So much news, and all-all-ALL of it is good! Isn’t that wonderful? Do you find yourself smiling more these days? I do! Everything seems more beautiful than ever before. I am almost giddy sometimes! I think it’s pure unadulterated appreciation for this start-over time we are having, being with friends again, making wonderful plans! Let me share some of that with you! 🚢🥂🚂 MUSICA!🎵🎶 Tweet, tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet! 🎵
Such a springtime it’s been! Has it ever been prettier? I don’t think so. Each bloom has been like a marker, part of a seasonal parade, I’ll catch you up ~ the wisteria and the clematis has come and gone . . . . . . the sun rises with an exclamation point and the garden sings out “Yes!” And I go get the camera. The peonies were gorgeous this year! Utterly utterly…
And this one, given to me by my girlfriends last spring when my mom died ~ just the perfect thing ~ a living tribute that will come up every year with a surprise of beauty and sweet reminder of my mother. Just like her, clean, sweet, and simple on the outside, complicated, and one of nature’s wonders inside! Never stops with the giving. Joe and I just made reservations for the TRAIN … we’re going to California in September, in our room with a view, to hug and kiss my family (squeal), and have a family reunion and celebrate our mom/grandma’s life and all she was and is to us. 💞
The rhododendrons and the dogwoods bloomed beautifully ~ and as usual, I thank Mrs. Bowditch, the woman who moved into this house with her husband and four children in 1949 and planted so much of our romantic garden (we’re the caretakers now) .. they’ve come and gone ~ as all things do, and so has the mock orange, the wedding bouquet of our garden! I am in the garden often these tender spring mornings…🌱
Now it’s time for the foxgloves . . .
The roses are blooming too . . . . . . best roses I’ve had in years! Even the beautiful, fragrant, peach-colored “Just Joey’s” which bloom like mad in California, but until this year, not so much here! They’re doing great!
And the parade marches inside, into my little vases that line…
…the little shelf above my kitchen sink. Joe laughed the other day when I told him this shelf is the very best thing they put in this house! Pure genius! My wand, my Beatrix Potter people, little vases and flowers! Birdfeeders on the other side of the windows with view of the garden! Everything I need!
I’ve been drying laundry outside and airing the quilts on breezy days ~ with wide blue skies, sunshine, sea breezes, and birdsong! It’s truly the best musica anywhere . . . 🎵 🎶🎵 🎶
I go out with my scissors to cut flowers and look back through the screen door to see Jack on his ironing board perch, watching me like a hawk! He stops me in my tracks. Everything is Him!
When he sees me looking at him, he starts flirting immediately, rolling over and squirming and almost falling off the ironing board!
He can’t help it if he’s adorable!
We pulled the tiny fountain out of the barn, filled it with water, and surrounded it with porch flowers . . .
And Joe planted our new Dahlia garden. It’s our first one ~ it’s SO exciting… the tubers arrived, we got 23 different varieties . . . and I went out and made a schematic on paper to “decorate” with the different colors, so Joe would know where to plant them.
He did a gorgeous job … Everywhere you see a green stake is a different dahlia, all sizes, shapes, and colors ~ can’t wait until they bloom. Like a little gift under the tree that we can’t unwrap for weeks!
Doesn’t it look organized? And you know what else we did in this brand new world where we’re allowed to leave the house sometimes? We bought a new car! There it is! It’s actually a 2020, but new to us, we have joined the Subaru Forester club … isn’t it cute? I love it but, it looks like every other car on the road! We’re never going to find it in the Costco parking lot! I’m still not quite used to the push-button start. We’ve only had one car ever since my old 1982 Volvo finally said bye-bye (after 40 years of perfect service ~ I’m of the “if it ain’t broke” school of thought)! All we’ve had is the van for the last year … we’ve been joined at the hip. Now I can go somewhere, and Joe can go somewhere else, and all at the same time! How novel! Note: Rhododendrons and the wisteria . . . see how fluffy?
But I digress, we’re talking dahlias . . . and LOOK! Our first milestone, they ARE coming up! (One worries. Actually, two worries.)
Every morning, after checking on the dahlias, out to the woods we go . . . to walk the sun-dappled dirt road through the shady green to where the pond opens to the sea . . .
The wonderful thing about walking on dirt instead of asphalt, is how kind it is to your knees! Also, less breathing of car fumes… years and years of doing this adds up!
These days (except when we get to the sea where we take them out), we walk with AirPods in our ears … Joe has one, I have the other, and we listen to the same book (from my iPhone) … it’s Hamnet now, a not-THAT fictional story of Shakespeare’s son … who’s name was actually Hamnet … it’s finely woven and beautifully written with the few Shakespeare facts we do know. . . so it’s fact-based . . . we’re only a few pages into it, but so far, I’m loving it. We love historical novels. If any of you, hint-hint, think you might be visiting Shakespeare’s home in the future, this would be a fun read!
This is the actual house of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne (Agnes) Hathaway. Joe has to watch his head! Look how crooked it is! And still standing! It’s wonderful! Can you imagine how she would feel if she knew? But again, I digress . . . we’re supposed to be walking now! Here we go… MUSICA
These days there’s lots of action around the water’s edge . . . and when you’re on foot, you don’t miss seeing the little things . . .Me, too . . .
Lots of new babies amid the sparkles, guarded by their watchful parents . . .
Festive, happy, grateful people out digging for clams and canoeing, communing with nature! It smells wonderful out there!
The waves roll in toward “Stonehenge” of Martha’s Vineyard ~ but this stone circle is much more transient, like the seasons on the island ~ it goes away every winter, but it’s back, a little changed, every summer. But just like Stonehenge, you see it, you like it, you take pictures of it, and you wonder, “why?” . . . People being people, because we can.💞
And one more celebratory thing before I get down to business . . . this:⬆️ Speaking of yes we can: Girlfriends, off-island, TOGETHER, having LUNCH in a FRENCH restaurant, WITH wine, in the middle of the day, AND shopping. Okay? See what I mean? It’s because we’re free, and so happy to celebrate! We’ve only done this once, but once is so many more times than we’ve done it in the last year and a half!
Soft spring nights having dinner next to the water with dear old friends . . . I turned back to look as we were leaving our table … and had to take this photo for you . . . isn’t it insane? How can this BE? Just a little moment in time. Our beautiful earth. These vaccines have set us free! I pray everyone gets them so we can live like this forever!
Speaking of beautiful … wasn’t it wonderful to see the Queen, all dressed in flowers, out and about, so chipper, joking, and full of smiles? She truly set the tone with that smile ~ an inspiration for everyone . . . she seemed as overjoyed as I’ve been feeling . . .🌸
…despite the losses. But like her, we won’t forget. We are still honoring what happened to us all… our common grief . . . I saw this memorial, each flag representing a lost soul during the pandemic, while driving through Falmouth ~ every small town and big city in America has one… But despite it all, Queen Elizabeth showed us, with her action, despite profound loss, life is for the living. At age 95, she gave hope. A profound gift to everyone.🇬🇧
So, off to work we go! What have I been doing, you may ask?
This. Spring cleaning to the nth degree! I’ve been getting ready for our neighborhood yard sale ~ happening next Saturday the 26th! And I have to say, instead of bemoaning the never-ending work that goes into doing this after twenty years🤪, I feel lucky to be lightening our load in a recycling kind of way! For all the joy I found in finding and using these charming old treasures all these years, it makes me happy to think soon it will be someone else’s turn!
Even a yard sale has it’s pretty moments! I can’t help myself. I tie things in ribbons.
I washed, and dried the linens on the line, thanking them for the memories as I say goodbye. I chose to believe that red embroidered monogram said S B … but I do believe it will be just as easy for a G B to think it was made for them!
I love these old things, I’m amazed at the kind of work that went into making them and wonder about the world they were born into … wishing they could talk! I think the initials here are D C, but it’s very hard to tell ….there might be an I in there. I never cared to know for sure, it was the beauty of the work I could not say no to!
Love all the little embroidery and lace trim . . . the heaviness of the old cottons, the sheerness of some of the fine linens…the colors in the old quilts.
This tablecloth has tiny appliqués of flowers and butterflies all over it, sewn with the tiniest of stitches. As I fold these linens, I remember the parties where I used them, and think about the good ju-ju they will bring to the lucky person who gets them next. Letting go, while reveling in the memories.♥️ Joe brings in a box from the barn marked “Yard Sale” ~ I open it and say, “OMG, I forgot all about this!!”
These wonderful old books have decorated our tables at lots of dinner parties!
Vintage tea pots, pin cushions, sewing baskets with their strange vintage contents from a bygone era (irresistible, I have four, three for the yard sale, one for me!), books, dishes, throw pillows, cups, rugs, baskets, kitchenware, dish towels, furniture, garden things ~ Joe’s in charge of tools and man stuff . . . Like native Americans I believe everything has a soul and a destiny and that these things deserve to escape the cardboard box, the dark cupboard, the messy barn, to run free and be useful. My girlfriend Margot likes to anthropomorphize her things, she says it makes it easier to say goodbye ~ I laughed so hard with her on the phone when she said, “Run little pie plate, run!” And FYI: I did try to do a yard sale in my webstore, but it takes so long to measure everything (laying tablecloths and linen towels out on the dining room floor to measure them ~ Jack positions himself in the middle!), take pictures, front, back, sides, and bottom, write a description for each item, upload and send pics to Kellee so she can put them up on the website ~ and time is the one thing I’m running out of … although we did get a few things up, and I am saving others, things that are so good, they should go to you . . . which I’ll get to after this imminent looming event is over!
Yard sales . . . we have everything for PLM, People Like Me, people with . . .
But the world does not stop for a Yard Sale! Yes, I’m telling you the truth! It does not!
New things have come in! A new dream charm! Filled with blue skies, fluffy white clouds and rainbows! Perfect timing for our world right now.
It has “Go. Be. Love.” engraved on it . . . Kellee put it up in the webstore a couple of weeks ago!
This too, Janie made us a new Courage banner . . . with the most darling gift envelope.
Can there ever be too much of this? Never! Even the good things require it! Janie also made us beach banners! A Secret Notes are back! All Here.
And LOOK, the samples arrived!!! One of each of the new cups was sent from England, so I can approve the final color! I’ve been drinking out of them! I love them! Here’s “Blessed” (the other two items in this photo are not part of the arrivals!).
And here’s “Rabbit-Rabbit” … I am thrilled with them ~ the only change I requested was to make the dark lines around the bunnies slightly lighter … I also asked them to lighten up a bit around their “toes” … I want them to look pink!
But look how cute “Rabbit-Rabbit” is with the rest of the “collection!” We needed a cup with a pink background!
And the last one is Winter! I did a reprint because so many of you asked . . . one of my prettiest cups, and smaller than the other two as you can see in the photo below.
Here are the “backs” of each cup … which I try to make as pretty as the “fronts” so no matter which hand you drink with, you are happy!💞
And here are the handles . . . the “Blessed” cup is a little hard to read in this photo, it says “My favorite prayer is Thank you.”
And the bottoms . . .
Ta-daaaa! Kellee just put them up for presale … go HERE! They should arrive from England the end of September or the first of October . . . you know they are special order and limited in number . . . I have to tell them soon how many to make … I think I know, but I just want to make sure you all get one if you want one!
But right now, for even more fun . . . how about a give-away?
I have three prizes for you today . . . one Fourth of July cup… (it’s out of stock, this is an extra I found in the cupboard!)
And to celebrate this amazing spring, despite the fact that yesterday was the FIRST day of SUMMER! ~ two “Spring cups.” To be entered, just leave a message in “comments” down at the bottom of this post, you’ll see tiny letters and at the end of the words, click on “comments” and voila! We’ll have a drawing in a little while and announce the winner here, but for now, you are ALL winners, so enjoy!
I told you it was all good news! And now, what many of you have been waiting for ~ NEWS about the England trip!
Joe and I went out to lunch and did our favorite thing … brought our books and talked about our trip to England next year . . . I wanted to figure out really special tours for all of you who might wish to take one when you arrive, tours that would make you feel as if you were walking through my book A Fine Romance. And, I wanted you all to be able to come to the PICNIC we planned! You know we found a great travel agency, one that does tours for 15 or less people, and takes care of EVERYTHING, so you don’t have to worry about ANYTHING! Between us we worked out 3 different tours, each of them lasting 8 days, all wonderful places Joe and I have been to … your biggest problem is to choose just one! These tours are a win-win-win! They all end up in London, where you can either go home, stay for a few more days, or join another tour! And, on the last day, before you go to London, all the buses come back to the most beautiful park I’ve ever seen, called Stourhead, where, after our time on the ship together, and then time on each of the tours, we will meet back up with stories to share! Is that good or what?!
So here are the basics: but first, mas MUSICA!
The Queen Mary sails from New York harbor May 1, 2022. We will arrive in Southampton on May 8th. People who choose to go on a tour will be picked up at the ship ~ and off they will go for a week of fun in the English Countryside. I can’t wait until you see the itineraries! They’ve kept me in dreamland for the last few weeks! Different clothes, but nothing else has changed!
So far, 98 staterooms, filled with US! Kindred spirits! have been booked!👏 Isn’t that wild? The ship is almost sold out! If you try to make reservations and are thwarted in any way, ask to be put on the wait list. I’m told that many people will cancel at the end of the year (everyone has up until Dec. 31 to cancel for a full refund), so there’s a good chance you’ll get a reservation.
To sign up for the ship crossing, contact Susan Gannon at 800-468-7752 x41663 or Cunard reservations 800-728-6273 ~ tell them you’re with Group #TNM (USA) or, #TN3 (Canada), Voyage M211, with the “Susan Branch Girlfriend Group.” They handle the ship questions, but have nothing to do with the tours… fyi.
To see photos of the ship, go HERE.I have lots of on-board fun planned … but it’s a little early for full confirmations for some things, I’m waiting until closer to the time to make sure! I’ll be talking about this for the next year! The best part, is that we will all have each other, kindred spirits!
Our Picnic will be in the world famous garden at Stourhead, Sunday, May 15, at approximately 12:30 pm… on a beautiful lawn in front of the grass bridge like you see below . . . it’s one of our favorite places in England, pure magic, where we had our very first picnic! You are all invited. And that includes EVERYONE, that means you, Brits, and you over there in Norway, and YOU, out there in Spain! ALL our Girlfriends, everywhere! We’ll be waiting there for you on May 15th, 2022, at 12:30 pm, join us if you can! If you’ve elected to take a tour, the buses will stop so you can get a picnic lunch, and they will bring everyone back that day! The rest of you are on your own, but England makes travel VERY easy, as I’m about to show you.
FYI on the tours, you are all welcome to join any of the tours ~ you don’t have to take the ship … you can fly over if you like, you just have to get to Southampton to meet the bus! Talk to Kelsey, as mentioned below. (FYI, speaking of below, that’s Sissinghurst White Garden!)
To see the different tours: Go to www.discovereuropeltd.com/susan-branch print them out and read through them, you can check out most of the places in my book if you like, … and then call Kelsey Matson and her coworker at Discover Europe LTD with your questions ~ they handle everything having to do with tours (but not the ship). Call Kelsey from 9 to 5 EST, M-F, at 866-563-7077. FYI, they have almost the exact same cancellation program as Cunard ~ for a full refund you must cancel by January 1. So that gives everyone time to try this all on for size! For any of you that may want a longer tour, maybe go to Scotland, or go up to the Lake District, just let Kelsey know. She can arrange pretty much anything as long as there are enough of you to warrant the trip. You can work it out between yourselves on my Facebook page! And remember, we are a large group. We have a year to get this done, so in case she doesn’t get back to you immediately, I promise, she is wonderful and she will!And, for you who you get off the ship but don’t wish to go on a tour? What to do, what to do? The options are basically endless. There are buses and trains to London, you can hire a private car, you can go with a group. Talk to others on my Facebook page, and perhaps put something together there. Everything you want to know is available in the Google machine.
If you feel comfortable driving and wish to do so, you’re fine, you can rent a car in Southampton. And for those of you who’d rather have a driver, there are many choices. There are cabs at the ship in Southampton, they can take you to a bus, or train, or you can arrange for a car to pick you up and take you to London (it’s only 1 hr. 42 min) where you won’t need a car, because they have cabs and the Underground! Totally civilized. They even speak a language that’s very much like English! Extremely handy! You can get a city map and do the MUST SEE things like Westminster Abbey. You can get on a red double decker bus and see the city. There are airport transfers from your hotel to the airport for your flight home. And London is where many day-trips originate, which take you everywhere, from Bath, to Sissinghurst, to Oxford! Just Google!