We finished our wonderful book just this morning! I told you about it . . . Still Life by Sarah Winman ~ we loved every wonderful word of it, it’s ALL about love as all the best books are. All about the pursuit of love. As most of you know, Joe and I listen to the same book while we walk (one iPhone, two ear buds), and this book ended a few hundred yards before the end of our walk so while we were sighing and sad our book had ended, I said to my phone “Play some Italian MUSICA” and it did and we listened to this all the way home. You HAVE to either read or listen to this book. It’s too wonderful! Valentine #1 to you from me with love.🌷 La Festa di San Valentino began in Italy!💘💞 Perfetto! And so we turn to the real reason we are here . . .
In the 1950s, where I grew up in California, Spring began on Valentine’s Day.💝 The lupin and California poppies were in bloom, the roses were budding, days were warmer, winter was over, afternoons were spent roller skating, and on Valentine’s Day we went to school with a fist full of Valentines like these, carefully signed on the back in pencil “To Janice from Sue.” Nothing too flowery. We were just little kids. “To Pete W. from Sue S.“
The small die-cut Valentines came in cellophane-covered boxes we bought at the dime store, twenty-four assorted valentines for 99¢ so we could give one to every friend in our class, and one for the teacher. One of my favorite days at school. How could we NOT love school ~ we made Valentines for our mothers ~ in our starched dresses, that hot-iron fragrance still lingering on peter pan collars, essence of Mother and home, our saddle shoes and mary janes skipping carefully over the cracks in the sidewalk as we walked to school together. Another sunshiny day inThe month of love
But in New England, Valentine’s Day arrives in the dead of winter. That came as kind of a shock when I first moved here. Snow on Valentine’s Day seemed so strange. But the middle of February is NOT spring here on the island. It’s very often wet, one way or the other. Never are flowers and a celebration of love more appreciated. And in that frame of mind, my darling Valentine’s, I made you something! Guess what it is?
Yup, Valentines! You are so smart!
Two of them! With an envelope! Aren’t they cute? They stand up! With little hearts and flowers on them! And they aren’t just for Valentine’s Day… inside they are blank! You can say anything because flowers and love are everything!❣️ They’re free, your only job is to print them out on card stock (use lighter paper for the envelope), fold them, (I hope you’re enjoying being in Italy while we talk!) cut them out just inside the lines, and write something pretty inside. You get them here: the I LOVE YOU CARD, the FLOWERS CARD, & ENVELOPE. And if you’d like to get cardstock that will go through your printer (80 lb for the cards), they have it HERE! (They have it everywhere, just Google “cardstock.”) I hope you love them!
So, little February is jam-packed with love in more ways than one for me and Joe!💓 Monday, February 6th was the 36th Anniversary of our first date! We find that as the years go by we want to celebrate MORE!💃🏼 No romantic restaurants with cozy dark Italian bars are open for dinner on a Monday night in February on Martha’s Vineyard, we tried to find something ~ we finally gave up, and decided we like LUNCH just as much! And, because apparently no one goes to lunch on Mondays, we had the place to ourselves and chose the darkest corner table. Which wasn’t very dark. And no Dean Martin . . . No Arrivederci Roma . . . we had to rough it.💖💕💖
We brought along this shoe box filled with our old photos. We thought it would be fun to eat and talk about the places we’ve been together. We’ve never done this before, taken photos to lunch, but I highly recommend it! Good thing no one was there, the memories were bouncing off the walls! I had an ice-cold Cosmopolitan, Joe had a day-glo Aperol Spritz, we shared a great big Caesar salad, and this restaurant has an open-fire pizza oven and makes the best thin-crust pizza EVER, so we split a pizza too, molto bene, and then split a piece of Lemon Cake with lots of whipped cream. Bellissimo! So it was perfect! Want to see some of the pictures? One by one, out of the box they came. The most used word of the day was . . . “Remember?”
So, as a little bit of background for you who don’t know unless you’ve read my book A Fine Romance, before I met Joe, I was living alone in my house called Holly Oak, minding my own business . . . and fairly truly through with men (I thought), it hadn’t been working out❤️🩹 I was a little wounded . . . and happy enough . . . I kinda had it all . . .
sleeping with my three darling kitties. . .😻😻😻
Kitties, always true blue and trustworthy. So, here we go, pop into the way-back machine, let’s go even further back, to 1982 … In a nutshell, after a shocking (to me) divorce, followed by an unplanned cross-country move, accidentally buying a little house on an ISLAND where they had this thing called winter, followed by a few years of flailing, learning, figuring things out, then writing my first book, quite a few forays into the weird world of dating (in those days we actually had to GO with the person, there was no looking anyone over online, no police reports or dating reviews ~ we were on our own). A bit distrustful, and nearing 40, I thought that “alone” was probably the way I was going to stay. I was fine with it. They told us back then then we had a better chance of being kidnapped by terrorists than falling in love after 40 which seemed about right to me. (Now I laugh! 40 is only the beginning!!!) I loved my little house, my kitties, and this beautiful island separated from the real world by a big blue moat, ringing with church bells, the smell of salt in the air, little white farmhouses, shingled cottages . . . but even after all that good stuff, I still had a bit of an attitude. “Too Mean to Marry” ~ was the t-shirt I wore to the supermarket. I was definitely NOT going to fall in love again.
Then one day . . . almost exactly 36 years ago . . .
This guy showed up! Too handsome, I told myself, and too young. But he persisted and I forgave him. We put the camera on the staircase, set the timer, ran back into position, and took our first selfie together ~ at Holly Oak, all dressed up to go to a dance 36 years ago, in one of our first public appearances as a couple.👀 Seems like just yesterday.🥰
Mi sono innamorato di te.💕❤️💕❤️💕
So, I digress, back to our lunch ~ there we were tucked into our corner, all settled in to celebrate our anniversary, and into the photo box we dove, pulling out picture after picture . . .
Here I am on the boat on our way home from our first date in Boston . . . bewitched, bothered, but mostly bewildered, had no idea if he would “follow me to my house,” despite assurances by Doris Day that this was the way things go … nor was I sure I wanted him to!
But, slowly, as you can see, Joe revealed his adorable self to me. My first Valentine from Joe came when my mom was visiting . . . (I pulled this card from the photo box and we said awwwwww . . .)
By Christmas, I knew . . .
Maybe it was the hat . . .
Or that we fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.
I could now thank all the things in my life, even the hard ones, even the lonely ones, even the ones I wanted to hide in the bushes and wait for so I could scare the peewaddin’ out of them ~ now I could be grateful for all of it, to everything that lead me here. It took a while, but I had come from a long, long way.💝
Worth every step of the journey to find this guy at the end of the rainbow. Such a surprise.
Isn’t his hat cute? I like that little tail. No guys in California wore hats like this! He was an original!
Joe’s 40th birthday was a luau … in our back yard under a tent! Aloha-ha!
It must be love when you still like each other after putting together a yard sale!
Whatever I do, he wants to do, “Where are you going today?” says Pooh: “Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too. Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.” 💕 A.A. Milne
My first selfie with a cell phone, we were in a field in England, I needed four tries! Not quite realizing yet it was all in the arm, as in how long is your arm.
I had a hard time getting my face in it! Look at him, all calm and collected… (When I tell him I’m writing about him, he always says the same thing, “Make me look thin.”🥰)
I blamed my glasses for getting in the way.🤓
Fourth time was a charm…
How we love sailing across the Atlantic.
In 2001 we became Auntie Mame and took our two nieces, Holly 12 and Heidi 11 on the Queen Elizabeth 2 to England and France for the joy-trip of our lives. We started planning when they were around 7. Worth every fun second of it. A true-life adventure for all of us! And proof that . . .
How could we not high-five after climbing this hill and discovering this amazing view of the green and pleasant land we’ve come to love . . .
Could never have done it without Map Man . . . It took a very small village: him + me = we can do this!
The British supermarket, no matter what part of the country we are in, is so fun. Perusing unfamiliar goods, commenting, laughing, questioning, figuring out … I love milk, I always have, the first time we went to a market in England, I found “Breakfast Milk.” The name was all I needed. Actually tasted just like milk, but BREAKFAST milk, just HAS to be better! I think you will understand if you say it three times in a row!🤣
But if I’d ever leave youIt couldn’t be in autumnHow I’d leave in autumnI never will know ~I’ve seen how you sparkleWhen fall nips the airI know you in autumnAnd I must be there 🍂🍁🍂
Good way to give cards, just show it to her in the store! Make her cry!
If ever I would leave youIt wouldn’t be in summerSeeing you in summerI never could go.🤩
And could I leave youRunning merrily through the snow?Or on a wintry eveningWhen you catch the fire’s glow?
Remember the day Joe came into my studio to show me that while he was busy on his computer, his tea bag had wrapped itself around his glasses and flipped out of his cup without him noticing? And lived there for a while, swinging back and forth? I wrote a whole post about it. He made my day with that one!
I still laugh.
Thank goodness I discovered I didn’t like to fly, otherwise I never would have discovered how much I LOVE the train.
Another Valentine’s Day, and a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the snow.
He’s in Wales and I’m in England, but as always, we’re together!
If ever I would leave youHow could it be in springtime?Knowing how in spring I’m bewitched by you so?Oh, no! Not in springtime!Summer, winter or fall!No, never could I leave you at all!🌷
Up in Maine. Not leaving him here either.
“The world is full of happy people but no one ever hears of them. You have to fight and make a scandal to get in the papers. No one knows about all the happy people.”💖 💖 💖 Gene Stratton-Porter
Well, that’s enough of that! You get the idea. Very difficult to cover 36 years of collective camera mania in only one lunch! We’ve had 36 Christmases just for starters! And 36 Summers! 36 years of kitty loving. Plus, we left our shadows on all those walks to the sea on a dirt road through the woods that we plan to haunt one day. Altogether we’ve had 13,140 sunrises and sunsets, over 432 full moons, and all the good ones are in my photos. And despite all this focus on memorable photos, can you believe it? I FORGOT to ask the waitress to take our picture at lunch!🤣 I only remembered as we were leaving…
Downstairs, there was this decorative door at the entrance with mirrors in it . . . caught a quick glimpse of ourselves and suddenly remembered! So we took our 36th anniversary pictures here! I could barely get my head into this selfie, we’re both standing on our toes!
At least we got a picture! And it’s not like we are lacking in recorded history! My favorite thing about being 75, about aging is being able to look back and see how it all came together. Much of my youth I worried, not knowing that things would all work out with the magic ingredients of time, determination, and a lot of luck. Remember that if you are in your twenties or thirties and uncertain. It’s normal. I fretted the entire time. But try not to worry, it’s all going to be okay. Pray to God, continue to row toward shore, and . . .
Life is short . . . But it’s never too late for you to make it exactly the way you want it. Start small. Put a flower in a vase and on your window sill. Wasn’t that easy? Isn’t it pretty? See what I mean? You just made your life a little better. That’s how it works. You are in charge.💖
And to top off a perfect day, waiting for us on the porch when we got home from our Anniversary lunch was a box with THIS in it! I unwrapped Joe first, recognized him immediately ~ the beret! They were made by darling friend and Valentine Elf, Karen Courtney! Look at the details, my glasses, our ears (squee!), Joe’s hat, my dress, JACK with his green eyes. . . what a great job!
Even my book! My sister has already tried to steal them from me!
So what else do kindred spirits need at this time of year?💝 Oh yes, decorating! Spring (ish) is such a good time for that! And a few romantic recipes . . . If any of these recipes sounds good to you, just click ON THIS, and then put your cursor on the recipe you like, and click! Voila!😋
But, most important of all . . . be sure to
You deserve a chocolate mint coffee, a champagne cocktail, some flowers, and a hug . . . and can give it ALL to yourself, you can take your book to lunch, and later, you can have a long bubble bath! And if you can’t do it on Tuesday, do it on Wednesday! You can have a red letter day!
See you next time! ❌⭕️❌⭕️💃🏼💃🏼💃🏼💃🏼💃🏼
Susan, the story of you and then Joe reminds me so much of me and my husband Chuck. We both thought we would be single forever and then in our 40’s we met and it was almost love at first sight. We had the happiest marriage for almost 40 years. He passed away in 2021. I miss him every day. We had a life so much like yours and Joe’s. We loved life every day we were together. I love your messages. They are so uplifting. I have your rabbit cup because I have a real rabbit that is a joy.
Love story . . . ❌⭕️❌⭕️❌⭕️
I love your wonderful thoughts and everything Green! Can’t wait for our 2-3 feet snows from Tuesday melt and we see some Green!
I love your love! you inspire me to keep going, to keep looking for my “Joe”. Thank you!
I highly recommend taking books and magazines to read alone in restaurants. Then he will find you!
I have followed you so many years, and continue to love getting my Willards. Thank you for spreading your happy vibes. Not sure if you’ve ever been there, but my husband, daughter, and I took a trip to Monhegan Island in Maine this past year. It was amazing. Seems like a place you would enjoy. Best wishes and Happy Anniversary! Yay Spring!
Thank you so much Susan for this Willard Spring ☘️ post, so needed ! We are still getting snowfall on Mt.Rose in the Sierra Nevada’s …it will yield a gorgeous summer of wildflowers & fresh ice melt for Lake Tahoe to swim & kayaking as well . It’s been a long & harsh winter for us all on the mountain. Your post always leaves me inspired & feeling the sweetness that life can give us . Spring can’t come soon enough , I’m holding on for the melting snow & my crocus’s to peek their heads up at me ! Love you girlfriend-Penny from Mt.Rose
As I sit here in NH under three feet of snow…looking through your photos of anything GREEN, cheered me up, knowing soon under the deep snow…the Tulips and Daffodils will soon pop up. March in NE has always been a time of planning…the garden, jotting down lunch dates with friends. Thank you for your love story ❤️and inspiration for loving life.
Hi. Love the geranium pic and would put it in a showy place as we exit to our garden. Also, please give me the brand name of those fox slippers. Would like to purchase for a friend who fox hunts in New Jersey. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks
What a beautiful romance. Thank you so much for sharing the loving pieces of your life.
I love all things Susan Branch!
I have a peach pie recipe that you illustrated,
from probably more than 20 years ago.
I just remembered about you recently, when I saw a article
of yours in “The Country Register”
I picked it up in my local quilt shop”Oh Sew Personal”
Very inspired by your thoughts on creativity! Really enjoyed seeing the early stages of your painting. So beautiful! Happy spring! =^..^=
I received your first cookbook from my Mom, signed by you in Santa Barbara at the CALM Author’s Luncheon, many years ago. I gave it to my daughter-in-law, then I found another one at at Thrift Store. I love your enthusiasm, creativity and sensibility. You are so lucky to still have your life love. I lost mine 8 years ago, but still have a box of photos and many memories of our wonderful life together. Keep sending your love and creativity out to the world. We need it.
Susan you’re such a inspiration to me!! You do so many amazing things that want to be great artist just like you!! By the way my favorite color is green💚 this was a great Willard!!
So enjoy your blogs and Willard’s! You always make my heart sing… Thank you Susan!
Ahhhhh loved your post!❤️. Thank you for sharing your romance! I too, thought I would never love again, after a heartbreak. Met my future husband on a blind date and I realized that he was my true love and best friend! It’s been 41 years this spring!
Just now reading this romantic tale !!!!
Thanks for sharing
Thank you, thank you. I have followed and loved your art and books since the first cookbook came. This one was great with all the older pictures.
Susan, I enjoyed your latest Willard, as usual! Spring is definitely on the way and the new cups are lovely.
When you mentioned the book you and Joe are currently reading, I immediately thought of 84 Charing Cross Road for some reason. If you haven’t read it, and I imagine you surely have, please do! I greatly enjoyed it when I read the book years ago and later loved the movie with Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench. English and American charm in one book/movie!
I just love ❤️ Valentines Day. It always breaks up the Winter ❄️ My grandfather said if the
the snow is melting in streams across the road on February 15th we will have an early Spring. Not this year I guess…
You grew up wishing for four seasons and I grew up hoping for some California sunshine ☀️
So what month in 2012 did you and Joe get married, if I may ask? February??
Hugs to you, Joe and 🐈⬛
P.S. Down here it seems folks traded in Valentines for Mardi Gras. 🙄
We didn’t get married in 2012! I need to write that story!
I held off reading this Williard of Valentine’s Day 2023 because I knew your story would be beautiful and right now it is hard for me to see beautiful. I am over a year separated (moving to divorce) from my husband and home, in a new state, that has very cold winters (says the girl from California). I miss love and companionship. But I loved the quote that says “All dreams begin with the dreamer”. I am starting to allow my heart to believe it may dream again someday. Maybe…
And in the meantime, I am glad to read your story today and see that it all came true for you. And more than that, you have been willing to share it all with us. Thank you Susan. <3
Have you read Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, Beth? I basically wrote it for you! It’s all about when I was going through exactly what you are now! I wrote it for everyone who’s had to deal with that . . . having the run pulled out in the middle of a life when you thought everything was all figured out! Blessings on you, I promise, it gets MUCH better. Just takes a little while.❌⭕️❌⭕️
Happy Anniversary! I have been enjoying your many talents for many years. I still haven’t mastered your Easter bunny cake mold but each year I give it another try.
Susan, your Willards always seem to come at just the right time! Been feeling a little low lately and this Willard was just what was needed to spark some joy. Thank you , Girlfriend, ❤️💐
Loved this new Willard and all the green! Here in Upper Michigan we still have snow on the ground. I’m so over it. Valentines is my favorite time of year, it’s when my husband proposed with a dozen roses, a really cute card, the ring and asking me to go into our living room so he could ask my Dad something!40 years of ups and downs, but mostly ups. He’s been gone for 10 and I miss him so.
I loved your three books, a fine Romance my favorite, and had tears reading this Willard and so happy that you still have your “Knight in shining armor”
Happy Anniversary and looking forward to more Willards.
Dear Susan. I just loved your latest post! Thank you for sharing your life with us who love you! God bless you always, patty firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for the uplifting and inspiring Willard – always makes my day!