Hello Darling People, thank you for your patience! Go get tea! It’s long! Lots of  MUSICA ! Because, it’s AHHH September, and we are so lucky. 💞

From my kitchen wall, it’s this month’s calendar page ~ I’m sure many of you recognize it, even with morning light dappling through the trees and through the kitchen window!  But soft, what light in yonder window breaks . . . it’s Autumn . . .

Autumn! (Even though it’s not quite yet! It’s acting like it around here!) 🍁Autumn, which, I’ve decided, is my spirit animal. Look at that dappling! Those boards there are because Joe’s putting new gutters on our house. Must do that every twenty years.

Here’s my other spirit animal yelling at me because I went out to hang clothes on the line! “Come home, mommy, don’t leave me!”

What a pair. My darling people. 💞

Well, I promised you “Travel Hints” today, and Travel Hints you shall have! But first off, we have a Giveaway to give away. Ms. Vanna lolled in her bed all day yesterday, waiting for me to finish, but today, she is OUT of here, so I have to hurry! (She has a
lunch date in Edgartown but is hanging around, zipped into her shimmering green mermaid suit, to do her duty, dive deep and pull out the name of our lucky winner!) Here’s  our lovely little September gift: Gingerbread Cake Tea (delicious, you’ll love it!), my new Autumn cup to drink it out of, two of my newest back-in-print cookbooks to inspire you with Autumn recipes and home ideas while drinking your tea, plus, for the season (for all seasons!): Gratitude! Can’t wait to find out who the winner is. SO many Girlfriends have entered ~ this is by far the most comments, and the most delightful comments, ever left on my blog, you are just the Best Girlfriends ~ if you’re ever sad about the state of the world, read your wonderful comments ~ it will cheer you right up! But still, despite the 3,300 entries, your odds of winning are still waaaaay better than the lottery! PS, I’m so glad you’ve loved the Zucchini Bread! 😘 So everyone cross your fingers!The winner is … Well, I only have a first name on this little slip of paper …  and it’s a name others might have, so let’s start with a detail she mentioned in her comment: our winner has an eleven-year-old daughter who loves to read Willard with her … I hope that narrows it down a bit. Our winner is STACY!!! Congratulations, Stacy!!! Being chosen from so many makes this a Red Letter Day for you! I have an iCloud email address (another hint) for Stacy, and I’ll write and let her know, so she can tell me where to send the books, and who to sign them to! And to all the rest of you, I loved every moment of this, thank you for that absolutely amazing demonstration of Joie de Vivre!

We make such a nice village, don’t we? Thank you! 👏 I promise, we’ll do it again!

Now, before we start with the Travel Tips, I thought I would show you our newest discovery…

So see that big Linden tree? See the upstairs window on the left of that tree?

We used to see these two little furballs all the time from that window, living in a hole on the back of the tree. We haven’t seen them in a while, and now we’re sure they found a new home, because . . .

Guess who lives there now? We just found out … there’s a perfect view from that upstairs window, almost eyeball to eyeball with that tree, and the other day Joe came RUNNING down the stairs to get his camera yelling, “Hurry get upstairs, you gotta see this!”  I didn’t know whether to be happy or not, we have a raccoon! But he sure is cute.

Between kitty, boyfriend (that’s Joe, permanent boyfriend), squirrels, birds, turkeys and now a raccoon, I’ve been busy designing new mugs!  Lowely came over today and we did pretend-drinking from it. It’s for Valentine’s next year, we’ll have them in the Studio the first of January. I think they are ridiculously darling and Lowely did too. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do. Would you like to see the back? I can arrange that . . .

Here it is! It’ll be a lot prettier when it’s the real thing, but I think you get the gist. The handle is pink floral, and the bottom says, “Of thee I sing” with musical notes.  It’s like a little story!  I can’t wait to see it in person. We will have them early next January, and when we are a little further along, I’ll put them up for presale. And, by the way, because so many of you have asked, there are a few cups left from the last collection, with such minor blemishes that they barely show, but we have discounted them, even a few Autumn cups are there …  but I would say hurry if you want one, because they are almost gone. Also, British Girlfriends, we have a retailer in England now, called Nursery Thyme, with an online store (and a real store in Devizes, Wiltshire), who is now carrying my cups, so you can get them without the crazy shipping charges from the USA!

And while we’re speaking of “almost out” . . . we are almost sold out of these two books. Going back for another printing for each 🤗, but we won’t have them until January. And, because we are in charge (how wonderful), soon they will not be available on Amazon, because we will be hogging the last ones for our Girlfriends, so if you find them gone, and you have in mind a signed copy of either of these for your holiday gifts, try our website.

I’ve also been in touch with the company that’s been working on the cookie plates and other luv-lee new things ~ they made the decals and we’re getting closer, but I’m not wild about how the writing has come out (it’s the one on the right). Needs to be better. So I sent them a photo of our mug to show them how it’s supposed to look and they say they can fix it!  Just want you to know I’m still working on it! I’ll let you know when they have it right!

As I design cups or do new art for next year’s calendar, I listen to musica, and I love to have the TV tell me a story. Sometimes I listen to the news, but it’s getting worse, I’m gobsmacked by the size of these hurricanes and the fires and whatever fresh hell comes after that. Lately, the news has also gotten more unbearably nuclear, with homeless and stranded people living in fear, wandering this earth of such riches, so unfairly distributed, and sometimes I really can not stand it, being a child of God and all.  So, I do what I can. And let Frank sing, Be Careful it’s my Heart, and then I turn to France in 1949! For spiritual sustenance! Heart! Beauty! The things that humanity was born to adore. I take a deep breath and let happiness and believing-in-good flow back in to my soul. It’s a great gift to have complete charge of the clicker. So off to France we go!

And listen to luv-lee French musica as I drive down long allees on my way to . . .

Paris! Where I will go to cooking school with . . .


Paul comes into the kitchen while Julia is cooking, he says, “And for dinner?” He looks around, settles on a bowl, has a taste, looks at her, and says, “Mayonnaise?” I paint, listen/watch the movie, while my shadow makes himself indispensable through cuteness.

Julia made me hungry . . . so I put her on hold, and out to the windy garden I go, to gather delicious sun-warmed September tomatoes … to curl up in my chair with a little crisp iceberg, some mayonnaise, salt and freshly ground pepper, and voila, summer treat extraordinaire! Julia, I know, would agree. Except the mayonnaise is not homemade, so maybe I take that back. But she would enjoy the relishing, of that I am sure. She was a such a good relisher! Famous for her relishment of life, she spread the “utter bliss” of her passions far and wide, making relishers out of all of us! See what can happen? 

And speaking of heaven, while in the garden, I can’t stop bringing in the hydrangea.

It even looks good when it’s dead!

I was determined to make my garden last as long as humanly possible this year. We just planted more flowers (added reminder: everything is on sale right now), and some cool weather crops like lettuce and arugula and herbs… flowers like white cosmos that grow high over the fence and blow in the wind and from my kitchen window, my picket fence garden looks like a garden of wildflowers.

And mums the word!

We’ve been grabbing on to these last few days of summer, with a vengeance.  Even when rain threatens, we are determined. Drops began to fall, out comes the roll of plastic . . .

Save the table! Do not let the butter drown. Don’t allow the little holes in the salt shaker to close up! Don’t make us pour rainwater off our plates before we can eat! The men jump into action, rolling out plastic over the Teahouse of the August moon (the last people who owned this house called the arbor by that lovely name).

And the sprinkles stopped, and we were able to peel the plastic back, in the nick of time, for cooling breezes . . . On with the party! This is a small contingent of the delightful Hall family, Joe’s sister is on the left, and her children, plus some outlaws, like me. And the person peeking out behind Joe’s niece, Jen, on the right, is Siobhan, here visiting us from England!

After everyone left, I went looking for the moon, and found it, peeking through the trees just behind the Teahouse, still glowing under the twinkle lights, draped in a bit of blowing plastic …

Twinkle lights on the roses . . .

That moon reminds me, one of our Girlfriends, D’Anne,  asked me if I would put up the Full Moon Bookmark we make every year … the one with all the Native American names for the full moons on it? Remember?

. . . so, just in cases you didn’t get one, HERE it is again! Just click there, print it out, fold it in half, cut it out, and you’ll be ready for the rest of the year . . . the full Harvest moon is tonight! There was an online controversy this hear, was it the Harvest moon, or the Corn moon? I went for Harvest … it sort of means the same thing, corn and harvest … but, either way, it should be big and beautiful tonight!

So let’s go traveling, shall we? In order to give my travel tip in the right way, I have to talk about houses ~ you know how much I love houses, all houses really because for us lucky ones, they are temples of love, but there are a few that deserve special recognition, and England is FULL of these kinds of houses, all different, most made by hand, before there were power tools, and each one a total piece of art. They have names, like Buttercups up there. Don’t you just want to knock on the door and say hello, could I please come in for a cup of tea? Could it be from a blue teapot? Could you please turn on French musica? Thank you, oh yes, I will have a cookie, I mean, biscuit! These wonderful houses are a big part of my travel tip for today! Cuz you know, we’re going to England next year . . . and you’re coming too, either for real, or virtually, and we want to do it right, so we’re making plans. We want to stay in a cute house wherever we go, with a fireplace, because we deserve this, don’t we Girlfriends? I mean we don’t do it every day.

I took a photo of this house because it’s so cute, it doesn’t even look real. It’s like a child’s drawing of a house. And so many of these darling English houses are rentable, for the weekend, for the week, for the month. All anyone has to do to find one is Google, “self-catering holiday homes in England” (Self-catering means there’s a kitchen!) . . . and voila, take your choice, there are lots of photos, you choose what part of the country, what size, how much, everything. (I realized I’ve secretly been painting this house for years, I just didn’t know it.)

Here’s a big house and a little garden house. I will take the garden house, you guys can have the big one! I’m coming over, put the kettle on ~ and then let’s go for a walk!

And this darling thing, you’ve already seen ~ is the one we rented for our trip to England next year. And that’s what I wanted to talk about. The kind of travel tips I have for you are not normal. You can read about what kinds of suitcases are best, or which little zipper bags or zip-lock baggies are good for packing, about rolling vs folding, and how to consolidate, and how to bring nothing but a toothbrush, or whether or not to bring your pillow (which I find ridiculous) but I leave that to the experts because we are total failures at all of that. On my first trip off-island with Joe when we first got together, I asked him what I should bring, and he said, “Everything,” warming the cockles of my heart and, unbeknownst to us at the time, setting the tone for our entire future. We are no good at any sort of consolidation, we took 13 bags last time! That’s one reason we go on the ship, no airline would let us get away with 13 bags. For tidy packing tips, let Rick Steves help, he’s a professional. So, here’s what we are good at:

We’re good at this, the smell of grass and wide open spaces. When I was younger, I thought the way you’re supposed to travel is to see as MUCH as humanly possible and cover as much ground as you could each day. Run from city to city, museum to museum, face buried in tour book, wearing the same drip-dry outfit every day (true, I had to burn my travel clothes when I got home, I could never bear to wear them again), but I was checking off the “to see” list. Done, did that. ✅ I could be in six countries in two weeks easy. I could be in a perfectly darling place, and leave it before I even saw everything, to run to the next perfectly darling place. Why? I did not know. Then one day, Joe and I rented a sweet house for two whole weeks and stayed there the entire time and that’s when the real travel began.

Because we unpacked. And spread out. Hung our clothes in the closet. Because travel is hard enough, it’s lovely to have a home to come to each night. We put our toothbrushes in the medicine cabinet and flowers into a vase. And made ourselves comfy. And felt no pressure to get a move on. We could make our own morning tea.

We got to go to the same market for two whole weeks ~ we didn’t have to start over with “Sat Nav” (GPS) every time we wanted to find a loaf of bread.

 We tried all the luv-lee new and interesting things we discovered at the market . . . more than once! We learned which was the best butter, the most delicious milk, our favorite kind of bacon . . .

We took the ingredients “home” where we could cook our own delicious dinner together if we wanted, and be homey, and light a fire, or eat outside, and relax at the end of a long travel day and not always eat restaurant food. Because we had our own house. And we were staying for a while. We weren’t in a hurry.

While the laundry was going round and round in our washer and dryer, we could watch Poldark, or BBC and the Chelsea Flower Show, or the English National Sheepdog Trials, listen to the church bells from down the street (there’s always church bells down the street) and live kind of an English life, con Musica!

We could walk to our favorite bakery and butcher shop . . . and talk to people, and get to know the butcher and find out he not only owns the butcher shop but he also has a farm where he raises his animals. We got to know the area, as if we lived there.

Between the castles and gardens we were visiting every day, we discovered our favorite tea rooms …

And went often enough to say hello to the owner . . .

And discover which was our favorite taste treat!

We found the local antique store filled with English china, and, might I add, “eek” . . .

We’d be in one place long enough to read the paper and find the charming local festivals and plays and circuses where the real people went, where we were the only tourists (try that at the Eiffel Tower), because all the rest of the people attending lived there … and we’d talk to the apple farmers and look at what they’re wearing, and driving, and cooking, and what their children sounded like while we drank cider in paper cups. We have all this spare time for the little things, because we’re not spending it moving to the next place and relearning everything.

We walk out of our adopted town in all directions, in a different direction each time, and found adventures, and glimpses of heaven in unexpected places . . . because all the small towns in England have these ancient footpaths that go hill and dale, along rivers, through meadows and fields of sheep and bluebells that lead to the next little town and so on, all over the country . . .

And we talked to the people who walked there, and pet their dogs . . . they like Americans and we like them! We would hear about their children, and their trips to the US, they would tell us the history of the fairy ring we had just passed, or the stone circle just beyond the next hill, all kinds of talk.

It was an experience we never got while driving in a car . . . or while repacking, looking for our next hotel, or where we could wash our clothes, and missing almost everything else. And we did not suffer from “only seeing one place.” Because, we drove out to find something new every day, and if that’s what you are looking for, then what “new” is better than another “new” 200 miles away? The thing about England is that no matter where you are, there are always so many things to see. The place is crammed with history! And new is new, and all new is amazing and good. So why not stay in one place and from there, fan out? Because learning a place and its people is better done the slow way. Two weeks is the perfect time. We’ve tried one week, which always seems too rushed, we’ve tried ten days, not quite good enough, but we’ve learned two weeks is perfect for us. Now, this is just me and Joe, and only a suggestion that’s probably not right for everyone ~ we’re lucky because we can take our work anywhere, and arrange our time so we can do this. But if you ever feel like a jack-in-the-box in your travels, you might just stop traveling. Even if it’s for three days. And stay. And say hello, glad to meet ya.You can find your favorite pub, walk over with your books, make yourself at home, say “Hey” to the guy behind the bar, write in your diary, be a fly on the wall and watch every thing, and while away the afternoon . . . it’s very graceful. And, as the wise women say,

So that’s my tip, and I’m sticking to it. And guess what Girlfriends? Yup. Here’s where we’re going to stay for two weeks next May in the Lake District . . . I don’t think we get this whole house … but I know that’s our door up the driveway and I know that across the street is a beautiful lake.  And I know we’re bringing Kellee and Sherie with us! And you know what else?

I’ve been working on a special cup to celebrate our BYO Picnic Basket Party next May 11 to which you are ALL invited . . . A cup with frolicking lambs and bluebells, oh my! Coming in January, to add to the excitement and the getting ready.

And the back?

Oh yes, it’s Jane Austen, and our adventures, and our picnic on the lawn of Castle Cottage in Near Sawrey, where Beatrix Potter lived for thirty years, that’s where we’ll be a-meetin’ up ~ from everywhere! On the bottom of this mug it says, “Memories are made of this.” Have you put the date on your calendar yet? I promise, for those who can’t make it, I’ll blog it . . . so, one way or another, be there or be square.

And I do have packing advice, I’m not totally lame, I figured out this little system back when I first met Joe and I still do it. Just in cases I actually have to look good, go out to dinner on the ship, go to a picnic or something, I’ll have the right things . . . and as long as I don’t forget my list, it always works like a charm.

One more thing, just making sure, did everyone get their WILLARD? Because if not, click there and you’ll have it! If you’d like Willard delivered to your email, click HERE to sign up for the next one . . .

Now back I go to my lovely shadows . . .

Have a wonderful day, Girlfriends. Stay safe, say prayers for all in need, watch for the moon, and do this, for the magic . . . Kiss . . . and parting Musica

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653 Responses to AHHH, SEPTEMBER . . .

  1. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    When Grasshopper wants something he gives me an Eskimo Kiss – rubbing noses.

    To say thanks he does the same….

    If we’ve had a lengthy discussion re treats and I exclaim “enough,”
    a Kitty Kiss is used to make up.

    If he’s in the mood, (such a male) I’ll say “Give me a kiss” and he will even without a treat! 🙂

    He trained me!

  2. Ahhhhh, September is coming to a close and I just have so enjoyed this Sept Blog this morning. Makes my heart light to travel with you through your marvelous adventures whether close to home, or far away. As an artist and card creator myself, I have to work ahead to the seasons in front of me – Thanksgiving and Christmas and then Valentine’s Day, to have new and exciting designs for everyone to enjoy. Getting lost in joy and creation is a blessing. Looking forward to your October Blog. Thank you so much Susan for sharing your joy to all of us.

  3. Paulette says:

    Your work — conversation, artwork, photography — are like a warm hug!

    Don’t ever stop your journeys. I want to travel just like you do!

    Warmest wishes,

    Paulette from St. Louis, MO

  4. Hi Susan, I wanted to comment on your post on October 1, 2011, but I guess after awhile the comment form disappears: http://www.

    What I wanted to ask is did you ever finish your plans for your English garden at your California house? Plus you said you have to remember to show us your entire English garden diary. Can you believe you only had 210 comments then (and that includes yours!) I’m glad, for your sake, you’ve been found, but a little sad that it’s just too many for me to read all of them anymore.

    • sbranch says:

      I still read them all, but you’re right, Cathy, it used to be faster! We’ve continued adding to the garden over the years, we put more plants in this spring when we were there, California things that grow well there . . . the hedges I showed in those photos are over our heads now. I’ve shown many pages from the Garden Diary over the years . . . the long skinny book I kept in my purse when we were visiting gardens in England? Is that the one .. not sure how I would show whole thing, but it’s quite a messy little book, filled with notes that probably make no sense to anyone but me!

  5. Hello Dear Kindred Spirits,
    Happy September! We are back from France and it’s lovely to have some of it in your post. Coincidentally, I just watched “Julie and Julia” again too, on our flight back from Paris. It was lovely!
    We are like you and Joe when we travel, we want a home not a series of hotel rooms. We rented a 300-year-old farmhouse in Bretagne (far cheaper than a hotel too) and had a glorious time poking around the little towns and cooking in the quirky cooker. There was a delightfully large bathtub for soaks and a wood burning stove for the cool evenings. Heaven! In Paris, before and after Bretagne, we rented two flats, not quite as charming but still a place to put milk for tea and butter for the baguette. I don’t think I’d travel any other way now. I managed to bring a copper jam pan and lots of fleur de sel and other delights home in the carry on, I also found a radish, butter and salt set in a second hand shop that I will treasure always. But as always, it’s wonderful to go and more wonderful to return home to the kitties and our snug little bungalow. There’s no place like home! Stay safe through the storms and Rick and I send our best wishes for a warm and glowing Autumn!

  6. Chris C says:

    I love it all! Especially fall and autumn. It is my favorite time of the year!!
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Jo'L says:

    Autumn is the start of my year, it just feels that way to me, so your celebration of this time is great.
    Keep us loving life.

  8. Donna says:

    Dear Susan,
    I wrote down your favorite butter on a card, and have lost the card. Can you tell me (us) again what it was. One of my markets didn’t carry it, but I want to check with another one. Thank you!!!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s Les Pres Sales Camargue Butter … product of belgium, SO delicious! Check your market but if they don’t have it . . . here it is on AMAZON.

  9. Donna says:

    Thank you so much Susan! I will ask until they carry it . . . LOL

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