hi. I cannot seem to find your comments on the Feb 7th Downton Abbey. Am I missing something?

    Jocelyn Knight

    • sbranch says:

      I missed the show and watched it the next day, and all my comments are mixed in here with everyone else’s in the “comment” section . . .hopefully I will know what day it is by this coming Sunday!

  13. Sara says:

    So that’s what happened! I too tried a number of times to post, but it never went through. But for ‘some’ reason, I wrote it in Office, so I still had it. Yay!
    Here ya’ go:

    You know, Susan, you are so good at Downton commentary that I really think you could write a book and even make money doing it!! 😀 😀

    I re-read The Fairy Tale Girl again last week to get ready for Isle of Dreams and then decided to start re-reading A Fine Romance the other night, and I have to tell you that your narrative of Joe’s driving ‘on the wrong side’ for the first time while you rode shot-gun is, hands-down, the funniest thing I’ve ever read in my entire life! That’s where the ribbon will stay, so I can easily find it when I need a good laugh!

    Actually, I have another motive in reading A Fine Romance again… research for my trip to the UK to meet a dear friend in Shrewsbury in S-e-p-t-e-m-b-e-r, yes, September!! Can you believe it? If I can’t be there for your picnic/book signing at Stourhead, there will have to be an awfully good reason–comparable, I’d say, to Daisy marrying sweet William on his deathbed.

    Yes, that was quite enough blood last night, thank you very much! To be honest, I didn’t have time to be repulsed, because I was so stunned by the gushers, for want of a different word, and it was Robert, after all. But for some unknown reason, I was just fixated on the single drop of blood on dear old Neville’s starched dickey! Did you notice it? I even found myself wondering if it was someone’s idea to have just one drop of blood land on him and what the intended significance might have been.

    I got tired of waiting for Sunday evening, so I began watching the entire DA series on Amazon Prime Saturday. I had forgotten some of the details, like just how deplorable Edith was at the beginning and the scurrilous behavior of Barrow in getting his hand shot up for a ticket home from the war. Downton Abby is a series I will have to own in its entirety. Gosh, I must be growing up, Susan, because up to now, Anne of Green Gables was my favorite take-me-away, make-me-laugh-and-cry series.

    I’m still praying you’ll meet your deadline with room to spare; and, by the stack of pages on the cutting board, it looks like you’re almost there. Wait a minute! Why is the fruit of your labor on the cutting board–and–by the stove?

    Last comment before I get back to my Downton marathon… Tom and Mary must end up with each other and live happily ever after, or I simply cannot stand it!

    🙂 Sara 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      On the cutting board because that is the best light in the house for taking pictures . . . in front of the windows where we look out at the bird feeders! So I just take everything there! September! I was so hoping we’d have some American girls there! To mix it up with our European Girlfriends. What a sweet event I think this is going to be.

  14. Shauna Woodall says:

    Haven’t watched since the untimely death of … sniff … sob! … MATTHEW!! But you are living the life, girl! Picnicking in Stourhead? Headed to Scotland? SO awesome I can hardly stand it, but SO happy for you!

  15. katherine says:

    Please add me to your mailing list. I have been on it for several months then it just stopped coming. Thank you!

  16. Carol from CT says:

    URGENT for DOWNTON ABBEY FANS !! … “The Countess of Carnarvon and the Real Downton Abbey” Event … The Countess who resides at Highclere Castle will be speaking under the grand tent on Hill-Stead Museum’s West Lawn on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. The museum is in Farmington, CT (in the area adjacent to Miss Porter’s School). Here is the link: … Hill-Stead Museum’s West Lawn – 35 Mountain Road Farmington, Connecticut 06032 … “Hill-Stead Museum, the (gorgeous) 1901 Colonial Revival-style house designed by pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle (she attended Miss Porter’s School), is home to a magnificent collection of Impressionist masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Manet, Whistler and Cassatt; captivating Japanese woodblock prints; and superb decorative arts—all in an intimate family setting.”…

  17. Carol from CT says:

    More information on Theodate Pope Riddle, the architect of Hillstead Museum:
    “In a field long dominated by men, self-taught Theodate Pope Riddle emerged as an important and influential architect whose designs included the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington and the college preparatory school Avon Old Farms. Riddle’s architectural designs reflected her progressive philosophy and her legacy as an important architect of the early twentieth century.” … inductees/arts-humanities/theodate-pope-riddle#.VsSNIHQrJcw … She was on the Lusitania’s last voyage … …

  18. Carol from CT says:

    Oh my goodness! Anna, whatever shall I wear?

  19. Gert~Iowa says:

    Oh Susan, forgive me for being so far behind on my comments. As you know, life has changed for me and so much of my time is being consumed with “have to do” things….sad..

    I have been watching Downton Abbey however, and am loving it…even with it’s twists and turns.


    • sbranch says:

      It’s always good to get your mind away from it for a while dear Gert. It has to be the hardest thing ever. I can’t imagine, though I do try and Joe and I do talk about it. God Bless you. xoxo

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