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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272 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!

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you so much Joan, lovely to hear from you!🍂

      • Debbie Boerger says:

        Maine has so much history that gets overlooked. Of course the rocky shores, clear lakes, mountains and the wonderful woods are tough competition. Portland has so much to see, many museums, great old house tours, and is now a foodie city. We go there as often as we are able. Right now there are some brilliant maples left, and the oaks are just coming into their glory here in Down East Maine.


    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.

    • sbranch says:

      What a fun thing to own!

      • Margot Birkett says:

        We don’t own it anymore, my sister’s and I were the last generation to grow up there and my sons visited Grandma there. 7 generations, 6 born in Wisconsin.
        Some nice immigrant from Poland bought our house and made it into a coffee ☕️ shop. He loves American history. We are great full to him. He recently fixed up an old train depot in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Our house and the one the man bought for his family to live in are log homes.

      • Margot Birkett says:

        We don’t own it anymore since my mom passed away in 2014. It is now a coffee shop. After 7 generations! The man who bought it loves American history. My 2xGreat grandfather built it from logs he cut and hand hewn before he was drafted in to the Civil War. He finished the house when he came home.

  13. Valerie A Johnson in Weatherford, Texas says:

    What a lovely post….thank you! Just poke it with a needle and out comes a pumpkin, huh? or a cat that looks just like the one in my lap, huh? hahaha I’m going to have to try this because it does sound too good to be true. I have the feeling that if I had been there, my pumpkin would have more closely resembled the clay ashtray that 6 year old me made. 🙂 You’re so right about kitchens and I’ve always loved that quote about the “ordinary arts”. You know who else had a beautiful kitchen? Was her name Dianne? Maybe she was an English friend of yours. You wrote about a visit with her several years ago. Her kitchen was done in blues and greens and I think she had a small white dog (like half the population of England). Do you know who I mean?

  14. Viffy says:

    I so love all of the kitchen pictures! I thought I may be the only one that kept a catalog of my “wish list” items to have!
    Happy Autumn!

    P.S. That mini-Jack is adorable 🙂

  15. Becky P says:

    Oh the stories that glass banana dish could tell!💛
    Thank you for some joy tonight as the news is heartbreaking coming out of Maine tonight.

  16. Such a heartwarming post! Loved every word and photo. Balm for the weary soul.
    I have an old 1961 Hotpoint stove. The heart of my kitchen. Your Maine vacation sounds wonderful. Makes me homesick. I grew up in New England but now live in Washington State. Beautiful here, but the smell of the pines and the sound of the blue-jays is what I miss most.
    Thank you for being such a bright light in a dark world.
    xx K

  17. Carolyn from Pittsburgh says:

    Love love everything about this blog. All the kitchens. Your beautiful Rose Chintz China. All the quotes. Everything is just so pretty. Thank you.

  18. Michele Salazar says:

    Your beautiful Willard’s surround our hearts with warm, cozy felted wool.
    Thank you

  19. Debbie Boerger says:

    WoW! Last night was wonderful to experience. I had my head sticking out of our roof window in the wee hours and saw Venus, very bright. Earlier the almost full moon right next to Jupiter, which is at its brightest.
    I’m opting out of most of the news the last few days and feeling a bit guilty for doing so. Once again, Nature has saved my soul.
    On November 5 my best friend in Tampa died. She was the first person I met when I moved there, and we shared so very much. She was 82 and had emphysema.
    Nobody knew she was so sick. We wrote several times a week, and talked by phone at least once a month. All of her daughters came, the middle one from England, and they were with her until she died, in just a week. Tom and I were on vacation in Rockland area, and I wasn’t checking my email. By the time I did, she had been diagnosed with end stage lung cancer, bone cancer and other. He was sent home with help from Hospice. Well, as I told the 3 “girls”, who called me their Other Mother…..She spent her entire life caring for others, as a mother and much revered social worker. But the business of dying, she Did Her Own Way.
    When I talked to the whole family on speaker, I said that very thing to them, but it included the F word with -ing on the end. They all exploded in laughter, and made me repeat it while they held the phone up to my beloved friend’s ear. They said she whispered, You got that right. She was small but Mighty.
    They also have granted me my wish to have a bit of her ashes to bring to Maine next Spring. They will be placed under the peonies, where some of mine will be.
    We were both from the part of the Deep South where it cool enough for those beautiful things. We shared a regret that Tampa was too hot for them.
    A natural death of an old person isn’t tragic. What is tragic is what is happening in our country, in the Middle East and even here in Maine.
    My wonderful next door neighbor and her wonderful husband having one of their C&C evenings tonight, and we’ll get to say farewell to some of the other neighbors and others. They began doing these a few years ago, and everyone loved it. Dirt Road People walk down, except for the oldest, 87, who just had several joints replaced. 20 years ago, these same neighbors, plus one family who moved, used to stage elaborate Halloween parties for all the kids, which included hay rides up and down the road. One neighbor had a small tractor which was hitched to a long flat bed trailer and stacked with bales of hay. My Tom Terrific did the driving. We had a haunted trail through the woods, an apple bobbing station, music provided by friends for kids do the Scottish Fling. The sound of children playing, squealing and laughing is so lovely.
    I had to run back to our house for something, and when I looked up, the entire dome of the sky was Pink!! It was an unusual aurora. I was swallowed up in total and complete Joy and Thanks for having such a beautiful place to be and beautiful people to share.
    Thanks for “listening”, Dear Lady, and know this October Post was Balm for my broken heart.
    Mucho love,
    Debbie in a blizzard of colorful falling leaves! 🙂

  20. Kathy Mendoza says:

    A few weeks ago I began reading your trilogy. I love all of your books, and have truly enjoyed reading your inspiring story about how it all started. Today I reached page 335 of ‘Isle of Dreams’, and this line:

    “The first printing of ‘Heart of the Home’ was 20,000 copies. It was published on October 29, 1986, and sold out before Christmas.”

    And then I thought to myself, today is October 29!! It made me smile, as very many passages in your book have:) So, I had to write this quick note to say thank you!! Thank you for sharing your courageous story. I have enjoyed it so, so much and can’t wait to start ‘A Fine Romance’. Happy Anniversary!!!

  21. Mary Caponio says:

    Thank you for Willard ❤️❤️❤️ I wish I could jump into the pictures of your cozy kitchen!! I had a vintage stove just like your’s when I met my husband he took it upon himself to bake a small tiny ham in it for me and sliced it super thin then pieced it all back to its tiny canned ham shape by tacking it together with whole cloves, when I got home from work the kitchen smelled like pumpkin pies and when I opened the oven I saw this tiny black little object in a pan? The cloves sucked up all the moisture from that tiny ham and petrified it😂😂😂 however it was the thought that counts and my man is a wonderful cook in the long run, 35 years later , Happy Autumn Susan and Joe

  22. Ellette says:

    Could you let me know the name of the convent that makes the beeswax candles?
    I ordered from them before but can’t remember the name
    Thank you so much
    Ellette Day

  23. Care Woodard says:

    What fun to go to camp. When I was a little girl, Id sit with my neighborhood friends on this huge rock and we pick out flakes of mica…the thin layers are just miraculous! How incredible to see it sprinkled down a dirt road through pine trees!…Magic. Im reading this at supper by the kitchen fire…Hubby out at a meeting. It is a little like sharing supper with a friend. Bless you for all the encouragement

  24. Kathleen Conrad says:

    I love love love the cards message “ Isn’t it weird being the same age as old people?”
    So true!!

  25. Emily says:

    October does have that magical touch! Your description takes me on a journey through warm kitchens, comforting rituals, and the solace found in the simple joys of this season. Here’s to the heart of the home and the cozy moments that make life beautiful. 🍂💖

  26. Nancy Mosley says:

    Sorry about the leak but glad you have it fixed now and it’s always nice to get a fresh coat of paint. We grew up calling mica – Fools gold. That sounded like a fun walk. That’s fun to try felting. Friends and I tried that and made little acorns. It is fun. Sorry I’m so late in reading this and responding. Have a Happy Thanksgiving🦃🧡☕️

  27. Valerie Johnson in Weatherford, Texas says:

    What a lovely post….thank you! Just poke it with a needle and out comes a pumpkin, huh? or a cat that looks just like the one in my lap, huh? hahaha I’m going to have to try this because it does sound too good to be true. I have the feeling that if I had been there, my pumpkin would have more closely resembled the clay ashtray that 6 year old me made. 🙂 You’re so right about kitchens and I’ve always loved that quote about the “ordinary arts”. You know who else had a beautiful kitchen? Was her name Dianne? Maybe she was an English friend of yours. You wrote about a visit with her several years ago. Her kitchen was done in blues and greens and I think she had a small white dog (like half the population of England). Do you know who I mean?

  28. linda says:

    loved loved all he pictures
    we love Martha”s
    we left Ca 25 years ago for New England and have never regretted it
    It is beautiful here

  29. Cathy Carter says:

    Also enjoy your prose, art work and stories. Lovely journeys you share . .
    Love your quilts! Our local guild sponsors a Mukilteo Garden and Quilt Tour every other year. Sharing two wonderful American hobbies . . Brought from ancestors and cultures perhaps we’ve visited or come from. What a gift to share a quilt . . With each stitch someone’s own journey and quiet moments using needles, thread and time and color to craft something beautiful to keep someone warm, or trigger memories of events or times gone by. Bless you Susan . . For sharing your gifts with others.

  30. Alice Moline says:

    Lovely lovely visit. Your Willards are just jam packed with so much. It makes for a rather relaxing time, past, present and future. The paint job is stunning. The quilts are also. Jack and his rubber bands……..they do love to play, right???

  31. Sandi, now in Plymouth says:

    Thank you for another wonderful Willard! You and your family are so genuine which is so heart felt! Once again I love seeing Jack, (missing my Pumpkin.) As a new resident of Plymouth, I’d love to stop by and see you and Joe at Shelleys Tea Room! You have been such a positive and inspiring couple to me and so many. I would have loved to sail to England with you but we couldn’t make it happen because of our move. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and New Year. Good luck with your sale in SLO!

  32. vera smetzer says:

    What a beautiful heart and soul-filled newsletter this Mistletoe Season!! All the photographs, memories shared, crafts (the pumpkin directions and that quilt which looks so warm and heavenly), delicious food and kitchen photos, music and song… an early Christmas present is what it felt like. I know I will reread it again before or on Christmas eve. Thank you and thinking that it may indeed be time to begin Fairy Tale Girl again and continue through the series. Merry Christmas wishes!!

  33. Fran Pedro says:

    Love your quilts….even the watercolor quilts!
    Stay well, have great holidays!

  34. Phyllis says:

    I am always glad to receive another Willard. It is like getting caught up with a friend.

  35. Karen Mary says:

    So much inspiration! I’m going to go decorate some more. And bring out my old quilt. It’s lovely to know there are kindred spirits out there – one of the lovely things about the internet! Thanks for the wonderful work and the chance to exchange gifts with you!

  36. Jordan says:

    Thank you for bringing us beauty and joy and happiness and light. You are so inspiring! I love the idea of decorating with quilts! Thank you for writing and painting and drawing and exploring and seeing the world! Keep going!

  37. Margie Orr says:

    Thank you Susan, I laughed at your anxiety meds. I am in the same place as you and cried at the Mistletoe song. Only you could do that for me. What a beautiful blog. I have followed you since the paper Willard. Wish you had more heart stamps, i am running low! But in spirit you always make me feel better.

  38. Marguerite says:

    Thank you for yet another beautiful Willard, Susan. I enjoy my visits to the Island and touching on your life vicariously. Keep it up! Regards, Marguerite

  39. Lisa Russell says:

    I happily found Heart of the Home over 20 yrs ago and have been a fan ever since. All of your books and writing brings me to a place where I stop and start reminiscing about my childhood, family, experiences and places that I don’t often find time for in this fast paced, seemingly going in the wrong direction world. I also live in an old 1840 home that has mostly been kept original, and love to decorate for the holidays. Thank you for your thoughtful and kind words, drawings and pictures that bring warmth to my heart. Have you ever been to upstate NY? I live in the Adirondack Mountains and it is beautiful here. Here’s to a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Joe and your extended family.

  40. Nancy Gardner says:

    I was so happy to see your new Willard when I checked my emails this morning. Thank you, Susan, for allowing us a glimpse into your charming life and for these wonderful blogs that always make us so happy and inspire us. Wishing you and Joe a wonderful holiday season and a blessed new year. (I’m secretly hoping that in the new year you’ll find time to work on the sequel to “Distilled Genius”, my all time favorite book!) All the best, Nancy
    P.S. Your former home looks like an amazing property — I’m certain we all wish that we could live there!

  41. Bobbie Redington says:

    Oh Susan, I always look forward to reading The Willard but this recent issue was especially “cozy” as it arrived on my birthday!

    I loved seeing your photos of preparing for your Thanksgiving guests. You always bring back memories. I smiled to see your ironing water bottle with the corked “sprinkler” top. Is there a story there? I wish I had the one my mother used and feel fortunate to have her wooden ironing board that is a gorgeous light green, the perfect weight and size. Not many young folks nowadays would understand how the ironing board serves so many useful purposes.

    I couldn’t help being a bit envious, seeing the photos of the various generations in your life. Oh what a wonderfully full life you live.

    Your property in California looks wonderful. Of course it would as I consider you the ultimate “home maker”.

    I pulled out the Autumn book in October and enjoyed getting comfy each night with tea. A few nights ago I pulled out the Christmas book to continue my cozy bedtime ritual.

    Thank you for sharing your daily observations and endless quotes for all occasions of life. They all mean more than you know.

    Bobbie Redington
    Canby, OR

  42. Nancy Gardner says:

    I was so happy to see your Willard in my emails this morning! Thank you, Susan, for sharing a glimpse of your charming life and activities with us. Reading Willard always makes me happy and feeling inspired. Wishing you and Joe a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy new year. (I’m secretly hoping that you’ll find time to work on the sequel to “Distilled Genius “, my all time favorite book!) And I just want to mention it that I’ve recently taken up the craft of quilting and have just completed my very first quilt! Hoping to create some quilts as beautiful as the ones you have on display so that my granddaughters can have them to enjoy one day.
    All the best, Nancy
    P.S. Your former home looks like an incredible property! I’m sure all of us would enjoy living there!!😍

  43. Angie Mercer says:

    Thank you for brightening my days!
    I too love all things vintage!

  44. Cindi Bajkowski says:

    what a lovely surprise! a lovely Willard in my email. Thanks so much Happy Holidays

  45. Sandra Haley says:

    Your words and art make my heart sing with joy!

  46. I was so happy to see you decorate with quilts. I have been in love with them for over 60 years. Enough love that I began quilting in 1964 and am still at it today. Quilting gives me a peace of mind that money can’t buy. I always enjoy your newsletters, Susan. Thank you so much.

  47. JANET E FINLEY says:

    Thank you, Susan, for your uplifting newsletters and beautiful art. You always improve my day. I loved seeing your quilts decorate your rooms. I have been in love with quilts all of my 60 plus years. So much in love that I have been quilting all those years and find it gives me peace and joy.

  48. Kirsten Stanley says:

    Thank you for your beautiful art work, beautiful words, beautiful thoughts and beautiful heart it truly is a gift to this world! Have a wonderful Christmas season and every season after ❤️

  49. Ferol Snead says:

    I am so grateful for the plan God created for my life. So, is it wrong to imagine I had found the little cottage, had the daily walks, was given the kitty by my neighbors, had met a man in a diner, hung clothes on the line? Only in my imagination will have to do.

  50. Cathy Young says:

    Beauty and inspiration are the key words that come to mind when I read your writings and admire your gorgeous illustrations … thank you for all that you give to us , your great fan/friends !
    I hope I get to be your “quilt” friend !
    And I hope to make it to see your beautiful Martha’s Vineyard one day !

  51. Cindy Carney says:

    Comfy and cozy and colorful!! Love your decor and art work and the best snippits of days gone by in all of your creations!! Thank you!

  52. You are the best, Susan!

    Thank you for spreading joy in everything you do.

  53. Gail+Sergewich says:

    Hi. Would love the quilt. Have about 5 I made all by hand in my younger days. I have one I quilted that my husbands grandmother made. If I win, I promise to send you a box of my annual Christmas ornaments. You will love them.

  54. Jennifer O’Neal says:

    I love your artwork and your creativity. Thank you!

  55. Nancy S Beresh says:


    Dear Susan,
    Love your snaps–especially those of kitchens, which are truly the heart of a home. My husband and I have lived in an 1844 farmhouse for many years and appreciate it more and more each year–especially the kitchen where we spend most of our time. Please continue to write and use your artwork to comfort and inspire people everywhere. Gratefully, Nancy

  56. Victoria Lang says:

    Hi! After loving your books in the 80s as a young mother & have joined you again as a 63 yr old grammie & am sharing your world with them! Much Love to you & yours & Thank You for being YOU all these years!

  57. Donna Keesler says:

    Thank you for sharing your life stories with us. So refreshing and comforting
    in today’s hectic world. Always look forward to your next Willard!

  58. Deborah D Harrison says:

    singing…..”There’s a Place for Us”…..at our 1923 farm house with an 1891 house too. Very eclectic with all our stuff and the wood cook stove to keep us warm. Your stories are heart warming and so fun. Wishing for a new novel….to live vicariously thru.

  59. Nadia says:

    Dear Susan
    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself through your art and your blog. I absolutely love each new installation. It reminds me of when I was first married in Connecticut. New England was such a dream for me and it stole my heart ( in more ways than one). I read each entry with such nostalgia, now that we live in Vancouver, it’s really such a gift.
    Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

  60. Barb says:

    Thank you for the beautiful words and pictures. Even tho we all go through some hard times, there is always always something we can be thankful for no matter what.

  61. Felecia Morris says:

    I have always loved beautiful language which is I guess why I love to read what you write. Words can bring such happiness. I always feel sad when I find out that someone doesn’t like to read. I try gently to persuade them because it feels like a great loss when all those beautiful words go unread.
    Thank you for sharing the lovely words that are your favorites with all of us. Have a wonderful holiday season. I look forward to reading more from you.

  62. Sue P says:

    I love the mixture of memories and current happenings in this letter. And the many kitchens was fun as well! Thanks for sharing. Your letters always make me feel happy.

  63. Leslie Gussin says:

    It was so wonderful to read about your house in AG. I went to a yard sale there many years ago when you had the store on Branch Street. I miss that store. My mother lives in Grover Beach so when I visited her, we always went to your store.
    It brightens my day when a new Willard arrives. Thank you.

  64. Julia Walker says:

    Dear Susan, As always, thank you for sharing your idyllic life. I’ve been feeling “down” but have a renewed spirit after being in your presence tonight. Thank you. Merry Christmas(thanks to Dickens)!!! Your friend, Julia

  65. Ruth Winkler says:

    Dear Susan, Thank you so much for this wonderful Willard. I was entranced with everything. I love quilts too and now have them stacked high above my father’s old chifferobe, which I inherited. Maybe I will air them and then place them on chairs and couch in living room for the winter. Loved all your quotes too. I started writing my Christmas cards out and wish I had used some of the quotes.

  66. Cheryl Hora says:

    I love your Willard’s. Just love them. Sometimes I get them and think I don’t have time to read it all BUT I always end up reading the whole thing! Thanks so much for writing them. Good luck in selling your California home. I live in the Midwest but have visited California many times because my sister lives in Southern California. Merry Christmas! 🩷🎄🎅🏻

  67. Lori Magnuson says:

    Hi Susan,
    I love Willard! I get so excited when the surprise email notification arrives! I save it for a special “me time” and enjoy every last morsel with ‘musica’! Thanks for who you are.

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