NESTING to the Nth Degree

This post is all about Nesting, but first Girlfriends, I just have to vent! Omarosa!!! Are you dying? Every time we turn on the TV, there she is. I run to the wood-room to change the channel but there’s no place to hide, she is either on, or she is coming on, or she will be on soon, or they’re talking about the last/next time she was on. It’s like an alternate universe. My sister and I were shooting the breeze on the phone, started talking about her by accident, and suddenly felt like characters in her reality show! Everyone on TV is part of her soap opera. We all are. Why are they making this woman rich?🤑 Our tax money paid her $180,000 a year salary, AND she had an assistant! Now, I fear the White House will feel it necessary to fight back, and it will never end! What if they have a feud? What if they take her to court??? Can you imagine the “Breaking News?” 😜 Save us! There needs to be a new TV box that only has smart, kind, and normal in it. Where is Beatrix Potter when we need her?  Has no one heard of the word gravitas? These are the questions! Please, please do not let Omarosa be in history books. That is my prayer.🙏 I think what happens with old people, when they die, they are GLAD to go, there are some things people just don’t want to see. Okay, I’m done. Don’t worry, TV is off! Sorry, it’s the heat. I love you. All will be well. Keep the faith. Back to real life . . .

I blame everything on the heat!  How’s it going with you? Thank you so much for your sweet patience . . . I’m sorry I haven’t written, but I’ve been thinking of you … I just needed to settle in. Four months was a long time to be gone. But each day has been another step up the back walk, I’ve been working on the new book, but also reading my delicious books (just finishing Letters between the Mitford sisters), walking early mornings, cooking ~ and, really, more than anything, I’ve been NESTING. I feel fall coming! 🍂 We are HOME, and I am LOVING it. Such a homebody, I get up in the morning, scramble some eggs, cut up some watermelon, stir a little cream into my tea, look out the window, clean things, shine things, stare at them, sing at them, feel so much gratitude, which I do, and am, and now I’m ready to write and say HELLO and catch up!  Happy, despite the ridiculous heat and humidity which I know so many of you are experiencing too. I took that photo above from the window in our kitchen door . . . and that’s not rain.

This would be the view if you could see out the window! SO, basically, I rarely go out. Certainly NOT to the garden ~ you would have to cut your way through the air with a machete to get there.  I asked Joe on our walk (where we feel like laundry just out of the washer at 7 am), wouldn’t it be nice if we could just slit this air open, climb through and inside would be cool freshness? But every once in a while, we get a good storm, the air clears, the sea breezes blow, and then it’s like spring fever all over again. 🌸

Out I go, from flower to flower, like a bee. A bee with a camera. This is Rose of Sharon ~ it lives on a pretty bush that grows tall and lush in so many gardens on Martha’s Vineyard. We only planted it last fall, this is its first year to bloom … it will make such a nice late-season thing when it’s fully grown. 

We also planted a white hydrangea Bobo H. paniculata in front of the three Rose of Sharon bushes.

They’re all still rather spindly  . . . just a couple of flowers so far . . .

But someday they will make a romantic flowery partial hedge in the lawn, a cosy alcove of pink and white for the arbor where we have dinner parties. Next year will be better, and in three years, they will be heaven! And for the future of my darling house, it will be even heavener. 💞 I’m not the most patient person in the world, but some things are worth it.

As always, as I get back to the kitchen porch, I see I have somebody waiting for me . . .

He shows his pleasure through the window . . . I feel so popular! What a baby! Gimme that boy! Gimme that tummy!

 So, yes, we’re up to all kinds of things, home-wise, stuff needs to be done!  We’re going to put a fresh coat of white paint on the front of the house, but it’s been so hot, Joe decided to wait on that, and start on the dining room with the air conditioner in it! September will be luv-lee for house painting. The boy is a genius! It’s the genius’s birthday today. I’m up early to write this post, so I can go tend to the Leo King and let him know he is loved. Isn’t real life delightful?

More delightful real life: We had a leak upstairs, rather, a recurring leak, despite being fixed, it came again, and the last time was while we were away . . . Our wallpaper has been fighting a losing battle with mold for a couple of years, and now it looks like this in some places!

The ceiling is a mess too . . . and you can see here, there’s more staining on the wallpaper, pretty much everywhere in the room.

So, Joe’s fixing it. It all came down fairly easily, just took one day. We are going to give the walls a rest for a few years and let that mold problem go away permanently. Joe will fix the ceiling, paint the woodwork, paint the walls, and I’m choosing the fabric for ENGLISH CURTAINS, the heavy, lined kind! Which I will tell you about soon. Lots of Before and After on the horizon! It’ll be fun! I’ve wanted these curtains FOREVER, every time we go to England I experience unbearable curtain lust. I have bitten the bullet to do it, and the bullet tastes like cotton candy.💞 Ahh fabric, with hydrangeas on it, or sweet peas, or clusters of ribbons and flowers… eeek ….

If this wallpaper could talk. Almost twenty years of being romantic, giving loveliness, reflecting candlelight, witnessing turkey dinners and best-friend’s birthdays. Maybe in a few years, we’ll have wallpaper again, maybe a pattern just like this one. Until then, I’m happy, I do love to decorate! Fresh paint is the fastest way I know to make an exciting change and bring in a breath of fresh air! We are thinking either pink, or, hold on to something, navy blue! The trim and wainscoting will be glossy white! And heavy ENGLISH CURTAINS. Oooo.  

And Jack likes it too… 😻

The luvlee thing about photos, wallpaper never has to go away. The memories go on forever.

So what else? I have, as of today, washed and dried, (tennis balls in the dryer helps to puff them), twelve feather pillows. I’m cleaning everything, making this entire house fresh as a daisy.🌿 So we can light candles and cook something wonderful and turn on the old music and open all the windows this fall. This may look like work, but this is what I love. I was born to clean! Not so much the cleaning, the part that comes after, the pride of it.💙

Washed the comforters too, the pillow covers . . .

The mattress covers, the sheets and throws . . .

The pillows come out fat and feathery and smell so clean!

Oh yes, cutting boards and wooden spoons have all been oiled for that warm and well-loved patina . . . you can read more about that HERE. 

I’ll save the quilts for the clothesline, when the leaves start to fall and cool winds begin to blow. 🍂 Dreamy!

Shelf-by-shelf, whether dishwasher, or handwashed, all the dishes came out and shelves were hot-watered, soaped, and sparkled! I think while I clean. Probably the best time to plot a book is while I’m washing dishes and watching the birds at the feeders! I always have a pen and paper nearby in case I think of something wonderful! Even in the shower!

And cleaning the critters too. While Joe sands walls, I’m making the rest of it look nice for the new dining room!

But of course, into the studio I go every day. It’s heaven, in my imagination I still live in England, wandering the countryside, seeing the beauty. Writing, remembering quotes I hope will be perfect for the book, searching them out, pulling photos, painting borders, making a list of the recipes I’m going to include.  I’m reminded how spoiled we were, going to a different pub every day, each with delicious food, I began to yearn for some good ole’ British cooking . . .Nowadays, I have to be my own grandma!

Was thinking about one particular dinner we had . . .

In this darling pub in Kingham . . .

Where the food was delicious, and we were so happy. So I found this pub online, discovered the name of the chef was Emily Watkins, and found one of her recipes. Look at her, she’s inspiring me and she doesn’t even know it.💞

It’s called “Baby Broad Bean, New Potato and Fresh Goat’s Cheese Salad” . . . we knew it had to be good because everything we tasted there was so wonderful. And it was so easy.

So off we went to find broad beans. But wait, what IS a broad bean?  Google knew!  So off we went for “Fava Beans,” because that’s what they’re called in America. And this is what a fresh fava bean looks like. Who knew? I think I like the name Broad Bean better than Fava Bean. Something a little too Hannibal Lector about Fava Beans.


Slit them open, and what do we have . . . big fat beans nestled in pockets surrounded with a protective foam-like substance … cuddled beans.

Pop them out . . . into the colander to give them a rinse.

Following the recipe we blanched the beans for 30 seconds, then plunged them in cold water. The recipe said, “Remove the skins and set aside.”  “There are skins? Didn’t we just do that?” We’re talking to ourselves.

Yes, there are skins! Like one of those gifts where there’s a smaller box inside each box you unwrap! And there it is, the actual bean . . . no longer so very broad.

They have a little seam in them and can just automatically split in two . . . a wonder of nature.

Beautiful color, and they taste wonderful . . . these will not be our last broad beans!

We set the beans aside, and did potato prep. We don’t have the melt-in-your-mouth “Jersey” potatoes available in England (and called for in the recipe), so we got as close as we could with these small white new potatoes. We cooked 500 g of them (1/2 lb) until “just tender,” then removed from heat, added a “small handful of fresh mint,” and set the pan aside for another five minutes for the mint to infuse. Interesting, don’t you think? Joe’s making lamb chops, I think the mint and faaaava beans will be perfect with them. Drain the pan, remove the mint, and smash the potatoes roughly. Salt and pepper them.

While the potatoes were simmering, to the darkening garden I went, slashing air with machete to make breathing possible, to get some chives. Sorry to say, no chive flowers left!

Time out, short pause, must take photo, take quick sniff of rose!!!

Back in the house to mince the chives . . .

While I was in the garden, Joe started the dressing . . . whisking “rapeseed” oil, which is “canola oil” in America (I love foreign languages, especially when they’re in English) with juice of half a lemon, a tsp. of Dijon mustard, and a half tsp. of sugar. I made little chunks of the goat’s cheese and put them in a small bowl. (British recipes are MUCH easier to do if you have metric measurers like those above. Joe had no problem when the recipe called for 60 ml of canola oil ~ it’s a quarter of a cup!)

Then it was time to assemble the salad . . .  “Put sorrel leaves or wild rocket in a large bowl,” ~ if you don’t see those at your supermarket, look for arugula because that’s rocket in America. I doubt it’s very wild though. Toss the greens together with the potatoes and beans, and the dressing, tossing gently, coating everything. Add the nuggets of goat’s cheese, and garnish with chives (and chive flowers for extra prettiness and flavor if you have them).

By this time Joe’s chops are sizzling …

Time out for a photo . . . we’re so proud of ourselves we have to take pictures!

And here we go! We loved it. It was the Pub Food we were dreaming about. Flavors combined like buttah, the potatoes, the cheese, the slight mintyness. We thought we might want to try a little bit of lemon zest in the dressing next time, but it was delicious just as it was. Joe woke up the next morning talking about it! A very good sign! We had such a good time doing this, I printed out two more Emily Watkins recipes to try. I’ll let you know how they come out! Pub House USA!

Happiness is . . .

Did you see this? It’s our little feature in Victoria Magazine! Pretty pictures, not lots of information, so if you’d like to read more about this heavenly day, go HERE. It was still lovely to have this as another memory of a truly remarkable day that went by waaaay too fast!

This is still my favorite photo, even if you can’t see the faces very well! The fact that Girlfriends came from so many different places, was just amazing. A convergence of kindred spirits. 💞 In the very garden belonging to Beatrix Potter, not all that long ago.

Yesterday, I received the first samples of the new cups in from England! They turned out beautifully, luv-lee deep colours of orange and red! All approved, and up now for presale! We’re trying to have them in by late October, but hopefully early in late October! (And yes for you that ask, that fairy tale banner is still in our webstore!)

I’ve been keeping the paper ones on my shelf . . . Gives Joe a little surprise when he grabs one for tea! Ha ha!

Yes, this mess belongs to me! There’s method to this madness, never fear. I’m getting very close to being finished with the “research” part of the new book . . . Tomorrow I do my first page layouts! Pen hand is ready! I’m so excited!

Look at this fat thing. All the bits of information I collected is now between the pages where it belongs . . . I think you are going to love it. 💞 There’s been lots of talk between us girls on Twitter: A Fine Romance resulted from a two-month trip. This time it was four months! Plus, I want to include our Scotland trip, so we will have England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. I was thinking, what should I tell and what should I leave out. Because of the size … but now, with a little help from my friends, I think it might be two books. I’m just going to go and go and go until it’s done and leave nothing out. If it turns out as fat as the 1931 Oxford Dictionary, I will turn it into two books. Two books of gardens, cottages, tea rooms, castles, recipes, heroes, bunting, ancient churchyards, one-track lanes, hedgerows, pubs, ghosts, history, and legends, and so much more. Are you ready?

From me to you Girlfriends!

My grandest blessing! ❤️ Happy Birthday Joe Hall, boyfriend for life. 💞

Bye Girls, have a wonderful day! ❌ ⭕️  Here’s that recipe!


  • 1 lb. (1 kg) broad beans (fava beans)
  • 1/2 lb. (500g) small creamiest white-skinned potatoes
  • handful of fresh mint
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 c. (60ml) rapeseed oil (canola)
  • 2 big handfuls (100g) salad greens, sorrel, rocket, OR arugula
  • about 1 c. (or to taste, or 120g) fresh goat’s cheese in nugget size pieces
  • one bunch chives, finely chopped, chive flowers too, if you have them
  • salt and pepper to taste

Remove beans from pods, blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds (you want them al dente). Pour off the water and plunge the beans into ice water. Remove the inside skins from the beans, put them in a little bowl and set aside. Put potatoes in salted water just to cover and bring to boil; simmer until just tender. Remove from heat, put mint in with the potatoes and set them aside for five minutes for the mint to infuse. Drain the pan, discard the mint, crush the potatoes roughly, salt and pepper, set aside to cool. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, mustard and sugar together. Put the greens in a large bowl, add the beans, the  cooled potatoes, pour over the dressing and toss lightly to coat everything. Add nuggets of goats cheese, garnish with chives (and chive flowers if you can, nasturtiums are nice too!). Serve. Good the next day too. 😊

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801 Responses to NESTING to the Nth Degree

  1. Liz says:

    Perhaps the problem with leaving a comment could be I’m going through Google Chrome. So this last try is through Internet Explorer! Also I noticed that as I type my email address, an “x” appears at the end of the address bar.

    Dear Susan,
    I thought you’d like this little poem to go with your house painting projects…

    “He who loves an old house
    Never loves in vain
    How can an old house
    Used to sun and rain,
    To lilac and to larkspur
    And an elm above,
    Ever fail to answer
    The heart that gives it love?
    -Isabel Fiske Conant

  2. Liz says:

    Another try going through Internet Explorer-
    I thought you’d like this little poem to go with your house painting projects…

    “He who loves an old house
    Never loves in vain
    How can an old house
    Used to sun and rain,
    To lilac and to larkspur
    And an elm above,
    Ever fail to answer
    The heart that gives it love?
    -Isabel Fiske Conant

    • sbranch says:

      Just putting these up so you know they’re going through . . . something seems to have changed in wordpress and now folks can’t tell their comments are going through! There’s always something!

      • Liz says:

        Thank you, Susan!
        I’m sorry for the repetition – I’m used to “your comment is awaiting moderation…” and when I didn’t see it, I thought my note was lost in cyberspace!

        • sbranch says:

          I know, something has changed in the format, but don’t worry, things seem to be working! xoxoxo

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      Thank you for the quote. We just adored our old house. It gave lots of love back to us.
      Debbie in Maine

  3. Kathy says:

    Hi Susan. I enjoy your books and your blog immensely. Also enjoy your twitter feed, but I’m not a member so just wanted to suggest here that maybe you check your source for the quote on your new butter dish, supposedly by Amy in Little Women. I’ve read that book at least twenty times, and don’t ever remember Amy saying “Butter! Oh isn’t butter divinity!” In fact, I searched the book on my Kindle and did not find Amy ever mentioning butter.

    I hope you don’t mind me pointing this out. As I mentioned, your work has brought me a lot of joy. And I know you stand for the truth and exposing fake news (Please keep up the good work on exposing that!). So maybe no fake quotes either?

    Of course, if I’m wrong and the quote is actually in the book, do let me know!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s from the movie ~ that’s why I attributed it that way, because you’re right, it’s not Louisa May Alcott. Somebody put it in a script! But I’m always listening for words I like. I do like to be corrected if I’m giving out false info, which does happen, but I try!

  4. Val says:

    I had to skim past the first bit, because I don’t want to give that woman another moment of attention. The rest of the blog: Divine (as always).

  5. Liz says:

    Susan, inventing your own color of pink sounds perfect!
    Maybe you will have the naming rights?
    Too much fun!
    I’m looking forward to the recipe/formula!

  6. Paulette says:

    Hello Susan,
    Just flipped the calendar over today ( I know, a day early. I just can’t wait for Fall to get here!)
    I was wondering if you ever considered selling a calendar frame that fits your wall calendars?
    Pretty sure it would be a bestseller. Just a thought.

    • sbranch says:

      I had one at one time, back in the 90s, and then the shape of the calendar was changed, and it no longer fit. So I decided not to do that anymore! I think you can find them now, not mine, but other nice ones.

  7. Nonni says:

    My daughter had a similiar experience one time when she rented, with mold. The Landlord wanted to come in and paint over the water marks. My daughter hired a person to come in (not very expensive at all) and ascertain whether there was mold behind the plaster in the (1920’s) apartment in a historic district. Sure enough, there was mold from former leaks all the way across the wall and into the bedroom. She showed Landlord the report and he cancelled her lease and asked her to leave because she wanted him to remove wall and kill the mold which will continue traveling through the walls. She later found out he painted over walls and leased it to a couple with a new infant. Mold and all. So just be sure there’s no mold inside walls-or upper floors. Your health is very important…right!? 😊

  8. Do you remember the Calling Card section of Victoria Magazine? I always loved it and was so honored that they chose mine to publish back in the early 90s. I still have that issue and many, many more that I have saved from years passed. It was truly such an inspiration to me for my watercolors. I recently tried to submit my latest calling card and was disappointed to learn that they no longer include that feature in their magazine. Anyway…so nice to see the 2 page spread of your English picnic with the girlfriends! 🙂

  9. Anne says:

    Wonderful post!! I love 💗 to clean too! My family and friends think I’m a little bit crazy 😜 But I know I have a kindred spirit here. I vote for navy blue! 👍
    Happy belated Birthday to Joe and Happy September! 😍

    • sbranch says:

      She turned pink! I started thinking the navy blue might start feeling like black, and although it would be striking, I think after a while I would wish for light again!

  10. Deb Muccio says:

    Oh my goodness! Did you see the PBS special last night on Beatrix Potter? It was delightful. I felt like I recognized all the places they showed because I read your books and blog! Amazing. You do a fine job of representing her special talents and conveying the feeling of the Lake District. Thank you.

  11. Nonni says:

    Hi, Susan!
    It’s that time of year to be thinking about Christmas presents for everyone in our family – can you believe it’s that time of the year already! I LOVE Fall and Winter! ( I know, nuts right-winter!?☃️) About those Christmas presents…would it be possible to get a teapot tea tray to have a matching touch of pattern on it same as the new Christmas cup you designed? I would love to give them as a matching set. I’m thinking basket (with handle wrapped in ribbon) tea towel liner, organic coffee/tea, boxed/bagged homemade cookies, candy-chocolate, of course; Christmas cup with teapot tea tray and some sprigs of greenery tucked in for the whole Christmas effect. Some candy canes would go good with the Christmas cup color, too. Oh, this is just too much fun…better put a special spoon in as well. Maybe a can or two of nuts. Gosh, you could put in a gift card, CD of Christmas music, all kinds of stuff! Wait! A candle smelling of balsam. Golly, all I wanted to do was ask about the teapot tea tray! Sorry about the rabbit trail I got off on. 😏 Thanks for hanging in there to the end…very anxious to get your new book on England though and it’s lovely stories, recipes and places. You can just make things come alive with just a few words-what a gift…too bad I didn’t get that gift-the few words part, ha, ha! 🙃 Just LOVED “It’s A Fine Romance”. OK, I’m done. 🤦‍♀️

    • sbranch says:

      Me too, I’m getting ready for Christmas! Nice to start this far ahead, not leave it all until the end! Love your BEAUTIFUL gift ideas! It takes 4-5 months to get things made, but I love that idea, maybe I can have the tea tray to go with the new cups for next Christmas??? xoxo Thank you Nonni! Have a wonderful day!

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

    good afternoon Susan, Girlfriends. another warm and smoky day here, got a breather over the Labor day weekend and actually had clean air to breath, and a cool breeze for the Tuff Trucks competition, but I still managed to get a bit sunburned.. 🙂 no big deal, but now I have a bit of a problem, as you all know here in Oregon (southern Oregon) we have had almost over 60 days of heavy smoke and believe me my curtains show it and smell it. I know I have to get those curtains in the washer to get the smoky stain and dirt out of them but that smoky smell… PHEWY!!! any ideas on how to get that smoky smell out of the curtains and throws, pillows, quilts??? and how to get that awful smell out of the couch fabric… that smell is everywhere . any ideas anyone??? I kow I have to wait wash the curtains, be somewhat ridiculous to wash them now and then have to wash them again later when the fires are finally out. HELP!!!! 😀

    • sbranch says:

      Was an interesting question so I looked it up … go HERE… little baby steps it looks like. I hope the fires are out Pat!

      • pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

        thank you Susan, but now we have 2 new fires going, the Delta fire near Dunsmuir and the Hugo fire out near Merlin. the Hugo fire is 100% contained now and only burned 200 acres, but the Delta fire is still out of control and burning hot and fast towards Shasta mountain. we also still have the Klondike fire burning like crazy and going strong. hopefully the firefighters will get a break this week as we have cooler weather….. ( in the 70’s) and a possibility of rain by Thursday. but still that cooler weather is much appreciated here… no more fans going all day and I may just hang up the hoses for the season, an end to watering the lawns. Fall is almost here, YAY!!! thanks for laundry help, going to try the vinegar idea on the curtains, wonder if gets out the stain as well, I have off white curtains and they have a dirty yellowish stain on them due to the smoke. thanks again…… hugs… 😀

  13. Keri says:

    Susan! My husband and I tried the potato, bean, and goat cheese salad recipe that you shared, a few nights ago for dinner, and it was TO DIE FOR!! We did have to make a few modifications…can you believe that we couldn’t find fava beans in the store fresh, frozen, OR canned? Is there a possible substitution for the beans? I’ve never had fava beans, so I am not sure what would compare? We eat a lot of salad, and this was a nice (yummy!) change of pace. Thank you for sharing your heart, your life, and your recipes with us! I am truly inspired! 😘

    Much love,


    Triangle, Virginia

    • sbranch says:

      They are soft, nutty, delicate-flavored, really delicious bean, called Broad Bean in England … I’m not sure what compares ~ I don’t know if the dried variety tastes as good. Maybe one of our other girlfriends has a suggestion. Otherwise ask your grocery man to source them for you. I think lots of markets will stock them soon, they are getting more and more popular.

  14. Therese says:

    Good morning dear Susan and happy new year to you, Joe.
    –gotta hand it to you once again Susan. Your nesting instincts resonate with me like the chimes of a great bell and I’m tying my hair up in my bandana, rolling up my sleeves, getting out the mineral oil, the lemon oil, the vinegar and the soft rags and scrubbies to relieve my nest of all the dust and pollen of summer. I love the way it feels to handle my beloved china, the way the glass squeaks and winks in the sunshine. the lace and the percale ruffling and snapping in the wind is to me, such a lovely sound!
    Even better is the peace that comes when the reorganization and decluttering are finished.
    Thank you for the beautiful photos, your recipe, and the community of girlfriends you share. The Maya Angelou quote (and all the comments!) are such a sweet breakfast; a splendid beginning to the day.

    • sbranch says:

      What I’ve been doing. I have cleaned this house within an inch of its life, and laundered every fabric thing that lives here … ironed and smoothed and put it all back, now, just like you, I walk from room to room and go ommmmm.

    • Lana Bressler says:

      What a lovely comment

  15. Kathy in California says:

    I haven’t seen or heard any Omarosa interviews, so luckily she hasn’t interrupted my life (and I don’t live in a cave); but if I have to wake up to another day of seeing the contorted face of (you know who), or hearing about the latest vomit coming out of the aforementioned face of (you know who) I think I shall despair!

    Interesting factoid: I was in Barnes and Noble last night and there was a table with a dozen (yes, 12) books on the subject of (you know who) and all the authors were much higher up on the food chain than Omarosa…and her book was not among them.

    Looking forward to the next book(s) and the movie/serial. Can’t wait!

    • sbranch says:

      We are so lucky to live in this amazing country where our thoughts can be succinctly expressed at the voting box. Go, take your friends and all the strangers you can round up. And soon maybe we can breathe and start over and never take anything for granted again.

Comments are closed.