Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Amazingly Talented and Inspirational Susan Branch

I own every one of these books.
photo by Susan Branch
I became a demonstrator for Stampin' Up! in June of 2006 and not long after that I started my first Stamp Club.  It was a way for women to get together and be creative, and for me to generate enough sales to stay active as a demonstrator and support my paper crafting hobby. My clubs started out in the "How To" vein.  I would teach different stamping techniques and we would make cards using our newly learned skills.  Over the years, as I've become older, wiser and busier, my clubs have evolved into monthly gatherings where everyone brings their own projects and we all create, chat and eat (of course!)  It's less work for me and I still get to see my friends and support my hobby.  My latest club began last weekend.  We have 9 members so we're committed to 9 months of fun.  

At our meeting I made several cards using up some old, but beloved, paper designed by Susan Branch.  I have been a long time admirer, follower, collector, lover of all things Susan.  She has written many cookbooks and 3 novels, all of which she handwrites and illustrates with her watercolor images.  Each book is a thing of beauty and includes quotes, notes of inspiration and essays about family, cooking, gardening, and homemaking.  Her novels are based on her life and eloquently describe her home on Martha's Vineyard, her travels to England, and her lifelong belief in fairies, friendship and family.

I'm currently reading this for
the third time.
Susan's earlier years in
San Luis Obispo.  It has a
cliff hanger ending. 
This book picks up where
Fairy Tale Girl leaves off.
It is just out and
devoured it in 1 weekend!  

Susan has also designed fabrics, some of which Linda used to make curtains for my craft room.  It's difficult to find her fabrics these days BUT, Susan recently partnered with a company called Spoonflower and you can now purchase her fabrics here.  
I took the doors off a closet and camouflage all my
stamping supplies with this curtain.
I love the delicate, whimsical designs.  
The valance above my window is the same material.
Susan has also designed calendars, china, scrapbooking materials, stickers, stationary, cards, decorative flags and much more.  I own all her cookbooks, books, some of her china, loads of scrapbooking materials and stickers.  I've been to Martha's Vineyard and have stood outside her home (I couldn't bring myself to knock on the door and disturb her), and when she had a store in Arroyo Grande, I visited every time I was on the Central Coast.  I even got to meet her in 2009 at a book signing in California. I cried (tears of joy!) and she graciously signed all 5 of my cookbooks, each with a different inscription.  

I've tightly held onto and hoarded my Susan stuff for years, but recently realized it brings me more joy to use it than just "have" it.   When Linda and I began making our own journals/calendars, I started using up my Susan stickers.  That was in 2014, and I still have plenty of stickers to decorate my journal each month.  

At Stamp Club I happily used three different Susan Branch papers for cards.
Simple and fun.  
Monogram cards for me!
Susan's gingham paper coordinates perfectly
with the floral wreath.
My Susan Branch stash is starting to get smaller, but it will be a looooong time before it is all used up.  And, thanks to eBay, I can always get more if I want it.  To find out more about Susan Branch or just for a daily dose of inspiration, head on over to her website.  

A few of my most prized Susan Branch possessions. 
I use this cookie plate all the time when I take treats
to the secretaries at school.  
My favorite bud vase.
A little pitcher that brightens up a corner of my kitchen.

The quote painted inside the rim of the teacup says,
"Charm: the quality in others that makes us more satisfied with ourselves."
 Henri-Frédérick Amiel

Saturday, April 23, 2016

1st Annual Crafting Retreat

Linda, Carrie and me in our happy place.

It all started last year in November.  Carrie, Linda and I attended a crafting retreat at Roughly Manor in Twenty-Nine Palms.  Along with 25 other women we had an awesomely creative weekend of crafting, laughing, eating and making new friends.  On the car ride home Carrie and Linda came up with the bright idea of the three of us hosting our own crafting retreat for our friends.  Within a week Carrie had found a location and we all were assigned jobs.  Carrie headed up public relations and handled all the administrative tasks.  I assumed the role of banker and Linda was in charge of "fluff" (anything that had to do with cuteness.)

For 3 months we planned and prepped.  Linda made favors, I collected deposits and Carrie communicated with the 9 women who would be joining us.  In February, Linda came to La Quinta for the weekend and worked on her"fluff" projects.
Linda made each person an easel place card. 
All good crafters know you must stay hydrated...
...and moisturized when creating works of art.  
What could be nicer on one's pillow at night than a Ghirardelli chocolate tucked inside an inspiring holder? 

When inspiration strikes, a notepad is key.

Linda even made a banner to welcome our guests.

While Linda worked her magic in the craft room, I got busy in the kitchen, preparing as much of the food that could be frozen.

Linda's Chicken Enchiladas

My Grandma Jilda's spaghetti sauce and meatballs.  When cooking in advance quality control is important, hence the side sampler.  
Meatballs ready to be frozen.  

When the first weekend in March finally came, we couldn't have been more excited.  The house was big, beautiful and well equipped for both crafting and cooking. All the ladies enjoyed themselves as well as the food.  Somehow, we ended up with more pictures of food than people.  
All 12 of us!  What a happy bunch.  
Gathering in the kitchen for snacks. 
 (L-R: Debbie, Nancy, Adrienne, me and Barbara.)
Dessert Tray including Michelle's Lemon Bars, Linda's Kahlua Cake and Carrie's Magic Bars.  
My crafting spot.  I worked on Christmas tags for my annual Tin-O-Tags project.

As an added bonus, we found a cardboard cut-out of Blake Shelton in a closet that was useful for selfies, group photos and hiding in various locations around the house to scare unsuspecting crafters.
I took this selfie in an upstairs location and then texted it to Carrie and Linda, who were crafting downstairs.  It garnered some good laughs.
Barbara and Blake.  I think they make a cute couple.
Linda worships at the feet of Blake while all the others look on in fondness (and Adrienne tries to lick his ear.)

Our first annual retreat was a smashing success, if I do say so myself. And the funny thing is, it didn't even seem like a lot of work because Linda, Carrie and I did it together.  Combining our talents and energy made for a wonderfully fulfilling weekend, and I believe our guests would agree.  That's the thing about allowing only quality people - those who inspire, uplift, encourage, and love - into the front row of your life, it makes the traveling a lot more fun and the load so much lighter.  

And the song, from beginning to end, I found in the heart of a friend. 
 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

P.S.  Some of the food was eaten so quickly that we didn't have a chance to snap a photo.  Here are links to a few of the most requested recipes.