SURVIVED 2018, Hello-Whatever-Comes-Next ~ 2019!

WE DID IT! The luv-lee days of 2018 have come and gone, and we survived! And now? Now, MUSICA! Off to 1928, Together! And I promised you a Christmas in this old house of creativity! So here we go!

It was Christmas number 168 for this old house. You can hear the echoes of Christmas past ~ time for us to add another layer. Blessed to be

And then, for frosting on the Happy Cake, we had a house full of darling English People! Saying things like clingfilm, vile, hang-on-there, jolly, and ghastly, with their cute little English accents. All my favorite words! That’s my darling friend Rachel (in the middle), her mum, Diana, and her husband Paul … they came over the sea to help us celebrate.

Here we are, on Christmas morning, opening our presents in front of the fire . . . books, shortbread in red English-phone-booth tin, scarves, and socks! ‘Twas Merry Merry! We crossed hands and snapped our tiny snappers! See them, Joe’s got one, everyone has one.

A happy mess when it was over!!! Cups overflowing!

Jack watched over it all! The adult in the room!

We’d been looking forward to having them with us since we said “so-long” to them in England last June . . . We knew we didn’t have to say good bye, because they’d be coming for Christmas . . . that made leaving England so much easier! Which it never really is!

So, I wanted to have everything ready when they got here so all we had to do was cook, eat and play! Adoring being home for Christmas. Nesting like crazy.

Made my grandma’s frosted Molassas Cookies, the cookies she boxed up and sent to us every year. And since the kitchen table was covered in wrapping paper, I discovered that an ironing board is not just for drying bread (for Thanksgiving turkey dressing), or even ironing! It can be like a moveable counter ~ so lightweight, and perfect for cookie-cooling duty!  Made croutons and spiced Pecans and apple crisp, and bread pudding too, which we fried in butter for breakfast.

I also printed out a few memories of my long sweet friendship with Rachel and her darling family ~ to put on the fridge, like a little open photo album. Reminding us . . .

And Joe was busy too, making luv-lee wreaths and garlands with spicy pine, holly, and boxwood from our garden.

🎶Wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re gonna go through it together . . . 🎵

A man and his barn . . .

A woman and her cups. I got the dishes washed . . . we were having sixteen for Christmas dinner, so I prepared accordingly, sorted napkins, washed glasses,polished silverware.

. . . Wrapped presents . . .

And hung stockings by chimney with care . . .

Washed the candles sticks and gave them new candles . . .

And finally, all the way from England, after a one-night glitch where a storm prevented them from getting over on the ferry, they arrived! I put Ray and Paul, in the front bedroom, and Ray’s mom, Diana had the Peter Rabbit Room. And basically, in a nutshell, we poured the wine and began to eat! 

And to make up for it, we walked out to the pond . . .

then went to lunch in Oak Bluffs. Very balanced. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see Ray again. I’m going to tell the whole impossible story about how we became friends in my new book, in Enchanted!

We all climbed into the Fine Romance van and went on an Island tour, up to Menemsha (the little fishing village you saw in Jaws), where we stopped at a food truck to pick up little paper bags of hot French fries . . .

. . . then to Alley’s General Store for Coffee, then to the Red Barn Art Gallery for culture. There was also Christmas shopping in Edgartown, and two Christmas parties, down the street to Lowely’s one night, then over the lawn to Martha’s the next.

Walking out back to Martha’s under the full moon. Looked like this . . .

Felt like this.

We also managed to squeeze in a couple of old movies . . . after dinner one night we rushed to our chairs for a wonderful evening of Love Actually.

So much fun! 🎉

Before they came, Joe made a new leaf for the table so we could fit all our Christmas dinner guests at one table. But when he put it in, the table was so long, it sagged in the middle. So the two “engineers” as they called themselves, spent Christmas Eve in table fortification . . . you can see them in process here. It was just the beginning. They glued all the wobbly chairs too! Mas MUSICA?

While they did that, we watched The Bishop’s Wife. There we were, minding our own business, mooshed into the sofa, quiet, teary-eyed, watching lovely old black-and -white movie, with Cary Grant, the ice-skating angel, about Christmas and miracles. Joe and Paul were going in and out to the barn for tools and other manly pursuits, we ignored them, made silent eye-roll-girl-nod at the Empire State Building they were constructing under the dining table.  Then Paul walks into our teary silence, and says, “Look at you, nest of . . . ”  he’s thinking what to call us, I’m thinking, “bluebirds?” then he finishes, “vipers.” Ha! Vipers? And this photo above was our reaction, us being vipers! Speaking for the least viper-like group of people I know! So funny. Only Paul. This is one of the many things I love about English people, command of language. 🇬🇧

Then Paul, expert ironer, ironed the tablecloth . . . it had a very thick piece of flannel under it, so what better place to iron than on the table!

This is Paul, the last time he was here, doing his ironing in the pantry!

Paul set the table  . . . while Joe put the roast in the oven . . . Our two guys love Christmas as much as we do!

Ray and I feel SO LUCKY that our guys liked each other so much! Makes for very nice hanging-out! 💞

I did the centerpiece, then Paul took over!

We set up a side table for the food (and lookout post for Jack) . . . Rachel brought presents for EVERYONE at the table! Over the years our friends have gotten to know them . . .

Ray put a gift on every chair! So thoughtful. She wrapped sixteen gifts! It was such a fun way to begin the dinner!

W h a t e v e r ,  said Jack. Only interesting thing about gifts, as far as he’s concerned, is the ribbon. He’d rather eat flowers. Not allowed either. 💞

Years back, one of our girlfriends made me the MOST charming set of place cards as a gift. They escaped their original box, so I don’t remember who sent them to me, but this was the year I pulled them out. So adorable, all different, handmade, glittered and painted, and there were exactly sixteen! (Hope whoever made them is seeing them ~ I loved them so much!)

Joe made pink and juicy roast beef with delicious gravy and horseradish sauce and salmon too. I made cream-cheese mashed-potatoes and a Pumpkin Cheesecake. Ray made roasted root vegetables and cauliflower in cheese sauce (asking for recipe, so good, will share!). Paul cut little crosses in the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts, steamed and served drizzled with balsamic syrup. Lowely brought a beautiful spinach salad scattered with pomegranate seeds, another friend brought creamed onions . . . Ray also made her famous Brownies. A Christmas feast!

And here we go! Anna and Peggy went first!

It was Diana’s first trip to the Island. Isn’t she cute? Everyone loved her! Joe put light-necklaces on the chairs . . . I said, “Good Job, Joe!”💞

Paul lit a fire, and manned the bar, poured the wine, Joe opened oysters . . .

And when everything was ready and the candles were lit, off went the lights . . .

We put my camera on a tripod to take our official Christmas photo. Beloved faces, names of friends you’ve heard me mention, Martha and Gerry, the Schwiers, Lowely and John, their children, nieces, and brothers, our luv-lee English People, and at the far end, me and Joe …

Feeling  grateful that somehow out of this entire world, we had found each other. We’d all come a long way to do it!

I had to detach myself for a moment, pull back as interested bystander, to see the flickering candles, the trees and twinkling lights, the smiles, how pretty it was, the sounds of laugher, of cutlery on china, to realize once again, how lucky we are, and how fleeting the moments. Another Christmas. Maybe our best ever.  After dinner Martha played the ukulele and we all sang Christmas carols in only tree and fire-light.

Something I’ve heard from many, it was our best ever! And then, it was time for goodbye. 😩  I moped around for days. Took naps. Did laundry.

Got out my calendar and moved Birthdays and Anniversaries from 2018 to 2019.

Washed the tablecloth and Christmas linens and dried them outside. Deep sighs of missing our friends. No one calling me a viper. No one asking for clingfilm. 😪

Walking made it better  . . .

So I decided to visit iPhoto and remind myself about 2018. The only time I’ve ever gone to a book signing by ship! Here we are docked right downtown Charleston, South Carolina . . . walking back to ship after saying hello to Girlfriends . . . just before Anchors Aweigh!

I was reminded about dreams come true, how we re-visited Hill Top, the precious cottage Beatrix Potter left for the world to enjoy.

We got to walk and walk and walk through the beautiful English Countryside. And the Wales Countryside, and the Irish Countryside. Heavenly.

Was this only last May?

The morning I was the only one up walking through a perfect English Village ~ Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds, where a river runs through it.

And then home again . . . the moon followed us all the way across the sea.

Our ship sneaking into town on little cat feet . . . writing in my diary that London was 1,500 years old when New York was founded. 

Heart swelling with pride . . . curious as if I’d never seen it before. What a gift!

 Home, to delight in the familiar.

The familiar.

Decorations away, table back to normal size. Lights off the house, ornaments wrapped and back to the attic.

Making seedy toast, because I like crunch. I bought all different seeds in small amounts in the bulk section of our market . . . and mixed them together in a jar . . . I chose seeds from THIS LIST … read about their health benefits!

I sprinkle them on my buttered toast for extra vitamins and crunch! They’re good on anything, on fish, casseroles, rice, roasted veggies.

Standing at the kitchen sink, eating my toast, watching the woodpeckers at the feeders. Wondering where the snow is!

We’ve seen none of this yet, we miss it! This is New England and snow is a requirement!  (Knock on wood, be careful what you wish for!)

Beginning again. It’s 2019. Stuff to do!!! I have a book to write! I get to spend the winter dipping my brush into watercolors, painting borders and lambs, scratching my pen across paper, and choosing the best photos to tell my story. New Calendars for 2020 are due soon. I’m laying the first one out on the back of my sofa (above) . . . January, February, March . . .

I’m designing a photo wall-calendar for 2020 … in addition to my normal painted wall calendar. It’s called A Year in the English Countryside. Choosing the photos has been so much fun ~ I’ve never done a photo calendar before! Very exciting.

HAPPY NEW YEAR dear ones . . . and, “Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so.” 💞 Belva Davis

And last of all . . . Our New Year’s Eve … we walked over to Lowely’s house and spent it with a small group of our oldest and dearest. Lowely made a delicious dinner, I made an angel food cake, we played Pictionary (hideous game, I chose “Bambi” … no one understood my drawing of a fawn. Next year I make the categories!) So before you watch this video, turn down the sound, save your ears . . . we sing! 😘  Note rings around candles, so everyone’s New Year wishes come true.


There’s no place like home… 💞 P.S. I’m going to design us a new cup. What should be on it??? xoxoxo

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552 Responses to SURVIVED 2018, Hello-Whatever-Comes-Next ~ 2019!

  1. Debbie Boerger says:

    Dear Miss Sue…as we say here,
    You could have left all your kitchen things in California, because the best thing in your Vineyard kitchen is Sweet, Handsome Joe and the happiness that brings. I feel the same about mine…

    I’m not posting much these days, but I read every word, taking my Dose of Happy Medicine. The Lovely Tom is on the last stretch of treatment for his cancer, Whoopie. I, on the other hand (pun intended 😉 have yet another weird med. condition. I have something called Dupuytren’s Constriction in my right hand. It began last Fall in Maine. Got a couple of shots, but it came roaring back a few weeks ago. Hard to use right hand to type, hold a book or coffee cup. But I’m getting more and more able with the left one. Have any of you had this thing?

    Can you believe Tom’s pension won’t be paid the end of the month?!!!! The Tampa Coast Guard units around the country are losing young officers and NCO’s, who didn’t get paid on the 15th. Why stay when your country treats you that way? We’ll be OK, even though we have spent with wild abandon on travel. But young families won’t. They can take their training and skills to the Navy or other branches. And they are doing just that. I feel as though we as a Nation are going down a Rabbit Hole.

    Tom and I have begun watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy after the network news. We laugh, saying we’ve become our elderly aunt or parents. I check in with the Washington post, and noon with Andrea Mitchell. And Friday night with PBS.

    Again, I believe you must have a twin. How else could you do so many things in a day? We’re all glad you do. Looking forward to new book.

    Take care, Sweet, Generous Lady,
    Debbie in Tampa….for now……..

    • sbranch says:

      Love you Debbie, you and your massively big heart. I worry all the time about these folks and their kids and now look, it’s you too. It just has to end soon. Sorry about your hand. Hope it goes away the way it came, fast! I hope it’s not too painful! Hugs to Tom, and hugs to you dear. Keep your wonderful sunny side up! xoxo

      • Debbie Boerger says:

        Sniff, sniff. Tears of happiness on my cheeks. Thank you so very much for those kind words, Dear Lady. Stay safe and warm in the coming snow dump. Debbie in T.

  2. Linda Bleeke says:

    I love all of your posts. I live vicariously through your experiences. There is a quote about the Sound of Silence on Jan. 2019 Wall Calendar that does not include who wrote it. Is there an author? Keep up your great work. I love my mugs.

  3. Jackie says:

    How about a “words of wisdom” from Jack cup ?

  4. Gail Risden says:

    With the sadness of all that is going on in our country reading and re-reading your delightful blog is such a happy escape from the ugly into the beautiful. Your words and your pictures and the Musica make my day every time:) Thank You soooo much!! Gail

  5. So very charming! A beautiful holiday spent with dear ones. Love and laughter, good food and wine, cherished moments. Happy New Year! xx Karen

  6. Pam Moore says:

    Hi Susan!
    I absolutely love this post!!! Just beautiful photos. Love it! Wishing you a magical 2019. 🙂

  7. Regina Carretta says:

    Susan …. I will working at my computer today, hopefully a rainy day, with TCM On Demand movie “The Two Mrs. Carrolls” (Bogart and Stanwyck)…..have you seen it? I imagine it’s the kind of film you’d have on, as background music, while you work….very British-y setting, and a mystery….
    Happy mid-January, Brexit deciding, Martin Luther King honoring, Women’s, People’s marching, National Day of Service, snow storms in the east – what a time = be safe, keep speaking out and often, and thank you thank you thank you…
    love to you,

    • sbranch says:

      Love right back to you Regina! I’m in planning mode, thinking about writing a new Willard, working on moon and birthday cups (SO FUN!!!), new English excitement, Domestic fixes, saying to myself, “What would my Girlfriends like?” Fairly easy, pretty much the same answers as “what would I like!” Kindred spirits. Be safe darling girl, it’s always wonderful to hear your cheery voice.

      • Regina Carretta says:

        so nice to wake up to your good morning! My friend and 2 other friends went to London 2 years ago during the springtime….this year, I asked her if she wanted to go back, and see more of London that we missed, during her spring break…she needs the cheer, the walks, the history, the change of scene….and she has changed her mind – twice – last week she said, ‘is it too late to plan London in the spring?’ I of course said that it was NOT too late….she will let me know today….How can I encourage her, not being a pushy sort me, and not saying I know what is best for a friend, who may be going through some sadness right now….but day trip to Cambridge and walking to Grantchester, more concerts at St. Martins in the Field, the Columbia Road Flower Market, and maybe a show (did you know that Julian Ovenden – one of Lady Mary’s suitors, Foyle’s War’s Andrew – is in “All About Eve” at the Noel Coward Theatre this spring?) Want to join us? And then fear of what Brexit will bring….so cross your fingers and your paintbrushes that my friend will say yes to the trip, and I can spend this rainy day on the British Airways website, and see if my favorite Russell Square Hotel, the Celtic, has any free rooms. Sigh. England….have a loverly day, Susan….
        and love,

      • Regina Carretta says:

        well….just caught a peek at your England mugs….how cute are they??
        I am planning a trip to London for April – to check the list, for places I didn’t see 2 Aprils ago….plus 2 day trips – 1 to Sissinghurst, and 1 to Cambridge, Grantchester….
        going with a friend who was part of the London Four, 2 years ago…she, too, has a list she made on the plane coming back to Seattle, of things for next trip….well here it comes….
        “next trip”….it is important to do things that we dream about NOW…if we can…..
        well, dear….stay warm,stay cozy, love to you…
        Regina, Seattle

        • sbranch says:

          Oh how fun! Another short trip from London is Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s house. It’s wonderful and only 1 hour from London. Another, Hever Castle, where Anne Boleyn was born. I think they’re like 4 miles apart. Keep in touch, will love to hear about it!

          • Regina Carretta says:

            oh, Susan, dear – I took a peek at your friend, Carrie in Wales twitter and she had info on – oh I can hardly stand it – Doorkins the cat who lives at Southwark Cathedral in London!

            All this glorious joy is all your fault! So we added the afternoon we arrive in London, on a Saturday, a walk through Borough Market, to get picnic food, and a visit to Southwark Cathedral – maybe to see the cat – or what looks like a gorgeous Shakespearean herb garden, or Evensong…..who knew. (you did, and so did sweet Carrie)….My friend Carol, who has been to London 18 times, can’t go with us this time around, but she loves to put together daily itineraries – so we send her our “To Do’s” and she plays with a possible schedule, with plenty of tearoom, coffee shop, pub stops…..and she lives vicariously by doing so… this morning the emails were flying (on my part), promising to leave her alone, but I HAD to tell her about Doorkins, and now we’ve added the southbank neighborhood to our touring….my travel friend, Nancy also found a show for us to go to – it is called “Six” about the wives of Henry the Eighth….a musical – if you have time to look at the website, the video is wonderful.
            So, I will stop now …. all this fun, laughter, being part of the world, encouragement to travel is all your fault. All your WONDERFUL fault – and thank you, dear Susan!!!!!
            Ta, Regina, Seattle

          • sbranch says:

            I glory in your revelment! (Good sentence! Never used that one before!) Anyway, I’m happy for you! You are going to have a wonderful time! xoxo

  8. Suzanne Macfadden says:

    I ve read your books and fell in love with them. My favorite “a fine romance” because I too love England. Been there four times and would go tomorrow if I could. I feel as if we are twins. Everything you write about I love. I’m also a quilter and don’t know if you have a fabrics line. I don’t see any where I live.
    I too have a cat named Jake who is right on sitting and watching the much fun for him.

    Keep up what your doing.

  9. Pat Stansel says:

    I’m curious—how large is your dining room ? It looks enormous on the post—being able to sit sixteen is impressive! From what I’ve seen it was a very memorable Christmas !!!

    • sbranch says:

      Old house, big dining room. With my family, when I was looking at this house and falling in love, I saw that, and said, oh my, forever and ever we never shall part!

  10. Carolyn mixon says:

    Wishing you and Joe the very best for 2019 and all the years to come. Love the art work of the two brown owls sitting on a snowy limb under their umbrella- do you the name of the artist who painted that, I would love a print of that, love it and love all the joy and uplifting you bring into my life –

  11. Debbie Boerger says:

    Dear Sue,
    I think you are getting your snow wish. Just heard from our neighbors on The Dirt Road in Franklin. Snowing away, and all are snug and warm inside. Oh, wish I were there, with a crackling fire and hot cocoa.
    We have a high wind warning here in Tampa, as well as a possible freeze. The Lovely Tom is moving smaller pot plants and watering the big pots, so they will be OK in low temps. And, as always, he makes Sunday breakfast…actually brunch. Sweet, sweet man…handsome, too boot.
    Cold clear sky is our hope for the Total Eclipse of the Super Moon.

    Happy Snow and Planetary Movements.
    Mucho Love,
    Debbie in Tampa………

    • sbranch says:

      We are snug, and we are cozy with fires and hot chocolate. It’s been cold, and I’ve baked sweet potatoes for breakfast just to make the stove hot! But no snow!!

  12. Christina says:

    Happy New Year to you and Joe! I always feel inspired to make my home more beautiful after reading your blogs. Thank you for sharing some of your beautiful Christmas with us! <3 Christina

  13. Louise Bailey says:

    I loooooooove those garlands above your mirror! Where did you get them?

    • sbranch says:

      Do you mean the white things? Like the Christmas trees? We used to carry them in my store, and we’ll have them again next year. The other things I collected along the way and put all together, little snowballs, glass stars, a paper cutout of a reindeer, die cut birds (we have those too) … anything I see that sparkles and is white gets taken to my sideboard!

  14. FayE in CA! says:

    The picture of you standing in the field with sheep while holding your camera should be on the back cover of your new book…puts the photographer/author front and center AND it is a great photo of you with a great background of your subject.

    South Coast of CA got six inches of rain in the last series of storms…mountains got more that will rush down to lakes! Yay…we are happy. Looks like you either just had your first real snow storm, or it is crossing over to MV now. Enjoy!


    • sbranch says:

      I think (if we’re talking about the same one) I just put that photo on the back cover of my new English Countryside 2020 photo calendar, but I may take your advice and use it on the book too. I love how the sheep are posing! No snow for us yet!!! It will probably all come in April when we really would rather not!

  15. Cindy Latty says:

    This is, without a doubt, my most favorite post you’ve done so far (with the exception of all the photos of Jack, your posts about Jack, and your post about how you first got Jack)! Just makes me feel cheery and homey!

  16. Anne says:

    Wonderful post! How FUN it all looks! I’m still salivating over your Xmas menu. 😋 YUM
    Next to Kate Middleton, Ray and her Mum have the most gorgeous English rose skin I’ve ever seen🤩 Waiting patiently for your new books…rereading your other books til then🥰
    It’s cold and snowy here in PA, hope it is in MA too! Happy New Year and thx for sharing your joy!

  17. Hilda says:

    I’d love to see a “Happy Birthday” cup!
    Happy New Year, Susan.

  18. Liz Keller says:

    Hi Susan,
    I love your blog and especially reading about your Christmas holiday. I have to ask you. In one of your photographs (a pie is in the foreground) there is a ceramic Peter Rabbit on a rocking horse in the background. What is the name of that figure and where can I get one? I have been searching the internet to no avail. Hope you can help.

    • sbranch says:

      That is a “Bunnykins” figurine, ‘Tally Ho’ made by Royal Dalton, dated 1974. It says, “special commission” on it . . . not sure what that means, but maybe it’s why you haven’t been able to find it. I would look for it on eBay or Etsy, or in an antique store. Hope this helps!

  19. I’m ever so late to the discussion and haven’t read any other replies but I say a Hilltop farm cup would be so lovely! Or that little english Village that you alone were enjoying that morning. Or BOTH!

    I so enjoyed my visit, as always.

  20. Suzette Shoulders says:

    Dear Susan, I got up this morning thinking, “It is about time for Susan to post another blog-post! ” and I was right! Sipping my coffee from my dear “English Countryside’ mug and reading your blog, a great way to start my day! I wonder if you got lots of snow, as per the prediction? In central Oregon the mountains have had some, and we got a bit, but we are way under the normal amount for snow-pack this year, so we are worrying already about fires in the summer, and because of the Trump shut-down , the training for new firefighters and strategizing for what preventive burns will best protect the West are not happening. Scary times. Hoping for a better world… hugs, Suzette in Oregon

    • sbranch says:

      No snow! We have had like a spattering of tiny flakes, but nothing really! We walked out to the water this morning, wrapped up well, it was around 35 degrees.. something said for doing that without finding ice! The weather is wrong on every level… we should be all white now. Hoping for a better world, Suzette, right with you!

  21. Karen says:

    So beautiful, nostalgic, and true. Wonderful blog post. Very appreciative of you, more than you will know. Thank-you.

  22. Nancye Tuttle says:

    Dear Susan and Girlfriends,
    Thanks for such a wonderful post. It’s made my day to see your bright and beautiful Christmas and New Year’s celebrations with dear friends and to also read the kind, supportive comments to those dealing with loss and hardship brought on by the fires and this on-going government shutdown. Hoping and praying for all those who are suffering and also sending a huge thanks to you, Susan, for giving us brightness in troubling times.
    Hugs, thanks and prayers,
    Nancye T., Wells, Maine

    • sbranch says:

      Things better for those folks today Nancye. They had, and still have, all our prayers. Wonderful to hear from you.

  23. Eleanor Botts says:

    Llama soxs are the best! So warm and toasty plus easy care. Would you believe that Cincinnati has a llama farm? Ellen B

  24. Mary Shearer says:

    Dear Susan, I don’t know if you have addressed this already, but have you seen the Netflix original movie, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”? If you haven’t seen it, I heartily recommended! I also want to recommend the book! I am reading it now and it is incredibly wonderful – beautifully written and very humorous! Lots of love from Mary S. In Fresno, California xoxo

  25. Laura says:

    OH MY DEAR LORD!!! Just saw you are making a CORGI MUG!!!! Sign me up!!! So Excited!!! Thank you Susan😍😍😍😍🦊🦊🦊

  26. Debbie Boerger says:

    Hi, Sue, More wanton spending on travel. I booked us into an adorable efficiency apartment near Pasadina, CA. Lovely neighborhood with lots of cafes nearby. My bucket list includes the Rose Parade, and we’re going!! Found the place through TripAdvisor. Really nice, much bigger than you’d expect, modern interior with old Spanish exterior. Private and safe. We’ll also buy the tickets to go into the lot with All of the floats the morning of Jan. 2. Can get up close and personal. Next on my Bucket List is the JPL. I’m a space groupie and have my name on a micro chip of the Mars Rover Curiosity.
    Watched the thing being built via the web site.

    Tom’s second posting in the Coast Guard was Long Beach. First was Hawaii. He and some friends lived in Seal Beach, so we’ll go see what’s what. So many museums and mountain trails to drive or walk. We have good friends that live in Rancho Palo Verde, so I’m sure they will join us for a hooting, hollering reunion. Tom arrived in California in 1966, having driven his brand new yellow Mustang convertible from Chicago along much of old Rt. 66. My college roomie and I were in Manhattan Beach that summer, having driven out in an ancient VW Bug. We may have crossed paths at a cafe/bar on ‘the strand’ there. A place with a big fire pit where you cooked your own burgers. Tom would have been there for the cute ‘stews’ from airlines.

    We decided to spend it while we can still do so. Been a rough couple of years for both of us. Celebrating getting our pension on Feb. 1. Nothing is certain anymore, absolutely nothing except the love of my Lovely Tom. People still need our help, especially government contractors who will not get the back pay.

    Loving the comments from girlfriends and your twitter posts,
    Debbie in Tampa for awhile longer

    • sbranch says:

      You and I may have crossed paths there too! I think it was 1966 that I met one hunk of gorgeousness, sweetest guy, who lived in Manhattan Beach named Pete Woods. Such a doll, didn’t own a car and I lived far away, but I haven’t forgotten him despite only knowing him a few weeks! He moved back home, to WA DC and I never heard from him again. If you tell me you knew him, I will truly fall out of my chair, at the total serendipity of which there seems to be so VERY much in this world. My mom and Grandma lived in Seal Beach for years, I was born in Long Beach, where my mom and dad met. Pasadena is a heaven place, with wonderful old houses and a famous bookstore where I’ve been several times, called Vroman’s. Julia Child grew up in Pasadena. Pasadena and Long Beach are a little bit far from each other, fyi. Also, I think you would like Griffith Park where there is a wonderful Observatory and is much closer to Pasadena than Long Beach. SO much to look forward to! Have a wonderful time planning! xoxo

  27. Debbie Boerger says:

    Hold onto your chair, Miss Sue. My father’s name was Pete Wood, no ‘s’though.
    I knew you were born in Long Beach and that your mom lived in Seal Beach! Suppose if you are on this planet long enough, you’ll have a few serendipitous experiences. We’ll be in the LA area 10 days or maybe even longer.
    Speaking of my father, Tom and I were at the officer’s club at MacDill AFB for a ‘change of command’ ceremony for the base commander. That was just before Tom retired. We were chatting with some general or other (MacDill has more generals and admirals than anywhere except the Pentagon) and I noticed her very Southern drawl…sort of like my own. Asked her where she was from. She said Mississippi. Where in MS, I asked. She said it was so small, she was sure I wouldn’t know it. Kilmichael? yep, I new it! I said my father was born in Duck Hill, which is even smaller. Not only was she from Duck Hill, she went to the same small women’s college as I did and was a cousin!!!
    Tom and I were standing in the misty rain at an overlook in the Bear Tooth mountains in Wyoming, I think it was, on one of our camping trips around the West. The road was almost empty of traffic. A family drove up and asked us to take a picture of them. Can’t miss a thick Wisconsin accent, so I asked where they were from. After another 20 questions session, we learned that the guy was from Green Bay, had an aunt Ruth, who had married Lester Lamack. Lester was 100, and we’d been to their home the year before…..Less and Ruth were so cute, being sort of ‘newly weds’. Called themselves ‘ruthless’. Lester was Tom’s uncle on his mother’s side!!!!
    OK, I’ll stop hogging the blog. I think it’s wonderous strange how we’re connected. Time for out usual Sunday ‘brunch’, this time with fresh avocados, green chilis, onion, and cheese!!

    Mucho love,
    Debbie in Tampa

    • sbranch says:

      That is shocking that your dad was Pete Wood. Even that! What kind of craziness can this be?? Love it!

  28. Cynthia says:

    Found you a couple of weeks ago on another blog’s suggestion; “Julia’s Bookbag”, and have spent a little time each day reading your archives. Such fun and inspiration. Love Jack and your Girl. Keep on inspiring us. Put Nebraska on your book tour. We have a lovely bookstore in Lincoln called Francis and Finch. Guess how it got it’s name?

  29. Cynthia says:

    It should be Francis…….darn spellcheck.

  30. Debbie Boerger says:

    Girl Friends,
    Here’s a question for anyone who may know. Why, oh why, does BBC make a wonderful series and then cancel it after one or two seasons leaving the characters hanging. This week I was truly upset that I’ll never know how all the women in Home Fires resolved their problems….some huge, some small. So I began Island at War, because Amazon said it was ‘the complete series’. It’s one season. Arrrrrrrgh, as Charlie Brown once said. I’m using all my ‘free’ videos on Prime. I’ll wail and gnash my teeth if Victoria is discontinued before Albert designs the house on Isle of Wight. It’s a fabulous place to visit. He was so creative.

    Debbie in Tampa

    • sbranch says:

      Better not be! Love Albert! My fave so far was the scene of them riding the train! You know it’s the money, it’s always the money!

    • Rachel Lucas says:

      Hi Debbie, I so agree with you about Home Fires, wasn’t that a great series?? I couldn’t believe they cancelled it! If you’re interested in the background, it was based on a book called “Jambusters’ by Julie Summers…she’s actually a friend of mine and a wonderful author….well wort reading! x

  31. Isabel says:

    Hi Susan,

    Haven’t seen a post in over 3 weeks. Hope everything is OK. Then I realized you might be on Twitter. And you are. Are you now posting mainly on Twitter?

    Glad to see some of your new cups. Will be interested in getting a couple of special ones.

  32. Isabel says:

    Hi Debbie in Tampa from Isabel in Orlando,

    I, like you, loved, loved, loved Home Fires. Also hate how they leave you in the middle of what is going on at a critical spot and just end it. They do that a lot. I also liked Indian Summers. You get invested in these people, and they are such good actors, they become real, to me at least.

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      Hi back Isabel,
      Are your toes cold as are mine? I’ve been in Florida since 1970. We have had a few hard freezes in the winter, even a dusting of snow, but I don’t think I can remember such a long string of below normal temps. Thankfully, we’re getting new windows. If we are both still above the dirt, we’ll be toasty toed and hopefully, not worry quite so much about windows being smashed during the hurricanes.
      I’ll look at Indian Summers. Having the Beeb just drop a series is like reading a book, getting to the turning point and find the pages missing. Grrrrr!!! Stay warm over there in Disney Country, enjoy warmer weather when ever it arrives.

      Debbie in Tampa for now

  33. Cynthia says:

    I have been catching up on your archives, and I remember a recipe for short ribs. I bought the short ribs, but can’t remember which archive I saw the recipe. Can you point me to where the recipe Is.

    • sbranch says:

      Here you go Cynthia! This cooks for 7-8 hours, at 250 degrees.
      Spicy Short Ribs . . . just copy and paste this so you can print it out!
      ½ c. beef broth
      ½ c. soy sauce
      ¼ c. brown sugar, packed
      2 lg. cloves garlic
      1 Tbsp. minced ginger
      1 tsp. dark sesame oil
      1 tsp. red pepper flakes (opt.)
      5-lbs. short ribs (w/bones) cut into 2″ pieces
      2 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with ¼ c. water
      4 thinly sliced green onions
      1 tsp. sesame seeds
      2 c. white rice cooked in 4 c. salted water
      1 lime (juice for the rice)
      Preheat oven to 250 degrees … or put your crockpot on low. You need a 6 qt. crockpot or dutch oven. Whisk together first seven ingredients. Put the ribs in the pot, pour liquid over and be sure to get sauce on every rib. Cover tightly and cook in slow oven or crockpot for 7-8 hours. A half hour before it’s done, mix together the cornstarch and water in a shaker jar and pour into sauce, mixing as well as possible. Cover dutch oven and bring to boil on stove burner, then reduce to simmer, for ½ hour. Or cover crockpot and put on high for ½ hour. Make fluffy white rice, and squeeze juice of one lime over the top. Serve beef with gravy and rice. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.♥️

  34. Jerri Wesson says:

    Dear Susan, I am the owner of a Cardigan Welsh Corgi named Charlie (well, actually, he owns me. Our dogs run the house, we just live here. ) Where can I view your Corgi mug?

    LOVE your books, recommend them to everybody that I know! I grew up in Southern California in the 60’s and 70’s- near San Diego, in a town called Poway- and your story was so much my own!

    • sbranch says:

      Ha ha, I’m sure he does own you! I’m putting up a new blog soon and you’ll see the new Corgi cup there. Nice to hear from you! Thank you Jerri!

  35. Ginny Stanley (Ohio) says:

    Hello Susan!
    Happy 2019! I loved reading about your Christmas. (And everything else you post about). Christmas is my favorite time of year. I dream about it all year long. I try to find new ideas of things to do to make it special for our lil family. Even though my kids are grown, they love to come home for the holiday. This was my first Christmas as a grandma – it’s like getting a do-over for all the things I didn’t do with my kids. The one thing that you said that resonated with me was the “moping around” comment. It happens to me every year. My two kids live states away so when they go back home after the holiday, I’m heartbroken!!! It takes a couple days of moping before I snap back to reality. Remembering the fun we had & the memories we made & being Thankful that we were ALL together one more time always gets me through it. It truly is the people/family/friends that make it special & not the gifts & commercial hoopla!
    Love ya girlfriend!

    • sbranch says:

      Kindred spirits Ginny! Moping! I’m okay now, snapped back, but still miss them and what fun we had! First Christmas as a Grandma, what a Red Letter Year! xoxoxo

  36. Cecelia says:

    I loved this post! Thank you Susan!
    I’m going to steal the mixed seed idea for toast. Looks delicious.
    Also the lights on your guests! Looks festive. Where do I buy those??
    Looks like you had a Merry Christmas. House looked beautiful as always. Have a great New Year

    • sbranch says:

      Steal away, they’re delicious! I think Joe got them at our local toy store, but I’m not sure, maybe it was at the Christmas Tree shop. Happy New Year Cecilia!

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