MUSICA!❤️ Well, first off, I promised you a photo of the wool coat I bought in England ~ the one I wrote about a couple of blogs ago … And I finally managed to remember to do it. And, btw, while out and about on the Internet,  I happened upon a website in the English Lake District that sells them (just in cases you want one too! The label says, “handmade.”). It’s a wonderful store Joe and I visited when we were there called Stewardson’s of Hawkshead .

Welcome over from the new Willard if that’s where you’ve come from (he’s just starting to go out today ~ takes 3 days for him to get to every email box, so if you’re signed up, he should be there soon!), and if not, welcome anyway! As lots of you know, Joe and I are on the train right now, in our “room with a view,” actually in the beautiful Berkshires as I write, heading down the tracks for Chicago, then on to LA ~ and right now, out our window, is the most gorgeous sunset between the leafless tress and across snow fields! It’s kind of a miracle, to be on a moving train and writing you at the same time! I’ve been sending photos and videos of our views over to Twitter … hope you’ve been able to see them (you can click on the link and take a look if you like, you don’t have to join Twitter in order to see the pictures).

Yesterday, before we left (which was just this morning), I needed to do some ironing for the trip. I’m sure many of us remember our mothers starching clothes before they ironed them ~ rolling them up while damp, putting them in plastic bags and keeping them in the fridge until they were ready to iron. Seems so old-fashioned to us now! My mom did it, there were always bundles of ironing in our fridge, she ironed all my little sister’s puffed-sleeved dresses with starch, and taught me to do it too. And my dad’s shirts ~ we were all very crisp around our house. And it wasn’t spray starch, it was the real thing. Liquid starch, the kind she used, is hard to find, at least where we live . . . our supermarket doesn’t sell it anymore, I had to go to Amazon to get it. Mostly, these days,  it’s used for crafts, but I have this linen jacket I was bringing along that is no good without good old-fashioned starch, spray starch just doesn’t do it. In fact, I have a lot of things I use real starch on. There’s actually a really good reason to do it! I’ll show you! (Jack, as you can see, was there for the whole thing!  But he was more interested in . . .

. . . what was going on outside our kitchen window, than what was going on inside . . .)

So, just in case it’s been a long time, or maybe never, since you starched something, and just in cases you’d like to try it . . . here’s how.  It’s really easy.  First off, you can read on the bottle how much starch to mix with how much water to make the fabric as stiff as you’d like it to be.

I wanted  my jacket to be slightly stiffer than medium, so I mixed 4 c. water with 2 c. starch in a very large bowl. My summer potato salad bowl if you want to know.

I swirled it around with my hand to mix it . . .

Then I put my clean linen jacket into the liquid and got it soaking wet.

I took it out and rung it out as best I could … then I noticed all that left over starch and thought, what else do I have?  Then I remembered I’d just washed a dresser scarf from the bathroom and thought, perfect timing!

 I like dresser scarves to be really quite stiff, so I added a bit more starch.

And in it went.

Then they both went out to the pantry to partly dry on the clothes rack. Soaking wet is not good for ironing, you want them damp. So while that was happening . . .

I wrapped birthday presents for my mom, we’re heading to California to celebrate her 87th birthday (on the 27th)! 🎁 She loves it when I wrap her things in my own paper, so I ordered some from Spoonflower, (the people I do the fabric for … they make all the fabric patterns into wrapping paper too!) which I’d never done before, I was interested to see the quality. And was happy because it’s the thick stuff! Very nice.🎈My mom will love it!

And then, for a couple of good reasons, I made a cake ~ An Orange Marmalade Cake, because Jack’s other Mother was coming from California to stay with him while we’re away . . . and we were making dinner for her . . . and also, because every time Lowely makes something delicious, she always brings me half.

And I wanted to do the same for her before we went away.

Which I did. She only lives two doors down, so I walked it over, and got a goodbye hug. The next time I’m doing a blog and NOT on the train, I’ll give you the recipe! It was delicious!

So then it was time to iron.  And what is the first thing I have to do?  I have to get Jack’s hair off the ironing board, unless I want to iron it into my clothes. The ironing board doubles as his perch at the pantry window to watch the world go by. So I got out my packing tape, laid a big long strip down, and moved it along until all his little hairs were stuck to it!

And now, I’m ironing. And it’s coming out beautifully.

Voila! When you starch something, it stays fresh looking so much longer. You can wear it and re-wear it and it doesn’t look wilted.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I love starched things. They last forever.

Here’s my dresser scarf, back on the table in the bathroom. Note shadow under table.

Old linens are one of my passions, loves, downfalls. The beautiful cloth, the delicate embroidery and the cotton lace ~ irresistable! Smoothing an old damask tablecloth onto my dining table is one of the simple joys of life. Lighting a candle on that table, where it almost reflects in the sheen of the cloth, is another.

Here is an example of starch and what it does. I haven’t ironed these in over 6 months. No one really uses them, because a terry hand towel is right there, so they are really more decorative than anything, but they look as nice today as they did when I hung them up 5 years 6 months ago.😜

These are the bathroom curtains in that same room, made from an old lace tablecloth, the last of the ones I brought from California when I moved into my first little house on the island. Starched and perky, I won’t have to do it again for a long time. You could never do this with spray starch. Not even with the one that says, “Heavy.”

And here are a few more linen things, just so you get the picture, which I’m sure you do by now! I should be a door-to-door liquid starch salesperson!

One more tip, and that is, you may have starched something a while back, like this linen jacket. But maybe it was crushed in the closet and got kind of wrinkled again. No problem…

As long as it’s clean, you don’t have to rewash and starch, you just spray on a little water, and iron, and it all that good starchiness comes right back.

And there they are, ready to go into plastic bags and into the hanging bag … yes, they will need a touch up when we get there, but it won’t be much! So there you go, adventures in  ironing from the Heart of the Home! Pure

Okay, enough about ironing, how about some maple syrup? I LOVED your comments in the last post, like I always do, thank you so much.💞  And yes, we did stuff poor Vanna into our duffel bag, she’s  here, fluffed out, head to toe in pink cashmere with a leopard faux fur collar (she knows how to be comfy), complaining because she broke a nail and there’s “no manicurist on board.” It’s okay, we’ll fly her outta here when we get to Chicago. Her and her “little pink zipper bag”👛 which we have had to find for her about six times now. She’s a princess. Not fit for train travel.  We knew we would need her for the drawing for our Vermont Valentine Giveaway . . . and so, with no further adieu … Vanna? Come here darling…  (oh, the look on her face😱) ~ here we go . . . the WINNER of this delicious Vermont syrup (I know because we got a bottle of this too!) is . . . . PAMELA TASKER!!!!! Congratulations Pamela! You will love this! Be sure to heat it up before you pour it on everything! Look for an email from me in your box . . . I’ll need your mailing address so I can send it to you.

And now, so it doesn’t have to end . . . there’s more . . .

  Hello. Remember I showed you these cups I was designing a while back?  That’s the one I designed on the left, my glued and pasted paper cup without a bottom. And on the right, that’s the sample they sent! Pretty darn wonderful if I do say so myself! So I did more!

This one is calledand it has Ms. Lambikins on it, amongst other recognizable doodads from my flora and fauna art repertoire. Plenty to read early in the morning when the brain requires quiet time.

And this one is calledfor us, the normal ones.💞

Last but not least, we have “Little Things,” because All three are being made right now, of fine bone china, in the potteries, in England. Yes, real, bonafide English cups. ❤️ Each holds a truly magnificent 16 oz (if filled to the very top). I’m so excited. You who have hung out around this blog for a while, know how much I have wanted to do this. Finally, the time has come.  They will likely be here in May, in time for Mother’s Day, if all goes as planned. And if you leave your name in the comment section of this blog,😁 you will be entered in a drawing to win one of these. There will be 3 winners, and the moment they come in, those winners will be the very first on our mailing list! And yes, just in cases you don’t win, they are available now for preorder. Which means, if we haven’t ordered enough, we should know fairly soon, and can get more into the works right away. After a decent amount of time, each of the designs are going to be retired, and replaced by new ones (I have so many fun ideas!) And the only place on earth where they will be available, at least for the foreseeable future, will be here in our web store. I hope you like them.💖

The last time I was in California, Joe and I were driving across country … I picked these two roses, one from my Grandma’s garden, and one from my moms. They sat on the dashboard of the Fine Romance Van the entire way. And when I got home, I took this photo of them. As beautiful as they were when they were first cut. In two days I will be in my mother’s arms. 💞 The dearest person, who was in labor with me for so long (72 hours) that a tiny piece of her soul broke off, and went into me. And that is the way it has always been and will always be. I feel so lucky. Thank you all for being here. Have a wonderful day! WILLARD’S on the way! I’ll be back soon!

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2,798 Responses to SOMETIMES, STARCH is GOOD!

  1. MS Barb says:

    Thanks for a nice Giveaway! I also use starch, or Best Press on my clothes (& while sewing!)

  2. Gwen says:

    I’ve never starched anything, but it’s really interesting to see how! Thanks!

  3. Jane Bugg says:

    I am a recent follower of your blog and I love it. Even ordered one of your cute mugs last night. It would be so great if I was one of the winners of your drawing.

  4. Pauline says:

    Thank you so much for the starch reminder and tips, you made my ironing this week much more enjoyable, found two bottles of liquid starch from (hold on to your hat) almost 20 years ago. Used it to apply linen fabric to bathroom walls, it was fantastic and held up beautifully for about 18 years! Opened 1st bottle , very yellow,I may have tried to put leftover starch from wall project from metal paint pan back into bottle, so threw out. Opened second bottle, perfect. Starched four shirts, dried then ironed, very pleased,

    • sbranch says:

      They look gorgeous! I had old starch too, was totally yellow-brown, had been around too long, threw it out, got new clean white stuff.

  5. Love the mugs. They make me smile.

  6. Nicole Dube says:

    I love your mugs!!! Someday would you consider making a snail mail/ pen pal mug with your cute little mailbox on it!? I could see myself and many others sipping tea from it as we read our snail mail!! You make me smile everyday, thanks for all you do!❤

  7. Hi Susan! Happy early birthday to your dear mom!!! And thanks for the starch lesson! My mom used to starch and so did my mother-in-law, and so did I when I was younger. I loved seeing it re-vitalized and it’s PERFECT for linen clothes and for traveling. Thanks!! I hope you and Joe continue to enjoy your trip . . . Safe travels.

  8. Patty McEntire says:

    Having a cup of coffee in one of your mugs would be the best way to start my day! Thank you for making my days happy……your calendars, books, stickers, everything I have of yours has made a difference in my life!

  9. Debbie Hill says:

    Love, love, love getting news from you, Joe, and Willard! It’s a nice spring wake-up call! We’re already warm here, but it’s so nice to see the spring awake in New England. Thank you for your beautiful books, art pieces, fabrics, calendars–all things Susan over the years! Makes me feel young at heart and close to my mom and grandmother!

  10. Carrie Imai says:

    Your lovely spirit comes through your letters and makes me smile. I am a calligrapher and simply am enchanted with your hand lettering. Love, Carrie

    • sbranch says:

      We are birds of a feather . . . I’ve been attracted to lettering as long as I can remember. It’s always been “art” to me!

  11. Sara Jossi says:

    I have followed you for years dear Susan… but I just joined you r email/blog .. exciting… love it❤️

  12. Deanah Greene says:

    I love the mugs. I will need one of each😄LOL

  13. Rebecca Sulcer says:

    Bought some Earl Grey tea today..have
    vowed to start enjoying a cup every day!! Cannot wait to receive my SB tin and tea…..

    • sbranch says:

      Now I won’t be the only addicted person. Not sure how you like your tea, but if you would like a special treat, in the afternoon, about 4, brew your new tea, add a tsp of honey, and a splash of half and half. So good!

  14. Jennie Lou says:

    I’m sure its way too late to add my two cent’s worth on starching, but I can never resist the chance to tell the world about my amazing MIL. After marrying her only son, and living in a little apartment for years, we were lucky enough to find an old farmhouse in the middle of an apple orchard that doubled as a pumpkin patch in the small town where my sweetheart was born. We were actually caretakers, as the house had recently been inherited by our landlady when her great-aunt passed and the house, empty, had been visited by several folks looking to get out of the weather. Anyway, we saw it, fell in love, and were doing some cleaning and painting before moving in. The house, being old, had plenty of double-hung windows hung in twos or fours, letting in the light and the view. It was heaven, but 14 sets of curtains was way beyond our means. My Mother In Law only smiled. In her attic were piles of white, ruffled, Cape Cod curtains handed down from her granny. No one had ever taken her up on her offer of them, and I was thrilled to have every one. MIL cheerfully showed up at the house while we were painting and unpacking, found a corner of the dining room and set up her favorite ironing board and proceeded to starch into white ruffled cotton perfection each and every upper, lower, valance and tie back for all 14 windows. She loved to iron and taught me how to starch and roll the panels and lay them neatly in the empty refrigerator until it was time to iron them. Sunlight through white curtains will always remind me of her, her generosity and her love.

  15. denni in MN says:

    Love this posting, Susan! This is just what I’ve needed recovering from my surgery last week. Seeing all that you and Joe have been doing traveling across the country! Congrats to all the lucky winners of Susan’s “Vanna drawings”!! The orange marmalade cake looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it! Enjoy all the scenes on your trip, looking forward to your next post! Thank you for everything you bring us, Susan!

  16. Elizabeth Jason says:

    The mugs are darling. Currently planning my MV getaway vacay with my bestie!
    So love it.

  17. Carol Cooley says:

    Just love these mugs! And I appreciate you not giving in to having them made in China! They’re too special!

  18. Martha in Vermont says:

    I love the mugs. So cheery first thing in the morning. They could actually set the tone for the day. I’m fairly new to your blog learning about it from your books. I’ve read the first about your early life (which, coincidentally, is very similar to mine, also b. 1947) and the second, about “MY” island. Ready to start the third. So enjoyable. Thank you for being a part of my life!

  19. J says:

    So enjoyed reading latest blog AND Willard and learning about the screenplay. It will be a wonderful visual story…a feel good, like hot chocolate after a cold, crisp walk movie. Something we need more of in these negative times. Safe travels…and enjoy the story continuing. p.s. VT is my home state, and yes it is magical…all seasons. So glad you, Joe, and friends braved the weather and had such a good time.

    • sbranch says:

      Meeting with screen writer is tomorrow! I know it will be fun. And odd, and enlightening. Thank you Joyce!

  20. Kim Smith says:

    Thank you for your recent Willard email for spring inspiration. I love hearing about your adventures and I can’t wait to try the angel food cake recipe since that’s my husband’s favorite. Thanks for your creativity. You are amazing! 😉

  21. Tempe Javitz says:

    I totally love my new cupcake papers and the little decorations to stick on the cupcakes! I tutor at “Girls to Women” in East Palo Alto twice a week and I’m in charge of Birthdays once a month. Usually we do cupcakes, can’t wait until next month when I can treat the birthday girls with special toppings.

  22. peggy says:

    Hi Susan:

    I shared your blog with my “old” college roommate and she just loves it reading it like I do. She called me on this cold new England night and told me she had just made your orange marmalade cake.She said it made her house smell so good and it is just delicious. I am not a good cook like she is but she said it is very easy to make.She still might have to make one for me!!! She can’t wait to have her adorable grandchildren come over and have some with her tomorrow.

  23. My condolences on the loss of your wonderful, loving father Susan. You’re in my thoughts and heart.

  24. Kat Fry on Rose Creek Farm says:

    As always just Loverly! I am sooooo late in getting to this and Willard and the latest blog! A dear friend suffered a terrible tragedy, so I have been consumed with that for the last few weeks & will be forevermore, helping her begin a new Normal, sometimes that’s all we can do. Just be there. And My favorite Uncle (younger than me) died suddenly and then my Mom & other (even younger than me!) Uncle were in a horrible car wreck on their way back from Vernon. Texas. They both escaped with severly ( that isn’t spelled right, hmmmmm) bruised ribs…truly unbelievable that was all!…though what was left of Mom’s Bevo burger escaped unscathed to land under the van. And before you ask, because I know you’re wanting to, no, my Uncle refused to rescue it. We spent days upon days with Mom helping her get around. At her Home. In Arlington. Texas. And now happily, our Grankids & that sweet Great Granbaby are spending a long wonderful weekend here on the Farm. So I can sneak a few minutes while River naps & everyone else plays Catan…and I shall use these snuck moments to hop on here. So……….while I sit in my jeans & long sleeve pink with black stripes tee under a baggy Romo jersey…GO#9 THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES GO COWBOYS….thick gray luscious socks…pink Maryjane crocs…wild ponytail tied up with a pink scarf….I do remember starching & sprinkling using soda pop bottles with those funky metal caps with sprinkle holes. That unique smell when you open the fridge door & there are the rolls of skirts & shirts & scarves alongside jars of pickled okra & a pitcher of sweet tea & all those other fridgey things…and the hiss of the hot iron & that smell. Good Memories. You bring it all back to us!
    Gotta’ say HUZZAH HURRAY for the mugs! Must pre-order all 3! Because much like children & Best Friends & Beloved Books you just can’t choose a Favorite! Although I do think…no…no…I shan’t pick a favorite.
    Safe Travels….although at this time y’all are already there. I’ve been along for the Ride on Twitter. So….now on to Willard….Love to you Both!

  25. Wendy Young says:

    Hi Susan, I love the new mugs 🙂 and can’t wait to visit Spoonflower. I would also like to purchase prints for my kitchen. I have saved old calendars just to reread and feel good.
    I am so glad I found your blog and ways to purchase your products. Fabric sounds great!
    And, thanks for the lesson on starching linens. Never thought of that and I iron all the time.

  26. Toni from Sylvania OH says:

    Hi Susan…looks like you are going to miss ‘Blizzard Stella’. Enjoy the sunshine in good ol Cali:-))) Toni from Sylvania OH xoxoxo

  27. Robin Gill says:

    LOVE< LOVE your new mugs.

    Hope your trip was fun and safe!!!

  28. Roseann Copeland says:

    I just had the opportunity to read your new travel blog. You have helped me to things in a new way, took me down memory lane (starching) and created in me a hunger to do something very special today. The music you posted with this is so amazing. It is bringing tears to my eyes. We love you Susan. Enjoy your family time, especially with your mother. She sounds like a wonderful lady. Your story about the 12 hours of labor she had with you just touched me to the core. Yours words are beautiful.
    Greetings from Overland Park,Kansas Met you almost a year ago in KCMO (the Hallmark Girls)when you visited on our beautiful Country Club Plaza

  29. Susan Muir says:

    Love your watercolors! putting them on your mags is fantastic!

  30. CJ Krajec says:

    I just found you!!! Just finished Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams. It actually jumped out at me from the library shelf. I remember thinking “this is my kind of book.” Went right back to the library today and requested 2 more of your books.
    Thank you for taking us on your journey from California to Massachusetts.
    The word I use for your book,… wait for it…ENCHANTING!!!

  31. Casey says:

    I love reading your newsletter and am so sad it hit my spam filter, 🙁 Your mugs are absolutely adorable and I can’t wait to make the angel food cake. Take good care of yourself, enjoy your family visit and I hope you experience very safe travels!

    • sbranch says:

      It happens to lots of people, but now you know, so at least you can find it! Thank you Casey!

  32. Gill says:

    Love your Mother’s Day crown ( on twitter) any chance it will be available by this weekend? ( Mothering Sunday in the U.K.)🇬🇧 Xxx

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