HAPPY Good Luck for JULY 💜

Rabbit-Rabbit my pretties. Happy Good Luck for July. MUSICA!

See that little spot of light? Guess what it is? It’s our first firefly of the season ~ last night, end of June, right on time for around here, and I got a picture! This is no easy feat! They do not respond when you say:I never saw a firefly until I moved to the island, and I bet there are lots of people who’ve never seen one either ~ so here you go! Your first firefly! Happy July! There were about 20 there last night, blinking and bobbing through the ivy and the lilacs in the darkest part of the garden.

I have a zillion photos of this garden now. Because, these days, half my time is spent staring at it, eyes tracking butterflies and birds flitting through. We didn’t have the yard sale, I’ll explain in a moment. More time for garden staring! You see why I nicknamed this garden “My Toy.” It’s painting with flowers! And every year, the painting changes. And if you are new to gardening, and you see this and it seems overwhelming and as if I know what I am doing, let me remind you, I know NOTHING. It is all hit and miss for me, I made a little garden, small, so I could take care of it myself and just put there what I like, and then I waited to see what Mother Nature would do with it. Anyone can do it. All questions can be answered so very easily, we have GOOGLE-genius to answer how deep to plant any sort of seed! Sticking a lettuce-start into soil is easy. If you want it, you can have it. And if you don’t want it, then you don’t have to have it!! It’s making your own homey world the way you like it. You can start small, a pot or two of herbs on the porch, in a window box, it can grow. A kitchen garden is a lovely addition to a homemade happy life.

See the little dish? The other day Joe made me a shelf for it. New for the painting this year!

See it on the corner post?

It’s for this guy ~ he’s a catbird. Lowely talks to him every morning in his own language, she calls, “Meow” and she says he comes to her, because she has treats. So now we’re both soaking handfuls of raisins in warm water (for about a half hour to soften and plump them), and putting dishes of them in our gardens. (P.S. There are small window bird-feeders you can get, so you can feed them and enjoy their antics even if you are living happily-ever-after in a garden-free environment! As Gladys Taber said, As long as I have a window, life is exciting!)

Now every day is raisin day!

Two bowls of raisin-treats, no waiting . . .

Doesn’t that look refreshing? No dirty birds around here. 

Only wet birds! We think he’s a Baltimore Oriole.

I love it when they come in droves and go upside down! I’m going to do this exact thing, soon as our seawater gets a little bit warmer. We’re going to walk early and wear bathing suits under our clothes, we’ll each bring a tiny towel to dry our feet after swimming. I’ll be big bird throwing water around, turning upside down, in a very big bird bath. I want to get salty! Let me just say, I am normally NOT a water person, have never been. But I’m determined to do this because it always feels SO good when I do, I think it’s GOOD for me, and I am remembering, life is short. I need a summer of swimming for my memory book. However, bathing suits, bah, humbug! Which reminds me . . .

I want to catch you up on our squirrel “problem” . . . as you know if you hang out on this blog, we’ve always loved watching them from our kitchen window, but this spring our feeders were inundated ⤴️, which made the birds, for the most part, give up and go away.😲

So, with good advice from our brilliant Girlfriends (you know who you are 💞) we invested (and I do mean invested) in these squirrel-proof bird feeders. And guess what? They work! See the round openings at the bottom?

They have little doors . . . and the weight of the squirrel closes them! He went from door to door . . .

And very quickly learned he’d been outwitted and gave up faster than I ever imagined he would.

🅰️nd so began the return of the birds. We filled one of our old feeders with safflower seed because squirrels don’t like it, that worked too, thank you very much ~ and the Cardinals seem to love it! Peaceable Kingdom has returned.

Love the little spot of sun on his head.

We kept one special nut feeder just for the squirrels and the bigger, more weighty birds.

So they are fat and happy, and we are happy, the birds are happy, and guess who else is happy? Someone new! 

This guy! You have never seen me post a picture like this, because in all my 37 years on this island, I have never seen a chipmunk!! I didn’t think we had them.

🅱️ut we obviously do!!! I was so excited, delighted, grabbing for the camera, calling Joe, when suddenly, I felt a shiver of fear . . . what fresh hell might this be, I thought, and I Googled Chipmunks to see if we should be happy and welcoming or if we should panic and katie-bar-the-door, and yes, I discovered that if they come in any sort of numbers, they can take out the foundation of your house!  But this was only one, and so very tiny and cute. How much damage could one little critter do? And I haven’t seen him since. If he comes back with friends, I may start to worry. But guess what, we have chipmunks on Martha’s Vineyard! More critters-in-the-garden handy tips:

More from the garden . . .

I go out and collect them all, the trumpet-tongued, the little and beloved.

For the ever-changing scene above the kitchen sink . . .

And this! My first sweetpea!One of my favorite cottage-garden flowers ~ my birth flower, too. They grow like wildfire in the garden at the California Studio, but NOT here. I decided to try again. So far I have one-and-a-half flowers, and if it doesn’t get too hot or too humid too soon, I might get another one! They have the most delicate fragrance, even more precious for being so rare. See? Just one little flower in a jar is all you need for happy kitchen puttering.🌺

The salads keep coming!

We just keep taking leaves from the outside . . . and so far they haven’t bolted. But we had to install our window air-conditioners a couple of days ago, July is here, and summer has begun for real. The lettuce will go, the tomatoes will turn red, and the blueberries on the road where we walk will ripen. We’ll walk home, wet and salty, and pick berries as we go. There is always something. It’s just a matter of time. 

Fresh garden lettuce is perfect for our delicious healthy whole-food eating scheme.

Yes, still at it. Probably for life since everything tastes so wonderful and I’m never hungry between meals anymore! Four or five (six or seven, had big bag buttered popcorn at the movies last night) more pounds and I will reach my goal weight! I wrote the whole “diet” down for my sister (it’s really not a diet) . . . maybe I should put it up here? It’s so simple. No calorie counting, no carb counting! You just can’t be in a hurry to get weight off . . . it will go, but it’s all about health!

Soon we will be making this delicious icy-cold gazpacho with our own home-grown tomatoes. Have you tried this recipe yet? SO good, vitamin heaven, crunchy and so good for you! It’s on page 39 of Heart of the Home, or HERE.And another of our favorites . . . A baked sweet potato prepared Asian-style, eat it for dinner and go to bed skinny . . . with all the flavor and good health in the world! It’s on page 85 of Heart of the Home (30th Anniversary edition) or you can see it HERE.

We’re also doing our part to provide massive amounts of clover for the bees! Some people think clover’s a weed! But the bees love it! And it smells wonderful. Looks like a wildflower garden.

So there were two main reasons we didn’t have our yard sale. This was one of them! It rained for the week before our planned event . . . the ground was soggy, setting up was impossible, the table legs would have sunk into the grass, plastic covers would have been flying in the wind. The day it was scheduled was interesting too, rain in the morning, sun around noon, wild wind and hail at 4 pm. Somebody was trying to tell us something. So we put it off until later in the summer . . . and here’s the even better reason:

Mas MUSICA! Ⓜ️y sister Shelly and her twins (Paden and Mason) finally got here . . . their first flight was canceled (they were told at the airport there were not enough planes!!! Had to take their suitcases and go HOME😩), arrived two days later than planned, and I thought, do I want to rush us into some sort of yard-sale craziness OR, shall we just play the whole time they’re here?

So this is Shelly and you can see what we decided! We had the BEST time.

We walked every day . . . the boys came too . . .

When they weren’t out clamming with Joe. The kids love nature and petty pets as much as we do. Jack substituted, in a pinch, for Lucy, their beloved weenie dog. When they left here they went to Durango, Colorado to spend a few weeks with their Uncle and cousins who love to fish in the piney-clean air of the high mountains.🌲 They work hard at school all year long and deserve every moment of it!

Joe makes the BEST stuffed clams!

The boys brought their art supplies and did lots of drawing and painting ~ this is Paden in the Peter Rabbit Room . . . art is what they do, it’s what they’ve always done . . .

. . . and they are so good at it! 

I’ve kept all the artwork they’ve sent me 🎨 . . . this was done by Paden a long time ago, but cute! It reminded me of him at the desk in the photo above.

Of course, Jack, drawn in 2015 when they were 12, but unsigned. Excellent likeness!

Paden did this wallpaper while he was here . . .

Mason did a pencil drawing of the rose in a vase on our table when we went to Edgartown for lunch.

Mason went over to Lowely’s for a pastel painting lesson and did this. So dear of her to take the time . . . The boys are both so talented.

And handy too, the perfect guests! This is Paden helping Joe do I-don’t-know-what on the roof.

We walked downtown after dinner . . .

Stopped for ice cream . . . (Mason, Joe, Paden)

Quiet and dark, about a block from the harbor . . .

In front of the Capawock . . .  Jaws plays here every Friday night during the summer! Silent films played here. It was the first theater on the Island. Generations sat in the dark screaming or crying, oohing and ahhhing, holding hands and falling in love. Just remember that when you come.

I love summer nights and street lights making shadows on old houses, candles on porches, creaking screen doors, the smell of neighborhood dinners.

The boys were so busy fishing, they would get themselves up at 5 am to go down to the harbor. (When I was 16 you could not have dragged me from the bed at that ungodly hour, especially not for fish!) So Shell (real name Michelle, but I call her Belle ~ she’s Mee-shell, ma belle, 🎶 somblay mon-kee bon tre bien on somble 🎵 ~ Beatles phonetic French ~ but to me, she’s Belle) and I had plenty of time to hang out and be sisters!

Went to lunch and took our books. Because it’s what we love. We each read the same paragraph about 100 times before we realized it was way too soon for books at lunch, and got on with the talking!

She taught the kids Arf and Arfy, how much fun is that!?! That makes three generations! Who war-fod har-fav thar-funk ar-fit? They were fluent! My mother would be thrilled! We could talk about EVERYTHING, and no one knew what we were saying but us! (Arf and Arfy: family language I wrote about in Fairy Tale Girl in case you think I have just gone off the rails.)

Shelly thinks Jack looks like “one of those people on the Titanic.” She means this:

She called him Jacques. Jacques with the boys is one of those photos that got away! Having waaay too much fun to “remember” to take photos!

But he was always there . . . right in the middle of everything, we look through photo albums, Jacques tries to lay on the books, he’s a very social kitty!

‘Twas a wonderful visit! When Joe and I go to California we have SO many people to see, in different towns ~ hours, or even states apart ~ and only a short amount of time ~ so we never get to just BE with them, the way we like, with lots of alone-time. But they had NO one to see here but us, no yard sale to do, nowhere to be, we got them all to ourselves for the entire time and it was perfect!Time flies, onto the ferry boat they went, Belle and I waving and waving goodbye, teary-eyed, they’re home safe and sound . . . and now here we are already, the first day of July! And I was just thinking you might need something to delicious to bring to a potluck? 

And this, the PERFECT potato salad . . . be sure to add the mayonnaise while the potatoes are still hot or warm, so it can melt in! That is the secret of this bowl-licking-good potato salad.

FYI, Look what I got! Our calendars are on the way! I just received my samples . . . which means they should all be delivered to the Studio soon! I think they turned out better than ever (note that Jack seems to agree, or something) . . . the color is beautiful and I love the paper ~ it’s soft and not shiny so it’s easy to write on! You’ll love them.

Our wonderful new cups are being manufactured in England even as we speak! Cups for a happy kitchen.

Time for me to go . . . I promise, I will say hello to the ocean for you, to the seagulls and the sun . . .

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses! Never forget how unique and wonderful and special you are! Happy July! Sending all my love! XOXO

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398 Responses to HAPPY Good Luck for JULY 💜

  1. Marcia A. Sherman says:

    Susan –
    I have sent this story before to your blog, years ago, it can use a re-telling:
    Long ago when I was married to my third (3 count’em 3 yikes) (no longer) husband, we visited his (transplanted) mother on Cape Cod. Browsing in some shops and came across one of your wall calendars. Maybe 1997 or 8? Been collecting ever since. And I have saved every one. Quite the chronicle of my life for future generations.
    LOVE them. LOVE your “stuff”. I have a red leather very well loved check book cover from when? Let’s say 1999 so it is 20 years old and still functioning. Wow! Have books and mugs and charms and holiday ornaments. Just received a set of three vases, forgetting I had ordered one already. “Life is good” is a thought very dear to my heart.
    Anyway – I wish to comment on a few things in this current blog entry.
    1) Would love to see, and purchase, a cook book of the “diet”
    2)Recommend the Sarah Addison Allen book “Garden Spells” the protagonist cooks and bakes with flowers (if you have not already read it)
    3) Chipmunks. They are the most adorable creatures, yes somewhat destructive. We had two recognizable families for several years. Some got under of our home when we first moved here 13 years ago and died. We are on a slab, they can can get PRETTY small when they want. The smell was not pleasant. But is has stopped when we plugged the hole a few years ago. Fox urine – real or synthetic – works. Do you have foxes on the island? If not maybe just cat urine? I know I know!! The other thing that kept them away from the house was providing a habitat for them AWAY from the house. After some trees fell down in a storm, part of my yard was “natural” for two summers, they LOVED it. Now that wildness has been tamed but they seem to have gone elsewhere and only visit occasionally which is fine. Watch out for the holes in your yard – not as large as mole holes, but…

    Blessings, Marcia from Gloucester County, NJ

  2. JoEllen Bendall says:

    An-egg-a-potato– Just like MY family recipe! Love it! Love you. And Shelly. And the twins. And Joe and Jack! Love sparkling all around. We are Lucky Girls.

    • sbranch says:

      I bet it ALL originated in Iowa!!! My mom and Grandma and now You! Bet that’s where that brilliant recipe came from!

  3. Judith Hogan (heartsdesire) says:

    Thanks for the post today. It’s Canada Day where I live and everyone is celebrating in their red and white outfits. Barbecues everywhere and lots of potato salad. Love your recipe, I’m going to try it next weekend. Your garden advice is spot on. So many people want to have everything perfect but for me, I love a garden that looks untamed. Lots of flowers popping up everywhere. Your garden tip, marigolds prevent white fly and discourage wild bunnies is something I will try as I do have some white fly on my roses and we definitely have bunnies all around us. They look so sweet but they can cause a lot of damage in the garden. Happy almost 4th of July. Hope you have a wonderful day celebrating.

    • Judith Hogan says:

      Forgot to tell you, there are no chipmunks on Vancouver Island. Aren’t we lucky. Lots of squirrels so I think I need that feeder with the doors.

  4. FayE in CA! says:

    ONE watercolor lesson and that’s what he paints???? ABSOLUTELY, AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL and ready to sell the prints now!! Jeeze Louise, continue saving all of their art and be sure the “young” work is signed. The boys are going to be famous and so their childhood art will sell for zillions!!! I presume that the wallpaper art is worms? If so, great for a mug for all of the fishermen/women out there. Bet some would sell in the MV shop. How about paper plates for the fried fish parties across the country? They would look darling on the red checkered picnic cloths. The boys will be able to start a cottage art business before you know it.

    I won’t be surprised when you tell us that they have been accepted to an art institute with scholarships awarded. You are blessed to have such wholesome, talented nephews. Kudos to your sister…and the extended family…for raising such great young men.

    Your garden is splendiferous X a bazillion. Yay, for investing in the birds and sending the squirrels to other people’s feeders!!! Welcome, to the catbird. We talk to our Jays! One walks over to my husband and looks at him while tilting his head side to side. Obviously reminding him to fill up his seed dish. So smart. Exciting when new species find gardens to entertain and enchant us. Say hi to Catbird for Grayson, my furry feline.

    The food photos continue to be deeeelicious to look at. I know you don’t think the photos need to be in a published book, but I disagree. “Reunite with Your Skinny!” Simple, beautiful meals that are quick, easy, tasty and healthy! Hang up the outfit that you want to wear again…mark your calendar days with patience…and wa-la…there you are smiling in your mirror while wearing THAT goal outfit. Celebrate with your new lifestyle…swishing the skirt while you walk and loving the foods that zipped up the skirt. Bet there would be MANY-MANY books purchased for ourselves and as gifts for friends. Happy Valentine’s Day to ourselves…instead of a box of candies! (Valentine’s Day too soon for publication? How about Christmas 2020?)

    Everything in the blog is, as always, is beautiful, inspiring and joyful. Thank you, Susan.


    FayE in CA!

    • sbranch says:

      My sister will LOVE your sweet words . . . just sent them to her. Thank you FayE!

    • Margaret says:

      I second everything you said about Paden and Mason’s artistic talent. Wonderful drawings, and the pastel!. So much talent in the family! I also loved the one of Jack. His name suits him, but he really is a dead ringer for David Suchet’s Poirot.

  5. Jan Martin says:

    Happy July! Summer is here💕. I love seeing your garden & hearing your squirrel stories. Here in SoCal, we have wee gardens, but I LOVE mine also🌸. I stuff as much as I can into it. And it is glorious this summer💕 I’d love to be able to share my pix. We have a bottle brush tree the squirrels live in, & they “torture” our dog Bailey. It’s hilarious to watch the backyard antics😂. My hubby & I have been “dieting for health” also this year & are now a combined weight loss of 43 lbs! Slow & easy. Love you had such a special visit with your sis & nephews. The boys are very talented….must be in the DNA.😉

  6. Therese says:

    Lovely to visit with you this way! The stuffed clams and salad greens and sweet potatoes are making my mouth water. And the flowers, oh, I love the foxglove and hydrangeas!! and Mason’s pastel and Paden’s wallpaper! I am also loving the quotations you chose for this entry.
    What a sweet big sister and aunt you are.
    Have a wonderful Fourth and enjoy your chipmunks.
    They are cute little buggers…

  7. Mary E says:

    After a “rabbit-rabbit-rabbit” this morning I went out and painted in my garden. Thanks for the inspiration!! Also, did you hear my squealing??? I got my Susan book order today. So the Rabbit-ing paid off already!

  8. Kathy Phenix says:

    Okay, so you have 1 little chipmunk but we have hundreds of bats living in our garage attic. Neighbors kept telling us they have watched them start their nighttime foraging at about 8:30 (twilight in sunny FL). Well, we finally saw them and realized they had found a tiny (2in) gap near the ridgeline at the front of the garage. After they had left, my husband and I stuffed tin foil into any tiny openings we could see. Next morning, there was a piece of foil on the ground and an even tinier opening visible. ( So they are clever.) That night while waiting for them to leave again, we could hear them discussing just how they would all fit thru the tiny opening. We only saw 5 leave so now we have removed all foil and will try using screening mesh to cover the hole. They are protected here in FL because they love mosquitos and we don’t. They do a good job.
    Your nephews are indeed talented–an artistic gene is strong in the family. Jacques/Jack is as adorable as ever and talented also. Happy summer.

    • sbranch says:

      Outsmarting critters is a full time job! I welcome anything that eat mosquitoes!!! Chow down!

      • sharon taylor says:


        Bats are good because they keep the mosquitoes under control Who wants to have a mosquito bite? I’m sure you can go to a bird store and purchase a “Bat House”, I bought one for my daughter and son. You put them up on the side of your house and then they won’t go into your garage. The Bat House’s I bought apparently holds up to forty bats. Good luck.

  9. Annie from IL says:

    Here in south-eastern IL we call fire flies ‘lightening bugs’! Also used to capture them in a canning jar for a while then set them free.

  10. Sue Miller says:

    Happy July! Thanks for including us in your family fun ❤️ Been loving working outside in the sunshine now that our rainy June is over I have a tiny yard and have been dealing with a lack of grass crisis…fingers crossed 🤞🏼. The flowers are great so I hope they take the focus away from the muddy lawn

  11. Sandy Schmidt says:

    What a lovely summer blog! I so enjoy seeing your garden grow! I get excited about my gardening too! It’s a joy to see it unfold after the work is done and progress of growth color emerge! Your photography is a welcome addition too.

  12. Ooooh your GARDEN! It is looking so perfect! I love all those heavenly colors and blossoms. I’m finding myself stopping and staring out the window, watching all the little dramas unfold at the bird feeder. We had a tornado roar through my little town a few weeks ago, and it tore down two very massive trees. The birds and I are learning to adjust to this new yard, and its really bringing some new and just as fun spots to enjoy in the garden.
    Also— I find myself turning to your books in these quite tumultuous days, they bring such comfort and pleasure. Thank you for taking the time make Fairytale Girl and Isle of Dreams! They are my ‘summer vacation’ this year!

  13. Ferol Snead says:

    My favorite things from your blog:. After the doors closed on the squirrel, I thought “that doesn’t sound like something Susan would do!” Lo & Behold…the squirrels have their own feeders! The birds taking a bath! Splish, Splash! Playing Marco Polo😅. The boy’s artwork! Thank Genetics & Aunt Susan. Mother Nature is so proud of your flower garden! Heaven’s occupants are marvelling in the colorful creation! Only two things needed – #1 A name for your new friend that made it’s first appearance. #2 Diet Details!

  14. Cindy says:

    Susan, I look forward to your stories with such anticipation and joy. You are a regular reminder to slow down, savor each beautiful thing, and be in this moment. As a trauma therapist, this reminder is always helpful! I think you truly live fully and are fully alive. Thank you dear one, and have a wonderful fourth!

    • sbranch says:

      It does have so much to do with consciousness, awareness, remembering to count blessings, seeing cup half-full . . . thank you for what you do! World needs as many helpers as possible!

  15. Ginnie Judd says:

    Yes, please, share the details of your healthy eating plan – I need it!

  16. Jana Bauer says:

    YES! Share your whole food “diet” here so we can partake of it. Thanks! Enjoyed reading the blog and seeing what’s going on in your life.

  17. Susan leary says:

    Thank you for sharing your family with us all. Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but the chipmunks ate the wires in my car and I had to replace the engine harness. It was not covered by insurance because it was caused by rodents! We do not have a garage so dryer sheets under the hood seem to work.

  18. Gina from NY says:

    Happy July Susan! What a great post! I was thinking that’s it’s been awhile since I’ve seen fireflies. We had an abundance of them during the summer when I was growing up, not so much anymore. They were a sure sign of summer – the long days running around outside until dark; going with dad to Carvel for ice cream after dinner; swimming up at the lake; going on our yearly family vacation to the Cape… Those were magical times…

    So glad you got the squirrel situation under control, wow, that was something… Glad all the animals in your kingdom are once again right with the world and in their place! I loved the sign for bathing suit shopping in the stores! How true it is! Bathing suit shopping is a scary enough event, without having fluorescent lights in the dressing rooms! Women of America can relate! And speaking of bathing suit weather, I, for one, would LOVE for you to post your “diet”! I have been making notes from your previous posts regarding foods you are eating, recipes, websites you have suggested, (i.e. Healthline), but to see it all laid out either in a post or a link in a post, would be great!

    Your nephews are adorable, and it seems they got your family’s “art gene”! So impressive! Your sister is adorable and looks like she’s a hoot! So nice that you were able to see each other… Nothing like family! Enjoy your summer Sue! 💕

  19. Kathleen Hansen says:

    Your health plan please! Looks wonderful and you have really motivated me to start. I am in the San Fransico bay and we don,t have fireflies. How fun to see the first one of the year! The first one I ever saw was with my class of 8th graders at the Vietnam Nam memorial wall in Washington DC. I live close to the Pacific Ocean but sadly not within walking distance. Thanks for sharing your start of Summer Days with us.

  20. Jana says:

    Such happiness and perfect diversion to be found in your posts, dear Susan! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  21. Lisa says:

    Ooh, the yummy salads and fellowship look so wonderful! And JAWS in the movies to boot. What a beautiful life to live!

  22. Sylvia in Seattle says:

    Lovely to have this post today. I just love your garden and the little bouquets on your kitchen shelf. Those twin boys have grown into tall good looking teens, with such great smiles and talent too! Their art work is VERY nice. I’m sure it is a REAL treat for them and Shelly to stay with Sue and Joe on lovely Martha’s Vineyard. I hope you spoiled them a bunch. Its been hot here in Seattle, well hot for here anyhow. I spent the last week and some days texting with my daughter Heidi who is in Switzerland visiting her Dad. She is sweltering in the European heat wave. Coming home soon with chocolate. Hope it doesn’t melt before it gets here.

  23. Jen says:

    When I was young my family made a trip, by car, from California to Vermont. That’s where I first saw, and caught, my first fireflies. I was very disappointed that the glow didn’t last when they expired. They were probably pretty disappointed at being left in a jar to die. 🙁 Now I look forward to ghost crickets in Nevada, and I leave them to their own devices — nert, nert, nert!

  24. Therese says:

    Oh Susan,
    I have to say that all this talk about a wholesome diet is prompting me to say that we eat pie (made by me) for breakfast from the time I can harvest the first Rhubarb. When the strawbs are in season we have shortcake. (fruit and hot biscuits…what could be more innocent? hmmm.)
    My dear husband has a t.shirt that says “Pie for Strength”.
    I work it off in the garden…most of it.
    I’m going to go soak some raisins for the catbird. Thank you!
    We have a nest in the forsythia–the eggs are a brilliant turquoise.

  25. Mary S in OR says:

    I AM new at gardening and I’m shocked on a daily basis about how much I … haven’t killed! Also happily surprised at the incredible amount of joy that it brings me. I have a bunch of clover that showed up on its own, right underneath my (2 year old) Asian pear tree. I love how it looks but sometimes worry that its sucking up the water meant for the tree. (?)

    Three years ago in the summer, I bought and read your trilogy. Then it became equated with summer in my heart and mind, so I’ve read them in subsequent summers … always in a different order.

    So thank you for the joy you have brought to me in this, my favorite season, including the stunning pictures in this post with gardens and birds. A splendid summer to you and yours!


  26. Edythe Feazel says:

    I hope you will talk more about your diet and your success. I am trying so hard, but not losing.

    • sbranch says:

      Frustrating!!! I had the same problem. Just make sure you’re having no sugar or white flour for starters. I’ll post the whole thing soon.

  27. Jo'L says:

    Delightful as always and with a FIREFLY! My first time meeting fireflies made me think of fairies, absolute MAGIC. Thanks for the magic you always bring to our lives.

  28. Mary Pyle says:

    Please share your “diet” plan in your blog. We need guidance. All the pictures of the food looks delicious. Enjoy your beautiful garden. We are picking cherries, peaches and apricots from our trees. Hopefully we will have pears and pecans in the fall. Enjoy your blog so much.

  29. Val says:

    As always, I delight to see a new blog post message from you in my in-box! A quick trip to the stove to put on a pot for tea, grab a few cookies, and then settle in to savor the latest post. THANK YOU for this wonderful moment!

  30. Mary Helen Z says:

    Susan and Joe,
    Wishing you a very Happy 4th of July! Your garden is beautiful but don’t get too attached to the chipmunks, they are trouble! Please pass on your new eating plan! Slow and steady wins the race! Glad you had a great visit with your sister ( my youngest sister is Michelle too) and your nephews . Isn’t family the best!

  31. Paula says:

    Hi Susan ~
    Happy July !!
    Here in Indiana we call them “Lighting Bugs” , I know the regions call things differently, I remember when I was 15 and was ask if I wanted a Soda, haha a what??!! OOhh a POP, ! Im glad I dont drink that now for 20years, but yes to coffee !
    I love your white picket fence garden, do you have a potting shed? I would love one! My daughter is getting to be the garden girl , she loves it!! Must be from our English side of the family ? sounds good anyways.
    Spending time with family is the best gift ever the little things that we take for granted until gone. My hubby and I danced to Willy Nelson song , (You are Always on my Mind, in the 35 years of marriage that was a first dance in many years !!
    Chipmonks are cute, but you better get a outdoor cat , haha.
    I too would like to see your eating plan, I seem to do so much better with a menu then trying to decide myself, or where the plan is a lot of $$$ costly foods and hard to make is out for me also. I like the word SImPLE , giggle giggle.
    I hope you receive this , I think last time I wrote it didnt make to you !?!

    Have a wonderful 4th of July !! God Bless USA , and You !!
    xoxo Paula

  32. Peggy Stetler (SF Bay Area) says:

    Hello Susan! Wonderful post as always! Thank you. Seems we’d all like to hear about your healthy eating plan. It’s fun to see what other people are doing. By the way, my husband and I stopped in at the Apple Farm Inn (located in San Luis Obispo, CA for readers who don’t know of it), on a trip from the Bay Area to Orange County. I was thrilled to see there is an entire little corner/cozy nook dedicated to your products including the new mugs!!! They have the BEST gift shop. We always love stopping in. Happy summer to you and your family from a long time follower. Peggy

  33. Grier says:

    Your garden is perfectly lovely and your salads are to die for! About chipmunks. I started with one cute one, ended up with dozens. They did damage to my home. They were attracted by the bird seed from my feeders, the seed that the birds knocked to the ground. I had to limit my bird feeding to winter only and one feeder vs the four I had before. You may not be willing to take down your feeders but once I took the feeders down, the chipmunks disappeared, and I had my house repaired. Birds have plenty of food sources in summer, not so many in the winter, so I didn’t feel guilty about not feeding them. I hope you have a different experience and the chipmunks stay away.

  34. Connie Smith says:

    Your posts are like a new, fresh, delightful walk through life. I chuckled when I realized I was smiling through the whole conversation. You make it easy to imagine I’m in New England rather than the heat of central valley california! Thanks for the imagery! 🙂

  35. Julie Eden says:

    Have you read Summer of 69, the new book by Elin Hilderbrand? Lots about your area and island.
    Love your garden.

  36. Gail Golden says:

    Such a wonderful post. I loved every bit. Favorite is the garden tips of what to plant to deal with garden pests. Thank you! Oh, and the bird feeder tip. Have to get one of those. I did find a good one recently. They have a very difficult time with it – but they are PERSISTENT!!! You should see the acrobatics – and the looks on their faces when they’re STRETCHING between the pole and the feeder. I’ve gotten some hilarious pics.

    Yes, please share your way of eating with us.

    Enjoy your swimming!!

  37. Mary Ann in Mid-Missouri says:

    I love this post; especially since I leave home tomorrow to go spend a week in Ohio with my family, most specifically my sister, Donna. I always stay at her house and we spend HOURS walking, talking, taking yoga and meditating. I am leaving behind kids, grandkids and even hubby to spend real quality time with my siblings and their families. I do have a questions, if it’s not too personal; I noticed your nephew signed his artwork Paden Stewart and wondered if it’s his first and middle name, or first and last. Curious because I couldn’t figure out how his last name would be Stewart. They sure are talented artists. I guess they get that from you. Happy 4th of July to you and Joe!

    • sbranch says:

      Their father disappeared, so Shelly gave them her own last name. She’s done it all on her own.

      • Kim says:

        Deep respect and admiration go out to Shelly ~ What a steadfast and abiding love she has gifted her boys with. You can see the sweet joy and assurance in their faces. All is well and right in their hearts, and their mama’s, too. ❤️💕 Cheers to the entire Stewart clan!

      • Mary Ann in Mid-Missouri says:

        Well, they sure look like they have flourished, so she must be an amazing mom. Congratulations to them.

  38. Memarge says:

    Satisfying. That’s what todays post is. Hugs, Memarge:)

  39. Georgeann says:

    Boy can I tell you and Shell are sisters!!! You favor each other very much. Any new word on your story becoming a movie? Hopeful, Georgeann

  40. Lynette Strohbach says:

    Thanks again for a fun post. Pretty soon your Catbirds will start calling you when the feeder is empty. I feed mine grape jelly every day and the Orioles and purple finch feed off of it too. The Cat birds are there the most though. Not only do they sound like a cat, but they make sounds like an Eagle too, they are quite the characters here in Wisconsin. I have always fed all creatures, and then they leave my plants and my house alone! Have a great summer!

  41. Elizabeth back in NY says:

    Love the garden…our lettuce has bolted, but tomatoes and basil are coming along, and the roses are outdoing themselves. This week we have friends coming from Montana to stay with us, and they once lived on Martha’s Vineyard, and they’ve met you-I’m so jealous. We plan to take them to Niagara Falls and a few other places, but mostly we’ll sit around, visit, eat, and love on my five kitties. The perfect respite! Thank you for your post, as always. You’re a day-brightener. 🙂

  42. Susan Y says:

    Wonderful post. Encompasses the annoying and rewarding things of summer at the same time. The photo of the house in shadows instantly reminds me of another classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. A favorite. Fireflies and mosquitoes are also in full bloom here in Ohio as I just got bit to death watching somebody set off some fireworks in the lot across the street. A small price to pay for festive July 4th celebrations. It’s finally stopped raining and the hotter weather is making my zinnias and sunflowers grow. Enjoy the holiday everyone!

  43. C says:

    Hello Susan!
    Happy July! Thank you for another wonderful post. It looks like your sister & the boys had a fun visit!
    🌸Your garden is lovely! I’ve gardened for over 40 years and I’m still learning! (Those chippies will gobble up your strawberries.🍓 🐿I thought I outsmarted ours with a fence & net… but he/she burrowed under it! I did not know about the cat-bird liking raisins! I can’t wait to put a dish out in the morning!
    “Have a wonderful 4th of July celebration!” 🇺🇸
    Charl 💁🏼(Cape Cod)

  44. Nancy in Carnation says:

    Fun times…nothing like catching up with loved ones, plus the sweet joy of quality time with your sis! I have two younger sisters and to celebrate our birthdays, I recently traveled to Santa Cruz and picked up ‘Pizza My Heart’ tshirts to go with jammie pants for each of us, just like we did 16 years ago when we each flew in to meet up for my 50th. Time flies! Cherish the moments! And..yes…would love to see the ‘diet’.

  45. Elizabeth says:

    How simply lovely to have relatives that love to be with you!! What a great gift!! Thanks for sharing…gives one a bit more hope!! And of course, all the other interesting things are also enjoyed…love the quotes too!!

  46. Jane Alexander says:

    Oh Susan, I could almost smell the sweetpea!!! Dreaming of sweetpeas, I am. A pet trainer came to our home today, and said our home is whimsical! Oh, I like that. I like seeing your home and all you and Joe do. I have little vases for little flowers. I think I shall find some flowers tomorrow around my yard, and make little bouquets like you. We feed birds and squirrels and occasional possums and rabbits that I am not fond of! I have a 6 pound maltipoo puppy who would like to play with them. And I have heard about lightning bugs about 4 times in the last four days! God wants to tell me something, but don’t know what yet! Love your comment about getting rid of florescent lights in dressing rooms. I have thought that they show our bodies in the worst ways when trying on bathing suits. I have begun to laugh about it finally. You help me enjoy my life! thanks!

  47. Carol in Kansas says:

    Sweet peas! I love them, but haven’t planted them in a long, long time. Goal for next spring! Enjoy a beautiful summer!!

  48. Vicki South of Arroyo says:

    I swear I could CRY with reading this post just now. So happy for you that you have Joe, Jack, your sis, your friends, those darling nephews, a chipmunk, the birds, the garden, living in such a beautiful place as MV; it’s your gratitude, sings with every word, you’re happy, then you make us happy.

    Happy 4th, Susan; happy summer!!

    • Vicki South of Arroyo says:

      Susan, we’re having too many earthquakes! Even though they’re out east of here, like China Lake/Ridgecrest, we’re feeling them all the way to the coast. They’re not the jerk & whips; it’s roller after roller, like undulating waves, making you wonder when they’ll quit, so you just wait it out, nothing else to do of course (seconds feeling like minutes).

      I had to come back here and ‘read you’ today because I feel nervous; my husband and I have fallen down on earthquake preparedness and are trying to fix that now but, wow, I was looking around my house and realizing all the stuff that could fall, time to get out the earthquake stick-em (you used to have it [I think the wax] in your store; probably still do; I’ll check). The quake on July 5 was definitely worse than the one on July 4; just give me a surfboard and let me shoot the curl (enough to make you feel seasick; I’d just thought I was dizzy last night but, nope, another roller). Let’s hope any we get today will be below the 7.1 to get us in aftershock mode!

      I hope you’re having a nice holiday weekend on MV; been reading a lot about Caroline Kennedy putting up her mom Jackie O’s big place, Red Gate Farm, on the market the past couple of weeks or so; the online photos are so beautiful (nothing we ‘commoners’ would usually get to see); Jackie and family were so sort of isolated out there which of course was the point of it (Aquinnah; I do remember when it was called Gay Head because I was always, always infatuated with Cape Cod/Nantucket/MV from afar, so would read up on it). Apparently the Kennedys have been very good stewards of the land so it’s hoped a new owner will be equally conscientious (estuary, bird and sea-life; native grasses/sand – – all treated with reverence).

      Some several years back, I got the Kennedy family’s longtime nanny/cook/companion Marta Sgubin’s cookbook and loved reading about the times when they were all there at the Farm; summer dishes she’d cook for the family. I’d read she is so loved by all of them and after Jackie died, JFK JR (how can he be dead 20 years now, come mid-July; makes me shiver in a bad way; I crushed on him in my youth; he was so charming, SO handsome!) and Caroline bought Marta a NYC townhouse once Jackie’s big apartment was sold (Marta had always lived with the family until then, since JFK JR and Caroline were children). And I saw a photo of Caroline holding Marta’s arm as they were going into Jackie’s sister’s (Lee Radziwill) funeral service, which was just a few months ago; fun online video, too, of Caroline’s grown daughter cooking with Marta; she must be like a grandmother to Caroline’s kids.

      That boy of Caroline’s, now grown and well into his 20s, is one to track for the future; I saw him interviewed on the Today show a couple of years ago and he’s very comfortable in front of the camera, very articulate, a Yale grad I think, and now going to Harvard law school. He’s got the charisma, the ‘royal’ background and the looks – – sometimes he really does resemble JFK JR but I sometimes think he also looks like his father, Edwin Schlossberg. Yep, JFK’s grandson, John Bouvier Kennedy “Jack” Schlossberg; he’s gonna be one to watch on the political scene ahead. There’s another one, too: Joe Kennedy III (RFK’s grandson). You’d of course know about him as your rep from Mass.

      (I guess I’m a kinda Kennedy fanatic although that’s too strong of a word; but Mom got those Life or Look mags when I was little and I’d comb thru the color photos JFK wanted us to see of life in the White House, family time with his little kids who were near my own age. I think what prompted all this with me as I tried to distract myself from earthquake was the annual 4th of July photo that was posted from The Kennedy Compound in Hyannis of all the descendants; of course, RFK and Ethel had so many kids, and she’s still the aging matriarch; in her 90s now; it’s all a sort of long-playing documentary of a boomer’s 1950s-60s early life and ongoing, how can it not be!)

      • sbranch says:

        Great way to distract! I hadn’t seen Caroline’s son grown up, yes there he is, with that undeniable Kennedy look. Joe Kennedy is wonderful, we are so lucky to have him. Always worried about those boys, too much sadness and loss in that family. I’ve experienced earthquakes and they are no fun. I pray your aftershocks will be little ones. Sending love, Vicki. xoxo

        • Vicki South of Arroyo says:

          Thanks. Dare I say anything lest I jinx it but Saturday where I am at the coast was ‘quiet’ so anything now is all aftershocks, or so the experts say. Just have to feel for those poor folks in the eastern desert there; they’ve had considerable damage to homes. Sending love back atcha; have a good Sunday today! (I don’t think I can EVER get your arf language down; it just loses me; my mind apparently isn’t quick enough!)

  49. Amy from Salem says:

    Happy July Susan, what a delightful post. I love seeing your beautiful garden, lovely feathered friends and even the squirrels (but so happy that you found the great feeders). We had to stop feeding 🐦 since our park is bordered by farms. Rats!!!! I absolutely love birds and so for the time being I enjoy seeing them in other ways. Sounds like you really enjoyed time with your family. Sisters are the best but girlfriends come in a close second. Wishing you a summer full of fireflies.

    • FayE in CA! says:

      Love that…”summer full of fireflies”…sounds like the title of a best selling love story to drool over while reading at the beach.

      • Impulsive, Innocent Bystander says:

        A Summer Full of Fireflies

        Girl lunching meets deliciously handsome but intrusively annoying boy. He, who, come hell or high water, won’t take months of her aloof brush off’s any longer. She, has heard as many sweet promises and pick up lines as there are sand dollars nestled on the beach and she has the scars on her heart to prove it. He, a gourmet chef has easily wooed her taste buds but never able to unlock her unreachable heart. This sweeping, epic love story unfolds on the small island of East Coast Charm. She, unexpectedly discovers her true soul mate in a place she never knew existed while fulfilling her life’s destiny, she finds the real meaning of self-worth.

        A Summer Full of Fireflies
        Spring Street Publishing
        Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts

  50. valerie says:

    Hello Susan,
    With you posting about art and yard sales, I’ll tell you the short version that just happened last month. – I saw a print of a water color in a yard sale, loved it, bought it, looked on-line to learn about the artist, saw that she had a ‘contact me’ icon, so I wrote a short email to her. She responded immediately. We wrote back and forth, found out we were born in the same hospital. She was coming to my area, for a wedding, we met, talked about many things, including you ! – all good stuff! So we chatted a bit about you, and how we love your work. So happy to meet another s/b girlfriend.

  51. Linda Hanson says:

    Hi Susan,
    I just loved this post! You have everything that’s magical about summer! Your colorful flowers, fireflies, the water, my favorite flower, sweet peas! I wish someone could duplicate their scent in a perfume, its heavenly. People try, but so far I haven’t found any candle or lotion as beautifully scented as the real thing.
    Your nephews’ art is amazing! They have real talent, just like their aunt!
    I also love sweet potatoes served in a savory style. Try them with sauteed onions, green peppers, olives, salsa and cheese.

    Happy Summer!

  52. Barbora Cowles says:

    Yes, yes, yes, the eating plan. Please and thank you. Enjoyed every word and picture in this post. More thank you. Pets for Jacques and praise for Joe. Darling, darling nephews and sister. Lucky, lucky all of you. Happy 4th!

  53. Barbara Anne says:

    Bliss: family, food, fun and time to enjoy being together.

    Thanks for the recipes and good vibes!


  54. Daralyn says:

    Sigh! What a beautiful start to your summer. Thank you for sharing. Whole food eating, flower cutting and dirt digging have not been my thing in the past, I think my time has come :-). I so appreciate the encouragement and this happy spot to land!

  55. Shiyou Maria Rester says:

    Yes, please post the “diet”.

  56. Chris H says:

    Looks like we all want your ‘lifestyle’ eating tips 🙂
    What a special time you’ve had with the family visit and I’m sure cancelling the yard sale was a pretty easy decision with their visit imminent and the unpredictable weather. Just don’t make the mistake of taking all those items you’d put aside for it, back into the house….:)!
    As far as I’m aware we don’t have fireflies here ( Australia) so the first and only time I’ve seen them was in Africa. I was startled to see these tiny, amazingly bright pin-pricks of light in the grass one night. I had no idea what they were until an American friend explained what they were.
    Love to you and Joe

  57. deezie says:

    Good Morning Susan
    Gosh I just love when I see a new blog post in my email from you.
    Looks like you have the perfect time with your sweet family. Oh the memories you made with them* love that so much.
    I also love knowing how you are eating, I have tried some of the meals you posted in the past few months. I try to eat like that also, just good clean food*
    so when you put the raisins out, the squirrels don’t jump up and eat them? just the birds do? I am so interested in that. I want to do that also
    enjoy your beautiful day Susan

  58. patti lyon says:

    I always look forward to your posts. I’m so grateful that you share your charming life with us girlfriends. I have a creek lined with trees at the edge of my backyard and at bedtime it sparkles with the light of a zillion lightning bugs (what we Midwesterners call our fireflys!). Hoping to someday come and see yours. Love to all and especially Jack!

  59. Chris Wells. Knickerbocker, TX says:

    Wow have those boys grown!! I know just how wonderful it must have been to have Shelly and the boys there. What wonderful summertime memories were made. I have lived in the country for so long I had almost forgotten how lovely an evening stroll to get ice cream can be! And lightning bugs! I have them here in West Texas if we have a wet spring. I remember the first year I saw them after many years of drought and I thought what a miracle. Where had they been? Do kids today think they are as magical as I did as a child?
    And that dear little chipmunk! Can’t you just see him swimming his little heart out to get to the island!!!😀
    Happy July!

  60. Sally Jenks Roth says:

    A summer treat, Susan, thank you so much!

  61. Marie McGovern says:

    Hi Susan, enjoying your garden photos. And loved the catbird! Here in Southern Ontario we see one or 2 mid June for a few days then they disappear. They usually head for the bird bath on a hot day. I’ll remember to put out some soaked raisins next year, thanks for the tip, Marie

  62. Gert~Iowa says:

    Oh Susan, it was so fun to spend this time this morning with you, reliving your time with your sister and her boys. What a wonderful vacation they had. And as well as you and Joe, even though you were the host I know the feeling. My granddaughters were here for a week (plus-due to weather), it seemed like a special vacation for me too. Thank you for bringing me to your island if but for a few hours. When I see you walking to the water I think of how beautiful it must be and that I have a piece of it in my little Yellow Sea shells you shared with me that sit in a jar in my bathroom. You’re amazing and I love spending time with you (virtually)!!! Stay well – and yes-share your diet/life style with us!!!
    Blessings ~ Gert

  63. Sandi from the Cape says:

    Dear Susan, this is the first time I’ve read all the comments and now you know you have to let us all learn from your diet! Another book in the works? It’s so wonderful you had a great visit with your family! Those boys surely are talented and kudos to your sister raising them on her own. I’m on my way out to plant in my garden and love hearing about yours. Happy 4th and enjoy summer. Be sure to let us know when you have your yard sale, I will come!
    P.S. Chipmunks are darling little bundles of destruction, hope they don’t ruin all your hard work!

  64. Sally Jenks Roth says:

    A summer treat, Susan, thank you so much! I hope you have your sale the week we are there, August 18-25! I’ll watch for news of it and will certainly visit the Simon Gallery while we’re “on island”…

  65. Nicoline says:

    Hello Susan,
    Oh, what a treat, another post! Making this sunny day even brighter!! I could see by the lovely pictures that you and Shelley and the boys had just THE BEST time together!! And you share it with us, thank you so much!!
    Your field of clover, wow! Looks like a green sky with cute little clover stars…!!
    All this talk of lovely food is making me hungry…..Reminding me to the cute tearooms we discovered in Cornwall last month…..It was pretty cold and we had some rain too, but luckily the showers never last whole days, so we were able to get out and about and had some great walks/hikes along the coast….
    We stayed in St Ives and drove to places in the area. I picked up some brochures, thinking of you, would you like them?
    We’ve had some really hot weather here, and I made a first jar of that lovely tomato dressing in a jar, that you put out in the sun…hmmmm.
    And now the strawberries are nice a tasty, made 2 jugs of strawberry milk too! Have you heard of that, or ever made it? It’s delicious, and tastes like the old fashioned milkshakes from way back….
    I;m in the middle of preparing things for a very exciting visit…On Friday Tim’s Foster Mom and a sweet friend are arriving from China! It’s her (FM) first trip out of China, so she’s pretty excited!
    We made a long list of things to see and do, and the house hasn’t been this clean in a long time, haha! They’ll be here for 2 weeks, and I’m hoping they will have some good weather so we can show them all around this tiny country.
    Watching Wimbledon and it’s so funny, the umpire at this match has a really low voice, so he sounds Barry White!! He just said “Love-30″…..and that was really low, haha! Everyone’s in summer shirts and sun hats!
    Happy July, to you and Joe!!

    • sbranch says:

      LOVE that dressing . . . such a treat of the season! Ha ha, “Love-30,” I can hear it! Nothing like guests to get the house clean! Have a wonderful time Nicoline! xoxo

  66. Peggy Willoughby says:

    Loved your blog once again, Susan.
    Salt water is good for your body and soul. The ocean is warmer here In NC so we drag our chairs to the shore edge and sit in it. When we lived in Florida we would just sit in the water up to put waists. The Gulf is so warm and calm we could sit and let the sting rays visit us. The water felt so womb like.
    You sister and her boys look like they had such fun with you. I hope they fell in love with Martha’s Vineyard so they will visit again. I can imagine them going about your house exploring all your beautiful “stuff.”
    I always cry when visiting family leaves. I am sure you did too. I wish families all lived closer. These days life and dreams have us all spread apart.
    Local blueberries and strawberries are waning here now. So we are on to sweet, drippy, yummy peaches and fresh corn. I love summertime fruits and veggies. Peaches cut up on Rice Krispues. Yum!
    I am going to try that Herb & Cheese Bread recipe for my pot luck this month. It looks delicious.
    🌞 Happy summer, Sweet Susan. 🏖 Put those toes in the water.🌊
    Love you.

  67. Kay says:

    I always, always look forward to your newsletters! As usual, this one was so fun to read. Beautiful photos! Your sister looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal! Great start to your summer. I would also love to read about your new food plan (I don’t like the word “diet”). Enjoy the rest of the season!

  68. Karen says:

    Thank-you so much for your latest blog post. I simply love this one. Fireflies bring back so many memories. My twin sister and I loved to look at them and walk around the back yard with them as kids. We also loved to fish (but we did not get up at 5:00am-haha). I love your garden, the stories, and the recipes which I will have to try soon. Thanks again for all that you do, Karen

  69. Gina Mahoney says:

    Hello Susan,

    I loved this post, especially the part about the fireflies, or lightening bugs as we call them. I don’t know how it started between me and my oldest son (who lives 4 hours away), but when we see the first lightening bug of the year, we let each other know and then we say “Summer is here!”. Finally saw my first Sunday, the last day of June, but there were a lot out last night.
    Enjoy your summer and thanks for your lovely blogs.

  70. Theresa Kane says:

    I love reading your “mail”. The pictures and quotes are just magical. I feel like we are there with you… having tea, watching the birds and bees and of course the antics of the squirrels. Cape Cod is on my bucket list and hope to visit in the next year or two. Hugs to you and Joe! xo

  71. Carole Boyer says:

    Dear Susan
    As always, reading your blog brightens my day. Wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your autobiography!! I zoomed through those 2 books. And have since gotten 3 cookbooks. It all started with A Very Fine Romance. We are kindred spirits.
    I love your eating plan as well. When you first wrote about the seed mix and trail mix, I did those. But I would love to have it all written down. Please and thank you!!
    Happy Independence Day!

  72. Bern (@BernB9) says:

    Thanks for another inspiring post. I find my garden is my therapy; it’s a natural balm to what ails my senses. A few moments deadheading, weeding, splitting bulbs, rooting, snipping lavendar for sachets or just admiring and smelling, reminds me of the circle of life we share with nature and how we nurture one another. Once I reconnect with nature’s energy, I’m calmer and can face the challenges ahead.

    With that in mind, I’m off to do some yoga with my garden in view with the birds accompanying me with their sweet melodies.

    BTW, Joe’s clams look yummy. Care to share the recipe?

    Blessings and Peace.


    • sbranch says:

      He’s never written it down! A bit of this and that, depending on how many clams he gets! Happy Yoga in the garden, how wonderful for stress balance!

  73. Kit says:

    Good morning! Your post was the perfect way to spend my coffee time. So glad you and your lovely family are doing well. And now inspired by you, I am off this couch and out to my garden. Happy 4th!! Kit

  74. Pat says:

    Thank you again for sharing. Love the garden. I am going to try to start my own with your suggestions. Would love to know what the diet entails. I am a big fan of fruits and vegetables but don’t always know how to incorporate them into meals other than eating them raw with a small amount of dressing.

  75. Merci Schon says:

    OMGOSH dear Susan,
    What a wonderful and busy July blog! Fireflies, I encountered them for the first time and was fascinated when I lived in Rhode Island. Sweetpeas, also my flower, being born in April. And, yes, tons in California with such a sweet smell. Now living in Minnesota, haven’t seen any. Your summer garden is beautiful! And, finally, so special to have a visit from your sis, Belle and the twins, such a beautiful family and wonderful visit. Sweet memories being made. I always look forward to visiting my sister in California, always a special treat! As always, thank you for starting my day on a happy and positive note!

  76. Sharon Byars says:

    Love your comments on summer time! Moving from Morro Bay to North Carolina, was a blessing as loving these seasons. I owe you a “HUGE” thank you for your comments regarding the clover in your lawn! Our back lawn is covered in it. The pine trees keep it a shady area and we have given up on growing a “proper” grass. Gardening lesson learned….if something does not work, go with what is natural. Keep the cicadas singing and the fire flys in the garden! Happy July!

  77. Terry says:

    Hi Susan!

    Wonderful post! I love summer too! I just want to be outside all day long no matter how hot or humid! We aren’t allowed to have bird feeders here in North Jersey because of the black bears, but I love your new bird feeders. I also love that you are still feeding the squirrels. So kind! Chipmunks! Adorable but very naughty. We are inundated with them here. They climb into the potted flowers and plants and eat the roots. I read to put rocks on top of the soil so they can get to it. That worked!!! Yay! They do the same in the garden. They dig right down into the soil and eat the roots. You can actually buy a chipmunk trap – sort of like a mouse trap, but we haven’t resorted to that yet. Seems too cruel. There has to be a better kinder way. Your nephews are fantastic artists! Must run in the family! Post the diet you asked — YES, PLEASE! Have a wonderful summer! Our’s has been highlighted by the birth of our first grandchild this past Sunday. Soooooooooo excited!!!! Liam Henry – he is just perfect!

    Have a wonderful day!

  78. Hello Summer Sue,
    Oh how I love the way you share your life with us, girlfriends! The pics and verse and the way you are just like us, bathing suit trying hatred, “weenie” dog sayin’, and all that makes up your fun-filled life.
    Yes, please share your diet/non-diet with us. I am way too fluffy and have no will power. I too want to be healthier too. Glad your are nearly at your goal and that you did not pass on the popcorn. I do not want to die missing a cupcake or slice of cake. I have the plate from Emma Bridgewater that reads ‘I love you more than cake’. When I lifted it lovingly to Mike, he said, no that’s not true.
    Summer lovin’ to you and Joe,

  79. Mary Weir says:

    Dear Susan,
    Since you taught me to cook as a new bride almost 30 years ago (!) I would love it if you share your whole food-healthy eating plan. I am trying to do the same now that our nest is empty and I don’t have to constantly fill up two ravenous teen-age water polo players. I know you would provide the best information, not to mention the best recipes!
    So neat to get to share in your visit with your sister and nephews. We will have my 16-year-old twin niece and nephew with us for a week after 4th of July and your fantastico Chicken Enchiladas from Heart of the Home are the first things we are making. I love having my month off school so I can get cooking!
    Can’t wait for the new wall calendar…each one you create is a joy to look at on the fridge all year every year.
    Thanks for all you do and share,
    Mary Weir

    • sbranch says:

      BEST enchiladas in the world if I do say so myself. It’s only 7 am and now I am hungry for Mexican food!!! Have a wonderful time Mary!

  80. Regina Carretta says:

    happy summer Dear Susan – your blog came as our Cugina Reunion (cousins)
    is coming to a close here in Seattle….we 4 women cousins, live in Edmonds WA, N Palm Beach Florida, and San Antonio Texas….we try to gather here at my house, either for Thanksgiving, or this time, summer. We laugh, cry, share ourselves, allow quiet time, snuggle with the dog, and realize we have strong ties, in our shrinking family. Good reminders of all of that in your blog, re: your sister’s visit….these are important things to do, always, but especially in this time in our country, when children are being taken from their parents, aunts, grandmothers, instead of laughing, crying, enjoying their family life like we are…..a reminder not to take each other for granted….
    now a question – I would like to order “A Fine Romance” and have it sent to my cousin….can I do that through your website ? Will they mail it directly to her?
    thanks so much dear Susan….

  81. Lyndia from Corte Madera says:

    Such a lovely post. Thank you! Happy Summer!

  82. Eileen says:

    I think the catbird is saying, “Eric” : )
    I love your garden. It’s so pretty. Thank you for not killing the clover. I am doing the same here. stopped spraying several years ago, and am planting things for pollinators. Did you know the monarchs are really declining, especially on the west coast? Xerces Society is a great source of information.

  83. Barb Murphy says:

    Love your blog! We’ve been enjoying numerous types of birds in our yard. From Orchard Orioles, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, Robins, Cardinals, Hummingbirds and Gold Finches (the Iowa State bird) among others. Our feeders are full and the Catbirds and Orioles especially love grape jelly which we keep in bowls attached to the pergola on our patio. That way we can watch them from our screen porch and they don’t notice us while they eat.
    We have family coming to visit this month and we are so looking forward to it. My youngest sister and her husband have moved back to Iowa from Georgia after 30 some years. O, the girl talk!!

  84. Jane says:

    Oh, yes, yes, YES, dear darling skinny Susan! Please, please, PLEASE, write out your tricks and recipes, and new habits. That would be fabulous, and I will love you forever (although I always will anyway!). I hope it’s soon — ready to tackle Fourth of July food with everything gooey and yummy with family favorites and must haves for the day. I’m trying a new hummus recipe, chopping up some healthy salads, and we’re hoping for fresh Dungeness crab for twelve people . (First day for the season opens on the 4th — we have grilled pork tenderloin marinating away for backup.). Have fun and let’s all celebrate our freedom and better things to come!

  85. Cozette B says:

    hello susan,
    Love your post this week and happy 4th of July from sunny Idaho! I too have my sister here for a visit, nothing quite like a sister visit. Shopping, sewing, making meals (we are following Bright Line Eating) so healthy and very much like what you have been posting. It takes a bit to start but the weight falls off slow and steady. I love trying new recipes so will look forward to seeing anything you post! Enjoying your pictures, no fireflies in Idaho. My small container garden is coming alone (we had a cool wet spring so not as far along as yours).

    Blessings to all

  86. Helen says:

    Someday I will visit your wonderful island. In the meant thanks for the virtual tours 😘. P S plan to remove some mugs from my cup cabinet so I have room for your cups! Happy July!

  87. Bridget B. in Tn. says:

    Love this post. As one of our other girlfriends mentioned, your posts take us away from our worries for a little while. Your sister is a strong and wonderful mother, no doubt made that way by her upbringing. Love that she blessed them with your family name! I don’t have the words to express how much I admire her!
    💕 Love to you, Jack and Joe. 🐱🌸

    • sbranch says:

      Too dear Bridget! We get what we get, then how do we deal with it? She’s done so well, I’m proud of her too. xoxoxo

  88. Shirley Fruchey says:

    What a wonderful blog post today Susan!!! I adore them all but this one was quite possibly my very favorite! I loved it all…the garden, the family, the summer!!! I am a true “July baby” and you made my day! ALSO…I would love it if you would share this never hungry, healthy eating “lifestyle” plan that you’re on! The pictures of you, look glowing with health! 🙂

  89. Wendy-Louise says:

    Hello Dear Susan!
    What a beautiful, fun loving post ! Isn’t it grande just being in our places with happy faces finding all life’s little treasures. You my dear friend are such a treasure. Thank you for you and all your wonderful sharing. So happy you had your sister and those beautiful boys for a lovely stay. I’ll be sea bathing this summer too off of our sail boat, as soon as the ocean temperature gets above 72! It’s just 62 right now, sooooo just my toes for now! Can’t wait to get my calendars and oh how I love my little vases. A big hug for you for my special 💝 ! You really didn’t have too, I would have waited patiently forever!♥️🤗. Happy July !
    Love, Wendy-Louise

  90. rosemary willett says:



    • sbranch says:

      Glad to see you here. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been going through. 😥 xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  91. jeanie says:

    I get a big sigh of happy when I arrive here and savor your garden, lovely things to eat and beautiful times with people you love. And it’s pretty cool they show Jaws every weekend in the summer!

    Thanks especially for info on the squirrel feeder investment. I know the guys have to eat but so do my birds. This one might be the ticket.

  92. Joanne Conte says:

    Thank you for this lovely blog. You and your sisters both look like your grandma, and your nephews are very talented. And yes, Belle is correct. Jack does look like the Titanic guy! Happy Fourth of July!

  93. Joanne Conte says:

    Thanks for this lovely blog. You and your sister look like your grandma, and your nephews are very talented! Also, Belle us right. Jack does look like the Titanuc guy! Happy Fourth if July! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  94. Rhonda Williams says:

    Loved your post! My daughter-in-law is from CO. The first summer she was here in IN she asked my son what the lights were in field they were driving by were. He told her fireflies, she had never seen them before. 😊 Please give the details of your healthy eating plan! Enjoy your summer!

  95. Rhonda Williams says:

    Love this summer post. My DIL is from CO and her first summer here in IN she asked my son what the lights were in the fields. He told her lightning bugs, she had never seen them before. It made her day! Please give us the healthy eating details. I’m longing for something doable even if it takes awhile. 😊

  96. Lee Gordon says:

    A completely lovely post, so full of family, and gardening, and yard sales and fireflies and clover! As a little girl in St. Louis, during the summers, we would gather the clover and make bracelets out of them. I’m sorry to say that we would then take the firefly lights off their bodies and add them to the clover flowers and have a glowing bracelet. We’d run the neighborhood playing hide and seek and staying out till mom and dad called us home to have popsicles while they drank long, cool ice teas, or they piled us into the car to go get malts or banana splits at a place called “Custer’s Last Stand.” Oh those memories!
    Your sister Shelly could hardly look more like you! How wonderful to have them all there with you, especially because, not having the yard sale, you probably would be holed up working!
    Our yard is starting to turn brown in the dry weather, though our 80 foot long, 15 foot high ivy wall is always green, along with the burgundy bouganvilla entwined among the greenery. Here, we have mocking birds, off and on all day and all night. Though they drive some crazy, I have come to love them and feel rather soothed by them in the early mornings. I’ve let my enclosed garden go, but my son and I are talking about reviving it a bit, planting pumpkins with his three year old son so he can see them grow and pick them for harvest time.
    I loved the picture of Jack, looking longingly out the door window. Hope you all have a wonderful, patriotic and happy fourth of July! Thank you God for all of our blessings!

  97. Barbara Scott says:

    Your blog is always so welcome. A time to sit back and relax and enjoy the moment. The flowers, food and family are delightful. I even look forward to seeing the wall paper on your blog.

  98. Jody says:

    I so enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your life.
    The photo of the old house under the streetlight with the white picket fence somehow reminds me of a scene in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

    • sbranch says:

      It’s that quiet and shadowy too . . . but no Boo Radley or Bob E. Lee Ewell to scare the life out of us!

      • Impulsive, Innocent Bystander says:

        Ahhh, but Boo Radley saves Jem and Scout’s life by protecting them against Bob Ewell’s brutal attack.

        “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.”

  99. Janine says:

    Best post ever! Made me laugh about teaching M & P Arf & Arfy; loved the pix, esp how you put in pix of how much they’ve grown as well; very much enjoyed your quips about the squirrels and the birds, and all the beautiful bird and flower pictures, esp those in the bird bath! Agree about the bathing suits and dressing rooms – I just bought some perfect bathing suits online; they came directly from China (didn’t know that when I ordered) but it was worth the wait to avoid the dressing room and they are CUTE and cover more than what is in stores today!

  100. Phyllis says:

    Yes,Yes, please, share the details of your healthy eating plan –I need it too!
    The Food Photos really are convincing that Healthy is Delicious! You may be saving so many of us who struggle to maintain a healthy weight. More difficult for those of us who cannot exercise or take walks for fear of falling… I find lots of info on how the Run, Walk, Jog, do Pilates etc None of which I can do..so having a more healthy way of eating would slowly let the pounds melt away.

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