Tag Archives: Anglophile

Favorite author bringing out book perfect for Anglophiles


You may remember me posting about author/illustrator Susan Branch and how much I have enjoyed her books, all hand-lettered and illustrated with her delightful watercolors and filled with poetry, quotes, memories, recipes and more. Just got this newsletter this morning and was thrilled to see she has a new book coming out–and it’s all about the English countryside! Scroll down in the newsletter to read about the experiences that lead to her writing A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside.

Enjoy Susan’s charming illustrations and photos and excerpts from the book, including the yummy-sounding recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding (surely a true English desert)! There’s even a bit about Richard III in here!


HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! How are you, Girlfriends? I’m good, but it’s been a long time — I’ve been hunkered down in my studio all winter painting and writing — Joe’s been throwing logs on the fire, surprising me with cups of chocolate coffee (he puts Hershey’s syrup in coffee and tops it with half and half; I will be paying for this later); freezing wind whistles outside our door, snow swirls off the barn, making the world very beautiful, keeping us happy and cozy inside. Bright red cardinals (nature’s Valentine), nuthatches, and chickadees are busy at the feeders outside the kitchen windows, vying for best spot at the perches. The squirrels entertain us with loop-de-loos from the wisteria branches, hanging upside-down to get at the sunflower seeds. Girl-Kitty sleeps in the crook of my knees every night; Jack drops red ponytail bands on my clogs whenever he wants to play (he is a funny bunny), we have Downton Abbey to look forward to every Sunday, so I have to say, life is very good in the house of creativity.

Time is going by so quickly, I can’t believe it’s already Valentine’s Day! Didn’t we just have Christmas? But I have news — just for this special day which is all about celebrating romance . . . so run, go get a cup of tea — I’ll wait . . .

Comfy? Good, here’s a little MUSICA . . .

Now I’m embarrassed. I hope I haven’t gotten you all excited — I’m just a little beside myself. Because, as lots of you already know, I’ve been writing a new book. I’m getting close to done. The pages are numbered! It has a name! It’s called A Fine Romance, and I just thought, with a name like that (which will make perfect sense when you read it), what better time to talk about it and show you the cover than Valentine’s Day? That’s all, no rocket ship to the moon. Except for me, because, getting a book done is totally rocket-ship-to-the-moon-time! (I love having “theme music” for a new book!)

Something else that’s new, I’ve never used a photo on the cover of any of my books before, usually they’re all watercolored, but this is a real travel book, and that’s a gorgeous road, and to me it just says, “England!” I know where we are too, we’re in the Yorkshire Dales, around the corner from the small market town of Middleham and the childhood castle of King Richard the III, the one whose remains they recently found when excavating a parking lot in England and miraculously (to me) identified from DNA from a seventeenth-generation descendent. Now that I’ve been there, I feel somewhat related to him! (The part about the castle is in the book, but not this about finding his remains, because it just happened!)

ENEEE WAY . . .It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago, almost to the day, when Joe and I were out to dinner and he said, “Why don’t we go to England in the spring?” There were plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t and couldn’t, but we stepped carefully over all that, and went anyway! In early May of last year we sailed across the ocean on the Queen Mary II to England where we rented a car and traveled hill and dale on back roads for two glorious months, through Kent, up to the Lake District, to York and the Cotswolds, to Beatrix Potter‘s House and Jane Austen’s house, through castles and pubs, gardens and tearooms; antique stores and book stalls, we loved learning the history of everywhere we visited. We were on a quest for inspiration and freedom-from-routine. And we definitely found it. The trip was like a two month dream, the longest dream I ever had in my life. As well it should be, so it can last a lifetime!

And in case you haven’t heard . . . I kept a diary, every day I wrote what we were seeing. I sketched too, and we took hundreds of photos. And when we got home, I chose about 250 of those photos and put them into a hand-written diary that I’ve been working on since last July. The book starts with a chapter about the thing that made the trip possible, the story of how Joe and I met. The rest of it is filled with watercolors, stories, quotes and recipes and all kinds of ocean-liner-across-the-sea information; there are four maps of the different areas we visited, plus the nuts and bolts like places to stay, the car (driving on the wrong side of the road), money, and electricity. There are extras such as How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea and the Charm of an English Cottage Garden; there’s a reading list, a movie list and a list of the Perfect Music to bring along, plus an interactive index that will coordinate with links you’ll find on my blog when the book arrives. I tried not to forget a thing! This book is meant to help you plan your own trip … but if you’re an armchair traveler, I did everything I could so you can smell the wildflower meadows and hear the bleating lambs while cuddled in your chair with your nap blankie.

Some of you have seen a few of the pages I’ve done so far . . .

So it will be about 250 pages of this.

I still have about thirty pages to paint before the book goes to the printer. Many of you have been asking me to have a “pre-sale” for the book. I wasn’t sure because it won’t arrive from the printer until maybe September, or even October. That seemed too long for anyone to wait.

But then, last year, we ran out of calendars for the first time — before Christmas! So I realized that I wanted my Willard and blog friends to have first dibs and no chance of running out. I spoke to my publisher about it; at this point they are just guessing on how many books to order; they have NO idea how the book will sell, and will have to decide on the final number by the end of March. (When Heart of the Home, my first book, came out, it was October, it sold out before Christmas and didn’t come back in until the following June!) So, I asked if I could do a pre-publication sale of the book in my web store to make sure those of you who want them will get your books FIRST, and they said that would be fine, in fact, it would help them know how many to order. The bottom line is, if the book sells out that will be wonderful, but best of all, it won’t be awful for us, because you will already have yours! It takes four months to get a reprint done, so if we ran out right away, we wouldn’t get any more until after Christmas and that would not be fun. So, here we go … as of today, A FINE ROMANCE  is for sale in our web store, at a pre-sale discounted price, and that’s the only place it will be for sale until it goes into stores next fall! We will ship the book the second they come in. If I am in California when they arrive, I will sign them before they go out — if not, then I will make sure to sign a book plate for each pre-ordered book. You will be needing a BOOKMARK, so I designed this one, in honor of Valentine’s Day. With love from me to you. Just click on it and you can print it out on card stock. If you are getting a book for someone else, be sure to make them a bookmark to tuck inside. And for those of you regular Girlfriends to my blog …. I can’t thank you enough for all of your support and kindness to me while I’ve been creating what is certainly “our” book. Book-writing can be quite a lonely business, but because of you, I never felt it this time! Your wonderful comments on the blog, keeping in touch the way you have, made it much easier. Each time I started a new page, I thought to myself, what would these girls like today? In a sense, it’s a giant love letter — that’s true about all my books, but this time, it was a two-way street and I can’t thank you enough. Now, there is one more thing. Sometime in June (I think it’s June, might be May, could be July) the printer will air mail (haven’t heard that term in a long time!) a few pre-publication copies to me. I am going to give one of those away to YOU, dear Girlfriends … it will be the very first book in “circulation,” three months before any of the others come in — you can sign up to be in that drawing on our blog, just leave a comment (at the bottom of any post where you see the tiny word “comments”) at www.susanbranch.com, between now and February 20, and you will be entered for the drawing. Vanna will choose the name after the 20th, so we will all know our lucky winner long before the book arrives. Chills just went through me! OH BOY.

Next Fall, Joe and I will travel to bookstores across the USA where we hope to meet as many of you as possible. I have one book signing set up already in San Luis Obispo, California, November 9th and 10th at the Madonna Inn Expo Center for the Remnants of the Past Antique and Vintage Show. The show opens both days at 9am, and I think I’ll let everyone shop before I interrupt them, so I’ll probably come in around 2 ish. I’ll be sure to set up a schedule on my blog with more details as the time gets closer.

Has anyone noticed that it says, “A Fine Romance” on the February page of this year’s calendar? Are you wondering how I did that?

Me Too! I designed the 2013 calendar in 2011, long before Joe and I decided to go away to England. But I wrote the story of my first date with Joe years ago — in my good handwriting, with the watercolor title of “A Fine Romance” — it’s never been published. When I went to design the February page for the 2013 calendar, I decided to use the title I’d painted for the story. After I turned in the art for the calendar, I pretty much forgot about it . . . we decided to go to England, I wrote this book, and I planned to show you the cover of it for Valentine’s Day, so when I turned over the calendar page, I was surprised! I had to laugh. Fate had it all figured out . . . she knew I was going to write this book before I did!

I thought, while we’re waiting for the book, you might like to have one of the recipes from A Fine Romance.

Ihis seems like it might be the national dessert in England — it was on almost every menu, everywhere we went — we managed to wait to taste it until we got to the Lake District where we were told this pudding originated. (It’s not really a pudding, they call almost every dessert a “pudding” — after dinner they will say, “Would you care for pudding?”) When Joe tasted it, his eyes got wide, his words were muffled, spoken through a big mouthful, but I could figure out what he was saying, “You have to put this in the book.” It was just delicious!

And here’s what else is new . . . You know I love lambs, I loved seeing them everywhere in England, and I’ve painted lots of them into the book. But what you didn’t know is that the last time I went antiquing across country with Joe, wherever we went, I looked for more of these planter/vases. I love mine so much, it’s such a harbinger of spring, I thought maybe some of you would like one too. The ones I found aren’t all exactly like this one … but they’re definitely all cute and waiting for you in our VINTAGE section right now. We sold out of this little paperweight iron lamb, the one that’s actually a bank — but more will be coming in by the middle of March, in case you are wondering. Perfect timing for Spring table decorations.

Look how adorable he is!

A brought this heavy cotton Union Jack Dishtowel back on the boat with me . . . I wished I’d gotten fifty more of them! So we found where they were made, and now we have them on our website. For the kitchen anglophile in all of us.

Another special little item. My new Birdhouse. I just got it; I’ve been keeping it in my studio for the time being — it could really stay in there forever — it’s such a cheerful little house to have around. When it stops snowing, it will hang in the tree in the garden. It has windows, and a little opening in the back so it can be cleaned out . . . it’s really quite perfect. I thought you might like one for your garden, so I got more!

And last but never ever least . . . we found a fairly large collection of Beatrix Potter figurines . . . I think whichever creature you’ve been looking for, we probably have now. Kellee adds them to the VINTAGE part of our web store whenever we can get them, but they get harder to find all the time. We just got lucky.

Big fat snowflakes are coming down right this very moment, blowing toward the house, sticking to my windows, and settling on the picket fence I can see from my art table. The furnace is humming, the fire is making little popping noises, Jack is asleep on the back of the sofa . . . this is what I call romance. It’s exactly how I dreamed life would be. The words “May the force be with you” just came to mind. I don’t know why, but it feels like it is. May the force be with you my friends. xoxo Now, the coup de grace, remember how I’ve written that I think there are elves living here on Martha’s Vineyard who run ahead setting up scenes and making everything adorable? Here’s our newest elfwork . . . I happen to know the elves that did this — Matt and Bridget Tobin . . . they own Eden, a darling farmstand and garden shop in Vineyard Haven which is not even open this time of year! But that doesn’t stop them. We came home from a dinner party on a cold rainy night, rounded the bend and saw this wonderful thing. We do love our magic elves and they clearly love us back.

And here are a few new things from my web store:


Feeling all “British-y” tonight



Tonight I’ve found myself talking to the cats in an English accent. Sometimes working-class, sometimes tehhh-ribbly POSH. Feeling all Britishy, you see. Been watching the Call the Midwife Holiday Special (Oh, I do love this show!) followed by a repeat of Downton Abbey‘s Christmas Special. The third season begins here in the U.S. on January 6 and is much anticipated by me and fellow Anglophiles.

Before I began my “All Things English” Watch, I had my first serving of a traditional English treat–plum pudding. Of course, those of you who are familiar with it know it’s really more steamed cake than what we in America think of as pudding, which is inexorably tied to pitchman Bill Cosby and Jello brand desserts made from a box.

thCAM0CIHR Comedian Bill Cosby was a long-time pitchman for Jello brand pudding.

My Christmas pudding also came in a box, actually–a box from that marvelous retailer Vermont Country Store, which carries a myriad of treats to eat, wear, apply, play with and further enjoy. It was baked in Jolly Olde Englande and dispatched to the U.S. in time for the holidays. Along with the plum pudding (which contains lots of fruit but not, I believe, any plums) there was Bird’s brandy hard sauce.  This was yet another treat I had never had. I was amused to read the directions for heating on a hob–not an expression much used here–and the microwave, which is the route I went.

I must say the “nuked” pudding was moist and flavorful, tasting not unlike our fruitcake here, and the sauce was a delicious addition. Thinking I may have to whip up that package of gingerbread in the pantry to use some of the remainder . . .

And now, here’s something else British I find to be quite a treat:


OT: All hail Good Queen Bess!


I just finished watching the last half of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames, billed as the biggest event of its kind in 350 years.  BBC America can actually air something other than “Top Gear” and “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares“–amazing! In spite of considerable rain–well, it IS England, after all–everyone soldiered on and made the best of it (again, it IS England).

A total of 1,000 vessels took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames this morning.

Rain drops fogged some of the camera lenses and there were occasional glitches in transmission, with audio disappearing and images breaking up. A planned flyover had to be cancelled.

Nonetheless, it was an impressive event, with all those boats, ships and barges participating in the parade, throngs looking on from the banks. And most people seemed to be having a good time of it in spite of the chilly, wet weather.  The singers atop the vessel carrying the London Philharmonic Orchestra looked like drowned rats in black but they were still smiling and singing “Land of Hope & Glory” with great gusto. And the Queen seemed to be enjoying it all, her only concession to the bleak weather a wrap she eventually put on. All the royals looked very spiffy, including the honoree.

Prince Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William look resplendent for the occasion.

Queen Elizabeth waves from the royal barge.

(all photos courtesy of the Guardian UK)

Queen Elizabeth is 86, just a little younger than my mother would be if she was still alive. I believe she stood through the entire event. I am 35 years her junior, and I don’t think I could have managed that feat. My hat is off to you, my dear lady.

I look at her white permed curls and think of my mother’s crowning glory. I study her black handbag and wonder–what does a Queen carry in her purse? Pictures of her grandchildren? Tissues or a handkerchief in the event of a sniffle? Lipstick in a suitably demure shade and a compact?Breath mints? After all, she has to meet so many people and it wouldn’t do for a monarch to have halitosis.

Seriously, I admire the queen. She’s weathered a lot in her 60-year reign. She’s the only monarch I and many others have known on the British throne.  Her mother lived a very long life and she may very well do the same. And Queen Elizabeth doesn’t seem to be ready to step down any time soon. After all, it’s good being Queen.

I wish her all the best.

A yank Anglophile’s thoughts on British vs. American culture: a link to an interesting article

The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Memphis, Ten...

The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Memphis, Tennessee. The first self service grocery store, opened 1916. Français : Le premier supermarché Piggly Wiggly ouvert en 1916 à Memphis, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I ran across this quite  interesting and thought-provoking article (link is above) at www.anglotopia.com tonight and wanted to share it. An American Anglophile shares his list of a dozen ways he feels England does things better than the U.S. I have to say I agree with several of them.

For example, I have always wondered why we make grocery store cashiers stand all day? The exception I have seen here in the U.S. was at military commissaries. If memory serves me correctly, the cashiers were allowed to sit (and the baggers strictly worked for tips and did very well for themselves, I was told).

I would love to hear your thoughts on Jonathan’s post. BTW, Anglotopia, along with its sister sites Londontopia, Kiwitopia and Aussietopia.net are all fun and informative places to visit–and they have links to nifty contests and sweepstakes (sorry, most are restricted to the U.S and its territories).

The Brits certainly do a fantastic job producing talented, gorgeous, disarmingly modest and likeable actors.