Don’t you agree? Nothing is normal these days? So let’s explore not normal with an open mind, and see what we think. We will require MUSICA for balance. Because THAT is normal.💖

Didn’t it seem like we went along for years and years and everything seemed normal (with a couple of deviations), but now every day is a new day of NOT being normal? Well, that’s what we’re “celebrating” today. This is one of the fisherman’s shacks we walk past every day. Been perfectly normal every day for years. It’s buttoned up for the winter, the summer people have gone, but it looks like they forgot something! #NotNormal Right?

And you KNOW this white rainbow wasn’t normal… but very beautiful anyway. Our poor little Island has had 80 new Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks, another 11 today.😳 Definitely not normal. More, by far, than we’ve ever had before. Twelve from our main Supermarket, Cronigs, which is now closed! Probably like where you are, we are getting that fall-winter “second-wave” they predicted. So it’s basically lockdown-city around here. Please watch out for yourselves, your families and neighbors, and the exhausted first responders in your hospitals because this is #NotNormal😷. The goal is simple: to keep as many people alive as possible until we get a vaccine. Which is coming! And God bless our very simple Thanksgivings this year. I just heard airlines are ADDING flights for Thanksgiving. This is a terrible idea. Giving thanks does not require a room full of people.🙏 Haven’t we just HAD it with this thing? Yes, we have. I will be knitting on Thanksgiving, watching old movies, calling people, and counting my blessings. You are a big part of my blessings, so please stay safe. For me.💞

So, on the more cheerful end of #NotNormal, I thought you might like to see a couple more photos from that beautiful foggy White Rainbow day. Because it was magic in more ways than one.

Fog was licking the shore with little cat lips. No, that’s not right, it’s little cat’s feet!🐾 Although I kind of like cat lips!

There it was, just here, waiting by the shore, that oddly warm, very wet day. Hello stranger. Normal? Not normal? Hard to say . . . but it was definitely magic … and it ushered in a nice long stretch of #NotNormal that we have very much appreciated.For over a week now, we’ve had highest temperatures for this time of year in history, almost 70º every day! The other day on our walk, the empty beach had two people sitting on it. Just them, and the sea, and their ice chest. It was a BEAUTIFUL day, and I was so jealous looking at them. I told Joe, we have to do this tomorrow. We haven’t just gone to the beach, sat down and done nothing for YEARS. But this is not a normal year, is it? So the very next day, here we are, for a day at the beach, and as usual, we brought the kitchen sink. It was the perfect place for distancing! Just us. And a big drink of fresh air.💫

It’s like riding a bike … you don’t forget . . . total paradise!  Usually the heat is on this time of year and we’re sitting in front of a fire. This isn’t normal but it was heaven.

We brought chicken sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper, carrot and celery sticks, red grapes, and Joe surprised me by sneaking in bottles of PEAH CI-DAH. Ice and everything! When we closed our eyes and listened to the whoosh of the water, we were back on board the ship to England again!

I read my most wonderful book, out loud to Joe … The Splendid and the Vile, I love it, all about my hero . . .

And 8th cousin on my Dad’s mom’s side ~ a Murray/Jerome (as in Jennie) . . . Oh yeah, DamPanic inspires hours on Ancestry . . . I love reading about our history … one of my favorite things! And WHAT character this guy had.🇬🇧 There is so much to learn by reading about that war, the entire human panoply spread before us. Like the title of the book says, from the splendid to the vile!


I finally got out of my chair because I knew you needed the sound of that day . . . wish I could send you the smell, but maybe someday! There was a cool breeze off the water, I wore a long wool sweater, a hat, jacket, Joe’s jacket, a beach towel and one of the nap blankets my Grandma knit to keep me warm! Could have used a scarf!We stayed almost 3 hours. Was the most stress-relieving thing I’ve felt in years. I slept 8 hours that night! 

It was still beautiful and really warm on our walk yesterday, but we could see things were beginning to change  . . .

It wasn’t this dark, the contrast was playing games with the camera. The silver sky, the silver water, that was all there.

I’ll take it any way it comes . . .

And here we are, walking home on the dirt road heading into the woods . . . have you ever been around a bubble machine and had bubbles landing on your shoulders, your hair and face, and how it tickles and makes you laugh? That’s just what happens when a sudden wind blows the leaves off the trees, and they fly through the sky, across the road, onto our heads, into our faces, makes you giggle the exact same way. It’s like a star shower. Nature at its most adorable. Me and him.

Forgot to show you the crew reshingling one of the old fishing shacks out by the water under that silver sky. So warm, working in T-shirts!

Back home we went . . . I prayed for a late fall this year, and I got it!

Past one of my favorite little houses . . . This cutie looks wonderful in all seasons.🍁

Back home we go … I took this picture from the car as Joe was backing into the driveway … the color of the Linden trees!

Inside, we have all the doors and windows open, whooshing fresh air into the upstairs bedrooms, Jack is on his perch on top of the ironing board, keeping his eye on the neighborhood through the pantry screen door.

The view from upstairs . . .

I worked in the garden too, cut back perennials, and brought in the last of the mums and the roses for the kitchen.

I still can’t get over it. What happens here in the fall. Growing up in California did NOT prepare me for this and it never gets old! Our fire pit and chairs are still out, we’re hoping to sneak in at least one more afternoon in front of the fire. Only thing we can do is make hay while the sun shines. And stay safe.

And in the meantime, doing the normal thing, I’m working on the 2022 Calendars. Think of it. 2022: No more virus. Life resumed. Everyone hugging madly. HUGE Thanksgiving dinners! Kids in school. People getting on boats and planes. Normal. What will we have learned? I would love to hear what you think . . .💞 

I loved painting these small windfall apples . . .

Something you might like: For years I never read AARP magazine because I thought it was for old people, and I wasn’t old.🤣 I’m over that now! Do you get it? It’s so good! This month Bruce Springsteen is on the cover. He’s turning 71, proving it happens to the best of us ~ they interviewed him about his new album. There are book and movie reviews, how-to tips, travelogues, stories about families, thoughts about careers, and lots of great suggestions about money and health, even recipes. Pretty much every subject under the sun. In this issue there are “Life Lessons from Queen Elizabeth,” “How to Host a Virtual Thanksgiving”, and ideas for helping socially isolated friends. Loneliness has to be the worst part of this Pandemic, there are interesting ideas in the magazine that can help. I love anything that helps us to lessen the pain of our separation, anything that makes us feel less alone.❤️ 

SO, more normal stuff: This puzzle. It was supposed to be here by the end of October, I know, it’s late, I’m SO sorry, but they are trying, they keep updating me, and right now “it’s on a train,” “on the way,” and “almost here.” Just want you to know I’m watching like a HAWK, and the moment they arrive, Kellee and Sheri will get them right out. We’re all excited to get them! BUT, also, truly, if this is in any way upsetting to you, this wait, please contact for a refund. I’ll understand. It’s coming, I promise, and they are telling me it’s almost here! I probably shouldn’t have put it up for presale. But we were trying to make sure we would have enough of them for everyone. Here’s my makeup offering:Is everyone ready for their 2021 Full Moon bookmark? Because HERE it is! Just print it out, fold it in half, and voila! Every moon needs to be a prayer for 2021 normalcy. Kindness, health, something hysterically funny every day. Lightheartedness. Healing.

I’m making us something. It’s being printed right now and should be done in a couple of weeks. After I broke my wrist last year, I had to stop working on Enchanted, my newest diary book about our travels through England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. But I had finished some of it… so, as a surprise, Kellee and Sheri made the first chapter into a little book and we gave it away to some of our Girlfriends last year at a book-signing at the Apple Farm in California.

It’s only 28 pages, and they only made a hundred copies, which took quite a little while, all the cutting and stapling. This time, in order to make copies for everyone, we had to send it to a printer, and that’s what we’re waiting for. And, something else, you know how A Fine Romance started with a love story? Well, that’s how Enchanted starts too, with a love story. Rather than boy-girl love, this is family love.

Here’s the back of it. I’ll let you know when it gets here. They are tying it with gold ribbon! I can’t wait to see it!

One last thing … to my Betsy-Tacy (or Lois Lenski) Book-Loving Girlriends. There is a virtual tour of Maud Hart Lovelace’s absolute CHARMING childhood home, on which so many of her books were based ~ and you can watch it HERE. You will want to sell your home and move in here immediately! You can also join the Betsy-Tacy Society, and maybe find something fun in their gift shop to stuff a stocking with.💞 Shopping very small here, and I’m sure much appreciated. Okay dear ones, off I go


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493 Responses to THIS ISN’T NORMAL

  1. Patty (Mullineux) McDonald says:

    Enjoy all your posts but especially this one. Winston Churchill was a favorite person of my dad. Daddy was in the British army during WWII and was captured at the battle of Dunkirk. He escaped the Germans and made his way into German occupied Belgium. My mothers family had a small grocery store in Asplare Belgium and hid British and American soldiers in their attic. Once the men were well, they left to make their way to the coast. My grandmother, in her 60’s, was put in prison for helping the Belgium underground. Dad was recaptured and held in German prison camps for 4 years. During that time his ankle and jaw were broken. After the war, he returned to Belgium and married mom. He didn’t hear Churchill’s war speaches during the war and years later had “tapes” he would listen to.

    • sbranch says:

      WHAT A STORY… 😳👏👏👏👏💖 This is one reason I realize what a miracle that each of us is even here at all …I could sit and listen to your Dad’s story for hours.

  2. Judy L Covell says:

    Hi, I have the mug of yours with the castle on one side. I wanted it because it reminded me of Warwick Castle in England that my husband and I visited on a tour. It had a moat but it was dry and it had Madame Tussaud figures as people in period clothes in the various rooms. Keep up the good work that you do!

  3. Joanie B says:

    Thank you for the lovely post. I always feel renewed and refreshed from your photos of a world far from me. I am always glad to hear of another kindred spirit fixated on fall leaves. Have a wonderful autumn!

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

    Good afternoon Susan, Girlfriends. it is cooler here, getting rain, and expecting more and maybe this weekend a little bit of snow. we have clouds along with some blue sky peeking out but it is cooler today and yes we have a fire going in the wood stove. i’m with you, i have had enough of this COVID virus, i don’t know about you but when this is over i plan on having a mask burning bonfire!!! yum a nice warm day at the beach, wish i was there i could use a day like that. the best i can do is a day helping out the neighbor next door and getting a couple of buckets of apples from under her tree for the chickens.. they love apples. we have had tons of deer wander into the yard and visit so we set buckets of water out for them and left some apples out for them to munch, the hunting season is finally over and they can feel safe again in the yard. can you believe the airlines adding flights right for traveling to see family at Thanksgiving??? we are spending Thanksgiving at home, just relaxing and enjoying our little feast for the day, and the sandwiches the day after… ham and turkey with Swiss cheese on Swedish limpa bread. simply divine!!! that already made me hungry for lunch…. some soup and a sandwich, Bologna with mustard, Swiss cheese and lots of pickles!! tomorrow i am thinking of a grilled cheese sandwich, hmmm wonder how that turkey and ham sandwich do as a grilled sandwich… thats a good thought…yummy!!! well i have to get back to work, towel and bed sheets load and bring up firewood for the stove, check on the food and water containers for the hen house and sweep off the porches… wind is blowing leaves on the porches. have a wonderful day Susan, stay well, stay safe and stay happy. Happy Fall. hugs…. 😀

  5. What a pleasure to read this on this “not normal” fall day! Where we live, the high temperature records have been reset two days this week! There are still leaves hanging onto the trees! Thanksgiving plans here are somewhat altered with family coming, though camping in the backyard! One daughter has even rented a camping trailer to be delivered and set up here! She doesn’t even have to tow it behind her car to get it here! One daughter/family plan to camp in tents! We will open wide the garage, if need be, and set up tables far apart from one another, serve on disposables, wear masks, and social distance! We’re doing the cooking, so they won’t be bringing along the usual “dessert buffet.” No serving from common dishes, food set on each table. We’re praying for good weather to provide more enjoyable experiences! Martha’s Vineyard has its special charm, reaches out and captures you before you know what’s happened! Would love to be there again! “Enchanted” is going to be such pleasure! Now….off to plan a picnic! Be safe, stay well!

    • sbranch says:

      Love it Nellie! What an operation! Camping is brilliant! We did that one thanksgiving for our family in California ~ without a pandemic. Two trailers out back, table outside, it was so much fun, felt just right for Thanksgiving!

  6. Elizabeth Morgan says:

    OH MY GOSH!!!! I Love Betsy Tacy! My mother had read the series as a girl, and then got me started on them when I was around 8 or 9. I won a book report contest for reading, then writing the report and then speaking to the class about that very book. I have a very special place in my heart for those girls and can still see , in my mind, the two of them walking barefoot up the grassy hill. Remember when Tib arrived and how they weren’t too sure about her? Oh what joyous memories!! Thank you so much for reminding me of them and bringing a smile to my face for not only the memory of those girls but your whole post today. It really hit the spot and I loved it all. I think you might be a kindred spirit! BTW, after I bought myself one of your lovely bluebird mugs, they were so loved by the rest of my family that I ended up having to buy 3 more to keep the peace! They are used EVERYDAY and much loved by all. Is there really a Betsy Tacy society? I never knew that.

    • sbranch says:

      LOL, I do understand the “keep the peace” part! You probably haven’t had time yet to take the virtual tour, but I think you will LOVE it. 💖

  7. Peggy Willoughby says:

    You asked for our thoughts on 2022 looking back at 2020. What will we have learned? I think I will have even more appreciation for time spent with family. I will be even more thankful for good health and a husband who keeps me company and still laughs at my jokes and general silliness, and I’ll have an even larger stash of proven and cooked recipes. I will have learned how to bake my own biscotti. Home Sweet Home is a theme on lots of decor here and it will continue to be because I value it even more. Oh, and precious toilet paper!!!
    I am looking forward to your little Enchanted book. You always make us the sweetest things. Thank you. 😘
    It will be a tough holiday season, but it will be better next year if we all do what we need to in order to help us all stay healthy.
    I am still decorating inside and out for every month & holiday.
    Be Covid careful.😷 Stay safe. Love you.❤

  8. Diana Hall says:

    Susan, as always, you are too good to us…. bringing us beauty for the eyes, soul and mind! I so love your bookmarks and give them as gifts. I usually laminate and a pretty ribbon. I just love to pass your wonderful art along. I’m glad you and Joe are able to keep up with your scientific research…. that white rainbow….gorgeous….the coastline, the beautiful sky and leaves. I loved falling asleep to the sound of the sea when we visited different coastal places. Very excited for the new little chapter, new calendars, all the things that you spoil us with. Keep on the sunny side and have a wonderful day!!!

  9. Tania says:

    We are definitely living in strange times. I hope that 2021 is a good year and that some normalcy is restored.

  10. Rebecca says:

    I am just beyond excited for your except from Enchanted! Thank you so much for sharing your light with all of us, your work really does make the world a more beautiful place, just like Miss Rumphius talked about ❤️

  11. Diana from Ancaster says:

    Wonderful as always!

    Lucky in Love! Me too … finally

  12. Deb in Wales says:

    Did you hear Queen Elizabeth is planning a “once in a generation” celebration for her Platinum Jubilee in 2022? Imagine, she will have been on the throne as a reining monarch for seventy years. That’s some achievement.

    Our Autumn in the west of Wales is long gone, well the pleasant, gently warm part anyway. Now it’s the gales and storms of late Autumn that lash against my window pane and wash the glass with salt, leaving behind crystals that catch a stray glimmer of sunshine passing through.

    In the meantime, I’m making masks for the seasons. Even when our not normal stabilises and we adjust to life as it changes I think masks will be with us for a long, long time and I plan to make mine as cheery and outfit coordinated as I can! First, I have to stop the panic attacks that come each time I wear one!

    Stay safe, stay well, and keep wearing those masks!

    Waving~~~Deb in Wales xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      I agree, not loving it, but pretty sure masks will be around for a long time. Just wear it for a few minutes more every time, you’ll see, breathing does continue!🤣 I Love Queen Elizabeth. How good to be Queen and give everyone a day off, by royal decree. She said somewhere that she thinks children expect her to look like a princess in fairy tale books and she worried about disappointing them. I wish, for this event, they would dress her in the biggest white sparkly dress, with her most beautiful (yet lightest weight) crown and maybe even glass slippers. Very good witch Glinda … Wouldn’t that be fun? I wouldn’t even mind the wings!

  13. Vickie says:

    Thanks for sharing the ‘fogbow’ picture in your previous post; sent it to my three grown children. We all love clouds, rainsbows, etc. and that was wonderful! Great post today, as always. Thanksgiving blessings to y’all!

  14. Hello Dearie Sue,
    I can’t thank you enough for the sounds of the waves lapping against your shore. They heal my very soul!

    It has now been 6 weeks of sciatica for me and I have run out of rope to hang on to. Still 6 days until I can get in to be seen by the Dr. and I am not usually a whiner but I have truly learned compassion for those who live with chronic pain.

    Oh well, better to cheer myself up with a visit to your blog and the hope of some normal days to come. Thank you so much for everything bright and beautiful!


    • sbranch says:

      Awful! Now I’m going to say something you can totally ignore, because there’s like a 99.9% chance you already know, but I can’t help but TRY … just in cases, and forgive me, because I KNOW how painful that can be … and that is . . . stretching… have you tried it? I have stretched myself OUT of sciatica. A sports medicine Doctor gave me exercises. You can google to see. And now ignore me, I’m sorry to have inserted myself. I just hope you feel better soon! Love you!bxoxoxo

      • Debbie Boerger says:

        Ditto this advice from Sue. I’ve stretched myself out of sciatica as well….There are so many good “exercises” and stretches. One I do immediately, as soon as it pings me down my leg is…Lie on your stomach, pull your folded elbows very close to your side, then sloowly lift yourself, just from the waist up. Then you can move on to doing this with your hands. Just hold the position for about a minute. I think it’s called the McKensey Method? Of course there are many other stretches that depend upon where the “pinched” nerve is located. I never even get out of bed before doing some stretches. Some even help keep Grumpy Hip a bit quieter..;-)
        Debbie in Maine

      • Thank you so much for the stretching advice. I have been trying that, but it’s always great to hear good advice about what has worked for you. I saw the doc yesterday and had an MRI this morning. Still waiting to hear on the results. She gave me a nerve medication and I felt about 30% better this morning from a dose of that. I am truly grateful for you and the girlfriends! Love you! xxooxx

  15. Erika says:

    We had a white rainbow here too….over the Pacific Ocean in Pacifica, CA.

  16. Carol Ann Frederick says:

    Thank you Susan, for putting some sunshine in a drab, gray day in Tennessee! You always bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart!
    Can’t wait to get my puzzle. My husband is excited about it too! And can’t wait for that next book.

    Stay safe!
    Carol Ann

  17. I want to thank you for keeping politics out of your blog. I am weary of it all, the politics I mean. Life is not politics; it is life and we must live it fully, cherishing everyday with joy and without animosity. Joy is what I find in your writing and hope. I find hope for the future and joy in the timelessness of nature and love. Thank you.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, I so agree, just can’t have politics here, no arguments between people who love each other. 💞💞💞

  18. Marcia Sherman says:

    the pebbly beaches of New England are so very different from our beaches here in South Jersey – love it
    the sky outside just turned that pinky colour before sunset – love it
    all is well, all will be well, all will always be well
    sewell, nj

  19. Tammy Miller says:

    Thank you, thank you for the Full Moons bookmark! I was hoping for a 2021 version—I kept my 2020 bookmark in my nature journal and enjoyed it
    all year. And yes, daily prayers for a normal or as-close-as-we-can-get normal 2021. Happy Thanksgiving and blessings to you and yours!

  20. Kitty DeMento says:

    Dear Susan:
    This blog was so full of delights it boggled my mind!
    Thank you for being our bright light.

    Much love to you and Joe always!


  21. Debra Sewell says:

    Wonderful Willard. I loved the video. All will be well. Scientists conquered Polio, Smallpox, Leprocy, Diptheria, Rabies and many more. Yet. This vaccine has NO LONGTERM RESEARCH FOR SIDE AFFECTS. Neither did they for Thalidomide. And we know what that vaccine pill did. So one must tread lightly with rabid research for vaccine..cautiously. be safe, be happy. Daily little Joy’s.


    • sbranch says:

      Yup. We just wait. Let Dr Fauci take it, give it to his family, wait 3-6 months and see how they are, and then, perhaps, voila! Vaccine time! Kind of how I look at it. Too much politics fed into this vaccine. I got my flu shot, I believe in medicine. But I do want to watch this one. So fast! Thank God!

  22. Marsha Sega says:

    Interesting to get your “not normal” blog. I just came in from working in the yard (66 degrees). I found some of my forsythia branches had blooms!!! Actual, full sized blooms. Yet some of the leaves are turning red. It’s been blooming earlier every year. Used to be late March and now its in February. But November is ridiculous. Have been walking frequently with a girlfriend and have been thoroughly enjoying the autumn colors. We talk about EVERYTHING and figure we’ve now solved most of the world’s problems – if only someone would listen to us hahaha. Thanks so much for the ocean video – the sounds were awesome. I’m landlocked but do enjoy the sounds of the rushing water in the creeks in the Great Smoky Mountains near us.

  23. NancyRoth says:

    Oh, my, Susan! What a sweet blog! I loved it! And I can’t wait to get the puzzles I ordered 3; one each for my 2 daughters and one for their mom! Take care and stay well! A virtual hug to you, Nancy

  24. Marilyn Sherling says:

    I love this “This isn’t Normal” blog! So refreshing! And thank you so much for posting the video of the waves on the beach. I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard. It would be so lovely to visit sometime. I don’t know if it will ever happen, since I live in Washington state. But maybe someday. My daughter and I visited I New England for the first time ever two years ago. We would LOVE to come back! Keep blogging and keep writing books! We love them!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s very tiny back here, everything is about an hour and a half from everything else! You’ll have to come back someday!

  25. Barb Jensen says:

    I absolutely adore the Betsy-Tacy books! I have just reread the first four books during this “not normal” time. What wonderful memories I have of all the times I spent reading and rereading the series as a young girl. I did not know growing up in South Dakota (reading the “Little House” books over and over as well) that these stories were about real people. Years later, however, I read an article about Maud and discovered a whole new world! I am a member of the Betsy-Tacy Society and have visited Mankato to check out all those special places Betsy, Tacy and Tib frequented. I have a picture of Betsy and Tib as well as a bookmark with all the girls in the Okto Delta Society pictured on it. When I earned my first paycheck from my first job after graduating from college, I bought the first four books of the series. Thank you, Susan, for all your wonderful words of love and encouragement during these “not normal” times. We will survive this time and celebrate in the coming months as we reconnect with family and friends. Blessings to you!

  26. Sarah says:

    You are the dearest, Susan! Eagerly awaiting this peek at Enchanted! Thanks for taking us along for the walk along the beach. I would so enjoy a beach walk, sand between my toes. My husband’s a fan of Winston, so will grab him a copy of the book. Thanks for the recommendation. Yes, 2020 has been a challenge for us.
    Health issues for my husband, a remodel that seems to be be never ending, and COVID and all that it has thrown our way, and of course the not normal election! Yes, 2022 we are eager for you!!!
    Enjoy your Thanksgiving. It will be a table for two here.
    Love and hugs from Austin! ~ Sarah and Sadie

    • sbranch says:

      He’ll love it Sarah, it’s really well written and filled with personal detail! Love and hugs from me!

  27. Krissie says:

    Oh gosh i’m going to have to go back to the beginning and start all over again, i was with you and reading along just happy and THEN you said we would be able to hug again, wait, what HUG? HUG? and my head blew off! so excited, in my head all the friends i’m going to launch myself onto yippee, hug,hug,hug it’s been sooo long and i’m a hugger lol now where were we… ahh yes back to the beginning sending you a safe virtual hug from Yorkshire Susan x

  28. Regina Carretta says:

    Susan… help us as we start to exhale, as our blood pressure starts to stablize, as we continue to zoom with each other, see each other at distances, appreciate our chats, our simple expressions of love….in our neighborhood our new normal, is neighbors baking, and leaving baked goods on the Purple Sharing Bench in my front lawn, in an old cooler, for neighbors to leave and take…..our new normal is having hope right now, I’ll speak for myself, as I haven’t had hope for 4 years…..
    you are a bright bright light, m’dear……
    love, Regina Seattle

    • sbranch says:

      I LOVE the purple sharing bench. How did you all start this, Regina?

      • Regina Carretta says:

        The Purple Sharing Bench started back in the summer, when I read that some towns were sharing extra garden veggies that were overflowing in their home gardens….so I put out the word to our Block Watch neighbors, and now it has developed into a baked goods autumn sharing bench……there are about 30 of us who communicate through email….I leave the bench and the cooler out in my lawn and the Baker of the Week fills it, lets us know what’s in there, individually wrapped in ziploc bags, and on our walks, or just a jog up the hill, neighbors take their treat….it is something the kids have gotten involved with, and for Halloween, we had several sharing benches around the neighborhood…that, along with my neighbor’s jazz band’s outdoor rehearsal once a week, have shown what this staying at home has given us……just lovely….

    • Rachel Lucas says:

      Regina, I just had to comment as this is just such a wonderful post and idea. I wish we could have something like this here…it sounds beautiful. I often leave excess organic veg and herbs from our weekly delivered box outside the front door for others to take and I love doing it. Stay well and give our love to beautiful Seattle – one of my very favourite cities, we were there in January but it seems an age ago…xoxo

  29. Brenda Chambers says:

    Thank you so much for this really needed blog. You hit the nail on the head for what everyone is thinking. We just have to think positive and stay safe.

  30. Monica Wilson says:

    Your afternoon on the beach sounded so lovely, and I enjoyed hearing the ocean in your video. And how thoughtful of Joe to bring some iced pear cider! Yum! The lighting in fall/winter is just different and you can see it in your photos. I love it! No worries about the puzzle being late. I am just so excited about getting it when it arrives. I have been doing a lot of puzzles during this dam-penic, but I know my favorite one will be yours! A fun treat when it arrives! Thank you Susan for always blessing my day whenever your blog arrives in my inbox!

  31. SueG says:

    Yes it isn’t normal is the theme these days. Some times it is hard to feel that a true normal will return because is life ever truly normal since the times we live in are ever changing. Last week we lost part of our families normal, as my mom passed away from covid, pretty much alone in her memory care facility. In just a weeks time she succumbed to this terrible virus. Susan you may recall her from years ago as we celebrated her then 85th birthday with a Lamb Cake-a-Palooza, using the Easter lamb cake mold – to make all kinds of creative lamb cakes and desserts. She lived a long and wonderful 93 years but it is hard not to feel cheated since most of this year we weren’t able to be with her, and had to be satisfied with window visits. I too like you have taken solace in being out doors enjoying these warmer than usual fall days here in WI. Watching the beauty of the sun in the clouds, and dancing through the colorful leaves. As always I appreciate your sharing of your life the ups and the down, the joy you find in each day and your willingness to open up to all of us here. Thank you for being a beacon of light through these “isn’t normal” days.

    • sbranch says:

      Ohhhhh, no, so sad. I’m sorry, Sue. I do remember her and her joie de vivre! I understand, I would feel cheated too. My mom didn’t die of covid, but I lost her this year, and so far away. I hugged her the last time I saw her, a hug I thought might have to last a lifetime. And it was. Sending all my love.💞

      • SueG says:

        Sending love back to you as well! Holding on to memories of our moms and so many others. And glad to know we continue to have much to be thankful for in this season of thanksgiving! All the best to you and yours – and I too loved hearing the sound of the shore you shared. I drive to Lake Michigan some days just to hear it – such a fine way to find peace.

  32. Jackie says:

    You asked, “what will we have learned ?”  I have learned to practice being in the moment. I’ve been embracing my hobbies more than ever and it brings me happiness. And I read positive stories to bring me joy. Your blog brings me joy. Thank you.

  33. Jan says:

    Thank you for sharing the lovely pictures. We have snow on the ground on our California mountain and it is so cold. Yes, it will be a blessing to get back to normal routines. Hopefully 2021 will be so much kinder to all of us. Meanwhile, we have to take it all in stride and learn to live day by day.
    Be well, and thank you for the sunshine you bring to our lives!



  35. Carol Beeton says:

    I wonder if the Winston Churchill book tells how it through Winston Churchill that Israel was born and accepted
    as per usual the whole world was against the Jews. and here we are again.
    We are on the verge of the predicted Armeggedon and only those who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will be saved from what is already now unfolding

    • sbranch says:

      Have Jews received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? Because, what happens there? Not everyone is alike, which is what makes us so wonderful. Believing there is hope for the world is a way to move toward it, said one of my favorite authors, Gladys Taber. We should love every person, because, as you know, God is love. 💞

    • dezi says:

      Dear Carol, God promised Abraham that the Jews are His people FOREVER. We who accept Jesus Christ are adopted into that family, remember St. Paul’s telling us that? Those nations who ally with Jews are blessed, as America should be too as we are allies of Israel. Remember God loves us all. EVERYONE of us are His precious children. Some of us might not accept Jesus until our death. So hope is present in every life on earth. So we need to show love to all as Jesus has said. Even our enemies. Hard to do; not great at that myself, but I try. God bless. ❤️❤️✝️🔯☪️☯️

  36. Ginnie Judd says:

    Another beautiful post! First, it was such a treat to see you Sunday afternoon for virtual tea along with hundreds of other girlfriends. Your suggestion that not doing the usual holiday traditions this year will make them all the sweeter when we can get back to them (next year, I hope) really resonated with me. I’ve quoted you multiple times already.
    Also, I loved the Splendid and the Vile – such an excellent book. What a man Churchill was. The writing was wonderful, too.
    Thanks for all the loving care you send our way, Susan. The sounds of the waves on your video are so soothing.

  37. Jody Wallem says:

    Susan, love that you and Joe could spend time on the beach–what a treat! Your fall pictures are lovely, as always. What I have learned this year–actually what has been a huge silver lining is weekly zoom meetings with my 4 siblings. We have a 14-year age range, and we live in Maine, Virginia, Florida and 2 of us in California. Our together times are few and far between, so always very special. That being said, the weekly hour has added up to the most time we’ve ever spent together, and it has been such a treasure. There’s a new closeness we would have never experienced otherwise. I am grateful!

  38. Carolyn says:

    I just don’t think you know, Susan, what a comfort and deep breath your posts are. Thank you for fall on the island, rocks tossed in the waves at the beach, and some of your wonderful quotes. I needed a deep breath during these absolutely not-normal days. Thanks, dear!

  39. Sophie T says:

    Nothing seems normal, but it’s great to find the beauty in this new normal! I love your magic and your day at the beach. What I’m learning through this pandemic experience, is to appreciate even more the little things, the gifts of Mother Nature, the kindness of the people around us. And it can also be the opportunity to create new traditions that we might carry over the pandemic…

    Please stay safe… and enjoy every little bit of this late autumn! I bet the 2022 calendar will be filled with a lot of happy images!

  40. Bobetta D says:

    Oh Thank you so much for this not normal post that lets us all know that we are in this together. I read The Splendid and The Vile a few months ago and loved it! I am a big fan of your dad’s mom’s second cousin! That was a man with a clear purpose and enough determination for a whole country! Wish we had him now to tells us to “keep calm and carry on”! I will look forward to your little booklet and only wish I could have been at the Apple Farm to meet you and get it in person. It is one of my favourite places and in one of my favourite towns. I am a Ventura girl transplanted to the Missouri Ozarks where we have gorgeous falls but no beach to walk along. Happy Thanksgiving!,

  41. Betsy says:

    Thank you for this posting. I am sad beyond words as to what’s going on in our country. My prayer is that 2021 will be better. My biggest wish is for the people we elected in Washington will start working together. I’m wishing BIG.

  42. Margaret Matlock says:

    I read the BetsyTracy books long ago when I was in bed with Rheumatic Fever. Loved them! Things aren’t normal but you remind us that if we pay attention there is a lot to be thankful for. You are a ray of sunshine in a dark time. I just finished ” The Splendid and the Vile”. A great book.
    It would make a good movie. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Joe.

  43. Terri Brewster says:

    Thank you for a very happy post. Not Normal is just how life is right now, and although we never know what the next day will bring, I have hope we are one day closer to a vaccine and normal. Love the full moon bookmark. It hangs on my bulletin board in front of my desk every year and I just love it. Can’t wait for the little booklet, thank you!
    Every year I choose a word or phrase to represent my year and what my focus will be. Next year will be Celebrate, the little things. That is what I have learned from 2020. I can’t wait to have lunch with friends, hug family and friends, travel, see people’s faces and smiles without masks, dinner in a restaurant and so much more. This year has been a lesson in patience, thinking of others, reading books that have been sitting on my e-reader for years, new hobbies, home really is a nice place to be, a clean house from top to bottom. I have realized that activities and things I thought were most important just aren’t. Joy really is in the little things.
    I hope you and Joe stay Covid free, stay well and have a peaceful Thanksgiving. Thank you for the joy you bring to each of our inboxes.
    Terri Brewster

    • sbranch says:

      I count my own blessings, and feel so much better when I do. But I feel just as good when I hear others count theirs. Thank you Terri!💞💞💞

  44. VirginiaB says:

    Betsy, Tacy and Tib! I should have known that I would see them here sooner or later. What a delight! I absolutely loved those books as a girl and read them over and over. With those wonderful Lois Lenski illustrations….Just like the dust jacket of the Christmas book you recently gave to a lucky winner.

    As for ‘when this is over’, all I care about is seeing my family which so many of us have been deprived of for almost a year. No technology can ease that loss.

  45. Sue in Houston says:

    Susan, you always make the day better… (And this one needed to be!)

    I couldn’t agree more…NOTHING is normal anymore, although a steady diet of “normal” can get a bit boring. Remind me not to complain about that, assuming it ever returns.

    I’m reading a book you might enjoy: LAST HOPE ISLAND, by Lynne Olson. It’s the story of Britain, just before and during WWII when many of the crowned heads of Europe fled to its shores as the Nazis took over country after country. Britain was truly the “last hope” at that terrible time, before we entered the war and helped restore freedom. I’m about a third of the way through it and think you’d find it very enjoyable reading. I’m definitely planning on reading the Churchill book. What a remarkable man!

    As to “normal,” I’ll leave you with a quote from Hunter S. Thompson that I’ve always loved: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro!” I’ve never been entirely sure what that meant, but it seems to work!

  46. Jeannette from the Central Coast says:

    Wonderful post of nothing “normal.” I don’t know if I want to go back to “normal” as we knew it. I want my new normal to include more time with friends and family, more crafts, more reading…just things I love to do and share with others! More books from you would be nice. I already purchased the 2021 calendar and the 2021-2022 monthly pocket calendar(I got two extras to give my BFF gals.) I’m looking to what is ahead and burying what is behind( at least putting it out of it’s misery). Thank you for sharing your Island with us…love the colors!!

  47. Janet Reilly says:

    Oh thank you, thank you for this lovely blog post. Love seeing your photos, beautiful art and reading about your daily doings.
    I loved Betsy Tracy as a girl and will join the society. Excited about your Christmas book and calendars.
    Life isn’t meant to be normal, it’s meant to be lived and so we must, treasuring all the blissful moments which give us strength to endure the hard times.

  48. Maureen from SoCal says:

    Definitely a “not normal” year, but you always find the bright side in things and have a great way in sharing it. Such a joy to read and escape with you and all the girlfriends. This blog has been even more special this year, as it really is a respite from this difficult time in history.

    I am really looking forward to Enchanted. My heart is in Ireland, as is my family. My parents emigrated from Ireland to Canada and then here to the US, I was born in California four years later. We grew up with no extended family except a widowed great aunt which my uncle from Ireland had met and married after he emigrated from Ireland. She was from Denmark and they met while working for Harold Lloyd, the silent film star. I’ve been to Ireland 8 times in my life and pray I will get to see her beauty again one day along with a trip to England, Scotland and Wales. I share many of the same interests in the people whose homes you visited in a Fine Romance and was thrilled to read about them and see your photos. The first time I was in Ireland as an adult was in 2000 and I never felt more at home as I did there and every time I returned. And until my dad died in 2004, I would tell him that Ireland was an enchanted isle, an enchanted place, for various reasons I won’t go into. I’m sure I’ll see some of those reasons in your next diary. It’s always nice to have something to look forward to, isn’t it?

    It’s been a difficult year, but we still have many things to be thankful for, and you are one of them.

    Happy Thanksgiving Susan to you, Joe and Jack. May you all stay well and warm. 🙂

    Blessings and peace,

  49. Chris says:

    I sent my daughter my Christmas/ BD list (BD is 28th) and she said “Mom, you don’t have to list the Susan Branch calendar. That is a given!!” From her I also have several of your mugs and your books. So fun! Ah, normalcy. I wonder what will feel normal again? Will we let people blow out birthday candles over the cakes any longer? Will we always turn when someone has a sneezing or coughing spell? I’m thinking there might be a new normal ahead. The most important thing is seeing our friends and family without 6 feet between us. Hugging! Going to restaurants and going shopping! We have a brand new (our very first) grandchild born in March as this all began. Visits have been rather limited and we are on a 2 week quarantine right now because my hubs worked the polls. So my normal includes not having to think about just getting up and going somewhere to see someone. Not worrying about masks and hand sanitizer. Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly??

  50. Nettie says:

    Love the picnic video….ever time I’m fortunate enough to go to the sea I take a video so I can take it all back home. Thank you for your beautiful artwork and inspiring blogs…my husband had to wait for his dinner while I read this one….,he didn’t mind a bit cause you see I have my own Joe♥️

  51. Mary Helen Z says:

    It’s hard to imagine a day when we can hug our loved ones freely and sit close together and share a meal. We have so much to get thru yet. My husband and I work in healthcare and are in awe how many disregard this virus. Thank you for the surprise and sharing your beautiful late fall day! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s shocking. I know you would never do this, but I keep thinking if I was a nurse in a town where they refused to do the things we know will help keep the virus from spreading, I think I would get a bullhorn and stand out front of the hospital and yell at people.🤣 It’s SO not fair!!! 😷

    • Julie Bersano says:

      We can still hug our loved ones, our family members of immediate family. For example, my husband and I and daughter will travel to our hometown just 2 hrs away for Thanksgiving meal. My sister and her family will be there for the dinner as well. They are going to test before they travel to make sure they are well of course. I just wanted to mention this because so many people are going without hugging their loved ones and this is truly sad. Life does not stop. It has to go on and it should go on while we are loving on our immediate families. We just can’t get the days back so we must hug our mom and dad and children, of course 🙂 Sadly, the media is scaring so many into hibernating in their homes. We must practice common sense and pray if we begin to give in to fear. So with that, I hope more go out to hug their mom’s, dad’s and kiddo’s grown despite!

      • sbranch says:

        I know it’s so hard. Problem is it’s not only Thanksgiving, and it’s not just us … family/group celebrations are likely to happen in large numbers in every community. And it will be followed, over the next month and a half, by lots more events, opportunities for large groups to interact, including Black Friday, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s. All of it together has the possibility of turning what we imagine to be a small a personal risk into a community crisis. More HERE. Pretty much everyone gets to make the choice, but we are so close to a vaccine … would be awful to see Thanksgiving dinners turned into Christmas funerals. So much depends on our town or community … here on the island we had a HUGE uptick of cases this last couple of weeks. Scary to even go outside!

        • Julie Bersano says:

          I read the article that you posted for me, Susan~ Thank you. Following, my DH (dear husband) & I phoned his brother who works at Mayo Clinic in MN. We wanted some real-person, real-life affirmation to give us peace of mind on possibility of cancelling our Thanksgiving dinner with my dear Mom who lives 2 hrs away. A Thanksgiving tradition for the past 45 years and counting. My BIL( brother-in-law) recommended foregoing it citing reasons listed in article that you sent to me. My sister and I decided that it was ultimately up to my mom to make the decision since it was her home/hosting. Would she feel uncomfortable to continue on as per pre-covid days? She is nearly your age, Susan, born in 1945. Her answer: “No, not really, I would still like to have our dinner.” But since my sister and I were divided (peacefully disagreeing on the risk-factor..hers being for going ahead per usual and my DH and I thinking we should err of the side of caution and forego it), Mom decided to cancel it. She said that it would not be the same without everyone there.. (since my husband and I had changed our minds about celebrating with our big dinner in effort to lessen the risk to her getting sick.) Mom said she is sad but she will be “okay.” Trusting and Praying that we acted out of ultimate and utmost love toward her. This is hard, so hard but I keep thinking, “This too, shall pass. Please give me the peace from God as He will bring about much goodness from all of this.” Thank you in advance for reading my reply, Susan. It felt therapeutic to pen it! XOXO

          • sbranch says:

            Hard decision … very difficult. I’m right there with you. But I think you are doing the right thing. Err on the side of everyone staying healthy. We are SO close to getting through this. We stay apart now so we can get together later. Thanksgiving in May does NOT sound like a bad thing, and we’ll have a LOT to be grateful for! Happy Happy Thanksgiving dear Julie. We really ARE so lucky!💖

  52. Maria says:

    So many things to love about this post. Oh, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be getting these blog posts one right after the other. These little treasures are so needed right now.
    I had the same thought seeing Bruce on the cover of AARP! Sobering but it seems like all of the best people are in this with us & we are still fabulous.
    Also, so excited to see Enchanted in the news again. I am so looking forward to having another book to read about Joe’s & your trip across the pond. I’ve worn out A Fine Romance. I just love that book so much. Even with all that’s still going on, I feel hopeful that we are finally heading towards putting our poor country back together again. Wishing you & Joe a wonderful Thanksgiving. xo

  53. Mary Loro says:

    Love this blog feeling so low lately with not being normal .

  54. Mary Ann in Mid-Missouri says:

    What a wonderful post. We, too have had wonderful weather the past week. It has changed and got down to 30 last night, but still up to 60 this afternoon. I’ll take it. Can’t wait for the Enchanted “teaser.” It’s good to have something fun to look forward to.

  55. Sherrill L Kerbaugh says:

    What a fun post … loved it! I’m so happy for you two … wishing you a long, loving life together. I lost my husband of almost 56 years the end of August. Hold tight to each other and cherish every minute. John loved all your books and posts as much as I did/do. Thank you for giving us such lovely time shared.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh Sherrill, I am so sad to hear this news. Hugs to you. 😢 Thank you for the lovely words and reminder. Life is too short.💞

  56. Antonia Lutz says:

    What is normal? Anyway loved your blog it always inspires! Our thanksgiving is always just us ever since we switched to a vegan diet 10 years ago but that’s ok! My daughter’s who don’t live with us will be here so that means 6 total for dinner it makes for a nice dinner hopefully I’ll get to sit and watch a christmas movie in the evening with a cup of tea! After the kitchen is cleaned!
    Peace and love to you!

  57. Becky Maxwell formerly from the Central Coast says:

    You are right this is not a normal year. I just moved to Kansas from California. It is not my normal November. I have been here a week and still settling in for the winter. Thank you for showing that the not normal can be quite beautiful and relaxing if we let it.

  58. Patty Hoctor says:

    Thank you for your lovely, upbeat, can do attitude. I, too, plan on knitting and hopefully, some football (unless the Covid wrench gets an unwelcome say).
    In which case, old movies and Netflix will be plan B.

    Happy gobble day🦃🦃🦃!


  59. Kay Kay says:

    Your 59 seconds of the beach was exactly what I needed today…..I watched it 4 times and will watch many more. I adore the sussurations of the stones as the waves lap the sand…it is true peace to me and makes me feel normal. Love the idea of your sharing of that first chapter of “Enchanted” — something very positive to look forward to in the coming weeks. Your posts always brighten my days. Thank You to you and Joe and Jack. Happy Quiet Thanksgiving!

  60. Barbara Jean says:

    The thing I have learned from this Pandemic is: tThat there are lot of things that we buy to entertain ourselves that we don’t need. That spending time with family instead of enrolling your child in every activity/sport, spending hours and hours on the road driving them to and fro, are not necessary. That growing your own vegetables is SO good for you, body and soul. That sitting and listening to virtual silence is much better than watching virtual reality. And last but not least is the appreciation for people that are ESSENTIAL, who aren’t A-listers or Super Star athletes, they are our neighbors and our friends.

  61. Peggy Morgan says:

    I hope that I learned to be less anxious, more grateful and kinder. Also, if I have a compulsion to continually bake, I will take baked goods to neighbors instead of eating so much of it myself! My doctor suggested that last one! Ha!

    Wishing you all good things….

  62. Charlene Scholey says:

    Loved your normal post cause it was just as beautiful and normal as all of the ones that we wait so impatiently for! Was so surprised to find it so quickly after being posted. Thank you for making our abnormal days easier to bear and giving us hope for 2021 and also Love, Charlene

  63. julie borg says:

    Thank you Susan! Your blog always make me feel better! And one day, when its safe to travel, we are going to come rent a little house up there to see the autumn in all its glory! Heck we may even stay for winter. Here in Houston we are still enjoying(?) late summer. It was 85 today. Hard to get in a holiday spirit when you are still swatting skeeters and sweating. Lots to be thankful for even in the midst of this covid season. Thankful for all the extra time with my family. Thankful for the slower pace. Thankful for city traffic that is SO much better than during normal time! Especially thankful that you give us something to look forward to in our email! Happy Thanksgiving!

  64. Jane Franks says:

    Yes, Susan, you are so right! Fall in New England never gets old! I miss it! But it’s pretty nice here and sort of a miniature version because they planted tons of maple trees in our neighborhood. So grateful for that! Love the little book and look forward to it!! This is such a lovely reprieve from all the hard stuff going on. I think we all, at heart, want peace and beauty to surround us, and you supply so much of that! Thank you!!

  65. Ruth says:

    Oh, how I loved reading all the Betsy-Tacy books, and the Emily of Deep Valley book, and the other children’s books! Last week I talked with a friend about the colors of autumn leaves, (we’re in MD), and mentioned the leaf collection that wasn’t fun from the Betsy-Tacy books. It’s the book where they were in High School and put off doing the leaf collection until the very last few days, then realized how much they would have enjoyed it if they had started it on time. One of the three even told the teacher about her regrets. Those books seemed to be so real, so true to life, so frank in their portrayal of what was really important. Thank you for your blog!! I loved “being at the beach” for 58seconds today!

  66. Suzanne says:

    Ahhhh….The sweetest escape to Martha’s Vineyard! My dear momma and I visited MV in the fall of 2019, on our annual mother-daughter trip (24 years and counting). Little did we know that there would be no annual trip in 2020 for us 😢 But, we are hopeful for 2021! Thank you for the video and for all of your positive and uplifting thoughts; please keep ‘em coming! Hugs and safe wishes to you, Joe and little Jack from Washington State ❤️

  67. Joyce says:

    Thank you,for being you! I’m very high risk so I’ve only gone out for doctor appointments twice and 4 short stay in car visits since March. I feel like I’m in a bit of a fog sometimes. My entire family is on the front lines and it worries me. Husband, somewhat high risk himself, in grocery store, both daughters and son-in-law are elementary school teachers and other son-in-law a paramedic working out of the ER and 5 grandchildren doing in person school. I’m praying for everyone to stay healthy. I won’t mention the situation coming out of Washington D.C. and how stressful that is,too!

    • sbranch says:

      Oh my goodness Joyce, I hope you can feel the blessing I am sending for your family.🙏🙏🙏 I feel huge gratitude toward them too, they’ve been the ones keeping our country going, risking themselves. xoxoxo

  68. Raynore Jones says:

    I absolutely love the ocean music. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  69. Diane Kessler says:

    Your blogs are my special place. I love every one, and this one was so special with the white rainbow. I turn the music on in the background and my husband wonders what I am up to. I’m up to something special!
    Diane in Danvers

  70. Dana Hastings says:

    I enjoy reading the AARP publications. I decided to embrace my age LOL and enjoy the company of other over-50s like me! Looking forward to the puzzle!!

  71. Sue in Long Valley NJ says:

    Thank you for the view of the ocean but especially for the recording of the waves! I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear that lulling, calming sound. Makes me want to go take a nap! 🙂
    I had never heard of the Betsy-Tacy book series nor of the author, though I am very familiar with Lois Lenski’s work. I enjoyed the house tour and chuckled at the information about green paint and the affect on flies. Next year it’s green paint in my kitchen!
    As for my Thanksgiving plans I am staying NJ bound and postponing visits to MA with my daughter’s family until it is safer to be together. My son and I will be feasting on a local restaurant’s Thanksgiving platter take-out because my range has died and can’t be replaced before T-day. Since there will be only the two of us it’s takeout this year! (A first for me, and rather odd to not be doing the cooking after 47 yrs of dinners!)
    Oh yes, I enjoy reading the AARP magazine and Bulletin newspaper as they are filled with lots of good advice, tips and articles for we mature folk. Particularly like their “movies for grownups” recommendations and healthy eating recipes.

    Yes, here’s hoping 2021, as well as 2022, bring a return to a sane semblance of normal, especially with the ability to resume typical visits with family and friends and a sense of community returns. It concerns me that we’ve become so polarized that it would take a worst catastrophe than a pandemic to bring us back together as a common force against a common “enemy”. This is when the Hollywood-style Alien invasion would be welcome!

  72. Margie Orr says:

    Thanks for another beautiful post. You help so much thru these difficult times to spread joy even in the falling leaves that drift by 🎼. Every evening we walk thru the leaves with the moon our lamppost. The weather is warmer this year in the hiss of rain, and the comfort of each other as you and Joe do. I am thinking of making a lemon meringue pie this year, I am starved for something different like your new book “Enchanted”. Love your Home for Christmas book as it is very much like ours was with my three sisters.

  73. Donna in the Central Valley says:

    What a beautiful day at the beach! Do you still have a little fishing shack? I saw it in a magazine some years ago when you were decorating and improving it.

  74. Lorrie Orr says:

    What a delightful read on a not-normal November afternoon. It’s drizzly here and cozy by the fire. How fun to anticipate an excerpt of your new book (I do hope you’ll be able to finish it.)

  75. Marty Koehn says:

    It’s always a bright spot in my day when I see your name pop up in my email. Here a bright spot for you to check out. It’s called The Good News email. It comes every day with good new about things all over the country and world. Thought you might enjoy it. It has been a beautiful fall here in Missouri. Take care

  76. Susan Eyerman says:

    Messages like yours help us remember what is important even through these disappointing times. Safety in our own bubbles is imperative in order for us to get back to normal. We have to make joyful noise where we are, sing, and look for the horizon. Blessings

  77. Diane Welsh says:

    I grew up on a farm so as a little girl I didn’t get to go to the library very often, but I can still see the day I found my first Betsy Tacy book. It is like my mind took a picture. It was a hot summer day, but our library was a cool, dark Carnegie building. I can even see the shelf it was on. And oh, I loved that book. For some reason my favorite part was the taffy pull they had. I was a bookseller for many years. Do you remember me in Cedar Rapids Susan? I was always so Happy to see those books still on the shelves for all to enjoy, myself included.

    • sbranch says:

      I do remember you Diane! That was a wonderful time. You reminded me, my MOM gave us a taffy pull when we were little, from that book! My one and only time of pulling taffy, but I remember it like you do the cool dark Carnegie building. Libraries are such magic for children.❤️

  78. Debi Hutchinson says:

    The mask hanging on the line just made me grin. Thank you for taking this awful time and reminding us to enjoy what we can during this pandemic. I truly appreciated your blog today and smiled as I was reading it. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

  79. Cheryl Brown says:

    In this not so normal time, I have relished reading your blog and exploring some of the places you have referenced – at least in my mind I have explored them. I will put them on my bucket list for 2022 when I can travel again. There are so many places I may not be home all year.

    You live in such a beautiful place and I want to thank you for sharing it with us.
    Have a wonderful, simple, and quite Thanksgiving.

  80. Susan Holcombe says:

    A VERY big thank you for the beach video. I lived many years at the seashore, my happy place, but moved away from it last year. Hearing the water lapping at the shoreline almost did me in! It was precious. And I COULD smell it. It’s such a distinctive smell. Thanks for warming the cockles of my heart.💙

  81. Nancy says:

    Dear Susan and Joe, Thank you for the sound of the wind and surf. How did you know we needed that? Your shadows in the sand – perfect!
    Stay safe and artful!

  82. Pam Coblyn says:

    Can I just Rip Van Winkle myself through this damnpanic?

  83. Michele Blumberg says:

    Thanks for reminding me about Betsy-Tacy and suggesting the BT Society- some good things there as you mentioned.
    You have directed us to several great things in the past little while. I have ordered many candles from the sisters you directed us too!
    Keep making suggestions! Greatly appreciated. Also love seeing photos of MV, my eldest daughter lives in Rhode Island, and I love New England, was not able to make my annual visit there this summer- boo hoo! I live in Encinitas CA, an equally gorgeous location but VERY different! Thanks always for these lovely missives.

    • sbranch says:

      When I find something I think others would like, I definitely love to share it. My darling sisters, I’m so glad you enjoy them and their wonderful homemade products. xoxo

  84. Mary Seidman says:

    Thanks for a celebration of not-normal 🙂 I loved The Splendid and The Vile too.
    When I think of my future 2022 world I realize how much I love my friends and family. I’ve missed spontaneity. Thanks for spreading your Susan Joy.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, harder to be spontaneous when you have to think everything through for safety sake. Gotta figure out how to make tiny spontaneity surprise INSIDE the borders!❤️

  85. Zoe Greenwood says:

    You’re right! Nothing IS normal, but there are still so many blessings! One of them is YOU!!!

  86. grace thorne says:

    even though nothing is normal, the sound of the lapping waves is constant and true, never changing….thank you for including that! i miss my new england coast so very much…i agree with you about fall in new england…it just never gets old and is pure magic every time!

  87. Ruth Frank says:

    Thank you for helping us see the joy in the midst of chaos and fear! So beautiful! Thanksgiving blessings to all of you and best wishes for health and happiness!

  88. Linda Pintarell says:

    LOVED the beach picnic in the cooler time of the year. So quiet, so beautiful…just hearing the waves splash to shore. It’s actually my favorite time to go sit at the shore, as people from the east coast call it. To us Western United States people, it’s always just been the beach. And the beautiful color of the foliage. Although I’ve always lived in California, so it’s hard to say I miss it, however I drool just looking at pictures sent from Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, etc., etc. – possibly the most gorgeous scenic thing you will ever see in your life.

  89. Rae Ann Roche says:

    Oh, Susan~Enjoy every minute of being lucky in love❤️ December 18 will mean three years that I’ve lived without my high school sweetheart husband…my dear Dave…I’ve thought of him every minute of those three years…I’ve learned I can certainly do without things in this dam-pendic…I’m making do with what I have since I’m not shopping in stores…I’m even ordering groceries online and having them delivered…we’ve had a warm fall in northern Michigan too…I’m enjoying that for sure…Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…

  90. Sandra Garber says:

    Thanks for sharing your beach with us.

  91. Cyndi in NC says:

    Learning to reclaim what bits of “normal” I can find. Having lunch with a friend who lost her husband in January would be wonderful. Luckily her daughter and family stayed with her when their house sold quickly and their new house wasn’t ready. Staying in my home is something I don’t mind doing but to have to stay is another thing. I will go to the movies soon though!

    I love that you are related to Churchill! I think he was a great man and yes a character. I will have to read this book. I think I’ll enjoy it every much.

    Take care all. Give Jack a hug. I miss having kitties to hug, when they’ll let you!

  92. Annette says:

    Thank you for just being you and being such a sharer. My trips into your world are one of my life’s high points. You are a treasure.

  93. Penny says:

    So much to be GRATEFUL FOR 💫 even when everything isn’t normal prayers answered in 2021 🙏🏼❤️
    Love all of your post -can’t wait for ENCHANTED 💫
    Have a blessed Thanksgiving -I’m crocheting 🧶 hats for a resource center for Foster Children 18 > and older that outgrow the system but in need of support & resources.
    Penny from Mt.Rose 🌹

  94. dezi says:

    Dear Susan, have you ever noticed how many girlfriends of yours are Sue, Susan, etc? Anywhoo, once again, you come up with NEW wonder and beauty in every day ⛱🔥🍂🍁🍁💐🌾circumstances!! You’re a right wonder my girlfriend! I was sure when you hinted at more ghost rainbows to come that the “musica” this time would be Kermit singing his rainbow connection song. A very strong favorite of mine and one I would sing to my “bobbins” when they were little. A trillion thanks from a Susan uplifted heart that is trying so hard to keep the faith in these times and sudden cold freezing temps and seeing all my precious tomatoes and flowers die too soon! You stole our wonderful Autumn from us! (You’re forgiven!). But I have learned from living here in AZ 40 years that an early frost in Arizona in November means warm weather longer into the winter. That is IF this isn’t more of that #notnormal! that 2020 keeps throwing at us. LOL. Thanks for the Jack fix btw! Love always—dezi🥰🥰

  95. Thank you, Susan!

    Certainly, nothing about this year has been normal. I’ve been thinking quite a lot about flipping the narrative so to speak (6th grade teacher here).
    Last year, when CA was having all the rolling power outages to prevent fires, our school had to go without power for an entire day. Once the kids realized that the Internet was electricity-dependent, they quickly realized that their Chromebooks were obsolete. We gathered around the room with battery operated candles and pondered the darkness.

    When did the dark get such a bad reputation? Become associated with evil?

    They philosophized about all the imagery surrounding dark vs light, black vs white and came to the conclusion that while both are needed, the dark is just as beautiful and powerful as the light. And not evil or frightening at all. They also came to the conclusion that a lot of it is seeped in racism, sadly.

    That’s been the perspective I’ve been holding onto since March when we had to close up the physical school. We’ve been on distance teaching/learning ever since with no end in sight as cases continue to rise in the Bay Area.

    So, my dear Susan, to answer your question about what is normal, I think normal has become an excuse. An excuse for people to put off that which they truly want to do. An excuse to say I’ll get to it later. I was JUST re-reading Isle of Dreams and got to the part when you realize that had you stayed in CA, living your normal life, you would have been too busy to have dreams, to write a book, to live a life that (SERIOUSLY) ought to be a series on a streaming platform. Not a movie. Your life has too many twists and turns to be a single movie-or even a trilogy.

    As someone who has never identified as normal-always the weird girl, the odd-ball, the Anne-girl, normal has never been an aspiration.
    I think, as many will probably echo, that the pandemic has made us take stock of what we value, what we can do without, and appreciate that which we take for granted.

    I’m SO excited that people will get to see the Enchanted chapter. Getting to hold that in my hands at Apple Farm was an absolute treasure. It’s on my desk next to my Zoom laptop where I teach, and it fills me with joy. My girlfriend, Becky, and I had the best time waiting in that line to meet you and loved meeting Sharon and Christie. (The lines are the BEST!)

    So as you knit on Thanskgiving, I hope to continue to spin some of our sheep’s wool into some fabulous art yarn that I started on Election Night.
    Hugs to you, smooshes to Jack, and a tip of my hat to Joe.

    • sbranch says:

      What a great thing to do with your kids, to teach them to look deeply into an event, is teaching them to THINK, not just react. Using your mind to CHANGE the narrative to a better, more interesting, more powerful one. LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! I bet you have sparked a life-long power in them, like I got from reading Pollyanna, and realizing that how I thought of something made all the difference! Huge, Susan Shirley of Mosshollow Hill.👏👏👏 And thank you for my VERY FIRST REVIEW of the Enchanted excerpt, first chapter. You put a big smile on my face! Keep on doing what you’re doing, please. The world needs you. Knitting to a brighter future. xoxoxo

    • FayE in CA! says:

      Susan, my daughter had a fifth grade teacher who showed a popular movie the first day of school. I was so irritated! Why in the world would she show a movie that most of the students had seen more than once that summer? Why didn’t she follow-up with a writing lesson or discussion? What did that movie have to do with classroom bonding on the first day of school? How did that start her students’ minds yearning to spend interesting days with their new teacher?

      My imagination thought that she COULD have had the students sit on grass under trees with papers/pencils in hand. She COULD have arranged for the sprinklers to come on for JUST A SECOND. Her lesson for the astonished students COULD have been given to the sounds of laughter! “I want each of you to write a story about your most memorable summer day…write with details. When you read your story, I want all of us to feel your emotions of that day. It could be joy, love, sadness, silliness, friendship, loneliness, etc. that you experienced on your memorable day.”

      Thank you for being a teacher who brings out the intrinsic within your students’ minds/hearts. Lucky students – lucky you. Teachers’ hearts are blessed when the hearts/minds/creativity of students are lit on fire. It’s a win-win. Your lesson on a candlelit day was seeding intelligent, intrinsic thought about dark vs light and black vs white. Students had to reach down and think about the two that are around them daily! Your teaching spirit took an abnormal day in class and turned it into a very important lesson to see and think about something so simple, yet deep when explored with others. Your obvious intelligence and desire to teach didn’t waste the day.

      Wish my daughter had been in your classroom for her fifth grade year. One year of lackluster teaching did not diminish her development!! But, oh, the memory of that sprinkler, summer-story lesson COULD still remain fondly and the teacher COULD be recalled as one of her favorites!

      Cheers sent back to you, Susan. Your light has been shared along with the desire to vanish 2020’s darkness!! Catch a leaf for me…pet PURRRfect Jack…hello to your dearest, trail-walking companion, Joe. May health and love continue to be your most important blessings.

      • sbranch says:

        Thank you FayE💖💖💖 Most wonderful words about the power of a teacher, so creative. ❌⭕️❌⭕️

      • Susan,
        Thank you for responding in such a heartfelt way. I’m currently sitting in front of the first fire of the year and enjoying your newest blog.

        It’s funny you mentioned my “review” of Enchanted’s 1st and glorious chapter. It inspired me to create Cousin Camp here at our farm next summer. I originally was going to host this summer, but 2020 had other plans.

        My idea, inspired by you taking your 2 nieces with you on your transatlantic voyage, is to host my nieces and nephew as well as cousins’ children here for a reunion. The adults can go wander the region (we’re in Aromas and 30 minutes from Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Morgan Hill) so it’s a great jumping off point.

        This way the kids can get time on the farm with the sheep, goats, chickens, and climb trees, do some farm chores, pick fruit and veggies from the orchard and gardens, and enjoy living a country life for a weekend, a few days, etc.

        It never occurred to me to do this until I read your chapter. Of the 5 of us Shirley kids, only 2 have children, and sadly those two siblings are not on good terms, so it’s important that their kids get to know each other on neutral ground.

        So, consider this an addition to your Enchanted review.
        Your chapter inspired an idea that will bring together cousins from 4 years to adult-hood, and I hope I can pull it off for their sake.

        Thank you again.

        • sbranch says:

          Brilliant. Bringing them together, letting them know they are NOT alone, family can make life SO comforting, you never know if it will work, but it’s a gift you’ll be giving them! My cousin and I are the same age, her parents came from Texas to visit us when she and I were around 10. We slept alone in a trailer in the driveway. The first morning I woke up with a Texas accent, and we have felt close, though far apart, ever since. That bonding can make ALL the difference. 💓

  96. Valeria Vande Hey says:

    As I read your remarks about the white rainbow I decided to share a beautiful event that we experienced last week, November 6th, on the 1 year anniversary of our daughter’s passing at age 55. Heidi lived in Laughlin Nevada for over 30 years but, for Christmas some years ago, she sent her father, Vincent and me a Christmas Cactus which contained both red and white blossoms. Last Friday on the 6th 6 beautiful white blossoms opened which looked like angels and helped us to believe that Heidi is in a good place. Thank you for your continuing inspiration.

    Valeria Vande Hey

    • sbranch says:

      What a beautiful thought Valeria … Blessings on you and yours and to the memory of your daughter, Heidi.🙏

    • dezi says:

      Valiera, I have a Christmas Cactus in a bright window. It has no blooms as of yet, so I believe you did truly receive a miracle! Our’s normally blooms closer to Christmas. I am so sorry for your loss. God bless you. 💕💕💕💕

  97. Alice says:

    Here in Greece, NY near Rochester we’ve had two not normal days this week with record-breaking temps in the upper 70s. Generally our highs about now are in the low 50s! When my husband and I were out raking leaves, I spotted a violet growing in our grass. Now that’s not normal at all! Thanks for continuing to bring us joy, Susan!!

  98. Barbara Vlcek-Vinikow says:

    hello Susan!
    I too am lucky in love…married 6 years now to my college sweetheart (40 years from our first date!). I really loved your painting of you & Joe walking in the Autumn woods! Yes, so “not normal” these days. However, we are doing our best to be grateful for what we do have & count our blessings! We have companionship and laughter everyday; we both like to cook, so dinners are often quite delicious and we each appreciate the other’s talents/efforts! We have a darling little shih tzu doggidy who brings us so much joy! We do miss our good friends and our family who live too far away to visit right now. My sister’s birthday is this coming weekend & I am sad not to be able to drive/fly the 800 miles to be with her, however, I did purchase a few lovely items from my friend, Susan Branch, that are being sent to her!!! One of them is your Autumn Cookbook, which I just bought for myself, recently. It is so pretty & with so many delicious recipes, I know my sister will love it, too!!! Thank you so much for sharing your delightful, artistic creations with the world, and for your uplifting, positive, happy blogs!!! Sending you & Joe & Jack lots of love!!! Barbara Vlcek Vinikow

  99. Rae Ann R. says:

    Oh, Susan~Enjoy every single minute with your sweet Joe❤️…December 18 means three years since my high school sweetheart husband has been gone…I’ve thought of him every minute during those almost three years…we have been enjoying a warmish fall here in northern Michigan…🦃Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours🦃

  100. Anne says:

    Dear Susan, Thank you for sharing your not usual observations. There is something about the sea that is so healing for me. We had some not normal warm weather in Washington last week but now we are making up for it. For now, I call it cozy. When it is time for my walk I pull out my storm coat and off I go.

    Thanks for the bookmark. I am looking forward to the puzzle; the wait is half the fun for me.

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