I Got Everything Done!!!

Guess how happy I am!? It’s spring, I got everything done, I had the best birthday, and we’re going to England!!! That is a sentence I wasn’t sure would ever come!!!🌷 It’s been rebirth around here, little buds and wild violets in the yard, still having fires in the fireplace now and then, but at night, our bedroom window is open to the chill and the stars and we are very cozy under our quilts . . . MUSICA!

It’s happening!

I had SUCH a wonderful birthday! Maybe my best ever! Jack gave me some attention, and my sisters came from California so I had blood family with me for the first time in years… Dampanic kept us all away for far too long, but oh how sweet the reunion. Hugs from the bottom of our hearts. I’ll show you some pictures further down!!

Because right now, because time is getting short . . . and in only 12 days, Joe and I are joining ninety of our blog Girlfriends and their loved ones on the Queen Mary 2 sailing out of New York Harbor for a 6-day crossing to England!! It’s happening!

We’ll board the ship on Sunday, May first … and make our way down the long carpets, to the mirrored elevators, eyeballs agog, down the long halls to our staterooms, where inside we’ll find something like this ⬆️ . . . with a little something special from us if everything goes the way we planned!🤞

We’ll probably be so excited we don’t know what to do first . . . so we’ll pour ourselves a glass of bubbly and take it with us . . .

Thank goodness they give us a MAP of the ship when we board!! It’s so big and there’s so much to see! 

Like the beautiful Britannia Dining Room! But there’s time for everything now, the hard part is over! And soon we’ll be compelled to wander outside on deck for a view of New York.

Because that’s where people go to take their Bon Voyage photos with the New York skyline for a background with a point of view relatively few are ever so blessed to see! (And just in cases, we have to be prepared, if it DOES rain, all the better . . . it means good luck … it will be a win-win no matter what!)

And here is where we will meet when the whistles blow, all 90 of us, on the back of the ship (“aft” in ship-talk), on Deck 8, to celebrate US, and our trip, and the miracle that something like this could actually happen. I have a little something to give all of us to wear that will identify us as US! So we can be in an elevator with a stranger, see this thing, and realize, we’re not strangers, we’re kindred spirits!

We’ll toast Lady Liberty as we sail off into the unknown where serendipity and new friends and new memories wait for us 💃🏼 . . .

We were told there will be a lifejacket drill on the ship at 4:30 pm just after boarding (they’ll explain all that in your room) … whether it happens at that time or not, we should all try to be on the back of the ship together when it begins to sail away! So just ask the crew, they will know! I know you are filled with questions right now (just as we were on our first sail), but just go with the flow, all will be revealed. You will be in good hands everywhere you go, they all know what to do and they will tell you! Your job is to meander.💞I’m waiting to hear back about a communication system for our group … I’m hoping the ship has something for this. There IS Internet connection available ~ you can read how to get it in your room. One suggestion: WhatsApp is a free app you can get for your phone. Through it we can form a group, send pictures and messages from anywhere at no charge ~ it’s just like texting only it’s free. If Cunard has a better idea, I’ll post it here before we go, so please check back. I’d just like to be able to say, “Hey! Anyone want to go for a walk?”Speaking of which. In case you DO want to go for a walk aboard ship (3 times around the deck is 1 mile), you will need a warm jacket with hat or hood. It’s almost always cold and windy out on the Atlantic … even when the sun is shining. A lightweight but warm jacket, something like THIS . . . that packs easily. You will probably like to have it when you get to England. Spring can have surprises and England did not turn into a green and pleasant land all by itself! Now that I’ve said this, global warming will kick in and the ship will be like a Hawaiian cruise!👏

We’ll give you a day to get organized in your staterooms and find your way around . . . and on Tuesday, May 3, Rachel and I are inviting everyone to a presentation and slide show in the Royal Court Theater from 1:30 to 3:30. We’ll be talking about how we met, like something out of time, and in particular, the Magic of a Handwritten Letter ~ with time for questions afterward. This talk will be recorded and posted to YouTube by Cunard for our arm-chair travelers. I’ll give you a link here on the blog when they give it to me!

On Friday, May 6, they’ve given us the Atlantic Room to come together on board from 3 to 5 pm. Saturday will be our last full day at sea, so Friday we’ll get together to talk and hang out . . . I can sign any books you bring along if you like. Some have asked, but don’t forget how heavy they are!💖We’ll get off the ship on Sunday, go on our merry way, and meet back here in Stourhead on Sunday, May 15 at noon ~ this is our group photo from the very first BYO Picnic Basket Party in this beautiful old place in 2016. You’re going to love it! Coming back together after your tours! I’m hoping our English/European Girlfriends who are coming will bring an extra blanket or tablecloth since our group won’t be able to bring their own … something to sit on, a beach towel … anything. I believe your tour bus drivers will stop somewhere so people can pick up lunch. If yours doesn’t seem to know about this, be sure to tell them and have them do that! Can you believe it? We’ll be picnicking together in a month, and taking lots of photos for our kindred spirits who couldn’t make it.💝

What else? Oh yes . . .

A name tag! For Stourhead! You can print this out on card stock and write your first name real big in that space at the bottom. For our European Girlfriends too! You may even want one for your tour bus just to make everything easier for everyone.💖 

And this, for everyone, including our arm-chair travelers … a bookmark to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth. Print it out, fold it in half, glue it together, and cut around the Corgi. Pop him into a book, let him peek out over the top (another way we can recognize each other on the ship!). Both of these can be laminated at Staples if you like. Click here to print out!

So here they are, my sisters, Shelly and Mary coming to see me, to make up for lost time, and to celebrate my 75th birthday!!! Exactly what I hoped for! What fun we had . . . and how we needed it.💞 MAS MUSICA! 

Of course, we cooked up a storm! Mostly THEY cooked, but I was there when they did it! Does that count? Shelly made her favorite fresh cod in Panko crumbs ~ and homemade tartar sauce.

Joe made us a Lobster dinner . . . a New England tradition!

Mary made her version of Oysters Rockefeller … lighter, without all the cream, and just delicious! I love Mary’s lipstick!

In case you do too, I asked her for the brand … Revlon 525! And she had one for me!!🥳

So good! Some of the bacon is turkey bacon… we talked diet and health, makeup and clothes, mom and dad, growing up at their end of the family, growing up at my end (They’re the youngest of 8, and I’m the oldest … there are 14 ½ years between me and Shelly.)

We went to restaurants too … this was the first day of the spring reopening for The Atlantic (in Edgartown) and everything was delicious! 😋

At home . . . Petey joined us… East West, Home is best.💖

We woke up on cozy mornings and ate breakfast together and mooshed on the sofa…

We walked through the leafless woods everyday…

Cold down by the water, but fresh and beautiful and we had each other!

My mom would LOVE this!! We missed our other sister Paula ~ she couldn’t make it this time.💞


My girls singing!🎶

It started warming up for us . . .🌞

Which Jack liked too! Back on his ironing board perch at the screen door guarding the backyard!

We did this obnoxious puzzle … which obviously came from a person who has NO IDEA how to design a puzzle! The border was a nightmare!🤦‍♀️  

Slowly but surely we soldiered through by doing little clumps ~ it was actually a laugh-fest . . .

But we did it! Such a sense of satisfaction! We are not as stupid as we look!

Early morning April 12, Mary came downstairs wearing this T-shirt Joe made for my 50th birthday!!! I forgot all about it!💓 Perfect! See my birthday cards on the window sills?🎉 

It was just the beginning of a Red Letter Day!

You can see the weather was beautiful! We went back to Edgartown for lunch, then we walked down to Claudia’s jewelry store and everyone bought earrings!

When we got home there were beautiful birthday flowers waiting for me!💞

And presents too! Jack’s favorite is the wrapping paper!Kellee got all my favorite people out of my books and gave them birthday hats and sent them to wish me a wonderful birthday!🥳

And cards, so many cards, many from you!!! I was so touched. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My birthday was a dream come true!💖

But you’ve always been that way! Remember my dad’s birthday in 2015? 😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘

Then just when we thought we’d all just nosh from the fridge and go to bed early, Martha’s husband came over and dropped off a CAKE she made for us!!! I couldn’t wait to taste it! Life is short, eat dessert first … plus,

So Joe whipped up some fresh scallops and put them on top of watercress . . .

And we had a delicious dinner . . . and lit the candles and they sang . . . it was almost serendipity… unplanned … then Mary took a sneak-video of me blowing out the candles!🎉

Click here for the blowing out of the candles! IMG_2794 

Birthday wishes always require strong consideration!

I didn’t realize quite HOW strong until I saw that video!😂 

Look at this gorgeous thing Martha made . . . it’s sweetened egg whites baked at low temperature ~ a crisp meringue cake covered in whipped cream, shaved chocolate, and fruit! It was so good, we ate the entire thing! (Egg whites = diet food = excuse).

Jack even volunteered his tummy . . . more or less . . .

He “let” the girls pet it! I love all of Jack, but his tummy is a thing to behold!🙀 My petty-pet.😽

On their last day we had lunch at Little House Cafe, drove up to West Tisbury and bought ice cream sandwiches at Alley’s General Store . . . walked down the street past the First Congregational Church and then over to the Field Gallery for the dancing statues.

‘Cause Mary remembered it from the first time she visited the island . . . back in my Holly Oak Days…💞

So it was redux! She’s still got it! Did it perfectly!🥳

I went a little crazy with that leg  . . .

But nobody had as good a time doing it as Shelly!😁

It became a thing . . . we did it all over the garden!

Quite happy with ourselves!

Too soon. But just perfect. They’re home safe and sound . . . just like we will be before we know it! But Oh! The memories! Still living in the glow. Love them forever for coming!!!💞

After they left, Joe and I went back to walking while listening to this wonderful book ~ finished yesterday!😢 The cover says “A wildly entertaining, swooningly funny-sad story.” And all that is true.💘 Published in 1945 England, it’s a step back in time. When one of the characters said this⬇, I had to write it down!This gives you permission to wear your longest pearls, to use a cigarette holder for your candy cigarettes, and to say, “Hello DAH-LING” in your fake English accent …🎬

I’ve had more to do on Disilled Genius, and of course I had to play “book” with the cover. I wrapped it around another book that’s a bit too big . . . and pretended! I love it! That’s all I can say!💝

I’m so happy to hear so many of you are doing your Christmas shopping with this book! I talked to the printers about getting us more before Christmas and they are checking, but they said I should not hold my breath!😬 I hope to know before I go. It’s the paper that’s the problem, very hard to get these days. And when you finally get it, it takes another while to get the book printed and delivered. But I’m trying. If you haven’t seen my new Quote Book, it’s my 40 year collection of quotes, handwritten and watercolored, and up for preorder ~ we still have them … you can read more about it HERE!💫

See? It fits right in! Looks like it’s always been there!

So here’s where you can find me for the next couple of months, amongst the bluebells . . .

lurking around old houses in little villages strung with bunting,

Long live the Queen! 🇬🇧

toasting all of us with Peah Cid-ah . . . oh yes, they have it on the ship!!!

BTW, The last Zoom I did for the Enchanted Book Club has been posted to YouTube in case you missed it . . . just go HERE!So my dearest ones, that’s it for now! Hopefully I’ll add a bit more Queen Mary 2 info before we go … and say Aloha!👋 Enjoy the spring, plant your gardens, and don’t forget the bees!

We will stay in touch!!! Praying daily for a better world.🇬🇧 Counting our blessings and can’t wait to see everyone.🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏 

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253 Responses to I Got Everything Done!!!

  1. Marsha spieler says:

    I loved doing that puzzle .
    Have a fun and safe trip.

  2. Sandy V says:

    Oh, Susan, such a lovely Willard! I can FEEL the love between you and your sisters. I miss my own sisters, all of whom live far from me, and wish we could get together as you did for your birthday – belated happy birthday! I’m looking forward to armchair traveling with you and the girlfriends in Britain. Couldn’t participate this time but would love to be part of a future trip – so I hope there is another! Best wishes and enjoy your travels.

    • sbranch says:

      My sisters were so GOOD to come see me. Meant the world. I usually go there, but just couldn’t this time, and it’s been way too long.💞

  3. Diane L. says:

    A beautiful blog as always, Susan. I am especially touched by your visit with your sisters. My two sisters and I have always been close. My two older sisters were only 13 months apart, then I came along a year and a half after the second. We were always together and have that intensely special bond that only sisters have.
    Our middle sister died suddenly four years ago at age 62. No one, including her, knew she was so sick. My older sister and I clung to each other through and after that. Now my older sister died six months ago at age 67, just three months after her diagnosis. I am still reeling and trying to adjust to this terrible reality. I keep coming back to gratitude for all the years we have had together and realizing that the best tribute I can give to them is to continue to live as fully as possible, and keeping them close in my heart and memories. Keep in close touch with those precious sisters of yours, Susan. They are irreplaceable treasures.

    • sbranch says:

      That is so true Diane . . . living for them. Having the adventures they can’t have anymore. I will take your good advice Diane, I’m so very sorry for your loss. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

    • Charissa (Tea, Tartan, and Tom on twitter) says:

      What a beautiful response, Diane. I am so very sorry for your loss and sending hugs! xo

  4. Linda says:

    Happy Birthday, Susan! So happy to hear that your birthday was so full of fun times to remember. How blest you are that your sisters were able to make it out for the special occasion; family really is a treasure!

    Enjoy your upcoming venture!
    XO Linda

  5. Linda Nieman says:

    I always enjoy reading your blogs but this one is especially exciting. Enjoy your trip and I will be watching for the YouTube versions.

  6. Janice B Smith says:

    A week from today!! It’s starting to sink in. Worrying about leaving home for 3 weeks….but so excited to go. My “Tigger” kitty is 25 years old and so frail these days….but he’s a tough old guy and will be fine even though I worry about leaving him. One more day at my parents house (I’ve been working for months cleaning out and finding homes for all the things they accumulated over 60+ years) just started all my Mom’s genealogy and correspondence…..yup, she saved every card we all sent her. I’ve kept some, but dang, just can’t keep all of them. All the work she did on our ancestors is packed away for a date to get together with others in family and “share” it. After tomorrow….finally packing for the “crossing”!! So glad to see some of your recommendations on warm coats etc. Sorta wondered about how cold it would be. Thanks for the tip. Well…..see you all soon at the back of the ship…lol. Fun times ahead. And yes, I’m packing my camera!
    Jan from Northern CA

    • sbranch says:

      Travel is a worry-fest! I do it too! Problem with travel is we have to take US with us!!! 🤣 I worry about Jack! But so far, we go, we come back. It has always worked that way, and the sooner I learn that, the better! See you soon Jan!!! 💖

  7. Patty says:

    Dear Susan and the other 90 girlfriends we’ll soon meet on the ship! Do you desire anything from California?

  8. Judith says:

    Aren’t sisters just the best?! I hope that your 75th years is also one of the best for you. Quick question…those comfy/stylish black loafers you have on, what brand? I MUST have them!


    • sbranch says:

      Were SO hard to find. I knew what I wanted but could not find them … and then finally! Hopefully they’ll be easier now, they seem to be more in style. I love them.They are called Vagabond.

  9. Carolyne says:

    Love💖your celebrations~! Thank you for the lovely bookmark, it printed out
    pur-r-rfectly. Looking forward to all the adventures abroad.

  10. Sally Jenks Roth says:

    Belated Happy Birthday, Susan, how special that your sisters came to celebrate with you and Joe! That lovely cake that Martha made looks very much like a Pavlova, delicious and light but sinful nonetheless…
    By the way, you mentioned WhatsApp. It works very well for all the reasons that you noted, but I now use Signal which does the same thing, is also encrypted and is nothing to do with Facebook, for those who don’t like Facebook.
    Have a wonderful trip, I know you will. I am in England now visiting my brother and loving it, Devon is so pretty and green. Everyone is acting as if Covid never happened, but it has, and we got it. It’s not nice, and not easy getting tested to comply with US re-entry requirements within 24 hours of the flight! Never mind, it will probably be easier than anticipated 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing your blog with experiences and photographs. Thank you, as ever.

    • sbranch says:

      We’re having the same testing/timing problems before getting on the boat! No testing happens on the island Friday and Saturday and the ship leaves Sunday! We’re going to try to do it online. Thank you for the suggestion on Signal! I think Pavlova is what Martha was aiming at! Whatever it was it was DELICIOUS! Enjoy your time Sally!🇬🇧👏

      • Sally Jenks Roth says:

        When I arrived at Heathrow, I spent an overnight in Windsor. I walked to the Castle, the gates were closed (not the right day for visitors) and there were serious black-clad soldiers with serious weapons, not the guards you expect to see. I felt I’d be hauled off to the Tower if I even talked to them, probably not the case. I did speak with two friendly strangers from London who said “Oh, you’re back”! They meant Americans 😀

        • sbranch says:

          Ha ha ha, we’re back! Probably the Queen was at home … is my guess. Are you staying masked? I guess if we are vaccinated we are safe taking our chances.

  11. Jo'L says:

    So pleased for you that you can breathe easy from now for a while!
    What a wonderful treat for a birthday gift, family, especially these days when we have been accosted by disease, weather, and too much alone.
    Bon Voyage, have a wonderful time!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      I actually went out and got the mail yesterday, and then to the grocery store! Liberated!!! Today I get to go to the drug store and out to dinner with friends!!!🤣 I feel like a stranger in a strange land!🌷

  12. Jo'L says:

    Quick question, why am I getting two posts? One comes with a Willard banner, the other just Susan Branch Blog. They also come a day or so apart. Seems like something is confused.

    • sbranch says:

      We used to have two lists, the blog list and the Willard list … Willard people weren’t getting the blog, and sometimes blog people weren’t getting the Willard! So we finally threw our hands in the air and combined them and made my blog the Willard/Blog … chief cook and bottle washer of communication from me! You can delete one of them and you’ll still get it! 💞

  13. Barbara Vlcek-Vinikow says:

    Dearest Susan,
    I just love how joyful you are in this blog!!! You made my heart sing!!! I’m so glad that you had a wonderful 75th birthday with your sweet sisters, your adorable husband Joe, and your cutie-patootie kitty-kat, Jack!!! Such luscious food & gorgeous cake, too!!! Yum!!!
    I’m so excited for you to begin your sailing journey to England on the Queen Mary, and I will look forward to reading & hearing all about it! I’m so happy for all the girlfriends who will be joining you as I just know you’re all going to share a fabulous time together!
    Speaking of travels…my sweetheart, husband and I have enjoyed 2 wonderful trips over to California. The first one was during the last 10 days of February when we drove from Reno (our home) to San Diego & La Jolla. My first time in that part of California & I loved experiencing the geography. I had no idea how mountainous California is!
    We stayed in a cute cottage near Balboa Park, and visited the San Diego Art Museum, the Spanish Village artist’s studios, and the Zoo, of course. We also did a trolley tour of the whole city. The weather was unusually cool; we even had quite a rainstorm, and everyone was apologising about it, but I really didn’t mind at all. I had packed a warm sweater,jacket & scarf, so I was fine.
    For the couple of days we were in La Jolla, the weather warmed up & was quite pleasant. I made a point of visiting La Valencia Hotel, since it was special to you. What a beautiful place, would love to go back and stay sometime! We walked along the promenade overlooking the ocean, and watched the sunset, which is truly an event & so gorgeous! I took over 30 pictures!!! I’ve since gone thru & deleted some, now I’m down to only 17!
    On our way back home we drove north & east over to the area outside of Yosemite, and I found The. Most. Adorable. vaca-rental cottage for us…I know you would love it,too!!! It was decorated all in shades of white, elegantly rustic, with beautiful antique furnishings. There were lots of framed sepia tone photos from the 1920’s & 30’s, of the owners family, which had been taken in Yosemite. It was truly one of the most charming and cozy places I’ve ever stayed!!! The attention to detail was outstanding!!!
    We were there just 2 nights, but that gave us one whole day to spend in Yosemite. Another first for me…truly amazing & beautiful!
    We were only home for a month before taking another, shorter, road trip over to Mendocino & Ft. Bragg in early April. Again, I had luck in finding a sweet little cottage for us, located right in the middle of Mendocino. While we were there we visited friends, who are all string players, and my husband, who is a violinist played string quartets with them one rainy/misty afternoon, while I had the good fortune to sit in a comfy chair, reading Jessica Fellowes “The Mitford Scandal”, while listening to Beethoven & Mendelssohn quartets performed live!
    The weather improved over the next several days, and we were able to take walks on the beach and visit the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Did you know that there is a type of rhododendron that is scented?! I had no idea, and I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where rhodies flourish. Anyway, their fragrance is just intoxicating…kind of spicy, almost gardenia-like. We also walked out on the headlands, overlooking the amazing teal-blue ocean & watched as frothy white waves crashed onto the rocks. We’ve been back home now for several weeks, but I still fall asleep at night seeing those waves. The ocean beach is definitely my “happy place”!
    I wish you a wonderful Bon Voyage, Susan! Thank you so much for sharing your joy & exuberance with us!!! I can’t wait to read all about your travels! Sending you, Joe & Jack much love, Barbara VV

    • sbranch says:

      Sounds like a WONDERFUL get-away, Barbara! So much to see in our beautiful world!♥️

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      Wow, Barbara, your great post makes me want to make another trip to California, as you are very good at painting mental pictures. You seem to love all the things that I do, exploring new places, string quartets in person on a misty day, and rhodies! We have 12 bushes of various varieties in Maine. Now I must see if I can get the one that has fragrance.
      Debbie who will be back in her Happy Place on May 1.

  14. Karen Williams says:

    Dearest Susan,
    I can’t believe you are nearly off on your travels!! Can’t wait to see you at Stourhead. Trying to persuade my OH to come with me – you met him up in Cumbria when we came up to see you for the Castle Cottage meet up! We were staying at a local hotel and you and your gang came in for dinner!

    I haven’t heard back yet to see how much postage will be for your beautiful book – shame you don’t have any to bring with you for us to buy…and save on the cost of shipping!! 😣🤣😂

    Such a beautiful uplifting blog- you and your sisters made me cry happy tears – one of them being a mini-me of you! You all have beautiful eyes. And are you really sure you are 75? Mistake on your birth certificate for sure!!
    Such a happy blog, thank you and look forward to seeing you all in Stourhead in a couple of weeks time! Fantastic that Ray will be with you onboard! Such fun!
    Happy and safe travels,
    Bon voyage 🛳
    Karen x xx
    Northamptonshire 🇬🇧

    • sbranch says:

      Looking forward to seeing you Karen, isn’t it amazing? So excited! Won’t be long now! Thank you for the good wishes, see you later!🇬🇧♥️🇬🇧

  15. Carrie says:

    The wood pigeons have been especially busy Susan. I swear they are going crazy cooing “Susan’s coming, hurrah!” True story! Also tell your shipmates that we’ll have extra blankets, tablecloths, pillows, napkins, pretty paper plates, a chair or two and especially lots of extra food. It will be like the loaves & fishes—plenty to go around. Happy sailing and see you on the other side. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🇬🇧🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Happy Birthday to our gracious Majesty today💐💛💐

    • sbranch says:

      🤣I can’t wait to hear them… the musica of England! YOU are a darling girlfriend, thank you!🇬🇧🇺🇸🇬🇧 ❌⭕️

  16. Jen Pen says:

    Have a great adventure! That windowsill peek of the cards was fun to see. Time does “fry” when you’re having fun and you and your sisters sure know how to kick up your heels in glee!

  17. Steph Brady says:

    Dear Susan, Loved all the pictures of you and your sisters. I also am turning 75. I am the youngest of four sisters. We lost second from oldest arround 8 years ago. Just before she died we all got together and went to Martha’s Vineyard together for a sister’s trip. Lots of fun! I would be on that ship with all of you if I could. I like you do not fly, but never been on a cruise. On bucket list along with a scenic train ride. My far flung kids are coming to visit this summer. No company for 3 years so a lot to look forward to. By the way you all look fabulous!!

  18. Janet Conn says:

    I am so glad you had such a happy birthday and got to spend it with your lovely sisters. I wish you, Joe and all the girlfriends safe and fun travels to England. Can’t wait to see all the photos. Much love.

  19. So happy it was a great birthday! They are so precious as we grow older. I hope your trip is wonderful. I have been over the pond four times and there is nothing like it. The minute your feet touch the ground you’re transported.

  20. Cyndi in NC says:

    Happy belated birthday!! It looks like it was a great day. Of course Jack was his usual darling self. Would to put my face in his fur. I know that sounds a little bizarre but I love the way their fur smells. I know, strange woman! Anyway I wanted to talk about a movie I watched yesterday with Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Dianne Wies called “Let Them All Talk”. Most of the movie takes place on the QE II on a crossing to England. I’m not going to England with you all but I got to see some of this beautiful ship. What a trip this will be. I was on a ship from Hawaii to the mainland that was also beautiful, the Matson line Lurline but it was not a plush as the QE II. I know you all will have a super time. Take care of yourselves.

  21. Eileen Mullinax says:

    Susan, your blog is always so uplifting. Martha’s Vinyard is one of my favorite places to visit. My husband and I used to sail there from Newport, spending one night at Cuttyhunk. Since my Husband passed I have taken my children there and they love it as much as I do. I always which that I was there when I read your blog. I recognized your house when I was driving up the hill from the grocery store because of what was hanging in the window. Wishing you and the group a safe and exciting adventure on your travels. By the way, Sisters are the best. Happy that yours could be with you for your birthday

  22. Helen says:

    Have a wonderful trip! 🥂

  23. jeanie says:

    Oh, I’m reading this with a lot of joy and just a wee bit of envy! England in Jubilee season, the ship, the girlfriends, the picnic. The joy of it all! I wish you all a bon voyage and very safe travels during your time together.

    And how I love that you could spend your birthday with your sisters. Those smiles say it all. Great love and joy and such fun. Big smiles all around!

  24. Theresa Raffee says:

    Hi Susan!
    Oh how I wish I could go on the ship with you all!!! I’m a Elementary school Librarian so I am still working, until the end of May. So I will be looking forward to following your posts. My Dad immigrated to America on the Queen Mary in 1957 so it is a dream for me to someday sail on the Queen Mary 2! Maybe next year!! Have a fabulous trip Susan!!!

    Theresa Raffee
    Rancho Cucamonga, CA

  25. Jeannie B. says:

    Dear Susan,

    Happy belated Birthday! What a wonderful treat to have your sisters come for a visit. Looks like you girls (and Joe and Jack) had a delightful time.

    So excited for your trip. I will be another armchair traveler but will look forward to your updates along your journey. Have a safe and fun packed trip!

    Thanks so much for the darling bookmark. I am thinking of hosting a small Queen’s Celebration tea party and want to give them as favors – with your permission of course. I am trying to figure out what the E “ R at the bottom stands for though?? The lamb name tag is adorable as well – maybe I will use those as place cards or for small gift bags.

    Looking forward to your new book. I enjoyed the Zoom for the Enchanted Book Club that you did very much.

    Thank you for all the joy and love you share – it always is the highlight of my day when an e-mail arrives!

    Take care and give my regards to Her Majesty if you run into her!! 😍

  26. Marybeth Rogers says:

    So wonderful as always. I am always transported to a blissful place by the beauty you create and share. Thank you. Marybeth

  27. Mary/Indiana says:

    I have a younger sister, Shelley, too (my name is Mary)…Lol
    Wish I could be joining you on this trip to England but alas,
    I will have to live it vicariously through your writing like the
    last one. Wish you and Joe and gal pals a wonderful trip and
    Bon Voyage! Belated Birthday Blessings.

  28. Hello Darling Dears,

    Happy Spring and so glad you had a happy birthday dear Susan! Wish I could be with you on the ship and at Stourhead this time. We so enjoyed the picnic in 2016!
    I will have to be be an armchair traveler this time and wish you all a perfect trip and picnic. Lots of love and happy bluebell springtime to you!

  29. Denise Reese says:


    What a special birthday! Thank you for sharing your photos with us. So glad you have sisters to share it with. I don’t have sisters, but my two younger brothers and I love spending time together. As my great-aunt used to say, “lots of love, laughter, and gentle teasing.” Enjoy your trip to England!

  30. Pam Coblyn says:

    This edition of Willard is MOST delightful…and inspiring!
    Two new items are added to my bucket list:
    1. Cross the Pond on the QE2
    2. Try hard to go on the next Girlfriend’s Trip

    By Jove, I could do these together!

    Have more fun than you ever hoped possible. I am thrilled for you and BRAVO for making the 2022 trip a reality!

  31. The joy in this post is palpable! Oh how I wish I was going on the cruise. You are all going to have such a wonderful time. I can’t tell you how much I miss my second home. I loved living in England so very much. Such a wonderful country and so beautiful, and so charming. I wish I could just tuck myself into someone’s suitcase. What a lovely visit you had with your sisters. I enjoyed all the photos. What a fun time! And that cake. You are so loved. That’s a wonderful feeling. I shall be one of the armchair travelers watching from my home in Nova Scotia and wishing I could be with you all. Bon Voyage. Happy Journey’s. Safe landings and have a beautiful time! I am a quote lover from way back when. I have a notebook filled with them. I have been handwriting out the ones I love for years. Not as charming as your book I know! Can’t wait to get my copy of your book!!!

  32. p shoaf says:

    Dearest Susan ~ Happy Belated Birthday !! What a grand time you had such a blessing sharing it with your two sisters , best of friends I know ! My oldest sister died 6years ago at 60, I miss her dearly, but my older sister and I are still very close !! I sure wish I would be boarding that ship in May 🙁 I would love to go back to ENgland one day !! Have a safe trip and think of us , haha !!

    kINd Regards Paula upstate Indiana

  33. Karen Baron says:

    Have the very best time!! I will be watching for messages from girlfriends on the ship! I will be there in spirit!❤️ Karen Baron from Southern California. Beautiful day in Solvang yesterday. Safe travels!❤️🥳

  34. Anna says:

    So happy for you and your sisters! Gathering for your birthday or any occasion is precious time together! Enjoy your travels!

  35. Lori Hamilton says:

    Thank you for the lovely “visit” with you and your sisters. I’m the oldest of 3 girls. I was 5 when my first sister was born and 17 (!) when the second one came along. I know the blessings they are and cherish the time I get to spend with them.
    I look forward to all the adventures you and our friends have on the cruise – wishing I could go but maybe next time!
    Happy times to you, Joe and all the “girlfriends”!

  36. Karen Lotito says:

    Hi Dear Susan! The happiest of birthdays! Have a wonderful voyage on our favorite ship! Love, Karen xoxo

  37. Cindy B. says:

    I just love that you and your sisters all share “the Family Smile”. You all are too cute.

  38. Debbie Boerger says:

    Having my green tea in my Isle of Dreams cup. Happy Spring!!!

  39. Gail Golden says:

    Wonderful post! And Happy Birthday to you! That cake sounds heavenly.

    I’m excited about your trip to England, because I so enjoyed your last voyage to the Green and Lovely Land. I really look forward to joining you vicariously. Perhaps another book will come from this trip, too? I hope so.

    Would it be possible for those Girlfriends who have their own blogs to do posts about their trips? I’m sure we’d all love and enjoy seeing the sites they visit. Maybe they could post links to their blogs in the comments?

    Prayers for you all to have safe trips and overflowing joys! <3

  40. Sheryl Kirk says:

    Dear Susan,
    That was a very fine post you put out. Thank you for making me really feel your birthday time with your Sisters and Joe. It was fun, even for me. I just now have the urge to get my family close to me and go out and do things…things that haven’t been happening for two years. I can’t wait. You even have me dreaming of going on a ship with you one year across the ocean to England. Now, that is my new day dream. It will keep me going. Safe travels, Sweet Sue

  41. Debbie Boerger says:

    Yikes! May 1st is less than a week away. You’ll be on QM2, and Tom and I will be in Maine!!! What a great way to celebrate, even without dancing around the May Pole.
    I know you are extremely busy getting your home ready, as am I. We’ll be in Maine for 6 months, as usual. I’m getting mail from friends and neighbors about things such as back yard bonfires, Library and Historical Society doings.
    Be still my heart. My Lovely Tom is anticipating his Geezer Golf, as they call it. And roaming the woods with his trusty chain saw. I can’t wait to sit on a stool amid the carpet of dandelions and listen to the hum of the bees….I hope we have more bees this year. Most of us on our little dirt road have gone grass-less. Coffee on the porch with the sun rising, sea gulls squealing, an occasional seal in the bay, popping up it’s little puppy dog-like head. So extremely fortunate, and so extremely Thankful.
    I’ll be with you in spirit, Dear Lady.
    Mucho Love,
    Debbie, soon in Maine

  42. Banjo O’Feral says:

    The perfect post with the perfect photos to read on a cozy Carmel Sunday morning—Susan Branch mug in hand, holding morning elixir of tea—Banjo O’Feral gazing with adoration of her cousin Jack across the continent.❤️🐾

    Love to you and your two boys, your stellar sisters, and all the girlfriends traveling with you in person, or virtually! Am so looking forward to Distilled Genius, both its substance, and its style! And the cover is breathtakingly gorgeous.

    Have a spectacular trip to my old homeland of England—will be following along from afar.✨💕✨

  43. Jana says:

    Bon Voyage to all who are traveling to England on the Queen Mary II with Susan, Joe, Petey, and all the delightful girlfriends! Looking forward to following along. Soak and savor each moment, dear ones. What a glorious spring gift and celebration! Enjoy yourselves silly!

  44. Carol says:

    No need to post this! Just wanted to be sure you had heard that cold weather in May in England is a possibility!

  45. Anne in Maine says:

    So enjoyed seeing all the fun you had with your sisters! Loved Shelly’s Yellowstone shirt by the way. She must be a fan as I am. Have a wonderful, wonderful time in England. Oh, how I wish I could be there with you but I will be traveling along in my arm chair. Bon Voyage!!

  46. Sherry Coleman says:

    Happy, Happy Birthday, Susan! I’m so glad you got to spend your birthday with them! I would love it if my sister and I could have all the fun we used to have. She was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago. We still have fun together just a different kind of fun. It’s so precious, isn’t it? All of it.

    Have an extraordinarily wonderful time in England!

    Love, Sherry

  47. Anthea C Milton says:

    Just wanted to wish you all a wonderful trip to Britain next week!!!You will be in the area that my family grew up before we emigrated to the US and WA, Sunday picnics would be to Lacock, Stourhead, Castle Coombe where the children always lost their wellies in the mud, holidays to Cornwall and St ives or Padstow and crab fishing, please Read the Shell Seekers to understand what it was like in the war and St Ives.
    My thoughts will go with you all as i sit here at home unable to even garden as I broke both my arms in a fall down five stairs, so frustrating as literally cant lift, push, pull, finish my room painting I was in middle of, or do anything useful, not even my hair!! Bon Voyage, hope you are there for the Queens Jubilee, got my bunting to put up here for our Queens tea party.

    • sbranch says:

      BOTH arms! You poor thing. I broke one wrist and it almost did me in with frustration. It was 3 years ago and I haven’t forgotten one second of irritation that something so small, so accidental, had the NERVE to be so disruptive! Take good care, and I won’t say the thing about this too passing, because it will probably just make you scream! xoxoxo

    • Debbie Boerger says:

      How awful, Anthea!! Hope you heal quickly.
      I have a lovely acquaintance here in Maine, another Anthea. She was born in Scotland, was a nurse in Australia, and now dealing with learning how to be in her mid-80s. I’m learning how to be the best 77 yr. old that I can be. Hope I don’t repeat my two tumbles down stairs, broke a foot each time. Focus, focus, focus, I’m told, and always one hand on the railing.
      I loved The Shell Seekers. I’ve been to all the places you mentioned. Tom and I spent the first 2 nights of his first time in England at the Red Lion in Laycock. I have a lovely print of Castle Coombe. We went back a couple of years later to the North and Scotland. Had another visit all set, but then came Covid.
      Susan has provided us with the Next Best Thing.
      Get well soon,
      Debbie in Maine

  48. julia walker says:

    Happy belated Birthday, Susan! How wonderful to have your sisters with you!! Seeing y’all made me cry. Have a fantastic trip to England!

    Lovingly, Julia

  49. Amanda Davis says:

    Dear Susan, Happy Happy Birthday- albeit belated, but you can celebrate all month! So glad your sisters could visit- it made me teary-eyed in a joyful way to see you together. I know the best few years have been incredibly trying on everyone and it is a beautiful thing to see families unite again! All the food looked delicious- now I’m craving lobster! Can’t wait for your new book. Hope y’all have a wonderful voyage to England! I will be traveling there vicariously! One of my favorite quotes: “You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.” Anaïs Nin Here’s to our awakening and re-emergence!

    • sbranch says:

      That is gorgeous. Inspiration! It’s a kick in the pants, get out there, find that THING. You are so. very. lucky.

  50. Nina Hughes says:

    Hi Susan
    I really enjoyed reading this latest blog update. It was so lovely for you & your sisters to get together. You all look so alike!
    I am so blessed as we moved into the same town as one of my sisters last year. Its by the river severn in Worcestershire. Im sure you’ve heard of it. My other sister is only a couple of towns away too so we see each other regularly but i appreciate if you dont its so good when you do get together!
    Actually one of my sisters and myself met you once at a book signing on Marthas Vineyard. I have a lovely pic of us together which is one of my most treasured possessions!
    when you came to England last time i really would have loved to have picniced with you at Stourhead but we were out of the country at the time.
    so i was so excited you were coming again and had every intention of coming this time however….
    unfortunately i will be in the hospital. I go in on Tuesday the 3rd for open heart surgery on the 5th.
    Its a complicated surgery with 3 surgeons and a full day in theatre. Anyway when i come out of the otherside of it and ICU I will make sure i catch up with how you are all doing on your trip. I hope you all have a safe journey and a wonderful time. sending love & hugs Nina xxxx

    • sbranch says:

      How are you Nina??? The hard part is over!!! I hope you’re on your way back to “real” life! One day at a time! xoxoxo

  51. Bobbie Calgaro says:

    Happy belated birthday! I know this one was extra special. And I know you will have the most wonderful time on your adventure to England. We are making our first European trip in Aug./Sept. 3 days in London then a week in Paris including Disney. Excited but nervous.
    Oh and I have decided that Jack looks like Hercule Poirot! A mysterious cat indeed!

  52. Michele M. says:

    Oh this is wonderful!! I wish I could have been able to join the Queen Mary adventure! Cannot wait to follow along! Love your birthday breakdown, how wonderful to spend it with your sisters and Joe! Cannot wait for the new book and the moon bookmark is one of my FAVORITES! Thank you for that! I can only hope my 75th birthday is as special as yours was Susan 🙂 Cheers!! Michele M. in New Hampshire

  53. Cindy Penzler says:

    Bon Voyage Susan! Keep us all posted here at home!

  54. Vicki South of Arroyo says:

    Susan, I’m imagining you’re probably not coming back to this post for comments as you’re too busy readying for your trip abroad, but I just had a thought about something for a friend who is getting disappointed with what she’s finding out about Amtrak and the loss of the ‘white tablecloth dinners’ routes; do you think there are ANY cross-country trips left on Amtrak that have the fuller-service itineraries; or, when you go next time to Calif, are you also going to have to resort to the plastic-wrapped food and not-so-luxe journey? Just curious if you know anything! I seem to remember you had your recent Amtrak trip planned and then had to scrap it due to the pandemic.

    • sbranch says:

      My guess is that it’s Covid, but I don’t know, you could Google?… and yes, our stateroom door is open, and the big wide Atlantic is whooshing outside our door. Internet accessibility aboard ship is very slow, if at all, and there are 60 comments here waiting for me to read and put up, which I can’t do until we hit England! Wanted to say hello and tell you it is going swimmingly, without the swimming! BEAUTIFUL trip. Nothing to it my darlings, you just do it! XOXOXOX

  55. Debbie Boerger says:

    Did you see me waving down at you on May 1? Our Jet Blue airplane flew right over you. Such a brilliantly clear view of the ship and all of Manhattan. We landed in Boston, got the rental and drove home to Maine. OH, how I love this place and these people!!!!!
    I’m so happy looking at the Twitter pictures from the QM ll. I keep startling my Lovely Tom…going, “eeeeeee.”
    Have a Fabulous Voyage All of you,
    Mucho Love and Thanks from Debbie in Maine

    • sbranch says:

      How fantastic Debbie! Impossible, but not for YOU! Going to update the blog, will start today!

  56. Lynda says:

    Belated Happy Birthday Susan! It looks like you had a wonderful birthday! You can’t go wrong when you have your sisters by your side. Wish my sis and I were going on the Queen Mary with you. Maybe next time. 💖🎂🎉💐

  57. Nancy Redford says:

    Hi Susan. How I love your blogs. They take me on vacation every time I watch them. And yippee – you are going back to England. That is a real vacation as I go through each blog you post. Your husband captures the most wonderful photos that just make you feel like you are right there! What an artist he is with the camera. I loved the pics of you & your sisters having so much fun together. I have a wonderful sister who lives just down the street from me. Such a blessing. Your sisters look like a lot of fun. Well, happy birthday dear lady. Thank you for all the joy you bring to readers like myself. I’m so looking forward to this great adventure.

  58. Sylvia in Seattle says:

    I love seeing your sisters and I’m very envious. I’m the oldests of 4 having only brothers – three, all much younger. Of courses I’ve had 3 sister-in-laws, but it ain’t the same! I could do with a sister even now!. Oh well, I’m trying to learn how to operate a new iphone at age 87. That’s keeping me occupied. Very hard on the old brain and patience. I keep reverting to my computer to type. I’m enjoying Twitter entries from England. A welcome diversion now.

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, a sister is a great comfort! Good luck with that phone! You do great here, Sylvia, the phone will be a snap for you!

      • Sylvia in Seattle says:

        For the record, I have two grown daughters and a son who more than make up for the lack of sisters. They are such wonderful people and help me out a lot with the digital stuff and just everyday living since my mobility is a bit compromised. It’s fun to read your posts from the ship. Stay well everyone. Just got my second booster here at home, arranged for me by Nancy my youngest daughter. I”m going now to rummage through my large stash of old movies for something English to go with my late breakfast. In my mind I’m with you in England and looking forward to everything you share with us. Thanks for doing so.

  59. Beverly Mehlhoff says:

    Thank you so much for giving us the Platinum Jubilee bookmark. I love it and I’m a big Corgi fan. Enjoy the trip! I’ll be with you in spirit.

  60. Debbie Boerger says:

    The Lovely Tom knows I’m reading blog posts and looking at more pictures from Stourhead….all the “eeeeeks” I’m emitting.
    It’s wonderful to see so many girlfriends I’ve “met” on Dear Susan Branch.

    As to little things such as hand written menus, decorated with little drawings….I remember thinking every time I’ve been to the UK..They still know how to make even the small things bring joy. That iconic photo of a woman sitting amidst the bombed out ruin of her home during the Blitz, having her cup of tea!! Maybe that determination to hang on to treasured comforts has been passed down to the younger generations.

    Thank you all for letting us go along on this fabulous trip.
    Debbie from Gawjus Maine, even with the black flies

  61. Judith DiFrancesco says:

    Enjoyed this post immensely! I felt like I was on the QE2 with you all.
    What a wonderful adventure!

  62. Dottie Nixa says:

    Hi Susan! I thoroughly enjoyed the Willard you sent on your cruise. I love the little pin you made everyone, mainly because I will be getting a corgi puppy in June. Will those be available on your website. I have printed out the bookmark and will enjoy using it. Also I would also like to see a mug with pumpkins or a corgi on it. Are the mugs I saw on your Willard with the corgi available. Please let me know.

  63. Margaret Harke says:

    Hope you read this book before your recent trip. Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson. Very funny book.

  64. Margaret Harke says:

    Bring back the English countryside cup.

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