First World Problems

Feeling pretty miserable! (Bet you never thought you’d hear me say that!!) Guilty too, because I KNOW, and commiserate with every terrifying thing going on in the world 😥, and YET, I’m commiserating with me too, for my own infinitely less important problems 😧 … moving, getting rid of things, going through stuff and saying Ohhhhh, I have to keep THAT. How do people DO this????? It’s like killing history! Okay, I’m sorry. I’m going to keep it short. The next time you hear from me, it’ll be from Martha’s Vineyard! Twighlight zone! The realtors come at 10am, I need to get going, we leave on Saturday. Oy. Don’t worry, you know there’s always a bright side ~ you’ll find it lurking somewhere down there ⬇️ … MUSICA

Yeah, you try it sometime.😜 So much different when it’s YOU that’s doing it!🤯

Bleak. Not neat, not organized. Doesn’t particularly smell good, definitely wouldn’t taste good, doesn’t feel good either. It is the antithesis of all the things we love. And yet, it’s human. And it’s the job at hand. We have to DO something with this stuff.

We have trash bags filled with no-longer-needed files. It’s hard at first, but after doing this for a couple of hours, you get so cavalier. Barely even open some files. Just tossing things around like they aren’t the bank you once put your dreams into! Well, most of them aren’t, they are junk, why did I ever keep them so long? These are the questions.

Then I find something like this, written years ago, and think, No. And it goes in the save pile. And I start wondering how many of these went out with the cavalier stuff?😲 Too late now!

It’s Boxland. If you were a box lover, we would be your Disneyland. They are everywhere, and yet, I need more!

Look at this, acid-free boxes filled with original art, from the beginning of time . . . calendars, fabric art, dishes art, old hand-written Willards from the 90s, miscellaneous scanned art . .

And every book I’ve ever written, all the original pages of Heart of the Home in one box, all of The Summer Book in another, and so on, and so on. Twenty-seven boxes of book, calendar and misc. art. Guess how much they weigh? A million pounds. Despite the fact that we leave on Saturday, we STILL haven’t decided how to get these things back to the island. Aren’t decisions fun? I especially like the ones where no matter what you do, it could turn out terrible, and still cost an arm and a leg. If you ask me, it’s anti-fairytale-girl. There are RULES around here! 

Oh yes, all kinds of (really nice, hardworking) guys coming to the house, to check out the septic system (dig up yard, kill half the alstroemeria living there ~ oh yeah, we’re leaving, stop crying over alstroemeria) . . . Reports on the septic system, reports from the guys checking wells, report from the termite guy, and from the one with the clipboard, looking under the house, into electrical panels, doing a complete home inspection. The good news is we found out it would only cost a mere $100,000 to make this house perfect if we decided to stay. We still have time, the realtors don’t come until 10. Haven’t signed anything yet. Arguhhhh. Train leaves on Saturday.

So I’m in the house, wistfully waiting for the tea water to boil while looking out the kitchen window at the green pastures and tall hedges ~ feeling a bit sad as I take my tea back to work, going through files, weeding out, deciding, organizing, throwing huge barrels of stuff away … days of this. My sister Shelly comes and helps me, so that happens with lots of stories and laughter. I’m doing GOOD, I think. Productive. Getting stuff done. And then, last night, for the first time in two weeks, I go out to the goat barn to check on what Joe’s been doing …

And what do I find?

He’s been decorating. He’s been out there, all cozy, day after day, making a little antique store. Yes. I know, how darling. But we leave on Saturday.🙄 The realtors are coming today… Everything we are taking home, all the boxes of art etc, have to be packed up because we leave (on Saturday), and the moving van has to come get them. None of the stuff in the goat barn is going back to the Island BECAUSE we have a guy JOE HIRED who is coming after we’re gone to take all this stuff ⬆️ out of the house, barn, and garage, and wherever and DISPOSE OF IT. All Joe and I need to pay attention to is the stuff we want to take with us. For instance his file cabinets, which he has not touched yet. See the situation? He is literally playing!!! I’m venting here, ignore me.😳

Been trying to include beauty-appreciation between the tossing and packing … and it’s definitely not hard this time of year in California. I mean, it’s gorgeous. So much light! Wildflowers on the hills and along roadsides…The air is clean and clear. And that’s part of the problem. It’s too nice. This ⬆️ is called ceanothus (California Lilac!), a plant so popular here you almost take it for granted. It’s so beautiful, so blue, and its fragrance is so pleasing, like very light grape candy. It’s often used as a ground cover, or like this one, a nice tall, shiny-leafed hedge. What a gift.

And an afternoon tea at Sheri’s produced my favorite photo ever taken of me (Thank you Carrie Weidert who was sitting behind me) … We were on Sheri’s front porch. There is a swing hanging from the roof, very low, just over the brick stairs that drop into the grass below which goes downhill quickly. I sat down … and LOOK, like I did 👀, at the BEAUTY, … I walked back, and kicked off, and up I went, a moment frozen in time for me. I really couldn’t believe it. Sheri lives up on the hill behind us, so that’s our green valley, and how gorgeous it is. This is why my problems mean nothing, despite how they are keeping me awake at night.

Fragrant, pale-pink jasmine vines climb all over this house . . .

It’s just coming into bloom now. I think if we went away and let this house just sit here, it wouldn’t be long before it was covered in jasmine like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Ceanothus and pink roses look very good together! I always seem to have time to go out and pick flowers … 

And I’ve been able to paint new art . . . So that’s like dreaming while wide-awake. More like the fairytale-girl business I’ve been spoiled by.💖

And I found art I did in the 1980s which has barely seen the light of day. You know I love linens … I bought that flowered pillow, and the blue and white striped linen pillow under it, on my first trip to New York back in the 70s! They finally wore out and had to go. But here they are again!!! I’m kinda like the Norman Rockwell of everything I’ve ever owned. From bowls to shoes to quilts and everything in-between.

And of course, we’ve taken some beach time, smell-of-the-sea, coastal breezes, umbrellas, and cappuccino martinis, with my bestie Diane …our troubles completely disappear in the sound of the ocean.

And when I can’t do it, I look at the wall, and there I am . . . in my dreams.

And my Bo-Bo Joe. (What? Me worry?)Took a sunset-selfie of my reflection in the restaurant window.

Joe and I went on a long walk along the shore after dinner . . . went home and completely forgot to set the clocks back, and didn’t find out until 2 pm, I mean 3 pm, the next day. What a loss! It was almost past my nap time!

And I took this photo of the sky (with my iPhone) in our driveway when we got home. Look at the stars!  Guess what I heard this morning? VERY cheerful news! First off, have you read A Gentleman in Moscow? It’s the closest thing to a perfect book I’ve ever read. It’s so good, go read it if you haven’t, I know you’ll love it too.💖 It’s by Amor Towles, and guess what? They made a mini-series of it! Debuting on March 29th on “Paramount”, which is probably the ONLY streamer we still don’t have.🙄 It’s starring Ewan McGregor (he’s been in lots of things, but also Miss Potter ~ 👍) … I can’t wait!👏👏👏

It’s been helpful for me to be reading my Gratitude book. Have you ever seen this? I always forget to talk about it! But it’s a wonderful reminder, to be grateful, even for the loss. It’s been an honor to be the caretaker of this beautiful land for 23 years . . . I have tons of pictures of it, and I’ll never forget.💖 So, off we go! Time’s up! And don’t forget, despite the difficult moments, we are really so LUCKY . . .💖Bye for now dearest ones . . . see you on the other side. Until then don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers!❌⭕️❌⭕️ 

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You You You, are too much!💖

YOU YOU YOU, are too much! Do you guys ever read your comments? You should!😍 They are so sweet, so full of heart, hope, creativity, and love, they’re kind, inspiring, and informative! They totally make my day! I laugh out loud sometimes, and you make me cry ~ I share your joys and feel your sadnesses, I laugh at your kitty names, feel honored that you share your family, kids, grandkids, classes, life excursions, bucket-list-successes with me, love it that we’re young and old and everything in between and I love it when you talk to each other! I think of the comment section as a giant girl party, an auditorium filled with the nicest, most inspirational people in the world! I couldn’t answer everyone this time ~ we had an extra lot of comments because of the giveaway, but I was in the middle of reading them and HAD to stop and tell you they are the best! I feel blessed to share the planet with you!💞 And FYI, I don’t think I ever mentioned it before ~ it just occurred to me I should tell you, because if you signed up to receive Willards in your email, you should know I would NEVER share that list with anyone … this is just between us 💌 … it will only be used for Willards! No stuffing your box with inane messages from me or anyone else! And now, are you ready? Then let’s go! MUSICA

Time is passing, some days I feel like it’s going too fast, and other days I wish it would hurry up! We made reservations to take the train home … we leave March 18 ~ we’re finally getting close to putting the house on the market ~ we interviewed realtors all last week, this is the week we have to choose one. Problem is, we like all of them, they were all nice, all professional. And other problem is going to be saying goodbye, seeing so many old friends has been amazing! Look, me and Diane ⬇️ 💖 … from Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams fame … oh, the stories we could tell (but only to each other yes, and people who read the book😂!)💓💃🏼🥳

And we’re not done, playing, packing, OR visiting … there are more moments of sitting by the sea to be done, MORE decisions to
be made, like, how to get my car home (it’s a 2005 Toyota Highlander with only 60,000 miles on it, but the coup de grace is that it starts with a KEY, and has a CD player!!! Gotta have it!👏), how to get the art home (all the original art for all of my books is HERE! It’s in a giant old bank safe that weighs at least 3 tons, out in the barn ~ no, not taking the safe!) ~ deciding what to pack, what stays, what goes into the trash ~ and along the way, we’ve had a wonderful time, it’s beautiful here, the sun’s been shining white on the top of the picket fence every morning🌷, our days have been filled with happy memories ~ and we have made more!👏  

Elaine came out from Martha’s Vineyard! My eyes say, oh BOY, can you believe this?! It’s us! Friends since 1971! . . . and Terri, she was taking this photo . . . lives up near San Francisco. The four amigas.

The boys came too! For a delicious dinner in a fun restaurant called Nate’s in downtown San Luis Obispo!

We can’t help it . . . we’re happy . . . we had such a good time!Yup, we’re

Sheri, who lots of you know because she worked here at my California Studio for years (which was in this house), lives right behind us, so of course we had to go get some of her farm stand goodies! If you’re ever in the neighborhood, her farm stand is just a couple of miles outside of Arroyo Grande . . . check her out on Instagram @honeycuttfamilyfarm ~ and go for a little drive in the country for some fresh eggs from her chickens, her homemade tea breads, cakes, and cookies, her jams made from fresh local berries and fruit. So worth it! AND, If you’re in the area, visiting Pismo Beach or the charming village of Arroyo Grande, you MUST stop at tiny Mule Bakery for the-best-I’ve-ever-tasted puff-pastry cinnamon rolls! (OMG, I can never go there again.) The whole town is fun, it’s small, filled with antique stores, restaurants, and independent shops . . . little historical houses to visit, and the same river that’s in my backyard runs right through the town on its way to the sea. And before you go home, for some creative inspiration, take a run into San Luis Obispo and visit Art Central ~ they have EVERYTHING!⬇️ I get in there and it’s hard to get out! 

Yes, of course they’re on Instagram too! As you can see in the lower left of their window . . . EVERYONE is on Instagram now! I’m on it, and I love it. Really so much better than Twitter, I’m so sorry Twitter (X) has gotten so bad. I met lots of good friends there . . . But there’s so much good information on Instagram! I saw a new thing on there to do with my closet that I’m going to do when we get home ~ so easy, why didn’t I think of it? So, you get a long towel bar and some S-hooks, some with clips. Hang the bar in your closet or wherever it fits, and then hook, or clip your pants and jeans by their belt loops over the hooks. Takes up no room, you can slide your the hooks on the bar, and it looks so easy to do! I like it! I haven’t ever had the perfect pants thing, it has to be fast for me or things accidentally end up on the floor, and I think this may just be it! Tip O’ The Day thanks to Instagram!💘 

So, we are having GREAT Studio meetings… Judy, Kellee, and me … tossing around ideas for how we can work best together from so far away . . . we decided that what we really need is more meetings!! We love them! 👏👏👏👏 And it looks like we’re gonna make you some new STUFF!🎈🎈🎈

After the meeting, Sheri had us all to the most delicious lunch at the house she and her husband built ~ where they raised their three children, and are now entertaining two new grandchildren!🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺

She made us a beautiful healthy salad and the Butternut Squash soup from p.33 of my Autumn Book, with star croutons and sour cream. For desert, her famous butter cookies. It was a delicious gift from her to us. 💝 Want that soup recipe?⬇️ (You’ll have to ask HER for the cookie recipe!)

PS This soup is just as good served in BOWLS!!! (HA! Had to laugh! Those two shot glasses I painted at the top are here in the cupboard! I just saw them!😱.) Here they are! 

In the meantime, Lowely (who lives two doors over from us on Martha’s Vineyard) sent this picture of her backyard!!! Eeek! She made me homesick, but this picture did NOT! I love snow. I love seasons, but it’s SO GOOD HERE this year🪴🪴🪴, snow is coming in waaaay second place. Good to take a year off, next year I’ll go out and roll in it!⛄️  

We keep cleaning and making piles, all my best garden books are here! Hard to not stop and read them . . . when I’m not doing that, I’m scratching heads and bellies and opening cat food! Simon, one of the cats Alfredo left for us to enjoy while we’re here, is a little bit of heaven.🥰

Like all cats, he wants to be in the center of things . . . I go through old files, and the minute a box is empty into it he goes! If he keeps it up I might have to close the lid, slap a mailing sticker on the box, and send him HOME!💝 

Love this picture with the sun shining between the blinds. Simon relegates himself to the box on top of the file cabinet, but only after being shooed off my art and spoken to sternly!❤️ 

He gets away with it because he has wrapped me around his little toe.☺️

And he’s not alone. . . there are TWO!

Sammy and Simon, they’re both great cats!

Sammy ⬆️ is older, smaller, louder, and even though Simon is way bigger, Sammy is the alpha boy of the two … probably because of the freckle! And of course he reminds me of Jack!

Oh yes, I feel him . . . missing Jack so much,🥲 I know this will be the first thing I see when I come through the kitchen door the night we get home! He will be rolling around on the rug saying I love you, come on, pet me … but do not be deceived, he will rip your arm off if you try to touch that furry tummy! I have to pick him up from behind, trap his arms, and then I can rub to my heart’s content! And he even likes it!💖 (Ignore that face.)

We sent flowers home to Sherrie to thank her for taking such good care of Jack … and she sent this picture back. Look at my boy! Doesn’t he look good? Now THIS made me homesick! I can’t wait to see him!!!! And take note: no snow out those windows!

Next, some of you know about the puzzle I designed, it’s a big one … 1000 pieces! But we ran out of them so fast, we barely had them for a minute. But Yay! They’re back!🧩

Kellee just wrote to tell me we got more in!! For you who’ve been asking!👏 

We replenished our tea stash too … I have a selection of private blend loose leaf teas that are SO real and leafy they look like they were born in a fairy’s house in the woods … The delicious camomile tea on the left is called Fairy Tale Tea … look at it … what else could you call it? A Fine Romance (my forever favorite) is in the middle, and on the end is my Green Spring Tea … a lovely blend of wildflowers and fruit in a green “rooibos” based loose leaf tea, with a heartening dollop of cinnamon spice, perfect for the cosy cool mornings we’ve been having.We also have Genius Tea … with a chuchotement (whisper) of blueberries, food for the brain, perfect for waking the muse.💝

I brought A Fine Romance with me on the train because I bring it everywhere I go, even to England. I have to. It’s the one that got me started with blending my own, I loved this tea so much I kept trying to make other good and different teas. This one is a blend of Earl Grey tea leaves, with rose petals and lavender buds, and pure yum. I just pop it into my tea ball, stir it into hot water, and add honey and cream and voila, afternoon delight! So good you have to sit down to drink it! 💝 An every day gift!

Also girlfriends, our new recipe cards are here!

And this, I had to tell you, Tip of the day #2 . . .  was perfect with my cup of Fine Romance tea today . . .  delicious Kozy Shack Rice Pudding … most supermarkets have it (and for us rice pudding connoisseurs, it’s good!) . . . but the cream de la cream . . . is my new discovery . . . get ready . . .

Is this! Coconut whipped topping which I found at Trader Joe’s. I will never use whipped cream again. It’s light, delicious, barely any calories or any other bad thing! If you are a coconut person, put it on your list! 👏 I’m going to miss Trader Joe’s! There is one on Cape Cod, but you have to take a ferry with your car to get there!

And yes, back due to popular demand, and because it makes so much sense these days, we have Vintage again! Almost all of it was pre-owned by me! Rather than put the cute stuff in an estate sale, I decided to put it here … I probably already have much of the same stuff on Martha’s Vineyard. Don’t need two! I used these pitchers as vases for years. Just love them! But off they go to a new home! If you don’t see these exact items on our website yet, don’t worry, they’re coming! I’m feeling very cut-throat these days! Letting things go! Never thought I could do it. But I feel lighter already! Love that I can recycle them this way!💖 Plus I know what waits for me at home! I will not be bereft for very long!🌺

And this gorgeous mixing bowl! Waving bye-bye.😙 Hope you find a treasure there!💖

Here comes March!!! We’ll be home in the Spring, before Easter, in time to “do my part” to make my neighborhood cheerful! Also, we planted a ton of bulbs last fall, I can’t wait to see them come up! Home… 💘


Also, make a plan, because here comes Saint Patrick’s Day! Get some gold coins! Make magic! So much to look forward to! Even an extra day ~ the 29th! Leap year!☘️

And it’s almost Rabbit Rabbit time again!  March 1! Be ready! Our world can use all the luck we can eke out of the universe and it’s our job to make it for each other! It’s a fun job, I know you know!🪄💫

Look at this funny thing! I had to show you …😂 I was taking the picture of the bunnies with the cup, and noticed these long morning shadows on the kitchen counter … now this is my new favorite rabbit-rabbit picture! The white rabbits at the bottom look like bunny tails on the shadows, and the shadows look like cats!!! It’s EVERYTHING!😁

And now, last but not least, it’s time to announce the winner of the lost-and-found original watercolor that celebrates everything we like … home, spring, kitchens, kitties, and love!💘 I’m much more excited than you are! Ready? Ms.Vanna popped in last night from her round-the-world jet-setter life. Of course I felt sorry for her (’cause she’s NEVER home) so I made her my Potato Heaven so she would be cozy and warm while she donned her swimming costume and dove in, whirling and swirling, sending all your names flying in the air and found one, just one, THE one, the ♦️WINNER♦️ . . . so here we go . . . 

The winner is MARTHA RUSH 👏👏👏 (who may be a NURSE ~ that’s a hint in case there’s more than one MARTHA RUSH!) AND, Martha (you know who you are), I will be sending you an email so you can give me your address, and you can tell me how to sign the watercolor, “To Martha, with love, Susan Branch” (and the date) was what I had in mind… but you tell me!💝AND, if you aren’t that Martha, and if that makes you sad, this will make you feel better ⬇️. I promise, it’s famous for making people feel better!💘

And guess what, you aren’t seeing double … another way to feel better, Kellee just reminded me we did lithographs very much like that painting, because I liked it so much, I painted it more than once, only this one is without the kitty and there are flowers in the border ~ but they are individually signed by me, and they’re in our webstore. 🥰 Soooo, what else . . . 

Oh! Where’s Joe you may be asking…

There he is, waaaaaay out there, riding his tractor. I took this  from the kitchen window. If he ever comes into the house again I’ll be sure to take his picture for you!💋 He LOVES that tractor. (What therefore God hath joined together, let not (wo)man put asunder.🚜)

Until then, Adios from a world of blue and green, trees and clouds, gratitude and love.💋💋💋💋

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