Merry Merry Darling Girlfriends! MUSICA Take a deep breath everyone.🎁 

And Happy Christmas Eve!

Our halls are decked . . . twinkle lights are bouncing around, from the tree, around our doors, reflected in the windows and mirrors, and even in the reflection on the table! 

I think I even see them in Jack’s eyes! He’s being so good with the tree. Not interested in the lit up behemoth at the end of the room. Perhaps, he thinks, it might fight back! Taking no chances! Very smart kitty. 😻

Our tree is bedecked with favorite ornaments. New and old.

from near and far

From our English friend Siobhan (say it Shiv-On), she made from a seashell she found when she came to visit and dated it too, making a perfect memory. One of the must-haves on our tree.

And this little house, from one of my new embroidery kits . . . a new must-have!

And this one, marked “1982,” my first year on Martha’s Vineyard. I have dated ornaments all over this tree. If I can’t find one for the year, I make something, or get a little knitted sweater or stocking ornament and embroider the date on it!

All sparkly! Colored lights, candle light, fire crackling, Dean singing.

And I’ve been keeping busy at my day job! You should SEE all the new art I have for next year’s calendar (2019)! It’s such a gift to have time to play with my art. Another blessing to count today. And every day. Time . . . 💞 for the things and the people we love.

Like brittle making! I’ve been busy in the kitchen too . . .

To give to a BFF with the basket and lace cloth.

And this too . . . SUCH a wonderful time of year! Love is in the air!  Along with cooking sugar, pine, woodsmoke, bayberry, and oranges ~ all the wonderful smells of Christmas.

The rain came a couple of days ago and took our snow away. This is a cardinal, another excellent ornament, at the feeder outside our kitchen window, swinging in the wind and snow, during the rain that took it all away! Today it’s 41 degrees ~ Joe and I are dressing up (in festive “Be-an-elf” scarves and hats) and going downtown to our little old-fashioned Main Street to say hello to shop owners, buy stocking stuffers, look for our 2017 ornament, fool around, be festive, eat lunch. I love lunch out. For me, it’s the perfect Christmas Eve thing to do.🎄I hope there will be carol singers wandering the street! I know the Fisher Farm wagon pulled by horses and filled with happy bundled people will be clip-clopping down the street ~ because it does that every year! Yay for tradition! ❤️ 

Stockings are hung by our chimney with care, but they need to be filled! Looks like a job for Santa Claus! And I wanted to remind you of this MOST wonderful recipe for the Cranberry Tea Cake, the perfect Christmas morning thing to eat. The perfect new “forever” tradition just in cases you’re needing one! 😍

I couldn’t let this moment get away without wishing you all a Beautiful and Blessed Holiday filled with Love, Joy, Peace, and Musica (sent to bless us all by  the angels). Here’s to 2018 and lots of singing tea kettles!

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564 Responses to MERRY MERRY JOY to the WORLD

  1. jeanie says:

    A day or two late and more than a dollar or two short by now, but wishing you and Joe all the beauty of the whole holiday season — all the parts you’ve had and all that you will over the next few days. So homey and hygge at your home at Christmas and isn’t it all the best? Have a wonderful new year and thanks for the joy you’ve brought my way in 2017!

  2. Carol Balabanow says:

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and Joe. My Lenten roses were blooming right before the snow arrived for Christmas and now we are plunged into attic temperatures for the rest of the week.

    Wishing you many blessings in 2018!

  3. Judy Roper-Smith says:

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that your New Year is happy and prosperous!!

  4. Carol Jolly says:

    I wish you and Joe a very Happy and blessed 2018!

  5. Patricia Edde says:

    I am a bit confused Susan. I wrote a comment, I believe on the 24th, and I saw it posted but awaiting moderation (is that the word ?) and then a few days later it disappeared off the face of the blog earth. Weird things do happen with me and computers, I think my electromagnetic field isn’t synchronized with theirs, but I have this all encompassing need to understand – is it me, is it the computer or have aliens stolen my comment and taken it to a faraway planet in order to better understand mankind? Inquiring minds (mine) want to know.

    • sbranch says:

      You mean this one? I had to look through, but there it was!

      A very Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad and Joyeux Noel (not sure of the spelling of Joyeux but you get my drift, oui?) and Happy 2018 to you, Joe, Jack, all the girlfriends and all of the people in the world!
      I started to do a bit of entertaining this holiday season as you have either 1) showed me how fun and glorious it can be, or 2) made me see what a curmudgeon I have been as I see all of the wonderful things you do for your family and friends. I have actually enjoyed it and tonight I am having a friend and her husband over for oyster stew, a Christmas Eve tradition for my family. He’s excited, she, not so much,but said she would try it. My dad made it very simply but deliciously: drain the oyster juice from the oysters (but remember to save it – just don’t look at it cuz it’s kind of gross looking); on low, melt butter in a biggish pot and add the oysters; let them simmer and curl up; add the juice and milk, your choice – truly decadent, heavy cream and half and half; down a notch, half and half and whole milk; hmmmmm, whole milk and 2%; why bother, 2% and skim; let simmer on low for a couple of hours and then ladle it into a big bowl with lots and lots of oyster crackers. I like my crackers mushy while others like theirs crisp – whatever floats your boat (or sleigh). Please forgive all of the punctuation errors. I was an English major but unfortunately correct punctuation was obviously not my thing, I was a reader and still am. If I don’t have a book awaiting me at all times, I think life would lose it’s shimmer.
      Anyway, a hand throw of kisses and love to y’all.
      PS I don’t want to spoil the moment but next year I think we might have to get a little serious and talk about what is happening to our democracy, a bit scary that, but for now baubles, twinklies, starlight and moonlight, deliciousness, tight hugs, warm slippers, “A Christmas Story”, caroling (even if you sing a bit off key), children’s laughter and a wet kiss from your dog, cat, horse, gerbil, armadillo or whichever of God’s furry creatures you may have. May God bless us everyone.
      AND, thanks for taking the time, once again, to plow through my ramblings Susan.

      • Patricia Edde says:

        That’s the one. So glad that it survived – not that it was any great work of words put together to make sentences but just that it didn’t disappear into the abbess of net neutrality. Thanks for taking the time to look. As always, your friend in Decorah.

        • sbranch says:

          Was just looking through family tree and found an ancestor born in Deborah! I knew I had an affinity for that place besides the Eagles!

          • Patricia Edde says:

            You two should come and visit Decorah sometime. It is a beautiful town set down in amongst the bluffs. Actually, Decorah is a crater created by a meteor millions of years ago, that’s why we’re not flat land like much of Iowa is. They actually found the remains of what they named a sea scorpion that was 6 feet long! We have waterfalls (when we have consistent rain), beautiful trails, Luther College which hosts lots of stage and music events, seed savers (an internationally known seed bank) and a vibrant downtown area (I sound like a promotional ad don’t I). Because we have a LARGE Norwegian population, the King and Queen of Norway have visited us several times AND because we are the start of the primaries, many politicians come including Obama, Clinton and Sanders during the 2016 election. The Republicans (except for now President Trump) came also but in much smaller arenas.
            I was born here but we moved to good old Reseda when I was 5 and I didn’t move back here until 9 years ago. I have never regretted the move except for missing the friends that I left. The lack of traffic is sublime and the fields of green in the summer and then gold in Autumn are beautiful.
            I see that I have written you another novel but I guess it was inevitable given that I suffer from chronic blabberitis. Happy, Happy New Year to you three and may 2018 be a good year for America and it’s people.
            PS the day after I wrote the 28th reply, it hit me that I meant to spell “abyss” rather than “abbess” which is the woman in charge of an abbey (I think – or not).

          • sbranch says:

            How wonderful to read that! It sounds wonderful! We’ll come some day I’m sure. So happy you found your way home. xoxo

  6. Janet Hundley says:

    Thank you for the sweet post and all the beauty you have shared this and every year!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Joe and Jack…and all the girlfriends, too

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you for being here Janet! It’s been fun, and next year, even MORE fun to come!

      • Sue reynolds says:

        Susan, all the best to you in this new year. I read you faithfully as the spot of light and joy in this crazy world. Your love of joe, the kitties, the weather and nature, road trips and trains… I share with you in my life.

        I do check my computer regularly for updates on your adventures, read old blog post when nothing comes up, and when weather hits your part of the world I send prayers. Perhaps you are without power and cozy in your kitchen. Figure one of these storms will have you moving a sofa into the kitchen. I promise to send prayers and gratitude for all you do for all of us, and please check in as soon as you can.

  7. Lori Hamilton says:

    Happy after-Christmas and New Year’s to you and Joe!
    I LOVE when you post pictures of your drawings and paintings “in progress!” I’d love to have a blog on one beginning-to-end. Maybe something to consider in 2018? Hmm?
    You get so much done. I’m taking a break from cleaning the house and un-decorating and wish I was drawing or reading a book! My time management skills need work…….there’s a resolution for the new year!

  8. Anne in Maine says:

    I hope you and Joe had a VERY, MERRY CHRISTMAS!! I wish you both a new year filled with good health, joy and wonderful adventures!

    • sbranch says:

      It was a glowing Christmas, and it still is, as I’m sitting on the sofa next to the lighted tree and it’s still dark outside. Nicest way to start the day! Thank you Anne!

  9. Danella on the Canadian west coast says:

    Hoping that your Christmas was lovely and wishing you and Joe a very happy and healthy 2018. Always love reading your blog. It makes me happy. Thank you for being wonderful you.

  10. Susan Webb says:

    Hope you had a Merry Christmas! We live south of Erie,PA where they had a record snowfall on Christmas Day of 24″ so they total is now 63″ of snow today with more coming Friday and Saturday. It was a white Christmas. I hate to ask but did I miss a bookmark of the full moons this year? I love to print them out and give them to our friends. Then we ask each other throughout the year “when’s the next full moon?” And we laugh. Sure would appreciate a new moon bookmark! Happy New Year

    • sbranch says:

      I forgot to put it up! HERE it is … I’ll get it on the Blog soon! You have SNOW, not just snow. Wow!

      • Susan Webb says:

        Yes! Thank you so much!It is a wonderful thing to give to people. I carry them in my purse just so I don’t miss giving one out. The local librarians love ’em! Here’s a gift for you. Have you tried the Big Festival Cheese Dip? It was on the Today show right before Christmas. My family loved it, wanted the recipe so I’ll make it for New Year’s Eve. So simple.
        Pam spray a pie pan or another oven proof flat bowl. Pre-heat oven 350 degrees F.
        1/2 cup mayo
        8 ozs cream cheese, softened
        1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
        Green onions, chopped (whatever amount you like: the whole bunch, 2,3 etc. I used freeze dried shallots as I didn’t have green onions at the time).
        12 Ritz crackers, crushed (as in a ziploc bag)
        more Ritz to serve
        8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
        1/2 cup red pepper jelly (mine was homemade)
        1 Tbsp water
        Mix together with spoon in large bowl:mayo, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and green onions. Put into the pie pan. Top with crushed Ritz crackers. Pop in the oven for 15 mins. Remove from oven; then top with crumbled bacon. Heat redpepper jelly with 1 T water until it thins. Drizzle this jelly over the top of the warm cheese dip and serve.
        Happy New year! and enjoy. Thanks for all your sparkely-ness!

    • Audrey Waite says:

      I used to live 40 miles south of Erie….lake effect was a frequent description of the horrible weather there. I was so glad to move to CA where you could drive to snow if you wanted to go skiing or sledding! Now I live in AZ – same thing. You can have it or not. Works for me.

  11. Becky P says:

    Thank you for the recommendation of the MV times minute! I am really enjoying it and plan on making the curry recipe tomorrow from yesterday’s e-mail. Hope you had a lovely Christmas!

  12. Isabel says:

    Hi Susan,

    Wanted to wish you, Joe and of course, Jack a great 2018. I already have your wall calendar ready to go up.

    Could you send me the link for the moons of 2018. I always look forward to the new one.

    And a healthy, happy new year to all the girlfriends.

    • sbranch says:

      Here you go Isabel … 2018 Full Moons! Happy New Year!

      • Catherine says:

        Susan, just got my new calendar (it’s been a tradition forever) and recognized right away the January picture (from Vineyard Seasons). What gives? Just curious…I have been a faithful follower since Heart of the Home! Happy New Year to you & Joe from sunny San Diego!

        • sbranch says:

          Happy New Year Catherine! I’ve always used art from my books in my calendars ~ I try and mix it up a bit with art I do just for the calendar. Which is what I’m doing during this freezing weather, painting lots of new art for next year!

  13. Linda Moore says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Susan!
    Your posts are always so delightful and I’m tickled to get each one. Thank you!
    I fixed your cranberry cake on a whim on Christmas morning because I had an extra bag of cranberries. Wow! Was I glad that I did so! It was so beautiful and tasty, I know that I will make it a regular addition to my Christmas menu. Thanks for giving me something wonderful AGAIN!
    Hope that you are having a super holiday.

    • sbranch says:

      Makes me so happy to hear that…I’m about to get out of my chair and go eat the very last piece! Flavor burst! Happy New Year Linda!

  14. Marilyn Young says:

    Susan and Joe, I trust, from all the lovely notes, that your Christmas was wonderful. I’ve been checking on my 88 year-old sister in Templeton and not had time to jump on here to read your messages. My sis just called me from the hospital to say she was feeling much better! When she told me the hospital food was really bad, and she didn’t like not having a TV in her room, I knew immediately she was on the mend! lol It’s really a great life isn’t it?

  15. Karen Baron says:

    Another festive joyful blog post!!🤗

  16. Wishing you a happy and successful New Year! I adore your checked knit stocking! We had a white Christmas and it is still snowing in Central NY – ughhh! Have you ever considered designing dessert dishes?

    • sbranch says:

      What would you like to see on them Patti?

      • Hearts…The dedication heart to Joe in “love”, the flowers from cover of “Gratitude”, the “sunflower” from the Summer book, and my favorite: “It’s not what’s on the plate that matters….” Or I can send you the photo of me on your front steps and you can put that a on a few 🙂

  17. janice says:

    merry christmas – I hope you baked for those firefighters!

  18. Gert~Iowa says:

    Beautiful post!!! I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as it should be!!! And that your New years will be blessed and filled with love and new happenings!! I’m going to keep using my Santa cup until my Winter one arrives!!!😁☕️

  19. Karen Lamoureux says:

    A Belated Merry Christmas to you, Joe, and Jack! I wish that I could have been at your home during Christmas. I love all of the decorations, the tree with the shiny lights and ornaments. Everything looked so comfy and warm.Here in Belchertown, MA it was so wonderful to wake up to a white Christmas. We received about 4 inches of fluffy, white snow. What a gift that was! Now, we are in a deep, deep, deep freeze that will last for days. That’s alright because I have a great book to read and hot Peppermint tea to keep me warm. Happy New Year !

  20. Sharon Crane says:

    Dear Susan,
    Lovely blog, as always! Thank you for the beautiful pictures, and inspiration!
    I will have to try the cranberry tea cake–that looks really good!
    Wishing you and Joe a happy, healthy New Year!

  21. Your newsletters have brought such joy to me throughout 2017! I look forward to your very merry missive in 2018.

    Merry Christmas (a little belated) and a very Happy New Year to you and Joe.

    P.S. My family got me your Mary Engel Dark calendar for 2018. I love it!

    • sbranch says:

      I’m not Mary, I’m Susan… But that’s okay! I’m glad you enjoyed my newsletters, I’ll be writing a new one soon! Merry Christmas from both of us Cheryl!

  22. Pat Johnson says:

    Susan & Joe – I know your Christmas was wonderful (since it is passed and I am late) and I send you an absolute message for a FAB 2018! Oh well, we still have to put up with the guy in charge(?) and I don’t mean God! But we will carry on and be happy. I know that this year MY life will have some changes. My daughter, her husband are moving to Denver, CO and taking MY grandchildren with them!!!!! How dare they!!! Those beautiful children are what keeps me going every single day. I will miss them more than ever!! Soooo my life will change. Hope to get to the cabin in Newport, Washington sometime this winter….. spring for sure. If I can get there while there is still snow on the ground I will be a happy camper. Ahhhh, those times that mother always told me about and I forgot…….”Life is always changing, my dear, and you just have to put on your big girl panties and carry on!!” No truer words have been spoken. It has been a while since we have “messaged” but you are always in my heart. Hugs & love from Paso Robles CA……..

    • sbranch says:

      So right, how dare they??? They will miss you soooo much, pretty soon you’ll likely have to move there too! I never knew life changed, I wish someone would have mentioned it ~ I think it’s something important to tell children when they are young, that nothing stays the same. For better, or for worse. Makes it easier to plan! Happy New Year Pat. You never fail to inspire me with your positive attitude about everything!

  23. Isabel says:

    Thanks Susan for the link to 2018 Full Moons.

    I clicked on and it doesn’t go anywhere.

    Can we try something else? It worked last year.


  24. Isabel says:

    Sorry Susan,

    I kept clicking on the full moons link and did not know it was going to my download folder. Thanks again.

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

    good evening Susan and Girlfriends, just popped in to ask a question and to wish everyone Happy New Year. Susan will they be making any more Autumn teacups?? and can I preorder it??? to everyone here, wishing you all the best for a very Happy New Year, may it be a Happy, Healthy, and peaceful New year. Happy New Year everyone!!! New Year Hugs…. 😀

    • sbranch says:

      I’m so sorry Pat… we are so small, and the cup people have a minimum order, the make us order hundreds of each design at a time, which is why I put them on preorder, so we know how many to get… ‘course I always add a couple of hundred to the number, but then it’s hard to order more because by then pretty much everyone who wants one, has one. Not sure we’d be able to sell hundreds again . . . we’re not in retail stores (except for a few run by friends) so our market is just you guys! That’s not to say never, I know Kellee and Sheri keep note of how many requests for things we get . . . so maybe one day! Happy New Year to you too Pat, it’s been a lovely year in your barnyard! xoxo

      • pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

        Happy New Year everyone!!! welcome 2018!! okay thanks Susan, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. well the barnyard was fun in 2017, come 2018 and we are making plans to replace the hens we lost to those mangy mutts, and adding some new breeds to our flock, like Buff Rocks, Partridge Rocks, Buff Orpingtons and Leghorns. we may even consider purchasing a few of those “Easter Egg” chickens, they lay eggs in Easter egg colors like blue, pink, and green. Americaunas I think is the proper name. it is going to be an interesting New Year this year. Happy New Year everyone. hugs….. 😀

      • pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

        thank you Susan, will keep my fingers crossed, never know I might get lucky again. Happy New Year Susan, the barnyard is doing fine now, a bit nippy and cold but they are doing fine. lots of extra straw on the floor and in the nesting boxes for warm and comfy nesting. this year we are replenishing the flock, since we lost so many last October. we are picking some different breeds like Partridge Rocks, Buff Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Leghorns, and maybe those hens who lay Easter egg colored eggs. light pink, blue, green and light brown. all are very winter hardy and the Buff Orpingtons are also good mama hens, they very broody each spring and large broods of chicks. so hopefully by next Fall we will have all the hens back on line in the egg laying dept. with some new colors maybe. we are checking out the hatcheries for the earliest possible hatchings and we plan to warm that nursery up and keep those new babies as warm as possible. its going to be a busy egg sitterin’ season soon. love busy barnyards…… hugs…. 😀

      • Mary Berryman says:

        I would love 3 for my daughters!!!(The Autumn tea cup!)

  26. Dixie says: says:

    Hope you & Joe had a great Christmas & that your New Year will be wonderful! No snow in SW TN but VERY cold—what I call Northern Weather! I am liking it—it seems like the holidays. Don’t know what your New Year Day traditions are but here in the South it’s lots of black eyed pea eating ( for good luck in the new year ) & football game watching all day long! We are always pulling for the Southern teams, especially those in the SEC. Happy New Year!

    • sbranch says:

      My tradition is to write greetings to all my friends and say Happy New Year. . and then we always get together with a group of friends and eat dinner we’ve all contributed to, I’m in charge of roasted carrots and green salad (for Coq au Vin) … and tonight? We’re going to play Pictionary … which I’ve never played even though I’ve had the game in our closet for probably 20 years! Hope your team wins Dixie, Happy New Year and Best of Black-eyed Pea Luck!

      • Dixie says: says:

        Thank you—Mississippi State did win yesterday w/ a true Freshman quarterback because the star quarterback had a broken ankle, a skeletal staff because the coach has left taking several asst. coaches w/ him, & an interim coach who had never coached a game as a head coach before!And they won! Never underestimate the will to win!

        • sbranch says:

          Yay! The right start to the New Year!

        • Debbie Boerger says:

          Hey Dixie! Yes! Mississippi State did it. I was a bit unhappy about Alabama beating Georgia, because Alabama, along with LSU and Old Miss were our arch rivals. I’m 72 years old….graduated from The ‘W’, which as you probably know was a totally female college. Back then, there were few women at State, so those guys were busy driving over to The Dubya. My brother, niece, Godson and many friends went to State. I can hear the cowbells clanging!!
          We had our hoppin’ John, collards and ham (couldn’t find the hog jowls), and so far, we’ve had excellent luck. Waiting for the green part….the money 😉
          Debbie in Tampa

  27. Patty says:

    Merry Christmas. Where did you get the cute Christmas stockings hanging on your mantle? Patty

  28. Mary Eva says:

    Good morning. I’m a little late getting to all my blog reading, but as ALWAYS I love your posts, it just wouldn’t be the holidays without them. I have also LOVED all the little facebook posts, it makes me smile when they pop up! Now just because I haven’t been out here doesn’t mean I haven’t been in your books. I pick a quiet night and pull out your cookbooks and go through them with a hot cup of tea in front of the lit Christmas Tree. Merry Christmas to you, Joe & Jack. Happy New Year!

  29. Bernie Gardiner says:

    Dear Susan – your beautiful new calendar has just arrived through the post. I just love your illustrations.

    I’m sending you and Joe lots of love and best wishes for the new year. Hoping to see you again when you return to Britain. With love, Bernie x

  30. Karen Seward says:

    I just finally got to read your Lovely Blog, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Joe and Jack, Stay Warm!!!!….Karen Seward, Oceanside, New York

  31. Janice says:

    Every New Year’s Eve we make Indian pudding. It’s a family tradition. This is the first year we’ve tried your recipe from the Autumn book. Just put it in the oven so by 10:00 p.m. we will treat ourselves to hot Indian pudding with vanilla ice cream. Can’t wait! Happy New Year to you, Joe and Jack.

  32. Wilda Bayless says:


  33. Nanci says:

    I made a darling ornament this year of a Herdwick sheep face. I’d send a pic to you but don’t know how. But I got the pattern from Herdy UK. .. they have a Facebook page and they posted the simple pattern on it. I did post on their page what mine looked like. Since you are going back to Herdwick sheep country soon, it would be a fun ornament to have. By the way, you MUST go into a Herdy UK shop while there. They have them all over in the Lake District. My sister was in the one in Grasmere last year. They have all kinds of darling Herdy items to buy. The little tiny baby sheep would be cute on your windowsill in the kitchen. I hope to go back to the Lake District soon myself. Happy New Year!

  34. Marie Knight (Long Beach, CA) says:

    Such a warm and cozy post! Loved each and every bit! Wishing you and Joe a very happy and healthy 2018, filled with all the blessings your hearts can hold!

  35. Helen says:

    Susan ~ Happy New Year ! I hope the new year will be a good one for all of us.
    It’s January 1st ~ “Wolf Moon”; and I was wondering if you were going to do your “Full Moons for 2018” ? I always like checking that at the beginning of each new month, and my two young Granddaughters love having their own “Full Moon” schedule as well. 🙂 We even have “two” full moons this month ! (Remember the song “Blue Moon” ???) Take care, Helen

  36. Helen Edwards says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Wishes are a bit late as this season always gets away from me but I still enjoy every glorious moment! Heading back to work tomorrow with my 2018 calendars! Stay warm!

  37. Margot in Sister Bay says:

    Happy, healthy new year 2018 to you and Joe!🎆🎉🎆

    Warm 🤗,

  38. Cecelia says:

    Happy New Year Susan!
    what are your new years resolutions?

    • sbranch says:

      Quiet time! Listen to the wind. Do good work. The regular, stop eating and exercise more (I shall never give up). And what else? Today everything feels so good, I can’t think of anything else! How about you? What are your resolutions?

      • Cecelia says:

        I like the “quiet time” idea.
        Some of mine are…do yoga and tai chi once per week
        join a book club in my new neighborhood
        get back to golfing now that I am retired
        make one new recipe from my cookbooks per month

        • sbranch says:

          I like the new recipe idea! I exercise almost every morning, but I do it at home, can’t bring myself to leave the house!

          • Cecelia says:

            I know what you mean about leaving house to exercise. Hubby and I both lost our jobs of over 30 years the past year and enjoying this “retirement thing” Spending a lot of time nesting in our new house and keep out of this subzero weather!

          • sbranch says:

            Stay warm Cecelia!

          • Margot in Sister Bay says:

            I am with you Susan. I like to workout at home or out in nature. 🧘🏼‍♀️ 🌲🍃🍁🍂🏕🏊🏻‍♀️

  39. Bonnie Hodge says:

    That cranberry tea cake looks amazing, and I am thinking it’s not too late to try it, Happy New Year!

  40. Carrie from Canada 🇨🇦 says:

    Happy New Year to Susan, her family, and all the lovely girlfriends here!!
    How was everyone’s New Years celebrations? I hope you all are warm, have hot cups of tea/coffee in hand and loved ones nearby; either in person or in our hearts!
    I thank you all for your personal comments to me, and I did write individual replies but don’t see them printed, so I am not sure why. But, I wanted to reach out again, and say that all your responses mean the world to me and touched my heart so much. I was incredibly moved by all your caring replies.
    I wish you all a good new year full of twinkly-stars of love and warmth. Don’t you all love walking the neighbourhood after dark, and looking up and seeing the twinkly stars and the deep purple/dark blue haze of the sky? It gives me goosebumps of joy. Seeing the night sky all full of stars reminds me how vast and never-ending the universe is, and that we all are connected, every single person.
    We have so much snow here, it is amazing. Time to make another filling and tasty (hopefully) casserole! Casseroles and winter are pals.
    Maybe Susan and girlfriends, have casserole recipes to share please? If everyone contributed a recipe here, if its okay with Susan, and we all made casseroles from each other recipes, it would be like all of us visiting each other in our homes, sharing all the goodness of friendship, from all around the world. What do you all think about that? Plus, I have a feeling that Susan might have a terrific casserole recipe, that would knock-our-socks-off!!
    Love from Carrie xoxoxo

    • sbranch says:

      Lovely idea! Let’s see what everyone comes up with. I adore scalloped potatoes and sausages … in my Vineyard Seasons book. But I’d love to hear others! I saw all your answers to everyone come through, so I’m thinking they are there somewhere. We have the sweetest Girlfriends here!!! xoxo

      • Jennie Lou says:

        My favorite casserole growing up was macaroni and cheese. My Mom mixed the cooked elbow macaroni with milk, eggs, salt and pepper, and a whole box of Velveeta, cut in cubes. She poured it into a big, buttered baking pan and cooked it in a 350-degree oven until the eggs were set. The top would be crunchy, the bottom would be chewy and the middle was a heavenly mass of hot, cheesy goodness. Sometimes we had ham or bacon mixed in, but it was delicious either way, easy on the tummy and leftovers were even good cold. xoxox

        • sbranch says:

          That sounds like my mom’s Macaroni and Cheese! Velveeta! Perfect comfort food!

          • Carrie from Canada 🇨🇦 says:

            MAC and CHEESE and a Sleepover party!
            Hi Jennie-Lou…reading about your mac and cheese recipe made my stomach rumble and I felt sooooo hungry! I had the ingredients at home so I made a big batch of it, between the power going out due to a huge snow fall here. It smelled and looked heavenly, thank you for sharing such an incredible recipe.

            Not wanting to eat it alone, I then went to some neighbours on a whim and told them to come over in their jogging suits/jammies, for homemade mac and cheese, a roaring fire and lots of laughs!

            Behind my neighbour, the voice of her 80-year old mother blurted out loudly, “Yippee! A slumber party with mac and cheese, I am coming over now!”

            And boy! did she ever! She was so delightful. She got all 9 of us playing Charades by candlelight and a roaring fire, as the power did indeed go out again. And she proudly wore sleepers…with the feet attached, housecoat and a fuzzy pink hat. She used to be a teacher and she was so much fun. She told us stories of when she taught school, on the Saskatchewan prairies in the middle of winter.

            We ate bowls of hot, steaming mac and cheese, someone brought bottles of wine, and we all laughed and giggled at the hilarious pyjamas we all wore. It was the best fun.
            No one cared at that point about the power being out again, or the storm raging outside. We laughed till our sides ached.

            It was terrific fun for an afternoon, then into the evening. We decided to do this often as even though we are adults, we need to feel like kids and laugh again, freely.

            Thank you Jennie-Lou, and I wanted to let you know that your delicious recipe brought a whole neighbourhood together in friendship and terrific fun.
            Happy New Year!

          • sbranch says:

            Brilliant! Making lemonade! XOXOXO

  41. Carol D. in Sierra Madre, CA says:

    Dear Susan,
    Saw your post just today, having been in “whirling dervish” mode for the last few days getting ready for our Christmas celebration. We had a ball, with family, friends and even a young woman traveling from Croatia for our dinner. Now a couple of down days to catch my breath and ease my sore muscles! But boy, was that fun!! I’m sure you had at least as much merriment as we did! I think of you so often during these holidays because you are much like me, Christmas being a very special time of year. I love to decorate and decorate and decorate, inside and out!
    Okay…let me interrupt myself here and say, as I was writing this, I was taken from my “Reply”, and the next thing I knew, I caught the flu!! and could do nothing but lie very unhappily in bed for the next 6 days!! On the mend now, thank goodness.
    But I didn’t want to let the season pass entirely without wishing both you and Joe a belated Merry Christmas and a wonderful, Happy New Year! You certainly brighten my outlook on life, with all we have had to deal with this past year as a country!! I truly look forward to all of your future 2018 posts!! Thank you so much for that, Dear Susan!! xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      Hi Carol, so nice to hear from you as always! Yes, the holidays were wonderful! Already miss them, but also enjoying decorating for winter, making everything calm again. Tree, though the ornaments are off, still has lights, we are letting it linger! I’m so happy you’re feeing better. It’s going around back here … fingers crossed it won’t come here! Happy 2018! Thank you back Carol. xoxo

  42. Wendy Louise says:

    Morning Susan,
    Merry Christmas and a Beautiful Happy New Year to you and Joe, and Kitty Jack! Better late than never!😉 I started the holidays with a very bad cold, but alas, it got better just before Christmas Eve. I really had to get my “Elf” on and I haven’t stopped since. We had an adoring family Christmas with the grandchildren, with all the simple, beautiful joys. Thank-you for all your wonderful recipes, especially this Cranberry Tea Cake from your New Heart of the Home book! This is definitely a new Grammy tradition!
    Now we are bracing for another winter storm but so Thankful for the cozy, warm home we have made. A lovely time of year to stay in and catch up on my reading and knitting, and crocheting. Again wishing you and Joe a beautiful year filled with all the things you Love and treasure. Looking so forward to your wonderful trip you have planned! Stay warm and safe my friend, I know you will! Love, Joy and magical times, Wendy-Louise xo

    • sbranch says:

      Same to you Wendy-Louise … Happy New Year. Very cozy here too, wild and woolly weather outside … you knit and I’m painting, and all is well! xoxo

  43. Carol wakefield says:

    With this massive storm dancing up the coast today just wanted to check in and make sure you’re ok. Hope you have lots of firewood, tea, books and the makings for grilled cheese!
    Take care and be safe.
    Carol from Indianapolis (where it’s -12!)

    • sbranch says:

      All that good stuff. Perfect day to stay home and work on the 2019 calendars!

      • Vicki South of Arroyo says:

        Hey! I was worried for Susan and Joe, too. Just reading more about how hard Cape Cod may get hit with this powerful storm; learning new things, like what is a ‘slurpy’ wave and ‘ice shrapnel’ off the ocean. Whew! I’ve never been in a blizzard, never around snow, so can’t imagine what it can possibly be like! My husband has, and says it makes your face hurt.

        I echo Carol from Indy, take care and be safe, amen.
        Vicki from SoCalif (where it’s, ugh, 80 degrees [hot/humid])

        • sbranch says:

          Ice shrapnel, ha ha, every year they get more creative with storm descriptions! It’s cold, it’s freezing, but so far no one is hit with shrapnel! Maybe in Boston, they had so much ocean flooding, perhaps with the cold and wind, some of the drops off the waves flew and hit something? Perhaps! We were lucky. Hardly any snow, no damage, just COLD. I agree, prefer freezing to hot and humid! Thank you Vicki!

  44. Margie Armour says:

    I received A FINE ROMANCE as a Christmas gift. I loved it and was sorry when I came to the end of the book. It the Bibury Court Hotel still open for business?

    Happiest New Year.

    • sbranch says:

      The last I heard our friends sold it and it’s now a private home. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! We’re going back to England and Ireland this spring, and I’m writing a new one!

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

    good morning Susan and Girlfriends, just glanced at NOAA and you folks in the Northeast and along the southern states are due for some nasty, stormy weather with more cold temps and possible ice storms in addition to more snow blizzards. stay warm and safe everyone. its cold, nippy and gray here. been hopping around taking down the holiday decorations, well I do leave my snowmen up for January. but the tree is down, the lights are disconnected and put away and all that is left is the boxes to be put away. Ed can do that when he gets home tonight. have a nice warm fire going to keep the house warm and lit off the woodstove in the barn to keep it warm in there for the barnyard crowd. we are definitely going through the pages of the local hatcheries and deciding on the new chicks to replace the hens we lost over October, and I am happy to say the animal control caught the dog and put it down, so no more worries about that dog ever coming back around. we are looking at some different breeds like Leghorns, Partridge Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Buff Rocks and the breed that lays eggs in Easter colors of pink, blue and green, we have been working in the nursery to get things ready, fresh straw, and water and feed containers ready. also they are closer to the stove so they will stay warmer in addition to the sunlamps. if it all works out, its going to be a busy spring and summer in the barnyard, and we’ll see if Jake is rooster enough to handle all this and all the new replacements.. going to be fun. off to run the dust mop around and then the vacuum cleaner. also to get a new hearth rug on order, the old one is looking really sad and used. have great day everyone, stay warm and comfy and stay safe. hugs….. 😀

    • sbranch says:

      So much to look forward to! I love baby chickens … sometimes while at the PO here on the island in the spring, boxes of peeping yellow chicks are being delivered! Have fun Pat!

      • pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

        thank you Susan, I will. right now the fun is in the choosing, and deciding which breed we want, we may get some of each and end up with more hens than we lost. LOL!!!! which is a good thing in my opinion, the more the merrier and more eggs later for selling or using. I often wonder what the postal carrier thinks when they deliver a peeping box. well off to place an order… I think a few of each and go from there. hope you are doing all right in that nasty storm. its cold, wet and windy here, lots of rain so I have my warm fire going and the copper tea kettle singing…. time for tea. hugs……. 😀

  46. Mary Ann says:

    Dear Susan, please do stay safe and warm with storm coming your way. Sounds frigid!

    • sbranch says:

      So far so good. Sounds like it’s going to be a big one, but so far we’re just getting wind and sleet. We have a fire, and I have tea, and all is well… xoxo

  47. Kelly Machnov says:

    Sending all good thoughts to you & Joe & Jack🐾. Heard all about the brutal cold that is hitting the East Coast. I hope you are safe and in a warm cozy spot with your loved ones.

    Sending warm hugs,

    Kelly from Walnut Creek, Ca.❄️❄️❄️

    • sbranch says:

      We’re doing fine… windy but we still have electricity so all is well, thank you Kelly!

      • Kelly Machnov says:

        From all the news reports just a little concerned for you three. Glad to hear you are doing okay.

        By the way, thank you for a wonderful year of your blogs and new merchandise! I appreciate everything you do Susan.

        Take very good care.

        Best wishes for a wonderful new year in your life.


        • sbranch says:

          Thank you Kelly, we’re fine! COLD, but fine and cozy. Happy New Year to you too! Here’s to a wonderful 2018!

  48. Lucy Crosby says:

    Hi Susan,
    I am new but enjoying every minute – and everything you write. I love the cookbooks and Everything. Please count me as one of your friends. Just want to wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy, Happy new year.

    Lucy from North Carolina

    • sbranch says:

      Hi Lucy, so nice to meet you. Welcome to the land of kindred spirits! Hope you are staying warm down there!

  49. Karina Hampshire says:

    Dear Susan
    Sending thoughts and prayers to you and Joe and everyone in the path of this storm. I just spent the last 30 min. watching Accuweather video footage of the storm! Wow! I was also looking at the photos of flooding from the MV Times. Hope you all are not in the flood zone. As an aside I did make the Garlic soup title Cooking to keep the Vampires away that was in the M.V. times. I substituted quinoa for the noodles, added left over chicken, and also amped up all the spices and garlic. It was delicious and fast! Thinking of you all in the East!

    • sbranch says:

      Oh! I’ll try it! Thank you Karina. We’re good here, hardly any snow, still windy, but blue sky and about 18 degrees. We were lucky… haven’t been out to the shore yet to see what happened there…but I’ll check it out today.

  50. Gayle Hall says:

    Dearest Susan, writing this short note to inquire about your safety. With the terrible weather on the east coast I have been thinking about you continuously. Hope you are safe and warm and weathering the storm quite well. My prayers are will you. Love Gayle Hall

    • sbranch says:

      We’re just fine. It’s very cold, but no snow on the ground and everything humming along. Having fires every day which makes it even cozier. Meatloaf in the oven, house smells good, all is well ~ thank you Gayle!

  51. Lucy Crosby says:

    What a cold winter – never experienced this kind of cold. I hope you are safe and warm. My prayers go out to you and Joe. Also those who’s names I don’t know that are suffering – God knows and I pray His blessings on them. So thankful for a warm home and a great husband.
    I am so happy to be one of your Friends Susan. Thank you. Lucy

  52. Debbie Boerger says:

    I’m so glad that you haven’t had any damage from this storm. Storm surge from the ocean has been a serious problem in Maine. I think they have been spared the worst case scenario by the storm moving a bit off-shore. Our beloved Nova Scotia, will be hard hit yet again. We have friends who moved from Franklin, Maine, to Halifax.

    I heard from our neighbor in Maine yesterday. They will keep an eye on our place. She said she’d taken their dog for a walk across the ice of the bay, which was at least a foot thick. She said it was tough to climb over the huge slabs at the shore. We were up there one year when the temp was 20 below. As the tide goes in and out in our shallow bay, it makes the most unearthly sounds…groaning and huge booms when it cracks and stacks up. A vivid reminder that we are not in charge.

    Tom and I are finally getting over the “Bug” we had over Christmas. Boy, were we sick. Even resorted to Bourbon, honey and lemon. Looked like snow inside the house due to the tons of Kleenex by our beds. We were so sick we did not care!! This is the second time in our 30 year marriage that we’ve both been hit at the same time. We both lost 5 pounds, but not a healthy way to do it.

    Your Christmas Post is just Heavenly…truly Heavenly! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this gift. Stay safe. Wear your grippers on your boots so there are no broken bones!!!

    Debbie in very chilly Florida

    • sbranch says:

      I’m so happy you’re better! I’ve heard from so many friends hit by this flu! It sounds terrible! I need to get myself some grippers! I don’t have them yet, but I will soon. Normally we don’t really need them. Take care Debbie, hugs to Tom. xoxo

  53. susan cowles says:

    Susan, Happy New year!! I love your post but been so busy the last few months that I forgot to get my Christmas mug, now all sold out!! I was putting out my Christmas china and put out my coffee pot and matching sugar and creamer which has the same Santa,so I hope this year when you do your mugs, which I love, you will do another Santa! Just hoping!! Love all your books and art work!! Love the cape but never been in the winter time!! Its on my bucket list to go back again!! Thank you,Susan

    • sbranch says:

      It’s wonderfully quiet in the winter, and usually it’s relatively mild, around 32 degrees rather than the 7 which is where we are now!

  54. Marty Koehn says:

    I’ve been thinking of you and everyone on the east coast with all the terrible weather you are having. Stay warm and safe. Prayers for all.

  55. Barbara Kuzdzal says:

    Yikes! Just wondering how you are doing can’t help thinking of the folks out East when the winter is as frosty as this. I’m in Sunny Florida for three months and the folks here are calling it cold here with 50 degrees. Stay warm and cozy, just thing of you and yours.
    Barb Kuzdzal

    • sbranch says:

      Mostly staying in, although we went to the movies last night and then out to dinner. Very COLD, maybe 7 degrees, slippery and icy and all the bad things, but the restaurant was warm and cozy, filled with our friends, and the food was terrific. It’s the folks up in Boston I think about. They got flooded, then the flood FROZE!! Some of their cars are frozen in place. Wow!

  56. Jennie Lou says:

    Adding my hopes that you all get through the weather in one piece. My Aunt left Wyoming for a trip to North Carolina, then Florida then Virginia because last winter was so awful where she lives. Oh, dear! She was so looking forward to warm, sunny days and palm trees. I’m sure even the wild, wild west will look good after the Winter of ’18!

    Don’t forget to give a really big tip to anyone who makes deliveries of food in this weather!

  57. Cecilia D. says:

    I would also like to get 2 of the Autumn cups. Thanks.

  58. ~Del Gato gordo y descarado~ says:

    I know where ever you and yours are,
    whatever you are doing- you are smart enough to
    think ahead and have “back up” of all sorts…
    Be safe & warm.

    ~! Happier New Year to All !~

  59. Regina says:

    Glad to hear you are doing okay with this cold winter. We have been very cold here in Kansas but have had beautiful, sunshiny days. No snow except on Christmas Eve which gave us a white Christmas! I’m so thankful to have a warm home no matter what the temperature is outside. That wasn’t always the case growing up. I’ve been off on Christmas break (I work at an elementary school) but will return on Monday. Looking forward to many great posts from you in 2018! Wishing you and Joe a most blessed New Year!

  60. Yvonne from Munroe Falls Ohio says:

    I want a mug with your Jack on it,which one is it?

    • sbranch says:

      It doesn’t exist yet. I wasn’t sure people would want MY cat, and maybe they would rather have their cats, so I’ve been sort of waiting to hear what people might say. This is a very good sign Yvonne, because of course I would LOVE a cup with Jack on it!

      • Carrie from Canada 🇨🇦 says:

        Yes! A cup with Jack and of course, darling ‘Girl-Kitty’ on it too. Both of them with little elastics poking out of their mouths, as we know that is their fave toy!
        And if I may be so bold…please, make a cup with you and Joe on it.
        I can’t imagine a more happy, heart-warming tribute to you two lovebirds.
        I would smile and feel so very lucky, to have known you both and have been touched by your messages of love and hope…every time I made tea and reached for you both, on your own tribute-cup!
        Well, that’s my two-cents worth.
        But I think those cups would be bestsellers!
        Carrie xoxo

  61. Helen Laurini says:

    I am glad you had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you and your family a healthy and Happy New Year

  62. Yvonne from Munroe Falls Ohio says:

    Thx Susan I luv all your books and drawings I do have one mug with one if my dogs on it but your Jack is the cutest cat around you’ll find a way maybe he can be outside in your garden if flowers in spring with some birds or lying in a window seat or by the fireplace you’ll think of something Luv your trips to England Hi Joe keep warm everyone

  63. Denise Anderson says:

    Hi Susan, Made your cranberry cake this afternoon and wanted to say “D-lish”!! I had cranberries left over from the holidays, didn’t want to toss ’em so made the cake. No cream on hand, so now I can’t wait for tomorrow. Will get cream, make the vanilla sauce and have another piece!
    I was wondering if you made up the recipe or if it is a family one.
    Happy New Year!. . . . . . .

  64. sylvia in seattle says:

    I’d love a cup with Jack on it.

  65. sylvia in seattle says:

    My Winter cup arrived yesterday! Love it so much. Good to have a slightly smaller size sometimes. Also love your new designs showing up on Twitter. You are a busy bee :-). I’m so looking forward to your upcoming trip to the UK and my one daughter’s trip to Paris for a couple weeks around the same time. I’ll just be here lapping up the posts and postcards with glee.

  66. Debbie Boerger says:

    Love Pictionary! Hope you did as well.
    Tampa is warming up a bit. So glad, as we have reservations beginning Wednesday, over on Anna Maria Island for 5 nights at a funky little cottage right slap on the beach. We discovered it last year in January. It was nice and warm, but this time we’ll be wearing sweaters as we watch the sunset with our hot toddies and mocha. I love the beach in winter!
    Tom’s daughter is coming over with her beau on Saturday for some beach time. They are hoping for some sun bathing. While they do that, we’ll be prowling the museums and gardens in Sarasota, and the Mote Marine Research Aquarium. If you ever have a hankering to visit Florida, I can vouch for Anna Maria Island being one of the nicest, most unspoiled places left on the Gulf. I’ve been here since 1970, and have watched through many tears the high rise condos take over. Not on Anna Maria!

    Mucho Love and thanks in advance for the new cups!!
    Debbie in Tampa

  67. Mary in La Habra, California says:

    Dear Susan, I just want to say how much I have LOVED your books. My friend loaned me Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams this past November, and I couldn’t put it down. (I told my husband that I want to make a trip to Martha’s Vineyard this fall…he’s not as excited as I am). Then I ordered your other two books, enjoying them beyond words. They are beautiful in every way! I felt like I was on this journey with you. I was born in ‘46 in So Cal and wow could I relate to your childhood…the fun, the fairy tale girl. I cried and laughed and smiled a lot! I will definitely be ordering more of your books (Gifts to my girlfriends who I love) and other handmade items (for me!). Anyway, I am so thankful that I now know of Susan Branch. Happy New Year and many blessings. With my best wishes to you, Mary in La Habra, California. P.S. I would love a cup with Jack on it!

    • sbranch says:

      The thing is, as I read through all these wonderful comments, I get overwhelmed, as any normal person would, by these wonderful words. Thank you Mary. I’m so happy you enjoyed the books, makes my day to hear it!😘

  68. ShirleyGraham says:

    My husband always bought your calendar every year for me. He passed away in June of last year from pancreatic cancer. This year our daughter bought one for me & I have it hanging up. We had been married 61 years so you can understand my grief. Have enjoyed your books & drawings & am looking forward to seeing your spring cups! Love sent

    • sbranch says:

      Honestly I can’t even imagine it dear Shirley. I hope you’re okay and better each day. After a while my grief for the loss of my dad was finally mostly out weighed by the wonderful memories. Blessings on you and yours. xoxoxoxoxo

  69. Brenda Hannon says:

    Hello Susan,
    I am relatively new to your blog and I enjoy it very much. I recently saw the movie ” Darkest Hour” and also loved it! I thought I’d mention a book you might enjoy…when you have time! Before seeing the movie I had read, “Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill” by Sonia Purnell. She was such an inspirational person – and may have been one of the original political “Spin Doctors”. She worked so hard for Winston and the British people! A very interesting story and it reflects much of the British perseverance and positive attitude!
    Happy New Year!

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