Queen Mary 2 Alert

Queen Mary 2 Alert … 🚢 I heard from Susan Gannon today, our reservation person for the crossing next May 1, 2022 ~

She asked me to write this quick blog post and say how sorry she is that she hasn’t been able to get back to some of you. She knows she’s been missing you, and wanted me to tell you that for faster service, making sure you get your spot reserved, you can call Cunard Reservations at 800-728-6273 and say you’re with the “Susan Branch Girlfriends Group, Voyage M211, TNM” (if you’re American) or “TN3” if you’re Canadian ~ that way they can keep us all together. And she will follow up with you later! Our girlfriends have now taken 75 staterooms on this ship! Can you believe that? Me either! And I’ve been helping to figure out the Most Wonderful Tours I promise you are going to LOVE! Three parts of the country, gardens, tea rooms, castles, cathedrals, British film locations (the good ones), history, charm, lambs, cottages, I can’t WAIT to tell you about them ~ Can’t WAIT meet everyone on the back of the ship to raise a glass of bubbly in a bon voyage toast as we sail by Lady Liberty and out of New York Harbor together ~ both in real time, and in arm-chair-travel time! On our way to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee with the Queen! Only one year from now! Much more to come!

What else? I bought a new computer! I thought I should get it now so it will be nicely broken-in for our trip! It’s now updating my photo library, a very long update considering the number of photos I have! Soon I’ll be updating the blog with all the new news! Until then, Alo-Ha-Ha, arrivederci, and adios! See you soon! Your Girlfriend, Susan XOXO

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SO Excited!

Oh, I am so excited I don’t almost know where to begin! After a too-long deadly-quiet year… the world is waking up with a bang! with MUSICA!

I’ve been meditating every day and feel so much better!💫 (They should teach meditation in kindergarten, what a wonderful tool it is.) We put “FUN” on the calendar!💖 We’re seeing our friends!👫👭👫👭 And it’s spring!

It’s hard to be sad on beautiful days like these. Today, for the first time, we’re going to have almost 70º! It’s been a month of pink petals drifting through the spring air, the salty wind blowing up from the harbor, boat horns echoing over the island, making my heart skip a beat . . . because I’m so madly

and it seems to love me back 💖 . . . we have so much of it now . . . the dogwood is a meditation all by itself . . .

And the lilac is in bloom! In-TOX-icating smells all over the island! We just open the door and there it is! Our garden is filled with bluebells, lily of the valley, strawberries, and white bleeding heart, all in bloom now, the peonies and roses are budding . . . May is bursting out all over!

Curtains from the Peter Rabbit Room are washed, bleached, and fluttering on the line on a cool leafless morning . . .

And magnolias! Magnolias from a tree we thought wasn’t going to make it, and surprise! It was beautiful this year! Spring still comes as a surprise to me . . . the change of season brings unexpected celebrations! Who is not thrilled to see the first strawberry in the garden? You feel like you MADE something!

And the morning light ~ yes, joy unrestrained, has returned to Mudville, mighty Casey did NOT strike (totally) out!And I have to say, my joy was doubled . . .
. . . because of you . . . this is just the beginning of all the get-well, birthday cards and letters, dripping with love, empathy, hope, and commiseration I received from you darling people after my last post! How did I get so lucky? 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

I can’t tell you how much they meant to me!💞 And if you ever want to see how kind and compassionate people can be, read the over 1000 sweet comments on my last blog post ~ and that doesn’t even count our Girlfriends on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷 You know who you are . . . Thank your generous hearts forever!❌⭕️

You would think that would be enough, but nooooo, there’s still MORE to be excited about 🌸 . . . our clematis Montana is coming back and getting ready to bloom!🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 I’m staring it into flower . . .👀

Joe put a new coat of clean white stain on the picket fence ~ look at the back compared to the front to see the before and after . . . it needed it! Making it pretty for our new dahlia garden, the tubers came yesterday! Eeek!

And where there’s a garden, there’s a kitchen…

And where there’s a kitchen, there’s me . . . it just couldn’t get much cheerier that this Trifle, except maybe for the cheeriest event we took it to . . . an INDOORS dinner party at a friend’s house, with NO masks, NO distancing ~ our darling friends around the table, together again, vaccinated thanks to the magic of genius-science which is getting us OUT from UNDER this misery!🙏 Goodbye plague, hello fun!

Simplest, prettiest, easiest dessert makes a WOW at a party that’s already a WOW from the love in the room.💞💖💞 Here’s how to make one of these beauties: layer, from the bottom, store-bought angel food cake cut into bite-sized pieces (or any cake, even brownies or cookies!), then spoon pudding or custard over the cake . . .  I made old-fashioned vanilla pudding with Agnes’s (from Holly Oak!) 1946 Joy of Cooking (could be chocolate pudding, could be lemon, could be butterscotch, could include coconut), then I placed a line of cut strawberry halves around the edge with more in the middle (instead of strawberries it could be bananas or mixed fruit), and added a layer of homemade whipped heavy cream ~ then I did it all over again, ending in whipped cream . . . so it looked like this . . .

It didn’t look like that for long . . . Grab a spoon! Strawberry Trifle makes everyone happy!😋

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing . . . arranging flowers in vases creates a happy heart!

We had a birthday party at our house and I got to do my favorite thing, set the table! At age 21 I went to my landlord’s house to pay my rent, she called “come in!” … which I did, and as I followed her voice through the dining room, into her kitchen, she unknowingly changed my life:

. . . It was the first time we had people for dinner since December 2019.💖
So much fun! I filled the house with flowers and lit the candles . . . isn’t it romantic?

It was an evening of toasting and laughing to the point of giddiness, so happy to be together, living life again . . .I made a blueberry-lemon angel food birthday cake. (I make this often to take to parties because it’s delicious, relatively low-calorie, and it’s also the birthday girl’s favorite whether it’s her birthday or not!)🎂

I also made Basil Ice Cream . . . (both of these yummy recipes are in the 30th Anniversary Edition of Heart of the Home).

. . . After a little light churning in the magical Donvier ice cream maker . . . Voila! Homemade ice cream! It doesn’t even require electricity! (Yes, you can take it outside and do it right at the table! Excellent picnic material!)

Our birthday girl loved it!

You can see we did the “ring thing,” put our rings on the cake as we always do, so there were wishes galore … she used a plate to “blow” out the candles (I had a fan, set it down somewhere, never to be seen again that night!) . . . we’ve decided in honor of the Pandemic we will no longer spit on each other’s birthday cakes!What else . . . ???

This … I took this photo through the kitchen windows over the sink, past the bird-feeders, out toward the picket-fence garden and the weeping cherry tree. See them? The lamp, roses, and just-washed-glasses from the party are on the table behind me, and reflected in the windows. So is the window behind me, so now it’s a window in a window. I see infinity in there somewhere. Blows the mind, does it not?🤣

I love it in our house just after we’ve had a party…the dishes are done, dishtowels are drying on the chairs, the house is clean (first time in a year!), it’s quiet but I can hear the laughter, there are leftovers, and I still have all the flowers! Win-win!🏡

But let’s face it ~ and I know you could tell by the MUSICA …  . . . what I’m MOST excited about is the FUN we put on the calendar! And what makes it extra fun, is that so many of you put the exact same fun on the exact same date on your (exact same 😂) calendar!

MAY 1, 2022

So, just in case you missed it, I told everyone in the last blog post that Joe and I will be sailing to England next year, on May 1, 2022 aboard the Queen Mary 2 (if you didn’t see the announcement, click on the link and scroll toward the bottom of the post for more details)  …  and if you would like to join us on the ship to call Susan Gannon at Cunard at 800-468-7752 ext. 41663 and she will personally help make your reservations and answer your questions. Mention that you want to be a part of the Susan Branch Girlfriends Group, and tell her it’s group numberTNM, voyage #M211 so she can keep track of us as a group . . .Already there are something like a hundred of us going! Together. On the ship. To ENGLAND!!! I can’t believe it! Canadian Girlfriends are coming too! I’m beside myself. (Remember in 1987 when I was wishing everyone who was writing me such wonderful letters could meet each other? But of course in 1987, how could that happen?? And now, miracle, here we are!) Susan at Cunard told me lots of our fellow travelers have never been on a ship before … and many have never been out of the country! Even more exciting! Brave Girls! I promise, I’m going to help! But look ⬇️ . . . isn’t it heaven?

If you CAN’T join us . . . don’t worry, we will take you virtually . . . you’ll feel as though you are with us . . .  I’ll be blogging too ~ I probably won’t be the only one! And it’s not too late to join us . . . although I did hear the ship is selling out fast. We aren’t the only people who want an adventure after what we’ve all been through! I mean if we’re going to re-invent ourselves, why not do it on a ship to England! And they are giving us until December 31 to cancel for a full refund! (This is a whole post of win-wins!)💝

Kellee added a travel page on Facebook in case you’d like to meet up with fellow travelers ahead of time, talk about the trip, ask questions, and get more information. Don’t plan too far ahead until I get a chance to show you some things … That’s where I’ll put the link to the tours so you can make reservations and it’s where I’ll update information. But of course, no one has to take a tour, you can make plans there to do things amongst yourselves… everything is good! We have LOTS of time. Just consider this something you don’t have to worry about anymore. Because we’re doing this together! And because we’re a group, Cunard is giving us a special “on-board credit” to spend on the ship … which means we can have a massage, or buy souvenirs or perfume, or clothes, or jewelry, or wine in the stores, or have a glass of champagne at the Veuve Clicquot Bar! I’m so happy! You know it’s very fun to share something you love with people you care about.❤️

It’s the North Atlantic, windy and wild and beautiful, so we don’t often get days like this on board the ship, but when we do, ooo, la la!

This was one of our rooms . . . We’ve stayed all over this ship and we’ve always been happy, and Petey’s not picky! It’s the land of nooks and crannies, there’s a place for everything no matter how much you bring! You will be wined and dined . . .

as elegantly or as casual as you like ~ this is the beautiful Britannia Dining Room . . . but there is also a HUGE cafeteria style restaurant with literally every food on earth, and, coup de grâce, they have Room Service . . . You will not go hungry.

They will bring you breakfast in bed (COZIEST of beds, down comforters & pillows, but of course, I bring my own pillow!), a midnight snack, or afternoon tea, whatever you like including French fries! Cuddle in and read while you eat your fries if you want to. There are no rules! It’s your voyage to do with what you wish. No need to bring a tea kettle, they have one in every room! (And in every room you’ve booked in England. We are talking civilized!👍)

I hope we get a day like this in New York when we board! Notice there are no crowds? It’s just not crowded on this ship. 

We never know, but in all our crossings, it’s never been unbearable even for a moment. It’s a huge ship and very stabilized, but if you get a little seasick, which I have done, you can celebrate by taking the tiny white pills they give you in Sick Bay, and go to bed and be deliciously happy while gently rocked to sleep in your cozy jammies, under your down covers in nature’s arms. I’m never sorry. Sometimes Miss Potter is on TV. I love to sleep. Joe brings me crackers and soup. I don’t let it stop me. It goes away. Just remember, you can never be disappointed if you keep your expectations low. Everything is good! Mostly better than good! But nothing is perfect!

 As the people who were sitting at the six tables around this nightmare can attest! The waiters light food on fire in the dining rooms, flaming Steak Diane, Bananas Foster, Crepe Suzette, etc ~ very festive . . . but this time a flame went too high and licked the fire sprinklers and SURPRISE! Very quick movement of people OUT of their chairs, flinging themselves across the room! Everyone else grabbing their cameras! Poor waiters were rushing out with buckets, trying to stop it as fast as they could . . . no one was upset, most people were laughing and feeling bad for them, and trying to help by staying out of the way! But yes, things happen. And that’s where the stories are . . . that’s what you’ll be telling about and remembering for years to come! Travel isn’t always easy ~ nothing is normal, you are not going to be able to find anything the entire time, but when you get home, you forget all that and just wallow in the fact you DID it, you enlarged your heart and soul, you found beauty, you made yourself smarter, you became an inspiration, you spread sunshine and made the English people love our country because of who you are, you saw the world!

For those of you who are wondering what you will do in England once you get off the ship, and perhaps you’d rather not drive? We have it covered! One of our Girlfriends (Thank you Janice!) told me about a travel agency that specializes in small groups and providing knowledgeable, experienced, personable guides ~ I had a long talk with them and they are putting together four or five different tours for you to choose from. They will collect you and your luggage at the ship . . . and along with other Girlfriends (and boyfriends too), they will drive you through the . . .

…English countryside to many of the places I wrote about in  A Fine Romance . . . for instance, here, to Rosemary Verey’s Garden ~ and also, depending on which tour you choose, to Bath, the Cotswolds, The Garden of England, to Blenheim Palace, Hidcote, Hever Castle, and SO MUCH MORE!!! Wait till you see! They will take care of everything, your hotel reservations and meals . . . You can choose which part of the country you’d like to see … it’s a win-win because all of the tours look wonderful! There’s so much to see! And everyone on your tours will be a kindred spirit! You will get the lay of the land, see how easy it is, and be able to do it again all by yourselves next time!

And don’t forget all of the UK (and much of the world) will be celebrating the Platinum Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth . . . the first time ever in history, beloved and longest-serving monarch 🇬🇧 … cities and towns will criss-cross their streets and homes in flags and bunting! You’ll be part of history!

You’ll dine in tea rooms and eat in charming pubs, no two alike, and see wonderful handmade houses and dovecotes, not to mention . . .

fabulous gardens, big ones and little ones, and castles too … .

And in May, the bluebells will be in bloom! Baby chicks and ducks will be running around. Lambs will be cavorting! I know some of us are in total squeeeeeee-mode right now, and I am one of them!

If you ARE planning to drive, be sure to read the Rules of the Road for the UK so you know what all the squiggly lines on the road mean. Each tour will finish in London, close to the airport for your flights home. No one should think about leaving London without riding a big red double-decker bus for a bird’s eye view of Big Ben (which was hit but not destroyed by a bomb in WWII, and only lost one second in the process🇬🇧) , and no one should go without experiencing the handmade-glory of Westminster Abbey. If an eight-day tour isn’t long enough, you could take two tours, or you can stay in London for a few days . . . So many possibilities ~ maybe a few of you would want to join together for a tour to Scotland, just ask the travel person. If enough of you want to go, I would imagine they would make it happen. I will put the tour contact information on Facebook and Instagram very soon, also on Twitter, and here on the blog … as soon as I get a few more details ~ because I just realized I want them to take you to a Waitrose Supermarket. I love seeing wonderful food stores when I travel. Great place to get “English things” to take home. But don’t worry, all the answers will be here for you as time goes by. I should tell you, I don’t personally have any connection to this travel agency, but it has been “Girlfriend Approved” and talking to them was a pure pleasure (you’ll see), they are on our same wavelength, travel-wise. Joe and I won’t be on any of the tours, we’ll be off on our own adventure . . . perhaps we will run into you along the way! We’ve met Girlfriends out on walks in the middle of nowhere on other trips, so I wouldn’t be a bit surprised! (Pic above: Across a wide field I saw this woman waving at us while we were out on a walk. She looked so welcoming! But, who was she? Did I go to high school with her? We didn’t recognize her! … We started talking and discovered she was one of us! I forget I have a familiar face to some people; tall Joe, in his beret, is like a very handsome neon sign, but it’s still always a surprise! Isn’t that fun?)

I’m also working on a ship-board schedule of things for us to do together on the crossing! Surprises you are going to LOVE. Some I can’t wait to tell you about, but some I hope I can keep to myself until the bitter end!🤐 Because surprises are good! It’s just hard for me to keep them a secret! Do bring your knitting, crocheting, or embroidery project if you have one. If you want to bring a cellphone, check with the cellphone people near you and find out how to get a Sim Card (an iphone will work just as it is, without a different Sim Card, but it will be much more expensive to make calls ~ as you know, I’m not a phone expert 🤣 ~ Google whatever you want to know about traveling with your phone in Europe ~ and ps, we’ve discovered 16th century stone houses are not conducive to cell phone use, but that’s okay, because we’ll be in ENGLAND and we can always go outside!❤️ The joy of traveling is that things are NOT the same as they are here! How boring THAT would be! Don’t forget to go to the Cunard website, click on “The Experience.” It will give you lots of information, including “what to pack.” The North Atlantic is not Florida, so be sure to bring a jacket. A warm rain jacket with hood will be something you will like on board the ship and in England too, and perhaps, the tiniest umbrella you can find for your jacket pocket. They have a wonderful big gym and a pool on the ship . . . We’ll talk about clothes probably all the way until we go! Also, are you interested in genealogy? Have you had your DNA done? It might be something you would like to do in this next year . . . It’s good to know where you come from, anytime actually, but especially BEFORE a trip like this ~ just in cases you end up in your ancestral town! You’ll want to take an extra-deep breath of that air!These are wonderful movies to watch when you’re going to England. Also, try to read or listen to The Splendid and the Vile . . . SO good ~ we loved it! Story of Churchill and England 1940 to 1941 … you need to know the kind of people 💞 you’ll be dealing with. There are more book suggestions on page 181-182 of A Fine Romance!
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This, as always when we travel, will be my only problem. We are madly in love now. He’s at the perfect age for mad love. And me too. Someone needs to tell me how we leave him! Off I go Girlfriends, I’ve talked your ear off long enough. I know you’ll have lots of questions, don’t worry, we’ll answer them all as we go . . . we’re lucky we have such a long time to prepare! The anticipation will be exquisite! If you need to hear the unofficial anthem of Great Britain, HERE you go. 
Love you!🌷🌷🌷

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