I thought I'd start by getting you in the mood for what's coming ~ because believe it or not, this long hot summer is almost over! Our cicadas are singing here on Martha's Vineyard, the surest sign, and at night, the moon is peeking through trees that are already showing signs of the change to come. It's hard to believe, but soon we'll be lighting fires and candles, filling our kitchens with the smell of Corn Pudding and Sweet Potato Pie, draping quilts over sofas, picking the last garden tomato, pulling on sweaters, bringing in marigolds and mums for our little vases, choosing pumpkins for the porch and even starting to dream of a white Christmas. It's true! It happens every year, the moment we feel that first delicious chill in the air. Most exciting thing! And this year, Joe and I will be experiencing our first autumn in Scotland and England and taking you all with us ~ I hope it's as colorful as it is here in New England . . . I hear wonderful things . . . but before we talk about that, I thought I would do the true spirit of Willard and tell you what we've been up to . . . it's been quite a year! MUSICA!

Last Sunday, we celebrated Joe's 64th Birthday with a big blowout end-of-summer garden party (we'd been planning since last January), with everyone we know and love. Rachel and Paul came from England, Siobhan too (you might recognize these names from A Fine Romance...) and my good friends Diana & Elizabeth, both came out from California ~ we ate, laughed, and cooked; made cocktails and drank tea and ate some more ~ party guests sang When I'm 64 for Joe and changed all the words and made it so funny. One of my favorite things of all was while the boys put the lights on the pink and white striped tent, my girlfriends and I made the playlist for the party MUSICA!!! It was four hours of us listening, singing and choosing the 100 best most perfect songs, oldies that would get everyone rocking, or laughing or singing or all three!

And that's just the beginning...It's been a busy year, and it's not over yet! Starting back in April with the publication of two new books, which we did ourselves, having them both printed in the USA, making them beautiful with pretty paper and ribbon bookmarks, then taking them on a two-month book tour across America to 23 independent bookstores. If you came to my blog, you saw it all . . . From Connecticut to St. Louis to Salt Lake, Pasadena to Austin, Atlanta to New Jersey to Cape Cod, we traveled coast-to-coast in the Fine Romance Van connecting with and thanking our many Girlfriends for the years of kindness. It was the 30th anniversary of my first book, so I had lots of people to thank! I got to visit everyone up-close and personal, looking into the eyes of special people who make a difference in the lives of others, and most definitely, mine . . . every single person who came to get their books signed . . . you can see lots more of it here. I have to say, our whole trip was like that, just amazing, profound in its own way, lengthwise, and spirit-wise, not to mention event-wise and beauty-wise. Exciting, but hard to be away, and heavenly to come home.

And because of YOU, because your word of mouth about my books, for the first time EVER, I made the New York Times bestseller list with Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams!!!! For three months in a row! We were standing in a Starbucks outside Atlanta when we saw it in the paper and almost screamed! I seriously had to stop myself from running to every table to tell them. The best thing about it is that now, forevermore (as was pointed out by my Twitter Girlfriend @farmstandgeorgie), I’m allowed to be "Susan Branch, New York Times bestselling author!" It's the rule! Everyone does it!

We were welcomed home in early July with a very sweet thing in our local Martha's Vineyard Magazine, "Best of the Vineyard" issue, a lovely article, you can read HERE.

At my book signings we always had a Q & A at the end of my talks, the funnest and best part ~ and the most asked question was "What happened to Holly Oak, the little cottage in the book, do you still own it?" I answered that question on my blog recently, so if you've been wondering too, go HERE and scroll down a little bit to read about it.

Another often-asked question was about Cliff Branch, my ex, the guy on the cover of The Fairy Tale Girl, and a HUGE inspiration for why I moved to Martha's Vineyard and found my little cottage in the woods (where I would meet Joe, the love of my life, for one thing, and realize my own path in life, and write my first book) ~ so, because I owe him for all that, and also because his book is good, I thought I'd show you his very interesting, very funny memoir called American Made, A Boomer's Reflection . . . It came out between Fairy Tale Girl and Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams ~ it's not exactly a "he said, she said," but, in his own words, and with tons of photos, you can see where his head was, and enjoy another fun look back at our times. We got him to sign all the copies in our web store!

We were home from our book-signing tour for a week, kissed the kitties ravenously, did our laundry, packed up again and got on the train for a 10-day trip out to Durango, Colorado for a family reunion and celebration of the life of my dearest dad who passed away in the early spring, breaking hearts from coast to coast. The expected and planned-for events of this year did not really leave room for the unexpected but the unexpected happened anyway. I guess that's probably always true. And as always, the beauty and heart tugs received, in all their various forms, are the blessing. I'm still not used to him being gone, but I go on, living life as I know he would expect me to do, only now, without his brilliant advice and consistent support and love. I'm glad I spoke to him every day, glad I got to write about him in my books, and glad he got to read them, I'm glad I saved his wonderful letters, and glad I never deleted his phone messages, and I'm glad I had Joe to go through it with me. Known on my Blog as "Blog Daddy" ~ he'd been dispensing advice and joking with everyone these last few years ~ and the over-900 condolences I received in the comment section were a balm to my soul ♥. He would have been 93 years young August 5th. Gone now, but never ever forgotten.

While we were camping up at Lake Vallecito in Colorado, I took an extremely unprofessional phone-video of my brother Chuck singing our family hit-song that he wrote, "I'm So Lonesome In My Saddle Since My Horse Died" (if that sounds familiar, the words for this song are on p. 225 of Martha's Vineyard, Isle of Dreams) and put it up on Youtube. It's nighttime in the video, with only campfire and moonlight, so you can barely see my brother. I also missed the first stanza because for a moment I thought he was asking me not to film him! But my niece was sitting next to me blatantly filming, so finally I got in on the action, and most of it is there. I did it for you...you needed the tune to go with the words ~ that's one thing books can't do! MAS MUSICA.

A few days after we got back to the Island from Colorado, we took a boat to Hyannis, then drove to the Brewster Ladies Library to celebrate the 150th Birthday of Beatrix Potter with 400 Girlfriends. SO wonderful. They filmed it so I should soon be able to give you the link on my blog ... I was the last to speak, and I read from A Fine Romance, choking back tears, the part where I went to Hill Top Farm, Beatrix's house in the Lake District in England and my time alone in Beatrix Potter's rainy garden, drinking in that rarefied air. If you receive the wonderful Beatrix Potter Journal and Newsletter which I know you would LOVE (it comes 4 times a year from England ~ you can sign up there), look for an article about the Birthday Party in the October issue.

Joe and I picked up an advance copy of the 30th Anniversary celebratory edition of my first book Heart of the Home when we were at my Studio in California . . . but it wasn't until a couple of weeks later when we were in Memphis (just after going on Channel 3TV for nerve-wracking interview with cameras which I do because it's my job) that I got a chance to look through this new book in detail. We were sitting in a famous little 1950s diner called the Arcade, and I was showing it to Joe. I'm so happy with it, it looks so much perkier with so many good changes, it's almost a brand new book . . . I added a bunch of wonderful new recipes (including my Dad's famous Garlic Bread), and 16 new pages on top of what was already there and I did all kinds of new watercolors for it . . . I gave it a red ribbon bookmark, added new endpapers and index and even a new cover and had it printed in the good ole USA because I thought you might like something fun and new and heartwarming to give away during the holidays, something decked out in red plaid, for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or for a house-guest gift. We've had signed copies available in our webstore for a couple of months, and now it's set to ship to most bookstores the first of September, this book of mine, that actually started out as 50 Christmas gifts (my plan for what I would do with these pages if no one ever wanted to print it), the one that's seen more weddings than any other of my books because of delicious traditional-with-a-twist recipes like this one, just for you, because summer's not over yet, and this would be perfect for Labor Day Barbecues ~ the juiciest chicken you'll ever have:

And if you have a new cookbook, you have to have a new bookmark, right? Just CLICK HERE and you'll be able to print this out on card stock, cut it out and make a stocking stuffer out of it if you like. That pie looks very cute sticking out of the top of the book!

What else, you ask? Our brand new Heart of the Home Dream Charm is in, with hearts and all! It comes in a small clear bag just like the others, on its own "dream card." And also, just so you know, soon we'll have a new charm for Christmas . . . plus, any day now, because so many of you asked, the Girlfriend Charm will be back in stock. Keep an eye on the webstore for those last two.

Almost time for back-to-school and my new 2017
calendars have arrived at the Studio!

This is how I know it's almost fall . . . singing cicadas and when the new calendars show up! In addition to the traditional Wall Calendar, we have the really large standard-sized Blotter Calendar for your desk tops, we have the Mini and the Purse Calendar too, and this year, something new, we have a Family Planner! Click HERE for a more detailed look at them.

Preview from the Wall Calendar: ↑️This is the page for February! A Red Letter Month! (And CLICK HERE if you'd like to see how one Girlfriend repurposes her Blotter Calendars when she's done with them.)

More stocking stuffers from me to you with love:
the new weekly desk pad, and the new weekly magnet pad. MAS MUSICA?

Here's Jack, enjoying ruffled-chair-pillow comfort in the kitchen. And these pillows look just as good in our dining room. Choose your fabric in one of the heavier weights for long-lasting decor.
And just in case you need a nice fall sewing project ~ maybe you'd like to gussy up your kitchen or dining chairs or the chair in your sewing room ... we have this wonderful pattern for tie-on chair pads. Not only that, but I now have almost 50 fabric designs, including some that would make wonderful napkins for the holidays, designs for Baby, for Tea and Birthday and lots more, on our Spoonflower Site (click HERE and scroll down a bit to read about Spoonflower if you're not familiar with it). And all the designs on Spoonflower are also available as wrapping paper, and even wallpaper. Also, my favorite apron pattern, this one looks good on everyone! . . . right HERE, free, with more love!

You might wonder why I'm thinking about the holidays when it's not even September! It's because we're going away! And I want to make sure I get you all holidayed up before we go. YES, as many of you know, we're doing it again . . . Joe and I are taking the Queen Mary 2, back across the Atlantic, to once more meander the hills and dales of the English countryside and up to the Scottish wilderness. We're sailing on September 8. (That's only 3 weeks from now!)

Luckily one of our Girlfriends I met on the book tour made me some darling seasickness wristbands that have BLING on them, so I'm ready! By the time we get back home, it will almost be December! And after that my darling ones, in case you are wondering, there is NOTHING on our calendar. Nada! No plans. Might have to start watching Downton again!

And of course we're taking you all with us, virtually, for what I hope will be arm-chair travel at its very best, where you actually feel like you're there, hearing the wood pigeons cooing "my toe huts bettee," stopping for pear cider while knitting, and driving on the wrong side of the road right along with us! Having you along will make us feel less alone, but we will have to keep the screaming down as we certainly won't want to give ourselves a bad name or make Joe nervous. It will be our first time in England in the fall! There will be blog posts (whenever possible) and lots of pictures of everything. I hope you're all figuring out how to make yourselves suitcase-tiny ~ we need to smuggle you onto the boat undetected. You were SO GOOD last time, no one ever suspected. And we are SO going shopping in Edinburgh. We're going to love their woven things, shawls and scarves, and cashmere sweaters. eeeek. We'll have to stock up! That alone is worth the trip.

We'll start off our visit with a very special afternoon when we meet as many of our blog Girlfriends as possible ~ from everywhere, at noon o'clock on September 18 for a BYO Picnic Basket Party in beautiful Stourhead, in Wiltshire (on the left of London, on my map, just under "Tetbury" ~ only a hop skip and a jump from everything!) ~ we'll meet near the grass bridge! Joe and I will be there, just hanging out, spreading our blanket on the lawn, come if you can, and otherwise, I promise to take pictures! If you click HERE you can learn more about Stourhead, and get directions. Also, fyi, unless you are a National Trust member, or a Royal Oak member (as we are), a fee is charged for park entry (not by me, but by them). You can check for prices on their website. For you virtual travelers, don't worry, it's all free, you'll come in under the cloth of my picnic basket.

These are pictures from the blissful picnic we had in Stourhead some years back (which inspired this meeting of our kindreds we are the world, we are the children . . .♪♫♬) along with our darling English girlfriend, Rachel ~ that's her in photos from a page from my scrapbook of that trip, and, below, in my diary. We had such a good time, I wanted everyone to feel that feeling! MUSICA? Oui!

Ray is going to be there with us again ~ she's bringing her world famous BROWNIES to our picnic! And later on in the trip, we'll be with her when she celebrates her 50th birthday. It's going to be a Red-Letter England/Scotland extravaganza and we will love having you with us, via my blog, at www.susanbranch.com.

And yes, in case you're wondering, I'll be keeping a diary while we're over there, just like last time, writing in tea rooms and pubs, and taking lots of photos ~ I'll bring watercolors and paint the things I see . . . and maybe, if it's interesting, I might turn it into another travel book . . . maybe.

By the way, I've known Rachel since around 1992. We started out as snail-mail pen pals, graduated to faxing, then to email, on to Twitter, and now to texting, with still a bit of snail mail thrown in for good measure! Over the years our friendship grew, and now, as often as possible, which isn't often enough, we go stay with Ray and her husband Paul in England, and they come stay with us in America ~ we've become BFF for life! If YOU would like to have a pen pal to exchange real snail mail letters with . . . go HERE, we've been putting people together on our Friends of Susan Branch Facebook page for years and it's always been fun.

In closing, your easy little tip for today is this: when you record your message for your phone, smile big while you're doing it. You'll feel funny doing it but your message will sound so much better. You can hear a smile!

Early this morning, with the windows wide open and the sun just coming over the horizon, I layered tomatoes from the garden in a small casserole dish, along with chopped basil, parsley, roasted peppers, and salt and pepper ~ I drizzled over olive oil, sprinkled the top with bread crumbs, and baked the dish in a very hot oven (475 degrees) for about 20 min. till bubbly. When it was cool, I put it in the fridge to chill. It's going to be our dinner tonight, we'll scoop it onto hot garlic bread, and have it with grilled salmon.

These last days of summer are poignant, the last moments of a passing season . . . seeing the curtains move softly as the wind passes through the open window, walking barefooted on the cool kitchen floor . . . watching birds toss shimmering water drops from the bird bath while shadows dapple the walls from the sun through the moving tree branches outside ~ smelling the roses, buttering a large fresh ear of corn and hearing it snap between my teeth. Get yourself some of that, it's the true magic of life, the passing parade. And it's yours and it's free. And it will never come again in exactly this same wonderful miraculous way. Happy almost September! Joe says Hi!

BAs always (if you're not already sick of me) there is more waiting for you on the Blog, click ➡️ HERE ....

For the Holidays, for Birthdays, housewarmings, to stuff stockings and just to be kind, some ideas for gift giving, and don't forget to gift YOU, because there is no doubt in my mind that you deserve it.