I have to say, with the weather we've been having lately, I'm surprised anyone is inside to receive their Willard! I know it's bad to say this, but I hope you're at work! If so, let's do this right....let's get coffee...

You know what they say about all work and no play! We played reeeal good around here the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, with our first dinner outside under the arbor. Meandering down this page are photos I took that afternoon and evening. We hung lights on the arbor; sat in the adirondack chairs (which were made by the previous owner of this house in the 1950's), and listened to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snJZfz96CyY wafting out of the open dining room windows across the lawn to us.

We served Gazpacho with Lobster and Bruschetta; and hot Blueberry Bread Pudding with ice cream for dessert. Joe grilled ribs and sticky chicken drummettes for appetizers; he made icy gin and tonics with a splash of elderflower liquor and garnished them with mint from the garden.

Needless to say, the next morning, just at sunrise, I had cold Blueberry Bread Pudding for breakfast, blueberries being so healthy and all, and God knows, I want to be healthy...it would be wrong not to! You need this RECIPE...so easy, don't be afraid of all the cinnamon, it mixes with the butter, and "toasts" the top of the bread for some crunch. The sauce is deep, dark, and delicious, just like us. Sweet and complicated.

You can't help but celebrate summer .... this is when the roses are in full bloom on the arbors and picket fences in our old neighborhood; there are also really fragrant wild beach roses here that you can smell whenever you get near the water.

Last week I went for my yearly mammogram (first I mistyped this as "wammogram" and realized how appropriate that is! My new word), parked in front of our beautiful new hospital, went in, got wammed by a wonderful nurse, received a clean bill of health, came out the front door of the hospital, all proud of myself that I could check this off my list, happy to be alive, almost skipping to the car, and was suddenly hit with June beauty gratitude.

I didn't realize it going in, but the hospital is on a little rise, high enough so when I came out, there was a gorgeous view across Beach Road where I could see a large swath of curving coast line, sparkling ocean, puffy white clouds in a clear blue sky, sail boats and masts bobbing...the slightly damp ocean air blew by with fragrance of beach roses which grow in the dunes next to the parking lot. It was so lovely, my heart grew three feet at the beauty.

I have this little frog that sits on a post on the kitchen porch. His ankles are crossed, his face is lifted upward; his eyes are closed in bliss; both hands are over his heart. That's just how I felt looking at that view. Got into my car, turned up the music, rolled down the windows, and drove as fast as you're allowed to go on most roads on Martha's Vineyard, 25 mi per hour -- made a beeline to John's Fish Market, where I got us some fish sandwiches (you can only get these in the summer . . . the softest buns, the freshest cod fish, slathered in the best tartar sauce; melt-in-mouth material); I brought them home, we sat outside and ate them at the picnic table in the backyard. Just another day in heaven.

So, lots of you know already (all of FOSB and Twitter knows!) but now, for the formal announcement: Imagine, if you will, trumpets heralding the newest thing, fireworks exploding, champagne corks popping, one of those big searchlights torching light all over the sky (like for a car-wash Opening Day): because, we are a blog! At long last! Our web site is a thing of the past, now we are a bonfide BLOG with all the bells and whistles -- most of which you can't see, but they're there, like the wire that held Peter Pan as he flew across the Broadway stage; it went live Saturday, June 11. I love it because I can post on it directly myself, something I could never do with the old website.

Two tiny problems I see so far: Number one, I want to reply to everyone who replies to me. This is not possible, yet I linger while reading all the nice things everyone is writing; thinking of what I might say. Wondering how you find new words for YOU ARE WONDERFUL, and THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. That's one problem. And the other is I want to post every day. I have to tell myself no, need balance, finish book.

My only hope is that it'll get old, and I'll settle down. But right now...all I can think of is what I can do next, next, next! I love the new section dedicated to Martha's Vineyard; can't wait to add more to it; love having lists of things like favorite books; can't wait to get the Decorating section finished and up, and do the Peter Rabbit Room; but my favorite is the direct contact I get with everyone.

It's amazing how it's gone: from writing cards in longhand to thank everyone who wrote me in the early 90's, to the first, once-a-year, snail-mail Willards that we put together and stamped at the dining room table; to the email Willard that allowed us to thank everyone twelve times a year instead of just one; and now THIS. Anyway, if you haven't seen it yet, the blog is at the same address as always, www.susanbranch.com -- come connect with the most wonderful people in the world. That would be YOU.

And, to celebrate our grand opening, we're having a DRAWING! Always hoping we can make somebody's day, we're giving away a Bag 'O Books. To the lucky winner, we'll be sending our Earth Shopping Bag filled with books. . . the Summer Book, my Address Book, a copy of all the Snail Mail Willards, and my new MOM Book. You can keep them for yourself, or give them as gifts. Find out how to enter on, guess what, oh yeaaaaah, the BLOG.

What else do we have for you? Well, since I'm escaping to the garden as often as possible these days, I'm imagining that many of you are doing the same thing. Here's a book I love, that I think you will too if you don't already have it...it's called TROWEL AND ERROR, and is full of handy garden shortcuts, tips and remedies. It was written by my friend Sharon Lovejoy. I love it 'cause it's not only charming, but it's useful! For example (from the book): did you know that when you're out working in the garden and mosquitoes start coming after you, you can grab a handful of lemon thyme, basil, or catmint and rub it on your skin and hair, and they don't like it? Isn't that great to know? And there's lots more information like this in the book.

Did I tell you that Joe and I are going to be in St. Paul in September? Signing books, speaking, meeting and greeting at the Creative Connection Event, which is really going to be a giant girl party! I'd love to see you there....Be sure to check out EVENTS in the column on the right of the Blog for details, tickets, directions.

Knowing the blog was coming, Joe and I went cross-country antiquing on our trip back from California, for new VINTAGE stuff. I try to find things for you that I collect for myself; which means things that are not only beautiful, each in their own way, but useful in every way. I figure if I like something, you might too. It would work no other way, because if I didn't already have one, I don't think I could let these things out of my grip! Sometimes, in the interest of space retention and trying hard not to end up on that TV show Hoarders (we tease each other about this, he says it's me, I say it's him); I recycle some of my own vintage things. That's the case with this DESSERT SET. It's Minton China, I've had it for years, it's graced many a tea party, and now, as you can see, it's all washed and ready to go to a new home. I have so many cups; I think maybe some lucky someone out there deserves a turn.

And last but not least...the 2012 12 x 12 wall calendar will be here momentarily. Supposed to arrive this week. When the blotter and the other calendars come in, Peg will put it up on FOSB, and I'll tell you on the blog (ha, another opportunity to play in blog land!) I'm a danger to myself.

And now, I get to go out to the garden, rub myself with lemon thyme and dig in the dirt. I wish you all quiet summer-nights with starlight and fireflies lighting your way....and sweet dreams until we meet again.