A Willard full of stories, disjointed and piecemeal, probably a lot like my brain these days as I go from celebration, to heartbreak, to worry, to announcing all good news, and back again. With all my love.💖 MUSICA

I can tell it’s October because I’m excited and feeling energized every day. Ridiculously so. I want to go in 7 directions at once. I started this post thinking I would tell a simple story of our visit to Lake Sebago in Maine so you could see how pretty it is, so you could imagine the sunsets, the lapping of water on shore, and the smell of the pine trees and woodsmoke from the little cabins . . . but as soon as we got home there were suddenly so many small seasonal celebrations, I began wondering if everyone I know was born in October!! I was putting new photos into my computer every day and thinking I would write about THAT . . . and on it went with a new idea everyday, culminating right now in what I THINK I will write about (we’re about to see where this goes) … and that is the soul-centering heart of the home, the kitchen. Where it all happens. Because I’m spending lots of time there. Celebrating not only my kitchen but those of friends. Is there a better time of year for your kitchen, whether it be stirring cake batter, washing windows, pouring milk into a cup of earl grey tea (with lavender and rose petals), opening a tin of cat food, or decorating for the fall? Answer is no. This is the warmest,
coziest, homiest, most hygge time of year. All so beautiful. And in a world gone mad, these simple things give solace, and soothe our souls. Our world is crazy, but inside our houses, we can still make it just the way we like it. Our prayers and hearts go out to all the moms and dads who only want what we want, to plant a garden, make birthday cakes, and raise their children in innocence and peace, but are brought into the insanity anyway, trapped in broken places where flowers don’t have a chance to grow.😥 It’s easy to imagine myself in their places, we have so much in common. I never take our peaceful lives for granted and pray to God we are able, all of us, together, to do better, to keep it that way.🌸
You might have seen this quote ⬆️ on one of your calendars, but I will remind you because it was so inspiring to me when I found it. It said what I always knew was true: We have to make the beauty we want to see.❤️

So, in keeping with the “Piecemeal” theme, I have to start with this, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything! Remember when we went to the Fair in August and I commented on the people who had won a giant “prize” at the game-booths? Huge stuffed animals, elephants,and teddy bears? I was saying that they had to carry these giant things around with them the rest of the night, onto the ferris wheel, in line at the lobster-roll booth. Well, here we were, two months later, out at the beach at the end of our walk!🤣 Poor puppy was left behind by someone going back to their real life. Maybe as a goodbye gift. Puppy in sad repose that said, “please take me home.” And yesterday, he was gone! Rescued!👏In the last post I wrote that we, so very lucky (our problems are so small), were suffering from a leak inside our kitchen walls coming from the upstairs bathroom, and we were getting it fixed just as we were leaving for Maine?

We got to here before we had to go! 🚗 You can see the water destruction got all the way down that wall and then into the wainscoting. The ancient pipe inside the wall was rusted and split from stem to stern . . . and those big black pipes in the ceiling were made of LEAD. Not good. But all gone now.🎉

Joe saved all the old nails that were holding that part of the house together and I’m about to put them in a shadow box. To leave in the house for the people of the future.🙌

When we got home from Maine, we realized we should wash the walls and repaint the whole thing . . . so we took everything out, and repainted it the same color as before, which we have loved. It’s called Woodlawn Blue, Benjamin Moore, HC-147 ~ and for the white, it’s Swiss Coffee, a soft beautiful white, also Benjamin Moore OC-45.

I like seeing it this way every so often, it’s so smooth and quiet and UNdecorated. I think maybe I won’t put EVERYTHING back🤔. But I always do… Because this house thinks more rather than less. It’s apparently a requirement. My job is to give the house what it wants. Modernizing in any way causes tiny sighs, floor creaks, wind whistles at the windows.⚡️

On the other hand my house has always approved of kitties.👏👏👏

Guys who can fix things are every woman’s aphrodisiac, I saw it with my dad and brothers, and I definitely see it with Joe! (You go guy!) But steal yourself for what is coming . . .

Precious? Or what? Yes, put handiness together with a guy who has the knees of a 6-year-old and be still my beating heart!💞

Kitchens! Let’s start with Mrs. Miniver’s kitchen! Pretty much the Queen of hygge in my opinion. An inspiration for generations of kitchens! Shadows of leaves on the brick wall outside the door remind us of passing time, flowered teacups hanging from hooks in the cupboard for afternoon tea with friends, the China platter on the top shelf, perfect for the Christmas roast, the milk bottle on the checked tablecloth, dish towels on the wall, and a window in the back door, all says home.

So many of us, inspired by the past, have one of these old-fashioned stoves . . . they are workhorses and in a winter storm, their pilot lights are the beating heart of the heart of the home! 

My girlfriend Elizabeth’s kitchen.

We used to have one of those refrigerators too, it came with our house. Only thing, it had to be defrosted. Which did not work for our lifestyle. I see so many of those fridges in online kitchens now, I wonder if they figured out how to make them frost free? 

Had to show you this one . . . so cute!

My mom’s kitchen had one of those stoves, an O’Keefe and Merrit, so I had to have one too. Because of my mom, it has always said “home” to me. Plus, when we moved in, almost immediately the house was tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Get me one of those stoves.” We’ve had this same stove since the early 90s . . . we got it from a place in Los Angeles aptly named Antique Stove Heaven.

This is ommmmmm for me. Peace, quiet, beauty, nurturing, generous, can handle anything. A gift. A hideaway. Real. Lived in. Hugs you back when you come through the door. Even hugs my girlfriends! “The oftener you come, the more we’ll adore you” could have come right out of this house’s mouth! So when I’m at a yard sale or an antique store, house says, “oooo, I love that basket! It’s cheap, get it!” And I do. Everything is old and well-used in this old house.

And this adorable kitchen ~ it’s in the English cottage in the movie The Holiday . . . Look at that darling fireplace! You can hear the fire crackling, the clunk of a spoon stirring honey into a teacup, the pulling back of one of those cushioned chairs. Deep breath. Yeah, I know, could probably use a little more red!

Although, I’ve been known to go blue myself!

We know that quote is true because we FEEL it! Many families have called our house “home.” I feel their presence in the fall more than any other time of year. When I peel apples to make apple crisp, I imagine all the good things cooked up in this kitchen since 1849, the turkey dinners, the iron skillets filled with fried chicken, the corn pudding, kids at the sink asking for potato peels, extra pie dough twisted into pastry sticks with cinnamon and sugar, plum puddings, and even fresh-churned butter. And all of it done, mixing and pouring in front of these same windows, looking on this same view. This house put its two cents in when I was writing the Autumn Book. It’s very bossy. But since I agree in every way with everything it says, no problem! 

And the people who own the house in this photo, which was brand new when I moved in, in California many years ago. This kitchen is where I really learned to cook and did my first watercolors. I hope they can feel the happy days I spent here.

I do like to think I’m leaving something behind in kitchens in houses where I’ve lived. Like those old kitchen nails Joe saved for me, but from the spirit too.❤️

This was a wonderful kitchen in one of our English rental cottages . . . Joe and Paul cooked, Rachel and I ate!

This is another house we rented in England, and this photo always makes me laugh with the memory . . . because we’d just come in from eating pub-dinner out and the kitchen was dark when we got home. We flipped on the light downstairs, and when I walked past this doorway I saw this shadowy thing from the corner of my eye and almost hit the ceiling because I thought there was a MAN in the kitchen!! Scared me! Then made me cry laughing!

This was the kitchen in our rental house in Ireland . . . We had lots of friends join us here, hope we left the happy dance behind for the next people.

That stove was one of the main reasons I bought Holly Oak; it already felt a little like Mrs. Miniver! And my cutie pie of a new boyfriend was cooking up a storm! It’s Christmas! I can tell by the cards taped to the doorway!

Joe’s a kitchen guy too! Crossword puzzles, sketching out architectural things, cutting pumpkins . . . all in the kitchen.

The kitchen is painted and clean and back together now . . . feels so good! Organized! Bonus, we can use the upstairs bathroom again!

Don’t put this wooden flower back up? Fogeddaboutit.

We washed everything before we put it back, see how shiny? We ran things through the dishwasher, washed the platters and of course my Beatrix Potter figurines by hand, cleaned all the glass on the pictures and in the windows, preparing ourselves for the season… doing our fall cleaning, shining it up for the holidays! I’m excited because we have old friends and family visiting this November! I’m going to make it soooo cozy!

During the fall the house has a hankering for RED, and so does nature . . . so we bring it in… Yes, Jack matches the decor perfectly. Every room needs a touch of black.

So fun to wander through antique stores in the fall!

Joe has collected glass oil lamps for when our lights go out! And I bring in the hydrangeas to dry in the vases. And nature puts the sun behind the trees sending shadows through the windows onto the walls. Everyone doing their part to feed the house.🧡I’ve decided beauty is as necessary to the human heart as air and water. It lightens burdens and fills our souls, all of our souls, no matter our color, our religion, our ways of thinking … mostly it’s free, available to everyone, we know it when we see it, a dish, a sunset, or a tree ~ it can be invisible, the face of innocence, the smell of ironing, or cookies baking ~ it’s something that can come in the smallest package, a shadow, or a hummingbird. Sometimes it’s so tiny and normal we take it for granted ~ like our beloved pets interrupting our work with their charm. But when I see a city in crumbles, and hungry children, where all beauty has been destroyed, I know what that is doing to the people. It’s the saddest part of our human history. Country boundaries mean nothing anymore, the world is very small, and remember what Mark Twain said, “Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” Believing there is hope for the world, despite everything, is the way to make it true. I try every day to keep my mind open, educate myself, stop judging, and cultivate a generous heart. Once I told a friend that I was holding back a story for a future book, and she said, “Give it. Give it all now.”💞

So here’s the next “piece” in the “meal,” about our visit to beautiful Migis (my-gus) Lodge at Lake Sebago ~ I can’t very well go without telling you about it, described perfectly in this 1926 ad in the NY Post they had displayed on a wall.

It’s a camp on the Lake. Everyone in cabins, meals in the Lodge. And they had classes! This class was for Needle Felting. And although people have given me needle-felted gifts, and said, “Oh it’s easy, you just stab wool with a needle . . .”

And I think, even though I trust Kellee to the nth degree, How can that BE?

Just stab wool? Green eyes? Pink in ears? That little ball? No. (Once again, have to say thank you to Suzanne for this adorable gift of Mini Jack.)

Seems impossible, even if you have the perfect model! So I signed up for this class along with 15 other people, both men and women. Inquiring minds want to know. This was my chance to learn how it’s done!!! So, for you from me:


They’d set us up with white wool in front of each seat, and all kinds of colors. The instructor was going to teach us to make a pumpkin. We could make anything, but since my house and I WANTED a pumpkin and I had never done this before, I went for the pumpkin. So first we wadded the white wool into a basic shape, round. No matter what you make, it starts with white. Then, using a special felting needle, you poke it and keep poking it until it takes shape and becomes smaller and harder. The pointed part at the top of the pumpkin is left loose on purpose to hook on the stem. The stem is made separately, everything is, as in Jack’s ears, feet, legs etc. All pieces are made separately with an extra bit sticking off, which is how the bits are attached to the main item, like the tail to the body of a cat for instance.

Here comes the stem, grab a bit of wool, roll tight as you can into a stem shape. Take that needle on the right, lay your stem on that black styrofoam block, and stab it all over a million times until the wool gets smaller, tighter, and begins to take shape. I did the same with the round ball until it took the shape of a pumpkin. But be careful. I think maybe 5 of us stabbed ourselves🩸 ~ that needle is wicked. It’s BARBED. You can’t see it, the barbs are so tiny, but they’re there! The more you stab the wool, the smaller and tighter your pieces get. That big Jack-Kitty, for example, is hard as a rock. But I left my pumpkin a little bit softer and gave it a hard stem.

Colored wools are spread thinly to cover the white,
and lightly stabbed on, more added as needed. Green went onto the stem before I connected it to the pumpkin. We put the pointed, loose part of the pumpkin and the pointed, loose part of the stem together and just start stabbing until they are joined, and then I added the orange. When you want to give ribs to the pumpkin, just start stabbing into it in a line like shown above ~ it just happens. And if you want you can stab darker bits of wool in the ribs. It’s a bit magical. Don’t ask me why. But it works. And you get these cute things!

Mine is the one in the middle. Might cut down on stem size next time! Everyone had something to take home! Mine sits on top of my stove right now!

And look! One girl had her dog with her (her family has been coming here for 33 years so I think she got special permission to bring him) … she took her pumpkin ball and turned it into her dog’s head! Isn’t it darling? She’d never done this before! She was, however, sitting next to the instructor, a bit of genius on her part! She put on the little ears the same way I put on the stem, also the muzzle. Left an extra bit sticking off of chin, and on bowtie, and just stabbed them together to hook them on, and really, it makes them part of the project. It works! All wonderful! So if you’re looking for new fun project to try . . . there you go! I think it would make a very fun party!

All that and this too. Lake Sebago. Clear and sparkling clean as drinking water.

With little flower gardens planted along the shore . . . and little boats in the coves.

I was in the shade, Joe was in the sun, I was taking pictures of course . . . and obviously, so was he!

Good for your soul. Nature is everything. A pure gift.

We walked all over . . . and I began to notice the sun catching something on the ground and making it sparkle, glitter really, like someone had spread glitter everywhere . . .

You can’t really see it in this photo, but this entire walk glitters with big and tiny sparkles . . . it’s everywhere.

Pretty soon I’m trying to take pictures of it…

Which isn’t as easy as it looks, because the sun has to be just right, but you can see a big piece there, and if you look close, there are pops of tiny light all over the place.

So I began to gather it . . . “What is it?” I asked my Morning Science partner in crime, “Mica,” he said. “Never heard of it,” I said. 

Anyway here are a couple of the bigger pieces. It’s really quite amazing. It was on our shoes, we had diamonds on the souls of our shoes . . . I wanted to string it for a necklace. But Joe said it would break the minute I put a hole in it!

And when I got down on the carpet in our room to do my planks, LOOK! The floor sparkles with what we bring in on our shoes!

I brought it home to show you. Then I happened to be looking at ingredients in the kind of make-up that puts tiny bits of sparkle on your cheeks, and guess what what’s in it? Yup. Mica! Unbelievable. I love it when I learn something on vacation. 

Here’s our cabin.

Here’s the woods-walk … all piney and wonderful.

At night we sat on the porch of the lodge to eat dinner ~ pre-dinner cocktails are served out front, a little closer to the lake.

The sunsets were sublime!

The walk back to the cabin at night smelled like every camping trip I took with my parents when I was little. Brought me right back to Yosemite and Sequoia and our campfires under starry skies.

Sun setting through the trees . . .

Loons cry on the lake . . .

Me, our last day, packing, asking Joe if we should take home the roses he brought . . .

Beauty followed us home . . . I took this photograph from our table next to the window at Beach Road restaurant. . .

Celebrating Elaine’s 78th birthday . . . see her little champagne-bottle candle? 🥳 🥳 🥳 🥳

We ate dinner watching the moon rise . . . sooo beautiful!

Here I am getting ready for Martha’s birthday party we had the other night . . . look close at what it says on that napkin in the mums!🤣

Yup, this is us on our walk. I could write so much more, and I will! But not today, we, you and me, have things to DO!!

But before I go, I promised I would make more of these cups, and let you know when I did. We ran out of them too quickly and not everyone who wanted one was able to get a Queen Elizabeth II commemorative cup ~ I designed for a woman so admired for her life of service well-lived. So I’m letting you know! More are coming!

Back by popular demand, coming to a house hear you in January, my Queen Elizabeth II cup, up for presale now!

And a brand new one for a celebration that I think will be going on for the next 3 years as we are coming up quickly to the 250th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence! I remember the 200th! Was a big celebration then, and bound to be even bigger this time.🇺🇸

These are only mockups I made from paper with help of the copier! So they aren’t rich in color as they will be when they are the real thing, but it allows me to show you what they will look like (only better!)♥️

Here’s the handle . . .

The shot heard round the world was fired from a musket in Lexington, MA in 1775 ~ I wrote about our visit there to see a reenactment earlier this year. We LOVED it . . . you might want to make a plan to go to this historical event in 2025 or 2026 . . . I’m sure they will go all out!🧨 Best is to find yourself a place to stay close to Lexington Green before it’s all sold out, but there are events all of April every year, culminating in Patriot’s Day. P.S. Louisa May Alcott’s House is right next door in Concord.😍

So, new pumpkin installed on the shelf of my old stove . . . off we go . . .

. . . heading into the gratitude-filled months of celebrating friends and family, making magic. I had to send you this cute photo made by one of my Instagram girlfriends . . . And remember darling friends, you are everything.❤️It’s ROUGH out there . . . and you can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of YOU.💖 All you can do is all you can do. Be happy. Take naps. Send love. 🙏 Make beauty. ❌⭕️

I thought this was so pretty . . don’t just listen, watch . . .💖

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211 Responses to PIECEMEAL

  1. Julie says:

    Big sigh. Deep breaths. Your post was just beautiful and made me feel so much better.
    Thank you Susan.

  2. Kari says:

    I am cracking up that my dining room is the same color as your kitchen. When we moved to South Carolina, everybody asked, “Are you going to decorate your new house ‘coastal?’ No, said I, we’re more “George Washington slept here,” people. Also, we, too, went on a Mica hike, this summer. It is one of the trails we took in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Such a beautiful corner of the world. Love to you and Joe.

  3. Fancy says:

    What a perfect peace-filled beautiful blog. Made me happy and calm and sad, too. Love all your ways with words and all your sweet pictures. Ready for this next glorious season.

  4. Pamela Tasker says:

    I love, love, love ❤️ this time of year as well. The oranges, browns, yellows and greens ! I was born on October 10th. It was a Sunday afternoon. My husband and I of 51 years together were also married in October on the 28th. So you might say Autumn / Fall is my cup of tea !!

  5. Beautiful post, and timely, as we could all use a reminder of how much beauty there actually is out there.

    I especially loved the kitchen photos – so comforting, And yes – they do make those retro fridges frost free! I have one in buttercup yellow, and am saving pennies for the matching stove. 🙂

    Thanks as always for the uplifting thoughts and images.

    ♥ Carolee

  6. Fran from Michigan says:

    Thank you for the little bit of happiness! the beautiful vintage kitchens and Jack in felt! I also love fall, in seven days my husband and I would have celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. ( we did make it to 40) How I miss him. esp now with everything going on. I can’t help but feeling fear and worry about what our world is coming to. I am thankful that I live in a semi remote woods by a lake, surrounded by deer and chipmunks and the occasional skunk! I pray for all the people in the world that are surrounded by war and hate, We were married right after my husband came back from Vietnam and hoped that that would be the end of all wars. Agent Orange got him, “When will they ever learn, Long time passing”

    • sbranch says:

      You are lucky to be surrounded with nature dear Fran . . .yes, when will they ever learn? 😪 Blessings. xoxoxo ❌⭕️❌

  7. Barb Murphy says:

    Dear Susan, this blog really spoke to me. Getting our house cozy for the cold months ahead, taking walks in the timber behind our house, raking/burning leaves. And, most wonderful of all, is my very handy husband of 40 years. He’s been updating our basement and I must admit it looks great! Also, like your Joe, he cooks too. He’s a guy of many talents and I’m so thankful to have him in my life. I enjoyed the video at your blog’s end. Perfectly sums up how I’m feeling these days. Thank you. May you, Joe and Jack have a joyous autumn.

  8. Joan says:

    I am so happy you were able to enjoy the beauty of Sebage Lake. I live in Portland and the Migis Lodge is about a 25 minute ride from my home. And you mentioned the clarity of Sebago Lake. It is actually the drinking water source for the Portland Water District customers.
    Also you had a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem on your newly designed mug. If you ever visit the area again you are able to tour his boyhood home in Portland. The tour is run by the Maine Historical Society and it is a lovely way to spend some time.
    And a big thank you for the kitchen tour. My favorite room in a home is the kitchen. I love to watch Escape to the Country about people who want to leave cities in England and move to the countryside and I love when they show the kitchens of the homes…so cozy. And of course you had to hang your red wooden flower up. It’s those things that make a house a home. My favorite thing is when people put little treasures on their kitchen windowsills by the sink. They are like a hug to the home.
    You are a treasure Susan…Just keep being you!


    Thank you as always for your beautiful words and pictures. I watched the post you added at the end of the blog, then clicked on the Hugh Bonneville presentation of “It is Well With My Soul”. It’s so timely during these heartbreaking world events that are happening all around us. I recommend it for all to see and listen.

  10. Patty says:

    Hi Susan! I am happy to hear that you were introduced to wool felting. It is absolutely addicting and relaxing! There are many wool farms here in Maine and you can find wool roving in many colors for all of your crafty projects. I have knitted some wool Christmas stockings and the tops of the stockings are fluffy wool cuffs! You can also make snowmen or snowpeople with three balls of wool. Have a cup of hot cider and sit by the fire with a basket of wool! I have found the wonderful world of junk journaling lately and have used some of your past calendars in my journals. Happy Fall, Susan!!

  11. Margot Birkett says:

    I loved Summer 🌼 and Autumn 🍁as a child. However, Autumn is dear to my heart as I have an October birthday 🎂
    Creating peace and beautiful things in one’s own corner of the world is the best one can do, and 🙏 for the World.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos of Maine and cozy kitchens!
    OXOX ox

  12. Margot Birkett says:

    I forgot to tell you that I have an old wash stand that my mom thought was made by someone in our family, or maybe bought. Anyway, it has square headed nails. I believe those were from before the turn of the century. It is painted like the paint on the kitchen wainscoting. Our house was built in 1868, and I am not sure about the other homestead. The first house from 1848 doesn’t exist. No photo either.

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