HI ALL! Welcome! Had to celebrate the day with my Girlfriends! I hope you’re being good to yourself! We had another big snow last night, woke up to a marshmallow world. MUSICA? Oh yeah!

Be my Valentine, but don’t forget during this week of celebrating LOVE, to . . .

That should say, “love the cutie you’re with,” which, in case you don’t know, is you!❤️

Guess which cup Joe got his tea in this morning? Oh yeah. On the adorable crocheted heart that our dear Girlfriend Barbara Urbank from Twitter (@barbarasgarden) sent me ~ I think of her every morning when I see this. A pure treasure. As is she. She is having a difficult time these days, and I know your prayers would fill her heart with joy.💞 

So, around here? BLIZZARD! It’s been cold and snowy, and it’s snowing again this morning! Perfect for getting things done. But I am ready to get out and GO! It won’t be long. Every day we inch closer to MAY! That Lusty Month Of May!

I’m still dealing with reality, those are my boots on the kitchen floor in front of the furnace register, filling up with hot air so I can do the big shoe exchange when my feet get cold.

I mean, LOL, look at our kitchen window! This is what happens in a Blizzard, which is snow plus wind plastering your windows. Joe brought the snow broom and shovel in from the barn, everything to dig us out is inside the house and dry and ready to go.

But you have to admit, it IS beautiful ~ and the birds are happy . . . putting on a wonderful show when the windows melt!

And of course, we’re happy too. Crackling fire, lit candles, and little visions of beauty never cease to please.

He LIKES doing this! I have to go out and bring him in, warm him up, make sure he isn’t having a heart attack. So far, so good!

We invited our bubble people to a small dinner party. Feeding each other from the well of sweetness.💞 It’s a must do. Fighting the mental-fatigue inducing pandemic with every fiber of my being. Don’t you just hate this? I don’t hate anything, but I DO hate this boring virus! I even started watching football!🙄 Three games plus the Super Bowl. I even liked it! Save me!

Jack kept me company while I did my very favorite thing, set the table! I used the old blue Copeland Spode that came with this house! Yes, a set of 10 dinner plates was waiting in the cupboard when we moved in! Left behind by the previous owner.❤️ And yes, we will leave them when we go.

I just HAPPENED to have these candles, and just HAPPENED to pick out these roses… I have never matched my candles to my flowers before, but one of my guests is a candle-flower-matching person, and I knew she would appreciate it, and she DID! I used our big 3′ square vintage linen napkins too. Slightly starched, ironed, and smooth as a baby’s hiney. The ones that make you feel like a 6-year-old when you put them on your lap. When you have an appreciative audience, you give them the good stuff!💞 

I spread those roses around the house . . . and brought light to a dark winter with an old-fashioned Pineapple Upside-Down Cake! I LOVE my mom’s recipe for it (⬆️ click for the recipe). It’s perfect for winter. I decided it needed a sauce, so each room-temperature serving sits in a puddle of cold vanilla cream, which almost makes it a Tres Leche Cake, but with pineapple and walnut crunch and that brown sugar chewiness on top. 

The Lilies are gone now, so are the roses, but those white sweet peas are SILL beautiful, now gracing the kitchen table! Kind of a miracle if you know sweet peas!💫

Wasn’t our Webinar with the Cary Library wonderful? Talk about miracles, a thousand of us for a tea party! This was my setup here at home, tea cup waiting, candles lit, I had my new book piled up next to me, and my OLD books, just in case we needed them, and some of the childhood artwork my mother saved for me, everything I could think of for show and tell. We lit up the house as best we could, Joe made a fire, and we just talked and talked. Helen and Nicole were wonderful, I have to thank them again for making it happen! It was like a girlfriend tea party at my kitchen table. Did you miss it? Would you like to see it? Go HERE!Oh yeah, we can talk! There are more Webinars to come, one is tentatively lined up for April. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s finalized!

Busy busy, storms are perfect for projects, and for solving family ancestral mysteries! This is a photo of my grandfather, the infamous pork-chop-gravy-eating Willard, the man who gave my newsletters a name, here with my darling grandmother, Florence. Born and raised in Iowa, they met at Sioux City High School and married very soon after graduating in the late 1920s because they were crazy kids, and quite brainless in their young years, a trait they passed on to their granddaughter.💖

Willard’s mother was Alice (Allie) Jencks, my great grandmother who used to make boxes of embroidered dish towels (this is one of hers) for my mom every Christmas, a big inspiration for me: if she was making them for my mom, I had to do it too. I remember visiting her at her house in Iowa, playing pick-up sticks on her wide front porch with moths flitting around her yellow porch light, and going up to her attic with her to get one of my mom’s old baby dolls. I was 5 and she was my mom’s grandma.

And THIS person ⬇️ was HER mom, my mom’s great-grandma, and herein lies the mystery.

I have had that photo for a very long time not knowing who it was. Thank goodness I kept it because when I was upstairs digging around for things to show for the Webinar, I found a letter from Willard which I had filed way back in the 1980s when he sent me all kinds of family photos, including this one. I forgot I had the letter (but of course I do, how could I throw it away?) and re-reading it, I found out that that photo ⬆️ was my great-great-GREAT grandmother, Angeline Martin Jencks, the grandmother of Willard and mother of Allie and her four sisters, including my Great Aunt Jose who sent us a box of her old children’s books when I was little, which included one of the best ever, Pollyanna! Wasn’t that a wonderful find? So she hangs on the wall in the wood room now. I wrote all her information on the back of the photo so this kind of confusion won’t happen to any other of her relatives! I’m always working on our family tree, getting little details here and there, trying to make these people come alive for us . . . the Jencks family has been a lot of fun because there’s so much information about them!💖

But, here’s the thing I’m spending most of my time on! My new book, Distilled Genius, the Illustrated Secrets of Life, My 40-Year Collection of Life-Changing Quotes, all 272 pages of pure inspiration🎁, has gone off to Kellee so she can prepare it digitally and send it to the printer!!! This was the first page Kellee finished and sent to me for approval. Now it’s a preview for you! MAS MUSICA? OUI!

If you read these quotes I think you’ll see how this book got the name “Distilled Genius.” I am so excited! It’s the exact opposite of what we’ve all been going through… the isolation, exhaustion, and PTSD from this BORING virus and all the scary news reports … this book . . . is Joy, Hope, Humor, Girlfriends, Creativity, Happiness, Connection and LOVE ~ pulling these quotes together has been the perfect place to spend these winter days ~ pure positivity and genius, reminding me of everything good in this world, has kept me very happy! As soon as I paint the Table of Contents I’ll show you! We gave the printer the green light on Friday, so it’s truly happening. WITH a ribbon! Made in America! They say we should have it at the Studio by the end of June. I will put it up for preorder soon, so I’ll know how many to order! And more preview pages will come! I feel so happy with this. To be able to share this collection after all these years! Who would ever imagine?!?And speaking of Happy Days! This is the other thing putting me in a good mood. Getting the book done, and then getting ready to go, because we are on our way to England on May 1! We’re having a PICNIC!!! Light is changing, days are getting longer, there are new shadows on the kitchen cupboards, I feel it coming!

We’ll be meeting these two Valentines, Rachel and Paul, witty, cute, talented, charming English people, in New York and boarding the Queen Mary 2 together! For those of you coming along, we’ll all be meeting on board to toast the Statue of Liberty as we sail away! Lots of details to come! Rachel and I are working on a talk we want to give on board the ship, something maybe called
The Magic of a Handwritten Letter?💞 What do you think?


It won’t be long now! Dreams do come true!

Well, off I go . . . I still have to paint the cover of the book! And do the Table of Contents… it ain’t over till it’s over. This book was very much inspired by you . . . you gave me a VERY nice reason to go on living this winter, I hope you LOVE it!. . .💖 Pray for our beautiful world. Have a WONDERFUL day!

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  1. Susan H Haines says:

    I’m delighted that I will be on the Queen Mary 2 at the same time as your Susan Branch “crossing.” We booked months ago to spend the month of May in East Anglia with a wonderful couple we met on our first QM2 crossing in October 2019. I do hope I get to say “hello” to you. What a happy coincidence.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh I’m sure we’ll get to say hello! I’m so happy Susan… I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this trip!🚢

      • Karen Provenzano says:

        Your quotes have been so uplifting to me these past years, I include them in my journals with stickers I collect ❤️ Looking forward to your 📕

  2. Janice says:

    Another beautiful read from you Susan. Thank you so much.
    I have a copy of Christmas Joy given to me from my youngest
    sister, whose name was Susan. 🙂

    p.s. the Pen’damit’ as I call it – was able to pull me down at
    times, and I thought – my God – what do other people do who
    do not have family and friends or a Susan around them.

    Let’s hope they have a Susan. 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      I worry for lonely people the most. I have experienced loneliness, thankfully not for years, but what an awful affliction it is! 💞 We belong together. ❌⭕️

  3. Thank you, Susan, and Happy Valentine’s to you too. I am also waiting breathlessly for your quote book! During this pandemic I started writing quotes on the sidewalk in front of our house in chalk! When our California weather got wet (long time ago), I got told that they were missed….so I am at it again!
    Love to you and yours!

  4. Maryann Harvey says:

    💕to you and Joe and Jack.

  5. Michele Salazar says:

    Has anyone told you how much you look like your darling Grandmother Florence?!
    Xoxo & love

  6. Linda Michael in PA says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Joe! I loved hearing about your family history. The picture of your grandmother and grandfather is darling, they look so young and happy. Don’t you love pics like that! I don’t have a lot of pictures from my history but I do know that my great great grandfather, Julius Sturgis, started the first pretzel factory in America in the little town of Lititz, PA. The original factory is still there and tourists can learn how to twist pretzels! My mom, who sadly passed away this past Thanksgiving at the age of 101, remembers eating pretzel soup during the great depression. My grandfather gave my grandmother a bracelet for their engagement in the early 1900’s. When my mom was 13, she babysat for her 2 year old cousin. He bit into the bracelet and left a tooth mark. Years later mom gave me the bracelet. I had a jeweler attach a safety chain, clean and shine it up, but DON’T take out that tooth mark. I cherish this momento of years past. I anxiously await your new book! Love, Linda xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      I know just how you feel. I have my grandma’s wooden cookie-making spoon. One edge is more worn down than the others, from years of stirring… I feel her when I use that spoon! Your tooth bracelet is priceless!🦷

    • LeeAnne Fura says:

      I was so excited to read your story! I grew up in Berks County, PA, and Sturgis’ pretzels were always in our pantry. As a kid in the 1960’s, I remember having them with birch beer at our summer parties. When I was 4, I had surgery for a congenital heart defect. At that time, my parents were told that I shouldn’t have salt, so they used to take the salt off the pretzels before they gave them to me. I was so angry! I’m glad that advice went by the wayside! Thanks to you and your family for happy memories.

  7. Care Woodard says:

    Thanks for a LOVELY valentine. You made me laugh out loud with the football watching. For the Super Bowl, we had your potato chip encrusted chicken nuggets with guac.. we always call them “a fan favorite”( your quote from your autumn cook book) because they really are.
    Do I spy candles from the nuns in Mass? You were right about the heavenly honey smell. They are the candles I light all over and are especially heart wrenchingly beautiful by the kitchen sink for supper dishes.
    I cut out the house in snow from the Jan page of your blotter calendar! It is SO pretty!! Looks like your house now with Holly Oak attached to the side:)
    The light does look different, and last week I heard my FAVORITE bird, the morning dove….Spring will be here before we know it. xo

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, your spying is what I call “good eye!” We love them, and our dear nuns, still in touch. Really want to go back for a visit! Heart-wrenchingly beautiful is a lovely way to say it. We have morning doves that seem to live close to our house on our kitchen porch. I look out and there they are, a pair of them, cuddled together. I always wish I could open the door and feed them!🌸🌸🌸🌸

      • Diane says:

        Susan, I have searched your older posts to find the one about the nuns in Massachusetts that make the beeswax candles, but I can’t find it. When you get the time would you be so kind as to give me the name of the website so that I can order some of their candles? I remember making their bread recipe. Thank you for all you do for us.

        • sbranch says:

          Here you go Diane! HERE … ♥️

          • Diane says:

            Thank you, Susan. It was so enjoyable to read that post again. I had forgotten they have so many creative interests. They don’t have candles available right now because of their large Christmas orders, but will have them again in the future. Waiting patiently.

          • sbranch says:

            Write them. I’ll write them too! xoxo

          • Diane says:

            I should have said that they don’t have any of their votives, tealights or molded candles. They still have the tapers.

          • sbranch says:

            I noticed that recently. Maybe soon, since holiday rush is over?

  8. Brenda Chambers says:

    Susan, we needed this newsletter. It did my heart good. Take good care and remember we’re all in this together!.

  9. Ginnie Judd says:

    Prayers for Girlfriend Barbara Urbank!

    And yes, the Carey Library tea party was wonderful!

    Can’t wait for your new book! Thanks for all the loveliness you share to fill our souls.

  10. Jana Jopson says:

    Could there be a sweeter ending to Valentine’s Day than to sit on my couch under a cozy blanket with a little 9 lb dog curled on top and read a Susan Branch blog post? Nope! Can’t wait to order several copies of the book. I have a 400 plus page Word document on my computer was saved quotations from several decades. Always inspiring … just like you, dearest Susan. Many thanks.

  11. MargotB says:

    Dear Susan ❣️
    We have been too cold for big snowfall, but we’ve had little ones and Arnie shovels an inch or two every third day. He likes Winter way more than I. He really got a chuckle from your description of the picture of Joe!
    Isn’t genealogy a great mystery, a great puzzle to solve! I caught something. Your mom’s great grandmother would be your 2 great grandmother.
    I am glad you got your book done before the trip! I can’t enjoy a vacation when I have things left to do at home. I can’t go along, but in July I may get to go over with my sister and her family.
    I missed the sign up for the Zoom by two days and it was full. We were supposed to head out after New Years, but Arnie’s schedule changed and he has been home to keep me warm! 💞💘😍
    Hearts ♥️ over snowflakes ❄️!

    • sbranch says:

      If she’s my mom’s great grandmother, wouldn’t she be my great-great grandmother? Or is that incorrect phrasing? How lovely, you have your Arnie! Stay warm Margot!💞

  12. MargotB says:

    My dad’s birthday cake every January was pineapple 🍍 upside down cake! Think warm climates 🌴

  13. Pam says:

    Is the Secret Garden quote correct? Is it are or aren’t?
    I am anxious for the new book! Your writing just excites my brain!

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Joe. I am married to a Joe too!

  14. Jeannette from the Central Coast says:

    Happy Heart Day a little late in the day! LOVED this post. What’s not to love? The photo of your grandparents is darling. Golly , you sure resemble your grandmother! I imagine others have to you that before:) My first Valentine’s Day without my sweet husband was hard, but lightened by a surprise lunch date with my oldest granddaughter, Fallon, who also brought me gorgeous yellow tulips that make me smile every time I look at them. Grandchildren are a gift from God!

  15. Nancy Giokaris says:

    HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY Susan & Joe❤️ Every Valentine’s Day I always think of you. I make homemade Valentines for my girlfriends. I remember back in the day you mentioned the impotence of sending Valentines to your girlfriends. I love this tradition. I will add that they look forward to receiving them. Thank you Susan. Love your beautiful pictures from the snow scenes, to Joe shoveling snow, the lovely table setting, photos of your Grandmothers and your special traveling couple. Also enjoyed your first page❤️❤️ Happy to hear of your new love(interest) of football. Our family had a fun small football Super Bowl gathering🏈🏈Again H V D❣️

  16. Peg Shelton says:

    Any idea of the date that we can preorder?? I’m so very excited. You are my best escape. It’s been a very rough year. My husband died of Covid in January, my best and oldest friend (65 years) died in November and my daughter was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of a very rare cancer (she’s had surgery and is probably going to be fine just has to follow up in 3 months with a Catscan). And then life challenges. But you were the bright spot in my life and have been since I found your first book in Costco all those many years ago. You are an inspiration for so many people around the world. May God continue to bless and keep you.

    • sbranch says:

      OH PEG. I’m so sorry.😥 Take my virtual hugs and wrap yourself in them, they’re as real as real can be. Blessings on you and your daughter. I can’t wait for spring. We need to have some sun on our faces, need to breathe in flowers. God bless you my friend. 🙏💞

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      Dear Peg, I hope you can feel all the love we Girlfriends are sending to you right this minute. The fact that you are able to participate in Susan’s Blog tells us that you are resilient and will be strength for your daughter.
      Lots of virtual hugs and a few tears,
      Debbie in Tampa

  17. Genie from.SoCal says:

    Thank you for this wonderful gift. I can’t wait to preorder the new book. Sent a friend request to @barbarasgarden to say hello.

    Sending love. Genie

  18. Jane Armour says:

    I finished this Willard and gave a deep sigh of contentment! Thank you!

  19. Claudette Simms says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day ❤️
    So excited for your book of quotes!
    And LOVED the Cary Library Tea & Talk ☕️
    You’re the best!

  20. Marge says:

    I’m so glad you’ve written your 2xgrgrandmother’s information on the back of her photo! Being Susan Branch, knowledgeable and talented artist and down-to-earth girlfriend, I just KNOW you used an archive ink pen to apply the information. Love to you and Joe!

    • sbranch says:

      That photograph, believe it or not, is on METAL… it’s not a photo in a frame, it’s all one piece! So I just used masking tape and wrote on that. I hope it’s okay!

  21. Joyce Howe says:

    Love your descriptions of the snowy blizzard. Since I moved from the Midwest to FL, we don’t have to deal with blizzards anymore, just an occasional hurricane. Your posts always brighten my day. I so wish I had been able to accompany you to England. I was really looking forward to it, but on the advice of my oncologist, though cancer free now, I am still considered immune compromised and he thought it unwise to risk it. Besides, I have my fourth (and God willing, the last!) surgery March 9th and May 1st could be pushing it for such an extensive travel adventure. Will just have to wait a while to make it there. Patience – not one of my virtues. Have a wonderful Valentine’s day with your boys, and thank you for being a bright light to all of us.

    • sbranch says:

      Not one of mine either Joyce, but you’re doing the right thing. First comes you. When that’s done right, everything else falls into place!❤️

  22. Tania says:

    Susan…Happy Galentine’s Day to you and all of the other ladies on this blog.

  23. Deborah Hatt says:

    Thanks, Sue, for yet another blessing. I love you, a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck.
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  24. Jill says:

    Oh, Susan I feel your pain! We had a blizzard the first week of February and it’s just now starting to melt. I can’t say my husband loves snow shoveling; for him it’s a necessary evil. Being in his mid-70s I’m always running from window to window to make sure he’s okay!

    I love your blue Copeland Spode. I can’t imagine having 10 dinner plates! I have some myself I’ve collected over the years and I treasure it. It makes me happy every time I look at it. May I ask where on earth you got sweet peas this time of year? I love them so, with their ruffly skirts and delicate scent. I’ve tried to grow them unsuccessfully but it’s just too hot here in the midwest summers. And the picture of your Grandmother Florence is just adorable. She looks so pretty sporting that 1920s bob! Don’t you love how the sweet old-fashioned names are coming back into vogue?

    So happy the Quotes book is coming soon! I have the big book of quotes but it will be nice having them specially curated by you. I have trouble finding them. Hope you had a lovely Valentines Day! I’m down with the flu (I got tested and it’s not COVID) so we couldn’t go out for dinner, but my husband got carry out and we celebrated just being together. So looking forward to your next Willard!

    • sbranch says:

      Our flower shop had them! And they are amazing. Joe just brought me some huge pink ones yesterday. I hope they last as long as the white ones have. Really, they are keeping up with the alstromaria! Yes, we can’t grow them here either. My Studio garden in California, about 4 miles from the sea, does a WONDERFUL job with them! As for the blue plates, I have an entire collection of the red Copeland Spode. But I don’t think I ever see any blue ones out there in antique malls. All I have are these original 10. I have lots of other blue, so I mix and match when I use them. Feel better soon Jill!❤️

  25. Ruth Winkler says:

    So happy that your newest book is almost ready. I do believe in the good old art of picking up a pen and paper and spending time writing letters to my friends. I look so forward to buying your new book as I make my own greeting cards and love to include a phrase or two. Thank you for thinking of all of us pen pals.

    • sbranch says:

      There’s a section on letter writing in the new book! xoxo

      • Debbie Boerger says:

        Oh, goodie! I still write actual letters!!! I saved the ones from our grandparents’ and parents’ generations, as they are amazing. Few of them attended college, but the sentence structure, spelling and punctuation…not to mention the wonderful handwriting, is rarely seen today. Am reading another book of letters from and to EB White. I think I’ve read all the ones of his that have been published published. Soooo funny.
        Thank you for doing the work for us to Read!!
        Mucho Love,
        Debbie in Beeeutiful Ballast Point, Tampa

  26. Deb says:

    Susan, I totally agree with you on decorating for guests who will appreciate it. That’s always so fun….but if no one notices, what fun is that? But I guess some folks just don’t get into things matching. LOL! Anyway, always enjoy your new posts.

  27. Barb says:

    How wonderful you found old family photos. Thank you for thinking of putting all the info on the back. Nice for future ancestry seekers. Delightful pictures all.

  28. Kathy Freeman says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day! So wonderful to see more details of your book ! Can’t wait to see it finished! Love seeing you set your table for guests and your Valentine’s red decorations throughout the kitchen. I look forward to your posts to see what grows in your garden, your trips to England, beach adventures, picnics, stories of friends and cooking and picnics, and of course, fun times with Joe and Jack. What blessings we all have in our lives if we just look around and enjoy the simplest of things!
    XO Kat F

    • sbranch says:

      It’s what we make it! That’s the most basic and best lesson I got from all those quotes. It sounds so easy, and it is!

  29. Karen says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day love to you, Susan, and to Joe and Jack as well from me and Charles and our kitty, Heidi, who could be Jack’s sister. Also, my beloved grandmother was Florence too; Flo to some, or Flossie but to me: grandmama. So glad you are heading over the pond in May. We decided in an abundance of caution to postpone the trip until 2023. We will live vicariously through you and the other girlfriends. Cheers!

    • sbranch says:

      We’re praying for the exact same window we had last year… middle of April through June… when everything seemed to be over, until July 4th came! Fingers and toes, all crossed, pennies thrown in the wishing well, salt over the shoulder!

  30. Judy Faust says:

    The Gail Lumet Buckley quotation is one of my favorites! I use it in all of my family scrapbooks. I’d send you a photo of one of the pages if I knew how!

  31. Karen Hellier says:

    Hello Susan!

    I just read your last 3 Willard’s all in a row tonight. I love getting them. They are such a breath of fresh air and coziness to me. But I need to share something with you. I think this pandemic is all in how you look at it. Maybe I am fortunate…I can’t believe I wrote that in light of what I am going to say next, but the pandemic has not been that depressing to me.

    You see, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2019. I had surgery in December of 2019 and was put on medication in January of 2020. Two months later lockdown started due to the Coronavirus. And you know what…it didn’t really faze me. I was so darn grateful to still be alive after I survived breast cancer, I was like…”Coronavirus? Pandemic? Eh, I just survived breast cancer. That doesn’t scare me!” And I enjoyed my time staying home. I read all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books again just for fun. Those made me feel cozy and happy and grateful I didn’t live back then because they had worse things than the Coronavirus. The lockdown gave me time to work on my art. I wrote lots of letters. My husband and I adopted a rescue dog who got me out on the walking trails in our community. I started trying to eat more healthy foods and try new recipes with all of my time at home. I felt so grateful and blessed and many days I was actually happy. Of course, I was very careful. I wore masks and stayed out of crowds. I didn’t go to people’s homes and didn’t hug anyone (except my husband and the dog of course so I was glad to have them). I followed the rules, prayed a lot, got closer to God and went to church online. Sometimes I just sat out on my back deck and listened to the birds. And throughout all of that I was happy.

    Whenever my friends would start complaining about being bored because of the lockdown, I would say, “Well it could be worse. You could have breast cancer.” That made them stop and think, and stop complaining.

    So while I do understand that a lot of people dealt with the pandemic differently than I did, I can only say I am grateful to be alive and so thankful for the little things (like your Willards) that helped get me through.

    Thanks for the snow pictures. I am a transplanted New Englander now living in Georgia and I miss the snow.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • sbranch says:

      A beautiful perspective Karen, and one of the reasons I think even the worst things that happen to us, can somehow, some way, turn out to be a gift. Including this pandemic. We’ll be different, more thoughtful people when we come out of this. Our values will be strengthened. Our connections to God will be stronger. Our children will not be as self-absorbed. And perhaps the biggest gift of all will be bestowed on us, empathy for others. I look at the dark clouds hovering over Ukraine right now, and feel so deeply in my heart for those families STUCK under the thumb of a madman. As long as people like that live, our world will never be truly free. But look, you got me started! I’m so happy you are well, and filled with gratitude. It’s a beautiful thing. Thank you for sharing! ♥️♥️♥️

      • Karen Hellier says:

        Thank you, and yes, gratitude is an amazing thing, and I have realized many wonderful moments come from gratitute. I am sure that everyone that goes on the cruise with you will be so grateful for being able to all be together with you, PLUS the gifts of a cruise and seeing England, that you will all have a wonderful time making 4-ever memories. I am sorry I can’t go with you, but my husband and I are doing a transatlantic cruise in April so I am grateful for that! Have fun and bon voyage to all of you!

        • sbranch says:

          April, a wonderful time to go! Bon Voyage to you too, we’ll all meet back here and exchange travel notes!

      • MargotB in Sister Bay says:

        I have family in Western Ukraine 🇺🇦. They always say things are okay. So I stopped asking. I wonder if someone is reading their emails.

        • sbranch says:

          They know we’re thinking of them. I love that they are putting Ukrainians on the news every day. I hang on their words.💖

    • Adele says:

      sending loving, healing thoughts to you, Karen. though I don’t even know you, your post made me think: “there’s someone I would want as a friend”. what a lovely, spunky attitude you have!

      • Debbie Boerger says:

        With a positive attitude such as yours, I’ll bet your immune system is reved way up!! Just read an article that says the research agrees. Enjoy those Georgia walking trails and your new outlook on life.
        Debbie in Tampa

      • Karen Hellier says:

        Aw, thank you Adele. That attitude has gotten me through a lot! I am sure I would love to be your friend as well!

    • dezi says:

      👍❤️👍❤️👍❤️ Thank you for that.

    • Lori Hamilton says:

      Dear Karen,
      Your story is wonderful and I can relate – I was diagnosed with leukemia in August of 2019, had chemo, etc. and a bone marrow transplant on Valentine’s Day 2020. The pandemic hit and I had already had to isolate so I just went on watching the birds, doing art, reading and like you, hugging only my hubby. (We don’t have a dog!)
      It’s not an easy thing, cancer, but as you said, it brings one closer to God and makes me thankful for every single day He wakes me up.
      Thank you for your comment and story. I’ll be keeping you in my prayers.

      • sbranch says:

        Sending love to you both… it touches my heart to see the support. 💞

        • Kathy Goblirsch says:

          Karen and all. I so agree. Late June 2021 i went to the DR for a lump i found. From there I was referred to the City of Hope where the genetics team found that I not only had breast cancer but BRCA 2- Stage 2.
          Gods perfect timing. Worked for my college office from home during the pandemic, was able to continue from home as others returned in August. I had the work down pat. Computer and phone were the only things I needed. Chemo/Surgery/Infusions. Every single day done with gratitude. Joy, I found it early on, and the gratitude I have for Gods angels who are the DRS and nurses who treat us for cancer.
          Susan, your blogs just lift me up. Your cats face shows what a human’s love will do for them. They know who the boss is. (I volunteer at a local rescue so i help adopt and do not adopt all myself.) I have 2.
          So, as my next treatment starts, and next surgery comes in May, I will watch more of the utube shows you have participated in and read so many of the blogs i missed. Chemo fog is real, mine is done and the fog has lifted! Back to work i will go in a few months, and I will be refreshed.

          • sbranch says:

            LOVE YOUR POSITIVITY KATHY😘 … Beautiful beautiful. Thank you for writing! All my best to you… stay strong, you are winning!💖💖💖💖💖💖

  32. Mary Hennessey says:

    What a lovely surprise on Valentine’s Day to have a Willard to enjoy from you!! I don’t have the words to adequately express what your beautiful posts mean to me. Your words,your drawings, the views from your kitchen windows, the Beatrix Potter figurines on your window cills,the snow pressed against the glass….and so much more is truly an enchanting gift to me and so many,many others. Thankyou so much for inviting us into your life…I treasure all of it and you especially. Mary in Colorado

    • sbranch says:

      Maybe it’s because in this constantly changing world, we all need something that stays the same!😂 I love my connection to you and everyone, it’s been such a wonderful accident the way this all came together. Thank you Mary! ❌⭕️

  33. Mary Huff says:

    What a beautiful surprise…a Valentine from my favorite author! I can’t wait to read your book of quotes slowly and savor it all! Who knew that you had so many of us friends here in Iowa, I live in Carroll and I always knew there was a reason I love you and your work so much! Looking forward to hearing about your visit to England, I have had a Pen Pal there from age 13, we have both been through a lot and would love to travel along with you to visit her, but not feasible at this time.

    • sbranch says:

      Another Iowa Girl! You know what they say about the Heart-land midwest? The nicest people come from there! I’m sure of it since I knew my mom and grandma very well. Since I was a child I always suspected the Iowa part of me was my best part! California was my rock and roll part. New England is my heart part. How lucky you are to have a penpal since you were 13 … I hope you saved your letters! ❌⭕️

  34. Nancy B. says:

    Wonderful Willard today, Susan!
    It breaks my heart to read about all the friends who are sailing with you and I won’t be there.
    I did try to call after the first of the year to see about cancellations, but couldn’t connect with the person who takes the reservations. And now I fear it’s too late to reinstate my passport. But I will be glued to my i-pad to follow along any posts you make of the trip. I had a thought that maybe you could video the talk you and Rachel do on the ship. I would so much like to see that if it’s possible.
    I love seeing the beautiful settings you make on your table when your friends come. So beautiful! ❤️❤️❤️

    Warmest wishes,
    Nancy (from Bakersfield)

    • sbranch says:

      I’m sorry too Nancy, but sometimes things don’t just come together the way we wish! You know setting the table is everything to me…one of the main reasons I had to learn to cook!🤣 So nice to hear from you, as always!♥️

  35. Sherri Fabbri says:

    Dearest Susan,
    I always love reading your Willards! The pictures are always so wonderful along with all of the special sayings and stories. I cannot wait for the new book! I wish I could go to England with you as it is my dream to be able to go there; but it won’t workout yet.🥲I hope you have a wonderful time! I look forward to your new book and more stories of England! I recently found out that I am distantly related to the Queen! She would be a distant cousin of my father!That is so special to me! I’ll never forget meeting you at the Apple Farm!
    Love and blessings to you, Sherri from Modesto🥰

    • sbranch says:

      Isn’t that fun? The Queen! I’m sorry you can’t make it Sherri, but I plan to take lots and lots of pictures!♥️

  36. Becky says:

    Oh, that was a MOST WELCOME blog post! Always a joy, a much-needed light. Your flowers are so pretty, as are the gorgeous blue plates! Pineapple cake looks delicious! Also, if it’s not too intrusive to ask, where is the source of that wonderful blue-and-white print easy chair? Love it so much, and love you even more! You and Joe stay warm back there!

    • sbranch says:

      I have a girlfriend who’s a decorator, this was a leftover I bought from her and I really have no idea where it came from. Knowing her it wasn’t just a normal store! Sorry, that isn’t a very good answer Becky … thank you for your sweet words!

  37. judi howard says:

    Happy day to you dear one💕☺️

  38. PJ says:

    I saved your post for this morning so that I could savor it while I had my morning coffee and am so glad that I did. Your posts are consistently delightful and uplifting. I so look forward to your new book as I, too, am a hoarder of wonderful quotations. What a lovely gift your book will make! Thank you again for bringing joy and optimism to these challenging times.

  39. Barbara Vlcek-Vinikow says:

    Greetings Susan, and 💕Happy Valentine’s Day 💕to you & Joe & Jack! ( Altho, as I write this it’s actually in the wee hours of the 15th. I’m a night owl!🦉)
    I really enjoyed your Willard and also your Webinar w/ Helen & Nicole. It was so much fun to see & hear you, and the interesting conversation covering so many topics!
    I’m very glad for you that your book of quotes is nearing completion. I definitely will want to pre-order a copy when it’s time. I, too, discovered a wonderful old book 📖of quotes in our public library, back in the day…probably about the time I was a 9th grader. I had a 3 ring binder filled with favorite quotes & poetry all thru high school & college, and still have it somewhere. You have a great idea of putting a copy of your book of quotes into every high school library! I’m sure there must be some kind of grant or foundation that could help make that happen.
    I was also interested when you were talking about the possibilities of your book, “Isle of Dreams” being made into a movie, and I completely support your plan to only allow it as long as your story is portrayed accurately. I really don’t even understand why a writer’s book is taken to be made into a movie, when they just re-write the whole thing so it’s not even recognizable! What’s the point?! So, stay firm about what you want, because your books, all 3, are so amazingly beautiful & creative, and your personal story is inspirational & timeless!
    One more thing to share with you, and then, even this night owl needs her sleep!!! I am so excited to be going on a road trip to San Diego🌴LaJolla with my sweet husband. We leave in a few days. I’ve never been in Southern CA, so it’s a whole new area to explore! I feel comfortable with traveling by car & staying in vaca-rentals during this time of, yes boring, covid. (We’ve been vaxed/boostered) Anyway, I enjoyed your comments on the Webinar about your ties to CA, and also your affinity with the East Coast, particularly MA & M. V. I truly understand because I have ties/connections with both Coasts, as well. And, I love experiencing all 4 seasons🌷🌻🍁❄, too, which happily does occur here in Reno. But not so much in coastal WA & OR, where I spent many years. In the PNW, there are basically 2 seasons…the Rainy Season, and then Summer (July, Aug, & Sept)! Anyway, I’ll be thinking of you when I’m in So.CA!
    Sending you lots of love❤, Susan! & sending prayers 🙏for Girlfriend, Barbara Urbank, may all be better for her soon! Take Care & Be Well!

    • sbranch says:

      Once upon a time I got engaged in La Jolla … a lovely little town way back then, probably even lovelier now. It was at the La Valencia Hotel … I loved one of the front rooms there filled with old movie star photographs! Have fun Barbara! ♥️ I hope you get some sunshiny days by the sea! xoxo

      • Barbara Vlcek-Vinikow says:

        Thank you, Susan! I will look for the La Valencia when I’m there. And, knowing how you love a good romantic story…My parents were married on the evening of Oct 20, 1943, in Wash DC, after my Dad had just finished Officer Candidate School (Navy). The next day they were on a train heading across the country to San Diego. So my parents first 8 months of married life were lived in a So. CA beach town…Oceanside. They were young, Dad 23, Mom just turned 21, and very much in love!!! It was the first time my mom, having grown up in Maryland, saw the Pacific. Dad grew up in Oregon. They met while they were students at George Washington University in DC. So, as I was growing up I heard lots of stories about their time in Oceanside, and all the other young couples that they were friends with. Of course there were pictures, too. And every Christmas we would get cards w/ pix from their friends, and my mom would tell me, again, who they all were & reminisce about the good times. I still have my parents snapshots, including a few taken on the cliff in La Jolla, cause my mom wrote the location on the back! And on a group picture of all the friends taken at the beach, she wrote everyone’s names. I was named after one of her best friends from those days! Anyway, my dad shipped out in the early summer of 1944, so my mom, who was pregnant w/ my brother, went up to Oregon to live with my grandparents. My parents never did get a chance to travel back down to San Diego again, but they sure enjoyed their memories. I am really excited to be visiting a place that was so special to them!
        Wish there was some way to share a few of the old pix with you! You’d love seeing them! …Maybe sometime on fb do a post about old photographs & invite the Girlfriends to post pix of their family…wouldn’t that be fun?!!! ❤ 🥰 ❤

        • sbranch says:

          Oceanside must have been SO ADORABLE back then, it still is, but I can just imagine how cute it was then. Pure romance! Love the FB idea!!!!

  40. Stephanie C says:

    You’re right. It is a beautiful world. We have to remember that. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the negative, and there is a lot of that, but we have to look beyond that, at least I do to survive. There is still so much to be thankful for. I thank God everyday for all the good that is out there and pray for the all the bad stuff too. Thanks for sharing your life with us. ❤

  41. Ann Parsons says:

    Dear Susan,
    What a wonderful, charming and uplifting Willard, thank you so much. The scenes of your snowfall are beautiful but it’s not looking like we will get any in Cheshire this year so I am grateful to have enjoyed yours from a distance.
    How thrilling that Rachel and Paul will be travelling over with you and Joe. What a fabulous trip this is going to be for you all.
    Much as I will be tempted to order your new book direct you know the postage across the pond is terribly expensive so will it eventually be available through Amazon.uk or is that out of your hands?
    One of Alan’s most favourite cakes is Pineapple Upside Down Cake so I will definitely be making your Mom’s version for him, it looks so scrumptious.
    Keep on taking care dear hearts and stay safe until we meet in May.
    With love to you both from Ann and Alan in Chester xx

    • sbranch says:

      I’m not in charge of it, but my other books have made it to Amazon UK, no reason to think this one will be any different! Isn’t shipping awful? All of our shipping charges have doubled! Book printing too! We are too little for this! Praying it’s just a blip…🙃 We will see you soon! ❌⭕️

  42. Renée says:

    Simply delightful! Thank you for your snippets of light and love. It’s been a dark time, sure there have been brighter spots, but posts like this ~ sprinkled w thoughtful and pretty bits help move us along. My hope is that your bucket gets replenished when you see how your words and creativity impact us. Much love

  43. Annie Slota says:

    My mom and I always enjoy reading these. I laughed when you said you have started watching football – and liking it- I have too!! It has been one of my COVID activities and I have enjoyed rooting for our beloved Cleveland Browns. Its about the city, not just the sport. Thank you for sharing all your positive thoughts – so essential today! ❤

    • sbranch says:

      I agree, and about the stories of the individuals! But I have to say, the minute the sun comes out, I’ve OVER it!🤣 Hi to your mom Annie!💞

  44. Nancy Mosley says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day!! Love all the snow photos. Everything always looks so cozy and inviting. You remind me of your grandmother and how cute she and your grandfather Willard were. Love those photos. ❤️ I know you cherish them. Stay warm ❄️☃️🔥☕️

  45. Waiting and waiting….and finally you’re here!Very excited for the new book!

  46. gmapat says:

    I love seeing your winter wonderland. Recently we in Indiana had an ice wonderland. It was so sparkly in the sun. That is an upside! I don’t mind being unable to go anywhere for a few days. The best was the electricity didn’t go out. Very much looking forward to your new book. ❤️❤️ your art. It will be a balm to the eyes and soul. My Spring outing will be a quilting retreat in April. Beauty will be bursting then too. Happy ❤️Day After! We had a good day too yesterday.

  47. charlotte m. says:

    Happy Valentines Day to all. Even though it is now the 15th, we need love every day. It is a chilly 19 degrees here in central North Carolina this morning. I don’t really mind the cold, but it would be lovely if we could have a wee bit of your snow Susan. I think snow always makes winter more fun. Your book of quotes looks fabulous. I do so always love your paintings in the edges of your books. Looking forward to following along while you are off on your adventure. May will be here before we know it.

  48. Mary says:

    hey this is Mary from the mostly sunny state of Georgia! No blizzards for us.
    So, so happy to hear your book on quotations is almost done! Can’t wait to preorder. Quotations and old family saying are my jam. I love them. Do you have old sayings you grew up with? I have a spiral notebook I write them in when I find one I like. I alway decorate the outside of my envelopes with quotations or saying before mailing.
    Happy Day to you!

    • sbranch says:

      What a wonderful thing to do! Yes, my mom was full of things like “Your face is going to freeze like that.” And, “Organization is the key to success.” Plus she sang old songs, so I got lots of interesting info via my mom!💞

  49. Nicoline says:

    Hi, and sorry it’s a day late, I just got the notice in my mailbox, but a belated Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Joe and Jack! What great news to know your book will not be long now……!
    Spring is arriving here and last weekend we went for a walk through a small woody area near the coast and some places were covered with snowdrops, just gorgeous!!
    Thank goodness travelling is a bit easier again, and so Tim ( oldest son) and I just booked a short break to LONDON!!!!! It’s been too long since we were able to cross the channel, but this time next week we’ll be back, and I can’t wait!
    In the mean time we’re getting our “fix” of Englishness, we’re watching Downtan Abbey again, 1 episode each day…
    Counting the weeks till may too, can’t wait, hoping the picnic will happen!!
    Lots of love

  50. valerie says:

    Hello dear Susan,
    When you mentioned that you and Rachel may talk on the magic of a handwritten letter, it reminded me of this story. It happened 5 years ago when my grandson was 5. He was smitten with a girl at school, but was too shy to talk with her, so he left a note in the mailbox for the letter carrier to deliver to her and even taped a ring to the note. The problem was that he didn’t know where she lived. What happened next was truly magical because the letter carrier did find her. The story was posted on Facebook if you want to read it. (you may have to copy and paste)


  51. Marsha Sega says:

    Susan, I thoroughly enjoyed the zoom session. During it, someone asked for our email address if we were interested in having a pen pal. I gave mine but haven’t heard anything back. Do you know anything about this? Also, I loved seeing your ancestor pictures. I have been doing research on Ancestry and have gotten in contact with cousins I didn’t know I had on my dad’s side of the family. I can get lost for hours checking all the hints I have for relatives. I’ve managed to go back to the early 1700’s and find my, I don’t know how many greats grandparents. When I was visiting my sister, we managed to find the tombstones of our great-great-great grandparents. It was in a small cemetery way back in the woods at the end of a dirt road.

    • sbranch says:

      How fun that you found their graves. Very special. I don’t know about the pen pal thing, not sure what was planned there … we do one on our facebook page. Every so often Kellee posts something so people can find each other. Watch for that.♥️

  52. Lorie Hartsig says:

    I cannot wait to order Distilled Genius!
    Lorie Hartsig

  53. SUSAN K. says:

    Bless you,Joe and Jack for always brightening our days

  54. Corky Stonebraker says:

    Your letters are always so joyful and I look forward to reading them. Glad to know you enjoy doing family history too.

  55. Merry says:

    Loved the message. Couldn’t open the shopping site:/ Sad.

  56. Carolyn Wilson says:

    Susan, your new book will be Wonderful/ You are indeed the perfect genius to distill all those wonderful quotes. Your beautiful watercolor illustrations make each page so beautiful and special. Thank you!
    The handmade potholders from my Mother are my treasure and a joy to use.
    May I share a quick little knitting project – making little washcloths for my face. Use scrubbie yarn – all cotton – for softness and pampering. Use smooth cotton with alternating sections of scouring yarn for your face. All scouring yarn makes dishcloths.

  57. Carolyn Wilson says:

    Susan, your new book will be Wonderful/ You are indeed the perfect genius to distill all those wonderful quotes. Your beautiful watercolor illustrations make each page so beautiful and special. Thank you!
    The handmade potholders from my Mother are my treasure and a joy to use.
    May I share a quick little knitting project – making little washcloths for my face. Use scrubbie yarn – all cotton – for softness and pampering. Use smooth cotton with alternating sections of scouring yarn for your face. All scouring yarn makes dishcloths.

    • sbranch says:

      I’m not the genius, THEY are, I’m the book thief!🤣 But I know a genius when I see one! Thank you for sharing the knitting project!!! so sweet. ❌⭕️❌⭕️

  58. Valentine’s Day continues! Thank you for the newsletter of hope, happiness, and heartfelt hoorays!! As someone previously commented, “We all need a Susan in our life!” (Are you coming to the Central Coast of California anytime soon? Perhaps a book reading at The Apple Farm? I participated in your Quilt Challenge years ago and we all delighted to look at everyone’s final project and enjoyed meeting YOU! Sweet blessings from the Central Coast of California.

    • sbranch says:

      The Apple Farm closed a couple of years ago, at least in that form, it was sold and I’m not sure what’s happening there now, but all the people I worked with there are gone. Have you heard anything? I LOVED that quilt challenge … it was wonderful meeting out there, eating together, looking at all the beautiful quilts. I see the photos sometimes and just remember a fantastic day!

  59. Jody says:

    Happy belated Valentine’s day to you! Reading Willard with a cup of “joe” close by, two blessings at once. What a treat. We are waiting on another round of snow, it is so beautiful coming down. I love snow; however, ice is not a friend of ours. As we age to many things can be broken even though I bounce.
    We also had a lovely Valetine’s day, just the two of us with our Maggie and Mollie ( 2 wee shelties ). We read, watched old movies and just enjoyed the day. It was one of the best, no rush nor fuss. Your table setting is just beautiful, thank you for sharing. Have a blessed week. Looking forward to your new book.

  60. Betty Hopkins says:

    Finding your Willard in my inbox always sparks so much joy inside me and inspires me with every changing season. I’m a lover of quotes, too, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Distilled Genius. And, oh yes, would you please record the talk you give on the Queen Mary on “The Magic of the Handwritten Letter” and share it with those of us not going? PLEASE! I have a few letters from my great grandfather to my great grandmother that are over 100 years old. They mean the world to me. It makes me sad to see technology replacing the art of the handwritten letter. There’s so much history and love in a handwritten letter that technology can never replace.

    • sbranch says:

      I will try! I couldn’t agree with you more. Such a loss… we have to take special pains to get such things from the people we love while they are still here. Maybe not letters, but SOMETHING. Their written stories in their handwriting…their voices, whatever we can!♥️

  61. Karen Lotito says:

    Hi Susan, A happy belated Valentine’s Day to you and Joe and Jack, too! Wasn’t that blizzard something?! We’re up in Midcoast Maine and it was quite a storm. However, it wasn’t the worst. The following week we had another storm which started as rain, then it turned to sleet and then it snowed. All of that layer froze so we had a lot of ice. But all is good. I’m sure you’re counting the days until your voyage on QM2! We are looking forward to sailing on her again, sometime soon! I loved your blog! Best wishes, Karen from Northport, ME

  62. Mary Ann in Mid-Missouri says:

    This winter has been a real roller coaster in Missouri this year. We had a blizzard last week, then really nice weather the past few days, melting most of the snow. Today is supposed to get to 61, then during the night tonight, turn cold and we could get up to 8″ of snow through the day tomorrow. Yikes!
    Can’t wait for your book to come out. I will definitely be preordering it.
    Have a wonderful day, Susan!

  63. Mamey Brown says:

    Yay! So happy to see a new post from you! I have to go to old blog posts to hold me over in between your current ones. I do go to the same month in previous years though so the season is right…LOL! I am so excited about the quote book coming out! I will definitely be pre-ordering it! Are you still going to write a book about your Scotland trip???? I just re-read your trilogy of books and I LOVED them even more the 2nd time! I just can’t get enough of your positivity, wisdom and appreciation for all things….Thank You Susan!

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Mamey! Such sweet words! I still WANT to write that book, I feel like it’s such a good one. We’ll see if I get to it!🤪

  64. Rene Marie Foust says:

    I am so excited to pre-order your wonderful, inspirational book and I am so very happy that you will be going to England in May I will live vicariously through you. Your trip sounds perfect. Thanks for the update on the book and have a wonderful afternoon.

  65. Cindy Penzler says:

    Oh Susan! I soooo loved your library interview! Thank you for posting the link in your blog! The Wind in the Willow sounds lovely. I went to Audible to put it on my phone for my morning walk but there are TWO choices! Which narrator did you choose? I will follow your advice as I have for the last 35 years! Be well, dear friend, Cindy

    • sbranch says:

      We had the BEST reader … Michael Hordern… he was perfect. Sounded like he lived with one of the creatures in the books. ❌⭕️

  66. Carol Maurer - Kennewick, WA says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Joe and Jack!!! I hope it was a fantastic day for all of you!! So glad that whatever was wrong with getting Willard was fixed. I was sooo disappointed when I couldn’t get it. But, today it worked. Yay! Will be such a fun time going back to England again. So many of you going along with Susan this time around.

    Spring is trying really hard to come to Eastern Washington. All my spring flowers are coming up. It gives me hope once again.
    Happy days are here again!

    • sbranch says:

      Why that happens, I don’t know. I’m really not that happy about the internet in general, but since we have to have it, we’ve learned to enjoy certain aspects, and EXPECT them to work!!! 🤣 When that happens I suddenly feel like I’m putting up with a broken thing I didn’t want in the first place! Oh well, it’s back and I love it again!💖

  67. Patty says:

    Dear Susan,
    I want to go on and on but will keep it simple. Thank you for the inspiration and all the good cheer you provide for so many! You are a bright light in this crazy world!1 .

  68. Congratulations on the (near) completion of fewer books of quotations! I have a newfound appreciation for what that means – I also wrote a book during the pandemic – the story of my grandmother, who lost her mother in 1899, at the age of 5, which led to a pillar-to-post childhood. I was so engrossed in researching and writing about her life and that of her siblings and ancestors (giving me a 2nd reason to identify with your Valentine’s Day post). It was so engrossing, I was hardly aware that I was under lockdown for months in my room here in the care home where I live. But now their stories won’t be lost to the future generations. So, again, I say – congratulations for a job well done that we all happily anticipate.

    • sbranch says:

      I got your other comment about the “fewer” supposed to be “your” … thank you Arlene, so sweet of you. Interesting, I had to look up Pillar to Post Childhood, had never heard that phrase before. I have to agree, research is so fun, so encompassing, entire days slip away without me knowing! I’m so happy you did that Charlene… what a gift! One of our Girlfriends just suggested we do an ancestor/family photo show-and-tell on my Facebook page … isn’t that a great idea? I’m going to do it! So if you have pictures, you can post them there later on today … you’ll see when it goes up!♥️♥️♥️

  69. Arlene says:

    I’m actually jealous over your blizzard, it jumped right over us here in south central pennsylvania and I was not happy. Oh well! But I love how you romantically describe it and your hubby loving to shovel, just embracing and knowing seasons come and go. Love your table setting, it’s a lost art. Years ago in my early 30’s I set our dinner table beautifully and take great pride in doing so, someone said to me “you’re not from around here are you?” Odd question but “no I’m not, born and raised in Brooklyn NY, why?” She said “Because someone your age setting a table like it’s ready for a magazine cover is not something you see!”She was an older woman who found it so refreshing to see me doing this. I thought how sad. I love seeing a beautifully laid table, which I still do to this day.

  70. Susan, in the post. I just made, it should’ve said “your books” instead of “fewer books.” (I use voice activated software, it and it did the trick on me. Sorry!)

  71. Jenny says:

    Hello! I found the loveliest old interview of Fred Astaire on YouTube and wanted to share it with you since you love him so much. It wouldn’t let me copy the link but if you search on YouTube for “Parkinson: Fred Astaire Interview 1976” you should be able to find it. 😀

    I’ve been watching a lot of Parkinson’s interviews with the greats: Jimmy Stewart, Bing, etc. I sure hope you enjoy them. I’ve loved them.


  72. Suzette Shoulders says:

    I was startled at how I could see YOUR sweet face in your grandmother Florence’s face, Susan! How cool is that? I too had a grandmother Florence, although I didn’t know her well, like you knew your mom’s mom. Grandma had been divorced and her second husband was a very jealous man, and didn’t like Grandma to see my mom, Mary Lois, or her family. But my mother was a wonderful treat, and a happy, happy person all her long life, so I never felt deprived about the grandma. I do want to pre-order at least 3 of your quotation book, I am very excited about it being so close to finished! Thank you! Suzette in Oregon

  73. Saralyn Alexander says:

    Sus3, I just love reading your Willard. My mom gave me one of your books 30 years ago and I have quite the collection now. Can’t wait for you be one! I’m now giving my daughter’s your books on special occasions so they can have their own collection too. Unfortunately, I sent your Sweets for a Sweet book to my daughter at college in her Valentines care package along with home made cookies and candy but someone decided to “borrow” it from the house porch it was delivered to. Maybe they are reading your book while eating my cookies?? My hubby and I are coming to the Vineyard this weekend for a relaxing get away. Can’t wait and can’t wait for your new book!

  74. Nicoline says:

    Hi, and sorry it’s a day late, I just got the notice in my mailbox, but a belated Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Joe and Jack! What great news to know your book will not be long now……!
    Spring is arriving here and last weekend we went for a walk through a small woody area near the coast and some places were covered with snowdrops, just gorgeous!!
    Thank goodness travelling is a bit easier again, and so Tim ( oldest son) and I just booked a short break to LONDON!!!!! It’s been too long since we were able to cross the channel, but this time next week we’ll be back, and I can’t wait!
    In the mean time we’re getting our “fix” of Englishness, we’re watching Downtan Abbey again, 1 episode each day…
    Counting the weeks till may too, can’t wait, hoping the picnic will happen!!
    Lots of love

    • sbranch says:

      Love seeing the snowdrops Nicoline! Such a vision of hope, especially sticking above the snow! Picnic is a definite! See you there!

  75. Kathy (in Rialto, CA) says:

    Susan: I’m curious. Did I miss the 2022 FULL MOON bookmark? Or did you not do one this year? It’s a tradition for me to make them and send to all my nieces. We comment on the full moon that night and love how even though we are spread far and wide across the USA, we are all looking at the same full moon. I’d love to print it if you did one…if not, sure will miss it. Please point me in the right direction…I’ll follow it to the moon and back.

  76. Debbie Boerger says:

    Snort!! Wiping away tears of laughter after watching those po’ people trying to get across an icy street!!! I called Tom over to watch, and, while he chuckled, he said it brought back memories of being stationed in Duluth, Minnesota, for 4 years.
    One year I decided to stay up in Maine by myself til after Jan. 1. A friend gave me some “grippers” to put on my boots, and that made all the difference. Being from the Mississippi Delta and Florida, I did not have a clue.
    Hang in there, Dear Lady, it will be May 1 before you can blink!!!
    Mucho Warm love,
    Debbie in Ballast Point, Tampa

    • sbranch says:

      I know Debbie, I wake up every morning thinking about it! and, yes, wasn’t that video hilarious… when that guy, after crawling up that icy road so slowly and carefully, finally crawls off the screen, and then comes sliding back into it, I cry laughing. It looks to me like all the guys in that video are laughing then, it had to be so funny!🤣

  77. Linda Maus says:

    But, do you love me, too? I’m a conservative Republican who is patriotic and loves her country. Some of your comments about the GOP don’t sound very loving.

    • sbranch says:

      I just try to steer clear of politics on my blog. We all deserve a break from it, NEED a break, me too ~ it’s become so 24-7, dividing us to shreds. But here is our safe space, no challenges, it’s all the things we have in common, family, home, getting ourselves through the pandemic in one piece, cooking, creating, best friends, sharing our lives, travels, loves, and even heartbreak. Like Girlfriends, kindred spirits. 💖

  78. Stephanie Hull says:

    Susan, am I crazy, but is your blogpost and Willard one and the same? I receive two emails, one for each of them. Should I unsubscribe to one of them? I am so confused😂😂

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, I finally decided to combine them (some people only got one or the other, which seemed crazy), so both emails are right! You can unsubscribe and only get one email alert if you like ~ they both work the same now.

  79. valerie says:

    Hello Susan,
    I just realized that the previous note I sent had an unsecured link, so I copied and pasted the article, minus the photos. It’s a long read but cute story that happened 5 years ago when my grandson was 8. He was smitten with a girl in his class, but was too shy to talk with her. He sent a note in the mailbox with a plasric ring taped to it, for the letter carrier to deliver to her, with no address, no envelope, no stamp.
    When you mentioned that you and Rachel may speak on the magic of a handwritten letter, it made me think of this story.
    The story was captured in an online Facebook news article –

    “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” – Herodotus, 503 B.C. (Inscribed on the General Post Office facility on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.)

    In the case of the Owasso Post Office, connecting “young love” can be added to their motto.

    On Monday, January 30, Erika Rix answered a knock on her door, finding a postal carrier holding mail on the other side. When she reached to take the mail, the carrier jerked it back in a “not so fast” motion.

    It was not her normal mail carrier and Erika’s “Is that my mail” look was answered with a “Do you have a child named Faith?” As Faith is only 8 she was somewhat puzzled.

    The carrier said she had a very special delivery for Faith, but the mail was sent without an address. After questioning Erika, she was sure she had the right address and gave her the mail.

    The carrier told Erika that the letter had been passed around the Post Office, trying to find a carrier with a postal customer named “Rix” on their route. They found one. They then made it their mission to find the intended recipient, as they knew the delivery was very special.

    Faith’s mother took the mail. She examined the special delivery and found two pieces of printer paper folded over, made into a card of sorts. On the front of the card a message was written in a young child’s handwriting:

    To: faith Rix

    From: ???

    3 letters

    To the right of the wording was taped a very special shiny, blue stone, heart shaped ring. Plastic, but priceless.

    “3 letters” was a little clue as to who the card was from. You see his name has 3 letters – Dax, which we learned from the inside of the card, but we will get to that in a minute.

    Erika found the card and its contents adorable, and could not wait to show it to Faith and ask her about Dax.

    When Faith got home from school she asked her who “Dax” was and showed her the card. Faith, who is a little shy, said he was a boy in her class and that she had known him since they both were at “Kings Kids Preschool.”

    Erika, loving the story of the card wondered if Dax’s mother knew he had sent it, so she looked her up on Facebook and sent her a message.

    It turns out Dax’s mother, Michelle, did know about the card and how it came to be, and shared a little more to the story.

    One day last week Michelle walked into her sons room and saw he was working on something. When she asked “What are you working on?” he quickly jumped and covered over the paper he had been writing and answered “nothing.”

    A few minutes later he said “Mom, I just need to mail something” and went out to the mailbox and put up the flag. As the mail had already run for the day, his mother knew it would still be there the next day.

    While Dax was at school the next day, Michelle looked in the mailbox to see what he had put in there and found “the letter”.

    “I thought it was so sweet and showed it to his grandma” Michelle said. Grandmother wondered what would have happened if the mail carrier had taken it and asked the mail carrier. She said they would have tried to find the recipient if the letter had a last name. Michelle wanted to keep the letter because it was too cute and put it in his keepsake box.

    When Dax came home from school later she explained to Dax that the mailman had not taken the letter and that she had kept it. Michelle explained that the mailman could not try to get it to her house without a last name. He told his mother “I don’t want her to know who it is from.”

    Dax took his letter, looked up Faith’s last name in his yearbook and added it and a few other notes to his carefully crafted card.

    Dax’s changes to the card included adding Faiths last name, and signing the card on the inside. Also on the inside he wrote:

    “to:Mailman I don’t know were she lives but pleas help find her. I hope tommorw at school she will get it pls help.”

    How could you not help after that plea?

    Michelle told him not to put anything in the letter that he would not say in person because it might make them both feel “weird”.

    Once completed, he again put the card into their mailbox and pulled up the arm. Michelle said she had intended to take it out the next day, but forgot. The mailman took it. Michelle admitted to being a little disappointed as she had really wanted to keep it.

    Michelle assumed the letter would end up being trashed and didn’t think much about it after that. That was, until she saw a Facebook message from Erika Rix. She could not believe the card crafted by Dax had made it to Faith.

    On Monday, the Post Office was able to deliver the card and beautiful blue ring right to Faith’s front door.

    At first Michelle decided not to tell Dax that Faith had received it, because she thought it would make him too nervous, but after speaking with Erika on the phone she knew she needed to tell him that Faith knew.

    She waited to tell Dax the next morning. When she told him, she said he started to tear up, and said he did not want to go to school that day. Michelle talked to him about it and told him he should feel good about it because he made someone’s day. She also mentioned the article being shared on Owassoisms he got excited saying he didn’t want anyone to know BUT did want both his and Faith’s photo in the article.

    Puppy Love…..it’s hard to forget the first one.

    In this case, it may be even harder for Faith and Dax to forget, as now their story has been shared with thousands, and that innocent pull of young love to Dax’s heartstrings, has now brought smiles to many.

    Hopefully, years from now, they can both look back and smile at such a sweet memory from their childhood.

    Faith and Dax, along with their moms met at McDonald’s Thursday evening to snap a photo of the two together for us. The photo may have included separate tables, but I spot that pretty blue ring on Faith’s finger 🙂


  80. Ginny Evans says:

    Hi Susan! Loved your wonderful winter “visit.” I couldn’t agree more with Karen Hellier, who survived breast cancer and has such a great perspective on the pandemic. I has been a real challenge for sure, but nothing compared to the lives of our ancestors. And we have computers and can connect with wonderful friends–like YOU–clear across the country or world for that matter. We’ve all grown closer and been filled with joyful thoughts–thanks for contributing to that.

    I loved your very cheery yellow-orange roses sprinkled through out the house! And while I won’t be with you on the Queen Mary, the world is starting to open up again and there are hopeful, bright things to look forward to–like your new book. Can’t wait! Have fun painting the cover. Also, thanks for taking the time to send us Willards and blog posts. So fun!

    Love you, hugs!

    • sbranch says:

      Half of what makes isolation feel better is just knowing we COULD go if we wanted!😂 It’s getting better, and even if it lasts only a few months, we have to make hay while the sun shines! Yes, we are very lucky in this country. I hope we continue to preserve every wonderful thing we have while continuing to work to make life even better for us, our families, and everyone around us! Feeling blessed!❌⭕️

  81. Margaret Matlock says:

    It’s always great to see a new Willard from you. No snow here in Nevada! Before moving here had lots of snow in Colorado Springs which was wonderful when you could stay home and read a good book. Looking forward to you new book of quotes. Bought two of the Gratitude one, one for me and one for my best friend. Have a book full of quotes that I collected , lots of one’s from Gladys Taber. Her books got me through having Covid in 2021. Read all eleven of them. My favorite is “Harvest of Yesterdays.”

    • sbranch says:

      How great you read them all. I have that book, but haven’t read it! I will! Thank you!

    • Ginny Evans says:

      Wow, Margaret, how lucky! I’ve always wanted to read Glady Taber’s books, but I can’t locate them anywhere. May I ask, how did you find them?

  82. Cindy from southwest PA says:

    Hi! I want to thank you for a wonderful post and for sharing your private world with us! WHAT A GREAT GIFT YOU ARE TO US GIRLFRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE all of your books and I am reading Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams now. When I came to the page that has your Carrot Cake recipe I remembered the day I made it into jumbo cupcakes for my adult son. A new recipe so I got everthing all ready ,checked the recipe and made them. They looked and smelled great! While they were cooling I went to the frig. for something and there they were! The grated carrots!!!!!!!!! I know, how can anyone
    forget the main ingredient????? But thats me I do these things!!!!!!!!!! Everyone loved them anyways and they will be even better with the grated carrots next time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really enjoy making one of your recipes, they turn out great!!!! I am excited to pre order the quote book when it is time! Stay warm and safe!

    • sbranch says:

      Been there, done that! 🤣 Those are the days. How wonderful they were still tasty and edible! 👏 Thanks for the story! Have a wonderful day!💞

  83. Cindy L says:

    You tell Joe to be careful shoveling snow! When my husband had his heart attack, his cardiologist told him “you’ve shoveled your last scoop of snow!”. I’ve heard another cardiologist say people shoveling snow keeps him in business.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh, I know. That’s what I worry about too. I go out and get him when I think he’s had enough. He goes to the gym twice a week now, so I don’t worry about him so much, but I have my eye on him!🤣

  84. jeanie says:

    Oh, so nice to see this happy post. Even the snow looks good (though I am tiring of it in my own world!). It’s a wonderland when it’s all fresh and bright! Thank you for the pineapple upside down cake recipe and all the lovelies here. The quotes, your warm kitchen, beautiful table and more. Just what I needed today!

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, we love snow when it comes, and are very happy to say goodbye when it goes!🤣 Joy of the change of seasons! Nothing ever stays the same!♥️

  85. Sharon says:

    Photos of your lovely home make me feel warm inside! 😊
    I want to thank you for your recommendation of the audiobook “A Gentleman in Moscow”. My husband and I just finished listening to the last chapter yesterday morning on St. Valentine’s Day. We even borrowed your suggestion of each of us wearing an ear piece to listen on a morning walk. The writing was so descriptive and funny and interesting and I loved the narrator’s accent, reading style and different voice impressions like Humphrey Bogart! I want to go to the Metropole Hotel, the Boyarsky restaurant, the Shalyapin bar. I didn’t want the story to end.
    If you haven’t seen this site you can view the actually hotel and read about their tour retracing the Count’s steps!

    Would you consider creating a tab on your website dedicated to “Susan’s Reading/Audio Book Recommendations”?
    I would love to know more of the Audio books you and Joe have enjoyed together. My husband Brad and I started doing this last year when he brought up “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradberry, which I had never read. (It was delightful!) It has been such a wonderful time that we spend together listening to books and discussing them.
    We have also enjoyed several books by Matt Haig, such as The Midnight Library.
    If you already have a place of your recommendations can you direct me there?
    Thank you so much Susan. You are a gift! ❤

    • sbranch says:

      Oh yes, I went directly on line to look at the Metropol!😂 I even went to Amor Towles website and made one of the recipes he mentioned in the book! I’m so glad you enjoyed it too. I do have a book list on my website, but it’s woefully outdated … I should attend to that! You can find the list on the dropdown at the top of the website where it says “About Me” We also loved Hamnet, Forgotten Garden, and Splendid and the Vile.♥️

  86. Mer says:

    Hi Susan,
    I am so looking forward to your new quotations book. So many years ago I discovered Mary Engelbreit and fell in love with her art and use of quotations and then I found your beautiful work with even more quotations. I have been collecting quotations for years as well so it will be wonderful to have and share this beautiful new treasury combining art and wisdom. I would like to know how to order them to sell at retail. I am a buyer for a small shop on the Cape. I usually deal with a few sales reps who represent many publishers (it seems like they’ve all merged into one giant corporation 🤦🏻‍♀️). Will you have a sales representative for your publishing company? I watched your zoom tea party with the Cary Library and enjoyed it very much. I have just begun reading The Lincoln Highway. Loved both A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility! Incredible writing! Well, the wind is howling out there. Just finally picked up some debris in the yard from the last storm earlier today since the snow melted. I’m sure there will be more to pick up after this storm moves through. Thank you for the lovely Valentine Willard 🥰

    • sbranch says:

      Hi Mer! I would love to have my book in your store! We don’t have a sales rep, but you can buy them directly from us and, ps, get a much better price than you can from the reps and distributers because we really do love to support the small independent stores. Just write to [email protected] and she’ll set up an account for you. As soon as I put them up for presale, you can preorder and be sure to get books from the first printing. The way things are, I’m not sure we’ll get a 2nd printing before Christmas. Everything is taking so much longer these days. Thank you for asking!❌⭕️

  87. Kim Jackson says:

    Where did you get that beautiful garden planter with the saying…

  88. Julie says:

    Your grandparents look so happy, and blissfully in love. What a treasure!
    The Sweet Pea’s fragrance transports me to my childhood where my father planted them each year near our front door. My absolute favorite flower…love your dinner parties! I just don’t have the courage to host them. You seem to do them effortlessly, was it always easy for you?

    • sbranch says:

      It was, I guess my huge family made it seem like normal when my turn came. But for you, just invite two or three friends, set a pretty table with flowers (remembering nothing has to match), make food you love, cozy food, that makes people feel warm, it doesn’t have to be fancy. And tell people to come. It’s a gift you give your friends, to show your love, to get them out of the boringness of everyday life. And you never know who might get inspired to invite you back, show you their love, and get you out of the boringness of everyday life! ❌⭕️❌

    • dezi says:

      Julie, I know how you feel. I came from a very large family, but I was the shy one. When I moved to Arizona I didn’t make friends for a very long time. Some people in my church were especially kind so I invited two couples over to play board games. My new husband and I set a card table in the kitchen with the little beef sausages and cheese/cracker plate, vegetable platters with dip and some home made cookies. THEY CAME! We had so much fun it became a once a month game day and more couples joined in as time went on. One original couple stopped coming due to health issues, but we still had a nice group. It really helped me to come out of my shell. I miss it so much during this dam-panic.

  89. Janet Conn says:

    Thank you for the Valentine’s gift of this beautiful post. I can’t wait for the new book. My birthday is in June and this will be a special treat to myself. Thanks for always brightening our days, even when they seem a little dark. You always remind us of what is most important. It is truly appreciated. Blessings.

  90. Val S. says:

    Nothing brightens my day quite like seeing a new blog post from you. Thank you for the uplifting spirit that we can all share with one another. Cheers!

  91. Arline in So CA. says:

    72 days!!!
    It’s beginning to feel real. Dear Susan, I know this is YOUR vacation as well, but wondered if you might have a book signing time on board. I would love to get my Autumn signed. It was purchased at Country Classics in SLO in 2004 and my Mom was with us in those days and we couldn’t wait in line. Luggage space is precious, lol.

    • sbranch says:

      Oooo, the days, we are counting them down! Yes, of course, bring any books you’d like and I’ll happy to sign them! THRILLED to sign them actually! ❌⭕️

  92. Andrea says:

    Beautiful words from a beautiful lady. You are always just what the doctor ordered! You fill us with Joy, Optimism, and LOVE. It really has been a real old fashioned New England winter with frozen ponds and crisp air with blue skies. The snow blanketed our state and icicles hang from the roofs. It even snowed day before Valentine’s Day! What could be more romantic than that? Last night we even went out to dinner with my best friend and college roommate and her husband. It felt wonderful. She summed it up best saying how grateful we are to have each other to get through these crazy times. When my heart hurts, I pray, take a walk, read, pray, bake bread, Yoga, count my blessings and did I say pray? I also read your blog and your Willard and all is right in the world again. xoxo

  93. Lisa Buick says:

    I know your Queen Mary journey will be wonderful. I know your visit to England (I love England) will be joyous and filled with sweet friends (some old, some new). I wish I could join you. May I ask you, please, to say a prayer for our Canadian brothers and sisters who have been arrested for asking for their freedom to be spared, while you are on your journey. Just a little prayer. We all deserve freedom, for so many have fought for it and we should honor them. God bless you on your journey – I hope you have a total blast.

    • sbranch says:

      I wish you were going to be there too, Lisa. I’m so looking forward to it! I believe in freedom and our right to protest, it’s baked right in to everything American. But I don’t feel that we are allowed to hurt others when we demand our freedoms. I pray for all of us, to remember how wonderful it is to live in a peaceful country, where we agree not to run red lights to protect ourselves and others. ❌⭕️

  94. Nicoline says:

    Hi Susan,
    well, I’m not sure what’s happening, but my comment still keeps saying, “your comment is waiting for moderation”…..But I want to say HI, so I’ll try to post again….. 3rd time lucky….here goes;

    Hi, and sorry it’s a day late, I just got the notice in my mailbox, but a belated Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Joe and Jack! What great news to know your book will not be long now……!
    Spring is arriving here and last weekend we went for a walk through a small woody area near the coast and some places were covered with snowdrops, just gorgeous!!
    Thank goodness travelling is a bit easier again, and so Tim ( oldest son) and I just booked a short break to LONDON!!!!! It’s been too long since we were able to cross the channel, but this time next week we’ll be back, and I can’t wait!
    In the mean time we’re getting our “fix” of Englishness, we’re watching Downtan Abbey again, 1 episode each day…
    Counting the weeks till may too, can’t wait, hoping the picnic will happen!!
    Lots of love

    • sbranch says:

      I’m so jealous Nicoline! We are having a zoom with Rachel and Paul tomorrow, closest I get to London, but our trip is getting closer by the moment, days are getting longer, we can FEEL spring in the freezing sunshine! Sorry, I will find your other comments here, I’m sure, when I scroll down. I have been SO busy with the book, I’ve really neglected everything to keep the concentration … but here I am this morning, reading the wonderful comments and loving it. The picnic is a definite! I keep forgetting to mention that! 💃🏼💃🏼💃🏼 Hoping for a beautiful spring day!♥️

  95. Linda says:

    Hi Susan! I enjoyed reading your post, as always a real day brightener, or, in this case, an evening brightener- ha! And, I am looking forward to your new book coming out in print very soon now; I especially love that it is made in the good ol’ USA! Good for you! XO Linda

  96. Linda Hufham says:

    Of course we will all LOVE your new book! We always, always do. Looking very forward to it! Wish I was able to go on one of your trips with you. But it make me feel so good to think about them and read your books and, of course, Willard! And yes, The Magic of a Handwritten Letter is the best topic for the talk by you and Rachael! It will be lovely, just as I’m sure is every letter you write! Thank you for this very welcomed Willard!

  97. Marilyn Ghere says:

    Susan, I definitely vote for the talk you and Rachel are planning to be on “The Gift of a Handwritten Letter.” Receiving a personal letter in my mailbox has long been a favorite thing of mine. I enjoy writing my own too. For Christmas 1998, I gave my Mother a book by Alexandra Stoddart, titled, “Gift of a Letter.” I love reading this book and it has so many good things to say about the subject.

  98. Sally says:

    L O V E back at ya!

    Meh, football. Binge on The Chosen. So much better.

  99. Debbie Boerger says:

    So….is that luggage called “the cube”, is it a brand? Great idea. My first trip overseas, I packed as though we were going to a 3rd world country. Just enough of everything to last me the month. I’m older and Much wiser now days. England and Scotland have everything you find on this Side of the Pond, some things are better. Certain cold meds, for example that can be bought at the Chemist without a prescription. Be sure to pack your prescription bottles which have the doctors’ info and the date on the bottles. This is important going through customs as well. Also, good Travel Insurance in case you become ill. I once had an abscessed tooth in England, and had a root canal for about $14.00 on the National Health. That was long ago.
    I’m sure after the many visits to The Green and Pleasant Land, you, Susan and Joe, know all this, but some may not. In recent years, Tom and I spend at least a month there, but only move lodgings a few times, taking day trips out from a central locations. Great transportation, although not as many trains and rural buses as in the past. I remember being able to get to even the most remote villages by these adorable old buses. If your pocket book allows it, you can hire a driver. It’s not as expensive as you’d think. I think Susan suggested this, and I checked on it. Tom and I were planning to do just that on our last, sadly cancelled, trip. He is saying that he’d like to try again this Fall. Lordy, we’ll be 82 and 77, so we won’t be physically able to walk for hours. I loved hopping in a London Cab on my last trip, and hailed on all by myself. We had different things we wanted to see in London, so we split up, then rode the train back to south. England is way safer than here. Less likely to be hit by random gunfire. My English friends ask how on Earth we can live like this. Hmmmmm, sort of like the frog in a pot of water that is slowly heated. We seem to take it for granted, probably not on Martha’s Vineyard, or Franklin, Maine, but certainly in Tampa.
    Back to the Battle of the Mold…we may be winning!!!
    Sending Mucho Grande Love, Dear Lady. So excited to travel vicariously with all of you.
    Debbie in Tampa

    • sbranch says:

      There are so many, mine don’t have a brand name on them, but they are really everywhere, from Walmart to Target, to, well, you get the idea. You won’t believe how easy it is to unpack when you get to your destination, throw the sock “cube” into the hotel drawer, unzip it and you’re done. When you leave, zip it back up, and that’s it! All your travel advice is welcome Debbie … organization is the key to success! Keep on that mold, I’m rooting for you! Hugs to Tom. xoxoxo

  100. Vicki South of Arroyo says:

    They are always the cutest couple and I think Paul is really cute, as in movie-star-delightfully-handsome.

    I am SO worried about Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth; that she got Covid. After she’d been so careful in her Bubble for two whole years. During which time she also lost her beloved life partner. She’s been through a lot.

    Susan, how do you think you managed NOT to get Covid when Joe had it at Christmas? Do you think he had a false positive on his test? Did he ever even have virus symptoms? It’s all such a confusing mystery.

    Stay safe out there on the island; the photos are a ‘cold’ I can’t imagine (me being ‘way out West here in SoCalif although we MIGHT get rain tomorrow; hope, hope, hope so. But the December ‘wet’ has been enough to get us early wildflowers in the now-green foothills; I saw my first blue lupine ‘meadow buds’ yesterday; actually more purple than blue; and that yellow stuff is coming up on the beach cliffs now that’s not wild mustard but is equally yellow and very pretty!

    • sbranch says:

      Paul is darling, and SO funny! Joe didn’t have covid. That was the thing. He tested positive just before we were to leave for Christmas dinner with friends … the entire thing, with 16 people (three had come from England for it), had to be canceled because the hosts had recently spent time with Joe … they’re our bubble people, we are all so careful! Joe tested 3 hours later, negative. He tested every 24 hours for the next 3 days, always negative. And then he went to the hospital to have a test, again, negative! Never any symptoms, just a crazy thing! I so love the California hills in early spring, the lupin and poppies are amazing. Enjoy Vicki!

    • Rachel Lucas says:

      Hi Vicki! I just found your comment and I had to tell you that I read it to Paul and he actually blushed!! But he was REALLY flattered. And I absolutely agree with you, he is really cute. Thank you for being so sweet xoxo

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