2022

Oh my! 2022 Happened! This is going to take some getting-used-to! Fingers crossed, prayers made, kisses for luck, wishes on candle, black-eyed peas eaten, even threw salt over my shoulder just in cases . . . we’ve covered our bases to make sure this year is better than last! Let’s see what we get! Definitely things to look forward to! At least we’re together, so that’s one good thing. Here’s to a year filled with good things! MUSICA!

And, would it be too much to ask if we can please start Christmas over? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a Christmas Covid story. Ours was a dilly ~ don’t worry, it has a happy ending. ish.For us, it was all about Christmas dinner ~ which we were going to have with SIXTEEN very close friends, despite everything, a true celebration because we couldn’t do it last year, and earlier-on we THOUGHT we could do it this year, so everyone planned hard for it starting way back in the summer ~ we even had 3 of our beloveds came over from England! It was going to be the high-point of our Christmas. Being together again! We were loath to give it up despite the bad Covid news … we were all very very aware of what was going on, so we decided that in order to come together everyone had to be extra careful on the days leading up, and feel GREAT with out a touch of sniffle or body ache, and we each promised to take a covid test just before we left home.

All dressed and ready to go, our coats were on, food, drink, Christmas crackers and confetti poppers, light-bulb necklaces, and gifts were in 3 big shopping bags on the kitchen table, so excited as we waited for the results of our tests which we knew would be negative.

And just as expected, first Elaine and then me, were negative. And then it was Joe’s turn… Joe, Father Christmas, most careful Covid guy, cleanest hands, most often seen in a mask, fully vaccinated and boosted, of course . . .

. . . tested positive.😳 That pink line? That’s a big no-no. We just stood there and stared. Took a moment to realize what it all meant. Whaaaaat? Joe, poor baby, put on a mask.😷

Despite zero symptoms for any of us, we could do nothing but cancel. Call Bob and Peggy’s enchanted house under the stars, and tell them we couldn’t come to Christmas dinner. And, because they had been around us recently, they felt they had to cancel the entire party just in cases. At that moment, their cozy house was warm and smelled like heaven ~ the turkey was done, cooked perfectly, the baby onions bathed in cream, Bob’s gravy flavored to a T, the candles were lit, the table sparkled, the roses were in their vases, the wine chilled, the tree gleamed, the fire crackled, everything was ready … but too bad, it all had to be put away ~ and on December 25, 16 people went and got in their jammies and checked to see what they had in the fridge. Joe was totally verklempt, and so were we all. The most anti-climatic thing we could imagine! Wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t set our hearts on it!! Best laid plans . . . struggled to act like grownups and not throw ourselves on the floor and have a fit.

Siobhan (Shi-von, remember?) was here from England, staying at the little house with our friends Bob and Peggy. She was supposed to move in with us the day after Christmas and stay for the rest of her visit. For crying out loud. 😩 Literally. All on hold.

Nothing left to do but go take pictures in front of the tree. Elaine and I told Joe he could take his mask off because whatever he had we had ~ and we might as well enjoy what was left of this abbreviated mini-half-life. But you see in the photo, he didn’t want to breathe on me, and that was the best smile he could muster.  And then it was over. Elaine went home to her dog Ripper. We stared at the fire and drank a glass of egg nog, I sang Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is . . .” Pitiful. Wracking my brain doing the Pollyanna thing, trying to find the good in this. Of course, it’s always there. Nobody would be sick.

But to make a long story short and cheer you guys up ~ it had a happy, if long, ending! We were the lucky ones. No one went to the emergency room. Joe tested again that night, and he was negative. He tested two more times at home during the next couple of days, and both times he was negative. And then he had a test at the hospital, and once again, yay team, he was negative. Maybe the whole thing was God’s way of saying, “No, people, I don’t think so.” But anyway, three days late, and with the all-clear sounded, everything got better when Siobhan moved in.

We wasted no time doing what we love best . . .

Walks to the sea . . .

Happy picture-taking for the memories . . .

Through the woods . . .

and then, another day, with Peggy and Elaine . . . and Ripper too . . . on Peggy’s walk which is so much like our walks in England, past little farms and across wooden bridges over ponds . . .

. . . lined with winterberry. Hill and dale in the fresh air. 

We walked past this wonderful old barn . . .

. . . I had to take pictures of this crunchy old beauty . . .

Abandoned but still welcoming . . . Must be a story to tell in those jagged shingles at the top . . . the handmade walls with little rocks tucked among the big ones . . .

Back home, Jack was our plaything . . .

Siobhan was crazy about him, although you can tell by his expression, he was blaming me for allowing this…. not too many people besides me actually pick him up. Look at those eyes!

Every night before bed I do what Jack has trained me to do, and shoot rubber bands down the stairs to his waiting delight. Why? We don’t know. It’s a Jack thing. Mine is not to wonder why. And I never get to take videos to show you because it requires two hands to shoot rubber bands ~ so Siobhan took the video!

XOXO

If you’ve been getting Willards long enough you remember how Jack got his start. This is him as a kitten. He taught me to throw balls, and he brought them back. Then he graduated to love for ponytail bands. Soon enough he quit bringing those back to me, only rarely if he thinks I might leave the room! I’m just supposed to SHOOT the bands! MAS MUSICA!

Wishing you all a crazy cat in your life . . . 🥰

By the time Siobhan left, Jack was jumping up and rubbing on her…

We shopped, cooked, ate, walked, visited, drank tea, gave each other tips for mental health, and caught up with our lives …

It was all about spending time together . . .

Despite the emergency interrupt, we had a wonderful time!

I cried when I first saw her ~ it felt like it had been forever, this old covid has kept so many of us apart ~ and I cried when she went away. So complicated to travel these days, we were just grateful she came!

All too soon, she was gone. She tested negative in Boston, spent New Year’s Eve flying over the pond, and tested negative again in London. We stood and watched the boat disappear with that bright red coat waving the whole way.
Time is a great healer and by New Year’s Eve we were ready to try again … Elaine, Peggy, Bob, Lowely, John, and us, toasting Siobhan, sending her videos on What’s App, and wishing for better things for 2022 … and we were all home in bed by 9 pm!
We poured the wine into these gorgeous old shallow-bowl etched champagne glasses we found in an antique store and have been using for years because when you toast with them, they ring like bells. If they could only talk! The perfect thing for going back in time, so 1936 . . .
There was so much bad news in 2021 ~ seems that’s all we heard. After everyone left, Joe and I sat for a while in front of the fire and counted our blessings. We were reminded to be grateful for all we had, our home, our families, and friends ~ each other. We said prayers for those who couldn’t be with their loved ones, for those who have suffered losses to covid, for people whose homes had burned in that freak Colorado fire, and for those who survived tournedos and floods … but, despite this, 2021 wasn’t all bad … the human race made great progress too, the news just seems to like the bad stuff better . . . read HERE for some of the good things that happened in 2021! We took better care of bees!🐝 There was an orchid found in England they thought was extinct!😲 We fully vaccinated half the human race in only a year! Almost 5 billion vaccines given so far!👍 So much reason for hope. In Britain you can now rent chickens for a few weeks to try it out!🐓 Twin pandas took their first baby steps!🐼 They finally found the long-lost blue dress worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz! You have to look for the silver lining, but it’s there. Betty White passed away before January 17 which would have been her 100th birthday, it was very sad . . . but now, because she was such a passionate spokesperson for animals, people everywhere are donating $5 in her honor to their local animal shelter to celebrate her birthday! I marked it on my calendar! Goodness begets goodness. We are so strong. The earth tilts toward the light.💖 So much beauty.

And look, we even got snow! Goodbye 2021, hello bright New Year! 

So it’s back to normal for us . . . putting away my bird tree today . . . birds tucked into their box for when I need them again!

Jackie got a rug for Christmas from his darling friend Karen!💖 He loves it! He’s always on it! It’s a Claire Murray design. Thinking I need to embroider a mustache on that rug! (Note, ponytail band behind the door!)

We tried out the new egg maker we got from Lowely and John . . . my favorite kind of machine, with only one button.👏

Soft boiled . . .

. . . perfection!

I put all the birthdays and anniversaries, sailings and picnics onto my new Calendar and hung it up (we ran out of wall`calendars at the Studio this year! If you didn’t get one, I think they still have some on Amazon! We still have the Mini, the Blotter calendar, and the Purse calendar, fyi) . . . there’s a TRIP TO ENGLAND ON MINE …. eeek! May First will be here before we know it! So excited!

Of course we’ve been walking . . .

bundled up, on cold and foggy days …

Made much brighter because we are listening to this and feeling that we are walking in foggy London with Charles Dickens in 1843!

Books and imagination will take you everywhere!♥️

Because it really is the little things…📚

Right now we have a fire going ~ it’s 24º this morning! . . . Joe’s outside filling the bird feeders, bringing in more wood, and putting away Christmas things because we are being told to expect snow in the next couple of days! He brought the snow shovel into the house so he won’t have to dig it out from the barn during a snowstorm with his hands! Very organized!

And so we say fare thee well to another Christmas . . .⭐️

All my little things get put away. I watched my dear ex-mother-in-law cut out those paper dolls before my very eyes! She learned to do it when she was a little girl. They’ve been on all of my trees for over 40 years! I made the star and the candy cane when I was in my 20s. I was with Elaine in San Luis Obispo in 1975-ish when we each bought one of the rocking horses in a little shop on Chorro Street. Every tree is a tree of memories! 

My treasured felted-wool Jack doll took center stage on the mantle this year. I have to hide him from the real Jack or he will EAT him! He came complete with felted red ball.❤️

 When Jack was little you couldn’t separate him from this ball!

We’re leaving the trees up and lit, both inside and out, until Twelfth Night. By that time, I’m sure this one will crumble into dust! I tiptoe by it and hear the tinkling sound of falling needles! But it’s still pretty! Let the celebration continue!

Back to reality . . . Up early these freezing mornings as always, turning on the heat, taking a cup of my favorite Earl Grey tea with Lavender through the quiet house to make a dream come true ~ to work on my project, the Secrets of Life, Distilled Genuis, Quotes from the Ages. I love it ~ working on it is like going into a happy cave! Where I hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.🙉🙈🙊 It is SUCH a cheery thing during a Dam-panic that is making so many of us basically, dare I say it? Miserable? The words in these quotes are full of hope, joy, enlightenment, humor, and thousands of years of wisdom from the geniuses of the world; hope from the past bringing hope for the future. I’m praying you’re finding your own ways to see the bright side of life ~ these days are so trying, isolation, and worry for children just doesn’t seem to end. It can be exhausting. I’m with you. We’re all in it together!
Because a fresh New Year is a

 and anything is possible, especially if you know you are in charge, and can make a dream come true . . . winter is so perfect for this! 

I want this book done, off to the printer, and in your hands before we leave on the ship. That’s my plan.  TICK-TOCK!!!

Every year Kellee makes us a special Christmas Card, always so creative! On this one she added my watercolored winter hats! She’s magic … they all are. Running a business from 3,000 miles away for so many years requires a very special relationship. Loyalty, understanding, respect, compassion, and dependability is a requirement for all of us. Add these people to my long list of “Things I’m Grateful For.”💖

This is a screen shot of me and Jack taken by one of our girlfriends during the Enchanted Book Club Webinar ~ I promised I would get you a link for it in case you weren’t able to attend… HERE it is! (and yes, free!) Hope you like it!

And FYI, there is another Zoom Webinar coming to a screen near you from Cary Memorial Library in historic Lexington MA on Wednesday, January 19 at 7pm EST (4 pm in California, but I’m afraid, way too late in Europe!) Mark your calendar… Fill your teapot and join us for a cozy, January talk in front of the fire. I don’t have the link for you to sign up yet, but I’ll put it in my next post as soon as I get it!

As for our trip aboard the Queen Mary 2 in May . . . as you know, we’re still going! (Basically wild horses can’t pull us away!!! We WANT OUT 🤪 {calm down Sue. okay.}). Are you still coming? I’m sure, for a variety of reasons, some of you had to cancel … and those who did were able to get a complete refund if they canceled by December 31 … which MEANS, that perhaps the “sold-out ship” may NOT be “sold out” anymore!👏 So if you’d like to join us on this crossing, give a call to Susan Gannon at Cunard . . . she’ll let you know what’s what and when! Her number is 800-468-7752 ext 41663. Tell her you’d like to join the Susan Branch Group #TNM/USA (or if you’re from Canada, it’s TN3/Canada) ~ Voyage #M211. Be sure to ask about their plans for Covid protection and what their cancellation policy is. Remember, there are several small tours planned (designed by me with all my favorite places, call Kelsey at 866-563-7077 and let her know you’d like to join the SB tours) so you won’t necessarily have to drive when you arrive in the UK. The tours are all scheduled for 8 days, and at the end, everyone on a tour will be reunited at our picnic in Stourhead. But you DON’T have to take a tour to come to the picnic … which will be on the lawn in beautiful Stourhead on May 15 around noon, just show up and BYO picnic basket! England will be so pretty, all decked out in bunting to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee … we were there for her Diamond, and now, the biggest of them all, Platinum! PLUS, we get to have a Magner’s Pear Cider on the ship. Oh! The yearning!🤪 

Here’s a photo of our first picnic at Stourhead . . .hopefully you will get to meet some of the characters from A Fine Romance there!♥️

 

 

Well, dearest ones . . . off I go, back to book work… first I need to go throw another log on the fire and while I’m at it, shoot a couple of ponytail bands for you know who! Thanks for stopping by! Happiest New Year to everyone! ❌⭕️

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450 Responses to 2022

  1. Kate says:

    Things sure are different where you live. Here in my state you very rarely see anyone with a mask and gatherings are allowed. We eat at restaurants and go to church and no one seems afraid to do so. I do know of a few people who have had the Covid, but their symptons were minor and they are well and now won’t get it again. I don’t like wearing masks so I won’t go where I am made to wear one. I hope things will get easier where you live.

    • sbranch says:

      Our island is so small, our hospital is even smaller, only 4 ICU beds. We had 131 positive cases last week. We’re just trying to not overwhelm our hospital since there is more than Covid in the world … your basic heart attack needs those beds too. Plus we know everyone at the hospital, so they are like family and we don’t want to lose them. It’s like that. We get lots of tourists, they come, they party, they go home. We wait for that last part and then watch the numbers drop! So happy life is normal for you and yours Kate! Blessings for a healthy happy 2022!

  2. Evelyn Brendle says:

    I just love that cat of yours. He always gives me a smile and a laugh! Thanks for sharing him with us, as I can’t bring myself to another litter box in the house. I’ll just enjoy your kitty’s cuteness without the mess! Happy New Year!

    • sbranch says:

      My girlfriend Martha has a litter box she found on Amazon that she swears by … it cleans itself… just in cases furry body love wins over mess!❌⭕️

      • Elaine in Toronto says:

        Evelyn, quite by accident we have what we call our “part time” cat. She is a gorgeous tuxedo cat. For the past two years she has visited us pretty well every morning and sometimes in the evening, too, unless the weather is really bad. She is not a stray. You can tell she is loved. You can tell she is brushed regularly. Her collar was changed pretty well every day until she suddenly stopped wearing one. She comes in, has a bite to eat, patrols the house and chatters away to my husband while he is making his oatmeal. They have quite the conversation. She adores him. Me, not so much, lol, but I love her anyway. We don’t know where she calls home or what her name is. We call her Jas. I suspect she may have other homes she visits. She loves to be petted and rolls around on the rug meowing at top volume until one of us pays attention to her. We’ve grown very attached to her and miss and worry about her when she doesn’t show up. Bonus, no kitty litter tray to contend with. I thought I’d share my story with you in case there is a neighbourhood cat you can befriend. Hugs, Elaine

  3. Happy New Year, dear Susan (and Joe and Jack)! Glad that you’re all OK and were able to salvage some celebrating with your friends. I just wanted to thank you for your lovely blog and books. I have something you wrote written on my January planner calendar page and I’m trying to take it to heart, even during a Dam-panic: “Feed your life from the well of sweetness.” I take that to mean, choose to look for and savor the good and beautiful things all around! (Even if you have to look a little harder than before…)

  4. Bee Stevens says:

    I was in our local bookstore today and there were 2 Susan Branch calendars.
    I am in WV so our store is Books a Million. I am sure they have a web site.
    Also maybe Barnes and Noble web site. As always I enjoy your blog.

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Bee! Hopefully our girlfriends will see this … some are still searching!

      • Susan, for those who can’t find your 2022 wall calendar, they can use their 2011 one! We should all go back and read your 2011 posts and dream of better days. I’m re-reading my old blog posts to help remind me that life is really what you make it in the end.

  5. Nettie says:

    Dear heart, this is just what I needed for my bedtime story tonight…thank you and cheers to you and Joe for a healthy happy New Year
    I am looking forward to your new book too

  6. Jane says:

    When I heard about John Madden’s passing I thought about the story you wrote about meeting him, and not knowing who he was. I could just picture the whole encounter, and I’m sure he was pleased to meet you with your San Luis Obispo time in common.

    • sbranch says:

      I was sad to see him go. He allowed me such sweet access into his thinking ~ it was a gift because HE was a gift. And you probably know, I am kind of picky when it comes to men! He was a doll. True blue. 💖 Made me believe in possibilities! I’m sure he’s bringing a sparkle to heaven, probably got his own star.⭐️

      • Debbie Boerger says:

        I told Tom about your meeting with Madden. We were wondering if that was before he took to travel in a large motor home. I can’t even remember how I know about your meeting!!! My po’ old brain is good one day and “duh” the next. Mucho Love,
        Debbie in Tampa

        • sbranch says:

          I wrote the story in MV Isle of Dreams! You DO remember it, that’s pretty darn good!😂 Yes, he hadn’t gotten his bus yet, that came a couple of years after I met him on the train. Despite knowing that, I’ve never gotten on a train without glancing around for him!

  7. Tania says:

    Thank you for sharing the Jack videos. I loved them.

  8. Wendy Stewart McMillan says:

    Oh, Susan, your posts always hit the spot. I’m still sick,sick,sick that we had to cancel our crossing but surgery won’t wait. I hope there will be a future time to get to know the girlfriends better and enjoy England. It’s #1 on my bucket list!
    So looking forward to your new book and reading the quotes-one of my very favorite things! Thank you for the cheer-up and stay safe and well.
    Xo,

  9. Ann Wirtz says:

    You are a light to us, Susan, our happy place.
    I love and admire how you do life, and I cherish your uplifting, beautiful artwork and every written message you share with us. Thank you!!
    Being a “Pollyanna” person and grateful I am, I wrote this poem and thought perhaps you’d enjoy it, too, being a person of like mind (smile).
    Blessings, always,
    Ann Wirtz (Nancy Luce’s 4th cousin, 4x’s removed.)

    The Pollyanna Principle

    When but a girl
    In the spring of ’60,
    (An eleven-year-old,
    Soon to be twelve,
    With compassionate views
    And tender sensibilities),
    A movie swept into theaters
    And into my heart with a principle
    From the Holy Word, itself.

    Pollyanna, from the book so named,
    A 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter,
    Featured Hayley Mills,
    Endearing English star
    Who embodied Pollyanna herself,
    The twelve-year-old orphan child
    Come to live with her Aunt Polly,
    She with a stern and formidable air,
    Bound by her own expectations.

    A winsome and earnest child,
    Pollyanna had taken to heart a biblical truth
    Taught by her missionary father.
    “Choose to play The Glad Game when
    You face disappointment,” he encouraged,
    “For certainly something good is discovered
    With the flip of your thinking.
    Though ofttimes hidden,” he no doubt explained,
    “A blessing always awaits, eager to be found.”

    Loving father, wise to Scripture’s message,
    He based this game on the rejoicing texts
    Replete in the Bible. “Glad passages they are,”
    He surely continued, “answers for the difficulties we encounter,
    For they lift our spirits and direct our focus to the good.”
    Oh, such a blessed truth that changed a community’s course,
    For Harrington, named for Aunt Polly’s family, became
    A model of thoughtful kindness because Pollyanna simply shared
    That joy could be found in every disappointment.

    Can we, too, embrace this message?
    Can we, as well, find joyful solace and hope from the Word of Grace
    Which encourages us to alter a negative perspective?
    Proverbs 17:22 proclaims the why, “A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    But a crushed spirit dries up the bones,”
    While 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 provides the way,
    “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
    For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,”
    An attitude-changing truth from the One who overcomes all.

  10. Mary Ann McCann says:

    Reading your blog….the perfect beginning to a beautiful but cold and wintry day! I loved every word of it! Thank you so much for sharing your lovely words and pictures!

  11. Dixie Myers says:

    Oh, Susan! How much you cheer me up! Always! You and Joe and Jack are sunshine on this cold Winter’s day as we await snow tonight along the Mason Dixon line near Gettysburg. It’s beautiful here, all hills and orchards and long farm fields and country roads…..but I always dream about my time at the Vineyard. I read the Vineyard Gazette to keep in touch, and plan a long Summer visit as soon as we are all safe again. Today I will sit by our lovely warm fire, drink tea to celebrate you, and perhaps knit a pair of thick warm socks to wear to bed at night. Thank again, and Happy HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

  12. Sue Giljum says:

    Good (cold) Morning from Saint Louis, Missouri. I always leave a comment when there is a give away but no other time. After reading your latest Willard I wanted to comment on how much I love Susan Branch I look so forward when I get a notice of a new Willard and can’t wait to read it Thank you for being you and everything about you.. I have been a fan for oh so many years. Anytime I see anything about you I have to have it. Happy New Year to you and Joe!

  13. Sophie T says:

    Happy new year, Susan and Joe! It was lovely to read you (despite the Covid scare for Christmas). As always, your post is full of positive and happiness and reminds us how important the little things are. I loved the Jack videos. This cat is very special… but so are his masters (well, who’s the master, who’s the subordinate?). I hope 2022 brings us back a sense of normality, once the Covid tsunami is over!

  14. Cathy Good says:

    I just adore Jack. I have 2 kitties. Happy New Year! Love your stories, especially on the Vineyard. I’ve been there twice. A gf had a place in Vineyard Haven. Lovely place.

  15. Marita says:

    Happy NEW ’22 Year!
    Perhaps I’ve missed this along the way, but why are so many of your lovely (gasp, I really mean positively adorable!) cups discontinued? Please tell me they’ll return to stock one day.
    Looking forward to your book of quotes, which I know will be so much more than I can imagine.

  16. Elaine Magliacane says:

    Sounds like Joe’s [positive] test was WRONG… I read the CDC stopped using one of the ‘approved’ tests because it was wrong over 90% of the time.

  17. Nicoline says:

    Hello Susan,
    Happy New Year to you both (well, all 3 of you!) What a lovely treat, to see this post pop up in the computer!!
    Oh, before I forget….I wanted to ask this before…..Have you ever heard Miss Kitty again? I know you though you were hearing her wander about, was that last spring? Or the year before? Just wondering….
    Anyway, what a scare you had, but luckily all is/was well, and you were able to have the lovely, happy Christmas together, like you hoped. I love how you were all wearing something with some red in it, love Joe’s shirt!
    I made the Cranberry Christmas cake and the Gingerbread cake and they were as yummy as always!
    It’s lovely to see sweet Siobhan too, I often remember our nice chats at the picnics, and wonder how she is….
    Jack really is a character isn’t he! Just look at the face he fulls when Siobhan picked him up!! Our 2 girlies DO NOT want to be picked up, or cuddled, boo hoo. They sleep with us though, and very often there are 5 of us in the bed, including 2 kitties and one of Kitties toys! She has a tiny panda bear, and a sort of Santa and a small seal, all made of soft fabric, and she carries them in her mouth all over the house! So we could find one on the sofa, or in the bedroom, even, if we’re not careful in a suitcase when we’re packing to go away….(we have found a toy mouse in between clothes when we unpacked last holidays….)
    Our traveler (Mick) is back home, he arrived the 29th safe and well, after being in Korea since August….So he was back just in time for New year!
    Talking of traveling, we’re keeping EVERYTHING possible crossed that we’ll be able to come to the picnic, sooooo looking forward to that! It’s been over 2 years since we crossed the channel, the longest since…well, the 1980’s I think! But Mr Johnson has just said that travelers entering the UK don’t need tests anymore, so that’s a good sign….
    Anyway, I know you have loads of comments to go through, so won’t take up more of your time….
    Sending you lots of love, from all of us,
    Nicoline
    xoxo

  18. Therese says:

    Happy 2022, dear Susan!
    I’m sequestered with what is probably the omicron variant of Covid. If I could get a test I’d know for sure, but there are none to be found right now.
    As you can imagine this makes your most recent post even more welcome!
    I’ve become a thread-bender in the last couple years thanks to COVID and Spoonflower has had sales on their fat quarters recently. I got your lovely pinwheel design as one of my choices and, since you ask for teacup designs,
    I would love to see a new “all-over” design for a mug.
    Stay well, you guys. Stay vigilant and keep on with all the good new habits we’ve acquired. Even being vaccinated and boosted and careful hasn’t been enough for me this time. I found it interesting that my spirits hadn’t flagged until I started coming down with this bug. All of a sudden I found myself getting so grumpy and fatigued! But all’s well, I’m over the worst…lessons learned, and looking forward to enjoying another period of solitude and armchair activism until we’re all safe again. Love to all of you and especially you, Susan!

  19. Barbara H. Scott says:

    My own dear “Stubbie” manx cat enjoyed watching Jack run after the ponytail bands. That might be a new treat for her. She loves new toys. So glad to receive your warm and cheery updates. I am already looking forward to the next edition.

  20. Suzanne Sneary says:

    What joy you brought to my heart while looking through this!
    It’s simply indescribable how you’ve kept the warmth and wonderful memories of simpler times alive though your lifestyle. You are a ray of sunshine and breath of fresh air. XXOO

  21. Corrinne says:

    Oh, Susan, my kindred spirit!! We share a love of so many things!! And today I noticed your cat PJ pants and I have the same ones! We are true soul sisters!! ;-). I even bought the men’s cat PJ pants for my young adult son! I love them! Happy 2022 to you, Joe & Jack, one of my favorite cats!

  22. Marlene Wright says:

    Happy New Year 2022! Had to write after reading your holiday celebration. Our neighbor is from England. They actually traveled there to spend the holiday & had some family members test positive. They are back home in the US, negative with memories of an unforgettable 2021/22. Love all your postings … thank you for sharing … brings joy into the world!

  23. Jody says:

    Happy New Year, I get so excited when I see a new Willard email, jump for joy and grab a cup of tea/coffee. It’s brrr cold here today, 10 degrees with a feel like 5; forecast is calling for it to be lower throughout the day. Thankful for the fireplace and extra heater just in case. So sorry to hear about your Christmas plans going array, but it sounded like it semi worked out and you had fun with your friend from overseas. Most importantly, Joe was negative after all! Have a beautiful cozy day and until next time, stay safe and warm. Blessings from Dove Cottage.

  24. Linda Tondola says:

    Jack is so much like our Ziggy. Zig chases ponytail bands (We call them bungees), he used to fetch them and bring them back, he really dislikes being held by anyone other than his mom. We all got a kick out of watching Jack play on your videos, especially how he talks to you!
    We put Christmas away today and now we have our house back. I love how bare it looks without the decorations. It inspires me somehow—a clean slate.
    So glad your covid scare turned out ok and that you both stay in good health.

  25. Linda Pintarell says:

    So sorry your Christmas plans did not materialize as planned. I can visualize your disappointment at that moment…but it seems everyone handled it well and did the appropriate thing for safety of all. Mine didn’t materialize either due to the passing of a good and wonderful man. He lived a good life; he did not suffer…and for that we are eternally grateful. We move forward with sad hearts but wonderful memories. Happy New Year’s to all the Girlfriends. My motto these days: Enjoy Life!

  26. Barbara Anne says:

    Sorry for the unwelcome bother of Joe’s positive test, but am so glad he was negative thereafter! Whew! I’ll be happy for a Christmas do-over, of course.

    I have a box full of quotations if you need any for your book! I remember the many quotation books you have so perhaps you have enough.

    Thank you for the positive vibes from beginning to end!

    Hugs!

  27. Lynda says:

    Susan – So sorry your Christmas plans were delayed cause of this horrible virus but thankful Joe is fine. So many have been affected. It sounds like all turned out nice and you had a good visit with Siobhan. The video of Jack is precious. He reminds me of my Petey. 🙂
    I can’t wait to visit Martha’s Vineyard someday. It looks so quaint and lovely. I hope this Covid doesn’t ruin your trip to England.
    All we can do is stay positive, stay safe and pray. Happy New Year! 2022 is here.

  28. Susan Stark says:

    What a joy to discover you all over again after all these years! Your “Mary’s Snowballs” are my (grown) children’s very favorite Christmas cookie, and the last two Christmases, we have made them “together” via Zoom. Thank you for making our Christmas a little sweeter. ♥

  29. Helen "Maggie" Giltmier says:

    Always, you make me smile and yearn for such joyous times with good friends. Your little Jack is awesome. My little Smokey is the most wonderful and dear treasure God ever sent to me to love. I so look forward to hearing from you and seeing you and Joe. I had COVID after a whole year of taking every precaution, my heart sunk and was so afraid I would never be able to see my children, my grandchildren, and now my little great grand babies (4) again; but God held me and got me through and I am so grateful.
    I pray for us all,our world and each other, for peace and joy, love and laughter and hope in the good for all. Glad you are up and about. Enjoy each and every day! God Bless Us All and thank you for the joy you bring into this world. Maggie

  30. Pat Bates says:

    Susan,

    Hope you can squeeze in a little time to add that mustache to Jack’s new, favorite rug. It is just too fun!

    Toodles,
    Pat Bates

  31. Catherine L Carpenter says:

    I’m so sorry about Christmas dinner! I loved the Samantha Silva book too. Thanks for sharing pics of all your pretties, and especially the video of Jack. Can’t wait for the quotes book!

  32. Tania says:

    Susan, I forgot to mention in my earlier post….I love your black skirt in the top photos. It’s fabulous.

  33. Anna in Ashland, OR says:

    Happy New Year, Susan!
    I am glad you and Joe were so safe. I am wondering if he got a false positive test. Thankfully you are all well that is what counts. Christmas was quiet, just the two of us. We counted our blessings, ate, read, watched movies and listened to music. The Christmas tree was taken down last night, so sad. But I woke up to a nice clean and somewhat needle free house. Funny how the tree was so beautiful and fresh when it came home and dry and splintery when it left. I found a pine needle in bed when making the bed this morning, which made me laugh out loud.

    • sbranch says:

      LOL, yes, us too, for a while those needles turned up in the most unexpected places! Love it when the tree comes, love it when it leaves … and the house now, all smooth and quiet. xoxo

  34. Jody says:

    SO very glad you are all safe and well!! I love reading these wonderful snippets. I like to ale needle felted animal beads. I should make you one of Jack, his moustache is too precious!

  35. Deanna Rose Harmon says:

    I love the way you tell your happenings. I feel like I am right there with you! I love Jack!

  36. Zoe Greenwood says:

    Thank you once again, my dear dear friend whom I’ve never met. Your posts are FULL of love and peace and hope and joy- just like Advent, just like life! Don’t ever stop being you!
    I’m glad you’re both okay.
    Fondly, Zoe

  37. Laura says:

    A happy and healthy New Year to you and yours!

  38. Viffy says:

    Posting again (not sure if my other greeting made it) to wish you a very Happy New Year!

  39. Ginny Evans says:

    New Year’s Greetings Susan! Thanks for “stopping by” and sharing your holidays with us. I’m so glad that you got to eventually enjoy your company and that all was well in the end. Seeing your home and decor was a delight as usual. I look forward to hearing when the interview (talk) is, so I can sign up! We gals have to stick together and keep our wonderful wholesome, friendly, creative atmosphere going in this crazy world! You bring so much joy into my world and I can’t wait for your latest books. May all the blessings you beam out to us, come back to you 10 fold!
    Until next time,
    Heart’s Ease from Ginny (from California to Canada to Houston) I just can’t get used to saying Ginny of Houston, because I don’t feel like that is ME. But, I guess it is now.

  40. Nancy Marin says:

    I loved the video of Jack chasing the pony tail bands. Gracie, our tuxedo kitty, loves to play with pipe cleaners, and she creates all kinds of interesting designs.

  41. Chris says:

    Thank you , Thank you. Needed that Jack time! Happy New Year !!

  42. Coco Andrew says:

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you for this wonderful new year’s gift! Thanks too for the link to your zoom in December, which I had asked you to post and am so looking forward to watching. That’s the wrong word, because I feel like I will be sitting right down with you.

    I too ran late buying calendars this year, and missed yours, boo hoo. But I just found them at TFPublishing.com! I got 10% off my first order by giving them my email. I also received free shipping (not sure what the minimum for that is, but my subtotal was just over $28) when I bought two minis and one full size Heart of the Home calendars. Here is a link right to the large calendar:

    tfpublishing.com/products/susan-branch-heart-of-the-home-wall-1?_pos=2&_sid=d865bafa5&_ss=r

    and a link to all five of your products currently in stock (1/6/22, 7pm Pacific):

    tfpublishing.com/search?options%5Bunavailable_products%5D=show&options%5Bprefix%5D=last&q=susan+branch

    Don’t know if you want to post that, but I wanted you to know there is still a source for your 2022 calendars.

    I loved your suggestion to the girlfriend who got shut out (but maybe not now!) to use 2011 calendars. I have saved the beautiful calendars I buy for many years. But this is the first year I have redeployed them (two from 2011 and once from 2005). I have calendars hanging in several places. Thanks so much for the reminder that this is possible — though can’t rely on a 2011 calendar for Easter, unless one is Eastern Orthodox. I see your birthday falls on Easter this year, how lovely.

    Speaking of calendars, I have been wondering for years… is there any chance that your darling day numbers could be bigger? My main calendar by my desk has to be a Lang, because I need those large, bold numbers to see them a few feet away from where I sit. (And I only buy a style offering them in a dark color.) I wonder if anyone else has trouble seeing your date numbers? I love your calendars so much I buy them anyway, but I would love them even more if the numbers could be LARGER and easier to read.

    I was so happy to see that you leave your Christmas tree up until Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men arrived bearing gifts. My godmother Meme loved Epiphany and didn’t want anyone to take their trees down before January 6. She died very young — on Epiphany!

    Best wishes for a happy, HEALTHY new year, xoxox Coco :@)

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Coco, and happy New Year to you too! Thank you for the feedback on the numbers … I’ve already turned in the calendars for 2023, but I can take a look at it for 2024. I usually like to leave that open space for people to write in. I’d love to hear back from others on how they feel about it too! Thank you for telling my my birthday is on Easter! I LOVE it when that happens!!!❌⭕️❌⭕️

  43. Nicoline says:

    Hello Susan,
    Happy New Year to you both (well, all 3 of you!) What a lovely treat, to see this post pop up in the computer!!
    Oh, before I forget….I wanted to ask this before…..Have you ever heard Miss Kitty again? I know you though you were hearing her wander about, was that last spring? Or the year before? Just wondering….
    Anyway, what a scare you had, but luckily all is/was well, and you were able to have the lovely, happy Christmas together, like you hoped. I love how you were all wearing something with some red in it, love Joe’s shirt!
    I made the Cranberry Christmas cake and the Gingerbread cake and they were as yummy as always!
    It’s lovely to see sweet Siobhan too, I often remember our nice chats at the picnics, and wonder how she is….
    Jack really is a character isn’t he! Just look at the face he fulls when Siobhan picked him up!! Our 2 girlies DO NOT want to be picked up, or cuddled, boo hoo. They sleep with us though, and very often there are 5 of us in the bed, including 2 kitties and one of Kitties toys! She has a tiny panda bear, and a sort of Santa and a small seal, all made of soft fabric, and she carries them in her mouth all over the house! So we could find one on the sofa, or in the bedroom, even, if we’re not careful in a suitcase when we’re packing to go away….(we have found a toy mouse in between clothes when we unpacked last holidays….)
    Our traveler (Mick) is back home, he arrived the 29th safe and well, after being in Korea since August….So he was back just in time for New year!
    Talking of traveling, we’re keeping EVERYTHING possible crossed that we’ll be able to come to the picnic, sooooo looking forward to that! It’s been over 2 years since we crossed the channel, the longest since…well, the 1980’s I think! But Mr Johnson has just said that travelers entering the UK don’t need tests anymore, so that’s a good sign….
    Anyway, I know you have loads of comments to go through, so won’t take up more of your time….
    Sending you lots of love, from all of us,
    Nicoline
    xoxo
    PS….We are away at the moment, a short break in the very south of Holland, just 5 minutes from the German border…So we are just relaxing, reading, taking long muddy walks and doing your lovely jigsaw puzzle (which was gifted by Darling Rachel!!)

    • sbranch says:

      Been working on my book and forgot to look at comments for a few days!!! Eeeek! Sorry . . . I wrote you back on your last one. I’m here, just bad! ❌⭕️❌⭕️

  44. Margie Lynn ARMOUR says:

    I HOPE TO ATTEND THE PICNIC!

  45. Suzanne Keller says:

    Happy 2022 Susan!
    Thank you so much for sharing your holidays with us, and extending sweet empathy for your readers! Also, thank you for the link to the Enchanted Book Club. I am excited about joining – just the type of thing I am yearning for in this new year . . .
    ♥ Suzanne

  46. Your newsletter always one of the brightest stars in my days. Thank you!

  47. Karen S Bowerman says:

    So enjoy your refreshing blog during this time of covid. Seems like so many things are being cancelled. And loved the videos of your Jack. I have a calico named Itzy and she likes to shake a paw (like a dog) for treats. Also likes to stand IN her bowl of water so she can clean off her paws. Silly kitties!

  48. Karen Milano says:

    Reading your blog and Willard letters is such a breath of fresh air in a weary, wary world. Now and then I pick up one of Gladys’ books too, she has/had the same effect. Thank you – be well, and much joy and good health to all of us in this new year ahead.

  49. Sandra says:

    The Jack rug is AAAdorable, as is Jack and I dearly hope someone will save that beautiful old barn! So glad everyone is over the virus but…I have no such stories and only know a few people who have been ill. No one in my family, thank God, and those handful I know who’ve had it are acquaintances. Boost the immune system!

    • sbranch says:

      My brother got it. Was awful, I talked to him every day. I don’t think they talk about how horrible this thing can be … but he’s good now, thank God. He wasn’t vaccinated. But the illness was so bad, he went and got vaccinated the same day he tested negative! Taking no chances!🤣 I’m so happy you are well, happy New Year Sandra … xoxoxo ❤️

  50. Sally Cornell says:

    Susan Branch – thanks for the new wonderful Willard. I went to your zoom with the Enchanted Book Club and was truly enchanted. Happy 2022 – enjoy your travels.

  51. Love it thanks for sharing!!!!

  52. Laura Petticord says:

    Happy New Year,
    I’ve missed your blog. Happy to be reading again and getting the warm fuzzies. Happy too your Christmas turned out ok given everything.
    Sending love to you, Joe and Jack. Also to all the folks that love it here too.
    May 2022 be healing, beautiful and filled with joy joy joy!

  53. Michele says:

    I so love & adore The Willard, but even more, I LOVE Martha’s Vineyard Isle. . . .not reading in proper order but I’m positive you wouldn’t mind. Your book is making me feel “real”, confirming that it’s ok to be quirky & creative despite others rejection of those parts of me. You are writing, feeling, almost word for thought as I would have, when I myself was experiencing same events in my life. You have much more positivity than I did but that’s what I love about the book! Can’t wait to read the trilogy.
    Happy New Year to you and yours-
    Much love ❤️

  54. Rosanne Murphy says:

    Kudos to you for dealing so well with Christmas disappointment and for always looking on the sunny side. I too have a special trip planned for May – three generations of Murphy women celebrating our birthdays in New York City – ages 75 (me), 45 (my daughter), and 15 (granddaughter)! My daughter ran the NYC marathon in Nov on the National MS Society team to honor her Dad who passed away in Feb, so she is our tour guide. After 47 years of marriage, it’s been a challenging year, but alot of meditation and the love of family and friends continues to help me find my way forward. Bless you for the kindness you share.❤️

    • sbranch says:

      What a lovely place to celebrate and the perfect people to celebrate it with and in the city that is so perfect for celebrating! I’m sorry you lost your guy this year, words are too small to express. I so appreciate your life-affirming inspiring attitude! ❌⭕️

      • Rosanne Murphy says:

        I forgot to give credit to my kitty Bella (although she qualifies in the family category) for being my #1 comforter. Also, we are all vaxed and boosted and hopeful and optimistic that conditions in NYC will be ok by May. It gives me a measure of peace knowing my kids and grandkids have some protection against this crazy virus that stalks us. I had polio in 1951 when there was no vaccine, so the anti vax stuff boggles my mind!

        • sbranch says:

          Joe’s sister had polio too, and my brother was diagnosed with a case of it, but got well very soon. Was a scary thing back then. Bella! Perfect kitty name. I’m with you, I’m thinking May for covid relief . . . I have a feeling this thing will repeat again next December-March. We’ll see won’t we Rosanne? Sending love. xoxoxo

  55. Becka Silva says:

    Dear Susan-

    Oh what a wonderful way to end the year and begin a new one, being with those that we love.

    I wanted to share a note about re-using your calendars, I have every calendar of yours dating back to the 90’s, and even tho I always buy a new one for each year often times I ‘re-use’ the old calendars. For example you can re-use the years 2005 & 2011 for this year. The dates are exactly the same. It’s a fun way to enjoy looking at your art from years of the past. Now I will say that I never write on the calendars, so they look brand new.

    Looking forward to hearing from you again

    – Becka

  56. Nancy Redford says:

    Susan – every time I read your blog I feel like I’ve gone on a mini vacation – it just transports me to a different place & time. The photography by your wonderful husband is so good – it just makes you feel like you are part on the fun. Thank you dear lady for this joy & reminder that fun, kindness, friendship & all these things we hold dear are still in this world. You inspire us to reach for all these things. Thank you. And Jack …. What a character. Aren’t cats just so fun?

  57. Lisa B says:

    Hi Susan. Sorry about the dinner plans gone awry. My husband and I both had Omicron. It was a cold and that’s it. No fever. Took OTC meds for symptoms relief. Doctors have always told me if no fever, no infection. I am tired of the Covid nonsense. It’s gone on long enough. Time to live. No masks here either. I would suspect Joe’s test was false positive. There have been many instances of that. I am glad you were able to spend the rest of your holiday with your sweet English friend and others. 2022 will be better if we choose to make it so. May God bless you, Joe and sweet Jack.

    • sbranch says:

      Our problem is the little place we live. 490 cases here in the last seven days. All the beds at the hospital are full and nurses are working overtime. So we can’t ignore it yet. But we stay home these cold days … I’m working on a book, Joe is working on the house, so it’s not that bad. Stay well Lisa!

      • dezi says:

        Oh! Two years solid of doctors and nurses working over time! Talk about shear exhaustion! I keep them all in our daily prayers! During the Spanish Flu Pandemic ordinary people were able to volunteer and help out in any way they could. I don’t think that is allowed any more, is it? The 1918 pandemic lasted until 1924, as I remember from my history books. My dad was a new born and lost two cousins from the flu. Twins. He survived two pandemics and passed by natural causes at 103 in December.

  58. Rhondi says:

    Dearest Susan. I have been a fan for many years, but mostly a silent one. Just want to thank you for all your cheerfulness and optimism and beauty that you freely share with all of us! Wish we were going on the ship with you !!

  59. Kris Knarr Elliott says:

    Thank you for the wonderful testimony that you wrote about John Madden in “Isle of Dreams!” I was just reading pages 234-238 and it was so nice!! Especially since his passing, it is great to know what a gentleman he was. There are great men still among us!!!

  60. Nancy Mosley says:

    I love the Jack videos. Never seen a cat do that. Oh his rug is adorable. Sweet gift. Glad your story had a happy ending. Our oldest son was delayed a week coming for Christmas as he was exposed to Covid by his college roommate. In the end he didn’t get it but it was sad not to have him home. However I’m very grateful for all the blessings God has given as I know many families have suffered greatly. I can not complain. Happy 2022 to you Susan and Joe and Jack!!

  61. Happy New Year Susan and Joe! Here is hoping that 2022 is kinder to us all and that you are still able to go on your cruise! Who would think that almost two years later Covid would still be having it’s wicked way with us all. I am so happy that Joe was a false positive and that all was well in the end, even if it did mess up your Christmas plans. I think that was par for the course with most people again this year. Loved the videos of Jack. Mr. Personality plus! I have one of those now myself. His name is Nutmeg. I also have his sister Cinnamon, both ginger cats. My cousins cat had kittens on my mother’s birthday and she loved ginger cats. What could I do but take two of them for
    myself to enjoy. They have brightened my life considerably! I think pets certainly add to the flavor of our lives. Happy that in the end you got to enjoy Siobhan’s company! I am looking forward to your new book! xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      I’m sure they have! Cinnamon and nutmeg … ginger kitties, just perfect! You were so smart to get two! ❌⭕️

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      Hello, Marie, I’m glad you are settling in well in Nova Scotia. I’m so looking forward to being able to again travel there. My husband and I live in Downeast Maine in the summer, just 90 miles from the Canadian border with New Brunswick. By the way, I enjoy your blog.
      Watch that black ice, as you don’t want to break any bones. Get some grippers for your shoes/boots.
      Take care,
      Debbie in Tampa for the Winter

  62. Katie says:

    I’m trying to deep clean my house today, which has me alternating between a profound sense of accomplishment and an insanely grumpy mood at fairly regularly intervals. (My bathroom is immaculate! Follow by, why do we own so much stuff?! Look at these shining windows! Followed by, I really loath packing up Christmas decorations… I’ve basically been going back and forth all day.) Seeking some inspiration for more good mood and less bad, I just came to your blog to reread a few favorite old posts. I especially love “Brownies, Quilts, and Shutters” from August 23, 2011 (it makes me not mind household chores so much) and “The Blizzard of 2015” parts one and two from January 2015 (as a homesick New Englander who lives in Southern California and misses snow). It made me wonder – have you ever considered printing your blog posts up as a book, sort of like a collection of essays? I’d buy it in a heartbeat if you did! Thank you for the inspiration to keep on scrubbing with a more cheerful heart.

    • sbranch says:

      I have thought of it . . . but it’s such an overwhelming project I sort of forget to do it! Thank you for the sweet words! Congratulations on getting your house done! You’ll be glad when it’s over! xoxo

  63. Pamela says:

    Oh, Susan! I am so very sorry your Christmas plans were changed. But it seems you have dealt well with everything and made the best of your situation. I’m so glad Joe did not get very ill.

    I am writing from Wexford, Ireland. We flew to London on December 18th with our son who is studying in London for the spring term of his second year of law school at the Notre Dame campus. Our daughter and her family met us there for Christmas – we had tickets to see A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve at they Old Vic, just two blocks from his apartment! It was marvelous. Our grandchildren aged 6, 4 and 2 were captivated and watched the entire play in awe!

    And I was reading Mr. Dickens and His Carol on the first night of our stay – and on the second page of the first chapter, talking about how Dickens had walked “across the Thames by way of Blackfriar Bridge, and back by Waterloo….” – we had just JUST walked across Blackfriar Bridge to where we were staying at Waterloo (where now the IMAX theater is located) in the former Royal Hospital for Children! How magical was that? I couldn’t believe my eyes. I have almost finished the book in between train and plane rides. It has come alive so much more since we had just visited!

    We have since gone on to Belgium for three days – Rome for a week (got the Pope’s blessing on New Year’s Day!) – and have been in Dublin for three days – we are driving on a southerly route to Cork and Galway before returning to Dublin to fly home on the 12th.

    It has been quite the adventure – complicated mostly by covid testing before we leave a country and right after we arrive. This is to celebrate my husband’s retirement last year when the trip was cancelled. We booked this in August when things were looking very good and we thought Covid would be calmed down. This is my husband’s first visit to Europe – he is mostly Irish so this is quite a treat for him (and me, vicariously!)!

    One thing that I have seen is that the countries we have been in have high vaccination rates – 76% in Ireland and 94% in Italy – EVERYONE wears masks inside and mostly outside. We mask up in crowds while walking outside. We walked 8 miles one day going to the Coliseum! Yet there are restrictions – we have had to finish eating by 8 pm as everything closes down! We are usually in bed by 8 or 9!

    Glad the voyage is on for May. I’m sure things will have calmed down by then. We would’ve considered it but had already planned this one. We do want to come back to England, Rome and Ireland. Stay warm and cozy!

    xo

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you for the wonderful travelogue, Pamela. Christmas Carol on stage in London on Christmas Eve at the Old Vic WITH your grandchildren? You must have been floating! Absolutely beyond the beyond!⭐️ Couldn’t ask for anything more. And then the Pope’s blessing on NY Eve?👏 What does that FEEL like? Have fun! Stay safe . . . and thank you again!🥰❌⭕️

  64. Your skirt ! It took my three separate times looking at it to finally realize it’s different hairstyles. Did you make it yourself ? Looks comfy and creative.

  65. Pauline Wyss says:

    Whenever one of my friends posts a picture of their Christmas tree, I look all over the tree for one of the ornaments that I made for them. And when I saw your tree, I automatically started checking out all the ornaments. It took me a bit to realize that Susan is a friend but she doesn’t have one of my ornaments. Your tree and decorations are beautiful! I treasure all of your blogs/Willards. Pauline from Wisconsin

  66. Penny Harrison says:

    Jack ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️!

  67. Nicoline says:

    Hello Susan,
    Happy New Year to you both (well, all 3 of you!) What a lovely treat, to see this post pop up in the computer!!
    Oh, before I forget….I wanted to ask this before…..Have you ever heard Miss Kitty again? I know you though you were hearing her wander about, was that last spring? Or the year before? Just wondering….
    Anyway, what a scare you had, but luckily all is/was well, and you were able to have the lovely, happy Christmas together, like you hoped. I love how you were all wearing something with some red in it, love Joe’s shirt!
    I made the Cranberry Christmas cake and the Gingerbread cake and they were as yummy as always!
    It’s lovely to see sweet Siobhan too, I often remember our nice chats at the picnics, and wonder how she is….
    Jack really is a character isn’t he! Just look at the face he fulls when Siobhan picked him up!! Our 2 girlies DO NOT want to be picked up, or cuddled, boo hoo. They sleep with us though, and very often there are 5 of us in the bed, including 2 kitties and one of Kitties toys! She has a tiny panda bear, and a sort of Santa and a small seal, all made of soft fabric, and she carries them in her mouth all over the house! So we could find one on the sofa, or in the bedroom, even, if we’re not careful in a suitcase when we’re packing to go away….(we have found a toy mouse in between clothes when we unpacked last holidays….)
    Our traveler (Mick) is back home, he arrived the 29th safe and well, after being in Korea since August….So he was back just in time for New year!
    Talking of traveling, we’re keeping EVERYTHING possible crossed that we’ll be able to come to the picnic, sooooo looking forward to that! It’s been over 2 years since we crossed the channel, the longest since…well, the 1980’s I think! But Mr Johnson has just said that travelers entering the UK don’t need tests anymore, so that’s a good sign….
    Anyway, I know you have loads of comments to go through, so won’t take up more of your time….
    Sending you lots of love, from all of us,
    Nicoline
    xoxo
    PS….We are away at the moment, a short break in the very south of Holland, just 5 minutes from the German border…So we are just relaxing, reading, taking long muddy walks and doing your lovely jigsaw puzzle (which was gifted by Darling Rachel!!)
    PPS, I hope that you’ll get to see/read this….It’s the 3rd time I’m trying to post….

    • sbranch says:

      Has come to my attention that you, Nicoline, are the glue! Seems like so many of the people I have stayed in touch with over the years, you have too! But you’ve done a better job! So, yes, I have heard Girl on the stairs several times ~ once I thought I heard her jump off the bed upstairs because Jack was with me. Jack hears it too … we just look at each other when we do. I think the house might be just holding on to her memory. Jack cuddles more as he’s gotten older. That was true with my other cats too. Jack now lets me pick him up all the time, for years I didn’t even dare!🤣 I know, us two, everything crossed praying we have clear sailing in May. NEED to go. Will be so fun to reunite in Stourhead. I also want it to be the perfect Spring day! Okay, we should put that on our pray list!❌⭕️

  68. Linda says:

    OH my, I’m so behind! Just got this all read today. Had a painter come to do the laundry/mudroom/pantry. I should have been able to paint this myself but it looked like a mountain. I am frantically trying to get our taxes tied up as a farm folks we have to file by March 1 and my brother is going on the heart transplant list next week and wants me to come to San Diego for his recuperation. My DH does not cook, a complete invalid on the home front as am I on the farm chores anymore. So lots to do other than enjoy your post. Sorry to hear of your covid by you are fortunate as my mother passed last December with it. Would LOVE to do the voyage with you but I guess I’m getting a phobia about going/doing much of anything!

    • sbranch says:

      So much isolation will do that to you (and me)! I’m watching out for my phobias taking over! Sounds like you have too much on your plate. I hope your brother sails through this scary thing and gets well very soon. Sending love. ❌⭕️

  69. Ann Pieta says:

    All the best in wishing you and all your loves a wonder-filled 2022. Thank you for making available the special holiday special video viewing with enchanted book club, for any who may have wished to have seen it. Thank you for inspiring others to be the very best version of themselves uniquely, for we each surely are “an original”. I so appreciate the beauty you help us see through your eyes. <3 And it always makes me smile to get to print off the "Full Moons" bookmark – thank you for 2022's!!

  70. Patty Walker says:

    Hi Susan…. Glad to hear that you all made it through your Covid Tests sounds like without symptoms. My husband had Covid/Omicron and on Christmas Eve he said he was going to pass out…had a seizure and I screamed for him to Breath! After a scary night….my Christmas gift was for him to get through this and onto better health. (We both have been very healthy and cautious, but he got it!!!) Christmas is within our hearts! and to hear you enjoyed with dear friends is a blessing! I love your Pollyanna mindset and I too was called a Pollyanna ! Love Jack and his felt red ball. I have 2 orange tabies and my male cat from little on has loved his felt green ball. Thank you Thank you Thank you!

  71. Kristine Teachman says:

    So glad your Christmas turned out salvaged, in spite of the Covid detour! Looking forward to our May 1st sailing on the QM2! Stay healthy! ❤️
    Blessings!
    Kris

  72. Debbie Boerger says:

    Our daughter has Covid!! She has been fully vaccinated and boosted, and she always wears a mask. But….our dear Governor, Insantis, decreed (by signing into law!!) that you can not require vaccinations or masks in This Loony Bin…the state that Carl Hiaasen so aptly describes…as well as Dave Barry. Her school has 6 kindergarten teachers, 3 are out with Covid. A few months ago, all teachers were told they could not even Mention masking up.
    I never believed stupid was contagious. Not util now. It’s not Covid that’s stupid, it’s the moron people….Thank you for saying that, Dr. Fauci.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh Debbie, I’m so sorry. What a nightmare this is turning out to be. I hope your daughter is well soon, and this whole entire thing disappears and leaves us ALONE! xoxoxo Love you dear!

  73. Michele says:

    I hope it’s OK to say this on your blog post, don’t know where else to say it! I just received The Fairytale Girl and A Fine Romance in the mail. I am reading Martha’s Vineyard Isle of dreams and could not wait to own the trilogy. All I can say is these are the most beautiful books I have ever seen! Each page so beautiful💗 Brings tears to my eyes sometimes. Susan I believe you are from planet Heaven. A True angel on earth who’s job is to bring beauty and joy.
    Thank you for the happy 🙂

  74. Dianne in upstate New York says:

    Such a lovely post, and it was so good to see Siobhan’s smiling face again. I am so glad that you were able to spend time together after such a rough start. I realize that the calendars for 2023 have already been submitted, but I wondered- any chance of a photo calendar in 2024? I love your photos, as you really capture the beauty of the little things in life. I turned the last page of This Old House with a feeling of sadness. I used to save my calendars, but, I must confess, they are now usually falling apart as the end of the year approaches (from use- not from the quality of the calendars).
    Also, any chance of a mug commemorating the crossing and the picnic? It would make the perfect souvenir!! I fondly remember my trip to England and the picnic at Castle Cottage as I sip tea from my “Castle Cottage” mug. Speaking of England, I finally have all my accommodations for the weeks following the crossing. Now to decide what I want to do while there- and research train schedules.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Covid is out of the picture by then. I have returned to work (as a nurse in ICU) following retirement in order to help finance my dream trip. My friends all think I’m crazy!!
    Wishing you a wonderful year and looking forward to meeting with the girlfriends while at sea and at the picnic.

  75. Mary Lawrence says:

    I was so excited to see your blog the shot in the arm we all needed.Covi d is all around us,so lucky to have not gotten it. Our Christmas was quiet all the young people went to Florida,that was a hoot.Usually the senior s are the snow birds.We loved being warm and cozy in good old Gloucester,Virginia. I hope the new year is less scary,and you can get on the cruise ship and head to beautiful England. Keep the magic going,and give Joe a hug.Shoot Jack a rubber band and stay the sparkle of our lives.Happy New Year!

  76. Marigold says:

    I hope it’s not too late to wish you and your loved ones a Happy New Year! I’m so very sorry about all your well-laid Christmas plans, Susan. You seem to have managed well in the face of such disappointment, though. It’s always important to have a Plan B at the ready.

    Jack must be related to my Peekaboo, though they look nothing alike (she is a ginger), because she loves her fuzzy balls and rubber bands just as much as he loves his toys. Aren’t they characters? (I imagine they think we are, too.)

    May the Lord bless all of us as we board The Good Ship 2022. I am confident He will provide us with all our needs, though not necessarily all our wants. He’s loving and wise that way.

  77. Vonnie says:

    Thank you, Susan, for this update! So thankful to hear that it didn’t hit Joe hard, though I am sorry you needed to cancel your best laid plans. We had the same happen here in NH. No Christmas beyond our 4 little family unit as we canceled last minute plans because my son had been exposed through a friend the night before the festivities were to happen. I think we can safely say we are all SO over Covid now.

    Wishing you, Joe and Jack a wonderful new year! Prayers that it will all be looking up soon. Be well and blessed, Susan and thank you for your wonderful caring spirit.

  78. Lisa says:

    Thank you for putting Willard into the world. He brightened my day. I look forward to more!

  79. Debbie Boerger says:

    Miss Kris, our daughter is on the mend, but it was scary. She has an extremely compromised immune system, due to all the chemo and radiation. Glad she has until Tuesday to go back to school, where the little darlins don’t have to wear no stinkin’ masks, said one little boy as he strutted around the room ripping the masks off the faces of the kids who do wear them. Kindergarten!!??
    I’m still doing my Swedish Death Cleaning, trying to get it done before I have my nose put back in the middle of my face!! I’m not much of a regular house cleaner, but, when I do….Watch Out! I dare any mold spore to rear it’s nasty little head. Do spores have heads? That’s similar to, “Does the DC 3 eat its young?” That was on Cid Ceasar’s TV show in the 60’s. Remember that, older people?
    Stay warm and watch out for the ice on your walks,
    Mucho big love,
    Debbie in Tampa

    • sbranch says:

      Love that she’s better Debbie. I know the worry of a loved one down with this totally unpredictable virus! You really never know how it will turn out. I can’t believe she is working in such an unregulated situation. How anyone can blame teachers for not loving this is beyond me. PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS. Okay, I’m calm now.🤪 When you you have the nose surgery? Does it hurt? Stay happy sweet person! Stay well! xoxox

  80. Dianne in upstate New York says:

    Dianne in upstate New York.
    I forgot to ask in my post- where is that old barn located? I simply must photograph it when I am on the Vineyard again. Possibly this Spring

    • sbranch says:

      Wow, I can’t even tell you. We were out on a walk behind Peggy’s house where I’d never been before, went up and over and back and forth, and it was somewhere along the trail. I couldn’t even get myself back to it! How unhelpful I am! Sorry!

  81. Karen Sebben says:

    Susan, when is your new England book coming out?

  82. Karen Sebben says:

    I’m not sure why my comment is being deleted. Its a simple question. When is the new England book coming out.

    • sbranch says:

      I don’t think it’s being deleted … just so many comments came in at the same time, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. But here I am! The England book is on hold for now . . . I’ve been pulled in too many directions these last years … I really need to get back to it! I haven’t given up hope yet!

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