Go get your tea, I'll wait. It's been too long,
but go slow, it's too hot to hurry! MUSICA

Iremember trying to stay cool on hot summer nights in the valley where I grew up. My bed was under the windows which were wide open to the dark street full of houses just like ours.

Trees and bushes cast long black shadows across the lawn in the light of the one street lamp on the corner. I would take the sheet and blanket and pull them off the double bed in my room and lay across it sideways, at the top where the pillows should be, under the window. In my thin cotton shorty pajamas, my skin smelling a little salty from the beach that day, I felt the soft breeze and listened to night noises, the crickets chirping and moths fluttering at the screen, watching the moonlight move through the trees, wishing on the first star. My mind began to swirl in the delirium of this quiet connection to nature and I fell asleep dreaming of my future and how wonderful it was going to be when I grew up. Some of it has come out just as I dreamed, like the picket fence, the roses and the old-fashioned house with kitties, and the dreaming, that I'm pretty sure, is never going to end.

It's July on Martha's Vineyard and the wild asters are in bloom. The blackberry thicket behind our barn is overgrown with berries-to-be, and the blueberries are beginning to ripen on the bushes that line the dirt road where we walk out to the water every day. Lately when we walk, I'm giving Joe the update on the biography of Beatrix Potter I'm reading. I tell it to him as we walk along, like a story, everything I learned the day before. He likes to listen and I like to tell him so it's a win win.

The mornings have been beautiful at the pond, but it's the Summer nights I've always loved ~ from my hide-and-go-seek, sleep-out-in-the-backyard days, all the way to now. There is something ethereal about the long balmy evenings. The island fairies seem to work overtime in the dark, distributing fireflies in just the right places, fitting the moon perfectly between sailboat masts and the first star, making the ferry boat blow its horn over the harbor at just the right time, fixing it so the theme from the movie Gidget comes from a TV behind one of the open screen doors as we pass by, spilling yellow light and music onto the street . . . "Although she's not kingsize, just about ring size, Gidget is the one for me . . ." Munching ice cream sandwiches, we go past white fences gleaming in the dark; from open windows we smell dinners cooking, hear dishes being stacked. Deep breath of happy contentment, this is what summer is for.

En Martha's Vineyard, all of our biggest most famous summer events take place after dark in August ~ the Fireworks in Ocean Park, Illumination Night, and the Agricultural Fair (the Fair happens during the day too). Joe and Jack (my honey and my kitty) both have birthday's in August and so does my dad (my other honey-kitty). And there's one more event to add to the list this year, the launch and first book signing for my brand new book takes place on Julia Child's birthday, August 15, right here on the island. SO excited!

Everything seems to be happening at once. Those who've been reading my Blog know that sample copies of the book, A FINE ROMANCE, Falling in Love with the English Countryside, have arrived. After all this time, it's amazing to see the real thing, touch it, flip the pages, smell that good new book smell, move the red ribbon marker around, in three dimensional reality. The actual publication date for the book is Sept. 1, and for all of you who pre-ordered your book, feel free to move your expecting into third gear, because we are getting very close. Get ready for a virtual trip on the back roads of the rainy English countryside, to old houses, with names like Hill Top Farm and Dove Cottage. Our book isn't the only thing being born, hopefully, by the time you're reading this, there will be a new Royal Baby in England. A little prince or princess and future King or Queen of England, whose grandma would have been Princess Diana. So Joe and I are planning a real Royal Baby Tea Party in our garden, a "Twine" to celebrate the new baby and the new book, and just because it's summer. "Come for Twine" is what I write on the invitations. We'll start at 4:30 with tea, and then, because the sun will be over the yardarm, wine and cocktails!

I'm already decorating for it in my mind, we'll put out the Adirondack and wicker chairs -- I'll spread a heavy white tablecloth on the picnic table, and use my vintage dishes, etched glasses, china cups and saucers. I'm thinking about the flowers and planning the menu. I found the perfect little crown for a centerpiece. I'll make some of my favorite Tea Party Recipes; cucumber sandwiches of course, and soft egg salad sandwiches, and I think I'll make Pimm's Cup (a delicious summery drink filled with fresh fruit and made famous in England in 1823; I put the recipe in the book).

We'll have it under the arbor draped with twinkle lights and Union Jack Bunting we brought back from the trip. I'll take lots of pictures for you! I'm definitely making an Orange-Lavender Polenta Cake, which is another one of the recipes in our new book. Would you like to have that recipe now? It's a wonderful cake, a wizard of a cake, almost addictive with the little crunch of polenta, moist and tender, even gluten free, just for you Willard Girls, not available anywhere else (yet). Here's the recipe, but watch the blog, I'll make it for you soon!

No, let's see, the age-old question . . . WHAT'S NEW ? Lots of things are new! I've slowly been adding things to my blog, especially under I LOVE ENGLAND, surprises I've been saving for when you actually have A FINE ROMANCE in your hot little hands. You may have noticed I updated my Beatrix Potter pages and our visit to her house, but the newest addition is still to come. It will be an interactive Appendix to the book, complete with videos, music, photos, and watercolors; a cross reference, both alphabetically and by page number with links for everything . . . such things as cottage rentals, the Queen Mary 2, hedgerows, castles, ancient pathways, travel basics, cooking conversions, music, book lists, recipes, places, people and things and much more. You'll be able to see and hear some of the stories in the book. It will be the perfect place to go dreaming.

I joined Goodreads the other day! Do any of you belong? It's so easy to join! Let's be book friends! It's really a lot of fun; makes you more conscious of reading ~ you can keep track of the books you've read, share your own favorites and reviews with your friends, read reviews by others, and even participate in book clubs. It's pretty darn wonderful. Made me fluff up the "My Favorite Reads" part of our web store with some of my favorite books.

And that reminds me, something I've been saving to tell you until I knew for sure -- This is the answer to the "B" hint I mentioned on the Blog). I found out that The Beatrix Potter Society was with us in England! Oh yes, girlfriends, they were! They sent me an email, telling me how much they enjoyed our blogged trip to Hill Top Farm. And, to put frosting on an already ridiculously delicious cake (because just to think they came along and they liked it was enough) they asked to review A FINE ROMANCE for the October issue of their quarterly Journal and Newsletter! (This is where a hundred exclamation points are not enough.) I joined the Society, and you can too! I am now a proud card-carrying member. And the very first Journal and Newsletter I will receive from them will actually have my book in it. Be still my beating heart. Tears in my eyes happy. Hope, hope, hope they like it!

Many of us know Beatrix as the author of her charming small "bunny books," but she was so much more. The biography I mentioned earlier, is by Linda Lear called Beatrix Potter: The Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius. Reading it is like dreaming out loud, going to 1900 London, to the Scottish countryside; to her beloved Canfield, the home of her grandparents, and of course, to the Lake District. I'm learning about her trials and tribulations and most of all, her inspirations. Life gave her lemons of a sort, she stepped over them and made a huge pitcher of ice cold lemonade with fresh mint sprigs on top which she shared with the entire world. (Mmm, that sounds good!)

What else? Oh yes, the Calendars are here! Despite the fact that it's still July and the height of summer, when our newest calendars finally arrive, it's like those bright red leaves we're already seeing in the woods, they get me thinking about FALL, back to school, cooler temperatures, and the most creative time of the year. If you pre-ordered your calendars, look for them in your mail any minute now! If you haven’t ordered your yet, this is perfect timing!

Only 160-something days 'til Christmas and so much to look forward to between now and then! YANKEE magazine came to the island at Christmas last year and photographed our 1849 house all decked out in its winter-wonderland best. That issue will be on the stands October 30. You can preorder your copy on our website if you like and we'll send it to you the moment they come in.

Here's a little preview of the YANKEE photo-shoot.

We have so many surprises planned for the web store for the holidays. I've been shopping all year. When I find something I love and think maybe you would love it too, I try to find it! We've already started our special "Anglophiles Shopping Page" and there is so much more to come. We have been plotting all year to bring you especially beautiful, romantic, sparkly, old-fashioned holiday inspirations this year. This would probably be a good place to thank you for supporting for our web store! I know you could shop elsewhere, and find things that are cheaper (but not cuter, we can agree to that), but you keep coming back and for that I thank you, Kellee thanks you, and Sheri thanks you. We're little but we love what we do; we hang on for the fun and because we actually know you would kill us if we tried to close. So again, Thank you! When you finally get to the bottom of this tome, you will see a little square that says Free Stuff ~ click on that for bookmarks, letter paper, screen savers, and postcards from me, Kellee and Sheri to you with love.

You know Joe and I love to travel the slow way ~ we like serendipity and what better way to run into it than on a cross-country train ride to California or on a ship to Europe? You never know what's going to happen, but at least you know you're going to be comfortable when it does! Right now Joe and I are planning a two-month road trip, a cross-country book signing tour.

We're packing our van with everything we'll need: musica (can't go without Frank and Tommy), our pillows, my favorite lavender tea, the electric tea kettle, an ice chest filled with cucumber sandwiches and carrot sticks, an old blanket so we can stop for a picnic, Joe with his maps and tour books, me with my books and knitting, and off we'll go ~ we drive onto the ferry September 1.

I'll be posting photos as we cross this gorgeous country ~ we brake for sights and sounds (and antique stores) of America ~ we're going to shop the whole way for new goodies for the Vintage section of our web store. Although technically book signings are "work" -- it doesn't look like work to me! And don't worry about Jack and Girl Kitty, we have friends staying in the house, taking good care of them, giving them the required number of kitty kisses so they don't miss us too much. It's us I worry about.

Check COMING SOON/EVENTS (in the right hand column on the Blog) to see which bookstores we're visiting near you, and be sure to come say hello if you can ~ it would be wonderful, after all these years, to meet you in person! We're still adding to our schedule so stay tuned to the blog. If you would like us to visit a bookstore near you, you can make a request to your local book shop and tell them to email me at booktour@susanbranch.com. Our van will be decorated for the trip with giant decals of flowers and A FINE ROMANCE . . . so cute, I can't wait to show you! Honk if you see us!

Thank you so much for these last few months of your wonderful comments on my Blog, on Facebook, and Twitter ... having you to cheer me on all winter while I was writing our book, your stories of family and pets, living and life, the happy things and the sad things, the connection we have with each other, just gets better all the time. You are fun to travel with and you make me feel like what I do matters. Who could ask for anything more? I love you too, in case you can't tell. xoxo

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far,
Very far, over land and sea.
A little shy, and sad of eye,
But very wise was he.
And then one day, a magic day,
He passed my way, and while we spoke
Of many things, fools and kings,
This he said to me:
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"

Come to my Blog and I'll take you to the ocean . . .