GARDENS, CATS, TRAINS, & INSPIRATION: California Style

Yes! This Willard has it all, from cats, to trains, making home sweet home, inspiration, and back again! California Style! 💝 Plus, MUSICA! To you from me, with love love love . . .💖

I say tea first! I’ll wait!

Well, here we are, in the mirror, happy as two clams, running away from home, tucking ourselves into our teeny-tiny room with a view, aboard Amtrak Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, just pulling out of South Station in Boston, then onward to Los Angeles!

Settled in for 3 glorious days of soft rocking which puts us to sleep, lots of naps and reading, three meals a day in the dining car (some meals better than others) and interesting dinner companions from everywhere …🚂

. . .but mostly we stared out the window at the ethereal never-ending views across this beautiful country . . . because as most of you know, it was WINTER with a capitol W the entire time across . . . looks like the moon!

But it was so beautiful . . .

Even from the window in our dining car ~🍷🍷 we drank delicious red wine, while watching a white-out blizzard blow outside the window as we rolled along, listening to the train whistle.❤️ Imagining the conversation between friends across the country:

Note outfit. The train (Southwest Chief) always stops for an hour in Albuquerque which allows me to get off and go for a brisk walk take big breaths of fresh air! Cold there too, just like everywhere else!🥶

Alfredo brought my car and met us at the train … we bought that car new in 2005, a Toyota Highlander that still has only 60,000 miles on it ❤️ … it starts with a KEY👏, and it has a CD player, and comes with all my old CDs, so we are playing Kokomo (Beach Boys) as we round the bend, almost to Santa Barbara ☀️, our first glimpse of the Pacific ocean, palm trees, and look at that sky!👏 We are beside ourselves! It’s another world.

Welcome to Hotel California . . . such a lovely place.🎵 Our “driveway” … it’s dirt! It’s the Country Life for me! My neighbors wanted to pave the main driveway, but I held out for the earth ~ a little breathing room. So it’s not paved EVERYWHERE ~ and here, it’s not paved ANYWHERE. Home sweet home, and the first thing we did is breathe in the green while taking pictures . . . Our trees have grown so big!

In this place where bees grow strong . . .

After crossing the snowy grey country . . . we couldn’t help ourselves:

We bought this place twenty-three years ago, and got that tractor. We had been to England. Had seen their amazing gardens, and said, “California is perfect, sunshine, rain, we already have orange trees, we can plant those gardens here! Hedges, garden rooms, and let’s do a long walk!”

Because what we had here was dirt. Fabulous ancient river-bed dirt that grows anything! It wasn’t the house we fell in love with although it’s nice and big and perfect for what we wanted (Joe doesn’t love it as much as I do!) . . . it was the location, the beauty around it, the long views, the hills, the creek, the moon and sunrises, and the possibilities. So on went the grass seed, in went the picket-fence garden, and on went the white paint . . . We dug down deep for the garden, lined the bottom and up the sides with hardware cloth, to protect it from gophers and other underground critters!

This gorgeous albizzia tree was already there, but in the beginning it sat in a sea of dirt . . . compare it to the picture above it, you can see what we did to cuten-up the deck and the basically metal-sided garage . . .

Mas MUSICA! A whole other kind . . . my favorite 💖

Before and . . .

. . . After. We looked at it the right way! See what white paint and picket fences can do!

After that it was hedges and hedges and more hedges. More trees, roses, and all the things that love the California sunshine. This valley is farmland, mostly what they grow here is wine grapes, avocados, artichokes, and cabbage.

The garden diary I kept while walking through English gardens! Full of inspiration we borrowed for this place!❤️  

Tiny Christmas apples grow here! And pepper trees!

And we’re back . . . still working to make it better . . . the smoke out back is coming from the piles of dry brush we’re burning. . .

One of the first things we did is buy new artichoke plants to go into the ground on the warm wall behind the garage. So delicious, fresh artichokes, hoping we get a few baby ones before we have to go!

We grew them here before ⬆️ and they were so prolific! I’ve thought we should grow them and supply our grocery store on the Island ~ they get the WORST artichokes! “But, you’re selling the house,” you say, and I say, “Yes, you’re right, but the new owner will LOVE the artichokes!” Paying it forward, remembering how wonderful the garden was in our house on the Island, and so grateful to Mrs. Bowditch (the person who lived there before us) for what she did!

We have too many friends we love who are realtors in this neck of the world, making it impossible to choose❤️ ~ can’t stand to hurt anyone’s feelings. So we are going with a perfect stranger. We’ve kept all your letters of interest in looking at this property, which we are sending to her, we hope she’ll get in touch with all of you when the time comes!💌

One of the first times we went out was for an afternoon spent wandering around our favorite antique stores looking for little cat food bowls, and some new/old little vases for flowers for the shelf over the kitchen sink. Gotta have that! The vase on the far right is my favorite, it has a little hole in the back so you can hang it on a wall too! $6. Be still my heart. 💝

Next thing I did is oil the cutting board and the wooden spoons with mineral oil ~ because mineral oil never turns rancid. I can’t live in a house with a dried out cutting board, and spoons that look like big splinters when it’s so easy to make them warm and beautiful!! We even sell mineral oil in our webstore HERE

Sun comes in early in the morning, sweeps across the floor, and look what it finds!

Yes! It’s Sammy ~ one of our studio kitties, so sweet, here to sleep with us, and provide deep-fur rubbing service!👏👏👏 Look at his freckle!!! He has a little Jack in him! And there’s my “studio,” in the back corner of the living room, with a view of the picket-fence garden…

And Simon! Two sweet boys! Simon is HUGE, all muscle, and pure mush! He smells every single one of my fingers in the morning, looks up at my face (making sure no stranger-infiltration has made it into the house). You can pick them both up and rub their bellies to your heart’s desire! We are spoiling them with love. I know they aren’t happy that things seem to be changing, but right now, I can say they are sitting extremely pretty. wob wob wob them. I should probably write this entire post in arf and arfy . . . and you know why . . .

See that eye? I feel him watching me . . . But his babysitters have promised they won’t tell him a thing! Shhhhh…. He’s doing so good! I get pictures texted all the time!😻

We’ve been cleaning like crazy, emptying closets and cupboards, and going through files and boxes. Finding old art, photos, and newspaper articles. Putting some into the trash, keeping some, giving some away, and keeping some to make the house look cute/useable until it’s sold. I have so many old books here, especially GARDENING BOOKS ~ had to have them, because this garden here didn’t come out of nowhere!

Yesterday I drove up to Atascadero to see Kellee and visit the new Studio … oh, it is wonderful! The work these girls have done is amazing! Perfectly organized for action. I couldn’t love it more! I picked up some of our candles, the Autumn book, the new Heart of the Home and other necessities of life while I was there! Need to feed people around here! ❤️

Sheri helped Kellee move ~ this is us on a ferry in England a while back, we’ve all been friends for such a long time.❤️ Lucky us to find kindred spirits in each other. Kellee was still in college when she started working for me back in 2002! 

Judy, on the left, met me and Kellee at the new studio too . . . she also worked with us for a while, back when we had the store . . .  we had a wonderful meeting . . . so inspiring! We went out for Mexican food and talked all about Susan Branch Studios and what new things we’d like to do!

For those who’ve never seen it, this is a picture of our store back in the day ~ around 2007. I found SO MANY fun photos of it here in the house! Great memories. How I loved shopping and making things for this shop!💝

Yup, talkin’ about getting the band back together! Sheri too. Ideas were flowing, new products to make, new projects, ways to make our website look more like that store 💝, new books for me to write, new ways for you and us to connect, shorter Willards that happen more often ~ I don’t want to get everyone’s hopes up, but I have to say I went away from our first meeting with a nice long to-do list, absolutely elated, and filled with inspiration! I’ve been painting every day since we got here and it’s been so much fun .. it’s always good to get away for a bit, dangle your legs off a high swivel seat, ringing the side of the water jar with your paint brush, stroking paper with color, and allowing yourself to see the bigger picture with inspiring girlfriends.💝We are ready now . . . because what we’ve been doing, actually for months now, besides physically moving the Studio, is updating the website/blog/webstore. It might not look different, but we’ve done a lot! We made it easier to sign up to get my Willard Newsletter sent to your email box, that was a biggie I’d wanted a long time ~ check out our easy new sign-up at the top-right-side of this blog! I hope you like it!😍 We are TRYING to be more dependable around here!💖

We also moved the entire site to a new server that should be strong enough to handle it without shutting down every two minutes!👏 And we FINALLY got our webstore updated, so shopping should be much more fun and not take half-a-day to do! It hasn’t been easy, we’ve had a website since around 1999, it was dusty, crickety, jerry-rigged, spider webbed and filled with daddy long legs, and every time we did something, it shut the whole thing DOWN causing shock and consternation from Martha’s Vineyard to California! Mostly it was ME, hollering, “Hey! WHAT IS GOING ON!!?” Be careful what you ask for! Our shopping site was shut down for over a MONTH from December to January 😵 … some of you have been asking about it because you haven’t been able to order anything . . . Well, it’s fixed, swept clean, sparkling new, and our new shopping page is up and it’s BEAUTIFUL. Shoutout to Joel and Kellee for all hard work, and patience with me! And thank you!💖 I’m very happy! Look below, that’s it! Everyone says my name (in red) needs to be bigger . . . and I could not agree more!😆 Right now, it looks like this: 

This is not doing it justice ~ it’s much better in person . . . Click on “Shopping” on the top of the blog page to see the real thing! Or, HERE. Welcome to the 21st century! Tell me what you think!

And after throwing around ideas for new products we have NOT forgotten what is coming. .  . and SOON! 

We’re getting a head-start on the celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the shot heard round the world (1775) and the Declaration of Independence (1776)! I was so inspired by our visit last April to charming and historical Concord and Lexington, the gorgeous old houses there, and what I saw at the Patriot’s Day re-enactment  (if you haven’t already, click there and scroll down to see the post about our visit). I could not wait to make a cup for it!❤️

250 years of an experiment in government, that, for the first time, let the people govern themselves! Not ALL the people, of course, because of who was making the rules🤓, but we’ve been working on it! A pure miracle, made possible by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington! We made this country, and we can make it better. They can’t do that in so many other countries. I know I’m old-fashioned, but we were so little with our 5-year-old fat little hands over our hearts, swearing allegiance 🇺🇸 and carrying the flag in school, at parades, learning how to fold it camping with the Girl Scouts 🇺🇸, we ⬅️PROMISED! I just can’t get over the loving-America feeling! Both Joe and I cried at the reenactment, it felt like we were there, and when the soldiers were fake-shot, it was so real, we could feel it; it made tears in our eyes! That tiny framed painting of George and Martha hangs in our kitchen.❤️ We went to the Washington family home when we were in England. There is a Yankee Doodle Dandy living in my soul.🇺🇸   

And the other cup, back by popular demand, ⬇️ the longest reigning Queen of England is on our tea cup, the perfect place for remembering a beloved British Queen,🇬🇧💂‍♀️ Lilibet.💖

A person the whole world admired for her selfless guidance of her country. And her very familiar human struggle to be better, do better. (This cup has a corgi on the bottom!❤️)

The new cups will ship from England at the end of this month . . . Estimated time for arrival at our new Studio will be a week to ten days . . . so around February 10th! Only two more weeks from now before they start flying out the door to YOU! You can still reserve yours HERE!

Perfect timing, because here comes Valentine’s Day! And a reminder that it’s all about you. Be good to yourself . . .❌⭕️Speaking of Valentines . . . look what I found . . .

Sweet letter, Kellee left in the house for me . . . Regina, if you are reading this, thank you so much! Sweetest letter! 💖💖💖

Eileen Burke, our girlfriend who won the vintage quilt we gave-away in the last Willard, wrote me ~ she was thrilled to receive it, things hadn’t been going well for her daughter and herself so this just made her day 💝💝💝. It warmed the cockles of my heart. I knew you’d all like to know! I’m finding so many wonderful old things in this house! Things I haven’t seen in years, family photos, art I never used for anything, newspaper articles, tucked into boxes, which were stacked into closets and cupboards not seeing the light of day in 20 years. I’ll show you next post. I’m thinking one or two of them would make a perfect giveaway for you next time!❤️

I could go on all day, as you very well know. I get started and there’s so much good stuff to share, I have to say stop! I say it, on average, maybe six times before I do it. But here we go, time to say goodbye . . . with the words from one of my very favorite quotes . . . It’s the best I ever heard for this nutty world we live in . . . My favorite word in it, is WIT. It goes up to the mountain top, meets the word Wit at the top, and goes gently down the other side! With all my love💖, Anna Susana Dana Branchburger the third.☺️

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321 Responses to GARDENS, CATS, TRAINS, & INSPIRATION: California Style

  1. Prue Ronneberg says:

    It is always such a treat to read your posts and see the pictures you share with us! Daily adventures and accomplishments mean so much to us! Love the way time passes light and airy, making art so fresh and merry! Not withstanding wind and rain, we sing until we’re home again! The place looks fantastic! Best to you and Joe!

  2. Salina says:

    How fun this painting is! I’d love to win!

  3. Patti Mahoney says:

    Love you and your wonderful work! Don’t stop…❤️❤️❤️❤️

  4. Mary Lorenz says:

    Susan, you are such an inspiration! Thanks for all you do to make our lives just a little bit better! Namaste…

  5. I love reading your adventures. Just received 2 of the Queens cup ( 1 was cracked but one is being sent to replace)….. love all your hard work and creativity. Enjoy your time in California.
    Wow, to win an Original Susan Branch would be like winning the lottery.
    Stay well.
    Cheers ~
    Corky Corcoran Douglas

  6. Nancy Wesson Mendez says:

    I love you, I love your art, and I love cats, so it would be an honor to win this adorable painting!

  7. Patty Flanagan says:

    Thank you for sharing all of this with us. The California pictures are simply gorgeous. Santa Barbara is my happy place and it’s always a glorious day when I get back there.
    Enjoy finding all the treasures and sharing it all.

  8. Sheila Daniels says:

    This print reminds me of the ones in your postcard print “book”. I still have some postcards left. I used one when I send a postcard to Erin French at The Lost Kitchen! I was sure the combo of your great postcard kitchen scene and my message would get us a table. Maybe next time!!

  9. Linda Hazard says:

    I love that you’ve shared your time in California. I enjoy reading Willard. And I enjoy all that you do! It is truly the little things in life.

  10. Rebekah Karl says:

    Lovely watercolor painting! The words are precious. I love finding treasures that were once forgotten. Willard is my favorite blog. A little piece of the real world. Thank you kindly!

  11. Karen Strausheim says:

    Oh how fun…I have been following you since way back when?
    I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you a couple of times at “Vroomans” book store,
    and in Orange County at a Quilt Guild…I brought a tote bag full of the books I have collected
    Over the years and you were gracious enough to sign all of them ❤️
    I think I may have one of the calendars that that picture might have been in.
    Thank you so much for such a bright light for us all.

  12. Lillian Diann Green says:

    I would like to sign up for the give away … I would also like to receive your blog … L. Diann Green

  13. Daralyn says:

    Love love love your blog. Willard just as it is 🤍💜🩷

  14. Kristine says:

    Getting a new Willard makes my day.
    I would love to have a Susan Branch original painting.

  15. Donna Koscielski says:

    love love love your Willards! i wish i were as talented as you! i have almost every single book of yours! christmas especially wouldn’t be christmas without reading your book front to back every year! and yay! i finally am able to comment in the right place! haha

  16. Cheryl Jones Buxton says:

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and art with us all. I have collected your books through the years and return to them often for ideas and comfort. My mom and sisters have done the same. We just adore your stories and the whimsical ways that you make life sweeter! I’d love to welcome your painting into my home and would truly cherish it. Best regards to you and your beloved Joe!

  17. Camille Wilson says:

    I love your artwork and handwriting. You’ve also created a charming life. A magic touch!❤

  18. stella says:

    I recently discovered this online herbal store, and I couldn’t be more impressed! The variety of herbal products they offer is extensive, and the quality is exceptional. From teas to supplements, everything is carefully curated, and their commitment to natural, organic ingredients is evident. The website is user-friendly, making the shopping experience a breeze. What sets this store apart is their dedication to customer satisfaction and holistic well-being. I’ve found my go-to destination for herbal remedies. Highly recommended for anyone seeking premium quality herbal products and a seamless online shopping experience!
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  19. Vicki Dury says:

    I miss New England. Lived there for over 20 years❣️

  20. Josée says:

    I love your inspirational work to promote and encourage us senior ladies!

  21. Jen Rucker says:

    I am new to all things Susan Branch. I heard about you from Carla “My New England Story”, and am half way through your first book. I am in love with your writing style and illustrations. I am also an Anglophile and just ordered a queen mug. Sending love from Rhode Island!

  22. Donna Price says:

    What a wonderful blog! I love reading about your adventures and your life….brings a smile to my face 😊

  23. KayDee says:

    ❤️❤️❤️

  24. Kim DiZazzo says:

    Your work is AMAZING! Your writing is inspiring.

  25. Pamela Rotella says:

    Love all of your books, actually I think that I have all of them. I love your art, your blog!
    Thank you💖

  26. Judy Blevins says:

    I love your paintings!

  27. Wendy Gamble says:

    Wonderful Willard! So much fun to read!

  28. Ginny Gaines says:

    I have just started watercolor painting, and now I know how you can get immersed in the painting and forget pretty much everything, but the colors and paper. It’s fun! I’m not particularly good, but seemingly that doesn’t matter. It’s all about the joy!
    Thank you for another delightful Willard!
    Ginny Gaines

  29. Claudia Barnes says:

    I love your cookbooks, books and calendars. I would love a painting to proudly display in my home.

  30. Rochelle Rosen says:

    I love the painting you found…I have been following you since I first bought Heart of the Home over 30 years ago. I owned a restaurant in the 1990’s, and I did a rendition of your paintings on one of the walls. This cookbook is my “go to”… delicious recipes that are never too long in ingredients or directions…we go to the Cape every summer, and always hope to run into you in Vineyard Haven🤣
    Thanks for all the joy you have given me…Rochelle

  31. Ferol Snead says:

    😽 This orange calico kitty is my Opie named after Opie Taylor on the Andy Griffith show! 😸 On his side, he has the marking of an “O” and is just as sweet as his namesake! This perfect painting is calling my name. Ferol Snead 😺

  32. Denise says:

    I’ve been following since the 1980’s and was elated when you brought Willard back after a hiatus. I just love reading about your adventures!

  33. Debbie Murray says:

    April in New England (I’m in Sudbury MA) is blooming gorgeous! 🌼🌸Glad you found the painting! 🩷

  34. Karen Markham says:

    I love your cookbooks and coffee cups!

  35. Victoria Lynn Heagy says:

    I know this time must be bittersweet for you. Thank you for taking us along on this journey. I am enjoying all your discoveries and the memories you share. April is so full of hope and so is first love! Love your little painting.

  36. Carole Towles says:

    Hello Susan!

    I love your water color paintings and I have the zinnias and baby’s breath framed in my bedroom. It brings me pleasure every time I look at it.
    I also love the description of your Amtrak adventure in the most recent Willard!

    Wishing you all the best,
    Carole

  37. Sam Smtih says:

    Black and white checked floors are one of my necessities in my homes and in my shops!!! Absolutely love them AND all my beautiful SB china mugs♡

  38. Black and white checked floors are one of my necessities in my homes and in my shops!!! Absolutely love them AND all my beautiful SB china mugs♡

  39. Hello…love it and entering the drawing!

  40. Kathleen Pondelli says:

    Ahhhhh …. April love….April 1 is my 72nd birthday….just a fool in love with life🥰

  41. Would love your beautiful painting for a friend of mine!

  42. Martha Rush says:

    I have always wanted to see New England in the Spring! Maine and Vermont are next on my bucket list! I have so many of your books and have received great comfort from your art. I buy your wall calendar ever year and couldn’t imagine any other one hanging in my office.

  43. Karen Mitchell says:

    So wonderful to get the latest news from your world! Your cookbook was my first purchase as a newlywed!

  44. Terri Murphy Mino says:

    I love your work. Cannot get enough of it. Looking forward to seeing more delightful art.

  45. Ginny says:

    I love your work. Have several books of yours I rotate out as seasonal coffee table books. Love the quotes and the illustrations.

  46. CAthy Garrett says:

    Love seeing your posts! What a wonderful giveaway your beautiful painting will be!

  47. Patricia M Moran says:

    Tea first. Although tea in one hand, while petting a kitty with the other works well. And then more tea while in an adventure!

  48. Tammy Gamma says:

    I just adore your art work and receiving your newsletters. Thank you so much for sharing your wonders and beauties ❤️😊

  49. Hartley says:

    OMG! So beautiful! Thank you so much for this opportunity. I have loved your work forever.

  50. Donna Vivona says:

    Your words & illustrations are truly the heart of my home

  51. Lisa Farr says:

    I am a homebody. When I’m not at work, I love to be home. I absolutely love your books, your calendars, your art and your post, because you make being at home look like the best, most fun place to be. Travel is nice, but it’s always so good to be home.

  52. Joan Doyle says:

    I ♥️🍒cherries, 👒 hats, and 🐈 cats!

  53. Kathy Tomaino says:

    Im never tired of seeing a Willard. I reread them several times because there is so much in each one. I love the photographs, the places you see, recipes, new things you created and I want to buy, etc. I would love to win the print and I have a perfect spot for the print in my old home. Here’s hoping !!!!

  54. Alison Graham says:

    Reminds me of my honeymoon in New England in April 1996. I had never been abroad before then as always had holidays around England . We started in Boston and hired a car to travel around New England, oh wow, just beautiful. My husband had planned the whole trip as a surprise, just perfect. Happy days 😊

  55. Sandra Bollendorf says:

    I would love to see that sweet picture in my home.💗🏡💗

  56. Karen Carpenter says:

    Oh how I love that painting! I bet it’s so fun to find list treasures and making more memories!
    Your the best Susan!

  57. Rebecca Conger says:

    Susan, you are warmth on a winter day and joy! Joy on any day!

  58. Carolyn L Rains says:

    I enjoy every Willard Email and everyone of your books. A childhood friend is going to England this summer so I sent her your book -A fine Romance as a guide for the summer. Her name is Susan and lived in Tucson Az
    Your adventures keep spreading
    Love Carolyn

  59. Kristy Kelley says:

    I have absolutely fallen in love with all things Susan Branch over the last couple of years! You are my answer to Hygge! I recently framed your 1,000-piece puzzle for my guest bedroom. Would love to have this watercolor with it!

  60. Carolyn Parrish says:

    I’m glad you saved the painting. I hold on to things a long time, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, experiences and artwork through the years. They are comforting, encouraging and make me smile!

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