No, it’s not really snowing here. In fact, it’s snowing in West Texas. Snowing in West Texas BEFORE it snows in New England. Call the weather police! But we don’t care! Let’s pretend it’s a marshmallow world out there! MUSICA!  Better go get yourself a cup of something hot to drink, keep warm, brrr. 

So beautiful. I worry that someday people will read about the four seasons in a book, see old photos of snow and falling leaves and fields of daffodils on blogs like mine, and think, “Oh how quaint!” My poor baby California is on fire right now. 😥 Please say a prayer, there is no good time to lose your home, but Christmas must be the worst. And pray for the  brave firefighters and first responders 😘 ~ that they be kept safe. The thing I know is that everyone will gather to comfort and help each other as always in times of trouble, because that’s who we are. Have you seen THIS? It’s a video of a man saving a bunny from the fires. Come back and see it later . . . it’s so wonderful it will make you cry.

 I’m sure our snow will come soon . . .  it’s cold here.

Isn’t imagination a luv-lee thing?

We’ve had a fire almost every night.

In these quiet few days before all the festivities get going . . . while we’re decorating and wrapping and sending gifts across the sea.

Our boy is stretched out . . .

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Love this photo with the early morning shadows across the kitchen while I was polishing up the gravy boats, getting things ready.

My little stack of bread baskets . . .

Joe brought in some branches with leaves from the garden . . . and I set the table …

This is how the dining room looked when we first bought the house in 1989. I was setting the table for a lobster dinner, and there’s girl kitty (the first!). Love the befores and afters!

Finally decided which dishes to go with . . . all I needed were the napkins and the table would be done . . .

Jack was helping me fold them . . .

Because our kitchen is the heart of the home, where everything happens ~ folding clothes and kitty kisses too . . .

And rolling out pie dough . . . cooking up  a storm . . . thinking of the many Thanksgivings prepared here in this kitchen, counting my blessings. Our turkey, filled with my grandma’s dressing, came out perfectly.

So here we go . . . making the house pretty for the neighborhood . . . my own personal private elf-man doing a great job.

My guy. He is amazing.💞 Not just for this, but for everything.

There are so good ways to decorate . . . in case you’re in the throes of it like we are, here are a few ideas …

H A P P Y    D E C E M B E R 

We hang up all our loved bits of collected Christmas paraphernalia!

Bits and pieces end up on the kitchen cupboard knobs . . .

And as always, the shelf on top of my stove is in full Christmas mode . . .

The little house I found at a flea market several years back . . .

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care . . . and the memories flow . . .

Remembering childhood Christmases at home with my parents and brothers and sisters brings back all the magic (although, in this photo, we still have one sister to come, here we are only seven).  My favorite Christmas memory is when the little kids would be in bed, the older boys in the family room in front of the TV, I would go into the living room, turn off all the lights except for the colored tree lights, lie on the sofa in the twinkly dark and listen to Frank Sinatra sing I’ll be Home for Christmas.🎵 I do it every year and it’s as dreamy as it’s always been.

I was reading our local paper the other day, the Martha’s Vineyard Times ~ an article about the first death from a car accident here on the Island in 1902. It happened because the speeding vehicle was allegedly going more than 15 mph! 🙀 Yes! Lock him UP! Must have been difficult, the change that took place as horses were replaced by automobiles. I’m sure many held out forever for the horse, and the car people must have been very frustrated. The island town governments jumped into action and set the new speed limit at 5 mph. (I think my car goes faster than 5 mph when it’s in neutral.) It was another world, another time.

See the Linden tree on the right? That’s the same one I wrote about in Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams ~ in this photo it’s still young, but it grew to be huge, spread like an umbrella of leafy dappled light over the town when I came here in 1982 ~ and covered with lights at this time of year.  Amazing how so very little has changed in this photo. The Times, my favorite newspaper, recently started something new I think you might like. They send out a very short daily email called “The Minute” ~ it tells about the daily doings here on the Island, has a quote of the day, and a “what’s-for-dinner” recipe. It’s free … If you’d like it to show up in your mailbox, go HERE.

So yes, we do try to slow down time a little bit during the holiday season so as not to increase its speed.

We went to the movies on the night of the super moon. I looked up through the trees on Main Street in Edgartown, and there is was, in all its glory, peeking through the clouds. So festive to be out on cold nights during the holiday season, when everyone is out and about and everything is decorated!

We had a delicious dinner at Alchemy … Edgartown was all lit up …

They make a very good Old Fashioned at Alchemy… but you know Joe makes them a little bit better ~ here’s his recipe:

And since I wrote this recipe, we have discovered THE PERFECT WILD CHERRIES for this drink. Dark, almost black, and intensely flavored, there are no other cherries for us. Absolutely forget about maraschino cherries. They’re called Fabbri Amarena and are available HERE… delicious in an Old Fashioned, and also, just as heaven over vanilla ice cream or on cheesecake or between layers of a Chocolate anything. 💋 Somebody should put these in somebody’s stocking. You’re welcome.

We went to see The Man Who Invented Christmas . . . the story of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol ~ so good, perfect for anyone who loves the book, or wants to know a little more about Chas Dickens, has ever tried to write a book, or is fascinated by imagination and invention. In addition, MATTHEW (from Downton) plays Charles Dickens.👌He’s never been handsomer ! Wowzer. I rest my case.


SO, other than that, here’s what I’ve REALLY been doing. Stealing hours and sometimes whole days, to paint. I discovered something I never knew before ~ Youtube has audiobooks! So I’ve been listening to Mansfield Park while I paint (that’s what you hear in this video). And dreaming of this . . .

This, my darling girls, is the view from the house we’ve rented in the Lake District for our picnic on Beatrix Potter’s lawn at Castle Cottage next May 11. Eeeek. That’s all I can say. If you are new to this blog and not sure what I’m talking about . . . then go HERE, where you can read all about it, and possibly join us, a whole bunch of kindred spirits, for a luv-lee afternoon in the historic English countryside.  BYO Picnic Basket!

And yes, the Royal Wedding is going to be sometime next May! We’ll be there! So I’m fairly sure the entire country will be decorated in bunting!!! Petey is ready to go, Mrs. Rabbit is blessing my new Castle Cottage cup; I’ll be making special name tags for everyone, too. I’ll put them on the next blog post so you can print them out. MUCH more fun when we recognize our kindred spirits!

That’s Post Office Meadow above, which Beatrix Potter owned, and it will likely be filled with baby lambs when we are there . . . and behind it, the white house, that’s Castle Cottage ~ and our picnic will take place in the garden! I can barely believe it, but I know it’s true.

Something else hard to believe. This is real, but this photo could never tell the whole amazing story because bluebells drift over every hill and dale in England in the springtime, in some places, as far as the eye can see.

So I had to include bluebells on our remembrance cup . . .

This quote tells the whole story . . . and on the bottom it says, “Memories are made of this.”

I wrote on them,”Picnic, Near Sawrey, Lake District, UK 2018″ ~ Never to be forgotten! And don’t worry if you can’t make it ~ we are taking everyone along with us, virtually . . . through pictures and videos ~ you won’t miss a detail! I will stick my camera into everyone’s picnic basket!

So, yes, you may have noticed . . . I finally received samples of the actual real cups that will be coming the beginning of January. Aren’t they gorgeous?  Bone china is such a nice thing! I photographed them all, fronts and backs so you can really see what you’ve signed up for. 📷

They came out wonderfully . . . this one I called Valentine Love . . . it’s good for husbands, boyfriends, sisters, and girlfriends, moms and dads, and everyone in between …

 I couldn’t wait to put this wonderful quote on a cup ~ because anytime is a good time to give a toast to love. On the bottom it says, “Of thee I sing…”💞

Here are the bottoms of all four cups . . .

And here’s the Winter cup (the bottom says “Not fit for man nor beast!”). Mrs Tittlemouse cozied right up to this one. I adore seeing that my Beatrix Potter figurines go so well with my cups!

There’s a snowman on the winter cup. . .

And a good wintry tea quote!

And this one is Girlfriend’s Tea … on the bottom it says, “If friends were flowers, I’d choose you!”

Also good for Valentine’s Day, with lovely words by Nancy Luce. Pay no attention that Nancy wrote that about her chickens she adored so much! Love is love! Right, Mrs. Tittlemouse? Right! (Of course she would agree, she’s almost a chicken herself! Oops, look at her face, I think she heard me say that!)
And for you who bought the cups already and are just waiting for them to arrive, don’t forget I made gift cards just in cases you wanted to give them as gifts this year . . . just click HERE and you can print out a card (like above) so they know something is coming.💞 Cups and other dishes are still up for presale right HERE.

Because guess what else, everything in this photo will be here early next week! Antique-store finds of the future! Whew, we tried so hard to make them arrive in time, and I think we did it!

For all you embroiderers . . . I’m so happy you’ve been enjoying our new kits! We sold out of Tea Party already! And there are only a few of the Ornament Kits left. We’ll be getting more I think, but in the meantime, we have two brand new kits arriving at the Studio very soon. A bunny pin cushion and a little robin to hang on your door or cupboard knob . . .

And here’s a wee gift from me to you with love, these two bookmarks . . .. . . just click HERE and print them on card stock… you can laminate them and make a sweet little stocking stuffer. And Kellee says to look for new wallpaper and other free stuff   HERE ~ it should all be up sometime this weekend! And new Winter Recipes are waiting for you HERE. We are going to keep you busy! (er!)

And one of the things I’ve already started . . . I’m writing us another book ~ it’s going to be all about our trip next spring . . . it will be another diary, loaded with watercolors and photographs, I dream it every day, this time there will be Ireland in it!  It’s all I really want to do! Because now I know I have a tiny bit of Dickens blood in me. Not the genius part I’m sorry to say, the slightly insane part.😜

Now, I want to ease your mind, because I know you’re busy, but don’t worry one minute about getting everything done ~ I found our fortune in a cookie last night and all is well:

Love you girls, Have a wonderful time, whatever you’re doing. Prayers, prayers, and more prayers for those suffering in this most wonderful time of year. Digging a bit deeper in the wallet this year, for lots of people and places are so dearly in need. Blessings on you and yours. ❌⭕️ Your Pal for Life, Anna Susana Branchburger the third.

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603 Responses to IT’S NOT SNOWING

  1. pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

    good morning/afternoon Susan and Girlfriends. what a weekend we had, the toilets blew up roughly speaking. what happened was the wax seal one toilet broke so Ed fixed it, then we discovered a huge clog in the line so he had to take out another toilet and get at the clog from there.. ground is frozen and hard to dig in, we have a an icy fog around here. anyway we finally got that problem cleared up and our toilets working back to normal, (thank heavens as I really felt bad going over to the fire station to use the bathroom). then I finally managed to sit down and write out the cards and they went out this morning, now all I have left to do is paint the front windows, snowmen and snowflakes. I do that every year and its different every year. its been a busy and hectic weekend, and boy do I appreciate our woodstove, it has been working hard to keep us warm. the chickens and the rest of the birds do not like this cold weather, so we do spoil them a lot with extra treats and extra feed to help them stay warm and healthy. plus l cleaned out the henhouse again, more fresh straw down for warm and fluffy nests to keep the hens warm and cozy. also plenty of straw on the floor for the ducks, and the geese and turkeys. helps them keep warm and keeps down the odor in there.. you can sweep or rake out the old straw and get the fresh straw in a lot easier. more of our fire crew went to Southern California to help out battle the fires, does anyone know how this all got started, have they found out yet??? I keep hearing about how big the one fire in Santa Barbara is (the Thomas Fire) while the fires around Los Angeles and San Diego are under containment, but not a word as to how they all got started!!! does anyone know??? well off to get the laundry going, get the bread dough made and rising and paint the windows. plus I need to get several dozen cookies baked up for the mail carrier, the newspaper delivery and the fire station. busy week ahead, but at least I got the cards done and in the mail…. whew !!! you all have a wonderful day, Happy Holidays and stay warm and comfy. I just watched a Perry Como Early American Christmas show last night on Gettv, what a wonderful show and what wonderful memories it brought back, also watched an old Andy Williams Christmas show… I miss those old Christmas shows don’t you?? holiday hugs….. 😀

    • sbranch says:

      I do miss them, they were so charmingly family like!

      • pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

        well come this Sunday the INSPIR channel ( DISH 259) will have some of the holiday specials from Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Danny Kaye and GETTV will be running all of them as well (DISH 373) check it out… I plan to enjoy them, beats some of the stuff they are showing these days, and for the kid in you check out the cartoon channel ( DISH 175) this weekend for the Flintstone holiday specials. Happy watching. hugs….. 😀

  2. Bonnie Hodge says:

    Dear Susan Branch, This is my first time commenting but I have been reading your blogs for years and they are just the absolute best! They are like entering a dream in real life. I spent most of my childhood growing up in the South of England and your book “A Fine Romance…” was a wonderfully delightful read. I am quite excited to see you have another one coming and so look forward to reading it. Best Wishes, Bonnie

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Bonnie … How lucky for you, growing up in the south of England! What a magical beginning. We can’t wait! xoxo

  3. Sue Hay says:

    Drape bells around a hanger on closet rods in the bedroom, entry way & laundry room
    As you move in and out of these areas multiple times a day, they jingle
    I leave a string of them in my clothes rod all year round

    • sbranch says:

      I put them on the bread basket too, so when it’s passed at Christmas time, we get that lovely tinkle. Cute! Thank you!

      • FayE in CA! says:

        I do a Dec. 1st box for my kids’families…kind of a jump start into the season…ornaments, crafts, window clings, whatever I have gathered…it is always mailed to arrive on Dec. 1st and my tradition is to have the box smell and sound good as it travels across the country so I sprinkle cloves, break up cinnamon sticks and add some jingle BELLS! Kitties in the households are never forgotten as I include Fancy Feast for them!

        Susan, went to see The Man Who Invented Christmas last night and I, too, really enjoyed it. I thought it was written well to enable a uniquely filmed movie.

        xoxoxo and purrs


  4. Chris Wells Knickerbocker, W TX says:

    ☑️ Maker’s Mark
    ☑️ Cherries on order from Amazon

    ☑️ Old Fashions for Christmas Eve!

    Thanks Joe!

  5. Nan says:

    Just swung by for a second visit. Love it all! I’m looking forward to my plate!

  6. Pam Butterick says:

    Anna Susana, I hope you have a beautiful and very special tiara to match your name. Reading this brought great joy, as always.👸🏻😘

  7. Laurie Brandriet Keller says:

    Merry Christmas, SusieQ ❤️
    Are you watching the new season of A Place to Call Home?
    I have forgotten the name of the other series you enjoyed as well . Would you remind me when you have time, please?

  8. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    FIRE UPDATE: Fire Dept described OAJI as being SAFELY in the center of a donut with fire all around it…yea.

    Evacuation from 192 (highway running along base of mtns) from Carpenteria to 154 (highway over mountains to Solvang & Santa Ynez) on mtn side. Fire climbing up, along top, and over mountains toward Los Padres Ntl Forest & Santa Ynez. So all mtn side of Montecito, Riviera, & Santa Barbara evacuated. Strange to look out window last night and no lights on the Riviera. Rob Lowe, Jimmy Connors, George Lucas, Oprah, Patrick Stewart, Jeff Bridges, Ellen DeGeneres all evacuated.

    We’re all wearing masks, some sun today, still thick smoke and snowing ash!

    Steam cleaning floors, Christmas decorating, and whatever I can do to stay home and keep busy.

    Your blog, Sweet Susan, and all the comments really helps to keep spirit up and stay in present dreaming about Christmas. Love my Santa Mug.

    Thanks so much and love to all – especially Gentleman who save bunny!

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Sandra. My prayers are with you.

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      Sandra, I know we are thinking about and praying for all of you in the fire areas. We know California fairly well and are horrified at the pictures and videos. Yes, that young man was brave, but he could have been trapped by the flames. Shudder! I think I saw on the news that you were to have some rain. Hope it doesn’t come with lightning.
      Debbie in Tampa

  9. Mary says:

    Hi Susan – Merry Christmas! I’ve been struggling to find the recipe for Chewey-Delicious Gingerbread Cake. I’ve searched all my SB cookbooks to no avail. I have an old copy printed out but it is so faded I’m afraid I might miss an ingredient.

    I’m not sure, but I think you may have snow on the island now…we are getting our first inch or two here in upstate NY.

    Thank you in advance for the recipe –

  10. Penny Harrison from Oceanside, CA says:

    I luv, luv, luv this month’s blog!!! Thank you so very much Susan!

  11. kathiellen says:

    Dear Susan,
    Once again, reading your Cozy Blog was a treat! I love the pictures of your dining room past and present! I especially love the silhouette candle holders on your table! After I saw them the first time in one of your past blogs I have looked for them on eBay to no avail. Whenever I am in an antique mall I always have them on my mind. They are simply quaint and lovely!! Also, I love that book on your mantle…”Once Upon A Christmastime” by George Sims! What a beautiful book! I decorate with seasonal books, and what a find that one would be! I don’t have a normal bucket list, my bucket list is more like a scavenger hunt! I cannot wait for your upcoming trip to Ireland! My heart will surely be tucked into one of your suitcases!!! And also your trip to England, your picnic and all of the charm and excitement that your journey brings to you and others! I am so happy for you, Joe & Petey,….and I can hardly wait to buy your new book and read it again and again like I do all of your books!! I am anxiously waiting to recieve your new dishes!! It is like Christmas all year long when you create something new!! A Blessed, Happy Christmas to you, Joe and Jack!! May your New Year be filled with Wonderfulness, Good Health, Happiness and Fulfilled Dreams!❤️ My prayers go out to the people and animals in California. My heart is broken for all of them.❤️

    • sbranch says:

      I bet you’ll find those candle holders someday. I have seen others, not often, but at least I’ve seen them. There’s hope! Love you Kathiellen, thank you for all your kind words. I’m thrilled your HEART will be coming along with us!!!!! I promise to take really good care of it and feed it all the things it loves! It’s going to be SO exciting!

  12. pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

    good morning Susan and Girlfriends. Happy St. Lucia Day!! its one of the holiday traditions from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. the eldest daughter will come to her parents’ bedroom sing the carol for St Lucia, dressed in a white gown with a wreath of candles on her head and bringing a tray of hot chocolate or coffee and special buns baked for this day she will wake them and serve them in bed and they will watch the sun rise for that morning. it is a holiday tradition honoring the approach of winter and hoping for the return of the sun in longer days come spring. we do it in our household, a tradition we have honored ever since I can remember. so Happy St. Lucia Day everyone… may the short days of winter lengthen into the longer days of spring soon. we’re still hearing about that horrible fire, but I haven’t heard yet what was the cause of it… does anyone know how they got started. I know in the fires in Northern California, PG&E is being sued for causing the fires since it was their lines that sparked, went down and caused the whole thing from what I am hearing. our local wineries and vineyards here are offering good grape plants to the vineyards down in Napa to help them get back in business. and local tastings and cheese parties to raise money for their rebuilding and replanting. its still cold and foggy here, its downright freezing here. I have to go out every so often to break up the ice in the water tubs and pools so the birds can drink… yeesh!!!! well off to get some holiday baking down and break up more ice…. have a great day everyone, stay warm and comfy, stay safe and stay happy. Happy St. Lucia Day …. holiday hugs….. 😀

  13. Pat Johnson says:

    Sending holiday cheer your way! I know your Christmas and New Year celebration will be grand! At this time of year I am reminded how much joy you bring all of the Girlfriends that live all over the country and beyond. Your special gift is never forgotten and we always look forward to just one more entry. Now is the time we remember, smile and Thank You soooo much. We all carry you – and Joe – and kitty in our hearts and send you blessings. Sadly, our fire is still burning and people have lost their homes and belongings. It has been very frightening. Weather behaved for a few days which was good. However, more wind is coming this weekend. We are just so very dry everywhere. Things are not green like they usually are. Prayers are said every night for this to end. And blessing are placed on each and every fire fighter who has joined the crew. And we have lost only one life – a 70 year old woman who was trying to leave her home and the area. I am sure if it had been me, I would have not made it out either. God rest her soul. ……. enough. May your days be merry and bright. And remember (all of you there) are loved.

    • sbranch says:

      I think about you all every day Pat. You know I have so many friends and family out there. I can picture every place they talk about on TV and have memories of it all. I’m thankful for the safety of my loved ones, and worried for everyone else. I feel very loved by my dear girlfriends. This blog takes place in such a moment in time, a very short time, this connection we’ve forged … I won’t be able to do it forever, and neither will our Girlfriends, all good things must end, but we have our little history, and if I understand the Internet (which I definitely do not!🙄), it will likely never really go away. A legacy of love. I like this very much. Thank you for your kind comments, Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018 to you and yours. xoxo

      • Auburnite says:

        Dearest Benefactress of all good things that matter in our world,

        This post was particularly poignant, heartening and full of goodwill and cheer. To say you are a force of nature unlike any other that brings to light the very things most important in the global landscape simply does not serve you or your work justice. To steal the infamous line from “Jerry Maguire,” you are the ambassador of QUAN, which reaches out to people all over the world as evidenced in your blog comments and twitter. I believe you are a missionary and have not only touched, inspired, motivated, bolstered and provided uplifting words but I also believe you have saved peoples lives, again, mentioned over the years in some blog comments.

        To the above end, I was a bit _____ (cannot find the right adjective) to read the reality of your statement above but understand all good things must come to an end, I guess – is that really true fairy godmother? So if there is an end nearing, dear God say it isn’t so because until 2020 your sage yet cheerful words save me a $25 co-pay to the shrink but more seriously, I thank you for you generosity of spirit, compassion, goodness and overall fabulosity!

        Perhaps a bit too personal since I don’t know you but I can honestly say I love you to bits and all that you stand for, after all if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything, right?

        Love Carrie from Auburn, almost 🙏❤️🌏

        • sbranch says:

          LOL “the ambassador of QUAN” ~ only you would think to say this funny thing!!! So cute Carrie, thank you, Miss Auburnite 👏. I love being an ambassador of Quan … amongst so many other ambassadors (kindred spirits) on this blog. Verklempt? Is that the right word for the missing adjective? Because I was (V.) as I was writing it, but I can’t help but celebrate this very special moment in time we’ve all had here, and be aware of its transitory nature. But it ain’t over yet, because WE’RE GOING TO ENGLAND AND IRELAND.🤣 And unless I am killed off by the sadness and hurt occurring in this beautiful magical world of ours (which could happen), I’ll be here for a very long time. With love forever, me. xoxo Happy New House.😘

        • mary spring says:

          …oh, dear Carrie !! ( with such words that you wrote, close to the beginning, I just knew that it was you, even before you signed your name ! ).. what sweet words and, yes, Susan has blessed us all with her grace and love, as always…thank you, thank you for dearly expressing how we all feel !! ..sincerely !!

          • Auburnite says:

            How kind of you Mary. Wishing you all the very best this time of year and all year may bring.

            From one SB girlfriend to another.

            *I recognize you Mary, I’ve read many of your great comments. We will always have the SB blog, even if at some point it is the memories as they, too, are a wonderful gift if not the best.*

  14. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    Yea, Sweet Susan, you have snow! Happy for you!!

    Run out and make Snow Angeles……

    Love to all, Sandra

  15. mary spring says:

    …well, it’s snowing now,isn’t it girlfriend ?!..( I’m watching the weather out your way, as my daughter lives in Westerly..and she is getting a snowfall as well !! ).. I just wanted to pop in and say thank you again for another heart warming post from you and wish you and your loves happy holidays !!.. in joy the snow !!

    • sbranch says:

      I read yours and Sandra’s comments, jumped up and looked outside and YES, our first snow. I didn’t know! It’s beautiful. December 14, just the perfect time for it. Last touches need to be put on the tree, and now I’m extra inspired. Thank you Mary!😘

  16. janejane says:

    Anna Susana, 😉 Another beautiful and inspiring post! Please tell me everything you know about the black ‘people’ candleholders on your table. I know you’ve had them for years because I’ve seen them for years. I love them so much!

    • sbranch says:

      I don’t know much, I’m sorry to say, because I love them too. They seem “colonial” to me, they’re iron and heavy, the candle holders are rather shallow, I have to put candle-glue in them to help hold the tapers, but there are no marks, nothing written on the bottoms. I found them many years ago in an antique store. I remember seeing another pair in our travels, so I know there are more out there. Keep your eyes open and maybe you will get lucky! Try eBay and Etsy!

  17. Debbie Boerger says:

    Love, love, love to you and yours! I certainly needed your blog today. Tom had a setback yesterday. Some tests will be done, then we’ll be able to exhale!.
    He must be fooling better today, as he just called me asking for a grocery list for making his Absolutely Fabulous Chili. Also, he’s making Toll House cookies for a party on Sunday.

    Maine had a pretty good snow, but a friend called today saying it rained and most of it is washed away. I’m falling behind on shoveling sunshine. Ouch, stop throwing snowballs at me, Girlfriends!

    Thank you for the Joy you give :*)
    Debbie in Tampa

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      “Fooling” better? Hmmmmm…..

    • sbranch says:

      Hoping for good news about Tom! “Fooling” is a good sign! Our snow CAN’T melt right now, it’s like 20 degrees and frozen like a brick! I have to go shopping in Edgartown today, so I will get lots of pretty views.

  18. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    DEVASTATED I cracked my Santa Mug yesterday 🙁 Between that and the fire tempted to cancel Christmas! Only used 13 days since December 1st….boo hoo

    Yes, it’s the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Santa Paula, Ojai and moving toward and over mountains to Santa Ynez and up toward Central Coast – especially smoke – towards Susan’s old stomping ground. 5th largest in California history.

    Thousands of people evacuated and about 1,000 homes lost. Lots of Stores closed (at Christmas time!) due to toxic smoke – EVERYONE even some pets running around with masks. The grit and smoke is penetrating everything. Haven’t driven my car 6 days…..she’s a 94 Volvo with over 200,000 miles so babying her since she’s been so good to me. She black under the thick coating of ash! Tried squinting to see if I could visualize snow when Susan’s snow started – didn’t work.

    I live downtown Santa Barbara at the base of the Riviera. Few lights at night due to mandatory evacuation on Riviera. Lot of police driving around this am and helicopters, smoke getting thick again and can’t see top….there goes another red helicopter – bless them! Scary and sad. Wind starting 🙁


    Thanks for your prayers – especially for animals.

  19. sylvia in seattle says:

    Sandra in Santa Barbara, I’m wishing SNOW for California! CA needs a Christmas miracle.

  20. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    NEWS FLASH: Just confirmed one Fireman from San Diego area killed in the line of duty by Fillmore (by Santa Paula). His family has been notified and no further news available at this time.

    SO SAD! Especially at Christmas.
    Sending love and prayers to his family and thanking them for their sacrifice of allowing him to help us……

  21. Crystal says:

    Dear Susan, Thanks for all your wonderful ideas and inspiration for this special time of year. I know this can be a tough time for those who are going through some of life’s struggles. We pray daily for such friends and family members. I am trying to enjoy this time of year without getting too stressed. Today I finished decorating our home so it is looking very festive here now. It is so nice to unwrap all those old familiar decorations. Amid the cleaning, gift wrapping, baking cookies and making perogys and cabbage rolls, I hope to remember who’s we are and the reason for the season, then I think things will be ok and I will be truly ready for Christmas this year. All the best to you, Joe and your kitty’s this year and in the coming year. From your girlfriend in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.
    Crystal Burns

  22. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    yea….you’re due for more snow on Friday!!!!!!

    Flex those wings in the snow 😉

  23. Amy from Wisconsin says:

    Dear Susan-
    Feeling very OVERWHELMED in a “wicked way”, reading your blog has brought me back to what is important and what to cherish.
    Thank-you once again from the bottom of my heart….
    p.s. I cannot do bourbon,soooooo I bet Joe’s Old Fashions would taste VERY GOOD with Brandy! 🙂 I plan to try it AND with those yummy looking cherries!

  24. ~Del Gato gordo y descarado~ says:

    I think you would be truly astounded to grasp the depth of what a jewel you are for sharing all of this, perfect timing as always! Many thanks!

  25. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    YES! so glad you’re having snow;-) Sweet Sugar Plum dreams!

  26. Penelope says:

    I love reading your Blog, it’s so inspiring. I made Joe’s “Old Fashioned” last night and I used the awesome cherries you suggested. It was so delicious. I will differently make it again and again. Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas to you and Joe.

    • sbranch says:

      So happy to hear that Penelope! Joe has developed that drink for so long I think it’s now a work of art! Merry Christmas!

  27. Mercedes Gonzalez says:

    I just cannot express how much I love your posts!!!!A Merry Merry Christmas for you from northen Spain with love!

    • sbranch says:

      I can’t express how much I love hearing from our Girlfriends all over the world … thank you for saying hello Mercedes, and Merry Christmas (Feliz Navidad) to you too!

  28. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    I’m under voluntary evacuation. 🙁 Santa Ana winds are shoving through Montecito, Riviera, Santa Barbara. Packing – especially kitty crack (freeze dried Kat Man Doo turkey). I’m 73, had a stroke, and disabled…..quite a challenge.
    Planned on wrapping Christmas gifts today.

    Prayers welcome…….

    • sbranch says:

      Oh my dear, you must write us as soon as you can. You’re so smart to go early, when it’s easy and quiet and you have your kitty. I hope you have help. Blessings on you dear Sandra.

  29. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    car’s packed except for litter box & Grasshopper…..

  30. Bev Brewer says:

    Merry Christmas to Susan and Joe—enjoying your wonderful posts and could comment on so many sweet tidbits, but that could be quite lengthy! I loved the recent kitty photos, all of which could be in a calendar—Jack snuggled in the soft fringe of your blanket, the pudgy cat perched on the fence overlooking the picturesque snowy village and lake, and the kitty snoozing on his still gift-wrapped new Christmas bed that won’t be a surprise–all prizewinners! Love to you both from Bev and prayers to CA

  31. Kathy says:

    Can’t wait for your next book! Mt daughter and I will be in England in September (can’t wait). I keep looking at “A Fine Romance” and then pinch myself that soon I’ll be there! Can you tell us how you are starting your diary/book now. Any ideas will help plus it’s something to do while I wait.
    P.S. Loved “The Man who Invented Christmas”.

    • sbranch says:

      I am painting lambs and bluebells. The trip itself will unfold and tell me other things to paint when we get there, but I have no doubt that we will have lots of lambs and bluebells everywhere we go! And reading books, like Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee … and others by British authors, and learning how to sing Jerusalem. It’s nice to live in the dream while waiting! xoxo

  32. Audra says:

    Hi Susan and friends!
    Thank you for all of the beautiful photos on your blog! It’s so fun to see all of the detail in how people decorate their homes but even more so at the holidays! I have a question for you. First, I recently found your 2nd book first, Isle of Dreams. What a great book – enchanting, just like your cookbook, that’s all I can say…so I had to read more! I am now reading Fairytale Girl, and you mentioned in that book about your family in Iowa in the part where you wrote about learning more about your family as a girl. You mentioned the Orr family in Iowa. Roy and Minnie Orr were my great great grandparents from Iowa and I was wondering if these are the same Orrs you wrote about? I don’t know as much as I’d like about my family history and most are gone so would be cool if that were the case! Probably a long shot but thought I would ask. I took the day off from work today to bake cookies with my girlfriend, we’ll bake some for you and all the girlfriends! Happy holidays! xo Audra

    • sbranch says:

      Do you know where in Iowa? My grandma was born and raised in Sioux City. She was one of 10 children, she was born in 1909. Her father was Merrill, born in Stacyville, Iowa in 1871, and her mother was Sarah Foster born in Adel Iowa. My grandma used to tell me that if you see an Orr, you are likely related. So maybe it’s true! Happy Holidays to you too Audra!

  33. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    Wow! A reprieve from the wind till Wed – Sat was a nightmare as the wind ripped thru with up to 65 MPH gusts and mini ground tornados. Was at Trader Joe’s stocking up at 8 am when they opened (closed when I left)… I left the wind nearly blew me over – I’m 6′ and well fed! Had planned on washing the ash off car but car wash never opened. When I got home (10 min away) we were under voluntary evacuation. I’m in downtown Santa Barbara – how could this be happening it started south of Ventura almost 2 week ago!

    From my front window, I watched the water brigade helicopters constantly make drops even after dark as the fire marched on across the top of the mountains behind the Riviera. I kept sending concerned friends and evacuated neighbors pictures… did we exist before iPhones?

    I packed papers, pictures, small family heirlooms (Granny’s Rogers grape pattern table spoons no longer oval as she had worn down one edge stirring all those years), beloved kitty ashes in their special/unique resting places (Miss Priss’ is a red, wooden cigar box), accompanied by their pictures. Walking with a cane, I could only carry one thing at a time….market cloth bags are a blessing! Water color prints (cats of course) I hand carried from Russia were next with other kitty artwork, litter, special tent like cat carrier and kitty crack (Kat Man Doo freeze dried chicken) I had just found from, Crystal Geyser water as that’s all he’s even drunk (only the best). Biggest challenge was his frozen raw food (cat and turkey) from Darwins in Seattle…..
    froze organic lunch box with little gel packets….ready to be last thing packed.
    wrote a list so I wouldn’t forget it. No room for Susan’s books 🙁 🙁
    Grabbed pint, quart & bigger zip lock bags to pack panties, pills, bras, etc. 3, tops 2 shorts, Eileen Fisher denim jacket, 2 pr flip flops, long t-shirt, sarong, all fit in one quilted duffle bag. Shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, Mitchem fit in qt bag.

    I had no where to go…couldn’t take Grasshopper to a shelter, on SS no $ for hotel, every friend either dead or evacuated too. Grasshopper’s already been thru 3 SBA fires at the north end over last 14 yrs and one at Pine Mountain.

    I had met a couple ~15 yrs ago at the cat (of course) shelter where I volunteered. They came in and wanted a cat no one wanted to adopt. They chose Miles an FIP (feline aids) positive, Tom who had survived on the streets, tabby Macoon. Instant love & total ham. So appreciative! The animals know when you save them! I’m an animal healer so worked with him after they took him home, became their cat sitter, and dear friends!

    When we had one of the big fires offered my bathroom (I had 5 cats) for Miles when they had to evacuate. He was able to go with them that time. They assured me they’d take me with them….I just bawled from appreciation and relief. Their friends in Goleta had opened their home to 4 families & no room for me PANIC. Steve called me back assuring me I would go with them and all would be ok….I cried with relief & appreciation.

    We waited with pictures & reports to Steve up by HWY 154 (San Marcos Pass Rd) re progress of fire which I could see. He constantly reassures me all ok- we have time. I thanked him again and again for looking after me.

    A clue to how great he is is when they came to adopt the cat, he told his wife Debra, to choose cause the cat was going to be hers….how many husbands would do that – Yes, Joe would do it, Susan!

    So we’re waiting. Car still packed. Winds died down till Wed and incredible firemen are saving us again and again. So sad we lost one – many prayers and thanks to his family.

    We are shrouded in gray ash which coats and permanent everything….especially your mouth! Everyone is wearing a mask. When I take my mask off @ 73 and physically fit as I swim an hr a day/6 days a week, it hurts my lungs to breath.

    LA Times had a picture yesterday of the footprint of our fire completely covering Maui! It’s still marching on with a unpredictable mind of it’s own!

    One of the biggest challenges is washing the smoke & ask out of my hair which is short! Can’t imagine what people with long hair are going thru.

    I’m still in bed as I started this at 7 am. Grasshopper is purring along the side of my thigh patiently waiting for Kitty Crack and I need my coffee.

    Hardest being hit are evacuates – some have been out for 2 weeks and no idea when they can return, the merchants 🙁 It’s Christmas – their biggest time of year – please shop locally to support them!

    Also share with others what you no longer need whether it be clothes, blankets, food, toy, equipment whatever.

    Wish we could be this caring and supportive all year long.

    I’ll keep you posted as I patiently wait for evacuation to be lifted or need to flee… appreciative for Steve taking care of me.

    Happy Holidays, much love to all, thanks for your support and prayers.

    • Vicki South of Arroyo says:

      I hear you, dear. I’m south of you and have been packed since Dec 4 to evacuate; none of us can rest easy til it rains. I’m a native and can never in my life remember the kind of wind that started this whole disaster nor a fire of such destruction. This is the first day in two-plus weeks I didn’t wear my N95 respirator mask and I’m paying for it; even with bluer sky in places, the smoke is still there and, yes, ash all over everything, so it’s a lot of bad crap to breathe. Our poor Ventura County and our poor Santa Barbara county; so wounded, so many scared and hurting hearts.

      (Susan, I’m glad you came when you did, when we were green and beautiful in the early spring; you wouldn’t want to see us now.)

      Sandra, I pray for your continued safety as I do my own. This crazed, leapfrogging fire left a lot to still burn for as much as it seems there’s nothing left in the hills that isn’t scorched. I’m sure you know others as I do who’ve lost everything. I was so appreciative that Sheri in the shop got the Susan Dishes to us before Christmas. Mine are going to my best friend who lost her home of 41 years in Ventura. (Ilene, if you read this, it was Cheri W. I know, I know; unbelievable.)

      That we’re now at 60% containment is sure a good, positive sign after so many days where the brave firefighters weren’t gaining too much ground against the impossible conditions. God Bless both The Salvation Army and The Red Cross who’ve been a steady presence to our communities. I was concerned to read that the red-flag warning continues with strong wind back in Ventura County tonight which probably will mean Santa Barbara will suffer the same, but I know the firefighters said that yesterday (Tues) and today would give them a good window of opportunity to get in deeper, offensively rather than defensively with the fire, and make headway with an upper hand before the wind (that relentless wind which just won’t let go) returns.

      I feel like Christmas stopped on Dec 4. But I pray daily for peace on earth because there’s been a lot of amazing goodwill toward men, women and children – and pets, wildlife, farm animals – in this epic natural disaster; so many stories of people helping people, literally saving their lives. Like everyday people who never knew they’d be called a hero.

      Yes, if people can just pray for Southern California, we’ve been under siege and we’re not out of the woods yet.

    • Vicki South of Arroyo says:

      My parents used to live in Carp and I-myself lived in Santa Barbara for three years as a young adult. I know every single thing you’re speaking of, the names and places. I was so afraid the fire would get to the Queen of the Missions and the natural history museum because they butt up to Mission Canyon and of course continuing along the Riviera from there. And to think the zoo (practically on the beach) was threatened, that it would burn right to the sea as Ventura did a couple of weeks ago; has been a very real possibility. Of course the canyons have spilled fire right onto the beach in Malibu in previous years; I so recall when Trancas was out of control in fires of the 80s & 90s, with people jumping into the water (the ocean) for a safe place. I think that was in 1978. Wildfire is a fact of life in this part of SoCalif but this Thomas Fire is like nothing else. I happened to be on “TV Hill” in SB in the mid-80s when fire burned right up to the ABC-TV station’s back patio where they had a huge satellite thing. Extremely scary. And the sundowner winds in SB are a phenomenon I can never quite understand; they are deadly. I keep thinking of various estates in Montecito which have been open to the public over the years for garden tours/fundraisers; some have been there since early-early 20th century. They’ve survived more than one fire. Like Lotusland; the actual estate has been there since the 1880s and the house since the 20s. Continued prayers…

  34. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    PS “There’s got to be a morning after” from the movie keep running thru my head.

    Need to tuck recipe box in car.

    Had a Christmas Brunch for The Girls. The food leftovers really kept my mind occupied – who needs drugs when we have incredible food. Was too terrified to have a glass of wine in case I had to flee.

    Spread was toasted bagels, cream cheese, mascapone cheese, Belgian butter, black truffle butter, thinly sliced red onions, Scottish Salmon, capers, brie baked in pastry, Red Pepper Jelly, raspberry jam, coronations, strawberries, Bolivian organic coffee, organic sugar, 1/2 & half, 2 kinds of wine, pate, and 2 kinds of crackers. “You have to try this combination” was the theme with the most popular item being Red Pepper Jelly from Trader Joe’s* of course.

    Relieving combinations, leftovers, great time and good friends really helped me stay positive.

    *2 of 3 Trader Joe’s in Santa Barbara had to close Sat due to smoke & ash!

    All items purchase at Trader Joe’s except for Scottish Salmon which had been
    a gift.

    • Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

      Met head of a fire strike team at the car wash. They’ve been saving us since the fire started in Ventura 2 weeks ago. Very nice visit! Gave him my card and offered my home for a few of his men for Christmas. Could kick myself I didn’t just open my home to them. It’s a duplex studio, big enough for a double bed, galley kitchen AND has nice tub for soaking with lots of personality as it’s an old cottage with lots of windows and light….. used in movies.

      Am going to get on phone first thing in morning and see if I can track him, Michael, down to let him and his strike force know! Love to entertain and great at winging it & love people…..match made in heaven.

      What an honor to be able to give back to them for all they do for us….
      Yea, keep your fingers crossed and lots of prayers.

      When I watch the Strike Forces on the news, I cringe at the risk they take to save us. Asked him to please be safe as they’ve already lost one. He told me they remind the Team 3 times a day to stay safe.

      • Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

        My favorite Granny, who lived around the corner from where I am now, cooked for the soldiers at the Salvation Army when I was about 5 years old. I can remember shooting pool with them while she cooked in the big kitchen. Must be in the genes.

  35. Deb in Wales says:

    I really don’t know how I missed this! I know my laptop is on the blink, but even so ~~~ and it’s so lovely, from beginning to end. I know I’m always on about Autumn as my favourite season, but I do think I love the Winter mug more! Winter is my second favourite season, equally with Spring, but not a huge fan of Summer ~ it’s the heat, you see, I don’t do too well if it gets over 70 degrees.

    Today, I’ve been on a short ramble into the fields along the byways, and everything looks bare; I love seeing the structure of the land, especially the trees, the frame on which all other seasons is built.

    I love how you capture all the movement on the bird feeders.

    ~~~Waving~~~From Across the Pond~~~Deb in Wales xoxo

  36. Rosanne Murphy (Oregon) says:

    Our daughter and the grands flew in from Phoenix this weekend to spread a bunch of holly jolly. I made your cranberry tea cake and wanted to report that it was a delicious success! We ate it with vanilla whipped cream – soooo wonderful! Thank you. You never let me down, girlfriend!❤️

  37. Bren Leyland says:

    Dear Susan,

    What a lovely post… as always! Your posts are like beautifully wrapped presents, with every new paragraph offering something lovely to look at or delightful/interesting to think about. They are also gifts that keep on giving; for how often do we readers return to re-read our favourite parts …savouring and mulling those things you’ve shared with us. I know I do!

    With so few sleeps left now, I’m taking this opportunity to wish you and Joe and Jack the very Merriest of Christmases! Pretty certain Santa be ever so good to you all!

    With love and my very best wishes,
    Bren xox

  38. Gina Derksen says:

    Just to say I sure love the little Queen Victoria quote dishes! The little stack arrived, ice cold, earlier this week, and they are now wrapped for only very special people! I might have hidden one away for myself, not certain. My daughter published a family recipe cookbook for our reunion this year, and the vintage photo on the cover is her Great Grandma baking, behind her a vintage mixer much like the one you’ve done on this plate. Merry Christmas, Susan Branch! 🎄

  39. Diane says:

    Cherries arrived yesterday. Booked my flight. Will see you in May. So excited.

  40. Kathy Thompson says:

    Hi Susan…I just wanted to share something that I think will make you smile from ear-to-ear. My great-niece (she is 31) has had a couple of years in her life that were pretty rough. Marriage on the rocks. Other issues. She moved back home with her mom to get back on her feet. Well, lo and behold, she has discovered watercolors. According to her mom (my niece) she is REALLY good at it. I get to see some of her work that she is bringing with her to my home on Christmas Eve. Can’t wait to see it, and I’m going to share your story with her. I remembered you started in your thirties, too, while recovering from heartbreak, so I thought I would share this exciting news that is helping this sweet girl get back her life.

  41. Regina Carretta says:

    Hello dear Susan – I have followed you around the UK from your blogs, your book….last spring you were in my pocket in London for a week….this spring, 3 of us friends all (one in their 20’s, and two of us in our 60’s!!!!) will go to Scotland and Ireland! I am ready to get Rick Steves’ Scotland book…I know I want to see the museums in Edinburugh, and hear Irish music in pubs, see the hills, meet the people….my friend has a niece in Galway, so we shall visit ….. any place you adore there? And…and….the royal wedding will be happening while we are there – I loved seeing all your photo’s of bunting for the jubilee!
    I have vowed, lucky I have been to have travelled to many countries, that from now on it is the UK to explore….will you be there at the same time?
    thanks for all the education about the beauty of the UK!

    Regina, Seattle

  42. Cindy Tuning says:

    Happy almost Christmas Susan ! Today is the day I wait for, the Winter solstice when we start gaining daylight !! In lieu of the early or late sun, I keep all the Christmas tree lights on during our waking hours. l love the glow. Wishing you and Joe a wonderful Christmas with a little bit of fresh snowfall to make it extra magical !!

  43. Sue says:

    Susan, I know you love old movies too, and as I read the opening of your latest posting all I could think of was “Christmas in Connecticut,” with Barbara Stanwyck! I had to chuckle. You, of course, are the real deal, but she was so funny writing her very homey column from her NYC digs. At least, in the happy ending that those fabulous old movies always had, she ultimately made it all come true. What fun!

    Have a wonderful Christmas! We’re not expecting anything white in Houston, but sure enjoyed our recent little overnight tease. It nearly covered the grass and clung to all the tree leaves, so there was a touch of Christmas magic in the air. Of course, it melted by 8:30…

    A merry and happy to all,

  44. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Hello Susan! Just popping in to catch up and see how your Christmas crunch time is going! How wonderful your Christmas tree looks, and how well behaved Jack has been with the ornaments and festive decorations……a good kitty he is!!!! Your kitchen must, no doubt, smell deliciously yummy with all if the cookie baking!!! We had quite a snow storm in Dearborn, Michigan last week. Another lighter one is on it’s way with temps in the twenties……we will be freezing walking to Midnight Mass on Sunday…..shivering all the way (only one block!) . Maybe after the holidays, would you be so kind as to enlighten me with the “recipe” for the Keoke Coffe, as I gave my son Steven a set of glass bugs for his 29th birthday, Monday, and he might want to make these when entertaining in his new “country house” he recently purchased. ( my children grew up in the city, so now he will be over an hour away.) Both children now have their very own zip codes!!!! So, filled with too much sentiment, hubby and I opted for a fresh table top tree(4 1/2 ‘) this year, using antique ornaments from my Dad’s childhood. My son & daughter boxed up “theirs” to use. I miss the way our “children'” decorations adorned the tree in years past, but it is a new chapter of our lives. Becoming an”empty nester” is slowly taking place 🙁 Did your mother find it difficult when you moved so far away to the East Coast Susan? Ooops, have to say good bye, as my sewing buddy Girlfriend will be having me over for lunch. I had two titanium implants put in my left jaw on Monday,”sew” she’s spoiling me! Wishing you, Joe, and Jack a Merry Christmas and A Very Happy New Year 2018 !!!!! God Bless. Take care of yourself!!!!

  45. Barbara (Farm Girl) says:

    I went to our local food bank yesterday 12/20/2017 to donate eggs from our chickens. I asked the woman that runs the place, Laura, if she was ready for Christmas. Laura said, “No, haven’t even shopped yet, only buying for my Grandson, can’t afford anything more.” This woman works her tail off at the food bank/thrift store for people in need! I came home and said to my husband, “We are VERY fortunate people to say the least!” We can afford gifts. We can afford the NECESSARY things like food, gas in our car, health insurance, a roof over our heads, clothes, and we have to remember that by helping those who don’t. So if you have a little to spare, don’t forget to pay it forward. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

  46. pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

    good morning Susan and Girlfriends. well with all the holiday hustle and bustle and cheer, we got some shattering news, my MIL has been diagnosed with Dementia, something she sort of inherited from her mother ( she died from it) and it seems my FIL may be a borderline case with it. so we have to start considering what to do for them, and as usual dear SIL has washed her hands of the whole mess and left it to us. there is no way I can deal with both of them as the disease progresses and quite honestly I will not have them moving in here with us, professional help is needed here, and I think perhaps for starters a visiting nurse to come help with meds and housekeeping and cooking is needed and as things get worse start looking for a safe home to place them in… I hate this as I have no idea how long this will go on or what we are up against here. saying prayers for California, some of our fire crew came home last night and more went out to assist, and wishing all my girlfriends here and you Susan a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year… lets all hope its a good one, we could sure use it. holiday hugs everyone…… 😀

  47. Anne Kennerley says:

    Merry Christmas, Susan and Joe and thank you for the bookmarks – my Grand daughter, Roxie, loved them. Anne in Staffordshire ( U.K. ) xxx

  48. Gill Smith says:

    Dear susan wishing you and Joe a wonderful Christmas. Hope it’s filled with lots of love and happiness.I am so looking forward to your visit next year, soon be here!! Take care lots of love Gill from north Devon U.K. Xx

  49. Deborah T Norling says:

    Dearest Susan,

    Thank you as always for soothing my soul and helping me to find sanctuary and respite when I need it most.

    I can’t visit as often as I’d like, but when I do, you never fail to boost my spirits with your incredible art work, photos, quotes,family stories, and of course Joe and Jack!

    I loved that you made a comment about the sweet young man who saved the rabbit in the Southern California fires. I cried as well when I first saw the footage on the news, quite emotional, his desperation to save a living creature amidst the hellish inferno.

    Many negative reviews stated he ” made things worse” for the animal that could have easily gone underground into a burrow for shelter.

    I am not an expert, but considering this fire has burned over 270,000 acres and still only 65% contained, declared the worst fire in California history, I think that young man did the right thing…( Although, his Mom probably had a fit when she saw him! )

    Also, enjoyed the quote by Elizabeth Akers Allen, “Backward, turn backward…”
    I hope that everyone, even for a moment, can relive one of their happiest most exciting childhood Christmas memories.

    Thank you for all you do for all of us!


    Debbie in Northern California

    • sbranch says:

      We are the lucky ones, Debbie, this Christmas Eve, because we see our cups as half full, we believe in heart and beauty, cynicism finds no quarter within us. Yes, I’m sure his mom would have had a fit! But after that brave rescue, I think she would be so proud to have that boy as her son. Praying for California as I do every day. XOXO Sending love.

  50. Hi Susan … sitting here by the space heater and my Christmas tree, merrily reading your blog. It’s the perfect beginning to my holiday break. Happy Christmas to you and Joe. Am ever so grateful for all the joy, magic, and coziness you bring to my life and heart. Blessings to you!

    • sbranch says:

      Happy Christmas to you too Valerie. Blessings to us all, for a wonderful, healthy, PEACEFUL, event-less, little-things-count 2018!😘

  51. Beth from Iowa says:

    Hi Susan,

    Merry Christmas Eve to you, Joe and Jack💕! We finally have snow here in central Iowa!!! A white Christmas after all!!! Hope you and all the girlfriends have a safe and happy Christmas.

  52. Beth from Iowa says:

    OOPS! I forgot to mention I will wish Willard Merry Christmas when we get to Sioux City!!

    • sbranch says:

      Oh Boy! Thank you! I feel such a connection with Sioux City 💞. Merry Christmas to you Beth, so happy to hear you have snow!

  53. sara says:

    My friend Siobhan hates being called Shiv-on, it’s her pet hate and so many people get her name wrong all the time. She likes to be called Sher-vorn or if you must Shiv-orn but never ever Shiv-on. Actually it’s best to call people by the name they tell you rather than how we like to say it, so some people do like Shiv-on. It’s really rude to ignore people when they say how they like their name pronounced though. I’ve seen my friend tell people her name and they just say it the way they want anyway. I think of them as being two different names as they sound so different to me. Glad I have an easy name.

    I’m currently trying to think happy thoughts, reading your lovely blog and seeing all the lovely pictures, while listening to Enya. Trying to drown out my neighbour’s loud video games noises (from dawn to dusk – he gets up at 5) on Boxing Day. Need nice calming things around as noise makes me anxious.

    • sbranch says:

      Me too, quiet is such a nice thing. My Siobhan pronounces her name “Shiv-on”… I’ve not heard of sher-vorn … I’ll have to ask her. Such a beautiful name, but not as well known in this country as it is in Ireland or England.

  54. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    Pictures finally hung back on the walls & car unpacked…residual smoke symptoms of cough, tight chest, no energy & runny nose – wearing mask as needed. Ash everywhere….especially as grit in my mouth! We are forbidden to use blowers to clear….only safe way to wash away as even sweeping spreads it. Yuck!

    Voluntary evacuation for downtown Santa Barbara lifted – it was eerie covered with a least an inch of ash, thick smoke and blood red sun! Like the movie “On The Beach” with Gregory Peck. I live 6 blocks from downtown.

    On a positive note, remember our Zaca, Sycamore, Tea, etc fires’ ash was incredible fertilizer. Flowers & crops went wild the next year – biggest crop of Meyer Lemons I ever had! Come on Avocados 🙂

    Avocados groves were a natural miracle in protecting homes – they are slow burning barricades and many trees survived the fire – yipee!

    Drove south on HWY 192 to Toro Canyon yesterday along the base of Montecito mountains – it’s truly a miracle what Fireman did! You can see the red path of their air drops in and around areas of saved mansions – right on! GREAT JOB!
    The mountains show the devastation – they’re bare and black. In my 73 years as a California native surviving fires, floods, & earthquakes – never seen anything like this. We truly are the Shake & Bake Capital of the World!

    If the young man hadn’t rescued the rabbit, I’m afraid it would have roasted in it’s hole (warren)! Better to deal with Mom’s rage!

    Helicopters are flying again this am toward Montecito with smoke plumes visible up from behind the mountains….no more PLEASE!

    As the grit rests on my tongue, I’m thankful for the Heros that put their lives on the line to protect & save us & our animals! The community pulling together to help each other – yea.

    So Happy New Year – thanks for your support, prayers, and love.

    • sbranch says:

      Hopefully everyone will plant avocados in the spring! Thank you for the update. Here’s to a happy wet new year!

  55. Jasmine says:

    Oh! I’m so thrilled you’re writing another diary! I’m reading A Fine Romance right now. I’ve been savoring it in small chunks and will be finishing it tomorrow night before I fall asleep. It has been so inspiring and uplifting to read about the places I’ve never been, yet feel homesick for, from your perspective. It’s the best thing I’ve read all year. And I’ve read 50 books this year so that’s no small thing! Thank you for all your beautiful work and for writing this blog and inspiring me and making me think and making me laugh and making me cry. So pleased to have found you. ☺️

    • sbranch says:

      Wow, Jasmine, you just made my day, thank you! I can’t tell you how excited I am to write this new book! I have so many ideas for it! Thank you, I’m pleased to have found you too! Happy New Year! xoxo

  56. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    As you watch the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, please say a prayer of thanks to the Firemen who worked diligently to save Carpinteria which is where the majority of flowers are raised for the floats!

    I called the Rose Parade office in Pasadena this morning and requested they please take a moment to acknowledge and give credit to and thank our Fireman for all they did and are doing for us.

    The Thomas Fire is still burning on and the helicopters are still flying over my home……

    Bless them all as Tiny Tim would say!

    • sbranch says:

      GREAT idea to call them, and I’m sure they will…maybe even have their own float! They should! What heroes! Hope the fires go OUT for 2018 and give everyone a happier start to the New Year!

  57. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    Another great loss for Santa Barbara 🙁

    SUE GRAFTON, Author of A thru Y mystery series featuring Kinsey Millhone died Thursday after 2 year battle with cancer. There will not be a “Z” – we are so fortunate she published “Y” this year.

    I had the pleasure of knowing her…she was a kind, positive, witty, generous, loving, and caring person……How lucky we are to have enjoyed her. Her books live on giving us never ending enjoyment. Thanks, Sue!

    • sbranch says:

      I know, I read that Sandra, so sad. You are lucky to have known her. I loved reading about all the places I know and love.

  58. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    Wow, Susan, you’re at 9 degrees and it feels like -7! Can imagine….only time I’v ever been that cold is skiing at Tahoe. So glad you like the seasons cause you’re really experiencing winter. Not even with your much loved snow which would probably warm it up.

    .Happy New Year to all …..may you be blessed with perfect health, wealth, and happiness and time enough to enjoy it. Can’t remember how to say it in Spanish which sounds much better

    Lovd and blessing to all, Sandra and Grasshopper

    • sbranch says:

      I have so many design projects I need to get done before we go…so this freezing cold weather does not make we yearn for the great outdoors! Good time to be inside. Is it Feliz Ano Nuevo? Happy, year, new? Same to you Sandra!

  59. Ginger bouchard says:

    A new toy for xmas…going thru saved emails and my susa n branch folder has every Willard since I started receiving them! Since Feb ,12 2010…and they still bring me joy…thank you, Susan. Still have to get the hang of this thing though!

  60. Carrie Joy Brookshire says:

    Any idea when the 2018 Full Moon bookmark will be available?
    I love making bookmarks for myself and friends!

  61. Helen Edwards says:

    Unless something changes drastically, I will be working in May and will miss the trip; however, I know I can count on you to bring me along for the ride via your blog and book 💕! Enjoy the trip and the picnic. I can picture it now!

  62. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    You’re suppose to be -0 later in the week – On, My! Can’t even comprehend!
    Should you have kept your Michelin Tire coat?

    Did laundry all day trying to wash out the ash….still taste in my mouth. Wash curtains tomorrow. Did every cat bed today along with everything else. Every one I know is complaining of a cold and I think it’s actually from the ash .

    The Moon is lovely again tonight – yea!

    Much love to all, Sandra & Grasshopper

    • sbranch says:

      Coat was too loud, I shudder to think about it! I have man’s leather bomber jacket, works like a dream! Can fit all the sweaters I want underneath! Our moon too, it’s been pretty every night since the 1st!

  63. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    HAPPY NEW YEAR, Girlfriends!

    Our Whittier Fire which started July 8, 2017 up Hwy 154 by Lake Cachuma in the Santa Ynez Mountains was officially OUT JANUARY 1, 2018….:-) Burned for 5 months and 18.430 acres.

    8,500 fireman have been fighting the Thomas Fire and it’s still going!

    2018 has to be a better year…..An incredible full “Winter Moon” is shining into my kitchen @ 6:00 AM – playing peek-a-boo thru the clouds – creating a few moments of light heartedness and play….yes, we are surrounded by Mother Nature and her miracles when we’re open to them. Grasshopper is purring beside me as I write this. Susan, snow is due on Thursday for you. Yea.

    Thanks again for your prayers, supportive words and friendship via this marvelous Blog Susan established…’s really helped to keep me going.XOXOXO
    Sandra & Grasshopper

    • sbranch says:

      Love hearing from Sandra! Too bad we can dump a little bit of what is landing on us right now, in California! Would be very helpful!

  64. Nan Rohan says:

    Please enter me, Susan!

  65. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    New Year’s dessert was Chocolate Lava cake, scoop of organic French vanilla bean ice cream, balsamic vinegar glaze, whipped cream toped with AMARENA CHERRIES…..oh, my!

  66. Joy says:

    Just wondering if the weather is beating you up yet this new year!
    Take care during the storm Grayson!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s getting wild out there. Rain to snow to rain and now back to snow, but this time, the wind is blowing it sideways!

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