Hiiii! We’re home!! MUSICA? Yes! It’s great to be here, and we had a WONDERFUL time in California! It was soooo good to see everyone. And I did bring home that special giveaway I promised ~ you’ll find it at the bottom of this post . . . but W A I T, don’t go yet  . . .  because getting home was the BEST. Here we are racing toward New England in our train room with awesome view . . .

. . . Hoping the whole way that we might still have some leaves on our trees. It was the end of October and normally by then they’re gone. But the way things were looking, we were thinking m a y b e . . . 🍂 🍁🍂🍁

Speeding through upstate New York, I was heartened by the color! Nothing like leaf-peeping from a train window.

We got off the train on Sunday in Albany, rented a car (so we could make the last ferry to the Island that same night) and drove through the gorgeous Berkshires, feeling more and more positive there would still be leaves on our trees at home.

We made the last boat but didn’t get home until after 10, so we couldn’t SEE the trees! Sleeping that night, when we finally got in our very own bed for the first time in a month, was as exciting as the night before Christmas! Would there still be fall when we woke up?

Dawn, from our bedroom window, assurance, and every dream come true.

I raced from window to window upstairs . . .

And down . . .

Then out to the side garden . . .

And around the house to the back . . . sooooThen all the way back for the long view! Fall waited for us! Leaves blowing down, chill in the air, smell of the sea, sound of the ferry horn, church spire to the sky, sturdy house that has seen it all, everything that says Home. Thank you God. Ommmmm.

My own kitchen, and no noise or rocking, just me and the benevolent ghosts of time gone by. And since I’d done a lot of decorating before we left, we were pretty much ready!

AHHHHHHHH…. Home ~ our bed is pure heaven, cold rooms at night, snuggled under covers, mooshing the comforters around my ears, dragging my cozy flanneled legs out in the morning, stuffing my feet into wool slippers, throwing on an old sweater, padding down the stairs, Jack leading the way, tail high in the air, filling the tea kettle, deciding which cup. We are sitting, and we are staying. So this was Monday, our first day home. On Tuesday the dining room curtains came. On Wednesday it was Halloween. So let’s start with the curtains! Ready?

And of course, I know what you’re waiting for, in the category of “everything that says Home,” Jack, furry soft petty-pet and perfect decor. He seemed really happy to see us. Presented himself upside-down, in wiggle formation, for belly rubs, and gave me a very Loooooong forehead butt, a meeting of the minds, the brain exchange. So here are the new curtains for the dining room. And where does Jack choose to sit?

On them. And why not. King of the World can do no wrong. Reunited and it feels so goooood! 🎶 He’s still my shadow, he still brings back the hair ties, he still cuddles next to me when I read. Now Joe and I aren’t going anywhere for the next year and a half, we are 

I peeled Jack off and we hung the new curtains . . . (Jessica, who made them, with Lowely, my darling friend and neighbor)

 And so voila, here they are! What do you think? I’m thinking the flowers make up for the ones we lost when we took the wallpaper down.💞

I’ve wanted “real” English curtains for sooooo long! They make you feel like you live on the inside of a marshmallow! We are now padded head to toe. I couldn’t wait for dark so I could light the candles!

They’re extra cozy because they’re completely lined in heavy flannel (just like the ones in England). They keep your house warm too.

Okay. So here was the problem and the reason I waited so long to show you the living room. I know you won’t think of this as a “problem.” With problems like this who needs enemies? Or whatever that phrase is. These are the curtains we got before we left and I’ve been pondering ever since. They are also very beautiful, thick and cozy, but for me, for the House of Creativity, for US? They feel a little much.

A wee bit too Duchess of Devonshire. I adore the fabric and love the pillows Jessica made to match, and I love the curtains too, they are glorious, but I was afraid after a while I might start doing the circular queen’s wave when I leave the house.

So we tried to tone it down (ps, they look pink in this photo, but they are really a soft beige with pink hydrangeas) . . . the first thing we did was take the decorative trim off the hems of the valances. Which softened things a little and took away some of the formality. This old house is your basic farmhouse with a barn and uninsulated pantry, the bathroom used to be a “three-holer,” and there are rooms you have to walk through to get to other rooms (i.e., no hall).  It’s not a fancy house. It has “good bones,” as a dear friend said a long time ago, and also that New England simplicity I love. You have to give a house what it wants. And I try. But I think my imagination was bigger than my stomach, or what ever that saying is.So next we tried removing the valances all the way. And I liked it SO MUCH BETTER. Back and forth we went, throwing out ideas, me, Joe, Jessica, and Lowely, with the tape measure, up the ladder, down the ladder, measure and pin and hold it up, stand back to see what it looks like, what if we get rid of the floral chairs? What if we change the lampshades? No stone was left unturned . . . and what we sort of decided is to keep the valances but bring them down so they aren’t all the way up to the ceiling, and then shorten the valance skirt by about 6 inches so it just covers the wood trim at the top of the window, to the first panes of glass. Make the valances lower and shorter is basically what we decided. And the other end of the room?

Here they are, the same fabric, but these are simpler and quieter.

Maybe I’m just bad at change! But I have to say, we’ve now been living with them for six days, and they’re growing on me. Most of my life I’ve made my curtains, so I’m used to unlined, crooked, half finished, a bit wrinkled, mostly made out of tablecloths, which is probably the problem! These are too good!

Jessica also made me a curtain for the guest room . . . Which I LOVE. Just a simple little thing, and pillows to match with a tiny blue and white stripe piping.

Just sweet and simple.

So then it was time to get ready for our Halloween party!

It was a pot-luck Halloween neighborhood Open House we were having, after the trick-or-treaters had gone home. Lowely brought cold slaw, Martha made a big pan of Corn Pudding, Carol brought a bowl of Dry Bones, Jaime came with a big green salad, and Barbara brought Brownies. I made Touchdown Chili and

A Pumpkin Trifle

Broken up chocolate cake on the bottom, then pumpkin mousse, then crushed oreo cookies, whipped cream, more chocolate cake, and more pumpkin mousse with a Hershey’s Syrup spiderweb on top!

While I was doing that, my boyfriend for life was outside in the driveway on that perfect fall day, carving away!

Making my favorite star pumpkins for our front porch.

offering me pumpkin seeds . . .

I came back in and did the dishes . . .

. . . then watered plants to stuff into baskets for arrangements for the house, swept the leaves off the porches . . . made sure all the votives and candle holders were filled . . . put Jack’s food and toys upstairs and locked him in our bedroom where no Halloween Cat thieves could find him . . .

We lit the fire,

And lit our ghost in the upstairs window . . . Casper is our “neighborhood watch,” he has a great view all the way up the street.

Bowls were filled with candy ~ We had hot spiced-cider for the moms and dads. We were READY! Bring on those kids! And here they come!

I love this tradition. Parents bringing their kids, waiting behind them, most of them in costume too … Look at this pink princess . . . Adorable or what?

We have friends who live so far out in the country they don’t get any trick-or-treaters ~we invite them to our house to give out candy at our door ~ we share the wealth ~ because, we definitely get kids! From all over the island . . . we are one of the few neighborhoods where the houses are close enough together for kids to get to without walking a mile in the dark! Halloween is huge on our island.

Is it ever! Early in the evening, at dusk, they’re very young, some even babies, in the cutest costumes, cows, and trees and bunnies, oh my!

 As the night gets darker, the kids get older . . .

We stop them to take their picture, and they put up with our 10,000 questions!

By 6:30 our neighborhood is in full Halloween mode. The police close down the streets to cars. It’s not just us, up and down our street and around the corner, its a mad house! 🍁

I got my camera and came around out front to take photos of the door … loved the tree shadows on our house from across the street, whoooo! To see the pumpkins Joe made, I had to wait until the everyone moved aside . . .

Which took a little while . . . everyone running in the dark, superheroes and angels, clowns and unicorns, with bags of loot, laughing, chewing tootsie rolls and eating M&Ms!

Other than the one partially finished pumpkin I saw when Joe was doing them, I hadn’t seen what he’d done. I looked at that one in the middle!  Whaaat?

And I got closer, laughing all the time. Went inside and Joe got a big KISS for this good surprise! Doing his part to make a cuter neighborhood, and a better world!

We had about thirty people for Chili dinner, and I was so busy eating and talking (receiving compliments on my new curtains!!!) I forgot to take pictures, but it was wonderful seeing everyone (remember, we just got back!) and it ended in the living room, where a girlfriend with a ukulele played while the dregs of the party (which would be us and some neighbors), had a sing-along. 🎃 It was a wonderful ending. And since it’s party season, here are a few ideas to make giving a party a bit easier. No matter if it’s a small party or large, formal or casual, Thanksgiving, tea party, book club, or election night party.And, speaking of election night parties . . . Here are some delicious recipes, all tried and true, perfect for a roller coaster ride which this night is bound to be. Won’t it be FUN when
it’s over? Then we’ll all live with the results and can stop thinking about it for a while.  And then we’ll get to do it all over again in two years! Politics seems to be America’s newest sport! I remember when I was in high school, I didn’t even know what I was! Or anyone else. I think my mom was a Republican and my dad was a Democrat, but they never argued and they both LIKED IKE! ‘Course the two political parties were 100% different then, and we didn’t have as much to worry about as kids do now, we were safe at school. It was a simpler and I would say a rather happier time. One of the many, many things on which we are all in perfect agreement, we all LOVE to eat . . . so let’s start HERE:

Yummy, from my Autumn Book . . . in case you have it at home, otherwise you can print this out!

These recipes are from Heart of the Home . . .

Wonderful spiced nuts from my Autumn Book . . .

. . . which I just made! I use them all season long!

Deliciousness from Heart of the Home. We’re going to my girlfriend Lowely’s house on Tuesday night to watch the results come in, I’m bringing Cheese Bites!

Opened my eyes from meditation, and across from where I was sitting, Jack was asleep on the sofa. 

I got the evil eye when I put the camera close . . . I SEE YOU, it says in green technicolor.

When we were in California, I picked up a box of my mom’s papers to bring home ~ I went through some of it this morning ~ it was a treasure trove! Saved birthday cards, old letters my grandma wrote, yellowed birth certificates and fancy engraved marriage licenses, hand-written report cards, and certificates of baptism, priceless to my mom, and priceless to me. Above, is a 91-year-old brushed LEATHER ribbon-tied folder with gold lettering, four pages of names and this . . .

. . . my Grandma’s Sioux City, Central High School Diploma from 1927. That’s her, below, on the left. Her class graduated only three weeks after Lindbergh flew the Atlantic non-stop to France! Those kids must have felt like their generation was going to own the world! Just a few days after they graduated, Lindbergh’s ticker tape parade was held in New York, which they listened to as a family on a radio the size of a refrigerator. I’m sure my grandma and all her 18-year-old girlfriends  shortened their skirts, bobbed their hair, and danced the “Lindy,” . . . they were teenagers during the Roaring Twenties, Calvin Coolidge was president, F. Scott Fitzgerald was the literary star, The Jazz Singer came out in 1927, the first movie with sound! Only two years later, when she was 20, the Great Depression started. She’d already had one World War to deal with as a child. The cards were being dealt. Life was unfolding. And before she fell asleep in her house with a music room on the 3rd floor and nine brothers & sisters, she listened to the most popular song of 1927. I love history, and picturing people in their times. My Grandma shared the planet with Mark Twain for two years. She shared it with Anne Frank, and then she shared Anne Frank with me.💞 Now I have her diploma.

And this! It’s my great grandmother’s 1925 application to join the Martha Washington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, DC. Four pages of family names, births, and deaths back to 1710, all in her lovely handwriting … with “Ancestor’s Services” that tells that her 5th great grandfather (and I guess my 7th), Captain Asa Foster of Andover, Massachusetts, was appointed in 1765 to “oppose the arbitrary measures of the British Government.” Eeeek. My grandma had given me a copy of this when I was in my 20s (part of my dreamscape for New England before I’d ever been here), but it was very different to hold the real thing in my hands. After recently reading a biography of George Washington (Ron Chernow), I realized just how dangerous it was to come out against your government back then. If they’d lost (and there was no reason on EARTH they should have believed they could win against the British Empire!), they would have all been hanged! But hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do and he believed in his cause. His son Abiel graduated from Harvard in 1756, was a minister who represented New Hampshire in the first Congress. I could write a book about these people! We found both of their graves, in Old North Parish Burying Ground in North Andover and in the Canterbury Cemetery in New Hampshire.

And this little slip of paper was in there too, written in my great grandfather’s hand, showing the dates of birth for his parents (my great, great grandparents), and their children. I met Merrill James Orr, born in 1871,  the man who wrote this, the father of my grandma ~ that’s him holding me, my mom’s on the right, my grandma’s on the left. I feel the generations behind me, and I see younger members of my family going on into the future. Such a connection. And the threads of that connection go on and on, out in all directions. Pretty soon, as you research your family tree, you start thinking you’re related to EVERYONE. Then you get your DNA done and find out you absolutely are!

And now it’s my turn to save little old pieces of paper, tiny fragments of a lifetime of memories. I guess I got that from them! 💞 Like here, in the England diary I’m now illustrating and rewriting in my “good handwriting.” You can just imagine how much I revel in the magic I feel when I write, spellbound in the dream of it (hours and clocks mean nothing), about the history we found in Enchanted England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. My pages will be peopled by spirits of the past, Winston Churchill, Beatrix Potter, Jane Austen, hill forts, stone circles, and fairy winds . . . all that and Rachel too! I’ll do it as the leaves blow, as the snow flies, as the cat naps, and when the daffodils come again, I’ll still be here in my old house, fireplace glowing, shawl pulled tight, pen noises scratching, paint brush ringing on the side of the water dish I bought in Disneyland before I knew I could paint, Jack at my side, living the dream with my boyfriend for life, loving the road, because

I kept Joe’s pumpkin for our front window . . . like keeping a light on! Never forget our fathers and grandfathers fought for this right, so that today, no matter how we came to this country, we get a say in the kind of government we want. It was EVERYTHING to them, their lives were on the line, and there’s nothing quite like it in the world. The right to vote. Honor our ancestors. Go vote, and take someone with you. Don’t think you don’t know what you’re doing, because believe me, you probably know more than most! The world has fought for civility since time began, fought to overcome human nature prone to barbarism, it hasn’t been easy, but despite all, we keep bringing it forward, so families everywhere can live in peace and prosperity. They’ve told us that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, and proved it time and time again. Because we can solve all problems when we come together. I know they’ve made it hard to tell truth from lies, the water has been muddied, even on Facebook, where we put our family photos, and share recipes! But it’s not impossible. No source is perfect but we can find a balance. When I have specific questions, I go to websites like Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-finding website. They can answer almost any question, “Did such and such REALLY happen, Did he REALLY say that, Does America have open borders, What is the Caravan made up of, Which members of Congress take money from the NRA, Who IS (fill in the blank)” ~ even old questions, like “Did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction, what was the Fairness Doctrine, what happened when the banks failed?” On and on, they have researched it all. Huge help for lovers of history like me.

“All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well.” 💞Julian of Norwich, the first woman in recorded history to write a book. And aren’t they the perfect words!SO, we’re going off for a walk to the water, but before we go, as promised, last but not least, NEXT Saturday, Joe and I hop on the ferry to the Mainland for the day, where I’ll be at the West Falmouth Library answering questions, signing books, and reading the first chapter of Enchanted, just like I did at the Apple Farm in California. If you’re coming, or even if you’re not, click here and please print out this name tag/bookmark. Write your name on the bottom so we’ll know each other! And yes, for everyone who’s going to be there, you each will be getting a copy of your own first chapter. I’m sorry tickets for this event are sold out, but I promise I’ll be out again in the future, and we can try again. And if you remember, waaaaaaay back when I started this post, I promised YOU a giveaway!  So here she is! To win, just leave a comment at the bottom of this post (you’ll see tiny gray words that say, “comment” ~ click there and say hello, and you will automatically be entered. And if your name is chosen, you will receive your very own signed copy of the first chapter my new book!

In fact, Kellee made me FIVE 23-page booklets, all just for you💞 . . . so, this time, there will be five winners! Yay!!! I hope one of them is YOU!

I wanted to start at The Beginning with a love story, like I did with A Fine Romance, so I did!  I hope you enjoy it!That’s it for today darling girlfriends. I shall return! Have a luv-lee evening. Keep the home fires burning!

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2,436 Responses to WE’RE HOME!

  1. Leigh Busby says:

    I love your work, and I can see you are very talented and a stickler for details, so I want to point out something for clarity, NOT to criticize.

    Your 2019 Heart of the Home mini calendar November entry attributes the quote, “The ordinary arts we practice at home are of more [more, ha ha!] importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest”, to Thomas Moore (May 28, 1779 – Feb 25, 1852), Irish poet, singer, songwriter, etc., who burned Lord Byron’s letters after his death.

    Ironically, my home research indicates it is correctly attributable to Sir/Saint Thomas More (Feb 7, 1478 – Jul 6, 1535), English lawyer, social philosopher, statesman, etc.

    The two names and attribute to this quote are often confused. An ironic case of Moore vs. More in the afterlife!

    I bought your calendar early this year (before they sold out) and already I’ve hung it on my fridge for its beautiful aesthetics. I appreciate your insight, style and beautiful talent.

  2. Leigh Busby says:

    I tried to post this once already, so this may be a duplicate.

    Your 2019 Heart of the Home mini calendar November quote, “The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more [haha, ironic!] importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest”, is attributable to Sir/Saint Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), instead of to Thomas Moore (28 May 1779 – 25 February 1852).

    A case of Moore vs. More in the afterlife! The two names are often confused.

  3. Thea says:

    I love coming home! I love the bookmark! I’m printing it out for my granddaughters. Thank you! xo t

  4. Debbie Murray says:

    Dear Susan, you are the sweetest old fashioned kind of person. A kindred spirit to so many people. It is Thanksgiving eve here in our home state of Texas. Dave, my husband, is making his famous pumpkin pie and we are going to have a first Thanksgiving with out our daughters. Our oldest lives in New York city and the youngest and her husband went to spend Thanksgiving with her in the Big Apple.
    Which really makes me very happy that they are getting to spend a wonderful time together. They’ve been posting pictures on Instagram and Facebook so I can see most of the happenings. It makes me wish I could have gone too, but work calls and I must go. Maybe some other year. We will have Mom, my little sister, Dave and myself this year for Thanksgiving. I hope we’re tender and not too well done! I hope and pray that you and Joe have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  5. Maureen Abramson says:

    I can’t find my older post-I scrolled through several times. I wanted to tell you that, my husband ended up not having surgery as his blood pressure was too high, after getting into the operating room. His cuff pressure was fine, but they do an internal blood pressure as well and believe they calibrated incorrectly. Anyway, I believe it’s in God’s hands and that prayers were heard as it will be rescheduled. Thank you for your prayers. Also, thank you for suggesting Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams. I am almost finished with it, about 10 pages to go. Started it a week ago when I went to the hospital with my husband. I thought I had read all of it before, but about half way through it was all new. And wonderful! Very helpful in finding the secret when looking at it from the aspect of how this can help my life as well. My copy is one with your signature label in it. It has a painter’s pallet and your signature, I love it. Thanks again. Can’t wait for the next blog…and book. Blessings to you,

    Maureen (from So. California)

    • sbranch says:

      In God’s hands. The worries must be terrible.😥 I’m so happy you’re enjoying the book ~ hope it takes your mind away just a little bit. Blessings on you both, hoping for good news. xoxo

  6. Elizabeth Blanchard Scituate Ma says:

    Happy your back home! There’s no place like home. Just keep on writing!

  7. Elizabeth Blanchard says:

    Happy your home!

  8. Pamela Lewis says:

    I enjoyed your newsletter greatly! Nice to think of you in your cozy home writing away 🙂

  9. Melissa S. says:

    Just an amazing post! Loved every description, every picture, and every idea. You are my hero!

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