What Ever Happened to HOLLY OAK???

Hello Darling People!  I’ve noticed in your comments that some of you think I am giving away the very first Beatrix Potter Person I ever bought.  Some are saying thank you, you are so generous. But it isn’t true. To let that stand would be doing a Giveaway under false presences. I could never do this . . . for more reasons than one. MUSICA?


Remember this?


The time I showed you Joe’s special brand of handiness when he was in process of healing Jemima’s broken neck?  See the chip on the left side of her bill?  No, I would never foist this girl off on some unsuspecting YOU. She’s mine, the first BP Person I ever got, and I will continue to paste her back together (or ask Joe to do it), as needed, for as long as I live.


I’ve never quite gotten over seeing how he did this ~ with one large rubber band and half a toothpick. I couldn’t do it in a thousand years. Joe is so talented. And it worked, her neck is back on and she’s “good as new!”

IMG_2495BUT a few years back, I acquired a brand new girl so now, until right now anyway, I have two . . . I’ll keep the old one, and you’ll get the “new” one (they were both actually born the same year, 1948, five years after Beatrix Potter died). There’s no glue-chain around your Jemima’s neck . . . Yours is perfect with bill totally intact. And the wonderful Walking with Beatrix Potter book is for you too. Signed by me, with your name, as soon as I find out who you are. I hope you’re ready, Because, It’s Time. Thank you for taking part in this Giveaway, I love your wonderful comments! Okay, here we go . . . .


🎵 Jaa-ack? Go get her! 🎶


While we’re waiting for Jack to bring Vanna down … I thought I’d tell you Jack’s new trick. I get his ponytail band ready for shooting (so he can fetch it back to me), I pull it back, Jack 2016 susan branch calendarstretching it and pointing it in Jack’s direction, his eyes are locked on me … I say, “Ready?”  And, every time I say, “Ready?” ~  he SAYS, “E-e-e-reusss,” and burrows down even more in alert cat-faced readiness. It sounds like “YES” to me. He doesn’t say anything unless I ask him if he’s ready. So, you know what that means . . . ? While we were away Jack learned English. Like in Love Actually, he wanted to be able to talk to us in our own language, “just in cases.” He has an accent (coming from another land originally), so it’s not perfect yet, but he can talk! Such a smart boy.


Handsome too.  And Now . . . Oh, my . . . Vanna has already made the LEAP. She’s IN the barrel, scissor-kicking to the bottom (still in her pink nightgown ~ she was half asleep, got IMG_2489in late last night from her Euro-trash-type carousing 😜 and not in the mood to get into her mermaid suit) . . . over 2,000 little slips of paper with your names on them are whirling and twirling in a veritable vortex ~  it’s quite a sight ~~~ her long arm is coming up through it all ~ and now, she’s UP!  And in her hand, between her long elegant fingers, each wearing a thin golden ring, her manicured nails painted with blue polish, there’s just one little slip of paper which she tossed in my lap, and headed off for the coffee pot. And SO, the winner of our darling Beatrix Potter Person AND wonderful book, which I will be personalizing IS . . .

C L Y D E N E    D U R A N

And so that’s it! Can’t be too many with that name! The hardest thing about Giveaways is picking a winner. It’s a love/hate thing for me. Hard to only have one winner. But the “reward” for all of you who aren’t named Clydene is this: I thought I would answer the MOST-asked question on my Book Tour. I took questions at the end of each talk, and every time, someone would say, What happened to that little house? Do you still own it? What happened to . . .


Remember Holly Oak?


My first little house on Martha’s Vineyard, the one I wrote about in Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams?


The one I accidentally bought when I ran away from home, from California to Martha’s Vineyard, where I took my broken heart to start life over again?bathing


The one that became like a dollhouse for me, like a toy, where I added a fireplace, and a bedroom, and put wallpaper in all the rooms?



Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams

And then got three kitties for it . . .


Girl, Bill, and Man Cat.

books 012

Home at Last

sbpixThe one with the little “guest shack” in the backyard? Where the cows from the farm next door came to have snacks? That Holly Oak?   Well, let me tell you. Here’s what happened:  There I was, minding my own business, living in this little house, working on making a life, pretty sure I was meant to be alone and probably done with men forever,  and then, out of the blue, when I wasn’t looking, what showed up but . . .afineromance


And believe it or not, I still managed to find two main things wrong with him: 1. He was a baby, too young, five years younger than me, and 2. Way too handsome, handsome being dangerous.  But he was also a tall man, with a beard, a 6’2″ Leo who could cook. Everything I’d mentioned in my diary that I thought might work for me. Everything the tea leaves had told me he would be.💖

sue and joe

And he was persistent. Look at those eyes. Plus, as it turned out, he loved Christmas, and riding the train, and sailing on ocean liners, and fires in the winter, and he could fix anything and cook lobsters, so, tell me, what choice did I have but to snap him up before he got away???? After a year or so, we began to notice that Holly Oak was too small for both of us!  Joe dwarfed everything and felt closed in, my art was taking over the house.  Very casually, we began to look for a new place to live. And one day he came home and said . . . Let’s go look at a house … let’s go look at this:

July 08 Vineyard 642words fairytale dreamEeek, I screamed. And to make a long story short, we fell madly in love with this dream house, and have lived here since 1989. We bought it in the days when Island houses were affordable.  Although we were turned down for two loan applications before anyone would trust that we could pay for it, the third time was the charm. Even we didn’t know for sure if we could make that payment, but I told Joe that even if we lived there for just one year, and then had to sell it, it would still be worth it.


And like all the people who’ve lived here since it was built in 1849, some part of our spirits will remain forever in this inspirational House of Creativity.IMG_7085

My house


And every season is wonderful here. If we ever sell this house, we’ve already decided to offer it to you guys first . . . it would be wonderful if a friend who appreciates it would be the one to live here after us . . . so put that on your calendar. 😽


This was the dining room when we first moved in, complete with pineapple wallpaper . . . There’s a snippet on the left of my old bedroom curtains from Holly Oak which I made from tablecloths all those years ago. I STILL have the last fragment of one as the curtain in our downstairs bathroom. I baby it, so it will last, but it’s not long for this world.


And after a while, we redid the dining room and it looked like this . . .

table setting dinner party

There have been many wonderful parties in this house . . .

november 2010 020

memoriesSomething tells me it was all Julia Child’s idea!


The house has an old-fashioned pantry . . . there’s another fridge in there, plus the washer and dryer, and baskets hang from the rafters in the peaked roof.

June 2010 065

And a great old kitchen . . . we bought the stove at a store called, of all the perfect things, “Stove Heaven,” and put in the wood floor, but almost everything else is original to the 1950s, when Dr. Bowditch, the previous owner, made the cabinets, the scalloped piece over the sink, and put “blue marble” linoleum down for the counters.



But in order to buy this house, I had to sell Holly Oak. So I sold it to my girlfriend Elizabeth!  She and her husband owned it for a few years, but then they had to sell it too, and now it has a very nice woman living in it . . . who I wish would win the lottery or have some other wonderful thing happen so she would move to Paris and let me have my house back!  I would have such fun with that house! I have all sorts of dreams about it.

holly oak

And it looks like this! We were invited in to see it and have tea in the backyard . . . she’s really taken perfect care of Holly Oak. It still has the little porch Carlton built for me.


The shack is still there! “The size of two king-sized beds, half bed and half floor.”


And there’s the deck my dad built.

IMG_8682There were lots of things I recognized, some bits of old wallpaper, the writing I did on the wall, and the cupboards Carl made with the hearts in them. I don’t tell anyone where the house is, the owner has added on, so it looks a little different, and I was careful in the book to give the wrong directions to get there . . . Just in cases. I want the very sweet woman that lives on that quiet road in the woods to continue liking me and not take my name in vain. So that’s what happened to Holly Oak! I should have remembered to put all this in the Epilogue in the book, but I forgot.  I’ll do it for the next printing.


And what have I been up to?  Nesting!!! Taking deep breaths. Filling my vases with flowers. Reveling in the magic of an ordinary day!


Dreaming about our upcoming trip on the Queen Mary 2 . . . Carlton stopped by the other day to give us a present . . . that ship model! So it’s my newest stove-top decor.


And, we’re in the throes of planning a big ol’ birthday party for Joe! Rachel and Paul and Siobhan are all coming from England . . . if you read A Fine Romance, I’m sure you’ll remember who they are, plus about 100 more of Joe’s nearest and dearest, including Diana, Elaine and Elizabeth, coming from California.  I’ll be sure to take pictures and show you!


Time to light the twinkle lights for dinner in the garden. I’m going to make something delicious, I just don’t know what it is yet!!!

cooking with kitty

Perhaps something like this . . .


Cicadas are singing like crazy this quiet afternoon, a sound that tells us it’s the beginning of the end of summer. It’s something we didn’t have in California, the cicadas high pitched noise, like a police whistle that never ends.  A bumper crop of blueberries are beginning to ripen out on the dirt road where we walk, and the very first leaves, just one or two, have turned orange.  Today’s my dad’s 93rd Birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot about him, remembering all the little things. Not to worry, I only feel blessed and lucky.Time ...


And in the meantime, I’m doing what I always do, staying on the sunny side of life.inthe gardenJust about to start writing us a new WILLARD!  If there is still anyone left who doesn’t know what that is, I would be shocked, but just in cases, click there, and you can read about my Newsletter that will just show up in your email (whenever I manage to get one done!). Sign up if you haven’t, and put your mom on too, and your BFF, because it’s free and this next one is going to be a dilly. All about our trip to England and Scotland.

Byee for now Girlfriends . . . Hope your August is wonderful! Start thinking about what you’re going to wear in Scotland, I think it’s going to be COLD up there! XOXOsealed with a kiss

August 2010 005

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628 Responses to What Ever Happened to HOLLY OAK???

  1. Lisa Jorgensen says:

    Thank you for the story about Holly Oak. What an adorable little house. That guest house is equally cute, especially with those cows all around it. I hope the fates will bring it back to you someday. Your home now is really beautiful also.
    Can’t wait to hide in the suitcase and stow away with you and Joe to England and Scotland!! Happy Birthday to Joe!! My husband is also a wonderful Leo. How lucky we were to have found them.

  2. sondra fox says:

    Hi Susan, Just wanted to let you know that I sent mail to you, but it’s sitting in the comments with “waiting for moderation.” Did I write something that you don’t feel satisfactory & you don’t want to print it? Just wondering. (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

  3. Joy B says:

    I do love the pictures of the house where you and Joe live now, but it’s good to know that Holly Oak is in good hands. And who knows, maybe it will return to your hands again one day. I’m looking forward to reading about your trip – since I finished the Martha’s Vineyard book (and loved it) I decided to read A Fine Romance again. I love it even more the 2nd time through!

  4. Clydene Duran says:

    I am so excited to be the lucky winner. Never expected to be. Please thank Jack and Vanna for their part in picking me and all your readers who have congratulated me. Look forward to your blog each day and looking forward to celebrating Joe’s “birthday.”

  5. Kim Perez says:

    Oh Susan, How I love this post about Holly Oaks and your “new” home! One question I’ve always had for you….how do you keep everything so sparkling and dust free?? Between working, gardening, knitting, food preparation, there just never seems to be enough time for everything!

  6. Freda says:

    Hello Susan Thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures. I love your little house with the deck and the cows in the yard. Your home now is beautiful I must say I love your pantry and kitchen. You are blessed and so are we to be your friends.

  7. Gill Smith says:

    Congratulations to the lucky winner, how exciting for you!! Thank you Susan for yet another wonderful blog. Lovely to read about Holly Oak, what a beautiful little house , and I am so pleased you still have a little place in your heart for it.
    Not long now for your UK trip, but firstly, happy Birthday to dear Joe, and hope you all have a super time at the party.
    Gill xx

  8. Courtney McKay Stevens says:

    Susan – I’ve read and enjoyed your writing SOOOO much; now I invite you to read mine: STRONG HIGHLAND WOMEN: Stories from Durness and Balnakeil(Scotland). It is available on Amazon; I wrote it as a gift to the lovely women in that community after I spent my university sabbatical among them working with the local nurse midwife – a highlight of my life. Bon voyage!

  9. Judy says:

    I too have loved your little house, or the essence of it. I feel th same when I see pictures of your current house, which reminds me of several that have been owned by grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends. I grew up in a ranch house with a carport, definitely mid-modern. I could hardly wait to get into a traditional house, albeit a reproduction of something old. Thank you for keeping up the photos and stories.

  10. Jill bisho says:

    I have enjoyed your cookbooks over the years and I have just finished reading your three books. Your calendars have always been on my wall and I even use your wallet calendar to organize my life. I love your art and your quotes and just want to thank you so much for the happiness you bring into my life. It’s always the little things… and you do it so well! Thank you Susan! xo

  11. Isabelle Gould says:

    Dear Susan,
    I just finished reading Isle of Dreams, and it’s truly “touched my heart.” You’ve given me strength in many ways. You stuck it out during the hard times when you could have easily given up and move back to California. I’m so happy to know that you are enjoying your wonderful life. I can’t wait to read the rest of your lovely books!
    Cheers to you! Isabelle “Isa”

  12. Gail Buss says:

    Hi Susan, So happy you are back and had a wonderful safe journey on your book tour. Love reading your blog and can’t wait to see Willard. We had a lovely vacation up in the Catskills at Sunny Hill Resort with our family. We now have 9 grandchildren and I’m wondering how much Christmas will cost this year!

    I was so sorry to hear about your Dad passing. I know how that feels and it is tough to get over. I can remember seeing something he loved in the grocery store and just stood there crying! But time really helps.

    So nice to see the kitties! Enjoy the planning time of your trip to England and Scotland. With hugs, Gail (and Joe) too

  13. Susan Toye Ferguson says:

    Oh, my…is Joe 49 again? Don’t we all wish to have that birthday again!

    Just thought I would tell you that the crickets have already started here in Hyannis and have seriously increased their “singing” last night and tonight! Perhaps another seriously cold winter? Hope not…but we Yankees never know, do we? We just go with it!

  14. Lucia Donahower says:

    Wonderful post! Happy Birthday to Joe! Have a wonderful party🎂🍾🎉🎈🎁!!!
    Lucy in California

  15. Freda says:

    By the way Happy Birthday to that man with the twinkle in his eye

  16. marty from New York City says:

    I think that we should have an international sing along for Joe on the 14th. At 3:00 PM (ESDT), all the girl and guyfriends should sing out Happy Birthday. I just know that Joe will hear it around the world!.

    Anyway-thats what I am going to do. Have a super lovely time of it. Marty.

  17. Joy Pence from Ohio says:

    Happy birthday Joe!!

  18. Marilyn says:

    Good morning Susan,
    I just have a cuppla things to mention after re-reading your blog again….the picture of Holly Oak’s living room shows a wooden block (I think) lamp in the left-hand corner that looks very similar to one we have that my hubby made in shop class in high school back in the 70’s. We are using it today in the laundry room..so reminiscent of those days! And I have to tell you…I also had a kitty that could talk! It was a Siamese and one morning upon awakening and stretching it said my name : Meowerlyn! Too funny! I remember hollering to my mom and saying, “She said my name!” Her name was Felena. Good memories! That’s what I enjoy about you…you have something for everyone. Here’s hoping you have a good day and enjoyment getting ready for a special person’s birthday!

  19. Carrie in Medina says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! So glad to hear that you are happily at home enjoying a few of your favorites things!!!

  20. Lisa says:

    Hello Susan!
    I have read all your books twice, and am sorry to tell you that you are not done! You need to fill in the gaps, like how did you go from no friends to the dedicated group you have on the Island now; how did you go from one cookbook to marketing a multitude of items; and of course, your wedding with Joe!
    I am anxiously awaiting the fourth installment!

  21. Laurie Walt says:

    Hi Miss Susan! Wonderful stories about Holly Oak. I’m glad it is still loved to this day! I remember with fondness our first little two bedroom home. We outgrew it quickly (we had three children), but never felt anything but “home” there! We played in the sandbox, in the kiddie pool, and in the garden from sun up til dusk. Always barefoot and smiling! I really love your pantry. It looks like something out of a charming old movie! Your home screams hospitality. Excited for you and Joe for your upcoming trip too. Excited for fall, but savoring summer. Love.

  22. Lynn says:

    We head out in 19 days for A Fine Romance adventure to Ireland and England of our own. Will be taking your book with me for some reading at night. We will be in Dublin and then Canterbury-Dover-London for 9 days. Can not wait! I love the way you tell a story. Hoping I can write down our experiences in the same colorful way! Thank you, too, for the continuing inspiration.

  23. Karen Wesson says:

    I just wanted to let you know that there are lots of special, anniversary, Beatrix Potter items being produced this year. I’m sure you will keep abreast of all this as you won’t want to miss out, and might make some special purchases during your UK visit!

  24. Annie in IL says:

    How is Jeanne (sp) getting along without your Dad? Hope she’s coping. Hopefully she had family to turn to, also. Please do HOME book; sounds like maybe we do have you talked into it??? I have the ‘trilogy’ and thoroughly enjoyed every page.

    • sbranch says:

      Jeanie’s coping…her beloved sister has moved in with her so that helps. I talk to her every few days.

      • Rhonda D. says:

        As I watch my Mom do without my Dad at 80 years of age, I know how difficult it must be for Jeanie. What you said above is so true…somehow we just learn to cope without them. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t miss my Dad, and it’s been over 4 years now. Sending hugs to you and your family Susan.

        I love the idea of you doing a “Home” book for us….filled with all the house photos, decorating ideas, home quotes, recipes for cooking and cleaning, a go-to guide for us when our own worlds come crashing down around us, to remind us what’s really important and for us to keep going. (This, of course, is after the book about “our” trip to Scotland). Don’t you just love how we plan your life? You are such a treasure to us and you remind me every day just how valuable all our lives and homes are. So nice to see what happened to Holly Oak and I’m sure your beautiful positive heart still beats there. Remember when we turned the moon pink? Could we get Holly Oak back to you someday when the owner is finished with it? Just thinkin’………

        Just came home from a trip to PEI. The whole island is so quaint. I took my Mom and it was a wonderful trip. We went to Anne of Green Gables. I took lots of photos and thought about you as I went through the house. Someday I’d like to get them to you to see sometime. We passed a sign along the road close to someone’s home and it said CAUTION – FOX FAMILY. Don’t you just love that? A couple of years ago we came home one night after dark and saw police flashers going very close to our sub-division. We slowed down and noticed all these tiny lights in the road as we got closer. It was a mother fox and several babies crossing the road with her. It really is a wonderful world isn’t it?

  25. Wanda says:

    Thank you so much for explaining the move from Holly Oak, I wondered about how you ended up in your beautiful white house! Enjoy Scotland, it is an absolutely gorgeous country and the people are wonderful!!!

  26. Karen McNamara says:

    Susan…I’m not sure this comment will get posted. I’ve written many of them, but for some reason they haven’t gone through. Your story about your first BP find reminded me of Christmas last year. As I was decorating my tree with precious memorable ornaments, my arm slipped and I hit a branch. Immediately I panicked as I watched family favorites tumble down one by one. I heard one crash to the floor and cried out…pleeeease don’t let it be the glass bell!!! It was. It was my son’s first Christmas ornament and my heart was broken more than the glass. The tears wouldn’t stop. My husband immediately took over and picked up every single piece and told me that he could fix it. Well, he didn’t disappoint. He ran to the store and got some sort of miracle glue. Can you see a small crack? Yes, but more important, it will be a constant reminder of the love that he showed me when he knew my heart was broken. Some things just can’t be replaced. Thank you for sharing all your beautiful stories. Loved seeing you on your book tour AND Beatrix P’s birthday party. ~karen mac

  27. Happy Birthday Joe!! I am so excited to share in the party. So excited to go to Scotland with you. As always you do such a great job taking us along.

    Thank you for sharing about Holly Oak, I did wonder what happened to it.
    Happy August my dear friend,

  28. Sherrie Glendening says:

    I’m new to your site, and I really enjoy it. Your story about the time you met the Beatles struck a memory chord. I didn’t get to see them when they appeared at the Hollywood Bowl, {one of my big regrets}, but my best friend , June Triglia, and I did follow room service waiters around Disneyland Hotel because the rumor had it that the Beatles were staying there. Alas, we were disappointed and had tea in the coffee shop before walking home. A few years later, my family moved to Kansas, and I lost track of my dear friend June. She became an author, and I became a teacher. I will be a frequent visitor to your site! Thanks, Sherrie

  29. shelly b says:

    Tell me Susan, did you save a piece of that pineapple wallpaper? it would be so cute in a pantry or mudroom! But seeing your before and after picture of your beautiful dining room made me want to share with you something that I have been working on. I started collecting pictures of my grandmas and aunts in their kitchens. I even have 1 with my grandmother hanging out the kitchen window with her mixer and bowl! maybe it was hot in the kitchen, i dont know but its funny! so i am going to hang all of them together in my kitchen as a tribute to all of those wonderful ladies ( and a grandpa too ). I love to see them in their own kitchens. cooking, laughing, loving, living. But also its a chance to see how they had in their kitchens, what was in them, how they were decorated. So thank you for sharing with all of us your beautiful piece of heaven! You know how to capture the beauty in everything:)

  30. monique says:

    I love this trip down memory lane:)
    Everything touching and lovely.

  31. PaulaJ says:

    Hello, dear Susan, I found that my comment was overlooked, so I am sending it along again, below. If there is something offensive or you want to delete a portion of it before posting it, please feel free to edit as you wish! The primary thing is that you know that I appreciate you and want you to know! I think you will be able to delete this portion of the comment, though, not being a blogger quite yet, I am not sure. Much love to you, Paula J

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    August 6, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Haha! I love your reply to the other Paula about strife, with strife being Cliff! “Strife City!”

    Thank you for telling us “…the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say! It is very satisfying to hear about Holly Oak. I think we all fell in love with it. I loved the way you honored Agnes while there.

    My husband and I are planning a 50th anniversary trip to England this fall. We have booked passage on the Queen Mary 2. He wanted to fly (don’t shudder too badly) home. We did not book flights home; we will see how the time goes and not feel time pressured to return at a certain hour/day. Since I have missed seeing you in the States, I would love to be able to attend your “bring your own picnic basket” time in England. Here is hoping!

    You and Joe are such a good match! I enjoyed seeing your early years photos. 🙂

    Happy Birthday to your precious Daddy; he was born a few weeks after my mommy. She was born in July of 2013. She died in 2008. I am glad you are enjoying your memories and at peace, Susan.

    And a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Joe.

    Lots of love and gratitude, Paula from Oregon

    P.S. Not to add to your load, but I love your idea about doing a HOME book!

  32. Sheryl from Magalia CA says:

    Dear Susan,
    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you. I had been daydreaming of going online and seeing if I could find a house just like Holly Oak on Martha’s Vineyard and then beg my husband to move there with me. Not kidding.

  33. Janice says:

    I haven’t been able to get your new book soon I hope though.. I paniced when you spoke of selling your house. Seems you belong there. Your hubby and you make such a fine couple. Your both very pretty in face, who said that awe maybe someone in the King and I… I wish one day for you to come to San Francisco and wish I could meet you in Scotland. My grandmother was born there and had heirlooms form her parents. Her last name was Gould she lost them when she came here to San Francisco chasing my silly grandfather around. So sad.. I was eight when she passed on she had cancer after rasing nine of ten children. It was one thing I had thought of many times to know more of the history. Please take photos.. And share them. Id love to see them. Boy I missed out on Jemima puddle duck.. Shes my next purchase.. I have Peter and cousin ribby which she is new.. Was just thinking about a new willard waiting patiently love your house and Holly lane.. Thank you for sharing lovely weekend to you and hubby and kittys with love Janice

  34. Stephanie C. says:

    Dear Susan,

    First, I have to tell you I have finished MVIOD and cherished every page!!! Loved, Loved, Loved it!!! I spread it out over the summer, reading few pages at a time when i could find time to sit on the deck in the evening. I knew I would be sad when it was finished (only because I didn’t want it to end). It had a perfect ending with wonderful Joe! Next trip to The Vineyard I will go to the library to see the Linden Tree table. Now off to read A fine Romance again!

    This blog post was lovely in so many ways. Loved seeing what happened to Holly Oak, such a quaint little place. And the pictures of your big home well, I have always loved it too! I have a picture of you and I on your front porch taken in ’97 that sits on my kitchen counter by all of my SB books. I cherish it so much being a huge fan since the 80’s. I am really looking forward to your upcoming trip and following along 🙂

    Happy belated birthday to Joe! Are you going to decorate for Fall before you leave? I can’t wait, it’s my favorite time of year!!!

    P.S. I think I am getting the new Heart of the Home for my birthday or Christmas, I accidentally saw it at my Mom’s I’m sure waiting to wrapped up for me!

  35. Stephanie C. says:

    Dear Susan,

    First, I have to tell you I have finished MVIOD and cherished every page!!! Loved, Loved, Loved it!!! I spread it out over the summer, reading few pages at a time when i could find time to sit on the deck in the evening. I knew I would be sad when it was finished (only because I didn’t want it to end). It had a perfect ending with wonderful Joe! Next trip to The Vineyard I will go to the library to see the Linden Tree table. Now off to read A fine Romance again!

    This blog post was lovely in so many ways. Loved seeing what happened to Holly Oak, such a quaint little place. And the pictures of your big home well, I have always loved it too! I have a picture of you and I on your front porch taken in ’97 that sits on my kitchen counter by all of my SB books. I cherish it so much being a huge fan since the 80’s. I am really looking forward to your upcoming trip and following along 🙂

    Happy belated birthday to Joe! Are you going to decorate for Fall before you leave? I can’t wait, it’s my favorite time of year!!!

    P.S. I think I am getting the new Heart of the Home for my birthday or Christmas, I accidentally saw it at my Mom’s I’m sure waiting to wrapped up for me!

    Oh, I forgot to mention I was part of the snail mail too! I have kept the Willard’s and letters from you in a box that I covered with Christmas wrap you made several years ago.

  36. Dear Susan,
    Happy Birthday to Joe — and Julia! This is the big birthday weekend and I hope the big party is a wonderful, happy celebration and that you share lots of photos in an upcoming post. We all love seeing how beautifully you do parties — such an inspiration for all.
    Also loved the update on Holly Oak and the delightful pictures. I lived in two dorms – Holly and Oak — fifty years ago when I was a student at Glassboro State College in N.J., so I always love seeing references to your first little house on the Vineyard. I will be visiting the campus again in October for my 50th reunion and can’t wait to see the old dorms and hope they have been well-preserved through these years.
    Thank you, always, for your wonderful posts and your continuing inspiration, Susan. You are a blessing to all your Girlfriends, young and old and near and far.
    Hugs to you as you celebrate Joe and plan your wonderful trip to Scotland.
    Nancye T. in Wells, Maine

  37. Linda Kidd says:


    Love all your books. Love your art work. Love your blog. Love your cookbooks. Love reading the Willards. Just finished “Isle of Dreams.” I am now rereading “A Fine Romance” for about the 4th time. Can’t wait to read and hear all about your upcoming trip to England and Scotland. I have been to Ireland (so beautiful) and would love, love to get to see England and Scotland!! Also enjoyed finding out what happened to Holly Oak. Glad the present owner is taking good care of it!

    Please tell Joe “Happy Birthday.” My husband’s birthday is August 27. I am soooooo ready for fall! It has been such a hot, hot summer here.

    LindaK from Georgia

  38. sue says:

    So often I come to your blog just to get happy…a peaceful, homemaking kind of happy. You are amazing! The “Brightside of life” is the right side and you always bless us with that. I loved looking at your houses….lots of good ideas! Now to go bake something from the Summer Book.

  39. shelly b says:

    after looking at your post again ( cant seem to stop ) i think you NEED (please) to make colorforms of your house. the possibilities are endless here! you could do each room, the garden, your kitties too! ( even a holiday edition ). just like my old holly hobbie general store! it would be amazing! after all we are all still girls at heart 🙂

  40. Pam Moore says:

    Hi Susan! I am behind reading your blog..but it still fills me with joy! I so appreciate your writing, your art, your photos, sharing your life with us. I hope you are having a fabulous weekend. Happy birthday to Joe! xoxoxo

  41. peggy says:

    Finally got your sweet book from the library but could only view the pictures. Your lettering is charming but my old eyes just couldn’t handle it. Have you considered reading your books aloud? Have listened to many entertaining stories while sewing. Sadly returned the book unread but enjoyed the small illustrations and pictures.

  42. Just got back from Mackinac Island, where I went with my sister Kathy. I understood perfectly about what happened to your first home from your book and blog.
    I am excited about your upcoming trip!


  43. Ginny Evans--The Texan newbie says:

    I too wondered. Now I know and it is great to see that it is still being loved, because we all love Holly Oak now and only want the best for it–not like my childhood home, lovingly crafted by my Dad, that was sold to people who promised to love it, but didn’t and how very sad and heartbreaking to see it now. Well, we can’t even drive by it is so painfully awful.

    So, we have been here in Texas for 7 months and are moving into our beautiful new home this week. It doesn’t feel like home yet of course and how I long to feel at home! Your wonderful newsletters and Willard have sustained my soul during this time in the weird rental house–reminding me that kindred spirit feelings are still alive in me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Susan!

    Now I can’t wait to read your new one!! (With moving, I’m a little behind.) I know that you will bring fall and winter to me, down here in perpetual spring/summer land. Blessings to you!

  44. Linda says:

    I just love that little Holly Oak!! Loved reading about it in Isle of Dreams!
    My daughter was on Martha’s Vineyard a week ago, and said she couldn’t find your first little house. But she absolutely loved the island! She rode the Flying Horses and got 2 brass rings!
    Can’t wait for you to take us along to Scotland!!!
    Linda, from PA

  45. Trudi Varton says:

    Happy birthday to Joe! What a wonderful party for your handsome husband! Always love reading your blog – so cheerful & filled with joy! Thank you for sharing the love! Truli yours in Redding, CA

  46. Nora Egan says:

    Just had to tell you, I’ve finished your book number 2 and enjoyed it immensely. Seeing myself in your writings was a wakeup call and I intend to follow a lot of your ideas, as well as the quotes. Out here in Indiana, Bartlett’s is a favorite graduation gift and I received my well-thumbed edition back in 1968. Tomorrow I start the Fairytale Girl — then I think I’ll go back to re-read A Fine Romance. You fill my soul with “enchantment,” and I thank you!

  47. Toni from Sylvania says:

    Dear Susan and Joe….again LOVED your post…just precious words and lots of memories. Hope Joe’s party was more than wonderful. Would love to see more pictures of the party(s). I’m sure your friends from this side of the pond and the other had a delightful time. So much fun…talking, laughing, eating, drinking, sharing. It’s like time stands still. Perpetual FUN:-))) Just bask in the still occuring love of your late summer days and nights…may they linger on for many moons! love and prayers, Toni from Sylvania xoxoxo

  48. Tiah Foster says:

    Thank you for the update on Holly Oak. I so enjoyed reading it. And I’ve been TWITCHING to know.

    And Happy Birthday to Joe, the man with the permanent twinkle in his eye.

    All very best wishes,

  49. Lynn Cooper says:

    Happy birthday, Joe! You and Susan make a beautiful couple. All year long you will find yourself singing “When I’m 64.”
    You mentioned the cicadas, Susan, and living in Mass. and on the east coast for most of my life they are a sign that summer is winding down. We would hear their nightly tune of three beats and say, “Katydid. Katydid.” Years later my youngest brother told me that when he heard them he thought, “Back to school. Back to school.” When he told me that I was still teaching, and it bought a fresh reminder to my brain that my carefree days would soon end and the school year would begin. Now that I am retired it doesn’t matter much at all, but the memories of the first days of school, be it a student or teacher, are quite vivid in my mind.
    Enjoy the rest of the summer. Soon the leaves will fall and we’ll hear crunching underfoot.

    • sbranch says:

      Mine too. I still feel “back to school” in September, it’s such a creative time, these fall months, with the holidays coming . . . all the cooking and gift remembering, new calendars, decorating for fall, moving the sweaters from the attic to the closets again. This year we’ll see it all in Scotland, I have sweaters and hats for the trip. Can’t wait!

  50. Sandra says:

    This blog made my heart so happy♥♥ Birthday blessings for your sweet Joe.

  51. Christy Sherry says:

    Here is a little story for you. Every year I buy your calendar for my refrigerator. When my oldest daughter ( one of three) went off to college in 1996 I gave her one of your calendars to remind her of home. Well I am still sending them to her every year. And my daughter-in-law law wanted one too.( I also have one son.) So you are part of her family! I have loved you for 30 years. Best wishes, Christy

  52. Judith Berry says:

    There isn’t anything better than to open up your newsletter. I’m 81 and am still in good shape and living alone. I’m originally from Michigan, but have lived in South Carolina for 10 years. (My son lives here). My summers are now spent inside as it is too hot for me to be out in the garden, so I have a lot of the work done by others. It is so refreshing to read your newsletter – it’s like a breath of fresh air. I’m also a writer (for our local paper), and try and always take a positive attitude when I write. I find a lot of the media just writes/talks about negative things and after being bombarded with it – it gets me down. Thanks for your beautiful writing and pictures.

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you for what you do to spread the good word Judith! It’s important! xoxo

      • HveHope says:

        “… and always take a positive attitude when I write.”
        Judith, I agree with Susan and also thank you for spreading goodness! When I don’t feel well, I absolutely NEED to read about uplifting things. You are doing much kindness by focusing on the positive.
        by His grace alone, HveHope

  53. Judith Jackson says:

    Happy Birthday Month for Joe!
    My cousin and I went to Hill Top and the Cotswolds because of “Fine Romance”. I’ve read it twice now. I love all your books, they are so inspiring! I hope you’ll be able to buy Holly Oak back! I bet you will!

  54. Donna says:

    I love that your kitchen retains its original character. When so many decide to remodel, why do you think you decided to keep much of the kitchen intact?

    • sbranch says:

      I like it the way it is. Yes, we could use more counter space, and we could take out the wall and make it bigger, but really, after I got my dish cupboard and my vase cupboard, I was perfectly content.

  55. Kate says:

    Your words and lovely pictures just make me happy, Susan. Two months ago we lost everything in a huge flood in Texas. We moved a small trailer onto our property for the time being…until we can rebuild. I have done my best to make it “home”…with wallpaper and lace curtains and all. Your words have soothed me through our ordeal, and when I start to get down…I come read something you have written and it makes me smile again… Thank you… Kate

    • sbranch says:

      Oh my goodness Kate . . . you sound so wonderful. WHAT an ordeal, and look, you are making home despite everything. Love you xoxo

  56. Nancy Robinson says:

    Cannot express how much I ADORE you!

  57. Joanne Richardson says:

    Happy birthday to Joe–what a wonderful celebration! I will be looking forward to hearing all about your trip–hope you get to see the Outlander (are you a fan??) area of Scotland.
    I have to tell you–I have been a big fan for 30 years. I cherish all of your books (starting with Heart of the Home–recently got another one for my niece as a housewarming present) and have them all on display in my wonderful old house on Cape Cod.
    For years my sweet mother in law gave me one of your calendars for my birthday. Sadly she passed last year so for the first time I had to buy my own. However, in her honor, I will happily buy one every year.
    You are a treasure! Even though I don’t know you personally, I feel like you are a cherished friend.
    Enjoy your trip!!

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Joanne . . . and if you’re on the Cape you must be thrilled to wake up and find this day to be cooler and DRYER!! I’m a fan of Outlander, the book, loved it SO Much. But wasn’t able to get through the first season of violence for the TV version! VERY sorry to have to miss it . . . I was really looking forward to it, but that first whipping scene (45 minutes long, or so it seemed) told me I need to go reread the book just for “fun!” When I see movies, they seem real to me… I can’t tell myself “its just a movie” ~ instead, when the planes go down, I’m in them!

  58. Samantha Chambers says:

    Have you thought about doing a coloring book? You have such beautiful designs and would be so much fun!!

  59. Nancy Jodoin says:

    Good evening from New Jersey,

    You made my day with your email. Such a wonderful newsy letter to lift my spirits. My sister carol and I went to England and Scotland in 2012. What a wonder…..the scenery delightful, people friendly and food Devine. Enjoy every moment and please share!

    Thank you for being you. Bright, fun and incredibly sweet.


  60. Tamara Thompson says:

    Dear Susan,
    Wanted to tell you, .. As I was grieving for your loss, and reading all the encouraging words the other girlfriends had offered to you , as well as many of them sharing how much their own fathers had meant and how they had made it through such tremendous loss, I paused to reflect on how fortunate I have been to have had the father and mother I have had ….then …. Just a few days ago , I found out my own father had passed away, (on or around your Dads birthday !)
    Now I know why I had read each and every tribute, to prepare me and strengthen me. I loved my father very much and was not expecting him to pass this soon (83) at all! He was a great father of four , who made sure we always felt safe and knew he loved us, always provided for our needs , never abused us and sacrificed to ensure we all received a fine education. At the university he had studied Botany, Biology and Geology and first became a teacher, later a minister, and finally a financial planner. He had a knack for drawing and storytelling. He loved nature and the Pacific NW , and passed this love onto us, including respecting the environment and habitat of all living things, by taking us throughout our childhood , on hikes, mushrooming adventures and huckleberry / blueberry picking. I recall with fondness how he could identify every plant and flower as well as how loved to “frighten” us with his stories of “Big Foot ” the Sasquatch roaming the back hills and forests he was raised on…We are all fortunate to have many very fond memories of him . My parents like yours, were divorced after we kids were grown , and because they had been married almost 40 years, remained friendly and kind to one another ( which is the way it should be..) Unfortunately for reasons unknown to us , not one of us were informed he was gravely ill , & thus were denied comforting him (when he needed us the most) and were unable to say goodbye. We only received the news this week indirectly through a form letter my mother received regarding his social security, of his death; nothing from our step family he lived with. My heart is broken, but someone once told me ” harboring anger and bitterness towards another is just like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies”…while we may believe we are entitled to feel the way we do, ultimately we just poison ourselves ! Although it has been doubly difficult to accept his loss given the circumstances, I am trying to focus on how fortunate and blessed we all were to have had him in our lives, and rejoice in the legacy he left behind. As children we have decided we can best honor our father and all he stood for by choosing to live as Christ did ,with love and forgiveness . I wanted to thank your readers for their kind words to you, because now I feel their impact and find they are kind words and bring peace to me as well! I will be wishing you a safe and fulfilling journey!
    Bless you Susan and Joe,

    • sbranch says:

      I’m so sorry Tamara, and doubly because of the unkindness shown you through the family your dad lived with. That is extremely mean thinking, and your forgiveness for this cruelty is to be commended. Soon this terrible slight will pass, and you’ll be left with just the love for your dad and your memories, expressed so beautifully in your comment here. Breathe my dear, a let time work it’s gentle miracles. Sending love xoxoxo

  61. Tamara Thompson says:

    Thank you Sue,
    Your kind reply has brought sunshine to my heart!
    With heart felt gratitude & love,
    or as my father Arlie , always called me ” little Sue” -from Tamara Sue,
    (I had a cousin Sue who was 6 feet by age 12! )🌺

  62. Jean Rye says:

    Hello Susan! I’m a curly new girlfriend just having been introduced to your trilogy books. I devoured them and already have about five of your cookbooks. I’ve been not liked cooking in recent years but have just spent a year settling in my new house close to my daughters and toddler grandchildren (Heaven!) so now that most of the outdoor work to revamp the garden, pressure wash and stain fences, and get some gardens going, it’s finally time to cuddle up inside for the winter–cooking, quilting, knitting, and learning how to play that banjo I bought.
    I’m 53 years past twelve so could identify so much with your growing up years! Thanks for being such a voice of happiness out there! I really appreciated your positive words as we d al with the ongoing political situations. Sending hugs!

  63. Jean Rye says:

    Fairly new girlfriend. My hair is straight!!! Should have proofed better!

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