REAL Beatrix Potter People

Meeting “real” Beatrix Potter People, as you know, was wonderful, and truly

my cup of tea

Of course I put on good old-fashioned English MUSICA for them, and now for you, so you can get the feel of the thing.  The talk at Vineyard Haven Library was so interesting; Betsy Bray (and American Trustee ~ the only American ~ from the England-based Beatrix Potter Society) was constantly interrupted by the Beatrix-AFR vanloving audience who wanted to put in their two cents, so it was really more like a wonderful conversation.  Then it was piling into the Fine Romance Van for the two-block ride to our house for a quick tea, because they (including Betsy’s friend Barbara and their friend Suzanne who is also a “real” Beatrix Potter person in the form of North American Liaison Officer for the Society) had to get to the ferry to go home.  And of course, as you would imagine, we were ready.  Tea for the five of us, the three “real” BP People, Joe and me and of course the two kitties, one of which loved it, the other of which, ignored the whole thing and stayed comfy in her normal spot on her pillows in the Peter Rabbit Room.

flower border

tea

First I’d like to tell you my Philosophy on Tea Parties:  A formal tea, with starched tablecloths, crochet-edged linen napkins, shiny silver things, dainty china cups and saucers, several kinds of cakes, cookies, scones, four kinds of sandwiches, and two salads is really good for your very best friends tea(or for larger parties) because all the fou-fou will not put them off, they already know you like to play house to the nth degree, they have forgiven you for it, and now they lean in,  they appreciate it and feel perfectly comfortable, not stilted.  Then there will be twine, stuffing of themselves, good gossip, and all will be well.  But if you go formal with a small group of people you’ve never met before, you take the chance that they may get the wrong idea and think they should have worn gloves, perhaps be uncomfortable, cups could shake and clatter in saucers, and worst possible thing, it could curtail conversation, leaving the room with only fork-hitting-plate noises, and put them off of telling the scandalous things they know which is just unacceptable.  What would be the point?  Take no chances.  First rule of tea party etiquette, unless you are of the Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes ilk, is to have comfortable guests (even those who live “north of the park”) and FUN.

July 08 Vineyard 1460  That being said . . .

we went blue

We went blue.  We went mugs, cozy comfy simple, the opposite of intimidating, mugs . . . oh I love to play house . . .

polenta cake

We went with the Lavender~Orange Polenta Cake, because it’s like true English, not quite as sweet or birthday-cake-like as the Orange Cake (with Pineapple filling, YUM!which is so beyond good, it almost hurt not to make it), but I thought a plainer cake would be more traditional for tea, delicious with soft and crunchy all inclusive, also not intimidating, and it was in our book too (recipe’s on p. 214 or HERE).  It was originally made for me by Siobhan, a real English person, so it just seemed right to do it.  Plus it’s gluten-free and you never know these days.  (P.S. for our Girlfriend Gina P from NY, Recipe for Milk Cake is on p. 90 of A FINE ROMANCE, or HERE.)

tea time!

We went with my favorite afternoon tea (actually breakfast too, I’m addicted) Lavender and Roses Earl Grey Tea (the one I took to England and found to put in our web store so the rest of you can try it).  More MUSICA?

eggs

Joe made soft little smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, I made cucumber triangles and egg salad fingers.  I like to use a potato masher to break up the hard-boiled eggs . . .

IMG_2965

Such an easy way to do it . . .

egg salad

You keep going, right in the bowl, until it’s the texture you like ~ so much easier than chopping with a knife.  Then you stir in minced celery, minced red onion, celery seed, a drop or two of hot sauce, bind the whole thing with mayonnaise and put it on white crustless bread.  Radish sprouts are a nice little garnish with these, but I couldn’t find them at the market.

lit the fire

We set everything up so when we got back with the girls, we could just put a match to the fire and be ready . . . Joe did that, while I took the girls on a little tour through the kitchen . . .

upstairs

… and up the back stairs to the Peter Rabbit room . . .

quilts

On the way up the stairs I gave them a disclaimer, because it’s really a very tiny room, and not even overwhelmingly Peter Rabbitish, because these girls . . .

Beatrix Potter

would be very hard to impress, since I’m sure they have it all already.

PR Room

Our Peter Rabbit room is just a nice little bedroom above the kitchen.

dresser

I’m still not over the fact that I saw this dresser in an antique store somewhere out in Kansas or Iowa or something and DID NOT BUY IT. What an idiot.

bonfire

 My Peter’s were still hanging around the bonfire on the dresser, although it wasn’t lit at the time.  After the tour which they seemed to enjoy (which actually took less time then this telling of it. . .) we poured the tea, grabbed our mugs and settled ourselves in front of the fire.  And this is when I lost it with the camera and forgot to take pictures!  That’s OK.  Joe took this picture after we’d talked our heads off and were no longer strangers . . .

me, Betsy, Barb, SuzanneFrom left: me, Betsy, Barb and Suzanne.  See the little pins we’re wearing?

my badge

They brought me one as a gift . . . Do I love it?  Oh, yes I do!  I gave them 2014 calendars.  We were a mutual admiration society with so much in common.

our book near Hill Top

These two “real” Beatrix Potter People (Betsy and Suzanne) were already familiar to me because they’d gone to Hill Top and taken our book with them and sent me a photo a few months back!  Wasn’t that sweet of them?  Our book in the Lake District, at the post office box across from Hill Beatrix and WillieTop!  Our conversation never stopped, zero fork-hitting plate noises were heard, and that’s why I forgot all about the camera.  We talked about all the going’s on in Near Sawrey, they showed me pictures of the inside of Castle Cottage, the house where BP lived for thirty years with her beloved husband ←Willie Heelis.  Which they were saying might be made into a Bed and Breakfast!  Be still my heart.  We talked about how wonderful the newest Society Journal and Newsletter was (which, if you don’t belong to the Society is SO worth it, so interesting, I know you would love it); that the Society is building a new more wonderful website right now.  We talked about Beatrix like she was our friend, and how we each came to find her and that because of the amazing way she lived TeaTimeher life she made the perfect hero for us.  (One book that gives the entire story is Beatrix Potter, the Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius, you can read my review on Goodreads.)  I’m sure Beatrix would not think of herself as a hero.  She was just doing what came naturally.  But what came naturally to her was wonderful.  There was lots of laughing about how it was for us to drive on the wrong side of the road, there were plans for meeting again.  And then, with only five minutes to spare before their boat left, they ran out the door, jumped in the van and Joe ran them down to the dock!  That’s when I remembered the camera, and took some pictures of the table, sans lace and fou-fou, but still, there were roses . . .

tea party

And lots of good leftovers!  Which I always plan for, because, why not?  As long as you’re making things anyway.

tea party

The Art of Beatrix Potter was with us.

tea party

Emma was there ~ and so were YOU, we talked about how much fun we had all going to Hill Top together.  

jack

Jack sat here during the whole party, such a good boy, the perfect tea party accompaniment.

little vases

And even though the visit is over, I still have my little vase of flowers . . .

IMG_3012

And plenty of cake . . . and a wonderful entry in my diary.

IMG_2999

This was Jack at dawn this morning . . .

Jack

Life is good.

shadowsThis time of year, with days beginning to lengthen, when the sun comes up it makes long shadows through curtains into my kitchen and living room . . .  I thought I’d show you some of them while we talk about Downton.

SPOILER ALERT; if you haven’t seen episode 2, you may want to skip the shadow-pictures part of this post . . .

But, I guess anyone who thought the first episode of Downton Abbey was “slow” is over that now!

shadows

Apparently the writer of this show, Julian Fellowes, isn’t happy unless our hearts are beating fast, we’re either crazy happy or miserably sad, or angry like we are right now, wanting to go through the TV screen and get that guy!!!  (I’m sure in real life, during that time, with women as important as we can all see that they are, this was something that was not unknown in a household this big. It’s still not unknown.) Now we wait and see what she’s going to do.  I have faith in her.  (Not so much the writer though, he’s scary).  And if Lord Gillingham is going to keep going with Mary, which I hope he does, then this rat, his butler, is going to be coming back!!!!  We’ve got trouble my friends, right here in River City.

shadows

Then wanting to tell Tom to lock his bedroom door because spider woman Edna is trying to break in ~ how come he’s becoming insecure all of a sudden?  Isn’t she hideous? I was glad that O’Brien left, but this woman is even worse! I almost had a heart attack when Mrs. Patmore had that pain, because I really love her.  I was thinking that dastardly Julian Fellowes, he’s killing the good people!  But whew, she’s fine.  I know he has to do this stuff to make a good story and get us going, but he’s sort of asking for it!

shadows

Happy to see Mary laughing again ~ but her father should not be allowed around money ever.  Could you believe that??   I had huge laughs-out-loud for this one, especially when Lord Grantham after being chastised by Lady Grantham for being such a snob turned to Carson and said, “I blame you.”  And Carson, such a snob himself, wondering why Lady Raven would ever be invited to the house because she lives “north of the park.”  Too funny!

flowers

OK that’s enough!  I have two more things to tell you.  Number one, I found a wonderful website filled with garden things.  It has a hedgehog house and a bee bole like Beatrix Potter’s which even comes with bees.  The store is in England, so I don’t think we could get our bee boles sent with bees, but go look, it’s a lot of fun, all wonderful natural garden things at Hen and Hammock.  They’re having a sale, but it’s also fun just to look.

christmas

The second thing is that Costco is going to carry our book!  I don’t know how many of the stores will have it, so you can call yours and check, but I will be doing my first Costco signing ever on February 15, from 1 to 3 pm at the store in Avon (near Stoughton), MA ~ perfect timing, because they have all those yummy free tastings Petey with A Fine Romanceright around lunch time, you can shop, have lunch and say hi to me!  I was looking for a way to introduce myself to people who’ve never heard of me . . . and Costco looks like a good way to do it.  We are still around #2 on Amazon for English Travel,  which is pretty darn good; we have an amazing 238 five-star reviews there, which I hover over happily, and thank you for personally.  We aren’t doing as well in England where we only have three reviews, but they are famous for minding their own business over there and there is no complaining from here.  You know we always have signed copies in our web store if you need them. 

christmas

Love you Girls. Hope you enjoyed our tea party half as much as I’ve loved reading your comments about cakes and tea parties and your take on the characters on Downton Abbey.  So fun!  Byeeee! XOXO

PS Oops, forgot to say, Janie’s Valentine Banners are up! 

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498 Responses to REAL Beatrix Potter People

  1. Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

    I’m watching American Experience on PBS…1964. Girlfriends, I think there are many of us who grew up in that era. I graduated from high school that year. So hard to believe it was 50 years ago. Wow.

    • Arline in LA says:

      And 50 years since the BEATLES came. Can you believe it? We need a Beatles memory diary entry. I know I could hear Susan’s story again. Who else has one? (I do, lol.)

      Arline in Burbank

      • My Beatle story: I’d just turned 13 a couple months before but not at all a “teenager” until that night I watched the Ed Sullivan Show! It was an instant induction into being a teen. I went to two concerts over the next year, but that’s as close as I got to them. I still have boxes of memorabilia in my attic, including Beatle wallpaper, and all their albums except for the last one. I was married by then and had my own fella.

  2. Lynn Marie says:

    How fun to hear the telling of the Tea Party. Thanks for bringing us along again.
    “Oh My” is all I have to say about the hullabaloo on Downton—I was on the edge of my seat and cannot wait to see the outcome. Toodles!

    • Carol (Daisy) says:

      Shannon, you reminded me that I forgot to watch the show!! Darn!! I, too, graduated in 1964 so I bet it would’ve brought back many memories. We are having our 50th class reunion this coming fall. It’s gotten pretty low key but so much fun to see everyone and reminisce.

      • Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

        Carol, our 50th high school reunion is this fall, as well. Hubby and I started dating our junior year, graduated together, and were married in 1966, after his return from serving in Viet Nam. I agree, it is so much fun to gather together and reminisce. I think Susan may be the class of 1965.
        American Experience was wonderful. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to see it…it brought back so many memories of that time in our lives. Notice that you have “Daisy”after your name. Is that in reference to Downton Abbey? I took one of those “which-character-from-the-show-are-you” quizzes..results said my match was Duchess Cora! Made me laugh :)

        • Carol (Daisy) says:

          Daisy is just a name I like and I use it when we are in restaurants etc. when they need a name as reference. :) I never did start watching Downton Abbey but as I read everyone’s comments about it, I really wish I would have started! I love all things 50′s and 60′s such as books, movies and documentaries. It was such a fun time growing up . I didn’t realize until I got ‘older’ how wonderful my childhood had been. I live in SE Wisconsin. Take care Shannon.

          • Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

            It’s not too late to begin watching Downton Abbey…I just started watching this season! I read a synopsis of the previous seasons online to catch up. The 50′s and 60′s were a wonderful time to be a kid. My dad was in the Air Force so we hopped around the country quite a bit, but that was normal to me. I lived with my grandma in West Virginia for my last two years in high school, and I’ve lived in south central PA for the past 46 years. Have a wonderful weekend Carol!

  3. Karen Stefanelli says:

    Susan….. your Downton Abbey recap is so funny! Your Tea Party looked delicious and sweet! I love your tea towels. I am sure your company were all thrilled to be visiting the home of the wonderful author of “A Fine Romance”. What a treat it must have been for all parties..thank you for sharing.

  4. Minette says:

    Oh, Susan! I just really love this posting! The tea party and your guests sound so lovely and can see how cozy and delightful everything was from the pictures that you posted-the fire looked so inviting. I love your approach in having an informal tea with the blue Emma mugs for the occasion and know how delicious the Lavender Orange Polenta cake is as it has become a family favorite of ours. The sandwiches and cake made it top class no matter what you served the tea in! Here in the South, it is a tradition to serve Sally Lunn cake or buns at teas and can vouch how well it pairs with your heavenly Lavender and Roses Earl Grey Tea. What a wonderful tribute to Beatrix Potter to have four enthusiastic admirers together at tea who were once strangers and now tea-party friends because of a common interest in her!
    As for Downton–I was so upset at the end of the second episode of Downton, and I wanted to yell, “ hasn’t Anna been through enough-why do you want to put her through another ordeal such as this?” However, I have to have faith in Mr. Fellowes that he will allow her great inner strength and character to overcome any adversity he writes into the script for her—He just has to! We watched Gosford Park over the weekend for the 100th time and by the time Downton came on Sunday night, I thought we were primed for whatever path Julian Fellowes was going to lead us down, but not for this!
    That whole era is just really fascinating to me. During the Christmas holidays, I was able to introduce a friend to the Flambards series that was produced many years ago for British TV. It has been a favorite of mine forever, and is a great period drama for the late Edwardian age through to post WWI—much the same time period as Downton takes place. It also is a wonderful portrayal of the role of women during that time and the class barriers that existed among people who all existed in the same household. It is a really wonderful period drama for anyone who has not yet seen it.
    Hope you will have more tea parties for us to see! This was just so much fun!

  5. Sarah Maldonado says:

    Loved the post and lived vicariously through the photos. I enjoyed seeing the left-overs as it made me feel like I do after friends have gone home…smiling at the thought of all we enjoyed together! I loved seeing the assortment of lovely mugs. Reminds me to tell you I ordered the Emma heart bowl from your shop to give my friend and loved it so much I think I’m going to go back and order one for me! We girlfriends give things WE love, don’t we? :-) I had to skip the Downton part as I taped it and won’t get to watch until tomorrow but you have me excited anticipating it!

  6. Cathy from Golden, CO says:

    You just made my day with this post. Love it! I have to say I had nightmares all night after watching Downton Abbey!!!! It really, really disturbed me. Glad to hear it disturbed others!!!!!! I think I will go plan a tea party!!!!!!!!! Love you! xo

    • Ellie Gilroy says:

      Cathy, My sentiments exactly…surprisingly disturbing for Downton…hope next
      week is more uplifting…watching a TV show has never given me
      nightmares like that..Ellie Gilroy from Chelmsford, MA

  7. Sara says:

    What a lovely day you’ve had! You must have your feet up by now thinking about how everything went so perfectly. You sure know how to throw a tea party… thanks for inviting us to see how you ‘did everything up’ for your guests. I love that little engraved spoon. I was thinking how I’d like to have a few and found several artisans online who do such stamping. Cool. And you’re right, the Hen and Hammock website is great, very unique. I’m trying to figure out how I can get that Wicker Wendy House across the pond. My backyard needs it, as do the grandsons when they come to Nanny’s.

    I continue to get compliments on my necklace with your three charms on it. Any idea when the fourth charm will be available and who/what it will represent? I can hardly wait.

    Sara

    • sbranch says:

      I love my necklace too and wear all three of the beads together on a chain — I found a little teapot to put with them. I play with the charms like Captain Queeg. They make a really nice noise. I need to get busy on that new charm, but the 2015 calendars have to come first, deadlines!

      • Joy Pence from Ohio says:

        You been watching The Caine Mutany Susan? Just watched it this weekend. Lovely tea party. I am sure everything was comfy and cozy.
        Your Downton Abbey recap answered something I missed in the show….that dreadful butler belongs to Lord Gillingham? Oh no, that makes everything doubly bad. Is it Sunday yet? I cannot wait!!

  8. Mary A. Brown says:

    Goodness, you really didn’t need any sugar for your tea party with the sweetness of Jack around! I laugh every time I see him because he has a perpetually startled look on his kitty face!
    Yes, I agree about the dark goings on at Downton Abbey! The dowager should be put in charge of the situation below stairs. She would take things in hand. I just hope that they don’t put the blame on the woman like was common in these situations back then. Then we’d have to reach through the TV and strangle “the rat.”
    Beatrix is really an unsung feminist hero. She gave so much to her country through the National Trust and to the world’s children through her special little books. These books gave children permission to explore their natural world. What a wonderful gift!

    • sbranch says:

      Getting loose from her strict upbringing as she did is another reason I love her. Those were some fears to conquer in those days and she just up and did it.

      I say, “Jack?” He looks up, big eyes, to see if there’s a rubber band in my hand! That’s the look!

  9. Arlinda says:

    I can’t believe I didn’t proof read. lol

    First: The Milk Cake:
    We love this cake. It’s clean, light and sweet. It’s easy to make and everything needed to make it, is always readily available. I love it. Since reading A Fine Romance, it has been baked many many times. Easy and delicious.

    Second: Downton Abbey:
    I was horrified! I did not like the house party. :/ I couldn’t watch those scenes. It was too uncomfortable. I had to look away. There was too much going on there. Then to have Anna pretend that nothing happen and say good night to the monster was beyond. She has to tell Mary, right?! What if she gets pregnant? What then? Will it be her husband’s or the monster?

    Regarding Mary, my impression was that Julian Fellows was hinting at Mary and Tom Branson in the future but with Edna, the horrible snake in the house, I can’t see it happening. He should stop drinking whiskey, seriously.

  10. Cheryl says:

    Susan, you can make your very own BP dresser just by using the art of decoupage! Go find yourself some BP pics to cut out in something like wallpaper, gift wrap, plastic…whatever flat material you can find, adhere them to wherever you’d like the pictures to be on the dresser and then Hodge Podge, lacquer or varnish your little heart out! You’ll have so much fun. And, they way you paint so beautifully, you can add all kinds of beautiful colors on the drawers, sides and top of the dresser. Have fun!

    • sbranch says:

      Maybe this summer . . . could do it in the barn. If we don’t go to Scotland, or something! :-)

      • Chris Wells Knickerbocker, W TX says:

        Really? A road trip?

      • Scotland? What kind of crazy travel talk is that?! lol

      • Joan Lesmeister says:

        Scotland, oh yeah, we’d all love to join you! We only had time to go into Scotland about 45 miles, & loved it! Planned to go back…haven’t made it…yet! Loved your tea party, & our new friends! Aha, perfect cake! Thanks for the egg recipe & would Joe mind sharing his smoked salmon recipe? Golly, beautiful blog & great Musica & love reading the comments, many thanks! Costco? Congrats! Come to ours, my hubby’s favorite store!!! xoxoxo

      • Arline in LA says:

        Scotland??? Did I hear Scotland?? Oh my. Are their plans happening, lol?

        And I’ll throw this out there. Wonder if Anna was already pregnant — the reason she needed headache medicine?
        Arline in Burbank

      • Dayna in Orange County says:

        My dear friend Mary was thankfully able to tour Europe before she lost her battle with cancer. When she shared the pictures with me, the ones of Scotland just knocked me out with the beauty. The sky was breathtaking! I kept asking “where is that?” & everytime, the answer was Scotland. Now that I have discovered through Ancestry.com that I am of Scottish decent, I so long to go.

      • Dawn (Elmhurst, IL) says:

        Scotland?? Yay! Are we going to Scotland???? I’m already packed!
        Dawn
        ♡♡

      • Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

        If we’re really, really good, maybe we can swing over to Ireland????

        • sbranch says:

          I know you will be good, I have no doubt about that. . .

          • Annette McD says:

            Let’s GO!

          • Rhonda D. says:

            Did you say Scotland?? Can I believe what my eyes are seeing? I don’t know whether to pass out or cry. That is my dream trip of a lifetime. Can I ride shotgun? I just have to. I’ve only been once, and I was too young to appreciate the trip as I should have. Want to hear something interesting? I would love to have a Susan Branch dresser.

          • sbranch says:

            You called Shotgun first. If you can fit into the little space between me and the door, because I’m actually shotgun, but I can share. Don’t talk to me about Susan Branch dressers! LOL. oh my, off we go into dreamland again!

  11. Valerie White says:

    I love the update today. I took part of your quote and put it as my fb status along with the tea tray picture. My friends always remark how fou-fou I am and I was glad to read that I have a kindred spirit.
    I found my Girlfriends Forever book and for the life of me I can’t figure out how I got a signed copy. Getting old has its memory lapses. Just ordered the new book and can’t wait to travel to England , it has been 12 years so I hope I remember some of the places.
    Thank you for all the sunshine you spread around.

  12. Kate says:

    Loved your tea party. I have become so interested in Beatrix Potter because of you and love watching Miss Potter and dreaming of going to her house one day. I mash my eggs with the potato masher too. So much easier. I have chickens and have to make egg salad about every week. Wish I could bring you some of our good eggs from our healthy, happy, free range chickens.

  13. Laure says:

    Susan, I have these burning questions & comments:
    * Did Joe join you and the real BP people for tea? (I’m hoping so–my fella would totally do that and I think Joe would too (unless it was strictly girlfriends only! ;) )
    * Any D.A. episode that has a disclaimer in front of it is “Not Laure Approved!” (My girlfriends are well-acquainted with this phrase.) I still watched but I fast-forwarded through the bad part (I tend to do that in life, too. It’s not a bad thing. ;) )
    * Sigh. I love your blogs. Yay!

    Laure

    • sbranch says:

      Oh yes, Joe was there — he made the smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches too … he also took the picture of us and laughed about the driving with the rest of us. xoxo Thank you Laure!

  14. Audrey by the sea. says:

    That is a great picture of you and your real BP People and it’s fantastic that you have your official BP ‘badge’ now.
    Question for you…do you think that Girl was staying on her pillows in the PR room claiming her spot just in case those real people might stay over night in her room? Hmmm…Just a kitty theory!?!
    I checked out Hen & Hammock, have you (all) seen the recycled Kettle Watering Cans and the tiny Bibi vases? All so cute, but they are…over there…!
    Congratulations on your Costco booking signing, also you now seem to have 4 reviews on the Amazon in England web site. Good eh? Such a lovely post with a little extra thrown in on the Downton woes of Sunday’s episode.

    • sbranch says:

      We can buy from them, it just costs a lot for shipping, and I’m sure they won’t be sending us bees! I know, probably one of our Girlfriends went in and added another review!!! (Whoever you are, thank you!) Girl loves that room, I don’t know why, she probably does the bunny hop with the rest of them when no one is looking.

      • Audrey by the sea says:

        Oh, so Girl knows how to do the bunny hop…hmm…wonder who taught her that? And who are, “the rest of them” that do this bunny hop thing into that cute room? Three guesses…we’ll all get it right on the first guess, won’t we!

  15. Peggy says:

    Oh so cozy and lovely. Glad for the hint on using the potato masher on the hard boiled eggs. I have a couple of chickens, so we eat lots of egg salad sandwiches, and that does look like an easier way to mash them. I agree with your going less formal. I know some people get intimidated by the fancy teas, though those are fun too.

    Now as for Downton – oh my. I think we can all guess what might come of this horrible assault on dear sweet Anna, but I don’t even want to think about it. I woke up at 3 a.m. after watching and thought oh poor Anna, whatever will she do. I had to remind myself it’s not real to get myself to go back to sleep. (Unlike you Susan, I like to sleep in until at least 6).

    BTW, I told you I took my first watercolor class, and I loved it! Had week two and loved that too. I’m not very good, but at least I’m learning some basics. Next is acrylics which I have a feeling might be a little easier since I don’t think you’d have to work as quickly- is that what you use?

    Guess what I found today at our wonderful library’s used book store (the nicest, cleanest used book store I’ve ever seen – run totally by volunteers). The Black Dog Restaurant cookbook, with Joe’s picture on the sleeve! A nice addition to my collection of your cookbooks.

    • sbranch says:

      You’ll get better as you go along. It really has so much to do with practice! I have always only used watercolors — learned in kindergarten, so it seemed like it would be something I could do!

      That book is good! Lucky you to find it!

    • Peggy have you ever mixed hard boiled eggs with ripe avocado and a little sea salt? The avocado replaces the mayo and is so healthy and delish! I much prefer it to the traditional concoction.

  16. I remember reading an interview with Julian Fellowes, where he was saying that it’s much easier to write a servant out of the show (they can just leave, O’Brien-style) than it is to write a family member out (there’s no option but to kill them off — they wouldn’t leave for any other reason). So far we’ve had Sybil and Matthew die and I HOPE no other family members are on borrowed time! (When/if Maggie Smith goes, the show falls apart) ….

    Re. Beatrix Potter: When I was a kid, my grandma had the book “The Magic Years of Beatrix Potter” by Margaret Lane. I adored looking throught it so much that at the tender age of ten, I got my own copy. I still have it to this day.

    • sbranch says:

      You are lucky to have started so young! I agree with you about Maggie Smith, she is the heart … every time she comes on screen I lean in to make sure I hear what she says!

  17. Suzanne says:

    What a delightful tea party. Thank you for inviting us along! The photo of BP was charming and her smile reminded me of your smile in some of the photos of you that you have posted. Now about Downton Abbey, I do feel it is becoming a bit too much like a soap opera. I absolutely loved the first 2 seasons, felt cheated on season three and now….I just can’t decide. Will give it one more try and then decide. Thank Heavens, your blog never disappoints.
    Thank you for your insights and for sharing your joy!

  18. Beth says:

    Oh Susan, What a magical day! :) That very same day I dug out my tea cups and had a tea with egg salad sandwiches (that had to be on tortillas because we had run out of the good sourdough — California problems, clearly!) and delicious ginger peach tea in…heart shaped tea cups with my seven year old. I received this adorable set as a birthday gift a few years ago and have had the best time with them…yes, I am an adult!
    amazon.com/Classic-Coffee-Tea-Saucers-Assorted/dp/B001ET6ORY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389764563&sr=8-1&keywords=heart+tea+cups
    Anyway, I think you should make something like this for your store…only better of course. I’ll be your first customer. :) Here’s a link so you can see what I’m talking about. Wish I could share pics here…I’d share one from the tea party. (Sorry if I’m so presumptuous to ask for you to make something to put in your store. I just know if anybody could, it would be you!)
    As for Downton…I’m so mad about that episode that I’m going to have to take a break from it…grrrr. And Edna is too too annoying…makes me long for O’Brien which is really saying something! At least O’Brien liked Cora. This chick likes nobody but you know who…tramp! OK, enough idle talk! Thanks for a lovely tea break. ~Beth

  19. MaryAnn says:

    I so enjoyed hearing about the tea party. You are so thoughtful to think of making the ladies feel relaxed. And I had to laugh when I read what you said about the Peter Rabbit dresser you left behind. How often have I seen something in a store and not bought it, only to rethink it later and have it gone when I went back, or be too far away to drive back and get it! I had my husband come read what you had said. I told him I’m not the only person who does that. We both laughed! Have a wonderful week, Susan.

  20. Naomi says:

    Susan your tea party was relaxed but elegant with many yummy treats……thank you for sharing this precious Sunday afternoon event with us.

    Yes, Downtown Abbey was indeed heart wrenching this week. It is my fear that Anna will keep this a secret until she is with child. At that time, I am thinking Mr. Bate’s war injury possibly left him sterile which will uncover this dreadful incident.
    As for Lady Mary…..I was hoping she and Tom Branson would of become an item.

  21. Dear Susan,
    I was in Florida in December and in Washington state and looked for your new book in bookstores in both places. Alas, no one had it nor knew when or if they might be getting it. It was not to be found in British Columbia either, last time I asked. (Of all places, it should be available in “British” Columbia, don’t you think?) What is to be done?

    • sbranch says:

      That is the problem. I don’t know! We’ve done our part . . . our Girlfriends have done an amazing word of mouth! xoxo

  22. Lisa Jorgensen says:

    What a beautiful tea party! The food looked so yummy, the fire warm and cozy, and Jack was adorable as ever!
    Thank you for once again sharing special moments of your life with us.

  23. What a perfectly delightful time you all had together. I loved seeing all the photos. Tea parties are the best. I love them as you know.

    I adore Downton Abby. We always buy the series on dvd so that I can re-acquaint myself with it whilst waiting for the newest series to begin. All of the characters are so well rounded and full of life. This latest series is a bit darker . . . but after they killed Matthew off, it was to be expected that things would be a bit sadder for everyone. I think Branson should get together with Lady Mary as they both share the heartache of losing someone they love in that way and having to soldier on as single parents. Carson and Mrs Hughes should have a bit of a downstairs romance. I think they are secretly in love with each other anyways, and Bates and Anna should have a baby . . . and oh, I do wish little Daisy could find someone special just for her . . .

    It is my dream this year to go to the house where it is actually filmed at Highclere Castle. I will take lots of pictures and it will be a dream come true. That is one thing I just love about the UK . . . visiting these old homes and estates like Sissinghurst and of course Hilltop. Hooray for the National Trust! If you ever come over again you must, MUST visit Erddig, which is near Molde in North Wales. It is better than Sissinghurst and one of the finest examples of Upstairs/Downstairs living in the UK. (I have been there at least six times in the past three years because I love it so. I never tire of it.) And if you do, you must stop by our little terraced house in Chester for a tea party!

    One can but dream.

    • sbranch says:

      I wrote it down Marie, it sounds wonderful! Thank you.

    • Karen P (Wisconsin) says:

      Can I just say that I adore the word “whilst?” xo

      • ahh Karen, thanks! I did a Geography project on Wisconsin in Grade 8! I remember lots about it. Maybe someday I will get to Wisconsin. That would be nice. I hear you have good cheese. :-)

        • Karen P (Wisconsin) says:

          We DO have good cheese and if you come to Wisconsin, we can do a cheese and wine tasting! Or tour some cheese places. I adore cheese….Wisconsin girl, through-and-through! (Adoring cheese has its downside as cheese is very fattening, you know! :-)

          • Lynn McMahon says:

            ~ We do have the best cheese and kringle ~ one must be very disciplined to live in Wisconsin! ~

          • Margot in Virginia Beach says:

            Yes we do!!! And I see there has been a cheese revival of sorts more in the way of gourmet cheeses.

        • Pat Mofjeld of St. Paul, MN says:

          How about the wonderful cherries from Door County, Wisconsin??? :-)

          • Shannon(Pennsylvania)) says:

            And the Door County Wisconsin honey…ordered some from Susan’s store a while back. Hubby pronounced it delicious, and being that he is a beekeeper, he knows his stuff!

          • Lynn McMahon says:

            Yep~ and Cherry Bounce!

    • sondra fox says:

      How lucky you are to be able to visit those places. My dream is to go to England. I’ve been there before, but went to the tourist hang outs. Now, all because of Susan & GF’s from England, I’d go to the places they’ve all mentioned. I’ve written them all down, while reading this blog. (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

  24. Actually Erddig is nearer to Wrexham. I got confused in my excitment of telling you about it. And as well, if you ever do get this way you seriously must visit Llangollen and Betws-y-coed (meaning little chapel in the woods). They are real gems.

    • Karen P (Wisconsin) says:

      Oh! Marie! I’ve been to Betws-y-coed! It’s a wonderful little town! We took a trip to Great Britain in 2010 with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. The men were taking a train trip up Snowdon Mountain and we girls went to spend the day in Betws-y-coed! Such fun. (Except that the train got stuck on the tracks in the middle of the mountain and they never reached the top!) One of my favorite profile pics that I use on FB is drinking tea in a cute pub there. It IS a lovely town!

  25. Sylvia in Seattle says:

    This was the most fun post to peruse. In the tea party section my favorite thing was the charming small green vase with white flowers next to Joe’s picture. Re Downton: I’ve been thinking of Lord Grantham as “Mr. Stink” a character Hugh Bonneville played in another BBC production over Christmas. Seems to fit him right about now. :-)

  26. Sue Rideout from Maine says:

    Oh your tea party looked wonderful! So glad you had a good time. I also collect Beatrix Potter figures – the stuffed ones. So love her books and watercolors. Had the chance to see an exhibit of her watercolors in the London Art museum back in the 80′s. Just beautiful.
    Downton Abbey was disturbing. Julian Fellowes has lost my trust. He should be ashamed to use shock to booste ratings. I may not watch anymore.

  27. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Such a lovely teat party you had with the Beatrice Pottery Society friends! It all looked so yummy and cozy by the fire. What a perfect opportunity to indulge in all things British and American together.

    Downton Abby?? OMG!! Sunday’s episode had my heart beating so fast and my blood boiling over what happened to Anna! And that sneak, Edna. Preying on a vulnerable Branson who is trying so hard to do what is best for his daughter and for the memory of Sybil. I think Branson will eventually recover his senses and I am wondering if Mary won’t have a hand in that as they become closer over dealings with the estate changes? But back to Anna. What happens if she gets pregnant from this rape? Will Mr.Bates take things into his own hands and end back up in prison over it? My heart rate is up right now while I am typing this!! I have to give Julian Fellows credit for kicking it up a few notches. Life following WWI really did impact the Edwardian lifestyle and we are just starting to get that inside view of it all at Downton. This Sunday… I am making sure I haven’t had any caffeine earlier in the day because if we have another “wild ride” of an episode, I don’t want to end up with at heart rate of 200!!!!

  28. Heather L. says:

    Oh that is too much fun!!! I can imagine your whole tea!!! And I agree completely on your philosophy of formal or informal for serving tea. I am hurrying to bed each night so I can read more in the new book “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” by Marta McDowell. It is SO good — and the size of the book and the illustrations and photos and the information on gardening — just perfect. I’m sure you’ve already seen it! I hope you are planning your next amazing book about England…… :)

    • Dawn (Elmhurst, IL) says:

      Heather, I’m enjoying that wonderful book, too! I’m reading it slowly… trying to make it last longer!! ♡

  29. mary mccumber says:

    Susan, I am so addicted to your blog postings! Delicious, funny, light-hearted, BEAUTIFUL, on and on I could go! Thank you for lighting up my days and evenings….I hope to see more of your kitchen and yup, it’s true when I say, I positioned my table as yours is and the children in my home daycare LOVE to sit and watch the snow fall or the bunnies already hopping around in our back yard from my 2 generous windows! I do believe it amps up the flavor of my choco/chip banana pancakes for them! Thanks for lighting up our world!!

  30. Barb a says:

    Your posts always make my day. Thank you!

  31. Jane Armour says:

    Thank you for having us to tea! Truly, a girlfriend loves a good tea party with lots of good conversation, laughter, & a dancing fire in the fireplace! One quick question, which I would imagine has been asked before —does Joe have any brothers? :-)

  32. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Gasp! Oh no! I didn’t watch the same show you all did Sunday night!? I must do some On Demanding and catch up – West Coast scheduling was different, did I nod off? But, at least now I won’t jump off my chair watching the bad part, I’ll be prepared, with tissues! Love the ladies wardrobes…& I always want to warn the good guys about the bad guys…..grrr! I must keep caught up & not fall off to sleep! I’ll watch the next morning, I guess!

  33. Cindy says:

    Hi Susan, I loved the Tea Party! The Peter Rabbit dresser is cute. You could do one like it yourself. Just find a dresser that you like, paint it and use Mod Podge to glue the cut out pictures on the drawers.

  34. What a simply perfect day amidst the raindrops! Peter Rabbit room, A spot of tea, Wonderful Come Sit Stay tea, Delicious Finger Sandwiches, Laughter, Talk of ENGLAND, and a crackling roaring fire! More wonderful memories and friendships.

    Racing to catch the ferry is the perfect ending to the FUN! Thank You Thank You for sharing every little detail with us girlfriends!!!

    Can’t wait to hear how your Cosco Debut goes! You will floor them!!!
    XOXO
    Georgie fromNJ

    • sbranch says:

      xoxo Georgie, nice to hear from you!

    • Debbie P ~ Weedsport, NY says:

      Hi, Georgie!
      I never realized you also have a blog until now! I tried to leave you a comment but something must have gone wrong…anyway…I loved what you wrote! I think finding those little nuggets in our everyday goings is what brings us happiness.
      Happy New Year, Georgie!
      xoDebbie

  35. JoAnne Daniels says:

    I loved being “in” on the Beatrix Potter Society tea party — I would have loved
    to be Jack, like a fly on the wall, just taking it all in!
    I was thinking you could make a dresser like the one you didn’t buy — paint one
    in similar colors and decoupage cut-outs of Beatrix Potter animals (I know you
    wouldn’t want to cut up a precious book, but you could scan the pictures and
    use those!) Just a thought………… I bet your friends love to stay in the
    Peter Rabbit room — small and cozy.
    And by the way, I made sure our library (Sussex County Library System)
    has a copy of A Fine Romance! It’s always out!
    JoAnne, the yellow lab Puppy Mom who goes to Puppy Kindergarten tonight. LOL!

  36. Barbara says:

    Oh, I so very much agree with you about Downton Abbey’s latest episode. It’s obvious that the rat butler will return with Lord Gillingham and then what? It was such a violent scene and contrasting it with the Nelly Melba concert was just so wrong! I, too, was wondering just why Mr. Fellowes wrote it into the show. I thought I was the only one so unhappy until I read this blog, Susan, and saw all of the responses.

    But, on a happier note, your tea party story is a very cheerful one. I like the informal get togetherness of it. Great idea in using a potato masher for the egg salad. Must remember that one. Always a pleasure when your latest shows up in my email.
    Barbara

  37. Jackie Bienemann says:

    Hi Susan,

    So glad you enjoyed your tea party with the “real” Beatrix Potter people, I very much enjoyed reading about it. Oh Jack is the cutest thing. Great expressions! Downton Abbey was so upsetting. Poor Anna, she is so nice, but I certainly hope he will get his. We could all spend a lot of time talking about it that is for sure and I am sure we would all agree on how we feel about the writer:). Take care and thank you always for your blog!

    Jackie

    • Joann says:

      My goodness Susan! The tea party is exquisite! And, you are so right about how to do a tea party for people you know and people you do not. But I’m enthralled with your comments about Downton Abby right now, for I share your sentiments precisely. There is way too much going on in that show and most of it dastardly awful. Poor Anna! I don’t know what is happening next, but I will be watching with my youngest daughter this weekend as tomorrow she finds out if it is a girl or a boy. I am here with her to find out, and I am so excited! I have a little girl gift and a little boy gift tucked away that I shall bring along to the hospital when we get the ultrasound tomorrow.

  38. sondra fox says:

    Good Day (with an English accent) to you good friends.
    I knew your tea party would be wonderful, with all the little details you’re famous for. How very special. Isn’t it funny how Jack knows “when” you have time for him & when you don’t? Imagine him quiet as a little mouse, up there on your couch, throughout your tea party. He makes me laugh. The food you & Joe made up looked so yummy. Made me hungry for egg salad, which my husband was very fond of. I never added minced onion, & hot sauce. or celery to my egg salad, but the next time I make it I’m going to try those ingredients.
    The little chest you wished you’d purchased on your trip through the mid west, is one I think clever you, Susan, could make easily. It really is a darling chest & would look like it belonged in your special BP room.
    Your house sounds so intriguing Susan……….back stairs up to the BP room, a room over the kitchen, secluded from the rest of the house. That’s why I love old houses, all the secluded, interesting rooms.
    Windy here for several days, & I mean high winds. Almost knock me over when I’m walking Jack. High fire danger. Firefighters are on alert. Helicopters flying over nearby mountains making sure fires don’t go unnnoticed. The men who fight fires out here are so gallant & brave. They’re in horrible situations at times.
    Just so some of you GF’s who follow these writings, know & are interested, I’m getting used to living alone now. My husband Larry’s been with our Lord for 5 1/2 months now. I still have some sad days, but I’ve noticed I have my own schedule now & my social life is picking up a bit. One thing I know for sure is that I “must” be around people. People make me happy. What does Barbara Streisand sing about “people, people who need people?” By the way, loved the music you posted on this blog Susan. If only the words (peace, no more wars) could sink into the human brain. My life isn’t whole without my husband, & it never will be, but I’m making the best of my life. I have a good life, a mind that thinks up interesting things to occupy my time, great friends & family, a wonderful pup (Jack) that keeps me company, & I think (unless I get ill) I’ll be fine.
    I saw the clogged up Niagara River on the news. I’d love to visit the Niagara Falls area in the winter. Beautiful, I’m sure. (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

    • sbranch says:

      I’m happy to hear that Sandy, I know it has to be hard. But you’re doing such a good job.

      • Cathy from Golden Co says:

        Sandy, I’m so sorry. I lost one of my grown son’s less than 2 yrs ago. I have to say the loss changes your heart forever but like you know – our beloved friends, family & this beautiful SB website are blessings :) I don’t want to know what it would be like to lose my husband too. GOD BLESS YOU!

    • Julia says:

      You are doing really well and we do have a different life when we
      lose our mates of many years but it can still be a good life. I’m
      the same as you. I can’t go too many days without seeing people.
      Now that I’ve moved and not so close to family I have joined
      several groups and I am fixing my sewing room up really cozy and
      plan to do lots of quilting. I am now making little dresses for
      “DRESS A GIRL AROUND THE WORLD.” Besides our guys would
      want us to adjust and go on living. Wishing you good times.

      • sondra fox says:

        Susan, Cathy, & Julia, Thanks for your encouragement. I have to go to a funeral tomorrow. The first since my husband passed. I hope I don’t break down. Jack took me on a long walk today, which always perks up my spirits. He walks really well, right beside me, at “my pace.” Of all the friends I’ve ever had, he’s the most loyal, & I’ve had a lot of very special friends, & still do. He’s right here beside me, like he always is. By the way, we were all going to send B’Day card to the 90 (?) year old, which I did. Did any of you GF’s hear about that? Wonder how many the B’Day girl received? (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

        • Tawni urrutia says:

          Good morning Sandy! I’ve wondered the same thing about the Bday cards…I hope the letter carrier needed a wheel barrel to deliver them!
          XOXO!!

  39. Jody says:

    I like cozy, chunky mugs. Great tea party!

  40. Martha says:

    Hi Susan – It looks like the tea party was a wonderful success – I love how you mix and match the mugs and china! I am also enjoying the latest episodes of Downton Abbey – I was wondering if you caught ‘The Paradise’ on PBS? You may have been traveling when it aired. Another wonderfully entertaining program from PBS – I can’t wait for season 2!
    Martha from CT

  41. Peggy says:

    Hi,
    I know it’s winter yet but wondering in the future if you or Mr. Joe would give a class In Gardening. We are moving to Massachusetts in May and would love to know what to expect in gardening. What have you planned for this year? Do you do vegetables or mostly flowers? What grows best in Mass ? I have books and am starting my own garden journal for all my note taking. Just love to hear about what cool stuff you guys do ! Gives me great ideas !
    Love your tea party by the way. We lived in England when William and Kate got married and we did a big tea party with my daughters Megan’s class, all the children wore nice dresses and boys in dress shirts, I brought some of my tea cups and a few tea pots, finger sandwiches and the children brought cup cakes and goodies. We had hot tea, with milk and sugar cubes and pink lemonade. We watched the wedding on a giant tv, of coarse I had to Record it at home so I could watch it over and over, but anyhow, loads of fun! Have a great week! Peg

    • sbranch says:

      We mix our veggies and flowers in a small picket fence garden . . . I had to learn too, coming from California, it all seemed so different. Wisteria, Lilac and hydrangea grow like weeds. Foxglove reseeds itself all over the garden. I think I could write a book! Your tea party sounds adorable.

  42. Jennie says:

    Hi Susan- this is the thing with your posts: they are all so good, and there is so much good stuff and so much I want to say and then I get to the end and *poof* I can’t remember what all was chasing around in my head!
    The tea party looked like it was a huge success (and I love your take on how they should go) and Jack looks so darn cute, he’s a huge distraction.
    And then you got to Downton and suddenly my heart starts beating faster and a huge YES! sounds out at ‘get that guy!’ Boy does that scum bag needs to get his! Oh, and am I ever with you on Lord Grantham and his money. Seriously, after all the financial mess and complaints about the cost of the house party, you need to go off and gamble? Really?!!! And not even the guts to admit it to his wife! tsk tsk! Yes- the fun we all have watching the made up problems of made up characters! :) A nice break from our own, don’t you think?

  43. Margot in Virginia Beach says:

    Glad to see you had a great time!!! Polenta is the better choice for tradition, but I LOVE orange cake. I made it to AZ in one piece. The guys are working today and I am planning some dinners and treats. I will be making the manly peanut butter bacon cookies for my two bunny boys. Tell Joe he can make me salmon and cream cheese tea sandwiches any day! I really like the Hen and Hammock site!!!

  44. Well, it all looks delightful! Can’t imagine any uncomfortable pauses with you all there to enjoy that wonderful tea and good company and conversation and Jack supervising. Lucky all of you!
    I’ll be purchasing more copies of “A Fine Romance” – every girlfriend I show it to begins to pine and perish for one of her own.
    Also, my friend Nancy wants to know what you were knitting on your Queen Mary crossing? She writes knitting books and goes all over the world teaching knitting, (she even taught at Tasha Tudor’s farm once- color me green with envy), so naturally she needs details. ;)
    xoxo

  45. Barb says:

    Lovely tea party!!! Have to tell you my hot milk cake story, Susan. I was newly married and took dessert to my in laws’ house — hot milk cake. I made it with honey instead of sugar…..oh dear. My brother in law is not known for his shyness and as he ate his cake, he looked at me and asked, “how long have you been in this family?” “A year”, I replied. “And you feel right at home?” “Yes,” I replied wondering what in the world he was getting at. “I can’t eat this cake. I could put it in the sidewalk for a brick”. And he was oh so right. Lesson learned!

  46. Anna from Camano Island,WA says:

    Thank you for sharing your tea party with all of us! I know we all couldn’t wait to see the pictures and such, soo nice of you not to let us wait to long. – It looked so comfortable too. I’m sure the BP ladies just loved it. – I love Downton Abbey as well as the rest of you. But this Edna character is so unlikable, really!, as evil as O’brien was, she was still fun to watch and occasionally showed a softer side which made her easier to take , whilst Edna seems completely awful. – Hopefully Anna will remain true to her earlier self, prior to this episode, I don’t want to watch her marriage fall apart. – However I still adore the show and of course Maggie Smith is a real treat to watch, she plays her part soo well. Again , thanks for the tea party too!

  47. Donna Babbitt, Brea, Ca. says:

    Thanks to Minette I just ordered the Flambards, how I love to find new Brit dvd’s, had not heard of this one, will get it Friday yippee. My darling grandson is picking up his Brit girlfriend from LAX after spending the holidays in England with her family, they are stopping by to bring a treat to Granny!!! I can hardly wait to see what it will be, I suspect a Kath Kidston mug? I will ask her Granny if she remembers the Flambards? Our Emma says I know more about England than she does………………………..she too loves Beatrix Potter. Imagine our very own English Rose in the family!!! Life is good!!!!

  48. Debbie '51 says:

    Hi Susan and Girlfriends everywhere,
    I have to tell you something.
    I am sitting here listening to the White Cliffs of Dover. That isn’t it, though.
    The ad that played before the song started playing… You know. Those ads we usually skip asap so we can get to listening to the MUSICA we’re eager to listen to. I didn’t skip it. I meant to. But I didn’t. And I’m going to tell you about it.
    It was about a woman named Lorraine Tallman who founded Comfy Cozy’s for Chemo. I had never heard of her before today. She started a foundation that makes shirts that allow dignity and modesty for children while they receive their chemo treatments. Lorraine’s own daughter, Amanda, was 9 when she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009. After two and a half years of chemo she was doing great – until three months later when she wasn’t again. Amanda passed away in 2012 but before she did she spoke to her Mom of a dream she had to help the other kids maintain their modesty during their treatments. Imagine. She was dying but wanted to help the other kids. I’m in tears.

    This touches my heart so deeply. I right now have a 15 year old grandson who has been in a medically induced coma since December 13. On November 21 he was home and began to cough up blood. His Mama took him straight to the ER where they spotted a shadow in his chest. He was sent immediately to the local children’s hospital where they discovered that he had a tumor. He had his right lung removed and there have been serious complications daily ever since. He’s had 8 surgeries. We have prayed constantly that he will make it through the next hour. So far God is listening to our pleading. For the past 4 days he has had 0 (that’s a big fat ZERO) crises! Although he will have his 9th major surgery on Friday (please say a prayer for our Brady) we are actually feeling encouraged that he may finally be on his way to healing!

    But even THAT isn’t why I am telling you about this. (Well, it may be where the original flood of emotion comes from but…)

    I went to the post office today to pick up my mail. In my post office box I found 3 cards from complete strangers who learned that I have a grandson in critical condition. Each of these strangers sent words of encouragement, love, and good wishes along with a donation toward the family’s expenses during this time.
    Can you believe it!?
    I am so deeply moved by the kindness offered by strangers that seeing this ad when I clicked on the MUSICA – well it sent me over some sort of edge! I am so completely humbled and overwhelmed that it has taken me to my knees. I don’t know how to control these emotions I feel. I have recently witnessed more kind hearted, giving, selfless actions of friends and strangers than I ever knew possible. I am in tears because for some reason these things make me cry.

    Sorry girlfriends. I needed to share this all with someone and I knew you would understand. That’s why I love the girlfriends. We know we can tell each other things and we will quietly send virtual hugs, as needed. That’s what we do for each other here. I love that.

    Well, I feel silly – but I’m posting this anyway because you need to know that I am here appreciating every one of you. You all give each other joy and selfless love in your fun, silly, warm, loving and inspirational posts – and it makes me happy at a very trying time in my life as it does for each of us when we are going through something.
    Thank you to all of you.

    I know – I’m so sappy!

    I’m going to take a deep breath and then I can’t wait to go back and actually read Susan’s blog post. I saw Jack in there as I was scrolling quickly down and I can’t wait to see what he’s up to now!

    Love to you all.
    ♥Deb♥

    • sbranch says:

      Add me to the list of people praying for your grandson dear Deb. Must be so terribly hard. xoxo

      • Diane says:

        Debbie, my thoughts and prayers are with you and Brady and all those who love him. How incredibly difficult it must be. Wishing you all strength and peace.

      • Dawn (Elmhurst, IL) says:

        Oh, Deb. So many hugs and prayers for Brady, you, and your whole family!! We are thinking of all of you and sending lots of love. ♡♡

      • Susan P. says:

        Dear Deb, Your grandson is in my prayers. Don’t you feel silly or sappy…I have tears in my eyes. You have just reached 100′s of GIRLFRIENDS that are here to help…I believe in the power of prayer….what better way through the “INTERNET” to reach all of us and get GOD’S ATTENTION. HE IS UP ON ALL THE NEW THINGS IN HIS WORLD. JUST IMAGINE ALL THE GIRLFRIENDS PRAYING FOR YOUR GRANDSON…Keep us informed….hugs to you. Love, Susan P. the soap box Lady

      • Ricki says:

        Add my prayers too, Deb

    • Chris Wells Knickerbocker, W TX says:

      Dearest Deb,
      Thank you for sharing this with us. I believe in the power of prayer. I will add Brady and your family to my prayer list, as I know all the GF’s will. No one should have to go through these struggles alone, and you are SO covered up with FRIENDS!
      Keep us posted and know that we plan to wrap you and your family in God’s love!

    • Martha Ellen of VA says:

      Oh Deb, please know I will be praying for your grandson. Love to you and your family at this difficult time. xoxo ♥

    • Julia says:

      Deb, I am already praying for a good report on Friday.
      God bless you and your family. Brady is a very loved
      young man, I can tell.

    • Lynn McMahon says:

      ~ Prayers being sent your way ~
      Lynn

    • Tawni urrutia says:

      Deb,
      My heart is full of best wishes and prayers for you and your family.
      (((❤)))Big hug.
      Tawni Urrutia in Lodi, Ca

    • Holly Field says:

      Deb, Sending you one of the virtual hugs today! Unfortunately, I know too well how you are feeling. My sister is now having her second round of chemo (after being in remission 17 years & having a miracle baby). Then at Christmas my daughter’s fiance began to have seizures, had emergency brain surgery to attempt removal of a most horrible type of brain cancer. My 27 year old, beautiful girl is being so strong, and will be married in the hospital soon (yes for love, but also to add him to her insurance because his just was cancelled….so awful). I too pray constantly, and cry, and try to help. So, adding you and your grandson to my prayers. Try to let us know how he’s doing. I too love what has developed here, as we girlfriends become acquainted.

      • Diane says:

        I’m so sorry, Holly. Hopefully the chemo will put your sister into another long remission, although I know it is so difficult. Prayers also for your daughter and her fiance for strength, health and comfort. I’m sure it will be a very moving wedding. They can teach a lot of us about “in sickness and in health”. You are a source of stability for them all. I’m reminded of something from the book The Color Purple where she says something like: Just because I cry doesn’t mean I’m not strong or can’t carry on with what I need to do.

    • Debbie P ~ Weedsport, NY says:

      Oh, Debbie~
      So much you’re dealing with…I can’t imagine how difficult it must be. It’s in those trying times that I believe God puts people in our lives to help us through…to give us hope.
      You may call yourself “sappy”. I think you are just a woman who feels deeply and loves her family. I’ve said a little prayer for your grandson…and for you, too, Deb.
      xoDebbie

      • Janet in Rochester says:

        Deb 51 – you have absolutely nothing to feel sorry for in sharing your sad news with us. We’re the ones who’re sorry – so sorry that your grandson is ill – and that you and your family are having to cope with the difficulty of trying to just get through each day, maybe each moment, as best you can. I’ll be thinking of you/praying for your grandson’s speedy recovery – as I know ALL the Girlfriends will be. God bless…❤️

        • Rhonda D. says:

          Deb, I will be keeping you, your grandson and family in my prayers. I understand what you are going through and how you feel. Please don’t think of yourself as “sappy.” I have been fighting a very big battle with cancer and I had to reach out to others. I have been doing very well and the Girlfriends thinking about me and praying for me here has been a huge part of my healing. I now know firsthand how important it is to lift each other up in prayer. It is an honor for me keep you all in prayer. Stay strong and keep the faith. God is at work.

          Holly, you have a lot going on in your family as well. I will keep you all in my prayers…strength for you and healing for your family members. Stay strong, it is amazing what we can do when we need to. You’re not alone.

          • Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

            Dear Debbie, I’m holding you and your beloved Brady close in my thoughts and prayers. Grandchildren touch our hearts in a way that no one else on earth can, and I can only imagine your pain right now. Holly, my prayers are for your sister, your daughter, and her fiancé, too. And Rhonda, I continue to pray for you, as well. You have such a sweet spirit, and you are so right…we are not alone. Hugs to you all.

          • sondra fox says:

            Deb, Prayers are being offered up for your grandson, from all over our country. Hope you feel them. You’re in God’s hands. That’s a good thing.(Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

  49. Rosemary says:

    The shadows of the curtains….so cozy looking to me. The tea party…can imagine what a good time the ladies had at your home. The food looks wonderful…wish i had some of everything!
    Oh Anna! She has captured our hearts by her sweetness and kindness and so it is all the more tragic and scary what happened to her. I would never have thought of such a thing happening in that setting, in that time, which I guess is just it. It probably did happen. How Mr. Bates handles it eventually…well that is the question.
    So, here we are…my husband and I trying to decide about going to England. We talk and he does research and then we think, tour? on our own? I think we are not so adventuresome as we maybe used to be. Anyway, your book is certainly inspiration.
    Thank you for your post on the Tea Party!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s SO easy, you can do it. It’s all just right there. Pick a town, get a place to stay, and go out to the surrounding areas to see the castles and gardens and what interests you. It’s really not very daunting once you are doing it. It just looks like it from here.

  50. Lisa aka Jessies mom says:

    OMG! Edna is Cat Woman! E gads, I knew I saw her some where before..thanks for the laugh on that and I LOVE the potato masher for the egg salad…doh!! Why didn’t I think of that?? Can hardly wait for Sunday night… Cheers !! Lisa & Jessie

  51. Laura Anne says:

    I want to comment on this lovely tea party posting, but must first ask you two questions.
    First, would you please, please, please consider having another batch of your Girlfriends charm made? I didn’t have a chance to purchase it when it was available and so badly want one!!!

    And my second question is, would Janie consider making more of the LOVE banners? It’s only mid-January and they are already sold out!

    Thank you so much!

    • sbranch says:

      I thin Janie made us more banners! I asked Sheri about the Girlfriend’s charms … we would have to have quite a few of them made and she’s trying to gauge the interest before doing that. Hope this helps Laura Anne!

      • Laura Anne says:

        Susan, thank you so much for your reply! I hope more girlfriends request the Girlfriend Charm.. I can vouch for four other people that I know would love one :) and with me included, that makes five! Anyone else out there interested?

        Thank you to Janie for making more banners!! I love them all!

  52. Thimbleanna says:

    You are just the sweetest thing! It’s so fun to read your updates. I loved your review about Downton Abbey — even though you forgot to predict that Anna will become pregnant and have to pretend the baby belongs to Bates LOL! XOXO

    • sbranch says:

      I never thought of it! One of our other girlfriends came up with that thought and I was shocked at the thought of it. But of course! Also, someone else mentioned that maybe Bates can’t have children? Yikes.

  53. Jan says:

    Susan,
    So enjoyed your tea party pics! You know just how to be the perfect hostess. Looks and sounds like a good time was had by all. The egg salad sounds so good. I may have to try those along with the cucumber sandwiches. Am gathering the ingredients for the lavender polenta cake as want to make for our tea party while my daughter and granddaughters are here. Congrats on the Costco adventure. How exciting! Have to mention also how cute the BP society pin is. Must get moving – cleaning floors today. Have a great day!
    Jan

  54. Pam says:

    Susan, I love your tea party! You give us so many GOOD ideas of things that we can do!! I love tea parties anyway, too! I grew up having them with my dollies! So, this week I am taking care of my 2year old grand daughter and I am planning a tea party for us! I don’t think it is too young to pass that along! We can have weak decaf tea in pretty cups with cream and sugar if she likes! I have an easy cookie recipe that she can help me stir and we can have our cookies with our tea! I am having so much fun! :)
    On the subject of Downton Abbey….!!! I am so disappointed in the writer to include violence against women in his wonderful show! I am sure this type of thing existed in those times but we certainly could find other exciting topics to include in our story ie. the castle gets struck by lightening in a bad storm, someone gets very sick with the many diseases prevalent then but of course gets better, someone could have a baby or any other better things!! I love the character of Anna as she is such a sweet person! Just my thoughts! Have a nice day, Susan! I am happy we have sunshine today!

  55. Robin says:

    I was so impressed with the way Matthews mother expressed her grief about her son….her words went straight to my heart…I wonder if anything will happen between her and the doctor. susan, I enjoyed your philosophy on how to serve tea….its all about making people comfortable….well done.

  56. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Hello Susan! Just a little note to thank you for the FREE stationery I just printed out from your collection! The “mailbox” design is the cutest and is perfect for the thank you notes I will be writing for Christmas and my birthday gifts received. You are so generous!!!! THANK YOU! It’s snowing lightly in Dearborn, Michigan with a single-digit windchill…..perfect weather for cuddling up with a cup of tea and writing to friends and family! (Walking to the mailbox, will require lots of bundling up, though!) YOU are the BEST!!!!

  57. Marie (Long Beach, California) says:

    Everything was BEAUTIFUL… the linen doily coasters, blue & white mugs, flowers, tea, finger sandwiches… so inviting and cozy! And the pièce de résistance, your Lavender-Orange Polenta Cake, yum! Looks like you all enjoyed a memorable afternoon together. I was wondering where you found your linen doily coasters? At least they look like linen. And then there’s Jack, could he be any cuter?!?!? I think not. :) Thanks for sharing all the fun you had with your new friends. ♥

  58. Annie in IL says:

    Dappled sunlight takes me right back to my childhood, lying on the living room floor with my dollshouse fashioned from a shoebox with paper people cut from the funnies. The ‘full Wolf moon’ last night…’.gave a luster of midday to objects below’. Awoke this morning to the ‘breast of the new fallen snow’; just a bit – not enough to cause much trouble. I, as others I have noticed, am new to this blog – arriving in late Sept., I believe. I have made up for lost time reading blogs, ordering and reading books, including the ‘Willards’ book. Learned so much about you from that. Totally loved ‘AFR’ – read it as slowly as possible. It’s been so nice to discover so many people with the very same interests – Gladys Taber; the Miss Read books; Tasha Tudor; all the wonderful movies like ‘Howard’s End’ and ‘Miss Potter’, etc. I have friends with similar interests, but they don’t always know about these wonderful books and movies. My ‘Howard’s End’ is on VCR tape instead of DVD I’ve had it so long! Anyway – I have felt very at home here; always love opening the e-mail and finding there’s a new blog. I also have ordered my Valentine banner along with calendars and a set of rubber stamps. Love visiting with you.

  59. Denise from Wpg Canada says:

    A hilarious new BBC comedy is ” Blandings ” it will ease the tension created by Downton Abbey ! it has a diva pig and the butler is hilarious , at the other end of the spectrum from Carson. Everyone may also enjoy the new Father Brown series based on the G K Chesterton novels.

  60. NANCYJO says:

    Hi Susan,
    Love the post, Because of you I have taken to drinking tea again, even made a post about it on my blog. Three oclock everyday, with three small cookies, or biscuits as the English say. The only thing missing is a kitty.
    Nancy Jo

  61. Christine from Covina says:

    Oh Susan, Thanks I do love the tea party. So delightful and warm and friendly. The tea sandwiches were exceptional as was the cake! I can’t wait until I can visit England again and go back to all the delightful places in your, our, book!!
    Thanks as always for the delightful post!

  62. Alice Lucas says:

    Dear Susan, I loved your tea party! I was wondering if you received my question earlier? Because I do not see it on your web site anymore. My question was have ever visited Louisa May Alcott’s childhood home? And if so could you please tell me about it. She is one of my favorite authors. Thank you very much. Sincerely, Alice

  63. I just love your posts. I wish you would write everyday. I always feel so much better after reading your blog. Wednesday’s don’t come soon enough!

    • sbranch says:

      I wish I could write every day too, but I need to work too. Painting our new 2015 calendar right now and have a deadline to turn it in. Also I want to write us a new book soon! Not enough hours in the day!

  64. Forgot to say I saw Remains of the Day this past weekend, with Christopher Reeve and Anthony Hopkins. So reminded me of Downton.

  65. Debbie P ~ Weedsport, NY says:

    Thanks for the peak into your gracious home and your very interesting life…you’re the best! I love scrolling over the photos and noticing all the little details….the blue and white mismatched mugs and teapots; the pretty little vases of flowers; the honey puddled on the saucer….such treats for the senses!
    As for DA…I found myself relating so much to the story line of dealing with Matthew’s death. I find it so realistic…each person finding their way through their grief. Matthew’s mother especially touches my heart as I have 2 friends who have lost their young adult sons. On a lighter note, I just love the wardrobe changes….such a dress-up fantasy!
    Hope all is well with you and Joe…I have a feeling there are more and more wonderful things just around the corner for you!
    Happy New Year, Susan!
    xoDebbie

  66. Cindy Tuning says:

    I just love how it feels that we’re all watching Downton together. Just one of the ties that bind. Wow! What a great actress she is and what a difficult scene that must have been for her. We also were planning on a trip to Scotland this summer. We wanted to go in August so we could see the Military Tatoo at Edinboro Castle.We have been there before but not at the right time. Ted was born there, by Falkirk, and he can never get enough of it. The brogue reminds him of his dear Mum. I had ordered the Days book a while back and it arrived in the mail today. Perfect timing as my birthday is tomorrow and I think that’s the perfect time to start a journal. The pictures of your tea looked lovely and just reinforced my thinking that you can never have too many teacups! Love the lace cloth on your table that was in front of the fireplace.

  67. Pam says:

    Hi Susan! Just thought I would let you know that my 2 year old granddaughter LOVED our little tea party yesterday! You gave me the idea! She had so much fun stirring in her little teacup that some of her tea flew out on the table! We used my pink Johnson Brothers Castle dishes! She made sugar cookies with sprinkles and enjoyed them with her tea! We will have to do that again as I want to make sure she remembers teatime with Nene!
    You have such cute items in your store! I love your bead charms and your new tea towels that you have out! Wonderful for gifts for my family and me, too! I always look forward to what new things you have on your website! Thank you! :)

  68. Joan Ramseyer says:

    I have gotten a kick out of the Downton discussion. My husband is threatening to boycott the show as he doesn’t like where the story line is going. Of course he is a Hallmark movie watcher, while I like more drama. Guess that’s the English major in me. I’m reading a book called The Kitchen House and a similar incident just happened to the character Belle in that book as happened to Anna, and Belle is pregnant. I can’t imagine what that would do to Anna if Julian Fellowes writes that into the series. But that is what keeps me watching. We are planning a trip to England in Sept. and I am hoping we can get into Highclere Castle. Tickets go on sale in February so we will see.

    I am planning a Valentine tea as I had one two years ago and had so much fun. I bought Emma’s heart teapot and will use that again this year. I couldn’t believe that the little Valentine banners have sold out already. I agree on your analysis of formal vs informal and I think I’ll go somewhere inbetween.

    Susan, your blog is always a pleasure to read. I am writing my own blog now and am having a grand time with it. Yours is very special Susan. It keeps all of your readers warm through this very chilly winter. All the best from Michigan.

  69. Sharon Calvert says:

    Hi, Susan … I just finished poring over the latest ‘Pottering About,’ and enjoyed the additional tidbits of information shared there about your tea party and about Betsy (although there was a faux pas regarding your Peter Rabbit room …*oops*) : http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5ca8fc834c9e31641e1a32d47&id=85dc806b46&e=db60445bd8/ . Somewhere in my reading, there were additional links to news items in The Telegraph concerning Beatrix, which were interesting and informative as well. So much to learn and see, and so little time! Thanks always for sharing your love and enthusiasm for all the good things in life <3

    Sharon in Alabama

  70. Mary S. says:

    Susan, being a fellow “Extreme Christmas Lover”, I was just wondering if you have ever seen Rick Steves’ “European Christmas”? I love it soooo much! I bought the DVD and watch it every year, often more than once, and I know you would love it, too!!
    Mary S. in Fresno, CA

  71. Diane Cassano says:

    My wish is that wherever that beautiful BP bureau is now, maybe still in the Antiques store or somewhere else, they would send it to Susan Branch since she would just love it sooo much. She does so much for all of us – it would be so kind of someone to make sure she gets it one day.

  72. Alyssa says:

    A happy Saturday morning to you, Susan. ;) Your book, A Fine Romance arrived on Wednesday. When I got home from teaching all day, I opened the book and it was the best treat—A mini vacation! I tucked it into my nightstand drawer (saving it from the puppy who thinks that books make good meals), for my bedtime story. What a dream it was! I began reading, with my 7year old son, Will, lying next to me. He was reading his Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Little did I know he was reading your book at the same time. I was on page 65. Here is the conversation as I am nose into book. Please share with your Joe:
    Will: Is that the butler?
    Me: No, it’s Joe.
    Will:Is he the captain?
    Me: No, he’s the author’s husband. His name is Joe.
    Will: That’s not the Disney Cruise.
    Me: No, they are on a ship called the Queen…Do you want to hear about this story?
    Will: Can you read it to me mommy?
    He is very interested in what you have to say, Susan. ;)
    Me: Time for bed, now.
    Will flipping through the book. “Joe is from France.”
    Me: No he’s not. He lives on Martha’s Vineyard. He lives in the same state as us with his wife Susan. You know where Martha’s Vineyard is-off of the Cape.
    Will: Pondering the fact that I am not telling the truth. Joe is really “THE CAPTAIN” of the ship, disguised as, “THE BUTLER” and is a secret agent wearing a beret from France. The plot thickens and he starts talking about meeting Jack Sparrow on Castaway Cay last year (We went on a Disney Cruise)…Thinking now about the Titanic and how it was spooky that you sailed over “the spot” and how ghosts must have popped into your ship…
    Susan Branch you have officially received 5 stars. All thanks to Joe, The Butler.
    ;)Alyssa of Boston Bee

    • sbranch says:

      Adorable. I have to say your conversation sounds like me and Joe during Morning Science! Give that little guy a hug for me (and Captain Joe). xoxo

  73. Good Morning Susan,
    Rilla is still sleeping, so i get some free quiet time. very weird feeling lol

    i love this post and love thevpictures of the tea party and room. i have an anne of green gables / lucy maud room and love it.

    i’ve watched all of downton so can’t comment, but WOW!!!!! you’re gonna love/ hate it all again :)

    i love your curtains. i bought some from victorian trading company about four years ago and they are still quite stiff. i want them to flow :)

    off to another post

    love
    denise of ingleside

  74. Sheryl says:

    Good Morning, Dear Susan,
    I always like to read a few comments and today I am realizing I am one of many who graduated High School in 1964 and have the big 50th reunion coming up this year. Then I started to feel the camaraderie right here in your blog. Then another wild idea came to me. Is it possible for some of your blog readers to share their Pinterest boards here so we could see different subjects that would be fun for curious eyes? Just a thought. Big Hug, Sheryl

  75. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Hello Deb! So sorry to hear about your grandson. I said a prayer for him today……..may God Bless him with complete healing! Keep strong!!!! Keep positive!!!!

  76. Alyssa says:

    Okay, It’s official. Not only is A Fine Romance a travel guide, diary and a beautiful story, it’s a home building guide. ;)Alyssa

  77. Holly From Loveland CO says:

    Hi!
    What a wonderful time. I love all the pictures and the story of your visit Beatrix Potter People. And was wondering if you have share the smoke salmon recipe before?

    As for Downton Abbey, that was my thought is she would become pregnant! Oh my goodness! They keep me on pins and needles.

    Thank you Susan again for keeping all of us dreaming and enjoying the simple pleasures of tea!

  78. Candice OHIO says:

    Hi Susan,
    I was perusing over all of the comments made on this blog and I came across the mention of Hamburger Soup. I had it at a Festival this past fall and it was wonderful! It was creamy, contained potatoes, onions, celery, carrots and hamburger. I don’t think it would be too hard to figure out. Make it something like potato soup, cook the potatoes and veggies together, add a white sauce, you could even make it cheesy then it would be Cheeseburger Soup!!
    I had a thought, since you are a superb creator of calendars, why not do a “Fine Romance” Calendar?! Maybe this has already crossed your mind, but I am sure it would be a gorgeous keepsake. You could even create a small one and a pocket one….how about a recipe book…….okay, okay, enough!!! My thoughts are running rampant!! Oh to be in England!!
    Love,
    Candice

  79. Cheryl Danley says:

    Well, stop the presses and put the tea kettle on! I just received my shipment of your Earl Grey Tea with Lavender and Roses.
    The tea itself is so beautiful to look at that I had to take a picture of it and post it on Facebook!
    Susan, the tea tastes wonderful! Thank you for sharing this find with us!
    Cheerio!

  80. RoseMarie Herdman says:

    I was receicing your newsletter as of dec. it stopped, i save your newsletters and am able to pull up your site. but looks like u have not posted any since Jan. 14 of this year. My husband isa big fan of Vera Lynn. He has quite a cd collection. A friend gave me a cute pad enclosed in a booklet, of yours i so love it.

    Rosie in Ct.

  81. Anna from Camano Island,WA says:

    I wrote a comment earlier on, but this is just a thought. I believe you have shown your cute ‘love and scandal are the best sweeteners for tea’ spoon in other photos , I think it is so cute. Is there a possibility that you could sell these or something similar in your online shop? I’m sure many of us girlfriends have gotten a kick out of that spoon. They would be fun to own and also make very cute little gifts. Thought it could’nt hurt to ask.

    • sbranch says:

      I would love to — I have heard though that you can find them in Etsy… have you tried. I went back to get another spoon from the store where I bought mine, and they never had them come back in.

  82. Regarding Philomena says:

    Hi Susan,

    Just a f/u on “Philomena.” and why I loved it so:

    ****SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN PHILOMENA****

    -it was based on the inordinate grace of an ordinary woman
    - it demonstrated a REAL working faith, never so beautifully demonstrated than in the ending.
    -the movie was based on a strong narrative
    -Philomena herself was incredibly progressive and copesthetic. She was funny, disarmingly charming, and has a verve for life that isn’t so different from your mantra about the small things in life. Remember her joy at the hotel restaurant and all the different food choices? What about her worry if her son was fat because of the sizes in America?
    -Philomena may present as a simple Irish woman well into her dotage, but we learned she couldn’t be further from it.
    -Remember the brilliance of, “Be nice to people on the way up, you might see them again on the way down.”
    -Martin Sixsmith was miserable, yet oh so sophisticated and intellectual but we see in the end who has the greater peace and contentment in life, Philomena.
    -Martin is so enraged at the very end and Philomena’s response to him, why is he taking this on as his own, it is only hers to forgive and forgive she truly did. This kind of forgiveness is in my eyes, the very best of humanity.
    - The movie has conflict/tragedy/comedy.
    - It was a moving real-life story with so much to offer.
    -It is particularly poignant that the real Philomena has lived to see her very personal and painful story made into this movie as the real Philomena wanted the story told
    - In my mind, there is no one who deserves to share the red-carpet with her at the awards shows. She is the genuine article, a true star of her own story. A very worthwhile story for which I will be eternally grateful she was willing to share with the world.

    Perhaps I had an especially keen appreciation. The ending, where Philomena forgives this heinous act and delivers the forgiveness in person to one of her greatest offenders, hit close to home.

    My sister stood in a courtroom 2 1/2 years ago and told the two people who randomly murdered her 25 y/o daughter, leaving behind two very young children without a mother, that she forgave them. She not only forgave them but she prayed every day for both of them and their families. Those two individuals sat in the courtroom with not an ounce of remorse, so said the judge, who also said he’d never seen this kind of act of forgiveness for such a heinous act in all his years . However, I can tell you from firsthand experience, my sister knows more peace and contentment because of her ability to forgive than some of us who still harbor enormous anger towards the murderers. The scene in Philomena gave me pause, the forgiveness was Philomena’s to forgive. That resonated powerfully.

    Forgiveness, in my mind, is quite the force to be reckoned with by many and for that, I’m thrilled that Hollywood has such a worthwhile movie as a contender for an Academy Award. Hear, hear. I for one am underwhelmed at most films that rely on action scenes, guns, violence, sex, bluer than the Danube kind of language, blood, murder, and all sorts of vulgarity.

    *P.S.: Steve Coogan who adapted the screenplay from Sixsmith’s book flunked his “O” levels in English and is ironically nominated for an Oscar. How rich.

    • sbranch says:

      I’m proud of you, your sister, Philomena and everyone who has it in their hearts to forgive. I hope I never have to find out if I have it in me. Thank you Carrie xoxo

      • Regarding Philomena says:

        “I hope I never have to find out if I have it in me.” SB

        Unlikely it was an egregious act such as Philomena had to or my sister, in fact, I certainly hope not. But I’m talking all degrees of forgiveness, from the minutiae to the big ticket items and everything in between. That is what can be taken from this biopic or indeed, my sister’s act of forgiveness. Compassion, understanding, happiness and peace that comes with forgiveness is transformative.

        Ironic Post-script: there is no reason to be proud of me. There is no piety or self-righteousness on my part about forgiveness as I continue to struggle with this. I have not forgiven the people that took my niece’s life. My sister is the only in the family who has. I speak from what she has shared with me and academically.

        Thank you for posting this. I know it’s not the lightest topic of discussion.

    • Denise from Wpg Canada says:

      Thank you for your insight of the film, I agree with you. I am looking forward to seeing Philomena, and reading the book .
      Nothing compares to real life and the quiet fierce drama that is played out in remarkable lives. I have enjoyed Steve Coogan in many things this film is another intresting layer to him. Thanks for sharing your sisters experience with forgiveness .

      • Chris Wells Knickerbocker, W TX says:

        Maybe because I am stuck out here in W TX, I was completely unaware of this movie. I just googled it and watched a film clip, what a wonderful movie…..now I must find a way to watch it. I used to love to watch the Acadamy Awards, because I had seen all the movies and knew who all the stars were. Not so any more. Saving Mr Banks was the first movie I went to the theater to see in several years.
        So thank you for this stellar review and enlightening my world.
        Chris

  83. Gail Buss says:

    Hi Susan, I was horrified to hear Anna say she would kill herself (if expecting) and I truly hope she didn’t mean it. I hear people talk about rape and they all say you feel dirty like Anna said and she is so sweet and I’m upset for her. I think she should tell the authorities but not Bates who would certainly kill the guy and then end up in jail again. I also wish Mary would have not told Gillingham to forget it, and I hope he is still in the picture. Maybe that kiss clinched it for the future. At first I wasn’t crazy about Isobel but now I like her very much. I wish D.A. would be on TV year round. Hope you have a delightful day! Gail xoxo

  84. Carrie says:

    Are you still considering doing an audio of your reading AFR? It would be wonderful to hear you tell the stories with your inflection. I’d put that in my car for my daily commute.

  85. Joy Pence from Ohio says:

    Susan, in the picture test shies your leftovers, the cup on the far right, what is that mug? It is so pretty.

  86. Jerry in Missouri says:

    I just love your website and blog and everything else! And…I didn’t’ realize until today there was a place I could comment and tell you so!
    Coming to your special place is like taking a trip away from all my cares.
    Thank you for being that special place to go to!

  87. Wendy says:

    Oh, Susan, what a *full* post. The BP Society tea party was delightful. Thank you for sharing it with us. I loved what you said about the English “minding their own business”. My mother is soooooo like that. And it reminds of old British films, when two characters are having a great conversation, because of what I would consider great skills at drawing one another out, and then ceasing abruptly, when one party, remembering proper decorum, apologizes for “being inquisitive”. Heaven forbid.
    As far as DA is concerned, I think I was less shocked by Episode 2 than many. Probably because I have worked in the medical profession, and am all too aware that every single day, ugly and violent things happen, and often, victims struggle in the aftermath, and sometimes, triumph. I think Mr. Fellowes is genius enough in portraying human character, that he will illuminate for us how Anna will struggle, find her way, and then triumph. But it may not be pretty along the way, because after all, she is human, albeit made of strong stuff.
    For me, the character I love to watch is Thomas Barrow. If Anna is a picture of virtue subject to hyperbole, then Thomas is her counterpart, reviled as self-serving evil, also subject to hyperbole. And yet, we have seen glimpses of “the better angels” of his nature, haven’t we? Has he turned on Edna because she threatens the “family” position of Tom Branson, and that would cause harm to Baby Sybbie ? Is it scandalous of me to suggest that Barrow is Sybbies’ protector and champion, much like Carson has been for Lady Mary? I feel that Thomas Barrow is a person who has probably survived a dark and dirty upbringing, and is late in learning how to trust and to love, and identifies with the vulnerability and innocence of a small child. To know and appreciate Thomas Barrow is to be “wise as a serpent, innocent as a dove”, which is an attitude best exemplified by dear Mrs. Hughes, the real bedrock of the downstairs assemblage.
    I urge all of you who are put off by these plot twists and turns to stay with it, and enjoy and appreciate the brilliant complexities of how Mr. Fellowes takes the cast through festivities, foibles and follies, I believe that a well-crafted story teaches us some of Life’s most important truths, in this case, the strongest theme is hope for the future, a legacy which can edify all of us.
    Whew, I’ve worn myself out, how about you?

    • sbranch says:

      All very interesting insights. I was thinking Thomas had a moment or two of softness in this episode, but then I thought I might be deluding myself.

  88. GF Michele says:

    So glad the tea party turned out so great!
    I am beyond excited for the Costco signing! I was so heartbroken that I couldn’t attend ONE of the signings last year. Fate happens!!
    I bet you didn’t even know, but this line that you wrote about Beatrix, could totally be used by us girlfriends to describe you, Susan:

    “…..because of the amazing way she lived her life she made the perfect hero for us. I’m sure Susan would not think of herself as a hero. She was just doing what came naturally.” Beautifully said, and so true for both YOU and Beatrix!

    25 days and counting :)
    XO

  89. Susan, I so enjoyed today’s blog and can totally relate. I love being ‘snowed in’ and camp out in front of the fire with my knitting or a good book, or simply watch my dogs and cat find their space in front of the fire place. After a wonderful Vineyard family Christmas and enjoying all the snow, I have closed up the house and have returned to MI. Sadly I will miss the storm headed your way, so please post lots of snowy, Vineyard pictures, than I won’t be so homesick. . . Not to worry, we do have plenty of snow here, but its just not the same! Cheers, Lee

  90. Loretta says:

    HI Susan, really enjoyed today’s blog! The weather here is so nice…..but we are wishing for some rain in Calif.! I love all the pics you post….it’s like visiting you and your home! I loved the video on the “chicks”….OMG….the leader really did know how to get around the ice. LOL I love to read too…..on a chilly day with a nice fire going…there is nothing more cozy and with a good book! I love Debbie Macomber’s books…..I immediately become part of the book and by the time I finish it….I feel like one of their friends! She writes a lot about “Cedar Cove” which is actually about her home town of Port Orchard, Wa. I visited Port Orchard…OMG………it’s wonderful It reminds me of Half Moon Bay, Ca. Take care…..keep those wonderful stories coming….love them!
    Loretta/Calif.

  91. Alynn Snyder says:

    Love your quotes (calendars, stickers, books, recipes, watercolors and everything you create, also, your appreciation of life – there is no ordinary day!) and would like to share a few of my favorite quotes: Friendship is a sheltering tree-Samuel Taylor Coleridge; The snail – His silver trail says, “Follow me! But slowly, there’s so much to see.” Martin Buxbaum ; and A Hebrew saying: No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there is always a thread of grace. And, No one does childhood better than the British! Bless you for sharing your life and talents. Alynn

  92. Sharon C. says:

    Thank you Susan for the wonderful pictures of your tea party and Beatrix Potter room! Everything looks so cozy. Also, love the art work for 2015 calendar! I love the first day of each new month and one of the reasons is turning the page of your calendar!

  93. Susan (in VA) says:

    Your BP tea party sounds lovely, and Jack seems to have had a wonderful time with his guests.

    That chest of drawers sure was cute, but you and Joe could paint and decoupage one just as nice. It’s one of those pieces that gives you great ideas of your own. (I just have to get a little better at following up on those great ideas myself, but I know you’re way better at that.)

    Good luck with the Costco signing. I’ve been talking up the book, and have a review on Amazon, too–every little bit helps.

  94. patricia m says:

    Susan, I’m a newby, introduced to you by my friend, judi. Your writings are very refreshing, taking me to a beautiful simple world.
    I agree about winter evenings. My mother and I would document in the fall the time we absolutely must turn on the lights as we were preparing “supper.” Even though I live in FL I still look forward to the clock turning back in the Fall, giving me quiet cozy evenings to read, write, or create. My daughter sends pictures to my cell showing new snowfalls and they warm my heart.
    I have been a fan of Beatrix Potter my entire life. Each fall my first graders and I spent two wonderful weeks exploring her life and books. It opened a new world for them full of fun and treasure-filled stories. I still look at your pictures and it cheers me. My husband wanted us to travel to England and that was one of his plans…tour her farm.
    Hot Milk Cake: wow. That brought back so many memories. My entire married life we used my husband’s great-grandmother’s recipe for it and our topping was a hot brown sugar sauce served at the table. My daughter has kept the tradition and we all forget any diets while savoring each bite. It was interesting to me that it was so popular now and that there are different toppings. The cake, itself , is delicious.
    Enjoy the view from your window, Susan.

  95. Debbie Macdonald says:

    I was having tea time today and perusing your original book. My husband bought as many books as he could find of yours for me for Christmas and I enjoy your sweetness of heart that permeates through them. One of the hardest things for me because of the length of time it takes when cooking for company or even for my family is the planning of the menu. Partially, its because of the myriad of choices and I can’t remember where the recipe is. May I suggest an idea for a new book. A book of menus using all of your cookbooks and referencing them. It could include menus for everyday, holidays, and seasonal. Or special occasions. Little stories of when you used the menu would be a delight to read. Oh, yes……..we are an alcohol free family and some suggestions for replacing that ingredient in your recipes would be handy.

    • sbranch says:

      That would be great Debbie. And normally you can just leave the alcohol out. Usually it’s not that much volume that you’d have to replace it.

  96. Nancy M. says:

    Right after I read your new book, I searched for a biography of Beatrix Potter and ran across the book you mentioned, ” Beatrix Potter: Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius” by Linda Lear. I savored every page, and have become a devoted fan. She was a woman ahead of her time for sure and someone who was able to overcome the strict expectations Victorians had for women. I’m glad that the first book about BP that I read was one that you also highly recommend.

  97. Brenda says:

    Oh my, I have just found you via a link on the bunny mummy blog. I have been reading your Beatrix potter and me posts with tears running down my face. I too am an avid Beatrix Potter fan, her books, her vision, her environmentalist activities she is amazing., I live far far away too, in Australia, but in 2012 I was fortunate enough to visit the UK and see Hill Top farm – amazing – it is a spiritual journey of that I have no doubt. We also stayed at Yew Tree Farm, where they filmed the Miss Potter movie, amazing, I cried just to be there. Sounding like a sook aren’t I! I’m so glad to have found you, I look forward to reading and discovering more of your blog xxBrenda

    • sbranch says:

      We don’t have “sooks” in America, but I can figure out what you might mean, and you couldn’t be that and be so perfectly normal. I feel exactly the same way! Happy to meet you Brenda! You must be deep in summer now . . .

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