What Ever Happened to HOLLY OAK???

Hello Darling People!  I’ve noticed in your comments that some of you think I am giving away the very first Beatrix Potter Person I ever bought.  Some are saying thank you, you are so generous. But it isn’t true. To let that stand would be doing a Giveaway under false presences. I could never do this . . . for more reasons than one. MUSICA?


Remember this?


The time I showed you Joe’s special brand of handiness when he was in process of healing Jemima’s broken neck?  See the chip on the left side of her bill?  No, I would never foist this girl off on some unsuspecting YOU. She’s mine, the first BP Person I ever got, and I will continue to paste her back together (or ask Joe to do it), as needed, for as long as I live.


I’ve never quite gotten over seeing how he did this ~ with one large rubber band and half a toothpick. I couldn’t do it in a thousand years. Joe is so talented. And it worked, her neck is back on and she’s “good as new!”

IMG_2495BUT a few years back, I acquired a brand new girl so now, until right now anyway, I have two . . . I’ll keep the old one, and you’ll get the “new” one (they were both actually born the same year, 1948, five years after Beatrix Potter died). There’s no glue-chain around your Jemima’s neck . . . Yours is perfect with bill totally intact. And the wonderful Walking with Beatrix Potter book is for you too. Signed by me, with your name, as soon as I find out who you are. I hope you’re ready, Because, It’s Time. Thank you for taking part in this Giveaway, I love your wonderful comments! Okay, here we go . . . .


🎵 Jaa-ack? Go get her! 🎶


While we’re waiting for Jack to bring Vanna down … I thought I’d tell you Jack’s new trick. I get his ponytail band ready for shooting (so he can fetch it back to me), I pull it back, Jack 2016 susan branch calendarstretching it and pointing it in Jack’s direction, his eyes are locked on me … I say, “Ready?”  And, every time I say, “Ready?” ~  he SAYS, “E-e-e-reusss,” and burrows down even more in alert cat-faced readiness. It sounds like “YES” to me. He doesn’t say anything unless I ask him if he’s ready. So, you know what that means . . . ? While we were away Jack learned English. Like in Love Actually, he wanted to be able to talk to us in our own language, “just in cases.” He has an accent (coming from another land originally), so it’s not perfect yet, but he can talk! Such a smart boy.


Handsome too.  And Now . . . Oh, my . . . Vanna has already made the LEAP. She’s IN the barrel, scissor-kicking to the bottom (still in her pink nightgown ~ she was half asleep, got IMG_2489in late last night from her Euro-trash-type carousing 😜 and not in the mood to get into her mermaid suit) . . . over 2,000 little slips of paper with your names on them are whirling and twirling in a veritable vortex ~  it’s quite a sight ~~~ her long arm is coming up through it all ~ and now, she’s UP!  And in her hand, between her long elegant fingers, each wearing a thin golden ring, her manicured nails painted with blue polish, there’s just one little slip of paper which she tossed in my lap, and headed off for the coffee pot. And SO, the winner of our darling Beatrix Potter Person AND wonderful book, which I will be personalizing IS . . .

C L Y D E N E    D U R A N

And so that’s it! Can’t be too many with that name! The hardest thing about Giveaways is picking a winner. It’s a love/hate thing for me. Hard to only have one winner. But the “reward” for all of you who aren’t named Clydene is this: I thought I would answer the MOST-asked question on my Book Tour. I took questions at the end of each talk, and every time, someone would say, What happened to that little house? Do you still own it? What happened to . . .


Remember Holly Oak?


My first little house on Martha’s Vineyard, the one I wrote about in Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams?


The one I accidentally bought when I ran away from home, from California to Martha’s Vineyard, where I took my broken heart to start life over again?bathing


The one that became like a dollhouse for me, like a toy, where I added a fireplace, and a bedroom, and put wallpaper in all the rooms?



Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams

And then got three kitties for it . . .


Girl, Bill, and Man Cat.

books 012

Home at Last

sbpixThe one with the little “guest shack” in the backyard? Where the cows from the farm next door came to have snacks? That Holly Oak?   Well, let me tell you. Here’s what happened:  There I was, minding my own business, living in this little house, working on making a life, pretty sure I was meant to be alone and probably done with men forever,  and then, out of the blue, when I wasn’t looking, what showed up but . . .afineromance


And believe it or not, I still managed to find two main things wrong with him: 1. He was a baby, too young, five years younger than me, and 2. Way too handsome, handsome being dangerous.  But he was also a tall man, with a beard, a 6’2″ Leo who could cook. Everything I’d mentioned in my diary that I thought might work for me. Everything the tea leaves had told me he would be.💖

sue and joe

And he was persistent. Look at those eyes. Plus, as it turned out, he loved Christmas, and riding the train, and sailing on ocean liners, and fires in the winter, and he could fix anything and cook lobsters, so, tell me, what choice did I have but to snap him up before he got away???? After a year or so, we began to notice that Holly Oak was too small for both of us!  Joe dwarfed everything and felt closed in, my art was taking over the house.  Very casually, we began to look for a new place to live. And one day he came home and said . . . Let’s go look at a house … let’s go look at this:

July 08 Vineyard 642words fairytale dreamEeek, I screamed. And to make a long story short, we fell madly in love with this dream house, and have lived here since 1989. We bought it in the days when Island houses were affordable.  Although we were turned down for two loan applications before anyone would trust that we could pay for it, the third time was the charm. Even we didn’t know for sure if we could make that payment, but I told Joe that even if we lived there for just one year, and then had to sell it, it would still be worth it.


And like all the people who’ve lived here since it was built in 1849, some part of our spirits will remain forever in this inspirational House of Creativity.IMG_7085

My house


And every season is wonderful here. If we ever sell this house, we’ve already decided to offer it to you guys first . . . it would be wonderful if a friend who appreciates it would be the one to live here after us . . . so put that on your calendar. 😽


This was the dining room when we first moved in, complete with pineapple wallpaper . . . There’s a snippet on the left of my old bedroom curtains from Holly Oak which I made from tablecloths all those years ago. I STILL have the last fragment of one as the curtain in our downstairs bathroom. I baby it, so it will last, but it’s not long for this world.


And after a while, we redid the dining room and it looked like this . . .

table setting dinner party

There have been many wonderful parties in this house . . .

november 2010 020

memoriesSomething tells me it was all Julia Child’s idea!


The house has an old-fashioned pantry . . . there’s another fridge in there, plus the washer and dryer, and baskets hang from the rafters in the peaked roof.

June 2010 065

And a great old kitchen . . . we bought the stove at a store called, of all the perfect things, “Stove Heaven,” and put in the wood floor, but almost everything else is original to the 1950s, when Dr. Bowditch, the previous owner, made the cabinets, the scalloped piece over the sink, and put “blue marble” linoleum down for the counters.



But in order to buy this house, I had to sell Holly Oak. So I sold it to my girlfriend Elizabeth!  She and her husband owned it for a few years, but then they had to sell it too, and now it has a very nice woman living in it . . . who I wish would win the lottery or have some other wonderful thing happen so she would move to Paris and let me have my house back!  I would have such fun with that house! I have all sorts of dreams about it.

holly oak

And it looks like this! We were invited in to see it and have tea in the backyard . . . she’s really taken perfect care of Holly Oak. It still has the little porch Carlton built for me.


The shack is still there! “The size of two king-sized beds, half bed and half floor.”


And there’s the deck my dad built.

IMG_8682There were lots of things I recognized, some bits of old wallpaper, the writing I did on the wall, and the cupboards Carl made with the hearts in them. I don’t tell anyone where the house is, the owner has added on, so it looks a little different, and I was careful in the book to give the wrong directions to get there . . . Just in cases. I want the very sweet woman that lives on that quiet road in the woods to continue liking me and not take my name in vain. So that’s what happened to Holly Oak! I should have remembered to put all this in the Epilogue in the book, but I forgot.  I’ll do it for the next printing.


And what have I been up to?  Nesting!!! Taking deep breaths. Filling my vases with flowers. Reveling in the magic of an ordinary day!


Dreaming about our upcoming trip on the Queen Mary 2 . . . Carlton stopped by the other day to give us a present . . . that ship model! So it’s my newest stove-top decor.


And, we’re in the throes of planning a big ol’ birthday party for Joe! Rachel and Paul and Siobhan are all coming from England . . . if you read A Fine Romance, I’m sure you’ll remember who they are, plus about 100 more of Joe’s nearest and dearest, including Diana, Elaine and Elizabeth, coming from California.  I’ll be sure to take pictures and show you!


Time to light the twinkle lights for dinner in the garden. I’m going to make something delicious, I just don’t know what it is yet!!!

cooking with kitty

Perhaps something like this . . .


Cicadas are singing like crazy this quiet afternoon, a sound that tells us it’s the beginning of the end of summer. It’s something we didn’t have in California, the cicadas high pitched noise, like a police whistle that never ends.  A bumper crop of blueberries are beginning to ripen out on the dirt road where we walk, and the very first leaves, just one or two, have turned orange.  Today’s my dad’s 93rd Birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot about him, remembering all the little things. Not to worry, I only feel blessed and lucky.Time ...


And in the meantime, I’m doing what I always do, staying on the sunny side of life.inthe gardenJust about to start writing us a new WILLARD!  If there is still anyone left who doesn’t know what that is, I would be shocked, but just in cases, click there, and you can read about my Newsletter that will just show up in your email (whenever I manage to get one done!). Sign up if you haven’t, and put your mom on too, and your BFF, because it’s free and this next one is going to be a dilly. All about our trip to England and Scotland.

Byee for now Girlfriends . . . Hope your August is wonderful! Start thinking about what you’re going to wear in Scotland, I think it’s going to be COLD up there! XOXOsealed with a kiss

August 2010 005

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Hi Everyone! How are you?  We are home safe and sound, and happy, so happy to be here. Here are just a few photos of our family reunion at Vallecito Lake, “a beautiful spot, surrounded in tall pines, sheltered in a secluded mountain valley” at 8,000 feet,  just outside of Durango, Colorado, and more proof that . . .heaven


This was the moon-set at 5 am across the lake the morning we drove away, all packed up and heading back for the train and home.  Stopped in the dark, tires in gravel, in the cool mountain air, with lake lapping on shore, for this photo of paradise.


Here’s just one of the jillions of group photos we took . . . My fandamly, not all, but lots. The kind of fandamly that likes to stand in freezing water. Note who’s not in picture.


My nephew Ben, arriving with the “equipment.”


In this very lovely, spiritual place which has been a gathering place for us for years . . . ever since my brother Jim moved here years ago . . . the lake is  surrounded in wildflowers . . .


Where we did what we always do, we ate, we told stories, we sang . . . this is my brother Chuck dancing with my niece Heidi, daughter of my other brother Brad, at the campground.  Chuck sang too, songs he wrote ~ one of my favorites that I requested so I could record it for you ~ is a sad song called “To Be a Man” (not about my dad) . . . want to hear it? Listen close to the words . . .


And lucky me . . . these are the three “kids” that Joe and I took to England and Paris on the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2001, when, from left, Heidi was 11, Holly was 12, and Matty was 18. That’s Auntie Mame in the middle there, basking.


More wonderful moments than I can tell . . . Shelly’s twins, Paden and Mason, and my great nephews, Ben’s boys, Wyler and Beckett.

Mas Musica? Something old, something wonderful . . .


This was our cabin with the screened in porch … at Croll Cabins, right next to 5 Branches campsites … perfect for a family reunion ~ you could have a cabin, or set up a tent, or bring your camper, park next to the lake, and walk to each other’s places. It was heaven.


More wildflowers in the campground.

And now, before we talk about an important birthday celebration, and have a new giveaway ~ I just want to say thank you . . . your 900 comments in the last post were so beautiful!💛 When I was sad and missing my dear Dad, Jack to some, Blog Daddy to many, but John Patrick Stewart, Jr. in real life, all I had to do was read your words, filled with comforting, loving, life affirmations and I felt so much better! My dad would have loved them too. 💕 He so enjoyed reading your comments.Girl saying thank youT H A N K    Y O U


IMG_4073And now, here’s Joe . . . bringing in the cake . . . because we want to extend heartfelt
Birthday wishesT O

RibbonIMG_6306roses. . . who would be 150 years old on July 28 . . . wouldn’t she love to know how many wonderful events are taking place this year in her memory!  (Actually, I think she would feel humbled by it.) But I want to add my own respects and admiration to the many voices (you can read some of them at the Beatrix Potter Society, and become a member like me! They send the most wonderful newsletters, both online and in the mail, and there’s more information about the celebrations HERE  and HERE and good shopping for BP stuff, HERE), and it all keeps coming. Because she was truly something else.


As most of you know . . . I took a trip to see Beatrix’s famous Hilltop Farm a while back, something I’d wanted to do for many years. And it was everything I’d hoped it would be, filled with the little bits of her life that she saved just for us, so that someday we could go there and be in the presence of magic.3318082

leaf borderMost everyone knows about her “little bunny books” and that they are the best selling children’s books of all time . . . and that they started with her illustrated letters like this one below that she wrote to the children of her former governess . . .

Beatrix potter

Many words have been written, both by her and even more, ABOUT her including a wonderful movie I know you would love, Miss Potter (if you haven’t already seen it). 👏 But her charming books are only the beginning of what made Beatrix so very special.

Beatrix Potter

Peter RabbitBefore she ever wrote a book, Beatrix was a serious scientist whose discoveries were summarily dismissed by the scientific community, simply because she was a woman ~ this was Victorian England where women were not supposed to be scientists (or much of anything else).  Her scientific discoveries were a fascinating part of her story ~ she discovered something which is still viable today, but the loss to the scientific world was nothing compared to what she was able to offer through her creative love of nature to the imaginations of children the world over, when she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and self-published her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. And the rest is history herstory.Nature!get-attachment.aspx

Because the story didn’t end at that misogynistic defeat, nor even at the glorious success of her books, she was just beginning to find her true place where she would leave her real legacy. When she lost her first love, she was inspired to buy a small farm in the Lake District of northern England, a place she’d been drawn to since she was a child. And, not long after, she left book writing behind her and found a new passion in farming and raising sheep, preserving a breed that was almost extinct. She loved the old ways and bought her potter-quotefurniture for Hilltop at barn sales and auctions. She hand-embroidered her own bed coverings and never put electricity in her house, so you can just imagine the quiet sounds of birdsong and wind and snow fall and teacup-in-saucer noises that she spent her life enjoying. And she took her bunny-book money and bought 14 farms and over 4,000 acres of the Lake District to keep them from the greedy hands of developers. 👏 And she helped to start the National Trust. She married late and was happy with her husband for 30 years. If you’d like to read more about Beatrix Potter, try the wonderful biography by Linda Lear, Beatrix Potter, the Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius. stripofflowersget-attachment.aspx

Beatrix saved this land for forever enjoyment because she was far-thinking, not just thinking about today, but thinking about forever. She was ahead of her time, and  Inlovewithnature

Village of Near Sawrey

This is her little town of Far Sawrey in the Lake District where she made her home with her husband in that house on the far right of this photo. When you walk there, you walk where she walked, and really, nothing much has changed. I can’t wait to go back. Just to breathe that rarified air.

On the way to Near Sawrey

We’re going in the fall and I can’t wait to see the colors. . . we’ve only been in the springtime ….


Some of us discover Beatrix through her books, some learn about her through the National Trust, but I came to her through her little figurines, my “Beatrix Potter people,” which I found in my early 20s and have been in every place I’ve lived since then ~ I fell in love with the colors and the charm of her little critters, beautifully made in Beswick, England in the 40s and 50s.


Her life, once I learned about the things she did, as been an inspiration for me. I would love to do what she did.   And all those wonderful animal figurines but, surprisingly, no lambs! So I painted this one in her honor.


And these are my People . . .  some of them, there are more in other parts of the house, (and more in our webstore that I gathered as we drove across country) this is a gathering of the minds.  They are coming together to have a little tea party to celebrate Beatrix.  They made a cake . . .

cake YouHaveToBelieveWeAreMagic stripofflowersbirthdayparty

tea time teacups

for a Tea Party in honor of Beatrix Potter . . .


Try one of my favorite Tea Cakes EVER!  Invite someone to tea, and make a little toast to Beatrix.HOTHCranberryTeaCake HOTHVanillaSauce I’ve promised you this recipe for a long time, and now you have it, here and I also put it in my new, revised and expanded, 30th Anniversary edition of Heart of the Home, just out and available only here on my website and in some (actually any) independent bookstores (who contact us) until September.heart of the home


It’s even more delicious than it looks!my cup of tea


Yum, Happy Birthday dear Beatrix!  And also, in her honor, and in yours, a little giveaway … this wonderful little book . . .


Filled with descriptions of the woodland walks through the place Beatrix loved so much . . .


This useful book is filled with Beatrix’s charming color prints . . .


And lots of photos . . . it’s a great help for making plans for the next time you go . . . like a little dream book . . . I had one when we went and we followed the directions and the walks were wonderful…


 I signed the book and will personalize it to whoever wins this drawing . . . all you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this post and you will be entered, and in a few days we’ll get “Vanna” to draw the winning name, and I hope it’s YOURS 💖. . . but that’s not all …


Oh, yeah, Jemima Puddleduck wants to come too . . . .


This lovely old 1948 edition, the very first Beatrix Potter Person I ever bought, way back in  the 1970s.


She stands tall and proud and perfectly dressed. We’ll do the drawing after I get back from Cape Cod where I’m going on Thursday, on Beatrix Potter’s actual birthday, to celebrate her life at the Brewster Ladies Library with the Beatrix Potter Society and 400 like-minded Girlfriends where I will be reading the story of my first trip to Hilltop from my book and signing A Fine Romance Falling in Love with the English Countryside. So excited! And humbled. and thrilled. And will probably cry.

HeartThrobsThat makes sense to me. Thank goodness there are so many.💛

tell him

Hello you adorable thing.  . . if anyone will be on the Island on the 25th of August, I’ll be doing my last talk and signing in the USA (for this year) for Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams, for the Aquinnah Library at the Old Town Hall in Aquinnah at 5 pm. 📚 It’s free, so you would just show up and voila!

THANK YOU GIRLFRIENDS.  For everything.  Have the most wonderful day! XOXO 💚 Love you!home


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