o get your tea and/or put your feet up, darling people. If it's OK with you, I'm going to whisk you away for a short trip to Martha's Vineyard. I'll wait right here until you get back. Ready? Comfy? Don't forget to hit the MUSICA for the dulcet tones of my main man, the fabulous Tommy Dorsey, background music to the best dinner parties . . . Here we go . . .
long lovely Martha's Vineyard winter has finally dissolved into spring blossoms and sunshine and now, once again, just when we think the magic might never happen, the cherry trees are blooming, sailboats are filling the harbor, little blue star flower called Glory of the Snow has popped up in lawns next to picket fences, window boxes are being planted, flags are being hung. Next month, Memorial Day is our unofficial start to the Summer season and everyone is getting ready.
fter the short dark cold days of winter, having the doors open and fresh air blowing through the house is a first-of-the-season treat that doesn't get old. Frozen dirt, in case you don't know, has no smell. We miss it! We've gone a long winter without smelling the earth. But it's the waiting that makes it worth it ~ it's like being born again every year. Thawing dirt on our walk through the woods smells like rain water, new growth, richly mulched leaves, that good dirt smell of spring. We open the bedroom windows on the second floor of our house and let in the breeze that passes through the wisteria growing on the arbor against the house. And the birds are singing more than usual, it's mating season, and it's a serenade. Springtime in New England is a must for lovers and other strangers. All the springtime clues are tiny, you have to look close to see them. But after a very cold winter, everyone is looking close.
"Ma nature's lyrical, with her yearly miracle . . ."
t's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since our last WILLARD. And if you aren't a blog person and checking in regularly at susanbranch.com, you may have even forgotten about me ~ or worse, you might think I've forgotten about you. But it isn't true. I come bearing excuses, news and make-up gifts.
'll start with excuse #1 :To catch up a little bit, for those who don't know, I had a new book come out last August and for several months after that I toured the country going to bookstores and signing books ~ and when we got home there was Christmas and then New Years, and although we've been back home for a while and what passes for normal around here is in place once more (ie, the little things in life, spring cleaning, making dinner, walking to post office, shooting the rubber band for Jack my cat).
ut in February I came down with a chronic case of the writing bug, could not stop myself, and did a huge high dive into a new book which is what I've been working on (indulging myself in) for the last couple of months. That dive took me so deep I have barely surfaced since.
t's going to be a "historical novel" and I've got about 450 pages written in a very rough outline. There's a thinly disguised female heroine I hope you really like.
rom the time she is a child she's on a search for what she calls "the secrets of life." She tries to do things right, but everything falls apart because her idea of right seems to be everyone else's idea of wrong, which intensifies the search, which she almost misses. There's a tragic love story, she is forced to change, her choices are narrowed, her courage is tested, she is transformed, her source of inspiration is revealed, and yes, there's a surprise ending. That's all I know so far, it's still somewhat of a mystery, even to me, the thinly disguised female heroine. Except that I am having a wonderful time writing it. The eighteen diaries I've kept since the 1970's are very good for "research." That's why it's "historical." Those post-it notes mark the good spots! Yes, it's kind of a time-travel diary and there will be watercolors and quotes and recipes and I hope you like it just as much as A Fine Romance. I can't tell you when it will be done, I have a long way to go. But every day, another layer is added. I already don't want it to end, it's very nice and often funny at the bottom of this pool.
peaking of which, A Fine Romance is out in the big wide world now all by itself; apron strings have been cut, she's on her own, and mother-bear just crosses her fingers she won't end up in a ditch somewhere. You empty nesters know what I mean. But so far, she's doing fine . . . she's been working hard, keeping her nose clean and still in the top ten on Amazon "General England Travel" where she's been ever since she moved out of the house last August. No mother could ask for more than that. I like all her friends, she sends pictures home show her to be very social. I know from your letters and comments that there was never any doubt in some of your minds that we'd raised a good kid, but you never know. Her report cards show lots of five stars. I'm amazed and so proud and grateful to all of you because I know . . .
nd, something else kind of amazing and really exceptionally nice has happened ~ we've just agreed to sell worldwide rights for A Fine Romance to a Taiwan Publisher through a Hong Kong literary agency for the complex Chinese edition of the book! Our book's going to be published in Chinese! It's a first for me, this has never happened with any of my other books. The publisher is going to rewrite and format A Fine Romance using a "Chinese Handwriting Font" (which should be rather interesting). All my photos and watercolors will be in the book just like they are now, but can you imagine? I can't wait to see it. I won't be able to read it but I think it's going to be adorable! I'll be sure and post photos on the blog when it comes in. Now, how's that for a good child going out into the world and making friends with other countries!? Our little ambassador at large.
ome other new and interesting places the "child" has wandered: If you live near Grapevine, Texas look for A Fine Romance at The British Emporium. If you're near Newburyport, MA you'll find her at Best of British, and if you're in Santa Monica, CA, visit Ye Olde King's Head British Pub. If you are in England, look for our book at Jane Austen's house in Chawton (or on Amazon UK, where you save lots on postage from the U.S.). And by the way, if you have a special girlfriend's or mom's birthday coming, you can still get signed copies of A Fine Romance in my webstore. If signed doesn't matter, they're available in bookstores across the country.
ne of the best days of the year is the day we celebrate moms for the amazing jobs they do. I watched my mom make something from nothing everyday, and I could never express my gratitude for everything she did for us (myself and my seven brothers and sisters), but most of all, I'm thankful for her cheerful heart. Between me and my mom, it was love at first sight. There's no way to be a perfect mom, but a million ways to be a wonderful mother. ne of my favorite things about her is how she always sang around the house. She sang us awake and she sang us to sleep. She sang songs her grandma had taught her while she vacuumed and while she did dishes and definitely in the car. We went everywhere, windows down, singing "Hot diggity, dog diggity, boom, what you do to me . . ." at the top of our lungs; and ". . . I walked down the street like a good girl should, he followed me down the street like I knew he would . . . " to the beach and on our way to the market or to pick up the kids at school. I thought my mom was a wonderful singer. And now, because the apple never falls far from the tree, I do it too. And I recommend it. "A ~ You're Adorable" was one of my favorite songs my mom sang ~ she sang it better than Perry, and because she did, now I do, while digging holes in my garden to plant my new little sedum plants, and I'm thinking it goes a long way to adding joie de vivre to the happy gene while washing dishes. You can learn the words and be a "C ~ you're a Cutie full of Charm" yourself. MUSICA
nd more, for Mom's and Grandma's and you, too . . . You know how much I love diaries and people's life stories and handwriting ~ I didn't keep my diaries for any reason other than because I liked to write and try to figure out life, but I can't tell you how happy I am to have them all these years later ~ they're filled with so many laugh-out-loud moments I would never have remembered (and other bury-your-face-in-your-hands moments I might rather have forgotten but would never give up, because hey, that's the way it was!). Also, another treasure, the letters I've saved that my grandma and mom wrote to me in their own handwriting. I recently found a three-page letter from my grandma telling me about her childhood and her mom and how much my mom means to her. It's priceless, I called and read it to my mom and it was like my grandma was right there with us.
o, in that light I've designed these guided journals just for that purpose, encouraging everyone to "write it down" ~ a memory keeper. The books all have ribbon bookmarks and embossed covers. Inside they are all a little different but all have lots of lined pages, places for photos, and interesting questions to stir memories just begging to be filled in. A child could fill in "My Story" and make the perfect keepsake book of a lifetime with their little-kid handwriting and kids-say-the-darndest-things personalities ~ immeasurable in value once they are filled in, the perfect places to record La Vida Loca!
o Willard would be worth its salt without a delicious recipe -- and I thought this would be perfect, because what is Mother's Day without breakfast! I promise you, promise you, from the bottom of my heart, this is the best Granola recipe in the world as we know it today. Be careful who you give it to because they are very likely to become addicted. SO good, all summer long, with yogurt and fresh fruit -- it's also amazing sprinkled on ice cream. It makes a lovely little homemade gift when you put it in one of our "Come Sit Stay" Tea Tins. (If you're having a Mother's Day Tea you might also need a very special cake . . . I'll have that recipe for you on the blog!)
lso, we have "branched out" into the wild and wonderful world of Tea which makes sense because I've been drinking it every morning since I was a teenager. Starting with my own personal addiction, Earl Grey with Lavender and Rose Petals which I wrote about in A Fine Romance ~ that was just the beginning. These days I wake up in the morning with new ideas for combinations, these are what I've come up with so far . . .
o the Lavender Earl Grey, we've added a delicious Organic Darjeeling Earl Grey; a Green Tea with Wildflowers, and two teas without caffein: Apricot Jam with marigold petals ~ and our newest which looks as beautifully insane as the others, Fairytale Tea, like a woodland forest, chamomile flowers with cornflowers and lemon verbena. That's the chamomile in the photo below . . . is it not GORGEOUS? They're all like that. Perfect for afternoon tea with your mom or your girlfriends.
ne last "new" thing we started since we last met. These are our Dream Charms, handmade glass beads to wear on bracelets and on chains around your neck .... so far, there have been only four. . .
hey are charms to make wishes on: the pink flowered charm is engraved with hearts and the word GIRLFRIENDS ♥ (in the sterling silver band), the green one reminds me of the hedge rows we drove through in the English countryside and it says A Fine Romance ♥ on it, the black bead with the white spots says KITTY LOVE ♥ in honor of Jack and Girl and all the little critters we love so well (that's our newest one), and the swirly blue with white waves says MARTHA'S VINEYARD ♥. "Martha's Vineyard" is sold out, but the other three are still available. They all have ♥SB engraved on them, and they all come on their own little gift card.
ell, Girls, I think I've kept you long enough . . .I hope you feel properly updated! I'm heading out to the garden to hang up my bird houses, do a little raking, and get out my frog prince and put him back on the kitchen porch post. (BTW, We still have a few of these little guys left if you need a hearthug on your porch.)
hope you're planning your summer and scheduling in some time to do nothing. Very important. Like on Wednesday, June 7th, you could write on your calendar a plan for yourself "wander around town, go antiquing, take yourself to lunch, do nothing, or read a good book, 10 am." I know you would do that for your dentist appointments, but you deserve a bit o' time for yourself, my girl. xoxo
lso, if you need a good book to read, may I suggest a couple I have loved? One is called Zelda (about Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott's wife) . . . I wrote a bit about it HERE, and the other is Portrait of a Marriage, which you may remember from A Fine Romance, it's a book about Vita Sackville-West, the aristocratic artist who (along with her husband) created Sissinghurst Gardens. (Remember? We went there!)
ell, that ought to keep you busy! But hopefully the kind of busy we love ~ the kind that feeds the soul.
ow for the "make-up gifts" I promised when I started this epistle . . . come to my blog at www.susanbranch.com . . . because I do have a very nice surprise for you in honor of all moms and nurturing people everywhere.
ll you will have to do enter the drawing for these lovely parting gifts is leave me a comment at the bottom of the post. It can say, "hey there" or any other thing, and it will be counted and you will be entered, and a few days from now, I'll announce the winner on the blog. I'll also have the recipe for the Mother's Day Tea Cake waiting for you over there. I will understand if you wait a few days. You've had enough to read. I appreciate it that you managed to get this far. One last thought before I go . . .
wish you bluebirds in the spring, to give your heart a song to sing And then a kiss, but more than this, I wish you love . . .
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