Celebrating Susan Branch’s Latest Books with Tasty Words, Pics, and Potato Chip Cookies

“Never let anyone tell you magic doesn’t exist or that fairies aren’t real. It isn’t cynicism that will change the world. Do your best to believe in yourself, and even if you don’t, keep trying to and never give up. If all else fails, use your imagination and pretend.” ~ Susan Branch (Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams)

Though I’ve been a Susan Branch fan for decades, until I read her 3-part illustrated memoir I knew only a little about her personal life or how she started painting, writing, and publishing.

It was love at first sight when I discovered her greeting cards, calendars and illustrated cookbooks back in the late 80’s — I just couldn’t get enough of her beautiful handwritten recipes and inspirational quotes, the cozy, quaint watercolors of old fashioned baskets, bowls, and quilts, those scrumptious fruits, veggies, cakes and pies. Oh, the checkered floors! The Laura Ashley hats and exquisite floral borders! That iconic vintage stove! I wanted to inhabit the world of her homemade books; they were charming, unique, and most important, personal.

You may remember how much I adored A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (review here). It convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Susan was even more of a kindred spirit with her love of Beatrix Potter, the Yorkshire Dales, afternoon tea, the Cotswolds, Emma Bridgewater, and the Queen!

But it wasn’t until I read the prequels to A Fine RomanceThe Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams  (both based on her diaries) — that I gained a true appreciation for how this self-taught artist built her career from scratch, how the first seeds were actually planted in childhood, and how she’s been able to effectively elevate the various facets of homemaking (cooking, sewing, gardening, interior decorating) to a fine art.

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sara varon’s bake sale brownies

Oh my, but I do love Sara Varon’s Bake Sale!  And recently I made the brownies featured in it. *dies*

Such a lovely, feel-good story about friendship. This toothsome graphic novel is just quirky enough — a few squiggly degrees to the left of center — to avoid being cloying, overly sentimental, or cutesy, something that can easily happen when your main character is a pink cupcake in a town populated with walking food.

So, Cupcake is living the sweet life — bakes delectable treats at his own Sweet Tooth Bakery and plays drums in a cool band with his best friend Eggplant. Despite having won blue ribbons for Best Fruit Pie, Fluffiest Cake and Most Perfect Cookie, Cupcake gets into a baking rut.

Just so happens Eggplant is planning a trip to Turkey to visit his Aunt Aubergine, who is business partners with Turkish Delight, the greatest pastry chef in the world and Cupcake’s culinary idol.

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