Highclere and Other Things of Interest

Hi all! Off we go to Highclere, to find Downton Abbey! But first, an update on our cups . . . almost here! Sweet  MUSICA for YOU!

Our cups came in from London this morning! They’re in LA! All they have to do is get through customs (they have to wait in line), and our Studio is only four hours by truck up the coast! Shouldn’t be long now!! They’re on the way!

And something else: The other day I remembered that I had designed a bluebird wrapping paper for Spoonflower. I even had a roll in my closet. Really nice thick gift wrap. Which means that the bluebird gifts I ordered for my girlfriends are going to be wrapped in bluebird paper!

Which made me leap out of my chair to go design some Santa paper!

And some leafy fall paper for the Autumn cups! Those last two designs, Santa and fall leaves, should show up on the Spoonflower website within the next two weeks. And btw, these designs are not only gift wrap, but they’re also on fabric and wallpaper too! Spoonflower is amazing! And GUESS WHAT European Girlfriends? Spoonflower is available worldwide! AND, more breaking news, last week I found a UK retailer called Nursery Thyme who will carry our mugs exclusively in her store in Devizes, Wiltshire, and on line …. you can get your cups starting this very day (it’s Carole’s first order from us, she didn’t take a whole lot of them), so if you’d like to have one, now would be a good time to do it) without paying the crazy shipping from USA. Your cups go directly from the factory in Staffordshire to her store in Wiltshire! We are the world! Which is saying something considering our cups are only sold in eight small but wonderful stores in America, one in England, and here in our online store!

So what else . . . well you know I’m writing about Downton Abbey and Highclere today, as promised, but I thought I’d show you the Easter Lily blooming in my garden in July. They’re actually a midsummer flower, forced for Easter display. It’s high summer on the Island and hot hot hot!  

Even the wild turkeys need a bath . . . (other people get flittering wrens and finches around their birdbaths, and we get this) ~ we’ve actually adopted this one I think.

As my Twitter Girlfriends know, I brought some cat mint in for Jack . . . and he L O V E D it!

Soon after this glassy stare, he became comatose, curled onto my desk, and didn’t move for three hours. 😻

Hydrangea. Used to be daylilies were most visible “Island flowers” but I think now it’s hydrangea. They go so good with picket fences and black and white kitties.

I picked these wildflowers on the dirt road on our way out to the water this morning, on our walk. There are two small secrets hiding in that bouquet.

I got out my wildflower books to find the names of our found flowers … but the secrets are there on the right. Oh yes. The trees in our woods are already “reconsidering their leaves.” 🍂 And I heard cicadas singing loudly, first time this year, while hanging clothes on the line the other day . . . so time, she is passing . . .🍁

So here we go Girlfriends. Our day at Highclere Castle was better than I even imagined!

We stayed here the night before . . . and had a delicious dinner in the pub . . . before we squished our fat selves into the smallest . . .

teensiest room imaginable. I Think maybe a Model T might have lived here at one time. Or perhaps a horse. I’m taking this photo from the stall door. We were fine, and glad we only booked one night!

But of course I loved the William Morris wallpaper.

And breakfast was wonderful… I mean who could resist “Dippy Eggs and Soldiers” on the menu? I had to see what it was. I thought some sort of kid’s food.  Well, there it is, “Soldiers” are strips of toast about 1/2″ wide. One more in the long line of proof-positives that the Brits are an adorable people. 🇬🇧

So, fortified with many soldiers, off we go to hunt down Highclere Castle…. Hill and dale, map man and Sat Nav guiding our way.

Round the bend we go on the wrong side of the road . . . because all the way to heaven, is heaven. 💞

Yes! Castle closed! But don’t worry! When we got our tickets, we discovered that the castle was closed ~ due to the lateness of the season ~ it was already October.  I took a moment to have a melt down, but then discovered they were offering a special event to celebrate the 300th birthday of Lancelot Brown … the famous 18th century landscape architect, better known as Capablity Brown, the man who designed the gardens for Highclere (and lots of other places). We learned on the Highclere website that for a little extra money, a “limited number of guests” could have an exclusive Castle and Garden tour that included a short lecture on the life of Mr. Brown, and a welcome from the Countess of Carnarvon. So we said, of course, sign us up!

I thought you might like to see other landscapes designed by Capability Brown, this one is near our friend Siobhan’s house. He designed over 170 parks in his lifetime, surrounding the finest country houses and estates in England, and many of them still exist … He always included water, long inspiring views, trees as focal points, follies, bridges, swans and lambs.

This one is at Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill spent much of his childhood. You can go to these places and walk miles and miles through some of the prettiest countryside there is. We took pictures on that bridge.

And this one, some of you may remember, where we had our BYO Picnic Basket Party last year, near the grass bridge at Stourhead in Wiltshire. After touring lots of English gardens, you actually begin to recognize those designed by Capability Brown:  the clues are water, bridge, follies, and trees . . . often viewed through tears in your eyes.

Our picnic was almost like Downty, sans servants. BUT, we win because our food was real!

I had the diary I kept on our last visit to help me tell this story, sloppily written as it is, it was a huge help in reminding me what happened! Oh Downty, how we miss thee!

So down the long long driveway we went . . . lambs on all sides of us . . .

Camera at the ready, braking for pheasants . . . we would brake for peasants too, but nary a one to be found . . .

Here’s our first glimpse! MUSICA. Rather recognizable don’t you think?  I always try to imagine myself in a horse and buggy when I come up on these houses . . .

Almost there! Note size of amazing tree on right!

Oh my goodness . . . it’s deja vu all over again.

Just like on TV!

We parked . . .

I tried to take a picture with Petey ~ this was as good as it got. I was in too much of a hurry and he refused to hold still!

Joe was much more steady than me!

So yes, you just walk through the gates and up the path to the front door! Amazing, just sitting there for centuries, and now anyone can go there!

Most surreal thing in the world!  Halloooo, anybody home?

We were met at the front door . . . in the entrance Hall, and taken to my very favorite room from the TV show, the dining room! We entered through that door in the back corner, but it didn’t look like this ~ the dining table wasn’t there. So I didn’t recognize it.

Here’s the layout of the downstairs . . . The dining room was filled with chairs for our group, there was a podium up front ~ I didn’t even realize I was in my favorite room! I was expecting that long dining table!  The large gorgeous oil painting we saw in every show, Charles I on horseback, was behind us, I was too delirious to see it! Later on, during the tour, I asked our guide, “Where’s the dining room?” She looked at me funny and told me I’d been sitting in it for a half hour. I had to go back!

And it all came clear. Here’s a  fun website that gives inside info about the filming at the dining table…

I believe this is the front hall, front door on the right, and that door in the right corner led to the dining room. They didn’t allow cameras inside, so I’m a bit mixed up …  had to get these photos from Google. Remember the gallery upstairs? Scene of the crimes? Dragging of the body? Birthing of the baby? Skulking around by Thomas, rude intrusion by smug Miss Bunting? We were able to go there too, and into all the bedrooms. It was truly wonderful.

The bedrooms are all around this gallery. In some ways, considering how big it is, it’s really a very cozy house.

Another of my favorite rooms (but I think now they all are!) and  even more beautiful than I expected, more gold and carved ceilings, luscious velvet and brocade-covered down cushions with petit point chairs and pillows, rich carpets and trimmed draperies, oil paintings of family in gilt frames, silk wall coverings, sparkling chandeliers and lovely marble fireplaces.

THIS is my favorite room. It’s the Morning Room, where the ladies go for their morning coffee and tea.  We were able to ask lots of questions about the paintings and photos and learned so much about the colorful history and architecture of Highclere Castle and the fascinating people who lived there. The Countess spoke to us before the lecture and couldn’t have been sweeter or more normal. She would probably make a very good Girlfriend! Tea at her house would be fun, and I have no doubt it would morph into Twine!

So off we go ~ after a seeing the house, we enjoyed a grand tour of the grounds around the house.

See the little white dots? They’re lambs of course! The long view, very Capability Brown!

One of the Highclere follies, and little pet gravestones leaning …

Our tour guide was telling me that all this brown weedy stuff around us was wildflowers … late in the season, and no longer in bloom.

I can only imagine what this must look like in the spring when it’s all in bloom!


One video is worth a hundred photos.

This way, my sweet!

Again, late fall is not prime garden time, but I loved the paths and the big balls of mistletoe in the far trees.

You always want to follow the curved path and see where it goes.

Very old, formal garden ~ that path in the way back leads back to the Castle.

Lots of pink roses between the hedges.

The last of the season … and undulating lawn . . .

Of course, every self-respecting Castle must have a greenhouse!

Quiet now, all put to bed for winter.

On our way back to the Castle, this bust of Capability Brown, surveying his creation, amongst the birds and falling leaves.

And back to the castle . . . (It’s like there’s a movie star standing just behind my shoulder and I’m pretending not to notice!)

I was right where Robert walked with darling dog, Isis. I loved this opening, the music, and that big sweet lab. Go HERE to see how the Downton characters do with American accents ~ too funny! But now, finally! It’s time for the real reason we came! Gift Shop! Tea!

So ’round to the back of the building we went . . . see Downton peeping over the top? 

Here we are at the courtyard. Isn’t it pretty, this brick building? I would be perfectly happy to live here!

I don’t know what was in this building, but I loved it that when they built these places there was no building department telling them OH no, you can’t do it like this! See what we would miss?

So off to the tea room we went!

All organized for us . . .

The tearoom’s painted-brick walls were covered with scenes from Downton Abbey.

Lots of cute things in the gift shop, everything from Highclere Stationery and key chains, to Downton Abbey feather boas and tea things, but these hats were my favorites!!!

Then back outside for more pictures. They let us stay on our own for as long as we wanted. It was delightful.

We have this Castle photographed backwards and forwards.

And here we are . . . saying goodbye . . .

Just as pretty leaving as it was coming in …. they send you out a different way. Look at that tree straight ahead … 

Magic!So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! What else? I’ve been painting like crazy and loving it! Painting because I want to, not because I have to!  Here’s a little preview for my Girlfriends. . . Believe it or not, this is for the 2019 calendar! Taking my own sweet time, and painting new things . . . pretty heaven around here.

While I was rifling through my diaries today, this piece of paper came flittering out. I had it all figured out in 2010! I do like God to be happy with me!

Thought I would leave you with roses! Though I forget the name of this one right now …

This is Just Joey! Smells wonderful! It’s that time of year!

Bye All!  Until we meet again . . . Blessings! ❌⭕️

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521 Responses to Highclere and Other Things of Interest

  1. Jana says:

    What a delight to explore Downton with you this evening! How perfectly serendipitous that you and Joe could sign up for the lecture and tour and so get in to peek even with the Castle closed. That’s what I call staying open to the magic! You have one of the happiest, loveliest blogs in the Universe, Susan!

  2. Gail Young says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your loveliest of days! Wow! It’s a gorgeous architectural treasure, I dream of visiting Highclere one day!

  3. Debby says:

    Dear Susan, thank you for the blog. Have you had the silent auction yet? Can’t wait to hear all about it. Looking forward to the autumn wrapping paper, can we buy it from you? My husband doesn’t like to hear it, but I am feeling fall in our morning walks. The blackberries are trying to ripen and a sweater is a must. Can’t wait to make jam and pies! Autumn is my favorite time of all. Debby

    • sbranch says:

      Hi Debby ~ The auction is July 30th … but I may not be able to go because the next day I have eight family members coming to stay and I might be putting flowers in bedrooms on the 30th! The wrapping paper is available through Spoonflower … we can’t sell it ourselves. The autumn paper is brand new, and isn’t up yet, but will be in the next couple of weeks. You are lucky to be somewhere where “a sweater is a must!” Love that kind of weather the very best!

      • Debby says:

        The PNW is a great place to live! I just finished the book What Remains by Carole Radziwill. Didn’t realize that they were in your little town. Such a sad story. Have you read it?

        • sbranch says:

          I haven’t read it. But we all knew where we were on the night that plane went down … what a foggy night it was, that the sun looked more like the moon, the air was so thick. Very sad.

  4. Carol C says:

    This post and lovely photos came at a perfect time as I am reading Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. It’s really interesting to read about Lady Almina and her husband, Earl Carnarvon and their actual lives and all the history in the castle at that time. It’s near the time of my grandparents so I can imagine that period of time. Loved your photos and narrative to go along. What a magical adventure!

    • sbranch says:

      We saw lots of photos and heard good gossip about Lady Almina when we were there. So interesting … we all think of it as Downton Abbey, but it’s something else in real life. Kind of a Gemini … two personalities!

    • Bernie says:

      We read that book in my book club. So interesting! I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to learn some of the real history of Highclere. Also, reading the current day Blog written by Lady Carnarvon, is a real treat.

  5. Gayle Hall says:

    Oh Susan oh Susan, here I am reading your words again. I was up till 1:00 a.m. last night as I am reading Marthas Vineyard. I just love your books ,and every word, song, and picture enclosed in it warms my heart. I laugh, and I sing along with all the song words, and last night I sobbed my eyes out. I really do live every moment with you as I move through the pages. I talked to Shelly today about my order for my cups. I will be so excited to get them when they arrive. It was good to read all about your trip to Highclere, and every picture was so wonderful. I painted today also, because I just felt like it. It is such a joy isn’t it. Enjoy your life to the fullest every single minute of every single day. Do it SLOWLY.🐌 LOVE Gayle Hall

    • sbranch says:

      I am Gayle, thank you, as slowly as possible! Thank you dearheart, that was so sweet. Thrills me to know you are liking my book! I know it’s not just my story I was telling. It IS a joy, to be inside and outside at the same time, sort of what painting does for me. Sending love! xoxo

  6. Mary/Indiana says:

    Aaaaah, a walk wonderful down Downton memory lane! How sweet it was😍
    Thank you, Susan

  7. Paula says:

    You make me giggle and smile , so funny Jack with his katnip, turkey on the bird bath (love that stone bath!!) beautiful roses you have ( I can see on a mug!!)
    And what a wonderful castle tour with your prince charming ,Lucky girl you are ! I must say tho I love all things English , I have never watched Downton Abbey (my face turning red ) I know so unreal ! But I did watch on PBS “Victoria” .hehe. Speaking of castles , have you been to the Biltmore ?? I really enjoy going there and the gardens are beautiful ! God truly has blessed your heart staying on the Vineyard.

    • sbranch says:

      We went to the Biltmore only once, and it was very late season. We really need to come back. If you ever need an on-going series to enjoy, Downton is the one. It doesn’t get old, all anyone wants is more more more!

  8. Elly says:

    I tell you Susan, you are ONE LUCKY lady to have found such a paradise
    Martha’s Vineyard!! I LOVE living in Michigan, not too far from the
    Great lake of the same name, but I think I could be happy on Martha’s Vineyard, too too!
    I look forward to many more posts from your lovely home!
    Have a wonderful rest of the summer!!
    ❤️ and (((hugs)))

    • sbranch says:

      I am lucky. Was such an accident of fate in so many ways. Drawn here by the seasons and the architecture, and the Moat! But I actually knew nothing about what I was getting in to!

    • Paula says:

      You too are ONE LuckY Lady !! I live in northern Indiana, and we love our neighboring state of Michigan !! I think I could be happy on Mackinaw Island :), Michigan is a beautiful state with lovely shores, no worries of sharks hehe !! evening skies are amazing too , lucky you !!

  9. julia walker says:

    Dear Susan, What a delightful way to end a very long day! Thank you for sharing your life with all of us. I’m forwarding this one to all of my Downty friends. Take gentle care. Julia

  10. Sunny Rush says:

    Wonderful. I am so thankful that you choose to share your lovely adventures……And this one was pure magic!

  11. Jo'L says:

    Tears of sad/joy for memories and dreams that Downton brought. Thanks and keep doing your beautiful paintings. Have you thought of doing a children’s book, maybe nursery rhymes?

  12. RVanD says:

    They nailed those American accents. 😂

  13. Debbie Noyola says:

    Recognized the name William Morris only because I recently did a makeover on an old sewing machine cabinet. I turned it into a little craft desk & since it had 2 little drawers on each side I wanted to give a little pop of color to the insides. I was searching through my wrapping wrapping paper & couldn’t find anything I liked when my son brought out 2 gift wrap books that he’d picked up at a 2nd hand bookstore. He said I could have them & that he’d used a few of the pullout sheets to wrap previous gifts for me. Well one of the books was gift wrap with artwork by William Morris. He was quite the artist, wasn’t he? Anyway, I just thought that was pretty neat you showing that room with the William Morris wallpaper & me just recently using the gift wrap with his artwork on it.

    • sbranch says:

      He is a fascinating very important character. All I knew about him when we went to visit his home, Kelmscott Manor, was basically, wallpaper. But William Morris was so much more … he said “Have nothing in your houses that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I wrote a bit about him, and showed photos of his house in A Fine Romance. And I have those two same books of gift wrap!!

      • Debbie Noyola says:

        I love that quote & try to apply it to my home as much as possible. Last year my son gave me the loveliest birthday card. It’s 2 little birds atop a nest that they have built in a cup. There is a base of old newsprint & a linen looking top area with a few little wildflowers in the background behind the birds. It’s so charming & I smile every time I look at it. Which I get to do everyday as I just had to frame it & I found the perfect little buttery yellow wooden frame at a thrift store for a quarter! Anyway, I’m rambling on. Oh & btw, I am selling the little sewing cabinet desk & some lucky person will get to enjoy the pretty William Morris paper that are inside the drawers.

  14. Judith says:

    Worth the wait! Oh that Downton music makes my heart flutter! Loved all your photos outside. The one of you and Joe at the entrance is adorable…do you know what it says above the door? Thanks for the memories!

    • sbranch says:

      The date it was built carved in Roman numerals and something in Latin above it. That’s the best I could do!

      • Barbara (from Virginia) says:

        MDCCCXLII = 1842

        • sbranch says:

          Thank you, I couldn’t read it in my photos … but it’s curious, maybe that is when the door was built ~ or the lintel. Because Highclere is much older.

  15. Kathleen waldron says:

    Oh, Susan,

    Have you ever considered a little tour to England? Iwould love to travel theree with you. I think you wouldhave plenty of travelers ready to go.

    • sbranch says:

      We have thought about something like that. Maybe designing a tour with a reputable tour company and meeting people there ~ I think doing it ourselves would be complicated with things like a tour bus, or van and insurance and so forth. But we could meet people along the route and that would be really fun! Possibly in the future …

  16. Jacqui Davey says:

    Hi Susan,
    Great news about the mugs being available in England….I have bought mine and am delighted with free postage! All I have to do now is wait for the postman to arrive….fantastic.
    I loved your description of Highclere…I will have to visit sometime…..when are you coming back to England? Will you write a new book?????
    We are visiting northern Ireland (giants causeway) and Pembrokeshire in Wales very soon for our holidays. We are using our National Trust guide book as our planner. We are also walking 56 miles of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland next week! Its good to explore you own country…..
    Take care and enjoy your beautiful garden.

    Jacqui. X (East Sussex….uk)

    • sbranch says:

      You live in a place of such constant beauty and wonderful history. The walks are my very favorite! Have a wonderful time, Jacqui! xoxo

  17. Pam says:

    Just ordered the Martha’s Vineyard mug – hooray. Thanks for looking after your UK girlfriends so well. Haven’t read all your post yet but just had to tell you, and whilst skimming through saw the pictures of the roses. The orange one is just gorgeous. xx

    • sbranch says:

      Just Joey is Just Gorgeous! Yay, on the mug too! SO happy this is working out!

      • Pam says:

        Have just finished reading your post. Highclere looks lovely, will have to visit. We were at Blenheim a couple of weeks ago. We have a yearly ticket so we can visit as often as we like during that year. We first went on my birthday and the ticket office girls sang happy birthday and gave me a chocolate. It made my day. 🙂

  18. Barbara from Virginia says:

    Life is Grand! Thank you for the tour of Downton Abbey. Hear there is a movie in the works….will it be as good as the series……will have to wait and see. Susan, how do you keep the Japanese Beetles from your roses??? They have eaten my roses to nubs!!! Your posts are such a light in the darkness of other news around us.

    • sbranch says:

      I put on my cruel shoes and flick them off my plants into a jar of mostly bleach, and water. They are so destructive! Thank you Barbara!

  19. Andi Geary says:

    Hi Susan, what a perfect blog, I loved very minute while on my lunch break! Life is Grand! 🙂

  20. Sally Jenks Roth says:

    Oh, Susan! Another deeelightful blog post. I love everything about it, too many things to comment on except for one or two…
    I am thrilled to see “dippy eggs and soldiers”, a favourite of my childhood and my children’s and now grandchildren’s! That particular egg looked almost perfect and I know from experience, that’s hard to do. Runny yolk but the white must not wobble! I must practice because I’m taking 3 generations to Cornwall in a month to stay by the sea. Great fun and very noisy, I’m sure.
    I’m happy for you that you enjoyed your visit to Highclere, even though your dreamy dining room was rather a disappointment. I loved the music, Isis ~ and the clip of the characters talking in “American” was just hilarious!
    Ending with your own roses was just perfect, I can almost smell them from Vermont. Appreciation, blessings and hugs, S

    • sbranch says:

      What a wonderful family memory you’ll be making in Cornwall! I can picture it now! Here’s to dippy eggs and soldiers!

  21. Jacki G. says:

    Love, love, love….. that’s all I have to say!

  22. Bernie says:

    Is it safe to assume you read the blog written by Lady Carnarvan? Anyone who is interested in Highclere, should read it. I discovered a couple years ago, while watching Downton Abbey. She seems so down to earth and assumes her role as “caretaker” of Highclere with great responsibility.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, I have, but not recently! I felt the same way, she’s down to earth and working very hard at her business. It’s a ton of work!

  23. Louise says:

    Love, love, love! Thank you!

  24. Candice says:

    Dearest Susan,
    This blog is so D-E-L-I-G-H-T-F-U-L!! It has just made my day!!! I feel like I have just had my very own personal (computer chair instead of armchair) tour!! All the lovely photos, garden views….”sigh” just the loveliest ever! Once again you never cease to amaze us!! Thank you so much for sharing your visit to Highclere with all of us Girlfriends!

  25. Gail Golden says:

    I miss Downton Abbey so much, so this was a great delight. Thanks for sharing it with us. It was like enjoying a box of chocolates!
    Joy to you and Joe!

  26. Beth from Iowa says:

    Hey Susan!!

    I’ll be attending a Paul McCartney concert this evening – I’ll be sure to tell him “Hello from Susan! (you remember the cute brunette from LA that stalked you a few years ago😉!) I can’t WAIT!!!!

  27. Stefanie says:

    What a wonderful excursion! Thank you for it! The theme music from Downton Abbey just makes one’s heart “hurt”!…such a wonderful series!…Once again, thank you for the fabulous armchair travel you allow us all!…

  28. Sheldon C. says:

    Loved your post today. I look forward to reading your blog. I check every day and do a happy dance when I see a new one. Thank you for bringing light in a dark world. You are so gifted. Thank you for taking the time to share your life with us.

    • sbranch says:

      My pleasure, what sweet words ~ thank you! I’m happy to see you here. I’m watching/listening to the 1935 version of Tale of Two Cities while I’m reading and answering comments. I was struck by the first familiar opening lines of the Dickens book,

      “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period.”

      And so it is and has been forever!

  29. Mamey Brown says:

    What A Wonderful Trip you had!!!! Downton was AMAZING!!!!! I LOVE the pictures of you and Joe. SMILING!! So fun! Thanks so much for sharing with your “Girlfriends”. It was such a joy!

  30. Debbie Boerger says:

    Thank you so very much for the lovely 72nd Birthday Present!!! I wasn’t able to read it last night, but it was my bestest present this morning. Will read all the comments and responses later.

    We will be driving right past Highclear in May, on the way to Oxford. It’s not open then, but I will check to see if there is anything special that day that would allow for a visit. Have you read about the Carnarvon family? Seriously fascinating. I’m a weirdo re archaeology and ancient history, so I was haunting the musty bookshelves of our old library when I was in 6th grade. I checked out and read the 2 musty old volumes about the search for and excavation of King “Tut’s” tomb, by Howard Carter? My mother got a call from the librarian letting her know that she worried that I was somehow “strange”!!! My mother agreed and thanked her for the concern, telling her to allow me to check out any and all books I wanted. Did they talk about that and show you any of the few artifacts they have in the Castle?

    It’s nasty hot today, will be about 90. Very few people have AC here. After 3 doc’s appointments yesterday morning, we went to our favorite breakfast place, Martha’s Diner. It has no widows, but doors open at both ends. Even with perspiration (Sweat!) poring off everyone, all the tables were full. Favorite waitress brought extra napkins so we could mop ourselves.

    Tom and my best friend here are taking me out to eat tonight, an Air Conditioned place!!! I’ll be hold up in the loft with the new, portable AC this afternoon. Stay cool, Sweetie. I remind myself that the tomatoes love, love, love this heat….and I’m for anything that brings me more heirloom “maters”.

    Mucho Love,
    Debbie in Down(East) Maine, the place God wanted me to be!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, there was quite a lot about the King Tut discovery and a few artifacts were on there on display ~ what a story! But most everything had been sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I think they were putting together a display of the things they still had for the Castle. You would LOVE it, Birthday Girl. My FIRST tomato was sitting all rosy red in the garden when I went out to stare at it this morning. Came right off the vine. Unblemished. I took pictures of it. Not eating it until Joe gets up! Life is good! Stay cool Debbie!

  31. DeLynn says:

    All, I can say is Wow! What an experience. I was having difficulty reading between my tears…can only try to imagine how you must have felt during the tour. Thanks so much for sharing that with us. Luuuvvv your painting for the 2019 calendar. Cannot wait to order that calendar and see more of your endless creativity!

  32. Stephanie says:

    Oh sigh. I had to write down notes as I was reading so I could remember everything I wanted to say. “braking for pheasants . . . we would brake for peasants too, but nary a one to be found . . .” – you do make me smile. The floor plan of Highclere is itself amazing, all those beautiful rooms and each with such a specific purpose. Fascinating. This bit also made me smile: “Remember the gallery upstairs? Scene of the crimes? Dragging of the body? Birthing of the baby? Skulking around by Thomas, rude intrusion by smug Miss Bunting?”. I know you weren’t allowed to take photos, but were you allowed to touch things? Oh to be able to graze my hand along all that glorious fabric and furniture, and to walk those floors, too! And then the outside – oh my word, it’s gorgeous in fall, but then in spring?! I can just imagine. Sigh. The tea and gift shop: mmm, I miss having a cream tea in England. I think that’s one of the loveliest, one of my favourite, things on earth – a cream tea. And the hats are fantastic :). I also love, love, love the dragons guarding the front door (in your “saying goodbye” picture). Thank you so much for “taking us along” with you. And thank you for the rose pictures – those make me smile, too.

    • sbranch says:

      I didn’t even try to touch anything. I knew I would knock over a picture frame or something and die a thousand deaths, so I kept my hands to myself. I always touch the outside walls of old buildings, but not the silk wallpaper! So happy you enjoyed our visit, Stephanie!

  33. Dixie Johnson says:

    Just returned from “Downton Abbey”(Highclere), Bampton(the real Downton Village), & the farm which was Yew Tree Farm in the series! Loved it all!We went on the Downton Tour on July 9th & just returned from the UK last night. Loved the Cotswolds but also Kent—Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, & Chartwell (Churchill’s gardens are beautiful also). And Knole—private garden there is being open on Tues as a trial— we were lucky to see it! Thanks for all your inspiration & ideas! Have a beautiful summer on the Vineyard!

    • sbranch says:

      What serendipity! You get home and find yourself right back there! You’re bringing back wonderful memories Dixie! How did Sissinghurst look? Was the white garden all in bloom? We loved the brick wall and playhouse Churchill built.

      • Dixie Johnson says:

        The white garden was in bloom(one reason I went when I did) & I was amazed by the large white thistles! Also we did notice Churchill’s garden wall & the sweet playhouse—how he loved children & animals!It seems his family and home were so important to him even with his task of basically saving the world!! We just saw Dunkirk & can’t wait to see the new Churchill movie that comes out in November.

      • Arline Arnold says:

        Thank you Sue and Dixie for getting my heart pumping with this post. We are taking the Downton filming tour out of London in 4 weeks. Didn’t think that the rooms would naturally be different from filming. Hoping for good cell service and I’ll bring up your blog while on the tour to help remember what happened where. Thanks for the research and recap Sue! Arline in CA

  34. diana from ancaster says:

    Dolce far niente………………………

  35. Frances Fowler says:

    Highclere Castle. All I can say for the whole thing, is Pure Swoon. Or perhaps Pure Swoon Plain and Simple (PSPS for short). You both really look understandably delirious! Did y’all just not want to go up and dress for dinner? Vintage gowns, of course, though Joe may not have wanted to wear one of those truly uncomfortable looking stiff collars the men had to wear. The picture of the pink roses between the hedges looks like a furry stuffed animal creature with teeth ^_^ Thank you so much for sharing it all with us! Back at your home, sweet home, the turkey happily perched atop the birdbath is hilarious! And, oh, how I love the Back to School illustration for 2019; I remember the smells of freshly sharpened pencils and chalk dust, and how exciting it was to buy new dresses for school at Sears and saddle oxfords at Buster Brown’s or Higgins downtown. That was ’68 and rounding how the era of how girls dresses for school (so sad). I start back to school in about a week (waaaay to early), but it’s still my favorite time of the school year, especially as it moves into fall. Here’s my vote for literally returning to The Old School!

    • sbranch says:

      Actually, oddly, Joe would likely be more into dressing for dinner than me. He owns a tuxedo, always has since I’ve known him. Likes to get dressed up on the ships too, and looks perfectly beautiful when he does! I’m more of a jeans and rumpled linen kind of girl, but I do it for him! And also so they’ll let me into the dining room! Your back to school memories are just like mine! The smells come right back to me as I read your words!

  36. Peggy Willoughby says:

    Thank you once again for sharing your UK adventures. Wonderful! One of the places I would love to visit in England is the Cornwall village where the Doc Martin series was filmed. My Tom and I have watched the whole series a few times and anything we could find about Port Wenn/Port Isaac. A trip to the UK is a dream. But sometimes dreams do come true. I had always wanted to see Hawaii, especially after reading James Michner’s book. And I always wanted to visit the Southwest of the US. I wanted to be a cowgirl since I was about 5. In one of my past careers I got to do both. I planned business trips that incorporated play time and sightseeing and even a cattle drive where I was in horseback. So I will keep in dreaming and hope to travel to the UK. Thank again , Susan, for sharing with us. Your blogs always make my day. Cannot wait for my mugs to arrive. Keep in painting! Love you!

    • sbranch says:

      Hawaii was SUCH a good book. I loved it. I still love it! We’re going to get to Cornwall on this next trip! Your dreams seem to manifest Peggy, you’ll get there!

  37. Jen Auslund says:

    You just do everything so beautifully for us dearheart! Attaching the Downton Abbey Suite~ oh my stars! It gives me goose bumps. My sweet man and I are heading to the English Countryside for 3 weeks very soon and your “Fine Romance” is our guidebook! We will celebrate his 60th birthday in York. Thank you for the gentle spirit and inspiration you add to this world! We are blessed by God to have been given the gift of you~

    • sbranch says:

      Oh Jen, thank you so much. Have a wonderful trip! York is such a delightful city! I would love to know it better. Happy Birthday to your wonderful guy and bon voyage!

  38. Carrie from Canada says:

    Hi again! I forgot to mention Victoria, BC, Canada, has CASTLES too! If you google “Hatley Castle” and “Craigdarroch Castle,” in Victoria, you will see pictures of our castles. Lots of rich history in Victoria. No, we dont live there but have visited it all many times.
    Going to The Empress Hotel for afternoon Tea is a fabulous experience, depends too, on who is in charge of the Tea and what day you go apparently. I bet they would roll out the ‘red carpet’ for you upon your arrival, at The Empress. You ARE considered royalty here! C. xo.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, you most certainly do have castles in Victoria! I just googled them, how gorgeous they are! We’ve always wanted to go there, just haven’t gotten up to the left-hand corner of everything quite yet. Always something more wonderful to see! You are a sweetheart Carrie, thank you!

  39. Haley says:

    I swear I can smell those roses through the computer, Susan. Thank you for sharing Highclere with us. I just started re-watching Downton Abbey with my boyfriend and I think he likes it!

    I’m a bookseller and I always recommend your books when people come in asking for “feel-good” books (which happens a lot these days). They always cheer me up!

    • sbranch says:

      Didn’t take Joe very long to fall in love with Downton too … fun to watch it together! Thank you for the recommendations … My books have always been word-of-mouth, and it’s the booksellers (and my Girlfriends) who’ve made it happen! I am so grateful. xoxo

  40. Patti Fitzgerald from Skippack, PA says:

    Dearest Susan, your Highclere blog is like deja vu for me! We visited there in September 2013, and it was every bit as enchanting as you’ve described it! Unfortunately, we couldn’t tour the complete grounds and gardens because of intermittant showers, but we loved everything else, as you did. My favorite room is the library . . . so much red, so many books!! And just the incredibly awesome feeling of knowing that I stood in the very spot where my favorite characters stood . . . heaven!! I am so looking forward to a future Downton Abbey movie – – we own the entire series on DVD, as well as the hardcover books that have been published about the series. There is even a miniature replica of Highclere Castle hanging on our Christmas tree each year! Thank you for allowing me to stroll down Memory Lane with you . . . . .

    I love how you tuck all kinds of delicious little tidbits of life into your blogs. Your photographs are food for my soul – – do you use your cell phone camera, as well as the real thing? Whatever it is that you’re doing – keep it up! And many thanks to Joe, as well, for his contributions, and for supporting you in all that you do – – you are so blessed to have such a wonderful relationship! Many more blessings to you both in the years ahead!

    • sbranch says:

      I couldn’t do what I do without Joe! Or, Kellee, or Sheri, or YOU for that matter. It takes a village. Thank you so much. And yes, I use both my cell phone and my regular camera. They take slightly different versions of the same photos … one usually a tiny bit better than the other, but both good. And, PS, Downton Forever!

  41. Sue Glanders says:

    Have you ever heard of a more smile inducing name than Capability Brown? I love it.

  42. Gill K says:

    Thank you for making your cups available here in England. I have just ordered Autumn & am so looking forward to getting it. It is very appropriate as our house is called Squirrels!

  43. Rose Eubank says:

    I have been a fan for years and have all your books and a bunch of other things but I have just started reading your blog. I love it of course. Felt like I was along with you at the castle. Wish I had been!

    • sbranch says:

      Armchair travel is a good thing!

      • Rose Eubank says:

        True , but being there would be just a tad better I am thinking!😊

        • sbranch says:

          The smells … I really wish I could send them through the blog! I can video the leaping baaing lambs and the scudding clouds, but the smell of the sky and the green things growing is something non-transferable!

  44. Pat Johnson says:

    Ahhhhhh!! You provided me with a beautiful dream and I thank you! I am at my cabin in Washington and I brought all of the DVDs of Downton Abbey to watch. This truly put me in the mood. Watching you and Joe on your journey makes me smile get bigger and my heart rejoice! You are two amazing people whom I love dearly. Thank you both for being YOU!!!! Hugs and pleasant journey!

    • sbranch says:

      Perfect place to watch Downton! Glad to hear you are out of the heat, Pat. And thank you as always, love having you here.

  45. Jane Alexander says:

    Susan, reading your blog is soooo special. Sort of like sitting in a beautiful chair with roses all over it, and having tea with you, and maybe a scone. Seeing the castle in real life has also been wonderful for us. It reminds us that life goes on, and so do memories. We love you, and so enjoy being one of your girlfriends. I love the coincidences people mention. How refreshing.
    Lots of love,

  46. Ann R. says:

    How lovely to revisit Highclere through your pictures. We were there last year in August with a tour group. I saw those wild flowers blooming in the long grass.
    Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

  47. Bobbi Humphrey Austin says:

    Dear Susan

    I have so enjoyed finding your blog site. What a talented woman you have always been and it is so much fun to peek over your shoulder again after so many years.
    I loved you taking us on your wonderful adventure. That was one of my favorite TV series. So to go with you to see the location was amazing. Looking forward to having one of your new calendars.

  48. Gretchen says:

    Thank you for all the wonderful photos, thoughts, and stories from Downton Abbey. As I looked at the photos of the long drive up to the mansion, I thought of the question I always wondered about when I watched the series. How did Cora, Robert, the rest of the family, and the staff all know when a guest had arrived. Like clockwork, they were always standing outside, in formation at times, as the car pulled up and the guests stepped out of the car. Did they have Anna upstairs in the tower watching for the car?

  49. Lori Montgomery says:

    Lovely, lovely, lovely! Thanks for sharing with us Susan!

  50. Laurie I says:

    All I can say is WOW!! If I never make it to England, you’ve given me a beautiful glimpse into the treasure called Downton Abbey. Thank you for sharing these perfect pictures with us. What wonderful memories you have.

    • sbranch says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Laurie … it definitely doubles my pleasure to share it with my Girlfriends! xoxo

  51. Susan Roubal says:

    What a lovely surprise to find awaiting me on my laptop with my first, most delicious cup of coffee this morning. I was already happy remembering the doe and twin spotted fawns playing in our backyard last evening. Your columns are always transporting. The musica helps set the mood and your writing, photos and painting does the rest. Thank you for sharing your talent with all of us.
    Susan from the U.P.of Michigan

  52. Stephanie C says:

    Thank you for the visit to Downton Abbey, how I do miss it so much. I always forget that you have fabric on Spoonflower. I am always on the hunt for it in quilt shops. Thank you for always brightening my day with your wonderful words, pictures and music. You are so sweet!


  53. Mary Brehm says:

    Hi Sue! I have been busy busy all week and saved your post for my early Saturday Morning Coffee time. Sitting on the deck, listening to the birdies all the while the Downty theme playing in the background….pure heaven.
    I Love those bluebird cups and the wrapping paper…so gosh darn sweet, but then everything you do is sweet. Cant get enough of it.
    It has been wicked hot here as well. I washed my sheets and hung them on the line yesterday and thought of you. They smelled so good when I climbed into bed last night. One caveat about hanging things on the line…..Check them before you bring them into the house!. Whilst I was sitting on the deck and enjoying my Susan/Downty time, my hubby came out of the house gingerly holding a magazine flat, and on that magazine was a GIGANTIC AND I MEAN GIGANTIC JUNE BUG! Like Jurassic park sized! I almost died. He found it on the hall floor outside of our bedroom. The only thing I can think of is that it was in the sheets!!! And I slept in them all night!!!! Shutter, gives me chills and willies just writing about it!
    I so loved your recollections of Highclere Castle. How lucky you were to see it. It must have felt surreal to you. I would have been floating.
    I love your Turkey Friend…I think you should paint him. Does he have a name? I’m assuming it’s a he. Maybe an old fashioned man’s name like, George,Howard, Herman or just plane Frank. Makes me giggle.
    Have a wonderful Saturday doing nothing. I will be doing the same.
    Love ya! <3

    • sbranch says:

      LOL, laughing about the June Bug and the willies. Now I think your story is giving ME the willies. Thank you for the warning! Here it might be an earwig and I would just hate that! Yes, the Castle was an out of body experience! Hard to understand that you can reach out and touch the wall and it’s actually there! Our turkey is a girl. The He’s of the bunch, have the huge back feathers. I’ll have to think about that name. You know how good I am at naming kitties, lord knows what I will do with a turkey!

      • Mary Brehm says:

        HaHaHa! We have earwigs as well. Equally icky! As too naming your girl Friend the turkey, may I suggest Ida, Emily, Any of the Downty names, Lady Cora,Rose (in honor of your roses) or any flower name for that matter! Delphinium, Dell for short, Lily, Daisy and last but not least Girl Turkey! Having fun Here. It’s a pretty morning. Gonna go play in my garden. <3

  54. Gerri Daniels says:

    Dearest Susan,
    I’ve been checking daily to see what you’re up to…what excitement when I discovered a post this morning, and Highclere no less! Our most favorite series of all time, even my husband was addicted. We ended up buying all the seasons so we can watch it when the mood strikes.
    You were so lucky to go behind the scenes, as it were, and roam the castle as if you were visiting friends. And I’m sure if they had been there, or you had been there then you would have been friends!
    So thank you for taking us along on this visit, I felt like I was walking along beside you. Being English it seems to me it would be like it going home.

    • sbranch says:

      I’m sure it would feel like that. I have extremely distant but strong connections to England … stronger all the time, and feel it every time I go.

  55. Kat Fry on Rose Creek Farm says:

    What a wonderful Jaunt down(ton) Memory Lane! It’s muck out work morning on the Farm & I’m sitting here with my coffee in my SB ‘Loves Nature mug’! & cutoffs with a pink & black dotted cami under a worn pink ruffled western shirt that has the sleeves cut off, my pink chewed up (by goats of course) cowboy hat sitting beside me. And mentally for a moment I am with y’all in beautiful England, Loved the tiny room at the hotel! So pretty. And, I shall forever now remember Capability Brown by that fun little diddy: Water-Bridge-Follies-& Trees. Oh CB we Thank you for these! All those bits of History & that wonderful Show! My favorite ‘Oh So Susan” story was the Dining Room bit. I can see you wondering where is the Dining Room?” Laughed so hard! I have those Moments a lot! Those wildflowers in the Spring must be a Heavenly sight to see & smell! What a Sight! And that Gift & Tea Shoppe! Uh Oh! I saw at least 18 hats that somehow would have to make their way Home with me! It was all so Magical! Y’all looked so Happy & Contented! And pinch yourselves “is this real”! That word ‘undulating’, just rolls off the tongue! I think it shall be my ‘Word of the Day.
    I always love that Group Photo of y’all’s BYO Picnic Basket Party at Stourhead…you can see everyone Laughing! Not just smiling, but Laughing! Love it!
    And back on MV…Home Sweet Home for y’all. Loved the scrap of paper from 2010. Says it all. Where else could there be your own ‘turkey in a birdbath’;your suprises in your pathwalk bouquet; that Jack in his own bouquet of catnip! All those Special catch your breath & laugh out loud Moments! And Family Comin’ To Boot! Break out in Song!
    So thrilled to hear all the excitement of our girlfriends across the Pond on getting their SB mugs! We shall all join together in mugs of favorite beverages!
    Welp, that mucking out won’t get done if I don’t say Bye for now & get my backside out there! Thanks for the Sweet & Fun Start to the Day! XOXOXO

    • sbranch says:

      We called that photo our “Class Photo” ~ I so hope we can do another one next year. Class of 2018! You are such a blessings-counter my dear Kat! The secret to a happy life! Don’t you love it when your friends count your blessings for you? You sometimes forget just how MUCH you have, and when they do that, all you can feel is grateful! Hug your little lambs for me, they must be getting big now!

  56. Thank you for all that you do for the world! You make it a better, gentler place!

  57. Wendy Louise says:

    Dear Susan,
    What a wonderful visit I had! I had to come back for another read!!! I love that you express your excitement in words that I can feel, and therefore get excited with you! Thank-you for this wonderful, beautiful regality tour! Looking forward to your next real tour in 2018. I am waiting patiently for your new mugs, Christmas shopping in the summer is so much fun. Have a terrific rest of the summer painting and loving on Joe and Jack! Sweet daydreaming, Wendy Louise XXOO

    • sbranch says:

      What I love about Christmas shopping now is, I order things, and forget I did, and then when they come in, I get surprised, and suddenly my shopping is done! 🤗 Very festive! Always good to hear from you Wendy Louise!

  58. Jann says:

    Hello Susan,
    Just to say I ordered both the Autumn 🍂 and Christmas 🎅 cups on Thursday from the lovely people at Nursery Thyme and they arrived this morning. (Saturday)
    The cups are beautiful, I love cups and to have your artwork on them as well is just perfect.
    The people and service from Nursery Thyme was so good.
    Thank you for sorting it out for everyone in the U.K.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh Jann, you’re the second person on earth that has them! 👏 You and Deborah in Wales. See? It pays to live in the UK. In more ways than one! I’m happy you like them. I only have samples here; they are beautiful, but I can’t use them because the design isn’t permanent. I can’t wait to see the real things. Yay for Nursery Thyme coming to our rescue. Makes me so happy it’s working out, thanks for letting me know. xoxo

  59. Linda Who Still Says "Land !" says:

    Can’t wait to receive your mugs (Vineyard, Santa and Blue Bird) ordered today for a weekend fest of Downtown Abbey episodes this Fall. When you brought the paper version of the Blue Bird cup to the June book signing at Titcomb Books in Sandiwch on Cape Cod, just knew I had to have one if not several. I will be tickled pink to receive the delivery of mugs and land ! so many ideas for filling each to the brim. The fabric and wrapping paper from SpoonFlower is next on my list of items to order. One question : where can I purchase cupcake pick tops in the Girl Friend motif as seen on desserts served at the Titcomb book signing tea?

    • sbranch says:

      Write [email protected]/~susanbs3/susanbranch/ and ask if they still have the cupcake toppers. I think we do! Glad you got your cups in time. I ordered extra this time, but, Land! I can already see them starting to disappear! 😘

  60. Marie Fluck says:

    What a lovely blog today! So fun to see Downton Abbey pics again. Sure do miss that show!! Love your roses. Happy Days! Hugs, Marie Fluck

  61. Elizabeth says:

    The music from Downton Abbey made you feel as if you were there along with the pictures. Made my day!!

  62. LimnerC says:

    Thanks for taking us places we cannot go!

  63. Jan Johnson says:

    Wow, what a wonderful blog post! I can’t believe all the access you had at Highclere and also got to ramble around the grounds! I can’t believe you got to go in the bedrooms – so cool. That is on my bucket list. The house is just so stately – I looked up that word and it is perfect, meaning: having a dignified, unhurried, and grand manner; majestic in manner and appearance. Grand, unhurried, dignified. Oh I miss Downton!

    And that Capability Brown sure knew what he was doing, thus his moniker I guess. His gardens look like many pastoral paintings I have seen at our museum. Although if I were him I would use my real first name if it was Lancelot and I were a man!

    Your garden is so beautiful – neat and orderly yet at the same time free and flowing like an English cottage garden. Such beautiful roses and lilies! It has been 100 degree heat index in Georgia and I have no air-conditioning in my room – this post took me out of my misery. I think you ought to make a book of some of your blog posts – a best seller no doubt! I so adore that art of Mary and her little lamb! I can’t wait to see that calendar. God bless and thanks for the wonderful escapes and delights your blogs offer.

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Jan. I cringe to hear about you having no air conditioning in such terrible heat … we’ve been melting here too, mostly because of the humidity, and finally put in our window air conditioners which have made such a difference. We only have them downstairs, upstairs we chew the air before we breathe it … but we have a ceiling fan in our bedroom which makes it bearable. Maybe it’s time for an afternoon in a nice air-conditioned movie theater! Thank you for your sweet words . . . take care of yourself! xoxo

  64. Rosemary Monk--Near Boston says:

    Hello dear Susan,
    I read your blog as soon as it arrived in my email box, on Thurs., then life kind of kidnapped me, so here it is Sat. night and I’m scribbling quickly before my fingers give out. I loved reading and viewing your Highclere adventure, such grand pictures. It’s almost a good thing (almost) I wasn’t there; I fell in love with and drooled over all the gorgeous hats in the little shop, and would have–perhaps not broken my bank, but have given in a real good crack. But my favorite photos this time were of your roses. I grew up on a farm, with an apple orchard (a “family orchard”–just 100 trees), vegetable and fruit gardens, big old house and barn and a bunch of flower gardens that my mother lovingly tended. There was a formal, square garden to one side of the house, huge old pine trees at the corners, and two entrances. Guarding each entrance was a pergola, one covered with white roses and the other with what my mother called Five Sister Red roses. Fifty-plus years later I close my eyes and can see every inch of that garden, almost smell the rich scent from those blooms. Your roses are so beautiful! The colors are fabulous, such a joy to see. I unfortunately didn’t inherit my mother’s and grandmother’s green thumbs, but we do have three little bushes in our back yard, and they produce sweet pink and red and white roses that we can enjoy. Do keep sending us your wonderful pictures, terrific stories, incredible artwork. Your blog and Willard are the two nicest things that come through my emails, they make my day. Please say howdy to Joe and give Jack a chin scratch for me. Sending love, Rosemary

    • sbranch says:

      I’ll do that Rosemary, and thank you for a dream-walk through your family farm, it sounds so romantic. Apple blossom time, you must have sung that every year. 😘

  65. Rachel says:

    I have only just discovered you and your website and blog a couple of weeks ago and have already bought two of your books….wish I had found you years ago. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom and dreams with us. You are just lovely.

  66. Martha says:

    Thank you once again for sharing your wonderful trip! Loved all the pictures! I love all your home pictures too. My favorite is the wild turkey in the birdbath! We just got back from Acadia National Park in Maine! My first time ever and I fell in love with that beautiful state! We stayed in Bar Harbor or as they say “Bah-haba”. We hiked and saw the most beautiful views, an incredible sunrise by the ocean, and rode bike through Carriage Trails where no motorized vehicles are permitted. We walked across the sand bar during low tide to Bar Island and back. Later that evening when the tide came in, you would never know there was a sandbar. We are definitely going back. So much more to see and so many more quaint shops to see! I’m definitely in love with Maine!

    • sbranch says:

      You went to some really wonderful places Martha! Easy to fall in love with Maine! xoxo

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      Martha, I’m so glad you loved your visit to our area of Maine. Next time you come, try out the Schoodic area. Its part of the National park as well. Less crowded. I fell hard for Maine over 30 years ago. Now I lucky to be living here for 6 months of the year. We’re way off the beaten path, but about half hour to both units of Acadia.

      Debbie in Maine

  67. Susan Morgon ( Ohio gal from SoCal ) says:

    What a grand thing, to get a little tour around Downty with you! Also grand is the news that the mugs have arrived! I have some shelf space cleared and waiting. Reading about Jack and his mint made me smile. I’m sure he thought his life couldn’t get any better! I can tell you are relaxed and enjoying your summer. Isn’t life fun?

    • sbranch says:

      It sure is! I’m waiting patiently for my own cups to arrive. I’m kind of lower down on the list and Patience has never been my middle name. But I’m living vicariously through everyone as the first cups arrive to our Girlfriend’s kitchens. Makes my day! xoxo

  68. Sarah from SLO says:

    I was just at Highclere Castle in June for another one of their “special” openings. It was so magical!! I didn’t get to me the countess 🙁 but she did give us all signed copies of her new coffee table book. She seems like a lovely lady. I adored my time at the castle, and wished I could have stayed all day (an maybe even a night in one of the lovely bedrooms!) I felt just like I was in Downton Abbey! One of the guides said the best time to come is on one of the special open days, because when it’s open to the public there could be multiple thousands of people on the property at once. I can’t imagine!! It was so peaceful with just the hundred or so people there, which I imagine was the same for you and Joe. I can’t wait to hear about your upcoming England adventure. That thatched cottage looks heavenly 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      I can tell the Countess of Carnarvon is a generous soul. She knows her castle is a gift, she loves to share it, and the real giveaway, are all her added extras, including access, books, and her time. Those are the perfect kinds of people to be put in charge of wonderful things! Joe and I have been planning. Can’t wait to share!

  69. Laurie Walt says:

    Thank you for the castle tour, it was fun to see it through your eyes! The mint green room was my favorite, who could be sad in that space?! Your garden looks great and I was not surprised to see some fall looking leaves already. Everything here in Illinois seems to be ahead of schedule and I’ve been thinking early fall. That would be great as long as that doesn’t mean early winter! The mugs are beautios! Drinking coffee from my little things mug as we speel! Love.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, L O N G Fall, starting early and lasting until about December 15, when it begins to snow lightly like at the end of Bridge Jones Diary. I’m drinking from LOVE this morning. Here’s to us Laurie!

  70. Holly Field says:

    Thank you for giving me a lovely Sunday afternoon read! The pics & your new painting are beautiful. Enjoy the rest of summer. I’m patiently waiting for my favorite time—Fall.

    • sbranch says:

      Us too! Getting a wee bit of a taste this morning, fresh cool breezes blowing, wearing a cotton sweater! Almost 6 am, I already took Joe his tea, want to get OUT on our walk, it’s so windy and gorgeous.

  71. Janice Nelson says:

    Ok, so I loved this blog post. Now having proper tea with teapot and cup, lovely linen napkin all on a beautiful tray……and eureka, new idea……I need a Susan Branch tray. It would be so lovely and useful! My favorite trays are by Mariposa, but a similar one with your creations would be a delight. Something to ponder…….

    I also enjoy a book I found years ago at a library book sale called Special Teas. It came out in 1992. I still love it. Recipes and pictures, little illustrations of teacups on the inside covers. Then I thought, I would just love a little tea book filled with recipes and beautiful illustrations. Hmmmm…..hint, hint.

    • sbranch says:

      I have collected all the recipes for a tea book … everything is ready except I need to DO it… hopefully I will get it done!

  72. Susan Bochman says:

    Highclere may have been the highlight of your trip last year but being at the picnic with you at Stourhead was the highlight of my trip to England. It was a wonderful afternoon full of wonderful people from many walks of life. Bob and I so enjoyed it. Would you believe that one of the guests that I met there was originally from the little village where I taught school in Virginia. See the magic you make when you get people together. When is the next picnic? Keep your wonderful blogs coming.

    • sbranch says:

      I couldn’t agree more ~ Stourhead has been the highlight of all our trips (and that’s saying something!) … it was such an impossible thing to happen, I’m still not over it! We hope to do another one next year. Have to get everything figured out before I start telling everyone! It was magic wasn’t it Susan? Hello to Bob for me!

  73. Debbie Boerger says:

    Ahhhhh, a lovely break in the heat. I hope your magical island is loving the coolness as well.

    I did a long soak in my ancient clawfoot tub yesterday. (Another “medicine” better than Big Pharma) Listening to my Musica, looking at the clouds and treetops, soaking up to my neck in soothing herbs.

    I love your teases re the coming trip to England. Now What Can She Have Up Her Sleeve? You are just too good, Dearie!

    Mucho Summer Love,
    Debbie in DownEast Maine…..

    • sbranch says:

      I am so with you on the bubble bath cure … 😍 And, I have something SO GOOD up my sleeve, I can barely stand myself. It colors my every day. While I clean out cupboards, I am smiling, because I know about this secret. You’ll see! xoxo

  74. Margot in Sister Bay says:

    Summer is in full swing here too. I love blue hydrangeas, here we have more of the old fashioned snowball ones that my grandmother had.
    When did capability Brown build his bridges? I always think of the painting of the girl and or boy taking the cows over the bridge. Was he the original architect of these bridges, or did he just use them in his park landscaping? I know they have been copied here in city parks.
    Thanks for the Highclere tour. We are planning a trip to Cornwall too. Arnie was stationed there in 1998-2001. We also need to go to Lincolnshire. His paternal family came over from there.

    • sbranch says:

      Downton (okay, I know, Highclere!) was celebrating the 300th birthday of Capability Brown, so his bridges are OLD! But there were bridges before that, I’m sure he just made what he liked. The stone bridge at Stourhead is not paved, it’s grass. Grass on stone. Just the most romantic thing. We’ve only dipped our toe into Cornwall so far, need to go back for the whole adventure!

  75. Maria Shiyou says:

    I agree! God is happy with you painting on Martha’s Vineyard! Let’s keep Him happy 😊

  76. Samantha says:

    I am still catching up on the archives of your blog and paused to read your new entry. I love Downton Abbey. Probably the best, most delicious series I have ever watched. Thank you for bringing us back with your beautiful photography.

    It is a little tough to be able to purchase all of your mugs so when I saw that your designs were on Spoonflower I may have squealed a little! I am so happy about the paper and fabric…I think I have ten projects tabbed in my crafty brain. This is an affordable way to enjoy your lovely designs and get creating ❤ Thank you. Have a beautiful week Susan.

    • sbranch says:

      I love Spoonflower … the people who started that are pure genius! I just received samples for the Santa and the Autumn Leaves gift wrap, they looked gorgeous, so they are now UP and available on Spoonflower. They make it so easy! Happy crafting Samantha!

  77. Jeannie says:

    Gotta just love the English countryside! What precious sheep, I want to jump out of the car and hug them! And the pheasant! Oh my!

    Thanks Susan and Joe for the wonderful pictures and music!

    Chirp Chirp!!! 🙂

  78. Angie Quantrell says:

    Gorgeous! Now we all need to take a trip! Beautiful and magical and fantastic! Add this to my bucket list…

  79. Jenny says:

    Hello Susan! I’ve been thinking about something and decided that I would just ask you instead of wondering in my head! I’ve seen in pictures your BEAUTIFUL cameo ring and I wondered if you would talk a little about it? I’ve always wanted one and yours looks so unique that I just thought I’d ask. If it’s too personal and you don’t want to talk about it, I completely understand.

    Lastly, I’m not on Twitter but I do read your Tweets and wanted to say one thing. I’ve noticed that the people who tell you not to give your opinions on politics, etc. don’t follow the same philosophy on their own Twitter accounts. I don’t like hypocrisy and I also believe that life is too short not to say what you feel, particularly on something that is yours. So please remember that although you paint and say beautiful things, you do not also hold a responsibility to never voice your thoughts on things. Our peace is not your responsibility and it disturbs me that folks want you to remain in a tight little box of THEIR choosing! So please, just “do you” and know that you don’t exist to please everyone. You already do a mighty fine job of pleasing many!


    • sbranch says:

      You are so sweet Jenny. Thank you. When you look at the main Twitter feed, you see it’s almost all about politics ~ some of it is thoughtful, some of it’s profane, and some of it looks like it’s there just because people like to argue! I’d say that most of my Tweets are about a happy life of gardens and watercolors, dinner and baby showers, and when the new cups are coming. But once in a while I do say something about our world, mostly when I see our government leaving behind their mandate to work FOR the people or if I have a world-changing idea of brilliance that I simply cannot contain. 🙄 And then someone might yell at me to shut up. Understandably.🤐 But then I check their Twitter account, expecting to see all hearts and flowers and be jealous because I am not so controlled, but it almost always turns out to be filled with fiery political opinion. So, then I say, in a sing song voice, what-ever. Your support means so much to me! I’m trying so hard not to be a part of the fray. As for my cameo…they used to be inexpensive at antique stores, maybe they still are, but I fell in love with them a long time ago. Just so detailed and beautiful. My two favorites are a lovely, square-shaped ring with the head of a Victorian woman on a peach background, and a larger one, a gold oval on a brown background, a Victorian man with a beard. When I bought the second one, the antique-store lady had a card that said he is Lord Tennyson ~ I’ll never know for sure, but he’s the one who said, ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” so I’ve decided to believe it. I like to wear the two rings together, one on each hand, facing each other… very romantic. xoxo

      • Carrie says:

        I have long been interested in your cameo rings. So pleased Jenny asked about them. I believe I’ve mentioned I, too, collect cameos. The most recent one is on Wedgwood blue (what stone?) with a white beautiful lady with curly manes of hair. I looked at her in the Nevada City for over 2 years until she came home with me.

        And I could not more heartily agree with Jenny on the matter of sharing your thoughts/concerns/ideas on your twitter feed. You provide much needed succor to the masses with all you do.


        • sbranch says:

          I’m like you Carrie, not always able or wanting to provide myself with instant gratification, with some things, I need to think about it … and it’s more rewarding to wait, and drool, wait and then, strike when the iron’s hot. I’m so happy you have your girl. And thank you for the sweet thoughts on succor! xoxoxo

  80. nan says:

    Dear Susan,
    Another lovely post, you introduce me to so many beautiful places and things! Love, love, love it. Fiona and I just had breakfast Friday at the Wenham Tea House. Have you been there? Very cute and quaint, it is the oldest teahouse in America. It would be a perfect place for you to give a book talk with a tea. And I am not just saying that because it is very convenient to me!!! 😉 Your roses are beautiful and I like your pet turkey. Hope you are enjoying your summer.

  81. JoAnne Daniels says:

    Once again, Susan, I so enjoyed your blog — loved the photographic journey to Highclere and the beautiful gardens. Photos of Jack always appreciated! I’m sitting in hospital, waiting to see my husband after back surgery — reading your blog was a welcome distraction!
    Enjoy the rest of your summer.
    JoAnne, from rainy NW New Jersey

    • sbranch says:

      Best to you and your husband … hope he’s better soon. At least he’s on the other side of this one, only way now is up! xoxo

  82. jeanie says:

    Oh my, biggest sigh. Did you know (by now you probably do) that the countess has now written a book on tea at Downton? Oops. Highclere. It just showed up on my Amazon page. Funny how they know you. (Yours show up too — but they don’t know I couldn’t wait and got them elsewhere!)

    What a splendid post! So beautiful and I loved seeing more of the grounds than we usually do. The gift shop looks charming and even your hotel, albeit for very wee people! Thanks for taking us there!

    • sbranch says:

      It is funny how they know you. Fairly sure I don’t care for that, but then sometimes, I think I do! Yes, ha ha, our hotel was for very wee people with NO luggage! 😜 xoxo

  83. Lida says:

    Oh I love your visit to Highclere! Thank you for taking us along. I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to go to England but you sure have made it magical for me! Thank you!

    • sbranch says:

      Arm chair travel is way better than no travel at all, and in many cases, it’s way better than that!

  84. Brenda Stokes says:

    Dear Susan,
    I thought you might like this quote after being identified “in the judicial system” as a white space aficionado!

    “After all, the white space is where the magic happens. And who isn’t down for a little magic?” – from a post from Simplify Magazine.

  85. Gill Smith says:

    Oh Susan I’ve just been reading the lovely comments from the Girlfriends, and I read you will be visiting CORNWALL next year !!!!!!!! So excited!
    I’m going to send you a list of “must visit” places, to add to your own probably long list!
    Just dreaming now of where your picnic might take place……..mmmmm I wonder!
    Gill Devon U.K.

  86. sharon taylor says:

    Oh Susan, The Roses, especially “Just Joey” – they have to be David Austin? In a house before this one I grew Fair Bianca, Kathryn Morley and Brother Cadfael. Kathryn Morley being my favourite. Unfortunately I had to leave them behind, but plan to have another garden with his roses. And I’m sure you know how these roses got their names.
    On another note which I’m sure you are aware of is Lilies are very poisonous to cats and if Jack is a plant nibbler be careful to not bring them into the house. Waiting to read another wonderfully happy blog. Will think of Downton all day. Cheerio, Sharon

  87. Lori C. says:

    There’s a wonderful scene in “Howard’s End” where Helen Schlegel (played by Helena Bonham Carter) is eating breakfast at her Aunt Juley’s home – and she is dipping “Soldiers” into her Soft Boiled Egg. Nursery Comfort Food.

  88. Susan!
    Thank you for taking me back to beautiful old England, she really does get under your skin once you have been.
    Love, love, love this post…I miss Downton, it was such a wonderful Sunday night ritual
    I do have some nice Downton Tea that I purchased at World Market, I savor each cup…
    Thanks again for bringing us along….

  89. Teresa O says:

    Dear Susan,

    I’ve been keeping your books & blog right at my fingertips not just because I adore them, but also because I will be making the trip of my dreams to England! My travel mate for this wonderful vacation will be my dearest friend & we’re using your books & blog as tools for planning.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your insight, & your experiences. You are truly a delight.

    Teresa O

  90. I’m getting ready to go to London and Southampton in August. I decided that I should choose between Chawton (Jane Austen’s home) and Highclere Castle. I’ve chosen to go to Chawton so I’m glad that you posted this blog. Plus, as I commented on your last blog, I’m volunteering at the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, FL and we’re getting some of the Downton costumes for an exhibit. This will be October 4th thru January 7th. This will be the last stop of a 3 year tour for the costumes. It is currently in Nashville.
    I’m so excited and I can’t wait to meet and talk with other DA super fans!

  91. Cyndy Bellaver says:

    Oh Susan, thank you for sharing! The photos are so lovely. I can only imagine the beauty. You and Joe have a way of giving us a peek into Merry Old England.

  92. Anne Erickson says:

    Greetings Susan,
    I am so excited to hear the cups are here! I’ve rearranged my hutch in my kitchen so I have room for my growing collection. I enjoyed the rose photos also.

  93. Julie says:

    Swoon…I sat here on my bed on a hot summer night completely lost in your post..what a lovely, lovely time I had. Thank you Susan!

  94. Christine Reddick says:

    So excited! I get to go to Martha’s Vineyard next week. I can’t wait to check it out! 🙂

  95. Dana M. Krell says:

    What a treasure of a book! So glad to have met you in Prescott, Az. You have always been an inspiration to me…


  96. Jamie on Doty Island says:

    Thank you Susan for the arm chair travel to one of my favorites ever! My family in England lived at Caldecott Manor and as you might know he was the English illustrator that the children’s illustration award is modeled after. How I wish I had been old enough to travel back then and visit that place while my family still lived there. So I am extra glad you are taking the opportunities that life gives you and sharing them with us so that we do not miss out in seeing them too.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, and I believe he was a bit of a hero to Beatrix Potter, the person that taught her, in a way, how to draw frogs! We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us! How amazing you lived in his house!

  97. Suzette Shoulders says:

    I knew there was a “family friend’ connection with Caldecott, but had NO idea he taught Beatrix how to draw frogs! Your blog is SO educational, Susan! thanks! Suzette in Oregon

    • sbranch says:

      I think she just loved him, and used his art as inspiration…not sure they ever actually met. Read HERE, it’s fascinating.

  98. Judith says:

    From Oprah online this morning, Morning routines…Leo – July 23 to August 22

    Your sign in the morning: Let’s just say that morning is not your time to shine. It’s hard for you to wake up, and once you do, you can be a bit grumpy. You’re pretty set in your ways, but once you get through your routine and start to feel human, shades of Leos’ fun, creative side start to emerge.

    Your ideal routine: Quiet and controlled. You get thrown off by unexpected snafus; so, if you, say, share a bathroom with someone whose own routine is inconsistent, set a morning schedule so you don’t wake up to find they’re in the shower at the time you usually brush your teeth. Since you’re not a fast mover in the morning, make sure you allow yourself time to get up and out the door.

    Aries – March 21 to April 19

    Your sign in the morning: You leap out of bed ready to take on the day. You’re speedy and like to fit as much into the a.m. hours as you can. You also like to do something invigorating first thing in the morning that signals the day has begun.

    Your ideal routine: High-energy and deliberate. Pick an activity that gets your blood flowing—many Aries prefer a morning workout (find the best workout for your sign here) to be perfect. Sex isn’t a bad choice, either. A grab-and-go breakfast is best—taking the time to sit down and eat it isn’t your thing. You don’t take long to get dressed, so there’s no need to pad your morning with extra time. Once you’re showered, it’s off to the races (aka work).

    Sound familiar? 🙂

  99. Susan Dickson says:


    You simply brighten my day! Thank you for your delightful drawings and quotes. I have given your books to my sister, aunties, and friends who are now some of your faithful fans as well. We are hoping you will have another tour through the Midwest soon!

    Have a great day and thank you for sharing your special gift of creativity which is a wonderful blessing!!!

  100. Cindy says:

    My dreams last night were filled with Beatrix after reading your blog……..
    What a lovely night I had!

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