Tonight is a new moon (which is actually an invisible moon). If you live in South America, today you’ll get a solar eclipse. The next big thing, December 21 is Winter Solstice, a sacred time of magic and light and the bridge to a new beginning which I think we could all really use right now!💫 On that day we’ll be furthest from the sun, but the next strike of the second hand? The days start getting longer!☀️ . . . So much to celebrate! And now, me. No. First, MUSICA. THEN me.

I do not think, on earth, you can ask much more than this. Note cat.💞



And among my wonderful old movies and among my darling kitty cat . . .

We had our first last week! Just a cotton-candy dusting . . . to make it pretty . . . but of course I ran around with the camera! First snow is always the most magical!

We haven’t put away our fire pit yet, still thinking we might spend New Year’s Eve hovering over that fire and, one by one, burning every page of my 2020 calendar, because I am SO GLAD TO SEE THIS YEAR GO. I’ll say prayers to go up in the smoke. With that lovely light at the end of a rather long tunnel, we’re all getting closer to HUGGING again!⛅️

The weather has actually been quite warm considering where we live, and beautiful out on our walk, so this was like a little frosted Christmas gift!

Bit by bit, it’s getting very Christmasy around here!

We decided to put all our trees outside this year . . . this one is in the garden and I can see it from the kitchen window… but so can everyone who drives by the house!

These are out front, a little one in the window, a big one in the yard, and a nice little extra of reflection in the window . . .

We don’t have room in the kitchen for a tree, but we spend so much time there, so Joe put one on the kitchen porch where we can see it from inside.

I took that last photo with the table lamp ON…And this one with the lamp OFF. Camera reacts to that lamp! We also wrapped a small living tree in twinkle lights and took to our hospital to thank our heroes … trying to do our part in this crazy time we’re living through!

But it’s not like we have NO trees in the house. . .’Course we do!

We do! My bird tree. Our kitchen table wouldn’t know it was Christmas without it!

Joe’s been busy! Our wreaths smell wonderful!

It’s funny how we’re decorating. We don’t feel rushed. Every day one of us adds a little something. We’re truly enjoying it, and not doing everything we usually do, but pulling out loved things, and celebrating. Cooking a lot and loving it. We’re home alone this Christmas . . . we seem to be using the extra time to count our blessings.

The candles are lit!🕯

Mother Seraphima surprised me with this glowing tea light . . .💫 (and if you’re new here and haven’t read about Mother Seraphima and her house of creativity, you might like this post of Christmas Past.)♥️

This is a must-have for us, a Christmas tradition: Joe’s stocking for his family’s pets. I mentioned this the other night at our webinar … I wrote about Joe’s childhood prayer in A Fine Romance ~ the last seven names (below) are family pets! You can see, on the stocking, how as time passed, some of the names are crossed out 😞, and new ones added👍.

Wasn’t our Crowdcast event with An Unlikely Story Bookstore WONDERFUL? I LOVED reading your comments and answering questions, but was sorry I couldn’t see you! Although there were over a 1000 of us on that call, might have been hard to see everyone! It was my last one this year ~ Book talks in the time of Pandemic! I’m on the phone in this pic because for about five minutes I thought I couldn’t get on 😜 which led to minor meltdown!

But Kym saved the day … and there we were! If we get really bored this winter and need another visit, Kellee learned how to do it! We can put it on the calendar and all come together for tea!Oh yes, we can talk! I also want to thank whichever one of you it was that suggested I CLEAN the camera lens on my laptop!!! I could never figure out WHY I was so blurry … I kept asking everyone! No one knew! But then, during the talk, some of our girlfriends said, get a swab and some alcohol and clean that little spot next to the red dot on your computer! And voila! I came into focus for the first time! What would I do without you???

Did everyone get their puzzles? I hope so! We just heard they WILL be doing a second printing … probably won’t get them until February, but at least they are working on it! So, look what else came in! The first chapter of Enchanted! Another little bit of Christmas cheer🎄. Although it hasn’t much to do with Christmas, but everything to do with our very first trip to England aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. It’s 28 pages, lots of photos, and all handwritten, and tied with a golden ribbon, it’s still festive! A stand-alone story with a beginning and an end . . . it’s the first chapter of the new book! And yes, I’m still working on the rest of it! And one more bit of news, I was just asked to renew the “shopping agreement” for the movie (or series) option for Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams! Fingers still crossed (almost cramped in that position at this point), still not holding breath, but wouldn’t it be fun!?! And one more thing, THANK YOU so very much for all the lovely reviews for Home for Christmas . . .  here, on Amazon, on Facebook, everywhere! . . . You don’t know how much it means to me!Speaking of Roald Dahl . . . supposedly he met Beatrix Potter when he was a little boy, and now there’s a Christmas movie about it just released in England. Not here yet, but I’m sure we must be next! Interestingly because I met Roald Dahl’s daughter, Tessa. So that only means two degrees of separation between me and Beatrix, my closest fly-by yet!💞

I took all my Christmas-tree-decorating time and instead wrote Christmas cards and sent Enchanted and Puzzles to my friends and family . . .♥️

And this year, instead of greens and candles and trees on the fireplace mantle, it’s packed with Christmas cards! Almost like having everyone here!

Now it’s time to rev up the old girl . . .

I made my Cranberry Marmalade again after Thanksgiving! Have you tried it yet? Well, make more cranberry sauce at Christmas . . . then try this delicious thing! Lovely New Year’s Gift for the ones you love!

My girlfriend Lynne sent me this photo yesterday of her grandson getting ready to make Christmas cookies! Did it make my day? It definitely did!♥️ I particularly LOVE his T-shirt! The Future is right there in front of us making Christmas cookies!

I’ve been baking too! Making things to give away this season . . . I’ll try anything with Cranberries in it . . .

So when our Girlfriend Mary Holland sent me this recipe I knew I had to try it! (I’ll type it out at the very bottom of this post!)

Isn’t it pretty? Doesn’t it just scream Christmas?! You could almost hang it on the tree!🎄

So I gathered all my goodies and did some measuring . . .

Into a medium-sized bowl went 2 cups of flour . . .

add 1 cup granulated sugar . . .

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder,

1/2 tsp. soda,

and 1/2 tsp. salt . . .

Whisk it all together well…

Stop and find out what Jack is up to. ⬆ But of course. . .  Time out for some shooting and retrieving of the stretchy unit! His eyes say to me, “You have all the power.” And then he whispers, “I know if I look at you like this you will stop and play with me.” And he is right!

Then it’s time for wet ingredients ~ The original recipe called for 2 Tbsp. melted crisco … but you can use melted butter, or coconut oil ~ I used avocado oil ~ it’s all considered “shortening.”

One beaten egg . . .

grated zest of one orange . . .

and 3/4 c. fresh-squeezed orange juice . . .

Mix it all up! (A spoon is better than a whisk in this case as I learned the hard, thick way!)

I thought nuts would be good in this bread so I added 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped walnuts . . .

And because I LOVE cranberries, I didn’t cut them in half as the recipe called for … I put them in whole (and probably saved a half hour of tiny cutting!).

Stirred it all up and poured it into my buttered bread pan…

Ready to go! Into a 350º oven for 55-60 minutes … 

And voila! 

It’s done if the knife comes out clean!

Cool completely before cutting into it.

And there she is … perfectly delicious and gorgeous too! You can make them in the little pans and give them as gifts! If I would have had some on hand (which I will next time) I would have sprinkled this bread with sanding sugar before I put it in the oven. I have to say, for some reason, this Orange Cranberry Tea Bread tastes better the second day, and every day!💞

This recipe reminded me a little of my Orange Marmalade Cake, which is more of a tea cake than a tea bread … a wonderful recipe that’s NOT in any of my books. Also perfect for this time of year, and I would have NO problem adding a cup of raw cranberries and some walnuts to it!

M A R M A L A D E    C A K E

  • 1 ½ sticks butter (¾c.), room temp.
  • ¾c. granulated sugar
  • zest of one lime
  • zest of ½ orange
  • 3 lg. eggs, room temp.
  • ⅓ c. rough-cut orange marmalade (and another ⅓ c. below, for Glaze)
  • 2 TB. fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 ½ c. all-purpose flour, fluff with fork before measuring
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×5 loaf pan. Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer (hand or otherwise), about 5 min, until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl periodically.  Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in  ⅓ c. marmalade and the orange juice.  In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Fold them gently into the batter until just combined. Put batter into loaf pan and bake 50 min. until golden brown ~ knife into center of cake should come out clean. Remove from oven and cool 10 min. Put a wire rack on a cookie sheet. Turn cake out of pan and place it on rack right-side- up. While cooling, prepare Glaze:

In small saucepan, heat together until melted: ⅓c. marmalade, 1 Tb. butter, ¼c. powdered sugar. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over cake, allowing Glaze to drizzle down sides. Cool completely before serving.💛

Soooo Sleepy these short dark days . . .😴💤

Found this on the Internet:

Very handy little list . . .

Enjoy this season of love.♥️ Take time for yourself. You can do everyone else NEXT year … it should be a doozie!🎉  Merry Christmas, darling friends, Happy Hanukkah, Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Happy Kwanzaa! And happy just hanging around the house!🎁  


  • 2 c. flour, unsifted (just lighten it by stirring before measuring.
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. shortening: melted Crisco or butter, coconut or avocado oil
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 3/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 c. raw cranberries
  • Sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 9x5x3 bread pan. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together first five ingredients.  Stir in shortening, zest, o.j., and beaten egg. Fold in walnuts and cranberries. Pour into pan. Sprinkle on sanding sugar if you like. Bake 55-60 min. until knife comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing. ♥️

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  1. Pam Butterick says:

    Susan, this was JUST the “shot” I needed to keep me going until the next “shot” arrives….probably around March/April! I’ll be singing The Christmas Waltz all day! While I start Christmas baking! THANK YOU. 🎄💕🎄

  2. Dianne Anderson says:

    Always enjoy my viewing of your blog in the early morning darkness with musica, of course. I made 3 batches of a Christmas marmalade, different recipe, for friends. Turned out delicious and we have 5 jars in the freezer for us! Also burned a calendar, 2015, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Very cleansing! Burn away! Merry Christmas!

  3. Deb in Wales says:

    Hello Susan! I am still buzzing from the Crowdcast thingamajig. After the epic fail of my technology not able to cope with Zoom, I held out little hope, it became a case of I expected disappointment again, but my connection worked perfectly! I was able to join in the whole thing and it was wonderful, especially after months of so little contact with anyone in the “real” world and loneliness!

    Now it looks as if the virus has thrown us a curved ball, in the same week the vaccine is being rolled out. Trying not to think about it, but we’re all going to need each other more than ever now. And chocolate. And wine.

    Waving~~~Deb in Wales xoxo Nadolig Llawen

    • sbranch says:

      I saw you there Deb, I knew you’d made it through! Good for you. Yes, it’s an amazing way to connect … especially when you consider where you and I live! Quite amazing! Stay safe, it’s almost over, a couple more months, we did it this long! I always think of Britain and WWII and how LONG they had to PUT UP WITH IT. Total inspiration.❌⭕️

    • sue says:

      I’m proud of you. I still can’t figure how to get on Zoom or the crowdcast. I to am staying home alone, it’s going to be a long winter. I look forward to posts from you and Sue to keep me going. Nadolig Llawen. Sue

  4. Lori says:

    Merriest of Christmas wishes to you!

  5. Ann Collins says:

    Thank you for the two new recipes, I can’t wait to try them adapting them to Gluten Free! May you both have a wonderful holiday season as we all look forward to change in 2021!

    • Pat E says:

      I hope it works. I’ve been wondering if they would convert to GF. So difficult being diagnosed with celiac in your 60’s after years of enjoying baking and eating wonderful things. A big adjustment even after almost 4 years. Good luck.

      • sbranch says:

        I hope Ann comes back later and lets us know how she changed the recipe and how it came out!👏 HERE is a recipe for my gluten-free Orange Polenta Cake that is SO SO SO GOOD you don’t even care if it’s gluten free or not, but it IS! It’s a huge cake, you can divide the recipe and make two and have one to give away. I bet you could toss in a few cranberries too if you like. ❌⭕️

  6. charlotte m. says:

    I love my puzzle. I have to wait until we take the Christmas tree down to set the puzzle table back up, but I am patient. I just keep looking at the box! I am really excited to make the cranberry orange bread and the marmalade with cranberry sauce. Both sound so yummy and festive. I have been baking cookies. Distribution is hard this year. But still I bake. Merry Christmas Susan, Joe and Jack. We are looking forward to a much better year in 2021.

  7. Shirley Graham says:

    Have your new calendar & am ready to start the new year! Have so many things to be grateful for today – for one thing the sun is shining!! Still have a couple of cards to send out & I know I”m late, I’m late, for a very important date!!! Love your trees outside, I have a candle brightening my deck with a wreath & ribbon on the holder. Have a little tree up – always enjoy my tiny ornaments. Have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year & give Jack a hug for us in Ohio!!!

  8. Ridgely says:

    Another warm and cozy blogpost to chase away the grey and dark, thank you! Also, last year you had in your shop some wonderful candles that burn without dripping, but I don’t see them in the shop this year. Do you know where I can get them?

  9. Judy Haueise says:

    Thank you for your “letter” with wonderful recipes, and Christmas inspirations.

    I’m starting my cards with a pot of tea on the ready and added your Cranberry Orange bread and Marmalade tea bread on my baking list. That’s next!

    Merry Christmas!

  10. Kathy Madigan says:

    Wishing you all the blessings of this beautiful season and a better new year filled with good health, peace and love.

  11. Laura in Illinois says:

    I LOVE YOU TOO!!!!!

  12. Connie Leach says:

    Thank you for your optimism and bright joy this year..always beautiful!

  13. Sandi from the Cape says:

    What a wonderful Christmas post! I love all your trees and have borrowed the Swedish candle idea on your sideboard! I can’t wait to show my grandkids how it rings and twirls! I was so happy to attend your last zoom meeting and be the very happy recipient of your new puzzle! It’s not here yet but I hear the mail is slow. It will make for many happy hours of quarantine this winter. Thank you again! Have a lov-lee Christmas and enjoy the snow coming this week. I heard we may get 12″ – yikes! Keep well and healthy and I am looking forward to making your recipes and hearing what becomes of the ‘movie’! Happy New Year!

  14. Kristin Gjertsen says:

    Always cheering to hear from you and see what your family has been busy with. Lovely holiday. We are doing music, I am making a pot of soup, baking some bread, and plan to spend some time out of doors today and reading time. Merry Christmas, Susan. You have made this year much better for me simply by being you.

  15. Annette Baker says:

    You are a blessing. Thank you. Your missives bring such peace and joy. Your books all live in my home and among my favorites for gifting. This year another has popped onto my giftie list and if you don’t know it, check it out. It’s The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackey. Delightful for all ages. Love to you and yours. Annette

  16. Barb Murphy says:

    Thank you, thank you for the lovely blog. Here in eastern Iowa we had snow over the weekend. Along the fences it looks like God took a can of whipped cream and decorated them. The snow looks so fluffy and light.
    The recipes look delicious. I think I will make one, if not both, for New Year’s Day. What a nice way to bring in the year. A cup of tea, a warm slice of bread and a cozy quilt along with a good book or cross stitch/embroidery project.
    As my friend says, “Let’s kick 2020 to the curb and hope for a better 2021”.
    Sending blessings for Christmas and the New Year to you, Joe, Jack and all the girlfriends and their families.

  17. Denise Anderson says:

    Merry Christmas Susan to you Joe & Jack toooo! Really love reading your blogg. Stay healthy & safe. . . . . Hugs to all.

  18. Amy G says:

    <3 Sending lots of love and hugs <3 Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!! <3

  19. Amy G says:

    Oh! And Dec.21st is my birthday – I am SOO excited for the “Christmas Star” appearance. I feel like it’s my own special birthday present (although I know it’s not…lol) I just hope we have weather that cooperates 🙂

  20. Maggie Bresz says:

    I always love to read your posts. I took a picture of your cranberry orange tea bread recipe and plan to make it. It looks delicious. I’m sending lots of Christmas cards this year since I can’t see my friends. Merry Christmas to you and Joe.

  21. Barbara Anne says:

    I’ve worn glasses since age 11, so my favorite thing to do in a quiet home that’s ready for Christmas is to take off my glasses, turn on the Christmas tree lights, turn off the room lights, blow on the silvery “icicles”, and watch blurry rainbows dance top to bottom on the tree branches in and around the lovely and cherished ornaments. That with a mug of Constant Comment hot tea is sheer bliss!


    • sbranch says:

      I was Christmas Caroling with my Brownie Troop in a neighborhood filled with lights when I learned how to blur my eyes. I thought no one could do it but me, I didn’t even TRY to tell them!🤣 But you are making me remember it! Also, just realized, I NEED some Constant Comment! It’s that time of year!⭐️

  22. Margaret Matlock says:

    Wishing you and everyone a very Merry Christmas and a better New year. This one has not been so happy. Thank you for sharing your positive posts . They brighten my days.

  23. Marilyn says:

    Merry Christmas to you!! Wishing you all the best in this time of Covid and for giving me some positive thought to think about during the holidays. Listening to Christmas carols while on the computer.
    Take care and “see” you next year.

  24. Mary Lawrence says:

    I miss seeing your beautiful tree, i understand.We are not doing as much this year either.We did put up the tree and lights in the windows.But no large gatherings.Have a happy Christmas.

    • sbranch says:

      It’s so funny, it’s like delayed gratification in a way . . . miss the tree, but looking forward to next year and how WILD we’ll be about getting out all our very-much missed ornaments! It will be like doubling our pleasure.😂 And right now? Ahhhh, the peace of it.⛄️ Merry Christmas Mary!💫

  25. Shirley Garwood says:

    Thanks so much for the Cranberry-Orange Tea Bread recipe. It sounds so delicious.

  26. Linda Tondola says:

    Well here I sit for the next 10 days after testing positive for Covid at work. Your post came at a good time for sure! Not feeling toooo bad as long as I keep moving around. I made homemade donuts this morning, which I can taste but not smell, lol. I’ve got to be careful; since I’m not at work, all I want to do is eat! And boy do those cakes and breads you baked look yummy!

    I turned 60 last week! This is surely not how I wanted to start my 7th decade or end this year. But it is what it is.

    God is so good. The word that keeps popping up everywhere to me lately is JOY. And He is revealing JOY to me everywhere, even in this.

    Stay healthy, be blessed.

    • sbranch says:

      You too Linda, hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky ones this thing will just fly over! Donuts seem like the perfect start! Joy to you and yours . . . ❌⭕️❌⭕️

  27. Betty says:

    Still waiting for my puzzle. What should I do?

  28. VirginiaB says:

    What delicious recipes! I don’t bake anymore but I think I am going to have to after reading your post. And I love marmalade, the tarter the better, so I’ll have to try that too. But a question–what is sanding sugar? Whoops, I forgot about Google for a minute. I see what it is but never heard that term before. Thank you for all the delicious inspiration!

  29. Sherry Coleman says:

    Hi Susan! Loved “Home for Christmas” and always read “Christmas Joy” this time of year.
    I’m looking forward to getting my puzzle! Maybe today! I am decorating our Christmas tree today but might not have put the big one up if it weren’t for the grands. Anything to make it fun and traditional for them with all this muck going on in the world. As children usually do, they’re coming through unscathed. Merry, Merry Christmas to you, Joe, and Jack!

    P.S. I have never been able to figure out how to get the musica to play while I’m reading the blog. 🤷‍♀️

    • sbranch says:

      I think you can’t do it if you’re on an iPad or a phone . . . on a laptop you just click on Musica, it will open up in a new screen, so you can keep that open, and go back to the blog and listen while you read.💖

  30. Lillian Olmstead says:

    Dear Sue, Joe and Jack,
    Merry, Merry Christmas.
    Thanks for all the positives,
    Lillian xoxoxo

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

    Good afternoon Susan, Girlfriends. its a rainy, wet and cold day here today, all the decorations are up and waiting for Santa and we are keeping our fingers crossed that no one has to go into the hospital this holiday. hopefully we will get lucky. we are also looking at the possibility of snow here by the weekend, the snow levels keep going down. today is baking day, so definitely making the tea breads and making some extra to give to the neighbors and the postal carrier. we always leave a treat for the postal carrier. the cats are curled up by the fire and the chickens are in and out of the henhouse, they don’t like this cold weather. here is wishing you and Joe and Jack very Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year, all the best for the holidays. and to the girlfriends, Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year, may this be a better year and things go back to normal!!! hugs…. 😀

    • sbranch says:

      Blessings on you, Pat, and all your wonderful little critters! Here’s to 2021 and the light at the end of the tunnel!💫

      • pat addison (cave junction, OR) says:

        Thank you Susan, forgot the cats, they send Jack a Meowy Christmas wish, and know them lots and lots of tuna, salmon and gravy. don’t forget to check out the sky tonight for the Saturn/Jupiter conjunction they will be so very close… closest in over 800 years and look for the Christmas star. Merry Christmas everyone, and a Happy, healthy New Year. hugs…. 😀

  32. cathleen R corell says:

    I just made my chocolate macarons from the 1st christmas book I received. I love all your recipes. Will be making the Honey Ham from your every year for 20 plus year’s. thank you for all the great recipes

  33. Kerri Fabry says:

    Thank you for the bit of Christmas cheer today! Love to bake and appreciate the recipes! LOVED the chat with you and all the girlfriends- just what we all needed. The Santa book brought back so many memories. I would wait not so patiently for my grandma to arrive with her hand dipped chocolates and for Grandpa to come and crack nuts all day! Merry Christmas with love, joy and best wishes to you, Joe and all the girlfriends.

  34. JoAn Holdorf says:

    Thank you for the cranberry bread recipe! That is exactly what I need to make for a friend for Christmas!

  35. Catherine says:

    I was so excited to get my puzzle this week. I wish I had time to work it right now, but it will give me something to do after Christmas! The bread recipe sounds wonderful and I’ll be giving that a try too. Merry Christmas!

  36. Virginia White says:

    Love your new post as always! Always cheers me up! I have not received my puzzle yet. How can I check on that? Thanks!

  37. Phillip Sawyer says:

    Thanks for the marmalade recipes. I hope you’ll post pics of the big snowstorm this week!!! Here in Michigan we have had a whole 1/2 inch of snow this year. Last year we had 14 inches by now. Haven’t even got to use my new snow blower this year. Love getting snowed in and reading the Phoebe Atwood Taylor Asey Mayo mystery series. First snow day we get this year(teacher here), I making some of that cranberry orange bread!!! Looks delicious.

    • sbranch says:

      Weather is kookie! We were barely touched by the storm. Bits of white stuff here and there, but look at pics of Binghamton, NY if you want to see the real thing! Merry Merry!

  38. Marybeth Rogers says:

    You make everything beautiful Susan. Thank you for sharing.

  39. Debbie Boerger says:

    I’m looking forward to reading all the comments, a much loved past time. Not to mention learning all sorts of new things.
    Thank You for all you do, Dear Lady…actually, do you ever sleep? I know I’m the gold standard doing nothing for long stretches, so I can not imagine how you do the bookstore talks, write and illustrate books, produce innumerable things we all want, post beautiful, uplifting photos and on Twitter, stay up with the News and help me know what’s happening, cook wonderful meals, entertain (as you will again) and give love and nourishment to Joe and Jack….oh, and read every single comment and respond to a goodly portion.
    Whew!! Pant, Pant, my tongue is hanging out!!

    Hunker down all along the East Coast, gale warnings and heavy snow for some of you. Take care how you go. We spotted Saturn and Jupiter tonight right after sunset. On the Solstice they will be “touching” and appear extremely bright. I had my head stuck out of our roof window Sat night, Sun morning with the heater blowing on my tootsies. Lasted about 10 minutes, but I saw not 1 meteor. Oh well, I’ve seen lots of meteor showers over my 75 1/2 years, the best from the American high deserts. And I always got a lesson in star identification from my own sailor man.
    Supper’s ready, stay warm everyone…about 0 here in the early AM.
    Mucho love from ABFAB Maine

    • sbranch says:

      I could easily ask you the same thing!!😂 How I love the stars! You are lucky to have a starman in your midst! ❌⭕️❌⭕️

  40. Mary Brehm says:

    Hi Susan! I finally had a moment to myself. So I’m sitting down to your wonderful post. I’ve shut myself up in my little nest, aka my quiltroom. I’ve poured myself a glass of wine and my sweet daughter, Sarah is downstairs cooking dinner. Ahhhhhhh…..
    As usual I am not disappointed. How is it that you are so good at putting into words so beautifully everything that I am thinking a feeling. Truly Kindred spirits.
    I love that picture of the soup and grilled cheese. Is that cup Emma Bridgewater? So cute! I’m not able to watch TCM anymore because we downsized our cable package. Way to expensive. I didn’t realize when we did that we would loose the Turner channel. I did, however, discover that I can access all kinds of fun movies on my Roku on the tv in my bedroom. I just held up the remote and pushed the little button with the microphone on it and said, “Christmas in Connecticut” and POOF! it popped right up! I felt so powerful! I spent the rest of the evening happily tissuing and boxing Christmas presents. It was so nice. I got a chance to watch the copy of the zoom meeting. It was so nice to hear and see Joe as well. You crack me up with that stack of books under your lap top! Oh how I wish we could all chat back and forth in real time. Did you know that you can go “live” on Instagram? I have watched other people do it and it’s really fun. I follow David Lebovitz (do you know who he is?) He has written some wonderful cookbooks. I have one called, “The Perfect Scoop”. It’s all about making ice Cream! He has also written books about cocktails. He lives in Paris. He was doing a lot of live talks at the beginning of the quarantine featuring all kinds of fun cocktails. I didn’t make or drink all of them but I just loved sitting and listening to him talk.

    Your outdoor trees are so cheerful and pretty peeking in your windows. What a great idea. Tell Joe he did a great job. I just love the wreaths that he makes. My house is finally decorated. I wasn’t going to do a lot, but somehow, there is more out than I first intended. It’s happy and fun. I spent all day yesterday power cleaning and making the house sparkle. We are in for some snow tomorrow night so now I can just nestle in and play. Bake cookies, do some crafts, maybe even a little quilting.
    I think I may whip up a batch of that yummy cranberry bread. It looks wonderful. I even have the exact same bread pan!
    Do you know my daughter, Jessie, got me that adorable Recipe for a Happy Christmas print a few years ago. I just love it! Also, I love the daily quarantine questions. Helps to remind me to be positive and look on the bright side of things when I’m feeling grumbly. I honestly don’t know how you do it. Do you have bad days when you just can’t get out of your own way?
    Thanks again for being your wonderful self. Much love to you.

    • sbranch says:

      I think they use TCM to hold us hostage. It’s like the very thing that tips the scales. They tried not to give it to us, but we called and checked and somehow we got it… on two of our TVs, but not the third (guest bedroom, so it doesn’t matter as much). There are LOTS of old movies, complete and free on Youtube, and you can hook your computer to the TV to see them. Just in case you have withdrawals.💞 Yes, that’s an old Emma cup, good eye! We have two we use for soup! I’m so used to finding good in whatever, I usually don’t have bad days, but of course, sometimes they get through all my happy thoughts anyway. That’s automatically a very good day for a nap! ❌⭕️❌⭕️

  41. Audrey Anderson says:

    Lovely cheerful inspiring post Susan. Thank you! When I look at all the covid numbers across our country to the communities where my family lives I always take a quick check on Martha’s Vineyard to see how you’re doing. You’re right, we are almost there. Stay safe. Wishing you and Joe (and the kitties) a very blessed Christmas from Canada.

  42. Kate says:

    The lady in the Beatrix Potter movie was just in “The Trouble With Maggie Cole,” on PBS.. First time I had heard of her, but loved the series. This is my favorite time of year and it goes by much too quickly. I am always preparing for Christmas all year through. Your blog surely makes Christmas the magical time it was meant to be. Merry Christmas, Susan and Joe.

  43. DeAnna Jenkins says:

    Dear Susan,

    Your Jack makes my heart sing! And I LOVE your bread pan-adorable! Thank you for your Willards – especially this year; something wonderful to look forward to. Merry Merry Christmas!

  44. Lucia Ann France-Bryant says:

    I hope everyone has a safe and happy Christmas. Thank you for your beautiful words and pictures. We have to be thankful for all that we have and can now look forward to a “sane” 2021.

  45. Nanette Hill says:

    Everyday I come home from work and check for my puzzle; thus far no arrival. The Cranberry Bread is the “exact” recipe I have, which I received from a patient back in the 1990’s. I make it every year and give to my neighbors.
    Merry Christmas.

  46. Mary Jo L says:

    Wishing you, Joe and Jack a holly jolly Christmas and a very happy new year full of all the promise and hope for everything 2020 was lacking. You are a national treasure! God Bless You!!

    • sbranch says:

      I am so touched by those words. Mostly because I always use them when I talk about Mark Twain, so when you say it to me, I’m verklempt. 😘 ❌⭕️

  47. Elaine in Toronto says:

    Hi Susan, we brought our tree in to “settle” before we decorate it tomorrow. It will be the perfect day as we are expecting snow. Here in Toronto we are in lockdown due to the high rate of new Covid cases in Ontario. Grocery shopping has become a brand new experience. Some of the larger chains have erected shelters to protect shoppers from the weather as they wait in line. How nice is that? I’m waiting for my puzzle to arrive and I have saved your “Home for Christmas” book to read Christmas eve. That’s been hard especially after reading how much everyone loves your book. My retro Christmas circa 1954 is going according to plan. Santa has delivered my new baby doll a bit early and the whicker cradle I received in 1954 is ready to place under the tree with its precious memories. Happy Christmas to you and Joe, Jack, too and all the girlfriends. May 2021 just be normal! Hugs, Elaine

    • sbranch says:

      Been hearing about Toronto and wondering how you’re doing! And now I know! You are busy making magic and counting your blessings! Lovely, Elaine. Love and very best wishes for the coming year and the light at the end of the tunnel!💫

  48. MargotB says:

    Arnie has been off the coast of South America with his ship. I wonder if he saw the solar eclipse? I love those old movies, but we don’t get them. Love ❤️ the kitchen porch tree!
    So nice and peaceful nowadays. Cooking and baking. Thanks for the recipes! We love cranberries and marmalade too.
    No snow ❄️ here yet. We just went below freezing here, so I really appreciate the new 🔥fireplace.
    Handy tips!

  49. Troy Louise Seegmiller says:

    Thanks for the winter cheer! I received my adorable puzzle last week & am saving for a few cozy days in January. The cranberry/orange bread looks delicious as well as the orange marmalade cake. Will give both a try! As my Swedish grandfather would say, “God Jul” and many hopeful wishes for a happy New year.

  50. Nicoline says:

    Hello Susan,
    what a lovely Christmassy post!! It all looks so festive, you and Joe certainly know how to make things cosy!! Those pictures of the Orange Cranberry teacake look so yummy! I got the recipe printed and as I write, the house is smelling delicious, the cake is just out of the oven, and cooling…..I’m impatient to cut into it, haha! Did you use plain flour? I had self raising, and added some baking powder, it looks just fine. I did chop the cranberries, and walnuts too, they were done in minutes! So my tip is, if you have one of those rounded knives, with double handle, mostly used for herbs, use that, it works, and things are chopped in minutes!
    I’m also making a desert with orange and cranberries and slices of apple….cooked together, later I’ll add a yoghurty layer on top of crumbled cookies. So it’s a trifle/cheese cake thing….I saw it on TV last night, and I hope it’ll be good…..If it’s good, I’ll add the recipe……
    We’re back into another lockdown, started yesterday, will last till 19th of january…boo hoo, but on the plus side, more time for enjoying each others company!
    Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and a lovely, happy HEALTHY new year to you, Joe and Mr. Jack! Stay safe!!
    lots of love from us all, but especially from
    Nicoline OXOX

    • sbranch says:

      Well, I’m probably too literal, but the original recipe said we should cut those cranberries in HALF. I did three before I said NO.🤣 Plus I love the taste of cranberries . . . very sweet and sour type of cake! Your chopping method is brilliant, Nicoline! Love to hear about that trifle/cheesecake thing too, if it turns out! What kind of crumbled cookies? I don’t even know if we’re in lockdown here on the island, all I know is we’ve had over 300 cases in the last month and a half! So we locked ourSELVES down! Merry Christmas, love to you all, Jack says MEOW CHRISTMAS to Pumpkin! ❌⭕️❌⭕️ I forget Nicoline, why is your English so good? It’s perfect, you know all the little things like “boo-hoo…” But you do have a little accent . . . are you just one of those genius-with-languages people?😘

      • Nicoline says:

        Hi again! First of all, the Cranberry-Orange loaf is delicious, I should say WAS, because it’s almost gone….Everyone loved it, so thank you to both yourself and the girlfriend who first passed the recipe to you! It makes me smile, when I read that so many others are now baking it too, so there will lots of homes smelling so good!!
        That trifle/cheesecake thing was GOOD too! So here’s the recipe ( Not my own, from a Dutch cook/baker appropriately called Rudolph! Yes really!)

        CHEESECAKEMOUSSE with Christmas Apples
        for 6 people you will need;

        For the Christmas Apples;

        2 small sweet apples
        100 ml cranberry juice ( I used orange juice)
        1/2 a lemon
        2 cloves*
        1 star anise*
        *( I didn’t have either, so used a good pinch of ground
        cloves and some ground cardamom. I think you could also use a pinch of mixed spices for cookies)
        50 grams of sugar
        50 grams cranberries
        1 heaped teaspoon cornflour
        2 tablespoons of water

        For the Mouse you will need;

        300 grams cream cheese
        150 ml full fat Greek yogurt
        1 vanilla pod
        60 grams ( powdered) sugar ( I used a good squirt of agave syrup.)

        Bottom layer

        6 ( Christmas) cookies ( I used speculaas cookies which are full of cinnamon and spices. I think you could use something like digestives, with some cinnamon mixed though)

        Peel and slice the apples into wedges. Add to a pan, with the juice, lemon juice, cloves/spices, sugar and the cranberries.
        Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 5 minutes.
        (I squashed most of the cranberries, for extra color)
        Mix the cornflour with the water, and add and cook for another minute or so, then cool.

        For the mousse;
        Stir the cream cheese loose, adding the yogurt, mixing well.
        Scrape the vanilla seeds, and add, with the sugar to the yogurt mixture.

        For the bottom,
        break the cookies in small pieces, or you could crumble them even finer.

        Starting with the cookies, then yogurt, and the apple mixture on top, layer in small glasses or bowls, and

        Good luck! It’s pretty easy and fast to make, and VERY nice!! ( not for the hips though, haha)
        I hope you and many girlfriends will try it and enjoy it!

        The boys suggested I make it when we HOPEFULLY will be able to celebrate Chinese New Year…..But Valentine’s Day is also a good “excuse”, or a birthday, or just a plain old sunday!!
        Thanks for the compliment, I am NOT a genius-with-languages person, haha, if only……

        MEOW Christmas back from Kitty and Katy!!


        • sbranch says:

          THANK YOU Nicoline! ♥️♥️♥️ Don’t you have a PUMPKIN kitty? 😻

          • Nicoline says:

            no, the girls are called Kitty ( ginger little monster) and Katy, the tortoise shell sweet girl….
            I love the name Pumpkin, though!
            BTW, I lived in Toronto way back when I was a youngster….( from age 6 to almost 12), so that’s where I learned ( and thankfully never forgot) my English.
            But all children get taught at least a few years at high school….

            Enjoy the recipe and have a lovely weekend!

          • sbranch says:

            Oh well! I trick myself sometimes. I usually put pet names and kid names and parent names too when I have them, along with addresses of my friends, and next to yours was Pumpkin ~ now scribbled out and replaced with Kitty and Katy!! Ohhhh, Toronto! While young and formative! Perfect! Now I know! 💖

  51. Sharon Watson says:

    Morning Susan

    Reading over your blog once again your house looks so cozy I feel I could sit right down in your kitchen and share a cup of Christmas Tea with you with Jack on my lap. Imagination is everything. We are expecting a nor’easter here today in Pa. Putting on the tea kettle and keeping warm. Happy Day!

  52. Colleen van de Kraat says:

    Well goodness! I was finally able to sit down quietly and read this gift. Thank you for always sharing ‘musica’ with us, each post I hear something new and it feeds my soul!
    To all of you, I pray for a deep breath of hope as we begin our day-
    and a deep breath of gratitude as we prepare to sleep for the night.
    God bless and Merry Christmas!!!!!

  53. Sharon Byars says:

    The BESTEST post! You made everyone’s day better. I am making the marmalade cake and adding cranberries with slivered almonds. Thank you for all the positive thoughts. It is pretty wonderful around our home with twinkle lights and Christmas music and reading your Home for Christmas! xo

  54. Tracey says:

    Thank you Susan! I needed the daily Quarantine Questions … in fact, they will be daily questions even after quarantine (after quarantine has a nice ring to it!🙏). Nothing but love and gratitude to you! ⭕️❌⭕️ ❤️💚

    • sbranch says:

      I like them too! We need to keep ourselves as conscious as possible so we don’t accidentally slip into NON blessing-counting. Very bad place to be! Means when you see the sparkle on a tea cup, you don’t notice it, and forget to celebrate. That’s no good! ❌⭕️

  55. Janice Russell says:

    I know this may sound like a stupid question, but WHAT is “sanding sugar”? I’ve seen that term in a couple of recipes recently, and so I must have missed the memo.
    Love you so much. Love your Willard’s, your art, your books, your recipes, your outlook on life, your sweet spirit. Thank you for being a bright spot in so many lives.

    P.S. I recently ordered some things from your site & had such a nice visit with Sheri, who took my order. We have an Idaho connection. It’s nice to know that even the people who work for you are darling people too.

    • sbranch says:

      I think it’s a terrible name, but that’s what they call those large sugar crystals you sometimes see on baked goods. Why don’t they just call them Large Sugar Crystals. So much easier to understand! Oh yes, the people who work for me are the DARLINGEST. I’m the luckiest to have found them. They love you as much as I do and want everything they send from the studio to reflect that love. Makes me proud. 👏

  56. Merry Christmas, Susan. I think I will be making that cranberry tea bread soon! I received my puzzles yesterday. Thank you so much!

  57. Terri says:

    The poem you with the words “Backward turn backward” is also in Little Town on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    • sbranch says:

      How lovely. That book was published in 1935 and Elizabeth Akers Allen died in 1911. I like to think Laura and Elizabeth were kindred spirits. HERE is the rest of the poem . . . ♥️

  58. Lynn Marie says:

    So much to love about this pre-Christmas post:
    ☺Having the Christmas trees outside the windows so you can look out at them when the lights are off inside.
    ☺Reliving your visit to the Convent–one of my all time FAVORITE blog posts.
    ☺Your Christmas Book–I saved it until December and then took it along and read it while my husband was having some tests done.
    ☺”The Future” busily baking cookies
    Merry Christmas to you from Amish Country in Indiana, Susan and Joe!

  59. Sue reynolds says:

    You gift us with a vision of a gentle Christmas season. Funny how in this horrible year, we arrive at the end with a new pace. Our lives are slower, more gentle, and have become thoughtful expressions of the true Season. A gift really. The Christmas we had all hoped for is finally here. We are filled with gratitude. Yes, burn your calendar, but remember it was that year that got us to this beautiful day.

    • sbranch says:

      It’s probably good it came at the end of the year . . . we are better at the slowness now, and as your words show, even learned to like it.💞 This world was going waaaay too fast. God said, “GO HOME, stay DOWN. THINK about what you’ve been doing!”💖 My mother would have added, “You know the difference between right and wrong.”❌⭕️

  60. Sue Mackay says:

    Thanks Susan for the marmalade idea! I use orange marmalade in my cranberry sauce, but only a cup to a full pound of cranberries, so the difference will make it a jam.
    Such a festive gift.

  61. Regina Carretta says:

    good rainy chilly Seattle morning to you….I ordered your new book chapter and can’t wait for it to arrive, to “armchair travel” a bit….time for reflection, to breathe, to connect, and to try luvly recipes….to take care of our critters, and to celebrate quietly….love you, sweetie….take good good care and keep sharing your colors your art your friendship….\
    Regina, Seattle

  62. Lori C. says:

    Merry Christmas, Susan, to you and Joe and Jack!
    I just reread your Christmas book for the 4th time!! 🥰
    Looking forward to seeing the Christmas Star or Star of Bethlehem in the sky on December 21st. Hasn’t been seen since 1623.

  63. Karen B. says:

    I can almost smell the delicious cranberry bread. Yummy. Thank you for inviting us into your Christmas house. It’s always so warm and welcoming.
    Best to you, Joe and Jack.
    Karen B.

  64. Dawn Beavers says:

    Thank you for the recipes and inspiration to do some baking. After recovering from Covid I just have had a hard time getting into the Christmas groove. Finally got up the tree but not much else. Your blog with the yummy photos of breads and decorations was the boost I needed. I plan to try your Orange tea bread. Have a Merry Christmas and will be loolking forward to your new post.

    • sbranch says:

      You probably need to take it easy, don’t do a thing. Just look at your Christmas lights, get well, count your blessings while you get strong, so you meet the New Year with all the joy that’s in you.💝 Here’s to a MUCH BETTER 2021!

  65. Kindred Kate says:

    Such a nice long, warm, & Christmasy post, Susan!! I wish I could send you a picture of your “ almost done” jigsaw puzzle! I’m loving it & don’t want it to be finished! It’s the perfect pastime for a “ stuck-inside” chilly & wet day. I have my Pandora “Oldies Christmas Radio” music on while drinking my tea & doing your puzzle. Being a former children’s school librarian this is the PERFECT PUZZLE for me. I am giving several away as Christmas presents to other librarians & a sister-in-law addicted to reading! I have to drag myself away from it to bake my Thumbprints, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Cranberry Crunch Bark & Cranberry Pistachio Blondies, while my 2 “ orange marmalade” kitties watch! Uh oh… & now you made me want to go out & buy more cranberries for your tea bread & marmalade! I too am obviously enjoying the non-rushed feeling this year of baking &/decorating (we also hang my husband’s battered childhood stocking.) My husband is joining in with the Christmas cookie baking this year too! Yay! We are having his 91 year old mom over for dinner & a movie tonight; guess what we will be watching? David Copperfield, the 1935 version on Amazon Prime! Thank you for the suggestion. Have a cozy Christmas💕

    • sbranch says:

      What fun it is to laugh and play! 🎶 The visuals in that movie are WONDERFUL! Have fun Kate! Kindred spirit!❌⭕️

  66. Regina Carretta says:

    and a dear Susan , Part 2, from rainy Seattle…..Patrick Dexter, a cellist from Ireland, with his precious dog, plays the Wexford Carol….we need music, and it is a salve for the soul…. youtube.com/watch?v=ZQi2rX56-hs with love from Regina, Seattle

  67. Viffy says:

    One of your best posts yet!

    I cannot wait to make the Cranberry-Orange Tea Bread. Thanks for the recipes here. Lots of fun things to try.
    Love, love, love the pictures of your decorations (the Bird Tree is so cute) and your sleepy, sweet kitty cat.

    P.S. I’m with you about burning the 2020 calendar in the fire pit (except that your calendars are so lovely!)

  68. Ellen Efros says:

    The picture you have hanging on your wall of the old man with a pipe brings back so many memories. We had the same picture along with a picture of what I guess would be his wife, hanging on the wall in our house in Germany. I would tell everyone that it was my Oma and Opa. I still have those pictures in storage. Thanks for reminding me. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

    • sbranch says:

      I think they probably came from Germany, but somewhere, sometime, they were copied over here, and for a while you could very often find them in antique stores! When I found mine, he’d been separated from his wife, but I always thought he looked like Santa on his day off … or maybe Heidi’s Grandfather! Merry Christmas Ellen!

  69. Karen Howell Burton says:

    Thank you for all the joy of life and simple things that you share❤️. We too have our Christmas tree outside with lights on and it’s so wonderful to see them from the house. We made it through a horrendous year! Holding each other up is love, pure love. Thank you for your efforts all year in holding us up🥰🎄🥰

  70. Barb says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Susan. Thank you to Joe and to Jack for all his wonderfulness. Cranberry tea bread sounds YUMBA!

  71. FayE in CA! says:

    Lucky nieces to have you as their aunt! That is an understatement, for sure!!
    Wonder if you guys ever slumber-party-chat about the memories and how the girls feel about them now as young women?

    “Enchanted” is a wonderful tease for the book! Time flies so fast and before we know it we will be camped out by our mailboxes, drooling in anticipation to get our hands on your new book.

    Continued good health, Susan, to help you finish another dream come true.

    FayE! AKA Squeeky Sneeky Tinsel-Toes

    • sbranch says:

      Of all the trips we’ve taken, that one was the best. Maybe because it was our first. But I think it’s because not only did I get to see it through my eyes for the first time, but also through their eyes.♥️ We gathered so many little souvenirs, cereal bowls from Paris with their names on them (they chose French names so THAT’S what’s on their bowls😂), dog pins from an antique store, little, yellow, rubber, gumby-like toy men they loved . . . all of which I saved here. Every so often I surprise them with a memory! I still have a couple of their little dresses! This little book will be their BEST surprise. Nothing like family love! ❌⭕️

  72. Michele Blumberg says:

    Enjoyed your mention of Mother Seraphina and the nuns- I have been buying their candles regularly since you mentioned them many months ago. Just love them! Thanks for introducing me to them.

  73. Linda says:

    Such sweetness…your thoughts, words, and paintings— not to forget your pics and music..you make our world sweeter. Merry Christmastime to you, joe, and jack. Thanks for sharing ❣️

    Linda d

  74. julia walker says:

    Merry Christmas Susan! Just read your wonderful Christmas book before sending to my sister in N.C. My daughter read it while visiting over the weekend. We both thought it lovely but I especially since it reminded me of me when I was a child in the ’50s! Again, thank you for sharing your life with us.

  75. MER says:

    Merry Christmas Susan! Last week I stepped out to my porch to turn off the Christmas lights for the evening and discovered a box that had been delivered. I picked it up and saw it was from Susan Branch. I had totally forgotten about ordering the puzzle! I guess I had gone back and forth trying to decide if I should splurge on myself (again 😜). I managed to surprised myself with a Christmas gift! I think I’ll save it for the depths of winter when I always think I’m going to have more free time. Something to look forward to for sure, but every time I spot the cheerful box on my dining room table it makes me smile. I totally agree with you about sitting in the glow of Christmas tree lights. Every year I bring my tree home and, after getting it in the stand and letting it acclimate, I put lots of lights on it and leave it that way for a few days. It’s the coziest feeling to live in the warm light of the tree and candles in the windows. I can see why people have them in their windows year round. The snow is flying and I hear the wind picking up now. If I don’t lose power I hope to bake some cranberry bread tomorrow on my snow day off. Hoping we don’t get too much snow on the Cape, I don’t mind shoveling snow except when it’s heavy. Looking forward to seeing the wonderland in the morning and finding out if Harvey Leonard was correct in his forecast! I’ve got my wood for the wood stove at the ready. Wishing everyone out there a safe and happy Christmas, it will be wildly different like everything else, but we will make it special nonetheless.🎄🎅🏻♥️

    • sbranch says:

      You already have, Mer! Our snow is gone over here. It’s cold, but the rain took it right away . . . same with you? I LOVE it when I forget I ordered something!🤣

  76. Barbara from Wolverine Lake MI says:

    I made a double batch of your cranberry marmalade last night, taking to work to pass out to my work friends. I have made it probably 5 times now. it’s perfect on English muffins on Christmas morning! I had made (sewed) easy slipcovers for my department early in December for our work/computer chairs. so easy. I bought several Christmas fabrics which are 45 in wide (I think) and which is the perfect width of the chairs. Seam at the top, seam at one side, hem along the bottom. picture them like a pillow case – you just slide them over the top of the chairs. Then, I bought wide ribbon. wrapped around the lower part (around the ‘pillow case”) and attached a big bow at the back (made from same ribbon). the chairs look like Christmas gifts. Bought everything at JoAnn Fabrics on Black Friday – all the fabrics and ribbons on sale. Cost about $6 per chair. anyway the co-workers were so surprised and loved the look and it made everything so festive. Merry Christmas everyone!

    • sbranch says:

      What a FABULOUS idea . . . your office must be so cute! And you brought everyone together in joy of the moment! I just love it Barbara! That, along with the Cranberry Marmalade must make you the Christmas elf for your office! Thank you for keeping spirits bright!👏👏👏 Go. Be. Love. The world needs you….♥️♥️♥️ And so you did. ❌⭕️

  77. Peggy Ott says:

    Good Morning Susan! Beautiful, comforting read this morning. I always make sure I have the perfect time to sit down and cozy in for your read. I don’t know if it is because we are of the same age/time period, but it is as if I could write the same things. Our Christmas decorating has been of the same as yours, changed up slightly, not has much pulled out, enjoying the process over the past month since Thanksgiving. And the story of “Backward, turn Backward”, so took me back. For I to would cozy up on the sofa, with lights out and Christmas tree lights on and just sit by myself (watching Mom in the kitchen cleaning up). I would sit in silence, study each ornament and the sparkle of each light. And to this day, I love to end my Christmas Day the same way. Peaceful and Warming to my Soul. Thanks for all the memories and for giving us all “Hope”, that the tomorrows, will warm all of our hearts. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Joe!

    • sbranch says:

      You’ll be happy to know I received a charming email the other day from an eighth grader, an artist, working her own book. Around here, we’re all the same age! We may not do much with TikTok … but we are GREAT at reminding and telling the world of what joy there is in the quiet. Good in the kitchen too! Good at finding joy in the small stuff (secret of life!) Everybody’s got something! 💖 Merry Christmas dear Peggy . . . ♥️♥️♥️

  78. Stefanie Price says:

    Thank you as always for a peek into “sanity”…all things as “normal” as they can be…Even while trying to keep Christmas as always this year, one really has to dig deep to keep oneself “sane”!!!…this is a wonderful and very timely blog post…Thank you dear one, and Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!

    • sbranch says:

      Awareness of the joy is helping us get through. Think joy, and joy appears!♥️ Thank you Stefanie, Happy Christmas to you and yours!

  79. Lynn Cooper says:

    My puzzle arrived recently and I placed it on my puzzle table in the basement and after Christmas that is where you will find me. Today would be the perfect day to work on it but I have to vacuum and dust and then wrap gifts. The puzzle will have to wait for a few days. It beckons me when I eye it down there.

    Have a wonderful Christmas. I love the pictures of all of your trees. They are lovely. It is still snowing here in western Mass. and I am warm and toasty in here with the dogs and cat. It will be a white Christmas after all.

    • sbranch says:

      I know, I’m busy too. But I have the puzzle on a table in the living room. And while I SHOULD be wrapping gifts, I accidentally stop every time I go through the room and do a bit of it. There are little chunks of pieces that have found their mates all over the top of the table now! Happy Christmas, Lynn!⛄️

  80. Lamar Shahbazian says:

    I received my puzzle the other day and am so excited! It’s a gift for the librarian at my kid’s elementary school. She is the BEST librarian ever and also loves cats. They are in college now so I haven’t seen her in awhile, but this will be a good excuse for a socially distanced visit.

    Thanks for your cheer and your recipes. My daughter arrives home for the holidays and I can’t wait to pick a new recipe to try out with her.

    • sbranch says:

      Don’t you LOVE it when you have something you KNOW someone is going to like? My favorite! Spreading the love Lamar! Have a wonderful time with your daughter!♥️♥️♥️

  81. If my count is correct, I am comment number 340…you’ve delighted, inspired, and cheered on 340 of us…thanks so much!

    I couldn’t resist trying your Cranberry Jam recipe and I’m happy to say it had a wonderful aroma bubbling away in my 1950 Hotpoint (which is still a workhorse, I love it, and yes, you inspired that purchase!) It tastes wonderful and was oh-so easy to make. I spooned it into Mason jars, topped each with a cheery bow, and secretly delivered it to friends & neighbors (socially distanced, of course, mailbox and porch surprises.) Thanks again for all you do to keep us going in what is sometimes a higgledy-piggledy world. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

    • sbranch says:

      Elf-work at it’s highest most elegant best! Such an easy thing, yet it has Christmas written all over it! Sharing the love, Mary. ♥️♥️♥️

  82. Robyn says:

    I made two loaves of the Cranberry Orange bread this morning–one to keep and one to give. It is so delicious, and comes out exactly like the picture, so it is a solid recipe. Mine did not need the full baking time; keep an eye out (every oven has its own personality!)… waiting for it to cool was the hardest part. Thank you for sharing this cozy and yummy bread.

    • sbranch says:

      The original recipe called for 60 minutes, which is what I baked mine for, but I thought it might have been a few minutes too many. So I wrote the new receipe at 55-60 min. Did you do less than 55 min? Waiting for it to cool is the worst! Must have one-hour of necessary chores to concentrate on in order to let it happen. I’m so glad you liked it Robyn!💝

  83. Pat says:

    Hi Susan,
    I’ve spent some quiet nights listening to Christmas music and working on your new puzzle…very peaceful with the snow falling outside. One suggestion, if I may….it would be nice if there was a larger picture of the finished puzzle to reference included in the box. Just a thought. Wishing you a joyous Christmas.

    • sbranch says:

      Excellent Idea, I will request that from the manufacturers. Not sure they will do it … everyone cares way too much for money these days, but I will definitely ask!♥️

  84. Debbie Boerger says:

    Thank you seems inadequate for all the warmth and cheer you give, Susan.
    I’ll bet your outdoor Christmas trees are now covered with snow, the lights shining through. Our house is full of cheer as well. Tom and I have packed up the cookies to be mailed. He baked All day Wednesday, batch after batch.
    I kid him about doing it when he’s 90, when he’ll have great grand kids to send them to. And Thank You for that lovely video of the “senior” guy lifting his weight, training so he could lift his grand daughter to place the star on the tree. So sweet, it brought a few Happy tears to all four of our eyes 😉

    Wonderful to have a fluffy snow, supposed to be 8″ before it’s over.
    Wonderful…if you do not have to be out and about. Our most excellent highway crews out here in Eastern, coastal Maine, are busy, busy on the highways and byways. Some are dear friends, so take care Sam. We are sharing costs with the 4 “Dirt Road” families to plow our road, and our door yards. Tom went out early and put the car in nose out, so that the trusty Subaru can get out more easily in the morning for driving to the PO to mail more packages.

    He’s been out multiple times clearing accumulations so all the birds can perch to get to the seeds. And the corn feeders for the crows, jays and grey squirrels. The suet feeders are now on the hooks by the porch door, so they are protected by the eaves…..and Mr. Tom can more easily refill them.
    Sending you buckets of Love and Thanks, Dear Lady,
    Debbie in Beeeutiful snowy Maine

    • sbranch says:

      Sounds lovely, Debbie. I always laugh when I see our snow shovel IN the house, and the windshield wipers on the car sticking straight out . . . Joe prepping for a storm! Your house must smell amazing with all that elfin industry! Enjoy Girlfriend! Hugs to you both!⭐️

  85. Carol Nicholls says:

    Your opening about winter solstice–it is even better when you know the following-‘Christmas Star’ will be closest visible conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 800 years on December 21st, winter solstice in the Southwestern sky. Imagine -the “Christmas Star” I hope I can see it. They say it will look like the star in all the depictions of Jesus’ birth.

  86. Millie Fosnar says:

    YUM!!! Susan the cranberry orange bread is delicious!!! Made one for me and one as a thank you for my neighbor who mows and blows our grass and driveway. His wife called to say how good it was and wanted the receipe which I gladly printed out. So you see you have spread the joy of sharing this Holiday season. Love and Peace to you and yours this Holiday Season and into the New Year!!! Millie

  87. Lorrie says:

    Merry, merry days to you, dear Susan (and Joe). I always love your posts filled with the delights of home. I saved it to read until I finished school before the Christmas break. Now for a week of present making, wrapping, baking, and sitting dreaming by the fire and the tree before the big day (which will be just the two of us). Thank you for all the beauty and the hope you bring to this corner of the blogging world.

  88. Cathy from Golden, CO says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy “NEW” Year to you, Joe and Jack !

  89. Ruth Winkler says:

    Merrie, merrie, and thank you for the tea cake and cranberry orange bread recipes. I shall try for one of those for sure. We just were greeted by almost two feet of snow here in Vermont. Surely Santa can make it this year with his trusty team. I wish you and Joe and Jack the best wishes for a contented Christmas.

  90. Julie says:

    Merry Merry Christmas to one of the biggest, brightest ornaments on this world’s tree. I so appreciate your brilliance, humor, and insight not only on your website but on twitter too. We think so much alike. You remain a mentor and inspiration, thank you for sharing so much with us. The impact you’ve had…infinite. Looking forward to Winter Solstice and new beginnings.

  91. Beth from Iowa says:

    Merry Christmas Susan!

    My husband and I usually spend Christmas in Sioux City, IA – I whisper “Merry Christmas Willard” as we hit the town limits – unfortunately won’t be doing that this year but will whisper from my home!🎄 We met the family on Zoom – not the same but actually pretty fun. Just about all the thirty-somethings in our family have had the virus but fortunately mild symptoms. We are really kind of rocking this whole hermit thing – will have to “reboot to normal” after the vaccine😎!

    Thanks once again for the wonderful post – you are sending out so much light and bright goodness!! Merry Christmas and a Super great New Year🥳🥳🥳!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      You DO? Oh I’m sure he LOVES that! Very sweet of you! Love that you’re rocking it. I’m rocking it too!😂 I’m glad all your “kids” got well!👏 Major blessings! ❌⭕️

  92. Marigold says:

    Thank you, Susan, for reminding us of the simplicity and the beauty of the Christmas season. This is proving to be a painful time for me and my family, but your blog always brings a smile to my heart. Blessings to you, Joe, and Jack now and in the coming year.

  93. mary spring says:

    …hi Susan…’haven’t written in awhile… but I just finished reading the excerpt from Enchanted and I just needed to tell you ( but you know already ) what a gift you and Joe gave ( and still always do ! )… I’m really at a loss for words…these days have taken a toll…but because of you and what you give us all I still try to find gratitude…still so much to be thankful for regardless…and thank you for such a beautiful post…’wishing you and Joe a most wonderful and blessed holiday season !! …with love as always…

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you so much Mary. I’m happy you liked that first chapter! We learned so much on that trip! It’s not what we did for the kids, it’s what the kids did for US! Loved every moment of it.💞

  94. Beverly Brewer says:

    Dear Susan and Joe—Towards the end of your lovely post, you suggested because we are all having smaller Holiday gatherings with less fanfare, we could indulge ourselves a little more this time for our well being and joy. One of the GFs mentioned a few posts ago how she so enjoyed walking barefoot in her backyard with her dog. Years ago, I read a book about “grounding” or “earthing” where the author touted the health benefits of bare feet coming in contact with the earth’s natural electrical energy. He maintained touching the soil without shoes can recharge the body’s own electrical system to protect and heal. During winter months, there is grounding equipment to produce the same effect. Being outside with the “feel good goodness” of nature is better than we thought, according to the author. And, after all, Nature is the greatest show on earth!
    Another GF mentioned how she was using the quarantine time to learn to play a musical instrument. She suggested several choices, among them a harmonica, which reminds me of a time when I worked at Jo’s pretty tea room. An older gentleman came to me and asked if he could play the Happy Birthday tune on his harmonica to a lady at his table who was celebrating her birthday. I told him that would be delightful and he proceeded to do so. Soon, the rest of the tea room customers stopped their conversations and laughter to listen and sing along together. Another person at an adjacent table asked the gentleman to play the tune to someone who was also celebrating a birthday and the customers also sang in unison. The gent graciously played a few more different lively tunes to the delight of everyone there, as sort of an impromptu mini concert. Music truly does bring us all together, even if it starts out with a sweet and simple tune on a harmonica. On a larger scale, the flash mob orchestra you showed on Twitter was just beautiful, with all the passers-by stopping to listen to the music and chorus as the musicians and singers joined the group.
    Also wanted to say how lovely the white rainbow was and one photo in particular was quite meaningful to me. Weathered wooden stairs were in the foreground with the rainbow beyond. It looked like a stairway to heaven to me! Not as ornate as the pearly gates might be, but just as stunning in a rustic, humble way, much like the birthplace stable of Christ.
    Love and Merry Christmas to you both and all the GFs from Bev

    • sbranch says:

      Lovely Bev, thank you! Your wonderful story of the man with the harmonica reminded me of a favorite quote by Henry Ward Beecher. It’s short and to the point … I found it when writing about my girlfriend Siobhan and the tea party she made for her friends in a river in A Fine Romance. “Blessed are the happiness makers!”♥️

  95. Rhea says:

    Hi Susan!
    Such an uplifting lovely christmasy post. I loved it. Making the tea cake for sure today and because it has fresh cranberries and orange juice I’m going to consider it healthy. Trying to get back into healthy eating as I have fallen completely off the wagon due to Covid. I’ve eaten my way through quarantine knowing that I’m doing the right thing by staying in besides our morning walk with the dogs that I now call P.E. insisting that our 18yr. old son walks with us now too which really means that the boys throw the frisbee while I manage both of the dogs happily as I see them running and laughing their way around the neighborhood. Puts a big smile on my face. It’s the small things. SOOOO, lets talk about the puzzle. Best puzzle ever Susan!! You nailed it. Its going to be completed today and we can’t decide if we just start over and do it again because its that good or pull out one of our old ones that can’t even come close to the satisfaction of yours. Did you decide to make this because of Covid or did it just happen that way? Either way, perfect timing. You probably kept many people sane by giving them such a wonderful project to do. Took us 4 days purposely saving it to last as long as possible. Thank you and have a lovely Christmas snuggled up in front of your fire with Joe and Jack.
    P.S. Please put puzzle making on the top of your list!!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      It was Covid! We were trying to think how to perk things up! I’m so happy you like it! I hope I get to make more! Love hearing from you Rhea, PE is the perfect name for our morning walks!😂❌⭕️

  96. Ellen Downing says:

    I am new to your blog. Was introduced to you in November by a good friend. She shared your book A Fine Romance and your November blog and I am so grateful. Being lost in your beautiful world is so comforting…I find it hard to leave. Love the idea of burning the 2020 calendar in the fire pit! We have a pit we could use in the Adirondacks BUT after this last snow fall I don’t think we can find it! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful life…I enjoy seeing your kitchen. I had the same stove you have in our home for 40 years in CA. We sold the house to best friends with the stove in it…it still is being used. An original Gaffers and Sattler 1955 range…still have the instruction booklet too!
    It is a beautiful world…we just need to pay attention…like you I wouldn’t trade the East for the West…I love living in upstate NY.

    • sbranch says:

      Welcome Ellen! You’ll meet lots of wonderful kindred spirits here in the comment section of this blog! 💞 Merry Christmas!

  97. Carol Buchert says:

    Dear Susan,
    I enjoy all of your posts. Each one has many treasures to read. Thanks!

    In the picture with the lamp shade that is square and red, I want to ask about the print or drawing on the wall above it. I would love to know the artist. I bought a painting at an antique and resale shop in Florida. It is about the same size. If you could please let me know, I would be so appreciative.
    Your biggest fan, Carol from Louisiana

    • sbranch says:

      It’s an old etching of Main Street in Stratford Connecticut and the house where Joe grew up, signed by R. Treat. Hope that helps!

  98. Hello Susan!
    Thank you, once again, for a lovely and heartwarming treat to enjoy reading. I’m officially on my winter vacation from teaching. Two glorious weeks lie before me without having to teach via Zoom. My partner, Brett, is also a teacher, and we’re excited to not have to be glued to our laptops for 6+ hours a day. I saved your recent post to enjoy once my vacation started, and I’m so glad I did. Vacation starts now!

    So, I wanted to thank you for something else. I’m the 2nd oldest of 5 kids, and I relate to your description of enjoying a quiet house once everyone else went to sleep. It’s been my tradition to spend the night at The Burrow (a name we call our family home ever since reading the first Harry Potter book 2 decades ago) on Christmas Night. I like to sleep on the couch next to the tree-even though I’m 46 years old 😂. My partner holds the fort at home (we don’t have kids but lots of farm animals and house pets).

    My parents are a few years older than you. They have similar stories of growing up in the 50s and coming of age in the 60s, but my parents are conservatives and my mom a devout Christian. We have had our differences politically and religiously but have always managed to find common ground despite the brainwashing of talk radio and FOX news. My mom is what a Christian is meant to be-loves everyone, opens her home to strays-both human and critter-gives to those in need-both her time, love, and financial support-and everything else Christ stood for (despite what evangelicalism seems to have become lately). Unfortunately the “45” of it all has certainly brought a wrench into our relationship and with the virus keeping us all apart, it’s been even more challenging to find common ground.

    I mailed them your Christmas book in November, and my mom enjoyed reading it while she waited patiently for my dad to undergo his immunotherapy for his bladder cancer (that too has been incredibly challenging for them to endure). Your book has brought joy to my mom who has born the brunt of caring for my dad. She said, “I like this woman!” You both share the Pollyanna view of the world, something she passed on to me.

    Susan, you have given me and my mom something new to share and enjoy together. I occasionally send her blog posts that you wrote and that I think she would enjoy. I’ll be dropping off copies of your memoir books (all 3) so she can enjoy reading more about your extraordinary, and remarkably, ordinary (in a marvelous way) life.

    She loves seeing the mixture of pictures, watercolors, and handwriting-as do all of your Girlfriends. So, you have a new fan. Her name is Antoinette. She was born in Sacramento, CA in 1944. She and my dad live in San Jose, CA. You remind me so much of her, and my hope is that through your books we can continue to find common ground and form new memories.

    Thank you so much.
    Love and hugs from our farm to your home on the island.

    • sbranch says:

      I can’t tell you how much your words mean to me. You made me feel like my book was a bridge between two wonderful people, you and your mom! In these politicized days I always feel we have so much more in common than not. Especially YOU two! 💞 Prayers for your dad.🙏 And especially for this new year. 2020 has been a TRIAL! I am happy to see it in the rear view mirror. Love to you Susan, and please give my love to your mom. Merry Christmas.♥️♥️♥️

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      Oh, Susan, your Beautiful letter to Susan B is beyond wonderful, and a lesson for everyone, especially for me, who is way too intolerant of a huge chunk people who supported the “45”. Your mother is my age. What a loving, caring, sharing person she raised in you…..
      Debbie in Maine

  99. maggie b in Nevada says:

    Thank you once again for sharing the loveliness around (and in) you with us. Your blogs are such a balm and a delight and I so look forward to settling into the comfort of each one. Thank you!
    I had gathered the ingredients for a cranberry-orange bread before I saw this last post, and decided to use that recipe instead of another one because it looked more like a bread than a cake, which is what I wanted for my morning tea. I made it a couple of days ago and have been enjoying it so much. It is is so Christmasy-delicious!
    My daughter just sent me Home for Christmas (from my wish list). I didn’t peek! The cover is so pretty she just tied it with rustic string.
    Happy Christmas, Susan, to you and Joe and Jack and the House of Creativity.

  100. Pauline Wyss says:

    Dear Susan,
    It was so sweet of the “Unlikely Story” bookshop to host the Crowdcast. So the next week, we ordered your Christmas book from them and told them how much we appreciated their generosity. I can’t wait of my book to arrive.
    I was amazed to see your Cranberry/Orange bread recipe!! It’s exactly like an old family recipe, the only difference is the amount of cranberries. Our recipe calls for 2 cups of whole cranberries and the bread is bursting with that cranberry flavor.. I’ve been sending copies in our Christmas cards this year. What fun to see it in your blog!
    Have a wonderful Christmas! Pauline in Wisconsin

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